Without warning the lights of the spherical chamber came back on. It took another minute for the surround screen to reactivate. When it did it showed a remarkable sight - the remains of the devastated Sadeeni fleet; more that two thousand ships torn to pieces in a few seconds.
Peter the Ace looked up at Bob. “That was remarkably effective. Especially as the pulse was only magnitude two.”
The nomad could not disagree. “The gravistatic pulse was indeed successfully generated.”
Ross Mental laughed at the sensor readings that filled the chamber’s screen. “The Sadeeni have been well and truly fucked!” He looked at Bob. “Your ships are as cool as fuck!”
Bob looked down at the foul-mouthed bounty hunter. “What is a ‘fuck’?”
Ross Mental was about to answer when Peter the Ace put his hand up. “Later.” He pointed at the screen. “It looks like only their flagship, and two other large ships survived.”
“Yeah,” Ross Mental said, “but have you seen the fuckin’ state of them?!”
Peter the Ace looked back at the screen. “Yes, they’ve suffered a lot, but they are accelerating fast, so they seem to have their sublight propulsion system in working order. It’s possible they’ll be able to enact enough repairs to let them enter subspace.”
Ross Mental nodded. “You’re right.” He looked up at the nomad. “You’d better let off another of those fuckin’ pulses to…”
Peter the Ace put his hand up once again. “Hold that thought.”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter was amazed. “Fuckin’ why?”
Peter the Ace pondered for a second. “It’s obvious that the Sadeeni are no longer a threat to Nemia. Their mission to destroy the central world’s prime world relied on the fact that they had control of the nomad ships, and more specifically control of the gravistatic weapon. Since they no longer have control of the nomad ships, nor a fleet with which to enforce their rule after destroying Nemia, we can safely assume that Lord Gastronemous and the collective civilisations of the central worlds, and the stability and structure they bring to the lives of trillions, are safe and secure.” He looked at Ross Mental. “The only course of action open to the Sadeeni now is to return home to the Fornax galaxy.”
Ross Mental frowned. “Ace, have you gone fuckin’ soft, or something?! Are you just going to let those furry fuckin’ loons escape?!”
Peter the Ace patted his inferior on the shoulder. “Don’t worry; I haven’t turned into a spineless flag-waving jelly-filled creature of leniency.”
The foul-mouthed bounty hunter sighed. “You had me fuckin’ worried for a moment, Ace! So, what’s the plan?”
Peter the Ace looked at the screen. An image of the giant hanger bay was displayed to the left. The Blenheim and its two small companions could be seen sitting on the bay’s smooth surface. “Panman and the others need to here this. I’ll explain once we get down to the Blenheim. Let’s go.” He turned and headed to the chamber’s exit. Ross Mental followed.
Bob the nomad spoke. “What of us?”
Peter the Ace looked back. “The threat to you is over. Once we leave you can go about your business, whatever that is. Thanks for your help.”
Ross Mental looked back. “Yeah, you may look like gay flamingos in those stupid fuckin’ leotards but, as I said before, your ships’ are fuck-off cool!”
The large oval table in the Blenheim’s conference chamber was filled with one of the most delectable buffets of all time. The centrepiece of the table, a metre-tall stack of oil-oozing dumphus filets, was proving particularly popular, especially with Mistress Beast Feaster, who was already onto her sixth piece of the braised flesh. Black blood dribbled over the thick lips of her grinning mouth. “I never thought my little mission to track a ship would lead to me to such an incredible gastronomic experience onboard the most revered bounty hunter ship ever!” She exclaimed, swallowing hard. She flicked back her dreadlocks. “And with such exalted company, too!”
Two members of that exalted company, Panman and Ross Mental, were also taking their fill of food. Both of them were consuming platefuls of deep-fried snacks at an alarming rate.
Cardigan Moth had chosen to sit at the back of the conference chamber on a plush sofa. He seemed content to sip at a cup of Darjeeling and nibble on a piece of shortbread.
Peter the Ace, who was standing in front of the chamber’s wall-sized view-screen, coughed to grab everyone’s attention. “Now that our stomachs are more content I think it’s time I revealed my plan.”
