No Oath Sworn
No Glory Sought - Book One
by Phil Geusz
Tommy Longo was just fifteen when his brain was removed so that he could become a superfighter pilot; any older and it would've been too late. The separation was only meant to last a year or two, and he was supposed to remain a civilian. Instead he gets caught up in a surprise attack and is asked to help cover a major retreat, a thankless and difficult job for even the most seasoned veteran. Can a civilian boy find the inner strength to stand up to such a grueling task? And when it's done, will he have what it takes to fight an even dirtier war alongside the guerillas long after his high-tech fighter is gone?
What does war mean, anyway? What sense can be made of it, and what purpose does it serve? For that matter, what can war mean to the no-longer-quite-human?
And perhaps most important of all… Can young Thomas survive it?
Everything was blue. There was a blue sky above me, a blue sea below, and the haze-blue painted skin of my own 'hopper obscured part of the view through some of my own cameras. Blue, blue, blue.
The mission was only an hour old, and already I was so sick of blue.
"Attack sequence commences in thirty seconds, "Otto whispered directly into my aural nerve endings. "All systems nominal."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I answered back in equal silence, allowing my interface to translate the thoughts into electrical impulses that could be read directly by my aircraft. "Whatever." Who'd have thought that doing something as cool as demonstrating an attack 'hopper' for a living could ever become boring?
"Fifteen seconds," Otto continued remorselessly. "Ten. Five. Three, two, one."
Suddenly the sky and sea were spinning and tumbling all around me as if alive, while virtual gauges flashed and spun. Even the blue skin of my Skybolt was rippling and fluttering under the sudden twenty to forty G stresses of the preprogrammed maneuvers. It would've been terrifying had I not ridden through it all a thousand times before, demonstrating my father's product.
In fact, it might still have been terrifying if I'd still had a full set of the appropriate glands.
"Launch! Launch! Launch!" Otto cried out, and suddenly three stylized missiles were projected onto my consciousness. I blinked in surprise, though the gesture was only figurative, given that currently I wasn't equipped with actual eyes. The Del Rio complex had a bearing on me already, long seconds earlier than anticipated. Reflexively I turned right and sped away from the simulated incoming weapons so as to gain a little time to think.
"Preprogrammed attack sequence terminated," Otto interjected dutifully. From here on out I was improvising, having been forced to abandon my original plan. Otto was a very simple sort of computer; he wasn't much more than an autopilot, really. No computer of any real sophistication could function anywhere near a full-power antigrav. Otherwise, why would anyone need a pilot?
Del Rio was equipped with old-fashioned Rapiers, I reminded myself as I sped along at many times the speed of sound in precisely the wrong direction. They were plenty fast, but hadn't been designed with the Skybolt in mind. I pulled up and then throttled back a little. Our 'war zone' had only been cleared of civilian traffic to the top of the atmosphere, and I didn't want to give the missile crews even the flimsiest of pretexts for claiming a rules violation. Still, the sky's blue deepened noticeably before the Rapiers finally began to close up.
It was the easiest thing in the world for me to pull the Skybolt up and around and over in a much smaller arc than the computer-equipped missiles could manage; their antigravs were small, shielded, and inefficient in deference to their electronics-dependant design philosophy. Before they managed to reverse direction, I'd completed a fifty-G turn and dived right through the center of the trio.
"Structural overload," Otto mumbled, "Structural overload."
"Yeah," I acknowledged absently. I'd pulled a lot more than fifty G's before, and probably would do so again before this particular demonstration was over. The main structure was stressed for a hundred; the only things that I was running even a slight chance of losing were the weapons pods. That wasn't much of a worry on this run, though. I was loaded pretty light. Nukes didn't weigh much.