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Chapter 7














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Red alarm lights flash at every junction throughout the network of ancient corridors, fuelling an uneasy tension in the occupants of the facility. The marines and security personnel conduct themselves with concerted, steady actions as the base is placed on high-alert. Asao relays orders to them from his office with Haruki and Adam watching the monitor screens.

The room darkens as blast-proof shutters judder down the outside to seal off the exposed windows. They listen to the words of the commanding officer coming through the intercom:

"The outer-defences have been triggered sir, I have posted troops at stand-by points and we are preparing to advance on the landing field."

"Very good Sergeant," Asao replies. "External communications appear to be down at this time, await my command."

He switches his attention to the laboratory. "Dr Foster!"

The doctor answers on his terminal, "Yes Mr Yutani, the young lady is here sir, do you want her detained?"

"No doctor, prepare yourself, we're leaving - and don't forget to bring your specimen!"

Dr Foster's face drops in response, clearly unaware that anyone knew of his secretive exploits.

Asao nods to the screen, "I see everything doctor, don't worry about Miss Richards she can't get far, I have surveillance cameras in every room!"

Two security guards reach the top of the office stairs and wait for orders with rifles ready. Adam is eager for either Asao or Haruki to explain their situation.

"So what set off the alarms?" he asks.

Asao continues to work the operations panel as he replies. "I can't tell for sure at the moment, but we have lost communication with our satellite control centre. They monitor our position and would be the first to warn us of an approaching threat."

"Could it be Annalise's people trying to rescue her?"

"Very doubtful, they wouldn't risk being exposed, this may just be a false alarm."

"Has that happened before?"

"No."

Down in the hangar bay a force of heavily armoured marines stand by the giant outer-door. The cameras outside show the usual view of parked vehicles and an afternoon haze. The scopes on the mounted gun turrets detect no targets. The Sergeant faces the control panel and relays his findings to the screen.

"Seems that cloud coverage may have caused a temperature flux setting off one of the new density sensors. Should we proceed?"

"Yes Sergeant," comes the voice of Asao. "But first send two Corporals to the laboratories to retain Miss Richards."

The commanding officer points at Mayweather and Martinez to carry out the order. They march back to the inner walkway. The hangar door heaves into motion, steadily sliding away to expose them to the stormy air. Walking in a combat formation, the marines confidently step out -their long automatic rifles held firmly in-front. They slowly spread out at the edge of the opening, using silent hand-signals before creeping either way along the smooth, flat wall.

Asao's group monitor the progress shown across multiple system screens.

The forward patrol work forward to begin fanning out across the open landing field, their backs guarded by the men posted inside the hangar.

As the land darkens with dense clouds, the leading male marine rubs his eyes, standing only a few metres from the hangar door the way ahead appears blurry.

"CLUNK". The tip of his gun stops dead before him and won't move forward. His comrades stand still, watching as he reaches an open hand to feel for an apparent obstruction. As his hand presses against a smooth, invisible surface their mystified looks are oblivious to three targeting lasers strafing across the chest panel of a distracted team-mate.

In the briefest moment all question of the situation is shattered as a flaring bolt of energy streams down from the sky, burning through the chest of the unsuspecting marine and smouldering into the concrete floor behind.

No amount of practise could prepare them to react fast enough as the slaughter begins. Appearing in the air above them, a roaring warrior leaps down hard with his spear and blades aimed for carnage.

Bullets fire forth as the soldiers are overcome with desperate fear. Some of the shots hit across the hull of the invisible Predator shuttle as the rest of its crew de-cloak at advantageous positions. Helpless voices scream out in pain while others call orders to fall back, the two experienced Predator warriors watch their three eager hunters battling competently. But as slicing nets and blades rule, a weapon in the jungle hill uses its vantage point to aim on these trespassers.

Deep inside the base two marines race into the labs ready to take their prisoner by force, they startle the panicked scientists who are shutting the area down. They find Dr Foster beside the large water tank.

"Where is the intruder?" They ask before the sight of the Queen Alien takes and holds their attention.