Ross Mental looked up from his oil-laden plate. “Yeah, the suspense has been fuckin’ killing me!”
Peter the Ace activated the view-screen. It showed a detailed scan of the heavily damaged Sadeeni flagship and its two beleaguered escorts. All three ships were retreating fast. “As you can see, the ultra-space gravistatic pulse was highly effective. All that remains of the once two-thousand plus strong Sadeeni fleet are these three vessels.”
Ross Mental punched the air. “Fuckin’ yes!”
The image zoomed in to show the surface detail of the flagship. Peter the Ace continued. “The damage to the surviving ships is immense. The outer hull and most of the inner hulls of all the ships have been stripped away, and most of their offensive and defensive capability with it. It is also unlikely that any of their tactical ability, including sensory equipment, remains.”
Panman spoke through a mouthful batter. “What’s all that activity at the back of those ships?”
“They are attempting to fix their subspace engines.”
Ross Mental was not happy. “Fuck, Ace! We should be out there pumping fuck-off explosives into their guts, not gorging in here! At this rate the fuckers will escape!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “That would indeed be a fine thing to be doing, and it would be a nice way to round off this mission. But letting them escape would be an even nicer way.”
Ross Mental spat out his latest mouthful. “Have you gone fuckin’ mad?!”
Mistress Beast Feaster and Cardigan Moth gasped. They were obviously shocked at the foul-mouthed bounty hunter’s insolent outburst.
Peter the Ace was not phased. He grinned. “I am not mad, but my plan is insane. And it is insanity of the purest form.”
That statement was enough to make Panman look up from his feast. “Are you sure, Ace? Pure insanity is almost unheard of!”
“It is, which is why my plan must be executed.” Peter the Ace changed the image on the view-screen. It now showed an extreme close-up of the largest Sadeeni ship. “Whilst looking at the scan of the Sadeeni flagship up in the nomad ship’s monitoring centre, I noticed several interesting features, most notably that the inside of the ship consists of several wide channels. There is also a large amount of smaller channels towards the rear of the ship similar in appearance to that of a honeycomb.”
The image on the view-screen showed a diagrammatic 3D map of the Sadeeni flagship’s interior.
Peter the Ace pointed. “There are so many nooks and crannies that they would make perfect hiding places.”
Everyone was silent for a moment. And then Mistress Beast Feaster spoke as she reclined in her chair having finally had her fill of meat. “If I were a higher-class of bounty hunter I’m sure I would have already figured this out, but what exactly would those nooks and crannies make perfect hiding places for?”
Peter the Ace smiled. “Perhaps Ross Mental should answer that. After all, he is a high-class bounty hunter who should indeed have figured that out.”
Ross Mental grinned. “Fuckin’ ships!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Correct. And to be more precise, bounty hunter ships.” He turned to Mistress Beast Feaster. “Miss Beast Feaster, perhaps you can hazard a guess as to why I would suggest hiding bounty hunter ships inside the Sadeeni flagship?”
The lesser bounty hunter seemed reasonably comfortable being put on the spot by a first-class bounty hunter. She licked her fat lips to clear away the last of the blood and then ran both her hands casually through her thick dreadlocks. “My guess would be that you intend to hide one or more bounty hunter ships in there and allow the Sadeeni ship to head into subspace once its engines have been repaired.”
Peter the Ace smiled. “Well done. And what would be the point of that?”
Mistress Beast Feaster thought for a moment. “Well, considering the horrendous defeat the Sadeeni fleet has suffered, the most likely destination of the surviving Sadeeni ship would be its home world. Therefore, the point of hiding bounty hunter ships onboard would be to enact a surprise attack on the Sadeeni home world and ensure that they never return to our galaxy again.”
“Very good!” Peter the Ace said. “You have a fine mind for such a low-class bounty hunter. You’ll certainly rise quickly through the ranks with such insight and intellect.”
The lesser bounty hunter looked mildly embarrassed at such praise. She lowered her head. “You are so kind to say so.” She looked up. Tears had welled in her eyes. “So very kind!”
