Two black machines of menace and mayhem rumbled through the darkness at the
bottom of the chasm. The two Renegade Class Assault Cycles, named the Blenheim
Bikes by their owners, were currently running in stealth mode. The only
noise that could be heard was the rumble of their spherical wheels against
the ground, and all that could be seen was the faint green and orange glow
from their instruments and display screens. The same glow reflected off
their riders’ faces.
Panman stared at the infra-red head-up display on his bike’s windscreen.
It showed the way ahead in a high-resolution wide-screen format. “The
chasm seems to be getting wider.”
Peter the Ace, riding to his left, agreed. “You’re absolutely
Panman glanced up. The thin strip of dark sky that could be seen between
the shear rock walls twinkled with dim star light. “It also appears
to be getting deeper.”
“Right again.” Peter the Ace said. “According to my scanners,
it’s now almost one point three kilometres deep.”
“I think maybe we went the wrong way.”
Before Peter the Ace could agree with his wise companion once again, a point
of light appeared up ahead. The two bounty hunters braked hard and skidded
to a halt.
Panman focused his bike’s scanners directly ahead. “Interesting.”
he said, turning to his comrade. “An electric light! I didn’t
realise any civilised beings dwelt on this inept planet.”
“The Blenheim’s records did indeed claim that it was devoid
of all sentience.”
“Maybe the beings that live up ahead have a space-faring vessel?”
Panman said with a touch of excitement. “If we announce who we are
they’re bound to lend it to us without question!”
“That would indeed be the case if they’re easygoing pacifists
of hope and goodwill. But what if they’re unyielding anarchists desperate
to separate flesh from bone?”
Panman nodded. “I see what you’re getting at. You’re proposing
that we use caution during our approach and not barge in like super-heroes.”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Definitely.” He dismounted from his bike.
“I suggest that we leave the Blenheim Bikes here and walk the rest
of the way. We don’t want to intimidate anyone.”
Panman dismounted. “Cool idea.”
The two bounty hunters loaded up with concealed weaponry from their bikes’
equipment compartments. Panman attached a packet of banana doughnuts to
his utility belt - for emergency use only of course. When they had finished,
the two galactic saviours pressed the ‘Lock’ button on their
WMRACSLDs (Wrist Mounted Remote Assault Cycle Secure Locking Devices). Both
bikes bleeped three times, and then fell completely silent. Their instrumentation
panels faded to darkness.
The bounty hunters walked towards the light.
Panman continued to scan ahead, this time using his left index fingernail
mounted sensor system. Using his enhanced macro eyesight he read the data
on the tiny screen. “I think it’s only a street light of some
“Yes,” Peter the Ace agreed. “Harmless and seemingly pointlessly
Totally out of the blue, a short dude, pale skinned and grotesque, stepped
out in front of them. The bounty hunters stood still.
The little guy spoke. “Who are you, and what brings you to the scientific
research community of Impaler?”
Peter the Ace decided not to reveal their true identity. “I am Herbert,
and this is my travelling buddy… Gareth. We are here for a…
“Yes,” Panman said, smiling. “A holiday!”
“And who might you be?” Peter the Ace asked.
“I am Borh’d.”
“You should lead a more interesting life then!”
The ugly fellow looked confused. “What?”
“If you’re bored you should do something interesting.”
“You misunderstand.” The little contortionist said with a touch
of annoyance. “Borh’d is my name!”
“How nice for you!” Peter the Ace said. “And what happens
in this scientific community of yours?”
“We conduct research of great intellectual meaning.”
“Yes. We Impalers have a unique mentality for study and experimentation.”
Panman was tiring of the conversation. “We’ve been walking all
evening.” He lied. “Any chance of visiting your community and
relaxing for a few hours?”
Borh’d eyed them for a second, and then smiled. “Of course.
Follow me and I’ll take you to our leader.”
The bounty hunters followed the hideous little man down a thin tunnel cut
into the rock face.
“Who is your leader?” Peter the Ace asked.
“He’s Tiyr’d.” Borh’d answered.
Panman grinned. “He should get more sleep then.”
Borh’d turned and stared at the bounty hunter.
“Oh,” Panman said with false innocence. “You mean Tiyr’d
is his name. We’d love to meet him, wouldn’t we um…? Herbert?”
“Indeed we would, Gareth.” Peter the Ace replied.
After a few minutes walking Peter the Ace and Panman were lead into a
large cavern. The ceiling high above was littered with bright lights,
strange vines, and odd looking pieces of equipment. At the centre was
a collection of single storey white buildings surrounding an unusually
high platform. At the platform’s base was a spike about three metres
As they walked, Panman wondered about the platform and the spike. Maybe
it was some kind of monument, or something.
Borh’d lead the bounty hunters down to the most ornate building
just next to the platform. “This is the office of Tiyr’d.”
he said. “Wait here. I will enter and request an audience with him.”
“No problem.” Peter the Ace said. He looked around. A crowd
of white coated ugly beings had gathered nearby and were staring curiously
at the two visitors.
