By Leah Wood
Prelude: Many years before Goliath battled the ultimate warrior hunter the Predator. Goliath managed to survive the encounter and thought for sure the Predator had been killed. However, the Predator is very much alive and vowed that he'd return to finish the hunt that he'd started and wouldn't rest until he'd taken Goliath for a trophy! This takes place approximately 4 years after Venus left Earth.
On an unknown planet far from Earth...
Twin suns beat down on the crimson skied planet. The air, hot and muggy as a sauna, shimmered over the exotic rainforest-like terrain. Cold never existed; it was a foreign, alien sensation to the planet. On the opposite side of the sky a massive, looming, emerald planet hovered forebodingly over the red world like an omnipotent force watching the inhabitants. Painting the crimson sky were long wisps of white bands, perhaps a form of cloud for the planet. This was the Predator home-world.
The planet was populated by hundreds perhaps thousands of Predator clans all with their own mark and mask style. But they all shared the same culture and that was The Hunt. As vicious and brutal as the beings were, war between their tribes was almost non-existent because of this common bond. The only thing that could spark war would be an intrusion of hunting grounds which rarely occurred. But when it happened the results were devastating and terrifying with only a few members of one clan still standing alive. But when there was a Hunt of any kind the clans would either unite or send their own ships to the desired hunting ground to see which warrior could gain the most honorable trophies. The more honorable the trophy the more power and status a warrior acquired in his tribe. All Predators knew this simple fact and Shrak-nalket was no exception
Shrak-nalket literally meant Blade Slayer. He was one of the most prominent warriors in the clan; not the leader, but close to it. When their current leader became too weak to defend his position Blade Slayer would challenge him for the right to lead the clan, but for now he'd bide his time. However, leading the clan was not on his mind. Something else consumed his thoughts. The Stone Warrior...Goliath. Years ago he'd hunted the huge, winged warrior during a hunt on the planet Earth. He'd come SO CLOSE to bagging that ultimate trophy! But all he managed to do was injure the Stone Warrior and acquire a broken leg and injured arm for his efforts. It didn't take long for his leg to heal but every now and again the old wound would bite him with pain, continuously reminding him of his lost trophy. The thought of his failure twisted his guts and enflamed his anger.
Blade Slayer in human years was a little past twenty seven, still bound with youthful aggression, but acquiring an adult temperance and patience. Just beginning his prime, the Predator possessed the ultimate strength and warrior spirit so possessed by his species. Even for one so young, Blade Slayer had made his mark in the clan. He'd taken trophies from so many planets and every wall in his dwelling was studded with skulls, teeth chains, various skins, and of course every deadly weapon a Predator could own. Not only had he these kinds of trophies but he had many females to attend to his needs. Male Predators ritualistically would fight for the females they desired to continue their warrior line and of course...keep them happy when they desired pampering. Sometimes one female would receive many combats from several males in order to determine who she would belong to. Only the best warriors got the best females and Blade Slayer had seven of them. Not the most of course. Some of the older, more experienced warriors had over twenty females in their harem but later on Blade Slayer would reach that number; provided he wasn't killed before then.
When Blade Slayer had fought Goliath he was still a young Predator; skilled, but brash and eager. Since then he'd improved his hunting techniques and gained more patience and intelligence. It was well known that younger male Predators were not high on intelligence...just aggression. Now he had both. For years he'd obsessed over the Stone Warrior. If it took his last breath...he WOULD once again meet that great warrior in combat and finish the hunt! The only problem was...hunting on Earth was not an often occurrence. It was a long distance even by space cruiser and only the elders could instigate a hunt to that planet. So the Predator had to wait.
During the peak heat of the 'day' Blade Slayer had retreated into his dwelling, ever restless. Heavily he sat in his chair, which was constructed out of various bones and skins of his prey; human skulls ended the arm rests and lined the upper arch of the back rest. His yellow, red flecked eyes slit as he brooded. Drumming his claws on the human skulls on the arm rest his thought went back to his prey. He couldn't get the Stone Warrior out of his head! It was almost an obsession! But...that being... he was the perfect prey: strength equal if not more so than his own, cunning, aggression, a warrior's skill, and even a sense of honor as he had!
