Here They Come!
Echo-1: Part 36
I kissed Dixon goodbye and she squeezed me and purred. I raced off to the main port hangar. When I arrived everyone else was already there. I pulled my bike inside the scout expecting to find Styx, but Mox was there instead.
“I figured Zandar would need some help maintaining the Brick’s systems and I know at least I can be trusted with the Vedma.”
Mox was sitting in the copilot seat. He reached down to his side and picked up a Veltearrik Acid Blaster.
“I’m not sure you can be trusted with this either. So I’ll hold onto it if you don’t mind. I never mentioned to anyone that you left your gun behind the last time we boarded the Vedma vessel.”
He was right. I was struggling with their influence. Even then, I could feel them coming and it made me happy and excited, which I’m sure was a bad thing.
“You’re nowhere near as bad as that Dr. Death, but those witches got a hold of you.”
I couldn’t deny it. It was true.
“Pull your gogo up as close to the font as you can. I want to get my Sentinel droid in here. We’ll keep you honest.”
He gave me a big Varan smile. I wasn’t sure how the Sentinel was going to fit, but when I looked out the door, it was standing beside the ship. I pulled my bike up as close to the seat as possible, ordered Wingus and Dingus to get in the back two chairs and to tap into the ship’s systems and start learning them. I powered down the gogo and compressed it into its square washing machine size. The Sentinel droid crawled through the door sideways and took up most of the back compartment.
Uzi pushed through a communication to the scout. The Magus was on a direct course to intercept the Banga.Between them and us were three Varan ships, a diamond scout ship directly followed by two golden Brick style ships, surrounded by a bunch Vedma fighters. It was the scout that was sending the communication and they were Varan. Mox projected the message on the front of the cockpit. On the image appeared two female Varan, one black and white and one bright blue with intense red eyes.
Mox’s tongue shot in and out of his mouth in a fury. “Taegu and Macrai, who else is with you?”
The black and white Varan answered in the Varan language. She said they were alone and that the other two ships were overtaken by the Vedma ray. When the first ship was boarded, everyone was killed. Their communications were shut down completely. They had the scout ship in the cargo bay of the second ship. They were heading back to the Varan system when they picked up the Banga warning about the Vedma approaching. They confronted the Magus and lost both ships immediately. They were the only two that survived. They got into the scout knowing it could resist the light ray. They figured they might be able to make it to the Banga easier than trying to fight their way home. The scout was no real match for the gold ships, they had taken minimal damage and were running fast. They needed weapons and fuel.
“We’ll distract them, you get inside the Banga. We’ll have missiles standing by to arm your scout. It’ll be a slim chance if you can get in here, load up, and get back out to fight before the Vedma take control of everything.”
The lizard ladies agreed. Uzi cut in and said they would have a full complement of diamond missiles ready. I pulled the Blue Hand scout into the airlock. Dr. Death was inside already standing next to the Brick. He nodded to us. I told him to be careful out there and don’t except any communication from the Vedma. He didn’t reply. He just looked pissed off. The airlock door opened, we shot into space, and it began.
We raced full speed in the direction of the oncoming ships. I couldn’t see them. Death was riding on top of the scout. His propulsion unit was fast, but we were much faster. The Brick pulled ahead of us. I increased our speed to the maximum. The Brick was still pulling away like we were hardly moving. I pushed the scout until I could get nothing more and the Brick was still pulling away. I could see the sparkle of the diamond ship coming in the distance. The two golden Varan ships were right behind it, one on either side.
“Why can they outrun the golden ships, when I can’t even keep up with the Brick?”
Mox snickered at this.
“You know we tricked out the Brick, it’s not your average Varan craft. Watch.”
We looked out to the rapidly approaching ships. The Brick was on a direct collision course with the gold craft on the right side.
“Blunt’s got the Brick fixed on that golden cruiser. This isn’t going to be pretty.”
