Disclaimer: I do not own the Predator Franchise. Just having a lot of fun with the characters!
What is it with oomans and their pesky satellites? Their home world now looked like a mangy rjet with an extremely bad flea problem with all the satellites flying around. A hundred years ago, it would not have been a problem to fly through their home world's atmosphere. Moreover, it was quiet back then without the annoying broadcasts now seen and heard throughout their star system.
Their form of visual entertainments had never piqued the interest of the Yautja leader aboard the spacecraft speeding towards earth, except for one broadcast they recorded and translated not so long ago. It was a broadcast he relished and never grew tired of watching, especially the delicious ending. How gullible of the oomans to mistake an alien race's cookbook for something else. The ooman who wrote that piece must have been a Yautja in disguise.
"Somebody wake up that snot Jhir'k'a-tse!" growled Tirgu'ul, the leader, as he surveyed the twelve young students he was leading on this field trip. Jhir'k'a-tse was one of the promising ones. However, the whole group showed promise. Each student came highly recommended, and their experience on this upcoming survey mission would greatly aid them on the Warrior's Path.
The present bunch was not as wild as the preceding one, but there were times when the esteemed Tirgu'ul longed for a large tub of c'ntlip just to drown his headaches in. It was funny how each headache always starts out with one over-confident idiot standing in the middle of the kehrite roaring: "I am so-and-so and I am nobody's lou-dte kalei!" Then he will proceed to prove it by kicking every challenging Yautja's ass until proven wrong by a bigger and stronger idiot. Sure, there were injuries and bruised egos, but they were never serious enough to warrant drastic changes in status.
Adding to the headaches were the practically useless pair of Blooded warriors accompanying the group. Instead of disciplining the young ones and being exemplary examples of maturity, Ghiz the navigator and Ny'rath the pilot would just stand around and make bets on which student can be an idiot the longest. Both came from distinguished clans though, but Tirgu'ul had the sneaking suspicion that they belonged to the D'uh clan after the ship's computer squeaked a proximity warning to Ny'rath. The ship pitched and rolled, rattling its living contents.
"Quit playing 'dodge the satellite at the last possible moment!' I didn't survive a thousand hunts just to die in a stupid collision, and will somebody wake up Jhir'k'a-tse?" yelled an exasperated Tirgu'ul. "I swear that sucker could sleep through anything!"
The ship landed more or less in one piece with a few little pieces missing here and there due to close encounters of the satellite kind. The secluded forest hiding the ship was located not too far from the human settlement. The ramp descended and Tirgu'ul was the first to step onto the rich loam of the dark woods. Expecting a majestic procession of students, he turned around in time to see an extremely eager Jhir'k'a-tse start an avalanche of Yautja as he tripped and fell against the students at the top of the ramp. Dodging the rolling and jangling wave of student bodies, Tirgu'ul cursed under his breath. He also noticed Ny'rath give Ghiz a handful of vertebrae, clearly indicating Ghiz the winner of whatever bet they made.
"Sorry guys," clicked Jhir'k'a-tse as he smiled crookedly.
While the grumbling students picked themselves up, dusted off their light 'awu'asa' and adjusted their masks and mesh suits, Tirgu'ul began his instruction.
"I am only going to say this once so listen carefully. This is a training mission to observe the oomans in their natural habitat. As prey animals, they can be quite cunning and dangerous when cornered. There will be no hunting, no harassment, and no intimidation of the native animals during this survey." There was a collective groan from the group when they heard that part.
"Make sure your recording loops and equipment are in good working order and remember to avoid detection. Stay cloaked at all times. If in the unlikely event you become separated from the main group, return immediately to the ship. If in the unlikely event you are captured or mortally wounded, you are expected to do the honorable thing and blow yourself up. Are there any questions? Then let us proceed!"
Leaving the ship behind under the watchful eyes (okay, semi-watchful eyes) of Ghiz and Ny'rath, the group stealthily made their way through the shadows beneath the forest towards the settlement they were to observe. Tirgu'ul thought it wise that his young apprentices learn the art of stealth and tracking, of merging with shadows; but patience and wisdom, above all, were the lessons he wanted his pupils to learn this night. He quickly spotted an excellent platform for observing the main dwelling area of the oomans, and with a flick of his talons, he signaled his group forward.
The troop of Yautja traveled through the dense canopy of massive oak trees that lined the streets and populated almost every open space within the town. Their silent progress went undetected as they traversed a large stone gate that surrounded an old house. Scanning the house carefully, Tirgu'ul made sure it was unoccupied. Nothing moved in the house and any telltale heat signatures were absent. He signaled to the apprentices to make their way to the tall rooftop. Upon their high vantage point, the group perched like shimmering wraiths among the cupolas and crooked towers of the old Victorian mansion.
There were more oomans out tonight than usual, Tirgu'ul noticed. Taking a closer scan through his mask, he could make out the majority of them were young children, though others were nearing puberty. They must be what the oomans call in their language 'teenagers' (Common Ooman Expressions, 271st Edition.) Adults accompanied the youngest, but all were bizarrely dressed in one form or another. Was this night a special ceremonial event for them? The leader tried to remember from previous missions, but there was nothing in his memory that came near to what he was seeing.
"What are those glowing things at the front of their dwellings?" asked one puzzled student.
"They resemble skulls! Strange and globular skulls, but what is making them glow?" said another.
