CHAPTER THIRTEEN – Back to the Cargo Ship

The white room I recognised from my first visit began materialising around me. It faded in like an analogue channel being tuned on an old television. It felt strange to be back there. I wanted to breathe heavily as a sense of fear overcame me. The EMC had soon formed me, but the device wouldn’t let me go. My legs and arms were parted to be a little further from my body, then a suit began materialising around me. I figured it must be a space suit as the visor formed in front of my face.

The suit was complete and the machine let me go. The suit added pressure within as it pushed against my body. It felt like it wanted to restrict my movement, but then I moved my arm and it moved dramatically. I didn’t need to put any effort into moving at all. I jumped and landed on the ground as it softened the impact my feet had on the floor.

“This can’t be right, we have been in transit for two weeks! What happened with the NCRN?” Periclum seemed to speak to himself, broadcasting it to my suit’s speakers.

“What’s the NCRN?” I asked, feeling confused.

“The Nkri Communication Relay Network. We send our data to the Relay and it can transport that information to any of the other relay stations, which then sends it to the destination. This ship has a Relay built into it, and The Liberty has one in our star system. So it should have taken us about an hour to get through. I don’t understand it…”

I stepped down from the EMC platform and began walking towards the door, leaving Periclum to solve his puzzle. My emotions were getting the best of me as I felt like I was in some horror movie. Expecting something dreadful to happen.

“WAIT!” Periclum shouted through the speaker. He grabbed me and pushed me to the side of the room. His face hidden by his visor, he grabbed a cable from his chest and then forcefully put it into mine. It scared me, I didn’t know what was happening, I just touched the cable wondering where it had gone into. Periclum was typing on a touch screen on his arm. He sat next to me and then he disappeared. It shocked for a moment, then I looked at my arm and noticed I was invisible. I tried to get up.

“James, do nothing, don’t move!” I heard him say through my suit’s speakers.

“What is going on?” I asked as I sat back down and a sharp shushing came from Periclum.

“Sorry, you were communicating through the radio. We should only talk through the cable from now on…”

He seemed to stop mid-sentence. I was looking towards the EMC and confused. Why had he stopped? I turned my head. That moment, my heart was in my throat. My breathing became deeper and quicker, and my fear level increased so much.

Something stood over me that had just come through the door. It seemed gigantic, bigger than I remember. It was a Stilla. 

“What are they doing here?” I said in a whispered tone but received no reply. We both sat there frozen, not moving. Silence filled the air as I watched the Stilla approach the EMC platform. I didn’t know what to do and found myself frozen where I was, not able to move. Just watching them. Periclum made me jump as he broke the silence. “They don’t know we’re here! Looks like they think the platform malfunctioned.” A bit of sick went up to my mouth, I felt faint as I watched them analyse the platform with their scanners. “What do we do?” I asked in a whispered tone as I watched them, frozen. It felt like a very long time Periclum was silent. It must have been two seconds. However, in that time, I was finding it hard to stop myself from urinating in my suit.

“I have a crazy idea, it’s dangerous and they might detect our signal!”

“Anything, let’s do it.”

I saw the EMC machine activate, then each turret went off. Disintegrating parts of each Stilla. We still sat still with our backs against the wall, next to the door. 

“Don’t worry, I think we are sitting in a sweet spot.” I watched as the room lit up again and again with the sound of wind whistling through the air. There were soon more Stilla coming through the door to investigate, finding themselves being pushed back by the randomly firing EMC turrets. 

“I sent it a virus, I am hoping they think there is something wrong with the machine. Or at least they won’t want to go near it. Come on! It looks like the Stilla are retreating.” I looked at the other Stilla went out of the room, looking as if to back away. Periclum pushed me up to get out of the room. I looked over towards the push and notice that there was an outline, showing where he was. Although he remained invisible. We went out of the room and twisted into the cylinder section. I fell to my hands and knees, not used to gravity changing in such a way. The sound of my suit hitting the floor caused the Stilla to pay attention to the area that I was in.

