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Book: Invasion of the Scab Demons
Chapter 7: A Highly Contradictory Brain

Commander Pepe appeared even larger clothed in his full robes as he paced heavily up and down in front of the panoramic window of his sumptuous Battle Command office.  He stopped and peered down into the main chamber of Amino Battle Command at the coloured glow of a hundred consoles, and then across at the giant display-screens.  It was a typical scene of calm efficiency.

The commander contemplated his life, position and girth for a few moments, and then turned to Peter the Ace.  “I think I may have over-reacted calling you and Panman down here.  As you just saw, the latest report from THROB onboard the Retarded Monk Grinder indicates that the threat of the infection spreading beyond pre-subspace worlds is unlikely.  All that remains is for the other comets to be destroyed, and the only known infected planet, Lodi, to be monitored.”

Peter the Ace looked thoughtful.  “On the surface it does appear that way.”

With difficulty the commander bowed.  “My sincere apologies to you.”  He groaned; his considerable circumference made it difficult to hold such a subservient position.  He turned and then bowed in the direction of Panman who was sitting at the commander’s desk and gorging on some oily snacks.  “And to you.  This is a job fit for lesser bounty hunters only.  It is beneath your abilities and therefore an insult.”

Panman, unable to speak due to the massive quantity of food in his mouth, gave the commander a thumbs-up.

Peter the Ace spoke.  “Your apology is appreciated, commander, but I hadn’t finished.  As I said, on the surface it does appear that way, but look deeper and you’ll see that there is potential for a far more serious situation to develop.”

Chief Officer Weezil Sagifagpakit was nearby.  He shook his head.  “My careful analysis does not indicate that.”

Peter the Ace spoke sternly.  “My rapid analysis does!”

The chief officer turned and activated one of the display-screens on the wall.  “Let me show you again the…”

Commander Pepe straightened himself up.  He yelled.  “Damn it, Weezil!  What’s wrong with you?  How dare you attempt to challenge the wisdom and intellect of a first-class bounty hunter?!”

The chief officer immediately fell silent.  He deactivated the screen and lowered his head.

Peter the Ace held his hand up.  “It’s no problem, commander.  Weezil’s insolence cannot be helped.  It is caused by his enthusiasm and total belief in his abilities, which is acceptable, and necessary for someone in his position.”

Commander Pepe nodded.  “Of course.”  He glared at Weezil.  “But the fate of his predecessor awaits him if his insolence turns into insubordination!”  The commander took a couple of deep and wheezing breaths to calm himself.  He turned his wide and sagging face towards Peter the Ace.  “So, what is it you see when you look beneath the surface?”

“Creating a comet that contains such an infectious substance is not trivial, but if the comet that infected Lodi had been the only one then I would agree with Weezil that the situation is unlikely to develop any further.  It would most likely be the work of a deranged and sadistic disease freak with a fixation for planet-wide contamination – certainly something that could be handled by lesser bounty hunters.  But there are three other comets.  We have to ask ourselves why?”

The commander was thoughtful.  “It could be a sadistic disease freak with a desire to infect many planets?”

Peter the Ace shook his head.  “What happened to Sadie Stick suggests otherwise.  Whoever or whatever is behind this must be a deeply unbalanced individual with a highly contradictory brain.”

Commander Pepe frowned.  “A highly contradictory brain, you say?  An interesting phrase.  What precisely do you mean?”

“Someone, or something, with a deep and powerful intellect surrounded by a broken net of mental retardation.”

“A broken net of mental retardation?”

“Indeed.”

The commander scratched at his chin releasing a pool of yellow sweat that had gathered beneath one of its folds.  “By that do you mean that the individual behind the comets has such a high degree of mental retardation that the retardation itself is unstable?”

“Exactly.  A deeply unstable, highly retarded individual with a potent intellect.”

Commander Pepe gasped and wheezed.  He then smiled.  “Bravo!”  He said, clapping.  The heavy masses of flab on his arms caused the sleeves of his robes to ripple.  “What a remarkable and insightful view of events!”  He turned and glared at Chief Officer Weezil Sagifagpakit.  “It is an insight I rarely get from my senior staff!”

The data pad the chief officer was carrying chimed gently.  With obvious relief at the distraction Weezil looked down at its screen.  He looked up at Commander Pepe.  “Commander, a call has come in for you from the Retarded Monk Grinder.”

“Has that cylinder head, THROB, got more information?”

“It’s not from THROB.  It’s from Ross Mental.”

          The commander grinned.  “Excellent!  I’d forgotten that his arrival there was imminent.  Put the call through to the main display-screen.”

The largest display-screen at the centre of the wall opposite Commander Pepe’s desk faded to life.  Ross Mental could be seen, his hard features even harder than usual in the cold light of what was obviously a medical bay.  Standing next to him was a polished and slender mechanoid with a cylindrical head.

Ross Mental opened the conversation in his usual and eloquent manner.  “Fuck, Ace?  Didn’t expect to see you there.  What are you doing down in that fat fucker’s office?”  The foul-mouthed bounty hunter’s eyes widened as he notice Commander Pepe waddling into view.  “You’ve fuckin’ grown!

The commander nodded.  “Thank you.  I have indeed gained a significant amount of body mass since we last met.”

Nice!  Ace, have you seen the results of the research this metal fucker has done?

Peter the Ace nodded.  “Indeed I have.  Panman and I are both up to speed on events.”

I think there’s a fuckin’ unstable and semi-retarded fuck-off intellectual behind all this.

