An astonishing sense of relief flooded over Senior Operator Ramalama Dingdong.
Supervisor Tyrsum approached. “You had better be right!”
Ramalama nodded. He pointed. “Look, supervisor. It’s initialising!”
The supervisor looked at the console’s round screen. Lines of blue
text scrolled up the screen, describing various low-level and exceedingly
boring start-up sequences. “Good work. How long until it’s operational?”
“Just a few minutes.” The senior operator answered proudly.
“Then the firing cycle can be re-programmed.”
“Good. And this time transfer the firing cycle to the emitter itself.
Whoever caused all this damage can do it again. The emitter must fire no
The supervisor looked to the console opposite. “What about the power
Ramalama’s voice lost its pride. “Still down. There’s
nothing we can do.” He tensed up, ready to be beaten for his failure.
But for once, the senior operator need not have worried.
Supervisor Tyrsum took a long deep breath. “Hmm… That will have
to do. At least we still have a working weapon. And twenty-eight percent
of a colossal amount of power is still a colossal amount of power.”
Ramalama nodded furiously. “It is! That’s a very positive way
of looking at the situation!”
The supervisor’s tone darkened. “But I still want to know what
happened at the core. And I want to know very soon.”
“It was probably attacked by whoever caved in the chamber, supervisor.”
Ramalama moaned as Supervisor Tyrsum’s knee collided with his genitals.
The senior operator buckled over, and then collapsed to the floor. Tears
flooded his eyes.
The supervisor crouched down next to Ramalama. “Any more insolence
like that and I’ll remove all of your teeth. Understand?”
Ramalama nodded. “Yes, supervisor.” He said weakly.
With the silence and stealth of a Som’Nambulia sly slug, Panman
had crept from one damaged console to the next, crawling slowly and carefully
under twisted metal and contorted corpses to conceal his presence. At
various well-chosen points, he had left an armed PUSS charge, which immediately
went into stand-by mode, waiting for the bounty hunter’s detonation
It had taken Panman more than an hour to lay all the charges. And he had
done so completely undetected. He had even crawled on his hands and knees
right behind the supervisor, who had been too busy smashing people around
the head to notice.
Now, Panman was crouching at the front of the emitter control room, right
next to the huge hole blown out by the collapse of the chamber roof. The
bounty hunter peered round a smouldering console. Most of the operators,
and the supervisor too, were gathered around a console at the back. They
were talking in quite an animated fashion – obviously they had had
some success in repairing some equipment. It was quite possible that they
had regained control of the emitter.
Making a rapid and exceedingly good assessment of the situation, Panman
realised that he had to detonate the charges as soon as possible. And
he also realised that he could not easily escape the control room the
way he had entered. He turned and looked out of the hole into the emitter
chamber, and at the rock-covered emitter dish hundreds of metres below.
That was the only way out.
Cautiously, soundlessly, and fearlessly, the bounty hunter crept forwards
and out over the lip of the hole. He began to climb across the rock face
of the cavernous chamber.