As he thought, his attention was drawn by three of his females who had appeared around him. Each wore a distinct, ornate mask similar to a hunting mask but very different in that they were merely for design. Their lightly scaled flesh boldly patterned in various colors and relatively smooth, shone through a mesh body suit and light leather undergarments that females of the species wore. The females began crooning in a clicking warble that was meant to sooth their male. They could sense his tension and wished to console him. Slinking down to their knees the three females settled around Blade Slayer and began massaging his muscular arms and legs. Blade Slayer rattled his approval to the pampering but still couldn't banish his thoughts.
At that moment his communicator across the room chattered at him. Rising reluctantly Blade Slayer strode over to the panel and activated the incoming message. His eyes traced the cryptic alien writing of his people and then stopped. He couldn't believe what the message read out! There was a hunt brewing and it was...on Earth! His upper mandibles flicked outward in a pleased sort of manner as he turned from the panel. AT LAST! His obsession would be relieved! The HUNT would continue and THIS time...he wouldn't return without the skull and wings of the Stone Warrior Goliath!
A few weeks later (Earth standards)...
Elisa poured herself some hot tea and one for Goliath, who sat across the room on the couch. Attentatively she brought him the steaming beverage and sat next to him saying, "You seem quiet this evening. Is something wrong?"
The gargoyle toyed with the little mug in his talons, "It's been...nearly four years today." Goliath stated in a far off sort of way.
Elisa knew he meant Venus. Ever since the little alien left Earth four years ago the clan had been less that cheery. Angela had been hardest hit by her absence but did as Venus requested and not let her grief consume her. Bronx refused to eat or do anything for over a week but finally began to realize that Venus wasn't returning. He ate...but he didn't seem to have the same spunk that he'd had when Venus was around. But life continued and eventually joy returned to their lives. However, none of them had forgotten her and never would. Goliath sometimes would reminisce about the little alien like a father does when their child grows up and leaves home. Elisa missed Venus too...they all did.
Goliath smiled absently, "She always enjoyed summer. Xanatos told me that she'd watch the human children play in the open fire hydrants during the day and wish she could play with them."
The raven haired woman smiled with him, "Yeah. I remember when Brooklyn taught her about water balloons. I ended up being her first practice target! Got off the elevator and the moment I stepped out I was drilled from above with a water balloon the size of a car tire! Soaked me entirely. The ornery little squirt!"
Goliath laughed lightly, "I recall that very distinctly. You looked good wet."
"Ha. Ha. You would think that! Sigh I sure miss that." Elisa stated.
"As do I." Goliath agreed sipping his hot tea without thinking about it.
Less than an hour before on the far side of the moon...
Blade Slayer viewed the planet Earth from the massive portal of the ship's 'bridge'. A sense of relief and anticipation filled his warrior blood. He'd returned at last to finish what he'd started all those years ago! His upper mandibles twitched absently as he watched the image of Earth, awaiting the order to board their ejection pods and enter Earth's atmosphere.
At length one of his fellow warriors, known as Shadow because of his uncanny abilities in the art of stealth, stood beside him.
They didn't make eye contact but they spoke in their guttural growling language, "You've obsessed over this hunt for quite some time Blade Slayer." Shadow observed.
Blade Slayer grunted, "If you'd hunted the Stone Warrior I hunted...you'd understand this obsession."
"Yes. I've heard your stories of this...Stone Warrior. It sounds like an honorable trophy." Shadow rattled with interest.
Raising his prominent spiked brow suspiciously Blade Slayer growled lowly, "You sound as if you'd intrude upon my hunt...Shadow. Know this...if I see you on my hunt, and I'll add YOUR head to my trophy wall!"
Shadow's upper mandibles twitched quickly and he clicked in a laugh. Threatening to take another Predator's head as a trophy was an old, but favorite joke amongst hunters.
"You do that Blade Slayer. Your females would appreciate it...my head on your wall. Better than looking at you every sunrise!"
The Predator barked a laugh that was coarse and loud, "Perhaps. ...Your females certainly aren't satisfied with your OTHER features. They come to ME for that satisfaction."
Shadow snorted but couldn't say anymore. A klaxon blared throughout the ship. It was time to jettison from the ship and begin the hunt! Expertly Blade Slayer rigged his mask and double checked his weapons. He'd added a couple new items to his arsenal...and he intended to use them. Five other warriors assembled around him fully decked out in their hunting gear. They'd all be hunting from various points on Earth instead of as a group. After each pod was entered and programmed with directional coordinates specific to each Predator's desired hunting area, the spear-like capsules were shot out of the ship and dropped in the upper atmosphere, invisible to human radar.
