Ves had a premonition that if he replied with the wrong question, he might not have his head on his shoulders anymore. A lot had happened that pushed Doctor Jutland to his breaking point. One more shove could send him over the edge.
He decided to come clean, if only a little bit. “I can work! I’ve been working on my mobility. Look, I can move again!”
He allocated a tenth of his focus on his Jutland organ. His energy cycle became lethargic, which relieved some of his pain and loss of control. Ves quickly demonstrated his competence by moving his fingers.
“This shouldn’t be possible!” Jutland muttered as he stared at Ves dancing his fingers. “Your physique should still be adjusting to its changes.”
Enthusiasm replaced his earlier rage. The speed in which he changed his mood astounded Ves. For fear of triggering him back to a fouler mood, he kept his mouth shut and tried not to resist the doctor’s inspection.
“Hmm, this is exceedingly strange.” The exobiologist mused and pulled out a rusty scanner from his lab coat. “But the readings don’t lie! This phenomenon is exceedingly rare!”
Jutland practically slobbered over Ves as he poked and prodded his body. The man particularly paid attention to his internal energy cycle and noted how much it had diminished compared to its uncontrolled state.
“You shouldn’t be able to exert any influence on your Jutland organ! Your regulator organ lacks the capacity to do so!”
Despite his discomfort, Ves mentally sighed in relief. At least he got rid of Jutland’s impulse to wrench apart his neck. The doctor had proven to be highly unstable when things didn’t go his way.
As the doctor dragged him back to his cot and brought out a number of machines to study his body, Ves tried to wait out the examination. All he had to do for now was to drag out the time while he waited for rescue.
Hopefully his help was on its way, because he did not enjoy Jutland’s ministrations. The obsessive doctor started cackling as he injected Ves with several different solutions. The uncertainty of their purpose kept Ves from relaxing. Who knew if Jutland decided to kill him off on a whim?
In order to distract himself from all of these morbid thoughts, he tried to think about what happened to the expedition as a whole.
What concerned him the most was whether he’d still be able to leave this planet when the forty-day window came at an end. With the metallic storm on the surface of Groening IV starting to pick up again, the groundside forces had scant little time left to leave this exotic but exceedingly dangerous planet.
Without a fleet presence in orbit, they’d never get picked up. Still, Ves didn’t entirely lose hope. A naval defeat rarely spelled the annihilation of all of the ships on the losing side. As long as the Ark Horizon herself retreated in good order, then the nucleus of the main fleet could still stage a comeback.
In addition, Ves could also rely on getting picked up by the Barracuda. His corvette might have been seconded to House Kaine, but the crew answered only to him. If Captain Silvestra could get his ship out of House Kaine’s leash, then she’d certainly attempt a pickup.
Therefore, he still clung to hope. Even if the worst-case scenario happened, he still had a lifeline in the System. As long as he spent a couple of years pumping out designs, he’d be able to accumulate enough DP to purchase a long-range teleporter that could take him away without going through the murderous metallic storm clouds.
The doctor eventually left him alone and returned to his biolabs. The reprieve allowed Ves to relax and prepare for his escape attempt. Depending on the effectiveness of the diluted chemicals, the Kaius could still retain some of its functionality. Hopefully, the formula affected more than just the mechanical parts which mainly played a supporting role.
The hours dragged on as Ves quietly waited for change. Just as he dozed off, a tiny prickle against his palm interrupted his rest. Something metallic brushed against his hands. Ves carefully grasped the object and raised it to his face.
It turned out to be a tiny bot. His rescue party finally reached the cave. His heart started to pump faster as he grasped for hope.
The bot extended a secure cable which Ves attached to his comm. It established a secure, short-ranged comm channel.
[What is your current status? Are you in restraint?]
Ves typed in his reply.
[In captivity in a hut. There is no lock to the structure. I’m not restrained. Jutland thinks I’m infirm due to the implants he installed in my body, but that’s not true. I can move if needed.]
