Wing Commander Junior Novelization Chapter 30

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Chapter 30
Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 11
Previous Chapter 29
Next Epilogue
Pages 141-148
Source Wing Commander Chapter 30

Dramatis Personae

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11

Geoffrey Tolwyn

Christopher Blair

James "Paladin" Taggart

Christopher Blair

Thiraka nar Kiranka

Jeanette "Angel" Devereaux

Christopher Blair

Thiraka nar Kiranka

Christopher Blair

Thiraka nar Kiranka

Christopher Blair


Richard Bellegarde


Harrison Falk
Corey Obutu
James "Paladin" Taggart


Bokoth nar Kiranka


Bokoth nar Kiranka


Bokoth nar Kiranka






Christopher Blair

Christopher Blair
Jeanette "Angel" Devereaux

Arnold Blair



Part One

Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn had pushed his battle group to one hundred and twenty percent, having lost a total of five ships on the way to Sol. But he had reduced the Kilrathis' two-hour lead down to a mere three minutes. No battle group in the history of the Confederation had made better time. Commodore Bellegarde had said they would have to break every jump record to reach Sol within forty-two hours. Tolwyn had embraced the challenge.

     The Concordia would soon reach Pluto, then head for the bluish, ringed dot of Neptune.

     "Are you all right, sir?"

     Tolwyn did not look back at Bellegarde. "Have you come again to suggest I sleep, Commodore? Because--"

     "No, sir. Comm reports a faint message from Lieutenant Christopher Blair. He's in the system and broadcasting the Kilrathi jump coordinates."

     That sent Tolwyn spinning around. "Blair?" Was it a coincidence? Hardly. "Like father, like son."

     "Should we respond, sir?"

     "Jdentifying Confed Rapier," Radar Officer Abrams called out. "He's heading toward Earth at LSM point nine."

     "What is it, Mr. Abrams?" Tolwyn asked, reacting to the man's troubled voice.

     "He's being followed by something massive, Admiral. I've analyzed its signature. Looks like a Snakeir."

     Bellegarde tensed. "Permission to intercept it, Admiral?"

     "No," Tolwyn said, stroking his two-day-old beard in thought.

     "We wait."

     "But the Snakeir will overtake Blair's fighter."

     Tolwyn only nodded.

     "Sir, if we don't intercept, that ship will reach Earth orbit before us. The casualties could be significant."

     "I'm bloody well aware of that, Richard." Tolwyn bolted from his chair and spoke through gritted teeth. "All ships are to hold their positions and target those jump coordinates."

     "But ..." Bellegarde trailed off. He thought a moment, then his mouth opened in realization. "Ah, if we jump him, we'd be out of position when the Kilrathi fleet comes through."

     "We're after bigger game than that Snakeir. We need a resounding victory--or this war is over." Tolwyn faced the stars, their age-old light seeming to shine on his own past. "For that victory, I have to risk the lives of innocent civilians and one very brave young lieutenant."

Part Two

Blair ran the diagnostic twice, and twice he cursed the damage to his engines. Yes, the Rapier had survived the jump, but now he could only pry eighty-seven percent thrust from the machine.

     And the massive blip on his radar screen inched closer.

     "Blair to Confed fleet," he said shakily. "Do you read me? Kilrathi capital ship has penetrated the quasar jump point and is in Earth space. Copy?"

     Static upon static.

     "Confed fleet, do you copy?" He threw back his head. "If they're here, they're out of range. Earth will never see the Kilrathi coming."

     "Ironic that we made it this far," Merlin said. "Of course, irony is an essential ingredient in every tragedy."

     "Shuddup. Or at least help us out."

     "I knew this was all going to end horribly. Did I mention that we'll be in range of the Snakeir's guns in ten minutes?"

     "At least they can't launch torpedoes at this speed."

     "I'm sorry, Christopher. But they won't have to."

     A radar alarm beeped rhythmically, and Blair stared through his HUD viewer. "There! Got a contact dead ahead. It's the fleet signaling. They've heard us!" He opened the channel. "Blair to Confed fleet. Kilrathi capital ship on my course, aft of my position. Confed fleet, do you read me?"

     The alarm drummed louder. Blair checked his scope and saw the blip. "Only one ship. But it's huge."

     "It isn't a ship," Merlin said in a dire tone. "Check your scanners."

     Blair engaged the telescopic scanner, its readout now rippling across his HUD. Space shimmered for a moment, then cleared to showa lonely beacon signaling in the night. He glimpsed a data bar for identification.

     And wished he hadn't.

     Beacon 147.

