Universe Hunters: Taken, page 4
Clothed and feeling confident, Cali smiled. “Sure, I’m guessing your kind wants some information on humans and threats if any.”
“You are astute,” Altair replied.
“You must know something of us,” Cali countered. “You have taken a human form.”
Altair looked older than Blazar and Deimos. His hair was jet black; he had beautiful blue eyes. Tall and lanky, he wore jeans and a black T-shirt. Hot as sin. His gaze was intense. Cali sensed raw danger oozing from this being. But she had nothing to hide.
“Are you a hunter?” Cali asked.
He scoffed at her for a second. “I’m a scientist.” Blazar scowled as though he had been disgraced. “Any of my species can hunt. Including me. I choose to further our intelligence.”
“Oh, how arrogant—I mean interesting, how interesting” she muttered.
The barb wasn’t lost on Altair. Cali couldn’t determine his look. He moved around her, stalking like a great cat out for a prowl. Cali refused to be intimidated. She could almost smell Deimos’ anger. If Altair touched her, he’d be dead meat.
“Blazar informed me he and Deimos hurt you in their encounter with the Gar. Most unfortunate. I have learned humans are fragile. The council would have been angry if you had been killed by any of our people. Deimos and Blazar have been reprimanded for their rebel ways before. Would you care to press charges?”
Cali stared at Altair open-mouthed. “Um no. They saved my life.”
Altair nodded. “Humans, I am told have weapons but are incapable of anything but minor space flight.”
“We have come a long way,” Cali said.
“Nevertheless, you are no match for my species, correct?”
“What are you getting at?” Cali narrowed her eyes onto him.
Altair looked at Deimos then Blazar. “Further study of this human is required. She already knows of us; it would be redundant to capture another.”
“What?” Cali squealed. “They said I could go home.”
“And you will, after I study you for a millennia or so.”
“I’ll die before that,” Cali wailed.
“Nonsense. I am more than capable of keeping you well and healthy for the duration of your stay with me,” Altair said.
“But everything I know on Earth will be gone.”
“We can aid one another.” Altair’s cunning look made her wary.
“The council will not approve. We cannot interfere in a sanctioned being’s life,” Blazar stormed.
“We are returning her home.” There was a snarl on Deimos’ face that made Altair step back a pace. It surprised Cali. After all, Altair was over six feet; even Blazar’s anger didn’t seem to faze him.
“Deimos,” Altair began with a demur attitude. “I had wanted to tell the two of you alone, but I researched Cali. She was supposed to be killed by a bear. The Gar interfered. You saving her wasn’t part of the original plan of the fates.”
Cali felt sick. “How can you know this? You have no concept of time.”
“And because of this, we know all times,” Altair explained.
“I’m dead on Earth?”
Deimos swept her into his arms. “Don’t be afraid. You are alive here.” He then shot a look full of loathing at Altair. “Our planet will kill her. One mistake and she could be burned alive.”
“I have made precautions.”
“The council will not approve,” Blazar shouted.
“The council couldn’t care less what scientists such as I study. Have you ever known them to interfere in a scientist’s wishes?” Altair said.
“We took precautions, and she was still injured.” Blazar was scowling.
“Of course she was; you’re mere universe hunters. I am a scientist.”
“Have I no say?” Cali shouted.
“Of course not. The human female is to be transported to my vessel where she will be kept safe and unharmed for the duration of the trip. Deimos and Blazar you have one more mission and can visit the human if you so desire upon completion of said mission.” Altair gripped Cali’s arm and began to drag her away.
“Wait,” she cried out. “Deimos, Blazar.”
Deimos and Blazar looked devastated as she wailed for them to help her. Both hung their heads and did nothing. Cali’s heart felt broken in two. They simply watched. She stopped struggling. If they didn’t want her, she wanted nothing to do with them.
“You must eat something.”
It had been three days since Cali had been taken aboard Altair’s vessel. During that time she sat quietly on a pad Altair brought. The smug scientist stopped being smug when he realized he had thought of clothes, bedding, and water, but not food. He foolishly assumed his type of sustenance would suffice. Cali couldn’t stomach the fluffy substance. He stood before her holding a handful of the cotton candy cobweb material.
Cali groaned and curled onto her side away from him. Deimos and Blazar would know how to calm her raging belly. But they had abandoned her to misery. Altair was at a loss and Cali had no thought to offer any suggestion. There was no way in hell she wanted the bastard to cocoon her.
“If you would just try a small bite,” Altair continued to coax her. “Our scientists developed this over thousands of years. It has every nutrient and vitamin. It digests perfectly.”
“Get bent,” Cali muttered.
“You are just being stubborn. The council will be displeased if you perish.”
“Gee, I’m all broken up over it.”
“How did Deimos and Blazar keep you healthy?” Altair demanded. His hand gripped her arm.
Cali turned to glare at him. “Go away, you creep.” She then yelped when his hand heated to such an intensity her arm began to blister.
Altair released her immediately. He looked appalled as she howled in agony and scooted away from him. She cradled her agonized arm to her chest and leveled an accusing gaze.
