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Okay, here’s a deleted scene for you peeps. It fit’s into the first quarter of the Righteous Wars and was cut due to it not furthering the plot, though I personally quite like some of the character development. As this is a straight extract, there will be more than a few references to previous chapters, so I give you fair warning that some things may just not make sense.

Anyway, Gratuitous Action Sequence (GAS) follows:

So it turned out that not only had the jump nearly succeeded in making me a vegetable but we’d also majorly miss-jumped, winding up somewhere beyond the orbit of mercury and coming dangerously close to the sun. I’d been reassured, after lying down in a darkened room for about eight hours, that we wouldn’t have actually hit anything on our course and these kinds of miscalculations are common when they have to rush a jump and especially when five breakers aren’t working properly and they really should have aborted. Still, Wren’s bitterness aside, it was disconcerting that a miss of about a thousand million kilometres was considered a fairly lucky jump.
Anyway, it didn’t take too long for us to get back on course, even if we had to make a stop over around Venus to get the proper vectors. It was rather a shame that we didn’t stop at Venus, from where we were it was just possible to make out the strings of sky cities stretching from horizon to horizon, each a bubble of breathable gasses in turbulent atmosphere, a triumph of modern engineering and the pioneering spirit of humanity. At least that’s what the brochure said, personally I did wonder why they bothered, Altair may not the most welcoming of environments but at least it wasn’t actively trying to kill you. They were just proud of this however, and boasted about being the only planet trying to cool their world rather than merely warm it up, and given their population was about double Altair’s they had to be doing something right.
Now there’s only so long you can really spend looking at clouds so it wasn’t long until we were bickering over what to do to pass the time. Usually time on ship was divided up into three eight hour chores; one, doing whatever your job happened to be at that minute. Two, sleeping, or at least attempting to sleep. And finally free time, which was mostly spent annoying anyone trying to do the other two. To prevent people getting killed Gale shuffled the shifts every so often and tried to organise a big get together to blow off steam.
Classically we played cards, but since they figured out that I figured out how to shift the spectrum of the cabin lights and read the card markings that was out. We couldn’t get another pack either, no one trusted anyone else’s cards and the printer hadn’t been seen since we left Altair, also Wren had commandeered the 3D printer two months ago and it was still going so that was out. Normally we’d argue for about half an hour and by then something would come up, but we were waiting for Luna to get out the way of Earth and we had at least a day before we needed to do anything.
Chaos soon ranged, with suggestions ranging from dominos, to flight sims’, to four dimensional chess, and except for that last one, where Wren refused point blank to explain the rules but insisted that she’d already won, we struggled to agree on… well, anything. Still, we then let Albert throw out a few random numbers and I won the jackpot, proving that even the computer illiterate stand a chance on the Nisus, though that may have been in small part to us physically restraining Wren to stop her rigging the results.
Still, a full hour after we’d first sat down everyone was at their consoles, Gale had dug out a load of spare joysticks and we were skulking in a simulated asteroid belt around a gas giant. Someone had foolishly suggested that we do a team game and now Wren and I were hiding in the lee of a convoluted rock, waiting for the escorted cargo ship to go past. I’d recommend you don’t ask how I learned about ambush tactics, especially as Altair really does not have this kind of asteroid density, so I don’t even have the excuse of learning to defend against it. I blame far too many video games.
A flicker of fusion thrust appeared on my radar and I tensed, ducking my head slightly so that I wouldn’t be seen over the head rest. Screen watching is always going to be a problem when you’re in the same room as the two ultra competitive people you’re playing against, but it just gets worse when you use the entire front window. Actually it was getting kind of disconcerting as the layout was absolutely nothing like the British fighter I was flying but the radar was spot on, and that was getting increasingly disturbing as the computer was effectively simulating lensing through dust clouds, which I wouldn’t have thought possible with our silicon lump of a system.
“Ambush plan one,” I typed slowly, as a slim arrow of a fighter skimmed into view. Gale in a typically classy American dagger, which is so chromed that it is known as ‘the blinding fighter, or more accurately, ‘the blindingly obvious target’ as you could pick it out from a bloody light-year. Of course, they did pack the biggest punch in their weight class with eight rayy guns split between the four wings, but they steered like an arthritic rhino and looked ridiculous.
The target lumbered after her, another classic American design, pointed prow, shinny metal and angles so sharp you could cut light. Behind the cabin were two large pods for cargo, layed either side of the ship’s spine and finally the engine. In the real world it would only have a light asteroid buster above the cabin but this one had a full anti fighter turret, and light guns above and below the engineering block.
