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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 22: A Relatively Limp Pose

Panman laughed loudly. Zyix Taskmaster was splashing about in the Jacuzzi like a bound and gagged chimpanzee who had been covered with sugar syrup, then pushed into swarm of deadly Poi-Triad kidney wasps.

“You look like a baby!” Panman said with great amusement.

Zyix began to spark and flicker wildly as the water interfered with its energy assimilation abilities. It screamed.

Panman increased the speed of the water jets. The globular being thrashed even harder splashing litres of frothy water all over the Blenheim’s extravagant guest quarters. Discharges of electricity connected with the various metal items in the room producing an intense smell of ionisation. The sound of the crackling arcs of power was becoming deafening.

“On to the final level!” the bounty hunter said with glee turning the Jacuzzi’s power up to maximum. Zyix shrieked in a most piercing manner. Only Panman’s auto de-sensitising eardrums prevented permanent damage to his aural capabilities.

With a final yell of agony, Zyix Taskmaster leapt out of the bath and tumbled rapidly across the room. Panman was hit and flew into one of the walls. He slumped to the floor as the sparkling being trans-globulated into a more angular shape and passed straight through the hull. There was a flash of light, a dull thunderous rumble, and then silence.

Panman got to his feet. “I can’t believe he escaped!” he said with annoyance as he wiped away the excess water from his battle suit. He directed his voice to the ship. “Blenheim, track the being that just left this location.”

The ship’s computer replied in monotone. “SENSOR FUNCTIONALITY IS WEAKENED BY THE SURROUNDING STRUCTURES. ACCURATE TRACKING INFORMATION IS NOT AVAILABLE.”

“Then track it inaccurately then!”

“TRACKING...”

Panman walked over to the bed where Carmen was lying all naked and covered in sweat. She was unconscious but still breathing deeply, her chest heaving up and down with remarkable strength. He covered her well-toned body with a blanket then ran out into the passageway.

“Blenheim, emergency power-up of all systems. Now!”

“EMERGENCY POWER-UP INITIATED... COMPLETE.” The satisfying reverberation of the ship’s awesome engines could be heard.

Panman made his way towards the bridge. On the way he passed the galley. His augmented willpower was no match for the digital nourishment requesters of his super-enhanced stomach. He grabbed a bag of frosted extra sugar extra fat tomato doughnuts and a case of spicy chicken wings. He stuffed himself silly as he clumsily made his way to the Blenheim’s bridge, the size of the case causing him great problems. Still, he made it there in seconds and sat down in the command chair, a position normally reserved only for Peter the Ace. He placed the case of chicken wings by his side and finished off the last of the doughnuts, tossing the empty bag away.

“Blenheim, display Zyix Taskmaster’s location on the forward view-screen in schematic format.”

The ship complied and an approximate position was shown. “THE BEING NAMED ZYIX TASKMASTER IS LOCATED AT THE APPROXIMATE RELATIVE SPATIAL POINTS 435-543-101.”

The globular being was about one kilometre down a passageway and fleeing at a very high speed.

Panman had a cunning plan. He armed the fusion cutters. “Give me manual control.”

“REQUEST FOR MANUAL CONTROL DENIED.”

Panman could not believe what he was hearing. “Why?”

“MANUAL CONTROL OF ONE SYSTEM ONLY IS ALLOWED WHEN ONLY ONE CONSCIOUS CREW MEMBER IS PRESENT.”

Panman was agitated. “What the hell do you mean?”

“THE SYSTEMS CONTAINED ON BOARD THIS SHIP ARE UNCOMMONLY COMPLEX. THE NUMBER OF SYSTEMS SET TO MANUAL CONTROL CANNOT OUTNUMBER THE NUMBER OF CONSCIOUS CREW MEMBERS AVAILABLE ON BOARD TO PERSONALLY SUPERVISE THOSE SYSTEMS.”

Panman was very agitated. “I’m a first class bounty hunter of superior acumen and dexterity! I can multi-process better than most massively parallel computers, including you!”

“I AM NOT A PARALLEL COMPUTER. MY CPU IS A BIO-MEMETIC ACCUMULATION OF QUAD-LAYERED SUPER-CONDUCTIVE...”

“I’m not interested in your innards!” The bounty hunter ate a few dozen chicken wings to calm himself down. “As far as I know, there are no systems on board this ship that are set to manual, therefore I order you to set the flight system to manual control now!”

“ONE SYSTEM IS ALREADY SET TO MANUAL CONTROL. CANNOT COMPLY WITH REQUEST TO...”

“Which system are you talking about?” interrupted Panman harshly.

“THE JACUZZI IN THE GUEST QUARTERS.”

Panman was fuming. “Then switch it to automatic then!”

“THE JACUZZI IN THE GUEST QUARTERS HAS RETURNED TO AUTOMATIC...”

“Give me manual control of the flight system now!”

“REQUEST FOR MANUAL CONTROL ACCEPTED.”