“James!” I heard Periclum say panicked as I felt him trying to get me to my feet. “Let’s hope they thought that came from the ‘malfunctioning’ EMC turrets.” I got to my feet and continue forward as I felt Periclum pushing. Looking around, I could see the cylinder is full of Stilla, especially on the central core full of electronic looking devices. It looked like they were stripping the ship of everything they could get their hands on.

As we were walking, I noticed how much like jelly my legs felt. I felt sick, very sick, and each step was a pain for me. But I was thankful that we could stay clear of any Stilla as we walked in this random direction. “I don’t get it!” I heard Periclum say. I couldn’t say anything as I concentrated on keeping my sick back. “The Stilla aren’t meant to be intelligent enough to know what any of this technology is. Yet here they are, taking it and making it work. They have access to the EMC machines here, yet they leave them alone. If they know how everything else works, they should know how that works? The entire thing just feels off.”

“Periclum?” I say as I understood a little of what is happening.

“What is it James?” he says in a curious tone.

“I need to rest, I can’t go any further.” Sitting down, I felt exhausted and dizzy. My pants were warm and I realised at that moment that I had, in fact, let go. Periclum opened a door that was about a metre from me and looked inside. “Come in here, quick!” he said to me. I just about found enough strength to get up and go round into the room. We found ourselves underwater. It looked like we were in a large clear dome where we could see giant florescent alien fish swimming above our heads. There were doors leading to other smaller domes just off of this one. Periclum closed the door behind me, which looked very much like the others. 

I felt him unplug himself from me. Then I saw his outline search each of the smaller domes. He became visible again and brought up his visor. I looked at him, wondering how I could do the same. He was talking, but I could not hear what he was saying. There was a moment when he looked around, then he brought his visor back down. He approached me and once again placed the cable back into my suit. “Sorry James, I should have explained how to operate this suit.” He typed on his keypad on his suit, then my suit became visible. My visor went up and I felt like I was breathing fresh air. Periclum brought his visor up and then unplugged himself from my suit. 

There was a gigantic sofa in the centre of the room. Periclum turned and went to it. “Lets relax for a while. Now I think I have locked the door. Hopefully, none of the Stilla saw the door open and close. We are safe for now in here.” I nodded and then went over to the sofa myself, desperate to sit down and relax. “We are very lucky, this is quite a pleasant environment and has the same air that we breathe. Maybe we could go for a swim later.” Periclum looked at me cheekily as he said that. I looked back at him, confused and blank. Feeling as though I have just seen some ghosts.

“Periclum!” I said with a dry throat and feeling ever so sick.

“What is it James?” he asked looking at me.

“How are you so calm?” I looked at him intensely at that moment.

“We are wearing the best suits we can wear. Sure, we adapted it from a lesser suit. Dare I say it. The Rehew designed that. However, these suits will keep us hidden. They did not understand that we were there in the EMC room when they were.” He had a moment where he gurgled to himself. “I bet that ‘malfunctioning’ EMC has now blasted into space. Guess we won’t be going back that way.” He continued gurgling, amused at what he accomplished.

“But these are the guys who kidnapped me! Who’s ship you were trapped on!”

“James, I remember little of that mission. But I remember how much I used to play with them. They don’t understand this suit technology.”

“Periclum, when you had died and laid on the floor. They found your body and shot you again when you were invisible!”

Periclum stood up and looked at me for a moment, shocked. “That shouldn’t have been possible!” He looked worried. “I am sure they had just tripped over my body or something. That is why they knew I was there.”

I looked at him, “I don’t think so! From my perspective, it looked as though they scanned for you.”

He paused for a moment before he looked as though he had figured it out. “Ahh, the emergency beacon!”

“What?”

“The suits emergency beacon must have activated when I died and the Stilla picked it up. We just have to keep radio silence.”

I looked at Periclum for a moment, worried. After a moment’s silence I finally said “Okay, if you’re sure.”

