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Reads: 17

No-one appeared to think anything of it. Not the sudden reappearance of War Garbler Tonbush, not the arrival of an AI the size of a moon that held more armaments upon its surface than most planets had ever seen, and certainly not the ever-growing numbers of soft, cuddly toys that Lap seemed able to find wherever they went. Demi switched off the news broadcast that now accused her of stealing all of DWAIt Corps most precious secret assets (which, was to be fair, partially true) and of going back in time to mother all of histories worst human beings. The usual. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Genghis Khan, that author that had proven all the platitudes in her stories were utter bilge that she didn’t believe herself.

 

“So, I was thinking, and bear with me here ...?” Briyun held her hands up before her face, looking into the distance and holding her hands as though framing a view. “Picture it? Good beer, good company, and two hippos beating the crap out of each other on the beach? Surfing? Did I mention beer?”

 

“Why would we even ...?” Demi pulled Briyun’s hands down, only for them to spring back up as Demi moved to Friss. “How did they find us? I thought Lodka had some super-special cloaking technology?”

 

YORKSHIRE PUDDING, PEAS, CARROTS, ROAST BEEF, MASHED POTATOES AND SUMPTUOUS GRAVY! I THOUGHT WE COULD ALL USE SOME PLAIN, SIMPLE BUT SATISFYING FOOD!” Wearing a flowery apron, Bognrd waved toward a table he had Lodka grow from the deck, where a great deal of food sat, steaming and looking appetising until Demi wondered where the meat came from. “NOT GOURMET, I MUST ADMIT, BUT THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH SIMPLE FOOD ONCE IN A WHILE! NOW, GORGE YOURSELVES, FILTHY SUB-CREATURES!

 

“Ripper?” Despite having eaten, well, pretty much everything upon the planet Abutuncostlo, Briyun dived for the table and began filling her mouth, much to Bognrd’s disgust. She spoke between mouthfuls. “It’s almost like ... they knew ... where we ... were? Crikey? These Yorkshires’re nice, mate?”

 

Demi blinked at one of the very infrequent times when Briyun said something that made sense. If ‘infrequent’ could be redefined as meaning ‘practically, for all intents and purposes, never’. It was as though both Tonbush and Brenda, the AI moon, had fixed upon their ultra-beyond-super-secret location, rather than both finding them by complete and utter random chance. She knew from experience that complete and utter random chance happened in predictably regular occurrences, but this seemed more than a mere inevitably predictable random event.

 

She thought about it for a second, trying not to take any notice of Briyun’s lack of table manners, or at Lap’s collection of soft, cuddly toys, or at Bognrd’s backside because he had, for some reason, chosen to wear only the flowery apron and nothing else, his incredibly muscular and very firm buttocks peeking out from beneath the thin apron ties. She failed at not noticing Bognrd’s buttocks, but only because it gave her an idea.

 

“Bognrd, how important did War Garbler Tonbush consider you? On a scale of ‘as important as the significance of a reality tv star’s tattoos’, to ‘probably the most significant event in all creation’?” She lifted the corner of Bognrd’s apron, to get a better look at the evidence, she lied to herself. “Did he, and I say this with the utmost respect and the assurance that it will go no further than this bridge, probe you? A bit?”

 

I WOULD SAY I WAS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE TO HIM, BUT TO THINK ANYONE WOULD DARE DESECRATE THE SANCTITY OF BOGNRD BLOODRAGE’S BODY BY ‘PROBING’ IT ... WHY, THE PERPETRATOR WOULD FIND THEMSELVES GUTTED, FLAYED AND ...” Bognrd’s devilish red eyes blinked and Demi could almost see the thoughts passing through the enormous man’s eyes. “DEFINE ‘PROBE’!

 

They first attempted to scan Bognrd utilising Lodka’s medical bay but no-one understood any of the readouts upon the display. Not even Friss, who appeared to know more languages than anyone of his minimal intelligence and maximum idiocy had any right to know. Lodka’s medical scanner had either located some kind of foreign object lodged within Bognrd’s rectum, or had found some kind of lost, ancient city on a planet within a galaxy several billion light years away, or had, somehow, solved the mystery of just why cats chose to sit in boxes.

 

In order to try and make some sense of everything, they decided to try Zapasnoy’s less complicated, clearer scanner in the hopes that they wouldn’t have to investigate some ancient alien culture’s ruins, because that sort of thing never ended well. The problem of course, was size. Zapasnoy’s lack of it and Bognrd’s superabundance of it. After squashing the Auto-Exam table, they continued the examination with Bognrd laid upon the floor, his knees drawn up to his chest, horns sticking out of the doorway.

