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Book: Mechanism
Chapter 29: A Touch of Cold Menace

Two months had passed since the incident with the Mechanism. That fateful day when the Palace of Amino had almost been pulverised into an unrecognisable mass of molecules seemed distant and dream-like - almost as though it had never happened. The millions of tonnes of dust that had blanketed the palace had been vacuumed away. All the towers had been cleaned and polished, and now they gleamed like crystalline entities in the cool winter sunlight. The lava that had solidified in the streets had been hacked to pieces and dumped far away by the palace’s multitude of low IQ menial labourers. Some work still needed to be done, but that was below ground in the sewers, drains, and waste reclamation caverns, and was no concern of the bounty hunters. They could relax and soak up the quality and opulence of their blissful surroundings, completely unaware that thousands of semi-lobotomised subterranean workers were toiling close to death with shovels and spoons in order to get the refuse and defecation systems functioning at maximum efficiency. Theirs was a thankless task and a disgusting task too, not that it bothered them though, their lack of metal cognition saw to that. To them, the sewers and effluence tunnels were their universe and their intelligence was too limited to ever imagine a life beyond shit digging.

Although most bounty hunters and trainees had almost forgotten the near mega-disaster and were getting on with their lethal missions of cold ferocity, some could not and had constant reminders of its magnitude. Sarah Savage was one of them. She had lost her body when the deranged Justin had attacked her. His powerful servo controlled physique had pulverised her blemished body into a mound of bloodied meat. It could not be repaired. Her head survived though, and her medical team, along with those of Peter the Ace and Panman, had set about saving her. Mechanisation was the obvious answer but it would have been against her wishes. Another solution had to be found, and it was. Lloyd Helmet had suffered a completely crushed head while trying to save Sarah and, obviously, he had died. This gave the medical teams a cool idea. With great skill and excitement, they attached Sarah Savage’s head to the completely intact and densely muscular body of Lloyd. When Sarah regained consciousness she was thrilled with her new form. A little too thrilled, in fact. For the first month after the operation she was constantly ducking into toilet cubicles to examine herself thoroughly. Even now, almost nine weeks later, she still could not get over the fact that she had her own private manhood to play with anytime anywhere.

Carmen, Peter the Ace’s servant had also survived, but only in body. Her brain had been absorbed by Zyix Taskmaster and reduced to what appeared to be a peanut. Doctor DeMorgan, the palace’s cybernetics genius, managed to construct a miraculous electronic brain of devious complexity and had placed it in her skull. She could walk, talk, and do anything that she’d been able to do before, but without emotion. Although Carmen’s well-toned body looked better than ever, her lack of biological brain cells meant that she was no longer good enough for Peter the Ace and he gave her away to Commander Pepe. The commander was more than happy to take her off his hands. She began serving high doses of pleasure in the commander’s massage chamber shortly afterwards.

Justin’s trial was televised over three weeks and was a long and tedious affair, getting only minimal ratings. He was charged with being weak-willed, pathetic, stupid, rusty, and annoying. Leading an attack on the palace was an unforgivable and treacherous crime. He was, of course, found guilty and sentenced to public dismantling at dawn. All was not lost though. A last minute appeal by his defence lawyer claiming that Justin’s abilities as a cook should not be wasted saved the mechanoid from being torn apart and his sentence was transmuted. To exactly what will soon be revealed.

Anyway, the Palace of Amino was functional once again and everyone that mattered was happy. The palace even had a new and stylish tower of remarkable size. Although nowhere near the height and magnificence of the Central Tower, the new building’s seven hundred and eight levels of entertainment and nourishment, especially its tittilatingly resplendent bread restaurants, had already become legendary. The awesome Dick Burton Feasting Tower was finally open.

Peter the Ace and Panman were sitting in large leather armchairs and sipping at strong Parm’Mha’Tharg coffee, the most potent and caffeine loaded beverage in the galaxy. Gentle pipe music, as comforting as a mother’s womb, filtered through the air and blended with the ornate surroundings. They were in Hughy Egbert’s Coffee Lounge, the most lavish one of its kind high up the north face of the Dick Burton Feasting Tower, and also the most exclusive. So exclusive that only the top three classes of bounty hunter were allowed in, and there were only fifty of those.

