Disclaimer: I do not own Aliens or Predators.


Chapter 4

They watched the blast from a just-about safe distance. Truly, not knowing the exact size of the soon-to-be blast, Stampede had simply estimated what was a safe distance. They were all still alive but the blackened sides of the building they were sheltering in spoke of a very close call.

The third Hunter to be retrieved was being half supported by his comrades. His left thigh a mess of ugly, weeping stitches that were undoubtedly going to scar. And not in the good 'I did battle with an impressive adversary' kind of way, either. He was weak with drugs. Though, much to the Hunter's dismay, not apparently weak enough to keep quiet.

"I don't know whether to be annoyed that most of those stupid little creatures evacuated before the blast.." The Hunter was sure his comrade was grinning in a deranged way behind his mask. He wasn't quite sure he was comfortable with that. "...or happy because I get the chance to hunt them all down and pull their limbs off like the little insects they are." Anger was good. But only when you'd a reachable target. The Human's that had escaped were gone. There wasn't any way to track them down. Basically, this injured friend was a bomb of explosive rage gradually ticking towards a meltdown.

A meltdown no doubt he'd suffer the full effects of.

Stampede ignored both of them, his secondary communicator picking up a transmission and holding his full attention. He huffed suddenly. One clawed finger tapped gingerly at the side of his mask.

"The Elder knows of our situation. We have been captive for nearly twelve solar cycles of this planet and he is not pleased. He has sent us coordinates for extraction although no time-frame. If we are not there when he arrives, whenever that may be, he says we should start calling this backwards little world 'Home'." He ground out. The sporadic mid-sentence extra mandible clicking was a sign of his annoyance.

"How far?" The Hunter asked. He wasn't worried about getting there quickly. The Elder was going to let them stew for a few days. That's why he hadn't set the time. If he came for them now he'd probably rip them apart in a fit of rage, anyway. The Hunter was more concerned with the ominous rumble in the sky and his comrades deteriorating physical and mental state. Alive or dead he could not be left for the Humans to find.

The Hunter was having visions of him hauling another body around. This one much bigger than a little Human female.

He couldn't help himself. He snarled. Viciously.

Stampede cocked his head curiously.

"It appears to be a mostly uninhabited district in the bay area." The Hunter grunted. That was about three hours away from their current location. "It is a wise choice." Stampede continued. The Hunter couldn't argue. If worst came to worst they could hide in the water. Their masks would keep them alive and their natural appearance would hide them in the murky local waters.

Temperamental his Elder may have been, but unintelligent he most certainly wasn't.

"I will take him. You need to scout ahead." Stampede took all the weight from the Hunter's shoulders.

All the fight drained from his body and right there, the Hunter actually thought he could lay down and die. He was grateful to be relieved of the burden. To any self-respecting Yautja that was utterly shameful.

He might have considered dying of shame if Stampede hadn't been expectantly staring at him.

The Hunter lowered his head in submission.

It took several hours to get to the extraction point. Several hours in the cold without thermal netting, without weaponry, without cloaks. Several hours hauling a comrade across roofs, up walls, down alleys. Several hours of avoiding the prying eyes of a species the Hunter was positive were too nosy for their own good. Needless to say, they were the longest hours of his life.

He was so tired by the end of it all. More exhausted than any other time he could remember. His limbs ached. Genuinely, truly sore. Almost two weeks worth of atrophy heaped on top of freezing conditions and his muscles had simply seized. Obviously, as strong and as enduring as their race was, in extreme conditions even they found themselves suffering exhaustion.

Their safe house turned out to be a building on the other side of the Human city. They were directed to the top floor and that's when all instruction ended. They climbed the metal fire-escape towards the roof and then crept in through a large open window. The area was not what they were expecting.

For starters….it looked almost lived in. Not the type of disarray that came from neglect or abandonment, but the kind of chaos that occurred as a result of daily life. Guan, or Night as it would have translated, was scratching at his leg when Stampede dropped him.

The injured Hunter staggered a few feet before his clawed hands gained purchase on a kind of counter-top.

Stampede guiltlessly left him in favour of examining their accommodations for the next few…well, till the Elder calmed down enough to contemplate retrieving them. The area was open. Virtually no walls. A sleeping area merged seamlessly with an area for preparing food and a living area.

There was only one terribly unnerving thing about the whole place.

It was all Human. Human bed. Human chairs. Human cooking equipment. Any Yautja would have been happy sleeping on a rug, and cooked food wasn't a requirement; most Hunters preferred the taste of raw meat, anyway. There was something so wrong here. As oblivious as Night made himself appear as he dragged himself into the cooking area, it was clear that his comrades could sense it.

