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Book: Vengeance of the Lump-Being
Chapter 23: A Bracing Stroll

“Awesome!” Panman yelled. He flipped his board up over his head and tumbled like a cannon shell over a jagged collection of rocks, landing on the other side in a deep soft drift. He emerged through a cloud of powered snow, punching the air with both fists. “Bitchin’!” He squatted low, building up even more speed.

Peter the Ace followed close behind, carving elegantly around each obstacle. “We’d better curb our speed.” He said, examining the heads-up information in his helmet. “We’re only five hundred metres away.”

Panman performed one final back flip, and then turned, digging his back edge in deep. In a spray of ice and snow, the first-class bounty hunter shed almost all his speed. He continued slowly down to the centre of the snow bowl.

Peter the Ace performed a couple of long sweeping arcs, and then drew up beside his companion. “Do you see any defences?”

“My passive sensors are not detecting any.” Panman replied, looking around. “No scanner emissions, no energy signatures – nothing!”

“Interesting.” Peter the Ace said. He looked to the horizon. The ocean was clearly visible in the distance – dark against the brightening sky. But there was no sight of any intelligent activity or technology. Not a single shred of anything remotely artificial. “I guess they’re not expecting anyone up here on the surface.”

“It is minus forty – minus 80 factoring in the wind-chill.” Panman said with great insight. “That fat-arsed lump-being probably doesn’t think anyone would be able to survive up here long enough to cause any trouble for him.”

“He’s obviously not aware of the advanced insulating properties, adaptive life-support system, and lavish comfort of a grade-1 Amino Military Standard Clothing Institute arctic environment suit.”

Panman could not argue with that statement. “Yeah, the ignorant shit bag!”

“Right,” Peter the Ace said. “Time to put part two of your plan into action.”

“Good idea!” Panman released the straps of his backpack and lowered it to the ground. Reaching down, he started to assemble the drilling equipment.

Peter the Ace took out a small device and performed a slow sweeping motion across the snow-blown surface. “The snow is about half a metre deep.” He said, examining the data on the device’s display panel. “And the rock is almost a hundred and sixty metres thick above the cavern.”

“That’s thicker than we estimated.” Panman answered. The drill was almost assembled.

“Indeed it is.” Peter the Ace reached down and pulled several small cylinders from Panman’s backpack. “I’ll increase the yield of the charges by twenty percent to compensate.”

Panman looked at his companion. “Thirty percent.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Too much is better than too little!”

Peter the Ace knew words of wisdom when he heard them. “You’re right.” He clicked on each of the charges, upping the explosive yield as Panman suggested.

With his Amino deep-core hypersonic hand-held military grade-one extending drill assembled, Panman began drilling into the packed snow. After only a second, the drill crunched into hard rock, enveloping the bounty hunter in a cloud of dark dust.

“I first detected it about thirty minutes ago, sir.” Senior Operator Ramalama Dingdong said, nervously scratching his dark bald scalp.

Supervisor Tyrsum looked down at the oval display-screen at the operator’s console. Several charts plotted complex seismic data in numerous shades of pink and purple. “And you’ve never detected something like this before?”

“No, sir.” The operator said, his head shaking madly. “Plenty of tremors over the years, and vibrations caused by the construction of the emitter, but nothing quite like this. It seems to stop for a few minutes then start again. It changes location each time.”

“Really? Can you pinpoint it?”

“Not yet, sir. The readings are very weak. The system is still computing the exact position. It is coming from above, though.”

“Hmm…” The supervisor wandered over to the huge panoramic window of the control room and looked down through the angled glass. Hundreds of metres below the huge white dish of the emitter could be seen, sprouting like a deadly flower from the power core shaft. Thousands of red-coated recruits worked busily on the disk and around the chamber putting the finishing touches to what was probably the most powerful and longest-range weapon ever made.

Supervisor Tyrsum thought for a moment about the sudden strange seismic readings. Surely they must be from the construction work still going on. But from above? Better not take any chances. The supervisor turned. “Get a fix on those readings as soon as possible. Then take a team to investigate.”

Senior Operator Ramalama Dingdong’s yellow eyes widened. “Take a team up there? But sir, my job description states that…”

The supervisor loomed over the operator. “Are you disobeying me, mister Dingdong?”

The operator looked up at the supervisor’s shiny domed helmet. “No, sir.”


“I’ll contact you when…”

“Don’t bother.” The supervisor interrupted, walking by. “I’m sure you can handle it. Just take your team out. I have another public dissection to perform.”

The operator watched Supervisor Tyrsum leave the control room. There’s no way I’m going outside, Ramalama thought. Time to use my limited authority as a senior operator. Ramalama turned to the junior operator at the console behind. “Oulala?”

The junior operator looked up, startled. Her eyes were half closed and watery – she had obviously nodded off. “Oh… Yes, sir?”

Ramalama smiled. “I have an interesting job for you. It’ll get you away from those mind-numbing sleep-inducing status screens for a while.”

Oulala giggled, embarrassed at being caught napping. She brushed a lock of frizzy hair from her face. “I would like that, sir.”

