Chapter 13: Phaon

 

With a static burst Solo suddenly came on the air into everybody's headset:
"Hello, everybody. This is William. Just thought I would let you know that I am alive and well. Well at least the part of me that is still attached to the main part of my body that is. It appears that the sole surviving member of the Divinity's crew is standing here with me. His name is Brother Antheus. He is not a full priest, yet he does have confessional rights. He is on the air now to listen to your confessions as to being heretics and thieves of Church Property. I suggest you hurry up and give it to him if you wish to up the ante on any afterlife or re-incarnation chances, because the ship is set to self destruct and the killer bots are unstoppable according to him. Don't worry about me. I don't think I would be able to do much to help myself anyway. Just give your confessions and may the Dicey fall where they may. Brother Antheus in on-line now. William Out."
In the background it sounded like somebody was pulling the headset off and asking, "Do you have any idea how long they have?"

Antheus turned back to Solo, "Long enough, my Son, to decide upon their futures."

Thorn listened, but failed to hear anything more from the com unit. It sounded to her like a trick. Solo should by all rights be dead. She felt there was no way he could have survived the attack that she had witnessed.
"Thorn?" It was Bug. He came up to her. Emotions didn't seem to register in his kind by physical expression, but the tremor in his voice let her know well enough that he was frightened. He had picked up human voice mannerisms as if born to them.
"What is it, Bug?" Thorn asked him.
"I have an idea," he told her. "Do you know about those cryo-frozen warriour hatches toward the other end of the ship?"
Thorn nodded.
"Well," Bug explained, "I was an engineering hatch - primarily," he added. "Though this ship uses advanced circuitry for some functions, like computer control, still many of the basic functions are standard - such as cryogenic control."
Thorn couldn't follow his thinking. "I don't see what you're getting at, Bug. What does cryogenics have to do with our situation?"
"Well," Bug continued. "I was thinking that we could thaw out some of those marines."
Joe, who had been listening, cried out, "What in hell's blazes would you want to do that for!?"
Bug went on to elaborate his plan. "Well, we don't seem to have the skill to defeat those robots. With them running about, we can't even try to disable the self-destruct that Raymont mentioned. But, those marines can fight the robots. And I don't think they would want to die either."
Tessa shook her head. "It's a good idea Bug, but the marines would join with those attack droids in trying to kill us. And though they wouldn't want to die, Church warriours are known fanatics. If they die in a good cause, they believe they'll go on to a higher incarnation. They're not afraid to die."
Bug turned to the others. "Well, do any of you have any better ideas? If not, I say we should at least give it a try."

Raymont turned off his mike while still monitoring any communication over his comm unit. Turning to Leon, he said, "Well, at least we now have a name to attach to our trouble. Somehow I don't think that confession over the radio is exactly what we need at the moment. I rather think that we need to find this nutball and put him on Ice with his buddies. No relaxing security protocol until we hook up with the other actives, extend the scanners to max to keep those drones away from us, I got a glimpse of one before they were activated and they're top notch, heavy firepower. Stay alert, keep you're laser handy."
Leon switched off his com unit and said"I don't feel like speaking to him either." He then set his laser to kill rather than stun, adding "Stun's not going to do a lot to a robot."
Finishing that, he turned once more to Raymont, "O.K., Let's go!" he said.
Raymont nodded for Leon to lead the way and, both observing their scanners, they continued onward, intent on discovering where this Antheus was hiding.

While Leon led the way, Raymont took the opportunity of doing a broad scanner sweep of the both of them, checking for radiation. Also, he was curious about Leon and suspected there might be more to his companion that was obvious from just seeing him. He was hoping his scanner sweep would reveal any anomalies. If Leon noticed, he intended to pass off any scans as being checks for radiation.

"I hope you're better at reading these things than I am," Leon told Raymont. "I'm afraid my skill level's just alright."
Raymont shook his head. "Well, I'm trying to make sense of these readings myself. I'll have to admit that I don't have any formal training with a scanner. I can make out empty spaces and movement, but other than that, your guess is as good as mine. What do you read?" he asked.
"Well," Leon told him, "I think we might have gotten radiation poisoning. We might have to see about finding some AntiRad, though I think its too late for that. You're supposed to take that stuff "before" you get exposed."
Raymont stopped. "You mean, we're going to die from Radiation poisoning?"
"No," Leon shook his head. "Only if we don't get some med attention. Verex might help us. I don't know. We have to see a doctor - at least you have to see a doctor."
"What do you mean by that?" Raymont asked. "Are you saying you're immune?"
"Hardly," Leon answered. "I just have somewhat less to loose than you."
"Meaning?"
Leon never got to answer as their scanners indicated movement ahead. Raymont adjusted his scanner. Whatever it was, it had a high mass and was made of synthetic metal and plastics and seemed to also register as an energy source.
"Can those things read our scans?"
"I don't know," Raymont admitted. "I suppose anything can read a scan. We could if we knew how," he added.
"It's coming our way," Leon told him. "What should we do? Should we try to take it on? What kind of armament do they have?"
Raymont tried to remember the one he had seen before.
"Well, I remember seeing what looked like a grenade launcher, a gattling blaster and a high powered pulse struptor on one of the things."
Leon looked at him. "Let's get out of here."
"I agree," Raymont nodded.
The two of them retreated back the way they had come. Turning down another way, they crawled over a collapsed bulkhead and noticed a breach in one of the lift tubes that had once serviced the ship. Ladder rungs for manual servicing were imbedded into the shaft's side. Leon's tactical eye at once picked out the defensive possibilities.
"You know, we could make a stand here, shielded by that bulkhead," he told Raymont. "If we couldn't take the thing out, we could retreat down the shaft."
"I think the thing could follow us," Raymont pointed out.
"If it could get past that bulkhead," Leon countered. "Well, what do you want to do?"

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