What the Sniper Saw

Author’s Note: This story is based on the Eve Online character Tibus Heth and the assassination attempt on him that occurred as part of the in-game backstory. Dusters Blog was asking for original short stories and they wanted a story based on that event, from the perspective of the would-be assassin. Since I felt that the official story was lackluster at best, I decided to give it a shot.

I am not affiliated with Eve Online, Dust514, or CCP Games in any way, shape, or form. This work is NOT to be considered part of the official canon, it is just something that I wrote for my own amusement. I hope this does not detract from your enjoyment of the story in any way.

Tibus Heth returned to the podium preparing to begin the next stage of the rally in the city of Okushin. Thousands had come to see their Hero today, the crowds filling the public square and extending for blocks in every direction. The leader was heavily guarded, a platoon of lightly armored men armed with stun rifles formed a solid wall between him and his adoring public. The threat of political assassination was always a real one, especially with someone as polarizing as Heth. This, however, was his home ground, and the faithful had turned out in force to see their beloved leader.

Tibus Heth

Almost two kilometres away a man wearing a full-body scout dropsuit watched impassively through the scope of a sniper rifle. He was nearly invisible lying in the shadows cast by the air ventilation towers on the top of a 102 story combination hotel and office building. The suit he wore had been designed for just such a purpose; advanced polymers and embedded circuits worked to render the wearer almost invisible to electronic surveillance, and the photo-reactive elements bent light around him to allow the wearer to fade into the background. He had climbed to this rooftop this morning in the predawn hours and had been lying here quietly since.

He had been waiting in these shadows for hours now. The armored suit was designed to protect the wearer from nearly any environment, but they became less and less comfortable as the hours dragged by. The opportunity to shoot Tibus Heth had come and gone several times that morning, but the sniper and his spotter had let each of them pass. The contract called for the killing to be carried out after noon, when Heth resumed his speech-making following the intermission. That meant the order to take the shot would be coming soon.

 “How you holding up?”  Duluth, his spotter, called to him from his suit’s internal comms, breaking the silence. She was waiting several floors down, watching the square through a pair of electronic rangefinders even more powerful than his sniper scope. She would break radio silence once per hour at random intervals to ensure he was awake and alert.

“I’ve been contemplating my life,” he replied quietly, his attention still on the target so far away that Heth would have been invisible without the enhanced electronic rangefinder in his rifle. “Thinking maybe I want to make a change somehow.”

“Oh?  Like what, Gaurav?”

“Well, next time I fall in love, I think it’s going to be with you.”

“Oh, be still my beating heart.” Duluth replied drily.

“I realize how difficult loving you could be.”  Gaurav continued, his eyes focused on his target.

“Knowing how much I love women?”

“That’s just because you haven’t found the right dick, Duluth.”

“Let me guess, your dick is the right one?” she sounded vaguely amused by this.

“How would I know?  I am, however, willing to offer myself up for experimentation. Because I’m a friend, and that is what friends do.”

Duluth laughed out loud and Gaurav grinned. This was an old, familiar game they played. Neither had any interest in the other sexually, which had made them fast friends. Their bond had only strengthened over the years as the result of numerous missions together.

“Get ready, it’s past noon.”

 “Copy.”  the sniper replied, taking a long, deep breath before exhaling slowly.

In his scope Tibus Heth had returned to the podium, basking in the adulation of the crowds, his stern face glowing in the bright light of the sun high overhead. Gaurav tightened his finger slightly on the trigger, taking out the slack. Designed by Ishukone Corporation for use against soldiers wearing dropsuits with full armor and electromagnetic shields, the weapon was huge, it’s size and weight making it impossible for use without the assistance of the tiny, powerful servo motors inside the dropsuit that amplified the wearer’s strength by a significant factor. The magazine only held three rounds, each one made to punch first  through the electromagnetic shields, then the extremely durable composite armor of battlefield soldiers. Even at this range he would have no trouble at all hitting his victim, knowing the bullet would instantly annihilate a mere flesh-and-blood target. Gaurav shifted his posture slightly, the suit scraping on the plasticrete rooftop. THe order to take the shot would be coming soon, he knew.

