Prologue 3: Assassin
(Basement of Nebula Headquarters, Chicago)
It was a strange room.
It would be more apt to describe how it was furnished, than just to say that it was a room.
Documents and books lined one whole wall, and many of the articles were strewn upon a table. Many had fallen to the floor. Among these books were scattered microscopes and other strange equipment, making the room look like it was a laboratory or a storage room for a lab.
It would look like an abandoned room if not for the people scurrying to and fro, some jotting down notes and others answering the many ringing phones. Everyone was occupied with something.
“Arrrgh, what to do….”
A woman with glasses was muttering to herself and turning circles in this chaos, and tripped over a book.
“Whoops.” Documents flew and her colleagues stood gaping.
The room looked like a university lab, but…
In a corner of the room, separated by a thin partition, loomed a completely different atmosphere.
A young man in a suit was sitting on a chair. His hands were folded upon the table, and his gaze was trained upon one corner of the room, which was very dark because the curtains had been drawn.
In the corner was a shadow, which was breathing very quietly, as if to hide any evidence of its existence.
Looking at this indistinct form, the young man sighed and said, “There’s really no need to hide that face of yours. Is it really that important? That you conceal your identity?”
But the shadow did not move, and remained silent.
The young man sighed again and seemed to give up, and changed the subject to work. “Oh, the favor we asked of you the other day... It’s not only an important operation, but it’s also pretty hard to complete. So that’s why we had to ask you.”
Still, the shadowy person didn’t respond.
“Oh, the operation’s called...... Huey Laforet.”
Even hearing this name, the shadow didn’t say anything.
“He’s in the famous Alcatraz Prison. And…supposedly he can’t die.”
The shadowy figure seem to be sobered at these words.
But the suited young man didn’t notice any change, and continued in his casual tone. “... Not a joke. Hopefully you’d take this seriously. Also, since you’ve work here long enough, you might have seen some of these ‘experimental subjects,’ right?”
The figure still didn’t say anything, only urged the man on with his gaze.
“Thank you. Well, this man here isn’t quite like those subjects. He’s already lived for 200 years, a veritable immortal. He’s quite inscrutable, with many people working for him, and even in jail he’s still commanding his forces outside.”
“So you see, we had to let you deal with this immortal. Plus, this time it’s not just a favour.”
All the small talk done, he prepared to move into the heart of the matter. However, right then ---
“Excuse me, here’s the tea ----Huh?!”
The woman in a white coat knocked into the partition, and screamed. She fell, and the tea and the tea set flew into the air.
The two men realized what was going on at the same time. The suited young man got a teacup in his temple, while the form in the shadows retreated to avoid being scalded.
“Oh dear, I’m so sorry! Sorry! Are you all right?” The woman looked like she was on the verge of tears, and kept bowing and apologizing. Above the white coat was an absent-minded face, with a pair of glasses with thick black rims. Long bangs swung before her forehead. In contrast, her figure under the white clothes was quite attractive. Every time she lowered her head, her amazing chest would attract attention, even though it was hidden under plain clothes. Any other man would have been overjoyed to see this, however—
The man in the suit only looked at her coldly, and then turned to the man in the shadows as if nothing had happened.
“You can ask this woman for more information.”
“Hmm? What information?” the woman was puzzled.
The man in the suit was starting to show some irritation. “The affairs we were talking about this morning, Director Renée!”
Upon hearing a tone of accusation from her staff, the woman clapped her hands together.
It was hard to tell just looking, but the chief of this section was this woman in white – Renée Palamedes Branvillier. She looked again at the shadow, realized who it was, and bowed politely.
“Oh wow, we haven’t seen each other for so long! If I’d known earlier, I would have prepared some refreshments and stuff.”
Seeing her acting so hospitable, the man in the suit dropped his collected expression completely, and massaged his temple. “…but it was you who told me to meet him this morning!”
“Oh, ri—right. Sorry. Um, I didn’t think you’d actually get here this early…”
The suited man could only sigh at his superior’s apologetic demeanor. The shadowy man maintained his somber silence.
Renée realized that no one was going to continue berating her, and raised her head to say brightly, “Well then, where did you two get to?”
“We were just outlining his trip to Alcatraz. Whatever the case, we need to hand this Huey affair to him.”
Hearing his glum words, Renée only clapped once again, and said to the shadow, “Ah, right, right! We need to ask you to work on this. From Huey Laforet, we need to…”
Her voice was always chirpy like this, free of care and hesitation.
“What I want from him is one of his eyes.”
“Well then, we’re leaving this to you, Mr. Felix Walken!”
The man in the suit cringed at his superior’s loud voice, and interrupted. “Please, could you stop yelling his name like that!”
“Oh noooo, I’m so sorry!”
She quickly clapped her hands over her mouth. The man in the shadows sighed – he finally opened his mouth for something.
“Please do not make me repeat this again. That name has already been allotted to someone else.” And saying this, the shadowy figure rose and stalked towards the hall.
“Right right. Well then, sorry, um, Mr. Assassin!”
“Don’t yell out his occupation either!”
“Aarrgh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
This was the ninth operation that the shadowy figure had been entrusted with. And he did not ask exactly what that room was for. Nebula had many departments, and commanded many organizations all over America, but it was a mystery as to what Renée’s department was up to, or why they were working in such an out of the way room in that building. Any ordinary person would have wondered about this, but for the shadowy it wasn’t of any concern.
Her unchanging voice rang out behind him. The shadowy figure only pondered about Renée.
She really didn’t look like a vile character. Of course, most vile characters don’t go out doing evil things while admitting that they were evil. Even if Renée was up to no good, she was still different from other people who were up to no good.
She lives a naïve existence, the shadowy figure concluded. She lived without malice, but lived innocently of all evil, which could still send her to hell.
He had seen her conduct experiments on corpses. When he asked her where she stole the bodies from, she immediately protested. “No way, they’re not stolen!”
Without hesitation, she injected something into her own wrist, and said, “They were paid for, you know!” And she was happily grinning all the while.
Proactive, confident, focused; in these ways, she was a stereotypical scientist in a lab coat.
He heard her call something out. The man called Felix, still expressionless, disappeared into the end of the hallway.
The chaos back there was really a daily occurrence in this world.
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