Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
The target bolted off his pedestal and shoved past a few normals in his way. I followed just as quickly, easily moving between normals to not lose any ground. Just before the target reached the door, a quiet click signaled the iron door unlocking, allowing the man to throw it open when he reached it. I used influence to pin the door to the wall so I wouldn’t lose any time.
I felt Grey on my heels. She slammed and barred the door behind her as we started our sprint up a new set of stairs. Her presence was incredibly calm and composed compared to the chaotic energy emanating from the crowd of normals below.
At the top of the stairs, I caught a glimpse of the target fleeing down an unlit corridor that forked off a few feet in front of him. Wild waves of panic mingled with the pounding of his feet as he realized he was being pursued. I channeled the feeling of influence around me and burst forward with inhuman speed, covering the few feet separating us with ease.
Before he could choose a path to run down, I grabbed his arm and threw him into the wall in front of us. His head hit the stone with a crack, and his mask flew off his face and skidded several feet away. I reached up and pinned him to the wall by his neck, staring directly into his brown eyes quivering in fear. A trickle of blood drizzled down his face from his temple, and his left arm hung limply at his side. He didn’t resist, only stared back at me.
Grey caught up to me and stood beside me. An air of smugness wafted from her as her mask began to change. A pair of soft pink lips appeared, and the white eyes filled out with a pale shade of blue. Beside the left eye, a dark red star formed, and streaks of same red dripped down her cheek before it transformed into a brilliant orange streak by her jaw. She wore the mask of an Admiral and had the authoritative presence to accompany it.
After, she turned to me and returned my Captain mask, which had sealed white lips, green eyes, and three glowing claw marks that stretched from the right ear all the way down to the mouth.
At Grey’s appearance, I let go of him and he crumbled to the floor. He weakly lifted his head and croaked out, “Where… where’s Cobalt?”
“You’re not asking questions now,” Grey spat. It wasn’t often that Grey was riled up, but her composure melted away to a sea of seething anger as she watched the target wither under her gaze.
Recognition lit up his eyes as he sputtered, “You must be Grey.”
She bent down and grabbed his limp arm. I felt a shift of reality, and the man quickly regained the feeling in his arm. She looked him right in the face and said, “You are not to speak unless spoken to. You will follow me, and if you attempt anything, Hunter will not hesitate to kill you. Do I make myself clear?” He regained his composure, rubbed his neck, and nodded.
“I repeat. Do I make myself clear?”
He looked defeated. “Yes, ma’am.” Satisfied, she started off. I grabbed the target by his shirt and lifted him up with ease. He must have been three or four inches taller than me and physically larger, but in the moment, I had complete control of the situation. He bit his lip from rising frustration as the sheer panic dissipated. Before we left, I made sure to grab his mask off the floor.
Grey lead us out of the corridors into a massive storage section of a warehouse before eventually finding her way out through a different side entrance. We found ourselves back in the alleyway in which we first entered and found the trap door left opened and unmanned. I could still sense rogue emotions of shock and panic from that direction.
As we walked in the street, there was a distant wail of sirens, likely coming to investigate the sudden silence of the first agents. Grey did not have any urgency in her walk, however, as she had likely anticipated the events of the night. The target, however, simply wanted to disappear into the night and be anywhere except here. His eyes moved around quickly, trying to examine every shadow as we passed it. He fidgeted with his hands as he walked, clearly uncomfortable.
We walked for about five minutes in complete silence, leaving the sounds of the city behind. I noticed that the massive buildings that once towered over us had seemingly transformed into a dark, winding road. A sea breeze whipped across my face, bringing a salty smell to my nose. There was nothing around except a few small, near abandoned buildings along some unstable looking docks. It was completely dark out, not even a moon reflecting off the still water.
Grey moved stepped up on a pier that continued out over the water fifty feet or so. The black of her hood blended into the darkness, emphasizing the whiteness of her mask. She looked back at the target and me. The target continued to follow her order and kept his lips pursed shut. Even his rising amount of resistance did not cloud his better judgment as he could sense that there was something more serious to come of the ordeal. Then suddenly, his mental walls fortified themselves as he gave me a glare.
“You are his subordinate,” she said to the man, the irritation from earlier lightened, even if her words were still terse. “Hunter can read your mind as he likes. And pretty soon your walls won’t mean anything.” As if on cue, her head snapped back towards the end of the harbor, and she started down it. I pushed the target to encourage him forward, and he went after her. I followed up.
The air had stilled completely as we walked, almost silencing the creaking of our footsteps on wood. Even though I used influence to see around my black hood and mask, the darkness suddenly felt heavier and cloudier. With each step, a heavier and heavier presence closed in around me. It was not threatening to me, but almost the equivalent of comforting.
Once we were several feet from the edge, I noticed what looked to be the night rippling in the still air. Then, a white mask appeared and turned to us with brilliant golden eyes and bleeding red lips. The lips curled into a smile as the outline of a man wearing a black suit and black cape appeared in my mind. I fell to one knee and bowed my head.
Grey also gave a respectful nod of her head as she acknowledged our Great Leader. They had a brief exchange of words that I could not hear before she stepped to take her rightful place by his side. Then his powerful gaze fell upon me, his golden eyes filling me with warmth and admiration towards him.
