“So why am I being dragged into this again?!” griped Marshii as she, Bashoon, Malak, Belnki, and Dalengor approached the Monastery.
“Because I may need a medic’s help,” countered Bashoon.
“You don’t expect a fight, do you?” asked Dalengor.
“These are monks!” said Malak. “As well as Doctors! They’re not gonna fight!”
“I’d rather be safe,” replied Bashoon, “than sorry.”
“Fine, whatever flies your ship,” sighed Marshii. Novice Norvorok appeared with Falnii. He was in traditional brown monk’s robes and had his hood up, only revealing his glasses-adorned face. His face betrayed worry.
“Are you the ones investigating the Monastery?” he asked.
“We are,” confirmed Dalengor. “I am Lieutenant Commander Dalengor, the Chief Security Officer. This is Lieutenant Commander Malak, our Tactical Officer, Lieutenant Junior Grade Marshii, our Chief Medical Officer, and Cadet Bashoon. You already know King Belnki.”
“Hello, young Novice,” greeted Belnki.
“I am Novice Norvorok,” the young man introduced as he bowed to Belnki. “Please, this way.” He led them through the hospital. They searched the entire database but came up with nothing. Even then, Norvorok’s access was limited, being only a Novice.
“What else can we do?” asked Falnii. Norvorok then started thinking about something.
“There is ONE thing we can do, but it’s a breach of my vows,” he finally told the group.
“What’s that?” inquired Bashoon.
“We may need to enter the Womb itself,” said Norvorok.
“…The Womb?” asked Bashoon.
“I only know its location,” explained Norvorok. “I don’t know anything else, even why it’s called that.”
“How secure is it?” inquired Falnii.
“Very,” answered Norvorok. “Novices like myself are not permitted entry until we have become full-fledged monks.”
“Then how will we enter it?” asked Malak.
“Well, Brother Mogan is here,” revealed Norvorok. “Perhaps you can gather information from him.”
“Mogan?” quizzed Dalengor.
“My brother,” explained Malak. “He joined the Order some time ago. Where is he?”
“He’s always at the entrance to the Womb,” explained Norvorok. “I will take you there, but you must remain hidden until he is dealt with.”
“…Okay?” said Dalengor, not entirely sure why. They headed down to the lower levels.
“Ugh, what a day!” moaned Admiral Rooshee. She was projecting her hologram over to Father Barath’s office.
“We’re just going through a rough time, Admiral,” assured Father Barath. “Everyone knows you will lead us through this and prevent sensitive information from being spread.”
“Tell that to the Realmfleet Intelligence Committee,” muttered Rooshee as she sipped her coffee. “Father Barath, Realmfleet has been a major influence for my family for five generations. I would do ANYTHING to keep our good name.”
“So would I, Admiral,” affirmed Barath.
“…Say!” Rooshee exclaimed once she got an idea. “I could use your help with something!”
“Anything, Admiral,” said Barath.
“You see, this whole incident might reach the Judicial Branch,” explained Rooshee, “and frankly…I…well…I…”
“You think it’s gonna paint you in a bad light?” guessed Barath.
“It’s gonna bring Sector 4 down!” corrected Rooshee.
“Uh oh,” gulped Barath.
“I was thinking, maybe, you could increase security around the catacombs,” requested Rooshee.
“I can certainly try,” said Barath, “but I’m not sure how well it will go down for the rest of my staff. Besides, if Arsha has a warrant…”
“I don’t care if the Realmfleet Supreme Admiral herself is investigating!” snapped Rooshee. “The catacombs are to be off limits!” Barath stepped back at the sudden snap. “…Sorry,” apologized Rooshee. “That was unbecoming of a Realmfleet Admiral. But, if word gets out of what’s going on in the catacombs, your hospital is finished.”
“I understand,” replied Barath. “I’ll have Mogan post a guard immediately.”
“Excellent!” cheered Rooshee. “I’ll be there in an hour to end this whole mess. Rooshee out.” Once the transmission ended, Barath sank into his chair, running his hands over his face. He then pressed a button on his intercom.
