Welcome to #SDAASaturday! Here’s the next chapter of Aaron’s adventures.
I woke up at home. My head was ringing and it felt like I was Charlie Sheen’s liver.
“Hey buddy… how you feelin’?” says a familiar voice.
“Tim?” I ask, as my eyes adjust.
“Yeah buddy, how you doin’?”
“I still feel a little groggy. How long was I out?” I ask
Tim pauses for a few seconds. “Now, this may be hard for you to believe… but it’s about 5 days until Christmas.”
“It’s December? He knocked me out for 2 months?” I say, stunned.
“Yeah… I mean look outside.” Tim opens the curtains to reveal the snow falling outside the window.
“I don’t believe it.”
“You had us worried pal, but as long as you’re awake.” Suddenly a huge smile appears on Tim’s face and he bursts into laughter. “I got you man! You’ve been out for a half hour at most! That’s just Ryan on the roof with a box of rice!” he laughs some more and then gets interrupted by the pillow I hurl at his head.
“You asshole!” We laugh raucously for a few minutes. Isn’t ‘raucously’ a great word! It’s just a fancier way of saying ‘Loudly’.
Like how my bones now creak loudly when I move. After I got my ass handed to me by a human battering ram. I swear he’s been held back a few decades.
The laughter doesn’t last long. I ask Tim to get Ryan off the roof and leave.
I bet if my parent’s saw the little display of strength I made today they’d kick my ass for not kicking his ass. I need to be stronger… I need to make them proud of me.
I find Dwight’s card near the door. I collapse on the couch and stare at that card for what feels like hours, mainly wondering why an assassin has a business card… at least he thought to put ‘Pest Control’. Should I call him? Should I train with him? Should I kill for him?
I have no idea.
Maybe it’s my fate, or whatever, to become like my family.
I call him.
“Dwight? It’s Aaron Curtis. I’d like to accept your job offer.”
I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming! Except that I told you I was an assassin at the beginning of the story so pretty much all suspense was gone right out of the gate. Sorry.
Dwight was at my house within 15 minutes. “Aaron, I’m so glad you decided to accept. Your parents would be proud.”
“I’m not doing this for them, I’m doing it because I realised today that I’m weak. I need to be stronger.”
“I can respect that, Aaron. Whatever the reason, I’m glad you’re on board. Now please, I’ll show you around the stomping grounds.”
I walk outside and am greeted by 2 trench coat covered cutthroats, both as creepy as each other. One of them was older, a little more seasoned than the other, a few more scars on his hands and glasses across his face. The other was a bit younger but still looked hard as nails.
“Aaron, these are my hands. My right hand, Gabe North, and my left hand, Max Minus.” Dwight says indicating to the two man who fall in rank either side of him.
“Max Minus?” I say. “Is that a real name?”
The older man stepped forward. “My real name is Maximillian Alexander Minus. So, yeah. Max Minus is my real name.”
“That is so cool!” I say, astounded. “If he’s Minus, you must be North?”
The younger one grabs my hand and shakes it firmly. “How do you do. Get in the car.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
Dwight puts his hand on my shoulder. “You’ll have to forgive Gabe; he doesn’t think you’re worth the trouble. He didn’t know your Father. Give us a minute, boys.” The two men vanish inside the red van parked in my driveway. “Aaron, you know I’m glad you decided to join, but I need to know your reason. If you’re doing this for the wrong reason, I’ll leave and be out of your life. So, what’s your reason?”
I pause for a second.
“I got my ass kicked by a guy at school and for the first time in my entire life I felt weak and hopeless. I never want to feel that way again in my life. I never want to be weak… If being an assassin will help my find my strength, then so be it.”
“That’s a pretty good reason.”
“Is there any answer I could give that’d make you leave?” I ask curiously.
“Well, actually… no not really.”
Dwight grins and escorts me into the van. North and Minus in the front, and Dwight and I ride in the back, we start on the path, we start on the voyage to my strength.
“So, do you all work out of that brick building I saw when we met?” I ask.
“Oh god no, that was a potential client! Our facility is much more underground.”
“So, where exactly are we headed?”
“To our headquarters.”
“Well, I figured that. But I was thinking more like a location.”
“You’ll see. We can’t tell you right now. See, I trust you, but the rest of the Corps has different perspectives. They want to make sure you’re dedicated to our cause.”
“That’s what we call ourselves. ‘The Assassin Corps’ not the best title in the world but it’s simple and stylish, which is what the founders wanted.”
“How long have these guys been around?”
