Slave of a Hunter

The Escape, Part Two

I took a deep breath as I felt the needle prick the crook of my arm. The nurse stuck a tube at the other end of the needle and almost immediately my blood began to flow into it. She filled three test tubes before pulling the needle out and pressing a wad of cotton on the tiny wound. Five days had passed since I arrived on the U.S. TURAIS. I was still stuck in quarantine, giving out regular samples to the specialists and so far they had found nothing wrong with my body. The good news was my bruises were beginning to fade, I had gained a few pounds and a bit of my strength and the doctors informed me I was physically recovering well. But they were unsure about my mental health. I had been having nightmares for the last four nights; some of them were about time I was beaten during the Feast of the Gods, others were watching the slaves being whipped. I even had a dream where my friends were swept away by a flood and I was left alone in a dark jungle. I never told anyone about the nightmares, but it did not matter, as the doctors found out on their own.

Much to my displeasure, I was informed that the video camera in my room monitored me during the late hours and it had caught me thrashing and crying out in my sleep. As a result I have been visiting a therapist to see if something could be done about them. She said it was not uncommon to have nightmares after going through traumatic experiences and strongly recommended that I have regular sessions with her. She also said she would try to convince the commander to shorten my stay on the ship. The sooner I get back home, the faster the nightmares will go away.

The nurse told me I was free to go and called for one of the silver suited, quarantine assistants to escort me back to my room. As soon as I stepped into my room I reached into my drawer and pulled out a tablet, then sat down on the bed. I never knew how much I missed television until I watched it yesterday. It was a temporary relief from my boredom. When I turned it on, the music to a news report began to play. I started to watch, as a well dressed woman appeared on the screen.

“Good evening and welcome to the four o’clock news. There is still no word from Commander Melnyk about his guest’s current condition. One month ago, Miss Dakota Evens, an Assistant Technician for the Weyland–Yutani Space Station, went missing while on duty—”

My graduation picture appeared on the screen as the reporter spoke.

“—from an accidental teleport to a distant planet. While carrying out–”

“This again?” I asked out loud.

“—so far, all we know of the young woman’s condition is that she has returned unharmed, but—”

I changed the channel and saw a suited man speaking into the camera with the words “ALIENS AMONG US?” on the corner of the screen.

“—Commander Melnyk has denied the claims of holding aliens in his ship and has yet to explain how Dakota Evens initially arrived—”

I tried another channel.

“—Dakota’s family and friends, while relieved at her return, still have to wait another five days until she is released from quarantine—”

I switched the tablet off and tossed it to the side. Ever since my return, all the news ever talked about was me. The ship had been receiving hundreds of interview requests from government groups and press all over the world. I had no idea if the crew or scientists were being interviewed—and I was concerned if they were—but no one allowed an audience with me. To make matters worse, my family had been getting hounded by the media. At first, it started out as phone calls, but then it progressed to personal approaches from work or school and camping out on our front yard. My father had to phone the police just to drive them away. My stomach still twists at the thoughts of what may happen when I did return to Earth.

I turned my head to the computer on the table across from me. I turned it on and waited for the screen to flicker to life. The computer clicked as it connected with the cruiser’s mainframe and I found myself looking at the main selections: Map of the Ship, Shuttle Departures and Arrivals, Internet Access, Recreation. The areas I could search through were the main decks, a few science and military facilities and the landing bays. Registered personal had access to all areas of the ship. Despite the restrictions, I knew Predator’s ship remained in the same landing bay.

I touched the map selection and the screen brought me to a list of locations. I tapped Landing Bay Locations and saw an image of the docking bays. I chose Bays 25–30 and waited for a connection. The screen showed me the interior structures of 26–30, but Bay 25 was blinking red with the words Sealed For Repairs. At first I thought it was true, but when the message stayed there for more than three days I got suspicious. Repairs never last that long, unless they were doing a complete reconstruction.

