It took Cardigan Moth only 16 minutes to escape from inside the vessel’s engines and find his way up through the foundations of the Government Tower to street level. But that’s as far up as he had got. Thick security doors prevented any further ascent. The bounty hunter had had only one choice if he was to get back up to his ship in time, and that was to blast his way out of the building through a two metre thick steel and concrete wall – a thoroughly enjoyable task.
The explosion was deafening.
After the smoke and dust had subsided, Cardigan Moth clambered over a mound of rubble and twisted, semi-molten steel to the street beyond. It was a wide street filled with debris and strewn with contorted corpses, many fried beyond all hope of recognition. Several small lizards flitted from corpse to corpse, tearing off small strands of barbecued flesh.
For a brief second the bounty hunter wondered whether his violent exit from the Government Tower was to blame, but then he noticed that the corpses were marked with yellow labels – catalogued and ready for collection and disposal. This was the aftermath of the attack on the Bloodbath restaurant high above.
A voice shouted. “Do not move!”
Cardigan Moth looked to his left. Several police officers clothed in thick black body armour were approaching, their heavy-looking rifles raised and ready. A couple of police vehicles landed behind them. Several lizards darted away in a cloud of defecation.
The bounty hunter responded calmly. “I am a bounty hunter of the Palace of Amino here on official business. It is essential that I go to the top of the Government Tower.”
The police officers quickly surrounded the bounty hunter. The lead officer spoke again. “Yeah, right! Get down on the floor and spread your arms.”
Cardigan Moth looked down. Dirt and rubble and an oil-like substance covered most of the surface. The partially cooked severed head of a former restaurant customer gazed up at him with hollow dried-up eyes and an open mouth. Ironically the mouth contained several chunks of uncooked food. “Hmm… I’d rather not. It would be preferable to…”
The officer screamed. “Do as I say!”
Cardigan Moth was becoming impatient. “In ten minutes this tower is likely to be reduced to rubble. I strongly recommend you order the evacuation of the tower and the surrounding area and then take me to…”
A blast of energy hit the wall beside the bounty hunter’s head.
“Do as I say.” the officer said. “There will be no more warnings!”
Cardigan Moth thought quickly and flicked his eyes left and right, examining the scene around him. There was no time to negotiate with doltish cops. With a lightning snap of his legs the bounty hunter leapt forwards. Head first, he slammed into padded gut of the lead office, doubling him up and sending him flying several metres across the devastated street. The officer groaned as his head slammed into a large chunk of debris.
Several of the other officers opened fire. Cardigan Moths blue velvet cloak took and absorbed three direct hits. In a ball of flame, the bounty hunter rolled, pulled a grenade from his belt, and threw it. He covered his ears. A second later the grenade detonated. A blinding flash and a booming thud spread out. All the nearby officers fell back, stunned and disorientated. The windows of nearby shops, cafes and brothels shattered, and so did their tacky neon signs. The street darkened.
In the confusion Cardigan Moth stood and ran to the nearest police vehicle and climbed into the front passenger seat. He drew his battle knife. Flicking a control he extended the knife’s blade to its full half-metre length. He held it close to the throat of the driver. His cloak was smouldering. “Take me to the top of the Government Tower.”
The driver, a young female homo-marsupial, stared back at the bounty hunter. Her furry face was gaunt, and here eyes were large and round with shock. She reached down to the side of her seat.
Cardigan Moth whacked the side of her head with the butt of the knife. A small amount of blood leaked into her fur. “Do not try anything stupid. That would be considered hindrance of a bounty hunter – a serious offence. You would suffer significant agony as a result.”
The driver, wincing in pain, nodded. She grabbed her control wheel and operated the throttle. The police air car rose rapidly into the air and angled up. With a powerful rumble the car accelerated up the side of the Government tower.
Cardigan Moth looked at the vehicle’s screens. The scanner was showing that already three police vehicles were following. He looked out of the rear window. He could see the vehicles approaching, their flickering blue strobes flashed brightly against the receding street. He looked at the driver. Her hands were shaking. She was obviously terrified. “Do not be scared. I am a bounty hunter. Access your database. Confirm my identity. My name is Cardigan Moth.”
Nodding, the driver tapped at the vehicle’s centre console. The screen quickly displayed some data, and an image of the bounty hunter. The driver looked at him and seemed to relax a bit. “It does look like you.”
“That’s because it is me.” He retracted his knife’s blade and placed the knife back on his belt.
