Reach Four

This is by far my favorite Reach piece I’ve written. It is also the last Reach piece I’ve written. As I continue developing my epic novel series, I keep seeing the opportunity to connect all my other works with it. I believe Reach will be a major character in a future book in the series.

I had been reading Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, at the time – the crazy psychedelic Jim Steranko run around ’68.

There were supposed to be seven Reach stories, and final one would end his existence. I don’t want him to die just yet, so don’t expect Reach Five anytime soon.

PREFACE: Reach was one of seven men named as such who existed in seven separate universes as multiversally intertwined souls. It was impossible for them to meet; and though, theoretically, it was possible for Reach to cross over to another universe, the chances of encountering one of the other seven were ridiculously low. This was also complicated by the fact that any one Reach jumping universes was being mirrored by the other Reachs.

The origin of Reach is unknown, because Reach himself has yet to create his origins. Reach exists suddenly, and not due to any epic mingling of chaotic strands of eternity in well-defined intersections of “now”. Reach just was and just is – seven times over. He exists sevenfold in time and space, but lives in a dysphoric misalignment with the rest of the universe each iteration of himself inhabits. Frequently, the outsider’s presumption of Reach’s insanity serves only to further separate the heptaphrenic traveler from the only realities that could actually shed light on the purpose of his multifaceted existence.

To further complicate this already complicated tale, Reach does not know he is connected to seven other beings and that everything he does is either influencing or being influenced by one or more of his other existences.

This is Reach Zero, the beginning you’re allowed to consider as such, but not the one that was.

***

REACH FOUR

The shadow terminated three inches from Reach’s left foot. For a handful of seconds, he considered creeping his hand into the light like a spider. He had hidden himself well, but he had been briefed on his target’s impressive skills and wasn’t about to let a moment’s whimsy jeopardize his position of dominance in the current situation of scene.

Reach measured the distance from shadow to target.

Seven paces. Too far.

Moving with expert skill, Reach shifted along the shadowed wall to close the distance.

Five paces. Better.

If his target turned with a weapon before the killing blow, Reach could duck in front of the desk at two paces, pivot diagonally off a heavy chair at three, or at four paces vault over the desk. Three alternate paths with success written at their ends.

Reach unsheathed the long dagger and prepared himself. Inhaling slowly, he tensed his muscles and then leaped from his cover.

At four paces, the target had not moved. Seeing the opportunity, Reach opted for a flourish and flipped over both the desk and the seated man. Landing before his target, Reach spun, slashing his dagger precisely through the seated man’s throat.

For a moment, Reach expected to see his own face on the dying man, but he couldn’t explain the sensation.

***

Reach crept up to the landing and stood before the door to his target’s office. With a gun in each hand, he inhaled and exhaled in measured breaths.

He ran through the assassination in his head, seeing himself break the door open and fire at the massive oak desk where he knew his target would be seated with his back to the door.

Brazen as this approach seemed, Reach was well prepared for any unforeseen hiccups in his plan. He had already neutralized the inept security forces on all levels of the building, giving himself at least fifteen minutes to carry out the assassination before anyone noticed a breach of the building had occurred. He wore a prototype armor over all but his eyes – if his target had weapons, it would take a hell of a wallop to get through his shielding.

As his trailing foot left the top step and rested on the landing next to his other foot, Reach crouched and prepared for his charge.

Without a word, Reach sprinted for the door, crashing through it as easily as he had calculated. The man sat with his back to the door, as Reach had anticipated. With three precise shots, Reach executed his target. Calmly, with his guns still smoking, Reach walked around the desk to survey his work and confirm the kill.

For a moment, Reach expected to see his own face on the dying man, but he couldn’t explain the sensation.

***

Reach peered over the edge of the roof and mentally calculated the distance down to the target floor. Casually, he measured out the length of rope he would need and laid it aside.

In his head, he played through his next moves. With enough speed, he could launch himself from the roof, causing the rope to go taut at the prescribed distance, then swing downward towards the floor his target was located on. Firing two shots from his shotgun would weaken the window and a third shot would take out the target once Reach crashed through. The target might run, but Reach would have enough to time take him down before he escaped.

Exhaling sharply, Reach paced backwards, counting to himself. After a brief pause, he sprinted for the edge and launched himself outward from the roof. He felt the rope pull tight and spin him to his desired position – his breath left him as the pressure on his chest increased.

Wind whipped past his face and he felt his stomach shift as gravity wrestled control from his outward momentum. Careening towards the window, Reach fired slightly wide on the first shot. The second blast nearly didn’t get off in time before he hit the weakened glass. In a spray of sparkling shrapnel, Reach fired the third blast, which caught his target directly in the chest. The man had been facing the window, with his back to a massive oak desk.

For a moment, Reach expected to see his own face on the dying man, but he couldn’t explain the sensation.

***

In a compact Japanese hatchback on the curb in front of the building his target was located in, Reach rechecked the wireless signal to the ten explosive charges he had set on various street-side girders.

