Author: bluebagel PM
Just something I felt like writing after I read the Wing Commander novelisation by Peter Telep.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Angst - Words: 3,847 - Published: 05-29-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7031903
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I want to tell you about Jason Sansky…Captain of the TCS Tiger Claw. I know that his very name is an anathema, a stain on the proud history of the Confed Navy that most would like to forget. But he was real and he existed and he never had a chance to prove what he could really be.
Sometimes the role we play, isn't the one we are born for. His words, the very last he ever spoke before he took his own life. Those of us present thought he was talking about his heritage, the discovery that he was a Pilgrim infiltrator who had been masquerading as an honourable Naval Officer for the last twenty years.
But we had it the wrong way around, he had never intended for his past to catch up with him the way it did.
Jason was born on a star freighter. A ship requisitioned for habitation by a group of devout Pilgrim explorers, sometime in the late 25th century. They called their ship the Prometheus, home to almost four hundred faithful including him and his younger sister Persephone.
It was one great big moving Pilgrim seminary and though he was never going to be the faithful acolyte his parents had hoped for there was no denying that he had the gift.
Pilgrims never get lost, so goes the saying and even the lowest of us have a natural instinct for direction that keeps us on track, but every so often it went much deeper. Down the generations the physiology of the Pilgrim mind started to evolve and children were born that were capable of finding and effortlessly interpreting infinite distortions in time and space, even being able to bend gravitational fields to their will.
I tried to get him to explain it to me once. He got this far away look in his eyes and said that a man in a hallway of doors can only see behind one at a time, where as he saw them all, and the pathways inside them.
It was standing on the edge of the universe and seeing everything laid out before him, tangible and inviting. The temptation to reach in and exist as everything everywhere was sometimes overwhelming, he said, and I wondered if keeping it contained was a part of what made him the way he was.
He could be a God if he wanted to, and he knew it.
From his earliest years he was held high above the rest of us, including his sister.
The Elders had a constant eye on him. I think at first they fancied him for the next great Protur, but Jason wasn't having any of that shit.
It wasn't that he shirked that particular responsibility as such, no. He positively bolted from it.
He tried and failed time and again to fit the mould, but it became obvious the older he got that his conscience could never be reconciled with his faith. He had too many questions.
When he began to realise that the only reason he was kept aboard ship and not abandoned entirely was the powerful and lucrative talent he possessed, it cut him deeply. He started flaunting a strong nihilistic attitude towards Ivar Chu's philosophies and flatly refused to assent to authority or kneel at any altar.
The rows were spectacular on the day he announced that he believed his gift was a natural state of evolution, a side effect of generations spent in deep space. And if the Protur wanted him to believe that it was a reward from a higher power then he had better have solid evidence to prove it.
That took some guts, either that or he was past the point of giving a rat's ass. We'd all keep our heads down in ceremonial contemplation whilst the Priest walloped him across the back of the knees with a wooden staff and told him to shut up and pay his respects. He spent a great deal of his formative years having the malign influences of humanity beaten out of him.
He was accused of being a half-breed, a heathen and a dissident because he could come up with a logical counter argument for every point they tried to make and trash any religious codices they forced him to consider. There were baths in ice water, lashes, deprivation and hours of penitence. But all of the so-called cures failed epically and as a last attempt at salvation for their prodigal child, it was decided that a distraction should be found that would redirect his negativity.
They taught him to fly years before the age that tradition dictated, and he immediately fell in love with the respite and freedom it offered. He became the Prometheus' best pilot and eventually lead scout, and space became his retreat.
He was a natural and whilst some pilots tend towards being all show and no go, Jason really was that damned good.
I had no doubt he would have been able find a marble in an asteroid field if so challenged.
I think a lot of people underestimated Jason back then, he avoided the burden of his gift with a certain swagger and bravado, but there was always something in his eyes that gave him away, a sharp edge underneath that spoke volumes. The void was never far from his thoughts.
I guess I knew him better than anyone else, even though I was forbidden from fraternizing with him.
I couldn't help it, the life of a cartographer is studious, humble, lonely and boring.
He might have been a trouble maker, but I was drawn to his ideas. And he had a hell of a lot more fun than I did.
Even when he wasn't flying them, the Firebirds- our long range single-seater craft, were his passion. There was a saying amongst the flight crew, you break it- you bought it, and Jason spent so much time pushing his jet to the limit that it always seemed to be in need of a weld or a tune up.
