Chapter 2! Everyone please read and review! Special thanks to Speederina for motivation to finish this chapter. Still not MUCH action in this one, but I still think its better than chapter 1.

Everyone enjoy, and SHARE!

Far above the churning blue and white clouds of Alpha Centauri IV, dubbed Polyphemus by the distant people of earth, the first ever single hulled human vessel to travel out of the Sol system slowly drifted out of the shadows of the dark side of the giant gas globe. The WYS Mortifer was the pioneer of a new age. Gone were the days of fragile insectoid ships of exposed girders, tin cans, and aluminum foil. Thanks to Weyland Yutani™, the human race would now venture into the stars in vessels that far more respectfully represented their impending dominance over the galaxy. Of course the public knew nothing of how these new technologies were developed, or where the prototypes came from. Ms. Yutani's legacy to the people was that of intelligent business, hard work, and proclivity to profitable risk taking. Few people actually knew that the Yutani namesake had strong-armed its way into the Weyland empire through the possession of one priceless and incredible discovery. That uneasy rivalry had eventually grown into a partnership of profit, and now the company was easily the largest and most powerful entity on the planet Earth.

The Mortifer was their crown jewel, the culmination of the company's years of development… the first true warship of the human race, though it would never admittedly be called that. The company called it a deep space "secure" vessel, with "defensive capabilities." In truth it was an armored, cosmic weapons platform, carrying an arsenal to rival a small army. Despite its numerous missiles, cannons, and the one or two experimental energy weapons mounted on its hardened titanium hull, this particular vessel carried something far more menacing in the depths of its cargo holds.

As the WYS Mortifer finally came into the light of the binary suns of Alpha Centauri, the small blue hued moon of Pandora fell in its path. After a short startup, the engines at the rear of the ship fired, white hot rocket exhaust propelling the previously dormant ship towards its destination. Lights on the hull blinked on, and external bay doors opened along its length, extending satellites and communication antennae into the star-specked black.

Deep beneath the armor plates and outer modules, the lights flickered on in Malcolm Kearn's private quarters. Stainless steel reflecting white fluorescent light from every angle made the room glow like a sunroom on a summer day, though there could be no windows so far within the cruiser. In a small recess adjacent to the bathroom, built into the wall, a glass tank sat filled with clear fluid, and the body of an almost naked man suspended behind the glass. A series of short, methodical beeps sounded, and a valve opened somewhere beneath the grate at the bottom of the tank. Slowly, the liquid began to drain, and the man was gently laid back against the molded walls of the tank. The mask that was attacked to his mouth and nose was released with a snap, and pulled up into the ceiling by some million dollar robotic pulley system. When the tank was emptied, a blast of warm air was shot around the man, and the glass separating him from the stainless steel washroom slowly retracted into one side of the wall and disappeared.

For a few moments the man hung lifeless and limp against the rear wall of the now empty tank. The sound of his breathing and heartbeat echoed deafeningly in the polished metal rooms beyond his aquatic casket, but not a flicker of eyelid or twitch upon his mouth made any sign that he might wake. Without warning though, both of his eyes opened wide, with clear and undaunted purpose. Without so much as a yawn, the man quickly stepped out of the tank and onto the brushed steel floor of his personal bathroom, a luxury that very few of the crew of this mission would be afforded. He then tore off the disposable cloth that covered his midsection, and for a few moments, stood unabashedly naked in the center of the room. He casually grabbed a towel off the shower door and wrapped it around his waist. Stepping over to the sink, the man washed his face and hands, slipped on a pair of black rubber-like sandals, and stepped out into the wide, open state room. He looked around only for a moment, before walking briskly to the door of his bedroom and disappearing behind the sliding steel door for only a short few minutes. Like Clark Kent out of a phone booth, moments later the door hissed open and the man stepped out of the sleeping quarters wearing a full body suit that was casual yet screamed authority. Without pause he walked over to his computer console, sat down, and illuminated the room with various holographic screens and virtual control interfaces.

His first order of business was to access the payload status readout. He clicked around, dragged some icons, and, finally satisfied, sat back in his chair and folded his hands comfortably. Taking a deep breath, Malcolm smiled proudly and lost himself in thoughts of wealth, power, and prestige that would come from a success in this mission. Quickly though, he realized how hungry, and thirsty, his new body was, and stood up, walking briskly to the kitchen area of his quarters, but paused halfway to return to the console and initiate the crew's hyper sleep wakeup procedures, as if it were only a minor afterthought.

As Malcolm Kearn ate, taking his time and enjoying the remarkably preserved, fresh-like food, the hundreds of crew members began to slowly rouse from their stasis several decks below in the mass hyper sleep chambers. In a few long minutes the entire crew of miners, scientists, engineers, and soldiers, was up and moving, going about their primary duties and trying to rub the feeling of 3 year sleep out of their eyes.

Malcolm casually finished his meal, gulped the last sips of wine from the bottom of his crystal goblet, and stood up to leave for the bridge, straightening his suit and stowing one of his concealed, handheld energy weapons under his arm. By now, the administration crew, at least, should be starting operations on the bridge, and Malcolm had at least one very important task he wished to see completed as soon as possible. He opened the door to the bridge using his thumb on the scanner, and walked inside to find it already noisy with activity as he suspected. This room would serve as his command center for the time being; at least until the payload had done its job and the ship could begin offloading procedures onto the surface. Most of the crew was of course unaware of exactly why they would not be going to the surface of Pandora right away, but were simply told that methods were being deployed from orbit to clear the area for construction and mining. Not all of the crew were oblivious to the truth of course, some had their suspicions, but most were loyal company employees, Malcolm had made sure of that. Whether they knew what he was doing, and whether or not they liked it wasn't important, they would do their jobs just like every other good worker.

On the bridge, the head science officer and the marine commander were arguing heatedly about something when Malcolm walked in. He had received several 'good mornings' from lesser officers and administrators at their posts, to which he guiltlessly ignored,but his two chief executives hadn't even noticed him standing there after several minutes of their ongoing dispute. It seems the Commander was overly irate that he and his troops would not be landing immediately on arrival, and had to stay aboard the ship and 'wait like pussies' as he so eloquently put it, and his rage was directed at Ms. Aimee Morel, Malcolm's young but surprisingly brilliant head of science division. Finally, after listening to the not-so-civil debate for some time, Malcolm spoke up.

"Ahem, Commander Sikes, Ms. Morel… if you would be so kind…" The pair silenced suddenly, and both turned to look at him with obviously frustrated annoyance at one another. It was the young Frenchwoman who spoke first, smiling overtly in an attempt to put on the charm.

"Mr. Kearn, good morning, I'm so sorry about this," she said, motioning to the Commander as if he was a mess on the floor, "I've been trying to explain to him why his forces can't be deployed to the surface yet, but he seems… unable to comprehend simple words." As she spoke she fluttered her long eyelashes at Malcolm and inched closer every second, a quality he didn't mind in his science officer, and may have even chosen her for the mission because of her proclivity to use her stunning beauty to get what she wanted. Her accent was almost unnoticeable, from so many years in America, China, and probably many other countries of the world. Indeed all the world's languages and dialects were slowly evolving into a slang-ridden, broken excuse for the english language.

"Oh I understand just fine lady… but what you're sayin' don't matter to me." The Commander was a tall and burly man of no less than 40, but in better shape than probably any of the young men on this ship, save for some of his own marines. He wore a set of plain olive drab BDU's and already had a cigarette in his mouth, despite the no smoking policy on the bridge.

"I don't give a damn how dangerous y'all say them giant blue monkeys are, they aint no match for my squads, and my boys are lookin' to get down there and see some action."

He smiled a surprisingly white set of teeth, without one missing molar, but Malcolm suspected it wasn't from any lack of actual combat experience. His scar-less face and perfect teeth were probably the products of cosmetic repairs, as his combat record was impressive to say the least. He was hand-picked by the company for this operation, and had a reputation for getting jobs done with ruthless efficiency. Malcolm couldn't help but smile at the Commander's enthusiasm, but had to cut him short.

