The Final Assault: Preparation for Victory
It was a healthy tension that permeated the Tiger's Claw. We all knew the Venice System was vital to the Kilrathi's effort and that a victory here would signal a turning point in the war. Terran Intelligence had reported that the Kilrathi High Command operated from a starbase located in the system. If we could destroy that base, we would remove the brains of our cat-like enemies.
All available Rapiers had been ferried to the Tiger's Claw for the final battle. Technicians swarmed over the craft, making last-minute calibrations to the targeting system, loading weapons, and performing routine maintenance before the big push. Training flights were constant for the pilots who had yet to fly in the TCSN's most advanced medium fighter.
The pilots actually relaxed for the first time in months. There were daily briefing sessions to attend, but Halcyon realized that having a little fun and relieving stress would be more valuable than constant work. Shotglass was kept busy in the bar, there was always a line at the Train-Sim, and the gym and library were in constant use. It was almost impossible to schedule time on one of the [[[grav-ball]] courts, and the swimming pool's lanes were filled with wet soldiers.
I spent time in every section of the carrier. Spirit whipped me in a game of one-on-one grav-ball, but I beat Iceman in a one-armed 100-meter race in the pool. I wrote letters, caught up on the news, read books, and meditated.
When Halcyon requested everyone's presence at mission briefings the following day, the atmosphere changed. Alcoholic beverages were restricted at the bar, the boisterous card games stopped, and the carrier became one of the quietest places in the universe. You would find a few small groups whispering in the lounges, but most of the pilots preferred solace as they prepared for their next missions.
I spent the last night watching old comedy movies ... W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal. Only laughter kept the fear away.