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Book: The Impaler and the Slim-Jims
Chapter 9: Paisley Night Dress

Peter the Ace ran through the depths of the dank cave, his standard bounty hunter issue hip-mounted flood light lighting the way ahead. The stream trickled noisily over his boots. He’d been stomping through the damp cave for almost ten minutes now. He’d climbed waterfalls and crawled through submerged tunnels with ease. Sind’a must be rescued before the Slim-Jim that had kidnapped her reached the cave’s exit.

Up ahead he could hear frantic splashing and screaming. Sind’a must have regained consciousness. Peter the Ace drew his Assassinator Class One Super-Heated Carnage Blade from its lower leg-mounted sheath and energised it. It glimmered white hot. “Time to cauterise some flesh and bone.”

The bounty hunter walked round a corner and stopped. A few metres in front of him stood the Slim-Jim. He was holding the almost naked Sind’a by the waist and was trying to push her up onto a ledge. She was struggling wildly. The Slim-Jim ripped off what remained of her clothing, raised his hand, and prepared to strike her.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Peter the Ace said. “Striking a well-toned girl across the face is a capital offence.”

The Slim-Jim looked at the bounty hunter. “Not on my world.” it said in a grating tone of voice.

“You must respect her beauty and sexiness and not damage her good looks.”

The Slim-Jim laughed. “She is only good for breeding stock, and nothing more. The health of her face is unimportant.”

Peter the Ace disagreed. “On the contrary, it is very important. If her face is disfigured she will suffer intense stress, anxiety, and depression about the loss of her attractiveness. The negative chemicals that her body will then produce will deform any children that she bears, and lower their intelligence too.”

“Nonsense! We beat all our females until the flesh on their faces is bruised and scabby. Our children are born quite normal. My own mother’s head was beaten into an unrecognisable lump and I still developed fine.”

“No you didn’t!” Peter the Ace said, laughing. “Look at you! You’re gaunt, unfit, have no fashion sense, have minimal intelligence, and you’re ugly. You’re a complete disaster!”

“I am not!”

“Yes you are. And you’re unquestionable proof that what I say is true.”

The Slim-Jim grabbed Sind’a by the neck. She coughed and gasped for air. “I’ll give her the beating of her life!” the Slim-Jim said. It raised its free hand and prepared to deliver its first crushing blow. Rapidly, the Slim-Jim’s fist began to descend towards Sind’a’s face. It almost made it, but not quite. A flash of light and heat passed neatly and accurately through the slender creature’s wrist, cutting its clenched fist clean away. The Slim-Jim’s cauterised stump missed Sind’a’s face and passed harmlessly by. The severed fist splashed into the stream.

The Slim-Jim howled then started to leap around insanely. “You die now!”

“I think not.” Peter the Ace said.

The Slim-Jim charged at the bounty hunter, the fury of a thousand feral invaders seeping from its eyes. It leapt into the air and brought its remaining fist slamming down onto Peter the Ace. The bounty hunter moved his head to one side, allowing the fist to hit the thick armour of his shoulder padding. The Slim-Jim landed in front of him. Grabbing the creature’s neck, Peter the Ace began to squeeze. The Slim-Jim gasped then made another futile attempt to kill the bounty hunter.

Peter the Ace made a cool statement. “Licence to live revoked.”

Three bright yellow flashes illuminated the cave. An ear-splitting fizzle echoed all around. The Slim-Jim’s expression changed to disbelief, then a moment later, went blank. Peter the Ace let go of the Slim-Jim’s neck and the lifeless creature crumpled into the stream. There was hiss as the water rapidly cooled the smouldering Slim-Jim.

The bounty hunter laughed and re-holstered his fusion pistol. There was very little in the universe that was as satisfying as burning a hole through a devious wrong-doer at point blank range. Peter the Ace walked over to Sind’a. She was leaning against a rockface and was visibly shaken by the whole experience. “Come my dear, you are cold, naked, and frightened. I’ll take you home.”

Sind’a forced a smile and took the bounty hunter’s hand. Peter the Ace grabbed his Assassinator Class One Super-Heated Carnage Blade and placed it back in its sheath. Sind’a and the bounty hunter headed back to the Impaler community.

