AN: Greetings! I know I promised the wait wouldn't be this long, but life gets in the frelling way. Hate me if you want. Give up on me if you choose. Mess is not done, and won't be until it is. So if you're still waiting, thank you muchly. If you're not, sorry bunches.

Also, I took some liberty with the language. Why? Because it's a made-up language for a made-up species. No matter what fanzine decided which canon was canon, Yautja still don't exist (unfortunately). So I can make up some stuff if I want. I will do you a favor though at the end.

Thanks for reading.



Another Fine Mess

Chapter 22 - Neverland

Kh'aan settled into the command chair repressing a wince. While 'christening' engineering as Kayla called it, he'd wound up with a coupling digging into his spine for nearly an hour, though at the time he barely noticed. He could apply a salve to numb the pain, but it was more satisfying to be reminded of its source. The feisty human was still asleep after their exercise, and he chose to check their course rather than remain with her.

He glanced absently between the console and the viewport correlating the sensors to his own observations, and it took a few minutes for their surroundings to register. That cannot be! His gaze ricocheted between space and the console, unable to believe what he was seeing. Stretching out before the ship was a line of planets, and to the right the binary stars that held them in orbit – just as he'd always remembered. He scanned the planets for life forms and shuddered when the readings came back. Kajin, Nok'tu, the sacred hounds. How are we here?

Memory flashed through the former Firstborn as he stared at the planets, remembering the first hunts with his sire every season since his youth. Every journey he'd spent in intense study, forbidden to leave his chamber until summoned at this very moment, when they entered the system and Kh'alik informed him of his task. The Corridor of the Elders. Is this a dream?

Thoroughly confused, Kh'aan reduced their speed and approached the first planet slowly, paranoia making him wonder if this was another illusion like Markedis. The sensors seemed to function normally, giving him every reading of the planets that he requested and further confusing his mind. He sat back and stared for a moment, his tusks tapping erratically, and then he set the scanner for specific readings. He'd been at least slightly injured on each hunt, and now scanned for any residual trace of his own genetic material. Even though much time had passed, he still was able to find faint traces of himself on each planet – proving that they were indeed the sacred hunt planets of the Firstborn.

"By the grace of Paya, I beg you, stop these games you play with us."

"What was that?"

He whirled around to see Kayla leaning in the doorway, dressed in her wraps and gnawing on an ukla root. She tossed a second one to him and then stepped forward to drop into the other chair. "Wha'cha doin?"

Kh'aan looked from his mate to the planets and back, unable to form the words to explain his discovery.

"Well? You look like you swallowed a rock."

It was enough to snap him out of his stupor, and he pointed out of the viewport. "I know where we are."

Kayla shrugged. "I'd hope so. Where are we?"

He took a deep breath and the explanation spilled forth. She nodded when he described the seasonal hunts again, but her eyes widened when he pointed to the planets ahead of them. "I do not know how we got here, but I know this system."

Kayla stared at him dumbfounded, the root sticking out of the corner of her mouth forgotten. She stood and joined him, staring at the sensors while her fingers drummed on the console. "What do you mean you don't know? If you've been here a dozen times…"

"I never knew our course, Kayla." He hissed at the feeble excuse. "It was forbidden."

The human threw up her hands in exasperation. "Oh for crying…more 'need to know'. So how are you so sure that we're here now?"

He showed her the scans. "I have been to these planets before – there is the proof you require. I just do not know how we have come to be here now."

Kayla studied the sensors further, easing down to perch on his knee. "More craziness then?"

"I suppose." The hunter growled. "The gods play games with us."

Kayla chuckled, though it was a nervous sound. "They've got nothing better to do, eh?"

