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Book: The Face of Satan's Bog
Chapter 9: The Fusion Freak Factory

With the grace and raw power of a mechanically enhanced sea elephant, the Slaying Mantis lunged through the meaningless realm of sub-space. After two successful months of vigorous and outrageously hazardous testing, the ship - the largest, fastest, strongest, and ugliest in the bounty hunter fleet - was heading back to Enchantia. It’s engines had been driven far beyond operational limits, It’s defence shields had been pummelled with as much rock as could be found, and its weapons had been discharged without a single thought for the harmless bugs and bunnies that dwelt on the primitive planets encountered. All in all, pretty cool!

Clothed in the heaviest battle armour possible, and wearing the darkest pair of shades ever invented, Panman climbed onto a large white-leather bed and lay down onto his back. Even through his mega-shades, the blinding light of the sun lamp on the ceiling directly above made him squint. The air above him soon started to shimmer as his body armour radiated away some of the intense heat.

On the far side of the room stood Peter the Ace and Bald Freda. They too had shades on, although they were not quite as dark as Panman’s.

“How does it feel?” Peter the Ace asked.

Panman turned his head and smiled. “Awesome! I can sense it working already!”

“Marvellous! Once again, the palace engineers seem to have excelled themselves.”

Panman agreed. “Too right! This tan-friendly armour is a scientific miracle! Now, whenever we visit the sunny regions of hostile worlds, we’ll be able to go a deep and satisfying shade of mahogany without the risk of projectiles detonating on our bare flesh. We’d just have to walk around mutilating unlawful goons in the normal fashion and our suits would protect us from all that is harmful!”

Peter the Ace was infected by Panman’s excitement. “Indeed! While all the healthy tanning rays would pass straight through!”

Panman laughed. “Exactly!” He sat up and developed a serious look on his face. “Because of this suit, one of my most important ambitions can be realised at last.”

Peter the Ace was perplexed. “What ambition is that?”

“To become the brownest bounty hunter of all time!”

“That is a fine ambition.”

“It is.”

“Maybe you should stay here with Bald Freda and use her sun bed some more?”

A look of astonishment swept across Bald Freda’s face. “I would be honoured for millennia if you would stay!” she said in an embarrassingly strong Scandinavian accent. She bowed her shiny head in respect to her masters. The light from the solarium glinted off her glossy scalp. The two bounty hunters were lucky they were still wearing their shades.

“Normally I would have stayed,” Panman said, getting down off the bed. “But we’re almost home and I need to get a gigantic meal into my gut before we arrive.”

Bald Freda sobbed heartily. She felt rejected and deeply depressed. Drawing a battle knife from a sheath on her pink leather belt, she prepared to thrust it into her left eye.

With monumental speed, Peter the Ace grabbed the knife just as it as about to puncture Bald Freda’s cornea. He crushed the knife then comforted her. “Don’t worry; I’m sure we’ll visit you again in the future. You should learn to cope with profound disappointment in a more positive manner.”

Bald Freda wiped away the tears that dribbled from under her shades and bowed once again. “I will learn.” She said. The bright artificial sunlight glinted off the top of her polished head once again.

Peter the Ace was irritated. “And put some talcum powder on that smooth hairless cranium of yours!”

She bowed again. “I will.”

Peter the Ace and Panman left the solarium and wandered into a wide deep-carpeted passageway. They headed towards a lift at the far end. Insignificant minions milled around them, occasionally dropping to their knees in awe of their mentors.

“Where do you want to eat?” Peter the Ace asked, completely ignoring the servile plebeians that hovered like helicopters around them.

“Well,” Panman said, kicking away a slobbering refuse technician that was licking his left boot. “I was thinking we could go to the restaurants in the mall, but I’ve been there almost every morning, noon, and night since we came onboard.”

Peter the Ace thought for a second. “There is one of the more exclusive eating establishments that we haven’t been too yet.”

Panman panted like a dog. “Where?!”

“I’ve forgotten what it’s called, but it has a huge view-port that looks down into the ship’s reactor core. It’s also one of the most dangerous restaurants ever conceived.”

“Yes!” Panman screamed.

“You know it?”

“To right I do! It’s called ‘The Fusion Freak Factory’!”

“Oh yes, I remember now.”

Panman began to run. “Cool thinking, Ace! Let’s go!”

Peter the Ace and Panman stepped out of the lift and onto the top level of the Slaying Mantis’s seven engineering decks. Highly trained technicians wearing head-mounted diagnostic equipment strode around with great purpose.

“There it is!” Panman said excitedly.

The two bounty hunters walked over to a huge neon-lined archway. They were met by two muscular and naked girls, both covered completely with silver body paint.

Peter the Ace spoke. “We would like a table for two next to that huge and famous window of yours.”

The girls’ breathing deepened noticeably. “Of course.” One of them said huskily. She led them into the restaurant. The other girl sank to her knees and groaned with pleasure.

The restaurant was huge, almost fifty metres across, and was filled with the intelligent chatter of lesser bounty hunters. The two top class bounty hunters were lead through the mass of chrome tables to the massive window at the far end. It was an amazing sight, six metres high and angled forwards allowing for a fantastic view down the reactor core.

Peter the Ace and Panman took their seats and looked down at the view. The ten-storey high reactor core pulsed first red, then green, casting an eerie glow across the restaurant. Nuclear scientists wandered across the multi-levelled gantries below, inspecting various data-screens for inefficiencies in power generation and distribution. The scientists were dressed in heavily shielded environment suits, necessary to block the intense radiation that emanated from the core.

Bleeping like a foetal bulbal goat, a floating maintenance droid drifted passed the window. It spun its sensor array towards the two fabulous heroes. After a second of digital thought, it bowed in a highly respectful manner.