I began to feel that uneasy feeling that I didn’t really belong in battles, a kind of nausea mixed with anxiety.
I had to assume the golden Varan ship was full of Mega Therion soldiers. It attempted to break formation realizing the Brick was heading right at it, but the Brick was coming way too fast. The Brick hit it directly, perfectly square. They were the exact same size. For a second we could no longer see the gold ship as it was eclipsed by the Brick. Then there was a terrific explosion. They impacted straight on and the gold ship was completely destroyed. The front of it folded in on itself and exploded into a million pieces. After the blast subsided golden particles flickered in the emptiness of space.
For the moment I wasn’t scared of anything. When the Brick was around we were invincible. Blunt came over the communications speaking Varan. He wasn’t going to be able to take out the other one in the same fashion as he couldn’t build up enough speed. He swung around and cracked into the side of the second gold ship. I opened fired with my laser cannon and peppered the golden ship with dents, but did no real damage.
The Varan ladies zipped past us in a flash of glittering light. The Brick had knocked the remaining golden ship off course enough for them to get away. They would make it to the Banga.
In passing Mox spoke to them in Varan.
“You’re home free ladies, now gear up and come back and help us.”
They replied back, “sure thing long scaled one,” or something like that in Varan. I gave my playboy copilot a look.
“Long scaled one?”
He shot his tongue out at me. “They’re calling me old.”
“Here they come!”
The golden ship was heading right for us. I could see that the cargo hold door was blasted open from the inside. Probably how the two Varan women had got out. I ran and they chased. I spun the scout around and was flying backwards. Blunt, genius pilot that he was, knew exactly what I was thinking. He maneuvered the Brick around and collided with the golden ship’s corner, effectively changing its flight angle. I locked on two missiles and fired. They tried to correct. The Brick butted up against them giving them nowhere to run. The two diamond missiles went right into the cargo hold and exploded inside the ship. Debris and robots were sucked out into space. The gold ship seemed to be adrift.
Mox smacked me on the shoulder. “You two make a great team.”
He shot his tongue out and giggled with joy. For a minute I was enveloped in his optimism, then the fighters caught up to us. The first thing I saw was several dozen missiles coming right at us.
“Go!” or whatever the Varan word is for fast action.
Since I was already facing them I punched it right at them, firing the laser cannon at the missiles directly in front of us. Some exploded, others slammed into us, shaking the scout, causing no immediate damage.
“Head toward the adrift gold ship and pull into the cargo hold. We’re getting out.”
Mox went to the back compartment carrying his fencing foil and acid gun. He opened the front of the Sentinel droid’s chest and tossed in his sword and the gun. Then he curled into a ball and climbed in himself. I pulled into the golden ship’s cargo bay. The Brick was trashing the fighters all around us. They were all firing at it to no avail.
I jumped out of my seat, pulled a belt over Wingus and Dingus and got inside my gogo. I opened the scout’s door. The cabin depressurized and the gogo smashed into the Sentinel, who was unaffected. He pushed the gogo back into place and climbed out with Mox inside him, a robot trojan horse with a lizard surprise. The door closed, the cabin pressurized, and I climbed back out of my gogo bike. It was freezing. I adjusted the climate controls. Mox signaled to get out, so I did.
When I pulled away they had already headed off toward the golden ship’s central elevator. Dr. Death went with them. I glimpsed the two hulks moving into the ship, one sparkling crystal the other dark dense rust. The two missiles had broken the inner cargo bay door and depressurized the ship.
I flew out and immediately had several fighters to deal with. I managed to dispose of one when the Magus came into view. She was still some distance off.
Mox called me. The gold ship was completely under the control of the virus. The Sentinel and Death had liberated it from the robots on board, there were several Mega Therion bodies. They lost control of the ship when it depressurized and they died. The robots on board where all battle models and hadn’t been able to assume command quick enough. Mox had managed to manually power down the engines and was going through a manual restart process. He hoped that the virus would be easy to get rid of. It wasn’t.
