This is a job like any other. Narsha knows what to do.
Line her eyes with kohl and put on her long dark wig. Feel the mink-soft weight of it fall around her shoulders, whisper down her back, and know how he will look at all that hair and picture his own hands fisted in it. Just like they always do.
This is a job like any other. Time to strap on her high heels and walk right in.
That’s always been Narsha’s speciality. Ever since she graduated from the Academy, she’s been walking into people’s lives and taking what she wants. Her body is a lure, is a cage, is an incendiary device – it all means the same thing. Means she can own you with an arch of her eyebrow, a twitch of her lips. Means she can burn the whole world down around you and you won’t even be able to look away from the way she makes her hips move.
(they all learn that move at the Academy and practice it every morning without fail – a room full of pale sunlight and row upon row of stifled yawns and swivelling girl flesh engineered to fascinate and destroy all at once)
Narsha goes in first, but she’s never alone. Four is the standard number for a field unit, but it has always just been Narsha and her two sisters and that’s fine by her. Jea can punch through a brick wall without breaking a nail and Miryo can wrap computer systems around her little finger with the same ease that Narsha wraps men around that same digit. What more could a girl need?
It turns out that this man likes to hurt women. Likes to tear clothing and leave little inky bruises along slender limbs. Likes to keep a riding crop in the nightstand beside a picture of his mother.
It’s not unexpected. It’s not even rare enough to be interesting to Narsha (she who has taken princes apart with her kisses and toppled empires between her thighs) but she doesn’t protest when Jea changes her patrol route to pass his bedroom door on the hour. Only smiles when they pass each other in the hall and she sees the large dog Jea keeps beside her on a chain. Narsha is always reckless with herself but she knows her sisters will keep her safe.
He never hurts Narsha – never even tries. She almost wishes he would. Just once. Just so she can see his eyes when he realises his mistake.
This is a job like any other. This man has something they want so the three of them walk in and take it. No one ever sees them coming and there’s never anyone left to watch them leave.
This is a job like any other. Until suddenly it isn’t.
Until suddenly she’s watching one of Miryo’s screens and there’s a girl sitting on the edge of that same bed where Narsha has spent the better part of two weeks.
A beautiful girl. Smokey dark eyes and hair short enough to show the nape of her neck, smooth and pale as fresh cream. Narsha’s aware of Miryo’s eyes on her, aware of the man prowling across the screen and the riding crop that he never takes out when Narsha is around, but what she’s watching is the girl.
“Her name is Ga-In,” Miryo’s chair creaks with disapproval as she leans back and crosses her legs. “There have been traces of her all across the system for the past couple of days and this was taken an hour ago.”
Ga-In. Narsha whispers the name to herself as she perches on the arm of Miryo’s chair and narrows her eyes.
She watches Ga-In move across the screen, across the bed, watches her pushed up against the wall and her wrists gripped by crude hands and pinned above her head. She feels her own hands curl into fists at the sight, but at the same time she is noticing a certain slant to the hips. A familiar angle to the chin as Ga-In tips her head back to bare the delicate line of her throat – a move that looks vulnerable as long as you miss the flash of her eyes. As long as you miss the positioning of her arm as she readies herself to counter any possible attack.
Narsha misses nothing. And she recognises her own moves when she sees them.
(in the back of her mind she wonders if Ga-In knows that hip move. Wonders what Ga-In’s hips would look like ticking back and forth to a four-four rhythm)
Narsha takes her lower lip between her teeth and exhales slowly. “She doesn’t have a team with her?”
“Just her,” Miryo confirms, tapping her cane against the screen with a careful click of metal on glass. “This is the first clear picture of her I’ve been able to get. I think she wanted us to see this.”
Narsha agrees. Anyone who can bypass all of their security systems with such apparent ease isn’t going to get caught screwing the target on video unless she wants to be. Unless there’s something she wants from them.
And style like that deserves some kind of a response.
She can feel Miryo watching her as she stands and smoothes her short dress down over her thighs. A girl’s got to look her best.
“I’ll take care of it,” she says and Miryo nods.
Narsha finds the man naked and snoring where Ga-In left him. His breath smells bitter and he doesn’t even stir when Narsha slips the handcuffs around his wrists.
Ga-In is sitting on the sofa in the next room. Painting her toenails with Narsha’s varnish and smirking like she knows exactly what’s going to happen here. Like she’s the one in control.
It’s almost cute.
“Well, now that you’ve got my attention,” Narsha likes the sound her heels make against the hardwood floor, likes the sense of drama they bring to simply walking across a room. “What are you going to do with it?”
Ga-In flicks a look up through her fringe and smiles sweetly. “Did you enjoy the show?”
“Probably more than you did.” The smell of nail varnish is almost but not quite covering up some other chemical scent in the air, something sugary and vaguely familiar. “Did you poison him before or after he failed to make you come?”
That earns her an honest-sounding laugh and a pill offered up to her in the palm of Ga-In’s hand. “It’s only bitter poison if you don’t mean it,” she says. “For those brave enough, it can be the sweetest of all delights.”
The pill is heart-shaped and purple and Narsha raises an arch eyebrow. “How poetic. Myself, I don’t have much use for poison. When I kill a man, I prefer something a little more… provocative. A good exit is just as importance as a good entrance, after all.”
“Yes, I know,” Ga-In’s smile turns sharp around the edges. “I know all about you. I know that Miryo is probably watching this conversation on her monitor right now and that Jea’s Hell Hound has come down with a bad case of lovesickness. I know all your moves, Narsha. Every one.”
Narsha smiles indulgently. “Hardly. But it’s adorable that you think so. It really is.”
She moves closer, her heels counting off the steps like seconds on a clock. “You did find us, however,” Narsha murmurs, almost to herself. “And manage to singlehandedly fuck up an operation six months in the planning. That’s quite a morning’s work, wouldn’t you say?”
This close, Narsha can see every doubt flicker across Ga-In’s upturned face. Can see all those involuntary muscle tremors that the Academy would have trained out of her by the time she was twelve years old, making her as smooth and untouchable as stone. Ga-In meets her eyes boldly and does her best to mask her feelings, but she can’t hide the apprehension in her face.
Can’t hide the way her pupils dilate as Narsha leans in close.
“What would you do if you caught a silly little girl playing with your toys?” Narsha lowers her voice almost to a purr and strokes her index finger up the pale silk of Ga-In’s throat. “Send her home again with nothing but a slap on the wrist? Is that how you think we play in the big leagues? Is that the mercy you are expecting here, child?”
She can feel the muscles move beneath Ga-In’s skin as she swallows. All traces of that cockiness gone; finally recognising the poised threat standing before her.
“Are you going to kill me?” Ga-In’s voice is barely above a whisper.
The pill is heart-shaped and purple and Narsha holds it between finger and thumb for a second before slipping it past her lips. It tastes electric on her tongue – sharp and sweet and good enough to share – good enough to tilt Ga-In’s chin up and lean in that extra inch until everything is sharp and sweet and sleek inside. Until Ga-In makes a desperate whimpering sound and opens up beneath Narsha’s mouth, beneath Narsha’s body, like she’s never wanted anything more than this.
When Narsha draws back, Ga-In is staring up at her with wide dark eyes.
“Actually,” Narsha muses. “I was thinking of offering you a job.”