A/N: I shouldn't be writing this, as I already have a fic on the go, but I just finished reading AvP: War and found myself inspired by the character of Machiko Noguchi. For those of you who haven't read the AvP novels, Machiko is a woman who teamed with a predator named Dachande (Broken Tusk) on a planet overrun by aliens. Together they defeated a queen, and as his last dying act Dachande marked Machiko between the eyes with the symbol that signified she was worthy of the hunt. She subsequently spent a year among a predator clan before leaving them under rather violent circumstances …
The forest was still. There was no wind to rustle the leaves; the air, humid and oppressive, seemed as though it were stifling every sound. The trees, so reminiscent of the aspens of Earth, grew in thick clusters, and their vivid green canopies twined together above to completely hide the sky from view. Filtered by the leaves, the harsh light of the twin suns was tolerable; outside the forest it was almost impossible to see anything for the glare until night fell or until one of the many turbulent storms that traversed the planet's surface manifested itself. Abruptly the stillness was broken, as a faint thundering echoed from a distance to announce the approach of one such storm.
Crouched at the trunk of a tree, Machiko Noguchi tilted her head to the side, listening avidly as the thunder receded and silence fell once again. With the storm would come rain, she knew, and it would fall as it always did in a steady torrent. It would impede her progress, but she forced that thought aside and instead focused on the imprint in the ground before her. It was a footprint, wider than both of her palms laid flat and side by side, and the long claw marks that radiated out from the top reminded her vaguely of the tracks she seen once made by an Earth bear. She ran one finger along the indent of the print, feeling the moisture that had welled up to coat it, and she knew then that she was not far behind her prey.
Her prey. A feral smile curved her lips; there had been a time when she had been certain she'd never again feel the rush of the Hunt, when she had dreaded the fact that she would never experience again the drive, the purpose, that made her feel whole. While her time among the yautja had granted her that, it had given her little else; for a time it had been enough for her, but when it no longer sustained her the way it had she had severed her ties …
Focus. With a small shake of her head, Noguchi forced her memories aside and crept forward from the print to study the next in line. The creature she stalked now was nothing like the bugs, the aliens, she had Hunted with the Clan. It was a solitary creature, highly territorial, but in its own right it was just as deadly. When Noguchi had exiled herself here after the events on Bunda, her intent had been to try and regroup herself, to try and discover the human woman that a year among the Hunters had partially buried. Three years without fellow human contact had left her social skills sorely lacking, a fact that was demonstrated with crystal clarity upon her interactions with Jess and Lara. Though reluctant, they had obliged her request to be set down upon this backwater planet that was for the most part inhabited only by its native species. She would send a call to them, she promised, once she was ready to join humanity, and so they had left her with what supplies they could afford to part with.
She had meant to keep her promise. But after several weeks of living in solitude, exploring the landscape that was so much like that of Earth, Noguchi discovered that the planet held something she'd thought never to know again. It held the risk, the danger she had come to crave and know from the Hunt. Ferocious predatory creatures walked this planet, offering a challenge. One month into her stay she had taken up that challenge; armed to the teeth with the arsenal she'd amassed during her time among the Hunters, she had confronted a large, cat like beast with a double row of fangs and six clawed legs. Her skills that the Hunters had ignored -the prowess she had been so proud of but they had disdained- had come into play as she moved through the deadly dance with the beast. Blood singing in her veins, heart racing and adrenalin flooding her, Noguchi had known then that this was ultimate purpose, her reason for living – she was a Hunter in the most primal sense of the word. And as the creature fell beneath her blades, a triumph like nothing she'd never known had filled her.
