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I felt awkward the moment our eyes crossed. Panopeus speech came back to me. It felt strange, the idea that our relationship might turn into a love affair. She came toward me, smiling. She wore blue-jeans and a buckskin jacket. A plait over her shoulders made her soft face stand out. I found her exceptionally radiant in her plainness. Stage fright hit me, like a teenager. Despite the attraction, who wouldn’t find her appealing? I always maintained a friendly-professional relation with this thirty year old telepath. However, right now, I didn’t know how to behave. I decided not to overdo it for fear of messing everything up. Besides, we had a whole week to spend together.

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She gave me the contact details of the guy we had to fetch in Tchetchenia, near Grozny to be exact. Someone called Virgo. She’ll be my interpreter because my russian is awful. In fact I absolutely murder the Russian language!

The first moments with Ivana didn’t show me in a favorable light. Blunder after blunder. For each of them I promised myself a flurry of kicks. I caught myself letting clumsy silences hang over us, I even came to the point of spilling my tea on her… my mistake, of course. To cap it all, I felt embarrassed each time I got directly in contact with her body. Under normal circumstances, I would have joked, telling her I was not an easy boy and that if she wanted to charm me she would first have to invite me to a restaurant. But nothing, I felt nothing but the unpleasant feeling of going red, like a teen on his first date. A full nights sleep would fix all this. Note to self; Remember to kick my own ass before brushing my teeth!

The day went better. In order to avoid blunders, I decided to stay quiet. Not only is she very beautiful, but she has a really lovely personality. On top, she proves to be a very social person, though I did find her quite reserved during our former missions. She spent the day talking about the world’s situation and what could be done to improve it. Panopeus is right. She’s an idealist. She’ll never give up.

She told me about one of her projects close to her heart. She wished to build a network of companies intended right from the start to let people make a living and, at the same time, to raise funds for charity. Inescapably, to link self interests with collective wealth. To raise from a greedy and selfish based social behavior to a logic of love and giving. To insure your own well-being and that of fellow men. She dreamt about sharing and providing safety for all.

She spoke with a jovial passion. ‘To go from producing to take, to producing to give’. She got carried away with all the hope she placed in the future. In her mind, the troubles and pain now encountered by mankind could be easily prevented. She talked about coming to terms with all the injustice on earth, children caught by the army in Africa, refugee camps, the shameful condition of women. She wished to offer her life to help make a change. She spoke of her vision of a planetary nation made one around a mere ideal, a perfect humanity.

The more I looked at her, the more I wanted to charm her. Did I catch a hint of attraction in her eyes? I didn’t want to hurry things… as usual… not with her. I curse you and I thank you, Ulric. Grozny meeting with Virgo tomorrow. I will go to sleep. Maybe a nice dream. My last conscious thoughts will be of you Ivana. Goodnight.

The next day, Virgo refused to come with us. Something is wrong! My thoughts are chaotic. I’m frightened. I want to get as far as possible. I’m sure it will happen, this misfortune to Ivana if we stay. Panopeus spoke the truth. She will die if I do not make the right decision. Whats happening? Damn, I’m sweating like mad. Calm yourself, calm down… Think calmly… Breathe. Why this sudden change of attitude on your part? What is new since you arrived? Have you seen a real threat? Crap! I am under the telepathic influence of Virgo. That bastard has put his dirty influence on me and is enjoying making me crazy. How stupid I am. He is abusing me like a child.

I only see one solution to clear my mind and free myself. The pill Panopeus gave me… the experimental TIK. Taking it produced a complete disappearance of the influence torturing my mind, followed by a feeling of… ‘coldness’. After making my superiors aware of the intentions of Virgo, I received new orders. Take his blood… even if by force. I decided to keep my new orders from Ivana. I sent her away coldly, but politely, to the apartment available to us, stating that I had someone to meet. Despite hers surprise at the tone of my voice she didn’t protest. A phone call and a few minutes later, a messenger found me at a meeting point and delivered a suitcase containing a blood kit, a tazer, a grenade and a 45 caliber revolver ‘Smith and Wesson’.

