Thrinav Sathya

Well, really, there’s only one man in this world who is capable of killing me. And as I’ve decided to delay my inevitable suicide, for all intents and purposes, now, there are zero. ” 

– the assassin known as Seasonal, recorded in a self-evaluation report to the Syndicate, August of 2019 


From where he was perched, he could see six shadows. The dim amber streetlight stretched them into impossibly long shapes, casting long silhouettes twenty feet forward across the sidewalk. 

Night sky. Crescent moon. 

Wind conditions subpar. A light breeze from the north-northeast. His ear buzzed. 

“Take the shot, Seasonal.” 

He did. 

Five shadows now. 


Seasonal, unlike others in his profession, had no misconceptions of himself as some kind of artiste. There was no beauty in killing. If anything, he was a magician. He took living people and turned them into corpses. Abracadabra. 

He’d been a child when the Syndicate had taken him in, and an angry one at that. The killing-guilt had begun to fade around two years in, but he’d only ever had one caveat. He didn’t like when there were children present. The only thing left to cause Seasonal guilt was the fear that he was turning more children into him. 

Of course the bosses acquiesced. He was too good to cut loose. In 482 assignments over six years, there’d been children twice. He’d still taken the shot – he wasn’t comfortable enough in his own importance to risk endangering the mission for his own morals. But when there were children, Seasonal always missed once, on purpose. Warning shot. Enough time for a “Marlene, take the kids and run”, a “Thomas, get out of here”. There was enough of a man left in Seasonal that he didn’t want the kids to have to watch. 

That was his only crisis of conscience. As far as he was concerned, the only saving grace of criminals was their children. Every walking, talking human being he permanently relocated underground knew it was coming. They were never surprised that it was happening, only surprised that now would be the time. He cleaned up the streets, and the police cleaned up after him. 

He rolled out of bed, finally, and braved a peek out of the velvety white curtains that every motel seemed to have. Those curtains were always a damned pain. Everything in motels was fabric and carpet. Bloodstains were a resilient nuisance, but he’d yet to find a stain that white vinegar and baking soda couldn’t solve. 

Batman had the Batcave. Seasonal had Walgreens.

He went through the standard morning routine. Check the visuals outside, scan for threats, head to the bathroom, brush, shower, shave, clean. Clorox wipes. Disinfect the whole room, bottom to top, back to front. Open the door with the wipe. Throw it away outside, stash the box of wipes in the backpack. God bless Walgreens. 

He only stayed in motels and very rarely low-end hotels. No suite life for him. Cash-only. He let the man walking in front of him open the door for him, and slipped through into the wintry air outside. He adjusted his baseball cap and stuck his hands into his jacket pockets. Taking hit jobs was easy during a global pandemic; obviously it helped that now everyone wore a mask. The difference was that everyone else wore masks because they were concerned about catching something. He wore a mask because he was concerned about getting caught.

The bell rung as he pushed his way into a Gloria Jean’s. He used his shoulder. No handprints on the handle. He’d always loved New York during Christmastime. The whole city lit up, and the people did too. He’d first come to America during Christmastime, and the lights and the cocoa and the ornaments had touched some thin vein of sentimentality that just refused to die with childhood. They called him Seasonal because he wouldn’t take jobs around Christmas. Today was December 11th, and yesterday had been the last day he would accept jobs. No Christmas, no New Year, and he was back just before Valentine’s Day. All’s fair in love and contract killing. 

He settled down into a weathered couch with a tired exhale and a black coffee, reassessing last night’s job. It would be an understatement to say that last night hadn’t gone well. Target was dead. That was usually the conclusion to his jobs. But it’d gotten messy, and he’d broken one of his rules. He’d been sloppy. Careless. 

Six shadows down the sidewalk, then five. He’d assumed six movers total, and introduced one of them to a bullet. 

Six shadows. 

He’d made a dirty mistake, and he’d realized when he heard the wail. Painful to hear. Anguish, sorrow, fear.

Six shadows, but shadows blend together. If someone small’s standing in front, they don’t get counted.

