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Assassin - Under Contract

Society blurs on the edge of anarchy

By Meredith HarmonPublished 2 months ago 12 min read
Look, I'm not paid to draw, okay? That's what the forensics people are for!

Of course my name is Raven. What else could it be? When you're born with a shock-full of coal black hair and never lost it and it falls past your cute little ass, and it never went through lighter phases in childhood, and even if you have a normal name, it's always Raven. When you have a pointed chin, what they think is cute to call "elfin ears" (bleh!), and even though my eyes were bright blue even after the cyborg modification, it was always Raven. It was the first name I spelled out on the lined paper in school, it was the name I used when I doodled "Raven loves Johnnie" on the cover of my science book, and when I grew older, it was the name I carved into the buttocks of my first victim. He got to live, though the second one didn't. It was a bit easier to carve with a knife by that point, to make the "adjustments" to a person's body required when I took the contract. But the money's more than just good, I get to play with fun toys, and I get to choose my contracts. I'm a freelancer, unlike those poor schlobs in the police force.

I'm pretty young for the job. Most don't even get their first cymplant till they're 23. But I was good even in school, so I saved up the college points I earned and added in all my college tuition bonuses and matching money and got my first implant at 16. It was hard keeping my parents from knowing I went to cy-school instead of a real accredited college, but it was hard to ignore the first fat paycheck I got. And I earned it - getting the certs for any of the bounty jobs is damn hard work even before the cymplants, and those suckers cost enough to make a first-year college freshie choke! But the second paycheck paid for another body mod, and that's about the time that my freaky DNA decided to kick in, so I'm very comfortable now. And still on top of a game that usually retires you permanently before thirty-five. There aren't many old people in the biz.

My school was pretty smart, for something that's treated with as much contempt as the old vo-tech schools. All of us contractors - bounty hunters, privateers, accountants (yeah, go ahead and laugh, but think about it), assassins, and the like - were schooled together. That way we already had contacts in all the other fields, and we'd respect the boundaries between our respective divisions from the start. Pretty damn smart, and I was smiling when I found out this particular school was founded by a co-op of various retired members of each contract group. They were the teachers, too, big surprise. I've got an open invite if I survive till forty.

Since I was raised on fairy tales, it wasn't a big step to figure out that I'm big on justice, and righting wrongs, and all that crap. Watched episodes of "Cops" and "Forensic Files" on one of the odd cable channels till my eyes were bloodshot, before budget cuts all but emasculated the force. Now they're mostly CSI geeks, and I moonlight as a bodyguard for hire to the late night crew. They pay me back by giving me the most contracts and the fattest ones, and they're really grateful when I do a job or two gratis. See, they figure out who the killer is, and then they post it publicly to a few bounty sites - which ones they post it to depends on whether the victim's family wants him alive, dead, or missing some important body parts - and then one or the other of us contract types goes into action. Usually cops get bottom choice, but I'm good enough that I have extra time, so I take the "public prosecutor" jobs in between fat upper-crust private jobs. And sometimes the cops fall into a juicy one, and I always get those cases for all the crap-ass help I give the rest of the time. And sometimes they don't even bother to post, they just tell me who and why, and there's a nice present on their doorstep in a few days. If I'm in a mood, I even gift wrap it for them. With a bow. If they're lucky, the part I wrap with the bow to is even attached to the rest of the present.

As long as someone's declared "outlaw" by the cops - literally, outside the law - they're fair game for us. My job's easier, since I work directly with my friends on the force. Other bounty hunters have to go through the hoops to confirm it's a real contract, not some hacker trying to prove he's got a bigger dick than the others.

And sometimes I'm contracted to take out the hackers, too. Then I get to have a little fun, wondering out loud if I carve my name in their dick, or their hands. Sure, I still carve my name in an offending body part, though I've now cut my hair short. It's easier to get dressed in the morning, and in my job, you usually don't get a lot of "take it easy and take hours at your toilette" kind of days. Well, you don't get any. I never have, anyways. I wonder what it's like, really.

So, I got a call from my bestie. We grew up together in one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. Didn't know why, till I was much older. Turns out, my bestie - lived next door - was the granddaughter of one of the big mob bosses. There was a giant "don't fuck around with the family" zone that kept even purse snatchers away. The few that ignored the zone came up with a rather severe case of the deads.