They watched as the planets grew larger, wondering if they'd been driven mad. Kaya rose from his lap to resume her seat, bringing up the sensor grid on her console for a bit of practice. She tapped the icon for 'life signs', indicated by an oddly humanoid shape, and then tapped the first planet on the grid. Immediately her screen was filled with data regarding both flora and fauna on the planet, and she hoisted up to her knees to better study the grid. The marine was surprised at her growing excitement, and quietly cursed her companion. Bastard...turning me into a hunter. We'd better take on something substantial. Croc sized...yeah! Her fingers twitched as though rolling the throwing disk around in her palm.

Kh'aan eased the ship toward the outer rim of the planets' revolution. Between the stars and planets, high gravitation flux made it dangerous to navigate, and he followed his sire's trajectory as though he'd flown it before on his own. As they eased toward the first planet he gazed out of the viewport at its surface. Nok'tu, the Test of Worth. He thought back to the first trial, when he was merely a pup no higher than his sire's knees. Most others his age would wait another season before engaging the Nok'tu, but privilege had him scrambling through the brush before his crest began to sprout. The challenge was to catch the small rodents without alerting their pack leader – they were capable of attacking in large groups if the leader sounded the alarm. He recalled the hours he spent crawling through the brush pretending to be an Arbitrator hunting bad bloods, and a small smile lit his features. A lifetime ago.

The second planet reminded him of their nebula sanctuary – mostly water with high, rocky cliffs filled with nesting birds. Having grown enough to begin his serious training, the test was one of strength and endurance rather than speed or stealth. He'd been dropped into the water, forced to swim to one of the rocky islands and scale the towering cliffs. His task – to collect as many eggs as he could find, though by law he was not allowed to clear an entire nest. In order to guarantee the survival of the species, he was permitted only one egg from each nest, and if he broke one, could not go back for another. The hunter glanced down at a long pale scar on his right palm, when he'd lost his balance and nearly fallen all the way down the cliff. It was the first time he'd experienced the healing gel, and the first thing he learned to hate.

He recalled each hunt while absently adjusting their course: his pre-trial Kouchou hunt in which Kh'alik had to rescue him from a sinkhole; the sacred hounds, tamed for generations for use in the hunt; giant poisonous serpents – his first true hunt for substantial trophies. The memories spilled forth as though it was only the previous day, and it took a moment to realize that Kayla was speaking to him.

"Hey, did you hear me? I asked if you wanted to go hunting."

He looked at her in surprise. "You do not like to hunt."

Kayla snorted. "You say that with such finality. I'm learning new things – a soldier is just a step down from a hunter, or is it a step up?"


"Ass! Your witty retorts aside, I could still use the training. I'm getting rusty sitting on this ship." She twirled her chair and swallowed the last piece of root. "So I ask again, do you want to go hunting?"

A rumble sounded from the hunter as the chair spun her away, and she jammed her foot against the console to peer over the back. "Is that a yes?"

Kh'aan's eyes glowed, and his tusks twitched in growing excitement. The half-growl/half-purr deepened and he turned back to the console. "Indeed."

As they passed the first planet, she resumed studying the sensors. The life forms clustered in the jungles in large groups, lighting her grid with glowing orange blobs dotted across the surface. She imagined a mini-Kh'aan scrambling through the jungle on his first hunt – crest barely sprouting, tusks short nubs on his face – and laughed in spite of herself. Kh'aan looked up at the sound.

"What is funny?"

When she looked at him she imagined his juvenile roar and snickered again. "I bet you were a cute kid."

Kh'aan snorted but his color deepened slightly. "Yautja are not cute."

She laughed and stuck her tongue out at him. "Whatever you say, tough guy. I bet your roar was an adorable little squeak!"

The hunter tried to growl at her impertinence, but a laugh caught in his throat and he did squeak, sending Kayla into a fit of hysterics.

"See! You remember!"

Kh'aan turned to face her, his features attempting fury. "You are asking for a..." he paused to remember her word. "...a spanking, ooman."

Kayla wiped tears from her eyes and blinked innocently. "Ooh, do you promise?"

They laughed heartily and then returned their attention to the planets. After a brief discussion they decided to skip the first three – rodents, birds and Kouchou – in favor of the fourth.

