“Silence those damned alarms!” Admiral Phutphungus shouted as he slumped into
his command chair.
The multitude of whoopings and bleeps that had echoed around the entire
ship for the last five minutes were quickly silenced.
The admiral turned to sub-officer Shym-Sham Shawallihoo. “Why did
you set off all those alarms?”
The sub-officer answered gently. “The alarms were activated automatically
to indicate to the crew that we are about to encounter the emitter beam.”
“A single verbal announcement would have been sufficient. The shock
of the alarms woke me in a most disturbing manner!”
The admiral breathed deeply, his chest heaved under his thick robes. He
calmed down. “Give me an update.”
Shym-Sham nodded. “The emitter beam entered the Ar’Mar’Ni
sector five minutes ago. It will reach our position in two minutes.”
The admiral’s heart pounded. “This is it, then?”
“It is, admiral.”
Admiral Phutphungus sighed. He turned to the Slaying Mantis’s communications
officer. “Open a communications channel to the fleet.”
The communications officer, Meg Marmalade-Specklepelt, nodded at the admiral;
her haggard face almost completely covered by her numerous headscarves.
She turned to her console. Her bony hands operated the controls. “Channel
The admiral spoke in his most authoritative and motivational tone. “First
fleet, this is Admiral Phutphungus. As you will already be aware, the emitter
beam will reach our position in…” He looked at the information
overlaid on the main view screen. “… One minute and thirty-six
seconds. We are the first line of defence for the Palace of Amino - an enormous
responsibility, but also an enormous privilege. Thanks to our top-class
bounty hunters on Gun-Loc, the power of the emitter beam is much lower than
we first expected. We shall be forever grateful for their efforts. Now,
it is our turn to reduce the power of the emitter beam even more, and absorb
as much of it as we can.
“This is what we have been preparing for for many days now. I expect
nothing more than the very best from all of you, and I know that’s
what you will give. Be strong. Be vigilant. Use the insanity gained from
your training and experience. Follow those simple directives and we will
prevail. I’m counting on you all. The Palace of Amino is counting
on you all. Good luck.”
Admiral Phutphungus motioned towards Meg Marmalade-Specklepelt. She nodded
and closed the communications channel.
Shym-Sham spoke. “That was a very motivational speech, admiral.”
“Of course it was.” The admiral said. “That was the point
of it. How long?”
“The beam will arrive in forty-one seconds.”
“Energise shields. Prepare to link the shields of the entire fleet
on my mark.”
Shym-Sham nodded. “Yes, admiral.” He looked to his left. Sitting
a few metres away at a large crescent-shaped console was a fourth-class
bounty hunter named Damsel Deep Bore, the chief tactical officer of the
Slaying Mantis. “Energise our shields, Miss Deep Bore.”
The bounty hunter nodded, her nose-length blonde fringe swaying like a curtain
over her eyes. She touched a control surface. Her console bleeped once.
“Our shields are energised.” She said; her deep and resonant
voice at odds with her appearance. “The rest of the fleet has followed
Admiral Phutphungus looked at the main view screen. The view ahead still
showed a star field, silent and peaceful. There was no indication of what
was approaching. And there never would be until it arrived. For a brief
moment the admiral entertained the notion that maybe there was no emitter
beam. Maybe it was a hoax, or even a joke by those back at the palace and
on this ship. After all, it was his birthday in a few days time.
“Twenty-five seconds.” Shym-Sham announced.
The admiral’s heart started to pound. And then the small control console
on the arm of his chair bleeped. He looked down. There was a call coming
in to his private channel. How odd. He answered. “Whoever this is,
it is not a good time!”
“I don’t want to be alone.” The caller said; her voice
easily audible across the entire bridge.
Admiral Phutphungus blushed. “Abunda? I told you never to call me
“I’m scared! Please come to me. Only the pleasure of your ample
endowment can get me through the terror of this situation!”
Several of the bridge crew sniggered like school children.
The admiral’s face reddened even more, and not just with embarrassment.
“I am leader of this fleet and commander of this ship. I am needed
on the bridge. Stay in bed. Hide under the duvet. I’ll be with you
just as soon as…”
“But the duvet’s too small for my bulk – it can’t
protect me! Please come now! I need your intimate companionship. Only your
“I’m needed here, you stupid cow! Why can’t you understand
Shym-Sham spoke. “Ten seconds, admiral.”
