Chapter 2: Don’t Prank Your Leader
I hid behind a small bush looking for someone. That someone’s name was C. Top assassin and hit-girl of our level two class for kid assassins. That’s what they call her. I call her a bunch of names, including Plastic, Princess Plastic, Whiner Girl, and some others that would get my throat slit if any adult heard me.
In our organization, recruits are only known by the first letter of their names. Let’s just say that the first time we met, I ended up with a black eye and she ended up with a leg bruise. We were both five at the time, but she fought as hard as she does now. I remember going home with my whole head hurting once.
I honestly wonder how I keep this from my parents, especially when I come home visibly injured.
I saw C lurking about, looking for a sparring partner, but I had to stifle a laugh when I saw all the other assassins steered clear. They also knew her strength very well. Now that I think about it, the only other person who could beat her was our leader, Poppy.
Poppy (a codename) is a petite woman with delicate hands, but an attitude so strong, she would make all the Disney, Marvel, and Netflix villains cry. I’m pretty sure most of the cartoon villains are based on her. Most people who encounter Poppy at night don’t live to tell the tale.
Poppy is C’s mom, but I’m the only kid who knows that. I know for a fact that Clara is also here somewhere, but because of the rules ANW has, it’s ridiculously hard to find anybody. Meanwhile, I started looking for C again, but she had mysteriously disappeared like she does every night. I tried following her once, but Poppy grabbed me by my shoes and told me to get back to work. She could flip a whole family and not break a sweat, but she just held me up by my shoes and turned me upside down. The whole world went flying, and I think I nearly threw up.
I really wonder how people deal with Poppy when she’s not an assassin.
You’re wondering, What in the world is he talking about?
I’m part of this secret organization that trains kids to be assassins. Yes, kids. It’s called Assassins Nationwide, or ANW. That’s all you will get out of me about our purpose… Coincidentally, ANW headquarters just had to be in the woods behind my house. There is a secret road that every assassin takes through the woods. Once you enter the woods, you walk in for at least 15 minutes, and you have to watch out for booby traps. They’re just the usual smoke bombs, mouse traps, and flying axes. Nothing an assassin can’t handle.
It’s just an extra precaution, since assassins are supposed to be up and ready at all times. When you finally enter the ANW headquarters, you come upon a ground filled with sand, like the floor of a Renaissance fair.
Around the arena, there are khaki tents everywhere filled with assassin kids and teenagers going in and out. These tents hold weapons, food, and other amenities. The tents are arranged in a U-shape, with Poppy’s tent in the center. It’s similar to a circus tent, and instead of khaki-colored, it’s a deep royal purple.
Poppy’s tent is the neutral ground of ANW headquarters, and it’s like the counselor’s office at school, except instead of comforting advice, you find axes and swords hanging across the walls.
If you exit the tent area, you get to the combat circle, which is where most assassins train and hang around. You see nunchucks, arrows, and black eyes there most of the time.
The last circle after the combat circle has two very special landmarks. One is a small white podium, and the other, a large tower. To me, it looks like a large wine glass, even though Poppy said it’s “shaped like a golf tee,” whatever that means. I have no knowledge when it comes to golf.
C’s dad and my dad played golf almost every Sunday, and I was always there to pick up the balls and keep track of their scores. At first, being a gofer was fun, but that went downhill real quick.
I dodged a random sword and flipped over another assassin. Poppy interrupted the exercise and called to us. “Assassins! Older level twos! Make your way to the podium, now!” Half the kids on the ground ran to the podium. They ran toward Poppy, hoping to get a good spot near the front of the stage. “Level twos! Listen up! In a few days, everybody who is thirteen will be able to level up. Do you remember what you need to do?” Poppy asked, watching us like a hawk.
Most of the kids murmured a yes, or nodded, but I just sighed.
As Damien, I’d have to be silent. I had a reputation. As D, I was free to do anything. So, I did what any tired thirteen-year-old boy would do. Act stupid.
“Ummm, Poppy? What do we do? I only remember the part where we get to eat food.” I acted as if Poppy hadn’t repeated this for the fourth time, ’cause why not?
I am free.
The crowd snickered. Some just let out a low sigh. Some snapped their fingers to summon popcorn into their hands. They were ready to watch Poppy destroy me. Poppy slapped her hand against her forehead. “D! Listen up! Assassins, answer these questions for the knucklehead who didn’t pay attention,” she yelled.
“How long is the leveling up?” she asked.
“What do you get?”
“Your special power and codename!”
“Do you understand now, D?” Poppy asked menacingly, almost as if she wanted to cover my mouth with duct tape.
I gulped. “Maybe?”
Poppy nodded and dismissed everybody. It was almost time to go home.
“Wait!” I called out.
“Any more questions?” Poppy said sharply.
“I might not…maybe don’t…have a partner to spar with?” My voice squeaked.
Poppy held me up by my shoe again, and the blood rushed to my head.
“Anybody not have a sparring partner?” she yelled into the crowd.
Everyone stayed silent. Honestly? I wouldn’t even pair up with myself. Even my shadow would beat me to pulp.
“I guess you can spar with me and rotate around with everybody else as we start. W, turn the radio on!” Poppy said.
As Poppy dropped me to the floor, a small sphere dropped out of my pocket. Before I had a chance to pick it up, it exploded into a nasty gas.
Curse my pranks.
Ever since I was born, my mom worried that I wouldn’t be able to speak. And I didn’t. She ran around to every doctor, psychologist, and therapist she could, trying to find a solution. One person, Dr. Gorgon, told her not to worry. He said that I just have a shy personality, and that I would start talking soon. He was right.
Even though I don’t like talking to people, I love pranking them. I always carry an assortment of gags, pranks, and jokes. You name it, I got it. Of course, I only prank the people who need to be pranked. The usual harmless pranks (I’m not try to kill somebody here!) land on friends, and maybe my mom, who takes them lightly.
Here, though, I tried to run away, but Poppy grabbed me by the collar and gave a death stare that I could feel through her mask.