He apologetically offered the rest to Kim, who shook his head. "Jusst had a mousse."
Hastily Spar made his way to the green starboard corner. Outside the hatch he heard some drunks calling with weary and mournful anger, "Unzip!"
Grasping the heads of two long waste tubes, Spar began to sweep the air, working out from the green corner in a spiral, quite like an orb spider building her web.
From the torus, where he was idly polishing its thin titanium, Keeper upped the suction on the two tubes, so that reaction sped Spar in his spiral. He need use his body only to steer course and to avoid shrouds in such a way that his tubes didn't tangle.
Soon Keeper glanced at his wrist and called, "Spar, can't you keep track of the time? Open up!" He threw a ring of keys which Spar caught, though he could see only the last half of their flight. As soon as he was well headed toward the green door, Keeper called again and pointed aft and aloft. Spar obediently unlocked and unzipped the dark and also the blue hatch, though there was no one at either, before opening the green. In each case he avoided the hatch's gummy margin and the sticky emergency hatch hinged close beside.
In tumbled three brewos, old customers, snatching at shrouds and pushing off from each other's bodies in their haste to reach the torus, and meanwhile cursing Spar.
"Sky strangle you!"
"Earth bury you!"
"Seas sear you!"
"Language, boys!" Keeper reproved. "Though I'll agree my helper's stupidity and sloth tempt a man to talk foul."
Spar threw the keys back. The brewos lined up elbow to elbow around the torus, three grayish blobs with heads pointing toward the blue corner.
Keeper faced them. "Below, below!" he ordered indignantly. "You think you're gents?"
"But you're serving no one aloft yet."
"There's only us three."
"No matter," Keeper replied. "Propriety, suckers! Unless you mean to buy by the pouch, invert."
With low grumbles the brewos reversed their bodies so that their heads pointed toward the black corner.
Himself not bothering to invert, Keeper tossed them a slim and twisty faint red blur with three branches. Each grabbed a branch and stuck it in his face.
The pudge of his fat hand on glint of valve, Keeper said, "Let's see your scrip first."
With angry mumbles each unwadded something too small for Spar to see clearly, and handed it over. Keeper studied each item before feeding it to the cashbox. Then he decreed, "Six seconds of moonbrew. Suck fast," and looked at his wrist and moved the other hand.
One of the brewos seemed to be strangling, but he blew out through his nose and kept sucking bravely.
Keeper closed the valve.
Instantly one brewo splutteringly accused, "You cut us off too soon. That wasn't six."
The treacle back in his voice, Keeper explained, "I'm squirting it to you four and two. Don't want you to drown. Ready again?"
The brewos greedily took their second squirt and then, at times wistfully sucking their tubes for remnant drops, began to shoot the breeze. In his distant circling, Spar's keen ears heard most of it.
"A dirty Sleepday, Keeper."
"No, a good one, brewo - for a drunken sucker to get his blood sucked by a lust-tickling vamp."
"I was dossed safe at Pete's, you fat ghoul."
"Pete's safe? That's news!"
"Dirty Atoms to you! But vamps did get Girlie and Sweetheart. Right in the starboard main drag, if you can believe it. By Cobalt Ninety, Windrush is getting lonely! Third Hold, anyhow. You can swim a whole passageway by day without meeting a soul."
"How do you know that about the girls?" the second brewo demanded. "Maybe they've gone to another hold to change their luck."
"Their luck's run out. Suzy saw them snatched."
"Not Suzy," Keeper corrected, now playing umpire. "But Mabel did. A proper fate for drunken sluts."
"You've got no heart, Keeper."
"True enough. That's why the vamps pass me by. But speaking serious, boys, the werethings and witches are running too free in Three. I was awake all Sleepday guarding. I'm sending a complaint to the Bridge."
Keeper solemnly nodded his head and crossed his left chest. The brewos were impressed.
Spar spiraled back toward the green corner, sweeping farther from the wall. On his way he overtook the black blob of Kim, who was circling the periphery himself, industriously leaping from shroud to shroud and occasionally making dashes along them.
A fair-skinned, plump shape twice circled by blue - bra and culottes - swam in through the green hatch.
"Morning, Spar," a soft voice greeted. "How's it going?"
"Fair and foul," Spar replied. The golden cloud of blonde hair floating loose touched his face. "I'm quitting moonmist, Suzy."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Spar. Work a day, loaf a day, play a day, sleep a day - that way it's best."
"I know. Workday, Loafday, Playday, Sleepday. Ten days make a terranth, twelve terranths make a sunth, twelve sunths make a starth, and so on, to the end of time. With corrections, some tell me. I wish I knew what all those names mean."
"You're too serious. You should - Oh, a kitten! How darling!"
"Kitten-shmitten!" the big-headed black blur hissed as it leapt past them. "Izzz cat. IZZZ Kim."
"Kim's our new catcher," Spar explained. "He's serious too."
"Quit wasting time on old Toothless Eyeless, Suzy," Keeper called, "and come all the way in."
As Suzy complied with a sigh, taking the easy route of the ratlines, her soft taper fingers brushed Spar's crumpled cheek. "Dear Spar..." she murmured. As her feet passed his face, there was a jingle of her charm-anklet - all gold-washed hearts, Spar knew.
"Hear about Girlie and Sweetheart?" a brewo greeted ghoulishly. "How'd you like your carotid or outside iliac sliced, your - ?"