"First to Fifth"
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Setting: MASQUERADE DREAMS, Observation Deck
Stardate: 30153.0245

Sleep had never been something a Hirogen needed in large quantity. That had likely been the only thing that played in Uxtar’s favor in the eyes of his supervisors.  Long before the Alpha Shift had been schedule to start their early morning duties, the hunter had already been up and ready to make the best of the few free hours ahead of him.  As much as he might have disliked his role as a member of the maintenance staff, the hunter had to admit that there had been some clear advantages to him having such a position.  Access to the greater majority of the ship without being overly noticed by others, this included both the passengers and other crew members.

With the exception of a very few passengers and security personnel casually wandering the observation deck at this hour, the MASQUERADE DREAMS felt like some sort of ghost ship.  Although generally empty of people, the scents left by those currently sleeping still filled the hunter’s nostrils allowing him to hone his senses on the prey that he had been tasked to find.

Thanks to what had happened in the Main Dining Area the evening before, the Hirogen had sampled the prey’s unique scent which would make it a lot easier for him to find her, no matter what appearance she may have taken.  Once Uxtar had locked in on her trail, there had been little that the woman could do to escape the hunter.  All of his thoughts gave way to the task at hand, the hunt having taken on a life of its own with only one possible conclusion.

Uxtar moved from corridor to corridor, from deck to deck with single-mindedness, the instincts of the hunter having taken over completely.  It was only when the faint sound of a foot step from behind him that the Hirogen stopped.  He remained perfectly still as he listened through the surrounding silence while he sampled the air to identify who or what had been following him.

During the early years of a Hirogen’s training to become the best possible hunter they could be, one exercise imposed on the younglings had been the teaching of the five rules of a hunt.  The First Rule stated that the hunter needed to know himself, his strengths as well as his limitations thus insuring that a prey could not use anything against them. The Second Rule stated that the hunter needed to know everything possible about his prey, so to be able to use any weaknesses against them.  The Third Rule stated that the hunter needed to be as aware and familiar of his surroundings as possible.  The Fourth Rule stated that the hunter could not abandon the hunt once it had begun.  The Fifth and final Rule stated that the hunter could not, under any circumstances allow an outsider to claim the prize of a hunt for themselves.

The noise that Uxtar had heard had quickly reminded him of the Fifth Rule, one that had brought the hunter on the verge of turning around and killing whoever had dared to follow him.  Before doing so though, the Hirogen took in a deep breath and recalled all five rules and how they applied to this particular situation.

First Rule; to know himself above all else. Yes he was a Hirogen, but above all else he had now been a Starfleet officer, one with a duty not only to himself but to the others here with him.

Second Rule; to know his prey better than they knew themselves. A young woman, sister to Ya’Han and currently un the run from her father. She would not be a prize to be claimed by a hunter, but a person to be saved by an undercover officer.

Third Rule; to know his surroundings and become familiar with them. This had not been some unwelcoming wilderness, but a luxury cruise ship requiring him to be far more mindful of the consequences of his actions.

Fourth Rule; to not abandon the hunt. Although fourth on the list, this rule had been the one rule that Uxtar had always reminded himself of, no matter the situation.

Fifth Rule; to not allow someone else to claim his prize. The initial reaction had been for the hunter to eliminate the competition, but as the seconds passed Uxtar became more aware of exactly who had been following him.  The footsteps had been soft, delicate, indicating that a woman possessing a certain amount of skill had been the one tailing him.  When her scent finally reached him, the Hirogen knew who and why she had been there.

“Why are you following me Ye’Lan?” The hunter demanded of the green haired woman without looking back at her.  “Go back to your master before you get hurt.”

He could fear in her breathing as she dashed away, but this had not answered the question that had been asked; why had she been following him?

Mark Hutchings

Lieutenant JG Uxtar
Currently on an undercover mission

[Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.]