The hum of the engines deepened for a second, and then rose, increasing in amplitude. A subtle collection of vibrations spread through the hull.
It was time.
From his hiding place right above the huge yellowish vessel’s expansive subspace field generator, Peter the Ace reached out and grabbed a handhold. He swung out over the generator and then looked down. The generator shimmered as the air in the chamber quickly rose in temperature. The bounty hunter shuffled along the handhold, lining himself up with a grill-covered vent at the side of the generator directly below. He waited for a few seconds, listening intently to the still rising hum of the engines – waiting for the perfect moment. And then, as arcs of energy flashed and grew across the surface of the generator, that moment arrived.
He let go.
Flattening his arms to his sides and gripping his legs together, the bounty hunter plummeted through the vast generator hall, smashed through the grill and fell into the darkness of the vent. An incredible force pushed him hard as the super-heated air behind expanded and burned. The head-up display on his suit’s visor flashed with red icons. Warning messages popped open, and statistics showed that the suit’s cooling system was overloading. The whoosh of the air around him grew to a cacophony of whistles.
And then silence.
The warning icons and messages blinked out or turned green. The view through Peter the Ace’s visor was now filled with a vista of stars and a view of the dimly lit and now distant asteroid.
What a ride!
Grinning, the bounty hunter turned and looked back. Behind he could see the receding mass of the huge yellowish vessel, its engines flickered a deepening shade of red. With a flash of white, it was gone.
Peter the Ace turned back to look at the asteroid. It too was gone, just as he had expected.
He was light-years from the nearest star system.
He was alone.
Peter the Ace turned off his suit’s head-up display and took a slow deep breath. The only light he could see now was from the surrounding stars – pinpoints of heat in the blackness of the frigid void. He turned and looked at the two brightest stars - a nearby binary system. They were a blaze of yellow-white light framed by the misty backdrop of the galaxy’s core. It was an inspiring yet peaceful scene, and utterly beautiful. The sense of tranquility was astonishing.
But enough of that. Peter the Ace activated his communicator. “Justin?”
The response was swift and dull. “Yes?”
“Where are you and what are you doing?”
“I am onboard the Blenheim one point two six light-years from your current position. As per your orders I am calculating a pursuit course for the huge yellowish vessel…”
“Cancel those orders. Come and retrieve me.”
“I obey. Course set. Engaging subspace engines. Arrival at your location in nine minutes and forty-five seconds.”
“Excellent! How did your research go on that infected humanoid? I expect you found some kind of control mechanism in the humanoid’s brain.”
“Yes. A nano-mechanism was detected at the centre of the infected humanoid’s cerebellum. It is fully integrated into the nervous system of the humanoid and contains data reception and transmission facilities.”
“I assume you sent all your data to the palace?”
“Your assumption is correct.”
“Great! While I wait for your arrival patch me through to Commander Pepe – priority critical.”
Commander Pepe groaned as another jug of warm strawberry cream was poured over his face and chins. He lapped it up as Janta, naked and dripping with perspiration, massaged his chest, rubbing more cream into his abundant man-breasts. He sighed, the cream gargling in his mouth. “My dear, you are the definition of sensual perfection!”
Janta grinned dreamily. “You are kind beyond reason to compliment me so.” She bowed her head, her steam-soaked dark hair clinging limply to her face. “I do not deserve it.”
The commander reached up and cupped one of her large breasts. He squeezed gently. “This alone proves that you do!”
Janta giggled and then hauled herself up onto the commander’s mountainous belly. “Is it really proof enough? It’s nice of you to say so, love puppet, but I’m not so sure.” She lowered her body down over his waist and licked her lips. “Perhaps this will be enough?”
Commander Pepe closed his eyes and groaned as Janta moved over his flab-ridden form. “Oh yes! That is indeed even better proof of…”
The double doors of the massage chamber whooshed open. Cooler air wafted in, along with a slender figure silhouetted against the light outside.
