Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 38/39: Encore

Monica heard the screech ringing in her ears and turned to see the dragon just a flick away from her. The dragon swiped its tail and Monica was thrown away with Alara falling out of its reach. The dragon moved towards Monica, its pace increasing with each passing step. Alara was towards the dragon and if she ran towards it, she will definitely be devoured by the dragon but if she ran the other side, she may never be able to reach Alara. Monica had a split second and she made the decision. She ran towards Alara picked it up and pointed it towards the dragon which was one chomp away from eating her and shot.

The bang of the gun woke Monica up. She realized that she was sweating and she picked a tissue to wipe herself. She was also hungover from the drinking last night.

‘Not the same dream again,’ she jaded herself. It had been almost six months since that incident but she would get the same nightmare at least once a week.

“Not a dream, a memory,” Monica said to herself. She checked her mobile and it was almost morning. There was one message from Kane from last night.

‘Is the sober you a better decision maker?’

‘Not really. :P’ Monica replied

‘Do you remember the conversation we had last night?’

‘Yeah. I may have forgotten everything else but I’m surely going to remember that. Lol!’

‘Still no?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Cool. Lunch?’

‘Okay.’

Monica had met Kane a few weeks ago through a friend. Last night, he had asked her out and she had said no. She was not ready to date right now.

“Not in the right place,” she said to herself. Monica got up from the bed and went to her bathroom. She looked at the mirror and couldn’t help but smile. ‘Kane is crazy,’ she thought and picked her toothbrush, and put it under the automatic toothpaste dispenser. This small piece of technology had been marvelous to her and she loved it. She went to her kitchen and picked up some bread and juice for breakfast.

Monica was thinking about her dream when the doorbell woke her from it.

“Rachel! What are you doing here?”

“I woke up early and was missing you so came here. What’s up? You look dead.”

“Yeah. Last night had a bit too much to drink and woke up with a hangover.”

“And a bad dream, I suppose.”

Monica nodded. Rachel knew everything. She and Monica had been buddies for years and it was hard to lie to someone with whom you had shared a gun, let alone two.

‘Hey, Monica.’ Alara said after being neglected for some time.

“Hey, bud. How are you?”

‘I’m good. Thank you. We just slew a dragon.’

“Shhh… No work talk right now.”

“It’s fine Rachel. I gave the dragon hunter life willingly. I don’t miss it at all. Trust me,” Monica said raising her arm which was not holding the juice glass. It started from the shoulder joint but ended in a stub just before the elbow. She had been able to shoot the dragon but before dying, it was able to bite off her arm which was holding Alara. ‘Still better than dying,’ she had said to herself then and every day since then.

Rachel nodded.

“What about joining M.A.I.D. again?”

“I thought about it but I think I’m done with the whole gunslinging thing for a while. Just want some peace.”

“Peace?”

“No guns, no Godzillas, no guys.”

Rachel laughed and Monica joined her. Rachel and Monica had met one the first day at M.A.I.D. around four years ago. They joined together and worked on many missions together for two years before Monica was chosen by Alara to be its guardian. For two years, no bullet or knife could touch her, she wasn’t ever caught, and she finished almost all her assignments but dragon-hunting was a different level. For one and a half years, Monica diligently fought dragons of many shapes and sizes before meeting the one small and fast one six months ago. A meeting that left her without her one arm.

Monica decided to pass on the mantle to Rachel and for the past six months, she had been trying to heal and adapt to this new life.

“What’s the plan for lunch?”

“Meeting Kane for lunch.”

Rachel looked at her mischievously, a look she immediately shot down.

“Remember what I said – no guns, no Godzillas, no guys – for some time.”

“Then why lunch?”

“He asked me.”

“And?”

Monica realized that she didn’t give it any thought.

“Food is food,” she said to Rachel hoping she’ll believe it.

Rachel shrugged. “If you need to get out, ping me.”

“Perfect.”

Monica met Kane for lunch and before she knew, more than three hours had passed with both of them talking about random things on random topics. Monica liked that he didn’t gaze at her missing arm like other people did, including Rachel at times. She told him as much and got the weirdest reply she had ever heard.

“Of course. Too narcissistic to look at anyone else.” Kane said and continued the original conversation.

Finally, after hours, he dropped her at her home.

“A couple of more hours and we could’ve had dinner too,” Kane said as Monica got out of the car.

