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  Letum thought he was going to die, but he was more afraid that he might not. His stomach and side were aflame from the disruptor blast he had taken. He knew a thing or two about disruptor wounds and knew that his was a very serious injury. Apart from the obvious external trauma he would have internal bleeding and possible damage to internal organs. In his medical opinion things weren’t looking exactly great. Death had its icy grip on him, but that didn’t worry him.

  It seemed odd not to fear death. Letum was never overly concerned about it. Death was inevitable and to rail against it was a futile waste of time and effort. He didn’t want to die, but if this was it there was nothing he could do. What really concerned him was failure. Not failure with death, but failure with living. Because there was one thing that he hated more than failure and death: refunding a fee.

  Letum was not what many considered a typical Ferengi. The accumulation of wealth was not his primary motivator, rather he saw profit as a tool to further his goals or to make them easier. To a typical Ferengi such an idea was almost heretical. However, the typical Ferengi could not do what he did. He was an Eliminator. A licensed assassin. Effectively he had a licence to kill. It was not a cheap one to maintain either. It required him to charge high prices and have a fair amount of work. The best way to maximise employment was to have a strong reputation. The only way to do that was to be good at what he did and fulfil client expectations.

  He always took a percentage of his fee upfront. He dealt with Ferengi for the most part and an upfront fee discouraged the client from changing their mind as that didn’t entitle them to a refund. It also assisted in covering expenses related to the task and meant in the leans times he wasn’t as hampered in going about newly acquired missions. The main problem was that if he failed in his task he would be in breach of the contract and according to Ferengi Commerce Authority regulations the client was entitled to a full refund, regardless of what he may have spent on the task up to that point. Refund might as well be a swear word given how the majority of Ferengi felt about it. In that manner Letum was no different.

  However, if he died he wouldn’t have to repay, at least not personally. The amount would be taken from his estate. After he was dead he didn’t particularly care what happened to his wealth. He had no partner or children and he wasn’t particularly close to his siblings or parents. They were welcome to fight over whatever was left.

  In terms of the afterlife, he doubted that if the Divine Treasury existed that he would be allowed in. His focus on profits was probably not strong enough. Not to mention the morality of even legal killing was something that the ethically questionable Ferengi religious system would probably mark against him in the balance of things. That would mean it would be the Vault of Eternal Destitution for him. However, he didn’t believe in it either so he wasn’t worried about that aspect of death.

  That did mean he had no incentive to fulfil his mission if he thought he was going to die. Revenge was not big on his list. He was after all the person who initiated the conflict with his target. Again once he was dead revenge would be a rather hollow feeling. However, it all hinged on him dying, which he was stubbornly refusing to do.

  “Can’t believe this little Ferengi managed to get through so many,” said one of the pair of Antican pirates standing over him.

  “Well, didn’t do him any good. Here he is lying on the floor bleeding to death,” replied the second Antican.

  “He at least learnt that the boss isn’t called the Red Blur for nothing. Maybe we should just kill him?” asked the thug placing his foot on Letum and pressing his weight onto the prone Ferengi.

  Letum groaned pathetically as he was forced to exhale under the weight of the Antican. He heard throaty laughter from the two pirates.

  “You heard the boss. Let him die slowly. No one tries to make a hit on him and gets a quick exit.”

  “Rather we were shipping out now,” stated the pirate as he took his foot off Letum. “This location is no longer secure.”

  “The boss wants someone to stay in case this fool isn’t working alone. Two bodies are a better message than just one.”

  Letum glanced past the two pirates to a nearby shuttle. It was preparing to lift off and depart this planet with his target on it. Once it did he would have greater difficulty finding the target. Even if he did the target would surely have increase their security now that they knew someone was after them. Obviously his original plan wasn’t as good as Letum thought it had been. Luckily Letum was smart enough to have a plan B.

  Letum curled into the foetal position. He knew he looked even more pathetic even without the pirates commenting so. However, he wasn’t doing it to die. He was simply trying to avoid further injury. He heard the whine of the shuttle and felt the gust of it lifting off the ground. He gave it a few moments before he initiated Plan B. He wrapped his hands around his head and clenched.

  The sound and the blast wave hit him at the same time given how close he was to the explosion. It was not a small explosion. The blast wave hit him hard, but he had hunkered down as well as he could. The pirates standing over him were nowhere near as ready. The explosive force made them stumble and fall to the ground. One fell on Letum. The impact nearly made him vomit in pain, but it was a blessing in disguise if he moved quickly.

  He grabbed the pirate’s disruptor and shot him twice in the chest with it. He rolled the body off him and sat up quickly. The second Antican never realised the danger he was in as his attention was focused on the shuttle. Letum fired a precise shot into the head of the Antican, killing him.