Six shadows, but there had been seven movers. 

He’d killed the mark. 

The seventh mover, lost in the shadows, had watched his father die. 

As the child was bundled up into a tight formation and quickly escorted away, only Seasonal remained on the rooftop, left with the most dangerous thing a person in his profession could have. 


He rubbed his hands together as he pushed his way out of the coffeeshop. It was always cold for him here in the Big Apple, especially around this time of year, and he briefly considered trading his baseball cap in for a warm winter hat before ultimately deciding to place form above function. It’d be a long walk to Times Square, but he wanted to see the tree all lit up at least once. 

He’d take the long way across to Manhattan. He didn’t like ferries. Too cramped, no subtle exits. Besides, the walking would do him good, he thought. He could get some thinking in. Ease up on those doubts. He knew there was no one else that could convince him if he couldn’t, and that’s what he needed to do if he planned on continuing in the business. 

But why continue? Six years, four hundred and eighty-three kills for the Syndicate. Wasn’t that enough?

His mind was a battleground. He wished his thoughts would pick a side. 

He shook his head, trying to somehow shake his anxieties out of it. The next two weeks would be good for him, he told himself. Calming. Cold air, hot chocolate, Christmas trees. He’d treat himself. Get some rich, upper-class apartment abandoned by a socialite who’d fled somewhere warm for the holidays. Put on Hallmark Channel. Eat butter cookies. Drink eggnog. He let himself smile a little under the mask as he continued his steady pace. The future was far away, and the present was now. All he had to do was live in it. 

“Spare some change?” asked a crumpled old man at the side of the road, disrupting his reverie. He was like a jack of cards that’d been bent over and over, Seasonal pondered. Regal, once, but life had played him one too many times, and that imposing visage had turned to a weathered, mournful grimace. The story appealed to Seasonal’s sense of imagination, and the old man appealed to what was left of his sense of empathy. He walked by and wordlessly dropped in a roll of bills.

“Thank you, stranger,” the old man acknowledged. Then he realized just how much the faceless stranger had dropped in his cup, and his playing-card visage warped into an expression of jubilant bewilderment. He opened his mouth to say something more, and he was met with eyes like black ice.

“Turn things around,” said the stranger from underneath his hat. 

And he was gone. 


When he had been much, much younger, with a name instead of a call sign, Seasonal’s mother had told him he had a flair for the dramatic. In another life, perhaps he would have made stories. In this life, he ended them. It was just one of the many regrets he’d shelved years ago in his pursuit of some kind of meaning. He was cleaning up the world, he told himself. He took criminals and killers off the streets. Some would say there was no job more meaningful than that, but Seasonal disagreed. To be a father, a husband, a mentor…he was a young man. But somehow, it felt like his whole life was behind him. 

Seasonal was well-versed enough in his own psyche to know that if he let himself travel down this ennui-laden passageway, he would end up entirely useless in a matter of hours. 

“Now’s not the time,” he told himself mentally. “Doubts later. The mission is now.” 

Compartmentalization was his best friend. He always told himself he’d process later, but he just never seemed to have the time. He was twenty-two years old, and he had a fourteen-year backlog. Maybe he never would find the time. 

In the moment, however, Seasonal’s finely-tuned gut instinct was informing him that something around him was amiss. He trusted his feelings. He was well aware that his sense of danger often triggered when nothing was wrong, but it had only once failed to trigger when something was. Never again. The street really was eerily silent, and a procession of black SUVs was passing by. Armored glass, presumably bulletproof plating on the car. These were VIPs. He turned his head down to avoid eye contact and instead watched them cruise past through reflections in the windows. Trouble. 


Seasonal knew that noise. He made it happen, regularly. 

Someone had fired a sniper rifle. 


The street sparked to life with activity, as surrounding pedestrians scattered and the SUVs began swerving into different directions in some kind of rudimentary shell game to distract the sniper above. Whoever the sniper was, they were clearly inexperienced. They should have been prepared for ballistic glass, and now it was unclear if their mark was dead or alive. Either way, the situation at hand wasn’t his business. His job was to keep his head down, avoid detection, and stay alive.


