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Book: The Nomads and the Mind Machine
Chapter 21: Chocolate Celery Stick

“Mister Moth, are you ready?”  Peter the Ace asked.

I’m onboard the Horizontal Assassin.  All systems are powered up and ready.

“Excellent.  We’ll be leaving subspace in thirty seconds.  Detach as soon as we are in normal space.  We don’t know what we’re dropping into so be on maximum alert.”

I always am.  Cardigan Moth out.”

Peter the Ace turned to Panman, who was sitting at his weapons console.  “Mister Moth is a strange one, isn’t he?!”

Panman was munching on a chocolate celery stick.  “Yeah.  It’s probably because of the emotional reengineering he underwent a year ago.”  The bounty hunter began to arm as many of his weapon systems as he could.

“Really?  I thought that process was still at the experimental stage?”

Panman nodded.  “It is.  Cardigan Moth went to the Amino Centre for Sensation Management and volunteered as a guinea pig for their neural restructuring trails.  He did it just for fun, or so I read in his records.”

Peter the Ace was intrigued.  “He actually volunteered to have his brain reorganized by an unproven and potentially fatal experimental process simply because he thought it would be fun?”

“Yeah!”

“That’s insane.”  Peter the Ace said.  He smiled.  “I’ve suddenly developed a newfound and deep respect for Mister Moth!”

Panman nodded and looked up at his companion.  “Me, too!”

The ship spoke.  “RE-ENTERING NORMAL SPACE…”

A barely perceptible flutter of distortion spread through the ship as the Blenheim emerged from subspace.

The scene ahead was dark.  But it was not empty.

Panman was looking at his sensor screens.  “There are several huge ships in the area.  One is dead ahead – 500 thousand kilometres away.”

The main view screen showed technical information on the ship.  It was close to twenty kilometres long, and bulged unevenly in all directions – typical of a ship that had been modified and extended over many centuries.

“That is one old-looking ship.”  Panman said.

Peter the Ace nodded.  “A nomad generation ship.”

Panman put the last piece of his chocolate celery stick into his mouth.  “There are also appears to be a small ship nearby.”  He gasped and swallowed hard.  He turned to Peter the Ace.  “It’s a Sadeeni vessel!”

Peter the Ace activated his communicator.  “Mister Moth, do you see the Sadeeni ship?”

I do.

“Go and get it.  Do everything you can to stop it escaping!”

Like a Fahrustic hunt general at a fur-stripping festival, it will be my sole aim.”

          Sensor information on the main view screen showed Cardigan Moth’s ship, the Horizontal Assassin, accelerate away towards the Sadeeni ship.

Panman continued to examine sensor data.  “The emissions trail of that strange ship we were following leads right into that huge ship.  There is a lot of debris floating around.  It looks like it rammed it!”

Peter the Ace pointed.  “And penetrated deep!”

The main view screen now showed a detailed close-up of the nomad ship’s hull.  The image, significantly enhanced due to the darkness of the region, showed a contorted hole in the hull over a hundred metres wide.  Small automated maintenance craft were already hovering outside the unexpected orifice, their floodlights illuminating sections of the damaged brown-stained hull.

Panman’s eyes widened.  “Whoa!  That’s why that strange ship is so long and pointed, and why its front section is made of tri-melded quinteranium!  Penetrating deep into that vessel was the aim all along!”

The huge ship was now less than 50 thousand kilometres away.  Peter the Ace slowed the Blenheim.  “We need to contact the nomad ship.  If the purpose of the strange vessel is what I think it is, they are in serious trouble!”

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