"I'm so sorry to keep you waiting Commander, but trust me, it's not the 'blue monkeys' that are keeping you from going down there just yet. You see, we will be deploying a number of… biological weapons containers to the surface before anyone enters the atmosphere." Malcolm strode over to the executive's console on the bridge and took a seat behind the large, multi-screened and holographic, tactical interface. The two officers followed suit and took respective positions on either side of him, still glaring silently at one another. Ms. Morel was obviously aware of the true nature of the bioweapons he spoke of, but had been reluctant to tell the Commander without clearance from Malcolm.

"Bioweapons! What the hell kind of bioweapons?" shouted the commander, standing back up and leaning over the console. "If you're throwin' some kind of super virus or nasty nerve gas down there, how the hell is anyone gonna be able to go down and mine once the… locals are dead?" The Commander clearly wasn't concerned with the mining, but rather wanted to do the killing of the 'locals' himself, the old fashioned way.

"Ah don't worry about that Commander, we have a way to neutralize the… agents, before we set foot on the planet to resume the operations that the RDA failed to secure. And please don't be concerned, you and your men will still have plenty of work to do once we do land. You see, we won't be waiting for the weapons to completely wipe out the indigenous life, no I suspect that would take far too long, but after several days to a week, they will be significantly weakened to the point where we shouldn't have any more trouble like the previous contractors to the unobtainium mining." The Commander, though not satisfied, ceased his arguing which left Ms. Morel with a smug smile on her face, before she turned to Malcolm and captured his full attention.

"Mr. Kearn, I suppose you want to proceed with deployment as soon as possible?"

"Of course," Malcolm answered curtly, but smiled and pretended not to be immune to the young scientist's charms. "When will we be in launch range?"

"In a matter of moments Sir, we'll be within orbital range of Pandora by the time I can ready the launch sequence."

"Excellent," Malcolm smiled at the news he would soon be done waiting to implement his prize strategy. "Arm the launcher, I'll input the code and the fire command on your mark Ms. Morel."

The gorgeous young doctor smiled sweetly at Malcolm, and he knew he could play her own game against her. Though she was intelligent and cunning, he thought, she was still just a woman.

Minutes later, after opening the payload doors and arming the launch sequence, the young science officer gave the ready signal and Malcolm pushed the button that would put into action years of planning and development, and the culmination of the most significant biological study ever undertaken by mankind.

Funny, Malcolm thought, that we almost spent more time and money trying to understand and control these things than we do our own kind. I guess that just goes to show, which is the superior species…

While certain death was hurtling through space into the atmosphere of Pandora, and inevitably onto the surface, the last of the human crew were leaving their cryo chambers and pulling on their respective company uniforms. Almost everything was supplied by the company, and very few personal items were allowed to be brought on this mission. Most of the workers couldn't care less however, as the pay was so good they could have been fed gruel and given rags to wear, and they would have still happily volunteered for this job. Even the lowliest janitor on this mission would be a rich man when he got back to earth, relative to the mass billions that wallowed in poverty and near starvation. Not to mention the accommodations, both on the ship and in the habitation modules on Pandora, weren't half bad compared to some of the tenements and slums of the super cities back home.

The mess hall was quickly filling with hungry inhabitants, most of whom didn't have any responsibilities for the time being, and were able to simply enjoy some free time aboard the oddly named WYS Mortifer. Of the few educated personnel who knew the meaning of the Latin root that gave the ship its name, even fewer cared that they would be "bringing death" to the life of Pandora. Like their employers, most were here for the paycheck, and chose rather to bury their heads in the sand to any unpleasant genocide that might be taking place around them. Not all were so apathetic however, and a small group of young biologists sat together at a table debating the ethical implications of this mission. One of them, a freshly graduated doctor named Barry, was in the middle of explaining to his comrades that the company was disgracefully employing chemical weapons to wipe out the Na'vi.

"You know, what I heard… is that the company developed some specifically engineered bio-weapon that only targets the Na'vi DNA, and that as we speak they're bombarding the surface with toxic gasses that are going to kill practically everything down there and-" In mid-sentence a colleague cut him off, waving his hands in protest and scoffing at him with a look of skepticism.

"No, Barry… no. First of all, the company wouldn't do that, Weyland Yutani's whole mission statement is what? Making better worlds, or something?"

"Building better worlds."

"Yeah yeah whatever, secondly, the company wouldn't have enough data on Pandoran physiology to engineer something like that. I mean, no Na'vi specimen, alive or dead, has ever been brought back to earth, and even when the RDA was here, they never had more than a few blood or tissue samples that they weren't even able to make heads or tails of. There's just no way they could have a DNA specific-"

"They're not specimens, they're people," Barry angrily interjected, "and furthermore… do you really believe that? That the company wouldn't wipe out an entire society of intelligent aliens for profit? I for one have no doubt they would…" Barry trailed off, catching the eyes of a couple cute young lab technicians who were staring dreamy-eyed at his conservationist ideals. Just then, before he could come up with more righteous indignation to impress the ladies, a group of tattooed and tough looking marines practically threw their trays down on the metal table in the open seats and interrupted.

"Ya know, I don't care what ya call 'em… whatever's down there is gonna get their asses kicked once we get the dropships loaded and the platoons on the ground!"

"Amen brother," came the approval from one of his squad mates, and the two bumped fists over their powdered pasta.

"You see my point?" Asked Barry, motioning to the pack of grunts that had sat down beside them. "If a bunch of average guys can be trained to mercilessly kill anything they're told, and even look forward to it, do you really think a trillion dollar corporation is going to have any moral qualms with genocide when more revenue is at stake?"

"Hey who you callin' an average guy, nerd?" The marine looked over, chewing on a strip of beef jerky. "We're not just average guys, alright… we're Colonial Marines, the god damn best of the best." At this, one of this comrades slammed both fists into the table and nearly jumped out of his seat.

"God damn RIGHT! WOOO!"

Barry and some of the other scientists rolled their eyes and quietly went back to eating, but a quiet marine spoke up as the others calmed down enough to be heard over.

"I think he's right, aliens or not, we should at least hope for peace with the Na'vi. I read about them before we came here, and no one has the right to arbitrarily wipe them out, especially not for stock prices…" The rest of the table merely stared in surprise for a few moments, stunned at this marine's unexpected views, until the enthusiastic jarhead from before took a scoop of his beans, and narrowed his eyes at his squad mate, smirking.

"Uhhh... since when are you a pussy McKinley?" The rest of the squad burst into laughter, slapping McKinley on the back and hooting at his supposed shame.

"Ahh, ya know…" was McKinley's only response, as he was too busy smiling at the two pretty lab techs that had previously been eyeing Barry, but now ogled at him and leaned over to timidly ask him questions about being a big, strong, marine. Barry noticed and sighed in defeat, not hoping to compete with humanitarian ideals, on top of 20 inch biceps and a diamond-cut jawline. Silently going back to his freeze dried meal, Barry and the rest of the crew in the mess hall went on with their day, only speculating at the sinister plans of their employers.

Back on the bridge, Malcolm excused himself from the continued arguing of Commander Sikes and Dr. Morel, with the simple request that they not kill each other in his absence. Malcolm returned to the calm solace of his quarters, and poured himself a drink, cut a cigar, and sat down to enjoy the victory of his arrival here. He switched on the large screen in front of his seating area, which simulated a window out into space, looking down on Pandora.

"Now," he said to only himself, too happy to be worried about talking to himself like a fool, "time for my eyes and ears."

He pushed a few buttons on his data-pad, and outside the ship, bays and hatches opened all around to launch an army of satellites, drones, and sensors into orbit and down into the atmosphere and surface of Pandora. Within minutes, Malcolm already had several live feeds up on his screens, showing him the dense jungles of the target continent. His army of drones quickly found the various pieces of the payload, giving him a close up view of any one of the containers at any time. He scrolled through the feeds, checking each and every one, all appearing to have landed successfully and be fully intact. One module, gave a minor warning alarm that indicated one of the pods was damaged on impact, but one less host was no significant loss. After all, that is why they sent five hundred. Malcolm smiled, sipping his scotch and lighting his cigar. Now, it was time to watch, and wait.

Kal'ak stood in the empty and bare-walled trophy room of his new ship, wondering at the possibilities of future skulls that would hang on these walls.

I think there, in the center, is where I'll hang the head of my hard-meat queen, he thought to himself, picturing the room filled with gleaming, polished skulls, barring their teeth at him and whatever females he brought on board to show off to. A little disappointed by his grand, new trophy room's currently unoccupied state, Kal'ak stomped out into the hall on his way back to the bridge.

