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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 14: Head-Butt

Commander Pepe rested his well fed and grossly under-exercised body against the leather padded railings of his private balcony ten metres above the main floor of the Amino Battle Command control centre. He watched as over a hundred dedicated personnel scurried about like squirrels, monitoring their various data consoles in an attempt to explain the strange actions of the palace’s cyborg population. The huge display screens on the far wall kept track of the insane machines as they punched and kicked at the bounty hunter ships that guarded them.

The commander was stressed; heavily stressed. Already, fourteen bounty hunters had been brutally beaten into an unrecognisable state and left to die in the wreckage of their craft. And if that was not bad enough, all contact had been lost with Sarah Savage. Commander Pepe had always had a weakness for her, ever since the time that he had seen her bathing at the Central Tower’s indoor ocean emporium. Her rough and heavily battle scarred body had aroused him to extreme levels. The garbled message that she’d sent just before all communication had ceased had affected him in a profound way. A good percentage of the palace’s resources were currently involved in finding her.

Commander Pepe looked towards Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon. “Status?” he asked with noticeable concern.

The chief officer looked towards his personal view-screen, concern obvious on his face too. He looked up. “Lloyd Helmet in his ship, the Daughter Slaughterer, has just reached her last known position.”

The commander felt slightly better. Although Lloyd Helmet had only qualified as a full bounty hunter – eigth-class, entry level, three year probationary period - less than a year ago, he’d already completed two solo missions of traumatic intensity with outstanding success. In fact, he’d even been nominated for the Palace of Amino’s Violent Action of the Month award for his bold and daring public disembowelling of a scab infected drug smuggler on the planet Psoriasis two weeks earlier.

“Let me speak to him.” Commander Pepe said.

The chief officer operated some controls. “Channel open.”

“Lloyd? What have you found?”

The channel crackled, and then cleared. “I’ve found some wreckage.” Lloyd Helmet replied. “It appears to be part of the Satyr.

The commander’s heart sank slightly. “Is there any sign of Sarah Savage?”

There was a small pause. “No.” the bounty hunter replied. “But as I said before, the wreckage is only part of the Satyr. The main part of the ship, including its habitation section, doesn’t seem to be here.

“Analyse the wreckage.”

Analysing... It’s a three metre by two metre section of armour plating. There are a few smaller pieces of armour scattered nearby. No flight critical systems are present.

Maybe the Satyr was still intact, and Sarah Savage still alive. That thought sent a brief wave of good cheer through Commander Pepe’s soul. “What about Justin?” he asked.

The nearest cyborg that I can scan is fifteen kilometres to the north, and it’s not Justin. I have no idea where he could have gone.

“We must assume that he has taken control of the Satyr and kidnapped, or...” The commander swallowed hard. “Or even dismembered Sarah Savage.”

I will make it my sole purpose in life to find Sarah Savage and the Satyr!” Lloyd Helmet said seriously. “I will not fail!

Commander Pepe felt a sudden surge of extra pride for the new bounty hunter. He had certainly changed since the first ten years of his training when one of his frequent practical jokes almost destroyed the food tasting hall of the Amino Baking Academy. Fatally toxic noodles were everywhere. Panman - at that time the honorary Dean of the Amino Baking Academy - had been particularly annoyed and upset and had called for an instant lobotomy to be performed on Lloyd Helmet. Fortunately for the trainee, Panman calmed down and transmuted the punishment to one week of sleep depravation. Ever since Lloyd Helmet had shown deep respect for the palace’s premier teaching centre and its catering services and had excelled at his assignments.

“Conduct your search.” the commander ordered. “May the wind be at your back.”

“Why would I need wind on my back?” Lloyd Helmet asked with confusion.

“I was speaking metaphorically.”

Really? I’ve never heard of that language before.

“It’s not a language!” Commander Pepe said with annoyance. “It’s just a more colourful way of saying something.”

How can spoken words have colour? Surely they’re just vibrations in the atmosphere?

