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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 21: Virtually Featureless Face

“Fuck! It’s a long way down!”

Peter the Ace agreed with Ross Mental. “Your statement is highly accurate.”

The two bounty hunters were standing on a thin ledge around a strange curvy column covered in misty lights and undulating cables pulsing with energy. The chamber that surrounded them stretched for several kilometres side to side and what looked like several hundred kilometres top to bottom.

Ross Mental was full of curiosity. “How the fuck do you think we ended up here?”

“That’s an interesting question.” Peter the Ace replied. “One minute we’re standing on a large sphere, and the next we’re on a precarious ledge at the centre of a mega-chamber.”

A bizarre gust of electrified wind rumbled up from the depths. The two bounty hunters felt their faces tingle as static discharges of power danced around the column and leapt across to the chamber’s walls. The wind passed and the arcs of electricity ascended away.

“I think,” Peter the Ace said, ignoring the rude electrical disturbance. “That we must have experienced a journey along a matter transference beam.”

“Fuck! You think so?”

“Indeed! And what’s more, I think that we’re probably the first bounty hunters to do it!”

Ross Mental punched the air with his fist. “Fuckin’ cool!”

“Absolutely! Palace engineers have been working on such a means of transportation for most of the last century with minimal success. If we can capture this colossal space vessel in one piece, they can dissect the device, improve it tremendously, and then install it onto all of our ships.”

“The Palace of Amino would then rule the fuckin’ galaxy!”

“Even more so than it does now.”

“Too fuckin’ right!”

Peter the Ace entered a thoughtful phase. “This is a major find and one which must be handled with extreme caution. The iniquitous elements that are interspersed across all populated systems must remain ignorant of our discovery.”

“We’ll be able to publicise our findings to the fuckin’ palace population though, won’t we?”

Peter the Ace smiled. “Of course! It’s only fair that we both receive extra adoration and respect from our inferiors within our own organisation. They’ll need to have their heroes lifted to a higher plane of celebrity status to help them cope with the stress of the current crisis.”

“You’re right. Think of all the servile workers whose fuckin’ brains are fucked up with terror. Our discovery will take their minds off their troubles.”

“It’ll also get them back to work quicker.”

“Yeah! I’ll be fucked off if restaurants are short staffed because nervously disadvantaged employees are too fucked in the head to serve my gastric needs!”

Peter the Ace looked around. The chamber’s walls were shimmering now. Very faint waves of blue and magenta haze were passing up and down through the darkness. “This place is obviously some sort of energy generation system.” He said wisely.

Ross Mental nodded in agreement. “It probably powers the whole fuckin’ pyramid!”

An idea of profound significance slipped effortlessly into the PSAC (Potential Solution Assimilation Centre) of Peter the Ace’s digitally augmented mind. His eyes widened. “A plan is forming within me!”

His foul-mouthed companion looked at him. “Does it involve destroying this fuckin’ power core by any chance?”

Peter the Ace looked at Ross Mental. “Your insight is improving. You are definitely well on the way to becoming a first class bounty hunter of mystical depth and disposition!”

Ross Mental bowed his head in thanks for his superior’s kind words.

Peter the Ace continued. “You are, however, not completely correct. My idea is not to destroy this power core, it is to disable it.”

A look of disappointment spread like marmalade across his colleague’s face. “Why don’t we just blow the fucker apart?”

“Don’t you remember? We need to dissect the matter transfer device. I know how much you love to create devastation on a massive scale, I’m the same, but it’s for the good of the palace that we refrain from doing so on this occasion.”

“I guess that’s a good reason.”

“Indeed it is. Another good reason is Panman’s idea of turning this beast of a ship into a gargantuan theme park.”

“Oh yeah! I forgot about that. That’ll be fuckin’ cool if it happens!” Ross Mental was feeling better about the whole situation.

“There will, of course, be plenty of opportunity for carnage.”

“In what way?”

“We have to obliterate Xjaq Dominator. The main purpose of our being here!”

