A Friend Indeed
I glared at the Elder before being pulled out of the room and back into the Great Hall. I tried again to struggle free, but it only worsened the pain in my wrists. I saw that the slaves were not in the Great Hall anymore and it seemed darker. The last light from the windows faded; night must be close. The guards stopped in front of a silver door and opened it, took off my shackles and threw me into the room. I landed on the floor with a grunt and heard the door shut. Sitting back on my knees, I rubbed my sore wrists, noticing red welts had begun to appear. My nose wrinkled as a strong musk reached my nose, making me want to gag. I stopped rubbing when I heard a clicking noise in the dim room. Looking up I saw twenty malnourished—oh what did they call themselves?—Yautja gawking at me. Eight children were hiding behind some of the young adults, curiosity filling their eyes. Glancing around the room, I counted twenty bunk beds lining the compound; all of them having tattered blankets and thin mattresses. The room was downright miserable; like my new bunk mates.
I heard some of them whisper to each other in their tongue and I reached for the translator in my right pocket. It functioned with the use of a tiny microphone, a mouthpiece and processor. If someone spoke a language I could not understand, the microphone would catch the words, feed them into the processor and a mechanical voice would speak the translated words into my ear. If I spoke, the mouthpiece would take my words, translate them and the same voice would vocalise it back. The translator could run for four months before needing to be recharged. I took it out and stared at it, not feeling very confident. This translator was a prototype meant to replace the current ones Weyland Corp was using and it was programmed to translate Earth languages. There was no way it could decipher alien dialects. As I listened to the Yautja speak, I decided I had nothing to lose and turned on the machine. I clipped it to my ear and prayed for a miracle. After a few moments the translator picked up the Predator words and, to my shock, translated them into rough English.
"A ooman? Why…bzzt…creature here?"
"Crackle-bzzz…she a slave too?"
"She sho-dshk be dead!"
"Are the Elders so des-dzzp-ate for slaves…shssck… brought an inf-eeeeer-rior species?"
"Shh, she's-she’sshe’s-looking at us."
"It doesn't matter…crackle…we can insult her and she wouldn't understand."
"Well, then I guess you won't be able to understand my insults either," I said.
The translator spoke my words in the Yautja language and everyone in the room gasped. I waited to see if they would speak again but the room was silent. I suddenly felt self-conscious and walked to the other side of the room, the Predators moved away from me as I passed. I sat down in a corner and leaned against the metal, looking out a small window to the darkening sky. A cluster of stars twinkled in the velvety night and I felt a twinge of homesickness. I heard the adults whisper to each other quietly, so my translator could not pick it up. They were probably still wondering what to think of me. I noticed a few of the children inching towards me, their heads cocked in curiosity. But if the little ones came too close they would be shooed away by the adults. It made me sick seeing such young ones work as slaves. Child slavery on Earth was outlawed centuries ago. The Predators eventually lost interest in me and they all retired to their bunks. I did not see any empty bunks so I stayed in the corner. Pulling out the repair kit, I looked around for a hiding spot. There was a small space between the closest bunk and the wall and very quietly, tucked it inside.
I removed the translator from my ear and stared at it. How was it able to interpret the Yautja language? What was even stranger was that the buzzing and crackling became less frequent as the slaves continued to speak, like the processor was learning. It made me wonder if some form of A.I. was installed in the machine. But why would that be necessary? The old ones never needed A.I. to work and it would certainly make it more expensive for the everyday consumer to use; if it was meant for the public. My thoughts were interrupted by a loud growl from my stomach followed by a cramp. There was little hope of me getting any more food or water tonight. A movement caught my eye and I peered across the room. In the moonlight, I saw a female Predator, with bright red eyes, lying on a bunk and staring blankly at me. We watched each other for a while then I turned away. I leaned my head against the wall and rubbed my exposed arms. I was surprised how cold this planet got at night. Shivering, I closed my eyes and I fell into a restless sleep.
A loud roar woke me from my sleep and light flooded into the dark room. The slaves stirred from their sleep as a red-cloaked slave master and two guards came into the room, beating those who did not wake up quickly. Rubbing my eyes, I stretched from my cramped position. Looking down I saw a ragged blanket covering my shoulders and legs. Shaking my head in confusion I stood up, tied back my hair and clipped the translator to my ear. The slave master roughly grabbed my arm and pulled me so close to his face I had to stand on my toes to keep my balance. One of his eyes had a huge bruise circling it. I suppressed a giggle.
"Now we'll see how long you'll last ooman!" Red Cloak hissed in my face.
He threw me out into the Great Hall and I stumbled into a line of slaves. Following the line, I stepped into a giant mess hall. I gasped when I saw over a hundred slaves sitting in tables, eating silently out of bowls. Yautja guards walked through the aisles while watching the slaves, holding whips in their hands. The line moved to the left side of the mess hall towards a counter, where a male Yautja was distributing bowls filled with a yellow paste and a cup of dirty water. As I stepped up to the counter he sneered at me.
"Pray this food kills you ooman, the work certainly will."
