Rematch

Part 3

By Leah Wood

Prelude: Goliath and the Predator are locked in fearsome combat and the rest of the clan has just arrived to help him...but will they be able to conquer the most prominent warrior-hunter the universe has ever known? READ ON AND PREPARE FOR BLOOD!

Goliath roared, throwing the Predator across the roof! The alien rolled once but was up instantly. Low to the ground with one hand touching the roof out in front of him, Blade Slayer decided it was time to end this skirmish and take his trophy. He stood slowly, ejecting his wrist blades to a slightly longer length. Goliath's head pulled back in shock...oh shit. In response the alien threw his head back and roared; a blood chilling roar that sounded like it was spewed from the bowels of Hell! Then he came at Goliath in a blindening flurry of flashing steel and scaly flesh! The gargoyle tried to dodge but the Predator's frenzied attack overtook him. Upper-cutting, back handing, swirling in fancy arcs the wrist blades sang their fury, tasting Goliath's flesh and blood! Wounds and slits of all depths raked across Goliath's flesh in terrible crimson patterns despite his attempts to avoid them.

Shrieking his battle cry the Predator leaped straight up hacking the blades through the gargoyle's wing membrane in a mist of blood! With a pained roar Goliath staggered back with his wings slapped at his sides from the nasty tear in his dark wing membrane! Blood spattered to the roof wherever he stood. Suddenly, the Predator fell down low to the ground and kicked Goliath's legs out from under him, making him crash mightily to the roof face first. Roof grit filled Goliath's lacerations and mouth until at last he felt a clawed hand grab a hunk of his sable mane and forcefully jerk his head up.

A head wound ran blood in Goliath's pained eyes as he tried to look up at the assassin. The mask cocked at him as if to say, 'You lose.'

He wanted to fight...wanted to lash out...but the pain was so great... As he watched the Predator through the blood in his eyes the alien hunter reached up to his mask and easily undid a couple hoses. White vapor hissed from the tubes as a seal behind the mask broke. He was showing himself to his prey before the final blow was dealt.

Suddenly out of nowhere Brooklyn and Broadway hammered straight into the Predator at full tilt, throwing the startled hunter across the roof...and the metal mask into the air. The Predator was knocked through the air and slid across the roof on his back before he stopped. In an instant Clan Wyvern was on the roof, making a barrier between the hunter and their wounded leader.

Blade Slayer blinked in shock. WHERE THE HELL DID THEY COME FROM! The coolness of the night air felt odd without his mask...his vision wasn't nearly as focused either. Shaking his dreadlocked head the Predator picked himself up to face these intruders.

The gargoyles' faces twisted in shock, horror, and repulsion when they viewed the hunter...without his mask. "What the..." Brooklyn started.

He was a terrifying monster to behold! His head was huge with a high forehead plate. Speckled, reptilian patterns of black banded his massive brow, as well as spikes lining the outer rims. Shadowed by his prominent forehead were the alien's eyes. Set deep in his skull the yellow-red flecked eyes were very predatory indeed...like staring into a tiger's eyes...except these eyes could cowe any ferocious big cat on earth! But the alien's 'mouth' had to be his most hideous feature. Four claw-like mandibles, reminiscent of an earth crustacean's mouth parts, jutted out of his face and converged together in the front. Each mandible could move independently and the two larger lower mandibles were able to spread completely away from his face exposing another set of fanged, more human-like jaws. The alien's luminous green blood was slathered across the right side of his face indicating Goliath had dealt him some damage as well.

"Jalapena! What the devil tis it?" Hudson grated with a drawn sword

"One ugly bastard." Brooklyn confirmed.

The yellow eyes roved around at each gargoyle with very sinister intelligence gleaming in them. He was thinking. Five to one...not including his wounded target...he'd faced worse odds hunting Hive Drones (Aliens). These gargoyles were prominent fighters yes, but Hive Drones were FAR more dangerous to take on. Being outnumbered was not a problem...it only made things more interesting. If he could get a few more trophies on the side then so be it.

His anger built again. He could not STAND interference! This happened on the first hunt! But not again! Blade Slayer's eyes slit mercilessly. He would deal with these interlopers such as he dealt with the others! His lower mandibles flared outward as a he shrieked his fury! Then with a quick movement of both his hands the Predator unleashed his pair of flying disks at the line of gargoyles!

