The helicopter skimmed along, mere feet above the water, and Dick could just make out the container ship on the horizon ahead. At the last possible moment, the pilot traded airspeed for altitude, popping up above the deck and dropping the modified Little Bird precisely into the empty slot on deck. Dick stepped off the skid and headed for the command container while the pilot started the engine cool-down.

The command was dimly lit, screens along the side wall showing the status of various assets, video feeds, and mission checklists. Locate Target: Check. Position Assets: Check. Neutralize Target: Big Red Fuckin’ X. Not really, but Dick was in a foul mood after the botched hit. The whole flight back, he had run and re-run the scenario over in his head, wondering if he could have got the shot off a little quicker. Certainly after it went to shit, there was little he could have done to salvage the situation. He was authorized for the one kill: the Target, and he had no idea who those crazy fuckers were that snatched her.

“Slashballs! Report!” Dick turned to see the commander, Yeager, following him.

“Target was snatched before I knew what happened, Sir. I got a shot off, but it hit the doorman instead, and he was playing Tin Man to her Dorothy.”

Yeager perched on the edge of the table near the entrance. “Armor, eh?

“Sounded like steel. Hit hard, but at that range, the Blackout’s only carrying five hundred foot-pounds. He got up and capped the chauffeur quick, then dragged her to that crazy van. I think he knew where the shot was going to come from, because he kept himself between me and her the whole time.”

“Protective grab, then?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think that guy was one of the regular doormen the prep team observed. The briefing was, they were all right handed, but he was definitely a lefty, by the way he dragged her and shot that driver. I think one of the doormen’s gone missing. I don’t know who these guys are—no reason to do the driver that I can see, and if they disappeared the doorman too, well, they’re pretty reckless.”

“Reckless, eh?” Yeager took a puff on his cigarette. “Wait, you said the van was ‘crazy.’ What the fuck’s that mean?”

“It had some kind of marking on the side, looked like red spray paint. I didn’t get a chance to see what it was.”

“Well, Slashballs, you’re going to get a chance, because we need that target out of the picture. And if someone else went to the trouble of grabbing her, they’re gonna want her alive, not on ice.”

“Where do we start, then?”

“Where do you start, then, you mean. This was supposed to be an in-and-out job, and we can’t risk any more exposure on this. This is a one-man show now, and you’re one man.”

“Aw— Fuck.”

Yeager hopped to his feet and crossed over to Slashballs, looking slightly up at the bigger man, and poked him, hard, in the chest.

“No use crying about it, Baby Wets-Her-Self! You’ve been on this job long enough, you know the rules. You shit the bed, you get in there and do the laundry.”

“All right, Sir, but what do we have for leads?”

“Leads? The leads we have right now are connecting a van de Graff generator to our fucking seed bags! You’re going back in there to find some better ones! Log’s got a change of clothes for you and a new packet. Get on it, Son!”

“Yes, Sir!”

Dick trotted across the makeshift heliport to the Log container.  Looking up, he saw that the false container cover had been pulled in place overhead—no more luxury air travel for him tonight.  He knew what the man was doing.  The fuck-up wasn’t Dick’s fault, strictly, but getting right back on the horse was going to give him something to do about it.  Pros don’t spend time overthinking a failure, but figuring out the next steps.  As he stepped into Ops, Ricketts shoved a thick envelope into his hand. “Your cover, Dick. You’re booked in the target hotel, just need to get there and check in.”

Dick riffled through the items in the envelope. Cell phone. A thousand bucks US. Passport—Canadian this time, eh? Evidently, Mr. Wallace Orbis, “Account Executive,” from Edmonton, was in town early for a conference starting next week, probably about GPS guided combine harvester software sales, or some shit. As interesting as that sounded, ol’ Wally wouldn’t be out of place asking questions about some excitement at the hotel earlier, especially if he got checked in while the inevitable police presence was still there. As he grabbed the clothes and the loaded business traveler’s backpack the Logs had laid out for him, he headed to the john to change.  Dick checked the wallet for credit cards, driver’s license, grocery points card—all there. Say what you want about these Logistics nerds, thought Dick, they came prepared most of the time.

Ten minutes later, Dick was astride a Vantablack jet ski, motoring along, keeping the speed low to prevent a wake. When he finally hit the wharf, he stripped off his drysuit coverall, stuffed it in the under-seat compartment, and pushed the “go home” button on the little sea horse, watching it motor off on its stealthy way back to the container ship, settling low in the water as it filled its ballast tank.

As he looked around, he felt a bit better now; this was his element, working on his own.  Sure he had not been observed, Wallace Orbis walked casually, but quickly, across the shoreside park, and up the hill.