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The Corruption of Kill Lexica
By Kate


When everyone I loved had died, and I was left grounded, creditless and destitute, on a planet I had never before walked upon, I sought out the closest thing I could find to my former home: the chrome and flash of the planet's only port.

I was injured, a gnawing pain in my left leg and elbow, and blood dripping down into my eyes. I had landed on that side, thrown from the deck of the orbiting monastery, and I do not know how long I lay, unconscious, with my face touching dirt for the first time. My elbow was more than likely broken, my leg possibly as well. I had a concussion and could scarcely walk a straight line. Not that I cared: my foster family was all dead, and I had been taught to ignore pain.

I can only imagine how I looked, stumbling into that tavern, unkempt and dirty, blood staining my formerly immaculate apprentice's tunic. It didn't matter to me, who was unsure of even why I had walked in. It also failed to matter to the drunken mercenary whose hands were on me the minute I swerved closely enough.

It was an automatic response, shoving the fingers of my good hand into his eyes and my good knee into his solar plexus. Stressed with the sudden shift in my weight, my broken leg nearly buckled; I hissed in pain. Killing him was not personal, it was merely another motion, ingrained into me since childhood: do not show weakness, or leave none alive to tell of it.

I dropped him to the floor and then realized what I had done. I looked around, to see if there were any who would challenge me for it, and there was, or so I thought. He walked towards me, hands held up, a gesture of peace. He was a big man, oddly guileless for someone so heavily armed. His name, he said, was Kamiton, and the man I had killed was his.

I asked if he wanted an apology. He said he would rather give me a job.

I accepted, of course. I had no where else to go. He paid for a doctor to bond my bones back together – my elbow was near to shattered, and the big bone in my thigh cracked – and for me to have some clothes.

With a healed leg and good shoes on my feet, I ran back to the site of the crash the next day, for my sword. The gravity of the planet had me off balance, and my lungs screaming for oxygen, but I pushed myself past it. I wanted to get it over with, to stop thinking about the monks buried within their own home.

Eighteen years, they had raised me as their own, since I was a baby and my parents left me on their deck. I don't remember them, and certainly feel nothing for them, because when they left, the monks took me in, a too-small girl-child with a hundred fathers. Though it was forbidden for them to keep me, they did, and though it was forbidden for a woman to learn their fighting art, they taught me. I'm the only one left with it, now.

My sword had been in my little room, which was now at the top of the broken, side-up structure. I climbed, the jagged metal cutting my hands, the stink of leaking fuel filling my lungs. I wrapped it in my hood, along with my shorter knives, and threw the bundle to the ground before climbing back down.

I used my knives to create a spark, and lit my home ablaze. The monks' ways were secret, and none could loot the place and find them. The smoke filled my lungs and choked me, made tears run down my face. The smoke did.

After that, Kamiton paid me to kill for him. He told me a few weeks in that he'd never known anyone to do it as well as I did. Officially, I was a guard. Kamiton had a ship, a cargo vessel, and I understood without being told that the things in the cargo bay were not, in the strictest sense, his. They were stamped with an odd symbol, an M in a silver circle surrounded by stars, and I was fairly certain that M did not stand for Kamiton. Common may not have been my first language, but it was the easiest, and whoever M was, he owned the cargo, and Kamiton worked for him.

It didn't matter; I worked for Kamiton. I killed for him when the cargo was threatened, I stole for him when the cargo was being held somewhere else. Not clean work, but good work. It kept me fit, kept me busy, so that there was no time to think of other things.

The first job that really bothered me was on a planet called Correa.

It seemed simple enough when Kamiton told it to me: someone had taken something that belonged to his employers, and I had to go and get it.

I had been climbing in and out of the windows in the monastery for years, and scaling the walls of the large house was not difficult. The window latch took me a moment, but I got it to release without too much effort. There was a security beam, but the air was dusty and I could see it, plain as day. Pulling the edge of my hood tighter across my face, to keep the dust from my lungs, I stretched over it, and was inside.

I could hear music from somewhere within the house, but it sounded far away and was irrelevant. The room I was in contained the safe Kamiton wanted me to empty, and that was what mattered.

The lock was laser-key controlled, but Kamiton had told me how to unlock it, and I found it surprisingly easy. I removed the papers within and secured them in my tunic. All was going perfectly until I heard the noise behind me. I turned, and there was a little boy watching me.

I put my finger to my lips, hoping that he would just let me leave. No such luck: he opened his mouth and shrieked.

I'm not proud of what I did, and can find no adequate way to justify it. What I should have done was just leave, jump out the window and hope that that greenery below would break my fall. Instead I froze for a moment, rooted in place by the inhuman wailing coming from the child, and by the time I snapped out of it, I had no other course of action but to fight my way out. No one was left alive. No one.

The worst of it was, Kamiton didn't care. He actually gave me a raise. I had nightmares for a week.

After that, it became harder, killing. I was checking myself constantly, giving my opponents breaks, afraid of the person that was inside me. The monks lived in that monastery to protect people. I understood why, now. The training, it was training to kill.

I was shot once, a laser pistol that burned all the way through my gut and out my back. It was a mistake, and Kamiton knew it, but he didn't reprimand me. I believe he was actually relieved that I could make one.

I began to meditate more. It was the only time I felt calm, sitting in full lotus with my mind as blank as it could become. I took to sitting in the cargo bay, avoiding Kamiton and the rest of his crew, under the guise of meditating. I ate practically nothing and practiced my forms feverishly. I became harder, leaner. I slept fitfully, if at all.

I do not know how it would have ended if she had not come that day.

I hadn't been expecting company, but felt the shudder of an airlock fixing into place over the rumble of the ancient engines. We were in the middle of space, far from any ports, and there had been no rendezvous set.

"Put your hands up!" someone said, the whine of laser weapons punctuating his words.

I had been sitting against one of the crates, with my sword across my lap. With a sigh, I looked up and pushed my hood back, needing to see in the dim light. Four men, three of them masked, and behind them, a woman in a thin black dress. Caught off guard by her presence, I stared for a moment. She was beautiful, beautiful enough to be someone's highly paid toy, but her eyes were dark and predatory, keen. She stared back at me, equally perplexed.

"Hands!" the unmasked man repeated, shoving the muzzle of his rifle forward impatiently.

I licked my lips, a smile coming to my face in spite of me. Gently, I laid my sword on the deck, and held up my gloved hands, using my thighs to push myself upright from the cross-legged position.

