Whew! This is likely the longest chapter I've ever written. I almost split it up into two, but then decided to let you have a treat with extra-long goodness. So this brings the latest story of X-13 to a close, finally. I'm not sure what other story I will be starting now. In the mean time, I'll be continuing Predator: Guardian Angels and dreaming of more reviews for that story. In other news, I got a tattoo. It's Darth Vader and he lives on my lower leg/ankle. So, please read and review!
"General Bowie? Have You Reached A Decision Yet?" X-13 sent, rocking back on her heels in the cell, absently picking at the scab around her healing wound. She could feel him flinch at her voice.
Why should I bother to bargain with you monsters?
"Because Your Government Wants Us. We Are Useful."
I can just take what we need. I don't need to make a deal with the devil.
"I Am Hardly A Devil, Nigel Bowie. I Do Not Have Horns." Her attempt at humour went unnoticed or unmentioned. X-13 scowled. "You Cannot Take What You Need. You Will Never Have A Willing Xenomorph In Your Laboratories And You Will Never Have A Xenomorph Soldier Who Will Not Slay Its Handlers." She could feel him pause.
What do you mean 'willing'?
"I Am Saying That I Will Give You Xenomorphs For Tests And If Asked, We Will Fight." Before he could answer, she continued, "There Are A Few Rules. Number One, You May Not Perform any Tests That Will Hurt Us. Number Two, If I Give You An Egg, You May Not Do Anything That Will Impair Its Ability To Bring Another Xenomorph Into The World. Number Three, We Will Not Go On Any Suicide Missions Or Missions To Destroy Other Hives. In Return For Our Services, You Will Not Attack Any Member Of My Hive. You Will Provide Me With More Eggs If I Ask. We Will Not Attack Humans. You Will Stock The Area Around My Hive With Prey. This Is A Very Good Deal; If I Were You, I Would Take It."
X-13 listened to him think. He mulled over several plans in quick succession; she admired how he could so easily plan something, examine faults, fix them and then weigh pros and cons. She supposed it was from a lifetime of creating battle plans. He thought about just killing her, One and Ebony and nuking the Hive. He thought about accepting her deal, but then going back on it. And he thought about accepting fully. She smiled.
Near her, One tilted his head to the side and asked: IS HE GOING TO ACCEPT? OR MUST WE FIGHT OUR WAY OUT?:
"I Think He Will Accept. He Is A Rational Man."
One grunted. :I COULD HAVE USED A FIGHT. IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE I BLOODIED MY CLAWS, MATRIARCH. BUT, THIS WILL BE BETTER FOR OUR HIVE.: The King sighed and scratched his jaw with a hind paw. :THIS IS HARD. THE PREY HAVE BEEN MY ENEMY ALL MY LIFE, SOMETHING TO FEAR AND HATE AND KILL. SOMETHING TO EAT, BELOW US. I DO NOT THINK I WILL GET USED TO THEM BEING LIKE HIVE, TO BE TRUSTED.:
"I Do Not Think Many Should Be Trusted. The Prey Is Tricky. We Will Remain Cautious."
:GOOD.: One scooped X-13 up in his arms, nuzzling her. She squealed and kicked as his muzzle dug into her side, tickling. :SOME THINGS DO NOT CHANGE AT LEAST, MATRIARCH.:
X-13? What if I did allow your truce? How do I know you will not go back on your word? You aren't human; you don't have our human ideas of morals, what is right and wrong. Besides, how will others know that you vicious Bugs can be trusted? They will think I have gone Xeno mad.
"I Think In Many Cases, We Have A Better Idea Than Humans. I Have Great Difficulty Lying, But You Know This. And If Others Do Not Believe? I Will Tell Them Myself. I Give My Word. One Gives His. As Long As My Daughters And Granddaughters Rule, We Will Be Your Allies. Can You Speak For Your Own Descendants?"
I don't know. he admitted, If the truce is not a mistake, than perhaps yes. But, I have a question to ask. Why would you allow this? To be experiments again? You hated it and boy did you fight against every other attempt.
