2009.04.13 "What can I say to let me live?"

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"What can I say to let me live?"

I scowl until I'm certain that I can't actually project lethal beams of rage out of my eyes and into the side of the Orbodun's head. "Probably nothing."

The big Orbodun flinches, and before he can heave his blast rifle around he sees how close I am, and reads the death in my gaze. He pauses, and I let him live a bit longer. He's the last one. The last one who needs to die.

"Sorry about your friend."

The tendons clutching my NST blaster whiten. "Were you the one that finally got him?"

"No." His watery brown eye tenses, with tremors in time with the throbbing vein under his ear and the blood pulsing past the embedded filament in his cheek, making sure that I believe him. Not because he worries that I might feel angered about the possibility of him lying, but because his psyche is more deeply ingrained with honesty than the urge to survive. Of course he's not lying. If he could lie, he wouldn't have been working with the damn robots in the first place. It's the thing they exploit.

"Thanks." I don't mean to make it sound that harsh. It's just what my throat does after all that screaming.

"We didn't realize how tough he was going to be."

A strange sensation of strangled pride burns a painful new notch in my soul. "Me neither."

"They thought that because he was still alive that you must have not known that they had him marked. But you knew, didn't you?"

I take a deep breath, and taste the mingled scent of blood and ozone and smoke. "Too late."

"Ah."

I can see the Orbodun thinking. They're smart, those big, scary honourable brutes. And their overriding code of honour tends to goad them into being philosophical. This contract killer isn't scheming though, and I let him finish his thought. Despite the wordless instinctive rage clawing inside my mind that is the hallmark of my species.

"I guess it balances out, overall. He brought doom to you, but then he saved you from it."

I blast a neat hole into his head through his eye socket. His massive frame twitches, and he collapses with a gout of gore and a thud of finality.

"No." I tell the last corpse. "I brought the doom myself, long ago. He was just a victim that doom used to take a swipe at me. And even that meager blame was enough to vault him to push himself beyond his limits to try to save me." I cast my gaze over the strewn battlefield, littered with fragments of the dead robots and the leaking gore of biological combatants.

I steal silkily over to the pock-marked support stanchion that was the human's vantage point, and leap up to his corpse. He's just smoking meat with scarcely an identifying feature left. But he's still holding his damn filament rifle, stubborn thing that he was.

"Thank you for my life, friend." The last word is an unfamiliar croak. "Knowing you was the best thing I've done in a long time, and more of an honour than I deserve."

I holster my ancient NST, and tuck my battered force blade into my belt. Then I prise my friend's dead fingers gently from the well-maintained rifle with my talons, and heft it uncertainly. I try sighting down it, shifting the butt to find a spot between the spines on my shoulder.

I give the human a final solemn nod, my eyes downcast for the first time since I've known him. Then I turn to escape.