Between Missions (McAuliffe-Gateway Systems)
The following entry continues the memoirs of Lt. Col. Carl T. LaFong as found in Wing Commander I and II: The Ultimate Strategy Guide. This takes place between McAuliffe and Gateway Systems. In the novel Gimle follows after Gateway. The novelization in the guide places most of the series in a linear fashion rather than the format seen in the game.
Previous Memoir Entry: Psi Wing (McAuliffe System)
My contact with Maniac during our first few weeks on the Tiger's Claw was minimal. Occasionally, I'd talk to him in the bar or mess hall for a few minutes, but the conversations were impersonal and usually focused on ship's business.
It's funny. With all the complaining I've done about the guy, you'd think I really hated him. I didn't. It's just that his style always rubbed me the wrong way. We had shared two years at the academy and we were fighting for the same cause, but I couldn't understand his compelling need for independence and his total defiance of authority.
I'm not the most mature guy in the world, but I kept search-ing for signs that Maniac was becoming more of a team player. The scuttlebutt, however, didn't lead me to believe that was true. Around the carrier, he was becoming known as the guy who always had the answer and who wouldn't let you forget it. He would top almost any story you told, to the point of obviously fabricating people, places, and events. He tripped himself up constantly, and was always the butt of sarcastic remarks in the locker rooms.
The veteran pilots were confused by this guy as a pilot. On one hand, they were amazed by his skill. On the other, they were chagrined by his attitude.
"I've seen him escape from situations where I wouldn't have given him a mouse's lifetime on a Kilrathi freighter," Iceman told me. "It's obvious that the guy throws away the book and flies by the seat of his pants, and that's not necessarily bad. Some of the best pilots in TCSN history didn't play by the same set of rules as the rest of us. He's shown me a few moves that have never been diagrammed and probably couldn't be taught. I hope I can re-member them when the time comes."
Captain Devereaux remembered her first mission flying as wingman for the young pilot. "We were flying Hornets in a crowded asteroid field when four Dralthi surprised us," she said. "Well, Maniac just fired his burners and left me in the dust. He didn't say to break, follow, attack, or do anything. He just took off. I raced to catch up and tried to cover him by attacking a pilot who was approaching his rear, but Maniac called me off."
"He started streaking through the asteroids with the Dralthi hot on his tail. And he was flying so close to the stones that it looked like he was running a slalom course. I figured out what he was doing when he led that Dralthi head-on into one of the asteroids. It was unbelievable. I'd never seen a Hornet flown like that before, and I might never again. Say what you want about Maniac, he's one of the best pure flyers I've ever seen."
If flying was the sole criterion in judging a combat pilot, few would leave Maniac's name off the leader board. Unfortunately for him, the intangible qualities were just as important.
"I haven't figured the guy out yet," noted Mariko. "I flew a few missions with Maniac where he performed as professionally as any pilot in the fleet. I've flown others where he seemed to be totally oblivious of anyone but himself. It seems that he can only stand so much, and then he has to break away and follow some internal autopilot. He's like a little kid."
Hunter was a little more direct in his assessment. "The kid will never make it," he blurted, "cause he doesn't have the head for it. When the enemy shows up he's so juiced on adrenalin that he misses assignments, mistakenly fires at Terran ships, disobeys instructions, and neglects his responsibility as a wingman. Mark my words, one of these day Maniac won't come back ... or even worse, the person flying with him won't."
I guess I wasn't surprised by the griping. While Maniac had graduated near the top of the class, many thought he would have been busted out if there hadn't been a war on. It didn't look like things were improving for him on the Tiger's Claw. He still had some growing up to do and it would have to happen fast.
In the novel/memoirs
Tiger's Claw moves to Gateway... Delta Wing (Gateway System) (and from Gateway to Gimle)
Gimle is flown Iceman (his wingmen being Paladin)