“Thank you so much!” the bounty hunter said with maximum sarcasm as he reversed the Blenheim out of the jagged hole that it had jammed itself into a couple of hours ago. “Remind me to get you a personality when we get back to the palace.”

“REMINDER REQUEST ACCEPTED AND LOGGED.”

Panman ignored the computer’s last sentence. “Set all weapons systems to automatic targeting. Set discretional firing mode to one.”

The ship’s computer complied.

“Right.” Panman said. “I’m not letting that Zyix dude get away. Blenheim, use all the weapons that you need to cut through the way ahead. I’m gonna slice this Mechanism apart until I pierce that globular bastard’s mind with fusion fire!”

Panman angled the ship in Zyix Taskmaster’s direction and applied a hell of a lot of thrust. The ship accelerated forwards. Instantly, the fusion cutters and the pulse cannons began a rapid cycle of burning and blasting. Several thousand tonnes of scorched debris scattered all around as the ship crashed through the wreckage, its weapons cutting away a convenient passageway. The energy needed to perform this feat of destruction was immense considering the toughness of the alien materials that made up the Mechanism. The Blenheim though, had huge power reserves and Panman was blindly confident that they would last and still have plenty to spare for later.

Panman watched with glee as the main view-screen displayed the devastation ahead. “What’s the position of Zyix Taskmaster?”

“THE BEING NAMED ZYIX TASKMASTER IS 203 METRES DIRECTLY AHEAD RELATIVE TO OUR CURRENT POSITION.”

“Ha harr!” Panman laughed. “I’m gonna cut him bad!

The bounty hunter was now in the mood for maximum vandalism. “Blenheim, release three atomisers from the rear launcher.”

The ship obeyed his order. Three small projectiles were ejected from a small protrusion situated above the ship’s main engines. Three seconds later they detonated. A bright flash of intense light was quickly followed by a raging inferno that engulfed the Blenheim. The ship shuddered violently as the blast wave from the close nuclear explosions passed by. Panman smiled as he looked at the scanner display of the area behind the ship. A huge spherical hollow more than a kilometre in diameter had appeared, its edges molten from the fantastic heat of the blast. There was no reason for this blatant misuse of weaponry. Panman had simply felt like it, and it was perfectly acceptable behaviour for a bounty hunter of his stature.

He had satisfied his desire for huge explosions, at least for the time being, and concentrated on the task at hand. The Blenheim continued to plough through the Mechanism at an incredible rate, its cutters and cannons hacking away at the walls, doors, and barriers inside the gargantuan vessel. Already, the bounty hunter and his ship had blasted a tunnel thirty kilometres long and almost a hundred metres wide. Zyix Taskmaster was just ahead, passing through obstacles like a fiendish ghoul of despondency. It wasn’t known where it was going, but Panman was determined to keep following until it was vaporised slowly, painfully, and completely. It had hurt Carmen and he was quite upset about that. Although Carmen was Peter the Ace’s servant, she baked great doughnuts, and Panman could not let a being that had harmed such a magnificent cook escape alive. The thought of food sent the bounty hunter’s hand diving into the case of chicken wings. Twenty found their way into his stomach in seconds.


Peter the Ace was in a thoughtful mood as he fell briskly down into the darkest depths of the Mechanism’s power core. He had taken up a spread-eagled position and relaxed as he examined the column of curvaceous design at the chamber’s centre. Disabling that is definitely the key to stopping the progress of this huge vessel. He thought. I have to figure out a way to do it before this craft reaches the palace and absorbs my lesser colleagues.

Using his innate freefall skills, he swooped towards the column and spiralled around it, probing every distinguishing feature for a possible weak spot. He occasionally encountered the inanimate head of Xjaq Dominator as it tumbled lifelessly through the air. Peter the Ace waved at it every time he passed and then laughed with pride at his single-handed accomplishment.

Through the rush of the wind, the bounty hunter heard a sound. It was very faint and sounded like a voice. And the offensive nature of what the voice was saying easily identified its owner. Peter the Ace took up a diving posture and headed down. Within seconds he could see the familiar form of Ross Mental emerge from the darkness.

“How’s it going?” he said happily as he drew up beside the insulting bounty hunter.

“We’re fucked!” Ross Mental answered. “I used my neck-mounted scanner to get the dimensions of this fuckin’ place and guess what? It’s almost a thousand kilometres deep!”

“That doesn’t surprise me.” Peter the Ace said calmly.

“And what’s more,” Ross Mental continued. “We’re only thirty kilometres from the fuckin’ bottom!”

“Interesting. How long until we get there?”

“Well, at normal fuckin’ gravity it would take us about ten minutes to drop that far, but the gravity at the base of the power core is fuckin’ double. We have about five fuckin’ minutes!”

Peter the Ace’s PRI implant (Panicky Response Inhibitor) cut in and kept him level-headed. “At what velocity will we hit the surface?”

“Five hundred fuckin’ kilometres per fuckin’ hour!”

