The Game

This was ridiculous. Of all the people, why in the hell had they sent her? There were dozens of Silencers. Plenty Arthur knew that were capable of chasing down and dealing with his client. There was no need to send one of their best. Especially not her. This was a test. He knew it. And he knew he was going to fail.

Arthur glanced over at the cowering politician and sighed. The man wasn’t special. A fool who’d inadvertently gotten himself embroiled in the wrong and right sides of a power play. The Guardians, like Arthur, needed him to go forward with the take over of the ‘Bastion’. I haven that had once been Richmond, long before the world fell apart. It just so happened he was also needed dead by the Silencers, who’s sponsor wanted the city for their own.

“Where are you? All your safe houses are dark. Your mom didn’t know, and your dad thought you were still in Reno.” The soft voice that came from a viper’s mouth drew his attention back to the small monitor on the wall. “You can’t hide forever Arthur.”

She smiled at him. The picture of innocence. Her big brown eyes sparkled, and her dark hair was held back from her beautiful face in a tight bun. Childlike in her exuberance at the situation. He had known it was a lie. He’d seen her stab a man in the kidney. Slice another’s throat, and not even blink, as she walked away. Her hands had wiped her precious dagger as she did.

He knew what she could do and that was why he, and his client, were locked away in a secured room with enough food to last until her contract timer ran out. Which was soon.

“Watch me,” He said.

He crossed his arms to solidify his resolve as he glared at the screen that held her image. It might be childish, but he wasn’t going to let her win this time. They were sitting at a tie and he’d be damned if he let her pull ahead.

“So, what?” Her head tilted, and he could see her eyes dart to the room behind him. They looked for something. An entrance most likely. Perhaps a clue as to where he had holed up. She was sly like that. “Are you going to stay in there the entire time?”

“Maybe.”

She laughed, and her lips twisted into a slight smirk as she shook her head. She did that when she was thinking. Not good. When she took the time to think out a situation it always ended with him losing.

“You owe me Arthur,” She finally said after a few heartbeats of silence. “After Killinger.”

Arthur frowned and narrowed his eyes. “You scored with Killinger, why do I owe you for her?”

“Because it wasn’t my bullet that killed her.” She was bristling, her indignation that had made her lose focus. A point in his favor.

“It wasn’t mine either,” he countered. “If I owe you for her then you owe me for Cutter.”

“He fell off of that roof by his own damn stupidity,” she spat.

“You still took the payout.” If he could keep her riled he could still win. She’d be down by one then. They wouldn’t be tied anymore.

“You’re cheating,” he could see her shoulders shake and from the movement he knew she had tapped her small foot in irritation. She was out of options. “At least give me a fair shot at it.”

“I don’t ever remember this being against the rules.” He offhandedly shrugged and gave her a sterile smile.

“This isn’t a game!” The shrill and outraged voice of the politician, Bailey, Arthur thought was his name, rang out in the air.

When he looked back at where the man once huddled Arthur found he stood and stared at the screen on the wall. The man’s pudgy face, a testament to his wealth as food was rare and hard fought for, or paid for, was red and mottled. He was tight fisted and huffed for air as he screamed all sorts of things at the woman on the other side of the monitor.

She just stood silent and watched. Her eyes grew brighter with each word the man threw at her.

Arthur felt his stomach sink as he listened to the tirade. This man had signed his own death certificate with his words and he didn’t even realize it. The last thing they needed was for her to get excited. While it could be fun at times, it almost always led to bloodshed.

“You are nothing but a piece of scum from those sewer dregs. Creatures like you shouldn’t ever show your face above the disgusting filth infested tunnels you call home. To think that one of your kind is trying to get their grimy hands on a jewel like Bastion is appalling!” Bailey took a few quick steps past Arthur and shoved a thick finger towards the woman whose grin widened as she observed him. “You think this is a game. You are imbecilic and will regret this the moment your time is up. I will have so many contracts out for you you will never be able to stop running.”

“Oh Arthur,” she cooed with a wicked smile flashed at him over Bailey’s shoulder. “He’s delightful.” Then the screen went blank.

