There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai,
Unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle, perhaps…
The chameleon’s eyes scanned over Jef as he lay awake in contemplation underneath a canopy of expanding smoke. After a slow pull on his cigarette he manipulated the cloud with his exhalations; the currents swirled beautifully before dissipating into a haze.
Jef looked around the room, heavy shadows moved across its surfaces. Beyond the single blur-glass window, the city lights danced.
He thought to himself:
‘Only eight hours remain of the time limit… Whatever happens, Matis dies today.’
To stay within the terms of his contract, Radicade Matis had to be killed before the time limit elapsed. It pressed on Jef as he lay there- a thing that needed to be done.
Sitting up, Jef regarded his pet- it lay across its perch basking in the light of its glow-orb.
Each of its eyes moved independently, resting only for a moment; and then to another focal point, refocusing, analysing.
Jef admired his chameleon for its specialisation as a hunter. He planned to release it one day- so it could become a predator once again, but not here, not on this planet.
The planet, Mnolomnune, had no natural predators anymore, or ecosystem to support them.
The only predators still operating were people like Jef; the assassins.
A dim orb of light awakened, spilling light into the shadowy corners of the apartment.
Jef dressed himself in its soft glow, and attached his shielding device to his side.
The constellation of grooves and scratches across the plastic cuboid’s weathered casing felt familiar in his hands. It powered up, making quiet humming sounds.
He walked across the room and looked at his own face in the mirror, it looked gaunt.
‘Only a mask’ He reminded himself.
Angling his hat down to partially conceal his face, he left the apartment.
In the elevator down to the pedestrian level, he gazed out upon the district. Layer upon layer of grey material passed beyond the gel-glass. On any level but the top, what seemed to be the sky was indeed more concrete; another level of the Metropolis.
He thought: ‘The only thing to remotely resemble the insect life required to support a chameleon here, on this planet, is the appearance of the constant movement of the city – viewed from afar.’
As Jef descended, in his inner eye; he consulted his cyber brain interface for information on his target.
His real eyes glazed over as he focused upon the image from the brain implant. Real reality blurred past in his real vision, out of focus, beneath the crystal sharp internal GPS brain-display.
On another level, in the deep city- Radicade was on the move, as expected.
Jef recognised the surrounding architecture as the Chrysanthemum annex on level 89G. The red cone on screen represented Matis’ tracking signal; and around 80,000,000,000 in GIL when dead.
Smiling to himself, he thought grimly: ‘Level 89G. See you soon, Matis.’ and shut off the display, refocusing his real eyes as he stepped out into the street.
The Genubi district was made bright each night by the light of many electronic screens. They displayed alien advertisements that were completely indecipherable to humans.
As the sunrise began, its first muted beams of light traced their way down to the planet; they affected their influence on the shadowy shapes of the city. Underneath those morphing forms Jef was anonymous in the shapes of his dark jacket.
Jef would have to be careful, going into the highly populated zone- the deep city levels.
Level 89G was home to many human residents. They would find his face and identity more discernible, as members of his own species.
Paranoid, he made his way only through tunnels and passages that remained non-surveillance zones; under gang control. The main gang groups of Mnolomnune maintained their own systems for their illegal commerce to take place, away from prying eyes and lenses.
For a price, one could use the web of gang territories to evade the City Mind’s watchful cameras. However, the chance always remained of encountering a bad character in those places that went unrecorded.
Along these mouldy routes, Jef had encountered a fair few corpses. And he had left a few of his own also.
For Jef, the risk he ran using the tunnels was preferable to the risk of being Identity Confirmed near a crime scene.
From the tunnels he emerged on level 89G, after a long snaking walk. Harshly angular buildings framed the noisy open space that greeted him.
In-between those massive blocks, a swarm of taxi traffic and drones busily went about their work overhead; whirring through the air-traffic corridors built into and around the buildings.
The people on the pedestrian level moved past hurriedly, going about their separate lives, paying no regard to one another. Jef matched their pace, and blended in with them.
The camera lenses all around watched on their movements indiscriminately. He revealed nothing to them.
As he walked on, more people of the city began to emerge.
Jef headed towards Radicade’s signal.
‘Six hours remain.’ He thought, clocking the time on a nearby terminal that displayed many alien times and symbols.
In the annex, eyes were everywhere- there were far too many potential witnesses around. He decided to wait a while, and follow Radicade until the right moment arose.
Matching the speed of those around him, he joined onto a procession leading into the main belly space of the annex. It was difficult to determine where the facility began and ended, but through one of its many entrance membranes Jef found himself moving inside on a conveyor-belt type platform, trapped by the shops and products that glittered around him.
The purple space inside the West Malls smelled rich with cheap Oxygon.
Covertly, he watched the screen within his mind for Radicade’s position. He was very close now.
Jef descended an automatic staircase to the lower level among a multitude of different humanoid species.
It seemed there were visitors from all across the galaxy present. Many species had made their home here on Mnolomnune.
From above, one of the burly onion-headed guardsmen glared at him from the railing. Jef produced a casual smile and pretended to look away, disinterested.
The onion-head’s large eyes followed Jef down for a while as he moved along the stairway.
A congregation had assembled outside of one of the up-and-coming offworld galleries- it specialised in exhibiting body transformation techniques. Jef dissolved into the crowd.
Faces churned all around him as he walked on. He stopped at a dark opening that lead down into a curving staircase.
The glowing sign above read: ‘Private, Members Only.’
Jef glanced back once before entering- no one had followed him.
Inside there was a relieving, professional ambience that was unlike the busy, social space above.
A gentleman wearing a sophisticated, polygonal bodysuit was sitting near the entrance, smoking. Jef nodded to the man in the suit as he walked by and sat down at the bar next to an alien from the bubble planet, Orogulon.
The man next to him tried to speak in his bubble language but Jef ignored him.
After a subtle exchange with the robotic bar keeper, he sat and drank from a tiny but powerful cup of coffee flavoured stimulant.
He thought : ‘And now the wait begins… Enjoy your final hours, Radicade Matis.’