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Book: Hippies
Chapter 17: Stomping

The orange haze of Titan’s thick cloudy atmosphere cast a uniform light over the icy surface.

Peter looked at the map displayed on the head-up display of his helmet’s visor. He looked up. “This is the one Kath told us about. The best run in this region.”

Pan was a little disappointed. “I hoped it would be a bit longer.”

“Me too, but it’ll have to do.”

Ross looked around. “Where’s our fuckin’ ride? Kath said there’d be one waiting for us. There’s no way I’m walking up that fucker!”

A slow and distant splashing sound distracted them. They all turned and looked towards the direction of the sound. A bulky shape was approaching along the shoreline of the nearby hydrocarbon lake. It was taking long low-gravity strides, sending slow globular splashes of black liquid high into the air. There was the distinct and growing sound of servo motors.

Ross laughed. “It’s robot fuckin’ Justin!” He said, barely able to talk.

When he got close, the mechanized Justin stopped striding and skidded to a halt. “General Kath has sent me to assist you.”

Peter was barely able to keep a straight face. “Erm… Great! Thanks. How are you going to assist us?”

“I will take you to the top of the mountain.”

Ross was hysterical. He roared. “Fuckin’ excellent!”

Justin crouched down and spread his arms out. “Ross, you sit on my left arm. Pan, you sit on my right arm. Peter, you sit on my shoulders.”

Taking advantage of the low gravity, Peter jumped, twisted, and landed in a perfect position straddling robot Justin’s head. Pan and Ross grabbed Justin’s arms and pulled themselves up.

With everyone safely on board, Justin stood up and pushed down hard with his plate-like left foot. With long slow strides, the mechanized Justin began to carry his friends up the steep slope of the icy mountain.

It took thirty minutes to get to the summit. Justin crouched down to let his passengers get off.

Ross patted Justin on his heavily armoured back. “Thanks, mate. You make one hell of a fuckin’ chairlift!”

Pan was looking around. “You can see for miles!” He pointed. “Look! Mountains, lakes. They should build a resort here!”

Peter was curious. “Who are ‘they’?”

“I don’t know.” Pan said, scratching the chin of his helmet. “Resort builders?”

“Enough of this idle fuckin’ banter!” Ross said, pulling his snowboard from his backpack. He stepped into his bindings. “Let’s roll!” He began a slow and steady slide down the mountain. He yelled with impatience. “Fuckin’ low gravity!” He crouched down which seemed to help a bit.

Peter and Pan put on their boards and followed Ross. Initially progress was achingly slow, but after a minute they were moving along nicely, and performing some expertly executed turns.

Pan spoke into his communicator. “Justin? You’d better follow us down. We’re definitely gonna want to do this again!”

Justin responded without emotion. “As you wish.”

Well ahead of Peter and Pan, Ross had found a natural ramp and taken full advantage of it. He could be seen soaring more than thirty metres into the dense air. His laughter interspersed with strings of profanity showed just how much he was enjoying himself.

It took less than ten minutes to reach the bottom of the run. Ross and Pan watched as Peter skidded to a halt on the shoreline of the lake. Ever since the Killington incident Peter always made sure he was well behind Pan.

Peter was grinning. “That was great! Let’s do it again.”

Pan nodded. “I told Justin to follow us down. He should be…”

A deep intermittent rumble interrupted Pan. Everyone looked up the mountain. A large dark shape was tumbling towards them, occasionally bouncing high as it hit an outcrop of hard ice. It was obvious what it was.

With a final thud, Justin bounced high and then, in a slow low-gravity arc, splashed into the hydrocarbon lake, sending a spray of large globules high into the air. After a few seconds several rings of sluggish black waves collapsed back and engulfed the mechanized captain.

Ross shook his head slowly. “There goes our fuckin’ chairlift!”

After a few seconds Justin’s glass-domed head appeared above the lake’s oily surface.

Peter spoke. “Justin? What do you think you’re doing?”

Justin explained in a clear concise manner. “I slipped.”

Pan was impatient. “Come on! We want to go up again!”

Justin approached the shore. “I am unable to comply.”

“What?! Why?”

Justin reached the shore. Black liquid dripped off his armoured body. “The chemical constituents of this liquid have damaged the motivators in my legs. I require immediate repair and cleaning.” He turned and stomped unsteadily away along the shoreline. His servos groaned and grated. He was obviously not well.

“Fuck!” Ross exclaimed. “How can he just walk away like that? So fuckin’ rude!”

“I don’t think he has a choice.” Peter said. “He’s probably programmed to return to base when he suffers a malfunction.”

“So what the fuck are we going to do now?”

“Go back, I guess. At least we got one good run.”

Pan shouted. “Did you see that?!” He was pointing at a collection of large ice boulders at the base of the mountain thirty metres away.

Everyone looked. Something was definitely moving behind the boulders.

Ross strode purposefully towards the boulders. “Some fucker is spying on us!”

Peter and Pan followed. They reached the boulders and peered over. There, squatting in a group, were several brown-suited figures.

Ross yelled. “Who the fuck are you? And why are you watching us?”

Once of the figures slowly raised what looked like a small gun. “You’re all, like, our prisoners, or something.”

Another figure spoke. “Yeah! We’ve, like, captured you, and stuff!”

With a lightening move, Peter grabbed the gun and pulled. The figure screamed as the sleeve of suit was pulled off. The gun fired, sending a brief beam of super-heated energy right through one of the boulders. The figure fell back, gasping as Titan’s dense toxic atmosphere rushed into his suit.

Peter looked at the torn sleeve he was holding. “This material is strange. It seems to be made of seeds!”

Ross leapt over the boulders and brought his right boot down hard onto one of the other figure’s visors. The visor shattered, allowing Ross’s boot easy access to the figure’s face. Deep red blood sprayed into the air, freezing instantly into a mist of crimson snow. “Fuckin’ hippy fuckers!”

The other hippies, realizing they were outclassed, turned and began scrambling lethargically across the frozen surface.

Peter was a little confused. “Where’d they come from?”

“They must have a secret fuckin’ base here!”

Pan activated his communicator. “I’d better warn the army.”

Ross grabbed Pan’s arm. “What the fuck for?”

“Because we have no weapons.”

Ross pointed down at his right blood-stained boot. He lifted it up revealing the boot’s titanium sole covered in inch-long spikes. “Yes we fuckin’ do!”

Pan looked down at the crushed and frozen face of the hippy lying in front of him. Ross’s boot had proven to be an effective hippy killer. Pan deactivated his communicator. “You’re right. Let’s do it!”

Despite their pathetic scrambling, the hippies had barely moved.

With heroic resolve, and more than a touch of morbid pleasure, Ross, Pan and Peter continued as they had started back at the naval base in Scotland: stomping with enthusiasm on the heads of hippies.

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