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Chapter 43

      Captain Gralgiranselhelrarvnir walked through the halls of the penal colonies' control station, heading for the temporary holding facilities. The halls were metal gray, no paint, no decorations. He pitied whoever was stuck living here. He wouldn't be able to stand it.

      Stops like these happened every few years. He'd be sent here to do an evaluation of the current director, and his treatment of the prisoners down on the planet. Normally he'd be told what his superiors wanted him to evaluate when he received his orders. This time, they hadn't. He wasn't bothered by it. He'd go through the regular checks, find a thing or two to do surprise inspections on, then file his report.

      So he was quite surprised, upon entering the holding area, to see two humans in one of the cells, behind the director, an old male, with orange and white marbled fur, that seemed to be falling off in patches.

      "No," Gral said, cursing internally.

      "Captain, these prisoners have done their time. They need to be returned to their people."

      "Get someone else to do it." He didn't actually recognize them, but who else could they be? It wasn't like any other humans had been caught in kelsirian space. They'd only been on his ship for a few month, in the brig, and there had been six of them at the time. He wasn't surprised they weren't all alive. Actually he was surprise even two of them had made it. While he hadn't though about them over the years, he would never have expected humans to survive for twenty five years on Barren, with all the others incarcerated there.

      "I'm afraid that I wont," the male state. "You have your orders, captain. You are to return these two humans to FarSpace station, where they are to be freed. A human ship will be waiting for them.

      Gral looked the humans over. Their clothing were tattered, and dirty. What he could see of their body was tightly muscled, with hardly any fat on them, but a lot of scars. Barren was a very rough world, even before you counted the other criminals there.

      He took out his com. "Pernic. I need four guards, armed with two sets of restraint." He wasn't happy about this. "Also, clear a path from the access to the brig. I don't want anyone in those corridors." He looked to the director. "They've been searched?"

      "Of course, and scanned." The tone was offended, but Gral didn't care. Ten minutes later his guards arrived.

      "Restrain the prisoners, and then search them," he ordered. The guards weren't particularly gentle in their search. When he got confirmation the prisoners didn't have anything on them, they headed back to the ship.

      It must have been shift change, because this time the halls were packed. They had to push people aside, and all they got in return were shoved back and growled at. Armed guards didn't seem to impress them. Gral guessed that after years in a place like this, they probably didn't care about much, except when they'd be leaving. Such a posting wasn't given as a reward for great work.

      The access opened when they reached it, and closed behind them. As he'd requested, the corridors were empty as they made their way to the brig.

      They were halfway there when Gral heard a grunt behind him. He turned to see one of the guard sliding down the wall, something sticking out of his side. Another one was already laying on the ground, blood pooling around his head. One of the prisoners was lifting a gun in his direction, the other one was aiming his at the other guard. Gral moved to the side, but the blast hit him in the shoulder, sending him spinning, and hitting the wall, hard.

      * * * * *

      Jeremy was heading to the mess hall, when yellow lights started flashing at the top of the walls. The light galvanized everyone, and like most of them, he changed direction, to head to his quarters. Unlike most, he was heading there to get his weapons, not to get out of sight.

      "Bridge. What is the situation?" the yellow alert indicated danger to the crew, and the response was for all civilians to head back to their quarters for safety.

      "The captain was escorting prisoners to the brig. They have escaped his custody."

      Jeremy took his concern and shoved it to the back of his mind. "How is the captain?"

      "Scans show he's alive, but unmoving."

      Jeremy allowed himself a sigh of relief. "The prisoners?"

      "I'm tracking them, and relaying the information to Pernic."

      "Where are they?"

      "Level eight, heading toward the aft, from corridor three eight."

      Jeremy started running, and took the first right. He was on level eight, as was engineering, and it was aft of of their present location. It was probably a coincidence - yeah, right - but he had a lot of techs still there, most of whom were only tech, with just the minimal combat training. "Thuruk."

      "Here," the reply came after a moment.

      "Tell me you're still in engineering."

      "No. With they alarm, I'm heading toward the security office, to see what support I can give to Pernic."

      Jeremy cursed, nothing to be done about it now. "Two prisoners are loose on level eight, and heading in the direction of engineering. I'm heading there now. Do we have any hunters among the techs?" Jeremy was usually good at knowing who among his people was working at any specific time, but this was the mid day shift change. Thuruk, on the other hand, had the uncanny ability to always know where his hunters were.

      "Jamol and Pursin were part of the morning shift. Gilgan and Ullallar have the afternoon one. They would have been in transition when the alarm sounded."

      Which would have redirected them to their Hunting squad room for orders. There was no doubt about it, Someone was meddling. "Okay, keep with your course. I'm heading to engineering." He quickly entered a code on his com that would make all the coms in engineering request a response.

      "Yes?" the voice was low, and there was trembling.

      Jeremy slowed his pace. "Are they there?"

      "Two humans," she replied. "They're armed, and are forcing everyone in the back of the room."

      "Domnial, I'm on my way. Security is on their way. I'm going to terminate the call, and then I want you to do what ever they tell you to do. Don't anger them. Make sure everyone obeys them, I don't want anyone to take risks. It isn't your job to take risks, understood?"

      "Yes sir," she whispered back.

      "Good." He terminated the call. He didn't bother calling security, the bridge officer would have informed them. He stopped next to a door, and entered his code in the lock. Every strategic location on the ship had such a locker near it, which could only be unlocked by a guard or a hunter. The door opened and he took a hand laser. He didn't know what grade of weapons the prisoners had obtained, but he wasn't going to bring something that could do major damage in engineering. He wished there was a set of glove in it, but he was the only one to wear them, so it would be a waste of resource to have one in every locker. Still, he didn't feel adequately armed without them.

