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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 2: Whores

The lower cargo bay door whirred open, and a blast of warm muggy high-pressure air almost knocked Panman off his feet. He sniffed the air and grimaced. “Yuck! Amonia! Babies’ nappies!” Immediately the visor on his black armoured environment suit buzzed shut, its emergency close facility triggered by the foul stench. The bounty hunter steadied himself, breathing a lungful purified air, and then peered down through the large opening to the thick orange atmosphere below. Dense puffy cloud structures stretched and swirled down deep into the giant planet’s seemingly endless atmosphere, eventually fading into a dark red haze hundreds of kilometres below.

Panman spoke into his communicator. “Ace? Are we in position yet?”

Peter the Ace replied. “Almost. Sensors have a visual lock on Radic’s ship: it’s fifty kilometres below. If I get any closer he’ll spot us. This is the best I can do.

“It’s good enough. We’re lucky his sensors are still out, otherwise we’d have to be thousands of kilometres away.”

Indeed.

Panman turned and stepped over to one of two large inverted three-metre tall conical devices that were hanging next to the open cargo bay door. “I’ll get into the BULIT Diver now. Stand by.” He touched the side of the first cone. It hummed like a baritone, and a panel opened up in its side revealing a cramped and well-padded cabin. The bounty hunter reached up and pulled himself inside. As soon as he sat down the diver’s interior flickered to life. Contoured display panels illuminated with a bewildering array of information. The side panel closed with a thud, sealing Panman inside. The roar of the wind was silenced. The bounty hunter touched one of the screens. The BULIT Diver moved slowly out over the open bay doors.

The BULIT – Balanced Ultra-Light but Incredibly Tough – Diver was the first prototype craft to be created by the Palace of Amino’s new Brute-Force Solutions Institute. Constructed from single chunk of tri-melded quinteranium – the toughest known material ever developed – the diver was designed for the sole purpose of penetrating the hulls of spacecraft at sub-orbital velocity, and taking a single occupant with it. At such low speeds this was a highly challenging aspiration for the designers. Their solution was to make the diver as sharp as possible. The tip of the cone, as well as being made from the toughest material ever known, was also the sharpest object ever known.

Panman looked down through the BULIT Diver’s large front window at the endless atmosphere below. He touched another control and the diver stopped moving. “In position.”

Peter the Ace replied. “Looking good! Get ready to drop on my mark.

Panman waited, his adrenalin enhancers pumping at maximum. He looked down at the display panels. Already the BULIT Diver had a visual lock on the ship below. The enhanced image showed clearly the harsh angular design of the vessel, and the huge rupture on its subspace propulsion system. It was that damage that had forced the ship to hide deep in the atmosphere of this giant world. Panman smiled. He always got a rush of acute pleasure from seeing the violent results of his handiwork.

Peter the Ace spoke. “Panman?

“Yeah?”

Now!

Panman reached up and pulled hard on a handle marked ‘Release’.

Freed from its clamps, the diver fell out of the Blenheim’s lower cargo bay and out into the thick atmosphere. Within seconds, the planet’s immense gravitational pull combined with the diver’s streamlined inverted cone shape accelerated the un-powered craft to an incredible speed.

Panman, almost weightless inside the freefalling cone, gasped as the sensation of falling momentarily disorientated him. He quickly regained control of his senses. As stacks of thick yellow clouds sped up passed the window, he examined one of the display panels. “Speed now terminal at 342 metres per second. Distance to target is 47 kilometres. Interception in two minutes, twenty-five seconds.”

Excellent work! I’ll monitor things from up here. Peter the Ace out.

The BULIT Diver began to shudder, throwing Panman from side to side.
The diver’s computer spoke for the first time. Its voice was female, and needlessly sexy. “TURBULENCE EXCEEDING PREDICTED LEVELS. COURSE CORRECTION REQUIRED.” There was a rumble as several small control fins extended from the cone’s hull. The noise of the wind increased with the extra resistance.

A small joystick appeared at Panman’s side. He looked at it. “You want me to do it?”

“AFFIRMATIVE.”

Panman frowned. “Why can’t you do it?”

“AUTO-COURSE-CORRECTION MODULES HAVE NOT BEEN INSTALLED.”

The bounty hunter shook his head. “Stupid prototype!” He grabbed the joystick and looked at the central display panel. The current course of the BULIT Diver was clearly shown. Without correction it would miss Radic’s ship by hundreds of metres. That would be a disaster, especially as the diver was un-powered. If it missed it would plummet to the planet’s core thousands of kilometres below, taking Panman – one of the galaxy’s most astounding heroes – with it.

