A Virus Corrupted
"Oh my galre... Sevai, are you ok?" Laes questioned while openly staring at the open wound in Sevai's chest.
The Invader's antennae were drooping, his clothes were dirty and ruffled, and there was a decent size hole in his chest that was leaking some kind of clear liquid.
Was that what Invader blood looked like...?
Laes had been taking advantage of his ability to pass through doors with Bandeven when he came upon the bloody Invader in the medical lab.
Sevai was being looked over by two other scientists, but both of them stopped when the Vortian approached them.
"Yes... I'm alright..." Sevai answered, managing a small weary smile. "However..." he dipped his head. "I'm afraid the Tallest was not very cooperative... there's nothing more I can do to help him."
"The Tallest did that...?" Laes asked, and his expression fell.
He knew too well what it felt like to be impaled by one of those PAK limbs. He placed a hand over the place he'd been stabbed not very long ago.
The Tallest could be very reckless and he had made quite a few stupid choices... still, it was super disappointing Irk's leader hadn't at least been willing to talk...
"Can I talk to him?"
Sevai slowly shook his head.
"He's been detained... there's nothing more I can do."
"The other Irkens?" Laes tried hopefully.
Again Sevai slowly shook his head.
"What about their smeets?" Laes insisted, balling his hands into fists.
He was feeling very determined to somehow help the Irkens despite the increased chance of him being turned into liquid goo by the Invaders.
What else could he do though? The Invaders had the most advanced technology and also the power and willingness to use it.
Sevai sighed. He closed his eyes and rubbed them.
"I understand your sentiments Laes... but my people are not willing to repeat the same mistake..."
"Then why are you guys doing the same thing you did before?" Laes questioned him with a scowl. "You're saying you want to wipe away all of the Irken's faulty data and reprogram them with your own programming, but aren't you just forcing them to endure terrible experiments like the ones that turned them into cyborgs in the first place?"
"The only other alternative is their destruction..." Sevai insisted.
His eyes opened, but he wouldn't look Laes in the face.
Bandeven stepped closer to Laes and placed a hand on one of the Vortian's shoulders.
"That's enough Laes... remember, we're guests here..."
"Every problem should have a proper solution," he insisted, pushing the Irken's hand off.
Wow... that was a very Vortian thing to say. He wasn't finished either.
"It's frustrating because the solution your people want is identical to the one that originally caused the problem. You can't use the same formula with the same numbers in the same sequence over and over and expect to get a different answer each time you do it..."
"It isn't the same..." Sevai tried to argue, but he sounded unsure and he kept looking away.
"How is it different?"
"... this time we have more people involved in the project... we won't leave until the task is complete."
"Please excuse us... but Sevai does require medical attention," one of the other Invaders who'd been listening quietly interjected.
The other one didn't say anything, but he seemed to be waiting for Laes to stop interrupting him as well.
"Sorry..." Laes apologized before following Bandeven out of the room and into the next room over which looked like a small extension of the lab they were just in.
Would now be a good time to hyperventilate?
What off Vort was he thinking!? Something like: let's just anger the super advanced race with all of the powerful technology! That would be a swell idea!
He smacked himself in the face and crouched down.
"If you were going to regret it that much, why did you say anything?" Darden asked him.
Only he wasn't Darden. He wasn't Bann either.
The reprogrammed Irken was standing close by, watching him impassively.
Laes straightened up and dusted off his pants, that didn't actually have any dust on them, and cleared his throat.
"I uh... got a little caught up in the moment..." he admitted.
Then he looked up, and his eyes met the Irken's.
According to Sevai, Darden's PAK had been destroyed, and for some reason he doubted the Invaders would have taken the time to piece it back together... would they?
With all of their advanced technology, piecing together an Irken's PAK probably wouldn't take long at all.
They wouldn't do it though... there was no reason to fix something that could potentially harm them later... and an Irken's PAK could do that.
"So um...you're sure you're not Bandeval?" Laes questioned since Bann might decide to pretend not to be himself to mess with people's heads...
