BOOK THREE - 613!
CHAPTER NINE - SNAKERS’ RELIEF
Snaker’s Relief on Doobydie does not lay out a free breakfasat buffet. The office is even more depressing than the Guild hall, if such thing be possible… but at least there are nutrient cubes and caffa, held between Broonzy’s shaky hands while Turpin lifts another of the small, square gray biscuits to his mouth chewing painfully.”
“This stuff jams!”
“Get what you pay for.” Broonzy drinks, sighs, drains the rest of his cup and, after looking about to see that nobody’s watching, misdirects his mate while he quickly pours another cup, “See that place over on the corner from Baawl…” he points at the bare, gray wall, “complete breakfast with unlimited caffa. Soon as we get our payouts…” he promises…
Turpin looks down at his ticket, 31, as a voice calls out "28!".
“If you'd gotten me up an hour earlier, we could've been out of here! That hyde here before, says they were taking one sixes at the Guild… one jammin' sixes!”
“Meth transport. Rawth'll kill you!”
“Don't wanna live forever!” Broonze looks down at the floor. “Might take a few years off my life, but those'll be the last years. Name of the game here is out! I do not like this planet. Do not like this system. Jam doobydie and everybody on it…”
A disembodied voice calls out "29?" Twice, then "30?". A morose hyde… aspects of basset hound and sloth… stands up, careens through the room towards the door, disappears. Finally "31!" Broonzy gulps the remainder of his caffa, Turpin pockets a handful of the tough survival biscuits, shrugs. A door opens and a white shirted bureaucrat leads them back to a closed office, in which a different thin lady bureaucrat, very starched and with the aspects of a pterodactyl, or heinously starved quottle, is examining their applications… she lays the paper down, looks from one to the other and back…
“Ordinary snaker Braxton Broonze? And you would be…”
“Turpin, ma'am.” He extends a hand, still glistening with crumbs of the survival bar… a fibrous square of protein, vitamins and other sustainables that emerged from some Regency laboratory; she stares at it distastefully, and he pulls it back.
The reptilian welfare lady coughs, discreetly, into a closed fist. “Both you boys off the Aegelweiss, a transport for Qamlah Trading Company? That’s a reputable firm – they pay scale and offer programs. Why aren't you signed on for the return voyage?”
“Uh… ma'am…” Broonzy wheedles, “there was a little problem with the spaceport.” Under her gaze, he squirms. “They, uh, condemned the bird…”
“But it wasn’t your fault,” the bureaucrat prompts him. “Was it?”
“Ours?” Broonzy pretends surprise, even a little outrage. “Nie, ma'am! We ran a clean ship. It was…” and then, rather than explain, he rubs thumb and index finger together…
“Have you a letter from your captain… Munson, I believe… absolving you of any legal culpability for the condemnation?”
This seems beyond Broonzy’s comprehension, so Turpin tests his luck, “Well we… it's coming, but might take awhile, he found another job. Courier…”
“Fortunate for him.” The Sreef lady attempts a smile; it’s a horrible smirk, with her tongue darting between her fangs… teeth, Turp reminds himself. Definitely reptilian – and not just a little. “Not for you. Under these circumstances, all that we can offer is the one-time emergency loan. Twenty five sols a week, four weeks maximum, Minturian. We send a notice to the Guild and they debit you after you find a job.” And then she opens the top drawer of her desk, removes two solcards… stamped in an unpleasant, welfare plaid… validates them with a portal connected to her qube, connected to an ancient, groaning com and passes them across the desk. “These self-renew at oh eight hundred, three times. We don't give out full amounts anymore - you’ll get vouchers for passport tickets if they assign you off-planet… some sailors abuse our relief by drinking or gambling their loans up all at once. But you're not the sort to do that…”
As if, Turpin tells himself. There’ll be barely enough left for a single meal a day after the rent to Gargareeva’s paid… at least the Sreef uses Minturian time, otherwise they’d be sleeping outside, under the corrosive air.
“Nie, ma'am…” Broonzy smiles back at the lady and Turpin nods his assent. “Nie, ma’am!” Like a pair of parrots, both answer in unison.