2016 07 21
The Skytower Titania
The buildings and people shrank as we took to the sky. Everything around me rumbled like a titan awakening from its slumber. How fitting then that I was one of the people to take part in the VST Titania’s maiden voyage.
Like its name, Titania was a behemoth of steel, a product of decades of planning and years of building. It was the first of its kind, a new mode of transport to shuffle people from one corner of the globe to another. No longer would people have to drag along the seas in cruise ships or clutter the skies with planes. Built in Vonagherre City, the first of the new Skytower line could pick up and drop off any passengers and cargo at a moment’s notice.
But I digress. I’m a professional, after all. And professionals need to focus on the job at hand. Still, having to guard someone like Arch-Councillor Marduk comes with its own challenges.
Marduk was a giant both in height and weight. He towered over the pretty little thing that he brought with him to his Presidential Cabin. She was shivering as he leered at her. Who wouldn’t, dressed in that tiny red dress of hers? It did a good job of proving to me that she was a woman. Even I found the goosebumps forming on her legs fascinating. But I had to stay calm.
Women were especially dangerous for guys like me. Just a stray look, just one flash of forbidden flesh, and even the most hardened men would fall apart. A woman’s tears were the most dangerous weapon in the world, my teachers once told me.
Marduk’s hands were all over the poor thing. She whimpered and pleaded for him to stop. “Now now,” he cooed into her ear. “Don’t be afraid. I’ll take care of you.” His meaty hands stroked her waist and he said, “But first, let me know you a bit more. Privately.”
The girl’s gaze focused on me. She was silently pleading for help. I shrugged. She’s not part of the occasion. Any other guy would want to help, but not me. She’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve got a more important job to do than protect people.
Upon seeing my lack of a reaction, the girl’s shoulders drooped and she nodded weakly. Marduk was overjoyed and scooted her over to the adjoining master’s bedroom. It won’t be long before the screams would come. Remember your training, kid. Learn to ignore it.
Having my earpiece on helped me accomplish that task. With it on, I could hear everything that occurred on the ship. Marduk’s favor helped out when I asked to bug the entire place. It took me a couple of days, but it was faster than expected since I didn’t do my work alone. In a job like this, it’s crazy to think that I could manage it all by myself. My friends were all over the ship, making sure everything was ready.
But I digress. I’m a professional after all.
I could hear pounding on the door. Marduk was starting early this time. I switched to a different channel on my earpiece. The captain of the ship was giving out orders on the bridge; people were having fun in the indoor pool; and workers were bustling in the engine room. Titania was brimming with life, and it was smooth sailing so far.
What a shame then if something happened.
An hour passed by. In the meantime I was busy cleaning my revolver, making sure that it would fire at a moment’s notice. I only had two rounds with me. I was told never to carry more than two on a mission, and I never needed to use both before. Once I checked it for the umpteenth time, I got up and checked the window to distract myself from the noise inside the bedroom. We were already over the Pacific Ocean. No land in sight. All smooth sailing from here.
A monstrous, metallic rumble quickly changed my opinion. A vase and some cutlery slipped off the dining table and came crashing down. The table and chairs screeched across the floor before they crashed onto the wall next to me. I steadied myself as the Skytower continued listing to the right.
Outside, I saw the engines on the massive wings burst into flames. One, and then another, until all of them vanished beneath black smoke. Switching channels on my earpiece, I could hear nothing but pandemonium. Crewmen were groaning in pain while the captain laughed. The sound of gunfire echoed throughout the bridge. In another channel civilians cried and prayed as they were attacked by a hail of bullets. And there was nothing but explosions throughout the engine room.
Titania steadied herself as she slowly descended. By my reckoning it would take thirty minutes for it to hit the water. That’s more than enough time to do what needed to be done.
Marduk burst out of his room. His clothes were in disarray and his face was flushed. “What’s going on, Miles? Is it a terrorist attack?”
I didn’t listen to him. I merely straightened myself and pulled out a silver pin. It was in the shape of a clump of deadly nightshade berries. I pinned it onto my collar before turning to him.
“The one who did this isn’t alone,” I said. I eased out my revolver from its holster. I cocked the hammer and continued, “He may have been waiting for this opportunity to strike.”
Marduk grabbed my shoulders and shook me. “Then you’ll protect me, right?” he pleaded. His face was drenched with sweat and his gigantic belly and chest were heaving. He looked like a child caught in a thunderstorm at night. “I paid you good money to protect me, Desmond!”
