God is woman with mysterious ways and a vindictive nature. She has laden me with more than I can bear although I have loved Her. I have hated Her as well but She doesn’t care as long as I believe in Her.
How can I punish God?
I heard a whisper that told me, “There were other gods before Her. Those gods were punished by ceasing to believe in them.”
It is said that The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away.
Well, so do I.
That voice then whispers, “Hell is separation from God. You will be in Hell.”
Yes? How will I know the difference?
– Alain Groudie, The Möbius Effect
Sergeant Luciole Klein stared into the metal mirror that she had withdrawn from her pack.
That mirror now held one of the few women of the French Foreign Legion; a sniper with the 2nd Combat Company of the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment assigned to the turmoil of Mali, Africa.
Islamist rebels had infiltrated the legendary town of Tombouctou and staged a suicide bombing at the international airport. Islamist rebels weeks earlier had destroyed tombs and sacred sights.
The rebels now held a library of priceless manuscripts.
In the briefing Tombouctou’s mayor had said, “The loss of any of those texts would be a devastating blow to world heritage. Some date back to the 13th century. Those texts have survived for centuries in Tombouctou on the edge of the Sahara hidden in wooden trunks, boxes beneath the sand and caves. The majority is written in Arabic, with some in African languages, and one in Hebrew, and they cover a diverse range of topics including astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women’s rights. The oldest text dates from 1204.”
When Sergeant Luciole Klein stared again into her metal mirror there began to appear behind her reflection the face of her lover, Alain Groudie. Luciole turned the mirror down.
In that mirror Alain Groudie had been a poet and a philosopher and her lover. Alain Groudie had been sixteen-years old. Luciole had been twenty-years old. They had enchanted each other. Luciole had fought with her woman’s instincts. Alain’s youth and his passion and his dreams and his ideals had seduced Luciole. At twenty-years old Luciole had long ago emerged from her chrysalis of idealism and she could see ahead the truth in this world. Luciole met sixteen-year old Alain and he had called her back toward his world. Luciole followed him though she knew that there was really no way back that way for her and that what for a glorious while seemed to be a revival of Luciole the Summer Breeze was really a mourner’s bench for Luciole the Ice Queen. She had tithed her ears and her lips and her fond gazes and at last her womanhood to the glory of that creature’s mind. She had strolled many evenings in that creature’s world but she knew that she could not live there.
There had been something wrong with Alain Groudie.
Luciole was chagrined to be visited by the sudden childhood recollection of her beloved dog Dolce refusing a newborn runt puppy. Luciole had cuddled that runt puppy and quickly named him Napoleon. Luciole had fed Napoleon by hand with a bottle as she scolded Dolce but Napoleon soon over the days had died away quietly in her palm. Yes, Dolce had known ruthlessly that there was something wrong with her runt puppy and she had spurned him with cruel wisdom.
Sergeant Luciole Klein was a sniper in the team known only to a few, dubbed “Firefly”. Her specialized team piloted micro-drones the size of insects. Some micro-drones were fitted for reconnaissance. Some micro-drones were fitted for surgical assassination. The micro-drones travelled in the belly of a conventional UAV and were dropped as a swarm above their target. For this mission her team was going to infest the library of priceless manuscripts and surgically slay the occupying rebels.
Corporal Candice Blaise approached Sergeant Luciole Klein with new information, saying, “There are hostages.”
Luciole asked Candice curtly, “How many?”
Candice answered, “One for sure. They have shown one young girl and are making threats with their weapons.”
Luciole said, “A complication,” and then she smiled at Candice, saying, “I was worried that there would be no complication.”
Candice smiled back, affirming, “They were on the balcony of the library. Three rebels. Probably at least one more inside that room. The manuscript room.”
Luciole said, “Gather the rest of les mirettes (the eyes), Candice.”
Candice assembled the rest of the Firefly sniper squad. Five young women. Women who made better micro-drone snipers than men did because the women were steadier.
Luciole was still thinking about her lover, Alain Groudie and thinking of that time he had come into the kitchen as she was trying to bake a meat pie.
Alain’s joke was to call her ‘Lucifera’, the anti-heroine of an Italian comic book who was the Devil’s lover and Alain said, “Lucifera, my dear, you will never guess where I have been.”
Luciole long knew that Alain could have been anywhere. His grandfather had left him a small fortune. They lived in Alain’s apartment.
Alain continued, “Since you will never guess, I tell you: I have been to see a Scatomancer!”
Luciole was amused at Alain’s constant joie de vivre, his childlike enthrallment with his existence.
Alain said, “I did not go alone. It was Enzo’s crazy idea, of course.”
Luciole interrupted Alain’s headlong exposition by asking, “Skatto-what?”
Alain grinned devilishly and said, “Scatomancer. The guy practices Scatomancy.”
Luciole asked, impatiently prompting Alain, “Yes?”
Alain beamed and said, “Scatomancy. He predicts the future by analyzing your shit!”
Luciole made a bitter face and turned away, “Ew, Alain. What is wrong with you? You are making this horrible joke.”