"I Did Not Give My Permission And They Were Often Cruel. And I Thought You Would Need Something In Return. You Have No Idea How Hard It Is For Me, To Allow My Children To Be Treated As Animals. I Hate It! But I Know You Will Not Just Want To Let Vicious Bugs Roam Earth For Nothing." She could feel his embarrassment at calling her that. It pleased her. Now perhaps he was beginning to see things from her point of view?
I think I will need a few days to let others know about this. I can't make such a large decision by myself. My rank is not high enough. This will take a while. Change always does.
"Bowie!" X-13 snapped. "We Do Not Have Time! I Cannot Hear My Hive! They Will Soon Think I Am Dead And You Will Have A Much Larger Problem On Your Hands! It Is Now Or Never!"
Bowie, if he was not such a controlled man, would have experienced panic. Instead, he felt a twinge of worry that he crushed before it could change into anything more. Trust the Xenomorph? Perhaps be hailed as a man who changed history? Or would he be hated for his decision and imprisoned, even killed?
Fine. We have a truce. I'll ready a plane and have you flown back to the Hive.
X-13 shrieked with glee.
Cal was lying stretched out on the uncomfortable bed in his cell, counting spots in the concrete. It was better than stewing about his eventual fate. He had not heard from X-13 or Ebony in a while. Were they dead now? The hybrids were not virtually immune to toxins like regular Xenomorphs. Their added human DNA made them weaker. It would be a simple thing to gas X-13 and Ebony and then shoot One. He heard voices, dull through the heavy metal door. Oh good. Was he finally going to be fed in this hell-hole? He could only imagine the slop. The door swung open. He didn't bother to get up. He wasn't in the military anymore. He was damned if he was going to salute for those bastards.
Something shrieked piercingly and a not-so-small black comet collided with his chest. His breath whooshed out.
"Cal!" She jumped to the foot of the bed as he got up, looking behind him, panting a little as he regained his breath. There was General Bowie.
"You're free to go, Dr. Wood. All charges dropped."
"But why, sir?"
"We have come to a truce. You will escort X-13 and One back to the Hive."
"Get to your quarters and get cleaned up."
Bowie saluted, which Cal returned and strode off.
God, every time I look at you, you've gotten bigger.
Ebony grinned. "Mother Convinced Bowie To Let The Hive Stay!" She squealed gleefully again. "I Get To Go Home! I Have Missed Everyone So Much. You Humans Have Interesting Minds, But I Do Miss The Hive Mind."
Cal laughed. Let's go. Bowie will want to get moving soon and I need a clean uniform.
Standing before the mirror in his proper rooms in the base, Cal straightened his tie and made other small adjustments to his uniform.
Behind him, Ebony inspected his belongings, peering at pictures, climbing the walls and examining the light fixtures, flipping through books and anything else that caught her interest. She squawked suddenly. Cal whirled in time to see her take a flying leap off a shelf and catch an ornament her waving tail had knocked off the shelf.
"Sorry Cal." she sent, hunched in embarrassment.
He hid a smile, but he knew she felt that he was not angry.
Come on, we should hurry.
She climbed the wall, put the little wooden carving back and followed him out. In the hall, Ebony put her hand into Cal's. She was still very young, he thought, probably early teens. Her mind seemed to mature faster than her body. Since he first really saw the little Xenomorph, she had grown at least a foot and a half taller and had added probably three feet to her length. She was much sleeker looking, slender and lacking any baby roundness that she once had.
"Will You Come Into The Hive When We Get Back There? I Want You To Meet Some Of The Praetorians And Drones."
I'm not sure that's a good idea.
"Oh, They Will Not Hurt You! Mother And I Will Not Let Them. Some Of Them Are So Nice. But Not Ora. He Is Mean. I Don't Like Him. Once, He Tried To Swat Me When I Was Younger. I Was Only Playing With His Tail."
Triumph crept into her mental voice.
"Mother Was Very Angry. So Was Father. He Swatted Ora Right Back. Mother Told Him If He Ever Tried To Hurt Me Again, She Would Kill Him."
I thought that no one could disobey the Queen?
