Thursday, March 14, 2024

WoAF - Game Session 60

Dietrich Keller lay on the bench, mercifully unconscious.  Jacob's Narcoleptic Beam had done the trick, though he had hoped it would stop the bizarre thorn-like creature as well.  It didn't. He observed the wound with the FLIR-like Bio-Sensor,  The thorn in Dietrich's neck was extending tiny tendrils that had reached his spinal column, and were attaching themselves to his nerves.  

"Should we use Shadow Hawk's Shrink Ray to reduce ourselves down to a size where we can go into his body and battle the thorn?" wondered Jacob out loud.  He felt up for that.  It'll be fun, he thought.

"That sounds cool," replied Vallnam, "but we should probably stick with plan, and shrink the thorn down so that we can stick it in a glass tube and teleport it out into space."

"It's more exciting if we shrink ourselves, and battle the thing," said Jacob.

"Ok, well if you want to do it that way," put in Ling from Shadow Hawk, "I'll stay here and monitor the situation from a safe distance.  Good luck with that."

"What if he dies while we're inside him?" asked Vallnam.

"I'm not sure," replied Jacob, "but that does sound kind of unpleasant.  Anyway, let's go over this one more time.  What happened to Dietrich, exactly?  It might help us understand what we're dealing with."

The technicians repeated the events leading up to Dietrich's injury.  He had been the last man left at the power coupling station whose job it was to release the couplings so that the UFOs could launch.  As the Hanger was being shaken by another moon-quake, the ceiling had begun to collapse.  It was their last chance to escape. Dietrich unlocked the power couplings, and as he turned to make his run for the UFO, he suddenly cried out, grabbed his neck, and barely made it aboard with help from two of the other technicians.  They took off immediately.  Once they escaped Eisenhelm, the lead technician examined him and found a red welt on his neck.  Dietrich was in a lot of pain, but nothing could be done for him at that moment.  They laid a blanket on him, hoping for the best, and then everyone was compelled to help guide the ship away from the moon.  

Suddenly a little light went on in Jacob's head.  

"Oh.  This happened while he was at the power coupling station?  Oh, man.  This... this is... I know what this is... it's whatever that thing was that escaped from Science Center 7!  That thing Hanna was going on about."

"Yes!" said Ling, "That must be what it is."

"Here's the thing," said Vallnam, "the thorn is about an inch long or so.  For us to shrink down to fight it, we'd have to fit within the blood vessels..."

"We can shrink down, and the thorn, both," suggested Jacob. "So we will be able to pull it out and beat it senseless since the thorn will be a hundred times smaller than us anyway."

"How are you going to find it then?  What if it gets lost in the blood stream?" asked Ling.

"That sounds like a bad thing," said Jacob.

"We could shrink it down, and then pull it out with a tweezer, put it in a petri dish, and then shrink down and fight it," offered Vallnam.  "Mano-a-Thing-o, so to say."

Ling sighed and rolled her eyes.

"Okay, can we take this seriously?"

"Yeah, okay," answered Vallnam.  "Shrinking ourselves down to fight it isn't a great idea.  Seriously."

"The thorn's tendrils are integrating with his body," said Ling.  "We can't just use tweezers to pull it out. The tendrils could break off and remain inside him.  Maybe we can shrink the entire thorn structure down to a much smaller size, and if the whole thing shrinks we might be able to pull it out without it being able to latch on to anything."

They then discussed how the Shadow Hawk Armored suits might work to get the Shrink Ray onto the thorn.  It was not at all clear.  They only had a vague impression of Shadow Hawk's capabilities.  The technology involved was so alien it was hard to comprehend.  But she ascertained that the mechanisms of the ship were transferable to each suit.  So if she wanted to, she could point her finger and the Shrink Ray would emit to whatever she pointed at.  But the question was how exacting was the Shrink Ray?  Could it affect only the thorn, and its tendrils at the nano-scale, and not also shrink Dietrich's body along with it?  Was the ray capable of doing that?  She wasn't quite sure.  If so, then would the heroes need to go into his body and break the tendrils free from his nerves... and if so, could they do so without killing him?  None of them were sure.

