Chapter 20 - Out smarted by a Terran...
The head of one of the strange aliens came into focus. Taylor looked passed it and saw three more beings straight in the line of fire.
"Doesn't get much better then that…" Taylor quickly licked his lips and lined his cross-hairs up on the being's neck. He pulled the trigger and a silent blast rocked his body. Almost instantly his eyes were back at the scope and he saw five crumpled bodies on the ground. "Where the hell did the other one come from?"
He took no more time to question his luck as he lined up his next victims. >I>"God…the stupid things haven't even scattered yet…" He could see heads turning, looking around wildly in hopes of spotting what was attacking them. Taylor caught sight of one of the creatures turning his gaze on his little boulder and quickly switched his aim to that one. The look on the alien's face was one of great excitement, showing he'd found their prey, and then his neck exploded in a brilliant off-green sort of color. His body flopped lifelessly to the dirty ground. Finally, they seemed to realize that they made easier targets if they stood still and they all burst into motion, running for cover.
Many of them ran for the trees on each side of the clearing, a vast distance away and Taylor easily sniped seven more of the creatures before they had even made it halfway across. He set his sights on the other side of the field and took down nine more, leaving a total of twelve men and one Sankt left to hunt him. He was lucky enough not to be spotted by now. He widened the view from his scope to take in anything thinking it was safe to move from cover and nearly missed the head of an alien peeking from around the corner of Sankt's ship. With a grim smile, Taylor pulled the trigger and watched the creature's head disappear in an explosion of smoke and goo.
"Hey Clep, think I'm pushing my luck?" He whispered softly as he pushed against his jaw.
"No Taylor sir. They show no movement in your direction."
"Eleven baddies left…and Sankt." An arm waving grabbed his attention and he quickly set about shooting off the offending appendage. The gun jerked against his shoulder, the one quickly becoming sore because of the power of the weapon, and he could clearly hear the shriek of the alien that Taylor recognized as the one from The Gheldeth. He felt more then a little satisfaction from that. Too late he realized what he did.
"Taylor sir…I believe they know your position."
Taylor was on his feet in an instant, "No shit!" He turned and ran for the cover of the woods, a laser bolt ripping by his vulnerable body.
By using the waving arm of the Gheldeth alien they'd been able to trace the trajectory of the shot fired, effectively discovering Taylor's hiding spot.
Taylor ducked his head to the side on instinct and a deluge of blaster shots were flung right beside him. The shots stopped just as suddenly as they began when Taylor had torn through enough foliage and buried himself deeply enough in shadow. The heavy rifle-blaster was weighting him down and he had to make a quick decision whether or not to keep it. It was an expensive weapon. But it could mean his life or death if he held on to it.
"I'm losing time just standing here." Taylor sucked air through his teeth, shifting once from foot to foot before he finally just dropped the rifle, but not before removing the even more pricey scope. He ran while he tucked the tiny tube-like projection in his weapon's belt.
Taylor pulled in a deep breath. "Is it me, or am I just doing a whole hell of a lot of running today?"
Sankt drew himself up taller, into a more formidable looking leader, glaring down at his decimated crew.
"He is a BOY… and to that, a HUMAN boy. He hid himself from our sensors and effectively destroyed nearly three-quarters you! Then, you tell me he has run into the woods and hidden himself from you! You should be lucky to get even half of the pay you were to expect. I do not know why I even bothered with you." He flung his hand at the laser-burned gathering of aliens, glaring at one in particular.
"And you… what have you to say for yourself? A creature of your intelligence, from such a high race of species…being outsmarted by a TERRAN creature. Surely this will not look good on your records."
Thattle waved his injured arm at Sankt, "What business is it of yours to concern yourself with my records?" He hissed, his other arms trembling in anger at his sides.
Sankt pretended to look surprised, "It becomes my concern when I am the one who is to be demoting you for such a pathetic attempt at capturing your prey. Twice."
Thattle's pale yellow skin mottled to a dark red and orange, "That is hardly needed in a situation such as this! I am this close to…"
"No more excuses!" He glared at the many-limbed being that stood little more than half his size and promptly gestured to two of his personal guards, "Escort Thattle to his interrogation room. He is not to leave until we arrive with our quarry."
"Yes sir." The two replied in unison.
Thattle's skin turned a greenish-gray as he was being forced down the hallway, his anger more then apparent on his face than his skin tones.
