Kienan Ademetria sat in front of the old piano, his fingers dancing lightly on
the keys. His face was blank, expressionless, his emerald eyes quietly sad. He
had resolved never to play this song again, but his hands and his heart hadn't
listened to him.
It was her song, he chided himself. The song she always asked you to play.
Youre only hurting yourself by reminding yourself.
It was a sweeping song, quiet, hopeful, but ultimately sad. Which made it
perfect for Kienan's mood. He finished the song and shut the piano. His
chestnut hair slid down her his shoulder, the tight long braid it was in felt
heavier than usual. Everything felt heavier than usual.
It had been fifteen days, seven hours, and twenty minutes since he had done it.
Since he had killed the only woman he had ever loved. He hadn't meant to, of
course, but that hadnt stopped it from happening all the same. He looked up at
the ceiling. Had anyone been there to see it they would have said it was
exactly the look that people have when they were trying to hold back tears.
But any tears in Kienan's eyes had been burned out long ago. He rose from his
seat and walked out of the room, heading up to the command deck of his ship,
the Silhouette. He had named it after her, a long time ago. He reached into his
pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, draw one out and lit it with the
lighter her carried in his other pocket. He closed his eyes as he felt his head
go light. He sat in his command chair and exhaled a slow stream of smoke that
seemed to hang in the quiet stillness, in the absence of her.
Kienan had never realized how quiet and tomblike this ship was until just now.
He had met her for the first time in an alley on Kuran Colony. Kienan worked
out of an apartment in the Lowtown sector. Lowtown was a nightmarish place, a
place where deprivation had driven the poor inhabitants from poverty to crime.
Kienan had been walking to his apartment when he had caught sight of her,
clinging to the wall of an alley outside Lil's liquor store. Two men, dressed
in rags were pawing at her. One of them had a knife and kept swiping it at her.
They were like children torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
Kienan noticed her, too, out of the corner of his eye. Despite the dirt on her
clothes and the dirt on her face, she was beautiful, young and vital. Her
turquoise eyes were wide and gentle, her dark brown hair was dark and lustrous,
and there was something else, something Kienan couldnt identify, but it drew
him like a moth to a flame.
Before Kienan was consciously aware, he made his way into the alley. The two
men looked at him and seemed to know instantly that he wasn't one of them.
"This is all the warning you get," Kienan said, tossing the cigarette
he had been smoking aside. "Leave. Now."
They didnt take the offer, deciding instead to blindly charge him. Kienan
remembered the gun he carried holstered in his jacket, but didn't want to draw
attention. Besides, it wasn't necessary for them.
The one with the knife came in first, the blade flashing in the spare light of
the alley as it came downward in a long lazy arc. Kienan seized him by the
wrist and moved behind him, keeping his arm extended. He smashed his elbow into
the man's trachea, crushing his voice box and causing him to gasp in shock and
drop the knife. As his body shuddered from the shock, Kienan grabbed his head
and snapped his neck.
The other one tried to come behind him, trying to strangle him. Kienan seized
him by his shirt collar and smashed a fist into his nose, breaking it as he
tossed him over his shoulder. Kienan followed him down, his hands closing on
the knife mere seconds before plunging it into the attackers heart with such
force that the blade cracked as it tore through his sternum.
Kienan looked at the two bodies lying in the dirty alley and slowly turned to
see to the young girl, who seemed to now be trying to climb the wall to get
away from him. Kienan's hand passed underneath his white silk jacket, his
fingers keeping close to his pistol.
"I won't hurt you," he said, his voice cold, but as gentle as he
could manage. "Can you understand me?"
She nodded slowly. Kienan whipped his jacket off in one smooth motion, gently,
he wrapped it around her shoulders and helped her to her feet. Kienan stayed
close to her, and could feel how utterly terrified she was.
"My place isnt too far from here," he said. "It's not much, but
at least you can get off the streets, and have a place to rest."
She leaned on him as they walked out of the alley.
"Do you have a name?" Kienan asked her, leaning in close to her so
she would be able to hear him over the bustling crowds that choked the streets.