Suddenly Heth jerked to the side and a swarm of bodyguards moved to cover him, obscuring him completely.

“The fuck?”  Gaurav muttered as he shifted his sight picture, taking in more of the crowd, trying to puzzle out what had just happened.

“Gaurav, somebody is trying to steal our kill.” Duluth sounded distracted.

“Who?  Wait, I’ve got him…”

“I don’t know who this guy is, but I want to be his new best friend.” Duluth said approvingly. “Are you seeing this?”

Gaurav whistled through his teeth. “Look at those moves!  I’m sorry, Duluth, I think I’m in love with him!”

“Hey, I saw him first.”

“You said you wanted to be his friend.” Gaurav pointed out as he shifted posture again, tracking the battle below through the weapon’s scope.

“Never heard of breast friends, Gaurav?  Oh wait, of course you haven’t.”

Gaurav grinned but didn’t respond, turning his full attention to the tableau unfolding so far away from where he lurked.

*******************************************************************************************

The killer slipped through the crowd, holding his cloak close, but not close enough to betray the outline of his pistol. There was no way anyone would be able to smuggle an energy weapon close enough to Tibus Heth at this rally. A carbon-fiber pistol that fired standard bullets, on the other hand..that was much easier to do. So long as one didn’t call attention to himself.

 As he moved among the crowd he scanned the faces of those around him, trying to spot anyone who wasn’t entranced by their great leader. Those would be plainclothes security officers sent there to ferret out people like him. He wasn’t entirely sure what he would do if he spotted any, but it did not hurt to be cautious. He sorely wished he could activate his suit’s cloaking field but that wasn’t an option. He’d left his helmet behind since no hood was deep enough to hide that, and the crowds were too thick for him to navigate while invisible. Instead he had chosen to simply camouflage himself as another admirer. His tunic and pants hid the sleek contours of his exosuit, and his long gloves covered his hands. His name was Ebow DaLetta and this was the first time he would ever murder someone.

Heth stood at the podium, smiling benevolently at the thronged masses, the crowd’s adulation the drug he craved. A phalanx of Provist guards stood before him, silent and watchful, ready should any trouble present itself. DaLetta drew his pistol and aimed it right at Heth’s face, his own a mask of peace. Revenge would be his.

Someone jostled his arm and he reflexively squeezed the trigger, the shot going wild and hitting Heth in his side, just below the arm. There were shrieks from the crowd as Heth toppled, then the Provist guards reacted.

True to their training they immediately began firing stun rounds into the crowd. This of course only made the crowd panic further. DaLetta hesitated, torn for a moment between fighting to his own death, and slipping away with the crowd, perhaps to take another shot at Heth later if he survived. Then the moment passed, and the guards had focused on him.

He reacted without hesitation, firing his pistol at each of the nearest guards, watching two of them fall, their blood spilling out onto the pavement. The others hesitated slightly,the wariness in the face of death revealing that they were simply humans;  apparently Heth did not trust clone soldiers with his life. This definitely counted in DaLetta’s favor, and he intended to take advantage.

Several more Provist guards fell as he emptied his clip then dropped his gun. There was no way he was going to escape this now, he knew that he had let that opportunity slip away. Now he intended to take as many of Heth’s henchmen with him as he could before they ended him. Dropping his now useless pistol he pulled a pair of Nova knives from his belt as he spun, his cloak billowing around him. The Nova knife earned it’s name from the searing plasma that arced along the weapon’s edge once activated. They were widely used by the clone armies of the various factions in New Eden. Designed for close-quarters combat, they were often the preferred sidearm of scouts. He raced towards a nearby statue then caromed off of it, leaping back at the cluster of guards, the weapons slicing through the lightly armored bodies as easily as if they had been wearing saffron robes.

