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“Commissioner Sleer? The messenger is here.”

“Show him in.” Servalan leaned back in her chair, adopting a casual air. Normally, she wouldn't have indulged a mere courier's request for a face-to-face meeting. But this one had intrigued her.

As instructed, the troopers ushered the man in and then exited, taking up posts discreetly outside. Waiting for her signal, just in case.

Her visitor wasn't very impressive. A tatty little man whose eyes darted covetously around the room, marking every object and the chances of it not being missed. His scraggly mustache twitched in concert with his eyes. A rat walking on two legs, she mused. Servalan made a mental note to have him frisked before he left the base.

“Gundan Frish, I presume?”

“The very same, madam! Entrepreneur, courier, and top supplier of anything you desire!” His eyes roved over her body the same way they had examined the room, while the mouth lifted into a lecherous leer. Servalan made a further mental note to arrange a suitable “accident” for him.

Summoning all her patience, Servalan smiled at him. “Your message said you were bringing a gift to me. A gift from whom?”

“Oh, from a very old friend of yours. He spared no expense, and demanded the best service money could buy. It was a surprise, but seeing your loveliness, well, no wonder. A beautiful woman such as yourself would rate such lavish devotion!”

“You flatter me.” Servalan upgraded the accident to simply having him shot outside her office. “But you still haven't answered my question.”

“Forgive me, dear lady! Your admirer wished to remain anonymous to me, but there should be a card in the box.” He set the heavy steel case he was holding on her desk, one hand caressing the top.

“I see.” Servalan smoothly rose to her feet, and looked the box over carefully. There was nothing obviously dangerous about it, which made her all the more suspicious.

Frish fidgeted a bit. “Shall I open it for you now?”

“Oh, by all means.” Servlan's smile didn't drop a fraction. But the moment Frish's eyes dropped down to the catch, she darted out the back, sealing him in her office.

“Viola!” Frish waved his hand in a flourish, giving an exaggerated bow as his eyes lifted back up, blinking in surprise as he found himself alone.

There was a buzzing sound from the box. Frowning, he looked back down.

Then he screamed.

Servalan watched through the mirror as Gundan Frish was eaten alive by the mass of gray beetles the box had contained. Peppy music played as a counterpoint to the screams and bubbling moans.

The bugs scuttled around for five minutes after Frish was reduced to a pile of fragmented bones and other indigestible bits. Then, they died en masse, dissolving into a fine powder. It took over an hour for her men to decontaminate the room and certify it safe to reenter.

There was indeed a card in the bottom of the box. It was ordinary cardstock, with a drawing of a cake-smeared infant on the front. Servalan snapped it open with a flourish.

“Happy Birthday, 'Commissioner!' it read. It was signed with a slashed “A.”

Servalan smiled fondly. “Oh Avon,” she purred. “You always send me the most...interesting gifts...”