“I’m sorry, human. I was angry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Altair raced off and returned with water. He doused her blisters which did little to soothe her.
Cali gasped. “A healing bed. Deimos and Blazar put me on a healing bed.” Her eyes filled with tears she refused to allow fall. The pain was intense; she would take any aid offered right now.
“I have no such device on my vessel,” Altair said. “I’m a scientist, not a hunter. A hunter may have need of the bed, some are prone to violence. I would never harm…. You are so much more fragile than expected.”
Ripping off a strip of her clothes, Cali soaked the fabric in water and wound it around her aching flesh. She again turned from Altair and lay with her face pressed into the mat. Abandoned and now injured she wanted to sleep to escape. She heard Altair stand. He again apologized before moving away.
Altair hadn’t gone a few steps, his large feet scuffling across the silver polished floor when the ship was rocked sideways. Cali screamed as she went flying. Altair yelled and Cali fled as far from him as fast as possible, he had transformed into a bright light. They were under attack.
Cali managed to make her way into another room to escape Altair’s intense heat. The floor beneath her began to warm with the temperature increasing every second. The walls started to glow. A terrifying thought entered her mind. These beings were light; would the ship become a big ball of fire and incinerate her? Would Altair kill her to save his life? She was about to find out.
The floor beneath her feet had her dancing from foot to foot in agony. She could see her flesh steaming making her scream louder. The walls turned red baking her. She was in an oven the heat rising ever higher. A loud boom and Cali toppled over. Her face and body were coated in sweat which sizzled across her skin. She was flung once more to the other side of the room where she blacked out.
Cali was drowning. Water poured down her throat, she was soaked and floating. Strong hands held her face up and out of the water before letting her slip back under. She struggled and coughed, fighting her way t
“Hold still, I’ve got you, human. The Gar hate the water. We’re safe as long as we stay put and out of sight.”
It was Altair’s voice. He sounded scared to death. Cali opened her eyes. Fleeting images of huge trees and lush foliage dotted the sides of the river they were floating down. The river moved at a fast pace. The waves lapped over her, slapping at her face. For now, the cold water aided with her burns.
“You burned me,” Cali cried out.
“We were being attacked. I had to weigh the pros and cons of being captured. To get to this planet first, I had to risk the faster pace. It was either that or hightail it home and kill you altogether. This way you are injured but alive—for now. We haven’t much of a head start on the Gar.”
“You said anyone could hunt Gars.” Her tone was accusing.
“I may have been a bit boastful.”
“You dirty fuck.”
A huge log came into view. Cali made a grasp for it. The log was slick and her handhold tenacious as the rapids crashed over her shoulders. She slipped as she struggled. With Altair’s help and a shove to her ass, they were sitting on the riverbank. Cali yanked her way higher using the tall grass at the river’s edge. Once safe, Cali scowled at him. Her flesh was red, sore. But the burns weren’t as bad as what she had surmised. She did look like she had gotten the ultimate suntan gone wrong.
“Oh God, I look like a tomato.”
“You’ll be fine, human.”
“I have a name, you dick.” Cali sat back and studied him. “What the hell happened to your clothes?” Altair was naked.
“They were incinerated the moment I ignited.”
“Oh, for the love of God. Here.” Cali ripped off a length of her clothing for him to wrap around his hips. Parts were singed, some areas had small holes, but it was salvageable. “I’m not going to have to stare at your dumb ass.”
Cali stiffened as Altair gripped her shoulder. Across the river was a huge beast. It moved in a weaving fashion, its soulless yellow gaze centered on them. It was the largest bird Cali had ever seen in her life standing at least twelve feet in height. White as snow feathers covered most of its body. A massive black beak opened to expose razor sharp teeth all in a neat row. Huge light brown wings fluffed, lifting it off its feet for mere seconds before returning it to the ground. Foliage swooshed up under the bird creature, giving indication of its great mass. It hissed at them in frustration, and Cali realized it couldn’t fly. She bet it could run like the devil on its two three-toed feet.
“The Gar. They found us already and have taken a new form,” Altair whispered.
“Why don’t you just burn it? Roast the bastard and maybe I can finally eat something. Those drumsticks would be mighty tasty right now.”
“You don’t understand, that creature is the Gar or Gars. We should be fine. It won’t cross the water.”
No, Cali didn’t understand. “For heaven’s sake. Why don’t you kill it? Deimos would.”
“Have you seen the size of Deimos?”
The question made her blink. “Um, yeah.”
“Then you know how powerful he is.”
Cali turned to study him. For a second, she swore Altair was in awe of Deimos. Blazar was built bigger, so was Altair. What was she missing?
“You have to be at least seven inches taller than Deimos and a good twenty pounds heavier.”
“Exactly.” He was staring at her as though she must comprehend what he meant.
“But, but,” she spluttered. “He’s smaller than you. Granted he’s strong.”
“He has twice my strength. Surely you must see that? He is smaller, therefore much stronger.”
Cali was stumped. It was obvious she was missing something. A thought occurred. It was Deimos who had fought Crone, not Blazar. Deimos was the physical one. Perhaps size in their culture meant something.
