Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

Meecros’ Come-Uppance, part 2

 

 

   

Wilma began walking the perimeter of the antechamber examining the artifacts and decorations.  Twiki had slipped out a bit earlier, through a servant’s entrance, while she had been flirting with the guard near the throne room door.  The guard had since changed, making it easier for the drone’s absence to be overlooked.  Knowing that the ambu-quad had the floor plan of the palace memorized, she had no fears that, given time, Twiki and Theo would eventually find the so-called death machine.  But it was the time factor. The longer it took, the better the chances that someone would notice Twiki or get suspicious of Buck. 

Wilma sat down for a short while and then stood again gazing at the ornamentation on the walls.  She walked to the guard and stood, facing him, her hand on her hips.  He just stared at her, his face passive, revealing nothing.  His eyes glanced at her with surreptitious interest, though.  That might be something to keep in mind, she thought with slight distaste.  With a sigh, Wilma turned and walked to the far end of the room.  She checked her watch.  It was too early for Twiki and Theo to have found what they were looking for, so it was certainly too early to lodge another protest.  She could only hope and pray that Buck was faring all right. 

 

 

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Twiki stumped to the place that logic told him and Theo was the most likely to hold the death machine, a room not terribly far from the throne room/audience chamber, but also close to the power resource conduits that such a machine would need.  The drone activated his companion and beeped. 

After a moment, Theo answered, “You are right, Twiki.  The machine is not here, but before we try our other speculations, attach me to a computer terminal.”

Twiki hooked a tiny wire from Theo to an open port on the back of the computer terminal.  Using a device that would bypass any detection devices, Twiki made contact with the computer’s database.  Again there was a pause and then Twiki beeped softly.  

“Yes, very obvious.  It would be logical for this machine to reside in the laboratory of the scientists who created it,” Theo said.  “Shall we go?  This may be more dangerous as there will most likely be individuals working in the laboratory, but I have seen ambu-quads since we have been here.  We should blend in quite easily.  We will simply have to do our best to avoid bringing attention to ourselves.”

The pair walked to the laboratory and passed through the entrance with only a glance from a guard who looked at them sleepily.  At Theo’s direction, Twiki took the quad to a computer terminal and sat him down.  Several people came and went, but as they were near the back of the room, the robots were not disturbed.   Again, Twiki hooked Theo to the computer, sitting the quad behind the computer so he would not be seen.  Twiki beeped softly, “I am going to move around a bit.”

“Yes, do that Twiki, but not too far away.”

“Drone, come here,” came a voice close by.  Twiki turned and saw a human beckoning to him. 

“Go to him quickly before he gets suspicious,” Theo admonished softly.  “I will find the data core for the death machine while you are busy.”

With a grumbling beep, Twiki did as he was told. 

Theo blinked thoughtfully and began sifting through the vast data banks of the Endril computer system.  Once or twice, he paused, pulled up related data and then went on, his sophisticated computer electronics accessing and processing at incredible speeds.  While it amazed him that he only had to bypass or break two password codes, it did not amaze the quad at the vast array of information that he was finding.  Theo took note of several files that he felt would be of particular interest to the Directorate and/or the Galactic Council and determined to download them after he had finished the task of sabotaging the death machine’s program. 

Twiki finally returned and softly beeped at him.  

“Yes, I am working on the program even as I am copying it.  There are other interesting files I want to copy, too,” Theo whispered.  

Twiki beeped again.

Yes, Theo was very much aware that Buck could not stall forever.  Twiki beeped again, indicating that he was going to plant the device that would physically destroy the machine, and then left, following another drone that had been summoned.  Buck was not the only one playing a dangerous game.  The possibility that he and Twiki could be discovered was quite great as well.  The quad finished downloading the changes to the program and then began copying what he felt were important files to his storage retrieval system.  He would do that until Twiki returned.

In the meantime, Twiki had found access into the heart of the machine, a dark area only large enough for an ambu-quad such as himself.  Where the power supply inverter fed into the machine’s generator, Twiki stopped and put together the components of the demolition pack Hawk had devised, using the more delicate finger mechanism that had replaced one pincer hand.  Then he placed the deadly device beside the inverter.  While at first perusal, the new ‘hand’ looked like the old one, this one had two extra digits, making it more like a human hand.  There were also joints that allowed the new fingers to bend.  Twiki was pleased at how efficient it was working.  He set the device and started back to Theo. 

