Taarg: The Caranada Ballroom, from Memorium (c.1995)

A scene from out of another Kerav City night, when normality is torn apart by power using the unthinkable. This was the first time the Universe 2 creatures called the Taarg were to be used on the soft underbelly of Terran society. It wouldn't be the last (see Taarg: The Skyrises).

It promised to be a memorable occasion.

It definitely merited being memorable. After all, this glad-rag function had featured prominently on Dame Trazwinna's Places to Be diary (broadcast every Wednesday afternoon, straight after Star-twists of Love) for the past month or so.

Every fashion/society journo worth his, her or its salt were doing the rapt locust thing all around the flashlit entrance. Every vid-opper on the up-and-up was positioned with taut muscles and rigored lips, watching for the perfect shot of glitter stone, of thousand-cred suit, of the flimsiest chiffon.

And on the outer fringes, across the street and barricaded by Metro Seccers and patrol droids, clustered the wanna-bes and the star-eyes, there to hope and dream and to remember for the cots of their grandchildren in the mists of time to come.

Except for one. Who was prowling the droid-lines, looking for the weak spot that every journo knows exists solely for the benefit of O'Shaughnessey's Maxim.

If you want a stuff-up, call in Metro Sec. It's bound to happen, then.

And lo, the patron saint of the patient and resourceful journo decided that Teska was due for a break, and that now was a real good time for Droid Number 2345 to out-live its warrant of fitness. Said droid went into a sparking, smoking fit of built-in obsolescence, and into the minor zone of confusion stepped the woman, creeping street-low and eye-wary before making a quick dash across the v'way towards one of the vid-oppers. Who in turn had grown bored out of his mind waiting for the wonderfuls to turn up, was muttering something about late credbastards, and had turned to watch the miniature fireworks display.

"Hi there," Teska gasped, as she ducked behind him and his cam. "Didn't know you did this beat, Shanlax."

"I don't," he replied. "Except when Asanera decides that his stomach can't take the sight o' the rich yum-yums they serve up here, and takes his doctor's prescription, and the doctor, to bed for the rest of the season." Shanlax shook his head, grinning. "Asanera believes in the virtuality of prompt house calls, that's for sure!" He quirked a brow. "How come you're here, Teska? Thought you —"

"Got a trail, Shanlax. Intriguing little item. Just following the threads."

"Hey, terrific! Need an opper? I could do with having my name up in lights, right now." He whooped delightedly when Teska nodded. "Fantastic! So, how we actually going to get into this shindig? Invites only, it said in the promo."

"I've got a feeling entry won't be a problem," Teska smiled assuredly, and turned to watch the arriving entourages. 


"You have an idea, already, who ordered the bombing?" Ubico asked Crawter, leaning toward him slightly as the vibro bore them through Kerav's darkening streets, approaching the glitterstorm of lights that marked the Caranada Ballrooms, and the waiting voyeurs. Tomas, sitting across from them, inclined his head but otherwise kept silent.

"A possibility, Ubico, " Crawter disaverred. "Nothing's definite at this stage. But a friend o' mine, when I asked about the likelihood of strange characters in town in the last few days or so connected in any way, shape or form wi' the conference, came up with a name. A Lukhor Arragoth —"

"Arragoth!" Ubico exclaimed, and then went into an unstoppable torrent of invective. Tomas nodding with a glower. Crawter wishing he had a lingual dictionary beside him. All this sounded interesting t' know next time Metro Sec picked him up ...

"That man is a puercista, an espurion pulga who probably calls a test-tube his mama! Cah! That Orgurran swine ... You know, Eoghan, he once tried to make a play for the Trust! Just after that Blue Spire business, down in Nicaragua. Thought we were weak and toothless tree cats because of the loss of the family mine --"

"So, this could be because of business jealousy?" Crawter asked tentatively, ducking in case Ubico started swearing again with the accompaniment of a swinging tree-trunk of an arm.

"He has the Kamestra, Eoghan. And the Kamestra have access to the Zeraxabbi Reversion worlds. They mine, right? Carry the ore off the worlds," and Ubico gestured to make his point, his hands becoming like starships travelling through limitless void. "They have to go through the nearspace of a world called Antralta 10, or else skirt too near the Orgurran Republic and be taxed right up to the ion transfers." He grinned then. Ferally. The humour of a lethal accountant. "And the Trust will soon own Antralta 10. While we wait for the Reversion to happen, and then to arrange a deal with the heirs of all Kamestra's playgrounds."

