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The paper looked like a label, with neat writing in a sickly green ink. It had one column headed EARNINGS and one headed OWING. The EARNINGS column had a single line with 0n 0r 0b. The OWING column had 4n 6r 18b. As Arthur watched, the OWING column rippled and changed to 4n 7r 1b.

"You see why no one ever earns their way free of their indenture. We are not paid until we reach the bottom of the Pit and even then, only if we find usable amounts of Nothing. But we are charged for every breath of this foul air, and ridiculous amounts for our meager equipment."

"So there is no money, I mean coins or notes, at all in the Pit?"

"So I have been told, informed, clued in," said Japeth. He started to walk along the railway again. "Shouldn't we be getting on, moving along, advancing, progressing?"

Arthur nodded. Japeth was clearly getting more and more nervous, and it was infectious. Arthur hurried after the Denizen, the sound of their clogs clattering faster and faster till they were almost running.

It was just as well they hurried. A hundred yards farther down the track, an Overseer suddenly loomed up out of the smog. He was marching with purpose along the railway, his steam-gun ready. When he saw them, he grunted and waved them past, then followed. Clearly he had started to investigate the delay in the new arrivals.

The smog cleared a little in front of Arthur. He saw several groups of Denizens marching away without Overseers. Another group was standing nearby, watched by an Overseer who had his visor up and was polishing his teeth with a cloth and an open tin of white paste. He was shorter than a head by the Denizen he watched, but much broader across the shoulders. His face was really squashed down and two of the teeth in his lower jaw protruded out like small tusks.

"Here you go," shouted the Overseer behind Arthur. "Couple of laggards."

The Overseer rubbed his teeth one last time, slipped the tin under his apron, gave a surprisingly gentle sigh, and clanged down his visor. Immediately a change came over him. He hunched forward, growled, and drew his staem-gun. His backpack steam engine went from a purr to a harsh rattle, pumped out a heavy cloud of black smoke, and vented steam to either side behind his elbows.

"Hurry up!" he shouted. "Get in line."

Arthur and Japeth ran to the group of Denizens, who were milling about, trying to get in line. But no one wanted to be closest to the Overseer, so whoever ended up there ducked around the back and joined the end of the line. This went on for a minute or so, till the Overseer blasted a jet steam into the air.

"Stop!" he yelled. 'You, stand there! Right, now stand in line."

:When everyone was in line, the Overseer marched up to Arthur and Japeth and roared, "Why were you late?"

"I fell on my head," said Arthur. It seemed to be an all-purpose excuse. "Where are we?"

"You are on His Mightiness Grim Tuesday's Pit Railway Service Road!" shouted the Overseer. "You are very lucky!"

"Why?" asked Japeth. "How come? On account of what-"

"Shut up! I ask the questions!"

Japeth shut up. The Overseer growled, then repeated, "I ask the questions! And my first question is."

His voice trailed off as he struggled to get a grimy piece of paper out from the inner pocket of his leather coat. Having gotten the paper out, he had trouble unfolding it. When it was finally unfolded, he held it up to his visor.

The question, when it finally came, was not what Arthur expected.

"You all been branded?" asked the Overseer.

Arthur nodded with the others and kept his head down, hoping to hide the fear that he was sure showed in his face.

"Any swift healers?" asked the Overseer, obviously reading from the paper.

"Orright, let's see your soles, then," instructed the Overseer.

Our souls? thought Arthur in surprise when everyone stepped out of their right clog, took off their socks, and started hopping about, each presenting their right foot towards the Overseer.

"Come on, then, no time to waste in the Grim's service," barked the Overseer. "Don't hop about, you idiots! Lie on your backs and hold your soles out."

Arthur, still mystified, sat down with everyone else in a line along the cold stone floor. But as he slipped off his right clog, he looked at Japeth's bare foot and saw what the Overseer was looking for.

The brand was on the sole of the right foot! A brand that ran from the heel to the ball, and said in glowing green type: INDENTURED TO GRIM TUESDAY.




   
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