It took Ross Mental more than three hours to make his way across the burning
rubble of the city’s devastated central district. It wasn’t
the hazardous piles of masonry or the well-cooked corpses that made the
going tough - his bionic implants and fuck-off attitude to mass carnage
dealt easily with that. The problem was the incredible amount of accident
and emergency officials that had spread themselves over the entire area.
The sole purpose of these officials, it seemed, was to tell anyone that
came near that there was nothing to see and to go home. Only by passing
himself off as an expert on city centre high velocity sub-orbital impacts
had Ross Mental finally been allowed access.
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter approached the epicentre of the impact. Where
once there had been buildings and people and a million pigeons, there was
now a crater over five hundred metres in diameter. At the edge of the crater
stood yet another accident and emergency official. He was watching the approach
of the bounty hunter with the deep suspicion.
As usual, thoughts of skull-puncturing and neck-snapping bounced through
Ross Mental’s mind. Reluctantly he pushed those thoughts away. He
strode confidently up to the brightly clothed official.
The official held out his hand and motioned the bounty hunter to stop. “There’s
nothing to see here.” He said; his voice high-pitched and camp. “Go
“I am Marlon Kalashnikov,” the bounty hunter said, “president
of the Frequent and Unpredictable Collision of Kinetic Super-Heated Interplanetary
Things consortium, or FUCKSHIT for short.”
The official folded his arms and shook his head. “Never heard of it.”
“We have just recently opened a facility on this planet.” Ross
Mental said, his bullshit enhancer working at full power. “There has
been a lot of meteor activity in this solar system recently and we were
concerned that a collision of this nature would occur.”
“I am not aware of any meteor activity.”
“That’s because you’re an ignorant fu… Um…
I mean an uninformed individual.”
The official repeated his well-rehearsed line. “There is nothing to
see here. Go…”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter interrupted. “I only want to examine
the crater and collect a couple of samples. It will take five minutes.”
“Hmm…” the official mumbled. He was obviously thinking
hard. He looked up at the bounty hunter. “You are quite important
I suppose, being president of whatever it was you said.”
“FUCKSHIT!” Ross Mental shouted. He smiled.
“Yeah, that’s it.” The official looked down into the crater.
“OK. You can go in. But you’d better stay away from them.”
Ross Mental looked to where the official was pointing. At the centre of
the crater a large crane was hastily being positioned. More than a dozen
men were running around organising and pointing and chatting feverishly.
They had obviously found something. “All right.” the bounty
hunter lied. “I’ll keep out of their way.”
The official nodded, obviously satisfied with his performance. He waved
the bounty hunter on.
Ross Mental headed into the crater.
The black ash that covered the uneven crater floor was as fine as powder.
With each step of his heavy T-Uff-As-A-Rhino Quality Brand Back-Breaker
boots Ross Mental kicked up a cloud of dark dust. Without the particle
disintegration units up his nostrils he would have choked to death within
Ahead, the crane was now working and lifting something out of the scorched
ground. Most of the men, all wearing protective orange clothing and breathing
apparatus, were gathered around looking excitedly at whatever it was that
they had found. One of the men noticed Ross Mental’s approach. He
walked towards the bounty hunter.
Even a grade ‘A’ moron with the mental facilities of a fungus
could have predicted what the orange-suited man was about to say. The
man held out his hand. “There’s nothing to see here,”
he said sternly, his voice muffled by his facemask. “Go home.”
Ross Mental struggled to keep his cool. “I am an expert on city
centre high velocity sub-orbital impacts. I wish to examine the object
you have found.”
The man put his hands on his hips and laughed. “What the hell are
you waffling about?”
The bounty hunter was really struggling to maintain self-control. He gritted
his teeth as he spoke. “I am Marlon Kalashnikov, president of the
Frequent and Unpredictable Collision of Kinetic Super-Heated Interplanetary
Things consortium, or FUCKSHIT for short.”
The man looked the bounty hunter up and down and laughed harder. “You’re
president of what?”
Ross Mental was at breaking point. “The FUCKSHIT consortium!”
The man was still laughing. “The fat shed what?”
Ross Mental broke. With a lightning leap the foul-mouthed bounty hunter
flew into the air and somersaulted over the man, smacking the sole of
his right boot hard onto the back of the man’s head. The man fell
forwards and hit the ground hard. Instantly he was engulfed in a cloud
of black dust.
Ross Mental landed, and then walked over to the man. The man was motionless
and lying face down in the dirt, obviously deeply unconscious. “Sad
fucker!” the bounty hunter said. Briefly he thought about rendering
the entire team of men unconscious, but then dismissed it. Although it
would be easy for a bounty hunter of his strength and cunning it would
attract too much attention. He looked down at the man lying in the dust.
Another idea popped effortlessly into his head. He smiled.
The protective clothing and breathing apparatus was primitive and uncomfortable.
No air-conditioning, no servo-assisted joints, no food dispensers, and
no heads-up entertainment system in the visor. Ross Mental longed for
a bounty hunter personal environment system. Even the entry-level version
had leather, air-con, power-legs, a fully integrated Dolby THX® surround-vision
entertainment system, three-course gourmet meal generators, and remote
locking - all as standard!
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter approached the crane at the centre of the
crater. The suit’s cheap synthetic lining was already making him
feel sore. The group of men, all clothed in suits similar to his, were
talking excitedly about what they had found.
One of the men turned and looked at the bounty hunter. “Ah, Kent!”
he said, his voice muffled by his breathing equipment. “Did you
get rid of that scruffy looking idiot?”
Once again, rage was building within Ross Mental. He quashed it. “I
“Good Work. What did he want?”
The bounty hunter replied in the best Gun-Loc accent he could do. “He
claimed to be a meteor impact expert.”
The man laughed. “The shite some people come out with, eh!”
Ross Mental’s killer instinct was hard to suppress, but he managed.
The man stopped laughing. “Are you OK, Kent? You sound rather subdued.”
“I’m just a little tired.”
The man nodded. “It is a little early for this sort of thing, isn’t
it!” He pointed. “Take a look at what we’ve found, that’ll
wake you up!”
Ross Mental stepped forwards and looked at the object that the men had
lifted out of the dust. Although it was as black as soot and incredibly
deformed, he recognised it immediately. “Fuck!”
All the men fell silent and looked at the bounty hunter.
The man that he’d been speaking to him laughed. “An interesting
reaction, Kent! Just what I’d expect from a deeply religious bloke
like you!” He slapped the bounty hunter on the back.
The other men began laughing. Ross Mental forced himself to laugh with
“We should get this back to the labs immediately.” one of
the men said.
The others nodded in agreement.
The man controlling the crane operated his remote-control pad and the
cables attached to the blackened object tightened. An unexpected crunch
and a whirr emanated from the object.
The men stepped back with alarm.
Part of the object jerked.
The men stepped back even further.
Two red points of light appeared on part of the object. The lights turned
and pointed at the men.
The men gasped.
Ross Mental gasped in his own special way. “Fuck!”