1 One

Her hands ached where they cradled the heavy sniper, yet she held firm, keeping her scope aimed out over the lush green landscape of the alien planet. The cramp that had been building in her hands having to search through the endless sea of moving trees with the limited scope threatened to make aiming near impossible.

She should never have taken the job. Her skill set wasn't crafted towards camping missions on the top of alien forests. As an interplanetary assassin, her job was made for stealth and planning, not a simple sit-and-shoot in the trees.

Still, the money was good. Too good to turn down.

If only it didn't come with the odd feeling something was off the moment she stepped foot on the cursed planet.

It's only been six hours since landing, and she'd already been feeling the off the charts heart-pounding energy this planet exuded. On top of her chest feeling like it was going to explode, her breaths were more labored, limbs heavier in the damp air. It made keeping her scope steady one hell of a chore.

When she checked on the ship before she landed, the planet said it was more than livable for the average human, with no biotoxins or airborne illnesses that were a potential threat, so she wasn't entirely sure it was a fault of a sickness. She had to chalk it up to the electric charge in the air. It crackled like a livewire, tingling over every inch of skin, not hurting but still enough to draw attention.

An odd feeling for sure, but not completely worrying. Once she got her mission done she'd never see this bright green rock ever again, kissing it and its blue sun goodbye.

Still, she got the feeling the tingle came from something more… instinctual. Like the first warning of a predator hidden somewhere in the trees. If only it knew she was the true predator here.

The hundreds of names carved into her kill list could speak for that. Death was a routine, like brushing her teeth. This would be just another bullet of many lately.

Once this was over she had to remind herself to take a spa day or something. Clearly, the work was getting to her if the shake in her hands was anything to say. If she was fully charged then she would've had this all over and done with, not slapping away the bugs threatening to drain her of her lifeblood.

She brought her hand to her face in a sudden slap, trying to rouse her attention back to the task at hand.

Find a giant alien in a forest and take him out. Bing, bang, done.

All she had to do was find the elusive little man first.

The sudden blaring of her communications device tucked into her hip pulled her from concentration, alerting her to a call. Knowing who it would be, she used her free hand to click the talk button, not caring to look down at the hologram of a man she knew would be glaring at her.

"What is taking you so long?" the familiar voice whined. "You should have had this mission done ages ago. I can't get her nails done until I get the money in from that contract."

Breen, her planetary agent, was a pint-sized prince who lived his every day trying his best to torment her. Or at least it seemed that way at times. Be it calling her in the middle of jobs or sending her on wild goose chases through the galaxy, he did it all.

The only reason she had even answered the call now was that she needed an update on the information for the job.

"Got sucked in by a gravity belt on a wandering star. Had to refuel at a station on the way here, but you'd already know that if you checked your messages, Your Highness," she informed him in a tone positively dripping with sarcasm.

She barely heard the hint of his snobbish sniff over the hiss of the device. "Nobody checks their messages anymore, Jessabelle. You know this. Why didn't you at least try calling her once you landed?"

"Because I landed six hours ago and it was the crack of dawn on your planet. We both know that not even a war missile could wake you in the morning."

"I don't pay you to be insulting, Jess. I swear, working with assassins is always a hassle," he grumbled, sounding like a spoiled child.

In a way he was, but that was neither here nor there. A friend was a friend, and despite his high maintenance she didn't care to lose his loyalty.

Glancing down from her scope, she gave the hologram version of him a cold once over. "Need I remind you I'm the only assassin you've ever had on your payroll, Breen?"

"Yeah, because I'm a prince of an entire solar system. If I wanted someone dead, I wouldn't have to hire a gunman. You're just my amusement."

Amusement her ass. He had been eating out of her hand since the day she saved him from space bugs when they were eleven and his father had decided to take all nineteen of his kids to do some networking out on the swamp planet where she had grown up. Ever since that day he had glued himself to her side, doing anything and everything to keep her under his employ and therefore closer to him.

It should have bothered her, bring tucked so close to alien royalty that wouldn't care if she lived or died, but when his adoration of her led to a cushier life for her and her parents she found the unsettling nature easy to ignore.

