Flight of The Blackbird
Two and a half years later…
Sweat dripped down my forehead as I climbed the ropes. Up and down, over and over, until my muscles burned. And when I could no longer lift myself up the ropes, I went over and practiced my marksmanship. Bullseye after bullseye, never missing a shot. I picked up a few knives from the weapon wall and chucked them at the targets. The tips of the blades pierced the paper targets and tore through them, jamming into the wall behind it. Mrs. Bates came up behind me from the classroom.
“Your first independent mission is today, huh?”, she said over the sounds of knives hitting the walls.
“Yeah. Luke Jones, master thief and a huge nuisance for the people of Genesis”, I responded, irritated by the mere thought of him. “He’s a B-class target, so I’m starting with a pretty big fish in the sea of shit that is Genesis.”
“Sea of crap, my bad, O holy madam president,” I
“Little asshole,” She said under her breath, rolling her eyes and sighing.
“C’mere, you shit!” She shouted, chasing me and smiling.
Luke Jones, someone who lives and breathes on the misfortune and suffering of others. He’s no Robin Hood, he steals indiscriminately and has no qualms against murder. A real piece of human garbage if you ask me.
As I ran I looked back on my two and a half years of training. I’d formed good relationships with Oakman, Mrs. Bates, and a doctor named Dr. Mack, who had given me two new body modifications. Dr. Mack dabbled in the not-so-legal side of body modification, specializing in mods that helped physical strength, speed, and mobility. Basically, he enhanced combat prowess. He had equipped me with two wires, one in each wrist. The one in my left wrist worked as a grappling hook, letting me rappel up and down buildings, grapple from place to place, grab things, and so on. The right one, on the other hand (literally), was meant to be used as a weapon. It was thin, sharp, and could be either removed to make tripwires and traps, or hardened and used as a slashing weapon. He had also given me a lighter in my right index finger, which I could use, well, as a lighter.
I had also made the acquaintance of a few of the Birds. Birds were what Oakman called the assassins in the Nest. I’d met Stork, whose real name was Jimmy. An older man in his fifties, with an eyepatch, unclean facial hair, and always wearing a plaid shirt, he was a driver who would drive Birds to and from their mission areas. He used to be an assassin, but after taking a blast from a shotgun that left most of his organs on the verge of failure, he became a driver. He had driven me to and from Genesis a few times on supply runs or to see Benny and his family.
I had also met a bird named Flamingo. She was called Flamingo for her overly-flamboyant ways of dispatching her enemies. She was borderline-unhinged on the battlefield, but was a really funny woman during normal life. She was in her thirties, with reddish-brown hair and blue eyes. Her weapon of choice was a whip, which made me always associate her with some kind of sadist BDSM nonsense.
I easily outran Mrs. Bates and went out of the training facility. The showers were in the bathroom by my room, so I went there first. When I entered the bathroom, I looked over in the mirror. I had changed quite a lot since I was fourteen. I had grown about seven centimeters, and my body was now toned and strong. I also had a few new scars after run-ins with the mutants that roamed the Wildlands. I felt like a completely new person. I turned on the shower and began to wash away the sweat and grime of training.
After showering thoroughly, I started putting on my mission gear. First a T-shirt, then body armor able to stop everything up to a 7.62 rifle round, then a custom-made jacket. I had mine designed after a jacket I saw in an old video game series, simply because I thought it looked cool. It had a lot of pockets made to hold poisons, trick weapons, and other helpful little gadgets. Next were some black combat pants and a special watch Oakman designed. The final touch was a pair of black combat boots
Finally, after all the clothes, came weapons. I opened the closet in my room to a wall full of weapons, like a museum for killers. I grabbed two handguns, an M1911 and a new-world handgun nicknamed the Piledriver. It was called the Piledriver because instead of using standard 9mm or .22 rounds, it used slug shotgun rounds. Scientists had figured out how to control recoil using a new technology, and so even though the Piledriver should break someone’s wrist when firing, it not only, well, doesn’t, but it has little to no recoil at all, making it the weapon of choice for close range fighting. On top of the pistols, I also had two combat knives, and six throwing knives laced with a poison so potent that being simply nicked by the blade will cause vomiting and muscle aches in less than five minutes. After thirty minutes without the antidote, someone stricken with the poison will die.
