The Bigger Aftermath
Echo-1: Part 47
The Brick headed back to the Banga. I couldn’t help being afraid she might still explode. The engines were down and she was a colossal chunk of white metal drifting in space.
We were a couple hundred kilometers behind when her engines lit up again. They flickered bright white at first, giant suns coming to life. They sent pulse waves of energy gliding out into space like angels blowing smoke rings. Then the Banga’s rockets burst forth their epic blue flame and filled our field of vision. Blunt pulled us to the side as we overtook them. A bright blue sky gave way to an endless wall of white. And against it, the cosmos expanded in the distance.
We were met by two of our fighters. The Zero-G pilots waved. They guided us to the port hangar bay. The doors opened and we went inside. There were repair robots everywhere. The ship had come back to life.
Charlie was still in lockdown and was monitoring systems, but as far as he knew, the ship was free of the Vedma virus. He was in the middle of a power transition that would keep all the cryo units operating perfectly. The 17 billion passengers slept through the whole thing and never knew what happened. The internal scanners as well as the external sensor array were back online and fully functioning. There were no signs of any Vedma intruders and all the battle robots had been destroyed.
There was a great deal of cleanup that would have to be done. My presence was requested immediately at the whale medical bay. We docked in the center of the hangar.
Uzi woke up. We all headed to the elevator leaving Styx behind to mind the ship. The lift stopped at the lab floor. When the door opened we were assaulted by a pack of wild wolf pups. Nidi and Harrv walked on followed by the three yearling females moving nimbly behind them.
“We’d like to go with you to see Jonas.”
At the end of so much death, it felt good to be surrounded by adorable fluffy little puppies. They ran circles all around our feet. We went down to the cargo bay and activated all the robots we had in storage. The Silver Lutung Monkeys had all climbed to the top of the packed in machinery. They screamed and jumped from vehicle to vehicle. Blunt herded them back into the trees with a hiss.
We took a four-person vehicle out. Nidi and Harrv got into it and rustled all the wolf pups aboard. Blunt went with them, whispering to the little wolves getting them all to sit and stay together as a group. Even the yearlings seemed to lose their apprehension with Blunt around. Mox and Uzi took another vehicle with two navigation robots and the Sentinel. I was digging out my old Robo-a-gogo and Mox told me to take his.
“Use the rust one or the diamond one, just in case.”
I looked over to X’s pride and joy. It was parked right next to the Rust-a-gogo. It didn’t feel right to ride her bike. I took the rusty bike and waking up Wingus and Dingus I brought them along. They attached to the outside, two shiny clean spots on the back of a junk heap.
They all left ahead of me with a third vehicle full of robots following them.
Ships communications had been restored, but everyone didn’t know it yet. I was able to talk with Charlie, Veronica, and my current group, but that was about it. Dixon was offline. Our crew had been seriously reduced. We had just ten Zero-G commandos left and that number included Uzi and myself. None of the grunt large size soldiers had survived the battles with the Vedma.
As soon as we had fighters available Charlie sent out three squads to patrol the ship. That’s three squads made up of just two fighters each to defend a continental sized spacecraft. Which seems like a ridiculous idea, but with our technology back at our disposal and the new information we were able to obtain about detecting Vedma it was enough. However, if any other band of pirates had decided to come along at that time we’d have been in serious trouble.
I don’t know if the Vedma realized how defeated we were. It was their failure to get total control of the ship that really stopped them. We also realized that the Vedma had attempted to make off with a transport stuffed to the gills with Banga maintenance and attendant droids. Unfortunately, that transport was destroyed. So we were operating on a much smaller than usual robot staff.
I learned all this from Charlie as we made my way to the whale medical bay. It was a part of the ship I had never been to. There were actually four of them all fully equipped. One at the front and back and two centrally located on either side of the internal sea.
The trip would slow from time to time as we passed wreckage of Vedma fighters shot down by Taegu and Macrai. We were incredibly fortunate that they showed up. It may have been the difference between our success and failure. If the Vedma had air support during that final battle it might have been lost. We came so close to losing everything. And to think if I hadn’t set the virus to dormant the core would have exploded.
More and more it occurred to me that every single action had massive consequences.
We pulled up to the medical bay entrance and parked our vehicles. Uzi told everyone where they needed to go.
“There is an observation deck on the lower level of the lab. Nidi and Blunt, take all the pups to the left side chamber, Jonas will be able to communicate with you there. Harrv, go with them. Mox and I will go to the surgical bay to see how things are going with Vronsky and we’ll meet you on the deck after Hands gets Jonas up and running. Hands, you report to the main surgical unit on the upper level. You should have no problem accessing the ship’s computer now and finding your way.”
