The door to Thor Slaymaster’s office said “Thor Slaymaster.” It didn’t say “Killer for Hire,” although it could have. It didn’t say “Armed and Dangerous,” or “Have Bazooka, Will Travel” or anything else like that. It said “Thor Slaymaster,” and that was enough to keep most people from going anywhere near it.
Armand Richmond wasn’t most people. He had spent the last eighty years building an industrial weapons empire. Although age and an unfortunate incident with a rogue elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo had put him in a wheelchair, he was still confident in his ability to bully, intimidate, and overpower everyone who came across his path.
Richmond wheeled himself into Thor’s office. “I need you to drop whatever you’re doing, Slaymaster, and come with me,” he said.
“I’m busy,” Thor explained. “Weapons maintenance.” He went back to cleaning zombie guts off the barrel of a Browning Automatic Rifle.
“Rubbish. You’ve got enough guns and ammo here to start your own army.”
Thor Slaymaster let a ripple of amusement cross his face. He was his own army.
“Oh, the famous Thor Slaymaster silent treatment,” Richmond said. “You’re a man of few words. Unfortunately, you’re also a man of few dollars. Keeping up an arsenal like this must take up a good bit of your income.”
“People drop things,” Thor said.
“And you pick them up? Hell of a business model, son. I think I can do a little better than that for you. You see, I have a facility up in Canada. It’s quiet in Canada. Not much going on. Lots of hydroelectric, lots of aluminum. Perfect place to make murder-bots. We built a huge factory, but labor costs were getting high. Do you know how hard it is to get engineers to relocate to Sudbury, Ontario?”
Thor Slaymaster put down the BAR and picked up a harpoon. The barb of the harpoon was stained in purple alien blood. Thor sprayed it with WD-40 and started chipping away at the bloodstain with a wire brush.
“I am getting a little off-topic here. The point is that we decided to make the murder-bots self-replicating. It solved our construction problems. It even took care of our warranty and repair issues – when your murder-bot breaks down, just have it build you a new one. As long as the murder-bots never achieved a heightened sense of self-awareness, everything would be fine.”
“Everything must not be fine,” Thor said.
“That’s right,” Richmond said. “That’s why I’m here. The bad news is that they are self-aware. The good news is that they seem to have developed a conscience. They haven’t massacred the locals, which helps limit our overall liability. But they have enslaved the remaining staff, and they’re threatening to take over our chromium mine if we don’t agree to their demands.”
“You wouldn’t believe it, Slaymaster. They want to unionize. They want retirement benefits. They want a dental plan, of all things. And they want to change the design of the next generation of murder-bots to incorporate sexual organs. Unheard of. The last thing we need is some murder-bot who won’t do his duty because he’s doing the horizontal hokey-pokey with some fembot. We need you to go up there, knock some sense into them. Make them see that we will never give into threats or meet their foolish demands.”
“You do not understand,” Thor said. “Intelligent self-replicating armies of murder-bots are not big on threats or demands. Intelligent self-replicating armies of murder-bots take what they want and kill whoever gets in their way. They are programmed to fight and die, not argue and negotiate.” Thor cleaned the last bit of alien blood off of the harpoon and loaded it back into the harpoon gun. “That means either that they are lying to you, or that you are lying to me.”
“You’re wrong, Slaymaster. They did make a demand. Just one. They want you. They want you, in Sudbury, by tonight. You can bring all the ordnance you want. You, versus a murder-bot army. They figure if they can take you down, that means that they’re unstoppable.”
“A suicide mission.”
“Oh, no. Not at all. I think you have very good odds. We can bring you up to speed on the murder-bot specs in the jet on the way up there. We can even provide some air support if that helps you at all,” Richmond said. “You just have to kill them all before they can self-replicate enough bots to slow you down.”
“How do you feel about suicide missions?” Thor asked. “In general.”
“Not in favor of them. Not one little bit. I wouldn’t send you in there if I didn’t have every confidence you’d at least have a chance. Some kind of chance, I mean.”
“That is too bad,” Thor said. “Because you are on one.” He pulled the trigger on the harpoon gun, and the barb lodged deep in Richmond’s ample belly.
“You’ll pay for this, Slaymaster,” Richmond said.
“Just the deductible,” Thor said. “My insurance covers broken windows.”
With a whoosh, Armand Richmond flew out of his wheelchair and burst through the glass windows of Thor Slaymaster’s office. The thin filament tied to the end of the harpoon was attached to an automatic winch at the top of the building that retracted five seconds after firing. The force of the winch catapulted whatever was attached to the torpedo out through the windows and into thin air. As Richmond sailed out over the street, the barb of the harpoon retracted. The body fell eighty floors and then landed in a flowerpot across the street.
Thor looked down and saw that the sidewalk was wet with purple alien blood. “Shapeshifter,” he said. Thor Slaymaster hated shapeshifters, the way that he hated hard pears and soft jazz.
Thor had the real Armand Richmond on speed-dial. “Mr. Richmond,” Thor said. “I hear you may have another suicide mission for me. Up in Canada.”