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The buildings in Shepard City had survived the perpetual
dust storms, had survived the miners and had survived the
neglect that had followed them. Despite the encroachment of Mars
and the ravages caused by the Shepard plants (which had seemed to
colonise the city bearing the name of their re-discoverer in
epidemic numbers), and despite the deterioration of disuse, most
of the structures looked set to stand for millennia. Some however,
had had their spans brutally cut short. Balidare in ten minutes of
fury had done more damage then a century of Martian nature.
He worked out his rage on another solid victim, those bulky
dwarf-like hands, built for forcing their way through solid
rock, were completely unharmed and he made short work of the crumbly
red Martian brick. Soon, he stood back, pausing just long enough
to watch the building start to topple before seeking out another.
Again those heavy hands rose and fell, for once the carefully neat
being inside the thick gnarled body had abandoned its protests, dust
piled upon the fine fabrics, as all was sacrificed to the salving
oblivion of action.
Merlyn watched for a while in utter bewilderment, watched
the relentless punishment both internal and external, sensing the
restless torment that motivated both of them. This was not the
Balidare he had known, the Balidare of songs and great legends,
the teacher, peace-maker and just law-giver of his people. This was
a far darker and more worrying persona. The wizard had lived a long
time in comparison with the fleeting frenzied moment that seemed to
constitute the mass of human life, but he could not begin to
imagine what it would be like to suffer the burden of millions of
years, the strains that must be entailed. He felt that, for his friend,
those pressures were becoming too much, that the tremendous spirit
radiating throughout that compact figure was on the verge of
burning out, and that Balidare teetered dangerously on the edge of
madness. Merlyn knew that, if it was within the limits of any power
that he or his magic possessed to stop it, he would not let such a thing
Balidare dispatched another building and moved on. The quick
senses of the necromancer noticed a slight change in his
friend's movements, the a minute abatement in his anger. As those
terrifying hands began their work anew, Merlyn spoke.
'Why, old friend?'
'Why, Merlyn? Because it makes me feel better, that's why.'
'Not the buildings. Why the anger?.'
Balidare stopped his demolition and faced him. A coating of
red dust and an almost negligible rising and falling of that
powerful chest, the only physical testimony to the devastation that
he had caused.
'Meeting a dwarf again and especially that dwarf. It's hard.
Every minute piece of my being screams with hatred. I long to
kill her and yet, there's been too many years, too much death. My
mind's so tired of death, of the death of others, I'd not see her
come to harm.'
'I never saw the dwarf kind in our day.'
' I kept them out. I came to you, as I came to Mars, for
escape. Did you not wonder why I stayed so long with that
backward people you adopted? Why I so readily lent my magic to yours?
I needed that tranquillity, the relative freedom from hatred, so
'This,' Merlyn indicated the chaos around them, "is not just
due to one dwarf,"
"In a sense you're wrong. You don't know how wrong. That one
dwarf is the reason I'm here. That one dwarf stopped me from
going home, as I stopped her. Our enmity is not just a matter of
race. It's personal.'
'But?' Merlyn knew that this was only half an answer.
'But, yes, in a way you're right. It's not just her; it's the
times. You can't know. You've slept through it all and I
haven't had the chance to show you. Your age was so much simpler.
It was tribe against tribe and if things looked like getting serious
I could mediate.'
'Have things changed that much?'
'You can't believe how much. In the old days, despite their
squabbles, and mostly thanks to your influence, I was almost
ready to credit these humans with potential, but since! Merlyn, you
can't begin to imagine what a mess they've made. They've raped the
planet in the name of commerce, left hardly a branch or a twig. You'd
weep to see grand Stonehenge as I last saw it, covered in moronic
graffiti. And their stupidity didn't just extend to their
environment. You never had to deal with the blight that the
word "technology", inflicted. The weapons of destruction, the petty
selfishness and ever growing impatience.'
'And what of this human?' Merlyn indicated the bar. 'The one
who is to lead us.'
'Lead us... US! I've never heard anything so ridiculous. He
embodies all the faults of his age. The whining self-absorption.
The ME, ME, ME. He moans about COMS, but doesn't realise that
they're the best thing that ever happened to his vile people.
They provide shelter, food, entertainment and control. Now he knows
a little of hunger, a speck of hardship but he's not prepared for
what's to come.'
'Are any of us? Was Kinata?'
