The End of the Old Order
I’m certain that the gods in the ceiling are watching us more closely than ever. But the Prince and I can’t have them think we’re about to escape. We can’t have them worried they’re about to die. This is what will happen. We will escape. They will die. But we will need every last bit of surprise we can get.
At this point, I hope I have earned the prince’s trust, as I need for him to follow my lead. I subtly point to him and then slowly lower my hands—a gesture asking him to be patient. He gives me a single nod as his approval. I believe—more precisely hope—he understands that I have a plan to get us out of here.
I sit quietly at one of the conference table chairs and let my watchers think they have broken me. I let them see me fidget in my seat. I let them see me nervously bob my legs up and down. I let them see me gnaw at my nails. But inwardly, I am calm. I am always calm just before the storm of battle. The singularity of my purpose brings me a kind of inner peace. I know what must be done. I must kill every soldier in that other room. In truth, I must kill anyone who gets in my way. That includes the civilians. They can’t claim to be wholly innocent. They sat idly by and watched Equis terrorize our wives. For that, they may die. There may be no heaven for me if I kill them. But I strongly doubt there was any heaven waiting for them either.
My plan has us escaping through the ceiling. The prince and I will locate the fiber hawsers and use them to climb. Even with a rudimentary understanding of how electronic wiring works, I know for sure now that we are hardwired into them. We are electronically connected to their studio through multiple hawsers secured to the ceiling rafters. These hawsers run from their studio to our room and come down to access panels above the refraction monitors. These rugged hawser cables, filled with optical fibers and fixed to the rafters, are more than strong enough to hold our weight. There should be just enough space between our room’s walls and the metal panels encasing us to climb up to the ceiling rafters using hawsers.
Once we climb across the rafters to their studio, we will create a massive disruption. I assume, based on what Equis said earlier, that he will still be rehearsing. His guards will probably be in the same location as before, just behind Equis’ raised desk. The disruption will startle them and hopefully they’ll be disoriented.
My best guess is that these seven guards are former soldiers working as hired guns for a reasonably sophisticated paramilitary company. Their automatic weapons are shiny and advanced, but their mecharmors are subpar—more costume than protection. I doubt most of them have experienced real combat. Generally speaking, the kinds of soldiers who opt for the money and cozy lifestyle of a private military job are the least ambitious. It’s not much of a leap of faith to say I’ve faced far more formidable foes than these guys.
Following the disruption and ensuing commotion, I will need to quickly make my way to the guards and single one out. I will try to target the guard most centrally located in the group. If the other guards are smart, they will hold their fire. But more likely, they will be rash and there will be lots of friendly fire flying about. This will make my job quite a bit easier. Once I disable the first guard, I will take his weapon. Then, I will eliminate the rest.
I cannot be sure of the full security detail in place. I have only seen seven guards, but it would be foolish of me to think there are not many more beyond what I see. A much larger contingent probably protects the perimeter of the facility. I don’t have any well-formed strategies for fighting soldiers whose numbers and locations I don’t know. But in situations of uncertainty such as these, I usually tell my junior commanders to improvise while emphasizing two basic strategies of small troop fighting: unpredictability and cover. We will move in irregular ways that are hard to predict, while constantly manipulating their attention with erratic decoys and diversions. Simultaneously, we will attack from different points of cover that provide us with strategic advantages and force them to respond with risky countermeasures.
While I’m taking guards out, I will need the prince to secure our wives and then Equis. I want Equis taken alive so I can find out who was behind the decision to take our wives and threaten our children. Once I have this information, Equis is good as dead.
This plan of mine is anything but perfect. I’ve never been in a situation as precarious or had a plan as weak. But I’m out of time. My wife will soon be dead.
I need to launch my plan. I’m still nervously fidgeting for the cameras, but I slowly begin to introduce a new character to my watchers. I look over at the prince and give him a series of scowls. I quickly ramp up my anger, so that it eventually replaces my rendition of the nervous, beaten down soldier.
“This is all your fault,” I shout at the prince. I pound the conference table with my fist and get up from my chair. “I know you’re behind this. I know you’re working for someone.”
I walk over to the prince and pull his face close to mine. With both hands, I take the sides of his head and shake them abruptly. I make sure to turn his head so that his ear is facing my mouth and shielding my words from the camera. My facial expressions and body language make it appear as though I’m screaming at him, but I am only whispering in his ear. As I shake his head angrily, I whisper the broad strokes of my plan to him. I know they can’t hear what I tell him, but I can’t be sure they are buying my act. After I’ve explained all of it to the prince, I whisper one last thing in his ear. “Good luck, Prince. It’s been an honor. If anything should happen to me, please make sure my wife and family are safe. And you have my word, I will do the same for you.”
“Of course, and you have my word as well,” the prince whispers. And then he pushes me hard to the ground.
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