Sankt growled at the nearest servant, "Gather my weapons, we do this now and we do it correctly." He pointed to a squat beast sitting at computer controls, "And you… send out something to keep track of him. Taylor is not to escape again."
Taylor's breath came in short labored bursts. He could hear the small drones being launched throughout the wooded space around the area. The little nasties could deliver horrible does of sedative or poison through their shooting darts. Some carried cameras, others flammable materials and liquids, or blasters, laser-knives, explosive projectiles, thermal devices. The one thing they all had in common to Taylor Hanson: They were nothing but trouble.
Even over the distance he had already covered he could hear a few of them tearing through the underbrush, or flying through the air, hissing their desire to find him. This would never do! He felt like kicking himself for having left his rifle-blaster behind. A long-range weapon with that much power could really give him the advantage he needed over Sankt's mechanical hoodlums. "No time to waste thoughts on would have-could-have-should-have." Taylor thought.
All too soon he heard the quiet whirring of well oiled gears buzzing overhead, diving through the bushes, searching out their prey with the most evil of intentions.
The terrain up ahead turned choppy as the trees thinned out into brush and grassland, rocky terrain being hidden by the matted vegetation. Taylor's feet dug into the ground, digging up dirt, throwing dead leaves into the air as he came to a sudden and abrupt halt. His breathing turned rapid, his panting filled his own ears, making him afraid that he might be giving away his position to the drones overhead, angeling in for an attack.
A black drone dropped out of the sky to hover only feet from where he stood. Taylor spun back around on his heel, kicking up dirt as he tried to retrace his steps, desperate to get away. A sharp rock seemed to materialize right in the boy's path, causing him to trip. His footing lost, Taylor landed heavily on his stomach just as purple tipped dart shot past his head, burying itself deep in the forest bottom. Before another shot could be fired off, Taylor rolled to his side, yanking a blaster from his shirt and blasting the droid before it could cause anymore damage.
"Sir, we lost a drone."
Sankt's fists curled and he had to fight back the urge to secrete any poison, "How many are left?"
Sankt slammed his hands onto his arm rest, "Where is my last blast-launcher? The sooner I can get out there the sooner I will be rid of you idiots."
A small alien came waddling in the room, its fragile looking form bent over heavily from the weight of what he carried.
"Good, I am leaving now. You guard this ship with your life or it will mean your life."
Sankt strode away, causing the remaining aliens to scramble and cower to the sides of the walkway.
"We end this now."
Gasping breath. That was all Taylor could hear. Sweat rolled from his cheeks, his hair stuck to the sides of his face, and the makeshift bandage over his eye was starting to slip, obliterating his vision. But if he moved now, he was annelda meat, and the droid would spot him and waste no time in ending his life.
He finally realized that his breathing was only making it harder to hear his target. He forced himself to hold his breath, although he felt sure that his lungs were going to explode. He felt somewhat safer with his back pressed against a tree trunk but at any moment the droid could shoot out from nowhere and Taylor would be royally screwed.
There... a quiet tink of metal against a tree, to the left… and again, to the right this time. Taylor had a split second to react and did so accordingly. He felt his legs tighten as he launched himself across the short distance between one tree and another, blasting one of the two remaining drones into melted plastic and burnt metal. Taylor landed heavily on his side, tucking his arms around his head to soften his landing. When he hit, he kept rolling until his body was safely housed behind yet another tree trunk.
That was when the wildlife noises ceased to exist. Then footsteps. Nothing of the human type or even the stupid creatures he had so easily sniped out. Something large, something that sounded heavily weighted down. Taylor looked down and checked that all of his weapons were still in place and, finding them so, set about to check what the disturbance was. He felt that he already knew. Then the voice stopped him.
"Boy, I know you are aware that I'm here. Save yourself some trouble and come out into the open, settle this as it should have been settled from the beginning."
Taylor shook his head firmly. If Sankt had thermals on him he knew where he was already and would see the answer to his order. And if he didn't… oh well.
Taylor then heard the sound of the footfalls starting once again, heading towards him, but a little off to the right. This would be the slightest bit of an advantage for Taylor and any little bit helped. Taylor knew that he was about to fight an enemy he knew next to nothing about. Sure, he was the biggest name in smuggling, one the bad asses that you did not want to mess with… but what of his fighting style? Did he play dirty? Did he use booby traps? Was he fair and just? Taylor couldn't be sure.
Meanwhile, Sankt had furthered the distance between him and his prey, doing this knowingly, wanting to be out in the open lest Taylor find a way to sneak up on him behind the dense trees. Being a particularly large Draedean had its pluses for the most part but when situations came upon him, like this one, he wished he were more lithe and less in size.
