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Do not be alarmed," said the squatting shape. A vocalizer converted the buzzes and whistles from its lower beak into recognizable Anglic syllables. " "You--a man called me--" "A dummy. " Djana felt surreptitiously behind her. As expected, the door did not respond; it had been set to lock itself. She clutched her large ornamental purse. A stun pistol lay inside. Her past had seen contingencies. Bracing herself and wetting her lips, she said, "I don't. Not with xenos--" and in haste, fearing offense might be taken, "I mean nonhuman sophonts.

Shocked, Flandry wondered how deeply the rot had eaten, if the agent of a medium-scale vice boss on a tenth-rate frontier planet could obtain such information. "Well, your tour'll soon be up," Ammon said. "Precious little to show for it, right? Right. How'd you like to turn a profit before you leave? " He rubbed his hands. " "Depends," Flandry said. If he'd been investigated as thoroughly as it appeared, there was no use in pretending he had private financial resources, or that he didn't require them if he was to advance his career as far as he hoped.

His spurt of acceleration was not vertical. It had side-swiped a mountaintop. No time for fear. He became the boat. Two thrust cones remained, not enough to escape with but maybe enough to set down on and not spatter. He ignored the flock and fought for control of the drunkenly unbalanced grav drive. If he made a straight tail-first backdown, the force would fend off the opposition; he'd have an uncluttered scan aft, which he could project onto one of the pilot board screens and use for an eyeballed landing.

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A Circus of Hells by Poul Anderson


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