I stomped the ground – as if it would indicate my rage more clearly to my uncooperative tech guy.
“Damn it, Vexx!” My fury made him push play at last.
“Mortal Kombat, Metal remix by Ryashon,” confirmed the automated voice. Finally, the world made sense again. I knew this dance. I fell into the choreography of punches, dodges, kicks and tranqu. with the grace the lack of music robbed me of. Following the beat, I downed the guards one by one, moving out of the bullets’ way in time.
Nano-enhanced soldiers aimed perfectly but technology caused them to be flawed by design. They didn’t actually know how to shoot. Their chip did. If one timed one’s moves precisely, one could thwart the techie stuff. It implied making a change of situation important enough to trigger a reevaluation of the events. That was what the music was for: I chose it according to the processing speed of the guys here.
I worked my way through the corridor, eventually neutralizing everybody by the song’s end. My target would have initiated his evacuation of the premises. According to protocol, he would use the ‘secret’ passage in the west wall to reach the helipad on the roof.
“I need to upgrade the security on your chip eventually. Someone else could hack it.” Vexx said as I Tasered the last man standing. I’d be sore in the morning.
“What could they do? Vexx me to death?”
“Broadcast white noise.”
“I like white noise.” I round-kicked the alarm. It shrieked a dying buzz. “It means the machine’s dead.” I held my pistol upright and clicked off the security. “I’m shutting up now.”
“You know, it’s actually better if you just think what you wanna say. When you talk out loud it makes a weird echo.”
I adjusted my X-ray monocle over my dominant eye, the left one. I swept the hallways with my tranqu. gun in case some gorillas remained while I progressed as silently as possible toward the west wall. No guards meant Mister Fancy Pants liked a thick escort. Based on the house’s payroll, there should be ten more tech whores.
A look through the west wall confirmed my suspicion. I recognized my target by the metallic jaw, cheekbones and nose; the guy almost remodeled his whole face. I guess he could afford it, since he owned a tech-cartel.
Artificial rich filthy Mafioso. My kind of date.
The space within the wall was too narrow for the hired hands to provide the appropriate cover by surrounding their boss. They flanked him and progressed in line.
Piece of cake.
I adjusted my aim. A guard’s head turned toward me. Crap. Predictable crap, but still.
I rolled to the closer door frame perpendicular to the guard’s position. He fired, guided by his eye-implanted X-ray sight – probably included in his upgrade kit. The wall swallowed the armor piercing plasma bullet. His action caused quite a ruckus in the line behind him. My window of opportunity narrowed fast.
“You have to pull out.” Vexx commented when bullets started flying.
“Never. Just let my next song through.”
“Now playing Shoot the Runner by Kasabian.”
I bobbed my head on the first bar, counting. In stressful situation, people always wanted to rush but I valued pacing myself. It always saved my hide.
And five, six, seven, eight. Aim. Shoot. Roll. Flatten. Roll. I reached the next door frame on the sixth beat. My target’s body hit the floor on the seventh, a bullet in the left temple. Understanding that the wall didn’t keep me from firing at them, half the goons started breaking it down while the others kept shooting at me.
“Shoot the runner! Shoot, shoot the runner!” I sang along.
“You’re sick, Lorelei.”
I smiled and secured my guns in their holsters. I grabbed the portable EMP device around my wrist and turned it on. The electromagnetic pulse waved around me. My chip automatically powered down, taking the music with it. I turned in the hallway and sprinted toward the soon-to-be dust wall. I reached it before the first guy took his shot. By then, he didn’t know how to aim anymore, thanks to my EMP killing his chip. Same went for the muscle enhancers, effectively slowing down the wall’s destruction.
Not that I needed a lot of time.
Angling to run alongside the wall, I stepped on it long enough to stick my signature on the ceiling: a dried nightshade within protective plastic. Seconds later, my EMP was exhausted. My music resumed and so did the threat of the bullets.
I had no more reason to stick around. I broke into a sprint and dived through the window at the end of the corridor, right shoulder first. It shattered under the force and I flew out the fifth story. I landed on top of a fluffy decorated car that was part of the parade.