She took his hand and looked into his eyes. "Call me Silhouette."
Kienan had noticed the small bronze ship moving towards the Silhouette for a
few hours with a dull sort of recognition. He had been expecting it of course,
and gave it clearance to dock with his own ship. He would have been more
enthusiastic about it, but his mind kept drifting away from the present and
back to the past.
He tried to will himself to deny it, but he couldnt. Little details kept
slipping through. How she would lay on his chest and hold tightly to him they
slept. How she used to twist a lock of his hair, or his braid against her
fingers, how she used to kiss him and seemed to throw her whole body and soul
into it, like it was always the last time she would kiss him, and she wanted
there to be no doubt how she felt about him.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked down, following the black-gloved hand
to up to the face of the dark-skinned man who was standing behind his chair.
His long white hair stood in stark contrast to his bronze skin, but that,
Kienan reckoned, was the true essence of his friend. Contrasting and conflicting
"Hello, Toriares," Kienan said indifferently.
"Kienan," he said, his voice a deep bass. "Thanks for letting me
come aboard. Although I was a little shocked you let me."
Kienan didn't say a word, just quietly tweezed the seam of the blood-red vest
he wore. His eyes seemed to be a million miles away.
"I heard about Silhouette," he said. "I'm sorry. I know that
couldnt have been easy for you."
Kienan looked at him.
"In any case," Toriares said, raising a bottle filled with pale green
liquid. "I brought something to cheer you up." He handed it to
Kienan, who turned it around in his hands.
"Altairan Whiskey," Kienan said flatly.
"I remember the first time you drank some," Toriares said. "You
said it tasted like motor oil . . ."
" . . .But one you get past the taste, it's like drinking rocket
fuel," Kienan said, a smile creeping across his face despite his maudlin
mood. He stubbed out the cigarette that had been dangling from his lips and
broke the seal on the bottle.
Toriares started to grin himself. "I'm glad you remember."
Kienan unscrewed the bottle cap and took a swig right from the bottle. He
grimaced only a little this time while he swallowed the thick liquor.
"Toriares," he said, his voice quiet, calm, and sad. "All I do
Kienan looked over at Silhouette, who was on the other side of the elegant
ballroom. Silhouette was immaculately attired in a black dress that seemed to
show off her legs and her form almost too well, and Kienan was having a hard
time keeping his mind on the mission.
Fortunately, the uncomfortable tuxedo he was wearing made that easier. He felt
constricted and there was something in small of his back that was itching like
he couldn't believe. That, plus the strain of going without a cigarette to
preserve his cover was maddening. He was very glad the moment for he and
Silhouette to act would be soon.
They had been sent to the palatial mansion of one Gordon Craedon. His personal
estate on Nereid was the seat of power for a galactic shipping empire that
stretched from one end of the galaxy to the other, and he was making moves on
territories that Kienan and Silhouette's employers, the Blue Dragon Tong,
So they had sent Kienan and Silhouette, their best operatives, to send a
Kienan checked his chronometer. It was time. He locked eyes with Silhouette and
nodded to her. Silhouette reached into the small purse she was carrying and
withdrew three components which she quickly snapped together. She pressed a
button on the side of it, and kicked it along the floor, where it rapidly
attracted the attention of the partygoers.
Kienan drew his weapons and began shooting over everyone's heads, trying to
flush them out. Gunfire sprayed over the heads of the partygoer's smashing
glasses, windows, and chandeliers. The guests ran from the room in a panic, and
Craedon tried to follow them out, but Kienan shot him one in the kneecap,
sending him sprawling to the ground.
Kienan kicked Silhouette's pistol to her and she scooped it up primly and
walked over to Craedon, leveling the gun at his head. Her turquoise eyes were
cold and steely as she looked down on him.
Kienan reached into his jacket pocket, pulling a handful of small ball bearing
like devices from the jacket pocket of his tuxedo and threw them all about the
ballroom. Then he holstered his pistols and withdrew another device. He held it
lightly in the palm of his hand and walked over to where Craedon lay in a
steadily expanding pool of his own blood.