Standing, I could see that they were all taller than me, even the woman, which was nothing new. I had never been large by anyone's standards. I weighed my options, looking at the mens' steady hands on their triggers, and made a decision. Before any of them could react further, I dove to the right, out of sight between two crates. Laser fire hissed behind me, all four firing on the spot where I had been standing. I smirked and moved deeper within the cargo.

"Fuck!" I heard the one man say. "Sweetheart, you just signed your own death papers." I curbed the urge to laugh out loud. Korac-sensei had always said that threats were the mark of someone ill-equipped to back them up.

Two of the masked guards moved into the cargo, as quiet as drunkards reliving the good old days. I kept my head below the line of crates, and took one down with a flying tackle, pinning his gun and hands to the deck and slamming his head down into the hard metal. He went limp, and I rolled over, bracing my feet against a crate and heaving him over, so that he landed heavily on the deck in front of his friends. The second one came after me, and I smashed my fist into his jaw, not even bothering to check and see if he was unconscious before hurling him to land on top of the first one.

There was a sound, slight, a halted footstep. "Hold," came the woman's voice, clearly ringing with authority. Heeled shoes, a woman's footsteps, tapped across the deck. "How much is Kamiton paying you?" she asked, voice pitched so I knew the question was meant for me. Figuring it to be a ploy to make me reveal my position, I remained silent, moving slowly around the bay.

"It can't be much," she continued. "He's just a runner. You're good." One of the men, probably the one whose jaw I had broken, groaned. "You're very good. And since this is my cargo you're protecting so well, I'm inclined to be… generous."

By now I was nearly behind them; interest piqued, I moved forward and laid my knife against the unmasked one's throat. She turned, and her eyes widened. The man followed her gaze and reacted to my presence instinctively, trying to jump away. I hooked my foot around my ankle and pressed down hard on his instep. "Your cargo?" I asked.

"Yes. My name is Mercedes Manpantos. Kamiton works for me." I raised an eyebrow, wondering at the show of force towards an employee. "Until this morning, when he decided to steal it from me."

It made sense then, the way Kamiton had been acting lately. Nervous, shifty. It had been only a curiosity until this moment. I thought about the woman's offer, studying her carefully.

She was a beautiful woman, Mercedes, dark-haired and shapely, and she dressed to show that she knew it. Her dress was real silk, and it clung to her curves, neckline plunging daringly towards her waist, a slit up the sides revealing a long expanse of leg. A small laser pistol was strapped there, and I nearly laughed at the size of it.

The man I was holding, thinking that my concentration had broken, brought his arm up to knock the knife away. It was a good move, professional and well-executed. I kicked his legs out from under him and shoved his shoulders back, the combined moves sending him completely end over end. I shoved my knife into the base of his skull, where the spine disappeared into it, before I could stop myself.

I stood again. "I'm sorry," I told the woman, who looked only mildly startled. "He was important to you?"

She shifted her weight, lips pursed. "My chief of security."

"I will be a better one," I found myself promising.

She smiled. "I don't doubt that. What's your name?"

Twice in as many sentences, the words left my lips before I could check them. I gave her my real name, in the language of the monks, nearly unpronounceable to those not raised speaking it. Her eyebrow lifted, and I gave her the admittedly awkward translation I had decided to use. "Kill. Kill Lexica."

My knife was still embedded in the now ex-chief of security's brain; to avoid watching her face as she processed the name, I bent and retrieved it, wiping it on his dark uniform shirt before resheathing it.

"Well, Kill," she said finally. "I came here to reclaim my cargo."

I nodded to show my understanding, and walked past her to pick up my sword.

I didn't decide to be a criminal, though I can't imagine being anything else. I was born the daughter of a criminal, his father a criminal before him. The Manpantos Crime Syndicate has been in business for generations. My brother Miguel and I are simply the latest key holders.

The life of a criminal is, from what I can see, markedly better than the life of an honest woman. I do as I please, with whom I please, and always have. I'm given to understand that having sex with other women is something of a taboo in other places, but I never gave it a second thought. My father never discouraged me. Before he died, he told me that I answered to no one, that that was what being a Manpantos meant.

As long as business is good, I can do what I like, and business is always good. The allied governments impose too many trade embargos for it to be otherwise.

My brother and I have be running things jointly since our father died six years ago, when I was sixteen and he was seventeen. We've done well, much better than those who thought us too young to be crime lords. Most of those people are dead now. You cannot maintain control with loose ends flopping around in the wind.

The rules my father taught me are twofold simple: do not trust, and do not show mercy. He told me this when I was having an affair with the daughter of one of his lieutenant's daughters, Susanna. I could have loved her, and he saw it, and he knew it was time to tell me the truth.

Susanna only wanted to be close to me, so when her father decided to betray mine, I would ask for her to be spared. I saw it in her eyes when I confronted her, and that was the last time I have felt such pain. A month later, when my father ordered her whole family killed, I didn't flinch. I knew then, what we were.

I have made peace with it since. I am willing to trade, the possibility of love for the life I have. Were I honest, I could still not love whom I wish, so I choose a life where I can at least fuck whom I wish.

That morning was business as usual. I woke up to the sound of my brother's voice.

"Kamiton's been shopping for other suppliers." I could tell from the volume that Miguel was here in person, and not over the comm. I shifted and felt the body plastered against mine. I smiled.

"Did you hear me?" Miguel asked, impatient. "I said, Kamiton's been shopping around."

I smirked against the shoulder my mouth was pressed to. "I heard you." I lifted so that I hovered over my bedmate, tossing my hair behind my shoulder so I could have an unobstructed view. "Why aren't you taking care of it yourself?" The woman sleeping sprawled beneath me was lean and toned, pale from living in space but beautiful enough, nonetheless. I wished I could remember her name.

"You brought Kamiton in. You vouched for him. You said he'd work with us." Miguel was irritated, but it was more likely that he was simply jealous that I'd snapped up this girl before he could get around to her.

"I said he was good at what he does. Which, considering what he does, isn't exactly a glowing recommendation." I knew my brother, though, and he wasn't going to give it up. "Wake up."

The woman didn't respond; I shifted and pressed hard between her legs with my knee.

That got her, blue eyes blinking awake, a graceless hand swiping at the tangle of blond hair in her face. "You have to go. Get dressed."

She protested. I ignored her and turned to glare at my brother, who sighed before turning his back. I stood and retrieved the woman's jumpsuit from where I had thrown it the night before. The shoulder tabs said she was a pilot. I could remember she was a shuttle jockey for one of our contacts, but I still couldn't remember her name, if I had even known it.

