Which was another thing, Ramsey thought. Hitting the sack. Ah yes, you filthy outworlder capitalist, hitting the sack. You owe that fish-eyed, scale-skinned Irwadian landlady the rent money, so you’d better wait until later, until much later, before sneaking back to your room.
He watched the gambling for another hour or so without risking his few remaining credits. After a while a well-dressed Irwadian, drunk and obviously slumming here in the Old Quarter, made his way over to the table. His body scales were a glossy dark green and he wore glittering, be-jeweled straps across his chest and an equally glittering, be-jeweled weapons belt. Aside from these, in the approved Irwadian fashion, he was quite naked. An anthropologist friend had once told Ramsey that once the Irwadians had worn clothing, but since the coming in great number of the outworlders they had stripped down, as though to prove how tough they were in being able to withstand the freezing climate of their native world. Actually, the Irwadian body-scales were superb insulation, whether from heat or from cold.
“… Earthman watching me,” the Irwadian in the be-jeweled straps said arrogantly, placing a fat roll of credits on the table.
“I’m sorry,” Ramsey said. “Were you talking to me?”
“I thertainly wath,” lisped the Irwadian, his eyes blazing with drunken hatred. “I thaid I won’t have any Earthman thnooping over my thoulder while I gamble, not unleth he’th gambling too.”
“Better tell that to your Security Police,” Ramsey said coldly but not angrily. “I’m out of a job, so I don’t have money to throw around. Go ahead and tell me—” with a little smile—“you think it was my idea.”
The Irwadian looked up haughtily. Evidently he was looking for trouble, or could not hold his liquor, or both. The frenzy of planetarization, Ramsey knew from bitter experience on other worlds, made irrational behavior like this typical. He studied the drunken Irwadian carefully. In all the time he’d spent on Irwadi, he’d never been able to tell a native’s age by his green, scale-skinned, fish-eyed poker-face. But the glossy green scales covering face and body told Ramsey, along with the sturdy muscles revealed by the lack of clothing, that the Irwadian was in his prime, shorter than Ramsey by far, but wider across the shoulders and thicker through the barrel chest.
“You outworlderth have been deprething the thandard of living on Irwadi ever thince you came here,” the Irwadian said. “All you ever brought wath poverty and your ditheath germth and more trouble than you could handle. I don’t want your thtink near me. I’m trying to enjoy mythelf. Get out of here.”
It was abruptly silent in the little gambling hall. Since the establishment catered to outworlders and was full of them, the silence, Ramsey thought, should have been both ominous and in his favor. He looked around. Outworlders, yes. But not another Earthman present. He wondered if he was in for a fight. He shrugged, hardly caring. Maybe a fight was just what he needed, the way he felt.
“Get out of here,” the Irwadian repeated. “You thtink.”
Just then a Vegan girl, blue-skinned and fantastically wasp-waisted like all her kind, drifted over to Ramsey. He’d seen her around. He thought he recognized her. Maybe he’d even danced with her in the unit-a-dance halls reserved for humanoid outworlders.
“Are you nuts?” she said, hissing the words through her teeth and grabbing Ramsey’s elbow. “Don’t you know who that guy is?”
“He’s Garr Symm, that’s who.”
Ramsey smiled at her without mirth. “Do I bow down in awe or run from here screaming? I never heard of Garr Symm.”
“Oh you fool!” she whispered furiously. “Garr Symm is the brand new number one man of the Irwadi Security Police. Don’t you read the ’casts?”
Before Ramsey could answer or adjust to his surprise, the Irwadian repeated:
Ostentatiously, Ramsey reached into his cloak-pocket for a single credit bill and tossed it on the table.
“The denomination is not sufficient, sir,” the albino Sirian croupier said indifferently. Ramsey had known it was not.
Garr Symm’s face turned a darker green. The Vegan girl retreated from Ramsey’s side in fright. Symm raised his hand and an Irwadian waiter brought over a drink in a purple stem glass with a filigree pattern of titanium, bowing obsequiously. Symm lurched with the glass toward Ramsey. “I’m telling you to go,” he said in a loud voice.
Ramsey picked up his credit note but stood there. With a little sigh of drunken contentment, Garr Symm sloshed the contents of his stem glass in Ramsey’s face.
The liquor stung Ramsey’s eyes. Many of the other outworlders, neither Irwadian nor Earthmen, laughed nervously.
Ramsey wiped his eyes but otherwise did not move. He was in a rough spot and he knew it. The fact that their new Security Chief went out drunk at night with a chip on his shoulder was the Irwadian government’s affair, not Ramsey’s. He’d been insulted before. An Earthman in the outworlds, particularly an Earthman fugitive who knew he dared not get into the kind of trouble that could bring the Earth consul to investigate, was used to insults. For Earth was the leading economic and military power of the galaxy, and the fact that Earth really tried to deal fairly with its galactic neighbors meant nothing. Earth, being top dog, was resented.
The thing which got Ramsey, though, was this Garr Symm. He had never heard of Garr Symm, and he thought he knew most of the big shots in the Irwadian Security Police by name. But there must have been a reason for his appointment. A government throwing off outworld influence had a reason for everything. So, why Garr Symm?
“You, Mith Vegan!” Garr Symm called suddenly. “You whithpered to the Earthman. What did you tell him?”
“Not to look for trouble,” the Vegan girl said in a frightened voice.
“But what elth?”
“Honest, that’s all.”
“Come here, pleath.”
Her blue skin all at once very pale, the Vegan girl walked back toward Garr Symm. He leered at her quite drunkenly and took hold of her slender arm. “What did you tell him? For the latht time.”
The girl whimpered: “You are hurting my arm.”
Thoughts raced through Ramsey’s mind. As an administrator, as an Irwadian public servant in a touchy job, Garr Symm, a drunkard, was obviously grossly incompetent. What other qualifications did he have which gave him the top Irwadian Security job? Ramsey didn’t know. He sighed. The Vegan girl’s mouth formed a rictus of pain. Ramsey had a hunch he was going to find out.
He said curtly: “Let go of her, Symm. She told me nothing that would interest you.”
Garr Symm ignored him. The blue-skinned girl cried.
Ramsey grimaced and hit Garr Symm in the belly as hard as he could.
Symm thudded back against the table. It overturned with a crash and the Security Chief crashed down on top of it. There wasn’t a sound in the gambling hall except Ramsey’s sudden hard breathing, the Vegan girl’s sniffling, and Garr Symm’s noisy attempts to get air into his lungs. Then Garr Symm gagged and was sick. He writhed in pain, still unable to breathe. His hands fluttered near his weapons belt.
“Come on,” Ramsey told the Vegan girl. “We’d better get out of here.” He took her arm. Dumbly she went with him. None of the outworlders there tried to stop them. Ramsey looked back at Garr Symm. The Irwadian was shaking his fist. He had finally managed to draw his m.g. gun, but the crowd of outworlders closed between them and there was no chance he could hit Ramsey or the girl. Retching, he had dirtied the glossy green scales of his chest.
“I’ll get you,” he vowed. “I’ll get you.”
Ramsey took the girl outside. It was very cold. “I’m so afraid,” she said. “What will I do? What can I do?”