3

The two people sat next to each other on the worn-out couch. The only source of illumination in the dark, dank basement was the laptop in front of them. They were wearing identical black hoodies and black jeans, with a metallic mask covering the lower half of their face. It distorted their voices, which was convenient because they weren’t supposed to know each other’s identity.

“We need code names,” one said to the other, typing away on the laptop. 

“Alright, I’ll be Star One,”

“I guess that makes me Star Two?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Ha ha. Not happening. If you’re Star One, I’m Alpha Star.”

“That’s not–”

“Deal?”

Star One sighed. “Deal.”

"I'm assuming you're a guy...?" asked Alpha Star.

Star One rolled their eyes. "Assume whatever you want," 

"Okay based off that reaction I guess you're a girl," 

"Why does it matter? Will it hurt your ego to work with a girl? Will it wound your pride?" 

Alpha Star chuckled. "Definitely a girl,"

"And based off your masochistic chauvinism, I'm pretty sure you're a guy," 

"You've got quite an attitude," 

"Thank you very much, I work hard to maintain it," 

Star One's phone pinged with a message and she fished it out of her pocket. She checked the message and began texting. 

"Hey hey, no personal devices allowed while we're meeting," Alpha Star said and plucked the phone from her hands. Star One grabbed her phone and flipped him off before stuffing it back into her pocket. The cold of the basement was seeping into her bones and she shook her arms and legs to ward off the uncomfortable feeling. Alpha Star gave her a weird look and went back to typing away on the laptop. 

"What the hell are you doing anyway?" Star One asked. 

"I'm trying to find the identity of our employer," 

"Why? Isn't it enough to just carry out the mission and take their money?" 

Alpha Star shrugged. "I'm just curious," 

"Curiosity killed the cat," said Star One.

"But satisfaction brought it back," Alpha Star deadpanned. 

Star One chuckled. "Fair enough," 

"How do you know the target?" Alpha Star blurted out. 

"I just do," Star One said icily. "And besides we're not supposed to know each other's private information so maybe you should refrain from probing too much," 

“Okay. How did you land this contract?” Alpha Star asked. 

“Same way you did,” Star One said curtly. 

“Is there any reason you took it up?” 

“Well let’s just say I’ve met our target... and I hate her. What about you?” 

Alpha Star shrugged. “The pay is good. Really good. And I hate her too, so yeah,” 

“This mission is dangerous, but it’s so cool! I can’t believe I got picked for this,” Star One said excitedly. “I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’m just an ordinary eighteen year old,” 

Alpha Star rolled his eyes. “MRO does this all the time, they pick younger people to get rid of the minor targets because we’re less expensive. Also, we know the target so that’s convenient.” 

“We? So you’re eighteen too?” 

“Aren’t we not supposed to speak about ourselves?” 

“Oh please, that’s a stupid rule–“ 

The laptop flashed with a message and they checked it. 

Do not reveal your identity. Stay focused on the mission.

Star One gulped. “Okay so maybe getting to know each other on the first day is not such a good idea...” 

“You don’t say,” Alpha Star said dryly. 

Star One frowned. “So basically all we’ve got to do is dissuade her from doing whatever the hell she’s doing, right?” 

“Right. Do you have any idea what she’s doing that MRO doesn’t like?” 

“She likes exploring the dark internet, conspiracies, underground stuff... that sort of thing. Like that organization, Anonymous. Apparently she’s fascinated by Anonymous,” Star One explained. 

“Yeah but what’s so threatening about that? Most people are fascinated by Anonymous and try to hack stuff but you don’t see them being targeted,” 

“The thing is, she’s really good at it. She’s good at digging deep into the dark corners of the internet and finding stuff that’s not visible in plain sight. She has a talent for it,” 

Alpha Star nodded thoughtfully. “Hmm. But she’s probably still an amateur, otherwise we wouldn’t be the ones tasked with getting rid of her,” 

“Yeah, nip them in the bud. I hope it doesn’t get too serious though,” 

Alpha Star chuckled weakly. “True. I wouldn’t like to become a killer at such a young age,”

The two of them sat in silence as their task suddenly loomed ahead in all its sinister glory.

"We should probably leave now," Star One said. 

"Yeah. We can meet again if we gather any more information about the target or the mission," 

Star One nodded and stood up. "See ya," 

Star One headed to the rope ladder hanging against one of the walls and climbed up while Alpha Star packed up. Star One emerged into the hollow of a tree trunk and stepped outside, into the forest. Dusk was falling and the lilac sky was visible through the canopy. Branches and leaves crunched beneath her feet as she headed home. Star One had been a bit weirded out when she'd first been informed that their meeting place was a hidden cellar in the woods, but now she liked it. This way no one would find out, no one would know. But there was no denying that the forest creeped her out a bit. Strange creatures slithered and crawled on trees and on the ground. Little wild animals sprung out at the most unexpected times, always giving her a terrible fright. She was a city girl and the woods had been a foreign concept to her. Atleast till now. 

Star One could hear Alpha Star's footsteps a few miles behind her. She didn't know what to make of him. He seemed a bit cocky and arrogant, but not too bad. Hopefully they could get along well and just finish this mission as quickly and quietly as possible. 

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