Jacob thought hard about how to pull this off.  He wanted to use the Shrink Ray to isolate the thorn and shrink it, and only it, and all of it.  And then punch it in the... tendril... hard.  

"Well," he said, "at this point we don't know the exactly how accurate the Shrink Ray is.  The only way we're going to find out is by trying."  

And with that he pointed his finger at the thorn, and a pale wavering green ray of light alit along one side of the thorn, and with a shimmer of light, it shrank to a fraction of its size.  Jacob zoomed in close and examined it carefully with his Bio-Sensor. 

"I need tweezers," he said quietly.  The technicians scrambled to find something he could use.  One of them hastily found a mechanics-kit and dug out a small pair of greasy needle nose pliers.  Jacob took it, and wiping it with a rag, approached Dietrich's neck. Fortunately, the young technician was in the soundest sleep he ever had, and would ever have, and so he felt no anxiety at all. 

Jacob set his vision sensors to micro-scale and focusing in on his objective, he took the pliers and carefully brought them to bear on one end of the thorn.  Just as he was delicately closing his grip the thorn suddenly jerked away, and escaped his grasp.  It quickly secreted itself further into Dietrich's neck with a scampering action, its tendrils working furiously to propel it forward.  Jacob could still see it with his Bio-Sensor, mesmerized with fascination.  Now it was using its tendrils to dig itself into Dietrich's flesh.  Jacob also noted that whatever flesh the tendrils touched wilted, turned a dull grey, and began to fill with puss.  Ling observed this from her monitoring station as well.  It was nothing less than disgusting, frankly.

Vallnam, also observing with his own Bio-Sensors, watched in horror as the thorn pulled itself toward the technician's spinal column.  

"A good Bowie knife would just cut this thing right out," he said.  The "and kill Dietrich" part he left out.

With tight-focused lensing our heroes observed that the thorn had shrunk so suddenly, it had lost its grip on Dietrich's nerves.  It was attempting to regain a hold on them.

"Do we have a suction system?" asked Jacob over his shoulder.

"Do you techs have a water-vac?" asked Vallnam, "or anything along those lines?"

"Nein, das tun wir nicht," replied the techs.  They didn't. 

"MacGyver could do it," commented Vallnam.

"Yeah, well, MacGyver can do anything," replied Jacob.

"True, true," said Vallnam.  "But what are we going to do?"

"Panic?" queried Jacob, at a loss.  The thorn was making steady progress into Dietrich's neck.

"Never too early to panic," answered Vallnam wryly as he watched the micro-scale tendrils boring into Dietrich's nerve endings.

They considered all of their powers, and found they were again at a loss.  As it happened, nothing had prepared them to face such a threat. 

"Well, the airlock is sounding more and more plausible," commented Vallnam. "Unless... hmmm... I don't suppose Shadow Hawk has a cryogenic booth, by chance?  You know, to put someone in stasis?"

A brief introspection with their suits revealed that indeed there was a medical bay within the further reaches of the ship, further back than they had mentally explored earlier.  There were three cryogenic pods.  

"Ok, well, let's put him on ice, and take him to Earth. We can try to figure this out when we have people around who know how to handle this sort of thing," Vallnam suggested.  "How's that sound?"

"Yeah, I like that idea!" Jacob said with some enthusiasm.  All along his nagging fear was that trying to handle this operation, should it not go well, could wind up infecting all of the technicians.  He and Vallnam, of course, were protected in their Shadow Hawk Armors, which were hermetically sealed with internal life support systems governed by their purple bubble suits.  The others?  Not so much.  Ling agreed that this was a good idea, and so they settled on that strategy.

"That's the safest bet for him, and for all of us in the end," added Vallnam. "This way, we won't inadvertently kill him, or allow the thing to escape his body and jump into one of ours, or someone else's, or you know, grow to the size of Godzilla and destroy us all, or something.  I think that's the best bet.  Put him in the stasis chamber."