The Brick took off at ramming speeds toward the Magus. I continued to fight off the remaining fighters that didn’t chase after the Brick. I figured I would have to go back for Mox and Death. Then he said he had managed to get some manual control. The golden ship went into motion. It picked up some speed and followed the Brick.
The Magus was getting closer. She was big in front of us. Surrounded by hundreds of fighters. All its weapons were firing. Explosions filled the sky. Nothing stopped the Brick and it collided with the Magus at full speed, hitting dead center on the hundred deck ship. A fireball shot out of a three deck deep hole in the ship, then flashed out in the void of space. The Brick didn’t come out the other side.
All the Magus guns now fired on the golden ship. It was starting to break apart. I used it as a shield, hiding behind it. I saw the Dr. Death’s diamond suit in the cargo hold door. Then he rocketed out. I sped forward and he grabbed hold of the scout. Then I turned and ran back toward the Banga. The golden ship crashed into the lower decks of the Magus in another colossal space explosion. The Magus kept coming, trailing smoke and debris. I didn’t see the Sentinel anywhere.
The fighters that had scattered were now reorganized. They were all after me. I ran. I was halfway back to the Banga when I saw the other diamond scout returning.
Death was screaming at me through his communicator.
“My suit is not affected by the virus. Turn around! We can take them!”
I swung a wide turn. Death was firing like a madman from the top of my scout. The returning Varan scout raced past me and blasted a hole in the tailing Vedma fighters. Taegu and Macrai came over the ship’s communication again speaking in Varan. They essentially said something along the lines of ‘payback time.’
I took up a position just behind and slightly above them. Blasts from the Magus filled the space in front of us. As did countless Vedma fighter craft. I was trying to conserve my missiles and take out as many of them with the laser cannons as possible. I had a human battle turret on the roof blasting ships out of the sky with his hand held rust cannon. The small Vedma fighters were not much of a match for two Varan scout ships fully armed, but I was working through my missile supply and I knew there was no reload.
I also knew the Banga wouldn’t be sending any fighters. They were in the process of powering everything down. We were close enough that I could communicate over my rust transmitter. I was telling Jonas and Uzi that the Brick was stuck inside the Magus and not communicating. I assumed it was ok, but Mox and the Sentinel had possibly been destroyed crashing the golden in a suicide run. The Magus was definitely damaged but had not slowed down at all.
Mox came over the transmitter. “I’m fine. I’m going in after the Brick.”
We came up on the Magus again. Death was blasted right off the top of my scout. I saw him tumbling through space. I was taking heavy fire and it was shaking the ship something awful. The large laser cannon blasts ricocheted off the hull, but the missiles exploded on impact. The scout’s systems were taking a beating. We took both scouts in near the Magus and flew close along its surface, firing into it constantly. We may have knocked out some of their weapons, but it was hard to tell.
All around us were flashes, explosions, and fighters trying to kill us. We headed up toward the Brick’s impact crater. As we got there I saw the Sentinel, apparently undamaged, climbing into the smoking hole. It was cavernous, gaping and full of electrical fires. I could see the interior decks of the ship and somewhere around the middle was the dark rectangular shape of the Brick. The Brick was intact but possibly damaged. Blunt was not answering hails.
I swung wide and went after Death. He was being blasted around space like a human pinball. The fighter weapons couldn’t damage his suit, but his ion pack wasn’t powerful enough to remain steady against so many laser blasts. He was firing wildly, trying his best to hold on to his gun and keep his orientation. He would take a hit and go flying in one direction, then get hit again and go sailing in another, spinning like an out of control crystal gyroscope.
I called to him, but he didn’t answer. I fired two diamond missiles and destroyed two more fighters. I came up underneath Death and slowed to almost a stop. His spin sent him crashing into the scout. Luckily, he managed to grab hold. I punched it. We were taking fire.
