Wing Commander in Real Time - Day 2 - 1330 Zulu

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Deveraux, still upset, paces. The door buzzer sounds. She
opens it, and there's Forbes.

You don't want to be here right now.

Forbes, smiling, waves Maniac's bottle of Scotch.

Single Malt... Just for you, sir.

Trying to bribe me?

No. Thank you. The Flight Boss would
have brought us up on charges if you
hadn't said something.

Yeah. What the hell were you thinking?

Well, I wasn't thinking with my head.

Goddamn it Rosie -- you're going to get
yourself killed doing that.

I know what you are thinking.

You're one of my best pilots, I can't
afford to lose you.

Forbes can't believe she's heard the word.

Sorry... Sorry. I was just showing off
a bit in front of Maniac.


Lt. Marshall. He's got a new callsign.

I hope it felt really good.

Great -- better than sex...

She pours Deveraux's drink, puts it in her hand.
Deveraux takes a healthy swig.


Well, better than sex with myself.

Deveraux smiles. Forbes laughs.

See that it never happens again.


DEVERAUX drinks. Forbes, forgiven, relaxes.

I've noticed you've been giving special
attention to Maniac's friend...

Oh really, I think that might just be
your imagination working overtime.

He's pretty damned cute, Angel.

Just shut up and Pour.

Forbes pours her a meager drink, and with a lift of the
eyebrows Deveraux gestures for her to fill the glass.



