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Book: Rise of the Dough Monster
Chapter 17: The Sanctuary of Gourmandism

Maggie was standing outside the sickbay. She was panting heavily.

Peter the Ace approached her with powerful confidence. "There really is no need to react to me in such an extreme fashion, however awe-inspiring and impressively well-built I am!"

"For once," she said breathlessly, "it's not you."

Peter the Ace was shocked. "Really?"

"Yes. It's Lisa. I've just spent the last half hour pulling babies out of her!"

Peter the Ace was curious. "I noticed that you used the plural and not the singular."

"Yes." Maggie said, recovering slightly. "It's normal for Eroginans to have multiple births."

"Interesting." the bounty hunter said. "So Lisa had twins."

"No."

"Triplets, eh? Excellent!"

"No."

"More?"

"Yes."

"How many?"

"Octuplets."

Peter the Ace's eyes widened. "Eight!" He said. "She gave birth eight times! No wonder you're exhausted."

"It could have been worse." She said. "Ten is the average, and as many as sixteen has been known."

"Wow!" Peter the Ace said with admiration. "A two hour gestation period and an average of ten offspring per pregnancy. Your planet must have a serious population problem!"

"Not really." she said. "We have an extensive network of roads and freeways but absolutely no rules or laws. Almost ten percent of the population die hideously every day in ground vehicle accidents. By the next morning they've been replaced by new-borns."

"Sounds like you've got it sorted." He said. "May I see the kids?"

"Of course. I'll stay here, I've had enough of the brats!"

"Understandable."

Peter the Ace wandered into the sickbay. Lisa was standing naked in the Blenheim's previously unused maternity bay at the far end of the main medical room. Her children had been grouped into pairs and placed in four incubation units.

"Congratulations!" Peter the Ace said as he approached. "Your babies have the extraordinary honour and privilege of being born on board the most powerful and feared star ship ever to exist in the known, and probably unknown universe!"

"Thank you." She said. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Tears of happiness." The bounty hunter said. "Very touching."

"They're tears of sadness." She said. "These are the ugliest babies that I've ever given birth to."

"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that. How many other babies have you had?"

"Seventy four."

"Awesome!" Peter the Ace exclaimed. "But you look so young!"

"I'm twenty four."

"Cool! Your people breed more like insects that humanoids."

Lisa glared at the bounty hunter.

"That was a compliment!" He said quickly. "I have a profound respect for creepy-crawlies of all types." The subject was quickly changed. "Do you have names for them?"

"Of course!" Lisa said. "That's Carmen and Barbara. Those two are Sharon and Tracey. These are Larleen and Olmec, and finally, they are Jessica and Extrepalopakettle."

"That last one's going to have a hard time in school!" Peter the Ace said smiling.

Lisa Ignored the bounty hunter’s last remark. "Where are you taking us next?"

"Well," the bounty hunter said, "once the ship has repaired the sub-space drive we'll be heading to the Palace of Amino, which is about three weeks away from here. The Blenheim is in need of a major service."

"Will we have to live at the palace?" She asked, looking at her babies.

"You are quite welcome to. The Palace of Amino can accommodate single mothers of all varieties!"

"I see." Lisa didn't look too happy.

"We could, of course, take you home."

"My home was on the third moon of Ye'Est, and had been for ten years. You destroyed, it remember."

"Ah, yes. Unfortunate but necessary." He thought for a moment. "I believe Erogina is only ten days flight from the Palace of Amino. We could take you there. Then you could reintegrate with your own society!"

"No thank you!" Lisa said sharply. "No kid of mine is going to die driving. The palace will be fine."

"A most divine choice!" Peter the Ace said.

The Blenheim spoke. "AUTO REPAIR OF THE SUB-SPACE DRIVE IS NOW COMPLETE. SUB-SPACE PROPULSION IS AVAILABLE."

"Excellent!" Peter the Ace exclaimed. "Blenheim? Set a course for the Palace of Amino and go to maximum sub-space speed."

"INDEED I WILL."

A dull rumble reverberated through the ship as its powerful engines pushed hard and fast. A millisecond of temporal distortion was felt as the Blenheim folded through the delicate fabric of time and reality and entered the trans-ethereal void known as sub-space.

