Chapter 46: Hopes and Expectations
Jumba sighed hopelessly.
He’d known it’d be like this. It was always like this.
He stared ahead determinately, trying not to recall whispers of the past. He knew he would remember at some point, but now was not the time for nostalgia.
He looked around, his four illustrious eyes blinking continuously. He appeared to be located a small room, maybe four square meters in area. There was a hallway ahead of him, completely unguarded. They knew that, if he tried to escape, he’d be snatched up in an instant.
Jumba briefly calculated his chances of success. Two-point-five-eight percent – maybe if by some fluke the Borg messed up, he’d have a shot, but the Borg rarely made mistakes. There was no place you could draw the line, no place you could say “this far, no further!”
Jumba resigned himself to fate. After all, he’d need a miracle.
He had awoken to find himself sitting upright, his wrists strapped to the wall. He’d tried to break them, but it was no use, they were simply too strong. The guards had apparently thought it was risky, because he’d been knocked out, stunned with some kind of instrument on their wrist – obviously a warning not to try anything like that again.
He peered between the spaces in the metallic crisscrossing bars that made the floor – he saw he was on a platform, and there was quite a fair way down. He wondered if he could take that – after all, he’d survived being bowled over by a Volkswagen Bug – but decided he didn’t want to find out. Besides, the handheld laser he kept in his shoe just in case appeared to have disappeared, so he couldn’t make a run for it, and he couldn’t blast a hole in the floor.
Many interesting contraptions lined the walls, from gas valves to weird tubes and complex computer interfaces. Jumba was curious about their operation, but knew that the Borg were not interested in answering his questions. They probably weren’t interested in giving him information he could use against that, but more than that… he was to them, he reasoned, a small blight on the face of perfection; no more important than some flying insect swatted against the windscreen of a twelve-wheeled truck leaving Minneapolis at seventy kilometres an hour. Why should they care about him?
Two Borg drones guarded him, but there might as well be none: Jumba knew that even if he made it out of here, finding a way around this ship was practically hopeless, let alone doing it alive… and that said nothing about escaping the ship itself. Larger than some small moons, and with but nary a map to guide him, the menagerie of passages, rooms and hallways made navigating Galaxy Defence Agencies look like a pleasant picnic in the park.
And that was really saying something.
He needed something to do. Anything. Being captured by these cybernetic creatures was bad, sure, but even worse was not having something to do.
Maybe they knew that. Perhaps they, whoever was the authority, was just biding their time, aggravating him on purpose. Perhaps they were – what was that silly human expression? Jumba remembered it had something to do with wounds; perhaps making it larger?
Gah, this is maddening, he shouted in his mind.
He started twiddling his feet. (One of the drones appeared to raise the ridge where his eyebrow had been, but otherwise said nothing else.) His evil genius mind begged for stimulus, but even twiddling his feet got boring after a while - there was simply none to be found here.
He wished for a moment that he had been holding something when he had gotten kidnapped – a notepad, a rux sphere, Pleakley’s Chinese finger holders – anything to pass the time in this boring part of nowhere.
Heh, Pleakley would probably find something hilariously inappropriate to say about now, thought Jumba. He could use some of that right now, because wherever he was going, he didn’t think he’d have much to laugh at.
Not much at all.
Hope wasn’t a very big thing on the mind of Jumba Jookiba, as he looked towards his pitiful future with grudging acceptance. However, deep in the halls of the Cube ship, hope was at a high point, as two experiments and a walkie-talkie huddled together, speaking excitedly in hushed voices.
“Okay, so we have to extract Jumba from here,” said 419, pointing to a map she had drawn on her PADD. “Pleakley, you’re the distraction. Fire everything you’ve got at them - torps, plasma, shuttle hyperdrives – whatever makes large explosions.”
“Large explosions? I can do that,” answered Pleakley.
“Yes, I remember,” 419 replied, her mind temporarily lingering on one such explosion barely two weeks ago. “426, you’re with me. I noticed a small passage on one of the maps – it doesn’t seem to be used for anything, but we might be able to sneak past them and rescue Jumba.”
