Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy
Title: IMMUNITY HUNTER
I’ve followed this guy through these deserted streets for a mile—at least it feels that way. His face has been glued to that phone this entire time. This will be an easy hunt. Forget sneaking. Short of yelling his name, he's not going to notice me.
A cool wind blows between the buildings of downtown, swirling my hair around my head. Everything is silent, dark, and still. I take a slow, deep breath and hold it. A hint of regret crosses my heart, but I erase it. Regret will make me lose focus, I can't afford that. Instinctively, I release the air from my lungs, jog up behind him, and jab the spikes of my brass-knuckle-shaped stun gun into his ribs, the power up as high as it'll go. His phone drops to the ground as his body stiffens. Now he knows I'm here.
A swift kick into the jagged-brick wall and he's knocked out cold. Hopefully, the impact of his head slamming into the concrete doesn't kill him. The Organization needs him alive, and I refuse to let someone die by my hands. He's still breathing—for now.
“Idiot. Pay attention to where you're going,” I say.
The distant rumble of a truck engine gets closer and a few blocks in front of me headlights turn onto the street. Using both hands and every ounce of my strength, I grab my prey by the foot and drag his limp body into the alley next to us before we are spotted. This mission would go a lot smoother if my bra strap wasn’t cutting into my skin. I sit on the dirt-covered concrete beside him, stun gun at the ready in case he wakes up.
Not bad for a girl, I think, praising myself.
I take my phone from my backpack and lean against a stack of water-stained crates. I then dial the three-digit code for The Organization's extraction team. As I wait, I stare up at a metal fire escape trying to convince myself that of all this is for the better. All these hunts are starting to wear me down, but I can't stop now. The antidote is more important than my mental state of mind. The pungent smell of rotting garbage drags me back to reality. At least it covers the constant stench of rotting flesh from the Konadai outside the wall.
Right on schedule, the extraction team shows up in an ambulance to collect the immune. Two men, dressed as paramedics, climb out of the front seat and rush over to me and the unconscious guy. They grab the target, lift him onto a gurney and wheel him into the back of the ambulance. Neither of them pays me any attention. Within seconds, they're gone. Another name crossed out of my notebook and The Organization is one step closer to finding a stronger antidote to the Konadai virus. They better be happy. I've been doing this for two years and they always seem to need more donors.
“Good job, Sasame.”
I spin around to see an Insider—one of The Organization’s spies—standing behind me.
“I know, thank you,” I respond with a side grin.
There's no need for her to watch me tonight. I did my job. I remove my backpack, unzipping it to put my stun gun inside. She vanishes before I look up. Freaking snitch. They’re supposed to watch all Hunters, but I seem to be their favorite at the moment.
I sling the backpack over my shoulder and walk out of the alley. Tonight's mission was even easier than I expected. As I walk home, my mind wanders to the dreadful summer festival I’m forced to attention afternoon. Lynn—my foster mother—thinks it’s a good way to help me blend in more with normal people. Just because she raised me these last few years doesn’t give her the right to change who I’ve become.
It takes a while to get back to my townhouse, but the quiet walk makes up for it. Being alone with my thoughts can be scary, tonight it’s sort of peaceful in a way. As I enter the front door, I’m greeted by cheerful Lynn. Without speaking to her, I jog up the stairs to my bedroom. Why is she so happy? My missions aren’t a jolly fun time. If it wasn’t for my training, I would’ve broken down a long time ago.
I push open my bedroom door, throw my backpack down, and kick off my sneakers. Within seconds I’m out of my street clothes and into a soft, long t-shirt. My tired body slumps onto my plush bed. I lay there, still and silent, lost in my thoughts.
It's only another mission, I tell myself as I try to sleep. It’s not a mission but calling it that works better in my head. I stare at the ceiling fan spinning on low. There really isn't a need for the fan as the air is cool for late summer, but normally its sound comforts me. Tonight is different. The blades of the fan turn to knives. Blood rains down on my face and the screams of my victims pierce my ears. My eyes shut and then open again. No blood or sharp blades, only the whirl of the fan. is just another mission.
The sound of Lynn talking to her husband, Brock, pierce through my wall from the hallway bathroom. They’re in the research division of The Organization which basically means they have enough time between filing test results to raise a teenager.
“I pulled some strings and got the perfect mission for Sasame,” Lynn says over the sound of water running in the sink. “She's going to Summer Fest to meet kids her age for some much-needed interaction.”
Lynn's squeaky, high-pitched voice is like nails on a chalkboard. It sounds like she has had the same cold for years.
“Your mission sounds more like a scheme,” Brock says. He's right; this is a scheme. I'm seventeen, not twelve. I don't need to make friends. Besides, the people in this city don't need to know who I am. My job works better when I spy on a smaller group instead of trying to mingle with serval thousand.
Ever since my parents died, The Organization was kind enough to give me replacements. They wanted a reason to make sure I did my job by giving me something I miss the most. Not that I need them, I can take care of myself. They’ll never replace my real parents.
Since I doubt I'll get to sleep anytime soon, I toss the purple, diamond-patterned comforter to the other side of my bed and walk to my laptop on the desk. The bright screen burns my eyes but I power through it. I have no idea what I'm searching for, maybe a way to avoid this so-called “mission” to go to the festival. I check my email hoping some new names came through for me to hunt. Nothing. I click on my calendar checking for any other event with fewer people. Nope.
Nothing comes up in my mindless internet surfing. I slam my laptop shut, climb into bed, and throw the covers over my head.
The walls are so thin in this townhouse; I'm surprised they've never heard me scream into my pillow at night from the nightmares of my missions. Tonight, I put the pillow over my face to block out the sound of them talking.