Interestingly enough, the computer did not show the maintenance tunnels. I had seen them frequently in the central corridor when I had to go for testing; tall rectangular openings in the walls only shoulder width apart. If ever there was a problem with the circuitry, a worker would be able to fix it by opening a specific panel to asses the problem directly, rather than shutting down a whole section of the ship. All of the tunnels connected to every corridor like a giant spider web and only authorised personal were allowed to step into them.

I heard a loud beep and I closed the window to see that I had an urgent video message. It was from Commander Melnyk. I debated if I should answer it, nothing good ever came from him, but if I did not answer he would keep bothering me. I let the message through and I was face to face with the commander. He gave a smile.

“Greetings Miss Evans, I trust you’re feeling well today,” he said.

I shrugged, “Can’t complain.”

“Excellent, I have a surprise for you.”

I gave a suspicious look, “What kind of surprise?”

“You’ll see when you arrive. I will have one of my personal guards escort you to the meeting room.”

Before I could press for more information, the connection was cut. I sat back in my seat, feeling overwhelmed. Now what was on him mind? I shook my head and reached into a drawer to put a paper mask over my mouth and nose. It was not long until the escort came and led me through the main corridor to the meeting area. When I stepped in I was in for a shock! Sitting at the conference table, right next to Commander Melnyk was my boss, John Butler. I stood there gaping and John laughed behind his mask.

“It’s nice to see you too, Dakota.”

I snapped myself back to reality and blushed with embarrassment.

“Sorry John, it’s such a surprise to see you. I didn’t think you’d come here.”

“And why would I not come to see the employee who has made history?”

My brow furrowed with confusion, “I don’t understand.”

“Dakota, you are the first living human to make solid contact with the Predators, set foot on their planet and travel in their spaceships! As if that was not enough, you brought not one, but five of these magnificent creatures to us. You should feel proud!”

I was at a loss for words. Proud? What in heaven and hell should I feel proud about?! He was heading to a subject I did not want to talk about and I tried to direct his attention something else.

“But John, you must know that I destroyed the translator. There’s no way you can—“

“Yes, and the owners were very angry when they found out,” he nodded to the military man at his side, “but when Commander Melnyk contacted Weyland–Yutani and told him about your month with the Predators, he thought your experiences could be just as worthwhile.”

Awe crap!

“I have nothing that would interest the corporation.”

John’s voice changed, “I very much doubt that.”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence in the room. I tried hard to think of something to say, but my mind drew a blank.

“What do you want?” I asked in a low voice.

This time, the commander spoke up.

“Everything you have learned about the Predators, the details you have neglected to tell us. Otherwise there will be consequences.”

My jaw clenched, “Like what?”

Melnyk raised an object that looked like a remote and pointed it at a screen. He turned it on and I was faced with a sickening sight. All five Yautja were in separate cages, the adults chained to the floor and the children huddled in a corner. Becky and Xeenan were struggling at their irons but Nadar–ian’ah remained calm and still. I stood in disbelief.

“What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?!” I screamed.

“I have been ordered by my superiors to do whatever is necessary to get the information they need,” said Melnyk, being unnaturally calm, “If you wish to keep these creatures safe, you must cooperate. Anything you hold back, well, lets say I prefer to have healthy subjects.”

I turned to my boss desperately, “John, you can’t let him do this! What the commander is doing is beyond barbaric! Why are you—“

“The Weyland–Yutani directors and I agree that we need to gain as much knowledge as we can, by any means. I’m sorry Dakota.”

I could not believe it. Commander Melnyk was one thing, but my own boss was blackmailing me!

“I shall give you twenty–four hours to think it over Miss Evans. Choose carefully,” said the military leader.

He thumbed at the screen before turning it off. The guard was called back again to escort me out. Before I left, I gave John a hateful glare. My dream job with Weyland–Yutani had turned into a nightmare in just a few minutes; there was no point in working for them anymore.

