Thirty-Five

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He tightened his grip on the bag. Jammed tightly under his right arm and with his left hand holding onto the front, the bag’s strap hung uselessly down past his knees. His eyes darted back and forth between every moving thing in the terminal. Being inconspicuous was not on his mind, making sure that no one touched this fucking bag very much was.

For someone this paranoid, being in the busiest terminal on the planet was not easy. People were absolutely everywhere. People were rushing to make their departures, rushing to the bathrooms, rushing to buy coffees, rushing to stand around in the middle of the huge glass-domed atrium and stare confusedly up at the signs, totally and utterly lost, swallowed by the chaos around them. Of course, he already knew exactly where he was going and how to get there. He’d been here so many countless times that he didn’t even look up at the giant floating signs directing the masses to their many urgent needs. But this was the last time he would ever have to push his way through this hellhole. People with the kind of money he was going to have didn’t waste their time with this kind of place. They had private ports, their own ships. When you were that rich, dealing with things was no longer a part of your life; the world bent itself to cater to you.

From a throng of people waiting for their turn to berate some poor agent behind a desk, a security guard emerged and strode towards him. He instinctively stiffened and opened his eyes wide, quickly turning his head in the opposite direction, hoping that he was quick enough to be missed. He felt the sweat under his arms soaking through his shirt and tried to remember how long even one second was. After what felt like a full hour but he was sure was probably only an instant, he looked back in the direction of the guard as casually as he could force himself to. It was still walking toward him. His hands squeezed the bag so tightly he almost thought he might tear it. It was fine. The guard didn’t know who he was or what he was doing here. It was just patrolling, that’s what they do, projecting an air of control over the anarchy of the terminal. That had to be it.

He remembered to breathe and started making his way in the direction of his destination; it was almost departure time. He hadn’t wanted to get there too early, the port guards are often sympathetic to those just trying to make their departure at the last minute and aren’t as thorough with their pre-boarding inspections. It was the kind of trick he’d learned from years of smuggling small shipments through the X. He hoped it translated to one this large.

He was pushing his way through the miasma of human bodies when he was stopped dead by an incredible weight pressing down on his left shoulder. It jerked him backwards and his head turned to face the guard. It was the same one from earlier. “YOU HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS A SUBJECT OF INTEREST,” the uncannily near-human but passionless voice of the guard said as its appendages reached for both of his hands. “YOU ARE REQUIRED TO FOLLOW THIS UNIT TO THE SECURITY ZONE.”

He quickly pulled one hand away from the guard’s grasp before it could lock onto his wrist, causing him to drop the bag on the ground. It made a heavy metallic thud. He tried to reach down and grab it with his one free hand, but the guard had already grasped one side of it. He yanked hard against the guard’s impossible strength, and the bag tore open. He lost his balance and fell to the ground, his head bouncing against the hard floor. Someone screamed. He could see nothing but an explosion of bright colors. The guard had let go of his hand, which instinctively went to the back of his head. It felt wet. People were running. More screaming. His vision came back to him, but doubled. He saw the guard bending down over what had fallen out of his bag and panicked people stampeding in every direction away from him. It didn’t make sense to him why everyone was so afraid of a Metra-Tank full of drugs, until his vision finally refocused and he finally saw what he had actually been carrying.

This was the last time he would ever have to be in this terminal, he’d been right about that. He just had the wrong reason. He tried to scramble to his feet, but his head was still swimming and he only managed to push himself back onto the floor in a heap. The last thing he saw was the guard turning its mechanical eyes to look at him. It almost looked sad.

The bomb detonated, cracking the supports and shattering the dome above the atrium, explosively decompressing and exposing the entire terminal to the natural atmosphere of the planet Mars: none.

Thirty-Four

A change can be hard to detect sometimes.
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Thirty-Three

A failure can be an opportunity in a way.

Thirty-Two

A man is convinced to do something he's not interested in.