I glared at the Predator, grabbed my food and walked towards the tables. One of them was half empty and I sat down. The nearby Predators shuffled away from me as if I had a contagious disease. I ignored them and stared at my food, making a face at the garbage smelling paste. I took off my mask, scooped a bit of the food with my fingers, held my breath and stuck it in my mouth. I nearly gagged on the sour tasting gruel, but I forced it down. I took another bite and swallowed it. Hunger forced me to finish the bowl and I washed it down with the water, which did not taste any better. I lowered my head and close my eyes, trying to stop myself from throwing up. Holy crap, how can these slaves eat this shit? I thought. When my stomach finally calmed down I raised my head and put the converter back on. I saw the red-eyed female again, sitting in a table across from me, staring. What’s her problem? She continued to watch at me for a while, then went back to her breakfast.
After the morning meal, the slaves were rounded up and divided into groups. My group of twenty slaves were led outside to a landing pad, near the citadel. The suns were just beginning to rise, but already it felt hot and humid. Surrounding the landing pad were green barked trees, but it looked as if they had been pruned back. I did not have time to take in more scenery when a huge cargo ship landed softly on the field and a ramp descended from the back. It was incredible how quiet it was compared to the ships on Earth. The guards shouted at us to unload the ship. Climbing up the ramp I unhooked the mesh that held the silver crates and tried to lift one of them. It was heavy and I only managed to lift it two inches off the ground before dropping it. A male slave snorted, pushed me rudely out of the way and picked up the crate. He travelled down the ramp and quickly joined the line of slaves. Someone pushed me from behind and I fell onto another crate.
"Hurry up ooman!" a guard yelled, raising his whip threateningly.
Not wanting a beating I picked up a smaller crate and raced down the ramp to where the other slaves placed the cargo onto a loading car. For the whole morning I did the same thing over again, unloading and loading cargo ships, without any food, water or rest. The suns beating down on the exposed pad was becoming unbearable. Several times I asked for the slaves help, but all I got for a reply was the cold shoulder or a growl. By midday the suns were at their highest, the day was scorching and I was ready to collapse. As I carried a crate off the sixth ship I tripped and fell to my knees, dropping the load in my hands. The crate bounced loudly down the ramp, causing slaves to jump out of the way, some of them losing their crates. Two guards ran towards me and raised their whips.
"Pauk-de ooman!" one of them yelled.
CRACK! The whip hit my back, the leather knots tearing my shirt and flesh. I screamed and fell onto the metal floor. CRACK! Another lash, this one harder. I tried to move away but I got a solid kick in the belly, knocking the wind out of me. The two guards whipped my back again, both of them laughing as I cried out in pain. Five lashes later the Predators pulled me to my feet, made me walk down and pick up the lost cargo, then kicked me in the rear to get me back in line. I felt blood trickle down my back and I shut my eyes, quickly wiping away any tears. I did not want to give the guards any satisfaction of seeing me pain! As I worked I received no sympathetic looks from the slaves.
The two suns began to set, finally ending the day's work and all the slaves were ushered back into the building. My arms and legs felt like lead, my back throbbed and burned and was crusted with blood. Hunger pangs wrenched my stomach, my throat screamed for water and my face and shoulders felt hot. I knew I had gotten a sunburn. We were led back into the mess hall for our meal of mashed up green stuff and dirty water. I had to cradle the bowl in my arms so I would not drop it. My hands shook as I tried to eat, causing the food to spill onto the table. Trying not to scream my frustration, I took a time out and looked up to see the same female as before. I glared at her until she went back to her food. I managed to get the mash and water down before we were ushered back to our compound. Like a zombie I headed for the corner, collapsed in a heap and instantly fell asleep.
Hours later I opened my eyes to a slit and saw that the room was dark. I could not feel the hard ground, but a mattress. My shirt and mask was removed and I felt something wet covering the wounds on my back. A damp cloth gently rubbed my face, wiping off sweat and dirt. Opening my eyes wider I saw someone beside me, but I could only make out the shape of a head and shoulders.
"Mom?" I croaked. The translator was still attached to my ear and it translated the word to the Yautja language. I heard a male Predator laugh.
"Did you hear that? The ooman called you mom!”
I remembered where I was, but I was too tired to care.
"Honestly Za'Becc, why are you helping that creature? She's not worth it. She'll be dead by the end of the week."
I followed the voice and saw the male Predator leaning on one of the bunks, with his arms crossed over his chest. I wished it was lighter so I could see more detail.
"Because Xeenan, there's something...special about ooman. I can feel it," the Yautja in front of me said.
Looking closer I realised the Yautja was a female, the same female that had not stopped gawking at me since I arrived. She took the cloth off my back, rinsed it and started to clean around my wounds. I moaned in pain. The male called Xeenan threw up his hands and growled.
"Za'Becc you say that about everyone. What makes his inferior being so special?"
"I don't know. It's just a strong feeling."
Xeenan groaned and shook his head, his thick locks falling to the front of his shoulders. "I'm telling you, don't get involved with the ooman. Nothing good will come of it."
Za'Becc stopped cleaning my back. "This wouldn't have anything to do with the incident you had with the oomans, would it?"
Xeenan's head whipped back and forth.
"Not so loud!" he hissed, "I don't want you even mentioning it! You know I have a good reason to hate them!"
Za'Becc sighed and went back to cleaning my cuts.
"Yes, I know," she whispered.
It was all I could stay awake for...