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Here's the behind the scenes lowdown on Luna City life and a promoter of Martian dancing girls, vaudeville, and other things. But remember: stop us if you've heard this one!

SHOW BUSINESS

By Boyd Ellanby

Illustrated by Mel Hunter

Except for old Dworken, Kotha's bar was deserted when I dropped in shortly after midnight. The ship from Earth was still two days away, and the Martian flagship would get in next morning, with seven hundred passengers for Earth on it. Dworken must have been waiting in Luna City a whole week at six thousand credits a day. That's as steep to me as it is to you, but money never seemed to worry Dworken.

He raised the heavy green lids from his protruding brown eyes as I came in. He waved his tail.

"Sit down and join me," he invited, in his guttural voice. "It is not good for a man to drink alone. But I haf no combany in dis by de gods deserted hole. A man must somet'ing be doing, what?"

I sat down in the booth across from my Venusian friend, and stared at him while he punched a new order into the drinkboard.

"For me, another shchikh ," he announced. "And for you? De same?"

Against my better judgment, for I knew I'd have plenty to do handling that mob of tourists the first crowd of the season is always the roughest tomorrow, I consented. Dworken had already consumed six of the explosive things, as the empty glasses on the table showed, but he exhibited no effects. I made a mental note, as I'd so often done before, that this time I would not exceed the safe terrestrial limit of two.

"You must be in the money again, drinking imported shchikh ," I remarked. "What are you doing in Luna City this time?"

He merely lifted his heavy eyelids and stared at me without expression.

"Na, in de money I am not. Dere are too many chiselers in business. Just when I t'ink I haf a goot t'ing, I am shwindeled. It is too bad." He snorted through his ugly snout, making the Venusian equivalent of a sigh. I knew there was a story waiting behind that warty skin, but I was not sure I wanted to hear it. For the next round of drinks would be on me, and shchikh was a hundred and fifty credits a shot. Still, a man on a Moon assignment has to amuse himself somehow.

So I said, "What's the latest episode in the Dworken soap opera? What is the merchandise this time? Gems? Pet Mercurian fire insects? A new supply of danghaana ?"

"I do not smuggle drugs, dat is a base lie," replied my friend stolidly. He knew, of course, that I still suspected him to be the source of the last load of that potent narcotic, although I had no more proof than did the Planetary Bureau of Investigation.

He took a long pull at his drink before he spoke again. "But Dworken is never down for long. Dis time it is show business. You remember, how I haf always been by de t'eater so fascinated? Well, I decided to open a show here in Luna City. T'ink of all the travelers, bored stiff by space and de emptiness thereof, who pass through here during the season. Even if only half of them go to my show, it cannot fail."

I waited for some mention of free tickets, but none was made. I was about as anxious to see Dworken's show as I was to walk barefoot across the Mare Imbrium, but I asked with what enthusiasm I could force,

"What sort of act are you putting on? Girls?" I shuddered as I recalled the pathetic shop worn chorus girls that Sam Low had tried to pass off last year on the gullible tourists of the spaceways. That show had lasted ten nights nine more than it deserved to. There are limits, even to the gullibility of Earth lubbers.

"Yes, girls," replied Dworken. "But not what you are perhaps t'inking. Martian girls."

This was more interesting. Even if the girls were now a little too old for the stage in the Martian capital, they would still get loud cheers on the Moon. I knew. I started to say so, but Dworken interrupted... Continue reading book >>




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