Later after a landing in Central Park...
He had arrived at last! Quickly Blade Slayer oriented himself, accessing his memories of the terrain. He wasn't far from Goliath's roost...assuming he still resided there. The pod he'd come in cloaked itself to keep it hidden from prying Flathead eyes. It could self destruct if need be but that was only if necessary. The mother ship would return to pick up the warriors in about four Earth days. Until then...it was hunting non-stop.
First the Predator would scout for his prey and then come up with a hunting strategy. Blade Slayer assumed the Stone Warrior thought he'd been killed all those years ago. Perhaps...a little psychological "toying" would be in order to remind his prey of him. In no time the Predator found the Eerie Building and began to climb the outer walls up toward the castle, camouflaged and eager to see if his prey still remained at this structure.
"I'm gonna find you Alex!" Lexington called into the bushes of the courtyard.
The six year old boy stifled a giggle from underneath a shrub. He and the web-winged gargoyle always played when they could before his bedtime rolled around. Hide and seek was a constant favorite for Alex. Sometimes the rascal would use an invisibility spell Puck had taught him and make poor Lexington search fruitlessly for nearly an hour! But soon Lexington figured out the gig and made Alex spit swear not to use any spells to cheat. The little boy agreed. Besides... hiding forever was boring. It was more exciting when he was found!
"I know you're in here somewhere Alex! You can't hide forever!" the smallish olive green gargoyle called out in mock threat. Then, Lexington smiled as he spotted a little white foot poking out from beneath a bush. Crouching low Lexington pounced and tickled the foot which received a squeal of glee! "HA! Gotcha!"
Alex laughed as he was caught and then stated, "Can I hide again?"
"Isn't it almost your bedtime?" Lex asked crossing his arms.
The reddish haired boy shrugged, "ONE more! Please!"
Lex grinned, "Ok...one more time. I'll count to..."
"100!" Alex shouted.
"100? How bout 50." Lex compromised.
"75." the boy offered.
The gargoyle relented. "Ok. 75. But only hide in the courtyard. Not in the castle. K?"
Alex nodded as Lexington went to the castle wall, put his face to the wall with covered eyes and began to count aloud. Giggling to himself Alex raced into the trees and past the water fountain, as far from the gargoyle as he could get. There was a tree he knew of that was short enough for him to climb and it had lots of leaves to shield him from Lex's view. With any luck the hiding spot would be good enough for him to gain a few substantial minutes of "staying up time".
His little legs and arms pumping Alex ran amongst the trees until all of sudden he slammed into a solid object. Falling back on his back Alex gasped and slowly sat up with a throbbing chest. He wanted to cry from the pain but tried to be strong by holding it in. Alex wondered just what he'd hit; it felt like a beam of metal, except there was nothing. That's when the shrubbery before him shimmered and a low undulating clicking noise came to his ears. The child blinked in confusion and soon found that the shimmer was indeed the outline...of something. It looked like an invisible man; a very, very big invisible man. Backing up with his hands Alex moved away from the ghostly apparition. The towering figure's head turned, following his movement but made no other movement other than that.
Not sure what to do Alex was torn between running away or staying put. He felt slightly afraid but his child's curiosity was winning over. Was this a ghost or spirit of some kind? Slowly Alex rose to his feet staying a few feet away from the 'ghost'.
"H...Hi." he greeted quietly.
The figure remained motionless but seemed to still be staring at him.
Alex swallowed and said, "My name's Alex. What are you?"
Still no response. The only noise that came from the 'ghost' was a soft rattle.
Alex wasn't sure if the 'ghost' could talk...or even understand him but he asked, "Wanna play?"
Much to his surprise his voice, mimicked precisely, came from the figure, "Wanna play? Wanna play?"
Alex smiled but suddenly his father's loud voice shouted from the castle, "ALEX! ALEXANDER FOX XANATOS! IT'S BEDTIME YOUNG MAN! RIGHT NOW!"
The little boy sighed and ran back to the castle waving back to the 'ghost'. "I gotta go! Bye!" The figure watched him go but made no move to follow.
