Gate Jumpers Saga: Chapter Three

Taryn

Taryn had to physically unscrew the lock mechanism on the ship’s door to get it open. Not the easiest task in the world with Willovitch’s tools strewn all over the place, courtesy of Taryn’s botched landing. Apparently, the crash had done more than simply alert an alien planet that she had just flown in unannounced through their atmosphere – it’d also destroyed her ship.

“It’s fucking planet parked,” Taryn grumbled to herself, kicking a pipe out of her way. She had to pull herself up and out of the doorway, what with how the ship had landed, and she was reminded of building a bridge in gymnastics as she struggled with it.

What sounded like human fire alarms were going off all around her, though none of them sounded particularly close. She was just glad that she hadn’t crashed into any buildings (talk about a bad first impression). Instead, the ship had landed in a stretch of open land, no casualties to speak of. “A good landing is any landing you can walk away from,” she remembered from her pilot instructor, muttering to herself.

She checked the pods next. They were all safe and accounted for, appearing like part of the ship’s decoration due to how they were attached. She’d leave them for the moment, just in case the citizens of this planet were less than hospitable.

If it weren’t for those alarms though, Taryn might have had half a mind to think that the planet was uninhabited. It was a boring looking place, full of dirt and empty canyons. Even the spot she’d crashed into, a flat and level spot that would’ve been perfect for construction, wasn’t developed.

“Maybe they’re nature freaks…?” she wondered aloud, leaning up against her ship while she kept an eye out. “Hear that, Sherre?” The girl was a self-proclaimed vegan, all about her Earth’s environment. Taryn, being from Mars, had never put much stock in it. “I found your people,” she told the girl, knocking on her pod. And hell, even if they weren’t green beans, they’d still love Sherre – it was hard not to.

Taryn waited out there for a few minutes. She had half a mind to go back inside the ship when finally, she saw movement. A weird glint of green under the hot sun, and then it was gone. “Wha…?” Taryn uncrossed her arms, taking a step forward as she narrowed her eyes to try and get a better look.

That’s when she felt the cool metal of a gun on her neck and the click of the safety being turned off.

She immediately put her hands up, her eyes downcast as she’d been taught in training. She didn’t resist when they put her in chains, nor did she struggle when they cinched them up tight, tugging for good measure. When they were satisfied, the alien behind her pushed her down to her knees by the shoulder, and it was then that she saw just what she was dealing with.

The thing she’d seen – the alien – was walking in plain sight now, coming up the way straight towards her. It had green skin, reflecting the sun’s light like an old tin can, and bright yellow eyes that she knew were looking straight at her. Funny, then, that what unnerved her most about the alien was its nose – it didn’t have one. Its face was flat, with slits just above its pale mouth and holes for ears. It looked like a snake.

When it got close enough, it even started hissing. For a moment, Taryn thought it was doing it at her, but then the one standing behind her responded, and she realized it must be how they communicate. She wondered if they knew any other languages – like hers, for example.

After a moment the one behind Taryn grabbed her elbow and jerked her up, forcing her to her feet. It hissed in her ear, and shoved her forward. The other alien didn’t catch her, but merely made a face and started walking, leading the way. Oh, so they wanted her to stay in the middle. She wondered, idly, if they thought she looked as unnerving to them as they were to her. Maybe they didn’t want to touch her because of it, as if she had a whole new kind of cooties or something. No complaints there.

As they marched, Taryn kept her eyes wide and her ears open, searching the barren landscape for anything that could be useful. She didn’t expect them to march her up to a rusted box, type in a code that she could obviously see (and proceeded to memorize), and suddenly find herself standing before a giant metal wall that appeared out of nowhere. Other snake men were guarding it, the guns on their sides sleek but no doubt dangerous as they waved them through.

Just past the gate was a huge, circular building, and they led her right to it. The snake guy hissed at her, sending her stumbling as he pushed, and she rolled her eyes. Seriously, impatient much? She glanced at the other guy, the one who had put a gun to her back, and did a double-take. Unlike the snake man to her right, this guy had a giant nose – a snout, really, and hundreds of little teeth peeking out over the edge of his lips. He looked like the scariest form of crocodile she’d ever seen.

With a few more pushes and shoves (though not from croc-man, she wasn’t letting him near her) she found herself in front of a metallic door, one that required the same six digit pin to get in.