After eleven minutes and three seconds of walking and crawling and climbing, Peter the Ace stepped out of the cave and into the Impaler cavern. He helped Sind’a down and then looked around. The fighting had ceased. Bones, muscles, kidneys, livers, stomachs, entrails, tendons, brains, and cartilage littered the area surrounding the platform at the centre of the village. A few Impaler males wandered around. Some of the females had already started to brush away the mess. At the far side of the centre square the Ross Mental clones seemed to be arguing about something.

Peter the Ace turned to Sind’a. “There are no Slim-Jims left alive. It seems that your people won!” he said happily.

Sind’a smiled nervously, trying to cover up her breasts and nether regions with her hands.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” the bounty hunter said. “You are shy about being naked.” Peter the Ace opened a small compartment on his utility belt and pulled out a purple and blue paisley night dress. “I always carry one of these; you never know when one might come in handy. Try it on.”

Sind’a pulled it over her head and let it fall down over her body. She caressed it and smiled, appearing to like the smoothness of the material against her skin. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure. Now let’s go and find out what’s happening.”

Peter the Ace walked over to the group of Ross Mental clones. Sind’a followed a few metres behind.

“We fucked the Slim fuckers!” one of the clones shouted.

“You did indeed.” Peter the Ace said, humouring him.

The other clones repeated that phrase. All except one. That clone was pushing the others around and asking questions - an unusual thing for a near brainless replicant to do. Peter the Ace approached him.
“Take those fuckin’ boots off now!” the clone said to another clone.

“The Slim-Jim fuckers are fucked.” the other clone replied ineptly.

The first clone glanced at Peter the Ace. His eyes widened. “Fuck! Ace! Am I fuckin’ glad to see you!”

Peter the Ace smiled. “You finally came round I see!”

“Too right! What the fuck is going on here? Are these fuckers taking the piss, or what?!”

“They’re not taking the piss. They’re…”

“These motherfuckers have made themselves up to look like me and are wandering about acting like fuckin’ inane fuckers! If that’s not taking the fuckin’ piss I don’t know what is?”

“If you calm down I’ll explain what…”

“And what’s more they seem fuckin’ indestructible! Every time I try to tear their fuckin’ faces off they stop me. They’re almost like bounty fuckers!”

“They are like bounty fuckers - I mean hunters. They’re clones of you developed by…”

“And what’s more someone has stolen my fuckin’ boots!” Ross Mental paused for a second. “What did you fuckin’ say?”

“They’re clones of you. These people made copies of you to help defend their cavern from the Slim-Jims.”

Ross Mental punched the air. “A capital fuckin’ crime!” he yelled, his face screwed with fury.

“Calm yourself.” Peter the Ace said. “You’re right, it is a capital crime, but after realising the desperate nature of their situation, I absolved them.”

“What the fuck for?”

“Because my superior intellect told me that that is what I should do.”

Ross Mental knew how superior Peter the Ace’s intellect was and couldn’t argue any further. He held up one of his bare feet. “What about my fuckin’ boots, though?”

Peter the Ace looked around at the clones. “The boots the clones are wearing are probably clones to. Yours are probably still in the lab somewhere. We’ll find them soon.”

Ross Mental looked back towards the building that he’d blasted out of only fifteen minutes before. “I can’t fuckin’ wait. I’ll get the fuckers now!” The foul-mouthed bounty hunter stomped off up the hill back to the domed laboratory.

Peter the Ace admired his fellow bounty hunter’s resolve and determination. He turned and noticed that Sind’a was looking very agitated. “What’s wrong?”

“I cannot see our leader, Tiyr’d. I am concerned about him.”

“I understand.” the bounty hunter said sympathetically. “Let’s find him.”

A distant shout was heard. “Ace?”

Peter the Ace looked towards the source of the sound. Panman was standing on the Impaler leader’s balcony and waving. Peter the Ace waved back. “Ah, Panman! What’s up?”

“Come into Tiyr’d’s office quickly! It’s urgent!”

Sind’a cried. “Something’s happened to my master!” She started sobbing.

Peter the Ace put one of his densely muscular arms around her. “Be strong.” he said. “Let’s go and find out, shall we?”

Peter the Ace and Sind’a walked towards the Impaler leader’s office.

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