Wing Commander Junior Novelization Prologue

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Book Wing Commander Junior Novelization
Parts 1
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Pages 1-6
Source Wing Commander Prologue

Dramatis Personae

Part 1

Thomas Sherryl


Rick Adunda
Benjamin Ferrago
Rene Gemma
Scott Osborne
William Wilson


Unnamed Security Officers (2)
Unnamed Kilrathi Marines (7+)


MARCH 15, 2654
0900 HOURS

Nineteen-year-old Radar Officer Thomas Sherryl sat at his console in Pegasus Station's NAVCOM control room. He stared through a wide viewport at the swirling blues and reds of the Charybdis Quasar. He looked past the whirlpool of gasses, past the black hole lying at the quasar's core like a giant mouth, until he imagined a glowing blue planet called Earth. Thomas Sherryl dreamed of things green. Of the smell and taste of real air. Of foamy ocean waters rushing up and across his chest. Of beach barbecues. Of friends. He no longer sat in his chair, surrounded by billions of tons of durasteel and ice-slick rock; he no longer felt the rumble of the naval base's enormous Ion engines moving the asteroid deeper into the corridor; he no longer had to work the night shift and look after instruments that did a fine job without his help. Thomas Sherryl had found his freedom. Goodbye towers, gun emplacements, and antennae. Good-bye Confederation capital ships sitting in your spacedocks. I'm no longer stuck on this rock. I got a ticket out. And it's a ticket no one can take away.

     "Hey, Tom? Can you cover for me?"

     Robbed of his fantasy, Thomas Sherryl scowled at fellow Radar Officer Rick Adunda as the other man set down his half-full coffee mug and left before Thomas replied.

     With a loud sigh that drew stares from the other people on duty, Thomas switched seats to Rick's console and studied the long-range sensor report: a blank screen. He eyed his own short-range display and found the same.

     Then he looked to Rick's coffee mug as it began to vibrate.

     A shadow passed over the viewport, followed by a second, then a third.

     Muffled explosions sounded from outside the control room.

     Jakoby, the stocky security officer on duty, rushed to the viewport.

     "Kilrathi fighters," he said stiffly.

     Alarms blared. Overhead lighting switched to the dim red of battle. Behind Thomas a panel of life-support monitors sizzled and shorted out. He glanced to a bank of screens that showed images from the station's outside cameras:

     Twelve comm dishes on the base's northwest side blew apart under the continuous Particle cannon and Meson fire.

     Dozens of Dralthi medium fighters swooped down and caught the great Confederation cruisers and destroyers still sitting helplessly in their berths. The fighters resembled glistening gray discs cut through their centers by sleek, single-point cockpits. Heatseeking missiles streaked away from them, locking onto the Confed ships' now-warming engines. The cruisers and destroyers retaliated with streams of tachyon fire, but dozens of missiles navigated through the laser bolts to impact on and weaken the Confed ships' shields. Another wave of those missiles would tear the ships apart.

     A drumming sound seized the NAVCOM control room as asteroid-based gun batteries finally came on line, shooting thick bolts of anti-starcraft fire.

     Thomas kept a white-knuckled grip on his chair as he continued to watch, growing more afraid. Like an angry swarm of plastisteel insects, the fighters dove at the station, dropped their bombs, and pulled up, leaving trails of floating debris in their wakes. For every Dralthi destroyed, another soared through the rubble.

     One of the heavy cruisers, the Iowa, launched a half-dozen F44-A Rapier medium attack fighters. The Rapiers had short, silver wings and brass-colored noses shaped like barrels that rotated as they fired lasers. The Rapiers were a very powerful fighter. But as they cleared the flight deck, Kilrathi fighters destroyed them with - Meson and missile fire that fully covered each ship before blasting it to gleaming fragments.

     Something struck heavily on Thomas's shoulder. He turned to find Rick Adunda staring wide-eyed at him. "What are you doing?"

     "I, uh, I don't know. I guess, well--"

     "Make your report!"

     Thomas swallowed and looked at his scope. "I count one-nine-zero bogies inbound. Vector three-seven-four, attack formation."

     "Shields are not responding," Security Officer Jakoby announced.

     The viewport filled with a harsh white light that peeled off the blackness of space. A tremendous thunderclap shook through the entire station as though a fusion bomb had detonated at its core.

     "I don't believe it," Ordnance Officer Scott Osborne said, squinting at the viewport as the glare faded. "That was the Iowa."

     He turned toward Thomas, his face growing pale.

     "Confirmed," Communications Officer Rene Gemma said. "The Iowa is gone. And the Kobi."

     Admiral Bill Wilson double-timed into the control room with an armored Confederation Marine in tow. He wiped the sweat from his bald head, and his face seemed to grow thinner as he stared out the viewport with weary eyes. He turned to Thomas. "Status?"