MARCH 16, 2654
1330 HOURS

Lieutenant Commander Jeanette Deveraux, her cheeks warming, her
pulse racing, double-timed through the hall adjoining the flight hangar.
She had little tolerance for rebels and hotdoggers and even less tolerance
for experienced pilots who succumbed to the taunts and coercion of new
Without looking up, Deveraux passed someone, then, realizing who it
was, she turned back. "Hey, Boss?" she said, greeting Mr. Raznick by his
more familiar name. "I was on my way to see you."
The flight boss came to her, shaking his computer slate as though it
were a torch, he an angry villager. "Well, I was just on my way to talk to
your people. But now that I've got you …" Raznick's shaven head glistened
with sweat, and a thick vein throbbed at his temple.
"Just calm down, boss. And believe me, I know how you feel."
"Begging your pardon, ma'am, but you don't know jack. I'm going to
charge those pilots with everything I can, right down to their scuffed
boots. They recklessly endangered the lives of every man and woman on
my flight deck—and for what? To prove they don't care about their own
lives or anyone else's? I'll have those idiots busted down to spacehands."
"Just take a deep breath."
"I don't need to take a deep breath! I need to get down there and chew
some butt!" He started to leave.
She held his arm. "Has Lieutenant Forbes ever given you a problem
"That's not the point."
"Just… will you do me this favor? Let me handle this internally. If you
want to go down there and let them have it, that's fine. But let me handle
the discipline on my end."
He huffed. "This deserves a hell of a lot more than a smack on the hand.
And Commander, your carpet's already bulging from all the bullshit you've
swept under it."
"I know. But do you want to know the sad truth, Boss? If we take those
two off my flight roster, I can't replace them. At least not now. And
judging from the scuttlebutt I'm hearing, we'll need every able-bodied
pilot we have. Hell, we might even stuff you in a Broadsword. I know
you've been working off-duty on your qualification."
"Now if that's a bribe, it'll work," he said, his tone softening
considerably. "I hate pilots. I love flying."
"I won't make you any promises there. But I will promise that no pilot
under my command will ever pull a stunt like that again."
He squinted into a thought. "My people expect me to act. I'll lose their
respect if they know I'm whitewashing this."
"They don't have to know. You go down there and say what you need to
say for their benefit. Just don't follow through. Blame the delay on
Confederation bureaucracy. No one will have a hard time believing that."
"I'd better get that ship assignment," he warned, then moved off.
"I'll do what I can. But Gerald will never approve it," she mumbled.
"Sorry, Boss."
* * *
Back in her quarters, she sloughed off her uniform and eased into a hot
shower. She closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and stepped head-on
into the spray. She held that position for three, maybe even four minutes,
feeling days-old knots in her neck and shoulders loosen and the tightness
in her brow subside. She thought about what Forbes and Marshall had
done, the absurdity of it, and imagined them laughing. She found herself
laughing along, realizing that she couldn't remember the last time she had
enjoyed a true, side-splitting chuckle.
After being made squadron commander at the beginning of the year,
she had found little time for amusement. Her job, as she saw it, was to
police a bunch of highly talented loose cannons, to collect and forge them
into a single, well-honed blade that would pierce the enemy's cold heart.
But the job had de-evolved into glorified babysitting, and recent events
highlighted that fact. Still, how many pilots did she know who could make
their final approaches inverted? The number stood at two.
She keyed off the shower, wrapped herself in a towel, then found the
chair at her small desk. She sat there, staring at the statue of the little dog,
a Brussels griffon, that she had ordered via a Datanet catalog. The dog's
short, bearded muzzle and blond fur vividly reminded her of Pierre, a stray
dog she had adopted as a child. She had felt a kinship with that dog and
had loved him for ten years before he had died. He lay buried in Belgium,
behind the orphanage. Sleep well, my dear Pierre. Sleep well.
Her hatch bell rang. "Who is it?"
"You don't want to be here right now."
"Just let me in. Please."
Deveraux stood and shrugged. "You're at your own risk." She touched
the keypad, and the hatch opened.
"Single malt… just for you," Forbes said, holding Lieutenant Todd
Marshall's bottle of Scotch.
She glanced perfunctorily at the bottle, then shifted back to her chair,
but couldn't bring herself to sit. "Trying to bribe me? Well, it won't
work—especially with his liquor."
"I'm trying to thank you. The flight boss would've brought us up on
charges if you hadn't said something."
"He told you we spoke?"
"Not exactly. But I could tell that you had already disarmed him. You're
the only one on board who could do that. Raznick hates pilots. We get his
flight deck dirty and raise his blood pressure. But you he respects."
"Do you know why?"
Her expression said that she didn't.
"Because I work with him. Not against him. That's simple math. No
advanced degree required."
Forbes hid her gaze.
"What the hell were you thinking?"
Biting her lower lip, Forbes stalled. "Well, I wasn't thinking with my
Deveraux beat a fist on her thigh. "Goddammit, Rosie. You'll get
yourself killed doing that. How could you follow that kind of lead?"
"I don't know."
"Well, let me tell you something. I think—"
"I know what you're thinking."
"I think you're one of my best pilots. I can't afford to lose you."
And that lifted Forbes's head. "Sorry. I was just showing off a bit in
front of Maniac."
"Lieutenant Marshall. He's got a new call sign, although I don't think
too many people will appreciate it."
"I think you're right."
Forbes went to a cabinet, removed a glass, and began pouring a drink.
"I hope it felt really good," Deveraux said, driving the point home but
realizing that her tone had been too cruel.
"It felt great. Better than sex."
Forbes handed her the Scotch, and she took a healthy swig. "Bullshit."
"Well, better than sex with myself." Forbes waited for her smile before
grinning herself.
"See that it never happens again."
Deveraux took another pull on her drink as her friend, now visibly
relaxed, sat on the cot and yawned.
Then Forbes stared at her. Deveraux stared back. Forbes looked away,
as did Deveraux. Then it all happened again.
"What?" Deveraux asked.
"I don't want to pry, but I've noticed you've been giving special
attention to Maniac's friend…"
She lifted the towel higher over her chest. "Oh, really? I think that's
your imagination working overtime."
"He's pretty damned cute, Angel," Forbes pointed out, using Deveraux's
call sign as a way to link the intimacy of combat to the intimacy of their
It didn't work.
Seeing that her Scotch glass stood empty, Deveraux said, "Just
shuddup and pour."
Forbes offered her a meager fill, and with the lift of her brow, Deveraux
gestured for a full glass.
Yes, she did see something in First Lieutenant Christopher Blair.
And that was why it hurt so much.