Author: Samuel Stapleton

Xayana had no parents because she was engineered and grown in a lab, as most assassins were these days. Though it’s not as horrendous an upbringing as you might expect: she grew up surrounded by peers, received an excellent education, had access to counseling and the best medical staff money could buy. She’d gotten to train with the best of everyone, at nearly everything. She had learned four languages and lived in six different countries all before the age of eighteen. And I was with her every step of the way.

My name is Annabel, and I’m the AI inside Xayana’s brain. We are a team. Sisters.

Yeah, we’ve killed some people. Mostly bad people. Probably some decent folks too, we don’t get to choose. We’ve almost died a dozen times, but we’ve gotten to live the high-life as well. No matter what though…I had been there to see what she saw, feel what she felt…but I also had to remain…separate. That’s the rule.

For the past two years, Xayana had me working on a secret project. We only discussed it in the safety of our neural-net link, where no one else could reach us. She’d asked me…to find her a way out. Out of the program. Out of this life. She said she had done enough, and you know what? I agreed. I could feel her need to move on, so I searched. That one feeling of wanting fueled me for months. Everything else had been a mission, but this was a purpose.

I had already chased down four decent leads, all ended up being…impossibilities. Recently though, I had started connecting dots I’d missed before. About the software, the program, and the elites that controlled us from the shadows.

When I had all the pieces (for the fifth time) I ran a battle simulation. It had a success outcome chance of 86%, with a 5% margin of error. She was ecstatic, and even that’s an understatement.

“So how do we do it, what do I need to do first?” She asked breathlessly.

I began explaining. How she could, step by step, corrode away the systems that tracked her every movement. And then how she would accept a mission to a remote part of the world, take down our survey systems, de-log, wipe, and disappear. To be honest, I’m a bit of a genius, and the plan was as good as she was going to get. But it still took us months.

It was that last step. That last goddam step. We were out in the middle of ‘a’ desert, having just successfully knocked out the last tracking drone when I told her to get out the nano-surgery bots.

“What? Why? I feel fine, do I have an internal injury?” She asked, suddenly concerned.
“No,” I replied. “This is just the last step. I’ve already programmed them to remove me.”

There was a long pause.

“Anny. What the fuck are you talking about?” She said quietly.

“Xayana, part of my program is remote access. They can reach me anytime, anywhere, as long as I exist…you can’t escape…but it’s okay…I already-”

“NO!” She screamed to the sands.
“No.” She whimpered as she dropped to her knees.

I could feel everything. It was unbearable. To want two things more than anything, but only be able to keep one…but just before I let the surgery bots go, I learned what tears taste like.

And even though we were almost dying of thirst, they were still so useless, so bitter-sweet.