“Good. Take Operator Nenenanarnar and four guards and go up on the surface. Investigate the source of the strange vibrations.”

“The surface?” Oulala said, shocked. “It’s subzero up there, and blowing a gale! My complexion is fragile! I’ll…”

“Do as you’re told, operator!”

The junior operator nodded. “Of course. As you wish, sir.”

“I’ll get the exact coordinates to you in a few minutes.” Ramalama said. “Go and get ready.”

Oulala nodded once more and got to her feet. She rushed away.

The senior officer watched her go. He grinned like a clown. Power, however limited, was an intoxicating thing to use.

“That’s the last one.” Peter the Ace said, dropping the final charge into the final hole.

“Cool!” Panman answered. He started to disassemble the drill.

Peter the Ace looked up the steep slope of Mount Boan-Braka. “I reckon we’ll need at least two kilometres of distance from the blast. And we’ve got twenty minutes to walk there.”

“Then we’d better get moving.” Panman said. He finished packing the drill away into his backpack. He lifted the backpack and put it on. It was considerably lighter without the charges. He pointed up. “I suggest that ridge. Should be a good view from there.”

“Marvelous idea.” Peter the Ace said. He marched purposefully forwards.

Panman followed. “I’m really looking forwards to this!” He said, selecting a snack from his suit’s food dispenser. A squirt of liquidised wallaby pie hit the back of his throat.

Peter the Ace agreed. “Yes, me too. This’ll be the first time we’ve blasted a hole in the roof of a giant cavern. It’ll be a sight to savour.”

Panman nodded. “We’d better record it. It may become essential learning on the Enemy Stronghold Infiltration course at the Amino Institute of Tactical Excellence.”

“I’ve been recording ever since we left the ship.” Peter the Ace announced, striding hard up the slope, which was getting steeper with every step. “I intend to insist that it becomes essential learning, especially our infallible snowboarding technique.”

“Cool!” Panman said. He selected a tasty burst of sugared shark paste. “I’ll go and give a lecture sometime.”

Peter the Ace’s heads-up display flashed up an urgent message. “There are a few humanoids approaching from the southwest.” He said. “They’re heading towards the position of our charges.”

“It’ll take them ages to find them.” Panman said confidently. “I buried them deep.”

“Very true. And they’ll detonate before they even suspect what’s happening.”

Panman laughed. “Yeah, idiots!”

Peter the Ace laughed too. Then he fell serious for a moment. “Perhaps they’re innocent locals out for nothing more than a bracing stroll? Or even primitive mountain dwellers, desperate to snare a burrowing ice beaver to feed their ravenous offspring?”

“Oh yeah?” Panman said, taking the lead. “And I’m a five-eyed, four-eared, three-legged fumbloid!”

“You’re right.” Peter the Ace admitted. “It is a rather remote possibility in this environment.”

Panman nodded. “It is. And anyway, it’s too late to worry about it now. They’re doomed whoever they are.”

Peter the Ace smiled. Panman was indeed a wise and perceptive individual.

The two bounty hunters progressed quickly up the steep slope, completely camouflaged against the snow-blown surface from the eyes of the approaching humanoids.

After a fifteen-minute rapid ascent, Panman and Peter the Ace reached the ridge.

“What? Shit!” Panman cursed, pulling himself over an exposed outcrop of rock.

Peter the Ace was a few steps behind. “What’s the problem?”

Panman turned and looked down at his companion. “There’s no more food in this suit!”

Peter the Ace was amazed. “These suits are state-of-the-art! There’s supposed to be enough concentrated food in them for ten days!”

Panman shook his head rapidly. “No way!” He was obviously displeased. “I’m going to speak to the designers as soon as we get back to the palace. They need to pack in a load more food before they get my seal of approval!”

Panman’s seal of approval was highly desired amongst the Palace of Amino’s designers and engineers. Peter the Ace had no doubt that they would take Panman’s suggestion seriously. With that thought, he climbed up and joined his hungry companion on the ridge.

Panman was crouching at the edge of the ridge, looking down into the snow bowl two kilometres away. “I can see those humanoids. They’ve stopped right above one of our charges.”

“They’re definitely not peasants or hikers, then!” Peter the Ace said, joining Panman. The heads-up display of Peter the Ace’s helmet enlarged the view of the humanoids. There were five of them, all clothed in thick brown furs and wide-soled black boots. One of them produced a large complex-looking piece of equipment.

“I wonder what that is.” Panman said.

The humanoid holding the equipment was suddenly shrouded in a cloud of snow.

“He’s clearing the snow.” Peter the Ace said. “Hunting for our charges.”

Panman examined the time-display in his visor. “In three minutes that whole snow bowl will disappear. Those charges will find him first!”

Peter the Ace chuckled. “Indeed!” He unclipped his snowboard from his backpack and put it down by his feet. “We’d better get ready.”

Panman nodded, and then unclipped his own snowboard.

The two bounty hunters bound themselves to their boards and waited eagerly for what they expected to be one of the highlights of their long careers.

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