DaLetta moved smoothly, flowing through the forms his father had taught him as a child. As he did he could hear his father’s voice reminding him of the important things:  balance, control, and peace. A warrior who lost his balance would soon lose his control; if he lost his peace then he would be lost entirely. As he danced with the guards among the rapidly fleeing crowds, the killer drifted on a sea of calm, his balance and control evident as he flipped, threw, and stabbed one guard after the other, several of them would never get up again.

His father had been a gentle man who studied the martial arts for the discipline, exercise, and spirituality. He had always taught his son to turn his back on strife and apply himself toward the betterment of his fellows. On the edges of the killer’s calm a sense of betrayal slid past like an oil slick, there and gone. His father had been a good and kind and decent man, and it was those qualities that had made him a victim of Heth’s racist followers.

There was no way he could have gone after Heth directly, not then. Heth was too powerful, too wealthy, too well connected. If he was to be brought down, serious work would have to be put into the effort. After much contemplation DaLetta had decided to enlist with one of the galaxies numerous mercenary training schools. After successfully completing basic training he underwent the surgeries to grant him the ability to be reborn at the moment of death in a new, cloned body. It was a situation that would set him apart from the rest of humanity, consigning him to live with other immortals, never to mingle with the general human population.

Clones have a different view on life and death, since they were essentially immortal. Because of this, some clone soldiers and their pilot brethren, the capsuleers, have been known to suffer psychotic episodes, a major reason for the segregation. Violating that law was going to get him into more trouble, he suspected, than the assassination attempt.

DaLetta had excelled at the warrior training and his aptitude testing, combined with his performance during training, had seen him moving on to Scout school after his recovery from the clone process. For the next six months he was trained in tracking, escape and evasion, and sabotage. He graduated near the top of his class and was highly sought after, eventually taking a position with one of the more respectable security corporations.

For two years he served honorably as a special security operative, protecting the assets and personnel of various business concerns. He had resigned his position last month.

Now, a judgement long due was going to be delivered.

For a moment he forgot his situation, so lost was he in the thrill of this fight. He tore off his cloak and used it to blind one of the Provist guards before jump-kicking the man solidly in his chest. Myofibril stimulants and kinetic enhancers made him stronger, faster, deadlier than the best-trained of mortal guardsmen. Even with his training and years of combat experience, there was no way he could have fought this many without his suit and the cloning implants.With them, however, this wasn’t a fight so much as a slaughter.

His armor’s shields had repulsed numerous blasts from the Provist guards’ stun lances, but the repeated bursts eventually overwhelmed his systems. When the next stun blast hit him dead in his chest he crashed to the ground, the Provist guards swarming him like ants.

Darkness clawed it’s way towards him, and within it he heard his father’s voice whispering “When a man goes to seek vengeance, he would be well served to dig two graves.”

**********************************************************************************************

Duluth and Gaurav watched the unknown assassin fall, brought down by the weight of numbers of Heth’s Provist forces. He had taken down nearly a dozen trained guards, no easy task by the best mercs. Neither of them had recognized the man’s face, but they expected they would know his name before too long.

“Now what?”  Gaurav watched through the scope on his rifle as the square emptied, his face expressionless behind the darkened faceplate of his helmet. The failed assassination had clearly ended the rally earlier than anticipated, putting a major damper on the planned festivities as well as preventing Gaurav and Duluth from fulfilling their contract..

“Wait for sunset then come down. I’ll update Bryce on the situation and he can alert the client.”

The rest of the day crawled by, neither Duluth nor Gaurav breaking radio silence as they waited until after sundown for Gaurav to exit the rooftop, moving down to a maintenance room where they had stashed the shielded containers for his armor and sniper rifle. After that he descended the seventeen flights of stairs to the suite they had rented. Accidental witnesses were a risk, but a minor one, and they really had no choice but to take it. Both of them had made sure they had new clones safely off-world so if worse came to worse, they would just suicide out. Fortunately they had met no one and Gaurav was able to get cleaned up after a long day of waiting in the form-fitting exosuit.

