Nidi Grows Up
Echo-1: Part 33
Nidi got another education from X, a wild one. It was a fast couple of years to adulthood and we all went along with her on the ride. Nidi got her own Robo-a-gogo. It was bright yellow when she got it, but after smashing into everything on the ship, it was more yellow-streaked.
She flipped it, crashed it, and slid it sideways down corridors. She shot it a few times for fun with Dr. Death. She chewed the seat when no one was looking. To see her and X ride was a sight in contrast; X in her pristine Diamond-a-gogo sparkling like a gem and Nidi in her smashed up clunker. One wreck damaged it so badly that we had to cut the top off to get her out. Then she road with her upper body sticking out the top like a dog with her head out the window.
The whole thing was a total wreck. We offered her a new one, but she insisted she liked a more “lived in” model. I was surprised it even functioned.
Charisma fashioned Nidi a pair of custom goggles to wear when she rode. I suggested she get a scarf to complete the look, but no one understood the reference.
Her friendship with Charlie also had an effect on her. Nidi became a gearhead extraordinaire. Where X saw vehicles as tools to break and replace, Nidi saw them as things to fix and improve. Charlie taught her everything there was to know about small spaceship construction, propulsion, and technical guidelines for land ground vehicles. For those lessons, I always made sure to be present. Charlie was a true master craftsman. There was nothing he couldn’t build. Charlie wanted to build Nidi a Robo-com-wolf-suit, but she wasn’t interested in being encapsulated in vehicles. She liked having her fur in the wind.
I admit I cheated and downloaded the specs for all the vehicles aboard the Banga.
Nidi soaked up lessons like a sponge. It might have been her genetic engineering, but we were all impressed with her rapid development. She mastered the Robo-a-gogo, then turned to piloting. On Nidi’s first space flight I had to be there.
Word got out that I was taking out the Blue Hand diamond scout to watch Nidi. To my surprise, Dixon wanted to come, she had never actually left the Banga. So it was a first for her too. Charlie and Charisma also came, as well as Veronica in her four-armed avatar. We all met in the port side main hangar. X and Nidi had already prepped two fighters. Death was there in his new diamond battle suit. He also had three droid probes rigged with laser turrets. I had initially asked Blunt if I could borrow Styx for a co-pilot on the training flight, and he said that for Nidi’s first flight he would be there personally.
When Dixon and Veronica pulled into the hangar, Blunt and I were backing the scout ship into the airlock. Charlie and Charisma were on the dashboard. I opened the side door and Dixon and Veronica came aboard.
“Dixon’s first time off the Banga, Nidi’s first solo flight, and the inaugural flight of the Blue Hand.”
It turns out that Dr. Death had been the one that put the hand prints on my scout ship. He had done it before the mission to the Vedma. I think he assumed we would be taking my ship and not Sunshines. The Blue Hand was a good name.
Death closed the inner airlock door and opened the outer. We all launched out into space. The rush startled Dixon.
“Oh!” was all she was able to say.
X and Nidi raced ahead with Dr. Death between them. The three probes flew single file behind him. They stayed in a perfect arrow formation. I broke off and took up a position about twenty kilometers off the upper port side.
Dixon leaned over my seat and put her arms around me. “I had no idea it would go on and on like that.”
Below us, the surface of the Banga expanded forever. Its white metal top stretched out like a continent. The flight team dropped down to the deck and sped along the surface. I knew they were going to buzz past the forward battle bridge, where Uzi would be watching.
Nidi already had a reputation. In the last year, she was involved in over 100 accidents. She was rough on the equipment. Uzi was sure to point out that we only had so many fighters. There were a thousand and they just sat in storage.
Nidi was approaching what for humans would have been late teenage years. Soon she would be three years old and full grown. She was already pushing three meters in height. Her fur had gotten slightly darker on her shoulders and back, with a light patch on her chest and a white tip on her tail. She was an impressive creature.
She was the first to break formation and she turned her fighter around. We could see her waving in the window at Uzi on the bridge.
Dr. Death deployed the probes to fly in a random pattern away from the Banga. He rocketed ahead of the probes adding to their chaotic trajectory. He looked like a little star with a purple ion trail. His new suit was pretty impressive if I do say so myself.
