Honorable Elder Thwei'dok'de hadn't felt this challenged and alive in years. It was exceedingly rare for a Yautja of his age to feel this heady mix of long forgotten emotions. He was perplexed, cautious, curious, ill at ease and excited all at the same time. It reminded him of his youth. He was quickly becoming addicted to the sensations.
Nothing about this particular mission was making sense. It wasn't anything he'd dealt with before let alone heard of or read about in the archives on Yaut Prime. He couldn't help the feelings flooding his body. This might be something for the record books, and as team leader he would be forever immortalized and envied. Unable to help himself, he purred into his mask and continued to stalk down the buildings corridors' as stealthily as possible which wasn't easy.
Despite being fully cloaked, the catwalk metal grating beneath his feet refused to be silent as it clanked, grated and resonated with every step he took. He could do nothing to stop or minimize it and it only fueled the riotous emotions ricocheting through his eight foot frame. His enemies couldn't see him but they could definitely hear him. How would they react? His heart rate spiked with adrenaline as he continued on his way, scanning the various doors on either side of him.
Some were closed, locked or not he didn't know but others were wide open and offered him a privileged glimpse into the purpose behind this particular Ooman complex on Planet Beta Nine. Classrooms. Training facilities' which housed numerous rows of desks and chairs, a holoboard for note taking and diagram instruction set opposite a row of banked windows that showcased the silent but deadly realm of inner space.
Stars twinkled and gleamed through the thick panes, distant planets whirled and a nebula that was almost out of sight glowed in various hues of heated color behind his masks visor. This was a place for instruction, for youth, for pups. The notion both filled him with a sense of fatherly pride and chilled him to the bone.
While the complex appeared massive to his scans, it was impossible to step foot outside onto the planet's surface without proper gear. The Ooman's had implemented a terra forming program, but it was less than ten years old and thus far ineffective. There was virtually no supportable atmosphere for Oomans' or Yauts' and if a particularly rebellious, risk taking youth of any species were to jump up, off the planets powdery white surface, they'd quickly become lost in space. The gravitational pull of the planet's core was weak at best. Why had Ooman's sent their pups here?
Thwei'dok'de shook his massive head with a disgruntled snort and continued his patrol down the long hallway. The distress signal his team had eavesdropped on not even twelve hours earlier had indicated a substantial hard meat infestation due to a crashed ship that had been investigated without due caution by the complex's adult facilitators. He himself had seen no signs thus far of hard meats, but the fact that the colony was housing a massive amount of Ooman pups disturbed him greatly. There was virtually no where for them to go. No where to hide. The glimpses he'd received of the ventilation system proved that. Had the larger pups ordered their smaller counterparts into the duct system, the death rate had to be staggering. The vents at floor level were more than adequate to support transportation of adult kainde amedha and the vents along the ceiling line would be beyond perfect for ambushing face huggers.
The pups would have had no chance what so ever and Thwei'dok'de's chest tightened painfully. Ooman's were prey, yes, but pups were sacrosanct and excluded from any and all hunts perpetrated by the Yaut's and many other species throughout the universe. He hadn't personally run across a body yet but with the current ambient temperature inside the facility on the rise it would only be a matter of time before he could smell them, if nothing else.
The hard meats propensity for preferring warm, damp and dark environments pulled at his instincts to take the next available elevator down to the sublevels but he resisted for the time being. While the lack of bodies on Level Two of the building wasn't unusual, he wasn't stupid. The sublevels would be crawling with kainde amedha. There was sure to be a Queen in residence in the bowels of the complex, pumping out eggs with active and loyal drones to do her every bidding. Their estimated number would be far more than he could handle by himself.
He needed his team, which were stationed on various levels and out of the way corridors', none within direct tracking distance of his senses unless artificially heightened by his technology. It would be suicide to descend to the sublevels by himself and he hadn't lived long enough to earn the title of Elder without a healthy survival instinct. He could do nothing, and that knowledge made his head throb in frustration.
Pausing between two open doors, he stood motionless and calmed himself into a hyper aware state of consciousness. A predator's focus, where all senses were extended outside of the body to determine and survey the landscape. Once the final resonation of his last footfall fell silent, he could barely detect noise but didn't know exactly where it came from. A hum to his ears, it tickled along his nerve endings while his visually enhanced eyes saw nothing ahead, behind or to either side of him. The masks old factory sensors were picking up something though, something ...faint. Sweet. Heady.
