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The Future Smells Bittersweet

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Only two cigarettes left. Or three, actually, if you counted the one in Daud's hand. Daud's mood was sour ever since he woke up with this headache. Laying stretched out on the couch in the dimly lit apartment, he felt it would not get better. The air was thick with smoke. Opening the windows was of no use, so late in the day smog would have risen from its nightly slumber. As the city awakens, so do the machines, the cars, the trains, the fabrics. They all spit out dirt till the sky turns gray.

No job was planned for today. This meant Daud was stuck here. It wouldn't even be a problem, if he just had more cigarettes. Daud pulled out another and as he was lighting it, he heard a creak of the door. He cursed silently and reached for the gun which was always in arm's length.

"What's the matter, old man? Not happy to see guests so early in the morning?"

A familiar dark figure appeared in the doorway. Daud let his head fall down on the armrest of the coach again.

"Done with your job, Lurk?"

Instead of answering, Billie threw something at his chest. Daud almost expected to see a torn off hand or still bloody brain implants, but instead he was looking at a packet of cigarettes.

"Yes, and back with a treat. Can't expect an old man to walk so much, after all."

Daud brushed the packet off his chest and let it fall on the floor. He almost expected Bilie to leave, content with a job well done, but she strolled through the living room and sat down at the opposite side of the coach. She lit her own cigarettes, new ones, with mint flavor. Billie started smoking them irregularily a couple weeks ago. First Daud thought she was snatching them from her girlfriends, but now he wasn't sure.

Daud disliked the smell, not enough to comment on it, but enough to hope she would drop the habit.

Billie was uncharacteristically quiet. If she came and stayed, normally it was to poke holes through him with questions. Waiting for her to speak up, Daud felt how tired he was. One arm hung from the couch, another was at his mouth, with cigarette in hand. Ashes would be all over him, but he did not care. A couple more smudges on his shirt would not change a thing, it was stained anyway.

Ash was easy to wash out. Blood, not so much.

Minutes rolled past and lulled Daud in. He did not know how much time passed, when Billie said: "See you later, Daud," and with a light step left the room and then the apartment. The lock shut behind her with a click.

Daud idly wondered if cameras caught her, but that would be quite unlike his best student.

Something was off about her, this way or the other. But something was off about her the moment he took her in. And maybe it meant nothing anyway.

Thinking about nothing specific, looking at nothing specific, Daud took a deep breath and realized that he was wrong. New brand of cigarettes. Not only mint, but a touch of roses too.