I hadn’t tapped in all the way yet. I was paranoid about the virus. Everyone went in ahead of me and I stood for a moment in the hall. I connected to the main computer. Charlie granted me full access and he had let loose all of the restrictions. Nearly every ship system had come back online successfully. We still showed a zero percent virus status.
I connected to the Banga’s computer. Accessed all the whale med bay information. It was vast. It hit me like a thunderbolt. It had been a while since I did a big download. It was great. I ran through the door, down to halls, up the side stairwell. I stopped in the clean room and took off all my clothing. I kept on my Varan gauntlets where I stored both my knives. I took them into the shower with me and washed off everything. I put on a white lab suit. I went from being the man in black to the man in white.
I entered the operating room. There were four robots running around and I could smell the salt water. I heard the whales spout and smelled their breath. At the back of the room past tables of medical equipment was the access tank. I walked up to the edge and stopped dead in my tracks.
The water was red with blood. Sunshine was in the water next to Vronsky. Her matted hair looked almost black from all the coagulated blood in it. The four-arm Veronica was coming out of the water. She had also changed into surgery whites, but they were stained black and red.
“Oh, I’m so glad you are alive!” She came over to me and gave me a wet bloody four armed hug.
I hugged her back. “X is dead.”
She held on to me.
“And so is Dr. Death.”
She gave me another big squeeze and let go. “I know, I’m so sorry.”
I suddenly felt really horrible. “How is Vronsky? Is he going to make it?”
“He’s stable. I need you to go into the next tank, set Jonas up with a new transmitter, then set me up with a new one and remove the rust one. It seems Mox plans on taking back all the rust transmitters so we’ll all have to do some surgery later. Also, I have Tim in the other room. He is stable, but not in the best condition either. After you set me and Jonas up with transmitter’s I’d like you to go get Dixon and bring her here.”
I said I would.
I got two brand new transmitters from the storage section of the medical bay and I dove into the water. I swam under the divider to the clearer waters in the second chamber. Veronica was just beyond the edge of the bay entrance, where the water moved through chambers that connected to the main body of the inner sea. She was floating straight up and down like she was sleeping. I didn’t see Jonas anywhere so I went to work on Veronica. I first attached and set up a new transmitter and activated it. I reached out to her and she responded immediately.
“Your coming in loud and clear and I have complete access to all scientific instruments. You’re good to remove the rust transmitter.”
I removed it, swam back to the medical lab, and set it on the side of the tank entrance.
“Jonas is not around.”
Veronica’s avatar looked at me. In my mind, I heard her. “Just a minute I’ll go find him.”
Under the water, I saw her mass come to life and swim out past the visible blue spectrum into the depths of the ships internal sea. Her four-armed avatar sat there motionless like a lifeless puppet.
“Get two transmitters ready.”
A moment later I saw three whales returning. I grabbed and prepped another transmitter and dove in. I swam past the divider. Jonas was there with Henry. Veronica had taken up her vertical posture again. Her mind was back in her avatar, working on stabilizing Vronsky’s wounds. I hadn’t realized how pale Vronsky looked until Henry came up next to the comparatively dark gray Jonas. Vronsky was whiter than Henry, as white as a ghost. The blasters left vicious looking holes the size of bowling balls in his sides. He had lost an enormous amount of blood, but they had managed to stop most of the major bleeding. Vronsky was holding on.
I attached a transmitter to Jonas first. It powered up just fine. We went through all the checks and after a good deal of communication with Charlie, we decided to transfer ship navigation control. Everything checked out and we were back under the command of Jonas.
I went to work. Henry was much more fidgety and moved around a lot when I tried to work on him. Jonas was talking to him in their click language the whole time. Being in between two sperm whales in the water is crazy enough, but when they are talking to each other it’s a sensory overload. You not only hear the clicks, but you feel them in your bones!
The sound waves moved through the water with an incredible force. I, of course, had no idea what they were discussing and I couldn’t wait to get the transmitter connected. My lips were vibrating and my teeth chattering from all the sound pulsing around me.
I activated Henry’s neural connection. I did it with care. I knew he had been put through a lot on the Vedma ship.
“Thank you.” He had started to learn English already. He was a brilliant young fellow.
Jonas wanted to pass navigation control to Henry, which we did.
Jonas swam forward moving his bulk toward me. He extended his flipper and I stood on it and looked into his enormous eye. He looked right back at me.
“Cindy and Death are both dead. Forklift too.”
