The boy cried.
The elegant Luciano designer bedroom was drenched in blood, rain and tears. The two large windows were swinging uncontrollably with the wind, curtains flapping against the cold wind.
Two dead bodies on the soft white bedding, blood seeping.
Red eroding white.
Strong arms dragged the boy away, redundant force against the boy's powerless frame.
The voices inaudible against the howling of the wind and the dripping of the rain.
All he could hear was himself as he wept.
"Tonight is a good night to die."
It was a dark cool night and the skies were clear. A perfect time for a hit.
The Remus Clock Tower was the highest building in Nightingale, the most romantic spot in the most romantic country. It was closed to the public after midnight thanks to a couple of suicide cases during the last Lover's Day; apparently it was depressing to be alone on a day meant for love.
Dressed in a dark brown trench coat, felt gloves and dark pants, Crosshair could have been mistaken as just another tourist, embracing the view from the marble balcony. He ran his hand through his short blond hair as cool wind drafts blew in his face. The city of Nightingale was beautiful from here, thousands of lights shining from the majestic street lamps, cars, buildings and Lover Day decorations. The security guard was adamant against anyone being up here, but his opinion could not be heard while he lay snoring at the steps below.
Crosshair's grip on the Gausk Sniper Rifle was unwavering, and the tip trained on the target. The scope of the rifle was adjusted to the side; its silly ten km range would not suffice in this mission.
This mission would need his Neuera eyes. The cross hairs at his irises began to glow a faint white and spin as his neuera eyes began to adjust his zoom to achieve perfect focus. The soft ticking sound from his eyes slowed as he caught sight of his target.
His target was Mr Kiast Blood, son of the leading man in Crucifix, a small time company that handled weapon dealings. After extensive checks to ensure they did not deal with his own weapons, Crosshair took the job from the anonymous sponser. Mr Blood was coming out of the building in ten minutes with a blonde and brunette escort at each side, and his source said that he would have a window of three seconds to hit his target between two bobbing airheads.
"There's still time," he said to himself, confidence overflowing as usual. He cocked the Gausk and touched the magazine lightly, caressing it and reminded himself of the three rounds in it. Two rounds too many, but like Crosshair learnt many times, "one can never be too prepared; you never know when the next target comes."
Footsteps against the marble flooring were heard behind him. Crosshair tensed for a moment. Clear and confident footsteps, this man (or woman, as Crosshair hoped) was either very skilled, or very foolish. Judging by the sound, the stranger was approximately one flight of steps away from approaching the balcony. That would give Crosshair time to take care of the interference without meddling with the schedule.
His left hand touched the holster of his Silent Night handgun; his right grip on his Gausk unchanged, eyes still fixed on his primary target.
"I assume you aren't here for the Lover's Day celebrations. What do you want?" Crosshair said as the sound of the foot steps came directly behind him.
"Your services," came the reply as calm and confident as the footsteps before.
"If you haven't noticed," Crosshair said, "I'm working right now."
"So am I."
The dangerous tone triggered Crosshair's instincts and he quickly drew his handgun. His finger was halfway down the trigger when he realised that no one was there.
Not even a ghost of a sound could be heard as Crosshair's Neuera eyes caught sight of a singular piece of paper, a name card fluttering to the ground. He didn't bother to take it as the simple contents were obvious enough.
Who was that mysterious man? What were his intentions? These questions raced through Crosshair's mind. Something big just crossed his path and he was uncertain about the future.
But for now...
A lone silenced shot.
Followed by a bloodcurdling scream.
But not in the lecture that the young Ms Susurro taught. Her tight, black blouse was conservative, yet exposing just enough flesh to raise the room temperature a little. Her prim and proper image, complete with her long hair tied into a bun, gave her a strict and scholarly image.
Pity that was not enough to stop the testosterone-driven fraternities from conjuring up their out-of-the-world fantasies. In fact, her image probably strengthened it.
