The Adventures of Gerry Fynne
This part originally appeared in the March/April 2018 issue.
Chapter 9: Onto the Ohasset Main
The trip in to the high port was still 12 hours, so Gerry was soon out of questions. They watched a few Tri-vids from Baakh’s small but prestigious entertainment sector. Runch had another Querro at the beginning of the first one, but then stopped drinking. They both napped, and had two meals and a snack which were notable for the fresh produce, and slightly alien flavors. Gerry was anxious in the last few hours, though, and kept re-reading the Scout Quinn book to no avail. It neither calmed nor distracted him. His mind was wandering, but after a eternity they approached the highport.
Runch got his bag together, and checked Gerry’s ticket for his next leg of the trip. He was headed to Marda, down the mining arm of the Ohasset Main, and there were a dozen ships leaving with open passages. They headed off the boat quickly and got a skidder for their bags.
“Is your handcomp off?” the man asked him.
“Yeah. That seemed like the thing.” Gerry realized his voice sounded squeaky. Runch pulled out a small tablet of his own and waved Gerry to get the skidder loaded.
“Mine on the bottom, please, Gerry. Alright, here we go: a fat trader on G217.”
Gerry had lifted the 9 Bigsofts on to the skidder, and turned to follow Runch, who did a couple of half turns in different directions before he fully go his bearings and route figured between the small, rotating holo display and the busy corridor they had entered. They made a couple of turns, into one large corridor after the next and entered into a huge lift that took them two levels up. After what Gerry guessed was another couple hundred meters down another corridor, they pulled up to the entrance to the docking arm G217.
Outside on the arm, Gerry could see a subsidized merchant painted in an almost iridescent green. Inside there were two crew standing by the desk that controlled the access to the docking arm; one had on gray coveralls and the other a bomber jacket of a similar shade. The wiry redhead in the coveralls held a small wand scanner, as if he were about to play the match point in some racket game on which much was riding. The woman in the bomber jacket leaned on the edge of a counter, and looked languidly at a battered hand terminal. The board behind them read, “Awaiting passenger.”
“How many you waiting for?” Runch queried, at a louder volume than Gerry had ever heard him use.
“You two’d fill us. Give you private cabins’n everythin’!” the redhead said, changing the cant of his paddle, as if sizing up his opponent’s serving posture.
“Not what I asked, son,” Runch fairly barked, though they were at the desk by now.
“Frak, the Cap’n will take one, or keep us here another two hours!” the woman in the bomber jacket cracked, only briefly looking up before gazing back at her terminal with a mildly sour expression.
“Well, your wait’s over then,” Runch smiled, “if you make sure he’s your last.” He slid Gerry’s middle passage voucher over the counter, with a 50 credit disk underneath it, to the now mildly-interested woman. She took the passage while deftly sweeping the fiftydisk into her other hand, scanned the passage, did a quick iris scan of Gerry, and waved him towards the now exuberant paddle-wielding inspector. Gerry pulled his bags off the top of the skidder as the woman engaged in a somewhat heated interchange over a small com on the collar of her jacket:
“We got one, and we’re leavin’… Cap’n, we’re leaving or I’m leaving. I got two months’ pay coming, if you remember. You said we wait for one. We’ve got one.”
“Any weapons? Incendiaries? Hazardous materials?” the spry crewmember barked as he sprung on Gerry’s bags, waving the wand scanner, while pecking at its controls and not waiting for any answers.
Gerry turned to Runch, to thank him.
Runch took his hand, “I’m not done ’til this can’s buttoned up, young’un. If they’ll double stack cabins on this boat, they could still fit both of those bottom feeders in before you left.”
For some reason, Gerry at this moment caught sight of the lieutenant, lurking back in a small corridor opening. The hood and sunglasses made no difference and he recognized the tawny officer immediately, who turned away. Runch followed his gaze, and nodded when Gerry looked back to him, “Always bring help if you can.”
The enthusiastic inspector was finishing, as Gerry caught the woman wind down her comm interchange with an acid, “Yeah, I thought so… well… maybe.”
He waved Gerry forward for a wanding of his own, then pronounced, “Welcome aboard Miord’s Mahid!” He slammed the door of a small cube shut with Gerry’s bags inside, and grabbed the handle of the small skidder it sat on. Gerry looked up to see that the board now read, “Departed,” turned to wave at the two officers, and shuffled briskly into the docking arm, more to escape the now brusque woman’s glare than to follow his bags down the short passage to the airlock’s open hatch.