“Drone! Come here,” a deep voice commanded. 

Twiki beeped softly to himself, probably the closest thing to cursing an ambu-quad could get.  He stumped up to the human.  

“I want you to go to the mess and get me some lunch.  Sandwich or something.” 

Twiki beeped, thinking furiously.  Such a detour would take too long.  Theo needed him. His friends on the Searcher would probably die if he didn’t do his duty now.  He beeped loudly, letting his voice warble as though there was something wrong, then he began walking erratically, finally going around in a circle before walking off aimlessly. 

“Hey, what’s your designation?”

As hard as it was to do so, considering his basic programming to obey, Twiki ignored the worker and rounded a corner still staggering and beeping loudly.  After several minutes of careful watching, the ambu-quad finally rendezvoused with Theo. 

“I was beginning to wonder where you were,” Theo said reprovingly. 

“Sorry, had problems,” Twiki said softly.  

“Nothing that will hinder our return to Captain Rogers and Colonel Deering, I hope.” 

“Shouldn’t be.”  Twiki unhooked his companion and put him back into the hidden compartment that Buck had created.  Peeking around corners, the quad scuttled out of the room and then into a corridor without incident.  But there the robot’s luck ended.  They were approached by a woman, who demanded, “What is your number, drone?”  

“Twenty-three . . . forty-three,T,” Twiki answered, changing the digits of his designation in mid-stream, again remembering his first duty—to his crewmates.  He beeped loudly.  

“Good.  Not assigned.  Go to the power plant.  They need all available drones there.”

Twiki remembered the palace blueprints and turned and headed down a hallway opposite where they needed to go.  When they were out of sight, he stopped.  

“We have to get back,” Theo said softly from inside his companion’s chest.  

Twiki beeped again and turned down a corridor that was not only in the right direction, but also empty.  They had to do this until they were almost at the antechamber, then they were held up by the presence of too many people in the corridors.  

When Twiki had informed his companion of the delay, Theo said, “We will simply have to wait, and hope we see or hear Wilma and Buck.”

“Poor Buck,” Twiki said with a soft beep. 

 

 

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Poor Buck was, at that moment, back at listing the considerable, and fictional, attributes of the Princess Oralinn, wishing he had a thesaurus and trying hard not to gag.  The princess was eating it up, as was her mother.  Buck began a comparison of the princess and Heather Brannis, a girl he had known in high school.  Heather was a nice enough girl, but she had been rather annoying at times, too.  Silently, Buck apologized to his deceased high school classmate.  As the stories of high school progressed, still liberally sprinkled with considerable positive comparisons, King Meecros first looked happy, then he progressed to bored and then he began looking irritated.  Buck sincerely hoped that the quads had succeeded, because he figured that he would soon be tossed out.  It was past lunch anyway and the captain figured that their royal highnesses wouldn’t want to miss their midday meal.  

As Buck had expected, Meecros finally interrupted him, “While this has been most enjoyable, Captain,” he said, his voice oily, “I have other duties to attend to.  Perhaps if you leave it all on a disk?  You can dictate in the royal library.  And then the princess will have it to play over and over again.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” Buck said, trying hard to keep a straight face.  “But that will not be necessary.  I have it all here.”  He handed a disk to Zrinn. 

“This has been most gratifying, Captain,” Meecros said.  “I will examine the disk shortly.  You can go now.” 

Buck bowed to the royal family and left, sincerely hoping, once again, that Theo and Twiki had had sufficient time to accomplish their missions.  They had better, he thought, if I had had to stay in there one minute longer, I would have probably been sick.  As it was, he was feeling a touch of laryngitis for all his verbal kowtowing.

As soon as the door opened, he saw Wilma confronting a guard, her hands on her hips, her mouth set into an indignant frown.  She immediately brightened when she saw him.  “Buck, you are finished?” 

“Yes,” he said, his voice giving evidence of his fatiguing and supposedly humiliating experience.  His eyes surveyed the room as he and Wilma walked toward the other door.  He stopped and turned back to the guard.  “What have you done with my drone?” he growled irritably.  