“No one really knows, many records were destroyed in the civil war, does that give you an idea? Our organization is one of the best kept secrets in American history, our secret society of assassins. Which is why, until you prove yourself one of us, you’ll have to be kept in the dark. And I mean that quite literally…” Dwight pulls a blindfold out of a compartment in the van. “I’ll need you to put this on now, please.”
I do as he says, and see nothing for the next 20 minutes… I’m guessing. I don’t know what the time was. I hear nothing but normal everyday sounds. Suddenly the sound stops, a few seconds later I hear Dwight’s voice. “Lennox, take us down. Code word: Scorpion.”
Then we move again, I can only imagine when Dwight said underground, he wasn’t kidding.
A few seconds’ pass and I hear mummering from outside the van, then the door opens and I feel someone pulling on my arm. I don’t resist.
Dwight removes my blindfold. “Welcome to the control centre.”
I look around, expecting a James bond style training room. But that wasn’t what I saw. “This is it?”
“Well this is only the parking garage… I guess I should’ve done the reveal downstairs.”
We climb into a nearby elevator and travel further down. When the doors open, I see something more like what I was expecting earlier. The walls are all stone and steel, computer screens and guns decorated the room, as well as portraits of key members.
“This is it, the control room of our entire operation, there are a few other levels as well; there’s my office, training room, the gym, lounge, heavy weapons training, firing range, medical bay, armoury, laboratories, cafeteria, spa…”
“Not my idea.” Dwight mutters annoyed. “This is the main floor, reception and communication. This is where you’ll be assigned missions and appointments.”
“So, you just chill out in a big underground building with a bunch of killers?”
Dwight stares at me for half a second before smiling, “That’s pretty much your whole job description right there. Now, I have urgent labour to attend to, so I’ll get one of the guys to show you around, then meet me in my office at 7.” Dwight looks around the room. “Where is he?” Dwight locks eyes with a man on the other side of the room and signals him to come over. “You’ll like this guy.”
A tall, dark haired man with a small beard approached us, “How can I help, sir?” he says with a thick Manchester accent.
“Lennox, this is Aaron Curtis, our recruit. Aaron, this is Lennox, one of our weapons trainers. I’ll leave you with him for now.”
“Hey, how’s it going. I’m Aaron.” I put my hand out, offering a handshake.
“Eh, so-so. You know how it is.” He says, ignoring my hand entirely.
“I’m not sure I do…” I say, slightly confused.
Dwight turns to Lennox, “Have him back to me by 7.” He then disappears down a long corridor.
Lennox’s eyes follow Dwight down the corridor “God, I hate that man… I’d give my right arm to see him rot in hell for all eternity.”
“Well, that’s not at all an odd thing to say to someone you just met.”
“Sorry, Mate… I just got a few issues with him.”
“Shouldn’t we start the tour or something?” I awkwardly edge away from this guy.
Honestly, he was a little strange, I mean, he seemed like a nice enough guy but over the course of the tour he’s say odd things like, “This is where we teach you to make things go boom.” And “This is where we hit you with sticks until you’re strong.” The things by themselves aren’t that bad but add his accent and deadpan delivery, it’s slightly unsettling…
“Alright, Aaron. That’s everything, except Dwight’s office, which is where you need to be in 15 minutes.” Lennox says, leading me into an elevator. “We better get going, Dwight’s not a man you want to keep waiting.”
“I gotta ask, why do you hate Dwight? I mean, I get not liking your boss, but this has gotta be beyond that… Right?”
“He was right about you, kid. You’ve got insight like your mum. Dwight reminds me of my father… I hated my father.”
“Why?” I ask, even though I’m not really sure I want to know the answer.
“Well, my daddy liked to have a drink every now and again… you know; one with breakfast, one with morning tea, two with lunch, one with afternoon tea, five with dinner, one with desert, one with supper… you know, the normal! But one day, when I was about 9 or 10, he’d had a couple to many, and threw my mum of an 8-storey balcony.”
Holy shit. I couldn’t believe it! “Did he get arrested?” I ask.
“Nope, I didn’t give ‘em the chance.” Lennox says, grabbing a cigar from his jacket and lighting it with a wooden match.
“What did you do?” I ask.
“Maybe if you let me finish, I’d tell you!”
“Anyway, after he’s thrown mum, he came at me… I don’t remember feeling scared at all, I just grabbed mum’s kitchen knife and put it in the side of his head.” He says, casually putting the cigar in his mouth. “Not long after that, I was picked up by your dad… I joined the Corps to protect the world from people like my father.”
“And instead you end up working for one just like him… ironic, isn’t it?”
Lennox smirks and nods “You’re alright, Aaron. You and I are like two horribly rotten peas in a sick, twisted pod.” Lennox says, puffing smoke out of his mouth.