Gerry had no idea what Mahid meant, but she had a pleasant smell of spices and cooking that met him at the hatch. The two of them made a tight fit in the lift with the skidder, and a couple of the crewmen wearing gray bomber jackets met them when they got out of the lift on the bridge deck. One wore captain’s pips, basic pilot’s wings embroidered in emerald thread, and a wispy, unkempt beard that was a little grayer than his receding hair. He sneered and turned back towards the bridge. The other, younger crewman was larger, dark, and muscular, holding a compact shotgun at a good port arms: he jerked his head ever-so-slightly aft, “This deck is off-limits during passage.” His jacket had “Security” in large letters on the breast.
Gerry nodded and turned away as he followed the ginger crew member aft with his bags. They went all the way back, to a cabin opening into the second of two small passenger lounges. The fore lounge had a long, narrow table at which a family was sitting, having apparently finished eating, their pans still in front of them. The father was idly playing a small stringed instrument Gerry had never seen, while the four of them studiously avoided looking up. The aft lounge had six over-stuffed chairs arrayed in front of two flat-screens, one of which was right beside his cabin door.
The crewman dogged the smallcube to the bulkhead, and was gone without a word. There it was nested under some other storage cabinets, beside the fresher. Gerry turned towards the closed door, as an announcement came that they had cast off, and pre-jump maneuver was projected to be 74 hours. He noticed the desk was a fold-down from the bulkhead across from the bed, with two folding chairs in a locker beside. The configuration was a familiar one, from trivids and flatscreen images, as it was essentially standard in smaller ships’ cabins; this room was about 20% smaller than his on the Maid had been. He checked his rations in the cabin’s locker, and he was two meals short. It fit: everything about the ship are crew seemed seedy, stretched, or ambivalent. No one would be smiling and trumpeting the name of the line here, Gerry mused. The standard provision was 42 meals for a jump. Now usually a jump took less, from castoff to docking than 14 days, but that was the standard for rations. That's where Chandler's 44 became so popular: for the normal life support cost for a jump, Chandlers put in a couple extra meals, and none of the 44 were the same. It reduced the tedium of transit. Of course, a number of meals were often left behind, and after a while a crew saving up the leftovers could save on life support, if just by a small amount. It meant, however, that there were repeats of the often unwanted meals, but it was legal.
He unpacked his clothes, and toiletries. The fresher was smaller than the one aboard the Maid, but it appeared clean. There was a placard inside the door saying, “Passengers are responsible for room maintenance. Questions should be directed to the Second Officer.” He noticed that there were containers of cleaners, neither new nor empty, in a labeled locker. The word hit him, like the forgotten name of an acquaintance that pops up in the middle of the night, “Adequate.” Everything was adequate, neither impressively good nor infuriatingly lacking. He knew he would not dare whine about two ration trays: maybe for three, as that was a whole day. But what of two? If he complained, they would probably just give him two packs, and a nasty look.
This was not a free trader, but a fat trader, usually subsidized for cargo hauling by worlds that needed the trade. That meant that they were a lot safer financially for the owners, and less worry was spent on speculative trade or trying to seek out business in the dangerous corners of the black. As a result, they were not as dangerous, and so less often the subject of romance in the media. She was twice the size of a free trader, but carried two and a half times the cargo, and had her own launch. She was also able to carry outsized cargo. She was smaller, and slower than a liner, however, and certainly not as elegant.
Gerry went to sleep, and woke at a strange time. There was a really small terminal in his room, and he did not want to turn his handcomp on. He was not confident in the security of whatever network this ship was running. He remembered passing a couple of terminals in the lounge. He grabbed a tray of something with a Vilani-sounding name numbered 34, of which there were three, and went out into the lounge. There was a small child watching a war movie on the flat screen, but otherwise the lounge was empty. He popped his tray into the warmer, which had unfamiliar controls. He realized this was a local repair, using a console from some other device, on which he typed in the manual numbers from the package, and hoped for the best.
While watching the movie, a well-known one about Imperial armor in the Fourth Frontier War, he heard a cabin door open behind him, and voices comes out that caused his heart to skip a beat, “…we just had time to explain this deal to him before he was nabbed. Then he would sing when he was interrogated, and they went looking for ‘Mr. Big’, with nary a thought of us. It worked like clockwork!”
