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"The Cold Wind"

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Part 3

Tainui awoke to the mother of all headaches, a sore back, and only a vague recollection of what had happened. He seemed to recall something about large monsters chasing them... Andrej! The boy was lying next to him, partially covered with his old blanket. There were some bruises on his chest, and what looked like a couple of small burns, which were covered with something clear and sticky. But he seemed otherwise unharmed.

Touching the sticky goo with one finger, Tainui brought it to his nose and sniffed it, recoiling slightly at the medicinal smell. He wiped his finger, and winced at the movement. Gingerly reaching around, he felt a small sticky patch on his upper back, roughly where he had been hit by the staff weapon. That, at least, would explain the soreness.

Sitting up and looking around, he felt a little strange; the air was hazy, and he felt oddly heavy. Breathing was also difficult. The very air itself seemed thick, and almost syrupy. They were in some sort of cube-shaped room, with dark grey metallic walls, with a sturdy looking metal and frosted-glass hatch set in one side.

The sound of running water caught Tainui's attention, and he hunted around for the source. In one corner, opposite the door, there was what looked like a small pool, with water flowing through it, pouring out of vents on one side and disappearing into a grate on the other.

Curiosity temporarily sated, he staggered to his feet with difficulty - why was everything so bloody heavy? - and made his way over to the hatch. "Hey! Is anyone there?" There was no response. Unsurprizingly, the hatch didn't move when he pushed at it. There was nothing in the corridor that he could see through the partially opaque material. Frustrated, he went over to the pool and examined it. As with the air, the water was warm, but seemed otherwise normal.

Tenderly rubbing his aching head, Tainui made his way back to the unconscious boy, and tried to rouse him. Andrej groaned, and opened his eyes blearily, blinked a few times and then sat bolt upright. Or tried to. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, and he felt so heavy. Tainui was looking at him with a worried expression on his face.

"What's going on, Tai?" he managed to mumble. "Where are we?"

"Not sure, bro. Some sort of prison, I reckon. What's the last thing you remember?"

"Prison?!" That woke him up with a start. After looking around the bleak room for a few moments, Andrej turned back to Tainui, his eyes wide in alarm. "How the hell did we end up in prison? Last thing I remember was going outside for a piss. Then... Oh shit! Man, was I dreaming those things? What the fuck?"

Tainui smiled ruefully at him. "If you were dreaming those too, then welcome to my nightmare. You OK?"

"Yeah, I think so. What's up with this place? I feel so weird."

"Dunno... Air conditioning is broken, I think." Tainui struggled to his feet, went over to the hatch, and started banging on it. "We need help in here! Anyone?" Nothing. 'Dammit! Was this some sort of sick joke?' he wondered, briefly. Had they been kidnapped? Whatever it was, he didn't want to scare Andrej anymore than he already was. Shuffling carefully over to the pool again, he cupped his hand to get some water. It tasted flat and metallic, but seemed otherwise okay. Gathering more water in his cupped hands, he made his way back over to Andrej, and offered it to him.

Andrej nodded gratefully, and drank the offered water, before sitting back against the wall. "We're in trouble, aren't we?"

"Yeah, I think so. Just not sure what kind. Don't worry, I'll protect you - whatever happens." That elicited a small smile from the shaken boy.

Several minutes later, they heard some muffled sounds from outside the hatch. It sounded like someone was approaching. Tainui got to his feet, and walked a couple of steps toward the hatch. Staring through, he could see a dark shape moving towards him. It was only when the shape got close that he could see what it was. He stepped backwards with a cry of horror.

It was one of the monsters, about three metres tall and looking like something out of a bad science-fiction movie. Tainui quickly positioned himself in front of Andrej. The hatch rumbled open, and the creature stepped into the room, staring at them for several, long seconds. Snorting, it then backed out, closing the hatch behind it.

"Holy shit!" Tainui realized he'd been holding his breath, and let it out with a rush. This was getting more frightening by the minute, but he was realized that this was no stalker, or run-of-the-mill kidnapping attempt. Something genuinely scary was going on. Demon? Alien? It looked for all the world like some sort of mutant, upright, raptor-like dinosaur. With four muscular looking arms - one pair in front of the other, slightly larger pair, set in very broad shoulders. Each arm ended in stubby hands, with wickedly sharp looking talons on each finger.

