Back to the Magus
The Magus was drifting in space, but the two parts were pulled next to each other. Two of the lower thrusters, that weren’t completely crushed, were being attached to the triangular top part of the ship. There were a good ten functioning decks and the entire ship was again covered in furiously working repair robots.
Mox instructed the Sentinel to wake up the Professor. The robot reached into its chest and yanked out the cuttlefish mad scientist.
“It seems your little robots have been busy.” Mox leaned back in his seat. “Mister Blunt, would you please demonstrate to the Professor what we are going to do if he doesn’t cooperate.”
Blunt worked the navigation controls. We accelerated with blinding speed. The three remaining Vedma fighters fired at us, got in our path, then quickly thought better and moved aside.
We hit the lower sections just above the thrusters. The view screen was filled with white light and the explosion was incredible. We swung wide and turned back toward the ship. All the remaining thrusters were destroyed and the bottom of the ship broke off completely. It was now in three pieces. Fire spit out the bottom, then quickly vanished.
Nidi stopped Blunt from taking a second pass. “Wait. I want to go aboard the bottom section.”
Everyone turned to look at her. She stood in the back of the room as tall as the Sentinel and soft furry white in stark comparison.
“I want to go to Mildabbar’s nursery and rescue the pups. There’s no reason they should die because of him.” She growled at the squid man in the lab coat, who retracted away from her toward his rusty guardian.
Mox seemed to be thinking it over. X took his arm.
“We can do it. The Mega Therion aren’t an evil race. We have to save the puppies.”
Mox seemed reluctant. He looked to his first mate.
Blunt turned around in his seat. “You know what I think.”
Blunt spoke in Varan and he spoke for me too. He stopped the Brick and we sat off the bow of the Magus and watched the repair bots scrambling over her surface. Mox raised his arms above his head, stretched, and let out a loud throaty croak. I had heard similar croaks deep in the jungles of southeast Asia made by monitor lizards in the night. It made me think of what Earth must have sounded like during the reign of the dinosaurs.
“Let it never be said that I don’t take into account the feelings of my crew. And what a conscientious group you are.” He folded his arms and shot out his tongue. “Maybe I’ve been spending too much time with these militaristic types. I’m not one for war.”
He stood up, spun around, reached down under his seat and grabbed his belt with his pirate fencing sword and his stun gun. He took a few steps to the center of the control room and put it on. He loved the theatrics of it all. That much was for sure. He cleared his throat again.
“This is what we are going to do.” He made a point of turning around a complete 360 degrees, making eye contact with each one of us and especially Mildabbar. “Because the Professor here will not help us and he is hell-bent on our destruction, we will board the Magus once again and raid his lab for any useful technology we can find to help remove this virus. Then to his nursery. We’ll liberate as many Mega Therions as possible, especially the puppies.”
He shot two of his maniacal grins, one for X and one for Nidi. X’s big smile in return was only surpassed by the toothy gaping tongue hanging out grin of the big bad wolf herself.
“And on our way out we’ll give the lower half of the ship a big dose from the Veltearrik Acid Blasters. How does that grab you, Professor?”
Mildabbar had no comment.
“Oh, you’ll be going with us of course. But before we depart on our mission of charity, Hands, why not try to disable all the ship’s defenses and open the secondary hatch. Clear the way for us.” He stepped over behind me. “Maybe that thing works both ways?”
I took the wand out of my boot and concentrated. I opened the side entrance hatch to the Magus. Then I shut down all the repair droids. Then I focused on the lab and the nursery and on any guard units in the area. Then I turned my attention to the three Vedma fighters watching us from a distance. I shut them down completely.
“We’re all clear, I also shut down the three remaining fighters and all the repair robots. Look.”
I pointed to the repair crews who were all now standing still.
“It does work both ways! Want to talk about freeing the Banga now?” Mox was pleased.
Mildabbar didn’t like it at all. He clicked and spat gooey slime on the floor. Mox whipped out his stun gun and shot him. He flinched and changed color a couple of times.
“Professor, I’m not going to tolerate that kind of behavior on my ship.” He spun his stun gun around his clawed finger and slid it back in its holster.
X jumped out of her seat. “Let’s go space cowboy.”
Nidi stepped forward. “Before we board, could you patch me through to the fighters.”
