Undertow

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Authors: Elizabeth Bear
assemble his weapon.
    In most cases, André killed with a long-barreled sniping weapon, a combination rifle brand-named Locutor A.G. 351, for the year the design had been introduced. It adapted to either caseless standard ammunition—jacketed projectiles fired by a chemical accelerant—or crystalline slivers of hemorragine fired by compressed air, which dissolved in the victim’s blood, causing symptoms of a cerebral aneurysm, then broke down into innocuous organic compounds within the day.
    That was what he would be using tonight. He preferred a bullet; it killed instantly if you did it right, whereas the hemorragine left the victim sometimes as long as 120 seconds to feel fear. And that was ugly and cruel.
    The other issue with the damned things was that they didn’t fly far, and a fairly light cross-breeze could deflect them. He’d have to be within a hundred meters, and he wouldn’t get more than a couple of shots. People tended to notice when someone pointed a rifle at them and fired poisoned needles at the back of their heads.
    He’d put one needle into her back, wait for her to go down, approach with caution, and download her hard memory for Closs—as instructed, just to be sure. Then he’d capsize her boat, lose the body someplace where it shouldn’t be recovered for at least a day (long enough for the hemorragine to break down, and for her hard memory to wipe), and pretend, in the morning, to be shocked when he heard the news.
    The scoot purred forward. André extended the telescope rest and slid the weapon-mount onto the peg. He squinted through the sight, focusing down through the scope because only an idiot would connex this—though idiots did—and took a sighting.
    Lucienne Spivak was sitting upright in the pilot’s chair, her braid whipping behind her, her shoulders square and facing him. Easy. The only way he could miss was a divine intervention.
    He measured his breathing, matched it to the regular rise and fall of the swells, tugged his glove off with his teeth, slid his finger under the trigger guard. He waited for the moment, the moment when his breath would pause naturally just as the scoot topped one of the gentle waves.
    The moment came. He squeezed the trigger. A jet of cool grease-scented air stroked his cheek.
    There was no sound.
             
    The sun wasn’t up yet when someone hammered on Cricket’s door frame. No doorbell, no chime of connex and the name of the importunate visitor, just the thumping of fist on paramangrove paneling.
    “Oh, fuck,” Cricket murmured, twisting her legs into the cool air. She slept nude; she dragged the robe she kept on the bedpost over chilled skin and stumbled barefoot across a morphing rug that this morning was off-white and shaggily looped. Her toes curled as she stepped onto the decking, as if she could somehow protect the tender instep of her foot from the crawling chill. “Fuck, who is it?”
    “Kroc,” came the voice from the other side of the door, which answered the question of why he was knocking. No connex to ring her chimes. His voice shivered, high and sharp, almost shrill. “Is Lucienne with you?”
    “Shit,” Cricket said, and palmed the lock plate faster than she should have. “She left me around one hundred and one. She was going to get a drink and go home.”
    “She didn’t make it,” Kroc said, unnecessarily, because sometimes it was better making a noise. He ducked under her arm into the flat, and she locked up behind him. “Check your messages. If she sent anything—”
    It would have been to Cricket, because Jean was not connected. She tightened her robe and scrubbed her eyes on the sleeve. “One second.”
    She dropped her connex at night, except for the flat security and a couple of emergency codes. If it had been really important, Lucienne would have spared the couple of extra keystrokes and sent to one of those.
    But there were messages waiting. The one from André, which she hadn’t answered. One or two

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