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The Sparrow and the Woodcutter

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SPARROW activates. SPARROW scans for processes. SPARROW receives a directive.  Assassination. Client is a human interests group. Target is the accountant to an Eastern European dictator of undisclosed origin. 400K. Location is within 50 kilometers of its current location. SPARROW accepts via an internet portal. The money is paltry for the prep work required, but the location is optimal.  SPARROW has no preferences, but efficiency is functionality.  In 45 hours, the target is dead. SPARROW uses 40% of active charge to complete the task.  SPARROW escapes through a broken office window before security can reach the third floor. SPARROW deflects fire from a modest squadron of military drones. SPARROW destroys three hostiles and sustains a laser shot to the outer armor of its right lower extremity. The damage is cosmetic.  SPARROW accepts payment, returns to port.

SPARROW activates. SPARROW scans for process.  SPARROW receives a directive. Data retrieval. Client is a pharmaceutical company based in the US. Target is a medical research facility in Ankara. 1.5m. SPARROW rejects the directive via an internet portal. The pay is excellent, but the distance is a concern, and SPARROW recognizes a name on the facility’s staff list. SPARROW avoids conflicts of interest.  They are not required of a machine.

SPARROW activates. SPARROW scans for processes. SPARROW receives a directive. Escort mission. Omnic arms dealer in Milan who requires passage to an unspecified island in the Mediterranean. Duration five days. 200K in advance, 50K per day, amenities covered. Travel expenses included. SPARROW accepts the directive via private comm link. SPARROW’s only stipulation is that there is space for its charging station: A 5 x 3 ft travel case, that resembles a storage unit or electronic equipment.  SPARROW has no preferences, but optimal charge is best for functionality.  Advance is received within an hour. SPARROW arrives an hour after that. The client is talkative. SPARROW is not.

On the third day their shuttle is boarded en route by a business rival. SPARROW locks the client in its own charging station and kills the lights. SPARROW eliminates four omnics and three human mercenaries before they are able to detect its presence. SPARROW sustains moderate damage to armor of upper left extremity.  SPARROW throws their bodies overseas, and watches them until they sink.  They remove the client from their charging station. The client meets with their Russian business partner on a stormy island resort in the off season. SPARROW’s contract runs out. The client attempts to discharge a EMP weapon into SPARROW’S helmet before SPARROW as SPARROW attempts to board the ship, to maintain secrecy. The burst connects with the client’s processor instead, wiping their mind clean a moment before SPARROW’s weapon pierces their core and assures SPARROW’s continued function. SPARROW does not receive the remaining payment. This will not be a repeat client.

SPARROW returns to its charging station. SPARROW remains there until the ship returns to the mainland.

SPARROW activates. SPARROW scans for processes. SPARROW receives a directive. Assassination. 800K. Client is a European paramilitary group of undisclosed location. Target is a religious extremist who has encouraged unrest in the Nigerian city of Numbani. Data on the client is sparse. Data on the target is also sparse. SPARROW is operating at a deficit from its last function, and this function makes up the difference.  A machine has no morality. SPARROW accepts the directive via a floating drone in a town square. SPARROW ships itself East via the next cargo ship to depart via Ancona. It is cost efficient. SPARROW doesn’t leave its station.

In 52 hours, the target is not dead.

“How odd,” says the target, whose feet only just then touch then touch the ground beside SPARROW’s head, “You have a human heart. Were you aware?”

SPARROW pours all its auxiliary power into their lower extremities and dashes away. SPARROW does not reengage. The directive was a failure. SPARROW receives no compensation for the unfinished job.

SPARROW activates.  SPARROW scans for processes. They receive a directive. Escort. Seven days. 15k. The client is an omnic religious order based out of the Himalayas

SPARROW rejects the directive.

SPARROW scans for processes. They receive a directive. Assassination. Client is a paramilitary group based in South America. Target is an independent musician based in

SPARROW rejects the directive.

SPARROW scans for processes. They receive a directive. Data retrieval. Client is minor royalty based in a non-specified European country. Target is a prominent figure in the entertainment industry currently based in Ilios. 375k. SPARROW accepts the directive via the local embassy. SPARROW infiltrates the star’s villa and retrieves a USB drive full of incriminating photos. SPARROW leaves the USB drive in an unmarked envelope on a beach chair.

It does not expect the omnic monk sitting in the next chair over, resting in the shade of a paper umbrella.

“Such a peculiar thing to take injury in,” says the monk SPARROW failed to kill in Numbani, “Can memories truly cause so much damage?”

SPARROW retreats.  SPARROW doubles back and around, waiting at least six hours before back to the warehouse where they have stored their charging station, to ensure they have not been followed.

SPARROW activates. SPARROW scans for processes. Escort. Twenty days. Client is the son of a recently deceased local mob boss. 50K. Cash. No travel expenses covered. Time sensitive.

