Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-17-2014

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For the first time since arriving on Earth, I’m starting to feel a little bit of confidence start to build. While the rest of her family may not know Lacey’s current location, they could point me in the right direction. And with the damn security dickheads on my back, I need every bit of information I can get.

I know what you’re thinking: if I already knew where the Marano family operated, then why didn’t I go there already? There’s an easy explanation for that. See, until I knew whether or not Lacey had full control of the syndicate, I couldn’t risk walking into their home base. I might be crazy but I’m sure as hell not stupid!

The night was starting to turn cold as I pulled into the hotel’s parking garage. Even with the walls shielding me from the wind, I can still see my breath. Thank God things are almost done for the night and I can take a hot shower!

A coupled, bundled up against the cold, join me as we headed for the elevator. The woman complained about the cold and I could empathize with her on that one. While Darbytown’s winters didn’t compare to Greenmist’s, I still found this to be too damn cold for my liking.

While tonight proved to be one big pain in the ass, some good did come from it. It appeared no one knew where Lacey was, which meant she couldn’t be hiding in Darbytown. Unfortunately, it also left me wondering where the fuck she’d gone since she’d split town.

Problem with her family is that they have so many branches that it isn’t funny. There’s the Richmond arm, one in Williamsburg, Va. and several other cities in Virginia, Maryland and part of Philadelphia. Either way, it’d mean doing some digging when I met with the new boss.

That could wait though because all I wanted to do now was to either take a hot shower or sit in the tub for a while. After everything that happened, I’d need to relax my muscles before I could even think of getting to sleep. Otherwise I’ll just lie in bed staring at the ceiling all night.

But then, that might happen anyway regardless of what I do. See, it’s hard to sleep when your friends are in danger of being murdered. I know, I know, I’ve said before that Alex wasn’t a friend, but you know, that was a lie. The tub of lard actually is the closest thing I’ve got to a father since my dad died-and I don’t want to see him hurt.

A couple minutes later I let myself into my room and then pull my gun out of its holster. Time to take a good hard look around and make sure things are ok after the events of tonight. See, the security dickheads love to put bugs, and sometimes even hide, in the rooms of targets.

And if they think they’re killing me, they’re in for a rude awakening.

After twenty minutes of searching I’m satisfied that there’s not bugs or potential assassins waiting. That’s a small relief, but not much of one. Just because the room is clean now doesn’t mean they won’t try to make a move. Perhaps there’s someone stationed on another building’s roof, armed with a rifle, ready to gun me down. While it sounds a bit farfetched in some ways, you don’t live as long as I have in this business without having a healthy dose of paranoia.

Damn the hot water feels good against my skin as I place the gun on a shelf beside the tub and then slowly lower myself into it. After the cold and stress of tonight, this is a nice luxury and one that I don’t always give myself for various reasons. With any luck, I’ll be able to enjoy this, but I’m not holding my breath by any stretch of the imagination.

See, if there’s one thing I learned early on in this business it was never to take things for granted. Things could go to shit at any time and your best laid plans can get royally fucked. It’s when that happens that I end earning my keep because I’ve always thought fast on my feet.

Hopefully this won’t happen tonight because I’d just love to sit here and have a chance to think things over for a change. Ever since getting clobbered by Lacey, events have moved at warp speed and I haven’t been able to allow myself a lot of time to just think.

I close my eyes and let a portion of my mind start to relax while the rest remains laser beam focused on the issue at hand. Lacey couldn’t have kept that bomb inside Darbytown because the scanners scattered throughout town would’ve detected its radiation signature. So, the question now is just where the hell did she go with it?

In all honesty, it would be more than likely that she went to a smaller town where they would feel that the scanners wouldn’t be necessary. Towns like Richmond, Cumberland, Md and others weren’t considered a big enough target that they’d have the specialized technology to detect an antimatter bomb.

What doesn’t make sense in all of this is just what she wants to do with the bomb? Is the crazy bitch going to detonate it or sell the thing to some terrorist? Just having it in her possession would give her and the part of the syndicate loyal to her a major extortion card. While the money a terrorist would give for the weapon could potentially be massive, the risk it gave Lacey would be more than I think she’s willing to take. Not even a crazy mafia chick like her is willing to take that on-I think.

But, and this is the part I hate, anyone willing to kill their own father to do something this crazy can’t be counted to do something rational. So, if you asked me, I think she’s going to try to extort the government by threatening to detonate the weapon. If this is what she tries to do in a city like Richmond or Williamsburg, she’ll kill millions and it’d bring down the current Presidential administration. While I wouldn’t shed any tears over that, given what’s happened, I’d rather kill her before she could do that.

Besides, I owe her one, remember?

A sound, soft enough to almost be missed, reached my ears and my antenna perked up as I grabbed the gun. Shit, can’t a girl take a fucking bath without being disturbed?

You know how hard it is to get out of the tub full of water while trying to keep from making noise? It’s got to be the hardest thing in the world to do, and I softly curse a couple times as I make small splashes. What saves me is that whoever wants to kill me is taking their time, which allows me to put the tub between me and the door.

The door starts to open and the first thing I see is the barrel of a submachine gun. Why the hell would someone bring such an overpowered weapon into a hotel? Didn’t the dumbass realize that it’d tear through the walls around here like a hot knife through butter?

A man came into view.

“How about dropping that gun,” I said.

“Shit,” he said before slowly bending over and then placing the gun on the floor before straightening.

Water ran down my body and then dripped to the floor as the would-be assassin and I look at each other. He was middle-aged, probably close to Tom’s age, and a scar ran from an inch below his left eye across to the base of his ear. His wide spaced eyes, high cheekbones and pointed nose made him look like a combination of pirate and rat.

“Who sent you?”

He looked me over. “Interesting.”

“You fucking amaze me. I’ve got a gun pointed at your head and you’re sitting there thinking with your goddamn dick. No, no, no, no more foreplay. Now, who sent you?”

“The Marano syndicate.”

“Oh, really? Why?”

“You assisted Lacey Marano in her scheme to murder the boss and steal an antimatter bomb.”

“Oh for fucks sake! Are you guys fucking stupid? If I helped her, would I need to clear my name?”

“How would I know?”

“Here’s how this is going to work. You’re going to call the boss and then I’m going to speak to him.”

“What makes you think I’ll do that?”

“Do you think I’m averse to blowing your sorry ass away?”

My would-be killer continued to stare at my wet, naked form and a slow burn started in my gut. How the hell can someone be so fucking stupid as to question a person with a gun pointed at them? I could understand if it was someone who you thought was bluffing, but me? Anyone who’s got half a damn brain should know that I’m not.

“Now, use that nice little wrist computer of yours,” I said sweetly. “And get ahold of the Boss. I want to speak to him.”

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Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-16-2014

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The movies make it seem that everything dealing with crime and the underworld is done in the back alleys. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. Events happen in restaurants, deals are made on golf courses, and casinos are hosted in restaurant’s back rooms. In fact, so many things are done in the open that people never notice is because they think it’s just normal life.

I park the bike and kill the motor before taking a couple seconds to reload my pistol and chamber the first round. Underground casinos are rougher places than even the movies make them out to be. See, someone’s always trying to fuck the other person over, which of course leads to arguments and fights. Many of the dead bodies found in city’s come from people who’ve either been in a fight or cheated someone in the casino, so they were killed for it.

And I have zero intention of being one of those. Lacey’s attempt on my life came too close to killing me and I don’t intend on letting another person put me in that spot again. So, you can guarantee I’ll be watching my P’s and Q’s while moving through the underground.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m toning my mouth down-far from it. What I will do is keep from gambling and getting near someone else’s money. Hopefully, that will keep the amount of trouble that could happen down to a minimum, but, then, I’ve never had any confidence in the human race.

The restaurant is only half busy when I enter, so I’m able to go straight to the bar and sit down. It takes less than a minute for the bar tender to appear.

“You’re too young to be served here.”

I glance around to make sure no one can hear me before I drop my voice tone down enough to keep from being overhead by anyone. “I’m looking to play some craps.”

“Aren’t you a bit young for that?”

“Listen, bub, I know you have tables in the basement, so let’s cut the shit. How about just letting me in?”

“I could get in trouble for that…”

“Trust me; the people down there know who I am.”

“Sure they do.”

“If you think I’m going to give you my name, then you can keep dreaming. Just let me in.”

“Fine, your responsibility.”

“I can take care of myself.”

The man made a subtle motion to a waitress who then led me across the room and then we entered the employees lounge. From there she took me back towards the dressing room and then opened a door.

A cloud of cigarette smoke floated out and enveloped my head and I used a hand to clear the air. I know you’re surprised that I’m not coughing since I don’t smoke, but that was one of Tom’s bad habits. So, you see, I’ve been around enough cigarette smoke to not be bothered by it. But then, while you haven’t seen it, I do like to smoke an occasional cigarette myself.

Unlike the massive casinos on the Goddess of Space or in New Las Vegas, this one is small and cramped. Two poker tables, a roulette wheel, a blackjack station and a craps table were shoe horned into the one hundred foot long and thirty foot wide room. Throw in the twenty gamblers and the dealers and staff and you got one a mess.

And it was cold as ice down here. I guess when faced with the possibility of large numbers in a small space, the owners made sure they had enough air conditioning. While I found it ridiculous in a way, it made sense because the people who would frequent the place didn’t like to get dirty.

