This is a deleted chapter from my novel Under a Dark Sky. It takes place just after Perez has been to the doctor and he's waiting for Finn in the bar. Naturally, Perez gets into an argument with an old man. I hope you enjoy it. A couple of hours later I'm back in the bar where I met Wagner. I'm halfway down my first bottle of whisky for the night, I'm in a lousy mood and I'm still no closer to figuring out what this mess is about or who is behind any of it. There are just too many questions buzzing around in my head and the whisky is not helping. Who killed all those people in the bunker? And where is the murdered prophet now? The obvious answer is that someone went in, killed everyone and made off with the guy. But who? The church or another sect who wanted to lay their hands on the saviour would be the obvious choice. It could be one of the other corporations, I guess, but my money's on the church. They have both the motive and the resources to pull off something like that. But why the slaughter? And what the hell does Gray want with the guy? Apparently they have had some dealings in the past and Gray must have done something to piss the guy off. And then there's the detonator in my head. Why didn't Gray's doctors find it when they patched me up last week? They must have seen it. Unless they are in on it. This is exactly the reason why I don't want to get involved in these things. It's always too bloody complicated. Thank the powers that be for whisky. I take a big drink from my glass. All I know right now is that we need to hack that memory cube to see if there are any clues on the video feeds from the bunker and then find a geneticist who can analyse the DNA on the knife. Then we just have to find the bastard. The spherical detonator is lying on the table in front of me, its little red eye winking steadily at me like a flirting clockwork lover. I'm staring back, playing hard to get. So far it has told me shit, but after a couple more drinks I'm certain the little bastard is going to talk to me. Right now though, it is starting to piss me off. "You bastard, stop winking at me like that." I frown at it as I down the last of the scotch in my grimy glass. The ball doesn't respond. The guy sitting across the aisle does. "What? Are you talking to me, asshole?" He looks like a hobo, frizzy beard, wild eyes, missing teeth and all. He looks like he's already on Death's doorstep, but he's probably not a day over sixty. He's bulky and the washed out olive-green t-shirt sporting the stylized black eagle-insignia of the marines is still tight across his chest. I'm guessing he's a veteran from the Great War. There aren't many of them left. I know we should put them on pedestals and feed them grapes for what they did for us, but they all seem to suffer from varying degrees of drug abuse and mental health-issues. They would probably fall from the pedestal and break their necks as soon as someone looked their way. It turned out the war wasn't all that Great after all and it cost them their souls. Too bad for them, but it doesn't give them the right to hassle civilians. "No, buddy, I'm not." "Well, there ain't no-one but you and me here, so I'm figuring you must be talking to me." He jerks a thumb at his chest. "Unless you're talking to that little ball there." He stabs a crooked index finger at the detonator. The yellowed nail on the end of his digit looks like it might fall off at any second. "Perhaps I am talking to this little ball. What's it to you? Look, mister. I'm not worth it. Just ignore me and go back to your beer. Here, I'll even buy you another one." I reach for the console in the middle of the table to order him another beer. It's probably the last thing he needs right now, but according to the time-honoured tradition of situations like these, it's the correct thing to do. He doesn't even listen to me. "Do I know you?" He stares at me, or rather, he stares half a meter to the left of me, with bloodshot eyes. I look over my shoulder to make sure he's not talking to someone else. "No, buddy, you don't know me." I turn back to find his ugly face in mine, stinking of sour beer and something rotting. I think it's his teeth, judging by the look of them. "Damn right I don't. So who the fuck do you think you are, to come here and tell me what to do?" "Look, I wasn't talking to you, so please go back to your beer and let's just forget about all this, OK?" "Are you a fucking coward? Is that what you are?" He must be having an epiphany, because his entire face illuminates. "Yes, I think that's exactly what you are, a fucking coward, sitting there all fancy and shit, drinking expensive whisky," he waves at the bottle, "and thinking you're better than me." Spittle starts flying from his lips as he works himself into a frenzy. "No, I'm just as bad as you are, old man, trust me. I just don't want any trouble right now, OK?" "Well, maybe I want trouble? Ever think of that? Maybe I want to kick your fucking ass, just because I don't like your ugly face?" He waves a fist in my general direction, knocking over my empty scotch glass. "Ain't no law against being ugly as far as I know," I reply as I watch the glass roll to the edge of the NoClean table-top. It falls to the concrete floor where it bounces with a dull, plastic