“Brother Mogan, could you please post a guard around the catacombs?” he asked. “No one is to be admitted unless on research business. All passes are revoked.”
“Er…Father,” Mogan replied with his usual gruff voiced tinged with squirminess, “that may be a problem.”
“Why!?” demanded Barath.
“Novice Norvorok had obtained a pass and is in the Womb itself,” explained Mogan. “And I’ve detected Non-Monk life signs! I think he snuck them in! You need to come down here NOW!” Father Barath wasted no time in leaving his office post haste.
Norvorok led his group deeper into the catacombs, towards a shielded door. He was about to open it as you or I would open a usual door, but Belnki stopped him with a mere hand to his shoulder. Belnki pointed towards the keypad next to it. Everyone guessed what it was for. “I’m going to guess,” surmised Belnki, “that Novices don’t know the password.”
“Probably only Father Barath has it,” guessed Norvorok.
“Er, may I try it?” Falnii asked in her usual soft voice. “I mean, I DO have some experience with code-cracking. I can open it for you if that’s all right.”
“I think we’ll take you up on that,” said Norvorok. “If you please?” Falnii nodded, then got to work, her fingers flying until the door started moving.
“Holy…SOME experience?!” exclaimed Marshii. “You’re selling yourself short.”
“Not really,” responded Falnii. “I mean, I’m not the BEST at code-cracking.”
“Not even the best coding experts of Realmfleet could crack a code as fast as you just did,” countered Bashoon. The door stopped moving and they entered what was called the Womb. It was a circular room, multiple levels and walkways lining the walls of cells. The cells were acid-green and covered with doors of the same color. “Did anyone else feel a buzz?” asked Bashoon.
“A continual buzz?” quizzed Malak.
“That’s an immunity spell,” explained Marshii. “I usually cast it whenever I’m in a hazardous environment.”
“I’d guess the door is laced with one,” said Norvorok. “We can touch things here and not get sick, nor pass it on to others.” He pressed a button near a cell. The door opened. What everyone saw horrified them. There was a Chimera woman in there. She had the legs of a goat, a mermaid’s tail, a tiger’s torso, talons for hands, and a pair of tiny horns on her head, just barely visible under her hair. She was covered in all sorts of warts and cracks in whatever exposed skin she had. Her eyes were covered in a film of white as she opened them to look at the group. “By the Realms!” breathed Norvorok. He shut the door and opened the one beside it. Another Chimera inhabited it. It was a male with bird feet, bat wings between the arms and torso, a shark fin on his head, a beak for a mouth, and a lion’s mane. He was in the same condition as the Chimera woman. Norvorok shut the door as Marshii’s hands trembled in rage.
“So many sick,” whimpered Falnii.
“What are they sick with?” wondered Dalengor.
“Everything,” snarled Marshii.
“Everything?” asked Malak. “Then, how do they get treated?”
“They don’t,” stammered Norvorok.
“But, they’re sick!” protested Bashoon.
“That’s the idea,” guessed Belnki. “That’s why it’s called the Womb! This is where Chimeras are created! We were meant to be sick! We were born sick! We existed to be sick!”
“…The Chimeras were created to be lab rats!” gasped Falnii.
“No wonder you’ve got a cure for everything!” Marshii snarled at Norvorok. “You’ve got the ultimate research center! A Chimera farm!”
“Marshii, enough!” snapped Dalengor. “Norvorok didn’t know.”
“No, but I still participated in this evil!” countered Norvorok. “And these people will be the last to die, given that they were born as plague carriers! What have I done?!”
“Guys, I think you need to see this,” called Belnki. He had found a computer terminal. On it were records of which Chimeras died of their illnesses in the Womb and which were cured. “It looks like the lucky ones, the ones that were cured, were wiped of their memories here and released into the city.”
“That’s why the Protestors are so riled,” guessed Bashoon. “They know, in the back of their minds, that their origin was NOT what the Monastery told them.”
“Well, I no longer see a need to oppose them,” declared Belnki. “When I get out of here, I’m going to order a complete shut-down of this vile place, Monastery and all. We’ll find a more humane and quicker way to get the results needed to cure illnesses. I intend to cure these poor people and help them adjust to a healthy life.”
