The intercom over the EMP switch was on and
"Tank... you there?" Neo asked.
"Yeah, I'm here." Tank responded, jumping into his chair and tapping out the sensor codes. "Got three fore and one aft and five hanging around outside blast radius. Good ol' fashioned Squiddies, as far as I can tell."
"Thanks... Is Flux down there?"
"Morpheus wants to make sure she's okay... he's sending me down there, too."
"Because of Flux's hunch. It's okay.. it still scares the shit out of me up here during an attack. I'll be right down."
Trinity took over the intercom.
"Tank, is the EMP charged?"
"Yep. Charged and ready."
Neo appeared from behind Tank's console.
"Mouse?" Mouse swung around to face the intercom. "Can we get a hand up here? We're down a body."
"Yeah, I'm coming." Mouse gave Flux a quick kiss on the cheek and ducked under a coil of wires to get to the cockpit. Neo came up behind her.
"Scared shitless, same as you." She watched Tank pound something out on the keyboard.
"Good way to be." Neo grinned at her and put a hand on her shoulder. Tank brought all the power down. There was a thud as the Sentinels moved in.
"EMP, Tank. Now." Trinity was relaying the orders from Morpheus.
"Gotcha." The ship bucked. There was a screech as something slid down the outside hull. "EMP successful. Recharging."
"Yippee." Flux muttered under her breath.
"Reading the next five in range."
"Fire when ready."
"It's like a bloody war." Neo exclaimed. "All of this fire when ready crap."
"It is a war, in a way." Tank leaned back to look at them. "Us or them. You choose."
"Uh... I'll take us for five hundred, Alex." Flux said sarcastically.
"I second the motion." Neo leaned on the chair closest to Tank. "EMP's charged."
Tank twisted the switch, making the ship shudder again. Another series of thuds on the ground outside.
"You know it's gotten ridiculous when you're starting to expect an attack at any second." Tank flipped the Plexiglas shield down over the switch again. "Clear, Trinity."
Time between attacks kept decreasing. When
Flux finally gave up and fell into bed, they had been coming approximately
an hour and a half, give or take a little, apart. She didn't know if she
would be able to sleep through it, but she was so exhausted, she was willing
to give it a try. Pulling her boots off, she yanked the blankets up and
curled up against the wall.
It felt like she had just fallen asleep when a magnetic clang resonated through the room. She rocketed back awake and lay there, listening. Unlike the last time, this time there was something else.... a low whine mixed with electronic murmur. Flux covered her ears, trying to block it out. It persisted inside her skull, making her teeth vibrate and her jaw ache. It was like someone was going layer by layer through everything in her head.... She screamed, then pulled the blanket closer. The Nebuchadnezzar twisted under her and she found herself on the floor, tangled in the bedclothes and still screaming. She thrashed around, trying to get free. The noise continued. Her eyes felt like they would explode. A thin stream of blood ran from her nose. The Neb bucked in the more familiar way from the EMP and the sound choked off as the remora fell to the ground. The door to her room was thrown open. Mouse was silhouetted in the doorway.
She was sobbing, rocking on the ground, still tangled in the blankets, her hands clamped over her ears. Mouse knelt in front of her.
"They were in my head!" she cried. "I could feel it... it was everywhere." Her lower lip trembled, and Mouse put his arms around her.
Up above, on watch duty for the second shift
in the night, Trinity was helping a dazed Neo stand again.
"What happened?" she asked him.
"I don't know." he shook his head gingerly. "It was in my head, and everything was vibrating. I thought my eyes were going to pop."
Trinity helped him sit down in the nearest chair.
"Are you going to be okay?"
"I think so." He rubbed his temples. "Hurt like hell. Was it a sentinel or one of those remoras?"
"A remora...." Trinity suddenly remembered the conversation with Flux over lunch. "I wonder if the same thing happened to Flux?"
"I hope not."
Flux was partially hysterical. She was cold
and tired and scared out of her wits. All she could bring herself to do
was sob quietly into Mouse's shoulder. He let her, stroking her back lightly
to try to calm her down. She hiccuped once and then stopped, wiping at
her nose with the back of her sleeve.
