Echo-1: Part 41
Sunshine stirred behind us and brought us back to the real world.
I carried Sunshine and Dixon into the submarine. Dixon was still unconscious. Sunshine opened her dazed eyes for a moment. “Who was the hot chick?” Then she passed out again.
Death brought in the wolves and the two that had been burned came whimpering around. He brought them inside too. We all went down one level to the control room. It smelled like burnt hair and wet dog. I couldn’t risk starting the ship and having it be infected with the virus. I could still communicate to the crew with resistant communications.
“Mox, tell me you didn’t let the Mildabbar go?” I waited for a response. I looked at the wand and thought about releasing the communications block and said it again.
“Of course I didn’t, my good man. I’ve got him safe and sound in his box. How goes things back there?”
I heard Veronica repeat her request for her avatar from the central lab, she said she was running toward the port side highway system. I didn’t really know how to sum up everything that had happened, let alone the extreme emotional manipulation I had experienced.
“It’s over. Faye is dead. The Vedma are defeated.”
Death said he was going for Veronica’s avatar and jetted off in his diamond suit. He was shaken, that was for sure. He was still a military man and having an order to fulfill seemed to help him. I put Dixon in a chair, then Sunshine, who was sort of coming around. Death was able to shake off being stunned on two different occasions, but I was worried about Dixon, having been shot repeatedly. Physically she seemed ok and she was breathing normally. Sunshine seemed like she was drunk. She would mumble something from time to time.
All four of the remaining wolves lay in a heap on the floor. I went over to them. I reached down and pet Nidi. Her fur was damp and cold, but her skin underneath seemed warm enough.
“How are you feeling?”
She opened her big eyes and gave me her werewolf smile.
“Why Nidi, what big teeth you have.”
She smiled more. “The better to eat you with.” She was going to be fine.
The two wolves that Faye had burned certainly had 2nd degree injuries. They both had splotches of missing fur with red blistery skin showing. They were probably in a great deal of pain.
“I’ll be back.”
I went down two levels to the medical bay, which mostly was used for whales and grabbed two injections of painkillers and two stimulants. On my way back up I stopped at one of the underwater windows. Out there in the water was Veronica and Jonas. They were both on either side of Vronsky and they were holding him up at the surface. There was a huge amount of blood in the water. All the other whales from both pods were gathered in the area.
“What should we do?”
Veronica took charge. She ordered a transport to move Vronsky to the whale medical bay of the main sea. She would need to accompany him there with her avatar and she needed the Save the Whales team to help.
Charlie tried to explain the situation. We could still drive no vehicles or use any of our equipment or we would lose control of them. The Vedma virus still infected the ship. Additionally, the entire Save the Whales team was out of commission. Werner did chime in and said he was almost to Veronica’s avatar. I told them I had Faye’s control device. It wasn’t exactly clear how to use it, but I was able to free communications. Charlie said they still appeared completely under Vedma control, but they were open.
I had an idea. I sat down holding the wand. I thought about the large whale moving transport vehicles. I sent robots to it. They manually started it for me and were heading to the frozen sea. I then thought about allowing access to the sensor array again. Charlie came over communications.
“We can see again! There are three Vedma fighters moving in formation toward the starboard hangar. There is nothing to impede their movement. The Varan ladies are still chasing down another toward the back of the ship. There are two transport vehicles on the move. Reports are coming in from all cryo units and all seem to be intact. Ship-wide communication is open and functioning, though the Vedma can clearly listen. And, we have access to sensors.”
I wanted to tell Jonas to make sure everyone didn’t think things were normal, but before I could even get the thought out of my head Jonas was broadcasting across the Banga.
“All surviving crew; do not activate any ship systems. The Banga is still completely infected with the Vedma control virus. Do not activate any vehicles, robots, or electronic equipment of any kind or they will instantly be infected. Communications are limited and not secure. I will give the all clear as soon as possible. Hold your current positions until further notice.”
I ran upstairs. I injected both the burned wolves with the painkillers. They were still in a pile on the floor. The two whimpered and growled at me when I administered the drugs. They calmed down and it seemed all four went to sleep at the same time. I went over to Dixon. She was still slumped in the chair where I left her. I injected her arm with the stimulant, but it had no effect. I waited a moment and she moved her leg, then her arm. Then she groaned. She wasn’t fully conscious yet. I told her everything was going to be ok. I moved over to Sunshine, who was in a similar groggy state, and I injected her. She jumped out the chair and yelled, scaring the hell out of me and sent all four wolves to their feet.
“What the what! Wow, I feel crazy good.” She jumped up and down a few times. “Nidi! Hands! Did we win? What’s happening? How did we get back in the ship? What happened to that foxy chick with the white wolf bodyguard? Is Dixon ok? Who are these other wolves?”
