“Ma’am, is it possible for Hail and I to switch places?” Snow faltered.
“Like I said, this is a difficult mission. I can’t have both you and Rain on edge and having meltdowns at the same time. I understand that both of you wear your hearts on your sleeves. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s imperative that I pair you up with someone who isn’t as emotionally driven.”
“Rain, I don’t want to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. If you don’t want-”
“No, I’m doing it,” I stood up abruptly, “Thank you. I won’t let you down.”
I excused myself and went back into my room to prepare my weapons and ammunition. I fully intended to put in as much as effort for this assignment as I did for all my past assignments. I was a professional. There’s no reason why I couldn’t complete this task as well as the other tasks.
“You know those two?”
Jude was standing in the doorway of my room. In my flustered state, I must have forgotten to shut my door.
“They’re my parents.”
I switched on the room ventilation system. I laid out all of my guns on my desk and examined them for damage. Once I was sure that they were all in working condition, I put on my gas mask, gloves and safety goggles. I started taking apart my guns, making sure to keep the parts of the same gun together.
“Rain, I don’t want to pry into your personal life, but I think I deserve to know any details that affects the success of our mission.”
“There’s really nothing much to know. Growing up, my brother had terminal cancer. He wasn’t responding to anything that the doctors gave him, so they tried to get him on this experimental drug. Our insurance plan wouldn’t cover it and my parents couldn’t afford the treatment. He died within a year. One month later, my parents took me to the beach. That was the last time I saw them. I went to the bathroom and when I came out, I couldn’t find them.”
“So, you have no qualms about killing them?”
I didn’t know how to answer his question. They left me when I was twelve and I’ve been alone ever since. It wasn’t like they were really parents to me when they were around. If I had any qualms about killing them, I was pretty confident that I could ignore those feelings. Sometimes, when one door closes, you need to nail a board over it.
But to say I didn’t have any qualms about it would be a gross understatement.
“When are we setting off?” I asked.
“In four days.”
“Okay. I’ll have no qualms by then.”
By the time I turned to see his reaction, he was already gone.
When we were about to leave, Sunny chose to stay in her room. She was never one to let us see her get misty-eyed. Snow, on the other hand, hugged me so tight that I thought my chest would crumble. I could feel his tears getting my hair wet.
“When do you leave for your assignment?”
“In two days,” he sighed, “Make sure you’re in one piece when I get back.”
He released me and kissed my forehead.
‘Move it, Rain,” Jude called out.wal
“Shut it, Hail.”
Snow gave me a sympathetic smile. He reached out and squeezed my hand.
“Rain, this is just something you have to do. It doesn’t define you.”
“I know. Thanks.”
I pulled my hand away from his and walked to the front door of the hideout. Jude was already waiting for me outside.
“Are your qualms gone?”
I took a deep breath before saying, “I sure as hell hope so.”
He offered to take my briefcase of ammunition, but I declined the offer. The last time I had a mission with him and I let him help me, he held it over my head for months. He went on and on about how it wasn’t professional that I was delegating parts of my job to someone else, and that I couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be separated. I decided then that I would rather have a sore shoulder than a sore ear.
We left in the cover of darkness. The air was so fresh that it stung my lungs to breathe. I thought I would eventually get used to the nausea I got whenever I left the artificial womb of the hideout. I guess I was wrong about that. Jude walked alongside me, never more than a step in front of or behind me. The last time that we did an assignment together was his first assignment after joining the organisation. Since then, he made his way up the ranks to become the dealer’s favourite in a matter of months. He successfully completed more assignments in his first year than the rest of us managed to.
“Have you got the train tickets?” he asked.
“Yeah, they’re right here,” I pat my right hand over my coat pocket, “Hey, Jude, can I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“How are you so comfortable with the rest of knowing your real name? I mean, we were all given codenames so that there wouldn’t be a chance that we reveal each other’s identity if we were caught by the authorities.”
“It’s not my real name.”
“What? But we had to surrender our identification cards to the dealer when we joined.”
“I didn’t surrender my real identification card. End of discussion.”
“Then what is your name?”
Jude finally turned to look at me and grinned.
“I’ll tell you if you manage to kill both of your parents without my help.”