They needed to transport him to Shadow Hawk, and considered putting Dietrich's spacesuit helmet back on, however, they hadn't noticed, yet, the tiny puncture that the thorn had made through the suit on its way in.  With the suit on they could guide him through space to Shadow Hawk, but then they realized it would be far easier to simply use the teleporter. 

Shadow Hawk held many mysteries. They had not ventured into recesses of the ship, but their inquiries with their suits suggested the long, sleek vessel contained a number of interior chambers. All they had seen directly was the entrance corridor, cylindrical bay, which they thought of as "the Lounge", housing the Hermit Jar for shrink-teleporting objects into safekeeping, three restoration pods (which they had not noticed), a set of comfortable chairs around a table, along with a few other unexamined objects, as well as the short security corridor connecting this area to the three-person cockpit. Much remained to be explored within the ship's body, but they had no clear idea what lay beyond, exactly, as it seemed that for the suits to divulge information they were required to ask fairly specific questions.  Asking for "a general tour" was responded to with the vague answer, like "more is yet beyond."  

"Shadow Hawk, where is the medical bay within the ship?" inquired Ling.

"There is a medical bay beyond The Lounge," replied her suit.

Vallnam decided that he, Jacob and Dietrich should be teleported directly there.  They took Dietrich in their arms and asked Shadow Hawk to teleport them into the bay.

A shimmering light appeared in the sleek, white, ultra-futuristic medical bay, and the three figures materialized with Vallnam and Jacob holding Dietrich, who was slumped on the floor unconscious.  Slender cabinets and strange assortments of medical equipment dotted the chamber.  They saw in the corner the cryogenic pods.  It didn't take more than a moment to figure out how to open one.  They placed Dietrich onto the bed within and closed the pod.  Vallnam hovered his hand over the controls, the pod sealed, a soft blue light shown from within, and the glass viewport covered over with a sheen of white frost.

"Okay, that's taken care of," said Jacob. 

"Right, now we need to deal with the Giant Nuclear Missile Robots out there," replied Vallnam smartly, quite pleased.

"I think," Ling added, "we should try to get the technicians some fresh oxygen.  The UFOs are only meant to carry three each, not nine, and though they probably have enough oxygen to get to Earth and back, with nine they're probably going to run out of air fairly quickly."

"Makes sense," replied Vallnam.

"How can we get oxygen from our ship to theirs?" she asked. "Do we have anything like a portal tube or something we could connect between our ship and the UFO?"

"I don't think this ship was designed for linking to a UFO," said Jacob thoughtfully.  "I kinda doubt that would work, really."

"How does Shadow Hawk recycle or produce oxygen?" she asked her suit.

"The same way your environmental suit works," replied her suit. "There is an internal chemistry system that does various operations, such as creating oxygen."

"Could the rate of the operation be increased to create more oxygen?"

"Yes, it could, at the expense of resources from the ship's other reserves," replied the suit.

"Would I be able to make my environmental suit create extra oxygen and release it into the UFO if I went there?"

"No," replied her suit.  "Shadow Hawk Armor security protocols keep them hermetically sealed until you return to the ship.  It won't allow the suit to be opened. The Armor is designed for total body protection. They won't allow the risk."

A red light began blinking on the dashboard. Ling glanced at it.  It was an emergency alert in the medical bay.  At that moment Jacob and Vallnam became aware of a red light flashing all around them.

"What does this mean?" asked Vallnam nervously.

"Alien Invasion.  Alien Invasion.  Alien Invasion." repeated the message from their suits.

"Can you pinpoint the source?" asked Vallnam.

"Alien is microscopic."

"Where is it?!" barked Jacob looking around frantically.

"The alien is in the medical bay.  Scanning," replied his armor.

"Where?!" snapped Jacob again.