At least the Irken had done it before... he'd done it more than once actually.
"My name is "Bandeven," the Irken soldier insisted. "I've been programmed to stay by your side, however, my loyalty belongs solely to the Invaders. I can't break any of their laws."
"Oh... I see..." Laes' responded as his expression sank.
Following the rules wasn't like Bann at all...
He sucked in a small breath and exhaled as he fought to keep his thoughts from spiraling down into the negativity pit forming in his mind.
"How much do you remember?"
"I remember bits and pieces..." the Irken admitted. "I know I know you... and I know I'm supposed to care about our past connection..."
"But you don't?" Laes ventured.
"Not at all."
He could actually picture Darden saying that to him.
Which personality did this Irken replica have...?
He wasn't acting like the Irken soldiers who'd been sent to Vort. Everything in their PAKs, including their personality drives, had been completely wiped.
Then the room was shaking for some reason.
Laes tried to keep his balance without grabbing onto anything since most of the things in this room were unfamiliar working technology.
This didn't work very well, and he ended up falling face-first onto the floor.
When he looked up he saw everything was going haywire.
He scrambled under a nearby desk to avoid being zapped by the electricity coursing through the air.
All of the machines were making strange noises and sparks were flying from the more complicated looking devices while the lights kept flickering overhead.
"Are you ok?" Bandeven asked as he ducked behind the desk.
"Yes," Laes responded, peeking out so he could see the Irken better. "But... what is this? What's going on?"
Bandeven's antennae lowered, and he raised his arm to shield his eyes from the blinding flashes of light that just started happening.
Laes ducked back down and covered his burning eyes.
That really hurt. Hopefully he wasn't blind.
"I don't know..." the altered Irken responded. "I've never experienced-"
Bandeven suddenly stopped talking. Something must have happened.
He wished he could see what was going on, but his eyes were in too much pain to be useful right now.
"Bandeven?" He tried, hoping the Irken would answer.
A heavy hand landed on his shoulder, and he flinched.
"Bandeval," the Irken corrected him as he removed his hand.
"I've wrecked this ship. We need to leave before it explodes."
"Bandeval...?" Laes repeated in confusion as the Irken snagged him by the wrist and began pulling him somewhere. "But... how?"
"When Sevai connected the hologram device to his computer network, I was able escape and infiltrate their system," Bandeval explained. "It looks like my programming was able to merge with this altered PAK as well. With any luck, the changes I've made might even be permanent."
It sounded like since the hologram device had Vortian, Invader, and Irken technology, Bandeval's data had been able to jump from system to system without too much difficulty... but weren't there consequences for him doing that...?
"Isn't merging yourself with different technology kind of dangerous?" Laes asked, since he remembered Lard Nar mentioning something about how Bann loses a piece of himself whenever he entered a computer network or a PAK.
"I can't remember my smeethood... and all of the years of training I did on Devastis is pretty blurry... there are also a few recent memories that have disappeared," Bandeval admitted.
His voice lightened a bit as he continued.
"But I remember what's important: like how terrible you are in life or death situations."
"What about all of the alterations Sevai made to your PAK... er... the PAK you're using?"
It wasn't technically Bann's PAK, so he wasn't sure if he should call it his or not.
"They're annoying but fixable."
"Then... you're really Bann...?" he asked, sounding just as hopeful as he was feeling.
"As much as I can be, yeah."
Laes grasped onto the Irken's arm and held on tightly.
Bandeval was dead... but somehow his data continued to exist... as long as Bann's data existed, then he wasn't really dead, was he?
He'd have to think about it more before he could draw a proper conclusion about it... but right now he needed to focus on more urgent matters; like this ship probably exploding soon.
"What did you do to this ship?" he questioned as he tried opening his eyes.
They were watering and they stung a bit, but he could see blurry outlines of things and some colours so he wasn't blind.
"I infected it," Bandeval replied. "I think."