It had four large, black eyes, two on each side of its vaguely equine looking head, protected by bony looking ridges. The elongated snout was rimmed with short, sharp teeth. Midway along the lower jaw, two curving tusks jutted outwards and upwards. Although dwarfed by the horns adorning the top of its head, the tusks were the size of a kitchen-knife, and obviously just as lethal. Tainui was reminded of some of the tribal carvings of Taniwha, the guardian/demon spirits on the meeting houses, from his home back in New Zealand.

If someone mashed the head of a dinosaur, horse, and demon together, it would probably look something like that, he thought in shock. Whatever the creature was, it was obviously made for fighting. A tail, descending down its back, and between its thick-set legs, looked like it was used to partially counter-balance the heavy, muscular upper body. The fine, light-grey colored scales were what one would expect on some sort of giant lizard.

The creature hadn't been completely naked, however. It wore a kind of black, skin-tight outfit, similar to what an Olympic wrestler would wear; if an Olympic wrestler had four arms, a tail and came from someone's fevered imagination, that is. Completing the ensemble were various utility belts, military style.

It wasn't long before the creature came back again, standing in the hatchway and appearing to study them intently. Tainui and Andrej backed into the corner of the room, as far away as they could get. Given that this thing outweighed him by several orders of magnitude, Tainui was sure it could rip him to shreds without thinking twice. But, he wasn't about to let it get at Andrej without a fight. Crouching in a defensive posture, he waited for it to attack, but all it did was stand by the hatch staring at them.

After a couple of minutes, it moved across the room and hunkered down on its haunches, using its tail for additional support. Still looking at them, it blinked its eyes occasionally, but did nothing further. Perhaps it wasn't hungry? 'Yet.' Tainui thought, relaxing - just a fraction - and waiting for the next move.

After several more minutes of tense waiting, it pulled something from one of the belt-pouches it wore, and held it in their direction. Tainui tensed again. What was it up to? Abruptly, it started rumbling and hissing in a very deep and gutteral tone, with occasional snaps of its jaw, and shakes of its head.

It stopped speaking, and the device in its hand chirped into life, speaking in a clipped monotone. "You human. We Vanguard. Travel base, return. Request confirmation. You threat, not threat. Understand you, interrogative."

Tainui blinked, looking quickly at Andrej, before fixing his eyes on the creature again. Andrej put his hand on Tainui's shoulder and whispered, "I think it wants to know if we're dangerous."

The device was obviously quite sensitive, as it made a chiming noise shortly after Andrej had finished speaking. The creature looked down at the device, then back at them, cocking its head. Rumbling and hissing again, it spoke for a few seconds and stopped. The small device, obviously some sort of electronic translator, spoke again. "Request confirmation. Understand you, interrogative!" Looking back at them, the creature appeared to be waiting for a response.

Andrej spoke up again, this time to the creature directly. "We're not a threat! Please, we're not the ones you should be talking to. You should talk to the government, or something. We're just normal people. We don't know anything useful!"

The translation device chimed again, and the creature studied it for a few moments, obviously reading something off a small screen built into it. Sounding like a steam locomotive setting off, the creature huffed for a few seconds and fell silent, staring at them.

Not sure what else to do, Tainui moved back and sat down beside Andrej, with his back to the wall. The translator didn't say anything, so he wondered if perhaps the noise was indicative of something else.

With one of it's arms, it slowly patted itself on the opposite shoulder, and grunted something gutteral. It then pointed first at Tainui, then Andrej, before bringing its arm back.

The boys looked at each other blankly for a moment, before turning back to the creature. "Is it trying to tell us its name?" Tainui asked Andrej, quietly.

The creature grunted as it tapped its shoulder again, then snapping its jaws. "Yes," the translator device simply said. Closing its eyes for several long moments, it then reached up with its two fore arms, and ran its talons along the length of the tusks jutting out of its jaw.

"Uh, teeth? Fangs?"

"Tusks?" Andrej added, leaning forward slightly and reaching for one of Tainui's hands. The Maori gripped his hand and squeezed it gently, making Andrej relax, just a little.

The creature consulted with the translator briefly, before looking back at them and snapping its jaw shut, with a crack. "Agreed. Tusks," the small device stated.

