Earth Reference Year 2392.81 AD - 04:06 hrs
“Twenty eight red.” Panman said confidently, pushing a single,
one thousand credit chip towards the mechanoid croupier.
The machine nodded, accepting the bet.
Farquar Alqurseltsa was the only other player sitting at Panman’s
table. “Two thousand on third twelve please, there’s a good
machine.” he said smugly.
The digital croupier nodded once more and with a swift motion of its
right hand, started the roulette wheel. It spun rapidly, its perimeter
transforming into a blur of red and black. A small chrome ball appeared
at the end of a nozzle in the croupier’s hand and was immediately
propelled forwards by a hiss of compressed air. It orbited the wheel in
the opposing direction, generating an almost inaudible rumble. Panman
watched calmly as the ball travelled on its shallow, spiralling course,
slowly getting closer to its unpredictable destination.
“Final bets please.” the croupier said.
Panman turned to his fellow gambler. “You only chose third twelve
because my number is in that region.”
“Not at all!” Farquar objected. “I happen to have a
jolly good feeling about the numbers twenty five to thirty six, that’s
“Only because I have a good feeling about twenty eight red!”
“My good man!” Farquar said, raising his voice. “If
you were not an awesome bounty hunter of miraculous intelligence, well
above me in both status and stature, I would not hesitate to inform you
as to where I think you should go and stick it!”
“Stick what?” Panman asked, laughing. He liked to tease his
“You are well aware of what I mean!”
“No I’m not. Tell me.”
“I will not utter a rude word. It is beneath me!”
Farquar turned his attention back to the table, his face red with annoyance.
The croupier spoke. “No more bets.”
The ball connected with the wheel and bounced erratically above the numbered
pockets. The ball seemed to park itself momentarily in number five, then
change its mind. A second later, it made its final choice.
“Fifteen black.” the croupier announced mechanically.
Farquar Alqurseltsa stood up. “What!”
“Ha harr!” Panman laughed. “You lost! What happened
to your ‘jolly good feeling’?”
Farquar glared at Panman. “I do not see why you’re so happy,”
he fumed. “You lost too!”
Panman continued to laugh. “I lost on purpose! I wanted to see
if you would blindly follow any bet that I made. And you did!”
Farquar’s face was screwed up with rage. “You are lucky that
I am a thoroughly decent chap of impeccable breeding!” he said.
“I bid you farewell!”
Panman watched the lesser bounty hunter stomp angrily away and disappear
into the crowds surrounding the other tables. “He needs to learn
restraint if he’s to reach my level of oneness with the universe
and all of its sentient corporeal and incorporeal entities.” he
said with unintentional wisdom.
Peter the Ace approached. “Panman! Are you still here? You must
have been playing all night!”
“Really?” Panman said. “What time is it?”
“It’s after four!”
“Cool! But it’s nowhere near my record of eighty six hours
“Very true.” Peter the Ace said. He looked back. “I
see that you’ve been upsetting Farquar again.”
“It’s for his own good.” Panman said. “He has
to learn to think for himself and not blindly follow others.”
“You’re right, of course.”
“Indeed I am!”
Peter the Ace wandered over to the large window behind the roulette table
and looked down at the rest of the Palace of Amino, two and a half thousand
metres below. The sky was slowly brightening as sunrise approached. The
lights of buildings and transportation craft sparkled and twinkled through
the cool morning air. One kilometre to the south of the central tower
was a large flood-lit area. It was a concentration of intense activity.
Peter the Ace smiled. “I see that the foundations of the Dick Burton
Feasting Tower are almost complete.”
“Yeah!” Panman said smiling broadly. He joined his companion
at the window. “I heard that all of the palace’s construction
personnel are working on it. That means in less than two months the tower
will be fully operational!”
“Very cool!” Panman said. He noticed a rumbling in his stomach.
“The thought of bread is making me hungry.”
“Me too.” Peter the Ace agreed. “Let’s go and
The two bounty hunters headed for the casino’s exit.
Panman was in a dilemma. “Should we go up to our apartments or
go somewhere more exciting?”
“Our apartments are exciting.” Peter the Ace said.
“But a change of scene would be nice!”
“Yeah.” Panman entered a thoughtful mode. “How about
Shely’s Sustenance Centre, we haven’t been there for years.”
“True, but it’s eight kilometres away in the northern districts.”
“You’re right! I can’t be bothered to go that far.
There’s a new place that’s just opened at the Monolith Mall.
That’s not far.”
“What’s it called?”
Panman scanned his memory with three of his five synthetically intensified
hyper-cube recall enhancements. “Georgina’s Grub Bucket.”
“Great name!” Peter the Ace said.
“It is, isn’t it? And what’s more it’s also a
literal description of the restaurant.”
“Yeah. It’s actually shaped like a giant bucket!”
“You’ve sold me!” Peter the Ace said. “Let’s
Georgina’s Grub Bucket had only been open for business for two days
and was already a huge success. With more than five hundred succulent items
on the menu, ranging from simple sugared Locust wings to highly complex
Mammoth heart kebabs that take two hundred hours to cook, high profits and
packed tables were inevitable. Situated on level sixty of the Monolith Mall
high in Tower One, it was destined to become one of the most frequented
places of nutritional consumption at the Palace of Amino.
Peter the Ace and Panman looked up from the mall’s lowest level.
The giant red bucket could clearly be seen hanging from the ceiling high
“Cool beyond belief!” Panman exclaimed excitedly.
The two extraordinary stars of galactic adventure and mayhem entered the
nearest glass elevator and began the ascent to the Monolith Mall’s
“I wonder why I’d never heard of that restaurant until now?”
