Chapter 367 Assassination
The blue humanoid thrust his bladed hand down with the practiced ease of someone who had done this, taking lives, a thousand plus times over. His movements were wordless, soundless, efficient. The very texture of his skin was altered so that even the faintest breeze would not draw a noise. His feet had glided across the metal floor like he was sliding, preventing any footsteps from echoing out.
He was a trained assassin called Blueshift, quite competent in his job as he could easily shift into objects that were blue, though he only mimicked physical dimensions, not any special properties.
But he was not the only trained assassin in the confines of that jet.
The humanoid's face, like its body, was similarly nearly featureless, sporting indents for the eyes and the mouth, making it hard to read any expression on it, but even then, his surprise was palpable, evidenced by the faint impressions of his 'eyes' growing slightly wider.
Before the hand-blade sunk into Aarav's neck, it was stopped. Not by some kind of barrier, but judging by the pressure, it came from the grip of an invisible hand wound tightly around his wrist. A chillingly cold hand that seemed to sap the warmth right from his veins.
This was bad. Terribly bad.
Blueshift had not expected Aarav to be with anyone here. Aarav's trip to Haven was supposed to have been made in top secret. This private jet was stealth grade for that exact reason. And whenever Aarav went on secretive trips, he always tended to go alone or with just one or two of his most trusted guards.
However, neither of his usual guards were around. And even if they were, Transposition and Sugar, Aarav's two usual guards, did not have any invisibility to speak of.
That had given Blueshift the confidence to sneak into the jet, replace Aarav's coat, and wait to kill him when he returned. He had been waiting here over twenty four hours for this exact moment.
The plan had felt completely airtight, impossible to fail. He had snuck in from far outside of the city too, posing as a Haven bound nomad's wallet so as to prevent Thanatos's forces from ever scouting him out.
No, the how did not matter.
What mattered now was that Blueshift got out.
Blueshift briefly glanced at Aarav. Aarav was still staring at his screen, oblivious to Blueshift. It would take a fraction of a second more for him to notice.
A fraction of a second to take him out again, before the owner of this hand responded.
Blueshift was not the fastest or strongest Alter out there, but his AC count was still comparable with lower end A rankers in the AA. Still superhuman.
He had little time to use his free arm, to waste time winding it back and thrusting it forwards, but -
Blueshift's forward arm, the one mere inches away already from the back of Aarav's head, shifted again, the blade tip rippling as he willed a spike to grow out and breach the small gap left between his hand and Aarav's defenseless brain.
"AHHH!" Blueshift stumbled backwards, falling to one knee, breathing heavy as he put a hand to the stump that was once his right arm.
Red blood sputtered out from his severed stump, pattering with dull impact on the metal flooring. Reactively, he shifted his arm, sealing it shut so that he would not look his lifeblood and to dull the pain by numbing the nerves.
That prevented him from going into shock.
"I'm not the type to entertain guests," said Aarav, puffing out a breath of smoke. He leaned down and pressed a button under his seat. "Especially uninvited ones. They don't call me the CEO recluse for nothing."
The innards of the jet flashed blue. Blueshift's breath caught in his throat as an electrical charge rocked through him from the ground, preventing him from shapeshifting again.
"But, in a way, I guess you're not uninvited if I didn't expect you. Isn't that right, Blueshift?" Aarav stood up, straightened his tie, adjusted his shades, and turned around. He walked straight up to Blueshift, looking down at the assassin as electricity crackled in waves through his body.
"No response? No, a good electric shock would make anyone a little shy with their words. In your case, it also handily prevent you from shifting for another hour. I'll go ahead and let you catch your breath." Aarav took another drag from his cigarette before he snuffed it out on Blueshift's bald blue head.
The cigarette hissed as it burned out, scattering ashes down Blueshift's head and face.
"H-how…?" managed out Blueshift.
"Oh, you can talk already? Perks of having a high AC count, I guess. I'm quite jealous. My friend here…," Aarav looked around but could not find who he was looking for.
A visible hand settled on his shoulder. Though clad in dark green metals from a gauntlet, the armor was thin enough to notice that the hand was small and slender, belonging to a woman.