"Why not come out so I can see you young Taylor? Do you know that you will be destroyed on sight? Or that I will take great pleasure in doing so? Or are you hiding to regain your strength?"
Taylor licked his lips. Head games. That's all they were. Head games.
Sankt shifted his gaze back to where he knew Taylor to be, but didn't let himself look directly at the boy. His ploy may not work if he didn't play it out the right way. He turned his eyes back to the small clearing and saw a blasted drone, the red one, and knew this is the first one Taylor had taken out. He toed it.
"I see my drones are no match for you. And neither are my mercenaries. But really, why test your skills on something so cold and lifeless? Or stupid? Why not brag to your brothers on Denabux that you killed Sankt, a Draedean, a bounty hunter at that. Or are you afraid to come out and face me?"
Taylor rolled his eyes. That only worked in movie-chips and this most definitely wasn't one of those. He took a deep breath and peeked out over the edge of the tree and saw Sankt standing on the far side of the vast clearing he had so narrowly avoided. Had he known where he was all along? Taylor grit his teeth and slid up to his feet, keeping his eyes on the monstrous alien. It was now or never…
"I'll be shot if I come out won't I?" He patted himself on the back for not letting his voice shake.
Sankt's reply sounded amused, "Taylor, do you not know that a Draedean has honor? That it is one of the things we feel is the most important and impressive of our species? Come out and let's end this."
Taylor took a deep breath, kicking himself for being so ready to trust Sankt, but he moved out in the open as slowly as he dared, ignoring the surge of fear striking through him. Sankt did nothing but widen his stance.
The trembling human squared his shoulders and lifted his head, determined that he was going to go out with a dignified fight, if nothing else. He now stood at the edge of the field, his hands at the weapons on his belt.
Sankt cocked his head to the side, sizing up the appearance of his bedraggled target. He was not impressed with how he looked but he was almost in awe of all that this human had survived and he was still holding his own, not wanting to give up, "You are stronger then you look youngling."
Taylor regarded him with wariness, "So I've told you…"
Taylor didn't know what happened next. The last thing he saw was Sankt's arm twitch and then he was flat on his back, hearing the sizzle of his protective gear. He jumped to his feet and ducked another laser bolt and then one more, firing off one of his own. They both came to a halt; Taylor in a low crouch and Sankt turned so his side was facing Taylor, making his body a smaller target. Sankt shrugged a shoulder, rolling it a bit, and Taylor smiled grimly, knowing he'd managed to hit his adversary between armor platings.
"Three shots at me Sankt and you hit me once… one shot from me and I nail you. I'd say you're getting slow in your old age." "Smart Taylor, get an ego and get your ass blasted off…"
As Taylor expected Sankt reacted, roaring and firing off a slew of laser bolts, all nearly taking his head or other various body parts off. He threw himself to the dirt in order to avoid a shot that would have surely killed him, tronflex or otherwise.
Taylor rolled, feeling the dirt fly up scant inches from his leg, yanking his dagger out of it's sheathe, and sending it sailing through the air. Sankt's barrage of fire stopped a moment after that.
Taylor jumped to his feet, shaking like a leaf, and drawing in deep breaths. He was amazed he wasn't missing anything on his body yet. He bit back a yelp at the look on the other's face.
Sankt slowly withdrew the serrated knife from his lower thigh, snarling the whole way through. He ground his teeth plates together in anger. He eyed Taylor.
"So fearful of me that you must wear full body armor youngling? While I bear it only on my upper-body? You call that fair?"
Taylor fought the urge to laugh in outrage, "You have like, a million guys coming after me and shit left and right. Still feel like talking about fair?"
Sankt's face turned grim, "Alright. Then let us both remove our armor and deal with this like men."
"Do you think I'm insane?"
Sankt barked out a sharp burst of laughter, "You have gotten this far on your insanity… it is the only way for you to have a real chance at overcoming me."
Taylor mentally chewed his lip, considering his options, knowing they were few. He figured he was dead if he continued doing this, dead if he turned tail and ran, and dead if he took his armor off, dead if he didn't take it off. Taylor's nostrils flared and he nodded once, motioning for Sankt to take his off as well.
Sankt's grim look turned a little devious as he slipped his shielding off. Taylor only removed his shirt, leaving his skin bare but keeping his pants on out of modesty or so he told himself.
