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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 5: A Large Plateful of Frosted Doughnuts

Justin staggered uneasily along the central reservation of highway one, heading away from the Palace of Amino’s central districts and towards the gleaming residential towers of the western neighbourhoods. Sparks and arcs of electricity flitted across the cyborg’s scratched and dented body, causing drivers to stay away from the deranged trainee, fearing that his fusion power systems could detonate at any time.

Peter the Ace and Panman, however, feared nothing. They were following in a ground car fifty metres behind.

“Why is he travelling west?” Panman asked. “There are only apartment buildings and burger bars out here. Nothing that could interest a metal man!”

“Indeed.” Peter the Ace agreed. “And as far as I know, none of the palace’s other cyborgs or semi-cyborgs live in this district. It was declared a mechanoid free zone ten years ago and has been ever since.”

Panman looked confused. “I thought that Martha Raisindough had chosen to live out here?”

“She did apply for an exemption certificate and had been granted a temporary residency permit, but the decision was reversed three seconds after she’d received it.”

“Unlucky. Where is she now?”

“I think she lives in a small underground dwelling at the northern perimeter. She spends most of her days stomping aimlessly around the forests up there.”

“Trying to simulate her life on Mud-Paq?”

“I guess so.” Peter the Ace said. “She should accept her new life here and enrol at the academy. She’s twenty percent biological and could become a fully fledged bounty hunter within forty years if she worked hard.”

Panman looked at Justin. He had clambered over the central barriers and was striding across the opposite carriageway. Several vehicles swerved and rolled off the raised roadway into a lake below. Two sail-boarders were almost crushed by the cars as they splashed into the clear blue water. One car managed to come to a halt right in front of the insane cyborg, its driver leaping out of the vehicle and running away fearfully as Justin approached. Using his artificial mega-strength, Justin proceeded to tear off the car’s doors and roof. He threw them high and far, and then sat heavily into the driver’s seat.

Peter the Ace and Panman watched as the cyborg smashed the car through the central barriers and accelerated down the highway.

“Awesome!” Panman shouted. “High speed chase!”

Peter the Ace brought their car rapidly up to Justin’s car’s speed. The maximum limit on the Palace of Amino’s highways was two hundred kilometres per hour. Peter the Ace’s speedometer already registered three hundred and fifty.

“Justin’s in for a serious fine when we catch him!” Peter the Ace said. Only top class bounty hunters were exempt and above the law.

Panman disagreed. “He could plead insanity!”

“Oh yes.” Peter the ace said, admitting his error in a mature and sagacious way. “You’re right.”

After a few kilometres of fast, deadly driving, the western perimeter wall was in sight. Although the highway stopped at the thirty metre high wall of thick, energy fortified steel, Justin seemed unwilling to slow down.

“He’s going to hit the barriers!” Panman exclaimed excitedly.

“It certainly looks that way.” Peter the Ace said as he skilfully swerved the car through several groups of traffic.

Two security sky-cars thrusted between two apartment blocks and swooped towards Justin’s vehicle.

“They’re locking weapons!” Panman announced worriedly, looking at a data screen on the car’s dashboard. “They can’t destroy him! He’s our assistant! He makes mouth-watering lasagne and delectable marmalade deserts!”

Peter the Ace nodded in agreement and operated the communicator. “Security craft. This is Peter the Ace speaking. Disengage your attack!”

Instantly, the two airborne cars turned and released their weapons lock. “As you wish, sir!” one of the pilots said, thrusting away. The sound of the bounty hunter’s authoritative voice instilled instant obedience into their souls.

Panman was relieved. Although it would be easy to find a new assistant for the Blenheim, it would be difficult to find one that had attended the Amino Baking Academy and graduated with as high a grade as Justin.

Peter the Ace pointed forwards. “Look!”

Panman looked just in time to see the cyborg trainee smash his commandeered car into the barrier at the end of the highway. He was not wearing a safety belt, and the high speed collision catapulted him far into the air.

Peter the Ace drew his car to a rapid halt next to the wreck of Justin’s. They could still see the cyborg flying away from them.

“He’s going to smash into the perimeter wall!” Panman said, anxious that perfect pizzas were going to be a thing of the past.

“I think you’re mistaken.” Peter the Ace said calmly. “He’s going to fly over it and pass through the defence shield!”

