I watched from the rooftop as Turaga Vakama entered his hut, closing the door behind him. The Matoran were still excited, of course: they chattered like a bunch of hyperactive sparrows at their leader's return.
Now wasn't the time to strike. I could see that easily enough, and, if Dor was paying as much attention to the situation as he was to his croissant, then he'd see it too. There was no way to get to the Turaga without being spotted. Sure, we could probably still kill him, but getting away would be trickier.
Sure, we had an escape plan: after the job was done, we'd split, and make off in different directions, dividing the pursuit like any half-wit criminal knew to do. But that plan depended on their being a limited number of people chasing us. If half the village saw us stroll into the hut and then emerge with bloody hands, we'd be lynched faster than Grokk could pick up the loosest barmaid in Xa (which was pretty fast: I'd seen it happen. Amazing how charming he could be, even while smelling like a bucket of dead fish and looking the part, too).
My thoughts were interrupted by someone exiting the hut. Not Vakama: no, it was a Guard, a Ta-Matoran wearing a yellow Hau. I figured he was someone important by the way the other guards saluted; he must've been waiting in the hut to debrief the Turaga.
Then something happened that surprised me: he gave an order to the guards, too quiet for me to hear, and then the entire group marched off down the street, leaving the Turaga's hut unguarded. Any fool could walk through the door now.
My first reaction wasn't relief, but suspicion. What kind of moron welcomes his Turaga back from an extended holiday that started with a kidnapping, then leaves the guy unprotected again? It had to be a trap: there were hidden guards, or snipers, or hulking Toa hiding inside the hut, popping their knuckles in the anticipation of dealing with any unwanted visitors.
The sun was setting in the west; even though most of the sky was covered with grey clouds, there was still a sliver of sky just above the horizon. The sun filtered through the gap, lighting up Ta-Koro with golden light. Time was almost up; we'd made our appointment, and the doctor was in.
That left us with not much time to rehash our plan: we'd have to carry through with what we had, even though the absence of the guards made me a little leery. If there was a nasty surprise waiting, well, then there was a nasty surprise waiting, and Dor had better be ready to deal with it.
It was time. Still crouching in the shadow of the chimney, I unhooked four spheres from my belt. Madu cabolo: a girl's best friend.
Turning around, I aimed for the next street over. With Vakama's return, the streets were fuller than usual, and vendors were taking advantage of the public being out-and-about by putting up tables in front of their shops an trying to entice potential buyers with their wares. There were fruit sellers, and arms dealers, and artists, and musicians busking, and candymen, and clothes merchants.
I looked over the street with a critical eye. There was a line of Guards marching down the street; there was a couple walking hand in hand, all lovey-dovey; there was a family, the mom and dad walking with a little boy in between, swinging from their hands.
I tightened my grip on the explosive fruit. Which pitiful lives were I going to snuff out first? The men protecting their village? The lovebirds? The picture-perfect family? Which ones deserved to live less than the others?
What about the clothes merchant, showing off a lovely little chiffon number to that chubby little girl? What about the man selling candied apples for pennies to the laughing children? Or how about that stooped Turaga sitting outside the cafe, sleeping in his chair?
Did each of them deserve to live more or less than another? Each of them had their own lives, their own hopes and dreams and fears and loves and cares. Those Guards: did they have families they would go home to at the end of the day? That family: how old was the little boy? Maybe four or five... did he deserve to die less than the elder snoozing in his chair?
That couple: were they planning on getting married? My actions in the next thirty seconds would determine whether or not they ever had kids, which meant I held their lives, and their kids' lives, and their grandkids' lives, in the palm of my hand.
This must be what it feels like to be a god.
I was a god. I held all their lives here in my hands; I held the power to end them or let them live. That was the greatest power in the world.
I'd already known this power: I'd held a hundred times as many lives in my hands that night in Xa when I'd pillaged the harbour, knowingly dooming hundreds of people to death. I'd already started down this path; I might as well finish it.
I hated the feeling: who was I to judge these people to artakha or karzahni?
Just do the job.
Where did I think I got the right to choose who lived and who died.
Just do the job.
Life wasn't fair; it never had been and never would. But was that really a good enough reason to-
Stop philosophizing and just do the ###### job!
With an angry outtake of breath, I closed my eyes and hurled the first fruit at the street. I didn't stop to look, but felt my fingers curl around another, and threw that one as well. I did the same with all four before opening my eyes.
The street, only moments before serene and peaceful, had been transformed in a moment into an ugly hellhole. Four craters marked the ground where each grenade had landed; those people unlucky enough to be standing there had been blown apart, showering everyone else with gore.
Half of the line of Guards had been wiped out; the remaining members immediately set about trying to reestablish order, but it wasn't gonna happen. Everyone was screaming and crying and looking for friends and family, and only getting more upset when they saw them lying dead on the dirt.
The happy couple holding hands: both were alive, as far as I could tell, but the female had caught a piece of a nearby blast, and the left side of her face looked like an overdone piece of meat.
The picturesque family: my traitorous heart dropped as I saw the kid pawing at the dead bodies of his parents. Who knew how he had survived and they hadn't, but he screamed and cried and pulled on their arms, desperately asking them to please wake up mommy, why are you sleeping daddy, please wake up help my mommy and daddy are bleeding help please help please please-
The clothes merchant's wares had caught fire; tongues of flame licked at the silk and velvet, feasting on the expensive fabric.
The man selling candy gaped in disbelief at the corpses of the little children who had only moments before been clamouring for one of his sugary treats.
And the old man, spared by luck and fate and chance, still slept on, drooling from his wide-open mouth, a cold cup of tea sitting undisturbed on the table.
I turned away from the hellish scene, my eyes burning with tears that I refused to let fall. I scrubbed at my eyes, and looked down on the other street just in time to see Vakama's door swing shut. Dor had moved as soon as he heard the first explosion; it had been a perfect distraction, right at sundown, just as we'd planned.
Just as we'd planned.
We'd planned the casual deaths of a dozen people, and the injuries of many more. All to set up one of us to go and kill the source of hope for an entire village.
Just as we'd planned.
Pretty soon, there wouldn't be any hope left, and the entire island would look like this street.
Just as we'd planned, the job was going to get done, and I wasn't sure who I hated more: Aurelia, Brykon, Dor, or myself.
Probably myself. Couldn't blame anyone but myself, after all: I was the best mercenary on the island, and I was the one who had done the deed.
Just as we'd planned.