Night falls like every other in the Andromeda… pawnshop sign winking guns/money in alternating red and green waves, flashing into Turpin's room through the slats in the blinds, around the cracks and through the shriveled and withered plasteen holding the window in place.  Distant sirens coax, but there is no music, no voices in the halls, only the inexorable midnight coughing and… to Turpin, lying on his bed and slapping at some bug that has invaded his domain… what seem to be sobs.

Abruptly there comes a barrage of noise… shouting, scuffling, glass breaking. Turpin sits up, blinking. It’s almost morning. He slides his shoes on and opens the door, seeing Walter standing at one end of the hall, Al at the other end. The noise is coming from 610 and Turpin saunters down, raps on old man Mallah's door.

“Anything wrong in there?

Another crash.  “Nothing wrong,” a quavering voice replies. “No! Go ‘way…”

A chorus of swaggering young voices follows this…

“Yeah, go away!

“Go 'way, jammin' sikken!”

“Don't want nothin' to do with us…”

There is laughter and another crash; Mallah moans…

“Go ‘way, please…”

Turpin glances down the hall. Al shakes his head and limps back into his room. Walter disappears around the corner and begins knocking on Barbara's door… begging for kackles. Turpin shambles down the six flights, passing the manager's window. Gargareeva looks up from a tabloid of indecipherable letterage and patently pornographic snapshots…

“Due is rent tomorrow, 613 you.”

“Get paid tonight. Why don't you spend a little of our money, buy a reader…”

“Like feel I paper, die no mee!  Good smell the! Rent pay or be go…”

“Promise!” Turp promises.

Broonzy's on the stoop with a crowd - Quaia and two corner heathers, Marina and another old man from the neighborhood… regaling them with excerpts from his adventures in Marrack…”

“Here's the working jim,” Broonzy grins.  “Working hard, Turp?”

“Somebody has to…”

“Good man!” the big snaker slaps Turp on the back.  “Can't do a good job without the right tools, faq?”

With a broad smile, Broonzy has directed Turpin's attention to a plastic toolbox…

Turpin coughs.  “Out stealing again?”

Broonz feighs offense.  “Stealing? Paid top soy for these beauties out of my own jammin’ pocket. Custom made in Marrack, warrantied.  Stolen tools…” he shakes his head, “you subject yourself to the finger of chance. Don't know what's going to break down, or when.  Need I remind you that breakdowns have consequences?”

While he has been talking, Marina picks up what looks like a particularly sinister dentist’s drill and Broonzy slaps at her.

“Hey! That not a toy!”

“I know!the  yoot objects.  “It's decalib-Rated…”

“Plenty of danks wit’ no hands thought as you do,” Broonzy lectures.  “Critics!”

Rateyes swoops up in the red hover, drawing envious glances from the heathers, flips the top and leaps out over the side like the star of a romqube.

“How do sikken like you get into that?” the reynahyde asks.

“Just lucky!” Rats beams.  “Boys get a good night's sleep? We're going to be working late, very late.”

Broonzy Rattles his toolbox.

“Careful, Rats!,Quaia warns.  Raif from the excelsis… (pointing down the Baawl towards one or another of the slums there… or maybe one of the fabricants where the methane is compressed and packed into the tubes that the older hovers use)… “well, he died. Took a hit of bad roor… like that lady upstairs, Turp’s friend,” she smirks.  “Bad rawth going 'round…”

“I'm hip!” the gambler replies.

Broonzy and Turpin pile into the hovercraft, Broonze resting his big feet on a case of ale that Rats has obtained – somewhere, from somebody.  Soon enough, they pass into the junkyard, then board the boneship to start the work of the day… restoring communications protocols; wires and rivets and life support devices. Rateyes mostly gives orders and ferries equipment… Broonzy and Turpin do the dirty work under the communications console.

Rawth!” Broonzy exclaims after about an hour of grimy labor.  Gimme a pencil laser.”

