Author Notes: Special thanks to my totally cool beta reader the Ginger Ninja, who did a great job. I like to also thank Twister of the Mind, my sister, who helped me write this story. She deserves just as much credit as I do.
I hope you enjoy and would love feedback on what you think.
I am working in the lab located deep within the belly of our hive on one of my many projects when I sense my Queen calling. Like a voice whispering in my ear, she commands me to come to the throne room. Caught off guard at being summoned, face to face before the Queen, I hesitate, glancing around at the senior members. Most don't even look up from their projects, but one, an elder, gives me a slight nod of his head to go.
This springs me into action; I do not want to displease her with my slowness. Setting down my tools, I hurry on my way. I can sense the other's shock, in my mind, though they all continue to work without pause and attempt to hide these thoughts form me. For someone as young as me to be summoned before the Queen bodes either very good, or very bad. Seeing that I cannot think of anything I have done recently to upset the Queen, I decide it must be something good.
I am nervous, curious, and slightly fearful as I enter the inner sanction of the hive. The dark sacred halls belong to the Queen and her young offspring. The nearer I get to the throne room, the more familiar things become. It has been too long since I walked these halls and explored the many rooms that I pass. It stirs a sense of belonging in me.
Entering, I sense hostility flowing off the Commander, a scowl pasted to his face. Pride swells in me at knowing such an elder is vexed by my presence. It also reassures me, I haven't walk to my death. Quickly I hide my feelings, so not to appear arrogant.
In total, five are present; standing before the Queen who sits in all her grandness on the throne. As I move forward, I see she is as I remembered her. Her long midnight hair hangs loosely around her shoulders and her skin is still the flawless tan I remember from childhood.
"My Queen" Swiftly I bow in front of her trying to remain collective and calm. As I rise, our eyes meet for a few seconds. It's enough to stir long buried feelings and a sense of security that I haven't felt since I was just a child and was forced to leave this place.
"My son, I have selected you for a special mission" Her voice is soothing and strong. Only through our mental rapport do I sense a hint of worry which lingers from recent events. I'm not concerned. I have complete faith in her. My mother is as clever, as she is ruthless, and she will not easily be defeated.
Of course none of the others sense any of this; all they sense is her unwavering strength and power. She says nothing more, for I may be of her genetics, but that alone does not make me better than any other member of the hive.
"You all know of the humans who once lived in the vile city of the Ancients?"
"Yes." a few utter, but I remain quiet.
"Our scouts have discovered that there are survivors on a nearby planet. They are up to something," She purrs, "I wish to know what. You are to go there and bring as many back alive as you can, so I many question them myself."
"As you command," I am slightly confused as to why she has asked me to take part in such a mission. I am not a Commander or warrior, I am a scientist. True, I do know how to fight, all Wraith do, but there are plenty who are better suited for such a task. Surely there must be another reason.
"They will tell us the location of their world and we will have a new hunting ground." I sense her pleasure, her excitement; it sends ripples of determination through me. It has been a week since we lost our traditional hunting grounds to a more powerful hive. We must find a new one, and soon.
"Go prepare, Commander. My son, stay." As the others leave I watch her lean back slightly into the throne, relaxing just a bit.
"I'm honored you have chosen me to go, mother."
"You understand the technology of the Ancients and humans more than anyone else. Even as young as you are, you rival those twice your age." I sense her praise in my mind, and it flows through me like a wave of pure happiness.
"You praise me too much mother. I merely have an obsession."
"No, my son you have grown to be important member of this hive. You have made me proud, even with the few times your experiments have gone slightly astray." Yes, nearly blowing up the hive with everyone onboard is slightly astray I think amused. Still, it seems I have been forgiven for all my mistakes, which are quite a few in numbers.
"You must not allow the humans to destroy any information they may have on them, this is why I chose you. Any clues to our new hunting ground must be found. It will not be unlikely they will use Ancient technology, make sure they don't destroy anything valuable."
"As you command my Queen," I leave the throne room to prepare, but she sends me one more message mentally; to be on guard and careful that these human are very dangerous. I send back my assurance that I will. I head to my quarters to equip myself for the mission.