Blunt shrugged his shoulders. The screen changed to a triple display, there was a single wolf’s head in each section. “They can hear and see you.”
Nidi and Trag walked to the center of the room. She spoke in the growling wolf language. The wolves on the monitor growled back somewhat angrily. Trag then spoke in a deep ferocious tone. The fighter pilots spoke back. It seemed they were all growling at the same time. It sounded like a pack of wild dogs going crazy. It went on for some time then they stopped.
Nidi looked at us. “They don’t trust me completely, but they say they won’t attack for now. They are re-powering up their ships.”
With a gesture to the Sentinel, Mox instructed him to pack the Professor away. The Sentinel stuffed him back into his chest compartment. I got up and we took the elevator down to the cargo bay. Styx retook the co-pilot station and Blunt moved the Brick into position.
In the cargo bay, Mox attached the two acid blasters to back of the two rust robo-armor suits. He tossed a rust-blade rifle to Trag.
“I’m guessing you can handle this.”
The wolf caught it and nodded in agreement.
Nidi re-assured us. “He is with us, to his death.”
I hoped he wouldn’t need to go that far. She was getting a serious exposure to her people and she was clearly taken by the sense of honor her species carried with them. I was too. X slid herself near Mox rubbing herself against his side, then she climbed up his body and jumped off his shoulders landing perfectly in her Diamond-a-gogo. Nidi stepped into the sidecar.
Mox turned to Trag and spoke in Varan. “Can you keep up?”
Nidi growled to him. X closed herself inside her gogo and Trag positioned himself on top. Mox and I climbed into the rust suits and we all got into the airlock. This time we were three rusty robots and a diamond cycle covered in werewolves. I worried about Nidi. Nothing could touch the rest of us, as long as we stayed in our vehicles. Hopefully, the Sentinel would look out for her as well as Mox.
The outer hatch open.
“Scan for invisible Vedma.”
We all waited a moment.
“Klangstrov. Negative.” The Sentinel’s unfeeling lightning eye pulsed. I guessed we were in safe hands.
We moved on board. And closed the airlock door once inside the Magus. The Brick pulled away with its airlock door open, just in case they needed to jettison any invisible stowaways. I saw the cargo bay door close a minute later.
Trag led Nidi to a side compartment. Inside were Mega Therion space suits. They were black steel reinforced armor with pointed eared helmets. They put on the helmets first. Trag clamped it down on Nidi’s face. It opened in two parts. Then she did his.
Nidi came over the communications.
“Ok, I can breath a lot better now. It’s hard to talk in this helmet, not a lot of mouth room.”
I hadn’t even thought about there being no atmosphere in the ship. The Magus was full of holes.
“This suit doesn’t seem to be under the virus control at all. Maybe it’s too simple a design or they trust their followers. Hands try to control it, but don’t infect it.”
I did. I got nothing from it. “Nothing.”
We waited while they finished suiting up. When they were done, they looked like characters from a Japanese superhero cartoon from the 70s. The helmets were shaped like wolf heads with big ears and large snouts. There were greenish lenses over their eye. The rest of the suits were composed of a simple thin metal fiber. Nidi picked up her electric samurai sword and lit it up for a moment.
“You look positively bad ass in the suit, Nidi.” Everything was a little too cool, even for X. She loved it.
“Movement isn’t too restricted, but it is a little strange moving in this thing.” She slung her sword over her back.
I walked up to her, a short rusty bulky robot next to a tall sleek wolf robot. “Welcome to my world.”
She laughed. Mox signaled for us to move.
“Alright, let’s head to the nursery first, then Mildabbar’s lab.”
We moved fast as a team. The Sentinel and Mox took the lead with X in the middle and the two wolves aboard her bike. I brought up the rear. The rust suits were fast, but X was clearly moving slow for us. We made good time up to the next section. A patrol of battle robots came our way. I had the wand inside my suit. I just made them turn around and go down the next hallway and shut themselves down.
Parts of the ship were burning, some sections had atmosphere, others were opened to space. It took some time to navigate, but we came to the nursery eventually. I hadn’t been in that part of the ship yet. It was sealed and there were to guard units posted outside the door. Two humanoid looking metal androids with assault weapons. The Sentinel droid lit up his axes and chopped them in half before either even had time to get a single shot off. I don’t think they even knew what to make of us. I opened the door and there was a rush of air from inside. We moved in and I closed the door behind us.
