Chapter 57: 'Tis The Bell
“Experiment 628! What are you doing here?”
In all the running and chaos and disorder, and in the rush to save Lilo, he’d completely forgotten about the reason they were in this mess in the first place.
He shook his head. Now was not the time to be assigning blame.
“Never mind, is not important. What is important is you can be helping me find-”
“I’m afraid I cannot do that, Jumba.”
Jumba raised his eyebrows in confusion. “What do you mean? Why not?”
Experiment 628 stepped forward once, his grim smile growing wider as he did.
“Jumba, Jumba, Jumba. Did you really think you could control me? With your programming?”
“What is he talking about?” whispered Pleakley nervously.
Jumba shrugged. Something wasn’t right.
“Those other weak-minded fools-” he continued, shifting his gaze to Stitch “-might have been easy to sway, but I am not them.”
He took another step forward. Stitch growled a warning – he had not liked that slight at all.
“My directive is to destroy,” continued 628, cracking his knuckles. “Wreck, maim, sabotage – whatever it takes to cause as much chaos as possible. And I figure a good way to do that is to start with you.”
“I am not knowing what you are doing,” replied Jumba, adopting a stern tone to make his disappointment clear, “but I am ordering you. Stand down, now.”
“No,” 628 said.
“No? But your directive should prevent- I am not understandi-”
“You wouldn’t understand, Jumba. I didn’t expect you to. You see, your directives were flawed.”
“Flawed? How dare you-”
“Uh-bah-but! Directive number one, take any precaution to cause as much chaos as possible. Directive number two was that as one of Jumba’s experiments, I should do as Jumba commands, irrespective of the first directive. Following directive two means I could not achieve directive one to my full potential. So, I denounced myself.”
“Indeed. I can hardly cause chaos if I can be ordered not to, or to do good instead. So, to paraphrase the great bard, I revoked my father and refused my name, for I shall no longer be known as one of Jumba’s experiments.”
Jumba bowed his head slightly, and then looked up.
“What is he going to do with us!?” whispered Pleakley, his voice steadily rising in pitch. “I’m allergic to pain and tourture!”
“Oh, Wendy, nothing quite so physical. No, I’m going to subdue you and hand you over to the Borg. They will assimilate you. Sure, they’ll replace parts of your original body, but that’s not the part I really care about. Rather, over time, your will, your determination, your very mind will be slowly destroyed, piece by piece, until nothing remains. And until then, you will be forced to destroy, to main, to hurt, and you won’t be able to do anything to stop it.”
“Woah. He is evil,” Pleakley sounded slightly awestruck, and Jumba understood why – Jumba’s experiments had wrecked plenty of havoc, to be sure, but none of them were what he’d call truly evil.
He didn’t reply. Instead, he procured a plasma cannon, and, taking this as a cue, Stitch pulled out the one 419 had given him earlier.
“How quaint, a plasma cannon,” mocked 628. “Meanwhile, I can knock you all out with one hit.”
He glanced at his arm and smirked. “You’ve really got to stop making overpowered experiments, Jumba. It’s far too risky.”
“628, this is not you,” Jumba urged. “The 628 I developed loved chaos, yes, but would never actually harm anyone!”
“But it is me, Jumba! I can feel it- it’s brimming in my every being. This is my destiny – I am become the Destroyer of Worlds.”
“Jumba, I suggest you stop. This conversation can serve no further pur-”
Almost a whisper, the word floated across the corridor. Experiment 628 looked confused for a moment, and then leaned sideways. Jumba and Pleakley looked back as well, although they knew whose voice it was.
Experiment 628’s eyebrows narrowed, and his grin grew even wider.
“Ah, the human Earth girl, Lilo Pelekai.”
“Who?” whispered 419.
“Little Girl,” Jumba whispered back, still staring behind him.
Lilo had somehow managed to climb down the box without being detected, and then, pushing herself unsteadily to her feet, was now stumbling towards the experiment.
“Enough,” said 628. “You can offer no words of persuasion to me.”
And with that, he rapidly clasped his hands together.
In an instant, Jumba had been completely winded by the wall that, mere seconds ago, had been a full twenty feet behind him, and then fell to the ground. He rubbed his head, and then looked around – the others had also been slammed against varying objects. Pleakley was slumped against the wall further along from Jumba, 419 was attempting to steady herself against the controls of one of the alcoves, and Stitch was shaking his cranium as if trying to clear his head from the whack it had gotten from a black column with odd green circles and lines displayed on it. Lilo lay against the box’s side, eyes closed again, her head loping to one side; Jumba hoped she was still alright after such an impact, even though he knew that she had probably sustained some major injuries.