"So, you'll soon have a stranglehold over this Lukhor character? Cutting off his business, so to speak?"

"Ciertamente, Eoghan! So, when do we have the local seguri arrest this Serangian pig, hah? I want to see him in shackles and chains, that -!" and he started off again, in AmCentran Spanish, with Tomas putting in the odd feeder or two.

"Not that simple," Crawter tried interrupting, and repeated himself when the words had ceased flowing. "There's the matter o' proof, Ubico. Motive, we have — but Metro Sec are old fashioned darlings who like to see highlights and under linings before they go pouncing on the very rich in Kerav City."

"Proof," Ubico muttered. "Civilisation, Tomas! Civilisation. Our ancestors in the jungles would bang on the door of the likes of Arragoth in the midst of a dark moon night in a revolucion, push aside the women and flash shoot our justice straight into his brain. But, we are civilised, and our nephew is right. We need proof. But at least," and his grin flashed, "we know the predator before hearing the slither of his coming."

"Listen, drebber. I hate repeating myself. Just who owns the rental droids around here, huh?"

Bulbous nose angled up, topped by scowling eyes obscured by unstructured brows. Blunt-fingers grasped and upheld a diamond-shaped ocule, so that one slightly bloodshot eye could glare under ten-power magnification at the impassive, unmoved face of the purple hooded dreb.

"Sir, that is outside the scope of my purveyance ..."

"Dreb, I ain't got a lot o' time for your sort, or any other off-world crappos around here. Far as I'm concerned, it's Terra for the Terrans, get me? But I've gotta be nice, the missus says. Reyamur, she says, behave. Act nice. Remember, for once, that you're the owner of a damn fine conglomerate that's been putting together these droid thingos for the last hundred years." The thin mouth smiled coldly in the shadow of that nose. "When I make a purchase, I make it good, get me? But that don't mean I'll stand by while some fleakicker comes on the scene with his junk, while mine's rotting in the time-waitin' margin on the frakking distributor's order screens, get me?"

Gentle gossiping voices flowed all around, some casting an inquisitive glance or two at the rough gem yelling down the cool, calm maitre d'. The dreb did sigh, a brief gust of air, and bent a fraction at the waist, smoothly indicating a seat.

"Sir, if you'll take your seat, sir, I'm sure you'll enjoy your evening."

Reyamur glared at him a second more, before raising a hand to smooth errant hairs across the shining dome of his scalp, and stomping away to sit next to his waiting wife.

"Well, dear, did you find everything out?" she asked gently, and he rumbled a muffled snarl.

"No, I did not. Those things look cheap an' foreign, Hana. That jarker Verben said he didn't need my Mark 5s, and now I see he's imported tinker toys!" Reyamur cast a baleful look towards one of the servo-droids smoothly wending a path amongst the tables, avoiding the increasing clog of people dextrously. To the uninitiated eye, there didn't seem a whole lot wrong with the machine. It moved, it replied politely to requests, delivered promptly —

"Got fresh lysis stain on the thing," Reyamur growled. "Those are fresh off the lines, dammit! And they ain't Terran, I'd bet my boshka lines on it!"

"There, there, dear, let's enjoy the evening and then tomorrow morning you can see our lawyers and sue Verben from here to the Dog Star. You know you love a good litigation period, Reyamur. Please don't frown, it makes your nose swell." Hana reached out to pat his hand. "Take a deep breath, sweets, and enjoy yourself."

His response was buried in the depths of a crystal full of sparkling bubbles.


Alighting from a flashed-up vibro for the second time in two days, Crawter was starting to feel the unreality set in. He reflexedly held up a hand to shield his eyes from the lights going off, and only distantly heard Tomas exclaim about something. Then, once he found a piece of the night dark enough to see by, he saw his young uncle embracing Teska Janaul like a long-lost member of the family.

Which, according to the Saguara code, she was, and always would be. Regardless of any other circumstances.

"Teska!" he heard Ubico call out, gesturing expansively. "I have an open invitation code, Teska. Come join us inside!"

"Uh, I have a friend here," Teska replied, and Shanlax smiled hopefully, raising a hand.