She was babbling something about her dad snitching, and how there's now a mark on all their heads. Now, I'm in tight with the cops, right? But I also have contacts elsewhere, on both sides of the law. Like I said, my school was something else! So I checked with my pals in blue, there's nothing. Dad's not wanted, hell, Grampa wasn't wanted! Which is saying something. So I reached out to my buddies who are freelance bounty hunters, the ones who take contracts off the books. Still nothing, not even a whisper.

Something's not adding up. So, because it was that kind of school, and I make friends real easy, I even know a handful of contract mercs - they mostly go for bodyguard positions, can legally break the face of any unwanted paparazzi within twenty feet or mess up any tresspasser on the property they're guarding - and I still came up empty. Even the privateers, the ones who act like a private-funded Coast Guard, had nothing in the pipe.

I know one guy, who only specializes in hired kidnapping. He will only take the job if he delivers them live. Sadistic little bastard. And he was as confused as the rest.

I'm pissed. Someone's lying to me, and I don't know who. I swing round to bestie's...well, compound is the best term. This branch of the family's been out of the mob for at least thirty years - longer than I've been alive - but the rumors were enough for them to go to ground in one of the other branch's safe "houses".

They hired contract mercs to help protect them. They hadn't needed guards before, and were severely out of practice. All well and good, but when I got there - and proved I was who I said I was (what, I'm not freaky looking enough?), I vetted who they'd hired. And bounced a few, that I knew were bad news. It was possible that whoever's trying to kill them would slip in a turncoat, right? And don't even think to make a reference to MY turncoat, thank you very much. I'm known for my black duster. Goes with the hair. And I can hide some lovely toys inside it.

So I go talk to bestie's dad. Turns out he's NOT snitching, and doesn't know where the rumor came from. He says he doesn't even know enough to be worth it, for information that's over thirty years old! He's got a point. All the juicy cases from that time period have been dealt with, and he was on the accounting side anyway. Yeah, he wrote my recommendation letter to school; turns out he's one of their best alumni. Donates regular to hard-up cases like me.

Then I go upstairs to coordinate the guard rotation. Some of the cops are there too, looking for a bit of extra bucks. They're allowed to take side hustles, as long as it doesn't interfere with active investigations. And this one was a stumper, and they really don't like that - they like their cases clean, with an obvious bad guy. But with nothing to go on, they wanted to get back to their CSI work, where they could make a difference. And that's when I realized there were more people in the room than should have been, and my implants ran the numbers way faster than I could....

No one was guarding the family!

Now, I admit it, I lost my temper. I let people think I can just hover, and I let them think it's all about implants, and the "wings" I built into my outfit. So I can glide, and fall slowly. Goes with the whole Raven persona, right? But, what the fuck, the guards were listening in insead of, like, actually doing their goddamn jobs! So I started screaming and yelling, and they scrambled down the stairs, and I took a shortcut - straight off the balcony, and dropped five floors.

See, I don't float. Freaky genetics, remember? I can actually fly. Something about the implants and some chemicals injected during the surgeries and my own DNA. I don't get it. I'm not the only one with "special skills," but I just don't mention it. Not in my line of work. Always present yourself as capable, but downplay your skills. The job gets done, and the baddies don't even see it coming when you pull something awesome outta your ass.

So I flew straight down, and hit the back windows just as the bad guys hit the front. I was right, there was a snitch. One of the people I let go, but damn he got the new codes out, and my people were slow on changing them. They didn't see the point for what was looking like a wild goose chase.

It...was a bloodbath. They were just sent to kill everyone, and I had people I was trying to protect. Luckily my bestie was right near the window I broke through, so I got her down and behind a couch while blasting everyone I could without killing the ones I was contracted to protect. Tricky - but that's why I have implants. They vastly improve your aim and enhance movement, trust me.

I killed a lot of them, but they killed a lot of us. The rest of the contract team finally showed up, and also started firing. I honestly don't know how many they got, because I soon realized the bad guys were retreating. That means “getting away” in my world, and I wasn't having it. I backed up and flew around the building to use my implants to memorize faces, cars, license plates, anything of use.

As it was, I recorded everything. The compound wasn't designed by defense strategists! Don't get me started on the fact I could break the glass; that pissed me off. But now? Box hedges on either side for most of the driveway. Plenty of opportunities for me to get enough vids that I could find them later. I was flying low, and they didn't even look to the side. They kept staring behind, thinking we'd pursue in cars.

I figured, the cops owed me a coupla favors by now. I sent the vids and stills over, and by the time I returned to the compound, names and locations were already being sent out. I put out word that I'd personally add a bonus to every head that showed up on the cops' doorsteps.

