• Trying to rub at the skin beneath his handcuffs Dominic tried not to think about his situation. The bulky goons held onto his arms with grips of iron. It seemed quite unnecessary considering he was in the middle of a desert and had nowhere to run. But if you looked at it from the positive point of view the guards showed that Dr. Grosvenor, a French Canadian mob boss, was angry that Dominic had managed to infiltrate his business so easily and thought of him as a threat. The sun was slowly going down in the sky, bathing everything in an eerie red light that created the effect of a cheesy western movie. After all, one of the goons was wearing a worn out cowboy hat and they were leading him through barren desert.
    A broad shouldered figure stood with his back to the sun, casting a maroon glow around him and hiding his features in shadows. He even had a fat cigar sticking out of his mouth. If it weren’t for his situation Dominic would’ve laughed right now. If only life were a movie. Then only the bad guys would die and he would miraculously survive and get a girl in the process.
    Smoke puffed out of the man’s mouth. He grinned. Dominic was disappointed to find no goofy gold tooth. “Hello my little friend.” The words would do well in an old fashioned movie but the French accent made it hard not to laugh. “Not so cheery now are we? I heard you hated cliché’s so I decided to make your whole death a cliché so your failure will feel that much worse as you die.” Dominic blinked. He had managed to work with Dr. Grosvenor for a month before he was found out and even while he was there he never realized how much he overdid things.
    Grosvenor nodded to the goons. The goon wearing a cowboy hat unlocked his handcuffs and released his arms. Dominic rubbed at the red marks on his hands and arms. Then a click caused him to look up. The mob boss was pointing a gun at his chest. “Any last words?”
    One last time Dominic searched Grosvenor’s grin. “Yeah, I have some last words. Where’s the golden tooth? You can never make a western cowboy movie without a golden tooth.” He smirked nervously.
    The mob boss seemed to be in shock. He didn’t move and his grin didn’t waver. Then he fell forward. The goons gasped. Dominic smirked at his secretary’s predictability. That’s why he always had people watching his back. A small dart attached to a red feather was stuck in the center of Dr. Grosvenor’s neck. Dominic’s mind quickly clicked into defense mode. Before the surprised goons could react he had jerked the gun out of Grosvenor’s stiff, still warm fingers and pointed it at them. They reached for their belts but were too late. Two gunshots rang out into the empty desert sky.

    Rapid clicking noises echoed around the tiny room. Vivian glared at the short Russian sitting before her and continued tapping her fingernails on the desk. Dominic had somehow survived his last mission and now it was her job to get him another one. Vivian had secretly told the mob boss about Dominic being a spy yet now Dominic was sitting right in front of her, alive and breathing, and Dr. Grosvenor was dead. Vivian hated him. Even though Dominic had black hair that was always up in natural spikes, Chinese eyes that seemed to be all black, and smirked instead of smiled, everyone seemed to trust him. Plus he was the government’s best spy. Stupid Russians.
    “Soooo… What’s the plan Stan?” He did his trademark smirk.
    Vivian tapped her fingers.
    Dominic bit his lip and began to tap his on fingernails on the desk. Then he started tapping with his other hand. Then he began to hum. At last she couldn’t take it anymore. “Stop! Okay? Stop! Let me explain something to you about your last mission, you failed. The mob boss died. Yet the boss seems to think you did perfectly well and only killed them in self defense. You tell me what’s wrong with that.”
    Black eyes stared at her from the other side of the desk. An uncomfortable silence seemed to fill every corner of the room. Dominic’s face began to turn red. Then scarlet. Then a color that couldn’t be described as purple but was close. At last he opened his mouth and a burp that could’ve created avalanches was let loose. Vivian stared at him in open mouthed amazement.
    “Stop staring at me like that. And close your mouth, you look like a goldfish. I’m sorry but I happen to burp when I’m freaked out and you happen to be one of the few people that scare me. Anyway, I couldn’t think of an answer to your question so… What’s the plan Pam? And I used a girl’s name that time so you have no reason to glare at me.” Dominic crossed his arms and nodded stiffly.
    For once Vivian wanted to laugh. He looked so comical with that last pose that even the most stuck up person in the world would laugh. After taking several small breaths to make sure she wouldn’t burst out laughing Vivian opened up the folder sitting on the desk in front of her. A picture of Dominic was in one corner and the words Dominic Zheldak were at the top right hand corner. “According to your file you are good at using all kinds of weapons and know how to make all of them. This should make your next job moderately easy. You will be joining a new Russian mob as an assassin and guard.” Dominic winced at the words Russian mob. Apparently it was insult to his pride but Vivian didn’t care. She found it funny. “You will find out where they plan to strike next and notify us. We will tell you when to disappear so you won’t get killed. Will you take the job?”
    His smirk showed off his sharp canine teeth. “Sounds like fun. Where do I find them, what will my name be, and why am I joining?”
    Vivian frowned. Dominic seemed to be enjoying the prospect of this job too much. It wasn’t her job to choose whether he got it or not though. “They’re in Watts, Las Angeles. Ask around for the exact address but be subtle about it. Your name will be Vadim Dmitriev. You will be joining because the Americans didn’t appreciate your talent in your last job and your paycheck was too small. You good with that?”