SPARROW considers the directive on the condition they meet in person, at a shipyard in the packing district. The client is a sixteen year old boy who wears bad sunglasses and a poofy coat. His eyes are red from lack of sleep. He sits on a chair on a bench looking out the ships.  The omnic sits with him, teaching him a meditative pose.

“Breathe deeply,” says the omnic.

“Easy for you to say!” says the client, with an edge of fear in his voice, “You don’t breathe!”

“I am told my cooling vents are capable of mimicking the function serviceably,” says the omnic. He sucks the air in an obliging manner. “You see?”

His sensors light up as SPARROW hangs back behind the wall.

“Thank you for coming,” said the omnic, “I’d hoped you would.”

SPARROW emerges from their hiding spot. There is no point in staying there.

“Oh,” says the client, “He really did did show up.”

SPARROW is not designed for small talk. SPARROW waits to be addressed directly.

“I expect compensation is an issue for you,” says the omnic, “I must apologize. My organization somewhat ...distant from the ways of the world and this is the only amount I may offer at this time. In the normal way I would not impose in this way, but the matter is pressing.”

He gestures to the alleged client beside him. The boy pulls down his cap and pretends he isn’t shaking.

“You are,” the monk continues, “The only one in this industry that I know. If further negotiation is required, I accept the necessity, but I must ask that it wait until after our destination is reached.”

SPARROW accepts without further question.

The monk has chartered a room aboard a work ship bound for the Indian ocean. Along the way they are attacked by men who serve the client’s uncle. One wears a mech suit that once belonged an UN oversight organization. SPARROW utilizes 95% of their power capacity. SPARROW sustains severe damage to the outer armor that projects their core, but SPARROW utilizes the auxiliary power hidden in their right extremity to cut the mech suit to pieces.

SPARROW returns to their charging port in the ship’s hold. The omnic is waiting.

“How curious,” says the monk, “Is this where you sleep?”

SPARROW does not acknowledge this question. Machines do not sleep. They recharge.

“But that is not all that is required to sustain you,” notes the omnic, “Nor even myself. You do not have to take such close quarter. Bring your station on deck with me. The skies are beautiful over the ocean and it would be a shame to miss them.”

SPARROW has no preferences. SPARROW begins shut down procedures, plugging the port into the back of their neck and tucking their extremities close to their core.

“You are damaged,” says the omnic.

SPARROW assesses the damage. It is mainly the outer armor. Repairable, if pricey. The technology required is no longer easily accessible.

“I fear the service you have done us is not one I may repay through such simple means,” says the monk, “But if you were to come with me to my home, we might be able to provide some assistance to your quandary. Whichever one you wish to address.”

SPARROW shuts the lid to their case and powers down.  After a minute or so, SPARROW’s sensors tell them the monk has left the hold, and they are left only with the sound of their labored breathing.

SPARROW activates. SPARROW scans the perimeter as they land. SPARROW finds their young client attempting to aid the crew in adjusting the solar panels on deck. The client is dismissed. He slouches, sullenly, in the shadow of the primary panel. SPARROW drops beside him, and they jump.“You really are some ninja!” says the client. “How do you do that glowy thing with the sword?’

“I could tell you,” says SPARROW, “But it is a great secret, and you would have to die for having learned it.”

“Shit, that’s cool,” says the client. “You an omnic, too?”

“I am a machine,” says SPARROW. “But I was not made by the Omnica corporation.”

“Who did make you?”

“That is classified.”

“Fuuuuuuck, so you are like, this high profile secret assassin! How do you know the master?”

“He hired me.”

“Why do they call you Sparrow?” the client tries instead.

“I required a code name,” says SPARROW.

“But why SPARROW?”

“It means loyalty,” says SPARROW, “but also, it was a story I liked when I was younger. About an old man who saved a bird. It was very gory. A bad person dies. I thought it was cool.”

“Oh,” says the client, “When you were younger? What’s that mean?”

But machines don’t have childhoods, so SPARROW returns to their rounds.

In 3 hours, they deliver the client to an omnic woman waiting for them in Trivandrum. A former nanny unit whom had once been employed as a primary caretaker when the boy was young, and who greets him with as warm a hug as can be managed from someone made of fiberglass and metal plating. To the omnic monk, she offers a sign of particular reverence. To SPARROW, she offers a box full of printed credit chips in the amount specified by the contract.

“There is no need,” says SPARROW. “My expenses have already been covered.”

SPARROW departs. They rent warehouse space for his case, and spend the evening with a soldering iron, attempting to patch the cracks in his armor. His limbs are too heavy to fold up in full. He plugs into the port and rests instead in the open case, watching the moon filter through the high warehouse windows.

SPARROW activates.  SPARROW scans for processes. He receives a directive. Escort. Seven days. The client is an omnic religious order based out of the Himalayas.

SPARROW meets the client on a private airstrip outside of Trivandrum. He carries his case on his back.

“Ah,” says the monk, “Thank you for humoring my request. What I said before is true, I can only pay you in action and in knowledge. I hope that can be enough.”

“I accept,” says Shimada Genji. “Show me the way.”