Wing Commander Junior Novelization Chapter 24

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Chapter 24
Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 3
Previous Chapter 23
Next Chapter 25
Pages 113-117
Source Wing Commander Chapter 24, Part One, Part Two and Part Four

Dramatis Personae

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Todd "Maniac" Marshall

Christopher Blair

Todd "Maniac" Marshall


Jeanette "Angel" Deveraux

Paul Gerald
Todd "Maniac" Marshall
James "Paladin" Taggart
Unnamed Marine

Adam "Bishop" Polanski


Adam "Bishop" Polanski


Rosalind "Sassy" Forbes

Rosalind "Sassy" Forbes


MARCH 17, 2654
1030 HOURS

Part One

Maniac had tried to sleep, but Rosie's death played itself out in his dreams like a holo trapped in a loop. His chest felt heavy, and the thought of food made him sick. He had risen from bed and had accessed the ship's Datanet to lose himself in video recorded during the attack. But he found it difficult to concentrate and twice thought he sensed Rosie staring over his shoulder.

     In short, living hurt.

     Now he rolled onto his stomach. His pillow smelled like her perfume, and he took a deep breath, his eyes rimmed by tears.

     Then he suddenly felt angry for what had happened. It wasn't my fault! Do you think I wanted to get her killed?

     He wasn't sure who he had asked. God, maybe. The lack of a reply drove him farther inward, where he found his guilt waiting for him. He had not known Rosie Forbes for very long, but war affected time as efficiently as a gravity well. Two days or twenty years ... it didn't matter. Life grew more intense when you lived on the border of death. You met someone, and in your minds you got married, had kids, retired, and died--all in the span of a oneor two-day stand-down. So Maniac had shared a lifetime with Rosie during their two days. Then he had thrown it all away believing that he had ultimate power and control over his life. The safe world, the just world, had died with her. He no longer trusted anyone or anything. And he believed in nothing.

     An alert call echoed from the intercom, but it seemed distant and unreal. He buried his head deeper in the pillow and stared across a black void until he saw two Dralthi detach themselves from their wing and fly toward him. He fired all guns and launched all missiles, but every round missed. To starboard, Rosie's bright eyes flashed a second before both Dralthi slammed into her fighter. He jerked up from the pillow, his body rocked by chills.

     "Lieutenant? C'mon. Open the door. Lieutenant?"

     Someone had been calling him. "Come," he said, and the hatch slid aside.

     Deveraux wore a new flight suit and had a computer slate tucked under her arm. "Let's go. Time to suit up."

     He pulled the blanket over his boxers. "Ma'am?"

     "I need my best pilots out there."

     "I don't know if I'm one of your best pilots."

     Her face drew up in mild disgust. "Does everyone here think I go around making suggestions?"

     "No, ma'am."

     "Then I guess I gave you an order. Be on the flight deck in five minutes." She turned to the hatch. "And do it for Rosie."

     Deveraux left him floored. She had returned him to the duty roster, but more importantly, she had admitted the existence of a dead pilot. And that made Maniac suddenly want to live. To fight. 7 He sprang from his bed, snatched up his flight suit, and fumbled _ with the zipper. Now it seemed okay to smile through his tears.

Part Two

From a position just inside the Diligent's loading hatch, Blair watched Commander Paul Gerald lead a squad of Marines up the ramp. Dressed in gray and red armored space suits and packing toy chests of anti-cat weaponry, the cocky jarheads appeared to have just blasted their way out of Hell's prison. Scarred faces and hardened expressions testified that they had made the escape more than once.

     The commander also wore armor, and his presence had Blair frowning. During the briefing, there had been no mention of his going on the mission. "What is be doing here?"

     "Let's find out," Taggart said.

     As he reached the hatchway, Gerald gave thema dirty look.

     Returning the same look, Taggart said, "I think you're on the wrong ship, Commander."

     Gerald lifted a gloved index finger and aimed it at Taggart's nose. "I still have a responsibility to this crew, Commodore. And excuse my bluntness, but if you think I'm going to let my men be flown into combat by a rogue anda half-breed, you're sadly mistaken." He pushed past them.

     Taggart winked at Blair. "He's really a great guy once you get to know him."

     Blair grinned, then followed Taggart to the bridge. He saluted Deveraux as she noticed him.

     "Diligent? You're cleared to launch," Boss Raznick said through the comm.

