Looking Bach, In a Puff of Smoke

A puff of smoke obscures the man.

You first began to suspect conspiracy many days ago, just a few after you first awoke, when your matrix activity was mysteriously erased. It was a simple job, easy and without much compensation, but you stepped on someone’s toes (as you often do), and you were being searched for by disreputable persons. You awoke the next morning ready to cover your tracks, excitement warming your body as the thought of out-maneuvering someone took hold in your mind. But your information was already gone and your deeds vanished like smoke in the air. Mysterious benefactors come at a price, yet yours was free, unless the price was something stranger. This was the beginning of your suspicion.

To avoid detection, you began to stay at grungy hotels and seedy areas, eating at different locations; the city is a large and sprawling place in which you can disappear like a rodent. As the benefactor remained hidden and helpful, you looked back on the initial scrap of paper welcoming you to life. Paranoia grew, and she was the first one to suffer; a young girl, attractive and brash, it was the first kill you truly remember. The records wiped clean, you became convinced you were intended for a larger purpose, controlled by a puppet-master whose strings you could not see. It was with trepidation that you accepted your first major job from a Johnson, the mission almost seemed fixed by your Controller.

Earthquakes, prophecies, astrological significance; they all came together under the tyranny of this Johnson. No longer did you doubt it, someone was controlling your every move and play, checkmating you at every turn though you could not see the board. Cautious and inquisitive, you learned of a man who might know something more. You hired others to kidnap him, and though things weren’t ideal (Toro watched over your shoulder), you had a few minutes to interrogate the man. He proved useless, until you asked Toro to leave.

“Tell me about…” The words you spoke were whispers, hardly noticeable even to you. Three words, a title or a name of some sort that you heard rumors of and half-truths about. But immediately, the man stopped lying, stopped pretending he was someone innocent and guiltless. His eyes took on a new tone and his body relaxed in the restraints that bound him. You stood over him, trying to be intimidating, but he looked up at you, fearless.

“You have no idea the forces you’re messing with.”

“Enlighten me.”

“They’ll kill you.”

“No doubt. Tell me who you are.”

The man laughed when you asked, he laughed at your questions, he laughed at your ignorance. Finally, you broke and grabbed him by his hair, which was drenched in sweat and oils.

“Tell me you did this to me! Why did you do this to me?”

The man just smiled at you. No recourse. You stepped back and pointed your gun at his head, your smartlink identifying an area to penetrate for instantaneous death. A second death on your conscious; at least this one is guilty. You know the blood-splatter will tell everyone about how you executed him. You can hear Toro entering and he will see your crimes. You know this might be the beginning of the end. You don’t care. You pull the trigger.

A puff of smoke obscures the man.

Looking Bach, In a Puff of Smoke

Penumbra huntedbuddha