Several of the players eye me as I walk up to the craps table. Poker, blackjack and craps were the best spots to find people in the underworld who could give me information. The higher the risk, the more criminals like to take part in it, which makes me wonder if they’re adrenaline junkies.

The dice are in the center and I place some money on the ‘come’ section of the table. “Change,” I said.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said before giving me a stack of chips.

I take the chips, place them in the rack built into the table. Thank God I took time to look over the rules of Craps one day when I didn’t have to work for Alex and was bored to tears. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do and you know how that would go.

“Twenty on eight,” I said before placing the bet on the ‘come’ section.

The dealer picks up my chip and then places it on the eight in the cash register section. After that he starts to ask people for their bets and then makes sure the money is in the right places before picking up the dice.

One thing you always do at a craps table is to make sure your hands are not within the edge of the playing section. See, if the dice was to touch me, then it becomes a losing hand and I’m guaranteed to be out of that money, and as I’ve said before: I always leave with me than I started with.

The stickman pushes five dice over to me and I select two before he pulls the other three back and then puts them into the dice bag. Once I’m done rolling, he’ll use what’s inside the bag to have another five ready for the next player.

I pick the dice up with one hand, shake them slightly and then toss them across the table. If they don’t strike the far end then it’s not a legal roll, but I don’t have to worry. They hit the rubber and then lands on eight.

Good, I just won the money folks bet, which means I caught the attention of everyone at the table. Now, it’s time to go to work and find a good person for information. And God only knows how long that will take.

It takes a minute for the dealer to get the chips together and then slide them down to me. I take a couple seconds to collect them and then place them into the slot built into the table. Once this is done, I pick up some chips and put them on the table.

“Five,” I said.

Another roll and another win, which is making my stack of chips rather tall and is also catching the eye of several people. One is a goon that’s kept in the place to make sure no one is cheating; the rest are patrons. No doubt they’re sitting there wondering how the hell a teen girl go into the place and top to things off, was kicking their ass.

A waitress appears with a tray of drinks. “Drink, Ma’am?”

“A can of Coke.”

“Here you go.”

There are times you don’t realize how thirsty you are until you take that first swig. I hadn’t drunk anything since leaving the garage and that’d been a good two hours ago and there’d been a lot of exertion getting into Banderas’ house. Looking back at everything, it’s a shock that I didn’t drop to be honest.

“You’re on a bit of a streak.”

The man who stood beside me was impeccably dressed in a hand-made suit. He made me look like a poor pauper and from a moment I wanted to make a smart ass comment but I bite my tongue. This could quite possibly be my source to pump and it wouldn’t do much to help if I got nasty up front.

Yeah, I know it’s not one of my favorite things to do, but what the hell. Sometimes you have to suck it up, like I did with Archer in Richmond, and act decently if you want to get somewhere. The old adage ‘you get more flies with honey instead of vinegar’ holds true with criminals too.

“It’s a bit unusual for me,” I lied. “So I’m going to enjoy it.”

“A bit young to be gambling aren’t you?”

“Nope. I’m actually twenty-one, folks just think I’m younger due to my baby face.”

I roll snake eyes and then lose 300 dollars.

“Looks like my luck’s ended,” I said.

“I think you made a bunch of money.”

“Meh, money’s not everything.”

“I would agree.”

Now the trick is how to bring up the subject I want to discuss without sounding suspicious. Maybe I need to make it seem that I’m looking for a job? Or perhaps it’s better just to play dumb. Fuck if I know what to do.

“Besides,” I said, “I just want to kill some time.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what do you normally do?”

“Me?” I roll a seven and clean up again. “I’m an exterminator.”

“I hear ya.”

Those three words tell me he got the message loud and clear. Now I’m recognized as a fellow criminal-even if they don’t know me as Mareth. In all honesty, I’d love to keep my identity as Mareth hidden because the few of these fuckers know that, the better.

I subtly place a hundred dollar bill in front of him. “Can you help a girl out?”

“Sure.”

“Where can I find Lacey Marano?”

He looks at me, then the money and then at the table. “I don’t know who that is.”

You know those times when your built in bullshit detector goes off, letting you know when you’re being lied to? This is one of those times. He knows who Lacey is and is ducking the issue. Most times people do this when they want more money, so I’ll try that tack out before going in another direction.

I hand him another bill. “Do you know who I’m talking about now?”

“No.”

“How about now?”

“Sounds familiar.”

“Better?”

“Yeah. She killed her father.”

“I know that. What I’m looking for is where I can find her.”

“No one has seen her since she got back to earth. Half of the family is after her and rest is either on her side or staying out of it.”

“Damn. Who’s running the show now?”

“The Underboss has taken over.”

“Is that still Marco Picatta?”

“You seem to be knowledgeable about them.”

“It pays to know about all the people in the city.”

“I see.”

“Do they still work out of the same part of the city?”

“Yeah.”

I hand him some more money. “Thank you for your help.” I then turn my attention to the dealer. “Cash out, please.”

It takes a couple minutes for the dealer to exchange my chips into money. As usual I leave with three times as much as I came in with, which means the owners will be glad to see me leave.

Ok Lacey, I think, game on.

 

Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-14-2014

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A security dickhead approaches and takes my pistol from me before carrying it over and handing it to the woman. She looks at it for several minutes; all the while the sweat starts to bead up on my forehead. How fucking stupid could one human being and stay alive? First I let Lacey get over on me and now I still walked in a trap. For God’s sake if I don’t get my head out of my ass I’ll never make it home.

“Interesting weapon,” she said finally. “I’ve never seen one like this before. Is this the one your uncle made?”

I just shrugged.

“No need to stay silent, Mareth, because what you do in the next couple minutes will determine whether you and your friends live.”

“What the fuck ever.”

The woman pushed a button on her wrist computer and a holographic image of Janice appeared. A pair of security dickheads had a weapon to her head and she’d turned as white as a sheet. Goddamn it, what was this woman up to?

“Now,” the woman said, “you can see that I have your friend in a precarious position. As I do your other friend.” An image of Alex in the same position appeared next to Janice’s.

Great, just fucking great. Christ on a fucking stick, how did they manage to get the drop on those two and what the hell am I supposed to do about it? There’s no way in the goddamn world I’m letting them kill my friends, so I guess I need to stall until I can think of something.

“Ok,” I said. “What are you after?”

“Well, let me tell you up front: you hold the future of you and your friend’s lives.”

“I figured that shit out on my own. So, get to the fucking point.”

“You get one big mouth of you, young lady.”

“So sue me. Now, you’re killing me. Just tell me what you want.”

“You’re not dead yet,” she murmured. “Fine, I’ll tell you. I want you to work for me.”

“Pfft, why the fuck would I do that?”

“Because if you don’t, then your friends will die. And before you shoot your mouth off, you alone are wanted for almost fifty kills. That gives me the right to execute you right here.”

“Great. What the fuck do you want from me?”

“Well, it’s not what I want. I think you’re going to have to discuss that with my boss.”

“And who would that be?”

“The President.”

“Now it’s getting deep in here. Care to bullshit me some more?”

“She’s not bullshitting you.”

I turn to face the person who spoke and my jaw drops as I recognize the President.

“As you can see,” the woman said, “there’s more to this then you know.”

“No shit asshole.”

The President raised a hand. “No need to get nasty, Mareth.”

“How do you expect me to act, fuck face, when you’ve got my friends at gun point and are threatening me?”

“Point taken.”

“So, what do you want from me?”

“I want you to get that bomb back before Lacey Marano can cause a major problem.”

“What do you think I’m trying to do?”

“Well, I want to motivate you.”

“And this is supposed to help?”

The President sat down and then crossed his arms. “Given that you’re the one who killed the man elected to be Speaker of the House, it’d behoove you to help.”

“You do know that I’m an assassin, not a fucking spy.”

“You know how to track this girl down. Our people can’t move about in the underworld. You can do that freely.”

“News flash, buddy, but if I had so many friends, would we be having this discussion?”

“Because Mister Banderas owes me.”

“Let me guess, he has to work for you or go to prison too?”

“How astute of you.”

“Don’t try to be smooth to me, asshole. It doesn’t work.”

“Working for me can be very lucrative.”

“So’s being a hooker, doesn’t mean I want to be on your payroll.”

“You’ve already taken money from me-you just don’t know it.”

“What do you mean?”

“The little political assassination? That was paid for by my administration.”

“Oh, fuck…”

“Yeah, he was a little pain in the ass from my own party. Who had ideas of trying to become President.”

“You guys fucking amuse me. You kill each other to keep a damn job. That makes your little morality speeches fucking hilarious.”

“How colorful. You certainly have a nasty mouth of you, young lady.”

“Sue me then.”

“Well, since we’re going to have this little discussion, let me explain something to you. The Doctor you went after? We paid for that. There are six more people you’ve killed that have been paid for by the government. So, you see if anything happens to me, you go down too.”

You know, there’s times in life when you just wish you could strangle someone, but can’t. That’s how I felt at that moment after hearing the bullshit from the President. So, he’d commissioned me on hits and no one told me! I wonder if Janice and Alex knew this little tidbit and kept it from me.

“I can see the wheels in your mind work,” the President said. “You’re associates didn’t know it was us.”

In a way that was a relief but it still didn’t take edge off my bad mood. If there was one thing I didn’t want to do, it was work for the politicians. The fuckers liked to send people out on jobs and then turn on you like a snake. No, it was much better just staying away from them; it would be better for my long-term health.

