01 – Retrieval

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"I'm not short," he said firmly, in a voice so soft it would not be audible to the human ear even if the person were merely a foot away.

Neither Ghost's voice nor his face expressed any visible emotion, never really had. His movements had not paused when he'd spoken; he continued crawling through the ventilation shaft as silently as before.

"You stand five feet and five inches tall," said the deep, gruff voice in his ear. The voice came from the tiny plastic chip embedded into his inner tragus, the stiff cartilage protruding just over the opening of his ear canal.

"Assumptions can be horribly deceiving," Ghost retorted just as softly as he'd initially spoken and corrected, "I'm not short, I'm compact." Gale laughed, and Ghost double checked his position on his vision-screen.

The device, spectacles with a single wrap-around lens, protected his eyes, acted as a transmitter for communication, and also acted as a transparent communication screen overlying his vision with indicators and information. In the bottom right hand corner, a digital clock displayed the time right down to double digit fractions of seconds.

Above the clock, an icon alert indicator which referred to nearby audio-spy equipment began to flash. Simultaneously, a soft whine sounded from his ear piece, a specific pitch that warned him he was approaching within range of a listening device. Certain that the tone was also received at the other end of his communication link he made no other sound, and focused on schooling his breath to a quieter level.

He did not need to take much more care to be quiet as he had already been doing so aside from the spoken exchange. The tiny whine faded the closer he came to the listening device, the little machine in his ear adjusting its pitch of warning in accordance so as not to raise alert.

In the moment it went entirely silent, Ghost reduced his breathing even further.

In the stillness of the shaft, he could not hear even the noise of his own movement. There was none, not even from his clothing, shoes or gloves which all had been made from a unique fabric specifically engineered for silent traction against the aluminium-alloy material of the ventilation shaft interior. Sliding along, he waited for the whine to resume, the sound that would tell him he was moving further away from the device, but it did not come within the customary distance.

Not the least bit worried his communication to Command had been temporarily silenced, he continued. His mission operation had been fully provided for, including how to locate his Mark.

The Target had nano-mites in his system, tiny organic machines which served all sorts of clever purposes. Nano-mites which had been discreetly introduced by another operative, programmed to 'resonate' to the mites in Ghost's own body which had been freshly injected only two hours and forty seven minutes ago at operation launch.

The mites flowed through his blood stream, through the adaptor installed at the base of his skull, and the signal was picked up by the digital portion of his brain. The mites had made him physically aware, 'resonating' a signal from the target he could sense was precisely twenty-six yards away from his current position, also on the thirty-second floor of this building.

The air was thick with nano-mites as well; the little machines had been pumped into the building air filtration system. All occupants of the building had breathed them in and were also locked into Ghost's system, resonating on his inner grid and providing the operative with certain knowledge of all the building occupants' locations. The only danger of detection was posed by the security system but so far… so good.

As always, of course; with his flawless record attained and maintained by hard work and constant training, this was quite a standard task. Best of all, he worked on the good side of the law, snatched up after military school graduation by RIG –acronym for the inconspicuously named Rescue & Investigations Global. His employers could claim to serve even her Majesty the Queen, running little 'errands' for them similar to this one.

Not that he could brag about any of this, had he event he inclination.

A job well done by a RIG operative meant no one outside those who were supposed to know ever even knew they had done it… even if the results were globally broadcasted. Happily, he never really found any issue with that…

The whine sounded softly in his ear, cutting of further musing.

"Check?" he whispered, when the whine clicked off.

"Clear," Gale told him, assuring that the device in Ghost's ear, and the receiver chips embedded at each corner of his lips, were all functioning perfectly; all communication systems still go. All tracking mites still go, and he double checked his target's location; eighteen yards.

"Far radius," he commented of the most recent obstacle.

"No info," Gale replied, sounding a little annoyed. Had it not been for Ghost's enhanced hearing, he would never have detected the slight change of tone which indicated the emotion.

The nano-resonance seemed louder when he arrived at a four-way intersection of the shaft. Tapping through a series of buttons on the temple of his vision-screen, he reviewed the building's three-dimensional plans. Making a decision, he took the left branch of the intersection, moving toward the shaft opening directly in the room his target occupied, closing in.

"Twenty one-fifty," he reported the time as customary. Now ten yards from his goal, "Operation commission?" he asked in order to double check the order status.

"Confirmed," Gale replied. "Proceed with vocal silence at twenty-two hundred."

"Confirm communication black out?" he prodded.

"Negative. Maintain contact."

