Range

The figure clinging to the side of People’s Security Observation Platform Number Three would have been barely noticeable even to a careful observer. The ambioptics of his chameleon cloak, whose electrostatics held it still and in position against the satellite’s hull, perfectly reflected the appearance of that hull across the entire visual and ultraviolet spectrum.  Some infrared emission was thermodynamically necessary over his four-day vigil, but he had carefully positioned himself over one of the platform’s radiothermal generators: the addition of his body heat would only fractionally increase emissions.

Careful ranging and hull mapping might still detect his presence, of course, but even the infamously paranoid Iltine State Security Bureau did not do that routinely – and, thank Éadínah and Her Shadows, no watchers had detected him on his brief cold-gas jumps from bermos freighter to cargo dropper, from dropper to Terilti’s tiny moon, from moon to shuttle, and most risky of all, from shuttle to this secure platform.

Silently he watched, unbreathing, relying on the stored oxygen of his hemocules. His hearts did not beat: constant-pressure pumps ushered the blood through his veins. Nothing disturbed his perfect stillness as, eyes pressed to the sights of a custom-tailored mass driver, he watched a garage door slide open in the side of a skyscraper on the planet far below. This was the fourth day, and once again, his target was departing precisely to schedule. Consistence of habits, and in such a desirable target! It was hardly even sporting.

(Nonetheless, he permitted himself a slight smile at the thought of the record he was about to set. Let the 75th boast of their prowess; to pull this off from 120 miles above the planet, with a low-angle shot even, would write his name for all time in a book which, admittedly, few would ever read.)

The garage door finished its traverse, and locked home. His brain flashed through final calculations, integrating the observations of the last days with what could currently be seen of the traffic around the building, the current weather, and a dozen other factors. He made a microscopic adjustment to the alignment of the mass driver, and gently squeezed the trigger.

Twenty pulses went by.

A black, luxury aircar nosed its way out of the garage.

Another ten.

The aircar began to turn, slipping sideways to join the flow of morning commuters.

One more.

And the aircar abruptly jerked downwards, shoving its nose into a lower traffic lane with – he presumed – some great effusion of horns and epithets, before its safety features yanked it to an abrupt stop.

Then alarms went off in the offices of the orbital SSB, as the thermal bloom of self-destruct nanotech reducing the sniper and his weapon to a thin, homogeneous, minimal-evidence plasma set off sensors all along Platform Three and beyond.

But by then, Lieutenant Dynari Ejava, 82nd Imperial Legion (“the One Hope”) – or the spray of neutrinos representing him – was already on his way home.

 

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