I went to my own wardrobe and pulled on a dress, less revealing than my usual attire. Kamiton is an odious sort of fellow, at least towards me. I use my looks to get me places, yes, but I don't have to put up with it when the man has already betrayed me.

The doors of my quarters hissed as the blond made her exit. Miguel turned his head to regard her as she left, and turned back to me with a smirk. I scowled and gestured for him to fasten my dress in the back.

"Another blond," he commented as he did so. "You most definitely have a type, baby sis."

"And you most definitely need to start using the comm like everyone else. I was planning on having some fun with her this morning."

"Your fault," Miguel replied, shrugging and moving towards the door as I pulled my boots on. "You brought Kamiton in."

I smiled sweetly, dropping my heeled boots onto the floor with an indelicate thud and standing in them. "And now I suppose I'll go take him out. After all," I paused next to Miguel, who scowled, "he did ruin my morning."

I collected my personal head of security and went to go take care of the problem. And, four hours later, instead of triumphantly returning to the compound after scaring Kamiton into loyalty, I found myself staring into the face of a young mercenary who had neatly dispatched my entire security team, and then promised to replace them. With herself.

If I hadn't seen her kill Caine, I wouldn't have believed it. She was small and pretty, like a doll, at least a head shorter than me and with a short halo of blond hair framing her face. She was dressed in what looked like swathes of black cloth, wrapped and tucked from neck to boot, obscuring her body, but she didn't appear overly muscular. There was no hint to her appearance that suggested she could do what she had just done.

She held the sword at her side, loosely, allowing me to look at her. I imagine she would have become used to it, looking like she did in her line of work. "How old are you, kid?" I asked before I could stop myself.

"Kill," she corrected, thinking I had gotten her strange name wrong. "And I think I'm nineteen." She swung her head up, looking towards the main entrance to the cargo bay, and then smiled, the expression dangerous and alarming. The grip on the sword tightened and she pulled up her hood with her free hand.

I fell into the rhythm of killing for Mercedes Manpantos rather than for Kamiton easily.

In a way, it was easier than ever. Mercedes required none of the finesse Kamiton had asked of me, no burglary and no espionage. Simply killing, often without leaving her sight.

She was a crime lord, holding half the cards of the Manpantos Family close to her chest. She had a brother, Miguel, but I had seen him only in passing, enough to note that being frighteningly good-looking was a familial attribute.

She gave me a room, adjacent to hers though obviously much smaller, very similar to what I had had at the monastery. It was filled with items that had belonged to the man I had killed, Caine, but I removed most of them.

Within a few days, I understood what I really was to her: a shadow, seen but unseen, benign yet threatening. Though she was cunning, and seemed well respected, threats upon her life were serious and frequent. The following months kept me sharp, always on the lookout. There was rarely a moment in which I was not hovering behind her. I kept the door between our rooms cracked at night, even when she was with someone, even though I had been instructed not to.

Turned out to be a good decision, that.

The rapidity at which my arousal turned to fear was alarming in itself, though I had no time to dwell upon it. The curvaceous woman who had, not ten seconds ago, been half-naked and sprawled on my bed, held a laser knife to my throat a full four inches long, long enough to slice and sear from ear to ear with no effort.

I made an effort to scream – not that anyone could hear me, I had been so insistent on privacy lately – but all that emerged from my lips was a strangled, choked sound. The woman smirked, too-red, smeared lipstick cutting a dangerous arc across her face, and opened her mouth to speak.

She never had the chance. Suddenly, she was wrenched off me, so quickly her face didn't even respond. I heard her thump, heavily, somewhere in my room and it was as if I had been restarted: I leapt up and retreated to the furthest corner of my room.

Kill stood at the foot of my bed, her back to me, bare fists clenched and every muscle tight, waiting for something. She was only half dressed herself, in a white undershirt and the black BDUs she had taken to wearing, devoid of hood, armor or weapons. I heard the woman groan beyond, hidden by Kill and a half-way folded screen.

"Get up," Kill said. It had to be Kill who spoke, though it sounded like someone else entirely: the normally cool, almost emotionless voice of my bodyguard had taken on a jagged, threatening edge I'd never heard before. It took me a moment to recognize the emotion, coupled with the tense, shaking frame, was fury, tightly leashed. "Get. Up."

She moved forward, and then the would-be assassin came in to view, wrenched up by her hair. Her face was contorted in pain and some facsimile of anger that was probably hiding fear. I would have been afraid, if I had been her.

Still holding her upright by the roots of her hair, Kill slammed her fist into the woman's stomach, throwing her aside and following her with two precise punches to the face. I realized that she was propelling her towards the door, keeping her upright by spin alone, and with two more hits they both disappeared from sight.

I didn't move, still barely breathing after the attack. My vision began to swim as it hit me, how close I had come. If, six months ago, I hadn't hired a bodyguard who turned out to be some kind of psychic, I would have been killed.

Very close to a panic attack, I felt a cloth settle over my bare shoulders, pulled tight. I opened my eyes and saw Kill, face expressionless, holding the two edges of the blanket in place, head cocked sideways to look for injuries on my throat. I unclenched one of my hands to hold the blanket closed, grateful for the warmth even though the room hadn't been cold before.

She nodded, a tight smile flashing across her face, and reached behind her back to pull something from her waistband. She held it out to me on her open palm.

It was the laser knife. Off, it seemed an innocuous thing, a black piece of plastic with finger grips. I reached out and took it with trembling fingers, since it was what Kill wanted me to do. I looked up at her, feeling uncommonly helpless.

She smiled again, a strange but not unpleasant expression for her, and tucked a piece of my hair behind my ear. Then she nodded and left.

I clenched the knife in my hand as I watched her go, wondering why it hadn't occurred to me until that moment that she was actually quite a beautiful woman, much more so than the woman who had just tried to kill me.

I was what I was made to be. Mercedes was what she was made to be. There weren't two more carefully molded individuals in the universe entire. That we would come together would seem to have been written long in advance.

What I was, Mercedes gave me an outlet for. What she was, I pushed into being. We were perfect. Together.

I do not know the exact moment when I began to want more from our relationship, only that suddenly I knew that I did, and I knew that it was not good to do so. The monks had never taught me this, never taught me to steal glances at exposed patches of skin or stare down at her while she slept. I didn't know where it came from, and I knew I did not like it. That I would die for her had become less of a question and more of a concern a while ago.

