Three Steps Below

STEP 1: Motivate

“It was a dark 1998 night as I recall; nearing the December nativity scene, filled with little children playing around the parks and watching out for Santa’s sleigh or simply the food in their homes. A nice sweet meal you know, Noche Buena, laid out for the family, groups of people flocking to one family member’s house just to eat some of that sweetened Christmas ham.

“I’d remembered wishing for a bike for Christmas. Not just any bike, but the bike that I’d wanted so much; The Stumpjumper. We were well to do, and honestly, I doubt I would not have received my bike; I was a good little boy, mommy. I was good this year. Nevertheless it was something straight out of a movie, what happened, that fateful Christmas Eve.”

Croix Flores said, lighting a cigarette. The rich smoke dissipating before him, the slight hints of dried smells reminded him that he was smoking Marlboro’s. He hated them; one could see it in his eyes as they pierced mine through the smoke.

“Fuck. Ya have a Pall Mall, there, bro?”

“Here. Now, shut up about the cigarettes and tell me more about your fucked up shit, you goddamned son of a bitch.” I said, tossing him my pack of cigarettes. I’d already lit one up. It soothed me as I continued to listen to his testimony. We were on record.

“Alright. Now, where was I?” He said, placing the cigarette conveniently on the crease in the ashtray on the edge of the table. There was a glass of clear, cold water resting next to it, untouched.

“Christmas Eve.” I replied impatiently, blowing smoke from my nostrils like a bull, ready for the red flag.

“Oh, right. Anyhoot, it happened. A riot, for one of those labour unions tore through the small suburbia where I lived, just outside the streets of Paranaque. People were on an inhuman rampage, for some petty thing I can barely remember. The blood filled the streets, people were wailing, people were crying, people were dying right before our very doorstep. My father, bless his soul, had ordered all the doors locked. The maids, or as we in my homeland would call them, “Ya-ya’s”, followed the order, however, had failed to secure the back door in time. The riot had spilled into our house. My father took his double-barrel shotgun and began to fire at the rioters wielding knives and the local version of machetes; the “Itak”. It wasn’t enough. They’d gotten into our kitchen, and they had picked up one of the plastic chairs, flinging it at my father, causing him to drop the shotgun. They began beating him, and the others began harassing my mother.

“I was only seven. I’d picked up a kitchen knife. In a rush of anger and fury, I’d stabbed one in the back; the one that was on top of my mother. He turned around to face me, shock surging through his body. A deafening cry came from his lips and I silenced it by stabbing his gut. He’d later be declared dead on arrival by the ambulance that arrived through our doors. They saw and began to approach me; that was when my father, with no one left to hold him down, picked up the gun, and shot the one nearest me. The blood hit my face, and it felt great. The warm liquid of life felt good against my face. The others scrambled at the sound of the oncoming police car’s “wang-wang” as they called it. My father lay there, resting, relieved that the family was safe. My mother embraced me tightly.

“Now, you may say that’s fucking irrelevant, by your standards but let me tell you something.” He said pointing a pair of fingers at me, his cigarette lodged between them. His other hand was cuffed to the metal table, which was screwed to the floor.

“It stirred something in me, man. It really did; all the gore. I needed it. I wanted it. They’d kept me on pills for that, but somewhere along the line, I discovered cigarettes. A cheaper alternative, but it was good enough. Halfway through college, another riot came. This time, my parents never made it out alive. It was during the elections, and that was when I began killing again. I’d killed seven people in that riot. Someone from a local gang called “True Brown Style” saw my potential, and since I had nowhere to go, I accepted the offer. I was paid for my services, and soon enough, I left them because others needed me on international shores. The pay was higher of course, but the jobs were more complex, just the way I liked it. It gave me a professional sense of myself, a philosophical and necessary job in any society of humans, regardless of time or place. I became a PMC, in essence, but more profound; an assassin.