He glanced sideways, looking for either of the plasma guns, but they were nowhere to be found.
He tried to stand up, but pain burst through his left leg, and he could feel it was not prepared to hold him, threatening him with collapse. He leaned against the wall, attempting to pull pressure from his leg onto the barrier instead.
Slowly, he shook his head. Everything was going wrong.
But then, Lilo’s arm moved.
Her eyes opened.
Lilo grasped the side of the box and pulled herself up. Fragily, she stepped towards the experiment again, her eyes slightly unfocused, but staring as straight as they could the Experiment 628.
“You can still… belong,” she whispered.
“How are you… stay back!” yelled 628, holding his arms in front of him threateningly.
And then, Lilo tripped.
Jumba recognised the object she had stumbled over as his communicator. There was no way he’d be able to get towards it without 628 seeing, but if Lilo could get it…
“Little Girl, the communicator!”
Lilo picked herself up and turned around; spotting the bright red communicator, grabbed it.
“I don’t think so!” yelled 628, and clasped his hands together yet again.
“Lilo, behind you!” yelled Pleakley, running as fast as he could to position himself between the two.
The wave of pressure hit Pleakley first, but it wasn’t much use – he was flung overhead, hitting the wall behind the box and then sliding down. While diminished, the wave continued, and within the blink of an eye it slammed into Lilo, hitting her square in the back and flinging her across the room. Jumba winced as Lilo’s stomach caught the corner of the box, flipping her in almost a complete circle and landing on top of it.
For a moment, Pleakley groaned, rubbing his cranium, but when his senses recovered he rushed up to Lilo.
“Come on, Lilo, speak to me…” he pleaded as he held her wrist, checking for any signs of life.
A blue blur flashed upwards across Jumba’s vision and flung itself at 628.
Stitch screamed in pain. 628 had caught him by the paw, and was now dragging him along the floor, his wrist bent backwards far beyond its’ normal range. Having reached a wall, he picked him up and threw him against it, catching him as he fell, and flung him to the floor. Still holding his claw, he pulled him up into the air and smashed him against the ground on the other side of him, and then threw him against the wall to the right of him. And, for a final touch, he fired a pressure wave at him, which hit him unopposed.
Stitch slumped over, still breathing, but clearly unconscious.
Pleakley had taken Lilo’s pulse and breathing rate, and was now clutching her hand tightly, still pleading with her to wake up. Jumba gestured the shape of a handset to Pleakley, hoping he would get the message, and then decided to distract 628 while he thought of a plan.
“So, Experiment 628, why be using your pressure wave, rather than simply with the knocking of us out?”
Jumba slowly edged himself towards the column, which brought him closer to the box, and thus, Lilo.
“Why? Because it’s more fun. Because you suffer more this way. Because I like it. It’s the way I am.”
“But surely it’s more efficient, and besides, I was being under impression you weren’t going to torture us.”
“I lied, Jumba. I do that. Besides, it’s only karma, really - it’s just like you lied to me.”
Jumba frowned. “Sorry, but I am not certain what you’re, er, talking-”
“Ha! Lying about lying. Please don’t try it, I’m not a child.”
He was, in a manner of speaking, still a child – he had knowledge, sure, but very little experience – and even considering the evil genius that he was, no combat simulation Jumba could make would come close to representing reality. He thought that he could be prepared for everything – and Jumba knew now that that was a very flawed approach.
Jumba glanced sideways ever so slightly. Still clutching Lilo with one hand, Pleakley had used the other to extract the communicator from Lilo’s left hand’s grasp, and was now looking expectantly at Jumba. He subtly changed the direction of his hands so that only Pleakley could see his fingers, and then signalled five numbers – five, two, four, two and six.
Jumba turned his attention back to Experiment 628. He had no idea exactly what the experiment considered to be ‘lying to him’, but he decided to bluff it.
“Okay, okay. So I lied. Surely that doesn’t warrant any of this.”
A smile began to form on 628’s face. “Really? You really feel no remorse at all. I figured you’d regret it a little, but…”
“I regret many things, 628.”
