“Are you sure?”
Ronnie doesn’t like my plan. I don’t really like my plan either but it’s the best I’ve got.
“Yes.” I smooth out the laminated building blueprint. “But also no. He’s got more security than if Fort Knox and the White House had a baby that was adopted by a Chinese nuclear facility. And that baby was raised by a paranoid hillbilly and a gulag.”
“I get it, Avery, I get it. I remember what it was like before you pissed him off.”
“Good! All we need is an armored division and a special forces battalion. Since we can’t get those on such short notice, we need a crazy ass pilot and a news chopper.”
“I can get you the pilot. The chopper is all you. Are you sure about any of this? Avery, you saw…what happened.”
I don’t have an answer for Ronnie, not right away. While coming up with the plan I replayed the events of yesterday a thousand times in my mind. Kayla’s wide eyes and her brother’s horror as she shot him in the head. They weren’t nice people, they probably deserved what happened, but it was still cold as ice. That’s why the plan is so crazy and is going to happen so quickly.
“I’m sure. Either we get dead pulling it off or we end it and she gets to stop living on the run. Go get her.”
Ronnie doesn’t like being pushed around by a little snot like me but she goes, leaving me to the rough outline of my plan. My insane plan. They both come back.
I lay out the plan, in it’s entirety, again.
Nova is somewhere beyond nervous. I think she’s chewed off two entire fingernails so far. In the past thirty minutes. Without her, this won’t work at all. Not one bit.
Cities are fantastic, Chicago especially, but there’s a downside. Cities are constantly doing things. They are always alive, and someone is always making a fuss that brings out a swarm of rubberneckers, both professional and otherwise.
We can use that.
If, and big if, Nova can do just one tiny, little, itty, bitty thing for us.
So I ask it of her, the big question.
“Can you almost crash a helicopter?”
Just outside Chicago, there’s a stretch of highway. It’s a busy enough stretch that leads to a bridge. Highways mean traffic and traffic means news people. With traffic cameras and the like that gets harder but there’s a way around that.
It’s simple, really.
You start with a prayer and an apology. The first that everyone will be safe, hired killers aren’t monsters…okay some of them are but not all of them are monsters. The second is for those who are about to have a really, really bad day because of you. I’ve been stuck in traffic, I don’t wish it on anyone.
And with that you set off the sixteen small explosives. I mean small, so small they could just…say burst a tire or two or slice an axle in half.
You know, cause chaos.
Then you watch. You watch the highway crash happen and listen to the horns and the screaming and the rage of the hundreds of drivers that are suddenly going to be late for work and spend the next three days on hold with their insurance companies.
After a while you hear sirens. That’s good.
A little while past that you hear the thing you waited for.
The steady churning of blades on a helicopter, specifically Channel 5, those pricks. I’ve always been partial to 9, they have chemistry.
This one’s for you Channel 9.
“Alright, Nova. Try not to kill them.”
“Who you talkin’ to?”
I jump and remember that Nova is with Ronnie. I’m stuck with Chester, the man who will be our crazy pilot. And crazy he is. Chester graduated from MIT and then one or two bad decisions later he was all sorts of not working in his chosen field. Instead he became a part-time hacker for Agency types and a part-time pilot for his own personal entertainment. Pay Chester enough cash and he’ll pretty much do anything and after the bad decisions, he keeps his mouth shut.
“No one Chester, just myself I guess.”
“Cool man, I do that too. It’s alright to talk to yourself, you just gotta worry when you start talking back.”
“Thanks, Chester.” I say. A fountain of advice, this one.
We are perched on ATVs, borrowed from a farmer that will be angry when he finds out we borrowed them. Stole, the proper term is we stole them. We watch the Channel 5 news chopper come in for the scoop. Without warning the chopper is buffeted by some unexpected wind. They recover but are hit again. Then again. Each time the gust is more powerful.
“Careful now…” I whisper, hoping and waiting. She has to direct them, not bring them down. “Careful.”
They try to turn back and are slammed by a much worse one. For a second I am certain they are about to come tumbling out of the sky and we are going to be responsible for the demise of Channel 5s traffic watch team. I am tempted to believe that wouldn’t be an enormous loss, but I want Channel 9 to win on merit. Not corpses.
I’m passionate about local news.
We are not responsible for the demise of Channel 5s traffic team. Instead, the pilot starts a descent towards a nearby field that just so happens to be perfectly flat. Almost like someone carefully planned this out to be sure there would be a landing spot.
Almost. Imagine, someone with a plan being involved in any of this!
“Go!” Chester and I rev up the ATVs and are off the races, tearing away from the highway and our hiding place towards the field. We show up just barely after the helicopter touches down.
The pilot does not look happy and I couldn’t guess why. Could be Rod Stirling, Traffic Douche. That’s his official title. He is busy screaming his perfectly coiffed head off about this to the pilot, demanding answers from the poor pilot. Which would be my cue.