"Bring him along," Ubico agreed, after the slightest fraction of hesitation. To Crawter, the Nicaraguan murmured, "Do you think they are --"

"He's just a colleague, I'm sure," Crawter said, and crossed his fingers.

And inside they went, into the sweeping interior of the Grand Ballroom, where tables clustered the sides, and the central floor was an ever-changing holog display of planetary scenes from most of the known, better viewed Federation worlds. They walked across the wavering sandridges of Garvora 3 and the sulphur spires of Vazquar 2 before seating themselves around a mauve veltar covered circle.

Tomas was engrossed, in the middle of asking pertinent questions of the man Teska said was called Shanlax. Questions as to how the vid-cam worked, what it was like to be an opper, and where Shanlax had worked ... Teska was settling herself in likewise, smiling knowingly at Crawter and Ubico. arranging the cutlery in front of her before she cleared her throat and asked, "So? Last night you guys were on hand when Golconda blew its high-priced top for the second time this financial season. Got anything planned for tonight?"

"I promised Teska here the exclusive," Crawler explained to Ubico in an aside.

"Exclusive? Oh, you mean she wants to make a story out of this? Like Rebelatra?" Ubico inclined his head. "This won't be so interesting, I'm afraid. All business, dry boring numbers, boardroom meetings, conference speeches —"

"Classy hotels getting extra ventilation in the middle of the afternoon with the guests playing wall-stick amongst the pigeons." Teska finished for him, crooking an eyebrow artfully and leaning forward to rest her chin on her palm, her elbow braced on the table. Her fingers tap-tapped her jaw. "'Bico, I won't publicise what doesn't have to be so. You know the last thing I'd want is your family embarrassed. But, this is great stuff! A jazz of a story! How 'bout I promise that the Trust gets to vet everything before it goes on air, huh?"

"That may be all right," Ubico agreed, eyes guarded. "But as yet, there is nothing, Teska. And my heart is full of the sainted truth when I say that. We need — proof —"

"Of what? About who?"

He smiled urbanely, and shook his finger. "Wait and see, Teska. Wait and see."


It just wouldn't work. There was no way he, Reyamur Jorgayl, was going to forget that some garg-nosed foreigner had muscled in on his market. At cut-rates, no doubt. No. Nothing Hana could say, and certainly not the insipid taste of this carrot food, was going to take his mind off it.

Especially when the reminders were everywhere. Droning silently by, bleeping on cue.

He drummed his fingers on the table, until Hana noticed and arched an eyebrow. He smiled faintly, then let his eyes narrow on one particular droid.

He snapped his fingers peremptorily, in the age-old summoning-of-the-servo-droid maneuver.

And watched the little beggar glide toward him. Watched with a leopard's gleam to his eye, and the glint of a tooth between his parted lips.

Attaboy. Come to papa. Come ... to ... papa ...


There was a rising wave of volume to the chatter, as a late arrival long expected finally entered the ballroom. Moving with regal grace and self-assumed poise to pre-reserved tables, with a personal group numbering in the neighbourhood of a dozen. Including three fetching, nubile young women.

"Wearing the latest sensation from the House of Lust," Shanlax commented to Teska. "Disfocus your eyes the right way, you get a free anatomy lesson."

"Look, Tomas, and you'll be giving confession until next Lent," Ubico advised his brother who coloured and made sure his eyeline didn't include the brillant finery just across the way. "That, Eoghan, is Lukhor Arragoth," the Nicaraguan went on, carefully nodding in the display's direction.

"He some kind of business rival?" Teska enquired, round eyed and innocent, and Ubico gritted his teeth.

"Teska, everyone is a rival. Even your dearest friend. But yes, he, especially, is a rival."

"Wonder if he knows any good local bombers?" Teska mused then, then flicked a hand towards Ubico. "Relax, 'Bico. I'm off-duty, all right? But you can't blame a journo for trying, can you?"

Crawter was watching the Serangian's party, noting each tilt of Lukhor's head, the flash of a smile. And had that uncanny feeling he always labelled 'the jeebies when I get to see someone I won't ever like'.

He saw Lukhor reach out to a servo-droid and almost lovingly stroke the top carapace. Like a proud father touching the crown of a son's head as he boasted of his progeny's achievements or potential. Crawter watched, and knew that Teska watched also. 

