The cell block was near silent as Raule quickly walked up to his commander, Ketame, and bowed his head. The golden elite looked down at him, the previous hate for having a Haw under his command reduced to a lesser degree, yet still evident.
“How has your first week being?” he asked, looking down over the report Raule handed him.
“Uneventful Sir,” Raule replied.
“Certainly,” Ketame said looking into Raule’s face. “You fail to mention a certain event on here, one which your night relief did note.”
“That was not on my watch Sir.”
“Yet it was you who committed the crime,” Ketame spat into Raule’s face.
“I did not know it was a crime to punish the humans,” Raule said calmly, adding Sir onto the end. Ketame glared into his subordinates’ eyes.
“It is of no consequence now, the hierarchs have given the command to cleanse the humans from this ship before we leave the surface.”
Raule drew in a slight breath at these words, was it relief or dread he did not know.
“You are to deal with the ones in your block, if you require assistance then call for one of the other warriors. There is no reason to hog the fun,” Ketame finished with a grin.
“Yes Sir, I understand,” Raule said quickly.
“Very well, we shall start the cleansing tomorrow, when the sun breaks the horizon, the carcasses are to be left by the grav lift. No need to worry about the mess, the orbital ships are going to glass the planet after we head off. You may leave.”
“Yes Sir,” Raule said, turning on his hoofed foot and departing through the gliding doors.
As he walked along the short hall bordering the seven cell blocks Raule leant against the smooth metal and dry heaved for a few moments. Why was he so nervous all of a sudden, hadn’t he always known this moment would come. Or did he hope some other individual would have to perform the acts. Running his hand over his mandibles Raule let out a low sigh and continued down the hallway.
Caleb was resting against the cell wall as the doors hummed apart and the infamous elite strode in. Humans nearest to the plasma shields shuffled backwards as he made his way to the pedestal at the far end, afraid of his wrath.
Rubbing his chest slightly Caleb was careful not to disturb the sleeping Eli next to him. His left arm still hurt awfully, the way it was bent Caleb knew it was broken and leaving it in this awkward position would cause a lot of damage in the long run.
The elite began conversing quietly with the two grunts by the pedestal, their demeanour changing instantly, glancing around the humans surrounding them. As they shuffled back to their usual sleeping spots Caleb glanced at the elite. There was something new in the eyes today, another emotion past the pity and anger he had seen so far, this was something worse, a sense of foreboding. Caleb’s mind raced to find possible answers for this behaviour, but his mind was weak, exhausted by his incarceration. Eli stirred slightly against his shoulder, rolling over he lifted his arm and rested it against her chest. God she was beautiful he thought silently, damming his years of loneliness for denying him any intimate relationships.
From the other side of the shimmering plasma screen the big elite walked by slowly, he seemed to be pacing the room, barely looking into the rooms he passed. He was constantly moving one of the tusk type things on his face, almost like he was frustrated. As he walked by again Caleb slowly looked the other way, into Eli’s face to avoid having to talk with his personal demon.
“It’s quiet,” a voice spoke softly from his chest. Caleb looked down at Eli who had shifted into his lap. “Anything happen,” she asked groggily.
“Nothing to report,” Caleb answered tracing a finger over her cheeks, “I just wanted to let you rest.”
“You’re so considerate,” she replied grinning with her wide smile. Caleb’s own face split into a grin as he watched her.
“And him,” she asked, looking out over to the still pacing elite, “Any change.”
“No,” Caleb said slowly, “but… well I think something’s eating him up. His just been pacing since he came in.”
“Nerves,” Eli put forward.
“Because of what though?” Caleb asked, curiosity over taking him.
“I dunno’,” Eli answered, looking back up at Caleb, “Why do you want to know?”
“I don’t know,” Caleb said truthfully with a sense of quiet defeat in his voice, “it just looks weird seeing an elite acting all nervous. Makes me nervous.”
“Ahh,” Eli said sweetly stroking Caleb’s face, “I didn’t think you got scared.”
“My first night on the streets, that was scary. I had no money, only the clothes I was wearing and not a clue as to what to do. I sat in a doorway until I got moved by the police, pouring with rain I ended up under a bridge, rats scurrying around me as I tried to sleep.”
“And what happened,” Eli asked curiously, listening closely.