"Tainui," Tainui said, repeating the creatures movements of tapping his shoulder and stating his name. They had dialogue! "Me Tarzan, you Jane," he whispered quietly to Andrej, who cracked a brief smile. The creature made a gutteral croaking noise, paused, then repeated it a few times, before the boys realized it was trying to say their names.

"I don't think it can speak any human language very well," Andrej whispered into Tainui's ear. He smiled and nodded at the creature. "Yes, very good," he spoke loudly and slowly to the creature.

Abruptly, it stood up, and in one fluid movement had made its way over to the hatch. He opened it and disappeared down the corridor before Tainui could give so much as a nervous twitch. Damn the thing was bloody quick! The hatch slid closed behind the creature as soon as it exited the room, before either of the boys had thought to try and make an escape.

"Maybe it's gone to get an anal-probe," Andrej joked weakly, quickly dropping his smile at the serious look on Tainui's face. Staggering to his feet, he made his way over to the pool in the corner of the room, gingerly lowering himself to his knees by the edge.

Despite his dark foreboding about their immediate future, Tainui couldn't help but admire the youthful body on display in front of him. The muscles moved lithely beneath the boy's pale skin. And that ass, that deliciously hot, tight ass... He was a little shocked to discover that he was getting quite turned on. His cock rapidly sprang to attention in the confines of his pants. His body obviously didn't have the same concerns that he did - and perhaps his body was right.

Although things were grim, Tainui suspected they were not in any immediate danger. With this thought in mind, he shucked out of his pants, and made his way over to where Andrej was crouching, wrapping his arms around the boys chest from behind.

"I was thinking of having a quick dip. To clear my head. The water feels..." a pause. "Hard?" Andrej turned his head, and looked at Tainui's face, noticing the twinkling eyes and flushed cheeks - not to mention the rigid and throbbing cock rubbing against his butt-cheeks. A weak protest died on his lips, as his new lover lowered him into the pool, then slipped in beside him, pulling him around so they faced each other. Andrej held onto Tainui's shoulders and wrapped his legs around the Maori's waist.

"Not sure this is the time or place..." Andrej started to say, before being interrupted by Tainui's tongue being thrust into his mouth. Moaning, Andrej started pulling against the Maori's waist with his legs, forcing the hard, uncut cock between his ass cheeks. The cock insistantly nudged at his twitching hole, which slowly yielded to the pressure. This time, he barely winced as the head of Tainui's cock breached him, inching its way into his tight, clutching passage.

"You OK?"

"Just shut up, and fuck me already," Andrej hissed through clenched teeth. Tainui obliged, flexing his thighs as the boy skewered himself on the engorged cock. Riding the waves of pleasure coursing through his ass, Andrej writhed around, sending waves splashing around the pool. Pounding away, the huge cock rubbed against the boy's prostate, making his hole contract harder around the uncut weapon reaming his bowels.

Without missing a beat, Tainui spun around and pushed Andrej against the side of the pool. Taking the hint, Andrej turned and draped himself over the edge of the pool, so that Tainui could fuck him doggy-style.

Andrej groaned breathlessly, as the relentless thrusting assault on his ass continued at an increasing pace. Tainui, eyes closed and sweating profusely, slammed deep into the boy, throwing water everywhere. Pulling all the way out, he then slammed back in, repeatedly knocking the wind out of Andrej.

Tainui roared out, "Gonna bury this deep inside you, ungh!" smashing his cock to the hilt inside Andrej's tight, wet hole, and crushing his balls and pubic hair against the boy's butt-cheeks. He released burst after burst of hot cum inside him. Panting, Tainui pulled him upright, and held the dripping wet youth tightly against his chest, his cock still firmly lodged inside the Andrej's throbbing hole.

"God, you're unreal, so hot and tight!" he muttered, chewing gently on one of Andrej's earlobes, as he held the boy close. Eventually his cock softened and slipped out. They had been able to distract themselves from the danger they were in, even if only for a few minutes.

Andrej turned to face his lover and grabbed his face in both hands, giving him a sloppy tongue kiss, before pushing him into the water with a laugh. He climbed out and sat on the edge, legs danging in the water, and started stroking himself off.

Not wanting to waste an opportunity, Tanui waded over and lowered himself until he was on the same level as the cock in front of him. "Let a real man take care of that for you," he whispered huskily. Licking from the boy's tightly drawn up balls, to the tip, he then wrapped his lips around the head and went for broke. When Andrej closed his eyes and laid back, moaning, he knew the hot load he was craving so much was not far away.

