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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 15: A Lack of Friction

Panman opened a side window and stuck his head out of the Blenheim Mobile. As he looked down, the wind pushed his cheeks up into his face giving him the amusing appearance of a gaunt old man with nervous twitches in every facial muscle. His hair was unaffected by the rushing air. A whole tub of gel had seen to that. “There’s something down there!” the bounty hunter said as the car continued plummeting. “It looks like a platform similar to the one we fell off.”

Peter the Ace looked at the scanner display. “You’re right.” He thought for a moment. “We’ve been falling for twenty two minutes, at a speed of about four hundred kilometres per hour. That means that we’ve fallen almost...”

Panman interrupted. “One hundred and forty seven kilometres!”

Peter the Ace looked at Panman. He had pulled his head back into the car and was smiling broadly.

“You really love to show off your mathematical implants, don’t you?!” Peter the Ace said.

“I wasn’t showing off.” Panman said. “My processors are faster than yours, that’s all!.”

“No they’re not.”

“Yes they are!”

“They’re the same make and model as mine. There’s absolutely no difference.”

“Okay,” Panman said. “There’s no difference in the actual implanted hardware, but my biological mental pathways that transport mathematical solutions into my consciousness are much stronger and more efficient.”

“How can you justify making such a statement?”

“I don’t need to. It’s self-justifying!”

“No statement can be self-justifying.”

“This one is!”

“The argument for self-justification was discarded by philosophers of knowledge centuries ago. It’s just a weak way of determining the truth of facts and beliefs.”

“Well, I’m resurrecting it!”

“Okay.” Peter the Ace said. “Then justify the existence of self-justification!”

Panman thought for a few hundred thousand nanoseconds. “Erm... Well...”

“You can’t can you?” Peter the Ace smiled. “It’s paradoxical. A completely inane idea. Totally preposterous!”

Panman looked at Peter the Ace and frowned.

A crunch to end all crunches interrupted their argument. The Blenheim Mobile slammed into the platform; its toughened, high pressure wheels and suspension taking the strain. The car bounced a few metres off the smooth floor, and then landed for good. Any normal car and its occupants would have been crushed and splattered beyond recognition during such an impact, but this was no normal car, and these were no normal occupants.

Peter the Ace looked around. “Cool experience!”

“Yeah!” Panman agreed. “One more to tick off my list!” He looked forwards. “Hey? Those barriers over there are broken.”

“You’re right.” Peter the Ace said. “It looks as though someone drove off this platform as well.”

“Weird!”

Peter the Ace looked at the scanner display. “All the readings indicate that this is the same platform that we left twenty three minutes ago.” he said, perplexed.

“The design is indeed similar.”

“No.” Peter the Ace said with remarkable seriousness. “I mean exactly the same.”

Panman looked at his companion. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that we appear to have fallen onto the same platform that we fell off!”

“That’s impossible!”

Peter the Ace thought for a moment, and then grinned. “Wow! The seemingly bottomless chamber that we are in may be bottomless after all!”

“How?”

“What if it’s some kind of curved gravity well, with both ends joined together. Like the inner-tube of a tyre or something. We would think that we were falling straight down, but instead we were falling around the tube back to our original position!”

“Cool!!!” Panman exclaimed. “What an awesome concept!”

“It’s obviously more that a concept!”

Panman thought about all the entertainment possibilities that a curved gravity well had. “We should find out how it works!” he said excitedly.

“That’s a good idea.” Peter the Ace agreed. “But we do have a more pressing mission to attend to.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot.” After a couple of seconds, he began to smile deviously. “I know. Let’s try something we’ve never tried before.”

Peter the Ace was very slightly confused. “What would that be?”

“Let’s complete the mission without totally obliterating this gargantuan vessel. Then we can use the advanced technology within it for our own good!”

“And the good of the galaxy of course.”

Panman nodded. “Of course.”

Peter the Ace smiled. “Sounds like a pretty cool idea, but what good could it be put to?”

Panman sat up straight, as if he was about to make a momentous announcement of profound importance. “A theme park!”

“A theme park?”

“Yeah. The most tremendously thrilling, terrifying, gargantuan, gut-busting, petrifyingly phenomenal theme park ever!”

Peter the Ace was infected by Panman’s excitement. “That would indeed be a most excellent use of this craft, but what would the theme be?”

“Torture, blood, and demonic death rituals!”

