There are two universal truths that I have found apply no matter what planet you’re from.
First, a properly deployed smile is much more effective than any weapons backed threat. It can open locked doors for you, disarm several people at once, or simply get you one step closer to your target before anybody realizes something is wrong.
Second, the best weapon is a weapon that doesn’t look like a weapon.
You may be thinking, “you’re just saying a smile is the best kind of weapon.”
I am not.
A smile is a tool, used for getting yourself in and out of situations, locations, or predicaments.
A weapon is used for causing damage.
Now, can you use a smile to cause damage? Of course you can! But it’s very difficult to actually kill with it. The true value of a smile lies as the setup for the low intensity radioactive pill dissolved in the glass of wine, or the poisonous rose.
I have used these two universal truths to become one of the most sought-after assassins in this part of the galaxy: a little solar system in which the race of humans, of which I was one of, had evolved.
I run a small business called the Smile Salon on the one natural satellite that orbits the Earth. We promise: “From wry to seductive, get the smile you want.”
Honestly, this part of the business is completely aboveboard, and I could make a decent living doing just this. But, when you know two universal truths, what’s the point in focusing on only one of them?
In reality, a small, but not insignificant, portion of patrons entering the Smile Salon come looking for The Cancer. Calum Catem. They come looking for me.
And for 20 years I have fulfilled the contracts that are brought to me, except for one rule: no kids.
Elderly father hanging around and denying you your inheritance? I got it.
Mistress blackmailing you? All taken care of, go back to your wife.
Everybody who comes to the salon for something other than a smile knows that the contract will be considered without judgment and fulfilled without entanglements. Everybody knows the one rule: NO. Kids.
And yet, she walked into my place of business.
She was an andolivscasian. I knew it immediately from the jewels encrusted in her body and face. Every one of them representing a living, sentient entity that had sworn to worship and adore her for as long as they lived. Every, single gem representing a different, whole being.
There had to be a thousand of them on this woman.
They were all there permanently. They were not adornments. They were part of her now. They flowed so smoothly and seamlessly across her arms, shoulders, neck, and up onto her face that they accentuated the devastating natural beauty which she clearly knew she possessed.
This was a being to whom hundreds of souls had pledged themselves to. But, she was coming to me, to my establishment, seeking out my services.
I tried to steady my voice. I told myself I had done this 532 times over the last two decades. But this seemed different. I was intrigued. I could feel myself wanting to do whatever it was she needed.
“Can I help you?” I was proud of how nonchalant and normal my tone sounded.
“I believe you can,” she responded with a smile.
I knew instantly that I was in trouble. I recognized that smile. I could feel it already softly chipping away at any barriers that might be between us.
“Well, in my expert opinion, you don’t need any work on that smile of yours. So, how can I help you?”
I deployed my own smile, which she allowed herself to be completely enveloped in. Her lilting laughter acknowledging that there were no locks for my smile to open, no boundaries between us.
My smile only served to bring her closer to me. Her scent drifted over me, making me lightheaded.
“I need someone to… go away.”
“If I make someone go away, they never come back.”
She nodded slowly, biting her lip seductively. “That’s what I want.”
I knew I could give it to her. I needed to give it to her.
I looked into her eyes. “Who is it?”
She tilted her head to the left, pointing to a opalescent blue gemstone at the juncture between her right shoulder and neck.
“And what has Lavishka done?” I asked, finding myself nearly enraptured by the curvature of her neck.
“I thought contracts were accepted here without questions?” She inquired softly, righting her head and placing her hand on my shoulder.
“Without judgments,” I corrected her, “there are always questions.”
“Very well. Lavishka is a figure of significant import in her circle, and when she pledged herself to me, I made it clear that I was not looking for an oath from anyone with ties to other beings that may conflict with my own desires; then, now, or in the future.”
“And Lavishka has violated this by getting into a relationship?”
“Not exactly,” she said, placing her other hand upon my chest. “She was raped.”
“Oh!” I was caught off guard. “So, you want me to have the perpetrator go away then.”
She shook her head. “Lavishka is pregnant and wants to keep the baby. That is the violation.”
I closed my eyes. I knew what she wanted. I knew her smile and I knew what my answer was going to be.
I just didn’t know if I was ever going to smile again.