tagNovels and NovellasSchemes of the Unknown Unknown Ch. 14

Schemes of the Unknown Unknown Ch. 14


Chapter Fourteen
Ecstasy - 3750 C.E.

Beatrice wasn't at all surprised by what greeted her after she left Paul resting in her bedroom to investigate the commotion she'd heard in the corridor outside. Her superior hearing had already established that three men were walking towards her apartment and she guessed that the victims of the scuffle she'd overheard were the two bodyguards whose presence she'd been aware of right from the moment she'd first located Paul.

It was in fact the three assassins who were the most surprised in the short time they had left to live. There was no advantage in hesitation and Beatrice didn't want Paul to suspect that his new girlfriend was anything other than she appeared. Not that she needed to worry about her would-be assailants. Any weapons they might use were unlikely to cause her much harm. Nonetheless, it took rather less time to eliminate the threat posed by the assassins than it did to dispose of their bodies.

Fortunately, there was a window nearby that could be opened wide enough for each man's lifeless body to be pushed through. Beatrice carried all three corpses on her shoulders, not at all bowed down by their weight, and slipped them out of the window to spiral downwards to the street far below. Her only concern was whether anyone was hit by a plummeting cadaver, but the streets were mostly empty this late at night. Moreover, the elimination of three notorious hitmen was most likely to be attributed to underworld justice than the intervention of a naked woman who'd been engaged in entertaining a mostly unimpressive Godwinian tourist.

Paul was wholly unaware of the extent to which he should be grateful to his lover, just as he'd been unaware that during the whole of his time on Ecstasy he'd been followed not only by two Saturnian guards and three assassins, but also by an android from Proxima Centauri. In the days when Beatrice discreetly followed Paul's almost random meandering, she was confident she'd identified everyone also on his tail. There was obviously a comic aspect to this game of cat and mouse, as one set of interested parties assiduously avoided being spotted by the others. But, ironically, of all those who kept a discreet presence behind Paul's movements the one most completely anonymous in the Ecstasy colony was the same one who was most truly alien.

At that moment, Beatrice's main focus of attention was Paul himself, this time not from a distance but as up close and intimate as she could persuade him to be. For a woman programmed with as insatiable a sexual appetite as Beatrice, this was a challenge in itself. The men and women who most often attracted her were those who had enough erotic charisma and sexual stamina to come at least part of the way towards hers. Paul was in no competitive league at all, although Beatrice used her skill to squeeze as much semen from him as she could while prolonging their lovemaking for as long as she reasonably could. Even with the aid of the performance drugs that made Paul a more satisfying partner than he might otherwise be, he wasn't exactly the kind of sexually exciting and stimulating partner she'd normally choose.

Though Paul's conversation was rather dull to the average human, it was fortunate that by some of it rather fascinated Beatrice. Her robot mind found much of interest in the academic subject of data-mining especially as so much of Paul's research was focused on the period of information technology that was the earliest prehistory of her kind. It fascinated Beatrice to imagine an age when robots were automatons with no consciousness at all, even of the rudimentary kind possessed by those manufactured by humans in the Solar System. Computers had once been machines tied to binary digits etched on tiny wafers of silicon that held information in crude packets of eight binary digits. It took many years for computer technology to advance to the level of sophistication possessed by the robots that the original starships carried to the Solar System's nearest neighbours, although those who'd launched the scientific mission could hardly have suspected the extent to which left to their own devices the robots would achieve sentience and soon evolve to a higher degree of cultural organisation than the biological life-forms who'd designed them.

It took little effort to persuade Paul that the woman who was so attentive to him, who so evidently enjoyed his rather pedantic conversation, and gave him more pleasure in bed than he'd ever enjoyed before, was someone with whom he should spend the rest of his life. He was disconsolate when she left and beamed in happiness when she reappeared. Although Beatrice had little real understanding of human emotion, she was sure the love he professed for her was genuine.