Tirgu'ul was curious indeed. He scanned the nearest 'skulls' and found them somewhat pulpy and far too soft to be the skulls of formidable beasts, and yet each 'skull' had either a fearsome expression or a jolly and somewhat bemused one. The ooman children must cut their teeth on such expressive prey.
"It looks as if they're putting their trophies on display," Jhir'k'a-tse chimed in.
"They must not bleach the majority of their skulls. They're all that same orange color with a few white or green ones mixed in," explained Tirgu'ul.
"They are wearing masks!" gasped Jhir'k'a-tse. "Leader, this student requests permission for a closer observation of the ooman children."
Tirgu'ul rolled his eyes; this sucker was surely trying his patience. "No. Request denied." He turned his attention back to the strange sight before him. Roving bands of children were rushing from one dwelling to another. Fortunately, the children ignored the old dwelling he chose. They remained undetected by the oblivious oomans.
It must have been the incredulous hisses and trills of the young apprentices that caused Tirgu'ul to turn away from the parade of ooman children he was observing. He saw the students gesturing and pointing at Jhir'k'a-tse. The young apprentice had swiftly left the roof and the only sign of his passage was the soft rustle of the tall weeds infesting the overgrown garden below. It was too late to call him back, and Tirgu'ul did not want to make their presence known with a roar of command.
"That sucker is going to get us all in deep trouble." Tirgu'ul sighed heavily. "I hope he knows his way back to the ship because we are not going to stay. Our survey here is over!"
Jhir'k'a-tse turned off his cloaking device as he stood upon the hard ground of the oomans main dwelling area. Given the circumstances, the young student thought he could blend in. He proceeded to walk down the path of hard uniform stone, scanning his surroundings and recording every sound that was of interest.
A large group of children soon joined Jhir'k'a-tse. They all were dressed in various pieces of colored clothing; some had very light armor made from some unknown substance he did not recognize. Nearly all had masks in some form or another, while the unmasked ones had their faces painted. The young Yautja noticed that the children carried bags or some form of sack filled with small items. Did they carry trophies? He took up his own mesh bag and looked at its contents. All he had in the bag were the small crystalline skulls of a few humanoid creatures he had picked up as souvenirs from an earlier survey.
The children were somewhat hesitant due to Jhir'k'a-tse's formidable appearance, but one child was brave enough to come forward and ask him a question.
"Do you play basketball?"
Jhir'k'a-tse merely nodded his head in the affirmative. It was something he learned from watching visual recordings of oomans in his natural history class.
"It's all right guys. He's just a basketball player in a homemade costume."
"Hey, that's cool!" cried a female child as she pointed to his mask. "Did your daddy help you with your costume?"
The Yautja nodded his head again. He let the children guide him to each dwelling so he could observe and record this rare human ceremony. It was all so fascinating. From the looks of the ooman children's actions, they seem to be demanding things from those who answered to their threatening chant, which he tried to mimic albeit awkwardly in his gruff alien voice.
"Trick-or-treat, smell my feet,
Give me something good to eat!
If you don't, I don't care,
I'll pull down your underwear!"
Jhir'k'a-tse soon found a certain joy in the ritual extortion and wondered what sort of things the adults were giving away to appease the marauding band of children. As they came to one dwelling where the orange 'skulls' adorning the front porch glowed warmly with a flickering light, a little female child dressed from head to toe in billowing white motioned him forward to stand before the door with her friends.
"Want some candy?" she asked as they waited for the neighbor to answer the door.
He did not know what 'candy' was, and he was about to look it up on his wrist computer when the door opened. An adult ooman stood before them holding a large bowl.
"Well, well, well, I see a cute little ghost!" The adult smiled and gave a couple of candy bars to the little girl. "Now, for your friends—-WHOA, aren't you a little too old to be out trick-or-treating?"
The adult ooman laughed as Jhir'k'a-tse presented his open mesh bag to receive the 'candy.' He repeated the chant of intimidation he learned from the children as the ooman placed two pieces of 'candy' in the bag.
The children and Jhir'k'a-tse made their way to every dwelling and were awarded with more of the 'candy.' He received many compliments on his costume, and the crystalline skulls in his mesh bag caught the interest of some of the adult oomans.
"Sugar skulls? Who's giving out sugar skulls?" cried one curious adult.
Soon it was time for the children to say their good-byes to Jhir'k'a-tse since it was getting late and they were eager to go home to eat the candy they got that night.
"See you around!"
"You're so cool! I wish I had that mask."
"Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bed-people bite!"
The young student was also eager to return to his leader and fellow Yautjas. He wanted to share with them what he learned that night and the mysterious 'candy.' He headed towards the tall house only to find the group gone. That left him with only one place to go to and that was the ship. Jhir'k'a-tse began his lone journey through the dark woods and as he neared the starship, he noticed a familiar figure waiting for him at the top of the ramp.
"Well?" Tirgu'ul asked as the young apprentice climbed up the ramp. There was the tiniest trace of relief in the old leader's voice.
Jhir'k'a-tse held up his mesh bag filled with loot.
"I hope you brought enough for everybody," said one apprentice.
Jhir'k'a-tse nodded his head in the affirmative. He turned and saw Tirgu'ul glaring at him.
As the ramp closed behind them, Tirgu'ul had the final say, "For the stunt you pulled back there, you are cleaning the waste pits for the rest of this trip."