Lisa looked at Peter the Ace. Her eyes were bright and enticing. She licked her lips slowly then placed her hands round his waist. Her heavy breathing had returned.

The bounty hunter remained completely calm. "It doesn't take you long to recover does it!" He said, smiling.

"You need to relax more!" She said sexily. "Let me help you!"

"I feel quite relaxed thank you," He said. "But if I need your help I'll come and see you." Peter the Ace walked towards the sickbay's exit.

"See you later?" She asked.

"Maybe." He replied.

The automatic doors sealed behind him.


Panman pressed the activation switch on the cyborg construction unit's control panel then stepped back to watch. Justin was with him. "Let's see if your handy work works!" The bounty hunter said.

"It will." Justin confirmed coldly.

In the centre of the room stood a short but powerful looking and highly polished metal body of intricate design and build. On top of it sat the head and shoulders of Martha Raisindough. Microscopic synthetic nerves connected the artificial physique to her neural pathways. In less than a minute, energy would flood her digital and bio-systems and bring her back to life.

Panman reminisced. "Do you remember," He said. "Just over four years ago you were in that position after having your body blasted away by some of Lawrence's foul-smelling ogres!"

"I am aware of that event." Justin said, devoid of emotion.

"You had to have a glass dome over your head to prevent infection." Panman continued. "This is an updated machine. Martha is protected from disease by a super thin electro-shield that hugs the contours of her skin."

"Her skin is heavily contoured." The cyborg trainee said.

"You're so insulting!"

"I am incapable of insults." Justin said. "I was merely stating a fact."

Panman looked at Martha. "When I come to think of it, you're right. She's a prune!"

"A prune is an accurate analogy when describing her epidermal qualities." The metal trainee muttered electronically.

Martha's eyes opened suddenly and looked around. "Where be I?" She asked nervously.

Justin clanked towards her and spoke. "You suffered a 71% loss of body tissue during an attack by a subterranean creature."

"Oh no!" she cried. "I be rememberin'" She looked at Justin. "I be dead!" She shouted. "You must be Pod-Gee, god of plump peasant folk. Spare me the torment of eternal banishment to the vomit pits of undigested pig cuticles, and welcome me into the sanctuary of gourmandism!"

"I am not a god." Justin said. "Ross Mental preserved your head and shoulders and then brought you here. I constructed a new cyborg body for you out of complex and incomprehensible materials."

A look of amazement filled Martha's face. "You do be a god!" She said, bowing.

She noticed her metal chest, abdomen, and legs, and then screamed.

"Do not be alarmed." Justin said. "You will come to prefer your new artificial form in time."

"I be a machine!" She said in despair.

"Machines are more efficient and logical."

Martha looked at Panman. "Who be you?"

"I'm Panman." he said with pride. "Co-captain of this stunning vessel and bounty hunter of miraculous expertise and outstanding cognitive recall!"

"I be wantin' to go home!"

"I'm afraid you can't!" Panman said. "A giant dough monster was stomping through the mountains where we found you. We had to destroy your planet and the surrounding system to kill it. You have no home."

"My plantation! My friends! My life be over!"

"You'll make new friends." Panman said. "You can live at the Palace of Amino and serve bounty hunters."

Martha started to clank around the lab with startling ease.

Panman looked at Justin. "She's learning to walk a lot quicker that you did!"

"Her motion systems are more advanced and more deeply integrated." Justin replied.

"You're jealous!"

"I am incapable of feeling jealous."

Martha approached them. "I be wishin' to die!"

"Nonsense!" Panman said. "You can live for centuries now. Be positive. You can lead a wonderfully productive and servile life."

Peter the Ace walked in. "Excellent!" He said, staring at Martha. "Great work Justin. You've definitely improved upon your own body!"

"Thank you."

Martha was aimlessly clopping up and down.

"What's wrong with her?" Peter the Ace asked.

"I just told her that we completely destroyed her home." Panman answered.

"Don't you think that you should have let her come to terms with the loss of her biological body before you informed her of that devastating fact?!"

"It's better that she knows straight away." Panman said with great wisdom. "Her current intense depression and tendency to suicide will quickly transmute into a more forward looking and positive attitude. Trust me!"

"I trust you." Peter the Ace said.

