“Awesome!” Panman yelled. He flipped his board up over his head and tumbled like a
cannon shell over a jagged collection of rocks, landing on the other side
in a deep soft drift. He emerged through a cloud of powered snow, punching
the air with both fists. “Bitchin’!” He squatted low,
building up even more speed.
Peter the Ace followed close behind, carving elegantly around each obstacle.
“We’d better curb our speed.” He said, examining the heads-up
information in his helmet. “We’re only five hundred metres away.”
Panman performed one final back flip, and then turned, digging his back
edge in deep. In a spray of ice and snow, the first-class bounty hunter
shed almost all his speed. He continued slowly down to the centre of the
Peter the Ace performed a couple of long sweeping arcs, and then drew up
beside his companion. “Do you see any defences?”
“My passive sensors are not detecting any.” Panman replied,
looking around. “No scanner emissions, no energy signatures –
“Interesting.” Peter the Ace said. He looked to the horizon.
The ocean was clearly visible in the distance – dark against the brightening
sky. But there was no sight of any intelligent activity or technology. Not
a single shred of anything remotely artificial. “I guess they’re
not expecting anyone up here on the surface.”
“It is minus forty – minus 80 factoring in the wind-chill.”
Panman said with great insight. “That fat-arsed lump-being probably
doesn’t think anyone would be able to survive up here long enough
to cause any trouble for him.”
“He’s obviously not aware of the advanced insulating properties,
adaptive life-support system, and lavish comfort of a grade-1 Amino Military
Standard Clothing Institute arctic environment suit.”
Panman could not argue with that statement. “Yeah, the ignorant shit
“Right,” Peter the Ace said. “Time to put part two of
your plan into action.”
“Good idea!” Panman released the straps of his backpack and
lowered it to the ground. Reaching down, he started to assemble the drilling
Peter the Ace took out a small device and performed a slow sweeping motion
across the snow-blown surface. “The snow is about half a metre deep.”
He said, examining the data on the device’s display panel. “And
the rock is almost a hundred and sixty metres thick above the cavern.”
“That’s thicker than we estimated.” Panman answered. The
drill was almost assembled.
“Indeed it is.” Peter the Ace reached down and pulled several
small cylinders from Panman’s backpack. “I’ll increase
the yield of the charges by twenty percent to compensate.”
Panman looked at his companion. “Thirty percent.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Too much is better than too little!”
Peter the Ace knew words of wisdom when he heard them. “You’re
right.” He clicked on each of the charges, upping the explosive yield
as Panman suggested.
With his Amino deep-core hypersonic hand-held military grade-one extending
drill assembled, Panman began drilling into the packed snow. After only
a second, the drill crunched into hard rock, enveloping the bounty hunter
in a cloud of dark dust.
“I first detected it about thirty minutes ago, sir.” Senior
Operator Ramalama Dingdong said, nervously scratching his dark bald scalp.
Supervisor Tyrsum looked down at the oval display-screen at the operator’s
console. Several charts plotted complex seismic data in numerous shades
of pink and purple. “And you’ve never detected something like
“No, sir.” The operator said, his head shaking madly. “Plenty
of tremors over the years, and vibrations caused by the construction of
the emitter, but nothing quite like this. It seems to stop for a few minutes
then start again. It changes location each time.”
“Really? Can you pinpoint it?”
“Not yet, sir. The readings are very weak. The system is still computing
the exact position. It is coming from above, though.”
“Hmm…” The supervisor wandered over to the huge panoramic
window of the control room and looked down through the angled glass. Hundreds
of metres below the huge white dish of the emitter could be seen, sprouting
like a deadly flower from the power core shaft. Thousands of red-coated
recruits worked busily on the disk and around the chamber putting the
finishing touches to what was probably the most powerful and longest-range
weapon ever made.
Supervisor Tyrsum thought for a moment about the sudden strange seismic
readings. Surely they must be from the construction work still going on.
But from above? Better not take any chances. The supervisor turned. “Get
a fix on those readings as soon as possible. Then take a team to investigate.”
Senior Operator Ramalama Dingdong’s yellow eyes widened. “Take
a team up there? But sir, my job description states that…”
The supervisor loomed over the operator. “Are you disobeying me,
The operator looked up at the supervisor’s shiny domed helmet. “No,
“I’ll contact you when…”
“Don’t bother.” The supervisor interrupted, walking
by. “I’m sure you can handle it. Just take your team out.
I have another public dissection to perform.”
The operator watched Supervisor Tyrsum leave the control room. There’s
no way I’m going outside, Ramalama thought. Time to use my limited
authority as a senior operator. Ramalama turned to the junior operator
at the console behind. “Oulala?”
The junior operator looked up, startled. Her eyes were half closed and
watery – she had obviously nodded off. “Oh… Yes, sir?”
Ramalama smiled. “I have an interesting job for you. It’ll
get you away from those mind-numbing sleep-inducing status screens for
Oulala giggled, embarrassed at being caught napping. She brushed a lock
of frizzy hair from her face. “I would like that, sir.”