    Dominic bit his lip and coughed into his hand several times. A small giggle showed through the coughs. Vivian glared at him. “What’s so funny?!?”
    After more rapid coughs Dominic sucked in a deep breath. “Sorry, it’s the name. Vidim. I knew five different guys named Vadim back in Russia and they were all dumb as a doorknob. Am I supposed to act dumb?” He immediately began to drool and closed his eyes halfway so that barely any of them could be shown. An obvious show of dumbness.
    All Vivian could hear was a whistling sound in her ears. It sounded like a train whistle. She quickly blinked sever times. Her doctor had warned her to never get too angry or she might get ear problems. “Go away train…” She whispered to herself. Then, glancing up at Dominic, Vivian bit her lip and took several deep breaths. “Does this mean that you want to have a different name? That would take several hours because we would need to make the real Vadim dead again on the records and find another person for you to pretend to be.” Either Dominic hadn’t noticed her whispering and deep breathing or he had pretended to ignore it. Another problem with him was he could hide his emotions easily.
    “Umm… How many hours is several?” He smiled sweetly. An actual smile. Not a smirk. Now he was definitely acting.
    The door slammed open and hit the metal chair Dominic was sitting in with a screeching wail. A man wearing a dark suit and fedora stepped into the room. The scarf wrapped around his neck and sunglasses gave him the designer outfit look. Vivian glanced at Dominic, expecting him to comment on it. He seemed suddenly interested in a spot on the floor.
    The man smiled and began to speak. “Hello, you are Vivian if I am correct? And this is the amazing Dominic that I’ve heard so much about from the other employees. I am one of the philanthropists that support this company so I’ve decided to see what I’m investing in.” He glanced at Dominic and tried to figure out what he was staring at.
    Dominic quickly cleared his throat and smirked slightly. He quickly shook hands with the philanthropist. “Nice to meet you mister…?”
    “Smith. Oh, did I interrupt anything?” Mr. Smith frowned and glanced at Vivian.
    A touch screen phone had suddenly appeared in Dominic’s hands and he rapidly searched something on Google. Vivian stared at him and Mr. Smith followed her gaze. Dominic quickly closed whatever he was doing and put his cell back in his tux. He coughed into his hand “Liar.”
    Mr. Smith’s slight smile vanished. He opened the door and motioned to Dominic. “Could I uhmm… Speak with you for a second? Now.”
    Vivian jumped up and glanced at them nervously. “Sir, I’m sorry about Dominic’s behavior I assure you he’s the only person here who acts like this.” She wrung her hands and glared at Dominic.
    Rolling his eyes at her childishly Dominic stepped out of the room. Mr. Smith quickly closed the door and began to whisper. “Yes my name isn’t Mr. Smith but I promise I’m not trying to infiltrate your business.”
    Dominic’s eyes widened to reveal the fact that his grey eyes actually did have color besides black. “How… Okay, so you know that I own the business.” The normally impish look on his face slid away to reveal his worry. “Do not absolutely not tell anyone, okay? If you do I probably won’t be able to do anything to help the business besides boss people around which is absolutely boring.”
    Mr. Smith raised an eyebrow. “Anyway, there is something true about my alibi for I am going to give your company money. Though I doubt you’ll need it with your inheritance.”
    The smirk slid back onto Dominic’s face. “My friend, I haven’t used one bit of my inheritance. You only know half of my secret life.” With this last note he slid back into Vivian’s office. He wasn’t sure where that had come from. As far as he knew his only jobs were being the boss of the company and working for the company. Vivian glared at him. The childish smile slipped back onto his face. “Don’t worry, he thinks I’m funny! Now, gimme the briefing and I’ll get back to work. This time don’t try to kill me. I’m not that annoying am I?” He flashed a smirk at her and left her gaping in shock. She had actually thought her cell wasn’t monitored. It was time to hire smarter people.
    The giant double fudge chocolate frosted and chocolate chip covered cake seemed to taunt Tazn from the window. He unconsciously began to drool with his mouth open. Sarti glanced at him from her perch on a lawn chair and giggled. They were the first ones outside of the giant Azteco electronics store. As soon as they had seen the ad on TV for the new only one hundred dollar pocket computer they had rushed to be first in line at the door of the store. Now about twenty people were in all assortments of tents and lawn chairs. It was only four o’clock in the morning. Three hours till opening. Luckily Tazn was easily passing time by staring at the cake at the store across the street. Sarti rolled her eyes and continued reading.


    On and on…

    Time passed…

    And at last…

    It opened.

    Tazn rushed past the surprised store manager and grabbed the circular palm sized computer. Sarti followed close behind and they both rushed to the desk with hundred dollar bills in their sweaty palms. “I’ll take this.” They said in almost unison. The manager seemed astonished by the wave of other people rushing in and grabbing computers but he quickly took their money and gave them each a bag.
    “There are directions on the bottom. I hope you enjoy your new pocket computers. Just remember, its holograms now and try not to hurt your eyes from using it too much.” Tazn and Sarti smiled sweetly at the older man and rushed out the door so they wouldn’t get stampeded at the race to get to the front desk first.
