The jag’d’ja atoll was bustling with commotion as usual. The might floating vessel which offered a place for roaming Yautja to refuel, repair and restock their ships was also a place for drinking, dining, fighting, and mating for Yautja of all castes and classes. This was one of the many of these vessels that idled silently in the black depths of the universe. This was the atoll that K’Shai and most of her relatives of every generation dominated and oversaw.
The atoll was an enchanting place to be for any Yautja. The massive internal architecture provided the senses with a feeling of home. The vast rooms, cathedral ceilings , and labrinous corridors were all meticulously adorned with ceremonious inscriptions, shells of kain-de amedha, skulls, weapons and other trophies of past hunts dating back centuries. Bony thresholds with chants, prayers, and stories graced every doorway. A thick, heavy air flowed through the entire vessel, filled with the scents of food, blood, and hormones.
The mid levels of the mother ship provided the Yautja with their temples, fighting arenas, cantinas, and even steamy hot pools for a wide variety of activities. The chambers for the higher ranked Yautja as well as the control and engine rooms were on the upper levels and the lower castes found their bunks in the belly of the ship. All castes would share the amenities of the vessel, which more often than not caused the atoll to be an extremely violent place. This was truly home away from home for any Yautja.
K’Shai stood in a wide-open cantina with some of her female relatives. Her sisters and aunts and her own mother and mother’s mother mingled around the massive dining area talking of their young, their new and old mates, and other topics that females concerned themselves with.
A lone Yautja female was a sight to behold unto herself, as she was much larger in build and height than a male, and much more ferocious. Female Yautja dominated the species in will, power, and intelligence. Together, the group of twenty-five women commanded the large cantina. They remained in half of the giant oval room, while most of the other drinking and dining Yautja held to the other side. Those not of the bloodlines of this family stayed well away and were careful not to cast and unwelcome glance in their direction. For these intimidating Yautja were of the Kaunte D’areen Clan, the Clan of the White Dragon.
The Clan had an ancient history, spanning back to the dawning of the race, but it was one Yautja warrior named Kaun’taun-de, White Sword, that had put his blood’s worth above all others, and elevated his Clan to the highest level possible.
History and songs alike recount that during the early ages of space travel, when Yautja were virgins to the stars, it was Kaun’taun-de alone, armed, appropriately, with only his favorite bony white sword that forged his way through an onslaught of aliens that saw fit to attempt to destroy the Yautja.
Kaun’taun-de, known as a pale Yautja with no dominating markings on his skin, had commanded the leading vessel of the Yautja fleet to their assailants head on in the stars. It was his abilities and tactics as a war leader that had brought the enemy advance crashing down onto the surface of one Yautja moon, Rje, at midnight. The alien assailants were then met with brutal force from the landing Yautja army.
The foolish, but brave and mighty aliens that dared to exterminate the Yautja people, were often referred to as dragons, both as an insult and as a description for their anatomy. Their ghostly skin, elongated heads, sharp teeth and talons, and hulking bodies held a close resemblance to dragons. The hard leathery armor that they were was nearly as tough as a dragon’s hide and the aliens could generate a powerful source of heat naturally from their bodies.
Gaun dtaik-dte, The Midnight Wars, lasted three weeks until Kaun’taun-de himself carved the skull and spine out of the alien commander’s body at the exact time of night that moon battle had begun. In Kaun’taun-de’s honor, the Clan to which he belonged had been renamed to commemorate the victory. It was a victory for the Yautja people that would always be remembered through ceremonies and rite and rituals in honor of the ferocious battle. A massive ceremony has been held every hundred cycles since then, and the tradition still continues.
Kaun’taun-de died two days after the final battle, after he had taken fifty mates. Those born into the White Dragon Clan today have only a mere fraction of Kaun’taun-de’s blood in their veins, still the Clan is proud of its heritage and standing among the Yautja people, and that dominance has never been questioned.
K’Shai and her kin were here on the atoll for a gathering. The Yautja have strong family ties and the more noble the blood, the closer the bonds. So, it was fairly often that the female members of a family would gather. K’Shai had been on this atoll for nearly a month while her mate Hunted. So, she kept herself occupied watching the foolish young males spar in the kehrite, and passing the time with her family. Several of her sisters had expressed a desire to mate, and were watching the males on the atoll with a heightened interest.
This was, for the small group of males from the clan Gki-tach, a rare treat. They were sitting at a long table on the opposite side of the cantina, trying carefully to avoid any offense to these powerful females of such noble breeding. If they behaved properly, respectfully, perhaps their own seeds could find root in the Kaunte D’areen.
Many of these females were not dressed for the Hunt. Although K’Shai herself was a female Hunter, she, like many of her kin here, was garbed in cloth and leather robes ornately decorated to one’s standing among their group. Some of the garments were designed to hide a female’s growing belly, some were elegant robes for common use, others were designed to indicate that a female was open and any male that dared to fight for her may do so with a courting spar.
Even without a weapon to hold, a female Yautja unwanting of a particular male’s advance could dismember or kill a would-be mate with ease. Perhaps of all the Yautja, the Kaunte D’areen females were the most well known for their ferocity before, during, and after mating. To engage a potential mate of this stature, most males would certainly need all the weapons he could hold. The young males in the cantina that were so keenly interested in the females before them had certainly never taken on such a challenge before, and no doubt, did not fully appreciate what they had coming to them.
Some of K’Shai’s sisters had finally, after a long while, become a little more interested in the mere presence of the young males across the room. Once the group of hormonal males had realized that they were at least noticed, they quickly began to grow louder and more confident as they recounted the tales of their adventures over mugs of drink.
K’Shai ignored the boisterous youth as they grew ever louder to reenact several heated moments of a hunt they shared together, trying so thoroughly to impress the females. K’Shai was uninterested, unimpressed, and very unavailable. She watched with amusement as some her younger sisters and cousins took a curious interest in the attempts of the males to impress them, however, she was well on her way to full term with her seventh cub by her mate, Rochant.
Rochant was a Hunt Leader, Honored Elder, and of the noblest blood the Kaunte D’areen could offer. He was one of the purest blood of Kaun’taun-de still alive. He was also K’Shai’s bonded mate. It had been over fifty years since they mated first. They had had the ancient, rarely practiced ritual of bonding performed over thirty years ago. They shared themselves only with each other, and the bonding ritual announced to all Yautja and to the Gods that they would live and die together with Honor.
They had indeed been together for most of K’Shai’s life. Rochant had been her teacher, her Leader, and they had hunted together fearlessly for decades. It was a rarity for one to be without the other. He would usually stay with her when she was in child and could not hunt, and all other times, they would prowl the galaxy for the most challenging prey. However, Rochant had been training a group of young would-be warriors and they were more than ready for their final Hunt before graduating to the rank of Blooded, and K’Shai’s condition could not outweigh the readiness of the young students.
Rochant was their Leader. He had trained them for the Hunt and he would Blood those that hunted to his standards so they could hunt on their own and prove their worth to each other, and potential mates.
The group of young bloods still displayed themselves prominently in the cantina. When they felt as though there was not enough attention being given them, they would grow louder yet to be sure the females did not forget about them. One of the males stood up, howling with laughter when the others told of the desperate tactics of their quarry during their final, futile battle against Death.
“Stupid creatures, but worthy enough prey,” one said boldly.
“Interesting Hunt. A proud trophy,” another agreed, holding the spine and skull of one of his victories before him.
The young males continued their display and finally, some of the amused or vaguely interested of K’Shai’s kin moved to the males’ able. The look of excitement was obvious on their faces, and was matched only by the scent of their heated pheromones.
K’Shai nudged the elbow of her direct half-sister, K’raun-di, as she started over to the table. K’raun-di and K’Shai shared not only the same sire, but the same ferocity as well. She knew K’raun-di could not possibly be interested in the males after their over bearing and boisterous display.
“Not really,” K’raun-di said. “But they had better know how to back their words up.”
She smiled slyly and headed for the table. K’Shai smiled and thought she might like to see what happens next, wondering how many of the male suitor’s bones K’raun-di would break before she decided she was done playing.
It did not take long for the subsequent fight to explode. K’Shai amused herself idly with her family as all watched the males learn a ferocious lesson on how mating should be done. Eventually, she lost her interest and had taken back to her conversation with her relatives, ignoring all together the howling and smashing on the other side of the cantina.
Later, K’Shai headed to the communication room. It was nearing the time that Rochant should be done with his Hunt, and he and a freshly blooded group of young warriors would be returning. Their destination would be to the Home world. Rather than coming to the atoll, it would be far easier, with a group of excited hormonal young bloods on board for Rochant to simply bring his ship home, as it was closer than the atoll. K’Shai kept the shuttle from the ship and planned to meet Rochant home, where she would come to full term in her mei’sa.
She pressed a button on the computer console and several monitors and panels lighted to life. In a few moments, her signal was sent and Rochant’s aged, elegant face was on the panel. She could tell he was keeping his pride under containment so as not to further expand the size of his students’ egos. Still, it was obvious to see from the subtle hints in his deep golden eyes for K’Shai who knew him so well, that the hunt had gone impressively and Rochant had produced another fine crop of hunters destined to becomes elders, honored, and leaders, and hold Rochant’s reputation to the same high regard it had held for nearly three centuries.
K’Shai lowered her eyes respectfully to him. Rochant was an elder, a Leader, and her mate, and he deserved nothing less. Reawakened returned the gesture, not only because K’Shai was his mate and a highly honored member of the Clan, but also because she was female. It never did a male good to lack respect to a female, especially a temperamental, moody, late-term in child female.
Rochant had not lived so long and produced so many fine offspring and young hunters by showing disrespect to females. He had grown very attached to K’Shai, respected her and her abilities, and loved her for it. Although K’Shai was a tough and formidable female, she could be amazingly gentle and mindful that she could easily kill Rochant during heated matings when he was most vulnerable to her youthful energy.
However, besides a few deep scratched and bites during the most arousing exotic moments, K’Shai had never hurt Rochant. H e knew she was demonstrating one thing that she had always possessed and used accordingly, something lost on many young Yautja, both male and female; self control.
Still, early in the courting, spars and mating had been quite ferocious. Reawakened knew that when K’Shai was of age, she had killed three potentials that sought to sow their seeds in her. He had never admitted, not even to her, but when he first approached her for courting, his nerves were running rampant. Intercourse had toned down slightly over the last decade as both of their years counted up. K’Shai was growing more mature, and Rochant was still an elder. There was something to gentle mating that got his body heated just as much as an all out battle.
He stared at her for a moment on the monitor screen and stretched his upper mandibles into a smile. She did not ask how his hunt had gone; there was no need. She merely asked if it was done. Reawakened nodded his head and informed her that his ship would be landing on the homeworld in about forty hours.
Although she had intended to meet Rochant home the same day he arrived there, K’Shai had found herself so caught up over the last few days with family members that she had not seen in many years that she had decided to stay on the atoll somewhat longer than originally planned. She would now not arrive back on the homeworld for six rotations. There would still be plenty of time for her to make preparations for the birth of their child.
When the conversation ended and K’Shai had established her arrival date, she met with several of her kin before she left, then headed to her chambers to gather her things. She strode down the surreal corridors, lit dimly with amber hued lights that made the atoll comfortingly heated. The cool metallic black chitin that lined the walls created shadows up and down the curved passage.
Most of her family had retreated to the temples, bed chambers, or kehrites in the mid sections of the ship. The young children that had waited impatiently for their mothers to finish their conversations were now deeply involved in learning the Yautja Way, the Path, fighting against each other more in play than actual training, for they were too young to spar and a learn under a Leader. They would learn the basics from their mothers and from mistakes against their opponents.
The older adolescents were sparring more ferociously as their mothers and occasional blooded hunters looked on. K’Shai’s most recent child was a promising young male Rochant had chosen to name Ta’rhuc-de, literally fearsome. He had always been the most dangerous of his peers, the most willing to fight, but he had the intelligence and abilities that marked him for certain to become a great Hunter.
Now K’Shai’s thoughts were on her current child. She left he atoll and quickly brought her small shuttlecraft to life, activating the computer and engines. She sighed and stretched and leaned back in the seat as the shuttle zoomed quickly away from the atoll. She passively watched the stars drift by beyond the large window at the nose of the craft and allowed her thoughts to drift.
She caressed her belly gently, considering the fetus within. It was another male. That much she knew already. She wondered when she would conceive a female again as she only had two mei’sauni,’ daughters.
After a while she stood and stepped out of the control room while the shuttle sailed smoothly on auto towards its destination. The small bed chamber was in the back of the vessel. It was a bit cramped, but the shuttle was only used for short transports instead of the lengthy trips that most full size hunting vessels were taken on. Still, there was plenty of storage room for supplies and trophies within the chamber.
K’SHAI removed the long, sleeveless robe she had been wearing and sat on the edge of the matted bed with a plate of fruit and finely cut filet. The hours passed silently and slowly. Time alone was rarer for K’SHAI and she realized she did not prefer it at all. She was not used to being without Rochant, and completely without company at all, but as she glanced at the chronometer, she knew that in just over five rotations, she would be home again.
Her stomach lurched as the chid within shuffled about. She grunted and sat down in the command seat. At the same moment a light blinked suddenly and a beeping sound brought her attention to the computer console. A quick tap of a button brought a screen to life and it rose slowly to a slight angle atop the console, then flashed brightly and Rochant’s smile greeted her. K’Shai
smiled and lowered her h head, grateful for the break in the monotonous sounds of the humming engines. She did not recall that the small, but powerful engines were so loud, but it had been quite a long time since she was in a shuttle, and even longer since she was in one alone. She deiced that the silence on the small craft amplified the engine’s hum.
Since he was alone in his chambers aboard his hunt ship, Rochant was more inclined to discuss the successful Hunt and the impressive tactics of two of his most outstanding students.
“They learned from the best,” Kshai had said when he was done, adding to his ego.
Rochant bowed his head appreciatively and spread his upper mandibles wide.
They talked about the arriving child and thought of a few potential names, although actual naming would not be done until the cub was somewhat older. They had also talked of Ta’rhuc-de, N’ain-gry-de, and Sh’ri-dach, three of their other offspring. Word had been received that N’ain-gry-de had been promoted in rank within his hunting pack after a very honorable victory on a particularly savage hunt which resulted in two fatalities. K’Shai told that Sh’ri-dach was bearing her second cub and planned to return home in a few weeks to come to full term with her family by her side, as was the female Yautja’s way.
Rochant and K’Shai talked for nearly and hour before he had leave and land the ship and undergo the ritualistic formalities of presenting the newest pack of Blooded Hunters before th leaders of the Clan.
A slight wave of sadness fell over K’Shai as Rochant’s face faded from the screen and the blank monitor sank back into idleness. She could not help but feel as though she would never see him again. She cursed her foolishness under her breath, reminded herself that in a few short rotations, she would be home, and returned to her bed chamber again for some rest.
A spare helmet and miscellaneous pieces of hunting armor were scattered about the small quarters and K’SHAI mindlessly pushed them out of the was with her foot as she slid onto the thick leathery mat that was the bed.
Soon, she found herself lost in a Hunter’s dream. Vivid images of hunts she had been on flowed through her sleeping mind. She was hunting along side Rochant, clad in full body armor that made the Yautja party seem oddly robotic, but the was a Queen’s Hunt, and a kain-de amedha Queen was never to be taken lightly.
