BOOK TWO - BAAWL!
CHAPTER SEVEN - ANDROMEDA
The cabbie jerks a thumb towards the Mag station with a thumb… several blocks down the road. Broonzy looks round for a blunt object, finds none... he and Turpin begin to walk… as they begin walking under three hot suns, waiting hovercabs draw up their windows, the drivers ignoring their pleas. The Mag station is filthy - the transport rattles, as if about to explode or, simply, fall apart. Shar-ast-Baawl Station's even more rancid with graffitti and furtive stains… Broonzy and Turpin quickly depart the platform. Shar-ast-Baawl's a narrow block, passagewalk crowded with abandoned, junked hovercars, rotting produce and discarded furniture. Three heathers on the corner wink at the sailors. Boys, more jackalicious than humanoid, slither through shadows cast by the tall, decrepit buildings. Most storefronts are abandoned, save for a liquor store, a pawnshop (its flashing, sputtering green and blue neon sign, alternating "guns" and "money") and an apparantly untenanted church. Turpin points to a doorway beside a basement saloon without even a smidgen of neon, just a cheaply painted sign "Andromeda".
"So… the jim's down on his luck too!" Turpin sighs. "We gonna remind him of it?"
Broonzy shrugs. There's no front door, only shards of wood and plastic, intermittently spaced. They drag themselves up an indescribably filthy stairwell, turn a corner to find an iron gate and a buzzer, which Turp presses. The gate creaks open and they continue to the office at the top of the stairs and the manager... presumably Rateyes' aforementioned Gargareeva... a grotesquely obese creature with oozing sores and amphibian DBA. He wheezes an indifferent greeting. Turpin shows him Rateyes' card like a gambler laying down his ace.
"Friend of ours…" he insinuates.
"He no good, go you too," wheezes the hotel manager. Turp slaps at his unilator, but the creature's voice doesn't improve. "You look ba-roor, you two?"
"Rawth no!" Broonze protests. "We ain't junkies…"
An uplift and resettling of amphibian mucous that, Turp reckons, is Gargareeva's frown as the manager inquires... "Po leeis?"
"Jam the shurts!' Broonzy enthuses, pounding a fist on the hotelier's desk.
Gargareeva apparently finds this hilarious… or something… for he commences shaking like the proverbial bowl of jelly.
"Viz itt mann… five sol!" The manager's prehensile tongue curls around his lip with an almost lascivious intent.
"Five jammin' sols," Broonzy recoils, "just to visit some dook?"
"Doo Bee Die rulen!"
Turpin intercedes. "Hey, you know, we're really just lookin' for a place. Uh… you got vacancies here? We're snakers, licensed, got Guild cards. Just a couple of days, 'til we find a ship out?"
"Va kunt is! Eight sol. Four anna twenny week!" The manager waves one of the four large, warty fingers on his right hand at the sailors.
Broonze leans towards Turpin, whispering. "That's only four days, here…"
"Sailor's relief's forty nine…" Turp reminds him.
"For a four-day week," Broonze presses, "...or seven?"
"Dunno. Think we'll find anyplace cheaper than this? Get jammin' real. Look, man…"
The manager stabs his chest with one of the warty, sausagelike dactyls, proud but friendly, now at the prospect of money. "Gargareeva, I!"
"Yeah… we'll try it for a week, Gargo," Turpin hurries, before the manager can change his mind. "Four days, right? Like… is there a security deposit?"
Gargareeva takes Turpin's solcard, swipes it and claps like a big, excited, mucousy child. "Four anna twenny. Bake inna pie!"
He slides the solcard back across the desk, reaches over his head and removes two old fashioned keycards from the wall, slapping them on the counter.
"Six anna thirteen you!" Gargareeva mutters, pointing at Turpin. "Eight anna nozzin' one you!"
"Hey, hey man," Turpin objects, "I didn't mean… didn't even think I had forty eight sols left. I meant for one room, two of us. Look, it's ok if one of us sleeps in a chair, even the floor. We can't hack forty eight sols… gotta eat, you know?"
Gargareeva glares at them with an ineffable, impossible aged contempt. "Four anna twenny, you two. No sphahare room, be gum-gum mon'! Twelf a eachen!. Six anna thirteen, eight nozzin' one. Four anna twenny sols…"
"B-but…" Turpin stutters, confused.
Beneath the desk and below Gargareeva's line of vision, Broonze kicks Turpin on the knee. The toadlike manager slides two grimy towels under the glass, a welcome... of sorts... so Turpin picks up his keycard. It's greasy, almost repulsively liquid to the touch.
"Be tolls. Be fresh ment…"
The manager points to an ancient, dirty vending machine covered with insects... dead and alive. Turpin gulps, then follows Broonzy up the stairs.
Al, here again... Al, from down the hall. Did eight solyears in the Andromeda, like serving time, going on to nine. Gargareeva was here years before me, like maybe half the people there, Old Believers mostly. Doobydie makes it hell on the old-timers but where are we gonna go…terra, or one of 'em retirement colonies underground on mars? Rawth! Lucky to afford a room without a view on one of the jovian moons. The younger one of them sailors comin' up the stairs an' onto the hall now, shame about him. But it's the life of the transients. At least he got a place of 'is own with a view, plenty of provision an' the light… more'n me. Tell you a little more about 'im, now, an' th'other... fine piece o' rawth as happened to him! Here they come, now...