Wing Commander Junior Novelization Chapter 18

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Chapter 18
Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 1
Previous Chapter 17
Next Chapter 19
Pages 86-90
Source Wing Commander Chapter 18, Part Three, Part Five, Part Seven and Part Nine.

Dramatis Personae

Part 1

Jay Sansky


Harrison Falk
Paul Gerald
Jennifer Leiby
Corey Obutu
Miguel Rodriguez
Unnamed Helmsman
Unnamed Security Pilots


James "Paladin" Taggart


"This is Black Lion Seven to Pride One. Getting a lot of interference from the belt. Scope's clear, but I don't trust it, roger."

     On the Tiger Claw's bridge, Captain Sansky shifted to the comm console, where Lieutenant Commander Obutu stood at Comm Officer Sasaki's shoulder. The screen showed the reporting pilot, Major Jennifer Leiby, her eyes narrowed, her face cast in the blue glow of display units. "Copy that, Seven," Obutu said into his headset. "Continue the sweep, manual as necessary."

     "Aye-aye, sir. Think I see something now. Wait a minute. Is that ... Bogies inbound. I say again--" A burst of static stole her words. "I'm hit! I'm hit! Mayday!"

     Through the viewport and out past the Jovian-like planet's third moon, a speck of light burned brightly, then faded.

     "Who's reporting in?" Gerald asked, bursting onto the bridge.

     "Major Leiby," Obutu answered. "But we've lost contact."

     Gerald's lip twitched. "What?"

     "I read multiple targets inbound!" Radar Tech Harrison Falk said. The twenty-year-old stood before his tall, transparent screen and looked to Sansky, his face stricken.

     Sansky regarded the viewport as Gerald and Obutu strained for their own view.

     Dozens of small, glinting dots--and three larger ones--appeared from the cover of the third moon.

     As Sansky turned back, Falk had already begun plotting the enemy's course. Obutu shouted commands to the security patrol pilots. The helmsman pulled up an evasion course on his screen. Then Gerald bolted to his command chair, dropped into it, and, after a nod from Sansky, shouted, "Battle stations! Battle stations! Launch all fighters!"

     Sansky took one more look at the wave of enemy ships, then retreated to the captain's console, where he watched the attack as though it were a bad dream. The security patrol engaged the incoming fighters, converting the gas giant's ring system into a furball more deadly than any he had ever witnessed. Dralthi fighters double- and triple-teamed Confederation Rapiers, while the enemy's Krant medium fighters darted like wasps between ice and stone, vectoring toward the Tiger Claw. The viewports soon flooded with the images of individual dogfights, of fighters from both sides being run off-course to collide with asteroids. The carrier's eight dual laser turrets sent shudders throughout the ship as they fired upon swooping targets while throwing up clouds of shiny flak. Rapiers and Broadsword bombers arrowed away from the flight hangar to join the explosive fray, some torn to ribbons less than a kilometer from the ship and chain-detonating others.

     Beyond the launching counterassault, on the fringe of the battle line, awaited the big Kilrathi capital ships. Pausing now so that their fighters could soften up the Claw, they would soon spring for the kill.

     "All fighters launched, sir," Obutu announced, his voice sounding hollow and several lifetimes away.

     Someone touched Sansky's shoulder. "Sir?"

     Gerald's concern, an emotion he rarely displayed, brought Sansky back to the bridge, to the memory of his rank, his job. All was not lost--or gained--yet.

     An automated voice rattled through the bridge's speakers: "Torpedo launch status: nominal."

     "I count three dozen Kilrathi starfighters, two Ralari-class destroyers, and one dreadnought," Falk said, studying the holographic images on his display. "The cap ships are advancing at one hundred and twenty KPS. They'll be in firing range in four seconds."

     Sansky glanced at Gerald. "Taggart was right."

     "Maybe he knew something that we didn't. And if he did, then I'll brig him for withholding information."

     "Worry about your bruised ego later, Mr. Gerald. Helm. Come about."

      "Torpedoes incoming!" Falk cried.

      A pair of Kilrathi torpedoes trailing thin plumes of exhaust followed a lazy curve, then shot headlong at the carrier.

"Launch countermeasures," Sansky said.

     Falk nodded as the chaff clouds illuminated his screen. "Countermeasures away and ... Torpedoes still on course, sit. Targeting port bow."

