The cavernous chamber of Amino Battle Command, carved into dense rock almost two kilometres below the Palace of Amino, was filled with the usual quiet murmurings of its dedicated staff - silhouettes against the mellow glow of their consoles. On the distant main wall huge screens, the main light source in the otherwise dark chamber, were filled with images and statistics of the palace’s formidable defence installations and detailed real-time scans of the surrounding space and planetary systems. Other screens displayed information on the thousands of bounty hunter missions currently in progress.
Peter the Ace and Panman stood on a terrace outside the elevator and took in the scene below. Despite having the very highest level of security clearance the two first-class bounty hunters had not visited Amino Battle Command for several decades. Lengthy and gruelling missions of the deadliest kind, and the desire to experience the joy of the palace’s opulent surface facilities during their short spells at home, meant that visiting the subterranean command centre was rarely, if ever, part of their agenda.
But today was different. Commander Pepe’s unusual request for their assistance had intrigued them, and they had agreed to come down.
Panman was munching on a triple-glazed banana doughnut. “This is an impressive sight!” He said, spraying crumbs over the terrace’s railings.
Peter the Ace nodded. “It must have been a most exhilarating experience to be down here during those attacks on the palace, especially when that lump-being’s emitter beam hit.”
Panman laughed. “Yeah, that would’ve been cool!” He was thoughtful for a moment. “Of course, it could never be as cool as being thousands of light years away dealing with the enemy face-to-face!”
“You’re right, of course.” Peter the Ace said. “I wouldn’t give that up for all the tea on the central worlds.”
With a whoosh a set of double doors opened just a few metres from the two first-class bounty hunters. The terrace was flooded with light and steam and the intoxicating scents of massage oils. From out of the hot fog a figure, barely able to move under the strain of its huge sagging mass, waddled heavily onto the terrace. Clothed in nothing more than a thick and tent-like white towel, the figure turned and looked at the bounty hunters. “Peter the Ace? Panman? Is it time for our meeting?”
Peter the Ace grinned. “It is indeed. I see you’re not quite ready!”
Commander Pepe looked a little flustered. “I apologise. Hazel and Miranda excelled themselves today. The way they buried themselves into my flab was intensely refreshing. I’m afraid I lost track of time.”
“No problem, commander. We understand.”
The commander continued, obviously lost in his memories of his recent steamy session. “The most distracting moment was when Hazel lifted my gut and nuzzled deep into my…”
There was a huge cheer from down below.
Commander Pepe looked down. “Ah. My staff has noticed your presence.”
Peter the Ace and Panman gave the Battle Command staff below a quick wave. The staff whooped with joy and admiration. One young female officer found the whole experience too much to cope with. She exhaled noisily and then fell to the floor.
The commanded leaned on the terrace’s reinforced railings. He frowned and asserted his considerable authority. “Enough! Get back to your stations!” His massive layers of fat wobbled, sending slow ripples around his tremendous girth. He pointed at the fallen female. “Revive her immediately!”
The staff below bowed and then turned back to their consoles. A medic appeared and tended to the fallen female.
Commander Pepe turned his mass uneasily. “Let’s go to my office. Weezil is probably there already. He’ll present to you the information we’ve received.”
Two females – tanned, toned, naked and oiled – appeared from the open sauna. They were carrying a deep purple bathrobe. They helped the commander put it on as he walked. They scurried around tying the robe’s various straps until the commander was securely clothed. They then ripped out the towel from underneath. The commander thanked them. The females looked at Peter the Ace and Panman and giggled. They then ran back into the sauna dragging the commander’s huge white towel with them.
Smiling, Peter the Ace and Panman followed the slow-moving wide load that was Commander Pepe with consummate patience.
Commander Pepe’s office was the largest private space at Amino Battle Command. Oval in shape, and almost ten metres across at its widest point, the lavishly furnished office was a haven of luxury, and was custom built to accommodate the commander’s ever-increasing mass and bulk.
Sinking into his reinforced leather chair, Commander Pepe positioned himself behind his crescent-shaped desk. Peter the Ace and Panman sat in front of the desk on two plush swivel-armchairs.
Panman grabbed an oily snack from a plate on the commander’s desk and shoved it into his mouth. He looked around and then pointed. “That’s one amazingly bizarre sculpture!”
The commander looked over to a large bulbous mass of metal next to his office’s main entrance. “Ah, yes! That was made to my specification only last year. I’m surprised you haven’t seen it before. It was featured in the palace’s ‘Pompous Artefacts’ magazine a few months ago.”
Panman shook his head. “I don’t read that kind of thing. I find it as boring as a clean blanket!”
Peter the Ace agreed. “It certainly is not the most stimulating of reads.”
Commander Pepe nodded. “I understand. I guess when you are always away on life-threatening missions of perilous significance such a magazine would seem dull beyond belief.”
Panman nodded and then reached for another snack.
Peter the Ace spoke. “Still, I’m curious. What exactly is it supposed to be? It looks like a dozen or so stimulated breasts fused together, to me.”
The commander applauded. “Well done! That is exactly what it is!”
Commander Pepe grinned. “Indeed!” He operated a control on his desk.