     Taggart sat at the helm and looked to his console. "Roger, control. External moorings and power detached. Internals powering."

     Gerald took a seat in the co-pilot's chair, looking as thrilled as ever.

     The commodore guided the merchantman past the now-open and repaired hangar doors. The ship rockeda little as it parted the energy curtain and skimmed over the dark runway. They flew away through the crater's deep shadows and toward a trio of colossal asteroids. Taggart brought the ship behind one and rotated ninety degrees to port. The Diligent's lines now formed with the asteroid's ragged ridge line, and the two Rapiers that ran escort hovered just below. Only a careful-eyed Kilrathi could spot them now.

     "Passive radar engaged," Gerald said, his announcement punctuated by a faint beeping.

     Taggart looked up, eyes distant as he interpreted the sound.

     "We have the target."

     "There she is," Blair said, pointing to the forward viewports. A large ship glided overhead, her thrusters filling the bridge with a bright orange glow.

     "That's no destroyer," Deveraux said.

     Blair nodded. "It's the ConCom ship we came up against."

     "They'll spot our heat corona soon," Gerald said.

     "They won't have the chance," Taggart corrected. "Blair. Man: the Ion gun." He opened a channel to the Rapiers. "Marshall? Polanski? Hit it."

     Blair hurried off the bridge and through a long corridor. He found a ladder and climbed up into the gunner's domed nest, then buckled into his seat. The system activated, and he booted a pedal, swiveling 360 degrees in one fluid rotation. He took hold of the firing grips and got a feel for the Ion cannon's range of motion, its barrel extending about three meters from the transparent hemisphere. The asteroids and stars began wheeling around him as the merchantman broke from cover.

     The ConCom ship veered away as the Rapiers chased after it and the escorts. Maniac performed a corkscrewing dive through a sleet storm of fire, juked right, then hit one of the Dralthis with a rapid fire of bolts that tore the fighter into sizzling sections.

     "Yeah," Maniac shouted.

     Polanski's Rapier overshot the second Dralthi, and his swearing crackled over the comm. The Dralthi tore after him, and Polanski led the enemy pilot on a tortuous, laser-lit course through the rubble. With reflexes hotwired to the battle, Maniac pulled into an eighty-degree climb, aiming for the Dralthi on Polanski's tail. He fired upon the enemy ship and blew it out of the fight.

     Then he spun to discover a pair of Dralthis rising from behind the moon. "Two more bogies at six o'clock." He squinted and opened up on one of the fighters. The Dralthi swerved out of Blair's glowing bolts and fired shots of its own that thundered across the Diligent's shields. Blair cursed his unfamiliarity with the weapon. He should've had that fighter.

     The ship jolted suddenly as Taggart increased throttle, bringing them up toward the larger ConCom ship. "Marines, to your stations," he ordered. "As soon as you get in, go straight for the bridge. We have to get control of that ship before they scuttle her."

     Another Dralthi zoomed across Blair's sights. He pivoted to track the fighter and, grating his teeth, unloosed a barrage. The fragile little ship darted to port, but Blair found it once more, this time locking on. An intense multicolored flash ended the cat's mission.


     Now alongside the ConCom, the Diligent's docking umbilical began to extend. Blair watched it for a second, then swung around, searching for more enemy fighters.

Part Three

From a twelve o'clock bird's-eye view, Maniac looked down on a Dralthi as it made a kamikaze run for the Diligent. A long-range image from his forward camera showed the pilot wearing a dark helmet, the ship's bow reflected across its face. Too bad, Maniac thought. He wanted to see the terror in the cat's eyes as he parted the starry heavens like Sivar himself.

     Turbines wailed as Maniac bore down on the Dralthi in his own kamikaze run. The pilot's head snapped back as the barrel-shaped nose of Maniac's Rapier sheared off the enemy fighter's cockpit. Maniac pulled four Gs to recover from the dive. He shot a look over his shoulder as the Dralthi did a pilotless dance and crashed into the ConCom's stern.

     Damage reports flashed in Maniac's displays. The Rapier handled sluggishly, but Maniac didn't care. "That's for you, Rosie."

     He arced back toward the Diligent. The ship's umbilical now latched onto the ConCom. A few seconds later, the Kilrathi ship's hull turned pink as the umbilical's lasers cut through.