She made a face when Beth held out some money. "Put those Angels back, dear. The treats are on me this time."
It was nearly closing time when Beth rolled up in front of her repair shop, but the lights were still on, and she could hear her prote'ge' arguing with someone inside.
"You heard me, kid," the customer thundered, "I don't want any of those stinking Phoenix notes. Give me my change in L.A. Angels or I swear to God I'll torch this place!"
Beth grabbed the scones and opened the door.
"Elspeth!" Peter said, surprised.
The customer wheeled to face her. "Where the hell have you been? I came to pick up my cultivator and this idiot here tried to make change with defective money." He waved the notes at her and slammed them on the counter. "These!"
Beth put her bag down and glanced at the contested money. They were the colorful Phoenix notes that she'd gotten from some customers passing through on their way to the coast. "Look, Frank," she said, "if you're happier with money starring dead actors and designed by a convicted counterfeiter, fine. I think I've got enough here to cover your change. But please, don't take your anger out on Peter. He is the one who repaired your John Deere knock-off, after all."
Frank snatched the bills out of her hand and glared angrily at the teenager. "Fine. But don't expect me to come back any time soon. Next time I need something fixed, I'll take it to an American patriot, not some goddam Indian scam artist!"
Peter winced at the remark, but held his peace as Frank stormed out into the night. When he turned to look at Beth, she was grinning happily and offering him a scone. "Thanks," he said, taking it. "You were gone a long time. Did you run into some kind of trouble in Lingman?"
She nodded, and picked up one of the Phoenix notes that Frank had refused. "It was worth it, though. Before that jerk made off with my bike, he told me about a scheme he'd heard about for keeping money in circulation. Of course, from his perspective, that was a horrible thing to do, because his kind would rather hoard it. But I do know why the background pattern on these things faded."
"Mmm-hmm. The cagey folks in Phoenix printed their money with a number of different ink blends, each one crafted to fade after a different period of time. According to Rosset, as each component of the design fades, the exchange value drops."
Peter touched the faded screening beside the heavily saturated phoenix design. "By how much?"
"That was the last bit he heard about before the big telecoms went bust and their networks shut down. These bills have already lost ten percent of their value. When the phoenix loses its tail, they'll fall to three-quarters of the face value, and so on."
Peter touched the printed phoenix's tail and checked for ink marks. "Clever. But what's the point?"
"When you're paid with this kind of money, what you're supposed to do is take it to the bank. They exchange it for fresh, unfaded bills. The ones that are turned in are then stripped and reprinted for the next go-round. So the only people who need to worry are the ones who sit on their cash instead of spending it, and you can tell who they are because the money gives them away."
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