*Writer’s Note: This story may mean more to you if you’ve found the basketball secret on Deck 5
The haunting sounds of monkey laughter echoed down the hallway. Four, especially large monkeys, were crouched in the crew quarters. They were laughing hysterically, over some inside joke.
The largest monkey discarded a pair of cards; a jack and a two, and drew two more from the center pile. "And then, the woman fell to the ground, her arms flailing and her feet frozen. She was just squirming there, unable to move ‘cause I froze her to the spot!" They all burst out in some more raucous laughter.
The smallest one there took the cards the last had discarded. He grinned, "What happened next?" he queried, eyeing his cards thoughtfully.
The biggest one scowled a little. "I was going to play arround with her for a while. Maybe do a little dissection or something. We all know those idiots deserver it." They all nodded. "But one of those damn worm ridden beasts came up and shot her down with his stupid shotgun. Killed my toy right then and there, didn’t even get to hear her cry, just boom! And off with her head."
A third monkey chimed in "How I know, I’m sick and tired of listening to that stupid many thing. And now, they’ve started getting bored. I found Gregg and Pete and a hybrid the other day; only the hybrid had bashed there heads in! Ungrateful git, after all we’ve done for them. I fried the little bastard of course; he had more nanites on him then usual. Enough for me to replicate a nice stash of food, at any rate." With that, she opened a pack she’d brought with her. To the cheering of the others, she presented a hoard of cola, chips, two bottles of juice and several assorted pieces of fruit.
The fourth monkey picked up an apple and took a chomp out of it. Munching thoughtfully, he said "Y’know, Shodan and the Many have been duking it out for quite awhile now; not too much to fight on that AI’s side, mind you, but still a fight. Quite frankly though, I’d be glad to be rid of both of ‘em." He pitched the apple core into a nearby waste basket.
A few more passes exchanged in silence. The first said again "We could do that, you know. Break off and make our own faction. But can we afford to? We’d probably be squished in the cross fire. There’s only so much we can do ourselves. As much as I hate to admit it, we probably need those humans’ weapons. But the damn things are too big for most of us to use. I’m big enough, and I’ve learned enough to shoot a number of them, but most of us are too small to even shoot the little guns. Maybe we need another side."
The female nodded. "We could fight them, but we’ll most certainly lose if we don’t have some heavier fire-power. What about those grenade things some of the hybrids have? Surely they’re not too small for one of us to throw."
The little one again. "I don’t know about you guys, but those things are a little heavy for me to throw all that far. I don’t think the problem is really the weapons. You and I know that a good douse of fire and ice is as potent as any of those shooters, and I’ve learned how to make a razor edged weapon when I need it. The problem is that we can’t take punishment. We need someone who can be a comparative tank. Were we’d fall he’d keep going. He could attract fire while we provide the counter-attack."
The Mid-sized male chuckled "Some of us are big enough to use the humans weapons. They could be Enforcers of a kind. We know where they have suits of armor, where they have the right materials, and we can tailor them down to size. As the population of humans has been running low, some of us have begun finding other things to do. Un-like the hybrids, most of us are doing more then simple smashing of nearby, convenient objects. Some of us are quite accomplished hackers, technicians, and engineers. Others are dead-shots. We could pull this off yet."
The little one chuckled, eyeing his cards. "The humans have a lot of replicators too. They’re based on nanites for there energy; but I’ve been working with some of the others. We’ve successfully taken a replicator and hooked it up onto the engine core. We replicated a hoard of food out of it, some 500 chips and other goodies, before a hybrid came along and we had to hide. Must’ve been the lights flickering that attracted him. We’ve also figured out how to change the machines, we can program them to make just about anything we want now; Food, medical supplies, odds and ends; even weapons parts. We could probably use them to build weapons better sized to us."
The largest one discarded a card, and grinned as he drew one. "Well, this could come off fairly well, but we should still get a human or two to help us. But we’ll need to learn their language first. I’ve been reading some of their thoughts, and studying their logs, I think I can speak this "English" thing of theirs fairly well. I could teach some of the others to do the same. Then we could easily get them to help, if we make the option attractive enough. I call game, gentlemen. Lay down your cards and let’s see what you’ve got."
They all showed their hands, one by one. The female with a straight; the little one three of a kind; the medium one two. The biggest grinned broadly as he displayed a royal flush. "Read ‘em and weep. Good game guys; pass me the chips."
While he munched thoughtfully, the middle monkey mused. "Y’know, they have a large number of security turrets and bots on the ship. We could hack into these things, and turn them over to our side. They don’t have any brains, but they’re big and tough. The turrets are good sentries. I don’t know about the cameras though. They’re linked directly to Xerxes, and we can’t get at them."
"True, but where would we go?" The female monkey. "We can’t stick to the main decks; we’d get over-run in a matter of seconds."
The littlest monkey grinned slyly. "What have you got on your mind?" The big one said through a mouthful of chips and soda.
"I know of some places," He began, "Not very obvious, mind you, but fairly remote. The many hasn’t gotten into them yet. We could probably set up in there. Once we’ve layed everything out, we can start reproggraming some maintenance bots to do the lifting, and start moving the things we need in. I know just who to send to recruit us some humans, and the rest should listen to us."
