I know it's been a Decade…yes a decade since I've touched this story and never gave it an ending. So I have rewritten the last chapter to end Striker's story and get it off my conscience for never finishing for my loyal (yet frustrated) readers.
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, "You're lucky you're not armed Sherman—and you're too old." 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, "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 the arms right 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.
Then it occurred to him: he was brought here in one of the human's flying ships. No doubt Karin and her family were brought here by a similar means. If those ships brought him here, they could surely help him escape.
Striker's eyes narrowed, "You haven't yet provided me a way out Sherman. Call your flying ships here."
The general winced.
The young Predator's hand tightened ever so slightly, "We all got here on those ships…now I am going to leave in one."
"It could take time…" Sherman began.
Striker hissed with a quick flair of his mandibles. "The longer you take Sherman, the less skin you'll have. Call them."
With a quick release of his grip, Striker dropped the General and stared at him expectantly.
The General gasped and held his violated neck, "And…just what are you going to do when I get a chopper here Striker? Just fly off into the sunset, never to be seen again?"
"That's the idea."
"You do realize my people aren't the only ones here on this planet. There are other races and cultures of humans all over this planet. Some are not as compassionate as mine."
"I've seen the extent of "Ooman compassion"…"Striker snarled.
"They'll shoot you dead Striker. You're nothing but a monster on this planet…whether you kill or not. No matter where you go, you'll be hunted until the day someone mounts YOU up as a very rare, exotic trophy."
Striker sneered, "Let them try. Being hunted is preferable to being trapped." He knelt down and placed a claw on the man's head, "Call your ship."
The man grit his teeth, "Even IF I call for them Striker, they won't come."
"Oomans are in trouble. Dying. Hurt. They'll come for that."
"I'm telling you, THEY WON'T COME! When you escaped we were put on lockdown. Do you know what that means?! We are QUARATINED. Everyone in this facility is expendable…even myself. Anything to contain you on this island." Sherman said with dead seriousness.
Striker's eyes flashed angrily.
"Even if he were dead?" Karin suddenly spoke up.
The Predator looked at her.
"If Striker were to be killed then the quarantine would be lifted, yes."
"I'm leaving this island alive." Striker stated emphatically.
Karin nodded, "You will Striker. You will…but you're going to have to trust me."
The alien teen stood up away from the general and stared her down, "The last time I trusted YOU I ended up here. What makes me think I will fall for that again?"
"This time I'm not following orders Striker. I want to make this right by you." The redhead stated very seriously.
Striker rattled, watching her vitals for a sense of a lie. He found none.
He placed a claw against her chest, "I will hear your plan. But know this Karin…if you deceive me I will strike down you and everyone you care about…my honor be damned."
Several hours later…
With swirling, deafening blades the Chinook helicopter landed on the landing platform near the facility. Eight soldiers poured out as the back opened up. General Sherman and Karin stood nearby next to a gurney with a large body bag strapped to it.
The General was saluted by the SEAL team leader, "At ease soldier. Glad you could make it out here so quickly."
The young SEAL looked over at the silent gurney, "Is that it?"
"Yes it is. Managed to corner him and finally gunned him down. You've been briefed on what needs to be done with the body?"
The General gestured to Karin, "My daughter will be accompanying the specimen on board to make sure it remains properly preserved until it reaches the new location."
The SEAL nodded and motioned for his men to wheel the gurney onto the helicopter. Karin was directed to follow. The General saluted but inside he was regretting this whole plan.
Karin sat amid the SEALS, keeping a close eye on the large body bag in front of her. No one had said much of anything amid the loud thrum of the helicopter's engines but it was apparent that there was tension in the air. They'd been flying for at least an hour before the pilot indicated through lingo that they were about to make landfall. Karin decided it was as good a time as any to enact the plan. Reaching into her pocket discreetly she clicked the remote she had hidden there.
Quite suddenly a hiss from the body bag made the SEALS tense up as one. A strange yellowish green liquid began leaking out of a tear in the body bag, dripping down the side of the gurney.
Karin undid her harness and inspected the body bag.
The leader of the SEAL team pointed at the substance leaking from the bag, "What is that?"
"Oh shit. Its poison sac ruptured." Karin stated over the headset.
"Its poison sac ruptured! We've got to dump this thing before it evaporates and floods the cabin!"
"Dump it? But we're under orders to…" he began.
But Karin cut him off shouting, "If we don't dump this thing right now we're all going to die!"
The leader shifted, thinking it over a moment and decided it wasn't worth the risk, "Open the back ramp! Cargo has become toxic. Open the ramp."
Lights flashed and rush of cold air flooded the cargo hold as the hydraulic ramp lowered. Karin held back on to her harness, not wanting to be swept out along with the body bag. Two of the soldiers quickly, but cautiously moved forward, undoing the straps holding the gurney in place. Then, with a sharp push they pushed the gurney out the back. It rolled then abruptly disappeared from sight, splashing into the ocean below.
Everyone on board seemed visibly shaken by the event but relieved that no poisonous gas was about to kill them all. Karin sighed. It had worked. Now it was up to Striker to see the plan through.
The weightlessness of the fall and the sudden rush of cold air resuscitated Striker from his hypnotic state. With a powerful burst of power he tore through the body bag and yanked free the straps holding him to the gurney. He snarled and with cat-like reflexes leaped away from the gurney seconds before he splashed down into the ocean. He hit the water feet first but it still felt like hitting the ground. Submerged for only a brief moment he clawed to the surface, gasping for air. He was an adept swimmer but he hoped Karin hadn't betrayed him and dumped him too far from land. Much to his astonishment, land wasn't more than a mile away. With powerful strokes he began swimming.
"Yes, Sir. Cargo has been lost at sea. I understand Sir. Returning now." The SEAL leader confirmed the events over the radio.
Karin sighed. Part of her felt right about what she and her father had done for Striker…but now she was wondering if it wouldn't come back to haunt them. Striker really didn't give them much of a choice in the matter: help him or die. If Striker made it to land how many more people would he kill? Would it even matter at this point? At least now, no one would be actively looking for him. He was free; free to live out his life as he saw fit.
It wasn't too long before Striker wearily pulled himself out of the cool water of the ocean and staggered onto the beach. He couldn't say he'd been more exhausted in all his life but amid his fatigue he felt new energy surge through him. He surveyed the darkness of the beach and saw the trees before him. The humidity told him the place was tropical in nature, which was perfect for his kind. He was alone…but he was free. No longer would he suffer the tests and prodding of humans treating him like a lab specimen. No longer would he be confined to one space. No longer would he live out his days unfulfilled and wondering if he would ever attain honor for himself.
As he doggedly walked toward the tree line he kicked something hard and sharp. He looked down and saw a broken shell in the sand. He reached down and observed the keen edge. It was doubtful he'd ever see a member of his species again and thus would never be truly blooded as a warrior. But, as he ran his claw over the sharp shell he decided that here and now he would give himself his own mark. He had fought and killed the Oomans in the facility as if it had been his first hunt so he must be marked. Using the shell as an improvised blade he cut a triple slashed mark topped with an arc into his chest. Green glowing blood lit up the dark and fell to the sand in small puddles.
Striker shook his dreadlocks and threw his head back with a shrieking roar. Even here on Ooman planet he hoped his honored ancestors would hear his call across the galaxy and honor him as a new warrior. His roar faded as he stared beyond into the stars. One day…one day he might return to his home world. But until then the Ooman hunt had only begun.