“Yeah. But I think you’ve had enough of me for the day,” Monica said.

“Not even close, but I know the sentiment is not reciprocated,” Kane said and stuck his tongue out at Monica. Monica laughed and stuck her tongue out in return.

She entered her home and started to change clothes. An activity that she never thought about six months ago. After a bit of jumping and wiggling, she managed to change into her comfortable clothes and ordered some food. She had started to order her dinners now. She had enough money from her M.A.I.D. days and she had started to appreciate the things that eased her life now.

She dozed off on the couch while watching a movie with the pizza on the table. The dream was back. Monica fought her hardest but like the reality, the dream also ended up with the dragon biting her arm and her waking up with a scream.

“Twice in a row. That sucks!” Monica said, wiping her face. “And my body is now aching from sleeping on the couch,” she groaned. She turned and twisted to improve her pain and checked her phone. It was dead.

“Urghh!” Monica went to her bedroom and put it on a wireless mat. Once she rebooted it up, a message blinked on it from Kane.

‘Reached home. Good night.’

Monica checked the time. It was around 1 am. She replied.

‘Sorry. Dozed off. Good night.’

The phone blinked again. Monica checked.

‘Still certain?’ The message said.

Monica smiled.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 34/39: If you can’t kill them…

“I should go bald,” Renjana thought as she washed her hair. It was a weekly ritual that came too soon for her. Once, she decided to skip it and felt dirty the whole week, even dirtier than the time she got too drunk and was found by a couple of cops on the side of the road, in her own vomit. Hence, the weekly loathing and the washing continued.

‘It would have been easier if I didn’t have these wounds,’ Renjana thought trying to keep the water and soap away from the knife wound she had on her arm. It was a gift from some guy who had tried to attack her when she was coming back from buying groceries.

“Who does that?” Renjana uttered angrily. Unfortunately, he ran away before she could capture him or even identify him. She didn’t understand why it happened to her but she was determined to get to the bottom of it. ‘No one messes with Renjana and gets away with it,’ she thought fiercely.

That attack was three days ago. Since then, she has been cautious of another attack and has been trying to make a list of her enemies and potential enemies. The attacker didn’t try to take anything from her and he was far too skilled to be a regular joe.

She got out of her shower and started to get dressed. Suddenly, the glass shattered and a bullet hit the wall beside her. The glass was slightly distorted which affected the aim of the shooter. This won’t happen the second time.

Renjana looked outside with her binoculars and saw a man sitting on the roof of the next building. She ducked just in time to avoid the second shot. She picked her own gun and shot towards the building. She didn’t expect to hit from a regular gun to such far distance but she was hoping to scare the shooter off. The attack seemed to have stopped.

Renjana looked again and the shooter was packing his gun. She ran towards the door.

“I have to catch this shooter.”

She grabbed the t-shirt on the way and wore it by the time she reached the door. She opened the door and in a moment of clarity, hesitated. She tried to close the door again but felt weight against it.

‘Shit! Renjana, you idiot!’ Renjana thought and jumped away from the door. A knife slash occurred as the door opened. Standing in front of her was a man over six feet tall with a murderous look in his eyes. His face was covered but her knife was what was attracting Renjana’s attention.

‘Thank God, he doesn’t have a gun,’ Renjana thought, hiding her gun with her body.

“Finally!” The man said and attacked Renjana. Renjana waited for the last second and then pulled out her gun and shot at an angle. His knife hand was punctured and became useless. Before he could use his other hand, she shot that too followed by a shot each on his legs.

The man screamed while Renjana went and closed the door. She knew that despite the silencer, the gunshots and the scream would be heard by others and the cops would reach here in a few minutes.

“Who are you?” Renjana asked calmly. “And the one who tried shooting me from long-range. Was he your partner?”

The man looked at her blankly. Renjana unmasked him and found a 20-something guy with a babyface. Despite the situation, she chuckled.

“Who sends a kid to kill someone?” She asked.

It was clearly a touchy topic for the man as he immediately tensed, despite four bullet wounds.

“I’m not a kid. I have killed a lot of people.”

“So have mosquitoes. The question is why?”

He turned to look away.

“No worries. You don’t have to talk. I’ll ask your baby sitter. I’m assuming that he will come once you are caught.”

“He’s not my babysitter.”

“Let’s be honest. He’s here because you failed last time, isn’t it?” The man nodded.

“What’s your name?”

