Tuesday, March 07, 2006



“What do you want with me?”
“I want nothing from you.  Only to kill you.”
“Then don't talk to me.  A professional would have killed me by now.”
“So you say, but dead men don't talk.”

He pulled the sword back above his head and prepared to bring it down in a killing blow.
But the target was right, a professional would have killed him by now.  Instead his vanity had gotten in his way and clouded his vision.
The target had hoped and planned for this.  He had been slowly reaching for his throwing knives while talking to his attacker.  He yanked the cover off his bag that had been lying next to him.  Reaching inside he found what he was looking for and withdrew them.  Flicking his wrists, he let two knives fly from his hands.  And right into his attacker's throat and left eye.
It all happened so fast that the would-be assassin never had enough time to let a look of surprise cross his face.  At least not until he was sinking to the ground.

After gathering his things and dousing the remaining embers of his campfire, the man retrieved his throwing knives.  Some assassin, he thought to himself.  But who am I to talk, I let him sneak up on my like a bear crashing through the underbrush.
With more self-berating thoughts, the man began walking down the trail in the early hours of the dawn.  Another day on the run, another day in the sun, he said to himself.  He never liked killing others.  Even in self-defense.  Even to save others.  But self-preservation was instilled in every animal from birth.  It was natural.  And despite this, the man probably wouldn't sleep tonight.  And if he did, his dreams would be filled with nightmares.

So he walked for most of the morning before stopping for food.  It wasn't quite midday, but his stomach was growling.  He picked a few berries that he knew weren't deadly and sat down to eat on a rock in the shade.  The weather wasn't overly hot but the humidity added another twenty degrees to the heat.  There was a slight breeze that helped him cool off as he ate his dried meat and gooey berries.  He listened to the birds speak and to the leaves rustling in the breeze.  It was closing on mid-summer and he still had some ways to go.  But he was heading north, where the breeze was cooler and the humidity not as high.
After finishing his meal, he did a quick inventory of his pack and made sure everything was in its place.  With that, he ended his break and began hiking down the trail again.  He kept an eye open for a stream for the heat would only get worse before the day was over.  He didn't want to stray too far from the trail but figured he would find a source for water before he got too thirsty.
It wasn't until shortly after midday that he found a small creek bed.  It had some water slowly moving through it so he felt safe enough drinking from it.  After drinking enough water he filled his canteen.  He was quickly on his way again, for he didn't know how long it would be before other assassins would find his trail and start the hunt again.  He had dispatched with four so far.  And, by his reckoning, he was nearing the half way point of his trip.  Luckily for his conscience, he had only found the need to kill three of them including the one from this morning.  The second one that had found him in his first week on the run was stupid enough to turn his back.  Not wanting anymore bloodshed than necessary, he had knocked him over the head with the knot on his walking stick.  He was still alive when he left him tied to a tree trunk along the trail.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully for him.  With the coming of night, he chose a camp sight well off the trail.  There would be no campfires for some time now.  Dropping his pack, he leaned his walking stick up against a thick tree and began to make his bed.  He had packed a light sleeping bag, but needed some branches and leaves to insulate him from the cold and hard ground.  After gathering the required bedding he laid out his sleeping bag and set all of his weapons close enough that he could reach them in an instant.  His bed made, he scouted the area with his walking stick and made sure he knew the way back to the trail.  He didn't want to get lost at night if he was forced to run again.  He set a few snares and alarms that would awake him if anyone came into the area even though he doubted he would sleep very much, if at all.  His bed made and his traps set, he crawled into a nook in a tree and looked at the stars for some time.  It had been awhile since he had looked skyward.  And every time he felt the pull of the heavens.  He had always wanted to travel to those distant stars he saw.  But he knew he never would.  Every now and again it would bear down on him and a tear would roll down his cheek.
But he never gave up hope.
The next day passed rather quickly and it felt good to have no intruders during the night.  Be they assassins or animals.  And over the next few days he thought he was making good time to his next destination.  He didn't know exactly what to do when he got there but he knew he would think of something.  He always thought of something.  Sometimes I take longer than I should, but I always think of something.  With these thoughts in his mind, along with so many others, he put one well worn boot in front of the other.
And so he traveled for many days.  Those days quickly turned into a week.  Then another.  It wasn't until his fourth week on the trail that he noticed the change in the weather.  He new he was getting nearer to his destination.