A lived in area filled with Human things gave the conclusion that a Human lived here. Did the Elder know? Had he planned this? Was he sitting up in his quarters laughing himself senseless? It was foolish to think that he was completely unaware. He directed them specifically to this floor. He probably was laughing to himself over a stiff drink.

"I don't like this." Stampede stated. His usual superior self seemed on edge.

Night lowered himself into a very small chair at an equally tiny table. He kept incredibly still as the frame groaned but otherwise held steady.

"I for one am just glad to have a shelter. If a Human lives here, so what, we kill them. I…am not going back out into that." He gestured his thumb out into the night as a flash of lightning lit up the sky and the cacophony of heavy rain started beating against the windows and the roof.

Stampede shared a glance with him.

"Agreed." He growled.

Not even he was going to argue with that logic.

The Hunter woke up hungry. The log on his mask told him that he'd arrived on this planet two weeks ago. A Yautja in good health could survive a few weeks without food. Of course that was if the Yautja in question avoided things like getting captured, tortured and avoided strenuous activities like hauling injured males across hostile cities in the freezing cold.

The Humans hadn't bothered to provide them with any kind of nourishment. Perhaps to see how long their large frames could go without or maybe to keep them as weak as possible. Either way that had resulted in nothing at all to eat. Stampede seemed the worst. He was restless. From the growing piles of crude, handmade weaponry littering his feet he'd spent the night fashioning weapons from various things littering the space they now occupied. There had been an assortment of small blades located in the food preparation area but Stampede had cast them aside. They were flimsy. Easily broken. Night on the other hand was still sleeping. Without medical supplies and food his body was doing it's very best to conserve energy.

The Hunter was fairly certain that the Elder wasn't in any rush to come pick them up. They had a few days at the very least. That was more than enough time to get some food.

He made his way towards the window.

"Where do you think you're going?" Stampede questioned. There was a dangerous quality to his voice that put the Hunter instantly on edge. A flash image of Stampede breaking a Human across his knee lodged itself in his mind and refused to budge no matter how hard he swatted at it. He swallowed the instinctive unease that tried to bubble up.

"I'm going to get some food." He sounded calm. Which honestly surprised him. The way his mind was racing he was sure something of his nervousness would show through. It must have been all the practice.

"The Elder ordered us to remain here." Stampede spoke slowly. The Hunter got the feeling his giant companion was testing him in some way; as though he were some unblooded pup who actually needed testing.

"I'm getting supplies. We need food and he…" The Hunter inclined his head towards a softly rumbling Night. "…he needs actual medical supplies. The rudimentary elements of Human medicine should work for us too."

He was sure that Stampede was now grinning. He couldn't see his face but there was something about his posture.

"And if the Elder comes while you're gone?" There was a definite hint of amusement in his voice.

"Yes, yes, you will leave me here. It's not the first, nor I hope the last, you have threatened to leave me behind on a hunt." The Hunter joked.

"That is true. However, I'm confident I haven't threatened to leave you on a world as bad as this one." He responded jovially. That was always a good sign.

"So, do I have permission to leave?" He asked. He was fairly certain Stampede would grant his request.


Of course, he had been wrong before.

"While you slept I searched and found a few things you might like to see." He pointed a thumb in the direction of the cooking area.

The Hunter stepped cautiously. His large friend was known to have a rather unappreciated sense of humour and combined with too much time on his hands that sometimes proved problematic.

"There is a door there. I suggest you take a look inside."

He stood alongside Stampede staring at the contents of the room. Freezing mist pooled around his feet and an unpleasant chill crept up along his skin.

He paid it absolutely no mind.

"Is it safe?" He asked somewhat dumbfounded as he ripped a strip of meat from the flank of the carcass.

"I'd presume so. I'd my fill of it hours ago and haven't suffered any negative effects."

There were three hanging cow carcasses in the walk in freezer. Fresh. Hung barely days ago. He took his mask off and took in a lung full of the smell- that glorious smell- before setting to work on the strip of meat he'd ripped off.

Stampede cocked his head and gave him a look. One of those 'What are you? An animal?' looks.

"Be careful you don't choke." Stampede grunted before pulling a strip of meat off the nearest cow and leaving.

The Hunter didn't reply. He didn't even acknowledge his absence.

Out in the main room Stampede began testing the balance of his make-shift blades. One by one he picked them up to test them and one by one he cast them all aside in a dissatisfied huff.

"Useless!" Stampede growled.