“I didn’t get any sleep that night, or the next. Eventually I ended up on the opposite side of town in the industrial district. Found an old warehouse and made myself a kind of den in a store room. I stayed there for a long time, moving out at night to get what I needed, a lot of the bigger factories made tonnes of waste, old boxes, shredded paper, stuff that was perfect for keeping me warm and comfy. Of course you can’t eat paper so I had to resort to.”
“Stealing,” Eli interrupted.
“Come on,” Caleb protested shyly, “I had to survive.”
Eli sighed gently against Caleb’s lap, debating the moral dilemma in her own mind.
“Did you ever want a new family though,” she asked quietly.
“I told you,” Caleb began, but Eli cut him off.
“I know what you said. But when you were all alone in that store room, did you ever wish you had a new family to be with, even if they couldn’t replace your true parents?”
Caleb leant his head back on the wall and mulled over the question, his mind screamed at him to say yes, but his stubbornness kept it at bay.
“Have you ever wished you didn’t have a mum or dad?” Caleb finally asked, trying to turn her question.
“Well, yeah,” Eli replied slowly.
“Well it’s kinda the same, only you flip it around. When you’re sitting in a corner, the rain lashing against the thin roof over you, you kinda miss having a mum to be there to hold and comfort you. When you see the other kids playing football with their dads you get jealous, but then you realise fate dealt you a crap hand and you accept it.”
“If only you had come past my place, I would of.”
“What,” Caleb interrupted this time trying to keep his voice low and neutral, “take me in? Think about it, the only reason you’re talking to me now is because we’re locked inside a prison cell. If you had seen me go past your house your dad would of told me to shove off.”
“I guess you’re right,” Eli said slowly, her eyes almost tearing up.
Caleb didn’t compound the fact by saying ‘I told you so’ but he knew that she understood what he meant. From outside the cell the elite walked past once more, Caleb looked up slowly, the mighty beast walked with a definite slouch and Caleb could tell something was troubling it. The elite looked momentarily into the cell and Caleb quickly diverted his attention back to Eli, when he looked up again the elite had moved on.
“Maybe you should just ask him what the matter is,” Eli put forwards, more of a joke than a suggestion.
“Nah, somehow I don’t think he’ll take too kindly to that.”
“Anyway, you got any idea how we’re going to escape?” Eli questioned, much more quietly now.
“None,” Caleb answered honestly, “I haven’t got the strength to attack the elite, I can’t spot a single weakness in this room, and the plasma is well… plasma.”
“So no hope then,” Eli said sounding deflated.
“I thought you were the optimistic one,” Caleb said trying to cheer her up.
Slowly, Caleb looked round out of the door, an idea exploding to life in his head.
“If…” Caleb said silently, his mind racing.
“What?” Eli asked quickly, watching Caleb think furiously.
“I can’t attack the elite right,” he said looking back at her.
“What about the grunts, they’re tiny.”
“But even if you could get at one, the elite would step in straight away.”
“Exactly!” Caleb exclaimed, his mind almost literally lighting up with his idea, “What does that elite do everyday?”
“I… don’t know,” Eli said slowly.
“Half way through his day he leaves for twenty minutes doesn’t he. Lunchtime, rest break, I don’t care. All I know is that for twenty minutes it’s just us and those grunts.”
“Ahh!” Eli said catching onto Caleb’s plan.
“He’s only just arrived so we don’t have to wait until tomorrow as well,” Caleb said slowly, watching the pacing elite.
“But why not wait, work things out a bit more,” Eli put forward. Even though her suggestion was valid Caleb knew why they couldn’t wait.
“Every moment we stay here we get weaker. And by the way that elite is acting I don’t think we can expect a three course meal anytime soon.”
“So today then?” Eli asked, sitting up next to him.
“Yep, listen. Here’s what you’re gonna have to do.”
Hujo looked across the room, his small paws clacking against the cold metal beneath him. On the other side of the room Nila slept peacefully, his head bobbing up and down rhythmically. His methane tank resting against one of the rooms’ pillars. Raule would be back soon Hujo thought, glad that he would be able to rest as well.
From one of the rooms a violent sound erupted. Waddling over as fast he could Hujo stared into the cell. A female human lay upon the metal, her body convulsing wildly, screams of agony and pain coming from her alien face. Hujo rocked back and forth on his feet, unsure what to do. The male with her moved up to the plasma shield and started shouting at Hujo. He could barely understand their language, his few lessons covering only basic commands.