He spoke dizzily over the communications. “Thanks, man.”
I told him to hold on and executed a series of rolls followed by an improbable double loop that put us behind three short lived Vedma fighters. We were right on top of the Banga. She lay just ahead of us, a massive continent floating in space. Even though she was at full thrusters, she seemed as if she wasn’t moving. We were catching up fast.
The firing stopped and all the fighters broke off and headed toward the Banga. She opened fired with everything she had and was crushing the number of fighters by the second. Uzi could have easily fought them all off. Then the light beam came flashing out of the Magus. It scanned across the massive scape of the Banga. Uzi let loose every outward bound missile and cannon he had in a last-ditch effort to delay the inevitable. Fighters exploded in mass all around the ship. The diamond missiles were immune to the ray. A wall of rockets sailed passed us. Our two diamond scouts weaved in and out of them. They pounded the surface of the Magus. The entire front of the ship seemed to explode.
The burning Magus positioned herself right above the Banga and all firing stopped. The 100 deck conical Vedma mother ship that had traveled the galaxy for thousands of year was looking her age. There were countless holes belching fire. Pieces of metal, robots, and Mega Therion corpses floated all around. The Magus looked like a burning building of terror. A serious crack was forming where the Brick had entered. It rolled in space. I could see clear into their hangar bay. The door was destroyed and the inside looked like a scrap yard. Out flew four of their grappling ships.
“I hate these guys.”
I warned Taegu and Marcai in Varan, but they were already on the other side of the Banga hunting fighters. These four were for me. They came right at me. I tried to run firing missiles as I fled. One was destroyed. The other three fired their big claws at me. All three connected. The huge metal clasps wrapped around my ship and clamped down with a bite that never let go. They were reeling me in. I tilted and lost control. My cannons were faced away from them.
He was already ahead of me. He was firing into the cables at close range. One broke, then another. Before he could blast through the third the other two ships had shot him off the top of the scout. I saw him again spinning wildly away from me.
I fired the engine and spun around the last grappling ship like a top. I maneuvered as best I could until I got a clear shot and locked a missile. The grappling ship broke in half as I pulled away from it at full speed. The other two ships, both firing on Death didn’t know what hit them. I fired my last two missiles and destroyed them.
Death regained control and headed down to the Banga, rocketing along her surface. He was heading to the other side of the large globe that contained the supernova core. Uzi informed me that the port airlock had opened completely. All regular communications were gone. Only those of us with equipment that could resist the light virus could communicate now. We communicated openly to the group.
On the Banga they were preparing for boarders. My once beautiful scout ship was now a scorched and tarnished mess with three huge iron bear traps clamped on it trailing industrial strength cable. The third claw was dragging a good-sized chunk of a Vedma grappling ship behind me. I headed toward the port airlock. All the fighters had gone to the other side of the Banga.
The Magus drifted above the Banga shining down its light beam of control. It was crazy that the comparatively minute Magus could so easily defeat the colossal Banga. The Banga was clearly infected with their virus. However, the engines continued to go. The shielded control room had worked. The Vedma were in no real shape to pursue. I thought maybe we could outrun them and maybe find a way to remove the virus before it spread throughout the ship.
A series of explosions erupted on the starboard side. The hangar had been compromised. Fighters were flying in. Taegu and Marcai followed them. They announced this in Varan. Only I understood. I relayed the message to Uzi. I heard Uzi tell Werner to move his team. I had no idea what good mammoths would do against starfighters. At least the pilot zero-Gs were armed with the rust-blade rifles. The grunt units moving with Forklift to the port side had only lightning swords.
It was then that the three sisters sent out their welcome signal. It was sent ship wide. The three of them appeared projected on my screen. Faye spoke directly to me.