A cry of shock escaped the clan as they fell to the ground to dodge the oncoming saws of death! Broadway just barely made the duck, receiving a slit across the small of his back for his delay. The lighted weapons intersected in midair before returning to Blade Slayer's expert hand.

He crossed his arms before him displaying the weapons' lethal design before holstering them again. Unlike Flatheads, these gargoyles were much more agile and could dodge his disks. Alright, new strategy. More direct approach.

In a split second the Predator gripped his spear and the rod obediently extended outward to reveal the twin barbed tips on either end. His upper mandibles twitched in his eagerness. Hudson's one eye opened wide with remembrance. He remembered this creature's skill with that spear. Raising his sword threateningly the older gargoyle growled at the hunter. The Predator hissed, spreading his mandibles aggressively and he quick stepped closer to the gargoyle. Then with a bellow Hudson swung his sword, meeting the alien spear in midair. Blade Slayer turned his spear on its side to parry the blow and when he'd done that he forced Hudson's blade downward, bringing the old warrior to a bent over position. Then with a massive swing the spear slammed across Hudson's face, throwing him onto his back!

The barbed tip rose above his fallen form, ready to plunge into his heart, but suddenly it was knocked away by a crimson tail! Expertly Brooklyn used his near prehensile tail to grip the deadly weapon and try to rip it from the alien's grasp! But "try" and "do" are two different things. Firmly the Predator held his weapon as Brooklyn tried to jerk it from his hands. He snarled aggressively and reached down, grasping the middle of the gargoyle's tail. Before Brooklyn could react the Predator yanked his tail and whipped the spear underneath him, bringing the crimson warrior to the ground. In the same violent motion the spear's barbed tip gashed deep into the fronts of Brooklyn's ankles! He roared and clutched his wounds without thinking about it.

With a cat-like screech Angela landed on the Predator's back, wrapping her arms the best she could around the alien's broad barrel chest. Lexington helped by trying to tackle him at the knees. Blade Slayer's mandibles flared and clawed at the air furiously. Summoning a huge burst of untethered strength the Predator executed a standing back flip that cast Lexington across the roof, but Angela valiantly clung to the hunter's back trying to get him in a headlock. The gargress's eyes blazed red as her talons dug into the Predator making his green blood ooze out. Suddenly, the alien hunter spread his arms, breaking Angela's grip on him effortlessly. Then grabbing her wrists from the front he forcefully flipped her over his head and body slammed her into the roof!

The alien hissed, slitting his eyes as he leaped over the fallen and came at Broadway who was the only one standing between him and Goliath. Swirling the spear in high arcs the Predator ducked a side swipe from the burly turquoise gargoyle and rammed the spear clear through his ample thigh! Roaring in pain Broadway tried to wrench the hideous barbed tip out of his leg but Blade Slayer growled low, twisting it torturously so blood gushed from the wound! Broadway desperately tried to fight back, but the Predator slugged his jaw, ripping the spear out as he fell. Goliath lay on the roof before him...alone and trying to rise out of the pools of blood beneath him. Blade Slayer raised the spear, glistening with fresh blood and shredded flesh over the base of Goliath's neck and reared back.

Suddenly Hudson was up again and charged the turned Predator with the intent of hacking his ugly head off! As if he had eyes in the back of his head the alien warrior instantly tipped the spear against his back and blocked the gargoyle's sword swipe without turning! Hudson tried to thrust again but the hunter was too quick. Ducking below the sword he managed to swat the gargoyle's weapon out of his hand with the edge of his spear! But as he was about to impale Hudson, Brooklyn flew through the air and slammed into the hunter causing him to fall to the roof with a shriek of pain.

The crimson gargoyle's eyes blazed as he painfully rose until he saw just what he'd done. The Predator was on his knees with his spear impaling through his chest. Neon green blood mixed with gargoyle blood on the sharp tip, oozing down the shaft. Flaring and unflaring the alien's grotesque mandibles twitched and his breath rattled sickly.

"That's right...DIE you bastard!" the gargoyle cursed low.

