â€œI need to find a man.â€
Jahobie Muranme let out a huge, cracked-tooth grin at the dark fellow across the table from her. â€œThereâ€™s Long Trousersâ€™ down the street. Betcha you could finâ€™ some hunk to brokeback with â€˜fore the night is over.â€ Jahobie slung her right arm-the real one, without the blades-behind the back of her chair and clinked the ice in her glass suggestively. The dark manâ€™s expression did not change.
â€œVery droll. That must be endlessly useful in your line of work. I am looking for this man.â€ The dark man slid a black sheet of plastic on the dirty table, and tapped it twice. A three-dimensional image of a manâ€™s head hovered above the table. Jahobie took mental notes; defined brow, set jaw. Nose had been broken twice before.
â€œâ€™E got a name?â€
The dark man tapped the plastic again and the head dissipated. He rolled the sheet up and pushed it across the table toward Jahobie. â€œAs far as youâ€™re concerned, no. He is #6.â€
â€œThat make you #1?â€
â€œNot in the slightest. Bring this man to me, by whatever means necessary.â€
â€œWhatevaâ€™ means, eh? You care iffin heâ€™s alive?â€
A bemused half-smile slunk out from behind the dark manâ€™s blank expression. â€œNot particularly, no. He is not going to be very willing to come back with you, so I imagine lethal force will be necessary. Which is why we are giving you this, in the event of #6â€™s demise.â€ The dark man hefted a large steel cylinder on the table by the handle on itâ€™s top. It gleamed in the dim light, out of place in a dingy bar like this.
â€œSimple cryogenic canister, not much more than a can of liquid nitrogen, really. But it should suffice. Donâ€™t bother bringing back the body; we only require the head.â€
â€œYes. The body is meaningless.â€
â€œWhutâ€™s in the head?â€
â€œYou do not need to know.â€
Johobie crossed her arms, the steel blades on her left arm facing out. â€œUnless itâ€™s something thatâ€™ll fall out, or heâ€™ll remove â€˜fore I get there, and then I get a bum kick for me troubles. No, sir, this ainâ€™t amateur night. Whatâ€™s in the head?â€
â€œInformation. As long as you freeze the head within an hour of death, we will be able to extract enough of his mental state to graft it onto another living being. Obviously, something smaller and more docile. Current vote is a terrier, but I am of the opinion that a six-year-old girl might be more preferable. Terriers, after all, still have teeth.â€
â€œYeah â€™spose they do.â€ The clear joy the manâ€™s face radiated when discussed the fate of this â€œ#6â€ made Jahobie squirm. She had wanted the see some other expression on the manâ€™s face sent they met, but now that she saw it… She was almost relieved to see the man regain his composure as he removed a black card and placed it on Jahobieâ€™s side of the table.
â€œThis card contains half of what we promised. Once we have #6, you shall receive another. I shall leave the canister with you.â€
Jahobie pocketed the card and the rolled-up holo-sheet. She was surprised that the dark man did not get up when she did. â€œQueer business you got going here, you donâ€™t mind me saying.â€
â€œI am afraid I would have to care a great deal more in order to mind. Remember, it is not your head that we are paying you for.â€