steadily on a deep-filled pastrami and cheese wholemeal sandwich, Panman
sat down at his weapons console next to Peter the Ace. He took a moment
to review some information on one of his display-screens. Anger briefly
overcame him. “What?! No way!” He looked at his companion. “Every
weapons system is offline!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Indeed they are. I’m afraid the holo-game
system is offline, too.”
Panman threw his sandwich to the floor in disgust. “Not again?! Every
time we’re attacked that system goes down! Why?!”
“Calm yourself.” Peter the Ace said in a soothing tone. He pointed
at the main view-screen. “Look. We’re approaching the asteroid.
I need you on top form. If that Cifitra is still alive down there I’m
going to need your vast ingenuity and panache.”
Panman looked at the view-screen. Straight ahead, dimly lit by the Droog
system’s distant sun, was a large lump of slowly rotating ice and
rock. It was surrounded by a cloud of debris which had obviously been kicked
up when the Cifitra impacted with the asteroid’s surface. The debris
added a strangely beautiful glow around the asteroid giving it an ethereal,
almost spiritual, appearance. “Don’t worry,” Panman said,
“all my mental faculties are intact and on a heightened state of readiness.”
“Glad to hear it.”
Panman reached down and retrieved his sandwich from the floor. He took a
massive bite, chomping down hard. Breadcrumbs scattered across the dimly
The communicator activated. “This is Jack Cardio onboard the Gash
Station. What are my orders?”
“Stay fifty kilometres from the asteroid – you’re our
backup. Both our ships have no shields so we must be careful. How’s
your weapons status?”
“Almost all systems are down. I have one energy disrupter that’s
functional, nothing more.”
“Excellent! You’ll be our cover. We have the Cifitra’s
location on that asteroid locked in to our sensors. Do you have it?”
“Good. We’re going down low to make sure that that metal brute
is well and truly out of action. It appears to be dead, but it’s a
machine so we can’t be certain from here. Lock your disrupter on it
just in case.”
“Understood. The disrupter’s locked.”
“Thank you, Mister Cardio. Blenheim out.”
Peter the Ace operated his controls. Immediately the ship responded and
angled towards the asteroid. The ship shuddered as it passed through the
mass of ejected debris. The dark surface of the asteroid loomed large, now
filling the image on the view-screen.
Panman watched. “That’s one miserable-looking landscape!”
He said usefully, stuffing the final remnants of his sandwich into his mouth
and chewing like a professional.
Peter the Ace levelled off the ship’s path and slowed its velocity.
The surface of the asteroid was now only a few hundred metres below. Jagged
ice cliffs and craters sped by. A large and obviously new crater came into
view ahead. “That’s were the Cifitra is.”
Panman grinned. “That’s an impressive impact crater! You must
really have thrown that mechanoid freak down here at one hell of a pace!”
“I certainly did. It was a deeply satisfying moment!”
The communications panel bleeped. Panman looked at it. He sighed. “What
does he want?” The bounty hunter answered the call. “Yes?”
“It is I, Justin.”
“I know! What’s up?”
“I request that you open the upper rear cargo bay external door.”
“Why would you want me to do that?”
“I wish to board the ship.”
“You’re outside?! Why didn’t you board when Jack Cardio
“My dimensions are not compatible with the exit route of his vessel.”
Panman laughed. “You mean you were too chunky to fit through?! You
should slim down, bulky dude!”
“It is impossible for me to reduce my mass using a slimming regime.
My body is constructed using solid metallic alloys that are incapable of…”
“Sorry, metal buddy, but I’m too busy for this kind of discussion.
Look around. Can’t you tell we’re about to do something extremely
cool?! Just hold on for now. We’ll let you in later.” He closed
the channel before the cyborg had a chance to respond.
The Cifitra’s impact crater now filled the view-screen. Guiding the
Blenheim over the crater’s unevenly serrated rim, Peter the Ace slowed
the ship, allowing it to drift over to the crater’s centre. He brought
the ship to a halt.
Panman fiddled with some controls. The image on the view-screen changed
to a view straight down. He activated the lower floodlights. Fifty metres
below, the surface of the crater lit up white in the intense light. There,
at the very centre of the deep crater, was the Cifitra’s body. It
was deeply embedded face down in the ice, and the mechanoid’s thin
metal limbs were buckled and spread-eagled. It did not appear to be in good
Peter the Ace smiled. “It looks quite dead, doesn’t it?”
Panman nodded. “Yeah, it does.” He looked down at some sensor
readings. “I can see no signs of life, but its head is very well shielded.
I can’t be sure whether or not its brain is functioning.”
Peter the Ace was thoughtful. “We need to give it a nudge, I think.”
He activated his communicator. “Mister Cardio, set your disrupter
to its lowest setting. Fire a short burst at the Cifitra. Let’s see
if we can wake it up!”
“No problem. Firing now.”
The view-screen flashed brighter as a wide two-second burst of blue energy
struck the Cifitra. Immediately the surrounding ice vaporised. The extremely
weak gravitational pull of the asteroid was not enough to hold the mechanoid
down. It rose up through the cloud of vapour. Peter the Ace and Panman watched
as the mechanoid, still lifeless, drifted closer to the Blenheim.
Panman leaned back in his luxurious chair and rested his hands behind his
head. “Looks as dead as a bleach-filled belly dancer to me!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “An accurate analogy.”
The Cifitra was still drifting upwards. It was now less than ten metres
from the ship.
Panman was thinking. “That evil robot would make an excellent sculpture
in one of the Palace of Amino’s parks!”
“Indeed it would.”
Panman leaned forwards and examined his screens. “Everything indicates
that it’s dead.” He looked at his companion. “Let’s
grab it and go home.”
Peter the Ace nodded. “What a fantastic plan!”
A heavily modulated voice spoke over the communicator. “I knew you
The bounty hunters looked at the main view-screen. The Cifitra had turned,
and was now staring back at them, its deep pit-like eyes as lifeless as
always. The mechanoid was now only a metre from the Blenheim.
Peter the Ace slammed his hands onto his control console. With flawless
dexterity he activated the sublight engines. The Blenheim accelerated rapidly.
But it was not rapid enough.
The main view-screen showed the surface of the asteroid as it sped passed.
It also showed the face and upper body of the Cifitra as it gripped tightly
to the hull.
As the surface of the asteroid fell away to be replaced by the blackness
of space, the evil machine spoke. “I will tear you apart, bounty hunters!
I will crush your limbs and your organs.! I will destroy your desire to
Panman laughed. “Oh really?! How are you going to get to us? Rip up
the ship first?”
With a shrill and rasping scream the Cifitra arched its back and then thrust
its head forwards. The image on the main view-screen disappeared for a moment,
and then was replaced with an image of the view ahead.
The Blenheim spoke. “WARNING. HULL BREACH – SECTION SEVENTEEN
Panman looked down at his sensor readings. “Hmm… I guess its
answer to my final question was ‘Yes’!”