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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 19: The Virtues of Accidental Problem Solving

Peter the Ace dived to the floor as three glowing yellow orbs skimmed over him. He turned onto his back drawing his fusion pistol from its thigh mounted holster. Several bursts of rapid fire energy connected accurately with the spheres of death, dissipating their potency in a flash of pinkest light. The top class and extremely flexible bounty hunter leapt to his feet and stood proudly brandishing his weapon. “That was pretty cool!” he said to Ross Mental.

Ross Mental suddenly drew his pistol and aimed it at his companion. He fired, sending bright beams of destruction fizzing by Peter the Ace’s left ear. There was a scattering sound from behind him, then silence. “That fucker nearly fried your fuckin’ back!”

Peter the Ace turned and saw the fading energy cloud of an orb. “Thanks,” he said. “A fried back would have really annoyed me.”

The two utterly extraordinary heroes continued their brisk jog down one of the purple pyramid’s six million corridors.

Ross Mental spoke. “So who is this Xjaq guy?”

“I’m not really sure.” Peter the Ace replied, unaffected by the rapid sprint through the vast alien ship. “Panman and I were exploring this oddly coloured craft when he - or should I say it - appeared to us on a screen of translucent mist created by dozens of those orb devices.”

“Wow, that’s fuckin’ weird!”

“Indeed it is. And what’s even weirder is that it managed to destroy the Blenheim mobile!”

“You better be fuckin’ joking!”

“I’m afraid not.”

The foul-mouthed bounty hunter was extremely annoyed. “The fuckin’ fucked up fucker! Doesn’t he - or it - realise that it’s a capital offence to even scratch a piece of fuckin’ Palace of Amino property, especially if it belongs to one of the greatest bounty fuckin’ hunters ever to exist!”

“Correction,” Peter the Ace said. “The greatest.”

Embarrassed by his mistake, Ross mental apologised. “Of course, sorry.” A frown of intense intensity appeared on his war-torn face. “Xjaq must suffer completely. Let’s cream the fucker!”

Peter the Ace nodded in agreement.

Without warning, seven bright orbs of devastation appeared from around a corner and proceeded to launch a frenzied attack of gut incinerating proportions. Peter the Ace and Ross Mental leapt into the air, somersaulting with ease as beams of potent death passed within millimetres of their faces. The two courageous mega-beings armed weapons of cruel ferocity and opened fire, blitzing the entire corridor with blazing destruction. Most of the orbs disintegrated effortlessly, unable to repel the magnitude and speed of the bounty hunter’s counter attack. Two remained.

“Fuckers!” Ross Mental shrieked, cart-wheeling towards the balls of evil. Using skills learned at the Amino University of Multi-Disorientational Assault and Obliteration, he aimed and fired. The two orbs sprinkled themselves over a wide area then disappeared altogether. “Miserable fuckers!” Ross Mental shouted, getting to his feet.

Peter the Ace praised his colleague. “Marvellous effort!”

The two bounty hunters continued running.

Ross Mental felt compelled to ask a question. “Do you have any idea where the fuck we are?”

Peter the Ace looked at his companion and grinned. “No idea whatsoever!”

“Then we are relying purely on fuckin’ good luck and flukes to find this nasty fucker.”

“Indeed! In fact, there’s no other way.” Peter the Ace said confidently. “Remember the text book I published last century for the academy’s course on handling sticky and fatal situations with no apparent means of escape?”

“No.”

“You must do. It was entitled ‘The Virtues of Accidental Problem Solving and How to Unintentionally Stumble Across Fantastic Solutions’.”

“Oh, that fucker!”

“Yes.”

“Didn’t you do a series of lectures on it?”

“Indeed I did!”

“I remember it now. Fuckin’ good read! Superb advice!”

“Indeed it is.”

“But why did you bring the fucker up?”

“Because it’s remarkable ideas could help us in this situation.”

Ross Mental decided to state the obvious. “We haven’t got a fuckin’ copy to look at, though!”

Peter the Ace smiled. “No need! I committed the entire text to memory years ago!” He looked up with a thoughtful expression. “Let me see... Ah yes! Page 406 Chapter 33, sub-heading 65. ‘The secret of Unplanned and totally random searches’.”

“What does it say?”

“Well... To summarise, it basically says: ‘When you are stuck inside an alien behemoth with all of your sensors jammed and you are trying to find the insane overlord in charge of the whole outfit, simply stand on top of a suspicious looking piece of equipment and wait’.”

“Wait?”

“Indeed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course.”

Ross Mental accepted his friend’s strange advice without further questions. He looked around. “Then let’s find that strange piece of fuckin’ equipment!”