The nursery was intact and pressurized. It looked rather wrecked and much of the machinery had been removed, probably taken to the other half of the ship. There were operating tables and smashed equipment everywhere. We moved down the hall checking the side rooms. The first to were full of dead pups. The back wall was punctured and the atmosphere was sucked out. The next room was empty, as was the one after that. X drove down to the end of the hall and opened her bike.
“Here is where I found Nidi.”
The last three rooms had one pup in each. Nidi and Trag opened all the doors and picking up the pups, one yellow and two grays, they dumped all three baby wolves inside X’s bike. X tried to control the wild dogs climbing around inside her gogo.
“They are all over me!”
We checked several other rooms. The ceiling had come down on a large portion of the nursery and we couldn’t get through. There were five more rooms to check. We opened the next two and found four more pups. Nidi and Trag where carrying two each. The third room was full of test tubes and embryos at various stages of development. The fourth room was full of food. Before we entered the last room in the complex, the Sentinel went off.
“Gfulstrz. Life Form. Detection.”
Trag dropped the two pups and I scrambled to pick them up. Mox opened the door and there she was Faye.
“Why don’t you let our Professor go. I’m sure we could talk about releasing the Banga. You like to negotiate don’t you Mr. Mox.”
She was holding a silver wolf pup in her hands. Mox stepped back and the Sentinel charged into the room. She vanished and the pup dropped to the floor. The room lit up with red lightning and she re-appeared.
“Call off this rust bucket!” she hissed.
Mox signaled and his robot stopped. Faye walked forward. Trag was getting angry and growling. He had his rifle aimed at her. She snarled at him.
She was as beautiful as ever. Her spell still got to me. Even though I knew they could all take that form. I knew there was no real her, but somehow she still got in my head. Mox stepped in between Trag and Faye. He picked up the silver pup. It yelped in his rusty hand.
“How do we remove the virus from the Banga’s systems?”
Faye’s purple eyes glowed softly. I felt a huge pull toward her.
“You have to power down and restart from your unexposed core computer. Just like you already did with that gold ship a while back. But any active affected systems will instantly infect others, it has to be a complete restart.”
This sounded like lame tech support advise to me. Mox considered it.
“And it’s that easy?”
She said yes. She made eye contact with me. I started to believe her.
“Are you sure you won’t stay with us Hands, I think you’d be very happy here.”
Mox stepped between us. “He’s staying with me. However, I am willing to give your Professor back and even let you go on your way.”
I couldn’t see her, Mox was purposely in the way. It irritated me completely.
“And what is it you want in return?”
Mox reached to his back and pulled out his acid gun. “We want you to go back to your comet and stay there. And if there are any of you on the Banga when we get back.” He leveled the acid blaster at her face.
“There are twelve of us still on the Banga. They will all move toward the starboard main hangar and will take one of your ships and return to the Magus. The Vedma will always choose survival over extinction.”
I moved so I could see her again. She was glaring at Mox.
“That’s a wise choice. Are there any of you on the Brick?”
She smiled an evil seductive powerful smile. “One.”
A very long silence followed, broken only by the cries of the silver puppy in Mox’s hand.
“Now give us the Professor back and our wand, then we will leave your ship as well.”
The silver puppy cried out loudly.
He dropped the puppy and it ran toward Faye.
“We’ll give you back the Professor when our ships are free of you. He raised the acid blaster and doused her with Veltearrik acid. She didn’t even cry out. Her head and upper body simply melted. Her lower half turned into a tentacled cuttlefish and then it too melted and she was nothing more than a pile of goo on the floor. A moment later the acid burnt through the floor and the air started sucking out of the room. The little silver pup was smelling around the hole, Mox reached back down and scooped it up, causing it to yelp again.
“We’re going back to the Brick, now.”
Mox opened the front of his suit, tossed the silver pup in next to his leg. “Give me another.”
Nidi put one of her pups in Mox’s suit. I was standing there like a fool. I had let go of one pup I was holding. It had run off. I opened my suit and stuffed the one I still had down by my leg and Nidi gave me the other she was holding. I put that down the other leg and closed the suit. The baby wolves howled and bit my ankles. Their teeth were incredibly sharp. I was definitely bleeding.
“Let’s go!” Mox opened the outer door and the air pressure was sucked out.