    The manager smiled as he took everyone’s money for the new high-tec computer. Nobody cared who was inventing the computers they just wanted them. His boss’s identity would hopefully remain secret for a long time.

    The tiny lantern’s dull glow made a weak attempt to banish the growing darkness around it. Sever moths were sitting on it, hiding its light even more. The crumbling old shack the lantern was attached to looks as if it could fall down any second. Dominic raised an eyebrow. Apparently the Russian mob was even dumber than he thought. Maybe it was full of Vadims. If the shack was really that old then the lantern would be broken or fallen down and wouldn’t work at all. Also the wall, if you reached forward and poked it, felt perfectly sturdy and if you rubbed at it you would see the steel underneath.
    After he had left Vivian’s office Dominic had immediately taken a jet to Watts, LA. Once he had gotten there he went to the closest bar and stole a newspaper. If a newspaper was only 75 cents, why waste just that tiny amount of money buying it? It doesn’t necessarily count as stealing it if it barely costs anything, right? Anyway, on the add part of the newspaper he had found an ad for a Russian with some experience with weapons and an address beneath that. For some reason Dominic hadn’t expected them to get away so easily with advertising in the newspaper so obviously. But then again, this was Watts he was talking about.
    Dominic glanced at his watch and tested the deck with a boot. A portion of the deck fell away then flipped back up. Even more proof of their stupidity. If they had been smarter they would make the floor have a scale attached to it so that only people above… Say a hundred fifty pounds would fall through. That way they would avoid getting curious teenagers in their base. Unless they were fat. In that case they could cut him/her up and have a month’s supply of meat. Yum, tastes like chicken. Dominic chuckled at this thought.
    Carefully stepping around the spot where the floor fell he reached out and tried to open the door. Locked. Still perilously balanced above the falling floor Dominic pulled his lock picking kit out of his right boot. Thirty seconds later he heard a click and the door swung open on oiled hinges. Dominic carefully tested the floor inside of the shack then waited. Lights flashed on and centered on the spot where his foot had been a millisecond before. This mob really needed to update its security. Clunking sounds echoed around the inside of the tiny shack. As Dominic had thought, the whole inside of the shack was strong metal and therefore the sounds of footsteps were magnified. That would be smart to detect visitors but it also warned them of incoming goons.
    Dominic quickly jumped and caught hold of the overhang on the shack. Swinging his legs back and forth a couple times he flung himself onto the roof. Landing with a cat’s grace, he made no sound but a soft thud. Dominic crawled forward and peeked over the edge. Two thick-headed goons wearing all black stepped out and looked around. Dominic stifled a groan. Mobs always seemed to try to copy the movies. Clichés were everywhere. One of them, either really dumb or retarded, stepped forward and fell through the trap floor. The other one, amazingly enough you could get dumber, went too close to the edge to look for his friend and fell through. Biting his knuckles to keep from laughing Dominic ventured closer to the edge and looked to see if anyone else was coming. No more heavy boots echoed on the metal.
    Scrambling across the roof tiles as quietly as he could Dominic went to the other side of the building. A larger wooden door with a goofy transformers symbol carved into it was firmly attached to its hinges. They weren’t even trying to attempt hiding the sturdiness of this door. Shrugging to himself Dominic slid forward and hooked his feet in the gutters. In a Cirque de Soleil like move he swung forward and barely avoided smacking his forehead on the wood. The building itself was pretty tall but there wasn’t much overhang and the angle of the roof was amazingly severe.
    After testing the deck with his fingers he swung forward, opened the door, and flipped back onto the roof. Another goon, this one holding a gun and at least looking a bit smarter with sunglasses (it was still dark out), dashed forward and found no one to shoot. Dominic leaned forward so that his arms were crossed on the gutters and the upper half of his body was visible to the gunman. He cleared his throat. The gunman’s head jerked in surprise and he spun around. Dominic pulled himself up into a squatting position and just as the gunman saw him he swung his legs forward and smacked the metal bottom of his boot on his head. Luckily for the gunman Dominic had only done a KO move and didn’t kill him.
    With one smooth move he jumped off the roof, spun around and landed in front of the door. Glancing at the gunman’s unconscious body Dominic stole his gun and shoved him out of the way. The transformers door lightly swung back and forth in the slight breeze. That was called too oiled hinges. Dominic stepped forward and surveyed the room. It was pretty much empty besides a platform in the middle that looked like a huge version of the new Azteco hologram computer. Sure enough Dominic could see AZTECO on the side. The mob had probably stolen it from a store. Dominic pushed the thought of Azteco from his mind and glanced upward at the rafters. All of the traps outside had seemed pretty standard so having hidden floor traps and etcetera inside would complete the kit.
    Standing on his tippy toes Dominic found he could reach one of the large beams that seemingly randomly criss-crossed all over the upper part of the ceiling. He was only five feet tall. Whoever had designed this shack sucked at their job. Dominic jumped and swung himself up onto the beam with ease. As soon as he saw the beams from above he realized something. The rafters weren’t randomly placed, they were placed so that the person looking for a job would find it easy to jump from one to the next and make it to the middle of the room. This was all a test to see if he was capable of being in the Russian mob. A smile played across his lips as he crossed the beams to the hologram computer. Maybe this mob was smarter than he thought. None of the other mobs had bothered making tests; they just welcomed people in and looked at their resume. Hopefully this meant he wouldn’t need to lose another hour of his life to a mob boss talking about their mob. With a little skip of joy Dominic hung from the beam upside down and pressed the little red button in the center of the ‘o’ on Azteco. He quickly swung back up onto the beam and prepared for more booby traps.