"Now, let's see, what shall I order?" Reyamur murmured sweetly, raising his ocule to peer one-eyed at the list appearing along the side of the patient servo. "So much to choose from, dear. Very hard to see in this light."

"Reyamur, I can hardly see the need to order another drink when you already have a full crystal. Are you trying to create trouble again?" Hana asked suspiciously.

"No, dear. Nothing of the sort. 1 just feel that if we have to pay out a week's income on this kind of thing, I should get my money's worth." He reached behind to distractedly touch her arm. "It's all right dear, I'm nearly done."

As he studied the list, he lowered his other hand to the table top, and slid a uni-prong fork off the cloth and into the cup of his palm. Then brought it round, slowly, to the back of the droid, as if steadying the machine for an even closer look. "Such a bother, having bad eyes," he remarked.

"Well, if you would stop being such a proud ass and go see that specialist as I told you, you wouldn't need that silly ocule thing of yours," Hana informed him.

"That specialist is a greasy, pore-oozing Rangulla."

"Huh! You and your prejudices, Reyamur! Because of that, you're wasting time trying to find something on that droid! You'll never listen..."

He located the respiration grill, and levered it open to a wide gap with the fork. The droid bleeped, but did nothing.

Then, he sat back, away from the machine, and sighed. "No, after all, I think I'll pass on the extra drink, dear. You're right. I won't need another, until after the meal they've given us," and he swept his arm across the table. Over a stack of dishes still being cleared by other droids. Colliding, intentionally, with his still half-full drink which jetted out in a perfect fluid arch, and swamped over the top of the about-to-depart 1iquor-droid.

Dripping into the open respirator.

Starting to steam and bubble across the now heated carapace.

Reyamur put a hand up to his mouth, widened his eyes and said, "Oops! Silly me! Just look at what I've done!" to a narrow-eyed Hana. "Oh, well, I'm sure Verbena's insured. Wouldn't have to cost much replacing cheap junk like that, eh?"

He had settled back, lacing stubby fingers across his ample belly, when he heard a low growl. A metallic kind of growl. Like he'd heard one time, as a boy, in an inventor's exhibit where some kook had tried to imitate the sounds of dogs and cats for a space-station security system.

A dog in a tin-can, he'd thought then.

He turned his head, raised his ocule, and watched the carapace rise up, amidst sparks that singed the floor and started to set the tablecloth alight. Watched two red glows emerge from the darkness of the droid's internals, red glows attached to a dog-like head with teeth that went on forever, and a satiny skin that dripped viscous ooze, slime, saliva and sweet, sticky alcohol.

The droid's manipulators whirled and sunk inwards, replaced by a long thin barrel which Reyamur immediately took to be a weapon of some kind. That was the point where he rolled sideways, grabbed Hana by the waist, and both crashed to the floor beneath the table, draped by the remains of the tumbled cloth.

Just before the monster in the machine opened fire, and turned several fine mosaic displays to crystalline ash.

Lukhor raised his head, and hissed, "That was not supposed to — Not tonight!"

One of his companions frowned. "That's Taarg Leader. The rest will follow its actions, now. That's how we programmed —"

"We?" Lukhor snarled. "Not we, Fadrin, you. And you will pay for the error." He nodded, and two other men sitting on either side of Fadrin produced thin blades and simultaneously slashed the startled man's throat in both directions. As the body collapsed to stain the tablecloth, Lukhor half-turned, watched as nine other Taarg emerged from their camouflage as servo-droids, lifting screaming people up to smash bone against chromite steel before sinking teeth into warm flesh, and sighed.

"This will have to be corrected before tomorrow," he said, calmly. "Let's go."

All this had upset his plans. Slightly. He felt confident he could repair the plan in time for the beginning of everything he'd dreamed of, but it was a nuisance, nonetheless.

He'd tell his mother about it. Like he'd always wanted to tell his mother about what he did, and what happened. He'd tell her in the morning,, when she woke up.

One Taarg whirled into their path, brandishing weaponry and power-limbs in threat stance. Lukhor merely sucked in a cheek, and murmured, "Kajstol gha!" and the Taarg ceased to move as the people filed past it. Before, moments later, self-destructing with a roar.


