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  1. Jon Kilgannon
    The soul of a place is written in its architecture. New Boston looked like it had been dropped from orbit by a fumble-fingered god, and its fractured soul cast a shadow over the life of Kevin Yamamoto. Yamamoto was an impressario of the artform known as violence; the conductor of his symphony of fists was Allison Van Zandt, an "independent security contractor." Van Zandt called at 3 AM Christmas morning, her frowning face large in the videophone.

    "Well, Kevin," she said, "I have a job for you..."

  2. Eric Furrow
    "...I want you to kill Santa Claus."

    Yamamoto looked at her blearily with his one remaining eye. "I did that already. The fat bastard refused to give me a Red Ryder BB gun. I showed him."

    Van Zandt closed her eyes in obvious pain. "Please don't tell me that story of how you killed your father again. No, this 'Santa' is Mr. Clause, the new New Earth governor. When he was governor of New New York York, he gave 'gifts' of jail time to all the criminals. Now NNYY is a hotbed of peace, prosperity, and happiness. Frankly, it makes me sick. So, he has to die before he can shut down my profitable..."

  3. Matt Smith
    "...Venezuelan Beaver Cheese operation. Beaver Cheese has been the #1 vice of choice for over twenty years, that and NPR. I want you to infiltrate along with one of my other agents: Agent Agent."

    "No! I work alone! Another guy will ruin my luck."

    "You'll work with my agent or die!"

    "OK." I couldn't argue. It was already late, and I had to get her a...

  4. Donna Ulan
    ...Jiggly-Puff. She had wanted one very much since she saw it fight. It suffocated its opponent by just sitting on it and smiling. The smile was deadly.

    It might be just the thing to take the Claus out. The Pokemon would take the fall! The kids would revolt! Anarchy would reign! Ah, the beauty of it! I got out of bed to go...

  5. Joe Foering
    ...but I digress.

    I ran down the hall towards the fire escape. I hadn't a moment to lose.

    "Not so fast," said a voice. "You owe me something, don't you, Mr. Tomato?"

    "Yamamoto," I replied. "It's Yamamoto, Mrs. Clavin. And don't worry, I'll have your rent ready just as soon as Amazon.genom.com squeezes my latest penny dreadful through the server."

    "Oh, I never worry, Mr. Yamaha, especially since I know you're aware what happened to the last tenant..."

  6. Mark Sachs
    ...giggled kindly old Mrs. Clavin, bouncing poor Decker's head in one hand.

    "Says you," I replied snappily as I leapt out the window, momentarily forgetting that the building didn't have a fire escape. Good old Mrs. Clavin, always concerned for her tenants' welfare. I bounced lightly off the hood of a Ford Festiva and crunched to a halt on a grimy, snow-covered sidewalk. Recovering with practiced ease, I joined the teeming multitudes and vanished into New Boston's crowds. Anonymous. Faceless.

    "Hey! Yamamoto!"

  7. Tom McMullan
    "I 'tawt I told you to be out of town by sundown yesterday."

    "Hi, Bugsy," I said, noting he didn't have his gorillas with him. Then I slugged him. A quick once-over and I had his keystrip and a 200 credit chip. His cherry-red Corveghini was a bit conspicuous, but it would be easy to find, or so I thought...

  8. Mike Ryan
    Unfortunately, I lost him in an unexpected St. Patrick's Day parade. I was about to sit back and enjoy the parade when a voice called out, "Hey, Yamamoto!"

    I looked around in panic when Matthew Broderick pulled off his costume and said, "It's me, Agent. Agent Agent." Quelling my initial panic, I looked around for an escape route. Not finding much help there, I pulled out...

  9. Megan Jeffries
    ...a shamrock! I handed it to Agent Agent. Fortunately Santa Clause was standing behind Agent Agent. We simply told the crowd the Santa shut off the beer supply for the next year. The crowd trampled Santa into a lifeless glop of holiday cheer.

  10. Jon Kilgannon
    "Well," I said, "that was easy."

    "I was told you were good, Yamamoto," Agent said, "but I had no idea how good."

    I buffed my fingernails on the front of my armored trenchcoat. I was about to congratulate Agent Agent on his perceptiveness when the phone built into my left eye rang.

    "Hey, Yamamoto," Ms. Van Zandt said, her sultry Scottish burr causing my vision to blur like the ink on a counterfeit twenty, "I have another job for you..."

  11. Joe Foering
    "...and this time I'll pay you."

    "A likely story, Van Zandt. Pull the other one!"

    "No, really. You'll get 500 a day, plus expenses."

    "Hmm. Okay, I'm interested. What's the job?"

    "Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to take down the government of --"

    "Hold it, Van Zandt! I'm not taking down any nations, commonwealths, or principalities. It's in my contract."

    "Funny you should mention the word 'contract,' Yamamoto," chirped in Agent Agent... er... Agent. "I've been in contract with a source of mine, and the word on the street is..."

  12. Mark Sachs
    "...'amphibious,'" Agent Agent finished, gazing at me penetratingly. "What's the story, Yamamoto?"

    "Uh..." I shifted awkwardly.

    "Yeah, Yamamoto," Van Zandt's voice spoke like the soft kiss at the end of a steel fist. "What are you so upset about all of a sudden?" Her voice hardened.

    Suddenly everything was going very wrong.

    "Crap," I realized. I pulled my twin .78s.

    Agent Agent's head exploded like a cheap party balloon.

    I ran, the still-smoking guns in my hands...

  13. Jon Kilgannon
    ...and ducked into a Chevy gunship emblazoned with the friendly radiation trefoil symbol of Amazon/Genom Books. The driver arced ahead of my fist out the window of the gunship and into the wall of a Heroin Hut. I tossed Bugsy's credit chip onto the driver's chest to pay for a new jaw and peeled out towards the city limits.

    Amphibious. Van Zandt had been using Agent to send me a message, I realized as I ran over a baby carriage full of tin cans, that I had overstepped my authority by refusing a job. Had I protested further, I suspected, Van Zandt would have ordered Agent Agent to kill me.

    While the Chevy's five horsepower engine dragged it up a shallow hill leading out of New Boston, I pondered where I would go now that I could no longer live in the rat-infested city I loved. Perhaps I would go see what my old buddy Peter was up to in Cleveland.

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