Culture

Will The Future of Religion Mean More Pointless Murder?

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“You said you needed to speak to me,” Naus said.

“I was told by Nystrom to speak to you personally, and this is rather impersonal. So just tell me where you are, and I’ll head on over.”

“Don’t bother; I don’t have anything to say to you people. I’m supported by the Veethood now, and I don’t intend to have any more business with Nystrom.”

Dip spoke up. “The Veethood are a local cartel–”

“Never heard of them. Don’t care about them,” I told both Naus and Dip. The six guys around me started to stir.

“You go tell Nystrom–”

“I was not told that Nystrom cares what you have to say.” I used my firm voice, hoping that meant something to his species. “And certainly don’t care. My job is to give you a message, and then I am done.”

Naus’s eyes narrowed. Anger? “Perhaps I can tell them all I need to by sending back your corpse.”

I relaxed back in my chair. “I wouldn’t recommend it. Nystrom is known for being very dogged. You kill me, they send two people. You kill them, they send three people. Then four people. Then five people. And they’ll keep going until they get what they want.” I unfolded my arms. “Know how many I think it will take, though?” I leaned toward the screen. “I think one will be more than enough.”

I should mention that my brain is altered in more ways than one. First, my reflexes are much better than a regular man’s, but more importantly, I can actually process and perform two separate actions at once as long as one of them doesn’t require higher-level functions like speech processing. For instance, I have never had any trouble patting my head and rubbing my tummy at the same time. More practically, I can wield two guns, acquiring and eliminating a separate target with each hand simultaneously. That’s very useful when I have to quickly gun down six people — which I did as I stood from the chair. I immediately assessed the threat level of each of the six and then shot them in order. I had shot them all before any had successfully drawn a weapon.

It was a little pathetic, but the rest of the bodies Naus would throw at me would be a little more prepared and might actually present a challenge. Their blood is orange, by the way.

Naus was shouting something at me through the screen, but I didn’t pay attention and instead walked over to the receptionist, who was cowering behind her desk. “So where is Chal Naus?”

“Down the hallway in the bar!” she cried. My translator program had some trouble with her stuttered delivery.

“I know this must be stressful for you, but thank you for your help,” I said before turning away. I want to be better socially, so I try to work at it whenever I have an opportunity. It’s hard for me to analyze in which situations I actually gain something by being polite, but it usually doesn’t hurt. I really have to remember to be polite, though, because of my intense disdain for pretty much every sentient creature.

Two more purple guys came running at me, guns pointed forward, but I still shot both of them before they could fire. I stepped over them and continued to the bar.

Now you might be thinking there are smarter ways to go about this sort of thing, but then you’d be missing the point. Sure, I could sneak in and take out my targets surreptitiously, and a skilled assassin certainly is a threat to be feared. But I am a hitman, not an assassin. And there’s a good reason for that. Hiding shows weakness. When representing the Nystrom syndicate, one of the most powerful forces in the universe, one should never show weakness. That’s why I always use the front door. I let my marks know I’m coming. I walk calmly. I give them time to prepare to defend themselves. And I show them that whatever they do doesn’t matter. Because Nystrom always gets what it wants. Always. It is larger and more powerful than most people can even comprehend, and I am the human representation of that power.

Yes, one of these days that philosophy will earn me a hole burned right through my face. But everyone will have to admit that right up to that point I was extremely intimidating. Years ago, there was once a sensationalist piece in the works at the Laverk Times calling me the “Universe’s Deadliest Man.” Funny story: the day before it would have appeared, I killed the entire editorial staff in a completely unrelated matter.

Well, it was funny to me. Maybe you had to have been there.

Anyway, I met no one else on the short walk to the bar and could hear people panicking inside. I assumed security had fortified around Naus, and that would work nicely for me, because I’d rather they all just stayed put.

Bars make nice places for hits. They’re public, so there are plenty of witnesses, but they usually lack many windows and are out of the way, so too many people aren’t alerted too quickly. I’ve never liked hanging out in such places for fun, as I don’t drink; I only go to bars when I’m killing people.

I go to a lot of bars.

I stepped through the front door and started firing. The non-threats were presumably smart enough to flee through the exits, so I took aim at anyone facing my direction. It’s not like there’s a penalty for shooting innocent bystanders (besides the legal ones, but that’s always been a non-issue for me). I aimed quickly while moving in a zigzag pattern (they were expecting me, so they would inevitably get some shots off) and took them down two by two. There were nine threats by first glance, then seven, then five, then three, then… still three.

I fired again, and the shots terminated in some sort of energy field. I had heard of these but had yet to encounter one. Naus was behind the shield, sitting at the far end of the bar at his own table with a gun in hand and two armed guards standing next to him. “Really impressive,” Naus said, “but now I guess we’ll find out how many men it takes to bring you down.”

The rest of the bar’s patrons continued fleeing, and I shot two running past me who made motions that could have been reaching for guns. I didn’t know if I was right, but in the past few seconds I had developed a deep-seated prejudice against purple aliens with tentacles coming out of their heads and thus didn’t really care. In a few seconds, all that remained were me and the three behind the barrier, but more guards or police were coming, and I was out in the open with multiple entrances to watch. I probably would not last long in that situation — but, who knows? Maybe I would. Today was not the day to find out, though. I looked at Naus. “Fleeing might have been a better idea than trapping yourself.”

“If Nystrom wants to waste time sending me people to kill, then I’ll happily oblige.” Naus looked like he felt pretty invincible behind the shielding. I had noticed the lights dimming a bit when I’d shot the shield, which meant it was on the same grid as the rest of the bar. That gave me an obvious line of attack. “Nystrom doesn’t have a presence in this system — certainly not enough for the cut they’ve been demanding. Plus, I do have some standards, and I don’t want to be associated with what Nystrom has been doing on Zaldia. So I’m going to send you back to them in pieces as a little message that they should devote their time and resources elsewhere.”

He was talking about the politics behind this job as if it meant anything to me. The why was never important — that’s big picture stuff and it all gets rather pointless in the larger scheme. It’s all just power struggles that creatures have had since the first two single-celled organisms competed for the same food source.

Pointless. Never-ending.

So I don’t care about the why — just the what. And the what right now was to get past the energy shield, and quickly. I put away one gun and took out a little device that was normally a useful diversion. It was a miniature generator capable of enough power output to keep a small city running for about a second. It was pretty easy to reengineer into a nasty explosion capable of taking out a few city blocks, which made it illegal for civilian possession pretty much everywhere — something to note if you care about that sort of thing.

“Are you listening? Did you really think you could come to my home and demand anything of me?”

*****

Join us again next week for another excerpt from SuperEgo and more provocative essays from Frank J. Fleming and the Liberty Island team.

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