It was one of the two con men that Runch and the lieutenant had spirited him away from. They had not, it would seem, followed him, but he had unwittingly followed them! Protecting him from being accosted, or followed onto a ship, the good Captain Runch had delivered him instead. It was a blow, and he felt like there was a weight suddenly on his chest. He still believed it was an honest mistake, the officers making the same mistake Gerry had, in assuming that the trouble was behind, not coincidentally ahead. Gerry was at least thankful for his location, though, with his back to them.
Sir Geoffrey said to his companion, “Yes, yes. I remember you told me of that once or twice.” and Gerry could tell they were moving to his right, towards the other screen. He tried to be casual in turning a little to his left, and vargring down his last few mouthfuls of his meal. He pulled up his hood, turning more to his left as he made his way back towards his stateroom. He said a quick prayer under his breath, and made himself dispose of his meal tray at the galley station before making his way the long three meters back to his stateroom. As soon as the door latched he locked it and threw himself onto his bunk. He let his breathing go now, not aware he had almost been holding it in his forced nonchalance. His lungs heaved as he surrendered to the panic: They know who I am, where I’m going, and there’s no one on this ship to help me.
The first thing like homesickness hit him, but it was not for home; he wanted to be back on the Maid with her protective crew and big, beautiful, familiar spaces. There were some meds in the ’fresher. A pair of LSPills, and 10 sleeping pills. He took one of of the latter, and placed an LSPill and a bottle of water next to his bunk, in a recess in the paneling seemingly designed just for this purpose. It seemed like a while until sleep took him, but his sleep was sound. He dreamed of Jack the Fourth Officer, and Gunny chasing Auntie around the scrap yard. Then suddenly it was Auntie being taken away by Sir Geoffrey and a Vargr in matching purple velvet suits with short capes. He awoke with an abdominal lurch, and surprised himself in how quickly he grabbed the LSPill on first opening his eyes.
His memory came back as he sucked down the water, the pill just a memory of a now-pleasant taste under his tongue. He downed another water from a bottle in his bag, and pulled out a tray without looking to see what it was. He ate it cold in his cabin, though it was one made to be eaten hot, as it turned out. Some meat casserole dish that reminded him of Annapabarian influence. Their restaurants were scattered across the sector, though to hear Father tell it the restaurant food was unlike anything from their home world. He opened the grubby little terminal inside the fold-up desk, and looked for a book.
Some six hours later, stiff from sitting in the small folding chair reading on the droyne-sized monitor screen without break, Gerry got up and stretched. He busied himself with some calisthenics, which he had not done for weeks. He did them in his suit, but he still felt the workout was not so much to tax him, but rather to busy his mind. As Gunny had told them about, he did his pushups in the suit, with the EVA kit on, and the bigsoft full of rations across his shoulders. As ungainly as it was, this at least worked these muscles to failure in the half gravity of the ship. The running in place with this getup on was tedious, and after 15 minutes he felt chafed and a bit like he was going to go out of his skull. After a shower, and another cold meal, he took another sleeping pill. This time he noted that he had slept for 11 hours. He spent another 4 days sequestered in his cabin like this, and was about to go stir crazy. He decided that he would chance heating his meal, and bringing it back.
There was, in fact, little more to do in the somewhat paltry lounge than in his cabin, but he felt he just needed to get out. He put on his Guides workout shirt with the hood again, this time with some protective glasses, picked his meal well, and ventured out. He did not see the two men he feared. After he had heated his meal he heard them, though, and he felt panic rush in. He realized they were gambling in their cabin, as he was quietly removing his tray from the warmer/cooler. They had apparently left the door open, and he marked its location in his mind. He could not see them from this angle, but the voices were unmistakable.
Gerry relished his meal. The steak was hot, the ice cream cold, and the salad pleasantly cool. Chandler’s meals, while not the best available, were certainly the best value. Anything better required extra expense over the normal life support package. When food was the only thing that would necessarily vary from day to day on a long voyage, the quality and variety was of palpable importance. Cabin fever was very real, and was a threat to safety and sanity aboard, to say nothing of morale and efficiency. Gerry had found himself looking forward to each meal with anticipation now bordering on obsession. While Chandler’s 44 was a stand-by, there were larger packages: Chandler’s 99 and 222 were also available for longer voyages, but usually only by special arrangements. On the Maid, he had been given a 99 to start with, and it was another luxury he had gotten used to: no repeats for a month.
