Baron Onslaught laughed as he watched another group of scab demons split apart in a shower of smouldering flesh.
The bounty hunter’s ship, the Packet of Organic Dried Mango, hovered in the shadows just a couple of metres above the ground outside the main vaulted entrance to the Amino Extreme Surgery Clinic. The numbers of scab demons emerging from the crashed landing craft nearby had reduced to a trickle and along with many of the other bounty hunters Baron Onslaught had started taking them down just a few at a time. It gave him a rare chance to hone his manual targeting and firing skills. It was also remarkably enjoyable.
Sweeping his hand over a control surface the bounty hunter fired once again. A thin burst of bright energy cut into a line of scab demons that had been struggling up the steps outside the clinic. They blew apart, scattering flaming body parts in all directions. The intact head of the leading scab demon arced high into the air leaving a trail of smoke. It smashed back down onto the steps, cracking open to reveal the hard and steaming brain inside.
As Baron Onslaught began another round of laughter an alarm sounded. Immediately his ship’s head-up display indicated the reason. No longer laughing, the bounty hunter looked up through his overhead viewport. He gasped at what he saw. The asteroid did indeed seem to be coming straight at him. He activated his communicator. “That asteroid’s coming to ram the palace! We must…”
“Any excuse to contact me, eh, Mister Onslaught?!”
Everything about Mad Woman’s voice, mannerisms and personality filled Baron Onslaught with annoyance. “How critical an excuse do I need to contact you?!”
“The lust in your voice is crudely veiled.”
For some reason the image of Mad Woman’s uneven body popped into the bounty hunter’s mind. That mental intrusion annoyed him even more than her statement. “There is no lust at all! There is only…”
“Enough of your flirting, Mister Onslaught! All ships at the palace: your orders are to ignore the approaching asteroid. It is the concern of the rest of the fleet and Battle Command, not ours. We can be confident that they will deal with it. Continue your attacks on the scab demons. Let’s get our streets clean!”
A rare and unusual rage coursed through Baron Onslaught’s veins. He unleashed that rage by launching a single CROW at the closest group of scab demons. The CRowd Obliterating Warhead detonated, vaporising more than fifty scab demons in a blinding pulse of heat. The Packet of Organic Dried Mango shuddered violently as the almost point-blank explosion enveloped the ship.
Commander Pepe had gotten to his feet and was standing at the railings of his Battle Command terrace. He forced the last slice of his pork pie into his mouth and began chewing manically.
Goliath Snook was standing beside him. “The asteroid is now only two-hundred and thirty kilometres away. It will collide with the palace in just over one minute.”
The commander chewed and swallowed hard.
Goliath Snook continued. “The device on the asteroid’s underside appears to have stopped extending. It is now just over two kilometres long. It would definitely be possible for it to penetrate as far as this chamber. You must give the order to use any weapon necessary to prevent that happening.”
Commander Pepe’s face was deep red. He felt anger, despair and guilt building rapidly inside him. He shuddered, attempting to speak, but the gag-reflex in his oesophagus stopped him. With a gargling groan the commander spewed a mass of chunky vomit over and through the railings and down onto several of the operators below. It took just a few seconds for the commander’s enormous stomach to empty its entire contents. The commander grabbed the railings to steady himself. He gasped, exhausted, and looked down at the mess below. The nearest operators, especially those that had suffered a direct hit, were themselves now vomiting.
With an oozing mass of semi-digested pork pies spreading over his chins and onto his robes, Commander Pepe wiped his mouth with his sleeve and shouted. “Woody! Get that defence field up now!”
The staff down on the main floor of the Battle Command cheered, obviously pleased to hear their commander’s voice once again.
Woody Tiptoe appeared from beneath the terrace. He grimaced as large glob of vomit dripped from the railings and smacked onto his forehead. Another glob landed on the shoulder of his red plastic bodysuit. He wiped the vomit from his forehead. “The urgency of the situation is quite clear to me, commander.” The Head of External Defences said with obvious annoyance. He turned. “Let me work in peace,” he shouted as he disappeared back beneath the terrace, “and you never know, you may be pleasantly surprised.”
Commander Pepe fumed. Woody’s insolence had unleashed a wave of tension within him, made all the worse because of the sudden and profound lack of processed pig flesh within his digestive tract.
The chief officer spoke once again. “The asteroid has now entered the upper atmosphere. It will impact in thirty-five seconds. You must give the order. The palace’s surface facilities can be rebuilt when…”
The commander winced as deep and almost crippling chest and stomach pains stabbed at his consciousness. “I know!” He wheezed. “Why do you keep stating the obvious?!”
“I’m sorry, commander.”
Commander Pepe staggered backwards and fell with a muffled thud back into his reinforced command chair. The chair’s structure creaked but held. Touching his nearby control pad he activated his communicator. Peter the Ace’s face appeared on his personal view-screen. The commander spoke, each word a huge effort through the fog of agony that he was now experiencing. “Do what you must.”
Peter the Ace simply nodded. His image vanished.
Goliath Snook sighed with relief, and then immediately returned to business. He glanced down at his data pad. “Commander, according to crisis protocols you must now be evacuated to a safer location.” He looked up at the commander. “You must accompany me down to the main situation room on sub-level…”
The commander growled. “I will do no such thing!”
“There is still a chance that Battle Command will be breached. The main situation room is a kilometre below Battle Command. It can be sealed off and is defended by…”
“I am staying here!” Commander Pepe bellowed. His fat face screwed up as another surge of pain shot through his flab-laden torso. He coughed, sending a chunk of pork high into the air and out across the chamber.