That was how careful planning and execution helped an assassin make a name for herself. That and a dash of daring; no amount of planning could cancel out the percentage of parade space that was filled with baton twirlers and dancers.
As Sun Tzu said, pushing your enemies in a cul-de-sac will cause them to fight with the energy of despair and display unexpected ferocity. The fact that I voluntarily put myself in such a situation didn’t affect the resources I drew from it. It was be killed, kill yourself or run off in the sunset.
Tonight was yet another checkmark on my victory board. I ought to be closer to number one on the Most Wanted list after this.
“Yeah right. Rub it in.” Vexx chimed.
“See you when I get home.” I answered. I vaulted off my improvised mattress. In the next alleyway, the sewer grate wasn’t quite in place, thanks to pre-murder prep. I pushed it aside and got underground. A fifteen minutes run and I was out of the woods.
Tag Archives: chapter 1
I stomped the ground – as if it would indicate my rage more clearly to my uncooperative tech guy.
The guards under me remained oblivious to my presence and so did the light crowd they contained. Technologically powered hearing could only take you so far: give it to bored or distracted guards and it won’t keep me from slipping past your defenses. I landed smoothly on top of my objective.
Reaching Mister Fancy Pants’ building: check.
There should be security on this roof. Nothing I couldn’t handle. I bobbed my head to the music and matched my steps to it, taking my handheld Taser out of its holster. I loved that baby. It was based on beginning of the millennium’s models with a few added perks, namely an extra powerful battery that delivered a few hundred shots before requiring a refill.
Toys like this were completely banned from the public use and thus extremely rare. Mine was contraband and cost me a pretty penny, which didn’t really matter when you were on the Top Wanted list and daughter of a millionaire to boot. Electroshock weapons were taken out of citizens hands because they made it fairly easy to turn a million dollars’ worth of implant enhanced soldier into a wimp. ‘Fairly easy’: you still had to stick the thing into the guy but once that was done, the odds turned in your favor. Half the time, the artificial circuit coursing across his body paralyzed him until he was rebooted. A quarter of the time, the implants and nanobots were short-circuited and you only had to deal with a human, usually an under-trained human who relied too much on his now dead power-ups. The remaining quarter had too few implants to really be affected. They still received a muscle-crimpling jolt. I fell into that category but the guards on this roof didn’t.
The roof was cradled between two taller buildings. I rounded the corner of the chimney and saw a guard walking alongside the wall formed by the closest building.
The music in my head was bold and beautiful. I decided to follow its lead. Besides, I was running out of time. I sprinted toward the guard when he turned his back on me. He heard me and turned around to shoot his plasma gun. I was too close. I stepped on the wall and vaulted above his head, sticking my Taser in his neck as I passed over him. His body hit the ground at the same time as mine.
He wasn’t dead. I was a good assassin: only the target got killed when I worked.
The second guard most likely patrolled along the other wall. His enhanced hearing would lead him right here to check on his partner before ringing the alarm.
I headed back toward the chimney to hide and wait. Right on time, the street became really noisy. The parade slowly advanced in the street below and would camouflage the rest of the noise I made, provided I kept it under a reasonable threshold and was out of here in about fifteen minutes.
Impeccable timing: check.
Seconds later, the guard arrived jogging. If he had received a standard enhancement, his communication device would be behind his right ear. I had to get him before he activated it.
I broke into another sprint to repeat the earlier process. This guard was quicker on his feet and turned around earlier than I anticipated.
Change of plans.
No time to become vulnerable to prep a pirouette. I grabbed his gun and held on to it. I stepped on his bent knee and swung my feet at the back of his right ear. A satisfying crunch resounded. I completed my move with his gun in hand, a few feet back. The pain had released his grasp. In a few maneuvers, I disabled the weapon. I hated plasma guns. Bullets were more romantic.
“You wouldn’t want to ruin your master’s surprise birthday present now, would you?” Taunting guards was my third favorite sport. The second was tracking a target. The first was R-rated.
“Smart ass.” He yelled.
“Sue me.” I countered.
He charged. I sidestepped and pressed the Taser against his arm. He collapsed.
“That works too.” I sighed. If only brain implants weren’t that pricey, these guys might pose a real challenge.