'Kinata was special, Kinata was a great leader.'
'Kinata was fallible, as am I, as are you. We all have to
'That's what annoys me most about Humans. They don't learn.'
'And the Elfen do? You still hate Grendella. You destroyed as
much of your surroundings as humans could, you told me long ago
that you almost completely destroyed the planet. Look at this mess
around us. It's hardly constructive.'
Merlyn could see his argument being taken in, could see his
friend's body relax as the anger and the tension contained
within ebbed away.
'Yes, I'm sorry for this, we've both had better reunions.' He
exhaled heavily, letting out some more of his merciless frustrations.
'What do you think we should do now?'
Merlyn had been giving that very question some thought.
'I think that we should give the lad a chance, that we should
go to SPOGGLE. It can' t be worse than your description of
Wizard Springs. We both need an escape, a new beginning.'
Balidare led the way back to the bar.
'Come on then. We've got to start somewhere, but don't expect
me to be nice to the gnome.'
On the far side of a city there was a wall that was in sore
need of an escape or at least, a new beginning. Even the punishment
inflicted on its fellow structures seemed preferable to the unceasing
verbal attack that it was under. Erasmus Denton would not, or
could not, stop talking.
Just my luck, thought the wall bitterly. All these years of
silence. I finally get a voice and now I can't get a word in
edgeways. Why couldn't that Balidare just have hit me?
Consumed by self-pity the wall started to cry big red muddy
tears. Denton just continued, on and on and on; he was used to
his interviewees weeping.
Abel Surd was facing a crisis. For years everything had been
stable, boring but stable, and now this boy Will had happened
along. Except that, he wasn't a boy. He was twenty-five years old
and about to start a huge adventure.
Okay, he wasn't much to look at, even the first generation
Quasimodo model looked like more of a leader, and by all
accounts there was nothing in heredity, Will couldn't even change a
plug. But he was flesh and blood and that was partly the cause of
Surd's confusion. Abel was no longer sure what exactly he was anymore.
He was part-machine, he had a machine family already, binding ties
of kinship and love that attached him to the Personifications. He
owed them his life and his feelings for them were not just those of
gratitude, They were his children.
He realised that this moment was a pivotal moment of decision:
either the human or the Personification offspring would have to
be let go. If he went with Will, presuming, of course that he
could,then it was unlikely that he would be coming back at his age.
He certainly could not take his motley mechanised family with him,
nor could he bear the thought of possibly seeing them hurt. And
yet, how much would goodbye hurt them?, and if he did stay, what would
be the future? Another few years of boredom and card games and then a
small plot of red sand or maybe a clear preservative case like Will's
mother. Would they change Ma's Bar to Mausoleum Bar? It would
be appropriate, lying forever surrounded by his inexhaustible
heirs and by encroaching decay.
The thought of Dee Prince drew his eyes to her final
resting place. Still, perhaps he felt more man than machine,
tenderly touching the locket that contained a lock of her hair.
It was a sentimental old-fashioned gesture and he had always been
a sucker for sentiment, he had vowed to take care of the kid if
he ever showed up, like Dee had always said he would. That promise
spurred him on to a hard choice; he would have to go to Spoggle. There
was so much to tell the lad that only he could tell. Surd looked
long at the family he was soon to leave, tears welling up in his good
eye. It was going to be a hard parting.
The impact of Sir Bastable's mailed palm between his shoulder-
blades sent Surd's voice box into a symphony of equine fury.
'Squire, don't dawdle you lazy wretch, polish my best armour.
We're going on a quest.'
On the other hand, thought Surd as he straightened his smarting
back, maybe the parting wouldn't be so bad after all.
"Isn't it about time you started to do something?" the Orange
Thingy belched indignantly.
"Just a little while longer," the Purple One returned across
the spaceways, hiding its own impatience behind amusement at
the restlessness of the other.
"It's catching, is it?" Orange sniffed sulphurously.
"What's catching?" If Purple had eyebrows he would have creased
them in puzzlement making them look like a colony of caterpillars
with a bellyache.
"The lack of action from these creatures."
Actually, the Orange Thingy was wrong, a vote had been taken
amongst the biological inhabitants of Ma's Bar and a demand for
action had been unanimous. It was not much of an action to be
fair, but all felt that it was most pressing. After being
substantially fed and watered, Will Prince had been consigned to
the bath and Abel had provided some new apparel. The utility suit
had outlived its usefulness.
