I let the doctor poke and prod me as I sat on the examination bed, wearing nothing but a blue, hospital gown. He looked over my bruises and scars, asking questions of how I got them and then writing the answers on a tablet. I had lost about thirty pounds and I literally looked like a walking skeleton. My ribs and hips stuck out from my skin, my waist had narrowed, the muscles in my legs and arms had shrunken and my face had become long and thin. The contusions and scars only added a more gruesome appearance. Later, I was scheduled to take several blood tests and I was required to give urine and stool samples. The doctor shown a tiny light into my right eye.
"When did you receive this black eye?" he asked. His voice was slightly muffled from the mask he wore.
"Two weeks ago."
"Was your vision impaired?"
"No, not for very long. I could see fine after a few days."
He nodded and scribbled in his note pad.
"You seem to be recovering well Dakota, considering what you've been through these past four weeks. Have you recently experienced any stomach aches, dizziness, nausea, fever?
The doctor set his tablet down and went on to examining my neck and head. He then put pressure in different places on my chest, asking me to take in deep breathes while he watched and listened for proper air flow. He talked while he did his inspection.
"Your CT and MRI scans showed that your ribs took a lot of punishment and you had some damage to your lungs. How exactly did you get those fractures?"
"Mostly from beatings...and from tangling with a very large animal."
I shrugged, "Yeah. I got a beating almost every day."
"Do you still have difficulty breathing?"
"No, not anymore."
He did not say anything for a while.
"Hold your breath, please."
I obeyed and felt his stethoscope move higher. The doctor shook his head in wonder.
"It's incredible how your fractures made a two month recovery in just two days, without any signs of disease or major scaring in your lungs. You can breathe."
I gave a long exhale, "I was...specially treated."
He paused, removing the stethoscope.
"Do you still feel any discomfort or pain from your other injuries?
"When was your last menstrual cycle?"
"Um...I guess I'm due any day."
"I see. Don't be surprised if you're late, your body has lost a significant amount of protein and it'll take another week or two for things to return to normal."
I looked to my bare feet and watched them swing back and forth. I was anxious to leave the room and even more anxious to see my family and know what was happening to my friends. Finally, the doctor was finished with his exam and he turned to me.
"I'm arranging for you to stay here for seven to ten days in quarantine. We want to make sure you're not carrying any harmful viruses or bacteria that could spread on the planet. Your contact with people will also be limited."
I stared in disbelief and felt even more frustrated.
"But I wanna go home!"
"I know you do Dakota, but it needs to be done. We don't want you or anyone to be put at risk," he picked up his notes. "Your family will be here in about twenty minutes and I you’ll have a meal. You need to gain more weight."
"Before I go anywhere, I need to see the Predators!"
"Miss Evans, I cannot allow that. You must stay in quarantine."
"Can you at least tell that to the commander?"
He gave a great sigh.
"I will bring your request to Commander Melnyk. Your change of clothes is on that table, my assistant will escort you out."
The doctor left the room and I sat alone on the table. I leapt off and changeed into grey sweat pants, undergarments that were too big, a baggy, lime green t-shirt and flip–flops. I heard a knock at the door and a female nurse opened it pressed a button on the wall to open the door. I scowled at her when she forced me to wear a paper mask over my mouth. As she directed me down the corridor of the Medical Wing, I noticed several medical personnel stare at me as I passed by, some even changed their path to avoid me. My insides twisted with anger, I was being treated like an outcast by my own people! I looked at the assistant's back and mentally willed her to walk faster.
Finally, we reached our destination. Directly in front of us, I saw the word "QUARANTINE" written in large, yellow letters over double doors made of thick glass. Beyond the glass, I could see other doctors, wearing silver body suits and masks. It was quite an unnerving sight. As soon as the glass doors shut behind us, I found myself standing in a small room. The doctor slipped on a white mask.
"Don't move," she said.
I got my answer when tiny room filled with white vapour that stung my nose when I breathed in. I coughed until the vapour was suddenly vented out.
"Decontamination complete." said a computer voice.
I straightened and stared at the assistant furiously, "You could've given me a warning!"