Ross Mental smiled wryly. “Fuckin’ Cool!” He stopped smiling. “But where the fuck is he?”

“That is the question.”

“Fuckin’ right! Your book’s advice was supposed to lead us too him without effort!”

“And it will. We just have to follow the advice and keep waiting.”


Once more they waited.


Something was approached from the far end of the chamber.

“Look!” Peter the Ace said. “What can I say, my book’s advice is completely successful!”

Ross Mental watched the thing that was approaching and became excited. “I guess you’re right!”

The two bounty hunters kept watching as the strange object zigzagged its way slowly across the abyss of the chamber.

As it drew nearer it was clear to Peter the Ace who it was. “Yo, Xjaq! It’s me, Peter the Ace!” He waved at the strange globular being.

Ross Mental was confused at his colleague’s actions. “Why are you greeting it as a fuckin’ friend?”

“I’m trying to freak it out.”

“Really?”

“Of course. If you hadn’t noticed, we are in a precarious situation. We are standing on a thin ledge at the centre of a giant chamber with no known means of escape.”

“I know.”

“The reason I’m trying to freak Xjaq out is to get it so preoccupied with our weirdness that we’ll be able to defeat it rapidly.”

“Interesting!”

“And true!”

Xjaq Dominator reached the column. A tube detached itself from the column’s side and connected to the being’s back. It moaned loudly and started to drift up and down.

Ross Mental watched the globular dude float by. Strange patterns flitted over its body. “We could never be as fuckin’ weird as that!”

Peter the Ace nodded. “I think you’re right.”

Xjaq Dominator ignored them for a few more seconds as it sucked on the tube. Suddenly the tube detached itself and withdrew into the column. Xjaq turned and faced the two bounty hunters. A mouth formed on its virtually featureless face.

“You have evaded my defences.” it said in sombre tones.

“Of course we did.” Peter the Ace said.

“You have impressed me with you skills.”

“Of course we have.”

“You will now succumb to my powers.”

“I don’t think so.”

Xjaq Dominator Drifted closer. “The lesser being named Carmen on board your craft succumbed to my Taskmaster, Zyix, without resistance. The lesser being named Panman is about to do so. You will do the same for me.”

Peter the Ace was annoyed. “You’ve harmed Carmen? You will suffer for your crime!”

Ross Mental whispered to Peter the Ace. “Isn’t Carmen your fuckin’ assistant back at your lavish apartment?”

“Yes.” Peter the Ace whispered back.

“What the fuck is she doing on the Blenheim?”

“She’s our temporary onboard assistant.”

Ross Mental was confused. “What happened to that inane metal fucker, Justin?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you when this is over.”

The most offensive bounty hunter in the galaxy wondered what that story could be.

Xjaq Dominator continued its ranting. “Absorption of your bodies will be painful but swift. Preparation of your world for renewal is proceeding as planned. Its absorption and reclamation will also be painful but swift.”

Ross Mental Leapt up in fury. “No fuckin’ way!” He started to fall down the chamber. With fearless skill he managed to grab hold of the ledge that he had been standing on moments before, his amplified strength enabling him to pull himself up with smooth and effortless ease. “The palace is an impenetrable fortress of tremendous fuckin’ might! There’s no way that you’re going to get to ‘reclaim’ that fucker!”

“Unfortunately,” Peter the Ace whispered to his companion. “What you have just said is incorrect.”

“In what fuckin’ way?” he whispered back.

“Well, the palace is not impenetrable like we had once thought. This Xjaq dude has already penetrated the defence field. And also, Xjaq’s ‘reclamation’ as it likes to call it, has already begun.”

“How?”

“That’s part of the long story that I’ll tell you when this is over.”

“Justin’s got something to do with this, you mean?”

“Yes, but we must concentrate on the matter at hand.”

“Fuckin’ cyborgs!” Ross Mental said with more of a grunt than a whisper. “I’ve always thought that those chrome-plated fuckers are not to be trusted!”

