52) Uncommon Valor

Pheledra watched Biltar’s progress through the psychotronic adjuvant. She didn’t dare communicate with him for fear that the Council would intercept her thoughts and reprimand her for disobedience. She saw that things were going well. Biltar and Edyn were carefully checking everything out. Biltar had met up with quite a few old acquaintances from years past and had decided that, indeed, Shanveh would be a good place to set up their headquarters.”Don’t decide for sure until you’ve seen the other locations,” said Ana.”You’re right,” Biltar agreed, “but it sure would be comforting to be around people I already know and trust.””That’s important,” said Cobi, “but what will the rest of our journey bring?””Mavira is next,” said Ana.”A jewel in the former superpower of Shaluma,” said Edyn, “but I like it here on Shanveh island. It would be a good place for the Frahza to bring my hybrid children.”

“How much longer do you need to stay here before we go on to Mavira?” Ana asked.

“A while longer,” Biltar replied, “The new communication satellites are going to be launched over the next few days and we need to stay here until they are up and running. Once a grid of computer communication is reestablished, everything will be easier. We can contact our points of distribution and find out about their situation directly.”

“Good,” said Cobi, “we’ll continue to stand guard until you’re ready to leave.”

On the Firefly, as Pheledra watched through the psychotronic adjuvant, she found herself feeling disappointed because of the Council’s restriction. Regardless, she was encouraged by their progress and knew she’d done the right thing by trusting the two Kultaki women.

As the days passed, she saw the new communications satellites being launched into orbit from Shanveh. Nahvar was thrilled to see how the instruments and monitors on the Firefly kept perfect track of the rockets as they succesfully deposited their payloads into orbit. “It’s so good to see communications starting up again.”

“Yes,” said Pheledra, “now, the critical exchange of information and ideas can begin to unify the planet.”

Nelyani was excited too. “People have to talk with each another for anything good to happen. Now, everybody can hear about you and the other lightworkers and all the help we’re getting and be happy because the future is going to be so good.”

Pheledra gave Nel a big hug. “And you and Nahvar and Biltar are a very important part of it. Someday, you and others who have experienced contact during these troubled times, can tell your story to the whole world. What an encouragement that will be for those who almost gave up hope.”

“I’m happy,” said Nel.

“Me too,” said Nahvar, “when I’m not completely overwhelmed with emotion.”

Pheledra smiled. “Your happiness and hope for the future makes all the problems and set backs worth while.”

The droids constantly watched the lake area but it was still a hotbed of activity. Finally, on the twelfth day, Blue came to her and said, “it’s time for us to go get Red. Just as Nelyani predicted, the soldiers have been called to another sector where the Frahza are active. Also, we’ve seen the water in the lake recede enough that the place where Red went down is now above water.”

“Let’s go,” said Pheledra.

The Firefly streaked down. They came in above the lake, remaining in fourth density, and saw that the water was slowly draining out. Red’s remains and the steel safe were now well above the water line but buried in the black mud under the heavy wreckage. They could now see that the wreckage was a microwave tower which had collapsed.

“Pheledra,” said Orange, “I suggest that you beam us down on the shore at night. We will wear our camouflage covers to hide our lights, just in case someone is still watching. We’ll attach cables to the wreckage in order to move it out of the way and use our cutting torches if we need to. Then, we’ll dig Red out and get a cable on the safe to retrieve it. When we get everything done, you can beam us up.”

“Okay,” said Pheledra, “I’ll send you down right after sunset. Fabby will handle it and I’ll observe the operation and provide any kind of emergency back up you might need.”

Inky and Ginger were happily curled up together on the observation deck. They felt much better now that Boots was back with them and they were somewhat proud of themselves for having been able to contribute something. All in all, though, they preferred rest to vigorous adventure.

Boots was well recovered from his previous ordeal, having undergone treatment in the Protoron. He had been having the time of his life playing with Nelyani. She was so much fun. While she was taking a nap, Boots strolled down to the power deck where Fabby and the four droids were making their preparations. Fabby was whistling an intriguing melody which was gentle yet full of martial heroism.