On his way through the ship's corridors, he passed by the medical bay, and felt a twinge of curiosity at its multitudes of fancy new equipment, and stepped in to investigate more thoroughly. The gleaming white and steel surfaces contrasted the rest of his ships orange, green, and marble coloration, he noticed for the first time just how remarkably clean this room was. On the far wall was the three stasis and regeneration chambers, which, Kal'ak realized, could keep him young for centuries. He clicked and grinned in excitement at that thought, and considered hopping in one for the remainder of his trip. That could wait however, he thought, as he had no wounds, and was in no hurry to tamper with his body in its prime. Instead he stepped over to the twin medical tables and ran his claws along the sleek stainless, polished alloys, and reached under the table to grab the control tablet and access the instruments. Powering on the tablet, he was given an endless list of procedures, operations, tests, and custom controls for configuring the table's robotic mechanisms.

"Damn, this will be nice, he thought, no more awkwardly stitching up my own wounds… He was never good at that stuff anyway. Oh he could manage a life-saving suture without a problem, but it never looked pretty that's for sure. Intrigued, he pulled a knife from his belt and thought for a moment, before dragging it slowly across the bottom of his forearm, leaving a deep gash that immediately started gushing luminescent green blood all over the table. Kal'ak rumbled a little in a Yaujtan grimace, and thumped his bleeding arm down on the table next to the control pad. With a few taps on the touchscreen, the ceiling above the table opened and a swarm of robotic appendages descended from the compartment above, whirring, buzzing, and blinking with medical ferocity. Kal'ak tapped in a few more commands, and watched as several of the spider-like arms extended down towards his wound, and the growing puddle of helium and krypton rich blood he was spilling all over his new ship. Kal'ak watched with child-like amusement, despite the pain, as the various tools cleaned, cauterized, pulled, stitched, applied a healing gel, and bandaged his self-inflicted wound, all in record time.

Excellent, he thought, I'm simply never going to die… Though he knew even his ship and it's toys couldn't guarantee that, he still felt like the most powerful being in the universe. In a few hours there wouldn't even be a scar there, as he had chosen the 'no scar' option during the selection process, since there would be no honor in purposely leaving a scar that he himself caused. Smiling to himself and flexing his now barely stinging arm, Kal'ak replaced the control pad under the table and left the medical bay just as the robotic surgeons were deploying wipers and suction to clean up the mess of his blood.

He walked casually towards the bridge, considering turning around and going down to the training room and practicing some spear techniques, but before he could make up his mind, a simple warning signal came through the ships intercoms, as well as his now fully integrated wrist computer. He brought up a summary display on his gauntlet as he jogged towards the bridge, and saw that it seemed the ship's computer had detected a possible anomaly of interest up ahead. He entered the bridge and sat down at the controls, immediately confirming the command to exit hyperspace at the target and cloak. It seems his sensors had picked up what was reading as a propulsion trail of a ship that had crossed his own path some time ago. The reading was faint, but clear and in one direction. He checked navigational data and saw that he was right next to the Earth system, no less, and the trail pointed straight at the next nearest star.

"A human ship?," he wondered out loud. His people knew well that the humans were recently becoming much more advanced, and sending primitive vessels out of their own system. In fact it was a major controversy lately, about what to do with them. Many factions were insisting that they be wiped out, or at least sent back into the stone age, while some suggested they should be contacted openly, and harvested for their workforce and often formidable warriors. The high council had made no decision yet, but even Kal'ak believed something would be done soon. Whatever the fate of the humans, he may not be allowed to go to Earth, but there were certainly no laws against hunting them if they left their planet. Kal'ak grinned in excitement, and decided to put his search for new, undiscovered prey on hold for now. A few humans skulls would be perfect for his trophy room, and he had always wanted to hunt the crafty little beings. From what he read and heard, they could be as cunning as his own kind, and though their weapons were primitive, they were proven to be quite… effective.

He eagerly punched in a new navigation course, to follow the propulsion signature through hyperspace, which he assumed was going to the nearby binary star system that was closest to the human home. From what his computer told him, no life-bearing worlds orbited the twin suns, but if the humans were headed there, he was sure he would find their fragile forms harvesting some resource or otherwise serving their material greed. He had read a lot about humans. With another dose of extreme acceleration, Kal'ak was pushed into his seat and began to watch the ETA timer count down until he would be collecting the coveted heads of the people from Earth.

Only a short couple of hours later, Kal'ak's ship punched out of the hyperspace tunnel behind a blue and white, ring-less gas giant. He was idling on the verge of dozing off, and started with a grunt at the proximity alarm. He growled and slammed the cloaking controls on, then frantically began scanning the large vessel that was being displayed only a few thousand kilometers in front of his ship, rounding the giant planet. His worry seemed unfounded however, as the alien ship simply continued on its course, without a targeting warning, weapons powerup signal, or giving any indication at all that it had detected him during the brief moments his ship was uncloaked.

"Hah! Fucking humans…,' he laughed out loud to himself and began scanning their vessel, confirming that it had typical human construction characteristics, as well as recognized human writing on the outside.

So far, not as clever as they say, Kal'ak thought, a little disappointed in their lack of reaction and easily identifiable ship. I suppose that's what you get with a race just now beginning to build ships.

It seemed that the large ship was just orbiting, and had no devices operating, or traffic flowing to and from it. If it had just gotten here, then their propulsion technology must still be in its infancy. Could it really take them nearly ten moons to reach the nearest star system to their own? Paya, everything Kal'ak had read about humans attested to their ingenuity and cunning, their dishonor, but also their war-like tendencies. He had read nothing to suggest they were so far behind in technology, he had gotten the impression, both from the archives and the recent hot political controversy, that they were practically a threat to his kind. He scoffed at this idea, but wondered if he was being arrogant, and underestimating the humans as some of his kind had done, and paid the price with their lives. He resolved not to make the same mistake, and put himself in a more serious state of mind. Grabbing the controls, he slowly but steadily caught up behind the human ship and analyzed it more closely. It seemed that with a few well-placed shots of plasma, he could practically vaporize the flying fuel pod, but there would be no sport in that. He wanted to hunt the infamous creatures on foot, to which he wondered, where were they going? In a few seconds he got his answer, as they both rounded the gas giant, the human ship showed signs of powering up, and its propulsion kicked on. Kal'ak readied his own weapons just in case, but it seemed the humans were still oblivious to his presence. Instead he looked ahead, and saw where the burning rockets were propelling the human's ship…

A small, blue and green moon sat nestled in between several larger moons, immediately glowing with the possibility of life. Ignoring the human ship, Kal'ak burned ahead, closing the distance to the tiny, temperate world quickly. He began standard orbital scans with his ships computers, and with amazement, discovered it to be teeming with life. Biological matter nearly covered the surface, and the large oceans were no doubt filled with creatures of any number of sizes.

How could the Yautja have missed this discovery?, he thought, not minding one bit that they did. This moon wasn't even on his navigational charts, and it seemed his people had never been able to see it due to the near encapsulation of it from the 13 other moons surrounding it. He also suspected that his people simply discounted this system for life-bearing worlds due to its binary suns, not to mention… another living world so close to Earth, the odds were astronomical. Kal'ak couldn't believe his luck, humans, and a new world all in the same system, it was like winning the clan tournament, but better. Now he just had the easy part, the fun part… the killing.

As he set the ships controls to automatically take him down into the atmosphere, he checked the sensors to see the human ship was still far behind him, without showing any signs of hostility. Kal'ak smiled, mandibles pinching together and curling upwards like a young blood, when the humans got to this new world, he would be there waiting for them. He got up and left the bridge, heading for his quarters to ready his armor and equipment. As his ship lowered itself gently into the atmosphere of the moon, leaving only a shimmer in the air as evidence of its arrival, he tested his blades, charged his energy cells, secured his armor, and finally… donned his mask. His mask, his face, the face that struck fear into the primitive warriors of countless worlds, and in this case, hid the foolish grinning of his excitement from his would-be prey.

