Chapter 15: Phaon

 

Thorn continued to wait in the darkness, but for the moment, neither friend nor foe came foward to confirm or still her fears. She was alone, as if the last person in the universe and the darkness and loneliness began to play upon her.

Leon turned to Raymont. "What do you recon to getting a few shots off at this thing while it's in the lift shaft? When it's below us, we fire over the edge. There should be a lot of cover for us at that angle from the floor and also the doors. If it can detect us, we're going to have a hard time running away from it. And if it doesn't work, then we can run away down the corridor while it comes up the lift shaft."
Wiping sweat from his forehead, Raymont replied, "If we do that, we're just asking for a grenade dropped on us. I'd imagine it has sufficient targeting to pop it off right above the lip. We'd be better off dropping something very heavy down the shaft on top of it. Even if it doesn't have any vital circuitry in it's head, it'll give us extra cover and push it down the shaft."
Raymont and Leon each scoured around the corridor, looking for suitable debris to push down the shaft. The fact that power had not been restored to this level made it impossible to enter any of the rooms in time. They would have had to force the doors. Rather, they selected the crushed remains of a repair droid and what looked like an empty chemical vat. It took both of them several sweaty and anxious moments before they could maneuver their bombs to positions next to the lift entrance.
They waited. And they waited some more.
Watching his scanner, Raymont announced, "It's moving away."
Leon shook his head. All their effort had been for nothing.
"Well, I think we should think about moving ourselves," Leon said. "Before that thing thinks of another way to get up here."
Rather than answer, Raymont nodded and started off. Calling back, he said, "Let's get there before they uncork one of our sleeping beauties."
"I'm not sure I want to be there," Leon replied.
"Neither do I," Raymont agreed.

Solo's arm throbbed so much that he was sure it was there. But, the pain was a phantom, only deceiving him to think that he wasn't a cripple.
Awkwardly shifting through the clothing that he found in Antheus' drawers, he fished around for the acolyte's Id card, but couldn't find it. He also accessed the computer in the stateroom, but found that he couldn't even pass the first tier of security.
"Shit!" he sighed. Solo banged his one fist in frustration on the console and then thought about what to do.
Stay icy, he thought. Just keep it cool and collected. He tried to control his breathing, and though he had some success at calming himself, he had to admit he knew nothing about meditation.
Donning the priestly garb, he decided to search out the combat droids, like the one that had maimed him. He knew that they probably only responded to transmitted command codes, or possibly off of voice recognition, but then confronting them in Antheus' clothes was his answer, insane as it was, to the craziness he had come to. Perhaps it was better to die, he thought, than live like a cripple. Sitting back down at the computer console, Solo absently ate some food that he didn't even bother to taste. Drinking it down, he relished the coldness of the water. It was like his senses had become more sharpened to his surroundings, spartan as they were. For all he knew, these would be some of his last images of life, and he relished them as might any dying man.
Absently clearing his computer query, he noticed that Antheus had a default program set to run. It was a simple matter to initiate it, though what resulted only perplexed Solo even more.
The moment the unknown program was initiated, the strange dark platform that Solo had seen and dismissed earlier began to glow with a purplish light. There was a humming and looking back at the computer screen, Solo saw that the cursor had begun to blink, as if waiting for a prompt.
Solo tried to enter a query. The response was terse and to the point.
Enter time
Now what is that supposed to mean? Solo wondered.