"He Cannot Now That Mother Told Him To Stop. But The Praetorians Can Do Things Like That. I Suppose I Was Annoying Him. Humans Are Much More Disobedient Than Any Praetorian. Ora Is A Very Dominant Praetorian-" Ebony stopped babbling.
What is it?
"I… I Feel Something Wrong. Something Angry."
She cringed, dropping to a crouch, sniffing the air.
"Cal? Get A Weapon." X-13 sent. "General Bowie Announced The Truce And Some Of The Soldiers Are Not Happy.
I don't have one. The armoury is far away.
"Then Protect My Daughter As Best As You Can."
General Bowie looked over the soldiers. They gripped their weapons.
"I said stand down! I am your commanding officer! Now!"
"We don't need someone who wants to throw us all to the Bugs! You've gone Xeno mad!"
He weighed his options for escape. There were not a terribly huge amount of men who were openly opposed. A couple dozen at most. He had more than enough open supporters. The only problem was that most of them were not there. They were in the other end of the large base, far away.
"I will give you one last chance to stand down!"
They were at a precarious position. If one person started the revolt then the rest would follow. If one person backed down, the rest would follow. Humans were pack animals and most were followers. Leaders were not common, but once the followers found one, they would stick by them through anything, doing things they would never dream of doing on their own.
"Put Down Your Weapons!" X-13 yelled in their minds, sending all of her considerable will behind the statement. But, humans were different than Xenomorphs. Some people wavered, but the rest panicked.
"The Bug Queen is in my fuckin' mind!" screamed a soldier. And then all hell broke loose.
One barrelled into the room with a snarl, causing the humans to hesitate just long enough. Long enough for the King to grab the General and whisk him away. Shots rang out, peppering the wall behind the fleeing Xenomorph's tail. X-13 joined them, slamming doors shut behind One, buying them time.
"What the hell do I do now?! You've just taken me further away from the armouries and the soldiers who don't think I'm insane!"
X-13 flashed a grin. "I Have A Plan. You Have Night-Vision Goggles In The Armouries?"
"Then I Will Tell Them To Put On The Goggles And We Will Fight Like Xenomorphs. Quick And Fast. While I Instruct Them, You Must Find The Power Controls And Turn Off The Lights."
"All right. I'll do it, but only because I have no other choice. I still think it's crazy to trust Xenos." he finally muttered.
"And I Think It Is Crazy To Trust Humans. We Are Even."
As Bowie shook his head and stumped off, X-13 sat down, shutting her eyes to block any distractions and let her mind drift.
Finding one human mind was easy. So was finding a group. But finding a specific group within a group, minds that she had never experienced closely before was hard. Human minds were different from Xenomorph minds. The Alien's minds were orderly, thinking of only a few things at once, clear and neat. Humans thought about multiple things, tides of thought rising and falling, tangents developing, random images bubbling to the surface, blooms of color… It was confusing and impossible to read. X-13 did her best, picking up general intentions and trains of thought that were clearer than the rest, but truthfully, it was impossible to look in a human mind and read it like a book. And these soldiers minds were all filled with violent images and tendencies. That route was no good. So was finding those that hated Xenomorphs; most of them feared if not outright hated Xenos. Eventually, she was able to sort out those who would be their allies as compared to those that were their enemies. She began sending them her ideas for neutralizing those who rebelled.
I don't know how things always seem to go so bad so quickly when you guys are involved. Cal thought to Ebony.
The little Xenomorph shrugged and curled up tighter.
Do you know what's happening?
"Mother Is Making A Plan. She Is Going To Have The Bad Prey Captured By The Good Prey." She paused and thought a moment. "If Any Prey Can Be Good."
What about me?
"You Are Not Prey! You Are Friend. Oh, Mother Is Going To Have The Lights Turned Off. If You Want To Move, I Will Have To Be Your Eyes Again."
On cue, the lights went out, leaving them in total darkness. A sense of excitement flooded into his mind.
"Now The Bad Prey Will Pay!" she sent gleefully.
She jumped up, her chitinous side leaving Cal's.
