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to happen to him. He would not heed my warnings, and that gutter slurper Rottik did nothing but encourage him. Everywhere I turned, there he was. I even sent some of my employees to discourage him, but they said they could not locate him. Now I know why.'

The Drazi glanced from one Ranger to another, as though unsure of how to proceed. Vance simply stared back, trying his best to look neutral, neither threatening nor sympathetic. 'I did not ask for his death,' continued Volt, 'if that is what you want to know. I guess you are not merely assassins; otherwise I would be dead already, right?' Volt smiled nervously. The Rangers merely stared back blankly. 'He got too close, and he was always there. When the Ky'Thain questioned me about him, I had no answers. One day he stopped shadowing me, and I can only assume it was because of them. But I didn't ask, and they didn't tell me. I am sorry for the loss of your friend, I truly am, but you must believe I had nothing to do with his death.'

A silence filled the room. Volt seemed to be waiting for reassurance, but when no one spoke, the squirming Drazi panicked. 'You have to get me off Zhabar. I have told you all I know. You have to believe that. You promised!'

'Keep your voice down,' said Bakkatt. He looked at Vance. 'There should be communications equipment hidden beneath the boiler in the corner. Use a code key and send a message in the Drazi cipher. We require more of our brothers. The Ky'Thain will take more than the four of us to bring down.'

'What are you talking about?' said Volt as Vance moved over to the boiler. 'We have to get off the planet. You cannot hope to take on the Ky'Thain and live, even with reinforcements.'

Vance slid his hand beneath the boiler and found the telltale lever that would reveal the
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