I sold Larry Robfort enough Narcoplex to tranquilize a walrus but I could tell there was something else he wanted. It was quarter to seven in the morning and the two of us were crammed into the bathroom at the Pickled Puffin, that extra-jurisdictional outpost of depravity and cheap booze that sat on the lunar surface fifty metres above Avalon Station.
“Listen, Jayna,” he said. “I gotta ask you something.” He started to undo his pants. “As my doctor.”
“Christ, Robfort,” I said. “Make an appointment.”
But he was already committed. He dropped his drawers and closed his eyes. “Does my bird look alright?”
“This how you treat all the girls?”
The desperation in his voice got the better of me and I knelt down for a closer look. What hung between his legs looked normal and I was about to tell him so when an alarm sounded in my ear.
“Do your pants up,” I said. Robfort flinched. “Belinda’s calling. Don’t forget my fee.”
He tapped at a keyboard only he could see and a second later I got a little richer. The shiver of victory at carving off a few more hours of my indentured Lunar servitude didn’t last long before Belinda appeared in the tiny bathroom between us. One hundred and ninety centimetres of woven-steel Quebecois female, Belinda wore her shoulder-to-ankle fitted grey dress the way a hunter carries a freshly slaughtered deer. The smoke that spiralled from the tip of her long cigarillo floated in way smoke doesn’t on the moon. Judging by the way Robfort was standing at attention, Belinda had chosen to project herself into his AR lenses too.
“Thirteen miners have called in sick this morning,” she said. “I hope Mr. Robfort isn’t one of them.”
“He was complaining of an upset stomach,” I said. “Figured I’d check him out over a pub breakfast.”
Robfort looked over at me as we waited the four seconds for our message to reach Belinda and the four seconds it would take her response to reach us.
“Have I not made it clear that what you do with your free time is of no interest to me, Dr. Patel? We’re paying thirteen miners double time to fill in for those who called in sick. Chung Fat does not like to see its profits wasted away on petty illness. See that these men are back at work tomorrow.”
She touched something on a desk we couldn’t see and disappeared. For some reason, the AR decided to let the illusory cigarillo smoke linger.