     "All we need," Merlin grumbled. "Scylla. Bane to sailors and monster of myth."

Part Three

"Report on Lieutenant Blair?" Taggart asked Mr. Obutu.

     "We're not sure, sir, but we think one of the Rapiers jumped."

     Taggart turned to Mr. Falk, ever standing behind his large radar screen. "What about the locator beacon from that Rapier pod?"

     "Nothing, sir. Lost contact during the battle."

     "We've sacrificed too many good pilots already," Taggart said sadly. "Have the Diligent prepared for launch. I'm going after that pod."

     " Aye-aye, sir."

     The commodore double-timed off the bridge, growing more anxious as he imagined Deveraux or Blair slowly dying in that cramped durasteel box.

Part Four

"Christopher? Why haven't you changed course?"

     Blair sweated over the controls and had trouble listening to Merlin over the wail of the proximity alarm. He would shut it down, and a moment later it would return. "Merlin, can you turn this thing off?"

     "I will, but in case the alarm hasn't cued you, you'll be past Scylla's Point of No Return in ninety seconds. Its gravitational pull will tear us to pieces. More precisely, to minute, highly dense particles."

     "Solutions, Merlin! No more problems." Blair glimpsed the stars as they contorted into the gravity well's whirlpool of spacetime.

     Solutions. The word rang in his head and sparked an idea. Blair had a Snakeir behind him, a gravity well ahead. Solution? In his mind's eye he saw one, but it seemed crazy. Still, it was the only one he had. "How much does a Snakeir weigh?"

     "Accessing specs. About two hundred thousand tons, give or take a few thousand."

     A smile passed over his lips. One throw of a switch, and the afterburners slammed him into his seat. Space seemed to open up around him as he bulleted toward Scylla. Warning lights now dotted Blair's HUD, but at least Merlin had successfully turned off the proximity alarm.

     "What are you doing?" the little man cried. "The afterburners will use all our fuel."

     "I know, but I need more thrust. Eighty-seven percent won't cut it." Excitement tingled along his spine.

     "But we're still headed for that thing!" Merlin cried.

Part Five

Captain Thiraka took in a long breath of nutrient gas, then went -- to Bokoth, who sat in the command chair and looked for all the -- Empire like the vandalized statue of a war hero. "Kalralahr, planetary torpedoes online. We are almost in range. There is no response to the Rapier's transmissions. Sivar smiles on us. The surprise is total."

     Bokoth's lips flared. "Yes," he said slowly, "it is."

     Something punched into Thiraka's back, found a seam in his armor, and penetrated flesh. The sudden agony felt so severe that he shamed himself by screaming. Rigid in shock, he turned.

     Commander Ke'Soick held a bloody vorshooka blade, the ritual instrument for cub bearing and murder. "Forgive me, Kal Shintahr."

     "He's a skilled warrior," Bokoth rasped through a sinister grin. "You won't die quickly, Thiraka. I wanted you to see our victory and know, really know ... regret. How dare you plot my murder. Did you really believe that Ke'Soick's loyalty could not be turned?"

     "My father will have your life," Thiraka said, collapsing to his knees.

     "I kill you with your father's consent. The Kiranka clan will soon be clean."

     Thiraka's shoulders grew numb, and he realized he could no longer lift his arms. His thoughts were swept into a storm of panic. He thought of calling for help, but who would listen? Who would dare defy Bokoth?

     Second Fang Norsh'kal suddenly rang the ancient tocsin to alert the bridge crew.

     "What is it?" Bokoth demanded.

     Hissing nervously, Norsh'kal delivered his report. "The Rapier is homing in on a beacon signal. It could be a Confederation guidance buoy."

     "Or a capital ship," Bokoth corrected, then winced as he forced his old body toward the infrared monitor in front of him. "Identify and report. Full battle stations."

     On the admiral's screen, Thiraka saw a red speck heading toward the beacon.

     And he suddenly realized where they were and what that beacon marked. He opened his mouth to warn Bokoth, then smiled. The Rapier pilot had become an ally in revenge.

Part Six

Deveraux had thought she could die peacefully. She had thought she might experience a warm state of bliss before the cold draped her in an eternal sleep.

     She had been idealistic about death.

     Now reality had stolen most of her air. Reality had iced up her canopy so that even the pleasure she took from the stars was gone. I did all right, she thought. It wasn't such a bad life. I helped some people. I wasn't as selfish as I could've been, I guess. If only I could take this cold. But I can't. I'm a fighter, but I can't take this. Call me weak. I don't care anymore.

     She reached for the pod's main panel, her hand shaking so badly that she could barely bring her finger down on the correct button. The panel lit.