The doctor snaps his fingers at them. "You're here for Miss Richards? She was through there, that way in the artifact room." He points the way, but in a moment of silence he listens to the air. "Is that gunfire?"

In his office, Asao activates the perimeter cannon sentries to react with free-force. Headhunter leads the way into the hangar but Topknot remains perched atop the cloaked shuttle meditating his concentration to foresee any threat.

A screeching volley of accurate shots hammer forth from the distant overgrown forest canopy. The projectiles hit with precision, flashing along the roof of the ship and disabling its cloak for a few moments, the wary warrior leaps high to avoid them. Before he lands on the boundary wall his shoulder-cannon has already discharged at pin-point aim, destroying the facility weapon in one perfect hit.

As his ambitious enterprise falters with every passing second, Asao is still holding on to a lost hope. He grasps his desk tightly, viewing the massacre as Haruki pulls at him to leave. The remaining marine units pull back inside the base, trying their best to hold out against the oncoming beasts.

Mayweather and Martinez storm into the artifact room, but there is no sign of Annalise. They stand disturbed, questioning the collection of otherworldly weaponry before them, quickly realising that their employer is clearly not just another corporate billionaire with money to waste.

"What's going on Chrissy?" Mayweather asks his companion.

"We're way out of our depth, that's what," she answers. "Come on!"

They leave to run back to their team-mates -following the sound of war.

Adam stands at the top of the stairs calling for this stubborn, new business partners to leave while they can. The screens show every angle of chaotic assault from the extraterrestrial force, proving that even the most secure human installations are no match.

A fleeting image shows Annalise running down a passageway and another sees her trying to access the habitat door-terminal. In the face of defeat, Asao enjoys one last thought.

"You won't escape that way my dear." He smiles to himself with sick satisfaction and reaches to clutch his cane from the table-top. The window shutters behind him screech apart causing him to fall to the floor, the stick dropping beside him and shattering its black, pearly head.

Haruki and Adam struggle to get him to his feet as the sharpest edged blades on the planet rip through the armoured panelling with unflinching determination. A dull light flickers into the room before Topknot blocks the opening and tears his way inside.

The two guards step across the stairway to block it as the three business partners are guided down the steps. As they run, bullets blaze behind them while more guards attempt to secure the main corridor, they aim their weapons back towards the military training wing to protect the only escape route -the lift.

As Headhunter battles through the marines, giving his fellow clan members the easiest targets, Mayweather and Martinez reach the first secure door back to the hangar. They have every intention of helping their fellow marines, but the terrible sounds coming from the way ahead leave them with only one option, to save themselves. Beside them is the passage leading left to the habitat, this route appears to be their only chance for survival as exploding blasts impact on the door, caving the thick metal panelling out towards them.

"This way Marco," Martinez runs to access the habitat door panel. "Otherwise we're dead for sure!"

Asao, Haruki and Adam stand in the centre of the combat chamber, watching as their protecting guards line the corridor entrance. Two more guards slowly creep their way back up the staircase, hopeful that the intruder has been dropped in combat with their colleagues. Inside the office, the wall displays flicker and flash with bullet hits. Topknot stands uninjured with his victims slumped lifeless at his feet. He practises an essential Predator trait -patience, letting his enemies come to him.

With the dull light feeding across the top steps, the tow men creep higher, guns ready, fingers poised on the triggers. Like a sweeping shadow the figure steps into view, standing wide with open palms.

"Take you're best shot!" the creature growls, mimicking the human words of a long distant victim.

The men blast away, bullets grazing flesh and chiming across his shining armour. Taking their onslaught with undeterred defiance, Topknot removes his cutting disc from his thigh and swings it to fly forth to do his bidding. The weapon sweeps in a tight arch right-to-left, slicing straight through one guard's belly -splitting his body in two as his shots fire upwards with the pain. Coming back round, the buzz-saw-frizbee swipes deep into the second guard's side and amputating his firing left arm at the elbow before returning back to the hunter's claws.

"You lose!" mutters the guttural voice.

