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By John Meaney

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Sample text

And now Alisha was staring. It was bad enough being psyched out by one person, but did they have to gang up on him? ‘I’ll see you in my teaching room tomorrow morning,’ said Helsen. ’ ‘Ma’am . . ’ Helsen was the first to leave, descending the quickglass stalk on a single-person flowdisk. Then the others drifted away, while Roger remained staring down at the plaza. He watched as Helsen reached ground level and walked away. Just as she turned out of sight, black shards flickered in the air, twisted impossibly and were gone.

All around, the rest of the pre-contact team seemed fresh-eyed, their voices energetic as they sat up on couches and greeted each other. They were in a spartan cargo hold that made no attempt to emulate a comfortable passenger lounge. Nor was there any greeting from the unseen Pilot who had navigated them through mu-space to here. But she was offworld, in orbit around a new planet for the first time. ‘Hey, Rekka,’ called Mary Stelanko, the team leader. ’ The others were checking holo displays, conversation suspended, ensuring their equipment was intact.

After a few seconds, Roger peeked out, and when the time was right he led the other two across the street. Then they circled around the magnificent Hauptbahnhof, and jumped down on to the tracks. No one cried out or whistled as they stumbled towards an empty train. Roger pulled open a carriage door and threw the money-bags inside. Then he boosted Trudi up the step and through the door, followed by Rick. Ten seconds later, he was inside as well and pulling the door shut. ‘Nice work,’ said Rick. ’ Everything shimmered around them.

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