Sunshine was fine. I tried to explain to her everything that had happened. When I got to the part about Vronsky being hurt, she stopped listening and left the room. She came back in a few minutes later in a dive suit with a medbox and headed out to the water.
“I’m going to save him. You stay here and take care of Dixon.”
Nidi had not settled back down again. It seemed she had restored her body temperature.
“This is Grraztragguzcharr, but you can call him Trag.”
The brindle colored wolf nodded to me. I returned the gesture.
“The other two are brothers and have equally challenging names. They roughly translate into Unstoppable Certainty of Faith and Infinite Wisdom. I was thinking the crew could call them Certain Wisdom. They will stay together until one dies. I had no idea the intense instinctual feelings of pack mentality our people have. These are my brothers. I am going to ask Jonas to give them all asylum.”
She turned to the wolves and in their growling language she must have explained the same thing to them. Trag came over to me. He stood upright and his large ears came very near the ceiling. He reached down to my shoulder and put a large clawed paw on it. He leaned down, closing his mouth and took a large sniff of me. He took in my sent and then exhaling, nodded again and removed his paw. He growled at me in what seemed like a friendly manner.
Nidi Translated. “He says you are a bringer of truth. The Mega Therion value truth above all. They have been deceived by the Vedma and they will never return to that ship. Trag was a high ranking officer, we’d like to try and communicate with the fighters still on board.”
I told them in due time. I checked on Dixon again. She was coming around. I put my arm around her and helped her to sit up. She was holding her head.
“Ohhhh, Hands. My head is killing me.”
She was coming out of it more. She gave me a very vexed look.
“I don’t know who that woman was, but I don’t like her.”
I told her she was gone and would never bother anyone on the Banga again. She seemed glad of that. I left her and going down to her quarters made two of her smoothie drinks and brought them back up. She was sleeping on top of Certain and Wisdom when I got back. She looked up and waved away my offer of a smoothie. She asked me to go to her lab and bring up a med container and more painkillers for the wolves and herself. I went back down and grabbed her supplies. She was sitting up drinking the smoothie when I returned.
Nidi and Trag had gone back to the surface and came running back into the room.
“A transport is coming.”
I looked at Dixon. She looked at me. “Go save the world, but drink your smoothie first.”
I handed her the med supplies, drank down the whole thing in one big long gulp, kissed her on the forehead and ran after Nidi and Trag. Dixon would take care of Certain Wisdom.
Back out on the frozen sea, two robots came driving up in two different transport vehicles. One was designed to move whales with a large tank on the back, the other was a standard flatbed transport. I held the Vedma wand in my hand. Focused on it and guided the trucks up to us and commanded the robots to exit them. They were both humanoid models and both were armed. They got out of the vehicles and made as if to fire on me. I told them to stop, they stopped for a moment. Then they looked at Trag and Nidi and turned their aim toward them. Nidi drew her sword and sliced the first one in half. Trag tackled the other and it fired into the air. He ripped the rifle out of its hand. Then he tore its head off. Sparks came out and it fell over. Then it got up again and Nidi split it in two, right down the middle. It didn’t move again. She slashed the other into several pieces for good measure. They both looked at me.
“I really don’t know how to use this thing. It seems inherently dangerous. The trucks are infected too, but we can use them to move Vronsky to the whale medical bay.”
As if on queue Dr. Death, Werner, and the four-armed Veronica avatar came rocketing out of the sky. Veronica was riding on Death’s shoulders, holding onto his head. I explained the deal with the transports and Veronica suggest we load herself and Vronsky in one and I could control them with the wand until we got to the medical bay. It was going to be an interesting task. I held the wand and drove the transport off the edge of the ice into the water and sunk it. Veronica had both Death and Werner get in the water. She was underwater really and using her avatar simultaneously.
It dawned on me that Veronica was using her transmitter to control her avatar. Her avatar had a rust transmitter but her personal one was not. Jonas had forbidden everyone from using regular transmitters until the virus was removed from the ship’s system. The whole communication network has been infected and anyone transmitting on it would be infected as well. Using the ship’s manual communication units worked as it didn’t need a transmitter interlink and our units could speak into them without being affected. This was not the case for whales. I told all this to Jonas and everyone with effective communication links. Veronica could, of course, hear all this. She just stayed on track.
“Hands, focus on the task at hand. Raise the transport. Werner, Death, lift. Give it all you got.”
I focused on the vehicle and attempted to drive it out of the water. It surfaced and we moved it out over the cracking ice and onto a more solid surface. Water poured out of it. There were two whales filling the container to the limit. Vronsky hardly fit in it with all his bulk. Veronica was crushed under him, holding him up so he could breathe. The water was dark pink with blood. I climbed up the side and dove into the tank. I squeezed down the side of the whales. The water was freezing. I got to Veronica and examined her transmitter. It was infected. I removed it. Her large eye looked at me. I slid out of the tank, climbed over the top and jumped to the ground. I tossed the device to Nidi.