     "Self-destruct system armed. T minus thirty seconds until self-destruct," the computer said. "System will lock out override at T minus five seconds."

Part Seven

Blair gazed at his HUD, never more determined. A half-dozen warnings kept lighting his screens. He blinked sweat out of his eyes and checked the rear turret display. "They're still back there," he told Merlin. "Good."

     "If you say so. Kilrathi radar locked on. Ten seconds to the Point of No Return ... and you're almost out of fuel. You won't be able to turn."

     "Give me a count."

     "Four ... three ... two ..."

     He jerked the stick hard to starboard, but the engines coughed before responding. Numbers clicked backward on his velocity gauge. Five and a half Gs pinned him to the seat. "We're not going to break free," he cried, eyeing another gauge. "We don't have enough fuel."

     "You've got ten more seconds of thrust."

     "Not enough!"

     "Then find a weakness in the gravity field. Feel it."

     Every rivet, plate, wire, and switch seemed to cry in protest as the Rapier grappled with Scylla. Blair projected himself into her swelling arms and felt for a way out.

     He pulled the stick back, climbed a moment--

     Then abruptly dove while slaloming away.

     "Three seconds of thrust."

     With a last jerk, the Rapier tore from Scylla's clutches, rocketing away at a ninety-degree angle.

     "We're free," Blair said, only half-believing it.

Part Eight

Thiraka had lost the use of his legs. He poured all of his energy into breathing. He could no longer smile as he watched Bokoth foolishly chase after the Rapier.

     Second Fang Norsh'kal shouted, "Kalralahr, the Rapier has veered away! Confederation ship, dead ahead."

     Bokoth nodded and took a second glance at his screen. The horror that befell his face thrilled Thiraka. "That isn't a ship! Hard to port! Reverse all thrusters!"

Part Nine

Blair's engines sang a decrescendo and died. The Rapier glided through space. The silent cockpit felt eerie.

     "We're out of fuel," Merlin said. "And battery power's nearly exhausted."

     But Merlin's report seemed unimportant because a beautiful sight took form in the distance. The huge Kilrathi Cap ship sailed straight for Scylla's open mouth, its retros and reverse thrusters firing weakly against her mighty pull. "The Kilrathi's too heavy," Blair confirmed. "Scylla's got her."

Part Ten

Thiraka battled to lift his chin as the gravity well bloomed across the starboard viewport.

     "All engines full!" the admiral shrieked, his face draining of color.

     Norsh'kal jolted from his sparking console. "Engines overheating!"

     Bokoth shrank to his chair. "But Sivar chose us." He looked down at Thiraka--

     Who used his remaining strength to shake his head and stare angrily at the admiral.

     Behind them, a bulkhead burst open. Nutrient gas rushed toward the gaping seam and jetted into space.

     Ke'Soick and Norsh'kal screeched and pounded past Thiraka, their bodies stretching unnaturally toward the viewport and gravity well beyond.

     Suddenly the world became dark, and the cries faded.

     Thiraka wondered if he had died, then, through the numbness, "he sensed his body being pulled apart.

Part Eleven

"Record this, Merlin," Blair said, marveling at the Snakeir as it turned sharply to port in a final effort to dodge Scylla.

     The well flung the ship around and drew it in, stern-first. Cracks opened across the Snakeir's hull, met other cracks, then released colossal sections that formed a parade of wreckage stretching toward the vortex.

     Blair could not see Scylla's mythical six heads as they devoured the ship, but their effect humbled him. In less than ten seconds, the last pieces of the Snakeir's bow spun into the well, leaving a fleeting band of distortion behind them.

     "Can I stop recording?" Merlin asked.


     "What's wrong? We got them."

     "I know. I just can't imagine dying that way."

     "Then how does freezing to death sound? You've got four minutes of battery power."

     "Send an automatic distress, along with the jump coordinates."

     "I already have. No ships in range."

     "Then that's it. We're dead."

     "Christopher, if you die, I cease to function. Your father made me that way."

     Blair unclipped his mask and palmed sweat from his face. "I'm sorry."

     "When people know they're going to die, they confess things to each other, say things they--"

     "What is it?"

     "You don't know much about how I was designed. Your father wanted it that way. But I don't believe he wanted you to die without knowing. My chips were made with protein from your father. It was his way of never saying good-bye."

     "But he did leave."

     "In the physical sense, yes. He knew he would. He loved you, Christopher. More than anything. And he wanted me to show you how much. I hope I didn't let you down."

     "You didn't," Blair said with a half-grin. "How could you ever let me down?"