A Defensive Strategy
Echo-1: Part 34
Two panic-stricken days later in that same communication room was gathered all the key players on board. Uzi, his two guards, Dr. Death, X, and twenty zero-G commandos; ten elite pilot commandos and ten of the Grunts. They represented the leadership among the ship’s defenses. The Save the Whale gang were present. Dixon and I were there. Nidi brought Charlie. Mox and Zandar Vandar Blunt also came.
Veronica and Vronsky appeared behind the glass first and both whale pods were with them. The last to show up was Jonas with Henry at his side. Henry was piloting the Banga. He was now about two-thirds the size of Jonas. He was going to be big.
Charlie started by stating that the main computer would be shielded from the Vedma light beam virus, but it would be limited to controlling the propulsion system, navigation, and life support. The passenger sections were crucial. We needed to maintain control over them. If the Vedma were to take control of the cryo units, they could easily kill everyone on board, or maybe just cause chaos by waking up 7 billion passengers at once.
It had been a gamble to mess with the Vedma and our assumption that they would not leave the orbit of the Morning Star comet was clearly misguided. Charlie assured us that we would lose control of every robot on board and nearly every system as well as our fighters, vehicles, weapons, and machinery.
The Brick and the Blue Hand Diamond Scout were the only two ships that we would be able to rely on. X chimed in that she in her Diamond-a-gogo and Death in his Diamond-robo-com suit would also be impervious. Uzi had requested the use of the Rust-a-gogo and Mox had no issue.
Mox and Blunt had come on a flatbed transport vehicle and on it where the two Rust-combat suits, the Rust-a-gogo, the case of 20 odd rust-blade assault rifles and the three rust handheld cannons. Also on board was another mystery box and on top of it, the big wasp exoskeleton I had seen stored in the Brick’s hallway. The Sentinel droid stood silently at the back of the room.
Dr. Death couldn’t wait. “What’s in the box?”
The box was bright green with dark blue metal framing and a huge archaic looking padlock. Mox went over to the exotic steamer truck and opened it. He pulled out a bright green scale covered object. It was about a 25 cm around and about a meter long. Mox shoved his arm up to his elbow into a hole at the back of the device. It was a gun of some sort.
“This is the most dangerous thing I own.”
Mox’s lizard eyes looked around the room.
“It’s a Veltearrik Acid Blaster. They fire a kind of slimy goo that will eat the flesh off your bones. It will melt through the hull of most ships. If we boarded the Vedma ship, it would be extremely effective in destroying, well, just about everything. I have two of them. They fire a hundred charges each and take about a weeks to completely recharge. They are mostly organic so they shouldn’t be affected by the Vedma virus. Inside are millions of microscopic creatures that lay dormant until all their goo is fired, then they spring to life and make more. They were harvested from the belly of the giant Veltearrik beast. Think an overweight dragon that can’t fly, breathes hydrogen, and can eat anything. The acid blasts leave behind a biohazardous mess that can’t really be cleaned up. I suppose you could fly it into a star. Needless to say, these should be a last resort and definitely never fired on the Banga.”
He pulled his hand out of the acid gun and put it back in the case.
“I also have a small surplus of rust lightning swords.” He looked at the grunts. “You ten should each take one. You’re big enough to wield them.”
The ten grunt Zero-G commandos walked over to the flatbed and each took one of the large jagged edged weapons.
“Oh, not that one.” Mox grabbed a thinner rust blade away from one of the grunts. It was very straight and not unlike an oversized samurai sword. He walked over to Nidi with the weapon.
“This one is for you, my darling. Zandar and I would like you to have it. It’s befitting a woman of your stature.”
Nidi towered over Mox. He handed her the large sword. She took it in her clawed hand. Mox gestured for her to activate it. It lit up with red lightning, just like the battle axes the Sentinel droid used. Nidi held the weapon up, a three-meter tall she-wolf with a red rusty lightning samurai sword.
She looked over to Dr. Death. “Will you teach me to use it?”
He smiled and nodded to Mox. “I hear Mox is the best among us with a bladed weapon.”
I had told Death about the fancy fencing Mox had done while we were riding on top of the Rust-a-gogo.
Mox loved this. “I’ll be all to happy to instruct you in fencing tactics, my dear.”
Nidi powered down the sword and lowered it to her side.
Mox continued. “So that brings us to my stellar wasp exoskeleton. Tim, I had you in mind for this.”
Tim stepped forward from the back of the Save the Whale Gang.
I had never heard him speak. He had a voice like a news anchorman.
