The giant spherical surround view-screen showed the four other nomad ships docked to each side. The fleet of Sadeeni ships now surrounded the nomad ships with their largest ship, a ten kilometre behemoth, riding right overhead.<
A shimmer, and a brief but mildly significant moment of unease, spread across the spherical room.
Bob spoke. “We have entered subspace.”
Peter the Ace looked up from the control console at the centre of the room. He was standing between the other two nomads. Despite his dense and impressively muscular physique he looked small compared to the absurd height and lankiness of the green leotard-wearing pasty-skinned nomads. He spoke. “We are on a course for Nemia.”
Ross Mental responded in the only way he knew how. “Fuck!”
Peter the Ace continued to look at the screens. “It looks like the Sadeeni are planning to destroy the central worlds’ prime planet!”
“That’ll send all central worlds into fuckin’ turmoil! It’ll be the end of fuckin’ order!”
“Indeed.” Peter the Ace walked back over to Ross Mental and Bob. “We have six hours until we arrive in the Nemia system.”
Bob spoke. “We must remove the alien intellectual biological components from the bio-mind.”
Ross Mental looked up at Bob. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Peter the Ace answered. “He’s talking about the heads of the professors. I noticed on an internal scan I just performed that there is strong energy field protecting the professors. Its strength appears to be increasing.”
Ross Mental nodded. “I know. Every time I tried to disconnect those fuckers I was repelled by it. It was fuckin’ annoying!”
Peter the Ace’s eyes widened. “I have just formulated a plan.”
“In fact, I have a plan of two parts, with a secondary part as part of the first part of the plan.”
“That sounds fuckin’ complicated. I like it already!”
Bob looked down and spoke. “What is your plan?”
“In the first part of my plan we attempt to disconnect the professors’ heads from the bio-mind.”
Ross Mental nodded. “A good idea, but as I said, it’s fuckin’ difficult. We’ll need fuck-off devices to do it, and that could damage the bio-mind.”
“It could, but if we fail it won’t matter anyway as the secondary part of the first part of the plan is to destroy the bio-mind. Only if the first part of the plan fails, of course.”
Bob spoke. “That is an alarming plan. The bio-mind is controlling all of our ships. The loss of the bio-mind will cause unpredictable chaos on this ship, and the bio-minds on the other ships could suffer psychological trauma. The result could be devastating.”
Peter the Ace looked up at the nomad. “What you describe is a worst-case scenario. But you’re right, bio-minds, for all their intelligence, versatility and usefulness, are extremely unpredictable when compromised. We will need to be careful.”
Ross Mental was impatient. “What’s the second fuckin’ part?”
“The second part of my plan can be carried out when the first part of the plan - or the secondary part of the first part of the plan if the first part fails - has been completed. We will initiate an ultra-space gravistatic pulse and destroy or disable the Sadeeni fleet.”
Ross Mental punched the air. “Fuckin’ yes!”
Bob spoke. “An ultra-space gravistatic pulse has never before been initiated. It is considered a last-resort weapon. Other solutions must be explored.”
Peter the Ace was curious. “What other weaponry do you have that has the potential to destroy the Sadeeni fleet?”
“Then the ultra-space gravistatic pulse is also a first-resort weapon, isn’t it?”
The nomad remained quite for a few seconds and then answered. “Yes.”
“Excellent! Don’t worry; we’ll lower the magnitude so as not to stress your ships too much.” Peter the Ace turned to Ross Mental. “Head back to the bio-mind. Do your best to disconnect the professors. At each failed attempt increase the ferocity of your next attempt. If you don’t succeed in one hour you may shut down the bio-mind by any means possible. I’ll stay here with Bob and configure the gravistatic pulse.”
Ross Mental punched the air. “Fuckin’ nice!” He thought for a second. “It’s a shame I’ve only got my rifle and the hand weapons on my belt. It’ll be a fuckin’ challenge and a half to do much with these!”
Peter the Ace smiled. “You have access to much more potent weapons than that!”
“On your ship. It’s sitting in a huge hanger bay next to the giant chamber.”
“The fuckin’ Morbid is here?!”
“Indeed it is. We brought it with us. When Panman went off to rescue Cardigan Moth he left it here.”
For a second Ross Mental’s eyes seemed to glisten. A tear almost formed. “Ace, you’re a fuckin’ star! I’ve got loads of fuck-off gear in my ship!” The foul-mouthed bounty hunter turned and sprinted away.
Peter the Ace looked up at Bob. “I’ve never seen him that joyous for years. I think we’re in for a wonderful show once he starts work in the bio-mind!”
Bob was not amused. “I must consult with my leader and the leaders of the other ships.”
The bounty hunter nodded. “Of course. Consult away! I’m going to figure out your systems and set up the ultra-space gravistatic pulse.” He turned and walked back over to the control console.
With the precision of a Gunshun feast maker Ross Mental guided the Morbid through the opening in the transparent wall of the huge hanger bay and into the even huger inner chamber. Accelerating, the bounty hunter dropped his ship down and skimmed low over the icy plains.
Ross Mental laughed. He was extremely pleased to be back at the controls of his ship. He rolled the ship over. “Fuckin’ cool!”
