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Enter the Ronin - Alexa M. Bronson

The team reached their objective and eliminated the primary target as well as breaching the computer-locked vault to steal all the files kept therein. Janus had, through the act, been assured the means he would use to insert himself into the global market. Among the documents and drives that had been stolen were breakthrough technological designs for three types of aircraft: commercial passenger, military carrier and military fighter. All of the other plundered material was superlative.

The exit from the premises was executed with even more grace than the aerial insertion, and Janus gave the signal to alert the building’s security that they had indeed been breached; the perpetrators were still in the building. Alarms sounded and each member of the team knew what that meant: a helicopter would be hovering close to the roof of the building in ninety-seven seconds, and flying away nine seconds later. All of these children had definitely earned their place among the Luminaries; and Janus decided he would simply have the last operative arriving to the chopper shot and killed, provided the last operative was not carrying the parcel. During the course of the mission Alexander and Henry, both blacks, had performed above and beyond even themselves; they were the front runners for the position of the First Sibling.

Janus was more than pleased, as he knew that each of them was a wunderkind among his children. When the alarms sounded, something bothered him about what he was monitoring. While Alexander started moving for the exit, keeping an eye on Nicoleta who was carrying the primary parcel, Henry made every effort to check on the positions of all the team members and ushered the ones in his group to run in front of him, keeping in constant contact with Alexander’s group through Hitoshi, who acted as Alexander’s Team Coordinator. Henry’s team was given the human target for the mission and Alexander’s had to retrieve the vault holdings. Alexander had the advantage of an extra person on his team, but that too was of Henry’s choosing since Alexander’s team had to be stationary for an extended period of time. Henry’s team had simply had to achieve a point on the map and kill a man, a well-protected man. The mission design had given Henry twenty seconds to engage the target and his security. Henry and Leocadia, the same tandem that had been charged by the group of guards, eliminated the target in nine and a half seconds after slashing their way through his bodyguards.

As the helicopter made its approach, Alexander and his team came out on the roof. It was an ill-advised maneuver. They were only going to be exposed for a few seconds, but seconds was all it ever took. The rifle shot surprised everyone and even Janus jumped when he heard it. Kumari had been struck in the shoulder with a high-powered rifle shot. She fell over the railing of the stairs and tumbled until she reached the edge of the building. The wind churned up by the helicopter pushed her over and she clung to the side by one hand.

Alexander’s team fired on the sniper and Janus was sure the man was amazed shortly before he died. Three operatives did with modified pistols what it had taken the sniper a rifle and scope to do. Only the sniper had scored a shoulder. The three operatives had scored chest, neck and head shots. Once the threat was removed, the rest of Alexander’s team continued for the approaching helicopter. Kumari carried a parcel, but it was the secondary parcel, the copy of what Nicoleta carried and therefore unnecessary.

Henry’s team came out on the roof and all of them, save Henry, ran for the pick up point. Henry saw Kumari and abandoned the mission parameters. He ran to the side of the building, away from the pick-up point, and saved Kumari who was losing her grip. He had made Kumari more important than the outcome of the mission, and with gritted teeth Janus placed the kill target-marker over Henry’s bio-sign. He did not immediately give the kill order, however, as all five stations reported they had the shot. Janus waited. Henry picked up Kumari and sprinted across the roof of the building with her across his shoulders. He did not slow and she did not scream. His children, if nothing else, were dedicated. But their choices had to be monitored and corrected whenever they strayed. The helicopter pilot did not wait the extra second it would have taken for Henry and Kumari to board. Janus later learned Alexander had instructed the pilot to leave at the appointed time.

As the helicopter moved away from the building, a soft voice came over Kumari’s channel. “Drop me!” she said, but Henry did not comply. He ran to the edge of the building and threw Kumari’s body forward. She landed in the very edge of the cabin and was quickly grabbed by her siblings. Henry's leap did not carry him as far, but he managed to catch the aircraft’s skid. The pilot quickly accounted for the extra weight and resumed his flight-path to the plane which was waiting to bring the team home.

Janus closed his eyes... and gave the kill order.