Chapter One

The senator felt his lips curl in distaste as he eyed the restroom. It was covered in grimy white tiles and although the smell wasn't too bad, it was a far cry from what he was used to. However, the press had already staked out the foyer of the conference centre where the other restrooms were and he was in no mood to deal with them.

He had another speech to give in ten minutes and the last thing he needed was to put up with an overly full bladder on top of what would likely be a very hostile crowd. As he stepped up to one of the urinals, he took a second to glance back at his two bodyguards. They were big men, both of them a few inches over six feet tall and powerfully built. He almost pitied the poor bastard who tried to take a leak while he was in here.

"Did you see those reporters in the foyer?" he grumbled as he unzipped his fly and got down to business. "A flock of vultures is what they are."

One of the bodyguards nodded. "Yes, they are, sir."

"Well, when you've been in the business as long I have, you learn to put up with them." He shook his head slowly. "Doesn't make them any less annoying though." He sighed. "I'd shoot the lot of them if I had a choice, but then again we do live in a democracy."

"We could organise a few accidents," the other bodyguard said.

The senator chuckled. "I like the way you think." He glanced back and made a note of the bodyguard's face. Humour was sorely lacking in his security staff, and he could use some after how his day had gone so far.

"Thank you, sir." The bodyguard reached up to adjust his earpiece. "The break is coming to a close, sir. We need to get back."

"Fine, fine." The senator sighed and finished up. As he was zipping up his fly, the door opened.

"Excuse," one of the bodyguards said. "You're going to have to wait outside."

The senator glanced over at the person at the door. It was a young man, one of the catering staff by the looks of their uniform. However there was something almost feminine in the young man's features, and their lips seemed perhaps a little too full. A pretty boy, he thought, wondering when men had stopped being men and tried to get in touch with their feminine side. Still, the kid had some sharp eyes: an almost electric shade of blue.

The young man didn't back off though. Instead, he continued to walk forward, pointing at one of the urinals.

"Look," the bodyguard said, "You're going to have to wait outside. The senator is almost done, so if you could please –"

And that's when the young man lunged forward so quickly that the senator barely even saw it happen. His thumb and fingers splayed out to form a 'V' and he caught the bodyguard in the throat. As the big man gagged and clutched at his ruined throat, the young man grabbed him by the collar of his suit and slammed him head first into the wall. The bodyguard's head hit the wall with a sick thump and the senator opened his mouth to scream as the bodyguard's leg twitched weakly and then went still.

"Help –"

His cry was stifled before it could even really leave its lips as the young man flicked a knife across the restroom. It caught the senator in the throat and he collapsed to the ground, clutching at his neck as blood poured from between his fingers.

"Quiet," the young man whispered and through the fear and terror clawing at him, the senator realised that the young man wasn't a man at all. That had been a woman's voice, he realised, slightly husky and deathly calm. "I can't have you making too much noise."

The second bodyguard hesitated for a split-second unsure of whether to help the senator staunch the bleeding, call in for help, or brace himself for an attack. In the end, he chose the second option, and it cost him dearly. As he lifted his hand to his earpiece to call for help, the woman darted forward again.

She lashed out with one hand, a straightforward strike at the bodyguard's chin. He parried the attack with his free hand, surprisingly fast for his size, but she was already moving into her second strike. Her other hand reached up and tore the earpiece away. It tumbled to the ground and she kicked it over to the other side of the restroom. The bodyguard cursed and backed up as he reached for his gun. He managed to clear the holster, but that was as far as he got.

Before he could fire, she slapped the weapon out of his hand and drove one knee up into his groin. The bodyguard folded and she landed an elbow to the bridge of his nose. There was a cracking sound as his noise broke before a second elbow knocked him unconscious.

"Please…" the senator's voice came out as a wet gurgle, the blood still leaking from between his hands as he tried to push himself across the floor and away from the woman. "What do you… want?"

"What do I want?" The woman's smile was cold. "It's not a question of what I want, senator, it's about what I need, and what I need, senator, is for you to die."

She reached forward and he tried vainly to bat her hands away. However, she didn't strike at his throat or his eyes. Instead, she simply reached for the knife and pulled it free. There was a gush of blood and she stepped neatly to the side as it sprayed onto the floor of the restroom.

"Who… are you?" the senator gasped out. He was bleeding to death and each second that passed made it harder and harder to keep his head up and his eyes open. "Who…" His head slumped forward and he went still.

The woman leaned forward. "Nobody, senator. I'm nobody."

With one last look at the two unconscious bodyguards and the dead senator, she turned on her heel and went out the restroom door. The senator's aversion to the media was well known, and with so many reporters waiting in the foyer, it was only natural that he would choose the most remote restroom in the convention centre. Outside the restroom, the corridor was empty and she quickly walked down the corridor to one of the small rooms used to store cleaning supplies.

She got the room open and quickly stripped out of her catering uniform. Carefully hidden behind a stack of cleaning supplies on one of the shelves were a change of clothes, a backpack and a camera. Quickly, she changed into some jeans, a casual t-shirt and then put on a pair glasses. Her catering clothes were stuffed into the backpack along with the wig she'd used to hide her hair. Taking a moment to make sure that she hadn't left anything behind, she left the supply room looking every inch the photographer looking for a picture of the senator. The whole thing had taken less than five minutes and she was well on her way to the lobby of the convention centre when she noticed the first signs of panic from the security staff.

Ignoring the growing sense of unease amongst the crowd of reporters and politicians as security ran back and forth through the foyer, she made her way out of the convention centre and back to the car she'd parked several blocks down the street. As she climbed in, she heard the first sirens and she knew that they must have found the senator. Well, that was to be expected, and by the time they realised who was responsible, she'd be well on her way home.

