‘Daxx is escaping!’ Peri shouted as the Space Wolf blazed away from the Phoenix . The space pirates’ vessel had every solarwind sail unfurled like an ancient galleon. The skull-and-crossed-swords flag, the Cranky Roger, streamed behind the ship. Daxx had stolen the Heart of Mars and planned to use it in a secret weapon that could threaten the entire galaxy. It was the Star Fighters’ mission to get the priceless gem back. Peri smacked on the emergency boosters. ‘We need more speed!’ he shouted. The g-force knocked Diesel to the floor as the Phoenix surged forward, but the half-Martian scrambled up and pushed past Otto to reach the gunnery station. ‘Where’s Jaxx?’ Peri asked, scanning the Bridge. Jaxx was the IF’s Space Enemy Number One. They had captured him when he had nearly crash-landed on Saturn only to find out he was Selene’s father. She was sure he was innocent, and that his identical twin brother, Daxx, was the real space pirate. ‘I sent my dad to Engineering to try and improve the plasma flow to the thrusters,’ Selene said, checking over the engineer’s console. ‘If anyone can make us go faster, my dad can!’ Without warning, Daxx’s ship plunged towards a fiery red dwarf star. ‘What on Mars is he doing?’ Peri said, twisting the Nav-wheel and diving after the Space Wolf . ‘Perhaps he’s using the star’s gravity field to slow us down,’ Diesel suggested. Gravity! The word lit up a bionic circuit in Peri’s head. ‘No, he’s going to use the gravity field like a slingshot, to catapult his ship even faster out the other side of the star.’ The gauges on the control panel went haywire as they got closer to the star. The Phoenix began to shake. Peri knew their ship would be pulled apart and they’d be burnt alive if they got too close. But if they were too far away, they wouldn’t be able to swing round the star fast enough to catch up with Daxx. Peri watched as the space pirates’ ship caught the gravitational pull of the dwarf star and zoomed away. Daxx had timed it perfectly. Now it was Peri’s turn. He gripped the Nav-wheel and yanked the thrusters to ‘Max’. Shhhwooosh! The Phoenix whipped round the dying star. It shot them after Daxx’s ship at astonishing speed. They hurtled through entire solar systems in the blink of an eye, right on the space pirates’ tail. Fssssshhhhwooor! They skimmed past a planet, narrowly missing two moons. ‘ Dung y’r’ah ! ? ’ Diesel gasped. ‘That was cosmic-close!’ Peri dodged left and right, copying Daxx’s moves. His brain buzzed with excitement. It wouldn’t be long before Daxx would have to stop – then they would swoop down and bring him to justice. Narrrooa! They slipped past comets and asteroids. Suddenly, Daxx zigzagged and whipped sharply to the right.
‘He’s making evasive manoeuvres!’ Peri yelled as the Phoenix zipped past Daxx’s ship and watched it vanish into clouds of yellow-grey space-fog. Peri slammed on the turbo-reverse. Instantly, the Phoenix spun round and shot into the cloud after Daxx. A thick mist folded around the ship. ‘I’m tracking him on the Velocity View,’ said Peri. ‘I love a good chase!’ Otto boomed. The Meigwor bounty hunter paced the Bridge excitedly. ‘Does Daxx know we’re following him?’ Diesel asked. ‘Dad and I made sure the Phoenix ’s cloak is set at one hundred per cent efficiency,’ Selene said. ‘The Space Wolf doesn’t have powerful enough sensors to detect us.’ The Bridge lights dimmed and glowed red. ‘ Cosmic turbulence ahead ,’ announced the calm voice of the ship’s computer. An astro-harness snaked around Peri. His stomach lurched as the Phoenix plunged into a patch of turbulence. The floating control panel flipped away from his grasp. Peri grabbed it with his fingertips and hauled it back as the Phoenix was buffeted by the space-fog. ‘ Frrr’wowoh ! ?’ Otto screamed as he was thrown