After the Vega Campaign
The following entry continues the memoirs of Lt. Col. Carl T. LaFong as found in Wing Commander I and II: The Ultimate Strategy Guide.
Previous Memoir Entry: Omega Wing (Venice System)
After the Vega Campaign
It was the first time I had ever seen the Colonel enter the pilot's bar much less hoist a mug of Goddard's Special. The party had started as soon as word came down that the Kilrathi had abandoned the Vega Sector. Halcyon held up his mug and asked for quiet. "I'd like to propose a toast," he yelled.
It took a while to get everyone's attention. People were hooting and hollering, dancing and drinking. Knight was balancing a glass of champagne on his forehead and trying to limbo. He was drenched from previous attempts. Eventually, a semblance of order was established and the Colonel could at least be heard. "I've been fighting the Kilrathi for almost 20 years," the colonel said, "and this is the first time the Confederation has ever claimed a major victory. We've won our share of battles before, sure, but this could turn out to be the real turning point in the war. Those blasted cats will never look at humans in the same way again."
The room erupted in whoops and cheers. Grinning, Halcyon held up his hand to calm the crowd.
"Since I won't have the chance to speak with each of you personally," he said, "I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you collectively. This is the finest group of pilots ever assembled on a space carrier and I'm proud to have been associated with each one of you. Enjoy the moment, people. To freedom!" Halcyon, along with everyone else, raised the mug and finished off the contents in one long gulp. He wiped his chin with his sleeve, put down the empty, and left the room.
I walked around the room, trying to make sure I talked with everyone for a few minutes. I thanked the veterans, who'd flown on my wing, for keeping me alive. I congratulated the other rookies on their stellar performances, and shared a joke or two with Shotglass behind the bar. I kept looking for Maniac, and was surprised that he wasn't the center of attention. I always figured that he would be right in his element during a celebration.
I found Maniac wedged into a small alcove to the left of the bar. He was sitting alone. I walked over and took a seat. "Lighten up, Maniac. You look like something the cat threw up on the carpet," I said.
"I didn't ask you to sit down, Prankster, and I really don't want to hear another lecture about how everything will be okay," he replied without a smile. "Most of the pilots won't give me the time of day or even play a game of grav-ball. They're all asking the Colonel for a change in assignment when I'm scheduled to fly their wing. This duty sucks."
I left Maniac to his own misery, and tried to enjoy the party. It wasn't easy. I kept thinking of the cocky, obnoxious guy I'd met at the academy and fought against in the simulator. I didn't like him then, but I appreciated what he could do for our cause as a combat pilot. Now, in a lot of ways, I felt sorry for him, and I was worried about the effect he would have on the people on the Tiger's Claw. He was changing, becoming morose, aloof, and indignant. Something had to be done.
The Maniac Solution
Halcyon didn't usually entertain personal meetings with pi-lots, preferring that all communication move through the proper channels. I was insistent, however, and found myself seated across the desk from the colonel a day later.
"Sir, we're all concerned about Maniac, but I think I have a solution to the situation," I explained.
"If Maniac didn't have to fly on someone's wing, or with someone on his wing, he'd be the best combat pilot in the fleet. There's not a pilot alive who can match his instincts or skills on a one-on-one basis. He isn't much on taking orders, but we can use that to our advantage."
"Get to the point, LaFong," he said.
"I was hoping you'd talk to Admiral Tolwyn, sir. Maybe the Confederation could use Maniac on special solo missions where his impetuous nature wouldn't interfere. I'm not sure he'll sur vive unless we make some changes. I know I'm just a rookie pilot, sir, but I think my idea has a lot of merit."
Halcyon was surprised. "I'd never thought of anything like that, LaFong, but it might be worth a try. Everyone in the fleet is keeping a close eye on Marshall, you know. If he doesn't watch out, he'll have a Section 8 on his record and never be able to fly again. I'll talk to the Admiral."
About two days later, Halcyon called me to his office. "The admiral has turned down your idea, LaFong. Tolwyn said that a pilot who couldn't listen to a wingleader, probably wouldn't listen to whoever assigned a secret mission either. He said the TCSN was not in the habit of assigning missions based on an individual's idiosyncrasies."
Another fine example of flexibility, I thought. We'd just have to try and work things out with Maniac on the Tiger's Claw. I wasn't enthused by the chances for success.
The Party's Over
After the initial euphoria had diminished, people on the Tiger's Claw began anticipating what might come next. With rumors of new weapons systems to be installed, some thought the Claw might be sent to spacedock. Other scuttlebutt mentioned patrol duty back in the Terran Sector. The common thread was that everyone thought of spending some time at home.
"It's been almost a year since I saw my wife Chen and baby daughter," noted Bossman. "I think everyone's looking forward to getting off the carrier, and taking care of personal business. We've been on emergency combat duty for a long time, and I think we're all ready for a break."
Personally, I just wanted to get out of space for a while. I liked the comraderie of life on the space carrier, and I enjoyed the spectacular views as we jumped from one sector to another. I loved the feeling of rushing through a launch tube, and, in some ways, the adrenalin rush of combat. But I was ready to go home. I hadn't seen my parents since my final year assignment on the Formidable. I hadn't fished, hiked, been on a date or played with my dog in more than two years.
When I returned to my cabin, I flipped the switch on the computer, activated the comm network, and looked for the latest war news. After all, Vega sector wasn't the only place we had been fighting the Kilrathi. The main story, filed just moments before I logged on, caught my attention. All communication had been lost with the colonists on Goddard in the Deneb Sector. The cause was unknown.
Just as I finished the story, I was notified of a priority message on the intra-ship network. Those messages were seldom good news, and this was no exception. Everyone was ordered to their comm stations for a general announcement at 0900 tomorrow. A pilot's briefing would follow at 1000 hours.
I shut down the system, hit the showers and headed for my bunk. Damn, I thought, it doesn't look like anyone will see home in the near future. I was almost in tears.
The Secret Missions: Operation Thor's Hammer
Operation Thor's Hammer (LaFong)