Lord Ecnerwal sat cross-legged in the middle of his purple silk-sheeted bed with his hands clasped tightly to the sides of his scarred head. He looked at Badoodoo, his mouth hung open and his eyes wide and wet with distress. He spoke softly. “Why are they attacking only one of them, Badoodoo? They should be attacking them all. They are supposed to. Why, Badoodoo? Why?”
The assistant was becoming increasingly nervous. “I think they may have figured out how the landing craft work, my lord.”
Lord Ecnerwal was shuddering, but his voice remained soft. “My scab demons must be released. They must, Badoodoo.”
Some information appeared on Badoodoo’s data pad. As he analysed it he swallowed hard. A deep sense of dread swept over him.
Lord Ecnerwal frowned, his mood and manner swinging wildly as usual. He hissed. “What is it, stool sample?!”
The assistant looked up. “They have ceased their attack on the landing craft, my lord.”
Trembling, Lord Ecnerwal clambered uneasily off the bed. “This news is dire.” He said, almost in monotone. His trembling increased. “You must give me some news that is good. It is the only way that you can live beyond the next minute.”
Badoodoo backed away. Now he too was trembling. He frantically scanned his data pad and blurted out some more positive information. “The landing craft that was being attacked may be damaged enough to allow the escape of the scab demons! All the craft will arrive at the Palace of Amino in one minute. The palace still has no defence field!”
Lord Ecnerwal relaxed. “Then I will watch and wait. If the scab demons disembark, you will live. If they don’t, you will die in an appropriate manner.” He smiled and held out his arms. “Come Badoodoo. Stand close to me so we can watch together.”
Terrified, Badoodoo did as he was told. He walked over to his master and stood by his side.
Lord Ecnerwal put his arm around the assistant’s shoulder. He pointed at the one of the large screens on the wall of the bed chamber. “Show me the Palace of Amino.”
Barely able to control the shaking of his hands, Badoodoo manipulated his data pad. The screen now showed a view straight down onto the palace which was bathed in the orange glow of sunset. The palaces towers were casting long black shadows. “The landing craft will arrive from the east.”
Lord Ecnerwal squeezed Badoodoo. “I know, my rotund little growth of flesh, I know.”
The assistant winced in pain as his master’s bony grip on his shoulder tightened and tightened.
“There they are.” Goliath Snook said.
The huge central screen at the front of the main Amino Battle Command chamber showed an ultra-high-definition view to the east of the palace. Well lit in the evening sun, the four black landing craft could be seen approaching in parallel just a few hundred metres above the forests and lakes. The craft on the left was noticeable smaller, having had a large percent of its mass blasted away. It was leaving a cloud of dense smoke in its wake.
Spread widely behind the landing craft, the much smaller bounty hunter ships could be seen maintaining close contact with the invaders.
Commander Pepe stared at the image. He chewed on the last mouthful of his latest pork pie. “How long?” He asked, crumbs of pastry spraying out across his vast belly and tumbling over his chins.
“They will pass over the perimeter wall in fifteen seconds.”
The commander sighed and touched his communications console. “Woody, you know what I’m going to ask.”
“I do.” Was the reply. “And you know what my answer is.”
The commander closed the channel. There was no point in shouting. Such methods of motivation would no longer be very effective. The landing craft were here, and they were about to land. The invasion of the Palace of Amino was about to begin.
The chief officer asked. “Do you have any further orders, commander?”
Tension gripped Commander Pepe’s humongous body from head to foot. He kept his focus on the giant image of the landing craft ahead. “Surround me with pork pies.” He said quietly, and then he turned and looked at the chief officer, his expression the definition of dread. “Now!”
Goliath Snook nodded once and then relayed the order.
The commander looked back at the image of the landing craft. They had just passed over the palace’s perimeter. Panman had better be right, he thought.
In the orange glow of a glorious sunset and partly obscured by the shadows of the Palace of Amino’s soaring towers, the four black rectangular landing craft descended. With a roar like sustained thunder, the first of the craft hit the ground hard, flattening a large part of the Maimem entertainment district and throwing forwards a huge cloud of debris. The second two hit a few seconds later - one of them gouging a wide deep furrow through the centre of Kireiometot Park, and the other slamming into the base of the Suave Tower. As if in slow motion the tower, a six-hundred metre tall complex of luxury apartments and restaurants, collapsed neatly onto the landing craft, quickly covering its four-hundred metre length with layers of palisteel and rubble.
With most of its heavy armour blown away, the final landing craft descended slower. It continued much further before the taller and more densely grouped towers close to the palace’s central districts finally brought it to a halt. Scraping between the domed towers of the Amino Extreme Surgery Clinic, the battered smoking craft finally plummeted the last fifty metres to the street below.
For the first time in almost forty-six years the Palace of Amino’s defences had been breached.