Panman whispered to his companion. “They’re all repulsive!”
he said. “And some of them are deformed beyond belief!”
“It’s the way they’re born I guess. Maybe some radioactive
isotope has altered their genetic structure?”
“I would have said the same, but look at those three over there.”
Panman pointed to small group just to the left of the large gathering.
Peter the Ace nodded. “I see what you mean.”
“Indeed. And they’re attractive, slim, and toned.”
“I wonder what happened to all the males?”
“Obviously only the males are born gnarled and unpleasant to the
“Again, I would have said the same.” Panman whispered. “But
look at those children with the females.”
Peter the Ace looked. “Oh yes! Young males. And healthy and normal
Panman smiled. “It’s a mystery, is it not?”
“Indeed it is. We’ll question the Tiyr’d dude about
it when we meet him.”
Borh’d appeared at the doorway to the building. “Tiyr’d
will see you. Please follow me.”
The two worshipped heroes followed the distorted guy inside. The interior
was simple but plush. A thick white carpet covered the entire hallway
that lead to two large white doors. Flanking the doors were two white
coated guards each holding large ferocious looking sticks.
Borh’d spoke. “Two visitors to see Tiyr’d.”
The guards bowed and pulled open the doors. Peter the Ace and Panman followed
Borh’d into the office. At a large white desk at the centre of the
room sat another foul-faced dude in a white coat.
“Hubert and Gareth to see you.” Borh’d said. “Apparently
they are here on holiday.”
“Thank you, Borh’d.” Tiyr’d said. “Return
to your sentry post.”
Borh’d bowed then left the room, closing the doors behind him.
Peter the Ace stepped forwards and extended a hand of friendship. “Nice
to see you!”
Tiyr’d looked at him but did not offer his own hand. “This
is the first time someone has visited us for a holiday.” He said
with a slightly suspicious tone to his voice. “What made you choose
our community for your vacation?”
Panman’s BGI (Bullshit Generation Implant) activated itself. “We
heard about your amazing and profound research and decided to come and
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. Meeting beings as profound and intellectual as you has always
been one of our greatest ambitions. We feel honoured to finally be here.”
Tiyr’d seemed to relax a little. “It is true that we are profound
and intellectual.” he said, smiling. His smile was bizarre, probably
due to the fact that half of his lower jaw was missing. “It is strange
that you know we exist, though. Apart from our mortal enemies the Slim-Jims,
we have never had any contact with other races. There is no way you could
know about us, unless you are in league with the Slim-Jims, of course.”
Panman’s BGI continued to give excellent service. “We’ve
never heard of the Slim-Jims. But your Impaler community is a legend with
my people. Most think you’re a myth but we thought otherwise, and
we were right!”
Tiyr’d stared at Panman. “And who are ‘your people’?”
“We are the um… Muscle-Russells!”
“Yep. We live on the other side of the planet in a water-filled
valley. It’s a nice place, full of large floating flowers and little
Tiyr’d was about to speak when a low and rhythmic boom sounded.
“Excuse me” he said. The leader of Impaler got to his feet
and stumbled over to the large window at the back of his office.
Panman whispered to Peter the Ace. “We should ask him why all the
men are so obscenely hideous.”
Peter the Ace agreed. The two bounty hunters walked over to the window.
“Tiyr’d?” Peter the Ace asked. “Why are all the
adult males in your marvellous community so ugly and deformed, whilst
the females and young males seem so normal and healthy?”
Tiyr’d turned to the bounty hunter. “Your question is well
timed. Follow me onto my balcony and it will be answered.”
Tiyr’d pushed open the glass door inset into the window. The rhythmic
booming was now very loud. The two bounty hunters followed him onto a
large tiled balcony overlooking the centre of the village. A large crowd
had gathered outside and were staring up at the tall platform and at the
three metre spike at its base. Several young males were climbing up a
ladder on the platform’s side.
“What’s happening?” Peter the Ace asked over the noise
of the boom.
“It is the Ceremony of Impalation.” Tiyr’d said with
reverence. “At the age of thirteen, all males must take part in
One of the males had reached the top of the tall platform. He was now
at least fifty metres above the village. To the bounty hunters’
relief the booming stopped. The crowd turned to face the balcony.
Tiyr’d started to make a speech. “My fellow Impalers, once
again the hour is upon us - the hour when our adolescent males must take
the leap of faith to determine their destiny. Will their future be a noble
one of cerebral scientific research, or will they plunge into the scorching
trans-dimensional cavity of uninterrupted destitution?”
The crowd bowed their heads and spoke in unison. “The Almighty Impaler,
god of all science, must judge our young males.”
“Yes.” Tiyr’d said with complete seriousness. “The
Almighty Impaler must judge them. And that time of judgement is now.”
The crowd spoke in unison once again. “The time of judgement is
Tiyr’d pointed at Peter the Ace and Panman. “For the first
time in our history outsiders will witness the Ceremony of Impalation.
These two beings have travelled to us from the other side of our world
to be with us tonight. Please welcome Herbert and Gareth of the Muscle-Russells.”
