Undercover operative Toemeka Ganti, code-named Star Rider, lives on the edge.
Her latest mission is to overthrow the despot of Jaipar, General Bhandar. His protection comes from sorcerer Samrat Condor, an interplanetary conqueror whose space fleet destroyed Toemeka’s home planet and killed her family years ago. And Condor isn’t about to lose his stranglehold on Jaipar.
Making matters worse, Toemeka must preserve her cover while secretly developing an oscillator, a shield-destroying device wanted by both sides. All this must be accomplished under the watchful eye of her boss, Commander Rochambeau, who is pressuring Toemeka to become his mistress.
Accompanied by her Coalition team and trusted partner Erling Fenian, Toemeka bands with the local underground resistance and Michio Kimes, a handsome spiritual warrior trained to fight sorcery. Together they must battle to free the people of Jaipar and restore its rightful heir to power.
Something touched Toemeka’s leg. Her eyes snapped open and she saw a vine curling itself around her ankle. It twisted up her thigh. Amazed that a vine could move, she touched one of its blue iridescent leaves. “What an unusual plant, you are.” Another stem twirled around her arm. She tugged at the vine, trying to pull it off. It tightened its grip.
She heard Michio calling her name. “I’m over here. By the river,” she yelled. She tugged harder at the vine on her arm as it climbed to her shoulder. It wound its way around her neck and tightened against her windpipe. Frantically, she grabbed the thick stem with both hands and screamed for help
Toemeka couldn’t breathe as the vine tightened around her neck. Her lungs burned. Fear pumped through her veins and black spots flashed before her eyes. The world spun. A branch cracked, then Michio appeared and began slashing at the base of the stalk with his knife. The plant let out an ear-piercing scream and squirted a stinging, putrid orange fluid on Toemeka’s arm.
Light-headed, she collapsed. Michio pulled the vine from her throat, and she gasped as fresh air filled her lungs. She distantly heard Michio ask if she was okay. She opened her eyes to find him crouching next to her, looking worried.
A vine tentacle slithered around her waist. She grabbed the stem and tried to rip it away. “Get it off me!” she cried hoarsely.
Michio started to help her when he fell forward onto the ground. A vine had wrapped itself around his ankle and it dragged him toward waving reddish-orange tubes. Michio hacked himself free, the plant screamed and sprayed more juice. Scrambling back to Toemeka, Michio whacked at the vine that gripped her. It shrieked as he chopped and slashed the knife into it. Finally, it released her, climbed up a nearby tree and wound around its trunk.
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