[MU] 'Retirement'

Mirror Universe, Three Years Ago

Ruwon walked through the halls of the villa. For several years now, he has lived in his new manor of his homeworld of Cyrat. Retirement has its perks, and a lifetime of service results in many benefits.

Having taken a stroll around the courtyard, he checked off the usual things in his head. The gardeners were working on the hedges, security was going through its usual checklist, the tourists down at the beach were on leisure as usual. Nothing broken, nobody missing, everything is as it should be.

He went inside, spending a moment to listen to updates and suggestions from his head of staff as he went down into the cellar of the villa. Devoid of any following, he approached one of the larger casks after grabbing a glass. Checking for anyone around him first and foremost, he twisted and turned the knob upside down before a click was heard. As the front wall of the cask opened, the hidden compartment was revealed. Knives, disruptors, explosives, armor, rope, physical and electronic lockpicks - anything one would need to carry out an assassination or minor coup. He ignored those items though, instead reaching for the dusty bottle of Kali-Fal sitting against a disruptor rifle. A special day calls for a special celebration, and retirement is a very special occassion.

He brought the item to his study. The place was rather dusty, coming from it being the only room the staff were forbidden from cleaning. A little dust never hurt anybody. A few missing files can topple governments. He kept the blinds closed, preferring to keep the room dark. It was the usual working environment for someone of his position, preferring to use only the light that shone in between the blinds. He seemed prepared to take a seat and begin pouring glasses when he paused. He had taken many breaks in this room, but always something work-related. With his retirement finalized, now would be the time to break from the norm.

He was set upon his new plan. He picked up the glasses and bottle and moved to the balcony. Taking a seat, he placed the items onto the stand beside him. Ruwon took a moment to take in the view of the ocean water. So this was retirement. He poured himself a glass. He could get used to this- had it not been for the cylindrical item pressed against his spine.

“Hello, sir.”

It was a voice he was familiar with. For now, he remained calm and avoided making any sudden movements. He did indulge in another sip from his kali-fal, though.

“I did wonder who they would send. Though I do wonder what led you here.” he offered in a reply.

His guest decided to indulge him in conversation.

“Playing coy will only get you so far, sir. I know the server fire at Headquarters was your doing.”

Ruwon took the opportunity to move his back up and down, feeling the device pressed against it.

“Oh? Why is that? And curious choice, 723. A suppressed kinetic weapon? It certainly has its lack of sound but the need for ammunition is very sloppy. Leaving bullets in heads makes it awfully traceable, unless you want to-”

Ruwon felt the weapon press more firmly against his back. As his assailant interrupted him, he made it a point to silence himself. He can lecture his student on the psychology of weapon choices later. Maybe. If he survived.

“-to send a message, yes. To be frank with you, sir, I am disappointed in you.”

Ruwon breathed deeply, keeping his gaze forward as he took another sip from the kali-fal.

“Let me ask you this: why do you think it was me? Don’t you think it’s quite the assertion to make that I go around burning documents? Surely there must be better suspects than myself.”

The barrel at his back lessened in its force.

“There were. You were the only one with a complete alibi, cleared of all suspicion. That’s how I knew it was you. What I do want to know is who you gave it to.”

“Oh? Not why?”

“Your reasons are your own, sir. I don’t much care for them, beyond ensuring that there are repercussions. Names, please.” 723 pressed the barrel firmly against Ruwon’s back.

“Oh? You suspect co-conspirators? Curious.”

“I know that you would not undertake such a risky endeavor without collaboration. Whatever files you stole before setting the fire, where are they?”

“You do have a vivid imagination, young lady-” He was interrupted by the barrel moving to the soft space between his first vertebrae and his skull, his head forced forward slightly by the pressure. “-watch it! I’m old, moving around isn’t as painless as it used to be!”

“I offer you a deal, sir.” the assassin spoke coldly yet calmly. “Tell me where it is and I leave without putting ballistics in your head.”

Ruwon chuckled at that. Despite his odd sitting position, he opted to take a sip from his beverage. It steeled the nerves, at least. He never shied away from death. Fearlessness was idiocy and a man does not last a hundred and fifty years in the Tal’Shiar by being a fool. Having a healthy fear of death kept one alive.

