The sun was annoying her. The heat was annoying her. The birds singing? Disgusting. The happy couples, strolling in the park in blissful ignorance? She wished them all to go to hell. Everything was annoying her. At any other time, she would’ve attributed her anger to trivial things, but not today. Today, her anger was targeted at herself. All because of one moment of compassion.

In her work, compassion was not an option. Human emotion was forbidden, and displaying such things could get her fired, even killed. And getting killed was not in her to-do list today.

She kept looking nervously over her shoulder. Stop that, you moron, she thought. You are giving yourself away! She decided to stop by the pond. People of all ages were around her, some in pairs, others alone. Some holding plastic cups of coffee, others ice cream. Some kids were running, chasing after a red balloon that was slowly rising upwards. She leaned, pretending to be tying her shoelashes. As she did, she tried to discreetly activate her communication system. She was expecting a torrent of threats, curses and the like.

“What a sunny day” she whispered to her watch. A screen appeared in her state-of-the-art contact lenses. ‘Connecting to HQ’. She decided to sit down on a red bench behind her, while checking her surroundings. She was 99% sure that she’d lost him. And, in her profession, even 1% of uncertainty was a one-way ticket to Disasterville.

“Christina, this is Commander Hastings. I want to know what happened! Why did you not finish the mission? Are you trying to get yourself killed? Explain yourself, or I will blow the park up, along with you and everyone else!”

Fuck, it’s the Bald Bastard, she thought. Her mind was in overdrive. How could she explain her failure? She quickly took out a fake cellphone from her pocket, and held it against her left ear. She made sure to align the watch as close to her mouth as possible.

“Commander, this is Christina. The mission has been compromised. The target was aware, and kept shifting positions” she lied.

“How could this be? Not a soul was aware of our plan! Are you suggesting there is a mole in here? Do not speak without evidence” Hastings warned her, his anger elevating.

She took a deep breath and looked around once more. He wasn’t there. She had, indeed, lost him. Again. She let out the air, before she spoke once more.

“I cannot confirm, nor deny, Commander. I can only assure you that he kept checking at my position. He knew, somehow, that I was there.”

“You could still take the shot!” roared Hastings.

“There were many people around. I wanted a clear shot. I…”

“You thought of the civilians again! To hell with them! John Carpenter was your target. If he was aware, as you suggest, then you could confuse him! Make it appear as a terrorist attack! You let him escape, Christina. You are being recalled. In ten minutes, one of our vans will pick you up. Move to the church and wait there.”

“Will do, Commander” Christina responded and the communication was terminated.

Her heart was pounding fast inside her chest, as though it had sensed the danger and wanted to get the hell out of there. She had ten minutes. She had to think fast. She knew she would not be forgiven this time. John Carpenter had already ‘escaped’ three times. Soon, they would find out… she had to make a choice. The Company, or her brother. She had to find him, had to let him know. Yet, she knew nothing about him. The two of them had been separated years ago, when they were both babies. He went on to become a politician, she went on to become an assassin for an elite group that specialized in political murders. And now, he’d become a target.

The first time she encountered him was at a rally in their hometown. She had known for a while now, that the man she was set to kill was her brother. She had the means to find out. She was startled, if only for a second. She had regained her composure pretty quickly. You don’t know him. You share no fond memories. This is your job. He has to die.

Still, for the first time in her life, she had a family. Her parents were long dead, and left no clues regarding John. She grew up on the streets, earning her right to live day by day. She had to do nasty things, gruesome even. Until the Company found her, recognized her talents, and offered her a job. She was their best asset, yet they would not hesitate to eliminate her, should the need arise. She knew that.

Six minutes. The choice was to be made fast. In six minutes, she would have to either go back to HQ, or run for it.

Christina had her gun, carefully tucked in her bag, hidden from view. That gun was all she had left. In her hurry, she left everything else on the rooftop of the building, just across the stage where her brother’s rally was taking place. The cops had probably found everything already. Even they were not dumb enough not to realise what was going on. Not that they could trace her…

She rose up, tied her hair into a braid and looked around once more. Then, she started casually jogging towards the church, knowing she was being watched by the Company. As she jogged, her mind was struggling with the choice. She had to decide. Four minutes… who knew if her brother was dead already? They could have sent someone else to finish the job… maybe finish her as well. She was afraid, because she knew what they’d do to both her and him, once they’d gotten their hands on them.

Christina turned left and saw the beautiful, 15th century cathedral about 100 meters away. She swiftly climbed the stairs, sat down on the pure-white marble and checked her watch again. Two minutes… Thoughts came and went, one crazier than the other. Christina buried her face in her hands. The blackness felt somewhat comforting, yet offered no alternatives to her current predicament. There was no other way…

A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped up, ready to punch the person behind her. She froze, as when she turned, she saw her brother’s face. He was there, so close… emotions began rushing inside her, a cocktail of chemicals running up and down her brain. He was smiling, and that confused her. Tears started running down her cheeks, before she knew.

“Wait! I just wanted to hand this to you!” he exclaimed, pointing at the bottle of water he was holding. “You seem worn out. Rough day?”

“You… have no idea” Christina replied, before regaining her composure. The van had just arrived. She saw them exiting and approaching. She had to act fast.

“Sorry bro. I really hope you can forgive me” she said and pulled the gun out of her bag. His expression went from kind and smiling to scared and wounded. She fired and the bullet passed right through his skull. John Carpenter fell on the marble, his eyes blank, his face still frozen in fear. Christina turned around and saw the men from the Company approaching.

“Mission accomplished. Tell Hastings I’m not coming back. The bastard can go fuck himself.”

She turned the gun to her head. A loud bang echoed for the second time in front of the cathedral. Christina and John both lay bleeding on the ground, as the crowd scattered screaming. The very last thing Christina saw was blurred, because the tears kept on flowing.

Better me than them… 


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