Taylor took three quick strides and faked a high kick, watching Sankt lift his arms to guard his face, and he dropped down, swinging his leg around. Taylor's well-aimed kick knocked Sankt's balance off but it didn't knock him down. He reacted with an open handed slap across Taylor's face, flinging him to the ground. Taylor shot up and stumbled backward, making sure to avoid Sankt's powerful blows. He wiped away blood on the back of his hand, licking his lips as his nose bled down his face.
Taylor sprinted straight at Sankt, kicking out against Sankt's thick middle, hearing a hard sounding grunt pass through his enemy's thick lips.
Taylor was about to pull back and strike again while Sankt was stunned but he was suddenly looking into Sankt's angry eyes; eyes that were three feet higher off of the ground then his were. Taylor face had begun to itch and now he felt it in his arms. Taylor squirmed uncomfortably, trying to get Sankt's grip to slip, but the thick poison reacted differently to his flesh then it had to his tronflex pants. It was quickly being absorbed into Taylor's skin and Sankt's grip wasn't faltering. Taylor began kicking wildly, catching Sankt with every blow, but doing nothing serious enough for him to get away. Finally, with a war-like cry, he flipped his left leg up and kicked hard and hit Sankt right in the middle of his face. He dropped Taylor onto his back.
Taylor landed heavily, his air blowing out of his lungs in a painful gasp. He forced himself to get back to his feet. He had to defend himself. Once he was fully up, he began itching insistently on his aggravated arms, scratching deep welts into his skin. Sankt's growling and guttural curses reached Taylor just in time, snapping him out of his momentary lapse. He ducked a punch and spun around, catching Sankt's left shoulder. This did little more then anger the beast.
"BOY! You are far too much trouble then you are worth!" His giant hand caught Taylor in the back, palm up, and sent him flying.
Taylor cried out sharply, his back screaming in agony. He rolled to his stomach and teetered, his balance testing him. The poison was starting to take effect.
With a sneer at Sankt, he muttered, "Is it me, or am I the only one doing the falling around here?"
Sankt was taken aback at the suddenness of Taylor's humor and his anger abated ever so slightly. This feeling passed when Taylor threw a perfectly aimed rock straight at his neck. He ducked back to the side but the jagged little rock still glanced off his neck, cutting a nice sized gash open.
Sankt's mighty yell cut out the sound of him drawing a laser-knife and charging forward. Taylor blanched and prepared to maneuver around the clumsy looking alien. The knife slashed at his face, arms, chest, neck… whatever Sankt could reach. Duck, duck, block, swing a fist, kick out. Taylor did whatever it took to save himself from the nasty feeling of a laser burn. His knee had just finished recovering from its encounter in The Gheldeth.
Taylor wasn't able to look behind him and this tripped him up as his feet found a large piece of deadfall, halting his process. Sankt took advantage of the sudden stop and slashed out with his laser-knife, feeling a large amount of satisfaction as a long welt jumped up out of Taylor's skin. But it was the boy's scream that really made it seem worthwhile.
But Taylor didn't think it was all too fair for Sankt to give him something without giving it back as well. He tore his white long-knife from its place at his waist and felt it slice through a layer of Sankt's outer clothing and sink into somewhat soft flesh. He jumped back and felt his world tilt once more, with tiny spots dancing at the corners of his eyes. He shook his head and somehow got to his feet before Sankt reached him.
Sankt's breathing was ragged, his hand covering a shallow wound on his side, "Are you ready to give up yet, boy? We could go about this for hours."
Taylor pulled his lips back, his expression one of complete fury, "If you'd let me explain what happened this would be over just as soon."
Each species found themselves pulling together all of their energy, trying to keep themselves from giving in to the fatigue. Sankt was a heavily muscled creature but was by no means in his top form. The gravity of this planet wasn't what he had expected it to be. Taylor's lighter frame was having an easier time of it but he wasn't used to being dirtside, or on the ground rather, and remembering to watch his footing was beginning to get him into more and more trouble. Taylor's biggest challenge would be to get Sankt on his back, side, or stomach so he could be taken out without worry of further injury to Taylor himself.
Sankt gave an expression close to a smirk, "Had you not been aching for a female you would not be here in the first place. Had you not sold what I worked so many years to get, we would not be here. Had I not been an idiot and put my trust in a mere BOY we would not be here. But we are here Taylor and we must get this over with soon so one of us, most preferably me, can get on with our lives."