Rateyes rummages through the new toolkit, finds one and hands it over, and blue sparks cascade across the Captain's deck…

“What that heather said, about the roor…” Rats ventures, as Broonzy backs into a small, cramped cave of hissing and spitting wires…

“Don't use… much…” he adds…

“Things been screwy all week – whole Baawl gone bool.  Haven't seen Clegg since he paid us,” the gambler lets on.  “And I hear talk about all kinds of rawth blown up around Marrack… nothing you'd wanna tell me, of course?”

Broonzy tilts his head, considers, declines.  “Can't think of anything.”

“Hey,” Rats shrugs, “just faqqin’.”

“No offense taken.”

Rateyes nods, coughs.  “Nice tools,” he ventures.

“Fell offa mag.”  Broonzy slides out from under the console with a grin beneath a thick coating of grime.  “Sometimes I get lucky, too!”


With the right tools, work progresses until the red glow of a Dhubaahti sunrise floods the command center of the boneship; turning the deep yellow luster of setting Ankhubaaht into swirling pink and orange clouds which Rateyes stares out the bay window over the junkyard to watch.

Eighteen thirty, terran. Gonna chat up Tony and drink supper. You danks finish up, then come over at nineteen. Once he's off to dreamland, we get started in on Aegelweiss…”


In the junkyard office, Tony tries balancing a bottle of Pluvian wine on his armchair, it slides off… spattering the mottled carpet and causing one of the sleepy knafes to lift its head, sniff and go back to sleep.


Nie gorlar!” Rats waves off the accident, lifting a bottle from his carpetbag.  “Have another!”

“Don't mind if I do…” says the junkman, then sits up.  “Hey, I hear a noise?”

Broonzy and Turpin have entered the sanctuary of scrap; Tony frowns, trying to remember who they are. Rateyes tosses each an ale and raises an eyebrow.

“Done already?”

Broonzy shakes his head.  Gotta finish rewiring the transport… take all night but that’s it.  I’m beat.”

“Hopeless,” Turp nods his assent, tipping the bottle upwards and swallowing the contents whole in one gaseous gulp.  As he belches, Rateyes hands him another.  “Never get that rawth into the air.”

“Fortunately,” Rats winks, “we don't have to…”

Turpin frowns, puzzled… and on only one bottle of ale… then a cog in his mind slips into place and he smiles.  “Oh yeah… our collector…”

“Just have to get it to Brownsville…” Rats smoothes over the damage.

Tony sits up.  Rawth - you could almost do that on steam…hopping, you know, like a jackalope…” and he nods upwards, towards one of the grim stabs at taxidermy festooning his wall.  Then his chin drops onto his chest and the junkman begins snoring. The knafes huddle at his feet, sighing, and Broonzy uncurls the junkyard manager's fingers from the bottle of ale and gulps it almost whole, sprinking a few drops into the animals’ water dishes.

Rats shakes his head.  “You got no shame!”

“Got plenty of shame!  Shame enough for seven lifetimes,” he says, reaching for another bottle until Rateyes slaps his hand.  “It's couth… I ain't got couth…”

“But you got your pretty box of shiny tools, faq?”

“That, I got!” the snaker answers.

“Then let's get gone. Long night ahead of us…” Rateyes stands up, groaning.  “Nothing but caffa for you danks, here on out…”

He turns and marches out of the office, Broonzy making ready to follow until Turpin stops him with a firm hand on his shoulder…

“Thought you’d be proud, telling Rats you earned the skilk for that toolbox through honest labor, the way he earns his at the Drome.  Sort of…” Turpin adds.

“Stop actin’ like a yoot,” Broonze says, picking up the box.  “Nothing is honest on jammin’ Die… nothing but thieves here, wall to wall to all; the only jims as earn respect here are the hypes.  All the rest are sikken – and one thing you never want here is to get that sikken sign taped to the back of your jeel.  They eat you alive, like knauves in the pit, faq?”

“I faq,” Turp admits.