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September 28, 2005
A Story, Bit-by-Bit
Superego: Part 36 - Faith
* * * *
"The syndicate has never given me much guidelines on civilian deaths," I explained to Diane. She seemed to be concentrating on driving, but I could tell she was listening. "As I explained, gauging one thing as a horrible slaughter versus just a slaughter is not my strong point. As I've understood things, they just assigned me to jobs where they want people scared, and some collateral damage helps with that.
"I was assigned to kill some two-bit thug pretending to be crime boss on Antero - well, he was big enough to pretty much run that planet, but that's still small potatoes to the syndicate. The guy was smart enough to know he was gaining our ire, so he had his defenses. I guess he figured if he made himself a hard enough target, the syndicate would decide he would take too many resources to squash and ignore him. What the guy didn't know is the syndicate had me, and I had taken on much tougher assignments by myself before.
"I only spent about a day scoping out the area. The hit is often the easy part; it's the getting away alive that can be trouble. I find well placed explosive can help as they are both good for killing and creating fear and confusion in my adversaries. I had many explosives planted and a number of different escape roots planned before I heard about some local festival that would be taking place in the area the next day. I figured that would only give me more cover as I could disappear into the crowd.
"The hit was simple; no one ever seems prepared for one man running in shooting. My mark lying dead in his office, I shot my way back out of the building and ran into the now panicked crowd of people in the streets. I figured the bodyguards wouldn't spend too much time pursuing me; I mean, their guy was already dead. Still, they went after me, firing into the crowd as I fired back. Sentients were dropping left and right in the crossfire, and then the police for that planet - corrupt thugs themselves - started firing on me.
"I was pinned, and, since those shooting at many didn't care about the civilians, I didn't see why I should. So I set off all the explosives. About the whole area blew up. A little dizzy, I headed in what I thought to be the general direction of an escape point while firing at anything I saw move through the smoke - I didn't have time to figure out who were threats. Dip picked me up in my ship, and, a shower later, I was back to normal.
"I don't know how many died on Antero; the number held no interest to me. It did seem like an especially large number of civilians - mostly families, too - but I figured if it was a problem, the syndicate would tell me. They didn't say anything; just paid me for the job. It was not too long after that my handler got switched to the current idiot I get assignments through; maybe I should have suspected something then."
There was another surge of anger, but I pushed it back. "They just needed to explain things to me, that's all. Like I said, I just don't understand when I cross the line. I mean, I killed lots of people that day - most of whom didn't deserve it by the standards usually given. But, I hardly killed anyone at all if you compare it to how many people died that day in the entire universe from whatever cause might find him or her. Most people just don't have that large of a perspective." I looked to Diane and smiled. She appeared to have her full concentration on driving, but I could see her shudder slightly. "Except maybe God."
Diane still didn't look to me. "So, you slaughtered families and that doesn't affect you in the least."
I chuckled. "Guilt is just a word to me."
She smiled. "As I said, you're bad at the truth, but you are a very good liar, obviously. I wonder how many of your own lies have you fallen for."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're smart; you figure it out," she replied as she began to land the vehicle. With all that was going on, I really didn't need someone trying to make me doubt myself. Well, the dumping her in a ditch option was always on the table Ė as long as I didnít let her get me in a wrist lock again.
It was starting to get dark when we entered her apartment building. She had a ground floor apartment; my guess is she sought one out specifically. Ease of access, plus gives you a safe direction to point a gun when handling (for me, a safe direction is any direction not towards me).
"You mentioned God before," Diane said as we entered her apartment, "Do you believe in Him?"
Her apartment was sparsely decorated. There was a picture of a man and woman on one wall - her parents, I assume - and, a few less prominent pictures - other relatives, as I recognized some from Bible study. There was also one of those wooden t's on one wall. That always seemed an odd way to kill someone, and I never quite understood the celebration of the execution device of your Savior. I mean, I know it's supposed to represent His sacrifice, but why isn't it considered more gruesome?
Oh yeah, her question. "No, I don't believe in God. Can't believe in something I can't observe; I just don't understand the human condition of faith - of just blindly accepting some assertions as truth."
She stared at me a moment before finally uttering, "Bull." She then opened a panel on the wall where she took out some weaponry.
"Would you like to expand upon that?"
"Everyone worships a god," Diane said as she checked a pistol, "whether he or she thinks she does or not. You, Rico, must have some belief system... some faith... that motivates you to do what you do. You say you want to kill as many Randatti and Corloni as possible. Why?"
"Well, Corloni betrayed me... and... uh... I've just always killed the Randatti."
"You could run."
"And do what? I'm a killer; that's what I am good at. It's what I do."
I laughed. "You want me to run, Diane?"
"No." She zipped up her bag of guns and handed it to me. "You have sins to atone for. I think you know that."
"I can't be saved, Diane; I'm unrepentant," I told her quite seriously, "I don't feel guilt. I would think a rational person would like the idea I'm at least intent on wiping out bad people as perhaps my last action in this universe."
"Who says I'm rational." She pointed to the cross. "You feel wronged, so you want justice, Rico. Your idea of mass slaughter is hollow, though."
I laughed again. "You have a better idea? These people could destroy this planet if they wanted. You want me to throw Bibles at them and hope they'll see the light?"
She looked me in the eyes. "What's your plan for after this?"
"I'll be dead... or I won't. If I'm not dead, the Corloni and the Randatti will hunt me... or I could hunt them. Inevitably, I'll be dead at some point, and I guess that wraps things up."
"Do you fear death?"
"I guess I should if you're right about what awaits me, but, no. I don't. Faced it too many times, already."
She kept her gaze on me. "Do you want to die?"
"Uh... living seems to suit me just fine." I smiled. "Why fix what ain't broke. Now, don't you have some packing to do?"
She finally turned away. "I need to grab some clothes."
"You can pick out the outfits, and I'll pick out your underwear." She stared at me with shock. "I'm just joking," I explained to her, "Sometime sentients use humor to defuse tense situations."
She laughed as she turned and headed for her bedroom. "So what was up with those pills I saw you drop once?" She asked as she disappeared into her room.
My pills - I still had them in a pocket. I was thinking of what to tell her about those, but she came out of her bedroom right away, ushered forward by someone who had an arm around Diane's neck and a gun to her head.
Well, sucks to be her.
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