"Doing better?" Mouse asked.
Flux nodded. "A little."
"You want to get back in bed?"
"I guess so." She let him help her off the floor to sit on the edge of the bunk, where he sat next to her. Her hands shook a little as she rubbed her temples, trying to massage the noise out of her skull. "That stupid song's still stuck in my head." she attempted to make a joke out of the situation, then yawned. "I'm never going to be able to get back to sleep." With a sigh, she lay down again, curling up back against the wall and pulling the blankets around her. She had kind of a glazed look on her face... she was tired but too scared to sleep. Mouse stood up to leave.
"No... Mouse. Stay here.... please?" She reached up and took his hand. He smiled and sat down again, squeezing her hand. She grinned back and closed her eyes.
Even after she fell asleep, Mouse couldn't
bring himself to leave, just in case she woke up or if there was another
attack. He tucked his feet up under the blanket poncho he had on and lay
back, using his arm as a pillow.
Sometime in the middle of the night Flux shifted enough to put her head on Mouse's shoulder, curling up beside him. Half-awake, he put an arm around her.
The attacks were raggedly spaced through the
rest of the night, some coming less than twenty minutes apart, others coming
more than two hours apart. Around the time the fourth night watch started,
there was a strange noise from outside that woke Mouse up. It was a low
hum he knew he should recognize. He listened for a moment, then realized
what it was. The hover coils on the ship were going through their charging
sequence. the hum deepened, and the ship shuddered once as it lifted off
the ground. Flux woke up with a start, lifting her head and looking around.
The bandanna she had had tied on over her almost bald head had fallen
"What's going on?" she whispered.
"They got the coils working again. We're moving."
Flux sighed in relief and put her head back down on his shoulder. "Good. At least now we're a moving target."
"But still a target."
" I hope not. Gods, I hope not." She sighed. "Talk about jumping out of the pot and into the fire."
Mouse kissed her forehead. "Now that we've got the coils back it'll be easier to hide from them... you'll see."
"You'd better be right." Flux draped one arm over his chest and closed her eyes again. He squeezed her shoulders, and she grinned, her eyes still shut. "You had better be right."
Tank and Mouse had gotten assigned the last
night watch, and Tank had gone on early, relieving Trinity and Neo so Trinity
could get Neo down to sickbay and make sure he was okay after the remora
attack. It was now at least a quarter of the way through the watch and
Mouse hadn't shown up yet. Curious, Tank went looking for him, peeking
in through his half open door. He wasn't there. Tank pushed the door farther
"Mouse?" he called. No reply. He wasn't in the bed, and the blankets looked like they'd been thrown off quickly, like he was in a hurry. Tank stuck his head back out the door. Trinity was coming down the hall towards him.
"Mouse is AWOL. Seen him?" he asked. Trinity shook her head.
"Isn't he supposed to be on watch now?"
"Yeah, with me, and he's not. I don't know where he is."
"Does he sleepwalk?"
"Not that I know of."
Trinity scratched the back of her head. "I'll check down in the storage hold. You check to other rooms and the mess hall. If we don't find him there, we'll get Morpheus in on it."
Tank nodded and headed towards the mess hall.
"Hey Mouse," he called. It echoed dully back to him. No answer. He started going down the rooms, pulling the doors open and calling in. The door to Flux's room was slightly ajar and he pulled it the rest of the way open.
Tank grinned. "Shoulda known." he muttered to himself, shaking his head. Trinity appeared from the end of the hall.
"Nothing down there."
"Shhh... he's in here. Come look." He motioned her forward. She peered around the door, then smiled.
"And you're going to take him away from that to put him on watch duty? You're cruel."
Tank shrugged. "Watch duty is watch duty." He started into the room to wake Mouse up. Trinity grabbed his arm.
"Wait... let me do it. You'll wake them both up, and she needs to sleep. She's not used to the funny hours we have yet." Trinity bent over Mouse and put her mouth next to his ear. "Hey Mouse.... wake up. You've got duty. Come on Mouse. I know you're in there. Wake up."
Mouse groaned and turned his head away.