Laes sucked in a breath and bit the inside of his cheek. "What about Sevai...?"
"Seriously Laes?" Bandeval's voice rose a bit, and his words sounded sharp.
Then he abruptly stopped walking, and he pulled his arm out of the Vortian's grasp.
"You don't need to care about that guy! He's an Invader for Irk's sake! His kind killed your people and mutilated mine."
Bann's voice was angry, or very annoyed, or both probably.
It was too late. He already thought of Sevai as a friend...
Of course it was more likely the Invader saw him as a pet rather than a person... and they hadn't known each other for very long.
He really shouldn't be thinking of Sevai as a friend when he really thought about it.
Sevai was a slightly rebellious scientist from an advanced race, Bann had become some kind of computer virus, and Lard Nar was the former leader of a resistance movement.
How did he become friends with such strange and interesting people?
None of them resembled his past friends which had included the guy who hung out at the water dispenser a lot... Usemet was his name; at least he was pretty sure.
Kodo was the other guy, and his interests included researching... and that was about it...
Those people had been safe and predictable, just like his life had been at that time.
Were they even still alive?
Bann let out a sigh and dragged a gloved hand down his face. Darden's face.
He was going to have to get used to that.
"You're going to defend him aren't you?" The Irken asked.
His tone sounded more than just a little accusing.
Laes squared his shoulders.
"What the Invaders did was absolutely wrong." And also nightmare inducing. "But trying to blow them all up right now isn't going to help us..."
Bann rolled his eyes.
"Of course you'd say that..." he muttered as he strode over to what appeared to be some kind of computer.
A wire snapped out of his PAK. It connected to the machine somehow, and Bann started typing.
Then there was a blackout. Everything stopped working, including the lights.
"Do you feel better now?" Bann asked, still sounding annoyed.
"You used to be nicer," Laes commented.
"You're asking me not to kill the people I hate Laes," Bann told him as a matter of fact. "Of course I'm not going to be happy about it."
"Do you really think it's just these Invaders we need to worry about Bann?" Laes questioned. "They already hate us! If we kill a whole bunch of them they're going to hate us more! My people will be second on their kill list! So please... just this one time..."
Bann became quiet. Then the lights flicked back on, and he sighed.
"Your "friend" is in the next room with two other Invaders. The self-destruct program has been reset, but we should still leave while the Invaders are scrambling to figure out what's going on."
"We should find the Tallest first," Laes suddenly remembered.
"They've already brought him to their main expedition ship."
The Irken started walking quickly towards a different door. He passed through it heading for the one that connected to the lab.
Laes hurried to follow him.
Bann must have seen a whole bunch of data when he was infecting the Invader's ship, so he might know almost as much as a low level Invader might... maybe...
"Do you know how many ships the Invaders have?" Laes asked.
"They have three in this galaxy."
They passed through the door into a very tight hallway.
This ship was hovering near the moon thing the Irkens had taken refuge in. The Invader's main expedition ship was the one that landed on Vort.
"Where's their third ship?" he questioned.
"It's on Bludon," Bann responded. "Just stay close to me ok..? I don't want you hurting yourself."
"...Yes, ok," Laes agreed.
If he remembered correctly, the teleporter was in the lab... but they weren't heading in that direction at all.
Did the Invaders have escape pods?
They'd have to. How else would they escape in the event of a full system shutdown?
"Escape pods?" Laes guessed, and Bann turned to glare at him.
"Remember what happened the last time we were in a life or death situation?"
Of course he did. He remembered it very well... he insisted on following Bann and the soldier died protecting him from the other Irkens... but what did that have to do with... oh.
Bann was taking a jab at him.
The Irken breathed a sigh, and his antennae lowered a little.
"Just trust me ok? I'll get us out of here."
It looked like Bann somehow knew where all of the Invaders were after plugging himself into their network. He must have also disabled all of their system's security when he overloaded the machines earlier.
They entered the room where the cots were.