That hunt had taken place six years ago on an uninhabited jungle world that reminded Kshai very much of her homeworld. The hot breeze ruffled the tree topes and the Queen’s wicked hissing pierced the thick armor of the Yautja that stalked her.
Suddenly, the familiar scenery of a hunt long past dissolved away. The hunters were gone, and Rochant stood a few meters from K’SHAI, approaching her, but seeming lost in a thick mist. She pulled to her feet, blood pouring from her side and leg. She seemed covered in blood and unable to move, though she still struggled to her feet. The Queen’s hissing filled the air and grew ever louder.
K’Shai glanced out to the dark mist, her keen eyes could not penetrate the haze, and when she turned back to Rochant, he was gone, lost in the darkness all around her. K’Shai suddenly realized that she was no longer injured, but the Queen’s hissing seemed louder and more intense yet and suddenly a savage roar rang out that shook the very ground.
K’Shai jumped to her feet, startled by the strange sound in her dreaming mind. The realization slowly sank in that the hissing and smoke was not only in her dreams The bed chambers were filling up quickly with a gray-blue smoke and she could hear the shuttle’s engines moaning in agony.
She quickly opened the dora dn found the corridor ablaze. The plasma fumes were almost unbearable and her lungs were beginning to burn. She grabbed for the helmet and emergency respirator unit that she had kicked under the bed earlier and quickly donned it, then headed for the control room, trying her best to avoid the fierce flames.
Oddly, no alarms were sounding, no computer displayed that anything was wrong at all. In fact, K’Shai soon found, the computer systems were not functioning at all. Everything was dead. She tapped on console after console trying to initiate any function but nothing responded. Sparks flew up from the black wall and K’Shai cursed loudly as another massive explosion sent the small craft spinning uncontrollable through the stars.
In an instant, K’Shai was pulled off her feet. The hull had been compromised and the vacuum of space threatened to suck her in. She flew backwards and slammed powerfully into the back wall of the rounded room. She gasped from the impact and thought she felt a few ribs shatter from the force, but she had much more drastic concerns at the moment. She was being pulled to open control room door.
K’Shai grabbed at a computer console near the door and held tight, trying with one hand to hold against the vacuum and reaching with the other to manually slide the heavy door shut. Adrenaline was charging freely through her body and she used all the force she could to shut the control room door just a moment before the vacuum sucked out the respirator unit that was keeping her alive. She grabbed the unit and strapped it to her shoulders. After a few seconds, K’Shai moved further away from the burning back wall and stood in the center of the control room.
She watched the stars spinning by light years away beyond the giant window and wondered what had gone wrong and how much of the remainder of the shuttle had been destroyed. For that seemed like hours, K’Shai tried to start any terminal at all, especially communications. Finally, after a futile battle with the equipment and wires that sparked and smoked up against her attempts, she sank down into the command seat, resigning herself to death among the stars.
This was not at all the honorable downfall she had hoped to meet. Perhaps the worst part of it all was that noone would know what had happened. Every Yautja wises to meet he Black Warrior proudly, head held high, after an honorable battle that led to their death. With that, oc course, Yautja also wanted to be remembered for their bravery and their fight, so honorable death amongst their peers was insurance that their story would be told. K’Shai stared out into the swirling darkness around her, certain that she had been taken far off course from her flight patch. She could perceive a steady downward spiral of the shuttles nose as she watched the stars spin out of sight.
There was no way for her to communicate with her people, with Rochant, no wa to control the ship, and thus her fate, and no way to self detonate. She was not hunting, so she had no hunting armor on her which would have the self-destruct mechanism available to her. The armor that aboard the shop no doubt floating uselessly though space. She was trapped in the control room amidst blank computer monitors, and soon, even the amber lamps behind the walls blinked their last strobe of light and resigned to darkness.
The shuttle spun and sailed, quiet, listless, dark, and pointless, through the depths of space. K’Shai stood, sat, paced, sat again, stared and waited. She stared at the useless computers, the dark walls, and her swollen belly. She sighed heavily and considered the unborn cub for a long while. A thousand questions rose to her thoughts concerning the life her chile would have had, the hunts he could have experienced, and the honor he could have known. Frustrated, K’Shai forced herself to admit hat it was pointless to wonder of such things. Death was imminent, for her and the child, and the was no use at all driving herself into madness during her last moments wondering of things that would never be.
However, she did soon find her thoughts drifting to Rochant. She was certain he would come looking for her, perhaps within this same rotation when he did not hear from her. She wondered how long it take him to find her. She did have enough breathable air in the respirator unit, she confirmed to herself with a quick peek. In fact, the light was still holding steady red, telling her that the tank was almost full. The air supply could last for many days. She had no food or water, but she was capable of surviving without them for a long while if need be.
It was, theoretically possible that she could be found alive and well, she thought. She knew she had been injured during the vacuum, but she did not think it was sever. A few broken ribs mostly, she thought. It only hurt badly when the child moved.
The idea of surviving, starving, in child, floating idly through space on a destroyed vessel did not content her for long at all. It was certainly not the heroic life, or death, that she had hoped for. She sat and waited quietly as hours unknown ticked by. She stood and paced again, cradling her abdomen, offering comfort to the oblivious child within.
Slowly, the faint glow of a cold world close by came into view through the spinning window. K’Shai watched with only a mild interest. Gone were her thoughts of floating listlessly for days through space until her beloved Rochant had found her and child alive and well. She watched the planet beyond come closer to the vessel as time passed by slowly and she knew she staring at a cold, dark, and pointless Death.
It was only a matter of time before she was caught in a gravity pull of a planet or moon in the system she was entering. The powerless vessel would be pulled to flaming end and K’Shai along with it. With no way to moderate the speed of descent, the shuttle would be incinerated, fly apart, and what was left would crash tremendously into the ground. At least it was some content to know that despite a pointless and honor less death, her body would be incinerated, which was the traditional, respectful Yautja way.
K’Shai watched as the little planet zipped by her window far away. The ship was not close enough to be pulled in. Slowly, another world began to form in the distance, and yet another. It seemed the Gods were giving her a choice of worlds to be burned upon.
Time passed. It was impossible to gauge just how fast the ship was traveling, but K’Shai knew the speed must have been great. She had passed three distant planets and several small moons. She was amazed that she had not been caught up in a gravity pull yet. She did not know how long she had been adrift, and could not recall where the nearest star system off her flight path was. The thought that perhaps she had been knocked out for a period of time came across her mind and left K’Shai to wonder just how long she had been drifting, but she confirmed to herself that she could not have lost consciousness for any real length of time as she glanced down at the air reserve indicator.
She decided that such concerns were trivial at his point anyway. Nothing really mattered, and nothing could be done to change her destiny at any rate, So, she sat again and waited more. Quietly she continues to caress her round belly and waited in silence, staring out a the passing stars, moons, and planets, vaguely wondering which one she would be pulled into. She decided that the worst part of this journey was not the idea of dying alone with no one to know, but it was just the mere fact that she was waiting for it to happen.
The thought of suicide had crossed her mind several times during the long wait, but each time, her motherly instinct overrode such an idea. Despite the death that awaited her, she could not kill herself while in child. There was no honor in such a thing. So, she continued to wait.
She had been hunting successfully and honorably for many long years and had produced a fine crop of strong, honorable, and feared offspring, worthy to be part of the Kaunte D’areen. Each carried on the bloodlines of Rochant and herself and continued the proud ways of the Clan. She had followed that Way with perfect ferocity, respect, and loyalty for her entire life, passed that Way on to her offspring , and watched each of them follow the first steps onto their long Paths in life. This was the end of her Path, K’Shai thought once more.
She had never lost the grand thoughts of that glorious death on a Hunt, with all the honor, courage, and fame that could be fathomed, and her comrades and mate standing by. However, those thoughts now seemed long gone and unrealistic. Rochant was nowhere she was alone and her ship was now hurtling toward a planet looming in the very near distance. The Black Warrior was stalking the stars tonight, and K’Shai was in His threshold.
With a great moan from the hull, th shuttle tore forward forcefully. It was done. The ship was caught in the gravity pull of this planet it had been heading towards and now the hull creaked and groaned and threatened to fall apart before even entering the atmospheric layers of the alien world. K’Shai stood up from the command seat and watched, mandibles clenched shut and chin high as the ship propelled to its imminent doom. She could see the single sun star that lighted the worlds of this system and that perhaps she would have preferred to have sunk onto the surface of it instead.
However, as the small craft dropped further into the gravity field and rushed at the planet’s surface, the outer hull began to heat up almost as much as if it had been heading into the sun’s surface. The hull began to glow a bright yellow, which rapidly changed into red, then the first sings of glowing white practically blinded K’Shai’s thermal sensitive eyes.
She held tight onto the back of the command chair as the shuttle began to shake and rock with the effects of the downfall. She would die on her feet, facing the end of her Path as a Yautja should.
The outer hull suddenly cracked from the excessive heat. Steam and plasma flowed from the crevices. The plasma flow to the front of the shuttle, which had been protected from the rear fire by a thick firewall and force field, was now beginning to heat up as the nose of the ship continued down. It was only a matter of time, K’Shai knew, before the plasma reached its breaking point. The explosion would be phenomenal. If there would have been witnesses.
Although the nose of the craft was burning off, K’Shai thought that there should be enough of the firewall and heavy protective tubing around the plasma flow to keep it from igniting for a least a few minutes longer. She knew she crash before the shuttle exploded. However, she was no so sure that the shuttle would not fly apart in the mean time. The floor rattled and shook violently and the walls began to crack around her. Suddenly, the heavy metal rivets that held the grated flooring in place popped loose and flew in all directions.
Outside, the world was coming into crisp view and growing ever larger. Briefly, K’Shai had the odd feeling that she knew this world, but there was no time to consider such things. The shuttle broke the cloud cover over the planet in a fiery storm and streaked across the sky. A loud explosion and crumping of the floor below her feet send K’Shai flying through the control room.
She landed on the opposite side of the room, winded from the impact to already broken ribs against a computer terminal. She wrapped her arms protectively around her unborn child and struggles back up to her feet against the violent shaking of the shuttle. She had only the briefest glimpse as she rode, though of the peaks of a mountain outside the window. The cold, snow-capped tips glistened sharply against the flaming vessel as its nose flew past. The remaining parts of the belly of the shuttle collided with the tup of the mountain with a thunderous roar that tore the ship apart.
K’Shai was through again, though she was able to grab another seat to keep herself upright. She roared with the effort and turned to the window again as the front of the vessel exploded wildly as it slammed into the ground. The impact was so forceful it cause the shuttle to split and fall apart. The hull cracked outside, and the inner walls fell in on K’Shai. She was thrown across the room again, unable to keep herself on her feet this time against the sharp impact. The time, K’Shai truly did lose conscious thought.
She did not come around for several long minutes. She did not know that the craft had skidded to a halt after creating a two-mile trench of burning plasma fires and debris. The only thing she was aware of when K’Shai opened her eyes was the severity of the damage, evident by the large pieces of the inner walls and hull that were holding her down to the fissured, burning floor. She was so charged with adrenaline that she did not eve realize she was injured at all until she saw the massive amounts of her own blood staining the hull, floor, and remaining wreckage that surrounded, and pinned her.
It was amazing that she was even alive at all, but she had no time to consider that. The overheating hull was burning her skin and she could smell overheated plasma threatening to ignite below her body. She was alive, and she could move at least half of her body, so there was an effort to be made. The desire to die here and now in the shuttle was overridden by two thoughts, her unbreakable love for Rochant and her instinctual and undeniable motherly nature to protect her child.
She glanced up and saw the bright light of day above the torn open hill of the shuttle. Kshai reached forward with her right arm and grabbed a broken edge of the collapsed ceiling. She paid no attention to the scalding sensation that shot through her right hand at the contact with the overheated metal. She had no choice but to use whatever she could to pull herself upright. She was weak and gasping for air, pinned down, and injured. She focused her concentration on getting up. She could not fo anything useful with her left arm, and one her legs was tapped at am awkward angle under a large chunk of the hull plating that covered her.
Her long robe, that had been so ornately and beautifully decorated with beads, bones, jewels, an metallic fibers, was charred, torn, and currently helping to hold her down to the hot floor. She fumbled angrily tring to get her obviously broken arm of the confining restraint of the leather robe.
As K’Shai righted herself, howling with the sheer pain that shot through her battered body, she was certain she could hear a strange whirring sort of sound. She wasn’t sure if that meant explosion imminent or not, but she had no particular desire to find. She defied the pain in her body and pushed at the hull that was crushing her right left. After serval attempts, she was abl to move the large piece just enough to slide her leg out from under it. She knew her leg was broken as well, but could not assess the severity. A strange sort of alarm had filled her ears. It was coming from the distance, she thought, from somewhere beyond the burning wreckage.
She pulled herself up, propped oddly against the hull with one good arm, and one good leg. She breathed deeply and fought the pain enough to thrust herself over a broken slab of hull. She slid carefully but quickly down the side of the shuttle and flopped into the ground weakly, coughing, gagging on her own blood and fighting desperately for breath. The whirring sound continued to fill her ears, accompanied by the strange alarm that was growing louder, or closer. K’Shai focused her attention on getting up and getting away as quickly as sh e could. The thick layer of smoke that rose from the destroyed vessel and the sharp smells of plasma were the tell tale signs that the vessel was going to blow.
Crawling away at first, she was able to grasp a nearby tree and right herself. Once standing, however off balance and weakly, K’Shai hobbled away holding onto anything that could offer her support. She was barely twenty meters away when the plasma broke. There was no indication, no warning crack or spark. The vessel simply exploded ferociously, sending debris, flame, and smoke in all directions. Most of the vessel was simply incinerated instantly into a thick cloud of blue-black flames and smoke. Every tree in the area was charred and turned into a pile of burning ask and the heat from the fire melted the snow that covered the ground for hundreds of feet in all directions. K’Shai was picked up by the blast and thrown several dozen meters from the unimaginable force. She was too numbed with generalized pain to even notice when the torching flames hit her back and thighs, burning them severely.
It was not until K’Shai, wandering aimlessly, had slid down an embankment, fumbled to her feet again and crossed through a snow open field to the shelter of the trees beyond that the reality of the situation had finally begun to impress itself up on her. She was aching horribly from everywhere. The air was brisk and cold against her charred and bare skin and several inches of snow covered the ground all around her. She became increasingly more away of two very disturbing facts as her breathing hardened and grew more labored despite the respirator and her steps slowed due to the increased pain awareness.
First, she realized that her left arm was broken in two places, and one bone was jutting out from a large area of torn and charred skin in the middle of her forearm. She also knew her right left was indeed broken as well. She could not bear weight on it at all and thought she could bring it forwards from the hip, she could not feel it. Besides those breaks, she became aware of the plasma burns across her back and thighs and she realized that if a few ribs were broken before the crash, they must have all been broken into several pieces now. Breathing was intense pain and bending was nearly impossible.
She coughed up blood with every raspy expiration and struggled against pain with every inspiration. She kept moving on although she had no idea where she was or where she was going. Her mind was flashing, growing dazed and weak. The visions of the cold ground and occasional warm boyd from a woodland animal blurred and tormented her tired eyes. She grew weaker with every step and found it hard to keep the fuzzy images straight in her mind.
