Chapter 9:


Assassin's Hunter

"Well, you're back sooner than expected," Keiffer walked over across the space of his tech shop. I brought Ava here first since it was closer than my place, and I could consult Keiffer about this issue. "So about that rock you have-... Who's this?" Keiffer was taken aback at the sight of Ava.

"Ava!" the little girl spoke for herself.

Once I got her some grub to eat, she felt more comfortable around me despite the situation she was in. She was still holding her half-eaten burrito I bought in her hand, with schmutz on her face.

I wiped her face with my sleeve to clean the crumbs off her lips. "Ava, why don't you sit on that chair over there and finish your food? I'm going to have a chat with uh… Mr. Keiffer here to find your parents. And don't touch anything."

"Kay," she ran over to the chair.

Keiffer pulled me over to the side with worry on his face. He made sure to have our backs turned away from Ava. "Um, what the hell is this?"

"What?" I answered unperplexed.

"Don't give me 'what' when you know what I mean! What's a six-year-old girl doing with you? Is this for a job? I swear, man, you have no limits. Have you lost your mind!"

"Easy, you're gonna have a stroke. Look, I just found her on the street. She's lost and can't find her parents. I had no other sensible options other than leaving her with a priest I don't know. And I'm not walking into a police station."

"But don't bring her here! And why are priests and cops your only two options? Where'd you find her?"

"At the cathedral uptown. She was hurt and scared beyond belief... I'm going to help her. That reminds me, where's your first aid kit?" I broke away from Keiffer.

"Uh… On the rack's top shelf over there," he pointed behind Ava.

I reached for a plastic box on the dusty shelf. Clearly, Keiffer hasn't used this in ages. I just hope that means he never injures himself.

Bringing the first aid over, I sat on a stool next to Ava. "I'm gonna tend to your scrapes. Can you take off your cloak?"

"Yep," she tried pulling the cloak above her head but struggled. Keiffer stepped in and awkwardly helped her, trying not to hurt her. I pulled out some rubbing alcohol and bandages.

"Okay, this may sting a little, so be brave," I warned. She winced from the stinging of the alcohol against her wound, "Good, now let me just wrap this up, and we'll get some ointment on that bruise."

"Oww..." she mewed.

"You're doing great, worst part's over. Get a clean towel and blanket for me, will ya, geezer?" I turned to Keiffer.

"I'm twenty-nine, not old. Man, these kids," he mumbled.

Returning with the blanket and towel, I began to dry Ava's head and hands. She giggled sweetly as I ran the towel over her head. In order for her clothes to dry out and stay warm, I needed to remove her white sweater. "Lift your arms up for me," I instructed.

She did as told, allowing me to lift her damp sweater off her body. As I was doing this, a vanilla folder with several papers fell out between the sweater and her black undershirt.

"Huh?" I curiously picked them up.

The papers inside were documents containing notes and schematics of some sort. There were formulas and wording too complex for me to make out, but one thing caught my eye on the footer of each document.

                                                                        Dygen Corp

Their logo was also displayed on the bottom right corner of almost every page.

"Ava, where'd you get this?" I asked her.

"Papa gave them to me before I ran away," she said.

"Keiffer, come look at this," I went through the documents, handing a few to him. "What do you make of this?"

"Beats me, looks like some whack scientists' homework. Bunch of notes and sketches of some machinery, but all of it looks hypothetical. No blueprints or name for the thing."

"Does your dad work for this company?" I showed Ava the logo.

"I don't think so," she shook her head.

"Keiffer, where's your holotable display?" I asked, looking around the room. He gestured to the center white table with buttons attached to its side. I turned it on and inputted a search for an image of Dygen Corp tower. The skyscraper popped up in a glowing blue miniature scale. The building in real life was menacingly wide and giant, with the company's name glowing downward from the top vertically. Its clean, sleek architecture towered over the entire city. It was the second tallest building in the world.

"Is this the building your dad was in? The one you ran from?"

She nodded with a slight hint of fear in her eyes. What could she have to do with this building? Her father might still be there, but according to Ava, he was in some sort of trouble with somebody in there. She was given these documents as well and was told to run. Maybe her father was a whistleblower, and these papers were a key to exposing something big.

"Strange timing."

"You got something?" Keiffer asked.

"I got a job from Hermes this early afternoon."

"Hermes? Oh, no. Not that prick. Please tell me it's worth it, at least. What's the job?"

"A new target. Jacob Dygen."

"Holy shit- oh wait, sorry," Keiffer covered his mouth with his hand to retract his mistake. Ava just sat there, not noticing his remark. " But Dygen... Look Eiji... I don't know about this," Keiffer looked at me with concern.

