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Tell Me A Story
Breaza, Romania.

73.  Black boots stepped over a stuffed bear.  It was worn, button for an eye.  The perfect cliche of a child’s toy in a picture.  Nika picked it up and placed it where it belonged which seemed right as the place was very tidy.  She was checking her work.  No stone unturned as it were.  Three floors in total.  A gym, classrooms, courtyard, staff offices...and of course the dorms.  They even had a zero-entry swimming pool.  What insurance company had approved that?  What if a toddler wandered in past the gates and fire doors?  Or one of the crawlers escaped from the nursery?  It just seemed like a nightmare waiting to happen.  Then again it was Romania.  Still, with the brightly painted walls, good furniture, quality classroom tech, decked out playground, massive kitchen, super-duper anti-pollen/allergen/germ/whatnot air filtration system and the teacher’s lounge...this place had some donors with deep pockets.  Hell, she could easily have been on the charity contact list.  

Anyway, It was much nicer than the place she’d lived in for a while as a kid.  Until the priests came for her.  Errant thoughts were just that though and not a distraction to the night’s work.  She dropped a 2x2x2 soft cube in her wake as she left the room.  

Her tour brought her to the terrace level; the last stop.  The lights were on night mode in the hallway, so dim but not dark.  All the safeties were in place, drone reports in but still she used her own senses.  She heard nothing beyond the door; only her own slow breath in the respirator.  At a silent command to her data jumper all light ceased.  The door opened silently and she was in like lightning.  Three shots fired in practiced succession.  She knew the layout of every room.  Every room, every hall, every nook, cranny, crawl space, storage locker, where the safes were, where the weapon locker was, where the drugs and medicine were stored, where the towels...fucking everything.  That was her job.  To know is to live.  O’Roark used to beat that into her.  The fucker was right too.  Dead but right.  

The assassin checked her work.  74.  Another cube.  The couple who ran the laundry.  76.  Cube.   Nurse.  77.  Assistant Headmaster.  78.  Headmaster.  79.  He had a nice room there and a fantastically adorned old-fashioned globe on a pedestal.  Fancy.  The fat security chief.  80.  What a joke.  A cube in every room.

The Atharim made her way up the stairs to the roof.  She passed row upon row of raised gardens; flowers, vegetables, bee hive things-she’d forgotten what they were called.  A self sufficient place.  Probably had special classes on growing things and being one with nature.  Unfortunately other things were taught at the school too.  Bad things to children of dead bad people.  A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared.

The fancy air filtration system had been their downfall.  It was so large the damn thing had a full sized door to access the components inside.  She pulled the shiny metal portal open and stepped inside.  Pollution was bad for you sure, but this unit, this was overkill.  The building had zero opening windows.  Really.  No fresh air for the kiddos.  Instead, pure pollutant-free air was filtered through the HEPA U-20LL-more-classifications-than-sense super system and blown inside like God’s own breath.  She keyed a touch interface and smooth drawers slid outward to reveal eight brick-sized filters.  They were spent; used.  The lethal poison that had killed 80 people that night, painlessly in their sleep, was still circulating throughout the perfectly sealed building.  Nika retrieved and stacked the cartridges neatly, replacing them with new, non-lethal units from a cabinet on the wall.  An unnecessary step perhaps.

The eight bricks were gathered up after everything was closed and back to right, carried to the door leading back down into the building and unceremoniously dropped to tumble down the stairs.  Along with another cube, her last, because she’d planned it that way.  Plans.  Plans are good.  Better if they work.   

Nika checked her perimeter.  Clear.  Incoming power to the compound: zilch.  Outgoing power: nothing.  No data, no word; everything was still cut off; cameras destroyed.  Nothing left to chance.  Even with her Quantum Camouflage.  

She kept her respirator on until she was well clear of the place.   

Nika sat far enough away on a knoll overlooking the orphanage and pressed a button.  

Inside the building the soft cubes opened.  A fine blend of particulate magnesium, among other things, rose upward like a whisper.  Shimmering silver, it danced fancifully in the air though no one was alive inside to witness.  

Another press of a button ignited the glitter. 

The building and all the horror contained therein burned like God’s great sun.
A tall woman stood on a path of flaked gray rock.  It was an exercise path, she thought, for it seemed to snake its way through the wooded area surrounding a nicely tended clearing.  The clearing should, logic said, contain a building or series of buildings as the build up was quite lovely almost as if someone was trying to say, ‘if you like this, you should see what’s next!’  She thought of the long, winding drive through carefully spaced trees.  Manicured flower beds framed the driveway as it wound around and out of sight to a parking area past a fountain of sorts.  A sculpture of children hand-in-hand encircled a white-stoned perforated pad.  Spurts of water arced from hole to hole, sequences carefully choreographed, so that it appeared to spring as though alive; as a dolphin might jump from the sea and back again.  Short spurts, long spurts and then longer still.  Always perfect, always into the holes faster and faster with nary a splatter to waste.  The crescendo seemed to end with a mass jetty straight upward and then the shorter sequences started again.  Piercing blue eyes watched it in silence for a time, lost to her own thoughts and theories.  Was it a terrorist attack?  No one was claiming it.  Accident?  Perhaps.  If not, what were the motives for killing eighty people.  Eighty?  

The path crunched beneath her boots as she made her way toward the steaming footprint of what had been an orphanage and school for ‘gifted’ children.  That last part was a closely guarded secret though.  The air warmed as she neared.  Unnaturally fast, maybe ten degrees a foot.  The smell...ammonia.  White powder and black ash remained.  That was literally it.    

The bulk of the medical rescue vehicles had gone as there were no bodies to recover although one of the fire crews remained, looking very subdued.  This was not a normal fire though, clearly.  She’d spoken with the investigators, the local ones.  CCD Inspectors were going over the site now, collecting...samples.  She’d ridden up with them from the small airstrip nearby.  The chemical expert, Ian, had a theory she agreed made sense and he was testing it now with the equipment in his field lab.  Really more of a formality.  A drone flew overhead cataloging the area from the sky.  

Her wallet vibrated in her pocket.  The message said a team was prepping for deployment to Turkey.  Apparently she was not going to stay here long.  Still, she had come here for a reason.  One last look.  She ducked her head inside the tent.  Ian had all but grown a microscope for a head.  “Hey, Bill Nye…”  The scientist flipped a bird in her direction.  That drew a grin, they’d worked together a long time.  He knew all her old jokes.  “I’ve gotta run. Tag me with the results, okay?”  The man’s eyes never wavered from his task.  “Sure thing, Boss.”    

Captain Akari Miyakawa, USN (Ret.) 
Vice President, Private Sector Security
Warder International Inc.

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