Peter the Ace and Panman had organised a special gathering of high class friends to celebrate the arrival of the coffee lounge’s new drinks machine. It was like a heroes’ convention. Ross Mental was there blasting away on the holo-games machine. Elena L’Apriscatole and Sonia Por Favor were at the bar nattering in some strange and incomprehensible language. Even Sarah Savage was there admiring herself intently.

Peter the Ace admired the view. “Isn’t that a cool sight!” he said.

“What do you mean?” Panman asked, downing his coffee dregs.

Peter the Ace pointed at the Central Tower that could be seen through the huge circular window spreading across the entire wall of the lounge. “Our tower of course! It’s over a kilometre away but it still looks immense!”

“It is immense.”

“That’s probably why, then.”

Panman turned towards the bar. “Yo Hughy? How about some more coffee?”

Hughy Egbert, a small muscular dude with large tray-like hands, scurried over to the two bounty hunters and filled their mugs. “Thar’ ya go sirs. Drink it while it’s ‘ot.”

“Could you go and get me some garlic bread?”

“Can do, sir.”

Hughy bounded off to do his duty.

“Where did Dick Burton find such a weird coffee lounge proprietor?” Panman wondered.

“Who knows?” Peter the Ace answered. “Old Dick’s been around and many planets have hideously contorted populations. Hughy could have been found anywhere.”

Panman slurped his drink. “Maybe Dick made Hughy himself!”

“You think so?”

“Yeah! He made that dough monster, didn’t he?”

“Yes, but that was in an inane attempt to lower his export costs. What possible reason could he have for making a mutant coffee bar owner?”

“To lower his labour costs!”

Peter the Ace thought for a moment then nodded. “That’s a good reason.”

Hughy returned with the garlic bread.

“Thanks, little repulsive dude.”

Hughy bowed then scooted away, then stopped and turned. “By the way sir, the drinks machine’s on its way up. I thought ya’d like ta know.”

“Cool!” Panman said.

Hughy rolled back to the bar too quickly and smashed his head open on a jar of Kenco rich dark roast. He fell onto his face stunned and bewildered. Blood gushed from his piggy nostrils and soaked into the deep pile carpet. Sonia Por Favor and Elena L’Apriscatole were standing nearby and burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter.

“Il sangue naso!” Elena L’Apriscatole giggled, pointing at little bulging Hughy.

With unsurpassed embarrassment, Hughy crept behind the bar and grabbed a handful of tissues. He stuffed them up his nose. Immediately he started to cough and splutter as blood gushed down the back of his nasal passageways and into his lungs.

“Tossisca, per favore!”

Elena L’Apriscatole and Sonia Por Favor laughed inanely.

Hughy could not take being ridiculed anymore and climbed into a cupboard. He slammed the door behind him. The two girls continued laughing.

Meanwhile, back near the window Panman began to gorge on the garlic bread. Crumbs flew everywhere. Realising that his companion would be busy for a while, Peter the Ace got up and walked over to Sarah Savage. She had her hands deep in her pockets and was fumbling about in an extremely energetic way.

“Still haven’t come to terms with your new body then?” The supreme bounty hunter said cheerfully as he approached her.

“I’m trying, I really am!” she replied. “But it’s so tempting just to stay indoors and look at myself in the mirror.”

“A strong will is all that’s needed.”

“I suppose so.” Sarah Savage said.

Peter the Ace sensed that she didn’t really believe him. “It’s true. Go and see Doctor DeMorgan tomorrow. He has the widest selection of will-power enhancers in the galaxy. Once you have one of those things installed you’ll have no problem.”

Sarah Savage bowed her head in respect. She knew that his words were wise as always. “I’ll do as you say.”

“Very sensible.”

A gentle ping indicated that coffee lounge’s main door was about to open. Sure enough, two panels of leather-clad mahogany slid slowly and silently apart revealing a richly carpeted passageway beyond. Two irregular looking men with beer expanded bellies entered the room dragging behind them a large box.

“Here’s your new drinks machine.” one of them said grumpily.

“Excellent!” Peter the Ace said. “Over there by the window please.”

The two men struggled and sweated and moaned and groaned their way over to where Peter the Ace was pointing. They operated a few controls on the packaging then wandered away back to their meaningless lives.