Peter the Ace’s expression became serious. “Pull yourself together, Miss Beast Feaster. Such an emotional overreaction to a simple compliment will get you nowhere.”
She nodded, sniffling lightly.
Peter the Ace continued. “I propose that two small bounty hunter ships stow away onboard the Sadeeni flagship. They must remain in their hiding places until the Sadeeni home world is reached. On reaching the home world they will destroy the Sadeeni flagship in full view of the Sadeeni, and then begin a campaign of destruction against the Sadeeni leadership on as many of their worlds as possible.”
Ross Mental was pouring himself a tall beer. He laughed. “That certainly is a fuckin’ insane plan!” He took a swig and burped violently. “I fuckin’ love it!” He thought for a moment. “The Sadeeni home world is in the Fornax galaxy. Even at maximum subspace speed it’ll take more than six fuckin’ years to get there!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “It will indeed. The bounty hunters that go on this mission will have a long period of inaction to cope with. But they’ll be rewarded with a choice of hundreds of Sadeeni planets on which to distribute extreme on-the-spot Amino justice. It will be an experience like no other. And if they survive to return they’ll be rewarded and adored by all at the Palace of Amino. Rapid promotion would be a certainty.”
Mistress Beast Feaster stood up and yelled. “I will do it!”
Peter the Ace grinned. “I knew you would volunteer.” His expression turned serious. “Are you sure you fully understand what you are volunteering for?”
Ross Mental laughed. “I don’t think you fuckin’ do! The total round trip, including time to attack plenty of Sadeeni planets, will be at least fifteen fuckin’ years!”
Panman nodded. “Yeah, and you’ll be stuck in that little ship of yours almost all of that time. You won’t be able to stop off somewhere for an amazing meal like you can around here.”
Mistress Beast Feaster looked at Ross Mental and Panman. “I am prepared to endure the conditions you describe.”
Cardigan Moth spoke up from his sofa. “There will be no male companionship for you. You will not be able to satisfy your sexual appetite, which I hear is considerable. Your frustration will become intolerable.”
Mistress Beast Feaster turned and looked at Cardigan Moth. She smiled crookedly. “If you come with me then I’m sure I’d be fine.”
In an uncharacteristic manner Cardigan Moth jumped to his feet. His blue velvet cloak billowed around his slim frame. “I will go on this mission with Mistress Beast Feaster!”
Peter the Ace frowned. “Are you volunteering purely on the basis that you will be able to partake in an inordinate amount of sexual activity in a confined environment for several years?”
Cardigan Moth did not want to lie to his superiors. “That is the reason, yes.”
Peter the Ace laughed. “Outstanding! That is an insane reason to go on such an extended and perilous mission!”
Ross Mental chuckled. “Yeah, fuckin’ insane!” He raised his glass of beer towards Cardigan Moth. “You’re one crazy fucker!” In a single, massive and noisy gulp he finished his drink.
Through a cloud of crumbs Panman raised an extremely valid point. “Despite that Sadeeni ship’s damage, it’s going to be difficult to get two ships inside it without them knowing about it. We’re going to need to create one hell of a diversion!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “Indeed we are, and that is something you and I should plan immediately.” He looked at the two lesser bounty hunters. “Miss Beast Feaster, Mister Moth. Your ships will need restocking with weaponry. You may access the Blenheim’s considerable arsenal to do so. Ross Mental will assist you and help you with any repairs that need doing.”
The two lesser bounty hunters nodded.
Peter the Ace continued. “From my estimates the Sadeeni flagship will have a functioning subspace drive within two hours. With that in mind we should launch within the hour. Off you go!”
Ross Mental stood up and headed for the exit. He looked back at the lesser bounty hunters. “Come on! Get a fuckin’ move on!” The foul-mouthed bounty hunter led Mistress Beast Feaster and Cardigan Moth out of the conference chamber.
Peter the Ace turned to Panman. “Right, let’s come up with our diversion.”
Panman did not reply. He had turned his attention to the remaining dumphus filets and was drooling noisily.