Quinn demanded, “What’s wrong?”
A loud crash was followed by Mami’s shriek and the sounds of a fight.
“Balock’s balls!” I opened the cockpit door and took a stun beam in the chest. Agony seared every nerve ending, and I fell. A cry broke from me as violent muscle spasms twisted my body. My arms and legs drummed against the floor.
“Do not pass out!” Quinn commanded.
My vision dimmed, and I struggled to stay conscious. Have. To. Protect Mami.
Quinn growled, “If you want to live, send me your coordinates. Now, Xenia.”
Totally ignoring the enraged Coletti on the vid screen, Dolon kneeled on my chest, crushing me against the floor. “Stop fighting, Lysis, or your daughter dies.” My uncle shoved the muzzle of his laser pistol against my forehead.
“Get off her. She can’t breathe,” Quinn roared.
“What. He. Said,” I gasped.
My uncle shifted his knee. I sucked in a lungful of much needed air. My vision cleared enough that I could see Mami sprawled under the table. Papa had broken one henchman’s neck, and his knife protruded from the second one’s chest. He had his large hand wrapped around the third one’s throat.
“Let him go!” my uncle yelled.
Papa released the thug. He crumpled to the deck, gasping for breath.
“Drop your weapons,” Dolon ordered.
Using two fingers, my father slowly put his laser pistol on the floor.
“And the knives too.” Dolon tightened his grip.
Papa removed his boot knives and placed them next to the pistol.
I forced my badly twitching fingers to hit an icon on my communications bracelet.
A computerized voice announced, “Distress beacon activated.”
Dolon laughed. “You stupid female, my ship is equipped with a signal jammer.”
Which our command computer had disabled, along with all their weapons systems. Papa was an expert in battle tactics, and our ship was equipped with enough firepower to take on a Coletti warbird.
“Harm any of them, and you will answer to me,” Quinn warned.
“Drekking Coletti warriors think they’re the lords of the universe. You aren’t. You come here. You die.” Dolon turned his pistol and blasted the view screen.
There wasn’t a doubt in my mind Quinn would come, and when he did, the only one dying would be Dolon.
“Wake Eleni up. She’s taking me to that treasure,” Dolon instructed my father.
If looks could kill, my uncle would be a dead man. “There is no treasure.”
“You think I’m a fool?” Dolon countered.
“Yes.” Papa pointed to the work counter covered with pieces of bone, a stone figurine, and a massive ball of fused metal. “That’s what Eleni considers treasure.”
“You’re lying. Everyone knows Qeeturah’s rulers had a fortune in gold, silver, and jewelry made from faience, the rarest metal in the galaxy,” Dolon retorted.
Good thing only a few knew about the obsidian sphere called the Shebu. It was a source of unfathomable power. The Nabateans fled Qeeturah after severe solar flares killed billions of their people. Mami was decoding a star chart I had found inscribed on a wall. We hoped it would lead us to the Nabateans’ new world and the Shebu.
Papa scowled. “We haven’t found any gold, silver, or jewelry.”
“I want my treasure,” Dolon reiterated.
Papa raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Your treasure?”
“As the head of our family, it’s my right to claim it,” Dolon declared.
“Eleni is my legal mate. You have no rights to her or her property.”
“An easy fix. I kill you and everything reverts to me.”
“Zarek, the Overlord of the Coletti clans, is my partner in this venture. You do not want to anger him,” Papa advised.
A lie, but my uncle wouldn’t know that. He grabbed a handful of my hair, yanked my head back, and rammed the muzzle of his laser pistol against my throat. Blind fury swept through me, and I struggled to control my spastic limbs. I wanted him dead so badly.
“Wake my sister up, or your daughter dies,” Dolon said, his voice full of hatred.
Papa kneeled and patted Mami’s face gently. “Eleni. Open your eyes, my love.”
Mami stared up at Papa in confusion. “What happened?”
“You fainted as usual,” Dolon grumbled, removing the laser pistol from my neck.
Praise the Goddess my spasms were slowing down.
My mother took one look at her shattered teapot, the two dead thugs, and passed out again.
“Drekk. Get up.” Dolon threw a teacup at his remaining henchman.
It smacked him in the left eye. Rubbing at his rapidly swelling eye, the henchman got to his feet.
“Bind Lysis,” Dolon ordered.
His breath coming in rasping gasps, the henchman staggered toward my father.
I couldn’t allow him to tie Papa up. Arching my body, I flailed my arm and legs wildly as if I was having a convulsion.
“Xenia’s seizing. She needs medical care,” my father growled.
“Like I care?”
“If Xenia dies, Eleni will be of no use to you.”
“Drekk.” Dolon yanked me off the floor and hurled me at my father. “Fix her.”
Papa caught me.
I faked another seizure and managed to kick the henchman in the balls. All the color drained from his face as he doubled over in agony. His knees buckled, and he collapsed next to my mother.
Dolon studied me suspiciously. “Did she do that on purpose?”