While not as big as Tainui, Andrej was more than a mouthful, so when the boy grabbed his head and pushed him down as he exploded, he found himself struggling to cope with the deluge. Half of it dripping out his mouth, and down his chin. Licking it off Andrej's balls and thighs afterwards, wasn't such a bad chore, as he soon discovered.

After mucking around in the pool for a few minutes, they both clambered out and made their way back to the discarded blanket. Andrej lay against Tainui's chest, and rested his head on the Maori's shoulder. He looked around the room again. "Damn, I'm getting hungry. I hope those monsters are going to feed us soon."

"Feed us? Mate, after that little performance, I hope they're going to pay us!" Tainui chuckled appreciatively.

"We make a good team, don't we?"

"Sure do, bro. We sure do."

"Your translators need a bit of work, they are not very good." Tusker entered the bridge, lumbering over to where Crater was working at one of the consoles. He handed the little device to the engineer, who grunted and took it without bothering to give it much attention.

"That is version 1.0," he said, tossing it back to the warrior. Opening one of the many pockets in his skinsuit, Crater pulled out another small datapad, and handed it to the warrior while continuing to tap away at the console. "Try that. I have upgraded the language databases, since we have had the opportunity to study the natives for longer. Hrrr... Now get out and leave me alone, I am busy."

Nodding his thanks, Tusker turned to leave, but was stopped by Predator. "We are two hours away from the sling-shot manuver around the human's planet. They have most likely discovered us by now. If they are going to try anything, that is when it will occur. You will need to be ready." Tusker nodded while Predator continued, "I will not let this vessel be captured, no matter what the cost. If by some chance this happens, I want the captives, and any evidence of their presence here, eliminated. Completely. Understood?"

"Understood."

Predator returned his attention to his datapad, waiting until Tusker had left the bridge. When the young warrior had gone, he turned to Slash. He had watched the argument that Two-Talon had with the young warrior on one of the security screens earlier. Predator was not a happy pack leader. "Watch him closely."

Slash snapped his jaws in aquiescence, and left the bridge.

Heading back down the corridor to the storage area, Tusker was disturbed. Eliminated completely? What was going to happen to the aliens when they no longer served any useful purpose? Was Two-Talon right? 'Hrrr! They are aliens. What do I care,' he thought to himself, as he went striding down the corridor. The uncomfortable idea occurred to him that, if he didn't care, then why was he even having this conversation with himself?

He shook his head as he lumbered along, but a nagging thought was gnawing at the back of his mind, and had been for some time. This wasn't the first time that he and Two-Talon had argued about fundamental differences in the way they looked at the world.

'Arrrgh! That Ancestor-damned medic has infected me with his crazy ideals! I am a warrior. I have fought hard to get where I am now, and should not be second guessing myself. I follow my pack leader; others follow me. It is the way of things; it has always been this way for good reason. Perhaps I should end things with that crazy medic. Hell, we are on rocky terms now, what would it matter? And how dare he argue with our pack leader! I should march right in there and execute him for sedition!'

Changing direction, and increasing his pace, Tusker ground his teeth together in irritation. As he neared the med bay, memories from the past flashed through his mind. That first time, when they had gone Rank-Beast hunting as teens in the mist-shouded forests of home... In the end, it was he who had ended up being hunted that day; the sex had been hard, fast, and intense. No quarter given, or asked for. Going as Two-Talon's partner to the medical clan graduation. The envious looks from some of the other graduates, and their partners, gave as the two of them walked together into the hall. Two-Talon had been so proud of him.

"No more!" he roared out aloud in frustration, smashing his fists against a bulkhead, his extended talons sending sparks spraying across the metal. 'Get a grip Tusker, you're an elite warrior. Act like one! Do it now; end it! One way or another, you need to end it!' his thoughts screamed at him.

Unbidden, memories of the time he had taken Two-Talon to his brood clan gathering flashed through his mind. The validation he had felt, when the clan elders had smiled their approval. While their bonding would never provide offspring, it still brought great honor to his clan. Half blind from tears of anger and confusion, Tusker thundered past the med bay door toward the storage area, conflicting feelings tearing him apart.

