Friday, August 8, 2014

#FridayFlash - The Art of War (Conclusion)

Micah controlled his breathing. He relaxed his body and focused on his heart rate. The key to a long range shot was to squeeze the trigger in between beats and to avoid any slight movement. A shudder or a twitch could send the round off course, especially at six hundred yards, missing the mark.

Through the scope, he watched as his father fiddled around at the kitchen counter. He saw a glass, a bottle of vodka. His father held the phone between his head and shoulder as he looked down, working on something. A tablet computer maybe?

Master Sharma had said that hearts could never be wholly mended without tending to the parts first, one piece at a time, and right now—right here—was one of those pieces. In a moment he would start the mending process. In a moment six hundred yards would be reduced to nothing, and all the years, all the pain, would be washed away like grains of sand on a beach. Micah would be the god of his future.

He tensed the muscles in his hand, felt the slight pressure of the trigger, cold and lifeless but ready to breath life into a round of deadly ammunition. In between the beats, he told himself.



His father's voice bridged the divide.

"You sure you want to do that?"

Micah blinked.

"Do what?"

"Wait around for the next contract." His father continued to work at something on the counter. "In my experience, waiting too long in one place is risky."

Micah pulled his head away from the scope. He felt his heart rate skip. While the questioned seemed to be in line with the rest of the conversation—almost perfect, actually—he couldn't deny the subtlety of his father's ways.

"But if nobody knows where you're at..." Micah said.

"Never assume you're alone. Always, always, always—"

Micah finished it. "Check the back door."


In spite of the chilled room, Micah felt sweat ooze from his hairline. His heart rate gave up on skipping around and now ran cheetah fast as his father's often repeated mantra screamed inside his head: One way to avoid your enemy is to hide in plain sight. If done properly, one could easily become the hunter instead of the hunted.

"But in a city like Brazil," Micah said, "with so many back doors..." He laid down the rifle and stood. He scanned the room, looking for anything out of place.

His father sighed. "Haven't I taught you anything?"

Micah knew what his father was going to say. Never go anywhere, and never set up any operation, without knowing first all the points of weakness. Any one of those points could be exploited. It would be just like his father to set up his own operation in that apartment, but not doing it before first realizing that someone—someone like Micah, that is—could set up another operation in the hotel six hundred yards away. The mystery though, is how his father would know which hotel room to target. As Micah walked around, he guessed his father had an asset, or maybe more than one, who was paid to keep certain rooms free, and then to send word when anyone specifically asked for one of those rooms. To accomplish that kind of tactic required a large amount of money, an amount like either one of them could easily afford.

At a room vent, Micah found what he was looking for. A small red LED, like a dragon's eye, winked at him from behind the grill. There was a camera, no doubt about it, but most likely the device also included a little something more deadly.

"You're right again," Micah said. "As always."

He smiled and looked down. He shook his head, knowing his father, six hundred yards away, watched as he did so.

On more than one occasion while growing up, and usually during an intense training session involving so much pain and humiliation it drove Micah to the point of retaliation, his father had observed that a smart teacher never revealed all of his experience and secrets. In addition, a wise student would never underestimate his master. With the LED winking back at him, Micah knew he had made a fatal mistake. And it was fatal. Once a scorpion reared its tail, the decision was clear: destroy it. Micah could run, but odds were his father had enough explosive tucked away behind that grill to take out several square feet of the hotel, if not the entire floor. And odds were that his father had started a small timer, just in case Micah had actually squeezed the trigger. He didn't know how much time would be left, but every moment now counted.

"Tell me something," he said.

Silence filled the headset. For a moment, Micah thought his father would not respond at all. He would just wait for the timer to unwind. Then, his father's voice cut across the divide.


"Did you ever think it would be this way?"

There was a slight pause before his father said, "We're not talking in hypotheticals anymore now, huh?"

Micah turned and walked back to the balcony door.

"No. I don't see the point."

"And neither do I."

Micah nodded. He guessed that was as good of a response as he could expect. After all, he already knew what Patton had said about winning a war, right? He was just the other dumb bastard this time.

Sitting down again, legs crossed, arms out at the four and eight o'clock positions, he focused on his breathing.





  1. Sigmund Freud would have had an orgasm with the Oedipal bullets flying back and forth ion this one :-)

    1. There are a lot of issues. Too bad Micah couldn't have found another way to deal with them.

  2. Ah, second guessed.

    This holds the same aura as the scene in the movie "Enemy at the gates" when Ed Harris realizes he's lost.

    The moment when the penny drops.

    Wonderful writing, as always Stephen.

    1. You know, I've seen bits and pieces of that movie, but I haven't watched it all. I'll have to put it on my list. Thank you for the compliment.

  3. Oh he realised that his father knew! Nice writing Stephen.

    1. Yes, he knew there was no way of escaping the situation. It was better to sit in peace to find it, though it's a hard way to find peace if you ask me.

  4. Wow. Nice, nice twist -- all of a sudden there are twice as many double entendres piled up as before. But still, what Marc said -- Freud really would have had a field day. The father must have had that gear set up in the vent for months, years even, figuring sooner or later someone would choose to use it.

    I really like how the geography was laid out in this -- all very plausible and easy to follow.

    1. Thank you, Katherine. Yes, the father had to have had things set up for quite a while. One thing that struck me: I wonder how the father felt once he saw the hunter turned out to be his own son. Of course, the POV limits us sometimes, and we can only try to imagine the possibilities.

  5. I do have to wonder why he didn't just shoot him anyway, knowing his own end was near, unless he'd managed to find peace through that.

    1. He shook his head, knowing his father, six hundred yards away, watched as he did so.

      The thought process is that it would have been a lost cause. If he had tried to go back to the gun, his father would have seen it and could have easily ducked behind some sort of cover (the kitchen counter?) to avoid being shot.

      Still, I did not make that more clear, and your question is solid feedback. It shows me where I can improve the story, and I truly appreciate it. If I try to shop this story somewhere, I will have to revise in order to remove the questions. So, thank you.

  6. How I love your storytelling twists Stephen! I don't know about Freud, but I was lip biting excited throughout this story and exclaimed at the Oedipal bullets as Marc described them, and fair enough.
    The father is one hardcore guy. Cold, but teaches some valuable lessons.