New Weapon, New Idea
I woke up late the next morning. Sunlight poured into the room and I thought I heard a bird sing. I gave a great yawn and stretched out. I felt great! My ribs were only slightly sore, the discomfort of my throat had passed, my muscles did not feel as stiff and my nose did not complain when I touched it. It felt like of the swelling had gone down. I sighed happily and put my hands behind my head. I wonder how Becky and Xeenan and the rest of the slaves in our compound are doing, I thought, I hope everyone's alright. I had a sudden urge to sing "If You Asked Me To" by Celine Dion was the first thing that popped into my head. I thought more about my friends as I sang.
"Use to be that I believed in somthin'...use to be that I believed in love. It's been a long time since I had that feeling. I could love someone...I could trust someone. I said I'd never let nobody near my heart again, darlin'. I said I'd never, let nobody in..."
"But, if you asked me to...I just might change my mind, and let you in my life for–ever–er. If you, asked me to...I just might change my heart, and stay here in your arms for–ever–er. If you, asked me to..."
As I finished the song, my cheerfulness almost burst out of my body. My voice sounded clearer than ever, nothing was going to ruin my wonderful mood! I moved to where the suns shone through the window and sat in its' warmth for a while. I breathed out a great sigh and examined my abdomen. The bruises were still there, though not as large as before. I noticed my stomach had curved inward and my lower ribs were sticking out. My arms and legs were thinner as well and I wondered how much muscle I had lost from two weeks of famine and strenuous work. It reminded me of a project I did in grade seven. I had to write a report on child poverty during the twentieth century. I remember feeling shocked and appalled when I saw photographs of children with bloated bellies, reedy arms and sunken eyes. They seemed to have little hope. Now I know how starvation feels; like someone scrapping out the inside of a nut until there was nothing left but a shell.
The cell door opened, startling my thoughts. A male guard wearing a bone necklace and rings on his fingers walked in with a bowl and cup, set them down and left without so much as a word or glance. My small stomach grumbled as I watched the door close. Think Dakota, I thought as I stood up, there had to be a way to get out this hell hole.
Another two days had passed and on the third morning at around five, I was roughly woken up.
"Time to work ooman," he snarled.
I was half asleep when I was taken out into the Great Hall. I saw the line of slaves heading to the Mess Hall and several of them turned in my direction when they heard our footsteps. I saw their eyes widen and they began to mumble amongst themselves, passing the news down. I was tossed into the line and I nearly fell, but the steady hands of the slaves caught me and kept me on my feet. Some of them smiled and shook my shoulders, hissing their relief as I walked with them. A slave master roared, the slaves cringed and went silent with the guards moving us faster into the Mess Hall. I stood in front of the counter when it was my turn and waited for my breakfast. The Predator handing out the meal looked at me and smirked.
"I see you're back ooman," he scoffed and pushed my food and drink to me, "I'm sorry the beating didn't kill you."
I grabbed my bowl and cup and stared at him, "Someone should check that huge, ugly lump on your neck."
His eyes widened as a hand flew to his neck.
"Oh no, I'm sorry. It's just your head," I grinned.
The slaves behind me snickered as I turned and left before he could say anything more, although I did hear him yell "pauk–de ooman!". I searched the rows of tables for my friends and found them two a few tables down. Xeenan was the first to see me, his eyes widened as he spoke to Becky, who turned and gasped.
I barely had the chance to sit when the tall female wrapped her arms around my shoulders. She hugged me so hard that when she let go, my ribs were aching. Both of them started asking me rapid questions, but I raised my hands to quiet them down.
"Guys, shhh. Calm down," I hushed, noticing a guard staring at us suspiciously.
Becky’s eyes were glistening, "Oh Isha, we thought we would never you again!"
I smiled and shook her shoulder, "It's okay Za'Becc, I'm alright. The only serious injuries I have are two broken ribs and a broken nose. But don't worry, they're healing perfectly."
Xeenan eyed me, "Did Nadar–ian'ah help you?"
I nodded, "I'll tell you what happened later. Right now I have something very important to—"
"No talking slaves!" yelled a guard as he raised his whip.
The three of us looked away and bowed our heads. The guard growled and went on his way. I ate my nasty breakfast and waited for a while. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Becky and Xeenan glance at me anxiously, but they waited patiently. As I ate I watched the rest of the slaves pass me, giving me a smile or a respectful nod as they did. A few children trotted by and when they saw me their eyes lit up. I casually looked around to make sure the slaves were absorbed in their food, then I lowered my head. Becky and Xeenan followed my example.
"I'm planning to escape and you two and Sor'an and Al are coming with me."
