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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 16: Drinking Fountain Operator

“You completely pathetic, muscularly challenged, physically contorted, emotionally weak minded nincompoop with a mental capacity less than equal to that of a small water vole!”

Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon cowered on the floor of Amino Battle Command as Commander Pepe bellowed down at him from the balcony above.

“How dare you give the order to destroy Justin without asking for my divine permission first!” the commander screamed. “You’re not even allowed to boil coffee without consulting me!!!”

The chief officer looked up from his lowly position. “I was only doing what I thought was...”

“Shut up!” shrieked Commander Pepe. “I have informed the Superior Beings of your insolent conduct and they are not impressed!”

“You told the Superior Beings?!” the chief officer said, quivering. “Surely my mistake was not important enough to...”

“The Superior Beings are informed of all irregular activities by palace personnel! An officer in your position who is guilty of gross misconduct must be severely punished!”

“Punished?! I was only avenging the death of Sarah Savage. Surely you must sympathise with...”

“I admired and desired her scarred, well-toned body as much as any mortal,” the commander said, regaining some composure. “But until her body is found and confirmed to be entirely devoid of life as we know it, I will not tolerate any actions of revenge how ever tempting they may be.”

“Am I forgiven?” the chief officer asked sheepishly.

“No!” Commander Pepe said. His face took on a very serious and official appearance. “The Superior Beings have ordered me to punish you in a special way for your insolence.”

The chief officer was flabbergasted. “Special punishment?”

“Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon.” the commander said solemnly. “In the name of the Superior Beings of the Great Hall of the Palace of Amino, I relieve you of duty and withdraw all the benefits of the rank that you hold.”

“No!” the chief officer screamed. “The sauna? The massages? The scantily clad...”

Commander Pepe ignored him and continued. “In addition, you will suffer the embarrassment and tedium of being locked up in the palace’s highest security dungeon for a period of one decade.”

Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon could not believe what he was hearing. “Surely not the dungeon?” he wailed in a very feminine way. “Please no!”

“When the punishment has been satisfactorily completed, you will return to duty here at the command centre with the new rank of Trainee Assistant Drinking Fountain Operator.”

“Oh god, no!” the chief officer cried. “You can’t! That’s the position in which I started! It’s taken me one hundred and twenty-eight years to...”

“Silence!” Commander Pepe shouted. “The punishment will commence immediately. Guards? Take him from this place at once!”

Two heavily armoured security guards appeared and grabbed Chief Officer Chimpapazapadon. With great strength and precision, they rapidly strapped the chief officer into a straight jacket and cuffed his ankles together. Before he could object, he was tightly gagged and blindfolded. Finally, a black leather bag was placed over his head and tied to his neck. The two guards took hold of him and dragged the ex-chief officer out of the battle commanded control centre.

Commander Pepe watched with dismay. Chimpapazapadon had been his Chief Officer and close friend for almost thirty years. Although he would miss him, his insolence was intolerable and the harsh punishment necessary to discourage others from following his example of disobedience.

The commander looked down at his other personnel who had been watching the arrest and sentencing of Chimpapazapadon. “Back to work!” he ordered. “I know that you’re all eager to find out who will replace the disgraced Chimpapazapadon, but you’ll have to wait. I’ll make my decision after the current crisis is resolved.” The commander turned and walked towards his massage chamber. He was highly agitated and needed consolation.

Angelina and Sue, naked and wet, met him at the chamber’s steaming doorway. “Let us release your tension.” they said in sensuous unison. “Let us calm and relax your entire physical and mental manifestation.”

The commander felt a smile of delight appear on his face.

Lloyd Helmet had returned to the location from where Justin had jumped onto his ship.

He carefully landed the Daughter Slaughterer in a small clearing within the western forests and operated the cockpit canopy controls. It opened with difficulty, the result of damage caused by Justin’s insane head-butting.

After grabbing a couple of devastating hand weapons of immaculate design, the bounty hunter leapt out of his ship and landed on the grass. He looked to the south. He had deep-scanned this region just before setting down, and had detected something metallic one hundred metres away in that direction. The sensor signal had been weak, obviously it was far below the surface, but it was the only signal that had any chance of being the Satyr, Sarah Savage’s missing ship.

Lloyd Helmet strode confidently into the trees and towards the area that the scanner had identified. A cave entrance could be seen surrounded by hundreds of broken and scorched branches. The result of a starship crash? The bounty hunter was desperate to find out. He entered the dank, dark cave and energised his standard bounty hunter issue hip mounted floodlight. A scene of tremendous slime ridden stench filled his eyes and nostrils. He ignored it and walked into the giant hole’s depths.

The cave was deep and it was several minutes before Lloyd Helmet reached the end, or at least what he had expected to be the end. This was definitely where the Satyr had crashed. It’s distinctive plates of armour - each inscribed with Sarah Savage’s sliced jugular insignia - were scattered all around. The main hull of the ship however, was missing. At the back of the cave was a hole. It was a large hole - large enough to easily engulf the Satyr. Lloyd Helmet walked over to it and shone his floodlight down.

There it was! About forty metres down the shaft lay a dented and crumpled hull, barely recognisable as a star ship of phenomenal ability.

Lloyd Helmet had to get down there. Sarah Savage could still be alive. His personal life sensor was not picking up any life signs, but it had the tendency to overlook weak and near death creatures. With no time to lose, the bounty hunter activated his waist mounted thruster pack - a new device still undergoing trials at the Amino Personal Flight Systems testing ground. Lloyd Helmet had managed to ‘borrow’ one of the prototypes a couple of days before. He decided that now was the ideal time to give it a try. Carefully, he applied a small amount of power to its engines. Slowly, he rose to a height of a metre above the ground. Excellent! With more confidence, he floated out over the shaft. His feet were now dangling over the forty metre deep hole. “Bloody useful gadget!” he said excitedly.

The device failed.

Lloyd Helmet fell. Frantically the bounty hunter tried to reactivate his propulsion packs. He succeeded, but it only made his situation worse. The brief burst of thrust flipped him over just as he was about to hit the Satyr.

With an immense ‘clunk’, Lloyd Helmet’s un-helmeted head slammed into the ship’s hull. His skull shattered, pulverising his brain and eliminating all sentience. The relatively undamaged but headless body that was once Lloyd Helmet slumped limply onto the shaft’s bottom.

Reliable as always, the standard bounty hunter issue hip-mounted floodlight continued to illuminate the surrounding rock face.

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