Hinges creaked as someone forced open the rarely used door granting access to the roof.
He stepped out, wind whipping at his heavy, gray wool coat, his mass of curly, brown hair, the red and yellow striped scarf wrapped around his neck and mouth. In his hand, he carried a red lacquered case with brass fasteners. No lock though. He was a trusting soul after all.
Without so much as a look around, her proceeded to the southwest corner of the building. It overlooked Westinghall Plaza, the huge expanse between the Westinghall Building and the assorted buildings that surrounded it.
The usual crowd was filling it now; office workers coming from or headed to lunch, delivery people, special couriers, teens from the nearby high school, and somewhere down there, two very special folks. Neither of them knew how lucky they were. Most people didn’t get Help.
With more care than most would treat a newborn, he set the case down. From an inner pocket of his coat, he retrieved a set of goggles and slipped them on. Despite the outward red tint, they altered his vision not at all. A click of a side button brought up a heads up display and loaded the software he needed at the same time.
A tiny, high definition camera started sweeping the crowd and facial recognition routines began to run.
Without looking, he knelt down and opened the case. Inside was a white bow, its length seemingly carved from a solid piece of ivory. There were images carved delicately up and down it; figures of men and women. Of muses. Of furies. And the grip, the very center of that sculpted mural, was Aphrodite. It could have been no one else.
He lifted the bow and as he did, it bent of its own accord. There was no string, only tension.
Beneath the bow, packed in soft foam, were two arrows. Lacquered and red like the case, they were a pair, carved from the same wood, fletched with the feathers of the same bird. Neither had a head. They didn’t need any.
One arrow, he set on the low wall surrounding the building’s edge. The other he nocked on the tension generated by the bow.
A minute went by and the goggles found his matches, highlighted them at a distance, and gave him the run down:
Carolina Hought, 31. Accountant for the firm of Firth, Wendt and Meyer, located in the Westinghall Building, 23rd floor. Last date: A blind date three nights ago with someone she met on the internet. Did not go well.
Christopher Oswald, 29. Courier with Hotstreak Couriers. Often did business in the Westinghall Building. Last Date: three weeks ago.
He smiled tightly, a master preparing his craft, and drew. Christopher first. He was closer to the building and he hated shooting through steel.
A few people, maybe a half dozen on the entire plaza faltered a step or glanced around as they felt a sudden tension. Some people were sensitive to these kinds of things. But this didn’t involve them, so as quickly as they felt it, they ignored it. Everyone else noticed even less as the red shaft pierced Christopher’s arm, slid though the bone, through the rib cage, and made contact not with the heart, but something much like it.
Even Christopher himself didn’t notice. No skin as broken, no bones splintered. There was just a new found feeling of expectancy and confidence.
Atop the roof, the archer picked up the second arrow.
Carolina’s head jerked up and she looked right at him.
Nothing for it. Maybe a challenge would be refreshing.
She did not just forget it. This did involve her and she felt it as few mortals did. Of course, there was no way for her to actually understand it, so instead of welcoming it, she bolted.
This would have fouled the mark of an ordinary arrow, an arrow subject to physics and linear progression. It only compelled this arrow, which wanted to hit its target, to act creatively. Instead of going straight, it dropped down like a fighter plane scraping the deck, and hit itself in the crowd between itself and Carolina.
Banking and rolling, it navigated a sea of legs and people that could neither see nor feel it. Here and there it brushed someone and their mood improved for a bit. No harm in that. It broke out of the crowd and into a relatively open area. But without even seeing it, Carolina sensed it enough to pour on the speed, neatly skirting the plaza fountain in hopes of putting it between herself and the arrow.
The arrow was having none of it. In a uniform fashion, it split apart, blossoming into an expanding hail of perfectly formed, toothpick sized splinters. And every one of them tracked in on Carolina.
Some pinged off the fountain in tiny explosions of glittering pink dust. Still others hit people, exploding into crushes, random attractions and the seeds of some truly heartfelt poetry instead. But most tracked around the fountain and the people, and found Carolina.
She stopped running five steps later. In fact, she didn’t remember why she’d been running and was frankly embarrassed to find that she had.
After a few seconds, she took a deep breath of the suddenly refreshing air and decided that it was that air that inspired her to go for a little run. And she was glad she did, because she was in a far better mood for it. In fact, she wasn’t even upset anymore that her boss had called her off lunch to wait for a courier package for her. Maybe it was an opportunity to order something new delivered for lunch…
Back on the rooftop, the archer nodded in satisfaction.
He expected good things to come of this. After all, most people didn’t deserve Help.
After carefully replacing the bow in the case, he loosened the scarf over his unshaven, youthful face. The air really was refreshing.
As he turned to go, a fluffy piece of white down floated from under his coat and blown out over the plaza.