"Sorry," she said and walked through the clean room.
I followed in a huff, ignoring the other people in the room, until I was lead into a small hall lined with single, white doors. The nurse ran a card through a scanner, a light turned from red to green and the door opened to reveal my room. There was not much of a decor; a small window beside a single bed, a table, a clock, a closet, a few lamps and a monitor; there was also a surveillance camera in the top corner. So much for privacy. The meal my examiner had promised was on the table and my translator was on the tray. Out of politeness, I said thank-you and the assistant shut the door behind me. I ripped the mask off and travelled to the table, lifting the covering from my food. I was given chicken noodle soup, a small salad of wilted lettuce with no dressing and a glass of orange juice. My stomach was too nervous for eating, so I placed the covering back on and walked to the bed. I sat down and heard it creak under my weight.
Reaching over, I took the translator and watched it move through my fingers, lost in thought. It seemed odd that I was allowed to keep it, I would have thought someone from Weyland–Yutani would have seized it. I heard something buzz and the door of my room opened. There, standing with his hands behind his back and a mask over his face, was Commander Melnyk.
"Miss Evens, I have given you authorisation to see the Predators, but only for a few minutes and you must be wearing your mask. The doctors are very concerned about the spreading of disease if you leave quarantine for too long."
"Thank you commander."
He nodded and led me out of quarantine, with two very large soldiers following behind me. Melnyk turned right and I found myself walking down a corridor, large enough to allow a half ton truck through. Painted on the floors were yellow traffic lines and I would often see carts drive by, forcing us to walk near the walls. I sighed in dismay, the walls were just a basic design of plates and bars of steel, with bright, florescent lights along the middle of the ceiling. Already I was missing the artistry in Nadar–ian'ah's ship. I kept my head down to avoid the stares of the soldiers that were in the corridor as I followed the commander. He made two turns and stopped in front of a door with two guards on either side. They saluted and allowed the commander to swipe a card through a panel. The door hissed open and I saw a clutter of people in white lab coats, busily running about like work ants. I lowered my eyebrows, why were we in a lab, should we not be in the holding cells? My gut suddenly twisted into a knot and I wished for the commander to walk faster. He suddenly stopped and I nearly ran into his barrel back. In front of Melnyk was a short man who appeared to be in his late thirties, wearing baggy pants, a blue button shirt and carrying a tablet. He scribbled in it with an electric pen before looking up at the commander, then glanced at me.
"Is this the survivor?"
"Yes, she is," replied the commander.
"Ah, excellent. Maybe those creatures will finally settle down, they're quite jittery. We had to have the specimens moved to here, the holding cells were much too small for them."
I glared at the scientist as he scrolled through his notes.
"Miss Evens, is it? I am Dr. Verbanoc, Chief Science Officer. You have nothing to fear, the Predators are safely contained. They won't harm you or anyone else on this ship."
I glowered, he spoke to me as if I was a five year old that had be chased by a monster.
"Oh for God's sake, let me see them!"
His eyes widened when I yelled and the whole room seemed to go quiet. I felt my cheeks grow hot, but not out of embarrassment; I was angry. The short man lowered his eyebrows and motioned with his hand.
I pushed past the commander and followed until I came to the containment area. About ten feet down, over a railed balcony I could see a very large, tinted glass dome, surrounded by nine armed soldiers. I shook my head in disapproval, a dome like that was used to contain large animals.
"Lower the barrier," ordered Dr. Verbanoc.
A scientist turned a switch and the pale tint of the glass was removed. Nadar–ian'ah was standing tall at one side of the octagon shaped room, Becky was sitting with Al and Sor'an, who were clinging to her like leeches and much to my horror, I saw Xeenan chained to the floor. Thick cuffs clamped tightly to his wrists and ankles and he had a deep look of hate and disgrace. I spun to Dr. Verbanoc.
"Why is he chained?!"
"We had no choice, Miss Evens. During the move, he put up quite the struggle and we barely got them all in there. Placing the chains on him was the only way to stop his struggles."
"Release the chains! I demand to go in there!"
