Cash Job – an excerpt from The Back Roads of Limbo

This is a short story I wrote years ago for the amusement of Warren Ellis, who requested that we all write some future flash fiction, to give him our impression of what the future would be like. I wrote this in a matter of minutes, and then edited it down to fit the format he was pushing for, though I reprint the complete version here. To the best of my knowledge, Warren wasn’t really interested in what I wrote, probably because it was pretty obvious Blade Runner-type material, and so wasn’t really inventing anything new. Nevertheless, I quite like it, and have often thought I should write it into a full story, as it really isn’t much more than a vignette at the moment. It’s one of the short stories–one of the shrotest, in fact–that will be in the collection I’m working on right now, called The Back Roads of Limbo. I’ll be putting a promo page up in My Book Shelf for that one shortly.

Through the blood in his eyes, he watched the gunman lower the chute cannon from his smashed up face to his left knee. A man with greying red hair nodded, and the hitman touched the trigger, sending up a shower of blood and bone particles. Harris had time enough to scream before he shut down the painflood and set the nanos to reconstruct.

“I figure it’ll take a few hours for you to regrow that leg, Harris. You’ve survived falls none of my other boys have had to live through,” the red-haired man mused. “But I’m willing to wager that Beans here can pump enough radioactive material into you to eventually shut you down. Let’s not encourage him, shall we?”

Harris nodded and hissed out a wet sound through shattered teeth.

As the barrel swam back into his field of view, he heard the old man intone, “You’re keeping something from us, Harris. You’ve done a lot of good work for me, and you’ve never broken faith before. So I’m willing to forgive you, if you give me what you found in there tonight.”

Harris shook his head and tried to speak until the butt of the cannon solidly interrupted him. Benitez looked at his boss, who continued, “We”ve already scanned your body and removed everything from your drive slots. All we need from you now is the codex you’ve so cleverly left out. Make me proud.”

The old man held out a little black cylinder tube the size of his pinky finger, waggling it slowly. Harris nodded slowly, and held out his hand.

Hours later, his bones had knitted together enough for him to climb out of his pooling blood. Removing loose teeth and finger nails as he stumbled out of the hotel, he found an all-night drugstore a few blocks away. He paid for hand cream, pain killers, kleanwipes and a nail care kit.

In the employee bathroom, he rubbed at his sinuses while images of cloistered geological files reordered in his brains. Then he blew his nose into a kleanwipe. The bloody mucous held four little pearly wisdom drops, which he cleaned off before depositing into a cellophane baggie from the nail kit.

Returning to the counter, he purchased a sealable airpak envelope and dropped the baggie inside. Addressing it to a Cyberian News Outpost in San Francisco, he dropped the envelope into the Fedex box and walked away.

Harris next found a paybooth outside a liquor store, and did something creative with his blogmail server, and waited to confirm that the first deposit had been made to his offshore account. When this was done, he bought some speyside anesthetic and wandered home.

© 2003, 2012 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

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