Thankfully they remained expressionless, but their eyes told me they were shaken.
"I think we can pull this off," I whispered, "and Nadar–ian'ah has offered her help."
"What?" asked Za'Becc.
"Are you serious?" Xeenan questioned.
"Yes. She swore on her honour assist me."
The male's dread locks waved as he shook his head, "I don’t believe it. Why would she possibly risk so much to help you?
“I can’t say why. You’ll just have to trust me.”
"When do you plan to escape?" Becky asked.
"I'm not sure, but I know it will be soon. When I have a firm plan I'll let you know."
"What do you want us to do?"
I gazed at the Yautja around me, "Don't tell anyone about this. I don't want rumours to spread."
Becky nodded. Xeenan lowered his head and tapped his mandibles apprehensively on his small teeth. It was obvious he was still unsure about confiding his life to an Elder. Becky reached over and stroked his thin hand.
"It'll be alright Xeenan. Isha will see us through this."
A quiet purr came from the male's throat and his body relaxed. Becky smiled and gave his hand a comforting squeeze before letting go. I grinned.
"I'm seeing a few things to," I said, putting a hand to my chin.
A modest look appeared in their eyes. I chuckled and swallowed down the rest of my meal. I heard a slave master roar for our attention as the guards roughly shoved us out our seats and back into the Great Hall. While the slaves were separated to their duties I was yanked out of the mob by two guards.
"Hey, what are you doing?!" I yelled.
"Shut–up ooman!" one shouted.
Both guards pulled me down to the other end of the marbled hall. We came to a brightly polished, silver door and it opened automatically when we stepped up to it. I found myself walking down a dark corridor and it took a while for my eyes to adjust. Thick steel beams arched high above us between many carved, geometric designs on the walls. Our footsteps echoed eerily through the quiet corridor as we walked on. The corridor widened and we appeared in a huge enclosed area that reminded me of a maximum security prison. Three levels of balconies and sliding doors lined the four sides of the entire area and I noticed large Yautja travelling in and out of the doors. I peered over the balcony and about a story down, I saw numerous guards and slave masters. Some were sitting on huge pillows drinking and laughing with their friends, others were sharpening their weapons or making adjustments to their armour and whips. Hardly any of them were dressed in their full attire. It was obvious where I was; the Guard's Quarters.
I was lead along the first level to an unbelievably messy room. Piles of metal, rusted pieces of armour, several feet of wires and broken weaponry were scattered all over the place; I couldn't see the floor. I was suddenly shoved inside and I nearly fell of the sharp metal pieces.
"Clean this entire room ooman," growled one of the guards, "take all the metal up to the Weapons Room to be melted. Don't bother to try and escape. There are thirty guards and slave masters between you and the exit."
I was about to ask where the Weapons Room was, but they left before I could say anything. I looked around the cluttered room and groaned. Very carefully I moved through the room to try and find something to carry the scrap. I picked up a long, flexible piece of metal, bent in the edges so I would not cut myself and loaded several pieces onto it. When the tray was full I cradled it in my arms and stepped out the door. I looked from one side to the other and did not see anyone on the balcony. I turned to the left and started to walk, the Yautja's roaring laughter reverberating in my ears.
As I came to the corner I saw the path continue through a low lit corridor. I contemplated if I should go into the corridor or continue along the balcony. Shrugging I decided to try my luck in the hallway. I had travelled a short distance when I saw a figure appear out of the gloom. As the figure limped slowly towards me I realised it was another slave. I was surprised to see he was my height, extremely thin and very old. Winkles hung loosely around his forehead and cheeks. His thin locks were light grey and scars covered his entire body. A thick, jagged scar ran over his left eye and he was hunched over, his back showing off crooked bones. His walking told me that every step agonised his crippled body. The gaunt male shuffled by and did not appear to notice me. I cleared my throat to get his attention.
"Excuse me, do you know where the Weapons Room is?"
The ancient Predator stopped and raised his head. I gasped to see his left eye was milky-white and his right eye was black; like death itself was staring at me. A shiver went up my spine and I lowered my gaze.
"Little face," said the Yautja in a harsh, decrepit voice, "why little things suffer?"
I could feel his lifeless stare upon me. I swallowed hard.
"Please," I said, making a vain attempt to hide the quiver in my voice, "could you tell me where the Weapons Room is?"
The Yautja seemed to hear me that time and turned away.
"Come," he said and limped to the balcony. He pointed to the left with long, bony finger.
"There, at end," he directed in his slow, rough voice, "find stairs. Reach level three. Right is Weapons Room."
"Thank you," I said.
