Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The room is spartan, the bed a blanket-draped exofoam block that has had body contours carved out with a spoon, by the look of it. The kitchen area is a kettle, five kilos of Nutri-Slush, half a kilo of Vita-Soy and six litres of blue market water.

Jenniser stops in the doorway and puts her hands on her hips: “Good Gates, what a pit.”

I grin as I roll our client over, dropping him unceremoniously from bed onto our medilounger. There is a hum as the contour foam rearranges itself.

“Another Olympus Rated client, Jenn. Realspace squalor, lattice prince.”

“Why don’t these uber-latticers spend a little on their dens?”

“Because realspace is somewhere they’d like to be rid of. Be thankful. Without that particular psychoquirk, we’d be out in the shanties drinking gruel and working for notes. Full care means the latticers never have to come back more than absolutely necessary. We are part of the ultimate concierge service.”

She shakes her head as she places and activates an external skull, connects it deftly, fails over the neural load from client head to spare head, then lifts the surprisingly clean mop of hair.

Her smile turns rueful: “He’s still running a Rezo Brainboard. How long has he been here?”

I consult my inhead and it runs info to my left eye, so I can see clearly to prep for a liveswap of a long-obsolete headboard.

“Looks like he probably got the Rezo from a corpse, scraped off as much of the former owner as he could, then had an offline docdroid do the fitting. Got lucky with infections and rejections. Proper ‘poor kid makes good’ movie tale.”

She barks a laugh: “We better not accidentally kill him, then. Can’t have the audience weeping.”

An hour later, Jenn fails back the neural load, and ‘Peter Smith’ is back running live from his own head. As we clear up, the door opens and two slim figures enter.

Jenn grins at the twins: “Should’ve guessed that he’d be one of yours. He looks like a slob but is as clean as a baby.”

Chako grins as Suki cuts a half-bow: “We are very good at what we do. Honouring our creators’ memories every day.”

I don’t understand parents who chose to selfclone for kids. But Chako and Suki were saved by their creators dying early-on in an aircar accident, so they’ve grown up as binary individuals rather than shadows.

‘Peter’ twitches and I raise the medilounger so we can flop him back onto his bed – after Suki has straightened his blankets.

“His new headboard needs to be watched for a week to ensure any complications are dealt with promptly. Nothing unusual, the standard bodyware care kit has everything you might need.”

They nod in unison. Suki steeples her fingers: “He will be safe in our arms.”

That line and move could go into a psychohorror vid and win awards. I conceal my shudder and catch Jenn’s eye. From the intensity of her stare, she’s sharing my creeped-out moment.

Someone tried to break into the ’lance while we were working. The access panels have been smashed, while the sentry gun has fired a burst and used a defence charge – which explains the body. The hapless accomplice tries to stop the turret turning while the seasoned crook has a go at the locks. We get to mop up a lot of hapless accomplices.

Jenn sighs: “I was going to suggest coffee and noodles. Now I’m thinking fancy vodka and chocolate desserts.”

I nod. Some days demand indulgence in their aftermath.

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