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The Dark Edge

Taken by Force

Hidden from View





THE MAX --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vail struggled in vain. The arms that held her were immensely muscular, bulging like tree trunks. They were shiny with oil, and tinted to a red-brown colour with some sort of mahogany dye.

The other male moved around to the control box and began punching in commands on the keypad. He was of small to medium height, thin, with hair cropped close to his skull like the level grey fur of a rat. He showed no signs of regression or atrobillium abuse. But there was a cruel whip-like quality about him that was even more threatening than the Animal's simple brutishness.

His clothing was a motley of different colours: pink singlet, striped yellow overvest, purple jacket. The jacket was covered with the stitched-on insignia of Hegemony officials: Commander, Medical Officer, Flightman, Sub-Commissioner, and many more. Both jacket sleeves had been cut off, leaving his arms bare. Also bare were his feet and legs. A short woman's skirt hung loosely around his hips, star-patterned in gaudy reds and greens.

He stabbed at the keys with a single index finger. He seemed uncertain about some of the commands. But finally he activated the sequence and closed the panel of the control box.

Vail gritted her teeth. She heard a rumble in the pipes and regulators, she saw the first tendrils of blue gas spreading out underneath the hood. For a moment, Eddon's eyes turned to her, goggling and desperate. Then his features seemed to freeze in mid-expression, as if filming over.

'Rest In Peace, Central Inspector,' said the thin whip-like Cur.

He looked around, from Vail's cryo-bath to the Animal on the floor, to Vail herself. He nodded thoughtfully.

'Let her go,' he said.

'But she'll run away.' The owner of the muscular mahogany arms spoke in a surprisingly light high voice. He clamped his arms around her even more tightly.

'Let her go.' The phrase was repeated in the same tone, but with an edge of menace. 'Come here. Stand beside me.'

With a disappointed sigh, the owner of the arms released his hold. He stepped out from behind Vail and moved around to stand facing her.

His whole physique was on a par with his arms, the hyper-developed physique of a body-builder. His muscles gleamed and quivered as he walked. Shades and highlights in the mahogany dye gave even greater emphasis to every bulge and hollow. He wore only a white jockstrap padded out to a ridiculous size in front. A sheathed knife hung at his hip, clipped in the elastic of the jockstrap.

Facing Vail, he gave a long low whistle. She realised that he was staring at the rip in her body-sleeve. She reached down and pulled the material across, swiftly covering the visible expanse of her belly and thighs.

The thin whip-like Cur seemed to be studying her neo-gothic make-up. Her black lipstick and blue-and-gold eyeshadow. Vail drew a deep breath. There was no use trying to run away. She had to take the initiative.

'Who are you?' she demanded. 'What do you think you're doing?'

It was the whip-like Cur who answered. A narrow slit of a grin appeared on his face.

'Welcome to the Kennel,' he said. 'I am the Max. Top Dog and leader of the Curs. And this --' He lifted his hand and smacked the muscle-man smartly across the buttocks. 'This is the Body.'



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Richard Harland.