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leaped out to join Bernice.
 That should help, she said as the flitter s engines roared, and it rose steadily
into the sky.  I ve set it on a random flight plan. With luck, nobody will ever
be able to track us back here.
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 Where s this Dantalion then?
Forrester glanced around, orienting herself, and then pointed to a small side
alley.
 Right now? Down there.
Beltempest dreamed.
After entering the unreal realm of hyperspace and setting the controls to
automatic, he had darkened the visor of his spacesuit and turned off the ex-
ternal audio sensors. The flickering lights, the little noises, they had all been
bothering him. He d lost count of the number of times he had whirled around,
screamer rifle at the ready, just knowing that Pryce was behind him, long fin-
gernails extended towards his eyes. Twice he had only just managed to stop
himself blasting a hole in the door. He kept telling himself how stupid he was
being  there was no way that Pryce could get through the bulkhead to him 
but it did no good. He was so much on edge he was becoming a safety hazard.
Eventually he had realized that the only answer was to turn off every source
of disturbance, and drift. Meditate. Relax.
For a while, as he sat listening to the rasp of his breathing and the inter-
mittent beep of the life-support system, he had imagined he could hear a
faint giggling in the distance, or feel thuds and crashes transmitted through
the bulkhead as Pryce dismembered the Doctor, but gradually his fingers had
relaxed their grip on the guns, and his mind had let go.
And he dreamed of a time before his name was Beltempest.
Sunset was a crimson slash across the soft underbelly of the clouds as he ap-
proached the cliff-faced rear of the laboratory.
 Ready? he snapped.
 Ready, sir, the under-sergeant said behind him. He turned. The troops were al-
ready in attack formation, spread out across the albino lawn with their weapons
at the ready. Stunners only, of course. They wanted the professor alive.
He checked his chronometer. Perfect timing. The captain should be on the sim-
cord to Pryce, keeping him occupied while the Landsknechte went in through the
back. He didn t like sneaking around, but nobody knew what sort of weaponry
Pryce had been working on in there.
 Okay, let s go.
He had the only destructive weapon: an industrial blaster with a beam focus
point six feet from the barrel. Quickly he made four precise cuts in the shape of
a door. The adamantium wall glowed, and a rectangular section fell, towards
him. Two Landsknechte ran in to catch it before it hit the lawn. A third took the
blaster.
He led the way into the darkened building.
That was a mistake.
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His bepple-enhanced infrared vision scanned the darkness, picking out hot
spots. Human-shaped hot spots. He unholstered his stunner, but they weren t
moving. There was something odd about them; they looked like bundles of
spaghetti wrapped around narrow, rigid tubes. Moving closer, he switched his
flashlight on.
Blood pumped through sagging arteries that were draped around human skele-
tons. Black nerve fibres like spiders webs enveloped the bodies. Eyeballs rolled in
soundless agony.
He didn t hear the sound of the stunners behind him, or realize until much,
much later quite how close Professor Zebulon Pryce and his vibroknife had got to
the back of his neck. All he did was scream as he realized what Professor Zebulon
Pryce had done to his friends. And scream. And . . .
. . . Screaming an alert signal into his ear. Beltempest jerked awake, flailing
his four arms for a moment, dropping his guns all over the floor. He whirled,
expecting Pryce to be standing behind him, but the cabin was empty. The
alarm shrilled on. His eyes scanned the controls, desperately searching for
the problem. Life-support okay. Power levels okay. Hyperspace engines . . . off
line.
He raised his eyes to the simcord screen, dreading what he would find.
Black space, and stars.
They had left hyperspace.
And directly in front of them sat an old, battered warship of very alien
design.
Beltempest flicked on the switch that patched him into the ship s communi-
cations net.  Doctor? he said.  Prepare yourself. We have guests.
153
Chapter 11
  ease do not adjust your receiver. Normal service will be resumed as
soon as possible. Please do not adjust your receiver. Normal service
will be resumed as soon as possible. Please do not adj 
Dantalion s lair was a sixteenth-century church sandwiched between two late
twenty-seventh-century oxygen factories. Forrester didn t bother knocking.
Instead she just kicked the rotting wooden door in. Or, at least, she tried to
kick the rotting wooden door in. The door stayed where it was, while she
rebounded, swearing.
Bernice watched with something between amusement and concern.
 Adamantium core, Forrester gasped between curses. Her leg felt like it was
on fire.  He must have had it installed since the last time I was here.
 Indeed I have, fair maiden, a drink-slurred voice boomed at them from a
hidden speaker.  Indeed I have. These premises suffer from an infestation of
Adjudicators in much the same way that other places have rats or ber hounds.
Much as I enjoy watching the little creatures frolic and gambol, it does tend
to be bad for business, and so I have, albeit reluctantly, been forced to take
measures to prevent them from gaining access. The entire building is now
sheathed in a substance that, I am assured by those in the know, will repel
anything short of an attack by an Imperial Landsknechte frigate.
 Does he always talk like that? Bernice asked. She was crouched over
Cwej s body, trying to protect his extensive wounds from the ever-present rain.
 Only when he s drunk, Forrester replied.
 How often is that?
 Put it this way: I ve never seen him sober.
 An unfair slur, the voice protested.  I am not drunk. Merely affable. Con-
genial. Cordial, if you will.
 As a newt, Bernice murmured.  Look, Forrester, we really need to get Cwej
seen to. I m not sure how much longer he can last.
 Yeah, tell me about it, Forrester growled as she surveyed the crumbling
brickwork of Dantalion s domain. Now that she was looking closer, she could
make out the signs of recent modification. The outer walls of the church
looked like they had been stripped off and then reattached to the central
adamantium box. Dantalion was right: she couldn t get in there with brute
154
force and bludgeon him into treating Cwej. Only tact and diplomacy could
save him now.
And she was honest enough to know that those weren t exactly her strong
suits.  Dantalion, she began.  I know we ve never exactly seen eye to eye . . .  [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]