Turpin, nods, squeezes by the crowd around the door… through which he catches a glimpse of the Terran waves, still crashing, and Lyca's body on a gurney in the doorway, wrapped in the Andromeda's soiled sheets. As he wanders back past 604, Al-from-down-the-hall tips his hat gravely. Turpin closes his door, sits on his bed, lights a kackle, takes a couple of puffs before stubbing it out. He gets up, locks the door behind him and pushes through the crowd around 640, ignoring the shurts and the body, hurries downstairs. On the ground floor, Gargareeva is lighting a candle atop the cigarette machine while a shurt wrestles with Arbatax, keeping himself between the old man and a moodbox crew… camerajim, audiojim and a perky heather… Turp makes her for a qubeface he’s seen on the box downstairs over the bar at Klub al-Gool… all trying to reach the scene of the crime, if crime it was, or… failing that… to elicit a few words from the victim’s husband.

“Is Old Believer custom,” the landlord tells Turp, “fire ‘way the dead…”

Lyca…” Arbatax wails, slowly descending the stairwell to the ground floor, braced by a couple of shurts.  “My Lyca!”

“Officer…” the qubeface importunes, “can you comment? Is somebody dead upstairs? Officer… is this jim the perpetrator?  A survivor?

The shurt pushes Arbatax so that he stumbles down a couple of steps before digging a sharp claw into the banister to right himself.

“That's the wiseguy, Arbatax,” the shurt points, “runs the methane yards… his wife's the one who died. Ask him why…”

Arbatax, though tiny, has the immense, clawlike fingernails of a possum or anteater, and he slashes the air in front of the reporter and crew who back out towards the Baawl. Turpin follows downstairs, his shoulder brushing the shurt who falls heavily all the way down and lies in a pile holding his knee, groaning…


A good sized crowd has gathered outside, but there’s enough room for Turp to avoid the old man's talons, and the media is relentless…

”Mr. Arbatax… how does it feel to have lost a loved one?” inquires another quiff – male and middle-aged plud, poised and handsome as a bodily protection model.  “Suddenly… and in such a run-down neighborhood?”

Turpin notices Rateyes emerging from the depths of al-Gool, behind a union man, face red with anger, who baits the media…

“Ask him how he intends to keep the union from organizing the methyards when he can't even handle his own wife…”

“Very good question,” Rats seconded.  “Do you think the death of Mrs. Arbatax had anything to do with attempts to organize the methane plants?”

Arbatax boils over.  “I jam all the unions. Kill all! Burn down Baawl…” a clawlike hand points to the street and to the rubberneckers.

Noise and catcalls greet his remark… if there are few working men on the Baawl, most either did time in the meth processing plants, where Arbatax is notorious for cheap wages and a lack of safety precautions, or have friends or relatives who did…

“Ask him if it's the will of Rassoul that all the families of rawth-sucking exploiters around Sihree and the gangs turn up dead?” the union man taunts.

The handsome man is quick to exploit this opportunity.  “Come to think of it… sir… do you know what happened to Mr. Sihree? Do you, Mr. Arbatax, think… ahh!…

Arbatax, distraught with grief and rage, takes a vicious swipe at the union man, who protects himself by shoving the lady reporter between them. The knifelike talons dig deep into the qubeface's stomach and blood spurts everywhere, spattering the crowd, when he yanks them out. There is an instant's silence, then fear and outrage.

“Murderer!” the cries arise.  Killin’ that lady like he killed his wife and all those people in the yards. Get him! Shurts!  Help!”  The cries coalesce into a chorus: “Shurts!”

But, on the Baawl, the only beings more hated than capitalists are cops and the union man is reviled as a snitch… someone takes a swing at him, others throw bottles and loose masonry. Confusion has eclipsed the rage in the old man's eyes and Turpin grabs his wrist.

Gotta get him out of here, Rats, they'll kill him! Where's the car?”

“Put it away for the night… let the rawther die,,,”

“I have car!” Arbatax exclaims, pointing.  “There!”

The old man's hover is a huge, ugly beast of a machine, a replica mid-twentieth century Caddy tricked out with approximations of eight centuries of gewgaws and enhancements.  Pushing and punching at bystanders… most of who would rather pummel their old enemies, the shurts, than hunt down outliers… Turpin and Rateyes sprint towards the hovercar. Arbatax, jangling his keys, squirms into the driver's seat with the other two men comfortably beside him.

“Is best of Marrack-made. I go… but not to home or office.  They,” he spits, “will be awaiting me.  You tell me where I can be safe, and think…”

The engine roars and a few union sympathizers leap out of its path as it screams down the Baawl and round a corner, almost rolling over; Arbatax driving like a madman which, in Turp’s estimation, he is and deserves to be.

“Where to go! Lyca… my Lyca!  So depending on you.  All ended for me…”

“Got counsel?” Rats inquires.

“Is business only,” the meth baron sighs, swerving to avoid a drunk crossing the road.

Rats, equally alarmed by the old man’s statements and his driving, is frantically pushing buttons on his communicator.  “I know this lawyer, handles emergencies… if he's in…”

Squeezed between the frenzied Arbatax and chattering Rateyes, Turpin watches with mounting horror as the old man guns his hover forward less than a yard above the street, scattering trashcans and more pedestrians. A distant siren wails…

“Got a problem with a moodbox crew,” Rateyes barks into the com,  No, they assaulted him.  Right.  Guy just lost his wife, they're like quazam, you know… edited the stream… right, sure I know where Yan Tao is, nineteen hundred hours, sure…”

He snaps the com shut.  “Well, ladies and germs, we’re on the qube.  Already!

Arbatax guns the car down a street frequented by peddlars whose colorful wagons of fruit and sweets and novelties are no match for two tons of Marrack steel and plasteen, hands off the wheel, beating at his breast and sobbing…


“Look out!” Turpin warns…