A strong wind crashed into the stranger as he ran down the empty street. All around him were the signs of ruin he had remembered as a kid. Sector 37, the slums; he had once called this place home, but it now held no love in his decaying heart. The rain coated the deserted buildings giving them a glossy look, as though embalmed.
‘I’m in a tomb,’ he thought to himself, a tomb filled with tall silent sentinels watching vigilantly —his every move- as his footsteps echoed down the lonely streets and alleyways. A small silver attaché case was firmly gripped in his hand. ‘Nonsense,’ he warned himself, ‘have to stay frosty’. The memory of his home chased after him all the same.
As a young boy, he had always been known to get into trouble. Always pulling a prank, causing trouble, or tormenting somebody, he had earned the not-so-affectionate title of ‘Doom’. He found it ironic the name had followed him even into his profession. Indeed, it had become like his new name, a calling card even. The name was feared, and it brought respect. He could barely even remember his real name. When he really thought about it, it was like a missing part of his life he was helpless to recall. Doom found it increasingly difficult to remember anything about his past at all.
Vice president Morimoto; how could he have forgotten? President Morimoto was very close to Doom, a father figure one could say. Doom remembered Morimoto with perfect clarity amidst the rotting, vanishing remains of his younger years. He was the vice president of Aztech Inc. Aztech was renown for making some of the best electronics in the entire world. Anything from surveillance equipment to prosthetic body parts, Aztech was in the business of success.
Doom pulled the image of Morimoto from within his tired mind; a somewhat plump Asian man in his forties whom always seemed to be frowning. Not at Doom though, no, Doom remembered the smiling Morimoto’s face like it was there in front of him. Grinning, the face of Morimoto turned into the likeness of a skull. Doom reeled back at this disturbing image of his once beloved father figure.
Tears trickling down his cheek, Doom continued his dash down the deserted streets of Sector 37. He didn’t like to think about the death of Morimoto, but it had still happened. Bringing up his reserves of resolve, Doom pushed forward and put the thought of Morimoto behind him.
The attaché case glimmered softly in the dim light of Sector 37.
In the far horizon, the sight of flashing lights came into view. Doom stopped and kneeled down next to a rusty Xeno-Industries Compact. The dilapidated old vehicle looked as though it might still run if it’s Fusion cells were recharged. Doom put this distraction from his mind just as he had Morimoto. He unclipped a pair of Aztech Opti-Focus Binoculars from his belt and brought them to his eyes.
The sight of a crowd came into focus as Doom peered far ahead through the powerful, expensive Aztech hardware. It had been a gift from Aztech, one of many gifts. Doom thought of it as Aztech’s way of repaying him for the death of his father Morimoto. His father? He may as well have been, Doom thought. Doom clipped the Binoculars at his side again and stood up. He listened carefully for the sounds of the crowd. At first there was only a soft silence, the silence of the dead all around him. In moments, the sound of screams, cheers, and the crowd came into focus thanks to his new ears.
Yes, Aztech had given him new ears, and eyes as well. His vision was never poor but he liked his new eyes all the same. Aztech was as a family to him, more than his real one had ever been. Aztech had provided where his real family had not. Now it was time for him to show his appreciation.
The corporate guard was gruff, large, and intimidating. Stuck with the outer patrol of the city block, he kept a vigilant watch over the old buildings of Sector 37. Above him was a tall office structure and the most prominent building in the area. A mere third of a mile away, the sounds of a restless crowd murmured tirelessly. Like the knights of old, he was covered from head to toe in armor plating, holding a specialized magnetic rail-type carbine. The weapon was a popular pick among corporate security forces for it’s unparalleled stopping power and high rate of fire. Sometimes a specialist or two became particular toward the bulky K-Tek Plasma Rifles for their penetration ability, but A294-C stuck with the carbine every time.
