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one to believe rumours; he always liked to experience things before forming an opinion. Donning his civilian clothing, he headed for the door but then paused. His combat knife was still tucked in his duffle bag. If the station was half as bad as some of the stories suggested, he might need it. He almost turned around, almost opened the bag and took out his only real weapon, when he remembered the Narn in the shuttle, how he offered a friendly smile and completely surprised Vance with his affable nature. Smiling to himself, Vance left the knife and headed toward Red Sector.

True to its reputation, the Zocalo was a hive of activity. Along with the stories of the station's tragedy and woe, Vance had also heard about the Zocalo. Apparently you could find anything here, as long as you were willing to pay the right price. Vance guessed that was most likely an exaggeration, but as long as he could get a strong drink, all was well. His hangover had faded on the shuttle from Earth, and he usually did not drink two days in a row unless he was forced - Chavez and Weekes could be very persuasive. But if he was going to meet his father, some chemically induced courage might be necessary.

Like any bar on any planet, the Zocalo had an eclectic mix of patrons, with many more aliens than Vance was used to. He had travelled his share of alien planets, had taken leave on many more, but rarely had he seen a Brakiri standing shoulder to shoulder with a Drazi and a Llort.

It didn't take the barman long to serve him, and Vance handed over his credit chip, asking for a Rubbles. Vance had grown accustomed to the Martian beer when he was last posted there. The barman handed him the red bottle, and Vance took a long draught. Happy memories accom panied the bitter-tasting brew as it washed
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