[Please detail Jutland’s security arrangements.]
He emphasized that he only got a glimpse of what Jutland prepared. With his excellent memory, he noted all of the hexapods and their positions as well as describe the various makeshift structures in the cave. He pointed out that Jutland cared the most about the biolabs. He also warned his rescuers that Jutland had long exceeded the standards of a baseline human.
[Is he able to match blows with a mech?]
[I’m not sure about that, but he is very fast. You won’t be able to stop him if he’s determined to run away.]
[Your suggestions will be taken under advisement. The operation will begin as soon as we’ve verified your words and gathered more intelligence.]
The rescue party took extreme caution in their approach. After all, Doctor Jutland frequently defied expectations. Confronting him in one of his main hideouts would surely prompt him to reveal the trump cards he developed for many years now in preparation to confront the next expedition.
The bot shut down the channel and floated away after retracting its cable. Ves guessed that his rescuers intended to go through the entire cave from top to bottom.
Unfortunately, they underestimated Jutland’s vigilance.
“What is this?! A bot? Mere rats seeking to gnaw my heels! Arise, my subjects!”
The hexapods that used to wander around like broken puppets turned savage. Even the little fellow next to Ves behaved as if someone snatched his dinner. The amount of threat the juvenile beast even intimidated Ves.
It proved that despite his extensive enhancement, he could never hold a candle to a real predator.
A lot of things happened in succession. Ves stopped pretending to be lame and landed on his feet. He ignored the growling hexapod and went to the entrance of his hut. As soon as he opened it, he witnessed a daring entrance from his rescue party.
It turned out that base camp pulled out the big guns. Half the hunting platoon spearheaded the charge. They pushed aside the hexapod adults and squashed the juveniles into paste. A handful of other mechs bearing the colors of George’s Cavalry secured the entrance of the cave and took out the handful of hexapod adults in their wake.
“Doctor Jutland! This is Captain Kaine!” The Cathrec in the lead released from its loudspeakers. “We’ve got you cornered! We beat you once, and we can beat you again! Give it up!”
The doctor laughed maniacally as he raced towards the half-submerged Kaius. “Hahahaha! You’ve made a grave mistake in confronting me at my seat of power! Arise, my guards!”
The cave walls collapsed at certain points as several strange creatures emerged from their holes.
The beasts looked like worms but resembled hexapods with stubby limbs. Though they lost the use of their limbs, they made up for it with speed, toughness and an incredibly strong bite. Their ability to bore through the resilient cave walls alone showcased their strength.
The intervention of the hexaworms for lack of a better word stalled Captain Kaine’s forces from apprehending Jutland. It took all they got just to fend off the danger.
Mechs that lacked flexibility such as the sole Ajax Olympian participating in the attack suffered grievously from the agile worms that nipped its heels. The Cathrec aborted its attempt to intercept Jutland and turned to save their only heavy mech from an early grave.
The doctor noticed Captain Kaine’s movements and released a mocking laugh. “You call yourself a captain!? A sentimental sop like you is unfit to lead a mech unit!”
Once the doctor reached the Kaius, he stamped his foot on top of the dormant chimera mech. Its eyes glowed with menace as the massive mech roused from its slumber. The gigantic mech emerged from the pool with lumbering grace, ready to face its challenges.
As the Kaius slowly neared the entangled hunting platoon, Ves had already taken advantage of chaos by running off. The little hexapod juvenile in charge of keeping an eye on him squawked with indignation and ran after Ves like a prison guard attempting to stop a fleeing inmate. Ves didn’t relish being bitten in the angry hexapod’s deadly jaws and ran even harder.
A familiar mech entered the cave. The Stanislaw kicked aside a couple of juveniles and brandished its ballistic rifle towards Ves. Melkor’s voice emerged from its speakers. “Get down Ves!”
