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Supply and Demand


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“Killing isn’t magic. There’s no mystical element to it, no zen parables or koans to be gleamed no matter how much those dime novels want you to believe it. Killing is just another service for commerce.” The man known as Hans paced back and forth across the church rooftop, occasionally looking to the town square in the distance and clicking the old brass encased pocket-watch cover open. Hans turned to look at his talking companion, a small pigeon pecking at the handful of trail mix Hans had set down for it. “Now see I knew you were going to make that argument, but again you’re using fiction for its core. I mean don’t get me wrong, he’s a great French writer, but ‘The better you are, the closer you get to your client?’ Sounds good to sell books, but… take our current predicament.” Hans motioned to the town square.


“In…” Hans clicked open the pocket-watch once more. “12 minutes, there’s going to be a carriage arriving from the northwest with one Mr. Fabian Tanquerelle, height 5’10”, age 37. Mr. Tanquerelle is going to be testifying to the local judge about the actions of the local Guild Captain and almost certainly placing the metaphorical nail in the Captain’s coffin. Now if Mr. Tanquerette DOESN’T testify, lack of sufficient evidence, charges dropped, blah blah.”


Hans looked at the pigeon who had shifted position a couple of spaces. “Oh pipe down, I’m getting to the good part. I just want to set up a good back story. So, in an effort to assist the testimonial, there are currently 3 times the number of Guild guard in town, the majority of them stationed around the town square, the carriage itself is reinforced steel, and Mr. Tanquerelle will undoubtedly be wearing some sort of body protection, and be completely surrounded by guards. If they move him the smart way, he’ll only be in the open for a maximum of 3 seconds. All this adds up to a phenomenal moment of commerce.”


Hans began setting up the tripod for his sniper rifle, almost reflex at this point in his career. He glanced through the scope, looking at pennants hanging off the outside of the courthouse. “How much would you pay for one bullet that would keep you from the gallows? You face death, and I can be your own buyable guardian angel. What would that be worth? The Captain believes it’s worth 100 Scrip.” Hans pulled out a small book from a pocket, flipped it open, and began counting on his fingers, occasionally looking back to the pennants through the scope. “I could replace all my limbs with those pneumatic ones the miners have. I could officially go into the cattle business. I can drastically change my life for the cost of keeping his the same.”


Hans laid down on the roof, moving the tripod to its final position. Glancing at his book once more, Hans began turning one of the knobs on the scope with the delicacy of a watchmaker. Hans scoffed “The rifle is the weapon of a beginner… You realize what I’ve got riding on this situation? This will officially be the longest shot I’ve ever taken against a moving target in a 3 second window. There’s a 5 Knot cross breeze to the northeast, so there’s windage to be taken into account. There are literally hundreds of things that could go wrong with this situation and I have to account for all of them. It’s not glamorous, but then economics never is. “

Hans clicked open his pocket-watch and set it next to the rifle. “4 minutes. They also never discuss the nerves in those dime novels. They want you to think the killers have ice water in their veins, can pull the trigger like breathing, pull off amazing feats of skill. 16 years, 5 off Earthside… still get that gnawing in my gut every time. 3 seconds, 1 shot. I get paid, or I make an enemy of a Guild Captain. Either both of our lives stay the way they are, or they both change for the worse.” A smile started to creep onto Hans’ face. “100 Scrip for the status quo… for normalcy.” Hans slipped 3 bullets out one at a time, placing them neatly in a line next to the rifle. “You my little friends are stabilizers… you are the guide rails of the paradigm.


The carriage became visible on the horizon, a speck of black moving at a reasonable clip. “Here we go. Time to be a kingmaker. Now quiet down back there, I’ve got some work to do.” The subtle tick of the pocket watch gave Hans a rhythm to tap on the trigger guard as he watched the carriage approach. Hans could see the guards in the town square tense up as the plume of dust being kicked up by the carriage’s speed drew near. Hans ran over the checklist in his mind once more, the tapping of his finger continuing. “Okay maybe I lied, there’s a little zen.” Hans calmed his breathing, taking one last note of the wind off the pennants before loading the first bullet.


As the carriage slowed to a stop, Hans chuckled to himself, sliding the bolt closed. “There’s a memo that will never be written… ‘Dear Captain Vincent. We here at Guild headquarters would like to thank you for your many years of service and adherence to the duty this job demands.’” Hans turned the scope on the guard near the front door who was pulling a pistol as Tanquerette approached. The shot was slightly off from where Hans wanted it, but it still did the job dropping the guard. “ ‘ We regret to inform you however that official Guild policy is misappropriation of funds for personal gain is something we severely frown upon, as it tarnishes the trust and respect the common populace places in their law enforcement.’” Hans swung the rifle to the roof of the courthouse to find the next guard, this one with a rifle. The guard was trying to get a clean shot at Tanquerette below, giving Hans more than enough time. Hans had the next bullet in before the casing that got ejected by the bolt clinked on the rooftop. The man on rooftop nearly hit the panicked crowd below as he toppled over.


The more astute guards were beginning to figure out his position, while others were trying to rush Tanquerette into the building. Hans swung the rifle one last time, this time at the second floor of the police office where the Captain stood near a window in complete shock, anger building on his face as he watched the end of his life get ushered into the courthouse. Hans chambered the last bullet. “‘It is therefore with a heavy heart that we regret to inform you that your services are no longer required. You have been terminated.’”


Hans began packing up his equipment, collecting the three casings before giving the panicked square one last look. “Sorry Vincent. You bid too low. I’ll make sure to use some of the down payment to buy you some flowers for your grave. Be thankful they just wanted you dead.”

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