Echo-1: Part 37
Mox asked if the scout was ready to go. I told him other than the two remaining iron clamps, dangling metal fibers, and part of a spacecraft, the Blue Hand scout was fully operational.
He closed his eyes for a second and I heard his voice in my mind.
“Cuttlefish net 4, now.”
I looked to Mox, not sure what was going on. Then I heard Uzi.
“Confirmed, we are a go.”
Mox opened his eyes.
“We’re going to board the Magus and hunt down the professor or the sisters, whichever we find first. If we can’t crack this virus, we’re going to need one of them to do it.”
In the meantime, he assured us, X would keep them from getting into the Banga’s computer room.
Mox, the Sentinel, and I boarded the scout. Death stood outside the door. Mox turned around and addressed him before shutting the hatch.
“You gonna be ok out there big guy?”
“Those women are slimy squids, you don’t seem the type to have a fish fetish to me. Keep that in mind when they start flirting with you.”
Death nodded again with an incredibly serious look on his face.
Mox closed the hatch.
“He thinks he has something to prove this time. We’ll have to use that to our advantage. It’s not going to be as easy as last time.”
All I could think was, there was nothing easy about last time.
We closed the interior airlock door, opened the outer door, rushed into the Magus hallway, and the door closed behind us. I fired into the blast door down the hall and started a hole. I fired some more making it big enough for us to fit and then rammed through. Death was right behind us. We rocketed down the hall. Alarms were sounding in the ship. I started scanning. The Brick was scanning too. More than half the Mega Therion were missing. I was reading maybe two thousand life forms on board. A large group of them had boarded the Banga and the rest I’m assuming died in the battle or from the Hundred Year Life Span program.
“We are going to have to find the lab and probably check that throne room of theirs.”
Mox nodded in agreement to this idea. “Return to the scene of the crime, as they say.”
I think Blunt and Mox had spent some time discovering human expressions and they seemed to like using them.
“Gitty up.” Mox looked at me quizzically.
I told him in Varan an expression that meant something like ‘drive the beast on.’ He loved this and laughed.
The Magus shook violently. We crashed into the wall.
“Blunt is out.”
The Brick blasted out of the hole it had made.
“He is going to destroy this ship now. This is the end of the Vedma.” Mox seemed to pause for a moment of thought. “Or it will be the end of us.”
Outside the Brick was getting some distance and some speed. Blunt cruised out to the tail end of the Banga and taking a wide turn came racing back at full speed. He connected with the top of the Magus and ripped right through. A huge chunk of the top of the ship was torn clean off. The Brick was going so fast that it kept going to the front of the Banga before it could loop around for another pass.
We made our way to the central passageway and when we got there, they were waiting for us. Two large cannons fired on us as soon as we turned the corner. They continued to fire. The blasts were unavoidable. I couldn’t see anything. I only had ten diamond missiles. I used two. The entire hallway exploded. The cannons were gone. We moved through the smoke using sensors to see.
A giant bloody wolf jumped onto the front of the scout and scared the shit out me. He bit and clawed at the diamond surface. He could see us inside. He continued to try to break in until Death shot him. I could see the agony on his face as he slid off the front of the scout, leaving a trail of blood where he had been. I could just make out the giant door to the throne room down the hall. They were closed. Two shiny metallic tank looking vehicles pulled into the hall ahead of us at the next intersection.
Mox looked at me smiling. “The welcome wagon?”
Yes, it was the welcome wagon and they fired some kind of pulse weapon that knocked our sensors offline with the first hit. I could smell smoke inside the ship.
“Fuck these guys.”
I put it in full reverse and backed away as fast as I could. They fired again as we were reaching the previous intersection. The pulses knocked us off course. We smashed into the wall again and just made it around the corner before we stopped completely.
“Shit! We have to get this thing running.”
We were sitting ducks. Mox was frantically working the ship’s computer, initializing a new power flow. We moved off at a crawl down the side hall.
Those of us still in communication all heard Forklift and Uzi. In the port hangar several thousand meters away, Forklift was talking to Baba. She was luring him out of his suit, again.
“I did miss you.”
“No, I don’t need this rusty old suit.”
Uzi had entered the port hangar bay and was bashing his way onto the Magus in the Rust-a-gogo. He was screaming at Forklift to get back in his suit.
“Keep that armor on soldier!”
You could hear the firing and the explosions and the howls and then a scream that was unlike anything I had ever heard before. A moment of silence was followed by more screaming, it was Forklift this time. He was back in his suit yelling “NO! NO! NO!”
He was cracking bad. He sounded crazy. He was firing and Uzi was ordering him to stand down. The last thing he said was “come back here.” Then silence. I got sensors back on and saw Uzi was on the Magus and heading toward us. The port hangar of the Banga was full of legions of battle robots and several hundred Mega Therion shock troopers. Forklift was there in the middle of them, alone.