“Planet is under martial law, so dinner is going to have to be here at the hotel.”  Duluth told Gaurav after he had showered. She was stretched out on the bed sipping mineral water and watching a news report on the attempt on Heth.

“That’s cool,” Gaurav shrugged. He wandered past her to his bed flopping down and stifling a yawn. “What did the Boss say?”

“He said to enjoy our time here, it might be a while.”  Duluth  grinned. “Oh, and he asked if we had ever done a jailbreak before.”

 

In the Hour of the Stormcrow

  The moon hung low over Shazhada, bathing the city in soft white light, throwing all the buildings into sharp relief while casting long, deep shadows everywhere.  Not the best night for a break-in, but we were pressed for time.  The gambling debts my brother and I had racked up were steep and we had already drunk and whored away the small fortune we had earned from our last job.

 

  In Shazhada outstanding debts could result in you being sold on the slave block.  My brother and I would fetch a high price since we were young, strong, and skilled in a variety of areas that would make us extremely valuable to the sort of people who need something stolen or someone killed.  Not that we engaged in hired murder often, mind you, but there are those times . Unfortunately, once you are sold on the block, you lose your ability to say “no” to such assignments.  Well, you can still say “no” if you don’t mind that being the last word you ever say.

 

  Independence was very important to us, hence tonight’s outing

 

  We slipped silently down a side street then turned a corner into a narrow alley stopping in the shadows at the other end.  Opposite us, a large manor house rose up, two stories of sun-baked brick painted a lustrous, verdant green.  The upper floor held two wide windows, deep and dark, while the ground floor was bare except for a single recessed doorway in the center.  Two large men stood guard, flanking the door, moonlight glinting off their spears.  The house was bordered on all sides by a tall, thick hedge with a wide gap in the front where a brick path led from the street to the steps.  Those bricks, however, were painted a bright, glossy red that glimmered in the soft glow of the moon.

 

  To my eye, the house was a great serpent or reptile waiting with its tongue out.  I had a sudden feeling of unease, but before I could mention this to my brother, he tapped my shoulder and jerked his head to one side.

  “Let’s move.”  He said, slipping out of the alley and to the right.  Wordlessly I followed him, the pair of us moving with the calm assurance of men who had every right to be out wandering the streets in the middle of the night.  We had long ago learned that skulking draws attention whereas a deliberate stride is usually ignored. We made our way down the street, paralleling the hedges across the road. Once we reached their end, we casually crossed over and continued down that street, the night quiet.

 

  Halfway along in the gloom of the hedgerow my brother raised his arm to bar my path.  Zendak motioned to the shrubs, and then stepped back, wedging himself into the foliage.  I did the same after taking a quick look around to ensure there was no one coming. The leaves were cool and slightly dewy, but that didn’t bother me. After a few minutes the bells in the Temple of the 5 Graces rang out the Hour of the Stormcrow.

 

  With the last bell sounding we heard voices and the slap of leather sandals on brick.  As the sounds drew closer I could make out their conversation; one was bitching about being assigned to work the back door of the manor in the middle of the night, an apparent punishment for some transgression or other, and he felt wronged.

 

There was a soft rustling from the hedge where Zendak hid.  These were the men we were expecting.

 

We waited ‘til they had drawn abreast of us, then we melted out of the hedges behind them.  I quietly slipped my arms around the whiner’s neck, seizing him in a chokehold.