Thoughts of rejoining humanity had fled, then, for what she wanted most lay here, on this planet – the chance to prove herself again and again, the opportunity to face death repeatedly in order to determine her worth. She'd set about discerning what plants and animals on the planet were edible, using the technology Jess and Lara had given her; the water that flowed through the land was pure and safe. She could survive here, doing what it was she loved the most, and just like that her choice had been made. And now, ten months by her count after that choice, she was hot on the trail of her twenty-fifth kill …
Focus, Noguchi. She crawled forward in a lithe movement that bespoke of her prime physical condition, studying intently the ground and tracks in front of her. Months of hunting alone and battling for her life had honed her body even more than the many bug and queen hunts she'd completed while living with the yautja. Relying more and more on her own abilities, she'd learned to do without some of the Hunter weapons she'd brought along. For this particular kill she'd brought her two knives, one housed within a sheath along the side of her boot and the other riding firmly against her thigh. Her wrist blades, secure within their gauntlet, were most often her weapon of choice. A throwing disk was strapped against her waist, and her shoulder-mounted burner completed the arsenal. For armor she'd opted for only her bodysuit and shoulder and shin guards; anything else became too heavy, and in the oppressive heat she couldn't afford to be slowed down. Weather on this unnamed planet was usually temperate, but it seemed as though a heat wave had settled in.
A sudden rustling prompted Noguchi to become absolutely still; she cocked her head to the side and the movement sent the uneven, metal tipped lengths of her braids clattering quietly across her back. For long minutes she waited patiently, alertly, to see if the sound would come again. It didn't, and she rose finally to her feet. The wildlife of this planet's forests were for the most part quite silent, but from time to time she would hear them, and sometimes even see them. Unconcerned with the noise, she took a deep breath, eyeing the tracks; a moment later she was running alongside them, never letting them out of her sight.
She ran smoothly, swiftly, effortlessly clearing falling trees and twisting around stumps and twisting about the dense underbrush. In the past month she had become acutely familiar with these forests; she was more at home in its depths than she could remember being anywhere else. The tracks led her up a steep incline covered in a thick carpet of blue-green grass, and then down the other side. At the bottom a large stream meandered through the forest; reaching the edge of the water she came to an easy halt, dropping into a crouch to try and determine where the tracks left off before entering the water. There, on the other side, was an imprint with a distinct heel edge in the mud. Another, satisfied smile crossed Noguchi's face, for she was so close now-
-A rattling of a pebble behind her, and she whirled around with a knife in hand. At the same time, a familiar scent reached her nostrils – the yautja musk. For a moment she could not comprehend what she was seeing as it materialized before her, but then reality set in and she found that her lungs had momentarily forgotten their duties. A Hunter stood not several feet away, at the base of the hill she had just descended. She knew immediately by his appearance that he wasn't young, and the myriad of scarring she could see on his skin not covered by armor indicated he was a veteran Blooded. His mask, uniquely shaped in comparison to those she had seen on board the Shell, bore the distinctive thunderbolt mark, the same that was etched into the skin between her eyes. His hair was longer than her own, with many metal rings threaded through the ebony lengths. Like her, he had a shoulder burner attached, and carried in one hand a collapsible spear. Her eyes scanned him carefully, picking out the other weapons, noticing the skulls and bones that were strung across his chest. She wasn't frightened, but she was most definitely apprehensive.
She had hoped that all of Topknot's Clan –along with the visiting Clans- had been decimated after her betrayal on Bunda, but was acutely aware of the fact that someone could have survived. She could think of no other explanation for the appearance of this Hunter now before her; after all she had done, she was most certainly going to be considered a creature worthy of Hunting. This was a yautja however, that she had never before seen and that fact alone created within her a mild confusion. If he hadn't been aboard the Shell, how would he have known of her existence?
They faced each other for long moments, human and Hunter, both motionless. When the Hunter raised its free hand to remove the pressure hoses from the side of its mask, Noguchi remained still. As the mask was lifted away, she found her initial observation was correct; this was not a young yautja. Well into his prime, his yellow mottled skin was marked with old scars and one of his lower mandibles was chipped. Noguchi scanned his amber eyes for what she knew should be there –contempt, disgust, hatred- but at that moment an undulating chitter rose up from his throat, and he began to speak.