When I got back, I walked into carnage. The place was shot to hell, and dead bodies were lying everywhere. I found my bestie cradling her father - both alive, but he'd been shot up pretty bad, and they were prepping him for surgery upstairs. They had a full surgical team on site, natch. My team stood around looking like dogs begging for a whipping, so I obliged. Quietly, of course. We all had cyborg implants. It's amazing how loud you can scream in your own head, when your implants can override theirs.

The cops on site were collecting DNA samples, to see who belonged to what. One thing became pretty clear real quick: this wasn't an inside job. This wasn't a mob taking care of their own snitch. We guessed they didn't mean to leave anyone alive. Enough survived to identify their attackers - and it was a rival mob. Hell, just looking at the bodies, theirs and ours, you could see two familial genotypes. My bestie's father confirmed before they gassed him to do the surgery.

So. Another mob trying to start a war? And going after soft targets, that can't fight back, aren't even armed, that are usually off limits? And putting me and my rep in the middle? I. Think. Not.

Now, as it turns out, the hunt-and-kill that I expected to go on never materialized. See, even mobs have ethics and standards, and this wasn't even close to an honor killing. Not by any standards. By the time we got who was left alive stable and easy to move, and got them to a bunker (of *my* choosing, much more easily defensible than a freaking country chateau, good luck sneaking up on us!), the cops had put the word on the street.

I did have to pay some of the bounties to my pals, but I didn't mind. The ones I did get to take out, I did so - in public, messily, with as much pain and screaming on their part as I could get away with. It got the message home, on both sides. They learned quickly: don't mess with me, or I'll take you down so hard, even your corpse will look embarrassed.

What I didn't know, is that my bestie's grandfather (also survived) was furious as hell. In the bunker, he got ahold of his old rival, the great-grandfather in the other mob. Apparently they had a really nice chat. The last holdout, the grandson who decided this was all a wonderful idea, got delivered to me personally by the grand-don himself. He even handed me the gun to take out his own, because the kid was that fucking stupid. I repaid the don by making it quick, though he did apologize publicly (which I recorded, natch) for embarrassing his family and bringing down shame on everyone. Oh, yeah, he blubbered. A lot. When it finally sinks in that your own gramps will let you die because you're too fucking embarassing to let live, and there's no last-minute save, your mind just falls apart. Trust me on that one. Very few peace out in my line of work.

I missed the details of the mob truce, but something about owing two lives for every person that got murdered. I'm not sure what that really means, and I haven't asked my bestie. She's still really pissed at me for slipping up. Her mom was one of the dead. Can't blame her, really. I did visit her dad, and he says she'll come around, just give her time. I get that.

Now, there was one kill, that I'm still not sure if I'm proud of. Or not. See, the vids are pretty clear. I got visuals on all of them. One guy...he was in the back, and though he was shooting, he made sure not to shoot at anyone. Not even me, and I was trying to kill as many of his pals as possible. He was one of the first to beat it out of there, and drove the fastest getaway car.

Normally, I'd give him a pass. But, see, I know how tight these families are. I grew up living aside of one. As soon as he realized they were basically slaughtering non-coms, he should have reported the whole thing to the don. And he didn't. He just...let it happen, and thought he'd ride whichever side came out on top.

So, yeah. That doesn't fly with me. Pun intended. I had a chat with Granpa, who had a chat with their gramps, and it was agreed that yes, he could have done more to stop this. And that he forgot just where his true loyalty should lie. So, yeah, they both agreed, he's gotta go.

But, see, I took that contract. It was my bestie burying her mom. My bestie didn't want me around. That hurt. So, instead of going to the funeral, I dyed my hair, and wore some color other than black, and "ran into" him at a coffee shop.

We dated a bit. He wasn't bad in bed, but honestly, I've had better. And though I'm excellent with a gun, and pretty decent even with the higher calibers, my specialty is the knife. Raven, remember? We have wicked beaks.

So it was a clean kill. He just never finished his last orgasm.

techmaturefutureCONTENT WARNINGbody modifications

About the Creator

Meredith Harmon

Mix equal parts anthropologist, biologist, geologist, and artisan, stir and heat in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, sprinkle with a heaping pile of odd life experiences. Half-baked.

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock2 months ago

    Thoroughly intriguing. Stylistically different from most of your other work with a pacing that's frenetic & clipped, creating a marvelous kind of superhero atmosphere reminiscent of some combination of Batman, Deadpool & Venom. Yep, I could definitely see Raven as part of either the Marvel or DC universe.

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