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[Fiction] Week Two: Stealth


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Carver hangs on the side of the building, trying to not let her mind wonder. The microphone in her ear hisses as Jager’s voice tells her, “I can see you moving.”

Carver doesn’t acknowledge. That’s not the point of this exercise; the point is to learn to be completely still while hanging from her fingers and toes while Jager circled somewhere in the night, looking for her. Holding her body as still as she can, she waits.

“I can still see you moving.”

What the hell? I know I wasn’t moving that time, she growls to herself. She hadn’t even been moving her eyes! She had completely still… except for her breathing. “Jager, hold up,” she murmurs, her voice keying her own mic on. “I wasn’t moving; I was breathing. Is that what you saw?”

“Perhaps that is what I spotted,” Jager admits. “I saw your profile change against the night sky. How long can you hold your breath?”

“I don’t know,” Carver growls, “but I’m sure we’re going to find out.”

“Of course,” Jager replies with a tone that makes her want to smack him. Thank goodness he’s not right here, because she probably was irritated enough to try and that would be bad. This extra exercise, piled on top of the daily morning routine, was really boring and irritating, and the tension is starting to get to her.

Carver takes a deep breath and holds it. The seconds tick into minutes, and minutes into tens of minutes. “Very good,” Jager says. “If I didn’t know where to look for you, I might have missed you. Now, continue with your mission.”

Carver begins to climb down with painful slowness. Someday, she would decide when and how to move, but for now, she was following Jager’s instructions. Of course, she would pick the target, regardless.

The top of the hotel’s awning is an island of light and safety, but Carver snakes her way through the small patches of darkness to hover at the edge of the awning. Like a looming gargoyle, she becomes still and silent again, her dark Eufiber bodysuit aiding her task. People walk below her, Nova and Baseline alike, ignorant of her presence.

Her prey arrives. Carver didn’t know he was the one until she saw him stop below her, talking urgently into his cell phone. Hello, Bryan, she thinks at her prey as she tightens her muscles and prepares to strike.

Her moment comes when he turns to wave at someone walking up the block; her claws come at her call. And as Bryan Nacht turns, the tips of Carver’s claws pluck the carelessly-draped scarf off of his shoulder and neck. The scarf goes into her teeth, and she flips backwards away from the edge, landing on the apex of the awning silently. She doesn’t hesitate there; she flips to the side, toward the outer wall of the hotel. It is not as good as her first flip, but it is just as silent as the first.

Landing on the side of the hotel, she freezes, holding her breathe again. The wind whips the bright scarf around her, and Carver unfreezes long enough to slip the scarf into her bodysuit. She’s half-expecting Jager to speak up, but he doesn’t say anything.

She starts to climb, her super-strong muscles easily carrying her upward. Her heart races; she feels so exalted as she creeps carefully up the building. At the thirtieth floor, Carver begins to edge sideways. Once she’s around the corner, she jumps to the roof of the building below her, still incredibly quiet. She straightens up and starts to move steadily but stealthily toward the next part of her egress plan.

“Look out!” a pile of lumber nearby shouts, and Carver doesn’t think, she falls flat and rolls. When she comes to her feet, she is facing Jager. He doesn’t say anything, just circles on the rooftop, and Carver matches him.

After a moment, he says, “You were not to take a trophy.”

Carver’s eyes narrow. “No, but I saw the chance. I knew that I could do it, and I did.”

“Are you sure that you should have taken a risk?” Jager asks. “What made you think that you could pull it off?”

“I…” Carver blinks. “I just knew that I could do it. I just did it.”

Jager nods. “No hesitation. It is good, but it can lead you astray, too.” He steps closer to her, too fast for her to move away, so he’s not attacking her. As she relaxes, he murmurs in her ear, “Don’t go off mission again.”

Carver feels something tighten in her gut. She turns her head to look at Jager, her gray eyes flashing. “I knew I could do it. And I did it well,” she remarks firmly, her eyes meeting his. She walks past him and adds, “And I did complete the mission. I did touch his shoulder.”

“Don’t get overconfident,” Jager warns, falling into step next to her. “It will kill you.”

“Jager, of all the people you know, I am the least overconfident,” Carver points out. “I’m still hesitant about many things, but this was the first time that I ever felt that I, not the thing inside, could do something. I’m careful, Jager; please don’t take this moment away from me.”

Jager hesitates before nodding. “Just be careful. The mission guidelines exist for a reason.”

“Don’t worry,” Carver assures him. “I’m always careful.” She smiles at him as she flips off the edge of the building and begins to somersault down the side, a whirling shadow of grace and beauty.

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