Usually, it’s easy to hate the customers. Usually, the risk in these dangerous situations is much more on Thom’s side. Usually, his job involves doing something seemingly crazy, like trying to seal a puncture in a hull from outside a decompressing spacecraft as debris spews out of the opening at bullet-like velocities and the venting atmosphere blows away the PHOME before it can set. This is–again, usually–accompanied by an equivalent volume of verbal shrapnel coming through his helmet speaker from the impatient customer, who is safely in lockdown elsewhere on their ship.

Usually, it’s easy to hate the customers.

It’s somewhat more difficult, though, when you accidentally kill them. It becomes even more difficult when the customer in question seems reasonable, unassuming, and just rightfully concerned that the firmware update in their vascometrics package is somehow causing the billions of infinitesimal sensors in their blood to resonate and circulate painfully in time with one of the rhythmic but normally-imperceptible phase shifts of their ship’s FTL relays.

It’s more difficult still when Thom is forced to discover, on reaching the relay chamber where the customer is now incapacited, that REZQ have not paid for the full license for his “universal” vascometrics factory reset tool, and thus it is not compatible with the data format of the customer’s vascometrics sensors.

It becomes nigh-on impossible to maintain that skein of disdain for the demanding customer as the resonance feeds back and feeds back, the customer’s eyes start to bleed, and their shouting becomes incoherent–while Thom is frantically trying to purchase an ad-hoc temporary license with his phone, but cannot get a connection to the licensing server. And when, as the customer’s head bursts like an egg in a microwave, showering warm gore over everything in a thirty-seven metre radius, Thom is still watching the little circle spin round and round on his now-blood-spattered phone screen, until the payment finally goes through.

Not so easy to hate the customer in that situation.


If there’s one positive to take from this, it’s that, while this won’t look good on his record, and will probably attract a financial penalty, it probably won’t endanger Thom’s job much more than any other “minor” infraction. The customer–or rather, the deceased–was only a Basic Plan subscriber, with no meaningful service-level element to their agreement with REZQ. REZQ could, in fact, have some salvage stake on their vessel to cover outstanding subscription fees. And, because of occurrences like this, the basic REZQ subscriber agreement waives any right (as such “rights” still exist) for next-of-kin to bring legal action against the company for indirectly causing death by negligence. Indeed, the opportunity not to waive this is a feature of the higher-cost, higher-level subscriptions–the calculation by REZQ’s AI-driven pricing engine being that, if REZQ employees perform to an adequate baseline, the revenue from the higher price will usually offset any necessary negligence payouts.

Knowing that the company won’t feel more than the loss of a low-paying subscriber probably won’t do much to salve the dull, guilty ache that Thom feels: both for being unable to save the customer in time, and for experiencing a surge of blind anger when he realised that he had paid for a temporary vascometrics data format license he could now not use.