Cardio watched his display-screen with guilty delight as the Blenheim, more
than fifty kilometres away, accelerated rapidly from the asteroid. It was
rolling over and over in an attempt to shake the Cifitra that was trying
to tear its way inside. It was a phenomenal privilege to see the two greatest
bounty hunters and their ship in action.
Setting a pursuit course, Jack Cardio accelerated the Gash Station and drew
closer to the Blenheim, which was now pitching over, braking, and thrusting
at an alarming rate. He activated his communicator. “This is Jack
Cardio. Hold steady. I’ll shoot that thing off your hull.”
The reply from Peter the Ace was immediate. “Marvellous suggestion,
Mister Cardio! That metal freak is on our underside near the main cargo
bay door. I will cease our manoeuvres and face our underside towards you
in fifteen seconds. Get as close as you can. Without shields this ship cannot
deal with your disrupter’s discharge if you miss!”
“Noted. I’m closing in on you now. My disrupter’s ready.”
“Excellent! Blenheim out.”
Jack Cardio looked at his display-screen. The Blenheim was only ten kilometres
ahead. He slowed his ship’s approach. The disrupter was armed and
ready to lock onto its target. The bounty hunter waited. It was hard to
believe that he was potentially about to save the lives of the two greatest
bounty hunters of all time. If he succeeded, surely that would mean instant
promotion. The level of fifth-class bounty hunter was within his grasp.
An intoxicating prospect!
The sensors screens showed that the Blenheim was firing its stabilisation
thrusters. Within a second its rotation had stopped. Torn armour plating
was drifting nearby; obviously the result of the Cifitra’s handiwork.
The disrupter control panel bleeped. A lock had been achieved. Grinning
with anticipation of his promotion, Jack Cardio fired. A bright beam of
energy connected with the Cifitra on the Blenheim’s underside. In
a cloud of vaporised armour plating, the Cifitra was forced at high speed
off the hull of the ship. The disrupter ceased firing.
Peter the Ace spoke. “Well done, Mister Cardio.”
“No problem! I’ll go and grab that robot.”
“That’s unwise. You do not have the skills to deal with it.”
Jack Cardio fiddled with his controls, setting his ship on an intercept
course with the drifting Cifitra. Catching the mechanoid would ensure his
advancement through the bounty hunter ranks. “It’s no problem.
I’ve got quiteranium reinforced grab arms on the front of my ship.
Just give me couple of minutes.” He closed the channel.
The Cifitra was now only two kilometres away.
Operating a control, the bounty hunter extended the grab arms. He laughed.
“Promotion and glory here I come!”
At a closing speed of more than five-hundred metres per second, the Gash
Station reached the Cifitra, hitting it with an almost deafening crunch.
Jack Cardio yelled. “Yes!” He looked down at the grab arms through
the viewport. His heart sank.
They were empty.
A siren sounded. The ship spoke. “WARNING: HULL BREACH – FORWARD
Before the bounty hunter had even a second to think there was another deafening
crunch, and then a stab of intense agony. Jack Cardio looked down. There,
bursting out from his ruptured groin, was a blood-covered metal head. Two
black and empty eye pits stared back at him.
A voice, metallic and vastly modulated, spoke. “That was an ill-planned
manoeuvre, bounty hunter!”
Jack Cardio screamed as the Cifitra reached up and pulled itself into the
cockpit, tearing through the bounty hunter’s torso as it did so.
With remarkable presence of mind, the bounty hunter managed to operate the
communicator. “This is Jack Cardio.” He groaned; his voice weak
and wheezy. “My ship has been infiltrated.”
Peter the Ace spoke sternly. “You were warned, Mister Cardio!”
The Cifitra’s head reared up in front of the bounty hunter. The display-screen
cracked as the mechanoids thin buckled arms rested on it.
“We cannot rescue you. We are going to maximum sublight speed. Do
you understand what I’m saying?”
Jack Cardio gasped for air. All his hopes, his dreams and his aspirations
for promotion and high-class Palace of Amino glory dissolved in a sea of
pain. There was nothing left. “I understand.”
The mechanoid spoke. “Their ship is crippled. They are leaving you!
They are nothing! I am everything!”
The bounty hunter screamed as the Cifitra grasped his upper left arm, and
yelped as the arm was ripped from his body. The machine slapped the amputated
limb onto the cockpit’s narrow viewport, smearing it with blood.
Jack Cardio looked down at his display-screen. Despite the cracks in the
screen’s surface, he could see the icon representing the location
of the Blenheim. And from the data next to the icon he could see that its
sublight engines were about to engage. He looked at the Cifitra and forced
himself to smile.
“The Cifitra cocked its head. “Are you happy to fail in this
manner, bounty hunter?”
Jack Cardio shook his head. “No.” With the last of his strength
he nodded his head towards the viewport. “But I’m happy to live
just long enough to witness this.”
The Cifitra cocked its head the other way, and then turned to the viewport.
Far away there was a bright flash.
An alarm sounded. The ship spoke. “WARNING: COLLISION ALERT.”
The Cifitra looked down at the display-screen. It looked back at Jack Cardio.
“That is not logical! This cannot be!”
For the briefest of moments, everything turned white…