Money – as was to be expected – had changed hands. And Varras owed Bensen what he had paid for before leaving the Borean on his previous mission. Perhaps simplistically, Bensen had chosen to believe that the debt would be honoured, trusting to his reputation. The ring of guards around the room was not an encouraging sign.

Varras spread spatulate fingers and shrugged. “Such baroquing of technology these days, such an intriguing waste do you not agree? The sign of a degenerate culture I’m sure.”

Bensen’s smile did not quite reach his eyes. “Unless, of course, there’s a reason for it.” He turned the disarmed pistol over in his hands – his fingertip tracing a swirl here, his palm brushing a figurine’s face, just so. He ended up holding the inert device by the foresight, dangling it casually by his side.

Varras affected not to notice and changed the subject. “So tell me, why should I not now have you disposed of as an anachronistic lesion on my profit plans?” His sharp teeth glinted as he savoured the moment. A squeeze of Bensen’s fingers and the pistol fell to the floor, suddenly unadorned, as the decorative filigree framework writhed and twisted around his hand. The Assassin whipped his now glittering fist into the air to point at him.

The pistol hit the ground, all but unnoticed, the clatter sounding tinny and far-off.
Varras’ eyes focussed on the delicate tracery flowing around Bensen’s hand that condensed into a solid mass across the back of his fist like a gaudy set of knuckledusters. The three jewels had migrated here – and with the Assassin’s fist now bunched to present them directly at him, Varras suddenly noticed a faint glow within them that had not been there before.

“You can try.” Said the Assassin, without a trace of his wintry smile.
It was a thoughtful ride back to his apartment. It was getting late, and party people were starting to come out for the night. The data chip rested in a jacket pocket.

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