Independent Contractor 

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Senator Walsh was quick, his reflexes well honed; when the pilot stepped into the cabin of the plane with a pistol in hand, Walsh leapt from his seat and dropped the assailant with a kick to the head. It snapped the pilot’s neck, and he was dead before he hit the floor.

“Dammit, you hired me as a bodyguard, so let me bodyguard! I could have taken care of this without killing him!”

Walsh glanced at me, unruffled. “Sorry, Miss Hafir. But you are just the backup plan.”

“Well, now the pilot is dead,” I snapped at him, “and I can’t fly this thing! Can you?”

“As a matter of fact,” calm, condescending, “I can.”

Maybe under normal circumstances. But the entire cockpit was a shambles. Not a single control remained operable. Walsh gestured at the parachute that was strapped to the corpse. “I guess he was planning on doing us, and then bailing out. It would take weeks to locate the wreckage in that wilderness down there. Okay, bodyguard, what now?”

A quick inspection turned up no additional parachutes. “Get that one off the flyboy,” I ordered. “Now.”

“But what about you? To be honest, I don’t want to parachute out and leave you here to go down with the ship…” Finally, cracks began to show in his haughty facade.

“Hey, honesty is a less desirable characteristic than obedience. Now get that ’chute off the body!”

He did as I said, and I grabbed my carry-on. Out came the toiletries, the blow-dryer, the hair brushes, the little black dress: all the sundries one would expect to find in the baggage of a ‘personal administrative assistant’. But tucked into a large interior compartment was some unlikely gear for a traveling secretary. The first thing out was my Boberg 9mm. The next was a small vest.

“What’s that? A life jacket?”

“It’s a skydiving rig. I had it customized: removed the reserve, and replaced the main ’chute with the smallest canopy available.” The rig in my left hand and the 9mm pistol in my right, I nodded at the parachute in his hands. “What about that one? How does it look?”

“It’s good. Top of the line. It’ll work great. But I don’t know about yours. Do you really think something that small will do? I mean, no reserve ’chute and what, an 85-square-foot canopy?”

“Sixty-five. And no, I’m not too sure about it. It was only supposed to be a last resort.” I pointed my pistol at him. “So I’m taking that one.”

The stunned look on his face was incredibly gratifying. “What? And you’re going to make me use that tiny little parachute?”

“No. You were right, what you said before. I am the backup plan. Just not your backup plan.”

I shot him, took the good parachute and made my exit. And he was right about another thing too: it did take them weeks to locate the wreckage.

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Raymond K. Rugg is the author of Rugg’s Handbook of Sales and Science Fiction. His short fiction appears most recently in the anthologies Reunions and Stories from the World of Tomorrow, and he is currently working as editor on a project to publish a collection of speculative fiction inspired by writers’ experiences of life on America’s Indian reservations.  A native of Northwest Montana, Raymond K. Rugg lives in the Galena foothills between Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada, with his wife and daughters.


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