Many, many years ago, way back in the last century, my first foray into fanfic writing involved novelising and retconning episodes which I'd seen only once, often with the sound turned right down since I wasn't supposed to be watching anything which was American, cartoon or science fiction, and BotP was all three. One of those episodes was "The Awesome Ray Force", a wonderful title which I changed mostly since it wouldn't fit on one line of my A4 handwritten final version using my favourite stencil. "Disaster Ray" fitted just fine.

Fast forward something over thirty years and I'm having a discussion in a fanfic forum about "Rashomon storytelling", which involves a story whose narrator(s) have forgotten or misinterpreted things, so the story they tell isn't quite what happened. And I realised that my novelisations were rather like this, except that I was the one who'd got things wrong rather than the characters. Plus, I was a young teen when I wrote these things. No internet for research, and the Mary Sue self-insert from hell. I could do better now. So I decided I'd rewrite my thirty year old novelisation - but without referring back to the episode.

Something a bit different. If you're looking for canon accuracy, you're probably in the wrong place :)


Disaster Ray

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and Mark's second-in-command was roaring round the racetrack. Far below their seats high in the stand, the navy ISO Racing car was almost touching the rear end of the race leader. Mark suspected that was exactly where Jason wanted to be.

"This is good," he said in a brief lull in the engine noise.

"Mmmm." Keyop probably meant the ice cream, but both Tiny and Princess nodded.

"We should do this more often," Princess said.

"It's not like we haven't tried. Remind me when the last time was we had a free weekend?" They tried their hardest to make sure Jason got to race, but that frequently meant moving all Jason-less four-man training to Saturday afternoons.

Tiny shrugged. "Point taken. How long's he going to wait? Only twenty laps to go."

"Nineteen laps, then." Mark had been party to Jason's tactical discussion the previous evening - at least, he'd sat at the ready room table and drunk coffee, nodding in what he hoped were the right places. Jason had wanted to think out loud. It wasn't like he thought Mark was a tactical racing genius.

Sit on the leader's shoulder, let him clear the path through the backmarkers and worry about the race line and do all the thinking. Go for it with a lap or two to go. That had been the plan. Apparently Jason could stick to plans when racing was involved.

"How many -" Mark stopped, swallowed the curse, fishing in his pocket for the entirely non-functional cellphone he carried for show. "Hi, Chief. What can I do for you?"

"I need you all back here now," said Anderson's voice through his bracelet.

"What's the problem?"

"We'll discuss it when you get back."

"But Jason's..." He didn't bother completing the sentence. Anderson had already hung up.

"We need to go," he said shortly, not bothering to hide his disappointment.

"But -" Keyop caught his eye and got to his feet, heading for the nearest exit without another word. Their seats were on the end of the row for exactly this eventuality.

If only it was that simple with Jason. The message had come to him only, not the rest of the team sitting alongside, and that 'all' had been very pointed. Clearly Anderson considered it Mark's job to assemble them. Did he know that Jason was racing at this very moment? Probably. Mark glanced round the track hopefully. Maybe Jason was even now faking some sort of mechanical failure. But no, ISO Racing's Car 2 was still glued to the back of the leader, showing no signs of slowing down.

Reluctantly, he raised the bracelet/phone combination to his mouth again. "Jason?"

"A bit busy here."

"We're needed."

A sigh. "Why?"

You had to ask, didn't you? "Anderson didn't say."

A pause, as below him on the track the two leading cars neatly avoided a couple of backmarkers. A rather longer pause than the manoeuvre demanded.

"Then I'll see you in fourteen laps."

Mark took a deep breath. Don't yell at him, he told himself. And don't say anything you shouldn't. You could still be overheard. He'd waited to call Jason until he was at the top of the stairwell, yards rather than feet from the nearest spectators in the packed stands, but this was still far from private.