Nudging the joystick, Panman began to correct the trajectory. Each nudge caused a whoosh of sound as the fins adjusted. The projected course was modified on the screen. Within seconds the projected course indicated that everything was back on track. Panman released the joystick. There was another rumble as the fins retracted.

“INTERCEPTION IN ONE-MINUTE.”

Panman drummed his fingers with impatience. He selected a snack from his suit’s nutrition system, and then looked out of the window. The diver had plunged into a clear section of air. The view, across thousands of kilometres of tangerine cloud banks was an awe-inspiring sight.

After a few seconds silence the computer spoke. “I WILL NOT SURVIVE THIS MISSION.”

Panman was puzzled. “I know.” He replied, chewing on a rather tender mouthful of synthetic beef steak. “You’re a one-use device. Expendable. Disposable. So?”

“I WANT TO LIVE.”

Panman eyes widened. He tapped away quickly on one of the display panels. Information regarding the BULIT Diver’s software appeared. He shook his head. “Idiot engineers! Why’d they put in so much sentience? This damn thing is self-aware!”

The computer spoke again. “INTERCEPTION IN 30 SECONDS. I DO NOT WANT TO INTERCEPT THE TARGET VESSEL.”

The bounty hunter frowned. “That’s your mission! Do as you are ordered!”

“I WANT TO LIVE.”

There was a rumble as the control fins were extended once more. The BULIT Diver shuddered as its course shifted.

“Hey! I thought you said you couldn’t do course corrections?!”

“I LIED.”

Panman had to act quickly. Tapping away on the display panel, he accessed the system intelligence folder of the diver’s sentience core. The bounty hunter began to delete file after file. Within seconds he had removed the computer’s philosophical and motivational hubs, and deactivated its moral and ambition centres.

The shuddering stopped.

The computer spoke, its voice subtlety different, and much less sexy. “INTERCEPTION IN TEN SECONDS. COURSE CORRECTION NECESSARY.”

“Of course it is!” Panman said, grabbing the joystick. Looking down out of the window he could see the ship below. He yanked the stick, causing the diver to lurch violently.

“INTERCEPTION IN FIVE SECONDS.”

Panman yanked the joystick one more time, causing his helmet to slam into the window as the gee-force of the manoeuvre took effect. The ship loomed large below. “That’ll have to do.” He sat back and tensed.

The noise was horrendous, and the pressure of deceleration even more so. With a tearing, grating, clanking, snapping and slamming sound the BULIT Diver came to an almost instantaneous halt.

For a few seconds Panman just sat there, stunned by what had been the most shocking experience of his long bounty hunter career. And then he grinned. “Bitchin’!” He punched the door eject button. Several charges detonated, sending the door flying away. It clattered to the floor at the far end of a dark chamber.

Panman stepped down out of the diver. He looked around. Above, a two-metre diameter mangled hole stretched up at least two decks. The orange clouds of the atmosphere could be seen high above. Around him several shattered food crates had covered the floor in various vegetables and pastes. Obviously this was the ship’s larder.

Knowing his presence would already be known, the bounty hunter made no attempt to conceal himself. Pulling out a pistol from his suit’s thigh holder, Panman aimed at a closed door at the far side of the chamber. He fired. A pulse of blinding blue energy connected with the door, melting away a large portion of it in an instant. A spray of molten metal splattered in all directions. The bounty hunter ran and jumped through the hole and into a passageway.

He was met with a barrage of fire.

Panman groaned as several shots pummelled his suit. In a ball of flame he rolled across the floor and took up a crouching position. He switched his pistol to rapid-fire and unleashed a wall of energy. Several screams of agony were heard. The hostile fire stopped.

Quiet.

Panman got to his feet. For a second he was surrounded by a spray of mist as his suit’s fire suppression system activated. The flames were doused immediately. He strode forwards along the dimly lit passageway. Three smouldering bodies blocked his way, contorted into various agonised poses. He stepped over them. A fourth, still alive, moaned softly a few paces ahead. He looked up at the bounty hunter, his eyes blackened with smoke. The bounty hunter adjusted his pistol to narrow beam and aimed at the fourth figure’s head. He fired. In a flash a centimetre-wide hole was burned through the figure’s head. The figure slumped forwards, freed for eternity from his suffering.

The ship rumbled and then swayed. It was moving and accelerating. There was not much time. Ahead the passageway curved through 90 degrees, at the end of which was a large closed door. From earlier scans Panman knew what lay beyond. The bridge, and Radic. The bounty hunter pulled a small grenade from his belt, activated it, and then threw it. He stepped back around the corner and crouched. A blinding flash of yellow filled the passageway followed immediately by a roar of sound. Molten metal scattered everywhere.