     "Sound the collision alarm," Sansky ordered Gerald. "Rig the ship for impact."

     The first missile exploded over the carrier's phase shields, tossing up lightning-laced rainbows of energy and debris that fell mercilessly upon her superstructure. Sansky clung to his chair as the second torpedo hit, and the bridge seemed to wheeze as the bomb choked it. Falk shouted something. Gerald grunted. Obutu demanded a damage report even as the blast wave persisted. Sansky caught his breath and said, "Do we have a reply, Mr. Gerald?"

     "We do, sir. Give me a target, Mr. Falk."

     "Target acquisition imminent," Falk said, his voice cracking. "We have a lock!"

     Gerald beat a fist on his palm. "Fire tubes one and two!"

     Like unleashed bloodhounds, the two torpedoes sped away from the carrier, drawing chalk lines across the Jovian rings.

     "Captain, I have visual from a Rapier near the destroyers," Comm Officer Sasaki said.

     "On my screen."

     The Rapier pilot spiraled through an incredible hailstorm of flak and laser fire, hurling himself toward an enemy destroyer, then pulling a six-G climb to break away. The image switched to his aft turret as two torpedoes slammed into the destroyer's weak shields and penetrated her hull armor. Twin shock waves ripped through ship's port side, dividing her amidships with underwater slowness. She spewed a huge, debris-laden gas bubble into the vacuum as hundreds of smaller explosions dotted her plastisteel innards. For a moment, Sansky thought he saw the Kilrathi themselves, giant bodies floating free and clawing for that green fog they breathed.

     "Two direct hits, sir," Falk reported to cheers from the bridge crew.

     The Rapier pilot kept broadcasting images, and Sansky grew calm as the dreadnought turned parallel with the remaining destroyer.

     Her tubes opened.

     A pair of torpedoes raced out.

     There would be no stopping the Kilrathi now. And a man, Sansky thought, must be true to his heart, especially at the end. If he could manage that, then an apparent defeat would become a resounding victory. No one else would understand, but he would. And that was all that mattered.

     Voices grew faint, muffled. Gerald shouted something about countermeasures. Falk's reply lacked hope. Then everyone screamed in unison as the enemy torpedoes struck a one-two punch across the phase shields.

     Sansky rode the first shock wave, then fell to the deck as consoles crackled and smoked above him in a sudden moment of chaos.

     "Comm is off-line!" Sasaki exclaimed. "Rerouting bridge to secondary."

     "The phase shield is suffering a forty percent failure," Obutu added. "Battery room reports a fire. Torpedo room reporting damage. Unable to launch."

     Sparks danced on Sansky's shoulders as he climbed back into his chair. Just outside the viewport, the remaining Rapiers struggled to lure the dozens of Dralthi and Krant fighters away from the Tiger Claw.

     "I'm reading eight more targets from behind the dreadnought," Falk said.

     Gerald made a lopsided grin. "They're sending in reinforcements."

     "We should be flattered," Sansky said. He opened a comm channel. "Torpedo room. Report."

     Spaceman 2nd Class Rodriguez, his eyes red from the smoke pouring into the station behind him, leaned toward the camera. "Tubes three and four damaged, sir. Autoloaders not operational. And we can't get back to one and two. The bulkhead's collapsed."

     "Get me one tube back online, son. Can you do that?"

     "Pll try, sir."

     "We can't fire?" Gerald asked, springing to his feet. "Mr. Obutu. See if Mr. Raznick can spare some people to form a damage-control crew in Secondary Ordnance."

     Obutu nodded and spoke quickly into his headset.

     "Captain, scanning the cruiser," Falk said. "She's opening tubes."

     "Of course she is," Sansky said calmly. "Of course she is." A shadow fell over him. He gazed into Gerald's worried face. "Commander?"

     "The situation is dire, sir. If we're going to die, I suggest we ram them."

     "We'll never get in that close."

     "So we wait here to die?"

     "Watch that tone, Mister."

     "Captain. Jay. Let's go down fighting."

     "I agree, sir," Obutu said, then looked to Gerald. "Damage-control crew on its way to the secondary ordnance room."

     "Gentlemen. I have no intention of dying. Rolling over and playing dead ... maybe."