The glittering blue transporter light faded, and we stood on the Igator prison’s visitors’ platform. Or as I liked to call it, the kill zone. We were surrounded by dozens of automated laser canons. If we failed the prison’s body scan, we would be incinerated.
A mechanical voice commanded, “Do not move until the scan is complete.”
Ziyad and I exchanged worried glances as a yellow beam rolled over us. Igator prison was carved out of a mountain of pure Rhyolite obsidian. One of the toughest rocks in the galaxy. Add in a grade ten force field, and it became an impenetrable fortress.
Even if we made a run for it, we wouldn’t last ten minutes in the hellish wasteland that encircled the prison. The warden had left the remains of escaped prisoners rotting on the black sand. The message was clear. The only way out was in a body bag.
“You are cleared to proceed to the visitors’ booth,”
the mechanical voice announced.
“I told you my disguise would pass muster.”
Ziyad chortled. The holographic image she projected was of an elderly Bjarke female, complete with purple hair and long black tunic.
“Yee-haw! I get to live another day.”
I eyed the laser canons warily as we walked over to the plastisteel cubicle.
“It’s an Earth term of exhilaration.”
“I like it.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
As soon as we stepped inside, a computer console appeared.
The mechanical voice said, “State the nature of your visit.”
“I’m here to bail out prisoners 888888965, 888888966, 8888888967, and 8888888968.”
“Their bail is one million credits. Insert your chip into the second slot.”
I did as it instructed. The computer clicked loudly and spit out my credit chip.
The voice warned, “The prisoners will be released into your custody. Failure to appear at the district court at the appointed time will result in credit forfeiture.”
“We wouldn’t dream of missing our appointed time,” I assured the voice solemnly.
A door appeared out of thin air.
“Proceed to the waiting room,”
the voice commanded.
Ziyad and I walked through, and the door vanished. “If something goes wrong, getting out of here is going to be a bitch,”
“Not a problem. I haven’t eaten today,”
Ziyad informed me gleefully.
Oh Goddess. With Ziyad, mayhem and carnage was always a possibility. “What made you think that was a good idea?”
“I fight better when I’m hungry, and I’ve always wanted to taste an enforcer.”
I rubbed my suddenly aching head. Ziyad was ten years older than me, but it always felt like I was the adult and she was the kid. “You eat or even taste an enforcer, and they will hunt you forever.”
I patted her shoulder. “But look on the bright side—you can eat all the Tai-Kok you want.”
“They give me indigestion.”
“Spit out the metal parts, and it won’t be a problem.”
Ziyad came to an abrupt halt.
Bam! I crashed into her armored-plated back. “Ouch!”
I massaged my nose. “Why did you stop?”
“Isn’t that Pindick, the galactic terrorist?”
I peered around her and examined the wizened male standing in the middle of the room, tufts of orange hair protruding from his wrinkled yellow skull. His frail body was draped in a loose white tunic. “Hmmm. Kinda looks like him, but I thought he was younger, bigger, and meaner-looking.”
Ziyad sniffed. “He smells like Pindick.”
His mental shields sucked. There were all sorts of interesting information floating about in his sick, twisted mind. “It’s Pindick, all right, and he’s got a holographic device in his pocket.”
“It isn’t as good as mine. See?”
Ziyad pointed as Pindick’s clothes changed from the white tunic to battle armor and back. “The image is fluctuating.”
“Big-time. What I want to know is why he’s here.”
“To break his brother out.”
“He’s here? In
Ziyad rolled her eyes. “Where else would they put a dangerous terrorist?”
I tried to calm my jumpy nerves. She had a point. Since I was the one who sicced the enforcers on Pindick’s brother, the nasty gunrunner, this could get ugly real fast. “But…no one has ever escaped from this place.”
An explosion rocked the prison. Pieces of the ceiling rained down on us.
“I think that’s about to change,”
Ziyad said as we backed slowly away from Pindick.
The wizened guy was suddenly replaced by a tall, brawny yellowed-skin male.
“He’s got a thermal grenade!”
Ziyad shoved me to the floor and jumped on top of me.
The left wall blew outward. Smoke filled the room.
I kneaded my ringing ears. I could barely hear the prison’s wailing alarms. Ziyad’s heavy weight made it difficult to breathe. “Get off.”
Ziyad moaned and rolled off me. “Did he blow himself up?”
“We can only hope.”
I crawled over to the shattered wall and looked out. Pindick popped up from behind a pile of rubble and fired at several of the prison’s enforcers, forcing them to take cover. “We aren’t that lucky, and he has a laser pistol too.”
“Pindick had to bribe a lot of high-ranking officials to get weapons into this prison,”
Ziyad growled, picking a piece of shrapnel out of her leg.
“It’s just a scratch.”
