"You want to be a target?" the EXITS man asked.
She was a lovely woman, young looking of course, but not really young, since she was seeking the services of EXITS. She had a mischievous smile. Her hair was auburn, and curly, cut short, her skin fair, her eyes blue with a mischievous twinkle that didn't completely mask the world-weariness there.
Not petite, she was full figured, but not uncomfortably so -- firm, bold breasts, not overly large, a comfortable waist, not one of the wasp waists some opted for, good hips. Her legs were well shaped, her feet -- her feet were delicate. Obviously strong and fit, she was dressed in a loose shift made of a fabric that shimmered and shifted, the pattern like waves on the ocean, a shade of green that he'd seen in the waters off a tropical beach, flirting with transparency, but never quite revealing the intimate parts.
She was a tease.
"A target?" He knew he'd heard right, but where to go from there with the interview was a challenge. Something told him she was not going to make this easy.
He decided to come at it obliquely. "Your name is Erato?"
"May I call you 'Rat?'" he asked.
She pursed her lips, made a face, and shook her head. "No."
"My apologies, Erato. You did come here to make an Exit." He didn't really make it a question. Why else would she be here?
This was beginning to feel like a game as old as time itself, Twenty Questions. He resisted the urge to ask if it was bigger than a breadbox, whatever that was. He had her information in front of him, of course, and he looked for clues there. She was a master chess player, a champion at word games, a devotee of riddles, a mother of two, a long time ago, and was a member of a shooting club. Shooting what, he wondered.
He decided to take a shot himself. "You want to be a moving target?"
She shook her head. "No. I don't want to be that hard to hit."
"And what do you want to be hit with? Something lethal, I assume, since you're here. I can easily arrange a firing squad for you."
He sighed. "Perhaps you could elaborate, I do have a busy schedule this afternoon -- two hangings, one electrocution, a decapitation..."
"I have some friends, members of my shooting club, who have one fantasy they've never been able to indulge, and I want to help them fulfill it. They want to shoot at, and kill, a live target -- specifically a person. But the one crime still on the books is murder, defined as killing a person against their will. Correct?"
He nodded. To steal someone's immortality was the worst crime imaginable.
"And what's the penalty?" she asked.
He cleared his throat. "To be confined, and protected..."
"Forever," she finished for him. "With no way out, prevented from ever dying by accident or design."
He nodded. No Exit. To someone who had already lived a century or two, knowing that it could never end, that would be the ultimate penalty.
"So, there's no way we would risk committing murder, but they want the experience of killing someone. So, I'm offering myself as their victim."
"That's -- very generous of you."
"Not really, it is my pleasure. I'm ready to make my Exit. If I present myself as their target, through your service, it is not murder. I've done my research."
"We have arranged hunts, on occasion, if that's what you want."
"Oh, we're not hunters. We only shoot targets, paper targets, usually, but we want something different, a new experience."
"Ingenious. But, you said 'friends.' You can only die once. How many friends are we talking about? One shot could kill you."
"Could, but won't, unless I'm very unlucky," she admitted. "We use small caliber target rifles firing low-velocity, copper jacketed projectiles that don't mushroom and make a large hole. I'm strong, and fit. I should survive a number of shots, especially if they avoid vital areas. They are very good shots.
"I want each of them to shoot me, more than once, in such a way that each can feel in the end that he or she contributed to my death. If I'm still alive when they've fired all their rounds, they can draw straws to see who gets to perform the coup de grace."
"What about the pain?"
"I've experienced pain. Hasn't everyone?" she said musingly. "Sooner or later, when there's nothing else to try, we all experiment with it. For a while I got off on it. I have a very high pain threshold. If need be there are painkillers. I wouldn't want to block all pain, but would like to have it dulled enough that I won't go into shock or faint. Stimulants can be administered to keep me responsive as long as possible, if necessary, but it shouldn't be. I'm very fit."
He was making notes.
"I have this image of me tied spread-eagle while they shoot me."
"Nude, I assume." He was on familiar ground again. Everyone these days, it seemed, wanted to die nude.
"Of course. And before the festivities begin, between rounds, and even after, for all I'll care, they can have access to my body for their pleasure, and mine."
"Of course. And how soon do you want to do this?"
"How long will it take you to set it up?" she asked.
He queried his desk, but didn't get a satisfactory answer. It was an unusual request, and certain aspects would have to be cleared with Citybrain.
