Arthur nodded intelligently. There were times when he wished he understood what on earth Ford was talking about, and other times, like now, when he felt it was probably safer not even to try. He looked over Ford’s shoulder. ‘This isn’t going to take long, is it?’ he said.
‘Nah,’ said Ford. ‘Piece of piss. Just mention that the rolls were quite good, the beer good and cold, local wildlife nicely eccentric, the bar singer the best in the known universe, and that’s about it. Doesn’t need much. Just a validation.’
He touched an area on the screen marked ENTER and the message vanished into the Sub-Etha.
‘You thought the singer was pretty good then?’
‘Yeah,’ said Ford. The barman was returning with a piece of paper, which seemed to be trembling in his hand.
He pushed it over to Ford with a kind of nervous, reverential twitch.
‘Funny thing,’ said the barman. ‘The system rejected it first couple times. Can’t say it surprised me.’ Beads of sweat were standing on his brow. ‘Then suddenly it’s, oh yeah, that’s OK, and the system… er, validates it. Just like that. You wanna… sign it’?’
Ford scanned the form quickly. He sucked his teeth. ‘This is going to hurt InfiniDim a lot,’ he said, with an appearance of concern. ‘Oh well,’ he added softly, ‘screw ‘em.’
He signed with a flourish and handed it back to the barman.
‘More money,’ he said, ‘than the Colonel made for him in an entire career of doing crap movies and casino gigs. Just for doing what he does best. Standing up and singing in a bar. And he negotiated it himself. I think this is a good moment for him. Tell him I said thanks and buy him a drink.’ He tossed a few coins on the bar. The barman pushed them away.
‘I don’t think that’s necessary,’ he said, slightly hoarsely.
‘ ’Tis to me,’ said Ford. ‘OK, we are outa here.’