"So what do you call these 'hounds'?" she studied the image intently, noting the creatures' sharp teeth and spines. "Ugly things aren't they..."

Kh'aan let out a clattering chirp. "Nk'yrgt – hounds."

"Really? I would have thought they had a name."

"We do not name creatures as you do. 'Hounds', 'fire serpents', 'hard meats'...we call them what they are."

She smirked but nodded at the logic. "Yeah, I guess. As utilitarian as your species is, 'names' are a waste of breath."


Kh'aan entered orbit and set them down in a clearing next to a large lake, its waters a murky brown due to the heavy rain. They went to the Kehrite to prepare; Kayla shared some stretching techniques while Kh'aan imparted minor knowledge of the hounds. He wanted her prepared, but also wanted to provide the same parameters that he had on his first trip to the planet.

"So they have a great sense of smell, but bad vision."

"During the day, yes. They are more attuned to the night, but it does not make them any less formidable."

"Got it, and poisoned fangs but not spines."

"Yes. Do not allow them to bite you. The poison acts fast and I will not be able to reach you in time."

"Roger that, worry wart."


They went to the armory to gear up. Kayla decided on several short blades strapped to her back, arms and legs, and grabbed a strange looking bola from a drawer that she hooked to her wrap. Kh'aan chose his usual wrist blades and spear, though she noticed that he didn't attach a cannon to his shoulder. "No destruction from a distance?"

"No," he snorted. "I do not need it for this hunt."

"Right. Well, I'll take your word for it." She put down the throwing stars she'd found. "You know what we're up against."

They headed to engineering, each mentally preparing for the hunt. Kayla psyched herself up by remembering all of the battles with her squad. Franz and Jones would get them so riled up with their fearless hoots and hollers, threatening their enemy and promising heinous death, that the team would be wound tighter than a spring by the time they reached their target. "RK-6 will fuck you up! It's Party Time Bitches! Line 'em up! Lock and Load! Take 'em down! Sound off! K-6! Sound off! Eat this! Sound off! Boo-yaaa!"


Kh'aan turned to her at the stairs. "What?"

She growled and sneered at him, punching her fist into her hand. "Said 'boo-yaa', beyotch! Get that ass movin'! This train's ready to roll!"

He stared at her curiously before shaking his head. "Oomans."

She prepared to follow him down but stopped, another thought breaking through the soldier-haze. "Um, not that I don't enjoy your company but...for this to be a true hunt, we should be on our own, right?"

Kh'aan stopped and turned around, his voice hesitant. "That is...customary. But..."

She raised a hand to silence him. "Then that's what we'll do. I've never done the 'hunt' thing before. And besides, this soldier needs to remember what its like to be out there solo." Peering out of the corner of her eye, she noticed his tusks starting to droop. "I bet you do too."

The hunter shook his head, more to erase his building concern than refute her. I will never be able to concentrate! Then she is right. "Very well, if that is your wish." He started back up the stairs and she leaned out of his way.

"Hey, where are you going?"

"To ensure my concentration. Come."

She followed him into the lab and leaned against the exam bed. Kh'aan rummaged through the drawers and cabinets, growing increasingly frustrated with each passing minute until finally he let out a sharp bark. "There it is!" He turned to reveal a strange looking probe, and Kayla winced involuntarily.

"What's that for?"

He smirked at her discomfort. "Do you trust me?"

Kayla groaned and rolled her eyes. "Of course, but why doesn't that reassure me?" She willed her limbs to stop shaking, and clenched her fists when he exposed the side of her neck. After a sharp prick she felt the sting of something burrowing beneath her skin, but after a minute it faded. "Ok, Mr. Trust. What was that?"

"A tracking device." He replaced the probe in the drawer and tapped a command into his computer. "It will allow me to locate you if I begin to...worry."

She smiled in spite of herself and rubbed at the spot. "I'm touched. So let's get this show on the road!"

