The esper made its way over to the pair and began running its fingertips back and forth across the Admiral's smooth head. Regel shuddered visibly and the esper made a disgusting gulping sound, as if it was gorging on the Admiral's thoughts. When it was through with him Regel slumped wearily in his seat and avoided meeting Maximillian's stare. There was a soft and unpleasant swishing of the cassock and the esper was behind Maximillian. Its fingers on his head felt cold, then icy, and then the numbness was permeating his mind as the esper's psychic questing anaesthetized Maximillian's senses.

"Blessed are the revenue streams." Prayed the esper, its eyes rolling back in its head.

Maximillian fought with all his will to shove his mental chaff to the surface and guard his secrets closely. He had deceived the esper once in a much more rigorous reading, he felt confident that he could do so again.

"Your mind is like a roll of bills Maximillian Xc8 Soak, increasing in denomination the more I peel away." The esper released its grip on Maximillian's mind and its cold fingers were withdrawn. "Some day when matters are less pressing I would like it very much if you would permit me a more leisurely and thorough reading."

Maximillian nodded, unsure of how else to respond, and the esper moved away to gaze out the crystalline windows. Phosphorescence from its cassock swam across the curved ceiling of the cockpit and Maximillian, feeling more tired than he had in a decade, allowed himself to become entranced by the scintillating colors.

***************

The two assassins were clothed from head to toe in white and sand colored robes, their footsteps silenced by padded sandals and a measured gait, hands on the pommels of the ornate Taureg scimitars in their belts. Their faces were concealed beneath dusty red turbans that tucked under their chin and covered their necks and mouths. Only their intense eyes were visible, dark-rimmed with kohl and brilliantly colored the lightning gaze of a purpose-built killer. They drew up behind Raylene simultaneously, close enough to cut her down with their blades in a flash. Some dark part of their spirit longed to do exactly that; turn inward to muscle memory and syncretic trance-rotes of praise and lash their scimitar out to cut her head from her neck.

Instead they halted two feet to either side of her vulnerable back and calmly waited for her to notice their presence.

Nineteen minutes later Raylene snapped out of her daydream and turned to leave the room. Her gaze met that of the assassin on her left and with no visible emotion she flicked her wrist and extended two five-inch titanium needles from a concealed forearm release. As she swung the needles in for a punch strike her other hand yanked at the grip of the pistol resting in her hip holster. Raylene did not actually see what happened next, rather she felt a tug on her arm and hip in the same moment and heard the distinctive "ping" of metal striking metal. The assassin she had been attacking stood as impassively as before but the needles of her hidden weapon were lying severed on the floor next to her pistol.

"Okay." Raylene said, sizing up the situation coolly. "I would assume that if you were here to kill me I would already be dead."

Both assassins made horrible choking noises with their throats for several seconds. The one Raylene had initially ignored made an elaborate gesture with his arm and produced a golden scroll case. He extended it to her and she accepted, making a similarly elaborate show of opening the case and extracting the rolled papyrus within.

Matriarch Raylene Conchita LeVeaux IX, I extend to you three walkers of the doubly enlightened path of Hashishim. You will see two before you. The third has given his life prematurely to Allah and now serves in the land of martyrs. The remaining two will obey your every command for 101 days and then must return to my side. They will die for you, but do not squander their lives.

Inshallah
God and King of the Abyad Hashishim
Amir Al Insahar Bayani

Raylene relaxed her posture out of her subtle fighting stance and returned the scroll to the case.

"Your timing is impeccable." She informed the assassins. "I am sending one of our agents to Mexico City to deal with a recent annoyance. He is a wrecking ball of a man - crude, noisy, but nearly indestructible - who I expected to serve as a delaying force. The two of you change things. I want you to accompany Captain Henry. Remain out of sight, but deal death all around him. Let him hold the attention of the enemy while you walk in his path of mayhem affecting real damage."

"Do you understand?" Raylene asked when the assassins did not immediately respond.

The pair bowed, and made a strange clicking noise with their throats. With a small degree of revulsion Raylene realized that both had likely had their tongues cut out.

"Good." She affirmed. "If everything goes as I have planned Captain Henry will be departing within the hour."

The door opened and Eliza appeared in the hallway. When the younger woman did not recognize the intruders she reached for her sidearm. Raylene waved the weapon away.

"Perhaps sooner!" Raylene brushed past the men, noting that they did not even have a scent.

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