He prayed now, once more, to avoid the two con men, whoever they really were. He realized the fact that he had recently been musing over the inadequacy of his rations, and was now focusing his gaze into the empty dinner tray made for an interesting synergy of images and thoughts. Was he praying in his heart for better food, while his mind’s voice asked for the more respectable gift of safety? Out loud he simply stated under his breath, “You know what I need better than I. Help me now, Lord.”
Turning away, he washed his tray in the fresher, and dumped it into the receptacle there. He plumbed the ship’s really pretty wretched entertainment library, and came up with the flat version of Scout Flynn. He could not count the number of times he has seen it, but it was soothing on a very basic level. He replayed it 97 minutes later, and dozed somewhere in the credits. Waking, he put on his hood and glasses, heated another meal, returned to his cabin, ate while watching a newsfeed some 5 months old, and drugged himself into the longer sleep that brought another day in jump to closure.
Two days later, while heating dinner it came: “Master Flynn, Gerry Flynn, I believe it is!” He turned to the agonizingly close voice. It was Geoffrey, that damned vulture, standing virtually at his right shoulder. He heard another chair scrape back to his left.
“Do sit down with us, boy!” the other barked.
“You gave me start, sir. I am unwell, and it would be rude to eat alone in front of you. Please…” Gerry said, maneuvering around the two while almost dropping his precious seafood tray. He almost bolted into his cabin, and locked the door behind him. He was aware of them speaking and calling to him as he did so, but the words were like so much malignant static. Indeed, he would have as likely been able to reproduce the exact sounds of specific snarl from a police dog, and as unlikely to miss its’ malignant content, as to reproduce whatever words the pair was throwing up in his way and after him.
He sat on his bunk, and found some small comfort in scarfing down his meal. He drank a full two liters of the slightly metallic water, while taking his daily drugs. He did not sleep easily, but rather tossed and turned in tormented semi-consciousness. He had been afraid of the pair when they had first approached him. That is to say, when he was on a friendly ship, with a crew he trusted, before he had turned them in. It was unclear to him whether they had guessed his role in having them removed from the Maid, though he had certainly feared that they did. Now with his reaction, there could be no doubt that they must know.
In the morning when he woke, Gerry ate a random meal cold, while again checking their projected time to drop out of jump: less than 40 hours away. He prayed distractedly while looking up the messaging procedures for the ship. He went and repacked his bags while running some laundry, contemplating what to do. It was unlikely that this ship’s crew cared about any of the pair’s past alleged sins enough to do anything drastic with them. They could not be put off the ship until it exited jump, and after that would potentially cost the ship extra, and was thus highly unlikely. The crew just cared about their fares. He had some ideas, but they all depended on the crew’s participation. Then he struck it: the crew just cared about their fares!
He passed the next 43 hours on edge, but hopeful. He had a plan, that was a bit of a long shot, but he waited until they came out of jump to see whether it was feasible. The jump exit, LSPill at hand, passed as an almost comforting event, and as he got on the terminal there it was: He could rendezvous with an outgoing ship’s boat in 16 hours if he paid the transfer passage. It was 128 cruds: a very small price. He asked in a message for the ship's security officer to meet him in his cabin. The brute strode in some 19 minutes later, and agreed after a slight hesitation to shut the cabin door.
Gerry took a while before he could make himself understood completely. He was afraid of the two men, though, and whatever the crew said about it mattered not: Gerry made clear that they would follow him off the ship if they knew he had left. It was in the ship’s interest, therefore, to let on that he was staying aboard, but had asked for protection. Obviously, if the ship sold his cabin to another for the next leg of the trip, that was a problem, but even if that happened, then it was only likely the ruse would be discovered, and not inevitable. The ruse was somewhat self-supporting. By taking the two in to have a “talk” about staying away from Gerry, the crew could keep his departure and absence under wraps. Likewise, if they manipulated “guarding” the empty stateroom well enough they could disguise its status. Even a new passenger might take a bribe to stay under wraps until the fairly quick transit to the jump point.
