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Book: Hippies
Chapter 16: The Finest of Wines

“You all smell so bad!” General Kath exclaimed, waving her hand in front of her face. She looked at the three hippy prisoners with disgust. They had been lined up next to the space capsule in the Death Reaper’s lower hanger bay. Their torn and charred clothing and pale pock-marked skin made them look very pathetic indeed. The fat multi-chinned commander, though, was managing to maintain a defiant expression on his blood-stained face. Kath glared at the hippy commander. “Do you realize that as one of the highest-ranking hippy leaders ever captured you will be held responsible for all the appalling and annoying activities of your kind on Earth over the last few decades?”

The lard-ridden hippy commander forced a thin smile. “You cannot defeat the Hippy Empire. You and all humans are doomed to…”

The forehead of General Kath smacked hard into the commander’s nose. A fresh flow of blood spread across the flabby folds of his face. “You sicken me with your pitiful threats!” Kath said powerfully. “How did you ever think you could control the minds of humans with flowery pop songs and that repulsive ‘Summer of Love’ campaign? How did you ever think you could defeat the British armed forces with starships made of lentils?” Her expression relaxed, and then she laughed. “Ha! It is you and your weak and bony kind who are doomed.” She turned to the four Navy security officers to her left. “Gag and hog-tie them, and then throw them in the brig.”

The officers nodded, grabbed the hippies, and carried out their orders with obvious relish. The hippies were dragged away in seconds.

Peter had been standing behind General Kath. “That was a fine show of authority.” He said, impressed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that fat commander is emptying his bowels into his enormous underwear as we speak.”

Kath grinned. “Well, that was my intention!”

A stream of profanities echoed round the hanger bay. Ross was at the space capsule’s hatch. He was pulling something. “Pete? Give me a hand with this fucker!”

Peter walked over to the hatch. “What it is?”

“Pan! His suit’s so fuckin’ bulky!”

Peter grabbed onto Pan’s suit and pulled.

Pan cried. “Ow! Guys? Watch out for my leg!”

Ross left go. “This is fuckin’ impossible!”

A deep resonant stomping noise made Peter jump. “What’s that?”

Peter and Ross turned and looked for the source of the sound. Approaching from the far side of the hanger bay was a machine. Its two thick heavy metal feet were slamming into the floor like pile-drivers. When it reached the space capsule the machine stopped. The almost-human head of the machine tilted down within its glass dome. “I will pull Pan out of the hatch.”

Peter found the deep metallic resonance of Justin’s new voice quite disturbing. He was not going to argue. “Oh. Great. Thanks.”

Ross, on the other hand, found it hysterically funny.

Justin ignored Ross’s loud guffaws and reached out with his huge metal hands. He grabbed Pan’s boots. Ignoring Pan’s pleas for mercy, the mechanized Justin pulled hard. With a muffled popping sound, Pan emerged from the capsule’s hatch and thudded onto the hanger bay’s hard floor. He groaned.

Justin picked Pan up and cradled him in his arms. Pan looked like a baby compared to Justin’s massive armoured bulk. “I will take him to the sickbay.” Justin stated without a shred of emotion. He turned his head like a tank turret, swiveled his body, and then whirred and clanked towards the hanger bay’s exit.

General Kath spoke into her wrist communicator. “Bridge? This is General Kath. How are the repairs to the engines going?”

An anonymous bridge officer replied. “All done, general.

“Excellent! Set a course for the wormhole. Take us through and then on to the Humdinger Maintenance Station - maximum speed.”

Aye aye, general.

A low rumbling could be felt through the floor as the submarine’s mighty propulsion system powered up.

Kath turned to Peter and Ross. “I fancy a slap-up meal in the officer’s luxury dining facility. Fancy joining me?”

Peter and Ross nodded eagerly. They followed Kath out of the hanger bay.

Ross was curious. “So Kath? How’d Justin and that Mario fucker come up with a cure for the black stuff so quickly?”

