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Book: The Face of Satan's Bog
Chapter 16: Wispy Beings

Sind’a Thighs was annoyed. “I lose again!”

“You’re not following my advice.” Panman said. “Your strategy is way too sensible. Sit the next round out and watch what I do.”

Panman placed a one-thousand credit chip on his square. The black-jack croupier dealt him two cards - a six of spades and a ten of hearts.

“Hit me.” Panman said.

Sind’a Thigh’s looked at her superior. “Surely the odds are against you? You should stick!”

Panman ignored her. The card was dealt - a three of clubs.

“Hit me.”

The trainee bounty hunter could not believe her ears. “That is unbelievable!”

Panman ignored her again. This time he was dealt an ace of hearts.

“Hit me.”

Sind’a Thighs was not impressed. “With the greatest of respect, this strategy is stupid!”

Panman was dealt his card. Another ace, this time spades.

“Stick.”

The croupier dealt the bank’s card. The bank was bust.

Sind’a Thighs watched with sudden admiration as Panman collected his winnings. Then she bowed her head in shame. “Please forgive me. My lack of faith in you was totally without foundation. I am humiliated.” She looked up, a tear rolled down her left cheek. “I am worthless. Please punish me as you wish for as long as you wish.”

Panman laughed. “You are a trainee - a mistake or two will be tolerated, at least up until year six. But you should know better than to refer to a top class bounty hunter’s gambling strategy as ‘stupid’. The correct term is ‘insane’.”

“Insane?” she said.

“Of course! You’re on the fast-track training programme now, and have been for two months. You must have had an insanity lecture by now?”

The trainee nodded. “Yes, but it was just an introduction. I thought insanity was only supposed to be used to defeat devious miscreants and to penetrate the confines of heavily fortified alien strongholds?”

“That’s true, but when you reach the level of insanity that top class bounty hunters have, you are skilled enough to apply it to any situation, especially gambling.”

Sind’a Thighs smiled with realisation. “Yes! I see it now! Things are becoming clearer!”

“Cool!” Panman said. “If you work at it, in a century or two you may even be able to use insanity as well as I do.”

The trainee bounty hunter bowed, this time very deeply. “You are wise beyond imagination. I am honoured that you think I may one day be as powerful as you.”

“No problem!” Panman got up off his stool. “That’s enough gambling for now; let’s see what Ace is up to.”

The two of them walked over to Peter the Ace, who was standing at one of the view-ports at the far side of the casino. He was sipping champagne and talking to Professor AmpléBläckett Hàgênmåclídensõn.

Panman spoke. “Yo A… Um… Professor Rottingliver, what’s happening?”

“Ah! Doctor Charlatan. Miss Buttfest.” Peter the Ace said. “Good of you both to join us. Professor AmpléBläckett Hàgênmåclídensõn and I were discussing the origins of the entities that dwell within the realm sub-space.” He pointed out of the view-port at a swarm of wispy beings as they drifted by. “The professor believes that they are everlasting, and therefore have no origin. He says that they existed before the creation of our universe and will live on after its end.”

Professor AmpléBläckett Hàgênmåclídensõn nodded and stroked his beard. “From all the evidence accrued through sub-space research, my theory is the only theory that fits. Sub-space is the only medium that we know could have existed before the big bang. If that is the case, then it is logical to assume that sub-space is stable and indestructible and that any entities that dwell within it have the same characteristics.”

“I disagree with the professor.” Peter the Ace said with calm authority. He took another sip of champagne. “From articles I have recently read in this quadrant’s three most respected scientific publications – ‘Trans-Dimensional Phenomena Monthly’, ‘Science for the Intellectually Superior’, and ‘This Week in Hypothesis Land’ - I have come up with a far more radical and plausible theory.”

Panman faked a look of interest. “Let’s hear it, professor.”

