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by David Ian
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[“Even if it happens to be true. Honesty in this case is a virtue. Keeping it in perspective, however, is your trump. Now go in there and talk with the man.”

“But -- without you?”

“That was the condition. Don’t worry,” wry smile. “I’ll watch your back for a change.” ]

Chaz sat across from a man he hadn’t known before this day. The Man came with a package deal offering steady work, housing, and the promise of sanctuary from Deutsch-Corp who were hunting them like dogs. It was too good to be true, and Chaz knew it. Somehow, The Man had been able to convince Ruby he was good on his word – and Ruby could smell a bad deal no matter how pretty it was dressed up. She was superbly skilled in her people skills, reading them, maneuvering them, getting the best out of them, knowing when to cut loose. Everything in Chaz’ bones told him this was a Deutsch-Corp trap, but Ruby seemed to think otherwise, and Ruby had jurisdiction in that area, although Chaz was in charge of their safety. They seemed to be an in impasse.

This conversation would decide their future then.

“I trust you are comfortable, Mr. Chaz?” asked The Man.

“I resent the fact that I have been maneuvered to sit with my back to the door, where I could be an easy target for an incoming shooter, I resent the fact that we are in a place of your choosing, which puts us at a disadvantage, I resent the fact that you are leveraging us in this situation by waving in front of our noses opportunities that cannot possibly exist for ones that you know practically nothing about.”

The Man across the table raised an eyebrow.

“She warned me you’d be blunt, but I had no idea.”

“She told me to be honest and forthcoming and not to attempt to flower my words. I’m comfortable speaking that way.”

“I’m glad. We can cut through a lot of dancing about. If you are not satisfied with your seating, we can certainly move, if you dislike this place, we can reconvene to a place of your choosing. As to my offers, well, we have yet to discuss them, you and I.”

“You’ve already spoken to my partner, an’ that’s good enough for me.”

“But not, for me, Mr. Chaz. As you have pointed out, I hardly know you. I’d like to take the opportunity to do so.”

“I canna think what you can learn about me in a short interview that can take the place of a good deal of research and digging, mister, what was your name again?”

“You may call me Mr. Cardiff. And believe me, I have done all the ‘digging’ I need to satisfy my requirements. If what I found did not agree with me, I never would have approached you. Would I?”

Chaz ground his teeth.

“So what do you need to talk to me about if you’ve done your homework?”

“Why did you leave Deutsch-Corp?”

“My understanding is that you’ve gotten that answer from my partner. Why ask me?”

“I’d like to hear it from you, personally. If you don’t mind, that is.”

Chaz hesitated.

“I was an assassin for Deutsch-Corp, pure an’ simple. I make no excuse or apology for that. An’ a fraggin’ good one, if I say so myself.”

“Your partner warned me you just might do so.” Mr. Cardiff added, slightly amused.

“I killed all shapes an’ sizes. I cared not for their politics, whether they were good or bad, nothing personal when it came to my marks. They were jobs, an’ I did ‘em clean an quick.”

“A good discipline for an assassin, to be sure,” Mr. Cardiff nodded in agreement.

“I worked with my partner, we devised a plan and we executed it. We work well together, Ruby an’ I. Despite our jobs that we had, neither one of us were expendable, we relied on each other and we always came back in one piece. Both of us.”

“Commendable. But why did you leave, Mr. Chaz? Please tell me the circumstances.”

“My handlers thought they had completed their, “orientation” of me -- their word for psychological programming -- so that I would be their unquestioning employee, complete the assignments without personal intrusion.”

“Yes, Mr. Chaz,” Mr. Cardiff prompted patiently.

“One day they gave me an assignment that I couldn’t complete, an' so I left. Ruby was in agreement with me, and so she left as well.”

“’Couldn’t complete’, or ‘wouldn’t complete’, Mr. Chaz?”

Chaz ground his teeth some more.

“I suppose, most correctly is ‘wouldn’t complete’.”

“And what were those circumstances that you ‘wouldn’t complete’, Mr. Chaz.”


“Mr. Chaz?”

Deep breath.

"There was a mid-level corp exec, of a rival firm to Deutsch-Corp. Our handlers had decided he needed some persuasion in order to steer his course of action in a certain way. He had already been contacted and given instructions and an ultimatum. He was reluctant to carry out his instructions. We were sent to demonstrate the veracity of Deutsch-Corp’s intentions.”

“Sounds like standard cut-throat corporate business. I’m sure you’ve carried out dozens of such assignments previously.”

Chaz grunted.

“And what, specifically, were your instructions, Mr. Chaz?Mr. Chaz?”

Chaz’ face began to twitch involuntarily. A darkness crept over his eyes, and his hands shook involuntarily. Instinctively he gripped the arms of the chair he sat in, but this just caused his muscles to flex convulsively. His entire body was aquiver and his jaw clamped tight, white lips pressed together.

“Mr. Chaz?” Mr. Cardiff inquired, still with a calm voice. “What… were… your…. instructions?”

“We were to enter into his house,” Chaz spat out through the smallest opening in his mouth, “and slaughter his four year old daughter… in front of his eyes… No amount of screaming, pleading, or promises of compliance were to sway us…. until the deed was done.”

Chaz quivered in his chair for some minutes afterwards.

“I see,” Mr. Cardiff said, his face impassive.

“This leads me to ask the following question, Mr. Chaz. And I don’t mind telling you that it is probably a deal-breaker. What would you do if, in working in my employ, I were to ask you to do the same assignment, in the exact same manner? Would you abandon my employ, sir?”

Chaz stared at the man through the tops of his eyes, this time holding tightly onto the arms of the chair as if to keep him from lunging at the throat of the calm man sitting across from him.

“No, sir, I would not run, I would not make that same mistake again” Chaz began shaking again, his voice, though clear, with a guttural growl.

“I would kill ye sir. I would kill ye like the dog ye are for makin’ such an order. An’ ever’ one o’ yer associates down t’ th’ last lackey until yer company was in ruins. THAT is what I would do, sir!”

Mr. Cardiff tapped a finger to his lips and watched the man across from him boil down from uncontrollable shaking, to quivering, to the occasional twitching.

“Mr. Chaz, I’m not quite sure how you’re going to take what I have to say next, but,” his face broke into a congenial smile.

“Welcome to my employ. Can you start today?”

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