The old, abused Yautja looked at me with his dead eyes again, "So little. Has not been little in…long time..."
His voice trailed off as he shuffled painfully back into the corridor, mumbling “little things suffer” as he went. I watched him leave, feeling unbelievably sorry for him. How much abuse had this Yautja taken in his life? I shook my head in sadness and made my way across where I found the stairs. I climbed the six flights and emerged on the third floor. The load in my arms began to feel really heavy. I turned right and found a double door with black alien text above it. As soon as I stepped up to the doors they automatically slid open and I was blasted by heat. It reminded me of the Oven Room.
Peering inside, I saw that one of the walls was completely covered with shining pieces of gold and silver armour and brightly polished masks of different sizes and shapes. Brand new spears, knives, disks and shuriken blades neatly lined another wall. I noticed three Yautja working in the sweltering room. I knew they were not slaves by how large their muscles were. Two of them were loading stone holders full of scrap medal onto a low conveyer belt. The belt fed the holders into a blazing oven, flames licking the edge of the opening every time a new load travelled inside. The third Yautja was sitting on a stool beside a table covered in a mess of wires and metal pieces. He was picking at a gun with an oddly shaped tool. All three of them were covered in sweat and soot and wore nothing but a simple loincloth, thin sandals and leather gloves. One with short dread locks looked up at me from a stone holder he was filling and hissed.
"So this is the famous, singing ooman who caused such an uproar at the feast."
The Predator working on the gun looked up, "I thought she died in the cells."
The third, who was the shortest of the three barked a laugh, ""It doesn't matter, she still got all she deserved."
I frowned, "Where do you want these?"
The short haired Yautja pointed to a corner of the room and I gratefully dumped the scrap. I quickly left the Weapons Room before the “Three Stooges” could mock me further. I made my way down the first level and back into the cluttered room. As I cautiously moved the sharp pieces, a metal rod the size of a thick marker fell near my feet. Examining it I found a flat square button and pressed it.
Two sharp points extended from either side if the rod. I jumped in surprise and looked behind me to make sure no one saw me. Standing up, I held the up five foot staff, finding it quite light. I leaned it against the wall and pushed down the middle with my foot. The staff would not bend. This was a strong tool, maybe even a good weapon! I grinned and press the button again to retract the tips, then placed it in my pocket. With my full tray, I went back out to the balcony, pleased at my newest find.
The room was not even partly cleaned when the end of the day came. Needless to say I was overjoyed, because sore ribs throbbed every time my heart beat, my legs and feet were tired from walking up and down stairs and my hands were full of cuts from handling sharp metal. I was lead into the Mess Hall for the evening meal. When I joined Becky and Xeenan, I asked about the old Yautja in the Guard's Quarters. Xeenan clicked in surprise.
"I thought that old male died a long time ago," he shook his head, "he's the guard's personal slave and has never left the quarters in his life. Try to avoid him, he's crazy."
“Why do you say that?”
“The way he rambles nonsense.”
I lowered my eyebrows, "It’s not his fault. You’d probably lose your sanity of you were isolated and had to deal with the guards’ brutality."
The dishonoured male scooped food from his bowl, spread his mandibles and popped it in his small mouth, "Whatever you say. Just be careful when you're around him, alright?"
I nodded and smiled, finding his “protective big brother” attitude really sweet. When the meal was finished I walked with Becky and Xeenan back to our compound. I was looking forward to sleeping on a bunk bed again. Even though it was a piece of shit, it was better than sleeping on the floor. The door of our compound opened and the heavy, familiar musk reached my nose. I no longer found it revolting, it was quite welcoming. Before I could step inside, two meaty hands grabbed my arms and pulled me back. I made a surprised yelp and my friends turned around. They gasped and were about to come after me, when the door shut in their faces. I struggled against the guard’s grip as they dragged me towards the cells.
"What's going on?!" I yelled, "what are you doing?!"
"High Elder's orders," growled one guard, "he doesn't want your singing to heighten the slaves' hope. You will be confined to solitary for the rest of your days, ooman!"
I was thrown back into the cell, the guards laughing at me as the door closed. Anger rose inside my chest as I ran to the door and kicked it, causing a sharp pain to travel up my foot. I leaned my back against the door and slowly flopped to the ground. I pulled out the elastic in my hair and ruffled my fingers through it, groaning in frustration. Thumping my head on the steel I reached into my pocket and took out the metal rod. I turned it over in my fingers, stared at the edge of the door and lowered my eyebrows in thought. I looked at the rod again, then the door. My face brightened when I got a wonderful idea. One that would allow me, Becky, Xeenan, Al and Sor'an to escape.