Top ten on the list of my worst days
The call came in 2:30 at night, which was odd considering the military knowing how much I hate late calls. I thought about not answering, then finally picked up the phone. "I know I'm not sleeping, but at the very least I was trying" I groaned "I'm sorry Mr. Matlock, sir, but the matter at hand is of the utmost importance" The voice on the line stated apologetically. I fought the will to just roll over and go back to attempting sleep, instead getting up and going to the kitchen. "So what's the job?" I asked monotonously, waiting for the coffee Jessica made to finish heating up. He had begun but I had already moved on "what am I being paid for this?".
"Your reward will be substantial as ever" The voice replied. Jessica walked into the room to see me smiling, she held the hotel breakfast in a bag, apples and muffins and tiny boxes of cereal with a big jug of milk. "Send me the rest of the information on this thing electronically and book me a flight to wherever I'm going from Detroit airport" The government agent on the other line sighed "it's in Detroit sir". I shrugged, realizing afterwards that he couldn't see it through the phone "that's
convenient". With that the coffee was finished. I was ready to start the day.
A few years ago, I was just another shmuck thief for hire who happened to be particularly good at keeping quiet, both on infiltration missions into enemy camps, strongholds and other places I generally shouldn't have been, but also off the field when people asked about who I worked for. I was a Freelance Retrieval specialist and one of many in a rather competitive business. That is of course until one day when, after being sent to pick up some experimental gadget from some sort of Japanese mega corporation, I was given the chance of a lifetime. The crazy nut that had hired me to take the thing claimed that his was the original and that they had stolen his idea. So, wiping all the specs for the thing from their hard drives, I took it and returned it to him, after which he promptly destroyed it. Or at least he thought he had. I had in fact, taken the thing myself. And the nifty gadget, as I had forgotten to mention, was Hyper Reactive Refracting Camouflage: An Invisible Suit. Suddenly the retrieval business became a little less competitive. Since then, I've been on the run, living out of a suitcase; having the world's one and only Invisibility Suit can really make you a target. Fortunately for yours truly, it also makes you really, really hard to find. If I ever go outside without my suit, it's in disguise. Only one person has ever seen my face since that day, and that's Jessica. She's my sister-in-law and manager, recently adding "nanny" to the list of things she has to do for me. Even as the ultimate sneaky super spy, I have the tendency to leave a fair sized mess in whichever room is mine. I can't remember how many times I'd been told "if you don't take care of your crap you'll lose your suit in all of this dirty laundry". Almost did too, but it only happened once.
Now, though, the cloth body suit hung on a coat hanger in my closet. Wires could be seen running through the suit like the veins of a boneless white plastic body. Finishing my coffee slipping down to my underwear, I walked in and began to put it on. Footy pajama pants, a long sleeved shirt with gloves attached and a mask with no air-holes. The mask and top had extra length to them so they could be tucked in. Putting it all together, I hooked up the wires and plugged them all in. The Tritium battery pack at my back began to warm up; I would switch between one set and two others to keep them from overheating. Being invisible is kind of pointless if I light up like a Christmas tree on an infrared sensor. I stood and left my room and out to the living room where Jessica's stood in the tiny kitchen, cutting up an apple. I snuck up and took a slice, pretending to have it hover around in mid-air. "Address is on the table" she said blandly. I never could sneak up on her. I pulled the mask off up to my mouth and ate the slice dejectedly, careful not to unplug any of the cords. In the closet-mirror, I was little more than a disembodied, floating mouth
and discolored floating fingers. I wiped the apple juice from my hands as best I could with a towel. Luckily, when this suit came apart it was machine washable.
I reached for the pile of papers on the table, pretending to skim over them and waiting for Jessica to give up and give me the short version. "A Romanian diplomat's daughter has been kidnapped by extremists and is being kept at gunpoint until their demands are met. The United States government, on behalf of the Romanian ambassador, wants you to sneak her out without alerting them and hopefully without hurting her." I nodded thoughtfully, slipping the mask back on and tucking it in "and the payoff?"