“Whoa!” Panman exclaimed. “That flying robot dude recognised us!”

“Of course it did.” Peter the Ace said, smiling. “The new regulations on mechanoid awareness levels, devised by the Superior Beings themselves, take effect from today.”

“Oh yeah,” Panman said, “I remember hearing something about those. One of them states that all droids and cyborgs must store the images of all top bounty hunters in their memories so that they can show us the deepest of respect whenever they encounter us!”

Peter the Ace nodded. “Those regulations seem to have been followed!”

“Cool as a chocolate yogurt!” Panman said. A feeling of sudden curiosity overwhelmed him. “How come you remembered the exact day on which the regulations were to take effect?”

“Because I set that date.”

“What? Why did you set the date?”

“Because I wrote the original proposal for the regulations. After the Superior Beings re-worked my historical proposal into something of great depth and meaning, they blessed me with the task of setting the start date.”

Panman felt a touch offended. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

As usual, Peter the Ace said the right thing. “To surprise you, of course!”

“Oh yeah! Cool! Thanks, Ace. That’s really kind of you.”

“It is.”

A set of naked and silver female Siamese twins hobbled over to the bounty hunters’ table and handed them drinks. Due to the fact that they were joined at the mouth, their speech was slurred and difficult to comprehend. “Heeers tha mennuu.”

Panman and Peter the Ace accepted the menus.

The linked waitresses spoke again. “Waavvee att uz whehn yar whant ta orderrr.” They stumbled away.

“Weird!” Panman said, stating the obvious. He gulped down a mouthful of his drink. He swallowed hard, a pained expression spread across his face. “Even weirder!” he burped.

Peter the Ace was reading the introductory page on the menu. “It says here that the foul-tasting drink handed to patrons when they arrive is necessary to prevent agonizing death.”

Panman burped again. “For what reason?”

Peter the Ace continued reading. “It says here that ‘Due to the highly toxic and radioactive nature of the food and beverages in this establishment, one litre of Professor Blewprynt’s Anti-Toxic Re-Radiax Repulsion Syrup must be consumed to avoid absorption of lethal substances and deadly rays of death.’”

Panman was concerned. “That’s all very well, but what about the nutrients in the food? I must absorb those!”

“Apparently, ‘Anti-Toxic Re-Radiax Repulsion Syrup does not inhibit the absorption of nutrients in food. The syrup has been known to actually increase the assimilation of fat onto the waistline and thighs in certain subjects.’”

Panman instantly knocked back his glass of syrup, grimacing as he did so. He waved towards the physically connected waitresses that had served them earlier.

Peter the Ace drank his syrup with such self control that he appeared to be drinking mineral water.

The waitresses lurched over to the bounty hunters’ table. “Arree yar reaaddyy tooo orrdeer?”

“Of course.” Panman said. “Bring me a deteriorated three-eyed goose casserole and two lamb tentacles.”

“I’ll have a hog and dog hybrid leg pie.” Peter the Ace said.

“Thaank yow.” The linked waitresses stumbled away.

“Have you noticed the other waitresses?” Panman asked.

Peter the Ace scanned the restaurant. “Indeed. They’re all mutated and contorted, just like ours.”

“Yeah! They must have come from some really toxic planet, or something.”

“I think they were bred especially for the job.”

“Really? That’s so cool!”

An announcement was heard over the restaurant’s D.G.F. sound system. It was Farqhar Alqurseltsa speaking from the bridge. “The Slaying Mantis will be entering the Enchantia System in one hour. All menial workers report to their stations for an immediate body cavity search in preparation for disembarkation. Repeat: All menial workers report to their stations for an immediate body cavity search in preparation for disembarkation. Don’t be late, there’s good chaps!

Panman became anxious. “Only one hour to fill my gut!”

“Calm yourself.” Peter the Ace advised. “You’ll have enough time to stuff yourself beyond reason.”

Panman was too distraught to listen. He shouted across the restaurant at maximum volume. “Bring food! Now!!!”

The restaurant fell deadly silent. Immediately, all of the mutant waitresses - fully trained for such an event - carried out Panman’s order and rushed as much food to him as possible. Jellied jaw meat, giant fried larvae, and seven-fingered monkey paws piled up on the table. After only ten seconds the table was filled. The lesser bounty hunters at the restaurant looked on in silent expectation.

After a second of indecision over what to eat first, Panman grabbed a monkey paw and crammed it into his mouth along with one of the larvae. His servo-assisted steel-plated jaws crushed the food with ease. The sound of bones crunching echoed round the room.

A huge cheer erupted from the crowd of lesser bounty hunters, many of whom had never before witnessed the incredible feeding capability of a first-class bounty hunter. They cheered even louder as Panman’s original order arrived and was immediately devoured. Tentacle fluid splattered through the air.

The crowd had been whipped into a frenzy of boisterous adoration.

Peter the Ace was distracted by a bleeping on his wrist-mounted communicator. He pressed the answer button. “This had better be important. I’m in a restaurant witnessing a major feeding frenzy!”

The familiar tones of Farqhar Alqurseltsa fluttered out of the communicator’s octophonic sound system. “It jolly well is important, sir. Commander Pepe wishes to speak with you on a priority one scrambled encrypted encoded secure channel.

The top class bounty hunter became ultra-serious. “That does indeed sound important. Panman and I are on our way.”

Peter the Ace clicked off the communicator and called to Panman. His colleague was buried in tentacles and did not hear. Peter the Ace realised that not even a gang of passionate mandrills could disturb Panman at this moment, so he sat back and quietly watched his partner eat. He felt a wave of pride wash over him. Panman was, indeed, the most relentless eating machine that the galaxy had ever known!

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