Commander Pepe applauded.  “Wonderful!  It looks like you concur with Peter the Ace!”

Peter the Ace nodded.  “I came to the same conclusion just moments ago.  We need to find the origin of those comets.”

There was a dull clang as Ross Mental elbowed THROB.  “This shiny fucker is working on that now.

There was a moaning sound.

Ross Mental looked round, and then back.  “Fuck, I almost forgot the reason for my call - Sadie Stick is fuckin’ conscious!

Commander Pepe looked surprised.  “That’s excellent news.  Can she talk?”

Yeah, and fuckin’ coherently, too, considering her condition!  I’ll put her on.

The image changed to that of a transparent cylindrical tank filled with clear liquid.  Sadie Stick could clearly be seen suspended naked and upside-down in the tank.  Her skin was covered in thick scab-like scars, and tubes were connected to various erogenous parts of her body.

Licking his lips, the commander leaned towards Weezil and whispered.  “Are we recording this?”

The chief officer nodded.  “As always, commander.”

“Excellent.  Ensure that I have exclusive access to the file for the next 24 hours.”

Weezil could not help but smile.  “Yes, commander.”

Commander Pepe glared at him.  “For review purposes!”

“Of course, commander.”

Commander Pepe looked at the screen.  “Miss Stick, how are you feeling?”

The reply was strained but strong, and slightly muffled by the facemask she wore.  “Exceedingly tired, commander, and my skin is itchy, but apart from that I feel remarkably good.

“That’s encouraging to know.”

I apologise for the appearance of my body.  It must be quite disgusting to look at.

The commander shook his head.  “Oh no, not at all.  I once lusted after a naturally scabby female bounty hunter many years ago.   If her body had not been destroyed by the pounding fists of a cyborg I have no doubt that I’d still be lusting after her now.  Your body is just as appealing.”

Thank youBut personally I could not stand to look at myself like this.  Hopefully the regeneration fluid will return my skin to its former condition.

THROB spoke.  “The regeneration fluid will heal the skin of the bounty known as Sadie Stick within nine hours.

Commander Pepe asked.  “What about the infection?”

The infection has been eradicated throughout 98 percent of her body.  A small amount of infection remains within the milk ducts of her breasts.  The tubes attached to her nipples are connected to a pump which is removing the infected milk.  Infection removal should be complete within three hours.”

Peter the Ace was suspicious.  He pointed at the screen and frowned.  “Is all that really necessary?  She is not pregnant.  Why would she be producing milk?  This is not some kind of perverted mechanoid fantasy you’re living out, is it?  Physical abuse of a bounty hunter by an artificial being is an offence punishable by permanent disassembly!”

Ross Mental spoke.  “That was my first though, Ace, but this fucker is telling the truth.  The infection is somehow causing Sadie Stick’s breasts to produce milk.  Fuckin’ bizarre, I know!

Peter the Ace nodded.  “I see.  That’s fine then.  I just wanted to clear that up.  There are only a few things in this galaxy that I can’t stand, and mechanoid perversion is one of them!”

Commander Pepe nodded, sending his multiple sweat-coated chins into a cascade of long-lasting wobbles.  “I think we all feel the same regarding that issue.  The very thought of it sickens me.”

Panman had finally finished snacking.  He approached Peter the Ace and Commander Pepe and stood beside them.  “When the infection’s gone I guess you can return to the palace.”

Ross Mental nodded.  “Yeah.  Actually, I need to do that as soon as possible..  I’ve got two Gorfrog Despiser Chiefs onboard my ship that are sweating and drooling all over my fuckin’ tank bay!

Commander Pepe nodded.  “That’s understandable.  The situation on your ship sounds quite horrible.”

Fuckin’ horrible!  The sooner I can get them locked up in the dungeon and my ship fumigated the better!

“As the infection in Sadie Stick’s breasts will be sucked out within hours you may as well head home now.  You’d better check her into QUACK, just to be on the safe side.”

No fuckin’ problem!

“Don’t forget to destroy that comet first.”

It’ll be a pleasure and a fuckin’ half!  Ross Mental out.

The display-screen changed to the Palace of Amino Battle Command insignia, and then faded to black.

Peter the Ace looked at Panman.  “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Panman nodded.  “I expect so.”

Peter the Ace smiled and activated his wrist-mounted communicator.  “Doctor Eric Brillo?”

The response was quick.  “This is Doctor Brillo.  What can I do for you?

“Prepare the Blenheim for launch in thirty minutes.”

Certainly.  She’ll be ready for you.

Commander Pepe’s expression changed to one of excitement.  “This is sudden!”

“There’s no time to waste, commander.  These events are happening within a hundred light-years distance of the palace.  That’s only half a day of traveling at maximum subspace speed.

“Are you saying that our location may be known?!”

Peter the Ace shook his head.  “No, not at the moment.  But we should be concerned.  That’s why we need answers fast.”

“Where are you going?”

“I believe that many of those answers are to be found on the planet Lodi.  The population has been infected for a reason.  We should find out what that reason is.”

The commander looked proudly at Panman.  “I can tell that you were indeed thinking exactly the same thing.”  He smiled.  “I am honoured to be in the presence of such extraordinary individuals such as you!”

Panman looked at Peter the Ace and then back to Commander Pepe.  “Actually, I was about to suggest that we all go to the Dick Burton Feasting Tower and spend a few hours of pure gluttony in the Sugar-Bug Bistro.  But yeah, whatever.  A trip to the planet Lodi is cool, too.”

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