Alain was laughing, “Lucifera, my beloved, I am telling you the truth,” and he almost choked saying, “Enzo went into the toilet and deposited his twisted soul into a glass bowl,” and Alain was now howling, “and the guy, this Scatomancer, this Père Merde (Father Shit), actually took a pinch of Enzo’s tithing and smelled it,” Alain was screaming with laughter, “he smelled it and said, said the stronger the ‘aroma’ the better the reading! I am not lying!”
Luciole in complete disgust ended the discussion by saying, “Alain, I don’t need a fortune-teller to know my life is shit.”
As a young girl Luciole lived on her grandfather’s farm in Czechoslovakia. Her days had been hard and simple. At night she strolled into the fields enchanted by fireflies. In those fields during World War Two there had been a great hand-to-hand battle fought between the Russians and the Germans. Her grandfather had watched from the ruins of the original farmhouse while the Russians left chasing after the fleeing Germans, leaving behind the dead and dying in the gloam, and her grandfather had then emerged and gleaned his fields for weapons and clothing. Luciole’s grandfather still had a collection of Russian and German pistols and rifles and knives. Her grandfather made his own ammunition for those trophies using the spent cartridges that he found. Luciole and her grandfather had hunted in the woods with some of those rifles and pistols.
The farm life was hard and simple. Luciole the young girl dreamed of France, in her mind the highest culture, the most romantic, the greatest civilization that Man had achieved ever. But when her grandfather died all her surviving relatives expected her to accept an arranged marriage and so avoid coming to live with them.
Young Luciole ran away from her home with a pistol and a pouch of bullets in her travel bag for protection as she made her way to France.
Luciole recalled how fearful and hungry she had been not so long ago; how she had struggled and bartered her young woman’s soul because she was not a French citizen. But as a dishwasher at a bohemian bistro she had met Alain Groudie. Alain Groudie had inherited a petite fortune from his grandfather but at sixteen-years old Alain had been celebrating at that bistro because he had just had a book published called The Möbius Effect. As Alain brandished a copy at everyone in the bistro Luciole had read a few passages but did not fully understand the work although she had marveled at the intellect displayed.
Luciole emerged from her recollections to face the wonderfully aromatic meat pie that she was about to place in the oven.
Luciole said to Alain, “You will be happy with my meat pie.”
Alain came up close behind Luciole and embraced her waist locking her derriere into his hips and he said suggestively, “I love the aroma of your meat pie.”
Luciole blushed and scolded, “Alain! You are terrible!”
Alain was a strong and willful young man. He turned Luciole toward him and he kissed her as he clutched her derriere.
Luciole tried to be serious but giggled, “Alain, no. I am preparing dinner…”
Alain leered, “Yes, you are.”
Alain forced Luciole back over the kitchen table as he raised her skirt. Luciole surrendered and as she settled back slowly he deftly slid her panties to her ankles. Alain had then bowed to her thighs and said, “I love your meat pie.”
Luciole was deeply amazed at young Alain’s eating habits. She writhed in the flour that was spilled upon the kitchen table. She held his head in both hands caressing his soft hair and she moved his head around, guiding his appetite.
But all that while, Luciole was imagining the shop girl who worked in the boulangerie down the street.
In the end Alain had said to Luciole, “Marry me. You then will be a citizen of your precious France!” and he had taken the cigarette from her lips and puffed on it rakishly.
Luciole was surprised but she quickly replied, “Your parents will never give consent.”
Luciole knew that she did not want to be married. Even a sham marriage with Alain seemed perilous. She had not trusted his feral feelings. There would have to be another way to citizenship. She had felt sadness as she realized that her affair with Alain might be finished.
Luciole was sitting on their bed when Alain returned the next morning in triumph and he announced, “I have my parents’ consent to be married to you!”
Luciole was shocked and she asked, “What? How can this be?”
Alain narrowed his eyes and asked, “Such news is hard to believe, yes?”
Luciole could only ask, “But, how…?”
Alain replied, “How did I convince them? Why, with Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” and Alain withdrew the blue-metal World War Two Russian Nagant M1895 Revolver that Luciole had taken from her grandfather’s collection when she ran away, loaded with the bullets that her grandfather had cast himself.
Alain said, “I stood before my parents and I released all but one bullet from the gun and then I spun the revolving chamber and put the gun to my head. I said, “I want to marry my woman Lucifera!” and I pulled the trigger one time and they agreed to give written consent for us to marry.”
Luciole had covered her mouth with both hands and whimpered.
Alain asked Luciole, “You do want to be married, yes?”
Luciole gently shook her head and said, “Oh, Alain. We don’t need to be married. I don’t have to be married. I, I even spoke with a Foreign Legion recruiter. They are looking for a few good women, the right women. And by enlisting I will have French citizenship.”
Alain said, “I still hold that one lucky bullet,” and then he pulled the trigger at his temple once, CLICK.
Luciole hopped and screamed into her two hands, “No! Stop it, Alain!”
Alain demanded, “Say you will marry me, Lucifera!”