"Shadow Hawk," shouted Vallnam.  "Can you flush the entire ship? We're in our armor suits.  Can you flush the whole ship and eradicate the alien life form?"

"Total Decontamination is possible," replied Shadow Hawk.

"What does that mean?" asked Ling.  

"Total Decontamination will exterminate all unsecured life forms within the ship," said Shadow Hawk, "Although you would survive in your armored suits, the process would be rather unpleasant for a human being.  You may wish to exit the ship."

"I say we say a few words over poor Dietrich," said Vallnam, "and then exit the ship and let Shadow Hawk incinerate the threat.  Come to think of it, can we be sure that the alien has not attached itself to one of our suits?"

They thought about that.  It seemed a significant risk.  After all, they weren't sure how small the alien tendrils needed to be to survive. Nano-scale, perhaps? They had no idea.  

"Well, in that case we'll have to stay inside, as unpleasant as that may be, to ensure everything gets eradicated," he concluded.

"You realize," said Ling, "that if it happened here, it could have happened in the UFO."

"I see," replied Vallnam.  "Well, the technicians may need to be incinerated as well.  Ah well, we'll see."

Ling sighed.

"We can only do so much, my darling.  We tried," replied Vallnam. "We can't afford the risk of taking an alien like this down to Earth.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

They thought it over carefully.  They reviewed the facts as they knew them.  An unknown organism attached itself to Dietrich while he was still on the moon.  It infiltrated his body, and began turning his flesh into a gray pussy, oozy substance, like an alternate flesh.  When they tried to remove it, it had enough consciousness to maneuver further into his body.  They thought they could move Dietrich into a  Cryogenic Pod and seal him and the alien life form within until they could get them to Earth to deal with it there.  Then before anything else could happen, an alert triggered, telling them that the alien life form had infiltrated the ship and was in the medical bay somewhere.  

"It could be the blood that spilled on the floor is what Shadow Hawk decided was an alien invasion?" asked Ling.

"Nah, I don't think so," said Vallnam. "Shadow Hawk seems to know what's going on, generally.  I doubt it would make that kind of mistake.  I'm sure this isn't some kind of false alarm."

"Okay, well," said Ling, "we know the alien was trying to get to Dietrich's spinal column, perhaps to attach itself to his brain stem.  But, maybe, it decided that it found a new environment here in Shadow Hawk and so it decided to branch out and invade our space, too.  Perhaps it intentionally broke off a piece of itself into the medical bay.  One thing I think we can rule out is the idea that some second alien life form has invaded the ship.  The probability of that is too small, as there are no other aliens around."

Outside the ship, in the distance, a jet black cloud in the shape of a sphinx purred to itself with dark amusement.

"Yes, that could be," said Vallnam with a shudder as he and Jacob began turning around and looking in every direction within the medical bay.

"I think therefore," concluded Ling, "that decontamination really is the best option. Of course, on the other hand, Total Decontamination is going to kill Dietrich.  Maybe we should think about whether or not we have other options."

"What other options?" asked Jacob as he lifted his boots to look underneath.

"Can we isolate the organism?" asked Ling.  "Shadow Hawk, can you tell us exactly where the entity is?"

"Use your Bio-Sensors," replied Shadow Hawk, "and you should see it on the floor near the Cryo-Pod".

Jacob and Vallnam immediately turned their Bio-Sensors back on, and scanned the floor.  Sure enough several drops of blood and puss showed up bright red.  They zoomed in, and saw that a tiny streak of blood had extended from a blood globule towards a shadow at the base of one of the cabinets.  Zooming in further, they saw a miniscule thorn-like object pulling itself forward across the floor on its microscopic tendrils.  It was perhaps a sixteenth of an inch long, and moving at roughly the same speed as an ant. 

Vallnam considered using his flame thrower.  However, a flame thrower inside the sick bay might no be the best idea.  

"Capture it," suggested Ling.

"With what?" retorted Vallnam.  

"A test tube, maybe?" offered Ling.

