Owning an unusable gun gave me the itch to own a usable one. Being in my early twenties and also being a barely functioning addict of several substances I found this to be difficult but possible.
The gun itself was a simple magnetic projectile device and came with a solid block that could produce 100 slugs.
I was picked up inside an hour, the motes having reported me to Constancy.
The sheriffs who brought me in laughed all the way back to the station, telling me that the gun would be back on the streets the next day.
Another gullible fool would follow me into the mines.
Joes' Neuro and Optosurgery Shack was, by common consent, the best in the Ship. Belying the North Pole style name it was actually on the shallow part of the South Pole end-cap.
Normally I could never afford even an eye colour change here, let alone the extensive implants I had in mid.
"So what exactly did you have in mind Mr. Stone?" the reception functionary sneered.
To be fair, I had stopped at a couple of pubs along the way and had spilled some of a doner kebab on myself.
If I hadn't shown the receptionist my bank credit as soon as I walked through the door I would have been back out on the street.
"I need a full implant suite replacing my burned out one. High bandwidth system interface. The usual optical memory storage with ten year contract for offsite backup. Neurotransmitter optimisations. Full checkup of my cognitive amplification net."
The receptionist smirked.
"If the net were damaged you would have come in here on all fours chattering mindlessly. Do you really think that with brains the size of ours we would have any higher cognitive functions at all without the CAN?"
"Just check it"
My mind had just been raped by Constancy and yet I was about to re-install the tools it used to control us.
After a short time in induced anaesthesia I woke to find the surgeon sitting next to me.
"The operation was a success," he said. showing me a handful of glittering metal. My dead implants.
"Except for this," he said.
A graphic of a brain, represented in pale grey lines appeared. The image slowly rotated and zoomed in toward what I knew to be the hippocampus.
At the top of the structure was a spiky white shape.
"One of your dead implants Mr. Stone. Perhaps better to say 'inert'."
"Why didn't you take it out?"
"Didn't dare to. Look."
The image rotated and zoomed again to show, embossed in the side of the implant a heavily curlicued letter "C".
After a perfunctory appearance in front of a judge to meet the letter of the law I found myself in those horrible, pointless mines.
By common consent there was no reason to use people there except to punish them.
Repairbots would dig an initial shallow bay, dam it off from the sea and drain the water from behind it.
In the narrow, dark, wet and stinking space we were set to work with picks, crude cranes, platforms on rollers and a whole range of other ancient tools.
It was clear to all of us that the basalt blocks we mined, used for construction of later dams, were just a byproduct of the misery and intense level of violence in the mining camps.
"What the hell is that? How did Constancy get it into my head?"
I was filled with horror and rage at what I was seeing. Constancy could track and read me with its' motes. It didn't need macroscopic objects in my brain.
"It was already in your head. I think Constancy re-purposed one of your existing implants. You recently suffered a Constancy generated EMP, yes? Took out your old implants?"
I nodded, still speechless.
"Constancy used a focused, high powered EMP to change this implant into a crude tracking device and then signed it."
I left, not knowing whether to to be angrier with the neurosurgeon or Constancy. As I walked through the door he said, "Spallation radiation will cause cancers eventually. Get regular scans."
With that I snapped. By the time the sheriffs pacified me I had caused C150,000 worth of damage.
The mines were the hardest work I ever did. The physical aspect of digging and transporting the blocks was hard enough.
The constant awareness required to do this without injury drained the spirit.
We were camped out in the stinking water at the bottom of the hole, the huge dam of green veined basalt casting a shadow over us.
"The seas are temperature buffers mainly. They reduce the need for frequent retunings of the sun."
I looked over at the speaker, vaguely interested that someone could talk about something other than food or work or who was going to get it that night.
"They are also reservoirs of life. Other than ourselves, land-based life could disappear with no real impact on the ship-wide ecosystem."
That foul water contained a multitude of anaerobic bacteria in every drop.
Life occupies all niches. Life in water has more and more varied niches that land based life. Microscopic life does anyway.
I spent another night in the cells and only avoided a trip to the mines by liberally spraying money around.
I ended up with just a few hundred credits left.
I tried hard to look on the bright side. I had a shiny new set of implants and was out of debt.
On the down side one of those implants was a Constancy bug.
I found an AA meeting near the clinic and went in after a few pulls on a bottle of Moment of Clarity whisky. Great name, terrible whisky.
After the meeting I left, determined to get sober and find Neil.