    With a bright flash of lights the face of a Russian woman appeared above the giant hologram computer. The hologram was crisp, clear, and had perfect coloring unlike the ridiculous attempts that the government had made before Azteco. Her thickly accented voice rang out and bounced between the metal walls. Dominic winced and cupped his hands over his ears. “Congratulations. You will be the first to pass our test and make it into the one and only Russian mob’s already great force.” Wow. The mob actually thought they were the only Russian mob. Somebody had misinformed them. And the fact that the test was new explained the mistakes Dominic had found. “Please press the off button on this, even the Russian mob needs to save electricity, and proceed to the trap door next to this computer.”
    The woman’s face was replaced with a slowly spinning Azteco logo. The weak remains of an echo continued to bounce around the shack until at last it died. Dominic at last swung back down to turn off the giant computer but didn’t touch the ground yet. Still hanging from his legs he grabbed a bright red can of smoke from one of his many pockets and sprayed it around the room. All of those ridiculous movies showed spies and thieves wearing all black but as long as you just wore black on top you could wear any color you wanted. Dominic usually wore a black trench coat and bright red shirt underneath. Red was the color of blood, therefore his favorite color.
    Sea blue lights ran in streaks all around the room, sometimes crossing so much they gave the effect of a river. The alarm triggers were designed just as badly as the rafter beams. But when it came to alarms, as long as you could afford it, there was no overdoing it. With a dreary sigh Dominic swung back onto the beams and pulled out a neon green flashlight. Red smoke can and green flashlight, Christmas colors. Who could hate Christmas? Switching on the flashlight he scanned the walls for hidden cracks, a slight indent or bulge, anything that might reveal a control panel. None were in sight. Still better than an interview. Dominic turned off the flashlight and after shoving it back in the pocket he’d found it in he turned the huge computer back on. He quickly hacked into the system and switched off the alarm triggers.
    “Congratulations!!!” Dominic almost fell of the beam in surprise. “Out of the so far sixty people that have come here since we installed the system and you’re the first to pass! I was worried we’d made it too hard… But I guess it isn’t! That or you’re just amazing. Anyway, the test’s over for real now so I’ll send some macho men to escort you. Please don’t kill them.” This voice was the same voice as the Russian woman’s but it was a lot more animated and lively. Dominic quickly located tiny dots at each corner of the room that showed speakers before shutting off the computer.
    Two thick headed goons that looked like they were only in their twenties came up through a large trap door next to the computer. The woman hadn’t lied about the location of the trapdoor at least. They were chuckling and whispering to each other. “Dude! She called us macho men! Isn’t that like, awesome? Maybe she thinks we’re better than the other ‘goons.’” He grinned widely to reveal several missing teeth.
    The other goon rolled his eyes. “Not thinks we’re better she knows we’re better than the others. Now let’s just prove that to her and bring the new recruit without talking a bunch.” He was grinning just as widely as the other man. Then they stopped. “Wait, where’s the new recruit? Crap we can’t mess this up we just made it to macho men!”
    Dominic sighed and swung down so he was hanging upside down in front of the goons. They both yelped in surprise. “Go back into the trap door macho men. I’ll follow.”
    They quickly recovered from their surprise and grinned when he said macho men. The goon with bad teeth spoke first. They seemed to be in an ongoing competition to speak before each other. “Kay, follow us batman you’re gonna have to follow us underground so fold up your wings and turn on your night vision.” He chuckled at his own joke and elbowed his buddy to do the same.
    Working here was going to be interesting. Dominic did a couple flips in mid air to show off and landed lightly on the floor. They both gaped in amazement. “It’s called echolocation. Bats can’t actually see in the night. They make extremely high pitched sounds like this-,” Dominic made a high pitched sound that echoed around the room, “except so high that human ears can’t hear it. Now, I’m following you and you aren’t going anywhere. What am I supposed to do?”
    The goons quickly snapped out of their confusion and began to head back down the trap door. Dominic followed close behind. This was definitely going to be interesting.
    ∞ One Month Previous ∞
    An icy wind snuck into every crack, immediately banishing every speck of heat it found. It seemed to falter once it reached the mega mansion at the top of the hill. Dark gargoyles with grumpy expressions glared on everyone that dared to walk between the spiked black gates that guarded the mansion. Two countries north of there was another mansion was embraced by warm sunlight as kids from all around the city came to the gigantic swimming pools for the annual pool party. The young owner of the mansion smiled cheerfully at the children as they raced to the giant slides.
    At twenty-three years old Colin Azteco, at least this was his given name, was the richest man in the world at more than three hundred trillion dollars and making more by the second. He was called the modern Einstien by news programs all over the world. Yet nobody even attempted to find out who the inventor was of all of the inventions. Colin had four different bought identities but the only one he used was Xavier Mallistar. It had a nice ring to it and everyone in the city respected him.