Political History class had never been so popular.
"After the Nuclear War, the shape of the world as it once was, changed drastically." Ms Susurro's clear and pristine voice droned on, "Surviving humans had to strive through hard and difficult times, almost reverting to a more barbaric state."
"Tribes were formed among the survivors. Each tribe, initially, probably had no more than a thousand odd."
"And as all stories of history are told, these tribes evolved quickly and began occupying each other. Thus, forming pseudo-nations, countries without distinct barriers."
"Considering the immense destruction caused by the Nuclear War, weapons of mass-destruction fell out of favour as a tool for power."
"What sort of power?" She paused, waiting for an answer. When none came, she continued,
"The Power of leverage, of deterrence, and of warfare."
"Considering the lack of manpower, conscripted armies also became obsolete. It is these factors that probably brought about the age of Assassins."
"An assassin used to be one who murders by surprise attack. A murderer, especially one who kills a politically prominent person for fanatical or monetary reasons. However, the true definition of an assassin has changed rapidly through the years."
"Any questions so far?"
There was a silence before an avid listener raised his hand.
"These assassinations were normally performed through stealth in the past, but now we hear of different types of assassinations. Assassinations have become bolder. Is this due to the pseudo-nations' greater usage of assassins as warfare?"
She paused for a moment as she stared at the male student, who squirmed in his seat from the attention.
"Yes. The amount of funding put into assassins now rival the cost of the old wars. In fact, like you said, some assassins have become bolder, and thus, their methods have changed."
Encouraged by this answer, the student asked again, "When you say their methods have changed, what exactly do you mean?"
A whisper of a smile teased the student. Ms Susurro seemed almost amused at the question.
"We are going out of context from political history here. However, it seems that I will not have any peace until your curiosity is satisfied."
"Due to the huge variety of assassination styles, hit men were vaguely classified under several groups."
She began typing into her laptop, its contents clearly presented via a projector for the students.
"Demolition assassins, known for their mass assassinations of entire political groups.
Cyborg assassins, originated from the pseudo-nation Neuera.
Martial assassins, close combat masters, famous for their silent and stealthy kills.
Raider assassins. This type of assassin is... Controversial. Made famous after Raider assassinations were conducted publicly, with hits that were quite gruesome in nature. Often bluntly direct, the murders in public are used to make statements, usually political, and cause terror. Therefore, some people argue that these types of assassins are no more terrorists, than assassins per se."
"What type of assassin is the Ripper?" A frat boy asked, with a grin on his face.
A new buzz spread across the lecture theater, whispers of hearsay and curious queries.
I heard that he killed off an entire pseudo-nations' leadership within 24 !
He's a ninja-trained cyborg alright...
Bullshit, he doesn't exist...
Ms Susurro kept her composure till everyone settled down.
"I assure you," she said as she took off her black-rimmed glasses, wiping it with the edge of her blouse, "there is no such person as the Ripper."
A girl in the front row quickly raised her question.
"But the media clearly stated that he was responsible for some of the most famous assassinations in history! Like the Gusko..."
"Complete nonsense," came the curt reply. The girl looked indignant but sensed the finality in Ms Susurro's tone.
"The Ripper is a name used by the media. All the 'famous assassinations' credited to this name, are clearly committed by a group of anonymous assassins at best. There is no possible way that those assassinations could be performed by a single killer, human or cyborg."
"There is no Ripper."
How can she know that he doesn't exist...
See? I told you there is no such thing as the Ripper...
Wow, he really doesn't exist?...
But I was so sure that...
I told you, he is a ninja trained cyborg...
He is just a myth...
Ms Susurro shook her head in mild exasperation as the class of students exited the lecture theater. The Ripper had become a cult favourite in campus. How can so many youths idolize someone whom no one has seen before?
As she entered her car and turned on the ignition, the ever-skeptical Ms Susurro began to wonder if it was possible. How can any one person (and a man at that) wipe out all the major political leaders of a pseudo-nation in one night?
