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Book: Hippies
Chapter 15: Crackling Mass of Meat and Bone

“It just went out!” Peter said, looking out of the capsule’s domed window. Where the mesmerizing blue light had been there was now only the blackness of the ocean depths. “There were a couple of flickers of what looked like lightening, and then it all went dark!”

Ross was grinning. “Fuckin’ excellent! Pan must’ve done the business!”

Peter operated a few controls on his console. “Now that there’s no light down here I need another way to see where we’re going.” The display on the screens in front of him changed configuration, and then a loud and deep sonar pinging sound began reverberating through the cabin.

“Fuck! That’s loud! You’ll give away our position!”

“I know, but if Pan’s done what we think he’s done, that no longer matters.” Peter pointed at his screens. “Look. A clear sonic view of the sea bed, and what was the source of the light!”

Ross looked at the screens. There, on the edge of a deep abyss, was a dome. And around the dome were several smaller spheres. “Cool! They must be the pods those bony fuckers escaped in!”

“Indeed. Proof we’re in the right place.”

With the dexterity of a marmoset, Peter leveled the capsule onto a course parallel with the ocean floor. Even though the view through the domed window was black, the sonar image showed that the dome was dead ahead. Peter slowed the capsule to a crawl.

Ross pointed at the screen. “Look. Another docking port next to that last pod on the left. Head for that!”

Peter nodded. “I think I need some light.”

“Coming up.” Ross said. He punched his console hard. Immediately the view ahead was flooded with light. The side of the dome, covered in green and brown silt, was revealed. To the right one of the hippy escape pods nestled close to the dome. It looked like a giant turnip – a giant turnip with a window. Ross laughed. “Those hippies have no fuckin’ idea how to design stuff!”

Peter silenced the sonar, and then carefully positioned the capsule side-on with the dome. He pressed the ‘Auto-Dock’ button. The capsules AI system took control. Within a few seconds the capsule was securely docked with the dome. “That was easy!”

Ross had already left his seat. “Stop fuckin’ dawdling, Pete. Let’s go and find Pan!”

A grilled and smoky barbeque smell filled the dark curved docking area of the dome. Ahead, through a low arched doorway, the orange flicker of flames could be seen.

Ross took a deep breath through his heroic nostrils. “Hmm… Nice! Do you think Pan’s in there cooking something?”

Peter nodded. “He could be. It’s the usual way he celebrates a victory.”

Ross headed towards the doorway. “It’s the usual way he celebrates fuckin’ anything, or even commiserates anything!”

Peter followed Ross through the doorway and into a large domed room. The sight that met them left them both speechless and flabbergasted for several seconds. All around, the walls and ceiling of the dome were covered in deep black smoking scorch marks. Corpses – charred, contorted and emaciated – lay all over the floor, especially in the centre of the room where a pile of at least seven burning bodies were fused together in a crackling mass of meat and bone.

Peter resisted the urge to evacuate his stomach. “I knew Pan wanted revenge, but this is excessive. He really went too far this time!”

Ross nodded. “Too fuckin’ right he did!” He looked around and shouted. “Pan, you sick fucker! Show yourself!”

Peter wandered over to the nearest overcooked corpse and kicked one of its legs. The leg crumbled. “This happened a while ago. Pan’s probably left by now.”

Ross shook his head in disgust. He took another deep breath. “Well, at least the smell is quite appetizing.”

Peter looked at Ross. “You really think so?”

“Yeah, very tasty. And it smells a bit veggie, too!”

“Hippies eat mostly lentils, that’s probably why.”

A moaning noise distracted them.

Ross raised his fists and took up a boxer-style pose. “What the fuck was that?”

Peter pointed. “I think it came from the far side.”

The two friends leapt over a couple of smoldering bodies and ran to the other side of the dome. There, sat against the wall, were three hippies. One of them was as round and flabby as an average American male, and one of them was obviously female. All three were alive.

Ross pulled a pistol from his belt holster and aimed. And then he laughed. “It’s that fat fuckin’ hippy commander! The one with a girl’s name!”

Peter smiled. “Cool. We have a high-ranking prisoner!”

Ross looked down at the female. “And who might you be, wench?”

The female, her eyes wide with fear, said nothing. She nuzzled deeper into the commander’s robes.

Peter spoke. “Let’s get them back to the capsule.”