There was one thought that kept nagging her mind, though. She had been to this world. She knew it. The smells she could detect between the stenches of charred skin and ship were distantly familiar to her. The strange whirring sound she had heard above the crash site, even the alarm, the chaos of commotion from her fire show stirred faded memories into K’Shai’s weary mind.
She knew this world, She had hunted here. Her people had hunted here for centuries. This world was home to an intelligent, deadly race with powerful weapons that provided a worthy challenge equal to that of a Yautja’s greatness. The was the home world of the race referred to pyode amehda, the Soft Meat. This was the home world of the race of humans.
K’Shai continued on for as long as she could through the woods. She came to the edge of another field and stopped for a moment. The short stop had allowed her body to take a feel of all the pain it been experiencing. The cold air chilled her to the bone and temperature seemed to be dropping with every passing second. She was weak, tired, and utterly injured. The exertion just to breath was overwhelming.
She glanced off to her left and saw blurry images of large, four legged animals rushing away from her as they caught her scent on the cold air. To her right, a dark silhouette of a structure played across her eyes, occasionally taking a square form, but the image was lost to darkness as K’Shai shut her eyes. She coughed and gasped again, spitting up blood. She tried in vain to move, to bring her broken leg forward. The stress on her freezing, broken body was too much to bear. She went into a spasmodic fit of coughing and gasping and then collapsed.
With only a leather garment to cover the essential parts of her body, and helmet over her head, K’Shai thought, as she fell face first to the ground that she would most likely freeze to death in the cold air. She cursed herself for not having found and donned heating mesh and any bits of armor she had in those bed chambers that were now destroyed. It was a useless thought, and it was her last one. She shut her eyes.
“Wow!” The brothers exclaimed with excitement as they stared out at the morning sky.
Jason and Ryan Mitchell stood just beyond the barn, gazing up at the fire trail that had lit up the sky. Their mother, Anna, was in the house watching the media coverage that filled every station while her youngest child, Tammy, sat coloring pictures, blissfully uninterested in the amazing event of that Wednesday morning. Ann’s husband Paul was out for most of the morning hauling some livestock to a local sale.
The news reports were all basically the same. In between the coverage of the snow storm and low temperatures that were expected to hit tonight, the reporters all told of an airplane that had apparently strayed off course, suffered engine failure, and fell from the sky after a spectacular fire show. One local police officer siad during his spotlight interview that even an hour past, the smoldering rubble was still too hot to go near. Rescue teams could do nothing but wait until the wreckage cooled down to fish for survivors. In the mean time, authorities had their hands full trying to figure out which plane went down and who was on it.
Reporters emphasized the unusual points of the crash. The plane had stuck down two miles away from where it came to rest. Television camera from helicopters showed the long trail of blazing fires and charred trees left in the plane’s wake. The heat was far more than would usually be expected, and it had caused a wide variety of speculations regarding the plane’s cargo. The questions asked all seemed to point towards some sort of act of terrorism gone awry because there was nothing worth attacking in this Northern farm country.
Paul returned home that evening with an impressive story of the view of the fireball he had while driving underneath it. He did not see the plane come down, but the bright streak that lit up the sky was far more interesting than hearing an auctioneer rattle off prices at a mile a minute. He saw with Ann and watched the news. The reports continued all day and into the night. Paul and Ann stayed up well past their children and saw in near silence as various interviews with local, state, and even federal officials filled the airways.
By the late night news broadcasts, the conclusions given were simple and clear cut. This was not an act of terrorism, rather a tragedy. This was simply an airplane crash of magnificent magnitude. Although authorities did state that there were obviously no survivors, they would not reveal the names of the passengers, or to whom the plane had belonged. The lack of information in that area did raise some questions and concerns but the officials in charge of the investigation quelled those thoughts quickly.
With the place crash story fully covered for the moment, the reports turned back to the snow that had begun to fall. Anywhere from six to thirteen inches of snow was predicted by morning, and the temperatures were expected to drop into the single digits throughout the night and all day tomorrow.
“Which means we’ll get three feet or none at all,” Paul sassed as he finally flipped the television off near midnight.
“Yeah,” Ann smiled, “but either way, the kids probably won’t have school tomorrow if the roads are bad.” She headed into the kitchen and put her glass in the sink, staring out the window above it to the sk that was lit up so brightly this morning. There was no hint of fire against the dark sky and falling snow, and as the reporters stated, most of the smaller fires had been extinguished.
“What a shame,” Ann whispered. Paul place a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently.
“Yeah, it is a tragedy.”
“I wonder who was on it?”
“Well,” Paul sighed, “they’ll probably say in a day or two after the families have been contacted.”
Quietness filled the room for a moment before Ann finally broke back through with a change of subject.
“You know, we’re getting low on wood, and I don’t want to crank up the heat if we don’t have to because it’ll cost too much.”
“Ann, don’t worry. We’ve got enough wood to get through all of February. Besides, if the kids are off tomorrow, I’ll take Jason and we’ll go chop some more.”
She smiled and nodded and they headed off to bed.
Ann woke up first in the morning at five o’clock and Paul soon followed to the scent of fresh hot coffee making its way up the stairs. The television was on and muted when he came down the steps, and he stopped for a moment to watch the scrolling of closed schools and businesses.
“They’re closed,” Ann called from the kitchen over a pan of frying eggs.
Paul nodded and started in to have a cup of coffee. “How much did we get?”
“We got about four inches, some places got ten,” Ann said. “You know what, though?”
“The snow didn’t stick anywhere along that trench from the crash. It was dropped down to three degrees overnight and not one single flake stuck to the path. It’s still that hot.”
Paul shrugged, “I guess it would take a few days for the ground to cool down.”
After a while Jason came thundering down the steps. “Are we closed?” he asked quickly.
“Yep,” Paul said.
“All right! No algebra test today!” He smiled and grabbed two pop tarts, some eggs, a few slices of bacon, and a large mug of orange juice. “I’m going back to bed and then me and the guys are gonna go get a closer look at that crash!” He said as he was quickly striding through the living carrying his plate of food.
“No you are not!” His mother replied sternly. “You’re not going near there!”
“We’re chopping wood today, kiddo, me and you,” Paul said.
Jason moaned and stomped upstairs.
Eventually, Ryan and Tammy both woke up and came downstairs for breakfast. Jason soon rematerialized, still in his pajamas, not looking ready to go out and chop wood at all.
Once the family had their bellies full with a warm, hearty breakfast, Jason and his father donned warm winter clothes to head outside and feed the animals and get wood chopped. They gathered feed and hay from the shelter of the barn and retrieved their axes from the work table. They loaded their flat bed Gator vehicle and zoomed out of the barn toward the cattle field.
The family’s two chocolate labradors. Hunter and Randy, followed faithfully along and romped ahead of the father and son team, oblivious to bitter cold air. They came to the fence line and threw the cows their daily grains and fresh hay. The dogs ran under the fence and playfully snapped at the heels of the herefords as they moved toward their breakfast. One of the young bulls kicked out at Randy and charged away.
“You’re gonna get kicked Rand!” Jason called to his playful dog.
The dogs took off into the woods and Jason and Paul soon made their way to the chopping site. They began to work immediately to stay warm and ignored the dogs as they barked and ran in circles through the snow.
After a while they had gathered a large enough pile of wood onto the back of the small ATV-like vehicle that no more would fit. They decided to go back home, warm up, and come back with the truck for the rest of the pile.
“Where’d the dogs go?” Paul questioned to the cold winter air.
Jason shrugged and shouted for the dogs at the tops of his lungs. They began to bark again and Jason and Paul called repeatedly, but the dogs did not come.
“Let’s go get ‘em. They probably trapped a rabbit and don’t know what to do with it now.” Paul said.
The continued calling for the dogs but they would not come. They kept up their incessant barking. Finally the dogs came into view between some trees at the edge of the field between the pasture and the woods. The dogs were sniffing the ground, running in circles, barking and growling. They were acting crazed.
“They’ve definitely got something,” jason said.
“Randy! Hunter! Come on!” Paul called again.
One of the dogs came charging over to them and Jason quickly caught him up by the collar. The dog continued to whimper and bark and Paul and Jason walked closer to the other dog. Paul could see a dark object buried under the freshly fallen snow, but he couldn’t quite make out what it was. At first, he thought it was just a rock that some poor fleeing animal had run under for shelter from the dogs. As he slowly grew closer, Paul realized that the shape had a more familiar form.
“Dad...” Jason whispered, staring down at the snow-covered thing.
“Jason,” Paul swallowed, “get back to the house.”
“Take the dogs, and get back home,” Paul glanced at his son behind him. He grabbed the other whining dog and delivered him to Jason and repeated. “Go.”
Jason didn’t move, rather he just stared in amazement as his father approached the dark form.
Paul circled the form and knelt down slowly and cautiously, holding his breath, watching the still thing on the ground, waiting for any hint of movement. He carefully and hesitantly reached out, placing a hand on what had to be a shoulder. He soon found a frozen arm and hand to go along with it and stared in wild disbelief at the humanoid form on the icy ground.
“What is it?” Jason called, keeping his distance from the strange creature.
“I have no idea,” Paul whispered so low that Jason could not hear him over the dog’s continued howling.
Paul watched the thing for a moment, absorbing the sight of a definitely humanoid, but certainly not human, being. He thought for sure it was dead. The sudden realization that this had been the occupant of the fireball crash from yesterday crossed his mind.
“Oh my God.”
He waited a moment then rolled the creature off its side and onto its back. Suddenly it gasped harshly. Paul jumped backwards, falling into the snow behind him and Jason staggered a few steps further away in shock. This thing was alive. Paul watched its chest and abdomen rise and fall slowly. He listened to the ragged, struggling breath it took through its facemask. The mask contrasted sharply against the snow-white background, its dark metallic color and impenetrable black eye slots gave the creature a fierce appearance, even half dead and frozen on the ground. The creature’s thick hair was sprawled in all directions, golden beads shining through the snow, reflecting the sunlight.
It’s skin was a pal, off white color with reddish brown striped along its chest, sides, and legs that made it slightly resemble a tiger or a snake. A bright green fluid stained the skin and snow all around the body and was frozen in glowing patches. Blood. Paul realized that the green fluid was blood. It took him a moment to see that he was staring at the female form of a barely clad aline creature lying freezing to death in a pool of antifreeze green blood in the middle of his farm in twenty-five degree weather.
Even as the facts sank in, he couldn’t believe it. He didn’t know what was more amazing, the mere fact that she was here, or the fact that she was alive after undoubtedly having been outside all night bleeding and injured.
Paul ran his fingers through his hair, stood up, paced, and considered the situation.
‘Jesus H. Christ,” he whispered.
The dogs continued their yelping and Jason stood and stared in quiet disbelief.
“Jesus, Jesus,” Paul repeated in shock, unsure of what to do.
“Dad...what...?” Jason started.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.” Paul repeated.
He couldn’t believe that this was real and happening. Just over a mile and half away, an investigation into an airplane crash that left two miles of land in flames and charred was going on and here lay the occupant of that vessel. The media was wrong about the crash. Very wrong.
“Oh God,” Paul repeated again and crouched down next to the gasping, dying alien.
“That was a space ship that crashed,” Jason verified.
Paul shook his head, “I can’t believe it.”
He stared at the alien for a while longer, an axe held tightly in his hand, a hundred thoughts running through his mind. What should he do? This creature was near death. There were federal authorities a short distance away that could take her away. He had many options and considered them all heavily. Finally he stood, mind set on one choice. He turned to Jason.
“Let’s go,” Paul said to his son and he started back towards their Gator tractor.
They found the vehicle idling where they had left it, its short bed overfilled with bundles of wood strapped down under a large fish-net style tarp. Paul seemed distant, his eyes were glazed over and he kept looking back over his shoulder, as though expecting the nearly dead creature to be following along behind him. He looked nervous and uneasy and his son was quickly becoming worried as well. Paul sighed deeply and reached behind the driver’s seat of the vehicle to the rifle he always kept strapped there in case they encountered any bears or coyotes in their fields and woods. Paul traded the axe for the gun and turned towards the alien’s resting place.
“Jason, go home. I mean it, get out of here. I’ll be along in a little while”
The teenager was almost in tears, he did not turn to go, he could not understand why he was being sent away.
“Dad, what are you gonna do,” Jason said.
“Just go, don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Go back home, take the Gator and go.”
“Dad, you can’t!” The boy argued. “Please, don’t do this.”
Paul’s face was streaked with an emotional war. His mind was running rampant with so many different outcomes, so many possibilities. The happy ended versions just didn’t seem realistic, he needed this all to be gone.
“Jason,” he finally said, mustering a calm, reassuring look on his face, “just go home. Bring me the pickup and meet me back there.” He said, nodding over his shoulder in the direction of the fallen creature.
Without another word, Paul turned and marched away from his son as quickly as possible. He walked faster and faster trying to outrun the guilt he was feeling, the uncertainty of his decision.
Jason climbed into the little vehicle, tied the dogs onto some extra twice for make shift leashes and powered his way back home to get the pick up truck as his father asked of him.
Paul arrived back at the alien and stared at her quietly for some time, fidgeting nervously. He watched it shiver and gasp helplessly and enter into a fit of wet, gurgling coughing. He leaned over the creature and evaluated her closer, peering into the empty black eye pieces of its helmet as though he would be able to see inside. He watched her body continue to struggle to breathe and felt a great deal of pity for the creature.
He glanced at her left arm and discovered it to be broken. He could see bone where skin was ripped away. He could see buns along the creature’s sides against the snow that seemed to run over her back. There was blood frozen to large gashes in her thighs and chest and he noticed how oddly angled her right leg was. He soon realized that it was broken, too, and in more than one spot it seemed judging by the swellings and odd angle.
The creature shuddered again and Paul jumped back nervously then moved closer to her again. There was something else about her. Something that wasn’t quite right. He ran one hand across her abdomen and thought that she had the distinct enlarged form of an early-pregnant woman. He tipped his head back and shook in unending disbelief.
He sat quietly, considering his options, knowing that Jason was on his way back with the truck. He had a myriad of concerns, questions, thoughts running rampant in his mind and he had no answers for any of them. If he tried to help she might just very will die anyway, and he would have opened his entire family up to horrific possibilities all for naught. He stood and paced more, convincing himself that his idea was the right thing to do. He held his rifle tightly and stared at the pathetic alien hesitantly.
Another thought crossed his mind. He could drive down the road, where the investigators were still at the crash site. He could tell them what was going on, and if they believed him that this was not a hoax, they would come and take her. He shook his head. They would perform sick and twisted experiments on her, dissect her, God only knows what.
It was easier just to make her disappear all together. No one else but he and Jason knew she was there, no one knew she existed. He took a deep, steadying breath and aimed his rifle. The cross hairs were pointed directly between the creature’s helmeted eyes. He hesitated, shut his eyes and allowed his finger to creep up to the trigger.
It seemed like forever had passed. Paul stared at the alien lying helplessly before him. He began to shake with nerves and dropped to his knees, the gun fell to his side, unfired, and sank into the snow.
“No.” Paul whispered to the dying creature. “I can’t do that to you.” He stared at the gasping giant on the ground and thought why me?
Paul reached out and brushed the side of the alien’s helmeted face with his hand gently.
