Wing Commander in Real Time - Day 2 - 1415 Zulu

The Terran Knowledge Bank
Jump to: navigation, search



SANSKY sits at his desk -- reviewing chats of the
Ulysses corridor. On his desk is a HOLO-PIC. In it is
Sansky at his graduating class at the Naval Academy. Next
to him is a younger ADMIRAL WILSON.

(over intercom)
You're needed in the chart room.

Sansky puts his pen down. He fondly takes the HOLO-PIC
and looks at it.

(over intercom)
I'll be right there.

He takes out a HIP FLASK and takes a swig. A SMALL SHAKE
in his hand is noticeable when he holds the flask. He
stands to go. Forgets something. Turns back and picks up


CLOSE ON: Thousands of numbers scrolling across the

CAMERA pulls back and we see a huge holographic chart. A
single blip, the Tiger Claw, flashes red on the curved
grid. In front of the Tiger Claw is a mathematical
representation of the pulsar, a pulsating, constantly
moving series of circles. Unlike a black hole (a
discrete singularity), the pulsar is a discrete
singularity with an infinite number of constantly
changing permutations, each one capable of transporting a
vessel to another part of the galaxy. Problem is, most
are dead ends. With an emphasis on dead.

Slowly, the grid begins to deform as an icicle shaped
spike pulls and distorts the grid. The icicle transforms
into a stalagmite, with a thick wide hole at its neck.
The flashing red point is poised in front of this huge
gap in the grid.

CAMERA pulls back to reveal GERALD and DEVERAUX watching
the hologram as PALADIN inputs final calculations into
the NAVCOM. Sansky comes through the hatch. Looks at the
chart with interest.

PALADIN points to the tip of the stalagmite. His hands
trace the trajectory across the wide gap in the quadrant.

The Ulysses Corridor...four days of
hard travel using three known jump
points. By using this pulsar, we will
be there in...
(Glances at a big digital
...less than three minutes.

HE glances at the console, pushes a final button.

If your calculations are correct.

CAMERA Pans to GERALD who's just entered the chart room

They're right.

NAVCOM and the finest minds in the
Confederation couldn't plot this jump.
What makes you sure your right?

Because they're Pilgrim coordinates,
Mr. Gerald.

DEVERAUX reacts. CAMERA pans to BLAIR who's just
entered the chart room.

Why aren't you at your station,
Lieutenant Blair?

GERALD, already angry, turns to him.

Ma'am, I--

PALADIN cuts Blair off.

I asked Lieutenant Blair to be here.


PALADIN ignores the question.

I authorized it.

We'll have a lovely view from the

PALADIN leaves the chart room. Blair stares at the
gigantic spike in the holographic grid. After the others
have filed out, MERLIN appears, worried.

If the entry trajectory is wrong, we'll
be trapped in a moment outside of time
and space...that is until the ship
plummets into the pulsar and we become
an infinitely small part of a special
singularity. My guess is there's a
fifty seven point one percent chance
that we're doomed.

CLOSE ON BLAIR as he looks at the grid, at the
coordinates, at the fast scrolling read outs.

The coordinates are right.

BLAIR exits. MERLIN, interested, watches him go,


All of the pilots except Blair and Deveraux are gathered
by the large portholes, staring out at the gigantic
pulsar ahead of them, murmuring in awe.

The thing is eating suns for

What the hell are we doing, here?

You know what we're not doing?

Turning around.

The ultimate rush!

Most of the pilots stare at Maniac like he's nuts. Forbes
just grins.


Sansky, Gerald, Deveraux, Blair and Paladin are on the
bridge along with the various officers and noncoms.

THEIR POV through bridge windows: The pulsar fills the
windows, its huge black maw sucking suns and planets into
its infinitely dense invisible core.

Suddenly, an alarm sounds. The NAVCOM AI. voice speaks

Attention! Attention. Course error.
Adjust course immediately!

Ignore that! Helm, hold steady as she

Captain, the ship is headed into the
PNR zone of an uncharted class two
pulsar. One minute before gravitational
pull is one hundred per cent.

What about it, Paladin?

The readings are wrong. You're A.I.'s
sensors are not calibrated to the
pulsar. They've already been warped by
the gravitational field.

I must insist we change course
immediately....Initiating A.I.

There is a slight jerk as some course change appears to
have been made. PALADIN leaps for the helm.

(Throwing a switch.)
Manual override! Now... Disregard your
artificial intelligence or we're all

Captain, I believe you should

...Steady as she goes, helm.

Aye, aye, sir.

The alarm continues to sound throughout the ship!



The alarm has men and women sweating and tense. Sansky's
voice comes over the intercom throughout.