 

“No. No bugs.” Friss examined the display in an overly-dramatic thoughtful pose. “But you might want to see a doctor about those intestines. Are intestines supposed to have muscles? Anyway. It’s not you, Bognrd. So, how did they find us?”

 

“Beaut?” The yell from Briyun caused no-one to look around as she used another monitor at the other side of the medical bay. “My follower count has gone through the roof?”

 

“Aren’t you supposed to be on the bridge, with Lap?” Demi examined the Auto-Exam display. Not because she didn’t trust Friss’ judgement, she didn’t, but because she, too, wanted to know how intestines could have muscles. “So, yeah, if it’s not a bug and we were on an ultra-beyond-super-secret planet, how could Tonbush and Brenda find us? It’s a complete mystery.”

 

” Bognrd couldn’t really get up from the floor, he had to crawl on his hands and knees out of the medical bay, his horns scraping great gouges out of Zapasnoy’s walls as he passed. He grumbled along the way.

 

There was nothing else for it. They had to do something which Demi had not wanted to do. Something she knew she would regret and berate herself for a long time afterwards. They returned to the bridge of Lodka and finished the Sunday lunch Bognrd had made. Demi was hungry.

 

After lunch, Friss took Demi aside, covered his mouth as he burped, and loosened his belt. He looked serious and, if that alone didn’t make Demi’s spine shiver in fear, the way he jerked his head, wiggling his eyebrows at the others, mouthed something incomprehensible and then made a complete hash of sidling innocently from the bridge, made Demi worry all the more. He led her along a bunch of corridors, down several lifts, through a host of weirdly decorated rooms, through a nursery of some kind, looking over his shoulder along the way. Often.

 

Outside one room, Friss kept up his extra-vigilance as he tapped in a code on a fleshy panel with buttons that looked like hairy moles. The code was four zeroes, followed by four zeroes and ending with four zeroes. He had to reenter it, twice, before the door slid open with a squelching sound that indicated the door hadn’t opened in some time. Inside, Demi saw something that looked remarkably like an engine. An engine made of several organs, but an engine nonetheless.

 

“I’m going to need you to do something really important.” Friss licked his lips. He looked nervous as he pulled something from his jacket pocket. It looked like a petri dish. “This is a petri dish. It holds the thing we went to that planet for. The thing that will get us to the location of the final prize in this Matronly Nesting Doll of successive heists. The big one. The doozy. The ...”

 

“I get the idea.” No matter how much Demi looked at the petri dish, it still looked like a petri dish. She didn’t see how the green mould inside could help them do anything. Unless ... “Wait! Does DWAIt Corp have organic ships? Is that an organic component?”

 

Friss nodded. He still held that uncannily serious look upon his face and, this time, Demi had the distinct feeling it wasn’t fake and that he wasn’t about to launch into some new and wild form of lunacy that would involve getting themselves killed. Or, more likely, many other people killed and Demi becoming accused of killing God by the Galactic News Broadcasters. She didn’t like it and tried using her forefingers to curl Friss’ mouth into his normal, idiotic grin.

 

“They do have organic ships. Nothing anywhere near as sophisticated as Lodka. I mean, nowhere near. Their ships are like comparing an amoeba to a Gavulrlian Super-Whale. You know, the one that has eighty-four billion genes in its DNA? That different.” He sighed, reaching out a hand to stroke the nearest flesh surface, his hand lingering there for far too long. Then he shook his head, looked only a little embarrassed and held up the petri dish again. “This contains the Temporal Gravitation and Event Horizon Compensator. The MacGuffin-Hawking device. But ... it’s going to be like injecting a particularly nasty flu virus into someone who has no auto-immune system. It’s going to be ... painful for her and you need to keep her calm.”

 

“How am I supposed to keep an enormous organic ship, that I can’t communicate with properly, calm?” Demi felt a pang of worry. She liked Lodka, despite their very different backgrounds, purposes and species, and she didn’t want her in pain. “Why don’t I give her the Temporal Gravitation and Event Horizon Compensator and you keep her calm? You know her better than me.”

 

“Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea. She’d kill you in an instant and I still need your talents. I need to do it.” He waved the petri dish and wiped his forehead, all false pretences and over-dramatic poses gone. He looked worried and not for himself, for once. “Use your implant. Sing her a lullaby. Talk to her, tell her she’s a pretty ship and that she’s a good ship and ...”

 

“I’ll keep her calm.” Demi knew very well that she was not going to keep Lodka calm.

 

Friss gave Lodka’s flesh one more, sad-looking stroke, before opening the petri dish and pouring the contents onto Lodka’s engine.

 

That was a mistake.


Submitted: October 26, 2022

© Copyright 2022 JanKarlsson. All rights reserved.

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