“What is wrong,” Hujo asked in his native tongue, motioning towards the sick woman. The human merely continued to shout, the woman screaming behind him. He was pointing now, from Hujo to the woman. He wanted him to come in! Hujo shook his head, a clear sign of no. The female screamed again, louder and louder, higher and higher. Hujo could take no more. He waddled to his partner and told him to quickly deactivate the shields for the cell. As Nila moved off Hujo returned to the cell in question.
The woman was lying deathly still now on her stomach by the far wall, her absence of screams leaving a hollow silence. As the plasma crackled and dissipated Hujo drew his pistol and advanced into the cell, never taking his aim from the male.
He kicked the woman lightly with his foot. She didn’t move. He turned to look at the male, as he did he felt irrevocable pain shoot through his head and the world seeped away from him.
Caleb watched as Eli pushed the grunt away from her, the bottle he had gotten yesterday lodged through its skull. She had spun from her prone position and driven the small cylinder through its skin with such force that part of the bottle poked out the other side, dark purple blood flowing freely from both wounds. As Eli pushed the small body away from her Caleb peeked around the side of the cell. The other grunt stood nervously by the control panel, his eyes fixed onto the entrance his partner had just entered. Walking back to the dead grunt Caleb shook his head in disgust, not only for what he saw, but what he had to do.
Placing one foot on the neck of the dead creature he used both hands to yank the bottle free. It slid out smoothly. The purple blood glistening on the surface.
“Stay here,” he whispered to Eli, picking up the fallen plasma pistol as well.
Caleb knew he could just as well charge the pistol and effectively vaporise the small creature, but he couldn’t do that. Not yet at least. Hefting the canister in his left hand Caleb arched his back and threw the projectile clear across the room, it banging as it impacted above one of the other cells.
The grunt swivelled to follow the object, as soon as his gaze, and gun, pointed away from the cell Caleb ran full pelt straight towards the little alien. When he was within six feet the creature turned to look at him, shock plastered over the foreign features. Dropping into a slide tackle Caleb ploughed into the grunt, both of them rolling to the ground in a heap. Quickly springing into a crouch Caleb grabbed the grunt and held it up of the floor, its little body twisted violently trying to break free, but after a while it gave up and hung limp in Caleb’s hands.
Standing up straight Caleb walked over to the control panel, the grunt held in front of him. He lifted the creature and pointed it towards the cells, then the panel. It got the idea as it tried to raise one arm. Caleb let his grip loosen and then tighten as it pulled a stubby arm free. Taking another step forwards he let it touch the panel. Just before it could make contact Caleb pulled it backwards and turned it to face him. Squeezing it harder it gave a small yelp and Caleb hoped it got the idea; no funny business. Once again letting it near the panel, the small grunt pressed a quick series of buttons and the cells lost their shimmering fourth wall. The people inside stood quickly and walked out cautiously. Moving over to the newly freed captives, Caleb handed the grunt to a strong looking man in military fatigues.
“You want me to kill it or keep it,” he asked in a thick Russian accent accepting the still grunt.
“You decide,” Caleb said walking off to Eli who now stood by the panel, his plasma pistol bulging out of his pocket. Picking up the other one he turned to look at the people assembled before him.
“Does anyone here have any experience with Covie weapons?” he asked over the quiet murmurings.
A few choruses of ‘I do’ rang out so Caleb quickly passed the two weapons to those who he thought looked most capable.
“You’re not keeping one for yourself,” Eli asked quietly at his side.
“I’ve never shot a gun in my life, much less an alien one. Better to have some skill behind the trigger.”
“I suppose you’re right,” she answered, “So where do we go from here?”
“Home,” Caleb said, beginning to walk through the small crowd.
Raule walked back quickly from the dining halls. He was running late, too concerned with his own musings to notice the time. As the doors parted he stood stock-still.
The usual glow of blue plasma was void. Propped up against the far control panel, two prone forms lay in a puddle of violet liquid. Cursing himself, Raule turned and sprinted back the way he had come. He ran full pelt past Commander Ketame’s cell block, he ran down the long hallways, following the tiniest scent in the air, the smallest drop of red blood on the ground. He would hunt these humans down himself, or it would be his corpse by the grav lifts in the morning.