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Book: The Impaler and the Slim-Jims
Chapter 5: Armour Shielded Auto-Tightening Battle-Boots

In almost virtual darkness, Peter the Ace crept out of his guest room and carefully closed the door behind him. Using his nose-mounted night-scope, he slowly stepped across the carpeted hallway to the room opposite. He knocked gently and whispered. “Yo, Panman? It’s me.”

No mere mortal would ever have heard the knock and whisper, they were way too quiet. Panman, however, had digitally intensified hearing.

The door clicked, then whooshed open. Peter the Ace walked inside. Panman was sitting up in bed stuffing his face with banana doughnuts.

“We only ate two hours ago!” Peter the Ace exclaimed.

“I know,” Panman replied, stuffing two doughnuts into his mouth in one go. “But I always crave food during the twilight hours.”

Peter the Ace went over to the window and peered through a gap in the curtains. It was almost black out in the cavern. The ceiling lights had been dimmed severely. “The entire community appears to be asleep. We should go and have a look around.”

Panman continued chewing. “What for?”

“To find stuff to help us get away from here.”

“Great idea!”

Panman threw the bedclothes to one side, scattering crumbs all over room. He slipped his feet into his armour shielded auto-tightening battle-boots and joined his companion at the window. “See anything interesting?”

“Over there.” Peter the Ace pointed. “The only lights still on are those in that isolated domed building at the far side of the cavern.”

“Something important must be going on there for them to be working this late.”

“My thinking exactly.”

“We should look around that place first.”

“Again, my thinking exactly. Firstly though, we need to get out of here without drawing attention to ourselves.”

Panman smiled. “A small pluton grenade would make a nice man-sized hole to climb out of!”

Peter the Ace frowned at his companion.

“Oh yeah.” Panman said, thinking his plan through a little more. “The noise and the intense light of the blast might wake someone.”

“You could use your elbow-mounted laser to cut around this window.”

Panman nodded eagerly. “Yeah! Cool! I love lasers!”

After booting up the laser’s operating system, Panman set to work. It took less than a minute for the tiny but intense laser to slice through the thin window frame. When the cutting was completed the two bounty hunters pulled the window inside and placed it carefully on the floor. The room stank of vaporised plastic. They climbed out.

“Right,” Peter the Ace said. “Let’s jog in a very stealthy manner.”

The two bounty hunters set their battle-boots to whisper-mode and ran through the village. Silently, they ran passed Tiyr’d’s office balcony and made their way carefully around the spike and platform. Without a sound they circled the dog pit and sprinted between various laboratories and dwellings. After running up a short incline they stopped. They were only ten metres from the mysterious domed building.

Panman activated his left index fingernail mounted sensor system and scanned the building. “There’s plenty if movement inside. They seem very busy.”

Peter the Ace was perplexed. “I wonder what is it that makes them stay up all night working?”

“Illegal wake-up drugs?”

“Possibly, but I suspect the reason is intellectual rather than chemical.”

“Maybe they’re engineering new wake-up drugs and testing them on themselves.” Panman said with sagacious insight. “Maybe they’re using so much of their own drugs to keep themselves awake that they’re actually becoming desensitised to it and therefore have to engineer even more potent drugs. It’s a vicious circle! As the drugs become more and more powerful they become more and more desensitised to them. Eventually they’ll have developed the mightiest wake-up drug in the galaxy! Any normal person taking just one milligram of the stuff would stay awake forever! That would be so utterly cool!”

Peter the Ace stared at Panman. “That’s a very interesting hypothesis, but I would expect it to be the least likely answer.”

Panman nodded. “You’re right; these Impaler people are not that intelligent.”

The two bounty hunters crept forwards towards the main entrance to the domed building.

Panman examined the double doors. “They’re locked electronically.”

“Can you unlock it?” Peter the Ace asked.

“Of course!” Panman answered. “I’m the finest and most distinguished lock-picker in the Palace of Amino!”

“Excellent! Go to it.”

“Unfortunately, it’ll take about twenty minutes.”

“Why?”

“It’s a four level tamper-proof cantilever design with a double linear independent power converter.” Panman answered with perfect articulation.

Peter the Ace thought for a moment. “If you cut the power wouldn’t the bolting mechanism become weakened? Then we could use our brute strength to force the locking joint.”

Panman smiled at his companion’s ignorance. “You’re assuming that this is a standard servo-coupler assemblage, aren’t you!”

“Am I?”

“Yeah! And if it was, your idea would probably work, but it isn’t.”

“So what is it then?”

“This lock is based on a modified tiger-shark configuration. It’ll have at least four redundant power systems. Each power system will take about five minutes to cut, therefore twenty minutes in total.”