“I’m not stupid, just scared. Please, Marmaduke! Surely you
The admiral could not deal with this. He closed the channel and looked at
the ship’s communications officer, Meg Marmalade-Specklepelt. “Make
sure she doesn’t call again.”
The communications officer nodded.
“Five seconds.” Shym-Sham said, his voice noticeably nervous
for the first time.
Admiral Phutphungus looked at Damsel Deep Bore. “Prepare to link the
fleet’s shields…” Three seconds passed. “Now!”
Damsel Deep Bore touched her console. A new diagrammatic image of the fleet
was layered over the star field image on the main view screen. Pulsing blue
lines appeared like spokes from the icons representing each ship. Each ship
was linked to its neighbour, and all ships were linked to the lead vessel,
the Slaying Mantis. “All shields linked. Shield grid established.
The shields of all ships are functioning at full…”
An excruciating sound, like the wail of a giant M’Oanyella bear lizard,
spread across the bridge. Everyone covered their ears as the painful lament
increased in amplitude. The ship began to shudder violently.
Admiral Phutphungus screamed. “Dampen that noise!”
“Activate sound cancellation units.” Sub-Officer Shym-Sham Shawallihoo
shouted as he fell off his stool.
The ship’s sound cancellation officer, Schuman Stroodle MacFlugelhorn,
who was sitting right at the back of the bridge, gave Shym-Sham the thumbs
up, and then pushed the large oval ‘On’ button on his console.
The noise level immediately dropped to a more bearable level, low enough
to allow the muffled snaps of Shym-Sham’s left shoulder blade and
several of his ribs to be audible as he slammed into the floor.
The vibrations were increasing. Several consoles around the bridge flashed
and sparked as circuits blew.
The main view screen was now awash with shades of bright purple. Several
of the icons representing the ships of the fleet flashed, and then disappeared.
Damsel Deep Bore shouted. “We’ve lost twelve ships! There’s
a gap in the grid!”
“Close it!” The admiral bellowed. “Realign the remaining
The chief tactical officer nodded. She issued updates to the fleet. Many
ships shifted position, closing the gap. But then nine more icons flashed
out of existence.
“We’re loosing more ships!” Damsel Deep Bore announced.
“Issuing more realignment commands.”
An extreme jolt lifted everyone from their seats for a brief moment. There
was a deafening crunch. Alarms sounded.
Damsel Deep Bore made a grim announcement. “Our shields are down sixty-three
Shym-Sham, who had almost managed to pull himself back onto his stool, tumbled
backwards. “Divert power from the restaurant deck.” He ordered
as he fell. Another muffled snap was clearly heard as the sub-officer’s
head hit the side of the admiral’s chair.
The admiral looked down in dismay. Shym-Sham lay there, unmoving, unconscious.
The admiral shouted. “Medics to the bridge!”
Meg Marmalade-Specklepelt put a call through to sick bay. She turned. “Medics
on their way, admiral.” A bright flash of flame enveloped the communications
officer, thrusting her up and out of her chair. She landed with a thud in
front of the admiral. Her charred innards burst out from under her burning
shawl, accompanied by a gush of blood.
Admiral Phutphungus looked down at the mortally wounded old lady. She looked
back up at him, her face swollen and torn. She vomited a mouthful of odd-looking
fluid, and then relaxed, exhaling her final breath.
The admiral fought to hold back his own vomit and looked up at the main
view screen. Icons were flashing and disappearing at a frightening rate.
Damsel Deep Bore responded. “We’ve lost over a hundred ships!
It’ll soon be impossible to maintain the shield grid!”
An explosion up on the high ceiling of the bridge sent a shower of debris
down onto the crew. Several groans of agony could be heard down at the front.
The admiral shouted above the noise. “What about our shields?”
“Only twenty percent power!”
The chief tactical officer shook her head. “I can’t! I’ve
already diverted all the power I can from other systems.”
Frustrated, the admiral slammed his fist onto the arm of his chair.
A team of medics rushed out of the lift and over to the admiral. “You
require medics, admiral?”