“In three,” I continued.
Following that came Kit and Tapper, in a Chinese design and a British respectively, so at least Tapper had a little taste, though those F-bugs the Chinese use are scarily manoeuvrable.
“Two.”
They drifted past; Gale had gotten a spin on so she would spot anything coming and even the sheer number of rocks around us wouldn’t hide our heat signature for long.
“One.”
It was a simple plan really, one of us runs distraction, the other charges in and takes out the cargo ship while everyone’s distracted. Wren was in a heavy duty New Incan freighter, a black block of granite that looked kind of like a flying saucer turned on one end. I swear it had been designed just to freak people out, no way would anyone design a gun that glows an ominous green otherwise, and don’t get me started on the UFO theories.
“Go.”
My engines ignited with a simulated roar and I yelled something incoherent as I flicked round a patch of gravel, screaming towards the freighter. Tapper and Kit spun their fighters round and let lose, though Tapper was using the auto compensator and missed completely as the wrong engine fired. A flip of the thrusters sent me swinging around the hail of plasma coming from Kit’s ship, and for a half a second one of the freighter’s rear guns lined up and I fired, the console thundering, and it vanished in a puff of debris before it could get off a shot.
Gale yelled something as she roared over the top of the freighter and I dove underneath it, flipping, spinning and firing reverse thrust to get a resolution on the second turret that had just started firing. A rail gun slug went screaming past my canopy as Tapper finally got her ship under control, but it was too late as my missile left its housing and went speeding into the hull, the explosion ripping apart panels and sending a screen of debris that neatly blocked Gale’s rayy guns.
Didn’t stop Tapper and Kit though, which I thought was a shame as I dodged flack, skimming close to the freighter in the hope that they wouldn’t be nuts enough to fire on their own target. I was kind of forgetting that it was a game though. Gouts of gas began to rock my fighter as they hit their own ship in a vain effort to catch me and I let lose a burst on the main engine to dodge a particularly close slug and suddenly found myself rushing out from underneath the ship and the main AA gun locked on to me.
There was a brief ‘oh shit’ moment, where I spun the ship and loosed a few rounds at the turret, flinging myself up as I did so to dodge the rayys. The slugs went ricocheting off the cabin, I swore and flipped, the engines roaring and went screaming away from the ambush as Gale and Tapper both fired a missile, good ones too.
“You’ll pay for that Hawk,” Gale threatened, and I grinned at her, slinging my ship round a hunk of rock and vainly hoping that the missiles would be dumb enough to loose me.
“Catch me if you can,” I shot back, appearing above the rock, firing a volley of slugs and a missile at Tapper. She dodged fine for the gunfire, spinning the ship wildly and danced between the bullets, the missile though, she wasn’t quite ready for, and the point defense guns hadn’t had quite had long enough to get a resolution and that all added up to the explosion that ripped through the fighter like tissue paper and the reactor flared like the sun as it went critical.
I refused to watch a British fighter on point of principal and it didn’t help when the computer announced.
“Player three. Fatality!”
Still that was all forgotten as the missiles began to close and I spun the ship, doing a complete loop around the rock and sprinting away from the furball.
“Now that was just showing off,” Gale growled, as I did a power slide to by a few precious seconds from the missiles and clipped the surface of another asteroid in the process.
“Well, technically this is my job,” I pointed out, fighting to keep the spin under control, and letting off a few flairs, that, rather typically, did bugger all.
“And by the way, is anyone wondering where Wren is right now?” Tapper cut in.
“Not me,” I said smugly, as there was a flare on my radar that briefly outshone the planet.
“Target destroyed,” the computer declared smugly, and Gale swore. “Now reach the extraction point.”
“Never a simple task,” I sighed, charging head first at an asteroid and at the last possible second flicked the ship around and went full burn over the rock. One missile slammed into the ‘roid, detonating with a Hollywood flare but the other one compensated enough to swing round and come screaming towards me. I swung my nose towards it and fired the lower thrusters, and a half a second later set the main engine to full burn.
See there’s this little trick to British missiles, which this one was, they contain a flashette round that’s designed to saturate an area of space with burning pieces of metal. So even if the missiles guidance systems couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, at least ‘something’ would hit the target, and the sate of armour being what it is a single impact could be fatal. Unfortunately the group of very smart people who programmed the detonation of these fancy charges never considered the fact that the target might be moving and so there is this little tick I found during a exercise that works wonders on a complacent pilot.
