There’s a full moon tonight, and a sky full of stars, but they’re hidden behind a dense bank of cloud. He’s waited close to the drop point, concealed behind a tree since before 23.00 hours with nothing to read but the Flight Plan – or FP as everyone calls it. Transport was running ahead of schedule this evening; a bureaucratic foul up by some secretarial pen pusher who was too busy filing her nails to concentrate on the less consequential matter of Field Operative safety. Net result: two hours waiting here until entry time. ‘Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect Two ‘Effin Hundred Pounds,’ he thinks. He watches the second hand on the face of the clock on Tesco’s fancy tower. On the dot of 01.00 hours he snaps his fingers. The lights wink out one by one in perfect sequence all the way down the street, just as if there’d been a real power cut. ‘At least Environment got their timing right,’ he thinks. He drops the night vision goggles over his eyes and the world lights up again – for him, at least. Checking his equipment one last time, he moves over to the house – a Victorian halls-adjoining semi. Immediately he sets to, examining the Poppies (that’s Possible Points of Entry if you’re a rookie). The Alarm flashes disdainfully at him. He’ll wipe the superior smile off the bugger’s face in a few moments. Electro-mechanical security’s a doddle. Windows? Screw-locked: too noisy to undo; Door? Dead-locked, bolted and chained. Par de probleme.
He draws his Obsidian from its sheath and touches its point to the lock. He waits for the familiar clicks as the latch complies with the instruction, the bolt draws back and the chain drops loose. One finger to the door is enough to make it swing back fractionally. He’s small; doesn’t need much room to get through. He takes his last breath of unpolluted air, crosses the physical threshold of the house and simultaneously crosses that invisible threshold between honesty and dishonesty; goodness and turpitude; his world and their world. He stands in the hall – if standing’s the right word for someone who hovers six inches above the floor (he loathes the Queen’s new Imperial measurements and refuses to use them, even in official communication. Cubits and Palms were good enough for his grandfather’s grandfather and they’re good enough for him). The faint buzz from the pack on his back reassures him he has more than enough flight time to complete the assignment. Finally he is forced to exhale and takes his first breath of foul air. His stomach retches. He fights to control the urge to vomit. He glances to the left through the lounge door. A glass topped coffee table covered with weekly magazines and coffee mugs, torn envelopes and pens, the lid from a tub of strawberry Ben & Jerry’s, wet side down on the red leather sofa; the infrared on the TV reminding no one at all of the machine’s state of readiness; all the detritus of everyday human existence and nothing whatsoever that makes him want to be part of it.
To be continued