"Miss Evens, are you crazy?! You'll get yourself killed!"
"Maybe I didn't make myself clear," I hissed, "let me inside!"
"Let here in," the commander said patiently.
The scientist turned in shock, "Sir, that's not advisable—"
"Like you said doctor, these creatures need to be calmed and Miss Evens obviously has some relationship with them. Let her into the dome."
Dr. Verbanoc gawked for a moment, but another glare from the ship's leader sent him into action. He took me down a set of spiral stairs until we came to an arched door made of thick steel. Two of the soldiers that guarded the door moved behind me with their weapons raise as the short man tapped a security code. Three different locks clicked and the heavy door swung open. I stepped in and slipped the translator over my ear as the door slammed shut. I moved through the tight tunnel until I stood in front of the second gate. When the gate opened, I barely took two steps before Al and Sor'an slammed into me. For a moment I was in the air, then I hit the ground with a loud grunt. They chittered and nuzzled my neck, wrapping their arms so tightly around me I could barely breathe.
"Ack! Alright you two, it's okay. I'm here, let me up." I gasped.
I glanced up to see a mob of lab coated people gather around the edge of the balcony, gazing down with amazement. When I finally sat up, I noticed that Xeenan was not free from his restraints, he was not even looking at me. Becky was trying to move closer to him, but every time she did, he made a threatening growl. I shouted at the mob.
"Are you guys deaf or stupid? Release his chains!"
Even though the dome was sound proof, I knew microphones would have been set up inside and whoever was working the sound system probably had it on speaker. Someone finally obeyed and as the chains fell. Xeenan raised his fists into the air and roared so loud, I had to cover my ears. He panted heavily, his shoulders rising up and down..
"Are you okay?" I timidly asked.
"I am fine!" he roared, and then stalked to the corner of the room. Becky moved to Xeenan, but Nadar–ian'ah placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Leave him be for a while."
I lowered my head in shame as I heard Xeenan grumble in the corner.
"I'm sorry everyone, there was nothing I could do to stop the commander for locking you up."
Nadar–ian'ah gave a great sigh, "Dakota, we were fully prepared for whatever happened."
"That doesn't make me feel better."
"It wasn't intended to."
Sor'an and Al tugged at my pants and I bent down to hug them. They were shaking in my arms, but they didn't make a sound. I could not resist a smile, they were still trying to be brave. I heard a low voice on an intercom and I looked up to see the commander standing on the balcony with a headset held to his ear.
"Miss Evens, I have been informed that you're family has arrived. I'll take you to the meeting area."
I felt my stomach flip and I turned back to the Predators.
"My family is here, I have to go."
The children clung tighter to me and the begged for me not to leave. It took a lot of coaxing and Becky's help to get them to let go of my pants. When I was finally free, I went towards the gate.
"Take care of yourselves."
The Elder nodded, "We will."
I took the translator from my ear before stepping out of the cage. I looked over my shoulder to see the glass grow misty and sighed in dismay as I walked up the stairs. When I got to the top, I noticed that Melnyk and the other scientists had very eager faces.
"I see the translator works well," Dr. Verbanoc said.
"I would like to have it, Miss Evens. Such an amazing piece of technology must be studied."
"This translator is the property of Weyland–Yutani Corperation and under company policy, newly created technology must never be given to another scientific body unless legally approved. Since it would seem I am the only registered Weyland–Yutani employee on this ship, the translator stays with me."
The commander appeared very irritated, "You're very clever, Miss Evens."
I snorted, "I wasn't hired just for my good looks."
It suddenly became awkwardly silent around us. Commander Melnyk kept a straight face and motioned ahead of me.
"Come Miss Evens. Your family is this way."
I did not know why I was feeling this way, I could not stop myself form pacing back and forth in the containment room. I was shivering, but I was not cold. My heart was pounding but I was not scared. I felt excited, relieved, saddened and apprehensive all at the same time. After a month, I was finally able to see my family! But what will say to them? What will they say to me? I paced again and grunted painfully when I stubbed my toe against one of the chairs. Now I felt upset. The "good commander" put me in this contaminate free room while he went to get my parents. To further the prevention of disease, they had to be given masks and special clothing.