All the bounty hunters gathered around to see what was so special about this new drinks dispenser.

The special Disolv-o-matic packaging quickly melted then evaporated. The vapour cleared and the machine underneath was revealed. It looked like all other drinks machines; square, metal, and quite dull. A selection of three hundred beverages was listed on its front panel. The only unusual feature was a large metal arm on its left side.

“What’s so fuckin’ great about that?” Ross Mental asked.

“Nothing at the moment,” Peter the Ace said. “But just wait until it’s switched on.”

“Should I do the honours?” Panman asked excitedly as he stuffed the last of the garlic bread into his mouth.

“By all means.”

Panman reached to the back of the machine and flipped a switch. A multitude of pastel colours winked across its front surface and up to its top side as a tiny fusion generator inside came on-line. The arm clenched and relaxed its fist several times in rhythm with the lights, and then it fell still.

“It’s still not amazing.” Sarah Savage said, unimpressed.

“What happens next is!” Peter the Ace said with glee.

And it was! A flap flipped open on the top of the machine. Slowly and smoothly, and with a touch of cold menace, a shiny and seriously dented metal skull rose up and stared down at the group of heroes. Its glowing eyes shone a piercing shade of scarlet giving the machine an intimidating look of terror inducing madness. The machine spoke in monotone. “Would anyone like a drink?”

The crowd of bounty hunters screamed with laughter.

Ross Mental could not believe what he was seeing. “It’s that fuckin’ idiot Justin!” he yelled, pointing.

It was indeed! The battle scarred cyborg had been cunningly connected up to the drinks machine’s control systems and ordered to operate it night and day as punishment for leading the insane lava attack on the palace. It was a mind-numbing sentence indeed, but far better than the public dismantling he had been about to experience before his lawyer’s successful appeal.

Devoid of feeling, Justin’s head turned slowly left and right, scanning the bounty hunters.

Elena L’Apriscatole decided to put the mechanoid to work. “Vorrei un bicchiere di spumante vino bianco.”

Justin’s metal arm clanked into action and reached inside the orifice on his front panel. After a flash and a whirr, he pulled out a glass of bubbling liquid and handed it to the bounty hunter.

“Your sparkling white wine as ordered, Ma’am.”

Elena L’Apriscatole drank it in one gulp and licked her lips. “Molto Bene!”

Everyone laughed once again.

“It seems like you’re a success!” Panman said to his metal buddy.

Justin replied. “I am here to serve liquid refreshment as penance for my crimes against the Palace of Amino.”

“Remind me how many years you have to do this for?”

“Forty three.”

Once again, all the bounty hunters laughed.

“You fuckin’ deserve it, too!” Ross Mental screamed.

Panman turned. “Don’t be too hard on him,” he said. “He was under the influence of the Mechanism at the time.”

“Yeah, but he’s partly fuckin’ biological. He should have resisted the fucker!”

Panman turned back to face Justin. “You must admit that you were a little weak minded.”

“I have no awareness of my actions that day and therefore cannot comment on the events that occurred.”

Sarah Savage stepped forwards and spoke angrily. “So you don’t remember pulverising my body beyond recognition, then?”

“No, I do not.”

Sarah Savage scowled for a few seconds more then smiled. “Don’t worry, just joking. I’m not mad at you. Look at this marvellous hunk of a body that I have now. Isn’t it awesome?!” Sarah Savage tore off her shirt to reveal her huge Pectorals, broad shoulders, bulging arms, and washboard abdominals. She flexed herself and sent ripples of dense contractions up and down her frame.

Elena L’Apriscatole and Sonia Por Favor swooned at the manly physique displayed before them. Although nowhere near the bodily perfection of Peter the Ace and Panman, Lloyd Helmet had developed himself well and Sarah Savage certainly had a right to be proud.

After a couple more minutes of laughing and joking, the novelty of Justin being a drinks machine wore off and the bounty hunters left him alone. Justin waited patiently for his next customer.

Elena L’Apriscatole and Sonia Por Favor had challenged Peter the Ace and Panman to a head-to-head game of Barbarous Planet-Sized Death Merchants Blister Each Other Permanently and Without Remorse on the holo-game machine. The two top class heroes could not refuse. The four bounty hunters grabbed a control pad each and prepared to play.

