Author's note: This action-adventure novel was written to explore the far reaches of moral ambiguity and power of corruption.
The Mouth of HellOne of the more peculiar things about the Project was the lack of alarm clocks. We were given standard issue digital clocks that displayed military time in a number of time zones, but we were not permitted to attach or utilize any sort of alarm system. Nine times out of ten, our superiors would use this to wake us at any ungodly hour of their choosing in an effort to keep operatives on their toes.
My quarters were spacious, even for a place as enigmatic as Project NOVA headquarters, which seemed to have no limits to its size. Plain white walls and fluorescent lighting aside, the room was cozy. I was its only occupant, and as such the king sized bed always seemed out of place.
That night, just as every night I could remember before it, I slept soundly without even the slightest hint of a dream. After what felt like ages, I was aggressively shaken by a man in a black suite with a white tie, who I recognized as Agent Markus Westfield, the high ranking operative who would be commanding the day’s mission.
“Wake up, Lange. Mortimer is already in the locker room prepping; get whatever you’re going to need for the mission and meet me at the airstrip,” he ordered. Westfield was calm and collected, and looked the part. He had cold, ice blue eyes that never betrayed whatever emotions he harbored within.
“Yes, sir,” I said as I followed him to the locker room where Morty was already adjusting his tie. Westfield waited at the door, and I hurriedly gathered my supplies.
“You think you’re going to handle this, John?” Morty asked as I pulled on jacket. I glared back at him, because I was still completely in the dark about what we were going to do. Morty has been on five Class-Three Operations and two Class-Two’s. If anyone was going to offer me any advice for what was about to happen, it’d be Mortimer.
“Johnny, we’re walking straight into the mouth of Hell with this one. This is a Class-Two Operation, pal. With a squad of only three men, one with almost no field experience, let’s just say we’re going to come out of this one a little messed up.”
“And you’re okay with that, Sam? You’re going to put your life on the line for nameless, faceless suits? For a cause you aren’t allowed to know about?” I knew my questions were out of line, but I desperately wanted Morty to slip up and tell me something I shouldn’t know about, The Project had saved my life and I owed them, but my blind loyalty had its limits.
“I’m a soldier, John. We both are. And you know what soldiers do? We save lives. And that’s what we’re doing today. Me, you, and Westfield over there, we’re going to be saving innocent lives. Besides, man, don’t worry. You’re just the lookout.” And with that, Samuel Mortimer handed me two fully loaded magnum pistols.
“Some lookout,” I muttered as I slid the two angels of death into their holsters and exited the locker room.
Westfield had gone ahead to the airstrip, where a small private jet was waiting to take us to Manhattan. The jet was windowless, as to conceal the location of the island Project NOVA called home. While the temperature suggested somewhere tropic, the uneventful flight to New York was surprisingly quick.
I felt a little squeamish as I sat adjacent from Morty and behind Westfield on the flight. I found myself lost in thought until I caught a bit of my teammates’ conversation, which grabbed my attention enough to listen.
“…and you make sure that you set up the fall guy in the right place at the right time. If this job isn’t handled perfectly, it’ll be your ass on the line, Mortimer. Not mine, and not Lange’s.”
“I understand, sir. And as for our evac?”
“You’ll regroup with Lange and ride the subway aimlessly until you’re approached by a man with two briefcases. You’ll know him when you see him,” Westfield said cryptically. At this point, I was more than a little confused and had to get some clarification.
“How will I know when it’s time for us to regroup?”
“Oh, trust me, rookie. You’ll know, you’ll know.” I heeded Westfield’s words with a silent nod.
A few minutes later, Westfield began to unbuckle his seatbelt and gather his belongings. He nodded towards us and we followed suit. Mortimer and I each slipped on a nondescript pair of black sunglasses which were outfitted with an electronic audio receiver and microphone in the right earpiece. With these, we’d be able to stay in touch during the mission.
Each of us placed our weaponry in black briefcases as the jet landed in a private airstrip just north of Manhattan, the majority of which was underground. Ordinarily for civilian missions we would be air-dropped a short distance from the site of the mission, but for something as high profile as a Class-Two Operation, we needed to be as hidden as possible.
Above ground there were three black sedans waiting for us, each with a New York license plate and tag. To the untrained eye we appeared to be nothing more than out-of-state business men in the city for a conference.
“Alright boys, I’ll see you after this is over and done with. Rest assured, we will make history today,” Westfield declared. Morty and I saluted our leader and entered the back seat of our respective sedans. Though we were all going to arrive at the same building, it was necessary we ride in separate cars for security reasons. Project guidelines dictate that in the event of a sabotaged operation, any agent captured by an enemy and unable to escape was charged with the duty of disposing of themselves. Not one to go against Project NOVA policy if I could avoid it, I kept a cyanide capsule in the heel of my right shoe, just in case.
When the trio of cars pulled up at our temporary headquarters, an office building conveniently closed for construction, I tried not to look nervous. Westfield and Morty could tell from my clenched fists and somber expression that I was starting to get an idea of what we were taking part in, and though I found it unsettling, I understood we had to do it.
We had to assassinate the future President of the United States.