Sounds travel no differently in Luna’s light gravity -- at least, not in the pressurized half-warrens of its spreading cities. This particular sound, coming from the dark alleys ahead, promised much to Samson; the sounds of men clashing, many against one. Yet it told of a fight, not a beating. Samson Black could use someone who refused to admit that it was time to lie down and take the kicks.
He half skidded around the final corner to witness a common enough tableaux in Port Royale. One man with the deep tan of space, originally somewhat the worse for drink and now very much the worse for blows, stood with his back to the wall as four Loonies surrounded him on both sides. Three more Loonies bounced, slightly, on the ground; whimpering testimony to the doughty prowess of a spacer, drunken or not. The Loonies still upright no doubt fondly thought that they looked enraged and ruthless, but Samson Black judged that the spacer would take out at least one more before the other three could grab and hold him.
Which would never do.
“Ho, dust-lickers!” Samson said genially. “Go home to your mothers!. They were all clumsy anyway.”
As all men know, you may call a Loonie a ‘Loonie;’ but to say that he licks the odd grime that accumulates in the crevices of every city on Luna is another matter entirely. As Simon expected, the one of the four who clearly did lick the dust immediately sprang for Simon’s face, dull-bladed knuckles popping out as he made a mighty leap in Luna’s gentler gravity. Earthworms -- Luna’s name for anyone not from the Moon -- had a name for misjudging the way that bodies moved in one-sixth gravity; the Loonie clearly expected a clumsy reponse.
Samson Black had fought for his life, in gravity fields both stronger and weaker than Luna’s, for longer than this boy had been alive. Clumsiness was entirely absent as Samson bounded up, cracked loose both of the Loonie’s collar-bones with blinding-fast blows from his fists, then smashed the Loonie down the alley with a resounding open face slap. Even after the Loonie landed, he continued to skid and roll for a surprisingly long time.
Spacers know a trick for staying on their feet in low gravity. Samson used it, and stared up at the other three Loonies. “I said to go home, boys. You’re outnumbered two to three now.”
One of them stared Samson Black in the eyes as the Loonie reached into his pocket, and pulled out a vibroknife. Even his companions looked askance at that, yet the knife-wielder still sneered as he raised it. “You got it backwards, Jim.” Loonies call all earthworms ‘Jim,’ and do not know why. “We outnumber you.”
At that moment the Loonie stopped, looked surprised for a moment, then toppled to the floor in low-gravity slow-motion, his knife spluttering to a stop as he did. Only then did Samson Black’s gaze carefully shift to the spacer, who had taken advantage of the distraction to throw a carefully calibrated punch of his own. Samson nodded, and subtly made room for his new companion as the two faced their remaining opponents.
“Not anymore, boy,” said Samson almost regretfully to the unconscious form now at his feet. His foot kicked the vibroknife away in a long, lazy arc. “And you never did.” His eyes snapped back at the two Loonies remaining. “Does the Moon now breed fools? Run away before I kill one of you!”
One of the Loonies looked like he would like to flee; but the other stood his ground. He jerked his chin at the groaning men littering the alley. “Those are my mates, Jim. Ain’t running out on them.”
Samson Black nodded. “Good answer, Loonie.” He looked at the spacer. “You done here, Brother?”
The spacer nodded. “I am done here, Brother.” The spacer’s voice was even and steady, with a hint of Imperial accent to his English. “All bills have been paid.”
“Then let’s be off.” Samson gave a brusque nod in the defiant Loonie’s direction. “There are some hard men in these alleys.”
Courtesy costs a man nothing.