Chapter 47: The Rescuers
As anyone will tell you, walking on your hands and knees down a long, thin, narrow tunnel can be rather awkward. There’s little margin for error, and few ways to escape if things go wrong. Never-the-less, the two experiments took it with a stiff upper lip, traversing the steel corridors with a minimum of fuss. After all, they had a mission, and it all depended on them being… well, dependable.
One thing that had struck Experiment 419 was how… how eager 426 seemed to help. After years of living together, he’d never seemed to be the type to put his left foot forward, preferring to leave the situation in more capable hands. 419 felt impressed, but also… worried.
Maybe he’d done all this because it was Jumba?
And then she remembered his hijacking of the ship. That was before Jumba had been captured. And that outburst… it’d had been so unlike him. He was usually the calm, laid back one; seeing him shout like that… it was unusual.
“Hey, sis! Right turn here.”
The voice of Experiment 426 broke through her thoughts, and she found herself upon the edge of large, deep cavity. Slowly turning her head, she saw 426’s head poking out of the turn she should have taken.
“Ah, sorry!” she yelled, blushing slightly. “I was lost in my thoughts!”
“No prob, I completely understand!” he yelled back.
419 crept backwards until she reached the junction, all the while muttering about her stupid tangential thoughts.
“Hey, 426,” she said as they moved along the shaft, “I really want to thank you for your… well, your… er… enthusiasm… I mean, about getting Jumba and Little Girl back.”
426 briefly gave her a weird look before continuing.
“Jumba’s family. He’s our creator. Why wouldn’t I go?”
“Well… you’ve never been… you haven’t been very … you don’t usually put this much effort into things,” she said, choosing her words carefully. “And… I noticed you were like this… well, before Jumba was captured, when it was just Little Girl, and… well, you hardly know her.”
“I know enough. She’s part of Jumba’s adopted family back on Earth. What’s that word Jumba mentioned?” He wrinkled his forehead a little. “’Ohana. As far as I’m concerned, she might as well be one of the experiments.”
“But… that’s the thing. You didn’t help Bon-Bon with us when she was trapped against…”
“That was different,” 426 interrupted. “We knew she’d be OK. You heard Jumba – she’s being tortured until she breaks, or something – they’re brainwashing her. That’s something no-one wants.”
419 frowned. Something didn’t click.
“Look.” Stopping suddenly, 426 slightly raised his voice. “She might as well be my sister, or some foreigner off the street, for all I care. I’d treat her the same. No-one deserves that.”
An inkling of an idea had begun to form in 419’s head but… it was much too crazy a notion, it couldn’t be right. 426 was correct – she was being too paranoid, she should take him at his word. They were, after all, siblings, and it wasn’t proper for siblings to deceive each other. She quickly shook the notion away.
“Well… thanks anyway.” The question of his motivation had still not been answered, in her mind, but she left it be. There were better things to be done, better fights to be won.
And they needed to win this one badly.
As Jumba sat, arms pinned to the wall, he found himself thinking about ways he could escape.
Although he knew any chance he could take was infinitesimally small, he reasoned that he could, after all, hardly do much else, and he might as well make himself useful, in case he was to get a lucky break.
One of the problems with his current situation was that the Borg had been unnervingly thorough when stripping him down – he’d lost everything on his person except for the clothes on his back. True, they were quite nice clothes - a green shirt, a pair of brown shorts, and a rather dishevelled lab coat with quite a few burn marks in various places – but they nary helped him in his current situation.
Then again, more than a few of those plans also required use of his hands, which he did not have at the time.
And then, something drew him from his contemplations. He listened, perking his ears upwards. There was… a ticking noise of some kind, far off in the distance. It sounded oddly familiar, as though he had heard it before, but where from, he could not fathom.
After a few moments, the noise died. The scientist put it down to a malfunctioning device, or perhaps mere imagination.
As he was thinking over one of his methods, he was brought from his deliberations by the loud boom of a distant, but large explosion – very faint, but definite. Suddenly, his mind started to race – if it was the other experiments trying to make a distraction…
Apparently, if it was, it had worked. One of the two drones marched out of the cubicle, in his stiff, unflinching fashion.
His ear twitched. The noise had started again, and whatever-it-was, it was coming closer. He leaned forward, trying to get as close to the source as possible.
This time, he was sure he wasn’t hearing things.
Jumba mused about what it could be. Now that it had come closer, he was able to hear it more clearly; it sounded a lot like the tapping of someone hard at work on a computer keyboard, or the scraping scuttle of crab claws on metal, rather than the ticking he’d heard before. But he’d recognised the pattern; he knew he’d heard it before…
Snapping his fingers, he realised who it was. “626, the little scamp!” he muttered to himself.
The lone guard glanced at Jumba suspiciously.
“Er… counting game!” he explained, a large hammy smile on his face. ’Tis very fun, you should try… No?”
The guard shifted his stare back towards the corridor.
Jumba was puzzled. Surely the guard could hear the claws of the experiment scratching and grabbing and clawing away at the ship. Did he not consider him a threat? This behaviour went against everything he’d observed thus far… and yet…
At that very moment, he heard a loud thud behind him, and then the distinctive sound of a laser – quickly turning, he saw, to his great astonishment, a very familiar sight.
“Experiment 419, what are you doing?”
“Why, I believe I’m saving you, of course!”
With a loud clang, the braces fell clean. Jumba rubbed his wrists – it felt good to have them free again.
“But what about the guard? I do not think he would be appreci…”
“Woah, woah, woah!” 419 interrupted, waving her hands around. “What guard?”
“Why, right over…” began Jumba, pointing to where the drone had been.