An alarm interrupted them.

They turned around to see a large view-screen descending over the huge round window. It quickly covered the panoramic view of the palace, darkening the coffee lounge. Dim purple lights faded up and filled the room with a dim and foreboding ambience.

“Cool!” Panman said, delighted at the effect.

“Indeed it is cool.” Peter the Ace agreed. “It was designed by my new servant, Stephanie Lichenthrope the Third. She just started studying at AILMENT, the Amino Interior Lighting and Multi-Environment Nuclear Tank University last month and this is the result of her first term’s project.”

“Wasn’t that university your idea?”


“Cool as a Northumbrian summer!”

The giant view-screen glimmered to life. The plump multi-chinned head of Commander Pepe appeared superimposed over the blue and gold emblem of the Palace of Amino. The commander looked serious, and fatter than ever. “My friends,” He said. “I’m sorry to interrupt your merriment.

“No problem.” Peter the Ace said. “What’s up, big buddy?”

Over the last hour several ultra-space transmissions have been intercepted. An uprising of well co-ordinated proportions is occurring on the compost-coated planet of Dog’Matress.

“That’s in the Che-Nahl sector, isn’t it?”

That’s right. It seems that for no apparent reason, millions of pungent silage executives have downed tools and left the bogs and swamps where they work. They are trying to break into the castles of the twelve field masters that rule over them. The castles’ defences are strong, but cannot last forever.

Ross Mental showed his anger. “Fuckin’ peasants!” he shouted. “They should know their place!”

I agree.” the commander said. “And for centuries they did. Until now.

“Is there any reason for this?” Peter the Ace asked.

We couldn’t figure it out, until that is, we received this video footage from one of the castles.

The video began playing. In the distance, behind the crowds of filthy dung covered farm workers, was a figure running backwards and forwards through the trees and vines. Although faint and slightly blurred, the figure was definitely a man, impure and evil, and he was dressed from head to foot in heavy black robes. His scarred scalp was clearly visible and was flanked by two tufts of sparse dark hair behind his ears. A baneful cackle of sadistic delight was just audible above the chanting crowd. The figure kept jumping up and down, and seemed to be encouraging the crowd as it surged at the castle gates.

Ross Mental was delirious with madness. “How the fuck did that fuckin’ fucker of a fuck off depraved motherfucker get there?”

Peter the Ace remained calm but serious. “This is unexpected.” he said quietly.

The video faded and the image of Commander Pepe returned. “His mad reign of malignancy must be stopped once and for all.

Peter the Ace agreed with the commander. “Of course. But what does he hope to gain from creating this uprising?”

We’ve been looking into that and I think we have the answer. The planet Dog’Matress supplies more than ninety three percent of compost and silage to this quadrant’s agricultural worlds. With the workers revolting in such a way, all supplies will dry up within weeks and send our region into a famine of tremendous vastness. Only the obscenely wealthy will survive!

“Ah yes! His plans are clear to me now!” Peter the Ace said. “Once he has motivated the peasants to overthrow their masters in their castles, he’ll threaten every warmongering planet with starvation unless they genetically engineer for him an army of ghoul-like demons and place them in a space-faring fleet of sharp-edged battleships, sleek and deceptive in design.”

Sonia Por Favor objected. “Why would he do that? Surely he has learnt his lesson? There must be some good within him!”

Peter the Ace smiled at his fellow bounty hunter. “Sweet Sonia Por Favor. How innocent you are. He is a pure manifestation of evil. His middle name is death and his best friend is the grim reaper. His ultimate aim is to kill us all and rule over the galaxy like a phantom of despondency.”

“Let’s slice the fucker in two!” Ross Mental screamed. The foul mouthed bounty hunter rushed out of the coffee lounge and headed for his ship the Morbid, recovered from inside the orbiting Mechanism only yesterday.

Sonia Por Favor watched the foul mouthed bounty hunter sprint down the corridor. She had been swayed by Peter the Ace’s speech and Ross Mental’s call of fury. “If he’s that bad, he must be cut in half, just as Ross Mental says.”

Elena L’Apriscatole agreed with her companion. “Si! Dov’é il scure più vicino?” she asked excitedly. She was ready to do the deed.

“Yeah,” Panman said. “Let’s sort him out!”

