The trees were burning. The flames leaped from one tree to the next, rushing up the avenue like autumn followed by winter. The dead blackened trunks crumbled to ash and were blasted into the air. The wave of incineration struck the window, glaring into an eerie whiteness punctuated by muffled thumps as the pane absorbed the shock. Gradually the smoke and dust cleared. Through the scratched glass the world was barren and shrouded in red. In the distance the fire-front could be seen reaching the horizon.
“Excellent,” declared the titanic black chair as it swivelled round, “three minutes and eleven seconds to utter destruction”. Tremulous Gutshank peered up at his master perching on the black seat, “yes sir, that’s one hundred and thirty-three seconds faster than the last world”. His master’s face was only just visible within the mass of fur surrounding him in his command chair. Gutshank checked the time nervously. “Yes, my doom has been imposed upon this world and its pitiful squealing populace. No more shall their artistic abominations infest the aesthetic sensibilities of the universe.” Gutshank fiddled with his watch while his master continued to ramble. “Doom from above, doom from below, doom from behind their homes where their children played in the green sand ground down over aeons by the relentless tides of their now dry and dusty seas.” Gutshank coughed politely.
“And their insipid stain is now wiped from the galaxy’s diverse blouse of existence- Gutshank, do not interrupt me as I wax lyrical upon the fate of my enemies”. His High Lord Ethereality of Maximum Terror, Vermouthinator looked down from his high seat of destruction at the quaking serf below. “Fetch me a martini, upon this instant, lest I cast you into the vacuity without,” he commanded, the sweep of his arm taking in the wasteland outside. “But sir, it’s been two and a half minutes since you changed the terms of existence on this planet – they’ll be here soon” Gutshank persisted. “Gin, vermouth, an olive.. a glass. Immediately!” Vermouthinator’s voice reached its quavery peak as he shrieked “a chilled glass – chilled! Not cold.”
As the weevilly Gutshank scurried from the room his Maximum Lordship sighed, and with a vast furry fist depressed the button which spiralled his chair back down to the floor. The view outside was still magnificent, an aura of death hung over the plain outside. The Life-Punchinator was almost ready for its ultimate purpose, to destroy Galaxy Team and whatever worthless planet they occupied at the time. Gutshank was right: they would soon be here to interfere with his progress, despite their own science provenance. It seemed unlikely that they would be especially concerned about the twittering inhabitants of Gockley IX. It was a small planet with an only recently sentient population of bird-analogues who had barely mastered growing trees in rows and shitting paint onto stone canvasses let alone contribute to the Sentience Shoal.
And yet still Galaxy Team would insist on interfering. Perhaps if Vermouthinator hadn’t pushed their former leader, Alpha Strangemind to the brink of despair (and just over it) they wouldn’t be quite so passionate. It had all been a bit of a game once. Vermouthinator and Gutshank would travel across space conducting experiments and making perfect martinis. Occasionally that required large scale experimentation (like the gassing of the Gimp-Muddlers on Kungly Prime). People didn’t always die (although everyone on Kungly Prime did).
It was after the Olive Debacle that things turned nasty. It was a simple scheme – turn the Mediterranean into a giant martini. That part had gone well. But when Vermouthinator and Gutshank had entered the secondary phase of morphing the great cities of Europe into olives, Strangemind and his Galaxy Team had come flying at them, severing the crucial streams of laser juice as they pumped the cities full of oliveness. Things had rather escalated after that: Belgium was left a smoking crater; the Beastlie Boys stole Vermouthinator’s skin; he released a video of Alpha in bed with a hooker named Causal Orgasm (who knew she had super-powers?); Alpha declared a personal war while negotiating a divorce settlement. So war it was.
“We have a reading on the Vortex!” cried Gutshank, artfully skimming the martini tray to his master as he leaped to the Observation Column’s control panel. The Vermouthinator’s seat spiralled high into the dome as Gutshank spun the elevation wheels. He desperately wobbled the glass to keep its precious fluids in a matching counter-spiral lest it be lost. Shaking off the pangs of motion sickness he sipped at the ginny nectar and arched an eyebrow at the growing speck of light arrowing towards the demisphere of glass. “Soon, soon. Come close into my Enpunchinating embrace you fools. Aye Alpha Strangemind, never more shall you and your mutated spawn infringe upon the dominion of all that is due to The Vermouthinator Master Vibrantine and Earl of the Decadent Liquid Realms.” He chuckled into his martini. With the final test complete (and Gockley IX now suitable for dust-farming) he felt confident that he would soon be removing Galaxy Team for good.
