Wing Commander (novelization) Chapter Twenty-Six
- Christopher Blair
- Jeanette Devereaux
- Paul Gerald
- Corey Obutu
- Jay Sansky
- James Taggart
- William Wilson
- Unnamed Terran Confederation Deck Crew
- Unnamed Terran Confederation Marines (3)
- Unnamed Terran Confederation Officers (2)
MARCH 17, 2654
1.5 HOURS FROM
Gerald crossed the ConCom's bridge in several long, deliberate strides. "Mr. Blair," he began, then suddenly smashed Blair's helmet with the butt of his rifle. "I believe you just called me a traitor."
Blair rolled across a console, then fell to his knees. After flipping the weapon around, Gerald aimed it at Blair's head. He pulled the slide back, then nodded at the NAVCOM.
"Turn it off."
Three simple words… yet they shocked Blair. If Gerald wasn't the traitor, then—
A hollow laugh resounded from the rear corner of the bridge.
"To think we came from you."
Wearing a space suit and clutching a large Kilrathi pistol, a man stepped from the shadows, a man whose gaunt face seemed familiar, but Blair couldn't summon a name.
"Wilson?" Gerald said, his tone so full of astonishment that the word had barely escaped his lips. "But the Pegasus—"
The admiral took a step forward, and Blair had never seen a man more consumed by hatred; it clung to his face like a parasite. "Twenty years of service. Ironic, isn't it?" He extended his arm, the pistol directed at Gerald.
"Wait," Blair cried. He lifted his pilgrim cross with a trembling hand.
Wilson drew back, gazing suspiciously at the cross, then at Blair. "Where did you get that?"
"It was my mother's. She was killed at Peron." Extending a palm in truce, Blair slowly got to his feet, holding the cross like a shield in front of him.
For a second, Wilson's eyes glazed over, as though he had taken himself across the light-years and back to the massacre.
"When you remember Peron, what do you feel?"
Before answering, Blair turned his glower on Commander Gerald. "I feel hate."
"So you think you're a Pilgrim? Do you have any idea what it's like to wait a lifetime for justice?" He waved the pistol at Gerald. "My people gave them the stars… our greatest folly."
"Your people murdered millions," Gerald said. "Your regrets should lie there, you bastard."
Wilson seemed unaffected by the remark. He favored Blair, his expression brightening. "So, boy, if you're a Pilgrim, prove it." He raised his chin to Gerald. "Kill him."
Blair's nod came easily, and he turned back for his rifle, his thoughts colliding as he fully comprehended the moment. He had enough bitterness stored inside to fight Gerald, but could he kill the man? The answer was obvious.
"No rifles," Wilson said. "Use the blade."
Shifting back, Blair pulled the cross from its chain and touched the center symbol. The cutting edge flashed out. Gerald withdrew a long, ugly-looking fighting knife from his vest. Not standard-issue to be sure, the blade seemed to bear a charge of winking silver. Gerald assumed a fighting stance, grinning ominously. "I was right all along. Come on, Pilgrim. Pass your test." The commander lunged at him.
Skirting behind a console, Blair saw that he had reached a dead end at the bulkhead. He climbed atop one of the stations and leaped into an open area, behind the helm controls. Gerald followed. Now they circled each other, feinting with their blades.
Time slowed for Blair, his arm moving in a hypnotic pattern as the feeling of hopelessness grew. Gerald seemed part of some bad dream, while Wilson, looking on, had emerged from a nightmare. Mother? Father? Is this what we are?
I can't be in this place. I can't do this.
Sparks skittered along his blade as Gerald's big knife made contact. Blair fought against the other man's weight, then flipped his wrist, breaking pressure while spinning behind Gerald.
But the commander whirled around, boot raised, and kicked Blair in the ribs. As Blair fought to remain standing, he saw Gerald lift his blade—
A horrible tearing sound came from the sleeve of Blair's space suit. He reached for the tear, reeling back farther from the commander. Automatic voice alarms warned him that Gerald's blade had penetrated the suit's first layer.
He tensed once more as Gerald, now wild-eyed, searched for an opening. The man's blade shot at him once, twice, a third time, and Blair parried each assault. He remained defensive, caught his breath, and watched as the commander's face grew more flushed.
"Is that all you have, Mr. Gerald?" Wilson taunted.
Swearing at the admiral, Gerald feinted right, lowered his head, and came in with a thrust toward Blair's abdomen. Instead of parrying, Blair grabbed Gerald's wrist with his free hand, then threw himself beneath the commander, sweeping out the man's legs in a classic jujitsu move he remembered from boot camp. Gerald landed hard on his back as Blair followed through with the maneuver, exploiting his momentum to roll and hover over the commander, blade centered over the man's heart.
"Finish him!" Wilson cried.