They reached the airlock she waited for him to open it, but before he could descend the ramp she pulled a the back of his belt. Kh'aan turned to be leapt upon, and barely managed to link his hands beneath her rump. The human smiled and nuzzled her cheek against his jaw, running her fingers lightly through his tresses as a deep purr built in his chest. When his grip began to tighten she pulled away.

"Had to get that out of my system first. You know...clear headed, and all."

The hunter caressed his tusks down her cheeks and then released her. "Yes, ooman. It is time for focus, not mating."

She sneered and headed out of the ship. "Later."

As the ramp descended they were drenched by a steady rain, the fat drops nearly obscuring all other sound. Kayla growled as she was instantly soaked, but remembered her training and turned her back to the wind. "Ok, since you have the navigational computer, find me a cardinal direction to follow."

His crest bristled at the thought of sending her out without a computer. He debated trying to format something for her, but they were already on the ground and had wasted enough time. Instead he grunted out his displeasure and turned toward the faint glare of sun behind the clouds.

"Sunrise and sunset run north to south on this planet. Is that what you wish to know?"

She turned to the obscured glow and then around to find her shadow. "Yep, that'll work. I'll meet you back here when the sun is setting, so that I can follow my shadow back." She started off in the direction of sunset and waved over her shoulder. "Happy Hunting!"

Kh'aan watched her disappear into the trees, and an itch made him check the tracking device. The blip of his human moved away from the ship in clear definition, and he took a deep breath before turning it off. Return to me intact, Kayla.


Kayla headed into the trees following her faint shadow. Though she knew it wasn't the best way to navigate, what was good for primitive humans was good enough for her in this primitive place. The thought made her laugh and feel humbled at the same time. "It all comes around again, doesn't it?" She stopped to carve an arrow into a tree and then tested the wind, dangling her mouth open like she'd seen her grandfather do so many years ago. Can you taste the wind, munchkin? Yeah, and it tastes like cow poop! That's my girl! Over the rain she caught the sour taste of something rotting, and took a deep breath until the taste became a scent. She followed the sickening aroma as it grew stronger, leading her to a thicket of short puffy shrubs. A yellowish fluid dripped from their fluffy stalks, and when she pushed aside the bush she saw the remains of some sort of bird or feathered lizard – its body shredded as though chewed by sharp teeth. Bingo

Scanning the ground she noticed three-clawed tracks from the dead creature, but four-clawed tracks lead away into the jungle. They looked about the right size to be made by the hounds, and she followed them into the trees. The trail was clean, only the tracks with no disturbed foliage or dribbled blood. She smirked at the thought of a hygienic beastie cleaning its chops after a meal – complete with floss. A low growl interrupted her thoughts and she stopped in her tracks to sniff the air. She caught the faint smell of rot again, along with a scent that reminded her of boiled fish, and knew she'd found her hound. Trailing her eyes across the foliage, she noticed a single dead branch among tufts of a low bush, and when she moved it quivered. Found you. The marine turned away from the creature, her hidden hand gripping the blade at her thigh. It growled again and she heard the plants shift. Come on, boy, come get the nice squishy human. A twig snapped and she spun around to meet bared teeth.


Kh'aan shook the last bit of tissue from his trophy and attached the second jaw bone to his belt. During his first hunt, he was only allowed to take a spine from each kill. Now he was glad he could get the enormous jaws from the hounds – a far more impressive trophy in his opinion. He was quite proud of his improvised hunt – he'd left his standard weapons and computer stashed in a tree, and stalked the hounds armed only with a short blade. Kayla was right, he did need this hunt to refresh his skills. As he tracked through the jungle, the annoying voice of disappointment in his mind had faded and then gone silent, relieving him of the thought of being a failure to the Yautja. I am still banished, but I have not forgotten myself.

