With a final burst of thrust Baron Onslaught’s ship, the Packet of Organic Dried Mango, shot vertically out of Enchantia’s upper atmosphere and into the cold and unforgiving void of space. With his attention on the glowing telemetry and trajectory charts floating in front of him on his cockpit’s head-up display, the bounty hunter made a few sweeping gestures across the main control surfaces in front of him. The ship responded immediately and rolled gently to starboard, leveling off upside-down in relation to Enchantia’s surface.
Looking up through the large viewport above his cockpit seat, Baron Onslaught gazed briefly at the circle of civilization that was the Palace of Amino, more than two-hundred kilometres below. The shadows of the palace’s imposing towers were long and distinctive in the early evening sun, and the surrounding mountains were now a brown and orange hue with many of the valleys already shrouded in darkness. It was a stirring sight – a sight that always unleashed an incredible surge of pride in all bounty hunters, but today that pride was tarnished by a tinge of worry. In less than an hour the palace would experience what could be the most devastating attack in its history. And with the palace’s defence field and orbital defence grid out of action, such an attack had a high chance of success. Only the carefully honed resilience and determination of the bounty hunters would have a chance of thwarting the attack. But that chance was still small.
With the Palace of Amino receding from view, Baron Onslaught focused his attention back to the information on his head-up display. He was now just over a thousand kilometres away from the first fleet of bounty hunter ships – more than 800 of them, which was clearly displayed as a cloud of glowing white triangles on his display. Trajectory information showed his automated flight path into the formation, and also the flight paths of seven other ships that were also converging on the fleet.
As his ship drew within 500 kilometres of the fleet he operated his communicator. “Fleet leader, this is Baron Onslaught onboard the Packet of Organic Dried Mango. Approaching formation.”
“This is Mad Woman.” The fleet leader replied, her voice coarse and high.“You’re third-class. I want bounty hunters of your calibre right next to me. Modify your course.”
“I will do as you ask.”
With a few sweeping motions the bounty hunter instructed his ship’s navigation system to amend its course. The course trajectory now arced over the fleet, dropping down on its far side.
The fleet was less than two-hundred kilometres away now and clearly visible through the forward viewport as a haze of bright and distant dots. The gentle hum of the ship’s engines altered in pitch as it began to decelerate.
“Just had a look at your file, Mister Onslaught.” Mad Woman said. “You’re recent success during the Bubaran rebellion was astonishing, as is your mission success in general.” Her voice deepened.“And you are an impressively rotund specimen of manhood!”
“I’ve heard such a compliment many times.” Baron Onslaught said as his ship reached the rear of the fleet. He watched for a moment as hundreds of ships flashed passed beneath, and then looked at a file image of Mad Woman on one of his display screens. She looked chubby and rough with an unnervingly uneven figure – deeply unappealing. It was a shame as her face, even surrounded by her vagrant-like frizz of matted black hair, was fiercely attractive.
“Perhaps, when this crisis is over, you could demonstrate just how impressively rotund your manhood actually is?” Mad Woman suggested.
“No. I like your face but nothing else.”
Mad Woman let out a hoarse gasp. “Then just look at my face while you work!”
“That would not be acceptable.” Baron Onslaught said as the Packet of Organic Dried Mango rapidly decelerated and descended. “Had the situation been reversed and your body had been exceptionally pleasing, but your face had resembled a pig carcass, then I could have easily been aroused.” The ship drew to a relative halt next to the Bone, Mad Woman’s small battle-scarred ship. “Our relationship must be professional and nothing more.”
There was a moment of tense silence, and then a coarse laugh erupted over the communications channel. “I accept your challenge, Mister Onslaught! Arousing you will be a most arduous task, and one that will demand the use of all of my most alluring skills. I relish the prospect!”
“I was not challenging…”
“You will succumb to my advances, no matter how long it takes. I will never yield. I will have satisfaction! And believe it or not so will you!”
“You are accepting a challenge that does not exist.” Baron Onslaught said, his attention wandering to his much more interesting tactical displays. One of them showed the location of the second fleet on the opposite side of Enchantia. The planet’s orbital defence grid – out at a much greater distance – was also shown. Each of the grids thousands of small stations was shown in red to indicate its current impotent state.
“The challenge is there, Mister Onslaught, even if you deny it!”
“Whatever you say.” The bounty hunter said as he began to review the latest information on the approaching asteroid. “You are certainly proving just how apt your bounty hunter name is.”
Mad Woman laughed again, finishing with a high-pitched wheeze. “I’m just getting started, Mister Onslaught!” The tone of her voice changed. “But for now we must banish lustful thoughts. We will soon have a crucial task to perform, a task essential to the survival of the Palace of Amino itself. Absorb the details of our foe and our tactical plans and prepare yourself and your ship.”
Baron Onslaught frowned. He was beginning to wish he had remained deep underground with Ross Mental and the others. “I am doing that now.”
“Excellent. Others are joining my fleet so I must attend to them. I expect nothing but perfection from you when the time comes, and I’m not just talking about our task! Mad Woman out.”
The bounty hunter shook his head slowly. “Nutter!”