Tracy picked up her knife and threw it at the target.
“Bulls-eye, like always,” Joseph said with a smile.
Tracy grimaced. “It is off-center by at least an inch.”
Joseph rolled his eyes.
“Always a perfectionist, are we?”
“Sweat in peace so you don’t bleed in war. Didn’t you say that the first time we met?”
Joseph smiled. Tracy was his proudest student and his only choice to manage. Joseph retired from action around five years ago and had been teaching recruits of M.A.I.D. since then. He had refrained from managing the active members as it required a lot of paperwork which he hated. However, he wanted to see how far Tracy can push herself and there was no better way for him than to push her himself.
Tracy joined M.A.I.D. a couple of years ago. She was drifting through life after college and had little motivation to do anything. Her life was filled with changing jobs, temporary relationships, and moving cities. She had the money as her college degree opened any opportunity she wished for but she had no zest for life. M.A.I.D. changed all that. Every day at M.A.I.D. was progress, every mission a life-thrilling experience, and every failure damaging. She had failed exactly once in the past two years – her first mission. She was devastated as that was her first failure, in life.
“Rarely anyone succeeds in their first mission, Tracy. Relax!” Joseph had said and increased her training. Tracy amped it up even further. Now, she was considered among the best and had the best success of any recruits in the past two years. She wanted to be the best ever.
“What’s my next mission, Joseph?”
“You have two weeks left in your cooling period. The mission comes after that.”
“But you already know what it is, right?” Tracy said with a smirk. She threw a knife towards him nodding towards the target where her knife was stuck.
“Of course. I wouldn’t be much of a manager if I didn’t know things, would I?” Joseph said with a grin. He threw the knife and it hit exactly where Tracy had intended to hit.
“And you say sufficient is enough?” Tracy said, partly in awe, partly annoyed.
Joseph shrugged and laughed.
Two weeks later, Tracy was sitting in a conference room with Joseph and another person. The girl was giving her a brief about the next mission.
“His name is Yusuf. He is gaining political influence which is not making the current leaders happy. They want him to die in a non-descript manner.”
“Accident?” Tracy asked.
“Preferable. He enjoys skiing so you might get some opportunities around that. He is currently on holiday.”
A week later, Tracy was back in her training room.
“Ahh. How was it? Tell me everything.” Joseph said sipping some fresh juice.
“Not much to say. He sucked at skiing and all I had to do was turn him roughly fifteen degrees at a certain point. He jumped off a cliff with his neck reaching the ground first. Then, I checked if he was breathing and then buried him around five feet in the ground. Enough to seem that it was done by snow.”
“And you say that his neck was broken?”
Joseph shared the tablet with her in which Yusuf was giving a speech at a rally, live.
“That’s impossible!” Tracy muttered.
“Hear the speech,” Joseph said.
“Henceforth, I have decided to move away from politics. Thank you!” Yusuf said and left the podium.
“He has left politics.”
“Yeah. So, our deal with the leaders remains intact as they got what they wanted, in a roundabout manner.”
“But you want me to check on Yusuf.”
“Shi Chuqiao,” Joseph said calling her by her original name, the name she left when she joined M.A.I.D., “once upon a time, I killed a man, shot two bullets through his head and one through his chest, and he got up after five minutes. He tried to kill me and anything I did wouldn’t work on him. Finally, I trapped him in a room and waited for the body to die. His body was corroding every day but it was still moving. It took three weeks for him to finally give up and die.”
Tracy looked at him, her mouth gaping for at least five silent minutes before uttering a single phrase, “you’re joking, right?”
Joseph smiled with a pained strain around his eyes.
“That’s when I quit.”
“Do you think he’s a zombie?”
“Look at his neck.”
“It is covered with a strap.”
“Yeah, and I can bet that the strap is what’s holding the neck. I want you to check once if that’s true.”
“You mean you believe me. That I did kill him.” Tracy said, her voice getting scratchy and her eyes welling up.
“Of course. If you said you killed him, it means you did.”
Tracy nodded turning away. She wiped her tears and cleared her throat.
“What do I do?”
“Check on him to ensure that he’s as dead as you left him. Otherwise, this won’t count in your kills and that’s just something I would prefer to not happen. My guess is that he would die in a few weeks as the body degrades so if you can confirm that it is due to you, I will convince the higher-ups.”
“Will they believe you?”
“When you work in an organization that kills people long enough and there are zombies in the world, you hear about them at least once.”
“Contract killer to zombie hunter.”
“Yeah. But these zombies don’t die if you shoot them in the head. Trust me, I have tried that. Keep your distance.”