Ivana was quick to grasp my second meeting with Virgo hadn’t gone well. Despite it being late, she was not sleeping and was awaiting my return. I had hoped to take a shower and change before she saw me, but again, nothing was going according to plan. Instinctively I avoided her gaze. Perhaps because of fear, perhaps because of guilt, I still don’t know exactly why. I guess she tried briefly to read my thoughts, but the TIK that had protected me from Virgo’s telepathic grip was still in effect. Her eyes showed confusion. She hesitated as to what to think about the man in front of her. I remained silent, packing our things. We had to leave fast to find cover far from Grozny. In the rush of action with Virgo someone might have seen me. I didn’t want to take that risk.

She realized everything when she saw my blood-stained clothes. My ‘Don’t worry, this blood is not mine’.  Did not help me to calm down. Terrified, she put her hand to her mouth and her eyes widened. She stepped away from me. ‘What has happened?’ She said in an insistant panic. ‘Things have become a little more complicated than I planned. I had not anticipated that there would so many people with him’. I was so stupid, how could I be so wrong. Had I lost my mind? Then, I explained the facts as calmly as I could, as if I was talking to another mercenary who was used to this kind of story. The pill made me so callous and more importantly, devoid of all common sense. I wasn’t myself. At the end of my story, I met her gaze. Her eyes were misty and lifeless. She now only saw a killer hidden behind the man.

Once again, I lowered my head and looked at my shoes to avoid her gaze. On one something pink caught my attention. To cut short any discussion, I headed to the bathroom, where I took a piece of toilet paper to wipe the tip of my boot. I watched for a few seconds, as the white harmonized so well with the pink paper. I then threw everything into the toilet and flushed it away. I clearly understood that this bit of brain that was quickly disappearing down into the sewer, was taking with it any hope of romance with the beautiful telepath.

Ivana said to me that she didn’t want to spend more time together. My mere presence ‘disgusted’ her. I should be glad she has not already run away and tell everything to the local authorities. Once out of danger and after seeking further orders from the organization, I took her to the railway station. Despite her protests, I stayed to watch over her until the train arrived. She doesn’t talk to me during the long hours that we have to wait. I look at her moving along in the train and taking a seat near a window. She turned her head toward me and stared for a few seconds. The metal and glass separating us seemed to give her the courage to look at me one last time. Time strangely slowed… then… the train left.

I remained many minutes, still standing on the platform. Waiting for what? Answers, justification for my behavior? I wanted to find an acceptable reason for the killings of last night. I decided to empty my mind and let the images, memories and impressions come to me freely. My first thoughts were…

I did what had to be done. I have Virgo’s DNA. Strange. Everything went wrong, but I don’t care and I do know there’s something wrong with me. My thoughts double in volume and the ‘roaring’ of my mental processes almost drown out the real voices around me. This primal instinct, this certainty, this ease. I just killed because it seemed an easier thing to do. The most effective method to fulfill my mission.

Virgo wasn’t a real danger. I could have given up the mission, but no. The order resounded again and again ‘Take  his DNA for the Organization’. His body-guards didn’t matter. They were no more than an inconvenient presence. I clearly pictured them dying again. My grenade put them out of action. Their ability to fight was close to zero. Despite this fact, I see me becoming lucid near the first one, calmly placing my foot on his face and shooting him in his head. The second showed no vital signs, but I turned to him and did the same.

As Virgo, now badly wounded, stared at me as I was preparing to ‘finish the job’, he begged me to only take his DNA and spare his life. It was then that I noticed a delicate feminine silhouette. A table was hiding half of her body now covered with wounds. She was not breathing. I hadn’t noticed her presence before throughing my grenade. Her youthful face indicated she did not exceed twenty. I don’t know who she was. A woman, a girl friend, a sister? Anyway, she had lost her life because she was in the wrong place at the wrong moment. Or rather, because I acted without a care for anything or anyone.

Straight away I decided that letting Virgo survive gave him the possibility of future vengeance. So, I took his blood and a bullet took away what little life he had left. Then I decided to set fire to the house, copying the early twenty first century ‘local method’. Rebels’ family houses were often burning round here. Fire is so cleansing.

Four years had passed without killing, but now it begins again. All I needed was a vial of his blood. No matter, I felt nothing. Not the slightest remorse over Virgo’s death… or guilt from Ivana’s tears.

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