“You remember the 2016 elections for your country? I was the one that killed Sarah Palin. I’d gutted her 20 miles off the eastern seaboard, letting her innards spill into the sea. She was in shock, and I tossed her near-lifeless body into the pits of the ocean. I was paid by the millions for that job, and of course, I had a crew of 7 with me; all of them working menial jobs, right under the world’s noses. Take it from me, you’ll never find them.” He said, stubbing out his cigarette.

“Trust me, Flores. We will. We found you, didn’t we?” I replied, flicking my cigarette butt at him.

“I wanted you to. I need you to deliver a message.” He said calmly in his seat. I’d walked out of the room, a slight tinge of fear in my gut. Going over to the other side, where some of my fellow officers were observing, I placed my hands on my hips.

“They’d want him back in action; his employers would definitely not let him go. Sarah Palin with 7 others, that’s got to be a new world record in criminal study.” I said, feeling up my Ruger SR40.

“Yep. I want him on maximum security detail. He’d just admitted to the murder of Sarah Palin, and we’ve got him in our clutches for the death sentence.” My commanding officer, Ram Marino replied. I pulled up another cigarette pack from the nearby cupboard for electronics.

“Keep talking it out. We’ll get more what we need from him, and soon, we can pin most of the political murders to him. We’ve got the “circumstantial evidence” and he’d just given an open admission to the crime. We just need a few more, and the name of his employer.” The other man replied.

“Nightingale?” I asked.

“Yes.” They replied simultaneously.

STEP 2: Demonstrate

I took my leave, exiting their room. As I walked towards the door to Flores’ room, the janitor nodded to me, smiling as he began mopping the hallway floors. It was time. He passed me, dropping something in my hand; a small, handcuff key. I entered the room. I realized as I opened the door, that I nearly blew the whole operation out of proportion by mentioning the Tier 4 code “Nightingale”. I wasn’t supposed to know about it, I was only Tier 2. They could’ve been on to me from that very second. I’d never know.

“So, Flores. How do you suppose I bargain with you for more information? Say, a shortened sentence? I could give it to you, but I need that information. I could give you a day, maximum, since everyone else is after your head, bro. When will you come to a decision?” I asked, placing my hands on the table, near him. His hands reached mine, clasping them tightly as he replied with a faint whisper;

“Now.”

He took the key from the palm of my hand, and unlocked the cuffs. I’d swung open the door, and tossed him the silenced Colt 1911 Compact from my ankle holster. As I began attaching the silencer to my weapon, I saw that he’d caught the 1911, and without hesitation turned to shoot the two I’d spoken with in the adjacent room. The janitor had already pulled out his silenced Colt SCW, and began shooting suppressive fire down the hall with a 6 pack magazine bandolier slung across his back. He shot away from the stairwell, using the open door to our room as cover. Sure that the two in the opposite room were dead, he picked up the Pall Mall pack from the table.

Croix and I, using the janitor’s push-cart, which was modified with DragonSkin, had worked our way through towards the stairwell. He had fired all but the last bullet in his magazine, and I had already unloaded three magazines. The janitor had begun popping smoke grenades and switching places to cover for our retreat towards the stairwell. I had picked up the extra homemade Sten Mk2. silenced sub-machine gun, and began unloading the rounds down the hall. Flores had gotten the small tactical pack containing his change of clothes from below the place where the Sten was located. The janitor had taken a few hits, as planned. He wouldn’t receive his part of the cut, and the only way to certify Croix would get his money was to have me call our employers accordingly. We had begun our descent down the 9 floors.

The sounds of silenced guns were blazing above, in the smoky fury; the agents had begun to kill each other, thinking that they were killing a multitude of enemies. Somewhere on the fourth to the last flight of stairs, they’d realized their mistake and had begun to chase us down the stairwell.

STEP 3: Motivate Again

“You know, Croix, just a heads up. I’m giving up my job and good position for this. I know your employers pay you well, but they’re sure to pay me, right? We’re buddies, right?” I asked, as we bolted down the stairs, with me shooting at the oncoming agents; my former co-workers and friends.

