Lost in contemplation, Jimmy and the others followed the three women into the ship. It wasn’t until they entered the inner corridors that April snapped back to attention.
“Oh! Aurora, I was so distracted by that woman…I nearly forgot about the council’s message! We must get to the bridge quickly.”
Their pace quickened to a near run, and moments later the cockpit doors rushed open in front of them. April headed over to the console and keyed in a password, projecting a recorded hologram of some kind onto the portal at the front of the room. A muscular Gorlock stared out at them from the other side of the recording.
“For those of you who do not already know,” explained April, “this is Leeeee-RAA-doh, one of my best friends and our local cultural liaison. You kids can just call him Lee.”
The hologram flickered slightly as the recording began to play.
“April, Aurora, I am sorry to be so formal, but I am delivering this message at the request of the High Council Leader. Preparations for the final battle have begun. We are holding a meeting with the strongest of our allies to discuss our strategy and prepare for a major first strike. The meeting will be held in the evening hours on the second day of the Jasta moon. I hope to have you back on Planet Gorlock before that time so that you may assist in the negotiations between our people and our allies.”
The message winked out. Aurora leaned against the wall and rubbed her forehead.
“Well, isn’t that just GREAT? I knew we shouldn’t have stayed in Shangri Llama so long. It’s one thing to persuade the Gorlock council to change their war plans…it’s another thing entirely to change the minds of every single one of our powerful allies, all at once! How am I supposed to pass off the antidote as a valid plan now? They might even throw me off the council if they question my motives!”
“Aurora, do not get carried away,” soothed April. “I am sure they would never force you to leave the council. You have helped us in more ways than I can count. They would never suspect you of duplicity.”
Aurora shook her head. “You're obviously forgetting the kind of people our allies are.”
“Who are your allies?” asked Future Libby.
“Old friends,” she said with a cryptic look, then switched her attention to Jimmy. “You’d better start work on the antidote while we're on route. You have a grand total of about two hours before we reach Planet Gorlock, so I’d get cracking if I were you. Cindy, help him out, and I DON’T want to hear any complaints, got it? Libby, I’m counting on you to keep tabs on the two partially-evolved apes in our company.”
Both Libbys in the room answered simultaneously. “Who, me? …Us?” They giggled at their synchronized response.
Aurora continued rubbing her temples. “Ugh, this is going to get confusing. Younger Libby, you keep Carl and Sheen from wrecking anything. MY Libby, you should come with April and me to the combat training room. I’ll need to brief you on a few things before we go charging out onto the front lines.”
“Sure thing,” said Future Libby. “But if we’re gonna do combat practice, it might be easier if I weren’t wearin’ this dress…maybe I should change into somethin’ a bit more space-age?”
“Good idea,” nodded Aurora. “I keep a couple of spare white under-suits in the storage room. They’re not exactly 'fashion statements', but I’m sure you can dress them up if you try. Come on, I’ll show you where they are.”
She motioned for April and Future Libby to follow her, and they exited the cockpit.
Jimmy turned to Cindy, and there was a brief awkward moment. “Well, we’d better get started," he said at last. "I actually began making the antidote last night, so I don’t think it will take too long to finish. I moved all my stuff into the kitchen…it’s got the best work area. Shall we?”
They walked together to the door and waited as it slid open in front of them.
“You’ll have to wear my old lab coat because Goddard only holds two in his storage compartment. It’s not too worn, but the right sleeve is a little frayed and…”
His voice faded out of earshot as the doors closed behind him. About five seconds of silence passed before Sheen’s attention span gave out.
“Well, I’m bored. What do you say we go bug Jimmy?”
“Nuh-uh,” said Libby, wagging her finger. “Aurora said to leave him alone. ‘Sides, do you really wanna see him and Cindy makin’ eyes at each other the whole time they’re pouring chemicals?”
Sheen and Carl recoiled. “Ewww, No!”
“Make it stop!”
“Well, that leaves us with a couple of options. We can explore the ship…which, considerin’ your past record, doesn’t seem like such a good idea…we can ask Aurora if she has any TV or video games to keep you busy…or…”
“Or we can go watch April, Aurora and Future Libba-licious do combat practice!” grinned Sheen, rubbing his hands together. “A three-way cat fight? It doesn’t get any better than that!”
“Sheen, can you get your head outta the gutter for like, five seconds?”
“I don’t know,” said Carl, “I think it might be fun to go watch.”
“What, are you trippin’? Since when are you into fighting?”
Sheen grabbed Libby by the hand. “Come on!”
“Guys, wait! Hey, Sheen…ahhhhh!”
Sheen practically dragged her out the door and down the hallway, but then screeched to a halt when he realized that he had NO idea where the combat training room was.
He pushed Libby in front of him. “Ya, like I was saying…lead the way…”
“You’re the one who wants to watch, so YOU find the room.”
“Maybe if we walk around for awhile, we’ll just run into it,” suggested Carl.
Libby shrugged. “Whatever. As long as it kills time.”
The trio wandered down the corridor and disappeared into the wider network of passages beyond. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Jimmy and Cindy were preparing to work on the antidote. Jimmy frowned as he extracted a series of test tubes from Goddard’s storage compartment and placed them on the table.
“Now HOW am I going to account for the catalysts?” he muttered to himself. “If the reaction goes too quickly, the shock could send him into a coma…”
Cindy pulled on her lab coat. “Uhh…Jimmy? Do you need any help, or am I just here for decoration?”
“Huh? Oh, ya, hold this.”
He shoved a beaker into her hands, and she eyed its contests with disdain. “What’s this gunk supposed to be?” she said, swirling the chunky liquid.
“That’s the antidote…or, it will be eventually.”
“Just what do you plan to do? Force-feed it to him?”
“Well, that is a bit of a problem,” he admitted sheepishly. “I had intended to inject him with the antidote, but now I’m having second thoughts. I’d need one heck of a needle, and someone would have to get physically close enough to give him the shot. Aurora is pretty much the only person who could do that, and I don’t even want to picture the scene that would entail. She’d have her work cut out for her, that’s for sure. And then there’s always the possibility that he could anticipate her and inject her with the antidote instead. The whole injection scenario involves too many variables, too many things that could go wrong. I want to make the antidote foolproof somehow…” – he leveled her a look – “since we’ll be dealing with more than our fair share of fools.”
“Ha, no kidding. Well, why not turn the antidote into a gas, then? If you put it into some kind of breakable vial, when DJ came close enough, you could crack it open and release the gas into the air.”
Jimmy considered. “That’s a good idea, but the antidote is a liquid at room temperature. It won't change states without a sizable influx of heat. How could I create the temperatures necessary to maintain a gaseous state inside a breakable vial?”
“Why not just cheat a little? Disperse the liquid particles in a pre-existing gas. Turn it into an aerosol…like hairspray for example. Hairspray is nothing more than pressurized liquid chemicals suspended in air, so use the same principle.”
Jimmy’s smile grew. “Hairspray, huh?”
“Ya? What of it?”
His smiled disappeared, but he continued to watch her. “It might work. It won’t be simple, but…if we work together…”
“We can do it,” said Cindy emphatically.
“Ya, we can, can’t we? Let’s get to work.”
-> Chapter 23
Credit for the top image goes to Ely; the bottom pic is me having random fun with labcoats and Japanese writing