Space Rat Saturdays – Tox Etiquette

Courtesy of NASA. A dark but illuminated Earth is visible past two orbiting satellites.

Earth.

I hate Earth. Or at least what it is now.

Papa grew up here during the Third Space Race, the last time Sapiens pretended to give a shit about spacing. He used to play those old vids on a loop whenever he was feeling down.

You could always tell how he was feeling based on what vids were playing on our ship.

Papa had an immense, dense bank of computer storage in the Dodger dedicated solely to old Sapien vids, mostly from the Media Infancy era.

Outdated News Vids usually meant we were out of money. Cartoons meant things were good and life was easy for a bit. British comedies meant we were feeling rebellious, probably at the Cons’ expense. Mystery shows meant something needed fixing on the ship or Papa had a new idea he wanted to research.

Grandma would always complain about all the noise of the ship. But she never turned off the vids. She loved them the same way she loved Papa. Resentfully in the open, but with kindness in secret.

That’s the only Earth I actually understand. Pre-Con Earth still doesn’t look like a place I would want to live on, but at least it makes a sort of sense, in easily-digestible chunks.

You would think growing up with constant vids would make the bombardment of walking out into the street from Customs easier, but there’s never only one thing begging for your attention. Right now even with my earbuds I can still hear an advert for shaving cream, an announcement about curfews, continuing requests for other ships getting a Confederate shakedown, and a looping trailer for something called Martian Marshalls that keeps making explosions. I thumb down a cab and try my best to inhale and exhale slowly through gritted teeth.

The driver is a reptilian biped wearing a tank top and pinstriped pajama pants. Their vertical pupils eye me hungrily when I say, “If you can find me the closest tox bar with no Cons I’ll pay you double. Double that if it’s quiet.”

I peek down as we lift off the street, whizzing around a skyline that’s nothing like what I grew up watching. If it weren’t for the Statue of Liberty, I wouldn’t even recognize it.


“Intoxicants are one of the universal signs of intelligence,” Grandma used to say. At which point Papa would likely whisk me away and tell me about ancient Sapien agriculture and it’s connections to ethanol.

It’s not like she was drunk all the time. Who could afford it?

But because people are generally cowards when it comes to crime, intoxicants are part of the parcel. So she taught me how to order toxics and still keep my wits about me.

“Always keep it simple, Peewee. You want the toxtender’s good will, and they don’t like people being pissy about how they do their job. When toxtenders don’t like someone, they remember them.”

The driver was more than happy with my double-double tip, and I was pleased with the quiet basement bar they found for me.

“I’ll take a vodka and soda, with a cannabinoid inhalant please.”

One of my best rehearsed lines.

The toxtender looks mammalian, with a thin semi-translucent fur making distinctive markings on their face and forearms. Their “mammalian assets” are proudly on display in a shimmering dark leather top, but the fashion seems out of place in a dive like this. The toxtender takes my credit chips without words, for which I am immensely thankful.

I sit at the bar and fiddle with my comm nervously as I wait for my toxics. I check the corners of the bar but see only an old Sapien sleeping on a back booth, his hat resting next to his gray head. The only noise to drown out his gentle snores is one lone vid screen, scrolling the news at a minimal volume. It’s quiet, but not silent. Which is perfect.

A tray is silently brought to me and I toss back the drink and take a large hit off the inhaler.

“Another please,” I say to the toxtender, who continues to serve in silence.

I can feel my heart finally beginning to slow down as I fiddle with my comm settings. But I can never get these damn holographic buttons to actually recognize my fingers. Papa used to blame our calluses.

“Fuck this,” I mutter in exasperation, slamming the home button projected through my palm with my free hand until, finally, I hear a chirp in response, “Jackie, can you contact our employer for me? Send him my current location and try to sound intimidating if you can.”

“Right away, boss,” a tinny distant voice shouts from my hand.

“The wonders of technology,” the toxtender scoffs while bringing my next round.

I smirk at them as I raise my glass, “To your health, kind one.”

I swear, toxics and money are the only things worth being terran-side.

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Space Rat Saturdays – Tox Etiquette

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