Gerry was desperate, talking high and rapidly. The security man said, “Alright. I'll take this crap to the Captain, but it will cost you two hundred.” Gerry nodded, too quickly, then said, “A hundred now, and a hundred if he agrees.” He held out the bills. The hulking man spat on the deckplates in disgust, but took the bills and strode out. After a long, anxious wait, a message came back. Gerry was to have his small cube packed and be ready to move in 14 hours 23 minutes, and would take the launch to dock with a ship’s boat that would take him to the Anxious A, a far trader heading on. He should leave 5 ration packs in his room. He naturally picked the ones that no one liked…
Gerry was ecstatic. He ate and then slept until his alarm woke him 11 hours later. He had been told to stay in his cabin until they came to get him, and did so, watching the clock. The time then started to grind; despite his initial relief, now that Gerry was watching the clock, he was thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Number one place for it to go wrong, the crewman had just taken his money, and would do nothing. Or, he could be spotted by the con men while being moved, and either stopped or followed. The crew could have sold him out, but that was doubtful: it would have cost the con men a lot to make up for the fares the ship would lose. He was not even sure how the con men would stop him; he did not want to underestimate their guile, however. They had already proven very adept at getting past security.
Maybe the Anxious A had sold both its empty cabins already; it was the only ship that would work. It would work well, though, if Gerry could just get there. Being a far trader, it would jump right past the Mahid’s next destination on the main, Gidikurda, and put in at Guarda. Unless the con men caught another far trader with two empty berths, and none was showing up on the Starport Authority’s feeds, then they would be about two weeks behind him. As he saw the clock tick several minutes past when he thought he should have been boarding the launch, though, his heart sank. The security goon had just taken his money, and he was sure that there was nothing he could do about it.
His mind wandered from his prayer, indeed, he could not have even told what prayer it wandered from. Gerry jumped when he heard the hard knocking on the cabin door, but then he realized it was not his; it was another door. The voice was clear and loud enough for him to hear through his door, “We need to talk to you two gentlemen. It’s a matter of ship’s security. Please follow us.”
Gerry shouldered his bag, and undogged the small cube from the bulkhead while he heard some muffled words of protest, and then “Captain’s office,” and no more. In a minute a rap had come on his cabin door, which he opened. The same two crew members, the bitter looking woman in the bomber jacket and the animated, wiry man in the coveralls swept in. The man wordlessly locked the small cube in the skidder, and she asked directly, “You ready?” in a tone more of command than solicitation. Gerry nodded and stepped after them. They turned aft, through a bulkhead door, and the man clamped the small cube to the open lift to the launch, then sprung up the ladder ahead of it. Gerry turned toward the woman, “Thanks.”
“We save a couple of fares, and screw with those two mirotu-suckers in the process. That’s a good day for me. You must have been scared, though, ’cause I never saw you.”
Gerry for some reason noticed that her eyes were a dark hazel, and had an almost kind look. “Good day for me too, Ma’am.” Her expression had just started to shift when he looked away. He would later wonder in what direction it had been shifting. The open cube lift had stowed, and he clambered up into the launch. The floor iris closed and before he could get to his couch and strap in, he realized they had already cast off. It was just him and the thin man, who was engrossed in a transmission about the quick rendezvous with a fast boat. He turned partly around, after Gerry had already strapped in and barked, “Strap in. We’re going to turn off the deck plates to move the cargo quicker. You’ll go last, so stay here ’til I get you.”
The docking happened quickly, the frenetic ginger crewman shut off the grav plates, and then flew down the access below the floor iris. Gerry felt a couple of subtle vibrations through his feet as hatches were slammed open and closed, then the crewman reappeared, “Ready?” He reached out to Gerry from the open hatch, pulled him from his seat, and with a “Watch yer head,” launched him head-first down the combination lift, airlock, and docking hatch into the fast boat below.
Apparently, there was some other cargo that was going as well, as there were four other small cubes dogged to the bulkheads of the boat, which was at 90 degrees to the launch he just left. A Vargr crewman in a vacc suit fairly caught him, and swung him towards a couch. He could tell that something was odd about this, as they were still in zero gravity. It was not until later that Gerry realized that the Vargr must have been wearing magnetic boats to have been able to swing him through the turn like that in zero-G. The hatch closed, and an automated announcement came across PA of the craft, “Strap into your couches. Ten seconds until gravity restored. Five seconds.” The gravity actually came back more gradually than he had expected, and the transition left him queasy. He could tell from the stars out the cockpit windows that they had flipped, and he imagined they were doing a fast burn to catch up with the Anxious A.