Beatrice was more than happy to reciprocate with her own protestations of love, but her real feelings were more akin to the fondness she still had for the pet animals she'd adopted over the years since she first arrived on Venus. She'd never been as distraught as when her pet Labrador had died at what was an age that could be extended to only forty years. Beatrice felt ineffable pity for fragile organic entities whose entire being was encoded on the unreliable DNA molecules that inhabited every living cell. Unlike her, they led lives where they could never escape their biological origins however much human technology prolonged the natural lifespan and enhanced the basic biochemical processes.

Beatrice was aware of another task that she had do as soon as she'd disposed of the three assassins. It was highly unlikely that the contract to eliminate Paul that she'd successfully thwarted could be written off so easily. The three hitmen would soon be followed by others and it was probable that the eventual collateral cost would soon amount to more than the easily remedied injuries inflicted on the two Saturnian bodyguards. It was imperative that Beatrice should neutralise the immediate risk to Paul's life as soon as possible.

It was a simple matter for Beatrice to gather more data about Paul's would-be assailants. The nearest Proxima Centauri communication centre was a cloaked device hidden inside an unassuming chunk of ice less than twenty light seconds away in the Kuiper Belt. However, despite the images she'd had the presence of mind to record in the few seconds she'd spent while disposing of Lofty and his companions and the wealth of additional information she'd gathered after having watched their movements for a couple of days, it was several hours until she was provided with the information she required. So much had to be mined from police computers scattered about the Solar System and not only were they much slower than any in Beatrice's home solar system there was an inevitable latency in the time of arrival of data that came as far as Saturn and even Earth orbit. But eventually Beatrice was downloaded with as much information as she needed and she was now in a position to act.

Lofty's boss was Adrian Xerxes, a man for whom Beatrice took an instant dislike. It wasn't just for his criminal activities on Ecstasy, even though these included human trafficking, murder, blackmail and embezzlement. It wasn't just for his loathsome personal habits which included the murder of innocent men and women for his sexual pleasure. There was also his trade in the pelt and flesh of rare and endangered species, not all of which had been resettled or regenerated entirely happily in the countless colonies that orbited the Sun. That a man should cause harm to humans—of which there were many billions—was bad enough, but to contribute to the extinction of an entire species was beyond reproach.

In common with all robots in the Proxima Centauri system, Beatrice treasured all biological life-forms. It was more from a concern about the vulnerability of such beings that her kind had a policy to remain hidden from human sight. Furthermore, it was obvious that humans would be far from delighted to discover that they weren't after all the most advanced beings in the stellar neighbourhood. In fact, such realisation would almost certainly result in a war in which humans had not even the smallest likelihood of victory.

There was no information as to who had persuaded Xerxes to take the contract on Paul's life. Many agencies and individuals had an interest in the Interplanetary Union's mission to the Anomaly and their concern wasn't entirely benevolent. It could be any one of the religious fanatics, commercial interests or political bodies within the Solar System. It could even be attributed to the robot civilisation on Sirius who pursued a very independent policy in the Solar System that nevertheless rarely conflicted with the activities of Proxima Centauri any more than it did Alpha Centauri, Wolf, Lalande and Barnard's Star. But Proxima Centauri was determined that the Interplanetary Union should succeed in its mission to reach the Anomaly and Beatrice was detailed to do what she could to facilitate this.

Beatrice had little difficulty in finding time to spend away from Paul's side. After all, he had to sleep for some of every day, which he did very soundly. Furthermore, there were many very convincing excuses that a woman resident on Ecstasy could make to be elsewhere. It was harder, however, to elude the scrutiny of the fresh bodyguards assigned to Paul who were now taking a close interest in his girlfriend's activities. But Beatrice had many unfair advantages at her disposal that enabled her to slip discreetly out of sight. No radio tag could remain undetected and no human could maintain a constant watch on someone who knew exactly who was watching her and from where.

Adrian Xerxes wasn't expecting a visitor that morning. He most certainly wasn't in a mood to entertain company and when he was notified of Beatrice's presence by the two women who guarded his exclusive and private elevator his first response was to send her away.

