Today's story is entitled "The Pharmacist."
"I need a fix, man," the skinny white guy standing before the counter whined.
Smith looked over the customer with his black eyes. "You've maxed out your allotment."
"No, man, that was last week; I got five more hours on Monday."
"I loaned you ten hours last week, you owe me five."
"I paid you for those hours. I paid you black-market rates."
"Yes, you did. And I'm being audited today. Your connection, namely me, might get his ticket jerked for loaning you those hours."
"But I need a fix," he cried, twisting his long emaciated body into a near-pretzel.
"Sorry, can't help you," the proprietor said without a shred of mercy.
The white man stared at the pharmacist. "You suck, man."
"That's not what you said last week when I loaned you ten hours."
The grey eyes that once may have been blue looked at the floor. "I'm going to take the pill if I can't get hours."
"Then take the pill," Smith said, his voice void of emotion.
The man turned slowly and walked out, opening the door to let in the summer heat and ringing the bell hanging over the portal. Smith didn't know if the man would take the e-pill or not. But there was nothing he could do for the man and his choices were his choices. There was a reason use of virtual reality was monitored carefully as addiction was a virulent social problem. After all, if you could save the nubile purple-skinned Arcturian princess with a laser pistol and a monoatomic-edged sword, then engage in a little inter-species copulation, well, that beat the hell of out reality. The white guy was your typical v-head. He didn't eat, sleep, or bath, he just looked for his next hours.
Another skinny white guy walked in and Smith assessed him in a few glances. Nice clothes, good shoes, and a very illegal slug-thrower under his jacket according to back-scatter detector.
Smith reached for the alarm button that would call down about sixty heavily armed cops in about thirty seconds.
"I wouldn't touch that button if I were you," the man said, reaching into his jacket where the gun was.
Smith stilled his finger.
"It'll take the local constabulary at least thirty seconds to get here and in that time you will be dead, I'll have what I want, and be gone. It don't matter to me but I suspect you'd like to keep breathing this stupidly thin air a bit longer. Either way, I get what I came for."
Smith couldn't help himself. "Who are you?"
The man smiled, showing good teeth. Smith wondered why he was in an indigent pharmacy. "I'm just a man."
"What do you want?" Smith asked. His finger was still hovering over the red alarm button.
"Your hands where I can see them for a start," the man said.
Smith put both hands on the counter, his dark skin contrasting with the white surface.
"Good," the man said, pulling his hand from his jacket. It was empty.
"Anything else?" Smith asked.
"The pill. Not many, ten should do."
"One is sufficient."
"Well, yes, if you just want to kill yourself, I suppose."
Smith's eyes widened. He thought quickly. "I'm about to be audited. The authorities will show up any moment."
"Then I suggest we hurry before I have to kill you and anyone else who shows up."
Smith turned and got down ten doses of the pill. He set them on the counter. "There, now go."
The man gave Smith a predatory grin. "That easy?"
"And what of your audit?"
"I'll tell them I was robbed."
"Will they believe you?"
"There's vid." Smith regretted it the moment he said it.
"How do we delete the vid?"
"You don't, it's immediately uploaded to the Ministry of Health's servers. I can't access it."
"Then how do you loan hours to v-heads?"
"You've hacked the system," the man said as a simple fact.
"Yes," Smith growled, understanding how this man chose to rob him. His reputation for dealing out hours under the table for cash was well known in the city's dark underbelly.
"Then we'd better hurry before the auditors get here," the man said.
"And if I refuse?"
"I kill you."
"And it's all on vid."
"I'll be off-planet before they find me."
Smith frowned. "I know who you are."
The man smiled. "I see my reputation precedes me. So you know I don't care. I'll kill you like you swat a fly."
"Fly, huh?" Smith smiled.
The man looked at him. "We need to take care of this business."
"Yes, we do," Smith said keeping his voice low and even.
The white man, the man whose reputation was that of a callous, heartless, ruthless kill hesitated.
Smith's chest opened up and the toothed appendage shot across the counter, across the space between him and the killer, and bit the face of the man. The fellow screamed until His face was gone and he flopped on the floor like a fish out of water, a red puddle of blood spreading out from his headless body.
Smith sighed as the bloody appendage sucked into his chest through the hole ripped in his smock. Now he really needed to edit that video. But first things first, he had a body to eat.
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