The beast is vulnerable. It’s odd to call you that, to think of my teacher, my nurturer as prey. And yet here we are.
For now, my name is Jack. Tomorrow I will be someone else, but today I am both an agent of death and witness of ascension into legend. A transition that requires a certain flair for the dramatic.
Which is the primary reason I am floating out here in the big black, recoilless rifle and armour piercing rounds at the ready. Truth be told I expected a chase, a duel: something to warrant all this exhaustive preparation. It’s not easy getting an unregistered weapon into space. Yet here I am and there you are, sitting in front of that hotel window, staring at the stars in a serene, meditative pose, as if patiently waiting for death.
Some would say it’s sad. Some would rail against fate and the undeniable truth that we all die someday. That nothing lasts forever. I don’t. The fact is you’ve gotten sloppy.
You taught me this.
I am angry in some small way. At your failings, at the ease with which I’ll end your life. You inspired me as a child, your exploits were incredible. The stuff of legend. Now, you’re old and worn out.
You’ve become unworthy of your office. I have no choice but to take your place, a fact I can revel in, if only privately. But at least I can admit I’ve wanted this for a very long time.
I dreamt of dying once, far away and bathed in the light of an unfamiliar star. I suppose I should add that to my litany of unfulfilled dreams and broken promises.
Still, if I’m going to die today, at least I’m not down on that brown smear of a planet. Maybe that counts for something.
I’m just glad I can look outward towards the vastness of the universe and away from all the terrible things I remember.
Mostly pain and betrayal.
I wonder how much you know, my little avenging angel.
I might say you’re clever, coming at me from outside, but I’d be lying. It’d break your pride if you knew I let you catch me. You didn’t need to track my movements, my patterns or even mimic my skill-set. I would have told you everything, if you’d bothered to ask.
Perhaps that little glimmer out there is you.
I suppose there’s a part of me that’s terrified. The animal in me wants to live; wants to bare its claws and fangs and shred you to bits.
The rest of me just wants to get it over with. Perhaps I’m looking forward to the act of shrugging off this life. Even if I’m not convinced there’s anything behind that particular curtain. Perhaps I’m numb. I’ve certainly dealt enough pain to deserve what’s coming.
A fact I find somewhat disappointing.
I’ve got forty six years of assassinations under my belt. I can make death look like an accident, an illness, a twist of fate or brutal execution. One hundred and seventeen successful missions, one hundred and sixty two confirmed kills, nineteen suicides and two hundred and eleven orphans.
That’s my legacy.
I used to be proud; proud I was so much more effective than your serial killers and bombers and professional death squads. Certainly my methods were more accurate, more surgical.
Now I can’t even bother to lie to myself. The simple fact is, most of the people I cut down didn’t deserve to die. I killed them anyway.
Self reflection breeds weakness in this line of work. Sooner or later every professional murderer finds at least one thing they can’t sacrifice. Even you, though you don’t know it yet.
I have a daughter; seventeen this year and wonderful and beautiful and smart. She’s also one of those orphans, one of my spoils of war.
It’s an old story: blood by my hands and an infant in the crib. Should I end her misery or scoop her up? Those eyes of hers did it – convinced me to take her instead. I gave her a life, a future and some semblance of normalcy.
And I started to crack.
You aren’t supposed to have a family in this line of work. You aren’t allowed a life or loyalties that lie outside your contracts.
Only we’re not machines, so these things happen.
I was offered a simple choice. Die and go down in history as an indomitable force, or run and watch as my life is dismantled. My daughter would be taken, my secrets laid bare on the evening news. Fight and my daughter would die. Fight, and even if she lived through the massacre, I don’t think she’d ever forgive me.
My daughter is all I have, and in the face of losing her, I can accept defeat.
If I’ve done any good in this world, it’s her.
And I’d rather at least someone remembers me fondly.
So, make it quick and painless. Show some skill; that you’re ready. The others don’t have the necessary edge: that detachment and little bit of crazy.
And remember that everything comes at a price. You’ll be haunted by nightmares and doubts. Time will teach you how insecure your place is. Someday you’ll question your beliefs.
Just like me.
And then you’ll be faced with the same choice.
Now, hurry up an-
The window doesn’t shatter.
The bullet opens a pinprick hole, a web of stress fractures that radiate out from the point of impact. Maybe there’s a look of surprise on your face, maybe all you register is a microsecond’s pain before everything shuts down.
All I see is atmosphere escaping in a jet of steam as the lights burst and go dark.
It’s finished; time to go.