Culture

'I Shot Off His Gun Hand. He Fell To The Ground Screaming, Clutching His Stump, and Holding Back the Flow of Orange Blood'

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I plugged the microgenerator into the wall, and the power surge instantly blew out all the lights. The dark was ruined by two blaster shots, and two thuds confirmed I had correctly remembered where Naus’s guards were standing. A backup generator soon kicked in, and when the lights returned, Naus could see that I was now standing beside him.

I shot off his gun hand. He fell to the ground screaming, clutching his stump, and holding back the flow of orange blood. “Now, I wouldn’t say we demanded anything.” I stood over him but didn’t bother pointing the gun at him. “But as a representative of the Nystrom syndicate, which you’ve done business with for so long, I would expect a little hospitality. At no point did anyone offer me so much as a beverage; I felt very unwelcome. And why? What personally had I ever done to you? We have an expression on my home world about not shooting the messenger. Do you know what it is?”

He stared at me in shock.

“It’s ‘Don’t shoot the messenger.'” I thought about that for a moment. “That’s really only half an expression, isn’t it? ‘Don’t shoot the messenger…’ or what? I guess ‘Don’t shoot the messenger, or he’ll flip out and start killing everybody.’ Anyhoo, can I read you my message now?”

“Don’t kill me! The Veethood–”

“Your talking right now is not required or appreciated… and considering the trouble you put me through, you should try and pay attention. Please.” I reached into my inside jacket pocket and pulled out a paper note. I unfolded it and read it to him. “Chal Naus, we’ve heard about your new business arrangements. This is upsetting, as you’ve been a valuable partner, and we hope you’ll reconsider. Whatever you decide, though, we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.” I folded the note back up and placed it on the table. “You don’t need to sign for it. I’ll show myself out. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

I headed to the nearest exit, leaving Naus moaning in pain on the floor behind me. Things had turned out pretty well. My biggest fear on this job was that he would have politely agreed to see me, since that would have made the whole message delivery thing rather anticlimactic. It’s kind of pointless for me to do a job somewhere and not shoot people.

As I left the bar I heard sirens coming my way. It’s kinda funny, because I’m really not someone you want to loudly announce your presence to. “Dip, exit plan alpha.”

“I’ve noticed a correlation between increased traffic on police communications channels and your wanting to be picked up. In the future, should I just assume that–”

“Exit plan alpha, Dip.”

The police vehicles were almost on me, and I figured there would be some ground resistance between me and my exit. The natural human instinct in a situation like this would be to run, but I don’t like the tradeoffs faster movement brings. It makes aiming harder, it makes observing your surroundings harder, and it makes you look scared. I’m not the one who is supposed to be scared.

I shot two more purple guys I saw running toward me instead of away. I also took out of my jacket a pocket-rocket — also illegal on any planet that’s heard of them — and tossed it into the air. It immediately took flight and targeted the nearest large heat signature. I heard a siren nearly overhead, then an explosion, then no more siren. Fiery debris landed around me, which was nice, since it was a bit chilly out.

The other vehicles backed off a little as their drivers tried to understand this new threat. This gave Dip a window to land my ship in an open plaza just in front of me. Again, I like to make a calm exit in full view of everyone. Nystrom is untouchable, and everyone needs to know that.

I came in through the side door of my ship just as I heard the sirens coming my way again.

“There are a number of options. We can–”

“Up, Dip! Up!”

Artificial intelligence is annoying, but it’s better than working with an actual person.

I got into the pilot seat, and the ship quickly but smoothly lifted upward. It then moved forward and soon cleared the edge of the city. Chal Naus’s resort was on top of a mile-high plateau with steep cliffs on all sides. It was the only substantial development on the planet, so beyond the plateau I only saw unspoiled, rocky landscape dotted with a few green plants. People like having views of that sort of thing. They like modern conveniences, but they don’t like looking at them. I can sympathize; I feel a certain peacefulness when I’m far away from the annoyance of sentient species.

A blast rocked the ship. “Are they shooting at me?”

“That they are,” Dip answered.

“That’s stupid of them.” They hadn’t determined exactly how serious a threat I was and were still coming right at me. “Take us into orbit, Dip.”

*****

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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