I was hardly paying attention to my surroundings as I walked back to Quarantine with the guard. My head hung low, I could feel tears form in my eyes and I was slowly becoming sick to my stomach. It felt like I was back at the High Elder’s Citadel—a prison, with no escape and very little hope of having a happy ending. My escort and I had just entered the central corridor when the lights began to flicker. At first I paid no mind, but then it happened again with a longer period of darkness. The soldier and I stopped, as did other personal, looking very confused. Then the entire hall when black and all I heard was gasps and mumbles of uncertainty. It took a while for the emergency lights to activate and everything was bathed in a vibrant red. The escort advanced towards a group of soldiers and spoke to the tallest one.

“What’s happened, did we lose power?”

“Looks like it,” said one of the soldiers with an annoying grunt, “I’ll radio the bridge and see what the problem is.”

The tall man pointed to his crew and directed them to evacuate everyone from the dark corridor to the nearest rooms. It was standard procedure for everyone to evacuate the main corridors and head for the nearest secured room during a blackout. I had experienced a similar situation on the spaceship during a three minute blackout. The tall soldier called the bridge on his walky–talky, but got only static. He then attempted to call his captain, other soldiers and Commander Melnyk with different channels, but nothing went through.

“Communications are completely down, none of the frequencies work, not even the emergency line,” he said to the escort, “something or someone has shut down the whole goddamn ship!”

I lowered my eyebrows in confusion. A ship this size would have back up systems and safety protocals to prevent such a disaster. Any kind of jamming signal would have been blocked, only maintenance workers and engineers had the authorization to access the ship’s power. If anyone from the outside tried to hack into the main computer to shut down the power supply, it would take weeks to accomplish. No one and nothing on Earth could do that kind of damage, unless...I decided to make myself scarce and slowly backed away while the soldiers were distracted.

“What about life support systems?”

“That’s the strange thing, they appear to be still functioning.”

Their voices got softer as I continued my retreat.

“I’ll keep trying to reach the bridge and the commander. Hopefully some shit-head up there is trying to find what the....”

That was all I heard as I turned and risked a light run. I thought it best to head for the landing bays.

“Miss Evans, stop!” I heard a voice shout from behind.

Dammit! My run now turned into a sprint down through the barren hallway. Even with the head start I could still hear my pursuers coming up fast and I frantically searched for a place to hide. To the right I saw a closed door, almost completely covered by a shadow. I slid to a stop and punched at the activation panel so hard, my hand hurt. The door slid open and I jumped inside, once again hurting my hand from hitting the button to close it. As soon as the door slid shut I held my breath and listened.

Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp!

I heard heavy boots and the shouting of my name pass by the door. I waited until it was quiet before coming out of my hiding place. Seeing no one I crept out and double backed down the red washed passage. I spotted an, information plaque on the wall and after a quick read I found I was in the northern corridors of the cruiser. The landing bays were located on the east side. I scanned over the map, thinking it would be better to avoid the main path since soldiers would be patrolling them. The fastest way to get there was by taking the maintenance tunnels. Plotting a course I took off and turned left at a four way crossing. The hall was completely deserted and I ran on the balls of my feet, trying to keep quiet.

Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! Clomp!

Shit! They’re dead ahead! I glanced around and nearly cried out with joy when I spotted the entrance to a maintenance tunnel. I had ducked out of sight just as I saw a wave of men pass by. All my muscles tensed as I pressed myself into the darkness.

“The X.T.s and the girl should be near here, keep alert!” I heard someone shout.

X.T.s? The Predators escaped! I do not know how, but who cared? The real problem was finding them. I stayed in my hiding place until I could not hear any footsteps. I chanced a look in the red hall and it was once again abandoned. I was about to step out when I suddenly felt a large hand clamp over my face and pull me back in. With the limited space I could not hit my attacker and the grip held firm. When I thought to bite the hand, I heard a very familiar voice.

