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Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 8: Automatic Kidnapping

John Barnes
Faster-Than-Light Reading
John Barnes, Author
8/18/2015

This is Episode 8 of a Light Reading original science fiction story. Need to catch up? Start here:

Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 1: Family Business

Or find all the episodes here: Faster-Than-Light Reading.


The tranquilizer must have included a paralytic, because I couldn't move, plus a euphoric, because I was becoming happier and happier about being abducted. Clearly they did not intend to kill us right away. Such nice people!

After a while, the van pulled over someplace. A couple of them dragged and rolled us onto the rear seats and belted us in. Another one played back an audio recording of complicated directions to the self-driving computer.

They all got out of the van and shut the door, and the van drove away. Very clever. Good to be in the hands of such professionals.

Could we help the local cops notice that we were tied up in a van with no driver?

Apparently not.

I literally could not move a finger or a toe; my head hung over to the side, and I was probably going to have the mother of all cricks in my neck. My face felt like slack soggy clay on the front of my skull.

Markus could have been a warm sandbag slumped against me. I hoped he wasn't too badly beat up; probably losing the fight had been rougher than just being grabbed and tranquilized like me.

I couldn't even open my eyes to read a road sign. Overwhelmed by helplessness, jet lag, and drug-induced indifference, I fell asleep.


When I woke again, my hands were bound behind my back. I was lying on my side on a reasonably comfortable surface. I tried slowly opening my eyes. They opened.

Markus was about a meter away, strapped to a cot, his face toward me. Like mine, his hands were bound behind him. I could see the lines holding his pant cuffs down; his ankles were tied together too. I flexed my feet and confirmed that I was tied there too. As soon as I worked the ankles, the bonds tightened; they loosened after a few seconds of lying still. Taking precautions not to activate the smart bonds by squirming very slowly and without much pressure, I got my head into a position where squinting confirmed that bands of something strong held my calves, hips and torso to a cot, and that I was tied in exactly the same way as Markus.

I tried moving my mouth; it was dry and my tongue felt thick, but I worked my jaw and sucked saliva a little more, and eventually thought I might be able to talk, if Markus ever awoke.


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I heard a mix of whining, whirring, and grinding noises behind me. Ignoring the threatening squeeze of the smart bonds, I raised my head as far as I could, turning to look sideways, and saw a printer-assembler powering up in the corner. A piece dropped into its out-hopper. One robot arm picked it up and put it on the assembly frame; the machine went on humming and buzzing as it made the next part. Having nothing else to do, I watched as it used two arms to hold the two just-completed pieces together, printed a screw, then used a screwdriver arm to attach those two pieces and set the combined unit in a different position on its frame.

Next Page: The Taste of Failure

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