"Sag told me a little about something like these," Teska yelled above the bedlam, and close to the men's ears so they heard what she said. They had upended their table and now crouched behind it, wincing as cannon fire sliced and banged against the other side. "Something he said had been on Jepper's one time. The time he'd got me off there —"

"The Taarg," Tomas chimed in. "The ones used by that Xorchai bastard. Guarding the temple in the jungle." He fondly recalled that as yet another of Cesar's star-tales, remembering it in detail.

Crawter was on his stomach, peering round the bottom of the table, noting two things in the confusion and the firings. Lukhor Arragoth and co had gone, and there seemed to be only one body left in their wake. And unless these beasties rampaging here got their jollies out of precision butcher's knives, they didn't do that bit o' slaughtering.

Then, he spotted someone crawling on elbows and knees, slithering like a snake toward their haven. Crawter heaved himself forward, grabbed at the man's clothes, and yanked him back behind the table's protecting shadow, cringing a tad when a Taarg growled and screeched somewhere nearby.

"Thanks," the rescued man gasped. "I'm Verben, the manager of —-"

"Who supplied the droids?" Crawter asked, and Verben blinked.

"Eoghan," Ubico chided. "The man's in shock. What are you —?"

"Can't believe ... this is happening! Armiton ... Distribution ... selling off bankrupt stock, they said. Asset thaw ..."

"When? In the last three days?"

Ubico now leaned closer, to catch Verben's muttered, "Yeah. Can't let ... a deal like that go, eh?" and then the man fainted.

"And Lukhor owns Armiton," Crawter sighed, letting the uncon­scious man drop to the floor. "So a friend told me. It's on the TARID records."

"Proof!" Ubico exulted, almost clapping his hands together. "Now, we have him! "

"But why did he try just to blow us up?" Tomas asked. "If he is using these Taarg things, why didn't he plant one up in the suite? It could have killed us all in our beds —" and he ran a finger across his throat.

"If this Lukhor jerk's into playing trojan horse games with things inside droids, he wouldn't have gotten far with the Golconda, " Taska replied. "Golconda is a servo-free zone. They hate droids. Wanted to be old-fashioned and cost heaps."

Shanlax was letting his vid-cam run, and grinning silently to himself. Great vid, man. Just great ... 


From the outside, Metro Sec got their first inkling something was wrong when a table was discus'ed out through the main doors, spinning through the night air to decapitate five sec-droids before demolishing a vibro belonging to the operation sergeant.

Who was not a happy man.

He took it upon himself to go marching up to the doors to the ballroom, to start demanding in the loud time-old voice of all vexed authority, "Just what the jarking hell's going -—?"

His body was flung back by the force of a qrell-type blast, to rest forlorn, crumpled and still open-eyed atop a barricade.

That was when the outside crowd panicked.

That was when Metro Sec called for back up, and began to fire at anything that moved, especially in the vicinity of the ballroom.


Crawter's private thoughts on what to do when you're stuck in the middle of a mad robotic demolition spree were firmed up when a prehensile coil came round over the top of the table and grabbed Ubico Saguara by the neck, jerking upward and trying to drag the gurgling, struggling man back over the rim. Tomas and Crawter both leapt towards Ubico, managing to tear the coil away from the elder Saguara's now blackened neck — but the metal then wrapped itself around Crawter's wrist, and he was pulled up and away from the loud cries of alarm and the helpless grasping fingers of his family and friends.

He landed on the other side,amid a debris-strewn floor, joltingly dragged through it. He felt shards of the things the Taarg had shattered and destroyed digging into him, then felt himself come up hard against something. Halting.

A table? A pillar?

No, another Taarg. One that had jaws dripping with blood from where, raptor-like, it had been feeding off a carcass. Something that used to be a human being, but was now just strips of raw meat. And Taarg number two didn't like being interrupted in its repast.

The one with the coil attachment suddenly squealed as its head was blown clean off. Which left Crawter attached to a dead Taarg. With an angry live one turning on articulated, robotic legs that clicked and groaned loudly from the over-use. With clamping claws that opened and closed as they came nearer to him.

He heard, in the far distance or so it seemed through his heart-pounding ears, Tomas screaming that he had to help save him. The others were wisely keeping him down. Crawter silently thanked his uncles for their concern, felt the weight of the coil, and discovered that dead Taarg were surprisingly light, given their mass.