Huffing the air, he caught the scent of another hound and set off toward a small stream he'd passed. Though he had enough trophies to start a new collection, he wanted one more for Kayla. The image of a string of teeth around her neck had set in his mind since the first kill, and he wanted to find a healthy specimen with a full mouth of fangs.

Just as he spotted the trail of his quarry, a loud howl sounded through the jungle. He stopped immediately, recognizing it for the pained sound it was – a hound was about to die and it knew it. The howl sounded again and then abruptly ceased, sending a shiver down his spine. Against his better judgment he turned around, heading back to the tree and his computer. He didn't bother to strap it on; his fingers danced across the controls as quickly as he could input the commands. He only resumed breathing when the sensors brought up Kayla's indicator. She stood in a clearing with no other large animals around her, and while he watched she started walking. Snorting at his frantic concern, Kh'aan deactivated the computer and shoved it back into the bundle in the tree. Foolish. If she had been injured, I would have heard her screaming, not an animal. Turning from the tree he resumed his hunt, determined to find the perfect set of teeth before it was time to return to the ship.


The downpour had trailed off to a drizzle over the course of the day, but the heavy cloud cover remained. As the cloudy sky grew darker, Kh'aan's concern got the best of him and he ran back to the ship, anxious to assist his mate if she got lost. Follow her shadow? How is that possible when there is no sun to produce a shadow? Foolish ooman! Do not doubt her skill. She will return safely. Then where is she?

The foliage rustled behind him, and he turned to see a small hound leap out of the underbrush. It had to be barely weaned from the short nubs of its spines, and he wondered what was chasing it when he noticed a scrap of fabric in its teeth. Before he could analyze it further the bushes parted again, and Kayla bounded out of the jungle waving a large stick and chattering so rapidly that he could barely make out the words.

"Little fuckwit piece of shit come and get your medicine you peeping tom mother fucker I'll teach you to nip an ass when someone's trying to take care of business you hairless pincushion hold still you goddamn varmint!"

She shot past Kh'aan and raced around the ship attempting to cut off the pup's retreat, and he noticed with a laugh that the rear panel of her wrap was torn away, revealing her barely covered behind with a small scratch on it. At that moment the hound darted out between his legs heading for the trees, and he quickly leapt forward to block its path. The animal growled, but it backed away and its head swiveled as it searched for another escape. He snorted and kept his distance while fencing it in, realizing that it was actually playing with her. Kayla came out from beneath the ship continuing her assault of words, and when she saw him she pointed the stick at the hound.

"Don't let him get away! He's getting a whipping for biting my ass!"

The hunter's eyes widened. "It bit you?!"

Kayla paused and the hound nearly darted by her. She dove for it and pinned the mini-menace to the ground with her body. The beast struggled and barked, but she was too heavy for it to move. "Not exactly. More like scratched, but that's not the point. I was kind enough to wait until his Mama was no longer a Mama before I took her out. The least he could do is give me some privacy. Hold still and get your spanking, brat!"

The human wrestled with the hound until she had its snout pinned between her knees and it's hind end under her elbow. She pulled a reed out of her wrap that he hadn't seen and twirled it in her fingers. "Ten lashes ought-a do it." She swatted the hounds rear and it howled. "No" *smack* "Biting" *smack* "Butts" *smack* "During" *smack* "Potty" *smack* "Time!"

Kh'aan tried to hold his composure, but to see her disciplining the hound as though it were an infant became more than he could bear, and he doubled over as grunting laughter choked out of his throat. He heard four more swats beneath her admonishments, and when his eyes cracked open she was holding the runt in the air upside down, her arms struggling to keep a grip around its middle.

"Stop it! Stop this minute! If I drop you on your head, letting you live will have been for nothing. Hold still!"

The hound kicked and squealed in her grip like a giant pig, and she wrestled with it for another minute before bending her knees and dropping it. The beast raced into the trees, but stopped when it reached them and turned around. She dropped to her hands and knees and answered its weak growl with one of her own. The hound whimpered and eyed her for another minute before it turned and disappeared into the jungle.