    Colin brushed a leaf off his bright Hawaiian shirt and headed inside his mansion. Three cheerful cooks, each carrying a gigantic cake, headed to the picnic tables by the largest pool. Colin smiled at them. “Don’t forget to try some of the cake yourselves!” They stared at him in astonishment but continued to the picnic tables. Colin shook his head, bemused. Those cooks must be new. Apparently rich people were expected to be snobby. Most were but there were also plenty that weren’t.
    A cool summer breeze brought the smell of freshly cut flowers. Each of the gardeners was expertly making flower necklaces for each of the staff members. This year the party was a Hawaiian theme and they had insisted on making real flowered necklaces. Colin gave them thumbs up and opened the large glass doors of the mansion. The polished pearl floor had a cloudlike look to it and he had to resist testing if it really was. Another cook passed by with a cake and Colin waved him over. “If anyone asks I’m busy. No interruptions.” This cook wasn’t new and nodded knowingly.
    A small spiral staircase made of, of course, pearl led Colin up to a small room made entirely of metal. Scattered randomly around the room were various piles of wires, circuit boards, and many other kinds of things that could be taken from electronics. Colin settled on a clear spot on the floor and carefully inspected each pile. Seconds later he set to work. Two hours later he would come out with the new hologram computer. Just so he would make more money he would wait until people started to get bored of his old inventions before letting this one out into the public. Life was good.
    ∞Present Time ∞
    Curious faces stared at Dominic from behind newspapers, laptops, etc. Knowing how the woman had reacted he was glad they didn’t scream out wahoo or congratulations. If that woman was the boss of this organization then even without Dominic it was going down. The goons strode down the hall with obvious self importance and occasionally bad teeth would glance back and make sure Dominic was still following. Dominic tried to keep his face down, putting off the inevitable. At last they reached an oak door with a golden plaque on it. Scratched neatly into the plaque was Laurelle Darvi: Russian and Proud. Wow. This woman really took being Russian seriously. Hopefully she would accept half Russians like Dominic. His Chinese genes were much more obvious than his Russian ones. If you were to describe Dominic in mainly genes this was what you’d get, Russian accent, Chinese eyes, Chinese hair color, Chinese shortness, and spiky hair that comes from nowhere whatsoever.
    Bad teeth goon winked at Dominic and opened the door. “Good luck Batman. Don’t go trying to suck anyone’s blood or we’ll have to clip your wings.”
    Dominic chuckled at this joke and stepped into the room. A shock of tropical air traveled up his nostrils and almost, almost specified, stumbled backwards. The room was amazingly simple. There was one file cabinet by the door, one desk at the far side of the room, and three chairs, two in front of the desk one behind it. The source of the smell was the scented candles on the desk. Laurelle Darvi didn’t look at all like the hologram face that had told Dominic about the test being supposedly finished. She had childish features, a wide grin, and looked to be about six feet tall. Six feet wasn’t necessarily considered really tall anymore but it was a foot taller than Dominic. He groaned inwardly.
    “Hello hello hello! Welcome to the Russian mob my friend. You’re lucky enough to have three choices for what job you want here. You can be an assassin, a hacker, or attack planner. What do you say?” She leaned forward and stared at him eagerly.
    No need for an alibi here. They were obviously desperate for anyone, whether their name was Vadim or not. “Ello ello ello right back atcha I’m Valentin but my friends call me Valentine. Unless there are other people lined up for those jobs is there a chance I could be all three?” Vadim was just too stupid of a name. No chance of him using it.
    Laurelle glared at him. All of a sudden she didn’t look so childish. Maybe this organization was run better than he thought. Maybe. “Please don’t mimic the way I speak mister ‘Valentine’. And don’t joke with me. We have a lot of people we need to kill and a lot of secure places we need to hack so we can get money so there’s no way you’ll be able to do those two jobs alone never mind adding attack planning onto that. Now, which one would you like?”
    Childish Laurelle was nicer. Dominic glared right back at her. “If you don’t think I can do all three jobs then I won’t join. I might even let it slip about this organization while I’m around the police. Then they might actually begin to do their job.” It was never good to start a feud with your boss on the first day but he was sure about his abilities and wasn’t going to be treated like a low life.
    The tapping began. Was it just him or did everyone he made a feud with have long fingernails that they liked to tap? “Fine. If you wanna be that way be that way. If you don’t survive with the workload then you’ll just get a job as a lowly goon. You’ll be lower than my macho men.” She nodded, happy with her decision.
    “Goons and macho men are different? Wow. That’s new. Just give me the names of places to hack and people to assassinate and I’ll begin with that. Then you gotta explain to me what you plan on attacking and I’ll draw up some plans.” Dominic checked his watch and frowned. What was he checking his watch for? He felt like he was repeating something he had done a week ago. It gave him a weird déjà vu feeling.
    Laurelle rolled her chair over to the filing cabinets and retrieved three thick files. She rolled back to her desk and stood up. “These files are for each of your jobs. You will have to finish the jobs in the assassin and hack files by the end of this month and make plans relating to destroying a specific organization. Good luck.” Just as Dominic stood up a Laurelle let out a short spurt of laughter. “Holy crap you’re short!”
