The man’s red hair was short and scruffy. His beady little eyes glared at Thatch.
“I said: are you gonna do it?” the man crossed his arms.
Thatch gripped the firearm in his trembling hands, steeling himself.
“Yeah. Yeah, I am gonna do it,” he nodded, bouncing a little.
Thatch’s dark hair bounced a little, falling into his face. He brushed it to the side with a sweaty, tanned hand. His eyes met the dark, beady pair staring at him from across the diner booth.
“Good. Now, what do you want to eat? I’ll get that thing over here.”
“Thing?” Thatch blinked, confused.
“Yeah, you know, the dumb bimbo robot waitress,” the ginger-haired guy snickered, waving to an android across the room.
The i-R33-n unit walked over, smiling, “Good morning, gentlemen. What would please you, today?”
The ginger-haired man laughed and glanced at the waitress’s tight apron, “I dunno, what would please us today?”
“Geez man, she meant what we want to eat…” Thatch shook his head, almost embarrassed.
“Miss, I would like eggs and toast, please,” Thatch smiled up at her and handed the menu over.
Her green eyes glowed as she bowed her head and took the menu back, “Of course, Sir. Right away.”
“Ugh, don’t talk to it like it is a person…” the redhead across the table waved the menu in the air and said, “I want coffee, made by the cook, not you, and I will have the same as him.”
The android girl’s eyes flickered and she nodded, taking the menu and walking away, her red shoes tapping along the smooth checkered floor. The freckle face man tapped Thatch’s arm and smiled.
“Don’t you just love this place? The decor reminds me of the good old days,” He took a glance around the classic themed diner.
Thatch slipped the gun into his pocket and run a hand through his hair, “You mean like 200 years ago or whatever? You weren’t around back then.”
The other man sneered a little, “Sure, but I should have been.”
When the food arrived, Thatch thanked the waitress, which garnered a patronizing laugh from the other man. They ate in silence that morning, aside from the occasional slurps of coffee or crunching bread. Eventually, Thatch was the first to leave, walking by the android waitress.
She gave him a friendly smile, “I hope you have a wonderful day. Please come again.”
“I will,” Thatch remarked, nodding to her.
His worn leather shoes carried him down the streets, smog overhead. He passed by a glass office building, toward Main street. The sun beat down on the pavement, even partially piercing through the artificial clouds of waste. His slim jaw stretched as he yawned. The man stuffed his hands into his pockets, feeling the cold steel of the gun he was given. It felt heavier, the longer he carried it. Thatch took a deep breath and coughed. Making his way up Main Street, he passed a huge amount of morning traffic. A moth fluttered by and landed on a street lamp. Thatch watched its wings flutter and smiled to himself. His smile faded as he walked on. Even in the daytime, the streets were in shadow. Between the skyscrapers lining the streets and the revolting smog, it was a dim desert of sorrow. Thatch clenched his jaw and pressed on. He eventually found himself in front of his destination. Making his way up the multiple flights of spiraling stairs, Thatch glared at the door marked “614”.
“I have to do this. Yeah,” He pulled out the gun as he whispered to himself.
He pounded on the door, “Hey, are you home?”
A skinny older man answered the door, “A-are you the guy?”
“Yeah, I’m ‘the guy’, now give me the money you owe,” He held the gun casually and glared at the man as he pushed his way inside.
“Woah, don’t shoot man- calm down, it is just in the other room… please,” the shriveled old man quivered.
“Oh, ok good,” Thatch nodded and ushered the man into the other room to retrieve the money.
“I am glad we came to an understanding,” Thatch smiled.
“Me too! Here, here is all the money…” The man opened a metal drawer and stepped away with his hands up.
Thatch fingered through the drawer, “This is not nearly enough bits, what are you trying to pull-?”
Then, he heard a click. His body moved on its own as he whipped around and dropped to the ground. The skinny man was clutching a pistol that he shot at the air where Thatch’s head just was. He scrambled to aim again, but before he could, Thatch swallowed bile. His eyes sparkled as he felt the adrenaline surge through him. He clutched the firearm he had just shot. Smoke billowed out the end, and his hand no longer trembled as it rested on the floor. Thatch gazed across the room at the corpse of the man. The skinny fellow had dropped his pistol. Thatch’s chest heaved as he scrambled across the floor and grabbed the other gun, shoving both into his pockets. His heart raced as he jumped up and ran to the drawer, stuffing most of the currency into his jacket, carelessly dropped a bit or two. He turned to leave, but before he did, Thatch gave one last glance at the motionless man. Crimson dripped out of the man’s mouth and forehead. Thatch grimaced and bit his lip. He narrowed his gaze, taking a deep breath as he fled.
A few days later, Thatch was still running. Tonight, he had just escaped from the executioner squad’s custody. His damp clothing restricted his movement, or at least it probably felt that way as he coughed and dashed through the streets. The rain beat down on him as he fled. First, he needed to stop at his home. His door was still ajar from when the inquisitor had kicked it open. Thatch grabbed all the money he had on hand, a jacket, a switchblade, and ran off. It was like a blur, his mind racing faster than his feet. Suddenly, he saw the emergency executioner vehicle, sirens blaring as it rolled down the street. He gasped and ducked into an alleyway. He spotted a small dog sleeping in the alley and silently prayed that it would stay asleep. The officers drove past, lights flashing as they searched for him. Thatch heaved a sigh of relief as he tiptoed past the resting dog and down the other side of the alley. Eventually, Thatch saw a sign for what looked like a hotel.
“I could stay there a minute, to catch my breath,” he nodded to himself, talking through the situation and trying not to panic.
He entered the building and made his way up to the lobby for the hotel. He sighed relief, sitting down in the corner. He closed his eyes and eased into the chair. Thatch was startled by a woman’s voice.
Sounding quite unhappy, a hook-nosed woman fussed at Thatch, “If you do not plan on paying, get out.”
He looked around, “I am sorry; I just need a place to lay low-”
“I am calling the inquisitors…” she stood up and sneered.
“Wait, wait, please- please do not do that, I will pay,” Thatch hung his head in his hands.
“Don’t tell anyone I was here, alright?” Thatch gulped.
The woman raised an eyebrow at him, finding this suspicious and concerning.
“Look, I have money,” he withdrew a substantial amount of bits from his pocket.
The hook-nosed woman tilted her head, “Alright fine, you can stay here off the record. But, only one session.”
Thatch nodded, letting her take some of his money, “Just pretend like you know nothing if anybody asks you about me, alright? You will be safe if no one knows we talked.”
The woman was fairly concerned by these words, but the money was satisfactory to ease her worries.
Scratching her ear, she nodded, “Third room on the right side is free.”
Thatch nodded and wandered off down the hallway. When he arrived at the room, he brushed his sweaty hair back. The door slid open, revealing the android girl sitting on the bed. It was an i-R33-n unit. Her green eyes blinked innocently, as though it was her first time seeing a man before.
Thatch leaned against the wall and cupped his face in his hands. He collapsed on the ground and bit his lip.
“Are you alright?” the naked android girl asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Thatch hiccupped.
Then, he repeated breathlessly: “Yeah.”