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Even with his not-inconsiderable general knowledge, those technical details were but mildly interesting, at best.

Still, Atour Riten believed firmly that there was no excuse for discourtesy, and so he nodded. "Indeed." Unfortunately, this was taken as encouragement by his seatmate to launch into an enthusiastic description of the power requirements, in megajoules, that it took to run such a huge station.

Atour let him babble on while he waited for the docking procedure to begin and considered the vagaries of fate that had led him here, so late in life. That the library was a potentially good one had been an unexpected bonus, because he had not been posted here as any sort of reward. He'd been shunted off into this world-forsaken assignment as a way of getting rid of him, at least in a manner of speaking.

It had been, in a sense, his own fault: Atour Riten was, admittedly, not always circumspect when it came to controversial subjects-politics, government, personal relationships-and there were a fair number of people who hated to suffer his opinions as a result. Fortunately for him, those with enough power to have him killed with a snap of their fingers seldom had pristine pasts. Archivists, as a rule, knew how to dig into data banks and find just about anything, including bodies thought safely long buried. And old and smart archivists knew how to rig dead-man switches so that if they themselves suddenly