In the humid swamps of Fredericksburg lies an untold secret. Among the moss covered cedars, hidden in the black water filled with alligators and water moccasins, Silke Waters waits for a sign.
Covered from head to toe in camouflage, Silke watches the birds flutter among the branches. Squirrels leap from limb to limb, while gators slip out of the water and sunbathe on the banks of the marsh.
Still, Silke doesn’t move. One spastic twitch would send the wildlife running for cover, the whole point of the training exercise is to see while being unseen. Silke’s toes begin to cramp, her hands damp from the humidity, begs to be wiped. She doesn’t move.
Silke is of singular mind and purpose. After four years of training, she is almost done with this phase, all she has to do is be still. Slowly the sun descends into the western horizon, the sky is painted orange by the hands of God, and still Silke doesn’t move.
Darkness falls. Silke closes her eyes to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She cracks her eyes open and slips out of her spot. She moves silently through the marsh, slipping through the black water to her next objective. In the distance, a light cuts through the night, hushed whispers break the solemn night air.
“Where is she?”
The exercise is terminated if she is caught by her trainers, otherwise, it’s a three-day exercise. Silke creeps behind a fallen tree and watches the pair look around her destination. Each person carries a sidearm loaded with simulation ammunition. If Silke is discovered, she is to escape and evade capture. From her hidden position, Silke waits. Her blond hair, dampened by the humidity, falls into her eyes. She doesn’t move. One of her trainers looks at the tree. Slowly, he moves the beam toward the tree and Silke sinks into the black water.
“Come on, she ain’t here. Let’s get out of here.”
“Yeah, we have a few other places to check out before we get a chance to rack out.”
The lights click off and Silke watches the two men leave. Silke waits in the water until she is convinced that she is alone. Silently, Silke emerges from the water. Leeches cover her torso, with her knife she removes the parasites. The next two days pass without incident and Silke begins her journey from the marsh.
Halfway to the base camp, she happens upon a Hummer. Her blue eyes scan the distance for threats. A young man walks from behind the vehicle.
“Hey, Josh. What are you doing out here?”
“I’m waiting on you. The Commandant sent me out here to pick you up. You ready to head back?”
“Yeah, I could use a shower and hot meal.”
“Sure, sure. Yeah, I gotcha. Come on, let’s hit the road.”
Josh and Silke travel the dirt road in silence. Josh Harrington has completed his training, he now is the errand boy of the Commandant. Silke watches the trees zip by as Josh keeps his eyes on the road, finally Silke breaks the silence.
“How did I do, Josh?”
Without removing his eyes from the road, Josh ponders her question. Finally, as they turn onto the goat trail that leads to the camp, he answers her.
“No one found you, so that is good. They came back and said you were a ghost. No one has ever beaten every test posed to them. You’re something special.”
Josh pulls into a parking spot and gives the key a turn. Silke and Josh disembark and make their way to the lone building standing among the cedars.
The doorman, Herman Wainwright, stands ready to help Silke if she should need it, but she waves him off.
“How you doing, sir?”
“Ms. Silke, you don’t got to call me sir. I’m just the door man.”
She grins wearily and nods her head.
“Mr. Thunder asked you come straight way to him before anything else. He is in the library.”
The house is dusty, benches and chairs line the hallways. Dark stained glass conceals the purpose of these training grounds. Silke makes her way to the library, most of the house has corners but the library is a perfect 360 degree circle. Stairs lead up to the higher levels, the shelves are lined with rare and first edition books. Mr. Thunder, the commandant, waits on the third floor.
Silke climbs the stairs and walks to where Mr. Thunder sits. She stands at attention until he recognizes her presence.
“Have a seat, Silke.”
Mr. Thunder is bald, his horn-rimmed glasses sit precariously upon his hawkish nose. A scar runs from his left jaw line to the middle of his chin, his black eyes appear to be dead. His skin tone is darkened by the sun, the only paleness is the scar which marks his face.
Silke takes a seat across from the commandant, she can feel his dead eyes follow her every movement.
“Congratulations are in order. You have passed every test we have given you. You’ve been trained in Kenpo and various tactics to disable your opponents. You’re a superb marksman. You’ve been trained in the art of surveillance and counter-surveillance. Your trainers came in the first day and said you are a ghost. Both men are trackers and they couldn’t find any sign of where you had been.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Do you know what we do here?”
“We train our body and spirit to be ready should our nation need us.”
Thunder smiles, “that is the textbook answer, Silke. Give me your answer. Why do we train?”
“We train to kill our enemies.”
“Yes, our enemies may not be the same as our country’s. Never forget this fact. If they’re trying to harm you or this organization, they deserve nothing more than death. Understood?”
“Good, then here is your first assignment. Study it, the assignment must be completed Friday night. You have four days to prep. Get some rest and make sure you’re prepared. Welcome to the Assassins Guild.”