Aarav sighed, barely maintaining his cool at the sudden surprise touch. "Do you always have to show up like that?"
"…" In a puff of green mist, the rest of the Mistknife became visible. She stepped ahead of Aarav, standing between him and Blueshift.
She was noticeably large, and even while she had a hunched over posture, one closer to the ground like a stalking, prowling panther, she seemed obviously taller than either Aarav or Blueshift.
If she stood up straight, she would probably have reached seven feet (213 cm). Her cloak of mist floated around her, carried by invisible wind, and wherever it passed by, it veiled her appearance, blurring and making it almost completely transparent.
"Anyway, this is who took your arm out," said Aarav. "She doesn't have a name, but that makes her unique, no? In this day and age and world where every street shitter out there needs to have some kind of superhero or supervillain name, something about being nameless has its own charm."
Blueshift stared up at the Mistknife, dumbfounded. "An…an assassin? From which group!? How did I not notice you!?"
"…" The Mistknife raised her curved, jagged dagger of glowing emerald in the air.
Blueshift shrank back, putting his arm out to plead for his life. "Wait! Wait! I can give you information! About who sent me!"
Aarav chuckled. He was about to light another cigarette, but amused as he was, he flicked it to Blueshift where it bounced off the Alter's face.
"It isn't often that comedy works on me. Go on, tell me another joke," said Aarav. Blueshift just stared at Aarav in confusion.
"Oh, you weren't joking?" Aarav shrugged. "So much for that standup routine. I digress. You seem to think I wasn't aware that you weren't my good old brother Arjun's top dog for his corporate killings.
I mean, props to him, he did conceal your presence fairly well. He even faked your death so nobody would suspect you anymore.
But Arjun is drunk on his delusions if he thinks that I wouldn't see through that. I knew you would come from me someday, and, hats off to you, my good fellow, you ARE good at your job.
It would be worrying if you came from me without me knowing.
Why do you think I left my jet so defenseless? Why I let information about my trip to Haven leak to your brother? I knew my brother wouldn't pass up this chance to get rid of me, the illegitimate shadow in the family and thorn in everyone's asses.
I could eliminate the confounding variables and control when and where you showed up.
Though, I do have to say, without the lady here, things would have been a little harder to make things work. You assassin types always get flighty when there's a security detail.
Too bad you didn't see her coming."
"I scanned the ship!" protested Blueshift. "The entire area! I couldn't detect any cloaking or stealth!" Blueshift had succeeded in hundreds of assassinations. He had failed just once before. He knew he was going to die here, but he had to know how he had died, if only for his pride. "How!?"
"What's the point of magic if you know how the trick's done?" Aarav pointed at Blueshift, and the metal panels beneath him lit up blue, sending another paralyzing shock.
"I have to thank you for that." Aarav nodded to the Mistknife. "I knew you wouldn't fail. My life thread did not end here. But seeing it happen was still quite the spectacle.
I don't know if you understand what I'm saying, but if there's anything you want, I can provide it. Within reason, of course."
"…" The Mistknife reached into her cloak and unrolled a small, tattered poster showing cotton candy on a stick. She pointed her knife at the candy.
"Ah, that? I can make that happen. Definitely within reason. Within much more reason than I thought." Aarav nodded.
The Mistknife rolled the poster back and faded away into invisibility.
"Now then, Blueshift, what to do with you? We could take a jolly trip together to Mumbai and have you go through a few rounds of persuasive questioning. But, unfortunately, I'm quite confident I can read my brother without external help," said Aarav. "Though I can't very well have you waltz free, and I'm in no need of an assassin when I have a better one."
Aarav walked past Blueshift, towards the cockpit of the Vimana. "You know what, though. I do remember, Thanatos is in need of an Alter capable of shifting. For R and D purposes, I hear. You should be the perfect candidate to help out with that."
Aarav spoke to the cockpit, though there was nobody there, running on autopilot as it was. "Sattva, redirect course to Haven.
"Yes sir," said a woman's voice, neutral in its inflection in a typically A.I. fashion.
Aarav clapped for Blueshift. "I've always looked up to those who gave up their lives and bodies for science. So take this sign of my respect with you to the grave. Or, I suppose if I'm being more accurate, the operating table."