The deep red blood adds yet another blemish to the soft, white snow. I wipe the flat of the blade over the man’s body. His back is to the ground, his mouth agape, his face frozen in a mask of horror.
I step back. There are multiple holes in his jacket where I have pierced my sword through his body. I sheathe my swords and turn away from the grisly sight. I need to get out of here quickly if I don’t want to be caught by his security detail. After all, I’ve just murdered the Lord of this area, even if he wasn’t exactly the most popular with his citizens. His name is- was Richard Bennett. He was also one of the more ruthless Lords to ever rule this area.
In the distance, I can hear the sounds of people running and shouting. Over the horizon, I see the faint outline of his bodyguards rushing to his aid. Unbeknownst to them, it’s far too late to help him. But they will find that out soon. I briskly walk to my car and get in. I speed away from the scene. By the time his bodyguards reach him, I’m long gone.
I pull over twenty miles later. I pull the skull bandana off my face, along with the sunglasses. Most people in my line of work don’t need to cover their eyes. I’m not one of them. My eyes are much too distinct, especially in this region of the world.
I drink a swig of whiskey. The action is more celebratory calming. I learned to keep a tight rein on my emotions a long time ago.
I drive on and see the rundown shack by the side of the road. I pull to a stop. The shack doesn’t look like much, but as the saying goes, I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I bring the bandana over my face and wedge my sunglasses back on. I park on the side of the road, pull the keys out of the ignition, and pocket them.
I walk into the shack. The room turns pitch dark as I close the door behind me. I kick the nearest crate out of the way, and glimpse the bluish glow of the retinal scanner. I bend down and take the sunglasses off. I hear a faint whirring as it processes the image of my eye. Then, with a faint click, it moves to the side as a hidden wall slides open to reveal a trapdoor.
I open the trapdoor and make my way down a spiral stairway.
At the bottom of the stairway, a closed mahogany door with golden light filtering through the bottom awaits me. I knock and it opens almost immediately.
The man who answers it is smiling at me. “You must be Devi”. He’s on the older side, with graying light brown hair and turquoise eyes. He’s at least six inches taller than me, and is made almost solely of muscle.
“That’s me.” I nod. I take off the skull bandana and pocket it. I sheepishly smile and cross my arms behind my back. He gives me another smile and steps to the side.
“Why don’t you come in? You look cold.”
I nod and give him a mumbled ‘Thank you’ before ducking my head in and stepping into the room.
I gasp at the sight. The room is huge with an extremely high ceiling. The room is mostly drywall, but has dark wooden accents. In the back of the room, there’s a huge fireplace in which a cheery fire is blazing. But the most magnificent feature is the completely full dining table in the center of the room.
I hear the door close behind me, and the man stands next to me. “I’m Jerry, by the way.” He holds his hand out and I shake it.
Nobody else in the room seems to notice that I’ve arrived. Jerry motions for me to follow, and finds me a seat next to him. “Why don’t you eat? I’ve a feeling it’s been a while since you did that.”
I help myself to a serving of pasta, and it’s only when I take the first bite that I realize just how famished I am.
“So, where exactly am I?” I ask Jerry.
He raises an eyebrow. “You don’t know?”
“Nope. I’m usually just sent somewhere with only my gear and the name of my target.”
“Huh.” Jerry looks slightly surprised. “Well, that’s interesting.”
I stop, my hand halfway to my mouth. “Why’s that?”
“They only ever do that to agents who are, well, additionally skilled.”
I shovel some more pasta into my mouth before I say anything. “Are you implying that I have powers?”
Jerry smirks. “Depends on your definition of powers.”
“But anyway, where am I?”
“This place where we are now, it used to be known as Norway before the Calamity struck.”
My eyes widen. “Norway? But… I’m pretty sure I was in China yesterday.”
Jerry chuckles. “The Miracle Order has access to tech that’s hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years ahead of our tech today.”
“And they can’t use any of it to benefit the people of this doomed world we live in?”
“They’ve been known to hide their true intentions until it’s too late to stop them.”
I scowl. “That’s manipulative.”
Jerry hears this and grins. “It does seem like that sometimes.”
We eat the rest of our dinner in silence. By the time we’ve finished our meal, most of the people have risen from the table and disappeared into adjoining rooms, leaving Jerry and I alone in the room.
“Why don’t you stay here for the night?” He smiles. “You can continue on your way later.”
“That would be great. I wasn’t looking forward to another uncomfortable night in the car.”