The human grunted and rose to her feet, only to be gripped around the waist and swept off of them. "Hey!"

Kh'aan secured Kayla under his arm and marched into the ship. She struggled much like the hound pup, and he swatted her behind and tightened his grip. "Stop this minute."

"Oh you're so funny! Put me down!"

The hunter growled. "You should not have killed a bearer."

"Don't start that with me! She was turning out the brood, and I waited until she evicted the last pup before I made my move. She wasn't a bearer anymore."

Kh'aan stopped at the stairs and put her down, gripping her shoulders to stare into her eyes. "Yautja code deems it dishonorable to hunt bearers."

"Bullshit! You didn't have a problem coming after me!" She wiggled out of his grip to cross her arms. "And don't tell me that your entire trophy collection was made up of males."

He leaned down and butted her brow with his own. "I did not know you were female until the cave. That is the ONLY reason I did not kill you."

All bluster left her and she looked away. "Oh yeah, you did sort of explain that, didn't you." She threw up her hands and started up the stairs. "The point is, she turned out 5 pups to continue her line, and I waited until she returned to the empty nest before I tried anything. That little menace was the runt of the litter and the last one she released. He must have followed her back and then come after me. At least I let him live to learn a thing or two."

Kh'aan watched until her feet disappeared, and then his tusks twitched in amusement. Though there was a strict law against the deliberate hunting of females, there were always exceptions and it appeared she'd found one. As did I, finding out that such a challenging opponent happened to be female. Thank Paya I did not kill her. He headed up the stairs and toward the control room to plan their next hunt.


High Elder Kh'alik entered his office slowly, his mind churning through everything said at the latest Council meeting. They were no closer to choosing a new successor, and at the rate things were going, Kh'aan and Kh'val's younger brother would be of age by the time they made a decision. Their attention remained fixed on petty squabbling between the clans, with Elder Ne'hak's entourage at the center of the turmoil. Without their leader they were half as organized and twice as noisy, and his skull was now pounding as a result.

Falling wearily into the chair behind his desk, he allowed his eyes to close and his mind to shut down. He knew that his nerves were pulled tight by all of the events swirling around him, and tried without success to bring order to his mental chaos. Kh'aan, Kh'val, the Council, the Arbitrators...he took a deep breath and willed the thoughts from his mind. I beg only for peace, if only for a moment.

Suddenly a low beep sounded from across the room. It was barely audible, even to his keen hearing, and Kh'alik growled in frustration. Standing slowly, he leaned on the desk with both hands and squeezed his eyes shut. The beep continued, though the more he focused the weaker it sounded. It was as though the device making the noise hadn't been used in ages. At that thought, Kh'alik's eyes snapped open. His gaze traveled warily across the room to a stone relief on the wall next to one of his smaller trophy displays. The carving depicted two hunters. One – an adult, his tresses decorated with numerous rings and bones, his arms spread wide as he roared to the skies. The other – an adolescent, his shorter tresses flared around his head as he speared a Nk'yrgt through its throat. Above them, a crescent of seven planets arched over twin suns, and one of the planets was blinking.


Kayla swore as she slipped in the mud again, dropping the primitive litter that carried her delirious mate. "You just had to get in the way, didn't you? Just had to come running, simply because you heard me yell. Was I screaming bloody murder? No. Was I crying 'Help! Kh'aan! Save Me!'? No! I love you, but you're an overprotective bastard!" She kicked his shoulder, eliciting a garbled string of chirps from him. "I had it all under control, completely and utterly under control, but nooooooooo! You just had to fly to my rescue! Just had to spring my trap and get speared. Just HAD TO!" She dropped the handles and kicked him again. "Ruined my hunt, you jerk! You're lucky I got ONE skull!" She picked up the handles and heaved a step forward. "Fucker."