  Letum looked up to the shuttle. Its aft section was torn asunder and smoke bellowed from it. It was hovering unsteady several metres in the air. The nose suddenly dipped and the shuttle plummeted to the surface. There was a terrible screeching of buckling metal as the craft crashed hard into the ground that Letum’s well evolved ears had no difficulty picking up. The shuttle was well and truly grounded.

  Letum got to his feet. He looked down to the two dead Anticans left to watch him die. He thought the one that had fallen on him was also the one that had stood on him. Letum kicked that Antican as hard as he could muster. Revenge might be useless when you’re dead, but he was very much alive and this little action did make him feel a bit better.

  He painfully moved to the crash site. He held onto his injured side, but every step seemed to twist him and send out ripples of pain from his wound. However, he didn’t have the time to dwell on that now. He had a mission to complete.

  Letum entered the shuttle through the handy new entrance his plan B had created. The inside was a mess. Bodies were strewn across the shuttle with only the pilot managing to stay in their seat. He fired at each of the bodies he saw, regardless of whether they were moving or how injured or dead they looked. The only person he did not shoot was his target, who was sprawled on the floor looking a bit dazed, but alive.

  His target, notified of Letum’s presence by the disruptor fire, froze when he looked up at the approaching Ferengi. The gaudily dressed Human shakily raised his hands. Letum hobbled to the nearest seat to his target and sat down. He removed his hand from his side and looked at his bloodied palm. He let out a pained groan as he pressed it back down onto his wound.

  “First when I heard I was to go after the ‘Red Blur’ I thought, ‘that’s a stupid name even for a pirate’. From your images I thought it was because you had a terrible liking for the colour red,” he stated waving the disrupter at the Red Blur’s outfit. “However, I get it now. You are very fast on the draw and accurate too, which is no mean feat. I pretty much only saw the red blur of the disruptor blast and next thing I know I’m down and looking like I’m on my way to the afterlife.”

  “Please…please,” pleaded the Red Blur. “Let me live.”

  “Always have a Plan B,” continued Letum ignoring the man’s pleas. “However, Plan B’s tend to be a bit more costly and the device that I used to bring this shuttle down was not cheap. You don’t want to risk equipment failure with your backup plans. It will cut considerably into my profit to replace it.”

  Letum saw the Red Blur’s eyes glance at something on the ground. He followed the gaze and spotted what could only be Red Blur’s weapon on the ground. He shuffled over to it and picked it up to remove the temptation.

  “That’s worth more than it looks,” commented the Red Blur. “It’s a custom build, very powerful. Made out of the finest components. It’s unique!”

  “If this is a bribe, it’s not going to cut it,” stated Letum.

  He had to admit that the Red Blur was correct. Like the Red Blur’s outfit it was extravagant, but unlike the outfit Letum appreciated the disruptor’s beauty. It was a very impressive looking weapon, though it looked oversized in his smaller Ferengi’s hands, but it was beautifully decorated. The Red Blur was also right on its power. It had done a lot of damage to Letum, which he noted meant more out of pocket to get himself fixed up.

  “I can pay you,” offered the Red Blur.

  “I’m sure you can. However, I’ve already been paid,” he replied still admiring the weapon.

  “I can disappear, there are no witnesses! You saw to that. No one will know. You can get paid for the hit and what I give you would be a bonus.”

  Letum tapped the disruptor on his leg as if he was considering the offer.

  “That is quite tempting. I am a Ferengi and maximising profit in any situation is always attractive,” hr mused. He watched the hope increase in the Red Blur’s eyes before he continued, “However, I feel I would be failing to learn a lesson of you nearly killing me.”

  The Red Blur gave him an incredulous look. “I wasn’t just going to let you kill me without a fight.”

  “Of course, I don’t think you were stupid.”

  A relieved smile came to the Human’s face. “Yes, we’re businessmen. We can come to an arrangement.”

  “Well, you see that where I disagree. You made a fundamental mistake. You didn’t follow through in killing me. So how can I trust that you’ll pay me or disappear so that I don’t have to deal with any repercussions of you still being alive? It is quite unfortunate for you I get to live another day. It means you…well, don’t.”

  Letum pointed the Red Blur’s disruptor at him and fired. Then he shot him again, and again.  Modern medical technology was quite effective in dealing with even the most serious of injuries, which could be quite frustrating. It always paid to be thorough in the kill. On the flipside it did mean that his own serious injury would be healed in a relatively short time for the right price. Shooting his target multiple times was just good business sense. Letum shot the target again. That one however was for the inconvenience. Plus it did make him feel a bit better.

  Letum recorded the evidence for his client that the assignment had been completed and exited the shuttle. As he looked back at the mangled shuttle and then down at his wound and sighed. He had to admit it was not his most clinical operation, though it could have been worse. At least he didn’t have to refund anyone’s money.