World renowned contralto Josephette Congo was as alone as she could get on the observation deck of the luxury yacht Sea Dragon. It was a lovely moonlit night. The seas were calm and the stars sparkled like fairy dust in the achingly clear sky. Josephette's assigned security escort, a deadly serious young woman with honey brown skin and the greenest eyes Josephette had ever seen, had somehow managed to spirit the two of them away from the madding crowd so that Josephette might have a few minutes to rest her voice and get her game face on.
In a little over an hour, Ms. Congo was due to give the performance of her life: a private recital for the reclusive American tech billionaire, Erik Stone, in honor of his 60th birthday. Mr. Stone had been a fan of Josephette's for years, even sending her armfuls of roses after some performances. Once he'd even tried to ask her on a date via one of his bodyguards, but Josephette politely declined. Tonight they would meet for the first time.
And that's when the real performance would begin. Hidden in the folds of her indigo evening gown was a pocket hypo with a needle thinner than a whisper; hidden in that needle was the virus that would first cripple, then kill Erik Stone. It was the performance for which Josephette had trained almost her entire life.
Yet as she stared at the moon's wavy reflection in the water, she couldn't quite convince herself she was doing the right thing. There was no question Erik Stone deserved some punishment. Back when Josephette was a little girl, a company owned by Mr. Stone came to do some "exploratory work" in her village. They were searching for minerals to help fuel the tech revolution, which must have seemed to her fellow villagers at least as far away as Pluto, since Josephette's hamlet had only recently acquired consistent electricity. But the smooth-talking reps from Stone's subsidiary promised tribal leaders a fair share of the spoils if they found anything of value, so the elders gave them the consent they sought.
Of course Stone's reps lied like White men from the West always did. Josephette never forgave her village elders for being seduced by the same old song and dance. But what Stone's men did was far worse. Not only did they rape the land and poison the water, they raped some of the women as well, one of whom was Josephette's oldest sister, T'wanna, who was barely a woman at sixteen. T'wanna never recovered; she died by her own hand, shunned by her tribe, a year later.
Josephette's musical gift spared her the worst of it. Even as a young girl her voice rang strong and deep with a maturity far beyond her years. That along with her ethereal looks -- Josephette Congo was an albino -- almost guaranteed her stardom. Josephette had been singing for her supper since she was eight years old.
Ms. Congo doubted Erik Stone knew her sister's, or even her old village's, name. His empire was vast and except for a few trips to the opera and concerts, he hardly ventured outside of his carefully constructed kingdom. Even when he was with his powerful peers, he was a loner and a man of few words. But it was his money that killed her childhood, and for that he would pay.
"Ms. Congo," someone said gently, "I hate to disturb you, but you have only thirty minutes until show time."
"Uh. Yeah," said Josephette in a daze. She tore herself away from the moon's reflection to see her security escort standing close. Josephette wondered how long she'd been there.
"Did I scare you?" the woman asked. "You did ask me to warn you about the time."
"I did," Josephette acknowledged. She couldn't get over how green this woman's eyes were. Was she wearing contacts? Did Mr. Stone allow such vanity in his security staff? Josephette turned her attention back to the water.
"I know what you are planning to do," the woman whispered barely loud enough for Josephette to hear.
Josephette struggled to keep her composure. She couldn't believe she'd come this close only to be discovered. It wasn't just the words the security escort spoke that chilled her to the bone, but the language she used to speak them. It was Josephette's tribal language that she almost never heard outside of the village where she was born.
"I know what you are planning to do," the escort repeated in the same language. "And I would ask you not to do it."
Josephette couldn't believe her ears. The woman's accent was perfect. "Does Mr. Stone know?" she asked. She kept her eyes glued to the water.
"No," the woman replied."And I don't plan to tell him, even if I cannot deter you from your planned course of action."
Josephette laughed bitterly. "You're not a very loyal employee then."
"I have not worked for Mr. Stone very long," the woman confessed. "In fact, I only got assigned to you because in your rider you requested a female security escort and Mr. Stone does not have many on his staff."
"How did you find out about my plans?" asked Josephette.
The guard gave her a straight answer without shame: "You keep an electronic diary, which you store in the cloud. I read it."
Now Josephette was truly spooked. Who was this green eyed woman anyway? Why did she care what Josephette did? "Are you CIA?" she asked, not that the woman was going to tell her if she was.
"No, I have nothing to do with that organization. Though