Brooklyn looked around at his clan. Angela and Lexington were the least hurt but still banged up. Broadway had a huge hole in his thigh, Hudson had a nasty gash and bruise forming across the side of his face from the spear bashing, and Goliath was cut all to Hell. He himself was having trouble walking with his cut ankles. His eyes turned to the East. The sun would come up soon which meant these wounds of theirs would heal soon. But...they needed to get away from this place. Some place safer. Castle was too far...the Labyrinth! It was close and would be a safe haven for them for the day!

Wincing Brooklyn backed away from the impaled hunter saying, "Hurry! We have to get Goliath out of here!"

Angela and Hudson got around their wounded leader and gingerly helped him to his feet. He sucked in air sharply through clenched fangs. "My wing...I can't fly on this wing."

Tenderly Angela placed her bruised body beneath her father's arm, "We'll help you father. Come on."

Painfully the clan all assisted the flight of Goliath, temporarily forgetting their own injuries.

Blade Slayer's yellow eyes opened again and turned to see the gargoyles leaving...with his trophy! The spear through his chest hurt...but not enough to hinder him. Reaching down he grabbed a new weapon. It resembled an ancient bola but it was far more deadly and advanced. The weapon's lit spiked chain clinked as Blade Slayer pulled it out. On either end of the jagged chain, instead of two heavy balls, there were a pair of curved hook-like blades reminiscent of a pendulum blade except they were far more dangerous looking. It was a rather primitive weapon by Predator standards and took great skill to wield accurately...but it was a hellaciously deadly device.

Even with a spear protruding from his chest, Blade Slayer managed to rise with his new weapon. Painfully he lifted his arm and began to spin one end of the bladed bola over his head, making the air thrum and sing sharply. His target was Goliath, being carried by his clansmen. A far shot...but if he hit him it would more than likely kill him. Not taking his eyes from the heat pattern mass out in front of him, Blade Slayer spun the weapon at peak speed until finally with a powerful cast the blade ended chain whirled through the air toward its target! His mandibles froze in anticipation...he didn't blink.

…………………………

The bola spun toward the group of gargoyles, hissing and flashing its promise of death! It flew with all haste...but didn't hit the intended target. At the last split second Lexington glanced over his shoulder just as one end of the bladed bola buried itself into his shoulder blade spraying blood into the air! Then, in response to its one end anchoring to the web-wing's flesh the rest of the deadly chain whipped around Lex's body and the other end slammed juicily into his gut!

Brooklyn heard the sickening THUNK! and squelch of metal contacting flesh and just as he turned he was hit full in the face with a mist of blood! He blinked in horror as he watched his smaller rookery brother arch his back in midair, with a hideous chained weapon buried in his back and stomach! Limp as a dish rag the web-wing crumpled, falling from the air like a dead bird.

"LEX!" Brooklyn roared letting go of Goliath and diving to catch his mortally wounded rookery brother.

He caught him pulling him to his chest and spreading his wings to halt their descent. Lex's eyes were rolling every which way and his whole body shook convulsively as blood from his wounds intermitted squirted out.

Brooklyn's chest caved with terror as he cradled the smaller web-wing shaking in his arms, "OH GOD LEX! Hang on buddy! Hang on! The sun will heal you! Just HANG ON BUDDY!" Lex's breath gurgled and was very fast and rapid.

The crimson gargoyle's tear filled eyes turned upon the building and flashed intensely with hate light. Standing on the building was the Predator! He wasn't dead! The spear was still in him but he was very much alive! Brooklyn roared hoarsely. He wanted to attack the monstrosity! Rip his guts out! Tear his ugly head from his body for what he'd done to Lex! But...the sun...he couldn't...they had to get away...revenge couldn't happen...yet. Loath to his split second decision the second-in-command wheeled around back with his clan, holding Lex tightly to his body, praying for dawn to come.

Blade Slayer slammed his iron fists into the roof ledge with furious anger! HE MISSED! Not only had he missed Goliath but he'd hit the smallest damn gargoyle in the group! WHAT THE HELL? He roared and screeched, uttering the worst curses known to his race! The spear in his chest forgotten the Predator set about destroying whatever thing or structure on the roof he came across! Ventilation grates were ripped from their bolts and cast across the roof! Concrete walls received massive fist-sized craters! Unearthly howls and roars echoed through the alleys and across the buildings!

