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"Look at me, boy."
Caleb rolled his head and turned it in the direction of the voice, pried an eyelid open, and immediately wished he hadn't. Even by the crappy lighting of the shuttle's reserve power system, the dull gleam of the warrior's matte black body armor hurt his eyes. From his position on the floor, and with the uniform-wearer's blast shield still in place, the face itself was a blur. But the voice was as cold as the muzzle of the neutron rifle now jammed under his jaw.
Head pounding from the slam he'd taken into the bulkhead, Cal let his eyes slide closed, only to have the rifle muzzle jab him again--harder this time.
"T'laar ishna kunvahdi!"
A kick to his ribs made his misery complete. Cal rolled to his side, away from the serviceable Teflar boot that had connected with his kidney, and lost the remaining contents of his stomach onto the shuttle's dusty deck.
A second voice joined the first, and although Cal didn't understand much Kush, the tone sounded like the asshole with the boot had been joined by a more even-tempered comrade. Dammit, why hadn't he listened to his mother and paid more attention in school? She'd told him Kush would be more practical, but he'd insisted on taking seven years of classical French, the language of diplomacy. What the hell had he been thinking? Diplomacy wouldn't do him a priktar's penis worth of good if they killed him before he got a chance to use it.
Cal had barely dragged his hands under his body and shoved himself up onto all fours when the rush of air past his head and sounds of a scuffle made him glance over his shoulder at the source of the voices behind him. The goon behind theboot was being restrained by a second figure in identical black body armor and, thankfully, the second kick only glanced off Cal's hip instead of connecting like the first one had.
Even a glancing blow was enough to make him overbalance, though, one hand slipping in the slimy former contents of his belly and sending him face-first onto the deck.
"Shivashta, phoohtok bwhea."
That meant 'idiot' in Kush, Cal was pretty sure. Or was that 'bwhana'? Shit. He couldn't tell if they were going to revere him as a god or kill and consume him.