“We’ll beam down from here,” said Green, “Fabby, you can help us if we require assistance.”

“Anything you need,” said Fabby.

Blue checked out his cutting torch. “It’s far too dangerous for the Firefly to step down into third density and mess around with cables, so Fabby should manipulate the tractor beam to pull the heavy stuff out of the way.”

Fabby interrupted his song. “I’ll be glad to do that.”

“Thanks, Fabby,” said Violet laying out her camouflage cover.

Each cover was being removed from the pouches attached to the droids’ center ring and each droid was preparing to put one on.

Boots saw the empty pouch around Violet’s waist and found that his old lust for adventure was fast overridding his desire for security and comfort. Besides, all his other adventures, up until now, had merely come as a result of him getting himself into trouble.

For once, he wanted to do something important, not just be a burden on those with a big enough heart to rescue him. He wanted to be a rescuer. He wanted to do something noble and helpful, not just be a cat in the ointment messing up the works. And too, he’d already caused so many problems that he felt a need to make amends. He owed it to Pheledra. Love is a two way street.

Fabby began whistling his song again. It was wonderful and even inspired the droids who began to dance while they multitasked.

Orange worked on his new arm. It was a little stiff, being brand new. “Violet, would you hold this lever back while I try to loosen up the sliding rod?”

“Sure,” said Violet putting aside her camouflage cover. She had to use the strength of two mechanical hands to hold back the strong lever.

Fabby’s tune had become very lively and the droids were caught up in the excitement of the rhythm. As Violet leaned over to help Orange, the cover pouch around her waste bounced around as she moved to the beat. Boots was enticed beyond control. He crouched down as if about to pounce upon prey, balanced himself with his tail, wiggled his hips back and forth and, on a bounce that came near, lept quietly into Violet’s empty pouch.

“What was that?” Violet looked around, “I thought I felt something. Is one of you fooling with me again?”

“No jokes today,” said Green, “you probably bumped into something.”

“May be, may be,” said Violet.

Just after sunset, Pheledra beamed the droids down onto the shore of the muddy lake bed. They materialized in third density. Boots didn’t like the heaviness of third density and wanted to stretch a little, but he restrained himself and quietly waited for an opportunity to do something. He had no idea what he would do but knew he should not make his presence known until some kind of opportunity came along. The droids checked the area with their sensors to be sure it was safe, then flew out over the mud to the spot where Red had gone under. They moved with efficiency and in perfect coordination. Red, Blue and Green attached their cables to the wreckage and began pulling it out of the mud, while Violet flew around the perimeter keeping watch. Boots stuck his head out of the pouch but couldn’t see a thing because Violet’s camoflague cover was in the way.

Often, the tangled steel of the water tower had to be cut and the droids used their plasma torches. Finally, they encountered the main body of the tower and it was far too heavy for them.

“We need the tractor beam, Fabby,” Blue said.

“Back off some and I’ll activate it,” came his reply.

The droids moved back out of the way and Fabby activated the beam to work the big tank back and forth and free it from the mud. All this activity was creating quite a bit of noise and the light from the torches and tractor beam caused them some concern that the operation would be discovered. Violet was being very vigilant but they all knew that if anyone else was around they’d surely be alerted to the activity.

Finally, Fabby had moved the big tank enough to free it and lifted it straight up with the tractor beam. He set it far over to the side and it sank back down into the mud. The droids moved back in and probed for Red’s remains.

“Here he is,” said Orange. The others came over to the spot.

It took the combined heat rays of all four droids to vaporize the remaining mud covering Red before they could reach him and attach a cable to pull him up. They flew him over to the dry shore and set him down.

“Poor Red,” said Blue, “look at him. He’s smashed almost flat. His body is completely ruined.”

“Let’s just hope that his central processor and memory is okay,” said Green.

Violet bathed Red’s body with a probing scan to see if the processor would respond. “I can’t tell what condition he’s in. We won’t know until we disassemble him.”

“Okay,” said Blue, “Fabby, beam him up for decontamination. Later, you can operate and remove the central processor. We won’t know until then if he can be restored.”

