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of heat washed over Vance, and his ears were assailed by the high-pitched squealing of the Ky'Thain. When the heat subsided, he raised his head. Vance smelled burning and saw his cloak was smouldering. He leapt to his feet, flinging the cloak to the floor. The other Rangers were on their feet too, and Bakkatt gave Vance a nod of appreciation.

'We need to find a communications rig,' said Bakkatt. 'This planet has to be scoured for more of these things.' He motioned to the ground and the ash-covered outlines of the Ky'Thain. 'I think the Anla'shok will also have more questions for our friend here.'

Musan Volt stood slump-shouldered next to Bakkatt. He opened his mouth to respond but never got the chance. Before anyone could react, one of the Ky'Thain bodies leapt up in a flurry of ash, its wrist spike piercing Musan Volt's neck. Bakkatt reacted as quickly as he could, but the creature bounded away from his attack. Volt's lifeless cadaver fell to the ground in a cloud of cinders. The other two Ky'Thain rose from the ash, their bodies blackened, but otherwise unharmed. Merreck took a step forward, but Bakkatt raised a hand to halt him.

'Get to the ship. Get off planet,' he said, without taking his eyes from the crouching Ky'Thain. Two figures appeared at the double doors, more Ky'Thain warriors attracted by the exploding booby trap.

'Do not wait for me,' said Bakkatt. 'Take the stairs, now!'

'No,' said Merreck, stepping forward.

'We live for the One, we die for the One. Today, make sure you all live.' With that Bakkatt leapt forward. Vance had never seen anyone attack with such ferocity. He doubted even Durhan could have matched him.

Merreck took another step forward, ready to attack. Jerklenn grabbed his arm. 'We need to report what has happened here. Otherwise
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