“Yes, ma’am!” shouted the experiment with youthful abandon.
“Pleakley, I estimate Jumba is about fifty-thousand kilometres from your position, to an angle of two-eight-five degrees. Wait for my signal to attack.”
“Can do, 419, see ya later!” said the one-eyed alien enthusiastically, and with a click, the walkie-talkie went dead.
Turning to her brethren, who was now examining his navel, 419 tapped him on the shoulder, and gestured towards one of the deep, darkened hallways that lay before them. Nodding, he took the lead, with 419 following behind.
Time passed vary slowly for 426, and seeing as he contained all the illustrious attention span of a gnat, he started getting bored with their silent trudge through the passageways. To his increasing annoyance, 419 was acting more like a moth in a well lit room, often stopping to draw some contraption in her notebook. He wished, for an inkling of a moment, that he were a spider, so he could shut her up in its’ web, or at least scare the living daylights out of her.
“Can we hurry this up?” he moaned as his sister examined a particularly dusty piping system.
“But this is fascinating!” the experiment tried to explain. “They seem to have some kind of hydraulical system for…”
“For what? We are supposed to be looking for Jumba! Do you want him zombfied? And Little Girl too?” 426’s pent-up anger suddenly unpent itself. “This is your plan! How are we supposed to carry it out if you stop for every doo-hickey and thinga-mah-bob?”
He panted for a bit, tired out by his outburst. He glared at 419, thinking that she probably had some witty retort or long-winded justification.
But she just stood in silence.
“You’re right,” she slowly answered, sighing as she pressed some buttons on her PADD. “We’re almost at the compartment. I’ve put the plans up on my notepad, so you can read them. You be the leader.”
426 looked at her. “Are you sure? I mean, this is your personal PADD, and Jumba gave it to you way back at GDA!”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Just don’t mess it up too much, K?”
426 smiled. “Well, OK.”
It was an odd word, or at least, it seemed odd in the mind of the blue little experiment who was now pacing around, considering what to do next. And, for just a moment, he pondered the meaning and significance of such a word.
It was such a small word, with only four letters, and yet it held such conviction, such passion… it was a beacon of light, shining in the darkest night.
Hope was a word of the heart.
Stitch was, for a moment, amused; it seemed all the most important words in Galactic Standard were among the shortest. Then again, they were probably the first to be formed, and their simplicity was simply due to lack of sophistication.
Or perhaps it was better just to keep them simple?
Momentarily, he became aware of a low beeping noise. His communicator. For a moment, he fumed; because of the communicator, his train of thought had jumped the rails and was now scattered across the tracks, carriages pushed on their side, with officials reporting five casualties and twenty-three injured.
Stitch extracted his third arm, glancing at the display. Apparently, it had been beeping for some time, as the circle at the top-right indicated; indeed, he had been so engrossed in his thoughts that he simply hadn’t noticed.
The experiment cursed his negligence under his breath - after all, it may have been the other experiments, trying to contact him. Maybe they had found Lilo…
But what if they just found Lilo? What if her life had…
Her face shone through his memories, and Stitch gulped, unable to bear it. He had just gotten out of one blue funk, was he to re-descend that ladder so quickly?
Right then, he thought, shaking his head in an eager attempt to clear it. Hesitating ever so slightly, he slowly pressed a rubbery red button, not sure what to expect on the other end.
At that moment, something began to puzzle 419, in the form of a small beeping noise.
Rarely was there a time where 419 was puzzled, so 426 felt inclined to inquire further.
“Well,” 419 began, with all the air of someone performing a seminar. “Your short-range radio transceiver…”
426 narrowed his eyebrows.
“Sorry, sorry,” apologised 419, correctly interpreting his expression. “Your walkie-talkie just started beeping.”
“Well, waddaya know!” 426 exclaimed, looking at the screen. “Call waiting!”