“Very generous of you. I almost want to believe the validity of it.”

He felt a cubical object pressed against his back.

“I’ll even throw in a bonus,” his interlocutor added.

Ruwon smacked his lips together, as if practicing a wine tasting technique. He was starting to feel a bit of an ache in his back. Why did nobody take him seriously when he said he was going to retire? It isn’t as if he was making up the complaints about the joint pains.

“Oh? And what would that be?”

The object moved in front of him, held by a black latex glove. It was-

“The power cell to the disruptor you had taped under your chair.”

This raised Ruwon’s brow. He had expected people to break into his manor - no place was impenetrable, especially to his students. Yet, his seating arrangement was haphazardly chosen. How was it known to his would-be assassin more than to him? Was he under surveillance? And if so, for how long?

“Alright,” he outstretched his hand. “Let me offer you a counter-proposal. Everything included, and you tell me how you got to where we are. Clearly I need to re-evaluate security. To get here, you clearly have a handle on the cameras and guard patrols. Care to share?” he offered. Maybe he would get a second chance. And next time, he won’t make the error.

“Casing the estate was simple enough. It only took eleven days. First, I was a beachgoer and watched from a distance. Then, a gardener and analyzed the exterior. Finally, a maid. You know as much as I do how little people pay attention to the help.”

This seemed seemed to cause Ruwon to accept the power cell.

“Typical,” he grumbled.

“All that money on security and all for nothing. I had hoped to alleviate that by reviewing the security footage myself every evening.”

“Which is why I avoided them. The blindspots are impossible to use just by traversing the manor. I had to climb the walls to change floors.”

“Mmm,” Ruwon nodded. “Difficult, but not impossible. Very well.” he sighed. “The digital files were all destroyed in the fire. I gave the hard copies to Vaeren.”

There was a pause. One moment. Then two.

“Vaeren,” the intruder echoed.

“Mmhm.” Ruwon nodded. “Do what you do best, I suppose.”

He could hear the sound of someone rising to their feet. The footsteps themselves were silent, but the balcony door had yet to open.

“Saeihir,” he called out. His eyes focused on the beach as he allowed his posture to relax again now that a weapon wasn’t pressed against his back. He took a sip from the beverage again. “I know you didn’t ask, but listen. You, me. We’re all pawns in this game, little pieces to be moved around. Sometimes, we’re such good pawns that we move ourselves around.” He sipped again. “There’s no chess master. The senators are all pieces themselves, controlled by the same gilded cages they built for themselves.” He looked over. “Just in case you think I did something stupid like leak it to the Terrans.”

The assassin remained silent, staring back for a moment. Perhaps they had something to say. If they did, they didn’t voice it.

“I do wish you luck with Vaeren, by the way. He’s a better agent than you. He could likely hit both of us now if he wanted to.”

The other in the conversation shook their head. “I don’t have to be a better agent. Frankly, sir, you were a better director than you were a teacher.” They turned to leave. “I don’t have to be better than you either. I just had to know where you keep your Kali-Fal.”

It wasn’t often that Ruwon was caught off-guard. He could remember exactly the last time that happened, thirty-seven years ago. The farewell, the ensuing hovercar chase, the coverup… he was getting off-track. His mind was trying to divert his fears and worries away from what just happened. Denial was the first stage, Ruwon. Get a grip.

“You…” he paused. “This entire thing was a diversion.”

The operative nodded, staring back.

“Orders from above. I’m sorry, sir.”

This entire time, a game within a game within a game. The serpent chasing its own tail.

His mind was riddled with questions. Full of them. He wanted to know so much. Who was it that ordered this? That’s a good question. He would certainly recognize the name. He opened his mouth to ask it.

“Will there be pain?”

That wasn’t the question he wanted to ask. Why did he choose such a stupid question? Does it bloody matter, you fool?

His interlocutor said nothing. The silence was deafening. As the footsteps moved away, Ruwon slumped into his seat.

At least the ocean view will be his last comfort.