SILHOUETTES – First instalment – Chapters, one, two, and three.
For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming next week.
It was good to know he’d been stood down and all the controls were in place to allow him to go, wherever he chose, whenever. He would stay for a while, though why, he wasn’t sure, but it felt right to stay a little longer. Call it intuition, or presentiment, or whatever, he had decided to stay.
The sun was rising as he retreated from the Railway Arches back through the park to his room, an upstairs bed-sit in a tenement block in Sycamore Lane, an area inhabited mostly by students. It was a light frosty, but fine, April morning. Birds flittered through the air twittering to each other of his presence, flitting from branch to branch, bush to bush; they knew he was no threat to them though, and the ruckus was more a half-hearted excuse to vocalise their self-importance, than to warn of the impending danger of his approach. Such happy-go-lucky creatures, sparrows, starlings, gregarious and haughty, just like most humans in a way. A dog appeared from a gap in the bushes, panting, and sniffing furiously at some invisible trace of rabbit, or squirrel, scattering the feathered creatures to higher safer foliage. It looked up surprised at his presence, and then darted off down the path to an approaching girl waving a leash and calling, ‘Bruno! Here, Bruno’.
He sat down on a park bench for while, smoking, watching the dog running and retrieving a Frisbee thrown by the girl. His chip tingled, and he rubbed a finger along the side of his temple, flicked a thought to the receiving frequency, the landscape around him changed to shadowtype and he was amazed to see a copter in silent stealth mode float across the sky just above the treetops. Sleek and black, and dangerous. It was one of the latest, he noticed, as even the downdraught from the rotors was masked, and he felt nothing but a gentle breeze disturbing the calm as it passed overhead, heading towards the city centre. There was nothing on the communication bands he could detect though something must be going down close by, but whatever it was it had nothing to do with him. The dog had stopped in mid run and was barking at the sky, at the chopper it sensed but couldn’t see. The girl collected the Frisbee herself and began walking towards him, he switched the chip to standby and the Technicolour of the park returned.
‘Hi,’ she said as she walked past and he gave her a nod in acknowledgement, pretty, blond, twenty-something, he recognized her as one of the students to watch, who attended the nearby Glasgow university, but studying what, he didn’t yet know, she wasn’t at any of the lectures he had sneakily attended. She was with a drunk boy the previous evening. It was almost seven and he would have to get ready for work, but fuck it, he thought, he would pack the job in, get some money sent over, there was so much else to do, and keeping up appearances was becoming a drag.
Simon was in two minds about the war he was told was raging between them and us. It seemed to him that it was driven by fear, fear the governments had of change they couldn’t control, but the war kept him in a job, which wasn’t a bad number by any means, and though boring at times, it paid enough, and he was allowed certain technology and behaviour not available to the masses. Thinking of which, he couldn’t wait to get home and get to work on Suzi.
The target got up from the park bench and began walking towards his home, he would follow him there, wait to make sure he left again for his employment (he had the subject’s work Rota on file), and take a break for a few hours. It had been a long night, and though he still had his report to write up, he was looking forward to his bed.
Although the target was low key, this suited him, he was fucked if he was going to risk life and limb for the job. His employers no doubt knew that, or at least, didn’t view him as the gung-ho type, which was why he was given tasks like this. He probably wouldn’t climb much higher up the ladder than the second or third rung, but he was happy enough to leave the glory hunting to the others. Give him a soft target like this, not much in the way of a threat, and let him play tag from A to B and back again, make his reports, and earn his salary, and have time to himself.
The target entered the stairwell of the tenement where he resided. There was a paper shop at the corner of the street and he bought a Daily Star and crossed to stand at a bus stop. The headlines were more about the missing Glasgow student. Suzi Tanner, eighteen years old, first year under-graduate at Glasgow University studying Philosophy. Last seen leaving a city-centre bar, alone, at ten-forty, Saturday evening, the twenty-second of April. Two days ago now. There was a picture of her smiling shyly. So beautiful. There was also a piece on the latest goings-on with the Scottish Independence debate. Things were heating up in that front, defence chiefs were rattling on about nukes, the USA mumbling about reaching out the hand of friendship, as if there wasn't far more serious considerations on the horizon.
Several people waited impatiently for their transport to work. Some of them were having a talk about the impending referendum for independence, they all seemed to be positive about it. He wasn't sure yet if he should take a view, the UK Government being his employer, and in any event, this was a local Earth issue, a bit beneath his remit in the raging alien war. He alternated ogling the page three girl and glancing at the second floor window where the target resided. Once, he noticed the subject looking out, though not in his direction. The crowd changed several times as buses came and went, and then eventually the target reappeared on the street wearing the uniform of a security guard. He noted the time, seven-forty, threw the paper in an adjacent litter bin and strode off in the opposite direction, finally heading for home.
Ben let the daylight filter through his eyelids. He was quite content this way, for he knew there were questions waiting he wouldn’t like the answer to when he decided to rouse himself. Remnants of memory were already starting to fit into a sequence of events of last night. The Salvation Arms pub, and several pints in there, Debbie finally arrived from the library, where she was studying, and was immediately pissed off at him for drinking so much so early (it was eight fucking o’clock and he’d only had five pints). The concert started at nine. He remembered drinks in the bar at the concert hall. Christ, his mind was a fucking blank, he couldn’t even remember the concert, Katie Melua and her band, they’d been dying to see her for ages. He opened his eyes. He was lying on the couch, not in the bed as he’d thought. Debbie must have kicked him out the room, or didn't let him in, or perhaps he hadn't even made the effort and fell unconscious here on the couch. There was dried vomit down the front of his shirt, there were several empty bottles of beck’s lying scattered across the floor and an open bottle of vodka, a quarter full, sitting precariously at the edge of the coffee table. One of the curtains had fallen off the rail and it was this he was half blanketed with. The sun shone brightly on his face and the onslaught of the hangover began in earnest.
Thank fuck his house-mates were out, he could get the place squared up before they appeared. It was a bad day when even a house of students couldn’t put up with you. They’d have seen him this morning though, unconscious on the couch, and he could expect another final warning when they got back from university this afternoon. His hands were shaking again. Fuck it, he poured a large vodka into a glass, diluted it with some tap water and took a sip. He’d get the place cleaned up then get the hell out for a while, let them come back to a tidy flat and they maybe give him another last chance.