Samson smoothly began to direct the conversation. “This Gaston. Does he know your face, Andy? From past business?” The Loonie nodded ruefully. Samson went on, “And clearly he knows yours, Adam. That may prove useful. Andy, tell me of his ‘valets.’”
Andy blinked. “How did you know he had more than one? Most men of parts in Port Royale just have the one, for the look of the thing. And to keep away the drunks.” Samson Black smiled.
“A man who cannot trust his own wits and will can never feel safe with only one bodyguard. He must have more, to make up the difference. They are bruisers, I take it?”
“Of course,” said Andy. “Big, dumb, slow, and dull. He mocks them to their face, and they say not a word. I wonder if either of them have more than a dozen words of Imperial English. When they do speak, they mumble in some language nobody’s ever heard of. Although I did hear one spacer in his cups start at it, thinking that they were speaking his native Turkish.” Andy shook his head, ruefully. “When he approached them, armed with only the smile on his face at the thought of countrymen, they knocked him back to unconsciousness without a word. Or a change of expression.”
Adam frowned at that. “Immoble faces? A language like Turkish? Tell me, Andy: are they close enough in appearance to be brothers? Is their skin heavily freckled, and do they have particularly thick eyebrows and hair?”
“That’s them to six places, Adam.” Samson noted that Adam at least was no longer a ‘Jim’ to Andy. “Friends of yours?”
“Hardly. They’re Tashkenti mass-clones. Living tools of the old regime there, before the Empress brought Imperial justice down upon Uzbekistan. A few were sold on the black market before they could be liberated and deconditioned. If Gaston Personne dwelled in the Empire, he would be taken up and likely hanged as a slaver.”
“Hanging takes forever,” said Andy with a scowl. “Doesn’t always work the first time, either. We just toss slavers out the airlock. Works just as well on slave-takers as it does on any other vermin.”
Adam shrugged. “I happily defer to local customs. I have no desire to offend my hosts. But if this Personne uses clone-slaves, he likely works for those doing worse things than mere insurance fraud.”
Samson looked at Adam sidelong. “Odd that an engineer on the Black Gang would prove so familiar with the outrages of the trafficking trade.” Adam smiled.
“My creche-mates would happily agree with you, Brother Samson. About my oddities, that is. But do you really care about my foibles?” The Gene-Man’s look was steady, but not hostile. “A man has his little ways, whether born in womb or in vat. If my ways do not get between you and your own destiny, what concern is it of yours?”
Samson’s responding smile was tight, and unforced. “Why, no concern at all, Brother Adam. On this we agree.” He looked casually at the bar where Personne presumably still lurked. “And since we all also agree that this slaver“ -- the other two men blinked at the venom Samson slathered on that word -- ”requires chastisement, then let us go on with that. Soonest begun, soonest done.”