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Book: Vengeance of the Lump-Being
Chapter 49: Fur-Lined Battle Robes

The Palace of Amino was eerily quiet. All available bounty hunters had left with the fleets two days ago, and with the arrival of the emitter beam imminent, all of the trainee bounty hunters and bounty hunter assistants had been evacuated deep underground to many large, opulent, and well-catered bunkers.

But there were still a significant number of people above ground. The palace’s menial staff – the cleaners, coffee makers, sales assistants, and banana peelers to name just a few – remained on the surface and in the towers. And the reason they were still up there was surprisingly simple; they had no idea whatsoever of the impending threat that approached from above.

Those in the highest echelons of the Palace of Amino had one strict policy when it came to the palace’s menial workers; ignorance - specifically ignorance of opportunities elsewhere, ignorance of educational advancement, ignorance of the benefits of a high-fibre diet, and ignorance of extreme and impending danger. This state of complete ignorance of almost everything had induced a state of bliss amongst the palace’s menial workers. This state of bliss had kept them content with their mundane lives and mind-numbing occupations, and prevented any uprisings, strikes, and protests.

Charles Clod, chief street sanitation executive for Inner District Four, pushed his right foot down, accelerating his small cleaning machine east towards the towering inner districts of the Palace of Amino, several kilometres away. It was pre-dawn, his favourite time of day, and the palace’s towers were dark silhouettes against the brightening sky. Charles smiled, enjoying the simple pleasure of staring inanely at a magnificent sight, and the gentle vibrations of the vehicle beneath him.

Over the last few days Charles had noticed a definite change in the palace. There were far less bounty hunters than usual. In fact, as far as he could remember, he had not seen a bounty hunter since he had seen all those ships launching a couple of days ago. His slow, genetically de-enhanced brain struggled with the available evidence, but was unable to put two and two together. The sanitation executive gave up, mentally exhausted.

Ahead, Charles could see headlights of three other vehicles – the rest of his team. He pulled his vehicle to a halt besides the others, and then opened up his vehicle’s bubble dome. He stepped out. “Mornin’, fellas.” Charles said. “Ready t’ wash ‘n’ dry streets for owwa superiors?”

Charles’ three team members were stood by their vehicles, picking their noses and poking their ears. They nodded.

Dibble Fop, one of the shortest no-necks to ever work at the Palace of Amino, chewed on a booger. “Boss? Where is all the, like, bounty folk?”

Charles frowned. “Wherever they wanna be, Dibble. You know it’s nona ya business t’ask such things.”

“Just wonderin’.” Dibble said, picking another limp from his nose. “No harm ever been done by wonderin’.”

“Most of our kind work below surface.” Charles said. “It’s a privilege for you to be up ‘ere. Don’t ruin things by speakin’ outta turn, or ya’ll end up back in the sewer divin’ unit!”

Dibble lowered his head. “Sorry, boss.”

The other two laughed. “You’re so stupid, Dibble!” one of them said between sniggers.

It was time to end this inane conversation. “Settle down.” Charles said. “Let’s get on with our jobs.”

Dibble and the others nodded, and then prepared to board their vehicles.

A wash of purple light illuminated the streets and buildings.

Dibble swore with surprise. “Bloody ‘ell!”

Instinctively, everyone looked up. Right above, a huge ball of almost blinding magenta fire was spreading across the sky, its focal point right at the centre of the palace. Waves of light, like the aurora borealis, were spreading down to the horizon. The ground began to vibrate.

Charles expressed his opinion. “Pretty lights!”

Everyone agreed.

Once again, Dibble was curious. “What’s causin’ that?”

The chief sanitation executive slapped Dibble hard on the back of his head. “How many times I ‘ave to tell you? You’ve no business askin’ such things!”

Dibble looked at him, his eyes watering with the sting of his superior’s hand. “I’m just wonderin’! That’s all!”

“Just watch!” Charles ordered, exerting his mediocre authority. “Our kind ‘as no need to know stuff likes the bounty ‘unters do.”