My outrigger entered the missiles attack zone at full burn and I felt, rather than saw, the little squeak of radar the missile loosed to confirm the target. A moment later it detonated spewing semi molten death towards me, or should that be, the area of space suddenly vacated by my engine pod. I let out a whoop, and did a victory spin that was pulled short by a stream of highly focused neutrons slicing clean through the scaffolding attaching me to the external engines.
“Oh, sorry Hawk,” Gale said in a sugar sweat voice that sent shivers down my spine. “Were you using that?”
“Not anymore,” I growled, doing a pirouette and a back flip over Gale’s ship and ended up in a spin, completely out of control and utterly missing Gale. The guns rattling off a shot at an aggressive asteroid as I tried to fire a non existent engine.
I swore, throwing the outrigger opposite the one Gale broke into reverse to counter the spin and suddenly realised that I hadn’t heard from Kit in a while. My usual response to such a thought is to slam on the thrusters and that didn’t fail me as a stream of plasma ripped through a nearby gravel cloud, passing bare inches from my hull, though I lost even more control as the rockets fired completely out of sync. Now there are a lot of things you can do while in a three V spin, and that’s tumbling in three vectors at once for all you non pilots out there. Some people stop and try to realign, hoping no one take the opportunity to take a pot shot. Others prefer to throw out missiles or flack to hold off any pursuers, and some rare few compensate, Aurora would be out of control for maybe three seconds tops before she could line up a shot and that was still while spinning. My final choice in this situation however, is just fire the engines.
I fired the thrusters at near random, diving, rising and spinning all within a half second as energy lashed my hull and I sorely regretted that the designers had failed to account for rayy guns having a half second focus time before they could actually do any damage. Actually that particular glitch sounded familiar, but I was more worried about being shot at that particular moment, as Gale fired her second missile and I just dumped every flare on the ship. Sadly American missiles are good at dealing with such things and I danced through the hail of plasma fire, counting under my breath, the whine of the missile alert rapidly gaining pitch and flew full pelt towards one of the larger rocks.
Kit clicked empty suddenly and I spun the ship, catching the turn at one eighty and angled towards the missile, only to spot Gale sighting her guns for a fatal blow. It was a tough choice, shoot Gale down and stop her shooting me, or get hit by the missile but take down Gale in the process. Actually that’s a no brainer.
The guns roared as the supper accelerated nickel hurled itself towards Gale and I instinctively grabbed for the eject handle and got nothing but fabric because, you know, I wasn’t actually in a fighter. Gale threw herself out the way of the slug, her burst of rayy fire missing entirely and I desperately tried to remember the key command for bailing out, not that there was any particular time for me to press the key but it would be nice to know I would have survived.
There was a flash of green fire as the missile detonated a good hundred yards away and I finally kicked the engines into reverse, spinning out of the way of the debris. Wren roared over me a half a second later, already spinning to bring her main gun to bear and I pulled round, giving it full forward thrust and hurtled back towards Gale and Kit.
“Cut that a little close!” I snapped down the length of the ship, as Wren started to hurl rings of green fire towards Gale who was still trying to lock me in her sights. Again, don’t ask me how New Incan guns work either, that’s a state secret, and not one I happen to know, though check out Wren’s forum for some great conspiracy theories.
“You were the one who dove into the uncharted area,” she countered, dropping a ship buster missile for some unknown reason as they aren’t exactly any good against fighters. “Do you have any…? Shit!” she screamed, as Kit’s guns lit up once more and tore through her armour in a second, spraying plasma fire into the delicate electronics and the ship died with a pathetic splutter as the reactor stalled.
I seized the opportunity to launch a half dozen rounds at Kit and one of my remaining missiles. He did a little better than Tapper, dodging about four of the slugs and just clipped the missile with a plasma burst, sending it wildly off course, but the remaining projectiles slammed into his cockpit, splitting the hull like an eggshell and the ship disintegrated in five seconds flat as the fuel tanks burst.
“Damn it!” he roared as I sped past Gale who vainly tried to track me but I wish her good luck in keeping track of a target who flies three feet from your cockpit with a deranged whoop.
“Stay still,” she growled as I spun and ducked, slipping between a beam of invisible death and loosed the third missile. Gale swatted it out of the sky with another swear and I went to fire another volley when I finally noticed the red flashing outline around the targeting receptacle that read, ‘three rounds’. Naturally I’d already fired one before I could get the message through to my hand to stop squeezing the trigger. A razor beam of death sliced through the space right next to my cockpit and I spun, loosing another outrigger, this one opposite to the first casualty.