Tainui and Andrej broke their embrace as the alien came storming through the hatch, not bothering to close it behind him. Sharing an apprehensive look, they could see the creature was clearly quite agitated. Hissing and rumbling away at a new device it clutched in one of its hands, it hunkered down again, a lot closer to them this time around. Wide-eyed with fear, they both tried to shrink futher back into the corner.

"Do you love?" the device asked in a clipped monotone.

Confused, Tainui turned to Andrej, who just stared at the creature with wide eyes. Reaching for Andrej's hand, he squeezed it tightly and turned back to face the creature. "Love? Geeze, we've only been together one night -"

The creature spoke again, interrupting him. "Why love hurt."

This current line of questioning was nothing like the earlier interrogation. "It shouldn't hurt, bro. Not when you willingly give a piece of your soul to the one that you love," Tainui said, in a subdued voice.

Andrej gave him a brief questioning look, quickly returning his gaze to the creature. He came to the sudden realization that there was more to the attractive young Maori than met the eye. He had several questions that he wanted to ask Tainui about his past - if they got out of this mess alive.

The creature glanced at the readout on the translation, before looking back up at them. The only movement being the occasional blinking of its eyes, as it studied them silently. Finally, it snapped its jaws shut, puffing and hissing for a few moments before the translator responded. "Love or honor."

"Love!" the boys both responded in unison.

It seemed to accept this response without needing to refer to the translator. Standing up again, and moving towards the door, it hesitated briefly, turning around and looking back at them. It grunted and moaned in a gutteral voice, and the translator spoke one last time. "Events swiftly move. You prepare." With that enigmatic comment, it left, closing the hatch behind it.

Shortly after it left, another shadow fell across the hatch. The boys saw it briefly pause as it lumbered past. This one was slightly bigger, and the sillohette clearly showed what looked like heavy-duty weapons in two of its talons. A muffled growl was heard, before the shadow departed.

"What was that about?" Andrej asked in an uneasy voice.

Tainui shook his head; he had no idea.

Slash came striding onto the bridge, and saw that Fleet-Of-Foot was already there. The warrior was standing beside Predator, who was looking decidedly furious. Holstering his assault-rifles he approached the others and cast a quick glance around the rest of the bridge. Stares-Into-Space and Crater were busy at their various consoles, keeping their heads low, and avoiding eye contact.

"You are going to confirm my suspicions, correct?"

Slash snapped his jaw shut in affirmation, and briefly met Fleet-Of-Foot's gaze; they both knew what was coming.

"Detain the medic. If he resists, then take him down. While I believe Tusker has been corrupted, the young one is probably not completely beyond re-education. Disarm him, and confine him to quarters." So it came down to this... "Go now."

Two-Talon was just wading out of his cleaning pool, when Tusker came loping through the med bay hatch with both of his assault rifles drawn. He stopped when he saw the medic. "Get dressed quickly, we have little time. Gather some basic supplies and equipment, and get to the cargo shuttle. The two humans will be there shortly. I will not be far behind. Hurry."

Startled, but doing as he was instructed, Two-Talon slipped into a skinsuit. He then grabbed a backpack and stuffed it with equipment and clothing. Casting an occasional nervous glance at the agitated young warrior, he finished packing and made for the hatch. Stopping beside it, he turned to face Tusker. "What is happening?"

"We are in trouble. Serious trouble. Ancestors damn you, what have you done to me, bond-mate?" Tusker reached out a hand, and tenderly stroked the medic's face with an outstretched talon. "I have turned against my pack leader - become a traitor to our entire race... Ancestors forgive me," he whispered, tears starting to well in his eyes.

Tusker dropped his hand and looked nervously back down the corridor leading to the med bay. "Hurry! Get to the cargo shuttle and wait for me. Now go!" When Two-talon hesitated, Tusker swore, and pushed the medic through the hatch. "If you love me, just go!" he roared.

Once the medic had gone, Tusker took off towards the converted storage area at a fast sprint, not looking back. When he reached the room holding the humans, he opened the hatch and spoke rapidly into his translator. "Leave this place. Down corridor, opposite direction. Right turn at finish. Follow corridor other. Find blast door. Inside you go. Wait for this one. Move now. Move with speed. No questions." He stepped aside, gesturing at the hesitant humans to move.

Once they were both in the corridor, Tusker pushed both of them in the right direction, then waited for them to reach the end of the corridor. He was under no illusions that his actions had gone unnoticed, and needed to ensure they faced no further interference.