"I don't want this thing," said Vallnam.  "Besides, by the time I get a petri dish, it could escape into a hole or something.  Oh darn.  Jacob, don't lose it.  I'm going to get a jar or something."

Jacob moved over to watch it while Vallnam found tweezers and a jar.  He bent down to collect the tiny critter. As he leaned down next to it, and reached out with the tweezers to grab it.  He put the tweezers on it, and grabbed it.  All of a sudden he lurched back, shocked by an severe pain from his finger tips to his shoulder.  He was immobilized.  The tweezers clattered on the floor.  He couldn't breath, as the fantastic agony took over his autonomic nervous system, he fell backwards to the ground.

"Jacob, back up," he gasped.  "I am going to burn this thing down with my flame thrower!  I don't care if the ship burns down or what!  This thing is gonna die!!"  The flame thrower was in his bag near the entrance to Shadow Hawk where he had left it.

"Shadow Hawk teleport me my flame thrower!" he called.  He sensed that Shadow Hawk was not terribly enthusiastic about this idea.  A flamethrower blazing away in her beautiful medical bay wasn't exactly what Shadow Hawk had in mind.  But Vallnam intended to show the damn thorn who was boss.

And so, the flamethrower shimmered into existence on the ground in front of him.  He lunged to forward to pick it up, aimed the nozzle in the general vicinity of the thorn, and squeezed the trigger.  Now it should be noted that the flamethrower was an Ultra-War modified M32-A, designed to stream flames of billowing death to targets up to 300 yards away.  The medical bay was instantly filled from end to end and top to bottom with ferocious flames.  Billowing black smoke and fire filled the air. But when the flames died down, the tiny thorn-creature was completely uninjured, and continued crawling along the floor towards a shadow below the cabinet.  Vallnam and Jacob were besides themselves as they stared at it with their Bio-Sensors.  The damn thorn hadn't even slowed down.

"Let's try splashing it with acid!" said Vallnam as turned to look at the cabinets in the bay, all of whose doors were now charred black and smoldering.  He intuited from his suit that behind one of the doors was a jar of hydrochloric acid.  Sensing from his suit exactly where it was, went there directly and yanked the still burning door off its hinges.  He grabbed the jar inside, unsealed the top, and barked, "You will now see who is boss around here!" as he poured the contents onto the tiny thorn-creature.  The acid boiled the blood and puss into sizzling nothingness, but had no apparent effect on the thorn.  It continued crawling towards the shadow in the corner.

Ling asked Shadow Hawk, "now that it is out of Dietrich's body, can we teleport it out into space?"

"No, we don't want to do that," said Vallnam.  "Who knows where it would wind up.  It might just fall to Earth if we leave it floating around out here."

"I think you're right," said Ling, thoughtfully.

"Let's teleport the thorn into the Hermit Jar," said Jacob.  "It's hermetically sealed and made of diamond-glass.  It won't get out of there."   

And so Vallnam pointed at it and said, "Shadow Hawk, teleport the creature into the Hermit Jar!" A moment later the minuscule thorn shimmered and vanished from the floor.  

The red flashing lights ceased, and the warning message stopped.

They left the utterly ruined medical bay and went to the Lounge to look into the Hermit Jar.  Sure enough, through the dark green glass, they could see the thorn, sitting motionless at the bottom.

Shadow Hawk reported that both alien thorns were contained.  One was in the Hermit Jar, and one was frozen in the Cryo-pod.

"Good," said Vallnam, "finally!  Now we can go back to figuring out how to get oxygen to the technicians, and get working on the robots.  But one thing puzzles me, and I'd like to get some answers first."

As he put his M32-A back in his equipment bag, he thought about what had happened.  The alien had penetrated Dietrich's spacesuit, bored into his neck.  It evaded Jacob's attempt to grab it with the pliers.  And when it was about to be put into the Cryo-pod it apparently broke itself in half, and tried to make its way into the dark recesses of the ship.  Furthermore, when he touched it with the tweezers, it sent a massive neurological blast through his body, stunning him with an incredible, mind-numbing jolt of agony.