The man looked at her confused.

“Of course, you won’t tell me your name. I’ll call you John Doe. So, John Doe, you have less than one minute to tell me why you are trying to kill me. I’m not going to wait for the cops to take you away and do a case on you. You will die right here.”

Renjana said and pointed the gun between his eyes.

“You are not a normal girl,” he finally said.

“Finally caught up, are we?” Renjana said in a monotone.

“You promise you won’t kill me if I tell you the truth.”

Renjana smiled.

“Yes. Tell me who hired you to kill me.”

“I don’t know that.”

Renjana looked at him confused. “You are killing me on a person’s order that you don’t know.”

John Doe nodded.

“I work for a contract killer organization and they give us assignments. We are not supposed to ask details unless absolutely necessary. Chinese walls and all are set up.”

Renjana listened carefully. This wasn’t the first time she had heard about such an organization but she assumed it was a conspiracy theory – another attempt of average people to impose order over chaotic events. Apparently, she was wrong.

“Okay. Now, once you have missed killing me twice, very publically, I’m assuming that your career is over, am I correct?”

John Doe shook his head.

“It’s a good company. They don’t fire people for mistakes. They train and teach us. Good benefits too.” Renjana looked at him with her mouth open.

“Did I just hear an employee praise his company?” She said out loud.

John Doe nodded.

“Okay. I’ll let you live. And I’ll even protect you from the cops but I need you to open a communication channel for me with this company. I want to know why they are trying to kill me with so much incompetency and diligence and I want to know how can I avoid this.”

John Doe nodded again and then looked at his watch.

“What?”

“You can call them right now from my phone. Talk to my mentor.”

She picked the phone and called the number.

“Did you finish the work?”

“No. This is work calling. I’m unfinished and plan to remain this way. Can you tell me whom should I talk to ensure that?”

“You? Where is Shakib?”

“Shakib is sitting, riddled with bullets, planning on dying soon but I thought I would try to save his life. So, if you can save me, I will save him.”

“How much time?”

“2 minutes.”

“Okay. I’ll call you. Keep him alive at all costs.”

“Wow! This is a good company. I was expecting him to tell me to kill you.”

Two minutes passed which then increased to five.

“I guess I spoke too soon. And why have the cops not showed up yet?”

“Because we rerouted the call towards us.” A man said entering the room. He was followed by three more people – one guy and two girls – guns in each person’s hand.

Renjana aimed her gun towards Shakib.

“One more step and he dies.”

“Don’t worry. We are not going to kill you right now. Our employees are important enough for us.”

“What about in the future?”

“We will tell this client that we failed. This will hit our reputation but this happens. But if in future, a new assignment comes, we can’t say no to that. It’s business after all.”

The man looked around at the room.

“I’m impressed. You managed to save yourself from two of our people, twice, and you have managed to even pin one down. And while it doesn’t look like it right now, he’s actually good at what he does.” The man said with a smile.

“Thanks!” Renjana said, uncertain about how to handle the compliment from someone trying to kill her. “Why was someone trying to kill me?”

“You must be in someone’s path or you crossed someone’s path in the past.”

“You know exactly why, don’t you?”

The man nodded with a smirk. And suddenly, it dawned on Renjana.

“The reason is incredibly stupid, isn’t it? That’s why you decided to save Shakib than kill me for this stupid reason. You won’t do it for other cases.”

“You are a smart girl, Renjana. I’m constantly impressed by you.”

“Is there no way to gain immunity from this?” Renjana pleaded.

“There is one way but it’s not easy.”

“What?”

“Join the corporation. We won’t kill our own or let them get killed for stupid reasons.”

“You are offering me a job?” Renjana said incredulosly.

“As they say, if you can’t kill them, hire them.”

“But then I’ll have to kill other people, innocent people.”

“Looking at this room, and the way you have held the gun at Shakib’s temple with a steady hand, I really doubt that it is going to be a new experience for you.”

“And what if I don’t have the stomach for it?”

“You can leave. We are not movie gangsters here. Of course, the immunity goes.”

Renjana looked at all of them. Even while she held a gun to Shakib’s head, two of the folks were tending to his wounds, completely fearless about a crazy lady with a gun in her hand. There was a calm around the main man.

“What’s your name?”

“If you accept the offer, I’m your mentor. If not, then I’m no one.”