Fabby beamed the lifeless droid up to the Firefly.

“All right,” said Orange, “success so far. Now let’s get the safe.”

“Excellent, you guys,” said Pheledra as she watched the operation unfold.

The four droids flew back out over the muddy lakebed and used their combined heat rays once again to vaporize the mud, drilling a hole down to the steel safe. It was turned upside down at an angle and Blue was able to get a cable around two of the rollers. They worked the cable back and forth to loosen the safe and pulled it up out of the black mud, then flew it back to the shore and set it down. The droids set to work cleaning off as much of the mud as they could.

“Okay,” said Violet, “the steel safe is ready to go up.”

They all stepped back out of the way while light engulfed the safe and it dematerialized.

All this time, Boots was becoming more and more frustrated. He’d been very successful stowing away in Violet’s pouch but wasn’t getting the opportunity to contribute. Suddenly, he smelled something. It was that same smell he had encountered before. It spelled danger and always came just before those terrible flashes across the sky. In a micron of inspiration, Boots tore out of Violet’s camoflague cover and shrieked as loud as he could.

“Boots!” all the droids shouted in surprise as the cat launched himself off Violet and went right into the muddy lakebed with a splat. All four droids rushed instantly to save him as he began to sink. At the same instant a tremendous particle beam blast, from the satellite overhead, exploded right where they’d been waiting to beam up.

Boots, and his headlong dive into the black mud, had saved them all.

Green snagged Boots by his hind paw just before he went under and Blue yelled. “Get us out!”

Fabby, in a state of total surprise, quickly recalibrated.

Blue, Orange, Violet and Green, holding the muddied cat by the scruff of the neck, dematerialized and reappeared on the power deck of the Firefly back in fourth density.

“Ohhh,” Pheledra exhaled loudly, “that’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen!”

While they decontaminated on the Firefly, the droids could not find enough kudos and thanks for Boots, as they scrubbed off the black mud and happily passed him around from one to another for hugs and petment.

When the decontamination was over, Pheledra, Fabby, Nel and Nahvar were joyfully waiting to congratulate Boots and the droids for the fine job they’d done. The jubilation quickly ended when bright flashes reminded them that the particle beam weapons were still shooting blindly hoping to hit something in fourth density by chance.

“I’ve had enough of this,” said Pheledra as she quickly sent the Firefly on its way back into orbit. “Fabby, take care of both those weapons. But don’t kill anyone if you can help it. That satellite is unmanned and being controlled from somewhere on the ground. The weapon near the lake has a crew but you can prepare a strong telepathic message that will be delivered by one of the droids informing them of the imminent destruction of the weapon. They’ll have time to evacuate.”

“Do you think the Anadine Galactic Council will interfer? asked Fabby.

“I don’t think so,” Pheledra replied, “the Council said the Mirabans must be returned to Miraba when it is safe to do so. I do not consider it ‘safe’ to take anyone back down to Miraba as long as those scalar particle beam weapons exist. No doubt, there are others that we don’t know about but those which brought down our recon saucer and fired at us are definitely a continuing threat. It may be stretching the allowance of the Council, but I’m willing to take the chance. It will definitely be in our favor if we don’t kill anyone taking the weapons out.”

“As good as done,” responded Fabby, “Green, get ready for a mission.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Green prepared himself and zoomed down to the planet. He materialized in third density right in front of the weapon crew before they even knew he was coming. There was no doubt in their minds that the aliens they feared now had the upper hand. The weapon crew was surprised and astounded at the bright green diamond and amazed to hear a voice speak strongly inside their heads.

I am an extension of those who come from afar. Your weapon is a threat to all life on this planet. Vacate your post immediately to avoid death.

They fled in terror as Green headed back to the Firefly. Fabby fired energy blasts which simultaneously destroyed the ground installation and the satellite as well.

“There,” said Fabby.

“Mission accomplished,” Green announced, as he came back on board.

“That was incredible!” exclaimed Nahvar.

“Yes,” said Pheledra, “occasionally, we find it necessary, and do not hesitate to apply overwhelming force.”

CONTINUE: 53) At Mivira

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