David woke up alone in Rosana’s suite after a night of watching old movies she hoped would get his mind off of José.
She returned as David finished preparing a big breakfast spread. “Oh my, I should keep you around here more often,” she said.
David frowned, “‘Keep me,’ like a pet? I don't think so.”
Rosana took her seat and crossed her arms, “What are you then?”
David set the food down and sat. “Two people who have an interpersonal relationship closer than mere association, based on positive reciprocity, sympathy, and mutual understanding. I think they call such people friends, right?”
“You can trust friends,” she pointed out. “I don’t trust you.”
David flashed her a wry smile. “We’ll work on that,” he promised.
“I’d like that.” David glanced up at her. Her tone just changed a little bit. She was beaming at him across the table.
I never asked how long she usually keeps guys around, David realised. He gathered he’d been with her for longer than she was used to, but she didn’t seem to mind it.
“Last night was good,” she told him. “Some of those movies are really special to me. My mom and I used to watch them. ‘Darkly Dreaming’ was my favourite.”
“See? We can have fun with our clothes on too,” he joked. “‘Darkly Dreaming’ was the one about the paralyzed girl that lived through fantasies right?”
“Yeah, it really grabbed me when I was a kid. I wanted to be just like the main character. I used to dress up like her on Halloween and pretend to fight robots and fascists.”
“Well, thanks for that,” David said. “It really means a lot to me that you’d share something like that.”
“Don’t mention it,” she said, waving the acknowledgment away, “this breakfast more than makes up for it. Besides, I know how it feels to kill someone you don’t want to.”
David waited for her to continue.
She sighed and told him the story. “When I first started out, I couldn’t be very picky with the jobs I did. There was this one time I had to kill a guy who’d fallen behind on gambling debts. He was a regular guy. Had a wife, two kids, and a dog. The boss wanted him dead so he could strong arm the wife for the life insurance money.”
“How much were you paid?”
“On top of my retainer I made a grand per head.”
“And was it worth that?”
She shrugged. “It wasn’t much. I hated doing it, but it’s a you-or-me world. I prefer me.”
David reflected on that. Rosana started talking about some of the other movies, but it went over his head. Suddenly, he cut her off. “You’re wrong.”
She sat back and stared at him with wary eyes. “You don’t think Charlotte should have given Henry a second chance? He might’ve been pretending to be someone else but his feelings were real!”
“Umm no, I meant about it being a you-or-me world,” he clarified. “The world is whatever you want to make of it.”
She shook her head and looked at him with amused pity, “You don’t honestly believe in that ‘change the worlds for the better’ crap, do you?”
David looked confused. “I thought you believed in Zeus because you believed that yourself.”
Her eyes opened wide, and she realized she let something slip. “I do believe that we can change the worlds...”
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The Road to HellScience Fiction
When David Stern has to hunt down humanity's most dangerous terrorist, he finds out the hard way that sometimes saving the day means destroying everything else.