The Hunter couldn't hide or contain the grin that flared his mandibles at the sight. He was eating, he was dry and there wasn't a Human in sight. Right now he didn't care about annoying Stampede.

He pulled another sizable chunk from the chilled carcass and wandered over towards his injured sleeping comrade.

Taking Night by the shoulder the Hunter shook him. He'd been expecting him to respond in some way. Perhaps give some sign that he was in fact alive. Of course this hunt just seemed to be full of surprises. There was no response from his injured comrade.

He checked Night's vitals quickly and ran a basic scan with his mask. They all told him that his comrade was simply sleeping. He shook him again and growled when there was no response.

Looking up he found Stampede standing on the other side of Night, watching the goings on.

The hunt leader cocked his head quizzically when Night was shaken again. When the Hunter had finally given up on the shaking business and was preparing to just leave him to it, Stampede took one ludicrously sharp claw and poked it somewhat viciously into Night's leg wound. The Yautja bolted upright with a startled yelp.

"I'd always assumed your female progenitor to be joking when she said you slept like the dead." Stampede reached over and pulled the strip of meat from the Hunter's grip. He stuck it in Night's face. "Eat. When the Elder comes I have no intention of carrying you onto the ship.

The prospect of food seemed to speed up Night's movements. In a heartbeat his mask was off and there was meat getting stuffed between a pair of flaring mandibles. The Hunter momentarily wondered how he was breathing but thought better of asking. He left Night to his food and his rest. Stampede was right. They were probably going to need all the sleep and food they could get

It had been nearly four cycles since their escape and four cycles since they were directed to the shelter to await the arrival of the Elder. It had been four days and the weather still hadn't improved.

Outside the thunder boomed and the lightning still flashed. The rain fell and the temperature remained just above freezing. The three Yautja when they weren't practicing their hand combat, eating or sleeping, watched the skies in distain.

"No pathetic trophy is worth this misery. This is a godforsaken world." Night spat. He walked away from the window with a limp but his leg wound was well on the way to healing. Already it had sealed and scabbed. He tended to be lucky like that. Some Yautja recovered faster than most.

And yet, it was always those ones that complained the longest.

Four days trapped in close quarters with his comrades had provided the Hunter with some astoundingly good and some equally horrific experiences.

The chance to spar with Stampede was something any Yautja would kill for. He was considered one of the best. One of the strongest fighters. There was always a queue to train with him. Four days of one on one sessions was something he was genuinely enjoying.

Or course, there was the small issue of sharing the ridiculously small room that the Human's devoted to personal hygiene. While the cleansing agents were utterly foul the warm water showers were a blessing. That was until they discovered that the water grew cold the more of it you used. It was a habit of Yautja to cleanse early in the morning right after waking when the facilities were available. Unfortunately when there were three fighting for the room, problems appeared. It started with who went first. Stampede would always normally get the first space, however with Night's leg and a lack of medical supplies hygiene might mean the difference between life and death.

That had been before they found out that after one of them had showered it would take hours for the water to heat again. All of them had gone weeks without cleaning while on a hunt. It wasn't the idea that they couldn't clean themselves that bothered them…it was more who got to clean themselves that caused the most upset.

The Hunter left those arguments to Stampede and Night. As good as the hot water was, he wasn't going to waste energy fighting over the morning slot when he could simply clean at any point in the day.

Adaptability was always one of his strong points.

"There's been no sign of any Humans."

The Hunter sought a topic of conversation that would take Stampede's mind off the fact that Night had beaten him to the shower that morning. The large Yautja had been in a very dark mood since.

"No. There hasn't. I've been thinking of something and I'd like to hear your opinion. You've always been an abstract thinker and that is a very rare trait for our kind. It's one I personally value." Stampede spoke slowly, carefully.

The Hunter twitched. He knew dangerous ground when he heard it. The fact that Stampede had complemented him on his approach to things had been a very blatant attempt to lure him into a false state of ease. It had the opposite effect.

"What is it you wish to discuss?" The Hunter asked cautiously.

"I'm concerned that we have been left here." Stampede blurted out.

The Hunter blinked confusedly for a moment.

"Of course we've been left here.." The Hunter stammered until Stampede held up a hand to silence him.

"I was more implying permanently. I'd heard a story some years ago of a situation like our one where our Elder left a warrior on a planet. He gave him coordinates to await him and simply left the solar system." The large Yautja's voice had grown quiet.

The Hunter nodded in understanding.

"And you're concerned that he's done this again. That he has no intention of coming for us?"

"Yes, that's more or less exactly what I'm concerned about."