Still, despite the fact walking away helped me the best, there was Alex and Janice to worry about. Something happened to them and my supply of clients dried up and what’s the point of being an assassin if there’s no one to kill? No, I’d have to work with the prick to keep them alive at least.

Christ I hated being put into situations like this because no matter what I do, I end up losing in some way. No doubt there’s another shoe about to drop and it would be something that would lead to me being in a position that allows the asshole sitting in front of me to win-that’s how politicos worked.

“So, here’s how it’s going to be,” he said. “You will find Marano, get the bomb back and then do whatever jobs we send your way.”

“I don’t need you to send me after that bitch. She’s tried to kill me, so it’s personal.”

“That doesn’t concern me. Making sure she doesn’t destroy a city or sell the device to someone who will does.”

“And I don’t give a fuck about your problem, so, there, we’re even.”

“I highly suggest you rethink that, Mareth. These men are prepared to take you into custody and drop you in some prison until you die of old age.”

“Thought you were going to execute me.”

“I changed my mind.”

“See, this is why I hate you fuckers; you can’t make up your goddamn minds.”

“You will do this.”

“No shit, Sherlock. Of course I’m going to have to do it. You got my friends with guns to their head. What the do you expect me to do, dickhead?”

“Good, I’m glad we’ve come to an agreement.”

An agreement my ass. It’s more like blackmail but I’m not saying that openly. I mean, what can you call it when someone is threatening your friends and colleagues with death if you don’t help? It’s certainly not a negotiation…that’s for damn sure. 

Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-12-2014

kite-liberator-3635

 

 

I can’t fucking believe I’m doing this.

The sales associate pulled another dress off the rack and handed it to me to try on. How the fuck did I end up having to go to another black tie party? Did Banderas have a clue just how much I hated having to get dolled up like some sex object and have to walk about in a set of high heels and an outfit that showed off my body?

Honestly, if I had my choice I’d rather spend fifteen rounds wrestling a bear than have to spend one minute in the kind of getup I’m having to buy. Not only does it bring up bad memories of Tom and his raping me, but it’s degrading and sends a message that I’m incapable of doing anything without relying on my looks.

I walk back to the changing room and slip out of my jeans and shirt and then pull the dress on. It clings to be body like a second skin, showing off each curve and every blemish that I have. My legs and ass, which seems to be two of things guys really like, are emphasized, and I have to admit that it does make me look good. In another life I’d’ve killed to look this good and feel sexy, but in this one I despise having to parade myself around in such a way.

Chalk up one more reason why I’m going to put a fucking bullet between Lacey’s eyes. If that bitch thinks I’m going to take this shit lying down, then she’s dumber than I think.

The poor sales associate it trying so hard to make me happy that I start to feel bad about my nasty attitude. It isn’t her fault that this is something that I truly despise, so I shouldn’t be taking it out on her, but I have been. Maybe I’m changing because normally this wouldn’t bother me in the least but today it’s nagging at me.

Ok, so this will be the outfit I’ll wear, now it’s on to finding a pair of shoes to match it. Given how I’ll have to dress, riding my bike it out of the question, which means having to take a cab but that’s not what concerns me. Beyond turning myself into a sex object, one of the things I despise out parties such as this is the inability to carry a weapon with me. The only place I could place it would be in the small purse I’ll have and that’ll be searched by the guards, which leaves me at a distinct disadvantage-especially when dealing with someone from Alliance Security.

A thought starts to tickle the back of my mind and I take the time to stop and let it develop. What if all this was an elaborate ruse by Banderas to get me into the hands of security? It sounds crazy as shit but he stands to gain a great deal by handing me over on a silver platter. First off, it would make him look very good to the people in Security, who would then be willing to look the other way so Banderas could operate freely. Secondly, it would allow him to not only hurt the Marano family by handing me over, but it’d make good payback for my killing his attorney.

Fuck, I thought, why didn’t I see this before?

I paid for the dress, shoes and purse while formulating a plan for dealing with this betrayal. Once again someone screwed me, and that wasn’t good for their long-term health. While I’d hoped that the Boss would’ve let bygones be bygones, I guess I was wrong. Fine, that just meant taking care of things my way.

Why couldn’t someone just have enough sense to realize that what Lacey planned was bad for all of us? If she managed to either sell or detonate that weapon, then Security would clamp down so tight on everything that no one would be able to work. Can’t they see that? Or would it take me operating alone, and trying to clear my organization’s name, to show that?

Either way, there wasn’t a chance in hell that I’d show up like Banderas expected. Oh, I’m going to the party, make no mistake about that, but it won’t be as some lamb being lead to the slaughter. This wasn’t going to be pleasant for the boss; that much would be for certain.

It takes thirty minutes to ride the subway back to the hotel and by the time I get there I’m in a royally bad mood. How the fuck could I, of all people, fall for such a fucking weak ass plan? Banderas wasn’t even being subtle about what he wanted to do and I almost walked into the trap!

I plop down on the couch and then cut on the daily news to see if watching the holovid will get me out of my snit. The babe reading off the broadcast went on about some conflict on the edge of Alliance space before mentioning the assassination I carried out. It seemed the security forces were no closer to determining who made the kill than they were before, which meant they were continuing to leak information out into the media.

Too bad for them that I don’t suffer from a big ego and have a need to brag about my kills. That actually was something Tom, believe it or not giving his temperament, taught me. Anyone who felt the need to brag about their accomplishments left themselves open to be manipulated into making a mistake. Armed with that knowledge, I learned early on to be proud of my work but not tell others about it. Besides, how many people truly needed to know about my kills anyway? Fewer that knew the better.

The party would be at eight tonight, which gave me another four hours to wait before I’d need to leave. Banderas’ house sat on four hundred acres in Loudon County, which was a forty-five minute drive from here. Of course it’d be heavily patrolled, but that wouldn’t be a problem.

I pull up a satellite image of the Boss’ property on my computer and spend the next hour looking at the holographic image. A creek cut a path through the woods on the northern edge of his property, which backed up to a mountain. Places for guards to avoid the elements were numerous, which told me he’d have probably close to thirty men covering the perimeter. No doubt they’d be in all-terrain vehicles, allowing them to stay on the move, which would prove problematic.

It would prove to be one of the most challenging, no make that the most challenging, entrance I’ve had to make onto a residential compound. If this worked to plan, than there’d be almost no place I couldn’t get into, and it’d definitely cement me as the top assassin in the Alliance-provided I can get in and out.

Once inside the fun would really begin and that’s what I really needed to plan for. Not only would there be Security dickheads there, but Banderas needed to be dealt with. I hate to hand the city over to whatever will be left of the Marano family, the Boss’ betrayal just couldn’t be allowed to slide. So, that meant needing to kill him too along with whoever gets in my way until I reach the Boss and the security mole. Maybe then I can clear my name from the WMD at least.

The sun is starting to go down as I roll up the driveway of the house and then stop outside the garage. While none of my rifles were exactly what I would want to do this, they were better than nothing. Thank God that I tend to be one that tries to cover all bases or I’d be totally fucked right now.

A .308 sniper rifle was a bit underpowered for what I wanted to accomplish but the R93 more than made up for it with its direct pull-back bolt action. That allowed me to reload and fire quicker than otherwise and when you factor in the ability to put a suppresser on it, than whatever weaknesses it had were mitigated. Besides, it was accurate up for 700 yards and I could assemble it in thirty seconds, so what more could I want?

I carefully load several 5-shot magazines, making sure that all the bullets were in slot correctly. As single job or misfire could be enough to get me killed, so it was better to take my time and get to Banderas’ place later than to rush and get myself into a bad situation. There would be only shot to get this done and damned if I was going to blow it-not after being screwed again.

You know, that’s one thing that’s starting to piss me off in this entire bullshit dog and pony show. How many times is someone going to fuck me over? I mean, do I have a bulls eye on my chest of something? All I do is provide a service, through an organization that gives the client complete anonymity and the ability to deny it all, and it seems everyone wants to get my ass. I just don’t get it.

Traffic is heavy when I leave the house and start off from Loudon. Rush hour started while I’d been getting my shit together, which meant it would take a lot longer than I expected to get to the house, which would be fine. No doubt Banderas’ men knew what my bike looked like now so I’d need to take an alternative route to get there and then back where I wanted to go.

Once outside of town, the traffic thinned dramatically and I opened up the throttle on the bike. The party would be starting in a little less than an hour and I needed to get into position to make my move. Banderas might suspect I’m going to do this, I’m betting he doesn’t make many changes to his security. If anything, the dickheads in security will be the ones who do the heavy lifting.

I turn off onto a country road a mile before reaching the Boss’ house and wind my way back through the woods. A dirt path then ran parallel with the back of Banderas’ property. From this point on things can go one of two ways: either I surprised Banderas by not appearing like the lamb to slaughter or I walk into a trap because he expected me to see through his ruse.

Knowing him, I thought, he won’t see it coming.

The bad thing about being in the country is that sound carries a long ways so I have to kill the bike’s motor sooner than I’d like. From here on out it’ll be by foot, and that included crossing the small creek at the back of Banderas’s property. Judging from what I saw on my computer, it’ll only be about three to four feet wide and maybe a foot deep, which I should be able to jump over. But you know how it is in life: there is no “should” so I’m expecting the worse.

My first step nearly results in my landing on my ass and I string together enough curses to make a sailor blush. The bad thing about trying to get to Banderas’ house is the trek through the woods. It’s bad enough to navigate a yard in the city at night, but it’s ten times worse when in rural areas.