He could hear her claws skittering over the floor. He felt slightly disoriented, remembering the last time he was left in the dark. He sat there, grinning slightly as Ebony squeaked and squealed, dancing up and down the floor, obviously following the progress of the supposed rebellion.
But in the darkness, sudden as summer thunder, came the unmistakable pop and stutter of machinegun fire.
One slunk through the blackness, feeling better than he had in days. This was where he belonged! Being near so many humans was difficult. He had grown up killing them, he had claimed his first human victim at birth! For years they had been his primary source of food and now they were his primary source of fear. He was no longer in a large Hive, filled with hundreds of powerful Drones and dozens of deadly Praetorians, on a planet where humans were the minority. He wasn't sharing a mind with the rest of the Praetorians, safe from sudden thoughts and worries.
He was King of a small Hive on a planet where they were the minority. He was in responsible for the lives of nearly fifty Xenomorphs. He was not used to anything like the current situation; he was not programmed to cope with this! Xenomorph Kings were not made to think and plan and plot; they were the enforcers for the Queen. They were packed with adrenaline, had hair-trigger tempers and ultra-thick armour.
They were made for fighting, but for X-13, One would do anything. He tried very hard to curb his natural rage and so far, it was working. But it still felt good to let himself go, even though he was not allowed to kill unless they tried to kill him first. X-13 was clear on that.
He slowed, paused, and thrust a hand around the corner. The heat, pressure and electricity sensors on it revealed that there were four soldiers waiting around the corner.
:MATRIARCH? SHALL WE?: he asked, baring his teeth ferally in the dark.
"Of Course." she sent back.
It felt good to be hunting beside X-13 again.
They began moving around the group in a traditional pincer manoeuvre; the only difference was that they approached from the ceiling. Humans were not programmed to look up for danger, something the Xenomorphs exploited almost every time. Perhaps professional Bug Hunters were trained to expect such things, but in the darkness, gripped by primitive fear dating back when humans were small creatures, prone to disappearing in the night with a shriek and a crunch of bones, it was easy to forget. And forgetting meant death.
:THEY ARE SO AFRAID, MATRIARCH. SO WEAK.:
"Yes. It Is Easy To Want To Kill, But We Must Not. No. Bowie Wants Them Alive To Face Human Justice, If They Have Any." She paused a moment. "I Am Sure We Could Still Feel Their Blood On Our Claws. We Must Keep Them From Fighting And Not All Will Submit Quietly."
They leaped. It was nearly completely black, the only light coming from the flashlights mounted on the barrels of their guns. They were aimed at chest height; the only problem was that the threat did not come from the ground. The humans heard the Xenomorph's claws rasp on the ceiling as they left it but by the time they looked up, three were already down. The fourth frantically back-pedalled, firing his gun in short bursts.
X-13 and One leaped out of the way, splitting apart.
One screamed, drawing the soldier's attention.
The gun came up, when movement out of the corner of his eye brought his head snapping back around.
"Boo." X-13 said, hurling herself at him.
His head hit the floor, knocking him out. Human skulls were so weak. After a quick check, X-13 determined he likely had a mild concussion. They dragged them together, binding their hands together tightly with wiring torn from a computer panel. They trotted along the hall, since the building was largely Xenomorph-proofed.
In another part of the building, soldiers crept along the halls. They wore night-vision goggles, painting the world in eerie shades of green and white. They did not like the situation they were in. They were against many of their own friends, who made a poor choice, driven to stupidity because of a hatred they could not suppress. When Bugs were involved, people always acted stupidly.
It was not for no reason; many had lost friends or family members to them. Some of the creeping men had suffered because of the Xenomorphs, but they were not blinded by their losses like the others. They would do their duty, reluctantly, but it would be done. They trusted General Bowie's decision. He did not seem Xeno-mad to them.
The Xeno Queen, X-13 had been pleased to discover that they were trained for stealth operations like this; she had not had to tell them what to do. It had creeped them out when she had plucked that bit of knowledge from their minds. But, they recognized that she was a good commander. So they followed her plan.
One soldier stuck his helmet on the end of his gun and poked it around the corner.