“Hello Hands, we’ve come back for you. Our ship is in distress and we will need to set down for repairs for a while. It’s so nice of you to open your main port hangar doors for us. We see your Captain Jonas is swimming with our old friend the little white whale in the Banga’s sea. We can’t wait to see how he’s grown. We’ve also noticed that a part of your ship seems to not be responding and that possibly your engines and life support systems are at risk. We’ll be all too glad to lend a helping hand with those areas when we dock with you. I hope none of you have forgotten us. We’ll dispatch our robot repair crews presently.”
The communication ended. The Magus could still maneuver. She fired her retro rockets and moved over toward the port side of the Banga. I attempted to send a message to Mox in Varan over our transmitters. I assumed the Vedma were listening and hoped they didn’t speak the language. He didn’t answer. I was much faster than the damaged Magus and was able to easily catch up to her and positioned myself near the Brick’s impact hole. I could see the Brick inside motionless. They were getting closer to the port entrance. The Magus titled and lined up its hangar bay to the Banga’s.
There were repair robots already climbing all over the outer hull of the Magus. They connected and sealed the two ships together. I flew along the outside of the Magus shooting off the repair robots. The Magus seemed to power down. I continued to fire at it not doing much damage. As I made a second pass they fired a volley of rockets at me that detonated in front of my ship causing some kind of electrical field. When I flew through it most of the systems on the scout went offline. They really were good when it came to incapacitating ships. I was drifting, dead in space.
For a while, I was nothing more than an active listener. Uzi had lost all control of the Banga’s outer weapons systems. Taegu and Macrai were rocketing through the Banga’s interior chasing after fighters in the starboard side highway system. Something like twenty or so Vedma fighters had managed to make it inside and were now traveling through the passageways of the ship at will. Forklift had his men in position just outside the port hangar. The door they were behind opened up and he was face to face with legions robot troopers marching on the Banga. They had a manual diamond rocket mount at the front of the flatbed full of troops he was pulling. They fired over the boarding troops straight into the Magus hangar bay. I could see the reverberations of the internal explosion pulse through the ship.
Forklift and the lightning sword elite Zero-G grunts attacked the wall of oncoming robot troopers. He had another hundred commandos who were basically unarmed. Their weapons all having been deactivated by the Vedma virus. They couldn’t use any robo-combat suits either as they were also under the virus power. They fought to the end. They took weapons from the advancing robots and fired on the next row of them. They slashed through hundreds of them. The hulking size of our zero-G grunts was our only advantage. They ran rampaging forward smashing robots with their bare hands. When they reached the second wave of Vedma troopers who were armed with heavier assault weapons, they were all cut down.
Forklift went wild and in his indestructible rust suit, he stood his ground firing and firing. The hangar filled with bodies and destroyed robots. The Magus hangar fire was going out and the exhausted Forklift was yelling that he had done it. That he had held them back and saved the ship. He was the only survivor of the hangar battle. The last communication we heard from him, as apparently more Vedma entered the Banga, was “They’re here.” Silence followed.
Werner was heard yelling over our transmitter link, calling out to his partner. He told Forklift he was coming. Uzi cut in and ordered him to move his forces to an intercept position between the port hangar and the rust bunkered control room. Several of the mammoths had been killed by Vedma fighters and the giant dead furry mammals lay in the corridors just off the starboard hangar. It would take them so long to march to intercept the boarders on the port side of the ship. It wasn’t even funny. The battle for control of the Banga took a serious shift in time and scale and I had my own problems to deal with.
If I couldn’t get my scout moving again the Banga would pull away from me and I would be lost in space forever. Suddenly the scout jerked in the direction of the Magus. Then I drifted some more, then another tug and another. I realized that Death was outside pulling the scout toward the Magus. He was holding onto the debris from the grappling ship and pulled me behind him on the wire that connected to the clamp around the scout. He reached the surface of the Magus and started climbing up. He was shooting repair robots as he climbed and heading toward the hole where the Brick was.
