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The females were impressed. They always were. It was one of the perks of his condition, one of the many. Indeed it was the attentions of one of Breminsky's females that had brought the challenge in the first place.

This Breminsky fancied himself a cavalier and so kept a small harem. For some offworld bravo, one with no proper introduction to his caste, to even touch one of his females, was the height of presumption. That this one had done so and, further, had scrupled to draw one of them out, across a dance hall, right in front of Breminsky and his crew was quite beyond the pale.

The interloper had danced with her, turned her head with wine and talk and flicked her back to Breminsky like some too small salmon from an ancient Earthly stream. The affront was obvious and could not be ignored. Breminsky had challenged him right there in the hall.

It was a mistake.

As challenger, Breminsky relinquished choice of field and of weapon. Breminsky had gained local fame for his skill with the klef; a sort of long handled, triangular cleaver with a notch at the business end.

The challenged suggested rapiers. 

Duels were generally fought in zero g, a hold-over from the settlers' spacer days, in an omnasium.

The challenged suggested Baldwin's Rest in the lee of Elysium Mons at full grav. Breminsky couldn't refuse without losing face amongst his peers. 

The customary time for such an event was midnight, "halfdark" as the Martians called it.

No, not Mars anymore, he reminded himself. Ares. They had renamed the place for some capricious reason or other. It wouldn't do to forget that. It would be impolite.

"Thee numer duze?" said the Second.

"No need," was the response, in Standard. They understood, even if they chose not to use, the language of their elders. What possible use would he have for a Second?

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