The Vargr had undogged his helmet (Gerry noticed a pun there), and explained, “That will be 135 cruds, unless you got a ticket?” Gerry noted that this was 7 credits higher than the reserved price, but was in no posture to haggle. He dug for the money while the crewman noted, “We should be there in about three hours. There’s sandwiches. One’s included. Two cruds apiece after that.” After handing over an untidy stack of bills and disks, he grabbed an Everfresh from the basket, and vargred it down.
He read an old book that he had forgotten he had stowed on his handcomp months before until they docked with the A. As they pulled up to dock, Gerry could see a somewhat battered-looking white hull with green trim. A docking tube extended to the starboard airlock, a casually dressed crewman with an auto snub pistol in a leg holster entered with a skidder, an older man with the remnants of an old Vilani-style cook’s tunic over military uniform trousers was following. “You’d be Mr. Fynne…”
Gerry went to stand up and realized he was still belted in. He limbered himself somewhat awkwardly, arose and dug for his Middle Passage vouchers, all the while confirming that indeed he was Gerry Fynne. The older man did a retina scan and scanned the two vouchers while droning on, “I am Fred Goode, your steward, cargo master, and purser for the voyage. I will be happy to be of service for any of your needs while aboard.” Just as quickly, the steward spun on his heel, motioning Gerry to follow. He led him in through the airlock of the starship, and they rose in a small lift that adjoined it. Gerry noted that they were not sharing the lift with his luggage, and was pleased to see he had one of 6 staterooms around a lounge with a large window facing forward. It was the standard layout for a far trader, which he hadn’t really thought about until entering.
Gerry knew that the glassteel window was about as sturdy as the rest of the ship’s hull, but it gave him a somewhat eerie feeling. As they were heading out to their jump point, there was nothing to see but stars of course, and those only very faintly with the lounge lights even partially on, as they were. The steward was still showing him his cabin, in a mindless routine when the small cube was wheeled in. The slightly larger cabin had drawers for all of his things, and he started to unpack the essentials for the next ten days or so. He then checked his ration locker, and was pleased to see an unadulterated Chandler’s 44 waiting for him. He locked his stateroom door, and lay down on his bunk.
I made it, he thought, but his relief was much more tenuous than he had over seven weeks before, when first boarding the Maid. He had just two more jumps to New Konigsberg, but he thought that the final stages of the journey held he knew not what. If the con men had found out about his father’s claim, and if there was some urgency that drove Eve to bring him there, what did that mean he would face when he got there? As the more known threats from being caught leaving receded, the more unknowable threats of arriving at the claim grew more distinct.
That said, the threat of being caught by Auntie, or her agents seemed still real, if minor. If the con men had found out about the claim, might not some private investigator? He mused that their route was actually bringing them closer to home. A liner like the Maid, had it traveled that way, could have made New Konigsberg in two jumps. Of course, there was no reason for a Nundis liner to go that way, really, and he had been in quite a hurry to get on the first thing jumping out. He could almost hear Gunny, “Could’a-would’a-should’a, sunshine!!” He had made the right choice, however, even if panic had been the prime motivator. The mining arm was really a backwater, and no fast ships would go directly there from Griik Maeii. The trade routes existed for a reason: raw materials back to the manufacturers; manufactured goods to the agricultural worlds, backhauling foodstuffs on the route. Unpredictable wanderings were the province of the free traders, often taking their single parsec jumps in new directions dictated by speculative cargo overlooked by larger trading concerns, but the long-legged liners stayed on their published routes.
He rose from his bunk again. He pulled the last UrpUrp bottle from his pack, and went out into the lounge. He was tired of skulking in his cabin, and decided to meet some of the passengers. This ship had a different feel from either the Maid or the rattletrap fat trader: it was worn, but cared for. The crew looked neither polished nor ambivalent, but at least pretended to care. There were two square tables, bolted to the deck, and capable of being linked together, to seat a maximum of about ten, a couch, and a couple of lounge chairs. It made for a somewhat cramped but cozy feel. While the Mahid had the feel of a bus station from back home, this felt more like someone’s basement recreation room, if a basement opened onto an endless vista of the black of space, that is. There were four men watching a fairly new holo in the corner with the couch, but they took no notice of him. He pulled up a chair; he did not know much about the holo, but it seemed a new one from Baakh. He drank his last UrpUrp in quiet celebration of making it this far, and watched, forgetting.