Patrolling was boring work, but the pay was fantastic and the prosthetics were free; except of course for custom implants, but even then he got a thirty percent discount. Last month it had been fibrous-enhanced arms and shoulders. The operation went well and his arms only hurt like hellfire for a few weeks. The enhanced strength was an adrenalin rush. His firing accuracy had increased nearly twenty-three percent because of lessened recoil.
Life was good.
The sound of crunching metal echoed down the street. A294-C bolted upright to attention, scanning up and down the street for activity. Nothing out of the ordinary came into view. He flipped on his thermoptics and scanned once more, but still saw only blue-hued monuments beyond. Maybe it had been his nerves?
A brief flicker of red zipped across his readout.
A294-C raised his carbine up and let off a snap shot in the general direction of the movement. The shots were as silent as death thanks to the high-quality silencer at the tip of the muzzle. The bullets soon found home with the red intruder who let out a pitiful whine and collapsed. A294-C approached the small red intruder now beginning to turn a more dark orange color. His thermoptics flickered off, revealing the intruder to be a defenseless cat, now with a large hole in its body. A294-C sighed, shaking his head. He was getting jumpy.
It was then, between the memory of his dead cat Cali and returning to his patrol that he felt it. It was cold, so unimaginably cold, slithering through the soft innards of his gut. Weakly, he looked down in time to see the metal snake erupt through the front of his armor. His air vent wheezed asthmatically with the panicked huffs of his lungs as he spun around with the Snake erect on both sides of him. A curious man in a cloak looked back at him. Beyond the shadows of his face was a single red globe peering back into his soul. ‘I’m in hell,’ A294-C thought, ‘and this is the devil’.
A294-C raised his carbine.
Doom caught the carbine with his hand. The corporate grunt wheezed in surprise at the amazing strength in Dooms arm, another gift of Aztech. The grunt struggled to gain back control of his weapon, displaying surprisingly more strength in his arms than Doom had anticipated. His prized Yoshimi had stuck into the grunt like a knife through butter but this grunt wasn’t ready to die so easily. Doom was like a blur; his body spinning while his metal leg bolting upwards into a spin kick. The grunt took the strike square in the side of the head and crashed to the ground. Doom caught his balance and readied to pull out his Veritech Automatic .50 caliber pistol but the grunt had surprisingly already pulled out his own standard issue Corporate Special.
The second that passed was as an eternity to Doom. He recalled the first time he had held a gun, one very similar to the weapon pointed at him. It was a sunny day outside -the sunlight could almost be seen through the murky brown and orange clouds above-, a picture perfect day. He was young, perhaps only eight years old. Yes, he remembered the feel of the guns cold steel in his juvenile hand, so intoxicating, so powerful. This had been no ordinary gun, no; it was a custom Corporate Special with a single specialized bullet inside. It had marked an important turning point in Dooms life. He remembered with clarity the crowd gathered all around him with his Custom Special in hand. They had been oblivious to the young Dooms weapon. He remembered raising the weapon up, aiming it discreetly beyond the crowd at his target; his first target. Who had it been? Who…
A294-C’s finger squeezed the trigger. Doom did the same.
A silent wisp snapped the air. Dooms Smart-Link proved to have the better software of the two. His computer-assisted aim found its mark on the grunts hand, shattering the tender flesh and knocking the Corporate Special onto the dirty pavement of Sector 37. Strained Huffs came from the collapsed corporate guard cradling his broken hand. Doom stepped next to the man. A294-C was printed in dingy writing across the top of the grunts helmet. The man underneath the mask had once had a name and Doom knew this. So had he.
Doom raised his Veritech and trained the silenced weapon at the corporate guards head. The grunt shook his head from side to side. Doom hesitated. The image of his father Morimoto took place of the grunts helmet. Morimoto smiled back at him, grinning that dead grin that he had when Doom had last seen him. A single oily tear fell down the side of Dooms cheek.
The last thing A294-C remembered before the veil of the world closed in around him was the cold sound of the stranger’s voice, echoing in his mind like a chanted mantra.
