With effortless style and grace the Blenheim, with the Morbid docked to its topside, slinked its way through the entity-strewn confines of subspace.
Alone on the bridge, Peter the Ace reclined in his luxurious command chair and sipped gently on a glass of champagne. The journey back to the Palace of Amino following yet another successful mission was one of the bounty hunter’s favourite times. It was a time of relaxing contemplation – a time to mull over the pivotal moments of the mission, to philosophize on the meaning of all that occurred, and to relish in the destruction or capture of villainous beings, and in the rescue of the innocent and helpless.
It was also time to call in and report.
Peter the Ace issued a command. “Blenheim, open a secure communications channel to Commander Pepe at the Palace of Amino Battle Command.”
“CHANNEL OPEN. CONNECTING…”
The image on the main view-screen changed to show the Palace of Amino Battle Command insignia.
After a few seconds the image on the view-screen changed once more. Commander Pepe’s wide face and immensely obese torso filled most of the screen. The commander was naked and sitting half-submerged in a large bubbling bath. Behind him through a huge panoramic window was the soaring skyline of the Palace of Amino, silhouetted against a deep orange evening sky. Four toned, tanned and naked young females were sitting in the bath with him. Two more were sitting behind on the window sill. They were all giggling quietly. The commander smiled and spoke, his mass of chins undulating slowly. “Ah, Peter the Ace! Good to hear from you! Apologies for not being in Battle Command. I decided to retire to my apartment for a couple of hours to… relax.”
Peter the Ace grinned. “No apology necessary. A person of your status and in your position needs plenty of relaxation to cope with the enormous levels of daily stress that you endure.”
“Very true! I try to spend as much time in this bath or in one of my massage chambers as possible, especially during a crisis.”
One of the females nuzzled up into the commander’s flabby chest. She looked towards Peter the Ace, her eyes glazed. “Hello, bounty hunter.” She slurred happily. Grinning inanely she turned towards the commander and sank into the frothing water.
Peter the Ace laughed. “I see the new drugs are having the desired effect!”
Commander Pepe’s eyes rolled back momentarily. He signed and then quickly regained his composure. “They certainly are, although their potency has not increased as much as in previous years. I spoke to one of the chemical engineers at the Amino Mind Alteration Clinic about it. He claimed that the theoretical potency limit for the compliance drugs I give to my females has been reached. I ordered them to devote more time to finding a way to breach that limit.”
Peter the Ace was perplexed. “Is the current potency level not enough? Those girls look extremely compliant to me!”
The commander nodded. “At the moment yes, the potency level is fine, but I grow larger and more revolting every year. The potency of the drugs must increase in line with my ever-increasing levels of obesity and ugliness. If it doesn’t, in a few years these females will find me repulsive, no matter how drugged-up they are. They’ll find it incredibly difficult not to vomit profusely and continuously as soon as they’re in my presence. That would severely reduce their performance. And also I hate vomit, especially in my bath!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “I understand. Hopefully those chemical engineers will find a breakthrough very soon.”
“I hope so.” Commander Pepe said. The female resurfaced. She smiled lazily and panted heavily. The commander waved her away. “Now, how are things going out there in the Slimyebba Void?”
“Very well indeed.” Peter the Ace was happy to say. “We managed to destroy most of the Sadeeni fleet using a gravistatic pulse. Only the fleet’s flagship survived. The Sadeeni attempt to destroy Nemia and assassinate Lord Gastonemous has failed.”
“Excellent work! Have you now destroyed the flagship?”
“I initially intended to, but then a phenomenal plan entered my mind. Instead Cardigan Moth and Mistress Beast Feaster, along with their ships, have stowed away inside the giant Sadeeni vessel. As soon as it arrives at the Sadeeni home world I’ve ordered them to create as much chaos as possible. I’m hoping that the Sadeeni civilization will be so shocked and traumatized by such an onslaught from two small bounty hunter ships that they will never again return to this galaxy.”
Commander Pepe applauded. Tears welled in his eyes. “Bravo! Outstanding, as always! Such an insane plan could only come from the minds of top-class bounty hunters such as you.” The commander thought for a moment.“Hmm… the journey to the Sadeeni home world will take many years. I hope those two lower-class bounty hunters can cope with such a sustained period of confinement and isolation.”
Peter the Ace nodded. “They’ll be fine. Their ships are docked together so they’ll be able to keep each other occupied!”
The commander sniggered. “I’m sure they will!” He sank lower into his bath.
Peter the Ace continued his report. “Also, against all the odds we managed to rescue Professors Espanys and Larberec.”
