Elyse and I peer at the mansion from behind bushes, sizing up the monster job ahead of us.
"Fuck is right," I say, nodding my head.
The mansion is overflowing with security measures to prevent any intruders from breaking in. A high steel fence encompasses the entire compound, making it impenetrable on foot. Around the perimeter, beefy guards armed with rifles patrol the surrounding area. Then there were countless security cameras and motion/heat detectors waiting to identify any unwanted predators. And I'm pretty sure we passed a stealth tank on our way in. Obviously, I couldn't tell what with it being stealth and all, but what do you expect from the man who's the forerunner in new weapon's technology? I wouldn't be surprised if there were land mines underneath our feet right now.
It was we were about to infiltrate a military base. And that's just the outside.
I can only imagine what lies on the interior of this huge mansion, and it pretty much spells disaster for Elyse and I.
But every security system has a weak spot. We just needed to exploit it. And half the job's just being there, right? And here we were, having just passed the security check to enter the premises. Ready to exploit.
Behind the mansion is a secluded, private beach where Rowan and company are partying, wholly unaware of our less than honorable intentions. I mean, we were trying to break into his house. That's not exactly criterion for a best friend plaque.
Elyse takes a deep breath. "Okay, so. Let's think this through."
"We've got roughly forty to fifty guards patrolling the outside, each armed with bulletproof vests and rifles. Then there's the keypad and retinal scanner in addition to the two guards at each door. The windows are bulletproof judging by their thickness and I'm pretty sure there's sharpshooters positioned in the wall's towers."
She nods. "Then there's whatever's inside."
I sigh. "Yup. Man, this would be so much easier if those douches at Intel had given us what we wanted. Assholes," I glower because if we had the floor plan to this monster house, this mission would be so much easier. But apparently, we're not privy to that information, which is ridiculous considering we were assigned to kidnap a resident of this household.
"If we get caught, it's totally their fault."
I snort in agreement, but then, a brilliant idea hits me across the face. "This house is built for protection against intruders, right?" Elyse nods. "Well, what if we're not intruding, per se. What if we get invited in? Get where I'm going with this?"
A slow grin crosses Elyse's face. "Blue, you fucking genius."
Rather than gloat, I trudge forward in my plan. "We need Rowan to let us into the house."
"How are we going to do that?"
"…I have no idea."
Suddenly, a shadow appears, looming over our heads. Elyse and I jump up from our sitting position to stare down the unwanted visitor.
"What are you guys doing?" Everett asks, looking at us with a wary curiosity.
"Lovely to see you too, Everett," I say sarcastically. "I dropped my earring on the ground and we were looking for it. Oh, look! I have found it." I make a grand show of swooping toward the ground, picking up air, and fitting nothing into my pierced ear. "It was my grandmothers, you know. From the 1920's. White diamond and gold. Expensive shit."
Everett nods his head, having ignored everything I just said. "Right. Anyway, the party's back there," he says, pointing to the wide expanse of beach. "I wouldn't linger here too long. The guard's get suspicious of anything that breathes."
"Well then, would you mind escorting us to the bonfire, kind gentlemen?" Elyse asks, fluttering her eyelashes and putting on a winning smile. She's a flirt, this one…
Everett almost cracks a smile. "Of course not, come on," he says.
Elyse attaches herself to his arm and they begin walking. I stand back and watch the madness in front of me. They seem like such an unlikely couple; a stoic, emotionless man walking with a flirtatious, deadly assassin. Sometimes, the irony is just too damn much for me.
Elyse looks over her shoulder and gives me a pointed look. Invariably, I run to catch up.
"So, why's there so much security here?" Elyse asks, feigning innocent curiosity, although it's obvious she's searching for more information.
Everett shrugs, as indifferent as always. "Rowan's dad is some rich guy and he thinks people are after his money, so he has a lot of security. He's kind of paranoid."
Elyse nods, done questioning Everett for the sake of not arousing suspicion by digging too deep. But it's obvious she's not satisfied by his vague answer.
From across the beach, I spot Rowan's head. "I'm leaving now," I announce and begin walking toward my target.