As he reached the junction, Tusker skidded to a halt when he saw Fleet-Of-Foot approaching from the direction of the bridge, bearing twin assault rifles in two of his talons.

"Tusker, this has gone far enough. You are not thinking this through. We need to end this now. Lower your weapons and accompany me."

"I do not understand. Everything is as it should be. You lower your weapons! I am now thinking clearly for the first time." He started slowly backing towards the hatch, keeping his weapons aimed at Fleet-Of-Foot.

"Do not make this any harder than it has to be, young one! Lower your weapons and stand down. I do not wish this to end badly."

Firing wildly for cover, Tusker ducked into an open hatchway, and into another storage area full of supply crates. Fleet-Of-Foot fired back, narrowly missing the young warrior. A stream of projectiles ricocheted off the hatch frame in a shower of sparks. Tusker looked around quickly, then carefully squeezed off a shot, taking out the lighting and plunging the room into darkness. Vanguard eyesight wasn't too disadvantaged by darkness, but it threw Fleet-Of-Foot's aim off just enough to save him as several volley's of slugs tore into nearby crates.

Grunting with the effort, Tusker managed to shove the crates aside just enough to allow room to squeeze into the passage. He ducked and another volley of shots narrowly missed him.

"Ancestors damn you," Fleet-Of-Foot muttered. "He is heading for the shuttle bay," he informed Slash via his datapad communicator.

"Acknowledged. The diseased little vermin is mine."

When he arrived at the shuttle bay, Slash smiled grimly in satisfaction. He was the first to arrive. One of the nearby bulkheads provided a good spot for cover, so he went over and hunkered down behind it, out of sight.

From his vantage point, he watched as the trouble-making medic turned up, followed by the two small aliens shortly after. Slash watched the three of them eyeing each other warily, while they waited for something to happen.

Although he admitted it to nobody else, Slash knew he had a mean-streak running through him. It had been many months since he last saw action, and he was just itching for a fight. He decided to wait until the traitorous little warrior turned up, and to kill him first. The aliens would be next - he figured he'd kill them using his bare talons. 'The warrior not yet beyond redemption? Hrrr! Beyond saving, more like!' he thought to himself.

When he killed the upstart medic's bond-mate in front of him, he would enjoy watching Two-Talon suffer.

Slash had never liked colonials. The fact that the buck-toothed warrior spawnling had been chosen for this mission, ahead of many other, more highly decorated, warriors, just didn't sit right either. He decided not to kill Two-Talon; that traitor would face justice for his treason back home. A very public execution would send a strong message to any other young idealists thinking to question the status quo.

He watched as the young warrior emerged from the normally disused maintenance accessway, and embraced his bond-mate. Slash blinked with satisfaction, as Tusker closed the hatch leading to the outside corridor, and then blow the lock. The little bastard was smart, blocking Fleet-Of-Foot from being able to interfere.

'Wise move, young one. Not that it will save you,' Slash thought, watching as Tusker opened the cargo shuttle airlock, and made to disconnect the docking clamps. 'That will do.' Stepping out from behind the bulkhead, he raised his assault rifles, took aim... And fired.

Unsure of exactly what was going on, Tainui had pulled Andrej to his feet, wrapped the blanket around the boy, and followed the terse instructions the creature had given them. Once he got to a large, armored hatch, he looked around for a control. "This might be it?" Andrej pointed to a square backlit panel beside it.

Tainui shrugged. "Worth a go," he said and pushed at the panel.

There was a loud grating noise, as the hatch slowly rose up into a recess in the ceiling. They nervously entered the dimly lit, cavernous space that was revealed, and looked around. In the dimness, they could make out a large boxy shape, which on closer inspection looked to be some sort of space-ship, surrounded by various bulky machinery.

"Now what?" Tainui asked.

"We wait, I guess. Man, I've got to get me some pants," Andrej replied, tightening the tattered blanket self-conciously around himself. Looking around, he spotted movement, and saw another one of the hulking creatures loom towards them out of the shadows. "Oh shit, there's another one!" he whispered, backing away from approaching creature.

Tainui spun around, and saw the creature come to a stop, a couple of metres to one side of the shuttle. It remained motionless, staring at them in the dim light.

"It's not the same one, is it?" Andrej asked quietly.

