"'Cause new men are green it isn't safe for them, otherwise the Extra-Terrestrial Commission thinks. Got to have all the gear to get clearance. Travelling light isn't even legal in the Belt. You know that." "Maybe we'll win us another prize," Ramos laughed, touching the crinkly substance of their first bubb, hanging like a deflated balloon over the ceiling pole. Tiflin sneered.
He snicked his switch blade from a thigh pocket. For an instant it seemed that he would attack Reynolds. Then the knife flew, and penetrated the thin, taut wall, to its handle. There was a frightening hiss, until the sealing gum between the double layers, cut off the leak. The Kuzaks had Tiflin helpless and snarling, at once. "Get a patch, somebody fix up the hole," Joe, the mild one, growled.
"You're tiresome, Jig," Reynolds said without heat. "Somebody's going to poke you sometime..." Next morning, before going to classes at Tech, Frank Nelsen, with the possibility of bitter disappointment looming in his own mind, spotted Glen Tiflin, the switch blade tosser, standing on the corner, not quite opposite the First National Bank. Tiflin's mouth was tight and his eyes were narrowed.
Had Tiflin even saved his Frank Nelsen's life, once, long ago, persuading a Jolly Lad leader to cast him adrift for a joke, rather than to kill him and Ramos outright...? Charlie Reynolds the Bunch-member whom everybody had thought most likely to succeed. Well, Charlie was dead from a simple thing, and buried on Venus. He was unknown except to his acquaintances.
"Get that character out here to help us inflate and rig his own equipment! We did enough for him! So if the Force notices that there are ten bubbs instead of nine, the extra is still just our spare... Hey Tiflin!" "Nuts I'm looking after Pantywaist," Tiflin growled back. "Awright," Art returned. "So we just cast your junk adrift! Come on, boy!" There was no kidding in the dry tone.
Guess it's still going round and round the sun, for millions of years. Longest knife throw there ever was." "Fessler!" Frank snapped. "Now we're getting places, you S.O.B.! The funny character that robbed and dumped Ramos and me, I'll bet. Probably with your help! You know him, huh?" "Knew for a while past tense," Tiflin chuckled wickedly. "Nope it wasn't me that stripped off his armor in space.
"We're supposed to have known long ago that these things happen, and to have adjusted ourselves to our chances." "Ninnies that get scared first thing, when the facts begin to show!" Tiflin snarled. "Cripes let's don't be like soft bugs under boards!" "You're right, Tif," Frank Nelsen agreed, feeling that for once the ne'er-do-well the nuisance might be doing them all some good.
"You guys can find something useful to do," Nelsen snapped at the gathering crowd. "Well, Frankie," Tiflin taunted. "Aren't you going to invite me into your fancy new quarters? Joe and Two-and-Two also look as though they could stand a drink." On the sundeck, Tiflin spoke again. "I suppose you've got it figured, Nelsen?" Nelsen answered him in clipped fashion. "Thanks.
The first one was tall and lean. Then he saw the profile of a lean face with a bent nose, heard a mockingly apologetic "Oh-oh..." and didn't quite realize that this was Tiflin, the harbinger of misfortune, before it was too late to collar him. Nelsen followed as soon as he could push his way from the packed house. But pursuit was hopeless in the crowded causeway outside.
And is there much more than half of him left...? For two bits I'd ah skip it!" Nelsen smiled with half of his mouth. "I wanted to know about Ramos, too, Eileen. Thanks. But I was talking about Tiflin." "Umhmm you're right. He and Pal Igor were both around at my place about an hour before we were hit. I called him something worse than a bad omen. He was edgy almost like he used to be.