I inched the scout on passed the second intersection and the tanks were there again. They fired at us knocking sensors dead again and nearly killing our engines. We lost one thruster for good. There would be no way to repair it from inside the ship. We limped away and circled around without any resistance and pulled into the throne room from the right side hall. It was empty. We came to a stop.
“We need to re-align the system to resist these tank pulses or they are going to knock us out for good.”
Mox was up and heading toward the door. “Fine you stay here and fix it. We’ll rendezvous here. We’re going after the professor.”
He opened the door and the Sentinel went out before him firing up its red lightning axes. Just then, the huge wasp flew into the room and buzzed around the ceiling. It hovered in front of the scout and looked in the windshield. It was Tim or I guess giant space wasp Tim.
He nodded his antennaed bug head at me. I could see my reflection a hundred times in translucent slick oversized eyes. I nodded back. It was Tim. He flew off down the side hall.
Uzi rode up on the Rust-a-gogo. He opened the top and looked around. The giant ornate room was full of smoke. The oversized chaise lounge was empty on the stage.
“This place has probably seen better days. Tim killed Baba back in the hangar bay. It sent the wolves into a frenzy. Forklift has lost it completely and was firing at us when we left. That wasp exoskeleton is very impressive. He took several blasts from Forklift and was unaffected. He was able to fly right past everyone. I caught hell bashing through. Stone Face didn’t make it.”
The sidecar on the Rust-a-gogo was all smashed up and the rust cannon hung limply from the front of it. Uzi had driven an indestructible motorcycle through an army of robots and lost his gunner doing it. He looked at his other soldier in the diamond combat suit.
“Death, you stay here and cover Hands. We’ll be right back.”
He closed the top of the bike and Mox climbed on the sidecar with his acid gun on his left arm. They raced off after the Tim wasp, the Sentinel droid right behind them.
Death was holding his rust cannon with both hands and looking around. I pulled a panel off the left side of the piloting control station and dove in head first. I had made it a point to learn everything I could about the Varan diamond scout. I could fix it. I had the knowledge, but I needed time.
The Magus shook with such force that Dr. Death fell over. I smashed my head hard on the edge of the control station. The Brick had come by for another pass. The impact came from below this time. The sound was an unbelievable screeching, crushing, tearing, metal crunch. He had crashed into the main thruster engines, flattening them completely. A secondary explosion ripped through the ship. Part of the ceiling fell in on top of the scout.
The Magus’ days of terrorizing the galaxy were definitely over. My head was pounding. If I had ears they would have been ringing. Then it was quiet, almost silent.
I reset the ship’s controls and configured the hull to conduct power. I’d electrify the ship if those tanks shot at me again. I looked out to see if Death was still there. He was standing perfectly still not moving. When he spoke, he only said one worried sounding word. My name.
I knew what it was before he spoke. I could feel her too. I walked out of the scout. Death’s arms went limp at his sides. His rust cannon only being held by its handle. A giant in a diamond armor suit, yet helpless as a baby. Faye was alone, standing right in front of him. She was more beautiful than ever. Her dark skin glowed through her silky purple gown. It seemed to drift around her body with a mind of its own. She looked like some kind of Greek goddess or Egyptian princess, maybe a space Cleopatra.
She told Dr. Death to step aside and he did. She wasn’t three meters away from me. I could smell her. I could taste her. I could see the soft wetness of her beautiful endlessly deep eyes. They seemed to change color at will and had an exhilarating hypnotic effect. I don’t know how long we all just stood there, but it seemed like forever.
When she spoke it was as if it were a dream. “I like your real clothes better.”
It was the single greatest compliment I had ever received. I looked down at my all black Banga issued Zero-G fatigues.
“This is a different ship than the one you had before, is this one yours?”
I told her it was.
“Is it functional?”
I told her it would fly.
“May I have it?”
I told her she could.
I saw Abednego the white and silver wolf general come up behind her, but it didn’t concern me. She walked up to me and touch my arm. I moved and she looked inside. She raised her arm and waved her little flashlight at the interior of the scout. It came to life in a wave of new colors. Faye smiled at me.
“It’s a wonderful ship.”
She looked at the giant grapplers clamped down on the hull and they dropped right off. She moved closer to me and I felt the temperature of her body, slightly cooler than my own. Abednego boarded the scout. Faye stepped back to the entrance of the scout. I stepped forward.
“Why don’t you come with us?”
I wanted to. I would’ve gone anywhere with her. I heard the massive buzzing sound of Tim in his giant wasp form coming from behind me, but I didn’t care. Faye pushed me back, hissing. She raised her arms spreading her fingers and filling the room with flames. I dove out of the way. Tim swerved in the air above us and avoided the flames pouring out of Faye’s slender fingertips.
