Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The elegant décor did nothing to lift the atmosphere in the room as the small group of officers and dignitaries parted to let Inspector Carbeth through. He strode up to the sprawled body and rapped his cane on the parquet flooring to prompt his man’s report.

The detective spoke without looking up from his analyser: “His work, without question.”

“What was it this time?”

“A celery stick restructured to consist of tungsten-carbide.”

Carbeth scowled. The man was making a mockery of his department. Twenty-eight assassinations in nine weeks. The Council was gone. Only His Excellency remained. Drastic measures were required.

A polite cough from the entrance of the room caused all to bow as His Excellency sauntered in.

“My dear Carbeth. This is somewhat of a trial, is it not?”

“Excellency. The man known as the Alchemist is a coward. He slays and then disguises himself as a member of staff, uses his unique molecular manipulation techniques to shape a weapon from a household item, then kills his target without warning or mercy. We are now sure that he remains amongst the staff the following day and escapes in the evening.”

His Excellency looked perturbed: “You mean to say that the Alchemist is amongst the staff here, as we speak?”

Carbeth smiled as a notion became an idea: “Indeed, Excellency. And that is exactly where we want him.”

“Really? Do tell.”

“Please order the entire staff to assemble in the ballroom. I shall demonstrate.”

The ballroom was abuzz with muted conversation as His Excellency, Carbeth and twenty Pacifiers entered. Carbeth received confirmation from the seneschal that all were present.

He drew his flechette pistol and then nodded to the Pacifier Captain: “Kill them all.”

The spasmic grunts of unexpected death were drowned out by the crackle of twenty kazers. The silent aftermath was torn by the syncopated hiss of Carbeth’s flechette pistol as he shot the seneschal in the back.

“Good god, Carbeth! Are you out of your mind?”

“No, milord. I am killing the Alchemist. For the death of one such as him, the loss of eighty-five serving class is a bargain price.”

His Excellency gathered himself.

“Quite exemplary, Carbeth. You might give thought to a Council seat. I find myself in need of men of decisive mien.”

His Excellency was less sanguine later, missing his courtesans. Ah well, a couple of bottles of vintage red would tide the night over into the following day and the excitement of getting more staff. He always loved shopping.

Pleasurable anticipation was halted by the sight of a cracker lifting from his caviar, steaming and glowing as it was transformed from foodstuff to molybdenum. As the restructured wafer approached, a dulcet feminine voice spoke from the air to its left.

“It never ceases to amaze me that you are all so fascinated by the technology I use to make my weapons, yet never seek to question the simple ruses I perform to conceal my invisibility.”


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows