Title: IMMUNITY HUNTER
A cool wind blows between the buildings of downtown, swirling my hair around my head. Everything is silent and still. I take a slow, deep breath and hold it. A hint of regret crosses my heart, but I erase it. Without much thought, I 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.
Maybe his brain will fry before his eyes bulge out. On second thought, The Organization wouldn't appreciate me tampering with their new “blood donor”.
A swift kick into the jagged-brick wall and he's knocked out cold leaving a small blood stain behind. Hopefully, the impact of his head slamming into the concrete doesn't kill him. He's still breathing—for now.
“Idiot. Pay attention to where you're going.”
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 can be spotted. I sit on the dirt-covered concrete beside him, stun gun at the ready in case he wakes up.
The Organization is now one step closer to finding a stronger antidote to the Konadai virus. They better be happy. I've been with them for two years now and they always seem to need more donors. It's starting to wear me down, but I can't stop now. The antidote is more important that my mental state of mind. The immune are put to better use this way.
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. It consists of three to four men dressed in whatever disguise they decide to take on that day. Tonight, they're paramedics. I spotted them picking up another donor while I was following the incapacitated fool next to me. As I wait, I stare up at the metal fire escape trying to convince myself that of all this is for the better. 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. The third one must be back at headquarters. Within seconds, they're gone. Another name crossed out of my notebook.
“You did well, Sasame.”
I spin around to see an Insider, dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, standing behind me.
“I know, thank you.”
There's no need for her to watch me. I did my job. I remove my backpack, unzipping it to put my stun gun inside. She vanishes before I look up. Freaking snitch.
Insiders make sure all of us Hunters do our job and don’t do anything to blow our covers, 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 has gone even easier than I expected.
* * *
It's only another mission, I tell myself as I try to sleep. 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 them again. No blood or sharp blades, only the whirl of the fan. will just be another mission.
The sound of Lynn talking to her husband, Brock—my replacement parents—reaches me through the 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 teenagers 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 to get me to act “normal” around other people. 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—the agency I devote my loyalty to and that basically runs this town under the mayor—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 assignment to go to the festival. I check my email hoping some new names came through for me to hunt. Tracking down the immune is a better use of time than the festival. 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.
* * *
Caara Island Summer Fest, marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of the day our city went to hell and back. From human to Okamikiin, everyone is laughing and stuffing their faces with fried food. The bright sun makes the early evening warmer than usual. I had spent most of the day trying to decide if I want to go to the festival or pass on this ridiculous ploy. After a little persuasion from Lynn, I end up caught in the middle of a crowd of happy people.
Everywhere I turn, the faces of strangers bombard my vision. As I try to push my way through, they all become a blur. Those random people couldn't care less about me being here. My head starts to spin like I'm trapped. All I can see is a kaleidoscope of colorful clothing.