“Where is it?”
The pasty-skinned Light Singer sounded friendly enough as he loomed over the grayish-brown furred Lotorian chained against the rough stone column. Nothing friendly about that crimson aura, though. Or the eyes. Cold. Icy blue, like the frozen B’hira wastes.
Zoznazz tried avoiding the eyes, staring toward the broad maw of the planetoid’s cavern entrance, which opened onto a shimmering starscape. It might be the last thing he ever saw. That disappointed him. His final view should be something far more magnificent than a glimpse of stars from a Medlidikke pirate hideout. He’d seen plenty of stars before. What he had never seen, though, was his homeworld of Lotor. Not that he would ever be likely to see that fabled chunk of rock again. Zoznazz wanted to stand on the ancient grasslands, stare up at an impossibly blue sky, and smell the scent of–
Sharp stabbing pain, just above the right wrist. Spear point, rammed in by one of the Vollistan Light Singer’s companions – this time, a Hekayti pirate with skin the color of bruises, half a nose, and a broken horn jutting from the left side of his pock-marked skull.
“Difficult to focus?” the interrogator asked. He cradled the Lotorian’s whiskered snout in slender white fingers, tugging so that Zoznazz was looking at him again. “Come now.” A forced smile. “The sooner you tell me, the sooner this suffering can end.” The Light Singer released his snout, then clasped his hands behind his back and started pacing around the column. Six Hekayti pirates watched, while a dozen Nall warriors waited in gleaming black armor next to a shuttle that was aimed toward the stars. “You may think that I enjoy what I do,” he said, behind Zoznazz. Coming around to the Lotorian’s right shoulder, he leaned over to whisper, “You would be right. I do. Very much.” The smile wasn’t so forced now. He stopped, staring directly down at Zoznazz once more. “Imagine my disappointment if you deprive me of further amusement. I cannot tell you how angry I would be if you suddenly told me exactly what I wanted to know.”
The Lotorian gazed up at the interrogator, mouth falling open in confusion, eyes glazing. What he said made perfect sense. Just tell him. Take his fun away. He wouldn’t like that. No, he wouldn’t like that at all.
“You can do it,” the Light Singer assured him. “I won’t like it. But you can do it.” He turned to look out at the stars, the faint blue haze of the atmosphere containment force field barely visible. “The artifact’s location. Tell me.”
Zoznazz’s angular ears swiveled as he tried to work his way through the tangled confusion of his thoughts. He didn’t want to say anything. It felt like a trick. He knew all about the deceptions of the Kamir and their ilk. Like most Lotorians, he trusted no psionic aliens, but he was especially distrustful of Aukami, Light Singers, Timonae – direct descendents of the ancient and manipulative Kamir. Yet he wanted very much to make this Light Singer furious, and it seemed obvious to him that talking about the Kamir artifact he had seen on the derelict in the Plosa Nebula at coordinates…
“There we go,” the Light Singer said, aura shifting to a cool blue as a smile broadened across his face. He turned to the Medlidikke with the spear stabbed into Zoznazz’s arm and said, “Ready your crew. We have a location.”
“What about him?” the pirate growled, nodding toward the chained Lotorian.
Still smiling, the interrogator said, “Oh, I’m so enraged that I couldn’t possibly stand here and look at him any longer. So I want you to take him into the cell and finish him off for me. Don’t take too long, though. The Vox is waiting. He’s much less patient than I am.”