She was considering the possibilities as she entered the lift leading to her ordinary three-room apartment. She was about to press the lift button to her level when she caught sight of something.
Slowly, she bent down to examine the fingerprint on the lift button. No one else was living on the eighth floor. She made sure of that before purchasing the entire floor anonymously.
Someone could have pressed the wrong button. Or perhaps it was a door-to-door salesman. Could just be a coincidence? Yeah right. She did not believe in coincidence.
She hiked up her skirt and drew her Blackwasp pistol from underneath. She would have preferred her weapon of choice, Colossus Cannon, but she didn't know who she is dealing with. Stealth has always been Caution's best friend. And if stealth had an angel of death, or a tinkerbell of death, it would be the Blackwasp. Its small frame was complimented by its deadly accuracy. It has a capacity of fourteen mini rounds that fire soundlessly without a silencer, at an impressive effective range of hundred metres.
As the lift door opened, she surveyed the surroundings quickly. The coast was clear for now, but there were definite signs of someone's presence. Her trained eyes spotted dirt on the usually meticulously clean corridor, fingerprint smudges on the window pane along the long corridor and on her doorknob. Someone was here, and he's not a salesman.
"Shit!" Ms Susurro cursed softly to herself. Just as she wanted to relax after a long day at work, her other job caught up with her.
Not that there was ever any time to relax.
She entered the unit beside her own. Technically, that unit belonged to her, but she never used it. A good assassin always has an exit strategy. The apartments to the left and right of her regular living quarters were both possible escape routes, with secret hatches built into the dividing walls that were virtually undetectable.
A way out was also a way in. It also gave her an element of surprise. Ambushing a Gemini assassin was probably the last thing anyone should ever do, and this intruder was about to learn this the hard way.
She opened the hatch silently into her bedroom. No one was there, therefore the intruder had to be in the living room, waiting for her at the front door.
She smiled to herself, tasting the thrill of the hunt, feeling her adrenaline levels rise. She won't kill him. She needed information on the perpetrators responsible for taking the effort to track her down even after she dropped off the grid.
A little bit of torture won't hurt. It might even brighten up her day.
Her hand gripped her Blackwasp tightly, finger to trigger. Her long legs tightened as she lowered her center of gravity. Her breathing slowed down, and her attention became focused. With one smooth motion, she whirled through the door leading to the living room and aimed her Blackwasp towards... Nothing.
Realisation dawned. She was tricked! But how... unless the assassin already knew of her hidden hatches. But how did he know which one she'd use? She had never been outsmarted before, and in this business, first times are generally your last. Her fears were confirmed when cold, hard steel gently, but firmly, touched her neck from behind.
"Bravo. That was absolutely brilliant. Now get on with it, it was a long day anyway," She said resignedly. She had lost and was prepared to pay the price. That is part of the game.
"You were pretty good yourself. Conjuring up a plan with just a small autopistol... Just as expected from a Gemini Assassin." His voice was eerily kind, like a pastor sending off the dead at a funeral.
She couldn't recognise his voice. He did not even ask her to put her pistol down as he talked. Why? A simple mistake that was overlooked? Unless...
A cold chill went up her spine.
"Ms Susurro, or should I call you Whisper? Don't try anything that we might both regret. Your wristblades are too short to reach me, and your Blackwasp is pointing the wrong way."
For the first time in a long while, Whisper felt fear. White hot and furious. She trembled slightly. This man... It couldn't be...
"I came to offer you a job. This is the job interview, and congratulations, you passed with flying colours."
She felt the pressure of the blade lift from her neck. The immediate danger was gone, but the fear kept her neck stiff and her body weak.
She could not move. Not when she saw a gloved hand place a name card in front of her. Not when she heard her window open and someone jumping out. Not when she knew that there wasn't anybody around any longer.
