Author : George R. Shirer

Jav wakes and the name of his latest assignment is waiting for him on the bedside screen.

Simeon Fenchaw.

There’s a file attached, giving particulars. Appearance, personality, preferences, patterns.

It’s a workday and Fenchaw will be arriving at the transit station on 14th and Chekhov in two hours.

Jav rolls out of bed and pulls on his gear. Cream-colored underskin, a pink coat with mother-of-pearl buttons, knee-high gold treads. The last thing he slips on is the ring.

He takes his time heading to 14th and Chekhov. Stopping at his favorite café, he enjoys a cup of hot chocolate and a brioche. Newsbytes flow across the café table’s transparent glass surface. Famine in China. Race riots in England. The civil war in the U.S. takes a strange turn with the emergence of a third faction.

Jav finishes his breakfast and meanders down Chekhov Avenue. The boutique windows glow and pulse, flashing holo-ads, trying to lure him inside. High overhead, the sunstrip grows marginally brighter, transitioning from morning to midmorning with clockwork efficiency.

There are public access terminals outside the transit station at 14th and Chekhov. Jav logs into one that gives him a good view of the exit. He randomly surfs ViewTube, queuing up a parade of funny cat videos.

At 10:45, Fenchaw emerges from the transit station. He walks with a galumphing stride, a callow youth with dandelioned hair, exploding around his skull in unbearably bright colors. Fenchaw’s underskin is matt black and he wears a cloneskin jacket adorned with corporate fetishes.

Jav logs off the terminal. Fenchaw galumphs toward him, unaware.

With a flick of his wrist, Jav’s truncheon drops into his hand from its concealed sheath. He thumbs the switch and jams the metal end of the rod into Simeon Fenchaw’s belly.

Fenchaw jerks like a spastic as the electric charge rocks through his body. He falls and, resolutely, Jav keeps the truncheon in contact, until Fenchaw is dead.

Nearby someone is screaming. Jav looks up, sees a police drone bearing down on him. He raises his hand, splays his fingers wide, so the drone can scan his ring.

The ring is silver with a skull and crossbones embossed on the band. There are tiny crystal chips in the skull’s sockets, containing validation codes, confirming that Javier Piquette is a licensed agent of the Ministry of Population Control.

After a moment, the drone turns its backside to Jav. Its synthetic voice advises the shellshocked crowd that there is nothing to see here and that they need to move along. Already, a bodycar is pulling up to the curb, disgorging a stream of black-suited undertakers who claim Fenchaw’s remains.

When they have left, Jav returns his truncheon to its hiding place. He wonders, idly, what Fenchaw did to earn a death sentence from the MPC, then decides he doesn’t care. He’s a deathman; does it really matter why he has to kill someone almost every day? If he didn’t, the orbital cities would be just as bad as the overcrowded Earth. Probably worse.

Jav sighs and decides he’s feeling peckish. He knows a good little café just a few blocks away. Whistling a jaunty tune, Jav strolls down Chekhov. He can practically taste his next cup of hot chocolate.

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