Will luxuriated in a supply of water, provided by the recycling
ingenuity of Surd, a liquid that did not run out in under a
minute. His heavily sodden hands toyed with a rubber duck as he
wondered if it was a family heirloom.
Sulphur lay slumped in the sink, silent and thoughtful, like
Will, toying with an image of the past. The Dragon realised
with some disquiet that the relationship with his human charge was
about to be transformed beyond all recognition. For years, Man and
Dragon had lived in a cramped space getting on each other's nerves,
yet basically dependent on one another for company. Even Sulphur
had to admit that, however much the COMS domestic appliance systems
might benefit mankind, they could not be relied upon for
That was what he and Will had shared, companionship; mutual
dependence and enforced toleration of each other's foibles,
within sensible limits of course. They had been all that each other
had had. Now all that would change; it was a time for new experiences,
a time for these others. The dragon's circuits were working overtime
at producing sensations approximating jealousy. Sulphur's role in
life had suddenly disappeared. The others would share Will's
confidences, they would have his friendship, his habitual whining,
his pettiness, his general nerdishness...
And what is there to be for me? The dragon's answer came in
letters writ large across the pathways of his XXI7 Magatronian
brain: FREEDOM. Suddenly, Sulphur felt cheerful again.
Magda and Grendella had taken their drinks outside for a last
look at the Martian scenery.
'Bally did some damage, didn't he?'
'Not as much as one of your rock concerts.'
Grendella smiled, genuinely pleased by this mention of her
'You're too kind,' She watched as Magda took a sip of the
particularly lethal cocktail. 'It always surprised me.'
'What?' Magda asked.
'That you neck-biters ate and drunk as normal.'
'I'm a big fan, but even I couldn't stand "blood, blood,
glorious blood" on its own for nine hundred years.'
'Suppose not.' Grendella conceded 'How've things been ?'
'Okay...tedious. This has come along at just the right time. I
was almost down to the freeze-dried stuff.'
'Mars isn't the place it once was.'
'Nowhere is the place it once was.'
They raised their glasses together, toasting the dead red
'To new horizons.'
'Seeeee the shanty towns on Alpha 8 .... da da da da da da...
with a dinner plate... da da da da da da... while you wait, you
have come for freeeee.'
When Will started to sing, Sulphur decided to give his new-
found liberty an early test-run. His leaving had nothing to do with
the fact that the human's voice was as tuneless as an un-oiled
engine, or that the acoustics were terrible, that was what the dragon
told himself as he fled Will's neatly tiled concert hall. In
reality, Will's voice was so awful that you would have to be stone
deaf to be able to enjoy it, and even then, the odd fluctuations caused
by the piercing soundwaves would probably give you a headache.
Surd was seated at the bottom of the stairs looking medative
and thoughtful, or so it seemed; it was difficult to tell with
the constant neighing and the shielding effect provided by the
large area of scrap metal that covered his face, Surd was certainly
not so absorbed that he did not notice Sulphur's arrival.
'Is the kid alone?' The Martian asked.
'If by kid, you mean Will, no, he's not alone. He has his
voice with him. Unfortunately,' came the cryptic response.
'Do you mind if I see him?'
'Not at all. Do you have any COMS 350?' Sulphur asked for a
brand of oil specially blended for Personifications.
'The door in the corner. Third drawer on the left in the
As Surd made his way upstairs, taking care to retract the skate
wheels in his shoes, Sulphur headed for the door indicated, one
thick taloned paw feeling back between his scaly shoulder-blades.
With all that had happened it was hardly surprising that he was feeling
a little rundown and tense. However, what he saw when he opened
the door to Surd's workshop dramatically increased his tension.
