The force of the fifteen-gee acceleration had pinned Panman to the floor and had rendered him almost powerless. Although he had not been able to see her, he had felt the tremendous weight of Shipoopaa pressing down onto his legs, and he had felt the multiple snaps as her bones were crushed. Within seconds the walls of the subspace field generator had crumbled and fallen away, and seconds after that the force of the acceleration had ceased, only to be replaced by the roaring hurricane of fiery plasma.
Acting quickly, and growing ever hotter despite the incredible protection offered by his suit, Panman secured himself to the base of the subspace field generator and removed an emergency cranial maintenance bag from his belt. Drawing and activating his super-heated battle blade, he grabbed Shipoopaa’s writhing, baking and burning body and sliced off her blackened head. He sealed the head in the bag and then activated its life-support systems.
The roar fell away. The heat quickly dissipated.
Now clear of the atmosphere, the subspace field generator drifted slowly away from the massive ball of flaming plasma below. Panman sheathed his battle blade and quickly checked his suit. Its surface was heavily charred but otherwise seemed intact. His helmet’s head-up display was showing a few error messages, the most serious of which was the failure of his transponder. Other than making him harder to locate that would not be much of a problem. At least there seemed to be no problem with his communicator. As he prepared to contact the Palace of Amino he looked down at Lawrence’s burning asteroid and watched as it moved away. It was clearly under a massive and sustained attack, made all the more impressive against the night side of Enchantia and the dim starfield beyond. The bounty hunter watched proudly for a moment as hundreds of ships, most mere pinpricks of light, flew like highly-trained energy-emitting insects in rapid and tight arcs around the invading lump of rock. Satisfying detonations rippled across the asteroid’s surface.
And then he noticed a ship approaching from below. There was a flash of light from its bow. The bounty hunter’s suit warbled and a critical warning appeared on his helmet’s head-up display.
Gripping tightly onto Shipoopaa’s head and kicking off with maximum force, Panman leapt away from the subspace field generator.
The first-class bounty hunter was immediately engulfed in a searing cloud of debris. As he activated his communicator a tremendous force whacked into him.
“The object’s been destroyed, commander.”
Commander Pepe reclined his bulging frame into his chair and nodded. “Very good. Best to be safe, don’t you agree?”
Goliath Snook nodded. “Yes, commander.”
The commander glanced and the giant screens at the front of the main Amino Battle Command chamber. One of them showed a detailed sensor image of the dissipating explosion of the object. “Any idea what it was yet?”
The chief officer looked down at his data pad. “Debris analysis indicates it was a subspace field generator.”
“Hmm…” The commander said, scratching several of his chins as he thought. “Surely that asteroid would need that to re-enter subspace? Why would Lawrence eject it?”
“Perhaps it was damaged?”
“Ejecting it seems a drastic course of action. Lawrence is madder and more deranged that even I imagined.”
Goliath was silent for a moment. “Perhaps not, commander. Perhaps Lawrence has no intention of leaving in that asteroid. It looks likely that he intends to stay, one way or the other.”
Commander Pepe shuddered. Yet another wave of anxiety swept over him. He frowned and then grimaced as the sting of excess stomach acid rose into his throat. “Let’s hope it’s the other.” He grimaced again and activated his communicator. “Janta, bring me a pork pie and some ale!”
The reply was sweet and dreamy. “Yes, commander. I’ll bring them as soon as I can.”
“And a tub of antacids!”
“Whatever you desire, love puppet.”
Commander Pepe looked at Goliath. The chief officer was looking down at his data pad and muttering something. He shook his head. “What is it?”
Goliath looked up at the commander, his face solemn. “I believe we may have made a grave mistake.” He held up his data pad.
Janta arrived and quietly placed the commander’s order by his side. The commander nodded once in thanks and then focused on the chief officer’s data pad. He gasped at what he saw, and then let out a rumbling and wheezing cough. Frantically he grabbed the small jar of antacids on the table next to him and poured them into his mouth. He chomped hard, swallowed and then gagged momentarily as he almost choked. Recovering, he turned towards Janta who was walking sexily away. The commander shouted, a spray of soggy pill fragments erupting from his mouth. His stress, desperation and gastric agony were obvious in his voice. “More antacids!”