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Mission for Lylan

By @cckraut

Project Nero

After sunset is when I work best. In the dark alleyways, I changed into my black mask and reattached my sword to my belt. I slid on the comfortable leather glove, and extending it was the signal for Darwin to fly to me and land on it.

It didn’t take long for me to spot a suspicious-looking group of two or three shadows moving secretly in the night. They slipped quietly to the sidestreets. The moonlight only lit a trace of the electric blue on their hoods as they passed out of sight.

I trailed them from a distance for some time. Finally, they approached an ordinary living complex, a building where I would have expected the poor Astentian boy to live. It was a run-down, two story square building; I assumed from the shape of the roof that there was a courtyard inside, as was usual.

On this building, however, the agents performed a secret knock. They were quickly and silently allowed inside.

When I approached the door five minutes later, the door was locked. It proved no trouble, however, when persuaded with a spritz from my bottle of corrosive acid made for just that purpose.

The door swung open, and I crept inside quietly. Darwin flew immediately up to the rafters to keep watch.

The building was warm. A fire was burning in the fireplace, illuminating the entire atrium of the building. The Plasma symbol was everywhere. On posters, on papers, on the flags in the main hall. The folders around the large table in the center were all labeled “TOP SECRET Project Nero”. I flipped one open and snapped pictures of the first few pages, sending them to the Delta Force analysts.

But when I shuffled the papers back into place, I heard footsteps. I knew that I needed to hide, and when Darwin made a quiet sound from the rafters, I knew just where. I quickly searched through my bag and grabbed my grappling hook, threw it above in the high rafters, and climbed swiftly to conceal myself there.

Two agents walking side-by-side passed into the room. “Yeah, and that isn’t even the worst news,” the shorter one complained. “Word came from East Base this afternoon that the Revenant was spotted about ten miles south of here. Two agents returned, wounded animals and all. No handhelds; they said she crushed ’em.”

Oh, no. Those types of silly mistakes are my greatest weakness. Now it was obvious that I knew about their secret operation. That’s why I always kept my secret weapon hidden: I don’t only play a physical game; I play a mental one as well. I specialize in intimidation and dramatic tactics that, just like a lion’s mane, make me appear much more dangerous than I actually am.

“Revenant,” the other whispered. “Everyone’s always so scared of a Revenant. What is it?”

Evidently, my widespread mental game had not yet reached this inexperienced young officer.

The shorter one stopped his friend. “You’ve never heard of the Revenant?”

The taller shook his head.

The shorter sighed. “Living under a rock the last few months? Walker, Revenant is the most dangerous agent in the Delta Force. Always wears a black mask around her eyes, has this falconry glove. A superior sho mage and a master fencer. She seems to have an affinity with fire, as sometimes where she is claimed to have been sighted, the area is charred. There is only one thing in common with those scenes. At any charred scene, the agent that has sighted her is never found again, nor his animal.”

I had to prevent myself from chuckling about the affinity with fire stuff. They had no idea of the truth of my secret.

“She?” The tall agent was surprised. “You mean that Plasma’s been getting its butt kicked by a girl?”

Don’t underestimate her, Walker,” the short one rebuked him. “If she were here to have heard that, you’d be in ribbons by now. She kills if provoked. But that’s not why we’re worried about her. If she was sighted within ten miles of here, it means that you might get to meet her. She could have received intelligence of our mission. That is why I need you in this room.”

“In here? What does that have to do with Revenant?”

“You know why she’s such a good spy? She doesn’t try to sneak. If the front door were open, she wouldn’t go to the back door. And that’s because she doesn’t need to. She could be in this very room if she liked.”

Here I was even closer to breaking down laughing, but I knew that it would blow my cover. They had been too late.

The two agents ended their conversation, and the shorter man walked through a door and disappeared, while the taller man sat in a chair by the door.

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