I pushed past his remark and continued, "Ava said when she ran home, her mother wasn't there, but a few strangers were. That combined with her father in trouble at Dygen tower… I got nothing. Only theories. I can break into Dygen Corp, but I don't know its layout, and it might put Ava's father in danger."

"What should we do then?"

"Find her mother first, and I'll look into her father later. With my new job, getting rid of Dygen will likely cause a panic allowing me to sneak into the building to find him. Meanwhile, I'll have someone look into finding Ava's other relatives and their residences. Maybe her mother wasn't home or fled somewhere else."

"And who's going to that?"

"Oi!" a voice boomed.

A woman was standing on the shop's second floor with her hands on her hips. She gracefully jumped over the railing flipping forward onto a worktable. A bunch of papers and screws were sent flying off the table as a result. Ava clapped in excitement from the stunt.

"Elena! Not cool. No gymnastics in my workshop, especially on top of my work!"

Speak for yourself.

"Who invited the narc?" Elena hopped off the table.

"Did you get what I asked?" I greeted her with a handshake.

"Of course, unlike some people, I deliver on my promises," she shot a look at Keiffer.

"For the last time, I'm not building you a robot dog!" he frantically collected his tossed papers.

"But they're so much better and cheaper than real ones!"

She pushed back the blue Augment lens she was wearing over her head. The transparent lens displayed the time along with other symbols for her to see. She stood just two inches taller than me, sporting a bomber jacket, with her pink hair tied back.

For two years, she's been my informant, giving me updates on crime bosses, the new tech being sold, and the whereabouts of anyone I ask for. I didn't want to know how she did it, but as long as she did her job, she was a valuable asset to me. She was a tad loud, though, for someone who sure knows how to listen.

Elena took notice of Ava, who was still sitting in her chair. "Hey there, gorgeous. What's your name?"

"Ava!" she responded happily.

"That's a pretty name!" Elena complimented Ava and then turned to us, "Is someone gonna tell what's going on here?"

"Eiji's helping this girl find her parents. She's lost," Keiffer said.

"Didn't know you were such a big softie. Why don't you just send her to the police?"

"For one thing, that's not the best place for an assassin to be. And another, there seems to be more going on with her situation. So, for now, I'll handle it. But I want you to run her through the database and search for any relatives of hers- any places we can send her to with family," I said.

"Okay… but where are her parents?"

"I'm... working on that."

"Let's start with the names then," Elena suggested.

"Ava, what are your parent's names?" I asked.

"Umm… Mama is… um, Papa… I don't know," a worried look grew on Ava's face. Her brows furrowed, trying to remember.

"Do you know what they look like, or your last name even?"

Ava shook her head in shame, wanting to know the answer herself. It seems that she forgot entirely, which makes things really difficult. But I was more concerned for Ava's well-being. For a child as young as her, she shouldn't be prone to memory loss. Unless she has a condition, she might've experienced some high-induced trauma to trigger such an occurrence.

"Do you feel like you should remember but can't?" I asked Ava.

Ava cast her eyes down at the floor and then looked up to nod in silence.

"Poor thing," Keiffer muttered.

"Alright, you should rest, Ava. We'll fix this soon," I picked Ava up and brought her to a couch near a lounging corner. I pulled my jacket over her and tucked her to sleep.


"So, what's the plan now?" Elena asked, now invested.

"Same plan. You run Ava through the system using whatever you can. DNA, facial recognition, or whatever. While I take care of my new mission," I said.

"Shouldn't we do something with Ava, though?" Keiffer spoke up, "I mean, it shouldn't be normal for her to forget her parents and stuff. What if she has some brain damage?"

To this, Elena smacked Keiffer's arm with her hand. "Dude, really?"

"Ow, yes. I'm sorry, it sounds wrong and harsh, but this could be serious!" Keiffer complained.

I glanced back at Ava, napping peacefully on the couch. She clutched my jacket close to her face for warmth. At the sight of her comfort, it was hard to imagine she was just separated from her parents. I had just met her, but I wanted this girl to be safe. It was bound to be a lot of work, yet I promised to help her… so I will.

"I'll make sure she sees a doctor as soon as possible. You don't have to worry, Keiffer."

"I'm not that worried; I just hate seeing little kids in distress," he pushed back tears, covering his eyes with his sleeve.

"In the meanwhile, I'd like you to watch over Ava while I'm gone. Let's hope her parents are safe enough to wait a bit longer. Lastly, Elena. I need to know how Dygen's speech tomorrow is going to go. His itinerary, who's attending, where it's happening, and what time. Anything at all."

"I got everything you need. Let's talk shop," Elena smirked, holding a drive in her hand.