Doctor Gerrardo Alberto DeMorgan, the Palace of Amino’s most senior and respected cyborg specialist, sipped gently at his hot foaming coffee. A long dribble of the beverage was creating an ever expanding stain on the front of his white coat. The doctor pointed at the bulky and ungainly-looking cyborg that stood motionless against the far wall of the Central Tower’s cybernetics laboratory. It was connected by a dense collection of tubing to various pieces of monitoring equipment. Two white-coated technicians were standing next to the cyborg. They tapped furiously at their data-pads as they monitored and logged the cyborg’s condition.
Doctor DeMorgan spoke. “After eighteen years without a body it will take a short time for neural configuration of his artificial brain to readapt to mobility.”
Peter the Ace and Panman were standing near the doctor.
Peter the Ace nodded. “That’s understandable.” He said. He smiled as he looked up and down the cyborg’s frame. “You’ve recreated the look of his original body very well. It’s a great retro-style!”
Doctor DeMorgan nodded once. “Thank you, although actually it was impossible to attach a more modern and streamlined body. The lack of complexity of his brain’s motion interface would not have been able to cope with the subtleties of smoother and more refined motivators.”
Peter the Ace understood. “Very true. His mind must be quite crude when compared to more advanced mechanoids.”
Panman shouted. “Justin, how does it feel to have a body again?”
The cyborg responded in pure monotone, his eyes glowing deep red. “I am unable to feel.”
“Then what’s your opinion on your new body?”
“It is the functional equivalent of my previous body. It is therefore a satisfactory replacement.”
Panman laughed. “Yeah, but it’s shiny and new. It looks far better! Isn’t that cool?!”
“The polished appearance of my body is superficial and has no bearing on my body’s functions or on its ability to efficiency…”
“Yeah, yeah!” Panman shouted, holding his hand up. He was already annoyed at Justin’s droning tone.
Justin fell silent.
Peter the Ace turned to Doctor DeMorgan. “Is he ready to be released?”
“Just a moment.” The doctor said. He took another sip of his coffee and then turned and operated a control on a nearby console. All the tubing disconnected from the cyborg and retracted into the walls. The two technicians moved away. “Time for a quick test.” The doctor looked at the cyborg. “Justin, take two steps forwards.”
With a familiar whirr of servos the cyborg took two unsteady steps forwards slamming his plate-like feet into the laboratory’s hard tiled flooring. The whirring and grating noise was almost excruciating.
Peter the Ace grimaced. “That sound is rather unpleasant. Can you do anything about it?”
“Not really,” Doctor DeMorgan said, “but don’t worry, it will lessen in volume considerably after his body is run in. It should only take a day if he walks a lot.” He looked at Peter the Ace. “Basically he’s ready. But as I said, he’ll need a bit of time to regain full and accurate mobility. I recommend only assigning him menial tasks for the next few days.”
Panman grinned. “No problem. That’s all we usually used to give him anyway!” He motioned towards Justin. “Come on; time to go for a walk!”
For almost an hour now Justin, accompanied by Peter the Ace and Panman, had been stomping uneasily across the ornate smooth stone surface of Opulent Square, the huge open space at the base of the Central Tower right at the heart of the Palace of Amino.
Hundreds of bounty hunters had soon gathered nearby. Although they had initially come to see and cheer their heroes, Peter the Ace and Panman, they soon focused on the comical staggering of the cyborg as he gradually got used to his new body.
Peter the Ace patted Justin on his steel-plated back. “Well done.” The bounty hunter said as they started on their fifth lap of the square. He spoke loudly to be heard above the whirr of servos and the sound of laughter from the crowd. “You seem to be getting steadier by the minute.”
Panman was walking alongside. “And you’re a big hit with the audience.” He pointed towards the centre of the square. “You’re even more entertaining than him!”
At the centre of the square, on top of a wide ten-metre tall column, was the large transparent sphere containing the fump-fester lump-being, Pys Phecees.