The commander yelled. “Weezil! How dare you barge into my massage chamber like that?! Can’t you see that I am in the middle of some urgent treatment?!” He struggled to sit up. Immediately, Janta dismounted, and three other females appeared from out of the steam clouds to help the commander haul his enormously flabby body up to a sitting position. Strawberry cream ran down his chins and dribbled over his chest and gut folds.
The chief officer spoke. “I’m sorry, commander. I would not have barged in unless it was absolutely necessary.”
Commander Pepe frowned. “What is it that’s so damned necessary?”
“We’ve received a communication from Peter the Ace – priority critical.”
The commanded nodded. “Very well. Allow me to make myself more presentable before…”
“There is no need. The call is audio only.”
“Then I’ll speak to him here. Put him through, now!”
Weezil nodded and tapped at his data-pad.
Commander Pepe yelled. “And close the doors, idiot! Can’t you see I’m naked and wet?! A chill would ruin my libido!”
The chief officer nodded. With a whoosh the doors shut.
Two more females appeared with a large white towel and placed it round the commander’s shoulders. Another began wiping away the remaining cream with a thick cloth. Now flanked by seven naked and toned females, the commander spoke. “Peter the Ace, this is Commander Pepe. Good to hear from you. Are you back onboard the Blenheim?”
“No, but in a few minutes I will be. At the moment I’m adrift in deep space.”
“I see. What is it that…”
The first-class bounty hunter interrupted the commander, his voice urgent and brimming with urgency. “Approximately thirteen hours from now the Palace of Amino will suffer a direct attack.”
The commander gasped, and then shuddered with tension. “What?! Explain!”
Noticing their master’s stress, two of the females began massaging the commander’s neck and shoulders.
Peter the Ace continued. “The millions of infected humanoids from Lodi were transferred to an asteroid base at my current location.”
The commander nodded. “Ah yes, the missing moon of Tolaso.”
“I see… So that’s where it came from… Hmm… That explains the Tolasian reptiles we found onboard the huge yellowish vessel. Anyway, the asteroid, or moon, has just entered subspace and is, with ninety-nine percent certainty, heading for you.”
Commander Pepe’s expression was strained. “Of course I have no doubts about your information, but how can you be so certain?”
“I witnessed the leader of the attack himself confirming his intentions. He referred to an ‘agent’ at the palace. I assume that is how he is aware of the location.”
“An agent? He must be talking about Sadie Stick. She appears to be under the control of a nano-mechanism in her brain.”
“As I suspected. I assume you have neutralised her?”
The commander glared at Weezil. “Unfortunately, no. She is on the run after murdering two offensively ugly operators from the external defences department. Ross Mental is hunting for her.”
“Take no chances. Destroy her if necessary.”
Weezil Sagifagpakit blurted. “She should be captured alive. Her remarkable…”
Commander Pepe screamed. “It’s never going to happen, Weezil, so shut up!”
The chief officer bowed his head. “Apologies, commander.”
The commander took a deep breath and his mood calmed slightly. Two more of the females began massaging his back and buttocks.
Peter the Ace continued. “I suggest you go to maximum alert, place all external defences on standby, and recall all possible bounty hunters. Panman is on the asteroid and I’m sure he’ll do all he can to sabotage the attack, but even he is unlikely to be entirely successful.”
The commander nodded and shouted. “Weezil, do as Peter the Ace orders!”
The chief officer nodded. “Yes, commander.” He turned and opened the massage chamber doors. He left, a mass of steam billowed in his wake.
The commander spoke solemnly. “This is a grave situation, one that the palace has not known since the lump-being’s emitter attack almost three decades ago.”
The commander was thoughtful. “Do you know the identity of the leader of the attack?”
“Ah, did I not say?”
“I don’t believe that you did.”
Commander Pepe shuddered with extreme tension. He panted heavily, wheezed like a donkey, farted like a fog horn, and then fell back onto his bench.
Surrounded by a rank cloud of flatulence the seven females immediately commenced a deep and sensual emergency massage routine.