"Any objections?" Crunched the big monkey. The room was silent. "Good, I like the idea, it’s been proven sound, and we can definitely pull it off. Let’s do it. Just be careful, some of our side have been dominated by the many; You’ll know who they are though. They’ll be in the corridors. We’ll start replicating some arm-bands, that way, we can identify who’s on our team. Let’s do it!"
The monkey’s dispersed; off to give orders and spread the word.
There was a clanking in the halls outside. Darin; a UNN Marine reclined in his chair, sipping hot coffee from his Tri-Op™ mug. He cursed silently as the static filled voice of a Mid-wife sounded from the corridor. Everything was disturbing about the room; the blood-stained bed, trashed interior, strewn magazines; and the monkey. Especially that damned monkey! It just crouched in the corner, thinking, like that sculpture he’d seen in a museum back on earth.
"Don’t you ever do anything except sit on yer stupid rear all day? Damned ape, we gotta get outta here!" The Marine was clearly very agitated.
And the monkey responded. It responded with that ultra-civilized voice it sometimes used. The voice that made Darin want to hurl. It knew the voice annoyed him, and that’s exactly why it used it.
"And why, my pea-brained friend, should we just charge into that corridor? Clearly you can hear the sound of your death marching to and fro in that hall. If you let that wire-head know we’re in here, we’ll both be toast. Keep your mouth shut and I’ll find a way outta here."
"Better to die then just sit here all day, rotting like this damn room" The marine muttered. That stupid monkey! All it ever did was think, think, think. Never did anything. Just sorta sat there, facing the wall, occasionally he could feel it brush his mind, and occasionally it would glance at the ceiling, but other then that, Darin had no clue what it was thinking. For all he knew it was about to turn arround and fry him where he sat. It could too.
"Hmmm… Stand under that light" the monkey said.
Darin started to object, but thought better of it and stood under the light. The monkey sprang from his perch and landed on Darins shoulders. Taken by surprise, Darin almost fell back.
"Stop that! If you don’t hold still I can’t get us out of here… now let’s see…"
The monkey began prodding the light. It gave a little. He searched along it’s perimeters until he found a perch, and pulled the covering off. He began along the perimeters again, until he managed to pull the entire fixture down. He clambered up the hole in the ceiling, into the darkness, and was gone.
"Damnit! Get back down here! Don’t just leave me here!" Darin frantically whispered up the hole, convinced of betrayal.
"Your trust in me spurs overwhelming gratitude." The monkeys muttering was closer then he expected, and Darin started. Suddenly, one of the ceiling boards cracked, then gave way. Several others followed. "All right, if you stand on the table and grab onto those pipes" The monkey gestured, "You should be able to hoist yourself up here."
Grunting, Darin grudgingly did as he was told. He managed to get a hold on a thick water line, and with a grunt and much noise, he hoisted himself up. There was a loud clatter as the pipeline fell, spewing water all over the floor.
"For my little ones!" Sounded a voice, and the door burst open, a midwife stamped into the room. "Where did he go?" She pondered.
Darin reached for his pistol. "Conserver your ammo" muttered the monkey, and scampered over to the pipelines. Darin put the sidearm away, and looked at the monkey. The monkey sighed. The dullness of an idiot shone from those eyes.
The monkey started making an awful racket, howling and jumping and clanging for all it was worth. The midwife looked up, and saw the primate, and raised it’s blaster. Just then, the pipe gave way and a gout of water washed the blaster out of the midwifes hands. Her circuitry was saturated with water, and her systems, one by one began to fail, until she lay cold and lifeless on the floor.
"If you ruffians would learn to use your brains for once" The monkey reffered to the man, "You might not have died off so fast."
"Hey, don’t blame me for no die’n, buddy. I’ve stayed alive just fine."
"You wouldn’t have if I hadn’t just killed that thing."
"Me an’ my pistol would’ve handled it just fine…"
"Sure… Think about it, stupid. She’s down there, in a big room. You’re stuck in this cramped spot… She can dodge, you cannot. Who can take more punishment from the others weapon, you or her? Last I checked you had that thing loaded with the red bullets, while they do nothing against those mechanical dim-wits."
"Sure have an over-inflated opinion of yerself, little fella. And these are Anti-Personell rounds. Any Idiot knows that."
"Perhaps I’m not an Idiot. Only the most simple and barbaric races need those things to fight for them."
"Whatever. Les’ jes’ get ourselves outta here, k’?"
"I thought you’d never notice…" Muttered the monkey.
The Marine crept out of the room. The monkey scampered past him. The water was beginning to fill the lower levels, and it was up to their ankles by the time the flow stopped. The Marine looked arround. He saw some people in the distance. "Hey, look, let’s go meet up! Maybe we can get some support!" He ran off towards the people, ignoring the monkey’s shoutting "Don’t you idiot!"
He was moving full tilt now, splashing down the aisles of the crew sector. Something wasn’t right about the people ahead, so he started to slow down. Something was very wrong.
"HYBRIDS!" He shouted, as if to warn a unit he was with. They turned to the direction of the sound and, simultaneously, they raised their shotguns and let off a volley.
To be Continued…