Once I'm far enough away from Elyse and Everett, I mutter into my earpiece, "Watch me. I'll have him inside within the next ten minutes. And get away from that asshole," I remark, referring to Everett.
"Ten minutes. Quite the lofty goal, huh?" Elyse responds.
"Shut up," I grumble. "When it's done, you're going to be in my debt forever, fool."
Rowan sits laughing ten feet away, lounging comfortably on a log by the large fire. He swivels his head in my direction, eyes lighting up when he sees me. "Blue!" he exclaims, standing up to encase me in his arms. The red plastic cup in his unsteady hand tips precariously toward my head.
"Hey," I say, awkwardly reciprocating his hug because friendly physical contact is very foreign to me. If I hug someone, it's usually because I'm trying to sever his or her spinal cord. "You're drunk," I comment.
He laughs. "No, darling Blue, not drunk. Tipsy. I am tipsy. Tipsy but not drunk. There's a difference."
He pouts. "I swear. You want to see hammered? Look at-look at…Darcy!"
Five feet to my left, Darcy is spinning in circles, cackling like a mad woman. Suddenly, she collapses in the sand, a heap of sprawled limbs. "I hate dumb bitches and their dumb bitch shit," she mutters, her head lolling from side-to-side.
Rowan points to Darcy. "She's drunk."
"That she is."
"You want anything to drink?" he asks.
I decline his offer because The Academy has a strict rule against ingesting anything that has the ability to alter judgment. When you're in the middle of completing a mission and you need to be hyperaware of your surroundings, alcohol is a complete hindrance. As assassins, out best tool is our clear-headed judgment. I wasn't going to ruin that for a bottle of cheap beer.
"Blue is scared of alcohol," Darcy slurs in my ear, emphasizing every syllable like only a drunk could. "But you know who's not-"
That's when Darcy spews the contents of her alcohol-filled stomach onto my shirt in a projectile vomit the likes of which I have never witnessed. Until now, of course.
Well, I think I know how I'm going to get into Rowan's house.
The stench quickly overwhelms my senses, but I do my best to breathe out of my mouth, but that makes me feel like I'm breathing in vomit particles. Not good. But I'm an assassin, and I've been trained to resist even the most disgusting stimuli. A little puke I can handle. Hopefully.
"Whoops," Darcy says with a mischievous smile. Even under the influence, she's a devious little bitch. Not cool.
Rowan cups his hand over his nose and mouth, trying not to breathe in the rancid smell. "Oh, shit, Darce. You just puked all over Blue."
You don't say.
With as much composure as I can muster, I clear my throat, although it's a little difficult to remain dignified when you're covered in puke. "Where's the bathroom?"
Rowan, finally having come to his senses, jumps a little, the effect of alcohol on his behavior gone. He is no longer the tipsy prep school boy from two minutes ago, but fully conscious and wholly aware of the smell burning his nostrils. "Oh, yeah. Right. Well, it's just - God, it smells absolutely disgusting - this way."
He leads me to the door, where two guards give me a once-over, judging whether or not I'm a threat. And covered in puke? I would think not, but my kill list suggests otherwise. Although, I don't think now would be the appropriate time to tout my assassin cred.
The keypad at the door glows blue, and Rowan types in the combination 0829 before a retinal scanner appears from within the wall to scan his eyeball. The door opens. And I'm in.
Just like that.
No fuss, and only a little bit of muss.
"Four minutes and thirty-nine seconds. Exceeding my expectations as always," Elyse says, laughing at my expense.
"Shut up," I say without thinking.
Rowan turns to me with a curious grin. "What did you say?"
Oh, shit. "Uh, I said shook up. Because I'm very, uh, shook up that I just got puked on."
Ha, ha. Nice save, Blue.
Behind me I hear two soft thuds. Elyse.
This plan is actually working.
"So why is there so much security?" I casually ask.
"What is the reason for your query?" Rowan responds in a mock-intellectual voice.