Hours later, the craft lands quietly on the planet, several miles from where our scouts first caught sight of the humans. Hopeful our scouts fell back quick enough to avoid the humans knowing there are Wraiths on the planet. Though these humans have proven to be worthy opponents, like all humans they are just as quick to vanish as they are to fight.
Stepping outside, I take a deep breath of the cool morning air that smells so alien from the hive. The Commander slams into my shoulder as he passes. Glaring at his back, I am tempted to lash out at his weak mind, but that would be foolish and only make me look childish, though it would be amusing.
I pull out a device checking for any signals that might indicate the humans may have a compound on the surface of the planet. I find nothing, so I shake my head, no, as the Commander leads us into the thick forest.
'We shall break in to two teams. You shall accompany, these two, to the gate. Make sure they do not escape.' Even mental his tone warns me this is an order, and it would be unwise to question him in the field.
I wish to accompany the attack party to ensure I can get my hands on anything they are carrying, but crossing him further would do me little good. I'm unsure how the rift grew between this particular Commander and I, but for many moons he has had ill will towards me.
Those present are loyal to him, and most Wraith in my position would be worried. Not me, he would not dare harm me, no matter how much he loathes my presence. I am a Prince and one does not harm a Prince without unleashing the rage of the Queen. I know he prays for me to die by the human's hands, but he will not deliberately set me up for failure. For he is fearful my mother will pull it from his mind, and his death would be very long and painful. I sense all this with ease, my mental power far greater than his.
'If you find a device on the humans or see they are carrying anything, refrain from shooting it Commander or the Queen will be most unhappy. Don't let them destroy anything either.' he glares at me as I follow the two lower warriors away, along with three drones.
My keen eyes study everything, searching for any sign of our human quarry. It is hard to move silently in such thick vegetation. Fern cover the floor that is littered with leaves and branches that snap under our boots. We begin the climb toward the location of the gate. We travel quietly for some time before I sense something. Clearly it shows on my face for one of the warrior glances at me sharply. 'What is it?'
'I sense something.'
'I'm not sure.' I frown, trying to pinpoint it, 'At first I thought it might be another distant wraith but there is something different about it, it feels weak and distorted.'
'I sense nothing.'
'Your mental abilities are weak, it is ahead of us.' I simply say.
'Do you think it is related to the humans?'
'I do not know.' I know he thinks I am mistaken for he cannot sense it, but it does not surprise me. It remains there, a flitting phantom of a presence, but I decide to ignore it for now, knowing we need to focus on the objective. After traveling another quarter of a mile, we begin to circle around to come up behind the gate.
'The forest is too quiet.' One of the warriors leading our party mentally remarks to me.
'Perhaps it is due to the solar flares that strike this planet on a regular basis. I don't imagine many life forms would find it appealing.'
'Flares?' A slight tinge of fear creeps into his mental voice and I see a flash of concern in his eyes.
'I checked, it is nothing to worry about.' I had been careful to study the nearby sun on our arrival for any build ups. Even for a wraith being bathed in such levels of cosmic energy would be very painful, if not life threatening. Currently the levels were just a little higher than any other planet; nothing the humans would notice or concern themselves about. I am surprised that the trees and plants have fared so well though.
This planet had been part of our territory for many cycles, so if the warriors had simply looked it up in our database they would have known this information. But what did I expect - warriors would be warriors, never thinking beyond their simple box. On the other hand, I often look outside the box, as my mother had taught me to. She often thought of things others wouldn't even consider, and most the time it fared well for us.
As we move up a steep incline my keen ears pick up a strange animal call. The noise is repeated three times to our right, but I have trouble judging how far it is from us. The warriors take no note and lead us into a narrow rock ravine, the easiest route to the gate. I hear the strange call again, this time in front of us. Odd, the entire way here I didn't hear any such noise. I let myself drop back as the group moves forward, suspicion welling up in me.
