Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I’m standing a little too close for his bodyguard’s liking, but it’s crowded in here and I have to be sure. I stumble a little and Ileo himself reaches a hand to help. I take his arm and smile. He doesn’t recognise me.
“Thank you.”
“Least I could do.” He’s flirting with his eyes – about all he can get away with. Far too many functionaries about. I see his bodyguard move in.
“Looks like you’re taken.”
He glances sideways at his approaching minder: “Unfortunately, for tonight, it’s something we both must bear. Maybe another time?”
I smile as I step back into the crowd: “Definitely.”
He smiles. I’m gone.

Jonas is his waiter and Elle is his escort. She only got out of bed because serving Ileo pays so much. Jonas rose – from the same bed – because I pay his wages. I watch them exchanging passionate glances whenever Jonas passes the table. That’s unfortunate.

Ileo leaves at oh-three-hundred with Elle on his arm. Jonas changes hurriedly and rushes to meet me.
“Will she be safe?”
I smile as I look up from my phone: “Yes.”
His sigh of relief halts as I taser him with the ‘phone’. Catching his body, I step back into the alley, lean him against a dumpster and stab him several times. Just another mugging gone wrong.
As he slides down, I answer the question in his eyes: “She lives because you’re gone.”

I step out the opposite end of the alley, check my tracking and see that Elle has been dropped off – not that it matters if she wasn’t, but I prefer to be honest when answering someone’s final question.
“This is Hive. This is Hive. Please confirm delegate.”
Right on time.
“Delegate is marked, Hive. Go code is XY671020.”
My touch contained two ingredients in fingertip pads. Jonas’s serving cloth had the activating ingredient, while Elle’s dress and underwear were soaked with tracer elements that would only bond with a microadhesive base made of the first three parts.

Far away on a cypress-covered hill, Ileo steps from his armoured limousine and the stealth drone that’s been orbiting since nightfall locks on. Eight antipersonnel grenades rain down and Ileo goes to meet his maker along with his bodyguard and driver, killed with munitions from a nearby country that most will believe held a grudge.

We came up with how to get away with drone operations over ‘friendly’ soil while at college. I did the time in the military necessary to acquire the obscure skills and contacts we needed.
We formed Hillsdon and Vemas, a.k.a. ‘HiVe’. An international company founded in secret, grounded in anonymity, and based on neutral ground. We provide ‘deniable lethal oversight with global reach’. These days, for an increasing number of people and organisations, HiVe is the ace up their sleeves, and they will pay handsomely to retain – and defend – it.
Our notoriety led to Ileo Vemas starting to doubt our moral standing. Arguments escalated into separation. I changed my face within a month of leaving, then killed those who did the work. It’s taken two years to exploit the protocols of our invisible hierarchy to action his assassination.
My de facto takeover will be a side effect. I did this to wipe away that look on his face. The one he got when he realised I simply couldn’t understand his objections to killing for money. I had to. Just had to. I can’t be as bad as that look suggested, can I?