 

Zendak did the same with his victim, and we quickly dragged both into the dark shadows at the base of the hedgerow. Once they were unconscious we stripped them of their tunics and hogtied them.  The tunics were a dark green color slashed with two stripes of red and gold.  I wondered if I should recognize the livery, then decided it didn’t really matter.  Thieves caught in Shazhada could expect to be hung since cutting a hand off just made them unable to work, thus adding to the number of beggars. It didn’t cut down on crime in any noticeable way, but it certainly did breed a superior class of thief.

 

We nodded to each other, and then, with one last glance around us, hurried to the break in the hedge that led to the back door of the manse, where kitchen deliveries would be made.  Just like the front of the house there was only one door on the ground level, but there were no windows at all on the second floor.

 

As we drew closer we saw two darker shadows by the door, a pair of spearmen like the ones around front.  They shifted their weapons slightly as we drew closer and one softly called out “Leopards have spots.”

 

“And they never change.”  Zendak responded immediately in a low growl.

 

“Bout fucking time you cunts showed up,” one of the spearmen muttered as he relaxed again.

 

“Better have a good fucking reason for being late, too.”  The other chimed in.  “You lot are going to be midnight watchers for the next-“

 

He cut off abruptly as Zendak slammed a ham-sized fist into the man’s chin.  The guard went down like a dead horse, Zendak catching his spear before it hit the ground.  His partner had just enough time to register this before I grabbed his tunic and jerked him forward, throwing him over my hip to the ground, his spear dropping to the bricks with a dull clatter.  His breath whooshed out of him as he landed and I straddled him quickly, gripping his collar while squeezing his carotid arteries with my forearms.  He was unconscious in seconds, leaving us crouched in the shadowed doorway listening intently.

 

Nothing.  This was going very well indeed.

 

We slipped past the door and into the deserted kitchen beyond.  It was a large room with three doors:  one immediately opposite the door we had entered, one in the left corner, the third in the right corner. A single, massive butcher block dominated the room while the walls were covered with pots, pans, knives, and other accoutrements of a noble’s kitchen.

 

Zendak motioned to the door on the left and ghosted that way. He opened the door to reveal a darkened flight of stairs leading up. Soundlessly we crept up the servants stairs at the back of the manor, Zendak leading the way as if he had grown up in this house. I wondered about his familiarity with the floorplan. He had gotten us this commission and had gathered all of the information needed to do the job properly.  All I really knew was that we were doing some breaking and entering, and that we would have to deal with some light, if proficient, security.

 

The stairs opened onto a wide hallway, a light flickering under one door at the end of the hall.  That, I knew without asking, would be our destination. Zendak opened the door and we stepped in quickly, closing it behind us.  The latch clicked with a cold finality.  This chamber looked to be a combination office and bedroom to judge by the four poster bed on one side, and a massive desk on the other.

 

A blonde woman in her middle years, garbed in green silk slashed with red and gold, sat at the desk.  She was still beautiful, age just beginning to line her face. A heavy gold torc, inscribed with curious symbols hung around her slender neck.

 

“You don’t belong here.”  She said simply in a throaty contralto. “What do you think you are doing?”

 

“Robbing you.”  Zendak replied mildly as he looked around the room.  Behind the woman the windows were covered with heavy black drapes, obscuring us from casual view.

 

“Do you have any idea who I am?”  She asked with a bemused expression.

 

“No.”  I said at the same moment that my brother replied “Yes.”  We glanced at one another, each raising an eyebrow.  “Really?”

 

“Volara, the Viper of Shazhada, the Mother of Sorrow.”  Zendak nodded at the woman.

 

“The Queen of Murder?”  I frowned and suddenly realized why everything had seemed so off, it was my instinct for self-preservation trying to get my attention.  Volara Arakir was the single most ruthless human being currently living in a city renowned for it’s population of  merciless killers.

 

“That would be me.”  She smiled thinly.

 

“Good, I feared we might have got the wrong house.”  Zendak said grimly.  There was a meaty thunking sound and Volara blinked and looked down to see a throwing knife had sprouted from between her breasts. She gasped in pained confusion and slumped into a large chair behind her.  “Patos Mohir said to tell you all debts are settled, and he looks forward to seeing you in Hell.”