My scout crashed into the side of the Magus and dragged along its surface. Inside I was treated to horrific scratching and screeching sounds. I drifted a ways off from the hull and glided smoothly for a while. The Banga looked like everything was ok. The Magus looked like it would never fly again. Death braced himself at the edge of the impact hole and pulled the scout in. He dragged me down to where the Brick was wedged. He turned the scout around and pointed to a section of the Magus interior hull. It was in between us and the cargo hold entrance of the Brick. He stepped out of the way and I fired my laser cannon. It had little effect, but I kept firing. A large section of the deck broke away. Death moved back in front of me and pulled out the deck and moved it to the side. It was a tight squeeze, but he was able to push the scout through.
I suddenly got power back. I backed out and fired to punch a hole through the deck, big enough to fit through. I maneuvered into one of the side hallways inside the Magus. I could see that the security doors down the hall were all closed to seal off the ship from the vacuum of space. We didn’t have to worry about anyone bothering us. I backed up to the Brick cargo bay door. Death pounded on it. I thought about the radio silence moment we had when we first saw the Brick. The door opened and I backed in. The cargo hold was packed so I had to stay in the airlock section. Death stepped inside and the outer door closed.
Once inside the Brick I have to tell you, I had a real feeling of safety. I walked with Death through a small clearing past all the vehicles and robots, stacked to the ceiling. They had all been jumbled around during the battle and the various collisions. The robots were organizing themselves back into secure positions. It was a good idea to hide them here. All the robots on the Banga had been shut down in hopes of keeping them safe, but once the Vedma got control of the ship they could easily activate them and infect them all with the virus. We reached the Bricks elevator. The door opened and Sentinel droid was inside, with both his axes a glow.
“You don’t have to fight this time.”
The Sentinel stepped back and we stepped in. We rode up to the flight deck. Mox and Blunt were working on the Brick’s computers.
“My scout is a wreck. I have main power back, but I’m out of missiles. What’s going on with the Brick.”
Mox smiled, giggled, shot out his tongue, and returned his attention to the computer. Blunt craned his neck around and smiled as well.
“We’re playing possum.”
He seemed to pause for a moment, then asked me in Varan if he had said that right. I told him his grasp of English was more than impressive. Mox sent me and Death back down to the cargo hold to reload the scout with diamond missiles and to clear out the scout to fit us all. I had Wingus and Dingus park my gogo in the space where the missiles had been stacked.
Atop a pile of robots two stories tall, the silver Lutung looked down on us as we worked. We went to work pulling off the first grappling claw. They had some kind of an electric locking mechanism. They were controlled via fibers in the cable line. Mox came down and saw what we were up to.
“Stop! stop! stop! Those clamps are under Vedma control don’t connect anything to them.”
Luckily, my rust transmitter made me impervious and Death was in his diamond suit. Mox opened up a container unit and pulled out a handheld computer interface. He disconnected it from the Brick’s computer system, then physically pulled out its transmitter unit.
He used the interface to send a signal down the wires of the clamp. The clamps opened and fell off the scout. Then he held the interface out for us to see. It was infected. The screen had that strange language on it.
“We brought in a small panel from the Magus and have it isolated in the lab. We are trying to crack into it, but it is certainly a dangerous operation. We’ve been doing basic scans on it and anything we connect to it instantly becomes infected.”
I wanted to get us back into action, to tell Mox that the Banga was boarded, that half our troops were probably dead, that we needed to act before we lost the whole ship, but it was nothing that he didn’t already know.
“What’s our next move?”
Mox waved his hand and the Sentinel droid pulled up behind him.
“We’re going on a manhunt. We’re gonna to get that squid Professor Mildabbar. And we need him alive.”
I asked if he knew where he was. Mox explained that if they started to scan the ship they would know the Brick was functional. Furthermore, as soon as we start moving through the decks they are going to know anyway, so we need to do everything simultaneously. And of course, we were counting on the hope that the Professor was still on the Magus and not part of the boarding party already on the Banga.