When the last of his receivers recorded the pingback from its corresponding trigger, he settled back into the driver’s seat of the cramped car and took a moment to relax.

It had been an easy job. For weeks he had surreptitiously gained access to the building and set his charges, masquerading as one of the cleaning crew. He switched on his personal monitor that was picking up the security feed from inside and watched as guards roamed empty hallways. Expendable casualties. His only real target was the man sitting somewhere up there behind a massive oak desk. Reach imagined him sitting quietly looking out the window, his back to the desk. Maybe he was even now gazing down at the small hatchback parked outside.

Checking the clock, Reach realized he had almost missed his deadline. Quickly starting the car, he threw it into gear and sped off from the building. Witnesses be damned – he would be a wraith in an underground culture of wraiths before they could trace the car and the explosives to his alias.

Two blocks away from the building, Reach pushed the “7” key on the laptop in the passenger’s seat.

His rear view mirrors lit up with the explosions behind him.

For a moment as he drove away, Reach imagined his own face on the dying man in the fiery explosion, but he couldn’t explain the sensation.

***

Resting his rifle on the back of the chair he sat backwards in, Reach took another look through the scope. Across the city canyon from him, just a few floors down, comparatively, sat his target.

Reach had trained himself not to see details in his targets. The man’s face was blank in Reach’s eyes. He sat in a leather chair, facing the window. Behind Reach’s target was a massive oak desk with seven sheets of paper laid out on its surface.

Pulling away from the scope, Reach looked up and down the empty street below him. After a few deep breaths, he checked his watch, nodding to himself.

Once again, he put his eye to the scope, this time shifting the crosshairs over the blank face. With a brief exhalation, Reach caressed the trigger and it was over.

For a moment, as Reach watched the body slump, he expected to see his own face on the dead man, but he couldn’t explain the sensation.

***

Reach meticulously spread the seven photographs over the surface of the massive oak desk.

Seven humans. Seven targets. Seven contracts with seven assassins. Seven loose ends tied up nicely.

Each photograph showed a different snapshot of the species. One was thin – gaunt and with an undertaker’s look to him. One was obese, with porcine eyes barely visible beneath folds of face. One had the thick muscles of a man obsessed with his body. One was a woman, her blonde hair and over-sized sunglasses hiding all but her thick, luscious lips. One of them was old – death rode his shoulders like a cab fare anticipating his curb. One was too young to have become involved in the art of crime and his eyes screamed the innocence drowned within. One was a slave to his vices – leathery skin over an abused skeleton.

The last of his seven hired assassins had just left. Seven different countries. Seven unsolved cases for their respective law enforcement agencies.

Reach spun around in his leather chair and gazed out the window at the empty street down below.

For some reason, he had expected to see his own face in the seven photographs, and on the seven hired men as they had responded to his summons, but he couldn’t explain the sensation.

***

Simultaneously, three assassins sprang into motion.

The assassin outside the office burst through the door.

The assassin in the office lunged from the shadows.

The assassin atop the building leaped from the roof’s edge.

Across the street, a fourth assassin placed his crosshairs over a blank face.

The sniper’s bullet severed the jumper’s rope before biting through the glass. It missed the target’s head and zoomed just under the leaping assassin from the shadows. As the charging assassin raised his guns, the sniper’s bullet hit him between the eyes. Off balance, he fired into the air and struck the leaping assassin in the back.

The jumper fired his shotgun at the window, but moved past it. He flailed his arms wildly as he fell until he collided with the roof of a small Japanese hatchback. As the roof caved in, it broke the neck of the bomber at the driver’s seat. His finger had been hovering over the “7” key on a laptop – the finger struck the key as the bomber died.

The sniper was instantly on the move after he witnessed his failure. Using a rope he had left tied to the rail of the stairwell, he jumped and slid down the rope to the ground floor of the building he had been positioned in. Running out the front door, he met the falling building from across the street. His death was instant.

Reach had been sitting in a chair facing a window. On instinct he dodged to the side, rolling past a massive oak desk he didn’t recognize. He heard two guns being fired in the room as photographs he had never seen flew off the desk in the explosion of glass. A body collapsed behind him and Reach sprinted for the now open door.

Running down the stairs just ahead of him, Reach felt the building shake as his center of gravity shifted slightly. He continued his sprint down a long hallway that terminated in a wall of windows to the outside – the opposite side of the building from the window he had been facing in the office.

Cracks appeared in the window ahead of him as the building succumbed to gravity on the opposite side. As Reach broke through the glass, he fell only a short distance before contacting the now slanted surface of the building’s outside wall. As the building fell, Reach slid down its side until he rolled away from it at ground level. Keeping his momentum, he continued to run from the billowing clouds of dust.

He came to a halt before a man standing silently before him.

For a moment, he had expected to see an unfamiliar face on the man, but instead he saw his own.

The man with Reach’s face said “Eight,” before he shot Reach in the head.

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