I put my hands over the head of a chair, rocking back and forth on my flip flops, not knowing if I could stand waiting any longer, until the door of the room hissed open. I jumped around and was face to face with my mother, father, Anthony and Heather. For what seemed like forever I just stared, wondering if this was another nightmare. But when I heard them cry out my name, reflexes took over and I ran to them. I collided into my mother's arms, her grief stricken face now wet with tears. She took off her mask and smothered my face with kisses, not caring about the safety protocols.
"My baby, my little girl. I thought we would never see you again!" she sobbed.
I threw my mask to the floor, returning the kisses and holding onto her in a great hug, until I felt the touch of my father. I flung my arms around his neck, feeling his whiskers scratch my face. He squeezed me so tightly I could not breathe I felt his tears wet my cheeks and heard him sob "Ladybug" in my ear. When he let me go, my brother and sister nearly dog piled me. Heather was crying, but Anthony shed no tears. He was never a crier, even during the saddest of times, but the relief and happiness was evident on his face. I wept openly. Never had I thought being in my family’s arms would feel this wonderful.
Who knows how long my family and I hugged and kissed, but it did not seem long enough. Commander Melnyk cleared his throat to get our attention, while one of his officers and two scientists stood patiently behind him, each one of them wearing a mask.
"I apologise for interrupting this family reunion, but I'm sure you are all anxious to hear your daughter's whereabouts."
My family went into rapid questions.
"Your face, what happened to your face?"
"How did you get so thin?"
"Where did those bruises come from?"
"Okay, okay," I said, trying to calm them, "please everyone sit so I can tell you."
My family sat around the table as did the commander and his group. I spent the next couple hours telling them of my adventure, leaving out the details of what I learned about the Yautja culture and technology. Even though the commander and the scientist pressed me for more detailed, I kept my answers as blunt as possible. Needless to say, my family was horrified and angry.
"Those stupid scientists! Why would they keep such a dangerous machine intact? Look at what my little girls has gone through!" cried my mother.
My father turned to the commander, "We are taking this to court."
"Going to court will not be necessary," said the Commander, "I have spoken with the directors at Weyland-Yutani and they have taken full responsibility for the accident. They are now making sure all experimental transporters are being dismantled and they are willing to pay whatever is needed to help your daughter through her trauma."
My father glared, "Do you think money is going to make up for what my daughter has been put through?"
"I expect not, you will have to take it up with the corporation. I am merely the messenger."
One of the scientists changed the subject.
"I'm very pleased to hear that the translator worked well for you. Without that lovely machine, I'm sure it would've been very difficult to communicate with the...Predators."
I looked at the machine I had previously placed on the table top, then glanced at him, “I need to know something about this translator."
He nodded and waved his hand, "Proceed."
"I was told this translator could only understood the languages on Earth, yet it deciphered the Predator's language almost perfectly. What's really in this machine?"
The scientist grinned, "The translator you hold has a very special microcomputer. We used a modified David 8 program to specifically learn languages and store what it has learned for future studies."
"I see," I said, holding the translator in front of me.
"I am an authorised employee from Weyland–Yutani and I have permission from the directors to handle the translator. If you will give it to me, I will see that it returned back to the station."
"I have a better idea."
I took the machine from the table and threw it to the ground, then used the heel of my foot to grind it into tiny bits. The scientists and the commander shouted at me to stop, but I continued until there was nothing left but tiny pieces.
"What are you doing?! Do you realised you’ve destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of technology and research?!"
"They fire me for all I care! You will not get any secrets from me or any machine you create!"
"I'm surprised you would be so valiant after what they had put you through," said Melnyk.
I glowered, "I am beyond pissed for what their leader and slave masters did to me. But I would not be here right now if it wasn't for those five Predators. And how do you repay them, by locking them up like animals!"
I slammed my hands on the table.
"I demand they be set free!"
"I will have to consider the matter, Miss Evens. Freeing them violates safety protocols and there are strict consequences if they are not followed. Please understand, I'm very amazed to hear they risked so much for you, but the safety of my ship is above all else."
