Four days ago she received an anonymous message: there would be a mission and she would have to accept the terms, or it would spell the end for her. Three days ago the details came in an encrypted attachment including schematics of a large tanker ship. Two days ago she gathered all the equipment and resources she needed. One day ago she rendezvous with the ship, sneaking onboard through the backside and quietly making her way into the storage decks. Military personnel guarded everything. She made no time in finding a private, snapping his neck, hiding his corpse in a crate, and dawning his uniform. For the next six hours she acted as if she were always there helping the other soliders move crates and vehciles onboard. She made mental notes of everything. Three years of military experience had given her the edge to fit in with her new comrades and no one questioned her. Two hours ago the ship launched from port. Thirty minutes afterwards it breached the atmosphere; she waited listening to the metal bowel of the vessel trembling as it crossed into the great nothingness of space. Five minutes later the artificial gravity system was turned on. Her watch vibrated; she pulled her sleeve up and noticed the time: 00:00.00.
Nodding to her so-called comrades, smiling at officers, and hurriedly making her way down the corridors of the ship, she made her way into a janitorial closet. She pushed aside the shelf careful not to tip over any of the supplies. From her pocket she produced a small automatic screwdriver. She inserted it into the groove and with a press of the button unhinged a vent grate. She reached in her entire arm’s length and produced a satchel and threw it over her neck. Carefully, the grate was re-screwed and the shelf pushed back. She pulled a cart out, filled the shelves with cleaning supplies, filled the bucket from the small sink in the corner, and stabbed a new mop into it. Hidden on the bottom shelf amidst the garbage bags was the satchel. With a deep breath she backed out through the door and with some haste began to wheel the cart down the corridor right by military officers busy about their duties. Ten minutes of rolling the cart brought her to a service elevator. Once inside (and alone) she produced a card from her satchel. She studied it. If the information on the magnetic strip failed they would be upon her within ninety seconds. The mission that she had spent four days preparing for to get to this service elevator would be for naught. She slid the card. The light took a milisecond to respond and the tube began its decent down the shaft.
A disembodied voice called to her: “Excellent work. I’ve been watching your progress.” It wasn’t really a voice, but more of a thought that translated into a voice in the back of her mind. A way of “telepathically” communicating with one another. She responded with nothing to his thought-speak. “And I’m here to make sure you don’t get cold feet.” The man’s voice was sharp and concise. The doors of the service elevator opened with a hiss into a darkened wide-open room. The wheels of the cart rattled as she pushed them onto the grated catwalk. Before her were large pipes and steam of a boiler room.
“You should be able to see four clearly marked pipes labeled, one, two, three, and four. Make your way to the first one,” the man thought-spoke to her. She rattled the cart across the catwalk towards the end. “Stop there. You’re making too much noise. Open the satchel. You’ll find a box inside. The code is alpha-alpha-delta-charie-tango-nine. Open it.” She produced the box from her bag — no bigger than her hand — ran her fingers over the rounded edges, flipped it over and entered the code and her thumbprint. Both were excepted. It popped open. Inside was a small device. A row of LEDs lit up and began blinking. She had enough knowledge of electronics to know that it was a count down timer written in binary. There wasn’t much time. “Place it under the first turbine,” the man said.
She moved quickly, down the stairs, across another catwalk, and towards a cluster of tubes and whirling magnets. She slipped the device underneath as far as she could reach.
“Good girl. You have less than ten minutes to get off of that ship. I suggest you make your way above deck, across the bow and take one of the lifepods. I would move without hesitation.”
She bolted up the stairwell, across the catwalk and into the service elevator. It took a minute for the elevator to reach the upper decks, but it felt like an infinity. The doors opened into a brightly lit white corridor. From her holster she drew her weapon — a glock — and crept along the walls moving as quickly and quietly as she could. She could make voices traveling down a perpendicular hallway, they were echoing and still quite a distance away. There was a T-junction where they would meet, and she would have to be ready to fight or die. There was no time to go back the other way. She closed on the corridor and so did the voices. Without hesitation she fired first.
The silencer had muffled her bullet. The impact surprised a portly man in a red hawaiian shirt and straw hat. Her actions stuttered as three screams ripped into the quiet corridor. A woman and two children — the fat man’s wife and kids. The woman grabbed her wide-eyed, dead as a doornob husband and sobbed. The children screamed and cried. She held her gun on them. The woman coming to her senses a couple of seconds later began to whimper, “Don’t kill us…take whatever you want…” She tossed her purse to the feet of the girl with the gun.
“Dammit,” the man’s voice said. “You need to get off of that ship! Stop wasting time! Shoot them all and get moving!” She raised her gun at the three living bodies huddled together. And fired. Three times. The hallway was silent again. The ship was so large no one had heard. There was no time to take care of the bodies; she hurried away from them and took a few twists and turns that eventually lead to a pair of double doors. She pushed them open onto the deck…of a cruise ship. Children ran by her screaming and shooting one another with water pistols. Parents scolded them for doing so. Elderly folks were playing shuffleboard and discussing pleasantries with one another. The girl walked as nonchalantly as she could through the crowd. She tucked the gun into her pocket and avoided the children running by her and the glances of idling civilians looking to strike up a conversation.
There were three minutes left. Less than that. She approached another set of double doors and there two guards exited. One was speaking with his finger pressed to his ear — a small walkie-talkie. The other man was looking around. Instinctively she doubled back. Behind her were two sets of two men on their headsets and scouring the deck with their eyes. One of them pointed at her. It was over. She had been caught and in less than two and a half minutes the mission would be over whether she was dead or alive. She didn’t want to be dead. They were coming for her from all angles trying to remain as non-chalant as they could. For the twenty seconds she was looking she had stuffed her hand into her pocket and twisted the silencer off. They were approaching her like a net tightening over her. She waited still. Five, four, three, two one…she pulled the weapon from her pocket and fired into the crowd. Shrill cries arose as the gunshots went off. In the choas she fired at the guards and ran headlong, and fast. She pulled a K-bar from her side holster and plunged it into a guard, and tore it clear through. With a quick spin she leveled the other man by his side and with her glock she fired wildly behind her to increase the pandemonium.
Her body crashed through a set of double doors. There was one minute left. She replaced the cartridge of her weapon and made her way down the corridor her gun fully exposed aiming it at anyone in her way as a silent means to tell them: “get the hell out of the way.” Thirty seconds to go. Even if she could be propelled far enough in the lifepod she still might not escape the detonation. She entered the walk way to the rows of lifepods and entered the first one she could see. She slammed the door, punched and stabbed the buttons to activate it the pod and retracted the doors. Through the tiny circular window she could see guards entering the door. With one final jab she pod was free and she ejected into the great expanse of space. There was no gravity. She floated around the teardrop shaped vessel. She swam to the porthole and stared up at the ship. It wasn’t a tanker — this was a luxury cruise liner. A flash and violent eruption ballooned out of the lower back end of the ship. The hull fractured in many placed ejecting puffs of fire and smoke and with one final eruption the entire ship was torn in half. White specs flittered out of the ship…bodies that were tossed into the freedom of space. They would spin and float forever as frozen corpses. She covered the porthole with her hand and curled her knees to her chin.
“Mission accomplished,” she spoke.