Blade Slayer watched the Flathead offspring race away in response to his father's call. They were interesting creatures, Flathead offspring; naive, curious, and not in any way honorable to kill...but still useful to his hunting techniques. Flatheads responded quite well to the calls of their offspring. He repeated and processed the child's words. Perhaps they'd come in handy later.
Forgetting the child, the Predator scanned the stone structure extensively. The other Stone Warriors and some Flatheads were in the structure...but not Goliath. His distinct heat signature, which he recognized by memory, was not present. He hissed in a frustrated manner. Where was he? His mind tried to recall where else the Stone Warrior went when they last encountered. Yes...there was a place. The dwelling of his Flathead mate. (He still couldn't understand the pairing of the two species) Perhaps he was there this night...and perhaps...a strategy was forming.
About an hour later across the street from Elisa's apartment...
Blade Slayer remembered accurately. Sure enough Goliath was with the Flathead female he called 'Elisa'. His muscles quivered and his blood flamed with eager anticipation for the hunt to come. He felt rather enthralled at viewing his long sought-after prey for so long. The Predator watched the couple intently and didn't miss a word they spoke. "Elisa, I must be getting back to the castle. I promised Hudson a game of chess this night sometime."---"Alright Big Guy. Tomorrow night then before your patrols?"---"I wouldn't miss it."--- They displayed their parting affections and then the Stone Warrior glided from the structure and in the direction of his roost. Blade Slayer watched him with baleful eyes behind his mask. Soon...but he needed an advantage...and he knew just how to get it.
After Goliath left, Elisa set about the task of cleaning the dirty dishes from his visit. Though Goliath always politely offered to help wash them, she'd nearly always reject it. She didn't mind dishes; there were worse chores out there. Running some hot soapy water she began to wash the dishes noisily, unaware that a silhouette slipped inside her apartment without a sound.
Cop instinct suddenly nudged Elisa. She felt like she was being watched. Paranoid she turned and glanced around the room. Nothing at all. She resumed washing her cup until after a moment she heard a faint creak in the linoleum behind her. Without even thinking Elisa whirled around throwing the cup in her hand and some hot water across the kitchen! Initially she saw nothing behind her but the water contacted something and when it did a figure partially dematerialized in a crackling of blue energy ribbons! Elisa gasped in shock and horror as a metal clad, masked giant appeared behind the angry little lightening bolts shimmering over its frame!
A hissing angry growl issued forth from the huge creature as it took a swipe at the lady cop. Just in the knick of time Elisa ducked and slid past the armored being, rushing to her room to get her gun. Dashing through her bedroom door Elisa slammed the door and locked it, catching a brief glimpse of the intruder who seemed to be nonchalantly stalking after her. Elisa breathed hard as she threw open her dresser drawer and found her revolver.
Suddenly a terrible crashing sounded and the entire door and its frame fell into the room, with the towering masked attacker entering through the crater in the wall! His long, banded dreadlocks whipped around when he caught sight of Elisa. Proficiently she leveled the gun at his chest but before she could even squeeze the trigger the creature moved across the distance with blindening speed and slapped the weapon out of her hand! Weaponless, Elisa backed away again and attempted to plant a solid kick into the attacker's gut. Her foot never made contact, for the towering monster effortlessly caught her ankle in a mammoth clawed hand.
The mask cocked to the side in a posture that said, 'Bad move.'
Elisa tried to wrench her foot out of his grasp, but the Predator's strength was far superior. With a forceful thrust he easily threw the struggling woman onto her back, standing over her with a challenging hiss.
Now on the floor Elisa caught a glimpse of her hand gun nearby on the carpet. She held still a moment before rolling over quickly and reaching for the pistol. But, before her hand could even brush against the weapon her attacker thrust his fist down at the gun, unbelievably burying a duel set of razor sharp writs blades around the weapon! One of the jagged blades' tips was embedded in the floor right inside the trigger guard. Expertly the Predator pulled the blades out of the floor, lifting the gun by the trigger guard in the same motion.
Then, with a light flick he cast the pistol through the bedroom window and flipped the blades under Elisa's chin before she could even gasp! The cold hard metal teased against her flesh, lightly slitting the skin. Deadly sharp. Rattling deeply the alien hunter prompted Elisa to stand up by raising the blades. Elisa tried to be brave but she felt her whole body tremble. The menacing slanted eyes of the face plate gleamed down at her. Elisa yelped in a high tone when the blades suddenly retracted and the alien hunter forcefully back handed her across the side of the head! A bright light flashed in Elisa's vision and then everything went black as she crumpled to the floor unconscious.