After sleeping like the dead the night before, they'd landed on the 5th planet which she immediately named Hell's Latrine due to the oppressive heat, boiling mud pools, and foul smelling air. Their target this time was more of a challenge – fire-spitting snakes nearly as long as the giant worm from their island, but thinner with flaps of flesh around their heads that flared when they were about to spit. The serpents themselves were slow but smart, and after tracking one's movements for half a day, she'd built a trap along its path using fangs from the hounds. The snake knew something was wrong right away, and it took yelling and flopping about like an easy meal to finally draw it in. But as she taunted the beast to spring her trap, Kh'aan came running and leapt right into it, skewering his legs with nearly a dozen teeth and filling his system with hound poison.

"'Don't let it bite you!' he says. 'I won't reach you in time!' he says. Yeah, you're in real trouble now, aren't ya!"

Apparently, the poison he so sternly warned her about was nothing more than some type of opiate to Yautja. With such an honor-driven culture, it's no wonder they'd think that 'stoned' was akin to 'poisoned'. The marine had darted forward to slay the serpent before it got away, both furious-at and frightened-for her companion. He'd stumbled out of the hole chirping and clicking merrily, and hopped around her kill barking like a drunken dog. Only after she hit him over the head with a branch did he stop prancing and climbing the trees. It took the rest of the day to make the litter, collect her trophies and haul him back to the ship. Halfway there he'd begun a low crooning sound, laced with clicks but sounding to her ears like he was trying to sing, and then he'd toppled off of the litter to throw up.

The trees parted to reveal the ship and she sighed in relief. "Finally!"

His foot nudged her rear and he grunted. "Ik-tal, pa ni'kte z'hus."

Whirling around she shoved him right back. "What the fuck does that mean?"

The hunter snorted and tried to sit up only to topple sideways again. She dove forward and shoved him back down. "Stay the fuck still you moron!"

She stormed over to the airlock and activated the hatch, furious that she now had to wrestle him up the ramp. Once it touched ground she turned to the litter, only to walk right into his chest. Kh'aan's watery gaze couldn't focus on her, but she knew that look and ducked beneath his arm. "Oh no, Mr. Loaded! Like you'd be able to do what you're thinking with your brain in la-la land." She spun to his back to push him forward, but he tried to follow and lost his balance. He landed on the ramp with a grunt, and Kayla found herself yanked down with him when his claws caught her wrap.

"Goddammit Kh'aan! Let go!"

"Mguk ta'an ooman."

"Ooman my ass...ow! Stop pinching me and get in the ship!"

In a brief moment of lucidity, he suddenly flipped her to her back on the ramp. "Mguk sjt'il, ooman." He leaned down and licked her belly, and she gasped when he pushed her knees apart.

"Kh'aan! This is NOT the place to...ohshit!"

Her words got lost in a shriek when she felt his tusks pulling at her skins. His breath wafted over her thigh sending shivers through her nethers, but she forced her mind on task and yanked her legs back. Flipping over her shoulders, she landed on her hands and knees and looked up to meet his disappointed eyes.

"H'ko sjt'il ta'an baak?" He looked away and his lower tusks quivered like a human's bottom lip before a good cry. "C'jit."

Her anger faded slightly – how could she be mad at him for wanting her – and she leaned forward to kiss his shoulder. "Oh alright you big baby! Inside and take off now, Stil Tan Bok later, ok?"

The hunter nodded slightly and lurched to his feet, but couldn't keep his balance and fell back onto the litter. She heard a crunch, and when he sat up the serpent's head was crushed.

"Kh'aan! Dammit, that was MY TROPHY!"


Grand Matron Sh'aan hurried to High Elder Kh'alik's office wondering what had him so agitated. He refused to tell her over the comm., but his tone drew concern out of her pores against her will. With everything that has happened recently she wondered if he'd finally lost his mind, and feared what the loss of another leader would mean for the Yautja.

