It took Stefan Izmaylova a week to find a way to the roof of the warehouse and QuinnAH – or Quinn as Stefan insisted on calling him – wasn’t much help. The blue boy would disappear at odd times, often when Stefan had questions about The Rim community, food supplies, if there were any gardens out here or if Quinn knew anyone who worked in the marketplace.
When Quinn gave him a puzzled look one day when Stefan had asked him to find him a nearby one, Quinn had said, “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”
“You know – a place where everyone sells their produce or home-woven cloth or...”
“What are you talking about?”
Stefan looked down at the boy. They’d set up sort of an office and Quinn had scavenged a plastic and a wooden chair, a plastic table with one slightly warped leg and a sheet of plywood with six small holes in – Stefan hadn’t wanted to know the history of the thing even though Quinn was eager to offer it. Stefan was sitting at the table he’d made into a desk of sorts and said, “Don’t you buy, sell and trade things in the Rim?”
“Oh, that! Nothin’ to buy, sell or trade in our neighborhood. People’s gotta go to other places to get stuff like that.”
Stefan blinked then sighed. Shaking his head, he said, “If I could find a way up to the roof, I could change all of that.”
Quinn stared at him a long time then said, “How’d you change it?”
Stefan jerked his chin upward. “If I could get up to the roof, I could scrape together enough marsdust to give us a chance of making some soil. With soil, we could grow vegetables. We could sell the vegetables...”
“The people in this neighborhood.”
“People here don’t got cred!”
“Then we barter.” He pointed to the empty warehouse. “I need help to clean up a place in the warehouse so that I can start a church.” This time Quinn’s look was one of total non-comprehension. Stefan sighed. “A church is a place where people who believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God and that He deserves our worship gather.”
“You’d give people food just if they helped you?”
“Yes,” said Stefan.
Quinn was silent for some time before he said, “Then you gotta come on.” He left the “office”. Stefan followed. Quinn led him to the farthest wall of the warehouse, in a seemingly random place – not in a corner, the center of the vast wall or any other place that would have been apparent to anything but a thorough search of the pace with a spotlight. Quinn pointed straight up.
Stefan tilted his head back, squinted into the darkness the bottoms rungs of a what appeared to be a ladder set into the wall. Safety hoops, clearly bent, possibly rusted, followed the ladder and disappeared into the inky black of the ceiling far away. “How am I supposed to reach the bottom rung?”
Stefan pursed his lips and said, “I need an antigrav plate.”
Quinn blew a raspberry then said, “I can get one for you. I got friends...”
“I’m not Fagin from DAVID COPPERFIELD.”
“No theft. What I get for the church I get without stealing. One of the rules I live by is that I don’t steal anything, even if I need it.”
“‘ow do you live wi’ou’ stealin’?” Quinn exclaimed.
It was Stefan’s turn to blow a raspberry. He looked up into the heights of the warehouse and said, “I live just fine.”
Quinn jabbed Stefan in the ribs with a bony finger. Stefan jumped to one side as Quinn said, “You’re kinda skinny to be saying something like that to impress me.”
Stefan shook his head. “I didn’t say I lived like the Mayor.”
“Nobody live like she.”
Stefan grunted, looked up into the netherworld again and said, “I have someone I can call...”
“No! Never call from the Rim! Never! Too many people pay too much attention and we’re all dead!”
Stefan put his commlink away and nodded slowly. “I see your point. I can go deeper into Burroughs.”
“Need to go to the Home Owner’s District to be really safe!”