The Mark (Part One)
In which we meet Florence, an assassin who flies to Budapest for a mission about to go terribly wrong.
Words: Peter Orosz | Pictures: Balázs Fenyő
His voice on the phone gravelly, booming.
“Florence, are you there?”
I savor the last moment of silence. It’s Larry from the office.
Flat black for stealth, but why the fuck does a JDM Honda run into the rev limiter at 8,400 rpm?
Headed home down the Beltway, driving shoes buried in what passes for carpets in an FD2 Civic, shoulderblades white against the bucket seats, I wonder if Larry was in the supermarket.
I have never seen his face. He could have been the guy eyeing the honeydews or the one trying to decide between salmon and rotisserie chicken. The surfer dude in the auto-checkout lane with his lone PayDay candybar. I’m right behind him, feeling haggard and paranoid in a white halter top, hair uncombed, clutching my box of Frosted Wild Magicburst Pop-Tarts with the action figure inside.
What would Soichiro Honda think of a Type R engine in 2008 that failed to rev above and beyond 12,000? Would he retort with a slap?
Cruising down the passing lane, flat black, no wing, no red Type R logo, no nothing, my computers obfuscating every cop signal, I keep the revs at eight thousand and for the first time since Larry called, I feel calm again.
Still. Why not twelve thousand?
“Hello, Florence. Giant Food on the corner of Old Georgetown and Democracy. Breakfast food aisle. One twelve-pack of Frosted Wild Magicburst, please.
“Blueberry flavor,” he adds.
Then he hangs up.
The flash card containing the mission is stuck in the blueberry filling, sealed in teflon-coated plastic. Four square millimeters, two terabytes, I comb my hair away from the nape of my neck to insert the card in the neural interface disguised as a tattoo of a cuttlefish. The merge screen comes up on my HUD. I blink in a pattern to okay it off and make a cup of coffee while the data syncs.
Words. Grammar. News. Accents. Poetry. Street talk. Novels. Speeches.
I wonder what took a terabyte to hold when the only vowel the language seems to use is e.
I pack my gear and race the Honda to Dulles.
What makes a laser printout more real than hours of footage wired directly into the visual cortex?
It’s five a.m. on a metallic raspberry of a June morning. Cuddled up on a sofa in an abandoned warehouse by the Danube. I read the news in Hungarian. Anything to avoid looking at the printout which the bureau had left on the coffee table.
T-minus five hours and I’ve got the jigs and it’s not from my cup of Earl Grey nor from my Provigil dispenser dialed up to 300 mg from my usual one fifty.
What make twelve hundred grainy dpi more real than a vivid memory, however fake?
Rule number one, you do not know the mark. Rule number two, you do not know the mark. The bureau never fucks up. Except now.
See, I know him.
I just don’t know who he is.
∞ Published on Saturday, June 14th, 2008