The market was buzzing with activity, too much activity. Sara turned and watched, hoping she hadn’t missed the more delicate details necessary to reveal her target. There were a dozen races, stalls, languages, dialects, trade, exchange, barter, noise and more noise. Sara’s vision froze on a figure in a dark cloak. The sun cut through the opaque ceiling but revealed nothing.
The countless figures and noises receded from her mind as Sara focused on the one dark figure, an inverted ball of light. Everything came down to this.
‘You can’t take him,’ the voice had said through her earpiece.
Months earlier, when she’d taken the task upon herself, this seemed to be the one constant piece of advice received. The voice, her employer, never minced words. ‘He’s too much for you; even the best won’t touch this man.’
‘So he’s human then?’
‘Close enough. Look, C (Sara’s codename), I’ve got other work for you, good money, short jobs. Even if you get close to him, it’ll take months, I can’t pay you for this unless I was sure you’d bring him in, so you’d be on your own. Do you understand?’
‘I do,’ Sara had understood. No resources, no contacts, no help from The Network. She had enough money to get by until the job was done, not that this was about money, but there were practicalities to face. The truth was, she didn’t care what happened to her. She wanted this man brought down. It’s all that mattered.
The market continued to stir. The figure turned and glanced her way but didn’t pause for long. He moved calmly away. Had he seen her? Likely, he was the best, but it didn’t matter now. She was so close she could smell him, even over the spices, the heat, and the crowded stalls’ and body odour.
It was now or never, she made her move.
Darting between bodies, she moved with keen purpose. The figure was nonchalant. He stopped to look at some wares but moved on immediately. She was twenty paces behind and catching up rapidly. He turned down an alley, one of many. Sara was right behind him but stopped abruptly.
He was gone!
How could this be? She continued, hoping for a sign. Pacing around the next corner, the noise of the market began to subside.
A hand snatched and dragged her into the shadows. They were eye to eye. His face was right there. She could smell him. His cloak covered his features. She fumbled for her blade, but his arms and legs pinned hers to the wall. It was an intimate stalemate—two highly-trained killers. If one limb were freed for a moment, death would result. The thought of the months of searching all leading to this; Sara could see the bodies and the figure standing over them. Her pain, her inspiration returned; this was her revenge!
Suddenly, her thoughts darted. She’d lost so much, but there was a brother, a lover, friends. Her desire for vengeance had precluded their importance. Was this really the way? It didn’t matter now. She had to move or die.
Only a moment had transpired, a blink of an eye. What had he been thinking? Sara wondered. Probably nothing, just another dead being standing before him.
A flash of movement, his four limbs darted with hidden poisoned weapons, blades, needles, the kind that would kill you painfully yet quickly. Sara responded in kind. Her movements redefined close-quarters combat as slight shifts in his body, designed to penetrate her skin, were eluded. Sara deflected and applied equal and opposite counterattacks forcing the figure to defend. It was all a blur, a moment in time, but the man disengaged, leapt back and froze for a moment. He seemed to nod his concealed head. Was that respect?
And then he was gone.
Sara pursued him but knew it was futile. She’d lost him, missed her chance. But she had gone up against the best and equalled him. Her vengeance would likely never occur, so be it. She turned towards the port. It was time to go home and see her brother, her friends, her lover. It had been far too long between drinks.