He would thank God for the vibration in his pocket, but he is not that hypocritical. His beliefs are extremely scarce nowadays: the Glock 22 at his waist is one of them; God does not make it to the list. But it is with heartfelt gratitude to the goddess Fortuna that he does one of the things he hates most and picks up the cell phone in his pocket — at least his trance is over, and he finds the necessary decisiveness to exit his daughter’s room. He does not look back as he gently closes the door.
(Read The Combatant – #2)
A small red dot with the number “seventy-six” shows how many WhatsApp messages await him. It seems absurd that Rio’s special police operations unit based its communication entirely on a free instant messaging application, but that is true. It is not about the neglect of the government, however, that he reflects now. When did the world become like this? When did people stop relating without a digital intermediary to protect them from their true intentions? Why did man need so much contact with other people, even if (or as long as) it is an indirect, distant, and false contact? He always preferred to fight on the ground rather than from the helicopter for the same reason he prefers personal contact to annoying digital apps: only then does he see the white in the eyes of the enemy.
When he pops open the app, he sees Daniel in the front row. He is an old member of his team, one of the few who has ever attended his home, even though he knows Daniel’s character is somewhat dubious. After so many years fighting together, it is difficult to get rid of certain vices in common, and their reciprocal friendship is one of them. Daniel may have all the faults in the world, but he is his friend. He has always had a great sense of teamwork and has always cared about everyone’s well-being as well as being a great combatant. His problem was an affection for lies. He uses them without realizing it, as if truth were a hindrance to the natural continuity of life. You find a tricky hold in the middle of a climb and decide to avoid it by using a large and hollow flake to the left, one that is clearly loose and will probably barely support your weight just to be ripped from the wall and plunge into the abyss toward the heads of the other participants — that is how he uses lies. He does not mind it, as long as it helps him go up to where he wants to go, wherever that is. Besides, he is too socializing for his liking, that kind of person who is always making “friends” in case he needs them someday, and that’s exactly how he got word of the cancellation in spite of the fact that the line-of-command does not pass through him.
The message caught him by surprise: “So, no more op, huh?” He goes back to the app’s home page and looks more closely at the other messages. At 23:47, his chief had sent a warning to the “group of chiefs” giving “last form” to the operation. This was the jargon that should send the squad mentally back to the previous state, that is, to the normal on-call situation without any planned operation. He had, no doubt, been sound asleep when the message arrived. He should have let the app’s sound on, at least that of the main group, but that sort of cancellation was not at all common. Not the cancellation itself — which happened all the time — but the fact that they warned them before the fact. The higher levels of command simply could not care less about the sleep of mere operators. “No, not anymore,” he quickly types it for Daniel and changes the app to his team’s group, STOS 1. “Gentlemen, the operation has been called off by higher order. Be ready only at regular hours at 06:00. “
He always prefers to start the day with combat, or at least with the possibility of one. There is nothing better to whet the appetite than the smell of gunpowder and those whirr of projectiles passing near his body, the infamous “little bees”, as they call them. But today he is happy to be allowed another hour or so to enjoy his home in the quiet of pre-dawn.
There is something in the air that he can not identify. It feels cold, but not enough for his liking, and the air is not as clean as usual in Winter. Besides, there seems to be a strange presence. He wishes it was his parents. He never understood why people are afraid of ghosts. They are more concerned not to feel fear for brief moments than with the fascination of discovering that there is life after death, and with the chance to review their dearest ones. He would love for his parents to come back to haunt him at night. That way he could ask for his father’s forgiveness and learn if he was happy to see his mother. He could imagine the gist of the answer: “I knew she wouldn’t manage to stay too long without pissing me off.” With an almost imperceptible smile on his face, his head lowered and his eyes fixed on infinity, he decides to pick up his mug of coffee and go out for the balcony. There he hopes to discern something good in the blackness of the morning that stubbornly refuses to be born.