Wing Commander in Real Time - Day 2 - 1130 Zulu

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Into the void -- suddenly two patrolling Rapiers streak
by in the distance. They're framed by a brilliant,
swirling Quasar.

SC 47-65 OMIT


(over radio)
Don't take it personally, nugget --
it's a question of estrogen. Women can
outfly and outshoot men -- we do better
at multitasking, we can keep track of
four enemy fighters.


Hey, it takes balls, not ovaries to
handle four enemy fighters: nothing
(a beat)
Watch this.
(to Flight Boss)
This is Delta Two. Permission to land?

(over radio)
Delta Two, you are cleared to land.


Maniac fires the afterburners on his Rapier, banks hard.
Pulls into line with the opening flight deck doors.

Ooo! That must have been at least three

Then Maniac rolls his craft UPSIDE DOWN and guns the

Try this...


Delta Two, you're coming in too hot.
Abort. I repeat, abort!...Delta Two?
Do you copy? Shit!


An alarm barks out. Yellow clad deck personnel scramble
to get out of the way of the oncoming Rapier. Which is
still upside down.


As Maniac's ship rockets through the hanger bay doors


MANIAC jerks his flight stick hard right.


And the Rapier flips over and touches down!

Not any more.

The Rapier fires it's reverse thrusters and brakes. The
Rapier pulls to a halt just feet in front of a fuel truck
and DECKMASTER PETERSON who was desperately trying to get
the truck's driver to get his vehicle out of the Rapier's

I'm going to have your wings,
Lieutenant! Just wait until your wing
leader... DELTA ONE!

And Forbes' Rapier is coming in UPSIDE DOWN TOO!

(to Maniac)
Now what were you saying?

Forbes' Rapier does a 340 DEGREE ROLL, righting itself at
the last possible moment and touching down.

Now, that's how you do it!

Maniac is already out of his cockpit. He walks up to
Forbes' ship. The Deck crew keeps their distance --
still traumatized by Maniac's and Forbes' antics.

Forbes' cockpit pops open -- she's got a huge grin on her

You did that to impress me.

Just trying to re-direct some of that

They look at each other, sharing the adrenaline buzz.

FORBES (Cont'd)
You're a total Maniac!

"Maniac" Marshall at your service,

And Maniac has a new callsign. They start giggling like a
couple of high school kids who just played a game of
chicken. Then...

Oh shit.

She's looking past Maniac at DEVERAUX who stands on the
flight deck, rigid and fuming.