Finally, after his release of blood boiling rage the Predator returned to a more rational state. He needed to get his spear out of his body. From what he could tell the sharp barb had punctured his ultra-hard bone chest plate beneath his reptilian flesh and gone out through his back, missing the spine and any vital organs he possessed. Nothing serious. Of course a few inches to the left or right would have been...unfortunate. Typically his bone chest plate protected his vitals like an anatomical shield against Flathead bullets and various other perils...but it could be punctured with certain weapons...Predator weapons in particular due to their advanced design.

It hurt like Hell but he used the pain as a prod for his anger and strength. Meticulously he pulled out his "first aid" kit and set it on the roof. Gingerly he sat down and touched the rigid surface of the kit, making it open to reveal its contents. Various metal cutting tools, antiseptics, and other devices rested within its very organized confines. He assessed his situation. Ripping the spear back through would be stupid and probably cause more damage. The only answer was to cut the metal shaft in front, pull the rod out of his back, and cauterize the wound.

Carefully he selected a cutting laser tool and aimed the red beam at his spear rod. Though he hated destroying his spear in such a way, he knew it was the only way and besides...he had more. The laser sheared the metal shaft in two, leaving only the smooth rod and barbed tip for Blade Slayer to deal with. Snorting he cast the broken end of the spear away and painfully reached a clawed hand behind his back to grip the rod just below the tip. His mandibles stiffened and his brow creased slightly, anticipating the pain. Then with a nasty snarl he ripped the rod out of his back and held the glowing green shaft before his face. He breathed hard cringing slightly from the pain but managed to recover from it to prepare for the really painful part. Cauterizing.

In the past Predators would create a burning putty to seal up wounds and stop bleeding. But advances in their technology created a more efficient cauterizing device. No less painful by any means...pain was part of the hunt...it was just quicker and more readily available. The device resembled a pen and was basically a burning laser that sealed up flesh wounds. First he selected a tube of purplish liquid, popped off the cap, and drained the contents into his chest wound. That would coagulate his blood to prevent internal bleeding. It burned slightly but not bad. His clawed irregular fingers fixed around the pen device and pointed it at his chest wound. His inner jaw clenched and he activated the device. A thin red laser shot out instantly and began to burn the Predator's flesh together! He bellowed in pain, screeching and clenching his free fist on the broken spear shaft. Finally the burning stopped the device whined down. Done. The smell of burning flesh coated the air but, having no nose, Blade Slayer felt no such sensation.

He rose, almost regally, putting his kit away and casting the spear shaft to one side. There. That was better. A little pain was good for the anger. Though his vision was slightly distorted without his mask, the hunter searched the roof for the metal face plate. At last he located the distinct color pattern of it and scooped it up to replace it on his face. When he'd reattached the hoses and refocused on the terrain he noticed the solar orb of Earth was rising. No...that meant all those gargoyles would be stone...and...he couldn't find them until they reverted back to their flesh state. No hunting them in the day...he growled low. He wanted to kill something.

Several minutes later at the Labyrinth...

"Ok...Brooklyn hold his hand. We have to time this just right. If we remove this...thing...too soon it could kill him and if we don't remove it he'll wake up with it still in him." Talon instructed gripping the nasty chain of the Predator's bola.

Lexington's convulsions had gotten more constant and he was fading in and out of consciousness. His clan, including Goliath stood around him, trying not to weep but it came anyway. Maggie was putting pressure on Lexington's wounds cringing at the sight of it, "I've never seen such a horrible thing! This weapon..."

Brooklyn clenched Lex's hand harder, "That alien hunter is still alive...but at night...he won't be for very long! I swear that Lex! He'll pay for trying to kill you and all of us!"

Finally Talon set his panther face in a serious look, "Ok...let's go." Firmly he gripped the chain and the blade jutting from the web wing's back and sucking in his breath he pulled it out. Lex's whole body arched from the pain and a faint cry squeaked from his throat. Quickly, the panther mutate unraveled the spiked chain from the gargoyle's olive colored flesh until all that remained was the hooked blade embedded in his guts.

