“Flight path confirmed and cleared. Bay door opening. Prepare to depart.”
Elena L’Apriscatole replied. “Preparing to depart.” She
operated her ship’s elevators, feeling the small vessel rise off the
hanger bay floor. Her restraining harness automatically tightened around
her body, pressing her into her soft bucket seat. The crescent of display-screens
around her reconfigured themselves to flight status. All systems showed
Through the curved and tinted view port ahead the hanger bay door rose rapidly,
revealing a stunning view of many of the tall slender towers of the Palace
of Amino’s central districts. The late morning sky was bright and
blue - not even a whisker of cloud could be seen. Elena L’Apriscatole
smiled. It was a sight that never failed to stir her soul.
“Bay doors open. You may depart when ready. Good luck.”
“Grazzi, control. Departing now.” The bounty hunter eased forwards
on the thrust control. A deep throbbing rumbled through her seat as her
ship, the Pizza Express, accelerated out of the hanger bay.
Giggling like a child, Elena L’Apriscatole opened up her engines,
and then banked her ship left then right, following a tight ‘s’
shaped course through some of the palace’s tallest structures. On
rounding the Dick Burton Feasting Tower, she pulled the Pizza Express into
a steep eight-gee climb, and engaged the escape drive. The bounty hunter
screamed with pleasure as the mighty forces of the acceleration played on
her body, and thrust her little ship up, skimming the side of a residential
tower just a few metres from its surface. Even at this incredible speed,
the bounty hunter noticed all the people waiting on balconies and at windows,
waving and shouting to give her and all the other ships a rousing send off.
Within seconds the Pizza Express cleared the tower tops. Looking ahead,
she could see the bright exhausts of dozens of other ships ahead of her,
and her sensors showed even more following close behind. This was the largest
mass launch of bounty hunter ships from the palace since the Mechanism incident
many years ago. The thought of all the skill, insanity, firepower, and sexual
prowess soaring into space was surprisingly intoxicating. Elena L’Apriscatole
gasped, goose pimples blossoming over her body. After a few seconds she
shook her head, and then took a deep breath, focusing her mind on the task
The Pizza Express continued its brisk climb, passing through the upper layers
of Enchantia’s atmosphere and following a gentle arc that brought
it high above the Abyssal Sea. Elena L’Apriscatole gazed down at the
azure waters, her enhanced eyesight managing to pick out the five Jhamdownut
islands – her favourite vacation spot, and the only place she could
practice her secret passion for belly dancing.
The coarse sound of the escape drive faded as the desired orbit was achieved.
Elena L’Apriscatole looked out of the forward view port. There, a
few dozen kilometres ahead, was the Slaying Mantis, the Palace of Amino’s
only battle cruiser. Even at this distance the three kilometre long vessel
looked impressive and bizarre, and incredibly ugly – perfect for filling
scheming deviants with a deep sense of anxiety.
As she approached, Elena L’Apriscatole noticed dozens of maintenance
craft and hundreds of engineers clinging to the giant ship’s hull,
all working feverously to repair the extensive damage the ship had sustained
on its recent mission.
After a dangerously low pass over the topside of the Slaying Mantis, Elena
L’Apriscatole positioned her little ship just above its gigantic main
engines. A hundred other ships followed her example and began taking up
position behind her, forming a dense spiral formation.
Admiral Marmaduke Phutphungus folded his arms and rested them on top
of his bloated gut. He leaned back into his chair, bored and impatient.
This would teach him to turn up ten minutes early for a briefing, however
Sally Phatbytch entered the main situation room. She placed a litre of
ale and a plateful of marinated bladder strips on the huge oval table.
“There you go, admiral.”
The admiral sat up, his eyes fixed on Sally’s sagging bosom. “Hmm…
That does look good!”
The main situation room’s assistant smiled and shook her head slowly.
“You are very naughty, admiral!” She turned and wandered away.
The admiral reached to the table and grabbed a bladder strip. He placed
the dripping flesh into his mouth, and then watched with delight as Sally’s
wide arse drifted out of the room. Remarkable!
There was a hiss, loud and piercing. And then a panel in the wall opposite
slid open. A cloud of dense steam billowed out of the opening, backlit
by a deep orange light. After a couple of seconds a large shape emerged,
silhouetted against the soft light. The shape wobbled as it moved into
the room. It was dripping wet.
Admiral Phutphungus stopped chewing, shocked at the unexpected sight.
Bladder juice dribbled down his double chin.