The more advanced Personifications, were superior to the first
generation models in many ways, one of these was an increased
sensitivity to their surroundings. So this room, that would not
even make a first generation werewolf turn a hair, brought Sulphur
to a condition closely approximating nausea combined with quivering
To the dragon, this room, with its naked mechanised body parts
scattered carelessly and piled to the rafters, was an obscenity,
a charnel house. It was as if Will had walked into a room piled
high with dismembered Human corpses. Fighting valiantly against the
strident protestations of disgust coursing through his
circuits, Sulphur made his way to the indicated drawer and pulled it
open. Inside was the oil and also something truly terrible. Sulphur
knew, as he plucked up the oil and made for the door with his orbs
closed, rebelling against the sight, that he would visualise the pieces
of that carefully dissected Magatronian brain in the drawer for
some time to come. Taking care to avoid Fitche, who was in full
boast about his plans to his first generation peers, Sulphur found a
quiet corner to calm down his jangled insides. He took a large swig
of the oil and let his internal diffuser work its magic, sending an
almost orgasmic stream of revitalising liquid to the points where it
was needed most. He knew that whatever its curative qualities, no
amount of the stimulating fuel could ever fully erase the horrors that
he had just seen.
Oblivious to the damage that his workshop had inflicted upon
Sulphur's delicately balanced psyche, Abel Surd was in the
middle of pitching his decision to his son.
'You can't go!' Will exploded, sending a cascade of suds onto
the floor, 'You're too old.'
'Old. What do you mean, old?'
'You're over a hundred.'
'I'm a hundred and seven. So what?'
'Well, you're old, then.'
'Have you been listening to what they've been saying down
'About their ages. Merlyn's well over a thousand easy, Magda's
a bit coy but she's got to be loads of centuries, and I don't
want to think about the Dwarf and Elfen double act. If those two
decided to claim an old-age pension, it would bankrupt a small solar
'They're different,' Will stubbornly stuck out his lower lip.
Such tactics may have worked on Sulphur, but it was soon clear
that they were not going to work on his father.
'How are they special?' Surd looked almost as offended as he
'They're still young, still fit.'
Surd thought about this for a moment.
'Can they do this?' He asked as he casually moved to the sink
and with his metallic arm, carelessly ripped it from the wall
before he proceeded to crush the porcelain into a powder, whose
consistency, if Will had seen any to make the comparison, would have
shown a marked resemblance to flour.
'Can they do this?' Surd asked the question matter-of-factly as
he turned his attention to the geyser of water, roaring forth
from the brutalised remains of the pipes, where the sink had been.
He held out his mechanised hand and with a flick of the wrist, a
laser beam shot forth from a concealed aperture and melted the pipes
until the flow of water was closed off.
Downstairs, the sounds of the bathroom commotion caused limited
'If he kills the lad, do we still have to go?' asked Merlyn.
'Don't worry. I think throwing things about the place is how
the family shows affection. I used to visit when his mother
was alive.' Balidare observed absently, before returning his
attention back to the enthralled audience of Personifications that had
gathered to listen to his tale. Merlyn silently noted, with approval,
that some things about his old friend had not changed.
'So! Merlyn here, the great and mystic one, walked up to the
emperor Claudius, bold as you please, all the while, completely
ignoring the rest of the expeditionary force, and said...'
'Or can they do this?'
Up in the bathroom things were starting to get silly. In place
of the expected small wheels, spikes had appeared out of the
soles of Abel's shiny feet and he was now walking back and forth across
'Okay! Come down. You've made your point.'
Surd returned to the floor, secretly glad that Will had called
a halt. Abel had been an the verge of running out of
impressive hidden gadgets. He had trained the Personifications well,
they had done a fine, if somewhat over-imaginative job of work when they
had built his limbs. Personally, Surd thought that the Isaac
Asimov model was to blame for some of his limbs more eccentric uses.
They should never have let him check the blueprints.
Will too was thinking of the Personifications. If he did take
the old man, it was lucky that they did not need a bathroom, because
there was no way that the one he was seated in would be usable
in the near future.
Nearer and nearer, the great bolt of necromantic energy powered
its way across the heavens. On course for Mars.
"What's that?" The Purple Thingy took note of the blue blazing
"Our lives passing us by," offered the Orange One, its horrid
delivery dripping with heavy irony.
"Stop moaning. You're always moaning."
"You're always bored. Half the civilisations in the Cosmos have
suffered because of your boredom."
"I can't help it if life's more boring today."
"When was it ever not boring?"
"There used to be loads of great things happening. All those
gods zipping about the place creating things."
"They wouldn't have had to zip about if you hadn't destroyed
things as fast as they created them. You were bored then, too."
"Face it. You're a vandal."
The Orange One did not respond. Preferring to lapse into a
huge sulk. It should have known that Purple would not understand;
those mauve brains did not have the space to hold a sense of history
or nostalgia. But of course, Its Orange intellect was far
superior; It knew the truth, and the truth was just that: "Thingy's were
not what they used to be."
