Commander Pepe burped loudly. He was very satisfied with the sensation of yet another pork pie sitting heavily in his stomach. The chefs in the Battle Command kitchen were living up to their reputation as some of the finest at the Palace of Amino.
Goliath Snook’s resonant voice interrupted the commander’s moment of pleasure. “Commander, there’s a call for you from the Blenheim.”
The commander nodded. “Put it through.” He watched his large private screen a couple of metres to his front as the Blenheim’s insignia briefly displayed, and then a face, totally familiar and yet totally unexpected, appeared on the screen. The commander was acutely aware of his own jaw dropping. Shock almost rendered him speechless. He managed one word. “Panman?”
“Of course it’s me.” The bounty hunter said. Crumbs scattered from his mouth.
“But… I was almost certain that…”
“I know, and I’m very disappointed that you doubted my abilities and survival skills.”
Shame and embarrassment welled up inside Commander Pepe. He attempted to bow, but from his seated and slightly reclined position his tremendous gut-folds and bloated chins prevented him from succeeding. “I apologise. I was foolish beyond description.”
“You were,” Panman said as he stuffed what looked like a glazed banana into his mouth,“especially when you failed to heed my advice regarding those landing craft.”
“It was an astonishingly difficult decision to make.” The commander said defensively. “I could not be sure of your integrity. I thought it best that…”
“No excuses! You must call of the attack at once, before it’s too late!”
“Too late for what?” The commander asked, confused.
Panman glared out of the screen. “There’s no time to explain. Just do it! Panman out!”
Intense waves of stress, embarrassment and guilt spread through Commander Pepe’s vast flab-infested body as he prepared to contact the first fleet’s leader, Mad Woman, who was leading the attack on the landing craft. He struggled to concentrate, the burning sensation of his reddening face and the pounding of the clogged arteries in his neck were highly distracting. His breathing had become fast and noisy.
The chief officer had noticed the commander’s distress. “Commander, you do not look well. Perhaps I should bring you another…”
“Pork pie?!” The commander shouted, wheezing at the top of his voice. “Yes, damn it, bring me another pork pie!”
Another hail of armour plating clattered across the hull of Baron Onslaught’s ship. Ahead, silhouetted against the low amber sun and only a few kilometres away, the landing craft continued to shed its skin as a relentless barrage of disruptor beams and missiles tortured its hull.
The bounty hunter examined some of the data on his head-up display. “We’ve blasted away more than half of its mass. It must be the most heavily armoured ship I’ve ever seen!”
“Concentrate, Mister Onslaught.” The fleet leader said. “Otherwise I may change my mind on pursuing and pleasuring you!”
Baron Onslaught scowled at the sound of Mad Woman’s voice, and especially at her ridiculous sexual over-confidence. “Do not pursue me. You do not appeal to me in any way.”
Another storm of debris approached his ship, this time containing some huge fragments. The bounty hunter moved a hand quickly over his control surfaces causing his ship to dive. He quickly levelled his course just a hundred metres over the densely forested valley below. The debris passed overhead.
“I never give up on a challenge. You will be mine!”
Baron Onslaught frowned. “There was never any challenge to begin with.”
“Of course there was! I hear the lust in your voice, Mister Onslaught, even if you do not yet consciously register it yourself.”
Baron Onslaught could not contain himself any longer. “You are indeed a mad woman! When this crisis is over I do not want you to come near me!”
Mad Woman laughed. “It will be you who’ll be coming near me, Mister Onslaught, and you will beg for my close and intimate attention. I guarantee it!”
The bounty hunter was incensed. “Never! I would rather plunge the venom-filled fangs of a syklath deep into my loins than…”
Mad Woman interrupted. “Silence! I have an urgent message from Battle Command coming in. Stand by.”
Baron Onslaught fumed. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. There was no way he would ever desire Mad Woman’s hideously uneven body, and there was no way she was going to lay even a finger on his. He should simply ignore her strange flirtations.
“All ships abort the attack!”
“Just do it!”
Baron Onslaught deactivated his weapons systems.
All the other ships ceased firing. Ahead, the target landing craft, in formation with the others, continued on its course. It was leaving behind a dense trail of smoke, but it was no longer shedding a cloud of armour.
On the brightening horizon could be seen the imposing skyline of the Palace of Amino.