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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 27: A Strong Humid Wind

The Blenheim emerged from the swirling clouds of smog above the city of Grym and flew briskly over the tower-filled sprawl of festering urban decay below. It was a dank, humid, and repulsive sight. Dark buildings rose thousands of metres up from the surface and twisted and contorted in and out of each other like disease infested vines. The city’s architects had definitely loaded their minds with hard-core drugs to come up with such catastrophic and melancholic designs.


“Where the fuck are we?” Ross Mental asked as he staggered onto the bridge clutching a half empty whisky bottle.

Panman answered. “We’re skimming low and majestically over the parsimonious city of Grym.”

“Why in fuck’s name are we doing that?”

“We have a mission of supreme importance to complete.”

“What fuckin’ mission?”

Peter the Ace answered. “You are obviously in no state to be of any assistance to us and therefore do not need to be informed of its nature.”

Panman agreed. “Sorry, man, but you are totally inebriated. No use I’m afraid.”

Ross Mental couldn’t disagree with his superiors. “I must admit, I do feel fuckin’ rat arsed!”

The foul-mouthed bounty hunter slumped into a chair at the back of the bridge. “I’ll watch.”

“Right,” Peter the Ace said. “We have fifteen minutes to warn these people of the threat they face. What’s the most effective way to do that?”

“High altitude nuclear air bursts?” Panman suggested.

“That would be quite cool, but as you pointed out earlier we have no more missiles.”

“Oh yeah.”

Panman thought some more. “How about arranging a banquet and inviting the entire city’s population. After the meal and when everyone’s calm and relaxed, we could announce their impending doom.”

“Maybe not.” Peter the Ace said.

“But I’m so hungry!”

Ross Mental shouted a slurred suggestion. “What about tapping into their fuckin’ tele-video network?”

Peter the Ace turned around and looked at his wasted colleague. “That’s a superb idea!”

“It’s not bad.” Panman said. “But I’d rather have a buffet.”

“So would I, Panman,” Peter the Ace said. “But time is of the essence. See if you can locate their most powerful transmitter.”

Panman operated his sensor console and tuned it to tele-video frequencies. “There it is.” he said sending its image to the main view-screen. “Right at the city’s heart, section four-one-six-six.”

Peter the Ace angled the Blenheim towards the giant mast. It was a huge two kilometre tall device, rusty and decrepit looking, and it spiralled up towards the clouds like a huge bottle opener. The degrading programmes of despair that it normally transmitted appeared on one of the bridge’s monitors.

“Look!” Panman said. “I’ve managed to pick up one of their broadcasts!”

The three bounty hunters watched the images of public execution and suicide. Gallons of blood and clumps of shredded entrails scattered around the screen. Tearing, squishing, and splashing sounds boomed from the Blenheim’s surround sound speakers.

“This is not an acceptable form of entertainment!” Peter the Ace said harshly.

The slogan ‘Carnal Beer. Drink and destroy.’ appeared on the screen.

“Oh!” Peter the Ace said in a happier tone. “It’s an advertisement! The use of violence and gore for marketing purposes is fine!”

The Blenheim arrived at the transmitter tower and hovered right above its tip.

“Here we are.” Peter the Ace said. “I guess we need to hook ourselves up to this thing somehow.”

“I’ll sort that out!” Panman said excitedly. “You just watch!”

He leapt out of his chair and cart-wheeled out of the bridge.

Peter the Ace turned to Ross Mental. “Seeing this marvellous idea was yours, how about helping me to set up a makeshift tele-video studio in the guest quarters?”

“No fuckin’ problem!”

The two bounty hunters left the bridge.


Within a minute of leaving the bridge, Panman found himself clinging to a thin metallic rope connected up into an open hatchway on the Blenheim’s underside. He was also clinging to a large crocodile clip and a coiled cable.

A strong humid wind laced with pollution buffeted the bounty hunter as he slowly descended towards the pointy tip of the massive transmitter mast. All around and below, the gloomy twisted towers of Grym poked up at him like a collection of Satan’s tridents. Occasional waves of heat rose by signifying yet another burst of exhaust from a million overworked air-conditioners.

