Chapter Twelve: Pursuit
Not a chance, Gil thought. I might just be a couple hundred feet from my front door. I’m not going down now. As soon as Korben had shaken off its various seatbelts and started to stand up, Gil quickly bolted left and power-walked down the corridor while Korben was still preoccupied with the control board. He knew Korben would be coming for him soon, so he had to think fast if he wanted to have any chance of survival.
As he reached the exam room, he covered his ears and winced in pain as the sound of Kif’s exit rang through the ship. Spinning around to look behind him, he wished he had walked the other way through the corridor—he recalled that a couple of the glass spears stood in the exit room, whereas Kif had closed the exam room to mask the stench of Jeltz’s burning flesh. A slew of knives and makeshift prison shanks waited behind the planked door, but Gil knew he didn’t have enough time to try and get it open.
Now, with the exit room on the opposite side of the ship and all but one of the doors to the center room closed, Gil had to make a half-circle through the corridor—past the beds, past the kitchen, and past the bathroom before he could finally reach something he could wield as a weapon. He hoped Korben had chosen to follow Gil in the same direction; otherwise, he’d run into the giant en route and it would all be over.
He broke into a run, but stopped suddenly as he became aware of two things happening simultaneously. To his left, he noticed that all of the center room doors were opening. There were only four of them, but the openings would give anyone in the center of the ship a clear indication of Gil’s movement. To his right, Gil saw that all of the outer chambers’ planked doors were sliding shut. His heart sank. He knew he wouldn’t have enough time to massage one of the doors open again, so without any time at all to think, Gil ducked into the kitchen and tried to look for some sort of hiding place.
“Oh no!” he shouted, almost involuntarily as he realized what he’d done. As soon as he entered the kitchen, the room sensed his presence and the planked doors retreated in the opposite direction. Korben had initiated some simple commands via a phantom touchpad that would simply close all of the chambers, and as a result was able to instantly narrow down Gil’s location to the only room that remained open. Gil watched hopelessly as all of the other rooms he could see disappeared behind dozens of planks.
“Okay, think,” he coached himself. His eyes darted around the room. “There’s got to be a knife in here somewhere.” How else could they cut up all that meat? He scanned the room and started to panic—a water dispenser, a refrigerator, an inset shelf with snugly-secured plates and glasses, some sort of a dish washer, and a table surrounded by eight stumpy seats was all that Gil could see in the room. Not a single cabinet or drawer in sight that might contain something sharp.
He moaned in frustration. He could already hear Korben’s heavy footfalls, picking up speed as Gil’s location was narrowed down to the kitchen. With a sudden burst of inspiration, a thin plan formed in Gil’s head. He grabbed a short stack of plates and ran for the exit.
Gil reached the threshold at the edge of the kitchen and stepped into the corridor when Korben came upon him. The giant sent a balled up fist directly into the side of Gil’s face, nearly knocking him over and forcing him to drop his armful of dishes. The plates clattered to the floor, some of them shattering upon impact and settling in tiny, jagged splinters. Gil staggered to the kitchen table before dizzyingly falling backwards against one of its stumpy seats. As if swinging at a swarm of insects, the disoriented man blindly flailed his fists and hoped his senses would return to him. Korben stepped in front of him and delivered a powerful, open-handed slap with its right hand against Gil’s face. He shouted in response to the stinging pain, and then unskillfully punched Korben around the torso several times before receiving another blow to the head.
Gil, who had never been a particularly adept fighter, knew that he couldn’t win a fistfight with an angry, seven-foot-tall alien—in fact, he didn’t think he could survive many more of the intense punches. His only hope was his shaky plan, and it required him to put enough distance between himself and Korben to grab a few of the unbroken plates and run into the center room.
Tucking his legs underneath himself, Gil put both his hands on Korben’s belly and kicked off from the right-angled point where the floor rose into a seat. The surprised alien fell over backwards, landing in the shattered material of the plates and barking in pain.
Gil looked around and saw that five of the plates remained intact. The others either sat in splinters or shards not big enough to bother picking up. On his knees, he gathered up the plates and struggled to get to his feet. Just as he began to run, one of Korben’s long legs swept Gil’s own out from under himself, causing him to lose his balance, spin around, and fall flat on his back. The plates dropped out of his arms again, and two of them broke into smaller pieces. Only three plates remained.
He struggled again to get to his feet, but Korben quickly stood up and pressed one of its feet against Gil’s chest to force him back down. It folded the same leg at the knee and set its weight on Gil’s ribcage, who tried and failed several times to take a swing at Korben. It wrapped its new left hand around Gil’s neck, once again choking him with what felt like a rubber-coated vice grip, and then used its right hand to deliver two hard punches to Gil’s face.
Gil tried to cough, but couldn’t. Blood swelled from his nose and mouth as he desperately tried for a gulp of air. His fingers reached for Korben’s face, but the thing’s arms were longer than his—it was no use. Gil was blacking out. He worried it was all over, and it would have been if Korben’s arrogance—it hadn’t expected much resistance from the human—hadn’t convinced the alien to move its face closer to watch the man die.
With the alien’s face now in reach, Gil took both hands and drove his unkempt fingernails into Korben’s eyes. Korben roared, the heavy and thick eyelids snapping shut and forcing Gil’s hands away from the slimy orbs. It rolled over off of Gil, gripping its face and moaning in pain.
There was no time to lose. Gil gathered up the three plates and forced himself to his feet one last time—he could feel exhaustion coming on again, and if he were knocked down just one more time, he knew he wouldn’t be able to get back up. He ran straight for the center room, past the orange disc, then stopped abruptly and whirled back around as soon he reached the corridor outside the cockpit. He stared almost clear across the ship into the kitchen, and waited for Korben to rise up and come after him.