Ni-essa is hunted and desperate to escape. (3rd Place)
|As Ni-essa settled into her seat, the hair on the back of her neck stood up. He was here – somewhere - watching her. Trembling, she angled a glance at the mirror on the front of the hover craft. No one looked out of place. In the back, sat a family of Cadminians. From a neighboring planet, their long shaggy hair and grunting gestures were common place.
In the middle of the shuttle, sat a dozen humanoid children. An hour ago, Ni-essa had sold them the tickets as she worked behind the counters of the Galactic Tour Company. One of the chaperons had told her they were middle school students from Earth touring the galaxy.
Now, jabbering in their clipped tongues, several pointed at the silver hand of Galen. A giant Ephesian, he had attacked Kaedin only to find himself surrounded by a battalion of soldiers, who had blasted him with their viston lasers. The silvery photons metallicized all matter, leaving only a brittle shell. The hand of the giant was the only thing left that did not shatter into a million pieces. The citizens preserved it to commemorate the great victory.
Ni-essa’s gaze swept passed the Earthlings, settling on an elderly couple in the seat behind her. Their horns, curving down to parallel their chins, identified them as Anteline People from the planet of Ansonia. Ni-essa dismissed them; she had talked to the couple at the station, and no Peruvian bounty hunter could fake that accent. He might be able to mimic their shape, but not the accent.
No, it had to be a single - someone not involved with anyone. The guide and pilot were unlikely; they would have already been in place and not even Ni-essa had known that she would take this shuttle. That decision had been made back at the station, when the bounty hunter had tried to snatch her. She had been returning from her break, when he had grabbed her wrist. Before he could secure her, she had spun and delivered a well-aimed kick, taking out his kneecap.
While he writhed in pain on the floor, Ni-essa had melted into the crowd. She had dashed into the locker rooms where weeks before she had stashed an emergency bag, containing money and a robe characteristic of the Sand People. Not only could she slip the tan garment over whatever she was wearing, but the facia would cover her long, ebony hair and face, revealing only her cat-like eyes.
After that, her plan was simple. Join a tour, slip away at one of the stops, catch another shuttle to a major galactic port and disappear again. Even the adrenaline pumping through her veins was expected. Inside her chest, her heart felt like a Tharzanian jack-rabbit. Ni-essa drew in a deep breath. She needed to stay calm. …to think.
Her eyes snapped back to the children. She had sold the Earthlings 11 youth tickets, not 12. She scanned each one. As a group, they all seemed to be in fluid motion, but there - at the back - sat a motionless boy. His dark eyes glittered with malice as they locked on hers. Ni-essa forgot to breathe out.
Whoosh! The jet expulsion rings discharged the air necessary to ease the hover craft down onto the landing pad. Before the shuttle could complete its docking sequence, Ni-essa bolted from her seat, slamming the emergency release button on the exit portals, triggering an alarm. As the doors sprung open, Ni-essa felt the sting of an electron web, immobilizing her. This time, the hunter was taking no chances with his prey.
For a moment, Ni-essa hung suspended before gravity took over. Then, she was falling, helpless to break her fall. The impact knocked the remaining breath from her body. She lay there, not moving, not breathing. In a fog, she could hear people screaming and the bounty hunter, who had morphed into his natural amphibious state, was flashing his badge.
“It’s okay, folks. You’re safe. I’m Tzunic a galactic bounty hunter. This is just a common criminal. My apologies.” Then, he was there, leaning over her. His tongue snuck out to sniff her skin and the film covering his bulging eyes blinked several times.
“Oh wait,” he whispered. “You’re no common criminal. Are you, your Highness?” As the film over his eyes descended again, Ni-essa felt darkness descend over her.
Someone was moaning, and Ni-essa wished they would stop. Every muscle in her body hurt.
“Wake up, my queen. It’s time you rejoined the living.” Ni-essa’s eyes sprang open at the sound of her husband’s voice. On the far wall, a plasma screen revealed her nightmare. To the public, he was every inch the king with his golden looks and charming personality.
“Oh, good. You’re awake. I’d hate for you to miss the show.” Another screen appeared, and Ni-essa gasped. Her brother sat tied to a chair. The Peruvian bounty hunter stood guard with a viston laser pointed at his heart.
“No! Don’t hurt him! Please!” Ni-essa scrambled to her knees. The bounty hunter looked directly at her, grinned, and fired. Her brother stiffened but made no sound as he metalicized - his face frozen in a mask of agony. The bounty hunter leaned over and blew, disintegrating the body into fine particles of dust.
“See, darling, what happens when you disobey me?”
Ni-essa whirled back to her husband, “You filthy Barzone! You will never control me. There’s nothing left for you to threaten!”
“Are you sure?” He sneered. “Because, while you were unconscious, I took the liberty of having your eggs harvested. Even as we speak, our little ones are incubating in the nursery. There should be enough to continue our bloodlines, while still being dispensable if necessary.” The screen faded along with any hope that Ni-essa had ever harbored.
Word Count = 974
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