"Mouse... You have to get up now."
He opened one eye and glared at Trinity. "What d'ya want?"
"You're late for your watch duty."
"Oh.... dammit!" He started to sit up, moving Flux. She muttered something in her sleep and her forehead wrinkled. Mouse shifted her to the side so he could get up. She held onto his arm. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead, and she shook her head like she was trying to shake something off.
"Hey...." Tank was watching from behind Trinity.
"Flux. What's happening?" Trinity asked. The girl started to shiver all over.
"No!" she whispered. "no... no!" She pressed her fist to the bridge of her nose.
"Trinity.... I think....." Tank started.
A scream from down the hall cut him off.
"Oh God... Neo." Trinity scrambled to her feet and flew out the door. A few seconds later, Flux screamed in response, and started to shake violently, then suddenly curled into a fetal position and started crying. Her eyes opened, blurry, then focused on Mouse.
"Mouse... Neo." she whispered. "Where's Neo? Is he okay?" She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up, almost falling back again because her knees were shaking. Mouse put one arm around her waist and helped her stumble down the hall. Tank was hovering in between the two rooms and helped Mouse get Flux into Neo's room without having her collapse.
Trinity was trying to keep a partially hysterical
Neo calm as Flux stumbled in. Neo's eyes locked on the girl.
"It was...." he started
"Did you..." she interrupted, breaking away from Mouse and Tank.
"... the white lady...."
".... see them torturing...."
"...she had everybody....." Neo had gotten up and was holding on to Flux's elbows. She, in turn was clutching white knuckled to his forearms.
"It was awful...." she whispered.
"All that blood...."
"And you were..." Flux gave a cry. Neo grabbed her and held her, burying his face in her neck. she had both arms around his neck and was sobbing into his shoulder.
Trinity, Tank and Mouse looked at one another. Morpheus rushed in.
"I thought I heard...." He trailed off, looking at the two newest members of the Neb's crew in the middle of the floor. "What's going on?" He directed the question at Trinity. She shook her head.
"I don't know."
Breathing hard, Flux raised her head and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. Neo wiped tears away with his thumb. Trinity came forward and put a hand on his arm.
"What was it?"
He shook his head. "It was.... I was in a room... it was carpeted, and I was sitting on the floor..... I had handcuffs on..... Then I was in a chair... like on of ours, on the main deck.... in a white room.... and someone was putting the connector in..... it burned going in.... like someone had heated it.... it was on fire.... All of the walls got clear..... or they were gone... they weren't there anymore and I could see all around me..... There were three other rooms I cold see into... and there were people in them. I was turning... They were torturing the other people.... they were .... burning them..... one of them had scars across their back.... they had electrodes on their temples..... then I could see into the fourth room.... and there was someone in a chair like the one I was in.... I couldn't see the face until the white lady put the electrodes on her... and then she jerked up... and it was Flux and then they were torturing me too, even though I couldn' see them. There was nobody in the room with me.... They were asking me questions, but I couldn't understand what they wanted. I knew if I could answer them they'd stop, but I didn't know what they wanted... I tried to scream but they'd cut my tongue out...." He was shaking all over. Trinity took his hands and made him sit on the bed.
Flux was shivering, her legs weak, and started to turn, almost falling. Mouse darted forward and caught her as she sagged towards the ground, putting one of her arms around his shoulders and helping her stand again.
"Flux. The same thing happened to you?" Morpheus asked. She nodded.
"They..." it came out as a whisper. She swallowed, licked her lips and then tried again. "They did the same thing to me.... there was nobody in the room with me.... and then I saw Neo.... and they were torturing him... and then me.... and I could feel in my mouth.... my tongue was gone, and there was blood everywhere..."
Everybody was silent.
"How can this only affect the two of you?" Morpheus broke the silence. "Why isn't everyone aboard having the same nightmare?"
"It was no nightmare." Neo protested. "It was real. It was as real as anything here."
"Wait.." Tank had an idea. "Doesn't everybody's skull resonate at a different frequency? Maybe that's what they're using."