I slip on a pair of what look like sunglasses, but they’re really night vision goggles. Every detail jumps out as the built in sensors send their information to a miniature computer chip that then displays the scene before me as if it’s midday. Now, it won’t take that long to reach where I can freely snipe.

Twenty minutes later I kneel down behind a fallen tree and then shrug the backpack off. One of the things I’ve always liked about the R93 was the fact that it was idiot proof. Anyone with half a brain could assemble it in less than a minute, even less if they had any kind of experience with the weapon.

The suppresser twisted on the end of the barrel, and I quickly spin it into place. Once that’s done, the first five shot magazine popped into the bottom of the body, and I then pulled the bolt back to chamber the first round before searching for a target.

As expected, Banderas had his security forces on atv’s to be able to cover the territory more effectively. That would be a problem because I couldn’t outrun one on foot, which meant trying to commandeer one or kill enough men to leave a big enough gap to move through.

Additional movement catches my attention and once I again I start to curse like a sailor. Six men, each in suits and carrying semi-automatic rifles, patrolled closer to the house and they all moved with the measured steps of a professionally trained hitter. So, the security dickheads were adding to the protective forces. That meant they expected me to just walk into the house and let them grab me. So, not going to happen.

Damn, the additional men, while expected, will make entering the house problematic at best. Throw in all the party goers and it might’ve have been a mistake to make this move. But, I’ve come this far, might as well finish it off.

The first patrol comes into sight and it lift the rifle into firing position and use the tree to balance it. I suck in a deep breath and then pull the trigger gently and am surprised when the rifle kicks back and strikes my shoulder. A single round strikes the guard in the head, blasting it apart, sending him flying off the ATV.

Another man comes into view and he spots the fallen guard and reaches for his radio. He never makes it. I drill him in the chest, and he slumps forward as the four-wheeler careens out of control and into the creek a hundred yards from where I’m at.

Ok, time to change locations so they don’t have a chance to triangulate on my location. I sling the rifle and then grab the backpack before I start to move through the brush, continuing to parallel the creek, until I reach a spot closer to the house yet still protected by the woods.

The creek is closer to four feet in width, which is a touch further than I can jump, but it’s less than a foot deep. So I risk crossing and wince as the ankle deep ice cold water soaks through my shoes and socks. It’ll be a long, cold ride home but if I accomplish what I set out to do, then it’ll be worth it.

From here I’ve moved a hundred yards closer to the house and have a clear view of the party going on inside. Damn, I was mistaken about the amount of external security. It’s far less than what I expected, which is enough to make me wonder if Banderas really thought I’d be stupid enough to walk right into his trap. If he did, then that’s fucking insulting.

Sometimes I wonder if these guys keep fucking me over because I’m a girl. See, assassins are almost always men and the ‘good old boy’ network definitely comes to play here. And God help you if they’re worse than a woman! Oh, no, can’t have that! So, I guess all this shit is coming down because of my gender; just one more reason for putting a bullet in the head of some of these fuckers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-10-2014

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Two years ago, when I started to sense a change in Tom and his friends, I’d come over here and went house hunting. After two weeks or searching I’d found a small, brick house, on King Street that had an eight foot tall red, brick wall cutting it off from the hustle and bustle of the restaurants and clubs. It’d taken several major bribes and a use of a false name to get the agent to sell the property to me but I’d gotten it and then went to work.

Over the next six months I quietly built up weapons, bullets and bought a Ducati; all items that were placed in the garage of the house. By the time I was exiled to Achernar, I’d put enough equipment in there to fight a small army and because everything had been paid for with cash, it was completely untraceable.

I enter my security code and then let open the gate and let myself in. The landscaping company I paid to keep things up did good work. No one looking from the outside would ever suspect no one lived here and that it was nothing but a weapons cache for a hired assassin.

The Ducati gleamed under the overhead lights as I entered the garage and then made my way towards the far end. Black and silver, its strength and beauty are what lead me to buy it all those years ago-and its matching twin on Achernar-but it’s not what I’m after right now.

A door on the side leads to a small stairway to takes me down below the garage’s floor. Once I reach the bottom, I snap my fingers and the lights click on and I wait for a couple seconds so my eyes can adjust before starting to look around.

While my cache would seem large to an uneducated observer, its small compared to what Alex could get his paws on. All I have stored here is three pistols identical to what I have, five assault rifles, and a couple of sniper rifles, a katana and few knives. What I do have plenty of though, is ammunition and that’s what I’m mostly interested in at this moment because what little bit Archer gave me in Richmond won’t last long in case of a fight.

I take a few minutes to load several magazines with either normal 9mm rounds of phosphor bullets before I put them into the inner pockets of my coat. No doubt the man I was going to see would have more firepower with his bodyguards, but I couldn’t afford to carry anything else and hope to get past his security. That didn’t mean I couldn’t stick a rifle and some ammo into a spot I had built into the Ducati’s fiberglass body, but what good would that do me if a gunfight started in the restaurant?

The Ducati starts up the moment I push the start button and then I use my computer to send my security code to the door and the gate before slowly pulling out of the compound. It would take twenty plus minutes to ride from here to Penn Quarter, which would give me plenty of time to get myself together and ready for what was to come.

I swear to God, I’m going to fucking kill Lacey when I get my hands on her!

Of course none of this would’ve been necessary if Janice and Alex hadn’t taken this job on. They both know I wanted a break…but then who the fuck am I trying to kid? My ass was going stir crazy having to stand around and do nothing while the heat died down from the political hit, so I’d’ve leapt at it myself if the bitch had come to me directly.

But, as some people like to say, that’s water under the bridge now. We took it on, Lacey played us, and here we all stood and make no mistake, my ass isn’t the only one on the line. Janice and Alex are in as much danger as I am because they also agreed to take on the ‘protection’ job, which meant I had to not only bail my nuts from the fire, but theirs too.

Christ, I want to stop the world and get the fuck off!

Ten minutes later reach the exit ramp from US 1 to the I495 beltway and I open up the throttle on the Ducati. The V-twin responds instantly and the bike leaps forwards and I start to race through traffic on my way towards the mixing bowl. Now I know what you’re thinking: why am I driving wildly through traffic if I want to keep a low profile? Well, I have an answer for that: while I’m moving faster than traffic, it’s not earth shattering higher and I’m making sure my moves aren’t too risky, which keeps the attention to myself lower than you’d think and still gets me back to Darbytown quicker.

You see, I can’t afford to waste much time because if Boss Banderas keeps his usual schedule, he’ll be arriving at Fiola twenty minutes from now. That gives me just enough time to make it through the mid-day traffic, park the bike, and get inside in time to catch him soon as he sits down. See, this is the time when he’s the most relaxed and willing to talk, which is what I need him to do.

The mixing bowl is its usual cluster fuck, which doesn’t’ surprise me in the least to be honest. They’ve been constantly working and reworking that interchange since the 20th century and the damn thing is still fucked. Why in the hell the Virginia state government couldn’t get a simple problem like that solved in nearly four hundred years was enough to give me a headache. Makes you wonder what the hell they’ve used all that tax money for, doesn’t it?

Once I hit I395, the traffic thinned slightly and I start making up the time lost getting through the interchange. After spending a year living in Greenmist, these traffic nightmares remind me of why I hated Darbytown in the first place. Yeah, the place might be my hometown but that didn’t mean I liked it here. It just ended up being where Dad and Mom settled down due to his military job with the Pentagon.

That reminds me, I’ve never told you anything about Mom have I? It’s easy for me to forget her since she died when I was eight. She too was military, in fact that’s how she met Dad, and was in intelligence. I know what you’re thinking: she was a spook, but that wasn’t true. From what Dad told me before he died, she was more like an intermediary in many ways. The spooks get the info, the analysts figured out what it meant, and then she delivered it to the field commanders and worked hand in hand as their connection to the spooks. So, in other words, she had probably the most important job of the three.

A shuttle accident.

That’s what the Pentagon called her death during a combat op on Zagot Six. I call bullshit because too many people claimed to have seen a SAM launched at the craft only seconds before it crashed. Also, a low level shuttle crash doesn’t shatter a craft to the point where there’s no piece of debris larger than a basketball either. But, how can you fight the government when they want to keep something secret?

There you have it: why I grew up in Darbytown in a short, concise explanation. This place has plenty of memories, some good but mostly bad, and in many ways is borderline emotionally overloading to deal with. At this point, I just want to find Lacey, stop her, clear the organization’s name, and get the hell out of here-and the quicker the better.

Chinatown is its usual hustle and bustle of activity when I ride through. The friendship arch has always been one of my favorite things in town and judging by the number of tourists walking the sidewalks, I’d say others felt the same way. It was too bad that Banderas didn’t like Chinese food because I sure as hell could go from some Happy Family right about now.

One reason why I have always preferred a motorcycle over a car is that it’s easy to park. While other vehicles needed large spaces to fit in, which are at a premium in Darbytown, the Ducati didn’t and that allowed me pull up the restaurant and park out front.

No doubt Banderas, if he kept the same schedule, would be surprised to see me. If Lacey’s family knew who I was and that I’d been banished from Earth, then he’d’ve been informed also, which meant the meeting to come would be very interesting indeed.

Two men are standing by a limo as I extent the kickstand and shut down the motor. Judging from their hand tailored suits and the small bulges due to their weapons, I’d say they were two of Banderas’ men. With any luck they won’t notice who I am and I’ll enter the restaurant unhindered.