“Face it Hawk,” Gale gloated, effortlessly flicking around my stray round. “It’s over.”
“Never give up!” I shot back brightly, throwing the ship round, going into a death roll to keep at least some control over the thrust and dove into the field full throttle. I wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long, but constant acceleration would by me time and at high speeds the better pilot always won. At least that’s what I’ll say to anyone who asks, I certainly won’t admit that I was running like a scared kid.
The ship rapidly spiralled out of control, ten seconds burn had already doubled my momentum and I was having to keep a half eye on Gale to make sure that she couldn’t line up a shot. At least dodging wasn’t going to be a problem I realised, as I had to throw myself round a clump of thick gravel and a beam vaporised the cloud a second later. Though not killing myself would be. A massive rock loomed in front of us and I roared towards it, waiting for Gale to chicken out and then flipped backwards, squeezing the last iota of thrust from the engine and tumbled end over end, my engines momentarily pointing down and catapulting me over and above the rock.  Then my momentum carried me in a spinning arc back down and a little burst of corrective thrust pushed me back into my old flight path.
Gale came screaming around the boulder a moment later, firing all the way, but still I loved that trick. Gale herself didn’t look like she was going to run out of steam any time soon, manoeuvring deftly around some of the lager rocks, which were rapidly reaching the speed where they could cripple a fighter.
“Stay still will you,” she growled, as I flicked out of her receptacle for the umpteenth time.
“Now why would I want to do something like that,” I beamed back, flicking my way between two rapidly closing rocks which thundered into each other, sending Gale spinning the long way round. “I could keep this up all day.” That wasn’t really true, I’d used a third of the tank in about a minute and someone, and I’m looking at you Wren, had cranked up the difficulty on the belt. No where in nature do you get rocks mere metres from each other and in an eternal cacophony of collisions.
I threw the ship through another rapidly closing gap as Gale raked the rocks behind me, the slew of semi molten debris scoring hits across my engine bay. Also that was beginning to get ridiculous; there is no way that a combat game simulates that level of detail and only my old training sim’ would be so anally retentive as to render the pebbles produced by shooting at rocks. An impact tore through my hull, tearing the third outrigger off the hull and sent me spinning, straight into an asteroid about the side on Comb city.
At that point I was glad for the simulator as on anything else that would have been an instant kill. The main gun crumpled like a forty year old satellite, engine lines collapsed and a moment later the main power cut out as the reactor stalled. Backup’s kicked in a simulated second later, but not many, and I was only getting a response from one of my missiles, also I had an oxygen tank breach and ten minutes of breathable air but that seemed rather irrelevant just then.
The ship bounced a moment later, hurling me from the rock and back into the field. Backup’s were all running on emergency power and not much of that as two thirds of the capacitors had been crushed and even if they’d been working I didn’t have enough power to restart a fusion reactor.
Gale was on my tail in an instant, reverse thrust flickering around her cockpit and I spun the ship desperately, pointing my tail at Gale and flooding the engine.
“So long,” she said brightly and fired.
The game froze a moment later, an hourglass tumbling on the screen in front of me.
“You’re the engineer Tapper,” Wren’s voice said, drifting down the length of the ship and I had to physically force myself to leap back to reality. “Would that be possible?”
“What the hell’s going on?” Gale roared, leaning back in her seat to get a clear shot down the corridor.
“The sim’s encountered a situation it wasn’t programmed for,” Wren explained. “It freezes until we tell it what to do. Speaking of which…”
“I’m not sure,” Tapper said slowly, after a brief pause. “On the one hand every ounce of logic is telling me that is physically impossible and the fighter should be cut to ribbons. On the other, he has just thrown together a rudimentary colliding beam fusion reactor.” She paused again. “Now there’s a phrase I never thought I have to say.”
“Your call,” Wren pointed out.
“Can’t be my call, I’ve got money on Hawk,” Tapper countered. There isn’t much to do in space, betting passes the time. “Kit?”
“I’m betting on Gale.”
“Thank you!” Gale snapped. “Now Wren, if you haven’t got money riding could you please make a decision.”
“Well it’s a one in a million shot,” she mused, taking some pleasure in dragging out her judgement, though I can’t say I blame her, you can’t resist poking fun at someone on an adrenaline high. “But as we all know one in a million chances occur nine times out of ten so I’m going to go for it.”