"She says she's a friend of Bob Eugenides," said the guard nervously. She was fully aware of how extreme Xerxes' reaction could be if he was unnecessarily disturbed and half-hoped that this confident but scantily dressed woman could be summarily eliminated in the confines of the lift. All Xerxes had to do was signal his intention with a coded message. But the woman had used one of a short list of secret codes to introduce herself. She'd announced that she was looking for a dentist as she had a sore tooth and wondered whether the two guards could direct her to someone with a pair of sonic pliers. Therefore the woman had to be treated seriously, even though the guard had no idea who Bob Eugenides might be. She assumed it was another private signal that had a secret meaning for her boss.

"Ask her whether Bob had a pleasant holiday on Uranus," commanded Xerxes suspiciously.

A moment later, the guard returned his call.

"She says that Bob's fine and that he's now returned home to Ceres," she said.

Fuck! thought Xerxes. Ceres. That was fucking Priority One.

"Any friend of Bob's a friend of mine," he said. "Escort her up."

Xerxes was unable to watch the woman when she'd passed through the elevator's doors because of a malfunction in the monitoring system. That was suspicious in itself. Such faults rarely happened, but Xerxes was untroubled by the threat from a woman who revealed no weaponry after she'd removed her clothes. She'd be soon disposed of by his bodyguards if she attempted to do something stupid.

He waited in the huge reception area accompanied by exotic jungle vegetation and four naked prepubescent girls who'd survived Xerxes' previous night of pleasure. They little guessed how lucky they were or how unlikely they would be to survive a second night. Xerxes' two bodyguards stood to attention, almost certainly hoping that they would have the pleasure of ridding their boss of his guest should it turn out that she was wasting his time.

The elevator doors slid open and the strange woman stepped out.

This was about as much as Xerxes or his bodyguards had the opportunity to notice.

They didn't have the luxury of time to notice that the two elevator guards were slumped bloody and unconscious on the floor of the elevator. Nor did they see that the sophisticated surveillance equipment was not so much malfunctioning as totally vandalised. The only people who had time to observe anything at all were the four girls who were unexpectedly saved from a gruesome and sexually perverse early demise. These girls were the only surviving witness of the scene of swift carnage that accompanied Beatrice's arrival in the reception area and they were hasty to leave the scene before the police could arrive to interrogate them. Their presence on Ecstasy was as illegal as that of any prostitute in Manu's bar and they feared the police as much as they did the likelihood of reprisals from Xerxes' associates or friends.

In truth, there wasn't much they could tell. Beatrice left promptly after she'd killed Xerxes and his two bodyguards and dumped their bodies on the patio. Xerxes' leopard now had more human flesh to devour in one sitting than he normally would. The girls were too busy tending to their bruises and knife-scars to pay much attention to Xerxes' visitor and only noticed how radically their situation had changed long after it was possible to make a positive identification of the woman whose arse disappeared between the sliding doors of the elevator from which she'd emerged only seconds before.

It was the bodyguards Beatrice first disposed of. She snapped their arms off and threw away their weapons before they had the chance to appreciate how useless they would be. It was probably unnecessary for her to tug the genitals off one of them, but it disarmed a shocked Xerxes when she threw them onto his lap. She twisted their necks with each hand and dropped them dead on the floor. And then while Xerxes stared at the bodyguard's slightly tumescent penis, it was his turn for an equally efficient death. Xerxes' head was detached from his neck and his own genitals ripped off and stuffed into his mouth.

There was no recorded evidence of Beatrice's dispatch of her victims as the elevator was the only place were Xerxes had installed any surveillance equipment and Beatrice had already destroyed it beyond any hope of repair. Indeed, it took her longer to destroy the equipment than it did to beat senseless the two guards in the lift. And much longer than the time it took to eliminate Xerxes and his bodyguards. Beatrice was well enough informed of Xerxes' private habits to know that he was unlikely to keep a holographic record of his activities in the penthouse, but since there was always the possibility of planted devices she wasted very little time there.

She was right in her assumptions. It wasn't until nearly two weeks later that the police raided the penthouse and this only because of complaints from other residents in the apartment block about the commotion from the deer in the roof garden that were being pursued by a now very hungry leopard. The only evidence of Xerxes' and his bodyguards' death the police could find was inside the leopard's stomach and in its faeces.

