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Book: Vengeance of the Lump-Being
Chapter 30: A Planet Full of Iniquitous Hoodlums

The firestorm raged – as bright as a newborn star.

With its atmospheric propulsion system at maximum, the Hooded Whore left the colossal chamber at the planet’s core, and tore up the emitter power core shaft. Only seconds before, thirty-eight experimental egg-shaped and egg-sized warheads had detonated around the large iron core at the centre of the chamber, penetrating deep into its heart like white-hot pokers.

Justin was still firmly wedged to the topside of the Hooded Whore’s hull. He looked back at the blinding white wall of flame racing up the shaft behind them. “The wave of destruction is approaching.”

Sebastian Blood replied. “I know! The engines are at maximum. There’s nothing more I can do. I’m sure the force of the blast will dissipate soon.

Justin’s blast progress assessment algorithms performed a rapid analysis of the approaching heat wave. He announced the results in his usual lifeless manner. “The wave of destruction will not begin to dissipate for approximately thirty seconds. The wave will engulf this vessel in twelve seconds. We are doomed.”

Sebastian Blood disagreed. “No way! My calculations estimate it’ll dissipate a second or two before it hits us.

They could do nothing else but wait. Justin’s epidermal sensors fed constant readings into his digital consciousness. The temperature in the shaft had risen to several thousand degrees – well above the maximum tolerance level for a cyborg of his class. His metal body, already severely damaged from his high-speed atmospheric entry a few days ago, began to glow and vaporise. The hull of the Hooded Whore was coping far better, but it too would vaporise when the wall of destruction hit.

Five seconds to go. The entire shaft shone a blinding shade of white now. Justin’s lower body was disappearing fast. It took only another second for his legs to burn away. Without his legs wedged firmly to the ship, his upper body began thrash wildly. He banged against the hull.

But then the whiteness began to fade.

Quickly, the colour of the shaft passed through every conceivable shade of yellow, then through orange, then to red. The temperature cooled.

What did I tell you?!” Sebastian Blood said, pride filling his voice.

Justin did not understand. “I do not understand. My blast progress assessment algorithms were developed by the Palace of Amino’s Experimental Blast Research Institute. They are considered the most accurate in the galaxy. We should have been vaporised.”

Did your algorithms take into account the tri-radial flux of the emissions radiated by the power core, and the subsequent sub-graviton field produced as the emissions reflected back across the shaft into the core’s field matrix?

Justin thought for a second. “No.”

Then take the tri-radial flux of the emissions into account and recalculate. Should we still have been vaporised?

The cyborg did as he was ordered. The results came back several nanoseconds later. Justin answered the bounty hunter’s question. “No.”

Sebastian Blood laughed. “You’re out of date, buddy! You’d better get an upgrade when we get back.

Justin made a mental note to do so.

The Hooded Whore continued its hypersonic cruise up the power core shaft.

Peter the Ace stopped and looked up. The wide spiral of stone stairs seemed to continue forever, lit by dim lamps of blue and gold. “Quite impressive. And it looks rather tasteful, too.”

Ross Mental was strapped to the first-class bounty hunter’s back. “Are we fuckin’ there yet?”

“I don’t think so.” Peter the Ace answered. He turned and looked back. Jodi funk Junky was lagging behind. She had the limbless old man strapped to her back, and she was panting heavily.

Peter the Ace shook his head slowly. “You’re out of shape, my dear.”

She stopped and looked up at him. “I’m sorry.” She said breathlessly. “I have been unable to do any physical activity training in the months I’ve been here.”

The top-class bounty hunter looked up and down her scantily clad body. “Hmm… You are still quite toned, but your fat levels are definitely above the maximum allowed for female bounty hunters. That must be rectified at the earliest opportunity, is that understood?”

Jodi Funk Junky bowed her head. “Yes, I understand.” She looked up. “If only I had the fitness implants that you…”

“Bionic fitness implants are only for third-class bounty hunters and above. You should be well aware of that. Lesser bounty hunters like you must maintain top levels of fitness through conventional means.”

“I know.” Jodi Funk Junky said, nodding slowly. “It would just make things so much easier. And I’m still only a seventh-class bounty hunter, so it’ll be many years before I qualify.”

