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This is a work of fiction. All characters or incidents are a figment of the author's imagination and any resemblance to any incident or any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

Chapter 1



Movement of the truck made Zendo look up from the computer. Puri, his cousin and trading helper, must be starting supper. Zendo glanced out the truck window at the sun setting in the west where wisps of clouds turned green and gold in the fading light. The lengthening shadows were bringing the jungle alive with the nocturnal animals.

He had spent the last hour scrunched up in the rear of the truck cab working on the books for his trading company. He grinned as he looked at the bottom line on the computer screen and stretched to relieve cramped muscles. Two more months like this and he would be able to marry Illy, his mountain sweetheart.

He thought back to how he had met her when he accompanied the star traders as a guide. Illyad and her cousin Odessa had been hunting the gemstones for the healing bracelets when the Guardians had scented blood from Odessa's accident. The Guardians were shark-shaped beasts with four legs which had all the attributes and attitudes of their water cousins. When they went into a feeding frenzy, they could rip a person apart in just a few seconds. Zendo remembered how Ron Calvin and Gus Ghaolh had fired their stingerrays to stun the Guardians while he got Illy and the injured Odessa loaded onto the star traders' fliter. His first meeting with Illy hadn't gone very well.

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