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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 9: Blind Insanity

Panman leapt out of his seat and cheered loudly. Peter the Ace watched him prance around the holo-games room.

“Am I cool or what?!” Panman exclaimed, somersaulting over the gaming table and passing straight through the words ‘PLAY OVER’. He landed squarely on his feet then immediately reversed the action, back-flipping effortlessly back into his chair.

“Yes, you’re cool.” Peter the Ace reluctantly agreed.

“And?”

Peter the Ace paused for a moment. “And... you’re the beat ‘em up champion of the galaxy.”

“Thank you.” Panman said quietly. He always gracefully accepted compliments that he had forced out of people.

“At least I won one round!” Peter the Ace said, trying to recover a gram of dignity.

Panman laughed. “Only because I had the Ultra Difficult Blackened Impossibility Goggles on!”

“I guess so.”

“Don’t feel too bad.” Panman said. “You’re still the shoot ‘em up champion of the galaxy.”

Peter the Ace stood up and punched the air with his fist. “Yes!” he exclaimed, smiling broadly. “I’m cool too, but in a different way!”

Panman entered into a thoughtful phase. “Separately,” he said. “We’re both cool. That’s a well known and accepted fact throughout all of the populated systems. But when we’re together, the combination of all of our coolness must result in what could only be described as completely and utterly cool coolness of the coolest kind!”

Peter the Ace nodded in agreement at Panman’s undeniably deep insight. “You’re right. The sum of our combined coolness is greater than the coolness of its parts! And the fact that it’s taken us several centuries to realise this is proof of our incredible modesty. And that makes us even cooler!”

“Whoa!” Panman said excitedly. “What a revelation beyond time!”

The door whooshed open.

“Hi guys!” Carmen said happily, walking into the room. “How’s it going?”

“Cool!” Peter the Ace and Panman said in unison.

“Can I get you anything?”

Panman spoke immediately. “Seven apple pies, six bowls of rice pudding, and a double sugar milkshake please.”

Carmen nodded then looked at Peter the Ace.

“Just four cheese and onion toasties, three cinnamon muffins, and a large coffee for me, thank you.”

She nodded once again. “It’ll take five minutes. Are you going to be here or on the bridge?”

“We’d better get back to the bridge.” Peter the Ace said in a business-like manner. “We’ll be intercepting that thing that were intercepting very soon.”

“You’re right,” Panman said. “You’d better bring the food to us there.”

“No problem!” Carmen said. She smiled seductively, and then wandered off towards the galley.

Panman watched her walk away. “Her cooking is remarkable!” he said.

“Indeed.” Peter the Ace agreed. “She’s fabulous, and she hasn’t even attended the Amino Baking Academy!”

“Yeah. She’s not quite as good as Justin though.”

“True, but she has one asset that pushes her way ahead of our cyborg friend.”

Panman grinned. “Those well toned thighs!”

“You said it, man!”

The two awesome bounty hunters left the holo-games room and made their way to the bridge.


“Blenheim?” Peter the Ace shouted, cart-wheeling on to the bridge. “How long to interception?”

“TIME TO INTERCEPTION: ONE MINUTE TWELVE SECONDS.”

Peter the Ace corkscrewed through the air and landed in his lavish command chair. “Raise the shields to maximum a few seconds before we encounter our mysterious target. We don’t want to take any chances.”

“I WILL.”

Panman dived through the bridge’s entrance and performed a complex series of somersaults, back-flips, twists, tumbles, and turns as he made his way impressively towards the weapons console. He rolled into his seat and operated some controls. All of the Blenheim’s terror inducing battle systems were instantly energised, including the newly installed SKin wARping Obliterator, or SKARO for short.

The SKARO, developed by the synthetic scientists of the recently opened Gore Faculty at the Amino Death Academy, was still just a prototype, and it was unique in two respects. Firstly, it didn’t kill its targets. It merely stretched and warped their epidermal layers to more than four times the normal surface area. This had the effect of swamping the target in huge folds of skin that made movement of any kind virtually impossible. Secondly, it was highly focusable. An enemy could be targeted by city, continent, or planetary origin, leaving surrounding areas and populations untouched. It had been fitted to the Blenheim because of Peter the Ace and Panmans’ uncanny ability to find an excuse to use new weapons or tactics on any mission, however peaceful or diplomatic it happened to be. The three most famous past examples of this are as follows:

1. The P.E.N.E.T.R.A.T.E. (Potentially Excruciating and Normally Extensively Terrifying and Rotating Annihilatory Termination Encroachment) manoeuvre. This was used to puncture and devastate Lawrence’s one hundred kilometre long mothership near the blistering moon of Epicuro.

2. The B.R.U.T.A.L. (Brilliant, Ruthless and Ultimately TerminAL) missile. This was used to decimate the gigantic dough monster. It also had an unpredicted side effect that sucked away Ye’Est three’s atmosphere, turning it into an arid, airless ball of useless deserts.

3. The S.T.O.R.M (Sub-space Total Obliteration Ram Manoeuvre). This was used on the dough monster after it followed the Blenheim to the planet Mud-Paq. Although it was successful and the bread fiend was destroyed; Mud-Paq, its neighbouring planets, its sun, and all matter within a three light year radius was also destroyed; due mainly to the fact that Panman had skipped the chapter on S.T.O.R.M. speed restrictions in the bounty hunter tactics manual.


“Armed and ready to slaughter, maim, and generate pain!” Panman said excitedly. The lights on his console blinked rapidly.

“Excellent!” Peter the Ace said. “It’s best to be prepared for anything and everything. We have no idea what we’re going to meet.”

“Yeah,” Panman said. “And in sub-space too. I don’t think we’ve done that before.”

“No one has!”

“Whoa! Another first!”

