It doesn’t happen that afternoon but, after another Minturian week has flown by – another trip to the Quottledrome, another “tip”, another win… Turp and Broonzy wait, this time, waiting and watching for Rateyes to meet his connection before laying down their own bets, small enough not to attract attention… another payout of four soys and drizzit to Gargareeva, four more nights at Klub Ras-al-Gool, four more dark nights of Guns, Money and Walter knocking at Bahrbra’s door and Al with his door open, staring out into the hall of the Andromeda… a circuit round the construction sites and rawthpits and pawnshops where snakers’ and maintenance gear can be had – cheap – and, finally, another transport out of Die… a battered hovervan that smells like it has been used for transporting carcasses to the meatpackers in some prior life…

Neither Turp nor Broonzy careless enough to ask about the disposition of the Chevette

Anyway, after all the rawth and cool twilights on the stoop of the Andromeda in the bad air with Quaia and a couple of heathers she knows… sometimes Marina, picking at the scabs that cover her new, badly etched tats… after all that, they’ve ventured out onto the desert highway and Junkyard Tony’s Emporium once more and, after inspecting the boner, Tony’s own trailer and his family of knafesArgy and Bargy, Victoria, Phil…

“I follow the antedispersal royals,” explains the grimy junkman, laying another dead soldier to rest.  “So gorl me…”

Rateyes, Broonzy, Turpin and Tony have been gorling a case of Minturian Extra Ale in the filthy, crowded trailer.  The four knafes have been slurping their rations… dogs with near-human faces, but plenty of something extra in them, Turpin worries, maybe alligator… slurping ale, they’ve been, from a common, wooden trough that the junkyard lord has set out for them.  Tony is tired after a long day, with plenty to drink now, but it’s lonesome in the junkyard, and the talk just streams from his lips in low, guttural ejaculations, like barking, almost.

“…now, you got a collector or something… likes to keep old starships in his back yard for the kids to crawl around in?  C’mon Rats, known you for… haawwk!... years I have…”

Rateyes smiles, raises a finger to his lips.  “Confidential!”

“Some big-time shurt,” Tony rambles on.  Intifaqboneships are sixteen ways illegal. Dee naa mee to look at, though….”

Ayy. Tony…” Rats plays along, “…if I had to get the thing off Doobydie… not on its own of course, I'm thinking about getting a towing contractor, and not wanting to attract attention like I'd get at the passport or the cargoport… anyway, well, might you happen to know of some little enterprise out of the way, within a couple hundred kilos, where I could land and take off without questions…”

Tony kills off another soldier, belches.  “’Scuse me.  What you’re talking about… that’d be… lemme think a min!” he grows surly, so vexed that Turpin momentarily fears that the junkman might have a change of heart, sic the knafes on them.  But then, Tony smiles like a sunrise.  Brownsville!… only sixty kilos south, that's a wiseguys' port. But you'd have to know people I couldn't get close to… sort of knowledge takes a lot of skilk…”

“Pronto.    Brownsville? Say I could ask around at the Dromecoupla weeks, maybe… any way you could see to moving that new pile of rawth come in by the gate?” he changes course.  “Blocks the jammin’ way out…

Aegelweiss? Pile of rawth is right!”  Tony sighs, shakes his head, stupidly and Broonzy kicks Turp under the table as massive canine jowls grind some nonexistent bone and the junkman slumps, but then recovers.  “The Regency gets it condemned as one of their usual scams… then they send the inspectors in and… presto!… it really is a pile of rawth!”

“You don't say?” Broonze pretends curiosity.

Tony shakes his head, up and down, then sighs again with the effort and slaps himself along the chin.  “Cooling system's shot. Oh it can land and take off… but probably the next time it tries to perve a snake something busts and the continuum gets ruptured. Ugly! Everybody inside gets either pulled wide apart or squeezed down to the what atoms would be without the spaces between, depending on the coming or going, but the time's so jammed up that it takes, like, a couple hundred thousand years before they die.  To them – their time, even though anybody looking think it instant-like,  Saw a qubatt on that, I did, hundred thousand years screaming in agony but nobody can hear you.  And it jams up the snake too… makes it useless!  One more trip an’ everybody goes squish!” the junklord grins, clasping his hands together. “Shoulda been gormed years ago, faq?”