"That would explain the attack where you complained about your skull vibrating. They were finding your frequency." Trinity was thinking out loud.
"And then they used that frequency to broadcast the images to only the two of you." Mouse finished. "That makes sense... but why are they doing it in the first place?"
Morpheus shook his head. "I don't know." He put a hand on Mouse's shoulder. "It's time we got to work on the hovercoils. They're only at thirty percent. If we have another attack, I want to be able to run before they start broadcasting." One by one, they solemnly left the room.
As the first one up, Tank jumped into his chair
and pulled up the schematic of the Neb. The others gathered behind him
and Morpheus, Trinity and Mouse still helping Neo and Flux stay on their
"Mouse, we're going to have to repair the tubing on the eighth coil again. I think if you show Flux what needs to be done, she can do it. The smaller you are the easier it is to get down in there. You can belay. Flux... are you up to it?"
"Mouse, find what you're going to need. Tank, you're going to spot Mouse, just to make sure nothing happens. Trinity, I need you to sty down in the mess hall with the breaker and make sure there are no power surges through the coils while we work on them. If there are, you know the drill. Shut everything off. Everything. Neo, you're going to be at the helm with me."
Trinity and Neo nodded.
"Let's get to work." Morpheus and Neo headed towards the front of the ship, and Trinity headed the opposite way, down the ladder to the mess hall.
"I'll be right back." Mouse took his arm from around Flux's waist to go find the stuff they'd need for the repair.
"You could have left that there." She grabbed his hand and raised her eyebrows.
"Ooh! Down, girl!" Tank commented from behind her.
"Somebody's feeling better." Mouse said, blushing slightly and giving her a kiss on the corner of the mouth. "I'll be right back." He went around to the utility ladder and climbed down.
Flux sat on the side of the chair and rolled her head from side o side, stretching her neck out.
"For someone who just lived through a near-death experience, you sure are feisty." Tank needled her.
"Shut up, Tank."
"Hey... what an attitude!"
"Shut UP, Tank." She stood up behind him and put him in a headlock.
"Okay... okay! You're perfectly normal!" he cried. Flux let him go and sat back down again.
"I don't know if I'd go that far." She grinned. Mouse came back up the ladder carrying two packs of stuff. He dropped one on the ground next to Tank and brought the other one over to the chair Flux was sitting on.
"Here. I have to show you what you're doing before you get out there. The hover coils are basically like really big neon tubes. They're glass with a special formula in them. Sometimes, they get holes. When that happens, we have to go out and fix them." He handed her what looked like a propane torch with an extremely long neck. "That's what you're going to use. You have to get down next to the tube with the flame and heat it up until the hole melts itself shut. It usually only takes about five minutes. The catch is that you have to do this hanging on a cable from the top of the ship." He dropped what looked like a mountain climbing harness on the chair next to her. "Coil eight's the one directly in the middle of the coil on the left side of the ship. Don't worry.. it's not as hard as it sounds. You up to it? If you're not, I can do it, but I think Morpheus wants you to get the experience."
Flux exhaled. "I can do it."
Mouse grinned. "Great. I don't really fit back in between the coils anymore. Lemme help you get the harness on." The harness was actually a mountain climbing harness with shoulder and chest straps added. Tank reached down into the pack next to his chair and pulled a coil of braided steel cable out, handing it to Mouse. Flux tucked the propane torch into a loop on the harness and let Mouse lead her up the ladder to the access hatch on the top of the ship. Three fourths of the way up the ladder, the internal hull ended, blocking off the view down to the main deck except for the ladder space. There was a landing there, and they paused for a moment. The gun Trinity had taken up to fight off the ceramic sentinels was sitting there, a cobbled together weapon that didn't look intimidating in the least. Mouse started climbing again, and Flux followed him. He stopped at the top and looked down at her.
She nodded. He twisted the magnetic seal control beside the hatch and pushed it open. Immediately the cold air started to fall into the ship. "Come on!" Mouse had to yell above the wind. He climbed out onto the hull of the ship. Taking the cable out, he unwound it and attached one end of it to the back of Flux's harness. The other end he wound around a pulley system bolted to the hull, through a series of metal loops and clipped to a bar welded onto the hull.
