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Book: Toxic Venom
Chapter 3: Clouds

Angelina screamed, fell off the exercise cycle, and then crawled into a corner. She cowered there and shivered, her beautiful brown eyes wide with terror.

"Don't be afraid." Lex said to her in a soothing and professional tone of voice. "We're not here to harm you. We're from 'Channel 180567 Carnage Tonight' news. We want to interview Mac Mytar."

The girl continued to quiver with fear. She stared at Antoine.

"You needn't worry about my colleague's disruptor." Lex continued. "He'll only incinerate some of your body parts if you make any sudden moves, and someone as well-toned as you will make him reluctant to do so even then."

Angelina still cowered in the corner.

Antoine spoke. "I don't think what you're saying is helping."

"I'm trying my best." Lex replied. "I'm a journalist, not a physio-therapist!"



A piercing voice echoed around the room. "Drop all weapons!"

Lex and Antoine turned around. Standing before them were two men of dreadful appearance. One was dark skinned and wore a long dark robe. The other was gaunt and pale, and wore a grey uniform with a large version of the Mac Mytar Corporation logo on its front. Both wore boots that appeared to be two or three sizes too big.

The gaunt man spoke. "I said drop all weapons!"

"You must be Malcolm the security dude." Lex said. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Do as I say or die in torment very slowly over the next ten minutes!"

"That's not possible." Lex said. "In eight minutes this entire complex is going to vaporise along with half the planet. Therefore I could only die in torment slowly over the next eight minutes. Then I would die very quickly."

"Shut up!" Malcolm screamed. He fired his pistol and the ground just in front of the two journalists. The sumptuous carpet of the gym developed a charred and smouldering hole.

"Do not agitate my security officer." The man in the black robe said. "He is highly unpredictable."

"Hello Mac!" Lex said cheerfully. "Do you mind if we interview you?"

"You have destroyed one of my mining stations in order to interview me for you news programme. Is that correct?"

"Yes, that's right!"

"Your dedication to your job and determination to fulfil your assignments is admirable, but you have irreparably damaged one of my multi-million credit businesses. That is unforgivable."

Malcolm raised his pistol and aimed it at the journalist's face, ready to carry out his superior’s wishes.

"We are from the Cavern of Sensationalism, 'Channel 180567 Carnage Tonight' news. We can pay you millions of credits for an exclusive interview about your gruesome and sordid life. The footage of your complex detonating should bring in several hundred million credits from advertising fees alone. Paying you would be no problem. who wants to own a mine anyway?"

Mac Mytar frowned. "I do." he said quietly.

"We'll buy you another mine then!"

"There is no time for this pointless conversation." Mac said. "Unfortunately, your attack destroyed my extravagant cruiser and I have no means of escape. You will, therefore, fly me to safety in your vessel."

"Yes, okay." Lex said. He smiled broadly.

A look of suspicion filled Mac Mytar's face. "Why did you not object to my demand?"

"We only have six minutes left. I'll agree to virtually anything!"

"Then take us to your ship. Now."

Mac motioned towards the gym's exit.

Malcolm Gunk snivelled annoyingly. "Yes!" He said. "Take us to your ship."

Lex Toxic and Antoine Venom did as they were told and headed back to the Inquestor, closely followed by Mac Mytar, the pistol toting Malcolm Gunk, and Angelina Bloom.

The journey back to the ship only took five minutes leaving them a whole sixty seconds to get clear of the mining station. Lex and Antoine sat in their command chairs, while Mac, Malcolm and Angelina sat on the guest sofa at the back of the bridge. Malcolm was still snivelling and waving his pistol erratically.

"Take us to safety." Mac ordered.

"Do it!" The security officer screamed.

Lex turned and looked at the three passengers. "Great idea." He turned to Antoine. "How long until it blows?"

Antoine checked his data screens. "Forty two seconds."

Lex nodded and altered a few controls. The Inquestor's mighty engines thundered to life sending vibrations of power coursing through the ship.

"Disengaging docking links." Antoine announced. A dull 'clunk' was heard. "Thirty five seconds."

Lex watched his screens for an indication that is was safe to apply thrust. After two seconds, the all clear message was given. The journalist engaged the engines. All of the Inquestor's occupants felt their hearts, stomachs, and entrails pushed hard into their backs as the powerful vessel accelerated away from the station.

"Twenty two seconds!" Antoine said excitedly.

"Start recording, Antoine!" Lex said. He pulled the Inquestor into a steep climb and rocketed up through the outer atmosphere.

Antoine pressed 'Record-Pause' and programmed the camera positioning system for auto tracking. He activated the recorder. The main view screen filled with the image of the mining complex floating serenely in the pastel orange clouds of Bahl.

"Ten seconds!"

"We've travelled one hundred thousand kilometres," Lex said. "Let's hope it's enough."

"Raising deflectors as a precaution." Antoine said with a serious tone to his voice. "Three seconds."

An eerie silence expanded across the bridge, extending the perceived length of those three seconds tremendously. All eyes were focused on the large screen at the front of the bridge, the Inquestor's powerful zoom lens providing a crystal clear, steady-as-a-rock image of the condemned station.

A brighter than white, whiter than light flash washed across the screen causing everyone watching to instinctively blink. The ensuing destruction was silent, completely muffled by the vacuous void of space.

