“You see things you shouldn’t.” These were the first words he said to me. It wasn’t the fact that I saw him, which drew him to me, but rather that I had noticed him at all – and one should never notice an intergalactic assassin of “The Organization” when they are on the job. He called himself Falstaff; a calm, cool, collective, educated, philosophical and charismatic individual you would ever wish to meet, and yet he is cunning, ruthless and calculating. He is of Krullian origin; Krulls are a species very secretive and mysterious, which made him the perfect candidate for the Grand Master of “The Organization”. The Krullian home world has been off limits to all outsiders for centuries; no one really knows what kind of society they have or even how long they live; but they are well known for their longevity and their grasp of all languages. Their smooth, pale parchment like skin made it near impossible to discern an age; and I have no doubt that Falstaff is very old, he reeked of ancientness. But the feature I noticed the most was his eyes, scintillating black pearls that seem to have the ability to penetrate through flesh and bone into the deepest reaches of your mind and soul. If death has a face...it is surely Falstaff.
I was in Deleto’s, waiting to collect Talon’s regular protection money, when he showed up. Deleto’s is the number one brothel on “Helms Gate”; it’s a place where hands, feelers and tentacles could copulate. Whatever species or fetish you are into, you could find it at Deleto’s. Mamma Deleto, a tough as hell Barzoo Anthropoid, ran the joint; she could curse, spit and mix it with the best of them, she had been around the galaxy quite a few times and knew how to please her customers. The killing was so quick and so casual that no one saw it except me. I saw Falstaff scratch the victim’s arm with some tiny needle attached to one of his fingers – moments later the victim was dead on the floor with no one the wiser. But as much as I had seen him, Falstaff had noticed me. His eyes stared at me for mere seconds, but which seemed like hours, and then he was gone. But his presence had touched me...and my life was never the same again.
He came to me during the night while I slept. I felt a stirring in my dreams and when I awoke – there he was – the angel of death, standing at the foot of my bunk. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t scream, I had no voice. He bade me to silence, to listen as he whispered to me. He told me all about myself, in the span of only a few hours he had found out everything there was about me, where I came from, the loss of my parents, what I had done since Drell. I knew then that the resources of “The Organization” were vast indeed. He told me of my potential, that I had a destiny, a greatness, riches, waiting for me if I dared to reach out for it. His words had a musicality to them; they had a way of touching your dreams, desires and fears. He took the hand of the frightened child locked away deep inside of me. He showed me that I had no future without him. I have often wondered whether he cast a spell over me that night, mind control and manipulation were all part of “The Organization’s” tools. But if I am truly honest with myself I suspect that it was my own decision to accept his offer, to strike a bargain with the king of all darkness in the universe. It would be easier to say it wasn’t my decision, easier to wash away the blood on my hands, easier to put all the blame on someone else, but we all have choices and free will and only a fool doesn’t use them.
So it was that I left “Helm’s Gate” bound for “The Organization’s” hidden base, a location that I was not to know. On boarding Falstaff’s shuttle I was given a sleeping potion, this was the first test and leap of faith an initiate had to undertake. Only the Grand Master and a few of his Seneschals knew the actual location of the galactic assassins’ headquarters. And this was always the procedure whenever you came or left, you were always rendered unconscious, that way their abode always remained a secret. When it finally came time for me to find their domain, it was no easy task. But I’m getting ahead of myself and I must get the order of events correct. With much trepidation I drank the potion and fell into a deep and dreamless slumber.
I awoken, how much time had lapsed, I had no idea. I found myself cloistered away in a bare, small and Spartan room. The red robe of an acolyte folded neatly on the bottom of my bed. There were three levels of degrees, a different colour for each tier; red for the acolyte; white for the apprentice; and black for the assassin. After putting on my new status I was taken outside and shown around, all in silence. Of the few other acolytes and apprentices I saw, none spoke or even acknowledged one another, it was a strict policy of “The Organization”, and they didn’t want their assassins becoming friends; because one of the basic prerequisites of any silent killer was the ability to be able to operate on their own in any situation or environment. Of the three years I spent in that place I spoke to none other than Brusk, the Draco Marshal who taught me, and of course Falstaff who oversaw the training of everybody.