Jerry nods and motions for me to follow him. “This way”
He leads me to a door and opens it. I walk in and he turns the light on behind me. “Make yourself comfortable.” He turns to leave.
“Thanks for everything,” I say.
“No problem, kid.” He leaves, closing the door behind him.
I scan the room. It’s decorated in much the same way as the main room. There’s a twin bed on the right. Next to it stands a dresser. I strip down to my underwear and lock the door. Then I turn the light off and climb into bed.
‘Man, this feels nice’ is my last thought before I drift off to sleep.
I wake up, disoriented and confused when I don’t see the familiar faux leather of my car’s seat. Then I remember the events of last night. I sit up and stretch my stiff limbs. I dress myself and walk out of the room.
Nearly everyone I saw yesterday at the dining table is here now. The large table is gone, replaced with many smaller, circular tables.
“Hey Devi. Slept well?” Jerry walks up to me.
“Better than I have in a long time.” I give him a small smile.
“That’s good to hear. Do you want to stay for breakfast?”
“No thanks. I should get going, actually. the Miracle Order will be waiting for a sitrep anytime now,” I say apologetically. “Sorry.”
Jerry nods. “I get it, no need to apologize. Been in the same situation many times myself.”
“Thanks for everything.” I start to make my way to the door.
Jerry calls out “Bye Devi. See you around” I wave. “Bye Jerry.”
I close the door behind me, cutting out the sounds of conversation. The staircase is shrouded in darkness. I walk back up the stairs. I climb out of the trapdoor, and as soon as I exit the shack, I hear the wall slide back into place. I pull my sunglasses and skull bandana back on, and walk over to my car and climb back in.
I start driving and observe the passing scenery. It looks eerily familiar. It’s only when I see the castle looming in the distance when I realize that I’ve been driving toward Richard’s castle, and not away from it.
All too late I realize that I’ve been focusing on the scenery instead of the road.
The woman’s eyes widen as I speed towards her. The tires squeal as I jam my foot down as hard as I can on the brakes. The vehicle rocks as I frantically turn the wheel in an effort to avoid her.
But it’s no good.
Her mouth opens in a scream as I run her over. Her body is like a speed bump, and for a moment the car is airborne. A second later, it shudders to a screeching stop.
For a little while, I’m just sitting there in shock. It occurs to me that I should probably go and check the damage.
I slowly step out, and take off my sunglasses. Dread begins gathering in the pit of my stomach. She’s probably dead, I was going pretty fast. And even though I’ve killed many people before, they’ve always been bad people. I’ve never killed someone innocent.
The Miracle Order is going to kill me.
With a deep breath, I step behind the car, bracing myself for what I’ll see.
How is this even possible?
The woman’s sitting on the ice. She seems to be perfectly fine, and she yawns when she sees me.
“What was that for?” she asks as she stands up.
“Why’d you try to run me over?”
She doesn’t look angry, only curious. She crosses her arms and tilts her head to the side.
“Um. Sorry. I didn’t really see you there.” I look down, suddenly scared.
“Nah, it’s fine. Mistakes happen.” She shrugs and gives me a dazzling smile.
“So you’re not mad?”
“Nope. Good thing I wasn’t hurt!”
She offers me her hand. “I’m Violet, by the way.”
I take her hand, and shake it. “Devi.”
She brushes her inky hair behind her eyes. “Your eyes are so dark.”
I scowl. “Well, we can’t all have unearthly colored eyes.”
She laughs. “I like it actually! It looks cool!”
“Oh. Thanks, I guess?”
“You are extremely welcome. Also, can I ask for a favor? I need a ride.”
“I’m actually kind of busy, so sorry.”
“Really? After all, you did run me over.”
She has a point. The least I can do is to help her out a little.
“Okay, fine. Get in.”
She nods. “Can we wait a few minutes? My brother went to take a leak, and he’s not back yet.”
“Okay, but he better be quick.” I lean back. “What’s his name, by the way?”
“His name’s Silver,” she replies.
“Wait.” I point at her. “Aren’t you the one with silver eyes?”
“Yeah. His eyes are purple. And my name’s Violet. Funny coincidence, huh?” As she laughs, her silvery eyes seem to glow a little.
“There he is!” She smiles. A man emerges from the woods, and she walks to him. She whispers something in his ear and motions for him to follow her.
“Devi, this is my brother Silver,” she says as he joins us. “Silver, this is Devi. She’ll be helping us.”