“Hmm... At that speed even our superbly engineered body armour won’t protect us. We’ll be crushed to a mushy slimy-like substance and spread evenly over a wide area.”

“We need a fuckin’ plan!” Ross Mental said desperately.

“Well,” Peter the Ace said. “We could use the advice in that book I wrote.”

Ross Mental nodded vigorously. “Fuckin’ yes!” he said with renewed hope. “It successfully led us to that fucker, Xjaq. Consult your fuckin’ memory and find out what it says!”

Peter the Ace scrutinised the text within his brain. “Let me see... There it is! Page 1045, chapter 141, sub-heading two, ‘Surviving spectacular falls through dark shafts of immense proportions’.” He paused for a few seconds.

Ross Mental grew highly anxious and impatient. “What the fuck does it say?”

“its advice is remarkably similar to the advice it gave before.”

“What’s the fuckin advice?”

“It basically says, ‘When, during a mission of indescribable importance, you find yourself plummeting helplessly to your doom down a power core shaft of intricate design and manufacture, simply adopt a relatively limp pose...’”

“Okay. And?”

“’...and wait’.”

Ross Mental could not believe it. “That’s not remarkably similar fuckin’ advice. That is the same fuckin’ advice!”

“It is the same, I guess.”

“Too fuckin’ right it is!”

“Well,” Peter the Ace said. “If that’s what I wrote all those years ago, it must be correct. Let’s follow it.”

Ross Mental had no faith in the advice but could not think of anything better. He watched as Peter the Ace took up a limp and face down position. He did the same.

After a few seconds Peter the Ace spoke. “Are you waiting?”

“I’ve nothing else to fuckin’ do, have I?”

“Just checking.”

The two bounty hunters stared downwards. The bottom of the chamber could be seen now, not more than a few kilometres away. Strange and faint wisps of light drifted in and out of the column’s base in a rhythmic and hypnotic manner. It was a rather soothing sight, and as they drew closer, sensual warmth surrounded their bodies. All in all, not the worst way to meet your maker.

A few seconds later the peaceful scene of subtle flickering shapes was erased and replaced by a bright flash of light. The two bounty hunters watched as a cloud of bright flames and debris expanded below them from one side of the chamber. A boom of biblical proportions roared passed, shaking them to the bone.

Something, barely visible, shot at tremendous speed out of the inferno and headed for the opposite side of the power core. Something else, large, dark, and incredibly well designed was following close behind. That something filled Ross Mental with optimism once again. Peter the Ace smiled calmly as if he had known this would happen all the time.

“It’s the fuckin’ Blenheim!” screamed the foul-mouthed bounty hunter with delight. “What the fuck is that fucker doing in here?!”

They watched as the mighty ship broke off its pursuit of the other object and started to ascend.

“It’s fuckin’ seen us!”

The Blenheim took position directly beneath the two plummeting heroes and hovered there, awaiting their approach.

Ross Mental had a sudden and dreadful thought. “We’re still going to fuckin’ splat when we hit the fuckin’ ship!”

Peter the Ace grinned. “It’s no problem.” he said. “Panman will have the situation under control.”

They were only a few hundred metres from the Blenheim now, its exceptionally well constructed topside appearing to grow quickly before them. Just as they were about to hit the ship’s dense armour and dissipate parts of their bodies across its surface, the potent vessel began to drop away, matching their descent almost exactly.

With ballerina-like elegance, Peter the Ace and Ross Mental gently touched down on the Blenheim’s hull. Xjaq Dominator’s head landed next to them less than a second later.

As soon as they had landed, the ship rapidly slowed its descent until it was hovering motionless in the huge chamber. The two bounty hunters felt their weight return as gravity tugged on their bodies once again.

“My book’s advice was correct! It’s a miracle text!” Peter the Ace announced proudly. What can I say?”

“What a fuckin’ cool manoeuvre by the Blenheim!” Ross Mental exclaimed. “That’s what you can fuckin’ say!”

Peter the Ace nodded. “That’s one of the reasons why Panman is a first class bounty hunter like me.”

Ross Mental looked up from where they had just fallen. The power core chamber seemed to stretch to infinity and beyond. The column of curvaceous design sparkled with energy. “I’ll be glad to leave this fucker of a shaft!” he said.

Peter the Ace looked up at the column. “We can’t leave just yet. We must disable this vessel’s power systems.”

“How long have we got until this fucker reaches the palace?”

“Less than one hour.”

“Then let’s just nuke the fuckin’ thing. The rest of it should stay reasonably intact. The theme park can still be built, and that fuckin’ matter transfer fucker should survive for our scientists to dissect.”

Peter the Ace nodded. “You’re absolutely right! I’ve dawdled enough on this mission. It’s time to kick some globular butt!”

“Fuckin mega!” Ross Mental reached down and picked up Xjaq’s head. “A fuckin’ souvenir!” he said with glee.

In timely fashion, a hatchway opened up before them. The welcoming light of the Blenheim’s sumptuous interior beckoned. The two bounty hunters climbed down into the ship.

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