“All right. It’ll be all right, Alien.”
He nodded to her and waited for Jason to arrive, a firm decision in his mind now. Just then he heard the sound of an approaching truck. He felt his body tighten with nerves and fear. What if it wasn’t Jason? He sighed and relaxed when he saw the familiar heavy duty work truck and his son behind the wheel, a shocked and scared look on his face. He jumped out of the cab and approached slowly.
“Thanks son,” Paul said quietly.
“Mom....Mom’s flippin out... She saw me take the truck and doesn’t know what’s going on.”
“It’s OK, it’s all right,” Paul said.
He slid into the cab of the truck and turned it around so the bed stopped just short of the alien. He watched her carefully in the mirrors to see if the noise and movement of the truck startled her at all. She did not move, other than the gasping motions and labored rise and fall of her chest. She seemed completely unaware of everything.
Paul popped out of the truck, dropped the tailgate, and knelt next to the alien.
“What are we gonna do with her, Dad?” Jason asked.
“Well,” he sighed as he pushed one arm under her body, “we’re gonna’ help her if we can.”
He tried with all his might to move her. She was heavier than he thought she would be, and she was also half frozen to the ground.
Jason sidled over and helped raise her from the other side.
“Jesus,” Jason strained as he tried to lift her.
“Watch your mouth,” his father scorned.
“I don’t think we can move her by ourselves.” Jason said, trying to help again.
“We have to.”
With a hard effort, the two did manage to get the creature up into the bed of the truck. It did not go as gently and easily as he hoped it would and Paul wondered how much more damage they had inadvertently caused her. However, there was no gentle way for them to move the alien. She was huge, limp, and heavy.
“I hope we’re doing the right thing,” Paul whispered as he and Jason started the truck back home.
They pulled the back of the pick up right up to the kitchen door on the side of the house. Ann, who had been worried terribly about what was happening swung the door open to greet them and screamed loudly as she saw the monster.
Paul jumped out of the cab and quickly tried to quiet his wife. Tammy had come up along her sider her mother and stared with wide eyes at the alien in the back of her father’s truck. She screamed at the top of her lungs, a hugh-pitched, terrified shriek that only a young child could produce. Ann took Tammy and disappeared upstairs with her. Paul was certain he made the wrong choice.
He turned to Jason and smirked. Jason was shaking and scared and looked pale and cold but he helped his father get the alien out of the truck all the same. They laid her carefully on the kitchen floor. Paul noticed a fresh trail of bright green blood from the alien’s freshly agitated wounds.
Jason flew upstairs at his father’s request and grabbed all the spare blankets, pillows, and towels he could carry and stormed back downstairs after a few moments.
Ann descended the stairs after Tammy had quieted down. She moved past Jason and Paul as they laid the blankets down in front of the fireplace and stared at the alien on the floor of her kitchen.
“Paul,” Ann whispered, “what is this thing? What’s going on?”
“That’s what came down yesterday. It was no airplane.”
“It was a spaceship Mom!” Jason added. He seemed a little more adjusted to the idea of the alien now that all were safely home. “We have our very own E.T.!”
Sure doesn’t look like E.T.” Ann whispered to herself. E.T. was at least to some degree cute, in a stout, wrinkled sort of way. This creature was huge and ferocious looking. Its patterned, mottled skin added to the overall threatening appearance. The tiger striped that streaked the alien’s body instantly reminded Ann of a tiger, of a man-eating predator that should be avoided at all costs.
The dogs had begun to bark again as soon as the alien was brought inside. Paul and Jason quickly locked them up in the basement but they continued to whine and paw at the door.
“We found her at the edge of the woods.” Paul said. “Actually, Randy and Hunter found her.”
“Her...” Ann whispered and turned back to the alien. She hadn’t noticed, but paul was right. This creature was female, and round in the midsection.
“I think she’s pregnant,” Paul said, noticing that his wife’s eyes had drifted to the alien’s belly.
Ann just stared at the alien for a long time. She could see her gasping and shaking, but those were the only movements the alien made.
“She’s been in the cold all night?” Ann finally said.
“Seems so,” Paul confirmed. “Amazing she’s still alive, but she’s just barely.”
After Paul and Jason had finished setting up a bedded area on the floor, they got the fireplace started and moved the alien carefully into the living room, placing her gently on the blankets and pillows. Ann steadied the creature’s legs muttering things like ‘this is crazy’ and ‘not happening’ under her breath the whole time.
“What are we going to do with her?” Ann asked quietly, her voice shaking.
Jason sat on the couch and watched his parents stare at the alien and whisper to each other about her condition. They seemed almost afraid to speak up, as though their voices would wake the beat, despite that she hadn’t woken up through all the shuffling so far.
“She needs major medical help,” Paul said shaking his head. He stood up and stared blankly at the alien.
“Well, Dad, it’s not exactly like we can just bring her into the ER, right?” Jason voiced.
“Maybe we can help her out a little,” Ann suggested. “We’ve dealt with a lot of things with the animals, broken legs and injuries and such.”
“The last cow we had with a broken leg, we shot.” Jason whispered.
“No,” Paul started, “I almost did that already.”
Ann glanced up at him and then stared quietly back at the alien. “You were going to kill her?”
Paul shook his, regretting that entire chain of thought. “It was just a thought,” he said briskly, trying to forget about it as he spoke.
He stared at her blankly. The room fell silent, only the sounds of the crackling fire could be heard besides the alien’s own ragged breathing.
“I wonder why she wears that mask,” Ann whispered, staring into the black eyes of the helmet.
“Probably to help her breathe,” Paul suggested. “It’s probably the only thing keeping her alive.
He stared at the strange metal mask and followed the tubes that came out from the sides of the cheek until they disappeared under the blankets and fleece throws piled over the creature. The metal ‘backpack’ that she had strapped around her shoulders was lying next to the alien under the blankets. Paul assumed it was an air supply unit. It wasn’t very large, he wondered how long it would hold out. Paul gave his wife an uncertain look and knelt down next to both her and the alien.
“We have to help her.”
“It’s a girl alien?” A little shaky voice from the other end of the room called out.
They glanced at Tammy, who had crept halfway down the stairs and was overlooking the room from between the railings on the staircase.
“Yea,” her father responded with a small smile. “It’s a girl alien.”
Ann smiled, too, and almost laughed, but she was still filled with so much shock she found herself unable to giggle.
“How do you know?” Tammy questioned curiously, sliding down another step.
“Cause she has boobs!” Jason called out.
“Jason!” his mother snapped.
“Enough,” Paul warned. Suddenly an idea struck him. He stood up and headed for the phone.
“Who are you calling,” Ann asked, surprised that he would be making a phone call at a time like this.
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Ann questioned. “I mean he could probably help, but should we get another person involved? This is a bad enough idea...”
Paul shook his head. “We can’t treat her ourselves. I trust Scott.”
“Thanks,” a voice said on the phone.
“Scott! It’s Paul,” he said quickly.
Without revealing too much information, Paul convinced Scott to get over to his house with every piece of medical equipment he could possibly pack into his truck.
Scott Campbell was a good man. He and Paul had been friends since high school and if there was anyone on the planet who Paul trusted to not only do his best to save the alien, but to keep her presence quiet as well, he knew it would be Dr. Scott Campbell, D.V.M.
“What if people like the MIB’s come looking for her?” Jason then asked after Paul sated that Scott on his way.
“I think you watch too many movies,” Paul said.
“Oh yeah! Just wait. They’ll come.” Jason insisted.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Ann said.
“Yea,” Paul agreed. “Yea, they think it was an airplane that crashed. They don’t know that it wasn’t.”
“But they’ll figure it out. Sooner or later, and they’ll come looking.” Jason continued.
“What’s an MIB?” Tammy asked, now a few steps closer to the living room.
“Men In Black,” Jason said. “They’re hired special by the government to hush up the truth about aliens. They have the UFO from Roswell and all.”
“All right now, nothing like that is going to happen,” Paul said quickly, but he and Ann exchanged a glance at one another that told that they were both already concerned about just that very thing.
“Yea, see.” Tammy said sticking out her tongue, “MIB’s don’t exist.”
Jason stuck his tongue back out at his kid sister and made a funny face. “Oh yea, well neither did aliens until this morning.”
He was right. Ann and Paul stared at each other. Paul couldn’t help but to think that perhaps he had indeed opened his family into a world of danger by taking her in. He shook his head free of those thoughts. It was too late now. They talked for a while longer, Jason listening quietly while using the computer, looking up anything at all related to aliens, space, and extra-terrestrials. There was so much.
Tammy slowly moved down the stairs, and little by little came closer to the alien as the family waited for Scott to arrive. She became less fearful of the creature and more curious. The alien never moves, and was seemingly unconscious. She continued to gasp raggedly and trembled from time to time, which was the only indication that the alien was alive at all. Eventually, Tammy sat down right next to the alien’s masked head.
“This is pretty,” she said over the conversation of her parents.
“What’cha got there, Tam,?” Paul asked.
He leaned closer to see that she was holding one of the golden beads that decorated the creature’s leathery locks of hair. The bead had a shine to it ike a diamond and it was lined at the top and bottom with small bluish jewels. Tammy tugged at the bead, but it did not come off the thick strand it was attached to.
“Don’t pull her hair!” Jason said quickly and Tammy shot im a quick glare.
The phone rang and everyone in the room jumped. Ann popped to her feet and reached for it. When she hung up, she announced that Ryan was ready to come home from his friend’s house. She expressed her concerns again about having her children around this alien creature.
“I could have my mother watch them,” she said.
“No, Mom!” Jason moaned. “Come on! We want to stay!”
“It could be dangerous,” Ann started, but Jason argued.
“What danger! She’s unconscious!”
“Well, when she waked up...” Ann started
“No, no, no.” Paul interrupted them both. “Get Ryan, and bring him home. We’ll all know and Scott will know, but that’s it. No one else will now. No one else should know. This has to stay secret. Leaving the kids at your Mom’s could raise questions. Questions that no one needs to know the answers to.”
“Top secret,” Jason responded as his father faced him, making a twisting motion with his hand near his lips.
“Top secret,” Tammy echoed.
Although Tammy was young, she seemed to understand well enough that her family was serious about this staying secret. Paul and Ann considered things for a moment longer then Ann left to get Ryan and bring him home.
No sooner did she leave than a black Suburban pulled into the drive and a soft knock came on the kitchen door. Jason popped the door open for Scott, who was greeted by two furious dogs barking and carrying on from behind the locked basement door. He carried with him two large bags, and a third strapped over his shoulder. He looked utterly confused by the urgency of the call, but he came into the kitchen.
“Hey Paul,” he said, nodding to his friend who stood in the center of the living room with a worried look on his face. “Everything OK? What’s up? Dogs OK?”
“Yeah they’re fine,” Jason said as he shut the door. “They just don’t like her.”
Scott glanced at him with a frown. “Who?”
Jason nodded into the living room and Scott;’s eyes panned from him to Paul and down to the left to the fireplace.
His bags dropped to the ground with a certain thud.
“Oh my God,” he said with a gasp.
Paul stepped over to the alien and crouched down next to her. He pulled the blankets off her body and allowed Scott to partially adjust to what he was seeing before he rattled off the morning’s events. Scott approached slowly at first as Paul talked, then grew more confident as the initial shock wore off.
“He skin looks like a snake,” Tammy commented, seeing the alien’s body for the first time.
“It’s patterned...” Scott whispered, a fascinated smile crossing over his lips as he traced one of the striped with his finger, notching the contrast between its red hue and the yellowish white of her skin.
“More like a tiger,” Paul stated.
Scott remained quiet, eyes wide, absorbing everything he was seeing. He touched the alien’s body gently. He put a hand on her abdomen and frowned. He pulled a stethoscope from his bag and listened carefully for a long while. He listened to her chest and her belly while Paul, Jason, and Tammy sat quietly near by. When he was done, Scott glanced at Paul.
“Is she...” he started, but Paul did not need to finish. The wide and excited look on Scott’s face told him his answer, but Scott nodded.
“She’s pregnant,” Scott said just so there was no misunderstanding.
“She’s gonna have a baby?” Tammy asked.
“Cool!” Jason exclaimed.
Scott returned to listening to the creature again, retracing his hand over her lungs, heart, and womb. “Wow,” he whispered.
Scott shook his head in amazement. “OK,” he said, swallowing. “She’s got one thing going for her, at least I think. Her heartbeat is strong. It’s fast and strong. I don’t know if that’s normal for her. I mean... I’m guessing strong is a good thing, but fast might not be.” Scott seemed overly excited but as the reality of what was going on sank into him, he started to shake with nervousness. He took a deep breath and continued. “Her lungs sound terrible.” He looked back at the alien and took in all of her injuries. He moved her arm enough so he could see the beginnings of the sever burns that had charred her back. “OK, let’s get busy.”
Scott stood to gather his bags, Paul and Jason helped him carry more things in from his car. Ann and Ryan pulled up after a moment and Ryan quickly jumped out of the car, also wearing an excited look on his face.
“I told him, and he thinks its great.” Ann said as Ryan went running into the house. “Can’t wait to see her. Hi Scott.”
“Hi.” he answered. “I think this is great, too. It’s incredible.”
The group made their way into the house with all the medical equipment and supplies that they could carry. They found Ryan and Tammy staring wide eyed at the alien.
“This is so cool!” Ryan said.
Paul tapped Ann on her shoulder and quietly told her that the alien was indeed pregnant.
“Oh man, where to begin...” Scott whispered.
Ryan began asking many questions and Ann soon hushed him up. She had Jason, Ryan, and Tammy sit on the sofa and stay quiet to let Scott work.
“Well,” Scott started, half to himself, “the first thing I want to do is to take X-Rays of everything. See how bad these breaks are, see what’s broken that we don’t know about, et cetera, et cetera.”
“Is that a good idea,” Paul questioned. “I mean, the radiation maybe could do something to her, right?”
“Well, we need to see what’s up if we’re going to stand a chance of helping her, there’s not much choice.” Scott said sensibly. “Besides,” he added, “if she files around in a space ship, I’m willing to bet there’s a certain amount of radiation produced by that kind of thing.”
Scott and Paul worked together taking the radiographs of every bit of the alien’s body, from until each film cassette had was exposed. He left to develop them and left the family to discuss the aline once again.
“I think she’s starting to warm up,” Ann whispered, placing a wary hand on one of the alien’s shoulders.
“Yes.” Paul agreed.
Ryan sat down next to the alien’s face and reached for her helmet.
“Ryan don’t!” Paul warned.
“But I wanna see her face!” He whined.
“Leave it alone,” Ann insisted.
“She needs it to breath,” Paul stated, “Leave it alone.”
Ryan frowned but backed away from the helmet. He stared at the alien quietly for a long while. The overlapping conversations in the room consisted of many questions and many theories, none of which could be proven or disproved at this time. ‘What if’ and ‘What do we do’ seemed to start every sentence. Comparisons to popular television shows and movies were abundant for a long while as the family continued letting their imaginations get caught up in the thrill of the situation. Scott’s reappearance in the kitchen only boosted the excited feeling that had now come over the family.
“This is unbelievable!” He exclaimed. “She’s so human-like it’s eerie.”
Ann stared at the excited doctor for a moment and then whispered, “you...you don’t think that she is.... that she is human? Do you? That this is all an elaborate hoax and there’s really a person in a suit?”
