Exile: Uprising – Chapter 27

Tathek and X-Zero returned to the surface of Teksaroth to find every member of the resistance gathered on the Facility’s largest runway. Teksar and Vanneth stood shoulder to shoulder beneath the growing heat of the late morning sun. X-Zero crafted a vocal amplifier in Tathek that allowed his voice to reach the entire assembly as he conveyed the information that had been uncovered.

“It comes to this then,” Ravanel said after Tathek had concluded his report on what had occurred at the overseer station. “The Vekara mean to end this uprising immediately.”

“The Core has deemed Teksaroth in violation of their galactic plan because we had the audacity to strike down our slave master,” Tathek said.

“Then they mean to send a message to the rest of their subjugated worlds,” Shuldin added. “They want them all to know the consequences of open rebellion.”

“Let them come!” someone in the crowd shouted brazenly, and a chorus of defiant cheers rose, mostly from the Teksar among the gathering.

Seeing the bold fire that burned in the eyes of his people, Tathek allowed himself a proud grin even as he raised his hands for quiet. “We may not need to sell our lives so dearly just yet,” he told the gathering, and turned back to the Vanneth standing beside him. “Shuldin, Ravanel, has the virus been reprogrammed yet?”

“Very nearly,” Shuldin replied, “but the missing ingredient is a means of transferring it. Did you find an open path to the Core network that we can utilize?”

“X-Zero did. It was able to map almost the entirety of the Vekaran network before I was forced to pull it out. Since we can’t stand directly against even a single Overlord, we’re going to need to use the control networks established around the planet to jump the virus through to the Core.”

Astonished murmurs rippled among the Vanneth crowd.

Shuldin blanched. “The same network we just destroyed here to bring down L-Two?”

A faint grin spread across Tathek’s face. “Vanna’s network remains physically intact.”

“But the virus destroyed Vanna’s overseer station,” Ravanel protested.

“X-Zero believes it can be rebooted and reconnected to the network,” Tathek countered. “The Overlord of Vanna still lives, and as a Vekaran consciousness, it must maintain a connection to the Core. It will serve as our pathway and allow us to thrust the virus into their very heart.”

Tathek injected as much certainty as he could muster into his words, and it had a noticeable effect on his people. They shared nods between one another, and he detected statements of approval on the edges of his hearing.

“The work will have to be done at Vanna,” he continued at X-Zero’s prompting. “The distance between Teksaroth and Vanna’s overseer station is too great.” He looked at Ravanel first. “We’ll need the help of your experts in reactivating the overseer. The resistance must return to Vanna before the Vekaran fleet arrives. Please, will you take us with you?”

“Wait,” a Teksar female at the front of the crowd objected. “After your talk of defending our planet to the last, now you say we should leave it?”

“This may be our only chance at stopping the Vekara before they reach Teksaroth,” Tathek answered. “If something unexpected happens, the Vanneth will need our help. All or nothing. And if our efforts fail…” His smile twisted grimly. “Then we’ll return to our world and die with it.”

“As audacious a statement as I have come to expect from your people, Tathek,” Ravanel said. “We will begin preparation at once to return to Vanna, and we shall bring as many Teksar as are willing to come.”

Tathek gave a crisp nod of thanks. “Then let’s move,” he declared, and with a single short cheer, the assembly broke up.

***

More than half the Teksar resistance members managed to find spaces aboard the Vanneth vessels. The rest elected to stay behind and spread the word of the uprising and the approaching Vekaran fleet to as much of the planet as possible. Even if it was only to make their final stand in freedom, the Teksar would be ready to meet the invaders.

One of the many technological wonders of X-Zero’s ship was an augmentation field that magnified the strength of the Vanneth channel drives. It surged toward Vanna alongside the rest of the fleet, boosting their travel speed immensely.

Inside X-Zero’s vessel, Shuldin patted Tathek on the shoulder. “As frightful and perilous as this adventure of ours has been,” he remarked with a broad grin, “I would not trade it for all the fine food on your world.”

Tathek turned his head and offered a gracious nod. “When this is all over, my people will owe you a debt they can never repay.”

“The Vanneth don’t believe in debts, my friend. We share freely with those who prove deserving.” Shuldin’s face grew serious as he contemplated the data cell that contained the virus. “We’ll save your world, Tathek. I know it.”