Ves threw himself on the ground as the Stanislaw fired its rifle. The air above Ves wooshed awfully as he narrowly avoided being splattered by the bullet. The projectile travelled passed over Ves and tore apart the hexapod about to bite his rear.
The impact of the bullet against the solid cave floor pinged his ears and momentarily overwhelmed his focus. This inadvertently freed up his Jutland organ which unleashed its revenge at Ves for being suppressed.
While Ves tried to get himself together, Jutland finally noticed something amiss. As the Kaius slammed against the Olympian in a head-on charge, its internals started to release some distressing sounds. Jutland swiftly drew back the Kaius, only for it to stumble as it appeared to lose control of its limbs.
The madman adopted a befuddled expression on his face, but the hunting platoon already knew what to expect. Despite the intervention of the worms, the Cathrec’s powered spear pierced through their near-invincible scales one by one. Once Kaine eliminated half of them, she left the remainder to her subordinates and proceeded to assist the Olympian.
Jutland hardly figured out why his pride and joy moved so jerkily. The Kaius suffered from so many ailments that it couldn’t even balance itself on its legs despite having six of them.
It moved like a snail when it attempted to avoid the Cathrec’s glowing white speartip, with predictable results. The powered spear punched through the scales that exceeded the protection of a heavy mech and wrought serious damage to the muscles underneath.
Sadly for the captain, her target’s immense bulk brushed aside the piercing blow. Instead, the Kaius attempted to force its limbs into moving faster. It even darted forward to bite the Cathrec, but the highly advanced mech danced back well before its jaws came close.
By this time, Jutland figured something out. He sniffed the air a couple of times. His face slowly soured. “Sabotage!”
“It’s you!” His eyes honed in on Ves who flopped helplessly on the ground. Jutland’s stare somehow aggravated his impaired condition as his internal energy cycle shook erratically. “Even you betrayed me! After all I’ve done to strengthen your body, you would rather bite the hand that fed you! Perish then like the rest!”
Jutland ignored everything else and wordlessly directed the Kaius to storm over to Ves. The Olympian tried to stand in their way but Jutland retrieved his controller and activated his chimera mech’s blue flame breath. Its jaws released much less flames from before, but they still posed such a threat that the pilot of the heavy mech instinctively dodged aside.
Only the Cathrec kept its cool. Captain Kaine circled her mech around and expertly attacked some of the weak points pointed out by Ves when he transmitted the schematics of the Kaius. While she inflicted serious damage, it took much more to cripple the huge mech.
When the flame breath sputtered off, Jutland pressed another button on his controller. The Kaius slowed down in its stride while its chest started to glow distressingly. The doctor finally unleashed one of its trump cards.
Ves was afraid of this. The schematics on the data chip hadn’t included the strange growths inside the chest of the Kaius. Over the many days since he first got his hands of a recording of the interior, he continued to puzzle over its appearance and purpose.
The only thing he provided he transmitted to base camp when he got in touch with them with his transceiver was that it looked like an oversized human brain. The artificial brain took up a prominent place within the chest of the Kaius. It even enjoyed a direct connection to the chimera mech’s augmented heat organ.
Now, a significant amount of power flowed from the heat organ to the strange oversized brain. Ves could even see its outline as the strange glow seemed capable of penetrating through all obstruction.
A grin appeared on Doctor Jutland’s face. “I command you to stop!”
An invisible wave of psychic energy blasted outwards from the artificial brain. Every mech and every hexapod in the cave suddenly halted their actions. Some of the mechs even tipped over due to their precarious stances.
No one could move.
Ves got it worse than others. Jutland’s words propagated through a vast and powerful psychic shockwave that burrowed straight into his mind and body. The strength of both turned against him, making it impossible for him to breathe or blink his eyes.
Worse, the phenomenon showed no signs of subsiding. Everyone turned into fish on the chopping block while Jutland loudly laughed at the turn of events.
“I have waited twenty-seven years to wreak my revenge! Unenlightened beings like you will never match be able to match my genius! Hahahaha!”