As his shuttle screamed through reentry, Agent Horowitz reviewed the deadly orders. An oft-used display screen lit with the creased face of Federal Intelligence Director, Alistair Morris. “She’s quite possibly the most dangerous assassin in Human-controlled space,” he said, tapping the desk for emphasis. “Intelligence indicates she’ll be on the planet for three days before she moves again.”
Horowitz watched himself answering during the briefing recording. “Is this confirmed?”
“Unfortunately, no. Hunt for her anyway. If you find her, kill her.”
“You said the planet is ‘expected to be’ unpopulated, right?”
“Most likely.” Morris’ jaw worked with apprehension. “The planet is close to transit lines. Survivors of damaged ships might be there. Doesn’t matter. If you find a solitary woman, It’s her.”
Horowitz felt his anti-authoritarian impulses rise. “What if she’s an honest castaway?”
“You always contradict me. Look, we don’t know what she looks like. Don’t take chances. Just kill whatever you find.”
“Sir. You know how I work. I don’t target innocents.”
Morris scowled. “You’ve got your orders.”
Horowitz shut off the recording and stretched long, lean legs out as he thought. He didn’t have a lot of bulk. As one of human-space’s foremost intelligence operatives, nanotech had changed his body significantly, but mostly on the inside. His bones were laced with carbon nano-tubes. He’d jumped out of a tenth-story window once and walked away without even a sprain. His musculature was super-humanly dense. Punch him with a bowling ball and he’d laugh it off. A high density of quick-fire muscles made his movements cobra quick.
Sensors had reported only one life sign, so the calculus of kill or not kill seemed easy. Unfortunately, there were signs of a recent escape pod,, still sparking from damage nearby the life sign. It might be an actual castaway. Despite his orders, Horowitz refused to target a possible innocent. Instead of simply killing from the air, he landed the shuttle nearby so he could investigate personally.
He found her making camp near a rocky waterfall. Horowitz watched through binoculars from cover as she attempted, badly, to make a lean-to. He could think of twenty different ways to do it faster and more easily. She was doing everything wrong. As he watched with an amused grin, he watched her cut herself twice attempting to use a dull knife.
Sensors reported she’d been modified by nanotech, but then most people in human-space were. Like most, hers were applied for cosmetic reasons. No muscle-enhancements you’d expect in an operative. Instead, nanotech gave her that beautiful skin and her slender waist, visible behind her torn clothing. He couldn’t imagine technology sculpted that face, though. It was too perfectly soft and gentle. It was a face he could meditate to, and find nirvana. Despite her calming features, she looked terrified as she glanced around furtively. None of the steely glances of a trained operative.
He approached carefully, EC-17 Pulser aimed at center of mass. When she saw him and his gun, her eyes bugged. She retreated with ungainly steps, and tripped head over heels over a rock. Stupidly, she tried to hide her entire body behind a rock the size of her head. “C’mon shipmate!” she shrieked. “We’re in this together, right?”
You always contradict me.
Too bad, you heartless ass.
Horowitz sighed. She’s no operative. She assumes I’m a fellow survivor. He helped her up gently. It took 30 minutes before she stopped shuddering and blubbering for her life. Horowitz wasn’t skilled with soothing words, but he tried. Figuring the intelligence on the assasin was wrong, he led her back to his shuttle. He grew annoyed with her constantly falling behind as she tripped on everything. He opened the hatch to his shuttle while she caught up…and felt the familiar pain of a dart striking between his shoulder blades.
He collapsed, muscles paralyzed. She stepped over him with phenomenal grace. “Kill #183,” she grinned. “Director Morris sends his regards.”
“No enhancement,” he rasped.
“Nanotech enhancement is for amateurs,” she scoffed. “It gives you away.” She winked and flew off in the shuttle.
The toxin should have killed him in seconds, but Horowitz’s v.8 nanotech could be controlled with his mind. He neutralized the toxin and soon after sent a radio signal, triggering the self-destruct on his shuttle.
He sighed. Morris knew his contradictory nature and used that to manipulate him. She knew — from Morris — about his ironclad morals regarding innocents. He’d been played by non-innocents twice lately. One was dead.
One more to go.
This is my answer to Grammar Ghoul Press’ writing challenge, Mutant 750 #30. This week’s word prompt is: Hunt. The splash image is the media prompt. Look here for more stories answering to the challenge: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-30/