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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 30: A Vision of Pure Might and Terror

With the uneven disk of the Cifitra’s fortress looming large straight ahead, Panman stood proudly on the topside of the Nebulon. He gripped the handle of the Thermal Containment Aperture’s hand crank, holding open the aperture. A stream of energetic gas continued to shoot out into space. He had been holding the aperture open for more than thirty-minutes now, and in a couple of minutes enough gas will have been vented to ensure the engine overload. The resulting explosion would be nothing short of invigorating. At least that was what the bounty hunter hoped.

Panman looked to his right. There, docked to one of the Nebulon’s airlocks, was the ever-impressive Blenheim – a vision of pure might and terror against the black canvass of space. Even though Panman had flown in that particular ship for several decades, the sight of it still filled him with a deep sense of awe and pride. After allowing himself a few moments of quiet admiration he activated his communicator. “Ace? How are things over there? You’re going to have to detach in a minute or two, remember?”

Peter the Ace replied. “I remember. Things are fine here. Sind’a Thighs has bound and gagged that fat-packed colonel and put him in a detention cell.

“Cool!”

When she came up here to the bridge I was very impressed. She was wearing nothing but a tight pair of black Palace of Amino thongs and a tube bra, and she was caked in blood!

Panman laughed. “Yeah, she’s been awesome! She eliminated dozens of this ship’s crewmembers with her thighs alone!”

That’s reassuring to know. She has definitely redeemed herself many times over for her earlier shocking incompetence. Getting herself shot down and allowing her ship to be destroyed on her first solo mission is not something the Superior Beings ever look favourably upon. If she hadn’t performed the exceptionally insane and improbable infiltration of that ship in such an incredible manner she would certainly have lost her bounty hunter status.

“Yeah – her career would have been set back by decades – even forever!”

Indeed. Remember Silent Shabba Smith?

“Ha! I’d forgotten about him! What a useless piece of meat he turned out to be. His first mission as a qualified bounty hunter was a hilarious disaster! All he had to do was rescue three malnourished Aeki banana carriers from the base of an extremist group of fibrous trade terrorists.”

Yes. He ended up destroying his own ship, the homes of the banana carriers, and succumbing to the terrorists’ rather banal exam-based brainwashing techniques!

“He now works as a drain inspection consultant down in the palace’s sewer cavern, I believe.”

He does indeed. And he’ll be there for another fifty years at least. If Sind’a Thighs hadn’t redeemed herself so completely, only her well-toned thighs would have prevented her from suffering a similar fate. She would probably have ended up as a token aerobic instructor in one of the subterranean under-class fat camps.

Panman grimaced. “It would take a strong stomach to put up with that amount of mouldy sweaty flab bouncing around. Hideous!” The head-up display on his visor popped up a message. “Ace, one minute to go! I’ll be jumping off in thirty seconds. Detach!”

Okay – detaching now. Remember to push off hard!

“No problem.”

To the right, the Blenheim drifted away from the Nebulon, its thrusters emitting a deep shade of red.

Ahead the view was now almost filled with the dark and jagged fortress of the Cifitra. It was indeed an icy rogue planetoid devoid of beauty and grace - a fitting location for a Cifitra’s hideout.

Panman felt himself grow heavier as the Nebulon suddenly altered course and followed what was obviously a pre-programmed flight path to the fortress.

Peter the Ace spoke over the communicator. “That big ugly ship of yours seems to be heading for an opening in an ice cliff in the northern hemisphere of that planetoid.

Panman chuckled. “Just as I’d hoped. It’s now pointing exactly where I want it to!”

Another message appeared in Panman’s head-up display. It was time. With the jagged icy surface of the planetoid now spreading beneath in all directions, Panman crouched, and then pushed off hard. He drifted up and away from the domed green hull of the Nebulon. The bounty hunter gasped at the sight below. As the huge mouldy-coloured vessel dropped away, the full frigid vista of dimly lit ice became visible, speeding by just a few kilometres below.

Panman grinned, thrilled at the precarious nature of his predicament. To celebrate, he selected some spiced chicken paste from his suit’s food menu and gulped it down. And then he noticed that he was bathed in light from above. Looking up, the bounty hunter could see the dense bulk of the Blenheim, its lower cargo bay doors wide open and welcoming. With the poise and elegance of a Hina prancer, Panman drifted into the brightly lit cargo bay. Reaching out, he grabbed a handhold. The cargo bay doors closed beneath him, the bay was re-pressurised, and then gravity was restored. The bounty hunter slammed down onto the plated flooring. He opened his helmet and then activated his communicator. “Ace? What’s the status of that ship?”

Sensors show a remarkable build-up of energy in its engine section. It’s going to detonate any second now!

Panman rushed to a nearby console. He activated its screen, and then tapped into the Blenheim’s visual array. A high-definition image of the Nebulon was displayed, a mass of black smoke billowing round its rear end. Random jets of flame were forcing their way out from splits in the ship’s armour plating.

And then a white flash burst across the screen.

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