Panman turned off the winch as the transmitter tip lined up next to him. He stepped onto a thin ledge surrounding it and began work attaching the cable. With mighty muscles of magnitude he squeezed the handles of the crocodile clip together and opened its jaws. After positioning the clip around the mast he let go. The jaws snapped shut and bit hard into the rusty metal. “Done!” he said into his communicator.

Excellent!” Peter the Ace’s voice replied. “There’s a problem though.

“What problem?”

A police vehicle is approaching from the south west.

Panman looked in that direction and spotted the small craft. It was almost upon him. “Maybe we should have asked permission before invading their airspace?”

With hindsight that would have seemed to be the correct thing to have done. Unfortunately Ross Mental and I are busy. Could you deal with them?

“Yeah, okay.”

The communicator channel closed.

The police vehicle took up a hovering position below the Blenheim and less than three metres from Panman. Its side window slid open. A repulsive policeman with several chins stuck his head out. “What ‘ya think ‘ya doin’ boy?” he asked, spitting phlegm in several directions.

Thinking quickly, Panman replied. “Cleaning.”

“Cleanin’?”

“Indeed. Have you seen the state of this thing?”

Panman pointed at the mast.

The policeman frowned. “Ya do realise that ya are thounsands a’ metres above the streets and that ya aint wearin’ a safety harness?”

“Of course. Fear means nothing to me therefore I don’t need one.”

“Grym regulation 41234.54, section 982 states that no citizen of this city may hang around on the summit of a buildin’ without a harness. I therefore arrest you in the name of Felix Contaminionious, Mayor of Grym and all the surroundin’ wastelands.”

This was an awkward situation. Panman had to think quickly once more. “As I’m not a citizen of Grym, or indeed this planet, I am not bound by your city’s regulations and therefore I am above the law. Sorry!”

The policeman scowled. “Then what are ya a citizen of?”

“I’m from off-world. From the Milky Way Transmitter Cleanliness Authority on... Er... Agitatonia in fact!”

“Never heard of it!”

“You must have. We make sure that all tele-video broadcast equipment is up to scratch. If it isn’t we give it a jolly good clean!”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. And as yours is particularly dirty I’d better get back to work. Thanks for your concern, bye!”

The bounty hunter turned and started rubbing the transmitter mast. A click followed by a deep buzzing sound from behind signified that a fusion pistol had been powered up.

“Ya’ll come with me now, ya lyin’ son of a bitch!”

Panman turned. A large and rather dated looking gun was pointing at his face. “I really should get back to my cleaning.”

“Enough o’ that shit! Get in!”

A door on the back of the small vehicle opened. Another policeman was waiting inside. He too had a dated looking gun.

“This really isn’t necessary.” Panman said. “If you’ll just let me go up into my ship and get some ID we can sort this out in a civilised and...”

“I said enough! Now get in before I blow ya neck away!”

Panman whispered into his communicator. “Ace! I’m being arrested! You’d better hurry!”

Peter the Ace Whispered back. “I need a couple more minutes to finish setting up. Do whatever’s necessary, Panman. The lives of everyone in this nether region of a city are depending on us.

“I heard you, man.” Panman closed the channel. Within a tenth of a millisecond the bounty hunter had drawn his fusion pistol from its holster, primed it, and fired several rounds at the police vehicle’s engines. The vehicle lurched and shuddered as its stabilisers fluctuated wildly. The policeman who had been at the vehicle’s back door lost his balance and fell. He tumbled down between the towers screaming like a hungry baby.

“Bastard!” the other policeman shouted. He returned fire. A dozen rapid blasts of searing death flashed passed the bounty hunter as he swung around to the other side of the mast for cover. The police vehicle, though badly damaged, headed round towards Panman. The bounty hunter fired again, this time blowing off the vehicle’s side door. The hideous policeman was exposed. He fired back at the bounty hunter and missed completely, the erratic movement of his vehicle ruining his already poor aim. He did, however, manage to sever the winch line that Panman had been holding on to. With reactions of pure lightning, the bounty hunter managed to grab hold of the cable that he had previously attached to the transmitter. He hung there like a gibbon.

“Ya’ll die for this!” the fat policeman yelled.

“No I won’t.” Panman said. He aimed and fired. A blast of purest red passed through the policeman’s multi-chins cooking the flesh in his neck. A look of stunned terror filled the law officer’s face. A chilling groan emanated from his mouth and he dropped his weapon.