He would leave nothing behind, he thought, who knows what beasts I could find down there, and what tools I might need to dispatch them. He proceeded to strap on all of his favorite weapons, his new spear, his favorite plasma cannon, several shurikens, the even more deadly smart-disk, and more than a few knives and various blades hidden about his form. He wore a moderate covering of his armor, not every piece, but the important ones. He didn't want to limit his mobility, but knew that there may very well be creatures on this planet that could tear his flesh like paper. Now fully equipped, he activated his armor systems and stalked down the corridors of his ship to the forward deployment bay, below the bridge.

Using his wrist computer and mask, he piloted the ship from there, standing before the sealed airlock, surveying the terrain through his optics and searching for a place to land, or perhaps jump out and leave his ship airborne. Not far to his south-east, there was a high range of mountains, around which there seemed to be an enormous electromagnetic interference that his ship's sensors had to constantly adjust to overcome. To his north, his topography showed a rather large excise of land, like a crater, devoid of the thick forest that covered the rest of the continent. He steered his ship towards there, and veered slightly east to the large river that ran through the landmass. If he was going to find any large beasts, a river was a good place to start.

Silently, his ship slowly descended further and further until it hung just above the canopy of alien jungle, his favorite kind of hunting ground without a doubt. After all, the name his brother had given him meant…

It didn't matter what it meant, he thought, he's dead. With his ship hovering, invisible above the treetops, Kal'ak reflected for a moment, working hard to make sure his anger didn't get the best of him, and that he was fully alert for this new adventure. He would not let old troubles stain this new chance of glory, and more importantly, fun. The giant tree below him seemed suitable to start in, and he ran one last scan of the forest around his ship, searching for any unfortunate creatures that he might have already stumbled upon. His mask showed only a few small heat signatures that could be nothing more than rodents, and he tapped the control on his wrist computer to open the bay door.

Like a doorway of the gods, from the outside, it appeared that a portal had materialized in the air above the trees. A few bewildered birds looked up and fluttered away in surprise, but save them, nothing saw the masked warrior dive from the disembodied doorway in the sky, down into the trees below. In mid-air, Kal'ak activated his cloak and turned into little more than a shimmer in the sky as he feel. Before he smashed into the potentially deadly web of branches at the top of the tree, the inertial dampeners in his armor slowed his descent and made him weigh a fraction of his actual mass, if only for a moment. Almost all Yautja wore such devices, it was what allowed them to jump impossibly far, fall from unthinkable heights, and kept their relative weight mostly the same on the many worlds of countless different gravitational conditions that they visited. Technically, the dampeners could render a hunter weightless, and allow him to float about on any world, but the energy requirements for them were high, and they were only used at high power for seconds at a time, to facilitate jumping, falling, and landing… silently.

Kal'ak went from rushing through the air to gently touching down on a thick branch near the top of the tree, and quickly scanned his surroundings, cycling through vision modes to search for any abnormal life-forms. He found only the small rodent creatures near the forest floor, far below, and several bird-like animals in the treetops, all of which generated simple thermal energy like most life-forms, and not much else.

Good, he thought, no strange, alien spectrums on this world. Paya, how he loved science… not all things were entirely predictable, but most adhered to a few basic principles of the universe. Carbon based life-forms, give off heat, simple and useful. Scolding himself, he checked the air on this world before setting out to hunt, to see if he could survive without his mark. The atmosphere wasn't toxic at least, high in nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon based gases, but fairly low concentrations of helium and krypton, the air his people needed to breath. There were trace amounts, like most worlds with atmospheres, and computer's analysis concluded that he could survive in this air indefinitely, but would be short of breath and notice a significant decrease in stamina.

I should have checked that on the ship, he thought, looking around his tree one more time before swinging underneath the branch he had fallen on, and falling down to the next. With practiced agility, he swung down the ladder of branches almost silently, until he reached the lower arms of the tree, near the shorter but still rather tall trees of this interesting new jungle. Finally he jumped beneath the canopy, and rested on a branch in the shade of a thick and humid jungle. Perfect, now if he could only find some worthy beasts to kill…

Kal'ak set out towards the large river as he intended, gliding from tree to tree as an unseen visitor to this new world. He searched the forest for anything large, or armed, but found nothing. At one point he jumped into a tree full of small, six-limbed, glider creatures that scattered upon his impact, despite not being able to see him. His reflexes were sharp, and he managed to snatch one of the leathery monkey-birds by the hind legs, holding it up to his mask and examining its physiology for a few moments, determining if its skull was worth taking. The creature merely shrieked and struggled however, and Kal'ak deemed it entirely unworthy of hunting, and tossed it in the direction of its fleeing pack. Later, he descended to the forest floor and walked to the river, uncloaking and surveying the flowing water for what kind of life it held. Only a few tiny fish were visible, and he knelt down to dip his hand into the stream and feel its cool caress on his claws.

After a couple hours he was a little frustrated, but not entirely angry, as he was still on a hidden world, alone, with his own ship and the possibility of ferocious beasts behind every rock and tree. With a planet this densely forested, with so much water and jungles so large, there almost had to be large prey animals, which meant large predators as well. He resisted the temptation to use his ship to scan the entire continent and show him where the larger beasts were, and decided to make his way towards the large crater his scans had found earlier. He climbed a nearby tall tree, claws and spiked boots gripping onto the bark as he shot up the branches, and looked around to gain his bearings and study the terrain. Any good hunter knows the importance of learning and remembering the layout of the land, and he had been regularly climbing vantage points every few kilometers to check his surroundings.

Just as he reached the top of this tree however, a burst of light and sound caught his attention in the sky. Falling through the clouds, burning bright in uncontrolled atmospheric entry, a ball of fire hurtled towards the surface. He suspected a simple meteor or comet, noting its size wasn't large enough to be dangerous, but saw that it didn't seem to be burning up and getting smaller. Then, a few miles above the jungle, the ball of fire broke apart, not into odd and burning chunks, but perfectly. It split into 25 equal pieces that ejected out in a perfect circle and crashed into the jungle in a miles wide perimeter.

Not a meteor at all…, Kal'ak thought, humans.

It had to be them, the breakup and descent was mechanical and unnatural, a planned deployment. His excited clicking slowly turned into a menacing purr, and he reactivated his cloak and recorded in his mind the location of the nearest impact. If he couldn't find the native beasts, he could still hunt the other intruders to this world, who were supposedly guaranteed to be worthy prey. He set off as quickly as he could, nearly sprinting through the treetops as fast as the thick branches and hanging vines would allow. He found some vines and would-be obstructions to, in fact, be helpful, allowing him to swing vast distances on strong hanging vines or use the thick foliage to cushion high falls. A few minutes later, he found himself near the forest floor, and noticed how dark it was getting, not only from being so far beneath the canopy, but it seemed night was slowly approaching this world. Once again, he had forgotten an important detail, to check how much light he would have after landing in this particular part of the planet. Perhaps this was a good thing, he thought, so many predators were nocturnal, and maybe with the coming of night so too would the larger and more formidable beasts show themselves. Almost on cue, as he leapt to the next tree, he heard a shrill barking and the scurrying of feet on the forest floor. Swinging himself up on the branch, he perched silently and watched, looking for the source of the sounds. In seconds, not far below him, the orange glow of a slender creature came stalking out of the underbrush. It ran along low-hanging branches, jumping between trees and bushes near the forest floor, seemingly sniffing the air in search of prey. Its behavior looked predatory no doubt, but still the creature was small, long and slender, and didn't look like much of a challenge. Kal'ak waited though, observing for a few moments longer, and then to his surprise another of the creatures followed not far behind the first. Then another emerged from the jungle off to his right, and he realized these creatures hunted in packs.

Interesting, he mused, trilling quietly to see if they noticed, and all 4 of the creatures, that were visible, perked up at his faint clicking, and began sniffing the air and ground only meters below him. It seemed to Kal'ak that it was him they were hunting, and could smell but not see him. How bold, he thought, for an alien beast to hunt a scent it couldn't possibly be familiar with, unless of course his kind just happened to smell like something that lived on this world. He let out a series of clicks again, taunting the pack and seeing if they would show any fear. The hounds, as he named them, merely sniffed and chirped at each other, prowling the ground below him and making occasional barking and almost laughing sounds. One looked right through him, but saw nothing and stalked slowly right below Kal'ak's perch.