Across the debris-filled courtyard a door opened, and three turncoat prison guards ran out and blasted away at the enforcers.
“Look, your brothers,”
Ziyad exclaimed, pointing at the doorway.
I caught a glimpse of Loki inside a holding cell. My entire body shook with fury. Pindick was going to get my family killed. “We’ve got to get them out of there.”
Glittery blue lights abruptly engulfed the courtyard. When they faded, a dozen armored planetary enforcers stood there. They unleashed a deadly volley of laser beams.
The traitorous prison guards’ bodies disintegrated into a million fireflies when the laser beams struck them.
Pindick made a mad dash through the open doorway. Thirty seconds later, the corrupt prison guards turned on the laser cannons. Red energy beams flashed wildly. The courtyard became a kill zone, the cannons incinerating anything that moved.
Ziyad surveyed the debris-laden courtyard. “I’m not fast enough to beat the cannons.”
“There has to be a way to save them.”
Wulf announced in my head.
I glanced over my shoulder and groaned. Wulf, Voss, and about twenty Coletti warriors filled the room.
Ziyad licked her lips. “Yum. Fresh meat.”
Voss laughed. “Who is this delightful creature?”
Delightful? Ziyad usually scared the crap out of people. Maybe the big, bad battle commander thought he could handle her. I grinned. This should be fun. “Ziyad, this is Voss, the Coletti battle commander. Battle Commander, may I introduce you to my best friend, Ziyad.”
“It is a pleasure to meet Yakira’s partner in crime,”
Voss replied politely.
He had no idea. I looked Wulf dead in the eye. “Let me guess. Out of the goodness of your heart, you’ll teleport my family to safety?”
I threw up a hand. “Oh wait! Coletti warlords aren’t benevolent do-gooders. There is always a price for your help. So, what do you want?”
Wulf’s mouth tightened into a hard line. “My mate.”
Mate? Was he talking about me? One look at the burning need in his eyes, and I knew he would do whatever it took to possess me. No wonder he had my family in such a dither. Coletti never, ever stopped hunting their prey. But I wasn’t prey. I was as much of a predator as he was. I let my gaze roam over the room. “Gee, I don’t see another female here. Oh Goddess, you don’t mean Ziyad, do you? You might want to rethink that decision.”
I leaned in closer to Wulf and whispered, “She bites.”
Ziyad snapped her jaws at Wulf.
“Surrender is your
Wulf’s menacing tone made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Talk about cranky. Maybe he had what my brothers called blue balls.
“Not a chance. I can take you,”
Ziyad said. She turned and gave the other warriors a toothy grin. “And them.”
Every warrior’s right hand immediately dropped to the hilt of his sword.
I suppressed a smile. Ziyad was such a tease.
An immense power rippled the air. A second later, the biggest, meanest-looking warlord stood there. His black battle suit emphasized his huge frame. He wore large gold warrior’s bracelets with an elaborate design. An etched gold headband held back his gray warrior’s braids.
Holy Goddess! Zarek! The vids didn’t do him justice. He was definitely scarier in person.
Zarek’s ruthless amber eyes surveyed Ziyad and then me. “You will come with us willingly. If Ziyad makes one aggressive move, we kill her, take you, and leave your family here to die.”
Horror rocked me. He meant it.
My crazy best friend jumped in front of me. “I won’t let you hurt her.”
“If I truly wanted to harm Yakira, there is nothing you could do to stop me,”
Zarek answered coldly.
Multiple explosions shook the building. The roof buckled, and pieces of obsidian crashed down.
Wulf pushed Ziyad and me to safety. A large chunk of obsidian missed us by inches.
Ziyad’s tentacles danced madly around her head. “Pindick isn’t going to stop until he levels the prison. We surrender now and live to fight another day.”
Now she had common sense?
A growl issued from Voss. “Pindick?”
A fireball rose high into the sky.
I flinched as a laser beam sizzled past my face. “Yes, Pindick. And if he realizes I’m the one who got his brother arrested, it won’t be good. Can we go? Now. Please?”
Wulf grabbed Ziyad and me in a bone-crushing grip. There was a fleeting instant of blackness. The next thing I knew, Wulf had shoved both of us into a holding cell and engaged the energy barrier. Awesome! Now we were trapped on a Coletti warbird.
“Don’t go anywhere.”
Wulf smirked and vanished.
“Now that’s just rude.”
Ziyad grinned evilly. “The idiot forgot to search us.”
I grinned back. “Or take our communications devices.”
“If you make any attempt to escape, your family pays the price,”
Zarek warned in my head.
“Yes, my lord.”
I sagged down on the narrow bed. “They have us right where they want us.”
Ziyad said complacently. “We do have a very large ace up our shirt.”
“Sleeve, and is it still tracking us?”