“Get us back in the air or it’s your ass!” Rod, Friendly Neighbourhood Dick, another official title, shrieks at the top of his lungs. I don’t know why. This can’t possibly be all that important for their ratings. It’s one traffic jam.
“Now that’s just rude,” I offer as a reply. Rod turns to shriek at someone new when he finds a handgun pressed into his forehead. Rod pees a little.
A lot. He pees a lot. He also can’t manage words. The pilot is calmer, almost as if seeing Rod Stirling, Raging Prick, get his comeuppance is worth the handguns. I don’t point it at him, he seems like a nice guy in the wrong place. I also feel a bit bad about making him face Rod.
“We’re going to go ahead and borrow this.”
Rod Stirling agrees. Wisely. Two men in balaclavas don’t brook lots of argument on anything they demand. Almost the opposite in fact.
Chester takes the pilot seat and I take the other, waving politely at the pilot and flipping off Rod Stirling as we take off. I wonder if he’ll live this down. At least the pilot will always have the moment that Rod Stirling wet himself, it’s hard to come back from that in anyone’s eyes.
Good. Pompous ass.
Just like that we have our helicopter. Two parts of this two-part preparation are complete. It’s only a matter of time before someone figures out it was us, only a matter of time.
We have to move fast.
“The Chairman called a Moot.”
Oh shit. We did not move fast enough.
“A what?” Nova asks.
“A Moot.” I take over for the worst news announcement for Ronnie. “There’s a list of hired killers, ranked by proficiency. You wiped out eleven. I was twelve. Ridge Twins would have been somewhere on there. The list has been redrawn by now and he’s called in the top twenty killers. From each Agency.”
“So…numbers…thirteen to thirty-three? That’s not so bad. Wait, what do you mean each Agency?” She sounds so hopeful. Right until the end. I think the giveaway would be that I’m speaking through my hands, since my head is buried in them.
“The Agency is one of six around the globe. Various names, various functions but same general thing. Killers for hire. He’s called on the Board Members of each Agency to bring their top twenty killers to a meeting in Chicago at the tower.”
“That’s…a hundred and twenty assassins?”
“Plus, all the extra security each Chairman requires on top of the standard security the tower has on your average Tuesday.”
“Can we find a nuke?” Ronnie jokes. Sort of. I don’t laugh. It would be the only way to handle this now. It’s not so much a joke as wishful thinking.
“When?” I ask, through my hand interpreters.
“Three days. They’ve already started flying in security. And killers. Someone’s going to figure this out Avery, we may not have three days and we certainly can’t take him on now.”
I lift my head up.
“They’re flying in.”
Ronnie looks at me like I’ve got six heads and none of them are as handsome as the one I do have.
“Yeah. Idiot. They’re not driving across the ocean.”
“They’re flying. We need to pull a Sheik.” I say.
Ronnie shakes her head so violently I think she might break her neck. Nova just looks confused.
“No one can pull that off, Declan never shared the secret. Ever. To anyone. It’s suicide.”
“He was damned good but we,” I point at Nova, “are better.”
She smiles and puffs up a bit, a little praise never hurt anyone. Especially when you’re going to try and convince them of a plan that’s all sorts of insane. Flattery will get you everywhere.
A girl with magic powers will do the rest.
There’s a strange sense of relief that you get when you think you’re going to die. Consider someone who gets a terminal diagnosis, they might run off to a strange country and backpack through the thickest jungle or eat the weirdest food. Suck back a bat testicle and go swimming with piranhas, that sort of thing.
If you know you’re dying, then what do you have to fear?
I see that look in her eyes. Nova. She looks like someone who is living for the now because she’s living on borrowed time. She very well might be. That’s why she isn’t scared to try this, because if we hit the tarmac at terminal velocity then nothing matters. Which might happen. In fact, there’s a higher than average possibility of that.
She’s explained this a dozen times now. Shoving a gust of air at a helicopter or building a sort of ‘bubble’ around moving things is pretty easy. She can help my arm move faster, she can throw a knife at something close to a Mach speed. There’s just a disconnect of physics with this suggestion.
She tried to explain that to me once, that her abilities are still restricted by reality. If she has no access to wind or air then she can’t control it. Or if you try to stop a person from falling out of the sky, you can’t just pop a solid wall of air to stop them. That’s like a concrete block instead of a nice, soft cloud. That’s bad for the person, I figured that one out all on my own.
“You sure you want to try this? We only get one chance!” I shout over the engine of our little prop plane, borrowed from a skydiving school. We don’t own a lot of our own stuff, I’m realizing. We steal so much.
We practiced what we could for two days before the flight was scheduled to come in, Europe’s Chairman. Cousin Robert. I say cousin because that’s what he is to me. He’s around my age, born into the business, but we never got close. His father, my uncle, ran the Europe Division for years and years until his health started going. For all the access he had, there’s one universal truth.
You can’t send an assassin after a tumor.
Well…you can but they’ll just carve it out or shoot it out and that doesn’t bode well for the host. Not when the world’s greatest surgeons say they can’t do it.
