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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 22: Sallow-Faced Tub

Gripping tightly onto the camera mounting, Panman jerked his body hard. In a spray of sparks, the mounting was torn from the ceiling, sending the bounty hunter crashing to the floor.

The first-class bounty hunter got to his feet. He looked down at the sparking camera that he was holding. “That’s the last of them.” He looked at Sind’a Thighs. She was wiping acres of blood off her near naked body. “I still find it hard to believe that none of these cameras was concealed. What brain-dead ignoramus designed this ship?”

Sind’a Thighs was finishing wiping clean her lightly-tanned calves. “The doctor, I presume.”

Panman frowned. “Yeah, that hideous, physically-deceptive pseudo-crone has a lot to answer for. I must reveal her true form.”

Sind’a Thighs discarded the towel she had been using. “What ‘true form’?”

“I won’t tell you now.” Panman said, grinning. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise!” He dropped the camera. It slammed noisily onto the floor.

The lesser bounty hunter obviously loved surprises. “I can’t wait! Shall we do it?”

Panman nodded and pulled a disc-shaped object from his belt – another hyper-hot-shatter-bomb. He fiddled with its controls. It whirred. “Not the ideal tool for the job, but it’ll still be effective.” He placed it on the wall to his right. He operated another of its controls. A high-pitched drilling sound could be heard as small bolts ground into the wall. The bounty hunter let go of the bomb. It remained on the wall, securely attached. He looked at Sind’a Thighs. “Only ten seconds! Let’s go!”

The two bounty hunters sprinted rapidly away from the bomb. Rounding an unevenly-designed corner, Sind’a Thighs crouched down against the wall. Panman crouched over her, protecting her with his armoured environment suit.

A blinding light, brighter – and briefly hotter – than the Padyn system’s artificial sun, flashed into existence, accompanied by a deep and resonant long-lasting thud. And then there was a multitude of clattering and zipping sounds, accompanied by several distant screams.

As the noise faded, smoke started to fill the passageway.

Pulling his pistol from its holster, Panman spoke. “Ready?”

Sind’a Thighs was also holding her pistol. She nodded. “Ready.”

Panman stood and ran round the corner. Sind’a Thighs followed. What greeted them was a shocking sight. Through the clearing smoke could be seen a gaping jagged hole several metres across. Beyond was a huge spherical chamber, filled with balconies and gantries, many of which were now perforated by the diamond-hard, razor-sharp pieces of shrapnel released by the bomb.

The moaning and whimpering of mutilated and mortally wounded crew members added to the morose atmosphere.

Leaping through the hole, Panman fired his pistol several times, ending instantly the agony for six of the closest crew members. Grabbing a set of railings, the bounty hunter swung himself up and onto one of the lower balconies. A partially dismembered crew member, half incinerated by a burning console, staggered forwards in a foolish attempt to stop Panman. A second later the crew member’s body crumpled to the floor, his incineration complete. The bounty hunter stood over the charred body, admiring the astounding accuracy and humanity of his work for a few moments, and then, distracted by muffled snapping sounds, he looked across the chamber. On the opposite side he could see Sind’a Thighs. She was rapidly making progress as she clambered from balcony to terrace to gantry, disposing with ease any survivors she encountered. But she was not using her pistol to do the job. She was using her speciality move - the thigh neck-breaker. She was lifting up the head of any survivor, shoving it between her thighs, and then twisting with a swift and tight motion. The effect was instant, compassionate, and above all, highly energy-efficient.

Returning his focus to his own work, Panman leapt up, grabbing hold of the next level’s railings. He pulled up hard, flipping himself upside down. Arcing over the railings, the bounty hunter landed squarely. He stood proudly, his stance brimming with confidence and menace. The bounty hunter’s perfect vision and astonishing target acquisition skills ensured that his pistol was immediately aimed at the forehead of the fat, pale and wart-covered man who was cowering in the corner. Other than cuts and bruises, and a clear and shiny scalp, the man appeared to be in reasonable condition. Panman spoke. “From your uniform, you appear to be ranked quite highly. Who are you?”

The man said nothing. He simply stared back.

Panman was not a patient man. Setting his pistol to its lowest power setting, he fired, burning a deep but non-fatal gash across the warty man’s chest. The man yelped, and then frantically padded down the flames on his burning uniform. He coughed as smoke momentarily shrouded his face.