His pace had increased over the past couple of days.  He knew he was close.  He tried to restrain himself from just running the rest of the way.  The trail took him closer and closer to the city.  Then one night, while searching the area and setting his traps, he saw the many lights of campfires in the distance.  He wasn't sure how he would gain entry into the city, even though it wasn't much of a city anymore.  The buildings still stood several stories above the ground.  A few of the bridges still crossed the rivers that met in the middle of the city.  He remembered that some time ago he had actually been in several of those buildings.  He even knew people that had worked in them.  But all that came to an end all too soon.  Now the city lay in ruins.  It looked better than others he had seen, or heard about.  But it was still worse than what it once was.  Even then it was dirty, but nothing like the filth he could see now.  Even from such a great distance.
He woke early and packed his things.  He wanted to make sure he left no trace of his campsite.  He didn't want anyone to know he was in the area and he didn't know if the city had organized guards like others had.  After patrolling the area one last time, he set off towards the city.  He went much slower today than the days before.  He didn't want to make his presence known until he absolutely had too.  Even then he wasn't sure if he could or not.  He pushed all of these thoughts into the back of his mind and recalled the basic layout of the city and the areas around it.  Luckily for him he wanted to get into the neighborhoods that once stood around the southern parts of the city.  He wouldn't have to cross through the city or go around.  Slowly picking his course through the trees, he kept a watchful eye on the surrounding area.  If he encountered a patrol he would be questioned.  Then arrested.  Then executed.  The times had changed.  He could still remember being able to enter the city without anyone even looking at him as though he were out of place.  Now he worried.
He hadn't found any patrols in the area.  He hadn't even found any signs of them operating in the city.  Gradually he felt safe enough to travel more in the open.  He kept to the back roads to take him around the larger groups of people and to try to get his bearings.  He had entered this area many times from many directions but he always had a hard time navigating in the area.

Finally he found a sign laying in the ditch that had a number he remembered.  Trying to keep his pace slow and his head down, he continued straight.  Slowly, then more quickly, he recognized his surroundings.  The church at the bottom of the hill nearly took his breath away.  Memories flooded into his head and he lost his pace.  He nearly fell to his knees in tears but knew he had to continue.  I was married there!  Now it’s not even close to a house of God.  With blurry eyes, he kept walking.
He bore left before going up the hill.  He decided to approach from the rear to get a better feel of the circumstances surrounding the house he was looking for.  The squalor surrounding him made him ill.  More memories flashed through his mind but he quickly pushed them away.  He wanted to get there.  Near the top of the hill, he dashed into the woods between two houses.  At least they were houses at one time, he thought.  He stopped and listened for any signs of pursuit.  There was none, so he slowly continued up the last of the incline.  Reaching the top he removed the binoculars from his pack and peered through them to get an idea of what lay ahead of him.  Some of the houses still stood.  The worst were those that had been burned to the ground.  Some were half torn down.  And others were just boarded up.  A few were still being used though.  He scanned the area and finally found the house he was looking for.  He felt hope rise when he saw that it was still being used.
He moved down from the ridge so he wouldn't show against the light of the setting sun.  He hadn't realized how long it had taken him to get here.  Creeping down the hillside and across it, he came to the edge of the park.  Even now it doesn't look like a park, he thought.  He watched it closely until the sun went down.  After seeing that nobody used it or paid attention to it, he leaned up against a tree and waited until the night had swallowed up the last of the light.
After sitting in the dark for nearly two hours, he began his stealthy approach to the house.  He crept out into the playground, but kept to the edges of it.  He didn't want to be too far from cover if he was discovered.  He walked down the steps that led up to the playground, and came onto the end of the road.  He watched the houses that were on either side of him for any signs of activity.  It appeared everyone had gone to bed for the night.  Most people didn’t stay up past nightfall.  Candles were expensive and batteries were nearly impossible to find.  He slowly made his way to the corner of the road and again watched the houses in the immediate area for any activity.  Again there was none, so he turned right on the road and went quickly to the left side of it.  There were a few bushes there that he used for cover.  He eventually made his way to the front corner of the house.  He put his ear to the wall, but could hear nothing.  While watching from his perch on the hill, he could tell the house was being used but he did not see anyone leaving or entering the house.  Making his way around to the back of the house, he still saw no way he could enter without being heard.  All the windows had been boarded over with plywood and the doors as well.
Still not knowing what to do, he made a full circuit of the house looking for any weaknesses that he could use to his advantage.  There were none to be had.  He once again went to the front corner of the house and sat on his haunches behind the tall evergreen that grew there.  Suddenly, the ground began to make a noise under him.  He jumped back and nearly hit the side of the house.  Looking at the ground he had been sitting on seconds before, he began to see it move.  He pulled a knife from the sheath on his calf and grabbed a smaller one from another sheath on his bicep.  Let's see what these kitchen knives can do, he thought as he watched a small circle of ground slowly rotate.  So intent on watching the secret passage open, he didn't hear the person approaching him from behind.

“So what do we do with him?”
“Nothing at the moment.  The affects of the stun beam should wear off in a few hours.”
“Should we post a guard?”
“No.  This one is peaceful enough.  I have watched him for several standard months now.  He is cautious enough to avoid confrontations.  He will do no harm to others unless he is provoked.”

“Would it be okay if I watched over him anyway?”
“Yes, of course.  Someone should be here to explain things when he comes around.”
“How much should I tell him Master?”
“Answer his questions only.  Do not volunteer any information.  But if he asks, answer truthfully.”
“Yes Master.”

© 2006 TK42ONE.com Productions

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