The Captive

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'It won't be long now.'

The voice was factual. Cold. As if this situation was not the inevitable result of the torture they had submitted him to, since his capture.

'Can't we delay it? Extract more?'

'There's nothing we can do anymore. We pushed too far. He's dying.'

That made him feel surprisingly cheerful. The pain was no less excruciating. The strain on his body had not changed, but it was the happiest he had been in a long time. They had failed, and their punishment was coming.

He would gladly welcome death, as a friend whose arrival had been delayed too long. As the one last middle finger pointed to his captors who had not understood that his death would also be their demise.

They wouldn't know, of course. He had almost forgotten it himself during all these years in captivity. He was a young fool back then. He could have lived a long and fulfilling life, but instead he had embarked on this imprudent adventure. Now he was awaiting death, almost eagerly.

He had had so much hope for this journey, so long ago. Meeting them. Studying them. They were primitive, almost too stupid to understand his existence, but still worthy of his help. He would have been their saviour, their Messiah even. He would have taught them everything he knew, despite the reluctance of his peers who didn't share his enthusiasm for contacting this newfound life form. It was a commendable mission.

He had underestimated them. Their level of technology, of course. Who knew they could take him down so easily? Their viciousness too. Their lack of morals. How remorseless they had been to imprison and experiment on him.

That was going to be their downfall. He could hear his breathing shallow and felt almost ecstatic at the thought of his near passing. They had no idea that he would have the last laugh. All these years, they had probed him, tricked him, interrogated him, but he had never revealed the ultimate truth.

Yes, they knew how to operate his transport. A six-class engine that had already been outdated when he had purchased it from its space-racing owner. They also knew a lot about his biology and the point of his blue tentacles, the features that distinguished him the most in their eyes. They had even discovered, humiliatingly, how his reproductive organs functioned. However, they could not imagine what would happen to him once his circulatory system failed, and when the reactants cooled by his blood would overheat.

Every intelligent form in the galaxy knew to clear away from his species when they came close to death. It was taught in school in a hundred planetoids, and regularly shown in over-light speed video transmission as a warning. It was the reason why they hadn't been attacked or at war with anyone for the past three centuries. Nobody was stupid enough to try to kill one of them.

Nobody, except those who called themselves "humans".

As his first heart failed, he remembered the words of his teachers:

'Our people take their last voyage when they know it's time. They sail across the stars to our ancestral cemetery, and explode in total isolation. It's their way of protecting the new generation.'

The humans would not let him get away, of course, and it was too late. They would not have time to send him far enough. They were all on borrowed time. Just a few minutes left until the reaction started.

As his body silently shut down, he thought one last time about the beautiful landscapes he had glimpsed at before crashing on their planet. How he wished things had gone differently! How he wished he could have visited their fertile land and met more understanding representatives. Now it was too late. Now everything would be destroyed with him.

The humans would be wiped off this quadrant of the universe and he, at last, would be free.

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