It's our deep future--New Year's Eve, 1347, to be precise. And, boy, talk about surprise parties.
Amantu opened his eyes to find the Group staring roguishly. Even the telepresence appeared amused. The professor pushed himself upright, his thoughts still steaming.
“A Nyear toast,” said Izzy over his flask, “to Moses Mantu, Burghbridge favor son and now . . . now . . . newst member Group!”
Abel nodded. “Hear! Hear!”
“And here,” the Tp responded.
“Well.” Izzy searched his brandy. “Well . . . nickname. For Group ear, mind you, only.
Let see now. Moses. Tough one. Not many great many men share suchlike forename. ‘Mo?’ Uh-uh. Doesn’ ring. How bout ‘Mosey?’ Nah. Too . . . lay back. Are you guy help me nail this or not? We need something . . . meet. Something meet the man’s bearing, meet the man’s aplomb, the man’s—wait, wait! ‘Nail this,’ I said. I tell you, I was on something! Man’s a hammer, is what he is.” He beamed all around. “And so ‘Hammer’ shall be he!”
Amantu tried to focus, but wasting emotions, normally reserved for lesser men, were gumming up his intellect. He’d never been given a positive nickname, never been accepted by anything warmer than a panel of starchy deans. That these two fine men, closer than brothers, should hold him as one of their own was inexpressibly moving. He blinked back the first tears since childhood. “You gentlemen will forgive me,” he bubbled, “if I appear to blush.”
Abel peered from behind his upright thumb. “Not from where I sit, you don’t.” “Did I lie?” the Tp gloated. “Never cut quality!”
“You’re still here?” Abel glared at the extended translucent paw. “Generally speaking, criminals don’t go begging gratuities from their victims.”
The telepresence ignored him. “So how’s the old pump, big fella? You’re okay now?” “Odd. I feel lighter, both physically and spiritually.”
“That’ll be the ephedrine.”
The peddler’s eyes burned to the side. “Not on your account, signate.”
“Go. You’ve made your sale.”
The Tp threw open a ragged vest, revealing sewn-in pockets overflowing with miniature rockets and miscellaneous small firearms. “Perhaps a noisemaker or two. Something for the holiday.”
“Half a minute!” Amantu begged. His vision had never been so keen. “Is that the barrel of an MRA, or do my eyes deceive me?”
The hawker raised an apparent eyebrow. “Oh? You like history stuff?” He slid the dully shining weapon from an armpit pocket. “Your eyes, generous sir, would make the sharpest sentry weep with envy. A vintage piece, a real collector’s item.”
Abel smacked down his palms and pushed himself to his feet. “That does it! You’ll bring the Barrier, as well as the police. Beat it! That means now!” They stood nose to nose; Abel bristling, the Tp fizzling in and out of focus.
“But mustI have it!” Amantu panted. “Eight pulses, retractable chamber, magnetic load. Where on earth—”
“I don’t give a damn where he got it!” Abel looked the snarling illusion in its sputtering diaphanous eyes. “Get your felonious ass off my View!”
The peddler immediately tapped his grungy signet on the gun. The slender tube appeared to firm in his hand. He laid it on the table like a straight flush, his face sizzling with defiance. Amantu picked it up.
“I’ll see you fry,” Abel swore.
The transparency nodded in acknowledgement. “But—until that glorious day, signate, I’ve got to eat. And I like to eat well.”
More by Ron Sanders:
Microcosmia, Carnival, Signature, Freak, Elis Royd, Faces, Piece of The Devil, Savage Glen and other stories