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Book: Hippies
Chapter 14: Self-Illuminated Vagabonds

The unsteady pyramid of hippies was almost complete. Just one more and the blue light at the top of the dome could be reached and examined.

Commander A’Doner shouted at Moonbeam, the only hippy left who was conscious and not part of the pyramid. “Looks like the honour is all yours. Climb up to the top.”

Moonbeam looked up. He shuddered at the thought of climbing up four levels of unstable and heavily stoned hippies, some of whom were still smoking. “It’s, like, too high. I’m not good with heights.”

The commander bellowed like a moose on heat. “Do as I order, bum bandit!”

With incredible nervousness, Moonbeam clambered onto the nearest of his crewmates and started to ascend the pyramid.

The commander watched with inner despair. It was a futile attempt at escape. Still, it was good to keep his crew occupied. At least their last few hours of life would not seem futile. He sighed, and looked down at the bobbing mass of his robes. Even the pleasuring of Daisy Muff gave him no comfort now.


Pan was not a happy man. The uphill tilt of the ocean floor was hard going, and the uneven terrain and extreme pressure at this depth was making progress extremely slow. The blue glow of the light ahead seemed no closer, despite half-an-hour of relentless trudging. Pan puffed and panted like an irritable buffalo, and cursed under his breath: Damn hippies! They’re gonna suffer for this! He thought about the sonic pulse rifle and concussion grenades strapped to his back and cheered up a little. Using those is going to be so cool!

And then he slipped.

Flailing like an abandoned baby, Pan slid on his backside down the side of a steep crevasse. A shoal of tiny translucent fish flicked out of the way as the space-suited hero jammed between two outcrops of rock.

Pan turned on his helmet’s flood light, something he should have done a long time ago, and looked around. Below, the narrow crevasse seemed to go on forever. He had been lucky. If the outcrops had not stopped his fall, he could have fallen into oblivion. Above, the lip of the opposite side of the thin crevasse loomed over him almost five metres up.

After few seconds of inane profanity and rock punching, Pan calmed himself and began to think logically. Using his visor’s head-up display he called up a list of his suit’s tool inventory. The fourth item down, right under toe-nail clippers, was exactly what he was looking for: a pocket-sized grappling hook and launcher, located conveniently in his suit’s chest pocket. Pan opened the pocked and pulled out the pistol-shaped device. Following the onscreen instructions, he energised the launcher pistol and aimed just above the lip of the crevasse.

He fired.

With a muffled thud the grappling hook and line shot up and out of the crevasse and disappeared from view. As instructed by his head-up display, Pan waited for a few seconds to give the hook time to land, and then he pulled. The line was tight and seemed secure. Gripping the launcher pistol with both hands, he shimmied out of the grip of the two rocky outcrops and swung out into the open. He sighed with relief as the line held. He clicked the retract button. Powerful and noisy fusion-powered servos whirred into action, yanking Pan violently up towards the lip of the crevasse. Before he could even consider choosing another snack from his suit’s menu, he slid over the lip of the crevasse and slammed into something hard. Letting go of the pistol, Pan, slightly stunned, clambered uneasily to his feet. A cloud of silt shrouded his view and took a few seconds to clear. There, straight ahead, was the blue light, and for once it seemed a little closer.

An incredible pain shot up his left leg. Pan yelped and looked down. A crab-like creature the size of an award-winning marrow was gripping tightly with its pincers to his leg just above his boot. The water around was turning deep red. His suit was punctured, and so was his leg. Pan attempted to shake the crab loose but it just gripped harder, sending even more intense pain signals to his brain.

There was only one thing to do. Pan reached round to his back pack and grabbed the sonic pulse rifle. Aiming down, he targeted the centre of the crab’s shell and fired. With a huge thud, a blast of intense and focused sound hit the crab. The crab’s shell shattered, scattering over a wide area. Its fleshy innards were split and shredded, and sank into the silt.

The shock of the sound blast pushed Pan back a few metres, but he managed to keep standing. He reached down and removed the crab’s pincers, which were still gripping onto his left leg. With the obstruction removed the suit’s emergency anti-leak system burst into action, filling up the breach in a second with a thick foamy substance.

Pan howled as the substance entered his wound. After a few seconds the pain subsided, but his anger did not. With renewed determination he limped forwards towards the light, mumbling in a deep and devilish voice. “No mercy! The hippies shall know no mercy!”


“Oops!” Peter said, pointing at one of the screens in front of him. “Just noticed something.”

Ross looked over. “What?”

“This capsule can function underwater after all.”

Ross scowled. “Then why the fuck did you say it couldn’t?”

“The on-line manual is presented in a very peculiar font.” Peter pointed at the screen again. “It’s not easy to read.”

“Hmm…” Ross said. He nodded. “Actually, you’re right. Fuckin’ Navy and their creative typesetting!”

Peter took the capsule off auto-pilot and pushed forward on the control stick. Outside the large domed window at the front of the capsule, the rolling ocean now filled the view. It was approaching fast.

Ross was curious. “What are you doing?” he asked, as his stomach leapt up into his throat.

“Well, we sent Pan down their on his own because we thought he was the only one who had a space suit, and therefore the only one who could go there. Now that we know we can go there we should go and help him.”