Scott shook his head, “Not a chance.”
“How could this be a hoax,” Jason asked dismissively.
“People fake things,” Ann said.
“Not this,” Scott said, plugging in a lighted viewer and slapping the first of many radiographs onto it.
“Oh wow,” Paul whispered.
“Incredible, isn’t it?” Scott asked proudly.
“It’s her baby,” Ann smiled.
Everyone stared in awed silence at the radiograph then Scott began to clarify the white imagery.
“Fingers,” he stared pointed. “Hands, arms, legs, head. Look at it.”
He walked over and crouched next to the alien as everyone stared at the fetus.
“Looks a little human, doesn’t it?” Paul said.
Ann hummed, “Except the face.”
From the living room Scott agreed. “The face looks a little... I don’t know, pushed in or something... the mouth doesn’t look right, and the head looks a little longer than a human baby’s. I;’ve got to see what she looks like.”
He started to unhook the facemask. The family moved back into the living, Ryan and Jason almost running in. A hissing sound and white mist of gas escaped the black tubing that ran to the creature’s helmet and everyone jumped slightly.
“She does need it to breath,” Ann said.
“Maybe you should leave it on,” Jason added.
“No, take it off,” Ryan quickly butted in.
“Just for a second or two. I just want to see.” Scott said.
He wrapped his fingers around the edge of the sleek helmet and took a deep breath. The helmet came off easily, accompanied by a simultaneous gasp from everyone in the room. Scott put the mask to the side and stared with wide eyes.
“Oh God, Paul,” Ann said worriedly, “This was a mistake.”
“Wow, I wasn’t expecting...” Scott’s words drifted off.
The children all commented with words that the adults could not speak at the moment from ‘scary’ to ‘ugly’.
The creature’s face had four very large and sharp looking teeth crowning four mandibles that covered her mouth. Inside, there were two sharp upper teeth, like canines, and four smaller, but equally sharp teeth along the lower jaw. There were no nostrils, nose, or lips. Her large, head was crowned with ridges and mottled with the same type of tiger stripe. Her eyes were closed and set far back inside her deep, black orbits.
In a moment, the alien shuddered again and gasped. The mandibles flared for a moment, then closed, and the creature went back into a fit of respiratory distress. The harsh breathing snapped Scott back into reality and he replaced the helmet and its connective tubing, then returned to the viewer and put up a different radiograph.
“Ouch,” Paul said, easily interpreting the bony image as severely broken.
“Yea,” Scott agreed. “This is... her left forearm. Ulna and radius are both fractured here, here, and here. And you can see the bones coming up through the skin here.”
“How are you going to set those bones?” Paul asked.
“I have no idea yet. But I am more concerned about infection, though. I’m terrified to use any drugs in her because I don’t know what they would do to her or her child.
“Just do the best you can,” Ann said quietly.
Scott nodded and continued to examine the radiographs, walking everyone through what they were seeing.
“She really does have basically the same skeletal structure as a human.” Scott added when they were done.
As Scott got to work getting and wrapping the broken bones, Ann and Paul helped him by cleaning out the wounds. A sharp cracking sound told everyone that Scott had manipulated one bone into place. The creature did not move or react in any way to something that was obviously incredibly painful.
“She must be so out of it,” Jason said.
“Yea, she definitely is that,” Scott agreed. “Good thing, too. These breaks are serious.”
Scott pointed out the fractures in the tibia and fibula, the lower portion of the leg, and the crack in the patella, the knee cap. He indicated a large chunk of bone missing from the upper part of the tibia, just below the knee and imagined that the chip had literally fallen out of her leg through the gaping hole in her knee. They worked for hours unending, cleaning, setting, and wrapping the many injuries the alien had sustained.
“You know what’s the most amazing of it all,” Scott said after a long while. “Despite these horrible injuries, the amount of blood loss, and the disorientation and confusion I’m sure she was feeling, she still managed to walk nearly two miles from the crash site. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.” He shook his head, then suddenly his eyes grew wide. “Oh! Look at this!”
He put another radiograph on the viewer.
“What is it?” Ryan and Jason asked almost simultaneously.
“It’s her right ankle.” Scott informed them and pointed to two long, bright white objects that streaked across the bony structures on the film. “See these? These are screws or pins.”
“What does that mean?” Ann asked.
“It means that this ankle was broken before and repaired surgically.”
“Well,” Paul said, “if the know how to fly space ships, I guess they can do surgery, too”
“An intelligent alien life form. This is incredible.” Scott said.
“Hopefully they can repair that leg better than we can,” Paul added.
Scott nodded. “That’s assuming she lives to be rescued.”
“Wait,” Ann interrupted. “If her people come looking for her, how will they find her?”
“Maybe she had a communicator or something, like in Star Trek.” Ryan added.
“Maybe she’ll be able to summon them telepathically,” Jason suggested.
“We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess,” Paul said.
“Well, we’ve gone all we could do. Now we should let her be.” Scott said. “She’s alive and breathing and heart is beating. The baby has a hell of a heart beat, and that’s all we can ask for right now.”
“Do you think she’ll live through the night?” Ann questioned to no one in particular.
“I don’t know,” Scott responded.
“I think she’s already lived through the worst of it, right? She’s inside now, warm and tended to, so maybe that’ll be enough.” Paul said.
It was nearing eleven o’clock. Tammy had fallen asleep hours ago and Paul coerced Ryan and Jason to bed although they very much wanted to stay up.
“You still have school tomorrow It’s not supposed to snow anymore, so go.”
Paul and Ann sat with Scott in the living room for a few hours longer talking about their concerns. Ann was worried what a ferocious looking alien might do when she woke up and found herself in a house full of humans. Paul agreed with her worries, but was sure that they would be able to talk to the creature. She was obviously intelligent and could therefor communicate.
Scott still couldn’t quite grasp that any of this was real. It seemed so absurd An alien- an alien- from outer space, lying at the brink of death in front of his friend’s fireplace, covered neck to toe in pastel colored fleeces and flowered blankets. Yet, there she was, and he had just done everything he could possibly do to treat her extensive injuries.
Eventually Paul and Ann retired to bed, and left Scott alone. He sprawled out on the sofa for a while staring at the alien creature that lay near the fire. He glanced at he radiographs and lost himself in the incredible images for al long while. This creature was incredible. And he had to help her. He just had to. He could now allow such a unique and amazing creature to die. It just couldn’t be. He crouched next to her, listening to her again. Her breathing was strained and harsh, powerful, yet weak.
He stood and walked to the window, unable to help looking up into the nigh sky, wondering where she had come from, where she was going, and where her people might be. Would they even come looking for her, he wondered. He soon found himself imagining what she be like when she did wake up- if she did wake up. His thoughts drifted to having a detailed conversation with her about the finer aspects of space travel.
He checked on the creature repeatedly, staying awake with her through most of the night. From time to time he tried in vain to find a pulse. I was futile, but it kept him busy. Her skin, though smooth like a human’s and color like a reptile’s, was thicker than the leather hides of the Herefords outside and no veins were visible under the skin, and no pulse was palpable. He stared into the black eyepieces of her helmet, wondering if her eyes were still closed, but he was sure they were.
Scott knelt next to the alien once again and reached for the blankets that covered her. She took a deep, ragged breath and Scott paused. He then slid his hand under the blanket and onto the alien’s abdomen. He waited for several minutes but did not feel any hint of movement from the creature’s womb. He wondered if perhaps her skin was so thick that even the feel of a child moving could not be perceived through it. He did fear the infant might have died so he slowly reached one hand out for his stethoscope.
He could hear the beating of the fetal heart strong and true. He had the brief concern that the child might live, but the mother would die, and what would happen then? He sighed and whispered to the alien.
“Don’t you dare die, ya hear?”
Suddenly he felt something. He placed both hands on the creature’s belly and waited with anticipation. A smile formed on his face.
“Oh my God!”
The child inside was moving.
Morning came quickly for Scott, with only an hour or two at most of rest on the couch before the family began to stir. By then, the urgency of the situation and the shock and stress of having the alien there had worn off somewhat. Now, the fact that this was truly happening had settled in to their minds and each person dealt with it in their own way.
Ann was the first downstairs with Paul just behind her. They glanced at the bundles of blankets in front of the fire and then to Scott, red eyed and weary, just waking from a brief rest at the sound of their approach. They stared at the alien silent for a while and came to terms with her presence on their own accord.
“She made it,” Paul half asked, half stated.
“She made it,” Scott echoed certainly.
Little by little, the children came downstairs. The family had managed to keep to their normal morning routine, with only the added oddity of analyzing the alien as each came down. The children wanted to eat in the living room, instead of at the table, and Ann allowed them to. They seemed to be much more adjusted to the fact that they had an alien in their home than either Paul, Ann, or Scott could have imagined.
Jason and Ryan now decided how great it would be to have the creature in to their schools for a show and tell. They also had the grand idea of making a home video, and talked about how rich and famous they could become until their parent cut them odd with their “top secret” speech again. Tammy had been staring over her pancakes at the alien with wonder and fear and curiosity.
“I felt it,” Scott said to the adults at the breakfast table.
“Felt what?” Paul asked.
“The baby, I felt it move.”
“Wow! What did it fell like?” Paul asked.
“Like... like a baby kicking, really.” Scott answered, not able to provide a more vivid response. The experience was awesome simply because it was an alien, but there was nothing about the feeling of the child moving that differed from any human fetus.
That day proved to be in almost all ways uninteresting. The alien lay silent and unchanging and Scott and Ann went about their business while the kids were at school. Scott dealt with his own affairs, cancelling everything. Until this alien recovered, he was not going anywhere. He would deal with the repercussions of his actions later.
The children arrived home in the afternoon and life was basically normal through that night into the weekend. The alien lay silent, quiet, and still, with only a ragged breath or occasional tremor to indicate that she was even alive. The children played in the snow or argued about which video game to play or what kind of movie to watch, and the adults tended to their business and the farm’s needs. Scott monitored the alien and kept hopeful that she would recover soon. He stoked the fire and kept it burning for the sake of the alien.
Late Saturday afternoon offered some tension. The children had come inside because the temperatures outside were dropping rapidly. Paul glanced out the window and watched an icy breeze whip through the trees.
“Good thing she’s not out in this,” he commented. “It’s freezing out there.”
As if in agreement with his words, the alien creature that had been lying so still for over two days showing no signs of improvement suddenly twitched a hand and her giant head shook. Her breathing roughened and sped up for a few moments and the human occupants of the room all held still, eyes on the alien.
“Is she waking up?” Ryan whispered.
“I don’t know,” Scott said quickly.
“Can’t tell with that helmet on,” Jason commented.
“Don’t take it off,” Ann said.
“Shhhh!” Paul insisted.
The creature shook one more time and took a coughing, raspy breath then fell still again and showed no more signs of movement the remainder of that day or the next. Scott became nervous and worried for her. Her heart rate had been dropping steadily since he first listened to it on Thursday morning. He wasn’t sure if the current rate was good or not. He kept a close, careful watch over her, changing the bandages as often as necessary and occasionally he would try to feel for any movement from within her belly.
Late Sunday night, Paul came downstairs and found Scott jotting down notes on a tablet.
“She OK?” he asked.
Scott jumped. He had been lost in his notes he did not hear Paul enter the room.
“Yeah, yeah,” he started, scratching his head and chin. “She hasn’t changed.”
“You’ve done all you can,” Paul said. “Listen, I really appreciate you doing this.”
“Are you kidding? Of course! I’m glad you called me.”
Paul sat down on the sofa next to his friend. “I trust you.” He sighed and stared at the alien laying quietly.
“I appreciate that,” Scott said.
“You know,” Paul shook his head, “I was going to kill her. I had the gun aimed at her head and I almost pulled the trigger.” He confessed.
“But you didn’t,” Scott put a hand on his shoulder. “You didn’t because you know you couldn’t do something like that.”
Paul nodded. “Well, I’m gonna try to get some work done around here tomorrow. Need to get hay and that fun stuff.” He started back upstairs, stopped and stared at Scott and the alien.
“It’ll be OK. It will.” Scott reassured him.
“I hope so.”
Scott eventually drifted off to sleep. In the morning, the sounds of the children getting ready for school, buses and cars, and even the smells of Ann’s delicious breakfast cooking did not wake the exhausted Scott, or the alien. Several hours later, Scott woke with a start.
“What time is it?” he said through a wide yawn.
“Almost eleven,” Ann responded from the kitchen.
Paul opened the kitchen door, looking icy cold and tired. A frigid breeze of cold air swept into the house with him. Ann had some hot coffee ready and Paul and Scott poured their cups. They put together a lunch and ate, talking and discussing the alien’s condition and the day’s chores. Scott offered to help unload the hay after lunch and Paul was grateful.
Scott stood when he finished eating and headed into the living room for his coat. He could hear the alien’s rugged breathing grow even more harsh and stopped for a moment to listen to her. Paul and Ann approached slowly from behind him. They, too, had heard the alien’s breathing speed up and deepen.
They waited silently, nervously glancing to each other and the alien and looking for any hint of consciousness. It was impossible to tell if her eyes were opening under the expressionless mask over her face so they simply stared at her, waiting. The alien’s rattling breathing grew more rapid and feverish.
Suddenly, she bolted upright as though startled out of a bad dream. The ain of the sudden jolt to her broken overwhelmed her. She gasped heavily and curled p, wrapping her arm around her upper torso. A long, painful moan escaped from under the helmet.
Paul, Ann, and Scott stood and watched with wide eyes. No one moved or dared to even breath too loud. The alien was obviously in tremendous pain, no doubt unsure where she was, and they did not want to startle her. It seemed apparent that she had not noticed them yet. The natural fear they had of the creature welled back up as she regained consciousness. They watched her leathery locks fall back and over her shoulders as she glanced to her right at the fire and lowered her head again with a heavy breath.
She was dazed, confused, disoriented, and weak and painful. Vivid recollections of the fiery downfall were running through her mind. The first thing she sensed was heat. There was a fire burning near her. She had the sudden feeling that she was still inside the burning wreck of a craft. The scent of the shuttle was strong around her. It pierced through her body and mind. She sat up quickly in a vain attempt to move out of the path of the fire. Intense pain shot through every portion of her body. She gasped harshly, trying to quell a roar of agony with no success.
K’Shai glanced at the fire and realized that this was not a plasma fire, nor was it blazing uncontrolled. She curled over again as another wave of pain pierced through her body. She coughed and gasped and tried to collect her thoughts and gain control of her senses. Black and red images danced in her mind and she could make no sense of what she was seeing. She could hear a distinct howling sound, like that of animal in alarm. The sounds and images seemed close, but far away as her tired brain played tricks with her ears and eyes.
She sat there quietly, staring down at her belly, watching the fetus within her womb and tried to focus her thoughts. She could remember actually leaving the crash site. It was cold, very cold. She remembered bleeding, she remembered falling. She could not remember much else, including how she got in front of a small campfire with blankets over her. She stroked her abdomen and tried to gain control of her limbs.
Her right arm worked fine, though there was some strong pain from that shoulder. Her left arm was wrapped tightly with bandages and felt weak and numb. Her left leg seemed to be working fine, but she wasn’t sure her right leg was even still there until she looked down and saw it. She moved the blankets aside and looked at the many bandages that covered her leg. She gasped for breath again. The force it took sit upright was almost unbearable.
