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Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

Echo-1: Part 22

We all got up and walked back to the golden ship, which took off for orbit as soon as we came aboard. We didn’t leave the hangar bay this time and in it were now two diamond spacecraft. They were scout ships, crystalline in appearance and shaped like perfect isosceles triangles. They had seats for four and a small living space/cargo hold. They were about the size of a Winnebago. It was unclear how one entered them. They were nearly transparent and you could see internal engine parts. There was a triple pyramid of thrusters at the back of each. X was very impressed.

“These babies look like they can really move. You know diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” She elbowed Mox in the stomach and walked over and touched the smooth solid surface.

“I’m going to upload the specs for all of you and give you interlink access for both ships. Hands, this one is yours and Sunshine why don’t you take the other.”

Slam, the lightning went off in my head and I knew it all. I was able to comprehend the ship’s functions and could rebuild the engine if I wanted to. I noticed Sunshine looking a little disoriented.

“I’m not really into these uploads. I prefer to learn things the old-fashioned way, daddy-o. But thanks.” She said rubbing her head.

X stood there looking a little miffed. A snarl across her lips, her arms folded across her chest, she rolled her toes in a tapping fashion on the floor. She had toes! and very agile ones at that, no toenails mind you, but still, toes!

Mox smiled, he was like a trickster lizard Santa sometimes. He opened the side of Sunshine’s scout ship and pushed out a diamond cube the size of a washing machine. X immediately changed her tone to that of a little girl on Christmas morning. She would’ve peed her pants if she was wearing any. She squealed and jumped up and down. She ran over to Mox and nearly knocked him over hugging him with her arms and her legs.

Mox opened up the diamond-a-gogo. X leapt in a single bound off of Mox and into the bike. She configured the manual controls and reset the diamond Robo-a-gogo to be ridden head first. The top slide over her and she was encased in diamond.

“I do.”

She hovered the bike and took one short lap around the hangar before driving it back into the scout ship, smiling the whole time. She did her standard somersault out of the bike suit, ran up to Mox and kissed him on his lizard snout.

Charlie commented that he had never seen one made of such a material. That the Varan were skilled at adapting others’ designs with their homeworld materials.

“We are excellent at copying. It’s probably why we travel all over the galaxy looking for great ideas. Well, why don’t the ladies ride back in this one and Charlie and I will ride back with Hands.”

X punched him in the arm and went with Sunshine. I tested my connection with my new ship. It worked perfectly, I was able to engage the engine, open the side panel, interact with the sensor array, and even fly it remotely from outside if needed.

I walked inside. The aft compartment was a simple empty square space. The cockpit had four seats and a space to stand behind them, room for droids or extra passengers I guessed.

The humanoid rust robot was sitting in one of the back seats.

“Klagstrom Gloz Styx.”

“Um, Hi, I’m Hands.”

“Styx Stantagz.”

“Alright Styx, I think I’m starting to get it.”

I sat down in the Varan style barcalounger pilot seat and put my hands on the rather outdated steering controls. It was right out of a video game. The dashboard around me had full manual controls for the entire ship. I could do everything mentally, but I must admit it was rather cool to have the hands-on option as well.

“Old school.”

Mox not really getting my old school reference closed the ship’s doors.

“Yes, its an older model ship, but they don’t make them like this anymore. These scout ships were built to last. They were some of the first long-range ships the Varan produced. Not the most comfortable by today’s standards, too small and cramped. But you can go some serious distance in this ship.”

We were just leaving the orbit of Varanidi when the hangar bay doors opened. Mox flopped down in the seat next to me and Charlie climbed up on the dashboard.

“Let’s head back to the Banga now, please. I’d like to get to my shop and put a few finishing touches on these transmitters. Also, Mox, how much of that rust metal do you have? It seems like our only defense against the Vedma.”

Mox slithered into the deep curve of the chair pondering the contents of his cargo hold.

“I have two rust Robo-combat exoskeletons, mine and Blunts, one rust take on the Robo-a-gogo, it’s not functioning right now, maybe you can look at it? I have a case of rust-blade assault rifles, three turbo cannons, maybe ten or so 2 cm sheets of the raw material and my sentinel droid. Oh, and Styx here and the five transmitters.”

Charlie took all this into account. “We’ll have to make do, can we use all of it?”

Mox seemed indifferent, he shrugged his shoulders. “Sure why not?”