The shots echo for a moment before a trembling sound beats in their place. Headhunter rages down the main corridor, flanked by his three apprentices he leads them into the path of the remaining forces.

Adam and Haruki are at the lift waiting to enter as the guards aim panicked fire at their multiple targets. But Asao is still standing in the centre circle, watching the Predators' approach with a deep admiration for the fearless galactic warriors as the hopeless rounds pound over their steely frames.

The lift opens as Haruki realises he is not with them.

"What are you doing?" shouts Adam.

"Father, come on." Haruki calls as he moves to run to get him.

The last of the men are met with an inevitable demise, the hunters' blades driving deep and tossing them aside. Asao moves to get his son back to the lift, he pushes Haruki inside as a twin plasma-blast hits the glass above, showering them with scattering pieces -a warning shot!

Adam and Haruki are crouched to shield themselves and don't see Asao activate the compartment to rise before stepping out of the closing doorway. They stand to see him walking out to brave the mammoth warriors, Haruki claws at the buttons before tugging to force the door.

"What are you doing?" he yells through the glass as he thumps the pane.

Below, Headhunter stands opposite, his comrades staying behind him by the fallen bodies at the mouth of the passageway. His right gauntlet smokes silently from the powerful blast, he watches from his one-eyed visor as the Asao stays behind to help the two men escape unharmed. The lift rises slowly with them watching helplessly inside, Asao locks eyes with his foe as he walks to the nearest suit of Japanese armour.

He takes the ancient relic from its display stand, raising the red chest and helmet pieces over his head to lower them into place. Taking the samurai sword with a calm breath he looks up to his son.

"You are my future Haruki, make me proud!" He takes a fighting stance. The younger Predators stand like statues as Headhunter reaches his left arm over his shoulder to take the long sword from its sheath on his back.

"CRACK!", the battle-proved blades meet hard with a spark as the combatants swing their first blows. The lift jars for a moment in the damaged shaft as the close dual strikes away. Even in this outmatched fight the men watch with a glimmer of hope for the man who is saving them. Headhunter moves hard and heavy against Asao's quick, well-judged technique.

The tired man has to hold firm with both hands to bear the brunt of the monster's power. The Predator's strength is far superior but his lumbering body leaves him open to a lucky hit. Asao's sword whips close, cutting deeply into the creature's left side and twisting tight between his ribs. The three men smile with satisfaction, but their celebration is short-lived. Headhunter growls loudly, raging with the stinging pain. As Asao pulls, struggling to release his weapon, the beast moves his right arm over to hold the blade where it is.

The champion holds his sword aloft, pointing it at the human onlookers. It whizzes with a hum through the arena, slicing Asao's head smoothly from his body. As the lift draws away, the defeated body drops limply to the cold, hard floor.The victorious warrior's roar resonates up around the walls and into the foyer above as Adam drags Haruki out.

Headhunter pulls the earthly weapon from his wounded torso and drops it carelessly, crouching to spike the head on his sword-end before spitefully firing another volley of blasts from his gauntlet towards the shaft opening in the ceiling. The shots blow through the lift floor as the men flee, the twisted cage dropping freely from its cables, plummeting with force to crash as smouldering pieces into its walled base.

The warrior's gauntlet blade has been heated by the discharging barrels, he presses it firmly against his bleeding wound to instantly cauterise the flesh. As the Predators return to the passage, he hurls an explosive device high onto the ceiling. In their wake, the great chamber rumbles with the concentrated detonation, blocks tumbling inwards as the space collapses, sending a rushing dust-cloud past the striding hunters.

On the surface, Adam and Haruki run from the ancient temple with the mountain-peak crumbling beneath them. They race across the bridge as it contorts, urging themselves to get across to the waiting helicopter. They leap into the cabin, capably controlling the craft to start up and churn skyward. Looking down at the darkened valley littered with bloody destruction, they spare little thought to the helpless staff they leave behind. In their wake, the air rumbles with thunder from the building storm.

The four Predators converge on the laboratories -the source of the Yautja metal reading. Topknot is already there, having slain the unarmed staff with his bare fists, judging it a fair fight. The artifact room confirms their suspicions of humankind's reverse engineering of their stolen technology.

