The afternoon was hot as usual. Mustafa hated the heat, he would rather be buried underground where it’s nice and cool. But this was the price of his life now. He had become a shapeshifter more than a decade ago, and had just been promoted to the task of protecting none other than Derrick himself. Derrick was a good leader, a strong leader, he had proven himself many times to his clan his men, and creatures. They all served him with a fierce loyally. That is why Mustafa kept his complaints to himself.
Walking along a long and dusty street of Skopje he made his way to the apartment that he was sharing with a multitude of his comrades. It was one of many such places scattered throughout the city for them to rest during the day or night before returning to their mission’s at hand. Right now he was heading back to get a few hours rest before going back for the night shift. He prefered night shift anyway, but at least the apartment had air conditioning now.
There were hardly any people on the street, it was too hot, everyone was inside, resting or at work, but there was one man coming the other way. He had his head down trying to mind his own business, Mustafa probably looked about the same, he didn’t like interacting with humans, but would do so if needed. He had improved his skills by successfully fitting in, but that didn’t mean he enjoyed it.
Working with some human agents was bad enough. Although he didn’t mind if it was the dumb ones, who didn’t even know that they worked for an entirely different species. He got a certain pleasure out of that, knowing that he knew so much and those fools were like children stumbling around in the dark. But the humans who were well aware were often a bit too smug and didn’t know their place. But if Derrick had selected the humans to work with them, so be it, Mustafa would accept that, at least he knew his place.
The man walking the other way brushed past him and kept going, paying little attention Mustafa took a left down a side street and found himself at the apartment. It was time for rest, there was a lot going on and tonight would prove to be a big night.
It was four hours later when he reemerged onto the street, the sun had just gone down, and he felt rested, refreshed and ready for action. He prided himself of needing little sleep to stay alert, even compared to his comrades who took less than most humans, he could stay alert for a full twenty four hours with only three hours sleep. Yes tonight he would be at his best.
It was only a ten minute walk back to the old factory and fake build site. Mustafa’s job was to guard the opposite building, the one that overlooked Derrick’s office. It was too easy for a sniper to use it as a vantage point and so he and four others were set to guard the three floors-the 4th to 6th- that gave the right angle for an attack. As extra precautions the windows had been sealed on those floors as well as the floor above and below, just to make sure.
With a dozen guards in the build site as well, it was unlikely there would be any attack getting through their ranks.
Mustafa walked into the building and made his way up the old poorly maintained stairs of the hollowed out office building. Upon reaching the 4th floor he gave the secret knock which was not really necessary. Having embraced the power within him to stay in human form, the others inside would detect him easily.
The door slid open for him and he saw in the poorly lit room with ease, due to his normally good night vision, that the day shift was already to depart.
‘Come on in, nothing to report,’ his other said in Serbian. They used human tongues in general as there was usually a human agent around that worked with them, and Serbian was easier to understand than the local Macedonian for any who had been moved here from around the Balkans.
‘Good, my team here yet?’ He saw that one of his fellow guards was already waiting but couldn’t sense the other three.
‘Not yet, they’re a bit slack.’
‘They wont be long,’ Mustafa answered shortly. He took pride in his team, they weren’t the most elite of Derrick’s but they were good, very good.
Putting his bag now next to James, his colleague, he pulled out a sidearm and a knife, attaching them to his belt. Within moments he sensed his three comrades arriving, they came up the stairs and knocked according to procedure. The day shift left with a simple nod. Mustafa and his team split up and inspected the windows on each of the three floors, they were still secured and so they returned to the central, the 5th floor to have a quick break with a patrol of two sent out every ten minutes. This would continue on for the entire night.
‘So what kept you three anyway?’ He asked.
‘I was early,’ the first said, ‘but this guy bumped up against me, some damn drunk. I hit him, he scampered away. I even chased him for a minute but he took off.’
‘You don’t say?’ The second man said. ‘I got bumped in the bus on the way here, some scruffy old guy, I gave him a look like daggers and he whimpered, kept his face covered. It was kind of strange, even though sometimes the buses get cramped around here the humans are usually quite polite, but he just bumped right into me.’
‘Maybe he was losing his mind or something?’ Mustafa offered.
The patrols continued every ten minutes for next hour, conversation was short and sharp, the night dragged on.
They could see Derrick in his office walking back and forth, often sitting at his desk. He really was a sitting duck there, even with all this security Mustafa didn’t know why he didn’t just put bullet proof glass all around his office. Perhaps he didn’t want to draw undue attention, but who could know?
Later, it was sometime just before midnight, Mustafa’s mind darted back to the earlier conversation. Two of his three colleagues had run ins with random men on the street, then he thought about the man who had walked past him on his way back to the apartment. The man had brushed up against him, but he hadn’t paid much attention. He wasn’t old, or homeless, or drunk like the others from his colleague’s stories. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but then again, three shapeshifters on the same day have similar stories, it would pay to be thorough.
He looked at James, ‘did you have a run in with any strangers on your way here, or earlier in the day?’