The commander lost his rag. “Shut up and carry out your task!”

He closed the communications channel. For such a highly respected new graduate, Lloyd Helmet seemed to have an immense amount of innate stupidity within his mental pathways. Maybe he had secretly had that lobotomy after all.

Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon was monitoring his screens. “The Daughter Slaughterer has moved away from the sight of the wreckage. Lloyd Helmet has initiated a deep sensor sweep of the area.”

“Good.” the commander said. He needed to relax. “Contact me if he finds something. I need a massage.”

Commander Pepe pressed a button on his personal communicator. “Angelina? Issabella? Geraldina? Sue? Prepare my chamber for another treatment.”

The reply was appropriately sensuous. “It’s ready!” the four girls said in unison.

“I’m coming in.” the commander said. He walked to the back of the balcony and operated a small control panel. A large double door swished open. Clouds of steam escaped into the battle command control centre. Two of the girls, naked and well-toned, met him. They took his arms and lead him into the sauna-like fog. The commander began to sweat.

“Let us calm and delight you!” they said, and started to undress and oil him. Just ahead he could see the other two girls standing next to a large padded waist high platform. They beckoned him to join them. The commander walked over to the platform, leaving his uniform lying on the floor, and lay face down on its comfortable surface. Four pairs of hands began to caress his back and legs.

“Free you mind.” the girls whispered. “Escape into the boundless seas of ecstasy!”

He sighed with pleasure as he felt the soft and smooth thighs of one of his masseurs straddle his ample waist. She began to rub herself up and down his body, resting her hands on his upper back. For now at least, the problems facing the Palace of Amino had completely slipped the commander’s mind.


The Daughter Slaughterer was the smallest sub-space capable vessel in the bounty hunter fleet. It was just over seven metres long, wedge-shaped, and the first to be made entirely of highly polished blue quinteranium, a new ultra-tough material from the well respected research laboratories at the Amino Advanced Alloy Institute. The ship’s thick hull and all weather missile bays made it a potent force in the fight for liberty and justice.

Lloyd Helmet was very proud, and also very lucky, to have such a stunning craft. Although the cockpit was cramped, it was brimming over with the latest developments in navigation, targeting, gaming, and food generation systems. Everything was at his finger tips. For journeys that would last more than a couple of days, he could use the Timed Sentience Shutdown device that would reduce his level of conscious awareness to the same as that of a small ant. This eliminated the possibility of severe psychological side effects occurring from unreasonably long stretches of intense boredom.

With its atmospheric engines humming deeply, the Daughter Slaughterer skimmed briskly above the trees of the forests west of the Palace of Amino. The ship travelled in a broad anti-clockwise spiral, scanning every centimetre of ground beneath for signs of Justin, Sarah Savage, and the Satyr.


Lloyd Helmet looked at his view-screens impatiently. So far his search had proved fruitless. Nothing but trees, shrubs, rocks, water, and several different species of moon bunnies had been detected. Was it possible that the cyborg Justin had completely vaporised the bounty hunter and her ship? If so, where was he? Maybe he’d hidden them in a large and undiscovered cave?

The search area was almost covered now. With a deep sense of failure swamping his mind, Lloyd Helmet prepared to communicate with Amino Battle Command and report that he had been unsuccessful.

A loud slamming sound grabbed his attention. The Daughter Slaughterer spun out of control and dipped below tree level. The bounty hunter fought wildly to bring his ship back under control as it smashed through several thousand branches.

“What the hell’s going on?” he shouted, as the ship continued to collide with hundreds of trees.

The Daughter Slaughterer’s computer answered. “THE CYBORG NAMED JUSTIN IS ON THE PORT SIDE WING TIP.”

Lloyd Helmet looked. There indeed was Justin. He was gripping onto the ship’s hull with one arm; the other appeared to be missing. Blood stains covered a large proportion of his chrome plated frame.