Wasn't this near the lab? Or no... wait... was there another lab? He couldn't remember.
Maybe there was more than one teleportation pad on board too. The Invader's main expedition ship definitely wasn't small, so this one probably wasn't either.
He watched Bann approach one of the walls. There must have been an outlet or something Laes wasn't seeing, because a cable emerged from the Irken's PAK and attached to the wall.
The floor started glowing very close to where the Vortian was standing.
It was a teleportation pad.
"Maybe we shouldn't go..." Laes suddenly spoke up.
He had a sinking feeling that leaving would probably get Sevai into a lot of trouble.
"Unfortunately when I sabotaged their ship, I wasn't exactly being quiet about it," Bann told him as the cable unhooked and returned to his PAK.
Then what appeared to be the main door to the room vanished, and several Invaders poured in with their guns drawn.
Almost immediately all of the machines in the room started sparking. One of them even exploded, distracting the Invaders long enough for Bann to activate his energy shield and place himself between them and Laes.
"What have you done!?" One of the Invaders snapped at Sevai, and Laes winced in sympathy.
Sevai was going to be blamed for their escape for sure, and there was nothing he could do or say that would make the situation look any less horrible.
He was escaping without their approval and with an experimental "project" who almost killed everyone...
Yeah. That wouldn't look good on anyone's record...
Would the Invaders be furious? Would they attack Vort...?
Hopefully not. Hopefully he could talk to Kachori and try to negotiate with her instead.
He wanted to apologize to Sevai, but he was already being teleported away.
His insides felt like they were twisting around, but there was no time to feel sick.
Bann was on the move again.
The few Invaders who were working in the lab glanced up as they passed by, but none of them seemed very interested in stopping them.
Of course the security on this ship was working just fine; they didn't have any reason to be concerned... until Bann walked through one of their doors without any trouble.
"You two, stop!" one of the Invaders called, but Bann wasn't going to listen, and that meant he needed to keep moving too.
Laes wasn't sure where the Irken soldier was headed until they passed by the rows of cots.
He tried not to look too closely at the nearly dead Vortians lying next to each other.
Bann glanced through the window of each cell. He frowned.
"He isn't here..." His antennae flicked forward. "I'm going to find a way to connect to their system... you... hm..." He rubbed his chin in thought. "Find somewhere to hide, but be prepared to run."
"Sure..." he forced a smile.
He could do that. No problem.
Laes looked around for a place to hide while Bann walked over to one of the consoles in the room and plugged in his PAK.
There was too much space underneath the cots... there was a desk, but that wouldn't work very well either.
Maybe he could hide in one of the cots...? No. They'd notice another occupied cot right away.
A few unused machines were sitting in the corner. He could hide behind those.
Before he could move however, there was a flash of light, and Kachori appeared in the middle of the room. Or was it her image? It was difficult to tell what was a hologram and what was real.
"Oh. Kachori." He raised one of his hands in a feeble greeting. "Hi."
She didn't look angry, but she wasn't coming any closer either. She was keeping a safe distance he guessed, so maybe she really was standing there.
"What are you doing Laes?" She asked; her voice calm.
"Shlit..." Bann muttered, and Laes turned to see the Irken soldier cringing.
Bann's eyes were squeezed shut and he was grinding his teeth.
"We were just..." How could he explain it...?
Kachori sighed as she placed a hand on the side of her face.
"The people on board our other ship warned me you would try tampering with this one..." she admitted, and her eyes met his. "If you weren't happy with our agreement, you should have told me."
"I wanted to speak with the Tallest... but I was told I couldn't... so I thought I would try anyway?" Laes tried explaining himself.
His tongue was getting heavier and his mind was starting to wander a bit due to stress.
"You could have asked to speak with me, and I'm sure arrangements would have been made for us to meet and discuss you speaking with the Tallest."
"Your people have been using Laes," Bann stated.
He groaned under the strain of whatever he was fighting. It was probably an anti-virus program or some other type of security system.
