Wing Commander Junior Novelization Chapter 9

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Chapter 9
Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 2
Previous Chapter 8
Next Chapter 10
Pages 43-47
Source Wing Commander Chapter 9

Dramatis Personae

Part 1 Part 2

Christopher Blair

Christopher Blair


Todd "Maniac" Marshall

James "Paladin" Taggart


Arnold Blair
James "Paladin" Taggart


MARCH 16, 2654
0930 HOURS

Part One

With the lights off and his eyes closed, Blair lay on his cot in the quarters he now shared with Marshall. He needed to sleep. Needed to dream. Dream about anyplace but the carrier. He thought of dreams he would like to have, dreams of home, of Nephele, of his aunt and uncle who had worked so hard to raise him after his parents had died. He thought of old girlfriends, of old summer jobs, of a particular July 17 birthday party that had marked the end of his teenage years. He considered his time at the academy on Hilthros, days that felt like a million years ago. His life had become a streak of indistinct memories. Nothing stood out anymore. The only thing real was the Pilgrim cross around his neck. A blessing. A curse.

     How did I get here? I was just a kid who liked to wrestle and was raised on a farm. I joined up to get flying experience, not to become another Confederation statistic. I remember my uncle telling me never to join the service. What has it done for me? What has it really done for me?

     The lights snapped on. Covering his eyes, Blair sat up. He heard a shuffling of boots, a zipper being pulled up, and the rattle of metal on metal. He squinted and saw Marshall standing in a crimson flight suit, his battered helmet tucked in the crook of his arm.

     "We going out?" Blair asked.

     "No. Just me. I pulled security with Lieutenant Forbes."

     "So why did you wake me up?"

     Marshall shook his index finger at Blair's cross and opened his mouth.

     But Blair beat him to the punch. "So I changed my mind. But I can't change who I am."

     "No, you can't. But you made a promise back at the academy that you wouldn't wear that anymore. I'm not saying to throw it away. I think you know what I'm saying."

     "It brings me luck, Todd."

     "It's going to get you killed--Chris."

     Blair took the cross in hand, as though to protect it. "I was wearing this when I made the jump. You heard Taggart. A NAVCOM can't do what I did."

     "That had nothing to do with luck. It was about training and desire." Marshall reached toward Blair. "Take it off."

     Drawing back, Blair held the cross tightly against his chest. "It's who I am. Or who I should be."

     "You know what? You really messed up this time. And now you need someone watching your back. But I can't always be there."

     "I don't expect that from anyone--especially you."

     "Oh, man," Marshall said, turning away. "You're going to get whacked. If not by the Kilrathi, then--"

     "This is getting old."

     Marshall collapsed on his cot, smoothed back his hair, then rubbed his bloodshot eyes. "I'm trying to have a sensitive moment. I don't know whyI bother." He sprang up and left.

     Blair fell back on his cot. Then an idea suddenly made him sit up. "Merlin. Activate."

     The little man yawned and walked along the edge of a storage locker opposite the cot. "What time is it?"

     "The Pilgrims. What can you tell me about them?" Blair crawled to the edge of the cot.

     "I'm afraid I have very little on the Pilgrims. Your father wiped my flash memory."

     "Don't you have anything? A temp file you forgot to erase?"

     "I'm sorry, Christopher."

     Blair stood and crossed to the latrine. He leaned over the sink for a few minutes, splashing warm water on his face. He eventually looked to the mirror, but his dark hair and dusky skin remained blurred by condensation. After drying off, he opened his locker door and withdrew a clean uniform.

     "Where are you going?" Merlin asked.

     "To talk to someone who may know more about the Pilgrims."

Part Two

After twenty minutes of travel, Blair found the hatch he had been looking for and touched the bell key.


     The door automatically opened, and Blair entered to admire Captain Taggart's spacious accommodations and bunk with thick mattress and comforter.

     "Except for a few specs of light, it's all emptiness," Taggart said, standing at a large viewport. "If it were up to me, I'd let the Kilrathi have it all--just leave Earth alone."

     "Sir? We need to talk."

     "I've been in a thousand different solar systems, and I've never seen anything in the void as beautiful as our own sun breaking through the clouds after a rainstorm ..." Taggart turned from the viewport. "What is it, Lieutenant?"

     Blair crossed to a well-padded chair and took a seat. "All my life I've been put down for being part Pilgrim--and I barely know why. Most people don't want to talk about it or don't really know why humans and Pilgrims hated each other so much."

     "That's right. Most people don't like to talk about it."

     "C'mon. You know about them. Tell me the long story about how you got the star charts. Have you ever met a real Pilgrim--not a half-breed like me? What are they like? What about the war? What do you know?"

     "You're one of the last descendants of a dying race," Taggart said.

     "Pilgrims were the first human space explorers and settlers. For five centuries they defied the odds. They embraced space and were rewarded with a gift: a flawless sense of direction. No computers, Blair. No compasses. No charts. They just knew. Then, in a small number, about one in a million, a change started to occur."

     "What kind of change?"

     "They learned to feel the magnetic fields created by black holes and quasars--to negotiate singularities. They learned to navigate not just the stars but space-time itself."

     Blair shook as a powerful chill fanned across his shoulders. To feel the magnetic fields created by black holes and quasars. To navigate space-time itself. It seemed impossible. And possible. And in his blood. "So the Pilgrims could perform like a NAVCOM AI."

     "You've got it backwards. The billions of calculations necessary to lead us through a black hole or quasar are the NAVCOM's recreation of the mind of a single Pilgrim."

     He nodded in wonder. "How did the war start?"

     Taggart moved back to the window, and as he did so, Blair saw his lips come together and his eyes get teary. "You spend so much time out here alone, you end up losing your humanity. The Pilgrims began to lose touch with their heritage. They saw themselves as superior to humans. And in their arrogance, they chose to abandon all things human in order to follow their destiny. Some say they believed they were gods, others that they were angels."

     "You believe they were gods?"

     "No. But I do believe they were touched by God." He looked back, his eyes still glassy. "And like it or not, you've got some of that inside you."

     Blair's people had done great things. And terrible things. Had they been gods? Demons? Where was the line? And now that he knew his heritage, where did he go from here? For every question answered, it seemed Taggart had raised three more. Blair simply wanted to ask, "So how do I live like this? What kind of life should I expect?" But the captain did not have the answers. No one did. Except Blair.

     Taggart sighed and said, "I have to get to the bridge. We'll be jumping in a few hours. I'd like you to be there."

     "I will." He ambled toward the window. "You mind if I stay here a while?"

     "No. Just don't drink my coffee."

     Blair grinned, then listened to him leave.

     Something flashed at the corner of his eye. Two patrolling Rapiers in tight formation pierced the night. Behind them, far in the distance, lay an enormous, flashing gulf that Blair recognized as a pulsar, a spinning, superdense mass of particles called neutrons. Blair wondered how many of his forefathers had jumped here.

     And he wondered how many other Pilgrims were still out there, considering their future among the stars.