“You’ll pay for killing my sister, you fucking insect.”
I was on the ground looking up. Death was snapping out of it. He lifted his rust cannon with both hands and leveled it towards Faye. I turned to him.
He looked at me from inside his diamond body armor. His eyes seemed sad. He couldn’t do it anyway. Faye stepped into the scout and closed the door. As it closed she gave me a look that said be careful. I felt like it was a door that closed forever. Uzi came driving back into the room. The scout lifted off the floor and Death started firing at it. His cannon blasts ricocheted off the surface and punched holes in the walls.
Mox in the sidecar held out his acid gun and fired. A big glob hit the nose of the scout and sizzled. The front section drooped down some. It was melting the diamond. The acid slid off the scout as they turned in the air and fell on the floor burning a huge hole right through the deck. That gun really was the most dangerous thing he owned.
The main doors to the throne room opened and the scout rocketed off toward the hangar bay, toward the Banga. They were abandoning ship.
The Magus shook again with another huge crash and explosion, this time from above again. The smoke and air were sucked out of the room. There was still some atmosphere, but not much.
Uzi’s screaming snapped me back to reality. All I really made out was something about a bunch of fucking idiots and getting the hell out of here.
I climbed onto the sidecar with Mox. He gave me a look.
“Couldn’t resist her, could you?”
I didn’t know what to say.
The Sentinel was standing at our side, the surface of its body covered in dark sticky blood. We headed off after Faye. The hall was full of billowing smoke. Uzi floored it and we darted into the thick gray fog. I could feel the heat of the fire. Death rocketed past us. I could hear him firing. I could see the red explosions ahead as we raced down the hall. My stolen scout ship was already aboard the Banga for sure. When we got to the tanks at the first intersection they were burning. Mox sprayed them with acid as we passed. The Sentinel was right with us. Mox turned and lay a slick of acid behind us. It ate right through the floor. I wondered if it would cut the ship in half.
We were coming up on the hangar entrance. I could see straight into the Banga. The Scout was hovering in the large bay of the port hangar. It fired two rockets straight into the wall. They exploded and filled the room with flames. I saw the remaining two thrusters of the scout pulse off down the hall. They turned around and fired two more missiles. They curved and slammed into the same point on the wall. It was the same place Jonas had spoke to the Inuit before we took them to Varanidi.
We had made it to the Magus hangar bay when the water exploded through the hull. A tsunami filled the port hangar bay and a wall of water came right at us. Mox gripped the sidecar tight.
“Hold your breath!”
Uzi came to a stop and turned to run back into the ship. When the water hit us it was up to the ceiling and moving with an insane force. All the air was pushed out of the hall. The smoke and fires were extinguished. In a second we were underwater. I couldn’t hold on. Neither could Mox. We were carried off back down the hall.
The water was full of bodies and destroyed robots. I saw Uzi tumbling ahead of us. His Rust-a-gogo rolling helplessly underwater. Mox swam amazingly. I shouldn’t have been surprised. He moved like a water snake, slithering through the now water-filled tunnel. A moment ago I was racing between spaceships on fire, now I was in a giant water tunnel, completely submerged in a slow-motion underwater world.
The water was pushing us back towards the throne room. When we got to the acid trails Mox had laid on our way out, the water had turned into a whirlpool around them. Uzi’s gogo was slammed down sideways and stuck to the floor with the downward sucking water pressure. Mox and I were being sucked down too. He grabbed me and swam as hard as he could, but it wasn’t enough. We were about to go down the hole when the Sentinel appeared and saved us. We grabbed on to the rusty robot and it rocketed us away from the hole.
Mox was talking to the Sentinel. I could hear him on our transmitters. We went back for Uzi. The Sentinel moved past the rift and let us go. We drifted down the hall. It went back and pried Uzi free. The two big rusty shapes drifted up and headed toward us. Mox and I swam as best we could against the current. I had great physical strength, but swimming constantly against a water force so big was next to impossible. We could only slow our movement.
We were almost back in the throne room when another Brick collision reverberated through the water with a sonic boom. I imagined this must have been what it sounded like when the Titanic sunk. The creaking bending metal sounds muffled by the water sent a chill down my spine. Suddenly the water pressure stopped. We floated for a moment in suspended animation. Uzi and the Sentinel were about a hundred meters away from Mox and myself. The bulging dead eyes of a drowned wolf stared at me as he floated upside down past us. It felt like the Magus was moving.
“Should we try to swim back to the Banga?”
Mox nodded in response. “Can you make it that far underwater?”
I would have to try. We started to swim down the hall. It was slow going and as we approach the now widened acid crack in the floor we felt the pull on the water flow change. There was another large underwater grinding metal sound. Mox looked back at me with an incredibly worrisome expression. It was the only time I had ever seen him not look calm.
“We’re detaching from the Banga.”
This was not good.