Striker 19: The Choice of Honor
In the control center…
The moment the line went silent General Sherman slammed his fist into the table, shaking with rage.
"Damn him! Damn him straight to Hell!"
Karin's heart was beating faster at the thought of her daughter's safety being in jeopardy. It almost made her sick to even think about.
"Dad! We've got to go down there," Karin urged.
"He's got us cornered. There's no way around this," the General fumed, "If I send soldiers he'll know. If I wait he'll…I just CAN'T release him!"
Karin grabbed her father's arm, spinning him to face her, "THAT is my daughter he's got and YOUR granddaughter! JUST let him go!"
"It's just…" he began but stopped, "Let's get down there." He directed his authority toward all the men in the room and over the intercom, "This is General Heingrid. I want all personnel to stay exactly where they are unless you are in the vicinity of the primary exit. If you are anywhere near the exit, get as far away as you possibly can. Do not wait!"
At the exit door…
Karin and her father stood beside the exit door. Made entirely of metal and advanced technological parts it looked nearly impenetrable. The woman wrung her hands with worry since she didn't know where he daughter was and what was going to happen. Karin couldn't believe Striker was resorting to putting her daughter's life in danger! Was he truly that ruthless? Would he kill Sadie if something went wrong? The worried mother just couldn't believe it.
The General checked his watch. "He should be here by now."
Karin just sighed, continuing to pace.
"Karin—I'm sorry I got you into this mess. I never thought it would come to this." The General apologized.
She opened her mouth to respond when a very familiar silhouette appeared at the end of the corridor. A loud rattle echoed down the hall followed by the quiet whimper of a little girl.
"Sadie!" Karin called out, taking a few steps closer.
"Mama?" the little girl responded.
A somewhat relieved smile washed over the mother's face, "Yes Sadie. Mama's here! Everything's going to be ok."
"Mama!" Sadie called louder.
Striker's looming form was silent at the exchange between mother and offspring but he slowly came closer.
"Striker! Let Sadie go! Please." Karin began pleading.
A soft rattle was his only answer as he came closer still. Karin could see her little daughter nestled in the crook of his brawny arm in a proper "child holding" position. That seemed slightly odd to her. If he was intent on harming Sadie then why was he holding her so gently?
General Heingrid stepped up next to Karin, "Let her go Striker. We can end this without further violence."
The big alien stopped a moment flexing the fingers of his free hand, "Open the door Sherman."
"We want Sadie on the ground in front of you first. I swear I will open the door if you do that," the man promised.
Striker narrowed his eyes, "Door, now."
"You would hurt a helpless child just to get out?" Karin stated with all seriousness.
It was then the woman noticed a change in Striker's gaze. The hard, predatory eyes flicked ever so slightly, displaying a brief uncertainty. She took several large steps toward the alien teen, closing the gap.
Sadie held a hand out to her, "Mama!"
Karin's blue eyes met Striker's amber ones. "You won't—will you."
The alien's eyes hardened again but he didn't respond.
Vaguely Karin recalled his violent reaction the other day when her father accused him of killing all humans if he was released… "How dare you insult my honor!"…His honor? Striker had become viciously offended at the insinuation that he would aimlessly kill any human no matter their gender or age. So this…this whole thing was a bluff? He'd fooled them so many times before it wasn't inconceivable.
"You won't kill a child will you?" Karin's gaze pierced the alien.
He stared at her, "What makes you say that Karin?"
"You won't kill something that is helpless and can't fight back." her voice hardened. "It would be an insult to your honor."
Striker's mandibles tapped independently for a second. Then, he grabbed the back of Sadie's overalls and held her out to the side. "You don't think I will?"
Karin went stiff but shook her head, "No. I don't."
His grip tightened on the back straps of the little girl's overalls as he held her out. Sadie whimpered again. All at once, Striker knelt down and gently placed the child on the ground. Once he released her overall straps he nudged her toward Karin with a heavy sigh. The toddler eagerly rushed over to her awaiting mother. Equally eager, Karin scooped up her daughter and held her close, almost brought to tears from the emotional relief.
Striker rose to his feet hissing, "You have good instincts Karin."
The General seemed befuddled by the sudden show of mercy, "But…it…it was all a bluff?"
Slitting his eyes the Predator teen growled, "You Oomans are so predictable in so many ways Sherman. You just assumed I would stoop so low as to harm a helpless child. I never intended to hurt her, but I knew you thought I would."
He stalked closer, "But I won't bluff with you Sherman. I let her go so open the door."
The General hesitated for a moment but eventually withdrew the card key from his vest. He swiped it and a mechanical female voice requested, "Fingerprint identification please."
Compliantly he held his thumb to the black pad, producing a high pitched beeping as it scanned the unique groves and arches of his flesh.
