I miss my legs.
I watch the gentlemens' pants curl around their own calves, fabric swaying as their toes stretch skyward. My fingers curl around the cold metal of my chair's wheels.
I know how to kill people. I'm a soldier. I know how to grip someone's head, twist my arms, and let go. They're dead within seconds, the skin on their neck twisted and their eyes lifelessly staring back at me. And yet, the people here flash me pitiful glances, and murmur to their friends every time I pass. Some actively avoid eye contact with me.
The communication bud in my ear crackles to life. The voice is soft and gentle, but there's a firmness that requires my full attention. My knuckles relax, white from my grip as I silently express my distaste towards the crowd walking past. It's refreshing to be talked to like an adult. A smirk pulls at the edges of my mouth. I can't help it. She has that effect on me.
"Hey, babe," I grin.
"Let's keep this professional, Caden," she replies. She's trying to hide it, but I can hear the smile in her voice. My chest flutters.
"I'm always professional. Only the best from me." I shrug.
"Your records say otherwise." She replies.
"Sue me. What's up, Veena?"
A pause. My mood immediately drops. Again.
"Making sure you know what you're doing. You're always prone to messing up and I don't need to haul your ass out of there." She means it in good humour, I know that, but the words sting. It was my stupid ass mistake that landed me a seat in this hunk of metal. Falling from that height could have been avoided if I had listened to orders. It was foolish to think I could take on two husks of muscle.
She reads my silence. "Caden, I'm sorry," she says. "I didn't mean to-"
"Get in there and eliminate Mason Cadwell," I deadpan.
"The mission," I snap. "Mason Cadwell is a threat to The Cosmic Army and must be neutralized. He's a terrorist and a thief. He stole secret documents from the government and, if kept alive, might even share that information with the wrong people. I'm going to attend his fancy-as-shit party, locate him, and let you place a bullet right between his eyes." I feel my face heat up, my voice rising as I let the frustration flood over me. I throw my arms in the air. I'm being unprofessional. I don't care. My voice crackles with contempt, "And yes, before you ask, I did dye my hair. I know blue hair is highly suspicious and I am now rocking the blonde look. I took every little detail into account because this is my first mission after my accident and I am totally freaking out because I have so much to fucking prove!" I catch my breath and my shoulders heave. VeenaÕs silence rings through my head.
"I see," she responds curtly. I can't tell what she's thinking and I bite my lip. "Good luck, agent."
"Bye, honey," I sigh. The comm clicks and my eyes flutter up to the mansion in front of me. The crowd gathers and buzzes as the excitement rises. The ladies await at the door, hanging from gentlemen escorts and pulling up their dresses to avoid the mud on the street. The doors haven't even opened yet and everyone is already talking about the expensive foods, elegant music, and lavish decorations.
I won't admit it, but I'm excited. I've never been to one of these parties. The bright lights and cheery chatter blanket me in wonder. I bet there's a lot of rich people here.
Despite this, the anxiety is a bitch. I wasn't kidding when I said I had a lot to prove. My superiors are dead set on sending me home. Because of my wheel chair, they said I couldn't serve and "retired" me. That's just a fancy word for "unwanted."
Heh. To hell with that.
Veena is one amazing negotiator, though. She was the one who convinced The Cosmic Army to give me a second chance. She stood her ground and remained level headed. It took days but she did it. That woman's gonna be the death of me. I look at her and see everything I want to be. She's kind but firm, respectable but headstrong. If I was in her shoes, I would have huffed at the general and wheeled my way out of there.
Luck was on my side when I was assigned to this mission. The general originally placed me behind the scenes. Out of sight, out of mind, right? I often debriefed fellow soldiers about missions, analyzed everyone's reports, and organized my own space when I was bored. These jobs aren't unimportant, sure, but it was a change I didn't like. I went from the front lines to behind a desk. Real exciting.
When I heard that Veena's partner was injured due to a severe burn injury, I grasped for the opportunity. The general was hesitant but after I claimed that this was an undercover mission and suspicion would easily be diverted from me, he agreed. He's a nice guy. He knew that I was suffering behind a desk. When I told Veena, she was beaming. It was going to be just like old times.
An excited chortle pulls my attention to the door. The smell of cinnamon curls out onto the street as a yellow light illuminates the guests' faces. Damn. I didn't notice how big the door was until the hosts actually opened it.
The crowd pushes in. One man steps on a woman's dress and she squeaks as sheÕs pulled back. Another man pulls his lady guest closer. I inhale and grip my wheels. The pre-mission jitters are fluttering.
I exhale and push myself towards the doors.
"No!" The man beside me cries. "I would never be seen alive with that group of barbarians."
The group laughs and I resist the urge to roll my eyes. The gentleman speaking is wearing a ridiculous hat. His chortle sounds like nails on a chalk board. If I'm not careful, I might keel over from the ridiculousness of these people.
My wheels squeak against the sleek floor. Red floods the room before me, curtains and carpets are stained in crimson and black designs dance along the fabric. This place is huge. At least Mason's blood won't stain the curtains.
I keep my head low. I push against the sides of the room, ducking into the odd crowd of snobby idiots. No one has tried to strike conversation with me. Guess this chair is good for something after all.
My eyes flicker through the throngs of people. A guard stands on the other side of the room, clad in purple from head to toe. He lights a cigarette, distracted. Poor old sap probably doesn't even get paid minimum wage.
Movement from above catches my eye. A guard stands on the balcony, marching back and forth. She'll be a problem. Her posture is firm and professional. She probably knows how to throw a punch. Another guard stands at the exit closest to me. He looks bored but I can tell he's eyeing people up. He's on alert.
Mason's the biggest problem. The sly bastard's gotta be here somewhere.