One of the others nudged Dibble and sniggered. “You really are stupid!”

Dibble grumbled and nudged back, and then returned his attention to the sky. The purple fire was spreading and brightening. The vibrations were increasing in intensity. “Maybe it’s dangerous?”

Charles shook his head. “Nothin’ that pretty is dangerous! You should know that!”

The four sanitation workers gazed vacantly up at the sky, blissfully unaware of the powerful and deadly energy that pummelled the Palace of Amino’s defence field just a few kilometres above their thick skulls.

“Forty percent’s gone already!” Woody Tiptoe, the Palace of Amino’s head of external defences said. He shouted at his team. “Increase the dispersal ratio. That should lessen the distortion flow.”

Another strong vibration shuddered across the cavernous room that was Amino Battle Command.

Chief Officer Weezil Sagifagpakit was standing next to the head of external defences. He looked up at the huge screens on the far wall. Several images from inside and outside the palace, and from high in orbit, displayed the awesome power of the attack of the emitter beam. “We should not be feeling such intense vibrations this deep below the surface.” The chief officer said with concern. “What’s happening?”

Woody Tiptoe answered. “Half of the quake dampers are damaged. The remaining ones are strained to breaking point. They’re not really built for this level of stress.”

“Well they should be!” a voice bellowed from behind.

Woody Tiptoe and the chief officer looked back. Up on the wide balcony at the back of battle command stood Commander Pepe, dressed in his orange fur-lined battle robes. The stress lines on the commander’s flab-folded face were particularly evident.

The chief officer was concerned for his superior. “You should not be up here, commander. It’s much safer for you down in the main situation room.”

“I am in command and I’ll go where I want!” The commander bellowed.

“Of course, commander.”

The ground shuddered, sending dozens of technicians tumbling from their seats. A loud rumble passed through battle command.

Woody Tiptoe shouted above the noise, gripping tightly to his console for support. “The defence field is down to twelve percent! Failure in thirty seconds!”

Commander Pepe yelled. “Do something!”

“There’s nothing left I can do. If the beam doesn’t cease within thirty seconds, the Palace of Amino will loose all defence against it.”

Realising there was indeed nothing more that could be done, Commander Pepe, Woody Tiptoe, and Chief Officer Weezil Sagifagpakit stared in silence at the giant view screens, watching the ferocious, relentless emitter beam as it pummelled into the palace’s defence field. From the orbital view, they could see the hundreds of square kilometres of the forests that surrounded the palace. They were burning, smearing the sky with dense dark smoke. In a few more seconds, the surface of the palace, with its magnificent buildings, parks, monuments, and fast-food outlets, would look no different.

More deep vibrations shuddered battle command.

Woody looked down at his console. He sighed. “Fifteen seconds.”

The chief officer looked at the head of external defences. “How long will we be able to survive when the defence field fails?”

“Does it really matter?” Woody Tiptoe asked.

Commander Pepe yelled. “Answer him, damn it! I want to know too!”

Woody Tiptoe nodded. “Well… The surface structures will be vaporised within three seconds. Ten seconds later we will suffer the same fate. Ten seconds after that, so will the main situation room. And ten seconds after that, the superior beings will be destroyed too.”

Commander Pepe felt sick. “Why did you have to tell us all that?”

The head of external defences was a little confused. “Because you asked me…”

Commander Pepe vomited hard over the balcony’s railings. The contents of his stomach sprayed across Woody Tiptoe and the chief officer. The two officers covered their faces in disgust, and then, unable to resist, they too vomited. A spray of semi-digested food scattered through their hands and onto the surrounding technicians.

Over the next few seconds a cascade of sympathetic vomiting spread through Amino Battle Command. Everyone suffered. Everyone groaned like zombies. Everyone’s console was rendered useless. In fact, everyone was so absorbed with the nauseous state of their own bodies, that no-one noticed when the emitter beam ceased just four milliseconds before the defence field failed.

Once again, against a destructive force of almost incomprehensible power, the Palace of Amino had only just survived.

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