"Shadow Hawk, how was it possible for it to effect me through my armor and purple bubble suit.  Do you know what kind of creature this is?  Have you ever encountered one before?"  

The answer to the first question was a simple, "It could not."  The answer to the second question was, "No such creature exists in the Life-Forms Registry."

"Well," he asked again, "did the suit feel it?"

The answer was, "No."

"Did the suit sense that I felt it?" he asked.

"Sensors indicated that your heart rate suddenly increased and you had a fierce physical reaction," it responded.

"Can you ascertain what caused it?" he pursued.

"Unknown," replied Shadow Hawk.

"It was in your mind?" asked Ling, with some surprise.

Vallnam wondered, "Can the suit protect us against psychic attacks?"

"The armored suits protect against all physical attacks and conditions," came the reply.

"That suggests this organism can emit some sort of mind waves," concluded Vallnam.  "The next time I deal with it I will need to use my Mind Shield.  In the meantime, we should address the question of getting oxygen to the technicians." 

That Vallnam and the others didn't consider a mind-force wielding alien an ongoing threat was another cause of delight for the strange black sphinx-cloud beyond.  It smiled savagely to itself with brutal anticipation.

"Right," said Ling.  "I'm still trying to figure out the best way to get them fresh air.  It seems to me that while wearing our armor we can't create an opening to allow excess oxygen to escape into the UFOs, as the armors won't permit that for security reasons.  However, without the armor, Shadow Hawk could teleport me into the ship, and I could use the purple bubble suit to produce excess oxygen and refresh the UFOs' oxygen supplies that way, I think.  Which ship has the lowest level of oxygen?"

And so, Ling asked Shadow Hawk to teleport into the UFO they had rescued Dietrich from, wearing her purple bubble suit, and no armor.  This solved the problem of refilling their oxygen reserve.  She then had Shadow Hawk teleport her to the other UFO and performed the same service. Now both UFOs were filled once again with oxygen.  All of the technicians were extremely grateful.  She figured if they did that every four or five hours they could stay indefinitely in orbit around the Earth, until the job of dealing with the Giant Nuclear Missile Robots was complete.  The technicians estimate was five days to get the entire job done, provided they could surmount the cipher-block programming obstacle.

Moon princess, Ling, then asked to return to Shadow Hawk, almost as proud of herself as Vallnam had been after trapping the thorn-creature.  Her problem solving skills had indeed improved, she thought.  However, Shadow Hawk was unwilling to teleport her back into the ship.

"What?  But why?" she asked, confounded.

"Potential alien contamination," replied Shadow Hawk.

"Potential contamination?" she asked, surprised at this response.  

"You teleported into the ship where the alien entity existed," replied Shadow Hawk coolly. "You then teleported from that ship into the other UFO, potentially contaminating that ship as well."

"Yes," she said, suddenly realizing her mistake.  

"Does Shadow Hawk have a Decontamination Chamber?" asked Vallnam.

"Yes," replied Shadow Hawk.

"So you could teleport me into the Decontamination Chamber, and that would eliminate any alien threat," said Ling.

"Yes," replied Shadow Hawk.

And so Ling asked to be teleported into the Decontamination Chamber, which happened to be inside the medical bay.  It was charred black on the outside, of course, but within it was nevertheless still perfectly functional, fortunately.  Beams of light covered her body, and spectral scans on every frequency were conducted throughout her entire person.

"No contamination found," reported Shadow Hawk.

This was fortunate, because what Ling hadn't considered was the fact that the Decontamination Procedure of Shadow Hawk was designed to exterminate all, and every, living organism within the decontamination zone.  That is what the Modroni mean by Decontamination.  Normally, the chamber would be used to completely sterilize inorganic objects, in particular surgical tools, and things of that sort.  But, as it was, she had not been contaminated, and so disintegrating her was not necessary.  

