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Prologue - CapturedEdit
I step forward, watching with careful eyes. I find they're hideous, green, slippery scales, and large, beedy, unblinking eyes frightening. I don't know what to call them, other than Master. The look at me, waiting. One of them holds out his... hand... tentacule.... Whatever-it-is, waiting. His gash of a mouth opens, and I hear several pops and clicks.
I stand at it blankly. I know what they want, but I don't want to give it to them. My left arm, even if I don't write with it, is still very important to me, and I would miss it dearly. I hold my left arm with my right, and they all are looking at me. They know that I know. They know I understand.
The arm-taker swiftly grabs my wrist, and jerks me forward. I almost fall, almost. I try, in vain to pull away, but it's stronger than me, his species is strong than mine, and that's why we're all slaves. He bites my arm, around my shoulder, and pulls out a wickedly-shaped sickle.
I can't feel my left arm, most likely a side-effect of his biting my shoulder. He raise the sickle over his head, and I quickly look away. I think it was a clean cut, but I couldn't be sure, as I couldn't feel a thing, and I sure as heck wasn't going to look.
When it's done, it pushes me to one of it's comrades, who then puts my stump of an arm into a strange machine. I hear a sucking noise, and the feeling slowly returns to my arm, I guess it sucked out whatever toxin they put in me. I feel a quick sting, and then everything's normal.
I pull out my arm, but I don't want to look at it. I'm scared by what I might see. I watch them, scared. They watch me back. I'm the first to look away, and one of them ushers me into a dimly lit hallway. My guard stuffs me into a cramped room. The lighting is the same as it was in the hall.
I fell crushed, defeated. I'm now a slave to some strange alien race, one of the few living members of my species, and now I'm one-armed. It can only get better from here, right?
I look around. The walls are bare, a dingy, metallic gray color. They are sleek, well beyond anything my people could ever achieve. We had no chance, they would have won no matter what, they're so much more smarter and stronger that us.
I feel empty, hollow, defeated. I swallow my fear, and look at my left arm. It's cut off a little below my elbow, and where the rest of my arm used to be, there is a small, gray plate. I wonder what the plate is for, but I doubt I'd ever figure it out, and don't want to waste the time nor the energy.
So I lay down on the barren floor. It's slightly warm and I can feel it buzz beneath me. Now that I think about it, the room is rather hot, but I don't mind so much. The buzzing lures me into a deep sleep.
I'm not sure how long I've been asleep, but I'm awoken by a sequence of pops, clicks, and... gurgles? I'm not quite sure, but I am sure of who it is. It is the alien that cut off my arm.
I glared at him, and, if I'm not mistaken, his eyes shine with humor. I feel foolish. There isn't anything about me that's scary. I feel small with him in the room. The small slash that is his mouth opens, and I'm shocked by what happens next. "I'm here to take you to get ready;" It says.
"You... Can speak?" I ask him in disbelief. Great, just great. Not only are they so smart that they can conquer my people, but they can also speak out language, and we could never even hope to understand their's.
"Obviously." It grunts, "Now, come with, or do I have to numb you again?" It flashes it's teeth at me.
I shiver. It creeps me out. I look at him, and realize that resistance would be futile, so I walk quietly over to it. "Where is it that we're going?" I ask him.
It looks down at me, surprised that I didn't put up a fight, or so I'd guess. "We are going to get you ready." It says, as if that explains everything. It's gurgling accent making it's speech hard to understand, but I think I'll be able to manage.
"Ready for what?" I ask it.
"For our entertainment." It says simply. It looks at me as thought the answer to my question was obvious. "The last race of people that we enslaved died out not to long ago, and we've grown bored. And so we choose your people." I watch it closly.
"You'd enslave a whole planet-worth of people, just to amuse you?" I ask it. The concept baffles me, I could never imagine doing that to anyone.
It looks at me, "That is a stupid question, as you are a living answer." It doesn't seem to be mad, but I can't really be sure, I wouldn't know what mad looks like on it anyway.