Now that all the bathing and decision-making seemed
over, everyone assembled around the biggest table in the bar.
'I call this first meeting of the executive committee of
Heroics INC. to order. Will Prince, Chairman, presiding.' Will
said, looking suitably solemn.
'What a pillock!' whispered Magda.
'Yes, but he's our pillock, and we're stuck with him,' hissed
Grendella through a clenched smile.
Merlyn was confused, 'Where does he get all this from.'
'Bad genetics probably.' Balidare suggested.
'COMS Educational Video,' Sulphur provided a serious answer.
Merlyn's confusion deepened. 'Video! What's that?'
Will was starting to enjoy his officious role. Being
businesslike seemed like a good idea. 'Please, Ladies and
'I'll have fifteen cans of seriously strong lager, said
'I'll have a new chairman,' Balidare requested.
'Please! This is serious,' pleaded Will.
'I know, that's why I asked for a new chairman.'
After the groups amusement at their inglorious leader's expense
had subsided, Will stopped pouting and continued.
'The first thing is that we need to know who's going. I think
a show of hands would be best.' There was a polite dragon-ish cough.
'Or talons,' Will conceded.
Everyone round the table shrugged together, as if choreographed,
then raised an appendage in the air. At the rear of the
clustered Personifications, no one in the room noticed as an armoured
arm indicated its commitment to the quest. Up in space, a name was
added to a many brained, mauvely mental list.
'Balidare, Grendella, Sulphur, Magda, Father and Me,' Will
showed off his memory for names.
'An elfen that looks like a dwarf, a dwarfen that looks like an
elve, a midget dragon, a decrepit Martian, an odd-looking
vampire and a fool.' The aged J.R.R Tolkien model whispered
incredulously, 'What is this? Fantasy pick 'n' mix? They don't put
quests together like they did in my day.'
'Nor mine,' Sir Bastable buffed pompously in agreement although
he had absolutely no idea what his fellow machine was talking
'Well, what's next?' Merlyn asked the question for all of them.
Will was just on the verge of admitting that he did not know,
when the Purple Queen arrived.
'Bon voyage,' she said.
Suddenly, before anyone could react, the board, and first
meeting of Heroics Inc. were encased in a rather fetching lilac
Abel Surd had just a split second to think: "Not like this, not
now. I haven't even had a chance to say"..., before all the
potential adventurers disappeared.
'Goodbye.' Surd completed his thought aloud.
'Why, valet,' Sir Bastable gave him a hearty thump of
encouragement, 'where art thou going?'
'What are you doing here?'
'What are any of us doing here?' Balidare voiced the words that
they were all thinking.
The combined membership of Heroics INC. had not known what to
expect, but as a collective group there was a definite feeling
of something wrong. They were all crammed into an enclosed space
that made Will's apartment look roomy, around them ranged archaic
consoles, flashing lights and dust covered metallic surfaces.
'Welcome!' The word was uttered in a number of different
voices. Not that anyone noticed. With the exception of
Grendella, they all heard just one voice, saw one face, on the huge
grime-encrusted monitor screen in the corner.
Will and Surd saw his mother, Balidare, his father, Sir
Bastable saw his warhorse, etc. Once again, a certain tangerine-
tinged malcontent had customised its message to meet its target
audience. A kidnapped audience.
'This is not Spoggle. You are in an old pirate satellite
station positioned beyond Mars. Your colleagues cannot hear
this message. It is a secret between us. Do not tell them what you
have seen. Do not trust the Purple Queen. She is evil and hopes to
dupe you, to get the MADID for her horrible schemes. Once you are
deposited on Spoggle, I will not be able to help you. But,
please, please, do not give the MADID to Sharon. I can show you a
better way. With the help of the good forces I represent, I can
bring you safely back here and then to whatever time and place in the
universe that you wish. We can be together again if you want. We can
have the chance to start again.'
The monitor went blank. There was an embarrassed silence in
the room. No one wanted to speak for a moment of what, or who,
they had seen and before anyone got the chance to return to curious
normality, they were all turned into energy particles and thrown
across the universe.
