The Sub was crouched against the wall; he looked up at Justin with doe eyes filled with tears before hanging his head in shame and fear. Justin shocked him lightly and the sub leapt to his feet and ran to the far side of the room, his hands moving rapidly, shaking.
Justin backed out of the cell and locked the door behind him. He wrote a note on the board. Test subject #1. Keep well fed, no more shocks. Hunt begins Sat. Then he went back to his office.
It was early when they came for him, dragging him from his concrete cell. Suddenly he was outside. He could see the forest in the distance that was his home. He looked back at the powerful men that could make sparks fly from sticks, in confusion. They were letting him go, why? The men stood laughing at him, sounds coming from their mouths, noises he didn’t understand. He looked over his shoulder at the distant trees not knowing what to do. He bolted, behind him the men laughed and made loud noises but he kept on running, all he understood was that he was free.
Justin strapped on his ammunition belt and checked his rifle. Lance would be collecting him in the next five minutes; mother had already reminded him twice. He had ordered breakfast and had a full stomach and was determined that the bucks head was going to be his. He checked his time piece; the prey had been released back into the wild just before midnight and had run almost immediately, winning a bet for Lance’s friend.
“Lance is in the parking lot Justin.”
Justin shouldered his rifle. “Thank you mother.” He said. “I’ll be back in a couple of days.” He walked the short distance to the elevator and stepped inside.
Lance was waiting by their transport, an antiquated pock up truck that was left over from the pre holocaust days, but had survived because of the protected atmosphere in the domed city. With him were the other four hunters. Wade he recognised from the last hunt, same with Coral and Dom but the forth man was new to him. Lance hung his arm around the man’s neck.
“This is Chris,” he said introducing the shorter dark haired man. “Chris is my new …friend.”
Justin thrust out his hand. “So you’re fucking Lance then?” he asked without hesitation.
The dark haired man grinned. “Is that a problem,” he asked.
Justin grinned back. “Not all, it’s about time one of us got laid.”
“Get in the jeep or I’ll tell mother you’ve been skipping meals again,” Lance threatened, climbing behind the wheel.
“Don’t talk too loud, he’ll lock us all in,” Justin whispered concerned, climbing into the back. “Come on lets get moving there’s a Sub with my name on.”
The blue eyed dark haired Sub crept towards the cave that his clan lived in, immediately he was challenged. Four young bucks stood between him and his home. He cocked his head to the side and made a series of grunts and whimpers, his fingers moving rapidly. He tried to step around them and was pushed violently backwards by the leader of the four. The Sub whimpered and started to get to his feet intending to try to gain access to his home once more.
The leader of the four guards threw a rock striking the brunette on his temple. He whimpered in pain and gave an anguished cry as another rock hit him on his shoulder. An older Sub ran to his aid as fast as his injured leg would let him. He put himself between the fallen man and the guards, grunting and growling warnings at them. He knelt down and caressed the brunettes face tenderly and the Sub nuzzled into the touch, his nostrils flaring as he took in the scent of this father. The older man‘s fingers danced on the hand of his son making him whimper and shake his head pleadingly. Again the Sub’s fingers moved on his son’s hand and the younger man started to cry burying his head in his father’s chest. The older Sub pushed him gently away and caressed his face tenderly once more. Pure love was communicated by no more than tiny touches and eye contact. When the older man pushed his son away again he had tears in his eyes. He turned his back ignoring the whines and whimpers behind him as he limped back to the cave.
The young Sub watched him go, heartbroken. He had been caste out, shunned by his clan because he smelt different now. He had been in the great dome; he was a danger to them. The four guards raised their rocks ready to stop him if he tried to enter once more. He lowered his head in subservience and crawled away so they wouldn’t attack him again. When he was far enough away he lifted his head and howled a long mournful howl. A howl echoing his own joined in then the four guards voices joined in the melancholy farewell. Left with no other choice the young Sub slinked sadly away.
The six hunters stood rooted to the edge of the forest as the unearthly howl echoed around the trees.
“What the fuck was that?” Wade asked apprehensively.
Justin loaded his gun. “Let’s hope we don’t find out,” he said dryly. He opened his pack and took out the tracking devices, switching each one on in turn. All six started beeping at once but indicated different directions.
“So how do we know which one is right?” Chris asked curiously.
Lance wrapped his arm around his shoulder. “That dearest is a brilliant question. Which Justin is going to answer, aren’t you Justin?”
Justin grinned, “The simple answer is we don’t.”
Coral and Dom looked at each other confused. “Well how can we catch him if we don’t know which one is right?” Coral asked.
Justin held out his tracker. “This could be wrong but in an hours time it could be right. I have no idea one way or the other. The tracking chip implanted in the Sub's head rotates frequencies, sending out true and false reading, hence making the hunt longer and more interesting. The old trackers told us exactly where to look and it was just a case of getting there first and getting the first shot in. That’s why we only had three bullets and single shot guns. This way we have no idea until we spot him.”
