Wing Commander Junior Novelization Chapter 10

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Chapter 10
Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 2
Previous Chapter 9
Next Chapter 11
Pages 48-51
Source Wing Commander Chapter 10

Dramatis Personae

Part 1 Part 2

Todd "Maniac" Marshall

Todd "Maniac" Marshall


Rosalind "Sassy" Forbes

Jeanette "Angel" Deveraux
Rosalind "Sassy" Forbes




MARCH 16, 2654
1130 HOURS

Part One

First Lieutenant Todd Marshall grinned so hard that it hurt. He accelerated ahead of Lieutenant Forbes's Rapier, leaving her in the storm of his thruster wash.

     Dialing up the rear turret view, Marshall watched as Forbes expertly recovered, kicked in her afterburners, and burst toward him like an angry hawk. "This is a security patrol, nugget," she said sternly. "Unauthorized maneuvers will not be tolerated. You'd better get with--or out of--the program." Her Rapier settled in beside his.

     Five thousand kilometers ahead sat an indistinct pocket of space designated as nav point one, the first of three stops on their grand security tour of nothingness. Marshall activated navigation mode and glanced at the white cross-hairs on his radar scope and HUD. He adjusted course until the cross-hairs each floated in their centers. The rest of the radar display had been divided in four and would flash in the appropriate section when he took a missile or laser hit, not that he had seen that flash very often.

     Sometimes he wished the Rapier's controls were more challenging. The Rapier was, after all, a very real fighter, not some funzone simulator used to zap computer-generated targets. Yet her controls were just as simple to operate. Then again, that simplicity gave him a heck of a lot more time to concentrate on whacking Kilrathi.

     "Delta Two? I'm lined up," Forbes reported.

     "Roger. Good light over here," he said, glancing at the autopilot display, the AUTO button now lit.

     "Engage autopilot on my mark. Mark."

     Marshall tapped the key and felt the powerful force of the Rapier's twin thrusters as they carried him toward the point.

     In a few minutes, the Rapier slowed. The nav point lay just a klick ahead. He checked the radar. A single blue blip that represented Forbes's Rapier stood off to port, otherwise the zone remained clear. "Looks like we got zip here, Lieutenant. How boring is this?"

     "Sometimes boring is good," she said.

Part Two

Nav point two, a sprawling area of outer-space real estate that offered lovely views of more nothingness, came and went without enemy contact, as did nav point three. With the sweep completed, they started back for the carrier, passing the next security patrol pilots as they took their Rapiers out to new nav points and new heights of boredom.

     Once the autopilot had disengaged at 2,200 kilometers out from the Claw, Forbes contacted the ship and requested clearance to land. They were put on standby. Marshall's eyelids grew heavy, and he longed for a shower, for his cot.

     "Hey, Marshall. Did you know that women can outfly and outshoot men? We don't manhandle our instruments, and we do better at multitasking. We can keep track of four enemy fighters."

     Marshall snapped from his doze. "Hey, it takes skill to handle four enemy fighters. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman." He glanced at the opening flight deck doors. "Watch this." Toggling to the flight boss's channel, he said, "This is Delta Two. Permission to land?"

     The flight boss's beefy face clicked on the VDU. "Delta Two. You are cleared to land."

     Tensing every muscle in his body, Marshall fired the afterburners and banked hard, lining up with the flight deck.

     "Whoa, that must've been three G's," Forbes said sarcastically.

     Taking his cue, Marshall cut the stick hard left and rolled as he gunned the throttle. "Try this." Upside-down, he raced down toward the runway.

     "Delta Two. You're coming in too hot," the flight boss cried, his face a survey course in fear. "Abort. I repeat. Abort. Delta Two. Do you copy?"

     But Marshall held course, gazing up at the runway, now his ceiling, as, in the distance, orange-suited insects made way. He approached the energy field between vacuum and atmosphere.

     "Delta Two. YOU ARE INVERTED!"

     "No. You are!" Marshall shouted back, then released a laugh. The Rapier vibrated sharply as it penetrated the energy barrier and roared into the hangar, a dampened echo in its wake.

     "C'mon, man. You're inverted!"

     "Not anymore," Marshall told the keen-eyed flight boss. He jammed the stick left and rolled upright.

     But he had misjudged his speed. Even as he fired retros, he knew he would overshoot the runway by at least twenty, maybe even thirty meters.

     And worse, dead ahead lay a fuel truck, strategically placed by God to punish one First Lieutenant Todd Marshall for goofing off.

     Deckmaster Peterson ran across the runway and toward the fuel truck. He crossed in front of the vehicle, on his way to the driver's side. He spotted Marshall's fighter and looked horrified as he extended his arms across the truck's hood.

     Marshall blasted toward him, retros wailing to the heavens, wings and fuselage rattling so violently that he thought the fighter would simply shatter across the deck before ever stopping.

     Peterson screamed.

     The Rapier slowed but kept moving.

     Snap! Click! And Marshall got thrown forward, his harness digging into his shoulders. The retros dropped from their high pitch into a comforting, easy hum. The Rapier settled onto her landing skids to reveal Peterson, still clutching the truck. The deckmaster reached out with a shaky hand and touched the Rapier's nose cannon.

     Marshall slid aside his HUD viewer, then unlatched his helmet and O₂ mask. Sweat drenched his face.

     "I'll have your wings," the flight boss said, his eyes ablaze. "Wait until your wing leader ..."


     The flight boss regarded something off camera, then shouted, "Delta One!"

     Marshall's VDU switched to an image of Forbes in her cockpit. "Now what were you saying?"

     He watched her sweep over the runway, her Rapier upside-down and at full throttle. She plowed through the energy field, killed the engines, then ignited retros to roll a full 540 degrees, righting herself at the last possible moment before touchdown. And she had not overshot the runway.

     "Now that's how you do it," she shouted.

     Marshall rushed out of his cockpit and toward her fighter. The flight crews kept their distance, not wanting to catch Marshall's highly contagious insanity.

     Forbes's canopy popped, and she removed her mask to flash him a perfect grin.

     "You did that to impress me," he said, leaving no room for the question.

     "I guess so."

     He stared at her, and in her eyes he found something they now shared, a passion for danger, for flying on the edge.

     "You're a total maniac!" she said.

     He saluted her. "Maniac Marshall at your service, ma'am."

     They burst into laughter.

     Then Forbes stiffened as she looked past him. "Oh, no."

     Lieutenant Commander Deveraux stood fuming on the opposite side of the flight deck. She held her gaze a moment, then spun and stomped out.

     Her silence left Marshall even more worried. "What happens now?"

     Forbes looked to where Deveraux had been standing. "I'm not sure. I'm really not sure."