Peter the Ace recited his theory. “Archaeological remains, tens of millions of years old, have been found on hundreds of planets throughout the known systems. Those remains contain architectural designs, charts, and texts of such similarity that they must belong to the same civilisation - an ultra-high-tech civilisation that once spanned the galaxy. From the texts it has been deduced that the civilisation was known as the Korg, and existed for at least a hundred million years, colonising more than twenty-thousand worlds.”

Panman decided he should act perplexed. “But there are only ten-thousand planets and moons that can support life. Where are the other ten-thousand?”

“A good question.” Peter the Ace said. “If a little inane. There are only ten-thousand known inhabitable planets and moons. The rest must be in the uncharted regions of the galaxy.”

“Wow, that’s cool. But what have the Korg got to do with the sub-spacial entities?”

“I was just getting to that. Last month, a particularly deep dig on the slave world of Chayngang found some memory crystals. When the text on the crystals was accessed and deciphered, a remarkable discovery was made. As with all civilisations, the Korg used to live on only one planet. Again, as with all civilisations, they invented space travel, and eventually the ability to travel at speeds approaching but never reaching the speed of light. But unlike modern civilisations, they remained at that stage for tens of thousands of years, unable to overcome the light barrier. As a result, the spread of their civilisation to other systems was painfully slow.”

“Idiots!” Panman said. “All recent civilisations discovered and exploited sub-space within a couple of centuries of developing space travel! The Korg must have been unconditionally stupid beyond all hope of recovery!”

“Not at all, my friend. In fact, they were quite the opposite of stupid. They couldn’t discover sub-space because it didn’t exist. They had to invent it!”

“Preposterous!” Professor AmpléBläckett Hàgênmåclídensõn blurted out angrily, spitting champagne everywhere. “Absolutely preposerous! What a disgraceful piece if drivel!”

“It certainly is not.” Peter the Ace said. “The text on the memory crystals is conclusive. Sub-space was created by the Korg to facilitate the rapid expansion of their civilisation.”

Professor AmpléBläckett Hàgênmåclídensõn was furious. “I read all the publications you claim to read, and I have not read about such things! And you still have not explained your theory on the origins of the entities within sub-space!”

“I’ll do that now. It is my belief that because sub-space is an artificial and not a natural phenomenon, some way of managing it was needed. After racking their brains for many years, the Korg decided to convert many millions of their kind to energy beings and launch them into sub-space to monitor and support its dimensions and maintain a safe and consistent transit environment. That did away with the need for the Korg to use their moon-sized sub-space balancing devices. Eventually, due to one catastrophe or another, the Korg became extinct. The sub-space entities - safe in their trans-dimensional realm - survived and continue to this day to perform their eternal duty of keeping sub-space safe and stable.”

Professor AmpléBläckett Hàgênmåclídensõn’s face was red with rage. “I shall check on your facts at once!”

Peter the Ace smiled as the professor stormed out of the casino.

“Good effort, Ace!” Panman said. “That was some of the most incredible bullshit I’ve ever heard!”

Sind’a Thighs bowed. “I am in awe of your intelligence.”

“Thank you both, but actually, it wasn’t true bullshit. It was based on real information.”

“Really?” Panman said.

“Indeed. I glanced at the latest copies of those journals yesterday at the Amino Archaeological Institute, just before we left. They hack into the publisher’s file-system and steal them. I read them at least two weeks before publication!”

“Cool!”

“It was. And I intend to give a lecture to the physics council on the creation of sub-space in a month’s time. I will also outline my ideas for creating a new dimension that will allow even faster travel.”

“You’ve been working on that?!”

“In my spare time.”

“Awesome!”

“It is. But enough of this scientific babble. We’re only a couple of hours away from Drazzil-B. You know what you have to do?”

“Do? Oh yes, check on Justin!” Panman reached inside his robes and pulled out a small state-of-the-art ultra-space communicator. He activated the encryption scrambler system and pressed the send button. The communicator’s tiny screen indicated that a secure link to the Blenheim had been established.

Panman spoke quietly. “Yo, Justin? Are you there?”

After a burst of static, the monotonal reply came. “Yes.

