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at you."
"What are you talking about?" Uorwlan demanded, gesturing toward the jlorra slowly walking toward us. "That's a pralme. It will gut you with its tusks."
Under her breath she muttered, "I thought we killed them all."
"It's a jlorra," I insisted, raising the rifle. "You have to shoot it in the space between its eyes. It's the only thing that works."
Reever turned to me. "I see a Hsktskt in full battle armor."
"They must have drugged us," Shon muttered.
"No. We all see it differently." I fought back my fear and raised my rifle. "I know what it is."
The jlorra crouched down and sprang at Reever, and I fired. The pulse round had no effect on the big cat. With a shriek of rage, Uorwlan jumped into the
jlorra's path and knocked it to the deck. As she rolled away, Reever somehow adjusted his rifle to produce a stream of fire. The big cat's eyes flashed as
orange as the flames and it screamed and fell writhing and burning at my husband's feet.
As he stepped back, the big cat began to shrink into a long, thin humanoid with ghostly silver-white skin and blunted features. It tried to rise, but its
burning body fell and went motionless.
"Shifter." Uorwlan walked up to the inert form of the Odnallak. "Think you'd scare me with that? I was part of the Great Purge, you scum." She spat on
the body.
Reever looked ahead. "There could be more lying in wait for us. Fire is their only vulnerability." He went around and quickly made the same adjustments
to our weapons. "Remember, they can read our fears and assume the shape of them. Don't trust your eyes."
We hurried toward the bay. Although I knew my eyes would deceive me, I still staggered back when SrrokVar came around a corner and threw at us
handfuls of the bone dust that had caused the plague of memory on Vtaga. The dust vanished along with the nightmarish image of the reconstructed
Hsktskt madman as soon as Reever engulfed him in flames.
We fought our way through a horde of terrifying attackers. I burned a Toskald soldier who had once stabbed me while I'd tried to save his life on the
battlefield, the League general who had enslaved Cherijo, and a glowing ring of energy that tried to suck me into its black maw. Each fell as soon as the
fire from our weapons touched them, and shifted back into their real bodies.
A pair of Hsktskt prison guards, their mouths dripping with red blood, their teeth foul with ragged strips of flesh, entered the corridor. They stopped at
the sight of the burning, fallen bodies, turned, and ran away.
Shon had to blast out the control panel beside the launch bay entrance, which had been locked down, and he and Reever pried the doors apart. Inside
a half dozen crewmen scattered, firing at us while trying to take defensive positions behind the launches. Reever and Shon returned fire until there was
nothing left but bodies on the deck.
"I'll rig a bypass." Uorwlan, clutching a wounded shoulder, went to the airlock control console. "Prep that small scout over there for launch; it's the fastest
thing they've got."
I grabbed a first-aid pack from a storage unit and brought it to the console. "You're bleeding," I told her when she protested. "We need you conscious."
While Reever and Shon boarded the scout and read ied it for launch, I applied a coagulant and a field dressing to the wound on the Takgiba's shoulder.
"He told me that you have a daughter," she mentioned as she worked on the console. "What is her name?"
I secured the dressing. "Marel."
"Does she look like you?"
I thought this was a strange conversation to be having under the circumstances. "She is small like me, and likely inherited my nose, my feet, and my
temper, but Reever gave her the color of his hair and eyes."
"I wanted to give him a child," Uorwlan said. "My kind can't breed with Terrans, so I knew it was impossible. Still, I thought he would make a wonderful
I glanced over at the scout. "He is."
She nodded slowly. "I wanted to tear your throat the moment I saw you, and then I saw the way he looks at you. He told me he couldn't feel love, but I
knew different. He only had to find his other half, and it wasn't me." She gazed at me. "That's why I left him, you know. To give him the chance to find you."
I felt relieved and terrible. "What about you and Shon?"
She laughed. "I enjoyed him, but he's too much like me. You'd better get on board now. I'll have this patch finished in a minute."
I felt reluctant to leave her alone at the console, but nodded and went to the launch. Inside Shon sat behind the helm with Reever at copilot; the two of
them were finishing the preflight checks. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]