Ahead, silhouetted against a cloudless dawn sky and flanked by the jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains, was the magnificent skyline of the Palace of Amino.
Leveling off at an altitude of five hundred metres, Ross Mental activated the Morbid’s auto-approach system. The ship’s head-up display immediately plotted a 3D course to the bounty hunter’s private hanger bay in the palace’s Central Tower.
Ross Mental looked at one of his display-screens. Sadie Stick’s ship, the Retarded Monk Grinder, was still following less than a kilometre behind. Its course did not look right. The bounty hunter activated his communicator. “THROB, you fucker! You should be on a course for QUACK!”
The reply was instant. “I am in the process of setting the course...” The mechanoid droned. “Course to QUACK is now set. Auto-pilot is now engaged.”
Ross Mental watched his sensor display as the ship drifted north. “About fuckin’ time!” He exclaimed, looking out of the viewport. The palace perimeter wall was less than a kilometre away now, and along the wall to the left he could see that the giant funnel-like entrance to QUACK’s hanger bay had already been extended and was jutting out noticeably over the perimeter wall. QUACK – the Amino Quarantine facility for those with Unsightly Afflictions or Contagious Keratogenic disorders – required a secure entrance that could be extended outside of the palace’s defence field to ensure quarantine integrity.
With effortless ease the Morbid passed through the defence shield a few hundred metres south of the egg-like QUACK building and sped over the palace’s western districts, passing over lakes and tree-lined avenues, plush apartment buildings and wildly illuminated entertainment facilities.
“I trust you can handle things by yourself from now on?” Ross Mental asked.
THROB responded. “My capabilities are…”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter deactivated his communicator. “Annoying fucker!”
A minute later the Morbid passed over the kilometre-wide Nypl Dome and then curved its way through the mass of elegant and super-tall towers of the palace’s central districts, at one point passing recklessly close to breakfast diners on the lower-level balconies of the Dick Burton Feasting Tower.
After a few more tight turns and a ridiculously irresponsible retro-braking maneuver, the Morbid slipped smoothly into its dedicated hanger bay in the tallest tower of all.
As his ship extended its insect-like legs and touched down, Ross Mental smiled. He had been away for a long time, and he was exceptionally keen to pour a few litres of one of the palaces finest beers into his guts. But that would have to wait a while longer. First he had a couple of miscreants to deal with. “Fuckin’ Gorfrogs!” He grunted. He pulled himself out of his cockpit chair, drew his pistol from its holster, and then headed back towards his tank bay.
It had been a truly odd experience. Cushioned by the warm syrup-like regeneration fluid, Sadie Stick had watched from her inverted position as she had been removed from her ship’s medical bay and transferred on an unmanned vehicle along a starkly lit corridor to a large oval laboratory.
Now, at least a dozen men and women, all clothed in white suites and bubble-domed helmets, peered in at her and waved buzzing sensory equipment too and fro. Despite the fact that all the tests performed on her ship had now declared her free of infection the Palace of Amino was obviously taking no chances. The bounty hunter understood and made no objections to the new tests, not even when new and thicker tubes and devices were inserted deeply and forcefully into all her orifices without warning, and not even when those devices began to vibrate and shock her with high-voltage discharges for no discernable reason at all.
All the time, distorted by the viscosity of the fluid, she could see THROB at her side. Despite his annoying voice and manner the mechanoid was a loyal and devoted companion. Although she would never admit it, she would not have risen to the level of a fourth-class bounty hunter without THROB’s constant monotonal advice and support. Constructing him during her final years of training was the best thing she could ever have done.
Turning her head to the mechanoid, Sadie Stick spoke. “Thank you, THROB. You’ve saved my life yet again.”
THROB turned his cylindrical head and looked down at the bounty hunter. “It is my duty.” He said, coldly.
“I know, but I wanted to thank you, anyway.”
“As you wish.”