"Six million transferred to the ghost account in Belgium, half now, half later" she replied with a faint smile. "The point of entry is an abandoned smelting plant. The group is holed up inside, and everyone they've sent in has been either wounded or killed." I sighed, shaking my head, forgetting that she couldn't see me. "Though the army has the place surrounded by land, the kidnappers have made demands for an airlift. You're being sent in to take away their only bargaining chip. That way there'll be nothing keeping the military from sorting this out their own way." I put the papers back on the table "well then, I guess that just leaves one question
when do we leave?" She turned, looking in my general direction "well, actually, five minutes ago. We're at least a half-hour late already."
"Then what are we waiting around here for?"
We made our way to the smelting factory by taxi. Hey, what's the point of having a car if you only need cab fare for one person? We arrived on the scene to see the boys in blue, swat team, and National Guard all set up. The place was in the middle of nowhere, so there was no way for the perps to get past the barricade without being seen. "Finally!" growled a military man as he chomped a cigar nervously "if the tension o' this whole thing were any thicker, I could cut it with a knife! You two sure took your sweet time getting here." Jessica reacted before I could, which was lucky, as I still wasn't exactly square with the U.S. Government. Being the one freelancer with the only Hyper Reactive Refracting Camouflage suit out there makes me both a huge asset and an enormous threat. "Being prepared is something that takes patience and practice." Jessica told the general "if you want the best, all it'll cost you is your time. Not to mention the nominal fee." The general grumbled for a moment before continuing "well, so far the whole place as been pretty silent. We expect that we've got a good hour before their chopper gets here, and we won't know how well armed that thing is gonna be so we're gonna have to try and quash this thing before it can get here. Not to mention we won't be able to fight back without causing potential harm to the ambassador's daughter
" at that a short portly man with worried eyes and a big thick mustache walked up. "Excuse me, but are you the specialist that is going to go in and save my daughter?" he asked worriedly. He was ringing his hands as his shoulders drooped. "Unfortunately not" Jessica told him, shaking her head "I only represent him"
"Hey" the general interrupted "where is that lazy wiener you work for anyway?" I was looking for the best spot to scare the general from behind when Jessica one-uped me yet again. "Maybe" she implied "he's already inside." Each of them turned, casting their gaze at the huge ominous structure in front of them. I couldn't help but feel bad standing behind them.
Rushing past the police barricades, I made my way in. The place was in quite a state of disrepair, the doors hanging at an angle from where they once stood. Shifting my way through into an empty, dusty corridor, and began my mission. Old paper, equipment, and little bits of iron dotted my path, I took as much care as ever to keep it from crunching beneath my feet. I came to the factory floor, old machines and concrete slabs for pouring liquid metal sat together, lost and forgotten. It was a sad sight, one interrupted by a pair of armed men walking between the smelting furnaces. They glanced around, cautiously surveying the place. I held still as they stepped around me, glancing directly at me. I dared not even breathe. For what seemed like ages, the gun-toting men watched, fingers never leaving the triggers of their guns for even a second. Then, they moved on. I practically fell over with relief but they still stood watching. Being invisible would only take me so far. The rest I must rely on myself for. Slinking out of view, I crept out of the factory area and to the base of a set of stairs. From what I had read from skimming through the mission objectives, the girl had been spotted on the second floor being dragged by a man with a sniper rifle.
I sighed silently as I gauged creakiness of the stares. They were made of a thin metal ones that no doubt clanked when improperly stepped on. I had no doubt in my mind that there was a guard sitting at the top as well, waiting to put a bullet into any non-friendly trying to clamber up those bad boys. Naturally, I did what any decent superspy would. I walked right up and jumped onto the first stair, Making the loudest bang I could muster. The sound reverberated through the entire stairwell lasting for a good couple of seconds. I had already taken cover by the time the guard had leaned over the side and started firing. He fired off enough rounds to have killed any poor soul dumb enough to stand there ten times over before finally coming down. He arrived on the scene and gave the whole place the once over, not sparing an inch of space. I however had already gone upstairs, masking my own footfalls with his. He never even knew I was there.
