The Blenheim shuddered as it continued to be pummelled by supersonic debris from the massive explosion that had blasted open the top of the asteroid. “WARNING: SHIELD STRENGTH TWENTY-TWO PERCENT.”
“That was quite unforeseen.” Peter the Ace said calmly as he brought the ship around. “That’s the first time I’ve know Lawrence to have a plan ‘B’!”
The main view-screen showed a huge armoured dome-like vessel as it rose out of the disintegrating asteroid and accelerated straight up. The piercing light of its engines lit up the surrounding ash-filled atmosphere with an eerie and diffuse glow. Beneath it a mass of detonations still flashed across and within the asteroid as it continued to destroy itself.
Panman was monitoring his sensors. “We’ve almost certainly lost a few ships down there. And dozens of bounty hunters!”
Jemima Murma was still on the bridge. She picked up the tray on which the empty Champagne bottle and glasses were standing. The celebration had been a bit premature. “I’ll bring up some tea and scones.” She said, obviously noting the seriousness of the situation. She turned and walked briskly off the bridge.
Peter the Ace directed the Blenheim onto an intercept course with the domed ship. He looked at the sensor readouts. “There appears to be a subspace field forming around that ship.”
“There is!” Panman confirmed. “If it enters subspace there’s a good chance it could escape!”
“Indeed. That must not happen. Do something, Panman!”
“I’m on it.” Panman responded with obvious glee. He checked his sensors once more, ensuring that other bounty hunter ships were not in the vicinity. Most had fled to safety through the Palace of Amino’s defence field or far away across the devastated surrounding landscape. Panman’s hands worked with unparalleled dexterity, targeting and arming a dense spread of HEATs. Within two seconds he had finished. “Firing now!”
With a barely perceptible rumble forty Horrendously Effective Atomic Torpedoes left the Blenheim’s forward launchers.
The main view-screen showed an image of Lawrence’s domed ship, now bathed in the bright orange glow of the evening sunlight as it headed into the clear air of the upper atmosphere. Sensor information was overlaid onto the image of the ship showing the progress of the hypersonic torpedoes.
“Detonation in seven seconds.” Panman said. “The subspace field around that ship is almost fully formed!”
Peter the Ace nodded. “This will be a close one.”
Panman was fiddling with his controls. “It will, so perhaps I should do this…”
An intense and sustained beam of energy leapt from the Blenheim’s lower disruptor. Instantly it connected with the glowing engines of the escaping ship. A burst of fire and smoke spread unevenly beneath the vessel.
Peter the Ace smiled. “Excellent effort. The subspace field has dissipated. That’ll give us a few more seconds. It’s already reforming, though.”
“Not for long.”
The main view-screen washed out to white for a second. The HEATs had detonated. Overlaid sensor images showed off Panman’s well known genius at weapons choreography as a sphere of perfectly timed destructions surrounded Lawrence’s ship. The forty heat pulses and blast waves tore into the domed vessel, dispersing forever its subspace field and shedding massive amounts of its armour.
The Blenheim shook as the blast waves passed by.
The domed ship began to tumble slowly and lose velocity as its propulsion system failed. Dense clouds of black smoke spewed from its underside.
Peter the Ace was very pleased indeed. “Sterling stuff!”
“Exactly as planned!” Panman said, grinning. He looked at his sensor displays. “That ship’s in a total mess. Unless Lawrence has a plan ‘C’ I think we’ve got him!” Panman examined his screens further. “That ship’s losing speed, but not by enough. It’s still well above escape velocity.”
“No problem.” Peter the Ace said. He activated his communicator. “All ships of the first fleet, this is Peter the Ace. Intercept the escaping vessel and ensure it enters a stable orbit around Enchantia. Guard it. Destroy anything that attempts to leave it.”
Within a couple of seconds acknowledgments from hundreds of ships flashed onto his communications display.
Panman was curious. “I wonder where it was that Lawrence was going?”
Peter the Ace was thoughtful. “I don’t know where he was going, but I think I know what he would be rendezvousing with: something large and yellowish.”
With impeccable timing Jemima Murma walked onto the bridge carrying a tray of tea, scones and a selection of the finest and most exclusive jams available.
Panman’s stomach groaned noisily.