“You’re right,” I replied. I pointed the barrel of the gun under his chin and said, “But Nightshade thought that you were a threat.”
Marduk’s eyes bulged when he heard the name. He finally saw the pin on my collar. His face flushed red and cursed. The massive hands made to strangle me.
It only took a second for his brains to splatter on the ceiling. His eyes rolled back and blood dripped from his mouth and nose. Like a drunk he stumbled around before he finally tripped and fell with a resounding thud that shook the room. One target down. Now to silence any witnesses.
First I had to deal with the girl. Entering the room, I saw her cowering beneath a blanket. Almost every inch of bare skin that I saw was black and bruised. A line of blood trickled from her lips and her eyes were red and puffy. Marduk sure took his time with her.
“T-Thank you,” she mouthed. She didn’t move, but her gaze moved to something near me. Her dress was on the floor. I picked it up but it had been ripped apart.
“You won’t be getting out of here wearing this,” I said.
“B-But is it true?” she asked.
“Are there really terrorists on the ship? Is that why all these explosions are happening?”
I winced. “I wouldn’t call us terrorists, Ma’am,” I replied. Pointing the gun at her, I said, “We’re professionals.”
The girl clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh no, please don’t do this!” she cried. “Don’t kill me! I don’t want to die.”
“Sorry, Ma’am,” I said. “But you’re a loose end. And loose ends need to be tied up.”
Tears streamed down her face. “Please. I won’t tell anyone. I don’t want to die. I never wanted to be here. Please!”
I tried to steady my aim. Focus, kid! Don’t be swayed by her. You had a job to do. You had to kill Marduk and everyone else would take care of the engines and the crew. It would be too suspicious if he was the only one that died on Titania’s maiden flight. Why not hide the needle among all the other needles? And when the coast guard finally find him among the wreckage, it would be too late to guess that he was the target all along. Everyone was just an unfortunate victim.
So why aren’t you pulling the trigger, kid? You were trained for this. You know what to do. You have to kill her. She’s just a girl, a prop to make the whole illusion convincing! I gritted my teeth trying as my gun hand shook. If I didn’t shoot her, someone else will. Someone else always had to make sure that the assassin was thorough in disposing the target and all witnesses. Any moment now they could walk into the door and find that I didn’t finish the job.
I heard another gun click behind my ear. Oh great, they did come after all.
“How disappointing, Desmond,” a husky man’s voice said behind me. “I thought you’d have wrapped things up by now. Turns out even you aren’t immune to a woman’s charms.”
“Lucio,” I said. “Let me do my job. You just stand there and watch.”
“Then stop talking and pull the trigger on her already!”
I gulped and leveled the gun at the girl. She no longer cried or tried to hide. She sat up straight and closed her eyes. She looked just like a soldier awaiting the order from the firing squad. What a way to go.
“Shoot already!” Lucio shouted.
Like any professional, I did shoot in the end. One shot, one kill. Of course, Lucio didn’t expect for me to get on the ground, point the gun at his head, and fire. He didn’t even have time to move his gun arm by the time the bullet caught him in the eye.
When I checked on the woman, she had clapped her hand over her mouth once again. Without wasting another second I yanked open the wardrobe door and pulled out a white terrycloth bathrobe. I tossed it over to her and she caught it.
“Put it on,” I said. “You’ll still have around twenty minutes to get to the escape pods. Take the corridor to the end and head up the stairs to the deck. Don’t stop for anything.”
The woman blushed as she held the bathrobe to her body. “But, what about you?”
“Just leave the door open, will you? Now go, before I change my mind.”
It didn’t take long for the woman to leave the room. But before she left she kissed me on the cheek. I could still feel her warmth long after she left. I was alone with two bloody corpses now. I could hear the frantic footsteps of the passengers as they rushed to the escape pods. Not much time left before we hit the water.
I sat on a chair and took off my pin. After a second I tossed it in Marduk’s direction. I’m not worthy of it. I hesitated in the end. I failed at my job, and yet I didn’t feel so bad about it. I felt my cheek. Somehow, that kiss felt better than all of the money that I received from my previous jobs. A woman’s tears really are dangerous after all. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Titania lurched further forward and let out a deep, metallic groan. Not long now before the end. I think I’ll enjoy the view for a bit longer. It’s not so bad for a failure like me.