Wing Commander in Real Time - Day 1 - 2200 Zulu

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You want to live forever?

Great answer. Really instills
confidence in the crew.

PALADIN shoves the last chip into place.

MERLIN appears again.

As I was saying, this antiquated vessel
is riddled with structural flaws. In
my opinion it cannot survive the jump--

Navigation system comes to life.

Suddenly, on a computer screen, the heads up display and
trajectory appear. BLAIR looks at it, doesn't move.

Plot your course, Mr. Blair!

BLAIR snaps out of it, pulls the cross from his vest,
squeezed it for luck. He bangs in the coordinates, steers
the Diligent on the plotted course. MANIAC starts to
scream a crazy, joyous scream.

--in fact, I would calculate our
chances of survival as twenty-seven
point two percent. I implore you...


Tiny ship enters the gravity well, following the plotted
course. It starts to shudder as it pushes against the
barrier of time-space.


The nature and content of the environment changes.
Stars, planets--everything--disappears. And then
everything seems to freeze: PALADIN moving towards the
bridge, MANIAC holding on, screaming at the top of his
lungs, BLAIR at the flight controls,
MERLIN pointing
at the approaching singularity.


A flash of light and the Diligent appears. There's no
sign of the our solar system or the gravity well, only
new and unfamiliar stars and distant planets.


BLAIR, PALADIN, a s till screaming MANIAC are jolted by
the entry.
MERLIN picks up where he left off.

...stop this madness. That man is
quite probably insane.
He will kill us all.
(Realizing where he is.)

BLAIR looks around. They're alive. PALADIN looks hard and
long at Blair -- he sees something.

What happened?

You just plotted a jump trough a
gravity well. In under five seconds. A
NAVCOM can't do that.

MANIAC, face flush with the rush of the jump, turns to
Blair, impressed.

Not bad for the second best pilot at
the Academy.

PALADIN turns to Maniac.

Shut up Next time you fail to follow my
orders, I'll dump you with the rest of
the garbage. Plot a course for the
Tiger Claw, Mr. Blair.

Yes, sir.

PALADIN exits the bridge, a pissed off MANIAC staring
after him.

That guy has some serious issues.




