V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 14
Again it was dark on the ship. This time at least Vic could see lights from the passageway. That meant someone had turned the lights off in the room. He’d rested enough. It was time to get up and see what the rest of the crew was up to. They were hidden, but were they safe? He didn’t like being locked away and unaware of what had happened around him. He reached up and put his hand on the glass top of the medical pod.
“Vic? Vic! You’re alright. I’m so glad I decided to stay behind and make sure you were alright. I see that you’re going to be fine. I was worried when the pod thing said you had suffered ‘massive internal bleeding’. I don’t have any blood like you do, but that sounds terrible. I just sat here and fretted and worried…”
“B.O.B! I’m fine now. Could you please let me out of this contraption?” If Vic didn’t stop him, B.O.B. would have gone on forever.
The robot continued to talk as he pressed buttons and opened up the pod. Vic tuned out more of what was said until B.O.B. said, “…and that’s when they all decided to leave the ship, but I was scared to…”
“Leave the ship? What do you mean by that? No one is on board?” He tried to push past B.O.B., but the robot was too bulky to just shove out of the way. Instead, they both moved into the passageway. “June! Joey! Argmon!”
“They’re not on board. The ship has been shut down for now, but Muffin should still be online.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad you’re up and moving, Victor. Looks like your little nap did you some good.”
“Where are we? Have we been arrested? Who went where with whom? How long was I out?”
“Only a couple of hours. That medical pod is fast. I’m sure if I were to break it wouldn’t be able to do anything for me mostly because I’m not a carbon-based life form.”
“Enough, Muffin, where is everyone and if you start with B.O.B. or me I’ll come up there and personally introduce you to your circuit boards.”
Muffin beeped. “No need to be rude. Argmon, June, Joey, and Dexter left the ship when several of the local inhabitants approached with spears demanding they exit the ship.”
“Spears? Local inhabitants? I think we need to back up a little bit. What inhabitants are we talking about?” Vic made his way up the ladder to the main deck, then over and down into the cargo hold. He could see the airlock door sat open.
“It appears that the planet is hollow. Joey referred to it as a mini Dyson Sphere. There’s a small star inside the planet and that seems to provide a large amount of power, but I don’t think it’s enough power for as many inhabitants that appear to live inside. The air outside is breathable for all lifeforms on the ship, though it is a little denser than you’ll be used to. You may need some time to adjust.”
“But they’ve got spears. How dangerous could they possibly be? I’ll just take a few blasters, free everyone, and we’ll be on our way.” He looked inside the weapons locker trying to decide the best approach. First, he’d need to know where they went. They were inside the planet. What had Joey called it? A Dyson Sphere? Vic had never heard the term. Made no sense to him. He just needed to find the best blasters they had, a few well-placed shots should scare the locals. Then they’d all be back on the ship and on their way home.
“I don’t think you understood what I said, Victor. We’re inside the planet. There is a city that covers nearly the entire inside shell of the planet. It’s hollow. Argmon, June, Joey, and Dexter were taken by the local inhabitants. Their spears aren’t spears, but power weapons.”
“Let me explain it in words you’ll understand. Big pointy sticks go boom.”
Vic rolled his eyes. “Okay, so they can fire back. Just point me to my crew and let me go get them.”
The first thing Vic grabbed was his com unit and placed this in his ear. He would need to make sure he could talk with the rest of the crew and Muffin if he was going to pull off a successful rescue operation.
“Vic, I think you need to reconsider. It’s safer right here on the ship. Really. If you go out there, you’ll be in trouble faster than I can down a quart of oil.”
“Why? Because there’s a bunch of guys with spears?” Vic strapped on his holster. One blaster on the right. One blaster on the left. A rifle in his hands. That should be just about enough.
B.O.B. followed Vic to the airlock and just before Vic could step onto the platform the robot said, “Because they’re really big.”
Vic backed up slowly. They hadn’t spotted him yet. He needed a few minutes to rethink this. Perhaps a few hours. In all his time running around the galaxy helping people out with things they needed and providing a great service to people, he’d run into some strange species. Some large, some small, some downright scary. He had never run into anything so humongous as these things. They looked like massive blobs with arms and each had a spear nearly forty feet tall. His best guess was these things were at least thirty feet tall and probably twenty feet wide at their base. He didn’t see any legs and wondered how they might move about. He looked at his weaponry.
“What’s that, Victor?” Muffin asked.
“I’m going to need some bigger guns.”
B.O.B. made some noise that sounded like an old car engine screeching to a halt. Vic assumed it might be laughter. Nervous laughter?