Ross agreed. “You three! On your fuckin’ feet! Head over to the exit. Now!”

The hippy commander, aided by the female, struggled to his feet. He glowered at Ross. “You will not defeat the Hippy Empire!”

With lightning speed, Ross punched the commander hard on his nose. “Yes I fuckin’ will!”

The commander shuddered and took a step back, his nostrils gushing deep red blood.

The third hippy was groaning. One of his legs was hideously injured. With what was obviously a great deal of agony, he managed to pull himself up onto his good leg.

Ross waved his weapon. “Come on! Head for the fuckin’ exit!”

The three hippies trudged across the corpse strewn floor and passed the mound of their burning comrades at the centre of the room. Ross and Peter followed.

A figure appeared at the arched exit.

Ross, Peter and the hippies were momentarily shocked. Ross aimed his pistol.

The figure, clothed in a dirty, torn and obviously malfunctioning environment suit and brandishing a heavy-looking rifle, stood there, swaying slightly. After a couple of seconds the figure dropped the rifle. It clanked loudly on the floor. The figure reached up and touched his helmet. With a whirr of straining servos, the helmet’s visor opened. A voice, breathless and wheezing, spoke. “What the hell are you guys doing here? This is my gig!”

Ross frowned, and lowered his weapon. “Pan! Nice of you to return. Explain the vile and excessively painful suffering you’ve inflicted on these stupid fuckin’ hippies!”

Pan looked confused. “Eh?”

“What evil drove you to such fuckin’ cruelty?”

Pan looked around. His eyes widened as he realized just what it was that was burning in the centre of the room. “Shit!”

Peter stood with his arms folded. “Come on, Pan? Explain yourself.”

“I didn’t do this!” Pan said defensively. “I only just got here. I thought you’d done it!”

Ross shook his head. “No fuckin’ way! We’d have slaughtered them cleanly, with neat cuts and precision shots.”

“Me, too!”

Peter realized something. “Well, if you didn’t do it, and we didn’t do it, who did?”

With a flash of realization, Ross figured it all out. He turned to the fat hippy commander and laughed. “Ha! You stupid smelly veggie fuckers did it to yourselves, didn’t you!”

Peter started laughing too. “Unbelievable!”

The hippy commander, his face covered in drying blood, glared at Ross. “The Hippy Empire will defeat you. You will all die in torment at the hands of our…” The hippy commander’s speech was silenced as a fast-moving fist shattered his lower jaw.

Ross yelled. “Shut the fuck up!”

“We’d better get them back to the Death Reaper.” Peter said.

Pan agreed. He pointed down to his leg. “And I think I need urgent medical attention.”

Ross motioned towards the arched doorway with his pistol. “That way, hippy fuckers!”

The hippies, lead by their corpulent commander, did as ordered.

As they walked out of the dome and into the docking area Pan spoke to Peter. “I thought you said the capsule couldn’t go under water?”

Peter was mildly embarrassed. “I did, but then I realized I was wrong. Sorry!”

Pan frowned. “Damn it, Pete! I plummeted almost a mile into the ocean, sank another mile to the ocean floor, trudged half-a-mile uphill, fell down a crevasse, got attacked by a giant crab-thing that almost tore my leg off, suffered the agony of having my deep leg wound filled with emergency sealant by this suit, and was almost deafened by a ridiculously loud pinging sound! And you guys cruised down here in stress-free luxury!”

Peter nodded. “Yes we did.” He smiled. “Never mind, think of it as payback for that snowboarding injury you gave me in Killington.”

“There’s no comparison!” Pan said as they reached the docking port that lead to the capsule. Ross was kicking the hippy commander hard in the butt to force him into the capsule.

“Yes there is.” Peter said. “I got a cut on my leg; you got a cut on yours!”

“Half of my calf muscle is missing!”

“We can discuss this later.” Peter pointed at the docking port. “Your turn.”

Pan, with a great deal of discomfort, squeezed himself and his bulky suit into the space capsule.

The cramped interior of the space capsule felt even more cramped now that the hippies were on board. Pan was sitting on his stool at the back. The fat hippy commander was lying on the floor, held down by Pan’s heavy boot on his neck. The other two hippies were crouched next to the commander and were obviously consumed with fear. They moaned quietly.

