Monday, September 8, 2008

Deleted Scene: The Giant Japanese Robot

I suspect that I gave up any chance of having The Last Protector filmed as an anime when I deleted this scene...

There's a point in the story that required me to find a way of getting Scrornuck safely back to earth from an altitude of a mile or two in the air (this is just one of the many problems writers of action/adventure stories face). Inspired by fifties-vintage proposals to propel interplanetary space ships by exploding small nuclear bombs behind them, I decided to have Jape do something similar, breaking Scrornuck's fall by firing a number of small (but increasingly larger) explosive devices directly beneath him. To foreshadow this rescue, I wrote a flashback recalling an earlier adventure, when Scrornuck bailed out of a giant Japanese flying robot a few miles above Tokyo. Why a giant Japanese robot? Why not? I think my daughter was watching a lot of giant-robot anime at the time. The scene was a ball to write, though to this day I have no idea of the story leading up to it---just who was Yamaguchto, and why were he and Scrornuck duking it out in the sky over Tokyo in the first place?

Trouble was, the scene just didn't fit--the other flashbacks tell their own story, and the Japanese robot bit seemed to break up their flow. It seemed the only place I could put this scene without messing up the other flashbacks was so close to the place where Jape actually rescued Scrornuck in this manner that there really wasn't any "foreshadowing."

And then, as the main story evolved, I found an entirely different way to get Scrornuck down from altitude, a way that fit better with the rest of the tale. So, with no place to go and no real reason to stay, the scene got clipped. All that remains is an offhand remark about giant Japanese robots.

I suspect Scrornuck's happy I cut the scene--explosive braking would be a hell of a rough ride, and he gets beat up enough already.

The flashback takes place as Scrornuck, Jape and Nalia are crossing the prairie in a hundred-year-old earthmoving machine...

The earthmover rolled along at a comfortable twelve miles an hour, following the line of concrete towers that led around the southern flank of the mountain and across the prairies to the east. The big machine cruised through grasses and wildflowers that were as tall as a man, feeling strangely like a ship sailing across a golden sea. "Yep," Scrornuck said to Jape, "more fun that a giant robot!"

"What giant robot?" Nalia asked.

"The terror of Tokyo!" he replied.

"We worked on a world where the people had built these big, powered suits of armor," Jape explained, searching the softscroll for a picture. "Ah, here." He showed her a picture: Scrornuck stood next to a powered suit that was perhaps forty feet high and nearly as wide, in the general shape of a man, but with strange protrusions from the shoulders and elbows. "The pilot would strap himself into the suit, and it would follow his movements--run, jump, fight, and so forth."

"I had one that could fly," Scrornuck added.

"And you bailed out of it two miles up in the air--" Jape interjected.

"I was about to ram it into the bad guy," Scrornuck protested, downshifting to deal with a slight upgrade, "I sure wasn't going to stay inside it!"

"Two miles up in the air," Jape said again, "without a parachute. Tell me, did you even think about how you were going to get down?"

Scrornuck shrugged, to the extent that he could while gripping the steering wheel with both hands. "I figured I'd think of something on the way down--"

"Is this guy crazy or what?" Jape said, laughing heartily. "He takes a flying leap from two miles up and figures he'll think of something on the way down!"

"Well," she said, a bit uncertainly, "he's still with us. He must have thought of something."

Scrornuck shook his head as he punched the throttle and upshifted again. "Nope, it was Jape figured out how to catch me. Sort of, anyway..."

"Got you now, you bastard," Scrornuck muttered as he squeezed the firing button. Yamaguchto's battle-suit, a sixty-foot-tall flying robot, was dead center in the crosshairs. No way he was going to get away again.

Nothing happened. Scrornuck's battle-suit had run out of ammunition. "Shit," he said through gritted teeth. Three miles up, in the bright summer sky above Tokyo, there was little he could do but ram the warlord before he slipped away yet again. He pulled his robot into a steep climb and pushed its speed to the max, keeping Yamaguchto centered in his sights.

An instant before the impact he yanked hard on the ejector-switch. With a sudden, ear-popping whoosh, the robot shot him clear as the two immense fighting machines collided. Scrornuck's robot broadsided Yamaguchto's, breaking it in half at mid-chest. With a deafening roar, the two machines disappeared in a ball of fire.

Scrornuck's robot had been in a full-speed climb when he ejected, and for a few more seconds he sailed upward, viewing the explosion from above. His satisfied smile turned to a frown as he saw something dropping away from the fireball. A few seconds later a white parachute opened. Yamaguchto, it seemed, had ejected a split second before the collision as well, and was floating safely down toward the ground. Scrornuck's job still wasn't done.

Howling an ancient Celtic battle-cry, he swooped through the sky, sticking out his arms and legs to control his free-fall, aiming at the white mushroom of Yamaguchto's parachute. He hit the canopy dead-center, deflating it, tangling himself in the silk, fighting to find his enemy in the snarl of cords. He got his hands on something for just an instant, then it squirmed away. Pulling out his sword, he hacked his way through the tangle, only to see Yamaguchto again dropping away beneath him. A few seconds later, a second white canopy blossomed.

"Shit-shit-shit-shit-shit," Scrornuck muttered. Again stretching out his arms and legs, shifting a bit here and a bit there, he guided his fall more carefully, aiming not for the parachute but for his enemy dangling beneath it. For just an instant as he swooped past, Scrornuck's sword flicked out, its sparkling blade stretching hungrily. He heard just the hint of a scream, and then he was past the warlord, falling toward the city below.

Scrornuck rolled over, falling back-first to get a look at his handiwork. Ol' Red had sliced Yamaguchto in half, just above the navel. Entrails dangled and blood dribbled from the half-man who still hung from the parachute, and Scrornuck stared up with grim satisfaction. Yamaguchto had been clever and resourceful, always seeming to have another henchman, another fighting machine, another parachute. Not this time.

With Yamaguchto disposed of, Scrornuck turned his attention to his own situation. He was, by now, only a thousand or so feet up, falling quickly, and unlike his enemy, he had no parachute and no ideas. Things did not look good.

Whump! Something hit him in the back, hard. Not the ground, for he was still alive, and still falling. He tried to turn his head, just in time to get hit by a second blow to the back, harder than the first.

By the fourth blow slammed into his back, he'd figured out what was happeining. Jape, on the ground below, was firing concussion grenades, carefully timed to explode just below him, breaking his fall, slowing him down. He smiled, admiring the audacity of the plan. But as the upper stories of the buildings flashed by, he saw that he was still falling way, way too fast. It would take something like a four-nostril Dragon Sneeze to stop him before he hit the ground...

As the thought crossed his mind, a blinding light surrounded him, fire seemed to tear at him from all sides, and...

"That's when I passed out," Scrornuck finished. "It was a pretty hard landing--I broke four ribs and an arm, and I was laid up for almost two weeks."

"You got a vacation," Jape said, "two weeks of soaking in the hot tub, stuffing your face and drinking beer. What are you complaining about?"

Scrornuck grinned as he recalled the days spent on an island resort, relaxing, soaking, eating and drinking. "Who said I'm complaining?"

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