This item contains Edit Points (EPs). EPs are the red numbers (~#~) that you see within this item. The Author has placed these at various points in order to gain detailed feedback. Readers may click any EP to leave comments about that particular point in the item. I came to as my body lurched forward. My feet found solid ground, and I was relieved to find myself standing upright. My eyes searched, but met nothing. I tried to reach for my head, but my hands were bound. The weight on my shoulders provided the answer that my head was covered. In the time it took to ponder this, my knees gave way, and I felt a hand on my arm, postponing me from meeting the ground. It was a hand that could crush granite into powder.
I stepped uncertainly, one foot in front of the other, as my dress shoes clacked on the tile. The clichéd burlap hood covering my eyes let nothing in but points of light, making navigation difficult. Fortunately, I had two burly, linebacker types pulling me along. The hall seemed to go on forever, but I finally heard the creaking of a large door inches from my face. My escorts continued along more tile before I was brought around in a circle. I felt a sharp release as my bounds were cut and a large hand-the granite hand-pressed down on my shoulder. I lowered myself carefully into a padded chair and grasped the armrests. The hood was yanked from my head as sunlight stung my eyes.
"So, you want to join us?" The voice creaked and groaned like the huge door. The daylight poured in through massive windows at the end of the room, obscuring the man at the desk in darkness. The dust rising through the air made the light tangible, gave it shape as four rectangles of pure energy assaulted the gloom. "But do you really think you belong here?" The figure was hard. His shape was bulging, obtuse. But he conveyed the sense that people do not often deny him, and not successfully.
"To be honest with you, I'm not here because this is my dream job. I'm here for a very specific reason." I was shocked at my own confidence. I was sitting in a room with-at least-three notorious murderers.
"And what reason would that be?"
"Revenge." I waited for a response, but the man sat in silence. "I lost my job due to vauge and malicious circumstances. So, I decided on a career where I could rid the world of bastards like my former employer."
"I'm surprised you didn't pursue ways of vengence that were more..."
"Morality is gone now. Good and evil don't exist anymore."
"Do you know who we are?" I pondered this for a moment, as if this question were some kind of a test or warning. I loved little head games like this, but I knew now was neither the time nor the place. As if seeking to gain leverage in the conversation, he added, "...Aldous Merry~1~?"
Seeing no other way out of the question, I answered, "Assassins", in a matter-of-fact way that I thought might get my teeth broken. I tensed for a moment, but everyone was still. As the man pondered my answer, my eyes adjusted to the gloom, and I realized that walls to the left and right of the room were actually covered windows. I turned my attention back to the far end of the room.
For the first time, I noticed the airtrams crossing the skyline outside. Their silver rails glinted like a spider's web in the sunlight, criss-crossing the entire city. It wasn't my favorite mode of travel. I had a natural fear of heights, especially when I was dangling 2000 feet in the air with only a couple of inches of steel underneath me. Just thinking about it made me uneasy. Now that I knew we were in the Third District, I felt really uneasy. Beginning roughly half a mile above the city, it was the home of the rich and powerful. Powerful enough to kill whoever they wanted. Whenever a body crashed a couple thousand feet down to the First, no one asked questions.
I had heard a story once about a guy who got mixed up in the usual sleaze. He was a Second District business man living a comfortable life. He had a family, a good salary, and a nice apartment with a view of the sunset. But the content don't stay content for long. One day, he doesn't come home after work. Turns out he had been spending his paychecks on high-stakes ascension games. He put down a bet of $10,000 on Victor Florentin. Victor wore the lightest clothes. His limbs, like his body in general, were long and thin. He got to the top the fastest, bounding up obstacles like a cat up a tree. He never lost. In a terrible fluke, Florentin lost his grip on the goal line and plummeted to the bottom of the arena, fatally breaking his neck. ~2~ The sure-fire bet had died in a freak accident at the same time this poor man decided to bet almost two months of salary. Needless to say, he didn't have the resources to pay up. His wife called the police, and after searching for three days, they found him. His body was impaled on the spire of the Empire State Building. How much of it is true is a matter of debate. Stories are stories.
"Correct. But in this business, it is not common to take on vindicators. Emotion clouds judgement. While this will not affect any job you take on, it may have convinced you to seek out a career that you are not prepared for. However, we will give you a chance. If you prove competent, you just may have a chance to kill the man you're after. When I have an opportunity for you, you will be contacted." I began to open my mouth. "How is not important." I closed it again. "For now, go home. Prepare yourself. There's no turning back." With the final word, there was a swoop of air as the hood resumed it's duty. After the long walk back, and a couple of twists and turns, I found myself standing outside the cut-rate bar where my little adventure began. I felt a little suspicious about the brevity of our meeting. With a long sigh, I bought a stiff drink and trudged down the dank streets of the First. After this encounter, though, was where the real adventure began.