The camera automatically zoomed back to reveal the orange disk of Bahl, a giant world more than eighty thousand kilometres in diameter. Right at its centre, expanding rapidly from its equatorial regions, was an intense fireball of potent devastation. The atmosphere and its swirling clouds was speedily being consumed by the spreading flames, already half the disk had been burned away. The devastating blast of heat was extending into space.

"We didn't achieve minimum safe distance!" Lex announced as he consulted his screens. Alarms began to blare around the bridge. "Brace for a most astounding impact!"

"Deflectors at maximum." Antoine said with true professionalism.
The fireball was almost upon them.

Malcolm got of the sofa. "You complete and utter morons!" He yelled, waving his pistol in as many directions as he could find.

"Calm yourself, Malcolm." Mac Mytar said. "You are becoming hysterical."

"They did this on purpose!"

Mac had no time to comment. The blast wave hit. A jolt to put all other jolts to shame slammed into the Inquestor with outrageous force, sending all loose items flying around the bridge. One of those loose items was Malcolm Gunk. He immediately lost his footing and tumbled uncontrollably to the floor, dropping the pistol and whacking his head onto the lowest step leading up to Antoine's seat. Rich, oxygenated blood started to pump rhythmically from a gaping wound to his head. Consciousness moved out of his mind with great urgency.

Powerful tremors continued to pass through the Inquestor as the wash of destruction passed by. The tremors began to reduce in strength.

To the apparent surprise of Mac and Angelina, Antoine leapt out of his seat and dived across the floor, passing over the profusely bleeding security officer. Within a split second, Antoine had grabbed the pistol and was crouching against the side wall. He aimed the weapon at Mac Mytar.

"The tables have turned." He said. Inside he cringed at the used of such a clichéd cliché.

Lex looked back at Mac and Angelina. "Ha harr!" He said happily. "My plan worked!" He stood up out of his command chair, the shuddering had almost disappeared as the blast wave passed by. "It was my intention to get caught in the devastation all along. This ship is strong enough to withstand more than a mere nuclear mega-detonation!"

"Very devious." Mac said calmly.

"Thank you."

"And very shrewd."

"Thank you again."

"And also very cunning."

"Once more, I thank you."

"And definitely very foolish."

"Shut up Mac. Admit it. You're finished. We were going to interview you here on the ship then dump you back on your station, but as it’s been destroyed we’re going to take you back to the Cavern of Sensationalism, interview you live in the studio, and not even pay you a single credit. Ha ha harr!!!"

Mac stared at Lex, but said nothing.

Antoine stood up and waved the gun in the direction of the bridge's exit. "Move out you two, please."

Mac Mytar and Angelina stood up and walked out. Antoine followed. Lex grabbed the draining and limp body of Malcolm and dragged it away. All ready, the ship's auto-clean systems were busily cleaning up the blood. The bridge would soon be as clean as the day it was built. As clean as it was three days ago, to be exact.

Mac and Angelina were strapped into straight jackets, gagged, and placed inside one of the Inquestor's totally dark maximum security detention cells for safe-keeping. Malcolm was treated in the ship's super-advanced sick-bay and then bound tightly to an operating table. The heavy sedative that had been injected into his face would keep him at his level of unconsciousness for a very long time. He would provide no problem to anyone for weeks. Everything was nicely, and literally, tied up.

Lex Toxic and Antoine Venom returned to the bridge and congratulated each other on their major accomplishment. A course back to the Cavern of Sensationalism was entered into the navigation system and Lex Toxic prepared to engage the variance drive. If they hurried, they could make it back for the next edition of 'Carnage Tonight'. Having Mac Mytar interviewed live in the studio was so much better than interviewing him at his station or on the ship. Awards and medals would fly their way!

"Let's head for home." Lex said, his finger hovering less than three millimetres from 'Engage'.

"No!" Antoine shouted.

Lex withdrew his finger. "What's up?"

"The sensors have picked up a small device floating away from what's left of Bahl!"

"Part of the station survived?"

"It looks like it."

"Surely that's impossible?"

"Obviously it isn't."

Lex stared at Antoine's screen. "Can you identify which part it is?"

"No. Not from this distance. You'll have to fly us closer."

The journalist thought for a moment. "Okay. But we only have a few minutes to spare if we're to make it back in time."

"That should be fine."

Lex programmed in an intercept course with the unidentified object. The Inquestor smoothly banked and turned tightly. It approached the device.

"Have you found out what it is?" Lex asked.

"Almost." Antoine answered. He continued to examine his screen. He smiled broadly. "Yes!" He yelped.

"What is it?"

Antoine was highly excited. "It must have been a sixth generation model!"

"What are you talking about?"

"Only the sixth generation models have a built-in auto-blast shield configuration enhancer!"

Lex was getting impatient. "What is it?"

"It's the map of course, what else would it be?"

Lex could not understand how Antoine could get so excited about a piece of equipment used for route planning and direction finding.

"Why would a map device have its own shielding system capable of absorbing a fusion blast of such immense proportions?"

"Because it's such a cool device, that's why!" Antoine said, shaking with joy. "We have to bring it on board!"

Reluctantly, Lex agreed. "Okay, but you have two minutes, no more."

Antoine nodded vigorously and set about his task. He worked quickly, taking only one minute and fifteen seconds to capture the map device and draw it in to the ship's lower cargo hold. As soon as it was done, Lex hit 'Engage'.

The Inquestor's main engines burst to life and smoothly slipped the ship into the trans-dimensional hyper zones of sub-space.

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