Chapter 55: Deliverance
Lilo Pelekai, the girl he had lived four years with, his best and only friend, held him high, so that he dangled from his arm. And she twisted.
No, Experiment 626 tried to tell himself. This girl wasn’t Lilo.
But as much as he thought that, every time he looked at her face, into her eyes, he saw the innocent girl that had been her friend. She was still in there. She had to be.
He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, bracing against the swaths of pain that flowed from his wrist. He would have to bear the pain.
“Really, Jumba, we expected better from you.” The cold words of an alien being. “This was your plan? Maybe we overestimated your intelligence.”
She had stopped twisting, but the pain remained, throbbing, convulsing down his arm like jolts of water down a cartoon hose. Stitch opened his eyes slightly – Jumba was writhing from the insult, much more so than if it had been from anyone else.
He tried to swing on his arm, attempting to ignore the bursts of pain, but, Lil-the parasite changed her grip slightly to just below the wrist, making it next to impossible for him to pivot without the possibility of cracking his arm.
He couldn’t reach her at all in this position It would be up to 419 now.
“Come now, Experiment 626,” she said, turning her head to face him. “You don’t expect us to allow you to do that?” And she squeezed his now rather tender wrist slightly – just short enough to send a painful stinging sensation. The message was clear – don’t do anything, and you won’t get hurt.
“Now, tell me-”
She stopped and stared at Jumba. He had pulled out a plasma gun and was now pointing it at her.
“What are you going to do, shoot me? Lilo’s still here, and she’s so full of fear.”
“Put 626 down, and I will not be having to.” Jumba stared resolutely ahead, and although his hand wavered ever so slightly, his eyes were completely transfixed on the girl that was not Lilo.
“Then so be-”
Stitch swung his head around so he could see the source of the noise. Sure enough, 419 had fired a plasma ball from the gun she was holding. In seconds, the green irregular-shaped orb shot across the corridor, rapidly making its way towards its intended target.
And then, centimetres away from the drone’s left leg, it dissipated.
“Chuuta,” muttered Jumba.
“What exactly did you expect?” asked the girl who wasn’t Lilo in a slightly mocking tone.
“Was wondering whether shield was concentration based to conserve energy for efficiency,” said Jumba half-heartedly.
“Well, now you have your answer – the experiments of Species 132 showed the security-loss outweighs the minor gains in efficiency.”
She smiled. It was a smile that made Stitch’s skin crawl.
“But it will take more than that to stop us,” she said, emphasising the word ‘that’ with a sweeping gesture in front of her, using her left arm. She had, after all, won.
But her left arm was the arm that held Stitch, and he was now close enough to reach her.
He swung towards Lilo, pain filling every muscle and tendon of his wrist. Gritting his teeth and sighting his goal, he pulled his right arm upwards and stuck upon the Borg-girl’s right leg a small disc-shaped device, its legs locking into place the moment it was there.
It would only be two more seconds.
The girl glanced from the device to Stitch, and back again.
“What have you-”
Bright blue bolts arced from the device, racing across Lilo’s body and leaping from point to point.
In a fraction of a second, the veins of electricity made its way down Lilo’s arm and-
For the briefest of moments, bolts of electricity lapped across Stitch’s body. And while it hurt less than it would have if Stitch wasn’t partially electricity-proof, it still hurt.
Lilo let out a shriek, dropping Stitch in the process. He landed painfully on his bottom, but that didn’t matter, considering…
She fell to her knees, her eyes scrunched up, her hands pressing hard – really, really hard – against her ears. It was almost as if she was trying to block out the noise of a billion billion people, all talking at once.
Seconds after it started, it stopped. Lilo collapsed to the ground, unconscious, her face falling into what looked like an uneasy frown. Stitch looked from the girl to Jumba, who had a rather worried look on his face, almost as if something unexpected had happened.
Experiment 419 rushed up to her.
“What did you- that was completely un- she could’ve-”
“Do not be worrying,” Jumba interrupted, his expression becoming more resolute. “Little Girl is merely knocked out right now.”
While he looked surer than a minute ago, his eyes still had an air of uncertainty about them.
“But she could have… and you could have…”
“Emba chuuta,” Stitch muttered.
“Exactly,” 419 agreed. “You didn’t say it would be that dramatic! What if she’s hurt?”
“All your concerns are noted, but while – er – while I agree it is looking dramatic, I can be assuring you that it is one-hundred percent safe.”
419 raised her eyebrow.
“Okay, ninety-eight point two, but the remaining percentages were only minor cosmetic skin burns. The point is being, I have thoroughly performed tests to be making sure it is safe, and it is the only method I am having available that could have rendered the shield useless – you see, I was thinking shield is being electromagnetic, and thus only protecting against projectile energy weapons, and not things like Stitch’s hand.”
“Um, gaba tobita?”
“It was stored in compartment in communicator,” replied Jumba. “A special thing I developed, just in case.”
“And how did you test it?” 419 asked.
“Er…” Jumba’s eyes darted back and forth. “Is not important. What is important is that we are getting out of here with Little Girl.”
“No further questions, this isn’t being time or place. Now, can you prop her up?”
Stitch exchanged annoyed looks with 419, but they did what they were told; after they had done so, Jumba briefly scanned the figure with his communicator.
“Lilo is unconscious, but is otherwise fine,” he said. “As I expected.”
After checking again and ascertaining the results were to his satisfaction, he picked her up and slung her across his shoulder, then patted her on the back.
He looked to the other two.
The Queen of the Borg held her head as the flow of pain ebbed away. This was not possible.
“Re-establish the link!”
It was only a moment before the Collective responded.
“The cortical node associated with Unimatrix 002 Primary Adjunct One of Two is unable to be located.”
Pelekai knew Experiment 626 intrinsically. Why hadn’t they been able to predict such a thing?
She had to limit whatever damage the group would cause. She needed to assimilate them quickly.
Unimatrix 052 and 054 would be acceptable. They should head them off.
“Ahem. We had a deal.”
She turned around. As predicted, the shadowy being had returned.
“Fine. Go do your little… thing.” She twirled her fingers as she supposed some humans did in moments of idleness, and the creature left.
Though she loathed to acknowledge it, he had a point. If he could get Jumba and the others with a minimal loss of units, then they would be at even more of an advantage than otherwise. And if not, she supposed she could just send a team to assimilate them.
Time wasn’t of the essence, after all. The ship was thousands of kilometres across, and they had no shuttle, no beaming technology, no projectile weapons that they could use, and no contact with Serenity, who was dead in the water anyway and thousands of light-years away. And besides all that, they had no way of telling they were on the ship.
Where did they have to run to?
Then again, Jumba had an annoying habit of coming up with things at the last moment. It was one of his more distinctive qualities, one that she very much wanted to add to the Collective’s own.
But Jumba had been stripped of all technology. He had little expertise at Borg technology. Any resistance would, therefore, be useless
She felt confident. Despite their setbacks, she was going to win.