‘No,’ he shook his head ‘although there was a tourist who dropped his bag, I helped him, I picked it up. It seemed the most natural human thing to do.’
‘He was Asian, not sure from where, he was sitting with a young woman, also Asian, I guessed that they were friends. As they got up to go he dropped his bag, I picked it up, gave it to him, nothing to it really. Why?’
Mustafa didn’t answer, but he looked at the final colleague, ‘what about you?’
‘No, nothing unusual.’
‘You know how I feel about coincidences. I’m going to run the next patrol.’ He checked his watch, got up and began inspecting the windows on each of the three levels. There was nothing unusual. On a hunch he ordered two of the guards to the 3rd floor to cast a wider net whilst he went up to the 7th.
He couldn’t sense anything, if it was this human with powers like his kind, he wasn’t there, or wasn’t using them. But he still felt strange. Upon climbing the stairs to the 7th floor he pulled out his sidearm and stalked the area slowly and quietly. This floor was almost completely dark, only a bare minimum of lighting came in from outside. There were still some old petitions and boxes of office equipment that had been stacked up but abandoned. One night Mustafa had searched through them and found nothing of value. Not surprising, humans were very good at taking garbage if they thought it had any value.
He was about halfway through when he suddenly heard a rattling sound, it came from the far side of the largest room he was in. He stalked over quietly and behind some old boxes and petitions, there was a human, a man. He was working on the window trying to slide it up but it was held fast. He was cursing in English, Mustafa only understood a little.
‘All this …and they bolt the bloody windows…’
Mustafa pulled his gun up, stood to his full height and said ‘freeze.’
The man froze, he slowly extended his arms out to his sides, Mustafa noticed a sniper rifle sitting on the ground, leaning against the wall.
‘Slowly turn around,’ he said in Serbian. The man responded and so he guessed that he understood him ok.
He didn’t recognise him, he had a look that was vaguely that of the Balkans, was slightly tall for a Balkan man, and wore a black beanie on his head. ‘Step away from your gun,’ he did so. Mustafa forcibly turned him around and secured his hands with a cable tie.
He then picked up the sniper rifle and with his pistol close to the man’s head, but not so close that he could kick him with full force, led him back down to the 5th floor where his colleagues all waited.
‘Search him.’ Two of the guards went through his pockets and found a handgun and two knives, one small for throwing, one larger, like a hunting knife. There was no spare ammunition.
‘So you were confident that you would make the shot and get out?’ Mustafa asked as he forced the would be sniper onto his knees.
‘I was.’ The man replied in kind.
The guards all laughed. Do you know who your target is, or are you a hired gun only?’
‘Derrick, the scum of the underworld, soon to be a man with a bullet lodged in his brain.’ Two of the guards laughed, but Mustafa’s smiled slipped, he slapped the man hard across the back of the head.
‘You wont get a chance to do that, you will be dead by dawn, I would kill you myself but Derrick will want to speak to you I’m sure.’ Then to his colleagues, ‘radio across the road, tell them we found an assassin, but he is secure, ask for instructions.’
James did the honours, they could hear the reply more or less.
‘You caught him? That was easy, stay on alert, sweep the area one more time, I’ll get my men to do so over here as well. Once we know it’s secure I’ll get you to bring him over, keep two men on him, guns ready at all times.’
Mustafa and James stayed, both had their guns ready, the other three scanned the floors above and below and returned without anything to report.
‘What do you think?’ James asked.
‘I think this idiot is bad at his job, but Derrick is wise to be careful.’
‘So who do you suppose he is?’
‘Beats me, he hasn’t told us.’
‘Well,’ the captured man cut in, ‘you haven’t asked.’
‘You haven’t even asked me, so of course I haven’t told you.’
‘He’s got a point,’ James cocked an eyebrow at Mustafa, ‘so who are you?’
‘My name is William, you know me as the man, the one man who has your abilities.’
The five guards all laughed.
‘We know of this man named William, but you can’t be him.’
‘And why not?’ Will turned his head to look at them before returning his eyes to the window directly in front, and across the street to Derrick’s office.
‘Because that man is a fierce warrior, he wouldn’t have been stopped by us simply locking a few windows.’
‘Ah, yes well I must admit I was a little surprised by that, I hadn’t thought of you doing something so simple. But as for guarding this building, that was a good precaution, but at the end of the day, five of you here is easier to face than the fourteen across the road.’
‘I still don’t buy it, we would be able to sense you this close.’
‘Not if I’m not using my powers.’
‘True, but why wouldn’t you?’
‘Perhaps I’m biding my time.’ The other three guards drew their weapons.
‘Well now would be a great time, there’s five guns pointed directly at you, what do you say about that?’
‘That I’d rather wait for a more opportune time, perhaps when you are all disabled.’
Mustafa didn’t like the way this was going, this man, whoever he was, he was far too cocky given his predicament. He looked around, did his best to sense beyond the room, and the building, but there was nothing other than the guards across the road doing their rounds.
‘How do you propose to disable us then?’