Thank you for your service, Hunter, he said as his words were placed directly into my mind, capturing every ounce of my attention. Your skills will be further required. Meanwhile, simply witness what unfolds before you. I stood back up at the command of my Leader and carefully watched the target, who could no longer keep himself from trembling. He had sunk to his knees from Grey’s influence and continued to kneel, completely immobilized in his makeshift bow.
Finally, our Leader’s bothered to look at the shuddering man before him. His red lips pursed in a fine line before they finally opened, and words drifted out. “I cannot say that I am disappointed. By leaving you free will, I expected you would eventually make a mistake.” The man flinched, as if the words inflicted physical pain on him. His chest heaved as he kept his eyes at our Leader’s feet, too terrified to lift his gaze higher.
Our Leader continued in a calm, yet stern voice. “However, I did not expect you to be so brash with your freedom.”
There was another brief pause of silence.
“Show some respect,” Grey hissed. Then, the target’s head snapped up quickly with a crack, and he winced in pain as he locked eyes with the mask of our Leader. Fear and pain laced his energy as he sat, helpless.
Our Leader placed a hand on Grey’s shoulder and said in a soothing voice only partially directed to her, “Relax, Grey. Eric and I were simply having a civil discussion. Weren’t we, Eric?”
Eric, the apparent name of the target, nodded along numbly, only partially of his own volition. It struck me as odd that he had a name and was also acquainted with our Leader. My thoughts were deemed much less important as the Leader’s red lips turned into a smirk and he spoke again.
“Good. I do not believe I have been unreasonable now or ever before. Did you think so when we organized our deal?”
A quiet sigh. “No, Master.”
“Was the deal unclear to you?”
The target shifted his gaze away before quickly replacing it. “… No, Master.”
“Then, explain to me why you killed two of my Captains.” Grey’s energy surged as another wave of anger rushed over her, mingling with the intensity of our Leader’s presence. I saw the scene as it replayed vividly in her mind: two Captains with mangled masks, skin stained crimson from their own blood as it poured out of their wounds. Their necks and chests had dozens of bullet holes, killing them almost immediately before they could react. Those were some of Grey’s Captains, people she had trained and looked after for years. Her thoughts were fueled by grief and vengeance on the person responsible for their death. The person kneeling before us now.
The target began to stutter out, “I… I didn’t have any choice. They were going to kill my team. They were going to kill me! Your ‘deal’ doesn’t mean anything if I’m dead.”
Our Leader gave a mock sad smile, as if he were looking down upon an unreasonable child. “You were concerned for your safety, were you? After you explicitly disobeyed an order not to take on the mission, an order which would have kept you perfectly safe.”
A flash of resistance appeared in the man as he stared up at our Leader. “I am an agent. I have a responsibility to—”
“You are a double agent,” our Leader snapped, his voice growing darker as he spoke. “You are only an agent as long as I say you are an agent. You are a tool. Simply a means to an end, and if you do not follow your orders, you are easy to replace. I know of at least one other agent just as capable as you.” The man shrank into his skin at the threat.
“And if you so much as think of using your influence against another member of Splinter,” Grey growled, her voice pinched, “I will personally ensure that your final moments of thought will be the most painful experience you will never have the pleasure to forget.”
Our Leader replaced his smile on his mask, and his golden eyes glinted with a hint of satisfaction as he continued. “Remember that you are a part of Splinter. You are owned by Splinter. You wear the brand of Splinter on every act you take because you not only work for me, but you are owned by me. However, I am capable of benevolence, and you are worth more to me than this mistake. I will not take your life tonight.”
The man’s eyes grew wide as relief flooded his body. He threw his torso on the ground and groveled as he exhaled a string of thanks, tension radiating out of his body as he felt more secure of his fate.
As this went on, our Leader called me to attention and filled my mind with his order. Teach the man the consequences of disobeying an order and bringing harm to a member of Splinter. Do not hold back, as what can be broken can easily be repaired. Grey listened as he spoke to me, and a smile crept onto her face.
At that, his business was completed, and our Leader turned away to look out over the dock. His black cape rippled and faded into the dark night, allowing him to vanish as abruptly as he had appeared. Grey and I were left with the kneeling man, who had not yet noticed the departure of his interrogator.
Grey reveled in looking down upon the man and delivering the bad news that his night was not yet finished. She spoke with acid in her voice, saying, “But you still must pay for those you killed.”
The man glared at her, courage building in him now that he saw our Leader had left. He held his hands against the ground and staggered to his feet. His attention was focused on Grey, having since forgotten I was still standing a few feet behind him. My fingers snuck down to the large knife sheathed in my belt.
He stood up and looked directly at Grey, opening his mouth to speak but then deciding against it as he reestablished his mind with influence. I sensed his attention turning back to me, but before he could act, I grabbed his shoulder with one hand, unsheathed the knife with the other, and stabbed him in his lower back down to the hilt.
The target cried out in a mix of pain and shock, trying to turn around to fight me, but I pulled the knife out and inserted it into his back again, just a couple of inches lower. Dark red soaked his gray t-shirt as blood spurted out of his wound. His legs wobbled as he began losing a lot of blood, and I took the opportunity to push all my influence against his mind until his barriers shuttered against the weight. I easily broke into his mind and completely occupied it, blocking out any voluntary thought.
The target crumbled to his knees.