“SH!” hushed Malak. “Someone’s coming!”
“You lot find a way out!” whispered Norvorok.
“What about you?!” hissed Dalengor.
“I’ll hold them off,” whispered Norvorok. “I’m going to be excommunicated for this. Best to end my career here fighting against evil. I NEED to atone. Now GO!”
“This way!” urged Belnki as he led the group, sans Norvorok, out of the Womb. Father Barath and a Troll a few feet higher than Malak, Brother Mogan, arrived.
“Where are they?” demanded Barath.
“Detected other life signs besides mine?” guessed Norvorok.
“Novice Norvorok, where are they?!” Barath demanded a second time.
“I refuse to say,” defied Norvorok.
“Tell us,” bargained Mogan, “and your career here is safe.”
“I’m not saying!” Norvorok defied again.
“This is a severe breach of your vows!” Barath pointed out. “Remember that what we do here is for the greater good!”
“When I took my vows,” countered Norvorok, “THIS wasn’t even CLOSE to what I had in mind for helping people!”
“Our Order,” replied Barath, “is sworn to help!”
“By killing?!” roared Norvorok.
“They’re not real people!” countered Barath. “Chimeras are specially grown. They have no proper existence.”
“What’s the percentage of cured versus ill, hm?” quizzed Norvorok. “0.1%? 0.01%? 0.001%? How many have died before they had a chance to be Chimeras of Belnki’s caliber?! And how many years have you done this?! HOW MANY?!”
“Realmfleet needed us,” explained Barath. “The REALMS needed us! We learned of so many illnesses, both natural or otherwise. We couldn’t cope!”
“We DID try,” supported Mogan. “We’ve tried everything. We’ve used homunculi and animals, but the results weren’t coming fast enough.”
“That’s when my predecessor,” continued Barath, “found a way to successfully grow a creature from different genetic material. That’s all Chimeras are, just flesh.”
“They’re not just flesh, they’re alive!” argued Norvorok. “They’re people!”
“But think of those out there, across the Realms,” countered Mogan, “happy and healthy, because of us.”
“If they live because of this,” hissed Norvorok, “then life isn’t worth living!”
“Who are you to decide that, Novice?” growled Mogan.
“That rank is in question right now,” said Barath. “Norvorok, if you tell us where your friends are, I promise you, your career will be safe.”
“I’m not saying,” Norvorok stubbornly responded. “I’m afraid it’s the hard way for you.”
“Mogan, take him to the Private Chamber,” ordered Barath. “He will await excommunication there.”
“Yes, Father,” said Mogan. He grabbed Norvorok by the arm and took him out of the Womb. Barath sighed to himself.
“Rooshee, get here fast!” he prayed.
The group avoided detection from the Monks as they escaped the hospital and made their way to the Endeavor. Belnki and Falnii had decided to speak to the people in front of Belnki’s estate. The rest met with Arsha in her quarters and contacted Rokalla about their discovery. “Of all the clinically BRUTAL acts I have witnessed as a Realmfleet Officer…!” he snarled. “And Rooshee departed for Vorkath a few hours ago! Most likely to bury this even deeper! Arsha, I’ll have an arrest warrant for her ready. Prepare to receive it once it’s finalized.”
“Aye, Sir,” complied Arsha. The transmission ended. “Marshii, I need you to confront Barath about this.”
“Aye, Ma’am,” confirmed Marshii. She headed off to obey.
“Captain,” said a worried Shalvey’s voice over the comms, “the Rampage is making a beeline towards Belnki’s estate!” Worry seized Arsha’s heart.
“After it!” she ordered over the comms. “Malak, Bashoon, Dalengor, with me!” She put her hairpiece into its drawer and they hurried to the bridge. “Time to intercept?” she requested once they arrived.
“Two minutes,” responded Nazay.
“We’re within communications range!” reported Shalvey.
“Open all hailing frequencies,” ordered Arsha. “I want to make sure Rooshee knows we’re on to her.”
“Hailing frequencies open,” replied Shalvey.