He decided to take the opportunity and strike, extending his dual wrist blades in a flash of steel, and jumping straight onto the back of the sniffing hound. With a sickening crunch and a pained squeal from the creature, his weight crushed its back like a twig, and he swung his wrist blades down and decapitated it in an instant. Without pause, he spun and looked at the others, who had all perked up at the sound and now stood, snarling and bewildered at their dead comrade, seemingly crushed and mauled by a being made of hot hair. Kal'ak roared and decloaked, shooting out his other wrist blade and jumping off the carcass of the first hound, towards the other three. They didn't seem to mind that their 'prey' had just materialized out of the air, and slaughtered one of their brothers, and all three leapt at him in earnest, two pairs of front legs on each, reaching out and clawing for his flesh. They seemed rather quick and agile, but for the trained reflexes of a deadly warrior, they were no match. With a side step, Kal'ak raised his right arm and caught one of the leaping hounds on his wrist blades, straight through its torso and out the back. He swung his left arm down as another of the beasts was flying past where he once stood, and in one motion cut its body clean in half, just behind it middle pair of legs. The hound impaled on his right arm thrashed and screeched, not yet dead, but he thrust his arm and retracted his wrist blades, sending it flying into the brush. The third creature, recovering from its missed leap, bounded off the trunk of a nearby tree and latched onto his left leg, its claws digging in and teeth searching for a hold to bite on. Its jaws clacked against his armor, and Kal'ak looked down admirably at the bold, but doomed hunter. He raised his left arm again, the single blade pointed straight down, and dropped his form to one knee while he slammed his fist down into the head of the biting hound. His wrist blade pierced the top of its skull and pinned its head to the forest floor, burying the blade in the dirt. Kal'ak stood back up, retracting his blood-stained weapons back into his gauntlets and admiring the damage he had done. He began to pick up the nearest corpse to toss it into a pile, when a familiar , chirping laugh came howling from the forest around him. He spun around to see the heat signatures of more of the hounds appearing from out of the trees, first two, then four, and more. Their eerie barking laughter echoed through the forest, eyes glowing in the pale semi-darkness of this world's night. They circled slowly, an entire pack of them emerging from the brush, snarling at him with what he thought could only be hatred for his recent crimes.

Kal'ak clicked his mandibles behind his mask, fingers twitching with anticipation. He reached one hand behind his back, wrapping his claws around the handle of his spear, and growling out a taunt to the circling pack.

"Come on in you fuckers, come on in… this should be fun."

Neytiri had finally reached the base of the eastern mountains, after nearly three days of walking, and sometimes running, through the deepest parts of the forest. She had never been this far into her jungle, and few Omaticaya ever had. These parts of the forest were old, very old, and felt unnervingly unfamiliar, despite nothing really different. The trees were taller, the air seemed darker, and in three days she hadn't seen much of anything moving. On the first day she had just barely managed to avoid becoming the snack of a truly enormous thanator, larger than any she had ever seen, but since then she hadn't seen a single living creature. But as the ground began to slope, and the terrain got more difficult, Neytiri paused to wonder where to go next. The mountains were a big area, and her cave could be anywhere. She ran up a nearby slope and found the largest tree she could see around her, and climbed as fast as she could to the very top. Teetering out on swaying branches above the canopy, Neytiri looked up the sides of the looming mountains and searched, for what, she didn't know. A clue, a sign?

She wished Jake were here with her, even though she knew he couldn't come. If he were here, he would know what to do, she thought. Well maybe not know, but he would just pick a direction and go. She always tended to overthink things, where Jake could just act, and make things up as they go, he was always good at that. He had an instinct for everything, and that's what made them such a good team, together. But out here, alone, Neytiri worried that she could climb for days and not find the cave from her dream… if it was even real.

What am I doing?, she scolded herself, admitting her doubts for the first time. She had felt them before, but pretended they weren't there, but now, at the foot of the mountains she allowed herself to think that maybe her dream was just that, a dream. What if there was no cave, no prophecy, and no evil threatening her home?

No. No, she thought back on that morning and remembered what she felt. She knew she had to do this, she was the Tsahìk and Eywa had shown her that dream for a reason. She could not give up now.

Peering up the mountainside, she searched again for some kind of sign for where to go. What would Jake do?, she thought. As she tried to put herself in the frame of mind of her impulsive husband, she noticed a plateau, far up the side of the nearest peak, just below the rocky crest where the jungle stopped. There!, she thought, it had to be there. She nearly jumped from the high tree she sat in, falling from branch to branch until she could reach the ground. When her feet touched dirt she bound up the mountain as fast as she could in the direction of the clearing she had seen. She soon found that trying to run the whole way would quickly become useless, and slowed her pace to a steady climb, using small trees and roots to climb the ever increasingly steep slope. The climb was arduous, and after hours she wondered if she would ever reach the top. She had to pause regularly to drink from her skin water bag, and now it was pouring out in only drops. She grimaced at the empty skin and slung it over her shoulder, and found no mountain streams or springs in sight.

The terrain was becoming more and more rocky with each step, but a thick patch of jungle above her seemed like the right destination, if for nothing else but a chance to fill her canteen. As she neared the mountain oasis, the ground turned to giant outcroppings and slabs of stone, interspersed with thick brush growing in pools of soil. She had to climb some of the larger trees to reach the next levels of rock, and she found herself tiring quickly. Hope was quickly fading but habit kept her moving, when finally she pulled herself over the edge of a massive stone slab and found herself in a wide clearing atop the flat boulder. She was on a plateau of moss and dirt covered rock, it must be the one she saw from the tree below, and she rested gratefully for a moment on hands and knees, panting heavily and trying to catch her breath.

She had all but forgotten what she hoped to find in this clearing, and as she looked up, she gasped in shock at the familiarity of the scene before her. She sat back on her legs, folded beneath her, and stared disbelievingly at the black gash in the mountain before her. She feared she was asleep, or had passed out, and entered her dream all over again, the cave before her was exactly as she dreamt it. Covered in jungle growing out around its rocks, and a thin fog filling the entire clearing, Neytiri could only kneel before the mouth of the cave in wonder. After a few still moments, she started nervously and stood up and spun around, looking out over the land, fearing fire would be spreading across her home. But only green and misty forest looked back at her, the calls of birds from far below echoing up the mountains. Assured she wasn't dreaming again, Neytiri turned back to the cave and slowly made her way across the clearing towards the entrance. As she moved, the sun seemed to fall just enough in the sky that it shone on the side of the mountain perfectly and lit the inside of the cave. A gentle stream of water flowed over the edge of the top slab of rock and fell over the mouth of the cave in a crystal clear waterfall, and Neytiri ran to it, standing underneath and washing the day's journey off her, holding open her mouth and drinking the immaculate mountain water.

She smiled and looked out in the clearing again, and at the view of her home, and realized how beautiful this place really was. Now able to appreciate it without the horror of her dream, she wanted to bring Jake and Niyani here, and even now she didn't want to leave. She held out her water bag and filled it in the falling stream, then looked down into the dimly lit cave, the ceiling dripping with the remnants of the water that hugged the rock over the edge, and sunlight rippling off the marbled rocks.

She made her way slowly down the slope of the cave floor, searching every inch of the walls for the carvings she had dreamt of. It got darker as she moved in, and she found herself wishing she had made a foolish fire-stick like her Jake had that night they met. In the fading light she worried she wouldn't be able to find the carvings, but reached into her bag and pulled out the rolled leather hide and charcoal writing stick that Jake had made for her. If she could find the prophecy, and record the symbols, perhaps Y'ansi could make more sense of them. He was one of the oldest of the Omaticaya, a revered shaman, and knew many of the ancient legends and symbols of the old forest people.

Frustrated at the bare and empty stone walls, Neytiri stepped into a puddle of water on the cave floor and cursed as the cold splashed up her leg. As the stepped out of the water though, she saw a shimmering reflection upon the walls, deeper in the cave. The last of the sunlight was bouncing off the water and shining on the dark wall meters in front of her. As the water steadied, she ran down the gradual slope to the place where its light reflected off the wet rock, and watched as the sunlight focused slowly on the same ancient carvings that her fingers had touched in her dream. She pressed her hands to them and traced the carved stone to be sure they were real, and read the words over and over again.

