Meanwhile, back on the ship powered by the Etymological Confabulation Drive, our group from earth was pondering the dilemma posed to them by the Conglomerate. But at that moment the ship’s alarm sounded and soon the last leg of the journey began, so they had to abandon that dilemma for the while.
Arriving, Ned dropped the ramp and went out of the ship to see where it was they found themselves. This proved to be a mistake since the space port’s hair-trigger security shot him with a laser and that was the end of Ned. His corpse rolled off the ramp as the ship closed itself down and locked the security.
“It looks like the port security just shot Ned,” Bud explained. Blaze was at the controls but was momentarily speechless. At that moment the ship’s systems began flashing an alert.
“Incoming missile!” Bud cried.
“That’s it!” Blaze cried, snapping out of his stupor. “Strap in everybody!” And he flipped on the manual override. “I want everything you have,” he told the ship’s computer,” and two dozen green lights began to flash on the ship’s schematic.
“Ah,” he said, sliding down in his couch a little way. “Migatron bombs, eh?” And then he shouted, “Hang on!”
The ship abruptly lifted, twisted in mid air, and then descended to glide in an erratic pattern close to the surface of the landing pad, firing at intervals of three seconds in two second bursts. In twelve seconds it was all over and the ship rested again. The screen in front of Blaze no longer flashed any red and two thirds of the green lights were still on, the rest showed yellow.
Blaze watched the screen without blinking for five minutes and then relaxed. “I reckon that’s taught them . . . who wants to go out and check?”
Nobody, of course, volunteered to go out and check.
“Can’t you get them on the radio?” Kat asked.
“The radio?” Blaze looked puzzled and scanned the panel before him. “The radio . . .” he found a part of the panel on the right and touched one of the buttons.
“—come in, this is the Ornilda Transport Authority; please identify yourself or we will take severe measures,” they heard.
“I wonder what severe measures are.” Kat said.
“Severe measures,” the radio said, “would be total encapsulation of your vessel in a bomb-proof container and immediate expulsion in the direction of the sun.”
“I’d like to see—” Blaze began, but Kat interrupted.
“Shut up, Blaze. Look,” she said, turning her head up toward the ceiling, “can we talk about this? You’ve killed our captain and we are kind of nervous.”
“I’m not nervous,” Blaze muttered.
“Please identify yourselves.”
“This is—” Kat began and then paused. “What do we call this ship anyway?”
“The Pannitokis,” Blaze said.
“Really? Is that Greek?”
“I’m not sure—I think so, but it was Ned who named it.”
“Well, why Greek—”
“Please identify yourselves,” the radio said.
“This is the Pannitokis,” Kat said. “We come in peace. Why did you kill our captain?”
“Unfortunately, he violated security, disembarking without prior identification.”
“It would be nice if you posted some information about it.” Kat raised her eyebrows as she said this, and now she began to pace the cabin.
“Unfortunately, we have been beaming information at you ever since you entered the atmosphere,” the radio protested.
“It still seems kind of drastic,” Kat went on. “Don’t you have any signs or audible warning at the pads?”
“Unfortunately, everybody else gets it. We’ve never needed them before. Ships have been landing in this space port since the founding of our city and nobody has ever been killed except in the accident with the parakeets a few years ago.”
“So someone has to die before you guys figure out the system isn’t working, is that it? Who is in charge of this place?”
There was silence from the radio.
“Hello? Can I talk to your manager?”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have managers at the port; we have supervisors,” the radio said.
Kat ground her teeth. “I want to talk—” Kat turned back to Blaze and asked him, “Still have those migatron bombs?”
“Yeah,” he said, perking up.
“Look,” Kat said, raising her voice again. “Get me whoever is your boss or I’ll blow this place up, do you understand?”
“Unfortunately, you are in no position—” but here the voice cut off abruptly and was replaced by another voice.
“This is Fritz, the supervisor on this shift. I apologize for the trouble; maybe we can work something out without incurring further damage on either side?”
“Well,” Kat said, looking around sarcastically, “someone with intelligence at last.”
Arrangements were made, both sides stood down—to the disappointment of Blaze—the ramp was lowered, and they prepared to disembark. It was at that point that they noticed that in the intervening time, the Conglomerate had grown a third eye.