Base and Molly
At the far northern end of a fourth-story rooftop, a figure lay prone atop a hastily assembled platform of shipping pallets topped with a scrap of plywood. A thin, tan cloth was strung overhead for shade. The figure was slim, clad in a multi-camo jumpsuit that seemed to shimmer in the dusty air. A shock of short black hair. Non regulation AO aviator glasses from a hundred years back. The butt of a sniper's rifle nestled into her shoulder, she squinted into her grandfather's Leopold 10x scope. The air was still, the heat stifling.
“But it’s the dry heat,” she quipped, “108 in the shade, but fuck, it’s dry.”
“Repeat that Molly,” her earpiece crackled.
“Nothing—talking to myself,” she replied. She felt a bead of perspiration trickle down her spine to the small of her back and puddle there.
“Radio silence, Molls.”
She grinned reflexively. “This freq and the scramblers we’re using are about 500 years beyond what the natives are dreaming about, Base. But, okay—silence”.
Her scope showed her a dusty intersection three blocks south. In the past hour, three stray dogs and a bicycle had crossed, all traveling south. No cars, no trucks, no vans. No high priestesses of the Church Unified. No Penelope.
Azza-Jono. Molly wondered about the place. The intel was scant and inconclusive. The only thing certain was some kind of internecine civic conflict from way back in the day. Molly would be surprised if it wasn't the same old story—the same in almost every deployment lately: the voodoo against the science. Why can’t we all get along? That grin again.
She squinted into the antique optic that was clamped to a decidedly cutting-edge pulse rifle. Molly could put a bead onto a human-size target out to a mile and a half; five miles with the electronic scope. Base, and the Org in general didn’t like Molly carrying her ancient instruments—they added too much weight and had none of the advantages of the standard issue tech. But the tech had no soul. Besides, she didn’t hesitate to use it when needed; she just didn’t like to rely too heavily on something made primarily of spun optical fiber and bio-plastic. Molly had more confirmed one-shot kills than anyone in the history of the Org, and wasn't shy about reminding anyone who questioned her methods, or what she chose to carry.
She tapped her earpiece and a small display appeared to the left, somehow projected into the air. The tech baffled Molly, but she made as good a use of it as any of the ops. Base had once tried to tell her it was fed into her visual cortex. She'd tuned him out. Neuro-tech bored her.
The display showed a dour-looking Penelope and the few details the Org had: female, 32, 5’8”, red hair, green eyes, no known implants. That still surprised Molly—that anyone in this backwater didn’t have implants or some kind of neuro-mod. Maybe it was against Church doctrine. There was nothing on national or civic origin. Or sexual preference.
A little intense looking but all-in-all, definitely doable. Molly zoomed in on her eyes, a bright green that was softened with streaks of brown.
Molly tapped her earpiece and the display disappeared. She rose up on her elbows and felt the pooled sweat drip down her ass and between her legs.
“Lovely,” she thought. “That’s just lovely.”
“Repeat, Molly.” Base again.
“I thought I turned off the neural trans, sorry.” Molly turned the trans off with a flick of her thumb. She wondered if Base had been eavesdropping on her Penelope-lust. She’d have to keep on top of her thoughts if she was going to make it through this deployment.
“Mindful is as mindful does.” She couldn’t help but let out a chuckle.
Mercifully, Base didn’t respond.
The intersection just sat there, mocking her, wisps of dry wind kicking up eddies of dust. Nothing else moved.
Far off she heard the clatter of an ancient engine starting up. In the street below, a baby wailed.
Where are you, Penelope? Come on out, baby.