Peter the Ace and Panman strode confidently down the Blenheim’s main exit ramp and onto the smooth polished surface of the Central Tower’s cavernous prime hanger bay.
There to meet them, along with over a hundred formally arranged engineers, was the prime hanger bay’s chief technician, Doctor Eric Brillo. He bowed. “Welcome back. I hear your mission was a great success.”
Peter the Ace nodded. “That should come as no surprise.”
“Of course.” Eric said. He turned and walked with the two first-class bounty hunters. He looked up at the heavily battle scarred hull of the Blenheim. “It looks like you’ve had a rough time.”
Panman laughed. “We just spent a month in the Kradymirg Expanse hunting down the last few Dratsabamai raider ships, and most of the time with zero shield strength! What did you expect?”
The chief technician nodded. “The damage is understandable.”
“It’s nothing compared to what we inflicted!”
Peter the Ace agreed with his companion. “Indeed. Quite literally there are no longer any Dratsabamai raider ships in existence!”
Eric Brillo grinned. Stories of bounty hunter successes obviously gave him great pleasure. “That is very good to know.” He stopped and looked once again at the large and mighty vessel squatting menacingly in the cavernous hanger bay. “Are there any parts of the Blenheim that you think need extra attention?”
“All of it.” Peter the Ace said. He glanced back at his ship before looking down at the chief technician. “It must be in immaculate condition the next time we use it.”
Eric Brillo smiled. “As always.” He turned to his engineers and clapped loudly twice. “Off to work!” He turned back to face the two bounty hunters. “If you’ll excuse me I must return to my station.”
Peter the Ace and Panman nodded.
Eric scurried away through the mass of dispersing engineers. Many of the engineers grabbed equipment and headed up into the Blenheim. Others headed for large vehicles and machinery that lined the walls of the vast hanger bay. Already huge pieces of equipment and piping were descending from the ceiling two hundred metres above ready to connect up to the ship’s systems. Whenever the Blenheim needed a major service, that service had to be done rapidly and with maximum efficiency. The Palace of Amino’s flagship had to be ready to launch at a moment’s notice.
There was a deep rumble as the hanger bay’s giant doorway began to close.
Panman glanced back to watch as the nuclear powered door rose up and erased the morning skyline of the palace beyond. He grinned. “I love missions, but I also love coming home!”
“Indeed” Peter the Ace agreed. “Our ship is the height of luxury and comfort, but it still can’t beat the magnificence of our palace residences!”
The two bounty hunters left the hanger bay and entered a long deeply carpeted passageway. The armed guards that stood against each wall bowed as their superiors passed by.
As they reached a private elevator Panman asked. “What are you planning to do first?”
“A soak in my Jacuzzi, I think!” Peter the Ace replied, stepping into the elevator. “Followed by a relaxing hour or two with a selection of fine wines and cheeses.”
Panman entered the elevator. The doors closed silently. “Cool!” He said as the elevator began its journey to the Central Tower’s pinnacle three kilometres above. “I think I’ll go for a few hours of hardcore holo-gaming.”
Peter the Ace looked at his companion. “You just spent almost the entire journey home doing that. Wouldn’t you like a change?”
Panman shook his head. He looked confused. “No. Why would I want that?”
Peter the Ace was about to give Panman a speech on the physiological and psychological benefits of partaking in a wide variety of recreational activities when the communicator on his battle suit activated. It was Commander Pepe. “Yes, commander?”
The commander spoke. “Sorry to bother you, I realise you’ve just arrived back.” The sound of giggling females could be heard in the background.
“Not at all.” Peter the Ace said, smiling. “What can I do for you?”
“Yesterday we received a transmission from a fourth-class bounty hunter out in the Cefni Cluster. She’s discovered something unusual inside a comet.”
The elevator began to decelerate.
“Her findings, when correlated with other recent observations, have raised the possibility that something very alarming is going on.”
“I wouldn’t normally bother you at this stage, but as you’re here I would appreciate it if you and Panman would come down to Battle Command and give us your insights into what may be going on.”
The elevator drew to a halt at level one-thousand. The double doors opened to reveal a wide circular lobby decorated with fine and contorted contemporary works of art.
The two top-class bounty hunters stepped out onto the deep blue carpeting. Peter the Ace looked at Panman. Panman nodded.
“Of course, commander. We have plans, but we’ll be free in around three hours. Would that be OK?”
“That would be fine. See you both then. Commander Pepe out.”
Intrigued, Peter the Ace and Panman headed for their penthouses.