Neither man makes a move to stop me and I flip my hair at them as I passed by. They didn’t need to worry, because the last thing I intended was to hurt the boss. To do so would allow the Marano clan to grow strong enough to take over the city and I’d die before I let that bastards reach that level.

Banderas, much as the name suggests, is of Spanish descent and he’s known to be both a highly intelligent and fiery Don. People who’ve crossed him haven’t lived long enough to regret it, while those that are loyal to him receive a largesse that would make a King blush. He also treated the members of his syndicate better than anyone I’ve ever run across, which explained their undying loyalty to him.

I spot the Don’s head of salt and pepper hair soon as I enter the room and I angle my way towards him. Three men appear from nowhere and they move to stand between me and Banderas, effectively cutting off my advance, while the two men seating with the Boss eyed me. No doubt they were wondering who the hell this teen girl was who made a beeline for them.

Banderas motioned to his men, who then stepped back enough to let me pass. They weren’t going to move far enough away to allow me to make a move to kill their boss, but they weren’t foolish enough to disobey either. Not that it really mattered, to be honest, because there was enough firepower there to put my ass in an early grave three times over.

“Mareth,” the Boss’ voice was deep and smooth as silk. “It’s been a while.”

“It has indeed, Don Banderas.”

“Last time I checked, you were on Greenmist as an independent contractor.”

“That is correct.”

“Why are you here on Earth?”

“I suspect you already know the answer to that, sir.”

Yes, I know you’re wondering why I’m keeping my sarcasm and language in check. Well, when you’re standing in front of one of the strongest men in the city and one that could kill me with the snap of a finger, you try not to antagonize him. In fact, the best thing to do if you have to deal with a Don is to be as submissive as possible.

“Actually, my dear girl, I was hoping you could tell me why the Alliance Security Forces are all over my turf.”

“I need your help, sir.”

“My help? Someone with your skills and connections needs my help? I find that surprising.”

“I need to find Lacey Marano.”

“I see. Do you have a contract on that little zorra?”

“I wish. This is personal, sir.”

“Interesting. Take a seat.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Banderas picked up his wineglass and took a long swig. “So, what’s so personal about this? Did you know Boss Marano?”

“No, sir, it’s a lot more complicated than that and will explain your security problems.”

I start to explain to Banderas what’s happened from the moment Lacey arrived at Alex’s to that moment. Much to my surprise, the Boss just sat there, taking it all in, and simply nodded his head from time to time. Unless he’s a shitty actor, the man hadn’t a clue about what happened.

“That’s not good,” he said once I finished.

“You can see why this is personal,” I said. “Otherwise both I and the organization will be forever linked to terrorists. That’s terrible for business.”

“That’s putting it mildly.”

“So, Sir, I really need your help.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Excuse me?”

“What’s in it for me if I help you?”

“Beyond making sure that little bitch is dead?”

“Yes.”

“With the elimination of Lacey Marano and the ones in the family backing her, their syndicate will be severely weakened. That’ll put you in a position to be able to take over their territory and thus control most of Darbytown.”

“I see. Mareth, for an assassin you have a keen mind.”

“Meh,” I said before shrugging. “I’m well educated, sir. It really comes in handy in my business.”

“It does indeed.”

“Can you help me?”

“I have a high-ranking connection in Alliance Security coming to a party at my house tonight,” Banderas said. “I want you to be there and I’ll introduce you two.”

Goddamn it, I thought, I’ve got to go to a fucking party? Can someone kill me now…

I work hard to keep the disgust from showing in my voice. “Thank you, sir.”

“Once you’ve gotten in contact with him, then maybe they’ll get off my back.”

“We can hope,” I said. “But no guarantees.”

“That’s the best I can do right now.”

“It’s better than nothing.”

“But, I will see if I can’t track down Lacey for you. What she’s done is bad for business.”

“Won’t get an argument from me.”

“The party starts at eight, Mareth. I do believe you remember the way?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll make sure my guards are expecting you. And do come unarmed this time. It’s rather insulting that you feel the need to be armed around me…”

Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-9-2014

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The sun shined bright and warm the next morning when I awoke and I just lay there in the bed and let the beam caress my nearly naked body. It isn’t very often that I do such as this, but given the past twenty four to thirty six hours, it was a luxury that I decided to take.

A slew of marks, each one turning an ugly purplish color, cover my legs and arms, reminded me of the hellish experience I went through yesterday. I sit up and then stretch like a cat before rolling out of bed, grabbing my pistol, and then walking over to the tub.

I adjust the water until it’s almost too hot for me to stand before I sit down and start the whirlpool feature. The jets of water hit my bruises, making me wince, before the stress that’d built up in my muscles started to fade away. Yes, I know hot water is the worst thing to do when dealing with fresh bruises, but it allows me to think and right now that’s the most important thing I need to do.

For the hundredth time I wish I was still on Acheron and had access to Janice. The amount of information she could dig up in a very short period of time can spoil a person, and being without it cripples my attempts to get a good plan together.

Despite having a full night’s worth of sleep, I start to doze off again thanks to the stress draining from my body. A part of my mind is screaming bloody murder, trying to tell me not to let my guard down but I ignore it. Let them come; just because I’m relaxing doesn’t mean I’m any less dangerous than I am any other time and the first person who tried to test me would find his ass pushing up daisies.

One thing about this entire series of events really bothers me. How, and when, did Lacey get her greedy little paws on an antimatter bomb? Did she buy it from terrorists, steal it for them, or did the bitch plan on using it as an extortion tool?

Obviously, given the Security hitter I killed at the Westin, the government knows who took the weapon of mass destruction. Unlike Lacey, I know the Alliance won’t sleep until they got the bomb back and they didn’t care about the body count. While I kill because I enjoy doing it, they have a government sanctioned license to eliminate any threat to the greater good, which puts me at a disadvantage.

Believe it or not, but I actually miss having Tom’s connections right now. If he were still alive, I could either find out where the security dickheads were or he’d be able to run some interference. However, given the fact that I killed him, I can’t blame anyone other than myself for my lack of help.

I kill the jets, then bathe myself and then wash my hair before draining the tub. With any luck I’ll be able to track Lacey down and stop her before Security catches up to her. This way I can clear my name and not be seen as an accomplice in her theft and attempted sale of a WMD.

It looked like a visit to Penn Quarter would be in order so I pick clothes that are conservative, look like they fit in with a rich, exclusive clientele and was functional. The last thing I needed was for anyone in the damn place to suspect that I’m armed-not that I’d be the only one. But, I can guarantee you I’d be the only one known to be an assassin, and that alone would put me at a big disadvantage.

For the first time in many months I take a minute to look myself over. My brown hair reaches down to my smart, pert breasts, and the boys tell me that my high cheekbones, small nose and blue eyes are attractive. The blue shirt, black jeans and black leather jacket are conservative enough to fit in with the diners and still allow me to carry my gun and knife.

The hotel’s elevator impressed me even more than the one in the Westin did. All four walls were made of a bronze that’d been buffed to where you could see your reflection and an employee in old style uniform operated the controls so a customer didn’t have to lift a finger.

I reach into a pocket and then give the boy a tip, which brought a smile to his face, and then settled back for the ride. First things first, I needed to get to my cache, which meant heading back over to Virginia and the relative safety of numbers. Just one more subway ride and then I’ll be able to control my own transportation.

A combination of government workers and tourists surround me as I join the sea of humanity on the sidewalk and head off towards the subway station. One thing about Darbytown and its role as Alliance capital: there’s always a mass of tourists and government workers everywhere you go. And the best thing about it all is that it plays into the hands of someone like me who can play chameleon.

Sometimes I wonder if the people in the capital realize how weak their security is. The government invests so much money into various security systems and agencies yet here I am, moving around the place unmolested and completely under the radar. I guess it shows that you can expend all the fucking money and resources you want, but if someone knows what they’re doing they can avoid it all.

Nothing personified this laxness more than the two police guarding the subway station. They were more interested in shooting the shit then watching the people entering and exiting. Christ, they better be thanking God that I’m an assassin and not a terrorist or there’d be big trouble.

A boy, somewhere around four or five if I had to guess, brushed up against my leg as I entered the subway. For a moment he has my complete attention; his blonde hair glowing like gold due to the bright lighting, and his giggle of happiness causes me to look way.

Fuck that shit, I thought. There wasn’t a damn chance in hell that I could ever have a life like that again, so why torment myself?

I spot a transit cop winding her way through the throngs on the car as I sit down. In less than the blink of an eye I change into ‘bored teenager’ mode and then look out the window. The lighting is perfect for reflections so I can sit here and watch the woman approach without being obvious.

She stops two seats behind me and starts to question another pair of teens, which makes my antenna perk up. There was nothing to keep the bitch from hassling me like those two boys, so I prepared for a potential confrontation and how it should be handled. Christ, if she were to take me downtown now everything would become one giant cluster fuck and a half.

Something one of the boys says leads to the officer raise her voice for a moment before speaking into her radio. Oh for Christ sake, is the world made up of nothing but fucking morons? Now that they’ve gotten her worked up, that means other officers will come and that potentially becomes a problem I don’t need.

Three more officers appear almost if by magic and they start to question the two boys. Voices continued to rise, as did the tension, and I do everything I can to be as non-descript as possible. Let those two dumb fucks go to jail, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to join them. Lacey remained free and I owe her a bullet through the head too.