    Red spots began to swim before his eyes. He felt his cheeks flush. “Please, I already went to anger management once don’t make me kill you.” Dominic quickly checked his watch again and exited the room. What was with his memory today?
    The macho men grinned and nodded to him. “Follow us Batman. You’re lucky today. Bavio just died so you’ll get his office. It’s big and has lots of plants. You’ll have lots of oxygen.” The last part was probably to make him sound smart but it wasn’t working. Dominic smirked and followed them down another hallway. This one actually had shiny wooden floors and pictures on the walls. They stopped at a black wood door with another transformers symbol on it.
    Dominic turned and held up a finger. “Question, what’s with the transformer symbols? I’ve seen two so far. Was Bavio a transformers fan or something?”
    The macho men stared at him blankly. “Wait, you mean the robot thingy? That was Bavio’s way of saying something was his or that he designed it. Now we’re just using it to show that you’re the attack planner. Now get to work.” Bad teeth goon really seemed to like the sound of his own voice. The other goon just laughed at his jokes and stood there looking menacing.
    Bavio didn’t sound very smart. That or the goons just didn’t like him therefore didn’t talk about him much. Dominic waved them away and stepped into the room. Definitely lots of oxygen. It was very humid in the room and plants of all colors, shapes, and sizes filled every clear space in the room. However Bavio had survived working in this room he would never know. Lots of people would find plants on their desks today.
    ∞ Not Long Ago ∞
    Ozzie Nepek blinked. How had he gotten here again? Oh yeah, he’d gone home so he could get ready for the party. It was free drink day at the bar and a bunch of his friends were coming with radios and music equipment. Ozzie would be singing tonight. He checked his watch. For some reason he’d forgotten about the party earlier but now he remembered. Probably the side effects of getting drunk sometime. Oh well. Ozzie pulled on a jacket and ran his fingers through his spiky black hair. He put some slight eye shadow above his eyes to make himself look more American and took a peek in the mirror. Did he really look like that? He couldn’t remember. No need to worry though. Soon he would get drunk and forget all about his memory problems.
    Ding dong ding a ding dong!
    A familiar voice spoke through the intercom. “Hey buddy I got us a ride so hurry up! Can’t keep the fans waiting!” Who was he again? Oh yeah, Jackamo. His current best friend. Not long ago his old best friend had been arrested for embezzling. It had actually been Ozzie but who cared. As long as he didn’t go to jail everything would be fine.
    There was an intercom by the window. Ozzie stumbled over to it and leaned heavily on the wall. “I’m a’ comin’! Jus’ got some memory probs ‘gain…” He waited.
    Finally a response came. “Dude… Are you taking those drugs I gave you? They should help. Just don’t take it with any other drugs. At least I think that’s what the directions said… They’re down the drain now. Don’t follow the fake directions I posted on the side. That’s just to fake out the police so they don’t know you’re takin’ it. Anyway, hurry up and come down!”
    The world swam before his eyes. He quickly stumbled to the door and stepped out into the hallway. With numb fingers he fished his keys out of his pocket and locked the door. He was currently staying at an apartment but he usually lived at a normal sized house in California. This place seemed smaller and easier to maintain though. It wasn’t too complex. Ozzie smiled to himself and stumbled down the stairs. Jackamo met him at the bottom and grinned. He was exactly how you would expect an Italian mob boss to look and sound. Sadly he wasn’t the boss of a mob; he simply stole things and sold them himself. According to him he got more profit off of it and he probably did. No people to split the money with meant he got more money himself.
    “Yo Ozzie! You don’t really look so good. I got a million big buckos for a jewel yesterday so I can probably take you to a doctor. Not today though, we got a gig. C’mon I brought the Ferrari.” He winked and brought out his car keys.
    Ozzie laughed and shook his head. “Don worry I’m feelin’ better already. This a new Ferrari or that older red one you’ve been obsessing over?” He slid down the banister the rest of the way and skidded to a stop in front of Jackamo. Every one of his friends was taller than him, Jackamo included, but they all treated him like the boss.
    “If you say so. I’ma take you to the doctor anyway though. This is the red one that I am not obsessing over. I just polish it every day cuz it smears easy. Jus’ got flames painted on the side. Mix o’ blue and green.” Jackamo pushed open the stiff wooden doors of the apartment complex with some effort to reveal a shining Ferrari.
    The Ferrari was made in the late 2000s but with the care Jackamo gave it the car looked shinier than a shooting star. If Jackamo wasn’t there to tell you not you’d think it wasn’t 2145. Ozzie grinned and slid in. The seat seemed to suck him into it and mold itself to fit him. The look on his face must’ve shown how he felt because Jackamo laughed as he hopped into the driver’s seat. “What’s this seat made-,” Ozzie was abruptly cut off by the roar of the engine. The seatbelt automatically buckled him in and Jackamo got a mad look in his eyes. With one last roar of the engine they sped off at ninety miles per hour. Jackamo maneuvered around all the cars around him and sped past a red light. Ozzie closed his eyes and waited for the sirens. Nothing happened. The only sound was the now softer rumble of the Ferrari’s engine. Slowly Ozzie opened his eyes. Buildings were only smears and the cars were obstacles to swerve around. The mph gauge now read 130 mph. Ozzie stared in amazement as Jackamo waved to a cop that he swerved around. They waved back.
