“Five more minutes,” I demanded, and the Faceless Man nodded. “It’ll cost ya,” his voice came from nowhere. And everywhere.
“Ten seconds of attention.”
Attention was one of the highest currencies. If the time was taken from your account at the wrong moment, you might blink and miss an ID scan or turn your head and get clipped by a teenager taking the family flitter out for a spin.
“That’s a lot.”
“You know my prices rise every time you come to me for more.”
I couldn’t help it. Like everyone else in the Belt I was tired, hungry, and chilly all the time, even though I had a cushy office job and wasn’t actually running the water makers or mining ore.
“Maybe you should buy five degrees of heat instead. It’ll only cost you two breaths and being warm might alleviate your other… problem.”
Tempting. It was tempting. But I needed the dream-time with my lover out on patrol duty beyond the Rim more than I needed to be warm.
“I’ll pay your price,” I said. “Five full minutes.”
“Have I ever stiffed you?”
“No. No, you haven’t.”
“Alright then. Your hand?”
I put my hand in the cold machine and felt the prick of the needles. Two of them. One to give me what I wanted and one to fulfill my payment. “Thank you.”
I pushed the com-set away and rolled over in bed. Five more minutes of sleep and happy dreams.
I never noticed that the elevator car wasn’t there when the doors opened.
I never knew that’s how the Faceless were created.
The next time I used a com-set, I’d be the one with all the time in the world.
Written for Brief #21 of Like the Prose 2021: Fantasy