Thwei'dok'de took a deep breath in and let it out slowly, trying to ascertain the scents origin. The vents were still operational, thankfully, but didn't seem to be running at full capacity as the smell wasn't as strong as it should've been, even from another level of the building. Were the hard meats already accessing the vents, blocking it? But if so, where was their scent? The combination of scent and rumination made the Elder growl in indecision. Females. Tens, hundreds, thousands of females.
Their varying pheromones' clogged his scent receptors and made his body tense as a hardy tree in gusting winds, bracing himself against the impact as his skin rippled and his organ threatened to harden. So many females! The barest trace of scent seemed to come from the duct to his left, from below. The ducts over his head from the higher levels continued to layer, blend and grow in strength until his abdomen tightened, his thighs quivered and he was in sore need of adjusting his loincloth.
Blessed Paya, this colony was made up of nothing BUT females! Varying in age from the very young to the budding adolescents, topped off with the newly matured and ready to mate. Thwei'dok'de growled low in his chest and vibrated in place, using all of his self control to keep himself rooted to the metal grating under his feet. This wasn't just any Ooman facility; this was a colony that housed only female occupants of various ages! His dreads lifted and shuddered as he shook his head and fisted his clawed hands at his sides. He wasn't a Bad Blood. The scents of the lower levels merely told him pups were present. True pups, who hadn't reached their first cycle. But the upper floors..
His pulse thundered in his ears and his groin was so tight it was almost embarrassing. There were females housed here who were older, mature, stable in their breeding cycles and more than ripe to mate. His instincts were almost a force of nature to resist as he shifted his weight and planted his feet more firmly on the catwalk to keep from racing up the floors to the top housing. Damn Oomans' and their scents! Fearing that he'd actually whimpered or whined out loud, he grunted and surged forward in locomotion like movement to continue down the hall.
Somewhere, levels above his crowned and crested head, there resided a horde of breed able females in a panic of some sort. Their scents were blended like a C'njet infused fruit drink on his Clanship. He'd heard stories of Yaut females who lived within a closed community on Prime or aboard ship who cycled at the same time. Apparently, Ooman's did the same. Just as Thwei'dok'de was passing the last few classrooms on this eerily deserted hallway and rounding a corner to the left, his intercom exploded to life with various degrees of static, heavy breathing and screaming in the background.
"Elder Thwei'dok'de, I'm surrounded with no way of escape!" His second in command, Honorable Warrior Ker'ak'de exclaimed sounding out of breath and almost out of patience amidst a background of feminine squealing.
"Report," Thwei'dok'de barked as he finally rounded the corner into a paper and debris strewn corridor leading to another bank of elevators.
"Level Five, Corridor Eight. I'm trapped, Elder! My back is to an emergency exist in a T junction but it won't open. I have a mass of female Oomans closing in from all sides! They're unarmed, I repeat, they're unarmed!"
The Elder grunted in his grab of the stairwells railing instead, rounding and scaling it in record time to the fifth floor but the exit door onto it wouldn't budge no matter how hard he threw his significant weight at it with echoing bangs.
"Do not attack, I repeat, do NOT attack! If the females are unarmed, do not disgrace yourself by harming them!" Growling low in his throat, the Elder threw his weight against the door a few more times before stopping to instead punch a hormone fueled fist at the locking mechanism.
"Copy, do not attack, but Elder there are hundreds of them!" Ker'ak'de sounded panicked, his breathing quicker than usual and the commotion in the background nearly drowned out everything else from the feminine yells and screams.
The Elder cracked his neck in a full circle roll before finally kicking in the emergency door to the fifth floor. When dealing with Ooman's in general, aside from specific individuals picked out to hunt, all Yaut's preferred to interact with the rest as little as possible. Being forced to deal with hordes of them was simply unheard of. Swarming hard meats were one thing, but swarming Ooman's? Not since his Honorable Ancestor's had helped Ooman's to build and civilize had anyone had to deal with them in a truly public setting. Hundreds of Ooman pups was the stuff of nightmares, if even considered realistic.
"Elder, they're all over me! Repeat, they're overpowering me and ripping at my armor!" The transmission ended with a flabbergasted roar and thud before the amplification of Ooman female voices took over.
Thwei'dok'de's adrenaline rush was rapidly approaching critical mass as he burst through the doorway and swung left. He barely managed to come to a stop before crashing headlong into an intricate barricade of metal tables, chairs and various other unidentifiable furniture. Before he fully had time to ponder the road block he spun on his heels to charge in the opposite direction only to jerk to an off balanced stop yet again.