In the reflection of the window, I watch the cops seize drug paraphernalia and weapons off the boys. What a pair of fucking morons! Only an idiot carries both a weapon and drugs onto the subway-especially if their gun didn’t spoof the scanners like mine did. If they were going to be that stupid, then perhaps it was a good thing they got busted instead to be honest.

The train slows for the next station while I continue to watch the scene unfold. By now one of them, a tall pale skinned boy with hair that reached his shoulders, was growing belligerent and the police were starting to feed off it. If something didn’t change soon, then there’d be a ripe case of police brutality taking place on the subway, which is going to be my worst nightmare.

Honestly, I can’t believe what I’m seeing! These two little piss ant punks were going to get the cops fired up enough that it could cause a major issue to me trying to get to my location without delay. Hell, if we weren’t in a subway car, I’d’ve just killed the five of them and been done with it.

The boys continue to yell as they’re placed in cuffs and then frog walked from the train. Thank God! That’s one less pain in the ass I have to worry about on this little trip!

Once the small group left the train, the doors closed and it pulled away from the station. Two more stops and I’d be where I needed to be, which meant I wasn’t too far behind schedule now thankfully. With any luck, and I have no reason to think it wouldn’t be there, my little stash will be where I left it.

A thousand details are running through my head as the train climbs back up and run above ground again. The morning sun’s shining off the windows of the Watergate complex, giving them a golden shine that contrasted greatly with their role in the end of an American presidency. At this time of year the Potomac is beautiful, and probably the one thing I miss the most about Darbytown, and pleasure craft are passing under the bridge and motoring up river.

“Next stop, Arlington National Cemetery.”

Those five words cause the hand to grab my heart and then start to crush it and I find it hard to breathe. Dad’s buried there, along with my grandfather and great-uncle. The three of them were military men through and through and they’d served with valor and earned a hero’s funeral and the right to be interned in the most hallowed ground in the Alliance.

I suck in a deep breath and then join the crowds of tourists about the exit the train. Fuck Lacey and her antimatter bomb and the Alliance security forces too. It’s been two years since I’ve seen my Dad and, goddamn it, that takes precedence over anything now.

Ground cars and busses are lined up as they slowly make their way up Memorial Drive and into the cemetery. A pair of children look down at me from the window of their tour bus as I walk past. They wave and I give them a smile and return the favor.

A wave of heat rushes up my chest and my neck turns a shade of red as I stuff my hands into my coat’s pockets and keep moving. No doubt Dad would be disappointed as hell in me if he was alive, but he can thank Tom for this career move. No, that’s not fair. Like I said before, I think I’d’ve still been an assassin even if he did live-I would’ve just been more careful about what I did is all.

Dad’s grave, along with Grandpa Bob’s and Uncle Al’s, has a clear view of the Jefferson Memorial and the reflecting pool at its base. From where I stand, I can see the sunlight reflecting off the water, and how it glittered like Gold while the white, marble monument of Jefferson contrasted against the dark blue sky.

“Hi dad,” I said as I squat down to look at his headstone. “I know it’s been a long time.”

They say that no one is with you when you’re in the cemetery but I think they’re full of shit. Every time I’ve come to see Dad, I swear I can feel him holding me in his arms and this is no different. A gentle warmth starts to envelop me, almost as if I’m wrapped up in a blanket, and I know its Dad.

“I’m sorry it’s been so long. Things have been crazy.”

Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-7-2014

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The vibration of the engine slowed and I awake, all vestiges of sleep gone in an instant. A small town is on the left as we slow for a stop at a two story station. O’Reilly brings the train to a stop as I look over at the City of Fredericksburg.

Despite living in Darbytown, which is only an hour away, I have never seen this city and honestly it’s fascinating. While there is no sky scrapers or anything that screamed “city” it had a bustling center of town that appeared to be a historical area. From our location on the elevated bridge, I can look down at the people milling below.

It’d be so easy to snipe them from here, to put a single shot in each of their heads. The very thought causes a chill to run up my spine and it reminds me of a fact that I know so well. I am a predator; someone that feeds off the billions of sheep that live their quiet lives in what they think is safety.

You see, that’s the problem with this world. People think there’s no chance of anything happening to them, that the police and military alone will keep them safe. That’s a load of shit and deep down inside I wonder if they realize that. There’s no chance a cop can be everywhere at once and even if they were, I could kill them without breaking a sweat.

I let my mind wander for several minutes as passengers disembark and others board. No point in being but so alert since no one could get into the cab. That doesn’t mean I’m relaxed, mind you, just enjoying a moment of relative peace.

“I know I shouldn’t ask,” O’Reilly said. “But what’s going on in Darbtytown that’s so important you’d take this big of a risk to get there?”

I chew on the end of my thumb for a couple of seconds while I mull his question over. Telling the truth would leave me open to be screwed down the road; keeping quiet wouldn’t be much better because then O’Reilly would start asking others. And ducking the issue? That makes me seem even guiltier.

“It’s a long story.”

“I know there’s some sort of cluster fuck going with the family higher ups. You wouldn’t be involved in that?”

“For a member of the mafia, you sure have a big fucking mouth.”

“Forget that I asked.”

“No, I’m saying that you need to learn when not to ask a question. Sometimes you can, other times you can’t. A situation like this is one you don’t get your nose into it.”

“Got it.”

“Normally I’d’ve killed you out of hand, but I’m feeling generous for some fucking reason or another. So, keep your trap shut.”

O’Reilly nodded.

“How long before we reach Darbytown?”

“Another forty to forty five minutes due to station stops.”

“Where’s the closest subway?”

“Franconia and Springfield station.”

“How long before we get there?”

“Twenty minutes.”

“You will look the other way then or I’ll kill you, got it?”

With that an uneasy silence settled over the cab and I went back to watching the world below. Being asked what was going on by such a small fish both disturbed me and pissed me off at the same time. Just how many goddamn people know who I am and what’s going on?

Furthermore, could I trust them to keep their fucking mouths shut? The last thing that this situation needed was shit tons of people spreading information on the street. If that happened, it would surely get back to Lacey and she’d leave town, putting me back to square one.

And to make things worse, I’d be back to riding the damn Metro subway again. Compared to the one on Greenmist, Darbytown’s was filthy and poorly lit and I haven’t missed it one bit. Now, I’ll have to find a way to duck cops who may or may not be looking for me.

The second challenge will be getting to my weapons cache and finding where Lacey is. God only knows what that might take! And so help me if I have to go to some high class party to get information I’ll pull my fucking hair out!

Now, where should I start? Boss Banderas might be a source of information, but I killed one of his lawyers when working for Tom so he might hold a grudge. Josephine could help, but I know she’s pissed at me for killing a rapist before she could. Fuck, the list goes on so long and each has a reason to hate me.

This is going to be so much fun.

It looks like the best thing I can do is to focus on each small task before moving to the next. Right now, I need to get from the train to the subway without drawing attention to myself. From there it’s getting back to Darbytown and find a place to stay. No doubt the place where Tom and I lived has been rented out again or is still locked down as a potential crime scene. Looked like a hotel would be in order.

Unlike Lacey who needed to lie low during her faked pursuit, I needed to stay at a nice place. It’d be one of the last things the police or alliance security would expect. They’ll be operating on the premise that I’ll try to keep a low profile, so they’ll be checking out every non-descript place while I’m in the Four Seasons or something like that.

But to get the room, I’ll have to change clothes again, or at least get a suitcase to keep up the appearance of being a teen tourist. That way no one would suspect who I am and I’d have free reign to come and go. Hopefully, with any luck, no one will get the brilliant idea to check the place out.

The train slows to a stop at the station and I open the door and then climb down the ladder. Fortunately, the conductor is looking the other direction, so no one sees me exit and then disappear into the shadows. A handful of people disembark and then head for the subway station, so I quietly join them. Once again, the big city idea of no one paying any attention to what’s going on around them works to my advantage.

I swear that people are stupid and more like cattle than they want to admit. Individually, a human being can be very dangerous, but once in packs they just go with the flow, which I continually take advantage of. See, a predator will the ability to be a chameleon blends in so much that it’s as if he or she doesn’t exist until they strike.

And strike I could and it’s so tempting to do so. The ten people around me could all be dead in less than fifteen seconds and I’d walk away undetected. Only problem is I’d waste some of my precious bullets.

The station proves colder than even the air outside and it makes me shiver despite the cloak covering most of my upper body. A couple of minutes later the train comes into view and I take in a deep breath and then sigh. Things were about to heat up and this would be my last chance to just walk away and forget the entire thing.

There’s nothing to keep Lacey from coming after me again, I thought. Might as well finish what I started.

I plop down and then look out the window and luxuriate in the car’s warmth. A slight shudder causes my teeth to clatter together and then the subway started to pull away from the station. From this distance, it’d take almost an hour to get to town, so nothing to do but sit, wait and plan.

It doesn’t matter how many people are pissed at me in Darbytown, they will help me. Otherwise, I might lose my temper and body bags will be needed. See, these guys might think they’re tough, but they haven’t seen anything like me and I will get the help I need.

This and a thousand thoughts are racing through my head as I brood over the situation. Lacey was a smart bitch, I got to give her that, to be able to pull the wool over both Alex and Janice’s eyes. That made her a formidable opponent, even if she didn’t have the bomb, and not one to be taken lightly. I needed to keep that in mind from here on out and plan accordingly.

