Watch It All Go Fiery by Christopher Grant

Watch it all go fiery, pieces dropping out of the sky. Ten seconds ago, it was a jet. Nine seconds ago, I happened. Now the jet’s all explodey and shit raining down all over the countryside. Fuck ‘em. They’ve been bombing us for years, decades. Who gives a shit if I just took $300 million out of play? They’ll have two more flying overhead in an hour. I’ll be ready. Fiery is my job.

*

My bank account looks like a Wall Street broker’s wet dream. I’ve got a couple dozen aliases but this one is so obnoxious it’s hard to believe that they buy it. Agnes Fruitbloom. No, really. Agnes Fruitbloom is a bonafide millionaire working towards her first billion. Agnes Fruitbloom is a mousy woman that wears her hair in a bun, wears a cardigan sweater and a skirt that goes down to her ankles. Agnes Fruitbloom is shy and talks with a lisp. In short…Agnes Fruitbloom? She’s soooo not me.

*

Foreign soil. I’ve played on this turf before. I’m an ocean away from home. The people who brought me here know my reputation. The international press has given me a name. “Cipher”. I’m a rockstar now. I’m more popular than Jesus, it seems.

*

Barracks. Legit target. Motorcade carrying suits that carry out orders from other suits. Legit target. I put down a guard who was smoking a cigarette with his fly down and taking a leak. Never from behind, always from the side or head-on. Always give them a fighting chance. It’s more satisfying that way. Ups the adrenaline. The guard’s bladder continues to empty itself even after his brain says goodnight.

*

Let me tell you another story. This is a story about a man that lived and died on the same parcel of land. He refused to yield, refused to bend and scrape. He worked hard, bought the cabin in the woods and raised a family. His son went off to war in a place whose name no one could pronounce, much less locate on a map. He came home in pieces and the man never forgave himself and he never forgot. The man had a daughter and she had an even healthier memory and a strong love for vengeance. One day, the usual suspects came looking for the man’s daughter, hoping to “talk” with her. The man was no fool and it didn’t help their likely story that they all carried guns. The man told them his daughter was not there (which was the truth), that he hadn’t had contact with her for two years (also the truth) and that he had no interest in anything or anyone outside of himself and wished to be left alone. They left him alone, on the front porch, a bloody, pulpy mess after trying in vain to discover his daughter’s whereabouts.

*

Alice Cooper is a shill. That’s what she does for a living. Cheaply made plastic shit that no one needs. Stuff that a week from now they will have forgotten that they even own. A fool and his money are soon parted indeed. The interesting this is that nobody notices Alice Cooper is a blatant alias; not even the bank notices. 15 minutes of fame. Alice Cooper would probably be dismayed to learn that he’s a forgotten relic.

*

Do you know how easy it is to sabotage a train meant for the front lines? Do you know how simple to remove the pistol from a sleeping guard? Hop the fence of a maximum security gulag and let out one of the most wanted people in the world? Do you know how easy it is to disguise yourself as a tourist and gather information someone didn’t even realize they were giving away? To hide in plain sight?

*

Shoot. Squeeze the trigger and shoot, goddamn it. Of course not. Chickenshit. You can’t do it. Here’s some advice: if you don’t shoot me, you’d better shoot yourself. Because me? I’ve got no qualms about ending you.

*

In the forest, they look for me. I’ve got a blend-suit on and the only way they’ll find me is if they literally trip over me. I watch them come in waves. First wave is so far away from me. I get off on adrenaline and this shit is doing nothing for me. I consider stepping on a branch to draw their attention but I stop myself. I’ve done my part; any more would be cheating. The ball is in their court. Besides, the second wave comes this close to brushing up against me. Finally. The third wave finds the cabin, tosses it and burns it to the ground. They find nothing to tie me to the place. Amateurs.

*

The car hits a Sequoia head-on, crumples the hood and the front bumper, the driver impaled on the steering wheel, no air bags. The senator stumbles out of the car with a bodyguard. The arrow I fire catches the bodyguard in the neck and he hits the ground before he can even clear his piece. The senator makes a run for it. He’s never been here before, it’s foreign soil, as alien as the moon. He runs. He can’t hide. The only thing that might save him is the RFID chip in his left elbow. I do my best to solve that. I’m on him in ten seconds, pinning him to the ground and swinging the hatchet.

*

Do you know what scary is? It’s not what I just did to the senator, as the media would have you believe. It’s what the senator and others like him the world over do to you and me, time and time again. And we accept it. That’s the sick thing. We just roll over and play dead. Sometimes we ask what we can do but the conversation always ends without resolution. I cauterize his arm, listening to him scream but hearing only Johnny and Daddy and not giving a shit about this douchebag that we supposedly elected.

*

I could ransom him but what would I ransom him for? They won’t stop even if I ask sweetly. And they won’t do it for a throwaway piece of meat like this guy. Like the rest of us, the moment he went missing, he became expendable. That’s something he doesn’t understand, what none of them understand. In the grand scheme of things, they are replaceable. Just like the rest of us.

*

Concussion grenade goes off. Guess I was wrong about the senator’s value. My head is fuzzy and blood is streaming from my ears and nose. Instinct kicks in, the desire to survive and finish what I started. So I give up my prize so that I might live to fight another day. Not before I catch a glimpse of her. She looks exactly like me.

*

They grew me in this world. They grew her in a lab.

*

The blend-suit is crucial in my escape. Without it, I’m certain I’d be lying face-down in the dirt with a bullet in the back of my head.

*

Jenny King is a college student, who happens to have a couple hundred thousand dollars in an off-shore account. I haven’t been Jenny King in six months. Jenny King cleaned out her account yesterday.

*

They couldn’t have the genuine article so they replicated me. They did this to get under my skin. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t worked. They want me to slip and make a mistake that costs me everything. I have to be extremely careful now.

*

Alice Cooper cashes out her account. Alice Cooper should go to ground but I’ve never been the one to run from a fight. Six weeks without doing anything to fight the good fight…I feel rusty, useless as I sit on the beach, take in the art and fashion shows in Paris and Milan. This is not the existence I was meant for. Six long and unproductive weeks.

*

Feels like the first time. Nerves and sweat and that constant voice that questions everything you do, asking “What if?” It’s a simple job. Someone wants someone semi-important to disappear. Doesn’t matter how that happens. They can be abducted or they can be killed. I don’t particularly care which one, either. Phone call says it’s a fourteen year-old girl and I get flashbacks. Is that when they made her? Jenny King? I pull the mask over my face, look in the rearview mirror. I rip the mask off and toss it on the seat next to me. What am I doing? This fourteen year-old girl, what did she do? Nerves and sweat and that constant voice.

*

Watch it all go fiery. I’ve been wearing the blend-suit this entire time. I pull the hood over my head, shielding me from the freezing cold rain, from the cold harsh world. First Johnny, then Daddy. They didn’t need to kill them. They deserved better from this world. I need to end this for them.

*

Christopher Grant is a writer of stuff. Hopefully good stuff.

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