(over intercom)
This is the Captain. Brace for jump
point interphase. Fifteen seconds to
jump point.



MARCH 16, 2654
1415 HOURS

Captain Jay Sansky sat at his desk in the welcome solitude of his
quarters. The antique clock hanging on the bulkhead above him ticked
nearly in sync with the drums and violins of a contemporary classical
theme resonating from his minidisc player. He had come here to meditate
before the jump, to gather some thoughts while pushing others away.
In truth, he had come to bury the past.
He turned once more to the holopic sitting on his desk, a framed,
three-dimensional doorway leading him through twenty-five years of
memories. He smiled wanly at the group of young men and women posed
in crisp Naval Academy uniforms, their eyes full of hope, their expressions
hard and brimming with courage. Sansky had been with them that day, a
brash officer with a thin face and full head of hair. Beside him, looking for
all the world like an accomplice in rashness, stood Bill Wilson, former
commander of Pegasus Station, now assumed dead. Bill wore his twisted
grin proudly, and he had never betrayed his rebel's heart.
Every officer in the Confederation Navy played a role. Some played
theirs better than others. But no one played his role more passionately,
more honestly than Bill Wilson. Despite navigating through years of
military corruption, Wilson had never lost sight of who he was. And he
had tried for many years to make Sansky realize the same. One day, it
simply dawned on Sansky that, like Wilson, he could reconcile with the
universe, that he could correct years of wrongdoing. A military officer
could do such a thing. A military officer wielded such power.
But Sansky still felt uncertain of his role, unsure of his future, and
guilt-stricken by his past. So many people had helped him over the years.
So many souls had given. Had he returned their generosity? Could he
ever? Was it even right to believe that he owed them? Or was that the guilt
He closed his eyes tightly. "Oh, God," he whispered. "Oh, God. If I'm
right, forgive me. And if I'm wrong, forgive me even more."
"This terminal has been idle for five minutes. Do you wish to continue?"
came a computer voice.
Sansky looked at the small monitor, at the green navigation lines
superimposed on the Ulysses Corridor. He had thoroughly studied the
map, knew the region, and knew the odds of getting there. If he just had
more time to better weigh his options, but was there ever enough time?
Some said war represented the true enemy; Sansky knew otherwise.
"Computer. Shut down."
"Shutting down."
He glanced at the hard-copy map he had printed out, took up his pen,
and noted the coordinates where the Tiger Claw should appear after the
Should appear.
Lieutenant Commander Obutu's voice boomed over the intercom.
"Captain Sansky?"
"Sorry to bother you, sir. You're needed in the chart room."
"On my way."
Sansky set down his pen and picked up the holopic. He stared fondly at
the two young men with their whole lives ahead of them, two young men
naive of the fire that lay in their hearts. He replaced the holopic, opened a
drawer, and lifted his hip flask. With an unsteady hand, he brought the
flask to his lips and took several swigs before stowing the whiskey. He
started for the hatch, then hurried back to the desk, where he scooped up
Tolwyn's ring.
Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn had an unspoken agreement with the universe
that allowed him to take tremendous risks while managing to emerge
triumphant and unscathed. Perhaps carrying a piece of the admiral would
allow Sansky to do the same.
* * *
As Blair stepped into the carrier's chart room, a huge holographic
display swept up his attention. Stretching from deck to overhead, the
semitransparent images drew long shadows across the walls and over the
navigation subterminal where Taggart sat, keying in numbers and gazing
trancelike at his screen.
A red blip designated by tiny letters as the Tiger Claw lay at the
holograph's center. The blip flashed as it moved toward a pulsating,
constantly moving series of circles: a mathematical representation of the
Class 2 pulsar. The data bar beside the pulsar showed thousands of
scrolling coordinates in space-time, coordinates being fed into the
carrier's NAVCOM AI by Taggart.
"They told me you were here, sir," Blair said.
"Look at it, Lieutenant," Taggart suggested, still intent on his screen.
"What do you see?"
Blair shrugged; wasn't it obvious? "That's a Class Two pulsar."
"Well, unlike a black hole, which is a discrete singularity, or a quasar,
which has the potential of containing thousands of discrete singularities,
this pulsar is a discrete singularity with an infinite number of constantly
changing permutations."
"Great. You remember that academy crap. Now just look at it and read
the map."
"I don't know what to say. Those permutations, they, uh, each one is
capable of taking us to another part of the galaxy. The problem is, most of
them are dead ends."
