The real question wasn't whether I would kill the woman, but how I would do it. I wanted to do it slowly and take my time, but duty required I not risk blowing my cover.
Danean shivered and clutched at my arm. "Why're we out here? It's cold!"
"Another drink?" I asked slowly, careful to keep a vacant tone in my voice. I pulled out a flask and passed it to her. "It keep you warm."
"Sure," she slurred. "Why not?"
"Drinks taste good." I placed one hand on the back of her neck as she swallowed the liquor. It'd be easy to shove her into the water, but not nearly satisfying enough. I'd endured enough with the humans, eating their overcooked, maggot-soft food, listening to their monkey chatter, and enduring their pointless pity. I deserved some fun.
My cover was excellent, and I'd taken full advantage of its camouflage: a Starwolf veteran with brain damage from a war wound. It bought me respect and pity from other warriors, and nobody questioned the glaring gaps in my "memory." Neither did anyone suspect my hulking physique and slack features hid the well-trained, shrewd mind of a BioDerm spy.
Humans were so gullible. Play to their sympathies and they believed anything.
The datashard Danean had given me that evening was everything I'd asked for: Starwolf ship manifests and status reports for the armada currently in orbit around Ymir. She thought she was helping her simpleton lover find an old friend. Of course, when my pheromones wore off, her better judgment would lead her to question her actions. That could not be permitted.
She was attractive for a human. Slender build, short-cropped blonde hair, high cheekbones, prominent chest. A slight overbite betrayed genetic defects, though, and she had not conditioned herself adequately. She would not have survived among the Hordes.
She eyed me with a mischievous expression. "You wanna go home, handsome? Get warm?"
I waited a couple of heartbeats to process her question, and only then laughed dully and swung her into an embrace. When her face pressed against the skin of my cheek, I triggered my pheromones and let her get a good whiff. Her eyelids fluttered behind her goggles. Our recent intimacy had made her especially open to suggestion. I wondered idly what her blood tasted like.
"Leave soon," I told her, and put her down. "Come see fish first." She nodded dazedly, a lopsided smile on her face.
Anticipation hummed through me. Not long now.
Skyrholm was icebound for three-quarters of the year with a good ten to fifteen meters of ice. In the spring, the ice was only three meters thick, so every spring holdfast citizens cut a broad hole in the middle of the harbor for fishing. I'd done plenty of fishing here myself, so I knew that at this time of the morning, nobody came out here. The only light came the distant fraytown, faint flickers of color across the snow-dusted ice. It was so cold the air seemed to crackle.
It was a perfect place to get rid of somebody. When Danean drowned, I'd claim we were drunk and that she'd fallen into the hole by accident. I wasn't in the least intoxicated, of course. My liver and pancreas were designed to prevent such impairment. We'd been seen in enough of the clubs and taverns tonight, putting back drink after drink. I believed my alibi would hold. I was just a simple-minded mountain of muscle, after all, good for nothing but killing the hated Blood Eagle.
Danean sniffed and wiped her nose. "I'm cold. Show me this fish and we'll go, OK?" She leaned up and gave me a kiss. "You're dumb but gorgeous." She smelled of alcohol and soft flesh, utterly vulnerable. My pulse raced. I knew at that moment that I couldn't just drown her. I had to play a little, have some fun, and show her what I really was.
So I grinned and hugged her. As I did so, I lifted her so her feet weren't touching the ice and carried her the rest of the way to the water. I was capable of far greater displays of strength, of course, even though vatsatz like me were weaklings compared to real Derms. Had I wanted to, I could have pulped her against my chest. Correct that: had I chosen to. I definitely wanted to, but I played it safe, and put her down near the water's edge. She teetered for an instant. I licked my lips. So vulnerable.
"So strong," she purred, clinging. "I feel so safe with you." The statement was so absurd that I almost laughed in her face. The hole yawned behind her, an abyss of black water slopping lazily against the ice.
Abruptly, I clamped down on her neck. Even with the padding of her hooded coldsuit, my grip was hard enough to paralyze her.
"Oww! Wh-what?" she blurted. "Hurts!"
I dropped any pretense of dim-wittedness. "Sorry, sweetmeat, but I got what I needed from you." With immense satisfaction, I dangled her over the water by the scruff of her neck. She hung limply, helpless prey frozen in the clutches of a true predator. Her pain and confusion thrilled me.
Something in the water roiled past under her feet. Her eyes rolled down and her terror intensified. Oh, yes, this was exactly what I wanted! I savored the moment, wished it could last forever. "Fascinating aquatic life-form, the razor hag. I see you know about it. Excellent. You're about to become quite familiar with this one."
"Please!" she gurgled. "Please." She managed a feeble kick, but she couldn't hit anything, much less hurt me.
Unfortunately, I couldn't indulge myself too long. Every moment carried the risk of discovery, what with all the damned shuttles coming every few minutes, and all the training going on. I drew a short knife and slashed her left leg open at the femoral artery, careful to let the blood spray out over the water. Her mouth made a shocked "O", looking so comical that I laughed.
Her blood smelled like heaven. I resisted the urge to crush her to me and tear her throat out. It'd be hard to explain that much blood splattered all over my coldsuit.
"I hung a packet of meat in the water earlier this evening," I explained, gesturing with the knife, which was sticky with her freezing blood. "I was reasonably sure it would attract a hag. I've done a lot of fishing out here, you know." Below us, the pale mass snaked back and forth from under the ice, drawn by the blood. I shivered in admiration. What a magnificent beast!
Best end this. I'd toyed with her past the point of caution. A distant light in the sky heralded another shuttle full of troops and supplies.
"Goodbye, human." I opened my hand and let her fall. Her rather musical shriek ended in a splash and a sudden boiling surge of water. Then all fell still. A razor hag commonly pulled its prey deep underwater before wrapping it in long, sharp-finned coils and ripping it to pieces. The fins could slash through hardened metaplas with little effort, and its six whiplike heads tore off chunks of food with lightning speed. I wished I could watch it work. Another time, perhaps.
"Bon appetite," I told the black waters. A fine end to a productive day. I licked my knife clean with relish and turned back toward the lights of the fraytown.