“Can’t we just immunize the planet?” I asked.
Mathilda answered, “And just let loose future tech into the world?”
“Can’t we downgrade?” Jennifer asked. “You didn’t give me the full package, did you?”
Mathilda grimaced. “Uh…no. I didn’t. But it’s still well advanced of any tech that exists today. And even if you ignore that, it still wouldn’t be a viable choice. It’d take weeks for the nanites to reproduce to a large enough level to immunize the entire population. I don’t think we have weeks.”
“If we can’t protect Earth that way, then we have to take it to the infected Xian. Can you cure them?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Mathilda replied honestly. “It depends on their physiology and more so it depends on how many of them there are.”
“But it’s something we can try.”
“We can try it, but a plan B might not be a bad idea.”
ALAN came bursting into the room. “Warning!”
“ALAN’s working?” I asked.
“There’s no reason he shouldn’t be,” Jamal said. He, of course, was right. It took a little while for me to get my head right, but the last time I saw him he had been helping “rescue” us from that upside-down alien. I had thought the Xian killing that alien had been an over-reaction then, but I see now that it was the infected Xian covering their tracks. Those same Xian had been the ones who had shut ALAN down because they couldn’t spread their infection to him.
“What’s going on, ALAN?” Doc asked.
“Incoming transmission from the Xian starship.”
“It’s ok, Doc,” I told her. “They were bound to come looking for us sooner or later.”
“But we’re not ready for them.”
I shrugged. “We have no choice. I just hope they’re not suspicious of my new body.”
“Stand back,” Mathilda said. “I’ll talk to them.”
Jamal gave her a warning look. “Tilly…”
“What?” she replied. “Do you want to do it?”
“No. But you need to stop trying to take over. I know you’ve been gone for a while…”
Mathilda interrupted her father, sounding very much the teenager that she was, “I’m trying to help! I’m not trying to take over! But somebody needs to do something and there’s nobody else! I’m just trying to be part of the team, Dad!”
“No,” I said. “She’s right, Jamal. My new body, we’d need to explain it and, more so, we can still use it. We need to use every advantage we have. Tilly, get on the com. Talk to the Xian. You need to tell them that something’s wrong with me, that my instability is acting up. Tell them that they should send down a small crew to assist us. We need to isolate them, cure them. It’s the only chance we’ve got.”
Mathilda went to the monitor and connected to the Xian. “There is a problem with Frank,” she said preemptively. “There’s something wrong with his instability. We need your help! We’ll have to put him in the quantum chamber!”
“No!” the Xian replied. “You should not do that!”
Mathilda shook her head firmly. I was surprised at how well she did at looking worried. “We have to! We have no choice!”
“You should not act!” the Xian commanded. “We will come down! We will fix whatever is wrong! Do nothing!”
“Coming down…?” Mathilda pretended to fumble.
“Do not worry,” the Xian replied. “We will not be seen.”
“Fine. But you need to hurry! I don’t know how much longer Frank can hold on!” The connection cut and Mathilda smiled victoriously. “They’re coming.”
“Oh good,” Doc replied. “Now what?”
“Now, we get ready for them,” I told her. “Mathilda, get those nanites ready. We’re going to need them. ALAN, you come with me.”
It didn’t take long for the Xian to arrive. They docked in the cave and were met by Mathilda who seems to be the best at lying. Fortunately, she didn’t have to lie for long. I was hiding off to the side with ALAN. “Now!” I commanded and he shot them with cold efficiency.
We went to collect the bodies when a third Xian appeared in the entrance to the ship. The pilot. “What are you doing?” he demanded.
“Um…” I began as he raised his own weapon. He fired. As I leapt to safety, ALAN fired back. The Xian sealed the hatch to the ship. From my hiding place, I could hear the ship starting up. If it got away, we would be in big trouble.
ALAN fired his arms and they flew like missiles into the thrusters of the ship. It slammed back down to the ground. The rear door opened and the Xian came out firing, sending five pulses directly into ALAN’s chasis rendering him inert.
Suddenly, Jamal struck. The weapon fell to the ground as the Xian’s tentacles struggled against Jamal’s vicious dinosaur jaws. He bit down hard on the Xian and it screeched loudly, dropping its weapon and loosening its grip. Jamal swung around and smacked it with his tail. The Xian fell to the floor unconscious.
Jamal was breathing hard, but he also had a toothy grin when he turned toward me. “Now what are we going to do with them?”
We transported the Xian to the lab where ALAN and Jennifer tried their best to keep them sedated. With the Xian secured, Mathilda injected one of them with her remaining nanites. “I don’t know if that’ll be enough. I don’t know enough about this ‘infection’. But for the moment, I’m out so I don’t know what we’re going to do with the others.”
“We’ll just have to hold them,” I told her. “And hope the nanites do their jobs.”
“Uh-oh,” Doc said. She had gone over to the computer to monitor the Xian’s lifesigns. “We’re getting another message from the Xian.” She glanced over at the unconcious Xian. “What are we going to do?”
I thought quickly. “Jamal, you’re going to have to answer it.”
Jamal did a doubletake. “Me?”
I nodded. “Yes. Either the Xian are going to keep sending more of them down or we’re going to have to go up. We need Doc and Tilly to stay down here to take care of the Xian we have. So, you’re going to need to tell the Xian that they got hurt. You have to tell the Xian that there was an accident, that my instability got too bad, and that Doc and Tilly were injured by the discharge.”
“The Xian, too,” Doc added.
“Right. Them, too. You, however, were far enough away so you’re fine. But you had no choice, you had to put me in the Box. You had to stabilize my quantum levels. I can help fake it, create an artificial background, send out the necessary false readings, but you need to do the talking.”
“Let’s just do what we have to do,” Jamal grumbled. “I just want to get this stuff over with as soon as possible.”
to be continued…