“Thanks for the assist,” Silver says. He has short black hair, and his eyes are the color of lavender.
“No worries. I’m nice like that.”
“Sure, sure. It’s not like you’re helping because you ran me over.” Violet points her finger at me. “You even refused the first time I asked.”
“Whatever. Just get in.” I sit in the seat and close the car door.
Violet laughs and takes the seat next to me, while Silver sits in the back. I start the car.
“Where to?” I ask. “We’re going near the city. The one near Final Falls,” Silver says. “We’re originally from there actually.”
“How come you’re here, then? Bennett Town is pretty far away from the city.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Violet and Silver share a look.
“It’s a long story,” Violet says.
“I’ve got time,” I reply. Something is fishy about these two, and I’m determined to figure out what it is. The fact that I could run over Violet, and she could come out unscathed, that in itself is something interesting to look into.
“It’s very complicated,” Silver says. “And kind of boring. We wouldn’t want to bore you after all the hospitality.”
These two are definitely hiding something. I know it. But they really don’t want me to know more about them. I’ll need to find some way to figure out who they really are and what they’re doing here.
“So anyway, what’s your last name?” I ask Violet.
Her eyes widen, and she sputters. “Um my last name, it’s uh, Smith! Violet and Silver Smith!”
She’s definitely lying. Nobody takes that long to remember their last name. And from the way Silver is glaring at her, I can tell they probably didn’t plan on this.
We drive past the shack. I hold my breath, fearing that they might recognize it, but they ignore it.
So they’re probably not connected to the Miracle Order. That’s nice to know. If I talk to any of my friends, they won’t be in any danger.
“So where are you from?” Violet asks me.
“Oh, you know. Around.” I can’t possibly tell them that I never knew my parents. I was born in what used to be called India. Then my parents died, and the Miracle Order saved me before the disposers could get me. The disposers are exactly what they sound like. They ‘dispose’ of orphaned or scarred kids. The kids go missing and are never seen or heard from ever again. It’s a horrible practice, but it isn’t easy to put a stop to it. Besides, most of the disposing happened sixteen years ago, around the time I was born. It still happens today, but it’s much rarer.
“What do you mean…around?”
“My family moved around a lot. So yeah, around.”
This part was true. Ever since I was taken in by the Miracle Order, I’ve been shuffled around from country to country, in training everywhere I went. It’s only recently that I’ve been getting real jobs, like Richard Bennett.
“We’ve pretty much stayed in the same house all our life,” Silver says. “I wonder what the rest of the world is like.”
“Not too different from here, mostly deserted, with cities and communities here and there. Lots of danger.”
“What places have you been to?” Violet asks.
“I was in China two days ago.”
“Cool! What’s it like?”
“Much the same as here, except the temperature is hotter.”
“Where else have you been?”
“Before China I was in Mexico. And before that I was in America.”
“Mexico, and some other places in South America.”
We sit in silence for a while, until Silver says, “How much longer?”
I sigh. “We’ve been driving for about an hour, so we have two more hours left. If the weather’s good, that is. If it isn’t it’ll take us an extra half hour at least.”
Silver sighs and leans back. He looks out the window.
I look back to the road, and see a building in the distance.
“Hey what’s that?”
“It’s a building, genius.” Violet replies.
“I know that. But what’s the purpose of the building?”
“Oh. I don’t know.” She shrugs. “But you can check now, because we’re there.”
I park and kill the engine. Violet and Silver hop out. I join them as we walk to the building.
“I think it’s a rest stop.” Silver says as we get closer.
“Oh good. I had to pee.” Violet runs ahead and dashes inside.
“You should use the bathroom too. Just in case, you know.” I eye Silver.
“Ok. Be right back.” He jogs in after his sister.
Finally, some alone time. Even if it is for only a few minutes. I walk in to buy some food and water, when I see someone I know.
No way. It can’t be. He’s here? Now? That’s a huge coincidence. Or a huge setup.
He sees me and smiles. Shoot, too late to back out now.
“Hey Devi.” He smiles. “Remember me?”
I force a smile. “How could I not remember you, Buck?”
He runs a hand through his hair and smiles again. “I have been known for my riveting personality, not to mention my charming looks.”
I snort. “Yeah, sure.”
Buck and I last met a few weeks ago, in Mexico. But we’ve known each other for most of our lives. He was born in what used to be known as China. He even has the trademark dark eyes that mark the few of us that the Miracle Order saved from being disposed. He’s a year older than me, though he acts like a seven year old at times. He’s a good person though, in general.