“Good. Take Operator Nenenanarnar and four guards and go up on the
surface. Investigate the source of the strange vibrations.”
“The surface?” Oulala said, shocked. “It’s subzero
up there, and blowing a gale! My complexion is fragile! I’ll…”
“Do as you’re told, operator!”
The junior operator nodded. “Of course. As you wish, sir.”
“I’ll get the exact coordinates to you in a few minutes.”
Ramalama said. “Go and get ready.”
Oulala nodded once more and got to her feet. She rushed away.
The senior officer watched her go. He grinned like a clown. Power, however
limited, was an intoxicating thing to use.
“That’s the last one.” Peter the Ace said, dropping
the final charge into the final hole.
“Cool!” Panman answered. He started to disassemble the drill.
Peter the Ace looked up the steep slope of Mount Boan-Braka. “I
reckon we’ll need at least two kilometres of distance from the blast.
And we’ve got twenty minutes to walk there.”
“Then we’d better get moving.” Panman said. He finished
packing the drill away into his backpack. He lifted the backpack and put
it on. It was considerably lighter without the charges. He pointed up.
“I suggest that ridge. Should be a good view from there.”
“Marvelous idea.” Peter the Ace said. He marched purposefully
Panman followed. “I’m really looking forwards to this!”
He said, selecting a snack from his suit’s food dispenser. A squirt
of liquidised wallaby pie hit the back of his throat.
Peter the Ace agreed. “Yes, me too. This’ll be the first time
we’ve blasted a hole in the roof of a giant cavern. It’ll
be a sight to savour.”
Panman nodded. “We’d better record it. It may become essential
learning on the Enemy Stronghold Infiltration course at the Amino Institute
of Tactical Excellence.”
“I’ve been recording ever since we left the ship.” Peter
the Ace announced, striding hard up the slope, which was getting steeper
with every step. “I intend to insist that it becomes essential learning,
especially our infallible snowboarding technique.”
“Cool!” Panman said. He selected a tasty burst of sugared
shark paste. “I’ll go and give a lecture sometime.”
Peter the Ace’s heads-up display flashed up an urgent message. “There
are a few humanoids approaching from the southwest.” He said. “They’re
heading towards the position of our charges.”
“It’ll take them ages to find them.” Panman said confidently.
“I buried them deep.”
“Very true. And they’ll detonate before they even suspect
Panman laughed. “Yeah, idiots!”
Peter the Ace laughed too. Then he fell serious for a moment. “Perhaps
they’re innocent locals out for nothing more than a bracing stroll?
Or even primitive mountain dwellers, desperate to snare a burrowing ice
beaver to feed their ravenous offspring?”
“Oh yeah?” Panman said, taking the lead. “And I’m
a five-eyed, four-eared, three-legged fumbloid!”
“You’re right.” Peter the Ace admitted. “It is
a rather remote possibility in this environment.”
Panman nodded. “It is. And anyway, it’s too late to worry
about it now. They’re doomed whoever they are.”
Peter the Ace smiled. Panman was indeed a wise and perceptive individual.
The two bounty hunters progressed quickly up the steep slope, completely
camouflaged against the snow-blown surface from the eyes of the approaching
After a fifteen-minute rapid ascent, Panman and Peter the Ace reached
“What? Shit!” Panman cursed, pulling himself over an exposed
outcrop of rock.
Peter the Ace was a few steps behind. “What’s the problem?”
Panman turned and looked down at his companion. “There’s no
more food in this suit!”
Peter the Ace was amazed. “These suits are state-of-the-art! There’s
supposed to be enough concentrated food in them for ten days!”
Panman shook his head rapidly. “No way!” He was obviously
displeased. “I’m going to speak to the designers as soon as
we get back to the palace. They need to pack in a load more food before
they get my seal of approval!”
Panman’s seal of approval was highly desired amongst the Palace
of Amino’s designers and engineers. Peter the Ace had no doubt that
they would take Panman’s suggestion seriously. With that thought,
he climbed up and joined his hungry companion on the ridge.
Panman was crouching at the edge of the ridge, looking down into the snow
bowl two kilometres away. “I can see those humanoids. They’ve
stopped right above one of our charges.”
“They’re definitely not peasants or hikers, then!” Peter
the Ace said, joining Panman. The heads-up display of Peter the Ace’s
helmet enlarged the view of the humanoids. There were five of them, all
clothed in thick brown furs and wide-soled black boots. One of them produced
a large complex-looking piece of equipment.
“I wonder what that is.” Panman said.
The humanoid holding the equipment was suddenly shrouded in a cloud of
“He’s clearing the snow.” Peter the Ace said. “Hunting
for our charges.”
Panman examined the time-display in his visor. “In three minutes
that whole snow bowl will disappear. Those charges will find him first!”
Peter the Ace chuckled. “Indeed!” He unclipped his snowboard
from his backpack and put it down by his feet. “We’d better
Panman nodded, and then unclipped his own snowboard.
The two bounty hunters bound themselves to their boards and waited eagerly
for what they expected to be one of the highlights of their long careers.