She looked again at her bandaged body as her eyes became sharper and the images they saw became crisper. These were not Yautja medical techniques. This place did not have a Yautja feel at all to it. The animal’s noises where driving into her already pounding head with such a high-pitched force she felt she might go mad. She glanced up towards the direction of the sound, growling slight under her breath.
And saw three humans standing a few meters in front of her. Not sure why she was here, or if these humans had been he ones to bandage her, she instinctively moves to a crouching position howling wildly as an intimidating response to the tremendous pain associated with such an action.
“Oh my God,” Ann whispered softly.
“It’s all right,” Scott said, rasing his palms to the creature. “We mean you no harm.”
The words hit K’Shai’s ear like gibberish. They made no sense at all. She held still for a moment, trying to decipher the odd sounds, but found herself unable to. She kept steady and low, unwanting to move out of sheer pain, but unwilling to show further weakness before these aliens. She maintained a poise that would allow her to move if need bem, but she decided the she would wait and see exactly what their intentions were.
She glanced around to try and determine if she was some sort of holding cell. She glanced across the room and saw stairs ascending to an upper level of the facility. She saw furniture, large chairs, and what looked like a large, blank monitor screen. She had the vague wondering if the unit was a communication device that she could use to contact Rochant. She shook her head and returned her gaze to the humans, still unsure of the total scope of the situation.
If these creatures were trying to help her, although she had a hard time imagining it, she would not wish to harm them. She held still, fighting against the pain and incredible desire to simply lie back down and sleep. It seemed foolish to K’Shai that these humans would bring the Hunter into their den. Perhaps humans lacked the intelligence that the Yautja had always credited them with after all. Still, by her bandages, warm surroundings, and unthreatening appearance of the place and the people, she thought that perhaps their intentions were genuine. Still, years of experience had led her to trust only in two things, her own intuition, and Rochant.
Right now, she lacked both and she did not know what to do. It seeme these humans were trying to communicate with her, trying to win her trust. Everything she knew, even her motherly instinct seemed to conflict against her current surroundings. She needed to protect her child, heal, and figure out a way home. Had this happened any other way, and she was simply stranded on this world, she would never have allowed the prey species to get so close and endanger her and her child. Now, though, as K’Shai glanced from her bandaged body and warm blankets to the three human forms watching her intently, it seemed apparent that perhaps her only way to survive this mess lied with these aliens.
She had just come to the decision to try to communicate with the creatures when one of them slowly took a few steps toward her after what had been a long, inactive silence.
“OK, here goes,” Scott said nervously. He took a deep breath and approached.
“Scott....” Paul started but fell silent again.
“No sudden movements. Don’t startle her.” Scott warmed quietly. He held his palms out and slowly took a few steps toward the crouching alien.
“It’s all right, there,: he whispered. “We mean you know harm. We’re not gonna hurt you.” He kept his voice soft and low, hoping that even if she did not understand the words, she would understand the tone. He crouched down, hoping to appear less threatening by lowering himself to the same level as she, rather than standing tall over her.
K’Shai growled a harsh warning when the human, regardless of its intentions, came too close. The alien stayed squatting three arms’ lengths from her. It stayed quiet and watched her and she watched back warily. All of her experiences, from the home world to the many hunting grounds and everywhere in between had not prepared her for this. Another of the humans began to approach and K’Shai suddenly felt as though she was being trapped and cornered. She shifted her body, growling at her own, useless numb limbs with detest through clenched teeth.
“Wait, Paul,” Scott said. “Wait.”
Paul came to a stop a few inches from Scott and waited. Ann watched quietly from the doorway of the kitchen, worried what the satanic monster might do.
“I don’t know about this Paul,” she voiced.
“Ann, it’ll be all right. Let her see us and get used to us. It’ll be OK,” Paul whispered although the crack in his voice told her he wasn’t at all convinced of what he was saying.
K’Shai watched the humans curiously. They seemed just as wary of her as she was of them. She wondered again how she ended up here and what these humans wanted. She listened carefully to their words as the interacted with one another, trying desperately to understand the language. None of the sounds seemed familiar. K’Shai’s own knowledge of the language only included words spoken by her human quarry moments before their death arrived by way of her blade. She could repeat those words, but doubted that any of them had an appropriate relation to this situation. K’Shai ran through the list of words she knew in her head, but stated silent, not wanting to spark these creatures into an attack that she could not prevail.
She hurt with every second she stayed upright ad she was quickly growing tired of the exertion. This situation was not in her favor at all. She was too weak and too pregnant to fight and she was not sure enough to attempt to communicate.
“Hi,” Scott tried again. “Hi. I’m Scott.”
K’Shai tipped her head and stared at the speaking human.
“Scott. Do you understand?” He repeated, tapping himself in the chest as he said his name.
The pain became too overwhelming to K’Shai. She gasped ruggedly and curled over again. She could not catch a proper breath and she felt as though all of her ribs had imploded in on her lungs. She could feel ths child kicking at the same time, which only exacerbated the intensity of her pain. She pulled back, fully aware that was displaying profound weakness before the prey.
“You’ve been hurt very badly,” Scott stared softly. K’Shai glanced up at him as he spoke. “You’re ship crashed. I think you should lie down. Do you understand?”
Scott patted the blankets to try to indicate to the alien that she should be resting. He crept forward a few feet closed and K’Shai growled loudly.
“Wait, it’s OK.” Scott whispered again. “It’s OK.”
“Maybe we should just back off,” Paul said.
Scott waited a moment, nodded and slid backward.
“This must all be overwhelming for her,” he said as he stood up with paul and Ann.
Ann shook her head., ‘I don’t want the kids here. I’m sending them to my mother’s today.”
Paul glanced at her silently. He seemed to agree. This alien seemed more like a wild wolf in their living room than the intelligent, space-faring traveler they had imagined. Until she spoke.
K’Shai was certain the first human that had came so close was a male, and that he was trying to say his name. He kept repeating one short word over and over and tapping at himself. It had to be a name. It was worth a shot anyway. He seemed to want to get her to repeat it. She decided then, that if she were going to live through this, she would need to talk to these creatures. Scott. It sounded easy and harmless enough. She repeated the word.
“Oh Jesus,” Paul said with a surprised gasp. “She does speak”
“I knew it!” Scott smiled widely and approached the alien again, keeping his movements slow. He stared at her with great enthusiasm and then indicated to Paul and Ann, repeating their names to the alien.
K’Shai spoke the names and understood. The alien male named Scott seemed very pleased about her attempts and K’Shai was eased slightly by his reaction. She watched them for a moment, pointed to her own chest and said her name.
“K’Shai,” Scott repeated softly. “Nice to meet you, K’Shai.” He crouched down and extended his hand to the alien. “It’s a handshake. It’s how we say ‘hello’.”
He attempted to touch K’Shai’s right hand, but she growled and pulled back. The warning growl was quickly wiped out by a painful gasp as she moved her arm out of the path of the human. Her sides throbbed sharply and her upper body leaned too hard on her broken left arm. She curled over once again, exhausted from the time sitting upright, and howled with pain. The need to rest was burning strong in her tired body but she lifter her head again and watched Scott as he moved close to her once again.
“Easy there, easy,” he said soothingly to her. He inched forward and again extended his hand towards the alien’s arm. “It’s OK.. I’m not gonna hurt you.”
K’Shai gave in, too weak to particularly care anymore. The human touched her hand and shook it slowly. She couldn’t totally understand but she did think that this was a sort of greeting gesture. She responded by placing her hand on the human’s shoulder in a typical Yautja greeting. Scott smiled and glanced back at Paul and Ann.
“She’s saying hello in her own way, ti seems,” Scott said.
It took somewhat longer for Paul and finally Ann to approach the alien with any level of confidence at all, but eventually, each human and the Yautja had exchanged greeting gestures and K’Shai was just beginning to feel more at ease.
Scott evaluated the bandages and changed those that were not clean. He could tell the alien was in so much pain, and wanted nothing more than to alleviate it, but he wouldn’t dare giver her a human painkiller drug that he had absolutely no idea how it would react with her alien physiology. He felt sorry for the creature, but she seemed to be coping as best she could.
Ann prepared a quick meal for the alien. Unsure of what the creature would eat, she put a variety of foods from fruit to meat on a plate and brought it out to her with a gallon of water and a container of juice. She vaguely wondered if her lipless mouth could even drink from the containers, but she placed the food and drink down and stepped back, watching cautiously.
“I don’t know what you like,” Ann whispered to the alien.
K’Shai watched the female human. She looked more nervous than the males, more unsure of the Yautja’s presence, but yet still wanting to help and talk. K’Shai wondered if this place as the mei’sa of this female human. If so, she was grateful for the female to allow her into her territory in such a fashion. She still could not fathom the idea of allowing the Hunter into their home, but none-the-less, she knew she was only alive because of their intervention.
“It’s OK,” Ann assured the alien in a whispering, gentle tone.
K’Shai had been fighting intense pain from sitting and crouching for such a long time. Though she kept quiet against if and concentrated her strength left to keep her body from showing its weakness, she did act upon her thirst. She reached for the bottle of water cautiously. After a moment, K’Shai released the air supply tubes ro her helmet and pulled it off.
Although they had already seen her face once before, the sight was till just as unsettling to the three onlookers. Scott took more of a scientific interest in the alien and remarked how she moved each mandible about. Paul voiced an opinion that ll three shared. Fascinating or not, this creature was downright intimidating to say the least.
K’Shai drank the entire gallon without spilling a single drop or coming up for air.
“I guess she’s thirsty,” Paul said with a slight smile.
It appeared that the thick ice was beginning to break. Each became more curious about the alien to which they stared. K’Shai poked at the plate of food curiously, but refrained from eating the alien food just yet. She sat back with a heave gasp and leaned against the heated stones of the fireplace. Despite her plasma-charred back, the heat felt comfortingly warm against her tattered skin and it was a relief to relax her body more.
Scott tried for a long while to get the alien to speak again, but K’Shai stayed quiet and simply listened. She was trying to understand the sounds she heard, but she could not make much sense of them at all, nor did she feel strong enough to learn a language right now.
The sound of an engine outside the building caught K’Shai’s attention. A car pulled up next to the house.
“The boys are home,” Ann said. “I didn’t realize it was that late already.”
Paul and Ann quickly headed into the kitchen as Jason and Ryan opened the door. Ryan was shouting at his older brother the way siblings often do. He stamped his way into the kitchen at first ignoring the warning yells of his parents. Suddenly, the words hit his ears and Ryan stopped in his tracks eyes locked ahead to the alien in the living room. She was watching he and his brother warily mandibles clenched tightly together.
“Oh shit, she’s awake!” jason exclaimed.
“Watch your mouth,” his mother scolded. Manners were expected, no matter what the situation.
“Easy boys, don’t approach too fast. Go slow, give her a chance,” Paul said.
“No,” Ann whispered. “I don’t want you boys to go near her.”
“Ann...” Paul started. “I think it’ll be oK. Really, I do.” He seemed more certain of himself this time.
After a moment of hesitation, Ryan was the first to approach. Ann visibly tensed up, but held still and quiet, watching with wide, fearful eyes.
“Hi.” Ryan said.
“Her name is K’Shai,” Scott said softly.
K’Shai glanced at Scott hearing her name, then looked back to the young human that was boldly walking up to her.
“She speaks?” Jason asked from just behind Ryan.
“Duh,” Ryan rolled his eyes. “She’s smart, right? What planet are you from?”
“She hasn’t said anything in a while,” Paul said.
“I think she’s just listening to us, maybe trying to figure out our language.” Scott added.
“So let’s give her a goos impression to learn on,” Ann called out.
K’Shai stayed quiet and watched each human as the spoke, indeed trying to figure out what they were saying. The family watched for a while and Jason and Ryan became less tense about the alien. Ryan had actually become so enthusiastic about having the creature present that he say with Jason and poured over science books showing pictures of stars and planets, trying to illicit any spoken word from K’Shai at all. However, she simply stayed quiet and still.
She had been sitting upright for far too long now and felt ever weaker as the minutes passed by. K’Shai longed for space, for home, for her mei’sa, and for her mate. Most of all, she longed for sleep. She knew she was not going to get any anytime soon. The arrival of the two children made her more cautious still. She would not want to spark the anger of their mother. No Yautja was foolish enough to cause trouble with the family of any mei’sa. So, she remained still and quiet, but wary and attentive, trying her best to ignore the pain that pulsed in her body.
The stared at her like some sort of wild spectacle and she supposed she was something of one to them. It was not often that prey could get so close to its hunter and live to tell of it. She did admit to herself silently that these humans were a spectacle unto themselves. She had never before been so close to this species and not hunting after them, so she did have a curious interest in them. If nothing else, this provided her with ample opportunity to learn more about her prey. She also understood that the less she revealed about herself, the more she could learn.
When Tammy’s bus pulled to a stop outside the front of the house, Ann ran out to greet her. She was reluctant to bring Tammy inside to be near the alien, and wanted instead to simply put her in the car, take her to her mother’s house and bring clothes later. Paul came out and talked to Ann for a while. He felt confident by the creature’s placid reactions to Jason and Ryan that no harm would come to Tammy. Scott was convinced the alien was intelligent, even if scared, and she had every right to be.
Ann was afraid that she would lash out at them with the long teeth at the ends of her mandibles, but Scott thought that those teeth were probably used for cracking into the shells of fruit and fish. Still, Ann was not convinced that a creature with such ferocious characteristics could be of a gentle nature. However, she did eventually allow Tammy to see the alien.
The young girl’s eyes grew wide fear and hesitance, but still she approached and slowly she whispered to the creature crouched before her.
The alien did nothing at all in response.
“Are you from Mars?”
Everyone smiled at the genuine question Tammy asked, but of course, the alien did not answer. The child began to approach K’Shai and she slowly inched away, concerned that contact with the youngest cub might spark its mother’s protectiveness. K’Shai wanted nothing more than to sleep deeply at the moment, and certainly was in no condition to defend herself against a mother’s rage. She lowered her head respectfully, submissively, and kept her mandibles tightly clenched to be sure there was no allusion to a challenge or threat in her gestures.
Scott seemed to understand the alien’s retreat and suggested for everyone to finally back off and give the wary creature some time to settle into this situation. When K’Shai felt distanced enough, she laid back down, propping blankets and pillows beneath and around her to cushion he broken bones. In no time, she was stretched out and soundly sleeping.
She slept until well after dark. When she finally stirred again, Scott, Ann and Paul were quietly talking and sipping on coffee. The children were long since asleep. K’Shai sat upright slowly and evaluated her surroundings again before trying shakily to stand. The humans approached cautiously, but K’Shai growled them away and they obliged.
She thought they were trying to help her rise by their gestures, but she did want to allow them so close. She breathed heavily and pulled herself to her feet with great effort, steadying herself with a hand on the mantle above the fire. After a moment, she stood straight and tall, but obviously shaking and weak.
“Christ, she’s tall,” Scott commented, noticing how the alien’s crowned head came millimeters away from brushing the ceiling of the living room. “Didn’t look that tall lying down, did she?”
“No,” Paul added, “but she felt that tall trying to move her.”
“I missed that part,” Scott smiled.
