The sun blazed through the windshield and made me squint to see the dusty road ahead of us. But Andrian looked completely unfazed. And why shouldn't he be? This was his country, after all, and he knew it better than I did. For the moment, I was content to lean back and recover from killing the guard.
I hadn't killed very many people yet, so the whole business was still somewhat unusual to me. I had no problems with the fact that I was a Fixer, and killing - more often than not - was what I did. After all, by the time the Council handed down a sanction, you had to have done some pretty serious crap to get a visit from the likes of me.
But the fact that I brought death and mayhem wherever I went still didn't feel comfortable. I wasn't a mindless killer, but a surgical weapon to be employed as my superiors saw fit.
And that was fine.
But in the Academy, they never told you about what it's like to look into someone's eyes and see the light fade from them. To see the way their incisors extend and then retract as death comes for them. To know that they are well and truly gone and there's nothing that can be done to bring them back.
That kind of close-up personal relationship with my targets? That was what took getting used to.
But I usually shrugged it off and chalked it up as more experience. Eventually, I reasoned, I'd get used to it or at least find a way to make peace with the fact that I had shuffled more than a few of my kind off this mortal coil. For now, though, it was still relatively new.
"Are you all right?"
I looked over and saw the concern shadowing Andrian's face. He kept his hands on the steering wheel but his eyes were on me.
"You look as though you are trying to figure something out."
Discussing the state of my thoughts with Andrian didn't seem like a good idea. After all, I'd only met him yesterday. Doing the couch trip with him would have been far too self-pitying for my taste. And while Zero may have trusted him, I had yet to make up my mind about the guy. Showing too much weakness right now was not in my plans.
"Just worried about Zero."
Andrian said nothing for a moment, preferring to stare into my eyes. Eventually he shrugged and turned back to looking out of the windshield. "I have faith that he will be fine once we get him to the doctor."
"How much further?"
I frowned. I hate vague answers. I like precise details. Then I can plan better. But despite Andrian's attitude being a little too laid back, I couldn't complain too much. He was driving well and at speed.
I checked the clock and reasoned that Joobah must have realized they'd had their line penetrated and double-backed on his position by now. They may have even found the corpse I left behind.
If that was the case, they'd be stomping mad to get on our trail. I wished I'd been of the mind to slash their tires or something to slow them down, but Andrian and I had needed to hustle.
Now that decision might be coming back to haunt me.
"I wonder if Joobah found the body yet."
Andrian slammed on the brakes so hard I flew forward into the dashboard, bouncing my skull off the windshield at the same time. "Shit!"
"What did you say?"
I came off the dash and rubbed my head. "I said shit. You know, as in 'why the hell did you just slam the brakes without warning me first?'"
"Not that," said Andrian. His face looked much more serious now than it had been seconds earlier. "The name you said."
"Yes. That one."
"What's the big deal? It was what those guys back there were talking about. He's the dude in charge apparently."
Andrian leaned back in the driver's seat and closed his eyes. A deep sigh came out of him and when he looked back at me, I could see the change that had come over him.
© 2010 by Jon F. Merz All rights reserved
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