Shorts smartworld

The Retirement Plan

Where a Hunter for the City, Kex Atto, approaches her retirement. But in the City, circa 2254, retirement means death: you don't work to live, you live to work. After this, the City has no furthur use for you.

[Monday, 6 March 2254 | 5 Days Until Retirement]

Throughout my sixty-five years hunting and eliminating targets, it has always come naturally to me. Locate the target, engage the target, shoot the target, move on to the next target. I’ve eliminated more than seven thousand of them over the years, and rarely are they worth a second thought.

To say the nightmares filling last night’s sleep came as a surprise would be an understatement. Images of Dekkenson’s face; of his son’s tears. Blood exploding from the back of his head like slow motion fireworks. Blood mixing with the water like red roses blooming. Images of me trying to escape, only to be hunted down and taking three explosive rounds in the back of the head.

After two hours of sleep the previous night and however many I got after all the wake-ups last night, I feel like shit. I send a transmission to the precinct and tell them I’m unwell. One benefit of the lack of functioning cybernetics is they can’t run diagnostics on my body to prove just how unwell I am. Sure, they’ll still dock my pay, but that isn’t due until Monday, at which point I’ll be nothing more than ash. Fuck them, they can settle for one day less free labour.

Following a shower and a nutrition bar, I hit the streets. The rain has stopped and the sun is out, the skyscrapers looming over me casting the street in shadows. The City will tell you those eyesores are a necessity because of an exploding population; but I’m sure the fact they make the population feel like ants, with just as much power, doesn’t hurt either.

It’s just shy of 10:00am, and I spot the Stimulation Station across the street. I’ve visited many times over the years, but only for work. Honest. Officially, they only serve legal synthetics, but I’ve busted enough targets here to know that if the price is right, they’ll offer you just about anything. Given ninety percent of legalised synthetics require active cybernetic mods to do jack shit, why not give this place a go?

I’ve been saving my credits over the years. What for, I have no idea; it’s not like I have any family to pass them on to. Besides the synthetics on offer, the Stimulation Station also has the most advanced love droids available in this quadrant. I haven’t been with anyone since Rikard, so I may as well go out with a bang, if you catch my drift. Hell, I’m sure the City would appreciate me doing my part for the economy.

Shit, this stuff is good.

So fucking good.

I don’t know how many synthetic pills I’ve taken; all I know is that if I wasn’t right for work earlier, I sure as shit am not now. I could go into the precinct, guns blazing, and see how many Hunters I could take down. Then I could run.

Or they’d get me. But I’d take a few out with me, and that’d be a laugh and a half. Ooh, I wonder if they sell weapons here. Explosives. Big fucking explosives.

Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

Shit, this stuff is bad.

So fucking bad.

I don’t want to retire.

I don’t want to die. I’m having too much fun.

As the music dances to me, I feel a hand touch mine. I turn around, and it’s an android. Another one? Am I up for another round or three? I swear, it’s only been about half an hour since the last four.

There’s something different about this android, though; I don’t even know if it’s a love droid. It has no face, and it looks entirely androgynous. Fuck it, I’ll fuck it: I’ve had just about every male and female body here today, but I haven’t had one that resembles neither.

Shit, I’m in a room with the android. How did we get here? It scans my hand and deducts the credits from the system.

“Permission to access your file,” it says. Shit, even its voice is robotic; its creators didn’t even go to the effort of programming a human voice. I must be high as hell, because this is kind of sexy.

But it wants to access my file? The whole point of love droids is they’re anonymous. “Access granted.” May as well see where this goes.

Well, crap, I wasn’t expecting this. The android has shifted, and it’s no longer androgynous. As it started morphing, I was a little disappointed, but now… wow. I’m staring at Rikard. My partner. No, it’s not Rikard; he’s a machine. It’s a machine.

But those blue eyes,

Rikard, how I’ve missed you.

It’s two in the morning, and I’ve been with Rikard for twelve hours now. The synthetics are wearing off, and as much as it pains me, I need to say goodbye to the android. Hell, we didn’t even have sex; he’s just been holding me all this time.

“Kex, I love you.”

Okay, that’s low. Not only has it taken his face and body, it’s taken his voice. And it’s programmed to emotionally blackmail me into another hour, the fucker.

Rikard’s emotional blackmail worked. And over this last hour, we did more than cuddle: we spoke. I told him all about the last fourteen months. He held me as I cried. I confessed something to him; something I couldn’t bring myself to even tell the real Rikard: I don’t want to die; I’m afraid.

“Your fate isn’t set in stone, Kex. There are alternative options; it is possible to escape retirement. If you meet with Mr. Durkin, I am certain he could make some arrangements.”

Bazz Durkin is the owner of this fine establishment. He skirts outside the law, but helping people escape their retirements? Surely not. In my days hunting, not a single one of my trails has led me here.

No, I can’t escape my retirement.

Can I?

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