“Interesting. Do you really think people would go for that?”

“Of course! Beings of all races, no matter how large, small, ugly beautiful, or slimy, have a subconscious fascination with the macabre. They’ll love it! The attractions can be so dangerous that riders actually believe that they’re going to die in extreme agony! We’ll get rave reviews!”

“You’re right!”

“I am! It could go on tours of all the sectors. If we plan the route carefully, we could fly it with reach of most systems at least once per standard year. We’d clean up!”

“We’re not supposed to be motivated by money.”

“I know, but it would be fun to see how much we could make!”

Peter the Ace agreed. “True, but we need to concentrate on our current mission before we can think about converting this behemoth into a satanic fun land.”

“What are we waiting for?” Panman asked. “Let’s get to it!”

Peter the Ace drove the Blenheim Mobile carefully across the platform and towards the exit, the almost frictionless surface causing major traction problems.

Carmen had finally dressed herself and had cleaned up the Blenheim’s bridge in record time. She looked at the sparkling consoles and gleaming view-screens with pride. An excellent job! After grabbing a quick snack from the galley, she went up to her guest quarters on the ship’s top deck. She seated herself on a sumptuous sofa and activated the large six metre tele-video screen on the wall.

“List all the things I could watch.” she asked.

“PLEASE SPECIFY SUBJECT CATAGORY.” replied the ship.

Carmen thought. “Entertainment.”

“PLEASE SPECIFY ENTERTAINMENT SUB-CATAGORY.”

Carmen though again. “Period fiction.”

“A SUB-CATAGORY NAMED PERIOD FICTION DOES NOT EXIST. PLEASE RE-SPECIFY.”

“But I love period fiction!”

“THAT IS NOT MY PROBLEM.”

Carmen was not impressed. “What broadcast channels can you receive, then?”

“OUR CURRENT LOCATION WITHIN THE CENTRE OF A HUGE PURPLE PYRAMID PROHIBITS THE RECEPTION OF ALL GALACTIC BROADCAST CHANNELS.”

The trainee sighed. “Okay,” she said. “Show me a movie.”

“PLEASE SPECIFY SUBJECT CATAGORY.”

“Forget catagories! Just show me anything you want!”

The screen flickered to life. A widescreen image of deep space appeared on the screen. Slowly and majestically, a saucer-shaped starship, dated in design, thrusted by in a majestic and sublime manner.

“This looks old.” she said. “Almost period fiction, I guess.”

Carmen settled back and relaxed into the sofa’s soft surface. She hadn’t heard from Peter the Ace and Panman for a while and had finished her chores. Nothing else to do!

A strange ball of light appeared from the screen and floated towards Carmen. The tele-video screen was not holographic. How could this happen? The trainee watch as the light drifted to a position only a metre in front of her face. It pulsed gently through more than sixteen million shades of every colour in the universe. Carmen smiled. The glowing object made her feel very happy. It was so beautiful. Suddenly, it transformed into snake-like shape and leapt towards her. Carmen’s jaw dropped with surprise. The glowing snake entered her mouth and made its way down into her body. She shuddered, choked, burped, and belched as the energy force diffused into her cells. Then it was over.

Carmen sat still for a few seconds. Apart from a delightful tingling sensation that was washing too and fro inside her, she felt fine. In fact, she felt better than fine. “Peter the Ace never told me about that!” she said excitedly. “Whatever it was, I want one in my ship when I graduate!” The sensations increased in intensity. “Oh yes!” she moaned. “I could stay like this forever!” Carmen got to her feet and wandered around her quarters, a wide smile permanently etched on her face. “I think I’m addicted!”


“This lack of friction is starting to get annoying!” Peter the Ace said as the Blenheim Mobile bounced and scraped along passage way after passageway. “We’re never going to get anywhere at this rate.”

“Yeah.” Panman agreed. “And I’m getting hungry!”

The car smashed its way around a corner and into a large room.

“A dead end.” Peter the Ace said. “I’m going to have to stop.” He pressed on the brakes. Nothing happened.

“No traction?” Panman asked.

“None at all!”

“The wall will help.”

One second later the Blenheim Mobile slammed head on into a wall, breaking and denting several panels of purple wall covering. The sound of the collision echoed around the room.

Panman smiled. “What did I say!”

“You have awesome foresight.” Peter the Ace said.

“Indeed I do.”