Tainui shook his head. "Don't think so, bro. This one's dressed in blue, not black. And look at its hands!"

The creature they had been dealing with earlier had four, roughly equally sized talons, on each of its hands. This one had two longer and thinner talons on each hand. The other digits looking more like normal fingers. The protruding teeth on the front of its snout were also considerably smaller; not that either of them found it any less intimidating than the other one they had talked with earlier.

A loud shrieking noise, of metal grating on metal, made all three of them turn and look toward the far wall, where a panel had opened. One of the large assault rifles was thrust through the opening first, clattering loudly to the deck. It was quickly followed by another rifle, and then another one of the creatures awkwardly clambered out of the opening, landing on its feet. It picked up the weapons and looked around. Once it spotted them, it lumbered over. Hissing and grunting at the other one, the boys got the distinct impression it was either happy or relieved.

The creatures embraced each other, once they got close enough. One of the things was bad enough - having two of them together was almost too much for Andrej to handle. Tainui stood resolutely beside him, warily watching the two creatures' happy reunion. "Not sure if I should be turned on, or disgusted," he muttered quietly, recognising the second one as their 'jail cell' visitor.

The two parted, with the one they recognised lumbering over to the large blast hatch and activating the touch pad switch. With a grinding noise, the hatch came down out of the recess, and closed with a reassuringly solid thump. Pointing his weapon at the switch, the creature shot it, sending gouts of smoke and flame flying out of the wreckage.

'That's not gonna be opening again in a hurry,' Andrej thought to himself, worried. There was something strange going on, that he couldn't put his finger on. Not that getting abducted by reptilian demons was a normal, everyday occurance for him, of course.

Their visitor-in-black went over to the shuttle and opened the airlock, gesturing at them to get inside, before turning to the controls for the hydraulic cradle holding the shuttle firmly to the deck. After helping Andrej into the airlock, Tainui turned around to observe the other two. Suddenly he thought he heard something, coming from the far side of the launch bay, over near what looked like some blast shields. He dismissed the noise and was about to turn away, when he saw another one of the creatures coming out from the shadows.

It was raising both of its assault rifles and pointing them in their direction. "Hey, watch out there's another one!" he yelled reflexively, pointing at the newcomer as it aimed the weapons.

The creature in blue swung around and bellowed loudly. The one in black stepped away from the cradle controls, and surprisingly quickly for something so large, dived for its weapons, grabbing them and then launching quickly back onto its feet.

Things then started happening very quickly from Tainui's perspective. The first few shots from the newcomer had missed, sending plumes of dust and sparks flying up next to the creature in black as it grabbed for its own weapons. However, the next volley found its mark. Gouts of black blood came spraying from the creature's back, as the projectiles smashed through its chest. Staggering backwards, the creature let out a choked cry, and dropped to to its knees. The unfired weapons fell from its talons and clattered to the deck. It then slowly collapsed forward, unmoving.

As quickly as it started, it was over. Tainui watched in shock, as the one in blue ran over to its fallen comrade, not making a sound as it turned the body gently onto its back and then bent over it. A loud, almost satisfied, rumbling noise came from the newcomer, as it calmly lumbered over to them. It pointed one weapon at Tainui's face, the other toward the kneeling creature. It starting hissing and grunting at the creature in blue, but looked up as Andrej poked his head out of the hatch.

"What's going on? I thought I heard gunfire..." Andrej's voice trailed off, as he registered what was going on. "Oh shit."

Slash stopped beside Tusker's fallen body. "You know, that is some good shooting, if I do say so myself. Do you not agree? However, it looks like he is beyond even your ability to heal, you traitorous filth. As for your little pets here..." He aimed one of the rifles at the human standing by the shuttle, and smirked as the other human appeared at the hatch entrance. "I will do them quickly. They wont suffer. You, however, will. I am going to enjoy watching you die - slowly - when we get back."

Two-Talon slowly got to his feet, not looking up from the body of his fallen bond-mate. He was aware that the older warrior hadn't let down his guard at all. One of the assault rifles was still aimed squarely at his head. Even if the warrior didn't have the rifle, Two-Talon realized he would be no match for the warrior in unarmed combat. So he knew he had to be quick - he had one chance, and one chance only.

"There are winds of change blowing..." Two-Talon said in a very quiet, sad voice.