The two heroes raced to the end of the passageway and into a large chamber of peculiar design. Long power ducts dangled from its high ceiling amongst a haze of blue vapour, and bizarre sparks of energy flickered their way along tracks carved into the smooth floor. Peter the Ace had not come across such a room before. He laughed loudly.

Ross Mental smiled broadly. “Fuckin’ cool!”

“What can I say?” Peter the Ace said gleefully. “My book’s teachings are correct! If you follow its advice, any problem or dilemma will find its own solution. Zero effort is required!”

“Too fuckin’ right!”

The two bounty hunters stared at the large sphere at the room’s centre. It was coloured a dull milky white like a giant pearl and was rotating slowly.

“There’s our equipment.” Peter the Ace said. “Let’s stand on it.”

It took the two bounty hunters less than five seconds to bound, bounce, bend, clamber and leap onto the pale globe.

Ross mental looked at Peter the Ace. “I guess that all we do now is fuckin’ wait.”

“Absolutely!” Peter the Ace said. “Let’s just do as my book says.”

The two bounty hunters folded their arms.

One second later they were gone...


“My electric talons of poisonous intent will shred the flesh from your bones, bounty mother of sweet tasting bastard pie fillers!”

Panman stared at Lawrence. “Your attempts at insults are getting worse. That was terrible!”

Lawrence was frothing with rage. He scratched his bald and scarred head and screamed. “My insults are the foulest, degrading, and vomit inducing in the galaxy!!!”

Panman shook his head. “A comatose amoeba could formulate more offensive sentences!”

The lord of foul dirt shrieked like a baboon and began to rip out some of his remaining hair. “Untrue to the extreme!!!” He tried to grab the bounty hunter but was thrown back by the invisible force field that covered the Blenheim’s highest security detention cell. He fell to the floor, smouldering and quivering.

Panman laughed. “Be careful, Larry!”

Lawrence glared at the bounty hunter with a look of satanic hatred. He spoke deeply. “Thou shalt suffer ceaseless anguish, Amino matriarch!”

“You’re off your head!” Panman said calmly. “But never fear, when we get back to the palace you’ll be drugged, dumped in the dungeons, and left there for a long long time, your life sustained artificially to prolong the agony of you punishment.”

The bounty hunter turned and walked out of the Blenheim’s detention centre. A huge metallic door thundered shut behind him. Lawrence’s putrid ranting was silenced at last.

On his way to the bridge, Panman heard a sound. It was a moaning sound, soft and erotic, and it was coming from the guest quarters. He was curious, highly curious in fact, and decided to investigate. He operated the door control and it slid open. What he saw was a sight that would ripple the nether regions of any normal and healthy male. Carmen, the bald assistant of Peter the Ace and the Blenheim’s temporary cook, was floating naked around the room, encompassed in a gentle glow of orange light.

Carmen groaned and smiled at Panman. “The tele-video entertainment on board this ship is phenomenal!” she said sensually. “It’s made me feel so aroused!”

Panman was confused. “I agree that our onboard entertainment is the best available, but it’s never made me glow in the dark and float through the air!”

Carmen approached him. “Oh but it will!” she whispered. “Let me take you to heaven!” She flitted by his left ear and drifted up to the ceiling.

“No thanks.” Panman said. “I’ve already been there.”

She stared at the bounty hunter, a look of calm confusion filling her face. “I believe you’re mistaken.”

Panman shook his head. “Certainly not. I visited Heaven two years ago.” he said adamantly.

Carmen proceeded to glide to and fro across the room caressing herself delicately. “Heaven is a spiritual place full of tenderness and love.”

“No it’s not,” Panman said. “It’s a small burger bar on the second moon of the planet Faet-Ning. It’s full of degenerate fungal organisms and overgrown super-conscious weeds intent on exceeding their genetically determined ideal weight.”

The tanned, well-toned and naked assistant drifted up to the bounty hunter and hovered three centimetres from his face. “Then you went to the wrong one.” she said sweetly.

Panman grabbed her arms tightly and held her. “Maybe it’s my superbly vivid imagination, but you seem to be acting slightly out of character.”

“My character has developed perfection!” she stated with elation.

“Not likely. I’m going to take you to the sick bay, you need concentrated drugs immediately.”

Panman tried to pull Carmen out of the room. She started to struggle, lightly at first but then with more and more strength. After a few seconds even Panman, a bounty hunter of superlative muscle density and ultra-reactive grip enhancers, was having trouble holding her. “Don’t resist.” he said sternly. “It’ll be for your own good. The powerful chemicals that we keep here will calm your brain.”

Light burst forth from Carmen’s eyes and she shot up to the ceiling. She let out a shriek of terror inducing harshness.

