Belarus, 1:47 am
Jack rolled up the sleeves of his black turtleneck.
His pale skin was in stark contrast to the darkness of the rooftop around him. It prickled in the cold air whipping around him. The dark sky eased his tense muscles as he stood in the shadow of a roof shed. He then rubbed his eye, drowning out the sounds of police sirens speeding off several kilometers away.
That's when a man's voice started to shout angrily from below.
Unafraid of the height, Jack boldly strode to the edge of the rooftop. He peered down into the dark alleyway below. It was empty and cluttered with workman's tools. In the streetlamps nearby, a long shadow cast over one of the walls. It was running away from something Jack couldn't see, but then a second shadow took off after the first in a dead chase.
So Jack wasted no time.
He used the rooftops to pursue both men. Jack melted into the cover of the shadows and using his lithe body to maneuver around obstacles quickly. Confident and controlled, he skillfully leaped across each rooftop at a speed that few parkour runners had.
When he landed on the other side, he made an expert barrel roll, shifting his center of gravity to his shoulder and pulled up into a stand. Jack prepared to run to the next ledge but froze near the edge. The hairs on the back of his neck rose up like needles.
He heard a fight start.
He instantly dropped into a crouch, applying more pressure to his heel and nimbly lifted his legs to cover more ground and reduce the sound of his steps.
When he neared the shadowy ledge, Jack craned his neck over to look down.
Through the fringe of his brown bangs, he saw his target.
He had been following the man undetected for weeks and tonight was the night the latter was scheduled for an important rendezvous. Whoever the important person was, Jack never discovered but he wasn't concerned with the other agent's mission. He only wanted to intercept his own. But now it looked like both plans would suddenly change. The mysterious figure chasing the agent below was not the man Jack knew his target was supposed to meet.
This was an ambush by another spy.
He glared as they started spitting words at each other on the nightly wind. It blew around Jack, whistling in his ears and he flexed the fingers of his right hand anxiously as they spoke in Russian. But by the time Jack could fully register what was going on down below, the unknown man suddenly flashed a concealed knife and slashed it straight with clean precision, right across the other's neck.
The next words that left his mouth traveled clearly up into Jack's acute hearing.
"You will see. The world will turn pitch black," the mysterious spy spit at the agent. Jack's brown eyes narrowed dangerously as his subconscious kicked in.
He sprung up immediately and glared down at the alleyway.
The agent he was following was clutching his gloved hands at his throat to stop the blood flow. He tried backing away but the unknown assailant took two steps forward and pushed him to the ground. He then advanced on the fallen man.
Jack clenched his teeth and eyed the area, seeing the second fire escape just underneath him.
It was long enough to make the jump to the ground so he leaped over the ledge and grabbed onto its ladder. His left leather glove gripped the steel securely. Quickly after, he used his upper body strength to twist around the ladder and let go into the empty expanse of the alley. Before Jack's boots hit the ground, he flexed the fingers of his gloveless right hand. His blood pounded widely in his ears, filling him with energy.
The mysterious spy didn't hear him land as Jack's feet touch the concrete. By the time he saw the flash of black coming toward him, Jack had already grabbed a long pipe from the ground and hit him squarely in the jaw.
The unknown assaulter backed up from the force and pain of the blow but he wasn't stunned for long. Before Jack could pull up to get a look at his face, the man had already pulled down his black hood to reveal a gas mask, indiscernible and disturbed, concealing his identity. He was grunting loudly under it but recovered quickly.
Jack narrowed his cold, brown eyes to slits.
"Who are you?" Jack demanded in Russian.
He twirled the pipe in his gloved hand, adrenaline now fueling his reflexes. His ungloved one was still twitching in the chilly air. The unknown attacker hunched with a silent breath, eyeing Jack's skinny, solid form and toned biceps. The young man before him looked nothing above average but he learned a long time ago not to be deceived by appearances.
So he then fiddled his hand inside his black jacket.
"You are one to talk!" the mysterious man spat. "Ever learn that it's not good to sneak up on others?"
"Dа," Jack bit out. "But that's what I'm hired to do."
"Hired?" the man sputtered. "By who?!"
"You tell me," Jack snarled and not wasting a second, he rushed forward.
He swung the pipe at the man's torso but he deflected it easily. Jack sensed the man bring a fist up to hit him in the shoulder and his instincts kicked in. He knocked the wrist away and took a step around the killer, hooking his leg around his ankle and pushing him forward. When the man began to fall, he turned back deftly and grabbed the guy's wrist in his ungloved hand. Jack took a step back and tried to twist the arm but the man was quick and rushed forward to coil his arm back to him. Using the momentum of his steps, the unknown man lifted his knee expertly and rammed it into Jack's abdomen.
Jack doubled over as the wind knocked out of him. His vision went fuzzy, his teeth biting his tongue. He dropped the pipe.
The man then, seeing the advantage, pulled back and threw a punch to Jack's stomach. He grit his teeth while the wave of pain shot through.
As he coughed out, Jack vaguely thought of how out of practice he'd been for all these weeks. Following a target days on end without any time to train really messed up his dexterity. But that didn't mean he was a goner. Taking the one-second window of the oncoming punch, Jack bent his knees a little to ground himself and threw his chest back. He watched the fist fly narrowly above his head but didn't wait for rest to come. Trusting his hands, he threw the gloved one out behind him to the ground and executed a low roundhouse kick to the side of the man's leg and then followed with a middle roundhouse to his abdomen. When he buckled back, Jack sprang back up and delivered a set of punches.