“We did find them on Jumba’s ship,” the bespectacled experiment pointed out. “He probably got annoyed by the uselessness of this and that and went on one of those ‘invent-x-done-right-athons he does every now and then.”
A few moments of annoying beeping passed between them.
“Well, aren’t ya going to answer it?”
“I would if I knew what to do!” 426 replied in a pained voice.
“Try the red button,” 419 offered.
“Why the red one?”
“Because traditionally, red buttons are painted red to inform the user that they are important,” explained 419 matter-of-factly.
“Fine,” he moaned, and pressed the red button.
“Heh-lohw? Yoo-hoo!” Experiment 626’s broken English echoed across the chambers, followed by what distinctly sounded like a long, drawn out slurp.
“Er… hello, 626,” 419 laughed, clearly bemused by the experiment’s antics.
“419? Egata no uta!”
“Why’s he talking about singing?” whispered 426.
419 sighed. “Jumba’s been captured. We’re going after him.”
“Naga takaba!” 626’s speech quickened, and there were signs of exasperation in his voice. “Iki na’tifa…” He paused; although he was evidently thinking, as he continued to make “hmm”-like noises.
“Jumba pre’oki na itu’ke maka’ba?” he asked after several of these sounds.
“Yeah, we do, I could transmit it to you if you want…” 419 snatched her PADD off of 426 and started tapping feverishly. “Er, do you know how to process Unicode?”
“Ih!” was the reply.
“Right, well, I’ll transmit it over the radio in Jakan, and you… uh, well, you can meet us there, I guess.”
She tapped the PADD one last time.
All of a sudden, the device began to make noises of varying pitch and length, some quite loud and high. 419 bit her tongue, knowing any noise may create errors in the transmission.
“Couldn’t we turn it down a smidge?” whispered 426. 419 shook her head.
“Why not?” 419 wished she knew the hand sign for static. Instead, she put her finger to her mouth to indicate to 426 that he needed to be quiet.
426 humphed, folding his arms across his chest in a “fine-don’t-tell-me” pose. Wasn’t he in charge?
The transmission only took a few minutes; in that time, 426 had sung several songs in his head, played air-guitar for several more, played an imaginary game of checkers with himself, and had several rounds of naughts-and-crosses. He was just revelling in another success when 419 tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
“Should I be worried?” she questioned, holding the PADD out to him. 426 broke a smile; he’d been so caught up in his games that he hadn’t noticed the noises had stopped.
“Nah, I’ve got it all sorted,” he replied, accepting the device from her sister and pulling himself up.
“Right,” he muttered, reorientating the map, “we need to go… that way!” Pointing the way, he lead onwards; 419 followed behind, sometimes glancing at interesting objects, but always quickly catching up to 426 afterwards.
 ^ “What has happened [pre tamos ba’ki’ba = since we last met]?” The bracketed section was truncated; saying the full sentence is considered overly formal and antiquated.
tamos: passing, here referring to the passage of time. ba’ki’ka: to meet, from “baja” (come together), “tamoki” (action) and “ika”, the neutral verb “to do”.
 ^ “No way!” Probably a contraction of a longer sentence.
 ^ “This isn’t good.” “Na’tifa” is a contraction of “nala bootifa” (lit. not good).
 ^ “[Do you have] a plan for freeing Jumba?” The “do you have” part is implied.
pre’oki: plan, from “pre” (time) and “tamoki” (action). itu’ke: freedom, from “itume” (solitude) and “-ke”, a positive reversal suffix. maka’ba: roughly “done fast”, from “maka” (quick) and iba, the positive verb “to do”.
 ^ Unicode is a standard method of storing text as a set of numbers.
 ^ Jakan Standard is a series of eight tones played for two different lengths of time to represent base-sixteen numbers, standardised as a basic form of data transmission via audio across the Galactic Federation. It can be thought as an advanced form of Morse code. 419 uses it here as she wishes to transmit the map of where she is (and she doesn’t want to talk for hours on end.) She expects 626 to be able to understand the transmission, since he can process information faster than most supercomputers.