I had told myself for a time that it was only natural, because of how she looked, that anyone in close proximity would respond the same way. They did, too, I watched them. Their eyes grew sick with desire and their palms glistened with sweat. But it was different, for me, deeper. She touched something deep within me, something that had never been stirred before.

It was a troublesome thing, this something, and I had to be careful to not let it surface. I saw what she did to those who want her, I watched them fall under her spell. I ushered them out of her room in the middle of the night, foggy with sex, confused and disoriented by the force of her. It was my job, putting credits for shuttlecab fare in their palms, ensuring that the rest of her sleep would be unbothered.

I don't think she knew that I did this. I don't think she would have liked it if she did. I don't know what she thought, that night with the assassin, I don't know how she thought I knew to save her. I don't know what she ever thought I was thinking.

Nine hells, I didn't know what I was thinking.

The night after, I slept alone.

A strange thing for me to do, really, something I guess even I would consider out of character. All day, I was thinking: they've crossed a line.

Who? It didn't matter. What mattered was that she had gotten so close, so very near to killing me. If she had waited until I was asleep, even Kill couldn't have saved me. If Kill was a heavier sleeper, she couldn't have saved me. Caine couldn't have saved me; Caine would have been fast asleep or with a woman himself. Kill, whoever she was, wherever she came from, no one else could have done what she did. I needed her.

I needed her.

It was strange. We weren't friends; she hardly ever spoke, in fact, only to answer direct questions, and her responses were rarely complete. I began to study her, after that night, trying to understand why she was so very good at what she did, trying to see what I had only taken for granted before.

She had no past, it seemed, only a year spent working for Kamiton. I asked how she had met him, and she told me, quite simply, that she had killed one of his men and taken his place. I knew there had to be more, just as I suddenly knew that there was more to everything she told me. Someone had taught her to fight, just as someone had taught her to meditate, to listen, to hide. She was not a robot.

I remembered the look in her eyes that night, the way she had touched my hair, wrapped the blanket around me – she had feelings, and emotions, and I had seen more of them that night than I had in the half a year she had been working for me. A few minutes, it had been, at most, and as the memory of it all faded what I remembered was what she was capable of, of the emotional depth she could and had displayed. No, she was not a robot.

It was a few weeks later when I finally understood what that meant.

Everything seemed all right after that, it all seemed as it had been. Mercedes went back to the business of crime, and I continued with the business of protecting Mercedes. If she asked more questions than before – that was to be expected. If, sometimes, I felt her eyes on me rather than on her work – that was my imagination.

A few weeks went by. She worked more, later, in her study until two, three in the morning. There was no place for me in the study; I had to contend myself with pacing around it, walking through it when possible.

Women came to visit her sometimes, in the study. She hadn't had one in her bedroom since the assassin. She flaunted them, it seemed, even though there was only me to see, flaunted that she continued with her affairs as usual. It was important to her, I supposed.

I did my best not to disapprove of them. They usually looked so forlorn when they left her. That, I could sympathize with, unfortunately.

I wasn't proud of what I was doing. Of baiting Kill like I was.

I needed to see it again, needed to see some hint of emotion on her face. She just seemed to sink deeper inside herself, though, the more time passed. I had two, three women visiting me in one day, fucked at least one of them within earshot of her, and she never showed any sign of it affecting her. I had made it up. I didn't see anything that night, nothing that told me she cared about me.

Then I caught her.

A woman, some kind of secretary, was leaving, and Kill watched her go, in that careful way of watching people she had, as though she expected the woman to turn around and shoot me at any moment.

The secretary dropped something on the floor, and Kill bent to pick it up. I recognized the scrap of silk. My underwear. Kill clenched her fist, then released it, nearly dropping them. She lifted her eyebrows and held them back out to the secretary, who smiled unrepentantly and gave Kill a long once-over before taking them.

Kill turned away from her, and seemed to have forgotten I was were I was, because I could see her face, and the look on it was sheer anguish. I had what I wanted, and suddenly I didn't want it at all.

"You have to understand, Kill…" I began as the woman left, walking around my desk towards the slight, darkly-clothed figure standing, suddenly awkward, in my study, blue-grey eyes looking everywhere but at me. She never wore her hood in my presence, anymore, which I took to be a sign of trust.

"No, I don't," Kill said, quietly.

"What?" I moved forward, concerned at the customary lack of emotion in her tone. "What do you mean?"

Kill looked up, and before her expression closed, I saw it again, the agony that made me gasp and reach out. She cut me off by turning and walking away, beginning to pace a bit. "I don't have to understand. It isn't my job. I don't have to understand anything. I just… work for you." She stopped by the window, resting a hand against the sill with her back to me.

"That's what you think?" I asked, realizing in that moment that it wasn't true, that the tense, broken set of Kill's shoulders was breaking me in turn. I reached out and placed a hand on her arm, and felt the muscle tense beneath my fingers, but she didn't pull back. I took another step forward, slowly, not wanting to spook her, aware that she could kill me easily if she wanted to. I held my breath until I was pressed flush against her back, my free arm coming up to encircle her waist.

I sighed at the contact, and realized that she had, too. I looked up at our reflection, at her still-downcast face, felt her trembling against me. Gently tightening my grip, I pulled her back, even closer to me. She lifted her head and met my gaze in the window. I gasped at the look in her eyes: desire, pure and heady, untempered and unrepentant.

We held, frozen, staring at each other in a pane of glass, for a long moment, until she broke the gaze, looking down and away, tensing again and shifting as though to escape.

"No," I whispered, keeping my arm about her waist even as she turned aside, so that she ended up turning to face me. My other hand came up to her chin, desperate to meet her eyes again, to know that I hadn't made it up. My thumb stroked her jaw and her eyes lifted reluctantly to mine as she reached up to stop my hand from moving.

I froze again, trapped by the possibility of what Kill would mean, of what allowing this, allowing what every inch of me wanted, would do to me. She studied my face, my eyes, and seemed to come to some sort of decision. Then she kissed me.

It was a simple thing; we were so close together, she simply tipped her chin up and pressed her lips to mine, lightly but with no hesitation. It was a simple kiss, innocent by comparison to what I would have given her. Simple, and yet it galvanized me to the core, had me trembling and wanting as I had never been before.

She pulled away, and I nearly whimpered in protest, but she returned almost instantly, and with more courage. Her hand left mine to cup my jaw and hold me in place; my fingers slid back to the base of her skull to hold her in place. She licked at my top lip, then my bottom lip, and took advantage of my responding gasp to slip between them. She hummed her pleasure, taking her time, exploring every inch of my mouth before, quite suddenly, pulling back, touching the tip of her nose to mine.