“So, what’re you doing here?” He leans against a shelf.
“I had business with Lord Bennett, if you get what I mean.”
His eyes widen and he gasps. “Wait, you did that? Wow! I was just going to tell you that the execution, pun intended, on that was beautiful!”
I cough. “Sure.”
“No really! Nice job on that one!”
I sigh. “What do you want, Buck?”
“What do you mean?”
“You pretty much only ever give out compliments if you want something. So, what is it?”
He rolls his eyes at me. “Oh please. Right now, the only thing I want is for you to know that I liked how you did Bennett. Is that such a bad thing?”
“Yes.” “Ah, shut up.”
Right then I see Violet and Silver out of the corner of my eye. And they’re coming this way.
“Pretend you don’t know me.”
“You heard me! Ignore me!”
Buck sees Violet and Silver and smiles. He places a large hand on my shoulder just as the two of them come to me.
“Hey! This is my very good friend Devi!”
I elbow him in the ribs as hard as I can, which is pretty hard considering how bony I am.
“Ow! What was that for?” He laughs, breathless.
Violet gasps and her eyes blaze with anger as soon as she sees Buck.
“Who is this?” She asks. Her voice is little more than an accusatory whisper.
“This is Buck. And we are definitely not friends.”
“How do you know him?” She’s glaring at him now.
“Whoa, hold up. Why are you so mad?” Buck faces her, with his hands in front of him, palms facing Violet. “I didn’t do anything.” He smirks. “At least, not yet.”
Violet takes a deep breath and clenches her fists, like she’s actively trying not to punch him. “No reason. It doesn’t matter.”
“You sure?” Silver asks, carefully placing his hand on her arm.
“Yes. I’m sure.” She looks down at the ground and closes her eyes for a few seconds. When she looks back up, she says, “I’ll wait for you back at the car.”
With that she slowly turns and stalks off.
“What’s up with her?” I ask Silver.
“No idea. I’ll go check.” He turns and walks back to the car.
“That was strange,” Buck says as he leans on the shelf.
“You think?” I raise an eyebrow. “It was all because of you.”
He waves a hand in my face. “Yeah, yeah, think whatever you want, but we both know what’s true.” He stands back up and smiles again. “I have to go now. See you some other day, stranger.” He salutes, and before I have a chance to say goodbye, he’s gone.
I pay and walk out. By the time I’m outside, there’s no sign that Buck was ever here.
I get back into the car. Violet seems to have calmed down a little, and Silver is napping in the back.
“You okay?” I ask her as I toss my stuff into the back.
“Fine.” She says, yet her mind seems to be elsewhere.
I start the car, and keep driving.
We travel in silence, lost in our thoughts. The only sounds are Silver’s soft snores.
As I keep driving, I can’t help but think that I’ve heard the names Violet and Silver somewhere before. I’m not sure why, but when I said their names together it sounded really familiar. Violet and Silver. Silver and Violet. I keep turning it over in my head, countless times. The connection is on the tip of my tongue, yet it still doesn’t ring a bell, even though I know for a fact that I’ve heard their names somewhere before.
Violet finally breaks the silence when she points to a large manor and says, “There.”
I’m so shocked that my eyeballs nearly pop out of their sockets. “There? That’s your home?”
She looks at me. “What?” She laughs. “Are you judging me?”
“No, no! It’s just that your house… It’s so big!”
She chuckles. “Yeah, I get that a lot.” Then she frowns. “You can just drop us off here, if you don’t want to come in.”
I smile. “Are you kidding? Based on the size of your lands, it’ll probably be days until you reach the home!”
She laughs, and turns to the back seat. “Silver, we’re here. We’re home again.”
Silver wakes up at the mention of home, and smiles. “Finally. Took long enough.”
I stop at the front door of the manor. Silver runs out and knocks on the door. Violet closes the car door, and knocks on the window.
“Thanks for dropping us,” she says as I lower the window. “I know you’re probably a very busy person.”
I smile. “It’s fine. But yes, I am a very busy person.”
She laughs. “Well, Devi. See you whenever.”
“See you,” I say. She waves goodbye one last time then joins her brother at the front door.
I’m almost about to drive away, when I see the door open out of the corner of my eye. My eyes flicker over to see who answered the door, and I gasp when I see who opened the door.