“Indeed.”

“Our level of coolness probably doubles with each ‘first’ that we achieve!”

“At least!”

Panman looked at one of the bridge’s smaller view-screens. It was displaying a graphical representation of the manoeuvre necessary for a ship to reverse direction and encounter an oncoming object without leaving sub-space. It looked highly complex, and was totally theoretical. One nanosecond late, and the Blenheim would collide with its interception target at a combined speed of more than 200,000 times the speed of light. Even the Blenheim could not survive such a momentous crash.

“It’s quite a risky thing we’re doing isn’t it!” he said.

“Indeed.” Peter the Ace agreed. “But we’re the only ones with the skill, courage, and blind insanity to pull it off.”

“True.”

“It’s worth the risk just for the extra adoration that’ll be showered upon us on our return.”

“Can people adore us more than they already do?” Panman asked philosophically.

“That’s a thought provoking question.” Peter the Ace said. “Can adoration be quantified and assigned an upper limit?”

“I’m not sure.”

“We’ll find out when we get back to the palace.”

“Yeah.” Panman said. “Maybe we could write a thesis on it?”

“You can if you want.” Peter the Ace said, surprised at Panman’s wish to do something academic. “I’ll read it when you’re done.”

The Blenheim made an announcement. “TIME TO INTERCEPTION: THIRTY SECONDS.”

Carmen walked on to the bridge carrying two large trays of food and drinks. She placed them on the table between Peter the Ace and Panmans’ seats. “There you are.” she said sweetly.

“Fabulous!” Panman said. Two apple pies found their way rapidly into his power assisted jaws.

Peter the Ace took a sip of his coffee, then a bite out of one of the cheese and onion toasties. “You’ve excelled yourself once again!” he said with delight.

Carmen bowed her head. “Thank you. I am here to serve and to impress.”

“You’re serving and impressing very well!” he said, taking another bite. “Keep this up and you’ll qualify as a bounty hunter in no time.”

“That’s what I want more than anything!” she said breathlessly.

“I’m glad to hear it. Being my personal assistant, and accompanying the two greatest bounty hunters of all time on the most phenomenal star ship of all time is a privilege beyond normal comprehension. It’s good to see that you’re making the most of such a profound opportunity.”

The Blenheim made another announcement. “TIME TO INTERCEPTION: FIFTEEN SECONDS.”

Peter the Ace looked very serious. “You’d better return to your quarters, Carmen.” he said. “This could be a rough and stressful experience.”

“Of course.” she said. “I’ll go and lie on the bed and go limp.” Carmen left the bridge.

Panman watched her as he finished the last of his pies. “Maybe we should keep her as our cook and demote Justin to cleaner?”

“Good idea!” Peter the Ace said. “And because Justin’s completely devoid of emotion, he won’t feel offended or rejected. He’ll just accept it!”

“Assuming that he recovers from his current insanity of course.”

“Of course.”

“TIME TO INTERCEPTION: FIVE SECONDS. SHIELDS RAISED TO MAXIMUM.”

Peter the Ace put down the mug of coffee that he was holding. He needed at least one hand free. Panman continued to stuff his face.

“THREE... TWO... ONE... RAPID DECELERATION ENGAGED. REVERSE THRUSTERS FIRING.”

A quake of biblical proportions swept through the Blenheim like a broom of doom, shuddering and wobbling everything in a most violent and uncomfortable manner.

“This is an interesting experience.” Panman said, pouring a bowl of rice pudding down his throat.

The Blenheim continued to shake as it flipped over, reversing its direction. With a blast of super energy, the sub-space engines returned to full power. The two bounty hunters felt waves of gravitons tear at their bodies as the anti-gee system failed to cope with the 80,000 gee force exerted on the ship.

“Bitchen’!” Panman shouted. He finished his milkshake just in time. A massive jolt whacked the Blenheim, sending it spinning out of control. Peter the Ace’s coffee and muffins flew off the table and splattered on the ceiling. Alarms sounded. Warning messages flashed across data-screens.

“I think we hit whatever it is that we were supposed to intercept!” Peter the Ace said. He was annoyed. He really needed that coffee.

“We can’t have hit it.” Panman said. “We must have just grazed it, else we would have died.”

“That’s true.”

After a few seconds, the ship corrected its attitude and stabilised. The alarms were silenced. All was calm once again.

“PARALLEL COURSE WITH UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT ACHIEVED.”

“Blenheim, damage report.” Panman asked.

“SHIELD STRENGTH: FIFTY PERCENT. HOLO-GAME SYSTEM OFF-LINE.”

“What!” Panman screamed. “Why does the holo-game system always go off-line whenever we suffer some damage?!”

“Just one of those things, I guess.” Peter the Ace said.

“Blenheim! Fix it now!”

“HOLO-GAME SYSTEM AUTO-REPAIR INITIATED.”

Peter the Ace operated some controls. An image of their target completely filled the view-screen.

The two bounty hunters stared at what looked like a purple pyramid with thousands of strange antennae protruding out from its surface.

“Weird!” Panman said. “It looks like a purple pyramid with thousands of strange antennae protruding out from its surface!”

“Indeed!” Peter the Ace agreed. “Blenheim, give me some info on that thing.”

“THE OBJECT IS A STARSHIP, 2,030 KILOMETRES IN HEIGHT. IT IS PYRAMID SHAPED WITH FOUR THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR ANTENNAE PROTRUDING OUT FROM ITS SURFACE.”

“That’s the most gigantic ship we’ve ever encountered!” Panman exclaimed.

“It is.” Peter the Ace said. “And it’ll be difficult to destroy.”

“We’ll have to be cunning in ways that we’ve never been cunning before!”

“Indeed.”

Peter the Ace thought for a moment. “I think I have an idea!”

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