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Chapter 23: After

After Aster was gone, TM spent a lot of time listening to music. He was never quite sure

what sort of music to listen to, though. He would put a sad piano piece on; Liszt or Chopin

or something. He would feel as if he understood it in a way he never had before.

It was very easy, TM reflected, to only think of things that could be verbalised as being ‘real’

or ‘valid’ or ‘true’. After all, so much of everything was done with language. It was a useful

thing to have, undeniably, but perhaps everyone was missing something by not just

accepting that some things could be true despite not being possible to prove with linguistic

reasoning, or even to put into words at all. That was how the music made him feel now.

Other times, he would put on something more upbeat, modern, punky even. It made him

smile for a short time, if he was lucky. Ultimately, it didn’t seem to matter whether the music

was happy or sad. He would feel what the music made him feel for as long as it lasted, and

perhaps a little longer, and then he would go back to feeling what he had been feeling

before. Happy music didn’t take away the sadness, and sad music didn’t seem to be

providing any sort of effective catharsis.

All in all, TM thought, it was a bit of a shitter of a situation.


‘Hey,’ TM said, closing the door to the flat slowly.

‘What?’ said Veggie, from somewhere.

TM scouted about for a moment. Michel Furcoat came over to wind himself around TM’s ankles, purring quietly; TM patted him gently, then picked him up and carried him over to the table at which they had all played Hero’s Adventure. Veggie was sitting under it, legs crossed, forehead pressed against the wall.

‘No,’ Veggie said, reaching behind him to pull the Bedsheet Tablecloth Whiteboard down like a protective canopy.

‘Veg,’ said TM quietly, tugging the sheet off him. ‘Don’t do this to yourself.’

‘Why not?’ Veggie said, turning his head very slightly. ’We had a new friend, man, a new partner. She was going to bring us profit and business and fucking happiness and then Riegel O’Ryan came down from space and teamed up with a gigantic dog and a god - fucking - damned -’ he smashed his head against the wall with each word ’- weatherman and she hits the fucking Rainmaker on Ziggy and takes her away, and -’ he slumped against the wall, tears streaking down the wallpaper ‘- and she didn’t want to go, Tom, she wanted to stay here. With us.’

‘You’ve only called me that twice before,’ TM said, slotting himself in beside Veggie under the table and putting an arm around him. ‘You remember?’

‘Yeah,’ said Veggie, looking as if he were trying to smile. ‘The day we first met, and the day I caught the Swede cheating and you were trying to persuade me not to kill him.’

‘You were so pissed off,’ TM said, laughing.

‘Yeah, well,’ said Veggie. ‘I guess my sophisticated taste in partners was… less developed at that point.’

‘Pff,’ TM agreed.

‘She’s, like, properly gone,’ Veggie said after a moment.

‘Yeah,’ TM said, reluctantly.

‘And there’s nothing we can do about it.’

‘Don’t say that so soon,’ TM admonished him. ‘I said that too, but Dominika and I had a bit of a chat and -’

‘You had a what?’

‘Through sign language, and stuff,’ TM corrected hastily. ‘Anyway, she made me see that we have to at least try to get Ziggy back.’

‘What are you suggesting?’ Veggie asked.

‘We’re inventors,’ TM said. ‘Let’s build a fucking spaceship.’

‘You know that’s an absolutely ridiculous plan.’

‘I do. Let’s do it.’

Veggie thought about it for a moment, then held up his fist. TM bumped it.

‘We need funds to make a spaceship, though,’ Veggie said thoughtfully. TM opened his mouth hopefully, but Veggie cut him off: ‘We’re not doing the Octobike.’

The sounds of scratching came from above their heads, and then Michel Furcoat lunged down off the table and came to rub his body against them. In his wake, a piece of paper fell.

‘What’s that?’ Veggie said; TM reached over and picked it up.

‘It’s Ziggy’s character sheet,’ he said. He glanced away, unable to look at it.

‘Hang on,’ said Veggie, taking the sheet eagerly. ‘Look what she’s written here.’

TM stared at it. There were three words pencilled neatly in under the tables of stats.

‘Fuck me,’ said Veggie. ‘I think Ziggy’s just made us a ton of money again.’

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