Talon's yellow eyes glanced up at the gargoyles, "Now you're positive the stone sleep will heal these wounds?"

Hudson nodded gravely, "Yes...it will...dear God..." The elder gargoyle turned, proudly trying to hide his tears.

Talon examined the wound and said delicately, "I...I don't know if I can do this without...damaging...him more." By all rights Lexington should've been dead...but he was clinging to life the best he could. Talon simply didn't want to make him lose the feeble grip he had on life by making a wrong move. This was just like removing a hook from a fish that'd swallowed the hook...it might come out...but then again it might bring the organs with it, killing slow and painful. His swallowed hard with blood on his paws. "Ok...ready. The sun is coming." He clenched his teeth and as gently as possible pulled the final blade from Lexington's middle. A gasp escaped him and turned into a massive sigh of relief as the crackling of the stone form overtook all the gargoyles. Brooklyn still held his rookery brother's hand, curling his wings around the "bed" in a protective posture. The panther mutate staggered back holding the gory bola and then contempt fully dropped it on the floor. His mate Maggie sighed too, leaning against Talon. That...was too close.

Late afternoon away from the Labyrinth...

Blade Slayer surveyed the city below him from his perch. He'd been incredibly irritable all day and lusting for blood...Goliath's blood. But he would not waste his time or energy hunting Flatheads...not this time. Tonight Goliath would awaken and he intended to hunt him down once again. No doubt the simple act of relocating his prey would deplete his time but it was all part of the hunt.

Though his first night had been unsuccessful he could not deny he was having the time of his life! True...a spear through the chest and a couple lost weapons were a chink in the armor, but it could not overshadow the raw enjoyment he was feeling! Hunting and fighting was his life; the way of his kind. Nothing could compare to the primal feeling of feeling your blades penetrate your prey's flesh...the hot blood on your hands during the claiming of the skull trophy...the envy of the other hunters when you strode onto the ship, a net full of trophies slung over your back...all the admiration and pleasure given by the females upon returning...there was nothing BETTER!

The Predator cast a baleful gaze toward the solar orb. It was descending. But not fast enough for his liking.

Sunset in the Labyrinth...

Shuddering and splitting the stone forms of the gargoyles reanimated, shedding great shards of their stone covering in every direction. Brooklyn blinked yawning and noticed he was still holding Lex's hand. The web wing was shattering too! He'd survived! Sitting up in a pile of stone pieces Lexington yawned, scratching his neck.

In an instant Brooklyn seized his rookery brother in his arms and spun him around in joy! Lex blinked in confusion, "WHOA! Brook! What's going on? Are you nuts or something!"

"You're alive! You're alive! You held on little buddy!" Brooklyn crowed putting him down at last. In no time the whole clan was around Lexington. He didn't seem to remember what happened. All he seemed to recall was flying with the clan away from the building with Goliath and then...pain.

"Yer lucky tae be alive lad!" Hudson commented rubbing the web-wing's bald head with a father's affection.

Lex shrugged, "I'm...glad to be alive. Are you ok Goliath?"

The lavender leader smiled flaring his impressive wings to show they'd healed as well as his wounds from the previous night. After a moment his features returned to a more serious glower, "The hunter is still out there."

Brooklyn's eyes flamed, "Then let's make him the hunted! He'll pay for...!"

"Easy lad. Don't let yer need fer revenge cloud yer judgment!" Hudson growled easily. He too was wanting the same as the younger gargoyle, but his experience in such matters made him more level headed.

Goliath nodded turning to Talon, "Our sincere thanks friend for your shelter and help."

The panther mutate nodded, "No problem. You'd have done the same for mine. In fact...Claw and I could help you find this hunter...or whatever he is."

Angela had a thoughtful look, "I guess we could always use some help. After all...that thing nearly beat our whole clan last night." If no one else would admit it, she would be the first.

Goliath shook his head, "I do not believe that would be wise. He's after me...and me alone. This is my charge...my fight."

"Surely you're not considering going after that bastard alone again after what happened last night! If we hadn't shown up he'd have killed you!" Broadway interjected.

The leader lowered his head, "I cannot risk the rest of you when this is MY battle!"

