|Image: Aldo Tapia A. via Flickr|
Now you're onto number 57: overthrow a national government.
It hasn't gone as well as you'd hoped. Many of your co-conspirators have been captured and you had to admit defeat and run for the hills. I say hills, I really mean dunes, because you cleverly ensured you had a good, well provisioned escape route through the desert. They'll never suspect that!
Could it be the dreaded Sicarius? If it is, you're already dead. No-one escapes that elite group of desert assassins.
Their very name sends a chill down your spine, which actually feels quite nice in the desert heat. The sica was an ancient dagger or short sword. Sicarius means "dagger-man". And that became the Latin word for "assassin".
They are clearly very proud of their work. Unfortunately this pride isn't enough for them to loudly proclaim their presence for all to hear. That would be useful. Instead, you're more likely to just suddenly become dead while out on a walk.
Sicarius is a genus of spiders from the deserts of South America and Africa. They are expert ambush predators who can disappear in seconds, becoming completely hidden beneath the sand. They have a flattened body to help out and grains of sand even stick to their back so that their camouflaged even when they're not buried.
Deserts are famed for being mostly dead, so it can be a long wait before something pleasing walks by. Sicarius duly survive without food of water for a long time and can live for over a decade, which is impressive given that a lot of spiders have a lifespan of scarcely more than a year.
When a promising victim blunders past, Sicarius strikes with its poisoned daggers. Their venom is utterly brutal, there is absolutely NO messing around. Death is swift for their usual insect prey. It takes a little longer for rabbits...
It was an experiment involving the venom of S. hahni, the Six-eyed Sand Spider. They don't usually go around biting rabbits; they're assassins, not barbarians! However, their venom had the effect of killing the rabbits in 5 to 12 hours.
It all gets worse if the cytotoxins get into the blood. Red blood cells get killed, the heart kidneys and liver all suffer damage and arteries get blocked. It's potentially lethal, and even if it's not lethal it's still terrible, long lasting effects.
There is no antivenom available, however bites are exceedingly rare. They live in the desert for goodness sake! They're not one of these guys who make a home for themselves in your bathroom. And even if they did, they seem to be reasonably docile and not extravagantly aggressive.
This, of course, is the kind of thing you expect from an assassin. They can't go about slaughtering for sheer bravado when they have a job to do. This is one contract killer who I'm pleased to say is a consummate professional.