"You brought this on yourself," Kienan said to him, not even looking
at him. "Just remember--no one goes against the Blue Dragons."
He pressed a button on the device and the ball bearing explosives detonated
with such force that the mansion's foundations seemed to rock. Craedon's scream
of angry denial seemed as loud as the explosions.
Kienan and Silhouette left him, quickly making their way to their pre-planned
exit. The escape ship they'd left hidden beside the house war warmed up and
ready to go.
The ship flew up past the atmosphere to the dark side of Nereid, where their
ship was waiting. In less time thank it took to tell, they were aboard, and the
Blue Dragon ship slipped out of orbit before any ships were aware of their
Inside the ship, in their quarters, they kissed, the thrill of the mission
having gelled with their desire for each other. It was such a rush, like a
roller coaster ride that never seemed to end.
"You were superb," Kienan said, holding her close. She let her hair
down with her free hand and shook it loose. Kienan pulled close to her and
smelled the soft scent in her hair.
"Youre so beautiful," he whispered in her ear. "I've never been
able to take my eyes off of you. Not since the night I saw you for the first
She looked into her eyes, smiling deeply. "I love you, Kienan," she
Kienan looked at her, cradling her lithe form in his arms.
She looked at him. "Still cant say it?"
Kienan shook his head. "No," he said, reaching behind her, and
unzipping her dress. Silhouette gently let it fall off of her shoulders.
"But I can show you."
She took his hand and lay it on her chest. The warmth over made Kienan feel
alive and vital just being close to her. She kissed him deep and tenderly
again, and looked into his eyes.
Kienan laughed as he handed the steadily emptying bottle to Toriares.
"I remember the time we all got went to Venus and got disgustingly drunk
on this stuff," Toriares said, laughing. He laughed for a few minutes then
his manner steadied a bit. "She was good for you, you know. How she was
with you was what convinced me to ask Neferta'ri to marry me."
Kienan chuckled as he took the bottle from Toriares. "You mean, how you
became store-bought, womanized, and no fun?" He powered down another gulp
and handed it back to him. His smile softened a bit. "Those were good
times, weren't they?"
"Some of the best," Toriares said. "I was afraid to take that
contract with the Khephren, you know. Damn scared to leave you out here on your
own to get progressively more moody."
"I'm not moody," Kienan said, laughing.
"The hell you aren't," Toriares said, taking a swig and handing the
bottle back to Kienan. "You are the most inward-directed person I have
Kienan drank the last of the bottle and held it up to the light on the bridge.
"And you . . .were always too damned flamboyant for your own good. I
learned so many bad lesson from you, Toriares."
"Well," Toriares said, fumbling around in the pockets of his jacket.
"It did make you a better assassin, didnt it?"
"I suppose," Kienan said indifferently, swirling the last of the
whiskey around in the empty bottle. "The deadliest man in the galaxy I
think is what they call me."
"Give me that," Toriares said, taking the bottle from his hands. He
tossed him a smaller metal flask. "Here. I had no idea your tolerance was
Kienan smiled and unscrewed the cap. Before he drank, he raised the flask.
"To Kienan Ademetria and Toriares, the Brothers of Blood." He drank
deeply and handed the flask to Toriares.
Toriares raised it slowly. "And to Silhouette, absent in form, in memory,
still bright." He took a thoughtful drink off of the flask and looked
around the command deck. "You know, this place seems really empty without
her. You need some help keeping the ship up."
"You know three people who could handle sharing a ship with me?"
Kienan said, smiling a little bitterly. Toriares realized that mentioning
Silhouette's name had torn open a wound in Kienan. He resolved to keep him from
dwelling on it.
"I dont think they've been built yet," Toriares said, chuckling.
"Any crew like that would have to be specially built to take a lot."
"Do you remember the day we bought this ship?" Kienan asked, lighting
a cigarette and mumbling around it as he lit it.