"Then we'll put ourselves in danger of our own volition." Brooklyn stated firmly. "We're coming with you whether you want it or not!"

Goliath set his jaw but decided arguing over their safety was pointless. "Fine...I don't suppose I can't convince you otherwise. Come."

Across Manhattan...

Ever since the early beginnings of evening Blade Slayer had started his hunting search for his quarry. Leaping from roof top to roof top in massive agile leaps the Predator scoured the air and all the buildings for his prey. Goliath had to be somewhere! Obviously he wouldn't be stupid enough to return to his roost or the dwelling of his mate. He'd found somewhere to hide for the day. But if he knew his quarry he knew Goliath would be out looking for him as well. Perhaps...with his clan. No matter. Alone or in a group he'd get what he wanted...one way or another.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye he caught a familiar heat pattern. Instantly he halted crouching low on the edge of a roof. His head vision zoomed in closer to get a better glimpse of the heat signature that had caught his eye. Just landing on the roof of a shorter structure below was the special heat signature of a gargoyle. A pleased rattle vibrated in his throat when he confirmed that it was Goliath's heat image. Except...he was wearing...armor? Where'd he get that? He'd never seen him in armor before. And...was that a Flathead weapon in his hand? He pulled his head back in confusion. That didn't seem right at all. Perhaps his prey decided to get himself some better protection for this next clash? Blade Slayer was at a loss. But...it was Goliath. The heat signature was the same. Well then...armor...weapons...this should be fun.

He watched Goliath for a moment. The Stone Warrior appeared to be looking down into the skylight window of the building he was on, as if he were planning on entering the structure. Was he looking for him? What in the world was he doing? A little befuddled but undaunted Blade Slayer's muscles tensed his blades shooting from his wrist gauntlet. Without a sound he leaped from the building and landed a few meters behind Goliath. Upon hearing the sound of his weight hitting the roof the gargoyle's heat signature whirled around.

The low distorted voice of his quarry filled the side panel of his vision, "And just who the Hell are you supposed to be?"

Blade Slayer stood, flashing his wrist blades before his mask.

He mimicked the words right back at Goliath. It was Goliath's voice pattern exactly. Blade Slayer kept his eyes firmly locked on the weapon in the Stone Warrior's hand. It was no run of the mill projectile weapon; some kind of laser projectile. Not to shabby. The Predator was unaware that Stone Warriors used weapons such as that. Flatheads did for sure...that still puzzled him. Never before had Goliath used armor or high tech weapons...why use them now? He was debating whether he should activate his own shoulder cannon. Finally he decided not to. He'd made up his mind to use his blades. The raw tactile pleasure derived from slashing your opponent to ribbons held far more value than simply gunning them down.

The Stone Warrior stood before him for a moment, regarding him with a scrutinizing eye. He spoke again, "Well...I don't know who or what you are, but you're interrupting me. I suggest you leave before I get... irritated."

The gargoyle leveled the heavy laser rifle at the Predator and in a split second Blade Slayer activated his camouflage. Erratically the Stone Warrior fired at the place where he last saw the Predator, but the hunter had already leaped to the side and began a stealth charge on his prey! The heat image flared and projectiles hit the roof every which way, but the Predator knew Goliath had lost track of him. He quietly ran in a wide arc around the gargoyle until he was behind him. The Stone Warrior continued firing until at last he stopped to scan his area for the assassin.

With a powerful forward charge the Predator spun around low to the ground and slashed his blades across the back of Goliath's thick calves! The gargoyle roared in pain his knees buckling slightly as he whirled to fire upon Blade Slayer. But the Predator had already slipped beneath the warrior's wings and was once again behind him. With a forceful strike the blades carved deep into the small of Goliath's back and removed in a split second! The gargoyle's back spasmodically arched in pain and the rifle wheeled around to point at Blade Slayer's reappearing form.