Charlie glanced over at me. He had never built a Diamond-robo-combat suit before. He liked it too. “Shoot him, I want to see what happens.”
Blunt giggled incessantly at the idea. “Yeah, let’s shoot him.”
X and Nidi paused to let Death get some distance. I kicked the scout to full speed. Dixon plopped back into her seat. The scout was faster than the others. We caught up to Death in a moment.
“Hands to Dr. Death, commencing live fire structural integrity test number one.”
Death spun around and spread his arms and legs out, daring us to shoot him. “Let’s see what you got.”
I locked the twin laser cannon, it had been my experience that the diamond ships would just reflect laser blasts, but for a second I doubted the armor Charlie and I had built. I closed my eyes and fired. The blasts hit Death dead on. The impact sent him sailing backward, but the lasers had also deflected off the surface.
“Direct hit, no damage.”
Death spun around, regained control, and taunted us. “Try a missile!”
I looked at Charlie. “He should be able to take anything short of the diamond missiles. Those could potentially damage the suit.”
We had a full payload of diamond missiles, but we also had a small stash of conventional weapons. I locked on Death again.
“Hands to Dr. Death, live fire test number two, missiles away.” I fired two missiles.
Death rocketed off. He was dodging and zigzagging, but the missiles were tracking him and keeping pace. He turned, pulled his laser cannon off his back and fired at the first missile, exploding it on impact. Before he could adjust his aim the second one was on him. He leaned forward, reached out, and punched it.
Of the many comic bookish superhero antics I had witnessed in space thus far, the diamond hulk raising his shiny fist and punching a missile had to take the cake.
There was a good size explosion that engulfed Dr. Death. Dixon gasped behind me. Charlie assured her he would be ok. The blast settled and there he was.
“Direct hit two, no damage. This is one hell of a suit!”
X broke in. “If you boys are done playing with your toys we are here for a training flight.”
Nidi broke left with X right on her tail. They followed the probes until they were directly behind them, matching them in all course corrections. Death jetted into the game and charged in on them firing his cannon across Nidi’s bow. She dropped straight down, dodging his blast, engaged her turrets and fired on him. Her shots reflected off his suit.
She came howling over the ship-to-ship. “Dir-rrrrr-ect hit three! No damage and I dodged his shots!”
Death sent a new set of commands to the probes. They turned around and attacked X and Nidi. The sky ahead of us was filled with laser fire. Nidi lead and X stayed with her in perfect formation. They barrel rolled and ran fast. The probes flew in a pursuit course.
“They are going to lock us.” Nidi pulled up and X did the same.
They looped around firing on a probe and destroyed it. The other two took evasive actions, split up, and speed off in different directions. Nidi and X parted and trapped the probes between them. X fired, but only to control the probe’s direction. Nidi locked on one and destroyed it.
Blunt blurted out the Varan equivalent of a ‘Yeah!’ It seemed we were all rooting for Nidi, who was nailing her first flight.
I myself found it challenging when I did this and I had been able to download a huge amount of tactical data. Nidi was flying on instinct. The Vedma had genetically designed her to be a space soldier. As she was coming of age, her natural skills were developing. She was a fighter pilot from birth.
X and Nidi spun around. Death and the last probe peeled off toward the Banga. Nidi followed and we brought up the rear. Uzi joined in, firing the Banga forward cannons. Everyone dodged.
“Those guns will destroy a fighter craft.” Veronica was not pleased about this.
She communicated with Vronsky and Uzi, stating that things were going a bit too far. Nidi and X both said they could handle it. When Death took a direct cannon hit everyone held their breath. Uzi was firing at all of us. He loved war games and he played for real. The blasts cleared.
“Direct hit three, no damage, but that jumbled me inside a bit.”
The diamond suit took a direct hit from a ship cannon. It was seriously built tough.
Death and the probe moved out of the cannon range and headed toward the back of the ship. Nidi and X buzzed the deck and flew right between the two bridge cannon. I followed them. Some of my passengers tensed up and scolded at me. The bridge cannon locked on us and fired. The blasts shook the scout something awful but did no damage. We rocketed past the bridge. Once again I saw Uzi’s red eye looking out from the window. He smiled with approval.