He raised his legs up, then swung sideways, using the momentum to tug on the coil and slide the dead Taarg toward its ravenous, living comrade. The impact sounded like the clash of cymbals, and his shoulder nearly divorced itself at the socket, but he felt something snap, and then he was free. With a dangle of coil still at his wrist, and one very furious Taarg meat eater disentangling itself from cold, torn-up metal.

Crawter began to scamper across the floor, like a mouse from a confounded cat, but knew it wouldn't last. He was the only thing moving in that room, now. The only prey that was easy to catch. And he half-expected the claws that stopped his stumbling run and began to bash him hard against the floor. Like an oyster hawk with a stubborn crustacean, dropping the juice-filled prize on sea rocks.

He smiled, though. He'd be going to Tramore, he thought dazedly, hardly feeling the blows anymore. Once they turned his brain to puree, he'd be with Tramore. That was nice. That was very nice indeed.

He dropped, and felt softness under his head, arms around him, and heard a melodic voice tell him, "Don't you dare die, you mad Irishman! Not after all I've been through to find you again! Don't you dare!"

His head still obediently pounding in rhythm to the Taarg beat, Crawter looked up fuzzily at a concerned feminine face, and mumbled through swollen tongue, "Come to take me home?" and then felt the arms cradle him tighter. Bliss. Sheer bliss.

"You guys see that?" Shanlax yelled, and he gave a whoop. "Woo-ee! This is gonna be a gem, Teska! Your friend gets hugged by a beautiful dame who appears outta nowhere, there's some guy with her swearing like anything and blowing those Taarg thingo's to glory, and then there's the horse — uh, oh."

"Looks like a Nakora," Teska commented,looking over the rim, alongside the two Saguaras. "Eats like one, too."

Several of the Taarg made a concerted dive towards the floating, motionless Securio, who seemed to look forward to the prospect. And surged-out five of the Taarg at once.

Neroas alongside him, both of them standing between the kneeling Tramore and the machines, raised the Orgurran qrell again and split a teeth-laden head clean off whirling tronics. "You eating these things?" Neroas yelled over his shoulder, and shuddered when Securio said yes. "Yuk! That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard of. A carnivorous horse!"

"You think humans eating horses are better?" Securio growled, watching a Taarg weave its way, now uncertainly, towards them.

"I don't eat meat, pal. I'm a vegetarian from way back."

A snort. "Which would explain your mind beautifully," Securio put in, and watched the reluctant Taarg explode. "Tramore," he said, bowing his head to the gently rocking woman. "We should leave now. Where do we —?"

"Poralla Street," she replied, watching Crawter's unconscious face. "He should be with his family. And me."

"Guide me with your thoughts, Tramore, and we are there," Securio advised. "Well, vegetarian? Are you quite finished?" he asked Neroas, who had shot one last Taarg and now angled the qrell up against his shoulder.

"One crack about the vegetables, Securio, and there'll be war."

"I'll keep that in mind, mortal, when I'm looking for some fun," the horse retorted, then murmured, "Oh, by the way. That plant there looks tasty. Why don't you try a nibble?"

"Look, you —!" Neroas began to roar, when they all faded out.


In the unsettling quiet of the aftermath, the survivors picked themselves up out of the recent memories of blood and terror. Helped each other out to the soothing coolness of the spring night air beyond the now desecrated doors.

Reyamur limped badly, but said to his wife Hana in the crook of his arm, "You're right, dear. I should sue Verben. Sue him until the moon turns to cheese!" He raised a hand to ward off the bright lights of the curious, and added, "Metro Sec, too. Ain't safe t' have a night out, anymore ..."

"Eoghan is gone," Ubico kept rasping dolefully, his throat raw and badly bruised by the coil.

"'Bico, I'm sure he'll be all right," Tomas reassured his brother. "The holy saints look after him. I heard the woman say something about 23 Poralla Street — they must have been friends!"

"Teska," Shanlax said, "this thing is big. I mean, it is so mega, my cam is smoking., lady! We could negotiate JP right into cushion-city if we handle this right —"

"It isn't over," Teska muttered. "Not by a long way."


"Shan, meet me at my apartment, okay?" She handed him a key. "Make yourself at home, eat my food, relax. We've got to talk, but later."

"Sure, sure, but —"

"Keep it on the hush, okay, Shan? 'Till I can work some stuff out."

The opper nodded. "Anything you say, Teska. What, you think there's more?"

"Oh, yeah. A helluva lot more. Scoot."