“Yes, my friend. They’ll be sure to pay you as long as you follow your instruction package to the letter. With me, I don’t need to, since they know how I work. Your story is a different one… A completely different one.” He said, pulling another Pall Mall as he calmly, but briskly kept the pace. He changed his clothes with the small pack he took  from the push-cart.

As I turned around on our last flight of stairs, he reached into my pocket for the lighter, as he said, and took it. Walking down a few more steps I noticed something was odd. My pocket felt oddly lighter than expected, and as I fired one last load of bullets from the magazine at the enemies above, I checked for my cell-phone and the last extra magazine.

I had turned to face him as he pointed the 1911 at the point-blank centre of my chest. He was holding my phone and the extra magazine. I pointed the Sten at him and he simply winked with his insanely happy grin in reply, pulling the trigger.

I fell to the ground, letting go of everything. With a .45cal bullet in my chest, pain began surging throughout every part of my body. I didn’t even notice the bone-breaking fall down the last flight of stairs. He’d walked calmly, reloading the Sten and firing it blindly at the agents above us. The shells hit my face and I’d blinked several times, adjusting to the surroundings. He stood above me, smoking the cigarette, flicking the ash at my open wound. He dropped the phone and crushed it under his boot.

“You fucking idiot!” I tried to scream, but my voice was coarse and wheezing.

“Now we’ll both never get paid for this. You wasted all our time, effort, and money, man!” I tried screaming at him as he put on the pair of contact lenses and the shades that were in the pack as well.

He checked the pack and found another 2 smoke grenades. Pulling the pin off of one, he tossed it upward, causing the smoke to disorient the agents once more. Checking the hidden pouch for another pistol, he found another 1911. Placing the extra magazine I had given him earlier in the pack, he calmly searched for the alcohol. Taking the bottle and spraying both our guns and my open wound, he lit everything up, including the bottle itself, with the lighter. I screamed as he stomped the flames on my chest out.

I rolled to the side, pain doubling in intensity. He snickered as he put the baseball cap, from the pack, on his head. Finally finishing up with the pseudo disguise, he began his descent out into the open world where a silver, DragonSkin covered, Mercedes was about to pass for us. With all the energy my torso could muster, I forced myself to utter the word; “Why?”

“You see, my friend, movies are movies and the nature of killing another human being is actually, very unpredictable. Even detectives have a hard time with every single case. Now, what you failed to see, with me, my friend, is this; “I do not kill for money, I kill for the thrill of killing, and that’s what makes a man like me, dangerous.” I never really did it for the money. I did it for the sake of doing it.” He said, tossing the empty gun at my feet and opening the door as he walked into the blinding sunlight of the open street, three steps below.

DISCLAIMER:

* Any references to real life people, places, things, and events are fictional and are for entertainment purposes only.

*  There is no intention to badmouth, infringe upon any rights, or give a bad reputation to anyone or anything (particularly cultures, ethnicities, and etc). This is just fiction, for entertainment.

For Kyle Flores, my close friend.

(c) Anachronic Works 2013

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Book Review: Dan Brown’s “Digital Fortress”

Summary:

Dan Brown starts off his novel like any regular book or movie. It starts off with the NSA (National Security Agency) of the US, of course, encountering a serious code problem. The code was called Digital Fortress and it couldn’t be decoded by the NSA’s code breaking machine. Eventually they had to call on their top analysts to help. Commander Strathmore, the head of the NSA’s code breaking unit, calls on Susan Fletcher, one of their to analysts, who was the fiancée of David Becker, a professor who also had a knack for breaking codes. Susan later found out the maker of the code, Ensei Tankado, who was a former NSA employee. His reason was simple; vengeance for mistreatment. Ensei threatens to release the code to his partner, code named “North Dakota”, who would then release the code worldwide if Ensei should die. The NSA sees this as a threat to national security and tries to neutralize it.