“This is Captain Arsha of the Endeavor,” Arsha said on all ship-to-ship channels. “Rooshee, we know about the Womb. We have figured out what the mutiny on the Windscar was about. If you come clean, I can personally request that the Judicial Board make your sentence as light as possible.” She waited a few seconds.
“No response,” reported Shalvey.
“Check that!” countered Malak. “They’re charging rear weapons!”
“Raise shields!” ordered Oak.
“Target their engines,” ordered Arsha.
“Engines targeted,” confirmed Malak. A beeping sounded at Shalvey’s console.
“That woke them up,” she said. “They’re hailing us.”
“On screen,” ordered Arsha. The bridge of the Rampage appeared with Rooshee in the Captain’s Chair.
“Targeting me, are we?” she asked.
“You targeted us first,” countered Arsha. “Turn around immediately!”
“I don’t TAKE orders, I GIVE them,” snorted Rooshee. “If you attempt to intervene, your ship will be destroyed.”
“Rokalla is obtaining a warrant for your arrest!” snapped Arsha. “You can’t bury this anymore!”
“This is a Sector 4 operation,” snarled Rooshee, “one that I will complete personally. You WILL stay out of this!” She terminated the call.
“Captain,” said Malak, “someone’s beamed down to the estate from the Rampage.”
“Identify them,” ordered Arsha. Malak keyed in the necessary commands.
“It’s Rooshee and a few of her crew,” he reported.
“She’s bent on keeping this buried,” guessed Nazay.
“Captain,” Bashoon piped up, “I have an option that requires the sneakiness Goblins like myself are known for.”
“I’m listening,” said Arsha.
Bashoon was beamed down to Belnki’s estate and followed Rooshee. The Admiral was flanked by two Elves, one Wood Elf and one Dark Elf, going straight towards the ballroom. She was giving orders to the Elves. “As soon as they’re caught, activate the quarantine dome,” she ordered. “The incident will still be kept secret and the Intelligence Committee will be restructured for allowing a terrorist group to transmit false data.”
“What about Rokalla?” asked the Dark Elf. “He’s not going to take this without a fight.”
“And there’s Captain Royana to consider,” said the Wood Elf.
“Arsha’s career is about to be cut short,” said Rooshee. “Leave Rokalla to me. Once he’s taken care of, whatever support Arsha has will vanish and she will be stripped of rank.”
“Great!” Bashoon whispered to herself. “The biggest scandal in Realmfleet and it has to happen while I’M a cadet! Now what can I do?!” She didn’t have to wonder long as an idea formed in her brain.
“Galleen,” Rooshee said to the Wood Elf, “you are to seize control of the main computer core.”
“An amateur like her?!” said a voice that sounded like the Dark Elf’s. Galleen then turned to what she believed to be the source.
“Who are you calling an amateur, Relkek?!” she snapped at him. “You’d have flunked out of computer class without me!”
“I didn’t say a word!” protested Relkek.
“You most certainly did!” snarled Galleen’s voice.
“Are your ears even working?!” Relkek snarled at Galleen!
“I heard you the first time!” snapped Galleen as she crouched ready to pounce. “You know, it’s this sort of thing that keeps you in the bush league!
“Bush league?!” roared Relkek.
“Yeah, wanna make something of it?!” Galleen roared back.
“Maybe I do!” shouted Relkek. “Come here, you pointy eared monkey!” The two Elves then got into a grappling match with each other.