My breath was coming in sharp pants; if she was breathing at all, I couldn't tell.

"Yes," she said simply, matter-of-factly. "It is what I think."

I could barely remember my question, but tightened my grip when she made as if to step back. "I thought you were smart," I replied finally, ducking down to kiss her unresponsive lips. "I thought you could see it." I kissed her again, frowning at how still she was. I looked up at her eyes and saw her eyebrows knitted in concentration.


"That you could mean something to me." Her lips were getting me nowhere, frowning in thought, so I bent lower, kissing the hollow beneath her jaw, back towards her ear. I could feel her pulse race against my fingers, felt it when she swallowed, hard, when my lips brushed her ear.

Her fingers flexed against my shoulder, then drifted down to push, firmly, against my waist. She was stronger than me, and being quite gentle about it, so I reluctantly took the step back she was asking for. I sat on the corner of my desk and gripped the edges to keep from reaching out for her.

She stood, stiffly, hands behind her back, looking at me. Her head cocked to the side, she stared at me under those sinfully long eyelashes, face inscrutable. Then she turned and walked towards the door.

I tipped my head back and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to tamper down the arousal and tears that threatened to spill together. I realized I hadn't heard the door close, and looked up.

She was standing in the doorway, one hand holding it open, looking at me. "Maybe you could mean something to me, too," she admitted, quietly, and then she was gone.

There was no precedent for this among the monks' teachings; while they led celibate lives, I had never been formally initiated and wasn't bound by those rules, which was a shame. It would have been nice to have some reason to fall back on. The fact that I was scared out of my mind just didn't seem like a good excuse.

It was my fault, no use to blame her. I had slipped. I had let myself kiss her.

Which, my brain kept helpfully reminding me, had been fantastic.

Seventh sun, I was in trouble. At least I had stopped it when I did, before it could go further. Which it would have. Gone further. It always did, with Mercedes. In my entire experience working for her, only two women had kept their clothes on – me, and the assassin. And the assassin hardly counted, because she was only half-dressed when I took care of her.

I understood the system Mercedes had in place, had come to assist her with it, and didn't want to be dismissed out of hand after letting my unusually insistent body have its way.

The fact that she implied I was different had to be just that, an implication, meant to only convince me to acquiesce. That I had meant it, wholeheartedly, when I said it back was merely stupidity on my part. Truthful stupidity.

I could, and possibly already did, care a good deal about her. That was a truth. Here was another one: I couldn't. It was impossible. I could not allow myself to do this. Not and do my job, too.

A flimsy excuse. I knew it. It was the best I had, though.

I was being very thoroughly avoided, no mean feat considering that the person doing the avoiding was within earshot of me at all times. Kill had, in imitable Kill fashion, simply withdrawn.

I had a meeting the next day, planetside with a distant uncle of mine, and though she was within ten feet of me the entire day, I had never felt further apart from anyone in my life. With her hood up and her mask draped loosely around her neck, she seemed no different, alert and deadly, but whenever her eyes turned in my direction they passed right over me, as though I wasn't even there.

It was somewhat enviable, actually, the amount of willpower she was exerting. Unless I had, yet again, assigned some kind of emotion to her that she didn't actually possess. When she kissed me, I had thought I felt… something. Something that had given me hope at the time.

Hope for what, I didn't know, and the thought stopped me in my tracks.

I wanted her to love me.

Which meant that a good part of me wanted to love her, back.

Which was bad. Very bad. Love was the ultimate trust. I already trusted Kill far too much. If she wanted to kill me, she wouldn't even have to exert herself. The fact that I was fairly certain she wanted to do anything but kill me was beside the point. I had bought her away from Kamiton. Someone could buy her away from me.

The thought was painful and brought what I was doing into harsh clarity. It had to stop. Kill had made it clear with her actions that she wasn't planning on instigating anything else, and no one ever accused me of lacking in willpower. I could stop. I had to stop.

In my book, nothing had even happened, really. One kiss.

All right, two kisses. Two measly, safe, tame… fucking incredible… fuck. I was in so much trouble.

She seemed to understand, at least. She didn't bring it up again. The part of me that was disappointed in that was thoroughly pushed aside. It was for the best.

Back to business for both of us, then.

Except, it was only business. For both of us. Mercedes was working like a thing possessed, doing nothing but work. She cancelled dinner with her brother, by the heavens. A woman walked into her office in strategically places strips of gauze and nothing else, and she hardly looked up from her desk.

Not right. Not business as usual. Stressful business. She wasn't eating as regularly, didn't seem to be sleeping judging by the dark circles that were under her eyes every morning.

I couldn't be noticing these things. To keep things as they were, a certain distance had to be maintained. I couldn't worry about her; I had myself to be worried about. I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating. I was just better at hiding it.

I blamed sleep deprivation for making me go to her that night.

She was having a nightmare. I could hear her whimpering and crying from my room. I tried to meditate, to ignore it, but it pressed in on me until I couldn't breath, for listening to her, for wanting to help her.

So I went. It was dark in her room but that was no problem for me; I had taken this route many times in such light. She was a lump on the far edge of the bed, clenched tightly around a blanket. I crouched down beside her. Light from the window was caught in the tears streaking her face.

I wasn't thinking; there was no agenda. I reached out and wiped at her cheek with my thumb, palm resting along her jaw, and she calmed almost instantly. It was only when I pulled back that she woke up.

I wasn't expecting it. I looked into her eyes and might as well have died. Mesmerized, I held the gaze for a moment before beginning to rise.

I had planned to return to my room, to meditate myself into mindlessness, but her hand came up around my wrist. The grip was light and shouldn't have held me, but it did. She asked me to stay, and I shouldn't have, but I did.

Kill was fit, a fighter, the product of hours of self-inflicted training. I had known this, but I wasn't prepared for the solid comfort of her arms around me, for how protected I felt with my cheek against her bicep.

I had been completely awake the moment she touched me, as though she had delivered an electrical shot to my system. I didn't know what she was doing, what she was thinking, her face completely drowned in shadow, but I felt the warmth of her palm against my skin, and couldn't stand to have it leave. Asking her to stay with me was, for once, entirely devoid of innuendo. I was too tired to do anything else. I didn't expect her to acquiesce. It was simply a last ditch, sleep-deprived effort to do something about how I felt.

