Close Call

The distinctive chatter of a Kalashnikov assault rifle echoed through the engine room. The bulky Cuban crewman fell down dead as his blood splattered on the wall behind him. Laughter echoed around the massive pipes and hissing boilers. The terrorist wore a white wife-beater shirt, with a swastika and Confederate flag emblazoned on it. The gunman held the AK-47 in his hands, smirking as he pulled out the detonator.

The act had taken years to plan. All the black market arms dealers he had to contact, all those secured channels he'd used, and all those explosives he bought on the black market had finally paid off. Now, the terrorist was on a cruise ship wired to explode when he pushed the small detonator within his pocket.

The biggest catch was no one on the ship knew it. He had been extra-careful to remove snooping crew members and passengers, and dispose of them in a God-forsaken corner of the engine room. The Cuban had been the last, but the other dozen or so bodies in the pile included people of several ages and ethnicities. Children, old people, middle aged people, and other, less describable forms comprised the pile. There was even a baby, crying for its mother, until the terrorist had sent it to join its mother in the pile.

This is a small sample for what's to come, the terrorist thought. They'll think of me as a terrorist, but God help me, this will draw attention to my goal!

, the terrorist thought.

The terrorist was once a farmhand from Arkansas, who eventually was recruited into one of many far-right militia movements. Such movements attracted those disillusioned with the United States, and what they saw as a Jew-run economy, New World Order with globalization, Godless, secular state and education system, and problems with maintaining America's racial purity in the face of immigration. Still having an old Southern sense of morality, he had decided to join a militia and help preserve white America.

The cruise ship was a logical target, since it was packed with Americans who would rather waste their lives raising families and falling into conformism. It was also full of "human waste products," such as blacks, Latinos, Asians, and worst of all, the racially mixed. The former farmhand looked at his watch. The militia group had likely broadcast its demands by now. But no matter the government's response, the "hostages" had to go.

In your name, God! In your name! he smirked as he thought of the drowning niggers, Jews, ragheads, Catholics, and other trash. That was the last thought that crossed his mind as he pushed the detonator.

However, it was not the last thing to go through his mind. A forty-five caliber ACP round was, and it painted what passed for his brains on the opposite wall.

The nameless counter-terrorist operative who fired the bullet lowered his Heckler and Koch USP, and confirmed the kill. He had not been detected by the terrorist the whole time. As the militia member was planting C-4 charges around the ship, the operative was shadowing him closely, removing the bombs soon after they had been planted. Even if the terrorist had pushed the detonator, nothing would have happened. The operative's only regret was he did not arrive in time to save some of the other victims.

He was, for all intents and purposes, dead. The government denied not only his existence, but the covert agency he worked for, buried deep within the labyrinthine bureaucracy in Washington. The black Kevlar suit the agent wore concealed every aspect of his personality. His skin tone, eyes, hair, and voice were hidden beneath his technological second skin.

The operative was a soldier of the Information Age, as were his targets. The war, of course, was fought in the shadows. It was nothing personal, but better to have a dead terrorist than hundreds, or even thousands, of dead civilians. The operative had questioned why he killed, and was satisfied with the answer.

However, unlike the terrorist, the operative would not go down in infamy. The terrorists hogged the spotlight, until someone worse came along. The operative, however, would likely be one of the few who knew what really happened. The issue was to be forgotten or remembered with hatred, and the operative preferred to be forgotten. After all, the alternative rarely ended nicely for anyone.

Soon afterwards, the incident was covered-up, as normal. The news media did not report anything out of the ordinary, save several passengers were kidnapped from the boat and executed by some group loosely tied to another, more infamous one. The public, as usual, turned a blind eye towards it in favor of the latest sports and celebrity gossip.

No matter what celebrities slept together, or what team one the World Series or Super Bowl, the operative's work would never be done. The world would never know, and that would help them sleep better at night. If they did, they would never know how many times, how close they came.