Later, Seasonal would be informed that he had looked around for the other shooter the gang members were referring to, before realizing the criminal with the M16 was talking about him. In his opinion, as an innocent bystander, this was a reasonable error to make. 

It took him about one and a half seconds to realize what was going on, at which point bullets began hitting the area around him and he started to get the point. His best bet would be to disappear. Nobody would look for him. 



He wondered what would have happened if he were actually just a regular New York citizen, walking down the street at the exact wrong time. He probably would’ve just ended up getting shot. The world was a cruel place, wasn’t it?


His new “partner in crime” had just fired another shot into the group of men. Hopefully they’d actually made it this time. Their incompetence was costing him winter break.


A skinny, bearded goon lifted a handgun to Seasonal’s head. Swift upward kick to the elbow, snap. Wail of pain. Muscles in the hand involuntarily released, as expected, and Seasonal had the gun now. One shot, head. Conflict resolved. 

Murder was a straight line to him. He only needed the quickest path from point A to point B. 

He headed out into the main street from the alley he’d been crouching in and proceeded with his impromptu course on conflict resolution. 

One mover around the corner. Point-blank, head. Resolved

Two by the car. One shot, head. Resolved. One shot, chest. Pending. Duck and roll. One shot, chest. Resolved.

Five movers remaining. 


Four movers remaining. His irritating accidental partner had finally decided to become useful. 

It helped that the remaining goons were firing at the figure running from building to building up on the terraces. He was grudgingly impressed. Whoever the sniper was, they were shooting the rifle while standing up but hitting most of their targets. If nothing else, they had good muscle control. He took the time to dispatch the goons that were left. Four shots, head. Resolved, resolved, resolved, resolved

The shooter’s mark was likely long gone, but Seasonal could still track the shooter. He was tied up in this firefight now, and whoever they were, they were the last loose end he had left to deal with. He scaled the metal fire escape on the side of the building with ease, and crept his way across the terraces. He could hear the dim buzz of conversation from where he was, and he leapt from one building to another and rolled onto the roof in complete silence. 

“…target…one more…can do it…” 

He crept forward. 

“Lexic…I can…more shot…unforeseen circumstances…another player…” 

He was close enough to them now to hear what the shooter was saying with clarity. 

“Negative. Mission can continue and will succeed. Signing off.” 

The unidentified assailant swiveled in one fluid motion and Seasonal dropped to the ground, but not quite fast enough. He’d been too close for evasion procedures and not close enough for incapacitation of the hostile. He stared at the dark-haired woman holding a .308 to his head and took a gamble. 

“Call sign: Seasonal.” 

Her eyes were like chips of ice, and he watched them go wide in surprise. She lowered the gun. 

“Call sign: Sunset.” 


And it was so that Seasonal discovered that there was another Syndicate killer operating in NYC around this time of year. He was mildly miffed. It defeated the purpose of him taking a break if the Syndicate was still having people shot around Christmastime. That was just outright anti-holiday-spirit. 

“My name’s Geneva. My real name, I mean. What’s yours?” 

She had a mild Russian accent. At the very least, she’d at one point hailed from some eastern European country.

“Classified,” Seasonal responded. They’d holed up in the nouveau riche apartment he’d had his eyes on earlier. Funny. He hadn’t expected it to be under these conditions.

She rolled her eyes. “All right then. Where are you from?” 

“Classified.” He continued cleaning his gun.

Her brow furrowed in annoyance. The long, dark brown hair she kept tied up had led him to assume she was older than she was, when in reality she had to be a couple years younger than him. She certainly hadn’t yet learned restraint. She leaned forward and gestured toward his gun.

“Can you at least tell me how you knew I was Syndicate? I mean, seriously. It’s not like they assign us a uniform. No identifying markers, that’s the rule. So how’d you know?” 

“You addressed Lexicon over the earpiece. That was enough for me.” 