Peter the Ace looked at the heads up display. “This car has suffered absolutely no damage since we left the Blenheim. What a machine!”

“The palace engineers and designers have triumphed again!” Panman said smiling.

Peter the Ace nodded, and then looked around the room. “What’s that over there?” he asked, pointing towards a small device attached to the wall beside where the car had hit.

Panman looked. “I do believe that it’s an interface console!” Panman got out of the Blenheim Mobile and walked over to it. Peter the Ace followed. “This is the first one we’ve found!” Panman said, fiddling with a few of the incomprehensible controls. “Maybe we can use it to find out what this mega-ship is for.”

“Can you operate it?”

“I can operate anything!” Panman said, offended that his companion had doubted his ability in any way. “The first thing I’ll do is find out if this place has a crew.”

Panman fiddled some more. The device started to bleep and warble.

“Well done.” Peter the Ace said. “You seem to have activated it!”

“This should do it.” Panman said with false confidence. He pushed a triangular shaped pressure pad on the device’s top. The bleeping and warbling stopped. “Oh?”

“Oh indeed!” Peter the Ace said. “It didn’t tell us much did it?”

“This is a most frustrating mission! I want to blow away spine-chilling fiends of ill-intent, not play around with strange wall-mounted interface objects!” Panman drew his fusion pistol from its holster and fired wildly into the air. Chunks of smouldering debris scattered across the whole room.

“I understand your frustration.” Peter the Ace said. “But you must remain calm.”

Panman fired another volley. “Why?”

“Your idea for a theme park!”

“Oh yeah. We’d better keep the damage to a minimum.” Panman was about to re-holster his weapon when something happened. Approximately three hundred glowing balls appeared from within the walls and drifted over to the bounty hunters. The balls undulated and shifted through a multitude of sparkling colours, phasing in and out of temporal balance as they did so.

“An interesting turn of events!” Peter the Ace said.

Panman agreed. “Maybe they can answer a few questions?” Panman raised his voice. “Who are you, and why has this ship possessed the entire population of the Palace of Amino’s cyborg community?”

The balls of light pulsed gently.

“Answer me!” Panman shouted.

The balls of light pulsed gently.

Panman lost all patience and aimed his fusion pistol at the nearest ball. He never got the chance to fire. A thin beam of brilliant power flashed towards his gun and vaporised it completely. The bounty hunter stepped back in surprise.

Peter the Ace looked perplexed. “Great weapon!” he said to the balls.

The balls began to converge on a single point, just five metres in front of the bounty hunters.

“They’re annoying!” Panman said, saddened at the loss of his pistol.

“You should accept failure with good humour.” Peter the Ace said wisely. “Learn from your over confidence.”

“Yeah, right!”

With a whiter that white flash, the balls merged into one. Within seconds, the new giant ball formed into a large square screen of glowing, undulating mist. An image began to form on its surface. The head and shoulders of a featureless being appeared. The being spoke. “I am Xjaq Dominator.” it said deeply.

The bounty hunters’ looked at the image.

“Am I supposed to be impressed or something?” Peter the Ace said calmly.

My purpose is to reform, not impress.” Xjaq Dominator said.

“Reform what?”

Your planet.

“Into what?”

No more questions.” the being said. “You were allowed to enter this vessel only so that I could monitor your voice patterns and learn your language. That has been accomplished.

“What do you want with our cyborgs?” Panman asked.

No more questions.

Peter the Ace whispered to his companion. “Let’s get back in the car.”

“Phenomenal idea!” he agreed.

The two bounty hunters walked back to the Blenheim Mobile with resolute calm.

Xjaq Dominator spoke again. “Your presence will not be tolerated here any longer.

A red circle of light appeared and drifted along the floor. After a couple of seconds it had encompassed the car. A single pulse of magenta energy leapt from the screen and hit the Blenheim Mobile. The car imploded rapidly, contracting to a singularity, and then it burst apart into a cloud of swelling dust.

Peter the Ace and Panman could not believe what had happened. For the first time in their two hundred year long career as first class bounty hunters, one of their vehicles had been destroyed.

Panman was particularly upset. “I had a whole bag full of vanilla slices in the glove compartment!” he exclaimed in distress.

Panman’s distress increased as he realised that himself and Peter the Ace had become the next targets of the red circle of light.

Peter the Ace remained relaxed. He looked at his companion. “Any suggestions?”

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