Assignment

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What sounded like the final crackle of the firewood drowned with the waves and ocean breeze. Brianne hasn’t said more than a few pleasantries since the last of the Clan’s core members arrived about 15 minutes ago. The night sky, navy and unchanging, hung over them, the rhythm of waves permeating the background, at least one of them started checking their watches.

“It’s time,” Nika, one of her close friends, put her hand on her shoulder.

Looking downwards, Brianne was reluctant to loosen her fingers, now cradling the Area-issued urn containing the remains of her godfather and mentor – and Area 65’s Spymaster and now-former leader of the King Clan.

“Ward and Xan should be back soon,” she said.

“They wouldn’t want us to delay Sifu’s wishes for them,” Nika replied.

An exhale through the nose, a final glance over her shoulder, and a step towards the line where the water met the beach. Brianne lowered her head, then whispered, “Be free, Sifu,” before she placed her hand on the porcelain lid.

The wind picked up as the lid parted, a sliver of ashes started to catch onto the wind.

“Bri!”

The lid closed again.

Warden and Xander, their two other Clan members, came running. Xander trailed behind, their robes catching in the breeze. Warden stopped next to Nika, his grave expression unchanged.

Brianne opened her mouth, only to stop short.

“The last message from Tobias came just before Sifu’s cremation,” Xander breathed, “We haven’t gotten anything then except for this… anomaly.”

She waited.

Xander’s eyes shifted to meet Warden’s.

“Tobias’s communicator has been intercepted,” Warden stepped forward, “We don’t know if they made it off Area 65.”

Brianne never agreed to her godfather’s son and her own husband leaving the Area to seek redress for the death of the Clan’s leader. Sidestepping the Central House of Area 65 was tricky at best, deadly at worse.

“And Gladius?” her husband’s name on her own lips sounded grave.

Warden and Xander looked at each other for a couple of seconds too long.

“Signals that bounced back from his intercepted communicated triangulated,” Warden said, “It’s from the House of Arms.”

Brianne’s grip tightened around the urn and the breeze picked up.

“Any news from the Central House?” she finally said, eyes still on the urn.

“If Tobias is not around for the Assignment,” Xander put their hand on her shoulder, “The Central House will assign Spymaster to someone else and Clan operations will then…”

Brianne lifted her head to face the rest, now looking at her with the same pleading expression Xander was now giving her. Pursing her lips, she gave Xander the slightest shake of her head. Their grip wrapped around tighter.

“They cannot oust us,” Xander said, “Not now.”

“And the clan still needs a leader,” Nika stepped forward this time, hand over Brianne’s, “Sifu would have wanted it this way if it came down to this.”

“Bri,” Xander started again.

#

“Good morning, citizens of Area 65 – on this day, Area 65 mourns the loss of not only our Spymaster, but also the leader of the charitable King Clan – a cornerstone in the mission to bring all citizens of Area 65 back into society. As we observe our Area’s moment of silence, we urge all first shift workers and citizens to turn to their nearest announcement screens for the Assignment Ceremony at Central House as of now.”

Darting her eyes around the grandeur of the Central House, Brianne shut her eyes just before she stepped on stage. Master Communicator stood on the other side, just out of range of the camera drone filming the entire Assignment Ceremony.

“As approved by the council of the Central House, we accept and assign Brianne of the King Clan as Area 65’s Spymaster of the Central House,” Head of the Central House announced, pinning the Spymaster’s emblem onto the badge loop of Brianne’s ceremonial uniform.

Oaths were taken and ceremonial waves concluded the process.

‘Spymaster of the Central House,’ the words ran through her head, ‘And Head of the King Clan.’

“Progress for Area 65,” Head of the Central House’s voice interrupted her train of thought, signalling the rest of the Central House (and likely Area 65) to stand up. Brianne clutched her emblem, closed her eyes, then took another breath.

“Progress for Area 65.”

 

*

 

Author’s note:

Isolated group at the beach in the dark of the night? Sounds like a good entrypoint to a larger world. In a dystopian world, the isolation can serve as a safety blanket for a multitude of secrets.

Area 65 is a larger world and the setting of a novel I’m working on. After viewing this month’s prompt, however, I got the idea to rustle up a quick story on how some of the circumstances came to be in the main story, while also giving everyone a glimpse into what the Area 65 files would be like.

 

*

 

Joelyn Alexandra writes urban / thrillers in various mediums and believes that creativity and management can work together. She is a founding member of Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar and a partner of The Rolling Ronins. When not building worlds or organizing lore, she dives into RPGs, Arcology, Puzzles, Zumba, Sustainability Economics, and Breakfast. http://www.joelynalexandra.com | @joelynalexandra | @joelynalexandra_works


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