Sharp: Part I
"Jakob?" Mikael called. His voice echoed through the mansion halls. He ran a hand through his thick white hair and called for his butler again. "Jakob, where are you?" Mikael gripped his rope tightly around himself and stepped out of the bathroom. Age-old instincts buzzed in his mind. Something was wrong.
He slowly ventured through the hallways, cautiously looking around every corner. His feet made no sound on the marble floor. A dagger rested comfortably in his pocket.
The door to Jakob's room was slightly ajar. Mikael pushed the door fully open, revealing a body lying on the bed with a knife in its back. Mikael grasped his dagger in his left hand and ventured into the room with his ears on alert.
The room was absolutely still. That wasn't always a truthful indicator, but in this case, the room was empty. He walked over to Jakob's body and pulled out the knife. The design and shape of the blade brought back memories.
"You're getting sloppy," he said.
"We only wanted to get your attention," came a voice from a speaker in the blade handle.
"There were easier ways," Mikael said.
"Would you have listened?" the voice countered. "We needed to stress the severity of the situation."
"I won't do what you want," he argued. "I-"
"We think you will find this task very interesting," the voice interrupted. "If you insist, we can always use more…persuasion."
There was silence as the voice on the other end waited for a response. Mikael frowned. "Meet me at the usual place," Mikael said curtly.
"We knew you would understand." The speaker clicked off, and Mikael was left in silence. He looked at his butler's dead form, and then shook his head. This is why I retired from the Society of Assassins.
The Batmobile flew serenely past the skyscrapers of Gotham. Terry was taking it slow, observing the city around him. A sliver of moon hung in the sky overhead. Most of the illumination came from building lights and street lamps. Cars raced along the road, impervious to the danger around them.
Batman was aware of the danger. It was his life, at least when he put on the mask. He stopped the car in midair, opened the hood, and stood. He slowly turned his head around, searching with his ears as well as his eyes. To many, the sounds all jumbled into one large drone, but Batman had attuned his ears to detect trouble. Discordant police sirens wailed in the distance, a scream sounded from some street, and somewhere there was a gunshot.
This job is never done, he thought.
He was about to sit back down when he heard another noise. It was a whooshing sound, like something twirling through the air. It started softly, then grew louder. Realization hit him just in time and he ducked a couple seconds before something sliced through the air where his neck had been a moment before. He peeked out and saw the twirling sword soar through the air and land in the hand of a very familiar blue-skinned assassin standing on a rooftop.
"Curare," Batman muttered under his breath. She stared back at him, her eyes challenging him. He jumped out of the Batmobile, spread his wings and launched at her.
Curare stayed motionless, keeping her unbreaking stare of Batman as he steadily came closer. Then, mere moments before he touched her, she spun. Quicker than Batman could react, she grabbed his right arm, slammed him facedown into the roof, and planted her knee into his back, pinning him down.
"You're so predictable," Curare said.
"Sorry to disappoint you," Batman grunted. He arched his leg and fired his boot thruster right into Curare's back. She shot across the roof and caught the edge before flying off.
"Impressive," she said. "You may be of use after all."
Batman got back up and a thought struck him. "How are you speaking?" he asked, remembering the one time he'd seen Curare's face. "You never talked before."
"A voice synthesizer implant," she replied. She lifted her veil slightly to reveal a silver mesh on her throat covering the speaker. Her voice was impressively realistic. It sounded like a strong, commanding female.
"That's very high quality," Batman commented. "How did a fugitive like you get it?"
"You'd be surprised, Batman," she replied. "Some people still care about their children."
Batman thought he detected bitterness in her voice. "Why, Curare?" he asked.
"So we can work together better."
Batman did a double take. "What?"
"I need your help," Curare asked.
"You try to kill me and then you ask for my help?" Batman asked incredulously.
"If you couldn't dodge a shot like that," Curare said, "you'd be completely useless against the Society of Assassins."
Curare sighed in exasperation. "Try to concentrate." She turned to her left and looked off into the distance. "I don't know how much time we'll have out in the open like this. They're tracking me. Because of you." She pointed her sword at Batman, who just gave back an passive expression.
"It's the rule," she continued bitterly. "Anyone who fails an assignment must die. Never mind that I was their best. They had to make an example."
"It's your fault for joining the Society in the first place," Batman countered. "You knew the danger."
There was the smallest twinge of sadness in her eyes at his words. It was gone so fast that he wondered if he had just imagined it.
"That's not important," Curare snapped. "What matters is that they're hunting me down now, and I refuse to die quietly."
"So you want me to die loudly with you?"
"Stop joking!" Curare yelled. "This is serious. I've been killing the ones they've sent after me, but they have many more in the ranks and better ones. I'm tired of running; I want to hit them first before they hit me."
"So why do you need my help?"
"I'm good, but I can't take on the entire Society of Assassins alone. I'll need help, and you're the only one who's beaten me."
"Give me one good reason why I should care," Batman said.