"I need you to-"

"Mark, I'm trying to win a race here. Fourteen laps - shi-"

A gasp from the crowd. A cloud of smoke on the track. Mark's blood ran cold - had he distracted Jason at a crucial moment and caused a crash? But the leading few cars cleared the smoke at full speed and it was a backmarker which trailed onto the infield, its back right tyre reduced to shreds of spinning rubber.

He gave things ten seconds to settle down, leaning against the rail and trying to give the impression that he'd left his seat to stretch his legs for a moment.

"Jason?"

No response.

"Jason!"

Not even race noise. The channel was dead, cut off at the other end. Dammit. But he couldn't make Jason comply. He could only do his own job.

"Let's go," he said to the three concerned faces waiting below him at the first bend in the stairwell. "He'll have to catch us up."

"The speed he drives, he'll probably be there before us," said Tiny.

Mark wasn't sure if it was a joke, a genuine belief, or a coded message that Tiny planned to drive them back slowly enough to make sure it happened that way. He decided he didn't want to know.


Thirteen laps - no, twelve - to go. Nine until he was supposed to start pushing. Wind the lead driver up for a couple of laps, then pick his moment and go for it. There was no point planning it in any more detail than that - the clear sections of track would be where they were, on an oval like this where track layout wasn't an issue. All things being equal, he'd go for it on the back straight with two laps to go.

What did Anderson want? And why not send a scramble if it was urgent? So it wasn't urgent. It was probably just a test.

Well, the rest of the team should be long gone by now, and he'd be back fifteen minutes after them, cover story intact. That must be the intention, surely?

Now all he needed to do was win the race. Eleven laps to go and he was tired of counting. Jason scanned the track ahead for opportunities and saw one. A couple of laps at their current closing speed and there should be a gap in the traffic, right after they'd spent half a lap weaving through five or six backmarkers. The leader could do all the work of overtaking in a crowd, and just as he thought he was done and could take a breather, Jason would go for it. A few laps earlier than planned, but he had a reason not to hang around now.

"Two laps, back straight," he said into the radio. "Anything I should know?"

"Going round the outside? Give him plenty of room. He'll drift out. Caused a few accidents, that one." Carl didn't sound impressed. Jason wasn't, either. Driving a racecar was dangerous enough without your fellow competitors making it worse.

He shouldn't even be here. He should be half way back to ISO by now, on his way to being briefed by Anderson. Or to be chewed out for making a bad call and risking his civilian cover. Which was it? Every time he thought it through he came to a different conclusion. Couldn't they just stick to fighting bad guys?

"Jason, steady," said Carl's voice in his ear. "Sit back, slipstream him, save your tyres."

Dammit, he shouldn't need to tell me that. Jason blinked hard, refocusing. Carl was right. He was off the racing line and too close. Especially following a driver with a rep for drifting. Regardless of whether he'd made the right call, losing the race now would be bad and crashing even worse. He was always being told he needed to be better at compartmentalising. He was going to do it, right now. Nine laps of perfect driving.

.

He was well clear of his closest rival when he took the chequered flag, after what felt like the slowest nine laps of his life, whatever the speedometer said. Samuels the G-Force shrink was right. His compartmentalisation sucked.

He waved to the crowd as cheerfully as he could manage - they'd never see that he wasn't smiling behind the helmet - and pulled into the pits with his stomach churning in an uncomfortable mixture of joy, guilt and uncertainty as to how to extract himself quickly from the celebrations.

Nobody so much as turned round. All eyes were fixed on the TV screen on the back wall. Wobbly cellphone footage of a huge plume of dust and smoke rising above a flattish plain, hills in the background. Across the bottom of the screen, a scrolling banner with the important details. Jason stopped caring after 'Spectran attack.'

He'd made a horrible mistake.

He wasn't sure when he'd got out of the car, but when heads turned he realised he was on his feet and they were reacting to the sound of the car door shutting. He didn't remember doing that, either. Or taking the helmet off.

"Sorry, son," Ed said. "Nice race. I guess you'll be needing to leave before the presentation."

