Chapter 23 - Seven

2.7K 415 36

Small ports in the room began to hiss.  In the nitrogen rich environment, sounds were deep and thundered through his skull.  He sat on the small bench protruding from the wall and stared at his captors.  As the hissing went on, sound began to revert to a more normal state.  The room had a controllable environment.  A thin, barely identifiable red tint from the door told the story of similar technologies.  A hydrogen barrier.

The Duke was, by no means, a linguist, but he was able to quickly identify individuals.  Their social interaction was similar to what he was accustomed to.  Unlike Arians though, there was no groveling, no way to identify authority, except by body language.  He watched the Terris closely.  The feel of that word rolled across his tongue and he felt his mouth reacting without thought, attempting to mime the muscle movements required to say it.  Whether Terris was a name or a title, he didn't yet know, but it was evident that the Terris was in control of his captivity.

For their part, they didn't seem interested in harming him.  While his journey from the massive hangar was quick and punctuated with jarring redirection from the John, there was a gentleness in his handling.  In fairness, human musculature was heavier and denser by an order of magnitude.  A casual twist of the wrist might well snap his arm in two and the humans were not oblivious to the fact.

Human.  That is what the Terris said as he gestured to the people surrounding him.  When he pointed at the Duke, the Arian offered no response.  He would communicate as little as possible until he knew their intentions.

Arian protocol demanded he be announced to a person of equal social status.  As far as he could tell, the Terris was the most likely candidate.  The taller human dressed in ash gray seemed to defer to his judgement, his expression one of interest and subordinance.  But the giant deferred to no one.

The man was a beast even by human standards.  His black uniform was snug against his skin, but each movement marked noticeable muscle groups as they activated.  Having seen the level of raw physical power the John could bring to bear had been magnificent.  Horrifying, but absolutely stunning in both unchecked devastation and martial discipline. 

He wanted to explain that the death of his friend would not have gone unpunished.  In Arian society, firing a round through the back of a challenging opponent was considered an act of base cowardice.  Had the guard been given a trial, execution would have certainly been warranted.  The John acted as both judge and executioner.  Of course, he then proceeded to execute his entire security detail for no reason.  Their fear of the human was understandable.  The Duke was incapable of that emotion, but did not belittle his entourage for it.  They were not royalty, after all.

The hissing noise subsided.  With a sigh, he reached up and removed the modified breathing apparatus the John had placed on his face before the insane blowout manuever off of the command carrier.  The air tasted metallic, but was breathable.

He set the mask beside him and drew his knees up.  While the bench was cushioned, it was not of a height conducive to Arian comfort.  Rather than contort himself to keep his feet on the ground, he simply shifted his feet to the bench and sat cross-legged.  

The taller human stepped through the door, his frame outlined in bright red as the hydrogen barrier allowed him to pass through.  That was an advance in capability, as the hydrogen barriers used by Arians were impenetrable. The man wore no breathing gear.  The majority of the group from the carrier had jumped out into space without protection from either solar radiation or the freezing vacuum.  There was no genetic engineering that could make an organic life form immune to the elements or lack thereof.

The Duke watched him warily.

"Haden." It stated when it came to a stop a few feet away.  The gray uniform was without flaw.  There were no wrinkles, no threads exposed.  It was too perfect.  The creatures hair didn't move in the slight current of the air circulators.  The Duke stood slowly and held out a hand.  The creature did not move away.

DawnhammerRead this story for FREE!