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When the elevator stopped on the penthouse floor, I shot out the camera. Stepped under its gaze, put a whisper round beneath the lens, and stepped out. A thin wire ran from collar to ear, buzzed softly as I padded his way down the hall. Resisted the temptation to rip it out. Wanted tuned hearing more than instructions and sitreps.
    Fifth door on the right, said the voice in the wire. Watch your step. Needn't have bothered saying. Heavy copper scent as soon as the door opened. Arterial spray over every surface. Pools that had gone stiff at the edges. Sidestepped the worst of it. Drew a handkerchief from a back pocket to wipe the rest off shoe soles. Traction can be a factor.
   Wire buzzed again, insistent. Someone wanted answers, as of ten minutes ago. Not my problem. Carefully tucked the wire away. Kitchen, same as the suite foyer. Someone had ended up with a cleaver in their chest; more casualties up the hallway. Blood on tile, hazardous. Kneeled down away from bodies, observing. Same mixture of loose gunfire and long slashing injuries. Heard cough, almost at edge of audible range. Wrist flicks, blade appears. Not moving, breath still. Further cough. Bad sound, wet and lingering. Knew that sound. Very bad cough.
   
Found her around the next hall, sitting against wall. She flinched when she saw me, but couldn't move much. Wet cough, fluttering at end. Passed her initially, picked up head of farthest body by the hair. Face matched. She'd gotten the primary, at least. I checked again, noting the single stab wound under the sternum. Deep and clean. Produced camera from pocket, nailed the face for proof.
    Turned back to her. She tried to roll forward, to start to stand. Nearly ended up on her face. Racking cough. Red flecks on her lips and rolling down her chin. Almond shaped eyes met mine as I sat down across from her. She tried to nudge her hand towards something gleaming and sharp, half-hidden in the bad light. She grasped it, but couldn't pull it towards her all the way. Gripped handle until her knuckles went white.
    "Security went down easy. Out of their league." She managed a weak smile; her voice was soft, exhausted.
    "How did he get you?" My voice wasn't much more powerful; flat and even.
    She smiled oddly, and gestured with her chin. "Hold-out, left hand."
I crabbed over, and bent back the stiff fingers. More plastic than steel, single shot, large bore. Looked at her chest-plate, a small round hole in the suit. Blankly scanned her face again as another round of coughs hit her. Very bad cough, indeed.
    With a series of agonized tugs, she pulled her weapon to her. Tensed briefly, more reflex than response, but she could barely lift it.
    "Get her out of here." Answering confused reaction, she proffered the blade again. "Get her out, keep her safe. Don't want her here when the Cleaners come." Gently placed my fingers on the hilt, and let her hand drop away before grasping it fully. Long blade, thin and light. It barely weighed more than my knife.
    "Claim the job if you want. Not like I'm going to need it. Heh. Just keep her safe." Voice still soft, not pleading. Not quite.
    Placed the sword to one side. "Not leaving you here. Let's go." Extended a hand, crimping the edge of my mouth into something like a smile. She smiled back, uneasily at first, then gratefully. We both knew what was coming, but there was no reason to be impolite. Reached under her arms, supporting her as she came up. Let her step ahead, trying to get her balance. Arm at her back. Wrist flicks, blade appears.
    Laid her down away from the carnage, on the hardwood floor. Hands at her sides, eyes closed. No obligation to take her sword, I thought, tapping the sword's blade with forefinger. No obligation meant no reason not to. Light blade, very sharp. Handkerchief took the blood right off.
   
Elevator down, with sword wrapped in fresh towel from hotel. Street-level, wire back in ear. Angry buzzing. Ignored it.
    "Agent Dancer down, repeat: Dancer down." Waited for fresh buzzing to subside. "Call the Cleaners, full burn on site." Wouldn't be a epithelial cell left in the penthouse by morning, much less a speck of blood. Camera from pocket, dead primary, sent picture. "And transfer her outstanding jobs to my docket. We're done here." Wire out, and silenced.

Signaled taxi. Hand wouldn't let go of roll for the whole ride, grasped firm. Couldn't have told you why.
Inspired by :iconkreepingspawn: and his relentless drive of flash fiction. I don't usually tend towards the style, but I'm learning to relax my perfectionism. Maybe I'll actually produce something, if I'm not polishing it relentlessly? :devilish:

Fun fact: the title and whatever character design comes from a story theory I had last year, about a Tao (Dao if you prefer), a Way inspired by the design and purpose of different weapons. We assume swords are the weapons of nobility and military, and axes those of butchers - so what is the philosophy of the knife?
Further fact: the cramped, rushed style is largely a result of me really not having the time to write or post at all!

Edit: Pushed everything towards internal monologue, general polishing.
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:icondark-precipice:
dark-precipice Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I really, really like this style of writing - very efficient, straight to the point... knife-like, if you will. 
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:iconisengim:
Isengim Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
It's as much design as accident.
True story: two days before midterms, at 11:30 at night, after a brain-racking day of study, my Muse tapped me on the shoulder. I had no plot, no characters, no ideas. She just smiled at me and said, "type". This is what came of blind typing.

Glad to know it has some fans!
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:icondark-precipice:
dark-precipice Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
:nod: Great advice, actually.
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:iconisengim:
Isengim Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
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:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Most intriguing.  ;) I should like to learn more of the way of the knife, sensei.  ;}
But is 'she' a knife, or a sword?

Rough style lends urgency, but I think it could be more powerful as a first-person 'internal monologue.
:highfive:
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:iconisengim:
Isengim Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Ha! I might pick this up later, assuming I can weave a plot around my sudden midnight writing jaunt. 'She' is definitely a sword. I'll clarify it - lots of little tweaks to be made.

Internal, eh? I suppose the whole thing is mostly internal, but I take your point. I may italicize sections of it for that effect. The lack of character separation from environment kind of appealed to me, so I'll toy with it. B-) (Cool) 

I occurs to me that I should probably stop writing sociopaths and unstable killers at some point. Meh.
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:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
I think you could really capitalize on the sword as a character. :nod:

The begining reads like a fairly typical third-person narrative, but most of the story seems to be strictly from POV of the man and straining toward first person.
Strictly my impression of course.  ;)

Why stop?  It's healthier than keeping all those violent ideas bottled up.  ;p
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:iconisengim:
Isengim Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
 :o (Eek)  I was thinking of going back chronologically, and showing these (psychopaths) at whatever their work is. Let Agent Dancer demonstrate the Budo or philosophy usually associated with swords. Then snap forward, and let our knife-wielding fellow deal with its influence. But hey, talking sword!

Yeah, I started with one thing, and it went somewhere else. :shrug:

If it ain't broke.... :devilish:
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:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Both intriguing possibilities.  :nod:
Talking swords are weird!  ;p

"I started with one thing, and it went somewhere else."
This always happens to me!  ;p
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:iconisengim:
Isengim Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I'm thinking either stress-induced psychosis, or something actually crazy. B-) (Cool)

Write at midnight, be confused by morning.
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:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
^This needs to be in a fortune cookie.  :nod:
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:iconisengim:
Isengim Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Where do you think I get all my advice?
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