The man they called Ra stood on the Savannah’s main deck, staring hatred into the eyes of the general’s emissary. The smug bastard needed to learn a hard lesson about respect. Ra took several deep breaths, tamping down his growing agitation without betraying his emotions. The general had a good deal of money to spend. Ra held the emissary’s gaze as he cooled off. He said, “We’re talking about an auction for the most advanced weapon system the world has ever seen. An auction the general could easily win. What concerns could he possibly have?”
Ra resisted the urge to glance over the sea toward Monaco’s harbor. He was dying to see if his darling’s tender was on its way back from town, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be distracted.
“The general does not believe you have what you claim.” The emissary said in his heavily accented English. He gestured with his arms wide, encompassing Ra’s superyacht. “I do not see it here on your little skiff.”
Behind his left shoulder, the emissary’s sycophantic lieutenant made an insolent face to match his boss.
The dig was childish. Ra had the biggest yacht in Monaco, a present to himself after making billions in commodities. Too big to dock in the harbor. Sure, it was post-season, and the Numina would drop anchor due east of him in a few weeks. Until then, the Savannah reigned supreme. He felt like gutting the slimy emissary for his rudeness. Instead, he smoothed his Kiton sport coat and puffed up his thin frame.
“Don’t be a fool,” Ra sneered. “If I kept Alvaria onboard, sleezy generals from around the world would send commandos to take it from me. In case that’s what you’re thinking, rest assured, I have security. We call them ‘the dogs.’ You’ve met two of them.” He gestured to two bulky men in black suits standing close by. “Fido and Rover. Spot keeps watch with a rifle in case someone approaches uninvited. There are more. I have a whole kennel.”
Ra turned his back on his guests and checked the harbor. He couldn’t wait for his darling to return but he needed to conclude this delicate business before then. He didn’t want her to see the kind of men he dealt with. The emissary wore a ludicrous uniform without insignia yet festooned with medals. His black hair was greased straight back with what might’ve been motor oil. The lieutenant dressed and groomed himself to match. The very definition of a toady.
“The general does not believe the system can do what you claim,” the emissary said.
“Oh, my misguided friend. Alvaria is the stuff of autocrats’ dreams.” Ra laid his hands on the railing, keeping his focus out to sea. “Imagine what it can do. At the push of a button, a hundred drones leap into the air, locate their target, and annihilate whoever you choose. Each drone on a single-purpose mission, never stopping until one of them achieves the objective.” He straightened up and turned to face the emissary. “No more political rivals. No more annoying reporters asking inconvenient questions. No more adversaries across your western border. Everyone doing as they’re told, all under the general’s control. As it should be. It’s science fiction—and it’s here today. If your general doesn’t want to bid on it, he won’t get to see the show we have scheduled.”
“The general is skeptical you can obtain this system.” The emissary crossed his arms and widened his stance. “The Americans have impenetrable security.”
“I stand on my reputation. Many times your poor general has failed to pay me in a timely manner, yet I have never failed to deliver what he needs. From rocket launchers to automatic rifles, they arrived on time and under budget. He would still be a lieutenant were it not for me making good on my promises. He knows damn well my word is gold. My plan has been in the works for years. I have all the right people in all the right places. Alvaria will fall into my hands at exactly the right moment. If he does not believe me, he won’t see the demonstration.” Ra paused before making a sympathetic face. “Until his rival uses it to target him.”
To his credit, the emissary didn’t flinch.
“Think about this,” Ra said. “If Iran acquires Alvaria, they could destroy the ruling classes of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in an afternoon. The next morning, they could annihilate Iraq’s parliament. Then, they invade. The price of oil skyrockets because they would control 24% of the world’s production. Sanctions are lifted under threat of an oil embargo. And just like that, the Persian Empire is reborn.”
The emissary thought while he took a long, deep breath. He pressed a finger to his lips and looked at the deck. After a long moment, he lifted his finger and shook it at Ra. “The general does not like the glimpses of the future you have illuminated. He does not want to participate in your auction. Instead of bidding for it, he will report you to the Americans. That way, no one will have this system.” He paused and smiled. “There will be no resurgent Persian Empire.”
Ra flicked a quick glance at Fido, who sprang into action. To the emissary, Ra said, “I am most disappointed to hear you say that. On a different subject, do you recall meeting my man Bonham in a café last month? Bonham is my second-in-command. He offered you money to turn against the general. Ah, I see from your surprise that you do recall the encounter vividly. Well, sport, the problem for you is that when you turned him down, your lieutenant did not.”
As the emissary’s surprise turned to shock, his gaze swiveled to his lieutenant. At that moment, Fido knelt at the emissary’s feet and clamped leg irons on his ankles. In disbelief, the emissary looked down at his shackles, then followed the attached chain to find Rover standing at the railing, holding a very large, very heavy stone. “Do you think you can scare—”
“You’ve been paid,” Ra said to the emissary’s lieutenant. He held out an old, razor-sharp dagger. “Slit his throat.”
The lieutenant stared at Ra in disbelief. “Now?”
“Yes, now. Or die with him. Your choice. Ah. You’ve seen the light. Good man. Right here, above the collar. Stand behind him so you don’t get blood on yourself.”
As the young man weighed the knife in his hand and moved behind his former boss, Ra took out his phone, set it to video, and pressed record. The knife slashed through the stunned and wordless emissary’s neck. Blood sprayed forward. Rover dropped the rock overboard. The chain’s slack disappeared and yanked the emissary’s body with it, over the railing and into the deep.
The young man looked up at Ra, who kept the video rolling. The psychological weight of his first murder began to contort the young lieutenant’s expression. As he pondered his rapidly changing allegiances, he looked down to find Rover placing leg irons on his ankles. Behind him, Fido stood at the railing with another rock. He looked back at Ra and squeaked, “Why? I did what—”
“I think it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Ra asked. “You can’t be trusted.”
Over his shoulder he saw the tender bearing his darling returning from shore. She would be onboard in five minutes. No time for long goodbyes.
He turned back to face the lieutenant as Rover slit the young man’s throat. “There are four more of your kind in the general’s private guard. He’ll be dead by morning, so you’ll be in good company.”
The stone dropped. The chain tightened. The lieutenant’s body flew over the railing into the deep.
Ra looked at the pool of blood covering the deck. He snapped his fingers. A steward appeared. “You see this ugly mess? Scrub it clean.”
Excerpt from Death and Betrayal by Seeley James. Copyright 2020 by Seeley James. Reproduced with permission from Machined Media. All rights reserved.
Seeley’s writing career began with humble beginnings including publishing short stories in The Battered Suitcase leading to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard and operative, veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.
Seeley’s love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in computer technology sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction.
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