Correspondence: Taggart to Tolwyn
** Personal and Confidential **
TO: Admiral Tolwyn, The Concordia
How do you like the new letterhead? I'm greatly looking forward to beginning my adventures as a Free Trader. I expect this will be the last status report you receive directly from me, since once I'm in Vega these channels will no longer be secure. The Diligent herself seems eager to be back in space (I feel a great affinity for the old girl, and am quite sure she has a personality). The last of the special equipment arrived safely and should be installed in a day or two.
I do appreciate the amount of freedom you've given me on this assignment. I trust you'll not find it misplaced. I want to take a few moments to set out the priorities of my rather unusual commission, as I see them.
Basically, the Diligent and I will be doing pretty much what the Ebenezer and I did during the Pilgrim affair, the difference being that this time around I don't have to pretend to be anybody other than who I am . . . a broken down old spacehand trying to survive long enough to earn a comfortable retirement. I'm certainly not going to miss the prayer meetings and con/crit sessions of my former assignment (although I did rather enjoy the transcendence dances).
At the moment, I see three distinct priorities to my operations (once I get my cover firmly established, and putting aside those unique situations which I'm sure will arise).
The first and simplest of my jobs is more or less ragpicking. By that I mean finding the various hardware that the Kilrathi may have managed to stash around Vega, and either dealing with it myself or turning it over to the attention of the proper agencies. This is almost mechanical, but I confess a certain enthusiasm for the job. There's a healthy dose of terrier to my personality, and I expect that sniffing out and digging up these Kilrathi “bones” will be a satisfying pastime. The other agreeable thing about this part of the mission is that it is best accomplished in glorious solitude.
The second priority will require getting my hands a bit dirtier. I refer to the process of ferreting out those humans who may be engaged with the Kilrathi. While seeking out and shutting down espionage proper must, of course, always remain a priority—and I'll certainly keep my eye out for it—I suspect that the thrust of my personal efforts will lie somewhere elsewhere. I'm most interested in finding those commercial outlets to the Empire. The cats may want all humanity dead and roasted in the long run, but until that day Confed has things that the cats want (and vice versa, of course). Where the desire exists, the means emerge, and if we can find or end of the Human-Kilrathi black market—however small and desperate it may be—that will be an important breakthrough. You see, when you catch a spy—especially a good one—the only thing you can really do with him is kill him. A smuggler or pirate, on the other hand, is a resource that can be used by our side (do I teach grandma how to suck eggs?). I hope to uncover such resources.
Finally, we have the Pilgrim question to consider. I mu st confess that when you first mentioned Pilgrim subversion, I was inclined to regard the suspicion as alarmist jingoism. Lately, however, I've been revising my opinions. I still don't see the remnants of the Alliance proper as a direct threat—our watch is too close, but more importantly they're spiritually broken. However, as Milton knew, it is not possible to kill an idea. McDaniel's words are still out there, and I would not be surprised if they find listeners in the near future. There's the colonists, of course—tension between the outer systems and Terra is growing every day. I also suggest, sir, that you look to your own officers. I do not say this to spread dissension, nor out of any disrespect for your command, but from an objective sense of history. The seductive elitism of the Pilgrim way is particularly tempting to a certain kind of military man. Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? If the Pilgrim ideals can find fertile ground among a force as vital as either the colonies or the military, then even the ashes of the original Alliance may start to stir.
But I'll leave you to look after your staff; I'll be operating on a rather more basic level. I believe I can say without immodesty that I'm as qualified as anyone you've got to look for manifestations of Pilgrim thought, however they may emerge. Noveau-Pilgrims may try to take advantage of the Kilrathi crisis for their own ends (insanity, of course, but we are speaking of fanatics here), and the possibility of Pilgrim-Kilrathi alliance cannot be discounted. The Nazis and Japanese had no trouble finding each other.
I trust that the above priorities meet with your approval, and again my thanks for this chance to be of service to Confed and Humanity.
My best to Gillian and the rest of the crew at the spookhouse.
- James Taggart
P.S. Just got the names of my outbound supercargo. Knowing you, I'm sure it's safe to presume that it's no coincidence that the son of Arnold Blair (or, more particularly, the son of Devi Soulsong) has been assigned to my ship. I knew Devi quite well, and I knew her grandfather, old Solomon Truepath, as well. I imagine you're keeping a weather-eye on young Lieutenant Blair. If the Truepath heritage continues in the Blair boy . . . well, I'm sure we both understand the significance.
I'll certainly give this Blair a good once-over, although I must confess I hope there's nothing amiss with the lad . . . his parents deserved so much better than they got. I've always applauded your decision to allow them to rest in peace. But I tarry too long among old ghosts.
Behind the Screens
From Official Authorized Wing Commander Confederation Handbook, edited by Chris McCubbin, "correspondence, taggart to tolwyn", 126-128, HarperCollins Publishers.