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or the equipment," she continued, ticking off his deficiencies on her fingers. "You can poke around like a pack of aborigines playing around with a Starfury, and maybe you'll find something useful by sheer accident, and maybe you'll push the wrong button and blow yourself up."

The thought had indeed occurred to Sheridan, as well. But it didn't suit the requirements of the moment to appear less than sanguine about the current situation. Instead he said with a remarkably jaunty air, "I know. Exciting, isn't it?"

Trent leaned back in her chair. If she'd had a cigarette between her fingers, she'd have taken a long drag of it about then, as she came to the slow but inevitable realization that she was not engaged in a conversation. Instead, this was clearly a negotiation. "All right," she sighed, giving in to the inevitable. "What do you want?"

The conversation finally shifted over into a realm in which Sheridan was far more comfortable. "First, some information. Why aren't you or your people afraid of retribution for breaking the embargo?"

She shrugged, as if surprised she had to explain what was, to her, painfully obvious, as if every sentient being should be aware of the infinite superiority of her position over those of mere mortals. "IPX is a multiplanetary corporation. We have agreements with over half a dozen alien governments allowing us to move across their borders without restriction. We can explore any world provided that we guarantee access to whatever we find. There's politics and there's business. This," she said with a smile, "is business. Your problems have nothing to do with us."

"You can come and go as you want."

She nodded. "That's correct."

It was a satisfactory enough answer. He would have preferred something a bit more colorful, such
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