Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

I’ve rented my persona out to a smuggler. I’m a chip in the back of his head. I’m a soldier that died a while ago and I’m making a few dollars post-mortem by being an emergency safeguard for morally dubious people.

I’m riding in his brain, a military personality backup program that’s supposed to kick in when he senses danger. My lifetime of training will fire up and give my employer a better chance of survival in a firefight.

The problem is that he’s way too nervous for this and he’s been sensing danger ever since we got off the plane. We went through the breathing exercises in training but he’s forgetting them.

There a flush of adrenaline through his whole system and the warning pictograms flicker up into his field of vision. Intense focus blooms in the middle of our sightline. A deck of cards listing all the available targets and engagement suggestions shudder into existence around the spaceport customs official we’re looking at.

I can feel the smuggler startle at the visual change. He barely keeps from squeaking. I force his face to smile and his hand to smoothly hand over his passport.

It’s a secondary motion suppressant that keeps me from reflexively going for the small, lethal ceramic gun under my arm. The smuggler’s reflexes have been purposefully druglagged to give me time to override his conscious mind.

I’m supposed to exist for the sole purpose of getting this fool through the airport alive but he’s making it very difficult.

This wasn’t supposed to be going down like this. I can feel sweat on the smuggler’s forehead. Luckily it’s hot in this country and we’re wearing a wool suit so it won’t look out of place.

He’s staring.

Stop staring.

I can consciously detect no danger but I’m ready for battle because of this idiot’s nervousness. It’s a bad place to be. It looks very suspicious. My programming is aching to bust into violence but when I look at the guard, his heartbeats register only baseline suspicion.

I try to shut down but it’s like trying to take a nap during a skydive.

So far, it’s a lame gig. These smugglers don’t know how to stay calm.

They’d be better off renting the personality of an honour student who’s never even smoked a cigarette. They’d sail through customs.

It’s not how these guys think, though.

I mentally cross my fingers and sit back, a killer at the starting line, the spider in this brainstem, hoping that my employer here doesn’t screw up and start yelling.


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