Page 11

Whatever it was, I couldn’t find any mention of it online. That meant it was a secret. Now I really wanted to know what it was. Turns out I’m a nosy little shit. But right at that moment, I didn’t have anything else to go on, so I mentally set it aside.

I had this bad habit of checking my bank account every day, as if compulsively looking at it would make it grow. But the banking software wasn’t interested in my dreams. It gave me the dismal news:


My entire net worth was about 2.5 percent of my goal of 416,922 slugs. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I needed. Nothing was more important.

If I could just get into the damned EVA Guild, I’d pull down serious income from then on. Tours are big money. Eight customers per tour at 1,500? each. That’s 12,000? per tour. Well, 10,800? after I pay the guild their 10 percent.

I could only give two tours a week—a limitation enforced by the guild. They’re cautious about their members’ radiation exposure.

I’d be making over 85,000? a month. And that’s just from tours. I’d also try to get a job as a probe wrangler. They’re the EVA masters who bring the probes to the freight airlock and unload them. Then I’d have access to shipments before Nakoshi inspected them. I could sneak contraband in right then or set it aside for later recovery with a sneaky midnight EVA. Whatever worked best. Point is, I could cut Nakoshi out entirely.

I’d keep living like a pauper until I’d saved up the money I needed. Accounting for living expenses, I could probably get it done in six months. Maybe five.

As it was, on my porter’s salary with smuggling on the side, it would take approximately forever.

Goddamn, I wish I’d passed that fucking test.

Once I’d taken care of the 416,922?, I’d still be making a bunch of money. I could afford a nice place. My shithole coffin only cost eight thousand a month, but I couldn’t even stand up in it. And I wanted my own bathroom. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. I realized that around the hundredth time I had to walk down a public hallway in my nightie to take a midnight piss.

For fifty thousand a month—well within what I’d be earning—I could get a condo in Bean Bubble. A nice one with a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and its own shower. No more communal anything. I could even get a place with a cook nook. Not a kitchen—that’d be stupidly expensive. They have to be in their own fire containment rooms. But a cook-nook burner was allowed to get up to 80 degrees Celsius and could have a 500-watt microwave.

I shook my head. Someday, maybe.

I guess my pained expression was visible even from the far end of the bar. Billy walked over. “Oi, Jazz. Why so glum?”

“Money,” I said. “Never enough money.”

“I hear ya, luv.” He leaned in. “So…remember when I contracted your services for some pure ethanol?”

“Sure,” I said. In a concession to basic human nature, Artemis allows liquor even though it’s flammable. But they draw the line at pure ethanol, which is incredibly flammable. I smuggled it in the usual way and only charged Billy a 20 percent markup. That’s my friends-and-family rate.

He looked left and right. A couple of regulars minded their own business. Other than that we were alone. “I want to show you somefin’…”

He reached under the bar and pulled up a bottle of brown liquid. He poured some into a shot glass. “Here. ’Ave a sip.”

I could smell the alcohol from a meter away. “What is it?”

“Bowmore single-malt scotch. Aged fifteen years. Give it a try, on the ’ouse.”

I’m never one to turn down a free drink. I took a sip.

I spat it out in disgust. It tasted like Satan’s flaming asshole!

“Huh,” he said. “No good?”

I coughed and wiped my mouth. “That is not scotch.”

He looked at the bottle with a frown. “Huh. I had a bloke on Earth boil the liquids off then send me the extract. I reconstituted it with water and effanol. Should be exactly the same.”

“Well, it’s not,” I rasped.

“Scotch is an acquired taste….”

“Billy, I’ve swallowed better-tasting stuff that came out of people.”

“Bugger.” He put the bottle away. “I’ll keep working on it.”

I gulped beer to wash the taste away.

My Gizmo beeped at me. A message from Trond:

“Free tonight? Can you drop by my place?”

Meh. I was just starting my evening beers.

“It’s late. Can it wait?”

“Best if handled tonight.”

“I’m just sitting down to dinner…”

“You can drink dinner later. This is worth your time, I promise.”


“Looks like I have to cash out,” I told Billy.

“Pull the other one!” he said. “You’ve only had one pint!”

“Duty calls.” I handed him my Gizmo.

He took it to the register. “One pint. Lowest tab I ever rung you for.”

“I won’t make a habit of it.”

He waved my Gizmo over the register then handed it back to me. The transaction was done (I’d long ago set up my account to accept Hartnell’s as a “no-verify” point of purchase). I slid the Gizmo into my pocket and headed out. The other patrons didn’t say goodbye or even acknowledge me. God, I love Hartnell’s.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.