Chapter 6
At the hotel suite Sandoor told us to change into white hospital uniforms. Sandoor insisted on wearing a stethoscope. He stared into a floor length mirror while he spoke and continued to add gel to his already shiny hair. I knew tonight there would be a bloodletting and yet I felt no dread, no fear.

Sandoor called all of us over into a huddle and distributed the voice network equipment for the job. Each of us received a packet with two small, sticky electronic blue and red kernels, each about the size of a piece of corn. The blue kernel was a speaker that was to be wedged behind the bottom row of our teeth. The other kernel was placed directly in the ear canal. As we stood huddled together, we whispered and gradually backed away from the circle as Sandoor adjusted the master control mechanism. Eventually we were all 100 feet apart. I could hear each person whispering one after another. Volume control was adjustable by our own voice commands. Slowly Sandoor started chanting and was quickly joined by the whole group: "We all win when we work as one. We all win when we work as one."

I didn't like voice networks. The last time I was on a voice network was in the army. Six of us were on a network including Sandoor and several guys operating the tank behind us. For hours I would walk, sweeping left, sweeping right, my arms aching from the weight of my sensor wand. There was a non-stop flow of chatter coming from the tank. All I wanted was to work in silence, but these guys would just tell one joke after another. One day we were jumped and ambushed by twenty Singaporean solidiers. Sandoor and I were circled and held at gunpoint while the Singaporeans disarmed the tank. The guys inside refused to exit the tank, so the Singaporeans torched it. Sandoor and I had to stand there in silence, listening in live, stereo detail to the baking of our buddies. My tongue was bleeding because I bit it so hard to keep from screaming. Afterwards the Singaporeans made us march for two days. Sandoor and I kept in contact by whispering through the network; we couldn't let them know we had the network because the Singaporeans didn't yet have voice networks. Luckily, our own team then ambushed us. The Singaporeans were captured, and Sandoor and I were returned to our own unit. But, I'll never forget listening to those poor guys bake in that tank.

We ordered room service.

"Swordfish steaks for everyone," Sandoor blurted out. "Two Eclairs each for dessert."

"Great," said Stinger. "We need to keep up our strength."

"Damn straight." All the boys had to pipe in.

"Swordfish steaks. Okay, this in my book is doin' big thangs. We are definitely doing big things big time I say."

"Damn tootin'. Say it like it fuckin' is, Stingy. Isn't he sayin' it like it is?"

"He's absafuckinlootely sayin' it like it is Sandammer."

"Makes me wanna hammer some bammer."

"Hammer some bammer!"

Freddy Savey was in charge of biochemical enhancers for the trip. He placed a rag over his arm, waiter like, and came up to us. "Gentlemen, I am your waiter tonight charged with providing biological enhancements to this special meal. For tonight's fare, the gentlemen would please be so kind as to select the chef's specialty of the house: As an appetizer we are serving Acustim, delicately seasoned for optimal nervous system performance. The main course for this evening is six milligrams of Topical Valium 5, scented with a combination of fragrances designed to leave you feeling exceedingly calm and smelling sweeter than Jasmine on a hot summer night."

I took one dose of each. Taking Acutstim without TV5 is hell. Forget it, I'll never make that mistake again. It's like driving on the freeway knowing you don't have any oil in your car. If you really want to move and groove, you gotta be oiled up to keep all your parts together. TV5 is first class mind lubrication.

"Don't drink anything when you swallow the little green bastard." Freddy reminded me. "You'll throw up."

"What a win-win when we all rush as one!"

Sandoor walked over and put his hand on my shoulder.

"Listen, I know this is all fucking new to you, partner. You're used to working back in the office. It might get a little rough tonight."

I grabbed Sandoor in a headlock and rolled him onto the floor. I almost knocked Freddy's Swordfish off his plate.

"Come on you assholes, knock it off." Freddy barked.

I gave Sandoor a pinch on his cheek and let him up.

"I still have an edge over you. It's those one-arm pushups."

Sandoor fixed his hair. One of the reasons I like to rough him up once in a while is because he hates it when people fuck with his hair.

"Hey," said Sandoor, "let's stop the fuckin' horseplay and review the plan. I swear to God you guys are a bunch of roughnecks."

"Rough riders," Custor Ray and Billibee chimed in.

"Whatever. The rough-housing is over from this moment forward."

"From this fuckin' moment until the here-to fastforward-after."

"Rewind yer mind."

"Fruitloop that to the back a the bus, Gus."

"Come on," said Sandoor. "I smell money. Let's get serious."

The boys started to sing: "Serious. Let's get serious."

"Stinger," Sandoor interrupted him as he was taking a bite of his second Éclair. "You know you're in charge of BFS."

"Bodily fluid salvation?" I asked, "You do that shit?"

"Damn straight we do."

Sandoor took a huge bite of his Swordfish and clugged down half a glass of wine.

"Why you wanna mess with all that shit?"