He cautiously headed around the corner.
He screamed, going down in the hail of bullets. Evidently, they were not the only ones who had the night-vision goggles. They charged around the corner, firing right back. Two of the rebels went down in moments.
When they stopped, three soldiers were dead and four rebels. Another rebel was bleeding to death.
They gritted their teeth and continued on.
As the King and Queen of the Hive ran lithely down the corridor, a door burst open behind them.
Another group of soldiers charged out, a few with night-vision goggles, though they were not allies. One rolled something towards the Xenos.
X-13 glanced at it.
It exploded with a flash and an ear-splitting BANG!
X-13 and One recoiled with identical screeches of agony, lurching away. Xenomorphs, while already having exquisite hearing, were also very sensitive to vibrations, essentially making their entire bodies primitive ears. Sudden, loud sounds were agony to them.
One screamed again as they began firing. He hurled himself in front of X-13! Bullets ricocheted off his armour, knocking off chips of chitin. Several sank into his flesh! He snatched X-13 up, threw her to the side and charged.
One grabbed a female human, slammed his tongue through her skull, tossed her away.
His tail arced up, forward and down, stabbed through a man and swung back, screaming and twitching human still impaled on the barb.
The enraged King jumped, landing on another.
The soldier slammed One in the jaw with the butt of his gun, fending off his bite.
His six-fingered hands constricted, talons digging into the man's shoulders and chest. One finished off the hollering human by biting, sinking his teeth into his face and crunching through bone.
Slowly, the Xeno got up, his long, phallic head turning towards the last person.
A growl rippled out of his throat.
One absently lashed his tail, flicking off the gurgling human still impaled. He paced over, ignoring the blood dripping out of his wounds.
The soldier cowered, holding her gun before herself like a shield.
"Drop It." hissed a female voice.
X-13 stepped around One, picked up the gun and performed a quick check. After a moment, she ejected the clip and threw it away. The gun was smashed on the floor.
"Hold Out Your Hands."
Mutely, she obeyed.
X-13 bound them with wire, and then moved to her feet.
"Are You Badly Hurt?" asked X-13, pressing her forehead to One's, caressing his face once the woman was immobilized.
:NOT TOO BADLY.: he replied. :THEY DID NOT USE BAD BULLETS AND THE GUNS WERE TOO WEAK TO PUNCTURE OFTEN OR DEEPLY.:
Nevertheless, X-13 examined him.
"Sit." commanded X-13.
He sat, flexing his sore jaw a few times. She passed her hand over his chitin, hissing softly through her teeth as she encountered every new chip or scratch. A few skin-sheds would remove those, but she felt bad anyways. His bullet wounds were not too numerous and like he said, not deep either. Mere flesh-wounds for the most part.
One got up. He moved gracefully, but she could tell he was still in pain. Shooting a last, hate filled glance at the human woman, X-13 followed her mate out.
"General? I Believe The Threat Has Been Neutralized."
Hah… Neutralized… you've been listening to too many soldier minds. Can I turn the lights back on?
Good. I hate the dark. After a few minutes, the lights clicked back on.
"Let's Find Ebony and Cal."
Cal walked through the halls, Ebony leading. She was now able to broadcast images in his mind, though they were still fairly limited. Mostly, she still just warned him. Suddenly, the lights flickered back on again.
Oh good. He blinked rapidly, clearing the spots from his vision.
"Mother Will Be Coming To Get Us Soon. The Bad Prey Have Been Captured Or Killed." The little Xenomorph hopped ahead lightly.
Cal hurried up, following her to wherever X-13 and One were.
All of a sudden, Ebony screeched and fled, hiding behind Cal.
Ariana Hyde stepped out of a door, a horrible grin plastered on her scarred face. She was armed with a rather nasty looking knife.
"Hello Cal. We meet again."
He backed away, saying, "How the hell did you get out?! I thought you were going to LV-506!"
"Oh, one of the soldiers felt bad. They thought I had the right idea, killing the Bugs. No one intelligent wants to be allied with those things."
She looked down. Ebony was peering around Cal.