"You want the Society gone as much as I do," Curare replied. "You're altruistic like that."
Batman frowned. She had a point. "How can I trust you?" he asked. "How do I know you won't turn on me the minute we've stopped the Society?"
"Oh, come on," Curare said. "You criticize my trustworthiness, but what about yourself? Do you expect me to believe that you'll just let me go when we're done?"
Batman crossed his arms. Curare looked back with equal conviction. This is a stalemate, Batman realized. "Okay, then," he said, "but how do I know you won't hunt me down later in life?"
She shrugged. "You don't. I may like some recreation later." Her eyes smiled sinisterly.
Batman shook his head. "No deal. I want a promise that you'll leave people alone if I let you go."
Curare sighed. "All right, it's a compromise. You don't arrest me after we've destroyed the Society of Assassins, and I'll go off and bore myself to death somewhere far away from here."
Batman smirked. "Why the joke? You were the one who told me to be serious."
"True," Curare said, smiling back, "but you'll be the one he kills first."
Batman had no time to comprehend what she had said before she pulled a dagger from her belt and tossed it. He ducked, and the dagger hit something in the air. That something fell to the ground, and Batman picked it up. It was a metal ring the size of his palm with four sharp points jutting outward.
"It's shuriken," Curare explained, raising her sword, "the work of Kaveha."
Many more shuriken came flying through the air. Batman ducked and dodged, while Curare deflected them all with her sword. The barrage stopped, and a suit-clad figure jumped onto the rooftop.
He stood tall and fierce. His suit was pure black, with red slits for eyeholes. On his back was a container with flexible tubes running along his suit until they attached to his gauntlets.
"Curare," the man said.
"Kaveha," she answered. "It's nice to see you again."
"Indeed," Kaveha replied. "It will be an honor killing you."
"Doubtful," she shot back.
Kaveha growled and raised his arms. Dozens of shuriken fired out of his gauntlets, forcing Batman to launch into the air. Curare backflipped away and huddled behind the stairwell.
"You can't hide, Curare," Kaveha said, walking towards Curare. "I hunted you here; I'll hunt you wherever else you'll go. Stand and fight me."
"You don't really want me to do that," Curare said. "Personal combat was always your weak point. That's why you attack long range."
"True," Kaveha replied, "but you'd rather get a blade in the face than one in the back."
Curare was silent. She wasn't used to talking during her assignments. She had run out of retorts to distract Kaveha. Now she could only wait for her trap to take effect. As she had backflipped, she had grazed her sword along the roof, created a rift that would split open when Kaveha stepped on it. It wouldn't stop him, but it may give her a chance to end things quickly.
There was silence as Kaveha walked closer, and then he yelled in surprise. Curare jumped out from behind the stairwell, ready to attack, but hesitated in mid-air. Kaveha hadn't cried out because of her trap, but because Batman had grabbed him.
"You fool," she said, landing with her sword in ready position. "You'll mess everything up."
"You wanted my help," Batman replied, handcuffing Kaveha's wrists.
"You're working with this dreg now, Curare?" Kaveha said. "I thought you had better sense."
Kaveha fired a shuriken through the batcuff chains and into Batman's side. Batman grunted in pain and let go of Kaveha, who turned around, grabbed Batman's arms, and swung him towards Curare. Halfway there, he fell through the trap meant for Kaveha and crashed down into the office below.
Idiot, Curare thought, as Kaveha launched another barrage. She dodged and blocked, but more kept coming. We could both do this forever. I need to gain an advantage. She ducked the last couple shuriken and jumped down after Batman.
Batman picked himself up and looked at the startled office workers. "Get out," he ordered. He didn't have to tell them twice, for Curare dropped down right beside him.
"What are you-" Batman asked as people scrambled away, but Curare quickly ducked behind a file cabinet. Batman got the point and moved to join her. "What are we going to do?" he asked.
"Find your own hiding spot," Curare said. She pushed him away, just as Kaveha dropped down to join them.
"This is none of your business, Batman," Kaveha said. "You endanger yourself."
"I could handle Curare," Batman replied. "I can handle you."
"Well, I warned you," Kaveha said. Her reached under a desk and pulled out a woman who'd been hiding there. She trembled as the assassin gripped her. "One way or another, I must get you out of my hair."
"Don't hurt her," Batman commanded.
"Of course not," Kaveha said. He faced the woman at the window and shoved hard. She let out an ear-piercing yell as she broke through the glass and plummeted towards the ground. Kaveha indicated the broken window with an open hand and said, "It's up to you if she comes to any harm."
Batman swore and jumped out the window. He saw the woman falling in a cloud of broken glass. Stretching his arms outward, he fired his boot-thrusters and ignored the rushing wind as he gradually approached her. Glass shards grazed his suit as he drew close enough to grab her under the arms.
"Easy," he said, trying to calm her frantic flailing, "I've got you."