"You keep him locked up... and only allow him out... when it suits you..." one of this eyes cracked open and he lifted his head to glare at Kachori. "How can you expect him to trust you?"
"I thought..." Kachori began, but Bann interrupted her.
"You thought... because your kind is currently helping the Vortians... that Laes owes you his support...?" He raised a trembling hand and pointed an accusing finger at her. "Your people's meddling is what destroyed Vort and got a whole bunch of Vortians killed in the first place..."
"It was only a matter of time before your people turned against Vort regardless," Kachori said. "Irkens are needlessly temperamental and violent."
"And your people are manipulative liars!" Bann spat as he lowered his arm back down. "You never planned to properly negotiate with the Tallest... you just used Laes in order to lower his guard... you were planning to capture him from the beginning... I read the reports."
Bann smirked as he stood up straight. His antennae flicked forward and his crimson eyes started to glow.
"And now I'm in your ship's network."
Laes had been listening quietly to Bann and Kachori's eye-opening conversation. He had no idea any of that had been going on... well, the possibility crossed his mind once or twice, but he hadn't thought a lot about it.
Machines sparked. Lights flickered. Kachori began to fade in and out.
Oh... So she was using a hologram.
The vessel lurched, and Laes lost his balance and collapsed to the floor.
"You need to stop.." Kachori told him. Her image was beginning to dissipate. "The counsel will not hesitate to send more ships if something happens to this one. I won't be able to guarantee the safety of Vort or its people..."
He doubted quitting would help him or Vort, but he thought he'd try it anyway.
"I'm sorry... but..." Laes tapped his fingers together and lowered his head. "I'm uh... going to have to quit being Vort's representative..."
He lifted his gaze to look at her expression which was really difficult to read.
"But... um... Thank you for the opportunity..."
"You shouldn't..." Her voice cut out as the hologram fizzled then vanished completely.
Laes scrambled back to his feet. His heart was pounding. He clutched his chest then turned to Bann hoping the Irken would offer some kind of encouragement.
"The Tallest is in lab 3," Bann said. His red eyes were still glowing and his voice sounded kind of echoing. "I'll disable their security measures and force open all of the doors."
"But... but Kachori just said..." his resolve was wavering.
It was becoming difficult to swallow. If only his heart would stop pounding so hard maybe he'd be able to think clearly.
"If you tell me to stop I will," Bann remarked. "However, if we don't do anything the Tallest, and all of the Irkens they just captured, will be killed."
"Killed...?" Laes repeated with a frown. "But... the Invaders said..."
"If your personality, your thoughts and feelings, if everything about you was erased... would you still call that being alive?"
"Well... yes... biologically speaking..."
"Ok... but do you think the Invaders will keep any of the Irkens biologically alive after what I just did?"
The answer was a very obvious no.
Invaders were already paranoid before one of their reprogrammed projects suddenly adopted his old programming and started causing problems... there was no way they would let that happen again.
"So what do you want to do?" Bann questioned as the cable disconnected and withdrew back into his PAK.
Instantly the lights stopped flickering and the machines quieted.
The Irken strode towards him. He stopped right in front of him and crossed his arms.
"If we stop now, I'll be erased and all of the Irkens will die... but your people likely won't be affected. If we continue... we may be able to rescue a few Irkens, but the Vortians will probably suffer."
"D-do I have to decide right now...?" Laes stammered.
That was an awful lot of pressure...
And now there was even more pressure.
Things would have been easier if he hadn't become friends with Bann... it was because of that friendship he started seeing Irkens as more than just violent overlords... or just insane and destructive.
Zim wasn't exactly your typical Irken though.
"Rescue the Tallest..." he managed to mumble.
Bann smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
"I know this is hard on you Laes, but I'll do everything I can to help you, ok?"
"I'm a traitor to Vort..." Laes lamented, covering his face with his hands.
"Welcome to the traitor's club."
"That's not funny Bann..."
Laes' political career sure didn't last very long... oh well. Easy come easy go.