The dark wood paneling behind his desk parted. A cloud of steam billowed out. From out of the softly lit fog a toned and large chested female, clothed in nothing but a black thong and bikini top, stepped into the room. She looked at Commander Pepe dreamily. “What can I do for you, love puppet?”
“Janta, show Peter the Ace and Panman the inspiration for my new sculpture.”
Janta gasped as she realised the significance of the two bounty hunters in front of her. “It would be an honour!” She said. She brushed her hands through her dark wet hair to calm herself. And then she reached round and untied her bikini top. Her ample breasts were released.
Peter the Ace looked calmly at Janta’s assets, and then over to the sculpture. “There is a remarkable likeness, especially to the larger examples at the top of the piece.” He looked back at Janta. “Thank you, that was very informative.”
Janta gasped once again. She bowed. “It was a pleasure!”
Panman just had to ask a question. “Commander, why are you so obsessed with breasts?”
Commander Pepe smiled. “It is not an obsession, although I can see why it would appear that way.” He reached up and cupped Janta’s left breast in his hand. He squeezed gently. “I have a deep appreciation for these that’s beyond a mere sexual obsession. I consider them art – and high art at that! The form, colour, texture and firmness of the best examples, such as the one I’m manipulating right now, are delightfully inspirational and provide me with cerebral pleasures beyond anything else I know.” The commander circled his index finger around Janta’s nipple. He licked his lips. “And when I suck on this delicious…”
From the far side of the office a voice spoke. “Perhaps we should get on with the meeting?” Standing in front of the office’s huge panoramic window was the impatient-looking Chief Officer Weezil Sagifagpakit. He was framed by an impressive view of the main Battle Command chamber beyond.
Commander Pepe nodded. “Oh yes, of course. All this chatter about breasts distracted me.” He motioned at Janta. “Leave us.”
Janta nodded and then stepped back into the steam. The panels closed behind her.
The commander looked at the doors longingly for a second and then turned back. He nodded at the chief officer. “Get on with it!”
Stepping away from the window and over to a large view-screen Chief Officer Weezil Sagifagpakit began. “We have received a transmission from Sadie Stick’s ship, the Retarded Monk Grinder. Sadie Stick is currently on a random patrol mission in the Cefni Cluster.”
Commander Pepe’s legendary impatience kicked in. “We know that, Weezil! Get to the point!”
The chief officer nodded. “Of course. The following presentation was formulated from information sent by Sadie Stick’s mechanical companion, THROB.”
The view-screen faded to life. Over the next minute a detailed yet concise visual and aural presentation explained the situation. The comet that Sadie Stick had entered contained a chamber filled with vats of what appeared to be a highly potent and fast-acting virus. The bounty hunter had been infected and had been quarantined on her ship. The symptoms of infection were already proving to be quite severe, with Sadie Stick currently deeply unconscious and with her skin peeling off at a rapid rate.
When the visual presentation concluded Weezil summed up the situation. “Less than a month ago the population of the planet Lodi in the Nacirema System is known to have been recently infected with an almost identical virus, and that outbreak occurred shortly after a comet strike. The virus spread throughout the entire pre-subspace civilisation within days. A coincidence is highly unlikely.”
“Thank you, Weezil.” Commander Pepe said. He turned to Peter the Ace and Panman. “What do you think?”
Peter the Ace answered first. “This is a serious situation. It looks like the intentional infection of several worlds is in progress. The reason for that must be uncovered as soon as possible. Do you know where the three recently discovered comets are heading?”
Weezil answered. “All three are heading for heavily populated planets similar to Lodi. And all will make planet fall within the next three months.”
“Those comets must be destroyed immediately.”
Panman nodded. He grabbed another oily snack from the commander’s desk. “Yeah, and the origin of those comets must be traced.”
Commander Pepe agreed. “Wise, as always!”
Peter the Ace added. “I suggest you get a top-class bounty hunter out to the Retarded Monk Grinder as soon as possible to aid THROB in his research on Sadie Stick’s condition. I’d rather not rely solely on the dry and witless machine logic of a mechanoid in this situation. Insane reasoning and crazy speculation is needed.”
The commander nodded once more. “My thinking exactly! Weezil, did you get all that?”
The chief officer was tapping on his data pad. “I did. May I also suggest that we get all bounty hunters currently in that region to check for other comets, or planets already infected?”
Commander Pepe slammed one of his lardy fists onto his desk. The thud was dull – muted by the deep luxury carpeting and paneling in the office. “Of course you may suggest it! That’s part of your job!”
Peter the Ace’s communicator bleeped. He looked at the message. He got to his feet. “Well, commander, it looks like you’ve got things covered. We must go. Panman and I have an appointment with Doctor DeMorgan.”
Panman stood up. Oil dribbled down his chin. “Oh yeah, I’d almost forgotten about that!”
Peter the Ace headed for the exit. “When you’ve got more information on the severity of the situation let us know.”
Panman followed his companion. “Yeah. We’ll be ready to assist if necessary.”
The commander nodded. “Let’s hope the situation is not so serious as to require such extraordinary assistance.”
Peter the Ace and Panman strode heroically out of the commander’s office.