“I see…”

Suddenly, the locking mechanism started to buzz and whirr.

“Someone’s coming out!” Panman said excitedly. “This is our chance!”

“Indeed.” Peter the Ace agreed.

The two bounty hunters crouched in the darkness next to the building and waited. After a couple of seconds, the door bleeped. Two large bolts were yanked out of the door frame. The door swung inwards. A grotesque dude in a white coat stumbled out of the building and hopped off towards the village dragging his useless and paralysed left leg behind him. The door began to close.

“We’d better go.” Panman said.

The two bounty hunters crept past the heavy door and into a small lobby. The door clanked shut behind them and locked.

“Cool!” Panman said. “We’re in!”

Peter the Ace looked around. “Let’s find out what they get up to in here.”

He wandered over to an internal window at the back of the lobby and peered through it. It was a view into the dome. Unfortunately most of the lights had been turned off. Peter the Ace activated his nose mounted night vision system then waved to Panman. “Come and look at this.”

Panman joined him and stared into the darkness. “Looks like they’ve shut everything down. They must have finished working.”

“They’ve got a body in there strapped to a bench.”

Panman turned on his night vision system and looked. At the centre of the dome was a bench-like platform. On it, underneath a white cover, was the shape of a body. “Maybe this is where they try to repair all those idiots who dive onto that spike?” he suggested.

Peter the Ace was not convinced. “Maybe, but I don’t recall seeing their mangled forms carried up here.”

“Well, whatever it is they do here they seem to have stopped now.”

The sound of agitated voices drew Peter the Ace’s attention. He walked over to a door and listened. “There’s some kind of heated debate going on, like an argument.” he said. “I think we should try down here.”

Panman cautioned his colleague. “What if an Impaler scientist dude sees us? We’d have to do a lot of explaining.”

Peter the Ace agreed. “You’re right. We’d better activate our bullshit implants just in case.”

As soon as the word ‘bullshit’ entered the bounty hunters’ thought processes, their BGIs were energised.

Carefully, Peter the Ace operated the door control. It whooshed quietly open revealing a long corridor stretched out before him. The sound of the voices grew louder. “Follow me!” he said.

Panman followed.

Peter the Ace stopped at the last door on the right. “This where it all seems to be happening!” he said, his ear to the door. “I’ll open it. Get your BGI ready.”

The door opened.

Before either of the two bounty hunters could get a look inside, a tall and muscular figure pushed past them. The figure had an impressive and oppressive air about him, and ginger hair too.

Panman could not believe it. “Ross Mental!” he shouted. “Cool or what!”

Ross Mental ignored him and wandered down the corridor. “Fuckin’ Slim-Jims.” he said. “I hate the fuckers!”

Panman watched as the foul-mouthed bounty hunter disappeared into the lobby. “How rude!”

Another figure pushed out of the room. “Slim-Jim fuckers!” it said. “I’m gonna fuck them up bad!”

“Ross?” Panman said, amazed. “How did you get back in there so quick?”

Again, Ross Mental ignored him and wandered off towards the lobby.

Panman turned to Peter the Ace. “What is he talking about?”

“Apparently he hates the Slim-Jims.”

“Who?”

“You remember. They’re the enemy of the Impaler. Tiyr’d thought we were in league with them.”

“Oh yeah.”

A lot of loud-mouthed foul language was still emanating from the room. Peter the Ace turned and finally managed to get a look inside. An expression of surprise filled his face. Panman was curious and had a look for himself. Once again, Ross Mental was in there. But not only one Ross Mental - there were dozens! The identical and profane bounty hunters - there were at least thirty of them - were pacing up and down the room and shouting. “Slim fuckin’ Jim fuckers. Gonna crack those bony fuckers into tiny and fuck off blood-soaked fuckin’ segments!”

After a couple of seconds of amused surprise, Panman’s mood changed. “Shit!” he shouted. He had suddenly realised what was going on. “These Impaler scientist bastards have cloned Ross Mental!”

Panman drew his fusion pistol from its secret thigh-mounted holster and waved it around in the air. “It’s a capital offence to replicate a bounty hunter! The Impaler must perish in agony!”

The enraged bounty hunter let off a shot of lethal energy. A large scorched hole appeared with a flash on the ceiling. Chunks of smouldering debris scattered across the room.

Peter the Ace spoke. “Calm yourself.” he said. “You are right, it is a capital offence. But Ross Mental is a prisoner here somewhere. We must free him first, and then we can devastate this cavern.”

Panman cooled down a little. “True. Let’s find him and free him. Then let’s burn butts!”

They turned round ready to begin their search. Their search ended prematurely.

“Interesting.” Peter the Ace said.

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