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Paycheck

An Unusual Occupation

I lie in bed waiting for a voice automated call to disclose the next location of my target. I start to ponder the different career choices that others have, and my previous targets. If I were to be in a different field of work, there would certainly be more people on the planet. I could be a banker, a bartender, maybe even a dancer. Instead, I'm an assassin.

The call pushes forward and I have my next location. The funds are shortly transferred; half upon disclosure and half upon completion. That way any transportation or ... other ... work expenses that I need, can be acquired. I pull the information up on my iPad and scroll through the briefing.

[Target Briefing]

  • Wayland Houser: Millionaire, CFO of a newer tech company called Apollo. Married, two kids: a 16-year-old genius son, and a 25-year-old couch potato. Wife constantly travels for work socializing, getting other millionaires to invest.
  • Paranoid, secluded, and hosting an event to celebrate the company's tenth anniversary.
  • Payout: $450,000

[End Briefing]

I've taken easier jobs, but this one sounds like it could actually be fun. I start to browse flight tickets for Texas. It looks like the event is going to be held in Arlington so I buy tickets for Houston. It's a four hour drive, but I like to play it smart. I book the flight for the next day. The event isn't for another three days, arriving early will give me more of an edge.

After purchasing the tickets, I lie in bed trying to get some sleep. Tossing and turning unable to achieve any, I start to think about my childhood and growing up. My father would push me to train as hard as I could. I remember his strikes, each one faster than the last. The particular memory is with boa staffs though, I've upgraded to sais. I feel like he would be disappointed in my weapon choice, a bit too flamboyant for his taste.

The feeling of them, their weight, the sound they make as they swing in the air, and the feeling when they slide into a target, I love that feeling. Eliminating each target and shortly after as the remaining funds are transferred, it's euphoric. My father prefers using knives, garrotes, or batons to complete his missions, I like the elegancy of sais. Most targets upon seeing them are dazed and confused. When it comes to wielding them, it's beautiful.

Wielding sais takes skill and practice. When you swing and change the blade's position, it's meaningful and you can add a flourish to it for effect. They are tools that have their own life to them. Knives or guns or any other weapon choice don't have that same energy resonating in them.

Targets see their assassins's tools just moments before we complete our mission. Some are trained, so when they see a knife they immediately enter defense mode and rush to attack. All of the targets who have seen my sais generally enter a state of confusion, due to their rareness, so they panic. In that hesitation, I lunge for the kill.

I decide to head down to the local pub to unwind. Once there, I take a look around and I see that the bar is filled with a lot of hillbilly looking types. A part of me starts to feel nervous, the gay kid inside who feels like they'll kick my ass. But then I remember, I have over a dozen confirmed kills, soon to be 13. If any one of them decide to make a move, I could easily take them.

I approach the bartender and order a drink as I take in the music, the crowd, and everything, it feels weird ... Different. Texas was never one of the places that I planned to be in. The people in this town look a lot like my hometown—overweight with beer bellies, not to mention half of the men here look like they married their high school sweetheart and they regret it every day, so they come here to cope. Almost all of the patrons look like they know every bartender personally.

I start to sip my beer in peace. I already hate myself in less than five minutes of being here, I hate beer. I only ordered it in order to try and blend in a bit more. Already being the best dressed out of all of them, I have already drawn attention to myself. This gentleman who looks around my age, and taller than me approaches and sits next to me. He orders a martini.

"Hey. Sticking to beer?" He asks.

"For now, I usually don't, but I figured I'd try it out."

"What do you usually drink?"

"Anything minty."

He orders a mojito for me and we start to talk.

"So what do you do for work?"

I hate that question. It's the first question everyone always goes to. The most boring conversation filler. And of course, I always have to lie about it. I can't just go around telling people that I'm an assassin.

"I write. Poetry mainly, some short stories. It doesn't really pay, but hey. I like what I do."

"That's awesome! I'm a security analyst."

"Wow. So you're like, really smart."

"I don't like to brag. But, I like to think so."

"What does your job usually entail?"

"Basically, everyday I log on to the portal from home, and they have a queue of suspected security breaches that I fulfill. I look into each breach and change the security if need be. After I'm done with the queue, if it's before five I set a push notification to my phone and go about my day."

