November 4, 2007

Deus Ex Aleatorium

The Professor's Death

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Ashley's elders warned her that her target was old. Potentially, he was extremely old. That would mean that he would have time to gather allies. Her target would not be an easy mark.

He was a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. He taught history and specialized in the Renaissance. Many students joked that he had been around since then, but that may not be too far off.

He had worked at the university for 45 years, and records indicated that he was 80. Ashley knew he was much older than that, but she also knew that his facade was artificial. His actual appearance could be much younger, and he probably stopped aging at 35. That is how it usually worked. They would start a job at their "death age," and artificially age afterwards. Usually, they did not stay at a single job that long.

It was the end of the semester, and it was time for her to strike her target. During his 45 years of service, he had only one residence. He lived in a large Victorian house in Saint Paul. There were several on this road, so Ashley had to make sure she had the correct one.

It was an overcast 3 o'clock in the morning. The streetlights did their best to illuminate the darkness with a little success. Ashley was wearing a long gray overcoat, but underneath she was wearing black leotard. She had her purse full of supplies that she would need to break into the house. She had a black balaclava in her pocket. It was a brisk spring Minnesota day, so she did not look out of place.

The street number matched, so she snuck around to the back. She put her mask on, and ditched her coat in a bush. Her sword hung over her back, and she had a couple of knives on a belt around her waist. She was ready to go.

The back of the house had a second floor balcony. Like an experienced cat burglar, she scrambled up a drainpipe to the balcony. She looked around to see if anyone had spotted her. No one had. A motion detector light turned on, but she waited until it turned off before continuing. This delay also gave her eyes time to readjust to the darkness.

The interior lights of the house were all off. Ashley was hoping that the professor was sleeping in the master bedroom, which was on the other side of door where she crept. She could be in and out in a few minutes.

As silently as possible, she opened the screen door. She checked the interior door, and it was locked. The door did not have a deadbolt, so it would be an easier task getting inside. She picked the lock, but remembered that in these old houses everything squeaks. From her bag, she grabbed a small can of WD-40, and sprayed it on the hinges.

After letting the lubricant do its job, she opened the door. The occupant of the room did not stir. The bedroom door was closed, and the room was very dark. Ashley let her eyes further adjust. She decided that she would not need her night vision goggles.

The hardwood floors were her next obstacle. She stepped and slowly put her weight on that foot. She repeated this process until she reached the king-sized bed. The sole occupant of the bed was sleeping facing away from the balcony.

Ashley was at the edge of the bed when she drew her sword. In a swift downward motion, her sword took the head from the sleeping body. It rolled off the bed with a thump. It had a pasty complexion and long blond hair. Even in the darkness, Ashley could tell this was not the professor.

She sheathed her sword, and grabbed a flashlight from her bag. She switched it on and placed the severed head in the beam of the light. It was definitely a woman with chalky skin. She crawled across the bed and grabbed the head. After examining the yellow eyes, she knew that the woman was one of the professor's minions.

The minion was extremely old. The body turned to dust before Ashley's eyes, and the head disintegrated in her hands. How many more would she face? Where was the professor sleeping? Were there any mortals here? Did the sound of the head hitting the floor awaken anyone? This job had suddenly gotten much more difficult.

She sat on the trunk at the end of the bed to think. "Perhaps it was time for the night vision goggles," she thought as she returned the flashlight to her purse. She sat for a few moments when she heard someone at the door. She silently drew her sword and ducked behind the bed as the squeaky door opened.

The figure stood in the doorway backlit by a dim hall light. It was another female and she did not say anything. Ashley slid under the bed, as the woman searched the darkened room. At no point did she flip on the light, thus it appeared that she shunned the light. She also did not call out. Clearly, she was another minion.

Ashley drew her knife and rolled out from underneath the bed. With a quick flip, the knife struck the minion in the heart. Ashley was on her and had her mouth covered so she could not scream out. Quietly as possible, she let the female minion drop onto the bed.

With a wry smile and a heavy sigh, the minion died. Although she looked 30, she was another ancient minion. At this rate, this room was going to be knee deep in the dust of dead minions. Ashley needed to get out of the room fast, and it meant she was going to have to take a big chance.

Since the man was supposed to be 80, she reasoned that he would make a bedroom on the first floor. This would enforce the illusion that he was too old to climb stairs. She decided to stop trying to be silent, and walk confidently around the house.

She walked out of the room and down the hall to the back stairway. At the bottom of the stairs was a pantry. She opened the only door, and it led into the kitchen. The door to the formal dining room was open. The layout of the house was like so many of the era.

Ashley figured that when the house was built, it probably had a parlor off the front door. This was most likely place to put a first floor bedroom. It meant she had to walk across the front foyer. If she walked as if she knew what she was doing, even if someone spotted her, this person would not think anything was amiss.

She made her way boldly across the dining room into the foyer. She saw a man in his twenties sleeping on a couch in the foyer. He was not her target, so she crossed the foyer and drew her sword. She opened the door on the far side of the foyer, entered the room, and closed the door behind her.

When she entered the room, the occupant sat up with a start. He called out, but his head was on the floor before he uttered a second syllable. She quickly exited the room, and headed for the dining room. She noticed that the young man on the couch was gone.

Suddenly the house was alive with beings. The young man emerged from the dining room with a sword. He was no minion. Minions came walking down the stairs and from every door leading to the foyer.

The young man swung his sword at Ashley. She blocked it with her sword and swept his legs out from under him with a low spin kick. She opened the front door and ran out. She grabbed her coat and disappeared into the night.

Posted by deg at November 4, 2007 6:18 PM

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