But the drone was gone.
“That’s odd… he was right…”
“Yes, I believe you, but we need to hurry!” 419 said impatiently, trying hard to push Jumba to his feet. “We can ponder about this all we like later, Uncle Jumba, but right now, this spot is not a very good place to be, so I suggest we move!”
“A good place to be?” Jumba repeated, barely able to contain his astonishment. Of course this wasn’t a good place to be!
“Er… well, it’s complicated,” she admitted. “I’ll explain it on the way, but we have to move now, and the more we talk about having to move now, the less we’re not moving now!”
Jumba quickly shook his head - she’d misunderstood him
“No, no, no, that’s not…”
“Jumba!” she shouted impatiently.
He looked from the empty hallway to 419’s desperate face and back again. His eyes narrowed, and his eyebrows fixated into an unmistakeable look of determination.
“Right then, we move.”
And so, grabbing her paw, he dashed towards the passageway.
Once there, he quickly scanned the corridors. Grateful that they were empty, the two quickly made their way down a hallway, every now and then hiding from their captors as they stiffly marched down the corridors - behind canisters and in alcoves and other such places that had the virtue of being hidden from view.
Once again, Jumba heard their approach, and motioned to hide behind a rather large rectangular object, with rounded corners and many little pipes littering the surface. He watched the drones nervously, eyeing their various instruments as they twirled and whirred.
Some of those looked painful.
As the drones receded in the distance, Jumba had the slight feeling that something was wrong. When he heard 419 swear in Qweltian, he knew.
“Blixnak! We missed 426!”
“426 was helping?” Jumba enquired inquisitively.
“Yes, he was supposed to be right behind me! He must have been caught or somethin’.”
Jumba sighed. “Well, we’ll have to…”
At that moment, he felt a heavy weight fall on his shoulders, to match the leaden feeling in his stomach. He turned his head slowly to see what was behind him.
Two drones. Goody.
“Er, hi!” 419 exclaimed, grinning cheesily. “We were… just examining your… fine craftsmanship with respect to this vessel!”
The drones didn’t move.
“Well,” continued Jumba, his accent becoming more pronounced, “while it is very nice to be meeting you both, I am thinking it’d be best if we… go our separate ways now, no?”
He tried to make his way forward, but evidently the drones were not impressed, as the only thing that changed was the tightness of his grip.
“No, then… well, I am guessing we could just be staying here to chat, right, 419?”
The drones pushed their shoulders forward, and they fell into a steady rhythm of walking.
“Or… or we could go with you and all enjoy a nice cup of tea!” 419 posited. Somehow, Jumba didn’t think tea was on their minds.
A few moments passed between them as they silently moved through the corridors. And then, suddenly, Jumba felt something tugging on his sleeve.
“What is it, 419?” he asked out of the corner of his mouth.
“Er, I suggest you turn your head about 15 degrees to the right.”
“To the right?” questioned Jumba.
Jumba was puzzled, but did as 419 suggested. And then, no sooner than he had, a small blue blur whirred past his face and slammed into his captor’s face. With a sickening crack, the drone’s head fell backwards, and his hand fell limp from Jumba’s shoulder.
The one holding 419 turned to face him, but Stitch was ready; with precision, he landed onto its shoulder, and then tried to grab the drone’s arm. However, the drone had been quite a bit stronger than he expected, and with its pistons pumping away, it managed to keep its arm mainly still. With the other arm, it grabbed Stitch by the scruff of the neck.
“Maka maka, sasa!” Stitch insisted, gesturing towards the hallway.
“But what about you?”
“Mega okietaka! Go!” he shouted, as, propelled by his legs like a swing, he rotated around the drone’s arm and latched on to its shoulder.
“He’ll be fine,” Jumba said, grabbing 419 by the paw. “He is being one of my genius experiments, after all.”
419 stood still for a moment, contemplating this.
“Fine then,” she submitted. “But we’ll meet up again, OK? You’re not leaving us?”
“419!” Jumba shouted exasperatingly, trying to pull her along.
“Okietaka! I promise!” Stitch called, pulling the drone’s head back.
And with that, Jumba gave a final tug, and 419 began to run, even as two more drones entered behind them.
Looking back, Jumba saw Stitch slam one of them into another by blinding the first. Yes, 626 was intelligent, he’d be able to hold them off.
He hoped that was the case, at least.
Then he felt 419 tugging on his sleeve again.
“What about 426?” she asked as Jumba started to slow down.
Jumba shook his head.
“We’ll have to be leaving him behind. I’ve…”
“No!” 419 pushed Jumba backwards (or, at least, tried.) “We can’t leave him!”
“Look, it would be doing him no good if we get captured again,” Jumba explained. “I’ve locked on to his position with short-range radio transceiver – he’s moving at the moment, but he doesn’t seem to be responding to it.”
419 narrowed her eyes.
“Don’t worry, 426 will be fine! After all, evil genius creator made him, and with more than enough smarts to outwit evil cybernetic beings!”
At that moment, Experiment 626 dropped from the ceiling.
“Threat eliminated, no problem!” he said.
“For now, at least.” Jumba looked to 419. “Just in case he is being lost or something, I have left message on message box, with co-ordinates that he can be plugging in to sonar unit. He’ll meet up with us, and then we can be on our way.”
“I guess you’re right,” 419 said, submitting to Jumba’s appeal.
Jumba smiled. 426 can be annoying and lazy, but he could be quite resourceful when pressured.
And, after all, as he reasoned to himself, on a cube ship miles across and filled to the brim with cybernetic creatures trying to conquer the universe, what could possibly go wrong?