Wing Commander Junior Novelization Chapter 21

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Chapter 21
Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 1
Previous Chapter 20
Next Chapter 22
Pages 102-104
Source Wing Commander Chapter 20, Part One

Dramatis Personae

Part 1

Paul Gerald


Jeanette "Angel" Deveraux
Harrison Falk
Corey Obutu
James "Paladin" Taggart


Unnamed Helmsman


Jay Sansky


MARCH 17, 2654
0800 HOURS

Captain Sansky had sustained a serious head injury. And worse, on his way to sickbay, he had suffered a heart attack. Commander Gerald now assumed command of the Tiger Claw. No stranger to the job, Gerald threw himself into the challenge. Without Sansky's interference, he felt certain he could save the carrier from another battle, one that would surely finish her.

     During the attack, Sansky had seemed strangely unsure of himself. The Jay Sansky Gerald knew would have led them headfirst into the fight while barking orders and inspiring his officers to new heights.

     But the old man had shut down, and Gerald refused to believe that fear had caused that. No, something else troubled the cap- tain, and the captain's preoccupation left Gerald uneasy.

     As he focused on the images coming in from the Claw's tactical scanners and displayed on the helmsman's console, he cleared his mind of everything but the task at hand: finding cover from the Kilrathi battle group headed toward them.

     Pictures from the Jovian-like planet's second moon revealed a string of deep craters, one of them large enough to conceal the carrier. "There," Gerald said, pointing at the screen. "Put her down there."

     Once the carrier had glided over the crater, the helmsman lowered her into the shadows of the north wall.

     "I think it's time for that power-down, Mr. Obutu," Gerald said.

     "No problem, sir. Most of our systems are down anyway."

     Gerald spared a smile over that irony. "Is the decoy ready?"

     "Yes, sir."

     "Very well. Launch the decoy."

     "Launch the decoy. Aye-aye, sir."

     After a barely perceptible thump, the decoy blasted away from the carrier. Gerald tracked its progress on a monitor. Long antennae extended from its circular hull, while a pair of dishes began rotating. The drone slowed a moment to compute its bearings, then fired thrusters and aimed for the Jovian-like planet's ring system.

     Gerald turned his head at the approach of Taggart and Deveraux. He noted a hint of surprise in their expressions as the bridge lights faded, then winked out.

     "Decoy away, Commander," Obutu reported. "Systems nominal. She has a bigger electronic signature than the Concordia. I think she'll fool them, sir."

     ""I hope you're right. Secure all active scanners. Pas.sive systems only." He dropped into the captain's chair and looked up at a bank of scanners above the forward viewport.

     The first moon hung in the right corner of one display, and as Gerald studied it, he noticed tiny shifts in its glow. Then part of that glow seemed to burn off and form into brilliant dots. One after another the moon shed those dots, and they spread into a triangular formation.

     "There," Obutu said. "The Kilrathi battle group."

     "They've missed us," Mr. Falk reported anxiously from his radar screen. He smiled broadly. "They're following the decoy."

     The crew cheered. Even Gerald mouthed a "Yes!"

     "Quiet!" Taggart shouted, startling everyone back into silence.

     From that silence rose a steady beeping from one of Falk's passive radar detectors.

     "I know that signature," Taggart said, charging toward the radar station. "It's a destroyer ... hunting for us."

     As if on cue, the beeping increased in pitch and rhythm. Falk's eyes bugged out. "They've spotted us!"

     "No," Taggart said, his gaze shifting from the radar screen to the bank of scanners behind it. "We're still close enough to the radiation belt. Gamma rays are clouding their screens. If they don't see us, they won't find us."

     Gerald found cold comfort in Taggart's assurance as the beeping grew more insistent. Out of habit, he swung his chair toward Mr. Falk, about to demand the destroyer's position.

     However, with scanners down they were blind. He swung the chair back, then the deck lifted sharply.

     "Did you feel that?" Deveraux asked, shifting to his side.

     His chair shook as another vibration passed under the ship. He gritted his teeth and puffed air. "They're nuking every crater.

     With that, the Kilrathi released another bomb whose shock wave rumbled through the carrier like a thousand ancient cavalrymen.