It was a three kilometre swim to the yacht; others might berth amid the festive jostle at the Port of Cannes, but when you’re an eighty-eight year old hundred-billionaire who has survived every purge and shift in power that the Communist Party of China can throw at you, you never do a damned thing without good reason.
He didn’t want to be easy to kill, and he wasn’t.
The nameless child let go of the bumper of the speedboat that had gotten her most of the way to the yacht. She took her time, swimming. Arriving exhausted would prevent her from getting on and off the yacht with all the stealthy speed she needed, and she had yet to reconnoitre for detection devices, which likely would start below the waterline and be monitored with some human attention.
On sonar, until she was very close, possibly until she got a limb onto the hull, she’d look like a fish, if anything. After that, it depended on what countermeasures he’d bought, installed and had people competent enough to interpret and use. No sensible person would want to try to kill a sixer while on board; your endgame was a re-fit that shipyards would yearn over. The plan would likely be detection for the purpose of encouraging any visiting sixer to leave without destroying the yacht.
She spent ten minutes, before she committed herself to murder, thinking about the fate of the men and women who would be put out of work now. Her father’s voice was in her. She had never excised George’s voice, not like her siblings, who described their freedom from his breathy stream of contrived advice in religious terms, quite unlike previous generations of sixers.
So to honour her father’s memory – it was convenient to think of him as being dead, so she did, even as his voice ground through platitudes and precautions – she thought about things like creating a pool of enemies and how you prevented your pool of enemies from conspiring with each other to give you a hard time by building a really solid coalition, and that you had to tend that coalition.
It didn’t matter how many times he said it. It was bullshit.
Direct action was hers to command in all of its horror, and her father had struck the ice from that stream for her as well. She could feel the faint and ever-present men, dying already, in her grip and unable to breathe, and said, trying to sound like Jesse in her own mind, since his voice was always a comfort somehow, “Fuck them! They traded a steady paycheque for their moral agency, and they got nothing but gravity on their side now.”
She read about the sixer children online. After a while she got into their private network and poked around and realized that they knew about her, and weren’t looking for her. She was number 143. They weren’t looking for her because if she lived free and wished to remain childless, that was her choice and none of her siblings had motive or opportunity to stop her. That they had means, none could doubt.
It wouldn’t last. They would come after her, so she’d have to cut a swathe and then hide, then do it again and then hide, until she was caught and killed. By her own siblings, what a terrible fate. Super tragic. Except it wasn’t. It was all okay, except for the innocents affected.
The current was moving in the right direction, so she paused a moment and considered the sensation. One way to interpret it was as an itch, a sign that something was burrowing in, or erupting out, or amiss in one of the three layers of the strange bag she was encased in. Occasionally the itch was a thought, or a command / engagement between the AIs going awry, or a sign that something was very wrong, so she sat with it and decided that her AIs were unhappy with her decision to not have a social tentacle and were trying to grow one anyway, without her explicit consent.
She turned her inner megaphone up to ‘Blast/scorch’ and yelled, “I was born without one. I have the right to one if I want one and I don’t want one, so make that damned itch stop right now or I’ll kill everyone on the yacht, not just the rich ones.”
She twirled idly in the water, just at the level the light stopped, and got a little cold gust of acknowledgement back.
“Quit the morph talk too,” she yelled into their silent acquiescence. “I’m not as stupid as you’re trying to make me.”
The echoing silence slid into a vibration at the bottom edge of detectability. It was the irascible bass note of a horde of angry, truncated intelligences, trapped in the frame of a murderess.
“Yeah, you know who’s boss,” she murmured, and switched the megaphone off.
“Just the billionaire, and his wife, and any of their children, and any of the children’s spouses,” she said to herself, and circled the yacht slowly. There was a five person security team. She could smell the residue from the last time they’d tested the most effective sixer locator.
Pausing, she sat off the stern about two hundred metres and thought about it for a while, then came straight at the engines, up through a conveniently large hole, and straight to the stores of sixer detector goop, which she ruined with a little butane torch, heating it so the phosphorous compound wouldn’t react.
She set off a pressure detector, which irritated her, and an alarm sounded. She ran along the ceiling, and up ladders, flat out, while trying to stay calm. She ran straight to the salon where the billionaire was on a satellite phone. In front of his aide, she climbed him, shoved a limb into his face, and punctured his airway, lungs and heart, repeatedly but not randomly. Out of courtesy to the aide she made herself visible enough to be identified as a sixer.
She opened the salon door, jumped down two decks and flung herself over the side into the balmy, diesel-tainted waters of the Mediterranean, and Xu Wei, architect of a vertically integrated supply chain the envy of the planet, died thirty seconds later.
It was interesting to stand off about three hundred metres and watch what happened next. She expected cops, speedboats, foofaraw.
Something, anyway, to indicate that the richest man on earth (some said, who knew) was dead.
Half an hour later, a tender launched from the yacht, headed not to the old port but the new, which seemed to be the opposite of what one would expect. The ferry from Ste. Marguerite was coming close enough to get her back onshore, and then it was enough of speculation, on to the next line of megayachts, on to the Jetée Albert Edouard.
Half the yachts in the old port had minimal staff and security — Cannes was more subdued than usual and various daylight events were happening to draw them away.
She crawled and swam and in one case crossed a custom gangplank from megayacht to megayacht, murdering billionaires, a shipping billionaire from Seattle and his wife, a telecom billionaire from India and her husband. The killing method varied. Smashing heads in wasn’t satisfying. She thought it would be, but it was strangling them that really got her, really made her feel the difference between their pulpy, oxygen-dependent flesh and all of her glorious, malleable potential.
She kept waiting for alarms to be set off, for the yachts to power up to leave, for an uptick in helicopter traffic, for the carousel of light from emergency vehicles.
Nothing. She climbed onto the roof of a cab, weary to the point of immobility, and numbly realized that by chance it was taking her east along the boulevard to the Port Pierre Canto. The cab pulled up in front of a restaurant and she realized that if she didn’t get under cover, her exhaustion would reveal her to the world. She hid in the centre of a light standard, and, surrounded by comforting metal, she said goodnight to her voices and slept.