"Wow. That sounds flexible."

"Yeah, that's one of the perks. Anyway, enough work talk. What brings you here?"

"I'm just on a vacation for a bit. I wanted to pass this way to see new locations, new adventures and what not."

"I'm not buying it. Texas?"

"Why not?"

"Because nobody purposely visits here."

"Alright you caught me. I'm here because there's a company that's celebrating their recent anniversary and I'm here to attend and write a review."

"That wasn't so hard, now was it?"

"I just wasn't sure if you were gonna stalk me or not, hacker boy."

"Oooh? Is that my new nickname."

"Yeah."

"Cute, I like it."

"Good."

We exchange glances for a bit before he properly introduces himself.

"Dave, by the way."

"Nice to meet you Dave, I'm Charlie."

He looks me up and down and does a half smile, I don't know why but I instantly just blank. He whispers in my ear and next thing you know, I follow him back to his apartment.

When we get there, his place is clean, I can already tell he's a bit of a perfectionist. He starts to pick up his dirty laundry off the ground and starts to apologize.

"Don't. I was an unexpected guest, this is your home. I get it."

"Still. I'm usually cleaner than this, it's just been a rough couple of weeks."

"A lot of security breaches?"

"Not necessarily. Apollo has hired me temporarily so for the event tomorrow night. I get to monitor their queue for the next 24 hours."

"Have you had any breaches?"

"None so far."

"That's good. Does the connection go both ways?"

"Like if I wanted to hack into their system?"

"Yeah."

"I mean ... Technically. But doing so would ruin my reputation, and I actually care about my job."

"Yeah, that totally makes sense. I'm sorry if I insulted you."

"No, you're fine. I've just ... Been on edge."

"I totally get it." I get closer to him and start to kiss his neck

"Wait. I really don't think this is a good idea."

"Why not?" I ask.

"Because. If you're gonna be at the event and we have sex, it's just going to make things awkward."

"Well ... We could team up. Go together, make a date out of it."

"I mean ... I prefer not to mix business and pleasure."

"Isn't that what makes it fun?"

He pauses for a moment before grabbing my face and pulling it towards his. He kisses me passionately and pushes me into his bed. I feel my jeans coming off as I'm pinned down on my stomach. We keep kissing, my neck slightly hurting from the angle...

After we're done, he rolls over to the side and lets out a sigh of relief and exhaustion. He puts his arm around me and falls fast asleep. I gently move his arm and sneak to his bathroom. I wash my face and my body using paper towels.

I wait a few minutes until I am sure that he is fast asleep. I go to his laptop and open it, I see the Apollo temporary login information on a sticky note next to it. I can tell he isn't used to having people over, which makes it even easier to hack in.

Upon logging in, I'm able to access the entire companies database for the event.

[Apollo Industries Event Briefing]

  • Annual Profit: $1,000,000,000
  • Employees: 3,200
  • Stores: 300
  • CEO/CFO: Wayland Houser
  • Heir: Brian Houser
  • Wife: Helen Houser
  • Son: Taylor Houser
  • Event Location: Classified
  • Attendance: 1,000
  • Breaches: 0
  • Security Status: 12/12 [Fully Operational]

[End Briefing]

I see the login information and I try and access the security cameras as an attempt to loop the feed or get it to stop recording all together. I am unsuccessful in my attempt, as it gives a prompt saying that I need to be onsite to make changes due to the security level.

I log off and rejoin Dave back in bed.

The next morning isn't as awkward as I thought it would be. We wake up around the same time, he kisses me before jumping into the shower. While he is in the shower, I decide to login one more time.

[Apollo Industries Event Briefing]

  • Annual Profit: $1,000,000,000
  • Employees: 3,200
  • Stores: 300
  • CEO/CFO: Wayland Houser
  • Heir: Brian Houser
  • Wife: Helen Houser
  • Son: Taylor Houser
  • Event Location: Classified
  • Attendance: 1,000
  • Breaches: 1
  • Security Status: 12/12 [Fully Operational]

[End Briefing]

One breach? That couldn't have been me since I have the login information. Shit. It looks like I'm not the only assassin with this mark. I hate that so much. Generally, they're pretty good about that sort of thing, only sending a contract out to one assassin. However, if it's a larger target, they send multiple out to ensure the job gets done one way or another.