“Well now that’s clear, take care boys,” Lance said, kissing Chris on the cheek and making the older Elite blush. “See you in a couple of days Justin. I’ll bring you back his heart and balls as a consolation prize.”
“Wade laughed and shouldered his supplies. “Not if I get him first.”
* * *
Justin checked his time piece. It had started to get dark and he really needed to camp for the night. The constant beep on his scanner told him his prey was still alive, as it would stop when the Sub died thus ending the hunt.
Justin broke out his rations and sat with his back against a tree eating a protein bar. The beep on his scanner had stopped moving and was approximately three miles north of where he was now. He knew Sub's could move fast even old ones, but this buck had covered a lot of ground in one day. Knowing it was too dangerous to continue in the dark Justin settled down for the night.
The sun woke him the next morning, shining down on his face through a break in the greenery. He ate some biscuits and had a couple of mouthfuls of water before taking a piss against a tree. When he had relieved himself he checked his scanner. The bleep hadn’t moved. Sighing resignedly he started following the tracker suspecting he had a false reading, why would the Sub stay in the same place? An hour later he was convinced. The blip hadn’t moved at all. He was just going to give up and go home when he spotted the dark haired Sub through a clearing in the trees. He was just standing still, staring mournfully at the ground.
Justin lifted his rifle and aimed. He lined his sights on the Sub’s chest and squeezed the trigger. He swore as nothing happened. In his excitement he had forgotten to release the safety catch. The Sub now alerted to his presence fled. Swearing again Justin gave chase. The young buck moved fast but Justin was no slouch either. The Sub used a vine to swing across an open space and Justin charged after him, realising too late the mistake he had made.
The Sub dropped to a crouch, watching him as he started to sink. Panic washed over Justin, but the more he tried to free himself the more he sank. He reached out grasping desperately for solid ground, clawing to get a grip. The Sub stood up and started to walk away. Justin cried out in terror, reaching out and pleading with him for help. The brunette turned and stared at the ground, undecided. The terrified hunter had sunk up to his shoulders and panicking was making him sink faster.
“Help me,” he begged. “Help me please.”
The Sub looked up, his eyes darting from side to side.
The Sub sprang into action, ripping down the vine he had used to swing across the quicksand. He made a loop and threw it to Justin. He mimed that Justin needed to put it over his head. At first the hunter didn’t understand, then realisation dawned and he slipped the loop over his head and wriggled it under his armpits.
As soon as he was set the Sub began to pull him out of the quagmire. As Justin reached solid ground the Sub dropped the vine and turned to run. Justin groaned weakly and then whimpered with fear as the ground moved beneath him once more.
The soft fear fuelled noise penetrated the Sub’s brain and pity overwhelmed him. He turned back edging nervously towards the Elite. He crouched by him and smoothed Justin's muddy curls from his eyes. The Elite was shocked to see concern and pity in the Sub's eyes. He cringed as the Sub sniffed him then backed away almost cowering.
“You remember me don’t you?” Justin panted.
The Sub never answered he just whimpered and searched the ground with his eyes, looking for something.
Justin began to feel stronger, getting the wind back in his lungs. He pulled himself up. “You saved me,” he whispered. “I was hunting you and yet you saved me.”
The Sub cocked his head, his fingers fluttering and small muted sounds emitted from his mouth. He squeaked and backed away as Justin went to touch him.
Making small soothing sounds Justin edged closer. He slowly touched the Sub's face, tilting his chin so the man was looking directly at him. The Sub's mouth trembled but he held still letting the curly haired Elite study him.
“You’re actually very pretty,” Justin said softly, surprised at the beauty hidden behind the wild tangled locks and layers of dirt. He absentmindedly caressed the side of the Sub's face making the man whimper. In a sudden movement Justin found his arms filled and his neck being nuzzled. The Elite sighed as the Sub's tongue flicked over his skin and he held still knowing the Sub was scenting him, storing away the information for future recognition.
Justin pushed the wild man away and brushed his hair from his eyes. “How could I have thought of killing you?” he asked knowing the man before him didn’t understand.
The Sub cocked his head to the right, listening to the sounds coming from the city mans mouth. He knew the Elite was trying to communicate with him and make him understand, but the sounds coming from his mouth were too complicated for him.
He tried to talk in his own language but he couldn’t make the Elite understand his hands. He sighed deeply lowering his head in defeat. That was when the man touched him, a touch that was only between father and son or between lovers. Deprived of affection the Sub leaned into the touch, giving himself to the Elite. The man accepted him for a moment then pushed him away before caressing his face once more. With that simple gesture Justin had inadvertently told the Sub he loved him and the pretty brunette signalled his willingness to love back.