“It was mainly Justin, actually.” She said as the three of them walked out of the hanger bay and into one of the Death Reaper’s sumptuous passageways.

“How?” Ross asked. Now he was confused. “He’s just a submarine captain, not a fuck-off medical type!”

“He was just a submarine captain. But he’s become so much more since he was mechanized.”

They stopped at a lift. Kath pressed the call button and then continued. “Some of the black stuff tried to take control of Justin, just as it had taken control of me. It found what was left of his brain but there was not enough biological tissue for it to succeed. Fortunately, it’s standard practice during the mechanization of a hideously injured human to install chemical and microbiological analyzers. Justin’s analyzers automatically analyzed the black stuff and his grade two hyper-digital polyphonic multi-cube artificial brain attachments came up with an antidote. Once it was injected into me the black stuff left my body within seconds!”

“Cool!” Ross and Peter said in unison.

“It was cool. We’ve still got a sample of the black stuff, so we’re going to see if we can develop some kind of weapon based on its mind-controlling properties. Encountering the black stuff could turn out to be a blessing!”

Peter thought about something. “What about Lawrence?” He asked, concerned for his friend. “Can we fix him?”

“We’ll have to keep him frozen, I’m afraid.” The general said solemnly. “As the supreme leader of the Hippy Empire it’s the only sure way of containing him, and preventing him from contacting his people.”

Peter nodded sadly.

The lift doors opened. They stepped inside. A female voice, digital and sexy, spoke. “PLEASE STATE YOUR DESTINATION.”

“The officer’s luxury dining facility. Forward section.” Kath said.

“THAT SECTION IS RESTRICTED TO OFFICER CLASS CREW MEMBERS ONLY. PLEASE PROVIDE EVIDENCE OF YOUR OFFICER CLASS STATUS.”

Kath screamed. “I am General Kath!”

“EVIDENCE SATISFACTORY. PROCEEDING TO DESTINATION…”

The lift juddered slightly as it began its journey.

Ross’s stomach rumbled. “I’m famished.” He said. “Fuckin’ famished!”


After three hours of gorging on gourmet cuisine and downing the finest of wines, General Kath, Peter and Ross retired to the Death Reaper’s port-side observation lounge. The lounge was spacious, and furnished with some of the finest sofas, armchairs and coffee tables that money could buy. The soft deep carpeting and the dozens of titanium-framed paintings of violent Royal Navy victories added to the opulence. At the far side of the room two female officers - slim and toned to perfection – were playing a serious game of Backgammon.

“What a great room!” Peter said. “Officers only, I suspect!”

Kath nodded. “Of course. Low-ranking runts don’t deserve or desire this level of comfort. Menial work, plastic stools, and the occasional bowl of porridge are all they expect. And as they receive what they expect, they’re happy!”

Ross snorted. “Fuckin’ ignoramuses!”

Kath agreed. “They are indeed ignorant of almost everything, other than what they need to know to do their simple jobs. And they’re encouraged to stay that way, too. It keeps them contented.”

“I see.” Peter said. “Ignorance is bliss!”

“Exactly! The knowledge we high-ranking officers possess gives us great power and responsibility, but all that power and responsibility gives us great stress and anguish too. That’s why we need the luxury and richness of lavish furnishings and fine food.”

“Can’t argue with that!” Peter said, grinning.

An immaculately dressed waiter approached. “General, would you and your guests like any drinks?”

“We would. Bring a bottle of your finest Champagne!”

“Of course, general.”

Ross shouted. “Beer!”

The waiter nodded. “yes, sir.” He slinked away.

Kath motioned towards the largest sofa at the far side of the room. “Please, sit down.”

Peter leapt over the back of the sofa and put his legs up on top of the nearby coffee table. His ability to adopt that position so readily gave Kath and Ross a valuable insight into his lifestyle.

Ross sat down in a similar manner. He obviously led a similar lifestyle to Peter.

Kath spoke into her communicator. “Bridge? This is General Kath. Give me an update.”

