“How do you intend to make me join?’ Paul asked. “Your spores won’t work on me. At least, not like they did on them.”
“Modify spores. Match Doc tor brain. Fast. Effective.”
“Then it was deliberate,” Paul whispered.
“Doc tor will wait. Others will guard.”
A pair of akumillians grabbed Paul and led him away from the entity.
“So, the Doc got captured by zombified akumillians and we’ve gotta find the source of this plant network to get him back?” Allison asked.
“They aren’t zombies, they’re being controlled by spores. But that is pretty much it,” Ophelia said.
“Controlled by spores, zombies, close enough,” Allison stated.
“Zombies as generally described in fiction could not function,” Yuri stated.
“Who cares?” Leon demanded. “We’ve gotta hurry!”
“Right,” Allison said. “To the rescue we go.”
The akumillian drones led Paul to a large, green orb. The green enclosure opened as they approached. One of the akumillians grabbed Paul’s filter and lifted it while the other tried to push him inside.
Paul stumbled and fell, just missing falling inside. The akumillians moved to pull him up but he slid between them and hurriedly picked himself up.
“Your trouble is that your control is sluggish,” Paul said. He scarpered.
“It appears to lead underground here,” Yuri stated.
“Then we dig,” Leon said.
“Calm down, Big Guy,” Allison said. “They’ve gotta have an entrance of some kind, right?”
“If they brought Paul here then yes,” Ophelia said. “Leon, you and I will look over there. Yuri and Allison will check there. Allison, Leon, make sure your filters are secure.”
Leon found the entrance first. Ophelia had to stop him from rushing inside before she could call Allison and Yuri over.
The four moved inside. “Hand signals from here,” Ophelia whispered. “Unless someone sees us, in which case, cry out.”
They moved inside swiftly and silently, their pistols drawn.
“There we go,” Grace said. “Shields and communications will both work once the others rescue the akumillians.”
“Maybe you should head back to the ship and I should go find them,” Farah suggested.
“First off, don’t go off on your own,” Grace chided. “It’s super dangerous. You didn’t see any of them going solo. Secondly, I’ve still got work to do.”
“But you’ve fixed everything,” Farah said. “Well, everything you were supposed to.”
“Yes, but there’s something else now that we’ve gotten into it,” Grace said.
“What?” Farah asked.
“I need to set up some kind of filtration system for the shield,” Grace said. “They could clear the nearby trees, but that’s going to be a temporary measure, at best. If we really want to prevent this happening again, we need a shield that filters out the spores effectively.”
“Oh, right,” Farah said. “That makes sense.”
“Good, then it’s settled,” Grace stated. “Hand me my spanner, Dear.”
“Strange,” Ophelia signalled. “No hostiles in sight.”
“Could they be busy with something else?” Allison asked through hand signals.
“Like?” Ophelia asked. Giving the quick hand signal.
“Maybe our friendly escaped,” Allison suggested. “Or caused trouble.”
“Trap, more likely,” Yuri added. Her hand signals were so quick that they were hard to make out.
They were approaching a large chamber. They looked around to make sure no one was watching before entering. That’s when they saw it, floating inside its gelatinous mass.
“The hell is that?” Leon asked, forgetting about the signals.
“No idea,” Allison muttered, also speaking aloud.
It floated over to them and a voice seemingly came from nowhere. “Companions, surrender.”
“Companions?” Yuri inquired.
“It must have spoken with the doctor,” Ophelia said. She stepped forward. “I am captain Wester of the Cerberus. We demand that you return our doctor and release the people you’ve taken. If you don’t, we’ll be forced to fire on you.”
“Threat, unimpressive. Weapons drop or be ended.”
“Captain, we are surrounded,” Yuri stated.
Ophelia looked around. There were akumillians all around them, holding various weapons, mostly melee, of their own.
“Companions must surrender fast before being ended.”The weapons were raised.
“We can take them,” Leon whispered.
“No,” Ophelia said. “Too many and we can’t be sure how many shots will be enough to bring this thing down. Drop the weapons.”
“But Paul…” Leon began.
“We will likely be taken to the same place that he was,” Yuri stated.
Reluctantly, they dropped their weapons.
“Companions will be led away. Extreme caution, this time. No errors. Stored safely or ended.”