“New Blood” is a trilogy short story exclusively available to 2016 SDCC attendees to give you a taste of the hit RPG.
“You watch the target, each inhalation lightly jarring the scope of your rifle, and you force your breath to be steady. The rhythmic rise and fall of your chest is enough to make you tense your finger on the trigger, but you see the group of children circling around your mark and just cannot convince yourself to let a bullet fly. The risk is too great. You curse the influx of tourism that has descended upon Dubrovnik, Croatia. And this was supposed to be an easy hit…”
Ben Johnson broke down the sniper rifle and set it on the ground, knowing it was an impossible shot. The bricks of the Old City walls were moist, and the remnants of early morning rain had already soaked through his clothing. “I’m sorry, Dante, there’s no way to get a clear…”
The powerful man beside him set one hand upon his shoulder. “Quiet. You made your decision, and I respect you for it.”
“You’re not disappointed?” Ben said, looking up at his newfound mentor. Just behind him, Ben could see the cordoned-off stone staircase that had allowed them this vantage point at the city’s lookout point. Dante shook his head. Still, Ben knew how much it had cost in bribes to set this up. Dubrovnik was a medieval sea port and its walls were one of the highlights. For this mission, Ben’s first hit, Dante had greased the wheels to get into prime location. The turret where they waited provided an unobstructed view of the portion of the wall overlooking the harbor. And that was where the target was. “Dante, look, I…” Ben began, but the large man just squeezed his shoulder gently.
“This is the business,” Dante said softly. “You trust your gut. Now, we look for another opportunity.” Inwardly Ben cringed, knowing that this was his first chance to prove that he deserved to be in the ranks of one of the best hitman organizations in the world, the Syndicate, and he had failed.
Shaking his head viciously, Ben said, “No. The opportunity is now.” He leapt to his feet and rushed down the stairs, ducking below the yellow tape that marked off the area. Dubrovnik was not big, but the wet stone of the walls and the tourists stopping for photos slowed him down. He made his way to the seaward wall without incident, halfway to his mark, but when he reached it, he saw construction and restoration taking place. The already narrow city walls shrank to a narrow 12-inch trail composed of boards and scaffolding. You can do this. You’ve made your choice. It’s time to conquer your fears. A fatal fall to his left and an angry sea to the right, Ben resolved to be as fleet of foot as possible. Traversing the precarious ledge, the novice assassin had one goal in mind. Prove I’m fit to join the Syndicate.
Ben stumbled and almost fell twice, at one point his unsecured foot dangling over the precipice, but eventually, he made his way to the harbor wall. The group of children had cleared, and the target was looking out to sea, distracted. Perfect. Ben rushed forward instantly, a small dagger in hand. He closed the distance in a flash, the landing seeming uncannily deserted. Time to die… Ben heard the sickening swoosh, the sound like a blade chopping lettuce, before he felt the pain. Then he registered the blood. It was only Ben’s Jiu-jitsu skills that kept the knife from penetrating his lung, a last minute dodge changing the hard steel’s momentum, driving the blade into his rib instead of the soft tissue beneath. What the…
Ben fell backward, his world swimming. “You think I didn’t know I’d be exposed out here?” the target chortled, “Why’d you think I had all the kids around me? I knew I’d be marked. I’ve been well aware there a price on my head, I just had to draw out the one trying to cash in.” As much as Ben tried to respond, he found it impossible, his body unable to move. The target came closer, and Ben saw a perfect white smile. “The politics here will never change,” the man said confidently, “and you, or whoever hired you, is a fool to think they can try.” Ben prepared for the worst, and grimaced as he felt his target withdraw the embedded knife. “Now, stranger, it’s time to say goodbye…”
The target wrenched Ben up, leading him to the precipice. A roiling sea raged below, the drop well over seventy five feet. “Just another tourist who takes a tumble,” the man said with a grin. The mark pushed Ben against the smooth stone and then stepped back slightly. He said nothing before diving for Ben’s legs, ready to heave him into the sea. While there was pain in his side, Ben knew he hadn’t been seriously wounded, and as soon as his target reached for his legs, he was ready, driving one knee up into the attacker’s face. The target reeled, and Ben gave him no opportunity to recover. Closing the distance and underhooking his attacker’s left arm, he seized control of the right one as well. Shifting his hips, Ben loaded the target onto his back and then executed a perfect throw, flinging the man over the Dubrovnik Old City walls. Exhaling deeply, it was several seconds before Ben heard the splash and could again rest easy. He was finally feeling good about his first hit when he turned and saw a face pressed up against his.
Ben’s heart jumped in his chest. It wasn’t until he heard the words, “Great job, Ben, I knew you had it in you,” and recognized Dante’s face, that he finally relaxed enough to take a full breath. He was about ready to say something when he saw Dante’s broad grin. “Now that your rest is over, how about we concentrate on getting ourselves out of here?”
Ben could hear sirens in the distance and despite being exhausted and exasperated, Ben Johnson realized he had never been happier. Okay, now I just need to figure a way out of here…
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