Metro center, where the red, yellow, orange and blue lines all cross each other, is where I need to change trains at. From there I’ll hop a red line train and ride it over to Brandenburg Circle. It wouldn’t take long to find a place to stay-once I get what I need to keep my cover.

You know, sometimes I feel like a secret agent, and in many ways the way we do things aren’t much different. Both of us have to keep up facades and pretend to be people we’re not while going about our daily lives. We also can’t afford to let people know our true names and for the most part tend to live our lives on the move.

I can’t help but think about what Tom made me do when I lived here last. The feel of the cold steel in my hands and the oily, almost metallic odor of gun oil hung in the air that first time I handled a weapon. So many guns had been fired in the range that my mouth filled with the bitter taste of gunpowder.

“Don’t lift your thumb up like that,” Tom would say. “The kickback will take off the tip of it. Cross them like this…”

The first time the weapon fired, it terrified me despite all the warnings Tom gave, and the bullet missed the target all together. Tom smacked me on the back of the head and then scolded me for wasting the bullet. It was then that I learned the lesson of making sure each one hits its mark and to not miss.

I absorbed everything Tom taught like a sponge, and my marksmanship improved by leaps and bounds. Within a month I was hitting the kill zone with regularity; six months later I could put an entire magazine into a space no bigger than my hand. Tom, of course, was pleased and then sent me onto the rest of my training.

Compared to firearms training, learning how to hack security systems was a pain in the ass. This took longer than anything else involving my training. To this day I don’t know how Lieutenant Katsasuki kept her temper in check.

From there it became hand to hand, and Ricky taught me that and he spared nothing. Landing hard on the mat and coming home with tons of bruises was a fact of life back then.

Of all the things I learned, it was making the connections with the underworld that proved the easiest. Despite being an assassin for a crooked cop-or maybe because of-the criminals took me in and made me feel at home. Perhaps it was because they too were predators and they understood that when one of their own got killed it wasn’t personal; that it was just business.

Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-6-2014

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The warm water caressed me, helping to loosen up tight muscles, as I washed the dirt off. My scalp stung and then tingled when I cleaned the area around where Lacey’s thugs clubbed me. Further down my body, a pair of ugly bruises on my leg was the proof that I’d been cooped up in the trunk of that car.

For the first time in many years I found myself wishing this was all a bad dream and I’d wake up anytime. Because never in my life did I ever dream that I’d have to play savior for people I didn’t know or give a shit about. It’s so against my nature to do so that it’s quite shocking to be honest.

Unfortunately, it’s not a dream but reality, which means each minute I spend in the shower is one less that I can use to catch Lacey. And the fact that the little bitch had no intention of paying me for the job also pissed me off because I don’t work for free. Sad thing is that I will end up having to do that now in order to prevent that weapon reaching the wrong hands.

I grab my gun off the shelf in the shower and then dry quickly before dressing and unlocking the door. Nico was waiting patiently in the living area and looks me over as I approach. It isn’t hard to read his mind. He sees an attractive young woman who’s fit and barely has an ounce of fat on her body.

No doubt he’s fighting to keep from getting an erection, which I ignore. It’s not my problem that he can’t keep his raging hormones under control. As long as he helps me make contact with those that can help me, then I don’t give a shit.

“Ok, let’s go to the mall,” I said, “I need to ditch this shit.”

“Glad you said it and not me.”

“Don’t get smart Nico.”

“Got it.”

The cloak feels comforting as I slip it on and then take a second to put my gloves back on. Honestly, I hate the times when I have to act normal because it doesn’t describe me whatsoever. I am a killer, someone who can end another’s life without batting an eye, not a regular person and in many ways trying to be one is both taxing and confusing.

When we arrive at the mall it takes less than five minutes before I’m shivering. The rows of shops take the breeze, chilled it further, and then accelerated it into a burst of wind that’d cut right through a person’s soul. Throw in the fact that my hair is still wet and it’s a recipe for getting sick as a damn dog.

“This looks good,” I said before entering a shop.

It took less than a minute for an associate to walk up and start talking. She wants to know what my taste is like, and the sizes I wear; all the information a good employee would need to know in order to help pick out the appropriate clothing.

Twenty minutes later, I’m looking at the outfit in the dressing room’s mirror. The black shirt, matching leather vest and jeans look good on me. They make me look both stylish and non-threatening at the same time, which is how I want people to view me.

“Hmm,” the associate said. “I don’t know if I like the cloak. Seems a bit too dark.”

“It’s ok,” I said as I pay. “It’s cold outside.”

Nico, much to his credit, has stayed silent the entire time and merely raised an eyebrow at the conversation. Of course he knows there’s a gun on my belt, but he still didn’t know who I was, and with any luck he’ll never figure it out. Because the moment he does is when I have to kill him; no way in hell I can afford to have anyone know my true identity whether here or on Achernar.

A gust of wind lifts my damp hair up, exposing my neck, and Goosebumps instantly break out. Christ, it’ll be nice to get back into Nico’s truck where it’s warm and my hair will dry quicker.

In all honesty, I’d like to be able to move about without needing his help, which soon will be a reality. All I need to do now is get in contact with the person who can help me get onto the train. After that, it’s on to Darbytown and hopefully I can get back on the trail Lacey will have left.

“Ok,” I said. “I look presentable now. Who do I see?”

“Quinto Archer,” he said. “He runs this city.”

“Where do I find him?”

“It’s early evening; he’ll be having dinner at a restaurant downtown.”

“Fine, let’s get this show on the road. I really got to get the Darbytown.”

“Does this have anything to do with the Marano family civil war?”

“Nope.”

“Damn, because that’s a mess.”

“What the hell’s going on?”

“The daughter’s killed her Dad,” Nico said. “And the family is fighting itself. One side backs her while the other is trying to keep her from leading the syndicate.”

“The word mess doesn’t even begin to describe that situation then,” I said. “I prefer the term ‘fucking disaster.’”

Richmond rush hour traffic isn’t nearly as bad as Greenmist’s, but the roads aren’t designed as well, so takes longer than I wanted to get into the city. Buildings, most no more than twenty to thirty stories tall, make up the city skyline as we drive down the Downtown Expressway. In many ways, the city has more charm and character than does Greenmist, but it’s much too small for someone like me to either operate in or from. Even the greenest of rookie member of the Alliance Marshalls would be able to find me here.

A sign up ahead says “Fifth Street, Downtown Richmond” and Nico takes the exit. The smooth highway changes to rough, cobblestone and the vehicle starts to rattle around me. In fact, the blows are so hard they make the pounding I took in the trunk mild by comparison.

Finally he reaches a section of town where former warehouses and row houses have been transformed into businesses. When asked where we were, all he would tell me was ‘The Slip.’ Whether that meant a person needed to watch their step, avoid con artists, or if it’s just a name given to the area beat the hell out of me.

“Here we are.”

 

Athol Rough Draft Snippet 2-5-14

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A sudden lurch, followed by the sound of a wheel landing in a pot hole, woke me up and I tried to sit up only to slam my forehead into something metal. Darkness surrounded me when I opened my eyes and the sound of the wind passing by outside sounded almost like a jet engine.

Damn, I couldn’t believe that I let Lacey outsmart me like that, especially when I had to goods on her. Of course she killed her father because if it’d been planned by a third party, she’d’ve been dead long before reaching Achernar. That was a little fact that slipped past Janice, Alex and I and now it became my problem.

Trying to determine where one is at without being able to see is a challenge because other than lying on my back, I can’t tell a damn thing about where I am. The ceiling is metal, that much was for certain, but the section to my left and the floor were carpeted. Throw in the sound of the wind and it takes me less than a second to figure out where I’m at.

I’m in the trunk of a car.

No doubt Lacey’s henchmen were taking me somewhere outside of town where no one would find my body. That would be what I’d do in her shoes given the situation the little bitch found herself in. Did she honestly think that either the organization or I would figure out the truth?

How many men would she have tasked with killing me? Sending only one would be just about a sure fire invitation for me to escape. Two would take more work because it’s hard to kill one without the other making a move. If it’s three I can give it up because there wasn’t a chance in hell of beating them.

I feel around for anything that could be used for a weapon. There wasn’t a need to search for the tire iron, because it’d be kept with the spare tire which was in a compartment under me. My fingertips brush against something metallic and I carefully feel around and find a long, cylindrical object. One end is concaved like the bottom of a soda can while the other had a button that could be depressed.

A spray can.

The car slows to a stop as I finger around and find how to aim the can and then pull it close to me. No telling what’s in it, but it certainly couldn’t be good to either breath of get hit in the face with, which would certainly give me enough time to get out of the car. Besides, no matter how skilled I am, I’m still a teen of average height and build; the man sent to kill me more than likely make me look small, so anything that helps me level the playing field is a good thing.

Someone opens the driver’s door and then the passenger follows suit as my heart starts to beat faster. Why the hell am I even in this situation? I’m an assassin for hire, not someone that the mafia would want dead. If only Janice hadn’t taken this damn job, then none of this would be happening.

Rocks crunch under the foot as I take the last few seconds to judge how many were coming. One, two, three then four footfalls and my spirits start to climb. Ok, so the bitch sent two fuckers to try and send me to the afterlife. Well, I got news for them; that ain’t happening.

“Don’t underestimate this girl,” one said. “Make sure you’ve got your gun out.”

“She’s not even awake yet,” the second said, his voice a hair softer which told me he was further away. “That’s a really good rap on the head Emilio gave her.”

