- by Lt. Colonel Carl T. LaFong (TCSN, Retired)
I never thought I would write a book about the Kilrathi Wars. After all, the 27th century's greatest historians, novelists, and journalists have already dissected the subject. Dr. David Johnson's four-volume Intergalactic War was called "the finest historical work in the last two hundred years." Sandra Chang's Illusions, a fictional work based on her experiences as a war correspondent for the Global Times, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2689. So why would I choose to compete with such a group?
My background is certainly a factor. I was assigned to the TCS Tiger's Claw in 2654, immediately following my graduation from the TCSN Academy. I spent the next two years as a pilot on the space carrier and was one of the few who survived the Vega, Goddard and Firekka Campaigns. With combat commissions, I rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Lt. Colonel during those years and returned safely from more missions than any other pilot in history. But that's only part of the story.
I was blamed erroneously for the destruction of the Tiger's Claw and suffered the indignity of a court martial. I was exonerated on all charges, but I was known as the "Traitor of K'Tithrak Mang" for the following ten years that I spent at the Caernarvon Space Station. During the Enigma Campaign I served aboard the TCS Concordia and the truth concerning the demise of the Tiger's Claw finally came out.
A little more than two years ago, I received an unusual call from this brash kid who identified himself as Tristan Roberts. I could tell he expected me to recognize the name, but he might have been the local cat-catcher for all I knew. "LaFong," he said, "I want to hire you as a consultant for my next bionetic holo-vid." After some pointed questions, I figured out what he was doing and what he wanted me for.
Now I don't keep up with the celebrity scene, but it turns out that Roberts is the hottest director in the holo-vid industry. Well, he had decided that his next projects, the Wing Commander series, would let people experience the Kilrathi Wars as a pilot on the TCS Tiger's Claw, and in the sequel, aboard the Concordia. That's where I entered the picture.
"I pride myself on accuracy," Roberts said, "and you're the man who can make sure I achieve my goal. I don't just want the numbers, times and dates correct; I want to make sure the feelings, emotions and relationships are on target as well." Following many hours of negotiation, and his assurances that the holo-vid would stick to the way things really were, I agreed.
I don't think I've ever had so much fun and been paid for it as well. I was treated like royalty, squired around by a grade-5 robot chaffeur in a spanking new solar, anti-grav limo, and fed fruits imported from the second planet in the Brimstone System. I'll tell you, it was quite a few cuts above what an old, retired naval officer is used to. As far as my consultation, Roberts kept to his word and made every effort at recreating the tension, agony and exhilaration of the missions flown from the carriers.
Recently released, Wing Commander I and Wing Commander II have spawned a resurgence in public interest about the Kilrathi Wars in general, and the vital role of our space carriers specifically. I've even found myself on the talk show circuit, promoting the holo-vid and answering questions about my combat experience. It's been pretty heady stuff for a 73-year-old codger who thought vivid memories were all that remained in life.
As the project progressed, the idea of writing a book kept sneaking into my thoughts. In the first place, while the new entertainment technology is astonishing, it can't re-create completely the 15 years of lessons learned and friendships earned aboard the Tiger's Claw and Concordia. A book can, or at least it can from a different viewpoint, and I hope that has been accomplished on the following pages.
Secondly, since the vid-game is so realistic, reading of what actually took place on the missions in the Kilrathi Wars will help players who challenge the cats-eyed aliens in the detailed simulation. Finally, while we haven't encountered hostile alien races since the Kilrathi, the possibility always exists, and today's pilots might benefit from this first-person account of those horrifying years.
During my stint at the Terran Confederation Space Naval Academy, I made a promise to myself. I vowed that if I ever had the opportunity to reach an immense group of people I would be sure to deliver a special message. I finally have that chance...
Next Section: The Academy Years