Turpin and Broonzy look at each other across Tony’s cluttered cardtable, the color draining from their faces so abruptly that Turp lunges for another can of ale, just to hold up and hide his fear.  Broonze, though is resolute in curiosity…

“What about the drives?” he ventures.  “Seals… other parts…”

“Didn't hear a jammin’ thing about 'em.”  Tony belches again, sucks more ale.  Cargoport was so hot they shipped it right over here… think they're jammed because Qamlah filed this claim. Tried to sell it back to 'em for fees and considerations, but the company knew that bird was bad so they wouldn't take it… who knows what's gone on inside.  Captain must’ve got his license offa pizzle box.  I gotta wait sixty days… well, fifty seven now, before I can even start taking it apart. But I guess I could move it, if I had to…” he adds, in a tone that portends more skilk crossing palms…

Tony rips the cap off of another bottle, drains it, and his chin slumps on his huge chest; within seconds he is snoring, horribly… the mutant knafes pile up at his feet and begin snoring in unison.  Rateyes reaches over, prods the sleeping junkman, then takes a list out of his pocket, hands it over to Turpin…

A shopping list, Turp deduces…

“See if any of this rawth's still on board, and what sort of shape it's in. You two know the bird better than I would… I'll stay here with Drunkie. He comes to I'll make some sort of noise and you say you were outside, looking for a place to bwaawl and then feed him another.

“You're kosping, right?” Broonzy says, reading the list that Turp’s holding, upside down

Kosps don’t cost drizzit,” Rats snaps back.  “Got light?”

Turpin notices a pencil-laser among the junk on Tony's desk and appropriates it.

“Won't notice.  Big, stupid knafes all around and full of ale, so one of ‘em mistakes it for a meatstick…”

“Get gone!” Rats waves the snakers off.

Turp’s corporate card still works fine and, within moments, he and Broonzy are wedged into the engineering crawlspace, checking off the components of the Aegelweiss drive against the list of removables that Rats has drawn up, shining the pencil-laser across an array of phantasmagorical machinery and circuitry – some of it charred and blackened through misuse and neglect.  But plenty of the guts seem to be in good shape…

“All jammin' here!” Turp adjudicates.  “Hardly anything's gone… think it's compatible with what you'd find in a boneship?”

“Same company made 'em. Un-jammin'-believable!” Broonzy grinds his teeth, feeling lightheaded  - though the snakers have been careful to let Tony and his knafes consume the varker’s share of ale.  “I had the tools, I could start taking this rawth out tonight!”

“Tools cost soys. Even on the shadow market…”

“I know,” Broonzy clasps his head, which is beginning to ache.  “I know!

Rats’ll just have to stay lucky at the Drome.”

They clean up the quarters of Aegelweiss, card themselves out and pick up Rats, who’s fallen asleep too.  After an uneventful return; Rats leaves the hover in a Regency lot and they mag over to al-Gool, where they can safely lift drinks to the restorion of the still unnamed boneship.

The from has loosened Rats’ tongue the way that ale had caused Tony to spill his Tony-ish secrets… the gambler is sloppy and earnest, as it seems.  ”What say you guys start working for me. unofficially…” (lowering his voice until the bartender drifts away on an errand).  Can't pay Guild wages, intifaq?… but I ain't gonna ask for your QI. Take care of your rent and refreshments, now and again, ten soys a week… half a Gargarday off.  Course you’d have to stay over a few nights at Tony’s...”

Broonzy shakes his head.  “Works for a monk like Turp, maybe, but a man has needs… ten soys won't even get me into the sims…”

“Fix you up,” Rats smiles.  “Not saying you couldn't do business on the side. In fact, something's floating around, I hear, could break your way. Good money…”

“Put my name in the hat!” Broonzy bellowed, waving for another drink…

“There is,” Rateyes cautioned, “an element of risk, however…”

Broonzy gulps his froom so quickly that Turp could swear he sees steam roiling out of the snaker’s nose.  But he’s been drinking, himself, of course.

Ain't that always the case?” Broonzy rasps.