He squeezed his eyes shut, but the images continued their parade through his mind. Sticky sweat rolled down his nape. I don’t even know you! Why can’t you leave me alone?
Warmth spread across his face. A strong tremor ran down his arm, and with a nauseating lurch, he realized he was pressing the barrel of the Vollmer against his temple. He tightened his finger on the trigger. One bullet. That was all it would take to find peace. He sucked in air and pushed the warm barrel harder against his head. He wouldn’t fire it. He’d fantasized about pulling the trigger, but was too afraid of what he might find on the other side.
He jerked his hand and the gun clattered onto the ground. As if startled by the noise, the mob of the dead dancing before him vanished. But then the world rocked and teetered, and bile surged up his throat. He pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes.
Stop deluding yourself, man. You kill because it’s what you’re told to do. And if you’re ever offered money to kill again, you can bet your sorry ass you’ll do it.
He rubbed his temples. I disgust myself. As he crouched to retrieve the Vollmer, out of the corner of his eye he noticed the burly silhouette of a wrap-up bot watching him from a yard away. All the air rushed out of his lungs. How long had it been there?
The robot rolled toward him. Its hum made his scalp itch.
“Repeat.” The recorded voice crackled with some static, which it cleared with an electric cough. “Adequate performance. Please return weapon.”
Tristan gritted his teeth. That lucky bastard. Thanks to its integrated preservation chip, the wrap-up bot wasn’t capable of harming a live human being. He, on the other hand… He glanced at the light sequence running back and forth across the robot’s chassis, then into its single black eye. The lens contracted slightly and dilated. Was it judging him? No, wrap-up bots weren’t programmed to discern right from wrong, just to clean up messes. He dropped the Vollmer into its retrieval chute.
The robot jiggled and creaked as it processed the firearm. “Weapon correct. Thank you. Prepare for compensation.” It whirred and clicked, and a plastic card rattled down its dispenser. “Retrieve compensation.”
Tristan picked up his commission. Earl Wiggin’s life—and Tristan’s integrity—was worth eight thousand statis, enough to live comfortably for about half a terrestrial year. Tristan’s lips pulled back in disgust. He’d ended one life just to add six more months to his.
The wrap-up bot chirruped. “Assignment: completed. Agent status: available. You may leave.”
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Genre – Science Fiction/Fantasy
Rating – Adult