My breath caught when I felt the mattress dip, and her knee skim over my hip as she crawled agilely over to the empty side of the bed. I didn't breathe again until her arm worked its way underneath me, wrapping around my stomach as though she'd done it a hundred times. I sighed, deeply, and settled against her body.

It was odd, the way we fit together, even though she was physically so much smaller than me. Her knees fit behind my knees, her hips against my hips, her nose just brushing against the nape of my neck. She breathed in and out, slowly, evenly, the warmth of it surging through me.

Even though my entire body tingled with awareness of her, I fell asleep again.

She would stay.

I didn't sleep for very long. I never did – two hours was a decent length of time for me. With Mercedes, I managed almost three.

We had barely shifted in that time, only to get closer, if at all. She had rotated slightly towards me, so that I could just see her profile if I craned my neck, and someone's leg had twisted itself into the other's, though it was anyone's guess who. My fingers were now laced with her's, and she held it tightly against her, even asleep.

I should have escaped then. She was deeply asleep, and if I had managed to untangle myself without waking her, she might have chalked the whole thing up to a dream. Getting out should have been my first thought.

Instead, it was the overwhelming desire not to wake her. I forced myself not to tense, held my breath, and all of it without any thought. Only when I convinced myself that she wouldn't be disturbed did I resume breathing, and then it occurred to me what I was doing.

I was holding Mercedes Manpantos.

Mercedes was sleeping, and my arms were around her.

We were wrapped around each other like warring rose bushes, her head was resting on my arm, and you couldn't have fit a piece of paper between her back and my front.

She sighed and, still asleep, shifted the slightest bit, in the process releasing my upper hand. This turned out to be a bad thing. I didn't know what to do with it. I kept it where it had fallen for a moment, knuckles against the blanket, and then, awkwardly, lifted it. My fingers twitched, hovered over her arm, her waist. I looked up at her calm face, looking for some hint.

Hardly daring to breathe, I placed my palm on her waist without looking. Part of the shirt she was wearing in lieu of pajamas had ridden up, and I came into contact with bare skin. Definitely, then, I stopped breathing.

Now firmly in forbidden territory, my hand had decided to take over the situation. Slowly, I mapped skin I shouldn't have even been touching, pushing under the shirt, creeping upwards.

Biting my lip to keep as silent as possible, I was startled when I brushed against the underside of her breast, even more so when she shifted into me, encouraging me. I looked up at her face.

Eyes open, she was looking at me with the purest expression of lust on her face I had ever seen. She shifted again – my hand had paused – and tried to smile around the wanton need painted on her features.

Quickly, before I could change my mind, I surged up over her. She fell onto her back and I hovered for only the barest instant before leaning down to kiss her. She came up to meet me halfway and the heat that exploded between us threatened to overwhelm us both.

I no longer cared that she was going to break my heart. It was already hers to treat however she liked.

Somewhere, in my subconscious, I had to have known it would be like that. I had to have taken the images of Kill fighting, Kill meditating, and translated them to the absolute focus and precision she applied to my body.

Imagining it had in no way prepared me for it.

She was everywhere at once, a calloused hand drawing seemingly random patterns along my abdomen, a hot mouth biting and nibbling a line down my collar bone, careful fingers tracing agonizingly slow spirals to my nipples. It was confusing, intoxicating, overwhelmingly arousing. It was an exploration, maddeningly thorough.

Finally, taken to the point of pain, I grabbed a hand and pushed it down, past the thin, final barrier of my underwear, until she took the final initiative and slid between my legs.

Everything stopped. My head snapped back, toes clenching at the relief and then the renewed need. I realized that she, too, had stopped, that it wasn't just an electrical short in my nervous system, and forced my eyes open to see what was wrong.

She was looking down my body, following the line of her arm down. Her hair, in complete disarray, was in her face and masking her from my view. "Hey," I croaked, forcing the word out. I reached with one hand to turn her head to face me. My heart stuttered and threatened to stop.

She looked utterly, entirely amazed. Cupping her face in my hands, keeping our eyes locked together, I tried to wait for her to regroup, but my hips shifted in spite of me, trying to generate some friction.

She slid up just a few inches to kiss me, and then began to move her fingers in time to the rhythm my hips were setting. The gentle liplock became feverish, frenzied, my legs coming up to lock her in place, a bid for more pressure she supplied immediately. Her thumb settled on my clit, and without breaking rhythm, she slid two fingers inside of me.

The world exploded.

I may have sort of blacked out, because when I regained my bearings and could see anything besides stars, she was lying beside me, propped on one elbow, her fingers still clenched inside of me.

She smiled at me, looking slightly uncertain. The expression alone made me need to kiss her. "Who in the universe taught you to do that?" I blurted, honestly surprised at how much skill had been applied to me.

Her eyebrows knitted and her fingers twitched within me, causing me to hiss. "Do what?" Her forearm coiled; not ready for her to leave me yet, I pressed a hand to her wrist to keep her in place.

"This," I hissed, shifting my hips into the contact.

"Oh," she said quietly, dropping a kiss down unto my shoulder. "I've never done it before."

I frowned, not understanding, but she didn't say anything else. I pushed her shoulders, rolling her onto her back, pulling her out of me in the process. I took both of her now free hands and pushed them into the bedding, staring her in the face.

"That was your first." It was a statement, even though I couldn't believe it. She wasn't that much younger than me, and was anything but homely. That she had made it this long in the 'verse without sex was… "Are you a nun?"

She shifted uncomfortably, for more reasons than one. My thigh had landed in a position to apply some obviously much-needed pressure to her center, and she was struggling not to take advantage of it. "I hadn't taken my vows yet."

I gaped down at her, pieces falling into place with alarming speed. There were many religious orders still struggling by all across the universe. Many of them had fighting styles, many more of them studied meditation. The black, the hood, the mask, the sword… "You're a nun."

She gave up and jerked her hips downwards, wrapping a leg around mine to keep it in place. "Fuck," she swore, head falling back, eyes closed as she tried to bring her breathing back to normal. "Yes. No. Okay. I'm not really a nun." She forced her elbows underneath her, sat up slightly. "My order didn't allow women. I couldn't take the vows but I grew up in the monastery. So," she was panting, the words exploding in short bursts, "I guess… I'm sort of… a nun. Please."

Realizing with a start that I was immobile, inches away from a very hot, very aroused Kill who was actually trying not to come without me, I decided that I would bring the whole thing up later. There were definitely more important things my mouth could be doing.

We didn't talk about it. Not in words, anyways.

