Monday, 26 September 2016

Short Story: The Assassin

This story was inspired by me asking my friend Jill for a story prompt months ago. She gave me "ninjas" and over time it percolated in my brain and finally ended up as this. Somehow we ended up with assassins instead of ninjas but she enjoys it anyway.

The Assassin

The assignment brief has been oddly vague. Normally there was a plethora of information about the target; appearance, family, general habits etc. This time all there was in the file was a location and an instruction to kill whoever was there.

Jane didn't like. She didn't like it one bit.

But an assignment was an assignment and she would do her duty.

So she made her way to the given location under cover of darkness, creeping from rooftop to rooftop like a shadow. She slipped into the room through the window and got the surprise of her life.

Her target was her immediate superior in the assassin order.

It wasn't unusual to be assigned another assassin as a target—it was after all how they kept their own house in order—but it was unheard of to go into an assignment like this on no intel. The feeling of unease that had been creeping up her spin intensified.

She needed more information before she did anything.

"What's going in here Bran?" she asked. "Why have I been assigned to kill you? And why didn't I know it was you beforehand?"

Bran glanced a the floor and shuffled his feet; he looked awkward, something he'd never been in all the time Jane had known him. "That's because I'm not the target Jane; you are."

Jane stood there, stunned. As her brain frantically tried to assimilate this new information she realised it made perfect sense.  And that she knew exactly why the order wanted to kill her. There would be no forgiveness from the order for what she'd done. She should have realised that earlier.

"This is about the Bergman job isn't it? The one I fucked up."

Bran nodded. "You let a target walk away, Jane. The order can't tolerate failure like that. We need to know we can rely on our operatives."

"That target was a child Bran," Jane shot back, angry now.

"That doesn't matter!" Bran yelled. "You were given a target and you failed to kill them. You're an assassin Jane, you don't get to pick and choose your morality."

Jane disagreed. Just because she killed people for a living (and the order had trained her from a young age, she knew nothing else and was well aware of how thoroughly she'd been indoctrinated) didn't mean she didn't know the difference between right and wrong. There was a line to be drawn somewhere, and she'd drawn it. No child could ever have done anything bad enough to warrant death.

"You're wrong," she said, jaw set.

Bran didn't budge an inch. "Doesn't matter. You failed an assignment, intentionally. The order cannot forgive and it cannot forget. You know how we deal with insubordinate assassins."

Apparently they were given assignments that were actually ambushes. Jane had dispatched her fair share of failed assassins in the past and had never thought twice about it. Now though, she wondered how many of them were like her; justified in the choices they'd made.

She'd never given her targets time to talk though. She wondered if Bran was on the verge of bottling it and walking away himself.

"You don't have to do it you know," she said. "You walk away from this and I disappear. The order never sees me again. No one has to know the truth."

Bran looked sad. "I can't do that, you know I can't."

"You know I won't go quietly, don't you?"

"You should," he said. "Prove your loyalty to the order one last time. Accept your fate; kneel."

Jane's legs almost buckled, years of conditioning to follow instructions given by the order acting before her conscious mind could, but she recovered. She stood firm, back straight and proud; she was in the right on this matter. If she died today it wouldn't be without a fight.

She looked Bran dead in the eye and simply said "no."

He grimaced. "So be it."

Bran was quick, but with her life on the line Jane moved quicker. She slipped a knife from her belt, blocking Bran's attack with her leather vambrace. The cold steel bit through the leather and into her skin, but she barely felt it; her veins were on fire as she drove her own knife between Bran's ribs.

He was her superior in the order, meaning he had that much more skill and experience but he was also that much older and moved just a hair slower; that was his downfall. Jane jerked the knife upwards, ending any hope he had of getting out of this alive. He choked and coughed, his body desperately fighting the inevitable.

"I'm sorry Bran," she said. "I really am."

The only reply she got was a wet gurgle as his legs gave out under him and he slumped to the floor.

Jane wiped her knife on Bran's shirt as she contemplated her next move.

It was only a matter of time before the order discovered Bran's failure. And then they would hunt her down. For believing that killing children was wrong. Her fate was sealed no matter what; the order wasn't known for forgiveness and they would send operatives after her until one succeeded. The odds weren't in her favour. One of them would kill her eventually.

Once upon a time Jane would have accepted the order's demand for her head without question. She would have knelt when Bran commanded her to and she would be the one bleeding out on the floor, not him. This new Jane knew that her only chance was take down the order itself; no order, no death warrant.

It was a long shot, and risky as hell, but the order deserved nothing less. Being an assassin was one thing; being asked to unquestioningly murder children was another, and an assassin order expecting the latter didn't deserve to continue.

There was a good chance she'd end up dead anyway, but at least she'd go down fighting for something she believed in.

Decision made, she knelt by Bran's cooling corpse to loot his weapons and vambraces, one of hers now ruined. The path ahead was clear and she would need every advantage she could get.

Before she got up Jane closed Bran's eyes and muttered a quick prayer before slipping out into the night.

While there was still breath in her body she wouldn't stop hunting down those who had once been her colleagues, her mentors, her friends. She wouldn't rest until the only family she had ever known had been brought to its knees. She would have her revenge.

The order wouldn't know what hit it.

If you enjoyed this story feel free to purchase one of my books either here, or here. Or you can buy me a coffee here.

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