“We are missing one of the pups!”
Mox wasn’t waiting. He moved through the door with the Sentinel right next to him. X was yelling at him the whole time. Nidi ran to the back of the nursery. X and I waited. Trag was agitated and looking around frantically. A second later Nidi was back with a small brown wolf in her arms.
“I got him!”
She jumped on the sidecar and Trag got on top. They tore off down the hallway. I stood for a moment looking at the hole where Faye had been. Then I took out my acid blaster and sprayed the entire room. It ate through everything. I followed the group, hosing everything on the way. The lower part of the ship was literally collapsing behind us. I stopped when we got back to the hallway that led to the airlock.
The patrol of battle robots was back and firing. Their laser blasts did nothing to us, but when a blast hit Nidi she screamed and howled. The Sentinel made short work of the entire patrol. They all fired uselessly into the rusty killing machine as he hacked them to spare parts. We rushed to the airlock. The little wolf that Nidi was holding was covered in blood.
“They killed him, those fuckers. They killed him.”
She was crying and growling and cursing the universe. She was born into a violent world. An animal in nature. Survival was something only some species could handle.
Mox called for Blunt to come get us. He didn’t respond.
“Blunt come in. Zandar are you there? Mox to the Brick. Styx are you reading me?”
He spoke all this in Varan. No response. He turned to us.
“We’re going out the airlock. The Brick is out there and we are going back to her. I’m sorry about the pup, Nidi. It was my fault. Hold on now.”
He opened the airlock and we all got sucked into space. I saw the little dead pup fly off and I turned around to see the X’s diamond bike spinning with Nidi and Trag holding on as best they could. The Brick was there, just off the starboard side of the Magus. Mox signaled to me. We both jetted over to the Diamond-a-gogo and stopped them from rotating. After we steadied them, we pushed them along in front of us to the cargo bay door of the Brick. Mox remotely opened it. We moved into the airlock and it closed behind us.
“Scan for Vedma lifeforms.” Sentinel made no indication it was doing anything, then it spoke.
“Klogstrardoam. One. Life form. Brickstrome. Control Room.”
Mox opened the inner airlock. We all moved through and the inner door closed behind us. Mox jumped out of his suit and ran toward the elevator. I followed him. The four pups were left stuck in the legs of our suits. The Sentinel followed up as well as Nidi and Trag. X stayed behind herding the little pack of Mega Therion pups together.
“Don’t take any shit from that chick, no matter how cute she is!” X yelled.
I wasn’t sure if she was directing that to me or Mox. We got to the elevator and rode it up to the flight deck. No one talked. Nidi and Trag were still in their black wolf space suits. They didn’t remove easily. It was the first time I had ever see Mox seem actually tense.
“Is it still in the control room?”
The Sentinel confirmed she was. Mox took his stun gun out and held it at the ready.
“Keep scanning and if you have to, kill it, but let me know immediately where it is at.”
The Sentinel acknowledged compliance. The elevator door opened and we rushed down the short hall to the control room entrance.
“Lifeform. At co-pilot station. Sfardstawz.”
The control room door opened in a flash.
Mox and I went in first with the Sentinel behind us and the two wolves last. Styx was at his computer station being his silent working self. Blunt was in his normal chair and was leaning over to the co-pilot seat and whispering into Yaba’s ear. There she sat in a satiny flowy translucent robe. Her slender muscular legs crossed and dangling over the side of her chair. She was giggling at whatever Zandar Vandar Blunt was telling her. Mox slid his stun gun back into its holster.
“And what, may I ask, are you two talking about?”
Blunt turned our way and flushed a little pinker than normal in his pinkish orange parts; the embarrassed Gila monster. He spoke in Varan.
“Well, this fine lady and I were just discussing the differences between the various genetic groupings of our people. Particularly, she wanted to know if my bite was actually poisonous, as this was a rumor she had heard. I simply told her, that I’m not at liberty to say.”
He snarled his lip for a moment and revealed a row of dangerously pointy little teeth that I didn’t know he had. The flash of a row of fangs only lasted a second. It wasn’t clear whether or not Blunt was under the Vedma spell. If this Yaba had taken control of the Brick, that would be the end of us. Blunt continued.
