“They’re coming up! I can hear them!” Shipoopaa said.
Panman gripped tightly onto the rungs of the ladder and struggled to look down as Shipoopaa’s bulky thighs, wrapped tightly around his neck, severely restricted his movements. Using the zoom function of his suit’s head-up display he was able to get a good view of the base of the maintenance shaft almost two-hundred metres below. Milling around down there was a crowd of scab demons. Many had started to climb. “You’re right. But I don’t see why you’re so worried. They’re on your side, after all!”
“Lord Ecnerwal is wise and ruthless.” The podgy female said, shivering. “He will know by now that I’ve betrayed him. We should’ve climbed quicker and then we could’ve locked ourselves in the…”
Panman continued climbing. He interrupted with no attempt to contain his annoyance. “If I didn’t have to haul your massive dumpy arse up here on my shoulders we would’ve reached the top a long time ago, so stop moaning!”
“My bottom is a normal size!” She protested, upset. “You obviously don’t know my species very well!”
The bounty hunter pushed up on the humanoid’s soft and sagging butt-cheeks and rolled her onto a ledge at the top of the shaft. “Is it normal for your species to be unhealthy and lazy, too?”
Shipoopaa got to her feet and winced with pain. The burns she had sustained during Panman’s explosive entry into her chamber below were obviously causing her great discomfort. “I spend my entire time sitting and working. I have no time for exercise!”
Panman pulled himself up onto the ledge. “Ah, yes - the lament of a fat bastard!”
Shipoopaa was about to speak, but she was silenced by the bounty hunter’s hand. “Enough of this stupid banter.” He said. He pulled his pistol from its holster in his suit’s leg and pointed at a hatchway. “Can I expect any resistance through there?”
The female humanoid shook her head. Some of her charred hair fell away. “It’s completely automated. No one will be there.”
“You’d better be right; otherwise I’ll have no choice but to melt your thighs down to a more appealing size, and carve huge smouldering chunks out of that mountainous arse!”
Shipoopaa shouted. “I’m not lying!”
“Glad to hear it.”
“And the size of my bottom is normal!”
Panman looked down at the female’s backside. He grimaced. “Not in my experience it’s not. Only the whores of Hadus have bigger buttocks than that!”
Shipoopaa sniffled. “I don’t understand your need to be so critical of my bottom.”
“It’s been on my shoulders for the last fifteen minutes, that’s why. As far as I’m concerned that gives me the right to comment on it as much as I want, and even the right to compose poems and songs about it. If I was so inclined I would even feel perfectly entitled to write numerous essays on it, and to write and narrate a documentary series on each and every fold and sag.”
Tears welled up in Shipoopaa’s eyes.
Satisfied that he had made his point, Panman pointed at the hatchway once more. “Now open it, please.”
Wiping the tears from her face, the tubby female frowned at the bounty hunter and then turned and tapped at a control panel next to the hatchway. The hatchway hissed and then slid sideways.
Panman peered through. The room beyond was narrow and almost dark, but extremely high – seeming to stretch forever into a misty blackness above. The bounty hunter’s suit’s sensors read the height as close to hundred metres. The suit’s sensors also confirmed that the twisting tubular edifice that stretched from the centre of the floor far up into the darkness above was indeed a subspace field generator. A deep hum resonated around the deserted room. He turned to Shipoopaa. “Go through.”
Still sniffling, Shipoopaa stepped gingerly forwards and into the room.
Panman turned back to the shaft. He could hear a soft moaning sound from below. He pulled a fusion charge from his belt, set it, and then dropped it into the shaft. He turned and leapt through the hatch. “Seal the hatch! Now!”
Startled for a second by the bounty hunter’s rapid movement, Shipoopaa quickly played with the control panel next to the hatchway. It slammed shut. Almost immediately after there was a muffled thud and a loud crunch as the hatchway buckled slightly.
“Sorted!” Panman said with glee, and then he strode over to a control surface next to the tubular edifice. Its configuration was the same as the one he had encountered before. Re-holstering his pistol, he began manipulating the controls and quickly found the program he had embedded earlier. “Easy as Pi!” He said, and then he stopped and thought for a moment. “Hmm…” He muttered as he selected a snack from his suit’s menu, which, detecting the bounty hunter’s thought processes, had automatically displayed on his suit’s head-up display. Panman sucked on the dispenser tube and chomped noisily on the steak pie that filled his mouth. “Oh, yeah!”
