Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The lumen panels are set to ‘candlelight’ and the susurrus of the climate control system is muted to barely a whisper. The room is twilit, draped with banners from a hundred victories. In a depression on the floor, an ornamental pool has been reborn as a cushion- and pillow-lined nook for a wearied and bloody command couple to find a moments respite.

An indistinct figure with flaxen hair tilts a face of rare beauty to gaze up at the chiselled lines of a face that could have been hewn from granite – and would have seemed softer had it been so.

“How do I die?”

“It will be a thing of surprise and expectation, an act unforeseen, yet suddenly so obvious to those staggering with grief. ‘Such a bright soul could not last in the tawdry environs of today’, they will say.”

“Michael?”

“He will be as one felled by a mighty blow, but the need to be there for your armies will save him. Duty will ever be his salvation after you are gone.”

“Will I bring peace?”

“Alas, no. There will be a cessation of hostilities. A funeral so rare because of the theretofore unseen gathering of intergalactic luminaries. But then the recriminations will start and rattling sabres will counterpoint venomous rhetoric. The year granted by your death will be recalled as you bestowing a gift upon the troops, even in your passing.”

“What of my killer?”

“He – or more correctly, it – is a companion of doers and movers throughout history, a creature that feeds on the rare essences generated by true heroines and inspirational leaders. But all of that is merely entrée to the haut cuisine created by the storm of emotion over each notary’s death. Thus what started as happenstance has become modus operandi. It is the lover and killer of those who make mankind great.”

“Will it miss me?”

“Forever. Every slaying wreaks decade-long havoc upon its mind, for all that the ecstasy of gourmet fare thunders within. You will be sorely missed.”

“Can you protect me, as you have done so many times before?”

“To defend you would require the end of me.”

“I know my killer very well, don’t I?”

“You do.”

“I started with the wrong question, didn’t I?”

“You did.”

“When?”

“Close your eyes.”

The molecularly-aligned edges pass through sleight fields, body armour, dermal weave and titanium-laced bone with only the slightest frissance of impact. The resonance that realigns the edges is unperturbed as the weapon describes a swift reverse question mark in her heart, sundering chambers and cleaving erythrocytes.

She feels a quiver under her breast, but knows the knife is sharper than pain: death will take her before sensory trauma registers.

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