His big eye winced. “I’ll get a full status report from Uzi. Please go get Dixon for Veronica. She’ll need all the help she can get. Take a ship, it will be faster. I’m bringing you one currently. Tell me the rest as you fly.”
Jonas rolled and shot me across the tank with a wave of his fin. I angled my body and landed on the edge of the tank. The four-armed Veronica was making large gooey looking packs to seal Vronsky’s wounds. Sunshine was helping her, holding a big bucket of pale blue slime. Veronica was spreading it on thick across the big bloody holes in Vronsky’s side. I started to walk away.
“Hands, please set up a neural transmitter for Vronsky.”
I went over to the workstation and prepped another transmitter, got into the bloody water, and attached it to Vronsky. It took me a couple tries to activate it successfully.
“Is she really dead?” Vronsky asked when it activated.
I put my palm on his pale side and left it there a moment. It didn’t feel very warm. His skin was so thick and tough.
“How did it happen?”
I took my hand away. “We don’t know. The Vedma got her when she was going after some young pups. She had saved a few and knew there were more young Mega Therions on board. She was on her own for a while. A Vedma witch came back in her bike and she looked just like her. We weren’t able to recover her body. The part of the ship she was on was completely destroyed. I scanned for her the moment we realized it wasn’t her. There was no sign.”
Vronsky let out a long bellowing sigh.
“I’m sorry.” I felt terrible.
Veronica took my arm in her hand. “Please don’t trouble him further. He needs his strength.”
I climbed back out of the tank and headed for the exit. I was soaking wet and covered in blood. I walked out of the lab and Wingus and Dingus started up the gogo. I was about to get in, when an unmanned Banga fighter zipped around the corner and landed right next to the bike.
“Stay here guys, I might need you to bring me the gogo later.” They beeped at me and sang one of their little songs. It was comforting. I had missed my little robots.
I climbed in the fighter, accessed the controls, and took off. It was challenging for sure, piloting a high-speed fighter craft down the hallways of the Banga. However, it was faster, Jonas was right. I hadn’t traveled ten minutes when he contacted me and asked that I fill him in. I did my best to recount everything that had happened. I retold the events of the last day, leaving nothing out, and pulling no punches. I told him all my experiences with Faye and how I had killed her twice and how she had killed X.
I told Jonas everything. It was like talking to the best listening most trusted psychologist in the universe. I was in the cave system entering the frozen sea before I knew it. I was coming up on Dixon’s ship when I finished retelling the story. Jonas said I had performed exemplary and that he was proud of me. It didn’t change anything, but it felt good to get it all off my chest.
Dixon had put her ship back upright in the ice. There were still signs of the recent events and the snow was still stained with dark red splotches. I landed next to the top level entrance. I walked up to the ship and stepped on the first step. An electric pulse shot through my body and threw me back onto the ground. I blacked out. A moment later, or it seemed like a moment, I started to wake up.
“Hands. Hands! Hands! Can you hear me?”
I opened my eyes to three large dark blurry shapes. I blinked a whole bunch. Dixon was helping me to sit up. “Hands, I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to expect.”
Certain Wisdom were standing on either side of her. Certain licked my arm with his huge flat pink tongue. I reached out and used the wolf as a support and stood up.
“It’s all over, they’re all gone and the ship is back under Jonas’ control.” I took a couple steps and Dixon was leading us inside. I stopped and regained my senses. “We have to go.”
“What? Why? What now?”
I grabbed her arm and turned us around. “Veronica needs your help. Vronsky is in really bad shape. We also have to get Tim out of the wasp suit. He’s stable, but not doing well either.”
She stopped me in front of the fighter. “What about Certain Wisdom. I don’t want to leave them here.”
I looked at the two three-meter tall wolf twins and then I looked at the two-man fighter I brought.
“They can ride on the wings.” The Banga fighters only had very narrow wings, it wasn’t a practical idea. “Ok, they won’t fit, but we have to go.” I reached out for her arm and she pulled it away.
“Send a car for me and them. I’m not leaving them.”
They didn’t speak English and neither of us could speak their language. Dixon stepped back and the two wolves went down on all fours and she pet them, one with each hand. She had bonded with them quickly.
“Look we have to go. This is an emergency and they need your help and time matters.”
She stepped back away from me and the wolves stepped in between us and growled a little.
“Dixon.” I pleaded as the wolves stepped back to her side.
She smiled. “We can take my water skiff. It’s fast and will fit us all.” She waved her hand to the two wolves and they both ran ahead of her into the submarine ship.