Maybe they think having more than one assassin will make us become more competitive. All it does it cloud our judgement and makes it harder to accomplish the mission. Last mission that had multiple contracts, I ended up not completing it, and got a shruriken to the shoulder. Let me tell you, those suckers are not fun to dig out.

Each assassin has different rules, different guidelines. The more traditional ones will only go after a mark if they're sure no other assassins have that mark. They are efficient killing machines. If your name ever pops up on their list, you're dead. You can run, you can hide, but they will find you and kill you.

The more ambitious ones don't really care, if you're in their way, they'll annihilate you too as well as their target. However, these ones are usually newer to the game and easier to take down. I tend to stick to the target. Assassin-vs-assassin, it gets very complicated fast.

If there's a huge fuck up, they send a blacklist with the details. This one mark had three assassins who all ended up trying to kill each other. The target got away and they all were blacklisted. I couldn't imagine that happening to me. I love my job way too much to be blacklisted.

Dave is out of the shower and I take mine. As I get ready, I make sure to dress in colors that blend into the environment, such as black and grey. I have black pants on, causal, but business like. I should fit right in.

We get into the car and start to head to the event. The four hour car ride is nice to not be alone, but I know that once we arrive, the drive is gonna hit me. We decide to switch half way. Two hours of him driving and then two of me.

Getting to know him better, I kinda ended up liking him. We're not supposed to develop feelings or attachments to anyone while on a mission. It makes it harder to complete the job, and could expose us. I decide against my better judgement though because this one, is of use.

Once we're at the hotel, we get our rooms. Since, we arrived together, we decide to share, but keep both rooms. He sets up his security feed and explains to me he'll basically be manning it all day.

I go to the bar. I've installed security cameras in the room. I have a monitoring app on my phone, I watch him very closely. I see him enter the bathroom for the third time and I knew that he would be in there a longer time.

I quickly finish my drink and head to the room. When I enter, I hear music playing as an attempt to mask whatever he is doing in there. I log in and notice the breaches have gone up from one to six. There's definitely another assassin on this and they are out for blood. I loop all of the cameras and quickly leave before I hear a flush.

Arriving back at the bar, I spot Wayland's older son, Taylor. I order a few drinks with him and get to talking.

"So, you must feel like super overshadowed like all the time." I coax.

"You have no idea. Brian is the golden one, he can do no wrong. Meanwhile, I have already fucked my life up. He feels bad enough that when he dies, Brian is going to inherit the company, so he just buys time with giving me money. Like I don't want to earn it? Like I don't feel bad? And I've tried to learn, he just ... He hates me."

"I get it ... Dads are super tough."

"You have no idea. I'm always cropped out of the photos at events. They see Brian and they practically photograph his entire face, but with me it's like I don't exist. And they're down there right now setting up for the event, and all I got told was to go to the bar because I might make a mess of things."

"I don't think that about you at all. I think you're great. Do you know what's going to happen after the event?"

"We're supposed to stay in the hotel. Dad probably bribed the staff to let him have access to the pool. That's the only reason why he wants to stay. The flight back is tomorrow afternoon."

"Thank you so much Taylor, you've been more than helpful."

I order another drink for him and he graciously accepts. I go to my room where I have my bag stashed. When I pull it out and open it, I pick up my sais. I place them discreetly in my pants, and the looseness of my shirt makes them incredibly easy to hide, provided no one gets too frisky.

I take a knife and a leg holster and equip that as well, just incase things go south. I await for the event to start.

There is a large crowd gathered while Wayland and his family group together in unity. They stand in the backdrop as a thousand flashing lights are on them. Wayland gives his toast to the future of Apollo. Ironic since hours after his speech, the company will be thrust into disarray.

Despite any company tactics or preparation, when the head of the snake falls, the body follows. Brian is too young to fully lead, the wife will most likely take over. She seems uncertain of what is fully going on. The older son is too emotional to make business decisions so most likely the board will hold executive powers until Brian comes of age.