“I’ve noticed you have an affinity for vehicles and when the Vedma get here, vehicles will be in short supply. This particular species of astral wasp sheds their skeleton like a crab would its shell. New generations in a larvae form will crawl in and take on the body structure of previous wasps.”
Tim looked rather confused. Mox cleared his throat and flicked his serpentine tongue.
“I’ve had the chance to study your physical makeup and I think you will be very compatible. However, it might involve a somewhat complicated surgery to get you out.”
From the other side of the glass, Veronica was in motion. Her voice came over the communication room speakers.
“Based on my initial investigation, the exoskeleton will connect with your body’s central nervous system at several points along your spine, arms, and legs. It should also be able to receive direct instructions from your neural transmitter. In a sense, you will become a wasp, but you will retain your own mentality. You’ll have incredible strength and your transmitter should be completely shielded from the Vedma virus. In theory anyway.”
Tim trusted Veronica completely. “I’ve always wondered what it was like to be an insect.”
Mox was delighted.
“Excellent! I can tell you from personal experience, you’ll have improved vision, strength, and smell. Of course, you’ll be able to fly, given we maintain an atmosphere in the ship. Oh, and it doesn’t handle the best underwater, but the wings dry quickly.”
I was watching Mox closely, I would bet anything he had never been in that wasp suit. But he’d probably seen people do it before.
Tim only asked one thing and he turned to the glass wall and addressed Veronica directly.
“Will you oversea getting me in that thing and make sure I can get out?”
Veronica’s eyes lit up and she nodded her upper body in the water. “Of course I will.”
Tim was satisfied. I hoped Veronica’s avatar wouldn’t get eaten again. Truth be told, I think he was probably making a good choice. He’d probably be able to fight off the wolves in that exoskeleton.
Dixon stepped forward.
“This is great and all. I’m so glad that Mox brought his bag of tricks, but what about all the animals? I’ve got 40 yearling mammoths who are just getting to be full size and I have two polar bears who aren’t quite adults yet. Then I have another 40 in the incubators. Not to mention the two pods of peaceful non-technological whales in the frozen sea. Is there any plan for the animals on board?”
Jonas wisely fielded this one.
“Dixon, Mr. Mox, and Mr. Vandar Blunt assure me that they can train the juvenile bulls to be ridden and we’d like to take them into battle if need be.”
Dixon folded her arms and stood firmly, listening. She didn’t like this idea one bit.
“The rest of the pride and all the other animals will take shelter with you in the frozen sea. Both Sperm whale pods will be heading there as well. The young ones will be cold, but they will manage. We’ll want you and Sunshine aboard your ship, keeping it powered down completely until you hear from us. We’re going to seal off that entire section of the ship. It’s not on the manifest and hopefully, we’ll be able to keep the Vedma busy enough that they never even discover it.”
Sunshine also took up the folded arm stance.
“So it’s the women in the back with the animals then?”
Jonas large eye looked at her.
“I will be issuing you both rust-blade assault rifles and I expect you both to learn to fire them. It will be up to you to stop anything that gets through back there.”
This pleased Sunshine but enraged Dixon.
“You can give mine to the troops. I’m not going to be killing anyone. I’m a scientist, not a soldier. You started this Jonas, now you get us out of it.”
Sunshine thought about it for a moment. “Yeah, me too.”
Mox walked over to them both and handed them each a small sidearm that matched his own.
“These are stun guns. They’ll drop anything that comes your way but won’t kill anything. I completely agree with your viewpoint. They won’t activate until you pull the trigger so you should be able to get off one shot before the Vedma ray deactivates them.”
Death flinched in place. Those stun guns packed a wallop. Dixon snatched her’s out of Mox’s hand.
“Fine, but you’re just as responsible as he is.”
I’d never imagined I’d see someone giving a whale and a lizard man such a scolding look. I felt guilty for them. Dixon meant business and her anger was valid.
“And I don’t like you using the mammoths as war elephants. What is this the dark ages?”
Jonas assured her and reassured her that we would all have to do our part. She was not pleased with the situation. I don’t think any of us were. This was never likely to even happen. I couldn’t help but feel it was entirely my fault. The Vedma had learned of Jonas through my thoughts. I had betrayed us all.
Uzi took over from here on out. After all, it was going to be a military operation, his area of expertise.
“All right people. This is the breakdown of the few vehicles we that will work once the Vedma arrive. X, you’re in your Diamond-a-gogo. Nidi, you’re with X. We’ll mount one rust cannon on your sidecar. Your primary mission will be to lead any boarding parties away from the shielded central computer control room. When they realize they can’t get control of the entire ship they will in all likelihood turn their focus there.”