Commander Pepe spoke. “The orders from the Superior Beings are that you put an end to the festering one’s doings before a galactic disaster of sickening ferocity envelopes us all.

“It shall be done.” Peter the Ace said confidently.

The commander nodded. “This mission requires the best and you are the best, all of you. I’m confident that you’ll have his remains spread over a wide area in no time.

Commander Pepe’s image faded. The large view-screen rose up into the ceiling revealing the magnificent view of the palace once again.

Peter the Ace turned to his colleagues. “Elena L’Apriscatole and Sonia Por Favor, for the first time you are both going on a mission with Panman and myself.”

The two girls screamed like Beatles fans. They were privileged beyond reckoning.

Peter the Ace continued. “Go at once to your ships. Rendezvous with us in orbit in ten minutes.”

They ran away, giggling wildly with excitement. Sonia Por Favor headed for her ship, the Crusted Fahita. Elena L’Apriscatole headed for the Pizza Express.

Panman looked at Peter the Ace. “This mission doesn’t appear to be that difficult. All we have to do is nuke him.” he said.

“Looks can be deceptive.” Peter the Ace said with sagacity. The two galactic saviours walked towards the doorway. “Take Sonia Por Favor. She is short and has the innocence of a child, yet she can extract lungs with her teeth and tear out livers using her left foot, with her victim remaining fully conscious throughout the whole ordeal.”

Panman understood. “So you’re saying that this mission requires thought and planning, as well as gargantuan weapons of mass destruction?”

“Indeed I am.”

“We’ve never tried that before. It’s going to require all the cognitive powers that we can muster.”

“It is.”

“We’ll need potent drugs to help us through it.”

“We will.”

Panman looked around. “And I know just the place to get them.”

“You do?”

Panman pointed to a large grey device near the window.

Peter the Ace nodded and the two bounty hunters wandered over to the drinks machine.

“How’s it going, Justin?” Panman asked.

The cyborg was doing his duty. “Do you desire a drink?”

“We do. Two ultra-strong Parm’Mha’Tharg coffees laced with high concentrations of anabolic steroids and a collection of illegal wake-up drugs please.”

“That drink specification violates my safety protocols. A reason of desperate importance is needed before I can proceed.”

“We’re first class bounty hunters about to leave on a mission to save all life as we know it!”

“Reason acceptable.”

Justin reached inside himself and pulled out two steaming mugs.

The two bounty hunters drank rapidly.

The machine spoke again. “May I join you on your mission?”

Panman stared at Justin. “What possible use could we have for a drinks machine on a mission of such supreme magnitude?”

“I would take the drudgery out of beverage production allowing you to concentrate on your tasks.”

“What drudgery?” Panman said, amazed that Justin had thought such a thing. “We have a new on-board assistant, Jemima Murma. She’s a top rated cook - even better than Carmen, and her thighs are powerful and toned. She adores us and would gladly lay down her life in order to serve us drinks and food. Could you offer us the same kind of service?”

Justin was quiet for a few seconds, and then he said “The thighs would be a problem.”

“There you go!” Panman said. “What did I tell you?”

“My place is on the Blenheim.” the machine said.

Peter the Ace was becoming impatient. “Not until you’ve served your time, Justin.” He turned to his companion. “Panman, we have a rendezvous in orbit in five minutes. Let’s go.”

Without a second to loose, the two galactic saviours of trans-dimensional knowledge sprinted out of the coffee lounge. As they ran they sang out a rhyme. It was a rhyme of supreme quality and transcendental charm. It was a rhyme of powerful motivational and inspirational words and images. It was a rhyme that was above and beyond all other rhymes in quality and structure. And it was known throughout the galaxy by lords, kings, emperors, servants, nomads, heathens, and media sales executives alike as the Chant of the Bounty Hunters.

Slay the heinous

Make them bleed

Annihilate the ones they breed!

Once again, the need for carnage creation had arisen like a blood red sun over an ocean of blood seen through bruised and blood-shot eyes. Only one group of people had the skills, intelligence, and equipment to make that carnage happen. They are without a shadow of a doubt the most awe-inspiring team of heroes ever to exist as molecular constructions.

They are, of course, the Bounty Hunters of the Palace of Amino.

The quest for galactic peace and justice continues…

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