The bridge responded. “We have entered a low orbit around Titan. Preparing to dock with the Humdinger Maintenance Station.

“Excellent! Open the shutters on the port-side observation lounge, would you?”

Aye aye, general. Bridge out.

After a couple of seconds a deep rumbling filled the observation lounge. A huge three-metre tall, ten-metre wide shutter on the wall in front lifted. The view revealed was nothing short of stunning.

Ross sat up straight. “Fuckin’ awesome!”

Outside, the huge hazy orange disk of Titan filled most of the view. Beyond, suspended in the black void, was the massive ringed world of Saturn.

Peter got to his feet. “Wow! We’re orbiting Titan! Incredible! It’s like a dream!”

Kath said. “The British Royal Navy has had one of its maintenance stations out here for more than twenty years now.”

Peter was excited. “I remember back in 2004 when NASA’s Cassini probe arrived at Saturn. That probe made loads of passes of Titan. How’d the Navy keep the station hidden?”

“With great difficulty.” The general said. “It takes a lot of fuel to keep maneuvering the station so that it’s on the opposite side of Titan to Cassini. That little probe’s still active so the Navy still has to be careful.”

Ross contributed to the conversation. “Should’ve destroyed the fucker!”

“That was discussed, but we decided to let NASA have a bit of success. We’ve had to destroy several of their probes over the last couple of decades, and some ESA and Russian probes too. Even a Japanese one!”

“Really?”

“Yep. Almost all the probes that were reported as failed were destroyed by the British Army or Navy because they almost discovered our extra-terrestrial activities. The Mars Polar Lander was coming down right on top of one of our training outposts so we used a missile to take that one out. The Beagle-2 lander touched down right next to the entrance to one of our barracks. We sent out two guys with sledgehammers to smash it before its cameras turned on.”

“Fuckin’ cool!”

There was a dull clunk as HMS Death Reaper docked with the maintenance station.

“We almost had to destroy the Huygens probe that landed on Titan in 2005.”

Peter was curious. “Why? Its cameras didn’t turn on until it descended below the clouds. There was no way it could detect the station.”

Kath shook her head. “It wasn’t the station we were worried about. It was the army base on the surface.”

“Wow! You have a base down there?!”

“It’s where I did my initial training. Couldn’t tell you at the time, of course. I had to lie and say I was in Aldershot or Sandhurst! Anyway, that little Huygens probe was heading straight for one of the entrances to the base. We had missiles locked onto it, but fortunately it drifted over a small hill and landed a kilometer away so we let it survive. Once it finished broadcasting we grabbed it and took it underground. It’s now a prominent feature on the wall of the main mess hall!”

The waiter appeared with their drinks. He placed the Champagne, glasses and three bottles of beer on the coffee table, bowed deeply, and then wandered away.

Ross grabbed a beer, threw his head back, and poured the amber liquid down his gullet with noisy satisfaction.

A voice shouted from the entrance to the observation lounge. “Guys! I’ve been looking all over for you!”

Peter turned. “Pan! Just in time. Come and have some Champagne and enjoy this amazing view!”

Pan, still wearing his white sickbay robes, walked over to his friends, limping slightly. Kath handed him a glass. He downed the sparkling liquid in one noisy gulp. “Oh, yeah! That hits the spot.” He looked out of the window. “Where are we?”

Ross finished his beer. He burped like a demon. “That’s fuckin’ Titan!”

Pan’s eyes widened. “Titan? That’s a frigid world with ice mountains and stuff! We could…”

“Go snowboarding?” Peter interrupted, grinning.

“Exactly!”

Ross threw his empty beer bottle hard at the ceiling. “Fuck! Yes!” he yelled, punching the air. A shower of shattered glass rained down.

General Kath pulled some of the glass from her hair. “Well, we’ll probably be here for a couple of days before we can head back to Earth.” She smiled. “I guess an excursion to the surface for you guys could be arranged!”

Pan, Peter and Ross laughed with joy, and then drank like there was no tomorrow.

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