Killing Him Softly

OCFF#16: On the count of three, everybody run back to your fantasy.

One target.

One mission.

One objective.

And on a scale from one to ten, her current assignment was probably also a level one difficulty assignment, something that only rookies usually took care of. So what she wanted to know was why one of the agency's top agents was being called in, was being dragged off of another case of extreme importance to take care of something her grandmother could have handled. But she knew better than to ask questions. After all, she was there to take orders, to obey no matter what. Agents were never to question their higher ups. Although it wasn't a written rule in the handbook, it was the first thing learned at the academy, and, after being recruited straight from high school and thrown into a world where rules and procedure were often the only things that kept a person alive, Marissa always followed each and every guideline, implicitly stated or not, to the letter.

While some would accuse her of having a low regard for human life, she at least considered her own priceless, and she did everything in her power, which was quite impressive, to remain a part of the living world.

So, that's why she remained silent. That's why she didn't falter or even blink when her supervisor instructed her on her next target, that's why she listened faultlessly, taking in every and all pieces of information the older agent could provide her with, and that's why she agreed without hesitation to the mission. If her boss felt the case needed her expertise, then who was she to argue with someone who had three times the amount of field experience than she did?

Nodding in acceptance of her assignment, she demanded, "give me everything you have on this guy. I want to know him better than he knows himself by the time I leave here."

"Everything you're going to need to plan this mission is in the dossier my secretary will give you on your way out, Miss Cooper," the greying higher up informed her. "You have one week to complete your mission."

"And what exactly is my mission, sir? Is this supposed to look like an accident, is he merely to disappear, or am I allowed to dispose of him however I see fit?"

"It doesn't matter," her boss told her. "He lives in a crime riddled town, so, unless you get fancy, the local cops will just suspect that it was an armed robbery gone bad. Just be quick about it, whatever you do. Police patrol the area he lives in on a regular basis, and, because the neighbors are close, you need to be silent and invisible so that nothing can be traced back to us when you are finished."

"Of course, sir. That goes without saying."

"Good. Do you have any other questions?"

"I realize that everything will be in his folder, but, briefly, could you tell me what kind of person I'll be dealing with her? Why is this guy suddenly at the top of our priority list?"

"Somehow, on just his own personal computer, he managed to hack into our system. We suspect that he now has knowledge of top secret, level five clearance information. In his hands, that information will only go to the highest bidder, and we simply cannot allow that to happen. Not only are to take out your target, but you're also being sent in to erase any trace of our department on his hard drives. Get rid of any printouts he might have made, any notes he may have taken, and, if you suspect that he's already begun the selling process, get all his contacts and bring the information with you."

"If I may be so blunt, sir, why are we resorting to these extreme measures? If this man was just a regular citizen, we would simply detain him, question him, and make sure that he knew never to attempt what he did again. Why is he different; why are we taking care of him before he even has a chance to warrant such precautions?"

"Your target, Miss Cooper," the elder agent replied wearily, removing his glasses and cleaning them meticulously before putting them back on and continuing. "He's military trained. He was Marine's, Black Ops to be exact, but, then, for reasons that I cannot share with you, he was dishonorably discharged. While, from first glance, this might seem like a harmless target, we honestly have no idea what we might be dealing with when it comes to this man, so that's why we're sending you in. You're the best," he complimented her. "Now prove it."

Standing up from her chair, Marissa shook her superior's hand, returning his confidence in her with what could have only been perceived as a cocky smile. But large egos were something important in their business. Pride could be a strong motivator when everything else, all other physical reserves, had been depleted, and it had managed to save her from imminent death at least a few times. In fact, other than good instincts, pride was probably the important natural attribute an agent could possess, and she had it in spades.

"I will, sir," she assured him before leaving the office.

Going out into the anteroom, she passed by the secretary's desk without a second glance, grabbing the dossier the woman was holding out for her. She didn't thank her for it. Hell, she didn't even recognize the woman before boarding the elevator, but it wasn't because she was rude. Instead, she was simply in the zone, completely focused upon her task at hand, already planning, already strategizing, already making a list in her mind of everything she needed to do before, during, and after the mission to make sure that it was a success. Her mind was buried in the folder of information that she had on her target, and, until the job was complete, the person in the folder was the only thing she would be able to focus on. Between that moment and the one where her objective took his final breath, the only thing Marissa Cooper was going to be able to think about was one Ryan M. Atwood.

Two minutes.

She had two minutes to get in, get out, and get everything she needed to accomplish done.

Piece of freaking cake.

The neighborhood was still. Sitting in her parked car, it's distance from the target's home approximately half a block, she could see, with the aid of night binoculars, everything that occurred at the Atwood residence. Too far away from the objective's home to seem suspicious but close enough to keep tabs on him, she had been parked there for ten minutes, making sure and double checking all the notes she had made the previous week.

He lived alone and was considered somewhat of a recluse. Though he went to work, his social life was pretty much non-existent, but, at the same time, he only seemed to spend enough time at his house to sleep, eat, and shower. The rest of the time, he was out of town, approximately forty-five minutes west, southwest in Newport Beach. Everyday he went to the same residence there, stayed for the same amount of time, and left to drive back home every evening, taking the same exact route. For someone who was an immediate threat to the United States government, the man was not careful or cautious at all. Thanks to his lax behavior, she now knew that when she was finished with her current mission, she would have to check into his associates in the beach side community he frequently visited - find out who they were to him, if they were involved in his plot, and whether or not they posed a security threat as well.

