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The Dark Edge

Taken by Force

Hidden from View





HOW THEIR SPACECRAFT WAS CAPTURED --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'Tell me about it,' said Vail. 'What happened?'

Marcis raised his eyebrows in an expression of wry self-mockery. 'Ah, they fooled us completely. We never even guessed. We picked up a signal.'

'P-sector, 47 degrees,' interjected Crissom. 'On the edge of the Dowty-S system.'

'Where's that?'

'Approximately two-thirds of the way back to the Centre from planet P-19. We'd been travelling for thirty-nine days. There are no inhabited planets in the Dowty-S system.'

'Or any neighbouring system.' Marcis took up the story again. 'It wasn't an emergency distress signal. That would've been too obvious. Just static transmission, like a transmitter left on and still functioning after some major blow-out. We came in close to investigate.'

'With Eddon and me still in cryo-sleep?'

'Why not?' Crissom looked at her. His eyes were a very clear grey colour, almost like water. 'Why would we wake you up?'

'We weren't expecting to need any assistance,' said Marcis smoothly. 'When we saw the ship, there was no way that anyone could've survived. Cabin and crew section ripped apart, wires and cables spilling out everywhere. Only the engine section was mainly intact.'

'They were hiding in specially constructed compartments in the engine section,' said Crissom. 'Very clever.'

'And we were so naive.' Marcis shook his head half-humorously. 'We put out a line and I crossed over in my vac-suit. Everything looked black and burned and twisted. I didn't see that it was only painted on. I was getting ready to enter the wreckage when they threw a spin.'

'They fired a two-second burst from their laterals,' said Crissom. 'Their ship rolled over and all the wires and cables whirled out and wrapped around our spacecraft. Our tabs and stabilisers were snagged. It was impossible to blast clear.'

Marcis nodded. 'Then they came out of their hidden compartments and started crossing over to our craft. They attacked the hatch of the pressure-chamber and forced their way in.'

'What about you?'

'They left me dangling in space. I was caught up between my own line and all the cables. They only came back for me when they'd completed the hijack. I fought for a while and landed a few punches. But of course they overpowered me in the end.'

'What about you, Crissom?'

'Nothing to tell.' Crissom's voice was very neutral, almost bored. 'They boarded the craft and came swarming up to the flight cabin. They were armed with knives and stunners and flay-guns. The Max was in the lead. I did as I was told.'



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Richard Harland.