Its hard finding work in 2030 that doesn’t involve shooting people. Its not that it isn’t out there, the world didn’t end in 2012 or anything like that. No polar inversions, no Planet X causing massive tidal disturbances and earthquakes. Just one incredible party, the biggest Happy New Year the world has ever seen. Life pretty much went back to its steady struggle against self destruction and decay while reaching towards transcendence that has marked the past century or so of Mankind’s progress here on this Earth.
Which is not to say there weren’t some hiccups. Yellowstone blowing its top pretty much ruined the breadbasket of America. There were some earthquakes too, come to think of it. It was starting to look pretty biblical there for awhile around 2020. Especially when the middle east finally had the nuclear exchange it always wanted to have and we had to start using our own energy reserves to keep the machine rolling, what was left of it. But things are starting to settle back into some level of normalcy here in the North East. That is, if you call islands of god-like prosperity surrounded by seas of decay and desperate lawless poverty normal. But such is the world. I don’t have to run it, I just work here.
So at least I have work. The thought is small comfort as my finger nervously clicks the safety lock on my hidden needler as I watch for trouble. “Silent But Deadly,” I like to call it. My SBD. It annoys the crap out of the gun nerd mercs when I do that, make up my own designations. People have to have their systems, their sacred words and codes. Its not like they have a lot else since the Holy Land lit on fire and it doesn’t look like Jesus is coming back in a flying saucer to save anyone.
I hate these jobs as much as I love them. I’ve been lucky to rarely see any real combat, they usually go pretty smoothly. Which is good, as I’m built more for precision than heavy assault. But there is just something about the feeling of worth you get when you know that life is on the line, and its your job to hold it, that is beyond measure. I think a part of me has always wanted to be a warrior, to live in that perfect moment of clarity between gunshots when time slows and there is only the absolute focus of being and the execution of action to continue it. I feel were I to die in that moment, Valhalla would open to me and that moment would become eternal. I understand the worship of battle now having experienced it. But all the same, I’m happy to avoid it to live another day. I’m not eager to die, I intend that to be the very last thing I do.
I keep watch while my partner works on the elevator security panel. I can’t help but try to read the code she enters, hovering in red holo display as she works. The language of machines and systems, I used to know it pretty well. I’m hopelessly out of date now, which is why I get to hold the gun today while she engages in a combat of her own, of logic and abstraction. But I follow enough to know that she is close, and that I should be ready.
“Bingo. And we’re in.”
She stands, a slender six feet of talent in the plain grey jumpsuit of a technician, just another worker doing routine maintenance on a faulty elevator control panel. The short curls of her brown hair frame her head like a helmet, such as is the current style. I don’t care for it much, but it is practical. The front zipper of her jumpsuit has slid down to near sternum level, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She had her mammaries removed years ago, along with her ovaries in that brief window where transgender surgeries were covered under the Universal Plan. And like many, was left unfinished when coverage was as promptly removed. Such is sometimes the genius of a “Democratic” system. Though she seems happy enough, I think she got ultimately what she wanted anyway. Efficiency.
We ride the elevator up to the restricted floor in silence. I look out through the glass as we rise past the market levels to the towers of light and glass. The LED displays on the sides of the skyscrapers telling their endless stories of propaganda, product, and art. I watch as always the lights of the city extend out to the borders, and look for the dark at the edge of the grid. Sometimes I think I can see the fires burning beyond, life finding a way even if abandoned by its own. Struggling for survival outside of our little island of light.
With a soft ding, the door slides open and we move. My partner prowls like a cat through the farm of gray empty cubicles. I note the absence of papers stuck to their walls, meeting notes or funny cartoons such as I remember in my days. Just the foam seats and interface terminals that block out all but the digital world from the notice of their drones.
We move fast and silent, we have only so long before the security systems come back on line with angry vengeance, knowing they were tampered with. We hear the voices of our prey in the corner office, just where the HUD displays indicate they should be. My partner places the small charge on the lock as we crouch ready to either side of the door. She counts down with her fingers. Three. Two. One. BANG.
She moves in first through the smoke, a ballet of acrobatic flips and kicks that takes out the two suits on the left side before they can react. I wish I had the time to watch her do her thing, I have always had a fine appreciation for the martial arts, especially in so graceful a form as hers. But I can only focus on my targets, the two on the right with the girl. The needles launch with perfect computer aided precision, as always. They fall: one, two, three. The needle’s coating slides effortlessly through their armor, exploding with small pops of massive tissue damage inside. One, two, three.
One, two… three.
My partner looks at me in stunned horror, as I realize what just happened. The third shot, a perfect hit through the left eye, destroys any organic matter in her head. She continues to stand, seemingly unaffected, just the slightest trickle of blood beginning to leak from one of her nostrils, while her bodyguards fall to the floor.
Oh fuck, what have I done? I didn’t even realize I made the third shot until after it had left. Why did I fire? What did I just do? Did my systems malfunction? I just fucked up everything and I don’t even know why.
My eye locks with hers, the right one that is linked to her augmented systems. I feel that focus of timelessness, like when I was staring down that barrel of the gun that took part of my frontal lobe. I feel dizzy, with a sense of motion. Her mouth is moving, but I can’t hear the words she is trying to say. And then its gone. Her body slumps to the ground and now time is moving way too fast.
“You IDIOT! What the fuck was that!”
I don’t have an answer. We just move out on autopilot, following our planned route. She doesn’t say a word to me. Just a look as we exit the waste chute that says enough before she swings up onto a fire escape and is gone from sight.
Shit. This is not going to look good on my resume.