Seven days later…
“DEEP-SCAN OF REGION 922 COMPLETED.”
Startled, Sind’a Thighs opened her eyes. She took a couple of seconds
to blink away her sleepiness, and then looked out through the large spherical
window that surrounded her small but generously padded cockpit chair.
Three-hundred kilometres below the planet Droog turned slowly, its ash-clogged
atmosphere brown and grey, and its once luscious forests and cobalt oceans
completely hidden from view.
But not hidden from the prying sensors of a state-of-the-art bounty hunter
vessel, of course.
Sind’a Thighs spoke. “Summary, please.”
“REGION 922 MEAN TEMPERATURE: MINUS SEVEN DEGREES – 30 DEGREES
BELOW REGIONAL AVERAGE. 441 HUMANOID SURVIVORS DETECTED. REGIONAL PRE-DISASTER
Several reports, charts and images appeared on the single angled view-screen
in front of the bounty hunter. She examined the data. One image showed
a devastated coastline, with the remains of settlements blown flat by
immense blast waves. Another showed some low-lying hills, parched clean
by incredible heat, and now frozen as the high-altitude ash from the impacts
had cloaked the atmosphere. Less than ten-percent of the parent star’s
light now reached the surface. The survivors could be seen, huddling in
small groups near the ocean. Their life-signs were weak, and their movements
slow and erratic.
They would not be survivors much longer.
Sind’a Thighs felt a deep desire to help, but she knew she could
not. Palace of Amino regulations were strict in such situations: if the
devastated world was not the home to a subspace-capable civilisation then
intervention was not allowed. The disaster must run its course naturally,
even if it meant the extinction of the civilisation.
The bounty hunter did not like such a hard policy, but she understood
the reasoning behind it. And much more importantly, she respected the
wisdom of her superiors who had defined the regulation more than four
After a spending a few more seconds examining the summary data, Sind’a
Thighs spoke. “Encrypt and transmit to the palace, and then move
onto the next section.”
“… ENCRYPTION AND TRANSMISSION COMPLETE. COMMENCING DEEP-SCAN
OF SECTION 923. COMPLETION IN 16 MINUTES…”
Reaching up, the bounty hunter gripped a bar and pulled herself up and
out of her seat. The next few sections would be scans of an ocean –
even less interesting than the seared land masses. It was the perfect
time for a break.
Sind’a Thighs left the cockpit through a narrow archway and entered
her living area. It was cramped but luxurious, with the centrepiece a
firm round bed covered in purple velvet sheets and strewn with black pillows
of various shapes and sizes. On the walls were various entertainment systems
and pleasuring devices, and to the left a small galley that was fully
stocked with delectable convenience meals from more than a hundred worlds.
To the right of the bed was a bathing room – Sind’a Thigh’s
favourite place on her new ship. The transparent door of the bathing room
slid open as the bounty hunter approached. With unseen elegance she slipped
off her auto-boots and entered the bathing room. She touched a small panel
on the inside of her collar. The power zip on the front of her all-in-one
tight blue body suit whirred its way down to her waist. She slipped off
the sleeves, revealing the toned beauty of her lightly tanned upper body.
Bending over, she rolled the suit down over her legs, her famous thighs
flexing gently as she did so.
Admiring herself in one of the floor to ceiling mirrors on the wall, she
stepped out of the suit and walked, naked, into the shower. Immediately
she was sprayed in a hot soapy downpour. She tipped her head back and
ran her fingers through her shoulder-length black hair, letting the hot
water cleanse her scalp. And then, slowly, she caressed her body with
her hands, spreading bubbles over her breasts and then down between her
legs. She grinned as the foam tingled over her skin, moisturising and
refreshing every curve and pore. She felt joyous.
The tedium of her task melted away gently into the steam.
Sind’a Thighs took a few moments to reflect. Her mission, to map
and analyse the devastation on the surface of the planet Droog caused
by 14 unusual asteroid impacts, may have been unexciting and monotonous,
but it did have one special quality: it was her first as a fully qualified
bounty hunter, seventh-class. She had graduated only three months earlier
with the very highest honours, and with grades that put her in the top-ten
graduates of all time.