Peter the Ace said as he watched each level whiz by.
“Georgina kept the whole development very quiet.” Panman said
knowledgeably. “Only those like me who subscribe to ‘Voracious
Gut Rumbler Monthly’ knew much about it.”
Peter the Ace looked surprised. “They have a magazine for people
who like to gorge themselves?”
“Yeah! You didn’t know about it?”
“No. Never heard of it.”
“It’s great. It gives you all the nutritional gossip about
the palace’s half a million eating establishments, menu changes,
and reviews of new and exciting dishes. I have even written a couple of
articles myself. Those issues always sell out twice as fast!”
The elevator reached its destination. Peter the Ace and Panman walked
out and towards the massive bucket.
“I’m surprised that you haven’t started a magazine yourself.”
Peter the Ace said.
“‘Voracious Gut Rumbler Monthly’ was my idea!”
Panman said. “They wanted me to be the editor but I had to decline
the offer. As well as being too busy mutilating villainous sadists, I’d
rather just read the thing and eat what it recommends. Much easier!”
The two bounty hunters reached Georgina’s Gut Bucket.
“A table for two please.” Peter the Ace said to the scantily
clad, well toned young female employee that was hovering on an anti-grav
disk at the entrance.
“I’m sorry.” she said erotically. “All of our
tables are full at the moment, and we’re booked solid for the next
Panman approached her. “Do you know who we are?”
She looked closely at Panman and Peter the Ace. A look of delightful awe
filled her surgically enhanced face. “Peter the Ace! Panman!”
She bowed. “Please forgive me. I didn’t recognise you without
your astonishing battle suits.”
She grabbed their hands and kissed them. “Let me make up for my
lack of facial recognition. Please allow me to pleasure you beyond reality
at my apartment tonight!”
Peter the Ace smiled. “Thank you for the offer.” he said.
“But we get all the pleasure we need. Extra pleasure from a low
paid waitress would not be anything special.”
“Yeah.” Panman agreed. “You could gain our forgiveness
simply by finding us a table.”
“As you wish.” she said, bowing once again. She floated away
into the bucket. The two bounty hunters followed.
“Excuse me.” she said to two men dressed in overalls as she
stopped next to their table. “Please could you both vacate the premises
One of the men looked up. “We’re only half way through our
The waitress spoke once more. “Two bounty hunters of intense competence
and substantial vitality require these seats.”
“We were here first!” the man said angrily.
Peter the Ace and Panman approached the table. The instance that the two
men saw the most revered and honoured warriors of justice ever to walk
amongst mere mortal forms, their attitudes changed from angry defiance
to subdued compliance.
“Of course we’ll leave.” they said getting to their
feet. “We apologise for our anti-social and disrespectful behaviour.”
“No problem.” Panman said. “What do you two do?”
“We’re drainage inspectors.”
“I wondered what that foul stench was! Next time, shower and change
your clothes before venturing out in public.”
“Yes sir!” they said.
“Please leave us.”
The two men left quickly.
“Please be seated.” the waitress said. “Enter your order
into the terminal. I’ll bring it to you shortly.”
“Thank you.” Peter the Ace said kindly.
The two bounty hunters sat down. Within ten seconds, Panman had ordered
seventeen items. “That’ll do for now!” he said.
Peter the Ace sat back. “I’m done!”
Panman looked around at the restaurant’s interior. “Ross Mental
would love this place. He’s into strange food of a delectable nature!”
“He is indeed!” Peter the Ace agreed. “It’s three
months since we returned after destroying Lawrence and that dough fiend,
and there’s still no sign of him!”
“Yeah, he hasn’t even called!”
“Maybe he was blown so far away that he ended up in another galaxy
“It’s more likely that he was obliterated.”
“Never!” Peter the Ace said sharply. “He is a bounty
hunter of immaculate perception and capability. He’s somewhere out
“I guess you’re right.”
The waitress floated sensually up to the bounty hunters’ table and
handed them their first course. “Enjoy.” she whispered, and
then drifted away.
Panman started to shovel down his bowl full of jellied Fegile intestines.
Peter the Ace smiled broadly, and then tucked into his plate of sliced
Jag cortex in a rich and potent synaptic hormone sauce.
“I could eat this for the rest of my life!” Panman exclaimed
through a mouthful of duodenum.
“It is marvellously appetising!” Peter the Ace agreed.
Panman finished. He stood up and shouted. “Waitress? Next course
please, hurry!” He sat back down. “Wow! Am I starved or what?!”
“Always!” laughed Peter the Ace.
Panman frowned. “That’s not true!”
“When were you ever not hungry, then?”
A look of deep thoughtfulness filled Panman’s face. He smiled. “Ninety
four years ago, during the agonising B’Rahmba M’Xylianti-Konicon
“Yes!” Panman said. “Don’t you remember? We were
sent in to protect the B’Rahmban overlord from a spiteful band of
“Of course I remember.” Peter the Ace said. “But, as
I recall, you insisted that the safest place for us to guard his life
was to take him down into his mansion’s lavishly equipped kitchen
and barricade the doors shut.”
“Your point being?”
“My point being that, in a twenty four hour period, you managed
to consume one month’s supply of baked Yams!”
“I don’t deny it.” Panman said proudly.
“Then you must have been hungry, mustn’t you!”
“Yes, but not for the half hour following that impressive snack!”
Peter the Ace looked suspicious. “Are you sure?”
“Then please accept my apology.”
Their little argument was forgotten as course two arrived.
“Awesome!” Panman exclaimed. His face disappeared into a canister
of skinned Pygmy Hogs. Black tar-like gravy splashed everywhere.