One minute left to the song, I ran to the side of the building opposite to the parade and found the window I had chosen as my point of entry. I lowered myself to the protruding windowsill. A shot of Taser in each corner disabled the security. I sprayed the rest of my acid to melt the window frame and slipped inside.
The master’s bedroom was empty. I cocked my hip, my turn of the millennium pistol and my head. In that order. As the song ended, I tapped the last bars on my hip with my gun. I filled my lungs with all the air they could hold and yelled.
“Honey, I’m home!” I stretched the “o” for good measure. Time to switch the song.
“I thought you were kidding when I read the plan!” A masculine voice rang within my skull.
“Vexx!” I yelled. “Get oughta my brain!” He snickered. “I mean it! You’re messing my momentum and…”
“…pissing off an assassin may cause waking up to a dagger through the jugular. I read the fine print.” His sarcasm drove an angry sigh to growl in my throat before escaping into the now stirring house. Army boots stumped up the stairs at the end of the corridor leading to this bedroom. It would funnel the soldiers to my door.
I swung my pistol up in the air and caught it by the canon. I pushed the security in place; until my target was here the gun merely served as a club. I flipped a tranquilizer gun in my free hand. The first dummies would go to sleep and the rest would be Tasered. A jolt of pain fired in my brain and the first guard entered at the same time. Despite the suffering, I straightened and jabbed a tranqu. dart under his jaw.
“Vexx, your stupid hack causes backfires. It hurts like hell.”
The next guard walked in. I dodged a punch and extended to put him down. He barely winced when the drug hit him. He backhanded me forcefully and I rolled back, allowing another soldier to step in. Damn it! I hated when they were boosted with nanoroids!
“You’re such a wuss.” Vexx replied to my previous comment, completely oblivious of the fact he’d be unconscious by now, was he standing at my place. I spun and hit my attacker with the handle of my gun. A split eyebrow seemed proper reciprocation for bruising my face. Assassins didn’t really need nasty scars to prove their worth and I didn’t take kindly to people trying to ruin my figure. After a second blunt assault, the man finally collapsed.
“You’re such a geek.” I yelled as the remaining guard closed his huge arms around my body. To be fair, Vexx didn’t have the physic of a geek at all but I didn’t have the time to go there with two more goons coming my way. Another one, further down the corridor, cocked a gun and triggered the alarm. Swell.
“Seriously, it can’t backfire.”
“It does. Now gimme my music before I’m dead.” Luckily, extendable Kevlar was quite slippery. I writhed out of the constricting bear hug, drugging another guy in the momentum. That one went down and a plasma ray flew by my ear. The gunman in the hall was apparently the daring type.
“The one you chose seems a bit slow.”
The three bulks of muscles on the Persian carpet complicated my navigation. I was losing ground. If they surrounded me, I was a goner.
I straightened at the edge of light, tugging my mid-thigh high boots upward. I loved these boots. I stuck removable stilettos under them when I was on another type of prowl. Tonight, my boots of butt-kicking were heel-less and the sole flexed along my feet’s movements. Perfect for what I had to do.
In the darkness, I stood almost invisible, clad in black extendable Kevlar. No reason not to be as safe as houses and sexy as hell. With my hair rolled in a tight bun, I looked like a dominatrix – which was totally my point.
I stretched my arms and legs slowly, and then bent over backward until my hands touched the ground. They called it ‘The Wheel Pose’ in yoga. I called it ‘Ready to Roll’. I unfolded fluidly working my abs to pull me straight.
Warm up: check.
Scooting closer to the lit street, I peered at my surroundings to find the best point of entry. I planned everything but the perfect spot to get off the ground. I could have done my reconnaissance earlier but I procrastinated – world class assassins had their flaws too. The pursuit of perfection was somebody else’s business, somebody who would soon feel a fresh breeze on his gray matter.
These streets emptied hours ago. Rich neighborhoods weren’t prone to late night drunks since they got shot on the spot. This district was all rich people, stony ornamented façades and high-tech surveillance topped with a ‘Touch a wall, lose a hand’ policy.
At least, carved stone facilitated climbing.