‘Well, that’s the part of my plan that really took on some nuance. I’m guessing that you recall bumping into various men today? A drunk, an old man, some random guy, an Asian tourist, something like this? Well, one of my skills I’ve had to form on my own, that didn’t come from my power set was the ability to disguise myself, some makeup, that kind of thing, change my walk, my clothing, it’s remarkably simple, especially if people aren’t paying attention.’
The five guards all looked at each other uncertainly.
‘I think you’re bluffing,’ Mustafa muttered.
‘But my description of the encounters was a little close to home was it not?’
‘Ok, so what is the point of all this?’
‘Simple, my friend can make almost anything with his hands, even modifying the electric charges from a taser and amping it up ten times, I’m really not sure how he does it, but the point is not really the ‘how’, so much as the result.’ Suddenly, everything seemed to happen at once.
Will’s hands flashed for a movement that made trigger fingers itch, he pressed something, a device that was on his wrist and wild flashes of light exploded from the guards. Mustafa’s body was racked with pain and he fell to the floor, his fellow guards were in the same way affected, all except one.
There was a flash at Will’s hands as he finally used his powers to cut the cables on his wrists, he turned to the one remaining guard who was in shock from his colleagues collapse and before he could use his gun on the suddenly released prisoner, a bolt of energy shot forward and sliced through his pistol taking two of his fingers with it.
Will ran towards him, punching him firmly in the stomach, doubling him over. ‘As I said, the window thing was simple but effective, but all plans need to be adaptable.’ He picked the guard up with all his strength and ran him towards the window a few paces away. He shoved the body with all his might and the guard flew through it, glass smashing and then fell to the ground with a sickening crunch. Will then used his right boot to flick up his nearby sniper rifle, snatching it and raising it to his eye as he crouched down and looked across the street at the office.
There was beginning to be some awareness that things on this side of the street had just been turned upside down, but the guards in Derrick’s office were slow. Derrick himself stood up from his chair and turned to face Will, perfectly. He could see into the man’s eyes as he appeared to stare directly at him. Will doubted he could make out who was at the end of the scope, but it didn’t matter, he knew who was there and who would pull the trigger.
Suddenly the lights flickered, then they died. Derrick’s office was pitch black.
Wise decision. Will thought, but focused his mind, drew more deeply on his power and focused it into his eyes. Within a few moments of the lights going out, Will could now see perfectly in the dark, as if every figure were illuminated, it was even easier than before.
He looked at the same spot that Derrick had been, the man hadn’t moved, no doubt waiting for his guards to secure the room, he probably thought he was safe in dark as well.
Will allowed himself a smile, he squeezed the trigger, the bullet from the high powered rifle shot across the street, through the cheap glass of the office window and deflected only slightly as the bullet went not into Derrick’s forehead, as was the intention, but instead into his right eye. He fell back, disappearing out of sight, Will didn’t need confirmation, he wasn’t getting up from that.
He turned and looked at the disabled guards, then his small supply of weapons. The handgun was the one he had stolen from his first encounter with the Nameless in Zagreb, it seemed almost poetic to return it to them, besides he had plenty more. From his stack of weapons he picked up only one seemingly innocuous device, through it next to the bodies and smiled.
‘Thanks for bringing me down, couldn’t have done it without you.’ With that he turned and leapt from the window, attaching a cable as he went to the frame. It extended all the way until he was nearly at the ground, then it stopped sharply disconnected and swung back and forth.
Right on time a car screeched around the corner and stopped in front of Will, he climbed in, shut the door as they sped away, placing the sniper rifle in the back seat.
‘Job done,’ he said.
‘Good,’ Chen replied as he sped through the streets, some wild shots flew after them, but none hit home. ‘You got your revenge, can we have a holiday now?’
‘I think we can spare a few days off.’ Will smiled as he leant back into the seat.
Mustafa’s body began to get back under his control, he looked around at his men, they were in bad shape, he was in incredible pain himself. He didn’t need to look through the window to see that he had failed, because of him Derrick, the man he respected more than any other in this world was dead, because of his failings. This was the last thought he had as the device that Will had thrown on the floor blinked twice before erupting and a cloud of smoke and debris shot out the window mixed in with body parts.
The guards in Derrick’s office began to calm down, the assassin was gone, they looked down at their charge, a bullet through the eye socket, he was dead, no doubt.
After a few moments the body began to dissolve and one of the guards went for the phone.
‘I’ll make the call,’ he said.
The phone rang, Viktor was not surprised, he expected it earlier if he was to be honest. He answered it, spoke into it for a few moments and then hung up. He turned around to the man in the chair behind him.
‘Dead, shot right through the eye.’
‘And there is no chance that the human could have seen?’
‘No, the shape shifter’s body fell out of sight he was in one building over, he wouldn’t have seen the body dissolve. Your plan worked perfectly, you led him along at every step of the way.’
‘Excellent,’ Derrick said, ‘then the next phase of our plan can begin.
(C) T.W. Norrich ‘The Nameless Saga’ 2016