"How's Lisa?" Panman asked.

"She's just given birth to eight kids!"

"Whoa!" Panman exclaimed. "She's a baby machine!"

"Indeed."

"Is Dick definitely the father?"

"I think so, although he won't admit it. He's just sitting in the galley eating blueberry pies and complaining about the loss of his bread empire!"

"That reminds me," Panman said. "I have a proposition to put to him. I also need a snack!"

"Me too." Peter the Ace agreed. "Justin. Keep an eye on Martha, we're off to the galley."

"I obey."

The two bounty hunters strode magnificently out of the cyborg construction lab.


Dick Burton was still wearing his gold braided Palace of Amino dressing gown, but it was no longer in immaculate condition. Pie crusting and pie filling were splattered all over its front. His face also had its fair share of food smears.

The oven opposite bleeped twice. Dick got up from the table and opened it up. The unbelievable aroma of blueberry pie wafted out and spread around the room. Dick took the pie out, placed it on the table, and then sat down. "If that damn microwave worked I could've heated this up at least three times as quick!" he said with annoyance.

Dick dug at the food with a large spoon and placed a big lump of it into his mouth. He immediately spat it out all across the table. He ran over to the nearest water dispenser and drank a few mouthfuls. "Shit! Damn hot!"

He turned to return to the table. Peter the Ace and Panman stood before him.

"Hello Dick!" Peter the Ace said cheerfully. "Still trying to stuff your face, I see!"

"What do you mean ‘trying’?" He asked.

"Panman is the only person who can truly stuff his face. No one else comes close to being able to."

"That's true!" Panman said. "I have certificates to prove it!"

"I'll have to see them sometime." Dick said sarcastically. He sat down and continued to eat the pie, this time a little more carefully. "What do you want?" He asked through a mouthful of pastry.

"Don't be so rude!" Peter the Ace said. "We did save you, you know!"

"Yeah we did!" Panman said. "And I have a great idea that will regain you the respect and dignity that you seem to have lost."

Dick looked up. "Really?"

"Yes."

Panman sat down.

A curious look appeared on Dick's face. "What's your idea?"

"Well," Panman explained, "one thing that the Palace of Amino doesn't have is a specialist bread restaurant."

"I need more than restaurant!" Dick said.

"Of course you do! And so does the palace!"

"What are you suggesting?"

"I'm suggesting that you build a feasting tower right at the heart of the palace's central districts, near the Central Tower where Peter the Ace and myself live."

For the first time since his bread empire crumbled, Dick smiled.

Panman continued. "You will, of course, have to finance this yourself. The huge amount of money that you transferred off your tower just before it was destroyed will have to be re-transferred to the palace. I'm sure that the Amino Bank of Overabundance will gladly accept your wealth!"

"Are you certain that I can do this?" Dick asked.

"Of course!" Panman answered. "We are bounty hunters of the highest order. No one, apart from the Superior Beings and are above us in the entire Amino organisation. Whatever we say is treated as if it were a message from the gods!"

"That's great! There's something else that I have always wanted to do." Dick said.

"What?"

"It's always been my ambition to set up a massive music complex where other musicians and I could record and perform day and night. If I build the feasting tower, I must be allowed to build that as well."

Panman looked at Peter the Ace. "What do you think?"

"Two separate buildings would not be acceptable," Peter the Ace said. "But if the two were combined into one stupendous monolith of a structure, then that would be okay."

Panman looked at Dick. "Would a combined building be to your satisfaction?"

"Yes yes yes!" Dick said, standing up. "It will be the most magnificent edifice ever seen. It will have more than one thousand levels of..."

"No way!" Peter the Ace interrupted sharply.

"What?" Dick said, annoyed at the bounty hunter's sudden outburst.

"The palace's Central Tower is one thousand levels high. You cannot, under any circumstances, build a tower that exceeds its height or comes anywhere near it. Panman and I live at its pinnacle and will not allow our panoramic views to be obstructed!"

Dick took a step back, startled by Peter the Ace's air of authority. "What would be the maximum height that I could make it then?"

"What do you think, Panman?"

"I would say seven hundred levels."

"Yes." Peter the Ace said. "Seven hundred levels maximum."

