The dull razor-blades of techno cut swathes through the air of the nightclub, a slow Tuesday night for “The Station’s Hottest Attraction!”. The clientele consisted of the usual hodgepodge of strange faces, lost souls and young deviants. The dance floor had a few shadows whirlwinding some glowsticks. They would swing them nonstop for minutes and then come to a sudden pause. Then, after a bit of a dramatic break, the twirling started again. Nearly every table was empty, a small group of professional women acting noticeably unprofessional. Each of them were on their third shot or more, and the bouts of laughter from the table only continued to grow with each empty glass.
At the bar, two patrons sat side by side having an intense conversation over their drinks. One of them wore something that any follower of God through the ages would have recognized; a black robe, full body length with a white color around the neck. A preacher from one of the station’s parishes. The other was starting to become more machine than man. A bionic eye, robotic arm and metal forehead were the most visible of his augments. The years of selling his body to combat was starting to catch up to him. The mercenary was a slab of violent, half-mechanical meat.
“Just being here has to be a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?” The mercenary’s bionic eye fixed coyly on the preacher. “I mean, isn’t there some sorta thing God has about temperance?”
“Don’t presume things you know nothing about, good sir.” The preacher took a swig of his drink. “Temperance is about not allowing one’s self to overindulge. A man can have a drink without threatening his eternal soul.”
“Even four drinks?” The mercenary smiled and gestured at the empty glasses in front of the preacher? “From the looks of you, I’d guess you’re about at the limit.”
The preacher smiled.”We can’t all be perfect.” The preacher sipped again, and ordered a water from the bartender. “My values aside, only one of our souls is in true danger.”
“Ha, yer good fun, priest. But peddle your shit elsewhere. I don’t plan on snitchin’ to God.” The mercenary was back to his drink, metal forehead occasionally glistening from the glow of the lights.
“It’s never too late to seek salvation. Even for you.” The priest’s somber eyes rested on the red bionic lens that looked back.
“Even for me? That sounds like a dig, priest.”
“You have a reputation.”
“Do I? Good. Not even a week I’ve been in this shitheap. Maybe some money will come my way. And yours too. I gotta feelin’ you’ll be a busy man with me on board, what with the caskets needin’ filled and hallelujahs to sing.” The mercenary barked an ugly laugh.
“Do you know the damage you cause? Not only to yourself but to others?” The priest’s whispers may have been questions, but they were rife with accusation.
“You could have this conversation with anybody in my line ‘a work. If it ain’t me pullin’ the trigger, then it’s someone else. Supply and demand, bud. Supply….” The mercenary grinned, “…and demand. ‘Sides, not like any of this matters in the grand scheme.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Look, people die everyday don’t they? Regular people, you and me? Just numbers on a board somewhere. Board goes up and down, people dying left and right. No big deal. If it ain’t a CEO or celeb or someone you know, the universe doesn’t give a shit. Hell, God doesn’t seem to be pickin’ and choosin’. And it never really changes.” The mercenary’s smile was gone. He stared into his cup, old memories replaying themselves in the vodka. “So…” The mercenary smirked. “None of it’s really important. I make a livin’, some people die. Some good, some bad, some ugly. What I do or don’t do wouldn’t change shit. So I might as well get ahead’. And boy, do I.”
“Nothing changes?” The priest asked. The mercenary nodded in response. The priest stared into the empty glass on the table for a time.
“There’s going to be a funeral two days from now. Adult couple in there 30’s died about a week ago. Not natural causes.” The priest drank slowly from his water. “Ida and Martos. They were married for six years. Ida’d just had a child four years ago, little Elsa. Red hair, green eyes. A beautiful, little girl. The product of wonderful parents. I’d known them for a long time. Went to school with Martos. Good man. Bit of a deviant, bit of a moneygrubber but Ida straightened him up.”
“Sucks for the kid, sucks for you. Why you tellin’ me? I ain’t drunk enough to be your psychologist.” The mercenary grunted in appreciation of his own sarcasm.
“Martos and his wife were murdered in their own home during the night. Execution-style murder, point-blank gunshot wounds to each of their heads. Little Elsa was spending the night at a friend’s. Her birthday was the next day.”
“Hell of a present. Get to the point.” The mercenary looked at the priest with a glint of interest in his eyes.
“There was a neighbor who thought he might have seen something.” The priest exhaled deeply. “A glint of red in the night, and a plate of metal that he saw in the glow.” The priest stared into the mercenary’s stern face. “He wasn’t sure if it was something on his television or not. The room was dark, and the windows on his Hab weren’t high-quality. Station police don’t think anything will turn up. Professional job. In and out. No traces. Only a pool of blood, death and misery left behind.” The preacher finished his glass of water and stood up.
The mercenary was quiet. His eyes stayed on the priest, his right hand deftly working its way into his jacket and around the grip of his pistol.
“The universe is a big place holding many smaller places. Places like this station are a universe in and of themselves. Elsa knows that. And I think you might now.” The preacher left some credits on the table for the drinks. “My door is always open. Stay safe.” With that, the holy man left.
The mercenary sat alone on his stool. his hand coming away from the gun. More of the patrons had cleared out. The tables were empty and the dance floor was clearing. He stared into his cup more deeply than before, the dull throbbing of techno falling on his deaf ears. It had always been a universe of trillions. This station alone held over a million people. People had always been numbers in a database.
But now, the life of Elsa had become a universe all on its own.
A universe with his bloody hands all over it.