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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 5: Monolithic Statues

All things considered, it had been a good landing.


Sind’a Thighs watched as water and ice, black with soot, lapped against the cockpit window. It was still night, so she could see nothing beyond the water, but at least she had managed to restore full power to the inside. The lights were on, the blender in the galley was mixing perfectly, and the shower was hot and steamy.

Fixing the power problem had been relatively easy, but the damage to the VAPR engines was something far more serious, and something she did not understand. She decided not to bother. It would have to wait until one of the palace’s engineers could take a look at it.

After a short break, and another soothing shower, Sind’a Thighs had finally put back on her tight blue body suit and auto-boots and had set to work fixing the main computer. Sitting in her cockpit chair, she had scanned schematics, neural interfaces connections and memory cores. And, using her AI software development skills, she had corrected error after error.

After several hours she could find no more errors.

Flipping a few synthetic switches, Sind’a Thighs reactivated the main computer. “Can you hear me?”

The response was slurred, but acceptable. “YES.”

The bounty hunter sighed. “Finally! How are your cognitive functions?”

“MY COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS ARE NOMINAL.”

“Great. Scan the immediate area and give me a detailed plan of the topology. Suggest a course of action for our situation.”

SCANNING… ERROR. SENSOR RESOLUTION ZERO. UNABLE TO PERFORM TOPLOGICAL SCAN. SUGGESTION FOR COURSE OF ACTION IMPOSSIBLE: INADEQUATE INFORMATION.”

Sind’a Thighs sighed. “Fine.” She pulled herself out of her cockpit chair, turned, and then stepped through the arched doorway of the cockpit and pressed a control panel on the right side. A door slid open revealing a small but plush airlock. “I’m going out to take a look myself.” She told the ship. “Try and keep things running in here, will you?” Before the computer had a chance to reply, the bounty hunter stepped through the door. It thudded shut.

Sind’a Thighs took a few deep breaths to calm her self, enjoying the dampened silence of the airlock. She opened a cabinet and pulled out snug-fitting dark blue helmet, an exact match for her skin-tight bodysuit. She put it on. Immediately it hissed, sealing itself against the polo-neck of her suit, and then the filters panels of the helmet under her nose opened up. The visor’s head-up display activated, and for a few moments displayed start-up information and self-diagnostic results. It was functioning well. She opened another small cabinet and pulled out a pistol and holster, and several grenades. She clipped them to her belt.

Pressing a panel on the wall, Sind’a Thighs opened the outer door. Immediately the frigid atmosphere of Droog flooded into their airlock. For a few moments she felt the icy chill penetrate her suit, but then the suit’s heating system kicked in. She stepped out of the airlock and onto the dark and dusty brown landscape beyond.

But it was no longer completely dark.

To the east the sky was a deep orange colour – dawn - bright enough to illuminate the landscape so that the surroundings were visible without the aid of enhancement.

Sind’a Thighs climbed up a small mound to get a better view, and then looked around. Below her, half submerged in a semi-frozen river, was the Butt Muffin. The ship was jammed up against the river bank. A considerable quantity of earth had slid onto the ship’s topside, obscuring almost half of the hull. She had been lucky that the airlock had been clear.

In all directions the landscape was almost completely flat, a barren and lifeless plain that stretched to the black horizon. Only the river broke the monotony of the plain. Its wide channel curved towards the orange horizon to the east, and to a coastline lined with what looked like the ruins of low-level buildings.

According to the information displayed on Sind’a Thigh’s visor, the nearest building was only three kilometres away. She decided to pay it a visit. She set up her helmet’s passive sensor system to alert her about any movement around her, and then, stepping down from the mound, she began a sexy stride east along the river bank through the deep cover of ash.


After twenty minutes of walking the river had widened into an estuary, and against the brightening sky the line of buildings ahead could be seen in much more detail. It was clear that the buildings never used to be so ‘low-level’. Piles of deep rubble stretched towards the shore, the result of a severe shockwave from far inland. The change of meeting a survivor here was virtually zero.