The dwelling place of the galactic assassins was a monastery carved into the cragged peaks of some mountain range upon a desolate world; the towers spiralling up into the clouds seemed to grow out of the rock itself. And always the sky was shrouded in mist and cloud from the many volcanoes that surrounded us; even at night there were barely any stars to be seen, nothing that would enable you to get a fix on your location. I was told from the outset as far as I was concerned the universe outside didn’t exist for me; all that mattered was “The Organization” and the completion of my training. It was also stipulated that if I failed, or if I wanted to leave, then that would be granted...with death. For better or worse I was now wedded to “The Organization”, my life was there’s. And yet I felt no fear, it was strange how I seemed to fit in so easily to such an abhorrent brotherhood. Deep down I began to believe that perhaps I had no soul that being a killer was what I was always meant to be. That feeling of joy I felt at the killing of my father suddenly returned to me like the incoming tide. It seemed that death was part of me and that it was foolish not to embrace this side of my nature. In time I came to know how bloody wrong I was to accept it – to believe in it – but that truth was still to come and many would die before that day.
The training of an assassin consisted of many components. To begin with we had no names, we gave them up on joining, but if you were successful in becoming an assassin, then you were given a new one in the naming ceremony. The guild library was also one of the greatest in the galaxy; there were tomes and scrolls from every known world and some unknown or lost to the mists of time. I was taught the history of different worlds, and learned to speak the multitude of languages throughout the galaxy. “The Organization” had no loyalty to anyone other than themselves but they did honour the ancient gods, the first ones; Dargo; Marduk; Barmont; Leviathan; and their pantheon of demi gods. An assassin was also taught the sacred prayers, which should be spoken after the taking of each life, to help the passing of the soul from this realm. I was also taught the philosophy of Shendar, the esoteric teachings of Tar’la and the poetry of Sidis and Shakespeare. And the needs of the flesh were also not denied, every few weeks we were brought the most desirable females or males to lie with, for there are assassins of all gender and species.
But for all the culture that was taught there was also the teaching of how to kill. My time aboard the “War Child” gave me an edge, an advantage in combat many of the others didn’t possess. I was taught the use of all weapons, guns, knives, swords, explosives, poisons, and the martial techniques of fighting. I was taught the code of the warrior – of how to face death and conquer it. For every mission that an assassin went on was always to be considered a suicide one. I learned the uses of stealth, of how to blend in, of how when in a crowded room never to look anyone in the eye, for once you made eye contact you were noticed. I excelled and advanced through the ranks quickly; from acolyte, to apprentice, and finally to an assassin. Falstaff took a keen interest in my progress, more so than any of the others, he took it upon himself to teach me certain techniques of killing. It was he who demonstrated to me, on a live victim, how to take that life. In fact he killed several times for me to watch. He had great plans for me, although I wasn’t aware of it at that time. If I knew then of his grand design, I feel sure that I would have opted out and welcomed the embrace of death. But I was blind and it would take the love of another to restore my sight.
And so the day finally arrived where I laid face down on the cold stones beneath the statue of Dargo in the Great Hall of Assassins and received the black robes, my death knife, to be used on myself if cornered and there was no other way out; an assassin was never to be taken alive – “Death Before Dishonour” were the words carved upon the small black obsidian blade. And lastly I was given my new name...Zar, the ancient god of death and destruction, the destroyer of worlds. “You have a great destiny before you, Zar.” Falstaff told me later as he handed me the vial containing the sleeping potion. It was time to begin my work. As I drank and the world began to grow dark around me I heard him say in that calm, deadly voice these words - “Always remember nothing great was ever done without an act of decision.”
I awoke sometime later in the cockpit of my Delta Class Deep Space Raptor Fighter, adrift in the Black Widow Nebula, still with no idea where “The Organization’s” secret base was located. For all I knew it could have been clusters away or right next to me. It didn’t matter, I had my new ship, I had half a dozen apartments on varied worlds to live in, a bank account full of credits, all given to me by “The Organization”. A galactic assassin was well looked after by their masters. Wasting no more time, I switched on the ship’s data bank to check my messages and there flashing before my eyes were the details of my first assignment.
Copyright (C) Peter Jessop 2010