Ayaan crouched behind the snow covered boulder to catch her breath. Her own stumbling snow tracks would lead the assassin straight to her without the help of any heat sensor. She wrapped her arms across her pajama clad chest. “Think!”
Towering spruce separated her cousin’s chalet from kilometers of snow blanketed virgin forest. New China’s two moons transformed the night into a false gray twilight, too bright to hope her dark skin and pajamas could hide her anywhere out here.
“Run to the forest and freeze to death, or go back and hide inside.” Either way, she’d be dead before her 17th birthday. Her grandmother’s words stabbed through her thoughts as sharp as the assassin’s knife. This family doesn’t have the luxury for pacifism. Ayaan knew right where her grandmother kept her personal weapon, a laser blade in the tip of that cane she used but didn’t need.
“I won’t carry a weapon.” Her conviction to follow in her father’s footsteps weakened as the cold seeped up through her wet socks. If she hadn’t ditched her bodyguards, she’d still be warm and dry at the base. She pulled up her sleeve and slapped her palm against the emergency beacon on her wrist band, again. “Help’s coming.” It couldn’t take more than 15 minutes by military chopper to get from the base to this chalet. Stay alive, that’s all she needed to do. She picked a direction downslope and ran away from the chalet and her assassin.
And her cousin, if she was still alive. “I’m the target, not her,” Ayaan gasped as her run turned to a slow jog, then a stumbling hobble. Her feet bled, as if she wasn’t leaving an easy enough trail to follow. Think. Learn. That’s what her pacifist father said. “That didn’t keep you alive either, did it?”
Branches snapped to her left. A tall, shadow moved through the brush diagonal to her path. The bastard had a heat sensor after all. She ran in the opposite direction. Stay alive. Stay alive.
Pain laced through her thigh. She fell, clutching the throwing star embedded in her hamstring. Her hands shook as she pulled it out. Boots crunched in the snow behind her. She rolled to her side.
“General Nassien’s daughter dies like a frightened rabbit,” he said. “Will your mother be sad or relieved?” He pulled out an ornate blade, blacker than night, a Nassien’s blade.
A Lasgun blasted in the night, once, twice. His shoulder jerked. The third shot took out his left knee and the fourth blew through his gut, spraying hot blood on Ayaan’s face. She squirmed away as he toppled.
“Yani!” Her cousin ran to her side, Lasgun held in shaky hands.
Ayaan looked up at her. “You’re armed.”
“A gift from your grandmother.” A gift because Ayaan refused to carry one, because Ayaan regularly ditched her bodyguards and put them both at risk.
Movement from behind them. Her cousin whirled. Ayaan heard the impact of the assasin’s blade as her cousin fell back on top of her. “No!”
Her shout was drown out by Lasgun on auto fire. Snow, tree bark, and bits of human flesh exploded in front of her until the weapon went silent. She dragged herself free. The obsidian blade was buried up to the hilt in her cousin’s chest.
“Always verify the kill, that’s what your grandmother told me.” Her cousin coughed blood. She lifted the Lasgun. “Do it, Yani. Make sure he’s dead.” Her body spasmed. Ayaan held her until it stopped, then shut her lifeless eyes.
The beat of chopper wings broke the wintry silence. Ayaan ignored the discharged Lasgun. With one sickening yank, she pulled the obsidian blade free, the Nassien right of passage blade she wouldn’t earn herself for over year. She stood over the assasin’s body, blade in hand, but the last round of Lasgun fire left no doubt.
“Kill verified, grandmother.” She wiped tears away with a hand wet with blood – hers, his, her cousin’s. Bleeding, shivering, obsidian blade in hand, she stood over the two corpses and waited for the choppers to land.
No room for pacifists in the Nassien Military Autonomy.