overload of the Nebulon’s power system was unstoppable.
Within a millisecond the ship’s triple trans-fusion cascade moderator
dissolved, allowing an unchecked ten-fold increase in energy supply to
the diversion regulators. The sudden excess of power vaporised the regulators,
sending the energy surge straight through to the main power matrix. All
power outlets in all the chambers of the ship exploded, unleashing arcs
of blinding hyper-voltage lightning, incinerating the remaining forty-three
crew members as they cowered like shrews in their quarters.
Three milliseconds later the power matrix melted, cutting power to all
areas of the ship. All areas, that is, except the reinforced core distributor.
Without the surrounding matrix there was only one destination for power
through the core distributor: the engine core.
A millisecond later the engine core received the unregulated power surge.
The Esultuph propulsion system attempted to contain the power, but the
gas chambers required for such containment were empty. The power containment
A nanosecond later the power surge reached the Esultuph mix voids. The
atomic structure of the propulsion system shattered, radiating spikes
of superheated quantum elements through ten dimensions.
The Esultuph propulsion system detonated.
The light levels on the bridge of the Blenheim were low and deeply atmospheric.
Battle mode was still active.
Peter the Ace was watching the detonation of the Nebulon in super-high-definition
glory on the Blenheim”s main view-screen. Reclining in his luxurious
command chair, he smiled broadly as the full grandeur of Panman’s
plan expanded before him.
Sind’a Thighs was also on the bridge. She had bathed, cleaning away
the bloody evidence of her recent exploits, and she now stood proudly
behind her idol wearing a tight white translucent body suit, a wide pink
waistband, transparent sandals, and a white woolly bobble-hat, all borrowed
from Jemima Murma’s vast wardrobe.
Peter the Ace nodded with pride. “Panman certainly knows how to
overload a power system. That is one magnificent sight.”
Sind’a Thighs watched the view-screen in awe as the Nebulon’s
engine section expanded in a ball of foam-like flames. Her awe increased
as she watched the main section of the ship, its integrity momentarily
maintained by an internal wall shield, thrust forward by the force of
the explosion. She gasped. “That is so breath-taking!”
As it began to break apart with the force of the sudden acceleration,
the 1,500 metre long main section of the Cifitra’s ship crashed
through the opening in the ice cliff – the entrance to the pitiless
mechanoid’s fortress. Many cubic kilometres of the cliff vaporised,
clouding the scene in a white fog of superheated steam. And then the surface
of the rogue ice planetoid began to break apart, fuelled by more detonations
deep beneath the surface.
To the right of the main image was a deep scan of the planetoid and the
fortress. Peter the Ace interpreted the scan with his usual flawless insight.
“It seems that the fortress’s internal structure is breaking
down at a remarkable rate. Its power system is already overloading. A
chain reaction seems to be in progress.”
Sind’a Thighs let out a squeal of delight. “Did Panman plan
Peter the Ace turned and looked sternly at the lesser bounty hunter. “There
is no question that he planned it. You should know that!”
As the planetoid continued to break apart, Sind’a Thighs bowed her
head. “Forgive me.”
Peter the Ace smiled. “You are only a seventh-class bounty hunter,
so I will forgive you this time. Your spectacular graduation from the
fast-track training programme, and your ability to raise the tone of your
thighs to surprising new levels every year, makes you deserving of my
forgiveness. But my forgiveness does have its limits. Remember that.”
The lesser bounty hunter looked at her superior. “I will never forget.
The communicator clicked to life. “Ace! Did you see that?!”
“Indeed I did!”
“It was just as I’d planned!”
“As I suspected.”
“It always gives me a big thrill to see all my hard work succeed
in such an awesome manner!”
The main view-screen showed the planetoid’s continuing demise. From
deep within, huge detonations were occurring, breaking down its structure,
and causing jets of vaporised ice and rock to spray into space. Fibres
of light, like amplified lightning, reached across the planetoid, burning
deep gashes in its jagged icy surface. A mass of debris was spreading
out from the planetoid in all directions.