Up at the front of the capsule, right in front of the large domed window, Peter and Ross were sitting at their consoles.

Peter increased the capsule’s speed. “Depth now only six-hundred metres. We’ll break the surface in less than a minute.”

Ross nodded. “Good. I’m sick of this fuckin’ ocean! Water sucks! Except when it’s frozen and in powder form, of course.”

“Of course.”

An alarm started bleeping.

“What the fuck’s that?” Ross examined his screen. “Something large and black is coming up behind us!”

Peter sighed. “Hmm… I’d forgotten about that stuff.”

“If we keep this speed up we should get out of the water before the fucker gets to us.”

The view ahead was no longer black, but a deep blue and brightening rapidly.

Peter gripped the atmospheric engine control with his left hand. “I see the surface. Get ready.” The rolling surface of the ocean was clearly visible through the domed window. It was approaching rapidly. “Here we go!”

With a jolt of acceleration, the capsule leapt out of the water and into the air. Peter immediately pushed forwards on the atmospheric engine control. With incredible force, the capsule shot into the sky.

Ross was monitoring his screen. “That black stuff’s following us into the fuckin’ air. It’s gaining!”

“No way!” Peter said. “We’re flying at Mach-two. It can’t be gaining.”

“I’m not fuckin’ joking! Go faster!”

“I can’t. At least not until we leave the atmosphere. That won’t be for another two minutes!”

Ross played with his console. Several control surfaces bleeped and flashed to life. “Then I’ll have to sort the fucker out. Grab hold of something. This is going to hurt.”

Peter looked with suspicion at his friend. “What are you up to?”

Ross punched his console. The space capsule juddered. A deep roar reverberated round the cabin, and then quickly faded. “That should do it.”

Peter was getting impatient. “What have you done?”

Ross grinned. “Launched a missile from the rear missile launcher!”

“What kind of missile?”

“The only kind that matters – nuclear!”

“Shit! That black stuff is less than half-a-mile away! We’ll be vaporized!”

Ross shook his head and frowned. “No we won’t! Do you think I’m a fuckin’ idiot, or something? I aimed for the ocean beneath the black stuff. We’ll be fine – just a little shaken at most.”

A bright sustained flash lit up the sky. It faded slowly, returning the atmosphere outside the domed window to a deepening blue.

Ross examined his screen. “Cool! Right on target.” He looked at Peter and beamed. “The arse of that black stuff is taking one hell of a fuckin’ pounding!”

“What about the blast wave?”

Ross’s eyes widened. “Fuck! I forgot about that!” He looked back at the screen, and then yelled at the top of his voice. “Fuckin’ brace!”

The space capsule jerked violently and loudly, throwing everyone up. Peter and Ross, both strapped tightly into their chairs, avoided slamming their heads into the low ceiling. Pan was not so lucky, although his space helmet prevented any serious injury. The hippies were very unlucky. They groaned weakly as the skin on their heads split and oozed blood. Pan pressed his boot hard onto the commander’s neck once again.

Calm returned to the capsule. The view outside the domed window was now black, and speckled with stars.

Ross laughed. “Yes! Ride of a fuckin’ lifetime!”

Peter’s naturally calm character allowed him to get back to business almost immediately. “What’s the status on that black stuff?”

Ross examined his data. “Gone!”

“Excellent. Let’s get back to the Death Reaper.” Peter operated his communications panel. “HMS Death Reaper? This is Peter, Ross and Pan returning with three prisoners. Request immediately clearance to land.”

After a couple of seconds a very welcome reply came. “General Kath here. Hi, guys! Welcome back! Clearance to land granted.

“Wow! Kath! We thought you were possessed by that black stuff with virtually no hope of recovery?”

I was, but while you were away fishing for hippies Doctor Mario Kart and the mechanized Captain Codd came up with the antidote. I feel a little weak and feeble, but apart from that I’m fine. We spread the antidote through the ship’s ventilation system. All that black stuff has been eradicated!

Ross started laughing loudly.

Peter looked at him. “What’s so funny about that?”

“I’d forgotten about Justin.” He said, wiping his eyes. “He’s a fuckin’ robot!”

“Oh, yeah!” Peter said. He too started laughing. With extreme difficulty, and through increasingly watery eyes, he guided the space capsule towards the magnificent behemoth that was HMS Death Reaper.

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