Episode 70: Diplomatic Response

Captain Ortega’s eyes shot from Doctor Rogers to Captain Calen, knowing what would happen but not wanting to see it. Historically, the best tactic against Rogers’ ultimatums was to temporarily meet them, giving him time to talk until another opening presented itself. Instead, Calen narrowed her eyes at the request for unconditional surrender and launched herself across the room.

Rogers’ robotic body was faster than it looked, though, and stronger than most humans by far. Getting within arm’s length of it, even when catching Rogers by surprise, was usually the fastest way to lose a situation. Sure enough, as soon as Calen neared, his upper torso spun, and one of his arms slammed into Calen.

Rather than being knocked to the side, Calen latched onto Rogers’ arm and used the impact of the blow to spin around his metallic hull.

“What?!” shouted Rogers.

Calen didn’t respond. Instead, she made a fist and slammed it into the back of Rogers’ crystalline helmet. A crack formed in the metallic dome that sat where his head should have been.

“No,” he said. “Do you really think a single blow would-”

Calen punched the dome again, striking with enough force to make the robotic body stumble forward just to keep its balance. The crack was larger, spreading like a spiderweb. Tiny droplets of water began pushing their way through the transparent crystal.

“Fine,” he said. Electricity arced across his body. Calen screamed in anger, spasmed, and nearly fell off of Rogers, but managed to hold on. Some combination of willpower, experience, training and rage allowed her to push through. She threw her arm forward once more and shattered the crystal. Broken shards of the reinforced dome cascaded from the top of his red armor, carried by the falling water. Ortega was worried that the water would make the electricity more dangerous, but Rogers’ body stopped generating it the moment that his “head” was gone.

The red suit of armor that had contained Rogers crashed forward, falling onto the ground. Calen fell with it, splashing forward onto the floor of the neon chamber, but quickly pushing herself up.

“You and your enemy share one trait, Ortega,” she said.

“We don’t really have time t-”

“You both talk too much,” said Calen. “If he’d activated that electric surge before speaking, it might’ve ended me. Is your suit broken, or just repairing?”

“Repairing,” said Ortega. “But I’ve still got two minutes to-”

“Trell,” she said. “See if you can speed him along.”

“Calen, you need to return to your scuttler,” said Ortega. “Don’t worry about me, get to your ship before Tan takes off and strands us here!”

“Your noble act of self sacrifice isn’t reasonable,” said Calen. Trell ignored the two and ran to the plinth that Ortega had been placed upon when Rogers interrupted the armor. Trell began working on a panel by his arm. Ortega couldn’t see what was happening, but the repair meter on his display fizzled out, worrying him.

“It’s not self sacrifice,” said Ortega. “We need someone to get there quickly, so that all of us can leave!”

“Trell and I can’t make it back quickly enough,” said Calen. “Assuming that Tan has the ability to launch without my say so… something I doubt, but wouldn’t care to assume with any certainty… he’ll be long gone before any of us could run there. You’ve got a rocket pack built into your armor, though.”

“If we’re too far to catch up after running, I don’t think the extra speed of a rocket will help us to get there in time,” said Ortega.

“No, but you might be able to catch up to it after it’s left. With any luck at all, you’ll be able to catch that ship before we’re doomed to eternal seclusion in this haze.”

The display fizzled back into place, and Ortega was pleasantly surprised to see the status display readout indicating that all systems were normal. With a quick spinning of servos, he felt the joints loosen as mobility returned to his suit. He sat up on the plinth.

“His suit should be fully functional, Captain,” said Trell.

“Amazing,” said Ortega, stretching his arm and looking at it. “Thanks, Trell. Good work on-”

“We gained only seconds,” said Calen. “Don’t use them up speaking to us. Leave!”

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