Sadie Stick was annoyed. “You really need to develop a friendlier persona!”
“As you wish.”
The bounty hunter sighed.
After a few seconds silence THROB spoke. “The QUACK laboratory technician known as Odibil Evissam is spending seventy-three percent of his time staring directly at your genitals.”
“So? My skin has healed and I’m a curvaceous and toned bounty hunter which makes me one of the most desirable humanoid females in existence. For him it’s probably the one and only time he’ll see such delights. I have no problem with him taking advantage of the situation.”
As a tease Sadie Stick parted her legs a fraction more and thrust her hips forwards. The technician stumbled back, startled.
THROB spoke. “The physical changes I have detected in his body indicate that he desires to engage in sexual intercourse with you immediately.”
The bounty hunter grinned. “Of course he does!”
“The current physical state of your body indicates that you do not intend to fulfil his desire.”
Sadie Stick frowned. “Certainly not! You know that I only have such relations with bounty hunters - and only bounty hunters of fifth-class and above.”
“Setting such an arbitrary restriction is not logical. Also, the restriction you have set limits your choice of sexual partners to only 1,634.”
“Having high standards is perfectly logical. And quality is far more important than quantity.”
Before THROB could respond one of the technicians tapped on the transparent cylinder.
Sadie Stick looked at him.
The technician spoke. “Miss Stick, I’m Chief Infection Officer Derob. I’m happy to confirm that you are indeed free of infection. Also, your skin has now healed completely.”
The bounty hunter nodded. “Thank you.”
The chief infection officer looked down at his data pad. “I’m going to recommend to Battle Command that you do not go on any missions for a month.”
Sadie Stick groaned. “Are you suggesting I hang around the Palace of Amino for a whole month and do nothing?!”
Derob shook his head. “Not at all, only that you do not leave. I’m sure you can get involved in duties here. I’ll send a personal recommendation to Commander Pepe that you should be assigned to a temporary role here at the palace, if you like? That should keep you occupied.”
The bounty hunter nodded. “Fine. That’s better than sitting around in bars and drowning my frustrations, I guess.”
The chief infection officer nodded. “Excellent.” He pointed at his companion. “Once the regeneration fluid has been drained my technician, Odibil Evissam, will remove the tubes from your body and help you clean up and dress.”
The young technician nodded. “I am at your service, Miss Stick!”
The bounty hunter grinned. “I know!”
The chief infection officer looked at Odibil. “Hmm… Miss Stick, if you’d prefer a female technician to assist you that can be arranged.”
Sadie Stick noticed the look of desperation on Odibil’s face. She smiled. “No, your male technician will be fine. I’m sure he’ll be gentle with me!”
“I will!” Odibil exclaimed, holding up his hands. “My studies included a year of intense massage practice at the Amino Skin Manipulation Clinic, and several years of work experience at the Nypl Dome’s deep…”
“Odibil!” Chief Infection Officer Derob shouted. “Stop blathering and get to work!” He bowed politely towards Sadie Stick, and then walked briskly away.
Odibil operated a control on the cylinder. With a gurgle the fluid began to drain quickly away, emptying completely within a minute. After he opened the top of the cylinder, the technician used a lifting arm attached to the laboratory’s ceiling to remove Sadie Stick. With regeneration fluid still dripping from her body, and with the various tubes still inserted, the technician lowered the bounty hunter onto an adjacent bed.
Odibil stood over Sadie Stick, his breathing deep and his expression eager. His mouth hung open slightly. Reaching forwards he removed her face mask.
The bounty hunter took a deep breath. She sighed. “It’s good to get that thing off!” She looked at Odibil. “Could you remove the nipple tubes first? They are causing me a little discomfort.” She smiled. “You’d better remove your gloves. I’m sensitive so I wouldn’t want you to grip too hard.”
Odibil nodded. “Yes, of course!” Fumbling, he removed his gloves. He then reached forwards, hand trembling, and gripped the suction cup that attached the tube to the bounty hunter’s left nipple. He seemed to be having difficulty removing it.
