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down his throat. Not quite as cold as he liked, but you couldn't have everything. The last time he sank a bottle of Rubbles, he'd been surrounded by his men. Now he was stuck on a station in the back of beyond, waiting to dine with the great Colonel Vance. It made him feel like a condemned man.

'Cheer up, my friend,' chirped a voice from his right. Vance didn't recognise the accent, but as he looked up the face seemed very familiar. 'Anyone would think the Great Maker himself were hunting your soul.'

A Centauri sporting a hooked nose and pronounced paunch regarded Vance with a stare both amused and concerned. He had never actually met a Centauri before, and Vance was stunned at the forceful personality of this one. He sat and watched the mane-haired alien, fearing some kind of telepathic con trick.

'Surely it cannot be that bad,' the Centauri continued. 'Although I see you have turned to drink, and so early in the day. What is your tipple?' The Centauri leaned forward and, upon spying the Rubbles bottle in Vance's grip, stuck out his tongue. 'Ach, disgusting! It amazes me how you humans can stomach such a thing. Beer! Now tell me, have you ever tried Brevari?' The Centauri said that final word like he was speaking the name of a favourite lover.

Vance could only shake his head. The Centauri had caught him completely off guard. 'Well,' he continued, 'the supply they have here is a little substandard but palatable nonetheless. Barkeep!' The Centauri banged on the bar.

Vance looked around, certain that by now a crowd would have gathered to see why the Centauri was making such a fuss. Strangely, the entire bar seemed completely apathetic, some even looking as though they were purposefully ignoring the Centauri. The bartender glanced over his shoulder, barely acknowledging
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