Arthur stared in disbelief at the lifeless glass box. His own reflection all that gaped back at him. It was a closed circuit. One that he’d set up to watch her with. The cameras that made up his observation web were set on multiple power sources and fed back to his base. They were set on a loop and even with one off the others would still send. But no matter how many times he tried to find a working channel, they were all black. This was bad. Really bad.

She’d clearly been in a small white room on the screen. Not one he had recognized. He’d thought it was one of her safe houses, he knew of a few but doubted he’d seen them all. Besides, she was known to hack into old world tech often enough he hadn’t doubted she had spliced his feed. But, if she had cut his cameras and blinded him, she had to be close by. Knowing her, she was already inside. Had been the whole time.

“Coward woman,” Bailey said as he went back to his wall. “See. A few threats and the harlot left us alone. Don’t see why you humored that creature the way you did.” Arthur ground his teeth and bit back an angry retort. Instead he took a deep breath and turned on the man with a growl. “She didn’t run away you dumb fuck. She’s been just outside this entire time. She cut the power to my cameras.”

The redness vanished from Bailey’s face and he looked like a bloated corpse as his skin paled. Arthur felt a little hint of pleasure at his horror.

“You’ll protect me,” Bailey said with a wavering confidence. “You’ll kill her?”

“I’ll stop her,” Arthur promised. “She won’t complete her contract.”

Bailey smiled, his bravado revived slightly as he settled himself back against the wall.

Arthur didn’t bother to tell him of his doubts. The man was a horror, a true piece of trash in human form. Someone he didn’t want to protect. Someone who had been so blatantly cruel to her just because of her heritage. Just because she was born to the Underdwellers. This wasn’t the man Arthur wanted to support. But it was the man that the Guardians wanted, and it was the man that he was assigned. He wouldn’t let this man be the one he lost to her on.

“Come out of there Arthur,” Her voice carried through the air vent to the far right of the room. Right over Bailey’s head. “I can’t gas the room with you still in there.”

“That’s the entire reason I am in here,” Arthur called back.

He’d toyed with the idea of hiding Bailey somewhere far away and secured but had known she’d sneak in and smoke him out. Nope. Only safe way to protect the man was to make sure she couldn’t get him without hitting Arthur too. There was a lot of things that she would do but Arthur knew she’d never hurt him.

There were a few choice words from the vent before it grew silent again. She was getting desperate. She was running out of time.

Bailey was panicking now and hurled himself from the wall and fled to the other side of the room to barricade himself behind the desk that crowded that part of the room.

Arthur was fuming to himself as he tried to think of what to do. He had to keep her out of the room. Had to keep her away from Bailey. Had too…

There was a click and the door swung open. And there she stood. Arms crossed and a look of sheer annoyance on her face.

“Kill her!” Bailey screeched and threw an old stapler from the desk towards the woman in the doorway. She easily sidestepped and drew her dagger as Bailey threw a paperweight.

Arthur stepped between them before she could get any closer. She was much shorter than him, her head just below his shoulder, and he had a good hundred pounds of muscle on her. But she was fast, and small enough to dodge or wiggle free no matter how he grabbed her. He’d learned a long time ago manhandling would get him nowhere. So, he did what he always did when he didn’t want her to get to something. He acted like a wall and blocked her way.

“Move Arthur,” Her voice dripped with venom now as she glared up at him with those big brown eyes.

He stayed right where he was and just shook his head no.

“Move!” She demanded and tried to push his bulk out of the way with her free hand. He didn’t budge.

“Why in the hell are you just standing there?” Bailey shouted at Arthur’s back. “Deal with her.”

“Damn it Arthur, move!” She tried to dodge around him, but the small space made it impossible for her to break far enough he couldn’t sweep her back with his arm. He held her there. “Let me go!”

She squirmed to break free, but her struggle was moot as Arthur just let her go.

He smiled and leaned down to her. His lips brushed her ear as he whispered. “I won.”

She froze solid for a second, his words not registering at first, when they finally clicked she spun to Bailey and threw her dagger. The man screamed and tried to run but he wasn’t fast enough as It found its mark in his chest. Bailey drew his last breath, but not before a resounding alarm issued from both Arthur and her data pads signaling the end of their contracts.