The Warriors of Woad
Echo-1: Part 35
The Magus would overtake us in less than a week even at our maximum speed. The next few days on the Banga were a sea of activity.
Uzi moved his entire operation to the shielded computer section. It was much smaller in there and it certainly didn’t have a view. There was only one way in or out, that a humanoid sized being could use. Stone Face and Punchy were posted outside each armed with rust cannons. All windows, blast shields, and hatches were closed. Manual controlled diamond missile launchers were stationed at the large hangar bays on both sides of the ship. All non-essential vehicles were powered down. As were non-essential computer systems.
Zandar Vandar Blunt spent his time with a division of 40 pilot synthetics who shared twenty rust-blade assault rifles. I was reminded of stories from the Russian front during world war II when they had more men than guns. If one soldier died the other picked up the gun and kept firing. Each team of two was taught to handle a bull mammoth. Blunt had worked his magic on the wooly elephants and the teams drilled until they worked together in perfection. They charged around the decks of the ship, steering the prehistoric mounts with their legs, leaving their hands free to fire rifles. They kept a team of attendant droids busy cleaning up after them.
The truth was they were incredibly slow for the distances that needed to be traversed, so in the end, they were split into two teams and sent to patrol the main highway routes between the port and starboard hangars and the computer room.
Werner and Forklift rigged up four flatbeds and jammed the controls on hover and destroyed the guidance mechanisms. They figured they could pull two and attach the other two behind the rust and diamond gogos. This way they could more effectively move troops around the ship as needed.
Sunshine and Dixon holed up in Dixon’s submarine spacecraft, which was completely powered down. It got cold in there really fast, so they both took to wearing spacewalk gear sans the helmets.
Dr. Death drilled with Nidi and the ten grunts armed with lightning rust hand weapons. Nidi, as always was a natural, she was after all bread to be a shock trooper. She quickly matched Death in swordplay. The camouflaged hulk sword fighting the she-werewolf, if only I had time to watch them train!
Charlie was working on a mount for Vronsky and I was asked to meet Mox at the Brick. When I pulled up, they were packing the cargo hold full of our humanoid robot crew and as many attendant droids as they could stack in there. Mox signaled me in. I road my gogo up into the cargo hold. He also had two fully armed fighters and two transport flatbed vehicles inside.
“Park your gogo against the wall and leave your droids if you’d like. No reason to let the Vedma have them. They’ll be safe here.”
I said I was going to keep them on the scout.
“Suit yourself. I’d like to go with you to see the Chieftains. I’m not going to pass up the chance to meet such an ancient race. I had no idea they were aboard. You know, I once saw them on display during a gala hosted by the last Emperor of the Seven Systems. Before he disbanded the empire of course. He was a man of peace you know. He literally cut off his own right arm to end the interstellar war. They just don’t make them like him anymore.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. The history of the galaxy still had plenty of holes when it came to my understanding of it. My new brain was good, but I could only learn so fast.
Mox had both the rust armor suits outside the Brick.
“We’ll use these to make us appear bigger and to shield us from the sound and the gravitational elements.”
I sent Wingus and Dingus to the Blue Hand Scout. Mox and I suited up. The interior of the rust Robo-combat suit was similar to others I had used, but it had a kind of strange smell inside, that left a metallic taste in your mouth. We rocketed off toward the back of the ship. The Rust-robo-coms had small, but powerful propulsion units built in. It didn’t take much getting used to and was completely thought controlled.
As we approached the core section of the ship the sound started to come on. Even with the suits environmental protection activated, it still thumped in your chest. The endless pounding thud of the Banga’s core.
Most of the ships highway and passageway systems had high ceilings so it wouldn’t be an issue for the stone giants to get around. For some reason, this was the thought in my mind when we approached the huge steel door to their compartment. I had never been in this section of the ship. It looked just like the rest but was completely deserted. We opened the door and announced ourselves. The chamber inside was cavernous and pitch black. Our suits had forward facing lights that beamed out of our shoulders. We activated them and went in. It was a huge storage room, much like other storage units on the Banga. It was like walking in an empty airplane hangar.
Against the back wall, all in a row sat the seven surviving members of the lost planet Woad. They sat in huge stone chairs and reminded me of the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C. I had seen it as a child and they were maybe a little smaller, but not much. Their arms and legs were thick and chunky as were their hands and feet. Their bodies were mostly black in color with lines of white rock layered throughout. They sparkled in our headlights, glittering exotic mineral sculptures. The three chiefs in the center had more defined facial feature. Large bulbous noses and the oversized ears of incredibly old men. As if carved out of marble, they had blank eyes and closed mouths. The central chief had a large circular shape carved in his chest. The other four, two on each side, had less defined featureless. Their entire bodies were covered in the carved stone. None of them looked alive. They sat there motionless in the darkness. The sounds from the Banga’s core echoed through my body. I felt like a space archaeologist.