I heard the chatter of the crowd two blocks away. Access to the annual “Tech Anniversary” parade was restricted. No one but house owners were allowed to wander in the nearby streets which ensured my peace and quiet. I broke the law just standing here but the despicable parade advantaged me.
I spotted a series of imperfections on a wall well away from the street lights, next to a gutter. Perfect. The only thing I was missing was the appropriate soundtrack. I placed my middle finger on the bone behind my ear and taped: two long, pause, two short and one long, pause, three short. M-U-S in Morse code. The micro-chip in my brain powered up.
“Welcome to Cyber Radio.” The automated announcer’s voice stimulated my auditory neurons directly. Headphones were so passé. “What can we play for you today?”
I grinned. I had picked my song as soon as I decided to go through with this. It was part of my process. Pick the song. Work the plan. Confirm that the song’s timing fits the plan.
If not, get the remix.
I thought tonight’s song’s title and the mechanical voice confirmed.
“Now playing God is God by Juno Reactor.”
I’m a sucker for turn of the Millennium-ish music, among other things. Old-fashioned to the core, I hated today’s tunes: programs composing utopian music ruled the market and the remaining artists created cacophonies because they couldn’t rival with the perfect melodies. Perfection killed me – it killed the whole world, actually. So I killed “perfection” right back and I was damn good at it.
Plenty money to be made cleaning out the scum.
The music possessed me as soon as the first bar started. My hips moved in slow figures of eight, following the notes that introduced the song. When the beat started, I timed my strut with it. Six minutes, fifty seconds and I would be in. Either that or I was seriously losing my touch. I swung my hips to the beat, carefully staying away from the halo of the street lights. When I got closer to my objective, I walked sideways along the walls so the surveillance spotlights – your standard automated follow spots sweeping back and forth – would miss me.
“You shall see darkness. God is God.” You bet, Juno.
I reached my chosen spot of on wall and began to climb. The female vocalization pulled me up as surely as my muscles’ efforts. I wedged my feet in the cracks and wrapped my fingers around the protuberances. I pressed myself against the wall so that the follow spot brushing the street at regular intervals wouldn’t allow the guard to make much difference between me and the oversized gutter. I managed to stay true to the rhythm of the song. Music always was my favorite motivational tool.
My hands rested on the roof. I waited a beat for the lights to flow past. Then, I almost bent in two, my butt in the air, to stick my feet closer to the top of the ledge. This part was tricky. I pulled myself in a handstand so that neither the follow spot illuminating the street nor the one sifting the roof revealed my presence.
There’s something thrilling about hanging upside down, five stories up. I faced the void in front of me and smiled. I could fall. I was human after all. Nanotechnology hadn’t preyed on me, ‘enhancing’ me into a thing barely human that supposedly never failed.
I grinned. Label me monkey wrench.
Three beats passed and the light was gone for a few seconds. I promptly lowered my feet and pushed with my arms to do half a back flip that landed me on the roof. I rushed to the side of the greenhouse planted in the middle of the space.
Crazy rich men.
The follow spots did another sweep. I ran to reach the opposite ledge and stood there for yet another swipe.
The choreography flowed precisely as planned, timed to the beat playing in my head. While the light was away, I unfolded my collapsible bow and set its string. I lowered it next to my side waiting for the light to wash the space a few inches before and behind me. Once it was gone, I’d have eight beats to aim and shoot.
The light moved away. I brought my bow up, nocked the grappling arrow and adjusted my aim. I released the string and the arrow flew right to the chimney of the building next door, one floor below, towing a cord. It pierced the structure then deployed in a large grappling hook that could support my weight. I lowered my bow to allow the lights to pass.
The next eight beats allowed me to stick my bow to the ledge with a carefully dosed acid that merged the material of my bow and the roof together. It would hold. The light washed my surroundings. I jumped off and grabbed the cord in my Kevlar covered hands to slide across the busy street.
I woke up a few minutes before my alarm clock rang. I was sprawled all over my bed. The pillows had fallen to the floor. The bed sheets were all twisted in three ropes that snaked around my body and limbs. My feet hung off the bed. I had somehow managed to do a quarter spin in my sleep and was now lying across the width of the mattress. I wondered what kind of dreams I had this time.
