Toemeka raced through the dense, ominous forest, pursued by Talon soldiers and their vicious hounds. More hounds rushed out from behind trees. Saliva and blood dripped from their fangs as they growled and stalked her from all directions.
Toemeka jerked awake, her heart pounding and body shaking. Only a nightmare, she reassured herself, drawing a deep breath to control the anxiety. She felt awful ─ hung over and thickheaded. Not knowing where she was, Toemeka shoved a damp lock of hair off her aching forehead and sat up. In a nearby berth less than five feet away lay Michio, sleeping soundly.
Distorted memories of the previous evening sprung to mind. Hammering music. A snake slithering around a man’s neck. Rochambeau shot. The smell of a ship burning. She wasn’t sure what was real and what was an illusion caused by the drug.
Monitors along one wall dimly lit the room. The low drone of engines and a distinct vibration suggested she was on a starship or perhaps a space station. Stars and planets shone as dots of light in the blackness of space when she looked out the porthole. Most likely a space station with simulated gravity, she decided.
She pushed the silver space blanket off her clammy body and slid off the berth. Her bare feet hit the cool floor. She took a soft step, swayed unsteadily and threw out a hand, pressing it against the wall to regain her balance. Michio’s brown leather jacket hung from a hook on the wall. She crept quietly towards it in hopes of finding his energy gun.
Michio rolled over; she froze. Once his breathing became regular again, she thrust her hand into the jacket pocket. Empty, but something heavy clunked against the wall. Underneath the jacket hung his gun belt. Her hand closed around the solid handle of a Juggernaut 50, a powerful energy gun; she pulled it from its holster.
The berth creaked. She swung around and aimed the Jug 50 at Michio as he leapt out of the berth. He coiled before her like a huka panther ready to spring, radiating self-confidence. He had the muscular body of a warrior and seemed taller and more dangerous than he’d appeared when asleep. He wore nothing but loose-fitting silk sleeping pants that hugged his taut stomach.
Blast it! Why did she feel vulnerable when she was the one holding the Jug 50? Then it hit her. The weapon was of little use because she would never shoot someone who might be an ally. “Stay where you are!” she exclaimed.
He studied her with piercing eyes. “I see you’re finally awake.”
She held out her free hand. “Give me the Viper’s keyless remote.”
He scowled. “Are you crazy? Do you think I’m just going to let you steal my ship and leave me stranded in space?”
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