She started the car and drove away from the convention centre and toward the airport. On the opposite side of the street, the traffic had begun to back up as the cluster of emergency vehicles going to the convention centre ran into a logjam of reporters and media who smelled a story. Her side of the street, however, was almost clear, and she felt a faint smile cross her lips as she caught first one green light then another.

Halfway to the airport, her phone rang. She glanced down at her pocket and growled. Her handler always had the worst timing. She was supposed to call in, not the other way around. Still, it wasn't like she could ignore the call. With a scowl on her face, she took the phone from her pocket, put it onto speaker and then tossed it onto the passenger seat.

"So, that's some nice work." The voice on the other end was filled with an amused malevolence.

"Save it, Jihl. You know you're not supposed to call until I'm clear."

Jihl laughed. "Please, Farron, you're clear. Those idiots at the convention centre are currently looking for a blonde male caterer who was last seen going toward the restroom where the senator met his unfortunate end."

Lightning's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "How do you know that? I doubt the police would have released that information to the media."

"I have a man on the inside," Jihl said smoothly. "And the knife was a nice touch. I'm assuming you still have it."

"Of course, you know I don't like to leave things behind." Lightning forced herself to keep focused on the road. The absolute last thing she needed now was to be pulled over. "Why, do you want it?"

"Perhaps. You might not like keeping trophies, but some of us do." Of course, it always came down to that. The two of them worked for the Sanctum and there appearances were everything. Having the knife that killed the senator on display would be one more way for Jihl to take credit for Lightning's success. Not that Lightning cared. She was done now, out of the game. "About your resignation… you won't reconsider?"

Lightning made a disgusted sound. "I've paid my dues, Jihl. My debts are clear. I'm out of the game."

The joking tone left Jihl's voice and even though they were only talking over the phone, Lightning could practically see the other woman frown. "You know that's not how it works, Farron. No one gets out of the game."

"Is that a threat?" Lightning growled.

"No, not from me." Jihl chuckled. "I like you, Farron. You do good work and that in turn makes me look good in front of the Sanctum. But I'd be careful if I were you. There are people who don't like how successful you've been and once you leave, you won't be part of the Sanctum anymore, and that means you won't have the protection it provides."

"Save your breath, Jihl, and tell anyone thinking of coming after me that I'll put them in a box." Lightning reached for the phone, she'd just gotten another call. "I'm done." She hung up and took a deep breath before answering the other call. "Hi, Serah, you called?"

Her sister's voice came through the phone loud and clear and Lightning felt some of the tension melt away. "Yes, where are you?"

"I'm on my way to the airport." Lightning made sure to sound as cheerful as she could.

"How was the conference?" Serah asked. "I hope it wasn't too boring."

"It was a marketing conference, Serah, of course it was boring." Lightning chuckled softly as Serah made an aggravated sound.

"But it was in Nautilus," Serah said. "Come on, don't tell me you didn't go to any of the theme parks?"

Lightning looked up at the large sign ahead of her. It was only five miles to Eden City Airport. "I was there on work, Serah, not to play around." She paused. "I'll tell you what though, maybe during semester break we can go together. I've been talking to my boss and I'll be able to get more free time after this."

"Really?" Serah sounded so excited. "Then we have to go!"

"Sure, whatever you want." Lightning smiled softly. "Look, I have to hang up now, okay? I'll call you once I get back to Bodhum."

As Lightning ended the call she felt a stab of guilt. What would Serah think if she really knew where all their money came from? She'd probably be disgusted. But that didn't matter anymore. Lightning was done and she had enough money saved up from all her work for the Sanctum that she wouldn't have to work again, not for a long time. She might even get a real job. With her skills it would be easy to join the police force or become a security consultant. Best of all though, she'd be able to spend her time with Serah rather than at the beck and call of the Sanctum.

Life was good.

But it wouldn't be for long.

X X X

Author's Notes

As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off this.

So… first of all, sorry about the lack of updates for the other stories. I'm currently working on a lot of things and that's cut into my fanfic writing time. However, if that's the case, you might be asking why I've posted this story up when I haven't even finished the others yet (I'm looking at you Ordinary Heroes and Wasteland). Well, I've been wanting a bit of a challenge to help me stretch my writing muscles, so to speak, and keeping in mind my lack of fanfic writing time, I decided to set myself a one hour time limit to put one of my ideas into a more concrete form. A Bourne Identity style story has been kicking around in my head for a while now, and I thought a one hour challenge would be a great way to get some of my ideas onto paper. For the record, this chapter took 55 minutes to write and it is unedited except for fixing up some grammatical mistakes (i.e., it is essentially a first draft).

There are a lot of unanswered questions here, but that's the way it should be. What is the Sanctum? What positions do Jihl and Lightning have in it? And why is Lightning part of it in the first place? It wouldn't be a good spy/assassin thriller without a lot of questions, and I'm hoping that I can get around to answering them.

For those waiting for updates on my other stories, those are coming, but I need to finish off a few things first. The ideas are already there, but I just need to get them down onto paper (or rather, computer).

On another note, I now have a blog (see my profile). I can't promise frequent updates, but if you're even a little curious about what rattles around in my mind, you're more than welcome to take a look. It's about a whole lot of things (not yet, since it just started, but it will be), from random musings about life to (hopefully) writing related things. It is at zombiewestern . wordpress . com – just remove the spaces, or you could just click on the homepage link in my profile.

As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.