The gathering outside Sector 37 was a many. Even in the dilapidated remnants of Area 43 where the last of Sector 37’s population lived was a mob. Some were for the corporate take-over while many were not. They had all been promised jobs at the new Industrial Plant slated to be built over the remnants of Sector 37. Most opposed the hostile take-over of their beloved home, no matter how filthy and deserted it may have become. Corporate Security forces formed a ring around the man in the suit, an important figure, and Dooms target. He was standing outside a large Corporate AP-C (Armored Personnel Cruiser) holding an electronic megaphone.
Doom stood atop a long-abandoned office building nearly 1000 meters away from the mob, the suit, and his entourage of grunts. Doom preferred to be 1600 meters or more away, but the old office building was the right height for the job. He took a seat on the cold cement at the edge of the roof, overlooking the smaller structures below. It was a great vantage point. Doom set down the Silver attaché case and opened it.
A military issue compact 40mm electromagnetic rail-type sniper rifle with an x40 thermal-optic scope and a specialized slug stared at Doom from within the attaché case. Broken into two pieces with the special slug inside it’s own small case with velvet lining, it was supreme death packed into a stylish attaché package. Doom smiled. He took the pieces out of the attaché case and began constructing them thoughtfully.
The life of a hit man was a rigorous one indeed, but Doom liked to think he had become incredibly proficient at it. Corporate contracts came with both danger and incredible rewards, but he had been doing it nearly all his life. Aztech was in the business of success, and Doom was successful. His 67% Aztech designed body was proof of this undeniable fact.
Down below, the mob had escalated into frenzy. Doom could hear their shouts of rebellion and distaste for the corporate takeover. Despite being his former home, Doom cared little for Sector 37. He found it to be an eerie reminder of his past. Whenever he thought about it, the devastating death of his father Morimoto always came to mind. Vice President Morimoto of Aztech Inc. He had been such a great man, such a great role model. It had been the enemies of Aztech Inc that killed Morimoto. That very same corporation stood poise to renovate Sector 37. The contract he had signed up for had been not only one of business, but revenge. They had hurt Morimoto, and Aztech.
Doom held the completed sniper rifle up and examined it once over. Grinning, he opened the velvet case with his single special slug inside. It was a deadly projectile designed to kill any target imaginable, even a fully cybernetic commando with titanium reinforced armor plating and magnetic shielding. The slug was covered with inactive nanomachines designed to activate once they came in contact with the electrical impulses of both flesh and prosthetics. The nanomachines then traveled to the targets cyber brain and did its work well, destroying everything.
Doom opened the sniper rifles manual-ejection port and inserted the large slug inside. With a solid clicking sound, he closed the port and flipped on the rifles fusion powered magnetic chamber. The rifle hummed softly in the wind, ready to deliver its deadly payload.
Doom laid on his stomach at the edge of the office structure, pointing the rifle toward the crowd over 1000 meters away. He comforted himself, resting his steel chin on the stock of the sniper rifle, bio-eye staring into the thermal-optic display. Lazily, the readout scanned over the crowd and the corporate guards until at last his target came into view. The readout zoomed in on the suit. Doom smiled, squeezing the trigger just slightly, not firing yet. The suit obliviously shouted over his megaphone while Doom –a 1000 meters away- decided where he wished to shoot his target. On the one hand, he could aim for the suits head and deliver the nanomachines directly to the cyber brain, frying it instantly, or he could shoot the leg and let the suit suffer for a few moments before the nanomachines crawled up to his brain. Doom became excited pondering over his choices. The slug alone could likely kill the suit even without the nanomachines, but corporate E.V.A.C and medical facilities were second to none and it was too risky not to use the specialized slugs. They had become a favorite of his, ever since his first contract all those years ago.