“Fine, where is it.”
She turned and started walking. “It’s downstairs. Try not to get blood on everything.”
I looked down at my stained clothing. Maybe I should have changed, but I didn’t think it mattered. Dixon was all cleaned up as if nothing had happened at all. She had also fixed up Certain Wisdom and though a bit ruffled, they seemed at full capacity again.
We went down to the lower level sea entrance of her ship and there was a slick looking black metal ship floating in the bay. It had two seats up front and a decent size storage area behind. We went in through its top entrance. The wolves had to squeeze through and there was just barely enough space for the two of them. Dixon took the controls, closed the hatch, and submerged the skiff. We rocketed off, Belugas and Narwhals whirling away from us in all direction.
“They hate this thing, but since it’s an emergency.” She took us skillfully to the outer section of the frozen sea and into the Banga’s water ring.
I looked over at her. She stared out the front window, driving. “Cindy is dead, and Dr. Death, and Forklift.”
She punched the dashboard. “Goddammit, Hands. why do you have to just say it like that.”
I sat silent.
“Who else is dead?”
I told her that the ship was full of bodies and that most of the mammoths had been killed along with nearly all the Zero-G commandos. She didn’t seem to care about soldiers very much and went so far as to tell me so.
“Those fuckers, live by the sword, die by the sword. Why did they have to drag my animals into their stupid war? Assholes.” She was crying. “Look, I don’t want to talk about this anymore. So just be quiet until we get to the medical bay.”
We made it there in half the time taking the water ring. Dixon’s mini-sub was really fast. We hit the central sea and Dixon navigated it like she knew it well. We cruised through the deep blue in silence, both looking out the window.
“Can we use our transmitters now, I assume?”
I told her yes she could. Then she really fell silent again.
We came to the medical bay and slowed to a crawl. Henry and Jonas were there just outside. They made way for us to dock next to the second tank entrance. We surfaced and opened the hatch. Certain Wisdom scurried to their feet and jumped to the deck. They didn’t like water much and that was certainly the first time they traveled underwater.
We both got up to leave. I looked Dixon in the eyes. She stopped.
“Oh, Hands.” She squeezed me tight and nuzzled her face into my neck. She purred for a moment then let go. “You’re just like them with all your weapons and fighting and spaceships, and you’re going to end up dying just like them.” She spun around and stormed out of the sub.
I followed behind her. Nidi came up from the observation level and took Certain Wisdom with her back down. I followed.
Nidi had talked with Jonas while we were gone. She asked that all the pups be given asylum abroad the Banga. Jonas, of course, granted this request. Nidi was explaining this to Certain Wisdom. They seemed to already understand this. Nidi told me that they planned on setting up a Mega Therion colony on the new world that Jonas was going to use for the whales. Its main continent could easily support millions. Certain and Wisdom had pledged to stay with Dixon from now on. She had befriended them and healed them and they would protect her. They told Nidi they had both sworn their lives to her.
Nidi planned to convert the back of one of the forests on the Banga into a den for all the pups and teach them the ways of their people and raise them on the Banga’s journey. They would become a generational crew. It was two years through the wormhole and another fifty-year journey on the other side. None of them would live that long, but their offspring would.
Nidi put her paw on her abdomen. “Trag. We mated. It was my time.”
I had no idea how she knew this already, but it was incredibly happy news. I hugged the big bad wolf momma. She gave me a fluffy hug back and bit me gently on the shoulder.
“The better to eat you with.” She dragged her huge fangs down my arm. I had told her a twisted version of little red riding hood when she was a puppy so many times and it was our little game. I hugged her again. She was the best.
After many surgeries, Tim was removed completely from the broken wasp exoskeleton. He made a full recovery and asked Mox if he could keep the exoskeleton. He wanted to alter his physiology with the skeleton and enhance his vision and keep the wings. Mox donated the space wasp to the Banga’s science department but warned Tim of the dangers of mixing one’s DNA with other life forms. He’d seen it all before.
Vronsky was stabilized. He’d need a series of reconstructive surgeries until he was even able to swim again without being in pain. His lung was punctured and would take months to heal. He was breathing on his own, though, and that was a good sign.
The rust transmitters were removed from Veronica’s avatar and Uzi. Mox told me to keep mine. His gift to me for all my help. He was keeping his in place as well. Mox was a big fan of advanced technologies.
I offered to give back the transmitter, but he told me I might need it again one day. It was all part of Mox’s plan to get me to go with him when he left the Banga. He made a point of telling Jonas that he wanted me to join his crew. I have to admit I was tempted.