We walk down the same hallway that I did yesterday, only we go in the opposite direction. We walk for a long time, or, I walk while he.... Slithers? I'm not quite sure, but, I guess it really doesn't matter. I look up at it, "Do you're people have genders?"
It looks down on me, "I suppose," It's eyes are dull with indifference, "But that's not how we define ourselves. We are a social-based race, not a gender-based one." It glances down at me, "I guess I'd be the equivalent of your word "male"."
I look at it- him. He looks back at me, amusement now in his eyes, "I rather like you." He gurgles, "I think I'll buy you, and you can be mine. I'll treat you well, if you entertain me." He pauses in thought, "You can choose, me, or one of my colleagues. But I warn you, they're not as... pleasant as I am."
"I choose you." I tell him, "And you're not so bad either." I can't believe I agreed to being bought, but better the devil you know that the one you don't, they always say.
"Setsuna," Galek'Nor, my master, calls me forward. He has aged so very much since we first met, since he cut off my arm, since he replaced it with my Cannon. He watches me as I walk towards him, "My own Master, the master of my people, has informed me that all Hunters, like yourself, are going to go through the Gauntlet."
I shutter. The Gauntlet is a horror most foul. It is what destroyed the last race of Hunters, and what made my master, his Master, and the others of their race, enslave my people and I. It is said to be the worst fate possible, and anyone who survives it is chosen by God.
My master continues, "I would deny him, but I cannot, lest I put you in jeopardy. I will help you through the Gauntlet as best I can, and I have a gift to help you through it, but it will be mostly all on you. I have grown to love you like a pet, which I suppose you are one-" At this I would take offense, were it not for the fact that I love my master as I would my father, "-If you win the Gauntlet, which I know you can, my Master can grant you any wish, even freedom."
"But Galek'Nor, my master," I plead, "Is there nothing you can do to keep me here? Lie to them, tell them I've taken ill... Or even that I've died! But please, don't send me to the Gauntlet. I don't care about freedom, I am as free as I care to be here, and I know I will live as long as possible if I stay here. Going to the Gauntlet is little more that a death sentence."
"I understand this, Setsuna, but there is nothing I can do to stop it. If you refuse, then they will kill you, but if you go, with my help, you can win." He looks at me, fear and sadness in his face. "I love you more that I would a pet, a love you like a daughter, and I will accept whatever answer you give, but if you must die, why die in vain? Why not at least try to survive?"
It kills me to see him so upset, "I'm not giving you my answer just yet, but how are you planning on helping me? You're so high in the social class, that you almost rival your own Master, but if they find out about our closeness, they'll kill us both. You helping to me will signal our bond."
"Not necessarily so," He starts, "Many of my kind have helped out their Hunters during a Gauntlet. They may not feel the same as I do for you, but they do still care for their slaves, in varying levels." He slowly stands. He uses his hand, tentacule, whatever it is, I'm still not sure after all these years, to help heave himself up. "Setsuna, come here and lend me an arm.
When he is stable, he leads the way to God-know's-where. I look around, this part of my master's palace is unfamiliar to me, as much of it is. There was never a need to explore it, as my duties lay elsewhere, not that Galek'Nor would have cared. We arrive at a tiny door inset into the wall. If someone were to walk past it, the door would surely go unnoticed.
My master opens the door, and slithers... walks... glides into the dark room. I follow him, not sure where it is and is not safe to step. "Sorry," Galek'Nor calls over his shoulder, "I don't need light to see like you do." He claps his... arms... tentacles.. whatever. Light floods the room, and my eyes take a while to adjust. This room is more well lit that the rest of my master's holdings. Galek'Nor leads me to a large set of cases, which are set up against the back wall. I can't see inside the cases very well, mainly because of the foggy glass that their made out of, but I can tell that several of the cases are empty.