I let out a whoop of joy and was back into the game. Gale’s beams roared into my engine compartment and focused on a tiny clump of deuterium in a one in a million shot. The particles amalgamated and my engine exploded into life, the magnets humming into life and I hurled myself out of the way of the rest of the beam.
The ship was still in a terrible state, my lower thrusters were out, the middles weren’t much better and with only one outrigger my manoeuvrability was essentially nil. Gale danced towards my lumbering brick and I did the old trick of firing the engines full burn which would last about thirty seconds tops, and there was the small issue that I was now going at a near right angle to my old velocity, which of course was still hurtling me through space at a suicidal clip.
“Damn it Hawk!” Gale swore as I hurled myself out of the way of her line of fire. Dancing out of her line of fire was now a long forgotten pipe dream. “Hold still will you.”
“Why?” I shot back. This so wasn’t going to work; I had twenty seconds of thrust left and almost not reaction mass, not to mention an irate Gale on my tail who was closing with every passing second.
Actually she was getting too close for her own good, and that gave me the inkling of a plan. Though plan might be to strong a word. A series of events where I might not end up dead at the end would be more apt, though that’s true of most of my ideas.
I flew straight for a heart beat, just enough to let Gale settle into position behind me but not enough for her to take a shot. Then I fired the last outrigger and the ship tumbled, revealing the ruined underbelly of my fighter for maybe another quarter a second. Still the timing was bang on and the burst on neutrons ripped through my fighter and straight into the auxiliary fuel tank, which, not surprisingly burst and hurled hydrogen into the void with a banshee wail.
The ship then threw itself the other way, dancing off Gale’s death beam and still tumbling fell beneath Gale’s ship, now with full thrust the other way. The tumble turn an old trick in fighters, but I think that may be a record for most damaged while doing it. My engine stalled a moment latter as I finally hit empty but the spin from the outrigger was still with me and I for a moment had all guns pointed at Gale’s underbelly.
The missile roared. Gale swore and my screen light up as her fighters was consumed in a sea of shrapnel. The fusion fire escaped in a rush and washed over my ship but it wasn’t enough to deliver a death blow and so I went spinning off into the void. My ship was completely dead beneath me, and it would be only a matter of time before I collided into one asteroid or another but for now there was a smug grin on my face because after all…
“Player two is victorious!” the computer boomed.
Exactly.
“No way,” Gale protested and I got to my feet and stretched. “No freak’n way. What the hell did you do, turn a god mode cheat on?”
“He really didn’t,” Wren cut in, ambling into the room. Behind her Kit was handing Tapper an I.O.U. “Trust me; it would say if he did.”
“Well… yeah,” Gale admitted with a growl. A bit of a competitive streak has our Gale. “Still that has to be the flukiest victory I’ve ever seen.”
“Hey,” I complained. “That was skill, not luck. I’m a master of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.”
“And vice versa?” Tapper suggested quietly.
“And vice… Hey!”
Tapper rolled her eyes.
“I’ve got a list of life or death situations I’ve escaped from as long as your arm,” I boasted. “Atmosphere scraping, slinging off the proto-moon, nine times out of ten I won and the others they lost.”
“So if your such a top gun,” Kit pointed out, sitting down in his chair and swivelling to face me. “Why are you here?”
Gale visibly slumped. Subtlety is a lost art to Kit, though I don’t think I’ve yet to find him wrong, just blunt.
“’Cause there ain’t nothing but vacuum for hundreds of kilometres,” I replied in an American accent and got a week spattering of laughter.
Kit grinned humourlessly, or at least showed the whites of his teeth so I suppose you’d call it a grin. The way his eyes flashed in the gloom, that he’d somehow managed to find in the bright room, suggested something very different. Sometimes I wonder just how much cat there really was in that scrub; others just how long he spent in front of the mirror practicing an expression that made your very bones feel like you were being hunted.
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Not really,” I shot back. “It’s because the one time tends to get people killed.”
That left a dead silence and Tapper coughed awequadly.
“Onto a more cheery topic,” Gale said, clapping her hands. “Who’s up for another round?”
“Just a moment,” I cut in. “Wren, would you care to explain the sim’ we were playing.”
“What about it?” she asked nervously, shuffling her feet and looking to all the world like a guilty school kid.
“Like how that was the Commonwealth training simulator,” I continued. “You know. A state secret.”
“Ah…” she said, slumping. “Would you believe it’s just a really, really good copy?”
“Nope,” I told her, crossing my arms.
“Damn.”

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