Renjana sat down on the bed. After thinking for more than fifteen minutes, she finally decided.

“I’ll join you guys.”

“Excellent. Welcome to M.A.I.D.”

Renjana giggled. “You’re called maid?”

The man, now her mentor, smiled.

“I know. What were the founders thinking, right?”

Renjana nodded, a weight lifting off her shoulders.

“Now, can you tell me who was trying to kill me?”

“After the paperwork. Your first day would be the coming Monday. Come to the address on this card.” Her mentor said sharing a card with her.

“But you can guess it.”

“It’s my ex-boyfriend, isn’t it?”

“Rich guys, spoilt with their parents’ money sometimes take heartbreak too seriously. But don’t fret, that won’t be a problem anymore. We’ll take care of that.” The man said and left. The whole team left, carrying Shakib with them.

Renjana looked at the card. It had M.A.I.D. written on it along with an address.

“Time for a new life,” She sighed.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 33/39: A dragon-hunter, a phoenix, and a contract killer walk into a bar

“Nice gun.”

Patrick looked up and saw a guy in his mid-30s looking at him with a pleasant smile. Patrick nodded at him and looked away. Today, he was not in the mood to chat.

The guy brought two beers and sat in front of him.

“It looks like it was passed on to you by someone,” the man continued.

Patrick nodded again without touching the beer.

“Have you ever used it?”

A third nod followed by a fond memory that gave him a brief smile.

“Tell me about it.”

“You are persistent.”

“I’m happy today. On a six weeks break. And I want to share that happiness with you,” he said. “By the way, my name is Damien.”

“Patrick,” Patrick said and picked up the beer.

“So, when have you used it?”

“Let’s just say I killed a dragon with this gun,” Patrick said with a grin.

“Oooh,” Damien said waving his hands.

Patrick knew Damien didn’t believe him but he didn’t mind. It would be harder to explain to him that there is an alternate dimension where his gun Alara takes him where he fights dragons which are vicious and intelligent creatures who are trying to come to Earth.

“Should you keep such an important gun in the open like this?” Damien continued when Patrick didn’t say anything.

“The gun wanted some open space. Besides, I don’t think anyone would steal an old gun.”

In truth, Alara will return to him no matter where he goes. As long as he doesn’t willingly pass it on to someone or he dies, Alara is going to return to him automagically.

‘Not hard for a sentient gun,’ Alara had said when he had dropped it and ran away from it.

“What do you do?” Patrick asked Damien.

“Well. If you are killing dragons then I’m a contract killer who works for a private organization,” Damien said. He was telling the truth as he worked for an organization called M.A.I.D. and has killed people before but he didn’t see the need to lie as he knew Patrick wouldn’t believe it.

“Interesting. And how many people have you killed before?”

“Five. In fact, that’s why I got this break. To relax after finishing an assignment.”

“Congrats on your success.” Patrick said.

The two continued talking, bantering about who was a better killer – a dragon hunter or a contract killer, both giving details about how they would approach their targets. To each, the other person was lying while they were telling the truth. To each, their story was an interesting truth while the other person was just trying to match their truth with an exaggerated lie.

“Okay! So, you are telling me that you have killed a dragon the size of a whale.”

“Yeah. Not a blue whale. Just a huge animal.”

“And you are telling me that you did all that with this tiny gun.”

“Yup.”

This could have gone on for a long time but they were interrupted.

“Excuse me! Did I hear that you have killed dragons?” A girl who was sitting at the neighboring table said.

“Yes,” Patrick said.

“Were you serious or were you joking?”

Patrick didn’t know how to respond to that. He had never been asked this question before. People just assumed that he was joking and moved on, as Damien did. No one had ever followed up on that question.

‘You can tell her. She’s a phoenix.’ Patrick heard Alara’s voice in his head. Alara had told him about phoenix once who were the sentient beings on the planet where dragons lived. Patrick looked at her trying to see if there were any signs that differentiated her from the rest. He couldn’t find any.

“I was serious. I hope that’s not going to be a problem.”

“Absolutely not. It’s fascinating. Tell me more.”

“Okay.”

Patrick started telling her and Damien about how the previous owner of the gun gave it to him along with some instructions. He also told them about his first fight with a dragon.

“Wow! Impressive.” The girl said.

“Should I believe all this?” Damien said looking from one to another.

“It’s your choice. I’m fine with whatever you believe,” Patrick said.