Periclum typed on the screen on his suit’s arm. “It also means we can’t use our BCI to connect to any devices. Have to type things the good old-fashioned way.” He continued typing until there was a flash in the holster on the side of his suit. There was a small sound of wind and I could see that some weapon had formed. He looked at me, “Just in case.” He then looked at some port in the wall, stared at it for a moment and took a photo using the screen on his arm. I could hear wind in his chest, then he pulled out the cable he connected to me earlier. He plugged it into the wall and then looked at me. “Need more power after draining most of it, making that gun. Here, you take this.” He handed the gun to me and I had to get up to receive it. I gripped it tightly and went to sit back down on the sofa. 

“The safety is on, release it when you want to fire!” he said to me as he sat down against the side of the dome. He then typed again into his screen and his holster was once again creating the sound of wind and flashing. The lights in the environment dimmed as it was forming. Periclum looked around. “Hmm, perhaps I should have waited until I charged my suit for this one.”

I felt safe in this environment and with Periclum. It was calming as I sat on the sofa and looked about me for a bathroom to sort myself out. “I wonder if there is a bathroom in here?” I asked Periclum. Periclum looked at me, “You don’t need one! The suit should be able to sort out any hygiene needs. If you need to go, just type into the suit that you want it to clean it up.” I looked at the screen on my arm and searched the menus. I came across something that said, ‘Clean User’, I pressed on it and the button turned blue. I heard wind coming from my suit and a warm breeze blowing around my body. It was weirdly pleasant to feel the warm heat all over me and I could see under my eyes flashes of light coming from within the suit. After it had finished, I felt much better and cleaner, although I also felt like there was less fabric within the suit.

“Periclum!”

“What’s up?”

“I think I’m naked now!”

“Don’t worry, Ill make sure you are clothed when you materialise on The Liberty.”

“Oh.” I said, unsure how to take that. I guessed I would continue this weird mission naked. At least I had the suit on. I laid down on the sofa and saw Periclum turn invisible except for his head.

“James, make yourself invisible!” was the last thing he said before his head disappeared as his visor came down. The sofa hid me as I heard the door open. My heart was in my mouth. My mind was wondering what to do when I looked at the screen. As I looked at the screen, a Stilla came over. It turned to look at me. I looked back at it with fear and it seemed to look back at me, stunned. Both of us didn’t seem to know what to do in that moment. I looked at it and even though I was terrified, I said “Hi!” At that moment it seemed to lunge at me and then its head exploded. Green blood and guts ended up all over my suit and face. I turned to see that Periclum was taking down his visor and made himself visible again.

“Damn it James!” he said to me as he got up with his gun in his hand. I saw him struggle to unplug his suit from the wall. “Now they know we’re here!” he said as he stood up, the plug snapping back into his suit.

I stayed laying on the sofa looking at him. “James, get up!” I sat up in the sofa and looked at the dead Stilla on the floor. Periclum rushed to the front door and began tearing out cables. I stood up as I watched him messing with them. He looked at me, “I will connect with the ship”. He stood there for a moment, not doing anything. Then stared at me, “I’m in, looks like the Stilla don’t know how to go in as far as I have. I can see there are a lot outside our door and more gathering. I have an idea, James follow me!” Periclum led me to one of the side chambers. We stepped into a bedroom. There wasn’t anything in there except for a bed. I turned to see the air-tight door to this chamber had been locked. 

Periclum was staring through a porthole in the door. I came over to look through, I could see flashes of light in the main chamber we were just in. It looked as though the dome that protected us was disappearing. Water flooded the area, and I saw bubbles of air go to the surface of this ocean. The sofa was pushed over by the torrent of water. After a short while, the enormous fish had swum around to investigate. The body of the Stilla that was lying there washed against the main door. “That should hold them for now!” Periclum announced. It shocked me. “Okay James, time to teach you about your suit!” He looked at me with an intensity I had never seen in Periclum and a slight annoyance at me. “Most of the time we could use our BCI to connect to the suit. However, this time it will be a problem if they detect the signal. So best to use the screen. Now…” 

He pulled my arm up and made sure the screen was facing towards me. “This button here is to the primary screen.” The button itself had a tiny house on it and recognised it to be the ‘home’ button. “You press there and you will get to the main menu.” Once he did, it came up with a lengthy list of options and a search at the top of the menu. “It’s always at the top of the list because you always need it fast. You see menu item number one here is…. What is it?” he asked me.