He looked at Gerald, whose face paled in the half-light. The commander mouthed a curse, and Blair suddenly felt as though he had been dipped in ice water as he imagined Gerald writhing in agony. He lifted the blade a few inches, preparing to drive it home—
Then turned, flicking his wrist.
The blade warbled, threw off dazzles of gold and silver, then…
The admiral flinched, looked down at the cross stuck in his chest, then raised his head, wearing a new mask of horror as his space suit began hissing loudly. He stumbled, reaching blindly for support, then slumped against a column.
Gerald sat up, and Blair proffered his hand. "Take it, sir."
After a moment's consideration, Gerald accepted. He went to the admiral, whose face looked contorted and skeletal.
Despite his agony, the man remained conscious.
"Why warn Tolwyn?" Gerald demanded. "Your Kilrathi friends could've destroyed Pegasus, taken the NAVCOM, and jumped to Earth with no interference."
He smiled weakly. "I used to think the stars were not my destiny. I used to think I was human. But I'm a Pilgrim. And the stars were the Pilgrims' destiny. Not Earth's. Not Kilrah's."
A faint click drew Blair's gaze to the admiral's hand, which slowly opened. A concussion grenade sat in his palm, its firing button triggered.
"Shit!" Blair cried, already turning to retreat. He crashed into a pair of big chairs as he and Gerald darted toward the hatch.
At the first hint of the explosion, they dove toward the corridor. An intense wave of heat wiped over Blair's legs as he hit the rattling deck. His comm unit crackled as the boom overloaded his mike. He crawled toward the corridor, but a second explosion had him cowering again. Black smoke poured over them, and the snapping of flames grew louder. He forced himself to stand and took a deep breath to ward off the dizziness. Gerald was already on his feet.
"Now do you want to know who your traitor is?" Blair asked.
The hatch at the corridor's end opened, drawing Gerald's attention. A Marine crouched near the edge, directing the business end of his rifle at the commander. "Halt!" he shouted as two other Marines joined him.
"Cogan? Deveraux?" Gerald called back.
Deveraux jogged from behind the Marines and through the hatch. "Sir? What are you doing here?"
"Never mind. Secure the fuel cells. Blair and I have some business to take care of." He marched past her.
She looked after him, then turned her troubled expression to Blair.
"It's okay," he said.
"What business do you—"
"Gotta go." He sprinted to catch up with Gerald.
Once on board the Diligent, Blair gave Taggart the bad news while Gerald prepared an escape pod for an express ride back to the Tiger Claw.
"You're in the intelligence business, sir. Did we ever suspect Captain Sansky of espionage?"
"No," Taggart said, still overwhelmed by the news. "He's had a long and distinguished career."
"Is he a Pilgrim?"
Gerald stood in the hatchway. "Let's go, Lieutenant."
The pod came in for a rough landing, and Gerald ignored the flight boss's complaints as he hustled toward the lift. Blair struggled to keep up with him and tried to ignore the stares of the deck crew. Two officers rushing off with drawn pistols would invariably raise an eyebrow or two.
At Sansky's hatch, Gerald overrode the lock. The door slid aside, and they rushed in like military police.
The captain sat up in bed, his sallow face registering only mild surprise. "Gentlemen, I don't pose a threat." He checked his watch. "In fact, I'll be dead in a few minutes." Noting Blair's frown, Sansky waved a finger at a syringe lying on his night-stand. "In the old days they used cyanide. The plecadome, I'm told, makes for a more peaceful retreat."
"Jesus Christ, Jay. You were the best CO I had." Gerald lowered his pistol and huffed his disappointment. "Why?"
"Because, Paul, sometimes the role you play isn't the one you were born for."
"You've failed at both," Gerald growled.
"Have I?" he asked, his voice heavy with irony. "A bad spy and a bad captain." His eyelids grew heavy as the poison took effect. He battled against it, lifting his hand toward Blair. "Here. Give this back to Tolwyn. Please."
Blair took the ring as the admiral's hand fell limp. He held the ring tightly, needing something to believe in for the moment, something tangible, something that wasn't a lie.
"Look," Gerald said, raising a holopic from the nightstand. He thumbed through the images of Sansky's graduating class at the academy. Admiral Wilson stood close by in every hologram. There was even one of him at the podium, accepting his Confederation commission.
"They're my age," Blair said. "I was just there."
"Here's the past," Gerald said, shaking the holopic. He pointed at Sansky. "There's the future—if you let your Pilgrim roots get in the way."
"I just want to know who I am, sir. That's all."
"I think you already know."
"Commander?" Obutu said over the intercom.
"Talk to me, Mr. Obutu."
"Engineering reports that the Kilrathi fuel cells have arrived.
They'll have them adapted in a few minutes. They estimate that we'll have sixty percent power."
"Very well. Prepare to get under way." Gerald, realizing he still held the holopic, threw it violently across the room. "If we live," he began, trying to contain his fury, "it's going to take me a long time to get over this."
Blair nodded somberly. "At least one of us will."