Commander Pepe beamed. “That’s superb news! I’ll send a message to Lord Gastronemous immediately to inform him of the good news.”
“Unfortunately they are not intact. We only have their heads, which were fortunately preserved in a transparent life-support dome.”
“Really? How odd. Why?”
“It’s a long and bizarre story so I’ll leave that for my report. The professors are currently in the cyborg construction laboratory having their new bodies fitted. They’ll be up and about in no time!”
“Well, I guess that’s just about it. We should be back at the palace in two days. Ross Mental is with us, and we have the deca-whore he captured safe and secure in our main cargo…”
Commander Pepe interrupted. “Oh yes! That reminds me.” He stood up sending a swell of water out across his bath. The four females in the bath gasped and giggled as the mini tsunami passed by. “I had a call from Governor Ykcor this morning.”
“The governor of Repugnius? What did he want?”
“Apparently the local media has been creating stories about the governor’s rampant affair with the deca-whore Ross Mental arrested. The fact that she was hauled naked across his private landing platform seems to have sent their imaginations soaring!”
“Yes, I noticed some of that on one of the news channels. What’s that got to do with me?”
“The stories are getting so extreme, disgusting and prolific that the governor’s political career is now in jeopardy. He’s even being blamed for the destruction of the GovernmentTower. Some video channels are now devoting more than half their airtime to the stories, and many already have dramas and documentaries in production that delve deep into the governor’s distasteful lifestyle. The governor has requested help in clearing his name.”
Peter the Ace shook his head. “We never get involved in politics, commander. You should know that!”
“I do. Ordinarily I would reject such a request, but Governor Ykcor is in charge of one of the most corrupt and depraved central worlds. If he loses power it could destabilize not only Repugnius, but most of the Odious Sector too!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Hmm… Yes, that would be most undesirable.”
“As Ross Mental was the one to arrest the deca-whore, the governor has requested that he return. He would like Ross Mental to explain once and for all that he did not have a steaming hardcore relationship with the mass-breasted whore.”
Peter the Ace nodded and laughed. “Ross Mental will love that! I’ll go and tell him now. He should be back on Repugnius in a few hours.”
“Good! I’ll let the governor know. Commander Pepe out.”
Before the communications channel closed the view-screen showed the commander sinking into his bath under a writhing mass of naked females.
The Blenheim’s cyborg construction laboratory was filled with a cacophony of whirrs, fizzes and bangs as the heads of Professors Espanys and Larberec were connected up to their new artificial bodies. In a cloud of seemingly unnecessary steam and sparks, millions of synthetic nerve endings were connected to the stumps of the professors’ spinal columns in the base of their necks. The cyborg bodies beneath twitched as they received the first signals from the professors’ brains. With a whoosh the steam was cleared as a powerful vacuum pump in the ceiling cleared the air. The final part of the process commenced. Two toughened glass bowls were lowered over the heads of the professors and sealed onto the shoulders of their new metal bodies. With a final fizz the process was completed. The various arms, nozzles, clamps and manipulators of the cyborg construction equipment retracted back into the walls.
All was quiet.
Standing next to each other in the middle of the laboratory, the two professors turned and looked at each other. The shock of the experience was unmistakable in their expressions.
Panman and Ross Mental were standing nearby.
Ross Mental grinned. “That was fuckin’ awesome! That new dual cyborg constructor works perfectly!”
Panman nodded. “Yeah, it’s cool, and fast, too!”
“So, professors,” Ross Mental asked, “how do you feel? You must be fuckin’ impressed with your shiny new fuck-off bodies!”
Professor Espanys looked down at his new body. “It is impressive, I suppose. It will take some getting used to.” His voice was modulated and metallic.
Panman reassured the professor. “Don’t worry, your minds will soon adapt. Those stunning new bodies are far better than the cholesterol-ridden tubby ones you had before. And with regular servicing they should last for centuries!”
Professor Espanys was still examining his body. “What is this cage-like structure around my waist and chest for? I cannot discern its purpose.”
Peter the Ace had just wandered in. He answered. “Its purpose should be obvious. It is to allow you to maintain your former portly appearance when wearing your robes. We would not want you to loose that all-important status associated with an excessively rotund midsection just because your bodies are now artificial and hyper-efficient!”
“I see.” Professor Espanys said. “That’s… a very thoughtful feature.”
“Indeed it is.”
Professor Larberec staggered forwards one step and then reached out to the wall to steady himself. He frowned. “This body is unstable! I demand a replacement!”
