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In the badly cracked mirror, I caught a glimpse of the blood and black grime coating my poor battered face and let out a horrified shriek. “Oh my God!”
Hothar whipped out his laser. “What is wrong?”
“I look like I went ten rounds with Muhammad Ali, and then got attacked by Smokey the Bear and a rabid chicken,” I cried.
“What is a Smokey the Bear?”
I threw up my hands in disgust. “Just forget it.”
Holstering his weapon, Hothar approached me cautiously and awkwardly patted my shoulder. “Once the Battle Commander gives you blood, your injuries will heal quickly.”
“Yippee.” One glance at his blackened face and a reluctant smile tugged at my sore mouth. “We make quite a pair.”
With a grin, Hothar plucked several eggshells from my hair. “When it is time for me to pick a mate, I want one like you.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet, but Earth girls aren’t easy to catch.”
“Coletti warriors enjoy a good hunt.”
“Earth girls don’t like being the prey either,” I countered with a frown.
“But it makes the capture much more satisfying.”
“Uh-huh. That merge with Zarek has warped your brain just a bit.”
A joyful glee lit up Hothar’s eyes. “It has given me skills that would have taken me years to acquire.”
Just what the universe needed, a teenager with all of Zarek’s talents. Voss would have to keep a close eye on him. “Does this piece of crap have a bathroom?”
“A very crude one.”
Hothar laughed. “A piss hole.”
“Technology at its finest, huh?”
“The Hus Ping are scavengers who use what other species throw away to survive.”
“Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.”
“Everyone is very surprised this space station still functions,” Hothar said, playing with the controls.
“Me too. I thought for sure we’d have a hull breach during that firefight.” I surveyed the funky-looking drink nozzles. They kind of reminded me of water hoses. One of them had to be water. Right?
I picked up a nozzle and triggered it. Whoa! The thing came alive in my hand, bucking and twisting as it shot some nasty-smelling black liquid across the bar. “Help!”
Hothar reached over and hit the Off button.
“Thanks. There’s way too much pressure on that thing.”
“Kipto Piss must be pressurized or it goes bad.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Smells like really stinky feet.”
“Tastes like it too.”
Very cautiously I tried the other nozzles. Nope. Zip. Nada. No wonder the space station stank to high heavens. There was no water.
I sucked down another Datol and looked for something to clean my face with. The few ratty rags on the bar were slimy and a yucky green color. Cleanliness evidently wasn’t in the Hus Pings’ vocabulary.
The only things in the dozen or so drawers were dirty glasses and utensils. One peek into the Hus Pings’ private quarters, and I hastily shut the door. It smelled like something had died in there and they had forgotten to bury it.
My stomach rumbled loudly, and I ambled back to the bar and looked for something to eat. There were several pots sitting on what resembled an old-fashioned Earth camp stove. I removed the lid and almost puked. It was full of eyeballs and what looked like worms. Ewww.
The other pot held some kind of rancid-smelling stew that all the chocolate in the universe couldn’t get me to taste.
A basket of breadsticks caught my gaze. I picked one up and smelled it. It wasn’t rancid. I took a cautious bite and immediately spat it out. Oh dear God, it was like eating moldy poop. Ugh. That was just plain nasty. I grabbed a bottle of Datol and drained it, trying to get the taste out of my mouth.
A tremendous power flooded the bar, and I felt Zarek’s shock as he scanned the space station. “What happened?”
“A Gorum got loose, and the Tai-Kok ran away. Except for the ones Bebo ate, spikes and all.”
The Overlord sifted through my memories and growled in utter disbelief, “You released the Gorum?”
“You bet your ass I did, and Bebo ate the Tai-Kok just like he promised. Problem solved, and we have the space station all to ourselves.”
“Bebo the warrior king?”
“That would be him.”
“Your luck is truly amazing.”
“Not that I’ve noticed. I mean, everyone I’ve loved has gotten killed, and then you guys show up and… Um, never mind. It’s not important, but Voss could really use some help, sir. His shields are failing.”
“I am aware of that. We will discuss your actions later.”
His eyes full of horrified alarm, Hothar backed away from me. What? Did he think the Overlord was going to smite me? Okay, it was a distinct possibility.
Zarek asked a little too calmly, “How many Datols have you consumed?”
Good question. “Three, I think. No. More like four or maybe five. There’s no water on this stupid piece of space junk, and I’m really thirsty.”
“No more Datol for either of you.”
“Spoilsport,” I muttered under my breath. A sharp pain suddenly zapped me in the butt. I let out a yelp and jumped about a foot.
Steel in his voice, Zarek asked, “Do I have your attention now?”
“Yes, sir, no more beer.”
“Excellent. We will come for you shortly.” Poof, the pain in my ass was gone.
“You are truly insane,” Hothar said.
“Am not.” I tripped over a broken chair and would have fallen flat on my face if Hothar hadn’t caught me.
He plunked me on the bar. “You are also drunk.”
“I’ll admit I’m a bit buzzed, but drunk? No way.”
Taking his bodyguard duties way too seriously, Hothar snatched my bottle of Datol. “Are you even able to fight?”
Rolling my eyes, I checked on the big guy again. Drats! Voss was still shooting it out with the Rodan battle cruiser. His shields were now down to 30 percent, and if he took a direct hit on his starboard side, he would lose life support on several decks. Was he worried? Hell no.
