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Chapter 47 – Shades of Grey

Liz, Five Months Before Impact Day

“So what do we do?” Aidan asked, leaning back in his chair.

I wished I had an answer for him. I wished I knew how to take on an entire gang. I wished Rachel wasn’t right.

She was wasting her time, though. Of that I was certain. We wouldn’t get any help from Wendy. Maybe we needed help, but it wouldn’t come from her.

Where could we get help, then? I couldn’t go to my parents, not with this. Taking on one of their more profitable employers? The idea was laughable. I could try and weasel information out of them, but I doubted they’d give up anything useful. We needed something better.

“I don’t know,” I confessed. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Alright, well, let’s work backwards,” he said.

“I’m listening.”

“Well, we need to get her out of what is basically a fortress,” he said. “That means we need an exfiltration route. Given who we’re up against, stealth is going to be more effective than brute force.”

“Stealth I can do,” I said. “So we’re going to need… Hmm. Access to the fortress. Access to her. A way to get her out unnoticed.”

“We could join the gang,” Aidan suggested. “I’m using Rachel’s hacking software, but I can’t get anything that’ll get us people on the inside. But we could be the people on the inside. We’d learn a lot more that way, and we’d get direct access to her.”

“Not necessarily,” I told him. “Vengeance are big, and they’re careful. It would be months, maybe years before new recruits were given access to something as valuable as Charlie.”

“So we steal identities,” he said.

“Could work,” I said, considering it. “Won’t be easy, but I don’t think any part of this is gonna be easy.”

I began to lay out what we’d need. An understanding of their operation, especially within wherever they were holding Charlie. A way to trick anyone we encountered there, and the credentials to navigate it freely. Disguises so we wouldn’t be recognised, or perceived as as young as we were. Once we had that, we could go in, get to Charlie, and… Well, we needed a way to get her out, but we couldn’t do that until we knew what the set up was.

“One step at a time,” Aidan said, echoing my thoughts.

“How do we figure out what’s going on internally?” I asked. “Is that something you can get access to?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” he said. “Information is always obtainable, but it’ll take time. I’m still new at this, you know.”

“Do you need anything from me?” I asked.

He pondered that, the wheels and cogs in his mind turning over.

“There might be something,” he said. “But…”

“But?”

“I don’t want to ask for it,” he said.

“Why not?”

“It’s…” He sighs. “Look. You know that I value you as a friend, and as a person, right?”

Now I know this isn’t going anywhere good.

“Just spit it out, Aidan.”

“I might have a contract for you.”

Oh.

“You want me to kill someone,” I said, feeling slightly hollow.

“Well, not me,” he said, hurrying to explain. “One of my sources. It would be an exchange for new connections.”

“I see…”

“I didn’t want to ask,” he said. “Really. I mean, you know I don’t think of you as a… you know.”

“An assassin?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Aidan, I am an assassin. Or at least, I’m ready to be one. And I won’t be made to feel ashamed of that legacy.”

He looked at me with a pained expression on his face.

“Since when do you think of yourself as an assassin?”

“Since my best friend went missing, I guess?”

That wasn’t entirely true. I’d thought of myself as an assassin my entire life. It was how I was raised.

Being an assassin didn’t mean being a killer. It meant being a weapon, a tool. There was blood on your hands, but it was blood that was bound to be on someone’s hands. At least if it was you, you could ensure the death was clean, painless, beautiful.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s fine,” I replied, not really meaning it. “Tell me about the job.”

“You’ll do it?” he asked.

“I’ll consider it. Especially if it will help save Charlie.”

“Alright,” he said, a little flatly. “I’ll set up a meeting.”

“Now you sound disappointed.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I just found out my friend is willing to kill.”

“You brought it up,” I told him.

“I didn’t expect you to say yes!”

“Let me ask you something, then,” I said. “All this information that you’re buying and selling. You think that isn’t hurting anyone? You think that won’t get anyone killed?”

“I’m not killing someone with my own hands!”

“And that makes you so much better than me.”

“I didn’t say that,” he argued.

“Didn’t you?”

“Ugh, fuck, I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t want to fight about this.”

“Me either,” I agreed, my shoulders slumping. “We’re living in shades of grey, here. And I think we’re both willing to push the limits of our own morality if it gets Charlie back.”

“Are we bad people?” he asked.

“Maybe. But right now I care less about being a good person than I do about saving my best friend.”

“This sucks,” he said.

“There has to be a reason for it,” I told him.

“I wish I had your faith.”

We sit like that for a while, neither of us saying anything. Aidan sighs, and reaches out to me. His hand touches mine, and I hold it.

“We’ll find her,” he said.

“I know,” I said, without really believing it. “So let me do what I can to help.”

Aidan returned to his laptop, and quickly composed and sent an email. Minutes later, he got a response.

“That was fast,” I commented.

“They’re very eager,” he said wearily. He wrote down the details on a piece of paper, then deleted the email. “You’ll only get one chance to impress them, so…”

“Leave this part to me,” I said. “This is my business, remember?”

He didn’t say anything in response to that.

 

Next Week: I Just Want Him Dead

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