“How can you believe this tale?” Damien asked the girl.

“I have seen dragons.”

“Huh!”

Patrick was about to tell him that he shouldn’t believe it if he doesn’t want but was interrupted by Alara. 

‘Incoming.’ 

“Do you want to see the dragons?” Patrick asked Damien and the girl. 

Both nodded. The girl eagerly and Damien reluctantly. 

Patrick pocketed Alara and grabbed Damien’s and the girl’s hand.

“By the way. What’s your name?” Patrick asked the girl. 

“Ishita.” 

The three of them were transported to the other dimension where two dragons, each the size of a blue whale looked at them. One was the color of a blue onyx and the other was marble white in color. 

“Welcome to the wonderland.” Patrick said and regretted bringing them along. ‘Did I just doom them to inevitable death just to prove my point?’ he thought.

‘When a phoenix is close, the dragons find it easier to travel.’ Alara said to Patrick.

‘Oh! So it’s not all my fault.’ Patrick said to Alara in his mind. 

‘You’re the one who brought them along.’ Alara added and Patrick grimaced. 

“Okay. I will attack them and try to distract them while you guys keep distance.”

“I’ll take care of the other one.” Ishita said. 

“Are you sure?” 

“He’s a bit bigger but I think I can handle it or at least keep it occupied long enough.”

“I’ll help you.” Damien said. He had initially gone in shock but his training had now kicked in and he was twirling a gun in his hand. 

“You weren’t joking then?” Patrick asked.

“Nope. And as I can see, neither were you. By the way Ishita, how are we gonna hurt that huge-ass dragon?” 

“My plan is to turn huge-ass myself.” Ishita said and turned into a phoenix. She was now larger than an elephant, dull red plumage with bright orange feathers here and there. While she was nowhere close to the size of the dragons, most of the dragon’s body was a long neck and a long tail and their core body sizes were closer to each other.  

“Woah!” Both Patrick and Damien said together. Neither had seen a phoenix before. Ishita picked Damien and flew towards the white dragon. 

Patrick attacked the blue one. 

The three of them returned to the same spot, almost at the same time so one felt their absence or even realized that they had vanished. 

“More beer?” Patrick asked.

“Yep.” Both Ishita and Damien replied. 

“I still can’t believe what happened.” Damien said.

“Yeah. I have felt that kind of thrill after a long time.” Ishita added.

Patrick smiled. He couldn’t believe that all of them came back fairly unscathed. It took time but he was able to kill the blue dragon with Alara. Ishita and Damien had been able to keep the white dragon distracted for the whole time without getting hurt. In fact, they had almost pinned the dragon down by the time he reached and all he had to do was shoot it to finish it off. All his battles had been solo and they were a challenge. This time, with an advantage of two to three, even with larger enemies, it felt easier. 

“It’s probably unprecedented but do you guys want to help me in the future as well?” Patrick asked them both. 

“Wow! Yes.” Ishita said almost instantly. 

“Of course,” Damien said and grinned. “What do they say? A dragon-hunter, a phoenix, and a contract killer walked into a bar.”

Patrick and Ishita laughed.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 29/39: Almost Successful

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.”

Tracy nodded.

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?”

“Yeah. Why?”

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.”

Tracy grinned.

“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.”

“I will.”

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 24/39: Six Weeks – Part II

Shreya picked her knife and cleaned it diligently. She hated when her weapons were not in top shape and this was her favorite knife. She had killed over ten people with this knife alone, including her favorite one – a fifty-year-old ruthless drug lord who had decided to go against the military.

M.A.I.D. was a unique company in this regard. Neutral towards both gangsters and government, the firm basically worked on the principle of Chinese walls with different operatives working for enemy organizations. Once, she met her best friend Kane on the field while attempting to kill the heads of warring factions, being paid by the opposite leader. They both succeeded and the war ended with no victors. M.A.I.D., of course, got paid before the assignment. In the words of legendary #K, M.A.I.D.’s founder, ‘We are to murders what Switzerland is to money.’

Shreya’s phone started to ring and she answered it in the hope of a new assignment. She had been off work for almost ten weeks now and while money was not an issue, she was tired of not being in the thick of the action.

“Hello.”

“Shreya! Kane here.”

“Hey, bud. What’s up?”

“I did something really stupid!” Kane said, his voice echoing the panic he was feeling.