“Sorry police dude,” Panman said with genuine regret. “But it’s for the greater good.”

The bounty hunter fired again, this time hitting the policeman squarely between the eyes. A hole as wide as a German sausage was burned straight through the policeman’s head. He slumped forwards onto his craft’s console and smashed into what must have been a very important piece of control equipment. The police vehicle pitched forwards and plummeted down, smoke billowing from its engines.

Panman noticed in the distance that a few more police vehicles were approaching, their lights flashing and sirens blaring.

The bounty hunter started to climb up the cable and headed back to the Blenheim.


“Not bad for a few minutes work!” Peter the Ace said as he admired the makeshift studio that he and Ross Mental had put together in the Blenheim’s guest quarters. A large soft sofa, two gold-plated standard lamps and a large rubber plant placed in front of a camera really did look like a tele-video programme set.

“Fuckin’ cool!” Ross Mental said, and then burped. “We could present a fuckin’ breakfast show from here!”

“We could, couldn’t we!”

Peter the Ace looked over at Carmen who was still lying naked and unconscious on the large bed in the corner. Her abundant chest was still heaving from her heavy breathing.

“It’s a shame that Carmen’s still out for the count.” he said. “It would have been much more effective to have a female as a presenter.”

“Maybe. But top class bounty hunters from the fuck off Palace of Amino can’t be bad!”

“Absolutely! These people will bow down in awe and disbelief as our images enter their homes, offices, and knocking shops.”

As the two bounty hunters continued to admire their work, Panman walked into the room. “Wow!” he said. “This looks great!”

“We did our best.” Peter the Ace said modestly.

Panman sat on the sofa and started bouncing up and down. “Cool! Oh, by the way,” he said. “There are three more police vehicles approaching. I think they’re pretty mad.”

“What the fuck are they mad about?” Ross Mental asked.

“I’m not sure, maybe the fact that I burned a hole through their buddy’s head had something to do with it?”

“I don’t see why? The fucker obviously deserved it!”

Panman nodded. “It was a necessary act on my part.”

A couple of twangs and a rumble passed through the Blenheim.

“The fucker’s are firing!”

Peter the Ace spoke with cool authority. “Be calm, even though we have no shields and have had most of our armour plating burned away we are still well protected from the puny weapons of city police craft.”

Panman leaned over the back of the sofa and pulled a large family sized tub of chocolate chip ice-cream from the freezer. “We’d better get this show moving.” he said filling his mouth with icy delight. He let his head fall back and gargled as the melting dessert trickled down his throat.

“Panman’s right. Ross, as you’re totally wasted you’d better stay off camera.”

Ross Mental grumbled and wandered out of the way. Peter the Ace sat down next to Panman. “Do you have any idea what to say?”

Panman brought his head back up and swallowed hard. “No, not at all. Do you?”

“No. I therefore suggest that we improvise on the spot.”

“That’ll be cool.” Panman agreed as he shoved another scoop of ice-cream down his throat.

Another blast from the police vehicles outside echoed through the ship. The three bounty hunters ignored it.

Peter the Ace spoke to the ship. “Blenheim, prepare to jam all tele-video signals broadcasting from this transmitter and replace them all with the one from this room.”

“I AM PREPARED.”

Panman’s brain formulated a thought. “We haven’t got an opening sequence!”

“What?”

“An opening sequence! You know! Vast gleaming graphics depicting our names in glorious high resolution texture mapped images!”

Peter the Ace laughed. “Oh yes! You’re right! We need an intro sequence of stunning quality. Blenheim, you heard what Panman said. Can you come up with an opening sequence that would do us justice?”

“AFFIRMATIVE.”

“Do it!”

“TITLEMASTER APPLICATION VERSION 8.1 ACTIVATED... CHOREOGRAPHING INTRODUCTORY SEQUENCE... MAPPING WIREFRAME REPRESENTATION... SOLID RENDERING COMMENCING... COMPLETED. SELECTING HUE AND SATURATION LEVELS... MOTION PARAMETERS INITIALISED... PROGRAM COMPLETE.”

“Cool as corpse!” Panman shouted. “Let’s see it!”

“Belay that order, Blenheim, we have no more time to spare.”