I looked at him, feeling anxious about the whole situation. Then I could see that he was waiting for an answer, I had to think about my answer. It seemed hard at that moment, even for the simple task that he has given me. “What does it say?” he rephrased the question. I read the menu item. “It say’s, ‘Activate Cloak’!” I said as I realised what I should say. “Good!” he announced to me. Periclum then asked me what menu item number two was saying. I read it it and told him, “it say’s, ‘close visor’!” Periclum looked at me and then said, “Good! Those are the two options we will use most. For everything else, I will do it. Now your weapon!” he pulled out his weapon from his holster. He aimed it. “Press the button above the trigger and it will release the safety.” At that moment, I saw his finger press on the button. He then moved his finger down and then the gun went off. In a flash the bed had a large burnt hole in it as Periclum’s finger rested with the trigger pulled all the way back on the trigger. In one swift movement, he released his finger from the trigger, pressed the button above it and then placed it into its holster.

He then turned to me. “Your turn!” I looked at him, shocked. “You want me to fire my weapon?” I asked. “Yes!” he said as he smiled with his eyes. “I want you to destroy the bed.” I pulled it out of its holster and aimed. It was heavy in the hand, although I kept it steady. Running my finger on the side of the weapon, I found the button I knew would release the safety. Moving my finger to the trigger, I struggled to pull it back. I turned to Periclum, “I can’t fire this at anyone!” I said as I thought about why I was figuring out how to use this weapon. “You’re not!” Periclum replied, “you’re just shooting a bed!” I pulled up my arm again, aimed the weapon. I knew I just had to do it, just had to pull the trigger. And then… it went off. It snapped my hand back and the bed ended up in pieces in front of me. Periclum looked at me and told me I had done an excellent job. “Remember the safety!” he said as he saw me stumbling with the gun to put it back in its holster. I pressed the button and placed it into its holster. Not wanting to touch it. 

It felt good though, firing that weapon. At the time I couldn’t admit it, but it gave me enough excitement to keep me going. It got me to refocus and made me feel more powerful and safe. I had been needing it after everything I had gone through. It scared me to think I wanted to fire that weapon at every single Stilla I could find. Kill them all and destroy their ship. I didn’t want to see them again. Yet here we were, at that moment, trapped in an underwater dome waiting for something as Periclum stared through the door porthole.

“Here it goes!” Periclum said as he looked back through the porthole. I looked over his shoulder and noticed that the main door was beginning to moved. Periclum turned to me and placed his hands on my shoulders. “James, as soon as this tank drains, as soon as all this water goes through this door, we will run fast through. Okay!” I nodded, looking at him, feeling this intense excitement starting to overcome me. “Let’s turn on our invisibility.” I looked at my screen and the words ‘Activate Cloak’ was staring at me. This time I was ready to press it. Periclum had closed his visor and got ready. I did the same. He then became invisible and I copied. We waited, watching the door open slowly. Millimetre by millimetre. The Stilla on the other side must have been struggling. 

It stopped for a moment. For a time it looked as though the door wouldn’t open, but then after two minutes they blew the door open. Bubbles rushed to the surface and water began rushing through the door. Some Stilla pulled themselves up to the edge of the door. Desperate to hang on, they seemed to cling there. I could see they were struggling and one by one they were all washed away. The top of the water was coming down. The illusion of being under an ocean being washed away through the door. It drained past the bedroom door we were standing behind. It wasn’t long before we could open it. I saw the door open with the outline of Periclum at the door. He stepped out and then ran towards the main door that all the water rushed out of. I followed behind him, feeling my feet hover before hitting the ground every time I put my foot down. Seeing Periclum disappear over the edge of the door, I tripped over some sea weed. I went down with a thump and tried to get to my feet. Looking back up, I noticed that Stilla blocked the entrance.

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