"With an emphasis on dead." Taggart swung around and cocked a
The grid surrounding the Tiger Claw began to deform as a long spike
impaled it, then gradually pulled itself inside out to form a stalagmite with
a thick, wide hole at its neck. Blair watched, fascinated, as the carrier
came to a halt, poised before the gap.
"Now, Lieutenant Christopher Blair. You've told me what the pulsar is.
Tell me how it feels."
"I don't feel anything yet."
"That's good."
"It is?"
He gave a slight nod, then resumed his work.
With a low hiss, the chart room's hatch abruptly opened. Gerald and
Lieutenant Commander Deveraux passed into the holograph's eerie glow.
Blair craned his head, wanting to dema-terialize into the shadows. Then
he cringed as he heard Deveraux's voice. "Why aren't you at your station,
Blair faced them, their eyes like two pairs of muzzles, locked on target.
"Ma'am, I—"
"I asked Lieutenant Blair to be here," Taggart interjected.
The hatch opened again.
"Why?" Gerald asked.
"I authorized it," Captain Sansky said, entering the room and
double-timing toward Taggart. "Status?"
"Coordinates are laid in," Taggart said. "One keystroke, and the upload
will be finished." He went to holograph and pointed to the tip of the
stalagmite, letting his finger follow a trajectory across the wide gap in the
quadrant. "The Ulysses Corridor. Four days' hard travel using three known
jump points. By using the pulsar, we'll be there in"—he glanced to a digital
clock above his station—"less than three minutes."
"If your calculations are correct," Gerald said, grinding out the words.
Back at his console, Taggart touched the final key, finishing the upload.
"They're right."
Gerald steered himself toward Taggart. "NAVCOM and the finest
minds in the Confederation couldn't plot this jump. What makes you so
sure you're right?"
A flicker of a grin wiped across Taggart's lips. "Because they're Pilgrim
coordinates, Mr. Gerald."
"What?" Gerald's gaze swept back to the databar.
Taggart crossed into the big commander's line of sight. "We'll have a
lovely view from the bridge." Then he hurried toward the hatch.
Deveraux gave Blair a frosty look before following Taggart. Gerald and
Sansky left together, their voices low and tense.
Alone in the chart room, Blair stepped into the holograph and ran his
finger along the same path that Taggart had marked. He strayed toward
the data bar, his entire body now illuminated by millions of scrolling
Merlin sparked to life and paced along the top of Taggart's console. "If
the entry trajectory is wrong, we'll be trapped in a moment outside of time
and space. That is, until the ship plummets into the pulsar and we become
an infinitely small part of a special singularity. My guess is there's a
fifty-seven-point-one percent chance that we're doomed."
Blair looked down at his chest, now scintillating with numbers. "The
coordinates are right."
* * *
"Maniac" Marshall jockeyed for a look through one of the huge
portholes outside the pilots' mess. The once black and distant mass of the
pulsar now dominated the view, its edges streaked by dying stars. The
pulsar reminded Maniac of Scylla, though it flashed brilliantly at
three-second intervals, living up to its name. The other pilots took no
pleasure in the carrier's present position. Maniac would educate them. He
drew back from the porthole, about to say something.
"This thing is eating suns for breakfast," Polanski interrupted.
Khumalo, who Maniac had learned went by the moniker of "Knight,"
turned from a porthole, a look of deep puzzlement knitting his brow. The
stocky black man had Hunter's attention. "What the hell are we doing
Hunter chewed on his cigar. "You know what we're not doing?"
"Turning around," Forbes answered.
Maniac regarded the pulsar with exaggerated awe, then addressed his
audience. "Do you know what you people are staring at? Do you have any
With a sigh, Hunter replied, "A Class Two pulsar, mate. I've seen a lot
of 'em."
"No." He cocked his thumb toward the porthole. "That, ladies and
gentlemen, is the ultimate rush."
Sure, the others gaped at him as though he had gone off the deep end
and had returned with gray hair and strange prophecies. He could live
with that.
As long as he had Forbes smiling.
Which he did.
* * *
Blair took up a position near the back of the bridge, beside Deveraux.
She noticed him and edged away. He gave a slight snort and held his
An unsettling air pervaded the bridge, evidenced in the ashen faces of
the officers and noncoms who dutifully and nervously ran through their
prejump checklists. The casual murmuring Blair had heard during his
first visit here had shifted to terse orders and even more terse
An inverted triangle of consoles divided the forward bridge, with the
helmsman seated at the triangle's top and gripping his wheel. Sansky and
Gerald manned observation consoles at the base angles, near the bank of
viewports. Taggart stood at the helmsman's shoulder, having carefully
chosen his position.
Sansky touched a key on the shipwide intercom panel. "Ladies and
