On the surface of the jungle world, Forne tries very hard not to be captured by the Haul rescue team.




Hunting Game

The Haul was dead. Forne couldn't believe it. «Damn! After all I've been through!» For days, he hadn't been able to sleep properly. The strain of the last hours was too much for his nerves. «How can you stupid bastard die, now?» he screamed. His body was shaking uncontrollably. The chance that the Haul would come for a rescue capsule with a corpse felt agonizingly small.

Sobbing, he raised his fists in frustration and was about to take it out on the corpse when a sound caught his attention. The helmet forced his ears back on his head, so it was hard to locate the source of the forceful humming. At first, he thought that the death might have triggered some kind of self destruct but it came from outside. He looked down, expecting to see the capsule preparing for lift-off but it stood there as it has been all this time. The humming grew stronger. He looked up.

It was an alien ship. An organic, smooth shape like the head of a bird. Forne was shocked to see it hang effortlessly in the air, just supported by the sound. There were no exhausts, no plasma jets. The large, stylized Haul head on the side sent a chill down his spine. Fear broke the spell. 'Don't just stand there!' He ripped his eyes from the impossible sight and bolted for the safety of the deep jungle. 'When they catch me, they'll skin me alive!' His strong legs propelled him in mad dashes through the vegetation.

Forne had never liked hunting and now, he felt being the game. 'No Haul will hang my ears as trophies on his walls! I've been dodge ball champion of my college three times in a row, no one can catch me!' he thought to himself. The inertial mapper of his suit tracked his progress as he broke through unknown plants, bushes, undergrowth. The sealed suit shut out the suffocatingly damp hot jungle air. More than once, he barely could avoid the massive trunk of a tree which suddenly popped out in front of him. He tried to have his eyes everywhere. Especially the roots in this godforsaken place seemed to have been arranged by a vicious power just to make him stumble.

He checked his progress on the map by licking over the button that superimposing it on his visor. «Only half a klick?» It had felt like several already. He looked back. Even for his untrained eye, the trail he had left seemed awfully easy to follow. 'Must lose them.' He backtracked his own path of destruction and left it in a place with less vegetation, carefully avoiding leaving any tracks and broken twigs behind. In a good distance, he changed course again and jogged back to the landing site at a comfortable speed.

'They're still here.' He felt relief. This Haul ship was his only ticket home from this uninhabited world far away from any civilization. 'At least if I can sneak on board unnoticed. I just hope they don't routinely scan the foliage. Gotta take the risk.' Behind a tree, he popped a blue and a red pill from his personal drug box. In a few minutes, he would feel the effect.

After one last, deep breath, be pushed himself through the undergrowth where he activated the visual enhancers. 'Damn.' Two guards on this side of the Haul shuttle. His gaze fell on the front of the ship. There was a perfectly dark section which might be the cockpit. Even his enhanced visuals couldn't penetrate the black surface. Forne decided not to try his luck and crept back. Out of sight, he circled to the other side of the ship. 'Shit!' There were two more guards, as alert and ready as their twins. 'Come on! This is an uninhabited ... shit ... the ropes! They know I must be here! Now what, Mr. Lucky?' The drugs kicked in. His mind cleared and he felt as if he could take on the whole world. But even with his mind spinning like an idea machine, he couldn't figure out a way in without being noticed. He started toying with the idea to simply kill the guards and force the pilot to get him into orbit. 'Maybe I'll get my prisoner after all,' he grinned without mirth. 'Four guards here ... that can't be all of them.'

He changed position until he could see the rescue capsule again. 'Aha. Two guards and another one inside ... oops ... two inside.' He waged his chances. 'Four here and at least four back at the ship. If I attack the ship, the guys here will stab me in the back. I got to take them out, first.'. His paw found the holster. A grenade would have been most welcome but that hadn't been part of the armament. 'What's your weak spot? Throat? Visor?' He looked for heat signatures with the sensors of his suit, trying to find a place where the body heat showed through thin armor. Carefully avoiding to make too much noise, he flipped the safety.


The title is a play on words again: Game can be a game as in play or the victim of a hunt. It captures the different views of Forne and the Haul perfectly.


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