"A unique fixer-upper opportunity," Toriares said, gesturing to it.
He, Kienan and Silhouette were walking on a causeway adjacent to the ship.
Below the spacedock, Kuran Colony was the same hustle and bustle it had been
when Kienan had found Silhouette two years ago. This was, in fact, Kienan's
anniversary gift to her.
"Is that your way of saying its a piece of shit?" Silhouette said,
chuckling a little as she stayed close to Kienan, gently playing with his
"Actually, that's what we want everyone to think," Kienan said,
taking a drag off of his cigarette and letting the smoke stream from his
nostrils as he spoke. "Inside it'll be far from the simple cargo freighter
it was built to be."
"With a little work," Toriares said, running his hands through his white
hair and trying in vain to keep it from his face.
"With a lot of work," Silhouette said, giggling. "Still, Kienan,
at least now you can move that damn piano out of our apartment and stop waking
me up banging on the keys."
Kienan laughed as he put out his cigarette. "Well, I sense an editorial
comment there." He pulled her close to him and kissed her gently.
Toriares waved dismissively. "All right you two," he said, chuckling
gently. "We've got work to do. I've got a few engine parts on order, and
with the mechanists and the dockworkers' on strike, it wont get done unless we
do it ourselves."
"Toriares," Silhouette said. "It's not that I dont appreciate
everything you do for us, but I know next to nothing about starship repair. And
while Kienan knows a little more, couldnt we just contract an engineer and get
them to install what we need?"
"You could," Toriares said, turning and walking on a gentryway that
connected the ship to the walkways they had been using. "But if you get
attacked or if things break down and youre not near a base where you can get
parts or experienced engineers, what will you do?"
Kienan smiled and lit another cigarette. "That's one of the first things
Toriares taught me, Sil. Always be self-sufficient."
"And look how well you did with that, Toriares said, turning to him as the
main airlock to the ship opened. "Always bringing your girlfriend
Kienan raised an eyebrow as he took another drag off of his cigarette.
"Like you wouldn't."
They stepped into the receiving bay of the ship. There was only one dim
flickering light to guide them in their work and it cast long shadows over
everything. On one wall were crates of parts for the ship, all stacked neatly.
On the other side of the room were tools and tool belts scattered over tool
"So," Silhouette said, looking around. "What are we going to
call this thing."
Toriares looked at Kienan. "Go ahead," he said. "You've
practiced the speech to me more than enough."
Kienan sighed and put out his cigarette. He looked at Silhouette and took her
into his arms. "We're going to call it the Silhouette . . .after someone
else I found with a little dirt on her and made beautiful."
Silhouette kissed him gently. "Oh? And who was that."
Kienan smiled thinly. "You know who."
They kissed again, and would have stayed that way, but Toriares sighed wearily.
Eventually, they got to work.
"Want to tell me what happened?" Toriares said.
Kienan thoughtfully exhaled a stream of smoke, looking at the lit cigarette in
his fingers. "I thought you knew already."
"I knew you shot her, but I'm not sure how that could have happened."
Kienan closed his eyes. "I'm not sure either. I should have seen it
coming, however. You know, when I joined the Blue Dragons, and you started
teaching me what it took to do what we do . . .I never really thought anything
like this would happen."
"With her, you mean," Toriares said.
"Looking back," Kienan began, taking another drag on his cigarette.
"It had been building for awhile, I think. I never questioned what we do .
. .it feels natural, I do it, and that's all the thought I expend on it."
"No," Kienan said. "After every mission, I'd hear more of it.
"Why did we have to kill that man's entire family just to set and
example?" "Why did we have to blow up an entire liner full of
passengers to get one man?" And on and on, every time we'd come back
Toriares folded his hands and closed his eyes. "And you never had an
"I never asked the question, so no, I didn't have an answer. I didnt
"And now?" Toriares asked.
"Now I couldnt care less," he said. "Silhouette is dead. Worse
yet, I killed her. I will never wake up by her side again. I'll never feel her
arms around me, and I'll never feel what I felt with her."
