- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: July 2016
From the cover
The grass swishes and shakes as Sinjir crawls up on his belly. "Ow!" he says, flexing his hand and popping the knuckle of his thumb in his mouth. "This grass is slicing me to bits."
"It drinks your blood," Jas says, easing closer. "Thirstgrass sustains itself on the creatures who walk through it. Little sips from little cuts."
He frowns. "Lovely. I'm here for my hourly update. And my hourly update is: I am bored. Bored out of my skull."
"That's always your hourly update," Norra says.
"Because it's true every hour."
"It's my update, too," Temmin says, crawling up next to them. "Seriously, this is awful. I want to burn all this grass. And the thorny bushes. And the flies." As if to demonstrate, he swats at the back of his hand. "See? Ugh. I should've stayed on Chandrila."
"Can't we just go back to Kai Pompos?" Sinjir asks. "We'd make it by nightfall. There's a little drinkery around the back of the town. They have a still where they ferment this root, this korva root. So we go back, we tip back a few under the Irudiru moons, we reformulate our strategy—"
"This is a fact-finding mission," Norra says, feeling like a mom commanding a child to stay put. "We stay here until all the facts are found."
"Facts are," Temmin says, "the guy isn't coming out. He's dug in like a blood-bug." They'd heard rumors that Aram was a big-game hunter, and thought maybe that would afford them an opportunity to get close to him. But so far, no go. Nor has he gone out for supplies. Or even a breath of fresh air. They've seen neither hide nor hair of the man. Just droids. "Here's what we do. We take Mister Bones—" Bones sits crumpled up behind them, his skeletal body folded tightly with his head bowed and his arms enclosing his knees. "And we let Bones march down there, find the guy, drag him up here onto the plateau, and we question him. Simple."
"As simple as chasing birds with a hammer," Sinjir mutters.
"Everyone hush," Jas says. "Temmin, did you build my thing or not?"
"Yeah, yeah." He fishes around in his pocket and holds up a pair of devices in the palm of his hand. One looks like a round from a slugthrower, but it's been modified—the shell casing crimps around a circuit bulb, and the tip of that bulb has four little prongs. Like insect mandibles. The second device is round, no bigger than a button, with a little zigzag antenna sticking out.
"It's a bug," Temmin says, sounding impressed with himself.
"This planet has enough bugs without us adding more to it," Sinjir grouses. "And before anyone corrects me, yes, I know, it's a listening bug and not a real bug and—oh, never mind. Good job, Jas. Now what?"
"We can't get eyes on, so we need to get ears on. I load this into my rifle and fire it right at his manse. Then—" She grabs the second device. "This jury-rigged earpiece with which to listen in."
"Clever," Sinjir says. "Still not sure what I'm doing here."
Jas hands him the earpiece. "You're going to do the listening."
"Joy." He makes a face as he takes it and screws it into his ear.
The bounty hunter unslings the slugthrower from her back. Norra again grabs the binocs and focuses them at the compound.
A herd of animals have come up alongside the invisible perimeter— long-limbed, long-necked leathery things, these beasts. They number in the dozens. Some stop to nip at the tufts of ki-a-ki bushes, while the others bat at one another with bony protuberances atop their narrow snouts. Norra is pretty sure...