K’Shai did her best to hide her weakened state from the human onlookers, a pointless thing, since the humans had tended to her from the start and were probably more aware of her condition than she was. Still, she was Yautja, and her instincts didn’t change just because her surroundings had.
The pain in her leg finally numbed down, but still the effort to move and hide the pain she was feeling was tremendous. She could not bear any weight on her shattered leg, so she used her intact right arm to brace herself against the wall as she hobbled awkwardly towards the kitchen.
“Where’s she going?” Ann whispered but received no response.
The alien made her way into the kitchen, and using anything from walls to counters to the dining table, she walked to the door, opened it after a moment, and cautiously lowered herself outside.
The last thing K’Shai wanted was to be so vulnerable in the den of Yautja prey, but she knew she was safer there than outside in the cold. Still, at the moment, she needed to be away from their prying, curious eyes. Unfortunately, as K’Shai slowly made her was around the corner of the house and stared up to the stars, she was aware that the humans had followed but were staying distant.
“The poor thing...” Ann muttered softly under her breath.
“What?” Paul asked, surprised that his wife was showing sympathy for the certainly dangerous demonic alien.
Ann stared at the creature staring out into the night sky without saying another word. A bitter cold wind blew by which seemed to snap the alien’s attention away from the stars. She turned and started towards the tree line near the back of the house. Paul and Ann stayed close to the house, but Scott followed K’Shai timidly. He knew he should let her be, yet he was reluctant to see her wander off into the woods as badly injured as she was and in such a delicate state.
The creature stopped. Scott could see her outline in between the dark shadows of the trees. Suddenly he realized he should have given her her privacy and he turned on his heels and headed around to the side of his house to rejoin Ann and Paul.
“What’s wrong?” Paul asked. “Where’d she go.”
Scott raised his eyebrows. “Not far, she’s fine...”
“What is wrong?” Ann asked, seeing a strange, almost embarrassed look on Scott’s face.
“Well...” Scott started and smirked. “Let’s just say she’s housebroken.”
“Ooh,” Paul and Ann simultaneously nodded.
“Don’t they have bathrooms in outer space?” Ann asked.
K’Shai came slowly into view from around the corner of the house. She was moving with great effort and obviously in extraordinary pain from all the movement. All three watched, still too afraid of the giant alien to actually go near to her to try to offer to help. They could see her shaking in the moonlight, and her gasping and ragged breathing was audible even at the distance they kept.
Scott inched forward hesitantly and gestured at the door.
“K’Shai,” he whispered softly, trying to grab the alien’s attention. “You should come inside, lay down. Have something to eat. You need your strength.”
She stared at the humans for a moment. She felt cold and tired and weak and wasn’t exactly sure what the male human called Scott was telling her, but she thought it had something to do with returning inside. At the moment, that seemed like a superb idea. She wanted to sleep again. The exertion of moving around and walking was far too much for her. However, a strange, shrill sound called out from the other building and K’Shai stared at the structure. She flared her mandibles and clicked softly.
“It’s OK,” Paul called to the alien. “They’re just some sheep.”
K’Shai continued to click. The sound grew more menacing, deeper, and more intent. She held still for a moment, then slowly, limping with every step, she headed toward the barn.
Scott, Paul, and Ann exchanged glances and followed after the alien. She slid open the large wooded door and disappeared into the dark barn. Paul was the first one into the barn. He turned on the overhead lights and stopped. Scott and Ann quickly appeared behind him. K’Shai seemed not to notice or care that the lights were on and that they were watching her. She was gazing intently at the small enclosure that held a dozen sheep, all shrieking and calling out to each other, running in a panic from one corner to another in a tight group.
K’Shai merely watched the animals flock. She was now quiet, or at least, the observing humans could not hear if she was still making that strange clicking sound over the racket the sheep were making.
“They’re sheep,” Paul stated again to the alien.
K’Shai seemed to ignore him completely. She twitched an upper mandible but he wasn’t sure if that was some sort of acknowledgment or not. Suddenly, without warning, and with incredible speed and accuracy despite her injuries, K’Shai reached over the fencing and hoisted up one loudly screaming ewe with one hand.
The alien wasted no time and quickly sunk her four, large outer teeth into the animal. The frightened baaing stopped instantly. The animal’s legs twitched and the sound of tearing flesh was very noticeable in the high-raftered barn. The remaining sheep calmed down, their panic ended once they knew the predator had taken its prey.
“Jesus,” Paul whispered.
Ann clasped her hand over her mouth, squeezed her eyes shut and quickly turned out of the barn. After a moment, Scott gestured silent with his head for Paul to leave. Paul watched the aline, now down over her kill, a fresh, bloody slab of meat disappearing between the creature’s mandibles as her one good hand worked to skin the sheep, and then headed into the house after his wife. Scott backed against the far wall, quietly watching the alien with horrified amazement.
Thirty minutes later, K’Shai following closely behind Scott, returned to the warm living room of the farmhouse. Paul was sitting on the sofa. He seemed nervous and distracted.
“You’re down two sheep,” Scott said casually.
“Ann’s freaked out completely. She think that thing is gonna tear us all apart.”
Scott shook his head, “I don’t think so, Paul.”
“What makes you so sure?”
He raised an eyebrow and watched the alien sit back down in front of the fire. “If she was going to kill us, we’d be dead already. She’s met us all, she’s touched us all. Me, you, Ann, the kids....” Scott continued confidently. “She’s not gonna hurt us. She knows we’re trying to help her. She understands.”
“I sure as hell hope so,” Paul said.
K’Shai watched the humans quietly, listening to their words. She tried to translate the sounds she heard, to make any sense of them so she could communicate with the aliens. It felt good to sit down again, and she felt somewhat stronger since she had eaten. The infant within her womb seemed content and still at the moment, and the heat of the fireplace next to her felt comforting against her chilled skin. She could tell the humans were talking about her. She imagined she instilled fear in them. They seemed to realize, the same as the little animals, when a predator was near.
K’Shai assumed that the realization of what they had done had finally become clear to the humans. It was suddenly sinking in that they had brought a Hunter into their home. And they were scared. Still, they had helped her with good intentions, and she needed to keep their trust and goodwill if she were to survive and return home.
“Not hurt us...” K’Shai said suddenly.
The sounds hit Paul and Scott’s ears so quickly they almost didn’t realize who was speaking. The words were forced and strained, revealing the difficulty the speaker was having speaking them. They stared at K’shai for a moment and she stared back. Scott imagined that she was trying to figure out if she had just said what she meant to say, or if they understood her at all.
“What?” Paul whispered after an odd moment of stunned silence.
“K’Shai,” she said again, pointing to herself. “Not... hurt....us...,” she pointed to the pair of watching humans, wondering if she was making any sense.
Scott smiled and nodded to Paul, squatted down and nodded to K’Shai. “We understand. You mean us no harm.”
She topped her head. The human Scott crept forward, trying to get close to the alien. He seemed more sure of her now and K’Shai thought that he had understood her words. Scott sat in front of her, trying for another hour to get her to talk to him. Paul watched and participated from time to time, but kept his distance. Finally, he retired to bed, leaving Scott to continue trying. It seemed, after several minutes, that K’Shai had become thoroughly confused with Scott’s attempts. She obviously tired, losing interest in the English language lesson, and seemed to want nothing more than to be left alone.
“Never mind,” Scott said with a sigh and moved to the couch, stretched out, and watched the alien relax onto the blankets and pillows.
The next morning, K’Shai woke to the sounds of the children’s footsteps thundering down the stairs. They woke earlier than usual to allow extra time before school to be with the alien. Ann, Paul, and Scott had barely made a sound, so they could allow the exhausted alien to sleep, but the children, amazingly comfortable with the alien’s presence, were eager to see and talk to her again, as if validating to themselves that this was not all a dream.
Jason and Ryan started within minutes to continue showing the alien books and printouts of stars and planets, while Tammy sat close by staring at the pretty, shiny jewels that adorned the creature’s locks. By that afternoon, K’Shai, although still weak, had taken more of an interest in her surroundings. Paul and Ann had headed out for some groceries and Scott tried off and on to get the alien to speak again. She seemed distracted for the most part, looking around the house, glancing at pictures and novelties passively until finally settling in front of the television.
She wondered if the monitor device was linked to a communications grid. She wondered if the humans even had that type of technology. Could she send a transmission using human equipment? She sat for a long while considered her options. She did not understand human technology. If she were to be able to send any type of signal into space, in the hope that Rochant would hear, she would need the humans’ help in the matter. She needed to learn to communicate with them before she could communication with the Yautja.
Scott was in the kitchen, hovering over the counter top preparing a meal for the two of them. K’Shai rose to her feet. Scott turned and stared into the living room, two plates of food in his hands. He smiled casually.
“Hungry? It’s not baaing, but I hope it’ll do. Humans like their food cook...” he stopped short.
A sudden rush of weakness and dizziness fell over K’Shai as she had pulled herself up. She grunted in pain and her body shivered. She could feel the child inside her stirring and she wrapped her right arm over her belly protectively as her body trembled. Her eyes began to deceive her. Vibrant reflections of non-existent heat sources whirred around her. She dropped to her knees, smashing hard into the coffee table.
Scott dropped the plates and quickly sprinted towards the alien. K’Shai stayed on the floor, trembling. She bellowed out and her breathing sped up and grew harsh. Scott moved alongside her and gently offered her his support. With a little help, K’Shai sat up and leaned against the sofa.
“I wish I knew what to do,” Scott whispered. “How can we help you?”
K’Shai tipped her head back and shut her eyes. She knew something was wrong, very wrong. This sort of intense pain, dizziness, and weakness was not normal. She had suffered injuries before, broken bones, severe bleeding, but nothing of this magnitude. She felt increasingly weaker as she st there and struggled to regain control of her own breathing.
She wondered if this was a sign that her child might not live through birth, or if it was an indication that she may not live long enough to find out. K’Shai had very little medical training. She was a hunter, not a medic. Hunters learned to use their field medical kits for quick heals to large injuries, but now, she did not have a field medkit. The only thing she did have going to her advantage was a very good mechanical skill. If there was a way she could get the humans to help her, there was a chance that she could get home.
K’Shai took a deep, rugged breath and tipped her head. She saw the blank monitor screen in the corner of her eye and turned to stare at it.
“Talk...” she said. Hearing the word so many times since she awoke yesterday, she knew the human would understand the reference.
“What?” Scott questioned uncertainly.
K’Shai raised a long, taloned finger and pointed at the device, repeating, “Talk.”
“No,” Scott said, “That’s a TV...I don’t under...” then, an image of visual communication screens so frequently used in science fiction shows came to his mind. He realized that K’Shai must use exactly that type of technology to communicate ship to shore with her people.
“Oh K’Shai,” he started with remorse, “that’s not a communicator. You can’t ‘phone home’ on that, E.T.”
K’Shai tipped her head to one side, staring blankly at Scott with her golden eyes.
“Do you understand? I can’t help.”
“Understand...” K’Shai repeated.
“Umm...no,” Scott said, shaking his head. “No, I can’t help you, I don’t know how.”
The alien stared at the screen again. Scott raised his palms and sighed.
“I’m sorry, but there;’s just no way.”
At that moment, Ann and Paul returned, arms full of grocery bags. Scott stood to help them and quickly told them of what had transpired while they were gone.
“Not unless we could use the computer somehow.” Paul said afterwards.
“How?” Ann asked. “Would there really be a way to send a signal into... into outer space?”
“There’s gotta be some way.... maybe we could hack into a SETI computer or something.” Scott said, lost in thought.
“That wouldn’t exactly be easy, and I’m no computer hacker. Jason could probably help think of something, he’s good with computers. Even if we do figure out a way to send a signal into space, there’s still one big problem,” paul said.
Paul raised his eyebrows. She doesn’t read or write our language, and I don’t think she understands English well enough to tell us what to do. How to.... direct the signal or whatever,” he stated.
“I don’t know, I mean , there’s gotta be some way,” Scott said frustrated. He watched the alien pace slowly back to the fireplace and painfully lower herself onto the blankets. “The signal wouldn’t have to be big” he continued. “Maybe just a sound or a word, just something for them to hone into.”
“For all we knew, maybe they know she’s on Earth nd they’re already here looking for her.” Paul added. “Maybe it’ll just be a matter of time until they find her.”
Scott took a deep breath and stared at the alien while thinking back to her weakness episode earlier. “I don’t think we have much time. She’s dying.”
Three days passed. There was no sign of alien activity on Earth, other than K’Shai. The pain from her broken bones and battered body had numbed now, and she could prop herself up to stand and walk with less of a struggle. She felt tired and sick and a little worse, but yet she was more mobile now. She was becoming worried over the health of her unborn cub, concerned that she may not live long enough to bear it.
With that in mind, she had been focusing most intently on learning how to communicate with humans well enough to help herself get home. She did being to learn the language better, but not from books or images. It was Tammy, the youngest child, whose simply understanding of small words and easy sentences, that had helped the alien to learn the language better. The grammar was off, sometimes wrong words were used, but the general meaning behind what K’Shai was trying to say was understandable.
Jason had brought his computer down into the living room and he, Scott, Ryan and Paul took turns searching the Internet around the clock for any ideas to help K’Shai. By now, they had come up with several ideas, some with more of a chance to work than others, but even then, the chance was slim.
K’Shai watched the humans closely and listened to their conversations. She knew they were trying to help in any way they could. She couldn’t quite understand why these creatures were so willing from the very beginning to help her, but she was grateful. She studied the computer and the images that appeared on the screen, trying to make any sense of what she was seeing, but the symbols were so alien it looked like childish scribble to her Yautja eyes.
She lost herself in thought for a long while, wondering where Rochant was. She wondered if she could create a signal strong enough to reach him. She wondered if he was already here. Had he realized where her shuttle had gone off course? Had he followed the path to her? The thought that perhaps Rochant had accepted that K’Shai was dead and saw no reason to search for her came to mind. She shook her head. No. He would find her. He was the greatest hunter that live, the most noble blood, of the most noble clan. He would find her. She just had to make his hunt easier. Time was running out.
She began to feel weak again as the infant inside her became restless. K’Shai’s thoughts snapped back to the situation at hand. THe child was coming to term. K’Shai absently caressed her abdomen. She knew it was down to a matter of hours. She questioned her own strength to be its mother. With a grunt of effort, K’Shai rose to her feet and headed outside.
After a long while, Scott curiously stepped outside, bundling up inside his long coat against the bitter wind. He saw K’Shai, crouched at the corner of the barn, bloody slab of meat in one hand and a mutilated carcass on the ground before her. She was not eating, though. The alien’s head was tilted up and Scott raised his chin to look at the same stars that K’Shai stared so longingly at. He walked over to her silently and she glanced at him. He wanted to say something to her to comfort her, but he could think of no words. ‘I’m sorry’ simply didn’t cut it. So, he watched the alien silently and glanced up at te night sky with her.
She sat for a long while. The cold was not as much of a bother to her now. Her body was numb and her mind was far too deeply seeded in the stars to worry about the cold or the flashes of weakness that swept over her. K’Shai was trying to think of all of the verses, stories, and epic songs she had ever head. She tried to recall if anyone had ever been in a situation like this before. Perhaps in that, she could find some comfort, some guidance. There was none.
