Fulton met Emily for the first time on the patio at the Intercontinental.
He was late. He had a good excuse, though. A bomb went off at a police barracks along the way. The blast launched a severed arm into the street, mobile phone in hand. The thumb remained poised over the keypad, frozen mid-SMS. It took Fulton a few minutes vomiting into a gutter to regain his composure. His stomach was still doing backflips when he sat down at the patio cafe.
Emily seemed small for someone of her reputation. Slim and petite, with straight hair swept back behind her head in a neat bun. Her skirt was long, professional and conservative; her blouse a plain white piece that could have come off any department store rack in the world. She also wore glasses. Thick, black frames that belonged in a fashion show somewhere.
Fulton assumed her conservative style choices were a way of blending into the male-dominated social landscape (he had no inkling of her endless, Barbie-like wardrobe at that first meeting). He knew they disliked strong women here. Something to do with machismo. The sight of a female mercenary running around in camo fatigues and combat boots would certainly set hairs on end. It might even start a riot. That happened in some countries where these contractors operated. Often firms didn’t provide proper sensitivity training.
Fulton held nothing but contempt for machismo.
A reputation for virility was hardly worth anything if justifying it got you killed. He recalled that oft-overlooked quirk of evolutionary fitness whereby only on average were individuals fit for survival — some being much more fit and others much less. In the short run it was entirely possible for individuals to exhibits traits wholly unsuited to evolutionary success. In fact, in the short run nature could select for traits that were detrimental to a species’ longevity. This was similar to the insurance industry’s problem of adverse selection, wherein the least healthy people (e.g. obese, chain smoking alcoholics) were generally most eager to purchase life insurance policies.
Could the same process apply culturally? Fulton rather thought it might.
He and Emily sat on the hotel patio sipping gourmet coffee as she explained the job.
“The problem with drugs is they bring too much money, too fast. Take a farmer and offer him a ten thousand percent return on a tiny slice of land. You own him. He’ll believe whatever you tell him to believe. Because really, who’s going to fuck with ten thousand percent? And unfortunately some of these guys believe very strange things. Worse than Arabs, some of them.”
The speech struck Fulton as stilted. Rehearsed. He suspected Emily didn’t like talking. Probably didn’t care much for people, period.
She was a killer, after all. Her favorite people were the dead kind.