"Then while you think on it, lock me up with them."
"Dakota!" my family gasped in unison.
"Miss Evens, I couldn't possibly—"
"And I expect you to take me there right now!"
"Dakota, think about what you're doing," said my father.
"I know what I'm doing, it's not fair that I'm walking around freely while they're in a cage," I glared at the Commander, "if you want my full co–operation, you'll do as I say!"
"No Miss Evens, I will not authorise it. That is my final word."
It took a large amount of control to not scream at Melnyk. I threw my hands up in the defeat and turned my back to them, clutching the sleeves of my shirt.
"Can she at least see them?" my mother asked.
I looked over my shoulder as she continued.
"My husband and I are anxious to see these Predators. There isn't any reason she can't see them again."
I turned around and watched the ship's leader carefully. I could feel the tension from him and my folks as he appeared deep in thought. Finally he gave a great sigh.
"I suppose there is no harm in that. I'll escort all of you to the Predators."
I nearly jumped up and down in pure joy, but I controlled myself. The Commander stood and I followed behind with my family. The scientist stayed in the room, mourning over the broken machine and trying to salvage something from it. After a few twists and turns, all of us were back in the Containment Area, peering down at the dome. I smiled when I saw Becky sitting near Xeenan, he seemed to have cooled off. Nadar–ian'ah remained standing and the children were sleeping on the floor. I felt myself being slightly pushed as my parents and siblings searched for a place to gaze down.
"Are these the ones?" asked Heather.
I nodded. Anthony pointed.
"That must be Nadar–ian'ah. I imagined her taller."
"Those poor little ones," said my mother, "they look so thin and pale."
"Trust me mom, they look a lot better than they did a week ago."
"I can't imagine," she said.
"Let me go down there," I said to the commander.
Melnyk was about to protest, but I spoke up.
"Just for a few minutes. I’m sure Dr. Verbanoc and his team would find it beneficial if I interacted with them again."
I could only comprehend how angry the commander was feeling, being manipulated by a short, battered citizen, but he nonetheless ordered for a soldier to escort me down. I was about to leave when I felt my father's strong hand touch my shoulder.
"Be careful, Ladybug."
I smiled, "Don't worry about me, I'll be alright."
I gave everyone one last hug, then quickly walked down the stairs and back into the dome. Becky looked up and smiled happily with her eyes. She clicked and growled rapidly in her guttural language as she stood from her seat, but I could barely understand a word she said.
"Stop Becky," I raised my hands.
She tilted her head to one side questioningly, probably wondering why she, too, could not understand me. I tapped my ear and turned my head from one side to another. She understood and she looked to Nadar–ian'ah. The Elder came up to us.
"Where is the translator?"
If the speakers were on, the scientists were probably going giddy over the fact that a Predator could speak English.
"I had to destroy it, it's a long story."
The Elder looked at Becky and quickly translated for her. She spoke again and Nadar–ian'ah smiled.
"She says she's happy to see you. She and the children were quite worried."
"I know and I'm sorry."
"There's no need to apologise," she turned her head upwards.
I looked over my shoulder, "Yeah, that's my family."
I gave a loud grunt when I felt two small bodies plow into my legs. They chittered wildly at me.
"I know, I missed you guys too."
I gave the children a hug and kept them in my arms for a long time. I raised my eyes to Nadar–ian'ah.
"I don't think you should speak very much, I'm pretty sure everything that is said here is being recorded."
"I've known that for a while."
I sat on the floor and the children scrambled to get into my lap. Glancing up to my folks, I saw they all looked very amused. I suppose it was rather funny, seeing two alien children fighting for a place to sit on a human's lap.
"You know they will never free you,” I whispered
Nadar–ian'ah smiled and discretely tapped her wrist computer. It suddenly dawned on me, she must have planned an escape before we even came here! Trust Nadar–ian'ah to think ahead! I gave a slight nod, then turned my attention back to Al and Sor'an. It would impossible for her to inform me of her plan. The best thing I could do right now is be patient and vigilant.