Author : Julian Miles, Featured Writer

I looked down at the riph on my wrist, remembering the days when phone, watch, PDA, wallet, cash, cards and ID were separate items.

Then I realised that I was late for my meeting, hadn’t got Susie a present and I was watching the rain melt a pigeon that wasn’t quick enough on the patio outside the penthouse. I flicked my wrist and the holographic display rose to confront me with everything. I waved the dailies into oblivion unread and poked the action tab, then requested an espresso while the queued diamond twirled rapidly, meaning I had only a short wait.

The aging robo had just whined my coffee to me when the diamond flashed and a charming, husky voice caressed my ears.

“Operator. How can Ri– Oh, hello Vince. How can I help today?”

I smiled. Shannon was my favourite operator, and of late she seemed to be online all the time.

“Hi Shannon. I need to get across town in under thirty, need to get Susie a medium value birthday present, plus it’s raining acid and lime outside.”

A throaty chuckle came from the riph, then stopped suddenly. The silence was curiously eerie. A minute or so passed.

“Vince, a Chariot repulsorlift will be at the residence’s enviro-gated pickup point in nine minutes. I have cleared routing for you to Jackson Holdings; you will arrive four minutes early. Susie’s present is unnecessary.”

I stared at the device.

“Shannon, how and what was that last item?”

“Jackson Holdings. You’ve been there frequently and I see from your legal feeds that you have received approval for your buyout. Priority routing is easy when my brother is section head at Police Headquarters and having a quiet day.”

“Seattle girl accused of abusing sibling bond for rich client.”

I smiled as I said it and her laughter sent tingles up my spine.


“Sorry, Vince. As you bought her a service upgrade, I have her riph status up as part of your ambient.”

Her voice had gone quiet. I waited as déjà vu visited.

“It’s in paramour monitor mode. Sorry Vince. I really am.”

Susie had always been a bit too fond of my credit rating. Now my suspicions were confirmed. Not again.

“Shannon, can you downgrade her and give me a refund?”

“Yes Vince. Shall I action a breach of nuptial exclusivity salvage for you?”

I paused. That meant Susie and I were over before the nuptial bit really began. Then again, she was in bed with a paying customer right now.

“Do it. Authorisation to debit granted.”

“Done Vince. Full recoup except for the Thunderbirds tickets. They are ID bound and non refundable.”

Damn. The Thunderbirds were about to contest promotion rights with the Winterhawks. The winners got to play in the Mars Leagues. I had been looking forward to the game for months. A whole box, full hospitality, the works. I had been intending to propose properly to Susie at the end of the game.

Then I had a crazy idea.

“Are they transferrable?”

“Yes Vince. Providing you retain one.”

I activated a routine of questionable legality on my riph. It came back instantly.

“Vince, did I mistakenly detect a non-warranty persona query app?”

I smiled. This girl was good.

“No idea what you’re talking about, Shannon. Now please extend the usual invite, collection time and privacy moderation requests to Miss S. Carleton of Ravenna.”

“No problem Vince, I’m sure she’ll be thril-“

The eerie silence returned as she finally assimilated the invitee information. I found myself grinning like an idiot.

“See you at five, Miss Carleton.”

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