Although Slash was alert, he didn't see the medic tense his talons slightly - long, razor-sharp talons, used for making precise incisions. He did, however, notice that Two-Talon's shoulders had slumped slightly, and assumed it was a sign of defeat. Raising his head slightly, he was about to make another gloating remark, when there was a blur of motion in front of him. Suddenly he found he couldn't speak - all that came out was a horrid, gurgling noise.

Slash was also dimly aware that something dark, and sticky, with a disturbingly familiar smell, was cascading down his chest and arms, splashing wetly onto the deck. His vision started to fade, and he started panicking. 'This is not supposed to be happening! I am in charge here!' Collapsing to the ground, he struggled to look up at the medic standing above him, with stained and dripping talons.

"...And those winds are blowing your kind away."

Tainui and Andrej managed, with a lot of difficulty, to get the blood-soaked body of the creature in black into the shuttle. Meanwhile, the one in blue finished off releasing the docking-cradle, and powered up all the various systems. It hadn't said anything since ripping out the throat of the newcomer a few minutes earlier. Instead it just silently pointed at various things that needed to be moved, or turned on, which the boys did without speaking.

They carefully stayed as far away from those terrible, bloody talons as possible. Never before had either of them seen anything move as fast as the creature in blue. One moment the newcomer was standing there pointing weapons at them; the next it was lying on the ground in a spreading pool of thick, black blood. Its head was almost completely severed from its body.

Tainui had been raised on a farm, so he was used to animals being slaughtered. But Andrej was a different matter. He deliberately tried to keep the boy busy, so he wouldn't lapse into shock from the recent events. He was struggling not to completely freak out, himself.

A couple of minutes later, the shuttle had been launched, and they were slowly drifting further away from the larger ship in which they had been imprisoned. They were drifting back towards the familiar blue and white planet below them.

"See if you can find some clothes, or something, in those lockers behind you," he suggested to Andrej, in order to keep him busy and his mind occupied with other things.

Turning, he looked at the creature. It had finished setting the controls, and was now lying on the deck of the shuttle, head resting on the chest of its fallen comrade. When it started rumbling in a very deep, mournful tone, Tainui was alarmed to see thin, black trails making their way down the sides of its craggy face. It took him a few moments to realize that the alien wasn't injured - it was crying.

Andrej came back and sat beside him, quietly watching the large reptile sing to its dead mate. Despite everything that had happened, his heart went out to this creature; some things are universal, no matter which planet you call home.

EPILOGUE

Standing quietly on either side of Two-Talon, the humans watched as the smoke and flames of the pyre swept Tusker's ashes up into the frigid, starry night. Two-Talon silently wept tears of blood, as he contemplated the black emptyness echoing inside his heart. He wept for the bitter loss of innocence and for the part of himself that had also died in the brief battle.

Although Tusker's chapter of the story had come to an end, the story itself was far from over: Another couple of shooting stars sailed past overhead - last of the wreckage of the Victorious-Hunting disappearing from existance, if not from his memory.

Predator had completely misjudged the humans. As the Victorious-Hunting had reached perigee, there were several hunter-killer missiles waiting for it. Built originally to destory satellites, they were more than capable of taking out something a little larger. Although built by a civilisation far ahead in technological ability, the old vessel's structure was never designed to cope with that sort of abuse. The shields had catastrophically failed in the attack, along with several of the singularity generators.

This left the weakened ship to the mercy of gravitational stresses it was not designed for. With no engines, no power, and no shields, the old vessel quickly started to break up as it plowed into the ever increasing density of Earth's atmosphere. Unknown by the crew, the elders had issued orders, before the expedition departed, that the escape pods were to be disabled. There were no survivors.

Two-Talon had no doubt that his old colony would send follow-up missions. But for now at least, humans would be able to prepare. They would be in charge of their own destiny.

There was a tale told. An old tale, of a Vanguard colony settled by disillusioned young outcasts. It was a colony where reason, and not tradition, prevailed. The journey would take several years in the small shuttle he now possessed, but it was a dream worth following, and his race were long-lived. More would eventually follow and be free... Times were changing.

Two-Talon felt he owed it to his bond-mate. Tusker had instinctively sacrificed himself to protect the one he loved. Word would spread; Tusker's tale would be told, and would be honored.

All around them, The Cold Wind continued to blow...

The end

 

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