Luciole pleaded, “This is not funny, Alain. You must stop!”
Alain grinned and with the immortal confidence of a sixteen-year old he pulled the trigger at his temple a second time, CLICK!
Luciole cried, “Stop, stop. For me! Stop!” and she covered her face with her two hands.
Alain asked again, “Will you marry me, on your word?”
Luciole in desperation wept, “Yes, yes, yes. Just put the gun down. Alain, please!”
Alain made a comical dramatic face and said, “I think you are lying to me, Lucifera,” and he pulled the trigger at his temple a third time, CLICK.
Luciole pushed past Alain, crying, “You monster! I’m leaving.”
Alain called after her as if playing hide-and-seek with a child, “Oh, Lucifera. Where did you go?”
Alain pulled the trigger at his temple a fourth time. A halo of crimson mist surrounded Alain’s head as the gunshot shattered their world and Alain Groudie disintegrated.
Sergeant Luciole Klein was now watching her Firefly sniper team assemble their elegantly simple black tri-pod cabines (cockpits). They stood in a semi-circle beside the small armored vehicle that held the transceivers and the servers.
Corporal Candice Blaise reported to Sergeant Luciole Klein, “The Shadow is aloft. About one hour to overhead.”
The transport UAV carrying the swarm of micro-drones had been launched from a secured area miles away.
Luciole called out to her Firefly sniper team, her les mirettes, “Sound-off your systems check.”
While Candice asked the checklist questions of each Firefly sniper, Luciole in her memory had run back into the bedroom to find Alain where he had crumpled upon the bed, and she was screaming, “Ahhh! Ahhh! Alain! No! No, no!” and she had not been able to breathe but she stood over his body without touching him. In horror she had thought that his head now looked like a meat pie.
Luciole next had coldly realized that this ended everything as she knew it. The authorities would deport her even if they did not jail her as an accessory to this accidental suicide.
Luciole had gathered her few belongings and left the pistol and fled the apartment. After a few hours she had entered the Foreign Legion recruitment office and enlisted.
Corporal Candice Blaise was tipping her head and looking into Luciole’s face, saying, “We are ready, Ma’am. Shadow is overhead.”
Luciole nodded, saying, “Signal release and access your drones.”
The micro-drones dropped from the belly of the UAV that passed over the library. Most of the micro-drones were accessed by the Firefly team and those micro-drones assumed a swirling formation. A few did not initialize and they fell to the rocks and dirt of the Tombouctou streets and roof tops.
From each tri-pod cockpit screen the Firefly team piloted their assigned micro-drones, sometimes manually, sometimes with scripts as at this time with a formation script from the lead micro-drone. Luciole paced from tri-pod to tri-pod, observing.
Candice called-out, “Library schematic is loaded.”
Luciole said, “Get out your library cards. Advance.”
The swarm of micro-drones wafted into a window and followed their digital library schematic, flying close to the ceiling. There were twenty-five stealthy micro-drones each with their own “eyes”, five of which were reconnaissance micro-drones to observe as the assassin micro-drones were “consumed”.
The swarm entered the manuscript chamber where the rebels and their hostage had been seen.
Candice called out, “Confirming four foes and one hostage.”
A reconnaissance micro-drone focused on the terrified, beaten and bruised face of the young girl hostage.
Candice commented, “Some poor fuck college coed.”
Standing above the young girl hostage was one of the rebels who kept his assault rifle aimed at her head.
Luciole said, “Carefully now. Firefly One, Two, Three, Four approach. Firefly Five reserve on the ceiling.
Behind each rebel a revolving cluster of micro-drones assumed their attack positions. Upon the ceiling alighted the micro-drones of Firefly Five.
Luciole said, “First assault. Go!”
Behind each of the rebels one micro-drone alighted on the back of their head.
Luciole said, “Fire!”
Around the heads of three of the rebels a halo of red mist blossomed as the micro-drones released their kinetic “spit balls” which penetrated their victim’s skull and ricocheted throughout their brain tissues. Their arms flung out to their side like crucifixions and they toppled.
The fourth rebel screamed at the sight. The micro-drone targeting him had failed to fire. The rebel, still screaming, swung his assault rifle around the room firing as if at ghosts.
Luciole hollered, “Kill him! Swarm!”
Too late. The panicked rebel turned the assault rifle on the young girl crouching and crying and he shot her in the face.
Luciole shouted, “No!” and she pushed the lead Firefly aside and turned on the script function and sent all assassin micro-drones to the rebel’s torso.
The rebel’s eyes burst from his face as the micro-drones infested his belly and crotch. In terror he dropped his assault rifle and tried to brush the micro-drones aside.
Too late. All the remaining assassin micro-drones detonated and the rebel fell shrieking in agony to a porridge of his own gore.
Candice yelled, “He’s still alive!”
Luciola said coldly, “I know.”
Then Luciola said, “Self-destruct all remaining micro-drones.”
And it was over.
Candice lit a cigarette and looked up at Luciola and said, “I’m sorry.”
Luciola put her arm around Candice and took the cigarette from Candice’s lips and puffed on it.
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