She leaned back again, relaxed in her chair now. Sloppy. Everything he’d told her could’ve been fabricated on the fly with the details he’d heard. He was Syndicate, but she shouldn’t have come with him. Syndicate assassins weren’t meant to work together. At the very least, he had no knowledge of any jobs where that’d been the case. 

“Riiiiight. The big boss. HQ. Little woman in the earpiece. Lexicon. You ever get to meet her? If there even is a real Lexicon, I mean. I always figured she was just a computer-generated voice. Higher-ups send the orders, Lexicon reads them out.” 

Seasonal remained focused on his gun. 

“That’s a reasonable assumption,” he conceded. “You should stop talking about it.” 

She cocked her head. “Why? We’re both Syndicate. Pretty certain we can’t be overheard here. I’ve never met another Syndicate assassin before and–” 

Seasonal set the gun down firmly. It wasn’t loud enough to make a thud, but it was loud enough to interrupt her sentence. 

“Yes. We’re both Syndicate assassins. I am supposed to be on my break right now. Instead, I find out that you’ve botched a job for our mutual benefactor. That ties me to you and to this job. If you fail, I have no plausible deniability.” 

He stood, fixing his eyes on hers. She seemed like a genuinely good person. It made him wonder how exactly she’d gotten caught up in this life, but not too hard. He knew there weren’t too many ways for it to happen. 

“From this point forward, we finish the job. We don’t have any other choice. Command asked you to abort the mission. You didn’t. The crime family you stirred up will be on high alert now. They’ll pin it on rival gangs. They’ll kill cops, innocents, kids, anyone they can get their hands on. We work in direct opposition to law enforcement, but it’s only because we take the law into our own hands. It is in our best interest to prevent visibility, and it is in our best interest to prevent a gang war erupting before Christmas. Do you understand?” 

Her eyes were steely now. If nothing else, she was a Syndicate assassin. He was fairly certain she could handle a talking-to from a coworker. She nodded once. 

“Good. Get some rest. We head out in four hours.”

“What?” she protested, standing up. “The trail’ll be cold. He’ll have gone underground. He–” 

“He’ll have reacted in response to your actions today, yes,” Seasonal countered. Her face flushed bright red as she sat back down. He spoke a little more gently. “I only suggest it because it’s been a long day. Both of us need rest. We need to be operating at peak efficiency. Take a nap. I’ll wake you up.”

“And you?” 

“I’ll ice my shoulder,” he responded with a grimace. “I never was good at the whole building-to-building and do-a-roll thing. Nice job with that, by the way.” 

She beamed. 

“Thanks! See, the trick is to–” 


“No, it’s actually–oh. Okay. Yeah.” 


It was 12:46 am when he nudged her awake and they began the process of cleaning the hideout. He learned to some annoyance that other assassins – her, specifically – weren’t nearly as thorough with the cleaning process as him. He had to go through the spots she did twice for prints, hair and sweat or blood residue. He’d pointed out her inability to pay attention to detail, and she’d parried. 

“Don’t you think whoever owns this house will be even more suspicious when she comes back and everything in her house smells like…Lemon Breeze or whatever?” 

It was a fair point. Next time, he would buy unscented. They left the apartment behind and made their way to the site of their earlier firefight. 

“Why are we back here?” she asked him. 

“Clues,” he answered. “Tire tracks. Tire residue. Streets and known gang hideouts close by. Lexicon won’t help us here. We’re flying blind.” 

She nodded in agreement. “Right. And if we fail, we make the Syndicate look very, very bad.” 

“There’s the kicker,” he responded, glancing at her seriously. “We shouldn’t be making them look like anything at all.” 

Through some logic and deductive reasoning, they determined that their mark was in one of three hideouts for the gang in an approximately ten-mile radius. He was pleased to find that Geneva – Sunset – had, in fact, done some research. Or at least he was, until she made a point of saying, “See? I do research.” 

“Not hard enough. Your target would be dead if you did.” 

She had no response to that. 

They decided as a unit to find out which location the mark was hiding in during their nighttime surveillance, and attack at dawn. They’d then have the element of surprise and visibility for shots fired. 

