Time: About a year after the end of Potato Surprise
It was a sign of truly becoming a spacer, Shax supposed. When the first water drop hit his head, he reached up and wiped it off, vaguely irritated that someone’s cooling unit was leaking from the buildings above the street. The second and third puzzled him since he had reached the end of the block. It took several more drops before he realized it was raining.
Weather. One forgets planets have weather when you’ve been out in space.
Shax stepped under an overhang a moment before the intermittent drops became a deluge, stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets and amused himself as the scurrying commenced. Nothing screamed spaceport more loudly than the number of people who reacted with near panic as the heavens opened. Pedestrians scattered for any nearby shelter. A hoverbike collided with a palette mover to angry shouts and vivid cursing, though the argument died quickly when both operators realized they were only getting wetter.
By the time more people joined him under his overhang, Shax had to lean against the wall because he was laughing so hard.
“What’s so funny, you little freak?” growled the man closest to him. Big man with a scar bisecting the left side of his face. Packing several weapons.
All of this registered but didn’t bother Shax one jot. “You! All of you. Acting like cats made of sugar. You’re not going to melt, for pits’ sakes.”
“You don’t know what’s in that dirty atmospheric water.” The tall woman to Shax’s right shuddered. “Could be anything. Unfiltered shit could have microbes. Parasites.”
“And it’s hell on weapons.” Scarface snorted. “Not that a little cocksucker like you would be carrying.”
You’re lucky I’m in a good mood, you mindless lump of musculature. Shax made a deliberately sensual turn toward Scarface and batted his eyes in an exaggerated manner. “Oh, honey. If your weapons aren’t performing, you’re not packing the right equipment.”
“You little shit!”
Scarface made a grab but Shax had already danced out of reach, out into the vile, dangerous rain. He waved a pistol, the one he’d just lifted from Scarface’s shoulder holster. Several people ducked while Scarface’s complexion edged into an interesting purple. Shax gleefully twirled the weapon around its trigger guard and sidestepped the owner’s next lunge.
“Take this one. The SK49 isn’t a bad weapon, as far as it goes, but it’s like using a wrecking ball instead of a flyswatter, isn’t it?” Shax took a rakish gunslinger stance and pretended to aim down the street. “Could take out that whole bakery from here…”
“No!” someone cried out. “They have the best hamantaschen!”
Shax grinned for the crowd gathered under the eaves. “I wouldn’t dream of it. But the ’49’s really a spacer weapon, isn’t it? Doesn’t like humidity. Doesn’t like the rain.” He flicked the firelock off, aimed it at the ground and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. “Tsk. Piece of junk.”
With a shrug, he tossed the pistol back to its owner in an easy, well-aimed arc, but Scarface still managed to fumble and drop it, causing everyone in his vicinity to flinch. He snarled at Shax, took a menacing step forward, but stopped short of actually exposing himself to the weather.
“Ah, the advantages of being planet-born.” Shax tipped an imaginary hat at his audience, did a little Gene Kelly sidestep and dance-swing around the light post, and skipped off warbling I’m singing in the rain…