Between Missions: Ghorah Khar - Novaya Kiev Systems
Ghorah Khar System - Series 3 - Mission 4
The unusual set of circumstances that brought me to the Concordia had led to the renewal of old acquaintances from the Tiger's Claw. I saw Angel, Spirit, and Paladin, and received some amazing news about Maniac.
I had been stunned when I discovered Angel, now Colonel Devereaux, was commanding the fighter wing on the carrier. She had always been a close friend and I knew she believed my story about the Stealth fighters that had destroyed the Tiger's Claw years ago. In fact, I had heard that she had made many attempts to change Admiral Tolwyn's mind about me. They were unsuccessful, but at least she'd tried.
Angel and I had flown together many times on the Tiger's Claw. As a young pilot, I had made some clumsy attempts at taking our relationship a step beyond friendship, but Angel was all business at the time, and always rebuffed my advances. I would have liked nothing more than to renew those efforts, but I figured at the time that she was a Colonel and I was just a pilot in her command. I wrote it off as wishful thinking on my part.
While never a carefree person, Spirit seemed more troubled than I remembered. When her fiance was captured by the Kilrathi 11 years before, part of Spirit had died. She always hoped she would have a chance to rescue her fiance, but I thought that after all this time, those hopes must have ended. I couldn't put my finger on a reason, but I had the feeling that Spirit would never love another man. Life had given her only one chance.
Paladin came out of nowhere. Here I was flying a mission to escort a Free Trader back to the Concordia, and I didn't even know Paladin was on board. As it turned out, he was the owner and commander of the Bonnie Heather.
We had the chance to meet a few times while Paladin was on board the carrier, but I still hadn't figured out exactly what he was doing. He'd made some vague references that led me to believe he was an agent of some sort, but I couldn't tell whether it was some official capacity or he had just taken it upon himself to help the war effort. At one point, he offered me a job, making a vague reference to the fact that "there's more than one way to win a war." There's no one in the galaxy I would rather have flown with, but I was committed to using my skills as a combat pilot, and flying on the Bonnie Heather just wouldn't cut it for me.
During my years on Caernarvon Station, I had tried to figure out what happened to Maniac. The last I'd seen, he was in sickbay on the TCS Austin. I tried sending him e-mail over the computer network, but my messages never reached him. After a while, I just gave up the search, assuming he had gone off the deep end at some point. I didn't try to contact his family on Leto, because I didn't want to dredge up any bad memories of him.
When Paladin told me that Maniac was flying in Deneb Sector, I could have cried. "This is great," I remarked. "Imagine, 'The mad man of Firekka' and'the traitor of K'tithrak Mang' both coming back! We have reputations to live down, you know."
"I think Maniac's already lived his down, Prankster," Paladin replied. "He saved the entire strike fleet in Deneb Sector when he forced two Ralatha to collide in space. No one's sure how he did it, and some think he was on autopilot when it happened, but there weren't any Broadswords or Sabres out there to take down the capital ships with torpedoes. If those two ships hadn't collided, this war would have taken a real turn for the worse, and our efforts here would be meaningless."
I couldn't have been happier. Maniac and I had been through some tough moments. We couldn't stand each other for a long time, and I still wouldn't want to fly with the pilot I remembered from Firekka. But when both our careers had seemed to be going down the tubes 10 years before, we'd shared an understanding of what it's like to be an outcast, for whatever reason.
I always wondered about that wink Maniac gave me as I left sick bay. Was he faking mental illness for some reason? Was he just tired of the death and destruction? I hoped I'd get the chance to talk with him again someday and compare notes. It would have been one of the more interesting meetings in space naval history.
Novaya Kiev System - Series 4 - Mission 1