"Copy that."

He arrived at the ventilation shaft window, the opening blocked by a slatted aluminium-alloy screen. Pressing a finger gently at the middle of the screw-on screen, he tested its give and calculated the amount of force necessary to dislodge it. It was an old habit, the data not useful but a piece of information he filed away anyway. His mission tonight was not a barge-in and take-down op, he would be making a silent entry, as silent as his exit.

Moving quickly, he applied special aluminium-purpose magnets with nano-glue to the corners where the screen met the rim of the shaft opening. Next, he glued in the exposed ends of the screws, as close to the screen as possible then melted off the rest with another of his 'toys'. The screws, installed from outside the shaft would not fall having been affixed by the powerful glue and the screen was now only held in place by the magnets. The process had taken but two minutes.

All clear for show time…

Peering through the screen slats his eyes snapped to where the resonance was loudest, where a figure seated behind an expansive desk to his right. The Target's face was not visible from his perspective, and he could see only a smooth and obviously expensively-tailored three piece suit, from the shoulders down. Ghost observed, registering the young, slender man as probably six feet tall, likely weighing about two hundred pounds and left handed.

Internally he took stock of where everyone was in the building then quickly double-checked the special multi-purpose dart launcher at his wrist. Not taking his eyes off his target, aware of the vision-screen digital clock only in his peripheral vision, he muttered,

"Twenty-two hundred mark."

"Confirmed, proceed."

Coiling, Ghost found purchase for his feet and tensed up to pounce. Springing soundlessly, he exploded out of the shaft eleven feet from the floor, left hand grabbing the slatted screen before it could drop, the right shooting a paralysis dart from his wrist launcher. The Target slumped back immediately in his seat as Ghost landed noiselessly, pouncing for the light switch.

In the darkness, assured that the sedative-laden dart had already taken effect, Ghost belted the ventilation shaft screen to a strap at his lower back. He would need it to cover his exit. He walked toward his target without haste and as he moved, he re-armed the launcher at his wrist to a specific poison engineered to induce violent cardiac arrest. Coming to the Target's side, he registered the slow breathing associated with the paralysis formulae effects.

He gently tilted the swivel chair around to face him. Allowing himself but a moment, he spared the frozen man a contemptuous glare before leaning over the still figure. He produced and positioned a small tube-like device over one wide-eyed hazel eye to perform a retina scan, results coming up on his vision screen. Strangely, ID was not confirmed. He tried again.

Negative.

Ghost quickly pressed out a sequence on the little buttons at his vision-screen temple, firing off the message that retinal ID was not confirmed. Not that HQ couldn't see it for themselves courtesy of the vision-screen nano-cam which captured and transmitted everything in front of him. Calling up a window in the bottom left of Ghost's vision-screen, Gale posted a company ID picture. Visual confirmation was also not a match, the face in the photo most definitely not the target Ghost had sitting in front of him.

Shit.

"Ghost, speech is now permitted," Gale sounded pissed off as though he'd been arguing off-com. "Operation is recalled. Mission re-state: Rescue and retrieve; Status: Approved. Repeat, mission re-states this is a rescue operation."

"You've got to be shitting me!" Ghost muttered. His size was once of the reasons they'd assigned him this mission in the first place: small, condensed, and fast. Not built to be hauling six-foot, two hundred pound targets. But despite his words, he was already preparing to carry out his orders.

"Not kidding, kiddo," Gale growled. "A float pad is thirty seconds away for extraction. They'll catch you directly out the window of your position."

Ghost finished reprogramming his launcher for a supply of adrenaline. Directing the shot into his own neck, he almost immediately felt the surge of energy. He re-set the launcher as he walked toward the floor to ceiling windows and, stopping five metres away, fired an expanding web of explosive gel. As the indicator on his vision-screen counted down, Ghost dashed back to his former Mark, grabbed the man's left arm with his own left and bent to haul the civilian over and across his shoulders.

"Hang on tight," he quipped to the 'paralysed' man as he bent them down into a crouch behind the desk.

The moment the glass exploded, the building security alarms sounded. It wasn't too loud, the noise itself, but all of Ghost's equipment went haywire. His ear piece shrieked the danger into his ear and his vision-screen flashed red before his eyes. Ignoring it all, he jumped to his feet, shuffling along under the weight on his shoulders, hearing the low whine of the hovercraft outside. He couldn't see it but he could sense it; thank God for nano-resonance.

Without pause at the window's edge, thirty-two floors up, he leaped out into the cold air and darkness of the night.

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