The large display surfaces of the external defences console glowed brightly at the back of the huge and relatively dark Amino Battle Command main chamber. Shu Pong, the mop-haired senior operator of the console sat, rigid and upright, in front of his screens. His assistants - two chubby and dark-skinned females named Rebulba Chun and Retsina Dral - sat a couple of metres to his right. Both of them were slumped up against their consoles, their bulging waists and chests squashed against the controls. They looked as though they had been sitting there for decades. They probably had.
Sadie Stick, sitting on Shu Pong’s left, occasionally looked over at the assistant operators. They looked as bored and lifeless as jumbo sloth-monkeys, and much more unattractive, too. She pitied them, and understood their need to constantly suck on their snack tubes for comfort and relief.
The senior operator, Shu Pong, had finished his explanation of the dedicated defence field power core, and the field’s operation. He began explaining the orbital defence grid, his gaze fixed on Sadie Stick’s body. “This screen shows the position of the five thousand automated defence stations that orbit Enchantia. Each one is linked to all the others, and to Battle Command, via a sub-etheral trans-global terra-encrypted data-comms system. They can work together, taking advantage of a various tactical and strategic swarming configurations, or work alone if preferred, or if communication is compromised. Each defence station contains two redundant synthetic sentience units giving it an astonishing level of intelligence and independence.”
Sadie Stick nodded. “Just like the units fitted to modern mechanoids?”
Shu Pong shook his head. “Not really. These are highly specialised, and nothing like the generalised units fitted to artificial beings. The intelligence of the defence stations is limited only to military applications.”
“And how is it turned off?”
The senior operator seemed surprised at the question. “Oh, we never turn it off! It has been running constantly ever since it was first activated three centuries ago.”
“But it is possible to turn it off, isn’t it?”
Shu nodded. “Certainly. The orbital defence grid can be deactivated from the power-flow control panel here, just like the defence field. But as I said, we’ve never turned it off, and we never will.”
The bounty hunter examined the controls and the data on the screen. “I see…”
The senior operator was quiet. His gaze was becoming more and more intense every minute.
Sadie Stick spoke sternly. “It’s never going to happen, so get over it!”
Shu Pong was highly embarrassed. He looked up at Sadie Stick and bowed. “So sorry. Was I doing it again?”
The bounty hunter scowled. “Yes! Yet again your eyes have been fixed on my breasts for several minutes!”
The senior operator of the Palace of Amino’s external defences was obviously struggling not to look again. There was sweat on his high forehead, and the stress on his expression was mildly disturbing.
Sadie Stick noticed his anxiety and softened. “I am quite impressed, though. You still managed to explain the defence field operational strategy and defence grid operation clearly and with a high level of coherency.”
“Thank you.” Shu said. “Your translucent bodysuit is quite a distraction. I can clearly see…”
“Of course.” He turned back to the expansive control console. “That’s really all there is too it, I’m afraid. The control and monitoring of the defence field and the orbital defence grid is as simple as that.”
Sadie Stick felt compelled to ask a question. “I would like to be in charge of the external defences for a day. Tomorrow would be good. I assume that would be OK?”
Shu Pong shook his head. “I don’t know if I can allow that. Procedure dictates that…”
Sadie Stick’s desire to work Shu Pong’s console was strong. She had to persuade him. She touched the senior operator’s leg. “I’ve decided that it will happen for you, after all.”
Shu stuttered. He was obviously shocked. “It… it will?”
“Yes. But only of you let me do your job tomorrow.”
The senior operator’s eyes swept up and down the bounty hunter’s curvaceous body. He tensed up. It was clear that he was imagining all sorts of sordid scenarios. “Procedures can be modified.” His eyes were wide. “When will ‘it’ happen?”
“Tomorrow evening. After I finish work here.”
Shu Pong nodded vigorously. “I shall spend all day preparing my apartment for you! I’ll fill the bath with Screech ‘n’ Wail Lavender foamer, and open a bottle of the finest Suculan Cider! I’ll cook the juiciest and bloodiest steaks imaginable, and then I’ll oil myself with three of the…”
Sadie Stick held up her hands. “Enough!” She said, feigning excitement. She grinned. “I prefer surprises!”
Shu Pong nodded. “Of course.” His voice betrayed his excitement. His imagination and mouth seemed out of control. “When you see me naked and oiled, and standing proudly with the mightiest of… ”
Sadie Stick interrupted loudly. “I said I prefer surprises!” The bounty hunter’s voice echoed around the vast main Amino Battle Command chamber. Many operators turned and looked back at her. She lowered her voice. “This is our secret.”
The senior operator nodded. “I understand.”
“Not a word to anyone. I have a reputation to maintain.”
Shu Pong was breathing heavily and rapidly.
“And calm yourself!”
The bounty hunter got to her feet and strode sexily away. Unseen in the subdued and atmospheric lighting of Amino Battle Command, her expression transformed into a wide and mildly disturbing grin.