He just nodded, not trusting his voice. He didn't know how much Ed had been told, how much he'd guessed - but he certainly knew that Jason was a security operative. An attack serious enough to get this sort of TV attention? All security operatives would be heading back to ISO as soon as they heard. Or should have been.

"Main roads out of town have been shut. You've got access to the back road, right?" Ed didn't wait for his confirmation. "Go. I'll make your excuses. It'll be gridlock once the crowd starts leaving."

Which will be right about now, since that was the last race I just won. Jason forced a grin. "Thanks, Ed. See you when this is over."

He grabbed his bag from the changing room and headed out at a run, not taking the time to change out of his race suit. Every minute counted - he'd be turning out of the parking lot against the main flow of traffic, but he still had a couple of miles to go on local roads which would rapidly fill up with people trying to find a rat run home.

As he crossed the parking lot, he could hear the announcer say that the winner of the last race had had to leave for personal reasons and the track staff of course all wished him the best, but the presentation would still be starting shortly. Jason snorted to himself. Like the crowd wouldn't put together the news alerts on their smartphones and the fact that he was an ISO driver. People were already streaming down from the stands and out towards their cars. He considered the rapidly increasing traffic levels and accelerated from a run to a sprint.

The teams had their own section of assigned parking, and, thankfully, their own exit, much less busy than the public one. Jason waved his racing pass at the guard without stopping and turned right onto an empty lane rather than left into what was already a continuous line of creeping traffic. He didn't need the satnav, but he activated it anyway to see just how bad the jams were. Solid red on the main routes out of town until suddenly there was nothing at all. No prizes for guessing where the roadblocks were. A mixture of green and empty all the way to the back road, though. Time to report in.

For a moment he couldn't remember what the blinking pattern of his bracelet's security light meant, and then he swore. Comms insecure, do not use. Right about now, Mark would be reporting to Anderson, telling him that the Condor had refused to pull out of a race despite a direct order, and he couldn't even radio in and say he was on his way.

There were at least two speed camera flashes before he reached the end of the back road, one close to the track and the other in the industrial estate. More trouble. He hoped he'd get an exemption for them, and suspected he wouldn't, not if Anderson had to sign off on it. Too bad. He was at the gate now and everything should be easy from here. He pulled up in front of the barriers - a pair of ten foot high steel gates in an equally over-engineered fence, mesh-filled, razor wire-tipped, impassable to pedestrians and cyclists as well as motor vehicles. Warning signs said that beyond it was a military range with unexploded ordnance. Jason was reasonably sure that wasn't true, but it did keep curious civilians out. His standard ISO badge on the scanner opened the gates just fine - his bracelet would have, too, but there was just a chance that someone might be watching and think it was odd not to see him use a card like everyone else did.

The gates swung shut behind him, and ahead was ten miles of narrow, twisting tarmac, steeply uphill through woods initially, then out onto the cliff edge all the way up the coast to ISO. Jason transmuted as soon as he was round the first corner and out of sight, and accelerated hard. He'd wasted far too much time already.

Throwing the transmuted G-2 along narrow twisting tarmac, with its colossal power and superior grip, wasn't much like track racing, but it was at least as challenging. Jason didn't think anything would be heading in the other direction given what was happening, but he still made sure to watch the road ahead every time it appeared on an external corner of the cliff. There could well be other cars going the same way as him, and he'd be moving a whole lot faster than anything else.

Instead, he caught the glint of something metallic in the rear view mirror.

Couldn't be. He hadn't overtaken anyone and nothing could live with the transmuted G-2, even on a road where he was barely opening the throttle at all.

Another glimpse. It wasn't just keeping up, it was catching him. Fast. Multiple vehicles, he thought. Strange shapes. One of them looked to have some sort of missile on the top.

It could be an ISO prototype. Maybe there is a range here after all.

He didn't believe it for a moment. That thing looked hostile. He raised the bracelet to his mouth to report - this was too important to worry about possible comms insecurity - and discovered that the light sequence had gone from 'insecure' to 'unavailable'.