Zarek had joined the fight and was hammering the shit out of the battle cruiser’s engines.
I whooped loudly when the port engine blew, and almost fell off the bar when Hothar let out a fierce battle cry. The kid had a set of lungs on him. I guess his link with the Overlord allowed him to watch the battle too.
Zarek unleashed another bombardment of torpedoes on the battle cruiser, and it disintegrated into a cloud of vaporized metal.
Hothar and I exchanged high fives.
“They have never lost a battle,” he exclaimed proudly.
My radar went on alert. Aw c’mon, enough is enough.
With a low growl, Hothar whipped out his pistol.
A very bloody Sargon and three of his beat-all-to-hell warriors suddenly appeared. Their stunned gazes traveled around the trashed bar.
How in the hell had they gotten away from Voss and Uncle Saul?
The minute Sargon saw us, he let out a battle cry and charged.
Hothar stepped in front of me, bravely shielding me with his body.
The warriors disappeared, and within a blink of an eye, they were on Hothar, wrestling the pistol away from him.
Hothar retaliated. His battle techniques reminded me of Voss’s.
I grabbed an empty bottle and hurled it at Porky the Pug, who, for some odd reason, seemed unable to teleport.
Sargon dodged to the right, tripped on a severed leg, and bam! Down he went, sliding across the blood-slick floor like a hockey puck.
“Ha! Can too fight.”
One of the warriors whirled around and grabbed my arm like he thought I was going to make a run for it. If we had a ship, would we still be here? “Let go of me.”
The warrior bared his itty-bitty fangs and announced importantly, “Malik has offered a five-million credit bounty to whoever captures you.”
What? Was he expecting me to do a happy dance? I smiled at the dentally challenged warrior. “You know, you should ask yourself. Does he really have that kind of money?”
The warrior looked a bit taken aback. “Sargon says he is very rich.”
“Sorry to break it to you, buddy, but let’s just say Malik has had a few financial setbacks recently, and the only reward you’ll collect is a trip to the undertaker.”
The jerk tightened his grip painfully. “You are trying to trick me.”
Like that would be hard? “Buddy, you’re getting on my last nerve. Let go of my arm. Now.”
The idiot actually laughed.
“Ever heard of a KTFO’D?”
The mangy warrior jerked me off the bar. “No.”
“Let me give you a demonstration.” Drawing heavily on my powers, I hauled off and gave him a one-two punch.
His eyes rolled back in his head, and he toppled over like a poleaxed steer.
“That, asshole, is what we call ‘knocked the fuck out.’ Game over.” Picking up a bottle of Datol, I took a long drink and watched Hothar slug it out with the other two warriors.
Damn. He had definitely picked up some slick moves from his merge with Zarek. By the fierce grin on his face, he was enjoying beating the crap out of the thugs.
“When I’m done with you, you will be begging for mercy!” Sargon shouted, cracking his whip wildly.
The man really needed to spend some quality time with Voss or the Overlord.
To my utter amazement, instead of hitting me, the whip wrapped around a metal beam and yanked Sargon off his feet.
I took another drink. What a maroon.
His face a mask of frustrated rage, Sargon slid around on the gore-covered floor like a drunken skater. Every other step he’d lose his footing, and down he would go. Within a couple of minutes, he was so coated in the thickly clotting blood only the whites of his eyes were visible.
Giggling, I yelled at him, “Why don’t you just make it easy on yourself and surrender?”
“A Coletti warrior never surrenders,” Sargon bellowed and yanked a big-ass knife from his boot. He pulled his arm back to throw it, and down he went again, stabbing himself in the head.
Yikes, that had to hurt.
Screaming incoherently, Sargon somehow managed to teleport onto the bar. He stood there for a moment, breathing hard and trying to wipe the goop out of his eyes.
Aw, the poor guy really needed some help. I grabbed the high-pressure nozzle and drilled him in the face with Kipto Piss. That should clean some of the shit off.
Howling in fury, Sargon lost his footing and hit the floor with a loud splat!
Every time he managed to get to his feet, I’d knock him down again.
“I will kill you! I will kill you! I will kill you!”
“How does it feel to get your ass handed to you by a woman?”
Floundering like a beached whale, Sargon tried to swim his way across the floor.
Laughing hysterically, I ignored the astonishing amount of power crashing through the bar and kept hosing down Sargon. God, this was way too much fun.
“Zoey!” Voss bellowed.
Jumping about a foot, I spun around and blasted snookums right in the face. Horrified, I stood frozen as the black liquid poured down his face and cascaded off his battle suit.
Voss stepped out of the barrage of Kipto Piss, leaned over the bar, and turned it off. “Have you lost your mind?”
“You startled me, sugar.”
The Battle Commander surveyed me from head to toe. “You’re drunk.”
“Well, yeah, a little bit.”
Wild with rage, Sargon charged us, babbling, “Must kill the she-demon. Must kill the she-demon.”
Voss decked him with a hard right.
“Gee, did you hafta do that? I could have taken him.”
Voss sat me on the bar and pulled out his knife. “Tomorrow we work on your battle skills.”
“I can fight.”
He pointed at Sargon. “You call that fighting?”
“No, that was me having fun.”