Sunshine’s scout launched out of the hangar and I powered on my ship and engaged the silent thrusters. The scout ship though bigger than the small fighter I had flown before had that Varan handling, similar to the Brick in some fashion. It had considerably more power than the Banga fighters. I had an amazing grasp of my surroundings when connected to its sensor system. I could see it all in my mind. The gold ship behind us, the ice planet growing smaller in the distance, the approaching asteroid belt, the outer ring planets, and the Banga parked in orbit, riding the edge between the shipping lane and the Varan system.

There were two other gold Varan ships out here with diamond fighter escorts. They were transporting supplies to and from the Banga. As we traversed the Varan system again with a trajectory on the Banga, looking so small in the distance, I have to say I was dwarfed again by the sheer size of it all. The comprehensive leap from a terrestrial mindset to that of one who has the ability to move freely in space takes a certain degree of imagination. Even at the hardly imaginable speeds we were flying, the scale and distances we traveled were mind-blowing, like asking an ant to comprehend the Autobahn. Space requires everyone to spend a little more time thinking about the big picture, especially, when you are maneuvering through it in a relatively tiny craft.

The speed and power of the diamond scout topped the other vehicles I had ridden in, it was a ship that twenty-first-century sci-fi hadn’t prepared me for. I had the matrix for the ship in my mind. The Varan master craftsmen carved the body of the ship out of a single piece of material. The blueprint for the design was over ten thousand years old. The two ships we were flying back to the Banga in were exact duplicates of the original design. In fact, the ship I was flying was more than three millennia old. For me, that would have predated the pyramids. It was triangular.

We came up to the asteroid belt and instead of going around I followed X right through. The scout’s sensors fed me all the info on the field. Even though all the stellar objects were in motion, I was able to grasp the location and trajectory of every obstacle and easily maneuver a clear path through them. Occasionally I would spot X weaving in and out around the asteroids ahead of us. I’m sure she was enjoying driving the scout as much as I was. I wondered if I was becoming a space gearhead? I was a motorcycle guy, but this ship made it seem like a tricycle.

From inside the asteroid belt, the sunlight splintered into endless rainbow beams of color. The large crystals rolled and flowed around us as we snaked our way between them at effortless gliding speeds. We cleared the field of giant floating diamonds and set a straight course back home. I notched up the acceleration to just below top speed and slid in behind X who was clearly redlining her ship. She slowly pulled ahead of us, a race I felt like I should let her win.

“So, Hands, assuming we live through this mission, what are you up to next? Are you really going to ride with the Banga all the way to the other side of the galaxy? I mean I admit it will be a grand adventure, but all the surveys say there isn’t much going on there yet. Hence, all the terraformers. I guess there is something to be said about being a trailblazer. Going where no one has been before and what have you.” Mox smiled at me. “You don’t live that long, but would you be interested in spending some time on a ship as small as the Brick?”

Charlie, gave me a little sideways glance and pretended to be not paying attention, focused on tinkering with a transmitter.

“I don’t know. I’m kind of just following where the galaxy takes me. I honestly haven’t even had time to make any plans. This world or I guess the world, or the galaxy, whatever, is kind of mind blowing on a daily basis.” This was true, but there was another truth I couldn’t seem to shake. “Though I must admit I would like to go to Earth. I still feel like it is my home, even if I’ve never technically been there. I hate to think I would never get to see it.”

Mox clasped his clawed hands together and leaned forward in his chair.

“You are certainly an individual, Hands, you’re of course free to chose your own destiny in the universe. You let me know if you’d like to take an adventure with us. I could use someone like you on my crew. As you saw, we have some empty seats on the flight deck. Blunt seems to like you and I’m sure I could talk Jonas into freeing you from any obligations you might think you have. Jonas and I go way back. I’m good friends with his grandfather after all.” Mox smiled his huge lip curling smile at me and chuckled a little.

Jonas, whom to me was a mountain of wisdom and experience, was nothing more than a young man, the grandson of an old friend to Mox. It was hard for me to see the age of this youthful lizard man. Who knew how old he was, thousands of years, I supposed, yet, his nature was simple and spirited. He was a rascal for sure, but he was also clearly a highly enlightened being. Mox was a Buddha. To be around him was to like him. He was hands down the most charismatic reptile I had ever met. His zest for life was inspirational.

We passed a golden Varan ship leaving the Banga and docked in the port side hangar. The Brick and a large transport ship were parked inside and I pulled in and landed next to Sunshine’s scout. Once inside I reconnected to the Banga’s computer. Orders came down that I was to report to Uzi on the top side battle bridge. Mox, Styx, and Charlie headed over to the Brick to inventory the rust metal cache. The Save the Whales crew pulled up in a flatbed transport vehicle. Tim gave me a nod from the cab in the front. Sunshine climbed in and they backed out of the hangar.

