He strolled along the pathway, a small bounce in his step. The clothes he wore hung loosely off of his torso, with plenty of extra space at the sides. He seemed to fit all of the criteria; red shirt, floppy brown hair, a skinny frame. He was satisfactory, but stepped out of view.
"Are you sure that was him, Jaigin?"
I moved the viewer away, the young man disappearing. He vanished into a faint pink and black dot, blocked by the walls of others' dwellings. The shape of the badge on his chest was unfamiliar to me. If it were real silver it would be enough for me to have food for weeks. I'd been out in the wilderness for two and a half months by that point; there's only so much fruit one being can consume before desiring for something new.
To be more accurate, we'd been there for two and a half months. A small group of others decided to join me and flee their old lives to start afresh. The war was devastating; thousands of casualties on both sides. We were nearly driven to extinction. A group of us remained in an isolated location towards the southern pole.
We were a fairly advanced society. Our brightest minds had developed technology we never dreamed possible, including the viewer I had held in that moment. The choice to remain in confinement was made by the rest of our people, but we disagreed. After a public demonstration turned violent we were to be executed for stirring up others.
Having been a criminal as a child, disobedience was a tactic I was rather familiar with.
Our plan was simple. We waited until the others had fallen asleep before stealing our rations and getting out of there. We were not careful enough, for we did not anticipate a sixth member joining our group. Jaigin, one of our brightest youth and my nephew, had been awoken by our footsteps, so we decided he would accompany us.
He'd grown since that. Gone was the youth of fourteen years with a pale face. He now looked much older, with permanent lines around dull blue eyes and red scars along his arms from a fall. His prescence meant an extra mouth to feed and soon we exhausted our supplies. Out of options and growing hungry, my comrade Wintrin suggested we explore the wilderness and hope something would come along.
Something came along alright. We stumbled upon an enormous city, with odd-looking scientists and security interrogating us almost from the moment we were spotted; who were we? What species? Our names and families? We were told we were almost identical to a species called Humans, except we had a few minor physical differences. Humans didn't have night vision or a second set of vocal chords.
I'd never heard of a human before that. It felt good to be told we were unique.
After explaining our situation, we were permitted to wander as we pleased, considering it was our planet. The head scientist (who called herself Hannah Bates) explained that her government, the United Federation of Planets, had colonised most of our planet in the twenty second century having believed it was uninhabited; since we originally lived so far underground, their machines did not detect us. The city was known as Sandere and over two hundred thousand species visited it a day.
I shared a number of drinks with Wintrin that evening. Jaigin had two.
A few days later a group of people in strange clothes began to appear. They carried small metal boxes that made odd noises and tapped something on their chest to talk to someone. Some wore blue shirts, others wore yellow or red. Some were human, others were not. Wintrin claimed one night to have spotted what we learnt was called a Klingon wearing a yellow shirt. "He had this weird looking sash over his shoulder," He'd said. "It sparkled in the light. Made him look a bit girly."
An idea formed in my mind over the following conversation that evening. We needed currency in order to purchase food to stock our constant-dwindling supplies, of which we had none.
"So why not capture one of those people?" I suggested. "They appear to be important and well-respected. A ransom would definitely be met by their leader."
The others were doubtful. "If we were to be caught, we'd most certainly be imprisoned for our crime." Jaigin spoke up.
"Agreed," Wintrin sipped his drink. "I have no intentions to spend my time in a cell."
I wasn't impressed. "Well if someone has a better idea, I would appreciate hearing it now."
A brief silence followed my words. It was my brother Jet who raised his hand and gave his thoughts. "If we are to capture one of them, let us pick one who is young. Since we cannot tell who has the highest rank, perhaps there's a parent who will beg that our demands be met."
I smiled. "Any objections?"
We spent another few days searching. Most of those people appeared to be in the mid years adulthood. It was Jaigin who discovered the young man we decided to watch. He couldn't give the most accurate description, for the target disappeared into the crowd as quickly as he appeared. It was three days before we found him again. He matched what Jaigin could describe.
"Why do we not attack now?" Jet hissed. "The youth is right there! Let us get him!"
"There are too many witnesses," I explained, lifting the viewer again. The same boy was now talking to a blue-shirted woman with an unusual hair colour. "Surely you don't want us to be seen when we carry this task out?"
"Of course not."
The woman hugged the boy before both moved into the crowd behind them. I gave the viewer to Jaign and stretched. "Wintrin, I want you and Jaigin to follow this young man. We must wait until he is alone before we attempt our plan."
Light faded from the sky within a matter of hours, as did the temperature. A raw wind bit at our skin as we hurried along the edges of the city. No walls or guards made gaining access less of a problem than it would've been. The crowds from that morning had dissolved, with the remaining few retreating to their dwellings. Wintrin motioned for us to move east, the towering structures diminishing to blocks of smaller homes. We were positioned outside one of the dwellings when the boy disappeared from my sight around the corner.
I picked up the viewer again. It was a few seconds before my eyes caught sight of the boy again. He poked his head out from the side of the furthest dwelling and cautiously began walking towards us.
I threw the viewer down. It skidded across the ground, some of the glass cracking. "Move! Hide!"
We scattered like rats, three of us fleeing to one side of the street while the others went to the other. Jet pulled out pieces of rope, stretching and flexing them while Jaigin watched silently. On the other side, I saw Wintrin take out his prize possession; a skin tight cloth, developed by one of our scientists to treat open wounds. He nodded when he caught my gaze. We had never tried it on facial tissue before; it would be an ample test for it.
It felt as though the boy would never arrive. The street was almost silent, except for our exhalation. When the group first escaped our village, I had sworn that if any of them disobeyed my command they would be sent back as a corpse. No one dared to question my decisions. What happened during that night would be the ultimate test of their loyalty.
He startled us when he appeared in our line of sight. Younger than I expected as well; maybe around Jaigin's age. Unlike Jaigin though, this young man had almost no muscle and definitely no weapons. He was young, vulnerable and defenceless.
The perfect hostage.