“Thanks? I think…” I look around the small, metal box for a few seconds. “Long elevator trip.”
“Oh, I haven’t pushed the button yet. I was telling my story.”
“Oh, right.” I awkwardly laugh.
Lennox pushes the button and the elevator goes up. “The boss’ office is on the ground floor, which is actually the top floor. Fun reversal of the usual.”
The elevator stops and the doors open, Dwight is talking to the same fat man I saw the other day.
“We had an arrangement, Phil. I take out the competition and you pay me $10,000. I opened your case and I only count $8000. Where’s the rest?” Dwight looks up and notices me, “You’re early Lennox.” Dwight says staring daggers. “And I told you, no smoking.”
Lennox pushes me out of the lift and gives Dwight the finger. “Thank you, sir!” Lennox says, sarcastically before leaving.
“Aaron, take a seat. Phil, leave… we’ll discuss this later.” The fat man, whose name is apparently Phil, scurries away.
I take his place on the chair in front of Dwight’s desk. “What was that about?” I ask.
“Just a little financial error on his part. It’s nothing! Did you enjoy the tour?”
“If I can ask… Why is Lennox so… weird?”
“He told you what happened with his father?”
“Yeah, slightly intense.”
“Did he tell you what happened after we picked him up?” Dwight says getting out of his chair.
I shake my head. “No, all he said was my dad was the one who recruited him.”
“Yeah, your father was on a mission nearby when he saw Marion Lennox fly out of a window. Your father went in to investigate and saw young Charlie covered in his father’s blood. Your father brought him in and trained him. He was doing well until your father disappeared. He was about your age when it all happened. After that, Lennox had lost two fathers, he became increasingly unstable… I tried sending him out, into the field but he couldn’t handle the pressure and came back here.”
That’s right folks. Flashback time.
Lennox sat in the very same chair that I’m sitting in now, covered in blood.
“You were ordered to kill that man and any witnesses, instead you tripped several alarms and left the maid to see your face… What happened Charlie?” Says a younger Dwight, with a bandage over his freshly scarred eye.
“I don’t know…” Says a trembling Lennox, “I just looked down and realized I was covered in human blood… I guess I just freaked a bit and panicked.”
“You didn’t seem to mind being covered in your father’s blood. Your own family.”
“He deserved it. This man, I don’t know what he did… For all I know, he was completely innocent.”
“No one is innocent. Isn’t that what James would say? ‘Every name that pops up on our list has a reason to be there, we don’t need to know what that reason is, we just need to do our job.’ Isn’t that what he told you? James had such high hopes for you… he’d be ashamed of the puddle sitting in front of me.”
Lennox leapt over the desk, grabbed Dwight by the collar of his shirt, and lifted him. “Don’t you dare use his words against me!”
“Now there’s the fire. If you used that fire on your mission, we wouldn’t be here right now… now put me down.” Lennox lets go of Dwight and climbs off the desk, standing to the side of it, rather than sitting down again.
“I need a shower.” Lennox walked toward the elevator, but Dwight stopped him before he could leave.
“Charlie, wait!” Dwight walks over to Lennox, places his hand on his shoulder. “We need you, Lennox. You’re a valuable asset, but if you can’t handle field assignments, I may have another place for you. As you know, all our older, more experienced members are becoming increasingly… well, dead. Because of this, I’ve started a campaign to inject some fresher blood into the Corps, and these new recruits will need someone to train them…”
“Not interested.” Lennox says, brushing Dwight’s hand off him.
“Lennox, you were trained by the best field agent our organization has ever seen, all I want you to do is pass the knowledge he gave you on to this next generation of assassins. You’ll never have to kill again! What do you say?”
Lennox looks Dwight in the eye. Geddit, cause he only has one.
“I say, thank you sir. I’ll take the job.”
“After that day, Lennox is the only non-combatant we have in our ranks. I expect nothing but excellence form my field agents… Speaking of agents, let’s talk about you.”
“What about me?”
“Aaron, your parents were two of the organisations finest assets. Your father represented the highest capacity for human strength, not just lifting heavy things and punching hard, but he had near superhuman endurance and stamina. I once saw him get shot in the stomach, leg and chest but he just kept ploughing through and finished his mission. Your mother represented the highest capacity of the human mind, her intellect and resourcefulness, as well as her creativity was truly incredible. It’s my belief that you’ve genetically inherited both gifts, of course we’ll have to test you rigorously to discover just how much like your parents you are.”
“Tests? What kind of tests?”