“So, are you saying because Deimos is smaller, he is stronger than both you and Blazar?”
“Of course. A smaller intense light burns hotter, because it takes only seconds to light. A larger fire, or greater light, takes more time. Time is of the essence to a hunter. Deimos begins to conquer his foe immediately while brighter lights need more time to gain their exact potential. Deimos shines with his potential the second he ignites.”
“I suppose bigger lights don’t always burn brighter.”
The bird creature snorted and screeched. Cali stood up and began moving away. Altair jumped to his feet and caught her hand. His skirt-loin cloth slipped low on his hips. His chest was broad and his long legs were as white as snow. Cali resisted the urge to giggle at him; he looked ridiculous.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“To find shelter. Looks like it will be dark out soon.”
“We mustn’t stray far. I was able to send a distress call.”
“I’m not going to sit around like a damsel in distress waiting to be saved. I can save myself.”
Cali turned on her heels and began walking. This might not be Earth, but it had a primitive, familiar smell. A shadow formed overhead, causing her to glance skyward. Thousands of birds looped and dove in a wild dance across the sky. They were beautiful. Abundant foliage made Cali wonder at the season, perhaps mid-spring. That would be a bonus.
They walked for not more than a half hour. Cali ripped small strips of material off her clothing to make certain she could find her way back to the river. They came to a cave. She peeked inside. It wasn’t too deep, but it would keep them sheltered until help came. Then, she surmised, she would be kidnapped again and stuck on a strange planet being accidently burned for the rest of her life. Cali determined that wouldn’t happen. If she couldn’t go back to Earth, she would remain here. Freedom in nowhere was better than no freedom at all; she was tired of being a captive, of being dragged off, and taken.
Digging deep into the memory of her limited Girl Scouting experience, it didn’t take Cali long to gather sticks and larger pieces of wood. Altair followed her like a puppy, refusing to help. He was a scientist after all; menial work was beneath him. Striking two different types of rocks together onto some fluff from a nest she found high in a tree, Cali made a fire. She carefully stuck the three eggs she had discovered in the nest into the hot coals as the fire burnt down at the sides. With a sharp rock she found, Cali had been able to somewhat remove the very tops of the shells. She didn’t need eggs exploding all over her. Next, she gathered ferns and branches thick with soft needles. She lumped them in a corner near the back wall close to the fire. As darkness fell, Cali took a stick and pulled out an egg. The shell was hot as she danced it between her fingers. She settled back onto her bed and peeled the egg. It was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted.
“Well, where do I sleep?” Altair asked.
“Who the hell cares?”
“Well, what about the food. Give me some; I’ll attempt to eat your meager offerings, human.”
Cali finished her second egg and fished out the third. She remembered what Blazar had said about not needing to eat food as long as they regenerated. Altair hadn’t regenerated during her stay with him so he could examine her every move. Cali peeled the egg and when Altair stuck out his hand she shoved the entire thing into her mouth. She chewed with exaggerated movements enjoying the look on his face. Altair was wide-eyed.
“That was mine,” he said obviously flustered.
“Um, no, it was mine. I found it, I cooked it, so I ate it. Get your own.”
“I provided you with clothing, sustenance, and warmth,” he spluttered.
“I have provided you with warmth and clothing. As for sustenance, you gave me shit. You stole me away without regard to how I felt. I’m not going anywhere with you again. When and if you leave here, I’m not going with you. I’m staying.”
“The council will give you to me when I state my case.”
“I don’t belong to the council. I belong to me. The co
Cali curled up onto her bed. What was left of her wrap had dried out, making her flesh feel hot but at least her tummy was finally full. Altair huffed for a moment before settling a few short feet from Cali. Both of them closed their eyes.
In the morning, Cali woke with Altair sound asleep right beside her. Sometime in the night, he had scooted closer. She struggled to free herself from his grasp. He woke groggily. Cali had never seen either Deimos or Blazar groggy or disoriented; she had never seen any of the aliens sleep before. Altair’s hair was disheveled. He groaned as his hand went to his belly.
“This hurts,” he moaned.
“Is this what you felt aboard my vessel? It’s loathsome.”
“Will you suck it up? You ate less than twenty-four hours ago. I saw you chow down on that cobweb crap. Try three days with nothing but water in your stomach and then complain.”
“I’m dying. I needed the substance because I refrained from regenerating. Because of you.”
“My God, you’re a drama queen. Go out of the cave and change into your fire form and find something suitable…preferably far away from me.”
“I can’t change,” Altair whined. “I can’t regenerate until I reach my planet.”
Cali dropped before him. “Are you saying you’re stuck in human form?”
“Yes. I told you, I didn’t regenerate before we were attacked so I could stay close to you.”
“Then what do we do about the Gar?”
“We wait for the universe hunters.”
Grumbling, Cali marched out of the cave. Altair followed closely, so closely when she stopped to gaze around, he barreled into her, upsetting them both to the ground.
“Get off, fat ass,” Cali shouted. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“How would you like to suddenly be stuck in a different form?”
Cali took a good shove at him and jumped to her feet. She stopped when he howled in terror. Horrified he stared at his hand.
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