"Okay. You should be able to kind of climb down the back here, and get to coil eight. It'll be really obvious because it'll be the only one that's not on. Fix the hole, then yank twice on the cable and I'll help you get back up. Got it?"
Flux nodded. "Got it. Is it always this cold out here?"
"I'll be a popsicle by the time I'm done!" Flux started backing over the top of the ship.
"Tell you what... you go down and fix the hole and I'll stay here and think of creative ways to warm you up again." Mouse called.
She paused, only her head still visible over the curve of the ship and raised an eyebrow. "Is that a promise?" she called back, and then chuckled as she slid over the side.
"Oh yeah." Mouse whispered to himself. "That's definitely a promise."
Mouse had been right. It was easy to spot the coil with the hole in it. Flux slid the rest of the way down and wedged herself in between what she presumed was coil seven and one side of coil eight. She found the quarter sized hole quickly and pulled out the torch, turning it on and melting the glass back together. The flame and the hot glass helped keep her at least semi-warm as she finished. Flipping the torch off, she blew over the top of it like it was a smoking gun and then jammed it back into the loop on the belt. Wiggling a little so she was loose from in between the two coils, she yanked on the cable twice.
Flux had been down for about four minutes. Mouse stuck his head back inside the hatch. Tank was standing on the landing.
"We've got trouble!" he called up.
"Eight squiddies on their way and the EMP's being weird. We're gonna have to run. Get Flux back in!"
As he finished his sentence, the pulleys jangled twice.
"Okay!" Mouse pulled his head back out of the hatch and grabbed the cable, pulling it back and looping it around the hook that was there. Flux was doing her best to help, pulling herself up whenever she could get a hand hold.
"Whew!" she breathed as she reached the top. "That was almost fun!" Mouse grinned, and moved behind her to unhook the cable. He was winding it back up when the ship lurched, the coils humming back to life.
Flux screamed. She was sliding, and scrabbling to get a hold on something. Mouse threw himself forward and grabbed her wrist in one hand, holding on to the side of the open hatch with the other.
"Hold on!" he yelled to her.
"I'm slipping!" she yelled back. Her left hand was frantically searching for something to hold on to. She knew if she put any more weight on him, he'd lose his grip and they'd both go over. He was pulling now, bracing himself inside the hatch and trying to pull her back up.
The ship jerked again, this time starting to move forward. Her grip slipped down even further, crushing his fingers. He scrambled to pull her up, hooking his legs over the side of the open hatch cover and grabbing her wrist with his other hand. The Neb hit another bump and she slid further, holding on with barely her fingers.
"Mouse!" she yelled.
He felt her slipping.
"NO!" he screamed.
Everything seemed to slow down. He was reaching for her, stretching as much as he could. She was sliding down the smooth side of the ship, trying to get a purchase on anything.
"FLUX!" He realized it was his voice screaming her name.
"Mouse!" The cry was fainter. She was farther away... falling. The ship was going faster. He barely had time to see her hit the ground and roll before she was behind them. Turning, he half fell down the ladder. Tank was at the bottom and had to catch him as he hit the bottom.
"Go back.. stop... go back.. go back!" Mouse was blubbering incoherantly.
"Mouse... Mouse! Calm down, man! I can't understand a thing you're saying!" Tank helped him to his feet
"Flux.... fell over.... the side!" He pulled away from Tank and ran forward into the cockpit. "Morpheus.... we have to go back...... Flux fell.... and she's back there somewhere......" He was breathing hard.
Morpheus turned to face him.
"She's not back inside?"
Mouse shook his head, almost in tears. "No!"
"Neo, have we lost the sentinels yet?" Morpheus asked.
"Nope. Three of 'em still on our tail."
"Only three?" Mouse cried. That left five back there to pick Flux apart. Horrible images of blood and bones picked through by the sentinels danced through his head in a grisly parade.
"We can't go back, Mouse. I'm sorry."
Then Mouse was turning, stumbling, tears streaming down his face, falling down the ladder, down the hall to her room where he threw himself on the bed and bawled.