Lightning crossed the sky and the thunder shook the trees. Even though it was the worst place to be, Kate knew she couldn’t leave the trees. Below, barely visible to her enhanced vision, was a criss-cross of detection lasers. If someone were to break one of the beams, then the security office would be notified and Ferini would know it too.
The rain was coming down in sheets, cutting visibility down to only twenty meters. A strong wind blew, causing the trees to sway, making a dangerous movement along the limbs nearly deadly. With her hair matted and the water running down the inside of her coat, Kate couldn’t have been more miserable.
I could shoot myself for coming up with this great idea, she thought while wiping her eyes for what had to be the thousandth time.
Kate stopped and pulled up the map she had downloaded into her cyber brain. It showed the missile launcher was two kilometers to her northwest, but exactly which way was that? Between the storm and the rain, visibility was so poor that finding a landmark to navigate off of was damn near impossible!
Thank God for the neural link again, she thought while working to patch into the orbiting Fleet Global Positioning satellites.
The information flowed through her mind and an image of the complex formed in her vision. Damn it, she was off course by half a klick! The missile launcher was three kilometers off to the north! Given the weather conditions, that mistake alone had added another thirty minutes to her travel time!
At least, she thought with a groan.
Kate took a step and stopped when she heard a noise. It sounded like people moving through the forest below! Who the hell could know she was here? The damned stealth screen was all but impossible to penetrate, so something had to be wrong! Had Ferini captured Thad?
Careful to not slip, she slipped around behind the tree’s trunk and looked below. The detection sensors were off! If they were off, then security had to have sent patrols out! Were they doing so normally or did they have reason to suspect their position had been compromised?
Thad, Kate sent through her link, are you okay?
Yeah, he answered, but I’m pinned down by patrols right now.
Same here, Kate sighed, any ideas what’s going on?
I think someone knows we’re here, he thought, because a lot of patrols just left the retreat.
Great, Kate thought, I just love bad news!
Either way, Thad answered, I still haven’t gotten to a place where I can hack their systems.
If they know we’re here it’s a moot point, she thought, but keep with it.
One last thing, Kate, Thad sent, the skin suits are out now. They went into the forest-so be careful.
Kate pressed herself against the tree, the bark feeling rough on her back. Whoever was moving, she mused, would be at a major disadvantage due to the weather. While sound carried, the dark, stormy night killed the ability to see, which gave her the advantage.
Below, a pair of marines moved into view. A man and a woman, they moved in a typical sweeping pattern. The woman was on point, scanning the area with a trained eye. Behind, the man covered her and kept an eye on their backs. Kate let an eyebrow rise when she caught sight of the M1A1 combat rifle in their hands.
The M1A1 was the standard combat rifle for the Alliance Marine Corps. It fired a standard 15-millimeter round that came in three flavors: armor piercing, hollow pointed or fragmentary for antipersonnel usage. If they were using armor piercing, then Kate knew she was screwed. The piercing bullets were more then enough to penetrate the armed chassis of her body and reach the vulnerable organs within.
How was she going to approach dealing with the patrol? Stealth was the biggest part of her plan, and it was obvious now that someone suspected they were there. That left her in a precarious position. If she took them out clean, then no one would be the wiser. However, if a shot got fired off…then everyone within ear range-including the missile launcher-would know that an intruder was present.
Damn, damn, DAMN, Kate thought while bringing a clenched fist to her mouth. That was too much risk in letting the two of them go free, but if they see me…the games up!
No matter what she did, Kate reflected, it wasn’t going to be the right decision. The two of them would have to be eliminated! Unlike other times when she had to kill someone, there were no guilty feelings. These two had cast their lot with Ferini and that, as far as she was concerned, forfeited their right to live.
In one silent move, she pulled her combat knife out and waited for the patrol to pass. Stealth would once again have to be the weapon of choice, which put the Kimber out of business.
If everything worked out like it should, the two marines would be taken down and no one would be the wiser.
Kate lay down on a branch, with her stomach facing the ground. Below, the woman passed, sweeping the entire time. The trailing man approached, which brought out a wolfish grin on her face. It was too bad they had sided with Ferini and the two of them wouldn’t have to die!
The man had let the woman get several meters in front of him, and that was the best thing Kate had seen so far. The spacing would allow her to move without the woman seeing her. With a deep breath, she prepared to make a move.
As the man passed below, Kate swung around on the branch. She dropped down behind him without a sound. Ahead of them, the woman continued to sweep their track. With a single gloved hand, Kate covered the man’s mouth and slammed her knife into his chest.
The hardened steel blade pierced between two of his ribs and punctured his heart. The marine’s body went limp in her hands and Kate pulled him off the trail. Despite her best efforts, some sound from the rustling plants filled the air.
The woman swung around, her rifle at the ready. In Kate’s enhanced vision, she could see the shock on the other woman’s face. A pang of sympathy filled Kate’s mind when she looked at the marine.
The girl can’t be any older then I am, Kate thought with a shudder, so young and yet no future ahead!
In any other situation, Kate would have been willing to let the girl go without being killed. However, this wasn’t a place where she could take the chance. If the girl lived, then there always was the case that Ferini would be alerted to her presence. No, the marine was going to have to die.
Sorry honey, Kate thought while pulling her knife out of the man’s chest, but you made a big mistake. It’s nothing personal, just business.
“Thomas,” the woman said. “Where are you?”
Kate rose to a knee and threw the knife. It gleamed in a flash of lightning before it struck the marine. A flash of lightning made the blade gleam before it struck the girl in the throat. The sound of the rifle dropping made Kate wince. The other woman brought both hands to her throat, blood pouring between her fingers.
The marine fell to the ground, and Kate slowly approached. Wide eyes stared at her, the other woman’s lips moving in an attempt to say something. What was the other woman trying to tell her? Was it a warning, or some last ditch confession before death?
In moments the marine was dead, and Kate closed her eyes. For the first time in years, she didn’t feel ashamed of killing another human being. Thad had been right: killing was something that she was both good at and enjoyed. Truth be told, it was probably what God had created her for.
Which is why I can’t do it without a damned good reason, Kate thought when she reopened her eyes.
The muddy ground felt cold to her when she knelt beside the dead woman. In a gesture of respect for the dead, Kate took a gloved hand and closed the marine’s eyes. If only she hadn’t chosen to go with Ferini!
She’d have died when he made his move instead, Kate thought when she slung the woman’s rifle over her shoulder. There was no way her could let those who weren’t part of his plan to live! I’m so sorry, honey, but you just weren’t destined to live…
With a move that would make a gymnast jealous, Kate jumped up and swung herself onto a branch. The missile launcher still needed to be taken out, and time was wasting.
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