Sid is a merchant captain. He captains a little starship. It has a cabin and a little piloting chamber and lots of cargo space, but it can’t go much further than Venus. He’s loading his ship with a consignment when he stops and notices what kind of shipment he’s packing.
“Wow,” he says.
It’s box after box of ammunition. He looks at the ammunition. There’s a picture of marketing icon Hello Kitty on each box.
After a moment, Sid opens one box. He looks inside.
“Wow,” he says again. “These are the cutest armor-piercing bullets I’ve ever seen.”
It’s not just ammunition. There’s guns and grenades and even a large box that Sid thinks might contain a killer robot. But most of it is ammunition, and each box has a guide to the proper use of Sanrio Safety Blossom bullets.
Sid takes a manual with him when he goes to the cockpit and settles in. He flips through it as he rises into space.
“‘Safety Blossom bullets cut through kevlar to find a place in your heart,'” he reads.
He performs complicated ballistics. He’s headed for Venus.
“I like the picture of this guy with his organs all ruptured next to the little rabbit-guy,” he says.
He checks the life support levels. They’re falling a little faster than he’d like, but it’s not too bad. He’s got five hours of life and it’s four hours to Venus.
“‘Shooting people needs guns! Don’t try shooting with your fingers!'”
He’s got four hours of life. It’s three and a half hours to Venus. There’s an itchy feeling at the back of his neck.
There’s a man standing behind him. The man has a gun. His name is Max, and his gun’s name is Chibi-Colt.
“Hi,” Max says.
“Have you been listening all this time?” Sid says, suddenly embarrassed.
“No,” Max says. “I’ve been listening to subliminal assassination training tapes in preparation for my assignment.”
“Wait,” Sid says. “Does that mean you’re an assassin?”
Max looks a little embarrassed.
“I mean, are you supposed to just tell me that?”
“Some friends bet me that I couldn’t take out Venus’ Prime Minister,” Max says. “So I downloaded the training program, bought a bunch of modern weaponry, and smuggled myself to Venus.”
“That was dumb,” Sid says.
“Because life support’ll run out before we get there,” Sid says. “And you can’t pilot this thing.”
“We could snuggle for warmth,” he suggests.
“No,” Sid says.
“I’m not suggesting—” Max starts.
“It wouldn’t help,” Sid explains.
“Oh.” Max thinks. “Then my best bet is probably to kill you and try to reinvent practical ballistics in the next few hours.”
Sid looks down.
“Or I could kill you,” Sid says. His heart is quiet.
“Yes,” Max agrees. “Although I’m a trained assassin and I have the gun.”
Sid looks at the manual in his lap. He looks at the life support indicators. Even with Max dead, his safety margin would be razor-thin. After a moment, Sid laughs.
“Nah,” he says. “Go ahead.”
Max fires. His gun clicks unhappily.
“Ah,” Max says.
Sid says, firmly, “‘Fill gun with bullets before proceeding!'”
“I forgot the bullets,” Max says. He hesitates.
Sid gestures back into the cargo area.
“You’re not going to space me, are you?” Max asks.
Sid shakes his head.
Max goes back. Sid can hear him rustling around in the cargo. After a moment, Max calls, “Got them!”
“‘Insert bullets with Chibimaru facing owner!'” Sid calls back.
Max emerges from the back. He tries to load his gun. It makes further unhappy noises.
“I might need a Hello Kitty gun,” Max says.
“No,” Sid says. “‘Bullets compatible with all major guns.'”
“Hm,” Max says. “Possibly I’m just really bad at loading guns, then.”
He fiddles with it some more. There’s a click and a thunk. The bullet loads in.
“‘Fire with joyful spirit,'” Sid says. “‘If you hide the body in a pretty meadow, you’ll be happy all day!'”
“You’re taking this well,” Max says.
“One of us has to go,” Sid says. “Probably both, at this point. The margin’s kind of fine. So I’d rather . . . think of it as a Sanrio experience.”
Sid turns. For a moment, the world is frozen. All he can see is the face of a small white cat on a gray-bullet background, growing larger and larger.
Then the world stops.