“Get out of here, you knucklehead!” Jeff said, waving the Tet gun. The mutie shook its ridged head, and shambled away. Jeff watched the mutie leave, and then started to wipe down the bar. “Goddamn lobeless knucklehead. Those goddamned mutants seem to be getting stupider every goddamned day”.

Jeff, like all good barkeeps, spends a lot of time listening to fools. Awan felt it was his duty to listen when Jeff wanted to ramble on, as a way of giving back to the bartending community. It was to make up for all the time he spent burbling to bar staff all over the outer solar system while he was on his bender-to-end-all-benders.

“I think it's something in the water. Those goddamned fat cats are putting something in the water they pipe into the Ghettos. Making the mutants of Planet Zero even more goddamned stupid than they already are.”

Awan ordered another sake. Jeff poured it absentmindedly.

“Talking of water, I heard about some engineers who were inspecting a water pipeline out in the badlands.” Jeff gave the bar another wipe, then moved on to polishing the glasses. “These two guys were sent out from Water Control because they detected a leak in one of the pipes from here to Orebody. That’s what you get when the goddamned fat cats won't spend money on what’s important because they’re too busy lining their own goddamn pockets.”

He paused to regard the shine on a glass, then continued. “So they send these two guys out. They found the leak from the pool of ice it made. They reckoned it was made by a little whatjacallit... micrometeor. It was small enough that they could fix it with the tools that they had. They had finished it up and took a look around to make sure there weren‘t any other little leaks.”

Awan finished off the glass of sake.

“Then the telemetry Water Control was getting from the engineers’ suits went crazy. Dropping pressure, thousands of tiny impacts, multiple breaches of the suits. The medical data went all to hell as well. They heard one of the guys scream, and that was it. Heart rate, everything, flatlined. They were dead in seconds.”

Awan leaned forward onto the bar.

“When they sent a rescue team out there, they found them still inside their suits, but with all their flesh gone, bones picked clean. Just skeletons left. They say that there were thousands of little holes made in the suits, just like the ones moths make in clothes.” Jeff rubbed his chin speculatively. “But what kind of goddamn creepy crawlies demand flesh for snacks?”

Awan decided that maybe Jeff had taken up drinking his stock.

Pulp science fiction nodeshell filling.