Her helmet bleeped. The corner of the visor lit up with information. Something was moving out in the sea, and it was heading towards the shore. She looked in the direction indicated. There was indeed something in the water. It looked like a dome – metallic, shiny. Behind it two more domes appeared from the waves. As they approached they rose up creating huge wakes in the water, and revealing a wider section beneath. As they rose their full form became clear. They were humanoid-shaped machines.

After a moment of shock, Sind’a Thighs ducked down to the river bank and half buried herself in the dust. Her helmet’s filter ensured that she kept breathing clean air. She continued watching the machines as they stomped onto the beach and smashed through the buildings, creating a cloud of dust, black against the amber sky. The sound of crumbling masonry was almost deafening.

As the machines emerged from the dust cloud their true scale became clearer. They were at least 20 metres tall, and moved with a stiff but smooth motion across the plain. Their domed heads – almost three metres across – appeared to have a mirrored surface. It was impossible to tell whether the machines were controlled by an artificial sentience, or a crew. Either way, they were a formidable sight.

The machines were now less than half a kilometre away, close enough for the deep whirring sound of their engines to be heard as they stomped in a triangle formation through the dust, generating a cloud of ash behind them.

And they were heading directly for Sind’a Thighs, and her ship.

The bounty hunter activate her helmet’s stealth communicator, directing a tight radio beam towards her ship. “Butt Muffin? Can you detect the machines approaching from the east?”

The ship replied. “YES. I HAVE A VISUAL LOCK ON THE MACHINES.

“I can’t get back in time, so you may have to defend yourself. Are the weapons and defence systems functioning?”

WEAPONS SYSTEMS ARE FUNCTIONING. SHIELDS ARE NOT FUNCTIONING.

The sound of the machines was much louder now. Sind’a Thighs turned and looked at them. They were only fifty metres away, and they loomed over her like monolithic statues, their brown and grey surfaces still wet with sea water. Masses of ash clung to their plate-like feet.

The bounty hunter turned towards her ship. Over the thunderous sound of the machine’s footfalls, she barked an order. “Butt Muffin, defend yourself if attacked! Use all means at your disposal!”

The massive humanoid-shaped machines passed over the bounty hunter, the giant right foot of one of them missing her by less than a metre. She was consumed by a dense cloud of ash. As the sound and vibration of the machines began to fade she risked looking up. Through the clearing air she could see the three machines. It was obvious that they had spotted her ship. The machine on the right turned and stepped into the river, and then stopped and faced her ship. The other machines continued along the river bank for a few more steps until they too stopped.

There was a few seconds of silence.

An almost blinding flash of blue reached out from what looked like the chest of the machine in the river, accompanied by a crack of sound. The hull of the Butt Muffin erupted into flames, and several large pieces of hull scattered into the air.

Immediately the ship replied with focused discharge of energy. A brilliant red beam connected with the head of the machine that had fired. The head exploded in a ball of white heat.

Sind’a Thighs grinned at her crippled ship’s success.

But then the other two machines fired. The Butt Muffin was consumed in a dense ball of fire, as intense as anything she had ever witnessed. The ship managed one more rapid burst of energy, blasting off the left arm of one of the machines, before it was finally overwhelmed.

The Butt Muffin exploded with incredible force. Half a kilometre away the punch of the blast wave knocked over Sind’a Thighs, sending her tumbling into the river and crashing through ice. She recovered quickly, but remained in the water surrounded by blackened little icebergs.

After a minute the sky cleared. The three machines were still there, standing and watching the burning remains of her ship. After a few seconds the two machines on land turned, and then began to stomp back east towards the sea. Sind’a Thighs remained still in the water and watched until the machines had thundered by. And then she looked back towards the wreckage of her ship. The headless machine was standing there, dead still, in the river.

Eager to find clues as to why she had been shot down, and eager to seek vengeance on those that had destroyed her beloved little ship, the bounty hunter began swimming through the shards of ice towards the machine.

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