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Book: Vengeance of the Lump-Being
Chapter 33: Syrup Recycling Apparatus

“There are definitely two of them.” Peter the Ace said. The head-up display on the inside of the bounty hunter’s helmet showed two very faint heat spots on the high rocky ceiling. With a whisper-quiet whirr, the helmet folded neatly away. He looked at Jodi Funk Junky. “Do you know what they are?”

The lesser bounty hunter nodded. “Guards.” She said, looking up. “Right above us is the main entrance to the lump-being’s private chamber. The heat spots must be caused by the two guards standing outside the chamber.”

“Really?” Peter the Ace said. “They must have been standing there for hours for their heat to be detectable through a metre of rock.”

“They have three day long shifts without breaks.” Jodi Funk Junky said. “A heady cocktail of drugs injected into their skulls every ten hours keeps them awake and alert.”

Peter the Ace laughed. “What an awful job! I’m surprised they don’t slice their own throats open with boredom and depression.”

“The drugs also deal with that as well.”

“Well, no matter how awake, alert, interested, and cheerful they are, we must get passed them and into the lump-being’s chamber.”

Jodi Funk Junky looked unsure. “It’ll be very difficult. That door is the most fortified I’ve seen in a long time.”

“It was your idea to come up here and find the lump-being. Didn’t you realise you’d have to get through that door?”

Jodi Funk Junky lowered her head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think.”

Peter the Ace laughed. He patted the lesser bounty hunter on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. There’s no need to be sorry. The fact that you wanted to head straight up here without a coherent plan of action proves that insanity still flows through your mind. You’re not in as bad a shape as I thought.”

The lesser bounty hunter smiled. “Thank you.”

Peter the Ace looked around. They were standing on a flat open space just a few metres away from the wide spiral staircase. A single passageway led off from the space and was lit, as usual, by blue and gold lanterns. “There must be a way into the lump-being’s chamber other than going through the door.” The bounty hunter mused. He pointed at the passageway. “What’s down there?”

“The syrup recycling apparatus.” Jodi Funk Junky answered.

“What’s that for?”

“The lump-being needs to spend a lot of his time in a sterilised syrup bath, otherwise his buttocks would become sore and callused. The syrup recycling apparatus pumps clean syrup up to the pool in his chamber. The old syrup is sucked back down and filtered.”

“Interesting.” Peter the Ace said. He pondered a few thoughts, and then smiled broadly. “Let’s take a look at that syrup recycling apparatus.” He walked towards the passageway, Ross Mental still strapped tightly to his back.

Jodi Funk Junky followed close behind.

Peter the Ace spent several minutes examining the syrup recycling apparatus. It was a bulky piece of equipment, consisting of thick dull metal panels and tubes held together by large chunky rivets. For some reason, steam hissed out of randomly positioned valves creating a very hot and humid environment in the room.

Peter the Ace pointed to a gantry that arced over the syrup machine. “There’s a control panel up there. Let’s take a look.” With the agility of a Kuun monkey, the bounty hunter climbed up onto the gantry.

Jodi Funk Junky followed.

Peter the Ace stood at the angled control panel and looked down at the controls. Statistics on the consistency and purity of the syrup filled the panel’s two display screens. The machine appeared to be running at optimum efficiency. But this was not the information Peter the Ace wanted to see. With maximum dexterity, the bounty hunter moved his hands across the controls. Menus and options flitted across the screens. After a few seconds Peter the Ace pointed. “That’s what I’m looking for!” He touched an option on the left screen. A diagram scrolled onto the right screen. “An internal schematic of the syrup machine’s internal flow control system!”

“What are you planning?” Jodi Funk Junky asked ignorantly.

Peter the Ace’s hands continued to flash across the controls. “You should have already figured that out for yourself, young lady.”

Jodi Funk Junky’s face took on an expression of deep though. After three seconds, her expression changed to one of amazement. “No way! You can’t possibly be planning to…”

“I am indeed!” Peter the Ace interrupted. He pointed to the schematic. “Yes! Just as I’d hoped, the flow of the syrup up to the lump-being’s chamber is powered by an electrostatic drive mechanism. There are no obstructions in the pipe work like there would have be with an old-fashioned propeller pump system.”

Jodi Funk Junky looked closely at the schematic. “Oh, yeah!”

Peter the Ace continued. “And the main pipe up to the chamber is almost a metre in diameter. Just right!”

“The syrup is very thick.” Jodi Funk Junky said, worried. “It’ll be virtually impossible to swim through it. We’ll all asphyxiate before we…”

“We won’t all be going.” Peter the Ace said. He looked at the lesser bounty hunter. “You forget, my dear, that I’m the only one wearing a state of the art arctic armoured environment suit. Only I can survive in the syrup. I will go alone.”

“But you still won’t be able to swim!”

“I won’t need to. I’ll just be pumped up there with the syrup.” Peter the Ace turned his attention back to the schematic. “Now, I just need to find a way into the machine.”

Jodi Funk Junky pointed down. “There! Right below this gantry. It looks like an access hatch.”

“Well done, my dear.” Peter the Ace examined the schematic once more. “And the hatch is after the filtration mechanism – a major security flaw!”

With a swift motion, the Peter the Ace unstrapped Ross Mental from his back and handed him to Jodi funk Junky.

Ross Mental objected. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Miss Funk Junky will look after you.” Peter the Ace said. He looked at Jodi Funk Junky. “While I’m travelling in the syrup, you go up and conceal yourself near the chamber entrance. Hide Ross Mental and the limbless old man somewhere safe. When I eventually slip from the syrup outlet, the lump-being will see me, freak out, and then call in his guards. When they enter you follow them in. Eliminate them as soon as you’re through the entrance. Then we’ll be able to have a cosy little chat with our fat friend in there.”

Ross Mental yelled. “Fuckin’ fat fuck!”

The lesser bounty hunter ignored the foul-mouthed bounty hunter’s burst of profanity. She smiled. “That’s a wonderful plan!”

Peter the Ace grabbed hold of the control console. “I know.” With incredible nimbleness, the bounty hunter pushed himself up into the air, somersaulted forwards, and then landed with a clunk down next to the hatch. Kneeling down, he grabbed the large handle of the hatch and twisted. It turned easily. With a brief hiss the hatch opened.

A slow and particularly thick river of orange syrup could be seen easing its way through the machine. Some of it began to bulge out of the hatch.

Peter the Ace looked up. “I’d better go, before too much spills out. Get to your position.”

Jodi Funk Junky nodded. “I’ll be ready.”

Peter the Ace activated his helmet. As soon as it had sealed itself over his head, the top-class bounty hunter stepped into the syrup, and sank slowly below its surface.

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