Many hours later in an unknown location a few hours from sunset...
Elisa blinked dully. Her head hurt from the bone-crunching hit that knocked her out. Why was everything...odd? Just then Elisa realized she was hanging upside down by her ankles! Gasping the police-woman stared below her and had to stifle a shriek of terror when she saw that she was dangling several hundred feet in the air from the beam of a metal radio tower atop a skyscraper! A strong metal cable bound her ankles together and Elisa could feel the harsh metal begin to bite her flesh. The blood in Elisa's head made her feel thick and disoriented. What the hell? Why was she hanging like this?
Somehow Elisa knew exactly where she was! In fact this tower was in sight of her apartment window. She saw the crazy blinking light of it every night and every day. Then she remembered the masked creature that'd attacked her...the previous night? She'd been out that long? Where'd he go? He'd obviously gone to a lot of trouble to put her here. But why? Elisa had no answers. Helpless she hung, trying to think of someway out of this.
He watched her from a nearby building roof. Her spiking heat signal told him she was awake and blatantly frightened by her position. After stringing up the Flathead female, he'd taken a striking position nearby. Cunningly he'd put the female in a position near her own dwelling where Goliath would be sure to find her. The trap was set and all he had to do was wait.
He ejected his wrist blades and held them up to his mask, admiring their deadly beauty a moment. Casting a glance to the West he watched the sun dip beneath the horizon. Blade Slayer growled low and retracted the sharpened blades. Let the hunt begin again...
"Goin' tae see Elisa tanight before patrols lad?" Hudson asked Goliath, brushing some stone dust from his brawny brown arm.
Goliath nodded, "I won't be long. I'll meet you and the others at the Brooklyn Bridge in about a couple hours."
"See you then!" Hudson called after the leader as he caught an air current and soared up over the city. Goliath glided until he arrived at Elisa's apartment. Oddly the sliding glass door was wide open. Perhaps...she's just ready for him? Landing on the balcony Goliath slipped under the door frame, caping his wings so he'd fit. On the floor was a broken mug. One of the mugs they drank out of last night!
Goliath instantly was alert and worried. "Elisa! Elisa are you alright?" Stepping further into the apartment Goliath searched for his mate. Then he saw the door to Elisa's bedroom...or rather the hole where it once had been! Rushing to the bedroom Goliath saw the door in its frame laying broken on the floor and a few stray signs of a struggle. His heart pounded fearfully. Where was Elisa? What had happened here? He didn't see or smell blood and that comforted him somewhat but it didn't cease his fears.
Almost in a state of panic Goliath ran through the apartment and onto the balcony. He didn't know what to do! Someone had come into Elisa's apartment and now she was gone! He gripped the hand rail of the balcony, crushing it with his anger and fear. Throwing his head back he roared into the sky! He clenched his fangs at last seething. How would he find her? All at once a scent came to Goliath on a wisp of breeze...Elisa's scent! He drew it in deeply, trying to pinpoint her location. Of all the scents, hers was the one he could pick out from anywhere she'd been. After a moment he was pointed in the general direction and flew with all haste!
Blade Slayer heard the roar and his head perked. Goliath. Good...He readied himself, invisible with his camouflage. His heat vision scanned the air and terrain. Nothing yet. Blade Slayer had the patience to wait. Any good hunter worth his father's seed knew how to wait for the right moment. After a few minutes he spotted his quarry, flying in fast and hard toward the tower! The hulking heat emission blazed past like a fireball. There you are my prey...
Their distorted voice patterns fluctuated in the side panel of his vision screen, "ELISA!"---"GOLIATH HELP!"---"I'm coming Elisa!"---
He reached the tower and clung to the metal beams next to his mate, his broad winged back turned to the hunter. If Predators were capable of smiling Blade Slayer would have done so...very sinisterly. His vision blinked bringing up his targeting sight. With a mechanized whir the shoulder cannon came to life, responding to its targeting program. The red triangle sight flew in from either side of his vision panel and connected right in the center of Goliath's heat blazing back...
TO BE CONTINUED...