"Print recognized. General Sherman Heingrid. Please enter security code," the computer emotionlessly requested.
Quickly he punched in the numbers and letters that comprised the code and pressed Enter. Beeping obediently the high tech door hissed, releasing the air locks and opening. A gust of cold outside air swept in and Striker stepped forward, his eyes wide.
Beyond the door lay a bare patch of concrete, high security fences, and bright lights. But past the man-made construction was barren, rocky terrain bordered by choppy roaring, ocean. The sky was dark, indicating night but was also blanketed with thick cloud cover. A hideously bleak sight.
Striker stared at what lay before him, his fists tightly clenching with each passing second. He lowered his head menacingly with a snarl, "WHAT is this?"
"It's the way out Striker. The only way out."
Turning like a whirlwind, Striker lashed out at the General, slamming him against the wall with a deep bellow.
Karin gasped, "Striker! DON'T!"
His hissing growl was low a menacing but he ignored her protest.
Gasping from the blow the General held up a hand to hold her back, "Karin, take Sadie away from here!"
"I—I can't. Striker! Please don't kill him!" she pleaded.
Striker flashed his eyes and smacked the General across the face with the back of his hand. The blow was not life threatening, as the alien teen was capable of delivering, but it sent the smaller man to the floor.
"NO! STOP!" Karin screamed, clutching her daughter. Sadie began to cry from the high level of tension and noise.
The alien teen hissed, "Luckily for Sherman he's not armed—and he's too old for me to kill honorably." Abruptly he reached down and grasped the man's neck, lifted him off the floor, and drove his back to the wall.
Karin bit her lip, "Then let him GO! PLEASE!"
Striker almost smirked, "I said I wouldn't KILL him—I never said I wouldn't HURT him." His scaled hand tightened around the General's neck, "Now Sherman— you ARE going to tell me WHAT is that? If this is a trick I'm going to rip your arms out of your body."
Through the pain and choke hold the General rasped, "It's no trick Striker. This facility was built on an island. We're hundreds of miles from any land and the water is so cold and rough no one could survive it if they tried to swim. Not even you."
Striker slowly grasped Sherman's uniform until his claws tore through the thick fabric. Harshly, he smacked the man across the jaw again with his free hand. "Your design?"
The General winced from the harsh blow, blood dripping from his split lip, "No. This facility was built years before you ever came to Earth Striker. It was built in the hope that one day we would be able to catch one of your kind and be able to hold it here for study."
Eyes beginning to glow like flames, the Predator teen clenched his fist and reared it back, "STUDY…"
General Heingrid closed his eyes a moment, "Yes." Then his steely eyes focused on Striker, "You wanted a way out Striker. I provided it. I didn't trick you, I'm not stopping you—so what are you waiting for?"
Striker's poised fist shook with barely contained rage. A grisly image of his fist smashing through Sherman's forehead flashed over his brain. He could do it—he WANTED to do it—but where would such an act get him. The man was right. He could just walk out. As horrible the reality was, Sherman had provided what he'd asked for. He just didn't like the answer. Besides—killing a weak old Ooman was just not an option.
Then what was he going to do? Try to swim in a freezing ocean and probably die flailing until exhaustion struck him down? Like Hell he was! That was not a death befitting a Predator warrior. If death was his only choice then he would die drenched in the blood of his enemies!
Striker suddenly slammed his fist into the wall next to Sherman's head, cratering it. He growled deeply and tightened his grasp, "Alright Sherman—it seems you have me cornered. Does your research tell you what happens when a warrior of my species is cornered?"
The man didn't answer at first until Striker slammed his whole body against the wall again. "WHAT does it TELL you?"
The man gripped the Predator's wrist, a mist of blood from his mouth spraying through his teeth, "The ones before you—gasp—blew themselves up—gasp"
Striker's tone lowered, "Do you know WHY?"
General Heingrid didn't answer, but he didn't have to.
"A warrior would rather die than admit defeat at the hands of his prey. So the only honorable choice is to die and take your prey with you." All at once Striker pulled Sherman away from the wall and slammed him back first onto the floor. "And I'm going to take as many of you little Ooman bastards as I can!"
Then he released the General standing up with a look of disdain for the man, "Consider yourself lucky you're too old Sherman."
Striker then fixed his gaze on Karin and Sadie. The woman actually drew back. He approached her slowly until he said in a low tone, "I will allow you and your young one to leave Karin. Leave this place and live."
Karin hardened her eyes at him, "And what of my husband, Mike?"
The Predator rattled and walked past her back down the corridor, "I won't make promises Karin—just hope he can get out before I see him again."
Before he disappeared around the corner he looked back at Karin and for a brief instant his eyes softened—the way his eyes used to look all those years ago.