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from the hotel, the captain turned down a long, dark alley. Off the main streets, which had been constructed to attract off-world business and were occupied mainly by foreigners, any sense of prosperity vanished.

The probe revealed a neighborhood occupied by the native Wychad, a species that, in the port city at least, had been overwhelmed and relegated to a subservient position. On the right side of the alley, two-and three-story buildings stood abandoned, windows broken, facades cracked and discolored. On the left side, ramshackle structures made of fiberboard and tin leaned against one another for support. Wastewater ran into the street. The entries to underground maintenance access ways had been pried open and cables fed downward for illegal power splices. Some Wychad moved up and down the alley; others loitered outside their houses. What was strange, Galen realized, was that they all kept to the left side of the alley.

After traveling some distance, Captain Ko'Vin approached one of the abandoned buildings on the right. As he drew nearer, Galen realized this one was intact, windows sealed and opaqued, door secured with a sophisticated security device.

When Ko'Vin pressed the bell, the door opened for him, and he stepped inside. He went down a flight of stairs, and then he was in a small, dimly lit room. Galen could make out the light-colored walls and some dark shapes of furniture.

A man's voice spoke. The word it spoke, Galen thought, was Narn. The program translated it. Sit.

Ko'Vin found a seat near the only light in the room. He scanned the dim room nervously.

You have the cargo as we agreed. Galen caught movement in the darkness. It was the speaker. Galen altered the display in his mind's eye to show longer wavelengths of light. As it did, objects
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