I feel ... A sense of guilt and fear. This one target, and so much chaos and destruction will come after. I know it. I feel it; the echo of death. But I need to. I have no purpose in the world, I have no sense of the world, but this. This is my duty, this is my job. I must complete my mission.

I spot the other assassin hidden in the crowd. She is on the other side and I watch her eyes scan the room, and watching the target, anticipating his movements. I can tell she is an assassin. I have three options, eliminate, collaborate, or ignore.

I decide to eliminate. After a while, Wayland goes into one of the bathroom stalls and I see the other assassin follow, along with two of Wayland's bodyguards. The bodyguards post outside the door. I know this assassin is about to expose us both.

She'll try and take a shot with her silencing pistol, not anticipating the ricochet or the collapsing of the body, the guards will be alerted and open fire on both of us. I see her reach for her pistol and I grab a single sai and bash her on the head with the handle.

She falls and I catch her, quickly putting her on the toilet seat of the furthest stall. I pretend to take a work call. Fortunately, Wayland seems to have a false sense of security, as he doesn't notice the commotion whatsoever. I'm sure the soothing classical music emitting from the speakers helped a lot.

Wayland starts to wash his hands and a part of me wants to bash his head in with my sai and drown him in the toilet. It would be an easy set up, the other assassin is already incapacitated and she had means to kill him anyway.

I decide to wait. Striking too soon is often an assassin's biggest mistake. After all, I have intel that he is supposed to go swimming later tonight. I proceed to fake the work call while Wayland is washing his hands. He doesn't even make eye contact with me, but I know he sees me. Just like a paranoid person would do.

After the bathroom incident, I return to Dave.

"Hey! How was the event?"

"You saw it, boring as ever! But informative. I think I have all I need to write a review."

"Yeah..."

"What's wrong?"

"I dunno. The cameras weren't functioning properly. They seemed to be stuck on a loop or something. I don't want to get fired."

"Well, nothing went wrong did it? And as far as they're concerned, you were there as a safety measure. Nothing happened."

"True ... I still just ... that has never happened before."

"Hey ... I get it." I climb on top of him and wrap both of my arms around his neck and kiss him.

"It's all okay. I promise." I kiss him once more.

He picks me up and I wrap my legs around him, like a pole. He throws me on the bed and we start heavily making out.

After our make-out session, I decide to pause.

"Hey, I'm so sorry my boss is calling I have to take this!"

"Well, hurry!"

I pretend to answer the phone as I exit his hotel room. I have to stay focused. Having sex with him would be something that would be good, but I know it would distract me.

I set up in my hotel room and prepare to strike when Wayland takes his swimming break within the hour.

Once he takes his break, I put on my best pair of trunks and follow him. I see him meet one of the hotel staff, who hands him a master keycard. It appears like they have already discussed some sort of arrangement as the interaction is very quick.

When he opens the door, I hide behind one of the walls closest to the pool entrance. I sneak by before it closes.

Wayland takes a shower first which gives me time to set up. I start to think about different approaches. Wielding sais in the water is difficult enough, wielding them with enough force to neutralize my target is going to prove even more difficult. The only advantage would be that the target would be submerged for quite some time, making their skin easier to pierce.

I remain hidden when Wayland exists the shower area. He dips himself in the pool and all signs of stress are lifted from his face. I almost feel bad. I check my bank account and I've already spent four grand on travel expenses. I realize that I have to finish this through.

I hear the keypad beep and unlock, I hide in the shadows only to find that it's Dave. What is he doing here?

"Mr. Houser? I'm sorry to bother you, sir. It's Jake, your IT guy in charge of security. You hired me for the event."

"You mean Dave, right?" Wayland corrects.

"You got me. I was testing to see whether or not you knew my name."

"What is it Dave?"

"I wanted to talk to you about some breaches. There were three and while nothing immediate may have occurred from them, I do worry about long term problems that may arise down the line from them."

"Isn't that a little above your pay grade?"

"If I may sir, I love what I do and I happen to be very good at it. Any long term employment with you would be welcomed. The event has already reached 50,000 views from the locals. And it just happened two hours ago."

