Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Three

After years of training, honing my skills, perfecting my techniques, developing and installing the most high-tech cybernetic weaponry, I knew that my time had finally come. Sterling was moving his HQ; I may never have another opportunity like this.

I staked out his new fortified compound in Cali, planning to ambush his caravan as he arrived. It didn’t take long for me to realize though that I’d arrived too late by over a week. Sterling’s no fool; he’d moved in ten days early, to mislead his enemies. I am the fool.

But the moment was not lost.

Another opportunity would surface from my ill-planned ambush. Less than an hour after I’d realized my error, as dusk settled through the smog, a sleek, black, heavily-armored vehicle rolled up, boldly crashing through the front gates and parking on the front lawn. To my astonishment, Gibson and Stephenson stepped out, standing calmly in the bask of the vehicle’s headlights.

It hadn’t been a mistake to come here after all. I’d only planned to get one of them, but now fate had elected to grace me with a chance to take out all three in one fell swoop.

Before any kind of strategy could even form in my mind, multiple streams of fire burst from the compound’s perimeter guns, ripping open the night. Gibson and Stephenson dodged acrobatically; Stephenson’s mirrorshades exploded outward with return fire from his skull gun. Sterling then stepped up the grade of his assault, the ground held by Stephenson and Gibson churned with explosions; the two assailants were engulfed in the billowing orange fire.

Sterling cooled his guns for a moment; the only audible sound in the thunder's wake was the metallic chink of swords coming together. As the fire and smoke dissipated, I saw with disbelief that Gibson and Stephenson were now fighting! Had one of them secretly allied with Sterling? Stephenson’s skull gun fired as he dexterously wielded his twin katanas, Gibson countered masterfully with his single blade, slashing with razor fingertips each time Stephenson stepped in too close.

My perspective rotated in 360 degrees around them as they continued to fight in slo-mo, like in those Matrix movies that had ripped them both off.

I then saw that Sterling had emerged from within his stronghold, looking determined, wielding a sword with a blade so fine as to make it invisible to even my electronically enhanced eye. Gibson and Stephenson paused to watch him approach. He finally reached their ground and stopped; the three combatants stood equidistant from each other. There I stood, off to the side, looking in at this triangle of death; I realized for the first time that I was messing in business where I had no business messing.

I’m still not sure who started it, but there was a sudden violence of fire and micro-filamented steel. I felt a sudden intense, vague pain and staggered to my knees. Something else struck me hard, and the world went void. I struggled but could not keep my eyelids apart, couldn’t keep my head from the rumbling earth.

I awoke where I’d fallen, alone and uncertain how much time had passed, uncertain of the outcome of the battle. The field was calm. My body was broken; my first thought was that they’d left me there to die. But then I realized the truth, and it was that much more awful.

They’d never even known I was there.

If I ever get off of this field, I will continue my practice, continue to train, continue to develop my weaponry and enhance my arsenal. . . but I must accept the harsh reality – I will never equal any of the Three.


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