    Minutes later they jolted to a stop in front of a large, squat building. Bright green neon lettering across the front of the building read bob’s bar. So far a Lamborghini, Mustang, Porsche, Lotus, Austin Martin, BMW, and various other kinds of cars were parked outside. Bob’s Bar wasn’t normally a place rich people visited but today they had put an ad in the newspaper saying this: ‘YouTube star Demon-Ice coming to Bob’s Bar for performance at 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. this Tuesday!!!’ Apparently a lot of rich people who had nothing better to do watched YouTube.
    Jackamo hopped out of the Ferrari and grinned at Ozzie. “My friend you are popular with the rich people. I bet with a lot o’ teens you’re popular too but they don’t necessarily read the newspaper. And neither do I but word passes around quick.” He winked. Most of Jackamo’s life seemed to be made of winking, grinning, driving, and stealing.
    Ozzie just shook his head and took his electric keyboard out of the back of the Ferrari. Jackamo had kept it there for the night knowing Ozzie would probably forget. Nobody was sure why Ozzie had such bad memory and sometimes he just suddenly blacked out then left when he woke up but they just ignored it. That was everyone except Jackamo. Jackamo’s father hadn’t been a mob boss either, he actually had a disorder just like Ozzie’s but Jackamo wouldn’t tell him what it was called. Ozzie glanced at his watch one more time before walking in. 5:30 p.m. It was going to be a long night.
    An hour after he finished getting rid of the plants he didn’t like and rearranging the ones he did like Dominic finished hacking into all of the places he needed to. Now he opened the ‘Assassination’ folder and began to read about his first job. A rich used to be mob boss who lived in a huge mansion with lots of cameras but only one guard tower. Easy. His second job. An overweight black market manager with high-tech security Manufactured by Azteco. Also easy. He could probably get those two finished today. If most of his jobs were going to be like that he could probably get them all finished in two weeks.
    A sweet aroma tickled Dominic’s nose tauntingly. He sniffed and tried to identify the smell. It was a mix of warm coffee cake and peanut butter cookies. Both of them were extremely fattening. That meant it wouldn’t be too bad of a distraction for him. A voice that was almost as sweet as the smell of the cookies pierced the stifling silence that had been there since Dominic had first gotten there. “Fresh treats! Today I have coffee cakes, peanut butter cookies, and even normal cookies for those who are allergic. If you want more selection come to Flossie’s Kitchen Corner, Flossie’s me, and get all the free treats you want. Starting today we’re stocking low calorie and non fattening treats too!” The sounds of screeching metal and stomping feet were so loud and so many that it could probably be heard from above ground. This must happen a lot. Dominic shook his head thoughtfully and memorized the addresses of the two people he was to assassinate today. Soon the only sound in the office space was the Venus Fly Trap on the corner of his desk snapping shut on an innocent fly.
    Alistair Fleming Jr. felt on top of the world. Alistair Sr. had died the previous night and now Alistair Jr. owned the business. Sr. didn’t enjoy killing people much and look where that got him. Dead. Sometimes life was just so awesome. Alistair hummed to himself as he reviewed his attack plans. Starting at the end of the month he would both destroy all of the other mobs and get rid of the weaker fighters Alistair Sr. had been reluctant to fire. It was probably because in the mob business firing was killing. No lose strings could be tolerated.
    Loud stomping noises jerked Alistair out of his daydreaming. A tall boy whose limbs looked too long for his body stumbled over to him. This was one of the people he planned on killing. “Heya sir couldja paleez stop glaring at mae like thayt? We err… Gotta problem with them computers. When we went to put thayt money in the account it said thayt we should have a merry Christmas and that the account had been emptied. Soz it has the date wrong and your money amount. Oh yeah, also theyre was a ninja picture below them words and it sed compliments of the Russian Mob next ta it. Aren’t they them guys we’re gonna attack next week?” Throughout the conversation the boy’s mouth opened and closed like a cow munching on grass. You could both hear and see his gum from across the room.
    Why did everything have to go wrong just as it was finally going right? The temperature in the room seemed to rise by ten degrees. At last he burst. “THE RUSSIAN MOB?!?!?!?! THEY’RE THE DUMBEST MOB OUT THERE HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY?!?!?… Okay, relax, deep breaths.” Alistair rubbed his temples. The boy continued to chew his gum. He didn’t seem very surprised by Alistair’s outburst. Maybe he had more experience with mobs than he let on.
    “Uh boss? I’mma go home now cuz I gotta eat dinner an all thayt stuff. Have a nice day.” He spit his gum out in the garbage can by the door and left Alistair still fuming behind him. A calming purple and pink sunset could be clearly seen from the windows outside Alistair’s office. If only he would open his curtains and see it he might calm down more easily and realize the beauty of the world. The boy shook his head. No chance of that happening. Grownups were so pessimistic these days. He smiled as he watched the sun go down. It was easy to tell Alistair was going to fire or kill him soon. He’d better enjoy his last days as much as he could then move back to Arizona. Life was always good and simple in his eyes.