Xjaq Dominator started to rotate slowly. The two bounty hunters watched as arcs of energy connected with its body and pulsed across its skin. “Absorption commence!”

Ross Mental yelled and began to shudder as sheets of power engulfed him completely. He struggled wildly, punching, kicking, slapping, and whacking the forces that encircled him. For a brief second he broke through and dissipated some of the energy force. It quickly reformed and pulled him away from the ledge. He was now suspended above the fantastically deep abyss below.

More sheets of power appeared but this time their target was Peter the Ace. They surrounded him and began to constrict rapidly. He had less than a second to come up with a plan to save himself and Ross Mental. That plan arrived in his PSAC instantly. The bounty hunter performed a miraculous vertical leap, escaping the confines of the energy fields and rising five metres up the side of the column. As his ascent slowed and the apex of the jump was reached, he leaned forwards and kicked the column hard. The bionic implants in his thighs thrust him away at tremendous speed. Peter the Ace soared fifty metres through the air over Ross Mental and towards Xjaq Dominator, who was still drawing vast amounts of power into his body. Several sheets of energy followed the flying bounty hunter, attempting all the time to surround him in glowing death. After only a second of flight, the bounty hunter landed onto the globular being. Immediately the arcs of power sliced into him. Only his prime quality personal battle armour prevented his instant incineration. The sheets of power that had followed him backed away and disappeared, a safety cut-off preventing them from getting too near their creator.

Peter the Ace held onto Xjaq’s neck. “In the name of the Superior Beings of the Great Hall of the Palace of Amino, I arrest you and confiscate your vessel!”

Xjaq Dominator began to rotate faster. Peter the Ace continued calmly. “Release Ross Mental immediately or suffer the frenzy and rage of a first class bounty hunter with legendary status!”

“The lesser being named Ross Mental is being absorbed.” Xjaq said drearily.

Peter the Ace looked across at his companion. Although Ross Mental was still struggling, he was noticeably weaker. Even his obscene language was mellowing. Too close for pistols, Peter the Ace drew his newly acquired Assassinator Class One Super-Heated Carnage Blade from its sheath. He admired its smooth mirrored surface as it glistened in the flickering light of the chamber. He pressed the control marked ‘HOTNESS’ and set the damage level to ‘HIGH’. The knife began to glow white with heat.

The bounty hunter raised the knife above his head and brought it crashing down onto Xjaq’s back. It penetrated the globular being’s undulating hide. Xjaq shook, flipped over, and then recovered. It began to rotate faster.

Peter the Ace had to hurry. He began to repeatedly stab the globular being, plunging the super-heated blade deep into his assailant’s body. Small globules and black fluid spread across the chamber and descended into the darkness below. Xjaq was screaming in a most interesting way. It sounded remarkably like fear. Peter the Ace came to an equally remarkable conclusion. Xjaq Dominator was committed to absorbing Ross Mental and couldn’t break from the act! With absolute strength, he continued to cut and slice into the globular dude, breaking away huge chunks of its body. It howled deafeningly. It also began to lose altitude. Its powers were fading fast. The bounty hunter looked over at Ross Mental. The sheets of energy surrounding him were flickering and fading and their victim growing stronger. The loud shouts of obscenities confirmed Ross Mental’s recovery.

For the Next minute, Peter the Ace hacked away at Xjaq Dominator, slicing hard into its squirming body. There was very little left now, only the neck and head, and the bounty hunter was having trouble hanging on. The job was nearly finished. He took a final swing and plunged the white hot blade into Xjaq’s head. There was a shriek and a shudder, then nothing. All of the power sheets engulfing Ross Mental disappeared.

He fell.

Peter the Ace watched his companion tumble into the infinite darkness below. Interesting. He thought. There seems to have been a flaw in my plan. He examined his own predicament. It was not good. The life force within Xjaq Dominator was almost gone. Only one arc of power was connected to it and it was very dim.

And getting dimmer.

And dimmer.

Fading.

Weakening…

Gone.

Peter the Ace and the lifeless head of Xjaq plummeted down into the abyss.

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