The room slid open. As I stumbled in, bags of cartons of nutrients and clothes under my arms, the phone rang. I stumbled forwards hurriedly, collided with the table on which stood my ringing phone, and fell over. My head ank into the rich, pluch carpet and the phone stopped ringing.

I grumbled as I got back to my feet, absently calling for the door to close, and walked across the apartment. A marble counter jutted out of the wall there, covered in fancy sinks and taps and with a fabulous Micron whatshitmacallit that I'd never even touched. I dumped my shopping there and moved back to the phone.

This wasn't how I'd seen bounty huntering; all my life I'd imagined visiting far of worlds, meeting beautifull and interesting people, killing them, and getting rich. Sooner or later I'd probably stumble over a planet where a mysterious virus had but recently wiped out all the men on that planet, leaving only the women desperate to mate with anything that walked.

Instead I brought my shopping from Fly n' Go, barely had time to eat it, and was doing more paper work in a night than I had ever thought a bounty hunter would do in a year.

I slid off my helmet and dumped it on the carpet. It sank in like a cream coloured lead weight. My neck cricked as the vertebrate loosened from each other. I threw my gauntlets down too, and the smell of stale sweat was quickly invading the perfumed air of the room.

And I had a fantastic apartment that I hardly ever saw.

"Phone, replay the last message, please."

The phone- which responded whether I said please or not- lit up. The tapestry that hung across the length of the wall began to slide ypwards. The wall behind it was black, glassy and lit up with black and white snow.

"Please dont be a job, please dont be a job," I muttered to myself. I paced back to the counter and began to place the shopping into the cupboards. If you're wondering then they looked like pot noodles, were cheaper and, if you can believe it, were even less apetising.

"Hey, Jim. Recognise me?"

The voice was foriegn to me. Glancing up, I found the face of an alien species on the TV. It was more or less human, save for the blue skin. It was sat on the back seat of a car, leaning down to the camera. Through the back window flashed the dizzying, dazzilling metropolis of Mevon City.

It was breathing hard. A line of sweat dribbled down its face and dropped off screen.

"Well, I'm hoping you're not recognising me over there 'cos it cost a hell of a lot for this." It gestured with a hand at the face. "Its the-man-you-talked-to-last-night. We had to make a...err...tactical retreat from base camp."-he winked- "The police became a little interested in a bit of merchandise we were selling. I'll call you when I get somewhere safer. Dont try to ring back. Tracers. Bye."

He buzzed out.

Carlos. He was my fathers friend. He'd gotten himself in trouble again and was doing another attempt to flee the planet under the disguise of a bit of plastic surgery. It would never work; by morning, his face would be all over the papers.

"Phone. Do I have any other calls?"

A red light bleeped under the surface of the phone. "You have no new messagers, Jim."

"Good. Is there anything on TV tonight, phone?"

The red light flashed out. A green one replaced it"You have one mision request, Jim."

"I'm sure phone but-"

"One mission request, Jim."

"Quite frankly, phone, I dont give a shit."

"One mission request, Jim." it sang.

When it got an idea in its little electronic brain it never let go. I threw a beer bottle at itand it tumbled off the floor, still shouting its messagers into the floor, green light flashing incesantly.