He was boxed in with no where to go. Instead of immediately retracing his steps back into the stairwell, the Elder paused and cocked his head in trilled curiosity. Had the Ooman's constructed this tangled and stacked mess? To his vast knowledge there was no way the hard meats could invent something this efficient. If they wanted to herd the Ooman's in a specific direction they simply used themselves as a scare tactic. No, this was the Ooman's doing.
Crouching down, he scanned his attentions between the overlapping obstacles. The barrier was deep, extending at least twelve feet down the hall in either direction and was able to reach the ceiling panels overhead. The recessed lighting was dim but steady, indicating a continual power drain or perhaps intentionally lowered by the Ooman's. The youngest and smallest pups would be able to navigate the twisted course but not their elders.
Level Five was obviously yet another pup floor, like Level Two that he'd recently been in. This would definitely slow down the hard meats and allow the Ooman's escape or sanctuary against the exit door. The Elder swung his gaze in that direction and trilled again. They'd also managed to jam that door somehow, at least from the stairwell. Tricky and clever.
He chortled behind his mask and stood, gripping a table leg in front of him that was stacked on its side. Even with a forceful shake it refused to move more than inches in any direction. Perhaps they educated future engineers here. The materials used were soft in his species estimation. Flimsy metals, woods and plastics but even he, a great and Honorable Elder would have a hard time forcing his way through. Doing it silently was impossible.
With his esteem of Ooman's on the rise, Thwei'dok'de took another deep draught of the air and opened his com link to Ker'ak'de. Still he detected no scent of the hard meats but the scent of females was even stronger than it had been on Level Two, like a cloying perfume. It reminded him of the mixed meat stew his Bearer used to prepare when he was a mere pup. There were simply too many ingredients to name to accurately tell the taste. Pups barely out of training cloths to pups newly entered into maturity and beyond. Stress, fear, nervousness, excitement, around and around it stirred and swirled on his palette just like that stew.
The Elders maw was salivating so much he barely realized that his second in command wasn't answering the summons he'd sent or that since entering Level Five he hadn't heard a single sound that hadn't come from himself. On autopilot, he flicked a mandible to disconnect and call again while scanning the walls for a corridor sign. Ker'ak'de was in Corridor 8, but according to the small directional plaque on the wall in front of him, he was in Corridor Three.
Why couldn't he hear anything? Huffing, he listened with half an ear to the unanswered ticking of his latest call and accessed the architectural map of the building once again. The simple blue planes and angles of the building as a see-through 3-D line drawing panned, zoomed and focused until he found his current location. Each corridor had two stairwell exists, one main elevator and were separated from connecting hallways by sliding security doors. By his estimation, at least five of those security doors in either direction separated him from Ker'ak'de and were sound proof.
They also displayed on holo as being firmly closed. The entire layout of the structure was simplistically complicated once a hard meat infestation was in full swing. The building itself was an octagon, eight corridors on each floor, twenty-three floors in all not including the sub levels all built around a central park like court yard with a biodome cap. The Elder ignored all other particulars and instead swatted a mandible to activate the bio-locator.
Almost instantly the holo screen flickered, its thin lines of data color skewing and pulsing before red dots exploded before his eyes like an extremely hard hit to his head. The place was still crawling with heat signatures. That confirmed the swarm of Ooman's that Ker'ak'de had unfortunately run into across the complex. It also hinted that perhaps they'd caught the hard meats before tides turned. Thwei'dok'de's chest expanded with pride. They'd arrived soon enough.
There was still a chance. Exhaling without a care to noise, his anxiety lessened then flat lined as his eyes darted to the read outs to the right of his active diagram. The temperature was still increasing inside the complex, varying based on level, but each seemed to see an increase of one degree per hour. The lowest levels were the hottest, the highest the coolest and the sub levels were simply nothing but a swatch of bright white at over one hundred degrees. The kainde amedha were definitely in the vent system because the air flow was all wrong. At least the core seemed intact and stable.
It was possible that the reason he hadn't yet encountered a hard meat was due to the Ooman's scheming and the reason he couldn't smell them was due to the sheer number of females living in the complex. Buoyed by this logic, Thwei'dok'de clicked off the call to Ker'ak'de a second time with no answer and debated on activating his heart monitor. Ooman's only had one major four chambered organ for pumping life blood, but so did the kainde amedha and with the temperatures rising, how many of these red dots were Ooman and how many were hard meat? No, the heart monitor would help nothing.
The Elder consulted the schematics one last time before pivoting and stalking back into the stairwell. According to the layout, he would have to go up, to go down. Paya help him, but for every level he ascended the stronger the scent of females became. Mature females. Oh how he wished it was mating season for his own species.