The prophecy was real, she could hardly believe it, even though she had been so sure it would be. Shaking with a mixture of fear and anxiety, Neytiri tried to calm herself and remember why she had come here. She rolled out the dried leather hide and began to copy the inscriptions on the wall with the sharpened stick of charcoal that Jake showed her how to write with. As she wrote, she tried to think of what to do next. If evil truly was coming, some spirit was supposed to help her. Where she could find it though, she had no idea. She would take the words to Y'ansi and ask for his guidance, then to go the tree of souls and ask Eywa for the same. She had no idea how long she had, but if the black fire was truly as terrifying as it was in her dream, she needed answers fast.

As she finished scribbling the last characters down on the soft hide, she realized how deep she was in the cave, and how dark it had become around her. Remembering her dream, Neytiri caught her breath in her throat and felt the same fear that had gripped her in her sleep. She slowly, and shakily, began to creep back up the smooth cave floor towards the sunlight, straining her eyes into the deep darkness and looking for what she hoped wouldn't be there. There were no monsters in this cave, she thought, that was just part of the dream. Right?

Droplets of water fell from the ceiling and resounded like the sky people's fire weapons, her own breath seemed to deafen her senses, and she finally felt the need to get out of there. She turned and ran, calmly but quickly, up the rocky slope and towards the bright light of the sky. In seconds she was outside again, on the plateau and looking out at the beautiful view that was her home. She breathed a sigh of relief and laughed at herself as she looked back into the cave. Who was acting like a child now? Running from phantom cave monsters spawned in her dreams? She would have to remember not to tell Jake about this, but then… she knew she would. She loved him too much to keep her feelings from him, even her fears and doubts, she shared them all.

Dusk was approaching, though the sun still shone bright on the green canopy of the jungle below her, the fog around the cave and the plateau was thickening. Perhaps she should rest here for the night, she thought. There was water, high ground, a great view of the stars… though anxious to get home, see Jake, her daughter, and try to decipher the meaning of this strange prophecy, she felt that staying on the mountain for the night would be best. She could start for home in the early morning…

But just as she was about to sit down on the thick mossy bed at the edge of the rocks, a flash and thunder in the sky made her eyes shoot to the clouds. A bright falling star burned across the sky for a few moments, and Neytiri couldn't help but wonder if this was some sign, or perhaps… was it the great spirit, coming from the sky as the cave foretold? As she watched it fall though, waiting to see where it would land, the star burst into pieces that hurled themselves away from each other, falling to the ground in a wide circle. The many star pieces all landed far from the village, but from what she could see, it was in the forest around the old hometree, and the sky people's abandoned village.

That was no falling star, she thought, and no great spirit either, she doubted. Both fear, and urgency filled her mind, and looked down off the edge of the mountain with a longing need to get home, soon. She could not stay the night, not now. Something had come from the sky, and all she could think of was darkness.

Kal'ak stalked through the jungle towards his goal as quietly as he could, but with a little less grace than usual due to soreness from his minor wounds. The skulls of the most memorable kills from his fight with the hounds hung from his belt, and their bodies hung from the trees back at the scene. The pack proved to be larger than Kal'ak had thought, and he killed ten or more before the rest scattered, apparently intelligent enough to learn when they were outmatched. Kal'ak grinned behind his mask, ignoring the sting of the cuts and bites that the vicious creatures had dealt him.

A fine battle, he thought, to escape without any wounds only meant your opponent wasn't challenging enough. Now he would finally get to put practical use to his ship's advanced medbay, but the med-pack he carried with him had sufficed for now. After cleaning and stitching or cauterizing the worst of his wounds, Kal'ak was now continuing on towards the sight of the nearest impact, of whatever had fallen from the sky earlier. This world's cool and well-lit night surrounded him, and in fact served to enhance his vision, diminishing the amount of false heat signatures given off by sun-warmed plants or rocks. Not much moved around him in the jungle now, and the small creatures he did see in the branches or on the forest floor all scattered and ran from him as he approached. He really should be using the trees, he thought, on an alien world, at night, it was not smart to travel on foot when one had no idea what kinds of predators might lie in wait, on or under the ground.

He gave himself one small shot of pain killer which he had been saving for when he got close, and jumped into the trees again. He was getting close now, and regardless of hidden predators, he wanted to approach the crash, or landing, site from the treetops.

After a few minutes of leaping branches, Kal'ak could see some kind of smoke or dust cloud rising from the canopy up ahead, and picked up his pace as he raced through the trees towards the presumably human object. With a few super-jumps, that sent him sailing up over the treetops and back down again gently, Kal'ak was only meters away from a small clearing where he could see the bright heat signatures of several small fires, and a large, definitely unnatural, object half buried in the dirt. He made his way to a tree on the edge of the clearing and carefully surveyed what he saw. There in the ground was a large, metallic… chunk, that was obviously the object that fell from the sky, and here slammed into the ground and skidded only a short distance, leaving a gash in the land behind it. The object was curious in its design, but he could at least be certain it was human. It didn't seem ship-shaped, but rather like a giant container, perhaps a cargo drop. Most oddly of all, it had large openings on it's top, that appeared as if they were once sealed by hatches that had now slid open. Kal'ak scanned the object more intensely with enhanced infrared which allowed him to effectively peer inside the object, and was surprised to see that precisely 20 humans stood against the walls in individual pods of some sort.

Interesting… he clicked to himself and thought for a moment, before deciding there couldn't be much harm to it, and leaping out of his tree and onto the ground next to the container with an almost silent thud. He walked around the object, examining its construction, primitive yet solid. However not that solid, he thought as he came to the head of the object that must have struck the ground first. One of the forward corners was slightly damaged, having struck a nearby rock during the crash landing. Kal'ak let his curiosity get the best of him, and hopped effortlessly onto the top of the structure and peered down into the open hatches. The humans, ten on each side, were contained in individual pods as he suspected, with transparent viewing glass around their upper halves. All of them, however, seemed to be completely unconscious. His only indication that they were still alive was the faint heat signature emanating from each one.

Now, almost frustrated with curiosity, Kal'ak switched his vision mode to visible light and jumped down into the vessel, and what he now saw, outside of the thermal spectrum, caused him to immediately deploy his wrist blades and power up his plasma cannon. To his shock, in front of each human, inside their pods, was a hard-meat egg, still pulsing with life and glistening with its slime secretions.

Elders FUCK me… he thought, truly astounded and a little unsure of what to do next. The humans were seeding worlds with kainde amedha? This was unfathomable… preposterous! How could his people allow the Earthlings to advance this far, and do this of all things. This was exactly the type of event that would end the argument over the fate of Earth. When the council finds out about this, the humans will be crushed absolutely, possibly destroyed altogether if enough zealous support can convince the council that they are too great a threat to allow to exist. Paya, few races have ever created weapons as deadly as the hard-meat, and those that encountered the dreaded scourge knew well enough not to meddle with the black creatures.

But humans… using the hard-meat, sending them to life-bearing worlds… and using their own kind as hosts?

Kal'ak had to stop himself from spitting inside his own mask at the dishonor of it all.

Speaking of the hosts, Kal'ak had almost forgot about the twenty doomed humans he stood in the midst of, all sleeping peacefully, unaware of their impending fate. As Kal'ak looked through the glass, from face to face, he almost felt pity for them. He noticed several that he recognized as females from his studies of the species, but these didn't resemble the beauty of the golden-silked pet he had seen in the citadel. As he scanned the faces, unsure why he didn't just leave and drop a remote mine in his place to destroy the whole container, a faint hissing sound caught his attention near the other end of the vessel. He stalked over in the low light and found that the final human container on the end was slightly damaged like the outside of the ship, just a few small cracks in the glass, but enough to slowly release whatever gasses were contained by the pod. Inside, however, was a tiny creature that immediately captured Kal'ak's attention. It was a human female, young, or small, maybe both, who's head silk was shining black, unlike the golden yellow of the one on the homeworld, but equally as beautiful, if not more so.