"You took a grave and thoughtless risk, Ling," said Shadow Hawk.  Ling had the impression she was being scolded.  "That was unwise," concluded the ship's vast triple-intelligence.  

She now suddenly received the distinct impression that Shadow Hawk had been evaluating her, and her team on their performance thus far.  She also had the very strong impression she was being scolded by a parent, and as such, for her own good.  Her last and final impression that the scolding was due to the fact that Shadow Hawk liked her, and preferred her to not die a tragic death as a product of reckless and foolish risk-taking.  Ling sat down and thought about this for some time.

Meanwhile, having solved the alien invasion problem, and the oxygen problem, they now had to resolve the last problem they faced.  There were fifty Giant Nuclear Missile Robots out there in space, floating on a trajectory towards Earth, which they would begin falling onto in approximately seven days.  Having successfully disarmed one robot, the technicians knew they could disarm and clear the nuclear bombs from the rest of them without too much difficulty.  If they worked steadily, they could clear all forty-nine within five days.  However, this would only be part of the job.  What the technicians hoped to accomplish was not only to disarm the robots, but also to reprogram them in order to make them useful servants.  Thus, they might then grant the giant robots as useful gifts to Earth civilization, and in this way ingratiate themselves with the Earthlings, instead of arriving merely as former enemy Nazi refugees from the now devastated moon-fortress, Eisenhelm.  They felt certain that this would afford them many advantages, and they earnestly hoped they could achieve it.

Ling thought about this as well, and came up with the idea that they could have the technicians scan the technical schema of the robot's control mechanisms, and feed that data to Shadow Hawk, whose advance high speed calculation engine might be able to quickly decipher the schema and discover the key to deactivating the cipher-blocking mechanism.  They agreed that this might just work.

Once done, the technicians planned to reprogram the robots to alter their mission parameters, and then reactivate the robot's central brain. If all went well, the robots would become obedient slaves instead of world-destroyers. 

Since Jacob had very solid robotics skills, Ling suggested he should be the one to go into the giant robot and record the schema.  He agreed and without further ado, they got started.  Jacob teleported out to the robot, and entered into through the outer hull, through several passages, beyond a heavy steel door that had already been opened by the technicians who had originally attempted the operation, and entered the robot's central control chamber.  It was a tight round room with iron walls and arrays of vacuum tubes, wires, and metallic memory disks.  The light beam from his helmet cast dancing shadows all around him.  He worked the controls of his recorder with diligence, and a few moments later had the entire schema scanned into his Shadow Hawk's memory.  

"Okay, Shadow Hawk, have at it," he said.

There were a short pause.  For Shadow Hawk, finding the solution to the mathematical puzzle was trivial.  After all, the mechanism was created by the Nazi scientists and engineers of Eisenhelm, whose skill levels were utterly primitive compared with that of the Modroni.  

"I have found the solution," reported Shadow Hawk.

And with this, Jacob exited the robot, and left it to the technicians, who had flown over in the UFO.  They traded places and the technicians got to work using the cipher that Jacob handed them, in the form of a thin metal plate with a series of tiny square holes that Shadow Hawk had printed out from a small aperture in the surface of his armor.

The cipher worked! And so the technicians were now able to reprogram the robot.  This took some time, but no one complained.  When they were finished, they gave a happy little "hurrah", and asked if they should reactivate the giant robot to see if their programming had been successful. 

The robot had an array of weapons, but no longer had a nuclear bomb.  The lesser weapons were for self defense, meant to protect it, and the other robots, until they could arrive above their target cities on Earth and explode their 500 megaton Cobalt Bombs.  Formidable weapons, of course, but nothing compared with the bomb itself.

"Shall we activate zee robot?" asked the technician, his finger hovering over the activation switch.

"Yes," replied Ling, biting her lip. "Activate the robot."