The Vortex had grown larger during The Vermouthinator’s unusually brief speech, much larger. Gutshank noticed a small, almost unnoticeable light flashing on the control panel, in an unobtrusive almost apologetic way. Almost like it didn’t want to be noticed, didn’t want to get poor Tremulous in trouble, get him flayed or inserted into another body. Maybe Gutshank should follow suit. He carefully stuck a post-it note over the light. “All controls re-routed to your command chair my Ascended Lord of the High Thought and Action, you have complete control sire.” Looking up through the crystal dome overhead Gutshank could see the distinctive eagle-mounting-a-lion shape of the Vortex closing in. It cruised over the billowing dust clouds and through the black rain, finally rearing up and presenting its fearsomely armed underside to the quailing Gutshank and the now maniacally giggling Vermouthinator.
Vermouthinator activated the communicator and bellowed into it, “Goodbye Strangemind, you shall plague me no more!” The Vortex’s weapons swivelled towards the villain’s base and Alpha Strangemind’s familiar teacherly tones echoed through the base, “Damn you Verminator. Another planet crushed beneath your spiteful boots. In a million years those birds might have been ready to share their music with the rest of the Shoal, but now they never will.”
“Indeed, and had they not insisted on waking me early in the day with their incessant wittering they could still have done,” replied Vermouthinator, “but like you they just couldn’t resist interfering with me – and now you shall share their downfall.” With the air of a fur-clad conductor he jabbed one long finger down onto the firing button on his armrest, “prepare to be enPunchinated!” The vast machine in their hideout vibrated and hummed, lights rippling up the inside of the dome in waves. Huge doors opened underneath the dome and extended equally enormous articulated arms ending in massive grasping fists.
There was a painful choking sound and the humming became a throaty growl and the entire dome shuddered. “This is most irregular, if you could just hold on a moment.” Vermouthinator stabbed wildly at the controls, slamming his fists into the buttons. Alpha’s voice came back through the speakers, “Normally I wouldn’t feel any obligation to mention it, but the generators at the rear of your facility appear to be overheating. It looks very much like we won’t be needed here at all.” The two arms began waving about, punching drunkenly at the rain.
“No, wait. I’m certain we’ll be able to destroy you momentarily.” Vermouthinator clenched his fingers tightly and screamed, “Gutshank, what the hell is going on down there?”
“I’m terribly sorry Master, but all my controls are slaved to yours -oh, what’s this? There’s a little light here which is flashing – just under the fist-power drive – is that a problem?” Tremulous nervously enquired. The martini glass bounced off his head and shattered on the floor.
The Vortex rotated in the sky outside and retreated to a good viewing distance while Vermouthinator screamed in frustration and hit the descend button on his chair. As the spinning throne tossed Vermouthinator onto the floor the machines pumped and ground their way to a roaring climax of tearing metal and throbbing energy. The red light had been joined by a mosaic of its fellows casting a red strobe over the villain who kicked Tremulous Gutshank all the way to the emergency exit (helpfully denoted by a flashing green light above the door). The safety doors gave way to the Wyrmwood, Vermouthinator’s ship.
The Life-Punchinator’s began randomly punching energy fists into the air and ground around the base, smashing the dome and its foundations. The pugilistic battery grew faster until the Life-Punchinator finished itself with a powerful one-two to the planet’s mantle and detonated in a white-hot cone of energy. The Wyrmwood was flicked into space by the force of the blast, which obscured it from the Vortex’s sensors. Gutshank struggled to regain control of the ejected ship as it veered dangerously close to one of Gockley IX’s moons. Not an easy task when being beaten about the head by your enraged and bitterly disappointed master. Gradually the Vermouthinator’s rage subsided into sulking and he sank deep into his furry robes until he could bring himself to speak without cursing. “Gutshank, tell me you at least had the common decency to salvage the cocktail trolley”.