She giggled as she remembered the month-long debaucheries of her celebrations
– the alcohol, the spices, the massages, the base-jumping, the belly
dancing, and the countless hours of sweaty fornication.
Nothing, of course, could have beaten the evening when Peter the Ace and
Panman appeared on the wall-sized video-screen of her apartment to offer
their personal congratulations. They had been on a mission and were unable
to attend her graduation ceremony, something they had wished to do. After
giving her the opportunity to leave the closed underground society of
the Impaler and become their assistant, and then later a trainee bounty
hunter, the two greatest bounty hunters of all time had always taken a
special interest in her. She would be forever grateful for their support,
and had felt honoured and aroused beyond time by their call. That moment
would certainly be one of the highlights of her life, and it would dwell
in her thoughts forever.
After the month of celebrations, Sind’a Thighs had been given the
chance to choose her own ship, a task she had been relishing since she
had started training as a bounty hunter more than twenty years before.
After viewing over twenty gleaming new vessels, ranging from a tiny lozenge-like
pod to an appalling thirty-metre diameter bright pink saucer-ship, her
choice was clear. Shaped and coloured like a flattened olive, the ten-metre
long ship, with its spherical transparent cockpit, oval VAPR engine configuration,
and built-in circular bed, had left the others standing. It was the most
desirable machine she had ever seen. Immediately she had named her ship
the Butt Muffin, which, for some unfathomable reason, had been her nickname
during the latter years of her time as a trainee.
Setting the shower to ‘Rinse’, Sind’a Thighs leaned
back and let the flood of hot clear water cascade over her chest. She
opened her mouth wide, delighting in the way the powerful flow of liquid
played with her tongue. She laughed and shook her head side to side. Life
was so good!
A pulsing alarm sounded. “ATTACK WARNING. AUTO-EVADE ACTIVATED.”
With a surge of gee-force, Sind’a Thighs was pushed to the floor
as the Butt Muffin’s computer altered the ship’s direction.
The deep throb of the main engines could now be heard. The bounty hunter
grabbed a hand rail and pulled herself up. She hit a control surface,
cutting the shower’s water flow. “Explain!”
Before the computer could answer the ship shook violently. The lights
in the bathroom flickered, and then died. The sound of the engines faded
As wet and naked as the day she was born, Sind’a Thighs pulled open
the bathing room door and stepped through the bedroom and into the cockpit.
Apart from the single view-screen in front of her chair, all was dark.
The ship was now on the night side of Droog.
Seating herself, the bounty hunter examined the screen. A lot of information,
mostly in a deep shade of red, was displayed. Many systems, including
the main computer, VAPR engines, shields and hand-blender, were malfunctioning.
And then she noticed the ship’s course. She looked out of the spherical
window and saw almost total blackness; the only stars that were visible
were at the extremities of her view. The course was confirmed. The Butt
Muffin was heading straight down into Droog’s atmosphere.
Sind’a Thighs manipulated some controls, bringing up further data
on the screen. Atmospheric thrusters were still working, and so were ground
sensors. But only minimum power was available. She could not stop the
ship’s descent, but she could certainly control it to some degree
when the ship entered the atmosphere. She took a second to send an automated
distress call to the Palace of Amino, and then she grabbed the control
sticks at either side of her chair.
Her breathing deepened and quickened. Her chest heaved. A chill spread
over her skin as water evaporated from her still damp body.
And then she gasped as she realised the true significance, and the true
insanity, of her predicament. A wide grin spread across her face. She
was alone at the controls of a crippled and virtually powerless ship on
a collision course with a planet doomed by the recent impact of 14 asteroids.
And she was naked.
The ship began to vibrate at it entered the edge of the planet’s
atmosphere. More red information appeared on view-screen. More systems
had failed, including communications.
Sind’a Thighs laughed as the view ahead turned bright orange –
the plasma glow of the immense friction caused by the thickening air.
She gripped the juddering control sticks even tighter, and then began
Slowly the Butt Muffin’s course began to change.