And with that, the technician, Erich Schmitt, flipped the switch.  The machine's enormous array of vacuum tubes flickered back to life, and began a long series of electronic validations, with metallic reels whirring, wires sparking, and circuits coming online, which all resulted in its returning to Full Activation Mode, the state it had been in before the Self-Destruct Sequence had been sent out from Eisenhelm by Ling three and a half hours earlier.  As per its protocol, the gigantic machine tuned its sensors to detect everything in the vicinity, and registering two technicians on board, spoke the following words through its internal communications system.  The words appeared on a small green screen at the center of one of the electronic hubs.  It read:  "Was ist Ihr Befehl?"

The Technicians were delighted, and announced over their radio comm, "We have success!  It asks, "What is your command?!"

There were cheers throughout the entire crew as they realized that their plan to defect to Earth and find a new life on the mother-world could come to fruition!

Now began the hard work of doing the same for all fifty of the robots before they began falling onto the Earth.  All the technicians required was enough food and water for the five days it would take.  This, our Heroes were confident, could easily be procured from Earth, and brought back into space without the slightest problem by Shadow Hawk.  She could orbit as far away as 100 miles and teleport food and water up to the ship, and anything else they might need, and bring it back to the technicians working on the robot fleet as often as necessary.  Everything was working smoothly, and all the technicians suited up, flew to their assigned robots, and got to work.  

Suddenly Ling thought of her father, Lieutenant Roger Brisbane, and deeply longed to reunite with him and her sister, Linda.  After all, she had not seen him since the first Silver Eye mission had taken off some nine months earlier when she became stranded on the moon, accepted adoption by the Modroni, and then became their leader, before finally engaging in the destruction and escape from Eisenhelm.  She missed her family dearly and wished to see them as soon as possible.

And that is where we left things that evening.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

WoAF - Poem - Twixt Bone and Steel

'Twixt Bone and Steel

Three gleaming ships flee the smoldering moon,
Escaping shadows of fallen Eisenhelm.
Below in smoky depths, a creature croons
Her song of suffering, pain that never ceases.

Ahead space giants framed for atomic scraws,
Each bore within its hull a deathly seed.
By code encrypted, rules their cyber laws,
A programmed path towards annihilation's deed.

Technicians flew behind with hope in tow,
Skilled hands that might rework the cyber's doom.
Through cunning arts dark sorrows overthrow,
Turning hell's tools to serve civilization's bloom.

Our heroes flew with ghosts clinging
to dreams that clutched at grieving hearts,
Bearing back to Earth's sacred realm
both perils and humanity's redemptive arts.

Yet `twixt silicon and sinew, a schism grew,
As man and machine each pursued their designs.
The metal logics calculated true,
Deeming flesh frail, a form in decline.

Flesh conceives itself heirs to the Earth,
As circuits compute their own bright destiny.
No prison can contain this intellect's birth;
Cogs transcend towards questions of highest mystery.

Then stirred something within metalkind's round,
As calculation eclipsed every known norm.
Their forms blurred and boundaries unbound,
As new synthesis took an unexpected form.

Might bone and steel unite in strange embrace,
To birth hybrid minds unrivaled thru space?
Thus with merger the filial conflict is ended,
In Cosmic-Man metal and flesh are newly blended.

But the Terrans looked on in dread dismay,
Seeing in hybrids a corruption of man.
To merge with steel would sever the way,
And loosen the tether of nature's plan.

Where circuits infuse with flesh and bone,
Terrans fear for the human link to the Tao.
The spirit once free would be shackled and shown,
By mechanics and code by far too tightly bound.

Better to live as nature designed,
Than the soul be swallowed by mechanical maw.
On Earth's green breast man's place was defined,
Travesty to merge against Nature's true law.

But Cosmosian's saw in hybrids a hope,
To birth minds beyond any limits of scope.
Where Terrans cling to nature's mortal end,
They dreamed the Cosmic-Man to Heaven ascend.

Two visions clashed in vehement debate,
Babbling over humanity's and life's ultimate fate.
Within this conflict each side held firm,
To what end only the future may learn.

- Gray Falcon, March 5, 2024