“We’re going to push you to your breaking point, Aaron. We’re going to put you through intense physical and mental torments, but if you can handle it all, you’ll come out the other side stronger than you’ve ever been before, maybe even stronger than your parents.
“And if I can’t handle it?” I ask, worried about my own safety.
“You’ll probably die. I’m not going to sugar coat this, Aaron. The training is the most intense part of the job, we’ll break you, put you back together and break you again. But if my beliefs are accurate, you’ll be the best agent we’ve ever had.” Dwight looks at my speechless face. “Are you nervous, Aaron?”
“Scared?” He asks stoically.
“Good. Let’s begin.”
Dwight leads me from his office to a room with what looks like a bank vault in the centre.
“This is how we’ll make you stronger. Take off your jacket, your shoes and socks, and your shirt.” I do as he says. He then punches me in the face and tells his men to scoop me up. “We’re going to lock you away now, Aaron.”
One of the thugs opens the ‘Vault’ and pushes me inside. It’s freezing in here… there’s ice all over the floor and the walls. In the centre, there’s a chair, I get tied to that chair. Dwight disappears once again, and I’m locked in the room with three big looking guys in black suits and full-face masks.
One of them puts something in my hand. “you’ll be locked in here with us for the next 24 hours… if at any point you want this to end, just push the button we’ve given you and it’ll end. You’ll also most likely be killed, because you know too much. And don’t count on any alone time, we have sub zero level thermals on under our suits… we can spend weeks in here.”
Then he just stands behind me, the other two either side of the door. It’s so cold… all my wounds from today start to bite and I’m suddenly reminded of Tank’s attack, my face is stinging from Dwight’s punch and the cold doesn’t help. There’s a clock above the door that says I’ve been in here for 15 minutes.
Half an hour in and I hear a voice over a P.A system say ‘Alright, now.’ I wondered what that meant until the guy behind me punched me in the back of the head… the freezing temperature made it hurt twice as much, every part of my body is in agony… but I don’t push the button. He lands a few more blows on my back and shoulders, then his friends join in, hitting me in the face and stomach. But I don’t push the button.
This goes on for an hour and a half, then they leave me alone for a while.
5 hours in and the thugs grab bamboo sticks and start hitting my arms and legs. My ears are still ringing from the beating before, my stomach hurts so much it’s difficult to breath, my lungs are freezing as well. But I don’t push the button.
They work me over with the sticks for another hour.
6 and a half hours in and they pour water over my hand and break the ice with a hammer. But I don’t push the button.
8 hours in and they’re back to the sticks, this time hitting my stomach. All three of them. I’m getting dizzy, my eyes will just start to go dark, then the pain will buzz me back to alertness.
10 hours in, the three men all leave. The same voice comes over the P.A ‘10 hours in, Aaron. If you no longer can press the button, please give us a sign you’re still conscious.
“I can push it whenever I like. I just haven’t reached breaking point yet. So, shut up and bring it on.” I say all muffled and shaky.
The three men come back in, “Did you miss us?” one teases.
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance you have a hotdog or a cheeseburger?”
Instead of a meal, I get a Taser to my arm. It hurts 50 times worse than anything that came before. But I don’t push the button.
12 hours in and they’re back to fists, only this time there’s knuckle dusters added. They avoid my face, but make up for it. I can feel the brass tear my skin, I can barely feel it though. The cold is numbing my body. Then they use the Taser again and pain ripples throughout my entire body. I feel every cut, bruise and broken bone… but I don’t push the button. Instead I throw the button away and scream ‘Bring it on!’ at the top of my aching lungs.
14 hours in. They pour water over my back.
16 hours in, they start cutting my arms and legs with knives.
18 hours in, they use the Taser again to melt the ice on my back.
19 hours in and they leave once more.
Dwight walks in.
“You should know, your father pushed the button at 16 hours. Your mother at 12. Aside from them, no one has ever made it past hour 10. If you want to leave now, all you have to do is say.” Dwight waits for a reply.
“But, Boss…” I say barely able to talk. “We haven’t found my breaking point yet. So, either hit me or get the hell out.”
Dwight kicks my chair over and I feel it break under my weight. I find my feet for a moment, then the gang comes back in and uses the sticks, the Taser, the brass knuckles and knives on me for the next five hours. I managed to use pieces of the broken chair to fight back, but that didn’t last long… they soon overpowered me and used the splintering wood against me…
Then the buzzer sounds, and they pick my mangled ass up and drag me out of the room.
Dwight looks at me amazed…
“Well, boss. I guess we found my breaking point.” I collapse onto the floor.
Tune in next #SDAASaturday for the next chapter!