again Panman found himself sitting inside a BULIT Diver. This time, though,
he was not plummeting through the atmosphere of a giant planet. This time
he was drifting at more than a 100,000 kilometres per hour behind a house-sized
lump of comet, efficiently carved off by one of the Blenheim’s energy
After his experience with the previous diver’s dodgy sentience, Panman
had wisely ordered Justin to remove most of the craft’s intelligence.
Only the most minimal remained. Just enough maintain stability and ensure
a relatively smooth entry into Droog’s atmosphere. The BULIT Diver
now had less intelligence than one of Panman’s stomach implants, but
slightly more than one of his boot’s odour concealment systems.
The communications panel on the curved control surface glimmered and bleeped.
It was Peter the Ace calling.
Panman answered. “Yo, Ace!”
“Cool! On course for entry in 22 minutes. Course set for the last
known location of the sensor emissions we detected.”
“Excellent! I’ll be taking the Blenheim down to the surface
in a couple of minutes. I was scanned just a few minutes ago. They must
have seen me by now. I’ll find the Butt-Muffin’s crash site
and create a lot of noise down there. I’ll bring them out into the
open as planned and let you do your stealth work.”
“Awesome! This is going to rule!”
The Blenheim shuddered slightly as the friction of the thickening atmosphere
Peter the Ace looked at the image on the bridge’s main view-screen
– nothing but a dark grey and brown blur of high-altitude clouds
A sweet voice spoke from the back of the bridge. “Tea!”
Jemima Murma approached Peter the Ace. She placed a large mug on the table
next to the bounty hunter’s sumptuous command chair.
“Thank you.” Peter the Ace said. He looked at his assistant’s
latest outfit – a long flowing orange gown that hugged her figure
like nothing he had seen before. Her bleached white hair was now in two
plats, tied together under her chin with a shimmering electronic bow.
“Breathtaking! You have a style and sophistication that’s
rarely exhibited, even by bounty hunters.”
Jemima Murma bowed deeply. “You are too kind.”
“As always I am as kind as I need to be, and no more.”
The Blenheim’s assistant bowed once more, and then looked at the
main view-screen. The clouds were clearing to reveal a dark and gloomy
landscape. “What a depressing vista! How sad that this world was
dealt such a cruel blow of fate.”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Indeed, and they were on the verge of discovering
the secret to interstellar travel, too. This culture would have made a
fine addition to galactic civilisation. I was just reading about their
cuisine. Their most revered and most expensive dish was marinated lizard
feet, toasted for three days under a low heat, and then served cold with
a spiced blood sauce. Apparently it was good luck to eat each foot with
twenty precise chews. A great loss.” The bounty hunter levelled
the ship at an altitude of three hundred metres and slowed its speed to
a modest Mach-1. A coastline honed into view ahead. “Well, enough
chit-chat. You’d better go to your quarters and strap yourself to
your bed. I’m about to create a scene of attention-seeking destruction.
Things will get incredibly exciting.”
“Can I watch the results on my view-screen?”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Of course.”
Jemima Murma grinned. She bowed once more, and then sprinted sexily off
Peter the Ace looked down at the sensor information on his console’s
screen. Just ahead were the obvious remains of Sind’a Thigh’s
ship, half submerged in a river. It had been almost totally destroyed.
Accessing the Blenheim’s vast arsenal of weapons, the bounty hunter
made some shrewd selections. He targeted the nearby coastline and brought
the Blenheim to a halt right over wreckage of the Butt Muffin.
A series of dull clanks broke his concentration. A voice, monotone and
devoid of all emotion, shattered the quiet ambience of the bridge. “I
have completed my cleaning tasks.”
The bounty hunter turned and looked at Justin. The cyborg stood at the
entrance to the bridge, his bulky metallic body rigid and still. “Including
the interior of the effluence compaction unit?”
“Excellent! Take a seat and watch the show.”
“I obey.” Justin muttered, stomping over to his reinforced
bench at the back of the bridge. He sat down and focused his lifeless
red eye units on the view-screen ahead.
Peter the Ace slammed his fist onto his control console. The ship shuddered
as the topside launcher fired three missiles. The main view-screen showed
their course as they rocketed towards the ocean. One of the missiles headed
south, and another north. The third flew straight to a position just offshore.
The missiles detonated.
With nuclear ferocity, three immensely hot balls of destruction expanded
rapidly, vaporising rock and water in an instant. For the first time in
almost two weeks, light as bright as the sun illuminated the landscape.
A wave of devastation once again spread across the land and sea.
The blast wave reached the Blenheim. The ship was buffeted violently,
but its shields and dampers reduced the effect to nothing more than a
Peter the Ace smiled. “Very satisfying! That should get their attention.”
Justin spoke. “Whose attention are you trying to acquire?”
“Those that caused all the destruction on this world, of course!”
On the screen, the fire balls had cooled, and now rose as black mushroom
clouds, sucking up thousands of tonnes of dust from the surface.
Justin continued speaking. “It is illogical to assume that the detonation
of three nuclear devices will summon those…”
Peter the Ace frowned at his metallic assistant. “And it is illogical
for you to assume that it is logical that I, a first-class bounty hunter
of ultimate mental sharpness and unrivalled physical brawn, have made
an assumption that is illogical.”
Silently, Justin pondered his master’s words for a few seconds.
And then he spoke. “That is logical.”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Indeed it is.”
Panman had chuckled as he had watched the three detonations. Although
obscured by the dense clouds of ash in Droog’s atmosphere, he had
clearly seen the bright orange bursts beneath. The game was on!
The planet Droog now loomed large below. Less than half a kilometre ahead
the comet fragment that he had hidden behind was beginning to flare as
it entered the outer edge of the planet’s atmosphere.
This was going to be one mother of a ride!