Context: A couple of spies hunt a gang member near Caracas. The Scotsman is wary. The American, not so much.
He’s not dwelling on the thousands of ways in which operation can end horribly. Pellinore only grins wider at the mention of dozens of armed guards. “Have a little confidence, Gawain. I’ve seen your old marksmanship scores. You’re no slouch.” There’s not much else they can do at this point to improve their chances, but there are plenty of opportunities for self-sabotage. He follows Gawain to the trunk and starts unloading what he needs. He grabs an assault rifle, several clips, and some grenades. If he couldn’t find an exit, then he’d create one.
[“How difficult is it going to be for you to get us out of here under fire? Our plan B is technically Aruba.”]
The gunfire doesn’t even register to him as a concern. Ah, the luxuries of bulletproof suits and a Texas-sized confidence. “If the Jeep is still here when we return? Not very hard.” He inserts a fresh clip into his rifle. “If it’s not, then we can probably steal a ride from the garage.” Is there a garage here? He touches the side of his glasses. “Ops, you got a blueprint for the place?” An overlay appeared on his screen. “Nice one, thanks.” Nothing beat stealing cars from his father, but stealing cars from a paranoid guy who ran half the drug cartels in Venezuela will have to do.
Pellinore wanders over to the east side of the estate after confirming that his microphone was in working order. Once he reaches the edge, he adjusts the zoom in his lens and turns on heat signature. “I see maybe four total, two outside. You want to split from here?”
Genre: Modern Fantasy
Context: The goddess Artemis, an assassin, a fresh body, and the beginning of a car chase.
Artemis smells the man’s blood before she hears the sound of his body hitting the pavement. Or the disappearance of his heartbeat. She lowers her bow.
She was meant to take the man alive. Shoot off a few limbs maybe, but not to kill him. Any common idiot with a pike could kill a man. It took a certain finesse to capture a man, and now she’s going to have to go to the agency with a corpse instead of their prize.
She can scarcely stand to imagine the humiliation. She refuses. Artemis recreates the fall in her head, the probable angle of the bullet. With her bow in hand, she parkours along the street until she reaches the Smoothie King. She is close enough to discern someone’s steady heartbeat. Artemis advances upon the killer with the gun.
She was dressed like a girl from private school, pleated skirt and all. Artemis draws herself up to her full 5’6 height and snarls at the assassin. “Prostrate yourself before me and repent, human.” She is benevolent, but her forgiveness must be earned.
Once upon a time, she may have shot off an arm. But if even Apollo can change gracefully with the times, then so can she. One chance, and she may end up sparing a life today after all.
Context: A psychic freelancer completes a task for a monkey Buddha. His reward may be more than his soul can handle.
Monkey snaps his fingers, and half a dozen monkeys rush forward to unload the cargo. The box was over several centuries old and valuable beyond Max’s comprehension, but Monkey already factored the goods as a loss. An accountant monkey in the back screeches angrily when he has to modify the account books.
Money is exchanged between the monkeys. Some of them had been making bets on whether or not the human would return at all, or return in pieces. A lot of money is exchanged.
“That wasn’t so bad was it, boy?” He yawns and stretches his too-long limbs. “I guess you’ve earned your due. Come with me.” He beckons for Max to follow him into one of the side doors. Inside was the Urn of Hashr on a golden altar. The room was filled with the smoke, which came from several rows of incense sticks upon a pewter burner.
A monkey servant comes through to offer a ceremonial knife to Monkey. The silver blade gleams from the candlelight. He turns the servant away. “Oh no, give it to the boy. He’s the one who’s going to be using it.”
Context: A British spy spends his birthday in Alaska. His coworker decides to surprise him. If you think his intentions are romantic, then you would be right.
The floors had been swept and the cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling had been removed. The short candle on the table was only supposed to provide a light pine scent, so the lights remained on. A paper box was placed on one side of the table, and an ice bucket with two bottles of wine sat on the other. The wineglasses, plates, and silverware gleamed in the yellowed light. None of Ian’s preparations compared to a Michelin starred restaurant, but Malcolm had opted to spend his birthday in Alaska. Ian is going to have to ask him about that later. If there was going to be a later.
He still had a few more minutes, but Ian’s nerves were already starting to wear down. The roses may have been a little much. He’s going to have to quit the company, change his name, and live in a hut out in the Australia wilderness. The door handle made a sound, and Ian nearly jumped. By the time that Malcolm opens the door, Ian has completely forgotten what any of this is about. Malcolm is standing in his room with the only roses for miles around.
He’s come to return the gift. His brain unhelpfully suggests. His face feels warm, and his knees feel like they are the next to threaten mutiny. This won’t do. Ian forces himself to smile.
“Happy birthday, Malcolm.” Whoever said that it took more muscles to frown than it did to smile was a goddamn liar. “Would you sit down and drink with me?” He takes one of the wine bottles out of the ice bucket and realizes that he can’t remember what he brought. Not with all the blood rushing to his brain. He ends up having to read the label in the dim lights. He mangles the French label in his American accent. “I have a 1964 Bordeaux. I’m not going to pretend that I know if that’s a good year or a bad year.”