Panman spoke again. “Last chance. Answer my question, or burn in torment like your colleagues.”

The man grimaced. “I am Colonel Hilber Hamblaba.”

“What do you do?”

“I am second in command of the Nebulon.”

Panman laughed. “Really? A sallow-faced tub of saturated lard like you?”

The colonel glared, offended at the bounty hunter’s statement. “Yes!”

“No way! You lie!”

Despite his obvious fear, the colonel stood his ground. “I have consummate organisational ability, and work well in a team, and as an individual. My leadership skills are excellent, particularly my ability to motivate others through the excretion of…”

Panman fired, burning a sparkling hole into the control console to the left of the colonel’s head. Instinctively, the colonel ducked down, covering his face. “Do not spout drivel in my presence! Understood?”

Colonel Hilber Hamblaba removed his hands from his face. He nodded. Tears made their way down his cheeks, weaving round the clusters of warts that erupted from the pallid skin of his left cheek.

Panman smiled. “Good. Now tell me, where is this ship going?”

The colonel sighed. “Doctor Combobulay’s Fortress.”

“Where, and what, is that?”

“It’s on a rogue planetoid that’s currently passing the edge of this system. The doctor has many laboratories there – I don’t know what for. The prototype Kretin and this ship were constructed there.”

With a thud, Sind’a Thighs landed next to Panman. She remained in a crouched position for a second, and then stood. Once again, the bare skin of her toned thighs was covered in blood.

Panman looked at her. “Been busy?”

The lesser bounty hunter nodded. “Yes, but I’m finished now. All the crew members of this command centre have been neutralised.”

“Cool!”

Sind’a Thighs looked at the pale and plump colonel. “Except for him, that is.” She took a step forwards.

Panman put his hand out and stopped her. “Leave him, for now.”

The colonel was looking at Sind’a Thighs. He was obviously stunned by the sensual nature of her near-naked form. His wide eyes blinked several times. “Roubella Moul? You look… Amazing!”

The lesser bounty hunter knew exactly what the colonel was thinking. “It’s never going to happen, so get that thought out of our head.” She frowned. “And I’m not Roubella Moul. I am Sind’a Thighs, a seventh-class bounty hunter from the Palace of Amino.” She raised her head proudly and then strengthened her stance.

Colonel Hilber Hamblaba shivered, but said nothing more. The console next to him bleeped.

Panman pointed. “What’s that?”

The colonel looked. “It’s a call from a crew member. I asked him to report on something for me.”

“Accept the call. Act normally.”

The colonel nodded, and pressed ‘Answer’. “This is Colonel Hilber Hamblaba.”

A voice, high-pitched and effeminate, spoke. “Hi, colonel, this is Chief Engine Inspector Fillop Assuna. As ordered, I’ve been looking out of the rear maintenance viewport. I can confirm that we are being followed by that ship.

“Erm… Okay, good work.”

It’s a long way behind, but I set up a telescopic imager to get a better view. Should I send you an image?

The colonel looked round at Panman. The bounty hunter nodded. The colonel answered. “Yes.”

A second later a slightly blurred image of the ship appeared on the view-screen next to the colonel.

Panman and Sind’a Thighs recognised the ship immediately, but said nothing.

The colonel spoke. “Thank you. That’s great. Erm… Remain where you are and keep monitoring that ship.”

I will, colonel. Fillop Assuna out.

The colonel’s console bleeped again.

The colonel looked back at Panman. “It’s Doctor Combobulay!”

Panman’s expression remained serious. “Answer it, but do not reveal what happened here.”

The colonel nodded, and then answered the call. “Yes, ma’am?”

The doctor spoke, her voice crackling like frying pig fat. “What is going on in there, colonel?!

“We had a… erm… malfunction in one of the control panels, ma’am. Nothing serious.”

It sounded very bad to me, colonel!

“Erm… As you can hear, all is quiet now. Everything is fine.”

I want an update!

“Of course, ma’am. The ship that you suspected may be following us is…”

Don’t update me on this channel, you idiot! Come to my chamber and do it personally! I want an update on that ship, and on the capture of the infiltrator and that devious cow. And I want it in two minutes!

The colonel looked back at Panman.

Panman nodded.

“Of course, ma’am.”

There was a click as the communications channel closed.

Panman grinned. He looked at Sind’a Thighs. “We’re going to enjoy this!”

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