“You think Eleni’s daughter is capable of attacking a male?” My father carried me over to the med unit.
“She’s also your
daughter. There are rumors that Xenia shot and killed several Sandokan pirates two months ago.”
Papa smiled a smile guaranteed to make most males run for their lives. “I spread that rumor. My daughter is a beautiful female. A wise male now hesitates before approaching her.”
I wasn’t sure if Dolon bought the fib or not. “You should have let me shoot him.”
“An error I won’t repeat.”
Papa ran the med scanner over me and injected a muscle relaxer to neutralize the effects of the stun beam.
I sighed in relief as the pain and muscle spasms stopped. I tried to summon a fireball, but nothing happened. Drekk. The energy blast from the stun beam was still playing havoc with my psychic abilities.
Papa threw an aggravated look over his shoulder. “How long before you can project an illusion?”
“A couple of minutes, but I don’t know how long I can hold it.”
“Hurry up,” Dolon spat impatiently.
“He’s not going to be pleased when he sees the dig site is nothing more than buildings carved out of rocks,”
“I agree. Bringing your mother along is going to make things more difficult.”
My stomach knotted at the thought of Dolon hurting her out of sheer frustration. Mami had once pushed Bhikshuni, the devout religious leader of the Farins, to violence. After the incident, he had joined a remote monastery. “The gravesite has enough artifacts to keep Dolon busy.”
Mami suddenly bolted upright, looked around wildly, screamed, and keeled over again.
The expression on Dolon’s face was an exact duplicate of the one on Bhikshuni’s just before he lost it.
Papa stepped in front of me, shielding me with his body and said quickly, “I can take you to the dig site. Eleni will only slow you down.”
“She is an extremely troublesome female.” Dolon kicked his goon. “Get up.”
The henchman groaned.
My uncle struck the henchman again. “I said, get up.”
“How has Dolon survived this long?”
“He kills those who cross him, and he hires idiots,”
The henchman obediently got to his feet.
“Take my sister to the ship and lock her in the holding cell,” Dolon instructed him.
A cold rage filled my father’s eyes. “Eleni stays here.”
“You seem to forget I’m in charge.” Dolon leveled his laser pistol at my father’s chest and fired. The sizzling red stun beam struck Papa in the chest. He crashed to the floor and twitched violently.
I quickly cast a cloaking illusion over Mami.
The henchman looked around in confusion. “Where did she go?”
“Where did who go?” Dolon stunned my father again, smiling at Papa’s grunts of pain.
My power crapped out and the illusion failed. Mami reappeared on the floor.
Dolon quit tormenting my father and turned to stare at his henchman. “She’s right there, you fool. Now take her to the ship.” He rolled Papa over and pulled out some handcuffs.
The henchman bent to pick my mother up.
Mami became a rotting corpse. Her skeletal fingers reached for him.
“Aiieeeee!” The henchman jumped back in horror. “How did she get like that? How did she get like that? How?”
Too busy trying to cuff my father to look, Dolon growled, “What the drekk is your problem now?”
Maggots swarmed out of the corpse’s eyes.
“You stay. You die like our crew,”
I whispered. “Leave while you can.”
The henchman bolted for the hatch but was in such a panic, he kept whacking the wall instead of the scanner.
Dolon jumped to his feet. “What are you doing, Bene?”
“We stay. We die!” Bene cried.
“We are not leaving until I have my treasure,” Dolon snarled. “Now get my sister.”
“No. Won’t touch her. She’s dead.”
Mami moaned and put a hand to her forehead. “What happened?”
“The dead can’t talk, you moron,” Dolon replied. “Now, pick her up and take her to the ship.”
Mami looked around frantically. “Lysis? Where’s Lysis?”
“Dolon stunned Papa,” I answered, palming the portable med kit.
“What?” To my surprise Mami didn’t faint again. “Why would you do that, Dolan?”
Dolon shrugged. “I’m taking the treasure, and Lysis thought he could stop me.”
A tear rolled down Mami’s face. “But we’re family. You don’t steal from family.”
My uncle sneered, “That’s what father said just before I killed him.”
“You—you were responsible for his murder?”
“The old fool wouldn’t give me the credits I needed. So, I broke into his safe and took everything.” Dolon laughed. “Father tried to stop me. His mistake. The treasure is mine. Get in my way, or fail to do exactly what I say, and you will watch Lysis and your daughter die.”
Mami crumpled to the floor.
“Drekk.” Dolon shoved his henchman out of the way, picked my mother up, and shook her violently. “Wake up.” He shook her again. “Wake up!”
“Stop!” I pleaded. “I’ll take you to the treasure. Don’t hurt her.”
Dolon dropped Mami and seized my arm. “You know where it is?”
“Yes.” My hands curled into fists. Once I had my powers back, my uncle was a dead man.
“Good. Take me to it and I’ll let your father live.”
He was such a bad liar. I knew my uncle was planning on killing all of us. I assumed my timid demeanor. “As you command, my lord.”