The steam began clearing. A feeling of disgusted nausea spread over the
admiral as he realised what he was looking at. He spat the bladder strip
out across the table. “Commander!”
Commander Pepe, as naked as the day he was released from the growth pod,
looked at the admiral. “What in Tibor’s nation are you doing
here? You’re ten minutes early!”
Admiral Phutphungus looked away, unable to stand the sight of his commander’s
thick folds of flab. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you
had a massage chamber down here.”
The commander bellowed; his gut and breasts undulating like a shoal of
jellyfish. “I have many massage chambers. You should know that!”
The admiral nodded, daring to look up. “Of course, commander. Forgive
From behind the commander a girl emerged, her naked skin glistening with
oil and water. She noticed the admiral and smiled sweetly. “Good
morning, admiral.” She said, caressing her left breast as she spoke.
The admiral recognised her. “Good morning, Hazel.”
Hazel Lazernipelz licked her lips provocatively at the admiral, and then
got to her knees. She reached under the commander’s layers of gut.
“Stop it!” Commander Pepe said harshly.
Hazel looked up at her master. She blinked slowly, the cocktail of drugs
inside her dulling her mind. “But you said you wanted to finish
our business here in the situation room.”
“Not with an audience! I am not perverted!”
Sub-officer Shym-Sham Shawallihoo walked in. He stopped at the doorway;
his agonizingly thin face took on a shocked expression. He looked at the
commander, and then the admiral, and then down at the girl. “Am
I interrupting anything?”
“Of course you are!” the commander yelled. “Why is everyone
suddenly turning up early to meetings?!”
Hazel Lazernipelz got to her feet. She rubbed the commander’s giant
right nipple. “Shall I bring your robes?”
Commander Pepe shook his head. “There’s no time for me to
dress now. Just bring out my towel.”
Hazel nodded and swayed sexily into the steamy room. She emerged with
a struggle, dragging the commander’s thick long white towel behind
her. The commander grabbed one end as she walked round his tremendous
girth with the other. She tied the towel at the front, and then kissed
the commander’s chest. “I’ll be waiting.” She
wandered back into the massage chamber. The door slid silently shut behind
Commander Pepe took his seat at the head of the table. Even though the
chair was extra large, the commander’s midsection still managed
to flow over the arms. He looked back at Shym-Sham, who was still standing
in the doorway. “Well? Get on with it, lad! We may as well start.”
The sub-officer nodded and made his way unsteadily to the front of the
room. He made a small motion with his hand. A large section of the wall
glittered to life. An impressively rendered image of the planet Enchantia
rotated slowly. A group of objects hovered above the planet, organised
into an elongated spiral. Many more objects approached the spiral from
all directions, their projected courses indicated by sparkling red lines.
Shym-Sham croaked. “As you can see, commander, the fleet is assembling
in orbit as planned.” He made another hand motion. The display zoomed
in to the spiral. Each ship was clearly visible; its name, ID number,
and owner’s name displayed above. “Three hundred and forty-eight
ships are already in formation. Another seventy will launch from the palace
over the next hour. Another forty-three are expected to return from cancelled
missions, vacations, and joyrides over the next six-hours.”
The commander smiled. “That’s very impressive. Excellent work.”
The sub-officer nodded. “Thank you, commander. Almost ninety percent
of bounty hunters on missions close by were able to return in time. We
The commander turned to Admiral Phutphungus. “Have you finalised
“I have indeed.” The admiral said proudly.
“Then tell me!”
The admiral hauled himself to his feet. Shym-Sham stepped aside, allowing
the admiral's large girth ample room to pass by.
The admiral stood to one side of the wall-sized display screen. After
a quick fiddle with his moustache he began. “My original plan was
to have the entire fleet form a barrier along the projected course of
the emitter beam out near the Tomfulari deep space penal station. It was
a masterful plan, but had one minor flaw, that being the possibility of...”
Commander Pepe roared. “I'm not interested in your ‘original’
plan! What's your final plan?!”
Admiral Phutphungus nodded. “Of course. My plan is to divide the
fleet into two.” He pointed at the display of the assembling fleet.
“Our battle cruiser, the Slaying Mantis, will lead the first fleet.
Along with two hundred and twenty other ships, the Slaying Mantis will
make its way to the border of the Ar’Mar’Ni sector, a days
travel away. This will form the frontline of our defence. Although the
Slaying Mantis suffered extensive damage during its recent mission, all
essential repairs will be completed within the hour. And its current captain,
Farquar Alqurseltsa should make a reasonable recovery from the severe
burns he suffered a week ago. He will command the first fleet.”