“How stupid and who’s the girl?” Shreya asked lazily. This wasn’t the first time Kane was calling her saying this and when Kane said this, it meant there was a girl involved.

“No. This is serious. I have to meet you right now. Please save me.” Kane pleaded. Shreya got up and her senses heightened.

“You know where I’m. Come.”

It was always wise to not say personal things over the phone even if the line was secure and it was a normal time. And Kane’s voice told Shreya that things were worse than normal.

“I’m outside your house,” Kane said and knocked.

Shreya opened the door with her gun in her hand. Kane flinched looking at the gun but entered. She did a check around the house and it was fine. She also did Kane’s physical and he looked unharmed, just haggard.

“What happened?”

“I shot someone.”

“That’s your job.”

“M.A.I.D. operative.”

“WHAT?”

Kane told her the whole story of his previous assignment in which he was competing and he ended up shooting his partner.

“Is she alive?”

“Yes. My manager told me that she’s alive… and pissed.”

“Of course, she is pissed. If that was me, I would have killed you on the spot.”

“My manager said the same thing. She’s coming after me.”

“Urghhh.” Shreya said and threw a pillow at Kane. “You idiot! What made you do that?”

“I just got jealous. She’s so much better than me. I don’t know what took over me. I would apologize but I doubt it means much once you have shot someone.”

“I can’t protect you forever,” Shreya said truthfully.

“I know. Just for six weeks. After that, she will have her next assignment and I will find another place to hide.”

Shreya nodded.

“You can stay here as long as you want. You are an idiot but I won’t let you die.”

“Thanks Shreya!” Kane said and hugged her.

Shreya took her to a safe room in the house.

“This will be your room. It has no windows that can be breached and no way for an assassin to attack you. Now, until I tell you, we are under lockdown.”

Kane nodded.

Shreya went out to initiate the lockdown protocol in the whole house. This basically meant that her house was now a fortress with double the security and no chance of an assassin get in the house at all. On a normal day, these protocols would consume too much time for her to do even the most basic activities. Besides, this also meant she can’t have guests or create the facade of having a normal life.

Kane laid down on the bed and heard a gunshot.

“SHREYA!” He shouted and went outside. His gun was in one hand and a knife in another. Years of training meant he was prepared even when he was relaxing. Kane heard a few more gunshots and when he got in the living room, Shreya was hiding behind a couch.

“Go back! I’ll take care of this.” Shreya hissed.

“No. This is my mess. I won’t leave you alone.” Kane said and Shreya gave him a look. Kane recognized the look instantly. It was the same look she gave him when she told him any of his breakup stories. She was basically screaming – ‘I’m done with your stupidity. Now scoot.’ Kane took a couple of steps backwards.

“Better,” Shreya said and took a shot. It was not a normal gun and the smoke grenade burst just outside the front lawn. This meant that no one from outside could see what was happening inside the house. This also meant that the next attack was a barrage of bullets from outside.

In that time, Shreya tapped on her phone a few times and a few windows changed colors. She was using the smoke to complete the security protocol of her house. Once the smoke cleared, there were a few more gunshots but they didn’t reach the house anymore.

“She can attack all she wants but nothing would help her. Unless she decides to destroy the whole house which let’s hope she’s not going to do.” Shreya said and called on her phone.

“Who are you calling?”

“M.A.I.D.”

Her manager picked the phone. Shreya explained to her the situation.

“You know I can’t help you as long as you are protecting him,” her manager said.

“I know but I want to know what’s M.A.I.D.’s stand is on this situation and can she blow up my house.”

“I doubt she will do it as long as you’re in it. She knows she can’t kill you, even accidentally. If she kills you, she will basically lose her operative status.”

“Let’s hope she cares about that,” Shreya said.

“I hope you know what you are doing. Is he that important?”

“Yes,” Shreya said and cut the phone. They had been friends since childhood and he had been there for her always. He was the one who introduced M.A.I.D. to her and helped her come out of the life of poverty and aimlessness she had been living before. Shreya looked at him and her heart melted.

“If he’s not worth saving, no one is worth saving,” she whispered to herself.

“It’s gonna take more than six weeks, isn’t it?” Kane asked meekly.

Shreya smiled.

“It’s good. I think I needed some social isolation. We have inventory to stay put for at least six months. And I can go out once she’s on a mission.”

“And I?”

Shreya put her arm around him.

“Not until it’s safe.”

Kane nodded.