I shrug. "Well, I'm covered in vomit and rather than focus on the rancid stench threatening to kill my sense of smell, I'd like to have a nice conversation to distract me. So, why the security?"
"My Dad's the CEO of this important corporation. He gets threats and stuff sometimes, so the security's just a precaution."
I nod sagely. "What company?"
Rowan gives me a sidelong glance, probably judging if I can be trusted. But seeing as it's Rowan, and he has a terrible habit of trusting everyone, he tells me anyway. "Roux Corporation. They build military stuff."
"Never heard of 'em."
He chuckles. "Yeah, well, you don't really advertise that you produce some of the world's most dangerous weapons, right?"
The interior of the house is exactly what a billionaire arms-dealer's house would look like. Lots of metal and white light and hard lines that looks like it was transported from fifty years in the future.
"Here's the bathroom."
"Holy shit," I say in awe. The bathroom is larger than my room at The Academy with fancy glass tiles and chrome accents. The shower alone could fit ten recruits comfortably. "I don't want to tarnish this bathroom with Darcy's vomit."
Rowan laughs. "Lemme get you a shirt. I'll be right back."
Rowan leaves the room, and I peer after his retreating back, making sure he's gone.
"Hey," I whisper into my earpiece, "are you good?"
A few moments of silence, then, "Yeah. Setting up cam's as we speak."
"Good. Tell me when you're done. We have to get into Roux's office."
"It's on the second floor. Third hallway. Last room on the left."
I pick up a towel and begin dabbing away at the vomit dried to my chest. "I see you've already taken the house tour. Finish what you're doing. You're going to help me later."
"Sounds like a plan, boss lady."
"Here you go," Rowan appears in the doorway, holding a white, button-down collared shirt. "You're so tiny, I figured you could fold this to make it fit."
That is actually rather considerate… "Thanks." I smile in gratitude.
He smiles back and for a minute, we just stare at each other.
Then I clear my throat. "Uh, I have to change my shirt, so…"
"Oh!" He exclaims. "Right," a faint blush colors his cheeks, "I'll just be, uh…"
He backs out of the bathroom and closes the door.
I chuckle at the awkwardness of the situation then strip off the filthy shirt and exchange it for Rowan's clean one. It smells faintly like his cologne, but I don't dwell on that. I am not some crazy, stalker girl.
When I open the door, Rowan and Everett are talking to each other. Rowan looks at me with an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Blue. Duty calls. I'm going to have to leave you here. You know how to get back down?"
I nod. Of course I know. Hello, Grade A assassin with amazing memory skills? Yeah, that's me. "I'll manage," I reply with a good-natured smile. "Go do whatever it is you have to do."
Before he leaves, he smiles again, and says, "My clothes look good on you," then departs, leaving me with that wildly inappropriate comment.
Everett, however, remains behind, staring at me with those weird, contemplative eyes. I shrink under his gaze, because, honestly, it's a little unnerving how blatantly he's looking at me.
"What?" I ask self-consciously, shifting my weight from left to right.
He walks up to me, eyes still trained on my face. "You've got," fingertips lightly graze my collarbone, "vomit in your hair."
With that he turns and walks after Rowan, leaving an overheating me in his wake. Whatever that was, I hope to never experience it again because that was like a prolonged awkward moment I could not escape from. Not cool.
"Elyse," I mutter, while rinsing out my hair. "Elyse!"
"Show me the way, princess."
I follow her directions to a tee and find myself in an unguarded corridor, in front of an unguarded door. No guards, no retinal scanners, no keypad, no nothing. Only a locked door.
Psh, they think that would keep me out? I don't think so.
With a little bobby-pin and jimmying action, the lock pops open and I peer inside. White walls, large bay window, rectangular desk, one computer monitor. No adornments. No pictures of family. No distinct details.
Martin Roux surely takes the term minimalist to a whole new dimension of boring.
"I'm monitoring the area as we speak. But I can't see inside the room. You're on your own in there. Be careful. This guy's really savvy with his security."
