DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to Splinter Cell, or to any other brand names/cultural references/media productions that may be mentioned in the making of this fanfic. :)


It was a dark night. No moon, no stars, no light from above or below. Nothing. The black helicopter hung motionless in the air, obscured by the low, grey clouds. The wind howled and buffeted its fragile frame, while heavy raindrops lashed from overhead, keeping up a sharp, continuous tattoo against the roof. Its rotors whirred, the noise completely drowned out in the storm. One of the helicopter's doors was open; a single rope snaked downwards to the rooftop below, upon which a lone figure crouched.

"Fisher, do not overestimate the amount of time you have to complete this mission. Dawn breaks in about five hours, and when that happens we need to be out of this area. We can't afford to be around when the daytime occupants show up."

"I know, Lambert. Don't you think I'm aware of how important this is?"

"Sorry, Sam, I just needed to remind everyone of how much is at stake here. You have fifth freedom."


Lambert closed his communications channel and was replaced by Anna Grimsdóttír, Third Echelon's information and technological specialist.

"Hey, Sam. Has Lambert been giving you a hard time?"

"He seems edgy. Is there something I should be worried about here, Anna?"

"What, aside from the fact that if you're caught, the US government and its affiliates will deny all knowledge of your existence? It's understandable that he's nervous, given the circumstances. Focus on what you need to do. This is just another mission, Sam."

"Thanks. Commencing infiltration."

Sam Fisher ran across the roof of the building, rainwater splashing into the puddles around him. The night was cold against his face, which was free of the usual trifocal goggles. He was travelling light in terms of equipment; no rifle, no grenades, very little ammunition for his pistol. Speed of movement was the key here. He reached the raised entry to the stairwell, knelt and fed his optic cable underneath the door. The lights were on, and it would take time and caution to negotiate the stairs without being detected.

He checked the roof instead for any other features, and spotted a ladder leading down to a lower surface, where a gigantic fan rotated slowly, covered by a meshed surface. Sliding down the ladder, Sam located a small trapdoor built into the steel mesh covering and inserted his lockpicks into its keyhole. Pressing gently on the tension lever with his left hand, he used the hook in his right hand to nudge the lock's internal catch.

"Come on..."

On the fourth attempt the catch clicked out of position. Sam replaced his tools and swung open the trapdoor. He faced the fan, considering his next move. It would be risky, but then the fan wasn't rotating very fast at all. A small metal cable-support stood just over the entrance to the ventilation tunnel, usually for the use of maintenance engineers. It was to this that Sam fixed his own light, high-tension cable. The following manoeuvre would require good judgement and a quick descent.

Pulling out his pistol, Sam lowered himself into an abseiling position just above the fan before activating his ECP attachment. The noise of the fan's motor died down, and Sam quickly jammed his pistol between its slowing blades and one of the frame's three diametric supports, which crossed and met in the centre. His gun kicked as it suddenly stopped the blade, but Sam held on tight. He then abseiled down through the stationary fan before kicking off the wall and dropping rapidly. It took him three more jumps before he reached the bottom of the deep shaft, where he detached himself from the cable. It whizzed back up to the top attachment, going past the fan just as it restarted.

"Nice," said Anna in his ear.

"I knew I should've joined the circus." Sam replied, making sure his pistol was undamaged.

"Take the duct to the east."

Sam consulted his watch, and used its digital compass to turn and line himself up with said eastern duct, which was one of many leading into the central ventilation system. He crouched slightly, then crawled into the duct. Proceeding along on his elbows and knees, Sam would occasionally pass over a slatted opening, through which he could see chairs, plants, the interior of a janitor's closet, benches, handrails. Eventually he reached another trapdoor, this one opening out to the area below. Sam pulled it open and dropped down carefully. He was in the grand, open space of the entrance to a mall.

Lambert's voice came back in over the comms channel.

"Maximum caution, Fisher. We don't know what kind of security they have these days. Malls are not our specialty."

What's Sam doing infiltrating a mall, you may ask? Well stay sharp, readers. There's more to come.