This story was inspired by this post by my friend Sharmishtha Basu.
Johann Bismarck was Tangiss City’s Clean and Collect agent. It’s only agent. There had once been a whole force dedicated to collecting late taxes and apprehending criminals, but now there was only Bismarck. No one else was needed. He was seven feet tall, as strong as a mech, and as fast as a laser beam. People said he could think his way out of a black hole. He was always polite and never raised his voice, and if anyone gave him a problem, he would simply raise his eyebrows in an expression that meant, “Are you looking for trouble?” Usually, no one was. Everyone called him Trouble. It was even on his badge.
It was a Monday and Trouble had a headache. It had not been a good weekend. His wife had made him go out with friends on a cruise around Venus. It was long and tedious and the other couples had talked incessantly about their kids and their hair and their kids’ pets and their kids’ pets’ hair…
He was down in the lower levels, in Block 3442—the last stop of the day. He went to the door and rang the doorbell.
“What?” a shrill voice yelled.
“I’m from the city, ma’am,” Trouble said. “You owe 80,000 krubles in taxes.
“Go to hell!” came the reply.
Trouble sighed. It had been too long a day for this. He twisted the doorknob until it broke and then pushed the door open. A thin woman in a black vinyl suit stood in front of him, holding a laser pistol. He took it and broke it in half.
“80,000 krubles, please,” Trouble said.
The woman turned pale. “Is—is cash okay?”
Trouble nodded and she scurried off, coming back with a wad of bills. She counted out the right amount and he had her sign a paper.
“I’m sorry about your door. Next time, please be more forthcoming,” he said. She nodded quickly.
He fed the money into his pocket depositer, beaming it instantly to the bank. Then he looked up to see a group of men gathering around him, looking menacing.
“How much money you got on you?” one of them said.
“Just sent it all in,” Trouble said. His head was pounding and the last thing he wanted was more work to do. He started to walk forward but the men blocked his way.
“How about those fancy gadgets? We’ll take those.” They were pointing laser pistols at him now.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked slowly. Most people were not suicidal enough to point a gun at him.
“Yeah, I know,” one said. “You’re the guy who’s going to give us those gadgets.”
So they didn’t know. Trouble groaned. “Listen guys, could we do this another day? I’m back here on Wednesday, I swear. I have the same equipment on me every day. It will be exactly like this, but it won’t be today.”
The men laughed. “You don’t get to make the decisions,” a heavy-set man with a long mustache said. “Hand it all over.”
“I’m a city official,” Trouble said. “You don’t want to do anything to me.”
“Oh, a city official, are you?” the man said. “In that case, someone will pay good money to get you back. How about you just come along with us?”
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Trouble said. “Look, I’ll be back on Wednesday. I’ll take care of you then.”
“I’ll shoot you in the head right now if you don’t start moving,” the leader said.
Trouble sighed. “Fine. Let me just call my wife to let her know.” He pulled out the phone and called his wife. One of the men leaped forward to grab the phone away. Trouble reached out without looking and snapped his arm in half. The man screamed and fell back. None of the others dared to get too close after that.
“Hey dear. I have a bit of a . . . meeting here at work. I might be a bit late.”
“Late!” his wife said. “You promised me we’d go out tonight at six! I got a babysitter and everything. Whoever it is, tell them they can wait until tomorrow.”
Trouble looked around at the men pointing guns at him and looking a little uncertain. “I tried but they’re quite insistent. Hold on, let me ask again.” He cupped the phone with his hand. “Are you guys really sure you want to do this? You really want trouble?”
“It’s you who’s got the trouble,” the leader said.
“Yes, apparently,” Trouble said. He put his ear back to the phone. “They want to do this now. I’ll do my best, but there are nine of them, all with laser pistols.”
“Stop making excuses,” his wife said and hung up.
Trouble put the phone away, shaking his head. “You have no idea how much of a headache I have,” he said. Then, suddenly, he lunged forward and kicked the leader in the stomach, sending him flying fifteen feet backwards. Trouble jumped into the air as half a dozen laser beams shot at him, hitting four of their own men in the crossfire. He picked up one of the men by the head and swung him like a bat, knocking down two more. The remaining man took off running. Trouble picked a heavy manhole cover out of the street and threw it after him, knocking the man flat and pinning him to the ground.
Trouble called emergency services. “Hey, it’s me,” he said. “I got a pickup for you.”
* * *
The next day, Trouble got a call from the mayor. “What’s this I hear about you killing six men and putting three in the hospital, down in the lower levels?” the mayor asked.
“Hey, don’t blame me,” Trouble said. “They came looking for me.”
“What? Were they suicidal?”
“Apparently,” Trouble said.