Admiral Phutphungus was dumbfounded by the stupidity of the question. “Look
around you! Of course we damn well require you!” He pointed to Shym-Sham.
“Revive him, now! Help some of the others!”
The lead medic directed his three colleagues to the moans of despair at
the front of the bridge, and then turned his attention to the sub-officer.
The medic scanned him.
The admiral shouted. “What’s wrong with him?”
“Broken neck.” The medic said.
The medic shook his head. “That would be unwise.”
“Do as I order! I need his advice.”
The medic nodded. He pulled out a small device and connected it to Shym-Sham’s
The sub-officer’s eyes opened. He looked up at the admiral. “How
are we doing?” He asked, his voice even more croaky that normal. A
bright flash high above caused the sub-officer to blink. He watched as a
blanket of flame spread across the ornate ceiling.
“Awful!” The admiral answered.
Another jolt, the most violent yet, rocked the ship. For a brief second
the bridge was plunged into virtual darkness. Emergency power restored critical
systems. Light levels remained low.
Damsel Deep Bore spoke, her voice tinged with despair. “Shields are
down to five percent! Our power core is overloading! Two hundred ships have
been destroyed! We can only survive a few more seconds in the beam!”
Admiral Phutphungus was lost for ideas. He looked down at Shym-Sham. “What
should we do?”
Before the injured sub-officer could answer, the vibration and noise subsided.
The main view screen was once again showing a serene view of the star field
The sudden calm took the admiral by surprise. “Update!” He demanded.
The chief tactical officer examined her screens. “It’s passed!
The beam’s passed us!”
The admiral relaxed back into his chair. “What an incredible ride.
What about the fleet?”
“Only sixteen ships, including ourselves, survived. All remaining
ships have suffered heavy damage.”
The admiral sighed. “But we survived. Amazing! How much of the beam’s
energy did we absorb?”
Damsel Deep Bore looked at her screens. “Around forty-percent.”
“Let’s hope that’s enough. And let’s hope that the
Several loud alarms began whooping. They sounded very different to the previous
“What does that mean?” the admiral asked.
“It’s our power core.” Damsel Deep Bore said with concern.
She silenced the alarms. “It’s still overloading. It’s
going critical – I can’t shut it down!”
Admiral Phutphungus found that hard to believe. “Then get someone
down in engineering to do it manually!”
The chief tactical officer faced the admiral. “I can’t! They’re
“Damn it!” The admiral bellowed. He brought his fist hard down,
intending to hit the arm of his chair. He missed and instead slammed it
into Shym-Sham’s face.
The sub-officer groaned as his bony nose crumpled and split. His head fell
back, pale blood gushing over his cheeks and chin.
The admiral had no time to feel guilty. “Get him to the sick bay.”
The lead medic nodded. He grabbed Shym-Sham under his shoulders and dragged
The admiral returned his attention to the power core. “How long have
Damsel Deep Bore examined her screens. “Thirty minutes. Thirty-five
if we’re lucky.” A deep rumble spread through the ship. It faded
quickly. The chief tactical officer checked her screens. “The first
of the core’s compression fields has blown!”
Admiral Phutphungus thought for a second. A stoic determination filled his
mind. “We must try to save this ship. Get everyone with even a hint
of engineering knowledge down to the power core. They must shut it down
by any means possible.”
The chief tactical officer seemed unsure. “The core is flooded with
inebrian particles. Anyone down there would die horribly in less than…”
“Give them protective suits, then!”
“A suit would only protect someone for five minutes.”
“Then send them in in five minute shifts!” The admiral roared.
He put both his hands on top of his head in frustration. “Damn it,
woman, do I have to think of everything?”
Damsel Deep Bore shook her head. “Of course not. Sorry, admiral. I’ll
get right on it.”
Admiral Phutphungus took a deep breath, and then relaxed into his chair.
The chair’s soft leather padding soothed his ample posterior. His
thoughts drifted to Shym-Sham and his flattened face, and then to the second
fleet, which would encounter the emitter beam in several minutes time. His
thoughts halted on the naked mound of delightful womanhood that waited for
him in his quarters.
The admiral’s groin ached like there was no tomorrow.