The Faceless 4. A Cesspool No Fire Could Cleanse


This part of town was dimly lit, but it definitely had more light than the place he had come from. It made the eyes hurt, true; yet it was a preferable price to pay than what he would have to endure if forced to stay back in there.

Ricard Llorent drove slowly through the narrow, deserted streets. Contrary to posh belief, the poorer sides of cities like Casablanca were not the vast cesspools of infamy and decadence the well-to-do make them out to be in their papers and dime novels and silly American productions. That was the fatal combination of privilege and prejudice and their absolute ignorance of the other corners of society talking; Ricard felt a knot in his stomach. Those money-spending imbeciles thought they knew so much of the world and bragged about it in their conversations everywhere they went. Oh, they’ve been around, Ricard had heard them say to each other when all those pretentious bastards ever meant was they had travelled far, often and had paid more for one dish than a family of five could hardly make and spend on food for a whole month. That was the reality of the many squatting in any of the hundreds of neighborhoods like the one the truck was slowly plodding through.

Suddenly, a foul smell struck Ricard and he had to grant them that, maybe, some sectors were actually cesspools. But then again, it was not like the people scraping their living here had had a better choice and settled for the one that required the least effort on their part.

Any one living in places like this had to have a special kind of strength and a fierce determination to wake up and carry on every day. It required a huge amount of effort to not simply give up and jump in front of a car or go wandering off into the desert for a couple of days only to die alone and unremembered, letting the sun bake one’s bones until the sand finally claimed them.

Ricard Llorent knew it about this struggle the rich would never understand as they would sooner die, and often did, soft sons of bitches, before resigning themselves to live in anything resembling actual poverty. Oh, yes; Ricard Llorent had had to live like that too many times before and that was why he had taken this weird job the Marticianos had thrown into his lap.

‘As soon as I drop their bag and they go back inside their shithole,” Ricard’s voice was sibiliant with the fire he felt raging in his gut.’I’m pissing on the fucking door and leaving in the first boat out of here. I’m done with all the effort. From now on, I just want to pass judgment.’

***


‘So, Lucas Nwosu’s tip wasn’t just hot air,’ Zafran whispered under her breath, as he followed the old truck going into Casablanca’s “Pauper Quarters” using the small pair of binoculars she always brought with her whenever out. Cleverly disguised as opera binocs, these could easily disassembled and with a quick change of the lenses’’ orientation in the left one and fitting them together, Zafran could turn them into a pistol scope whenever using her rifle was not an option and it was crucial for her to discreetly take the shot at a target she otherwise could neither reach in time or wait for a chance to shoulder her rifle and squeeze the trigger.

Lucas Nwosu was someone Berhane did not like when she was a SupOps operator in the Federate Army. Many of his tips and “solid intel” had resulted in enemy positions with heavier defenses than those detailed during PreOp Briefings or yielded less positive results than those originally promised. Still, if Zafran could see her teammates on the ground making it out alive and retrieving at least one abductee or piece of Axumite technology from the filthy Rhodesians, she would call it even and move on.

Now, that she’d been a Dread Angel for five years, she had come to deal more and more with Nwosu in person, and surprisingly found the man to be pleasant and truly striving to provide his contacts with useful information to the best of his ability, sometimes even putting himself at risk of blowing his cover as an agent to the Axumite Federation’s “Wider Borders, Cleaner Destiny” initiative. He definitely was not a scammer or a profiteer, and dealt with information as reliable as he could obtain; a thing that only made Zafran wonder if the incomplete or inaccurate intel the ground teams were sent in with, actually did originate somewhere closer to home. After all, now that she was able to look at the military from afar, Zafran could certainly name quite a few generals and ministers who were too eager to make every op into a thrilling narrative for the media, and that involved “both gallantry and decisive actions,” none of which those men and women talking in front of the cameras had to risk their lives for in order to carry them out... a thing Zafan Berhane found increasingly infuriating.

Maybe, once she made it back home from this particular mission, Zafran would look into this matter using the many contacts and resources available to her thanks to her position as a member of the Axumite Federation’s Diplomatic Corps. Then, depending on how much she did or did not find that way, it would be Enweghị Ihu‘s turn to pay these creative and drama-prone servants of the Axumite Federation a personal visit to insist maybe they should not withhold vital information to further their careers, or else find who was doing it and put a quick and definitive stop to it.

If past experience served as evidence, whenever “There Is No Face” had come to pay a visit and check on a single spoiling apple, the whole orchard got the message.

Every single time.

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