The Wrong Play: Part One
(Inspired by the photography of Jamaal Todd)
"I gave you explicit instructions."
"I did everything you asked," he said.
Nia sat and laid her sword across her lap, fingering the blade.
"No, you did not. Jameel is still alive."
"You told me he would be alone," Michael said. "I was not prepared."
"An assassin should always be prepared," Nia replied. "I am."
Nia turned her wrist slightly, activating the sword's senshield. Whatever weapon Michael had hidden on his person was now useless. She stood, lowering the hand that held the sword. The sword edge tapped the ceramic floor.
"I'll give you one more chance, Michael. See that you don't fail this time.'
Michael's shoulders slumped in relief.
"I won't Miss Nia. I promise you!"
Michael turned to walk away.
Michael stopped then closed his eyes.
"Yes, Miss Nia?"
"I changed my mind."
Nia’s sword cleaved through Michael’s neck, the shield cauterizing the flesh simultaneously. Body and head hit the tile floor together.
Nia closed her eyes, activating her sensor implants.
“You can come out, Jameel.”
Jameel Cinque materialized just out of sword length on the opposite side of Michael’s body. He smiled, his bright teeth in contrast to his onyx skin.
“You knew I’d follow him,” he said.
“Of course,” Nia replied. “It’s the reason I sent him.”
Jameel took a slow step back as he extracted his takouba from its baldric. He let the elaborately decorated leather sword holder fall to the floor.
“I see you still have my gift,” Nia said. “I’m flattered.”
Jameel cut a figure eight in the air with the blade.
“The second best thing you ever gave me,” he said.
Nia kicked off her boots. She slid her legs apart as she bent them slightly, shifting her weight to the balls of her feet. Jameel raised his right hand.
“Before you try to kill me, you need to listen . . .”
Nia leaped over Michael’s body, bringing her sword down towards Jameel’s forehead. Jameel recognized the feint but had to react to keep Nia from splitting his head like a jackfruit. He blocked with his sword then took the kick to his stomach, grimacing and he staggered back.
“Nia . . .”
Nia was spinning on her front leg. Jameel ducked the hook kick, but the shin kick hit him hard. She expected him to fall to his knee, but he didn’t. She continued to attack, becoming more and more frustrated every second he remained alive. He was still as good as he was the day he almost killed her. That was ninety years ago.
Fatigue began to set in on both of them as they performed a lethal sword dance around the room with skills that would have destroyed a thousand synths and twice as many norms. As much as she didn’t want to, Nia broke off her attack. Jameel forced a tired smile to his face.
“Now that that’s settled, let’s talk.”
“Nothing’s settled until you’re dead,” Nia said.
“You came out of hiding to kill me,” Jameel said. “For sixty years you had no idea where I was. Then suddenly you knew. How did that happen?”
“Because I’ve been searching for you the entire time, and you finally fucked up,” Nia said.
“No,” Jameel said. “You found me because someone let you find me.”
Nia’s eyes widened, then narrowed.
“The Conglomerate was hiding me,” Jameel said. “They blocked all your worm codes and micro hacks until a month ago. That’s how you found me.”
Nia lowered her sword. Uncertainty gripped her. If Jameel was telling the truth and the Conglomerate was hiding him, she wouldn’t have been able to locate him.
“Why?” she finally said.
Jameel grinned. “For the same reason they sent me after you almost a century ago. I’m no longer useful to them.”
“Then why didn’t they just kill you?”
Jameel lowered his sword as well.
“Because the CAI has a sense of humor. It got you to come out of hiding to find me, then brought us both together so it could kill two drones with one stone.”
Suspicion replaced confusion. Nia raised her sword again.
“If you knew that, why did you come?”
“Because together we stand a chance,” Jameel said.
Nia activated her sensors and did a wide radius scan.
“They’re coming,” she said. “Eight hundred synths, fifteen hundred norms. That’s not enough.”
“There’s been upgrades since you went underground,” Jameel said.
Nia cursed. She still didn’t trust Jameel, but she couldn’t deny what her sensors told her.
“Come with me,” she said.