Alitmanouritanessess—Alitma to his very few friends—had an eerie, evil beauty about him.
With his sharp fangs, gold-colored scales, and a line of implanted jewels running down the left side of his face, Alitma looked every bit the scary alien gangster.
His official title was Commerce Overseer of Rosov 6, but "scary alien gangster" was more accurate. The nine-foot tall robotic battle exoskeleton he wore didn't exactly scream "bureaucrat."
Alitma's two brilliant green eyes looked out at Daniel from every screen in the Afterthought's cabin, including Daniel's eyescreens. The ship's screens were cracked and broken, but Daniel could still see Alitma’s serpent-like face through most of them.
Daniel wasn’t sure what expression Alitma wore—it's hard to read a snake—but Daniel knew it wasn’t mercy.
"Daniel Weissssss," Alitma said coldly.
"Nice to see you, Alitma." Daniel said. Then, gathering what little drunken courage he could, he added, "There’s no ‘S’ in Wei."
"I know,” Alitma said. “I do that becausssssse it drivesssss you crazzzzzzzzy."
Daniel raised his eyebrows. He’d always thought the hissing sound had been a speech impediment.
Daniel felt stupid.
Recovering from the surprise, Daniel said, “You look well, Alitma. … and you still look like a snake.”
Alitma’s crew shrunk back in horror. None of them wanted to be within the boss’s reach when he heard that word.
“Nice try,” Alitma said, the hissing-sound gone from his voice. “You will not taunt me into making a mistake again. Give back what you stole.”
The crews of both ships were stunned to see Alitma keeping his anger in check. The last person who had called Alitma “a snake” had suffered greatly.
That had been Daniel six weeks earlier.