Panman, who had been thrown to the floor by the power of the blast, got to his feet, his fusion pistol drawn and armed. “What are you?” he asked with cool professionalism.

Carmen began to rotate, faster and faster and faster. A pulse of violet light stopped her spin. Panman watched with genuine amazement as a glowing globule of liquid emerged from her mouth and flopped onto the floor. It began to form into the shape of a head and torso. Carmen’s body, free of whatever had possessed it, fell onto the large circular bed at the centre of the room. She was breathing heavily. She was still alive.

Panman was happy that she’d survived. Pizza and kebabs would still get made.

The globular torso and head had formed a mouth. Panman aimed his weapon at it. “You do realise that you are trespassing on private bounty hunter property. The sentence for such an offence is brain mass reduction by up to seventy percent.”

The globule said nothing.

“Also,” Panman continued. “You possessed the body of a trainee bounty hunter without prior permission. The punishment for that offence is the insertion of a large non-removable nose implant. You’ll look so ridiculous that your friends will collapse into fits of laughter each time they set eyes on you.”

The globule found its voice and spoke in a deep and bubbling tone. “That is of no consequence.”

“No consequence to what?”

“To me.”

“Who are you?”

The globule undulated and drifted around the room. “I am Zyix Taskmaster, operator of the Mechanism.”

“What’s the Mechanism?”

“You are within the Mechanism.”

“What? This mammoth purple pyramid thing?”

The globule that called itself Zyix Taskmaster seemed offended. “That is an inadequate description of the Mechanism.”

“It’s quite adequate as far as I’m concerned!”

Zyix Taskmaster floated up to Panman. “You are a member of an insignificant race. Your world will soon be prepared. It will then receive us.”

“What do you mean prepared? Prepared for what?”

“Your questions are irrelevant and will not be tolerated...”

Before the globule could finish its sentence, Panman - highly impatient and exceedingly hungry - launched into a furious combination of roundhouse kicks and rotating snap punches. His rapidly moving limbs sank deep into Zyix Taskmaster, ripping away some of its outer layer. After a moment of surprise, it reconstituted itself and lurched at the bounty hunter. Panman was caught full on by the globular being and was thrown out of the guest quarters and into the passageway wall. Fortunately, the deep pile carpeting that covered most of the Blenheim’s walls cushioned the impact.

Panman back-flipped back onto his feet, managing to head-butt Zyix Taskmaster in the gut as he did so. The globule backed away and rolled across the floor, stunned by the hardness of its opponent’s forehead. Panman’s metallic skull shields, implanted a couple of months ago, had finally come in useful.

Panman stood over Zyix Taskmaster, his fusion pistol still drawn and armed. “In the name of the Superior Beings of the Great Hall of the Palace of Amino, I arrest you and charge you with trespassing, possession, and insolence. How do you plead?”

In an instant, an eiree tentacle formed on the globule’s mid-section and rapped around the bounty hunter’s leg. It pulled hard and Panman was dragged onto the floor.

“Prepare for your demise.” Zyix Taskmaster said coldly.

“I will not!” Panman stated defiantly. He fired his pistol at the undulating mass that was dragging him across the beautifully carpeted floor. That turned out not to be a good idea. Shockwaves of heat and light flitted around the globule’s body then zipped along the tentacle and up the bounty hunter’s leg. Panman glowed brightly as the repelled force of the fusion blast flashed over him. He would almost certainly have been killed, if it wasn’t for his dense personal armour, his fusion resistant gloves and boots, and, of course, his augmented will to survive. It was still painful though, and Panman rolled around in a brief moment of smouldering agony. Zyix Taskmaster appeared to be in pain also and let go of the bounty hunter’s leg. Panman took the opportunity to escape to the bubbling Jacuzzi at the far end of the room.

The globule began to float. “The Mechanism is almost upon your system.” It said coldly. “Survival is not an option for you.”

“I’m afraid that I’m going to have to add the charge of resisting arrest to the list.” the bounty hunter said, placing his hand casually onto the control panel of the Jacuzzi. “Prepare for capture and imprisonment in a most humiliating and distressful manner.”

Zyix Taskmaster approached. “I will engulf you with my body. Absorption will be relatively painless.”

“Well.” Panman said, a cunning plan forming suddenly in his mind. “I guess that you are all powerful and I am only a debilitated biological life form.”

The globule continued its approach. “What you say is true. Your acceptance of your fate will ensure an easy death for you.”

Panman’s hand skirted the control panel. Fortunately, its gentle bleeps were ignored by the globular being. The activity in the Jacuzzi slowly increased.

“I submit to your greater power and intellect.” he said. “Destroy me.”

Zyix Taskmaster was almost upon him.

Panman could not help smiling...

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