MARCH 16, 2654
1130 HOURS

"See, when I'm not flying I'm like a pit bull pulling on his leash. You
know he's going to break the leash any second, but you don't dare reach
down to set him free—unless you're in the mood to sacrifice a few fingers.
And you go ahead and do your homework on pit bulls. They were
originally bred for dogfighting. Pun intended here, baby. Pun most
definitely intended." First Lieutenant Todd Marshall grinned so hard that
it hurt. Then he accelerated ahead of Lieutenant Forbes's Rapier, leaving
her in the maelstrom of his wash.
Dialing up the rear turret view, Marshall watched as Forbes expertly
recovered, kicked in her afterburners, and burst toward him like a rabid
hawk. "This is a security patrol, nugget," she said sternly. "Unauthorized
maneuvers will not be tolerated. You'd better get with—or out of—the
program." Her Rapier settled in beside his, and he looked over, but too
many dazzles of reflected light from the carrier obscured her canopy.
"Unauthorized maneuvers?" Marshall cried. "What the hell does that
"I don't know," she said, then rocketed ahead of him. As her thruster
wash enveloped his fighter, the stick whipped out of his hand, triggering a
beeping alarm and automated mes-sage: "Pilot control lost. Do you want
to engage autopilot? If you do not respond in five seconds, autopilot will
automatically engage. Five, four—"
Seizing the stick and cutting off the countdown, Marshall cursed,
throttled up, and went hunting. He streaked after Forbes for thirty
seconds, then got creative. He yanked the stick toward his chest, going
ballistic for a handful of seconds before leveling off. Forbes now lay ahead,
at his twelve o'clock low and in his cone of fire. He swooped down toward
her, one eye shielded by the Heads Up Display viewer attached to his
helmet. The smart targeting reticle superimposed on the HUD floated just
ahead of her Rapier, a tiny green circle that said, "Shoot here, dummy."
"What the hell's the matter with you?" Forbes screamed. "You got
missile lock on me?"
"I got you locked up so tight, Lieutenant, it's a miracle you can still
"Break off!"
"Can't help you there, Ace." He leaned a little more on the throttle and
considered her next move.
She could perform a burnout, hitting afterburners and leaping so far
ahead of him that she could pull a tight one-eighty to open up on him.
Or she could go for a fishhook: Make a ninety-degree right turn, then
follow up immediately with a one-eighty that would put her on a
starboard intercept course.
If she felt uninspired, she'd go for the old hard brake, in an attempt to
make him overshoot her. But Marshall had responded to that textbook
trick too many times. Once he overshot her, he would stall the thrusters
and use retros to make the tightest one-eighty she would ever witness.
While inverted, he'd lock on her nose. Ciao, baby.
She probably wouldn't attempt a kickstop or a turn 'n' spin, knowing all
too well that making a simple ninety-degree turn would not cause him to
fly by her, whether she killed her engines or not. Likewise for the shake,
rattle, and roll. No combination of slaloming would lose him now.
"What are you going to do, Forbes? Tick. Tick. Tick. Doncha hear the
Her answer came with a burst of afterburners. She tipped her nose up
until inverted, then flew straight at him as his proximity alarm wailed.
Marshall had all of two seconds to comprehend the game of chicken.
Even as he shifted the stick to dive, their canopies came within a few
centimeters. A howl rose from his throat as her tail wings grazed his
fuselage with a horrible screech, then—
The fighters cleared each other. He held course, panting into his O2
mask, wondering what the hell had just happened.
"Are we ready to hit the first nav point?" Forbes asked. "Or do you still
want to play?"
"You're the female version of me," Marshall said, dumbfounded.
"Correction, stud. You're the male version of me. With a lot of practice,
you may one day fly in my shadow."
Marshall's left VDU switched to Commander Gerald's grim mug.
"Lieutenant Marshall. We've been unable to contact Lieutenant Forbes.
What's going on out there?"
"Stand by, sir." Marshall dialed up Forbes on a secure channel. "Hey,
Lieutenant. Gerald's flipping out."
"I know. Flight control's been hailing me, but I've blocked their signal.
They probably handed the problem to Gerald. I'll take care of this."
"Roger." He toggled back to Gerald's channel. "She's replying now, sir."
Then Marshall listened in as Forbes lied about communication and
maneuvering problems and that both had now been solved. "En route to
first nav point, sir."
Five thousand kilometers ahead sat an indistinct pocket of space
designated as nav point one, the first of three stops on their grand security
tour of nothingness. Marshall activated navigation mode and glanced at
the white cross-hairs on his radar scope and HUD. He adjusted course
until the cross-hairs each floated in their centers. The rest of the radar
display had been divided by quadrants and would flash in the appropriate
quadrant when he took a missile or laser hit, not that he had seen that
flash very often.
Sometimes he wished the Rapier's controls were more sophisticated,
more challenging. The Rapier was, after all, a very real fighter, not some
funzone simulator used to zap computer-generated targets. Yet her
controls were just as simple to operate. Then again, that simplicity gave
him a hell of a lot more time to concentrate on whacking Kilrathi.
"Delta Two? I'm lined up," Forbes reported.
"Roger. Good light over here," he said, glancing at the autopilot display,
the AUTO button now illuminated.
"Engage autopilot on my mark. Mark."
Marshall tapped the key and felt the familiar and humbling force of the
Rapier's twin thrusters as they propelled him toward the point. He yawned
into his headset, not realizing how loud he'd been.
Forbes appeared in his left VDU. "I guess it's the same with all you
men," she said. "Give you just a little bit of action, and you're spent.
Completely spent."
"Blame it on the Scotch."
"You can't keep up with me. Scotch or otherwise."
Before he could offer his own cutting rejoinder, the Rapier abruptly
decreased velocity. The nav point lay just a klick ahead. He checked the
radar. A single blue blip that represented Forbes's Rapier stood off to port,
