“It will be all right.” She turned to Ethan and caught hold of his arm. “I am immunized with the strongest chits, as are you, but I have to get the information on what worlds they have infected so far and I need to reprogram their equipment.”
“Couldn’t we just scan for the information?” Ethan asked.
“But can’t we just vaporize the equipment?”
“No.” She spoke more softly. “They would just build more so that would be pointless. I am going to slip a program into the system that will make it look like the system failed. They should think that shortly after the jump to the other world or worlds, all the silicon chits shorted out, or as we would say, died, and the hosts were set free. That should really freak them out, and they will tear their own system apart to try to figure out the problem. God willing, it will set their Worlds program back twenty years, and that may be enough time to figure out a better solution.”
“But why you?” Ethan asked.
Jill smiled and kissed him. “Because you are still too new at this and because I already have my chits ready to go.”
“But hold on.” Ethan grabbed her. “Won’t they know you have toyed with their system?”
“Theoretically no,” she said. “The cautions surrounding this destination indicate that they have no recognition of human flesh apart from indicating a potential host. They will enter my system, and be destroyed by my immune system. I will come back in only a minute and they will be none the wiser.”
“What about guards?”
Jill laughed. “There is no crime here,” she said. “The whole planet is one big crime, but there’s no need for guards. That would be a waste of human energy.”
“It is a risk,” she answered. They had arrived in a warehouse-sized building with machines, sophisticated electronics, and sub-electronic technology at work everywhere Ethan looked. He was struck with how advanced the equipment looked, and how primitive it looked at the same time, depending on whether he looked strictly with his native born eyes or through his Gaian chits.
“I won’t be a minute,” Jill said, and she stepped out into that place as Ethan almost shrieked in his panic. He did not worry about any Chernobyl chits getting in through the doorway. No doubt many did, but he knew the ship was covered. Instead, he was terribly worried about Jill. He meant what he said about numbers overwhelming the immune system, and he knew that was true, even with his native understanding.
Ethan only watched for a second before he had a thought. He wondered if he could develop a special chit of his own, like writing his own computer program, he imagined. He decided to try, and set his mind to develop a program that would cause an anti-Chernobyl chit to enter an infected body and destroy the Chernobyl infection within that body without killing the host-person. It occurred to him that he did not need to make a completely new chit, but only one to reprogram that additional information task into the chits already in the storage tanks. Oh yes, and when the person was Chernobyl free, he felt that any remaining or surviving chits should vacate the person and set up shop elsewhere, or otherwise go back to guarding the atmosphere. He waited, and wondered if his instructions were specific enough while his internal Gaian system worked on the problem, and he watched Jill move from one piece of equipment to another. She was starting to sneeze, like a person fighting off an allergy. There had to be trillions of Chernobyl chits around her now, trying to get at her.
The bell went off. Ethan’s homemade chit was ready sooner than Ethan thought possible. He located one of the storage tanks and inserted his chit. He was not sure if it would work, but if it did not, he did not want to spoil every batch of anti-Chernobyl chits aboard the ship.
Jill finally reopened the door and leapt for the safety of the ship. Ethan caught her and helped her sit in a comfortable chair. “You were more than a minute,” he scolded while he quickly moved the ship back to Doctor Augustus’ New Rome. He summoned up a blanket from the ship’s molecular store, and also a cup of chicken soup. Jill laughed, but she did not look good. Ethan went to check the Main. The data Jill collected had downloaded without trouble. Then he heard a noise. He spun around. Jill slid, unconscious to the floor, and the cup of chicken soup fell and scattered soup everywhere.
Jill woke up a few minutes later. She was lying on a couch in the lounge at the back of the control room, covered in numerous blankets. She could easily stagger back into the other room, but she could not do much more. She felt like she had a fever of a hundred and five, or imagined that it was what a fever felt like since she never had one before. She did know that her thinking was far from clear. Even her eyes were fuzzy and could hardly focus. Her system had to be fighting a world war all her own. She lifted her head, and it fell back to the pillow as she fell unconscious.
Ethan hovered over the Chernobyl. He tried the mind box Jill had used with Ali Pasha to instruct him about the Sorvee collar. He got Doctor Augustus after a moment and spoke directly to the man’s mind through his chits. He explained about Jill.
“I don’t know what I can tell you without examining her,” the Doctor said. “My guess is you just have to give her system time to fight them off. She was in the middle of them for some time. Just keep an eye on her vital signs and call me if they start to drop.”
“How is the battle?”
“It has been quiet,” the Doctor said. “But if you are wondering, I touched a Chernobyl and knew immediately what they were. You see, some came crashing through the front windows, I thought, like so many zombies. The bullets made short work of them. I guess like the cyborgs you ran into, their technology was not made to ward off anything as primitive as a bullet. Anyway, I did not like the dead look in their living eyes, so I would not let the soldiers near them. When I touched one, I was immediately infected, even though the man was dead. It did not take long for my immunity chits to fight them off, but I did feel weak for a few hours.”
“So I keep an eye on her vitals,” Ethan said. “Anything else?”
“No. Just let me know if they start to drop, and for the time being she is probably best off aboard the ship. That wonderful vehicle may have some things going for her that we could not duplicate here. She is tuned to the ship, as you said, isn’t she?”
“So keep her safely there for now. There is nothing I could do here except watch and our hands are a bit full right now watching other stuff.”
“Right,” Ethan said. “I’ll keep you posted.” He signed off and dialed Peter Alexander, as he thought of it.
“How is the princess?” Those were Peter’s first words. Then he talked about the battle. Basically, nothing had happened in the last few minutes, “But the Colonel is afraid the enemy is likely to storm the gate, if you follow me. If they could infect Doctor Augustus even after the host person was dead, they would not have to get more than one or two inside to potentially infect us all.”
“I understand,” Ethan said. “But at the moment, I don’t see them doing anything but sitting in a circle. They are not even talking.”
“I want to try something first,” Ethan said.
“That’s fine.” Alexander sounded calm, but Ethan could hear the wish that his life was not the one Ethan was experimenting with.
“I’ll let you know how it goes,” he said, and switched off.