the Ace pushed his flight control joystick hard left, sending the Baby Blenheim
into a fast roll.
On the outside of the viewport, the Cifitra was struggling against the incredible
centrifugal forces. But it managed to maintain its grip, jamming its well-engineered
hands and feet into the gaps between some weapons systems on the left side
of the viewport.
Realising his strategy was not working, Peter the Ace released the joystick.
The ship levelled off.
The Cifitra peered in through the viewport, its smooth shiny face and deep
black eye pits devoid of any obvious sign of life. The communicator crackled
to life. “Once I had discovered the presence of Panman, I knew that
you would not be far away.”
Peter the Ace played with his controls. “It’s a well known fact
that Panman and I work as a team, so your simple logical deduction does
not impress me.”
The Cifitra banged its head against the viewport. “I am not attempting
to impress you, bounty hunter!”
“Then what are you trying to do?”
The bounty hunter pressed a control. Immediately, the Baby Blenheim decelerated
at an unsettling rate. The small ship’s recently upgraded gee-dampers
protected Peter the Ace from the incredible forces. The Cifitra had no such
protection, but it still managed to hold on as four-hundred gees pulled
at its thin but tough metal body. The Cifitra was obviously upset. It banged
its head rapidly and repeatedly on the domed viewport. Even inside the insulated
cockpit, the noise was horrendous.
The Baby Blenheim spoke. “WARNING: VIEWPORT STRESS LIMIT REACHED.
Peter the Ace thought for a second. “How far to the nearest solid
The ship answered. “3.659 MILLION KILOMETRES.”
As the Cifitra continued its head banging frenzy, the holographic head-up
display lit up and showed a virtual and rotating representation of an asteroid.
The asteroid’s classification, composition and dimensions were displayed.
Peter the Ace nodded. “A carbonaceous chondrite - Perfect! Set an
interception course and go there - maximum sublight speed.”
Immediately, the Baby Blenheim changed direction and accelerated. A bright
point of light honed into view ahead. It grew rapidly in size and brightness.
“WARNING: VIEWPORT STRESS LIMIT EXCEEDED. BREACH IMMINENT.”
Peter the Ace looked at the raging Cifitra. It was continuing to head-bang
the viewport. Several small cracks had appeared. The bounty hunter needed
to act fast. “Activate the forward atmospheric shield.”
“FORWARD ATMOSPHERIC SHIELD ACTIVATED.”
“Emergency viewport ejection – activate!”
With a thud and a whoosh, and a brief flash of explosives, the large domed
viewport shot away at high speed, dragging the Cifitra with it. The machine
warbled in anger. “That was a foolish move, bounty hunter!”
There was now a huge hole in the front of the Baby Blenheim, but the atmospheric
shield protected Peter the Ace from the frigid airless void beyond. He laughed.
“Really? Take a look behind you, chrome dome.”
The Cifitra turned its head 180 degrees. There, straight ahead, loomed the
seven-kilometre wide mass of the asteroid. A digital scream sounded over
the communications channel.
Still laughing, Peter the Ace silenced the channel, and then spoke to the
ship. “Revise our course by thirty degrees.”
The ship turned to starboard.
“Maintain a visual lock on the Cifitra and the asteroid. Display it
A corner of the head-up display shimmered to life. An image of the asteroid
was shown, and a small bright spot speeding towards it. A few seconds later,
and at a speed of more than a hundred kilometres per second, the Cifitra,
and the domed viewport it was clinging to, slammed into the asteroid. A
flash, briefly brighter than the nearby sun, lit up the asteroid. Thousands
of tonnes of vaporised ice and rock spread out from its surface in a slowly
expanding cone of light.
Peter the Ace clapped. “Excellent! I can’t think of a more entertaining
way to dispose of a detestable synthetic freak than that!” He directed
his voice to the ship. “Set a course for the Blenheim. Take us back