"Setsuna," Galek'Nor begins, "These are special suits that I have developed." I watch him closely. My master is a genius, like most of his kind, and can build fantastical things. I have even helped him build some of them, not that I understood anything, but I'm not ready for what comes next. "And I have one just for you," He says, turning to the set of cases. He opens on the case towards the middle-left, and pulls out a light-blue and yellow suit, with a rather bulky red helmet attachment.
Galek'Nor hands me the suit, and I put it on. "What all can it do?" I ask my master, leaving the helmet off. I don't like it's size, but it's the biggest part of the suit, so I don't say anything. I'll just have to deal with it.
"It will provide you with energy, meaning you won't have to eat. It does so by converting sunlight into sugar and...." He stops when I give him a blank look. "Along with it's flexibility, it has claws set into the hand-" He pauses here. He doesn't like mentioning the fact that I have only one arm now, even though it is because of him, not that I blame him, "-which can be activated my flexing your palm. It has many other uses that I don't find the need to go into now."
"How long will I have?" I ask him. He doesn't look me in the eye, most likely thinking that my having to enter the Gauntlet is his fault.
"You have a month." He tells me simple, and exits the room. I follow him out, not pushing the matter. I have so many, so very many questions, but I don't want to upset Galek'Nor.
I sat on the edge of my bed. It was large, and very soft, something I would probably miss when I entered the Gauntlet. I looked around my room, trying to memorize it, trying to sear the memory into my brain, so I'd never forget it. I can't bare to think about leaving, and thinking about it only leads me to think of my death, which would surely follow my participating in the Gauntlet.
I lay back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. I can see the Suit hanging on a hook on the far wall in my peripheral vision, and it only makes me feel worse. I think of how easy I will be to kill, having never fought anyone in my life, I've never needed to.
I hear the dinner call, and get up. I have a month left to feel safe, have a full stomach, and to live. The thought weighs me down, and I drag my feet. I am the last one to arrive to dinner.
I sit down, to the right of my master, who sits at the head of the table. Only the higher-up servants sit in at the table, the rest eat in.. well, I don't know. I've never really given it much thought. I guess I have grown to be like my master, never thinking of the people below me. I feel ashamed, my people were never like this, never like my masters species.
I don't eat very much, for once in my life, not really hungry. I excuse myself early, to which my master strangly doesn't object. I think he feels bad for me, or I hope he does. I know he can't stop this, and I know he isn't making me go, and I still love him, but I can't help but feel like this is his fault.
I feel like a baby, when I return to my room, and fall asleep with tears running down my cheeks.
I'm awoken by a servant sent to me by my Master, one of the actual servents, he doesn't treat anyone like he does me. I should feel special. I am probably the most well-treated Hunter there has ever been, my Master has made me almost as free as I was before my Master's people enslaved us, and my Master has even made my chance of surviving the Gauntlet much larger than it would ever be, but I can't help but feel betrayed.
If they had never come to take us, none of this would have happened. I feel like my Master has caused all of this to happen to me. Of course I don't tell any of this to the servant. She is nothing like me, well, biologically I mean. She has a pale, blueish-green skin, lanky arms and legs, and wide forehead, and large almond-shaped eyes. She is the poster-child for an alien.
She tells me that Galek'Nor wishes to see me, but if I don't want to see him, he can wait. She goes on to say that Master would understand if I never wanted to talk to him again, which I don't, but that we would like to explain some things to me.
I tell her that I will visit him after I shower, and, if I can mange it, eat. I look at the clock that rests on my wall. It says that it is a little past morning, I've overslept.
She leaves, and I go to shower. The extra-hot water lightly burns my skin, just enough to remove a the dead layers, and possibly a few living layers, of skin. I wash my golden hair, and then my body. The lightly-boiling water has helped to get me fully awake.
When I am done with my shower, I go back into my room, and get my "servants" cloths on. They are of better quality that the richest person on my planet could afford, better that the other servants' cloths, though they look the same. I feel as if I've been living a facade for the past fifteen years.