I freed myself from the grip of the linens and slowly stretched every moveable part of my body. Some proved to be more reluctant than others but the soft call to life finally spread through my whole system. When the alarm clock finally bellowed, I slapped it off and slid my feet in their fuzzy purple slippers. I grabbed my glasses on the night stand before rising up. The “before” aspect is crucial; piggies and furniture are way too cozy in the morning. No need to encourage them. Once my surroundings gained their high-definition, I ventured out the bedroom in search for some breakfast.
I fixed myself a mushroom omelette with a huge glass of orange juice. I grabbed the newspaper in the mailbox and settled down into my eating habit: one bite of omelette for my body, one bite of news for my mind. Repeat as needed.
Once filled on all accounts, I started to hop in the shower. As I walked past the bathroom mirror, I noticed my strawberry blond hair, heavy on the strawberry, had more knots than macramé and crackled with more electricity than power lines. Combined with my slightly slanted eyes, I gave off a fierce and savage feline vibe. Quite a night I had! I tried to tame my mane and finally decided to bring a comb with me in the shower. It took a toll on my spring-scented conditioner but I managed to turn the tangles into soft curls. I now looked like a wet kitten but I saved myself with a little hot air from the blow-dryer. Sexy secretary it is!
Back to the bedroom, I fought with the bed sheets to put them in order. This day was definitely starting with a lot of struggles. At least, by the time I was done, the humidity left on my body had dried so I could slip in my clothes. There is nothing I hate more than putting clothes on right after shower and feeling them stick to my skin.
I browsed through my “dry-cleaner only” suits. I allow myself to dress more casually on Fridays but Mondays were classy. I picked up my silver ensemble and a turquoise blouse adorned with a few ruffles along the neckline. I added a thin belt with a silver and teal buckle to my straight pants and fished the matching earrings and choker out of my tiny jewellery box. I pulled half of my hair behind my head and secured it with a few bobby pins. The curls fluffed nicely down my neck but my face was free and the hairdo wouldn’t be uncomfortable to lie on.
I applied some light make-up; just enough to give me an extra-healthy look and make my hunter green eyes stand out. I slid my glasses back up my button nose, splashed a little perfume on my neck and wrists, and was off to work.
Taking the metro in the wee hours of the morning had its perks. I was able to find a seat between a woman with too much make-up and not enough face, and a bodybuilder who thought himself too irresistible for his own good. He flashed a perfect white-toothed smile my way and I answered by digging in my book. I heard him stretch to read over my shoulder. I suspected he thought I was playing hard to get and wanted to use my readings as an ice-breaker. After a few minutes of what must have been awe and pondering, he decided I wasn’t easy enough a prey. Reading the Iliad in the original Greek is bound to have that effect on look-oriented guys. He’d just have to wait for the next trim redhead.
I got off one stop early and found my way through the thickening working-class crowd. Up on the street, I angled toward my favourite coffee shop to grab a little boost before reaching the office. The clerk greeted me by my name before handing me my tall latte over the heads of the other customers. It has been a long time since I had to wait in line for my coffee. I left enough money on the counter to cover my purchase and a fair tip.
I slowly walked to my building, contemplating the morning life. Everyone seemed late for whatever they had to do. I was in advance, as usual. My work is stressful enough for me to avoid any unnecessary craziness before coming in. I wondered how people could hold such a rhythm, how they could cope with missing so much of the city’s delight. I sipped my coffee and enjoyed every second of it.
I reached the glass doors of the skyscraper I work in. A window cleaning team was polishing every surface as they are hired to do at every season’s passing. I recognized a few faces and waved. Smiles answered and one of the guys opened the door for me. A gush of conditioned air broke through the summer heat and lifted my hair. It turned my reflection into a very “shampoo commercial” picture. I felt really pretty. Whatever nightmare had disturbed my bed last night, it was long forgotten.
I entered the lobby ready to pull my weight for the day. My high-heel shoes clacked smartly as I strode across the seal embedded in the floor: “Psychic Service of Investigation – Proaction, Security, Integrity.”