K'tithrak Mang System - Series 8 - Mission 4
After the Destruction of K'tithrak MangEdit
I knew I was going to get a load of guff from the Admiral when I returned, and I was right. He told me I'd disobeyed orders, had been derelict in my duty, and was guilty of theft of government property and endangerment of personnel. Then, for the first time in my life, I saw him smile.
"Nice work, Colonel," he said.
"Colonel?" I asked myself, and then I realized that he was going to rectify what had taken place 10 years ago.
"All right," I thought. "With the difference in wages between captain and colonel, I'll be getting a hefty check for ten years of back pay. If this war ever ends, I think I'll take Angel on a vacation. Centauri would be nice. So would Antares. ... "
The Admiral's words brought me out of my daydream. "I never thought I'd say this, Colonel," he said, "but I'm proud to have served with you."
It was a relief to hear the Admiral say that, but, to be perfectly honest, his opinion really didn't matter much anymore. Angel's thoughts were much more important to me.
"Colonel, I'm cutting new orders for you," Angel said with a smile. "You're to report to my quarters immediately... and make sure you remember the champagne."
After a few days of R & R, I began to think of all the lives in the past 30 years that had been affected by the war. Virtually everyone living on Confederation planets, stations, outposts, and colonies, knew someone involved in the conflict.
I wish I could say the war ended with the destruction of K'tithrak Mang, but nothing could be further from the truth. We had removed a few claws from the Kilrathi, but they still had their fangs. Prince Thrakhath had been rescued, and I knew we would fight again another day.
I had always sought the complete destruction of the Kilrathi Empire, but after meeting Colonel Ralgha, I realized that, so far, this war had been like many others throughout history. It wasn't being fought against the people of Kilrah, it was being fought against the tyranny of their Empire. It wasn't the people of Kilrah who sought to rule the galaxy, it was their rulers.
I hoped that some day we could return Colonel Ralgha to Kilrah and have him lead the reconstruction of their government. I could imagine the day when the talk would no longer be of war with the Kilrathi, but of peace. We could learn a lot from each other, if only we were given the chance.
Meeting a Maniac...One More TimeEdit
It wasn't a month after the last mission, that we jumped into Deneb Sector. With the Admiral's help, I was able to locate the carrier where Maniac had been transferred after his months in sick bay and two years of therapy. I planned on surprising him. When I reached the carrier, I was told that Maniac was in the bar. The warrant officer gave me a strange look when I said that Maniac and I were friends. I just figured the guy was goofy.
I went up to the bar to order a few mugs of Goddard Special. I thought I'd just walk over to Maniac's table, hand him a beer, have a seat, and wait for his reaction. That's what I did.
"What the hell," he said. "How'd you find me, Prankster?" I started to explain, when Maniac interrupted.
"I guess you think you're the big hero of the war again, right hot shot? Well, let me tell you something," he said. There was a malicious edge to his tone. "You can't hold a candle to me when it comes to flying. I saved our entire strike fleet in Deneb, with some of the niftiest maneuvers you've ever seen. Ask anybody around here!" he exclaimed. "They'll tell you who the best pilot in the space navy really is!"
"Hold it, Maniac," I replied. "I just came over here to see how you were doing. I figured things had changed. I thought you'd be glad to see me." I noticed that the bar had become very quiet. Everyone was staring.
"Glad to see you!" he yelled. "There's isn't anyone I'd rather avoid. You've tried to knock me down since our first day at the academy. On the Tiger's Claw, you talked about me behind my back. I've heard all the stories. I know what really went on. You were just trying to be my friend so that you could learn my secrets. Well, it won't work this time, Prankster. I'm wise to all your tricks. You just wait. By the time this war ends, you'll find out who the real hero is."
I just got up and walked away. "Damn," I thought as I headed back to the launch bay. "I've seen this act before. That guy might have been cleared by the psych staff, but they better keep a sharp eye on him, because he's headed for trouble again. He just can't handle the stress of combat."
When I returned to the Concordia, I decided to write Admiral Tolwyn about my concerns. I sent it by regulation e-mail channels to ensure it became an official part of the record. "I've taken enough lives in this war," I thought. "Maybe, in Maniac's case, I can save one."