They call me a blade in the night, a ‘killer shadow’ who disappears without a trace. They cast aspersions on my countrymen, on their enemies, on their gods. In a nation split by foreign hands, by greed and paranoia and childish misadventure, they see me as little more than a myth.
I’m sure that’s what the guard that night had assumed too, when my blade pierced his neck. The glint of crimson in moonlight and the wound my only mark. His spine arched back into my grasp, it was easy to lower his body to the floor, his green uniform camouflaged into the lawn of the complex. I remained little more than a distortion in the moonlight.
The complex itself was impressive. A palace, by all accounts. Its architecture, I was told, was taken from the American Colonial style – the pillars, Greek revival. Not the kind of thing that would stand a strong earthquake, nor a heavy assault of bullets. Huge windows, too large for bulletproofing, were an obvious target. The building was ceremonial, far from a castle-like structure for political discussions. It was testament to the arrogance of the Arlandrian government that any politics occured there.
The usual lights that lit the structure had been abandoned for ‘security purposes’ – since the government were increasing restrictions on the military’s domestic activities, they had done a pretty good job of irritating practically every trained individual with a gun. Fortunately for me, that meant my approach was covered. I moved around behind a group of soldiers waiting near a window. Two were smoking cigarettes. The acrid yet faintly sweet smell of tobacco threatned to irritate my nose, but by the time I had pulled the pin on the central soldier’s grenade, there wasn’t time to think of it. I sprinted across behind a heavy planter, knowing the architectural cement would at least protect me from the shrapnel. Two seconds after getting to safety, the anti-personnel grenade exploded, the shockwave enough to deafen me even with my hands clamped around my ears. As I peered around to survey the damage, I saw that the grenade had done its job – three soldiers lie on the ground; two motionless, one injured and writhing.
With less considered footsteps than before, I paced across, the Arlandrian .40 ASP calibre pistol in hand. It was an ugly, utilitarian thing – blackened steel slide on a bulky plastic grip – but it was accurate. The attached suppressor reduced the noise of the first shot to a punctuated thud. The writhing soldier stopped moving, and I made my way through the damaged window into the conference room where the Beaconsfield Treaty itself was signed – along with all the amendments that followed.
The reason I was here, the reason I chose to risk my own life, was because of the most recent amendment. Amendment 17. The license to kill for every citizen of every little fictional state in this new Japan who just happened to see a legitimate Japanese person within their borders. If it had been a war, doing such a thing would be a war crime. But these people… their nations… they saw us as little more than an irritant.
The pistol I mentioned earlier? That was key to the operation. As was doing what any right-minded assassin would loathe: leaving the shell casings at the scene of the crime. The pistol, being Arlandrian-made with Arlandrian ammunition, would naturally be linked to the country itself. A bullet from a gun used by regular soldiers would definitely be linked to the disgruntled military forces. The government would strike back hard at the military, and the country would be too preoccupied in its own melee to bother hunting down some of the dangerously close Japanese remnant settlements. But who was I planning on shooting?
The Vice President of Arlandria herself, Marcie Siciliano. Her constant lobbying and filibustering was repeatedly the thorn in the military’s side – and while she was popular with the younger generations, she was also an ardent expansionist who wanted to run her own specialist pseudo-military force with the intent on expanding towards the former Japanese capital of Kyoto and filling in the gaps between Arlandria and its neighbours, Poluspari, Neue Bayern, Technis and Cornelia. For those of us who weren’t banned from hearing of the outside world, it sounded a lot like history repeating itself.
Siciliano’s office was at the back of the building, an old office of the Congressional Library which had since been moved into storage – permanently. The grenade, however, would have set off alarm bells and they’d be trying to get her to safety. Speed was of the essence. Through the corridors lined with oil paintings, and through the double doors at the end. I burned through another five rounds of the pistol while the Vice President’s guards shot at shadows. I ceased my spell, finally, and drew up the pistol to the woman’s head from a few meters away.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Her voice was shaking with terror, her bony hands clasped around a small revolve. Her pale skin like that of a chicken, nailbeds and fingertips yellowed by nicotine. “Don’t you know who you’re dealing with?”
She pulled the trigger and I stepped aside, her accuracy terrible and the recoil not doing her any favors. A light shattered, a cascade of glass upon the ancient wooden floor. I pulled the trigger of the Arlandrian pistol and she slumped in her chair. Another shot, to seal the deal. Then, I switched the pistol with one of her guards’, making it all look like a big accident. Or at least, a big set up.
I gave a quick glance at the portrait on the wall. A family in the traditional, nuclear set-up. Mother. Father. Older daughter. Younger son. A dog, in place of a third child. Adorable, from one angle. But one no doubt shrouded in lies and deceit. The happiness in a photograph is not something that keeps forever. Every family has a dark secret that they keep under wraps. My family secret, as well as their legacy, was a certain trait passed down by blood. Some people’s families bend rules, much like the recently deceased Vice President. Ours? We bent light. And if you bend light in just the right way, in all the right places… you might as well be invisible.