Shrieking in fury the Predator whipped the blades and cleaved the weapon in half before a shot could be fired. Temporarily weaponless the heat signature roared thunderously and slashed madly with curved talons! A few green gashes appeared across the Predator's chest but he'd had enough! Grabbing Goliath by his thick armored wrists the Predator pulled the gargoyle's torso down and viciously slammed his knee into his gut. A choking gasp escaped the Stone Warrior as the cold metal knee blade pierced through his armor and shredded his innards. His massive wings snapped outward, shaking from the pain screaming through his body. The invasion of the jagged metal sent hot shards of pain as well as cold flashes across his nerves. A pleased rattle came from Blade Slayer when he felt the gratifying squelch of blade entering flesh. None too carefully he retracted the knee blade, pulling blood and shredded viscera with it!

The heat from the gargoyle was fluctuating...he was hurt bad. Somehow the valiant warrior managed to remain on his feet, using one hand to clench at the jagged hole in his middle. He looked at Blade Slayer and snarled trying to lash out at him. The Predator backed away slightly. Injured prey were always more dangerous; lashing out in a last ditch attempt at survival. But such displays were futile. Goliath was mortally wounded. Blade Slayer knew it. Even if the Stone Warrior fled, he was doomed. Loss of blood, shock, or extensive internal trauma would sound his demise.

However, Blade Slayer respected and appreciated his prey too much to allow such a torturous death. Goliath had proven himself to be a formidable opponent and given the Predator one of the best hunts of his life. He at least deserved a quick death. Pulling his wrist blades back Blade Slayer channeled all his strength into the final blow. Uttering a hallowed saying of his people he struck...struck with fury...struck for his honor...struck for his blood...The blades jammed sickly into the gargoyle's chest, cleaving the heart in two gory pieces! Blade Slayer mightily lifted the Stone Warrior off his feet, the blades firmly rammed into the rib cage. Blood spewed from the gargoyle's mouth in a thin viscous stream as his glowing eyes dimmed in death. Vibrating in convulsive shaking the huge wings trembled and flapped until they finally wilted along the back. The once mighty tail lashed once more and went limp as a hose. Life trickled away on crimson rivulets of blood and the last breath gurgled. Every muscle relaxed and the massive body sagged on the blades, heat fading.

Grunting the Predator lowered his arm and slid the blades out of the body. Not wasting a second, he grabbed the Stone Warrior's legs and rolled him onto his stomach to expose the broad back. Blade Slayer reached over to his utility belt and withdrew a ceremonial dagger with a huge ornate blade. First he removed the armor from the body, exposing the flesh. With delicate precision the blade slit along the spine, across the shoulder blades, around the wing struts, up the thick neck, and over the crown of the skull. Sheathing the blood stained blade the Predator thrust his clawed hand into the small of the carcass's back. The blood and body were very much hot. Placing a large clawed foot on the broad back for support the Predator gripped the long sinewy tail. Flatheads had no tail to connect with their spine, but this Stone Warrior did and Blade Slayer couldn't help but think that the member was a handy starter for ripping out a spine! Rattling low with a powerful jerk and a sickening rip of bone from flesh the spinal column emerged through the skinning cuts!

Once it ripped up to the wings Blade Slayer let go of the tail and carefully examined the bases of the wings. The wings appeared to be part of the shoulder blades, rather than fixed to the spine. His vision pierced the flesh to examine the skeletal structure. He'd never taken a trophy such as this and didn't want to screw it up. Finally he retracted his knife again and made precise cuts around the scapulas so they'd come up without breaking. After that he placed both of his feet on the backs of the gargoyle's arms. Clamping his hands around each wing strut the Predator yanked upward. The sound that followed was much like the sound a melon makes when forcibly split apart. Massive in size and design the scapulas came up as two separate gory pieces that supported the expansive wings in flight. Blade Slayer held a wing in each hand, examining them with pride. Gingerly he set them aside and went back to the spine work. This time he took hold of the spine at the middle and continued pulling it up until at last in a sloppy spew of blood the tail, spine, neck, and skull extracted as one full piece!

Blade Slayer turned the fearsome gory skull around to see it. He stared at the grinning fanged skull in his fist and his warrior soul filled with pride. Every cut, every wound, every waking hour of obsessing had paid off. His hands slathered in crimson victory the Predator raised his trophy to the sky shrieking and bellowing a terrifying knell of triumph! He shook his head in a wild frenzy holding the trophy as high as he could! AT LAST! The ultimate trophy was his and his alone! After his barbaric celebration the Predator lowered the trophy and touched his wrist band to call the ship. His hunt was done!

