‘This place is a maze.’ Caleb moved quickly, but quietly with the group. Around them doors led off to other corridors or rooms, a soft purple glow seemed to emanate from every wall and the whole ship hummed with an endless vibration. The group of men, women and children had been slithering through the endless halls for over twenty minutes and they had not even found so much as an arrow pointing to a way off of the ship.
One of the marines armed with a weapon peered around a corner ten feet ahead of the main group. He instantly held up a balled fist, even though Caleb or any of the other civilians had never joined the armed forces, they all knew it meant stop. Slowly the large Mexican moved around the corner, a few seconds later a muffled thump came and he reappeared before them nodding. As the group proceeded along they passed the body of a dead grunt lying propped up against a side panel, its methane tank slowly hissing as it let out a fine stream of super chilled gas.
“Where the hell is the exit?” one man called out from the pack. Others mumbled their agreement at his statement, but no one could provide an answer. Turning another familiar looking corner one of the younger enlisted men gasped, looking along the left hand wall. As one the entire group turned to face him, but he simply walked forwards pushing past them, his fingers running over the surface of the wall.
“What is it?” Caleb finally asked, as much to silence the stares as to know what was peeking this mans interest.
“These doors,” he said, running his fingers over tiny grooves in the metal surface, “the large buttons, big icons above. I think these are life pods.”
A murmur of excitement ran around the group at these words, but Caleb stepped forwards to stand beside the man.
“Can you open them?” he said quietly.
“Well…” the mans fingers brushed over a large glowing panel, instantly the metal door slid into the side of the wall on silent runners. Looking in the man nodded, sure of his judgement.
“Ok, you carry on down the hall opening the doors,” Caleb said turning to face everyone, “The rest of you, pile into these pods. Hurry and be quiet.”
At once the hall was a flurry of motion, the lone man who had probably saved their lives ran down the hall, his hands brushing each panel as he went. Within sixty seconds everyone was sitting on the oddly designed benches in the life pods. Running back along the corridor the man who had opened the doors proceeded to show each pod group which button to press to start the engines, but only on command. As soon as a single pod detached the Covenant would know they were here, they had to leave as one.
Watching everyone get ready in the pods, Caleb drew a deep breath and literally screamed “Now!” The sound of doors slamming shut, explosives detonating and small pods rocketing forwards filled the corridor. Caleb ran forwards, Eli waiting for him in a pod directly across the hall. His head snapped backwards when he was still three feet from the entranceway, the doors slamming shut before his eyes, sealing Eli inside with the lone man who had been everyone else’s saviour.
As his eyes stopped watering Caleb looked up into the shimmering form of an elite, as the active camouflage fell away Caleb felt his life plummet away just like the escape pods.
“You,” was all he could manage to say as the beast reached down for him. The large hands wrapped around Caleb’s tattered clothes and he was brutally forced to stand. For what felt like an eternity the two just stood in the corridor, their eyes boring into each others as if they could fight without even having to raise a weapon. In the distance the ship was brought to life, alarms filtered down through the walls and the ship seemed to awaken from its slumber.
From the remaining sealed pod desperate hammering echoed out, Caleb finally glanced in its direction and sighed; at least Eli was safe. For now. The elite stepped closer to Caleb and drew his rifle from its holster, the act slow and deliberate.
Caleb began to rise slowly, gripping the metal wall for support. Watching the struggling human, Raule grinned broadly, he may have lost the other humans, but this one would not escape him. Reaching down he grabbed the boy by his emaciated clothing and held him so that their eyes were level.
“My only regret human is that you won’t be able to hear your female scream as I tear out her heart.”
The words hit Caleb harder than any blow, he lashed out wildly, but the elite simply swatted him aside, laughing at the weak act of defiance. Staggering backwards, Caleb began to cry, his body racking from the sobs. He dropped to his knees and cradled his head in his hands. The elite moved forwards, gently placing the rifle atop the humans head.
“Weak,” he sneered before tightening his grip on the trigger. Caleb roared, an act of aggression and violence brought on by a primordial rage. He would not let this elite live, he could not afford it, Eli had to live. He launched himself from the floor, both hands together forming a fist that smashed through the lower mandibles of the elite. Never pausing Caleb dropped onto the fallen elite and rammed his elbow down hard on the throat, felt the bone and cartilage crack, the re-assuring gurgle coming from the elite’s now badly wounded mouth.
Pushing the human off Raule lurched awkwardly, clutching at his neck. His hand swiped to his hip, groping for his rifle. Then in a moment of blind panic he remembered he had took it out already and…
Caleb picked the weapon up slowly, running it through his hands as he moved towards the elite. Stopping before he came too close, he grinned and pointed the rifle at the aliens head.
“Feel familiar?” Caleb mocked.
Raule simply dropped to his knees, his hands in front of him and began whispering sacred prayers his mother had taught him long, long ago.
“No God can help you now,” Caleb whispered.
The elite looked up at this, his dark eyes fearful. He held out his hands, palm up.
“Finish me human, show you are not weak.”
“I won’t give you the satisfaction,” Caleb replied simply before firing a single shot at each outstretched hand. Raule howled in agony, but Caleb knew it was enough.
“I’ll let your own kind deal with you,” Caleb said before turning and opening the escape pod. “And in case you’re not strong enough for that…” Caleb tossed the rifle near to the elite before entering the pod. Raule lay motionless, cradling his severely damaged hands. He heard the loud thud, knew the pod had ejected and felt all his hopes fly away with it.
Picking up the weapon gingerly Raule wondered what his father had felt when they had tried and sentenced him. It couldn’t of been this bad. Noises now, from either end of the long hall, they were coming, and they would kill him for what he had done.
Placing the rifle between his mandibles, Raule began to cry, everything lost, nothing left to live for. As the others neared him he took one final breath and pulled the trigger.
Nothing. In the final moments, Raule realised Caleb had played a final trick on him. The rifle had been out of charge, dead, empty. But then another thought shot through his mind; how could Caleb have known. He had given the weapon away believing it to still be functional.
They were close now, so very close. A grunt waddled into view, it approached cautiously, a wounded elite an unnerving sign. Raule sat up, motioning the grunt closer. When he was within range, he grabbed the pistol handing loosely in the grunts grip. Before the small creature could comprehend what was happening Raule had shot it.
And then himself.
Caleb felt the sudden jolt of gravity, then felt what little food he had try to escape from his stomach as gravity fell away. He was free, and what’s more, he had saved Eli who now lay nestled in his arms.
Nothing mattered any more. They were free. Going wherever the pod took them. As long as they were together.