The two assassins silently darted down the a-grassy hill, watching the great a-torch lights in the windows of the Palace flicker and bend, throwing their glowing artificiality into the night. They made not a sound, not to each other or to anything else; nothing but their bare feet pounding against the a-grass, that and their stealthy breath that actually might only have been the wind.

Now the hill evened out, and they saw they great Palace looming ahead bigger and bigger with each run-step, rising towards the black sky like the Tower of Babel, its chrome walls and metallic roofs reflecting a million moons back into the sky. The assassin's outfits matched the midnight blackness, their tight-fitting black suits and their dark C-302 handguns in a pouch on their sides. The faster assassin's eyes narrowed as he reached the gate.

In front of them, now, was a heavy steel door with one of those new-fashioned doorknobs. The first assassin tapped the door a few places around the doorknob and suddenly it turned and opened. They went through the empty, unguarded hallway and to the massive tapering staircase in the middle of the room, and, in reaching it, they went up. Still, they made no noise. At the top of the stairs, they went down the hall and to the third door on the left. Inside was a bedroom lighted up with its a-torches on the walls and a small old man without any hair sitting upright in his bed and reading a book. A book?

When the door opened, the old man glanced at the trespassers and said, "Hold on, boys, let me finish this sentence . . ." At this time, the assassins, with their C-302s pointed at him, became confused; they had not expected this. The report, the pre-midnight briefing from the Boss, had not told them that the old man would not care at all; this was unexpected. This man, this old man was an important figure; you would have thought that he would at least put up a fight. He continued ". . . and, that. Good, done. It was a nice way to finish a story, not give too much away, not being too vague. Here, let me read it to you: 'After the ant was stepped on, it struggled for its life and eventually succeeded in wreaking havoc on its human adversary.' Not a very long story . . . but it has its strong points." Smiling, he closed the book with a clat and looked nostalgically at the floor. "A very good plot. Creative. Morale. Of course, this was before frightening visions of a-animals and a-ants took a grip on the minds of the people; for after that there was never any competition, no instincts, no mind, no character among the minds of animals, ants. . . . But it's a shame, it really is."

The assassins shifted uneasily. The first put both hands on his C-302 and said, "Shut up, I have your life in my hands!" This had caught him off guard; he had expected this to be like the other missions he had completed—a quick shot to a sleeping dissident. The second assassin was just a precaution; usually they were not even needed. "Just shut up, I can kill you!"

"Why haven't you yet? Kill me, please!" The old man thrust his head out towards them enthusiastically, using his fingers to part his thin hair and show a patch of skin suitable for shooting. The second assassin jumped on the bed and held the C-302 to his head. For a second, the old man's wrinkled face contorted into an expression of surprise and dismay, but the look vanished so quickly that the first would not have bet that it had even stole the man's face.

The old man's name was Kacek; at least that's what he's called. The man was running as a political opponent to that of the government. He had proposed certain plans that would start to rip apart all of the things that the preceding government had accomplished. For example, he would dip the new Labor Control "adjustments" and the Safety Before Freedom "elementary rules," he would dip them into the great black tar-filled vat of ruin, dip all that the government had done to move America forward.

Kacek was only trying to destroy this.

He had very healthy relations with the media, and if he publicly spoke even one more time, half of the continent would turn to him – Kacek – with open arms, knees on the floor and a relieved blink. If this happened, the Progress would slow, and, eventually turn to a halt.

The second assassin said, "We've come to kill you. You know why, do you not? You know why we're here."

The first assassin answered, "If you won't do it, I will. I'll kill him if you don't."

Kacek opened his mouth to speak, but before it spoke, the first assassin pushed the button on his C-302 and the old man fell backwards on the bed, dead. There was no blood, no wound. The second assassin moved slowly away from the body and off of the bed and backed away, still staring at Kacek.

"One thing about these things," the first said, pointing at his C-302, "is that we would have no idea if we actually had missed him and the man was just playing dead."

"I'll hit him," the second said, "just to make sure." Each C-302 contained only one fire because it was so small and so strong. Kacek's limp body twitched spasmodically as he fired, but then he was still. Kacek was dead.

"Okay," the first said, taking off his helmet and wiping sweat from his face, "now we need to move the body." As the second took off his helmet, the first searched the room for something to put it in, a garbage bag or something but there was nothing. Suddenly, a greenish vapor came out from a vent and billowed into the room. Both assassins dropped to the floor, unconscious.

When they awoke, it was daytime. A look at the watch said that it was eight forty. "Shit," the first said, standing and rubbing his head. The room was clear again; no sign of any green gas or even a blue gas. "I think the guy had a trick up his sleeve."

The second was silent. He turned to the bed, almost panicking, for the body might be gone!—but it was still there. On the bed, Kacek, fallen backwards in his thin white undershirt and gray under shorts. He was still dead. "How did he do it?" the second asked himself, mystified. "How did it happen? It was sleeping gas, right? How did the guy get it to come to us?"

"Hell if I know," the first said, pacing. "Do you think there might be someone else in the Palace? Someone that might have triggered it in a control room or something?"

"Or maybe," the second suggested, "the guy knew that we were coming and got a timer for when the gas would be released. Maybe we got here too quickly; he might have been hoping for the gas to appear before we killed him."