"Ah. Still hanging out with the little one, I see. I think I'll kill her first. I'll love watching your face while I rip out her fucking tongue. Of course, her blood with destroy my knife, so you get to be strangled." Hyde grinned manically.
"Why? I kicked your ass before. It shouldn't be any different now."
"Stay Away Prey, Or I Will Tear Out Your Throat!"
Hyde flinched a bare moment and then burst out laughing.
Ebony screeched at her, claws raised.
Abruptly, Hyde stopped laughing, turned and punched Cal in the face.
He toppled, Ebony jumping out of the way.
"KILL YOU!" she screamed. She threw herself at the Bug Hunter, causing her to stumble. Ebony was much bigger now. Hyde gripped her face in one hand, keeping the little Xeno from opening her mouth and slashed with the other!
Ebony ducked in time, but it still scored a long line along her skull.
She screamed in pain! Hyde snarled and threw Ebony off of her. She leaned back on her shoulders and flicked out her legs, hopping neatly to her feet.
Ebony lay crumpled on the ground, one hand pressed against the gash on her head. Hyde raised a booted foot, ready to smash it into the Alien. Ebony shot her arms up, catching the boot. She sank her teeth into Hyde's bony ankle. The woman yelled and tried to shake her off, but she hung on like a bony black bulldog. Suddenly, the Bug Hunter remembered she had a knife. She aimed it towards Ebony's eye, but the Xeno darted away.
She rubbed the wound on her head, took it away and eyed the blood on it. A sly smile crept over her mouth, showing glittering, metallic teeth.
"Here!" she sent, leaping for Hyde's face again.
The woman yelped, brought her arms up to keep her away, but Ebony still managed to get her bloody hand through, smearing acid all over Hyde's face. She screamed in agony, falling over, scrubbing at her sizzling face with her sleeves.
Ebony sat and watched, her dark eyes emotionless, her bony chest heaving.
Finally, the horrible noise stopped, leaving Ariana Hyde motionless except for her breathing. She seemed to have passed out, a mercy.
Cal got up slowly from where he had been sitting, pop-eyed. He peered at her face and recoiled. It was a horrible, seared mess, the nose nothing but a pair of holes, one eye missing, and an empty socket in its place. Her melted bone protruded through her dissolved flesh. It wasn't pretty. Cal turned away before he could throw up.
Is she going to die?
"She Should Not. It Was Only Her Face. And She Is Pregnant. I Will Not Hurt An Innocent Child."
I had no idea you could fight like that.
Ebony tossed her head, pleased with the comment. Drops of blood flew. Cal back-pedalled.
"Sorry. Oh, Mother And Father Are Almost Here."
He shuddered and turned away from Hyde's mutilated body. X-13 and One stepped out of the same door the Bug Hunter had come through only a few minutes earlier. The King was wounded. Yellowish blood oozed out of several bullet holes, but he moved without obvious pain.
X-13 immediately noticed the unconscious woman, baring her teeth in rage, contorting her usually peaceful face into something terrifying.
She circled, obviously speaking to Ebony, though not allowing Cal to hear, tilting and moving her head and gesturing.
One grunted, exhaling, and nuzzled his daughter with what was probably pride.
"Come Cal, It Is Time We Met With Your General Bowie. Now, Perhaps We Will Actually Be Able To Go Home." X-13 said.
"Thank you for your help, X-13." Bowie said, sounding as though his teeth hurt to utter such words to an Alien.
"I Promised I Would Help."
The older man shook his head, "I can't believe my own men would do something so stupid. They knew they wouldn't get away with it."
"Humans Always Act Stupidly Around My Kind." the hybrid replied.
Bowie sighed and rubbed his beard. You did good, Xeno. he sent to her, not wanting Cal and the other soldiers to hear. Better than most of my men. They killed too many that I would have preferred alive for their trial.
A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth.
"They Did Their Best."
"The plane is ready, X-13." Bowie said aloud.
She nodded, grabbed Ebony's hand and began walking up the ramp, One slinking afterwards, her bodyguard.
Cal followed, turning and snapped a salute at the top. The door closed.
They were going home.