Ensei dies of a heart attack. Strathmore sends David Becker to recover a special ring that Ensei had when he died, and in it was the code to unlock Digital Fortress. David finds out the Ensei gave the ring away and soon goes off in search of it. His trail of people though, is one by one being murdered by a mysterious assassin called Hulohot. Telephone calls are found between North Dakota and Numataka, as David searches. The calls reveal that North Dakota hired Hulohot to kill Ensei in order to get the ring and release the code sooner.

At the NSA, Fletcher’s investigation leads her to believe that a fellow NSA employee named Greg Hale is North Dakota. After a while, her traces lead her to see that North Dakota really is Ensei one and the same. Seeing her mistake, she looks back (figuratively) and finds out that Strathmore killed Hale, and made it appear like a suicide. She also finds out that Strathmore was the real antagonist who hired Hulohot through his pager. On the other side, Becker ends up killing Hulohot in a violent battle.

The plot thickens as we see that Strathmore was the man with the plan. Strathmore hires Hulohot to kill Ensei. Then he has Becker go after the ring while he tries to regain his lost honour by attempting to get into a relationship with Fletcher. He would then break the code and look like a hero to everybody. We also find out that North Dakota is not Ensei, but is really Strathmore, who calls Numataka, to release a chip with Digital Fortress to the public giving it a backdoor Trojan to be able to spy on any computer in the world that has the chip. Strathmore fails at seducing Fletcher, but succeeds in unlocking the code. Though little did he know that Digital Fortress was actually a computer worm that would release all the NSA’s information onto the World Wide Web. Strathmore commits suicide by letting the machine explode in his presence. The NSA disables the worm. David returns to the US, and is reunited with Fletcher.

The sad, ironic twist in the end was that Numataka was actually Ensei’s father who abandoned Ensei as a child due to his deformed face.

Review:

I personally found the book a little boring. Comparing to the other works of Mr. Brown, like the Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons, this one, I found a little uninteresting. I’ve watched enough spy movies, and read enough books with the same type of storyline to say that this is one of the plain and simple ones. This book will go definitely to my top 15 or so, but it’s not the best. It was a semi-predictable storyline, which is good and bad, but it still is predictable. Like the happy ending, it’s just another predictable addition to the storyline.

To tell you why I found this book uninteresting would be that the basic plot and introduction of scenes are that of a movie. The plain in-your-face type of introduction. You have the characters and the problem. Another reason would be the slight irrationality of it all. Think about it, the NSA hiring civilians to do their work? Not likely. All the more since the work was just a one time job that they’d call you to do every now and then for big bundles of money. It seems fishy. If the NSA were to do that, that would already be jeopardizing the country’s national security. For whatever you know, the man who is cracking the codes in the NSA’s office just might be paid higher by terrorists to plant a virus or a bomb there. Another reason why I found it uninteresting is the mesh of code-breaking, and love is not really my thing.

So far though, if considered fiction, which it is, it would have a good plot. Unlike many of the fiction stories out there, this one makes sense. A few loopholes here and there, but still, a good story is a good story. It is able to stand alone. Many novels I have read, I cannot relate to because the comparison or the descriptions are of another generation other than mine. For example, an author would put there that “the blast was as loud as a KISS concert”. Those who haven’t seen a KISS concert, like me, would not be able to relate very well and therefore it would defeat the purpose. This novel, I can relate to, there’s not too much senseless, time -based description. I do like the way Dan Brown had created the code, quite a unique way; very tricky to decipher, but not too tricky as to not lose its credible sense. Dan Brown has an amazing gift when it comes to coding, and cryptic mysteries, but this book will not really suffice.

It was overall an okay book. A 7.5 out of 10. It had some good twists. It also had some odd ones which make it unique. The storyline was a bit thrown off, but it was basically good. A good mental war story. It was able to make this reader’s mind twist around.

“Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies.”
-W. L. George

* This was made as a school paper so I wasn’t able to sarcastically comment the way I should.

** This was made roughly 3 years ago. But please, enjoy.

(c) Anachronic Works 2011