MARCH 15, 2654
2200 HOURS

"This antiquated vessel is riddled with structural flaws," Merlin said,
appearing atop the copilot's console. "In my opinion, it cannot survive the
Marshall shouted the final countdown: 'Three…" Taggart shoved a
protein chip into place—"… two…"—then jiggled a wire. "… one!"
The navigation system snapped on, panels warming to their normal
glow, coordinates spilling across four screens in front of Blair. Snap.
Everything went dark. Snap. Everything came back. "Come on!" Marshall
After a tiny spark and loud hum, the HUD returned with a suggested
trajectory marked by a thick green line through Scylla. Blair read the
coordinates and studied the course, but something deep inside him said
the computer was wrong. He couldn't explain the feeling, but he had felt it
before, at the academy, during blind navigation simulator runs. The
feeling tugged on his mind, his heart, and something even greater.
"Plot your course, Mr. Blair," Taggart said.
Mother? Father? Be with me now. Blair pulled out his cross and
squeezed it. Then he obeyed the feeling as it told him to close his eyes. His
fingers glided over the touchpad as though it were a musical instrument
hardwired to the quantum level. Then he opened his eyes and stared at the
upper left screen: COURSE PLOTTED.
Drawing in a long breath and holding it, Blair steered the Diligent into
the gravity well. The viewport grew darker as Scylla robbed more and
more starlight. Shuddering again, the ship pressed harder against the
barrier of space-time that lay at the singularity's core.
Marshall released a long howl over the cacophony of rattling consoles
and conduits.
"As I was saying before I was so rudely cut off," Merlin cried, "I would
calculate our chances of survival at twenty-seven point two percent. I
implore you…"
Blair glared at the hologram as the screens shook so violently that he
held them, fearing they would snap off their swingarms.
Three, two, one and the Diligent pierced the barrier
Though his eyes remained open, Blair could only see a dark void
speckled occasionally by flakes of yellow light. He turned his head. The
void surrounded him. He cried out to Marshall. The pilot did not answer.
Then Blair realized that he hadn't heard himself call out, that all of his
senses had been shut down, replaced by…
The feeling.
Never had he felt it so strongly, a connection to the universe that made
no sense, that made perfect sense. The subatomic particles of his body had
never belonged to him in the first place. They had always belonged to the
universe. He understood at least that much of the feeling now.
Scylla's gravitational forces caused matter to have infinite density and
infinitesimal volume, while also causing space and time to become
infinitely distorted.
But Blair's coordinates somehow broke those rules.
The Diligent's bridge reappeared as quickly as it had vanished. But life
still hung between seconds, between particles, frozen. Taggart stood
immobile on his way toward the bridge. Marshall leaned back in his chair,
in midscream. Merlin pointed at the gravity well and bit his lower lip. And
Blair somehow observed this while feeling as though he could move his
body, but seeing that he could not.
His moment of inexplicable peace, silence, unity, continued for one
minute, for a thousand years, for infinity, the distinctions became
Yet at some point, a point Blair could not single out, a nova-bright light
engulfed the Diligent as she shed Scylla's arms and plunged back into
normal space.
With his senses recovered, Blair recoiled from the still-rattling ship and
Marshall's screaming, from the stench of frayed wires, and from the pain
in his hands at keeping such a tight grip on his displays. The return left
him feeling empty, as though he had forgotten part of himself and needed
to head back. The others would not appreciate that desire.
"Stop this madness," Merlin demanded. "That man is quite probably
insane. He'll kill us all." Merlin looked over his shoulder at Taggart's
approach. "Oh."
But the captain shifted past the hologram to level his gaze at the nav
computer's display. He opened his mouth, looked at Blair, started to say
something, then just stared.
Unnerved by Taggart's odd look, Blair asked, "What happened?"
Taggart held back a laugh. "You just plotted a jump through a gravity
well in under five seconds. A NAVCOM can't do that." His gaze averted to
Blair's chest.
Seeing this, Blair gripped his cross for a moment before slipping it
under his shirt. "I don't know what to say. I guess I just felt something
back there."
"You didn't use the nav computer's trajectory. Why didn't you trust it?"
"I don't know."
Marshall, his face still flushed, turned to Blair and nodded. "Who cares
how he did it? That was one hell of a rocket ride. Not bad for the
second-best pilot at the academy."
"Shut up," Taggart barked, turning to Marshall. "The next time you fail
to follow my orders, I'll dump you with the rest of the garbage. You read
me, Lieutenant Marshall?"
Tensing, Marshall kept his gaze forward and replied, "Yes, sir. I read
you clearly, sir."
Satisfied that Marshall had been duly reprimanded, Taggart redirected
his attention. "Plot a course for the Tiger Claw, Mr. Blair."
"Yes, sir."
Taggart rubbed his eyes, sighed loudly, then walked off the bridge.
The flush that had filled Marshall's face during the jump lingered,
fueled now by the young man's anger. He looked after Taggart until the
man moved out of earshot. "That guy has some serious issues."
"He's all right," Blair said quietly.
"You heard me."
Marshall snickered. "Yeah, I guess he likes you 'cause you kinda saved
his ass."
"Kinda saved yours, too."
This time Blair snickered. "Fortunate for you."
"So, did you find out anything about his tattoo?"
"Not yet."
"You find out anything about him?"
"He knows a lot about history."
"Whose history? Ours… or the enemy's?"
"Let's not talk," Blair said, piloting the Diligent toward the distant
carrier, ETA: fourteen minutes.
"Well, thank God we're almost rid of the man. Imagine having him for a
wing commander? He wouldn't last a day."
"Or you wouldn't."
Marshall raised his lip in disgust. "Like you said, let's not talk."