otherwise the zone remained clear. "Looks like we got zip here, Lieutenant.
How boring is this?"
"Sometimes boring is good," she said. "Especially when your wingman's
"Or a woman."
"Whoa, you are going to pay for that."
"My credit's good."
"You know, when I joined up, they told me I'd come across some male
chauvinism. I couldn't believe it. I was like, what century are we living in?
Female pilots have been flying combat missions for over six hundred
"And we men have been harassing you for just as long. It ain't going to
change, Forbes. So long as there's a difference."
"You mean as long as assholes like you keep flying."
"Look. I didn't mean what I said. I mean the woman part. I mean, yeah,
you're a woman. You really are. But you know what I mean. I just said
that to rattle you."
"Maybe you're right. You're not a chauvinist. You're just prejudiced
against all other pilots because you see them as competitors."
"They're not my competitors. They're my fans."
"Oh, God. Get me to the next nav point before I barf."
"I'm good to go," he said, waving.
She switched off the video. "Autopilot. Mark."
Nav point two, a sprawling vista of outer-space real estate that yielded
lovely views of more nothingness, came and went without enemy contact,
as did nav point three. With the sweep completed, they started back for
the carrier, passing the next security patrol pilots as they took their
Rapiers out to new nav points and new heights of boredom.
Once the autopilot had disengaged at 2,200 kilometers out from the
Claw, Forbes queried the ship and requested clearance to land. They were
put on standby. Marshall's eyelids grew heavy, and he longed for a shower,
for his cot.
"Hey, Marshall. I've been thinking a lot about this male-female thing.
Don't take it personally. It's just a question of estrogen. Women can outfly
and outshoot men. We don't manhandle our instruments, and we do
better at multitasking. We can keep track of four enemy fighters."
Marshall snapped from his doze. "Hey, it takes balls not ovaries—to
handle four enemy fighters. Nothing personal." He glanced at the opening
flight deck doors. "Watch this." Toggling to the flight boss's channel, he
said, "This is Delta Two. Permission to land?"
The flight boss's beefy face clicked on the VDU. "Delta Two. You are
cleared to land."
Tensing every muscle in his body, Marshall fired the afterburners and
banked hard, lining up with the flight deck.
"Whoa, that must've been three Gs," Forbes said sarcastically.
Taking his cue, Marshall cut the stick hard left and rolled as he gunned
the throttle. "Try this." Inverted, he raced down toward the runway.
"Delta Two. You're coming in too hot," the flight boss cried, his face a
survey course in fear. "Abort. I repeat. Abort. Delta Two. Do you copy?
But Marshall held course, gazing up at the runway, now his ceiling, as,
in the distance, orange-suited insects made way. He approached the
energy field between vacuum and atmosphere.
"No. You are!" Marshall shouted back, then released a cackle. The
Rapier vibrated sharply as it penetrated the energy barrier and roared
into the hangar, a dampened echo in its wake.
"Dammit, man. You're inverted!"
"Not anymore," Marshall told the keen-eyed flight boss. He jammed the
stick left and rolled upright.
But he had misjudged his speed. Even as he fired retros, he knew he
would overshoot the runway by at least twenty, maybe thirty meters.
And worse, dead ahead lay a fuel truck, strategically placed by God to
punish one First Lieutenant Todd Marshall, the Confederation's
egomaniac par excellence.
The deckmaster, a man named Peterson with a tax auditor's sense of
humor, ran across the runway and toward the fuel truck. As he crossed in
front of the vehicle, headed toward the driver's side to holler at the
stunned driver, he froze, his arms extended across the truck's hood.
Marshall blasted toward him, retros wailing to the heavens, wings and
fuselage rattling so violently that he thought the fighter would simply
shatter across the deck before ever stopping.
Peterson's mouth opened as he resigned himself to his fate.
The Rapier slowed but kept moving.
Snap! Click! And Marshall got thrown forward, his harness digging into
his shoulders. The retros dropped from their soprano into a comforting,
easy baritone. The Rapier settled onto her landing skids to reveal
Peterson, still clutching the truck. The deckmaster reached out with a
shaky hand and touched the Rapier's nose cannon. "Ohmygod," he
Marshall slid aside his HUD viewer, then unlatched his helmet and O2
mask. Sweat drenched his face, and he had apparently sublet his throat to
a desert.
"I'll have your wings," the flight boss said, his eyes ablaze. "Wait until
your wing leader…"
The flight boss regarded something off-camera, then shouted, "Delta
Marshall's VDU switched to an image of Forbes in her cockpit. "Now
what were you saying?"
He cocked his head to watch her sweep over the runway, her Rapier
inverted and at full throttle. She plowed through the energy field, killed
the engines, then ignited retros to roll a full 540 degrees, righting herself
at the last possible moment before touchdown. And she had not overshot
the runway.
"Now that's how you do it," she shouted.
Marshall rushed out of his cockpit and toward her fighter. The flight
crews kept their distance, not wanting to catch the rare strain of insanity
that had barnacled itself to his brain.
Forbes's canopy popped, and she removed her mask to flash him a
perfect grin.
"You did that to impress me," he said, leaving no room for the question.
"Just trying to redirect some of that testosterone."
He stared at her, and in her eyes he found something they now shared,
a sudden and very desirable intimacy that would last as long as they lived.
Military critics might call it the ill-founded camaraderie of adrenaline
junkies. Marshall just called it fun. And Forbes obviously felt the same.
"You're a total maniac!" she said.
He saluted her. "Maniac Marshall at your service, ma'am."
They burst into laughter.
Then Forbes stiffened as she looked past him. "Oh, shit."
Lieutenant Commander Deveraux stood fuming on the opposite side of
the flight deck, then spun and stomped out.
Deveraux's silence left Marshall even more worried. "What happens
Forbes looked to where Deveraux had been standing. "I'm not sure. I'm
really not sure."