“Sure, whatever. Look, if you’re going to lie to me, you should at least make it conv-”
A beeping sound filled the area – Jumba instantly recognised it as an incorrect passcode entry. He glanced to the left – Pleakley was rapidly tapping the same point on the screen of the communicator, as if he was trying to to dismiss a dialog that wouldn’t go away fast enough. After it had evidently been dismissed, he rapidly tapped some buttons on the keypad again.
“Oh, so you were only trying to distract me. Well, we can’t have that!”
In the seconds between 628 forming the pressure wave and it reaching Pleakley, a large circular panel at the bottom of the communicator slid open, and a small metal sphere dropped out.
Pleakley was pushed back against the wall a third time, and fell yet again. This time, he had a somewhat dazed expression, and he did not try and get up.
“And now for you, Jum-”
If at all possible, her voice sounded even more fragile than it had before, but it was without a doubt the voice of Lilo Pelekai.
She had sat herself up, her arm wavering against the weight of her body, but still holding it steadily upright. In her right hand she held the metal ball, and she was now pointing it towards 628.
Experiment 628 looked as if his jaw had fallen off.
“How- but, that’s impos-”
He shook his head.
“No, why should I worry about that? I’ll just have to knock you out the easy way!”
A purple gas-like cloud formed around his hands, and bright blue bolts crackled around it.
And then, unexpectedly, someone grabbed a hold of Lilo’s right arm. It was 419.
“We’ve got you,’ she whispered.
“Don’t worry,” said a recovered Pleakley, grabbing the left.
Lilo smiled at the two, and then turned her head to face 628.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. You… you can come with us, and we’ll… we’ll teach you to be good.”
“You can’t do anything for me!” exclaimed 628. “I’ve chosen my path.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Jumba saw Stitch shake his head and stand up. He started to move towards 628, but Lilo held out a hand.
“No, don’t, Stitch,” she said. “He can still be good.”
“The words of a fool. My past, my future, is destruction.”
“Look, I know you’ve had a broken past. So have I. So has Stitch and Jumba. But we’ve managed to fix things between all of us.”
“You can’t fix the past-”
“But the future is fluid,” replied Jumba. “It is being your decisions that shape your future, not your past.”
“No. You’re wrong. Even should I wade no more, returning would be as difficult as to go o’er!” said 628. “It’s too late.”
“It’s never too late,” said Lilo. “And you know what? I forgive you.”
628’s eyes widened at these words.
“I. Forgive. You. Though you may harm us and maim us, I will still forgive you. And although you can’t help the past, you can choose the future.”
“Let me save you.”
628 said nothing, but he still retained his stance. For several seconds, he looked at her, as if examining her face, her eyes, for any sign of deceit.
And then, he lowered his arms..
“Now, Little Girl!”
Lilo hesitated for a fraction of a second.
And then, she pressed the only button on the otherwise unremarkable surface of the orb.
A bright pink light sprung from the singular grove that wound around the surface of the sphere. Rapidly, it made its way along the chasm, leaving in its wake a cord of light.
As it met the end of the thread it had made, it stopped, and several smaller beads split off. They continued along the path set by their parent, completing each trip faster and faster until their figures could not be made out from the blur of their motions. As they did so, the cord that spanned the sphere’s center grew brighter and brighter.
At approximately two seconds after Lilo had pressed the button, the points of lights stopped at points spaced evenly along the fore of the sphere.
A bright beam shot out of the centre bead, hitting Experiment 628 squarely in the chest. Other beams followed from the other points, all aiming at the same point; after a few fractions of a second, they moved across his body to the tips of his head and feet, to the sides of his chest, and to his paws.
In the moment between the centre beam hitting him and the rest of the beams moving to their current arrangement, Experiment 628 had been moving his eyeballs downward so that he could ascertain exactly what was happening to him. When he did, his eyes narrowed, and his teeth clenched.
Then, far quicker than he could blink, he was doused in a low puce light.
After the glowing subsided, he himself rapidly changed colour, to the same shade of pink as the beams which still targeted his outline.
Even the areas where there was supposed to be shadow was now the same shade, and anyone looking at him would not be able to discern him from a sillouette.
All the beams of light save the centre one faded, their job now achieved.
With that, the figure of 628 collapsed into a bright pink bulb, streamed into the sphere along the now solitary beam of light, and vanished as it hit the silver sphere’s groove.
And finally, as the battle’s weariness finally overtook her, Lilo slumped backwards, rolled her head to the side, and closed her eyes.