Jason swore out loud and considered his very limited options. He was already going as fast as he dared on this road, so he couldn't outrun them. He could transmute back and play innocent when they caught him, but they'd have to be astonishingly thick not to figure it out. Spectran goons often were astonishingly thick, but he wasn't prepared to take the risk, not when it involved facing them in civilian mode.

One chance: a layby half a mile ahead. There were several serious rock climbs on the cliffs below, and ISO was home to a large number of fit, athletic young agents. On a sunny Saturday afternoon he might just get lucky. He had absolutely no margin for error, though. He might be out of sight of his pursuers for as much as ten seconds, but it would probably be less.

Round the sharp external corner in the cliff, and he was in luck. Two cars were parked at the wide point, with a space between them that no standard driving technique could slot a car into. He wasn't sure he could pull it off, but he was out of other options. Jason lined it up and threw the G-2 into a sliding, skidding spin which left it pointing back down the road, a deserted car front and back, looking as if it had been there all day. Now all he needed was to leave it equally deserted and in civilian mode. Not the G-2 they'd been chasing, nice cold engine even if they stopped to check.

He leapt out and straight up the side of the cliff. He and Mark had climbed here a couple of times. There was a ledge - a real one, not something only a climber would use the term for - about twenty feet above the road, half way to the top. Mid-air, Jason hit the button to detransmute the G-2, and only as he landed on the ledge did he realise that he hadn't seen a flash. Comms unavailable, he realised. Shit. Too late now.

Five vehicles came round the corner and stopped in the middle of the road. Definitely Spectran - the green-suited goons piling out of it gave that away even without the alien lines and colour scheme. How had they got through the security gate at the end of the road? Heck, how had they been going so fast?

Act, not react. But he honestly had no idea what he should do. He couldn't call for help and he was about to lose the transmuted version of the G-2 to a Spectran goon squad. Refusing to pull out of a race was going to be trivial when compared to this.

He could see the smirks from here - sure, it was beautifully slotted between two civilian vehicles, but no Spectran in the universe was so thick that they'd fail to recognise the single seater closed cockpit vehicle with 'G-2' helpfully painted on the side. Or, he suspected, that they wouldn't be able to figure out who had been driving it.

The Spectrans fanned out, approaching the G-2 cautiously. Could he take them? Sure, those six. Not the ten behind them as well - and then there was the mysterious weapon mounted on the largest, central vehicle. He'd thought it was some sort of a gun initially, but now it was closer he could see that the front tapered to a point. A laser, maybe?

Movement visible behind the weapon. Raised voices, speaking Spectran too fast for him to catch. And the barrel swiveled, aiming directly at the G-2. Green fire lanced out - not a laser, though, it wasn't straight and narrow enough for a laser beam. This was more like a lightning strike, with a brilliant after-image of forked branches.

Jason blinked to clear his vision, and his Nissan Skyline lay below him. Some sort of delay on the comms, the result of the signal he thought he'd failed to send? But the goons didn't look surprised in the slightest. Satisfied, maybe. Looking in delight at the weapon.

That thing reverses transmutation.

This is bad. This is really, really bad.

He shifted forward on the ledge, trying to get a better view. Were those cooling pipes down the side? Certainly one of them appeared to have split, and where the fluid dripped onto the casing, steam rose. Blue fluid, too, and from the way it was dripping, pretty darn viscous. High boiling point. That thing was hot even after one shot. Maybe he could -

"There he is!"

He didn't wait for the ray to target him. Just seeing it start to move was enough, with the memory of that vicious green lightning. Jason leapt for the top of the cliff, knowing there was nowhere on this bare rockface to hide and that his only hope was to get over the edge.

Ten feet. Twenty. Only five more and he'd be safe...

Green lightning flared all around him. The world spun, and his last conscious thoughts were that he wasn't in birdstyle any more, that his momentum was going to carry him over the cliff edge, and that landing was going to hurt.