Before I can usher a mental warning the first drone trips an explosive device and a wall of smoke erupts into the sky. An ambush! I fall back firing at where I now spot a human. It grazes the soldier's arm and he drops behind a rock outcropping he was using as cover. The remaining warrior attempts to fall back, but steps on another explosive device. It sends him to the ground and he does not rise, lying flat on his back and writhing in pain. His injuries are severe, and his healing capabilities are at a minimum from not feeding recently.
"Get up." I grasp his elbow and pull him to his feet, but hear footsteps from behind us. I drag him back into the forest as an energy blast shoots out of the trees, nearly hitting me.
'We have engaged the humans.' I mentally bark toward the Commander and send him our location but he is too far away, to be of any immediate help.
"Leave me." the warrior growls as I hear more explosions from behind.
"Don't be stupid." I whisper, having no intention of leaving one of my brothers behind. I dart between trees, pulling the warrior along with me until we come to a shallow stream. The humans are right behind us. Gunfire fills my ears as pain erupts form both my legs. I known I have been hit. I do not fall but return fire the best I can, another shot tears through my arm from the right causing me to drop my gun.
"We don't want to kill you." The human's statement alarms my brother who has been dropped on the bank next to me. He crawls to his feet, barely managing to stand.
"Just drop the weapons." One of the humans yells from his hiding spot. I hear more humans making their way down the path we came from. I can't believe it, these humans actually plan to take us alive. I glance at my brother who lets his weapon drop into the water. I have yet to retrieve my own and decide to comply with the humans for the time being, unsure of their plan.
A grim smile creeps across the warrior lips as the humans close in around us. They keep their weapons up, and it is then I notice the steady blinking on his wrist guard.
'It's been an honor, brother.' he whispers mentally to me. I curse and dive left, startling the humans, but they don't have time to react. I have only taken a few steps before I am sent flying by the powerful explosion. I impact hard with the damp ground, dimly wondering if he meant to save my life by distracting the humans or just simply kill us both. Pity I will never know.
I shouldn't have been surprised really, it is a very typical response of a warrior, I think bitterly as I climb painfully to my feet. Death before capture, of course, I am not of that caste, thus I didn't think to bring an explosion device to prevent myself from being taken alive. The shallow water is now stained red with human blood and their screams of pain fill the air.
I would never do the same, death is not an option. While the warriors might happily throw their lives away, our caste is bred with an instinct to survive at all costs; as such the highest ranks of our society do not die needlessly throwing our clans into chaos.
I dart up the hillside, knowing the humans that were behind us must be close now. Pain ripples through my body as I make my way toward the gate. Having memorized the location before our landing, I know exactly where I am going. Though we have taken many turns I haven't become lost. All I can hope now is that the humans have left the gate poorly guarded while setting up this little ambush.
Traveling for a time, I hear nothing to indicate the humans are close by. It seems that for now, at least, I have lost them. That is when I sense the phantom of a presence once again. I stop walking and quickly scan the forest, but see nothing. Reaching out with my mind, I realize the presence is another mind, different than any I have sensed before. It is very close and getting steadily closer. I move slowly in the direction I detected it in, acting oblivious to my discovery.
As I slip quietly through the forest, I barely sense a sudden movement behind me and spin around just in time to shove a weapon down. It sends a blast of energy flying into the ground as I twist it from the attacker's grip. I toss it aside, only just having time to block a punch aimed at my head. My dark skinned attacker continues her assault, realizing her life is now on the line without the advantage of the firearm. She does not back down, but instead pushes me to keep up with her.
We continue to engage in almost perfect combat, neither of us able to land a decent blow. I let a smile creep onto my lips. I can hardly believe it is this human I have been sensing. As we continue to fight, I realize she fights as well as any of my Wraith brothers in hand to hand combat. Thus I do not underestimate her, and when I see a window I take it. I block her right arm and snatch her leg as she attempts to do a kick, throwing her off her feet and onto the ground. She struggles under my grip, even reaching for a knife which I block easily. Fear races through her eyes and mind, but she doesn't scream. I know full well that the gun fire has alerted the other humans to our fight, and it is now only a matter of time until they reach us. The pain in my body screams for me to feed on her, but I hesitate. All logic says I should feed to heal my injuries however I find myself almost reluctant to do so.