She needed a few more minutes. To realise just what had happened. To calm herself down to her usual rational, slightly overconfident demeanor. To try to piece things together.
There was probably only one person that can defeat her so completely. Only one person that can outwit her that convincingly.
And he was not even supposed to be real.
The lights were so pretty, shining like angel's halo. So pretty, so bright, so...
"Young man, you forgot about me. That would have been fatal if I was your enemy," a husky, ancient voice proclaimed.
Piece turned to the hunched figure with a large, black cloak, desert winds blowing the ends of his clock, licking the sand like a black-tongued monster. Physically, the man seemed non-threatening and frail, but his demeanor demonstrated something different altogether. Something lethal and frightening.
Piece swallowed the lump on his throat, checked himself before speaking, "this is Deathtrap. I am sure all of you know him very well."
Rounin, who was closest to the black-clothed figure, immediately leaped away. Crosshair's mouth opened in amazement as his hand went straight for his Silent Night. He was not the only one to do so, as the rest of the assassins swiftly armed themselves against the new threat.
Piece could understand why. Not many assassins lived to the age of seventy. And none with the notoriety of the legendary assassin Deathtrap, the poison master. Hundreds, some say thousands, of lives were lost to him before he supposedly retired.
"Gentlemen, and lady" said Deathtrap in a raspy voice, as he gave Whisper a slight bow, "if I had wanted any of you dead, you would be, ten seconds ago."
"I thought ya retired?"said Big Bang, casually.
Deathtrap smiled, "So did I."
A Gemini Assassin is an assassin who specialises in 2 or more styles of assassinations, allowing them to be the elite in the dangerous world of hitmen. And Whisper was one of the best among them, if not the best. Yet, she found herself in a situation that triggered every instinct in her body.
Everything was wrong from the start, and she only had herself to blame. Her pride dragged her into the hot-as-hell Vada Dessert. She just could not bear losing. She had no real plan on what to do if she met the mysterious Ripper. But it was something in between going down to her knees and asking for apprenticeship, and pointing her Colossus at him and demanding a rematch. She stroked her large over-shoulder cannon as thoughts raged through her head.
A single assassin in the vicinity already increases the danger threefold. Currently, there was seven heavily armed assassins within the range of twenty five metres around her. With one strange man who claims to be a business man but could very well just be another hitman. Oh, and take note that one of the assassins was just proclaimed to be one of the most elusive killers in all time. This could very well end with bloodshed.
A lot of bloodshed.
Still, her curiosity was piqued. As explosive as the situation was, it was also very intriguing. Many questions raced through her mind. Forming a team of assassins? That in itself is a very dangerous plan. Although several guilds of assassins do exist, none operated as an organised unit. Lead by a special person? Who is it? The Ripper? All the more astucious.
She glanced at the Gemini Assassin named Jack. Whisper had been a Gemini Assassin for a long time, and she never heard of such a person. The fact that he used a first name, albeit a very common first name, made this man more mysterious than the rest. Codenames allowed the assassin anonymity and a chance to escape detection if the heat became unbearable.
Best not to let her guard down around him.
There was sudden flurry of movement among the group as the atmosphere became more tense; yelps of surprise and the clinking of weapons being armed arose without warning.
Whisper turned to the source of the commotion. Her eyes widened as she pulled back the bolt of her Colossus.
She still could not believe her eyes. In the dazzling blue desert sky, a monstrous behemoth of a machine suddenly materialised. It resembled one of the Neueranian Hoverships, complete with complicated sensors and weaponry. However, that was not the reason that made it so startling.
It was the sheer size. The hovering aircraft in the sky was like a blue whale in the sea.
Whisper shook her head in amazement. And as if the situation could not get any worse, she spotted precision weaponry powerful enough to take out each and every one of them.
"Looks like our ride is finally here," declared Piece, unperturbed by the commotion.
"Welcome to the S.S. Securus."
3. Mr T
4. Big Bang
9. Death Trap
12. Doctor Strange
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