“Dakota, calm down. It’s me.”

Nadar–ian’ah! Oh thank the blessed Lord! She took her hand off and I spoke rapidly.

“Christ Nadar–ian’ah, you scared the living shit out of me! How did you escape? Where are the others? Are they alright? Where—“

The Elder put her hand over my mouth again to stop me.

“Be silent or they will find us. We are all here and we’re alright.”

I could barely see the shape of the large female, but she was obviously bending down and unable to turn her shoulders. I could not see past her but if the others were there, they were being very quiet. I wanted to speak again, but Nadar–ian’ah’s hand kept me from doing so.

“There’s no time to talk. We have to keep moving, there will be more humans soon.”

I nodded and backed out to let them through. It was wonderful to see Becky, Xeenan and the children again, but we had little time for a proper reunion. Nadar–ian’ah was running through the corridor and we had to keep up. I noticed she was following a 3D map on her wrist computer; that explained how they got to the upper levels so fast. Xeenan gathered his little sister in his arms as he ran and I held Sor’an’s hand tightly so he could keep the pace.

By the time the Elder halted, the five of us former slaves were gasping for breath. I tried to speak again, but before I could she signalled for us to follow her into another maintenance tunnel. She went in first and had to step in sideways, just getting enough room to move. Becky followed her and I hung on to her arm so I would not lose her in the pitch blackness. Al and Sor’an were behind me and Xeenan brought up the rear. No sooner had we gone in, did I hear the yelling of the soldiers in the previous corridor. We pushed right on, leaving the men and women behind. I wondered if they were using radar and infrared scanners. If they were, we should have been located by now. Maybe the power failure affected all electronic devices.

I made a small grunt when Becky suddenly stopped. I tried to look over her shoulder, but her whole body covered the tunnel. Finally, Becky moved and I saw nothing but crimson walls and floor panels. Something caught my eye and I looked to see an information board hanging from the ceiling. A bright, yellow arrow was pointing to the right with the words Docking Bays 25–30. Nadar–ian’ah did not make a move towards the bay that held the cruiser. She continued straight towards Docking Bays 30–40. I did not understand what she was doing until the Elder suddenly stopped near a wall. In the faint light I could just make out a ladder that lead up to a small door; it was a route to a catwalk. Nadar–ian’ah lowered her head so she could whisper into my ear.

“Try to be as quiet as you can when you climb, there are many humans inside the landing bays. As soon as we are above the ship, I will cut off the life support inside the area to drive out the soldiers. Our masks will protect us, but you will need to find a way to conserve your air when the atmosphere is gone. Are you ready?”

I nodded, “As I’ll ever be.”

The large female relayed the plan to the others in their language and Becky was first up the ladder. The metal creaked under her weight and I cringed every time, praying that the soldiers would not hear her. Za’Becc made it to the top and I was worried that her large size would prevent her from getting through, but she just managed to wiggle to the other side without making any noise. My turn came and I climbed up as silently as I could.

When I made it to the catwalk I found myself looking through a two foot wide, grated ledge, down to the tops of three soldiers, patrolling back and forth. The drop had to be forty feet and only a thin, metal bar provided the railing. My gut lurched at the height, but I quickly shook it off and moved out of the way for the children. Becky and I helped Al and Sor’an through, both of them clinging to me. We inched the children forward in the narrow bridge to make room for the last two; miraculously not a sound came from any of us. Once Nadar–ian’ah and Xeenan were on the catwalk, the Elder pointed to Becky, silently motioning for her to move ahead. The Yaujta moved as if the height did not matter to them, but I was forcing myself to look straight ahead while feeling my way along the railing.

Risking a glance down, I saw the ship still parked in its original place and it looked like nothing had been damaged. Twenty military personal were guarding the small ship, each one armed with a very large pulse rifle. The tension was almost unbearable, a single squeak or a casual glance up would give us away. But the six of us made it to the other side and the Elder stood at a ladder near the ship. Now was the moment of truth. Nadar–ian’ah turned a dial on her computer and pressed a red button. A light began to pulse faster and faster until it became a blur and suddenly I heard a computer voice blasting over the intercom.