A shame, he thought, that it must die by my weapons or by the kainde kmedha spawn. He wasn't sure why he felt so attracted to these human females, but their beauty was otherworldly, literally, and he couldn't help but want to touch this one, just as he had wanted to touch the one in the citadel. And he could only imagine how they tasted

It's probably dead already though, since this one's pod is leaking air… he reasoned to himself and was about to resign the pretty little human to its fate, but then it stirred beneath the glass, only slightly at first, before its mouth opened and it gasped in a breath of air, then began to slowly lift and turn its head. It was alive… and unlike the others, it was waking…

Lia began to wake, slowly, to the sound of a quiet hissing, and her own gasping for breath. She had been having a dream, a terrible dream about drowning, but for some reason, unlike most nightmares, she wasn't able to wake all at once. The fog of sleep was slowly lifting, she began to regain feeling in her body, and became aware of her real-life shortness of breath. She gasped again, and opened her eyes slowly, but as she tried to reach for her eyes to rub the thick blurriness from them, she found her hands were trapped at her sides, bound by something around her wrists. She could barely see, except to know that she was inside a small enclosure, with a glass dome around her head. She realized she wasn't laying down, but standing rather, or sort of leaning, inside the enclosure. She turned her head painfully from side to side, and gasped again for breath. Why couldn't she breathe? Where am I? she thought, as panic began to take hold.

God, what was going on? Too much to process, she couldn't think… she tried; the last thing she remembered was…

Fuck! Please… help. Someone. Why can't I move?

Lia struggled weakly in her half asleep state, but was able to do little more than thrash her head about and wiggle her fingers and toes. As she tried to remember where she was and what had happened to her, more gasping sobs racked her body, and she wasn't sure if it was her own panic or if there truly was a lack of oxygen in… wherever she was. Her eyes focused a bit more and she tried to take in her surroundings, but couldn't see anything but dark blur outside the glass that surrounded her head. Instead she tried to look down at her body to see what was binding her, stopping her from moving. Instantly, she almost wished she hadn't…

In front of her, at about waist height, was something Lia had never seen before, but was immediately terrified of. A large, brown, slimy sack sat inches from her body, inside the same tube-like prison that she now desperately needed escape from. In her semi-conscious state, she barely looked at the slimy capsule before bursting into tears and gut wrenching sobs.

PLEASE! Help me! She tried to call out loud but her gasps overtook her voice and the words echoed silently in her mind.

What is this? Someone… please…

She tried to look around, above her, outside the glass… for something, anything. But she could still barely see, and could make out nothing but darkness outside her soon-to-be tomb. With a few weak sobs, Lia resigned herself to look down at the sickening egg sac object locked in here with her, and felt even more light-headed than before. Something was wrong with her, she still couldn't breathe. The air felt thinner and thinner, and her vision began to darken. In total despair, her head slumped down as she lost the strength to hold it up, and she squinted and tried to keep from looking at the horrible slime-covered flaps on top of the sac. Before darkness set it, however, a sick suctioning sound came from the egg-thing, and the four flaps on its top peeled open to reveal an even more disgusting interior. Lia just barely saw a snake-like tail, or tentacle, wrap around the horrible pulsating embryo inside, and her gasping sobs renewed with full vigor.

"Pleeeeassse…please…," she managed to sqeak out a pathetic cry to no one at all, though in her mind she was screaming for this nightmare to not be true. It was all too real however, and her eyes widened in pure terror as she watched a collection of almost human-like, elongated fingers, claw slowly up out of the sac.

"No…," was all she could whisper, and tears poured in a river down her face, as she could only imagine what this thing would do to her. Her imagination didn't need to be that good, as any person could guess that they would die a horrible and painful death if faced with something like this. Lia cried for someone, God perhaps, since she had no one back home, but never believed that anyone would hear.

Before she could go mad with terror, however, and faster than she could realize what was happening, she saw two green eyes flash behind the glass, staring right through at her. Then the glass surrounding her smashed inward and peppered her face with shards, and a clawed hand appeared before her, grasping the disgusting, inhuman, slime-spider that had only just jumped from its egg sac. Lia watched the terrifying finger-thing thrash and squirm in the clenched fist of some green-skinned angel, before the hand seemed to squeeze and crunch the spider to death, before tearing it out of the pod and disappearing into the darkness outside. She continued to struggle for air, fearing this was still the end, despite being saved from the monster in the egg. But then, the hand reappeared, stretching from that glorious, green and brown arm, and grasped the front of her enclosure, and tore off the entire top half of the pod. She was still bound, strapped to the wall behind her, and could only whimper in attempt to beg the owner of the clawed, green hand to release her before she suffocated…

Kal'ak watched, captivated, as the human in the pod slowly awoke, or half-awoke, and began blearily understanding its situation. It first realized that it was immobilized, and seemed to struggle futily before becoming very upset. It was obviously having trouble breathing, most likely from the leaking cracks in the pod, and didn't seem to see him, or anything else really, beyond the glass barrier. Kal'ak thought about helping it, but deduced that smashing the glass would only hasten its death by suffocation… though that was decidedly better than death by impregnation from the kainde amedha spawn. Kal'ak simply continued to think, and continued to watch, as the human finally noticed the throbbing egg before it, and looked sufficiently repulsed and terrified. Whether it had ever seen one, or knew what it was, was unclear, as most creatures reacted similarly to the hard-meat, if they were familiar with them or not. The human struggled harder, and made many, truly pathetic, but also saddening noises from its opening and closing mouth. It also leaked an abnormal amount of liquid from its eyes, which poured down its face in streams. But Kal'ak noticed the liquid didn't appear unpleasant, slimy and thick, like so many creature's secretions, but rather like rain, clear and pure, seemingly only water. These humans were so strange, Kal'ak thought, odd features, who knows what kind of unpredictable behavior… yet, he wanted one. He wanted this one.

Almost lost in his idle staring at the distraught human, Kal'ak barely noticed the hard-meat egg had also woken, and was now opening up and preparing to ensnare the very human he had already laid claim to. Snapping to his senses, he slammed his fist through the glass shield and managed to snatch the hard-meat larva in his claws, just as it leapt out of its egg at the helpless human's face. For a moment, he considered the possibility of acid burning off his entire hand, but crushed it in his hand anyway, trying his best not to puncture the skin with his claws or allow any of the caustic blood to leak out onto his skin. Satisfied that the larva was dead, or at least immobilized, he tore his hand out of the hole he had created, and tossed the twitching, foul arachnid onto the floor behind him.

Inside the capsule, the small human now seemed frozen in surprise, staring wide eyed at the hole his fist had created, and breathing even more labored than before. Relief seemed to cross its face for just a moment, before it began to gasp for air again and panic set in once more. Its big, round, beautiful eyes stayed fixed on his own as he stared right through the broken glass, trying to think of how to free his human from this capsule.

His human?

Yes, that's right, his human…he admitted. If it was going to die, it would die by his hand, later, if he decided to eat it.

Seeing no other option, Kal'ak went with brute force, and grasped the front of the capsule at the bottom of the glass window, where the metal construction began. From what he could tell, it appeared to be a separate piece from the wall behind it, and should come off with enough force. Kal'ak raised one foot to the wall and ripped the front half of the pod right off, clicking in surprise at how much easier it was than he expected. His human still lay bound to the inside of its pod, by some thick black straps of material around its wrists, waist, and chest. Two at a time, Kal'ak wrapped his claws underneath the rubbery straps and tore them off, each one snapping loudly as it broke. When he removed the last one, the human slumped forward and nearly fell to the floor, but Kal'ak caught its tiny form and it leaned against his chest, weakly trying to wrap its arms around him. He looked down and saw that the human's feet were still bound inside the lower half of the capsule, with the same kind of straps around its ankles. This part, however, could not be torn off, as it was a solid piece of the floor, and Kal'ak couldn't reach his hand down in to tear off the straps. So, with one arm wrapped around the human, he deployed his spear and carefully guided it down into the capsule, next to the human's legs. With two quick cuts, the human's feet were free, and Kal'ak lifted it out of the pod, held it gently against his chest, and looked up at the open hatches of the container, judging how best to take his prize out. A careful jump would have to work, so, clutching the human against him, he crouched down and sprang out of the module, straight out the opening in the top. He landed, handsfree, on both feet on top of the container, and smugly praised himself for his own balance and agility. The human, pressed against his chest, however, did not look impressed, and he almost felt angry at it for a moment, before remembering that it was probably suffocating to death.

Shit, he thought, what do I do now?

