“You …” Alitma said, his eyes focusing on Trak. “You used to be quite the killer.”
Trak didn’t say anything. He simply tilted his angular head downward, a human gesture of shame that he had learned from Daniel.
“It was one of the reasons I hired you,” Alitma said. “Even though you refused to participate in the messier parts of my business endeavors, I always liked having someone with your —ahem—résumé in my employ. I imagine it’s the same thrill that zookeepers feel when they add a rare and dangerous animal to their menagerie.”
Daniel listened intently. Alitma had never mentioned anything about Trak’s past, not once during the entire two years that Daniel, Trak, and Rachel-7 had worked for the gangster.
“You were feared on many worlds. … Of course, no one fears you now,” Alitma said. “You can’t hurt anyone. We found that out at Humboldt Hospital, didn’t we?”
Trak remained silent.
Then Daniel remembered an obvious fact that, in all the tension, he had forgotten: Trak could do no violence to a living being.
Trak’s bluffing! Daniel thought. But if he’s bluffing, why do all the sensors show that the cannon’s about to explode? Sure, Trak could rig the sensors to display false information, but he’s so terrible at lying. Ugh, I need another drink.
He reached for the flask in his pocket.
“Not now, Daniel!” Rachel-7 said.
Chagrined, Daniel let his hand drop to his side.
“So yes, Trak, I know your secret. You’re harmless,” Alitma said, and returned to his seat. “Mostly harmless, I mean. I guess you could hurt Daniel if you accidentally stepped on his foot.”
Alitma chuckled, and his crew laughed appreciatively.
“So set off the cannon,” Alitma taunted. “Light up this sector. … I dare you.”
There was silence in the Afterthought’s cabin, except for the whooping and coughing of the ship’s alarm.
“He’s right,” Trak said, finally.
“Of course I am,” Alitma said, triumphantly.
Alitma’s toadying crew started to cheer.
Then the cannon began to shake.