Many hours later...

Goliath was the first to smell it. Blood. The distinct metallic musk struck him forcibly. His eyes widened, "Wait! Do you smell that?" he asked his clan with a lilt of horror in his voice.

Brooklyn sniffed the breeze as well and snorted, "Yeah...I smell it. Where's it coming from?"

The lavender leader didn't know but when there was blood on the breeze, it never was good news. "Spread out!"

Obediently the clan spread out. They'd not opted to split up and decided if they remained as a big group they'd stand a better chance against the Predator. Being the great scout she was Angela was the first to locate where the blood scent was coming from. The scent was wafting from the roof of a chemical laboratory. Circling once the gargoyles came in for a landing, avidly sniffing the air. Suddenly, Angela screamed backing up fast with wide eyes and a hand to her mouth! The others looked and a chorus of gasps and swears arose at the horrific sight. There sprawled out before them was a black fleshed corpse. A deep hollow trench ran up the back where the spine should've been and the head and wings were missing, but there was no doubt in anyone's mind whose body it was.

Goliath strode up to the body whispering almost reverently, "Thailog..."

"Are...are you sure?" Broadway asked trying to stave his dry heaves.

Goliath knelt down near the corpse, his mind a construity of emotions and questions. It was Thailog sure enough...his clone...evil clone. He'd not seen his opposite for so long and each encounter had been violent and hateful. When he first laid eyes upon the clone of himself it took Elisa's soothing words of reason to hold him back from attacking that which had been stolen from him and twisted into some perverse forgery. But...as he thought about it Thailog was the product of a terrible experiment and was like a son of Goliath's...as twisted as it may have been. Goliath wasn't sure if he regretted his clone's death. But...there had always been the fervent hope that the clone would turn from his evil ways and accept a life with the clan. That, however, never played out...and now...it was too late.

Everyone knew the alien hunter was responsible for this butchery. "Why?" Goliath asked no one in particular.

Hudson scratched his beard in thought, "Aye...he was after you lad. Why did he kill Thailog?"

"Well...they are exactly identical except for color and personality...but...couldn't this hunter tell the difference?" Talon asked.

Lex shuddered, "Maybe he's color blind...or sees in a different way than we do."

Rising slowly shaking his head Goliath sighed heavily, "It was me he wanted...not Thailog. He...killed Thailog...thinking it was me." For some reason the leader felt a wave of guilt. Even Thailog didn't deserve such a gruesome fate. And...this would have been his fate but Thailog was the one to die. He didn't even know what Thailog had been doing here. Probably nothing good. But still... It chilled Goliath to the core. "Come...we...will give him a proper resting."

"But what about the hunter?" Brooklyn asked.

Goliath turned, "We will do this first..."

A few Earth days later on the far side of the moon...

Blade Slayer stood with his hands behind his back. His mask and weapons were resting in their proper holds of his quarters. And on the wall before him was his trophy: cleaned, polished, and preserved. The fanged skull with its sightless eye sockets stared back at him, jaws agape in a fearsome silent roar; not that it needed any help looking that way, Blade Slayer simply liked it that way. The spinal column and tail curved along the wall in a very life-like pose and the impressive wings; leathery flesh preserved with the most advanced chemicals; spanned the ornate wall as shadowy vigils of the winged creature they belonged to.

At length he felt a presence beside him: Shadow. The Predator growled his approval upon viewing the impressive trophy but tried to hide much of his admiration by pretending the trophy was not much, "Ah...Blade Slayer. So this is your Stone Warrior."

He nodded without looking at Shadow directly but couldn't resist letting a pleased rattle vibrate in his chest. He knew how envious the other hunters were for his prize.

"Bring in some trophies yourself?" Blade Slayer inquired smugly.

Shadow made his mandibles slide to the side slightly in an irritated pose. Nothing he killed was as impressive as this! This was like bringing in a Hive Queen skull!

"Yes...many Flatheads."

They stood admiring the trophy a moment before Blade Slayer growled, "How many females do you think this will gain me?"

Shadow clicked with bemused laughter. He honestly wasn't sure...but now he wanted one of these Stone Warriors!