The younger warriors are instructed to collect every item in order to return them to their shuttle. They place the helmets and armour over their existing suits, clipping spears and devices onto their belts and taking the rest in netted sacks. Their leaders roam the experiment rooms, further appalled by the sight of Predator body remains kept preserved in the specimen tanks, a freak-show belittling their far superior race in a dishonouring display.

Striding over the blood soaked floor, they follow their instincts and find the Alien Queen's battle-ravaged body, left on show for all to see, taken like an unearned trophy from her icy grave. Scanning the giant tank with thermal sighting, Topknot detects a hidden room set away behind it within the wall. He roams around the glass to face the secret doorway, the control panel is visible to him or he could simply knock his way through. He saves time and energy by scanning the compartment for signs of life inside.

Within the freezing room, huddled tightly in a corner, Dr Foster is huddled behind a cylinder. Trembling uncontrollably under a thin blanket, he grits his teeth tightly together and clenches his fists firmly to avoid making a sound. He rocks gently to distract from giving in to the hibernating environment, haunted by the screams of his staff being slaughtered only metres away.

Topknot's visual field detects no life inside, the trolleys, containers and cylinders are displayed as cold, dark blue outlines. The hunter turns away, reaching a hand to his belt to retrieve a pebble-shaped device. He meets back with his group, where the dead science staff are now hung upside-down, swinging by their feet from the ceiling grating.

Headhunter had tied off his battle wound and the freshly skinned skull of Asao is mounted onto his sword hilt. Topknot shows the device in his open palm and the tribe make their way back to the ship. The calm warrior sets the weapon's yield and tosses it behind him, it attaches to the wall with an activated "beep". Striding down the corridor away from their kills, the ruins tremble as the compact bomb erupts. The resulting event lasts only a few deafening moments, incinerating corpses, blowing containers and crushing machinery into the tough walls. The specially strengthened tank holding the Queen's remains bulges inwards and swells with boiling liquid as the pressure shatters the restraining glass. The doorways crash outwards with the fireball shrieking through the ancient corridors, baking them to glow with the heat.

The five Predators stand in the side channel as gushing soot breezes through the air. The atmosphere swirls with smokey dust, clearing gradually as a control panel's light shines on through the fog. The laden youth see their leaders standing facing a final unexplored addition to the temple -the entrance to the habitat chamber.

Through the strong, sealed doors, their visual scans explore the giant, jungle-filled space. An immense replicated environment of trees, rocks and wildlife awaits them, but best of all -two clear human signatures, both armed with a weapon. Without words, the brothers prepare themselves.

Topknot removes his helmet and cannon, taking Headhunter's sword and passing them to be returned to the shuttle. The habitat doors hiss apart with a thump. The exposed warriors cautiously walk in, eager to prolong their blood-lust rush for as long as they can. As the doors reseal, Topknot smashes his twin-blades through the internal control panel to prevent anyone from escaping. The chamber hums with power interruption causing the high illuminated ceiling to fade to a dull night-time glow. Headhunter uses his covered right wrist stump to remove his helmet and guide it over his left hand. He grasps it firmly from inside to use as a secondary weapon with its tusk-spike prongs. His forehead has three parallel scars cut deep down to his vacant right eye-socket, he has been near to death in the past but never truly defeated and always hungry for a kill.

Outside the three youth head to their craft, weighed down by the layers of heavy gear they carry, they pass back across the silenced hangar bay strewn with slain marines. The cloaking shield disengages as an entrance gantry drops wide like a reptile's jaw, falling to rest at the foot of the great floating behemoth. The lowered platform pounds with each heavy step as they walk inside, high above the storm clouds creep closer to the doomed base.

Beneath the ship, a gentle patter of droplets tap onto the concrete, splattering to form a shiny puddle of goo. The dark, open mouth of the craft's umbilical drips with a silky-smooth shine. A hidden stowaway has awoken.

CHAPTER 8
















STAIR-WELL ATTACK
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