“RELKEK! GALLEEN! ATTENTION!” barked Rooshee. The Elves weren’t listening. “Ugh, Realmfleet’s finest,” muttered Rooshee. She put her hands in her pockets, then realized something was missing. She patted her pockets several times until she heard a pot break behind her. Turning around, she saw Bashoon trying to sneak away with a memory drive containing the relevant data on this incident and the mutiny 2,000 years ago. That was the last straw. Rooshee roared and gave chase. Minotaurs and Goblins are usually rivals in speed, so Bashoon could lead Rooshee on a merry chase if her stamina allowed it. Sadly, Goblins aren’t as high in terms of stamina stats as Minotaurs, so Bashoon had to find an endpoint quickly. “CADET!” bellowed Rooshee. “GIVE ME THAT MEMORY DRIVE!” Bashoon then got an idea and cast a flash spell. Rooshee stopped and tried rubbing her eyes to clear the spots from them. Once she got her vision back, Rooshee noticed a foot disappearing around a corner and pursued it. She then saw Bashoon at the entrance to Belnki’s office. “DON’T DO IT!” ordered Rooshee. “DON’T GO IN THAT ROOM!” Bashoon didn’t listen and shut the door behind her. Rooshee then ran up and punched the door. Bashoon was stuck in the middle of an empty office. “Cadet Bashoon,” snarled Rooshee, “this has gone too far!”
“There are people in Realmfleet who know about this now!” countered Bashoon. “Just give up already!”
“I can’t do that!” replied Bashoon. “There’s too much at stake here! You and your Captain have done too much snooping!”
“It doesn’t have to be this way!” argued Bashoon.
“I have no choice!” countered Rooshee. “Times have changed! New diseases are popping up every year! We must eradicate them!”
“At the expense of people like the Chimeras?!” shouted Bashoon. “Using them as lab rats?!”
“I’ll experiment on a thousand Chimeras before I let people get sick!” resolved Rooshee. “And, I’ll silence anyone who gets in my way!” Bashoon then grinned and snapped her fingers. There was a slight electric buzz in the air as a spell was cancelled, specifically, Bashoon’s spell as Belnki, Falnii, and Supreme Admiral Aldarval, a Troll and the woman who controls ALL of Realmfleet, appeared. Aldarval was in the office via hologram.
“I don’t know about you,” quipped Bashoon to the onlookers that appeared, “but I spotted several big mistakes in Rooshee’s actions.
“But…but how…how did…?!” stammered Rooshee.
“Computer, replay footage after Bashoon’s last line,” Belnki ordered. Holographic footage popped up looping on Rooshee saying “I’ll experiment on a thousand Chimeras before I let people get sick!”
“Supreme Admiral,” gulped Rooshee, “I can explain…!”
“No, you can’t!” snapped Aldarval. “As far as I’m concerned, I have all the explanation I need. Belnki, I must ask that she be held in one of your maximum security prisons until my ship arrives to collect her. She is under arrest for obfuscating the truth of the Vorkath Monastic Hospital.”
“ARREST?!” yelled Rooshee. Belnki buzzed someone on the intercom.
“Guards! Take Rooshee to Vorkath Max! Make sure she is properly secured!” he ordered. A pair of Chimera guards came into the office and slapped a pair of draining cuffs around her wrists. Her strength was now lower than theirs.
“Come with us,” said one of the guards.
“What are you doing?!” she demanded. “Take your hands off of me! You can’t arrest me!” She then turned to Bashoon. “I hope you’re satisfied, Bashoon! You’ve destroyed the people’s faith in Realmfleet! Sector 4 itself is dead! How can our secrets be guarded now?! On top of that, people will only get sicker because of you!” She was led out of the office and the doors shut. Bashoon breathed a sigh of relief.
“Your Majesty,” she asked, “may I use your comms? I need to tell Arsha ‘Mission Accomplished’.”
“Of course,” said Belnki as he moved aside to let her do so. The call with Aldarval was made into a three-way one as Arsha’s hologram joined Aldarval’s. Arsha was surprised.
“Ma’am!” she yelped, saluting.
“At ease, Captain,” assured Aldarval. “I know about the whole situation. Bashoon has proven herself to be clever.” They told the story of how Aldarval knew what was going on in the hospital. “I will need to have a talk with Saverk about this,” mused Aldarval.
“And, the hospital?” asked Arsha.
“It’s going to be shut down,” declared Belnki. “All research will be turned over to the new hospital being constructed and we will find a more humane method of research. All infected Chimeras still in the Womb will be treated to the best of our abilities and we will insure no one does something like this again.”
“I don’t think, after they hear about this,” guessed Aldarval, “that the Realmfleet Medical Board will be so broken up about the hospital shutting down.”