"She's not the only woman in the galaxy," Toriares said. "I know
it's a cliché, but you could always start over any time you get good and ready
"Toriares, she touched something in me, I didnt have a name for, because
I havent felt anything like it since Caldera," Kienan said, his eyes
closed. "I dont know what it is--I dont dare call it
"love"--but she was the only one who found it. And now that it's gone
. . ."
"You dont think you'll ever feel it again?" Toriares asked.
"I dont want to," Kienan said. He opened his eyes slowly. The
emerald green was cold as stone this time. He took a thoughtful drag off of his
cigarette. "It would just remind me she's gone, and I have only myself to
blame for it."
Silhouette was sitting up in bed, looking at Kienan's back. Lazily, she traced
the huge "X" scar on his back with the tip of her index finger.
"Why didnt you tell me?" Silhouette asked.
"About what," Kienan said, lighting a cigarette.
"Caldera," she said.
"I didn't want you to know," Kienan replied evenly.
"Well, obviously, but the question I asked was "why?" Do you
think I would have stopped loving you had I known?"
"I dont know," Kienan said, exhaling. The smoke hung in the
darkness, making blue-gray shapes in the air.
"Do you think about it a lot?"
"Every time I close my eyes," Kienan said. "Every time I sleep
She moved closer to him, her naked body pressing against her back. "I can
keep the memory away from you," she whispered. "It's all I want to do
with the rest of my life."
"I dont think you can," Kienan said.
Silhouette kissed the nape of neck, moving his braid aside. "I'd like to
try. I want understand you. I want to take away your pain."
Kienan looked over his shoulder at her. "You do?"
Silhouette nodded, wrapping her arms around his waist.
Kienan pondered it for a few moments.
"Have you ever had a nightmare that terrified you so much that when you
woke up, you weren't sure that you had really awakened and the nightmare was
still going on?"
"Sometimes," Silhouette said.
"Ever since Caldera, ever since I saw everything I had loved or known
butchered and ever since I was baptized in their blood, I've felt like I never
woke up from a night mare. It's still going on."
Silhouette moved closer to him and kissed him passionately. Kienan put out his
cigarette and lay back on the bed as she straddled him.
She looked down at him, her eyes seeming to shine in the spare light of the
room. "And what about this?" Silhouette asked, kissing down his
chest, her long dark hair brushing his chest. "Is this part of your
Kienan closed his eyes and let her ministrations carry him away. He quietly
mouthed a reply Silhouette never heard:
"No," he said soundlessly. "This is the dream."
Kienan walked Toriares unsteadily to the landing bay, the both of them
"You know," Kienan said. "I hate you have to leave so
"Cant be helped," Toriares said, opening the canopy to his fighter.
"I've got a top to make for the Khephren and then it's back home to
Kienan smiled and tried with some difficulty to light a cigarette. He dropped
it twice before finally succeeding in lighting it.
"Toriares," he said, his manner becoming serious suddenly.
"Don't . . .be a stranger, all right?"
Toriares smiled as he strapped himself in and began the engine preheat
sequence. Kienan backed away and walked away from the landing bay as Toriares'
fighter pulled away and made its way to the stars.
On board his fighter, Toriares took a small metal case out of his jacket
pocket. Inside were several small pills. Toriares took two of them and closed
his eyes, letting the ship take him to his next rendezvous while the oxygen
pills cleared the haze of all the drinking he had done.
Gradually his fighter pulled out of sensor range of the Silhouette and the
computer switched over to a new set of coordinates and activated the fighter's
Two hours later, the fighter came out of Space Drive within a short distance of
another starship, this one a shining white thing of beauty. Toriares woke up to
the sound of his proximity sensor's rapid beeping, his thoughts felt slow but
somewhat clearer. He looked at the ship, sighed, and punched a series of keys.
"It's been a while, Toriares," a female voice called from the ship.
"Sil," he said. "You sound quite well for a dead woman."
Kienan had returned to the command deck. Today would be a long day of waiting
for a new job and keeping in touch with his network of informants and contacts.
