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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 26: Sweat, Soap and Beer

With a deafening clang and crunch, the door exploded, sending chunks of semi-molten heavy metal scattering in all directions.

Panman waited a few seconds and then peered round the corner. The door was gone, and the entrance to the main engine room was clear. The bounty hunter looked back at Sind’a Thighs. He grinned. “Explosions, no matter how small, never fail to give me great joy!”

The lesser bounty hunter found Panman’s joy infectious. “They are cool, aren’t they?!”

Colonel Hilber Hamblaba was sitting next to Sind’a Thighs. The left side of his bald pallid head now sported a long deep gash, and dried blood covered half of his face and neck. He spoke, still dazed. “That made my headache much worse.”

Panman frowned. “Pull yourself together, Colonel Ham Blubber! I don’t have the patience to deal with whining feebs!”

The colonel was offended. “My name is pronounced Hamblaba!”

“Whatever. Get up!”

With the help of Sind’a Thighs, the colonel got to his feet.

Brandishing his pistol, Panman stepped round the corner and headed towards the engine section. Sind’a Thighs and the colonel followed.

The engine section was dark, cramped and purely functional, with graphite-grey walls and minimal lighting. Numerous side passages barely large enough to crawl down fanned away from the main passageway, each one filled with exposed piping that rumbled as unknown fluids were pumped through. The main passageway itself had its own fair share of piping, as well as other more mysterious bits of protruding equipment.

For some reason, the air was filled with the smell of sweat, soap and beer.

Panman was looking around keenly. He turned and faced the colonel. “Where are the crew?”

The colonel blinked slowly. “This is a largely automated section of the ship, so it’s usually quite deserted. There are four crew members assigned here. Most will have been sent away to track you down.”

Panman smiled. “Really? Cool! That means they’ve already been dealt with!”

The colonel frowned and rubbed his head. He was obviously suffering great discomfort. “There must be someone here, though. This section cannot be left completely unmanned.”

“Of course there is!” Panman said. “That bum-bandit you were speaking to earlier! Where would he be?”

“At the rear maintenance viewport.”

“Show us where that is.”

The colonel nodded and took the lead, taking Panman and Sind’a Thighs further down the passageway until they arrived at a vertical ladder. “Up there on the next level.”

Panman pointed up. “Get going, then!”

“I’m not really built for…”

Panman slapped the colonel on the back of the neck. “Now, fatty!”

The colonel began climbing, struggling to fit his plump girth through the narrow ceiling entrance. Panman followed, pushing the colonel hard. The colonel yelped as he was thrust out and onto the next level’s grated floor. And then he shrieked.

Panman emerged and stood next to the chubby colonel. “What’s wrong with you now?”

Colonel Hamblaba pointed and the headless corpse lying next to a domed viewport. “That’s Fillop Assuna. He’s dead!”

Panman frowned. “Of course he’s dead, idiot! His head’s been super-heated and then shattered. What did you expect?”

“How did that happen?”

“Good question, lard man.” Panman thought for a second. “I would say it was some kind of wide-focus laser weapon, combined with a powerful microwave emission. In fact, I know of a weapon like that. We’ve got one on the…”

“Look!” Sind’a Thighs said, stepping off the ladder and pointing. “Through the viewport!”

Everyone looked. A small, black, and extremely cool and dangerous-looking ship was approaching slowly. It was barely ten metres from the viewport.

Panman laughed. He activated his communicator. “Yo, Ace! I was wondering where you were!”

The ship drew to a halt less than a metre from the viewport. Peter the Ace could clearly be seen sitting in his command chair. “Likewise! I see you found Sind’a Thighs. What’s been happening over there?

“So much! After crash-landing, Sind’a Thighs managed to redeem herself by infiltrating this ship, joining the crew, and getting promoted to third in command!”

A stunning achievement, by any standards!

“It is! And we’ve discovered that a Cifitra, disguised as an sickeningly feeble old woman, is behind all this.”

A Cifitra? I never thought we’d encounter one of those!

“I vaporised its flesh, so it’s now back to its original form. But it’s currently on the run somewhere on this ship.”

I’m not surprised. From what I’ve read, Cifitra are hard to contain. Where’s the ship heading?

“To the Cifitra’s fortress, on a rogue planetoid at the edge of this system.”

Hmm… At this speed, we’ll arrive in that region in around one hour. Just enough time to plan some mayhem.

Panman shouted. “Yes! Just what I was thinking! I’m going to overload the power system on this ship. It’ll blow like a carbonated hippo in a vacuum!”

Superb idea, but keep that ship intact until we reach the fortress. Let’s make the most of the detonation, shall we?

“Awesome suggestion! I’ll get right on it! I’ll send Sind’a Thighs to look for the Cifitra. It’s probably…”

A loud distorted ‘clang’ was heard over the communicator.

Peter the Ace spoke. “Don’t worry about the Cifitra. I’ve found it.

Panman looked out of the viewport. There, gripping onto the top side of the Baby Blenheim’s large domed viewport, was the Cifitra. Its spindly metal limbs were spread-eagled across the transparent dome.

“Whoa!”

The Baby Blenheim backed up. Peter the spoke, the tone of his voice calm and fearless. “I’ll deal with this. Get on with your task. I’ll take this annoying skeletal machine far away so it can’t bother you.

Panman watched as the Baby Blenheim turned and sped away. “Thanks, Ace!” He turned and pointed at the colonel. “Sind’a, get this colourless over-fed blimp to show you the primary energy containment unit for this ship’s engines.”

Sind’a Thighs nodded. She grabbed Colonel Hamblaba’s arm. “Show me, now!”

The colonel pointed to a large cylindrical object behind the ladder they had climbed earlier. “That’s it, just there.”

Panman was pleased. “Very convenient! Colonel Ham Blubber? explain to Sind’a how to disengage all the safety protocols.” He stepped over to a display-screen. “I don’t want any warning messages or exceptions popping up on this thing, there’s nothing more annoying than that!”

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