Wingus and Dingus were there waiting for me with my Robo-a-gogo. X drove her diamond-a-gogo out of Sunshine’s scout ship and sent me a ‘let’s go, come one’ telepathic message over our transmitters.

I said hi to my twin droids got into my bike and followed her on another madcap ride through the ship to the battle bridge. Her diamond Robo-a-gogo was fancier looking than my dented blue one, but they were equal in speed and handling. This time I kept up with X and raced her neck and neck around every corner. We parked in front of the two guards posted outside the giant door. X flipped out of her bike and gave Punchie his namesake punch in the stomach. He handed over her trench coat and she slid into it as the door was opening.

“Are those scout ships out of this world or what? Sunshine totally let me fly back.”

“I figured as much.”

“I am totally jealous you got one. But this diamond-a-gogo is probably the most perfect thing I have ever seen. You are a badass pilot Hands, you’re the only one who can keep up with me.”

We entered the bridge and Uzi was there at the window, his normal perch. He looked straight into me with his piercing different colored eyes.

“Lieutenant X briefed me on her ride over. I know everything about your meeting with the Varan. I’m fine with you keeping the diamond scout, consider it your ship. As far as the transmitters are concerned I think it is best that I take one. You will be getting one and Mox wants one as well. That leaves one more.” He looked at X.

“Mox has a rust metal Robo-a-gogo, if I travel inside that I would be able to communicate and would be impenetrable from the Vedma. Charlie is going to work on it. Mox says it has a built-in pulse cannon and some kind of rear defense system. Real James Bond stuff.”

Uzi rolled his red eye at her. “I am James Bond.”

He kinda was, but meaner.

“It makes sense to either give it to Death or one of those Save the Whales crew, probably Tim. I think he’ll be piloting the whale transport ship. We could trick out the Brick, but we don’t know if the Vedma will gain control if we opened the cargo doors. So my plan is to use the Brick as muscle and everyone else is going to ride in the transport ship. Hands, you’ll take Sunshine’s diamond scout. She doesn’t have any interest in owning it. She said she thinks it’s cheesy and that diamonds are all mined by criminal organizations. I was slightly offended as my father was a diamond merchant, but I let the comment slide. That was Echo-1 and this is the real world.

“We can use her ship as a bargaining chip, in case the Vedma want something more. Jonas has been working on the simulation program for them. He has a real surprise in mind for them. I don’t think it’s the best idea to double-cross them, but he refuses to hand over proper technology to a bunch of whale traffickers. We will hold position here at the Varan frontier for two days and then resume course. We will prep all day today and hopefully be able to start the mission tomorrow. If it takes longer than a day, you will need to catch up to us en route to the wormhole.

“Hands, are you down for all this?”

I nodded and said I was in.

“Tov, I mean good. The Varan dropped off a large supply of diamond missiles, they seem to think the crystal casing will let their targeting system remain intact against the Vedma control beam. It’s only a theory, but we will load up the scout with them. Worse case they are just more bargaining chips to trade with the Vedma to get the whale back. Meet me in the central science lab in two hours to prep for surgery.” He took X by the arm and walked away from me to confer with her more about the plan I hoped.

I left the bridge. Wingus and Dingus were blinking when I got back into my bike. “Incoming message from the Captain.”

A small whale hologram started swimming around inside the bike with me.

“Hands, are you up for this mission? Are you ok with the implant surgery? You do realize I am risking you and everyone who is going after this whale.”

I said I understood the risks. “How do you plan to trick them and not give them a simulation system that works?”

“I’m making a custom version of the 100 Year Lifespan program. It works perfectly for one full year, then turns into a giant nightmare. One so bad, even the Vedma will be scared to death. They will be so far off by then it would take them a couple years just to catch up to us and they don’t leave the Morning Star comet for any extended length of time. I do realize if they ever find out it was me, I will have made a lot of enemies. I want to send a message to anyone who thinks they can traffic children. The whale they took was just a baby and they have had it for far too long. You are going to be on their list as well assuming we pull this off.”

Bubbles rushed out of the holographic whale’s blowhole.

“Charlie said he has the new transmitter for me. He is having it delivered to the beach entrance. Meet me there and install it for me, I’m heading there now.”

“I’m on my way.”

An armored vehicle pulled up to the door. I assumed this floating space tank was how Uzi moved around the ship. It had two turrets one on the front and one on the back with a big Zero-G commando manning each gun.

I headed off to the beach.

{ Part 1 ~ Part 23 }

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