     Thomas jerked and studied his screen. "Four Kilrathi capital ships coming to bear, Admiral. They are powering weapons."

     With a crooked grin, Wilson asked, "How did they get past our patrols?"

     "We lost contact with our patrols for a few minutes," Comm Officer Gemma said. "But we reestablished. I thought it was quasar interference. The enemy must've taken them out and transmitted false signals."

     Security Officer Jakoby ran to his terminal. He touched the screen several times. "We have a station breach. Levels seven, eleven, and thirteen. Kilrathi Marines."

     Wilson hurried to a bank of security monitors beside Jakoby.

     Thomas stood to peer over the admiral's shoulder.

     Towering forms in copper-colored armor walked through the dim corridors, throwing weird shadows on the walls. Rebreather tubes partially hid their faces and snaked down from long heads to bulging chests. Green fumes trailed behind them as they pounded forward.

     A pair of Confed security officers fired at the aliens. Two of the Kilrathi withstood the point-blank hits and thundered on to grab the officers. Thomas turned away as he listened to the women shriek, gurgle, and fall silent.

     "They're headed for Command and Control," Jakoby reported.

     Thomas may have only been a radar officer, but he knew very well what the aliens wanted. He flicked his gaze to the opposite end of the control room, to the massive computer system shielded by a synthoglass wall, a mainframe that represented the very heart and brain of Pegasus Station. At the system's center lay that small, most precious black box with the letters "NAVCOM" written across its side.

     Clenching his teeth, Wilson charged toward the computer system. "Destroy the NAVCOM AI. Now!" he ordered Benjamin Ferrago, the chief navigator.

     Ferrago typed frantically on his touchpad, then, balling his hand into a fist, he smashed a glass panel to gain access to a red handle. He threw the handle forward and looked to the black box. Nothing happened. "Command codes have been overwritten."

     Wilson whirled and took the Confed Marine's conventional rifle, dropped the slide back, then aimed at the NAVCOM. Thomas flinched as uranium-depleted rounds ricocheted off the synthoglass. Wilson emptied the entire clip before turning the rifle around. With a howl, he charged toward the NAVCOM and drove the rifle's butt into the glass. The stock shattered.

     Another concussion echoed from outside. The lift's massive, reinforced doors began distorting, bending in, as the Kilrathi Marines outside fired at it.

     "Here," Rick said, slapping a sidearm in Thomas's hand. He winked. "Special arakh rounds. Kilrathi catnip. We Terrans stick together."

     "Where'd you get this? We're going to get in--"

     "Big trouble? You kidding me?" Rick clicked off the safety of his own pistol. "Let's go."

     Thomas followed Rick past the radar and navigation stations to partition opposite the lift doors, where they huddled and watched the doors grow hotter and weaker.

     Admiral Wilson regarded Comm Officer Gemma with a serious look. "Prepare a drone. Get me a coded channel."

     Gemma seemed lost for a moment, then she touched the correct keys and nodded to the admiral.

     Wilson faced the camera at Gemma's station as it turned toward him. "This is Admiral Bill Wilson, Pegasus Station commanding officer. Four Kilrathi capital ships are closing. Station has been breached. They want the NAVCOM."

     The lift doors blew off their glide tracks and thwacked the deck with twin thuds. A cloud of toxic smoke swelled into the control room. Within that smoke, Thomas saw the outline of a Kilrathi Marine as it bent down and ignited its weapon.

     Rick pumped rounds into the smoke, as did some of the other officers. Thomas saw a half-dozen more outlines appear behind the first, and the sight sent him ducking behind the partition.

     "Drone away!" Gemma shouted.

     Thomas looked back at the viewport. The tiny drone streaked away from the dying station, bound for the nearest Confederation carrier, the Concordia, some twelve hours away. It passed in front of the Kilrathi battle group that included a dreadnought, two destroyers, and the largest vessel, a Snakeir-class cruiser. Transports and smaller escort ships flew next to the capital ships for protection.

     An explosion stung Thomas's ears, and he saw Rick fall against the partition. Rick had been shot in the chest.

     Thomas wanted to act, but he could only tremble. He heard heavy footsteps. Close. Loud breathing, mechanized. Oh, God. What's that smell? He looked over his shoulder at the Kilrathi Marine standing over him, its polished armor reflecting explosions from outside, its pale yellow eyes growing wide.

     As Thomas lifted his pistol, the Kilrathi plucked it from him, grunted, and kicked him onto his back. The soldier pressed its boot on his chest, cutting off his air.

     In those last seconds, Thomas took himself away from Pegasus, through the jump point at Charybdis, and back home to his friends, to his family, to all that he loved.