CHAPTER ONE: CAPTIVE (1/2)

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Kas felt a burst of flame shoot through her abdomen and thought her stomach had exploded. Her eyelids peeled back, exposing the bloodshot whites of her eyes as a hoarse groan escaped her mouth.

As her vision came into focus, she was sorry to see a large set of black teeth grimacing down at her. A trail of dried blood led from cracked, white lips to a crooked nose, and above that, two small milky eyes stared back.

Otto Wax...

'What did you do?!' he rasped.

Kas had no energy to groan, let alone talk. Her head pounded as the rest of her senses returned. She wasn't lying down, she realised; she was pinned to the wall. Her hands had been restrained on either side of her body while her neck had been clamped so tight she could barely move her head.

Grav-collars...

She was being held hostage with her own equipment―on her own ship.

'Tried to tell you you'd made a mistake,' another voice said.

Out of the corner of her eye, Kas could just about see little Remi crouched atop a storage crate in the corner of the cabin—the very same storage crate she'd not long ago trapped him in.

'So your friends came to rescue you after all,' Kas croaked.

'Told you they'd catch you,' Remi said. 'How do you like them grav-collars? I hope they're not too tight.'

Kas smiled weakly. 'I hope you—' She was cut off by another jolt of hot white pain. Her body shook while what felt like a blanket of splinters wrapped itself around her ebony skin. She screamed.

When the pain finally stopped, Otto raised his right fist in front of her glistening face. The knuckles of his bluster-dusters were alight with blue sparks.

'Like my new toy?' he asked. 'I charged it this morning. It's only just warming up.' His breath was like hot tar. He traced a fat finger over Kas's scalp, dragging it slowly through the mohawk that gave Kas her nickname. 'You ain't no Hawk. You're just a little girl. Now I'm going to ask you one more time, and you'd better answer. What. Did. You. Do?'

A spark ignited from one of his knuckles, danced across the air and singed Kas's cheek. It hurt, but not as much as the plasma still dissipating through her ribcage.

'I don't know what you mean,' she lied.

Otto didn't like that. He sneered and lowered his fist. 'I guess you need a stronger dose.' Kas clenched her teeth as she braced for round three.

'Wax!' shouted a female voice. Otto scowled and turned to see the tall mistress standing by the cockpit door—and Kas's fear was lifted another notch.

Vima was sharp-featured, powerfully built and, regrettably, highly intelligent. Otto and Remi were dangerous, but under Vima's command, the three of them were lethal. Kas probably would have admired her if it wasn't for the fact she had murdered so many innocent people.

'What?' Otto said.

'I said wake her up, not beat her up!' Vima strolled towards them, a masterclass in elegance. She brushed Otto aside and looked at Kas with a gaze that would have held her hostage without the grav-collars. Her eyes glowed a stunning vivid purple.

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