Peter the Ace laughed. “Indeed you are! You should be very proud.”
Justin spoke. “Why?”
“Because you should be!”
The cyborg spoke again. “The lump-being known as Pys Phecees has been imprisoned in the sphere at the centre of this square for 28 years. He lives in a pool of his own excrement and twitches constantly and rapidly due to mental conditions induced by his desire for revenge; conditions which have been exacerbated greatly by his lengthy and humiliating public incarceration. There is no discernable entertainment value.”
Panman laughed. “Don’t worry about it. An artificial mind such as yours can never understand the concept of entertainment. Just accept what we say!”
Justin’s heavily conditioned mind had no choice by to do what the bounty hunter said. He responded dryly. “I obey.”
“Good! Now let’s go and pay that lumpy dude a visit!”
Panman lead Justin towards the centre of Opulent Square, closely followed by Peter the Ace. The crowd of bounty hunters parted respectfully to allow them through.
After a few minutes of loud stomping they reached the base of the lump-being’s column. They all looked up. High up in his sphere Pys Phecees was looking down. He lolled around in his own filth causing it to slop and splash against the sphere’s transparent surface. His baseball-sized black eyes blinking furiously.
Panman laughed. “What a pathetic mound of brutally vengeful alien incompetence! He deserves to be in there. It makes your disembodied punishment as a prime exhibit at the Mad Animated Head Gallery seem like a delightful summer holiday, doesn’t it?!”
Justin droned. “My punishment at the Mad Animated Head Gallery, as well as being an actual exhibit, was to describe in detail to visitors my act of treachery, and also to answer questions on my duties during my service onboard the Blenheim.”
“I know. So?”
“No definition of the word ‘holiday’ can be applied to that situation.”
“Lighten up!” Panman said. “I was just making a relative comparison of your punishment with that of that leathery fudge sucker.”
As if on cue the lump-being began pounding his stubby fat fists on his sphere. He was shuddering and blinking more rapidly that before and his huge tongue was slapping across his thick lips. Glutinous saliva dribbled down the inside surface of the sphere.
Peter the Ace smiled. “It looks like he’s finally recognised us!” He waved.
Pys Phecees banged away furiously.
Panman also waved. He looked at Justin. “Come on! Wave!”
Justin raised the bulky mass of his shiny new right arm and then moved it from side to side. Servos whirred and hydraulics hissed.
The lump-being was incensed. He thrashed hard, sending large semi-solid blobs of excrement flying around. And then suddenly he was shrouded in a spray of deep brown mist. A long deep rumble was heard.
The crowd of bounty hunters standing nearby roared with laughter.
Peter the Ace smiled. “It looks like we’ve over-excited him a little!”
Justin was still waving.
Panman tapped him on his shoulder. “Stop that!”
Justin lowered his arm.
Peter the Ace’s communicator bleeped. He looked down at it and then at Panman. “We’ve been asked back to Battle Command. It seems the situation is worsening.”
Panman nodded vigorously. “Let’s go!”
“You seem excessively keen to get back down there?”
“Of course!” Panman said. “Those snacks the commander keeps on his desk are delicious! I need to find out where he gets them from!”
Peter the Ace understood. Panman’s obsession with delectable snack food was legendary. He looked at Justin. “I think that’s enough walking for you for now.” He pointed up at the vast Central Tower. “Go up to the prime hanger bay and board the Blenheim. Offer your assistance to Eric Brillo. Tell him to assign you to the waste management systems; they require a full inspection and clean. Your lack of a sense of smell and a stomach with which to vomit makes you well-suited to that task, I think!”
Justin droned a response. “The receptors on the front of my face are analogous to a biological sense of smell.”
“No they’re not because they can’t induce vomiting. Now get going!”
Justin had no choice. “I obey.” With a grating whirr he turned and stomped away, still unsteady. The crowd of surrounding bounty hunters roared with glee.