“Yes!” She shouts back at me and flashes me thumbs up.
This is it. There is no Plan B and there aren’t even parachutes. The duffel bag on my back is filled with weapons and gear, nothing more. The wind rushes through the plane and Chester gets us over the descent path of the Gulfstream. This window is barely that, it’s a sliver of time where things have to go just right.
We’re just lucky they had to fly in Albany for a refuel or a stop, whatever it was, before continuing on to Chicago. That’s our window, however small it is. We either get on the plane and everything goes smooth like peanut butter…or, we die.
“No pressure, kid!” I shout. She takes the leap with me. There is no plane beneath our feet anymore, just open space all the way down to an unhappy landing. This isn’t a take two situation. She is right behind me, showing good form like we tried to practice on the ground. There was two days to learn all the necessary form, if not for her abilities I wouldn’t have bothered with this.
We hurtle down through open space. Our goal to hit a distant speck of a sleek jet. We worked out the details and now I trust a twelve-year-old assassin in training to carry us through. So, I take a deep breath and trust.
I can feel the guiding shell around me, pulling me in the right direction and towards an approaching dot. Our target. We fly towards it with surprising agility, guided by the air itself. I can’t chance a look back, but I imagine that Nova is the picture of concentration as she molds the air to her will. I have a heartbeat to worry that we will be spotted, that they’ll change course, that one of ten thousand things will go wrong. Or we’ll miss entirely.
I have that heartbeat and then I am clutching the tail of the luxury aircraft, feeling relief from what should be vicious wind currents thanks to the thick protective clothing I’m wearing and probably some of Nova’s abilities. She’s useful to have around.
I hold up two fingers and she nods. There’s that concentration again while I focus on my own task. They’re suction cups that I seal against the fuselage. We’ll pull ourselves along the length of the plane to the entrance.
Oh, the entrance. That’s where she comes in.
Before we took flight on this misguided plan, we tracked down the schematics of the plane. Nova practiced a new move a few dozen times and claimed she could make it happen. I use the suction cups to get low and start the exhausting endeavor of crawling along a plane, she creates a small spike of air in the cockpit. Using her mind.
She drives that spike into a very specific button on the control panel. I guarantee this isn’t how Declan did the Sheik in but it’s my best attempt at recreating it.
That button drops the landing gear down, where inside there is enough wiggle room to squeeze into the lining of the jet. From there, it’s easy. Easy in comparison to breaking into a mid-flight jet filled with trained killers while using mystical powers of air.
What the fuck am I even doing?
I shake the thought out and continue phumping along the jet with the suction cups, pulling myself down and around to the rear left gear. I hear it before I see it, the compartment opens, and the gear begins to drop. That means only one thing.
I should hurry the fuck up.
Nova drops to her belly, we found out she is so much better at using the cups because of her abilities. Where I pump the handle to create suction each time, she can force it out with her mind. Her mind!
She is neck and neck with me in seconds, then ahead and pulling herself into the compartment. They start to retract, because of course they do. Pilots tend to notice flashing warning lights. The only upside is they’ll write it off as a wiring problem or glitch.
Unless they happen to find a half-destroyed assassin-corpse all tangled up in the machinery. That would be bad for the half-destroyed corpse.
Four feet. About a third closed.
Three feet. Half.
Two feet. Barely enough space.
One foot. Even less.
I reach out for the edge and feel a sudden rush of air against my feet and a pair of hands garbs me, swinging me through the space with barely an eighth of an inch to
spare. I feel the compartment close on the tread of my boots. I also find myself nose to nose with a retracted tire. I swallow hard, hoping it’s not going to keep coming because I can feel something hard behind my head.
A rock and a hard place, with me head between.
It stops. I let out my breath.
Nova grins, shimmying her way into the compartment and the space beyond. It’s not much but it will have to do. I follow, sucking my breath in and wishing I spent more time on treadmills and on salads.
It takes no more than five minutes to work through the space and to a small cargo area, where there is a hatch that leads to a space that leads to a door that should lead to the Board Member.
I push open the hatch just enough to peer through.
“Clear!” I whisper back to Nova, hefting up the hatch and pulling myself halfway up, resting my ass on the edge of the opening. There I am, in full tactical gear, handguns strapped on and ready for action, facing an empty room with a door.
And I hear a cough.
Shit. Oh, shit.
I turn, very slowly, to find no less than three men staring at me. They look amused almost. One has a shotgun slung over his back, the others have chest rigs with handguns. They look identical for the most part.
The O’Brien triplets. I’ve heard rumors about them. Funny guys. Quite good at the business of murder, like most of us. They’re eating from small bags of chips in what looks like a galley of some kind. I stare back, trying not to move.
“Got your boarding pass there, boy-o?”
We laugh, as men who are about to die will. Their only mistake is thinking that I’m about to bite it.
Oh well. We tried the sneaky route.
Time for Plan B.