Captive - Cheryl Brooks Page 0,1

above the bar. Booze mixed with blue Morwellian cream oozed down the wall as two hulking Terrans shouldered through the gathering crowd.

“He said, take it outside,” snarled a heavily muscled bald man whose body was covered with more leather and tattoos than actual fabric. That was another thing Moe didn’t like about Haedus: the excessive heat tended to reduce the amount of clothing worn by offworlders, some of which should never have been seen in such a disgusting state of undress. Herps were the worst. The long cloths they wore wrapped around their pelvic areas looked more like diapers than anything and didn’t cover nearly enough of them.

One of the Terrans grabbed the Herp from behind just as his diaper came undone, leaving an already hideous creature completely naked.

“What has been seen cannot be unseen,” Moe muttered as a push from behind sent him sprawling, but only for a moment. With a quick roll, he jumped to his feet.

As the bouncer wrestled the Herp toward the door, Moe ran after them, yelling, “I’m not done with him yet!”

“Oh, yes, you are,” said a feminine voice from behind him.

Spinning around, Moe came face-to-face with a tall woman in a black hooded robe. At least, he assumed it was a woman. A pair of electric-blue eyes stared at him from inside the hood. However, unlike the usual Davordian, which was what he took her to be, her pupils were glowing vertical slits like those of his own feline eyes.

“Who the devil are you?” he snapped.

“Why, the devil, of course.” The woman let out a hiss as the nozzle of a pulse pistol emerged from her robes. “Nighty-night.”

Without another word, she fired.

The last thing Moe saw was her fangs as she smiled.

Klara Tavock motioned for her henchmen to gather up her latest catch. “A fighter brave enough to go up against a Herpatronian—or stupid enough, take your pick—should bring a nice price on the open market, don’t you think?”

She said this to no one in particular, nor did she expect an answer, mainly because her gang members had learned the wisdom of keeping their mouths shut long ago, especially when she was on the hunt.

Except this one particular gang member. The Norludian glanced up as he rolled their captive over onto his back. “You know, boss, he kinda looks like—”

“Like what?”

“Well…sort of like you.”

Klara raised a brow, the only indication of anger she ever allowed herself to display. “A man looks like me?” She tipped her head to the side, trying to decide if Temfilk was serious or simply hoping to get a rise out of her, as he so often did. “How so?”

“He might not have an orange streak in his hair.” He pulled a mass of black curls away from the unconscious man’s face. “But check out the slanted eyebrows and pointed ears. You could be the same species. Might even be related.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. There are none like me anywhere in the quadrant, let alone on this”—she sneered as she squeezed a large measure of disdain into the word—“planet.” At least, none she’d ever seen. She waved a dismissive hand. “Just put him in the speeder. I’ll decide what to do with him later.” A brief sweep of the dusty barroom with her keen eyes showed several patrons making a big show of pretending they hadn’t seen a thing.

Typical. Although she wouldn’t put it past any of them to figure out how to profit from the event.

Still, she’d reacted quickly with this one. She normally took longer to study her quarry, weighing their possible worth against their likelihood of causing trouble. This one was trouble, all right. But something about him made her shoot first and ask questions later. His speed and agility were only part of it.

Perhaps Temfilk was right.

However, this was not the time for contemplation. A low whistle brought her speeder to the door, along with Nexbit.

“Might want to morph into something strong for this one,” she advised the Sympaticon. “He’s bigger than our usual catch.”

Aside from the fact that Nexbit’s resting state was rather ugly, it had never struck Klara as being particularly strong. His thin body was covered with pale gray skin, and wispy hair sprouted from a pair of flat, round ears. Long yellow nails studded the tips of fingers like weak bamboo. Beady eyes, a bulbous nose, and a nearly nonexistent chin completed a face only a mother could love. Clad in a tunic made of coarse brown fabric that was belted at

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