She vaguely wondered if, many years from now, songs would be sung about her. She may be the first Yautja ever to experience a situation like this. How she handled it, she supposed, would dictate how she was remembered. But would anyone ever know? She briefly thought that she should tell her tale to the human the crouched next to her. Perhaps he could pass her story on to the Yautja.
Suddenly, an idea flashed into her mind. She sprung to her feet with enthusiasm she hadn’t felt in a long while, ignoring completely the dizzy feeling that greeted her when she rose. Scott, startled by the sudden movement, stumbled sideways, then jumped to his feet and followed after K’Shai. She headed into the house and sat down at the computer. She had been learning since she first woke here in the alien home. She had been watching the humans intently and had begun to understand more about their technology as the days passed. It seemed strange that the thought would come to her when she was least dwelling on how to communicate to her people, but there was at least a chance, and she needed to take it.
“What....what are you doing?” Scott’s voice asked after several long minutes.
The alien ignored him completely, and continued to thoroughly evaluate the computer, television, telephone, and even a clock as though she was looking for something she had lost. The family watched her tear apart the computer tower. A jumble of wires and computer boards lay scattered about. The alien worked intently, quietly. An occasional click or grumble rose from between her clenched mandibles. Eventually, K’Shai, through small words and hand gestures managed to illustrate to her human onlookers just what she was trying to do.
They worked non-stop through the night and into the next morning. By late morning, K’Shai seemed content with whatever it was they created. She sat back and looked at the black, empty computer monitor.
K’Shai had no idea how powerful it would be, or if it would work at all, but if she had succeeded, this simple communicator should work. She had her own biohelmet linked to the mess of wires and microchips. She flicked a button on the inside of the helmet. The family gazed with anticipation, as though expecting a space ship to come flying into their living room through the computer monitor. The beeping dial tone of the telephone suddenly filled the room. It sounded as if K’Shai was logging online, but the terminal was still black. The alien clicked and gurgled the strange sounds that comprised the words of her language, then fell silent. A dull beeping died out into a static fizz and K’Shai seemed to have given up.
“Did it work?” Jason asked after a moment.
“I don’t think so,” Paul responded.
“She didn’t talk to the other aliens?” Tammy asked innocently.
“No,” Ann answered back, “it doesn’t seem like it.”
The rest of that day K’Shai seemed irritated, restless, and uncomfortable. Ann found herself alone with the alien most of the time and tried several attempts to get her to speak about her people, the crash, her thoughts, anything, but K’Shai stayed distantly silent.
“K’Shai,” Ann said eventually. “Are you OK?”
K’Shai sank back down onto the blankets in front of the fireplace and adjusted a pillow under her. The glimmer in the creature’s deep yellow eyes told Ann that she was understanding her words, but chose not to answer. Ann waited for a while, then slowly rose to her feet from the sofa and turned for the kitchen.
“OK, well I’ll...” she had begun, but K’Shai interrupted her.
“I need home.”
Ann turned and stared at the giant alien. The weak, whispering tone of her voice nearly floored Ann. K’Shai sounded lost and sorrowful. Ann sank down to the floor next to the alien.
“I know. I wish we could help.”
“You help much,” K’Shai assured. “We no survive.”
“What do you mean?” Ann said with a frown.
“We not live”
“We?” Suddenly Ann realized what the alien meant. “When are you going to have your baby?”
It took a few tries at asking the question before K’Shai understood enough to answer.
When Paul and Scott arrived back home in the early part of the evening, Ann voiced her concerns to them. It was obvious by K’Shai’s own words that the child was due, probably that night, and there was a good chance that K’Shai was dying. Scott, Paul, and Ann made whatever preparations they could. Ann finally did decide to send the children off, not for their safety, but for K’Shai’s own contentedness. Despite the children’s arguments, Paul and Scott agreed that it would best to have the household as quiet as possible, and not give K’Shai too large an audience. T
As the hours passed, it became apparent that K’Shai was very concerned about the impending brith. Scott and Paul did not see it as much. They could tell that she was getting anxious, but Ann, unsure if it was a motherly instinct or woman’s intuition, was far more able to tell that the anxiousness was a reflection of worry.
K’Shai finally broke down and silently admitted to herself that she was scared. She was actually grateful that the humans were by her side. She had never given birth away from her mei’sa, away from her family. It was Yautja way for females to birth amongst their kin. K’Shai had simply never been alone. She knew that Ann was a mother, and, although she wasn’t Yautja, the human was the closest thing to a supporting female she had at the moment.
She wasn’t sure how much help the humans could possibly bee, but she was glad they were there at any rate. However, she had something much more immediate to worry about. She was in abnormally severe pain. Something was indeed wrong. She grew more restless as a few more hours ticked bu, fidgeting her position, standing and pacing, and growling her concerns. She offered no response to the humans’ queries and comments.
It was after midnight. K’Shai lowered herself onto the blankets one last time and lowered her head. A soft groan escaped her moth. She stretched her mandibles widely and breath deeply. The humans watched closely. Their weary eyes now wide alert and as anxious as K’Shai. The alien caressed her round belly and readied herself. It was time.
“Is there anything we should do?” Paul asked aloud to no one in particular.
No one responded. K’Shai moaned and gasped, her breathing hastened and within seconds blood began to pool onto the blankets under her. The alien bellowed and panted with the pain of labor. The humans felt utterly helpless, merely sitting idly by watching the alien, but they did not know how best to help, or even if they could help her.
As long minutes passed, K’Shai seemed to be in more pain than ever and the blood was non-stop. Scott made vague comments about giving her painkillers and risks to her health. Ann shook her head and insisted this wasn’t normal, not for a human or an alien. Paul watched quietly, unsettled by the sheep pain the alien was demonstrating. There was nothing they could do.
K’Shai howled out again and the labor progressed. Scott reached forward and clapped a hand onto her shoulder sportingly. Much to his surprise, she did not chase him away. He whispered softly to her, trying to offer her any bit of moral comfort, but he could feel her body trembling under his hand.
K’Shai was growing more weak with every contraction. She felt as though the child would
never come out and all she wanted to do was end this a sleep for a very long time.
Blood poured profusely. There was far more than she had expected, far more than normal. She began to fear that the child was dead or dying. She was certain she was. Vague thoughts of what would happen to an orphan Yautja on the human home world filled her ming but were cleared in an instant as another surge of pain whirred up inside her. She howled out miserably and nearly fell over. She having a difficult time maintaining the crouched poise in which Yautja females delivered their offspring. Every bit of her strength was flowing out of her body.
“There’s too much blood,” Ann said again. “This is very wrong.”
K’Shai began to lean back, exhausted and unable to continue. Scott propped her up, allowing her to lean on him for support. Paul sidled next to her other side and helped support her as well. The alien’s pain filled howls toned down to a weak groan and finally she fell quiet. Her body was shaking and her breathing was more harsh than it had ever been, but suddenly, the child came to bear.
“It’s a boy!” Ann announced as she quickly cleaned and wrapped the infant in fresh blankets as Scott and Paul helped K’Shai to relax back. She was barely awake, her skin was pale, even her vivid rusty color stripes seemed to fade to a barely noticeable shade, her ragged breaths were long and deep. She took almost no notice of the child as she collapsed down.
Scott and Paul moved to Ann and stared at the child. Scott took the infant up in his arms and slid over to K’Shai holding the child out for her to see. A weak hand extended up towards the bundle of blankets in Scott’s arms, and he laid the infant on her chest. K’Shai wrapped her arm protectively around the nursing child and shut her eyes.
“Christ,” Paul exclaimed.
“What is it?” Scott whispered.
“She’s still bleeding.”
Scott glanced towards Paul and then looked back to K’Shai. “She’s unconscious.”
Suddenly, the shining glare of a car’s headlights bounced from room to room through the curtains as a vehicle, or several vehicles pulled into their driveway.
“What is that? Who’s here?” Ann asked as Paul crept to a window.
They heard the distinct sounds of car doors opening. They could hear a helicopter approaching in the distance. Scott jumped to his feet as Paul called out.
“Oh no, they’ve found her.”
Ann frantically snatched the child from his unaware mother and wrapped him protectively in her arms. “What do we do?”
A voice filled the cold night air. Someone was shouting at the top of their lungs for the occupants to open the door and come out.
There was a tense moment of silence as Scott, Paul, and Ann stared wide eyed at one another, unsure of what to do. There was no where to flee, no way to protect K’Shai or the child. They were surrounded. Reluctantly, Paul moved slowly to the kitchen door and reached for the knob. He could hear the clicking of guns outside as a dozen unidentified men took aim as the saw his silhouette behind the curtain. Paul had barely opened the door when several men rushed into the kitchen and before he had time to react in any way, Paul was handcuffed and being forcibly directed out into the snowy night towards a waiting van.
Paul heard Ann scream. There was some commotion coming from within the house and a few more men ran inside. The sounds died away and Ann, tears in her eyes, was being dragged to the van where Paul was already bound.
Scott stood waiting at K’Shai’s side, watching the black-clad men fight Ann for custody of the alien infant and quickly hustle her out of the house. Several others had turned on him, aiming their guns determinedly and yet more, following the orders of their commander, searched the basement and the upstairs for any other human occupants of the house.
“Jesus H. Christ,” the commander muttered as he approached K’Shai.
“She’s dying,” Scott said in a whisper as handcuffs were snapped onto his wrists and he was shoved away. He watched the commander take hold of the child from on the others and kneel down toward K’Shai as a variety of people, some dressed in uniforms, others in protective biohazard gear and wielding medical equipment instead of guns, flocked over to the alien.
“No pulse!” Scott heard one of the people cry out in a panic. He shook his head. K’Shai never had a palpable pulse, even in her most alive moments. Idiots. He thought. They knew nothing about her.
Scott walked depressedly along with the men escorting him towards the van where Ann and Paul were sitting solemnly, chained like felons to the little steel bench along one side of the vehicle. His face was as pale as the snow reflecting in the headlights of the vehicles. He was idly watching the helicopter that was circling overhead.
“What are they doing in there?” Paul whispered.
“Probably dissecting her or something,” he grumbled angrily.
Suddenly, it seemed as though someone had shot up a flare into the sky. Ann, Paul, and Scott tilted their heads upward, following the path of the bright blue, sparkling bolt of light as it sailed into the night sky. A dozen or so men in the driveway and yard between the barn and the house all stopped suddenly in alarm and watched the bright flare zoom up. A loud boom filled the air, accompanied by the shouts of men on the ground. Armed officers ran out of the kitchen, shouting, guns at the ready. Paul, Ann, and Scott sat chained to the van, terrified.
The helicopter exploded in a magnificent blaze and debris fell in all directions, landing in the trees, on the house and barn, and near the people below. Gunfire quickly rang out. The men seemed to be aiming into all the trees and the cornfield beyond the house, although from their viewpoint, it was impossible to see what they were all firing at. But the men seemed to be firing in all directions, not particularly aiming on any one thing. Suddenly, Ann caught view of one man near the far corner of the barn as he was picked up at least three feet off the ground and through across the wide driveway like a ragdoll. She couldn’t see what had tossed him, but she definitely saw what appeared to be a long spear floating on its own accord, searching out its next victim.
The panicked men focused their aim in that direction, but to no avail. One by one, more than two dozen men were slaughtered by the invisible attackers. Scott, Paul, and Ann could see spears, knives, and more bright blue flares cut and slice through the firing battalion, but it did not seem as thought there was anyone holding the weapons. The sounds of the battle died down as the last of the officers was thrown aside, head ripped off his torso. The snowy white ground was now shining blood red in the headlights. Shimmering objects could be seen moving past the vehicles and towards the house, and some seemed to be coming straight towards the van where the three of them were still chained.
“We’ve gotta get outta here!” Paul yelled frantically and he fought against his bindings uselessly.
“Oh my God,” Scott said suddenly.
Paul stopped ratting the cuffs and looked up. He only caught the last second of a flash of blue light, but this was not the flare weapon. The blue light quickly faded away to reveal the tall, armored body of an aline just like K’Shai. The blank face of its helmet stared directly into the hearts of the three humans and the jagged blade of a sword the creature held was pointing in their direction.
“K’Shai’s inside! You’ve got to help her!” Scott started as though the alien had just asked him a question.
The alien held still for a moment, perhaps contemplating the words he just spoke. He raised his sword, intending to kill. Suddenly more shots rang out, the alien had struck with his sword, but whipped quickly around when the shots were fired. The blade’s trajectory was altered and instead of beheading a terrified Scott, the blade sliced into the chains binding him. The alien quickly sprinted away, forgetting about the three humans.
The alien fired upon the men holding ground in the kitchen’s entrance. One man took a hit from the blue flame and was thrown backwards out of site. The other few officers had ceased firing and jumped out of the way to avoid being shot through with the alien weapon, only to find themselves impaled by spears and wrist-mounted knives. The alien that had approached the van disappeared inside. The rest of the alien rescue squad quickly followed the leader inside. Scott inched forward but dared not go near the house. He stayed alongside Paul and Ann, who were still chained down.
“What do we do now?” Ann whispered, struggling against the steel shanks.
More screams rang out from inside the house, accompanied by the sounds of breaking glass and smashing wood. Soon those sounds died out and a dead quiet fell over the area. The blood stained snow glistened under Scott’s feet and the headlights picked up every mutilated carcass in eyesight. The still burning flames from the helicopter wreckage cast an eerie orange glow on the farm.
“It should be long before someone comes,” Scott said finally, breaking the frightening silence.
“Yeah, everyone in town’s bound to have heard to the commotion,” Paul said. He stared over at Ann, expecting to see a look of fear on her face, but instead she was craning her neck around the edge of the van, determinedly trying to see what was going on in the living room.
“I hope she’ll be alright,” she whispered.
As if in answer to her thoughts, the large forms of the alien party began to appear in the doorway. The first one out was the gray-skinned aline that had nearly killed Scott. In his arms, he carried a bundle of pink, flowery blankets and linens, the new born alien boy wrapped safely inside. He stopped again, just outside the door and turned his eerie, sleek helmet toward the van. Paul, Scott, and Ann watched silently, holding their breaths.
“Lower your heads, don’t make eye contact,” Scott whispered to his chained friends as the alien approached once again.
The alien raised his sword one more time and without a sound slammed the sharp edge down hard twice, so quickly it was nearly impossible to follow. The creature’s aim was perfect. Ann and Paul were freed from their bindings. The alien stared at the three humans for a moment as they lifted their eyes and watched him. Then, he turned around again and strode back towards the open door of the house where the other aliens were waiting inside the kitchen waiting for their leader’s cue.
A quick glance in their direction told the alien party to move out and slowly, eight giant figures emerged into the cold, still night air.
“Oh God,” Scott said breathlessly as he watched the group leave.
The Leader took to the front of the line, with one alien following immediately behind him, two more pulled up the rear. The four giant warriors in the middle of the group carried K’Shai by the shoulders and legs. Her bloody body was still and lifeless as her comrades carried her away into the dark. Neither Scott, Ann, or Paul could tell if she was alive at all. Within a moment, the aliens had disappeared into the trees as the sounds of sirens in the distance filled the air.
“What happens now?” Ann whispered quietly, staring off into the dark woods after the alien party.
“I don’t know,” Paul whispered, wrapping his arms comfortingly around her. “But nothing’s going to be the same ever again.”