Book seven in the Bounty Hunter series.
2415 AD - Whilst investigating the destruction of a fledgling civilisation, a well-toned young bounty hunter is shot down. Who, or what, is responsible? When top-class bounty hunters arrive they are disgusted by what they find.
The devastation had been swift, complete. The giant rocks had fallen onto almost every continent and island of Droog, punching effortlessly through the planet’s crust, and showering chunks of molten death high and wide. In just a few hours more than three billion souls had perished in torment, overwhelmed by the blast of violent fire that had engulfed their world.
Only a privileged few had made it to the bunkers in time. The fledgling civilisation of the Stoidi had ended.
A sphere, no larger than a fist, rose out of the ocean. It turned slowly on its shaft to face the distant shoreline, and then extended various instruments. The flaming ruins of a once towering city could be seen. Smoke, thick and black, billowed into the soot-filled sky. It was a truly desolate sight.
Debris, still molten, splashed down nearby in a cloud of steam. The sphere angled upwards to image the sky. More glowing debris appeared out from the clouds like a rain of orange stars.
The sphere watched for a few seconds, and then retracted its instruments. The sphere descended below the waves.
Seven days later…
“DEEP-SCAN OF REGION 922 COMPLETED.”
Startled, Sind’a Thighs opened her eyes. She took a couple of seconds to blink away her sleepiness, and then looked out through the large spherical window that surrounded her small but generously padded cockpit chair. Three-hundred kilometres below the planet Droog turned slowly, its ash-clogged atmosphere brown and grey, and its once luscious forests and cobalt oceans completely hidden from view.
But not hidden from the prying sensors of a state-of-the-art bounty hunter vessel, of course.
Sind’a Thighs spoke. “Summary, please.”
“REGION 922 MEAN TEMPERATURE: MINUS SEVEN DEGREES – 30 DEGREES BELOW REGIONAL AVERAGE. 441 HUMANOID SURVIVORS DETECTED. REGIONAL PRE-DISASTER POPULATION: 2,003,982.”
Several reports, charts and images appeared on the single angled view-screen in front of the bounty hunter. She examined the data. One image showed a devastated coastline, with the remains of settlements blown flat by immense blast waves. Another showed some low-lying hills, parched clean by incredible heat, and now frozen as the high-altitude ash from the impacts had cloaked the atmosphere. Less than ten-percent of the parent star’s light now reached the surface. The survivors could be seen, huddling in small groups near the ocean. Their life-signs were weak, and their movements slow and erratic.