The GOC surveillance team who used the flat as a staging area had been stationed there for four weeks, doing an assessment of a Known Threat Entity in the area: a young man with low-level mind control powers who, so far, didn't know that he was anything other than a charismatic and persuasive university student with better-than-average luck with the ladies. Given the weak level of his powers, and his generally agreeable and stable personality, the watch team were generally inclined to classify him as a Response Level 1 and move on: someone to check in on once in a while, but not worth the hassle of neutralizing.
Agent Chandra was on her way back from a fish-and-chips shop with a big paper bag containing her and her partner's supper when the red Toyota hatchback pulled alongside her. "Excuse me," the young man in the front passenger seat said, "Can you tell me how to get to the Ulster Museum?"
Agent Chandra turned away to point, and that was when the man in the back seat raised his gun and shot her.
The four men in the small hatchback burst from the car carrying submachineguns. They booted down the front door of the building, hustling up the three flights of stairs silently, bowling over a confused (and, soon, terrified) sixty year-old lady in the process. Three of them took up positions outside a particular apartment, while the fourth pulled a beanbag-like object from his jacket pocket and hurled it at the door.
The door shattered off its hinges, skidded down the hallway, and came to a halt at the feet of a rather confused young man monitoring the feeds from several hidden cameras on a bank of computer monitors. Flaherty reached for the handgun on his desk and died slumped over his keyboard with eight bullets in various parts of his body.
They caught Meehan in the shower and blew his brains out against the cracked and mildewed white tile. Lincoln managed to get to his weapon and fire a couple of shots through his bedroom door before the invaders bounced in a flashbang. He was trying to throw it out the window when it went off. Two rounds turned him from a blind, screaming man in to a silent, dead one.
The men stripped the computers of their hard drives, grabbed whatever else they could, and stole a few small (but valuable) items, while one member of their team spray-painted the words "Tiocfaidh ár lá" on the wall.
They ran down the stairs and piled into the car, disappearing into the rapidly advancing night. The entire incident took no more than six minutes.
Pasadena, California, United States of America
Mister Grey smiled as he walked through a wing of the Norton Simon museum that didn't appear on any maps, the one that Frank Gehry didn't even know he was building for them when the museum was renovated in the 1950s. The museum was justifiably proud of its collection of contemporary art, but none were quite so avant-garde as the works being displayed today.
He walked past a piece named "Janus," proffering a tray of champagne to the two well-dressed patrons studying the sculpture. The two men (one young, one old) who had been melded together, back to back, to form this piece writhed slowly in their drug-addled agony, offering a unique perspective on the passage of time and an illustration of the tension between the present, the past, and the future.
The artist was standing near her largest piece ("Anemone" - a study of societal pressure, through the medium of a hundred arms grafted into a sheet of living flesh, the arms constantly reaching out towards the viewer in a mute plea for aid), demonstrating the method she had used to create this artwork with a pair of gerbils, melding them together and separating them again by a touch of the rust-encrusted scalpel she had purchased though their club.
When the lights went out, and the underground museum wing was plunged into darkness, Mister Grey didn't panic. He didn't even worry when the lights came back on and he discovered that the artist was unconscious and her scalpel was stolen.
He did, however, get quite upset when he found out that all of the art pieces had been killed. Damned Philistines, no appreciation for high culture at all.
New Delhi, India
Even here, in this land of old religions and older traditions, the voice of The Broken could be heard.
A small voice, perhaps, drowned by the crush of bodies, but relentless, grinding through the ignorant resistance of the blind and lost. Insistent. Irresistible. Even more so now that the foul jailer of God had been slapped down, the voice of The Broken felt cleaner, brighter, stronger then ever before.
Deep below the city they sang and rocked, these new children, fresh to the comforts of The Broken. Brother Sig watched in pride as they prayed in sweating earnest to the reliquary on the podium. A small vial, yes…but a product of pure love and evangelical devotion. The breath of God, the so called “clockwork virus”, had been known to the faithful for some time…but this was no mere breath. This was the roar of its voice, the wind from its great passing.