Already the dome of the bio-mind and the long Sadeeni ship could be seen ahead, nestled amongst chunks of cracked and raised ice.
Slowing the Morbid, the bounty hunter took the ship up over the dome in a smooth high-gee arc, and then spiralled down. He noticed that there were a lot of nomads hanging around, especially near the Sadeeni ship. He activated his communicator. “Ace?”
The reply was rapid. “Yes?”
“There are loads of fuckin’ nomads still around the bio-mind. I need them all to leave, now. The fuckers will only get in the way.”
“Understood. I’ll get Bob to order them away.”
Ross Mental fired the breaking thrusters and guided the Morbid to a firm but expertly executed landing next to dome and right next to where the Sadeeni ship had pierced it. The ship kicked up a cloud of powdered snow as it touched down. Through the view ports and the clearing mist of fine snow the bounty hunter could see that the nomads were already backing away. Most of their bowl-like aircraft had already risen into the air and were heading back up towards the platform cities above. Bob had been quick to order the retreat, and the order was being carried out with outstanding efficiency. Ross Mental’s opinion of the effeminate leotard-wearing nomads had risen slightly.
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter pulled himself out of his cockpit chair. He spoke to the ship. “Stay active. I may need to need to launch on a moment’s fuckin’ notice!”
The ship responded. “HIGH ALERT STANDBY MODE ACTIVATED.”
Leaving the cockpit, the bounty hunter stepped through his cramped living quarters and down to the lower airlock. He opened a locker and took out a thick black outfit – a model eight battle suit, one of the latest designs to come out of the Amino Battle Fabric Institute. He quickly put the suit on and then loaded it with heavy weaponry from another locker. Soon his utility belt, and the slots on the suit’s back, was brimming with vicious-looking devices. The bounty hunter grinned. High-tech battle suits and awesome weaponry made life worth living, and well worth taking.
Ross Mental turned to the airlock’s exit and opened it. A blast of cold air hit the bounty hunter’s face. “Fuckin’ cold!” He grimaced. As he stepped down onto the snow and ice he activated his suit’s helmet. In less than a second a black dome unfolded from the suit’s shoulders and covered his head. Immediately the temperature stabilised. The suit’s head-up display activated. The bounty hunter turned and headed up a mound of ice next to the Sadeeni ship and into the jagged new entrance to the dome of the bio-mind.
It took Ross Mental five minutes of crawling and climbing and jumping to get through the mass of bio-tubing and brain pods to the centre of the dome. There he could see the front of the Sadeeni ship and, more importantly, the transparent dome containing the heads of Professors Espanys and Larberec.
The bounty hunter carefully stepped closer. The heads were jiggling in their gunk, their grey beards now soaked and stained green. They eyes of the professors were open but they blinked rapidly. Only the whites of their eyes could be seen. All around the transparent dome the green and red fluid-filled tubes of the bio-mind were pumping furiously and noisily.
The bio-mind was highly active.
Ross Mental leaned close to the dome containing the heads. “Hey, professors? Whatever the fuck you’re doing, stop now!”
The heads of the professors continued jiggling.
“Don’t ignore me, fuckers! Stop!”
Satisfied that he had tried all diplomatic avenues, Ross Mental selected a cutting tool from his belt. Activating it, he attempted to cut one of the many tendril-like cables that connected the heads’ dome to the data ports of the bio-mind. On contact an energy discharge propelled the bounty hunter into the air. He slammed into some tubing on the ceiling and returned with a clang to the floor. He groaned, his suit sparking and fizzing. “Fuck!”
After taking a second to let the energy dissipate, the foul-mouthed bounty hunter got to his feet. He pulled a pulse grenade from his belt. “Sorry, academic fuckers, but you leave me no choice.” He armed and threw the grenade, and then turned and dived behind three particularly large brain pods.
A bright flash, almost blinding even through Ross Mental’s auto-tinting visor, illuminated everything in a whitewash of light. A thud shook the dome, shatter the nearest brain pods. Cerebral fluid and matter splattered in all directions. A ball of flame spread across the ceiling.
Ross Mental got to his feet and looked at the dome containing the heads. Although blackened, it was still there and still connected. “Fuck!”
The bounty hunter looked at the shattered brain pods. Already the transparent pods were reforming slowly. He activated his communicator which was relayed through the Morbid. “Ace?”
“How’s it going?”
“I set off a grenade and this bio-mind is fuckin’ repairing itself!”
“Yes, I thought it would do that.”
“I can’t separate the dome containing the heads from the bio-mind without damaging it. I’m going to have to use something much more powerful. Basically, this bio-mind is fucked!”
“As I said, you may end up having to use whatever means possible to succeed. If the bio-mind must be destroyed then so be it. These ships must not reach Nemia.”
“No fuckin’ problem!”
Ross Mental closed the communications link. He looked at the heads of the professors as they wiggled and wobbled in their transparent dome. “Sorry, professors. I’ve no fuckin’ choice.”
Reaching to the back of his battle suit, the bounty hunter pulled out several tubular and conical components. He began screwing them together.
All around the bubbling and rumbling of the bio-mind intensified.
Ross Mental looked down proudly at the device he had assembled. He shouted at the top of his voice. “You’re fucked, bio-mind!”
Several streams of dazzling red energy consumed him.