Location: Kopenick Town Hall – Kopenick
The night was a chilly one, as were all nights since the earth’s weather systems had been disrupted by the irresponsible use of nuclear weapons in this fourth World War. It had been the worst war humanity had ever seen, wiping out one third of the world population as it was at the start of the war. The tall figure walking through the lonely street in front of the Kopenick town hall, subtly shook the thoughts from his head. He swept a loose strand of dark brown hair underneath the black fedora he wore. It was placed low above his head such that it cast a perpetual shadow over the upper features of his face. He wore his black trench coat, with the collars upturned in order to shield his neck against the biting wind. Black pants, and black shoes completed a rather dark attire that blended in perfectly with the poorly lit street. The only source of light was a bluish moon. Its gentle radiance shimmered brilliantly on the Dahme’s black water surface, creating an illusion of liquid onyx and silver intertwined, but never really mixing. The man came to a stop in front of the river and silently observed the gentle undulating waves. He was standing beside a long wooden bench with a single occupant seated and reading a newspaper.
“The weather is certainly not at its most pleasant tonight, is it?” The seated man asked in an unmistakable Slavic accent.
His silver grey hair had mere remnants of what used to be a jet black crop of hair. He turned to the standing man and smiled, revealing a rather clean shaven middle aged face. He had already acquired his fair share of wrinkles, and though very alert, his eyes conveyed the tiredness of one who had seen much in his time.
“Certainly not the most convenient weather to read in.” The man standing responded.
“Touché as the French would say. I don’t believe it is rather appealing to take a stroll in, either.”
“The chance for sustenance renders almost any weather condition a mute subject.”
The man seating, nodded in agreement.
It was a gently issued request, said with the finality of an order. Horus sat down and maintained his gaze on the Dahme.
“Let us first attend to the business that brought you here. Do you have your interface?” The man who had been seating, asked.
Horus nodded and brought out a small rectangular shaped object, with a black reflective surface. It was comparable in size to a fully grown adult’s thumb. The other man had already brought out a similarly shaped object.
“Is all of it there, Andrey?” Horus asked.
“Ten million euros to the guild as agreed.”
Both men lightly tapped their interfaces together until there was a faint chirp and a single vibrating movement from either interface. Horus checked the screen and nodded his confirmation.
“Received. A pleasure.”
He got up to leave.
“We are impressed with your service, Horus.” Andrey said.
He observed the assassin’s face – what he could see of it. There were strands of brown hair under the fedora. They partially concealed blue eyes that were akin to shards of ice. It was impossible for one to look at them without feeling a creeping chill slither up one’s spine. Those eyes looked like they missed nothing, and they were unreadable.
“The chancellor was always considered to be the easier target. A few of us never believed you would get to Jiang Li though.”
“I am glad your confidence has been restored.” Horus made to leave once more.
“We might be in need of your services again, and very soon.” Andrey called out, stopping him again.
“You know my rules. Six month’s minimum between assignments.”
“200 million Euros to the guild, Horus. Do the math for you. In your world, that’s a retirement package.”
A brief silence followed the statement. Andrey was impressed. Despite the weight of what he had just said, Horus betrayed no emotion whatsoever. When he spoke, his voice was just as plain.
“Who is the target?”
“We’ll let you know, once the order has been approved.” Andrey said, getting up. “For now, just keep the communication channels open.”
“You know how to reach me.” Horus responded. “One more thing, tell your sharp shooters that every apple they see beside them could have been a close-radius bomb.”
Horus had already blended into the darkness before Andrey could respond. Andrey sighed and spoke into a hidden microphone attached to his jacket.
“All overwatch positions report. Is there an apple beside you?”
The responses came in soon after.
“Cocky sonofabitch.” He said as he walked away as well.
The assassin known as Horus, walked into his hotel room. It was a decent lodging, with a king sized bed, a radiation resistant air conditioner, a visitor’s couch and a desk and chair to do some work. The bathroom was also of fair décor. More importantly, the hotel management did not ask too many questions and accepted cash for all transactions. It was as comfortable a place to lay low until the German authorities lost their investigative energy. The city had been put on lock down once news of the Chancellor’s assassination spread. Set had made sure to take out all agents in the Chancellor’s assigned protective unit as well. It bought them time to leave Berlin proper, as no one could radio in information or for help.
“Since when do we pick each other’s locks?” Horus asked as he flicked the light switch, turning the lights on.
The lights revealed a man sitting on the couch, near the bed. Even though he was seated, it was clear the man was tall. His muscular frame slouched lazily, on the couch. He had medium length black hair that rolled in on itself in natural curls. The man smiled at Horus’s question and nodded to the champagne bottle and glasses on the work desk.