Joe tried to talk his way out of the situation.
He said, "Ehem, well, sergeant, if you will permit me to speak ... ?"
The marine indicated neither a yes nor a no to this question, so Joe took it as a yes.
"My name is Joe. This here is Tessa, and the trigger-happy one is Bug. We have been hired by an anonymous employer to locate this ship in a discrete fashion and inform him of its whereabouts. What little information we have from our employer is that it was on some special mission when it suddenly disappeared on this planet."
The marine raised her rifle, pointing directly at Joe. He ignored this blatant intimidation and continued.
"After locating and reaching the crash site, we entered the ship to validate that it was indeed the one we were sent to find. Shortly after entering, our defense crew outside were assaulted by superior firepower and forced inside. The entrance is now sealed with several tons of stone, dirt and water. There is no obvious exit.
"Further, it seems that someone has been messing with the ship computers. They have been set to self-destruct the ship in " Joe checked his watch, " ninety hours. This same person has also activated some of the ship-board Combots and they have opened fire on us. We believe it may either be a result of the computer going haywire, some hostile external group, or a surviving crew member gone mentally unstable.
"Since we have strong reason to believe that our employer is indeed the owner of this ship, we decided to unfreeze a trooper, namely you, to get some assistance in dealing with the Combots. Although we have the same employer as do you, we decided to try and make this a bit smoother by impersonating ship's officers. Which, obviously, did not work.
"I can assure you that we did not, despite the actions of our incompetent alien here, wake you up to try and kill you. That would have been easier to accomplish without unfreezing you first.
"I realize that you are not afraid to die. If you were, you would be a poor soldier indeed, but I also assume that your standing orders in this kind of situation is to make your way back to friendly lines, along with your fellow marines here, " Joe swept the chamber with his eyes, " and report to your superiors.
"Let me add that you do need our assistance to accomplish this. We have extensive technical expertise that is needed to get out of this hole and back to civilization. With some bit of luck we might even get the ship's main systems back on-line and take it from there."
The marine took a quick glance at the desolation around all of them. Joe continued, "Please bear in mind that our time is limited". We have scanned some of the computer system logs. They seem to support the notion that the computer has been tampered with. We need to get to the engine section to disable the self destruct and try to track down the renegade within the ship. The engine room is probably guarded by rogue combots, which is why we require your assistance. We also need to go and fetch our pilot, who has been severely injured by a combot."
The marine's response was direct and to the point. "Move and I'll kill you."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Joe shook his head. He looked at Tessa and Bug.
"Oh, not me," Tessa shook her head.as well.
"I'm frozen to this spot," Bug added, happily holding his grenade.
Keeping the rifle pointed at the group, the marine walked over to a computer console and, taking out a cylindrical tube that looked similar to Bug's grenade, plugged it into the computer, the same one in fact that Bug had linked Joe's computer to, to activate the reawakening cycle for the marine.
The marine stood there for some time and then returned.
"Very well then, we will begin by reawakening all other cryo held personnel, starting with ten elite combat troopers, which I shall point out. Then we will awaken Lord Rabastus, and he will provide command function from there. And you will immediately disarm that grenade, or I might as well shoot you all now. You are correct in assuming that I am prepared to die. And I should tell you that there will be a relief ship arriving from Galatia at any time. If you are what you say you are, then that should be good news to you. If you are indeed liars, then that should give you good reason to cooperate now in the hopes of gaining mercy later."

x.p. award: 250, Joe - 650, Solo - 460, none.

(No, Tom, I failed to take that skill into account, but a reroll still netted you nothing. But I did roll again, just to be fair.

What is the current time and date?

According to your chronometer, it is the first day of Solaris (6th month).

Solo activated his headset and set it for a general broadcast.
"Hello, everyone. This is Bill. Since you are hearing this, something wonderful has happened. I am now 100 years in the future. Maybe those droids are dead now (or at least when I am at). Come to stateroom DVL96 and look at the weird platform in the corner. Run file PlatformExec and enter a time 100 years from now ... I will wait awhile."
Solo threw a chair onto the platform and then set the program to run. Nothing happened. Then he stepped onto the platform himself. Still, nothing happened.

Mini Move:

Joe spoke again, "There may be a few practical problems, sergeant. First, we have no idea how the food, water and oxygen situation is like. We may want to check that out before unfreezing too many people."
The marine's voice clicked on over her helmet's speaker. "All of our suits have integral atmospheric processors as well as a limited air supply. These pieces of equipment should have been fairly well protected while inside the drop boxes."
Joe shrugged and continued. "Second, these cryo units are somewhat unfamiliar to us and we had some trouble working them. It may be that some of them were damaged in the crash, or it may just be that we're not skilled at using them. Anyway, your cryo unit was the 8th we tried, having little success with the first seven. This may cause a problem, unless you know some special trick with these things. Other than that, yes, we do need more troopers if we are to get down to the engine section, and yes, whatever tactical and military expertise we can unfreeze, that much the better," he finished, flashing a friendly smile at the marine.
"Also, " he continued, "if you would permit me to acknowledge a few messages that have come in over the radio from our other operatives ...." he paused, awaiting some reply.
"There will be no messages from this point!" The marine pointed her blaster at Joe again.
"Alright! Alright! It was just an idea."
Just then a message came in from someone claiming to be Solo. It was rather cryptic and Joe had no idea if the marine was monitoring and had heard it or not. She did not react.
As a second thought, Joe turned to Bug, "I think you can disarm that grenade, Bug, " he said, adding, with a frown, "if you know how to do it, that is ..."
"Actually, I disarmed it long ago," Bug whispered to Joe. "I wasn't about to hold onto a live grenade."
"I heard that!" the marine barked. "I should shoot you right now!"
The marine waved with her rifle indicating that the rest of them should proceed.
"Keep your hands up or I won't hesitate to kill you," she warned.
Leading them through a tortuous maze of conduit and plasteel panel, the marine marched them towards the interior of the chamber where dark panels in the deck obviously masqued something below them. There was also a central dais of some sort with the same dark flooring. A computer console stood before the dais, but it was dark and unpowered.
She told them, "We will run conduits from the active units to this console. Which of you is the technical expert?"
Bug spoke up. "But the only active units here are using their power to maintain their systems. If we tap into them, it could kill the occupants."
"I know that, stupid!" the marine retorted. "This console must be activated. Any losses toward that end are acceptable. Now move!"
Bug meekly put down his arms and began sorting through some of the conduit, trying to pick suitable pieces to link up the console. Meanwhile Joe and Tessa, still holding up their tired arms glanced at each other, trying to think of what to do.

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