“June, this is Vic. Where are you?”
“Victor, that’s not going to work.” Muffin said
Vic looked up toward the bridge. “Why not? Are they too far away? Are the buildings made of something that blocks radio signals? Are they incapacitated? Tell me they’re not dead.”
“None of those, Victor. Your crew forgot to take their communicators with them.”
His shoulders slumped. “You have got to be kidding me? How am I supposed to rescue them if I can’t communicate with them? Did June at least put on her suit so we can track them?”
“I’m afraid not.”
That was so like June. Just run off before being fully prepared. That just made his job a whole lot tougher. How was he to locate them? They could be anywhere. These things looked huge and the only benefit Vic saw of that was there would be fewer rooms to search. Although they could be in the same room and he’d have trouble finding them.
“B.O.B., why don’t you go out there and introduce yourself? Maybe you can distract them long enough for me to get by.”
“I think I hear Muffin calling. I’d better get upstairs and see what she needs. She might be in trouble.”
“You don’t even have to stay out there for long. Just long enough to cause a distraction. These guys are five times taller than I am. Heck, they’re nearly as tall as the ship. Wait a minute. I think I know what I can do.” Vic put down the rifle.
The blobs outside were big and tall, but they didn’t have legs. Even though Vic couldn’t figure out their locomotion, they had to be slow. With that much mass moving across the ground there was no way they’d be fast. All he’d have to do would be to run outside and he’d be past the guards in no time.
“Vic, I don’t like the look in your eye.”
“How would you know anything about the look in my eye?”
B.O.B. fidgeted and looked left and right. “I don’t know. It’s just something that June always says when you look like you’re planning to do something that might get others into trouble. Like that time Joey lost his hand. Remember how you…”
“Yes, I remember. This time is different. I’m trying to think of a way to get them all back on the ship. Not pull some prank.”
A slight breeze, almost unnoticeable, blew past Vic’s ear. He brushed at it like trying to brush away an annoying pest.
“Here’s what I need you to do. I’m serious this time. B.O.B., look at me. Right here. I need you to cause a distraction.”
The robot started to turn. Vic grabbed it and turned it back around.
“I saved you from a lifetime of washing dishes in a back alley shop that served questionable food. We’ve given you a good life here. I think it’s time you did something for the crew.”
It looked as if B.O.B. might say something. The robot stared at Vic, looked at the floor. Looked up again, but remained silent. Vic continued to stare at B.O.B. and wait for the robot to say something. This was a game his father used to play with him. They’d stare each other down, just waiting to see what the other would say. Trying not to flinch or show any sign of weakness. The first person to talk had lost the contest of wills.
“Alright, quit looking at me like that. I’ll do it. Just tell me what I need to do.”
“Perfect. It’s quite simple. I need you to go out there…”
The wind by Vic’s ear grew more intense. There was no brushing it away this time. He thought it might be coming from outside. Hadn’t Muffin said the air was denser outside? This wind wasn’t coming from outside, though. It came from the rear of the ship. The sound of rustling leaves followed and Vic felt the full blast.
“Victor, I’m detecting a presence on the ship. No, now it’s gone. Wait. It’s back now. No, it’s not there anymore. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“I have. B.O.B., you’d better get a bucket and a mop.”
“A bucket and a mop? Is there a mess that needs to be cleaned up?”
“There will be.”
A man in camouflage appeared where the wind seemed to be coming from. He had a helmet, dark goggles, and held a large rifle, nothing like Vic had ever seen. The man was well built, but instantly dropped his gun and fell to his knees. With a scream, he pulled at his helmet and goggles.
“B.O.B., that bucket and mop. Now!”
B.O.B. sped off.
Vic knelt next to the man. “It’s alright buddy. You’re going to be fine. Take slow, deep breaths.”
“What? Where?” The man’s backpack proved to be too much and he fell face down on the deck.
Just like when June appeared, and Joey, Vic rolled the man onto his side and made sure his face was clear of any obstructions. Taking off his goggles revealed the man to be Asian. Probably the biggest Asian Vic had ever seen.
“Help! It hurts.” The man’s voice had no trace of an accent and he pawed at his throat.
“Bring some drinking water on your way back too.”
B.O.B. had almost been back with the bucket and mop. The robot dropped those and scurried off to get water.
Vic fetched the bucket but was too late getting back. The man had popped his lunch all over the deck. Why did these things always happen at the worst possible time? Now he had to find his crew and explain to this guy just where he’d wound up. Neither of them were going to be happy. Vic took the gun and handed it to B.O.B., took the drinking water, and offered that to the soldier.