“She kept goading me about it, over and over, she also pressed me with her very impressive seductive talents. In the end, she couldn’t keep her hands to herself and I had to answer her question definitively, I’m afraid. I’m not a fan of learning the hard way, but she left me no choice.”
We stepped up closer behind them. Yaba’s left arm had a tourniquet tied above the elbow extremely tight. The lower part of her arm was in her true tentacled form. She had a series of black looking puncture wounds on her forearm. There was a good deal of greenish black pus leaking out of the bite wounds and now that I was standing next to her I could see her eyes were very very red. Mox laughed at this situation.
“I warned her repeatedly about touching any of the ship’s controls. She really pushed me. Anyway, I told her you would be able to mix up an antidote in the lab for her when you got back.”
Mox clasped his hands together. “Indeed I can, Yaba. And, may I say, I do like you in yellow scales, most flattering and regal. You look like a princess. If you’ll be so kind as to come with us down to the lab. She got up, nursing her infected arm and followed Mox out of the room.
I went up to Blunt. “Do you have control of the ship?”
He laughed. “Of course, though I must admit after spending some time with her, I understand what you must be going through. If I didn’t have such a good rapport with animals I wouldn’t have been able to deal with her either. And after all, I did have to bite her. I haven’t bitten anyone in over a hundred years.” He laughed again. “She tastes as good as she looks you know.” He smirked at me.
“Will she live? Is there an anti-venom?”
Blunt explained to me that a good deal of his neurotoxic venom had probably already reached her brain, which may have explained why she had become so pliant. He wasn’t sure if the poison would kill her or not, but he seemed to think her chances weren’t very good.
“The will of these Vedma is extremely tenacious. They are aggressive perfection, maybe that’s also a fault.”
He had a long conversation with her about the virus and how to remove it. Apparently, they would remove it completely from robots and machinery that they sold or traded with various species. It involved setting it into a dormant state and restarting the device off a non-infected computer system or a droid. Maybe it was that simple after all.
I went out after the others and caught up to them at the lift. We rode down one level to the lab. The two wolves stayed in the hall and removed each other’s space suits. The Sentinel stood at the back of the lab silently. Mox and the Yaba went over to the main table.
“I’ll just need to take a few samples of your skin, blood, and cellular structure to make sure the antidote will work with your bio-system.”
The Yaba held out her good arm. Mox went into a drawer and took out a small handheld device. From inside the Sentinel, Professor Mildabbar was yelling, screaming for her to not do it, to stop, that he was ready to negotiate, to let him out and so on. His muffled pleas were ignored by all.
Mox scanned the Yaba’s arm, filled several vials with her purplish blood, and took a small skin sample. He loaded this all into his lab computer system. Then he pulled out another small injection device. He worked at his station for sometime analyzing her samples.
“This will just take a few minutes. In the meantime, this should help slow the effects of the poison.”
He injected her bad arm and she thanked him, rather kindly. He pulled a computer panel out of another drawer.
“While we wait, why don’t we try and see if we can make any sense out of this virus?”
I was already standing next to the infected panel under glass. I pulled the Vedma control wand out of my boot and focusing on the panel shifted the virus into its dormant state. It seemed as though the panel had shut down, though it was still operational. Then I shut it down completely. Mox opened the protective covering, connected it to the control board and restarted it. It took a moment and then began to function normally.
“Yes!” He laughed his infectious giggle. “Hands, my fine fellow, I think we’ve got it.”
I attempted to control the panel using the wand, but it no longer had control. The Vedma virus language no longer appeared on the panel readouts. The virus had been removed.
“Now, Yaba, my dear, is there any residual hidden element of the virus still in the operating system?”
Mildabbar yelled louder than ever, cursing at the Yaba in some unknown language. She seemed slightly concerned then turned and faced Mox.
“Our customers wouldn’t trade with us in the future if we left hidden encryptions in their systems. The virus is gone.” She seemed to be thinking, or maybe it was the poison getting to her. “It’s a very simple control operation really. It just overlays an instructional signal and tells the infected device to only accept commands from a Vedma control unit.”
She smiled and stumbled a little. She grabbed the edge of the lab table to steady herself.
Mox gave her another injection and removed the tourniquet. She twitched violently and fell to the floor. Mox helped her into a chair and positioned her against the wall. He loaded his injection device with a stimulate and shot her up. Her eyes opened wide.
