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Book: Vengeance of the Lump-Being
Chapter 5: Two Open Bottles

Ross Mental and Justin were sitting on a bench opposite Miss Pussbucket’s Breakfast Place. Sunset was only a few minutes away, and the street was busy with people and traffic. So far there was no sign of the crumbly old man.

“Who’s your big red-eyed friend, mister?” a small bony child said, running up to the foul-mouthed bounty hunter. “And, why’s he wearing in an orange tent?”

Ross Mental looked down at the scruffily dressed urchin. “He’s hideously deformed, you wiry little fucker. And he’s wearing a tarpaulin, not a fuckin’ tent!”

The child smiled. “Can I see him, mister? I want to see him.”

The foul-mouthed bounty hunter leaned towards the child and whispered. “I could ask him to take the tarpaulin off, but his body is so contorted and scarred, and so ugly, that as soon as you looked at him you’d vomit continuously until your guts spewed from your mouth. Then you’d die in torment as blood and vital fluids poured out of all your orifices.”

The skinny child looked shocked.

“Is that what you want?” Ross Mental asked.

“No, mister.”

“Then fuck off!”

The child ran away, sobbing like a bride’s mother.

Justin spoke in deep monotone. “You have disturbed the mind of that child.” He will develop an unnatural sense of paranoia that will remain with him for his entire existence.”

The bounty hunter looked at the cyborg. “He could’ve blown our cover, you fuckin’ artificial idiot! I had to get rid of him quickly. Would you rather I’d have snapped his neck and hidden his corpse under your fuckin’ tarpaulin?”

“Mentally disturbing the child or breaking his neck were not the only options.”

“Yes they fuckin’ were! The sacrifice of that child’s mental well-being is necessary to ensure the success of our mission. End of fuckin’ story.”

Justin’s hard-coded respect for the foul-mouthed bounty hunter stopped him from arguing any further. The cyborg’s recognition system activated. “A being matching your description of the ‘old fucker’ is approaching Miss Pussbucket’s Breakfast Place.”

Ross Mental looked across the street. “That’s him!”

Just as the foul-mouthed bounty hunter spoke, the crumbly old man spotted him. He beckoned.

“Come on.” Ross Mental said, getting to his feet. He set off across the road causing several vehicles to break sharply.

Justin stood up awkwardly, his damaged hydraulics and servos hissed and whirred with the strain. He lurched after the bounty hunter.

The crumbly old man smiled crookedly as the bounty hunter reached him. “It’s good to see you again, my friend.”

“It takes a lot to earn my fuckin’ friendship,” Ross Mental said sternly, “and you’re nowhere fuckin’ near!”

The old dude laughed. He patted the bounty hunter on the shoulder. “You’ll soon mellow your mood once you absorb the wisdom of the Cause.”

Ross Mental grabbed the crumbly old man’s arm and squeezed hard. “Touch me again, fucker, and I’ll dislocate your entire skeleton!”

The old man winced, but kept smiling.

The bounty hunter let go of the crumbly dude’s arm. “Take us to those fuckin’ subterranean chambers you mentioned.”

The old man nodded.

The hiss and whirr of broken machinery could be heard.

The bounty hunter turned and pointed to the orange tarpaulin that was approaching. “My friend here will be joining us. Any fuckin’ problems with that?”

The old man shook his head. “The more the merrier, as they say. Follow me.”

The crumbly dude wandered away down the street. Ross Mental and Justin followed him into a garbage-strewn alley. A heavily dented ground vehicle was parked there.

“A Transit-Master Mark Three!” the old man exclaimed, pointing at the battered vehicle. “They don’t make them like that anymore – a classic.”

“It’s a fuckin’ wreck!” Ross Mental said. “Why the fuck do you have one of these!”

The old man pulled on the vehicle’s side door. It slid open, scraping loudly. “I make beer. I use this to deliver it to many of the local drinking establishments.” He gestured to the open door. “Please get in.”

The bounty hunter clambered inside.

