Rainith the Red's fury with the radio intensified.
'Why don't they play better music? Why is the presenter so annoying?'
'I don't think it's a real radio station,' said Geeda Lala.
'What do you mean?'
'Well, I've never played these video games - like the one we're now stuck inside - but I'm sure it's not real. No one is there, picking the music. It's just one long soundtrack, made to sound like a radio station.'
The fairy was not convinced.
'Hitting the radio definitely won't help,' added Geeda.
The fairy scowled, and brought up every game menu she could find, looking for some way to alter the music. Nothing had any effect. The sound coming out was either techno or ambient, both of which made her angry.
'I'm not putting up with this.' Rainith shrank to her her small fairy size and took to the air. 'I'm going to complain.'
'There's a radio tower on the map. I'll go there. I'll demand to hear X -Ray Spex.'
'Again, I don't think it's actually a functioning radio tower. And X-Ray Spex don't even exist in this world,' said Geeda, but by now Rainith had departed, flying off to complain to anyone she could find.
Fourteen Trees was still busy in front of her screens. Her mood had improved a little now that Nakishdan had gone out. 'Poor Rainith. She doesn't understand this place at all.'
'Have you made any progress?'
Fourteen Trees shook her head. The long tassels on her yellow hat stretched almost to the floor. 'Not really. There's something blocking our exit and I can't calculate any way past it.' A determined expression settled on her youthful features. 'But 47 Jeng does not give up. I'll keep trying.'
'I'll make us some tea,' said Geeda Lala.
Disguised in their hooded merchant robes, Nakishdan and Mixt entered the market.
'I always liked the markets in Star Metal City,' said Nakishdan. 'They have interesting things.'
'I like them too,' agreed Mixt. 'We could probably find something useful to buy. Except we don't have any money. After you spent it all.'
'Are people never going to stop talking about that? Surely it's time to move on.'
The South Market occupied an old building, a large, grey stone edifice in very poor repair. Fragments of crumbling masonry lay on the ground. The stone walls were covered in power cables added long after the building had been constructed, placed haphazardly wherever they would fit, sometimes trailing along the ground or looping up between the small market stalls, themselves mostly in bad repair, thrown together from wooden crates and corrugated iron. Despite this, several sellers displayed sophisticated wares, and Mixt and Nakishdan looked enviously at some of the weapons and armour they couldn't afford.
'Plasma rifle with laser tracking sights, boosted heat damage and fast reload. We could do with that.' Mixt looked meaningfully at her companion.
'We'll earn more money soon enough,' said Nakishdan. 'We always earn money on missions. Where's this mysterious artefact you saw?'
Mixt led Nakishdan to the far end of the market. The territory was familiar to them both, even if they were now inhabiting it for the first time. It was an excellent replica of the game they'd played.
'There it is.'
On a stall which seemed to be selling random junk, items which would have been difficult to put a name to, lay a small pice of silver metal. Like the one Rainith had recovered, it occasionally blinked in and out of existence.
'What is it?'
The stallholder, a very large alien with four arms, from the Jintero Federation, was unable to enlighten them.
'Can't say what it is. Nice piece though. Blinks in and out of existence.'
Mixt and Nakishdan studied the artefact. 'Do you think it's important?'
'Fourteen Trees seemed to think so.'
Whether it was important or not, buying it was out of the question. The stallholder had priced it at five thousand credits and they only had eight. They withdrew.
'We could steal it,' suggested Nakishdan.
'Stealing isn't really our strong suit. We were never that good at it. If we get caught we'll have even more people chasing us.'
Nakishdan nodded. 'These Gintero can be mean. Annoy one and they set the whole clan on you.'
Their discussion was interrupted by a familiar voice, from an unexpected source, as the radio station that played ambient music throughout the market suddenly underwent a dramatic chance of tone.
'Citizens of stupid Star Metal City, this is Rainith the Red on Fairies Hate You Radio. Here are the Sex Pistols. I hope you like it. No, I take that back, I hope you hate it and it makes previous you miserable.'
'So are we going to try and steal that artefact, or earn money to buy it? Or just ignore it?'
'Eh… we could… eh… ' Nakishdan shook his head. 'I can't think. I'm distracted by Rainith's radio station. How did this happen?'
