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