As they urged her through, more hissing erupted as a dozen or so snake and crocodile men surrounded her in the doorway. After a few hisses between them and her captors, they dragged her inside the room, the doors sliding closed behind her (and in front of the men who’d captured her, keeping them outside). She glanced at the snake men in the room, checking for weapons, but was surprised to see that not one of them had a gun. She’d have to keep an eye open for possible escape routes.

She went along with them as they crowded her into a chair, all the while poking and prodding her bare arms and face. She had half a mind to close her eyes and ignore them, but that could mean her death, and even she wasn’t that stupid.

A hiss, and one of them was reaching between the others, unzipping her suit as if it was the most normal thing in the world to undress a captive. Hell, maybe to them it was. Taryn tensed up, forcing herself to stay still as it gently tugged at her clothes and removed her captain’s shirt and pants. It left her tank top and undershorts untouched, which was probably the only reason why she didn’t flip shit on them, especially as they urged her to the bed in the corner.

It seemed normal enough, but the crappy white paper down the middle of the plastic mattress wasn’t fooling her. She was in some sort of hospital bay, and she was the patient – or, more likely, the test subject. Her chains clanked as she moved onto the bed.

As she lay down, one of them switched on a light. It blinded her, making their faces seem like shadows in the distance, so she considered it a win-win. It also just meant that she couldn’t see what the sudden electronic whirr was that filled the room. At least, not until it was touching her forehead.

Oh. They were giving her a brain scan.

It was really similar to the scans on Mars, actually, and she allowed them to ghost it over her crown, confident in the knowledge that it was simply checking for injuries and abnormalities. At least, she hoped so. All human attempts to make a device that could read minds had ended up with the test subjects in terrible pain, most of them mad. After about a minute they removed it, turning it and the light off to pull her back up to a sitting position.

They seemed to be doing a lot of hissing amongst themselves as they calmly put her clothes back on her, as if redressing a doll. Taryn wasn’t about to complain though, so she very obediently went along with it, even raising her arms for the jacket.

Finally, the snakes added an accessory that she didn’t have before: an earpiece, cold to the touch. Static betrayed it as a piece of technology, and – as the hissing grew around her – she realized that it was translating their words to English.

“Hiiiiiisssss – odd, never seen an Eiztar quite like this.”

“No sign of any contamination with the toxin. Do you thin-sssssssss!”

And so it went, back and forth like a bad radio station as it constantly cut in and out to hisses and words. It was a communication tab, she realized, though probably the worst one she’d ever used. Typically, a comm translated unknown languages with ease, commonly leading a person to forget that they were even wearing one. Yet the one she had now was faulty, at best, and incredibly primitive compared to those that she had used before for work.

One of the snakes crouched in front of her, and very plainly hissed something that the comm only managed to translate as, “Up.”

She didn’t have to be told twice.

Taryn stood, taking the scaly hand that he offered, and all around him the other men hissed in approval.

“She’s an Eiztar, they all look like hissss,” the one assisting her boasted, and she got the impression that she really didn’t like him. Regardless, he was the one who led her back to the door, where – surprise, surprise – her original captors were waiting for her.

“Hissssss isssss concussion,” the snake told them. They nodded, grabbing her arms and leading her away towards a door that she assumed was the exit. She raised an eyebrow when they walked right by it, the quick pace they forced her at never slowing.

The series of tunnels and stairs they took her through next had her head reeling, even with all the training she’d been put through at the academy. Although, she did feel a little bit better about it when she heard even the aliens arguing over which way to turn next. They finally decided on right, and after a few more feet she saw their destination.

Metal cages, some silver and some bronze, were pushed up against the walls of the hallway, big enough to house even a human adult comfortably. As they got closer and walked past an empty one, Taryn compared her body size to it, and realized that even one of her captors, a snake man, could fit inside. She wondered if perhaps the original purpose of the cages were to hold traitors rather than enemies, then.

“Here,” the snake man hissed, leading her over to an empty cage. Taryn saw something move out of the corner of her eye as they marched, a big something in the cage across from her, though the shadows made it hard to see. With a final shove, the aliens pushed her inside and slammed the door, the clank of metal loud in the dark hallway.

They hissed some nonsense too fast for Taryn to catch, leaving only after taking a moment to laugh – at her expense, she could tell. When they finally turned their backs and exited, the relief she had expected at being free of her captors had a bitter aftertaste as she eyed the cage they’d left her in. She sighed, and moved to sit cross-legged on the steel floor.

It was time to create a plan.

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