She wrapped both arms tightly around Batman's neck and stopped yelling. Batman grunted and flipped around to face upwards. He fired his thrusters down and spread his wings to increase drag. The ground still approached at an alarming rate. This isn't good, he thought.
He looked down and saw a flagpole a couple stories above the ground. It gave him an idea. He reached out, grabbed the flagpole, and hung on for dear life. Their downward momentum was changed into circular motion as they spun around the pole. Finally, they slowed down and stopped.
Batman let go and dropped to the ground. A crowd of spectators gathered around them. The woman was crying with relief. "Thank you," she choked out.
"Sure thing," Batman said. He spread his wings and launched back up into the sky.
Meanwhile, Kaveha was hunting around the office, pushing over desks and cabinets. Every time he caught a glimpse of Curare he'd fire a shuriken, but she'd whisk away before it'd hit her. She'll try to circle around me, he thought. But she's been on the run for so long, her judgment may have slipped.
"You can't hide forever, Curare," he called. There was no response. Kaveha kept searching, but he ceased to follow her. Instead, he just proceeded in a straight line and kept talking randomly. In reality, he was watching out of the corner of his eye, listening for her movements. There were soft footsteps to his right. Kaveha smiled. She thought she was going to get the jump on him; she was sadly mistaken.
"It pains me to do this," he said. She was directly behind him. "I admired you in a small way. But you failed," he spoke, turning around to aim his gauntlet directly at Curare's surprised face, "and you knew the price."
Before he could fire, a rope wrapped around his arm and pulled it away. Kaveha turned to see Batman standing by the broken window. "You!" Kaveha exclaimed.
Batman grinned, but the grin faded when he saw Curare move. "No!" Batman shouted, pulling Kaveha away before she could slice off his head.
"What are you doing?" Curare asked incredulously as Kaveha fell to the floor.
"No killing," Batman said.
"Do you think he'd give us the same mercy?" Curare raged.
Kaveha used the distraction to fire a shuriken at Curare's face. She tried to dodge, but the metal grazed her face and cut loose her veil. The fabric hung, exposing her lower face.
She had no lips. Instead, tissue stretched across her mouth, leaving only small openings for breathing. Thick brown ridges run along the tissue, scars from some trauma. She breathed heavily, causing the tissue to stretch and turn white.
Batman grimaced. It was just as bad as he'd remembered it. Kaveha cried out in shock and disgust. He lay on the floor and stared at Curare's grotesque face. Everything was quiet. Curare finally broke the silence by plunging her sword into Kaveha's heart. His last breath was forced from him and he collapsed.
Curare roughly pulled her sword from Kaveha's body. She tore off her veil, wiped off the blood, and tossed the rag on the floor. She walked over to the window, trying to hide her face from Batman's view.
"We leave in an hour," she said. "WPA Flight 117. It's a cargo of hover vehicles for Morocco."
"I can't leave that soon," Batman protested, "even if I did decide to help you."
"Then you have an hour to decide," Curare said.
She jumped out the window before he could argue. He solemnly watched her land on an elevator and leap from building to building until she was out of sight.
Mikael approached the hilltop. Clouds clustered the sky, blocking the sunset. He pulled his trenchcoat around him to shield the cold wind. Upon reaching the top, he searched the horizon. A hovercopter was approaching from the distance. He checked that his favorite dagger was still in place, took a deep breath, and waited for it to arrive.
The nondescript vehicle halted in the air above him. A man dropped out and landed next to Mikael. He waved the hovercopter away and turned to face him.
"It's good to see you after so much time," Bendi said.
"It's been many years," Mikael replied in a guarded tone. He noticed Bendi's bionic left eye. "I see you've gone cyborg."
"Ah, yes," he said, running a finger across it. "It's been very useful."
"I'm sure it has," Mikael said. There was a moment of silence. Bendi was watching Mikael, trying to see what he'd do.
"Why did you bring me here?" Mikael asked.
So he doesn't mention his loss. "We are in need of your assistance," Bendi answered. "I think you'll find it most intriguing." Mikael was silent. "It involves a former pupil of yours. Your best one, in fact."
"Yes, you named her Curare, didn't you?" Mikael said.
"Correct," Bendi replied. "Very appropriate, wouldn't you agree? She was our best assassin, a credit to your teaching abilities. But something went wrong."
Mikael's expression revealed nothing. "I don't believe it," Mikael said, "not her."
"Yes, Mikael," Bendi said. "She failed. And now she won't pay the price."
Mikael smiled. "Of course not. She has too much determination. I trained them all that way."
"Then you'll have to deal with it," Bendi said. He was quiet until Mikael grasped the meaning of what he'd just said.
Mikael kept smiling. "She's too much for you to handle, so now you want me to kill her for you." He shook his head. "You didn't have to kill Jakob for this. I will gladly do it."
"Excellent," Bendi said. "I knew you would enjoy it."
Mikael's smile stayed on his face, hiding the dark thoughts within. He had made his decision long ago.
to be continued...