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would take him down to the bar on the first level. Then he walked off in
the opposite direction, heading toward the forward end of the ship
where he would find his "future" father-in-law, Commander Zark. Spacers,
in the gleaming halls, saluted him in the traditional manner - a hand
clasped to the hip that held their holstered auto-pistol - and it was a
good feeling. He had almost forgotten.
The Commander's guards stopped him outside the door, but when he
explained who he was and what he wanted, they nodded in unison. One of
them pressed a button which opened the door to the vestibule outside the
Lors stepped inside and the door hummed shut behind him. The vestibule
was little more than a box-like room, containing a small visi-screen. He
pressed the small, black button at the base of the dark screen and kept
his finger on it while the lines waved.
"Firstspacer Lors to see the Commander," he said, as the rotund face of
his future father-in-law waved and blurred into focus.
"Come in, Lors! Come in!" Zark's voice was a bellow of pleasure.
The heavy door swung open and Lors stepped into the room to click his
heels and slap his right hand against the black holster before the
"Firstspacer Lors reporting, sir," he said, as Zark got up from the
chair and came toward him.
"Lors, Lors, my son! How are you?"
They grabbed each other by the shoulders and laughed like children.
Lors, despite his love for Beth Danson and the trouble that was
undoubtedly coming up, was happy as a Terran child at Christmas to see
the older man.
"Lors! Let me look at you! It's been eons since Thista! Jela's fair
dying to get her hands on you again." He winked at Lors. "And I imagine
you are, too."
"She's here?" A ray of panic touched him and he hoped that it didn't
"Not that I know of, unless a ship came in. The last I heard, she was
waiting for a ship to take her off the base on Mars. She swears she'll
get you this time, or she's going back home to find an old mushshell
Lors laughed with Zark, who released him to pull a flask of wine from
his desk. As he poured two tumblers of the milk-white wine, he winked at
the young spacer.
"From the home planet," he grinned. "Mallowine. I'll wager you haven't
tasted it in a long time."
"Not since Thista," Lors assured him, accepting the tumbler. He held up
the glass for a toast. "To you, sir, and your daughter. May she be saved
from marrying a mushshell gatherer."
Commander Zark chuckled and they drank, the soft, mellow taste of the
wine lingering fondly in their mouths long after the drink had found its
way into their stomachs.
"Now then, Lors. Tell me what that fool of an Imry did to you."
He told the Commander everything, watching the older man nod his head
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