He pretended not to like her and in turn, she put up with his overdramatic antics. It was a match made by the stars and one that kept her well-fed.

In a way, if it hadn't been for him going out of his way to hire her on those early assassin missions and pay for a lot of her training she might not be where she was today. She owed the man a lot more than she cared to admit.

"What were the specs on this target again? I'm having trouble spotting him in the middle of all this green. Is there something in the file that might help me out with that?" she decided changing the subject would be the safe bet if she wanted to glean anything worthwhile from this distraction.

In the hologram, he rolled his four almond-shaped eyes dramatically and grabbed something off an unseen surface with one of his spindly forearms, a thin tablet suddenly appearing in his hand. The Spidar, named closely to the Earth spider, was like the human version of their named counterparts, only a bit more smoothed out and easy to look at. They were not unlike humans if humans looked uncomfortably like spiders with only four arms.

"Let us see…" Breen said thoughtfully as he skimmed over the document. "Burrh Ulvir, an alpha alien of the race Cora, seven feet tall, typical light human coloring. According to the file, he has black hair, cut short to represent his title…. Blah blah blah… Aha! Here it is!"

The name Cora rang a bell to her, only the reason why was unknown. So many races had come and go in her years that it was near impossible to remember why one might be more important than the other.

"Hurry it up. I've only got so much more time left."

"Well if you'd arrived there on time-" his words died with her daggerlike glare, and he returned his eyes to the file. "He typically travels on a large warship disguised as a cargo ship. You should be able to spot it anywhere. Just look for the giant black spaceship."


She ended the call there with a quick click. Rude, but once the job was over he'd be all the happier. With three million units to split between the two of them, neither of them would have to worry about another job for at least the next year.

That amount of money was enough to buy a small planet in a decent solar system. She wouldn't, but who didn't like to dream big?

Refocusing her scop, she combed the trees once more, cursing to herself for not thinking to look to look for ship camouflage before now. With the tech built into her gun, it would stick out like a sore thumb as long as you knew where to look.

Sure enough, after a good few minutes of head-ache inducing searching, she spotted the tell-tale sign of a disturbance among the green. Even good disguising had its sore areas, and it appeared this ship was one of the very best.

Singling it out had been difficult, but once spotted the massive hunk of metal was a beacon among the endless sea of forest.

All she had to do now was wait.

By the time the first sign of life appeared among the trees the world around her had begun to grow dark. She was used to long waits for her targets to appear, but the tenseness from the day had her exhausted and beginning to doze off.

The sight of pale flesh had woken her right up though. There was no mistaking the three humanoid figures that emerged from the darkened path for anything other than exactly what they were. All three of the figures were impossibly large, so large she could tell just by scope alone that they had to tower over her.

She could still hardly make out their features even zoomed in as she was, but she didn't need to see to know exactly what they were.

Cora males, right on time.

The three of them circled to the ship's opening just as she predicted they would, standing in wait for the heavy door to open for them. Her angle had all three of the men in perfect view for a shot.

She just had to nail the right one.

Lucky for her that wasn't hard.

Dark hair shorn short. Only one of the three males fit that description. The one in the very center, between a male with brilliant dark purple hair and another with tumbling white waves that near matched his pale skin.

She focused on the center one, aligning her shot to hit dead center on the back of his skull. No matter what race you were, your brain was always right where it was expected to be, and always the most vulnerable.

It was almost too easy, although maybe it just seemed that way because the last few jobs had gone off without a hitch. Nothing ever went this smooth for people like her. Her subconscious demanded she pinch herself to reassure her she was even awake, but she batted away the thought as quickly as it came.

Shaking her shoulders, she tried to rid herself of the pre-kill jitters. No amount of second-guessing would get the units into her bank account.

Taking one final steady breath, she got into position, her hand holding firm to the trigger of her gun. Her heart pounded a little harder, belly tightening in anticipation. The fear of the kill was what drove her most in her career. The small glimpse of humanity before she fired. Enough to remind her of just who she was and what she was doing.

It was exhilarating, and as she stared down the back of the man's head she knew it would be easy as always.

Only it wasn't. Just like that, in the flash of a millisecond, her focus was interrupted.

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