Chapter 18

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I used a terminal in the lab to locate the Pet-med near the Education Centre.

Partridge was bustling between her bench, the mechweld and what looked to be an isolation chamber of some kind. The chamber appeared to have risen out of the benchtop beside the mechweld. She barely noticed me enter.

I called up the details on the Pet-med. There weren't that many on Melchi Prime, which was a reflection on the number of pets that were allowed on the station. Having a pet on an orbital station was expensive, more expensive than having a child. Water and air was a precious commodity on station, and many people felt that it was foolish to share them with animals. Others argued that animals had a humanising effect and were good for children to grow up with. The government response was typical - you can do it, but it will cost you.

Dr Tar Rivera was the veterinarian at this Pet-med. I hesitated to call up his details, in case security was monitoring him while one of their principals had a pet there. There was an image of him attached to the details of the surgery. He looked to be around the same age as I was. Strong jawline, deep brown eyes, dark hair. He looked handsome, polished, confident. Bit short, though.

I considered using my Sanitation ID to set up a fake government inspection, but after my experience with Anjus, I wasn't keen to engage with another list of variables.

I loaded up on the yellow-tips and began training as I considered my options.

Setting up a fake inspection would make things easier for me when I arrived at the surgery, but would also provide another possible avenue of investigation. Sec-ops would have the same belief in coincidences that I did - none at all. A second query into a seemingly-inconsequential event surrounding the principals would trigger interest. It would also give them a window of a few hours to act, should Dr Rivera raise a fuss.

Armed with my Sanitation ID, I could probably make an unannounced visit and push my way into the surgery to conduct a spot audit. I had no idea if these were a common occurrence, and I presumed that they would be highly regulated and follow set procedures. I would have to rely upon my ability to bluff or browbeat Rivera into cooperation. The benefit was that I would not be providing warning of my actions, or time to prepare a response.

Simply killing Rivera for access to Fluffles was out of the question. Security wouldn't miss the significance of that.

As I removed the empty shells from my revolver, I checked my target. To my astonishment, I had hit centre with every shot while I was puzzling through my problem. I hadn't hit dead centre, but the shots were all in the circle. My hands were tingling, but nothing more than that.

I took it as an omen that I had to stop over-thinking the permutations of my plan. I would go into the Pet-med without warning and rely upon my ID and my ability to talk my way in.


***

I trained until midday, alternating between yellow- and green-tip cartridges. The combination of practice, exercise and Partridge's injections was definitely helping me to improve.

Partridge called me over to her bench to take me through the items she had prepared for me.

"This is the palm patch that you requested. It is a synth-skin patch that contains the palm print and biology from your crystal. It will remain effective for up to one month, after which you can use this solvent to remove it. Let me know if you need a dress."

Ha ha. But I did not correct her assumption that I would be the one using the patch. The biology from the crystal was obviously female, but I still wanted Partridge kept in the dark as much as possible. "Thank you."

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