"I guess that would be okay." Dick said. "That's still one hundred and forty four levels higher than my previous tower."

"Yeah," Panman said. "And it's more than a hundred levels higher than Tower One, currently the second tallest building at the palace. Yours will push that into third place!"

"Thank you!" Dick said for the first time in over a century. "You have saved me from a life of anguish and despair!"

"No problem! Just one part of one of our incredibly difficult and deadly jobs!" Panman said.

"Indeed!" Peter the Ace agreed. He looked at Dick. "You should go and see Lisa."

"Why?"

"Those are your children that she's just given birth to, that’s why! You should be a more responsible father."

Dick was amazed at that statement. "They are not my children!"

"Why do you deny it? There's no one else on board that were ever in a position to impregnate her!"

"Yes there is!"

"Don't lie to us, Dick!" Panman said.

"I'm not! It's impossible for me to have gotten her pregnant!"

"Really?" Peter the Ace said. "We can treat that for you, if you like."

"That's not what I mean!"

"What do you mean?"

"Although Eroginans' are uncontrollably attracted to males of virtually any species, they don't need them to become pregnant. They simply wish for it and it happens."

"Really?"

"Yes! And what's more, they only give birth to females. The only males on Erogina are visitors from other worlds!"

Panman looked at Peter the Ace. "That explains why it's such a popular place for vacations!"

"Indeed!" Peter the Ace said. "I wonder why we didn't know?"

"We’re usually too busy exterminating murderous and frantic miscreants!"

"That's true!"

"Sorry to doubt you, Dick." Panman said. "You look a mess. Why don't you go and clean yourself up."

Dick looked down at himself. "You’re right. I'll go back up to my quarters." He wandered towards the galley's exit.

"Dick?" Peter the Ace said.

Dick turned. "Yes?"

"Wash that dressing gown. It's a crime to deface bounty hunter property with food."

"Whatever." Dick said. He left.

"Cool beyond belief!" Panman exclaimed. "Our very own feasting tower at the palace!"

"That is cool." Peter the Ace agreed.

Panman wandered over to a storage cabinet and pressed a button. It opened. "Time for food!"

The cabinet was stacked with pizzas. Panman took out six and then closed the door. He placed them in the oven. "What setting do I use?" He asked.

"I'm not sure." Peter the Ace said. "I've always left the cooking to Justin."

"Yeah. Me too. If the microwave worked I could use it easily!"

The Blenheim performed its second timely announcement of the day. "THE MICROWAVE OVEN IS NOW FULLY OPERATIONAL."

"Awesome!" Panman yelled. He turned and tossed the pizzas into the newly repaired oven. "Those things make life so much easier!"

"I know what would make things even easier." Peter the Ace said.

"What would that be?"

"We get Justin to come here and cook the food, and then deliver it to us in the holo-games room!"

"That's the best idea that you've ever had!" Panman said excitedly. "Anyway, Justin is the best cook on the ship!"

"Indeed he is!"

Peter the Ace operated the internal communicator. "Justin?"

After a second, the cyborg answered. "Yes?"

"What have you been up to, metal buddy?"

"I have just completed re-calibrating Martha's optical power flow primary injection conduit."

"And what did that achieve?"

"The output threshold of the unit increased and it is now operating within the parameters of the design specification."

"That's good." Peter the Ace said. "I was about to suggest that you do that. How is she coping with life as a machine?"

"It will take several days for her to become completely competent in the use of her cyborg systems."

"I have an idea. Why don't you bring her over here to the galley and teach her how to use the ovens. That should speed up her progress."

"I do not see how..."

"Just do it!" Peter the Ace ordered. "There are some pizzas in the microwave. Bring them to Panman and me in the holo-games room when they're done."

There was a slight pause. "I obey."

The communicator clicked off.

"Let's go!" Panman said. "There's a game that I haven't tried yet."

"What's it called?"

"Antediluvian Death Propagators Butcher a Large Amount of Ailing Hospital Out Patients!"

"Sounds relaxing!" Peter the Ace said.

"Probably." Panman grabbed a bag full of caramel and mango flavoured doughnuts on his way out.

Peter the Ace looked at him, smiled, and shook his head.

Panman went on the defensive. "We need something to eat on the way there!"

Peter the Ace laughed.

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