1

They had been on their tail for days now, never too far away. In the back of their minds, they knew there was no way they could outrun them, not forever.

But they never verbalized this knowledge, never acknowledged their feelings to each other. Instead, they assured each other it would all be alright, that they’d make it out alive, frantic in their search for ways that would be so.

When they ran out of ideas, they stopped trying to find new ones, not wanting to fall deeper into panic and depression, instead blocking out the thought and surviving on emotion. They would be okay because they wanted to be, because they loved each other, because they never gave up. As long as they never gave up, they could never lose. Wasn’t that right?

They sure hoped so. Because neither wanted to think of what horrible things could and would happen if they were caught. So each and every day, they pushed their bodies, their wills, each other, further than the day before, holding out for one more day alive, one more day together.

But all things must come to an end, good or bad, and so one afternoon, as they limped, supporting each other through a canyon exposed to the sun, the heat unbearable, they were caught. There was a simmer above the ground, the heat visible as it escaped into the air, an oppressive heat that filled their lungs and hurt their heart.

The laser went through his leg, making him fall flat as his wife collapsed too without his support. They stumbled to the ground, a cloud of dust kicked up around them from the impact. He knew he should move, should try and survive by any means necessary, but he had no interest in doing so without his wife, who would not make it far without his help.

He tried to crawl over to her, but they grabbed him, slapping handcuffs made of pure energy on them, the restraints keeping their wrists behind their backs. They were raised to their knees. He raised his chin, too principled a man to look at the feet of his captors, too proud to hang his head.

The aliens were long and lanky, blackish in composition, with a greenish hue around their edges. They had claws on their hands, long, padded toes on their feet, and their heads were long and pointed, as if something out of a movie. Their strides covered much more ground much faster than humans. They were terrifying to look at — or at least, they had been at first. By this point, he had grown used to them.

Their leader stood in the middle, with a few others flanking him on each side. This was but one of many, many packs that had broken apart to hunt down the last vestiges of humanity, at least the last vestiges of a free humanity. He couldn’t speak for those who had been taken already.

“I suppose you’ll beg for your life now, plead we at least save your wife, or something of the sort,” one snorted, his friends pushing him around as they gloated and mocked their inevitable triumph. The aliens garbled speech was transmitted by a translator that hung around his neck, capable of switching his speech from his language to one the listener was most familiar with, and vice versa. “You pitiful humans always do.”

The man shook his head, gasping for air. His leg wound had instantly cauterized — they were not shooting to kill, only to slow. It still hurt though, his nerve endings burnt up. The heat was all-encompassing, his ribs bruised and cracked in various places, his jaw sore. Just breathing hurt, a hurt he would have never truly appreciated until now.

“Grovelling for sympathy never works. I will do nothing of the sort,” he said, spitting blood at the end of his words.

His reaction surprised the aliens, intrigued them. Their leader bent down, tilting his head at this fascinating specimen. “No? Tell me then, what will you do?”