“Are you going to let me out?”
“With a cherry on top?”
Zenok-9 whirled around, poking her blaster into the human’s temple. The vein there bulged and pulsed.
“You are not getting out, understand?” she asked.
He put his hands up against the sides of his head, a gesture unfamiliar to Zenok-9. “I got it.”
She pivoted on the heel of one of her tall, raised boots to face the front of the elevator once again. It had been a long journey down to Earth, and the prisoner’s unruly behavior was not helping her exhaustion. The doors of the elevator were clean, and shining. For Zenok-9, this was comfort.
Something touched her elbow. On instinct, she whacked it with her gun.
“Hey! What was that for?” the human yelped.
She stared down at him. For someone shackled in place, he certainly was daring. There were burn marks around his wrists from his multiple escape attempts, and a few bruises from the blows he’d taken from others with less patience. The human made an expression that Zenok-9 recognized as a smile, flashing his teeth.
She spun to face the front again, only to be interrupted for the second time by fingers on her elbow.
“Why are you touching me?” she snarled.
Instead of answering, her prisoner asked a question. “Why do you have holes in your sleeves?”
Frustrated, she poked her elbow spike out of the hole he had mentioned. It glistened under the harsh lights in the elevator.
“Neat,” he sighed. “I wish I had one of those.”
“They are very useful in combat,” she replied. It was meant to be a threat, but only seemed to further the human’s fascination. “Very lethal.”
“Are you gonna kill me with one of those?” he asked, glazed over.
Suddenly uncomfortable, Zenok-9 began playing with her antennae. “Not me. And not with one of these.” She studied her prisoner’s face, trying to remember the human facial features she had studied in the academy. His mouth was completely straight, his eyes staring somewhere very far away. This wasn’t anything she had ever seen.
“What are they gonna kill me with?” Her prisoner, whose head had been pointed at the ground, looked up. “Is it going to be something really cool, at least?”
For some reason, Zenok-9 couldn’t find it in herself to look at the human’s eyes. She retracted her elbow spikes and said, “An injection.”
The prisoner laughed, something her species didn’t do. “That’s not very exciting. I was hoping they’d use one of those,” he replied, motioning towards her gun.
“This gun is nothing special.”
“I beg to differ.” He reached his hands out, as if to take it from her. In response, Zenok-9 returned to her original position, facing forward, like she was supposed to.
The prisoner touched her elbow again. And again. His touch was light, and even warm, unlike the cold, violent physical contact she was used to. The third time his finger lilted against her skin, she let the spike protrude slightly. He ran his hand up and down in, studying its feel.
“Is this made of metal?” he asked.
She nodded, turning her head to the side so he could only see her profile. “Metal spikes are standard implants for soldiers in training. They are required.”
“That’s just cruel,” he muttered under his breath, pulling his arm back to his side. “Why do they do that?”
Zenok-9’s back stiffened. “That is not your place, prisoner,” she snapped. She slung her gun across her chest, returning to full formal position.
In the reflection painted across the elevator doors, she watched the human slump in his seat. This is how most prisoners were; sad, like all of the hope had been drained out of them. Eyes black and cast downward, pensive. The silence smacked the air out of her.
“What is Earth like?” she asked suddenly.
The prisoner shrugged. “It’s okay. Not everyone is great, but a lot of people are. There’s a lot more grass than there is here. And flowers. And colors.” He sighed. “It’s not the best planet, probably. But it’s nice.”
After hearing his testimonial, Zenok-9 backed up slowly and lowered herself onto the bench next to him. “I have spent a lot of my life inside of these elevators,” she said. “I’m always looking at the metal. That’s what I think is nice.”
The human didn’t respond with words, but turned his head to look up to her, then back down, in one fatigued motion.
She continued, “I have never seen grass. But you humans are so sentimental about it.”
“Why do you take us?” the prisoner asked in a quick, rash voice.
“They want to control you,” she answered. “They want your planet.”
“Why the hell do you want that?” he demanded, shouting. His skin sizzled audibly as he jumped in his shackles. It didn’t seem to faze him. “Why?”
“It’s not me.”
“Then why do you take us to our graves?” he hollered. “Why do you do this?”
“That is not your place, prisoner!” she barked.
“It damn well is my place!” His voice filled the entire elevator.
Flustered, Zenok-9 smashed her fist into a few particular keys on the control pad. The elevator came to a sudden halt, silencing the human, and then rocketed upwards again, at several times the speed it had been at before.
The human flattened himself against the side of the elevator shaft, eyes wide. The red in his cheeks shone just as brightly as the electric cuffs around his wrists. Something about his expression was comical to his captor. She burst out in a long, awkward laugh, which mostly sounded painful. She laughed, tears dripping down from her eyes, until the elevator stopped again.
With the press of the button, the shackles that bound the human against the wall and the cuffs around his wrists vanished back into their sockets. She pressed her gun against his temple and, with a monotone, whispered, “Let’s go, prisoner.”
“This day has been something of an emotional rollercoaster for me,” he whispered back. “Maybe I can just take a breather?”
His plea was rejected by her marching steps leading him out of the elevator and into a large, mostly empty room which was decorated only by the gradeouse windows displaying all of outer space before them.
She forced him to walk over to a small, circular door, and punched in the code to make it open. She noticed someone else of her species eyeing her, so she shouted, “Get in, prisoner!” and jabbed him in the chest with the barrel of the gun. He grunted in pain, but did as he was told.
Once the two were inside, Zenok-9 shut the door and made the human walk some more, until he was sitting, buckled in, and she was beside him, pulling her own buckle around her waist.
“This doesn’t look like an execution room,” he stated, taking in all of the whirring lights and clicking that was happening on all sides.
“That is because it is not,” Zenok-9 informed him. “It is an escape pod, to be used only in the case of an emergency.”
She started typing in coordinates when she was interrupted once again by the human’s voice.
“Are you taking me home?”
Instead of answering, she finished typing, and let the blast of ignition speak for her.
“I want to see what is so great about the grass,” she finally said.
The human smiled, an expression of happiness. “Did you really like me enough to save me?” he beamed.
She ignored his eye contact, staring out into the stars. “That is not your place, prisoner,” she replied.