Buck Chandler had been through a hectic few days. The Tolgan
Empire had launched a powerful new offensive. This time they
posed a threat, not only to the safety of his beloved Princess
Quarg and her people on Quantag Maxus, but to the fate of the
Fortunately, there had been one Star-Corps major who had been
more than equal to the challenge. A mega-modest, square-jawed
hero and all-round good guy, who had stood up courageously to an
entire empire and came away victorious. As he powered his way to new
and even more incredible adventures, Chandler allowed himself a
moment of introspection, a fleeting memory of the previous day's
encounter designed to prove that he was not just a shallow muscle-
bound oaf, that he could sometimes also think.
For as long as there was history, as long as man cherished
truth, justice and the Star-Corps way, the battle of Balabong 7
would be remembered. The situation had seemed hopeless: a million
gleaming evil-looking ships, the pride of the Tolgan invasion force,
each crewed by twenty eight crack Tolgan death-troopers had looked
set to sweep their way across the universe, wreaking havoc and
devastation as they at last established the domination of the Tolgan
master race; a domination that looked destined to last a billion years.
When all had seemed totally beyond hope, when most of the planetary
systems in the area had cashed in their insurance policies and gone on
one final spree, it had happened, the miracle, the coming of the hero.
With suicidal bravado, the strata-charger Warspite had roared out of
the heavens, throwing down a challenge to the massed and menacing
Tolgan ranks. A duel to the death.
It had been hairy work. But a million-to-one seemed manageable
odds for a top-notch Star-Corps major and his "old crate" had
performed well. Twenty-eight million Tolgans had met their
maker in the space of five minutes, the universe had been saved, and
Chandler had even had time to stop by for tea and crispy biscuits on
Quantag Maxus. There, he had been presented, for the fifty-sixth time,
with the ultimate decoration that the Quantagians could bestow; the
Titranium book-token of Martamis the Second. However, more
important than the civic presentation to the love-struck manly tongue-
tied major was the award of a maidenly kiss from the three sets of
lips of Princess Quarg, and a look of loving admiration from those
five twinkling long-lashed eyes. He knew that one day he would make
her his bride. But the delights of matrimony were for the future.
For now, the Major had to content himself with cold showers and the
demanding regime of a galactic legend. Somewhere out there,
there were still billions of adventures with the name, "CHANDLER",
stencilled in huge golden letters all over them.
Suddenly, Buck was called back to the present. His square-jaws
tightened on his sensibly low nicotine cigar. There should not
be anything in this sector, but the Warspite's systems registered
something horrible. Slowly, defences up, the Warspite swooped
towards the large and ominous mass indicated, until finally,
Chandler could see it, the whole five hundred parsecs wide, mass of it.
The most nasty and villainous space-station in creation, a Tolgan
"Mean-ness Star". The ultimate weapon of his deadly enemies, it
had the capacity to wipe out entire Galaxies with a single blast of its
smallest lazer-canon. That was the bad news. Luckily for
creation, the good news was that Buck Chandler was on the case and had a
plan. The Meaness Star was fortunately positioned just above a major
sun. Chandler was going to attempt the impossible; he was going to
strike the Tolgan ship a glancing blow with the Warspite, sending it
on an off-balanced course into that sun.
It was a solemn moment, Chandler gave a last loving look at the
photo of Princess Quarg, the one taken with the heavy-duty
fright-proof lens. Then he gently pressed the button marked "blaze-
jets" and zoomed with amazing speed towards his target. The five million
Tolgans aboard, each involved in some nefarious awful scheme,
never knew what hit them. Before a single shot could be loosed they
had plunged into the sun and met their firey doom. Back on their
homeworld, To1gan-Nebulon, recruitment for the space services
was going to suffer a severe setback. Thirty-three million Tolgans
had died in two days; that was an awful lot of pensions for widows
and orphans. The Tolgans would have to try and invade territory to
pay for it all. Buck Chandler had been victorious again.
This is all a very roundabout way of saying that the bonkers
auto-piloting mechanism, located in the front half of the
wrecked Mars transport, had continued on its way, managing, in the
split second that the members of Heroics INC. were hurled across the
Cosmos, to crash into a certain pirate satellite station,
sending the return staging post promised by the Orange Thingy,
hurteling into Jupiter and thence into several thousand small pieces.
Another, seemingly less disastrous, consequence of the impact was that
the Mars transport slipped into the temporary hole left in space by
the passage of the adventurers and was likewise tossed across
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