Ahead of us Nidi was firing on the probe and Death was firing on Nidi. She destroyed the probe but took fire in the process. Her left wing was damaged and she careened toward the surface of the Banga. I felt Dixon’s grip on both my shoulders. Charisma held Charlie’s hand and she looked away. Nidi’s fighter bounced off the Banga and part of her right wing exploded. She was not wearing a Robo-suit so she couldn’t eject. She somehow regained control and launched a single missile from her left side. Death didn’t see this coming and there was no way he could avoid it. He head-butted it and was consumed by an explosion.
“Direct hit four, to the face, no damage.”
The blast cleared and Death was fine. He announced the end of the drill and that for all intents and purposes Nidi had succeeded, even though technically she had again wrecked her vehicle. She limped off leaving a trail of smoke toward the hangar. We pulled in behind her.
“There’s smoke in the cockpit.”
I saw Nidi put on her goggles. We entered the airlock with her. The moment the door closed she ejected and ran over the scout. I opened the door and she came in, closing it behind herself.
“Open the airlock!”
I did and her fighter and the scout jettisoned into space. The fighter exploded. I turned around to see a four-armed whale avatar hugging the huge she-wolf. Blunt shot me a very approving look, he flicked his tongue out in their direction tasting the love. Charlie and Charisma were smiling too.
“You know, it’s beautiful out here, but you guys are way too high energy for me. I think I’ll stick to bigger ships. These little ones are dangerous.” Dixon was relieved.
Blunt laughed his infectious Varan giggle and we all laughed with him.
“That was excellent maneuvering, very impressive.” He spoke to her in Varan.
Blunt didn’t hand out compliments and Nidi grinned her toothy werewolf smile. The feelings of accomplishment and happiness filled the Blue Hand scout. X and Death followed us back into the hangar bay. The parts of the destroyed fighter were picked up by outer ship maintenance robots.
Nidi was one of us now, that was for sure. Uzi declared her a menace to Banga machinery, but he also granted her full pilot status and suggested she wear a Robo-com armor suit when going into space. She said she would risk it. She did not like wearing things. A bit of non-fashion she picked up from X. The only reason she wore the goggles because her eyes couldn’t handle the speeds she drove.
One day we found her in the back of the lab glued to a computer monitor. She was researching her people. With her new pilot status, she had more access to the ship’s files and she was reading about her people. She had read all the reports from our mission to the Vedma ship. She was very upset when X tried to speak with her. X sat and told her how she found her in the lab and explained that she jumped in with her and that she was a very scared little pup at the time and X told her she couldn’t have left her there. Nidi was a very emotional and compassionate individual and we had all come to care for her very much. Even the whales liked her.
Nidi was concerned about her people. The Mega Therion were manipulated by the Vedma, they were artificially advanced and tricked into following these shapeshifters that were not even the same species. She understood that they were not goddess she-wolves. They were probably some cuttlefish type of aquatic creature not even from her planet. She was also conflicted because you couldn’t deny that she wouldn’t be the person she was today if it wasn’t for them genetically altering the DNA of her species. She felt she both owed them a debt and wanted to expose them for what they really were. They were her creators and her deceivers.
She was also worried about the effects of the nightmare machine we had left with them. By now it would have been nearly two years since the simulation program changed from the 100 Year Lifespan Program into an endless nightmare program. She didn’t want her people to suffer or die from the program. She wanted to talk with Jonas about it. She wanted him to send a ship or a probe to the Vedma ship to warn them or at least to tell them how to fix it.
X tried to explain that the Mega Therion had stolen the whale, they were pirates who laid ships to waste, looting them of their technology. That they had been doing this for years all across the galaxy.
Nidi didn’t care. She believed that her people could be saved. X arranged for her to meet with Jonas. He met with her, myself, and X in the main communication room. We three were standing before the giant glass wall with a sea of blue on the other side.
After Nidi made her case, Jonas approached and spoke.
“Watching you grow up on my ship these last three years has made me realize that you are correct. Whale traffickers or not, it is not my place to destroy the Mega Therion. Knowing what we know now, I would have programmed the simulator to expose the Vedma for who they really are. I sent out an initial investigation to determine where the Vedma ship is and it looks like you will get the chance to contact your people and we will get the chance to expose the Vedma. They are coming after us.”