May 2033

The sound of high heels clicking on the dull gray tiles echoed down the hall. The woman making those purposeful strides was stern-faced and steely-eyed, an expression that suited her graying, mousy hair pinned in a tight bun at the base of her neck. A man in uniform entered from an adjoining hallway, hesitant to address her.

"I'm missing dress shopping with my daughter, Hilford." she stated with a hint of annoyance. "You better have a good reason for calling me here."

He ran a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. "We're trying to verify a rumor."

The woman made a show of turning around and he caught her by the arm. She took a deep breath through her nose. "If you brought me here just to sift through—"

"I want you present during an interrogation."

She raised an eyebrow, intrigued. He let go of her arm.

"As a reserve member of alpha team, your clearance allows you full disclosure of high-level operations." he continued to explain.

"That's not an excuse for you to drag me here."

"No," Hilford admitted. "But I think you'll want to hear this."

Interest peaked, she followed him down the length of the hall and turned left, stopping in front of a one-way mirror that showed into a small room. Inside was a man. His hands and legs were bound to a metal chair bolted to the concrete floor. What caught her attention were his clothes.

"I've never seen this interrogation room before."

"It's more secure than the one we have above ground. We never use this one."

"Probably because we've never captured an assassin before." she said, crossing her arms. "Why is he in here instead of a pine box?"

"He knows something."

"Oh, I would think so," she snapped. "League members know lots of things. Doesn't mean we take them to HQ."

"We heard rumors of a massacre in Nanda Parbat. This guy was one of the few that were out on assignment when it happened."

"So the League took a bunch of people and killed them. They were probably celebrating Nyssa's birthday or something."

"Nyssa's dead." Hilford looked her in the eye, willing her to understand. "Two weeks ago, the League of Assassins was slaughtered and Nanda Parbat is now little more than a charred husk. He and a few other members have seen the aftermath."

She took a moment to digest the information. When she was finished she picked her jaw up off the floor and adjusted her large glasses. "Why would he tell us anything?"

"Because he knows we weren't involved." Hilford rolled his shoulders. The woman wondered if he was afraid. "No government agency was. None of them are crazy enough to attempt that, even as a joint effort."

"It's so crazy that it's even against protocol."

"Which is why he's agreed to share information in hopes that we can help. He thinks whoever's responsible is a rival group of assassins."

She bit her thumb anxiously. "Since when can anyone rival the League? There's no group on record who could match them in number or skill."

"They could be new,"

"Wonderful."

"This guy is the most information we'll get about what happened, since no one can go observe the crime scene. So I suggest you get started."

The woman turned fractionally to face him. "I'm hardly qualified."

Hilford tried not to smile. "None of our interrogators are team members, so they're unequipped to handle assassins. And you know I'm not a people person. Don't worry, you'll do fine."

Tossing a glare his way, she gripped the black door's cold handle. "Remind me to file a complaint with Director Smoak."

"Go ahead," Hilford smirked while maintaining his perfect military posture. "He's the one who asked for you."

The prisoner's eyes locked on the woman entering the room. Her dark blue pantsuit complemented her serious demeanor and plain brown glasses. She could've easily passed for a businesswoman or even a librarian, yet he could feel the need to fear her.

The feeling solidified when he looked into her eyes. Ferocity burned there like a small blue flame.

"My name is Felicity Queen and I will be your interrogator." Her stare was steady and cruel. "What is your name?"

"They called me Baqir." he answered with a mild Tibetan accent. "You are a rich man's wife. They must worry about you being alone with such a dangerous man."

"Let's cut the bullshit and skip to the good part," she demanded as she paced around him slowly. "Spill your guts or I'll spill them all over this floor."

He squirmed slightly, trying to get comfortable. "No need for such intimidation. I wish to tell you all that I know."

Her eyes narrowed. "I've met League members before, and you seem to lack that certain air of dignity and fearlessness."

His expression darkened. "They have been replaced with despondency, and you will know why soon enough.

"I saw the smoke. I thought perhaps it was a funeral pyre—"

Mrs. Queen couldn't help letting out a small chuckle. "And you were right."

The assassin would've clenched his jaw. "I saw the destruction as I approached. The walls and gates were still intact, so I did not know of the bodies until I entered the city."

"How many?"

"Fifty-two bodies were found. I do not know how many assassins were on assignment at the time."

"And everyone in Nanda Parbat is an assassin?"

"Yes." It was difficult to tell if he wanted to scream or cry. "All of them dead. There are only eight of us now. Some are likely to find new employers."

"I thought there was only one way to leave the League."

"Which is why I welcome what awaits me after this interrogation."

She nodded slowly. "So, could some of those bodies be the enemy?"

"No. Every body was identified as a League member, though not a specific one. Although it is possible the enemy took their dead with them. What disturbed us most were no signs of firearms."

"Everyone was killed with swords?"

"Yes. Also evidence of knives, shurikens, arrows, and blunt instruments. Four had broken necks."

Her heels clicking on the concrete were the only sound for a moment. "Sounds like most of the fighting was up close."

"Whoever did this should be on the top of your agency's most-wanted list."

"Their ability to kill Nyssa does that automatically."

The man hung his head. "To find our leader murdered crushed my spirit. Hers was the only body that hadn't burned."

Mrs. Queen stopped in front of him. "Do you think that was intentional?"

He sighed and looked at her. "That was the strangest part. Rivals would mutilate her body as a sign of dominance, but hers bore only a single wound under her ribs. And she was on her bed with her arms crossed over her chest." Emotion finally made his voice thick. "And she was covered by a shroud."

She bent down until they were eye level. "Baqir, is there any League member capable of this?"

He smiled incredulously. "Why would you ask that?"

"The display of Nyssa's body sounds like contrition."

Something flashed in the assassin's eyes. He swallowed hard. "They… then why were the others not treated the same way?"

A chill ran down Felicity's spine. "Because Nyssa was special. She had to die, but she was still special."

Baqir growled angrily in Arabic. Felicity only knew a handful of Arabic words, and "traitor" was one of them. The word spewed from his mouth every other sentence as he became more and more enraged. It seemed he had figured out who was responsible for the massacre in Nanda Parbat.

Fortunately, so had she.

And she couldn't have him blurting it out to her superiors.

"Thank you, Baqir," she whispered in his ear before snapping his neck.

"The hell was that?" Hilford demanded as she exited the room. "He was just about to—"

"I know the next place to look for answers." she stated, cutting him off. "I know those interrogations get recorded and I couldn't let anyone know until I've checked it out first."

His eyes narrowed. "Who are you protecting?"

"Technically no one, since I might be wrong. But I couldn't take the chance in there." Felicity marched away from him, eager to leave. He followed.

"Where are you going?"

"Let's just say I won't be back in time to help Penny find a prom dress."


"Black Betty" by Ram Jam.