'Figheart. Lucy Figheart is all I've got. Been a bit quiet of late. If you come back after the full moons, maybe more choice then. Not for no reason I says 'Brace yourself, Dakster, the full moons are comin'. It's a full identity, nuthin special to single her out for attention like. Available to go now, if you're in an 'urry.'
'And where is she? This Lucy Figert? What guarantee do I have she won't want her identity back at some point?'
Dakster stares for a moment at the space drub standing at his booth window then grins at her, leaning over the ancient, scad-worn surface of the counter. ' 'Cos she's in me freezer, out back. Wanna see?'
Piatina wonders if she says yes, will she also end up in a freezer out back but the need to know her new identity is rock-solid outweighs her caution and so she nods.
Dakster raises an eyebrow and indicates to a small door to one side of his booth, then he pulls down the vertical shutter, Pia hears the click as it locks into place. He opens the door from the inside and she follows him through into the gloomy interior.
From the market alleyway the booth had appeared to be a small box stuffed in among the larger stalls of Brace One's Provisions Market, a sprawling jumble of traders and shops spreading the best part of a quadrant. You could buy anything and everything at Provisions, even a dead man's toenails, if you needed them, or so the bar keep had said last night. Pia's brain is still a bit foggy from a combination of the Miner's Mead and the broken air-conditioning in the cheap sleep-pod the bar keep had also recommended and she stumbles slightly down the long corridor she finds herself in. Every few meters, dark doorways and corridors branch off, a warren of interconnected buildings behind the market alleys. In order to keep up with Dakster, Pia needs to almost run, making it hard to remember the number of doorways and rooms they pass through until they reach a glass atrium, the roof opening out under a moon-filled sky. The market had been easy to find, Dakster, much more difficult. It had cost her nearly seven thousand scads to track an ID-seller down.
'So who did yer say knew me?' Dakster stops abruptly and looms over Piatina. In the moonlight she can clealy see the fine tracery of silver-worm across his bare arms, he had clearly worked the mines at some point.
'I didn't. I paid to find you.' Pia draws herself up to her full height.
'Loose tongues in this town, it ain't good to be so easy to find.' Dakster has the sudden feeling this woman is no space drub, despite the clothes. 'What did yer say yer name is?'
' I didn't. And you ain't...aren't easy to find.'
'I'll be needing a name.'
'I'm hoping it will be Lucy Figert.' Pia pulls out a stack of scads and Dakster sizes her up for a moment. 'You ain't from Brace One and you ain't no space drub.'
'No and no. But I want to be from here and be able to leave here as a space drub so where is this Lucy?' Pia glances around the atrium, lined with an assortment of large hazmat tanks, bio-cages and cryo-freezers, all of which hold an assortment of bodies.
Dakster grudgingly admits this small woman in front of him has some guts, most people rattle with fear at the thought of it when they see his identity farm but she was holding her ground and giving him attitude.
'This is her.' Dakster taps a bio-cage nearby where Pia can just about make out a body held inside the opaque smart-gel.
'Is she still alive?'
'Yeah. Hey, I ain't no body-hacker! She's there till she pays back her debts in full.' Dakster calls up her information on an old computer. 'She has unpaid gambling debts, to the tune of... three hundred thousand scads. Habit like that'll put you on ice. No one to pay for her, no family or the like, so the casino bought her to me. Shame really. She'll be there for a long time.'
'And you'll sell her identity to me?'
'Yeah. It pays her debt, after I've had me cut, obs.'
Pia can feel her stomach sink.
'I can't afford three hundred thousand.' To her surprise Dakster laughs at her and she can see the silver-worm pulse through his skin at the sound.
'No one can afford it! You pay in instalments. You rent her identity from me an' each time you pay, you get to be her a bit longer. Gives you time to find the scads see. '
'I rent her identity? What happens if I can't pay any more?'
'Then our rental agreement ends and all your documents digitally fry and you'll be your old self again.'
'How do I know you won't just fry me out early and sell her identity again?'
'Because my client isn't in the freezer, my client is the casino and they expect the debt to be paid discreetly in full. And I ain't stupid enough to mess with the coiners. Once it's paid then you can be Lucy for ever.' Dakster's tone turns businesslike. 'Now, yer need a down payment of three months, that's fifteen thousand scads and then you become a whole new person.'
Pia weighs up this information for a moment or two. Three months was probably long enough to disappear for good from the Five Galaxies. Dakster takes her pause to mean she is wavering.
'This is a good deal, a body-hacker'll sell you a dead ID but you''ll be forever wonderin' where those body parts went. Who'll pick up what on a body scan where. All it takes is an iris scan for a new front door by some forgetful eye implanter an' you is fried good an' proper. I was expensive to find for a reason, I'm very good at what I do.'
'Who are the Coiners?'
'The coiners? They aren't a person. Round 'ere, that's slang for the casinos. Owned by a conglomerate of old pioneer families. Original miners who bough scad-shares for a prospectors claim. They were bought out by Brace Industries and then turned those scadillions into the casinos.'
'So I'll be owned by the coiners until the debt is paid in full?'
'No, I'm renting from them, ye're sub-letting from me.'
Another thought occurs to Pia. 'So once the debts paid what happens to her?' She points at the bio-cage.
'Either I invent a brand new identity for 'er or the coiners 'ave her. Sometimes it's the principle of the debt, if yer don't got it, yer don't go spendin' to the moons an' back. Either way, it won't affect you and the coiners won't be interested in you, the debt stops with me, how I pay it is my business.'
Pia stares around the atrium again. 'And you do all the identity documents?'
'I have 'em all ready to go. All I need is yer three month down payment now.'
'How do I get out of here?'
Dakster snorts impatiently. 'Like I said, I ain't no body-hacker. Are yer buyin'?'
Pia places a triple-stack of scads carefully by the computer. Dakster nods and raises an eyebrow again, she was a cool customer indeed. He was convinced a minute ago she would walk. He glances at the stack and smiles to himself. He could trace her previous movements with those five thousand scad stacks. He'd find out who this woman was and just what she was running from. Space drubs don't pay with digi-stacks, every Bracer knows that.
After the contract is signed, Dakster shows Pia to a door on the far side of the atrium. As she steps through she blinks in the bright light of the moons falling directly over her. Behind her, the door turns back into a solid digi-wall advertising the local casino and she finds she is in a busy main thoroughfare of the market. She glances at the identity card in her hand and reads the name out loud. 'Lucy Figheart, not Figert.' She shakes her head and checks the time. A flight to the outer edge of the Third Galaxy leaves in an hour. Just time to get a digi-billet organised.
Next chapter soon...
Next chapter soon...