gentlemen, this is the captain. I'll put an end to the scuttlebutt by
informing you that in sixty seconds we're going to jump the Class Two
pulsar directly ahead. We've been ordered to the Ulysses Corridor, and we
need to get there quickly." Sansky went on to give a capsule summary of
the events surrounding the destruction of the Pegasus Station. When he
finished, he looked over his shoulder at everyone on the bridge, and Blair
found his own trepidation mirrored in the captain's face. "May God be
with us all." Then Sansky favored the helmsman with a nod. "Take us in."
The carrier lurched for a moment, then started for the pulsar. Anything
that wasn't battened down—and even a few things that were—began to
tremble in a cacophony that reminded Blair of the earthquakes on
Nephele. He found a nearby railing and gripped it for support. Deveraux
folded her arms over her chest and wouldn't join him.
As they glided closer to the pulsar, it better resembled Scylla, but this
Scylla, perhaps a distant cousin, had only one head and the brilliantly
flashing eye of a Cyclops. As she gobbled up stars, planets, planetoids, and
smaller debris, she forged the thunderbolts of her namesake that now
struck the Claw with massive tremors. And in her work, Blair sensed a
perfect balance, a simplicity that tingled at the base of his spine.
He felt her magnetic fields.
And, in his mind's eye, he saw an avenue through space-time itself, a
shiny black funnel of infinite mass that he sensed promised infinite
With a shiver, he looked askance at Deveraux. "Yes, ma'am?"
"For a second there I thought—"
"Attention! Attention! Course error. Adjust course immediately," came
the NAVCOM's automated voice. An alarm squawked.
"Ignore that," Taggart said confidently. "Helm. Hold steady as she
"Captain," the NAVCOM began, its tone waxing persuasive. "The ship
is headed into the PNR zone of an uncharted Class Two pulsar. One
minute before gravitational pull is one hundred percent."
Sansky spun toward the helm, his voice freighted with tension. "What
about it, Taggart?"
"The readings are wrong. Your AI's sensors are not calibrated to the
pulsar. They've already been warped by the gravitational field."
"I must insist that we change course immediately," the NAV-COM said.
"Initiating AI override."
"No!" Taggart screamed.
The Tiger Claw suddenly bucked, and Deveraux came crashing forward
into the railing, near Blair. She found her grip as the ship began pulling to
port, throwing them parallel to the rail.
Taggart, who now held fast to the helmsman's console, shouldered his
way to a touchpad. "Manual override! Now! Disregard your artificial
intelligence—or we're all dead."
"Captain," Gerald said through clenched teeth. "I believe you should
Sansky cocked a brow. "I already have. Steady as she goes, helm."
Like a cosmic predator with talons of gravitational force, the pulsar
reached out and clutched the carrier. Fighting to stabilize the ship's pitch
and yaw, the helmsman's face locked in a grimace as the Tiger Claw
convulsed, her bulkheads writhed, and her overhead threatened to cave in.
"This is the captain," Sansky said over the intercom. "Brace for jump
point interphase. Fifteen seconds to jump point."
"Jesus…" Deveraux said as the ship released a ghoulish bellow.
But Blair scarcely heard Deveraux, scarcely saw the bridge or felt the
rail. His senses began shutting down as they had when nearing Scylla.
And the feeling, the awe-inspiring feeling, lived in him, a vital,
unstoppable force that placed the moment inside a subatomic particle, in
a universe whose boundaries he longed to explore. He glimpsed the entire
Ulysses Corridor and beyond, saw Nephele, the Sol system, whatever he
wanted to see because distances no longer held meaning. Time no longer
held meaning. He thought of his mother. And there, before him, she gave a
mild frown, her hair and complexion as smooth and dark as he
remembered. "You shouldn't do this to yourself, Christopher. You weren't
meant to see me. This is not your continuum."
"It is mine. I chose it."
"You don't have the right to choose. Only one does."
"What do you mean? There aren't any rules. I feel this. I can do what I
"Then you'll fall. Like the others."
"You're not my mother, are you?"
"I'm everything your mother was, is, and will be. I'm in every part of the
universe at once, as you are now, as you shouldn't be."
"I wish you could understand. I wish that more than anything. But I've
seen your path. And there's nothing I can do to change it." Her features
grew younger, more narrow, until Blair stared at Lieutenant Commander
Deveraux, who said, "Didn't you hear him, Lieutenant? Fifteen seconds to
jump. Better hang on."
He reached with trembling hands for the rail and blinked as a burst of
light shot from the pulsar.
Then he found a bewildered Taggart staring at him. Blair could only
imagine how strange he looked. He had not just seen a ghost.
He had seen the universe itself.
And the experience had left him frightened of who he was and might
No warning had stunned him more.