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Book: The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay
Chapter 27: A Slowly Expanding Cone of Light

Peter 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?”

Eliminate you!

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. BREACH POSSIBLE.”

Peter the Ace thought for a second. “How far to the nearest solid body?”

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 to me.”

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 there immediately.”

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