“Death, you’ll be in your shiny new combat suit with another rust cannon. I want you mobile and outside. Your job is simple, kill everything that comes near the ship.”
He nodded with a smile. He was born to kill.
“Hands, you are going to be in your Blue Hand scout with as many diamond missiles as she will hold. Your task is the same as Death’s. Nothing gets in. We’re issuing you one of Mox’s acid guns. You might have the best chance of boarding the Vedma ship. If you can get inside try to destroy as many of their systems as possible. He just sprays acid on everything and that should do the trick?”
Uzi looked to Mox for confirmation. The lizard shook his head. “That will do it, yes indeed.”
“Great. If you don’t mind I’d like to take the second acid gun?”
“By all means.”
“Good, Mox, I’d like you are your bodyguard to stick with me throughout the event.”
Mox found this idea splendid. Blunt offered me Styx as a co-pilot and I accepted.
“Mr. Vandar Blunt I assume you’ll be in the Brick and I’d like you to lead a direct assault on the Vedma ship.”
Blunt gestured his consent. He stuck out his tongue considering an idea.
“It might make sense to load a complement of your robots aboard the Brick. Assuming you will lose control of all robots onboard, and assuming we can best the Vedma, it would be very useful to have some functional robots to help with repairs and what have you.”
Uzi was all for this. “Good thinking, son.”
Even if you added the years of both of Uzi’s lives together, he wasn’t even in the same ballpark as Blunt. But of course, I had no idea how old Blunt was. Gila monsters were kind of timeless. He didn’t take offense to Uzi’s comment. In fact, he seemed to like the sentiment.
“Now, Werner and Forklift you’ll be back in your rust combat suits and I don’t care what those witches say to you, you keep them on.”
They both acknowledged and offered reassurances.
“You’ll both be stationed inside and ready to repel any boarders. You boys are going to become soldiers before this is over. I want you both to spend the next few days training with Dr. Death.”
Forklift hesitated, looked down at the floor revealing his youth, then spoke his mind.
“How do you plan on resisting their spell?”
Uzi smiled a confident expression I had never seen him make before.
“Let me tell you, in my younger years I once spent a night with a beautiful Arabian assassin sent to kill me. I was able to get out of that one alive, and without getting my throat slit. I think I can withstand some squid lady sirens.”
Uzi got some hoots and hollers from X and Sunshine. “You old dog!”
Blunt and Mox burst into laughter and for a moment the tension in the room lifted.
“Anyway, I’ll have the Rust-a-gogo and I’d like to hook the sidecar that Hands built onto it and station one of my guards on it with the last rust cannon.”
Uzi’s primary guards, Stone Face and Punchy were programmed synthetic grunt unit Zero-G Commandos, yet they seemed to have personalities of their own, though admittedly limited and specific. They were like living cartoon characters. As if written to be insignificant side figures in a grander story, caricatures of themselves. Punchy was the one X would punch in the stomach and he would always feign injury and X loved it. Stone Face, always the straight man, never played any of her games. X had named them both.
“I’d like to take Punchy with me if you don’t mind.”
Uzi obliged to X’s request. We all suspected that there wasn’t much of a chance Nidi would turn a laser cannon on her own people and defending the computer core was a must.
“All of our other vehicles will be useless. We’ll put twenty pilot units on top of mammoths with rust-blade assault rifles and we have these ten guards with lightning swords. The real problem here is that we are going to be knocked back to the stone age by the Vedma light ray virus. I’m going to move my bridge crew to the shielded computer room and hope they can maintain control. We’ll station the bulk of our troops with the passengers. But they aren’t going to be very effective against an armed assault force.
“I’m not going to lie, this is going to be a seriously tough situation and we’re all going to have to be as agile as possible.
“Most members of the crew will be cut off from communications. Jonas, knowing that the Vedma have a history of blowing holes in internal water tanks to get at the ship’s navigators, we should take precautions. Vronsky, your weapons will be worthless. I would advice you both head to the frozen sea and hold up there until we fight them off.”
Jonas had other plans for this.
“Vronsky and Veronica will go to the frozen sea. Veronica’s avatar has a rust transmitter so she will be in constant communication with those of us who have resistant technology. Henry and I will be the only two to stay in the main sea. In the event that it is ruptured we will flee down the water circle towards the frozen sea. Based on its size they would have to destroy most of the ship to fully empty it, but a series of breaches in the right places could do it so we’ll stay near an exit point. I should be able to maintain navigational control over the ship with my rust neural transmitter. If we retreat to the frozen sea we will seal ourselves in and hope you can defeat them.”