“Smash it, it’s infected.”
She did and I dove into the frozen sea. Jonas only sent his plan to me and Charlie. For the first time in over a hundred years, the Banga was not going to be piloted by a whale. Charlie was going to take navigation control. I removed the rust transmitter from Jonas and took it to the surface. Veronica’s four-armed avatar stood there motionless.
“Werner and Death can you load my heap of a former scout ship on the other transport and hook it behind this one.”
Werner went over to the scout and got around the side of it. Death looked at me quizzically.
“It has that gun acid all over the front of it. We need to get it off the ship. It’s worse than any toxic waste imaginable. Don’t touch any of it when you move it.”
This got through to him. It was the first time I had given him an order and he clearly was hesitant to follow it. I think this single act changed our relationship from that day on. Suddenly, in Death’s mind, I must have outranked him. He began to look at me in a completely different light. They picked the scout up from the back and chucked it onto the flatbed. It was still smoldering and thick black smoke drifted out of it. It smelled terrible. Then they connected the two transport vehicles together.
I climbed back up the side of the tank and squeezed again down Vronsky’s side, this time smooshed against the outer glass of the tank. I got to Veronica and attached the whale rust transmitter.
“Can you hear me?”
Her avatar came to life outside the take. I heard her in my mind. “Yes, let’s go!”
I swam to the back of the tank and crawled up Vronsky’s tail and to the surface. Sunshine was talking with Veronica’s avatar. They dug in the med pack she had brought and both climbed up the side of the tank and got into the water. The four-armed Veronica turned to me.
“Thank you Hands, we’ll treat him as we drive. Don’t worry about us.”
I jumped down and walked to the front and sat in the wet driver’s seat. Nidi and Trag climbed to the top of the tank and held on. Werner stood on the back of the second transport behind the scout. I looked to Death again.
“You’ll have to cover us. We don’t know who is still on the ship and we have a long way to go.”
Dr. Death nodded. He would be our gunner. He rocketed into the air above us. I focused on the wand and the transports moved off across the ice at full speed toward the cave exit.
I didn’t know what to do next. Jonas told me that my first priority was to get the wand to the Brick and see if we could get the virus removed from our ship. Vronsky’s life was secondary. I wasn’t going with them to the whale medical bay. I was only going as far as the nearest large access port. The Brick was leaving the Banga and picking me up there. Taegu and Macrai had destroyed the rogue fighters and were on an intercept course. They would pull the transports to the med bay, then take the busted scout to the hangar and blow it into space. I didn’t tell anyone about this.
We made excellent time across the ice and entered the cave. Uzi pulled up just as we exited the storage section into the outer hallway system.
“Keep going I’ll drive shotgun and fill you in.”
I kept the transport moving. The dashboard in front of me pulsed with the strange ruin language of the Vedma virus. Uzi raced along side of us in the Rust-a-gogo.
“Veronica, we have to drop Hands off at the next access port and we will have to wait there until the two Varan women pick us up and tow us to the medical bay. They will be there in twenty minutes. Can Vronsky make it?”
There was a long pause.
“I guess he’ll have to.”
We shifted routes at the crossroad and moved toward the outer edge of the ship. We traveled in silence. The inner airlock was open when we got there. Mox was standing there wearing a Rust-robo-combat suit. The Sentinel droid stood beside him. They looked like old tin soldiers that had been found on the bottom of the sea after a thousand years of rusting in the sand.
I brought our two-car train to a stop. Uzi got out of his bike and waved Werner over.
“Werner your battle days are over. Hands, you take his suit.”
Werner started to protest. I’m sure he felt very safe in that indestructible suit. He had witnessed so much death all around him and he knew the only reason he was alive now was that suit. Uzi was experienced enough in battle to recognize this immediately.
“When the Varan get here you can ride in the scout with them. It’s just as safe.”
Werner opened the front of his suit and got out. I walked over and Werner put his hand on my shoulder with a very earnest look on his face.
“You’ll be safe inside her. It’s the safest place you’ll ever be.”
I told him everything would be ok. I stuffed the wand into my boot and stepped up into the suit. I walked over to Mox. Death landed next to us.
“You’re going back to the Magus, you’ll need my help.”
I knew we were and I knew we would. Uzi wasn’t going to sit there defenseless for twenty minutes though. For all we knew the Vedma were still watching our every move and though we had access to our sensors again, they could be easily manipulating them.
“You are staying here with us Sargent. We need your gun for cover. We’ve lost enough of our crew and I don’t want to lose anymore.”
I know he wanted to go with us more than anything, but Dr. Death followed orders. It was what he did best.