The worst thing about being on G-Dod was that they didn't kill you--they let you live.
I was all locked up, above the floor, gut facing down, hips and legs and arms in stirrups--had been like that for 70 days when they came and got me . . . ushered me feet trailing into the office of E.B. Smokes where I collided into a chair.
E.B. looked me up and down auspiciously.
"Prisioner number 15101152? he said in a Martian Southern drawl.
"So they tell me." I said. My own voice sounded foreign in my ears--I used to use it way back when, when I had a life. When I had a wife.
"We got a job for you." he said.
"I don't do jobs," I said. "I'm . . . in prison. You know," I motioned to the sky. "This place."
"You being smart with me, son?" E.B. asked.
"Well, if you count pragamatic as being smart." I said.
He shook his head and rose from his chair.
"What do you have to look forward to in life?" he asked me.
"Nothing." I said. "Completely nothing."
"Hm, yes," he said. "Yes, you are right. Nothing. So you're not even interested in the proposal I have for you?"
"Well, a proposal, sure. You said a job, earlier . . . but I'm all ears for a new proposal."
"Right." he said. "We need you to do some virus-hunting for us."
"Would this . . . virus-hunting entail the use by me of one large gun?"
"Hm," I said seriously, shaking my head.
"You have to kill this virus by killing the people it presently inhabits."
"These people . . . wouldn't be prison guards by any chance, would they?"
"No," he said, smiling. "No prison guards."
"Will these people die from the virus even without my intervention?"
"We don't know." he said.
"Because they can't take that chance."
"The Universal Committee, who have ordered this job and tapped us to do it."
"There's that word job again--so where's the proposal part?"
"There's no proposal son, you do the f***ing job or else."
"Or else what?" I said.
E.B. pushes a button on the top of his desk and an enormous robot wheels itself from behind one of the side velvet cutains acting as spurious walls. The thing is as big as a Chicago butcher, with boxing gloves on. It wheels itself in front of me and stops there, seemingly very familiar with the drill. It's corrugated hull is splattered with long-dried flecks of blood that nobody ever bothered to wash off. Stuck to the side of it's head is somebody's eyeball just hanging there--possibly Ed's. E.B. gives the order and the bot works me over for a while mercilessly.
After a while the thing straightens up and E.B. sez, "Are we ready to do bidness or does this robot need a recharge?"
I spit out a tooth. "Recharge mofo--you musta forgot I'm the All League Pain Champion of Gamma Delta Ray."
But the robot receives a hidden signal and wheels itself back to it's post, that eyeball still dangling there off the side of it's faceplate.
E.B. comes over with a glass of something and splashes it on my face. It's water, feels good.
"I didn't think that would work," he said. "But I like to keep my robots exercised, you know?" He breaks a big grin.
"Ok," he said, taking a remote control out of his pocket and flicking a switch. A screen descends from behind his desk and the room goes a little darker.
"Plan 2: Your family." On the screen the images issue forth: my wife and 2 kids lollygagging about in some sun-drenched yard. At least I think they were mine . . . it's been so long.
"Let me guess," I said. "You'll kill them if I don't accede."
"Accede--very good--you still got some brain cells left."
"How do I know they're still alive? How do I know she's not remarried?" I said.
"She is remarried, and they are still alive."
I didn't tell him but my guts went real sour right about then.
"Oh for f***'s sake," I said. We then proceeded to Stage 2.
I was showered and shaved and put into a blue jumpsuit and new boots and ushered into the special dining hall for outgoing assignees. If there was a job in the universe too dirty for normal folk--a G-Dod prisoner usually got it. All outgoing assignees were implanted with Death Paks, of course . . . this in lieu of fealty oaths, I guess. If ever an outgoing assignee got out of line . . . all somebody had to do at G-Dod HQ was press a button and foof---no more prisoner. Had anybody ever escaped? Nobody knew--our word lines were nil. They were good at that--dilapidation of communications, bodies, spirits. They had thousands of years practice, after all.
I was then shown into the movie room--where I was to watch onscreen the background of my present mission. I was beginning to feel quite comfortable then, lounging about in an oversized blue velour chair in that darkened room, stomach pleasantly roiling. Then in came E.B. with his projector remote . . . the room went all dark and up came a vision of loveliness . . . loveliness that I had to kill.