There was something, yes, a sort of easy acknowledgment that we fell into that morning and hadn't yet fallen out of. I had climbed out of bed while she was still blinking herself awake, used the sonic shower alone, and accompanied her to her morning's meetings.

The business for the day was nearly complete when her brother came in, unannounced, dismissing the small-timer who stammered in Mercedes' presence. He didn't glance in my direction, accustomed to me.

"The Aquarius hit one of our stations again. That's three this month."

"Fucking freelancers," Mercedes swore.

"We can't just keep ignoring them. They're starting to become… arrogant." Miguel poured himself a drink from the sidebar, as relaxed in his sister's office as he was anywhere else I'd seen him. He was a cool person, and never talked of anything but the business.

Mercedes sighed her agreement. "What do you think, Kill?"

I blinked, freezing. I knew the group they were talking about from listening to Mercedes' meetings, and the reports on the death threats they made her, but I wasn't a part of the business. I had never been asked my opinion before. Miguel stared at me, equally flabbergasted.

I had an answer, though, had had one since the first threat had been issued. "I think you should call their parents."

"What?" Miguel asked, laughing at me.

I adjusted so that my gaze was more fully on him, and not the door. "The Aquarius is not owned by Tony Aquarius, but by his father Antinuous Aquarius, of Shamusan Three. Similarly, all of his crew appear to be friends from the academy he is supposedly attending on Urdic Prime."

"They're rich kids on a, a pleasure cruise?" Mercedes sputtered, angry. "You didn't tell me?"

I shrugged, hoping that she was angry with the rich kids, and not me. "My job is to protect your life, not your space stations. If they had become a serious threat, I would have terminated them."

Mercedes stared for a long moment, before letting out a brief chuckle. "Yes, I suppose you would have. I think I will do as you suggest. Get me a number for Antinuous Aquarius of Shamusan Three." The last bit was spoken to her computer, which instantly began fulfilling the task. She turned to Miguel. "Dinner tomorrow?"

He nodded. I thought about it and decided that I didn't like the way he was eyeing me. "Yes, of course. I'll come by at seven." He kissed her on the cheek, and swept out, casting a final, indecipherable gaze in my direction.

When the doors closed behind him, Mercedes sighed and stood, walking around the desk and to her small sitting area. Miguel hadn't finished the glass of Traillian honeywine he'd poured and she took a sip of it.

After a few minutes of silence, I walked over to kneel in front of her, tipping her chin up to meet my eyes. She smiled slightly, looking weary, and I kissed her softly.

"Next time you have good intel, tell me," she murmured, hands threading up through my hair.

"Then," I began, allowing myself to be interrupted for more kisses. "I should also tell you that your brother is a regular client at a tea house on Yakuza Prime."

She pulled my head back to study my face. "You're not serious."

"Of course I am. I'm told he appreciates the company of one woman in particular, by the name of Sinclair – "

She cut me off with another kiss, more forceful. "Where do you get your information?"

I shrugged, mostly to help her work my tunic off of my shoulders. "I have many skills."

She squeaked as my fingers attained their goal, sliding bonelessly off the couch and into my arms. "Yes," she muttered, looking dazed. "Yes, you do."

Miguel knew.

I could tell the moment he figured it out, the way his eyes had narrowed at he looked at her, the way she had tensed under his scrutiny. Kill was apparently even more cunning than I had given her credit for, which meant that she knew he knew. And, judging from the lack of hesitation in her response to me, she didn't really care.

I didn't, either, only abstractly. Miguel had known about my proclivities for years, and there was no way he could guess how different my relationship with Kill had become.

Asking for her opinion had not been calculated. I had simply blurted the question out. If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done it. Kill showed none of the guile of a criminal.

I knew she hadn't been keeping things from me purposefully; she simply hadn't realized how useful the information she had gathered could be. She had said as much, that if she had deemed the wannabe pirates on the Aquarius to be a real threat she would have taken care of them. I probably never would have even known about it.

Just like I'd have never known about Miguel and his tea house girl. Well, if he decided to try and do something about my relationship with Kill, I could always hold that against him.

"Kill?" I asked, looking up from the pillow. My bodyguard – my lover – was sitting cross-legged at the foot of the bed, absently sharpening her sword. She didn't sleep very much, and tried to wait for me to wake up before she left, with mixed results. I had complained when she polished her boots, but otherwise found it endearing.

She didn't look up from the careful stroke of steel. "Yes?"

"Does it bother you?"

She wiped the blade and then stopped to look at me. "Does what bother me?"

"This." I gestured at myself, naked except for the sheet, and at her, completely naked.

She sighed and set the sword in her lap, giving me her full attention. "You really don't want to ask me that question."

"Why not?" I sat up, holding the sheet to my chest, frowning.

"Because you won't like the answer."

I sank back into the pillows. "Well, I guess I have it, then."

She set the sword, stone, and cloth on the blanket, and unfolded to lie on her stomach beside me. "It makes me worry."

I turned to look at her, trying to keep my eyes on her face and not the expanse of bare back below. "About what?"

She reached up, tracing my lips with gentle fingers, looking guarded and thoughtful. "That maybe I won't be able to protect you one day."

I propped my head on my elbow, so I had a height advantage, at least. "How is that different from before?"

She tried to smile, a flickering gesture that instead gave the impression of tears. "Before, all that would have happened was that I would stop being paid." Her hand continued the slow exploration of my face.

"And now?"

"Now," she sighed again, slipping her hand behind my head and tugging me down for a kiss. "Now it would probably kill me."

There really weren't words to follow something like that. Miguel could go fuck his tea house whore. I was closer to loving this woman than I had ever been with any woman.

She had dinner with her brother that night. What happened wasn't his fault, though it gave me a few minutes of pure, productive anger to blame him. Had she been home, it wouldn't have happened.

The restaurant was busy, which considering it was owned by the Manpantos family, was a good thing. They sat in their special table in the back, well hidden if a bit shadowed, and I propped myself against a column next to the kitchen.

The din of the place kept me on alert, but after the first hour I got a bit complacent, I suppose. I was idly eavesdropping on Mercedes and Miguel's conversation, which seemed stilted and strange.

Miguel's bodyguard, Polish, whose real name no one claimed to know, was on the other end of the restaurant, so that together we could see the entire place. Polish was practically a carbon-copy of Miguel, in a beautiful suit with impeccable manners. Capable, and smart. I wouldn't have hired him.