Sadie Stick grinned. Teasing was so much fun. “If you like you can cup my breast with your other hand to steady yourself. Would you like to do that?”
The technician’s breathing deepened and quickened. “Yes, I would definitely like to do that!” He leaned forwards and placed his other hand underneath her breast’s more bulbous part. He then gripped the suction cup. This time he removed it with ease. Sadie Stick’s left nipped was revealed. It glistened in the light of the bright spotlights that illuminated the bed.
With a groan the technician crossed his legs and leaned further over the bed. He panted, his eyes closed. Sweat had appeared on his brow. He signed loudly.
Sadie Stick laughed. “That’s better! Perhaps now you can concentrate on the task at hand!”
Odibil nodded. After taking a few seconds to compose and rearrange himself he reached for the bounty hunter’s other breast.
Dungeon Master Lax Tenibakaeki, a Seletilian male, spun his chair round, and clasped together his slender reptilian hands. His red leather sleeves creased tightly around his elbows. “Your captives are secured, Mister Mental.” He said. His voice hissed like a broken gas valve. “They are now in the temporary holding area awaiting formal sentencing by the Superior Beings.”
Ross Mental nodded. “Can I see the fuckers?”
“You can.” The dungeon master said, his almond-shaped eyes blinking. He spun back round and flicked his long grey fingers across his curved control console. Ahead, on the one of the large display-screens set flush against the spherical room’s smooth rock wall, a 3D map of the entire Palace of Amino Dungeon Complex was displayed. At the top of the multi-level maze-like facility, cut into dense rock more than a kilometre below the surface, a small square flashed. The image then zoomed in and was replaced by a video image of the inside of an austere-looking prison cell.
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter laughed. “Look at those fuckin’ idiots!”
On the screen the two Gorfrog Despiser Chiefs that Ross Mental had captured just a few days before were slapping each other’s wide flabby faces with impressive force, sending sweat and drool splashing in all directions. And they were shouting and spitting vehemently.
Although the two prisoners could not be heard a text translation of their conversation was presented on an adjacent screen.
“Fuckin’ classic!” Ross Mental said. “They’re still blaming each other for their capture.” He looked at the dungeon master. “Can I speak to them?”
Lax nodded. “Of course.” He manipulated some controls and then nodded.
Ross Mental yelled. “Hey, fuckers!”
The two Gorfrog Despiser Chiefs stopped their shouting and slapping and looked around. Their heavily perspiring faces glittered in the pale lighting of their cell.
“If you don’t start to behave I’m going to come in there and slap your fuckin’ faces clean off your fuckin’ skulls!”
The Gorfrogs stood still, theirs eyes flicking left and right.
The despiser chiefs nodded vigorously.
“Good! Now sit the fuck down!”
The Gorfrogs squatted down and then rested themselves against the back wall of their cell. Their eyes continued to flick left and right.
Dungeon Master Tenibakaeki cut the communications link. He turned and looked up at Ross Mental and smiled. “That would make a great segment to include in our weekly video show on the antics of our prisoners.” He hissed. “It’s very rare that we able show prisoners being chastised by a top-class bounty hunter. Would that be OK with you?”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter nodded. “I don’t see why not. But I want full fuckin’ credit for my contribution!”
The dungeon master nodded. “Of course.” He turned and looked down over his console to two other Seletilians sitting in a pit below the large display-screens. They were monitoring their own consoles. “Did you hear our conversation?”
The two Seletilians looked up and nodded.
“Good. Make sure the Gorfrog extract is included in the trailer, too. That should help lift our ratings!”
Lax turned back to the bounty hunter. “Our next broadcast is tomorrow evening. We should be able to include your sequence by then.”
“Great!” Ross Mental said. Bored of the triviality of the whole thing, he turned. “I need a fuckin’ beer.” He headed for the exit.