Sub-officer Shym-Sham Shawallihoo croaked. “Admiral, there's something
I need to...”
“Not now, Shym-Sham!” the admiral said, frowning. He continued.
“The rest of the ships will make up the second fleet. This fleet
will make its way to the third planet of the Humki-Pumki system, twelve
hours away, and will be our second line of defence.”
The commander asked. “Who's commanding the second fleet?”
The admiral touched the display. The image of the fleet zoomed to one
ship - a small spiky vessel of aggressive appearance. A life-size image
of the ship's owner appeared. “This is Elena L’Apriscatole.”
The admiral said. “She's a third class bounty hunter of shrewd moves
and delightful heritage.”
Commander Pepe admired the image of Elena L’Apriscatole. She was
dressed in her trademark yellow cape and tight white body suit. “Ah,
yes! A fine choice.”
“Thank you.” The admiral said.
Shym-Sham spoke again. “Admiral, I...”
The sub-officer fell silent.
The admiral continued. “Both fleets will depart in two hours. Once
in position they will form a layered grid formation.” The image
on the display changed to a detailed rendering of how the formation would
look. “Each ship will then merge its shields with the ships next
to it, forming a single deep energy barrier that should absorb much of
the energy from the emitter beam. It is my hope that much, if not all,
of the energy of the emitter beam will be absorbed by the two fleets.”
“What if some of the energy gets passed our fleets?” the commander
“Then we will have to rely on our last line of defence.” the
admiral said. “The palace's defence field.”
Commander Pepe scratched his chins. Sweat glistened on his face. “I
guess we will.” He looked up. “How many ships do you think
we'll lose, admiral?”
“We don't have an accurate prediction of the power of the emitter
bean so it's hard to estimate.”
“Hmm… This is some serious defecation were in, isn't it?”
The admiral smiled narrowly. “It is indeed, commander.”
Shym-Sham croaked once again. “Admiral.”
Admiral PhutPhungus sighed. “What is it?”
“It's about Farquar Alqurseltsa, admiral.” The agonisingly
thin sub-officer said.
“What about him?”
“He died from an acute head implosion ten minutes ago.”
The admiral frowned and shook his head. “What?! Nonsense! I spoke
to him earlier this morning. He said his burns were healing nicely. He
said he felt much better!”
“His burns were healing nicely, admiral.” Shym-Sham said;
his voice shaky. “But, due to damage to the ship's medical scanners,
the creature that had invaded his brain was not detected in time.”
The admiral could not believe what he was hearing. “Outrageous!
“We’ve never encountered it before. It’s been killed
and will be studied to ascertain…”
Commander Pepe spoke. “Never mind that now. You need to find another
captain for the Slaying Mantis, it would seem.”
“Indeed.” The admiral said, calming slightly. He began to
pace heavily up and down the front of the room. “Unfortunately we
need a bounty hunter with fleet-leading experience to command that ship.
And the only one I can think of is Harley Deep-Jaw Tree-Hugger.”
Commander Pepe shook his head. His chins undulated wildly. “No way!
Absolutely not! He's a vegetarian! I can't abide those people! Think of
The admiral continued pacing the room. He twiddled his moustache. “Hmm…
Who else could command a...”
Shym-Sham spoke. “I have a suggestion.”
The admiral stopped pacing. He looked at the sub-officer. “Then
let’s hear it.”
“The only other person I can think of with fleet-leading experience
is you, admiral.”
Admiral Phutphungus was shocked. “Um… Yes, but not... um...
a bounty hunter fleet! It was a small navy out in the Yusliss Expanse.
And I left that navy for a cushy desk job here nearly a century ago!”
Commander Pepe smiled at Shym-Sham. “Excellent thinking, lad!”
He turned to the admiral. “Get up to the Slaying Mantis immediately
and assume command.”
The admiral looked shaken. “But commander, surely my leadership
skills are much more useful down here in the...”
“No they're not.” The commander interrupted. With difficulty,
he got to his feet and motioned towards the sidewall. A panel slid open.
Clouds of steam billowed into the room. “Now, if you'll both excuse
me, I have some unfinished business to attend to.”
Commander Pepe walked through the opening and disappeared into his massage
Admiral Phutphungus glowered at Shym-Sham, and then punched him hard in