Ross was not convinced. He shook his head. “Pan was looking forward to dealing with those fuckin’ hippies single-handedly. He’ll be pissed off if we barge in there.”

Peter angled the capsule into a steeper descent. “No, he’ll appreciate our help. Anyway, why should he have all the fun? I want my piece of the action!”

Ross thought for a second, and then nodded vigorously. “Fuck! Yeah! I want my piece too. A fuckin’ large piece!”

Peter grinned. “Excellent!” He examined his screens. “We’re on a perfect course. Prepare to hit the water.”

Ross tightened the straps on his seat. He laughed as he looked at the rapidly approaching ocean. “This is going to be one huge fuckin’ splash!”


For the last ten minutes Moonbeam had been fiddling with casing of the blue light. Unlike the wall of the dome, the light’s casing was not at all corroded. In fact, it seemed brand new.

Commander A’Doner shouted from below. “Well? Have you done it?”

Moonbeam looked down at his commander through the steadily deepening haze of reefer smoke. “Erm… No.” He swayed as the wobbly pyramid of hippies beneath him moved. “The light is, like, really well constructed. I can’t seem to find a way in.”

The commander bellowed. “Why, in Bernard’s Bowels, not? I saw your service record. You were trained in assembling and dismantling hardware of all types. Are you telling me you can’t dismantle a simple light?”

Moonbeam hugged the light to steady himself as the hippy pyramid swayed. “Well, I was trained on hippy hardware, which is poorly built and, like, easy to rip apart. This light is, like, very well designed, and built to the highest standards. It’s, like, totally impenetrable, or something.”

Commander A’Doner fumed. “I’ve had enough of you anal love muffins! I’ll do it myself!” He pulled out a small energy pistol from beneath his vast robes. “All of you! Out of my way!” He kicked hard at the legs of the hippy at the left hand side of the pyramid.

After a second or two of lethargic wailing, the hippy pyramid crashed to the floor. The hippies moaned like the undead.

The commander aimed his pistol. “This will open up that light. And then the power source inside will be mine all mine all mine!” He fired.

A potent beam of sparkling red energy connected with the blue light. Immediately, arcs of lightening crackled across the ceiling, filling the dome with a strobe of blinding light. The sound was deafening.

The commander ceased firing, but the effects of his rash action grew worse by the second. Already, three of his crew were blazing infernos, ignited by the electric arcs. They were screaming feebly, and staggering like self-illuminated vagabonds. One of them turned and approached the commander, his arms outstretched. He obviously wanted a comforting hug from his superior. The commander had no choice. He aimed his pistol and fired. The hippy’s head split in two. His lifeless flaming body crumpled to the floor.

“Commander!” Moonbeam shouted. He was moving awkwardly towards Commander A’Doner. His fall from the hippy pyramid had broken his leg. His snapped right femur was sticking out like a gatepost. “I think you, like, caused a malfunction!”

When Moonbeam was in range Commander A’Doner punched him hard on his forehead. The hippy staggered and then fell to the floor, landing hard on his protruding leg bone. He yelped and began to sob like his sister.

Commander A’Doner yelled. “Get up, you idle pillow-biter! Do your duty! Protect me!”

Moonbeam struggled to his feet and positioned himself between the commander and the violently sparkling blue light. More and more of the hippies were bursting into flames as arcs of power connected with their bodies. “This is, like, depressing.” Moonbeam moaned.

Commander A’Doner repeated his order. “Do your duty!”

Moonbeam nodded weakly. And then was hit by lightning. He howled as his right leg ignited, and then fell to the floor. Frantically he patted the flames, trying to put them out.

Another bolt of power zigzagged across the dome. Without Moonbeam as an obstruction, the dazzling energy hit Commander A’Doner’s robes. The robes burst into flames.

The commander fumed as he padded his burning clothes. “Damn it, Moonbeam! I ordered you to do your duty and protect me! Help me put this out!”

Moonbeam ignored the commander. He was too busy putting out the flames on his now well-cooked leg. He flinched as another arc of power flashed across the domed room, fortunately in the other direction.

There was a stifled scream from beneath the commander’s robes. Daisy Muff, her face blackened by smoke, crawled out. She coughed deeply, spat out some phlegm, and then started sobbing.

“Don’t just sit there, woman!” Commander A’Doner yelled. “Help me!”

Daisy helped the commander pad down the last of the flames on his robes.

With a final flash and crack, the blue light at the top of the dome faded to darkness. An eerie silence, broken only by the occasional crackle of fire, filled the room.

Commander A’Doner looked around. The dome, lit by nothing but the flaming corpses of hippies, had become a disconcerting and primeval place. Almost all of his crew had been reduced to nothing more than smouldering lumps of lifeless flesh. He looked down at Daisy. She was leaning on his thick charred robes and sucking on her thumb. She moaned softly. He looked over to Moonbeam, who was stroking his black and broken leg. The junior officer was snivelling quietly and his head was bobbing slowly up and down – a sure sign that madness had finally taken hold of his mind.

With a sigh, Commander A’Doner slumped down to the floor and rested against the wall. For the first time in his life he welcomed the inevitability of death. His only comfort was that those Navy bastards would not capture him alive. They would get no such pleasure.

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