"Give me a deadline. I work well under deadlines," he answered. "It focuses my attention."
"Deadline. I like that term. Say, one month?"
"You will hear from me before the month is out. Oh, one more thing. Would you like an audience?"
"Yes, but I was thinking we'd have to use our usual firing range. It's rather confining. Is there an outdoor stadium available? I'd like to be outdoors! With lots of spectators."
He smiled at her. "I'll see what can be arranged."
He knew just the venue, if it was available.
"Very good. In a month, then," she said as she rose, her dress swirling around her, flashing tantalizing glimpses of her well toned body.
"Less than a month, I hope." Her handshake was warm, and surprisingly strong. She was very fit. He had the feeling her Exit might take a long time. He found the thought of her absorbing a number of bullets to be quite arousing -- one of the perks of this job.
Erato couldn't remember the last time she'd been this excited. For the first time in a century she had something new and exciting to look forward to in her life -- the end of her life, and what an end!
Her hands were sweating, her heart was racing, her knees shaking.
But she wasn't excited because she was going to die today. Well, yes, there was that. What would come after? Choirs of angels? Nothingness? Even after all these centuries it was still the final mystery.
But that wasn't what had her heart racing. It was the way it would happen -- slowly and painfully, with lots of people eager to watch. In the front of her mind was the fear that somehow she'd mess this up. How much would the bullets hurt? What if she wasn't able to take the pain? She hoped she wouldn't faint and mess up the whole thing.
She wasn't worried about her team of killers. They were all excellent shots. Oh, it was possible a bullet might glance off a rib and pierce her heart, but that was unlikely.
Where would they aim first?
How long would it take?
She was incredibly horny in spite of the romp she'd just had with her escorts.
So she stood here, in the cool of the locker room, trembling, the composite floor cold under her bare feet. She welcome the support of two of her closest friends, fellow club-members, men she'd shared her bed with so many times; sometimes, with her, as they called it, "on a spit" with one cock in her mouth, the other in her cunt, or ass. Sometimes she'd been the meat in their sandwich.
They, and the rest of the club, would have her again, for the last time, during her Exit, before they killed her. She hoped they would enjoy the novelty as much as she would.
Now they were at the entrance to the tunnel that led out into blinding sunlight. Was that like the tunnel and the light it was said she'd see as she died? And what lay beyond?
"Let's do it," she said, taking the muscular arms of Aeres and Pythos.
She loved the feel, the contrast, between the cool locker room and the way the air off the sun-baked court embraced her naked body. She felt more alive at this moment than she'd felt in years.
The man from EXITS had done well. A tennis court used for major championships was the perfect setting for her Exit. A larger stadium -- say, a soccer pitch -- would have put the spectators at too great a distance. Here the people court-side would be close enough to hear her gasps, her grunts, perhaps the smacks as the rounds struck. A modest pair of binoculars would be enough to let people in the back rows see every bullet strike.
They emerged from the tunnel at the end of the court. Centered against the rail separating empty seats from the court as a block of white material, a foot thick and ten feet on a side. It would easily stop a bullet, and show any blood splatter. Three feet in front of that -- so she'd be accessible to her killers to play with, front and rear -- were two stanchions, fifteen feet apart to avoid any chance of ricochets, with bindings to hold her wrists and ankles.
Underfoot was white fabric to catch her blood. She'd watched the leeches Exit, and seen how effective it had been to watch the woman's blood as it drained on to the lounge's white upholstery.
She would be less than sixty feet from the firing line. At that range even an unskilled marksman could easily hit his chosen target, and her fellow club members, three men and three women, were very skilled.
It would not be a quick and painless Exit. Each shooter would fire in rotation, with an interval for rest and recreation with her between rotations. Her head and neck were off limits. Her hope was she'd still be alive after the last round from the target rifles. A lottery would then determine who administered the coup de grace, a shot between the eyes from a pistol at point-blank range.
Four club members, wearing mid-thigh-length tunics with the club logo, were talking quietly by the umpire's chair. Aeres and Pythos would complete the squad. She didn't know about the others, but Aeres and Pythos were wearing only tunics. They'd made sure she knew that back in the locker room, and the evidence was oozing down her thighs.
Erato was surprised and pleased by the applause that greeted her, and acknowledged it with a nod of her head. The stands were filled, cameras set for The Feed. A novel Exit always drew an audience. Vendors were hawking refreshments.