Livestock

by DJ

Chapter 25

Determined to present a favourable appearance for when Tadik opened his eyes, D'vork took his time going through his limited wardrobe of uniforms and off duty clothes, finally deciding that they were too formal; he had always let Inmahn see to his wardrobe but the android had more urgent studies to perform in the medical bay. Really, he would have to tell the android to recycle some of these items a bit more often, and soon. He thought deeply for a couple of minutes. Now what would he have liked to see if he woke up after a time of unconsciousness, probably with a blinding headache, too weak to keep his heavy eyelids open and wishing he could go back to sleep? Something quiet perhaps, and restful to the eyes? He went through them again, and took a second closer look at a grey Rogoch wool tunic with a simple line of mid blue round the upright collar and diagonally from left shoulder to right hem, made by his own mother's loving hands; yes, that would do nicely. To go with it, he picked out a fresh pair of undress uniform pants and a narrow leather belt sufficient to carry the minimum of required tools of his status. Satisfied, he laid the garments on his bed and took a shower.

Twenty minutes later he stood in front of the mirror, grunting his satisfaction at his reflection. He hoped Tadik would be just as pleased when he opened his eyes and saw him. When. The word wiped the smiled off D'vork's face. D'vork knew enough about the condition, humans suffered from; they called it a coma, when the brain went to sleep while the body recovered from any kind of serious trauma; Tadik had certainly experienced a few of those recently, with the perpetrator still at large on board the ship. Frowning, D'vork turned to his attention to Percy. "Activate research mode."

"Activated."

"Percy, go over the research we did on all known shape changers again and compare what we are experiencing on board ship."

Within seconds, Percy flashed a series of facts, highlighting three in red.

1/ Ashzud. Original form, semi reptilian, from the planet G3xJ21 in the Quantrofux Galaxy thirty one light years from the Gpuchk system. Able to change molecular construction to suit an otherwise harmful environment for short periods of time only. First sighting 2016 in the Quastorian system. Friendly, nonthreatening, and placid in nature.

2/ Towdak. Original form, reptilian needing a liquid environment. Home planet unknown. Able to change molecular construction for limited periods of time. Warlike, unpredictable. Once attached to master or owner, remains faithful and will defend to the death.

3/ Designated name Dxlgl.cmn2. Nicknamed the Limpet. Limited information at this time. Planet of origin unknown, this is an entity rather than a species. Original form, a type stimulated by a sort of electrical currant. Rare sightings have been known to have a disastrous effect on electrical circuits.

"And now known to inhabit other species and shape change at will! That's our enemy, Percy; no wonder we couldn't find him. Put the ship on red alert and report your findings to all departments. Tell engineering to watch for any malfunction in all circuits no matter how small. Also find out all you can about whatever scanner can be used to make that thing visible to the eye."

"At once Captain; do you also wish me to continue further research on this – entity?"

"Yes, please, and alert me as soon as you find anything; I also suggest you contact Sir Jeffus and tell him what is going on. Report your findings to him as well; I'll be in Medical Bay."

"I will need new input of the codes for that, Captain; we will need Inmahn for that as the codes are in his brain and nowhere else, and also this console and the one in Otrell's quarters are the only ones capable of such a secret communication."

"I'll send him to you."

Switching the console to low power mode, D'vork used his com to transport to Medical Bay corridor just in time to hear a loud blast from inside the unit. Heading for the unit at a run, D'vork slammed his fist against the nearest of the alarm buttons spaced at intervals along the corridor. As the alarms began their high pitched screaming, D'vork raised his com to his mouth. "All stations red alert; security to Medical Bay on the double."Unhooking his phaser, he charged into the unit to find a chaotic scene with the inner door blasted away and a shimmering shape moving towards Tadik's bed. Most of the medibots writhed on the floor as sparks leapt from them, and the only person barring the entity's path to his intended victim was Inmahn, his arms outstretched as he said in a voice that sounded like an actor from a legendary film D'vork remembered watching in the Terran archives, "Come on buster, make my day."Before D'vork could do anything, the two collided in a shower of sparks, the entity seeming to be the stronger as he pushed the struggling android backwards towards the bed.

D'vork ran forward but was brought up against a barrier of energy that stung him in a wall of white hot pain. He staggered back, his hands burning, and he watched helplessly as his beloved android slowly blackened, his uniform bursting into flame and his skin melting. But Inmahn still gripped the entity in his arms, refusing to let his adversary get away. At that moment, D'vork glanced towards the bed and saw Tadik's eyes had opened and his hands were rising till they pointed at the struggling pair. A streak of almost invisible energy surged from his hands to merge with the entity which uttered a roar of pain such as D'vork had never heard before. The sound ripped through his head and he staggered away with his hands covering his ears. His com exploded, adding more pain to his burned hands. All his strength left him, as if his very bones had melted under the onslaught of the vortex of electrical energy spiraling round the unit and causing all the modules in the place to explode. Some of the lighter modules, ripped from their housings, swirled about the place, adding still more chaos and hitting security personal as they ran into the unit. The last D'vork remembered before he blacked out was one of his men diving on top of him before something heavy landing on top of them.


Baka heard Kidat give a scream of pain and scrambled from his place among his brothers, tossing P'pit aside as he charged up the tunnel. Kidat lay still within his furs, unresponsive to Baka's nudging and grunting. Then Baka raised his head till it was pressed against the tunnel roof and let out a deafening howl of mourning. Behind hm, his brothers roused from their slumber and little P'pit crawled up the tunnel to kneel beside his new friend. "I think he is dead."Baka hoped the little boy would hear his thoughts.