 

Zendak snatched the heavy gold band from the dead woman’s neck then yanked the dagger free, expressionlessly wiping the blood off on her luxurious silk robe.

 

We quickly searched the room for the smallest, most valuable things we could take before slipping silently back out into the night, shedding the tunics as we exited the hedges, not speaking for several blocks

 

Eventually I said “You thought robbing and murdering Volara Arakir was a good idea, did you?”

 

He grunted. “No, I thought it was dangerous and insane, actually.”

 

“Then why did we do it?  And why was it so easy to get to her?”

 

“Once Patos Mohir receives proof of the Viper’s death,” he hefted the torc.  “he will settle all of our gambling debts.”

 

“Wow,” I snorted, “he is rich. And the rest?”

 

“A failed attempt on the Mother of Sorrow would mean a fate far worse than death.  Only the bravest or stupidest men in Shazhada would dare invade the Viper’s den.”

 

“Well,” I said after considering Zendak’s words carefully.  “that certainly explains why Patos sent us.  Still, you have to admit, we had phenomenal good fortune tonight.”

 

“I never told you, little brother?” he chuckled, “Fortune favors the brave.”

 

As we walked, the bells began to toll the Hour of the Gambler.

World War Zzzzz: Why I’m Not Excited About the New Brad Pitt Movie

So, recently I did a thing about the movies of 2013.  And on that list, I said I would return to World War Z at a later time to elaborate on the comments I made.  I think now is a good time to do that so if it turns out I am right I can add 2 paragraphs to this column and rerun it when the movie comes out.  That’s called “advanced planning” kids, even if it is sometimes confused with “laziness.”

WWZ

Man I wish I hadn’t eaten that bran muffin an hour ago.

The picture above is the fade-in on the trailer for World War Z.  Please take note of how thick the traffic is, because that will be kind of important in a minute.

WWZ 3

:28 seconds in, Pretty Boy. You DO know this is a Zombie flick, right?

 

WWZ 2

Ooooh, photo op!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is :25 into the trailer, and as you can see the side-view mirror of the car is missing as a police motorcycle just clipped it as the cop rode in-between the tightly packed cars you saw in the first shot, and can sorta see in this second one.

 

WWZ 4

Did anyone get the number?

No, but we know it was from PWD.

No, but we know it was from PWD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another cop comes along, this one on foot, to tell Brad Pitt to “Move along, you Lookie Lou!” when he gets plowed into by a goddamn runaway garbage truck.  A garbage truck that is nowhere to be seen in that opening shot of bumper-to-bumper traffic that stretches a mile or more in either direction.  Further, it isn’t slowed down in the slightest by all of the vehicles it had to have collided with on it’s way to the unfortunate police officer up there.  And of course, there is no indication that this nightmare is coming because it is apparently being stealthy as it plows through traffic on it’s way to killing the cop.

Then, about 1:15 into the trailer everyone who somehow managed to never hear about this book learns that it is about zombies when they see this shot.

Live for the SWARM!

Live for the SWARM!

I wish I could have gotten a cleaner screenshot for you, but I assure you, watch that trailer, you’ll see it.  Instead of just hiring human extras, they decided to CGI in some zombies, and guess what?  It looks like they decided to CGI in some zombies instead of hiring actors to do it.

WWZ  7

King of the Hill!

And it is even more apparent in this scene, although I will freely admit it is a little more forgivable due to the sheer number of people involved.  Not because of cost, but because of the possibility of someone getting seriously hurt.  Which, in the early days of Hollywood, was never a concern at all.  Which is why so many older movies are so much more awesome than what you see today.

I don’t want to discount the movie too soon, but the bad CGI and the silliness of the garbage truck scene do not really make me all that confident that this one isn’t going to be a Ghost Rider.