“Break,” Jack ordered and pulled the controls to the left. Thrusters  flared and the formation of Avengers exploded into a chaotic mess of  individually maneuvering fighters. Or so the complicated maneuver was  designed to look to outside eyes. In reality it was a complex plan  designed by the collective intellect of seven cybernetic intelligences,  randomized by six Marine fighter pilots, and thrown into the teeth of  the enemy missiles by seventy-two Avenger-class starfighters. The AIs  inhabiting the Shang missiles never saw it coming.

The Avengers scattered, spinning to sweep over two hundred gravitic  cannons across the missile swarm. Over a hundred missile batteries spat  their vengeance as fast as they could reload and over five hundred  lasers sent coherent beams of deadly light through the exhaust gases  filling space. Missiles died by the scores, by the hundreds, but nothing  could stop the missile swarm from engulfing them.

Everywhere Jack looked he saw and felt missiles, exhaust, explosions,  and death. There was no safe place to be but he let his mind go blank  and just moved whenever he got the urge to move. He had a lot of urges  to move and his hands twitched on the stick and throttle. Missiles  exploded all around them and a warning light alerted him to the near  hits clawing at their deflection grid. Another display came up, showing  armor damage on the port wing. An Avenger ahead of him exploded and  another missile flew by close enough he could have stepped onto it if  he’d wanted to.

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