The crowd bowed towards the bounty hunters. “Welcome Herbert and
Gareth of the Muscle-Russells.” they said in sweet harmony.
Peter the Ace and Panman smiled and waved. “Hello!”
Tiyr’d raised his contorted arms as high into the air as he could.
“The Almighty Impaler is watching. Let the ceremony commence.”
All of the young males were standing on top of the platform now. There
were five of them, and they huddled together like puppies. One of the
young males broke away from the group and walked to the edge of the platform.
He looked down and spread his arms out wide. “I am Hatr’d,
son of Neutr’d, the molecular biologist.” he shouted, his
voice full of pride. “I submit myself for judgement.” Hatr’d
swan-dived off the platform and plummeted down. He let out a shrill scream
as his body hit the spike. He was skewered upside down from his shoulder
right through his left leg and out through the sole of his foot. His thigh
bone had been pushed out and hung from his torn leg. Blood pumped freely
from his horrific wounds rapidly staining his white coat. After a couple
of seconds Hatr’d moaned.
The crowd cheered. “He lives!”
The leader of Impaler spoke. “Hatr’d has been judged. He is
deserving of a position as a scientist. Take his injured body from the
spike and treat his wounds.”
Four females approached the impaled male, grabbed him, and then proceeded
to tear him off the spike. Hatr’d yelled as his flesh was ripped.
Peter the Ace watched with interest. He whispered to Panman. “I
think our question has been answered quite graphically!”
Panman did not disagree.
The four females had now removed young Hatr’d from the spike. He
was carried away through the cheering crowd. Several large bone fragments
and chunks of bloodied flesh remained stuck to the spike.
A second adolescent male had positioned himself on the edge of the platform.
The crowd’s gaze returned to the top of the platform. As Hatr’d
had done only two minutes earlier, the second male spread his arms and
introduced himself. “I am Wizzr’d, son of Pepr’d, the
nuclear physicist. I submit myself for judgement.”
Wizzr’d swan-dived onto the spike.
There was no scream this time. Just a crunch, splat, tear, squelch, and
thud in rapid succession. The spike had entered the young male’s
body through the top of his skull and had exited through his butt-cheeks.
He had been split completely in two. His divided body slipped off the
spike and fell to the ground at opposite sides. The muscles in his limbs
twitched randomly. His entrails exuded from his belly and slithered into
the lake of blood that had formed around his torn physique.
The crowd watched in silence as the twitching and convulsing slowed then
stopped. They spoke quietly and in unison. “He dies.”
“Wizzr’d has been judged.” Tiyr’d said. “The
Almighty Impaler has sent him to the scorching trans-dimensional cavity
of uninterrupted destitution. Remove his body and dump it in the dog pit.
His physical form must be digested to rid us all of the shame he has brought
to our society.”
The four females dragged the two halves of Wizzr’d away.
The ceremony continued and the other three males performed their leap
of faith one after the other. Only one of them survived to join Hatr’d
as a trainee scientist. The others both joined Wizzr’d in the dog
When the ceremony finished, the crowd dispersed. The disfigured males
went back to their research laboratories and the well-toned females went
back to their homes to tend to their children. A few stayed to clean up
the bloody mess with hoses and brooms.
Tiyr’d, Peter the Ace, and Panman were still standing out on the
“Interesting ceremony.” Peter the Ace said to Tiyr’d.
“Rather unnecessary though, don’t you think?”
The leader of Impaler became defensive. “It is described in detail
in the great book of Impaler! The Almighty himself decreed eighty billion
years ago that it must be performed three times a week. It is the only
sure way of determining which of our young males will develop into magnificent
“Wouldn’t a written aptitude test be better?”
“Definitely not!” Tiyr’d said. “It would be much
“What do you mean?”
“Our community cannot afford to have non-scientific males running
around making a nuisance of themselves and eating our precious food supplies.
The Ceremony of Impalation makes sure that only those with keen scientific
“But how does leaping fifty metres onto a spike ensure that?”
Tiyr’d was growing impatient. “Because, only those with the
intelligence to avoid getting their head skewered can handle the demanding
research that we undertake!”
“No more questions!” the leader said. “That is the way
it always has been, that is the way it is, and that is the way it will
Peter the Ace shook his head slowly. “For scientists, you’re
all very closed-minded and way too religious.”
Tiyr’d ignored Peter the Ace and walked back into his office. The
bounty hunters followed.
Panman whispered to Peter the Ace. “These people are mad! We should
put them all out of their misery. And we should do it now!”
“I agree that they’re mad.” Peter the Ace said. “But
if they spend their lives doing research, their labs may contain equipment
and materials that we could use to get the Blenheim back to flight status.”
Tiyr’d turned and spoke. “You must be weary after your journey
here. I will order my female servant Sind’a to prepare guest rooms
in my home for you.”
“Thanks, Tiyr’d man.” Peter the Ace said.
“You are welcome to stay for tonight only. Then you must leave.
Our research commitments cannot be compromised and your presence here
is a distraction to us.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Good. I am about to have my evening meal. Would you care to join
Panman leapt into the air. “Now you’re talking, appalling