And then I saw a whale look sad for the first time.
“I’m sorry that I brought this on all of you, I am taking full responsibility for everything, but I am confident that we can defend ourselves. The Brick alone was enough to drive them off before, so I feel we will be able to defeat them this time as well. We have sent warning signals out to all ships in the area. Hopefully, they’ll just be coming for us. Any questions?”
In a bold move by the first officer, Vronsky swam to the center of the giant glass window. The giant whale addressed the smallest of us.
“Charlie, I know you and Hands have been working on some custom weapons for the others and I would like to commission you to set me up with either a rust weapon or diamond missile system that I could wear. In the event that the Vedma move into the waters it would certainly be worthwhile to have some kind of defense against them, would it not? Furthermore, I would suggest we set up a diamond missile firing station at all major airlocks. If they try to come in our troops could manually fire them out the airlock doors.”
Uzi was completely in support of his ideas. I knew the capability of the diamond missiles and firing them inside the ship seemed insane. The whole idea of the Vedma coming for us was insane. Jonas tasked Charlie and myself with arming Vronsky for underwater battle.
I accepted and then got in a last word. “I have a thought.”
As a new member of the crew and only having had one military operation under my belt, I was hesitant to suggest anything, but I had an idea.
“What about waking up the Chieftains of Woad?”
This suggestion prompted a series of quizzical looks from the crew and a delightful smile that returned to Jonas’ face. To learn the expressions of the whales is to truly know them. He knew what I was talking about and he liked that I had dug so deep into the mission files on the Banga’s computer.
The Woad are lifeforms that coat themselves in metamorphic stone. Woad was a super-Earth planet with an incredible gravitational force. It was eventually consumed by its red supergiant sun in an eroding process over millions of years. On the surface of Woad, there evolved a people of enormous size and strength that could the resist the extreme gravity. The planet had vast deposits of phyllite, quartzite, and gneiss stone. During the dawn of civilization, the warriors used these crystalline minerals to make armor. After their planet reached the uninhabitable state, the survivors took to encasing their pink massively muscled bodies in beautifully striped and quartz filled stone. The weight made them comfortable on other planets with lesser gravity and the look and feel of the stone reminded them of their lost home. It also doubled as incredibly strong protection from both the elements and enemies.
The warriors of Woad were once famed as the most powerful army in the seventh system. They were recruited by various factions to engage in epic land battles of the early empires. By the time their planet was destroyed they had long since gone out of fashion as intergalactic henchmen. Some ruling parties kept them on as personal bodyguards and showpieces. They became a status symbol of the ruling elite.
As their numbers faded, they had become things of legend. I stumbled across them while trying to put together some kind of discernible history of the known seven systems of this sector of the Milky Way. I found them interesting and on the Banga’s manifest, they were on the very short list of passengers not in cryosleep.
The Chieftains of Woad are considered the last of their people, the last of the great warriors of Woad. There are seven of them, one for each of the seven systems. They had served for nearly thirty millennia as ceremonial war generals for galactic emperors. For the last ten thousand years, they had become ornaments to an old society, living works of art, if you will. They are basically immortal beings. Having no real purpose of their own, they were asked to join this group traveling to the newly discovered system on the other side of the galaxy.
Though, descendants of ancient warriors, they are now considered philosophers of peace. They traveled with the other 17 billion passengers as cultural advisors and future leaders. Though, truthfully it was hard to get more than a word out of them in any given year. They were to journey to the largest of all the newly discovered planets where they had been asked to take up posts as regional governors. Sedentary leaders are just the ticket for a new sector that wanted a free and unregulated exploration and exploitation policy.
The perfect puppet government; they are big, impressive, monumental, stoic, and everyone likes them. They enjoy living a prestigious lifestyle, while not having to actually do anything. All seven were sitting in a large storage room very near the supernova dark matter core containment unit, basking in the thunderous noise and the heavy gravitational pull.
I explained all this to the unaware crew and added that since we will potentially be knocked back to the stone age by the Vedma virus, maybe we should use ancient warriors to fight them. The five meter tall stone plated giants would be immune to the light virus and could easily crush robots and Mega Therion soldiers alike.
Jonas flashed his red tattooed fluke and concluded the defensive strategy meeting.
“Hands, if anyone can move the Chieftains to action it would be you. Go and talk with them. Dismissed.”