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Narks had been picked up trying to leave the planet, trying to pass on as a passenger without a ticket. The fact that he had tried to flee merely added to his guilt, and a close investigation revealed just how much he had been involved with the Silver Ring. He was charged along with Tira and for weeks the Seventh Star lay empty for a little while until, eventually, one of his waitresses, a Falleen named Miarka, somehow managed to acquire the premises. It was still a major source of information and the protocol of the callbox still stood, but now it was clean.

Nuada had vanished, and Jali knew that it was no good trying to find him. He told this much to Captain Vantel several months later after Tira was indicted.

Vantel dismissed his doubts. “We’ll find him, Dawler,” he assured Jali. “If you just let us do our job.”

“In case I have to do it for you,” Jali reminded him.

Vantel didn’t see the joke. “I’ve been thinking, Dawler,” he said. “You’re record’s going to be clean again in a few more months, how would you like to come back to us?”

“What, go back to the Security Force?” Jali asked incredulously. “Are you serious?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t,” Vantel replied. “And after what you did despite what I said to you, well, what do you say?” Jali considered this. “I’ve been thinking about it ever since that morning,” he explained slowly. “And as much as I wanted it when I got out …somehow I don’t think it matters as much any more.”

“I don’t understand you,” Vantel said. “You had a good record when you were with us, and your experience with, well, them, only makes it better.”

“I think it’s that experience that’s going to go against me if I do come back,” Jali pointed out dryly. “Thanks for the offer, but I’m going to have to say no.”

“You’re walking away from a great opportunity here, Dawler,” Vantel told him. “You’re making a mistake.”

“No, I’m not,” Jali argued. “I'm just doing what matters.”

He left Vantel shortly after that, walking along the street at twilight, a cigarette in one hand. He heard footsteps behind him and smiled.

“Balor,” he said, turning around, “should have known it was you. You can’t leave me alone, can you?”

“Nots fors verys longs Jalis,” Balor said, grinning.

“What say we go have a drink?” Jali asked. “Sorel’s is pretty near.”

Balor shook his head. “I’s knows ahs betters places,” he said with a smile, “nots toos fars, goods atmospheres.”

Jali laughed. “Lead me to it, then,” he said, hailing an airtaxi. “Vos Gesal Street,” he told the driver. “Take us to the Seventh Star.”




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