I creep into the room, but hesitate. Something is wrong with this picture. Martin Roux is not an idiot. He wouldn't believe that just because his security might seem impenetrable from the outside that someone is not capable of breaking in. He's not arrogant enough to leave his most prized information out in the open for someone like me to come and capture. There was something going on here. I just needed to figure out what.
I peer around the room again. Nothing that was blatantly in sight for me to be wary of. But, then, that's the thing isn't it. I need to look for what's hidden.
I run to the nearest bathroom, and quickly search the cabinets for what I'm looking for.
Running back, I sprinkle some into my hand and blow the baby powder delicately across the room. That's when everything gets illuminated.
Hundreds of laser beams spanning the length of the room in a crisscross fashion function as the last security measure. To the naked eye, they blend in with the background. But against the powder, they're fallible.
That sneaky bastard.
"You're going to have to hurry. There're about four security guards making rounds through the halls. You have at most five or six minutes," Elyse warns.
"Just keep an eye on them. I'm about to haul ass through these laser beams."
Rubbing my hands together, I get in plank position, balancing on my palms. Then, ever so slowly, I reach through the first gap between the beams. Carefully, my whole body follows, until I'm crouched in a small ball. One errant movement to the left and my eyebrow, along with all five layers of skin, will be burned to a crisp.
I move as gracefully as possible, gliding my way through the beams until I reach a safe spot. The computer monitor and right next to it a tiny red button. I click it and the beams instantly vanish.
"How much more time I got?" I ask Elyse, settling into the chair.
"At least four minutes. They're coming up the stairs."
Ah, now time to hack into the computer - my favorite part. This is a skill I specifically excel at. Too bad this one is the most encrypted beast of a hard drive I have seen. Nothing I've dealt with before, in the field or in training, can compare to the algorithmic mess that I have to encode within the next four minutes.
The computer asks for a message authentication code, or MAC, which is basically a message used to authenticate a set of data for a verifier. Basically, I need the magic word or I can't get through to the vital information stored on the hard drive. And with the clock ticking, that seemed like a very distinct possibility.
The only way to get passed this encryption system without the MAC is to detect an execution flaw. No matter how hard a computer manufacturer tries to make their system foolproof, there's always a slip-up somewhere in the encryption. Always.
I just have to find it.
I open the cipher, looking for an error in the algorithm. But as fast as my eyes are searching, searching, searching, for that fatal flaw, time is ticking and the algorithm seems to be getting longer and longer and longer.
"You have a two minutes. Wrap up your shit."
No, I can't wrap it up, because I'm still looking. For what, I don't know until I see it, but I'm positive it's here.
"One minute. Blue, get out of there now. The four guards are nearing your location. Approximately twenty-five yards away."
"Elyse!" I scrrech. "Shut up!"
Searching searching searching.
"Less than thirty seconds. Get out now!" Elyse yells. "Or you're dead."
I hold on for a few more moments, but realize the task is futile. I've either got to accept this failure or risk getting killed.
So, with extreme reluctance, I tear myself away from the monitor and evacuate the room, leaving no trace of my presence behind (save for a sprinkling of baby powder).
With a moment's head start, I hide from the guards. Their steady footsteps serving as a hallowing reminder of what I've just done, of what I am.
I want to apologize for my two-week vacation. I feel like a terrible author for not having updated for the past two Mondays! But a lot has happened since then. I mean, I graduated high school on Sunday! It's just been a very hectic time. But now that it's summer and I have nothing to do, I will be viciously working on this story (and possibly something else…?) because this is freakin' fun!
So rather than wait until next Monday, I figured I should post this ASAP and resume normal updates next week!
And sorry if it sounds like I don't know what I'm talking about regarding all the computer stuff. I really don't, but hey! Fake it till you make it, right?
So I hope this update makes up for being a sucky writer.
Haha, thanks for all those who reviewed last chapter and everyone who's reading this baby! I hope it's as much fun for you to read as it is for me to write!
PS: I just realized that Beyonce's baby's name is Blue Ivy. Just so you all know, Blue is not named after Beyonce's baby, but rather the color, which is a symbol of purity, life, naivety, etc. Soooo yeah. Just wanted to clarify.