Chapter 18: Phaon

 

Joe turned to Jessine, "Are you alright?"
Jessine responded by spitting into the corner and then blasting Joe, "Oh Sure! Last thing I remember is falling trying to save Raymont while descending into this ship and then the next thing I see when I come to is somebody in Battledress shooting at a ComBot with me in between their fire! I have no idea where we are! I have no idea what is going on! Where are Solo and the others? Will somebody please tell me WHAT IS GOING ON?!!!"
After the screaming died down, Thorn turned to Joe, "Jessine?"
Joe nodded.
"I think's she's O.K., to answer your question," Thorn concluded.
Joe turned to Thorn, well I believe we need to think about rejoining the others." Turning to Jessine, Joe tried to give her a quick summary of events. "We entered the ship. We thought Solo was killed by one of the combots. Raymont and Leon left to explore while you, er Tessa, Bug and I set about reviving one of the Marines in the cryochamber we just left. We heard from Raymont and Leon that the ship will self-destruct in,"
Joe checked his watch, "Seventy-two hours from this moment, and then we got a radio message from someone claiming to be Solo, even though we saw him killed."
Joe pointed at Jessine. "That is, Tessa and I saw him killed," Joe corrected himself. "Then the marine we, uh Tessa, Bug and I, revived pulled a rifle on us, probably because when she was put to sleep, the ship was still in battle against the Jadist and Darby's forces, and ordered us to revive someone called Margrave Rabastus, and that's the knight in battledress we left dancing with the combot, and that's about it. Oh yea, and the person claiming that he was Solo said that there's one survivor from this ship, the Divinity, that is still alive and who is probably responsible for blowing up the entrance, trapping us here."
"Let me see," Jessine counted off on her fingers, "We're now trapped inside of a ship that is going to self-destruct in three days, there are combat robots - very heavily armed from what I saw that are running around with plasma guns and grenade launchers, and along with a crazed Knight Templar of the Church who thinks we're enemies, and that half our party is either missing or dead and for all we know, we are the only ones still alive?"
"That about sums it up," Joe concluded.
Jessine bowed, holding her hands in her face. She shuddered and Bug, thinking she was crying, went over to pat her on the back with three hands. It was then that Jessine revealed she was laughing, almost hysterically, though she managed to keep it quiet.
"I don't think it's particularly funny," Thorn commented.
"It's not, " Jessine snorted. "That's why I'm laughing!"
Joe shook his head. Turning to Bug, he asked, "Hey Bug, do you think that you could help me mount a scope onto my rifle?"
"No problem," Bug replied. Joe handed him a scope he had scrounged while in the cryo-chamber and Bug, producing a set of instruments from a pocket in his carapace, set about trying to modify Joe's rifle.
Turning to the others, Joe continued. "I think what we should try to do is set about scrounging equipment we could use to survive and get out of here, like helmets, weapons, energy cells, and also, start getting together supplies for when we get out of here, like food packs, medicine and valuables we can sell when we get back, especially things like those MIRRC chips - very valuable and highly transportable."
"Don't you mean, IF we get back?" Thorn countered.
"I like to think positively," Joe told her. "There has to be a way out of here and I know, with all the equipment around us, that if we're clever and diligent, we'll find it somehow."
Looking over at Jessine, who had stopped laughing and who was fiddling with her scanner, he asked, "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to scan and see if that fight we left has finished. I'm having trouble scanning through the bulkheads and debris. I really can't tell. Also, I've been thinking, there must be some way to deactivate those robots, maybe even get them on our side."
"I doubt that's possible," Thorn replied. "They're probably guarded against that sort of interference, though we did find a computer interface, one of those neural links."
"Great! That's a chance!" Jessine seemed enthused at last. "Where is it?"
Joe was the one to tell her, "Raymont has it."
Jessine shook her head. "Well, anyway, I was thinking, whoever wins that fight will be heading this way, either a robot looking to kill us, or the Margrave who will be heading for Medical to fix himself or look for us as well. I was thinking, perhaps we could lay a blood trail and set a trap."
"A trap?" Bug asked, handing the finished rifle to an amazed Joe.
"Yes," Jessine nodded. "We could set an explosive and take him or it out. Then at least that will be one less obstacle to our exploring this ship. I figure we can set it behind some debris, where the blast would be confined and do maximum damage to someone in the corridor. Maybe Bug could rig a remote triggering device. If we're to get out of here, we've got to retake the initiative."
Everyone else looked at Jessine.
"What if your trap doesn't work?" Joe asked.
"Then, we'd better find a way to strike a deal," Jessine told them.
"I don't think from what you've told me about the Margrave that he's the type to talk," Thorn said.
"He's not," Bug agreed wholeheartedly.
"So what about it?" Jessine asked. "Do we set a trap rather than waiting for it/him to come to us?"
"I think we should send a message to Raymont and Leon," Thorn added. "After all, it probably wouldn't hurt at this point and we need to find out what's happened to them."
Joe and Jessine looked at each other and nodded. Bug simply lifted up his many hands to show he was neutral about the suggestion.
Flipping on her headset, Thorn called out, "Hello? Base Camp to scouting party, come in please. How are you guys doing? Base Camp to scouts, come in."

Leon and Solo discussed possible options while seated at the table. Raymont checked his chronometer. Only about 70 hours remained until the Divinity's self destruct was supposed to engage. Unsure of how to proceed, he spent his time scanning the dark platform. Seeing what he was up to, Solo called out to him.
"Hey kid? Did you find out what that thing is yet?"
Leon had also drifted forward and was examining the strange console. It seemed to have some sort of timer function along with a series of activation controls. From what he could ascertain, the unit relied on the input of information to operate, but what information and to what end?
As Raymont seemed preoccupied with his scan, Solo repeated his question.
"Hey kid? What do you make of that thing?"
Raymont looked back at Solo.
"Solo?" he asked, "We're almost the same age. Why do keep calling me kid?"
Solo thought about it a bit, but didn't have much of an answer. "I don't know kid. It just seems right somehow."
Raymont shook his head in resignation. "Well, I don't know what this material is, but I do know what it isn't," he told them. "It isn't metal, plastic, plasteel, crysteel or any crystalline mineral derivative or fabrication, nor is it organic or pure energy."
"In other words, it doesn't exist," Leon concluded.
"Not exactly," Raymont corrected him. "I do scan it as a solid, sort of, bordering on a plasmic state, but though I get the reading, I get a blank on any makeup."
Leon bent down and felt the pad. It felt slick and slippery, but otherwise solid to his touch. Nothing about it suggested a holographic illusion.
Raymont continued. "And underneath, I can detect an incredibly dense matrix, as if this thing were some enormously complex machine of some sort. I don't know what it does, but it seems to be a very sophisticated piece of work."
Leon tapped the console, as if thinking. Then he felt his ear, where the headset of his comlink was attached to monitor broadcasts. He motioned to the others and they grabbed their sets.
"Hello? Base Camp to scouting party, come in please. How are you guys doing? Base Camp to scouts, come in."
The voice sounded like Thorn.

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