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The Dark Edge

Taken by Force

Hidden from View





FLIGHTMAN CRISSOM POWL --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vail lowered her clari-pad and glanced across at Crissom.

He was wholly self-absorbed, progressing through the stages of his game. From time to time he pressed a button on the puzz-player. Small creases came and went on his brows, as successive logical calculations passed through his mind.

Such an antiseptic person, she thought to herself. It was impossible to think of Crissom ever weeping or losing his temper or doing anything outrageous. So polite and quiet, so perfectly correct and proper . . .

She waited until he had finished his game. He gave only the tiniest nod of satisfaction as he pressed the final button and confirmed his solution. Vail spoke up before he could start another game.

'Crissom, can you explain to me about the power structure in the Kennel?'

Crissom looked up coolly. 'What about it?'

'The Max doesn't seem very secure in his position as Top Dog.'

'It's not a position. He's only on top as long as he can keep the others under.' Crissom smiled faintly. 'There's no laws in this place. No system of government.'

'I think the others are starting to turn against him. I overheard him talking to the Hench. The Curs are ganging up and forming groups.'

'If they turn against him, they'll turn completely. They all hate his guts.'

'Except the Body and the Hench.'

'No, the Body hates him too. And the Hench will follow anyone who gives orders. The Hench is on the side of whoever becomes Top Dog.'

'Hmm.' Vail frowned, considering the implications for her own situation.

'You'd be amazed, the things he does to them.' Crissom leaned forward and gestured with his hands. 'A few days before you came out of cryo-sleep, he kicked the Boy to the ground and urinated over his face. Just because he felt like it. Right into his mouth and nostrils. I saw him do it.'

The corners of Crissom's mouth were turned down in an expression of revulsion, but there was an eagerness in the telling that Vail found distasteful. He's trying to shock me, she thought. He wants to see me flinch.



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Richard Harland.