“Whofuys fsaefhel aeahfei laefih isopie ei aiehf lelel.” She stood up for a moment, then sat back down in the chair. “Oh, thank you, Mr. Mox.” She smiled at him affectionately. “I feel so much better now.”
Mox went over to his computer station and then to his cabinets and mixed another shot together. He came back over to the Yaba.
“Can you tell me, Yaba. How many of you are there?” Yaba looked confused. “Where is your homeworld?” The Yaba smiled.
“We are from the Morning Star. The comet is our home. We evolved there. It has been traveling for eternity.”
Mox wasn’t going for this. “Do the Vedma live on the comet itself?”
She puffed a bit and slumped in her chair. Then sat up straight. “Of course we live in the comet. But only the Vedma may enter the inner halls.” She slumped down again and closed her eyes.
“Don’t you want to return to the comet then?”
She opened her eyes again. “Oh, yes, very much so. I love the comet so. Please let us return now. We won’t come after your Banga again. We’ve killed the big whale. We are done with whales. They know nothing of the universe.” She folded her arms and closed her eyes again.
Mox reached forward and put a hand on her head. She fell forward and collapsed on the floor and changed into cuttlefish form. Then she moved no more. This Yaba was dead.
“Let’s get back to the Banga.”
Blunt acknowledged over the intercom.
“Scoop her up and put her in a storage bin.”
The Sentinel picked the dead Yaba off the floor and poured her into a drawer under the lab table and locked it.
Mox rapped on the side of the Sentinel. “Why Professor, what was that you were saying?”
Only silence came from within. Mox sat down at his computer interface. He stared at the screen. Then he looked over at me.
“Tell Nidi and Trag to stay suited up, this isn’t over yet.”
I walked out into the hall. They were both still removing their armor.
“Best put everything back on. We’re heading back to the Banga.”
There was a loud impact and a muted explosion outside the ship then silence. I accessed the Brick’s sensor system. Blunt just left the Magus only one potentially functional booster rocket. They were dead in space and weren’t going anywhere for some time. Mox launched a buoy with a warning to any ships coming into the area that the extremely dangerous Vedma mother ship was conducting repairs and should be avoided at all costs. He made a few strange lizard croaking noises while working on his lab computer.
The Sentinel’s electric eye extinguished, then a moment later it lite up with bright blue lightning. As if they were burning, the electrical pulses changes to red and the big rusty bodyguard looked his normal self again. Mox called me over to his computer.
“Hands, let me see your armband.”
I held out the arm that had a built-in sensor array. Mox made some adjustments.
“Ok, now both you and the Sentinel should be able to see them. Their skin is incredibly complex.”
He sent a message to Charlie saying that there were at least twelve invisible Vedma still on board the Banga and to keep the central computer system on lockdown and shut down everything else he could. He transmitted the sensor adjustments to see invisible Varan. Then all communications jammed.
“They’re still on board and they are still vying for control.”
We walked back to the elevator and went down into the cargo bay. X was in a side room off the hall, she had put all the wolf pups inside with some food and Wingus and Dingus to look after them.
“What’s the deal?”
She put her hands on her hips turned her head sideways, the way dogs do when they are trying to figure out what you mean. I think she’d been spending too much time with Nidi. Mox took her hand and led her down the hall.
“The deal is, these Vedma aren’t going to let up. I keep trying to negotiate with them and get them to peacefully end this standoff.” He was a truly emotional empathetic creature at times and maybe a bit of a pacifist. “They just seem bent on destroying us. I want to try and get control of the Banga again.”
Mox stopped. He seemed to be thinking. We all watched him. Then he spoke again.
“It goes against what I believe in. I am not in the business of committing genocide, nor destroying an adversary unnecessarily.”
X squeezed his hand tight and pressed her body up against his side.
“Baby, they aren’t good people. They won’t stop.”
Mox seemed to concur with her assessment. He stood for another moment.
“Ok, we’re cut off from the Banga. We don’t know what is going on there and we have no way of knowing if anything the Vedma have said is true. We do know how to see them now and they still control most of the Banga. It’s safe to assume they’re still on board since we haven’t seen any ships leave. They could still potentially destroy the Banga at any time. We’re going to have to go back to what is left of the Magus. As long as that ship is functioning, we aren’t going to be able to free the Banga.”
He walked over to his Rust-robo-combat suit.