The mission, of which I had been informed early this morning, involved storming a safe house that Luke Jones was hiding in, in the eastern central district of Genesis city. He had been sighted by a recon squad heading into an old crackhouse, likely his hideout. I was tasked with eliminating him and any of his sympathizers in the building. A simple assault mission, a good start for my career as an assassin.
I checked my equipment, and when I was sure of myself, I stepped out of the closet and closed the door. My hands were shaking, but it was out of pure excitement. I could finally put the skills I’d curated for two and a half years to the test. I was ready. I willed my hands to relax, took in a deep breath, and began walking to Jimmy’s car sitting in front of the warehouse.
Tires screeched and the car stopped a block away from the insertion point. I hopped out of the car, hiding my guns and knives inside my jacket. For now, I just looked like a cosplayer, which was the perfect disguise. I whistled a tune as I closed the door and began down the street towards the crackhouse. I kept a hand on my Piledriver at all times, in case there were guards, which thankfully there weren’t. A voice came through an earpiece in my ear.
“Mic check, this is Mother Hen. Do you copy?” Oakman, no, Mother Hen, asked.
“Mother Hen, this is Blackbird,” I whispered.
I’d chosen the Eurasian Blackbird, Blackbird for short, as my codename, because it was honestly the only bird that I knew that wasn’t already being used. I climbed the dirty steps leading to the graffiti-covered door. It creaked as I tried to open it.
“Oh fuck it,” I swore as I kicked the door in.
Piledriver-in-hand, I crept down the disgusting hallway. Needles, crack pipes, old newspapers and piss were strewn across the floor haphazardly. The hallway had four doors, two on each side, then one at the end of the hallway. I gritted my teeth as I got to the first door, then kicked it open.
Nothing but an old, dirty mattress and a lamp. Not a human soul in sight, though there was no shortage of bugs and rats. I turned around and kicked the second door in. It was more of the same, just more mattresses, lamps and grime. I moved to the third door and kicked it in too, this time so hard the door came clean of it’s hinges.
In this room, on the mattress, was a single man. Frothy drool was dribbling from his mouth and there was a needle stuck in his arm. He made no noise, and I wasn't even sure if he was still breathing. I went over and checked his pulse, which confirmed that he was still alive.
I laid him down on the mattress and removed the needle from his arm. I then pulled a needle of my own from one of the pockets on my jacket. The needle had Naloxone in it, which is an opioid antagonist that helps counteract overdoses. I stuck the needle in his wrist and injected the Naloxone into him, then turned around and left the room.
“I did what I could for you”, I said to the addict. “Survive so you can make it worth my while, this shit’s expensive.”
He didn’t respond.
“What happened, Blackbird?” Mother Hen asked through my earpiece.
“I saved a drug addict from ODing,” I responded.
“Good. Do you have eyes on the target?”
“Negative. Searching the last two rooms now.”
“Understood. Good luck.”
I turned around and exited the room. Gun still in hand, I made my way to the fourth door and kicked it in. Another room full of nothing but grime. The final door had to be where he was hiding.
“Just as much of a rat as the real ones,” I spat.
I tried opening the door this time, but it was locked. I aimed my Piledriver at the lock and pulled the trigger. The lock flew off the door, and I kicked it in.
There was a staircase leading down into what I assumed was the basement level. I aimed my gun down the staircase and flicked on the flashlight attached to the bottom, but I saw nothing. Only a flight of wooden stairs that, might I add, were significantly cleaner than the rest of the building.
Nobody must come down here except for my target.