      Security hadn't made it there by the time he reached the entrance. The door was open, it was always opened, unless there was a specific need to close it. He quickly peeked inside. The two prisoner were at the back of the room, facing away from him.

      Jeremy made it a quarter of the way in before one of them noticed him, turned and pointed medium grade blaster at him. Not good. If it was fired at anything more than half strength that thing could do major damage to the generator, or the conduits behind the walls. Jeremy stopped moving, and kept his weapon at his side as the human glared at him.

      "You!" the human's voice sounded like it was full of sand. The other turned at the sound. A growl came from him.

      "Lets remain calm," Jeremy said, not moving, studying them. "No one needs to get hurt. What do you want?" they were wary, looking left, right, and behind Jeremy.

      "To hurt you is going to be a good start."

      The other one grunted. Jeremy couldn't tell if he was simply unable to speak, or there was something wrong with him. He didn't behave like his mental faculties were impaired.


      "We spent twenty five years in hell because of you. Four of our friends died there."

      Jeremy looked at them, trying to figure out who they were, what he might have done to them. He didn't point out he didn't know them, that would probably just anger them. He'd heard the penal colonies were extremely rough, so he wasn't surprised heir mind might have addled over time. He'd only been close to one human, the one time, then they had helped him aback to ward Earth.

      A moment later he realized who they were. This could turn bad, real fast.

      He heard sound behind him, and raised a hand, to stop them from moving, at the same time as the humans aimed their weapons at the newcomers.

      "Sir?" someone said.

      "I have this under control," Jeremy replied, not taking his eyes off the humans. "Take position in the corridor, leave the door unobstructed." Movement, and the humans were aiming at him again.

      "That's smart."

      "I don't want anyone to get hurt," Jeremy said. "That includes you."

      The silent human snorted.

      "You're going to get hurt." His companion said.

      "You hurt me, and you will not make it off this ship alive. If you're here, you finished your sentence. You hand over your weapons now, and I'll make sure this is ignored. You'll be returned to human space, so you can go back to your lives."

      "What lives? We were abandoned. You think we have anything to go back to? All we have left is revenge."

      Jeremy closed his eyes. I am a hunter, he recited mentally, I die so my people can live. He opened his eyes. "Alright." He put his weapon down. "You have me. You let the techs go and you can do what ever you want to me. I won't offer any resistance."

      "They stay," he growled.

      "They have nothing to do with this. Just let them go."

      "They stay. I'm going to make each and everyone of them pay for what we had to go through."

      "You hurt just one of them, and I will make you suffer." Jeremy noticed that the tech were looking at each other, they were nervous, but he could also read resolve in their face. He wished he had kelsirian ears, they could be used to show intent, and some hunters had even developed a simple language using them. "This is the only chance I am giving you." He said, to keep the humans attention on him. He wished the techs wouldn't do whatever they were planing, but if the humans noticed them, they would shoot them down. He wouldn't allow that to happen. "You want to hurt me, that fine. But they are to remain unarmed. I can make your last moments here extremely painful, if you give me reason to do so."

      The silent one raised his arm at Jeremy, his intent to shoot him evident on his face. The techs moved, the noise of their rush making him look aside.

      Jeremy ran for him.

      The human looked at him again, and fired, but his aim was off. He readjusted quickly and fired again.

      Jeremy was hit in the shoulder, and was knocked of his feet, but his momentum made him slide toward the human. He saw him hit one of the tech with the back of a hand, and then start to turn, his weapon heading for the tech.

      Jeremy was close enough. He clawed the human's forearm. It didn't do the damage the claws on his glove would have, but he kept his nails long enough to still rake flesh off, making the human grunt, but not drop the weapon.

      Jeremy raised a foot and planted it in the human's crotch, hard. He doubled over, pain in his eyes, but he still hadn't dropped the weapon. Rage replaced the pain, and the human stood with a roar. He was cut down by multiple blasts hitting him in the chest.

      The other human was on the ground screaming in anger, six tech on him, clawing wildly, if ineffectively.

      Jeremy rested for a moment, while people rushed around. "Sir?"

      Jeremy opened his eyes, and one of the guard was offering him his hand. He took it and was pulled up. The guards had taken the techs off the human, and were keeping him face down on the floor. Two of the techs had been shot, and were being looked over by some of the guards, as was the one who had been backhanded.

      He stood over the human, part of him wanted to rip his limbs off one by one, for having hurt his crew, but he kept it under tight control.

      "I told you I would make your last moment painful if you hurt anyone." The human looked up at him, hate in his eyes. "And I'm very tempted do to just that." I am a hunter, he told himself, I know better. "But my hate for your kind has gotten me into enough trouble." He reached down with his good hand, and pulled the human up by the collar. He looked him in the eyes. "Fight me now, and I will hurt you." The coldness in Jeremy's eyes finally reached through to the human, and fear appeared there.

      Jeremy pulled him along, escorted by six guards. They headed back to the station. Jeremy was close to the holding cell, according to the bridge's direction, when a short male appeared, orange and white fur, with patches where he could see skin. Jeremy stopped and wrinkled his nose.

      "Who are you?" the male said. "What are you doing here?"

      "I am Jeremy, Hunter from Alpha squad." He threw the human at the male. "I'm returning that to you. Lock it up. It attacked my crew, injured at least four of them, and killed one. As soon as my captain is able to, he will be laying formal charges. That thing is going to be spending the rest of its days here."

      Jeremy forced himself to step closer to the disgusting male. "And if we discover that you had anything to do with them getting free of their restrains, you are going to join him groundside." Jeremy turned and headed back to the ship.


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