I can't stand the thought of eating, so I leave. I go to meet my Master.
My Master sits in his chair, in the middle of his Meeting Parlor. He watches me as I enter, he knows that I am mad. I'm not sure if his species can read emotions, or if we are just that close. Whatever the reason may be, he has always been able to read me like an open book.
"You wanted to speak to me, Master?" I act formal, I know it is a way to hurt him. It's childish, I know, but I can't help myself. I doubt I could ever hurt him, like he has hurt me, but anything is better that nothing.
"Setsuna." He starts. I know he has planned this out, and it will take all of the morning for this conversation to take place. I sigh inwardly. I love my Master, even if I am mad at him at the moment, but I don't think I can handle seeing him this soon for that long of an amount of time. "You know I would do anything to stop you from participating in the Gauntlet, right?"
"Then why do you act this way? I may hold sway over a large section of my colleagues, but not enough to win a war. And a war is what will surely happen if I go against my Master, the Exalted Ramel'Tak, we will all die, every single one of us who oppose him." He sighs deeply. I know he has thought about this long and hard, and that, if there were even the slightest chance of him winning a war, that he would wage a war for me. I feel tears burn my eyes, though they do not fall. I am such a child. One moment I hate my Master, the next I feel guilty and selfish.
"I know." I say simply. "I don't mean to act this way, or maybe I do, I'm not quite sure, but I am sure that I cannot help the way I feel."
"And how do you feel, dear Setsuna?" Galek'Nor asks me, "How can I make you feel better? I have already given you the best thing I have, the suit, and even still I have many other plans to help to help you, plans that I don't wish to verbalize, in fear that my Master is spying on us."
"I feel hurt, scared, betrayed." Tears finally fall down my face. I am such a child, I tell myself, over and over. "To be honest, Master, I'm not sure if you, or anyone, could make me feel better."
"I see." My Master says simply.
The room is quite for sometime. I'm not sure what to say, nor if I trust myself to say anything at all. I feel that I could make matters worse if I run my mouth while I'm mad. The silence is eventually broken by my Master's holoscreen blipping, signaling that his own Master was calling him.
"You should go." Galek'Nor says to me, rather quickly, "Lunch should be ready soon.
I feel slightly brushed off, especially after the conversation that just took place between us. When I finally reply, "Okay," I walk out of the room. I'm not sure if I'm even hungry. I look back, not quite sure wether I should go. Master was acting weird when his holoscreen blipped. Maybe I should stay behind, I think.
I can hear voices on the other side of the door. They aren't speaking my natural language, but I've picked up their own language over the years, even if my vocal cords cannot replicate the sounds necessary to speak it, but can quickly translate it in my head. I lean my ear against the door and listen.
"My Lord, Ramel'Tak," I hear my Master say. Thoughts speed across my mind, some wondering if my Master has lied to me and really doesn't care weither I survive the Gauntlet or not, others wondering if Ramel'Tak has called to say the Gauntlet is off, "I was not expecting this call."
"I am aware." I hear Ramel'Tak's voice. He does not sound happy. "I need to speak to you. We all know how close you are to your slavewoman, Setsuna, and we, or, I should say other's of your class, as I have faith in you and your loyalities, are worried that you would cheat in the upcoming Gauntlet."
"I have guessed this, and I would never disobey you, Master." Even I can tell that Galek'Nor is lying, I hope his Master is not as perceptive as I am, "I have given Setsuna the Simbiote Suit, but even those lower of my class give their severents such luxuries."
"You do not need to defend yourself to me, dear Galek'Nor, I am just making sure you do not let your emotions get the better of you." Ramel'Tak's voice is icy, "If you do decide to go against me, you won't win. I will kill her in front of you, slowly, painfully, and make you relive the experience forever. I won't let you die, for death would be a quick escape." I heard the slight buzz of the Holoscreen go quite, signaling the end of Ramel'Tak's call.
More later tonight.
Epilogue - FreedEdit