"... and that will be fourteen sembles, thank you, sir, enjoy your snack, recommend me to your friends and family!" Galen wrapped a corn husk around the soft nut bread and handed it over the young office worker who had hurried across the plaza to snatch a quick lunch; took the fifteenth tile from the bundle and gave it back, and put the rest in the wooden cash box under the counter.
His next customer was already nudging the young chimp aside. „A fruit roll and two boxes of nut chips with the special dip."
„One roll, two crispy mixes with special dip coming right up, sir!" The phrases were rolling from his tongue in the same sing-song that every street vendor since the time of Cesar had been using, and for a moment Galen wondered if it was because the cadences had been hammered into his brain from his earliest childhood on, when he was passing the snack sellers every day on his way to or from school, or if the cart was somehow infesting him with its aura of cheap frying oil and extortionate pricing. He was usually a complete mess when he tried to take on a fake identity. But this...
... this had been Alan's idea of „surveillance." If Galen had secretly harboured romantic notions of lurking nonchalantly in the shadows and smoking a pipe while observing the target, he had been wise enough not to mention them, or to flinch noticeably when Alan gave Melvin a list of supplies he needed for this charade.
Like this stall. And the confectionaries. Alan had wanted to make sure that the „Orva's Delights" was well frequented all day, which meant that anything containing meat was out of the question if they wanted to cater to all three races; and so Melvin had vanished into his kitchen for the whole night and manifested - you couldn't really call it anything else - a cartload of delicacies. Galen had worried that his little enterprise would draw attention for the wide berth people would give it. Instead they were crowding him. The only explanation for it was Melvin's special dip.
But it did make it hard to keep an eye on the precinct.
Well, Galen reasoned, at least he had managed to determine when the shifts changed - it was when the black uniforms were piling up around his stall. He still expected the face of a certain gorilla to suddenly appear among the chimp faces, and order a nut bread and a salad on the side, but fortunately, that hadn't happened yet.
„Fuck off, frog, this is not a feedyard!" There was a sudden commotion among the apes. „If you're a good boy, maybe I'll throw you a bit of my sweet roll."
Galen looked up and into the icy stare of Alan's eyes, and felt a sudden stab of apprehension, whether from the unabashed eye contact that the human initiated, or his fear that something had upset their carefully staged stakeout, he couldn't decide. He just knew that he couldn't let the tussle escalate. „You," he ordered, „come here."
A surprised murmur swept through the throng of customers. Galen ignored them. „What do you want here?" he asked Alan, still in the same stern voice. „Did your master send you for something to eat? Do you have money?"
Alan, now in his role again with his eyes cast downward, just nodded and held out his palm with a bundle of sembles .
„Well, gentlemen," Galen raised his voice, „this looks like perfectly good simian money to me. You aren't suggesting that it belongs to the human who carries it around for his master, do you?"
The murmurs died down as the apes eyed him sheepishly. Galen smiled sweetly at them. „I don't care which hand holds the money, as long as it ultimately ends up in mine."
That earned him groans and chuckles and the tension finally dropped. Galen leaned over the counter as if to take Alan's order. „What are you doing here?" he murmured.
YOU ARE READING
When Burke gets caught by Urko's troops, he is subjected to a new, experimental form of interrogation developed by a young, ambitious scientist. Now he must withstand both physical and psychological torture while his friends race to his rescue - a f...