He still kept paper records, which was strange for the year 2092. As a member of the Morland Order, I had a lot of dealings with books and physical libraries, but the rest of the population had moved into the digital realm a great many years earlier. As I thumbed through folders and folders of thin, yellowing paper, I couldn’t help but wonder if this man was anything to be afraid of. My mission was simple: kill the New England Regional Director. The reasons, however, were not. Even still, I wasn’t sure how anyone so behind the times could interfere with our plans.

A bright flash of pink caught my eye and my fingers froze. There it was. Director Killy Hanrue’s expansion plans for Manhattan, printed on neon pink paper, just as my research had indicated. I didn’t know what the Morland leaders wanted with these architectural designs, but it was none of my concern. This request had come in a few days before I left Kentucky for New York, and the only thing they would tell me was that I had better not return without them.

Shoving the plans into my light gray satchel, I closed the file cabinets and surveyed my surroundings. I had managed to get inside with little to no hassle, although the welt on the security guard’s eye would beg to differ. The office was large and neat, with a cluster of metal bookshelves to one side and the Director’s desk to another.

I stepped over to the mahogany desk, which looked fairly new, despite the fact that mahogany, or any kind of wood for that matter, was extremely rare. On the wall behind the desk was a huge screen, with a dozen different news channels running at the same time. I reached out and gently touched a portion of the screen, and one of the channels enlarged and covered the entire screen. We didn’t have much technology in the Morland Temple, although we knew of its existence, and it still fascinated me. The woman on the screen, began to speak, her voice shrill and loud to match her decorative face paint.

“Director Killy Hanrue delivered a speech last night in Old Times Square, with thousands of supporters flocking just to see him.”

The image suddenly shifted to my target, standing on a podium a few blocks from Altin Hall, where his office presided. His bright blue eyes gazed directly into the camera, every short black hair neatly in place. He opened his mouth to speak, revealing straight white teeth.

“My goal is to bring peace to our world, to create a New American Society in which we are not afraid to let our children play in the streets. A New American Society where we don’t have to worry about being robbed or even murdered simply because someone isn’t getting enough to eat.” The camera panned over the crowd, which featured young men and women cheering ecstatically, mothers and fathers holding their kids high on their shoulders, older folks nodding fervently. It was easy to see why the Morland Order wanted this man dead. He had such an enthralling effect on the people, as he promised what everyone wanted: the peace and safety to live their lives as they pleased.

As a Morland Sister, I did not want peace, at least, not from a human being. Our people believed that a savior was coming, from somewhere in the vast universe, who would bring lasting peace to this demented world. He would only come, our sacred texts claimed, when the world was in a terribly chaotic state and mankind had no hope left for the future. Any man or woman who promised peace was standing in the way of our future glory, and deserved to be eliminated.

The sound stopped abruptly and the images before me slowly faded to black. I reached out to the screen, confused, when a voice from behind startled me.

“What are you doing in here, young lady?”

I turned around to the speaker, my face nearly reddening with shame. How had I, the best assassin in all of the Order, gotten caught with my pants down? My target stood in the doorway, right hand on the light switch, left hand still on the doorknob, staring at me.

I hadn’t expected him to look this handsome in person. In preparing for this mission, I’d spent hours watching documentaries detailing his rise from obscure lawyer to New England Regional Director, poring over dozens of photographs, but I always assumed that without makeup or special lights he’d look like a regular man. Now, I wasn’t sure if something this beautiful even deserved to die.

Cut it out, Paige. You’re exaggerating, I chided myself. Of course he deserves to die. His policies are going to turn the whole world against you.

He gently shut the door and crossed the room to where I stood. I glanced at my watch. A quarter to eight. I still had time. My flight back to Kentucky didn’t leave until nine, but I wouldn’t need that long to get this menace downstairs.

“That’s an interesting necklace you have there,” he said, gesturing to the small ruby around my neck. I immediately covered it with my hand, slipping it into the neck of my black sweater. How could I have been so dumb? Today was simply not my day. If he had gotten closer, he would have seen the two golden dragons painted on either side that identified me as a member of the Morland Order. Turn it around and he’d see the thin indented line where my new name was supposed to go.

If you don’t hurry up and kill him, you’ll never get your name.