“Compensate for the imbalance.” the bounty hunter said. “I’m going to try to get us out of the forest!”

“COMPENSATING...”

Lloyd Helmet pulled back on the flight stick and increased the thrust to the engines. Sluggishly, his ship responded and climbed back to a safer altitude. Justin began to crawl towards the cockpit.

The bounty hunter opened a communication channel. “Commander Pepe?” he asked.

This is Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon. Commander Pepe is currently engaged.

“Engaged in what?” Lloyd Helmet asked.

Sensual massage.

“Really?”

That’s what I said.” the chief officer answered. “Now what’s happening?

Justin started to head-butt the cockpit’s canopy.

“Justin’s somehow got onto my ship! He’s trying to break in!”

What about Sarah Savage?

“I haven’t found her yet, although it doesn’t look good. Justin is covered in blood.”

The chief officer didn’t reply to that statement.

“What should I do?” the bounty hunter asked. A crack had appeared in the canopy. The cyborg continued its frenzied attack.

Destroy the cyborg!” Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon screamed.

Lloyd Helmet was surprised. “Doesn’t Justin belong to Peter the Ace and Panman?”

He murdered Sarah Savage! You must kill him!

“We don’t know that for sure.”

I am your superior!” the chief officer screamed. “Do as I say!

“I should get clearance from Commander Pepe...”

Do as I say!

“Okay! Whatever you say. But if Commander Pepe, Peter the Ace, or Panman complain to me about Justin’s destruction, I’ll tell them that it was your idea!”

The bounty hunter ended communications. He looked at the crack in the canopy. It was getting longer.

“Right cyborg.” he said. “Prepare to meet your doom!”

Lloyd Helmet pulled the flight stick all the way back and to the right while at the same time pushing the engines to maximum thrust. The Daughter Slaughterer climbed and rolled in a most impressive manner. Justin’s single arm lost its grip under the massive forces exerted upon it and he was thrown at fantastic speed away from the ship.

“Arm side-winders.”

“SIDE-WINDERS ARMED.”

The bounty hunter turned his ship around and directed it onto an intercept course with the plummeting mechanoid. He activated the targeting systems and acquired his target.

“SIDE-WINDERS ONE AND TWO LOCKED.”

“Bye bye, mental metal man!”

He fired. A whoosh of smoke and flame shot forwards at hypersonic speed. The missiles were away.

“IMPACT IN TWO SECONDS... ONE...”

The two missiles detonated at the precise moment that Justin hit the ground. A ball of intense heat expanded rapidly, vaporising more than a thousand square metres of forest.

“Quickly and efficiently.” Lloyd Helmet said. “That’s my motto!” He looked at his scanner’s view-screen. Two metal appendages were clearly registered flying through the air.

“Identify?” he asked.

“THE TWO OBJECTS BEING TRACKED BY THE SCANNER ARE METAL LEGS ORIGINATING FROM THE CYBORG NAMED JUSTIN.”

“Cool!”

The bounty hunter operated the communicator.

After a professionally short pause, a reply came. “Commander Pepe here.

“Commander Pepe!” Lloyd Helmet said. “How was your massage?”

Very relaxing, thank you.” the commander said happily. “What’s your progress, Lloyd?

“Justin has been destroyed as ordered.”

What?!” the commander shrieked. “I did not order any such thing. Return to the palace at once and prepare for an instant court martial!

“Hey?! It’s Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon who should be court martialled!” the bounty hunter retorted. “He gave the order!”

Commander Pepe’s voice was cracking up with rage. “I will investigate this serious abuse of authority immediately!

“I think you should.” Lloyd Helmet agreed. “And in the meantime, I’ll continue the search for Sarah Savage and her ship.”

You do that!” the commander shouted. The communicator clicked off.

Lloyd Helmet banked his ship around and headed back over the forest.

“I wouldn’t like to be in Chimpapazapadon’s shoes at the moment!” he said laughing. “He’s in shit right up to his nose!”

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