Peter the Ace leaned forwards and operated some controls. “We still
have no shields. I’d better move, I think!” The Blenheim accelerated,
turning away from the danger zone. He operated the communicator. “Panman,
I’m going to need you up here. Now that its fortress is well and
truly reduced to shards, it’s time we checked on that Cifitra mechanoid.”
“No problem. I’ll get changed, stuff my face in the galley,
and be with you in five minutes.”
The communication channel closed. Peter the Ace directed his voice to
the ship. “Blenheim? Head to the asteroid when I dumped the Cifitra.
Also, keep a continuous sensor lock on that disintegrating planetoid.
If any survivors attempt to leave that fortress I want to know.”
The ship responded. “SENSOR LOCK ON THE CIFITRA PLANETOID FORTRESS
MAINTAINED. COURSE TO ASTEROID SET – SUBLIGHT ENGINES ENGAGED.”
The Blenheim’s puissant engines rumbled, sending subtle and reassuring
vibrations throughout the ship.
The ship made an announcement. “A VESSEL HAS BEEN DETECTED LEAVING
THE ATMOSPHERE OF THE PLANET DROOG.”
“Excellent! Confirm the ship’s identity.”
“THE VESSEL IS IDENTIFIED AS THE BOUNTY HUNTER SHIP NAMED THE GASH
Sind’a Thighs took a sharp intake of breath. “Jack Cardio
Peter the Ace turned and looked at the lesser bounty hunter. “Indeed
he is. I spotted his arrival over an hour ago. I take it you know him?”
Sind’a Thighs seemed flustered. “I got to know him quite well
a few months ago, just before my graduation. He was…” she
paused, obviously retrieving some pleasant memories, “very kind
Peter the Ace grinned. “I’m sure he was!” He turned
and activated his communications console. “Mister Cardio? This is
Peter the Ace on board the Blenheim. Respond, please.”
The response was fast. “This is Jack Cardio on board the Gash Station.
It’s an honour to speak with you! It’s been my ambition to
aid you on a mission for many…”
“Your ambition and sense of awe of my presence is natural, Mister
Cardio, but you are a qualified bounty hunter. You must control your emotions.”
“Of course. I apologise.”
“Good.” The first-class bounty hunter looked at the sensor
data. “I see you have suffered considerable damage. You obviously
had a close encounter with those humanoid machines.”
“They were exceptionally well armed. My shields were knocked out
in seconds. I had no choice but to nuke the entire coastline.”
“A reasonable solution. Were they all destroyed?”
“Yes. I did a deep-scan of the nearby ocean, too. There were five
bases on the edge of an abyss that runs the whole length of the continent.
Some of those machines were heading down there. Just to be on the safe
side I nuked the abyss with depth-charges.”
“I take it that the bases are no more?”
“Let’s just say that the abyss no longer exists!”
“Nice work! Well done.”
“Thank you. I’ve got your cyborg onboard. He’s badly
dented with minor damage, but otherwise fine. He found three surviving
children down there. They’re onboard, too.”
“Interesting. I didn’t expect him to find some survivors so
“I detected evidence of more survivors south of your cyborg’s
position. I believe they were emerging from shelters.”
“That devastated civilisation may survive this potential extinction
event after all. We shall have to keep a regular eye on Droog. It’s
not often we are given the chance to watch a pre-subspace culture recover
from such a catastrophe.”
“It will be a useful study aid, that’s for sure.”
Peter the Ace returned to the matter at hand. “We are about to retrieve
a Cifitra embedded in a nearby asteroid. Rendezvous with us immediately.
Once you’ve transferred Justin and the children to the Blenheim
we could use your assistance.”
“Did you say ‘Cifitra’?!”
“That’s unbelievable! How can that be? Cifitra are supposed
“It’s a fact, Mister Cardio, so believe it!”
“Rendezvous within twenty minutes. Blenheim out!” Peter the
Ace turned to Sind’a Thighs. “Go to the port-side airlock.
It would be nice if you could greet Mister Cardio and take care of the
Sind’a Thighs blushed, and then bowed politely. She turned and skipped
briskly off the bridge.