Ross Mental was sitting on the bed beside Carmen. “Yeah guys!” He said, still slurring his speech. “You’d better fuck to it!”

Panman stuffed the last dregs of ice-cream into his mouth then discarded the tub. “Only three minutes left man! Let’s roll!”

“Blenheim,” Peter the Ace said. “Jam their signals.”

“SIGNALS JAMMED.”

“Excellent! Activate our substitute signal and run the titles!”

The large wall size tele-video screen in the guest quarters flashed to life with the images that the Blenheim was transmitting on every one of Grym’s two thousand degenerate channels. The three bounty hunters were stunned by the quality and attention to detail in the graphics that the ship had created. A wispy glowing sphere rotated into view closely followed by several throbbing lumps that washed around the screen. Accompanied by tumultuous and inspiring music, the lumps transformed into the words ‘Bounty Hunters of the Palace of Amino’. In an expensive looking and stunning fashion, the palace emblem filtered across the sphere and was overlaid by the tumbling words. The soundtrack faded and the image of Peter the Ace and Panman appeared, their names displayed in the trademarked Amino font at the bottom of the screen.

“Hello pungent citizens of Grym!” Peter the Ace said cheerfully, smiling at the camera. “I am Peter the Ace, an ingenious and brutally accurate bounty hunter from the Palace of Amino, and this is Panman, a thought provoking and perpetually famished bounty hunter, also from the Palace of Amino.”

Panman waved. “Hello!”

Peter the Ace continued. “I’m sorry that we had to interrupt your sad and revolting programmes, but we have an announcement to make of the utmost importance. In fact, it’s probably the most important announcement that you’ll ever hear.”

“And quite likely the last!” Panman added as he relaxed back into the sofa and twiddled with the rubber plant’s leaves.

“My distinguished colleague is right, therefore you should listen closely. Panman, you may make the announcement.”

“Cool!” he shouted, leaning forwards. “Now hear this, Grym people. A huge object one hundred kilometres wide is going to smack into your planet only fifty kilometres from your city. And what’s more, it’s going to do it in...” He looked at his watch. “Two minutes, eighteen seconds.”

Peter the Ace took over. “As you may have realised, your city is doomed beyond all hope. And so are you. You may, however, have a slim chance of surviving if you get several kilometres below ground or migrate many thousands of kilometres north, west, or east.”

“Don’t head south though.” Panman interjected. “That’s were it’ll hit and it would be pretty stupid to wander off in that direction.”

“That’s good advice, Panman. Of course, if you have a star ship of remarkable specification like ourselves you’ll have no problem escaping, but from the looks of it none of you can afford anything that even comes close to what we take totally for granted.”

Ross Mental shouted from the other side of the room. “You’re all fucked!”

Peter the Ace smiled. “As my foul mouthed colleague off camera just said, you probably are about to die in a sea of flame, but follow our advice and you may experience the joy of a sheer fluke and live to see another day.”

Panman closed the show. “Thank you for watching. Normal service will now be resumed.”

The bounty hunters and their relaxing set faded from view and were replaced with the words ‘A Palace of Amino Production ?2392.81 A.D.’. After a few seconds it faded and scenes of malignant worthlessness returned.

“Great fuckin’ performance!” Ross Mental said as he approached his two superiors.

Panman nodded in thanks and looked at his watch. “We have one and a half minutes before the Mini-Mechanism hits. We’d better think about leaving.”

“Good thinking.” Peter the Ace said. He casually looked at his own watch. He stood for a second, silent and unmoving.

“What are you waiting for, Ace?”

Peter the Ace didn’t answer and looked up. “Blenheim, display the correct time on this room’s tele-video screen.” Instantly, the time appeared.

“Panman?” Peter the Ace said.

“Yes?”

“It would appear that your watch is a little slow.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“How slow?”

“One minute.”

“Oh...”

“Oh indeed! We have ten seconds before impact!”

Ross Mental leapt into the air. “Fuckin’ mother of a fucker!”

The three bounty hunters ran out of the guest room and headed for the bridge.

“Blenheim!” Peter the Ace screamed. “Head north, full atmospheric thrust. Now!”