P'pit pulled away the furs to expose Kidat's chest and lowered his head to lay his cheek against it. "No, Baka. He breathes, and his heart beats strongly; I think he has had a shock of some kind but how? And look at his fingers!"P'pit lifted Kidat's right hand to take a closer look. "He touched something that burned the tips of his fingers."Slowly P'pit's eyes glazed over and his voice changed to that of an adult, and Baka realized the ancient was among them once again. "Move Kidat down into the cave and keep him warm while I seek that which has affected him."

To Baka's astonishment, P'pit faded to a faint ball of mist which moved away up the tunnel to disappear from sight. Hearing his brothers muttering amongst themselves, Baka hooked his front claws into Kidat's furs and moved backwards down the tunnels, dragging Kidat with him. Questions bombarded his brain till his father huffed at them for silence and Baka told them about the ship in the sky and Kidat's need to go to it. Apparently, he had somehow achieved his goal only to be injured in some way. "Something must have happened on board that ship and the Ancient wishes us to care for Kidat while he investigated further."

"Which poses a new problem,"Baka's father informed his family. "The storm has passed and we must move on. This cave is beginning to stink with so many of us in close quarters without room or the means to clean ourselves. We must also move on to the Great City before the great lake melts and the ice becomes too thin for us to cross it."

"A roll in the snow will feel good,"One of the brothers commented, and received an angry glare from his sire.


Ajek awoke to pain and discomfort, a condition he would have to put up with for the rest of his days according to the doctors. No way! Not if he could help it. Others had survived worse injuries than losing their legs; so would he.. And now another problem had arisen. Tears sprang to his eyes as he realized he would never see his beloved father again or feel the strength of his arms as he hugged him. He sat up and looked around him. His room seemed the same but something was missing. What was it? Come on Ajek; put your brain into gear. Think! Yes, that's it. No robot.

Golden rule in Anglesey house; anywhere there was someone ill or injured, there was a robot. Robot 286 was missing. Oh well, he wasn't entirely helpless. He swung the stumps of his legs to the edge of the bed and reached for the arm of his wheelchair. Pulling it close to the bed, he removed the arm and shifted onto the seat. Before rolling to his bathroom, he glanced at the mini-console on the wall by the bedhead to check the time. It showed nothing; just a black screen. Strange! "Console, activate."Still nothing. Ajek stared at it, frowning. Must be a short circuit somewhere. Then he shrugged his shoulders and continued towards the bathroom, knowing the door would slide open on his approach. Nothing happened. What? He jerked the chair to a halt, sideways to the wall and pressed the manual lock. That didn't work either, and Ajek needed the toilet ASAP.

Knowing the override procedure, he reached down under the chair seat to locate a special tool; Jeffus had bought and equipped the chair with. Ajek retrieved it and examined it. Looking like and ordinary blunt knife it didn't seem strong enough to open a locked door, but Jeffus had told him it really worked. He slid the blade into a narrow, almost invisible slot down the side of the console and moved it about till only the handle remained showing. Making sure the chair wheels were locked he gripped the handle with both hands and exerted as much downward pressure as he could muster. He felt something give and was rewarded by the satisfying sound of a click from somewhere behind the console face.

Following the instructions Jeffus had given him, he pulled the blade free and inserted it in the crack between the console and the wall, continuing to run the blade all the way round the edge of the console to break all the contacts the breaking of the hidden electronic barrier. Once he had moved the blade all the way round the console he used the blade as a lever to ease the front plate of the console away to reveal the manual override plate. The inside of the console was a mess of blackened and melted circuitry but there was enough space for Ajek to reach in past the damage to release the bathroom door lock. He door slid sideways to reveal the robot in a bent over position as if ready to lift the dirty laundry out of its container. The robot remained frozen in that position while a series of buzzes and clicks told Ajek that not all of its circuits had been blown and it was trying to repair its self. At the moment it was sufficiently disabled not to be a hindrance to whoever might have locked it in here. But why would anyone do that, and also disable the mini console. After using the toilet, Ajek quickly rolled to his bedroom door and as he suspected he would, he found it locked. Fine; there were other ways of access that few people knew about.

Strapping his legs on and hoping he could solve things before his stumps started hurting too much, he left his room via the bathroom and through the linen cupboard which had a second concealed door which led into Jeffus's master bedroom. Checking the bedroom beyond, he found the console there also disabled but the door through to the private lounge was unlocked. Standing in the centre of the lounge, he closed his eyes and scanned the suite and the rooms adjoining it. Not picking up any thought waves from the area, he relaxed and made his way to a door next to the suite's hospitality area. After having his hand print read by the security unit, he used his own key card to unlock the door. Inside was Jeffus's own private bank of security monitors, recently installed by Boushank when Sir Jeffus suspected the place had once again been infected by one or more moles. So far Jeffus and Ajek had not found anything out of the ordinary even though Jeffus said he had found the odd member of staff where they would not usually be, although they always had a plausible reason to be there.

Ajek sat down and activated the bank of screens and watched as each screen showed series of frames. Shots of the corridors and staff quarters showed no sign of life, which Ajek thought strange as there was always some member of staff going about their duties. Switching his attention to the screen covering the ground floor, he again found no sign of life. No footman sitting by the front entrance, no maid dusting the furniture in the morning room. Ajek looked at his watch; time for Banks and the parlour maid to arrive at the door to the great room with the morning coffee on a hover-trolley. Ten minutes later Ajek began to worry. This old fashioned ritual of morning coffee was so punctual; Ajek had often set his watch by it. He opened up one last screen, the one covering the security of the public rooms and the great room itself and not used too often as Jeffus held high security meetings there. As soon as the screen lit up he had his answer. After he recovered from the shock of what he saw, he reached for a phone which he knew would put him through to only one person.

"Boushank."

"Sir, it's Ajek."

"Trouble?"

"Yes, sir, a Royal one."

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