Back at the Andromeda, the Detective waits with medics unloading their equipment preparatory to taking the deceased downstairs, out to the street and into their hover… arguing with his men over his com.  The situation outside has deteriorated – the jims and janes are angry and two of the harried medics have to rush back out to guide the eviscerated moodbox quiffette into a seat on the hover, leaving a single owl-eyebrowed supervisor to deal with Lyca.

“Where's Brabander?” the Detective grunts, demanding that his second-in-command be put on the com. “What the jam's going on down there?”

“Sir,” the shurt squeals back, “Brabander twisted his knee and they put him in the hover after they moved the quiff. There's a riot going on outside. Sir, the people in this neighborhood don't like us much…”

“Tell me something I don't know!  Who's behind all the roor causing jammers to bool all over town?”

“It’s on the qubes,” the shurt replies.  “Every dank in town is streaming over this way, looking for a little excitement.  They’re throwing rocks…”

With another oath, the D. squelches his subordinate and punches in Headquarters.   “Copy! This the armory?” he asks, receiving only a garbled reply.  “If you can understand me, send a wagon and some hose to the Baawl… we got a situation.  Andromeda Hotel.  Officer down already, quiffette in critical and… oh yeah,” he sneers, glaring at the shurt standing helplessly just within the door as the sole remaining medic wrestles the corpse onto the gurney.  “Help the jim!  Think they hate us now, watch what happens when the wagon gets here! And what the jam you lookin' at?” he grunts as Al-from-down-the-hall rests both hands atop his walking stick at the front of a crowd of residents whom the shurts have told to remain in their rooms, but they don’t have the manpower to enforce this demand.

Happens sometimes,” Al tosses his two centisols in. “Fine lady from a good neighborhood… married for the house and the car and clothes, but nothing left inside. Wants to die, but doesn't want to offend. So she takes for some little Baawl-hole to crawl into and kiss Rassoul. Jammin' shame!”

“Well that it is!” the D. sighs. You're probably right about that!”

And the Detective's rage has been suddenly extinguished, as though Al were an angel of death, spreading his wings over the Andromeda; reconciling the soul of Mrs. Arbatax, as it wafts gaseously upwards from the gurney that the medic Supervisor and the shurt have laid her out on while Al keeps… well, not exactly speaking but transmitting his thoughts, as if from amongst increasingly remote, distant stars of the future.

Shame about Mrs. Arbatax, but what does a jim say? That Andromeda constellation and galaxy got their name from a princess this hero, Perseus saved from a monster, once? Heroes ain't always so heroic, once the spotlights go down.


In Tao City’s decaying financial centre, Arbatax wheels round and up a high rise parking garage, raising sparks, swiping parked hovers… but manages to park without scraping adjacent vehicles. They take a dirty lift down.

“Turpin's new in town,” Rats volunteers.  “A snaker. Just passing through…”

“Then he wouldn't know…” the financier says… when not screaming or crying, Arbatax emits a sort of hissing sound… “and you wouldn't remember. Used to be the social district hereabouts. Cock o’ the walk.  Forty, fifty years ago… Tao City was more fashionable then, all Doobydie was. Hardly anybody slept. Work all day, party until dawn.  Money to burn.  Shurts kept out of the people's way…

“Different, now,” Turp observes mildly as they hit the ground floor and stroll beneath a district of tall, though dilapidated buildings – mostly of a sort of red sandstone with flaking, peeling walls.  Most storefronts are closed, but there are plenty of beggars and peddlers.

Arbatax pauses to light a kackle, takes a single puff, then lets it dangle between his fingers.  “Every civilization has its beginnings, flowering and then it's decline. Some danks are born to work the methane yards until they die or retire, others aren't. Nothing forcing them to be here except the price of a ticket, so the bright young ones take off. We got maybe half the population we did forty years ago. Look at these…” he points.

He stops by a party favor stand tenanted by a bowing, chattering simihyde in a dirty jeel; buys a couple of paper hats, whistles and streamers.

You stayed…” Turp reminds him.

“Die's been good to me. Until today…” he adds, lifting the kackle to his lips to take a longer drag…

“Plenty of gals dyin' to… I mean, eager to meet good lookin' guys wit' money,” Rats apologizes for the malapropism.

“They're not Lyca.”

The meth king’s glum expression sobers Rateyes up, and they enter Yan Tao, a dark but upscale gentlemen's club hidden behind a discreetly black door.  While Arbatax shuffles in sadness and Turpin lingers, marveling at the antiquated furnishings and geriatric clientele, Rateyes fairly skips along – the snaker realizing that he’s been here before and often, another layer to the mystery cake that is his new employer.

Lawyer's name's Mushnovarian,” Rats says out of a corner of his mouth, “but if he takes our case, call him Mooshie. Everybody does. He'll charge, but he's good. Works a jury like you wouldn't believe.”

“This is from your personal experience?” Arbatax inquires as Turpin wonders… our case?

Lemme say I wouldn't be here if he weren't any good,” the gambler agrees with an enthusiastic nod. “That's him at the bar… tall jammer in a blue suit. Always dresses sharp…”

Makes the skilk to, Turpin thinks, but doesn’t voice…

Mooshie motions to one of the waiters and picks up his drink.

“Rats, Mr. Arbatax… George Henry Mushnovarian, Counselor.”  He extends a hand, then glances towards the snaker.  “And…”

“This here is Timur Turpin, off the Aegelweiss.  Works for me…”

“I’ve heard of that case, terrible what the Regency does here,” the lawyer shakes his head – he shares some rodentine characteristics with Rats, but not all… more of a larger, slower fellow.  Woodchuck, hedgehog, maybe a bit of badger Turpin guesses as he shakes the attorney’s hand, after which Mooshie leads his visitors to a table.

“I hope the both of you are free to join me for dinner.  Business always goes better when transacted among friends over a calming adult beverage and a proportionate meal, faq?”

Aay!” Rats agrees;  Turpin intercepting a glance that passes between him and “their” attorney…

“While we are awaiting service,” Mooshie proposes, softly, “I would like to discuss matters with Mr. Arbatax in confidence. I'm sure you understand.”

“I owe my life to these gentlemen,” the meth king answers, stubbornly.  “I have nothing to conceal from then; however,” and his voice drops half an octave, “…anything that you desire, if I can help you, I shall!”

“Admirable, Mr. Arbatax. But those things of which one has no knowledge cannot be used against him, correct? So if you will just let me hold your unilators for the time being…” he adds, extending a hand to Rats, another to Turpin, “I've taken the liberty of ordering drinks.  A fine khegma… imported,” he adds, “Denebian.”

And as if summoned from one of the lamps upon their table, the Yan Tao waiter places cocktails before the newcomers…

“Sure, Mooshie, we'll wait…” Rats answers and picks up the snifter with both hands,

“Anything!” Arbatax concurs.

Turpin follows Rateyes' example in removing and handing over his unilator, and the lawyer-client conversation transpires in a wave of clicks and cheeps and gibberish that the snaker tries to pay attention to but finds impossible – possibly owing to the effects of the very, very good khegma.  Rateyes stretches back… lolling in his seat, eyes rolling, dozing.  A high, snickering snore breaks his lips and the attorney shoots Turp a rueful smile… one that he doesn’t require a unilator to understand…

“We’ve all been working hard,” he explains.