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The Dark Edge

Taken by Force

Hidden from View





THE ADVANCE OF THE ANTI-HUMAN --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vail watched in silence, nibbling on a single slab-biscuit. After a while, Lassinda's ravenous appetite began to abate. Vail chose a moment when her mouth wasn't full.

'Tell me about the Anti-Human,' she said. 'What was happening on your planet when you left?'

'The Anti-Human was coming closer and closer. First it blotted out the stars at night. You could see it over on one side of the sky, like a growing darkness.'

'Q-Mabben-8 is on the very edge of the Galaxy, isn't it?'

'Yes.' Lassinda started on another sage roll. 'But it was much worse when the Anti-Human came inside our own solar system. Then you could see it in broad daylight. One black line, then another, then another. So huge you wouldn't believe. That was when the y made a decision to evacuate the planet.'

'How long ago?'

'About two months, standard time. Straight lines intersecting at sharp angles, crisscrossing over a quarter of the sky. It became like a web. Horrible!'

'No-one flew out into it?'

Lassinda shook her head vigorously, sending her blonde curls tossing. 'You can't fly into it! Don't you know? No-one ever comes back alive from the Anti-Human.'

Vail nodded. 'What about instruments? Did your scientific specialists discover anything?'

'What I heard was, they couldn't get any readings at all. No material composition, no elements that would show up on a spectroscanner. The lines are more like shadows than anything solid.'

'And there was no other form of invasion? On your planet itself?'

'How do you mean?'

'Doesn't matter -- you'd know if there was. So people were just afraid?'

'Yes. And sort of weighed down. People couldn't stop turning to look at it, like something cold and dark creeping up over your back. Some of the lines were very close to one of our suns by the time I left.'

Vail turned it over in her mind. Even in the midst of her own pressing dangers, she couldn't help being troubled by Lassinda's news. It seemed that a Galaxy-wide disaster was looming...



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Richard Harland.