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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 4: The Example Chamber

The dull hum of huge unseen engines reverberated throughout every chamber of the submarine. It was a sound and sensation that Doctor Samosa Combobulay cherished. Whenever she awoke the resonant sound made the pale skin of her ancient skeletal face crease into a twitching tooth-blackened grin, and whenever she sat down the subtle vibrations that passed through her emaciated behind gave her a reassuringly warm feeling.

And she had an extra warm feeling right now. She shouted. “Maids!”

A doorway in the side of her cylindrical chamber slid open. Two young women dressed in blue overalls and carrying large leather bags entered the chamber and bowed. They spoke in unison, their voices high and weak. “Yes, ma’am?”

Doctor Combobulay raised her head and spoke proudly. “My bladder is empty and my chair is full. Empty it, and clean me.”

The two maids bowed once more and then rushed to their mistress’s aid. Putting their bags down, and then standing either side of the ancient old woman, they helped her to her feet. Doctor Combobulay staggered forwards, streams of urine running down her legs. The back of her trouser suit was soaked, and clung to her backside like a sodden liver rat.

The maids pulled large white towels out of their bags. With a remarkable lack of disgust, one maid mopped up the mess on the doctor’s armchair, and then activated the flushing mechanism on the chair’s built-in toilet bowl. Several litres of urine gurgled away. The other maid wiped down the old woman’s trousers and the pulled a small drying machine from her leather bag. She began blowing hot perfumed air onto the doctor’s clothes.

Doctor Combobulay nodded. “That’s good. I’m feeling more comfortable now.” She looked down at the maid.

In less than a minute the maids had finished their work. They grabbed their equipment and left as quickly as they arrived. The door slid shut behind them.

Feeling refreshed, the doctor sat back down in her chair. She activated a control on the chair’s side.

A voice spoke. “Yes, ma’am?

“Commandant Fumbla? I am coming out. I wish to hear an update immediately.”

Of course, ma’am.

Operating another control, Doctor Combobulay drove the chair forwards. The curved wall of the chamber opened up. Driving out onto precarious looking track, she guided the chair out into a large spherical chamber. The chamber, more than 20 metres high, was lined with balconies and terraces brimming with dark control consoles. Dozens of crew members worked silently at glowing screens. This was the command centre of the Nebulon.

Rolling onto a platform at the centre of the spherical chamber, the doctor’s chair drew to a halt. “Begin!”

A large screen opposite activated. Standing next to it was a tall bearded man dressed in a cloak of blue fur. It was Commandant Fumbla . He spoke, his voice strained but strong. “Ma’am, the operation is progressing as we planned.” He said, stroking his beard. “The Nebulon is currently cruising at a depth of five-hundred metres east of the Faraloog Islands. We have now completed our second circumnavigation of the planet’s oceans and performed detailed scans of the major coastlines.” He motioned towards the giant screen as it began to display statistics and finely resolved graphics and images. “All cities are devastated. The current best estimate for the number of survivors globally is sixteen million – just less than point five percent of the population before the impacts.”

Doctor Combobulay nodded once. “Very good.”

The commandant continued. “It appears that all the leaders of the planet’s six nations made it to their bunkers and are still alive, as you hoped. Their military abilities are virtually non-existent. They will provide no resistance to us.”

“Again, very good.”

The commandant paused for a second as the screen changed to a different presentation. “Finally, we have completed the destruction of all the planet’s orbital communications systems and platforms. The last object was destroyed an hour ago. That brings the total of all orbital devices destroyed to 72.”

The doctor nodded again. “Very good. I’m…” She paused, and then frowned. The deep lines around her eyes deepened even more. “Before the operation began you told me there were 71 orbital devices, did you not?”

Commandant Fumbla bowed. “I did, ma’am, but we detected object 72 yesterday. We must have missed it before. It was larger than most of the other devices.”

The doctor barked, her voice croaking and crackling. “How could you miss such a large device?!”

“It may have been in wide elliptical orbit,” the commandant replied, suddenly nervous, “or returned from elsewhere in this solar system. Don’t worry, ma’am, although we needed to use much more power than usual, the Emanator successfully brought it down.”

“Brought it down? You mean it was not destroyed?!”

“No ma’am, but it crashed into the surface. It could not have survived.”

Doctor Combobulay pointed to the screen, which was currently showing a diagrammatic animation of the device plummeting to the surface. “Show me an image of that device immediately!”

The commandant bowed. “Of course, ma’am.” He nodded towards the crew member sitting next to him. The display changed and showed a shimmering telescopic image of the last orbital device to be shot down. Although the image detail was low, the shape and colour of the object was clear. It did not match the usual Droog design.

Struggling, the doctor got to her feet. Her legs wobbled as she spoke. “That is not of this world!” she shouted. “And it is obvious that it is not of this world!” She glowered. Her voice deepened to a rumble. “Why did you not inform me of this?”

“The orders of the Emanator control team were to destroy all orbital devices. They did not feel the need to consult you every time a device was about to be…”

“That is not just a ‘device’! That is a star ship - star ship alien to this planet!”

“With all due respect, we do not know that for sure, ma’am. Even if it’s true, that ship is no longer a threat to us. It is…”

Doctor Combobulay screamed. “It was obviously monitoring events down here! It could have been transmitting information for days! It is almost certain that the events on this world are now known to those beyond the confines of this system!”

Commandant Fumbla bowed. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Who is the leader of the Emanator team?”

“Humbert Poul, ma’am.” His head still bowed, the commandant pointed to the balcony next to his.

Doctor Combobulay looked down at the Emanator team leader. She spoke, her voice calmer, but menacing. “You have caused great damage to our operation.”

Humbert nodded. He looked up at the doctor. “I was carrying out my orders, ma’am. I did not wish to disturb you in your chamber.”

“Your ineptitude is astounding.” She said quietly. “You are relieved of your duties.” She operated a control on her chair. “Security? Humbert Poul is leaving this vessel. Escort him to the upper airlock.”

A door opened behind the Emanator team leader. Two hooded guards grabbed his arms.

“Please!” Humbert pleaded. “That ship is down! It’s been dealt with! Allow me a chance to…”

One of the guards clasped his hand over Humbert’s mouth. Both guards dragged the team leader out through the doorway. The door hissed shut.

Doctor Combobulay looked at Commandant Fumbla. “Take this ship down to a depth of two kilometres to ensure that Humbert is suitably crushed, and then place him, appropriately labelled, in the Example Chamber with the others. Then assign a new leader for the Emanator team.”

The commandant nodded.

The doctor continued. “If that crashed ship had occupants there may be survivors. If so they must be eliminated. We must modify our plans.” She thought for a few seconds. “Despatch three Kretins. Send them to the location where the ship went down.”

“But ma’am,” the commandant said, “the Kretins are all needed to round up and organise the survivors, and deal with Droog’s leaders. Their primary mission must not…”

Doctor Combobulay yelled, her voice almost breaking with rage. “Do not question my wisdom! Do as I order!” Her voice dropped suddenly in volume. “Or would you rather leave this vessel with Humbert?”

The commandant bowed. “It will be done immediately, ma’am.”

The doctor sat back down. “Very good.” She operated a control on her chair’s side. The chair reversed along the track and back into her chamber.

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