As she reached the door it opened to reveal her consort, waving impatiently for her to enter. She slipped in past him and whirled around to demand an explanation, only to have him swiftly lock the door and grasp her arm. "Come! Tell me if I am imagining things!"

"Kh'alik, what is the matter with you? Imagining what? Release me!"

He dragged her to a carved relief on the wall depicting the sacred hunts of the Firstborn, and pointed frantically at one of the planets. "Is that blinking or have I lost my mind?"

She wrenched her arm free and studied the carving. Sure enough the fourth planet was dimly lit and the fifth was blinking, while a low beep sounded through the room. The implications stunned her.

"What am I seeing? This represents the Corridor of the Elders, yes?"

Kh'alik nodded. "Yes."

She looked at him and then stepped forward, raising a hand to the stone. "This has been passed down to each High Elder for over five hundred generations. No one told you of its significance?"

"No." He joined her at the wall. "Was the Matriarchy aware of this?"

"Absolutely not! We know that it was carved by the first Matriarch and Grand Matron, after the birth of the first Firstborn."

"But you chose the planets. The Matriarchy concocted the entire idea!" His tone grew harsh.

Sh'aan crossed the room to the window and knelt on the cushioned seat. "Yes, they did – I did nothing. I can only tell you that I have never known more about this carving than I have just told you." She sighed and stood again, rejoining him to touch the blinking planet. "I suspect it is a security system, one that is never seen because when the planets are in use, the guardian is the one using them. Not even your aide is permitted into your private office without your presence and permission."

Kh'alik nodded, but his expression remained grave. "Had Shl'nar ever noticed this, he would have informed me. I give you my oath – I have never known it to be anything other than a decoration until today." He pointed to the lit planet. "Yesterday this one was blinking, but now it is solid and the next planet is blinking. I can only guess that someone is actually on the planets, exploring them."

Sh'aan tried to find reason in the discovery. "The system is very remote, Kh'alik. And intruder could easily land for any reason..."

"No," he interrupted. "Many generations ago the planets were given autonomous defense systems, which would destroy any ship within range that did not carry a descendant of the High Elder lineage. Scanners are equipped to identify the life signs, and weapon systems are always armed. Should an intruder managed to land, the system is set to destroy the planet, or all of them if necessary."

The Grand Matron's eyes widened in shock. "How could our ancestors be so reckless? They would risk the sacred corridor for a simple intruder?"

"It is for the leaders of the Yautja, no others. Of course they would, and it cannot be disarmed. This was the security system that I was informed about, not flashing lights on a stone tablet." Kh'alik snorted, but his demeanor didn't change. "You realize what this means?"

She nodded but could not form the words, and he hissed his agreement.


Kh'alik stared at the relief for another heartbeat before he reached out and lifted it from the wall. The stone was heavy and awkward, and he teetered for a moment before turning to her. "Step away."

Sh'aan backed up a step, only to lunge forward when he forcefully threw the carving to the floor. The ancient stone cracked across the middle leaving two halves, but the planets remained lit. Kh'alik growled and pulled a large ax from his weapons display.

"Kh'alik! No!"

He raised the ax and proceeded to smash every piece of stone into little bits, leaving a mess of pebbles and wiring on the floor. He grunted with each swing, chipping the hard floor several times, and Sh'aan tried in vain to snatch the ax out of his grip. When nothing remained larger than a crumb, Kh'alik dropped the ax and stumbled back a step. A warm hand settled in the small of his back, and he slowly met Sh'aan's concerned gaze.

"If that was Kh'aan, I will not be the one to cause his recapture."


AN: One more thing. I promised. And yes...I made it up. Not going to spend hours pouring through every Yautja fansite there is just to find the proper word.

"Ik-tal, pa ni'kte z'hus!" Driver, one more time around!

"Mguk ta'an ooman." Yummy squishy human.

"Mguk sjt'il, ooman." Yummy tasty human.

"H'ko sjt'il ta'an baak? C'jit." No tasty squishy treat? Shit.