Life support deactivating. All personal evacuate the area immediately.

The soldiers appeared stunned and glanced at each other for answers.

Life support deactivating. All personal evacuate the area immediately.

This time, the men began moving towards the exit, shouting at each other to hurry. I took in another breath and found the air was very thin, as if I were on top of a mountain. I was astonished at how fast I felt the change in atmosphere. Calm down Dakota, I told myself, panting heavily, just stay calm and concentrate on breathing. It was not long until the room was completely empty. I made my way to the ladder, but was suddenly scooped up by a large, clawed hand. I gave a raspy gasp as my feet left the ground and I was laid over someone’s shoulders. Nadar–ian’ah was carrying me! I was about to protest but I had no air to take in, much less lose. All I could do was hold on tightly as the Elder threw herself over and made her way down. I closed my eyes and continued to hold my breath, already feeling fire in my lungs and painful pricks all over my skin. Hurry up Nadar–ian’ah! my mind screamed, hurry up!

I barely felt her jump to the ground, but the ride became bumpy as she ran, threatening me to expel what little air I had left. I began to shake on her shoulders, now feeling a painful swelling in my joints and I pounded on her back in agony. When I thought I was going to pass out, I was taken off her shoulders, the paper mask was ripped off and something was thrust onto my face. Sweet air blew over my nose and mouth and I took in huge breaths, my heart pounding louder than a drum. I opened my eyes to see that I was back on the Yautja ship, never had I been so glad to see the decorated walls. Becky was hovering over me, holding the mask in place, as were the children. I nodded and patted their shoulders to tell them I was okay. Sor’an and Al tackled me, emptying my lungs while they clicked and growled in relief. I wrapped my arms around them and hugged them close. Having them in my arms was something I greatly missed.

The floor vibrated under my back and I realised the space vessel was powering up. Urging the children to let me up, I got to my feet and made my way to the bridge. The Elder and Xeenan were working furiously at the controls. I looked out the window to see that the bay hatch was sealed shut.

“Nadar–ian’ah, how are we gonna—“

I did not have the time to finish when she grabbed the weapons control and shot twin blasts at the hatch. The metal shattered like glass and was blown out into space. The massive female turned to me.

“Strap yourself in Dakota, we don’t have much time until the ship regains power!”

I ushered the children into one of the chairs and strapped them both in, then Becky and I buckled into our own seats. The engines became louder and louder as it rose from the ground to a gentle hover. Without warning, the Elder pushed on the ignition and we excelled out of the bay. I grunted as I became plastered against the chair, feeling as if four of me was piled on top of my body. Finally the ship slowed down and the pressure was released. I opened my eyes and looked out the window to see snow white clouds drape over the turquoise oceans of the Earth, like whip cream on a giant blueberry. It was the first time I had seen the “great jewel in space” since I left, and it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. The Elder put the ship in orbit and gave a great sigh.

“We’re safe. The ship is cloaked and that sorry excuse for a military vessel won’t be able to detect us.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I had anticipated some kind of treachery from the ooman military. The moment we landed, my ship has been sending out an undetectable jamming frequency. My wrist computer allowed me to slowly increase its effect until it was powerful enough to temporarily shut everything down, from the simple electronic devices to their master computer. Only Yauja technology is immune to it.”

I smirked, “You know my people a lot better than I do Nadar–ian’ah. If nothing had been done, all of you probably would have ended up in some laboratory.”

“We too were fortunate that you were near us during the power out.”

“So, now what do we do?”

The Elder faced the console, “We will send you home, and then we shall return to ours.”

I flopped back on the chair and close my eyes, feeling a great weight lift off me. Finally, after too long of a wait, I was going home.

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