The ship’s engines ignited like gargantuan blow torches, incinerating one of the police vehicles that had foolishly been examining the Blenheim’s impressive means of propulsion. With a blast of intense heat, the Blenheim thrust forwards snapping the cable that had connected it to the transmitter mast.

Panman and Peter the Ace raced onto the bridge and long-jumped into their chairs. Ross Mental followed and seated himself at the back. He picked up the severed head of Xjaq Dominator as it rolled passed his chair.

“Blenheim,” Panman ordered. “Put the view to the south on the main view-screen and start recording.”

A view of the city skyline to the south appeared as ordered.

Panman turned to Peter the Ace and justified his reason for wanting to record the impending destruction of Grym. “We’ll need to examine it later to further our scientific knowledge of tremendous collisions.”

“Of course.” Peter the Ace agreed. “And it’ll also make great entertainment!”

Panman grinned. He knew that his partner would not object.

A bright flash on the screen killed their conversation stone dead. The super-heated pinnacle of the Mini-Mechanism burst through the smog and forced its way into the crust of Deste’Tuot, cracking the planet like and egg and melting several hundred square kilometres of rock in an instant. A rain of molten death showered into the air and within seconds began to eat away the southern tip of the city.

Panman examined his data screens. “It hit with a velocity of almost four hundred kilometres per second!”

“That’s pretty fast.” Peter the Ace commented as he guided the Blenheim low across Grym’s congested northern districts and out over the wastelands.

The main view-screen continued to show the devastating spectacle. A wall of white hot death was ploughing through Grym’s central districts vaporising almost everything in its path. Some buildings, obviously constructed of much stronger material than others, were ripped from their foundations and pushed along with the blast wave. After a few seconds, even they broke apart and dissolved under the mighty forces that played with them.

The Blenheim was out of danger and ascended fast, thundering up and out of the atmosphere at an incredible speed. The view of the destruction was even more impressive from three thousand kilometres away. The shock wave from the collision had already spread across twenty percent of the planet and would definitely pass across the whole surface. Grym, a sprawling city of mutilated minds and knife-scarred bar staff, was wiped cleanly from existence. Nothing identifiable remained. The city and all its worthless citizens had simply ceased to be.

The three bounty hunters watched in silence as Deste’Tuot was purged of all life. The malfeasance that had dwelt there for centuries had finally been overwhelmed and obliterated.

Panman stated a fact. “The malfeasance that has dwelt there for centuries has finally been overwhelmed and obliterated!”

“I do feel a touch guilty about what’s happened, though.” Peter the Ace said. “They hadn’t developed the technology to threaten and harm the more affluent sections of the galaxy and could have quite happily gone on murdering each other for years.”

“Very true,” Panman agreed. “But, although that place didn’t pose a threat to the galaxy today, they could’ve eventually constructed monumental weapons of blistering ferocity and desolated entire sectors. They may have even threatened the palace seeing that they were so close!”

Peter the Ace stood tall and proud. “You’re right! I can see it now! By sheer fluke we have saved billions upon billions of wealthy and outstanding beings around the galaxy! What we inadvertently caused today will have repercussions for thousands of millennia!”

Ross Mental got to his feet, dropped the head of Xjaq onto his right foot, and then kicked it across the bridge. “Are we fuckin’ fuckers of heroes or fuckin’ what?!”

The head bounced off the forward view-screen and rolled back to Ross Mental.

Peter the Ace sat back down and looked serious. “All we have to do now is return home.”

The three bounty hunters thought about what they might find waiting for them upon their arrival.

“We could call first to see if it’s still there?” Panman said.

“No.” Ross Mental said quietly. “Let’s just go.”

Peter the Ace nodded. “Ross Mental’s right. Blenheim, set a course for home. Engage at maximum velocity.”

The ship lurched and groaned as its badly damaged systems attempted to comply with the order. After a few seconds of uncertainty, the Blenheim, straining hard, rolled through several dimensions and entered the tranquillity of sub-space.

Peter the Ace sat and stared in silence at the view-screen image of sub-spatial entities as they whizzed by. He entered a deep mood of contemplation and experienced total relaxation.

Ross Mental sat and fiddled with Xjaq’s gormless head. He poked at it and watched its globular skin shimmer and bubble. He too willed himself into a relaxed state.

Panman headed for the galley.

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