Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

They say that a man who seeks revenge should dig two graves, one for his target and one for himself. I dug two hundred and seventy-nine.

Into two hundred and thirty-seven of them I put all that remained of the inhabitants of my home town, Padgest. I had to guess which bits belonged to whom toward the end. The two hundred and thirty-eighth is Karen’s.

Filling the next forty has taken me six years. Six years to track down every member of the Twenty-Third Special Operations Commando, who turned my home into an abattoir during the dying days of the ‘Endless’ Empire. They went their separate ways after the war, slipping anonymously back into the newly-freed populations as their training had taught them to do.

The first squad ran an adventure holiday company on Eridanus. My quest for vengeance nearly ended there. Eight-to-one odds, only offset by the fact that they had all gone to seed quickly, partying hard with their customers. I shipped their bodies home in a freight container.

The second squad was ruling the planet of Haberdesh. I had to start a rebellion to get them and only salvaged a suitcase full of remains to bring back.

The third squad had become bounty hunters. I realised that my need to look them in the eyes as they died would get me killed, thus personal vengeance ceded to practicality and I sabotaged their ship. I brought their frozen bodies home strapped to the outside of my hull like sculptures.

The fourth squad came after me. It was inevitable that they would keep in contact with their former comrades and work out that someone had declared open season on them all. I spent eight months in hospital after the month-long running battle with them, wading through the stinking swamps and blighted mires of Kelsige, relying on a native crossbow as the planet’s corrosive atmosphere destroyed their kit and removed their advantages.

The command squad split up while I was in hospital and went to brutal lengths to conceal their tracks, forgetting one thing: a trail of bodies is easier to follow than a trail of transactions.

I found them all and dealt with them one at a time. As I didn’t have their training, I had to improvise: hiring a truck to crush a coffee shop, dropping a skip on a stationary car, using a tourist submersible to sink a yacht, using home-made bombs to cause an avalanche, a rockslide and a bridge collapse.

The former leader of the 23rd SOC retreated to a hunting lodge in the mountains of Tarkerut. He used all his skills to make the place lethally inaccessible. So I used mortar bombs filled with Charo musk to paint the walls and roof. Charo are voracious and look like the furry bastard spawn of lampreys and cockroaches. He tried to stop the infestation I attracted and died very badly, if the screams were anything to go by. I had to wait two months to retrieve his remains.

Today I filled his grave and walked across the blue grass meadow to where Karen’s mound lies next to the only empty grave. I sit on the edge of the open grave and tell her about the last death while I finish my champagne and cyanide. Then I check the deadfall holding the earth back from the grave.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

Next to my girl, forever to keep

Come judgment day or ending times

The guilty have paid for their crimes.”

The darkness washes in as I feel myself topple into my grave.

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