Nurtured by the monks in the Australian monastery, this was a hundred times faster, turning the flesh to the divine in a matter of hours, spreading as fast as the passing breeze. When the devotions were finished, Brother Sig would release the vial into the Ganges, and bring thousands to the will of The Broken. Soon, hundreds of thousands would turn ageless, endless voices to the sky, and bring-
His thoughts and flesh were abruptly interrupted by metal fragments.
The MTF came hot on the heels of the first shotgun shell, pistols making a strobe light in the dim room, the chanting replaced by frenzied screaming, then silence, the smells of cordite, sweat and shit thick in the air. The four men in gas masks clumped to the central dais, one reaching out and gingerly lifting the thick vial of silvery-brown liquid.
“Not a bad smash and grab.”
“Easy on the smash, there…”
“Bugger off, don't be so literal.”
“Looks like the lot of them…so much for "God's" protection.”
They quickly secured the vial in a steel canister, clumping back to the surface at a brisk pace. Had they lingered a bit more, they might have heard the sound wafting up from the pile of bodies. Soft and small, but insistent.
The sound of ticking.
Quantico, Virginia, United States of America
When Agent Wolfram came into work the next morning, he found his office being quickly emptied by men wearing FBI windbreakers. "What's going on, boss?" he asked.
"You're being reassigned to white-collar crimes, Wolf," Assistant Director Pavlova said. She handed the young man a manila folder. "You're a good agent. You deserve better than to be stuck down here chasing ghosts."
"I see," Wolfram said slowly. "What about Uecker?"
"I guess you didn't hear? Uecker's dead. He killed himself last night."
"Let me guess," Wolfram said, very slowly and very carefully. "Shot himself twice in the chest and once in the head?"
"I don't like what you're implying, agent," Pavlova said.
"Well, then, let me make it very obvious!" Wolfram shouted. "You and your bosses have never liked the work I'm doing. Well, I'm done. I quit. You can reassign me all you like, but you can't stop a private citizen from searching for the truth. And it's out there. I know where to find it."
He slammed his badge and gun down on the empty desk and stormed out of the building to his rather beat-up Honda Accord. He took a moment to rest his head against the steering wheel, then started up his car and pulled out of the parking lot.
In the movies, car bombs always engulf the vehicle in a massive fireball: this is because most car explosions are gas-ignited. It looks visually interesting, minimizes dangerous shrapnel on the set, and helps cover up the fact that there are no people in the car. In the case of the bomb that killed Agent Wolfram, the saboteur had decided to go more subtle: a tiny explosive charge on the main brake line, triggered when the car reached a certain speed, sufficed.
A.D. Pavlova shook her head sadly when she heard the report of the fatal five-car pileup on the radio a half hour later. "Should have taken the transfer, Wolf," she sighed.
Hong Kong, China
“Good god Harken, we're just going after a low-level shape shifter…”
“What? Do you think I'm under-prepared?”
“…how many barrels does that thing have?”
“It's called 'accuracy through target saturation', look it up. It also gives me a mild and oddly inappropriate erection.”
“I am getting a transfer. Today.”
In the worst terrorist attack to date, the National Museum of Iraq was attacked and leveled by a massive car bomb planted by an unknown party. Not that anyone needed to know, of course. Just another senseless act of violence in a country that had seen too many.
It was a pity more people on the investigation team hadn't seen the movie "Die Hard."
"You found HOW many skips in Swiss bank deposit boxes?"
Ulan Bator, Mongolia
"All right, guys, let's go catch us a death worm."
Buenos Aires, Argentina
"That's a lot of Hitler clones."
"We're going to need more napalm."
Foggy Bottom, Washington, DC, United States of America
"You'll never get away with this."
"You can't. You can't just kill a Congressman in the middle of Washington, DC, and expect to get away with it. There will be investigations. There will be inquiries. They'll find out all about you…"
"I see. You seem to be laboring under several false assumptions, Congressman. The first is that they will discover you've been murdered. That will not be the case. What they will discover is your naked body hanging from a noose looped over a hotel room shower curtain rod, with an extra-large sized tube of KY jelly close to hand, and a semen-stained copy of "Barnyard Beauties" crumpled at your feet. I honestly don't expect the investigators will investigate very hard."
"Wait, you can't…"
"Your second false assumption is that we even care. You see, we're operating under Snowblind protocol. Small events, here and there, nothing too huge, but enough to do the job. A church burning down here, a small terrorist attack in the Middle East, a couple of nondescript, senseless murders of non-white, non-blonde, non-women. Things that might normally lead the news on a slow news day, except that it's not going to be a slow news day. The media are all going to find something more interesting to talk about. Maybe Paris Hilton is going to get a full-body tattoo of herself sucking a giant cock. Maybe the cast of Jersey Shore is going to have an orgy with a pair of sheep in the middle of a shopping mall. Or maybe a stodgy old conservative Congressman is going to be found dead of autoerotic asphyxiation while in possession of copious amounts of bestiality porn."
"… oh God, no, you can't do this! I have a wife! I have kids! I have constituents! You can't let them think—"
Inter-site memo from Resource Allocation Department, excerpt
I swear to god, if I see the words “covered in fire”, “extreme threat suppression”, or “requesting more munitions” in ONE more goddamn report, I'm taking the month off. Who knew cutting the leash on groups of well trained, highly disciplined Agents could result in something about as dangerous and controllable as a blind chimp with a shotgun?
Inter-site memo from Information Control Department, excerpt
Would you PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE tell your testosterone-poisoned monsters to at least TRY to be a LITTLE discreet? I know you "feet on the ground" guys think we've got it easy, but I'd like to see one of you hyperviolent rockheads try to spindoctor four guys in black ninja suits gunning Mickey Mouse down in the middle of the Main Street Electrical Parade.
Inter-site memo from Legal Department, excerpt
FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU
Somewhere in Colorado
"And so, with your house burning down around your ears, you turn to me," the old man said softly. "The man who, many years ago, warned you to clear the dry brush away from your homes."
"Hey, don't you DARE start on that shit now!" the man in the grey suit shouted. "This is bigger than our petty differences. We're looking at life or death right now!"
"You're the one who started this!" the woman in white chimed in. "You provoked them. You bloodied their nose. You created this mess. You fix it!"
"I started nothing," the old man said calmly. "The man who did is now dead. This could have ended there. But you smelled blood. You wanted a piece. And once you'd had a taste, you could not leave well enough alone. You had to attack the hunters as well. And now the hunters have let loose their hounds, and you are afraid."
"Fuck you!" the man in grey shouted. He was getting to his feet to say something more, but that was when Sandra drew the gun from her jacket and put it to his forehead.
"Sit down, Mister Harrington," she intoned flatly. "Or I will have you thrown out and you'll get no help whatsoever."
There was a deadly, tense moment of silence before Harrington reluctantly sat down. Sandra kept her gun trained on him the whole time.
If the old man noticed the interruption, he chose not to acknowledge it. "I follow a simple rule," he said softly. "You get back what you put in. Provide me with resources, and I will get results. The more resources you provide, the more results you get. This requires a modicum of trust… but then, when we stand with our backs against the wall, there is nowhere to go but forward."
The man in the red robes, who had been sitting silently in the corner since the meeting began, rose to his feet. "Then you shall have everything."
"Holiness!" protested the woman in white. "You cannot…"
"The Teacher was right," The High Priest of the Broken interrupted. "As were you. This is no longer about The Great Work. This is about preventing The Final Shattering. This man has shown what he can do using the aid of a few. What more could he accomplish with the entire weight of the Church behind him?"
The man in the red turned to the old man. "The armies of the Broken God are at your disposal, Teacher," he said. "Use them as you will."