He had just finished talking with his informant among the pirate guilds on the
Frontier, when Maxwell, his contact in one of the big Earth corporations sent
him a communiqué. It wasn't anything detailed, just a list of the current
projects he knew about.
One of them caught his eye. Something about a new synthetic machine they were
creating at the Titan laboratory. The name seemed a little silly, but he
immediately started to reply to Maxwell's message as soon as he finished.
It was in fact a request for more information on this Titan project, the
Rigellian doctor who built them, and a clarification of the name.
For some reason, Kienan couldnt believe that a project with that kind of
potential would have a strange name for the machine type as
"So," Silhouette said, sitting next to Toriares on the observation
deck of her ship, the White Angel. "What did you find out?"
Toriares smiled. "That I cant match drinks with him, anymore. Hard to
believe he used to be my protégé."
"I know," Silhouette said. "We were so happy then."
"So where'd it go wrong?" Toriares asked.
"I'd like to say it was your fault, for leaving the Blue Dragons and
us," Silhouette said. "I'd like to say it was Kienan's fault for
never telling me everything, and I'd like to say it was my fault, too, for not
trying hard enough."
"He still loves you, you know," Toriares said. "If you went back
to him, he'd welcome you back. I think he needs someone in his life, because
leaving him alone is when he starts to die inside."
"I cant do that, Toriares," she said. "Maybe some day, after
all the wounds have healed, and he and I are ready to see each other again,
then maybe I can go back to him and be what he needs, and maybe he'll be what I
need as well."
"Don't make him wait too long, Sil," Toriares said.
"You know," Silhouette said. "One night I asked him about
Caldera, about what happened to him, and he said something about how it was
like he had fallen into a nightmare he couldnt wake up from. And I think
that's when I realized what would happen if I stayed with him. His nightmare
would become my nightmare, and it would destroy me, as surely as it was going
to destroy him some day."
"You make it sound like it's going to happen for sure."
"I guess I hoped the shock of shooting me would have jarred him back to
his senses," Silhouette said. "But I know better, now. I know he's
not going to change. I dont know if he can. Damn him."
Toriares looked at her. "You still love him, dont you?"
Silhouette closed her eyes and nodded. Despite herself, she was crying. "I
wanted to take him away from this and live with him forever. That was my dream.
Too bad my dream couldnt dispel his nightmare."
"It sounds like a wonderful dream."
"It was a short dream," Silhouette said. "But a nice one."
Kienan dreamt of that moment again. He was sitting on the windowsill of a
building and below him, Odin Stransky, one of Proxima's colonial governors was
speaking. Silhouette was below too, in the crowd, waiting to take a shot, in
the unlikely even Kienan miss. Kienan finished his cigarette and set about
completing the hit.
Kienan hefted the rifle and raised it to fire. Stransky was in his sights. The
rifle was a custom job, made to fire a heavy steel dart with an explosive tip
that was virtually certain to kill a normal human.
The moments became elastic, in his dream, as they had in life. His red-gloved
finger tightened on the trigger as he looked through the scope. Silhouette
pushed through the crowd as his finger tightened on the trigger and pulled it back.
As the rifle kicked and the bullet flew forth, Kienan dropped the rifle as he
saw the flash of powder as the dart struck Silhouette. Behind her, the stage
Stransky had been speaking on exploded. Silhouette was thrown off the stage by
the force of the explosion, her arm covered in her own blood.
Kienan threw the rifle aside. He wanted more than anything to go down there and
rescue her, but he couldnt allow himself to be caught. Besides, he had to
survive long enough to find out if Stransky had been killed.
Kienan would find out later that he had died of a heart attack, but he would be
lauded all the same for a successful mission completed. The other thing Kienan
kept to himself was the loss of Silhouette.
And in his dreams, her bloodied body tumbled in the sky like an angel falling.
Like a dream dying.
And, sleeping alone, Kienan Ademetria woke up into his nightmare from the
remains of a dream he had seen in the eyes of the girl.