My mind only briefly touches hers, she is special. I want to know why, what makes her unique? What makes her different form all the other humans in the galaxy? But I can't, this isn't the time or place to indulge my curiosity. The other humans can't be far from us now.
So I do the only thing I can, I leave her. In surprise, she doesn't fly to her feet as I release my hold on her and step back. I pick up her weapon before I walk away, giving her yet another reason not to pursue me. Perhaps one day I will cross paths with her again and find out what makes her so different.
I continue up the slope for a time, knowing I am within a mile of the gate after travelling a few hundred yards, the sound of underbrush breaking and voices reveals the humans once again are near. I decide it would be unwise to engage them, and drop behind a nearby tree. I stay still as I listen to the crunching of the forest floor, praying they will not come this way. I let out a sigh of relief as I hear their voices fade away, heading in the direction of the gate.
With a human group between me and the gate, I assume the gate itself has already been compromised, and will do me little good. It is then I decide to head back towards the ship. If I can simply get some distance without being spotted, I should have no trouble remaining lost in the woods to them. I do not intend to meet up with the Commander, who will insist on engaging the humans and will likely end up blowing himself up or getting shot. No, it is better to make it back to the ship on my own. Just before I move, I hear the sound of crunching leaves once again and instead I remain frozen where I stand.
"I've lost you guys, which way did you go?" I peek around the tree I am hiding behind and see a lone male human standing a few yards away, talking into his communication device. He doesn't look like a soldier, and I notice he is carrying some sort of portable computer. This perks my interests, as it could prove to be valuable, perhaps containing mission data or even possible a base locations. The man is breathing hard, helping to confirm my belief that this is not a soldier, even though he carries a weapon. His eyes dart around fearfully, and his mind betrays his unease.
Obviously he has become separated from his party, and I smile to myself, deciding to use this opportunity to my advantage. He turns, heading towards me, and I drop back quickly, hoping he didn't spot me. My back pressed up against the tree, I wait as his footsteps draw closer. Just as the man passes my tree, I grab the gun, shoving it up and twisting it. The weapon sends a spray of bullets into the forest behind me. I knock the weapon from his hand, and he attempts to go for a side arm, but I casually remove that one, too.
This human lacks any hand to hand combat, unlike the woman earlier, and I send him smashing so hard to the ground he is stunned. For a moment, he seems to drift between consciousness and darkness. My hand is on his chest and I am just about to feed when a voice yells.
"Stop!" My eyes shoot up from my helpless prey to find the female again, pointing a side arm at me. "Or you will die!"
I glare at her. "Back away human or he dies."
"Let him go and you may go." She says.
"Trust you? Do you think me a fool?"
"You have my word, you spared me and I will spare you, if you do not kill him."The man squirms pathetically under my grip.
"The word of a human," I sneer at her.
"I promise." I slowly rise, dragging the man to his feet along with me, wondering if I might be able to grab the device that lays discarded on the ground a few feet away.
"If I let him go, you will not pursue me?"
"No." Can I risk trusting her? I can almost hear my mother laughing at me. I should drain the man and simply charge the woman. I wish to feed so badly, but still she continues to intrigue me. I would like to simply walk away - I have no grudge against these humans. All I desire is to return to my Queen and serve her. Even in the shame of failure. I make my decision, "Turn around." I snap at her.
"What?" She appears confused.
"Or he dies."
The woman studies me, debating my intentions, suspicion shows plainly on her face. In truth I simply want a chance to escape before she can turn and fire on me. Finally, she does as I command and I shove the man forward, causing him to fall, but I am instantly hit from behind before I can turn to flee. My body jerks as the energy coils through me and my knees lock as I tumble to the ground. I see the woman hovering over me.
"Liar," I growl at her as the world begins to darken, and I hear more footsteps growing closer. My mind reaches out desperately for my Queen, but her brightness is too far for even my mind to reach. Instead I am taken by darkness, and doomed to a fate far worse than death…