It took me three years to find the first one. She was the easiest. She was one of four and the only woman. Perhaps that is how I found her first. She thought she was untraceable, she thought she was untouchable. I traced her. I did much, much more than touch her. Once I found her it seemed to be a catalyst and the other three were soon discovered. It was only a matter of preparation and timing for me to exact my revenge. I planned to do it all in forty-eight hours or less so they couldn't be warned of what was happening.
Mercedes Cavendish's head came off easier than I thought. The ceramic fractal blade cost me a small fortune but it was well worth the investment. It was barely six inches in length when folded and when opened resembled a short katana. It was viciously sharp. The purple-skinned diplomat from the Sirius Nebula - who sold it to me - tried to explain how the self- similarity could be magnified down to over one thousand times and the Mandelbrot set would still be the same as the original, unmagnified edge. I didn't understand a word. Nevertheless, when he demonstrated its keenness - by resting its edge on his secretary's left tentacle and it just sliced right through like a white-hot blade through butter - even though I experienced phantom pain and a moment of affinity with her lost limb it soon passed and I knew I had to have the blade. The secretary fainted. Her purple blood spurted over the diplomat's desk - which greedily absorbed it and then enveloped the amputated tentacle and sealed the weeping stump before sighing in satisfaction.
'I'll take it!' I remember blurting out.
'You don't even know the price yet,' the diplomat replied through the symbiotic translator-slug which was attached to its neck.
'That's no problem, I get paid well for my 'performances' and I don't really have anything to spend the credits on.'
The diplomat, I can't spell or even pronounce his name, shrugged all three shoulders. 'So be it.' He pushed a soft-terminal towards me with the amount on and I pressed my thumb to it. The pin-prick - which meant it had sampled my blood - was followed by a quiet bleep that announced the transaction had gone through.
'You're positive the matter-conveyor won't detect it?' I recall asking, because my first target was taking a sabbatical on Calisto and I don't like spacecraft but can tolerate teleporting, after all, what have I got to lose? A conveyor malfunction couldn't make things worse and might even make things better. But matter-conveyors detect weaponry and I needed to take a weapon with me.
'It's ceramic. It won't show up as a weapon,' the diplomat confirmed. 'You'll have no trouble at all.'
He was right. I got through with no bother. But, I had forgotten about Calisto's gravity which is only about twelve to thirteen percent of Earth's. When Mercedes' head came off inside the solarium of her luxury habitat I hadn't considered the moon's low gravity and the reduced air-pressure she kept her room at. Her blood exploded from the stump of her neck like the long-defunct geyser that once was rumoured to exist in a place on Earth called Yellowstone Park. It struck the ceiling and thankfully stayed there momentarily before slowly falling to the ground again giving me the opportunity to grab her head and stow it in my bag. I can't move very quickly but with the low gravity I thankfully didn't have to. As I sealed my bag I felt sure that Mercedes' eyes blinked once at me in unbelieving astonishment, but I could have imagined it.
I returned to Earth within the hour and was soon on the hunt for my next target, Ethan Ward. Ward is CEO of a bio-tech company called GlobalVitae and while Mercedes might have had the original idea he was the bastard who had the technology to carry that idea through. The other two I must find are friends of his, like Mercedes was, the whole group of four being a bunch of like-minded friends with too much money, too much free time on their hands and too little morality to appreciate their own inhumanity. The other two are twins. Jason and Justin Thomas who are the singers for the retro-rock band, The Tick and The Trampoline, and of the four could be the two I despise the most, for they are beautiful, they are perfect and very soon, they will be dead. But first, Ethan Ward, it's your time to pay the piper.
Ward is a recluse. I think my knife will be useless as a weapon against him because he is a martial artist and extremely fit and agile, the very opposite of what I am. However, he is a fanatical collector and imbiber of all manner of vin nouveau - another conceit he has copied from the originators of the foul game which was first established in France in the 1900s and I am the product of. I have timed my encounter with my enemies to perfection. Mercedes, although being my first one discovered was the most difficult in terms of distance, but that was done, and within eighteen hours I was at the hotel in London where Ward had given a rare appearance at a conference on gene-splicing. Through a close lady friend of mine - who loves me for my mind and sees past my afflictions - I had made it known that there was a wine aficionado with a rare case of Lunar Beaujolais Nouveau freshly pressed and decanted just this week. Moon-grown grapes are notoriously difficult to cultivate and turning them into a palatable wine even more onerous. Then you had the logistical problem of smuggling it back to Earth. The wine was rarer than hen's teeth and would be impossible for him to pass over - and impossible to survive once he swallowed a sip. The neurotoxin it was laced with was instant and insidious. Firstly it would paralyze, although Ward would be totally aware of what was happening, would even feel pain, but would be unable to even blink. Within five minutes he would be dead, unless something else killed him first.
The bell to my hotel room rang. It was on the seventh floor and everything was prepared. My beautiful friend, Sandra Dawlish raised an eyebrow at me.
'Are you positive this will work?' she asked and I noticed a slight waver in her voice. She was scared. I suppose she had reason to be. It isn't every day you drink poisoned wine.
'On my life,' I replied and - with the remains of the poison which was in the syringe I'd injected through the wine bottle's cork - I showed her. I squirted it onto the back of my hairy right hand and licked it off. 'There, if the antidote doesn't work I'll be dead before I can go and hide in the bedroom.' She watched as I smiled and hopped into the bedroom and closed the door. I placed my ear against the faux-wood and held my breath.
'Miss Dawlish?' I hear Ward ask, his voice was slightly muffled but I understood well enough through the bedroom door and I heard Sandra let him in.
'Yes! Please enter, Mr. Ward, I understand you are a connoisseur of fine wine?' Sandra replied and there wasn't a trace of fear in her voice. I thought, good girl.
'Well, of vino nouveau, I suppose, Miss Dawlish. Can my man, James, join us?' Ward asked.
I listened and shook my head and thought, tell him no, Sandra, tell him no!
'I would feel more comfortable if he stayed outside Mr. Ward. Unless you are worried that I might ravish you and you think you need his protection?' Sandra answered and I smiled. Well played, Sandra, I thought.
'Um… no, I guess that will be fine,' Ward replied but he didn't sound too pleased. 'James doesn't like not being at my side. He's my chief of security.'
'Does he accompany you everywhere, Mr. Ward?' Sandra asked.
'Yes, he's very thorough.'
'What, even to the toilet when you…'
'No!' Ward coughed. 'He's not that thorough,' he said with a stutter and then must have instructed James to stay outside as I heard the door close.
'I have a case of twelve bottles, Mr. Ward,' Sandra said, getting straight into the spiel. 'I was just about to open one, would you like a glass?'
'That would be lovely, Miss Dawlish. Twelve bottles eh? Would you consider selling any or perhaps all of them? Depending on the outcome of this tasting, of course.'
'Mr. Ward, I hadn't considered selling any of them and I don't know how you came to find out about my little, shall we say escapade?'
Ward laughed. 'I have my sources.'
'Indeed you do, Mr. Ward,' Sandra replied and I heard her pour the wine and then she must have handed him his glass. A second or two later they clinked. 'Cheers.'
'Cheers, Miss Dawlish,' he answered and then there were a few minutes of silence.