“We’ll save all the worlds that the Vekara have taken.”

The fleet arrived back at the violet planet, and Tathek immediately turned his vessel in the direction of the Vanna overseer. “You’ll need to restore power to the station first so that the monitor satellites can be rebooted,” Ravanel told him through the ship’s communicator. “We will need them to be able to connect to the overseer from Vanna’s surface.”

“We’ll have it up and running as soon as possible,” Tathek replied as he accelerated the ship to hyperlight speed.

The journey to Vanna’s overseer seemed to take hardly any time at all. “The station looks identical to L-Two’s,” Tathek remarked.

Conformity integral part of base Vekaran infrastructure design.

Just make sure you don’t try to connect to it. The virus could still be lurking in there somewhere.

Unlikely, but will provide informed assistance only.

Under X-Zero’s guidance, Tathek maneuvered the ship into range of the station near an external power relay. A few quick taps against the control panel extended a power cable from under the nose of the vessel while X-Zero used the ship to modify the cable’s connector to splice into the relay. With minute movements Tathek guided the cable to the proper location and watched with fascination as the metal objects merged into the same space. “All right, time to see if this works,” he muttered.

The engines thrummed as Tathek held the ship steady. He punched a command on the control panel and sent a jolt of power into the relay. The eyes across the surface of the station flashed, but the charge did not hold.

“Try again,” Shuldin urged.

Tathek increased the power output and fired another jolt. The lights flickered, darkened, lit and stayed on. He quickly extracted the cable and tapped the communicator. “Power restored, Ravanel,” he reported.

“Excellent news! We’ve finished synching our work stations, and we’re just waiting to connect to the monitors…” Ravanel’s voice trailed off in anticipation. “They’re coming online now!”

“Any traces of the virus still left in the system?” Tathek asked.

“None that we can detect. It appears to have been deleted along with the rest of the Vekaran code base.”

X-Zero’s recent connection with L-Two’s overseer had provided it with a perfect template to assist the Vanneth in rebuilding the station’s systems. Several different members of Ravanel’s team chimed in through various work stations back on Vanna, each assigned to a different task, and Tathek did his best to coordinate their efforts and relay information to them from X-Zero. As they progressed, he found it increasingly easier to impart the oftentimes complex instructions and keep note of several different task threads, despite the technical details being far beyond his comprehension.

Unit Tathek expanding awareness.

Is this one of your modifications?

Negative. Adaptations to brain functionality dangerous and volatile. Hormonal controls executed through physical implant. However, cognitive multitasking standard Vekaran trait.

That’s an interesting line of thinking. Maybe your presence in my mind is changing how my brain works. As you said… expanding my awareness.

Physical evidence inconclusive to prove hypothesis.

I don’t rely all that much on physical evidence. Whether you’re racing or flying, you often don’t have time to. Use your instincts, X-Zero. You’re definitely different than you were when you first took shelter in my implant. Would it be that surprising if I’ve changed too?

Conjecture. Remains inconclusive. However… hypothesis cannot be dismissed out of hand.

The private conversation passed between them in less than an eyeblink, and Tathek barely missed a beat in relaying further instructions. He lost track of time as they continued their work. Line by line, command by command, the missing functions that enabled connection to the Vekaran network took form.

“I think we’re nearly there,” Ravanel reported, unable to keep the excitement from his tone. “I’m seeing evidence that the communications array is attempting to reconnect to the network.”

“Once it does, we’ll have to act fast before the Core can decipher what we’re doing and shut the station down,” Tathek advised.

“Just a moment,” one of the computer techs urged. “I need that last code command again.”

Tathek relayed it and held his breath. He turned and saw that Shuldin was already connecting the data cell to his universal device and attaching it to a separate panel that would allow him to transmit the weapon into the Vekaran network.

“We’re in!” Ravanel cried with jubilation.

“Hurry!” Tathek urged. “Shuldin, get ready to transmit the virus.”

Once it’s done, all our worlds will be free…

An alarm that Tathek hadn’t heard before rang out on his control panel.

Wait… what’s a quantum energy shift?

Mass energy transference! Primary means of Vekaran intergalactic travel!

What? Are you saying one of the Vekara is coming here?

One instant, the star-speckled horizon of space waited silently outside the ship, and in the next, a gleaming, moon-sized craft erupted into view.

M7I36SA192. Overlord of Vanna.