Alan Crane sat on the park bench to go over the target’s file. He ignored the picture of an innocent face, pictures were easy lies. He read through the information then chuckled himself when he read an included note that mentioned the reward.
“100% of your asking price up front. We will pay double if you complete the job, but the good faith money is yours to keep regardless.” Alan shook his head. His reputation was well-established, and contractors often tried to buy their way out of, if they felt they were in the wrong. He laughed when he realized every time someone tried it, they thought they were the first ones. Because most others that tried it were either innocent enough or dead already. Alan collected the file and the cash-heavy envelope then left the park with his decision made.
He drove to a tall glass office building in the heart of the city where his chosen mark worked. Normally he needed to do more reconnaissance, but chance lined things up perfectly for him today. He knew the target personally, though he’d never call the man a friend. A part of him actually disliked the man enough to look forward to killing him. He smiled inwardly as he rode the elevator to the top floor. He did not even have to change, he happened to be wearing a navy blue business suit that blended in perfectly with everyone else moving through the office.
“Sleepy, you’re up.” Alan spoke aloud in the empty elevator. He felt a familiar tickle on his back. Tiny needle legs crawled up his back, shoulder, then neck. A small purple scorpion crawled out of the tight collar, then down the front of his shirt. “Knock out the receptionist and anyone else that’s not Lauro,” Alan said. The scorpion chitted back an acknowledgment as it crawled down his pant leg. Once the elevator reached the top floor the ding sounded, and the doors slid open. Alan stepped out of the elevator while Sleepy skittered along the floor towards the receptionist’s desk. No one else seemed to be on the floor.
“Hi, how can I-?” Her head hit the desk in front of her with a heavy *thonk*. Alan chuckled. Sleepy’s potency never failed to amuse him. He turned to the office and saw the purple scorpion crawling towards the same door.
“Thanks, Sleepy. You’re the best.” The scorpion went under the door, and Alan let it get a head start before he walked in. A large man sitting behind a bulky cherry-wood desk. He recognized Alan and gave a smile.
“Alan! Great to see you, friend.” Instead of standing up to greet Alan, the man behind the desk reached into a drawer and pulled out another bulging envelope of money. “I knew you were good, but I didn’t think you were that fast.” Alan sat in a chair across from the man. As he sat, he shook his arm, pointing the sleeve downward. A small black scorpion fell out of his cuff. It began a steady march towards Lauro, under his desk, while Alan nodded at the man.
“I haven’t done it yet, I needed some more information.” Drops of sweat beaded on Lauro’s brow the moment he heard Alan say the job was incomplete. He tried to play it off with a shrug.
“You know what, forget it. We’re friends, I shouldn’t have asked you. Keep the money as a gift. You can take this too,” he pointed at the envelope on his desk. Alan shook his head.
“Why does a 14-year-old girl have to die?” Alan asked. Kids weren’t strictly off limits for him, he’s seen some wicked ones over the years; but, he was always extra lenient with kids. Lauro sighed.
“It’s complicated, let’s just forget it.” Alan shook his head again, then looked at his watch. “I’m leaving this office in two minutes. Un-complicate it, or call up your wife and say goodbye. Obviously, if I don’t do the job, you’ll get someone else to.” Lauro burst into laughter, despite the danger he knew he was in.
“There IS no one else. You’re literally the last option. Hell, we went through a pedophile before we got to you. You’re lucky number 13. The first 11 are dead, killed by the girl. The 12th seems to have had a mental breakdown or something. He’s staying in an asylum at the moment.” Alan took in the information.
“She’s strong, that’s good. But why does she need to die?” He asked again.
“Because she’s company property. We created her in a lab, and we’ve learned all we can from her. She’s a beta product that isn’t ready to be out in the world yet. You don’t know how dangerous she is,” Lauro said. After he said it out loud, his eyes went wide. “I should have called home,” he added when he realized how flimsy the pretense was.
“You shouldn’t have hired me,” Alan said. He stood, but Lauro put his hands up.
“WAIT WAIT! That’s it! I didn’t hire you! I mean, fine, I did. BUT, I know you, and I know your reputation. I’m not stupid enough to hire you, but I was forced to!” Tears flowed down the rotund man’s face. “We created her in a partnership with another company. And part of the contract covered ‘disposal’. ” Lauro used air quotes, but grimaced at the use of the word “disposal”. He pointed at the envelope. “I just paid you twice, and 12 guys before you. You think I keep that kind of money laying around in drawers? They’re paying for it. I’m just the middle-man. The facilitator. You’re not going to shoot the messenger, are you?” He clasped his hands to begin begging.
“Who?” Alan asked.
“Dana Sharp,” he said. “Earth 1.” Alan sighed. He stepped forward, took the money from the desk, then turned towards the door. “C’mon Sleepy, Stabby. Let’s go see what another universe looks like.” Lauro saw two scorpions, a purple and black one, crawling up Alan’s back as he walked out of the door.