The crumbly old man pointed to Justin. “Your friend is way too big to sit with us. He’ll have to go in the back.”

Ross Mental leaned out of the vehicle. “You heard the old fucker, get in the fuckin’ back!”

“I obey.” Justin said with total obedience. He pulled open the two back doors of the vehicle and climbed inside. The decrepit vehicle dipped noticeable as Justin’s incredible weight put a huge strain on the suspension.

The old man walked round and closed the doors behind Justin, and then climbed into the front and sat next to the bounty hunter. He pulled the side door closed and started the engine. It rumbled uneasily to life. “Off we go!”

The vehicle jerked forwards and turned into the main street. The engine roared as the old man accelerated the vehicle into the evening traffic, swerving dangerously past several other ground transports. The traffic was much heavier than usual – the result of the disruption caused by Justin’s high-velocity impact.

Ross Mental sniffed the air. “What the fuck is that smell, old man? Have you let one go, or something?”

The old man laughed. “No, I haven’t farted, if that’s what you mean. That’s just the smell of burning fuel. This vehicle’s not as well-tuned as it used to be.”

The bounty hunter could not believe what he had heard. “This wreck has an internal combustion engine?”

“It does.” The old man said, pulling hard on the steering mechanism. The vehicle screeched left onto a wider road lined with market stalls, avoiding a line of stationary trucks by mounting the pavement and ploughing through a pile of refuse bags. Rules of the road were treated as an option on this world. “Most vehicles here still do. This is still a relatively poor society, unable to afford those fancy fusion drives that your world probably uses.”

Ross Mental laughed. “You fuckin’ idiot! We superseded fusion drives two centuries ago.”

The old man smiled. “You’re obsession with your technology will disappear when you become part of the Cause. It will not matter anymore.”

“Technology matters above all else, old man. Without technology intelligent beings are nothing more than fuckin’ savages!”

“Interesting theory. One that you will not believe in much longer.”

The bounty hunter grabbed the old man by the neck and squeezed firmly. The vehicle swerved violently towards oncoming traffic, narrowly avoiding disaster. “Don’t tell me what I will or will not believe, old fucker!” He let go.

The old man brought the vehicle back under control. He rubbed his bruised neck. “I did not mean any offence.” He said. He smiled but was clearly in pain. “Just that you will soon be presented with a new way of viewing reality, and the chance for a higher state of being.” The old man turned the vehicle onto a wider and faster road, accelerating it noisily. “This highway leads out of the city to the coastal cliffs of Mys-Syle. The chambers lie within. We’ll be there before midnight.”

“This is going to be one long, boring, uncomfortable fuckin’ journey!”

“There’s some beer in the back.” The old man said. “That should dull the boredom a little bit.”

Ross Mental smiled. “Finally you say something I like!” He turned and looked in the back. Justin’s two piercing red eyes glowed in the darkness. “Hey, metal fucker! Pass me a beer.”

“I obey.”

There was a whirr of damaged servos, a click and a short hiss. A bottle appeared out of the darkness, held by a charred metal hand.

The bounty hunter grabbed it, stuck it in his mouth, and gulped at it like a baby. Within seconds it was empty. “That’s good fuckin’ beer, old man!” he said, admiring the bottle. He read the label. “’Old Rinkle’s Splendidly Prepared Mushroom Ale’. Is that your fuckin’ name – ‘Rinkle’?”

The old man nodded. “It is indeed.”

Ross Mental laughed. “What a stupid fuckin’ name!” He turned to Justin. “Pass me two more beers.”

The damaged mechanoid passed the bounty hunter two open bottles. Ross Mental took them. He offered one to Rinkle. “Here you go, old Rinkle. Have a fuckin’ drink.”

Rinkle accepted. Both the bounty hunter and the old man began knocking back the ale.

The battered vehicle swerved unevenly along the busy city highway, passed domed residential suburbs and ugly industrial complexes, and north towards the rolling hills beyond.

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