“Cool! How are you, tin buddy?”

I am functioning within standardised operational limits.

“What’s it like to get your legs back? It must be great after all those years of immobility as a drinks machine.”

It is useful to regain the ability to move.

“Where are you?”

I am onboard the Blenheim.

“I know! Where are you in relation to us?”

The Blenheim is following the Korma Sauce at a distance of one-point-one-four light years.

“Good! Repeat your mission orders to me.”

Follow the Korma Sauce to Drazzil-B. Remain at a distance of one light year from the planet to avoid discovery. Stay on full alert for further instructions from my superiors.

“Cool! Is Jemima Murma there?”

Jemima Murma is in the galley.

“What’s she up to?”

Jemima Murma is preparing a luxury buffet to welcome you both when you return to the ship.

Panman drooled. “Whoa! I didn’t know that! She’s so cool!”

She is a competent human female.

Panman nodded. “I’m glad you think so. OK, you’re doing great, metal buddy. Keep up the good work. Panman out.” He closed the communications channel. “Our back-up seems fine.”

“Indeed.” Peter the Ace said. “This mission should be concluded in no time.”

An annoying alarm started whooping.

After a few seconds the alarm stopped and Harry Bonce, the captain of the Korma Sauce, made an announcement. “An emergency situation has arisen. A giant vessel resembling a diseased bowel-movement has appeared in front of us and is on an intercept course. The ship has already broken six sub-space transit regulations and therefore must be considered hostile. Please hold on to something secure as I am about to perform some evasive manoeuvres. Stay calm and don’t panic.

“Hmm.” Peter the Ace said. “This is unforeseen.” He walked over to one of the forward view-ports. Panman and Sind’a Thighs followed.

A spine-cooling sight met their eyes. Straight ahead loomed a large and globular rust-coloured ship of huge proportions. Long spikes extruded forwards from it nose. Its approach was silent and ominous.

“That looks remarkably like the thing Ross Mental described.” Peter the Ace said calmly. He held on to a polished brass hand rail as the Korma Sauce lurched to port and then went into a steep dive. Some of the other passengers were thrown to the floor.

“Our mission may begin sooner than we thought.” Panman said. “Maybe I should call Justin and get him here straight away?”

“No. They may detect our transmission. Let’s just wait and see what happens.”

“Yeah, your right. We’re so monumentally cool that our back-up is merely cosmetic anyway. We can deal with any situation using only our bare hands if we need to.”

“What you say is true.” Peter the Ace said.

Sind’a Thighs smiled broadly in admiration of her two superiors.

The Korma Sauce lurched again and began a steep climb. The giant dung-like vessel, now outside the rear view-ports, loomed larger and larger.

Captain Harry Bonce made another announcement. “I’m trying to evade as best I can. Although it may take some time, I’m confident that I’ll be able to…

There was a bright flash of light. An explosion at the rear sent shock waves coursing through the ship.

Oh my god!” the captain exclaimed. His voice had taken on a highly stressed tone. “They’ve destroyed our engines!

Immense forces played with the Korma Sauce as all its main propulsion systems failed. The wispy entities outside the view-ports flickered then disappeared. With a violent slam, the ship dropped out of sub-space and re-entered normal space. The familiar sight of stars appeared through the view-ports.

Many of the passengers groaned in pain. Split scalps, smashed noses, and broken limbs had suddenly become very popular. Sind’a Thighs rushed to some of the most badly injured and applied rapid first-aid.

An air of stunned silence filled the casino as all who were still conscious focused on the sight out of the rear view-ports. The massive turd-shaped vessel had followed the Korma Sauce out of sub-space and was now closer than ever. A massive opening had appeared on its front section. Even the thickest of creatures could predict what its intentions were.

Panman and Peter the Ace stared at the giant ship as it approached. The dark opening in its front now filled the field of view.

“Well,” Peter the Ace said. “I guess this saves us having to think of a way to infiltrate that thing.”

Panman nodded.

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