It was time.
A program - complex, optimised – executed, and ran a self-diagnostic
scan, checking for corruptions, viruses, inconsistencies.
None were found.
A millisecond later, the program ran an update scan, checking for upgrades,
One message was found.
The program scanned the message, unpacking, decrypting, authenticating.
The message was authentic.
The program read the message: Security compromised. Complex infiltrated.
Autonomy granted. Abort mechanism disabled. Fulfil task immediately.
The program understood.
The program initiated a full system check. 17,134 status requests were
Three milliseconds came and went.
Only 9,991 status reports had been returned.
Only 6,239 systems were fully operational.
The program waited three more milliseconds for further responses.
Six more responses were received.
One response was incomplete. The program rejected it.
7,138 systems had failed to respond.
The program reconfigured the remaining systems, redefining, recalibrating,
The program calculated overall operational status. The system was operational
- 34 percent of optimal - sufficient.
The program activated the start-up sequence.
Full discharge in 632,002 milliseconds…
It’ll be a lovely morning, thought Gaggibagi Pussbucket, as she
opened up the balcony doors of her small restaurant. Stiffly, she walked
her aging and delicate frame onto the table-filled balcony and looked
out across the city’s central district. The crater created by the
impact of the as yet unidentified object still dominated the view, and
no doubt would for many years. Reconstruction will take a long time, she
thought. Still, the glow of sunrise can make anything look beautiful,
even a scene of utter devastation and carnage.
“Customers are gathering outside, Miss PussBucket. T’will
soon be time to open.”
The frail restaurant owner turned to face her buxom waitress and smiled.
“It will, young Frumpi. You had better light the fires.”
Frumpi nodded. “Yes, Miss Pussbucket.”
“And make sure that that idiot Damius is not sneaking himself drinks
down in the cellar again. Yesterday morn he’d filled his belly to
bursting before I found him. His subsequent vomiting fit was not for the
“Yes, Miss Pussbucket.”
Gaggibagi Pussbucket reached out her trembling left arm and gave the waitress’s
shoulder a feeble squeeze. “You are such a dear, young Frumpi. Without
you I’m sure I would have had to close this place by now. I would
be too weak to manage on my own.”
Frumpi shook her head. Her whiskered jowls wobbled furiously. “Nonsense,
Miss Pussbucket! You’ll still be running this restaurant well after
the rest of us pass away.”
Miss Pussbucket frowned, her face creasing like an accordion. “Don’t
lie to me, Frumpi. I hate liars!”
Frumpi bowed her head. “Sorry, Miss Pussbucket.”
The restaurant owner took a shallow breath, and then coughed lightly.
“Oh, dear me. I feel a little faint.” She stepped across the
balcony and sat down at one of the tables. She gasped. “I think
I’ll rest here for a few minutes.”
“Shall I bring you a glass of water, Miss Pussbucket?” Frumpi
“Of course not!” Miss Pussbucket said with breathless annoyance.
She looked at the waitress, struggling to keep her head up. “Bring
me beer, as usual!”
Frumpi nodded once, and then hurried away.
Gaggibagi Pussbucket watched after her. Frumpi is a loyal employee and
companion, the old lady thought, and marvellously adept at baking and
cake decoration. But she has the thickest mind I’ve ever encountered!
A breeze, chilling and penetrating, swept across the balcony. Miss Pussbucket
strained, pulling herself to her feet. She shivered. It would not do her
health any good to be sitting out here in such a temperature. If Doctor
Chonk found out he’d fall to the floor and have a damaging fit,
she thought, smiling. She had always found the doctor’s epilepsy
a source of great amusement.
The ancient restaurant owner stepped back inside and met young Frumpi
returning with her beer.
“There you are, Miss Pussbucket.” Frumpi said, placing the
heavy-headed glass of beer on a table. “Siddle-Piddle Brown Ale,
GaggiBagi Pussbucket sat down at the table. “No it isn’t.”
she said, holding up the beer up and examining it. “But it’ll
do.” She took a long swig, swallowing with all her feeble might.
“Ah, yes. Sweet beer. Eases the pain.” She looked up at Frumpi.
“Be a dear and close the balcony doors.”
The podgy waitress nodded. “Yes, Miss Pussbucket.” She walked
over to the doors. “T’is an odd sky, this morn. The clouds
are vanishing. The sky is getting purple!”
The restaurant owner was not in the mood for one of her waitress’s
brainless observations. “What nonsense are you spouting now, Frumpi?”
“It’s not nonsense, Miss Pussbucket. Look!”
Miss Pussbucket turned and looked out at the sky. Remarkably, Frumpi was
right. The sky, only a minute ago filled with clouds, was rapidly being
cleared by an arc of purple haze. It moved quickly, vaporising all clouds
in its path.
“It’s getting warmer!” the waitress said. “It’s
no longer chilly out there.”
Several plumes of smoke appeared on the horizon. Excited chatter could
be heard from the street below.
Gaggibagi Pussbucket’s curiousity was roused. “Go out and
have a look. I want to know what’s happening.”
Frumpi nodded, and then stepped out onto the balcony.
The ancient restaurant owner watched as her waitress was bathed in the
The waitress shielded her face from the source of the light as she looked
out across the city. “T’is hot now. I can’t look north.
Something far too bright is there.”
The purple light brightened slightly.
Miss Pussbucket watched with horror as Frumpi’s clothes and hair
burst into flame. The waitress shrieked - her voice shrill like a buntka
sloth. Frantically she tried to pad out the flames, but they were becoming
more intense every second. Howling in agony, the waitress collapsed to
the floor, her body now a blinding inferno. The old restaurant owner gasped
with alarm and disbelief. She watched as Frumpi shuddered for a few more
seconds, and then was still. The flames from her body continued to grow
in intensity, fuelled, no doubt, by the waitress’s ample supply
of saturated body fat.
Gaggibagi Pussbucket got up from the table. Explosions and fires filled
the view of the city now. Screams and wails drifted up from the street
below. The purple haze grew deeper and brighter. The air was hot and dry
like a sauna. The restaurant owner gasped, trying to breathe the painfully
hot air. Terror filled her mind. What could have happened? She asked herself.
She took another breath. Her lungs burned. No more questions filled her
mind. All she could think about was the unbelievable pain.
Miss Pussbucket’s skin was blistering now, all over her face and
hands - such incredible pain. Instinct forced her to take another breath,
a breath of pure agony. She fell to the floor. With her last drop of strength,
the ancient restaurant owner lifted her head and looked out at the balcony.
Frumpi’s corpse still burned brightly. Beyond, the sky was now thick
What a disaster, Gaggibagi Pussbucket thought, as her clothes and hair
ignited into flame…