I turned up the lights in the briefing room, and looked at Carter, Pierce, and Toliver, the latest crop of Group-5 assassin interns. They were mean looking bastards. I pitied the poor sonovabitches who might have to face them in close combat.
“OK, we just watched the movie, La Femme Nikita,” I said. “Any thoughts?”
Toliver’s hand shot up. “Entertaining, but stupid.”
“French Intelligence used a very unstable woman as an assassin. I can’t imagine any spook agency doing that. I figure that her downfall started when she fell in love after her training. From a Freudian point of view, I’d say her baby-producing instincts went ballistic. Screwed up her emotions, royally. Not that they weren’t to begin with. Unconsciously she wanted to give life. Instead, she was taking it quite regularly. After a while, I think she began to see her targets as her babies.”
“Interesting perspective. How about you, Pierce?”
“She was too good-looking. Plus she had a nice ass. Made it impossible for her to blend with the masses. Somebody’d remember her, and she’d be liquidated in no time. Considering her erratic, criminal background, she wasn’t reliable to begin with. Plus, she went berserk during the final assassination, which I thought was very predictable. I wonder why her controllers didn’t figure that one out well in advance and put a bullet in her brain.”
“Yes, she really came apart,” I said. “Dangerous behavior for a professional killer.”
“What’s your opinion, Carter?”
“She did a few things right. For one, she didn’t ask questions, or didn’t question authority. She reacted like a robot, did her job, and moved on. At least she did in the beginning. But, I agree with Toliver and Pierce. She was too attractive and extremely unstable. They shouldn’t have allowed her to fall for the guy in the supermarket. Unless of course, he worked for them, and could somehow manipulate her intense love feelings to sharpen her killer instincts.”
“Okay. I think we all agree that none of us would ever use a woman with her personality profile for such critical assignments. Actually, Group-5 doesn’t use women for wet work. Nor will they ever. That’s politically incorrect these days, but who’s going to protest? Few know of our existence.”
“If they knew my ex-wife, they might change their minds,” Toliver said, chuckling.
“No matter how vicious some women are,” I said, “none of our clients wants us to use them to fulfill contracts. So we don’t. It’s that simple. Now, before we break for lunch, I want to remind you that your term papers on Best Places to Kill are due the day after tomorrow. Though none of you have actually assassinated anyone before, I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of this academic exercise. There’s one more thing: tomorrow night is your first wet exercise.”
The interns yelped, shook hands, patted each other on the back.
After a lunch break, Carter, Pierce, and Toliver returned to the underground classroom. As they came through the door, were arguing about the merits of Winchester sniper rifles.
I tapped my desk with a silenced pistol to get their attention.
“Tomorrow’s exercise is structured similar to those you just saw in La Femme Nikita,” I said. “You’ll be assigned separate hotel rooms in the seediest parts of the city. The envelope I’m handing each of you gives all the fine details. Don’t break the seal until midnight, tonight.”
“Can we choose our weapons?” Pierce asked.
“No, we’ve already selected them and placed them in hotel rooms. However, unlike what you saw in the movie, we won’t choose your targets. This is a free option exercise. You get to pick your target. The only rules that apply are: One, no children. Two, no young teens. Three, no pregnant women. Otherwise, you’ll enjoy complete freedom of choice. And here in Rio during Carnival, the pickings are unlimited.”
“Sounds great!” Carter said. “I’m going to keep my eye out for somebody really soused. I figure I’ll be giving the guy a break by sending him to eternity while he’s happy.”
“I’ll keep my eyes open for dregs,” Toliver said. “The kind that society would kiss my feet for eliminating.”
“I go along with Toliver,” Pierce said. “Brazil is teeming with human garbage. Too bad nobody will know we did it. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro would probably give us the key to the city for weeding out some chaff.”
“By the way, before you get over-enthusiastic about cleaning up Rio, you are authorized to kill only one person during this exercise.”
They looked disappointed.
“Let’s discuss our observation system,” I said. “Your rifle scopes will contain nano gun cameras. The moment you turn on the scope’s power, it will be automatically connected via satellite to a central control center. I’ll be at the center monitoring you real-time. Everything you see through the scope, I’ll also see.”
Pierce asked about scoring.
“That’s detailed in your packets. One hundred is the ultimate, but only one person has ever achieved it. Me. Right here in Rio during Carnival. Group-5 would be delighted if you equal my score. In fact, they’ll make it worth you while.”
Toliver asked about achievement bonuses.
“For a minimum score of ninety, $20,000 will be deposited your Zurich accounts. Add $1,000 for each tick up to one hundred percent.”
“How long will it take before we know our scores?”
“Your individual scores will appear in your scopes the instant you fire.”
“Nice touch,” Pierce said.
“OK. We’ll have a post mortem meeting here, at 10:00 sharp, the morning after your adventure. We’ll review the gun camera tapes and examine all the positives and negatives. Good hunting!”
I knew they’d have a ball. I certainly did my first trip out. Deep inside, I wished I could join them. Nothing warms my heart better than a clean kill, even when I hire somebody else to do it.
Two days later at 10:00 AM, Carter and Pierce were in their seats babbling excitedly about their adventure. Carter had scored 92. Pierce, 93.
We waited for Toliver, but he never showed.
Then word came. Toliver had been sent back to the US, because his father had died. At least that’s what Group-5 told Carter and Pierce. I assured them he’d return to Rio after the funeral, and he’d pick up where he left off.
It was a lie.
Toliver did everything wrong from the moment he powered on his scope. His pulse rate was unacceptable, his blink rate was off the charts. He kept muttering something unintelligible in a shaky voice. Nearing panic, he acted much like the hapless female assassin he’d seen in the movie.
I pressed the CANCEL button on my console. He never knew what hit him when a nano rocket, launched from within the scope pierced his right eye and burst his brain.
When a recruit joins Group-5, he signs the contract in his own blood. His acceptance is conditional, pending intensive vetting. Toliver passed all tests, except the last.
He knew the risks. He accepted them.
He’s better off dead.
BIO: Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in seven contests and second and third place in five others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 107 magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at www.BooksForABuck.com and www.fictionwise.com Paperback available at www.amazon.com.