He had the guy backing up, he almost had him, but then his assailant revealed a tiny flare he had hiding in his cuff and pulled it.
The bright flash it ignited blinded Jack briefly. He backed away instinctively, squeezing his eyelids closed. But when the dark spots cleared from his eyes and he opened, it was enough time for the mysterious attacker to already send a powerful punch to his jaw. The man followed with a quick, front kick to the center of his chest.
Jack was sent rolling back on the ground. The concrete grazed at his bare arms painfully and his leg bent painfully under him. The pipe clanked loudly far away. Jack immediately tried getting back up.
"Nyet, wait!" Jack cried in Russian trying to stop the world from spinning around him and blinking out the stars in his brown eyes.
He pulled himself up slowly from the ground, feeling a searing pain erupt from a gash on one of his elbows. He clenched his jaw painfully and glared at the mysterious man. But the spy had already taken his chance and sped away down the alley.
There was no trace of him by the time Jack was able to stand again.
Jack sighed angrily. But he didn't have time to brood over it when he remembered the other agent, the one he'd been following, still lying on the ground. Jack wiped the blood from his split lip and quickly trudged over to the bleeding man. As he knelt down beside him, Jack felt the hard throbbing in his head from the fall begin. He gazed down at the agent through dizzying vision.
The man had no gas mask like the other. He looked like he was in his thirties and under his dark coat, Jack saw he wore a dark red uniform. He was patting his coat pocket desperately, trying to take in a guttural breath through his sliced throat.
"H-H-He took't!" he sputtered. The man's strange, golden eyes peered up at Jack fearfully. "He-took-i-it!"
Jack eyed him warily before he leaned down closer, unaffected by the blood now soaking through his pants. He narrowed his brown eyes.
"What?" he asked starkly. "What did he take?"
But the dying man continued to pat his coat frantically, gasping for more air.
"Th-pri! Ne-eed to w'n th-pri-!" he wheezed painfully.
Jack grabbed the man's wrists firmly to stop his shaking. It made the latter refocus on his hard face.
"Look at me," Jack bit out tensely and the man nodded before his golden eyes suddenly widened with a new thought. He took a wheezing breath and tried to speak.
"You..." the agent managed to expel. His voice grew more gurgled. "I-I kn-...I kno-y-!"
That's when Jack's eyes widened, suddenly remembering why he was in this situation in the first place. So he wasn't wrong. All these weeks of wondering and stalking this man...he was right! He knew he had seen him somewhere. Somewhere before—
The agent coughed violently, blood sputtering on his uniform.
"Pozhaluysta!" Jack cried and gripped his wrists tighter. He nodded frantically. "I need to know. Have we...have we met before?"
They were running out of time.
"Tell me! Who did we work for!" Jack demanded impatiently. "How do I find Pitch Black!?"
But the agent heard the name and shook his head weakly.
"Nye't," he began to choke. "Not Pi-...th'com...guar..."
"What company!" Jack shouted. "Argh, for who?!"
He'd heard that word too many times in his memories and still had no clue as to what it meant. His hands were shaking. If this guy could just—
"I –H...Wh-!" the agent managed to breathe out but Jack didn't understand.
"No! Come on, you need to-!" Jack tried to start but something suddenly flashed in his mind.
"...where will they go?...one cares, so long as the GUARDIAN...but the program, doctor!...I know... Transport him out now!"
Jack pulled back and rubbed his right fist into his eyes again.
"No, not now!" he growled as the images momentarily took over his senses.
Blinking rapidly, he tried to push the memory to the back of his mind. When his vision cleared, he noticed the man's eyes beginning to grow dull. Jack panicked and grabbed his shoulders.
"Nyet!" he cried and shook him desperately, unaware that he began speaking English again.
"Who are we!? No! NO!"
But the man was already gazing up at the night sky above them.
Then, he went still as his last breath left him. Jack sat there frozen as the reality of the situation crashed around him. His fingers were shaking and his mouth grew dry. Staring into the agent's dull gold eyes, he said nothing as the silence of death enveloped him. He took a moment to compose himself.
After sighing with a bitter frown, he immediately went for the man's pockets. He didn't have a lot of time before someone came walking down this alley and saw him.
Jack felt all the pockets and found a small I.D. pouch. He opened it with a shaky breath hoping it would tell him what he needed to know. But there was nothing inside it except for a white card with one word on it.
No company, address, number. No name. He couldn't track it.
Jack glared and went on looking. He found nothing more but a piece of paper inside a small pouch. But whatever that had been there with it had been taken by Pitch's spy.
When he pulled out the paper and unfolded it, it had the name of someone he knew very well.
"PITCH BLACK. COLLECT. OPERATION NIGHTMARE."
Jack turned and stared down the dark and lonely alley with a cold glare.
It always seemed that Pitch was two steps ahead of him.
He then gritted his teeth and exhaled sharply, smelling the blood on his pants.
Chapter's soundtrack: "Mystique" – Blue Stahli
I carefully picked one song at the end of each chapter for its music or lyrics to feel the vibe/pace of the story so I'll hope you'll take a quick listen!