“It takes a lot of effort, skill, cunning, and an incredible amount of death-defying flukes to reach the level of third-class bounty hunter. Even exemplary bounty hunters can take decades to reach such a level. And unfortunately, you, my dear, after your performance here on Gun-Loc, cannot be considered anywhere near exemplary.”

A tear appeared in Jodi Funk Junky’s left eye. She wiped it away. “I know.” She sniffled. “I will not fail again. I promise.”

Peter the Ace reached out and stroked her left shoulder. “I believe you.”

She smiled.

Peter the Ace looked up again. “How much further?”

The lesser bounty hunter followed her superior’s gaze. “The lump-being’s chamber is right at the top.” She said. “Another couple of hours climbing, at least.”

Peter the Ace started walking. “Then let’s get going!”

Jodi Funk Junky followed, making sure she stayed well away from the inner edge of the stairs, and the long drop down to the base of the stairway.

Peter the Ace’s communicator bleeped. He answered the call. “Hello?”

This is Sebastian Blood.”

“Mister Blood! Have you completed your task?”

I have, but the effects were not as strong as I’d hoped.”

“What was the result?”

Well, I detonated all the charges around the planet’s iron core, which is being used as a conduit for dozens of other power cores. The scans I’ve just performed show that much of the iron core has been vaporised. Unfortunately, some power is still being channelled to the emitter.”

“How much?”

Still around thirty percent.”

“Well, a seventy percent reduction in that emitter’s power is a good result. It’ll have to do. And, to be honest, it was what I expected. Well done, Mister Blood, it seems you’ve met my expectations.”

“Thank you. You know, if I could use one of your ship’s famous last-resort weapons I could…”

“That’s not an option, and you know it.” Peter the Ace said, sternly. “This whole planet would almost certainly be destroyed. If it were a planet full of iniquitous hoodlums then it wouldn’t matter, but the population here, however backwards in their attitude, technology, and means of entertainment, are generally of good nature. Such a society must be preserved. Don’t you agree, Mister Blood?”

Of course.”

“Good. Anything else to report?”

I managed to find your cyborg. He’s clinging to the hull of my ship.”

“Excellent! Good show. When you get back up to the emitter chamber, hang around. We may need your services again very soon.”

Will do. Sebastian Blood out.”

The communications channel fell silent.

Peter the Ace continued up the wide spiral stairway. Jodi Funk Junky – weary and more than a little breathless – followed close behind.

Someone was coming down.

Panman stepped back into a cramped alcove at the edge of the stairway. He waited silently as the sound of hurried footsteps grew louder. Whoever it was, they were agitated, and judging by the sniffling and blubbering, rather upset too. The sound passed quickly, and then started to fade. The bounty hunter peeped out of the alcove and looked down. A recruit was running down the spiral stairway. Blood was running down his face and the back of his head, and he was mumbling in a highly troubled manner. Panman quashed his desire to put the recruit out of his apparent misery, and waited. Once the recruit was out of sight, the bounty hunter stepped back onto the stairway and continued his speedy ascent, the implants in his legs allowing him to leap up three or four steps at a time – a most inspiring sight.

After a few minutes of trouble-free leaping, Panman reached the top. A large vaulted open space, lit by blue and gold lamps, greeted the bounty hunter as he jumped up the last few steps. He landed in a crouching position on the smooth stone floor and performed a rapid scan. The display on his visor indicated that all was clear – no weapon placements, guards, and no surveillance. Nothing. Panman smiled. Whoever designed this place did not expect anyone to infiltrate this far. They had not reckoned with the ingenuity, genius, and absolute cunning of top-class bounty hunters. A fatal mistake!

Panman looked around. Several arched passageways lead off from the open space, each one lit by rows of low-slung orange lanterns, but they were of no interest to Panman. His digitally enhanced instincts told him that only the large half-open blast doors at the far side were important. Standing, he sprinted daintily over to the doors, noticing the broken trail of blood left by the troubled recruit. The trail led straight through the half-open doors.

The bounty hunter took a few seconds to check his weapons. He called up his suit’s inventory on his heads-up display. He still had all eight PUSS (Potent Ultra-Sharp Shrapnel) charges – perfect for what he had planned.

Grinning like a large ginger cat, Panman slipped silently through the doorway.

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