“Right. Better to do research than make shots in the dark.” She grinned. “Get it? Because shot in the dark means a wild guess, but we’d also be shooting in the nightti–”

“Yes. I get the joke.” 

She glared at him. “You really don’t have a sense of humor, do you?” 

“I do. It’s why I didn’t laugh.” 

“Right. You probably only like dark humor.” 

He tilted his head towards her in mock confusion. “Why? Because I’m of South Asian descent? Dark? Is that what you’re saying?” 

She reeled backwards. 

“NO! I didn’t mean…I was saying that…your sense of humor…you would prefer…it’s not that you’…”

He snorted and decided to put her out of her misery.

“I’m joking.” 

She straightened up and caught up to his walking pace. “Right. Yes. I knew that. I was just playing along.”

He gave her a look. “Right. You’re a contract killer, but god forbid anyone believe you’re a racist. You’ve got standards.” 

“Well, yeah! I make hits based on who Lexicon sends in, not because of some kind of bias. If anything, I’ve probably–” 

“You should stop talking.” 

“Right. Yes. Good idea.” 


Their lucky number was Hideout #2. Italian restaurant by day, gang hideout by night. They’d deduced that their mark was being concealed in one of the restaurant’s subbasements, and were currently camped out on the roof of a nearby apartment complex. Sunset had insisted on sweeping the place twice. He liked the initiative, but her reasoning was…interesting. 

“An Italian restaurant in New York is actually a gang hideout? In real life? There is no way that’s true in real life. We’re checking this place again. In real life? Seriously?” 

“It makes sense,” Seasonal shrugged. “If how surprised you are is any indication, they did a good job putting it someplace no one would expect.”

“Right,” she nodded wisely. “The Mandela effect.”

“I…what? Listen, I gave it a sweep and you gave it two. It’s 4:36 now. We stake the place out, watch incoming and outgoing, catch a break before the main event. Sound good?”

She nodded once, firmly, and put her eye to the scope. It was silent for half an hour at the least until she opened her mouth to speak again. 

“You talked to me about protocol when we first met. But we both know protocol in this case would’ve been to report me to the higher-ups through Lexicon from your earpiece and abort the mission.” She didn’t turn towards him, just kept her eye to the scope. “I didn’t want to say anything at first, because I wanted to finish the job and I was afraid you’d report me if you knew, but…there’s no way you don’t know, is there? You know, and you’re helping me anyway.” 

Seasonal kept his eyes dead ahead as well. 

“I’m always in favor of tying up loose ends,” he responded, nonchalant. “You started a job. I thought we would finish it.” 

“No.” He could see Sunset’s Cheshire grin in the dark. “I think you actually like me. You didn’t want me to have to report a botched job to Lexicon. You helped me,” she smiled. “Thank you. You’re a good friend.” 

Seasonal was silent for a moment. He wasn’t sure exactly how to respond. 

“Friends in our business have a bad habit of dying.”

“Maybe. But I think we can both trust in our abilities to keep ourselves alive, no?” 

He couldn’t argue with that. 

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess.” 

Her grin had settled into a comfortable smile. She adjusted her grip on the scope. 

“What would you have been? If you hadn’t been, you know. What we are.” 

“I would have wanted to be a journalist,” he replied, surprising himself. “I like stories. Other people’s stories. I wanted to tell them.” 

She made a sound of mild surprise. 

“Okay. What stopped you?” 

A muscle in his jaw feathered, and he was silent again for a few seconds. 

“Watched my best friend get stabbed to death. I was eight. Lived in a slum. No reason for it. Just senseless violence.” 

She didn’t respond. She was listening. 

“Plain-clothes cop caught me when he found me strangling the man who did it in an outhouse with a coat hanger. Except it turned out he wasn’t a cop. He was Syndicate. They sent me to the Aquarium. Now we’re here.” 

“The Aquarium, huh?” she asked ruefully, referring to the Syndicate’s brutal school-slash-training-ground. “Does everyone have as fond memories of it as I do?” 

He chuckled. 

“Yeah. It’s hell for everyone. Eight years there. Taught me everything I know.” 

