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He lay on the hard ground, breathing heavily as pain continued to course through his body. Somewhere in the distance, he heard a ship’s engine roaring to life. She was leaving, and taking with her the coordinates he desperately needed.

I should’ve brought Hornets with me. They would have stopped her. But he hadn’t thought it necessary—what danger could an old woman pose to the evilest man in the galaxy?

An awful lot, apparently. He was certain his left arm was broken, and the blow to his chest felt as if it had cracked a rib or two. If not for his battle armour, the damage would have been far worse. His legs still ached too much for him to rise, leaving him with no choice but to crawl with his uninjured arm across the rocky landscape. His ship lay not far ahead, but each yard looked like a mile from his position. Thunder rumbled up above as he steeled himself and began the journey.

The jagged rocks caught on his cape, shredding holes as he progressed. At least he was spared the indignity of an audience. No one would ever know what had happened. When he returned to Planet Z, his medical staff would be given some cover story and threatened into secrecy for added measure.

A gust of wind blew ash into his face, stinging his eyes and making him cough. All around, he could feel heat rising from the rivers of lava that crisscrossed the region. It had seemed as good a place as any for a private rendezvous—an inhospitable world with no native inhabitants. And, more importantly, it was a world he was familiar with, thanks to that unpleasant incident with Klerm and Rentwhistle Swack. Now, as he clawed forward, dragging himself over sharp rocks and drifts of fallen ash, he wished he’d chosen somewhere with softer ground.

She would have a lot to answer for if he ever found her. Not just for this ordeal, but a thousand others he never would have had to endure if she and her cohorts had only listened to him. One day he would deal with each of them personally for what they’d done. But first he needed to get those coordinates...

His fingers closed around the ramp leading into the shuttle. Gasping and grunting, he pulled himself up, rolling inside the ship and curling up against the wall as he recovered his strength. She and her friends weren’t the only ones he owed payback. So many others had wronged him. There was a time he remembered each name... now they all blurred together.

He had grown so lax over the years. He finally had the power to deal with many of his foes, and what had he done with that power? He’d played a childish game of heroes and villains with Star Command! Had he forgotten his anger? Had he forgotten the things they’d put him through? He’d become so set in his ways he didn’t even know what he was fighting for anymore.

But no more. That was all going to change. Zurg grasped a pipe that ran across the wall and shut his eyes to brace himself. He was not weak. With an agonised groan, he pulled himself to his feet. He was strong.

Taking one step, then another, he reached the front of the shuttle. He was strong.

He settled in the chair. He was strong, and he would win.