There were few police officers who regretted Xerxes' demise. And the two guards who'd maintained a watch on his elevator were well en route by chartered cruiser to Neptune in the hope that they might escape a revenge killing from anyone who might wish to honour Xerxes' memory.

Beatrice was no vendetta killer. However much she sometimes wished that Proxima Centauri was active in eliminating crime and poverty in the Solar System, she preferred to let human life continue undisturbed by alien influence. Warfare, crime and oppression were just as much aspects of human society as the arts, charity and justice. It was best that humans were left to their own devices to tackle the problems of their own making, but the more she saw of human vice, the more content she was not to be human. She dreaded the chaos that would descend on the galaxy if humans were ever to get the upper hand.

As if it wasn't already difficult enough for biological life-forms!

Her main duty, however, was to continue to be by Paul's side as he tarried on Ecstasy and waited for an interplanetary space cruiser to carry him onwards to Saturn's orbit. He was so truly besotted by her that it took him less than a week to propose that she accompany him on his voyage.

"So, where are you going?" Beatrice asked, although this was something she already knew.

"I don't know," admitted Paul. "Or more to the point I don't know what I'm permitted to tell you."

"What dark secrets have you got?" Beatrice teased. "Aren't you just going to return home to Godwin?"

"No, I'm not," Paul confessed. "The truth is that I'm not really all I seem."

"Aren't you?" asked Beatrice who was amused at the irony of the situation. She was also not really what she seemed to be.

"I'm not here as a tourist at all," said Paul, lying back on the mattress of his hotel bed. "Well, I'm a tourist while I'm here on Ecstasy, but that's not the real reason I've travelled so far from Godwin. In fact, although my next stop is Saturn's orbit, I'm due to travel all the way to Earth."

"Goodness!" exclaimed Beatrice. "I've always wanted to go there."

"As does everyone," said Paul. "But there's not much more that I'm at liberty to tell you."

"I would so much adore to walk on Earth," said Beatrice simperingly. "A blue sky. Clouds. Oceans. And so much to see."

"I know. I know," said Paul miserably. "And I'd so much love to have you by my side."

"Is there no way I could persuade you to take me with you?"

"I don't know. I'll have to ask."

Although Beatrice knew Paul would be as good as his word, especially after the long passionate lovemaking that she left as his abiding memory when they parted the following day, he was exactly as poor at negotiating with the Interplanetary Union's officials as Beatrice thought he'd be. He'd had little previous practise in dealing with authority. On Godwin, there was no concept of asking anyone's permission to do anything.

"This is a most unusual request," confessed the sympathetic woman who interviewed Beatrice several days later in her office in the Interplanetary Union's embassy. They were in an impressive building that towered over the esplanades and boulevards below. Special Officer Patthana wasn't a Saturnian. Beatrice guessed that she came from one of the newer colonies in Neptune orbit. She was a dark skinned woman whose facial tattoo covered most of her forehead and shaved head. She wore a loose dress that draped low over her small pert breasts. Ornate rings were threaded through her nipples and visible through the gossamer.

"Paul and I are very much in love," said Beatrice.

"You've known one another for barely two weeks," remarked her interviewer. "How can you be so sure that Paul is the man for you?"

"As certain as it's possible to be. We can hardly bear to be parted for even a moment."

"As our records verify," said the Special Officer. "But you're a very attractive woman. You have the choice of any man on Ecstasy and, no doubt, the entire Solar System. How can you be attracted to someone like Paul? He's scarcely what I would consider a catch."

"That may be your opinion," said Beatrice with a display of indignation. "But I don't believe I've met a better man in my life."

"Which according to the records has been some fifty years," said the Special Officer. "You originally come from Venus, don't you? The records of your childhood and your place of birth are very sketchy."

"So much was destroyed in the unfortunate accident where I met my first husband."

"Laurent Maigret," confirmed the Special Officer. "You say your first husband. Were there others?"

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