Who had the target been? Dooms first target… Vividly he pulled the image of his Corporate Special into the forefront of his mind. The custom Special had been modified to fire a single nanomachine enhanced bullet. The nanomachines and Doom had nearly grown up together. It had been Aztech that hired him at the age of eight to kill his first target. It was the least he could do for Aztech, nay, for Morimoto, his father. Doom grimaced bitterly, looking at the suit through his optics. He was a representative of that foul corporation that had killed Morimoto. Doom had killed their vice president before, and he would do it again, for revenge.
Vice President! Doom remembered now, his first target, the vice president of that wretched corporation. How could he forget? They had killed his father, and he had done the same in turn. The haunting image of his slain father Morimoto followed him ever since, and the Aztech contract to eliminate the Vice President of the corporation was like sweet justice. Now he had the chance to do it again.
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Gritting his teeth, Doom trained the reticule on the Vice President of the Evil Corporation that had killed his father. Doom found himself so angry he could not even recall the name of the corporation. It did not matter, he figured. He readied himself to finish the contract. Doom had decided on a headshot. While the thought of letting the suit suffer a slow death was enticing in its own right, it would be much more satisfying to watch the suits head splatter all over his bodyguards. Doom trained his sights on the back of the suits head. The suit turned toward the AP-C, actually allowing Doom to see his face.
As if in a nightmare, the haunting face of his father, Morimoto, looked back at him through the thermal-optic readout. Doom gasped, voice modulator making a hissing sound to compensate. The memory of his slain father rushed back into his mind. Grinning, but quite dead, he had laid on the cold ground. Doom looked down at the dead figure of his father. That grin haunted him for so long. Why had he grinned in such a way? Doom asked that question nearly every day of his life. The train of thought brought Doom back to his first target the Vice President, his first contract. What was this corporations name that plagued him so?
Like a whisper straight from the bowels of hell, a soft voice spoke inside Dooms mind.
Doom trembled, as the epiphany of his father’s murderer became a reality for him, he knew his first contract, from Aztech, to murder the Vice President of Aztech, was all true. But why would they do that? Why would Aztech make him murder his own father?
‘Because he is not your father,’ the voice said softly in his mind.
An oily tear found it’s way down Dooms cheek. Was it true? Was Morimoto not his father? Had his fevered mind fabricated such an intricate lie after being forced to murder Morimoto? ‘Yes,’ Doom thought, ‘Forced!’ It had been Aztech all along, using him from the beginning. It was at this time the images of his young life flashed back to him. Doom was no ordinary child, picked up by the Aztech Corporation to be trained as an assassin. This shocking thought made Doom bolt upright. Doom recalled the messy number printed on the grunts helmet from below.
A beeping sound started droning inside Dooms head. Dooms eyes grew wide. He gripped his head with both hands frantically. How had they implanted it without him knowing? Of course, he was merely a tool, used from the beginning. That’s all he had ever been. Now it was all over. Doom paced back and forth as the beeping grew quicker and more hurried. More than anything, Doom wished to know why Aztech wished him to murder their Vice President, the second most powerful man in the Aztech Corporation? Had it been President Yoshimitsu? It couldn’t be, Yoshimitsu and Vice President Morimoto had been close friends. Who else could be powerful enough to do such a thing from within the Aztech Corporation?
The cortex bomb erupted, painting the top of the abandoned office building with Dooms blood. His limp body crumbled to the cement, Sniper Rifle teetering at the edge of the roof, about to fall. Before plummeting to the ground eighty stories below, a shadowy figure caught the weapon. His figure was masked in a translucent cloak, invisible to the naked eye. The figure flickered softly in the orange haze of the approaching sunset.
The shot was a silent note into the melody of night, the abandoned buildings of Sector 37 a mute choir. As the shimmering figure dropped the empty sniper rifle next to Dooms corpse, only one thing could be seen under the figures invisible cloak as it jumped down the side of the lonely office building. A single word written in bold yellow, barely visible:
The sounds of gunshots and a screaming mob were like an afterthought in the lonely streets of Sector 37.