I could see about fifty nude bodies, scattered through the warehouse, lying on gurneys, and covered in wires, tubes, and electrodes. Winding my way through the maze, I looked for the gurney numbers. A white-smocked technician in the middle of the operation ignored me and banged a portable machine with his fist. The whole room, the size of a basketball court, pinged and jingled like a huge arcade machine.
Suki was number 13.
I found her gurney and then shouted up at a guy on a catwalk, riding a desk. He spied me and nodded, and then tapped a few buttons on a console. Suki’s gurney hummed and bleeped. Her small, naked body seemed protean, unmade. She looked very skinny—very dead. Which she was. She’d committed legal suicide two years ago; it was all the rage, even in Vancouver. The Feds called it Dormancy but everyone else called it Deadland. So, now she looked like a test-tube zombie. Anemic, with dark, skid-mark brows. Roughly shaved head with chestnut coloured fuzz. Pert nose, small mouth sucking on a big tube. But it was better than final suicide. Which I guess was the point.
The floor technician moved to the gurney and tapped a keyboard, causing graph levels on a screen to rise and fall. Suki jerked, rattled, and moaned. This lasted about three minutes, during which I checked the messages on my pocket pod—business was business. But no one had any private investigation gigs for me; just a few insults. Also, one holo greeting from my bank manager, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, sticking up a foot tall from my pod, smiling and bowing. He could have been a real Hawaiian leprechaun, standing in my hand, they were making holos so life-like now. But my bank balance was still just a ghost.
I watched Suki’s bare chest and small breasts rising and falling. Then the techie pulled out the mouth hose and Suki threw up or spit up—I couldn’t tell which. Her breath sucked in and out, eyes still closed. A long whine rippled from her throat.
The techie injected something into one of her intravenous tubes and she screamed in pain and rattled some more. He pulled open her eyes and squirted fluid in them, then wiped her face and nose. He jotted down some figures as Suki groaned and panted. Her dark, filmy eyes blinked open and roamed. Finally, she settled on me. Her face contorted and she gurgled, which I took to be interrogative.
I said, “It’s me, Gabe. They’re reviving you. And they’re kicking you out.”
The lady behind the desk had great facial art. Like whorled sea-waves. Very Japanese—the waves. (I didn’t use tattoos; my scars were my art.) Her name was Person Carroll. Very professional—young, but confident. Bored, but hiding it well. A huge window overlooked the bustle of the eastern half of Burrard Inlet from twenty stories up.
“You were Suki Hannah, age twenty-eight at time of suicide,” said Person Carroll. “Your maximum term hasn’t been completed. You signed on for five years.”
Suki fidgeted in a two-piece black leather jacket and pants, that accentuated her skinniness. She rasped, “I didn’t want you to chop my hair off.” Her vocal cords hadn’t returned to normal yet.
“Noted. And this person—Mister Gabriel Sam—is your contact.”
“Yes,” growled Suki.
“No next of kin.”
I’d known Suki since we were kids. I worked for her father as an investigator until he and his wife exed in an auto accident. But two years ago, Suki had gone crackers when her husband left her for another woman. He’d also taken most of Suki’s assets and disappeared, but not before dropping a divorce on her through their pre-nup.
“I see we have revived you early,” said Person Carroll, “for refusal of payment. Your payments stopped months ago.”
“What happened to my money?” moaned Suki. “It was my account.”
“I’ll find out,” I said.
“There’s one other problem,” said Person Carol, apologetically. “Given your debt to the Federal Government, any and all of your assets have been frozen. Including your current persona, and your retinal scans.”
“Girl of a bitch!” said Suki.
I said, “Are you blanking her?”
“We don’t use that term. We’re holding her persona until payment is made. That’s standard. All bank accounts, government services, known identity numbers, and her retinal scans will be frozen, including the right to her name, for official purposes.”
“How much does she owe?”