Lord Ecnerwal jumped up and down on his huge oval bed, his cloak billowing and flapping wildly. “One minute!” He yelled with excitement, pulling back his hood. His pale scarred face and scalp were bathed in the light from the orange globes at either side of the bed. He pointed at the large oval display screen on the far wall of his bed chamber. “One minute and my splendid crusade will commence its final glorious surge into the nether regions of victorious magnificence!”
Badoodoo, still weakened and in considerable pain from the vicious energy attack by his master the hour before, watched the screen as data and graphics and sensor readouts displayed their final approach to Enchantia, the home planet of the Palace of Amino. With the main chamber next door severely damaged by Panman’s attack a few hours earlier, both he and his master had had to move into the bed chamber. The prospect of spending a long period in the bed chamber with his increasingly mad and unpredictable master was not something that the stubby humanoid was looking forward too. A deep sense of dread filled his mind, and he could feel sweat forming on his brow despite the relative coolness of the air around him.
New information appeared on the screen. A graphic of their asteroid appeared with a fluctuating border. A warning flashed in red.
Lord Ecnerwal stopped jumping. He looked down at Badoodoo. “What is that?”
The assistant knew immediately. It was bad news. He braced himself. “The subspace field is fluctuating again. It looks like Panman may be sending another…”
A bony gloved fist slammed down onto his head. Badoodoo slumped to the floor, momentarily stunned.
His master screamed. “I ordered you to send 1,301 scab demons to hack out his throat and kidneys and ligaments and hair follicles?!”
Badoodoo’s eyes watered as the agony of his injuries returned. “I did, my lord.”
“Then why does he still appear to possess those body parts?!”
The assistant tapped frantically at his data pad. Information filled its screen. “Well, it seems the scab demons have not been very effective. Panman has killed more than half of them, and the rest are stuck behind a huge pile of burning corpses that is blocking access to a maintenance hatch that the bounty hunter escaped into.”
Lord Ecnerwal’s face was turning red with rage. “Incompetence on a perpetually rotating scale!” He turned and ran over to his bed’s lavishly carved headboard. He kicked it repeated. “The message he is sending must be stopped!” He turned and glared at Badoodoo, and then raised his arms slowly. “Stop it now, or be roasted in six seconds. The choice is yours, bowel dimple!”
Badoodoo pointed at the screen and spoke quickly. “My lord, the transmission of the message relies on the subspace field being active. We will leave subspace in a few seconds time. The field will then disperse and the message will disappear!”
His master’s expression immediately calmed. He lowered his arms and spoke gently. “Oh yes! How right you are. The futility of Panman’s efforts is astounding, is it not?” He arched his back and shouted towards the high ceiling. “My intellect is enormous!” To emphasize his statement he thrust his hips up, and then he turned to face Badoodoo whilst still maintaining his arched posture. “I have just had a breathtaking idea!”
Panman watched the screen of the control surface as subsystems began to shut down. “Hey!” He exclaimed, trying to cancel the process. There was a mild shuddering, and then the deep hum emanating from the tubular edifice at the centre of the room faded. A brief wave of nausea passed over him. He knew what that meant. “Damn it!”
Shipoopaa was sitting on the floor next to the console. She looked around. “The subspace field has deactivated.”
Panman looked down at her. “Obviously. It seems we have arrived. I hope enough of my message was received.”
The chunky female buried her head in her arms and began to sob.
The bounty hunter frowned. “What’s wrong now?”
She looked up, tears running down her chubby and blistered cheeks. “I was promised so much by Lord Ecnerwal once we were triumphant. Now I have betrayed him. Only death awaits me.”
Panman was loosing his patience. “Forget about Lawrence, you’re with me now. Stop blubbing and stand up!”
Awkwardly, Shipoopaa got to her feet.
Panman nodded. “That’s better. Now, I need to…”
The whole room began to vibrate.
Shipoopaa looked down at the control surface. She screamed. “No! This can’t be! Please, no!”
The vibrations were increasing in intensity. Panman looked down at the controls. New data had appeared on the screens along with a blinking countdown. There were only seven seconds left until zero. The bounty hunter immediately realised what was happening. “Wow…” He said, looking down at Shipoopaa, who was now gripping his waist tightly and sobbing once more. “This is going to be very interesting...”