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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 16: Dark and Brooding

Peter the Ace watched the bleak and barren image on the Blenheim’s main view-screen with interest. “How many now?”

The Blenheim replied. “THERE ARE NOW 415 UNIDENTIFIED MACHINES EMERGING FROM THE SEA.”

“Have you managed to scan one, yet?”

“SCAN RESULTS NOW AVAILABLE.”

The right side of the main view-screen changed to show details of one of the machines. It was humanoid in shape, and more than 20 metres tall. A reflective domed head was perched between two huge and bulky armoured shoulders. A dense array of what looked like sensory equipment was wrapped around its thick iron-clad waist.

Peter the Ace turned to Justin, who was sitting on his reinforced bench at the back of the bridge. “Look! They’re like you, only bigger!”

Justin responded in his usual uninteresting manner. “Such a comparison is purely superficial. The only resemblance to me is a physical similarity to the proportions of my metallic humanoid form.”

Peter the Ace smiled. “That’s what I said.”

Before Justin could respond the Blenheim’s computer spoke. “ALL HUMANOID MACHINES ARE CONVERGING ON THIS LOCATION.”

The main view-screen showed the machines as they stomped across the dark ash-covered beach several kilometres to the east

“It looks like my little diversion worked perfectly. They’re coming to get us!”

“WARNING: AN ENERGY BUILD-UP HAS BEEN DETECTED WITHIN EACH HUMANOID MACHINE.”

Peter the Ace looked at his screens. “Hmm… Go to battle mode!”

Immediately, the lighting on the bridge changed from a bright and stylish ambience, to a dark and brooding level. Now, the only light was from consoles and view-screens, each of which emanated menacing shades of red and green – perfect for such an occasion.

“BATTLE MODE ACTIVATED. INTERNAL ILLUMINATION LEVELS MINIMISED. SHIELDS RAISED…”

The Blenheim shuddered violently as all view-screens flashed white, and then a massive jolt caused the ship to lurch upwards, lifting Justin a metre off his reinforced bench. The cyborg crashed to the floor. The crunch of metal was deafening.

“HOLO-GAME SYSTEM OFFLINE.”

Peter the Ace shook his head. “Panman will flip his lid when he finds out about that!”

The ship lurched again.

“SHIELDS OVERLOADED. FAILURE IN NINE SECONDS…”

Peter the Ace remained calm. “Forward disrupter – 90 degree spread, six second duration, maximum strength. Fire!”

The main view-screen displayed the results as the pure white disrupter beam arced its way across the beach. The front line of the machines crumpled as the beam melted through their dense torsos, sending huge clumps of molten metal curling into the dark sky. The crippled machines crashed down into the sand and ash, their metal bodies sliced neatly into two.

Peter the Ace looked at the statistics on the main view-screen. 142 machines destroyed. He smiled with satisfaction.

And then the remaining machines fired again. The Blenheim shook violently, and then jerked backwards as a focus of energy enveloped its hull.

Justin, who had been in the process of hauling his dense metal frame back onto his bench, crashed back onto the floor.

The Blenheim spoke. “WARNING: SHIELD FAILURE.”

“Forward disrupter – same settings as before. Fire!”

“UNABLE TO COMPLY. ALL WEAPONS SYSTEMS OFF-LINE.”

“All? Report!”

“ALL WEAPONS SYSTEMS OVERLOADED BY THE ENERGY DISCHARGE EMANATING FROM THE HUMANOID MACHINES. CONTROL AND DELIVERY MECHANISMS FOR ALL WEAPONS SYSTEMS HAVE BEEN DISABLED.”

Peter the Ace thought fast. “Maximum forward thrust. Now!”

The Blenheim powered forwards, skimming low over the ash-covered landscape. Within a second the ship passed over the giant stomping machines, some of which were still emerging from the sea. The acceleration was incredible, and within seconds the ship was skimming low over the sea at over Mach-6, and churning up a swell of black foaming water in its wake. The sensor view-screens showed that the machines were turning in an attempt to realign their weapons, but they were too slow and lumbering.

“Take us over the horizon from those machines and then come to a full stop.”

A few seconds later the Blenheim decelerated rapidly, kicking up an expansive spray of water as its retro-engines fired. The ship now hovered a few metres above the ash-clogged sea, well away from giant humanoid machines. The main view-screen showed the view ahead – a black horizon of water and a grey and brown dust-filled sky – a dismal and suicide-inducing panorama of lifeless desolation.

Peter the Ace spoke. “How long until the weapons systems and shields are back online?”

“AUTO-REPAIR ACTIVATED. SHIELDS WILL BE BACK ONLINE IN SIX HOURS AND SIX MINUTES.”

“Not bad.”

“WEAPONS SYSTEMS WILL BE BACK ONLINE IN FOUR DAYS, THREE HOURS AND FORTY-THREE MINUTES.”

“Very bad. No shields and no weapons systems means I’m going to have to be extra creative in coming up with another plan of attack.”

Justin, who had just managed to get himself back to a seated position on his bench, decided to make a statement. “Until the weapons systems on this ship are repaired, it is impossible to continue our attack on the humanoid machines.”

Peter the Ace turned and looked at the cyborg. His eyes widened. “Your negativity and lack of imagination have just inspired me to come up with a great idea! Thank you, my metal-shelled friend!” He turned back to his console. “Blenheim, do we have any functioning nuclear warheads?”

“ALL OF THE 32 REMAINING NUCLEAR WARHEADS ARE FULLY FUNCTIONAL. ONLY THE DELIVERY METHOD HAS BEEN COMPROMISED.”

“Superb!” Peter the Ace exclaimed, turning. “Justin? Go to the rear warhead containment section. Grab three type-two warheads and then take them to the upper rear cargo bay.”

The cyborg spoke, his voice completely devoid of expression. “The transportation of weapons-grade nuclear material through the habitable sections of a spacecraft is a violation of Palace of Amino Safety Protocol 5-32-71.”

Peter the Ace frowned. “This is a time of war! You should be well aware that safety protocols do not apply in such situations.”

Justin responded. “No formal declaration of war has been…”

“I am a first-class bounty hunter. I have authority, vested in me by the Superior Beings, to declare and undeclared war whenever and however I wish. I formally declare war on those machines. Do you accept that there is now a formal declaration of war against those machines?”

Justin paused for a second, and then replied. “Yes.”

Peter the Ace pointed to the exit of the bridge. “Then carry out my order. Immediately!”

The cyborg got to his feet. “I obey.” With a whirr of his cumbersome servo and hydraulic mechanisms, Justin turned and stomped noisily off the bridge.

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