The party members assemble for their last breakfast for a while before heading their separate ways.
Taeva gives Autumn a shopping list of items for the ship to order while everyone is away together with the cash to buy it.
Max keys over some money to her as well. “We couldn’t have run the Princess wivvout yer, darling, so I’m givin’ you half a share out of mine. Here’s 50k so you can buy some new shoes and stuff.”
“That’s very kind of you Max,” Autumn replies. “But you’re still not getting in my pants.”
“No worries, darlin’,” Max replies with a shrug.
Everyone says their farewells and, with the exception of Max, agree to meet back up on the ship on 080. Then they head off in their different directions.
“Hello, is that the Rassendyll Academy of Blades?” says Taeva into her commo. “I’d like to make a booking starting today for the next four weeks.”
Still not used to this complicated InterWeb thing, Jie does things the old-fashioned way – taking a grav/tube to the grimier levels of startown to start networking through the dive bars.
Will and Max head off together.
The New You facility on Glisten was indeed impressive. Will paused for a moment before entering the gleaming building located in the poshest part of Glisten City. Well, he thought, the bastards could certainly afford such a place with the prices they charge. Prices that he had heard were about to increase ten-fold. He thanked his lucky stars for that Rain-check coupon Grim had given him from the Collace branch.
He pranced up the steps to the glasteel doors and entered the metal and stone lobby. “Wow, this looks like real marble,” he thought, pausing briefly to drop to his hands and knees and press his magnifier to his eye to check that hypothesis. “This must have cost a fortune.”
His investigation of the floor was interrupted by a prim but attractive receptionist who peered over her expensive wooden desk to address him.
“Excuse me sir. May I help you?”
“Oh, yes, pardon me,” Will mumbled as he stood. The receptionist’s obvious disdain made him want to wipe the dust from the knees of his new casual gel/cloth suit. Instead he straightened the pocket protector in his sweater vest, realigning the errant green pen that never seemed to stay put. “Maybe Grim can adjust the clip on this damn thing,” he thought. “Or I could have Jie break it right off.”
The receptionist was still standing and still expecting an answer to her query.
“Ah, right,” he said firmly. “I am William Shaunnessy. I have an appointment with Dr Bright at 14h00.”
“Thank you Sir. One moment.” The receptionist waved her perfectly manicured fingers over a keyboard. “Yes Mr Shaunnessy, they’re expecting you. Please take elevator 2 to the third floor where you’ll be directed to Finance. They’ll send you on to decontam from there. Welcome to New You, where we can help even the most disabled to a new life!”
Will did as he was told, emerging into a lavish wood-panelled lobby on the 3rd floor. A holographic FINANCE floated above the receptionist’s desk, behind which sat an equally prim, but even more attractive, young woman. To the right, partially concealed by a potted plant, stood a business-suited man. Will’s new knowledge of these things ID’d the man as a guard. “What on earth do they need a guard for,” he wondered.
Will approached the desk and introduced himself.
“Welcome Mr Shaunnessy. I see that you are scheduled for cybernetic physical enhancement, specifically our Flying Fingers dexterity upgrade.” She smiled somewhat condescendingly Will thought. “You’ll be dancing the light fantastic in no time I’m sure,” she added. “Please have a seat and Ms Goldstein will be with you shortly to discuss financing options.”
Will sat in one of the over-stuffed armchairs and eyed the real paper magazines on the table. Not seeing either Imperial Planetology or the New Glisten Journal of Medicine, he picked up an issue of Sophonts and noted it was dated 114-1103. The cover bore a bikini-clad vargr woman modelling what the headline said was the latest weightloss craze. Another headline caught his attention: “Cybernetic Catastrophes: Meet 8 Women with Enhancement Horror Stories, and the Scars to Prove It!”
He dropped the unopened magazine back on the table.
“Mr Shaunnessy, I’m Rachel Goldstein,” said a husky voice in his ear. Turning, he beheld a stunning brunette, probably about 30 years of age. “Please come with me,” she purred and led him to an office that smelled of expensive perfume and leather.
“Now, I’m sure you understand that we must discuss payment prior to proceeding with your enhancement. I believe Dr Bright informed you of our various payment options. We have something suitable for all economic situations. At New You we believe everyone can be made better—and should be.”
“Well, I actually have cash,” Will mumbled as his eyes locked on her tantalizing charms.
“Enhancements indeed!” he thought.
“Oh, why pay so much now,” Rachel murmured. “Surely you have other needs and wants that could be satisfied—especially with your new Flying Fingers? Our finance options allow payment over up to 32 Imperial standard years, at very reasonable interest rates. Collateral is minimal. I see here that you are the owner of a starship.”
“Tiny minority owner,” Will corrected. “I just want to pay ca…”
“Oh, it must be so exciting to travel the ‘verse,” Rachel enthused. “Surely your shipmates would appreciate some new equipment. I see here that you’re the ship’s surgeon. Medical emergencies in space must be so exciting—and dangerous. Our Medtech subsidiary has some wondrous new advances in auto-doc technology that would surely benefit any starship crew. Why think only of yourself at times like this. There’s so much you can do for your friends.”
“Look,” said William, a little harder than he intended. “I have analysed your payment options, and, I might add, had our ship’s excellent financial expert look them over. Frankly, they’re highway robbery.” No longer charmed by Rachel’s obvious talents, Will prepared to launch into the indignant negotiator speech Max had prepared for him.
“Well, no need to get angry Mr Shaunnessy,” said Rachel, no trace of huskiness left in her squeaky voice. “Please key over 100,000 credits and verify with a retinal scan and DNA sample.”
She thrust a datapad at him and brusquely hustled him back to the elevator.
“I obviously won’t bother to ask if you are interested in our extended warranty package,” she huffed as the elevator doors closed.
From there, things went better for Will. On the 4th floor he went through decontamination. Oddly the receptionist instructed the orderly that “the full Brazilian was required for this one”. Bald and shivering, he was wheeled up to the 6th floor (the floating hologram said “Enhancement Surgery”) where he was efficiently prepped for surgery by less attractive but talented nurses, including two vargr orderlies who brooked no delay when he giggled as their pointy claws tickled his hairless skin.
Dr Bright paid him a last visit before the anaesthetic was administered, assuring him that everything looked perfect.
Strapped to a gurney (“Strapped! What the hell!”), he heard Dr Bright say “Penile Enhancement Wing” just as he drifted off.
He dreamed of Rachel…
And woke to the grizzled whiskers of the vargr orderly mere millimetres from his eyes.
“Wakey, wakey Mr Shaunnessy,” growled the gleaming white fangs. “You’re in Recovery and your operation was a complete success. Just rest and Dr Bright will be in to see you shortly. Try not to pee.”
Will groped for his crotch, terrified (but strangely fascinated) by what he might find. He quickly realized that his hands were densely bandaged and nothing felt different elsewhere.
Hearing a whoop of joy, he turned his head. Lying in the next bed was Max, obviously just recovering from his own surgery.
“Come ‘ave a look at this beauty!” Max shouted, lifting his sheets.
“I thought that, while they were working on me anyway, they might as well give me a new todger,” he grins. “So I ordered the ShagMeister Chunky DeLuxe XL. Can’t wait to try this baby out.”
“So what else did you get?”