Wing Commander Junior Novelization Chapter 17

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Chapter 17
Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 2
Previous Chapter 16
Next Chapter 18
Pages 82-85
Source Wing Commander Chapter 17

Dramatis Personae

Part 1 Part 2

Christopher Blair

Christopher Blair


Jeanette "Angel" Deveraux
Joseph "Knight" Khumelo
Todd "Maniac" Marshall
Ian "Hunter" St. John
James "Paladin" Taggart

Jeanette "Angel" Deveraux
Rosalind "Sassy" Forbes
Todd "Maniac" Marshall
Adam "Bishop" Polanski
Ian "Hunter" St. John
James "Paladin" Taggart


Rosalind "Sassy" Forbes
Adam "Bishop" Polanski

Joseph "Knight" Khumelo


Geoffrey Tolwyn


MARCH 17, 2654
0530 HOURS

Part One

Blair finished a walkaround inspection of his Rapier, then joined the other pilots milling about the flight line, waiting for Lieutenant Commander Deveraux.

     The nearby lift doors opened, exposing Maniac and Forbes, both still pulling on their uniforms. They hustled out of the lift to the laughter of their comrades--all except Blair.

     "Targets locked," Blair muttered, then set his jaw and walked toward Maniac. "Did you change the lock code?"

     "What are you talking about?"

     "The lock code on our hatch? I couldn't get in." He scowled at Forbes. "And I heard laughing from inside, but no one would answer."

     Maniac slapped a paw on his shoulder. "Someday, Blair, you're gonna look back and say, ‘God, I wish I'd been him."

     "Someday, I'm going to look back and--"

     "Ten-hut!" Knight shouted.

     Blair abandoned his reply and scrambled to the line with the other jocks. They assumed the pose as Lieutenant Commander Deveraux walked down the row, her face unreadable. "All right, ladies, listen up. We have a ConCom with escorts. That means two, possibly three Ralari-class destroyers with their fighters and support ships. Primary target is the ConCom. Everything else is gravy." She paused before Blair. "Let's make 'em bleed. Mount up!"

     As Blair headed to his fighter, he passed Hunter, who, as usual, champed his cigar and brushed that long hair out of his face. Blair thought of wishing the man luck, but as he looked up, he saw how Hunter made a point of ignoring him, so he went straight for his cockpit ladder.

     "Blair," Deveraux called out. "Take Hunter's wing."

     "I got his wing, ma'am."

     Failing to remove his cigar, Hunter said, "Ma'am, I'd just as soon you assign me another wingman."

     Deveraux came toward Hunter, who had mistakenly lit the fire in her eyes. "You have some problem I should be aware of, Hunter?"

     The big Australian sneered at Blair. "Yes, ma'am, I do. I don't fly with Pilgrims."

     "Then maybe you don't fly at all."

     "Ma'am, I think you want me for this op."

     With disgust all but dripping from her face, Deveraux thought a second, then said, "Blair. You'll fly my wing."

     "Are you sure about that?" he asked.

     Her eyes snapped wide. "Did I just give you a suggestion or an order?"

     "I got your wing, ma'am."

     She tossed an ugly look in Hunter's direction, then left.

     "Hey," Hunter said.

     Blair hesitated.

     "You put me or my shipmates in danger, half-breed, I'll kill you."

     "You'll try." He stared hard at the man, then pounded up his ladder. "It's all one big lovefest," he moaned.

Part Two

The launch went off without a hitch, save for Polanski's report of a hydraulic leak too insignificant to ground him.

     Blair held a steady course at Deveraux's four o'clock low. They, along with the other Rapier pilots, escorted two Broadswords piloted by Taggart and Knight. Originally designed as an attack bomber for Kilrathi capital ships, the Broadsword held its own as an all-purpose fighter, equipped with port, starboard, and aft turrets as well as four missile and four torpedo hardpoints. If a Broadsword got close enough to a capital ship (or in their present situation, a Kilrathi ConCom ship), its torpedoes would successfully penetrate phase shields. Thus, getting Taggart and Knight in close enough to the ConCom ship remained the first objective. Accomplishing that meant punching a hole through the enemy fighters surely waiting for them.

     They came up fast on the ring of asteroids and debris orbiting the brown dwarf. Blair slid his HUD viewer into place and surveyed the zone with thermal scanners, finding it cool and clear. The strike force wove into the field, huge rocks and splintered durasteel tumbling by, some pieces just meters away.

     Suddenly Maniac's masked face and big, round eyes lit up Blair's display. "All right, losers, listen up. I got three confirmed targets at five o'clock, bugging the brown dwarf."

     "Confirm that," Forbes said. "Middle one has a massive electromagnetic signature."

     "It's the ConCom," Deveraux said. "All right, ladies, deploy for attack. The clock is ticking."

     "That's no ConCom," Taggart muttered. "Abort!"

     "You're kidding," Maniac said.

     "Baker Seven, you have no authority over this mission or its personnel," Deveraux barked. "You will obey my orders."

     "Forget it. I've already analyzed those targets. They're Dorkir-class supply ships. They were deliberately left behind and out of harm's way. That ConCom is a Dorkir-class vessel as well--but it's not among them."

     "You're saying they want us to attack those freighters, then they'll ambush us?"

     "Not us, Commander. The Tiger Claw. She's at risk. We have to get back."

     "You're a civilian scout. Why should I--"

     "I hold the rank of commodore in Confederation Naval Intelligence, reporting directly to Admiral Tolwyn. My call sign is Paladin. My security verification code is Charlie Six Alpha Zebra Niner. Try it, Commander. Now."

     Blair couldn't wait for Deveraux. He plugged the numbers into his own computer's touchpad, attempting to tap into the Confederation Navy's Datanet. The left VDU blinked for a moment, then a message rolled across the screen:

          Commodore James Taggart
          Call Sign: Paladin
          Fourteenth Fleet
          Security Access Granted

     "Holy ..." Blair broke off in astonishment.

     "Lucky guess," Deveraux told Taggart. "For all I know, you could've killed the real commodore and assumed his identity."

     "Listen to me, Angel. That's all I ask. If I'm wrong, you'll have missed out on destroying a couple of freighters. If I'm right, the Tiger Claw could already be under attack."

     "The Claw is already in the radiation belt, boss. They couldn't contact us if they wanted to," Forbes reminded her.

     "Well, I ain't for turning tail," Hunter said. "I say we take out the freighters, then go back for the Claw."

     "So we can pick through her rubble for survivors, Mr. Hunter?" Taggart asked.

     "We're not taking a vote here," Blair said. "It's up to the commander. What do you say, ma'am?"

     As Blair waited for her reply, he pictured the others doing the same. Forbes rubbed her eyes and wished she had spent more time sleeping. Polanski threw his head back and swore. Hunter unclipped his O₂ mask and stuffed an unlit cigar between his lips. Knight imagined with a shudder that a hundred fighters now buzzed over the Claw. Maniac itched with the desire to race forward and kick some Kilrathi butt. Taggart muttered a half-dozen "come ons" as precious seconds ticked by.

     And Lieutenant Commander Jeanette Deveraux heaved a sigh and felt the absolute loneliness of her rank.