For now, though, she had her objective to focus on. Silently, she climbed out of the car, making sure she shut the door enough so that the dimmer light went off but not enough to make a sound. Her quick, robotic paces towards the house were quiet enough that one could hear the leaves whistling against each other or the distant sound of highway traffic miles from the little sleeping neighborhood. After all, she wasn't considered the best for nothing. However, she didn't run.

Running, if someone was awake and saw her, would cause too much suspicion. They would immediately assume that either something was wrong with her or that she meant harm to someone else, and, although they would be right, she certainly didn't need anyone poking their nose into something where it didn't belong. She was chosen for the job because her superiors felt she was the one capable of going in and getting out without arousing any suspicion, and she would make damn sure that she didn't. Hell, she was even dressed causally in dark jeans and an equally dark t-shirt, something that would help her disappear into the shadows but could be excused as simply an everyday outfit. She wore no mask, no gloves... at least for the moment, and she kept her head down so that her facial features were obscured. By the time she reached the target's house, though, no one had spotted her, and, as far as she was concerned, she was practically home free.

The lock on his front door was easily dispatched. Using her lock picks and now wearing gloves so her fingerprints were untraceable, she had it opened and closed again within seconds. Knowing the blueprint of the home, she bypassed the living room and kitchen, skipped the bathroom, and went into the guest bedroom where the objective kept his computer equipment. Not wasting any of her precious two minute allotted time, she simply emptied the contents of his desk into her shoulder bag, taking his laptop, all his files and paperwork, and any disks or flash drives he had sitting about. Once back into her own apartment, she would go through each and every single piece of information, cataloguing it and then deleting it, but, for the moment, she was more concerned with dispatching of the man who slept in the room next to the home office she was currently ransacking.

Finished and with a minute and fifteen seconds left, she glided into the bedroom, took notice of her target, and, immediately, reached into her right boot to pull out a switchblade. Slicing the man's throat would be silent yet believable to the cops if they suspected a robbery gone bad as was suggested to her by her supervisor, quick and relatively painless for the target. Even if she had already in her life killed and disposed of more than one hundred different enemies of the state, that did not mean that she took pleasure in eliminating human life, and, although it was her job which dictated that she behave in such a way, the only reason she was able to live with herself, to look herself in the mirror every morning, was because she knew she was performing an evil to get rid of an even bigger one. Her actions, her sins meant that millions, sometimes even billions of people remained safe, remained alive, able to live normal, violence free existences, without the threat her targets presented looming over their heads. And it was going to be the same exact reasons why she was able to murder Ryan Atwood in cold blood, too.

Readying the switchblade by his throat, she had just inserted the tip of the blade into the side of his neck when the man's eyes flickered open, locking with hers. Immediately, she stilled.

She knew those eyes - his eyes.

Yes, of course, in his dossier, she had seen pictures of him, black and white surveillance shots, old military records before he was discharged, and she had even seen him during the past week when she had been watching him, studying his every move, but she had never been this up close to the man before; she had never seen his eyes in living color, and it was that clarity that took her back almost twelve years to the end of her family's driveway where she met some nameless stranger. She had been shy and awkward, a typical teenager, but he had been cool and confident, lighting the cigarette he had given her with the tip of his own. They had only shared a few mere seconds of their lives together, and, even though she hadn't thought of the boy who had so captured her attention when she was fifteen years old in the longest of time, as soon as she saw his eyes, she was transported back to the end of that driveway all over again.

"You," he accused her, those mesmerizing baby blues narrowing in recognition. "You were the girl that I met..."

And that's all that she allowed him to say. Hitting him in the temporal lobe hard enough for the target to lose consciousness, she rendered him, among other things, speechless, effectively allowing the silence to filter through the room once again. She had less than thirty seconds to figure out what she wanted to do. Go ahead with her mission and kill the objective despite the fact that he, though briefly, had meant something to her in the past, or allow him to live, risking everything she had been working towards for the past eight years. If she didn't kill him, she would be going against direct orders from her supervisor, effectively making her a rogue agent subject to, at best, immediate termination, and, at worst, execution.

Just when she thought she had made a decision, the switchblade lifted and ready to slice through the target's throat once again, the man's gaze flickered through her mind, reminding her why she couldn't kill him. So, with fifteen seconds left before she had to flee the house, she, instead, cut herself, leaving a trail of her own blood for the cops to find. When the agency saw that she had been injuredin the field, they would assume that she was either already dead or being held against her will, effectively giving her time to figure out what the hell she was going to do. Decision made, she lifted the unconscious man and drug him out of his house, towards her car, and, finally, placing him inside of the vehicle, thankful beyond words that she had made the seemingly endless trek without anyone catching site of them. After all, there was no turning back now.

Three A.M., she awoke. There was no middle stages of drowsiness for her. When she fell asleep, it was instantaneous, allowing her to rest as long as possible, and, when she awoke, it was immediately. After all, an agent couldn't be unaware of their surroundings at anytime. Sighing, though, she went to go back to sleep, believing the night's events only to be a nightmare, a gross fairytale woven by her often ignored and unstimulated imagination, but, then, her eyes landed on the gagged, tied up, and exhausted man sitting in the chair across from her, and she realized nothing had been a dream. She was on the run with a man she barely knew, a man wanted dead by the CIA. They were in a safe house only she knew of and quickly depleting their resources and options, and she still had no idea what to do about their present situation. Basically, they were screwed.

"Shit," Marissa cursed, falling back down into bed.

Now what the fuck was she going to do?