“Me too. I spent six, though.” She was quiet again for a moment. “Wanna take over?” 

“Of course.” He unslung his rifle and placed it on the edge of the wall, pointing downward. He looked through the scope, and she slung her rifle again. 

“Do you wanna hear my story?” she asked quietly. “Shoot.” 

She choked out a surprised laugh. “Was that a pun, Seasonal?” 

“We’ll never know.” 

“Ha. Alright. Well, I was a little older than you were. Fourteen. Usually they’d say that’s too old for the Aquarium. Cutoff’s twelve at the most, and you know that. But they made an exception for me.”

He didn’t ask why, just steadily aimed the rifle. He figured she would get to it. 

“We were wealthy. Wealthier than most, I guess. A group of men…came into our home. They killed my father first. He tried to fight them. We had a gun.” 

Her voice was starting to shake. 

“You have one now. You’re not there anymore. You’re here. With me. Breathe.” He lifted his head from the scope for a moment to nod at her reassuringly before turning again. 

“Right,” she exhaled. “I’m fine. Just give me a second.”

She took a few deep breaths and continued. 

“They took the gun from him. And they shot my mother. And my sisters. And…I was there. For all of it. In the armoire. They dragged Milana out from under the bed. She always…she always hid under the bed.” 

Silence again, for a few seconds. 

“They opened the armoire too, though, and they dragged me across the floor outside. They were smiling the whole time, laughing. Then the Syndicate assassin came, and they weren’t laughing anymore.” She took one, long shaky breath. “She disemboweled every last one of them. Slowly.”

Another shaky breath. 

“And she took me with her. And now I’m here. She vouched for me, you know. I was too old. But I’d seen her. She would’ve had to take me out otherwise. She didn’t want to.” 

He had the emotions, but not the words. He finally managed to find enough to string together a sentence.

“Sometimes we break rules to help people. At the end of the day, we’re helping people.” 

“Sure,” she agreed. “But we do it in a pretty violent way, don’t you think?” 

“Yeah. I’ve got doubts. But I always tell myself the doubts come later. The mission comes now.” 

“I think everyone’s got doubts. Some people just never talk about them. We’re all just shoving feelings in the back of our heads to deal with later.” 

“This feels like sedition.” 

“You’ve already broken the rules once in the past couple days, Seasonal,” she chided in mock consternation. “Sounds like it’s becoming a pattern of behavior.”

He laughed. The joke deserved one this time. 


It was five minutes until start time for the operation. They’d made their way down and inside the restaurant. The place had been through three sweeps. The mark would be inside. That was for certain. 

“Sunset,” Seasonal whispered from across the hallway.

“What is it?” she whispered back. 

“Try and keep yourself alive. I know I will, but I’m not so sure about you.” 

She kicked him in the shin. 

“Try and focus on the mission, Seasonal. You’re picking up my bad habits.” 

The amount of times she had been right in the past few hours was beginning to worry him, but he acquiesced. They proceeded down the hallway in silence. He turned a corner to find a sleeping thug. Knife, throat. Quiet gurgling, then silence. Resolved

He turned to find Sunset dispatching another guard. She was a little bit more flashy, and he winced when she stepped on a creaky floorboard, but his guard’s counterpart on the other side of the hallway was soon taken care of as well. The job was suspiciously easy. He tapped Sunset’s shoulder and signaled her to move backward. His gut instinct told him someone was about to spring a trap, and he didn’t want her in it when it closed. 

“You take the vent route we found earlier,” he suggested to Sunset after voicing his suspicion. “Purely for my sake. I don’t have any evidence, but something’s off.”

She nodded. “I’ll trust your judgment. Doubts come later, mission comes now, right?”

He nodded in assent. She turned down another corner to get to the vent access point they’d scoped out earlier – she was the only one small enough to fit – and he continued along the same route. His sense of dread was only exacerbated by each step he took until he finally made it to the end of the hall. 