    Dominic watched the world through half closed eyes as the sun fell before him. Smog partly obstructed the sunset but he could still see the beautiful mix of colors reflecting on the clouds. Today had been a full day. The assassination jobs were actually pretty easy and he had managed to kill five whole people and avoid being seen by his coworkers in one day. Now he was kicking back and relaxing on the roof of the building while he watched people exit the building. It really was a naïve organization. Not only did the workers leave the shack in full view of anyone who could be watching they also talked and laughed loudly while they did it. Was Dominic really the only intelligent person here? This organization was definitely going to go down without his help. That didn’t mean he would quit though. It was so far paying pretty well. Someone, probably a goon sent by Laurelle, had slipped a note under his door saying when he should arrive at work and what he would be paid each week. $3,000. Not that he needed the money but it would be a waste to have an organization go down and never make money off it.
    A crashing sound split through the air and hit Dominic’s ear. He winced and glanced behind him. The two goons from earlier that day scrambled up the roof sending tiles skidding down behind them to hit some innocent bystander. A spindly boy appeared from the shadows behind them, jumping over the tiles and managing to not send any tiles of his own down behind them. He grinned at Dominic, showing off all of his pearly white teeth. Now that was what you called a Cheshire Cat grin. Dominic looked to the goons for an explanation.
    A gap toothed grin spread across one of the goon’s faces. “Hi batman. The most predictable place for a batman to be would be up high so that’s how I found you. I never introduced myself so… I’ll introduce myself. I’m Brick and my buddy here is Stone. The little skinny dude is Fazio. He came to us so that we could train him to be strong and smart like us.” Fazio rolled his eyes at their explanation of him and smiled at Dominic.
    Laurelle was the last person to leave the building. She carried a suitcase in one hand and didn’t seem to be accompanied by anyone. Apparently she wasn’t the popular kind of boss. Dominic watched her leave and glanced back at the goons and their apprentice. They were staring at him expectantly. He blinked. “What?”
    Fazio smirked and climbed up past Brick and Stone. He leaned forward so that he was centimeters away from Dominic’s ear then shouted, “You’re supposed to introduce yourself dumbass!” Dominic’s ear rang like a monastery’s bells but he refused to show weakness in front of such a weak looking kid.
    “You may continue calling me Batman. My normal name is ridiculous because of what it means in English. If you’re really curious then just ask your boss. She knows my name.” Now he regretted saying his name was Valentin. That sounded even worse than Vadim. Fazio’s face wrinkled up in a look of scorn at the mention of their boss and the goons smiled nervously. She was definitely not the popular kind of boss.
    All of a sudden Brick and Stone got serious looks on their faces. They crossed their arms and glared at him in synchronization. It must’ve been a well practiced thug move for they didn’t even compliment each other on how good their unison was. “Listen Batman, if you wanna be our friend and stay on our good side you gotta treat us as equals and tell us your name. Otherwise we’ll make you wish you were never alive.” For once it wasn’t gap toothed Brick who was talking. Stone must be the more serious one.
    Stones seemed to be slowly being placed on his back throughout the day, weighing him down more and more by the second. Why couldn’t anyone be what they looked like they were? First Laurelle, now Stone and Brick. Then again, pretending to be someone he wasn’t was one of Dominic’s ways of making a living. Dominic sighed and watched as the last streak of sun left the sky and the big dipper became clearer in the smoggy sky. Fazio followed his gaze and tried to see what he was looking at. At last he gave up and just continued glaring. After searching the skies several times and not being able to find the North Star Dominic looked back at Brick and Stone. It was most likely they wouldn’t ask Laurelle to see if he was telling the truth so he would change his name again. “My name is Dmitri. I hate it because it is similar to the name of a godess which is a girl so if you want to stay on my good side please continue calling me Batman.” Hopefully they had forgotten him saying he hated his name because of what it meant in English.
    Immediately uncrossing his arms Brick grinned at him and patted him on the back. Hopefully now he would remain friendly for a while. Never mind the fact the pat almost sent him skidding down the roof tiles to become a splatter on the pavement and quickly forgotten by the few friends he had. Stone and Fazio remained glaring at him for a few more seconds then Stone uncrossed his arms. Fazio followed Stone’s example almost perfectly. Stone’s lack of talking must be from him trying to set a good example for Fazio. Brick wasn’t even trying to set a good example.
    Once he decided Polaris wasn’t going to show up through the smog Dominic nodded to the goons and goon in training and jumped down from the roof. Their unexpected meanness was going to make them get the silent treatment for a long time. He was still going to be friends with them though. If the mob for some reason didn’t go down on its own Dominic would still need to be on the good side of the people that worked for it.
    Just as he had reached his temporary home in Watts the world became a swirl of colors around him and the ground zoomed toward his face. The empty darkness filled his vision and a dull whining sound echoed around his ears.

    Ozzie yawned and checked his watch. His head felt much clearer now and the ground felt much more solid beneath his feet. Jackamo had gotten him some new prescription drugs and they seemed to be working much better than the last ones. For an Italian mobster Jackamo really acted kind of motherly when it came to Ozzie’s health. This was a friend who he wouldn’t frame if he did something wrong again. Jackamo would probably just bail him out. A rich friend is a good friend.