Zarko floats on a queasy raft, plunging and rocking on a drab gray sea. Time seems stuck. Every time he opens his eyes the same cold white sun blinds him, frozen overhead. Even his whiskers ache.
At first, he floats near his friends, Creature, Buck, and Quazarn. But after a while he sleeps, and one by one the others are rescued. Quazarn departs in a blaze of light...surrounded by robed men...stars painted on their pointy heads...a pirate crew recruits Buck...manacles on his wrists...some sort of hazing...Creature is helped into a crisp white khakis and a polo shirt...purple crown on the breast....
Zarko wakes up, his throat dryer than the taps of Temperance Gulch on Far Tatooine. Two faces hover overhead, dark against the rectangular white sun. Firm but not ungentle hands tilt back Zarko's head and raise a bottle to his lips, and he drinks. It's sweet, herbal, cool yet warming, spreading a flush of heat across his body. He feels like a game of 52 pick-up in reverse, shuffled back together with all his trumps in order.
"Hey! Ztharko! How are you feeling, Ztharko?" says a familiar voice.