No shit Sherlock, I thought.

The trunk lid starts to rise and the first of the light reaches me and it hurts, fuck it did, as my eyes struggled to compensate for the sudden brightness. Every instinct in my body is screaming to me to close my eyes, but I don’t dare do so. If I were to give in, then my life would end right here and I didn’t want to only make seventeen.

In a move that takes the two wise guy’s by surprise, I shove the trunk lid upwards and then extended my arm. The button gave way under my finger and then depressed, opening up the spray end. A brown chemical shot from the end, striking the closest man in the face.

He shrieked and then dropped his pistol as he brought both hands up and started to claw at his eyes. The second man went to raise his gun as I pointed the can at him and then pressed the button again. Another load of chemical shot towards him and the gangster dropped his weapon and tried to cover his face with both hands.

I rolled out of the trunk and landed on the ground hard enough to nearly knock the wind from me. The first man continued to scream and he staggered about blindly but he wasn’t the one I was concerned about.

Because he’d been smart enough to stand further back in case I did something like this, the second fucker didn’t get enough of the spray in his face to blind him. Now it would be a race to see who got to a weapon first and that was one contest I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, lose.

I grab the pistol as I rolled clear of the staggering man and then brought it up the fire. The gangster looks me in the eye before his grow wide. No doubt the fucker just realized what kind of shark he’d cornered but it was too little too late. If the fucker would’ve used his goddamn head, then he’d’ve never tried the kill me.

The pistol kicks in my hand and the first .45 round strikes him in the chest, blasting a hole through him, sending blood flying before he hit the ground. I scrambled to my feet and raced over to where he lay and then put two into his head.

One down.

Now, time to take care of the blinded one and get the fuck out of here. Two rounds to his head put him down and I then toss the pistol onto the ground beside the corpses before approaching the car.

I peer through the window at the back seat and a wolfish smile mars my pretty features. On the floor behind the driver’s seat were my cloak, gloves and pistol and I start to laugh uncontrollably. Lacey might fashion herself as some fucking criminal genius but a fucking idiot is who she really is.

Maybe calling her a fucking idiot is too harsh; perhaps arrogant bitch would be a better description. Who else would send only two men to kill an assassin of my caliber and, if that wasn’t enough, bring all my gear at the same time? If that didn’t rank up there with Custer, then I don’t know what did.

For the first time I stop and take a look around to see where the hell I’m at. Fields of soybeans and peanuts surround me on all sides and when I look at where we came all I see is a small farm path that stretched off into the distance. Christ, it all looks the same so I use the sun to figure out my directions before starting a short way down the path.

A quick look at the GPS on my computer and I let out a sigh of resignation. Forty miles to the city of Richmond, then I’ve got to figure a way back to Darbytown from there. The car will be useless before long because Lacey will be expecting a call from twiddle-de and twiddle-dumb and when they don’t check in she’ll no doubt report the vehicle stolen.

The pistol felt reassuring as I slip it back into the holster and then pull the cloak over me to stay warm. How long have I been out? It’s a three hours or more drive to Richmond from Darbytown and that didn’t count the shuttle flight or the time to get here.

My head is throbbing, and not just from the lump on the back, as I slip into the driver’s seat and start the motor. A feeling of nausea washes over me for a second and I lay my forehead against the steering wheel and wait for it to pass.

“Oh you fucking bastards,” I whispered. “You fucking drugged me. You goddamn assholes. I’m going to fucking kill you!”

Given how rough the path is, it’s a fucking miracle that I didn’t get beat to death while in the trunk. I’d love to know how to the dynamic duo back there managed to get a car this far back! If anything, they should’ve used a truck to get to the spot, but then they would have a hard time hiding me that way.

Not surprisingly, nothing is coming when I pull out onto the main road. According to my computer I’m in the western edge of Goochland County, not far from Columbia, Va and a good hour’s worth of driving from the city. However, to get to Richmond, I’ve got to travel through the county courthouse, which is a place I could get stopped when Lacey makes her phone call.

The two lane road runs through some of the prettiest countryside I’ve seen. Gently rolling hills and the occasional view of the James River makes the time seem to fly as I keep to the speed limit. No need to draw attention to myself; the more I stay below the radar the better it is for this entire situation.

Janice barely got the information about the security agency killer, and that Lacey killed her on father, to me in time. The messages had been sent in two parts to lessen the risk of interception and increase the odds that I’d get at least one piece of the pie. While Janice did good work getting it, and trust me I’m proud of her and Alex’s legwork after my request, it’d been nice to have known this before leaving Achernar.

A light blinks on the car’s control panel to alert me of an incoming call. No doubt it was Lacey wanting to check on her hitters and to find out if I’m dead. Now it’s decision time. Ignore the call and she’ll know something is wrong and make her countermoves. Answer it and she’ll know for sure I’m alive and things will become very interesting indeed.

Might as well just answer it, I thought.

“Lacey.”

“Mareth, I should’ve known you’d find a way to remain alive.”

“Yes, you should have.”

“How did you like being outsmarted?”

“An arrogant bitch and annoying at the same time. You’ve got a full house going.”

“Do I detect a little anger showing? Am I hitting a nerve?”

“The only thing you’re hitting is the asshole quota for the day.”

“There’s not a chance in hell you’re leaving Earth alive.”

“I like it here, think I’ll stay for a while. Hell, maybe permanently just to piss your sorry ass off.”

“You’re out of your league, Mareth. It’s time for the adults to play.”

“Well, bitch, if that’s the fucking case, let me clue you in on some ‘adult’ advice. When you go to kill someone, finish the goddamn job!”

“Interesting. I’ll take that under consideration.”

“And here’s something else to consider. You’re a fucking arrogant little rich bitch.”

“And you’re going to be dead soon, Mareth. If my people don’t get you, the government will.”

“Maybe, but I’ll promise you one thing. I’m going to end your miserable life. And you’re going to die screaming.”

The silence on the other end told me the message was received loud and clear.

“One last thing, Lacey.”

“Yes?”

“Fuck you.” I said before killing the connection.

Athol Novel Rough Draft Snippet 2 2-3-2014

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They say that man’s basic nature changed as he evolved and moved further out into space; that his urge for violence against other members of humanity faded. In my opinion, that’s a crock of shit but that’s neither here nor there.

One thing about being in my line of work, you always get to see the true nature of mankind, and it isn’t pretty. Someone is always lying to another person, or committing a crime and getting away with it or even trying to steal from other criminals. Either way, it’s enough of a shit soup to shoot down that optimistic garbage.

I watch the people entering and exiting the subway, staying ever vigilant that someone might sneak up on me again like on Earth. That’d been a close call and frankly I’m surprised I’m even here to write this.

Believe it or not, the safest place to sit on the train is a window seat. No matter how you cut it, no person can see behind them; it’s physically impossible, but there is a way to cheat. Most people don’t notice it but every once and a while but a window, especially at night, reflects what’s within its field of vision. And in this case it acts like a mirror and allows me to see what’s going on behind me.

At this time it’s just a mother and child who are on their way home from a shopping trip. They’re about as non-threatening as vanilla ice cream but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep an eye on them. Anyone can be a hazard for a person like me so I remain vigilant.

What’s funny is despite all this internal vigilance, anyone looking at me from the outside would just see a brown haired seventeen year old girl wearing a blue-black cloak and gloves. Given that it’s the winter and the temps are low, there’s nothing out of place about it. And that’s how I like it.

Despite my best efforts, the gentle rocking and the wheels’ sounds start to lull me towards sleep. It’ll take a good hour more to reach where I need to be, so I keep on eye open while dozing. No one with any brains will try to make a move in such a contained area without any means of escape, which allows me to relax just a bit.

A holographic image of a blonde woman is talking as she starts to inform people of the news of the day. It seems that a trial of a gangster didn’t go well and he managed to walk without being found guilty. That isn’t surprising given how much power organized crime has here on Achernar Nine and its ability to shape both the courts and businesses.

Around me people grumble over how the man managed to escape justice once again and how the system needed to change. While I can understand their dislike of things, I don’t want it to change. To do so would put someone like me out of work and that’s not a Good Thing, so let them wish it all they want.

The train slows for the station and I’m instantly wide awake and alert. This is the most dangerous time for me during this part of my travels. With dozens of people entering and leaving the car it is almost impossible to keep track of them all, so I have to stay alert and conscious of anyone wanting to make a move at me.

Christ, I hate taking the subway to get where I need to go. It reminds me too much of the kills I made for Tom, but there really isn’t much other choice. Despite looking like any other teen, I’ll stick out if I take taxis or busses too much. So, despite my desire otherwise, here I am.

A couple minutes later the train pulls away from the station and I start to think about the task ahead. Today’s mark would be difficult to get to, and it would stretch my skills to the limit. The amount of security he kept around himself would make the Alliance President jealous and that’s saying something.

If there is one place I hate trying to get into, it’s a residential compound. While there’s plenty of places for me to hide, security’s thicker, they know the area and the chances of detection are higher. In some ways, I wonder if I’m a fool for taking this one, but then, how else can I make a good name for myself if I don’t take on the hard jobs?

“Next stop, Brentwood Hills,” the computer announces.

The Hills are another area similar to Brandenburg Circle back on Earth. It’s a very affluent area, where the business elites rubbed elbows with the Mafia Dons and politicians. All behind their own fenced walls and protected by lots of security, of course.