Money is the only thing that matters. But nobody can really agree on what it even is any more. With almost every major company issuing its own proprietary currency in order to force artificial loyalty amongst its customers, the headaches associated with keeping track of money are more numerous and more intense than ever before. Want to know what your various currency units are worth? Sorry, but algorithmic High Frequency Trading (of both currencies and companies) makes prices so volatile that picking up a plastic cup of watery coffee from a grimy vending machine could cost five times what it did when you ordered it 30 seconds ago.  Want to use a competing currency to pay for a company’s services or products? Okay, but the additional fee for that conversion could land you in stupendous debt.

It’s all designed that way deliberately, of course.  Profits in currency exchange alone account for trillions of whatever unit you may care to select. And the harder it is for a customer to understand what their money is worth, the easier it is to extort them.

There are countless practical issues involved in this system, but one of the main everyday ones is the physicality and process of payment. With cash itself more or less a thing of the past outside the most marginal and embattled fringes of the galaxy, and barter strongly discouraged through strictly-enforced resale prohibition clauses on almost anything you can name, currency chips have taken hold as the de facto means of exchanging payment.  And, of course, every company currency requires its own proprietary token to store money/balances (sometimes more than one). While it’s not an identical technology, it’s broadly analogous to NFC/RFID as used in the 21st century for contactless payment. But you have to have the right one for the right purchase.

In some other pictures, you may have noticed the gun-like thing dangling from Thom’s belt. That’s not a gun (giving Thom an actual gun is a stupendously bad idea, for all kinds of obvious reasons) it’s just where he keeps all his currency chips. Biometrically keyed to his DNA and double-locked with paralinguistic intention-scanning (so that it can only open if he wants it to open), it’s his wallet, and thus the single most valuable thing he owns.

Accordingly, he keeps it close. And, when the need and the opportunity coincide, he audits his currency chips, to try and figure out some kind of idea of how he’s going to get through the next few days.