At least they're rotting slowly, he thought. Enough of the buildings remained to house thousands of outsiders.
The fringe of the jumble. Glom control ended miles back, but this urban wilderness was no freezone. Nothing here but miles of desolate, burned-out buildings. Was there a more dangerous place? Dark as interstellar space, with only eerie glimmers of light speckling the buildings, lights fueled by outsiders, who could see him...watch him.
They'd know he was alone. They'd think he must have come from the warm heart of the jumble, from one of the gloms. He might have weapons, he might have a splice card or a credit chip—as good as metal.
Wrong on all counts, but they could do things to him... things he wouldn't let himself imagine.
He stopped and listened.
He heard yelling, the voices faint at first, then swelling, growing more excited. Good, he hadn't lost them. He licked his lips, scanned the ragged walls to either side, and started moving again.
The fat man reached a corner, the curb worn to a nearly smooth bump. Other skeletal buildings stretched away in the distance.
And now he saw them. Five figures chasing one. He'd followed them from the westernmost stretch of Flagge Glom, through the warren of outsider camps that girded its boundary and clung to its perimeter like remoras on a shark, looking for scraps—food, trade, people.
The fat man had followed the five as they hunted this lone mime.
Now he edged closer to the flank of one of the buildings, but not so close that a noose could snake out and pull him into the stench and darkness.
Still, he couldn't let the men see him...and he had to get closer.
Who were these five? Hunters, out to nab the mime for a bounty? A mime bolts into the jumble for some reason, and the hunters are called out. Happens all the time. The mimes never get very far...