Taylor sniffed, wiping his forearm over his nose and he nodded to himself. There was no way to talk the damned thing down. He could turn and run or he could stay and fight. Which was more honorable?
Sankt took Taylor's nod as a signal to begin again. The boy's eyes seemed almost clouded over and when Sankt swung down with his laser-knife Taylor barely had time to move out of the way. Taylor felt the heat brush his arm, singing the arm-hair off, and leaving a telling hot feeling behind.
Taylor swung around, using the butt end of his knife, and cracked it against the back of Sankt's thick skull, amazed and thrilled as he watched the giant Draedean lose his footing and fall to his stomach. But his joy was short lived. Sankt swung his arm around at the last second and latched onto Taylor's ankle, pulling him down as well. Taylor wanted to panic when he felt more of Sankt's evil poison entering his bloodstream and kicked and squirmed and yelled in panic. Adrenaline gave him an extra surge that allowed his strength to explode. He pulled his leg back so hard he nearly flipped himself over backwards.
He was stumbling away now, his hands helping to keep him up. When he focused again on Sankt he was startled at what he saw. Sankt was on his feet, kind of wobbly, but now Taylor's vision positively swam. Taylor gasped in alarm, wondering how on earth he was going to fight when he could hardly stand. But he needn't worry. Sankt looked just as bad off as he was.
It was then that he seemed to really feel the wicked wound on his chest from the laser-knife. When he looked down he was both disgusted and concerned at the small clustering of blisters that lined the weal. Taylor jerked his head up and glared at Sankt, who was coming in and out of focus rapidly. Sankt was looking at him now, rather then chasing him, and Taylor wanted to ask what he was looking at. But that was absurd. Sankt was the enemy and he would hardly answer truthfully, he would take advantage of him instead. Taylor felt like he was missing something. There was something… off. It didn't feel right. It felt dangerous. But Sankt wasn't even moving. He had even put his laser-knife away and stood there, his arms at his sides, at the ready.
Taylor whimpered, dropping to his knees. He looked back over his shoulder and saw the last forgotten drone. Green. Green meant it carried tranqs and/or poison. Taylor's head suddenly turned heavy as he looked back to Sankt. His last vision was a Draedean with a smug smile on his face. And then the galaxy ceased to exist.
Zac sighed, looking over his shoulder at Isaac. It had been ages since Taylor had last gotten in contact with them. They had brought their personal com-screens with them to their Aunt and Uncle's house. Their family was safely hidden around the community; mom and the kids and dad. Isaac and he here at their relatives.
He rubbed at his eyes tiredly and punched at Isaac's shoulder, "Dude…come on. Aunt Linda wants us to help her with the droids and in her garden. Man, can you believe that? She grows stuff in the dirt still! That's insane…"
Isaac grinned, "Yeah…it's kinda cool though. You gotta rely on yourself instead of codes you put into a computer telling it how much fertilizer you need or what not. It's all up to you. I think it's kinda neat." He shrugged his shoulders.
Zac picked at his nail, fighting the urge to chew on it, "Ike? Think he'll call? I mean…he should be here soon."
Isaac looked around for the kids, too late realizing they were over with a friend of theirs for the duration of…whatever this was, "I dunno. I hope he does. I wanna know if he's alright or if Sankt took a piece of his ass or something."
"Think he'll show Tay that little kidnapping thing?"
Isaac shuddered, "Shit, man. I have no idea. I just hope he doesn't try to hurt him too bad or think he hurt us or anything."
Zac could feel Isaac's stress beginning to get the better of him and stood up, patting his brother's shoulders lovingly, "Come on stupid, we're actually allowed to get dirt on our hands without getting yelled at. Let's go take advantage of it."
Isaac snorted, "Right." He picked up the unfinished half of his sandwich and finished it on his way out the door.
Clepsydra's optical sensors had been trained on Taylor's position the entire time they were on the muggy little planet. She saw everything that had happened and recorded it all. But when the little drone puttered into view she hadn't been able to get through to her master to warn him. She was sure it was because of Sankt's poisonous touches. Taylor hadn't been able to access any of his implanted computers. She could only sit by and watch.
And now she was out to obey her orders and get to her Master's home planet to show those who cared how she thought he had died. While the evil men were busy with her Master's flax body, she cloaked herself and launched out of Loctoe's atmosphere and on towards Denabux, a three day journey she knew she had to complete. Her outer shields felt a half-hearted attempt at stopping her, but she threw herself back into warpdrive and was no longer a target.
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