I crept down the stairs, gun still pointed ahead, and ejected a small bit of wire from my right arm. I made a soft shng sound as it protruded from my wrist. My steps stopped at the final stair and I peeked around both of the corners. I saw one single man around the left corner, sitting in a chair with a gun in his hand. He had quite obviously heard my search and was waiting for me. I checked my cell phone for the picture of Jones, and the picture matched the man in front of me.
Gun in my right hand, I fired the wire from my left and grappled to the wall right next to him. His eyes widened and a shriek too high for a man of his stature erupted from his lips. I kicked off the wall and aimed the gun at his forehead. He tried to lift his gun but I swung the wire in my right wrist as his arm, lopping it clean off. His shriek of horror turned to screams of pain as blood gushed from his wound. Reaiming, I put his head back in the sights of my handgun. Hesitation leads to nothing but death on the battlefield, so I took my opportunity. I didn’t waste time or breath on a one-liner.
A gunshot rang out throughout the room as a hole was punched through the master thief’s head. Brain matter splattered against the wall, and his lifeless body fell backwards off the chair. I holstered my gun and walked over to the corpse. Using the lighter in my finger, I caught his jacket on fire and waited until his whole body was engulfed in the inferno. The sickly sweet smell of burning flesh filled my nostrils as I turned my back to him and walked back up the stairs.
“Guess you get to figure out whether god is real or not, huh?”
Guess I couldn’t help myself with the one-liner.
“Has the target been dealt with,” asked Mother hen through my earpiece.
“Yes sir, the target is neutralized.”
“Good work. Stork is waiting for you in a car by East Avenue. He will bring you back to The Nest.”
“Understood,” I replied.
“Reiji, good work on your first mission. This calls for a little celebration when you get back.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Stork’s car was, indeed, parked on East Avenue by a dumpster. I hopped into the passenger side and leaned back in the seat.
“Back to the Nest?”
The engine turned on, and the car sped down the street towards the exit to Genesis city.
“I heard through the grapevine that you’ll be getting a house in Genesis soon, which will act as your base of operations,” Jimmy said after a few minutes of silence.
“Where are they dropping me?” I asked.
“Around where you used to live. In an apartment near Benny’s, I heard,” He replied.
“Ah alright. I’m sure there’s a reason for that so I won’t question.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
The rest of the ride, with the exception of the occasional comment or small conversation, was largely silent. When we got back to the Nest, I hopped out of the car and went directly to my room. I closed and locked my door, then stood in front of the mirror. Sweat dripped down my face, and my hands continued to shake.
“I just… killed someone… on my own,” I said to myself.
My mind began to war against itself. On one side was the self-doubt and guilt I felt for taking a life.
“No matter how shitty a person is, that’s still someone’s life it took!”
On the other side was the side that told me killing him was the lesser evil. He was a ruiner and ender of lives with no plans on stopping.
“He was just going to steal and kill more! People like that aren’t redeemable!”
“But he was a person anyway!”
“But one that doesn’t deserve the life he was given!”
“Who are you to decide that!”
“The person who took-”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” I shouted and slammed my fist into the mirror. Glass shards rained down from the walls, and a few cut my hand. The lacerations dripped dark red blood onto the floor, which pooled with the glass. I sucked in a breath between my teeth and went over to the chest of drawers where I kept a first aid kit.
I let the unfeeling part of my mind win over. I’d come too far in this life to begin doubting myself now. I was a trained killer, and I’d killed before. This was just the first time I’d done it by myself. The pressure on me was different. But I’d have to kill and kill until my hands stink of blood. That is, if I ever want to find my parents’ killer and bring them the vengeance they deserve.
My mind was made up. Guess I’d have to get used to shaking hands and warring minds. I finished cleaning and bandaging my cuts, then put a glove over my hand. A black leather glove that would stay there for a long time to come. A symbol of the beginning of my struggle for life and revenge.