Hand on the door. He usually wouldn’t, but he was wearing gloves. This door wasn’t push-to-open, and he was a Syndicate assassin, not John Rambo: he didn’t intend to kick it down. Instead, he began to turn the handle slowly, and, bit by bit, began pushing it forward. He saw the trip wire. He heard it snap. And he flew ten feet backwards. 


Sunset carefully crept up the vent. She wasn’t going to botch this mission twice. The rifle on her back kept butting up against the roof of the vent – there was no way Seasonal would have possibly fit in here. She finally heard movement down below, and paused over a grate. 

“Boss, the entrance is rigged, like you said. If the guys find us and make it here, they’re gonna get blown to bits, hehe. But, uh…wouldn’t it be safer if you were somewhere else while–” 

She heard the dull thwack of hand meeting skin as the man’s boss slapped him. Yikes. She had to warn Seasonal, but the earpieces only went from assassin to HQ, not from assassin to assassin. They weren’t meant to work together, and the earpieces reflected that. 

“Shut up, idiot,” a different voice seethed. “These mangy freaks think they can put me in the ground. Nobody’s gonna put me in the ground, you hear me? I’m not scared of them.” 

She could hear the other man rubbing his cheek.

“Yes, boss,” he responded, sufficiently cowed. “All our guys are here, and that’s the only entrance. They’re not making it out alive.” 


She cursed. Seasonal had blown the trap. It was too late now. All she could do was make do with what was left of the situation. What would Seasonal say? she asked herself. Doubts later, she decided. Mission now. She curled herself into a ball, and exactly two seconds later kicked straight down, knocking the grate onto the bald head of a very surprised hired gun. 

Everyone stared at her silently for a moment. 

“Hey, guys.” she said politely. 

Then they started shooting at her. 


Bright lights. Ears ringing. The world was screaming in colors and noises. Gunfire. There was gunfire. Where was he? The mission. The mark. The restaurant. Christ. He pulled himself up onto his hands and knees and coughed. Wiped his mouth with his hand. Blood. That wasn’t good. 

Up, he told himself. Sunset needs you, coward. Up.

His legs and ribs screamed with pain as he drew himself up into a sitting position. His handgun had been blown out of his hand. That left the knife, and the rifle. He unslung the rifle. He’d empty his magazine. After that…he’d go from there. 

Shoot, Seasonal told himself. Buy her time. Men were streaming into the hallway, and he shouldered the gun and aimed, coughing only once. He couldn’t afford to have his aim thrown off. One shot, head, resolved. One shot, head, resolved. One shot, leg, resolved, One shot, chest, resolved

There were too many. He would resolve one mover to find two more running down the hall. He kept firing. Doubts came later, mission came now. 

One shot, head, resolved. One shot, chest, resolved.


Bloody hell. 

He’d emptied the magazine. 

He drew himself to his feet and pulled the knife. More men kept pouring into the hallway, but Seasonal couldn’t care less. He would do what he wished he’d done all those years ago, that night in the dark. 

He howled, knife in hand. Contact, neck, resolved. Contact, neck, resolved. Contact, chest. Contact, chest. Contact, chest. Pending, pending, pending

He would die for his friend. 




Seasonal, if you don’t wake up right now, YOU WILL DIE.” 

That got his attention. His eyes opened deliriously.

“What time is it?” 

Sunset laughed with relief. “Ohthankgod. I thought you were dead.” 

Seasonal winced. “I feel dead.” He pulled himself up to a sitting position. “Did you have to save my ass?”

Sunset looked at him. “No,” she said slowly. “I opened the door, and you were lying there. Everyone else in the room…Jesus, Seasonal. There must have been at least forty guys. You took them all out. All of them.” 

“I only do one thing, Sunset,” he grimaced. “It wouldn’t be much to talk about if I was bad at it. Where are we, anyway?” 

“Same hideout as before. I know we’re not supposed to repeat them, but I figured the situation called for it.”

He realized he was lying on the couch. 

“Did you drag me up the side of a building, Sunset?”

Sunset scratched her head. 

