Mike went to film school, has been a radio disc jockey and a dot com prospector. He has built a nuclear submarine and isn’t allowed to give blood because of that one time with the cow brains out of a vending machine in Europe. He keeps an anvil in his garage and four different currencies in his wallet. Just in case. He haunts Twitter and really needs to get back to blogging again. Payments was originally published in the inaugural Boskone Flash Fiction Slam in 2014.
For the good cybernetic tech, you went to Miami, Tokyo or Cape Town. For last year’s models, you went to Bucharest, Lagos or Rio. The scrappers just getting by, we went to Brisbane.
A few blocks off the river, behind the bright tourist façade, I shuffled through the streets. My coat soaked the heat up like a sponge, but hid my malfunctioning arm from view. I feared it was still obvious to anyone that looked my way. A tall man leaned in a nearby doorway. I shied away from his gaze.
“I think I’ve got what you’re looking for,” he said.
I stopped. I stood straight and tried to look tough and aloof. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Stray voltage sparked across my interface. Circuits misfired and muscle linkages convulsed. My arm wretched my shoulder muscles out from my body. The servos in my hand sent sparks out of my coat sleeve onto the pavement.
“Sure you don’t,” the man said. “Come on then.” He faded into the dim interior.
I hesitated, cursing the bad timing of my left arm. The man was right, though. I was sure he knew exactly what I needed and could not hide. My feet carried me in after him. The door read “M. Jedinak, Cybernetic Consultant.” The letters were faded and worn, barely scratches in the door.
Jedinak stood, with the same lean, against a diagnostic chair. The room was dim, but clean, so I relaxed a little. Plastic and titanium body parts were boxed on shelves or spread out on worktables.
I took off my coat. That damned cybernetic arm was twitching below my flesh bicep. I hesitated again. “I need it fixed. For work. I hurt it on the oil rig. They don’t know I’m here. I’ll lose my job if they find out.”
Jedinak leaned in close, studying my arm. “It’s thrashed,” he said.
“It’s not cheap.”
“How much do you have?”
With my good hand, I unstrapped a money belt and shook out a pile of hard currency. Vietnamese dong, Russian rubles and dollars from six countries splayed out on the closest worktable. I heard the whir of his cyber eye servos. Jedinak counted it up, his circuits were doing math.
He shook his head.
“Please.” My arm misfired again. The sparks were bright in the dim room. “It’s my livelihood.”
Jedinak eyed me up and down. “We’ll work something out.”
I settled into the diagnostic chair. My busted arm was restrained, then my good arm was. I looked up to Jedinak, confused. He belted down my feet.
“What are you doing?”
Jedinak tied down my waist.
I struggled to move. My breathing came in gasps. I shook my head from side to side but he held it down. The diagnostic chair’s clamps bit down on my scalp.
“Come on man, there’s no need for this. I- I can get more money.”
“You’d have it with you if you could.” Jedinak picked up a scalpel.
“I know a shelia that needs a new eye. She’s rich and violet is just her color.”
Pain ripped through my nerves when the scalpel bit into my cheek, but I could not move to stop it.
“Quiet,” Jedinak said. “You’ll get your new arm. You don’t need two eyes to go to work.”