"I've always worked with a BFS man. Allways will. Why? Share prices do fluctuate. A rumor here, a rumor there can blow your whole deal. Trading in bodily fluids, now that's a hedge against unexpected market conditions. Even if share prices don't increase after a kill, I can sell the fluids for at least 50K per ounce. If I'm lucky, I might even double my profits."

Stinger nodded his head in agreement. "I worked two years at the best Singaporean flesh farm in the business. Next best thing to ownin' your own counterfeit press. Take my word for it. Big money in fluids. Organs are even better. When you can get 'em."

Sandoor put his glass of wine down and pointed his finger at me. "Think about it, Dicker-Ticker. When the cats in white lab coats discovered the real value of human blood and distilled the shit into IMMUNO 5, the whole world sat the fuck up out of bed and started listening."

Custor Ray started speaking with his mouth full. "They inject the shit in some sick muthafucka and the busta just bounces back."

"Shit," Freddy said. "I've had the stuff. Wakes you fuckin' up from the dead, man. I'm telling you the shit is zombie vitamin pills."

"Vodoo Hoodoo," said Stinger. "That's what it is. Suddenly healthy blood was worth...what...60,000 credits an ounce?"

"Not one goddamn person in the world donated blood anymore," I said.

"Donate? You mean people actually used to give away the shit?"

"Hell, my first big job was robbin' a blood bank."

"But there was no shootin' right? Hell no. Nobody shot nobody. Waste of inventory."

"It took the `bloody' out of bloody murder. Strangulation was in, guns were out."

"No more crimes of passion."

"Never get high on your own supply."

"Okay," said Freddy. "I'll admit I did some blood letting back in the day. I'm not too proud to admit it. More profitable than selling Yola Cola-that's for damn sure."

"No shit."

"Wow!" said Custor Ray. "You musta been ballin' out of control! You're talkin' some serious scrill."

"Damn straight. Kept me in pampers for a year."

"Sheeeet," added Sandoor. "And then they made blood banks into real fuckin' banks...high security, armed guards."

"I remember," I said. "Of course. They were mobbed and robbed overnight. Can you believe people used to give away their own blood?"

"Yeah, but that was back in the day."

"People, dudes, I remember my uncle even wrote the value of his blood into his will!" said Billibee.

"Everybody did that," said Sandoor. "The blood in the average Joe Blow turned into cash could feed a family of four for two years...two years! Shit, science made every last one of us into fuckin' walking, talking bank accounts."

"Every last healthy one of us that is," I added. "At first, I kinda liked knowing I was worth something. Made me feel rich, like wearing brand new synthetics. But, then I became paranoid at night."

"You're not shitting," Stinger said. "I still trip if I have to sleep in a room with a door that won't lock."

"You even do that?" said Freddy. "Shit, I'd never fuckin' sleep in a room without a lock. No fuckin' way. Out a the question."

"You're stupid, man, if you ever sleep without security. I'm glad you told me that. If I get hard up for cash, I'm gonna come creepin' by your bedroom and whack you as you dream." Stinger laughed.

"Fuck your shit," said Freddy. "I ain't afraid a ghouls like you. Ain't no vampire gonna mess with my business."

"If you don't keep your door locked," said Custor Ray, "you bedda believe some mutha's gonna try and mess. Shit, people is people."

"I can smell an anemic a mile a way," I said. "Poor fucks selling their blood to the highest bidder. A pint here, a pint there. Oops, I have to pay rent. Here's a pint."

"Lines of white faces everywhere chewin' on iron supplements till their kidneys and livers go. I seen the fucks."

"Hell, every corpse I ever saw since IMMUNO-5 came out was whiter than hospital sheets."

"Vampires are everywhere the fucks."

"Dudes," said Billibee. "Do you realize we are a lot more valuable dead than alive?"

"You sure are," said Freddy. "No question 'bout that."

"Fuck you. And the horse you road in on.I knew more than one dude who traded in a kidney or a lung to stay out of the poorhouse for another year."

"Remember when," I said, "thanks to the miracle of supply and demand, flesh farms started popping up around the globe?"

"First in Singapore, then they spread like a yeast infection all over the place."

"Right. Bioengineered babes bought for spare parts."

"The market is a funny thing," I said.

Sandoor had enough small talk. "Okay, listen up. Each of you's got a job to do. Lane, you watch the monitors. Keep your eyes peeled and just keep those stock reports coming. I want to hear about every tick that xOMA stock makes. I want minute by minute play-by-plays of the financial action coming down as the boys do their dirty work."

All I had to do was read out the stock price every five seconds as the boys did their work. Minute by minute play by plays of the financial action coming down as the boys did their dirty work. Hell, it's a known fact the minute a ten-percenter's life support gets shut off the damn city's share price rises. The exact minute! If there's one thing Macrohard taught the Nationstates to do well, it's to count its pennies. Minute by minute, penny by penny. But don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. If an employee suggests a constructive means of increasing profits, that employee will receive a bonus. Find a cheaper supplier of oxygen products, invent a faster diagnostic technique, find a short cut in a programming application; sure all this shit will save your company money and put credits in your back account. But serious investors like Sandoor found out a long time ago it's a lot easier to cut costs than to increase productivity.

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