the smuggler’s bible

Cotillion

Cotillion, the elite assassin, is in a knife fight with 5 and 3—smiling through the blood running down his face—when 4 nearly breaks Sous-vide’s arm with some kind of jiu-jitsu hold.

Sous-vide thrashes free, which only works because the mercenary is trying to keep pressure on a bullet-would in his thigh.

“Goddamn, they’re feisty,” 4 calls out. “Maybe we’ll get hazard pay.”

“Where the hell would you even spend it?” 5 says, ducking a swing.

They wait a beat for 3 to quip, but he just gurgles softly as Cotillion pulls his knife out of the man’s throat.

Cotillion

Distractions are generally anathema to Cotillion, the elite assassin. But the mission stretches on, and Sous-vide starts to pester him about provisions.

More specifically, the widening discrepancy between the amounts needed and those on hand.

“We’re breaking every projection,” Sous-vide says, ticking off fingers. “Time to completion, resistance levels, ammunition costs—all shattered.”

“I understand your point, but quitting now is totally off the table.”

“And maybe impossible.”

“So why even bring it up?”

They kill a white-coated chef who surprises them rummaging through his galley kitchen. The corpse’s jacket rides up over a wrist to reveal a faded 13.

Cotillion

“Are we going in order, do you think?”

“That or it’s some kind of coincidence. I figure it’s just a quirk. Extreme wealth manifesting as eccentricity.”

“But what if we skipped the beginning? What if we got lucky before and hit 17 instead of 230?”

“More reason to get moving.”

Sous-vide’s face is bathed in blue light from his console. Security barriers flicker and disappear down the long expanse of carpeted hallway. “You have to admit, this place is weird.”

“I admit nothing,” Cotillion, the elite assassin, says, standing. He stretches and sighs. “That’s a crucial part of my method.”

Cotillion

Cotillion, the elite assassin, shoots fast and silent as a whisper. 16 and 15 crumple to the ground and the shitty coffee they were drinking drenches the floor of the security checkpoint.

“All clear.” Sous-vide taps his console. “Shift change and sweep are—hold it, there’s something else.”

“Guess a fella can’t even take a minute to hit the can,” 14 says, coming around the corner. He drops his cigarette and stubs it out into the carpet with the toe of his boot.

“Time out,” Cotillion says. He stares at the grey smear. “Do you have any more of those?”