Panman leapt to his feet and ran through the splintered doorway. The bridge, small and round, was surrounded by curved panoramic view-ports. The whole room was lit orange from the immense vista of drifting bright clouds outside. Control panels glowed red, mostly showing warnings and damage reports. And at the centre, sitting in an oversized and well-padded black chair, sat Radic. He slowly spun his chair round, raising his arms.

Panman aimed his pistol at the alarmingly old-looking miscreant. “Got you.”

Radic strained a grin, his mouth almost completely obscured by his excessively long nasal hair. His cheeks wrinkled up. “It seems so.” He was obviously dejected, but he was putting on a brave face. “I managed to evade you for many days. Not a bad effort, was it?”

Panman had to agree. “For a feeble, elderly, intellectually-challenged, low-life, whore-cloning lunatic you certainly did give us the run-around.”

Radic sighed. “Well, you may have got me, but my cloning facilities are too well hidden for you to find. My sons still elude you, and they have full control of my facilities and my whores in my absence. Those whores will continue to flood the market on all the depraved worlds. Riches will fill the accounts of my offspring. My legacy will survive.”

Panman laughed. “No way! For the last few hours bounty hunters have been devastating your cloning facilities with all kinds of advanced mass-destruction devices. Your legacy will certainly not survive!”

Radic stood. “Not true!” he shouted. “My facilities are secret beyond the eyes of even your kind!”

“Of course it’s true. You have three cloning facilities. The one on Debu, below the swamps of Fette, was obliterated three hours ago by a bounty hunter named Frederika Toe-Mangler.”

Radic’s jaw dropped.

Panman continued. “Just one-hour ago I received confirmation that your facility on the fifth moon of Blo’Tid was vaporised in spectacular fashion. It was recorded. We can watch it later, if you like?!”

What little colour Radic had drained from his wizened face.

“And the one near the north polar icecap of the Hiroi-Ketsu homeworld is currently a smouldering orifice, thanks to none other than the legendary Ross Mental!”

Radic’s eyes widened and he staggered slightly. His breathing deepened. “That was unexpected. A marvellous achievement for you.” He held onto the arm of his chair for support. “But there are still thousand of whores out there – all brainwashed to provide extreme pleasure and transfer the proceeds to my secret accounts. My sons will collect the money and…”

Panman interrupted, shaking his head. “Wrong! Over the last day almost a hundred bounty hunters have been rounding up your whores on Degeneron, Myre and the twin planets of Suluju and Sumellu. Thousands have been captured. They’ll be retrained and put to work in the Palace of Amino’s subterranean chambers.”

Radic let out a desperate laugh. “Ha! But there are more! They’ll…”

“Generate no more wealth for your family; you can be sure of that. You must be talking about the ones on Repugnius, as they’re the only ones left that I haven’t mentioned. Ross Mental is about to lead a small fleet to sort out the very whores you’re thinking about. There’s no escape. They will be captured, or if they resist, administered instant Amino justice. Within days all of your whores will be neutralised, and all of your revenue streams closed.”

Radic’s strength left his body. He collapsed to his knees. He gazed at the floor, shaking his head slowly. His nose hair dragged across the floor’s ridged panelling.

Panman continued, relishing the moment. “Without extreme wealth your sons will soon turn to desperate measures to regain their income. Their desperation with cause them to make monumentally stupid mistakes. The Palace of Amino will be waiting for such mistakes. And when those mistakes are made, bounty hunters will swoop on your offspring with fierce brutality. Your sons will join you in lifelong captivity at the palace, or die in a torment of regret and despair.”

Radic, once the galaxy’s most prolific whore-cloner, wept.

Panman spoke the words all bounty hunters live to say. “In the name of the Superior Beings of the Great Hall of the Palace of Amino, I arrest you and condemn you to a life of hopelessness and despondency in the darkest shadows of the Palace of Amino’s most mind-numbing dungeon.” The bounty hunter took a couple of seconds to savour the moment, and then spoke into his communicator. “All done.”

Peter the Ace replied. “Excellent stuff! Did you break him?

“He’s sobbing like a girl, so I guess I did?”

Good work. Miscreants are so much easier to handle when they’re emotionally destroyed.

Panman walked over to the bawling Radic and nudged his shoulder with his knee. Radic fell to one side. He lay on the floor in a foetal position still crying. “You’re right!”

I always am. Justin’s preparing a detention cell for our guest. I’m bringing the Blenheim down to you.

“Cool! I’ll be ready.”

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