Kal'ak hopped down onto the ground, bent to one knee and laid the human down on its back, trying not to let his curiosity run wild just yet, so his prize didn't die while he was busy touching and examining its tiny body. The poor creature just laid there, one arm across its chest and the other splayed limply across the ground. Its chest heaved with pained gasps for breath that it clearly wasn't finding, but its big, wet eyes stared up at him with pleading desperation for help. Which each passing second, its eyes glazed over more heavily and seemed to lose focus, and Kal'ak hurriedly accessed his wrist computer for information on human physiology. Displays came up in his mask and he quickly searched for human breathing requirements, it took a few moments, and Kal'ak found himself genuinely rushing with worry.

Why? It wasn't his life that was in danger. But he admittedly did hope his human would live… No need to get all distressed about it though, he thought.

Finally he found the statistics for human air, and saw that they required the double-oxide gas for their breathing. His armor could synthesize it easily enough, but how could he give it to the human? He thought for a few moments, while the human still lay motionless on the ground, then he considered an idea. Could it be just as simple as…?

Pop, hssssssss.

Air escaped the detached mask tube in a slow hiss, and Kal'ak knelt down over the human while he tapped the commands into his wrist computer. The gas escaping from the tube soon changed to pure dioxide, spraying out in a continuous, gentle haze. Kal'ak straddled the human's body and leaned his face down to just inches from the human's. Supporting himself on one elbow, he used his other hand to aim the hose at the human's mouth, spraying the, hopefully correct, air at its face.

On contact, the human's nostrils flared, and its mouth gaped wide open as it seemed to react to the air. It gasped for the steady stream of oxygen, and after a few ragged breaths, seemed to try weakly lifting its head towards the tube, trying to get more of the precious gas. So he was right! He slide his hand gently behind the human's head, and helped to lift it up slightly, while lowering his face down and guiding the hose closer to its mouth. The human didn't stop there, however, and curled itself upwards, stretching higher until its strange looking, soft, pink mouth wrapped around the hose completely and it began to breathe deeply with relief. Kal'ak smiled behind his mask, quite proud of himself for both heroically and ingeniously saving the life of this human, a task he never thought he would find himself doing. He rarely saved lives, more often taking them, and from all his studies on humans, his recurring hopes were to slaughter their warriors and mount their skulls on his wall. Yet here he was, laying prostrate on top of one of them, with its mouth attached to a piece of his armor no less…

Shit, he thought to himself, now realizing the absurdity of his situation. Good Paya, if Ma'koh saw this… so now what?

He looked down at the human, who he could see was now fearfully examining his form, with its hands around the breathing hose, but its eyes now scanning Kal'ak up and down, wide with either fear or shock. He could guess that it was fighting the urge to try to escape and run from him, now that it realized he was not one of its own kind, but also knew that it wanted to stay attached to the hose that was giving it life. Its breathing was still deep and heavy, and Kal'ak in turn looked up and down the human's body, taking special interest in the round globes of flesh that adorned its chest. They seemed compressed slightly, by the tight, white, elastic clothing that hugged the human's entire body, but the tops of each soft mound were squeezing out the top, and he caught himself staring longingly at them for several moments. With each breath, the human's chest rose and fell, those soft pillows pulsing just beneath his chest, almost touching him as they rose. To Kal, they looked absolutely delectable, and he had the urge to tear off his mask and sink his teeth into them. Almost immediately, however, he scolded himself for the thought, and realized he was already quite opposed to eating his new human. She did look delicious though, so that debate would have to continue later.

In answer to his earlier question of 'now what?', Kal'ak awkwardly reached over to his wrist computer and called his ship, which arrived above them moments later. Thinking ahead, Kal'ak remotely set the ship's internal atmosphere to provide a level of oxygen that matched Earth's air, according to the archives. The ship then slowly descended until it hovered, cloaked, right above them, and Kal'ak stood up, carefully picking up his human so as not to disconnect it from his air hose, and held it in his arms as the ship activated the transporter and rematerialized them inside the cargo hold.

Kal'ak tried to set the human down on its feet as he removed it from his arms and his air hose, but instead it crumpled to the floor in a heap of white unitard and shining, black head silk. It seemed to panic for just an instant, reaching back up to his mask, before realizing it could breathe here, and then cowered away from him instead. Kal'ak just stood and studied it for several moments, as the human caught its breath, looked around with wide, scared eyes, and then started to skirt across the floor towards the nearest wall. It reached the wall and, there, curled its legs and arms around itself, and peaked out at him with those eyes, still streaming water, and whimpering throughout the whole ordeal.

Kal'ak sighed in both some pity, and some frustration and disdain. As cute, or… whatever, these human females could be, they were almost infuriatingly pathetic and helpless, absolutely nothing like the cunning, dangerous, and crafty opponents that the archives told of. Perhaps only the males were such warriors, and these females were… no, it couldn't be that all human females were this weak and terrified. A species such as that couldn't possibly survive, this one must have been bred in captivity, or have some sort of mental deficiency, to be so helpless and lack any semblance of fighting instinct.

Great, he thought, I got a sick one.

He stalked over to the human, preparing to pick it up and take it to the cages, but as he got close and reached his arm out to grab it, it squealed bloody murder and shot out from the wall, scurrying away from him and then over to another alcove in the cargo hold walls. Kal'ak growled in frustration and followed it to the new hiding place, and this time snatched its ankle quickly, sliding it out onto the floor below him, and then quickly grabbing its slender neck, wrapping his claws around it like a vice. His captive screeched and squealed like never before, and kicked and struggled, squirming with surprising yet still pathetic strength. Kal'ak held it by the throat in front of him, and it quickly tired, as well as once again began gasping for breath from the tight grip he had on its neck. Its hands wrapped around his gauntlet and tried to pull itself up, taking the weight off its neck, and its legs stopped trying to kick him, but instead swung back and forth, looking to find footing against his body. The human's soft, padded feet pressing against his stomach felt amusing, but he quickly threw it over his shoulder with a few more squirms and squeals of protest, to which he paid no heed.

He casually carried the whining creature across the cargo bay to a nearby hatch, inside which was the hold filled with empty cages. As he walked, he gripped both the human's ankles with one clawed fist, with his other hand pressing its hind quarters onto his shoulder to keep it in place. He found himself quite pleased with the soft flesh in his hand, and decided that if he did keep the human, rather than eat it, it would make an excellent pet… if he could train it to behave that is.

Walking over to an aptly sized cage, he opened it with a swipe of his hand, and then gently lowered the human down into the cage, holding it under the arms. He almost laughed at the expression on its face as he placed it inside. It hung limply from his hands, staring at him with wide, sad eyes that made him not want to leave it here, but he had things to do and couldn't be bothered with watching a wild alien at his side. The human's eyes never left his as he shut the top of the cage and locked it securely. It gave one last long whine of objection, and scurried to the front of the cage, gripping the bars and looking staring around the room. Kal'ak knelt down in front of the cage, causing his human to recoil back into the center in fear. He chuckled a little, then clicked and growled something he assumed it couldn't even begin to understand.

"I will find out what you eat, and bring you food soon enough little human. We shall see if you're as pleasing as you look."

With that, Kal'ak turned and left without looking back, but could hear the whimpers of his new pet fade as he made his way to the bridge. Pleased with himself, Kal'ak remembered one last thing he wanted to do before flying his ship to a secure landing zone and getting back to serious matters. On the bridge, he fired up the engines and ascended a few hundred meters above the human container where he acquired his new pet, then powered up the weapons and targeted the hard-meat dispenser with charged plasma bombs. Ecstatic at finding a reason to use his ship's weaponry, Kal'ak excitedly pressed the fire command and watched the ground below him ignite in a blue and white eruption. When the fire died down, he surveyed the area, and, satisfied that all was vaporized, took the controls of the ship and flew high into the atmosphere to search for a suitable site to land and make camp.


No smut yet, as predicted, but lots of setup for it =) I did my best to create a unique Predator-meets-girl idea, that strays from the multitude of that type of story, but of course its not entirely different. She's still a cute human girl, scared, and gonna get fuckkked ;) I hope that's not a spoiler for any of you, but if you didn't already know this is that type of story, now ya do!

I hope this satisfies all the subscribers, and gains a few new ones. I know it's long, but I'm trying to make it worth while, for serious fandom readers. I just can't seem to write a chapter that's under 10,000 words =\ It's a curse, I know.