A man vomits fiercely in to an open toilet. He looks puzzled by the sensation; he looks as if he has never seen either his own face or the bowl of a toilet before now. He is wearing a smart suit, cut from a heavy cloth, coloured in an earthy tone of green. His shirt is white and his face is covered in a layer of stubble. A thick moustache covers his top lip. He washes his face, more out of confusion than out of any need to be clean. He looks at himself in the mirror and takes in the shapes of it.
A woman in a vintage dress stands outside of the bathroom, drumming a slender finger upon the pale flesh of her upper arm. She is reserved and tetchy, offended by the actions of her partner. Her dress hangs close to her body, its black velvet giving way to lace. She belongs to another era. Her hair has been set in to a once fashionable curl, pinned in place by silverware. She coughs abruptly.
The couple had been set to attend a party this evening, but that was no longer part of their agenda. Too much time had been wasted to allow them time to let their product-laden hair down. They had to get on with the job at hand. The mission would always come first, regardless of propriety.
“Do excuse me Christa; I had not expected such a violent reaction. I am sorry to have caused you such offence.” He is terse and sarcastic. He offers no such apologies for their experience so far.
“Thank you Henrik; your considerations are always welcome.” She warms to his comments; she is either unaware of the tone he has employed or she is accustomed to his mode of communication.
“Indeed. Next steps, as agreed, are to locate the source of the intrusion and terminate occupants. Is that still our mission objective?” Henrik has composed himself; he steps through the bathroom door.
“Yes, Henrik: I see no reason to change the parameters for now. A greater degree of improvisation will become necessary only if we were to encounter resistance.” Christa makes her way downstairs.
“Intelligence would indicate a low likelihood of such improvisation.” Henrik steps over the corpse of a family dog at the bottom of the stairs. Neither he nor Christa pay the lifeless form any heed.
“We are in a world far beyond intelligence now, Henrik. Order and progress are things of our past.” They share a chuckle as they pick up keys, check themselves in the mirror and make to leave.
A gunshot, fired towards a familiar building. Two oddly dressed civilians – Christa and Henrik – keep close to the shadows as masonry emerges from dust, and glass falls out of its frames. A sound in the bushes and they move again. Shots are fired towards the same building, and they return once more to their positions. The civilians remain still for a moment, listening for any sounds in the street.
Content that all is silent, they make a move; Christa leads, while Henrik casts his weapon about the street, ready to provide covering fire. Past hedges they creep, up to a white picket fence, and an open door. The windows are broken, and there is smoke in the air. A family car sits outside the gate.
The civilians enter the house and search through the rooms. A television blares behind closed blinds; depictions of life in a far off land, full of song. The screen goes black. The dining room has not been used: an empty table and the bubbling of a fish tank. Henrik makes his way upstairs while his partner looks in the kitchen. The bedrooms and bathroom are empty. The only light comes from the screen of a monitor in the office. Christa calls: the back doors are open, and the kitchen is empty.
Christa and Henrik walk along a picturesque seafront, hand in leisurely hand. They feign chatter about nothing much, their cover as a married couple in need of maintenance. They walk towards a domed building, topped with cupola and dancing ladies. Laughter and joy pour from the upper windows as our couple make their way across the open piazza to the boardwalk beyond.
They follow a trail of heat and pheromones. Movements are erratic, but the stress in the phase signatures is clear. They look through the visible spectrum, but see no evidence of anyone in the vicinity. They must be close, but there is no sign of their prey. Auditory signals offer no clue.
They follow the tracks down a bank, towards an endless beach of golden sand. A young man makes himself known, with opportunistic intent. He is not their intended target, so he is dispatched. His friends shrink back in to the shadows and all conversation is extinguished. They continue to cast a weather eye on our couple as they make their way to the edge of the water. And the end of the trail which they had been following: lost in the cold sea, in the darkness of the night. Christa swears.
A communication device blinks in the darkness. Christa fingers its controls as Henrik pours them both a hard drink. Her brow furrows as she scrolls and selects through options and menus. She accepts the drink from her partner and takes a sip. They stand in the kitchen of a well-groomed home: tasteful surfaces give way to gleaming equipment, which has never been used. A drinks cabinet sits open, and very full. Henrik beckons Christa to a pair of chairs at the end of the room.
“I don’t count that as a failure, Christa.” He receives no response from his partner. He continues to sip at his drink, his grimaces at the strength of the liquor diminishing with each sip. Christa is lost in her device, and the information which she is gathering. He looks at her with an expression of worry.
After a while the comms device is closed and returned to its wallet. Christa shrugs and composes herself; she takes a sip of the drink which Henrik had poured. She smiles at the sensation, as if it were her first. “Very good, Henrik dear.” Her pause fails to give him reassurance. “The mission was not a failure, Henrik. And nor were we. We are to proceed to Assembly, to begin the First March.”