“I don’t know,” the guarded answered.  He was different than the one who had been on duty when the trio had arrived.  “He was not here when I came.”  

“You jokers had better not have stolen….” 

“Oh, there he is,” Wilma chirped happily.  Buck knew that the happiness in her voice was not all affected for the guard’s benefit.  

Twiki fell in beside them as they left the antechamber.  Buck had to force himself to keep from audibly sighing in relief.  “Didn’t I tell you not to wander?  You could have caused an incident,” Buck said anxiously, putting his hand on Twiki’s shoulder. 

The drone beeped contritely, “Sorry, boss.” 

With a satisfied smile, Buck walked with Wilma and the quads toward the hanger where they climbed into their starfighters.  After quick pre-flight checks, they launched, heading into the star-sprinkled void separating them from the Searcher.   

Wilma sighed, knowing this was far from over.  She couldn’t help but wonder what prod Buck had put into the disk to provoke Meecros into firing up his machine.  She couldn’t help but think it would be an appropriately witty Buck-ism.  Wilma smiled and then smiled even more when she heard Buck’s voice over her communicator.  Despite the seriousness of the situation, she understood his feeling of jubilation right now.  

“ ‘Been through the desert on a horse with no name.  Feels good to be out of the rain.  In the desert you can remember your name….’” 

Wilma couldn’t help it.  She giggled.  “Buck, where do you get these strange songs?”

“It’s not strange,” he said happily.  “Just a song some guy who was sick of the rain wrote.”  He chuckled softly.  “Actually, I learned the words wrong way back in my younger days.  I think my words are better, though.”  He sang it again.  “ ‘In the desert you can’t remember your name.’  Ha!  When I did survival training in the Mojave, I most certainly did forget my name.  ‘Bout the only thing I could think about was a nice tall glass of cold water.” 

Wilma smiled.  Then she cleared her throat, trying to be serious.  “Buck, this isn’t over yet,” she reminded him. 

“I know, but I can’t help it.”  There was a short pause where Wilma only heard a bit of space static.  “I am out of that throne room.  You hear that, Meecros?” he added loudly.  

Suddenly Wilma saw Buck’s starfighter shoot ahead of hers, executing several rolls before coming to an abrupt stop, facing back toward the planet they had just left, halfway between the stratosphere and the Searcher. 

“Buck, what in the world are you doing?” Wilma asked. 

“Just in case,” Buck responded, his voice more serious.  He continued to keep himself between Endril and the bulk of the Searcher just within sight range behind them.  Wilma maneuvered beside him, just beyond his aft wing tip and waited with him. 

“Wilma?  Get out of the way!”

“I’m in this with you, Buck.” 

She could hear Buck’s sigh.  “Thanks, Wilma.”

Within a heartbeat, the angry and strident voice of Meecros blared at them over the communicator.  “Captain Rogers!!!” 

“The one and only, Meecros,” Buck answered jauntily. 

“I will kill you for that final insult!” he cried out. 

“Take your best shot,” Buck said calmly, his voice as taunting as his words.  Suddenly, there was a crackling boom over the communicator and then Meecros was cut off. 

Wilma caught herself holding her breath.  “You know that weapon could have taken the Searcher out as easily as destroying you,” Wilma said.  “But that was courageous.”

“My bet was on Theo and Twiki, but if something had gone wrong, the initial force of the blast would have been used on us.  Hopefully, we might have spared the Searcher total destruction.  By the way, you want to bet that was the sound of a death machine imploding?”

“Hallelujah!” Twiki beeped loudly from the back seat.  “We did it!” 

“You and Theo were terrific,” Buck told Twiki. 

“I agree with you on both counts.  Great job, Twiki, Theo,” Wilma added.  

Devon’s voice came through their communicators.  “Congratulations.  The machine destroyed itself and the detonator took care of the husk that was left.”  

“Damage on the surface?” Wilma asked.  

“Limited to total regional power failures and damage to the palace.  Although they claim otherwise, we believe there is no loss of life.” 

Wilma really did begin to breathe, sighing in relief.  “Let’s go home, Buck.” 

“Sounds good to me.”

“By the way, what did you tell Meecros?” 

“Oh, I just told him I was sorry I didn’t put her high and mightiness over my knee,” Buck replied mischievously. 

 

 

 

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