Samson looked over the Loonie as the youth made his way to their table. Tall, like most men from the Moon, but with hidden muscle along those arms. This was someone who spent time in the gravity gyms. The Loonie’s eyes were clear, and watchful; and his hands were carefully visible and kept clear of both pockets and the satchel carried over one shoulder. Samson nodded to himself. The Loonie semed disinclined to continue any quarrels.
“‘Evening, Spacers,” said the Loonie. “Came t’talk business with you.” One hand carefully moved his coat to show the wicked-looking Lunar knife strapped on his belt and secured with cord and wax. “Friendly talk, peace-bonded and open-handed and no hard feelings from me. May I sit?”
Samson looked at Adam. “Your choice, Brother,” he said.
Adam half-scowled, then smoothed out his features and waved at the empty chair. “Sit. I said all bills were paid, and a Gene-Man keeps to his word. If you have no grudge, neither will I.”
The Loonie sat; Samson still offered him no drink, which the Loonie pridefully affected not to notice. It was a moment before the Loonie seemed ready to speak. “Starting off, my apologies. Both for the waylaying, and for this.” Carefully -- very carefully -- the Loonie reached into his satchel and pulled out a small box, which he slid across the table to Samson.
Samson looked inside to see the vibroknife from earlier, with the battery disconnected and placed beside it. The Loonie’s face was grim as he growled, “We live six inches away from death, at all times, and the blade’s nine. We don’t hold with fools having weapons that strong that they can’t even keep, so it’s yours now. Be less stupid with it.”
Samson nodded, and casually moved the box off of the table and into his own satchel. “And the waylaying? Do all men from the Moon beg pardon from the people that they try to mug?”
The Loonie actually laughed at that. “We weren’t there for a mugging. We were there for a scam.” He looked at the two of them, curiously. “You two fine gentlemen not familiar with the Copernicus Courier wheeze?” At their head shakes, the Loonie shook his own in mock despair. “Goes like this. The Moon’s a bad place. Ask any insurance man. Been that way forever and a day, and it’s a shame the company’ll make you pay those high premiums, but they’ve got to make their money back, see?
“Only the Moon’s pretty settled down, these days. Even in the dark warrens of Port Royale.” A serving tray had brought the Loonie a beer; he drank deep. “So, the insurance men make a lot of money by chargin’ blood-and-guts prices for tea-and-cake runs, and the last thing that they need is for people to notice how civilized we dust-lickers are now. Dusty. Hah! Never saw the point in lickin’ the walls, tell truthful.”
Adam had started nodding. “So, every so often, a run goes bad?”
“Yes!” agreed the Loonie. He then looked slightly abashed. “But not bad-bad. The courier’s supposed to be in on it: he goes to the right part of town, gets waylaid by the ruthless scum of Port Royale. After we’re done waylaying him down to the nearest bar and stews, he calls in to report the shipment lost. The insurance pays off the premiums with a little extra and a smile. The crime goes into the books, we scum keep the shipment, everybody’s happy.”
“Except those paying for insurance.” noted Samson. The Loonie looked at him with sardonic eyes.
“Not my problem. Though that’s why I’m here.” He looked at Adam. “We got a call in the usual way. Told us a new courier was coming in; but he knew the wheeze, so go ahead and put on the show, same as alway. They described you, right down to the burn scar below your ear. I get you’re a Gene-Man and all that, but the clone vats don’t go that far.”
Adam unconsciously rubbed the scar in question. “No, they do not. I got this on the Gipper when we… ah, never mind. No, I’m no courier. I was in your part of the port because I had gotten a call from a tout for a shipping fleet. They were looking for engineers for an extrasolar run.”
“Jim,” said the Loonie, “the only fleets that recruit from my part of the port are smugglers.”
Adam shrugged. “Smugglers need good a Black Gang, too. Besides, it was only going to be alkool anyway. What do I care about drunk aliens?”
Samson rapped the table to get their attention. “Sounds like you were both gulled, here.”
“Gulled?” asked the Loonie. “Oh, yeah, scammed. Not in a good way. Either somebody wants you dead, Jim, or they wanted my gang in a lot of trouble. I don’t like that.”
“Neither do I,” replied Adam. The Loonie grinned.
“Thought you might see it that way.” He held out a hand. “Andy J Petrov’s the name. I’d like for us all to join up and maybe teach somebody to do his own dirty work.”