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The Dark Edge

Taken by Force

Hidden from View






Eddon went through to the operations room, sat down in front of the set and switched it on. Vail's image appeared. Reception was better than usual, with only small wavering lines travelling up across the screen. Her eyes made contact with his own transmitted image. She was wearing jet black lipstick and purple eyebrows in the shape of arrow-heads.

'So you survived the dumping,' she said conversationally.

'The dumping? Oh, right. Yeah, I survived.'

He wondered if she had any kind of feelings behind her neo-gothic make-up. She seemed perfectly composed. Not like his own racing heart, he thought bitterly, his own stupid goddamn heart.

'You look worn out,' she said.

'Hnh. Worn out and crapped off.'

'Life in the Uds is getting you down?'

'They're a waste of time.'

'Who, the inhabitants? The Udsers?'

'Hopeless drop-outs, the lot of them.'

'Ah, they don't appreciate their police force. They don't deserve you.'

'Very amusing. I've been beating my head against a blank wall. No cooperation at all.'

'Like the inhabitants on planet P-19 then. You remember, when we first started asking questions?'

'Mmm, same thing. They clam up immediately.'

'So there's something you've been questioning the Udsers about?'

'Yes. No.' Eddon clammed up immediately himself. 'Nothing specific. Routine police business.'

He recalled Vail's earlier offer of help. Better to keep quiet about the murder. He didn't want her trying to get involved in this investigation. Their lives were running separate tracks -- which was exactly the way he liked it.

'Nothing specific?' She was looking at him with slightly narrowed eyes. 'Nothing that needs the aid of parapsychic skills?'

'No,' said Eddon firmly. 'What about you? What have you been doing?'

Vail nodded slowly. 'That's why I was calling. You remember that important presentation I told you about?'

'To the elite of the elite.'

She ignored the needling. 'To a committee of the Supreme Council. It's on the day after tomorrow. I have to make it a success.'

'Yeah, very important for you to be a success.'

'Oh, for chrissake!' She flared up momentarily. 'You know what it's about! The Anti-Human, for chrissake!'

Eddon felt a small gratification to have got in under her skin. But she controlled herself and calmed down.

'They have to be made to see the danger. They have to take major steps. I could really do with your help.'

'You want someone to turn the pages of your notes perhaps?'

Vail showed her teeth in an exaggerrated sarcastic smile, her dazzling film-star special. When she spoke, her voice was more measured and drawling than ever.

'To tell them what you saw. To back up my account.'

'Sorry, but I'm on duty here in the Uds.'

'You could ride up to High Sphere. Only for a day.'

'A day's a day. Not permitted to us mere Inspectors.'

'I can arrange it with your superiors.'

The muscles in Eddon's jaw clenched. He rubbed his chin to cover the reaction.

'You do know some very powerful people,' he said.

'I've been networking and making contacts. That's how I managed to set up this presentation. I used my charm on the Assistant Magister and Lora ev Jarl -- you know, the prize-winning astro-physicist? And the High Invigilator -- I've been in his office half a dozen times.'

'The High Invigilator?'

Vail nodded, biting her lip and saying nothing.

'Such exalted company,' said Eddon. 'He must be taking a particular interest in you.'

She nodded again. Staring through the lines of wavering interference, Eddon thought he saw a hint of embarrassment on her face -- almost the beginnings of a blush. There was a long moment's silence. Then she refocussed her gaze.

'What about it then?'

'What about what?'

'Coming up to High Sphere for this presentation.'

'No. Do it yourself.'

'Now you're being aggressive. Why?'

'I'm not being aggressive.'

'I'm asking pleasantly and you repond with --'

'I'm tired. I've had a bad day. I want to get some sleep. So --'

He reached out to turn off the set. But Vail beat him to it. The screen went dead before his fingers could touch the switch.

'And goodnight to you too,' he growled sardonically.



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Richard Harland.