Two of the following police air cars had caught up and were flying close at either side.
Cardigan Moth looked forwards as the side of the enormous Government Tower rushed passed. “Inform your colleagues that I am who I claim to be. And then tell them that the interior of the Government Tower contains a hidden space vessel that may launch in the next few minutes. The tower and the surrounding area must be evacuated immediately.”
The driver nodded. She activated her communicator and passed on the message. After a few seconds the flanking police vehicles banked away and headed back towards street level.
The vehicle reached the top of the tower and decelerated rapidly, banking high over the tower’s pinnacle.
Cardigan Moth pointed at Governor Ykcor’s expansive landing pad. “There’s my ship. Drop me there.”
As she guided the car down the officer spoke. “There are two ships. Which is yours? The black one?”
“No, that’s Ross Mental’s. Mine’s the curvaceous silver one.”
The officer seemed excited. “Ross Mental’s here!” The vehicle landed hard. She looked at Cardigan Moth and sighed. “I’ve been a fan of his forever!”
“Not possible. Neither you nor he have existed forever.”
“I have a poster of him! Can I meet him?”
The bounty hunter opened his door and stepped out of the car. He looked back at the officer. “There is no time for such trivialities. Go now and assist in the evacuations.” He nodded once. “Thank you for the ride, and sorry for making the side of your head bleed.”
Cardigan Moth turned and strode quickly towards his ship, the Horizontal Assassin, up its short ramp, and through its oval hatchway. Turning left, he stepped into his small cockpit he sank into his command chair. He issued a command to the ship. “Power up.”
“POWER UP SEQUENCE ACTIVATED.”
The ship’s engines hummed to life.
Vibrations, increasing in strength, made their way up through the command chair. That was not normal for such a refined and superbly engineered craft such as the Horizontal Assassin.
The bounty hunter was curious. “Explain the vibrations. Are your variance phase conglomerators out of alignment?”
“ALL VARIANCE PHASE CONGLOMERATORS ARE ALIGNED CORRECTLY. THE SOURCE OF THE VIBRATIONS IS EXTERNAL.”
Through the curved viewport at the front Cardigan Moth witnessed the panoramic windows of Governor Ykcor’s office shatter. “Launch immediately!”
The ship rose quickly off the landing pad. Taking control, the bounty hunter guided the ship up and away from the government tower. Hovering a few hundred metres away, he spun the ship around. Through the viewport he could see the expansive landing pad on the top of the tower. Even in the pad’s dim night-time lighting he could see its surface buckling and cracking. Ross Mental’s ship, the Morbid, was slipping towards the edge. Already debris had started falling off the building’s sides.
Reaching into an inside pocket, Cardigan Moth pulled out the device Ross Mental had given him. He plugged it into his control console. “Access the auto-activation codes for the Morbid. Launch it and get it over here. Now!”
“AUTO-ACTIVATION CODES ACCESSED. COMMAND INTERFACE TO THE MORBID ESTABLISHED. LAUNCHING…”
Through the viewport the bounty hunter watched as Ross Mental’s ship lifted off the landing platform, retracting its stubby insect-like legs as it did so. It turned and approached.
Behind the Morbid the Government Tower was now visibly shaking. Huge chunks of masonry were breaking off and tumbling away. The centre of the building’s roof started to rise up.
Cardigan Moth activated his communicator. “Ross Mental, this is Cardigan Moth. Can you…”
“Fuck!... heads in… fuckin’… plugged in!”
The communications link was breaking up. Cardigan Moth shouted at his ship. “Enhance the connection!”
“DATA OMMISSION CANNOT BE ELIMINATED WITH CONNECTION ENHANCEMENT.”
The bounty hunter ignored his ships useless response and spoke again into the communicator. “Repeat. You are breaking up.”
“… heads!... Fuckin’… Two profess… into cables… some kind… fuckers!...”
With a deep thunder-like rumble the Government Tower split apart, sending clouds of debris spreading out in all directions. Huge sections of the building rose up and arced away.
Cardigan Moth operated some controls and moved his ship and the Morbid further up and away. He watched as a huge needle-like shape ascended out of the collapsing tower. Accelerating rapidly, the giant pointed vessel pierced the dark cloud layer in seconds. Just a few seconds later, and at incredible speed, the entire four kilometre length of the vessel disappeared into the clouds.
Taking one last glance at the expanding devastation below, Cardigan Moth angled his craft upwards and set off – the Morbid in tow - on a pursuit course with the vast needle-like ship.