Baron Onslaught pulled his ship into a tight turn around the Dick Burton Feasting Tower and headed back towards the east, accelerating through the shadows of the early evening skyline. Going low and fast, he targeted yet another dense group of lumbering humanoids and unleashed a cloud of flesh-strippers as he passed over them. The tiny grenades detonated a metre above the ground, vaporising the flesh of more than a thousand humanoids right above the waistline. He watched the detailed sensor and video images of his attack as the dried bones of the humanoids’ upper bodies clattered to the floor. Their intact lower bodies toppled over seconds later.
All around dozens of other bounty hunter ships continued to attack the infected humanoids – or scab demons as Lawrence apparently called them - as they staggered out of the broken landing craft.
Waving his hand over his control surfaces, Baron Onslaught took his ship on a low course over the other three landing craft. He now understood why the order had been given not to attack them. No scab demons were escaping. It appeared that the landing craft had been designed to be attacked. It had seemed very strange when he received the order not to attack them, but now that he understood the reason why he found it even stranger that they had been told to attack just one of them. Why the inconsistency? It seemed there was a rising level of indecision, or even incompetence, at the high levels of command at Amino Battle Command. And the responsibility for that must lie with Commander Pepe. The commander would have a tough time explaining himself to the Superior Beings when all this was over. It was highly likely that his position would be rendered untenable. There were interesting times ahead, and no doubt there would be many documentaries and extravagant dramas on the subject over the coming months on the palace’s entertainment channels. The prospect of such high-quality productions pleased the bounty hunter immensely. There was nothing he liked better, apart from a drug-assisted romp and the face-to-face eradication of scum-sucking bottom feeders, than a night at home watching tense dramas with a flagon of fine ale in each hand.
Looking at his head-up display, Baron Onslaught could see the sensor trails of dozens of other bounty hunter ships as they made low-level attacks on the emerging scab demons. Mad Woman seemed to be particularly enthusiastic. Instead of using her weapons she was simply ramming groups of scab demons with her ship as it skimmed just a metre above ground along avenues and across parks. That sight gave Baron Onslaught a motivational boost, and also raised his level of respect for the fleet leader. With a swift motion of his arms the bounty hunter brought his ship around and prepared for another attack run.
Commander Pepe burped dramatically, forcing out what was likely to be the loudest release of stomach gas ever head at the Palace of Amino. He instantly regretted that Panman had not been there to witness it.
The commander had lost count of the number of pork pies he had eaten, but the sensation of bloated satisfaction that he now felt indicated that it was considerable. A momentary wave of gluttonous pleasure swept over him. A glance at one of the giant screens and its images of lumbering scab demons quickly banished that pleasure.
Goliath Snook turned to the commander. “More than two-hundred thousand scab demons have now left the landing craft. All but around ten-thousand have been killed.”
The commander nodded. “Excellent. And the rest?”
“They have managed to gain access to some of the nearby buildings. Some bounty hunters and trainees have been sent in to neutralise them. The scab demons are armed only with rusty bladed weapons. They are proving easy to kill.”
“Good. What about casualties on our side?”
The chief officer looked down at his data pad. “Just over seven-hundred menial workers were hacked to pieces in their accommodation blocks. Most had just gone to bed after completing their shifts. Their ignorance of the impending attack had left them totally…”
Commander Pepe glowered. “I want to know about bounty hunter and trainee casualties! Menial workers mean nothing to me, and you should damn well know that!”
Goliath’s eyes widened momentarily. “Of course, commander. So far there have been none.”
“Very good.” The commander said. He calmed himself and then picked up the last pork pie on his plate. He gazed at it. “Perhaps I don’t need this one? This invasion has been far less effective that I’d expected. Those scab demons seem even dumber than Lawrence’s unholy army of the night!” He turned to Goliath. “Perhaps this crisis is almost over?”
The chief officer shook his head. He pointed at one of the giant screens at the front of the Battle Command chamber. “It is not, commander. Look at Lawrence’s asteroid. It has just taken up a stationary position seven-hundred kilometres directly above the Central Tower.”
Commander Pepe nodded. “So that Lawrence can watch his invasion attempt, no doubt!”
“The invasion attempt is too pathetic to be a serious one.”
“Indeed it is. It will soon be quashed, as will Lawrence’s asteroid.” He pointed a fat finger at the screens. “Look at our fleets as they continue their attack. Marvellous! And Peter the Ace and Panman are now with them! Perhaps our lack of a defence field will not be a problem after all, eh, Goliath?”
“The invasion is a diversion.”
The commander looked at the chief officer. “Really?” He scoffed. “A diversion for what?”
An alarm sounded. Goliath pointed once again. “For that.”
Commander Pepe looked at the screens. When he realised what he was seeing his jaw slackened and his breathing quickened. Gasping and wheezing like a suffocating swampus, he let his head fall back, raised his last pork pie above his face, and then stuffed as much of it into his mouth as he could.