Movement to my right; I swung my gaze around to watch the drunken patron wave wildly about for the waiter. It was inevitable that my sight would travel from him to her, just as she looked up to catch sight of me. I smiled, aware she couldn't see it through the mask, and then I saw her eyes widen in alarm and real fear.

I turned with my sword leading. Mercedes didn't spook.

I needed to duck, to get out of sight, but all I could do was scream.

What had seemed, only a few moments before, to be a laughing family of six had turned into something from Kill's worst nightmares. The first shot went right by my shoulder, hissed into the wall. Miguel dove out of sight, under the table.

One shot was all they had before Kill was on them, sword flashing. Laser fire went off in every direction, the assassins scattering, disorganized in their efforts to neutralize her.

Miguel's bodyguard was braced against a wall, firing shots from what was practically a cannon. He was going to hit Kill. I started to shout at him, to make him stop, but then something solid hit me from the side. The waiter covered me with his body, shielding my head until the shooting stopped.

I accepted his hand up, casting my eyes around desperately for Kill. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her standing on the shattered remains of a table, sword bloody and loose in her hand. "Kill." I meant it to be a call but it came out a whisper.

She heard. She shifted, turned slightly, and gave me a feeble smile. I realized that the smoke around her was not dust, and then felt my heart stop as she collapsed. I had no memory of crossing the room, only knew that suddenly I was there, kneeling with my hands searching her body frantically for the injury.

I found them.

Two holes, nearly invisible among the blackness of her attire, two smoking laser-burnt holes through her chest. I stifled the sob that bubbled up and felt her hand bump gracelessly into mine. I looked into her eyes, which she struggled to keep open. She couldn't speak, couldn't even really breathe, and her eyes soon rolled back.

Medics came. I suppose the restaurant manager called them. They pushed me aside and worked quickly, shoving several hypos into her bloodstream. I started to go with them, but Miguel's firm grip stopped me.

"I'll take you. They need room to work." For once, his expression was entirely devoid of judgment, and I actually felt grateful, in that moment, that he was my brother.

I nodded and allowed myself to be led, in between the solid form of my brother and his bodyguard.


Not that I didn't know how to manage pain, but it still produced involuntary reactions that no amount of training could suppress. Coming back to life hurt more than anything ever had.

Two hands held my shoulders as I bucked. "Easy," an unfamiliar voice told me. "It's a reaction to the hypo. Don't move."

I couldn't breathe. It wasn't that it was too painful to breath, it was that I really couldn't do it. I gestured wildly, trying to communicate that fact. The voice cursed. It reminded me of Mercedes. Mercedes…

"We're going to have to put her under. She's lost all function. Tell the center to prep for total replacement."


She lost her lungs.

The lasers had burned up almost seventy-five percent of her lung tissue, and the surgeons had to fit her with cybernetic ones. It was an expensive procedure, one that they had been reluctant to do until they realized who I was and that I was most definitely capable of paying for it.

I may also have threatened to kill their families. I was a bit distraught.

Almost eight hours later, I was pacing the floor of the medical center, incapable of hearing anything beyond the tap of my shoes on the hollow-sounding tile.

Miguel had left a few hours ago to take care of things back at the restaurant, leaving a full security detail behind, six heavily armed men where for nearly a year now, all I had needed was Kill and her sword. I felt their obtrusive presence with every footfall, snapped whenever one came too close to me. The only thing that kept me from dismissing them was knowing that Kill would have died all over again.

Footsteps, not my own, reached my ears. I looked up, hoping to see one of the surgeons, and instead saw my brother. He had changed his suit, and held a garment bag over his arm that he held out to me.

About to protest such luxury, I stopped and smiled instead. I was covered in black dust, covered in microscopic pieces of Kill's flesh, and I probably reeked. A guard shut the door of the waiting room I had sequestered, and Miguel turned his back to me.

"What are you doing, Mer?" he asked, head down, hands locked rigidly behind him.

"I'm changing my clothes, Miguel." It wasn't what he was asking and we both knew it. I sighed and twisted the shirt around the correct way, feeling so completely out of sync with myself. "I don't know."

"You have to figure it out. If you love her, you have to fire her."

Finished changing, I bundled up the old clothes and sat down in the worst chair in the entire universe. I wanted to say: I don't love her. But I couldn't, and Miguel knew I couldn't. He sat down beside me, not even wincing, and put his arm around my shoulder. I didn't bring up the Sinclair woman. I understood by the sympathetic look on his face that he had given her up, too.

We are the children of Gabriel Manpantos. We may have anything save for what we love.

When everything I had become ended, when I was left grounded, alone and broken, on a planet I had died on, I sought the closest thing to a new beginning I could find: the flash and chrome of the planet's largest space port.

There was no pain, only an odd feeling in my chest that the center had assured me would disappear. Not sure if it was caused by the cybernetic implants, I doubted them.

Something told me the hollow feeling was something Mercedes had taken with her.

Something told me this feeling was called having a broken heart.

I didn't know where Mercedes had gone. It did not matter because I was not going to seek her. I had known this was coming and could not fault her for it.

I entered a tavern, ordered a drink. I had credit, plenty of credit, and a reputation, now. No one approached me for a long time, which suited me.

A shadow appeared at my elbow. I turned to look at the woman, small and dark with eyes that tilted upwards at the corners and a blue silk kimono. She didn't smile, only sat down beside me and, after a moment, offered me a lit cigarette.

I accepted it and inhaled, letting the smoke fill the artificial things inside of me. I offered it back but she shook her head, already lighting another one. "Mayumi Sinclair," she said, sounding hard and tired, not bothering to offer her hand.

I took another hit of tobacco. "Kill Lexica."

She nodded as though expecting it. I had known her the moment she sat by me.

There is a look to us, those who have been loved and discarded by the Manpantos siblings. There is a hardness in our faces and a recklessness in our actions. It is in the way we stagger, drunken and sobbing, down dirty roads on forgotten planets. It is in the way we act as though laws do not exist, the way we seem almost glad to be taken to prison. We gather, seemingly by accident, we fuck each other in back alleys, eyes closed so as not to see the void between us.

My name is Kill Lexica. Captain Kill Lexica, now. You have heard of me, and of my first mate, Mayumi Sinclair. You have seen my face on the wanted telecasts all across the universe. I have my own cargo now, and I protect my own life.

Which isn't to say I value either. But when you have lost everything of value to you, you cling to something new. And you wait, until that thing comes to mean something, anything at all.

In case you were wondering, I'm still waiting for the empty feeling in my chest to go away.

The End

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