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Soft steps secure a firm hold on a position devoid of human sight. Shadows. The razor cut line between daylight and the nether world of darkness. Darting eyes tracking periphery movements. Sizing up. Staring down. Sunlight streaking through a monstrous serrated veranda. Bronze dust and crystal clear sky. Visibility for miles. Orbital patrols stomping black booted paths. You catch the crackle of updates buzzing through the white snaking wires erupting from their ears. Only a matter of timing. Only a matter of will. The cold matte black metal wrapped in your hand reminds you of the task at hand. Patience. Memorization. Observation. Any obstacle can be overcome.

A multi-storied labyrinth assembled congruently with the pristine wilderness surroundings. Hidden in the groves of pines - secretly hoarding numerous black spots impervious to watchful eyes. Fortified granite. A jackhammered stone hardened keep equipped with legions of mercenaries - secretly hosting spooks, merchants and industrial mendicants.

Pouring your being between four unwatchful eyes. Slip, blend and move into the lobby of the house. Molasses movements tarring your way towards the stepped staircase rising to undisclosed meetings. Wading through the past. Trudging along an unworn path. Finding your way into unnoticed crevasses shadow-lit spaces and inked out niches. Ripe aromas, garlic and corriander permeate the second floor with the essence of age . Controlled breaths. Regulated heartbeats. Slow leaking sighs as the top floor patrol checks in. Outer hallway. One double door entrance away from a face too familiar. A gun soaked room of malevolence waiting to scratch off any unforseen itch. Gold plates. Silver forks. Italian silk woven thread spitting out its fragile call for respect. Too many barrels, too many bullets and too many men. Adaptation dictating forks in the path of planning - better to ride the winds of the ventilation system into the next room. When the tiramisu expels its cocoa powder into eagerly awaiting nostrils you sniffle slightly in the return air vent above the room. Slotted eyed view of a dynamic scene. Heated temperments reverberate throughout the room. Raised voices. Finger pointed accusations. Only the cool headed reasoning from the women at the head of the table decapitates the beginning of a malestrom. Smooth. Calm shredding through tension. Tactful recommendations. Reassuring, correcting blatent ignorence.

Important diamond bracelet handcuffs lead food stuffed people out of the room. Dessert over and the coffee finished; out for the evening’s nicotine. Emptied room. The weariness of misunderstanding shrouding the room in a maisma of lethargy. She stays behind.

Alone. She sits. Stoic. Staring blankly at the layered marscarpone sponge unaltered from a meticulous chef. Silk white blouse. Green pirahna business suit. A clustered mound of French salon styled hair eagerly awaiting a feral, mortal interruption into its perfectly laid foundation. You soundlessly pour from the open slotted grate two meters behind the unsuspecting quarry. Hammer cocked chamber - explosions ready to empty metal slugs into bone encased tissue. Creep slowly. Step. Pause. Sweat. Step. The slightest floor board creak, faintest turbulence in the air, slight splayed shadow smearing itself across the wall; the human instinct receptive to a predator's eyes burning into its being. Sinews shake normally steady fingers as forty-five silenced calibers align themselves with this woman’s head. Anticipating the moment of reaction. Suspect motives colliding with past memories. She always wore green. It was her favorite color.

I don’t have time to baby-sit. Get it together and figure it out.” Cinder would say. The precursor to dialogue about your confidence. She was the support behind your endeavor to get Melissa. She shoved you forward into your research. She sat up in your room late at night playing out all of the possible scenarios that could occur. She was your personal Atlas bearing the faults, bewilderment and delusions that chained you down. The woman behind the evolution from timidity to stalwart bravery. Female creations molding an endless possibility into reality. An artisan unmatched.

Excuse me. I wasn’t really listening.” Your usual reply. Advice from the Oracle falling on earless wonders. The wisdom to carry a man to greatness brushed by, lost within doubt and unfulfilled potential. She was right all along, in hindsight.

A grade perfect girl, a model of feminine mystic and power. She wore masculinity better than a perfectly tailored suit. You remember when she armlocked a drunk Hermes and threw him out on the porch. When she outbluffed the house champ over a college tuition stack of chips in no limit Texas Hold ‘Em. Capable and smart, dating only the creators and never those stuck in the cycle of want. She was Shiva incarnate, constantly birthing the creation of Bhrama. She could pierce titanium with an over shoulder glance, but she always had eternity to give to you. Wisdom is like paint, it only shows its true colors after time.

A ponytailed general. Her charm and determination could lead anyone into action. Moving people into action. Creating resolve. She could will an anthill into painting the Mona Lisa. With that rare combination of compassion and motivation, she rocketed skyward upon the adulation of her peers.

Governments suckle at the teat of entities with power and creativity. Cinder was a perfect fit. Her ability to lead weapons designers slotted her in with the heavy hitters of the bureaucratic underworld. She was involved in nearly all of the covert operations from the last five years. You could never understand her motivation to pursue this line of work. Maybe the challenge creating efficiency and interoperability within a system rife with short sighted simpletons. It's a shame she had connections to Melissa. It's a shame those connections would draw the same antagonists that had murdered Melissa. People eager to right wrongs. Eager to win through resolve.

Straight arm aligned into a plumb placement of paid off duty.

Tube aligned death. A cylindrical path to the next life. As she slowly moves her fork over the tiramisu you hear her sigh. The same sigh that would forgive you when you couldn’t quite grasp the concepts at hand. Looking around the room. Graceful. Secure. Slow fingers grasp metallic hammers before they fire into powder chambered shells. Unclick the device in front of you. Reload feelings of the past. No amount of money could compel the absolute destruction of understanding and warmth. Erase your existence into the overhead vent. Just as you return the grill to it's place your hear her whisper - Goodbye


A big bag of thanks to MALTP for the editing.

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