“Since we got our cut for all our hard work, and celebratory rounds of drinks became necessary.” The man responded.
Horus smiled and sat down. He poured himself a glass of champagne and another for his partner, a man known in the underworld as Set. Once he had handed Set the glass, they both clinked it together in a token of cheers.
“To a job well done.” Set said.
“To surviving another mission… I guess.” Horus added.
He sat down and watched his glass, as Set took a sip of his.
“Where do you wander off too?” Set asked, interrupting the silence.
“What do you mean? I’m right here.” Horus responded, slightly jolting as he did.
“C’mon man. I’ve known you for ten years. Iraq? North Korea? China? Iran? We’ve been everywhere. We’ve been anyone…”
“Get to the point.”
“The point is, you still haven’t told me where you go to in that head of yours. Even when we have a reason to celebrate, you zone out.”
“Is the alcohol getting to you already, cos you are chatty this evening.” Horus jibbed.
“Fuck you man.”
They both shared a laugh.
“Listen… I’ll be fine. I just think sometimes… this isn’t where I thought I’d be… you know?” Horus tried to explain. It was an awkward attempt, but for him it was a monstrous improvement. Set smiled wryly.
“I think I get you. You just need to let those thoughts go. We’ve got too much blood on our hands, you and I. Don’t give room for the extra bullshit.”
“So are you a killer or a counsellor?”
Set got up and made his way to the hotel room’s entrance.
“Why can’t I be both?” He asked as he opened the door. “Stay in this long enough, and one day you and I won’t be killers. We’ll just be dead.”
“Or something else entirely.”
“True. Get some rest. We leave tomorrow.”
Horus nodded and heard the door click shut behind him. Slowly, he took another sip of his champagne. His gaze was fixed on the cup, but his eyes did not see it. Indeed his mind had made a quantum leap back in time and what he saw instead was swirling water in a partially broken plastic cup. It was held by a scraggly teenage boy. The boy was panting.
“Hah! Oh… wow… we are never doing that again.” The boy said as the girl beside him half panted, half laughed at their situation.
“Yes we are… if… if… we wanna keep living.”
Their friends ran around the corner, each sweating profusely and sucking in air like an out of control vacuum cleaner. One of them, a rather obese teenager with a shocking crop of unkempt red hair spoke.
“That shop… owner… is a… raging… lunatic.” He said in-between breaths. “But great work guys.”
The scraggly boy managed a laugh.
“It was all MeMe’s doing. I think her smile stopped his heart for a second.” He said smiling at her.
“You really need to stop calling me that.” She said sternly, as the group began walking through the ruins of the city.
The skyscrapers all around them cast long shadows in the dim sky. There were the faintest glimpses of the sun beyond the thick clouds of soot, and dust that swirled above them. The skyscrapers themselves were either dilapidated and crumbling structures or charred steel frameworks of their former glory. The thundering sound of fighter jets screaming low across the skies, caused them to look up in a whirlwind of awe and fear.
“How do you think our boys are holding up?” MeMe asked.
“Hard to say. They are getting us good this time.” The scraggly boy responded.
“Yeah and I heard that we won’t be able to hold out much longer. They ganged up against us real good, guys.” Another member of the group added.
“True… but I choose to hope. They are fighting for our lives out there.” MeMe argued.
“And how many lives have they failed to save, MeMe?” The scraggly boy asked. “I know they are giving it all they’ve got, but look around. It’s like this here in New York, in Chicago, in Washington, Seattle… Every fucking where.”
MeMe looked at him. Despite his negative outburst, there was a dogged determination in his steely blue eyes. He had been their leader. All of them were orphans and lone survivors of the war… as far as they could tell. He had protected them, encouraged them and willed them on even when he scarcely had the strength to do the same for himself. They sat down behind a huge pile of concrete and rubble, hiding within the shadows cast. In New York City, it was best not to be found by gun wielding men. There was no guarantee that they were friendly.
“Hey Miki.” MeMe said as she placed a hand gently over the scraggly boy’s. “Remember your promise. We’ll make it through. We’ll get out of here someday… right?” She smiled at him.
Miki was her pet name for him. He had smiled back at her. How could he not. She was so disarming, even with a dusty and soot stained face and hair. He had promised to take her to Africa. It was the one safe continent, in this period of global turmoil. Getting there was no easy task though. Still, he was determined and her smile gave him all the strength he needed.
“Yeah… just you trust me.”
She nodded and leaned her head on his chest.
“Drink some water, Miki. I know you’re thirsty.” She said as she drifted off to sleep.
He looked down at the cup. It was filled with alcohol once more, and something else. Pain. It pooled at the edges of his eyes and slid down his cheeks in a steady flow, dropping in steady splotches into the remaining champagne. Horus sat slouched on the chair, fast asleep.