"You're right. Maybe we could discuss this in the morning, I've had a very long night."

"Of course sir, thank you."

I look closely and Dave has a silencing pistol.

That fucker is going to take my target.

I process multiple emotions at once, however I find myself unable to make a move, only wielding sais my reach is somewhat ... limited as throwing them isn't exactly easy...

Dave moves for the exit, concealing his weapon, I'm somewhat shocked as usually when a window is open assassins rarely, if ever, hesitate. Maybe he had a more personal motive that's why he decided to wait?

Before he exits, he looks directly at me and just winks.

I am stunned, I didn't think he would see me.

He pulls out his silencing pistol and kisses it gently and walks out of the room.

It takes me several minutes to realize that Dave could very well be an assassin. He may have reverse hacked into my system seeing that I'm one too. I want to talk to him more about it, but can't. I guess I'll just find out later.

After Wayland is finished in the pool, he goes to shower and that's when I decide to strike.

Wayland is facing the shower washing his hair when I sneak up from behind, I swing one strike with all my weight and my sai bashes him in the head, rendering him unconscious.

Blood starts to seep from his head and I grab his foot and start to drag him towards the pool.

This seemed like the most logical approach. The pool is the one area without security cameras and this way it will just seem like he hit his head and drowned.

After dumping him in the pool and watching his body sink to the bottom I wait to make sure to watch until he stops making bubbles. That's the last thing that I would need, a failed assassination on my record.

Several minutes pass until I am without a doubt sure that he is dead, before I exit the pool I leave his keycard on the edge of the pool; staging it, making it look like he was trying to leave before he slipped and fell.

One shame of staging your assassination is that you don't leave a calling card. Some mark their targets with an "X" or they make sure to light the building on fire. Each assassin has a different approach, I just find all of that to be a little over the top, however some will pay more for it due to the assurance that their mark will be eliminated and they'll be able to know without a doubt that it was that same assassin, so no one else could take credit for it.

Returning to Dave...

"Hey ... Sooo ... We need to talk."

I open the door and find him lying in bed with one arm holding his head up, and the other pointing his silenced pistol at me.

I wield both sais and position the blades facing me as an attempt at peace.

"You think?"

I set the sais down slowly and have my hands in the air as I sit down where his laptop is.

"I had to hack into your system to see if any other assassins were on this mark. There was one that I subdued in the bathroom that has probably regained consciousness..."

He interrupts me.

"I don't care about any of that. Was the mark eliminated?"

"Excuse me?"

"Was the mark eliminated?"

I am stunned by his response because the question caught me off guard.

"Yes. I knocked him out with my sai and dragged him in the pool. I waited to make sure no more bubbles were coming out from him."

"Good. As expected."

"What do you mean?"

"I knew who you were the moment we met. One perk of being a security analyst is that I'm able to hack into basically anything with relative ease. All I had to do was reverse hack into the system and it gave me your credentials. $450,000 target, huh? I want 20 percent."

"Fair enough."

"What? No resistance or anything like that?"

"None. You could have easily killed my target, rending me useless. 20 percent is more than fair."

"Wow. I would have pegged you for more of a fighter."

"Well ... What can I say? I know a bargain when I see one."

We shake and I tell him it's best to part ways and he gives me the details of his account and I tell him that it will take a few days for the money to wire on my end, and I'll transfer the 20 percent after.

I hate mixing business and pleasure, what's surprising is how he maintained his composure during the entire time knowing him. He could have revealed his identity at any given time, but he didn't.

On the way back to the airport, I run into Dave, once more.

"Hey."

"What are you doing here?"

"I felt like kind of a dick about everything, so I tracked your cell. After a few streets I realized you were headed to the airport, not the bar so I rushed to meet you here."

"You'll get your 20."

"That's not why I wanted to find you. I meant we make a good team. Feel like discussing work on the flight back."

"I don't see how, the flight leaves in less than an ho—"

He flashes his ticket.

"Hacker perks."

I chuckle and we sit together waiting for our flight.

I'm impressed and slightly excited, I've never had a partner before and a hacker on my side wouldn't be the worst thing in the world...

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