"Dahdtoudi." He said -Little Knife, the name bestowed upon her by Dachande. The fact that he knew that reaffirmed her earlier suspicions; he was tied to Topknot somehow.
With a small and brittle grin, Noguchi shook her head. "Machiko," she corrected in a voice rough from being unused. She was no longer of the Hunters; she had lived among them, but they had merely tolerated her, hadn't bothered to acknowledge the fact that Dachande had considered her an equal …
The Hunter tilted his head, considering. The fact that he hadn't yet attacked bewildered Noguchi; after what she'd done on Bunda she had known with undeniable certainty that she had irrevocably branded herself. Those that survived- if any- would hunt her down, and there would be great honor in taking her life, in the trophies of her bones.
A clicking hiss came from the Hunter; with the hand not holding the spear he gestured with two fingers to Noguchi. "Dahdtoudi." Curling the fingers into a fist, he thumped himself once on the chest. "Dachande."
Startled at the name of the one and only Hunter she admired, she stared at him in utter bemusement. Grunting in exasperation, the yautja indicated the thunderbolt scar on his own forehead, pointed to her again, and repeated Dachande's name. He was clearly indicating that he had some sort of connection to the late Leader … a moment later something occurred to her. When she had met Dachande, he had brought his students to Ryushi in order to hunt the kainde amedha, or Hard Meat, that was in truth the aliens that had infested the planet. Dachande had most certainly been older, and she'd come to understand from him that he'd had many students … could this Hunter before her be one of them?
The students Dachande had brought to Ryushi had disobeyed his orders, attacking the humans of the colony, or "oomans" as they were derisively referred to. After Dachande and Noguchi had teamed together, Dachande had slain some of said students for disobeying his orders. Dachande had given her the impression that slaying intelligent life was dishonorable; as such humans were not to be Hunted. And while some of his students obviously hadn't shared that sentiment, who was to say the some of his earlier protégé's wouldn't share and embrace his beliefs?
The Hunter had begun to speak, and though Noguchi had spent a year among the yautja there was a great deal she still could not understand in their language. She made out certain words –mei'hswei, meaning brother, yeyinde, meaning brave one and Dachande's name again. When he had finished, watching her expectantly, Noguchi lowered her knife. From what she could gather from his speech, what she'd discerned was true. This Hunter was a Blooded of Dachande's tutelage, and his behavior thus far did not indicate he was here for her head …
From somewhere within the forest around them, a haunting, warbling howl rose on the air. Noguchi half turned; she knew that sound, and it was the mating cry of her prey. She was close now, and as she faced the Hunter again an idea came to her. She sheathed the knife and beckoned him to follow with one hand – it was an invitation to join her on this, an offer for him to come along on the Hunt -her Hunt.
"Nain desintye-de," The Hunter said. The pure win, something that was said among the yautja at the beginning of every Hunt to bring good fortune.He then replaced his mask, reattaching the pressure hoses, and when he was finished he brought one fist to his chest and bowed his head. The gesture struck a chord deep within Noguchi, for it was a sign of respect; she had longed to receive something like that from the yautja during her time with them, a simple acknowledgement of her worth …
Noguchi removed her throwing disc, activating it so all the blades appeared with the slick sound of metal. The Hunter in turn flicked something along the length of his spear, and it elongated in one swift movement. Coming to stand beside her, the Hunter indicated himself with one clawed thumb against his chest, voice muffled now from behind his faceplate. "Kua'lt."
"Kua'lt," Noguchi repeated. Turning, hiding her face so that her smile of something akin to genuine happiness wouldn't show, she whispered silently, "Dahdtoudi."
With one backward glance to ascertain he was ready, she began to run, splashing into the river. And knowing that a Hunter ran at her back didn't fill her with unease or fear. It filled her with a strange sense of fierce pride, for though Dachande had been lost to her, it seemed as though she'd found another like him, a yautja honorable and worthy of her respect …
And then her mind focused only on what her eyes saw before her, and she became lost in the Hunt.
A/N: I don't know if this is a one-shot or not.