three large cone-shaped nuclear warheads under his bulky left arm, Justin
entered the Blenheim’s upper rear cargo bay. Once he had passed through
the single heavily armoured door, it whisked shut behind him, its quiet
and refined motion far superior to the cyborg’s own noisy and jerky
The upper rear cargo bay was the ship’s smallest, less than a hundred
square metres in size, and was used as mainly as a store for Panman’s
vast culinary requirements. Crates of cured meat, giant cheeses and several
huge freezers took up more than half the space. The rest of the cargo bay
was empty – spare room to store any exotic new foods that the perpetually
famished bounty hunter may discover during trips to more remote systems.
Justin activated his internal communicator and placed a call to the bridge.
Peter the Ace answered. “How are things going, Justin?”
The cyborg answered the question in his usual dry and lifeless manner. “I
am now located in the upper rear cargo bay. I am holding three type-two
nuclear warheads as instructed.”
“I require further orders.”
“Indeed you do, and here they are. I want you to open the side external
door, climb outside, and then make your way onto the topside of the ship.
Position yourself in the centre right in front of the engine section.”
“I obey.” Justin said. He began to stomp towards the large external
doorway that was angled to match the curved wall and ceiling of the cargo
“Keep tight hold of those warheads!”
The cyborg’s armoured left arm tightened its grip. “I obey.”
Justin reached the external door. With his free hand he reached out and
pushed the button marked ‘Open’. A brief flurry of inquisitive
activity probed the cyborg’s digital mind as the Blenheim pondered
whether or not to authorisation the opening of the door. In an instant,
authorisation was granted. With a gentle whoosh, the door snapped outwards
slightly, and then slid away to the right.
A gust of frigid wind blew into the cargo bay as the dark vista of the ash-ridden
ocean was revealed. A faint mist of water could be see wafting up from the
ship’s underside as the deep roar of Blenheim’s thrusters pushed
against the sea.
Without any emotional reaction at all, Justin stomped to the edge and reached
round the side of the doorway with his right hand. He grabbed onto one of
the ridges in the ship’s outer armour plating, and then allowed his
cumbersome metal body to swing out. He slammed into the ship’s hull.
The cargo door whooshed shut, leaving the cyborg locked firmly outside.
Looking up, Justin began to climb up to the Blenheim’s topside, carefully
avoid some of the charred weapons systems in his way – damaged by
the discharge from those giant humanoid machines. Within a minute, the cyborg
was standing on the ship’s topside. He turned to face the ship’s
engine section and clunked his way to a central position. Once there he
turned and faced the front of the ship. He stood there for a moment, looking
remarkable proud holding an armful of nuclear warheads. Of course, he did
not feel proud. He felt absolutely nothing at all. He spoke. “I am
now positioned at the central point of the topside hull directly in front
of the engine section.”
“I require further orders.”
“Here’s the plan. I’ve programmed the ship to head back
towards those humanoid machines. About a hundred kilometres from their position
the ship will climb and accelerate to 4, 350 kilometres per hour. At an
altitude of 8,500 metres I want you to let go. The ship will then dive and
return to a low altitude to avoid the risk of further damage from those
“You, of course, will continue heading towards the machines in a long
ballistic arc. Just after you reach the peak of your arc, you will activate
and drop each of your warheads. You will drop them in such a manner as to
spread them evenly along a 35 kilometre stretch of the coastline where those
machines are emerging from the sea.
“Once you’ve dropped the warheads, you will, of course, continue
on your flight until you hit the ground approximately 26 kilometres inland.”
Justin droned a reply. “The role of ‘Multiple Warhead Ballistic
Missile’ is not part of my functional specification.”
“Your functional specification is not fixed. It’s fully extendible,
and I’m extending it!”
“I am not configured for a ballistic flight mode. I no longer have
the ability to sustain flight following the permanent removal of my propulsion
system 25 years ago.”
“You do not need to be configured for a ballistic flight mode! You’ll
automatically enter a ‘ballistic mode’ when you’re thrown
off the ship, and your momentum will maintain your flight long enough to
drop the warheads. You can use your plate-like feet to create resistance
and make corrections to your course if necessary.”
The cyborg processed the information he had just been given. “I am
not configured for a high-velocity impact.”
The tone of Peter the Ace’s voice hinted at his growing impatience.
“Ten years ago you entered the atmosphere of the planet Gun-Loc at
orbital velocity, streaked to the surface in a ball of blazing plasma, and
then crashed into the centre of the planet’s largest city creating
a crater half a kilometre wide. And you could still walk! You are more than
capable of surviving this.”
“My collision with the planet Gun-Loc caused extensive damage to my
body. My plate-like feet were…”
“No more discussion! Your impact on this task will be nowhere near
as violent. You will follow my orders without question! Understood?”
Justin had no choice but to obey a bounty hunter. “I understand. I
“Excellent! Secure yourself to the ship. This is going to be one fantastic
The cyborg energised the powerful electro-magnets in his feet, locking himself
to the hull. He then bent over and grabbed a handhold with his free right
hand. “I am now securely attached to the ship.”
Immediate, the Blenheim powered forwards. The air howled around Justin’s
bulky metal body as the ship accelerated at an astounding rate. It began
to climb, rising rapidly away from the dark ocean and up towards the dust-clogged
“Justin, I’m sending you data on your trajectory and when you’re
to drop your warheads. And also when to let go!”
Justin felt a surge of digital activity as his electronic mind absorbed
the information. “I have received and assimilated the data.”
“Great! Good luck!”
The Blenheim entered the clouds, and visibility dropped to almost zero.
As swirls of moisture and dust sped passed at incredible speed, and the
wind howled at a deafening pitch, Justin received an instruction. Following
the instruction, he deactivated his electro-magnets, let go with his right
hand, and then pushed hard with his leg’s powerful servo-mechanisms.
The ship fell away into the clouds. Justin continued in an upwards trajectory.
Seconds later an intense flood of sunlight hit him as he broke free from
the cloud cover. Like a catapulted sculpture, the cyborg soared on the planned
ballistic arc high above the grey and brown sheet of clouds below.
Justin received another instruction.
Accessing the guidance system of each warhead, the cyborg passed on the
targeting information. Each warhead responded. Justin armed each warhead.
For another minute Justin soared, reaching and then passing the peak of
And then the cyborg received a final set of instructions.
With a pre-calculated direction and force, Justin threw each warhead, and
then watched for a second as they sped down to the clouds below. He analysed
their paths, and then activated his communicator and made a report. “The
three nuclear warheads have been released. They are all on the correct heading
for their targets.”
Peter the Ace responded. “Good work, I’m proud of you. Safe
Before Justin could reply the communications channel was closed.
With the grace of a badly chipped brick, Justin plummeted back below the
clouds. Turning, he angled himself feet down and prepared to land.