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Book: The Face of Satan's Bog
Chapter 4: Prototype

“Pan… Man… Pan… Man…” the crowd chanted. Louder and louder, faster and faster. “Pan… Man… Pan… Man…” Then, as the wriggling tail of the metre long snake finally disappeared into Panman’s mouth, a deafening cheer filled the restaurant. The large gathering of trainee bounty hunter finalists banged on their tables with excitement. For some it was too much and consciousness vacated their brains. Having the two finest examples of fearless super-heroes turn up unexpectedly in their local eating establishment was an experience too euphoric and ecstatic to comprehend.

With a final audible gulp Panman raised his hands and smiled broadly. “Thank you all for your expected, but nevertheless pleasing, adoration!”

The crowd cheered at the sound of his words.

Panman turned to one of the waitresses, a dark-skinned girl with immaculately groomed straight black hair. She was clearly struggling to contain herself and maintain an air of professionalism. The bounty hunter spoke. “Myself and Peter the Ace require a window seat immediately.”

The waitress nodded and lead the two top class bounty hunters to a large table set into a huge bay window. The four people already sitting there bowed with the deepest respect for their betters and left quickly. After handing the bounty hunters a menu each the waitress turned and ran away, breathing and panting heavily. She left quickly via a rear exit.

“You certainly made an impression here tonight.” Peter the Ace said as he sat down. “Eating that snake was an astute move.”

“I was hungry and it was there.” Panman said as he read the menu. “Nothing more to it.”

“It still gave these people the thrill of their lives!”

“Yeah, but they, like everyone else, adore us without question. Even if I’d only eaten a peanut some of them would have still passed out.”

“Very true.”

Panman waved at the waitress who had just returned to the restaurant. She rushed up to the table, more breathless than ever and with her hair completely dishevelled.

“What can I get you?” she asked, blinking as a bead of sweat touched her eyelash.

“A bowl of live newts to start,” Panman said. “Then I think I’ll have pterosaur ribs and a couple of pythons.”

She turned to Peter the Ace.

“Just scale paste and a gator-thigh for me, thank you.”

After bowing almost to the floor, the waitress scurried rapidly away.

Peter the Ace looked around. “We should come to these lesser establishments more often. They have a raw feeling that the luxurious restaurants of the Central Tower could never emulate - however hard they tried.” He looked at Panman. “What made you suggest this place?”

Panman smiled. “To see if you’d remember it!”

Peter the Ace looked perplexed. “Have we been here before?”

“Of course! We’ve been to every one of the palace’s restaurants. You know that!”

“Oh yes, we have haven’t we! It must have been a long time ago since we came here though?”

Panman nodded. “It is. A whole century, in fact!”

The first course arrived. Using a pair of chopsticks, Panman grabbed a scurrying newt from the glass bowl in front of him, dipped it in some cheese sauce, and then placed it in his mouth. The newt let out a faint squeak as Panman began to chew.

“I’m sorry, it’s no good,” Peter the Ace said, dipping some bread into his plate of green scale paste. “I can’t recall ever coming here.”

“You will if I give you a clue.”

“Go on then.”

“This is where we first noticed the potential of Sarah Savage, or Sarah McGillycuddy as she was known in those days.”

“Of course!” Peter the Ace said. Everything had suddenly become crystal clear. “This is where she ate that living adolescent crocodile!”

“Yeah, spot on!”

“That was so cool! Her mastication abilities impressed even us!”

“They did! And her ability to regurgitate rapidly, too!”

Peter the Ace laughed. “Oh yes! When she realised that we’d been watching, she was so overwhelmed with nervousness that she vomited the entire beast back up!”

Panman chuckled then began chewing on another newt. He looked out of the window and up beyond the tips of some of the palace’s residential towers. Stars twinkled in the dark sky above. “It’s a shame that she’s away on that bizarre mission right now. She’d have enjoyed reliving that reptilian moment.”

“She would indeed.”

The communicator on Peter the Ace’s wrist bleeped. He pressed the answer button. The wide and flab-padded face of Commander Pepe appeared on the communicator’s high-resolution wide-screen display.

“Commander Pepe!” Peter the Ace said gleefully. “How are you?”

Bloated, but fine.” The commander answered. “I hear that all went well at the training cliffs this afternoon!

“Indeed! As well as surviving, Sind’a Thighs achieved one of the highest scores ever!”

Marvellous effort. As usual, you and Panman have chosen a most worthy and luscious assistant!

“We are both highly satisfied with her performance. Sind’a Thighs is well suited to the bounty hunter lifestyle.”

You refer to her as ‘Sind’a Thighs’? Is that to be her official bounty hunter name?

Peter the Ace nodded. “It is indeed. It’s perfect for her, as you’ve probably noticed.”

Commander Pepe smiled. “Absolutely! I can think of nothing better to do on a cold winters night than to nuzzle up between those two shapely and toned appendages. Magnificent!

“Well,” Peter the Ace said, “if you administer enough drugs to her, maybe she’ll let you live out that fantasy?”

The commander laughed. “With the drugs I have access to, it’s guaranteed!

The main course arrived. Panman tucked in, oblivious to everything around him.

“So,” Peter the Ace said into the communicator. “What can I do for you, commander?”

Oh yes! The reason for my call.” Commander Pepe’s expression turned serious. “Construction of the Slaying Mantis prototype has been completed.

A look of joy spread across Peter the Ace’s Face. “The Slaying Mantis; the first ever bounty hunter battle cruiser?”

Absolutely!

“It’s finished?!”

That’s what I said.

The ultimate bounty hunter was astonished. “That’s three months ahead of schedule!”

We’ve been ahead of schedule for a year now but we didn’t want yourself or Panman to know. We wanted to surprise you.

“You surprised us all right!”

I’m glad.” the commander said. “And what’s more, we made some surprise design modifications as well!

“Excellent!”

They are!

“When’s the first test flight?”

Tomorrow at dawn. I would like the two of you to be in command.

Peter the Ace nodded vigorously. “We would be delighted.”

Great! The Slaying Mantis is pulling into Enchantia orbit as we speak. Be there at oh’ six-hundred hours.

“No problem!”

“Commander Pepe out…”

The communicator screen faded to black.

“Great news don’t you think, Panman?”

Panman’s face was buried behind dripping mass of cold-bloodied reptile flesh. He was completely unaware of the conversation that had just transpired.

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