Mox stepped up to my side. He communicated with me via his transmitter.
“Make your plea. And be polite.”
I activated my suits external speaker system.
“Chieftains of Woad.”
No movement. No reaction.
“Chieftains of Woad, I’m sorry to disturb you on this long voyage, but I come to ask for your help.”
They sat motionless. It seemed foolish to talk to these big sculptures.
“My name is Hands and I come on behalf of Captain Jonas, the crew, and all the passengers on board the Banga. In a few days time, a ship called the Magus will descend on us with a power and force that we cannot resist. Most of our technology will be rendered obsolete or fall under their control. The Magus is under the command of the Vedma, a galactic cult lead by three powerful sisters.”
The center chief moved! Just a finger on his right hand. It was so subtle I wasn’t sure it even happened. I looked at Mox.
“Did you see that?”
Mox looked at me from inside his Robo-com suit. “What?”
I turned back to the Chieftains.
“Chieftains of Woad, we are here to ask you to join us in battle to repel the force of the Vedma and stop them from taking control of our ship or even worse, destroying it.”
Well, not silence, since the constant thunderous bang of the core was bashing all around us. They sat there like sculptures. I had an idea. I opened my suit. The next time the sound of the core blasted it felt like my head was splitting. It was so loud. I could hardly stand. I reached up and touched the knee of the central figure and I screamed at the top of my lungs.
“Please, great warriors of Woad, help us! Eventually, they will come here for you as well! if we can not fight them off! We’ve heard the legends of your great skill in battle and we most desperately need your help!”
The sound and the pressure was unbelievable. I struggled to get back into my suit. The strain on my body was massive. I closed my suit down and felt its protection. I was about to ask again when the deep sound of the voice of the central Chieftain filled my mind.
“We know of the Vedma witches. Fallen sisters of the Woad. Feared by our ancestors. Revered by those that live in the depths. They are an enemy worthy of our return to the fray. When they arrive we will meet them and try to bring them back into the fold. If they will not yield we will vanquish them… again.”
This was great news, yet somewhat disturbing that even the warriors of Woad feared the Vedma.
“Thank you! Our last holdout will be at the central computer deck not far from here.”
I started to explain our plan and what we hoped the Woad would do to help us. The chief interrupted me. He held up his giant stone hand.
“When we are needed, we will be there.”
He lowered his arm and remained silent and motionless. Only the crushing thump of the Banga filled the room. The Woad spoke no more. It seemed we could count on them.
Mox introduced himself as a representative of the Varan system and attempted to parley with them, but the Chieftains ignored him. They were not much for small talk. He gave up quickly and we stood for a long moment enjoying the impressive beings.
We reported that the Woad would help us, Uzi wanted to make sure they would follow orders, but they once again ignored us. Jonas was sure they would keep their promise and be there to help us when we needed them. They were after all ancient beings with perceptive abilities for more powerful than our own. This stated by a whale with a brain the size of a Volkswagen who navigated a stupendous craft through space with his mind.
I was trying to figure out how they could move or even see when they were encased in stone bodysuits. It turned out they were actually blind, or rather they had no eyes. I went through the Brick’s computer entries on the Woad. Most of it was about women Mox had met at the party where he had seen them previously.
I had to meet Charlie and Vronsky at an access hatch. Charlie had put together up a portable diamond rocket launcher with two rockets. I took it in through the hatch and attached it to Vronsky’s arm rig. Charlie had devised a way for him to puff his body up and cause the weapon to fire.
“I’ll have to aim the old fashion way.”
Vronsky moved his huge bulk in the water, seemed to tuck his fluke up under himself and angled his body in such a way that one eye could actually look down the length of the rockets. Vronsky loved this kind of stuff, he really was a big boy scout. I think he felt much more himself with a weapon, the idea of being completely removed from technology frightened him.
I think it frightened most of the people on board. They had always been connected to computers. They never really lived the life of a simple being. The Banga was such an enormous technological marvel that it was hard to imagine a ship the size of the Magus could be any threat. Yet, Mox’s description of the attack on the freighter was enough to keep us all on our toes. That and just how devastating the spell of the three space sirens was. We could easily lose our best fighters, again.
There was a great feeling of tension on board. I spent one last night aboard Dixon’s submarine and in the morning we got the call. They were just outside the range of our long distance weapons. The Vedma were in visual proximity and they were not alone.