The defence shield took the shape of a huge dome that spread from the top of the perimeter walls to a point twelve kilometres above the Palace of Amino’s central point. Although it vaporised and dissipated anything that tried to pass through it from the outside, it caused no damage to ships travelling through from the inside. Justin passed through it harmlessly, barely clearing the wall, and then disappeared from view.

Panman was confused. “Did he do that on purpose, or was it a fluke?”

“I would say that it was his intention to exit the palace.” Peter the Ace said with subliminal insight.

“His sanity circuits must have suffered worse damage than we thought, else he would have used the exit hatchways placed at convenient intervals along the wall.”

“Indeed.” Peter the Ace agreed. “Crashing a ground car into barriers at the end of a highway at four hundred kilometres per hour is not a logical way to get out!”

“It is a quicker way though!”

“That’s true.”

Peter the Ace looked around and thought for a moment. “We should return to the Central Tower.” he said.

“Good idea.” Panman said. “I’m famished!”

“No. I mean we should get the Blenheim and follow Justin to see what he’s up to.”

“Oh yeah,” Panman said quietly. “That’s more important I guess.”

Peter The Ace was very perceptive and noticed Panman’s disappointment. “Don’t worry my friend,” he said with sympathy. “We’ll get a temporary assistant to prepare and cook our on-board meals and snacks.”

Panman smiled broadly. “Cool in the extreme!”

Peter the Ace turned the car round and headed back towards the Central Tower at a dangerously excessive speed.

It took only ten minutes for the two top rated bounty hunters of all time to return to the Central Tower, select a temporary assistant, and launch the Blenheim. Technicians, engineers, cleaners, and sanitation inspectors gasped with deep respect and awe as the most astonishing ship in the Amino fleet blasted out of its high level hanger bay and thrusted between the multitude of lesser buildings that were scattered throughout the palace.

Panman looked at one of his view-screens. “The orbital tracker has a fix on him.” he said. “He’s heading directly west down the valley and has already travelled two kilometres!”

“He’s moving fast!” Peter the Ace said. “Where could he be going in such a hurry?”

“I don’t know. There’s Entica Lake directly in his path. Maybe he’s going there?”

“What could he possibly want to go to the lake for?” Peter the Ace asked, guiding the Blenheim over the perimeter wall and through the defence shield. “I thought that cyborgs hated water?”

“They do.” Panman answered. “Although they’re rust proof, it does tend to slow down their servo and sensory response systems.”

The Blenheim slowed and hovered two hundred metres above Justin’s position. The mad cyborg was jogging unevenly through a forest, occasionally stumbling as an unseen rock got in the way of his heavy, cumbersome feet.

Peter the Ace and Panman watched the metal man’s progress on the Blenheim’s main view-screen.

Panman’s mathematically intensified brain performed some rapid calculations. “He’ll reach the lake in five minutes, four seconds.” he said with what would turn out to be perfect accuracy.

“I guess we should just wait and see what he does.” Peter the Ace said, switching the ship over to auto-flight. He laid back into his sumptuous command chair.

“We could grab him with a tractor beam and bring him on board!” Panman said excitedly.

Peter the Ace looked at him. “We don’t have a tractor beam!”

“Oh yeah.” Panman said quietly.

Carmen walked on to the bridge. She was still wearing her yellow leotard and was carrying a large plateful of frosted doughnuts. “Here you are, guys!” she said cheerfully. “This should keep you going!”

“Thank you.” Peter the Ace said. “How are the pizzas, kebabs, burgers, and blueberry pancakes doing?”

“They’ll be done in quarter of an hour.”

“Excellent! Bring them up as soon as they’re ready will you.”

“No problem. How’s your stomach?”

“Great!” Peter the Ace said. “Your mothers drink worked!”

Panman was too busy stuffing his face to speak.

“It’s a good job you brought the doughnuts when you did.” Peter the Ace said. “Panman was starting to say strange things. I think his claims that his brain augmentation systems need high amounts of sugar and fat must be true!”

“Yes.” Carmen agreed. “That does seem to be the case!”

“You’d better get back to the galley.”

“Good idea!”

Carmen turned and walked erotically away. Peter the Ace admired her well-toned body as it disappeared from view. He turned to Panman. “I’m thinking of recommending her for the ‘fast track’ training programme.” he said.

“She is a remarkable specimen!” Panman mumbled between mouthfuls. “And an excellent choice for a temporary assistant!”

“Indeed she is!”

Peter the Ace grabbed a couple of doughnuts and began to eat. Panman was starting on his fourteenth.

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