clatter. It's a sure sign of class when a joint doesn't trust their patrons with real glasses. When I look back up at the drunk veteran he's still shaking his fist at something. Whether it's me, Fate, God or the demons of his past, I don't know and I don't care. All I care about is going back to my fine bottle of scotch and my foul state of mind. "Relax, grandpa. Keep this up and there will be blood." I mean it as a piece of friendly advice to keep him from hurting himself. Instead, he takes it as a challenge. He plants his big, dirty hands on the tabletop, partly to intimidate me and partly to keep himself from toppling over. From the number of glasses on his table I can tell he's been at it for quite some time. The size of his pupils and the dark veins around his eyes tell me beer is not his only addiction. I'm quietly impressed he can stand at all. "Are you looking for a fight, asshole? Maybe you like having your ass kicked? Huh? Is that it? Do you like to take it up the ass?" He's shouting now, and people are starting to look over from the other tables with interest. A couple of rich kids got into a fight about an hour ago, but it turned into a boring wrestling match, people lost interest and they got kicked out. Now the audience is hoping for some real violence. "No more nor less than the next guy. Look, mister, I really think you need to relax and go out for a breath of fresh air or a joint or a needle or something. You're starting to intrude on my personal space here." I make a sweeping gesture indicating the table and the chairs around it. "Personal space? Personal space? There is no such thing as personal space. Space is the most impersonal thing there is. I've been there." The guy's got a point and it's the first intelligent thing he's said all night. There really is a fuckload of nothing out there. I've been there too. Then he changes track, his drug-addled mind working in mysterious ways. "Do you know who I am?" Oh crap. Here we go. "No, I don't know who you are," I reply with a sigh, getting ready to duck the wild haymaker when it comes, as I know it will. "I'm the best fucking sniper in the 301 marine corps, that's who I am. I once shot a Terran major in the eye from a click away, through dense jungle. In the rain. Took his head clean off. They never found me. I was fucking invisible to them." They should have used their noses. They would have found him in no time at all and saved me this crap. "I was a ghost, man. A ghost. That's what they called me. Ghost. I'm fucking untouchable." Why anyone in their right minds would even want to touch him is beyond me, so I guess he has a point. "I'm sure you are." I for one wouldn't touch him with a fully charged cattle prod. I lean away from him, partly to get away from the sour breath and flying spittle, and partly to reach for the detonator on the table between his grubby hands. Big mistake. He spots where my hand is going and he's impressively fast when he goes for it, wartime augmentations evidently still online. He's a split second faster than me and he grabs the metal sphere from the tabletop with a triumphant cackle. "Now what have we got here?" He holds it up to the light to inspect his find. "Lost the last one of your balls, have you?" That was almost funny. I'm almost laughing. "Give it here." I hold out my hand. "Well, well, well. Would you look at this? Now, ain't this a beauty? Where the hell did you get your hands on one of these little bastards? Are you some kind of terrorist? You know there's a bounty on people like you?" Here comes the crooked finger with the threadbare nail pointing at me again. "You're gonna make me rich, asshole. God knows I've earned it, and they know it too. You're going down pal.” He stabs the finger at me again, over and over, stuck on jerky repeat. Who they are is very unclear. "I said, give it here, old man. That thing is none of your business." I gesture for him to return the detonator. "What if I don't? You gonna fight me? You think you can beat me, terrorist cocksucker?" "Give it here, or I swear to whatever god you worship that I will ghost your fucking ass and send you to meet him, right here, right now." I stab a finger at the table top to underline my words. "No can do mister. You forgot to say 'please'." Right. That does it. Without getting up I break three of the bones in his arm in alphabetical order. As I pry the sphere from his broken hand I can feel the splintered bones of his wrist grind against each other under the grimy skin. I drop him with a quick elbow to the throat and he goes down like a ton of bricks. I glare at the disappointed spectators at the other tables. You'll have to find your entertainment somewhere else tonight, you fucking vultures. I put the detonator back in my pocket and get up from the table. A quick swipe of my hand pays the bill, including a hefty tip to keep this little incident out of the police reports. Then I reach for my half-empty bottle of scotch before stepping over Ghost's convulsing body. He'll live, but he will have problems breathing for a couple of days. I warned him. He had the option to simply walk away, but he didn't. I fucking warned him twice. The bastard gets a boot in the ribs for good measure as I leave, but I've got to hand it to the guy. He barely whimpers.