“Calm down,” Ophelia said. “The akumillians were fine. Controlled, but fine. I doubt that thing took the Doctor to hurt him.”
“So why take him?” Leon asked. “Why just him and not either of us? If it’s not going to hurt him, what will it do?”
“I can’t answer that,” Ophelia said. “But I do know that going in without a plan won’t help him. We need a weapon to use against them. Something that won’t hurt the colonists, but will disrupt that thing’s control over them.”
“And where are we going to get something like that?” Leon demanded. “The alien spore blocking store?”
“Grace,” Ophelia answered. “we know, thanks to Paul, that the spores are affecting the espels. Grace should be able to whip up something that blocks the signals its sending by disrupting akumillian espel nerves.”
“That sounds like more of a medical thing than an engineering one,” Leon stated, uncertainly.
“Well, we have to ask her,” Ophelia said. “If she can’t do it, we’ll find another way.”
Paul watched the akumillians walking t his side. They weren’t getting too close, but they were close enough to keep him from being able to slip away. Even assuming he could slip free from the akumillians grasping his wrists.
In truth, he wasn’t sure he wanted to. They were taking him somewhere for a purpose. It might behoove him, and the Cerberus crew, to find out what this entity wanted.
They led him into a cavern. It was surprisingly well lit, with glowing fungus of some kind lining the walls. He could see roots travelling across the ceiling. The epicentre. They were taking him to the entity.
It made for an impressive sight. The disparate roots running along the cavern congregated and converged inside a gelatinous mass, held in place by what appeared to be a strong membrane. With the roots was a moving creature that closely resembled an eyeball, but with a thorny substance covering its back and underbelly, pincers and far larger than a human eyeball. It was about forty centimetres wide, thirty five centimetres long and thirty centimetres tall. It swam to the edge of the membrane and looked out at Paul.
“Something that’ll block signals being transmitted to espel nerves?” Grace asked.
“Is it possible?” Ophelia asked. “And can it be done quickly?”
“It’s been done before,” Grace said. “The idea was to block the signals to remove the advantage that akumillians have with their whole commanding presences.”
“So, you can build a jammer?” Leon asked.
Grace shook her head. “For one thing, we don’t have the parts. For another, the jamming device that was developed was prohibitively large. Even if I did have the parts I’d need, it would take up a good half of engineering.”
“It couldn’t be miniaturised?” Ophelia asked.
Grace shrugged. “Given time, a research team and the right materials it might very well be. But, I don’t have those things. I mean, I’m good at what I do, but I can’t just take a complex machine and readily pull a compact version out of my ass.”
“Then we’ll have to follow the root system to its source and hope that’s where Paul is,” Ophelia said. “Leon, let’s go!”
“Finally,” Leon muttered.
“You, here. What are you?” The entity spoke through one of its akumillian pawns. The words were disjointed, accented oddly and spoken slowly.
“I’m a human,” Paul answered. “If that’s what you mean.”
“No! Not like others. Others look. You see. What are you?”
“The scan, of course,” Paul muttered. “I’m a Doctor.”
“Doc tor? Dangerous!”
“No,”Paul shook his head. “Oh no. I’m a healer. It’s my job to protect lives. I don’t take them.”
“Why here? Why find us?”
“We came to find the colonists,” Paul said. He gestured towards the akumillians. “These others that came before us. Their people, their families… their hive wants them back. Please, you must set them free.”
“Free? Free is service. Free is collective. We have made them free.”
“No,” Paul argued, keeping his voice soft but firm. “You haven’t. You’ve taken them from their collective, the place they belong, and forced them into yours. I know, it wasn’t intended. But that is all the more reason why they must be released.”
The entity stared at him for a long time, rubbing its pincers together.
“Seek division? Request, impossible. All who live here. All who come here must be one. Will be one. you as well, Doc tor.”
Several akumillians grabbed Paul, roughly.
“The spores won’t effect me like they did them,” Paul said. He kept his voice calm. “They won’t work on my companions either. My companions are strong. Dangerous. They can hurt you. But if you release these people I will stop them. I will make sure that you and your colony are safe but you must not do this.”
“Will become one! Companions will join. Doc tor will join. Simple.”