My conscience was very vocal today, but it spoke the truth nonetheless. The Morland Order was the strictest sect of the Chestani religion, with only two mandates: maintain your celibacy and murder your targets. Each Morland Brother and Sister received a new name after their tenth successful mission. This name was said to be delivered by the Giver of Life, our greatest deity. No one was allowed to share their name, or a curse was said to be placed on them. I was eager to get my name, for I knew that once I had it, my Sisters would accept me again.

“Aren’t you the new intern here?” He asked suddenly, narrowing his eyes. I blinked in surprise. One of our field agents had secured the position for me so I could get inside the Director’s office in Altin Hall, but the two of us had never met, and I hadn’t expected him to know me.

“What are you doing up here?” He asked again, not waiting for my response to his previous question.

“I came up here because I was afraid of the security guard.” I had practiced this line a thousand times, and I delivered it as flawlessly as I’d hoped. It was a half truth; the security guard would be after my hide when he found out that I hadn’t left any payment for his silence, but I would be long gone by then.

“Jimmy?” The Director laughed and shook his head. “That old guy has been with me for ten years. He wouldn’t harm anyone, I assure you.” He smiled and reached out his hand, expecting me to take it. Instead, I shoved my hands in my pocket and looked away, casting him a nervous glance, almost as though I was scared.

“Young lady, there is nothing to be afraid of. My goal is to make New York City safe again.” He paused and ran a hand through his close-cropped hair. “Do you want me to take you home?”

Goodness, I thought to myself, is this guy too trusting or what? And does he think I would really let him take me home?

“That’s a generous offer,” I replied, smiling slightly. I stepped around the desk to his side and he laughed.

“You can’t be more than nineteen years old. What are you doing all the way in Old Times Square by yourself?”

He led me over to the door, his hand grasping my sleeved arm. If it’d been bare skin I would have killed him right there and then, even if I couldn’t hide the body. I’ve learned a few things maintaining my celibacy, and chief among these was limiting physical contact with males.

I didn’t answer him, but stepped out into the hallway. The security guard with the welt on his eye stood there, arms to his sides and eyes blazing. I hadn’t expected to see him again.

“There you are, you little liar!”

He lunged at me with both hands, but I was faster, ducking and landing a quick punch to his stomach. He swung wildly at me, but I kneed him in the groin, sending him doubled over in pain.

“What is the meaning of this, Jimmy?” The Director shouted, grabbing the security guard by the shoulders. Another security guard stood at the end of the hall and he rushed toward me when he saw his partner go down.

Let’s do this.

The guard pinned me against the wall, hands clasped on my shoulders. I didn’t feel a thing, though, as my mind raced through the steps my trainer Alexi had hammered into me. First step: determine which of his targets are vulnerable to attack. His hands were tied up with me, so that left the groin, eyes, chest, armpits, that piece of flesh under the forearm. This guy was sloppy. Next step: determine what weapons are available for me to use. Both my hands and my feet were free. This guy was going down.

Lifting my left leg off the ground, I kneed him in the stomach, bringing my right arm around from the back to catch him in a headlock and twist his body around before he could double over in pain. I pulled the handcuffs off his belt in a split second, working them over his wrists as he struggled to free himself from my grasp.

“Quit squirming,” I muttered, clicking the metal rings into place. I pushed him away from me and he whirled around, anger lighting his pale blue eyes. He lunged at me with bound hands, but I stepped out his path and he crashed into the wall. I pulled out the pistol tucked in my jeans – I hate guns but they’re effective – and shoved the barrel into the back of his head.

“One more move and you’re a dead man,” I snarled as he raised his hands in surrender.

“Hey, young lady, I’d like to know what is going on here!” The Director released the first security guard, the one who was supposed to be my accomplice but seemed to have forgotten our agreement, and stepped over to my side.

I turned the gun toward him, my eyes still on the second security guard.

“You’re coming with me, Director, and if any of your guards try to do anything about it, you’re a dead man.” Of course, he was a dead man either way, but there was no use telling him that.

He stared at the side of my face for a full ten seconds then sighed and shook his head.

“Guys, thanks for your help, but I’m going to go with her.”

I gestured to the elevator at the end of the hall.

“Let’s go.”

 

To be continued……