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 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
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
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
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.