“Yes. No. Yes. Sort of. You were sort of conscious for some of it, so I don’t know how much you remember. So it was more like I helped you drag yourself up a building. It was rough though. You’re pretty heavy.” 

“Thanks,” Seasonal sighed. “The mark?” 

“Dead,” Sunset beamed. 

Seasonal couldn’t help but laugh, something his broken ribs made him immediately regret. 

“I’ve never heard anyone sound so happy while saying that.” 

“Well, he is. The party you started out in the hallway with the bomb kept them all occupied. Makes me wonder. The Aquarium course on avoiding booby traps was pretty thorough. How does a veteran Syndicate assassin manage to blow himself down a hallway?” 

She earned a rare smile from Seasonal. 

“Perceptive. We took the same course on diversions and incendiary distractions, did we not?” 

“You knew, didn’t you? It’s why you sent me up the vent instead.” 

“Let’s call it a hunch and leave it at that. It was too quiet. Never strategically sound to have all your eggs in one basket.” 

Sunset examined him shrewdly. 

“You blew yourself up on purpose.” she breathed. “This was going to be your blaze of glory. Dammit, Seasonal. Really?” 

He cocked his head at her, painfully, and half-smiled. “Like I said, right? I had enough confidence in my ability to keep myself alive. I was only counting on you holding up your end of the deal.” 

“Ha. Sure. If you say so.” She was suddenly somber. “So. Once you’re healed up, I guess our temporary partnership ends here.” 

“Yep,” Seasonal assented. “That’s the plan.” 

“Right,” she agreed quietly. “I guess I’ll see you around then.” 

“I should damn well hope so,” Seasonal shot back, pulling himself up into a roughly seated position. “The partnership was temporary, but I was assuming the friendship was not.”

Sunset’s face lit up. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, that sounds great.” 

“You free around Christmas?” 


“Awesome. I love Christmas.” 

“Will I get to see you wear an ugly sweater?” 

“You’re no longer invited.” 

“That’s fair.” 


To his very great chagrin, Seasonal found himself in a taxi back down to Queens, accompanied by Sunset. He would have preferred to walk, but she very bluntly informed him that if he tried to do that, he would likely die in the attempt. His ribs were bound, but not healed. It’d take a few weeks before he was in peak health again. She’d scrubbed the hideout this time – to his overbearing specifications – with unscented wipes instead of his preferred brand. As fond as he was of the scent of Lemon Breeze™, he recognized the flaw in continuing to use it. 

They parted ways on Queens Boulevard, a block or two down from where he’d met the old man. She was teary-eyed when she embraced him, and he laughed at her.

“Hopefully you show in about a couple weeks,” Seasonal patted her on the shoulder encouragingly. “That’s not too long.” 

“So I’m still invited?” 

“I’m not dignifying an obvious cry for validation with a response.” 

She grinned. Then she was gone. 

As he began the walk down Queens, Seasonal found himself thinking. Sunset had been right. They did good work, but it was bloody work. She’d become what she had because terrible things had happened to her. He had become what he was because he hadn’t been able to save his friend. By the time he’d found the man who killed her, he hadn’t been rescuing her. He’d been avenging her. 

But maybe things could change. His vengeance was done. Even if it was in the service of good, what kind of toll would years more of violence have on his soul? Maybe it was time to retire. Help kids instead of traumatizing them. Tell stories instead of ending them. Take care of the people he loved instead of letting them down. 

Maybe Sunset was right. Maybe he didn’t have to find his peace by finding something to die for. Maybe it was time he found something to live for. 


Seasonal swore. Sunset. She was in trouble. 

He ran, wheezing, back to where they’d parted ways, only to hear six shots ring out, clear as day. Handgun. Syndicate standard issue. Looked like a certain somebody had the situation handled. 

He stopped, panting, with his hands on his knees, and laughed, ignoring the pain in his ribs. 

Sometimes you didn’t need to take care of your friends.

Sometimes, your friends could take care of themselves.

Thrinav Sathya is a sophomore majoring in economics, data science and international studies. If he didn’t drink as much coffee as he did, he would most likely be healthier, but then none of his writing would exist.