The first shrugged. He picked up his C-302 and replaced it in the belt of his black coat. "But we need to get out of here. The Boss will want us back in Olymphia soon. He was probably expecting us hours ago. Like, six." He took out his phone and said, "Do I have any new messages?"

"Yes, Clyde. You have. Forty. Six. Unheard messages. Would you like to—" the phone said.

"Speaker; not private," Clyde said, glancing at his partner and thinking that all of the messages were without doubt from the Boss.

"First message, sent. One. Thirty—five," the phone said. A man's voice spoke now, "Clyde, where the hell are you? Do you need me to send backup?" the third and fourth and fifth calls and so on all were along the same main points, yet each message used heavier language and an angrier tone.

"I suppose your phone has about the same amount of messages, Nefei," Clyde said to his partner, clicking his phone and replacing it in his pocket.

"No," Nefei responded. "Mine hasn't been refueled. It hasn't worked since last Thursday," he said shamefully. "We still need to remove the body, now."

Clyde nodded, but then a thought came to him. How could the people react to people dragging a body or a body bag from Kacek's grand Palace? What would they think after the media got a hold of the story? What would happen when Kacek doesn't appear at the rally on Saturday? In broad daylight, how could they get rid of the body?

"That's why the guy put sleeping gas in the room," Clyde murmured, "to keep our heads in the ground until the sun comes up.

"What are you talking about?" Nefei said.

"He—Kacek—he set the sleeping gas to make us unconscious until the time when it would be the most difficult to get rid of the body. Because now, everybody will be roaming around—shoppers, businessman, Solids, children, hungry reporters. When we try to move the body, everybody on Kovetastilce Avenue, across the artificial grass and the artificial rock will see it! Everyone will see—the public will see that their messiah has been murdered by their own government!" Clyde explained.

Nefei's eyes widened as he realized the magnitude of the situation. "But," he objected, "why don't we just stay here, with the body, until night comes again, and then—or we could hide the body somewhere in the house, or burn it, I mean—"

Shaking his head sorrowfully, Clyde said, "Remember the briefing? Kacek's guards would return noon after the day of the holiday. They should be here, with their bullet, fire proof vests and their great green GP8s and their X-Ray goggles in less than three and a half hours!" He took out his phone again and pushed the big black button in the middle of the pad, and before even the first ring, the receptionist picked up the phone on the other side of the call.

"Code, please," she said in a bored voice. She might have been in the middle of a manicure.

Clyde whispered something into the phone and then sad in a normal voice, "We need backup on M. De-Kay. Three men, a body bag, perhaps."

"I'll put you on with the Boss; he wants to talk with you. You are Clyde, right?"


There was a beep and then the Boss's voice came on the phone. "Hello, Clyde. We'll have the men over as soon as possible. Just wait for us; don't move at all, you're doing great. Remember," the Boss said, "don't move at all from where you are standing at this moment as we speak."

"Got it," Clyde said, relieved, pushing the black button again and replacing it in his pocket. The Boss was sounding unusually happy—wouldn't he be mad? Wouldn't he have asked Clyde what was taking them so long? Could it be, could it be that he knew? Maybe, Clyde thought, he was just so happy because he knew that the job had been accomplished. But then. . . . Well, something just didn't seem right.

"What'd the Boss say?' Nefei asked apprehensively, confused at the short conversation and the look on his partner's face.

"The Boss knows what happened. He seemed happy, actually. Gleeful. He, uh, said that the men were on their way over as we speak."

Nefei breathed a sigh of relief and sat down on the bed next to Kacek's dead body, which occasionally spasmed with bursts of electric energy left over from the C-302s which had been fired on him hours ago.

Sure enough, it took but a minute for the three men from headquarters in Olymphia to appear in the doorway of Kacek's bedroom. "Ready?" one of them whispered to the one next to him.

"Thank Marchez you're here," Clyde said, getting up and walking towards them. "You wouldn't even believe—"

Clyde was interrupted as the man who had spoken in the doorway flashed a gun at him, and suddenly, Clyde forgot that he had ever been employed by the government. He had forgotten everything but that he had assassinated Kacek with his partner Nefei with stolen C-302s, and now his partner in crime, Nefei, was shot with the same gun, and though there was no wound on the skin, he too forgot his reasons as Clyde had done.

The other two men took the assassin's helmets—which was the only article of clothing that they wore that bore the symbol of the their government; the only thing linking the assassination with the government, and they joined with holding the flash gun out the room and down the steps, out the front door and up the hill, across the a-grass and to their awaiting transport. In his pocket, Clyde's cell phone vanished and then reappeared on the Boss's desk. Left in the room were the two assassins, not moving, but alive; quite alive.

After a minute of silence, Clyde blinked from his frozen, dazed position and wiped his glazed eyes and turned to his partner. "Boy," he said, "I can't wait till we see the news people! They will love us! They will show us on every news channel across the world!"

Nefei also smiled. "We did this of our free will!" He exclaimed. "For the welfare of America! Progress could have been halted! We did right, huh?"

"Yes!" Clyde shouted. "The people of America have spoken!"

The End