I searched the upper rooms, offices and archives, all filled with little bits of paper tossed all over the place. The whole complex seemed pretty desolate, pardoning the occasional armed thug. This was of course before I found the straggly haired sniper sitting at a window watching his charge. The girl sat tied to a chair in the middle of the room, her eyes streaked with tears. I crept in, the door creaking slightly as I slid through. The guy in the room was clearly on edge, as he had a bead on me almost as soon as I had touched the door. Of course he didn't actually know I was there so I just moved out of the way. I didn't have much time left, and the big lug standing in the middle of the room made it all that much harder. So, with a stroke of genius, I crept back out and into another room. It didn't take much to grab some attention from these guys. I crumpled a couple of papers and next thing I knew he was standing next to me. I snuck back into the girl's room. "Keep quiet" I whispered in her ear "I've come to save you"
"Where are you?" she asked loudly as I cut her ropes. I knew that would draw her sniper guard dog so I told her to stay in her seat while I dealt with it. She sat patiently; the little girl was a diplomat's daughter to the end. The gunner stepped in, scowling as ever. "What's going on?" was about as far as he got before I was able to land my best right hook of the night right up against the back of his head. He fell like a house of cards. With that, I was left with the issue of taking the little lady out of this factory. I, of course, decided to stick to my guns. "Hey!" I called out as loudly as I possibly could "Somebody please help me, I've fallen and I can't get up!" everyone came running. Little did they know, we were humbly awaiting their passing in the next room over as they tended to their boss. We were all but in the clear; down the stairs, through the factory floor. We were all but home free when
"freeze" we heard from behind us. The lone remaining guard in our path and we had walked right past him without noticing. He walked up and grabbed the girl by the back of her shirt. I could do nothing but watch silently as he carted her off. Outside.
Whatever he had planned was insane. "I'm done" he said nervously "I'm walking out there and I'm walking away. We're not getting out of this
but I am!" He wasn't getting out like this. Facing all the people out there and he would crumple like paper.
But what about the job? My head asked, get her out and go. She's out. We can go. We've been shot at before. An invisibility suit is for people who don't want to get shot doing their job. You did your job. You're done. But it was more than that. Something about her kindness, her authority; it takes a real grown up kid to look down the barrel of a gun and not speak. So
I did what you should never ever do when you can be invisible. I stuck my neck out. And I mean literally.
"HEY!" I shouted to him, tearing my mask from my face. He turned to me, reduced from an invisible man to some guy in silly pajamas. I had apparently scared him half to death appearing out of nowhere because he had dropped the girl. More importantly, he immediately turned his gun on me. My blood hit the sand as she passed the first barricade. I hit the ground as the collective of authority came down on the little pack of extremists. Things began to get fuzzy as Jessica knelt down next to me, doctors around her ready to examine me. I turned to her, wanting to show honor with my final breath. "Is
is the little girl-"
"Adrienne" Jessica interrupted.
"Adrienne; right. Is Adrienne okay?"
"Yeah, she's with her father"
"Glad to hear. Anyway, what I did
pretty heroic huh?"
"Pretty stupid actually"
"How do you figure?" I asked, trying to raise myself, only to be brought back down by the pain of dying. "Well" she replied "you probably could have distracted the political extremist just as easily with your suit on as opposed to having it turned off. Instead you pulled off your mask and got shot in the shoulder" I looked to my left and saw the mark on my shoulder, which I could have sworn had hit my heart. "The shoulder?" I repeated, looking at the wound from certain angles to see if it even looked close to the heart "I could have sworn he had gotten a kill shot on me." Jessica patted me on the other shoulder "well, if you want him to try again, I'm sure we could ask the police to bring him back." I sighed "so I try something heroic and it just ends up making me look like an idiot. Figures"
"Naw," Jessica said smiling "you looked pretty brave too" I waited for it
"But yeah, you looked pretty stupid."
Getting her to hoist me up, we decided to take our money and go to a regular doctor instead of the field medics. Sure the shot didn't kill me, but I still had a bullet lodged in my shoulder. So we chalked this one up as yet another failed attempt to be noble that ended up making me look stupid. The heroing business is not one I'd recommend to thieves. In the end I guess it's all just another mission, another journey. Another opportunity for me to be a hero, and another one for me to get shot. I love this job.