All around the market, stall-holders and customers looked puzzled as Rainith carried on with her playlist of punk records which had never, to the best of anyone's knowledge, been heard in this world before, interspersed with her angry tirade against everyone and everything.
'You know how stupid this world is? It's really stupid. Unbelievably stupid. I mean, humans are stupid at the best of times but you're all worse. So are the Jintero. Who needs four arms? You all look ridiculous. This is Defiant Pose by the Cortinas. It's a better record than anything else on your useless radio stations but you're all probably too stupid to appreciate it.'
The sound of the Cortinas blared through the market. Mixt shook her head. 'An obscure choice, even by Rainith's standards. I see she's not one for inter-species harmony.'
'How can she just suddenly be playing records that shouldn't exist? And how did she become a DJ anyway? That's not in the game.' Nakishdan looked worried. 'Does she have some super mod powers or something? If she starts controlling the game life will be unbearable. We'll have to kill her.'
'I don't think we need to go that far yet. She's only playing records. People can always tune in to different stations.'
'I wish this market would.'
'This is Fairies Hate You radio playing One Chord Wonders by the Adverts.' Nakishdan winced as the music emerged from speakers placed high up on the walls. He'd always disliked the the punk gigs they'd been sent back to by the Department, when they'd been hunting for Geeda Lala.
The wonders are here, we don't give a damn.
The wonders are here, we don't give a damn…
'Is that Rainith's voice? Is she singing along with the chorus? DJs aren't meant to do that.'
There was brief electronic interference as Rainith stopped the record before it ended and went back to play her favourite part again.
'She's the worst DJ ever,' said Nakishdan. 'Stupid fairy.' He looked over towards the nearest stall-holder, a young Vooret, human shaped but blue-skinned. 'Who controls the music in this market? It's time they changed the station.'
The Vooret shrugged. 'I like it. It makes a change.'
The wonders are here, we don't give a damn.
The wonders are here, we don't give a damn…
'Let's get out of here. I can't think straight while Rainith's on the air.'
Captain Lir materialised on the rubbish-strewn banks of a nameless stream that flowed from the outskirts of Star Metal City. In the distance stood the tall towers of the city. Nearby were the ruins of several factories, and a burned-out space fighter. Melusine Mort was the next to appear. The young mathematical mercenary took in their desolate surroundings without expression. Her dark hair was cut very short and she had a silver metal strip running down her left temple; some sort of neural interface, the Captain supposed; he wasn't quite sure what it was for. Seconds later two more Kesh arrived, both, like Captain Lir, clad in the black uniforms of 102 Woo.
'A successful transfer.'
Melusine Mort nodded. She'd guided them to a world which the Kesh had previously been unable to reach, due to Girsin's skill in hiding his newly -created simulation.
Captain Lir turned to his companions. 'We four are all that can be sent here for now. We are to find Girsin and eliminate him. If Geeda Lala is here, which she may be, then she too is to be killed.'
They set off on foot for the distant buildings. As they advanced Captain Lir examined the wrist screens that had appeared as soon as he entered this world. The Captain had been expecting this, informed in advance by 102 Woo. He scanned through each category, weapons, armour, shielding, medical supplies, finding each one empty, as expected. 102 Woo had not been able send any supplies. At this moment they were vulnerable. Captain Lir was wary, but not troubled. He had a lot of experience surviving on hostile worlds. As for his companion, Melusine Morte, it was hard to tell what she thought. She spoke very little.
The Captain swiped his finger over the screen, switching on the radio.
'Yesterday, operatives from the Double Red MA clashed with troops from Comet Security in the Western part of the city. Authorities report many casualties though the cause of the trouble is unknown.'
They listened to the news reports, most of them about violent incidents around the capital. Keen to learn more about their new world, Captain Lir changed channels.
'I don't care what anybody says,' came a female voice. 'The Heartbreakers were not a punk band. They were just some old American Rock band who happened to be in London at the time. OK, they had one or two good songs but they were nothing special. I refuse to admit they were a punk band. Here's the Lurkers, they were a proper punk band.'
Captain Lir and Melusine Morte looked at each other, puzzled.
'What was that about?'
'I have no idea. It didn't seem to make any sense.'
'Some sort of popular debate on this planet?'
'Presumably. We'd better monitor it. It might be important.'
They advanced towards the distant city to the sound of Shadow, the Lurkers' first single.