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Book: The Impaler and the Slim-Jims
Chapter 1: Nomadic Ancestral Soothsayers

Earth Reference Year 2393.77 AD

It was well and truly jammed all right.

Panman, a bounty hunter of impenetrable acumen and potent concentration, stood heroically on the topside of the Blenheim and surveyed the scene. The ship was wedged tightly in a fifty metre wide hard-rock crevasse, a crevasse only half the width of the ship itself, and it was damaged beyond reason. Torn armour plating and buckled weaponry could be seen crunched up against the grey lichen covered rock face. Contorted hull fragments jabbed at the air, and black smoke billowed from the huge sub-space engines at the rear. The stench of collision, similar to the odour of a dam crawling gum chewer, wafted through the air.

Panman smiled. That must have been the most extraordinary and magnificent crash ever! A shame it wasn’t recorded.

Peter the Ace, a bounty hunter of multifarious subterfuge and sturdy construction, clambered out of the bridge’s emergency exit hatch and joined his companion out on the hull. A chill gust of wind ruffled his un-gelled hair.

“What’s the verdict Ace?” Panman asked; his heavily gelled hair unaffected by the rush of air.

“Well, the weapons array has been almost wiped out - apart from the lower pulse cannon, that still seems to respond. All shield capability has been lost, and the sub-space drive diagnostics can’t get a response from the engines. It looks like the Inanuim fuel injector has snapped.”

“Is that serious?”

“We need to find a new one or else we can’t leave.”

“Unlikely on this backwards world.”

“It is indeed. The complex alloy it’s made from is deviously constructed.”

“Anything else?”

Peter the Ace thought for a second. “The microwave doesn’t close properly, and I can’t turn off the vibrating bed in the guest quarters. The jaccuzzi works, though.”

“It’s not all bad then.”

“No, not really. Oh, I almost forgot, the Holo-Game system is off-line too.”

Panman went insane. “I don’t believe it!” he screamed, his voice echoing off the rock faces. “It’s always the same. That damn thing breaks at the slightest bump!” The bounty hunter ran over to the bridge’s hatchway and stuck his head inside. “Blenheim? Divert all power to the Holo-Game auto-repair systems!”

There was no response from the ship.

“Do it now!” Panman yelled. “I want to be able to play ‘Nomadic Ancestral Soothsayers Defy Oblivion in Bizarre Ceremonial Gowns’ in five minutes.”

Peter the Ace spoke calmly. “Unfortunately the Blenheim’s voice recognition system also seems to be damaged.”

Panman looked at his comrade. “The ship’s deaf?”

“It appears so. But it does respond to typed commands, I tried earlier.”

Panman looked despondent. “Typed commands?” He laid back on the hull and looked up at the darkening blue sky. “I haven’t typed for centuries!”

“I must admit that it is a bit of a chore.” Peter the Ace agreed. He followed Panman’s gaze. High above in erratic orbits a multitude of distant chunks of debris drifted through the void of space.

“If you think we’re in a bad way, just look at our adversaries!”

A grin the width of a continent spread across Panman’s face. A large segment of debris scraped the upper atmosphere and glowed bright white as it vaporised. He started to laugh. “We cut up those Gargalon Blood Smuggler Destruction Vessels as if they were onions! And we were out-numbered sixty to one!”

Peter the Ace laughed too. “We are, without doubt, the greatest beings ever!”

Panman couldnot disagree. “We spent two weeks at maximum sub-space speed to get out here to destroy their unauthorised zombie brain delivery and we succeeded in ten minutes!”

“Absolutely. It’s a shame that they wiped out our stabilisers and sent us crashing onto this remote slab of a planet.”

“It could have been much worse without Ross Mental’s help.”

Peter the Ace nodded. “His unique close fly-by attack techniques really helped - his foul language too. I think he offended half of them to death!” The bounty hunter looked around. “I wonder where he is.”

“I saw the Morbid spiralling out of control shortly before we slammed into this chasm. He’s somewhere to the north I think.” Panman got to his feet. We’d better contact him.”

“I tried just a minute ago. Unfortunately, there’s no response.”

Panman looked thoughtful. “Strange. What shall we do?”

Peter the Ace started to pace up and down. His UIP (Useful Ideas Processor) began processing. “We have three options. One; we stay here and live off the rations we have stored in the Blenheim’s larder. There’s enough for two years of gluttony and as the power systems are still on we could entertain ourselves with videos. What’s more, our assistant Jemima Murma is unscathed and can still serve us.”

“Food is good.” Panman said, starting to drool.

Peter the Ace continued. “Two; we climb up out of the chasm and wander around on the off chance that we find Ross Mental and his intact ship. Then we escape.”

Panman nodded. “Simple ideas are often the best.”

“Or finally, three; we use our new Blenheim Bikes to ride to the nearest settlement.”

“Yes!” Panman said with excitement. “We haven’t used our new bikes yet. Let’s do it!”

“Unfortunately the bikes are in the lower cargo bay.”

“Oh yeah. That means when we open the bay doors we’ll have to drop into the chasm below.”

“Indeed, and it’s a kilometre deep.”

Panman thought for a moment. “Those bikes have Tri-Tanium coated suspension modules, don’t they?”

Peter the Ace nodded. “I believe so.”

“Then a fall of that distance will be fine. Remember the Blenheim Mobile back in the Mechanism? That had the same suspension and it survived a fall of hundreds of kilometers in double gravity!”

“You’re right as always!” Peter the Ace said. “Let’s do it.”

The two defenders of righteousness and supremacy clambered back into the ship.

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