I have one shot. I have one shot. Like a mantra, the words turned over and over in Larry's head. They focused his shaking hands, steeled his jittering nerves, and stiffened his slacking spine. From his perch halfway up the Labourers building, he was hidden in the shadow cats by the surrounding buildings in the sun of the August twilight, but was granted a view of over half the city.
Larry looked down and saw his target parading through the streets, right on schedule, according to the plan. His stomach dropped out from the soles of his feet, giving him a lighter, airy feeling, a nauseating sensation of emptiness.
That is what his life had become since the conflict started. He had lost so much to this terrible man and those who followed him. Above all, the peace that had been shattered by the atrocities he had committed, the war that had ravaged the land and torn up the beautiful cities. Larry could end it all right now, he could shoot him in the head from here and it would all be over, finally. The nauseating feeling crept higher up his esophagus, and Larry had to fight to keep that down. It would do no good for that to happen now.
The pomp and ceremony, the roaring crowds, the parading soldiers brought his focus back to his target.
There was a time and a place for for the termination of his target. Everything was and would proceed according to plan. Stick to the plan.
Larry stole back into the building. The halls were dark and empty, as the plan said they would be. He stalked through them, carefully, quietly, even though he didn't need to. He traversed the catwalk that connected the Labourers building to the Capitol Tower. The parade was proceeding under him now, down there on the street, approaching the Victorius Entryway. Larry worried for a moment, fearing that he would be seen by a stray glance in his direction. But no, not a soul would be gazing up here at this moment.
Larry breached the Capitol Tower's perimeter,entering through the maintenance shed. and stopped to double check that he was ready. He checked his pistol.
One shot. One shot. The words bounced around his cranium like the echo of children playing in the now empty schools, haunting... One bullet and it would suddenly be over. He straightened his uniform, brushed his tousled hair out of his eyes, and, as he stalked the hallways again, making his way to the planned destination, his thoughts trailed backward through time, replaying continuously had it had all started.
It was an accident really. He started his military career with no more ambitions than to provide a living for himself, and pick up a some new skills along the way. Then it happened, some cause, now long forgotten, that divide men and created rivals. In a moment of foolhardy faith in himself Larry rose and took a stance, and found that he stood alone. Then the chaos started, but he found other he thought like he did, men and women who supported him, helped sharpen ideas and philosophies, gave him a purpose, directed his energies. It could have been anyone else.
Then everything spiraled out of control.
Larry wasn't sure if he could recount the exact events and moments that brought him to this point, but it didn't matter. Now was. Like a portrait, a photograph or an insect trapped in amber, nothing could stop what was going to happen.
Here it was. Suddenly in front of him: the door to the throne room. No guards, as planned. they were needed to guard the target. Larry took a breath, then opened the door and went in. He wanted to be there when his quarry was led into the room.
And there Larry stood on his dais, trying to exude confidence and control, as the traitor was led in, and the cheering crowd filled the room like a gas filling a container. The parade was quieter now, but still sizzled and buzzed with exuberance, and when the High Guard called out: "Master Commander Lawrence LeRoy Smith will now proceed with the ceremonial execution of the convicted traitor, Wilson Church," the crowd finally grew deathly silent. For almost all gathered, it was their first public execution. Hopefully, it would be their last.
Larry drew his pistol with its one bullet out of his ceremonial holster, and stared the traitor in the eyes. Those eyes, which had once looked on Larry with the eyes of a friend, a brother, had taken the other side in that long forgotten issue; his oppistion had caused so much bloodshed, so much anger, and so much loss. So it goes.
"Larry, you don't have to do this."
"Yes. I do."
"You can still fix this, you can still fix everything!"
"I am fixing it. Wilson, this is what you've forced me into."
Defiance, then pleading, and finally resignation. Larry could, even now, read his friend's face.
"Fine. Do what you must."
Louder, so that the gathered witnesses could hear, "Wilson Church, for you crimes against the state and humanity, you have been sentenced to death. Any final words?"
"What was that?"
Wilson looked up tears in his eyes. "Don't miss." He leaned his forehead lightly against the barrel of the pistol.
And then, Master Commander Lawrence LeRoy Smith, the accidental dictator, pulled the trigger and ended the conflict.