“It’ll take time to get used to.” Peter the Ace said calmly. “But soon you’ll be running and leaping around like a manic child.”
“Yeah!” Ross Mental said, nodding. He slammed his fists into his legs. There was a loud metallic thud. “I had these fuckers fitted sixteen years ago. At first I walked like a pissed fucker, but now I wouldn’t be without them!”
Professor Espanys asked a question. “When can we return to Nemia?”
Peter the Ace shook his head. “I’m afraid you can’t. The technology in your new bodies is classified. Once we arrive at the Palace of Amino you must remain there.”
Professor Larberec was incensed. “You’re going to imprison us?! Outrageous!”
“You will not be prisoners. You’ll have the freedom to go anywhere within the palace. And occasionally you’ll also be able to leave with a bounty hunter escort. Your status as respected academics with positions as scientific advisors to Lord Gastronemous will ensure that there’ll be a high-class bounty hunter available to escort you at very short notice.”
Professor Larberec was still fuming. He tried walking again but slipped and crumpled to the floor. His artificial limbs clattered like pans on the hard floor. “This is preposterous!” The professor exclaimed.
Peter the Ace looked at Panman. “You’d better take them both to one of the cargo bays. They need a lot of practice.”
Panman nodded. He walked over to Professor Larberec and helped him to his feet. He then guided the two unsteady academics out of the laboratory.
Ross Mental voiced his opinion. “Academics are annoying fuckers!”
Peter the Ace had to agree. “They are rather irritating, aren’t they?!”
Ross Mental started to walk away. “I’m off to the galley. I need a fuckin’ beer.”
“Wait a moment.” Peter the Ace said. “I was speaking to Commander Pepe a few minutes ago.”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter stopped and turned. “Really? How is the chubby fucker?!”
“He’s fine. He had a call from Governor Ykcor. Apparently the governor is suffering greatly from media lies about a sordid relationship he’s supposed to have had with Mama Flesh.”
Ross Mental laughed. “The media on that planet is fuckin’ cool!”
“Indeed. Anyway, the governor’s political career is on the verge of collapse. If it does collapse the whole sector could be thrown into turmoil.”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter nodded. “Yeah, that region is fuckin’ fragile. What’s that got to do with me?”
“The governor wants you to go back and explain things.”
Ross Mental sighed. “Fuck!”
“It should only take you a couple of days to sort things out. And you can stick around for some hardcore gambling, eating and street fighting afterwards.”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter’s expression brightened. “You’re fuckin’ right!” He turned and strode out of the laboratory. “I’m off to save the governor and fuck up some thugs! See you fuckin’ later!”
Peter the Ace felt proud as he watched Ross Mental leave the laboratory. He found successfully motivating lesser bounty hunters to go on tedious missions particularly pleasing. His communicator bleeped. He answered. “Panman! What’s up?”
“Ace, how about a mammoth holo-games session?”
Peter the Ace headed for the cyborg construction laboratory’s exit. “I can’t think of anything better!”
“Awesome! I’ll tell Jemima Murma to take some deep-fried snacks and some beer to the holo-games room.”
“Nice idea.” Peter the Ace said as he wandered up once of the Blenheim’s plush corridors. “What should we play?”
“How about that new game I installed whilst we were on Nemia?”
“You mean ‘The Puss-Infested Schizophrenic Flesh Fiend Invasion’?”
“Yeah, that’s the one!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Excellent choice.” He said as he entered one of the ship’s plush elevators. He selected deck two from the control panel. “How are the professors doing?”
“When I left them they were clinging to each other and staggering around like string-puppets!”
Peter the Ace chucked. “Our cyborg construction equipment certainly provides a lot of pleasure – especially for us!”
The elevator door opened. Ahead was the entrance to the holo-games room. Panman had just arrived. He was holding a large bag of doughnuts.
Peter the Ace pointed. “I thought Jemima Murma was bringing up some food?”
“She is.” Panman said, opening the holo-games room door. “But that won’t be for another five minutes.” He reached into the bag and stuffed a whole doughnut into his mouth. He chomped on it like a hippo.
Peter the Ace watched as Panman took his seat at the holo-games console. Panman took another doughnut from the bag and crammed it into his mouth and then activated the console. A list of games shimmered into existence in the centre of the room. Panman pulled another doughnut out of the bag and positioned it in front of his mouth ready to force it in as soon as space became available.
Peter the Ace laughed.
Panman looked up at him and spoke through a dense mouthful of food. “What?!”
Doughnut crumbs scattered across a wide area.