He always took care of it himself, and was happy to. He spent hours in his untidy little corner of repair and maintenance, surrounded by engine bits, nuts and bolts, pig pans and spanners, patching up his favourite lady with music playing in the background. The air thick with the smells of hot metal, oil, burned rubber and jet fuel, to him no place had ever felt more like a home.
On the rare days when I was allowed to escape the solitude of my studies I use to hang around with him on the flight deck.
I got a buzz from the dissent he emanated and Jason was quite the picture of the rebel as he leaned against a bulkhead with his dirty overalls tied round his waist and a sullen teenaged frown on his face.
I could imagine our betters despairing at the state of the next generation and weeping for the future. Little did they know.
I often wondered what made him stay on the Prometheus for so long, after all learning to fly could have easily been his ticket out for good. But I think he was afraid of the universe and what it might do to him. A few years down the line and he was becoming a man haunted by the spectre of his own inescapable destiny. Only he knew what he saw inside the stars, the voices that spoke were his alone to hear and he did not want or know how to face them.
The Protur himself demanded an audience with him, confused by such contradictory behaviour.
Why would someone choose to deny the ability to embrace a power that was ultimate and endless? To achieve infinite mass and infinite awareness, to know and be all? For someone who didn't have to, the choice seemed an obvious one to make.
Jason refused to speak to the leader of the Pilgrim faith. A man so blinded with his hatred for all things human that he would happily push Jason and the others like him head first in to the nearest pulsar. Especially if it meant he could get the upper hand in his militant quest to radicalise his followers towards a crusade against the spreading of Earths population.
Instead Jason flew back to the dingy little outpost where his salvation waited.
Her name was Marianna.
She was for her sins, human. They had met by chance when he was on a routine supply run to a trading post and he had become immediately infatuated with her.
He had seen what was beyond the stars, and though that place was absent of all pain and death, neither was there happiness, hope or love. He would not take the chance if it meant leaving her behind.
A human girl, and what's more she was carrying his child. It was the final insult to the faith and his behaviour could no longer be tolerated. For desecrating the Pilgrim genome with the filth of Terran blood he was cast out.
Around that time the Pilgrim Alliance's patience with Earth was beginning to wear thin. We were poised on the verge of war and the Protur took Jason's excommunication as an opportunity to flush a whole bucket load of persons considered too weak willed to accept the true Pilgrim destiny.
Jason's sister Persephone and I were among them.
We were to settle in the Lutyen system, now infamous for its losses, but at the time Jason couldn't have thanked God more.
In a small community where the strict laws of race and religion adhered to aboard ship no longer applied, a mixed marriage could at least be tolerated. He was a husband and a father, and the sense of belonging that had always seemed to evade him now came naturally.
But we were living on borrowed time, the Alliance had made their first strike against the naval ports on Titan and now the humans were calling for revenge.
In the first six months of war millions were killed on both sides. And when rumours came of barbarity committed by our own kind against captured human off-worlders, Jason and I didn't doubt their legitimacy for a second.
After all we had grown up knowing only the cruelty of our elders, and hate breeds hate.
Jason kept his head down and tried to forge a living flying people and supplies between colonies, it was mostly atmospheric work but it kept him busy.
Marianna was pregnant again and his daughter Medea was fast approaching her fourth year. He was besotted with them, they were whole his world, his entire reason for living. He couldn't care less for wars on other planets between peoples he felt no connection to, as long as his family were safe, but I could tell he was worried. We all were.
For a time things seemed to tick over peacefully on our lowly dust-ball of a planet.
Then they came for us.
It began when the Confederation Navy blockaded all major settlements in the system. Orders followed from the Earth Senate, stating that all Pilgrims, whether practising, combatant or not were to be rounded up in to safe-camps for the duration of the conflict.
And they would only ask nicely once.
I wasn't there and neither was Jason, both of us stranded with engine trouble on a run to the planets sparse southern pole. When we finally made it back to the settlement the only thing left was complete and utter devastation.
The Navy had sent in marines to do the herding, newly trained, highly strung and on a hair trigger for action. It hadn't taken much before someone got spooked, shots were fired and the whole thing devolved in to a full scale massacre.
They had swept through our own town like a biblical plague leaving behind only the dead or dying and the few that had slipped through the net.
I had no significant others and my damaged possessions didn't concern me, it was Jason's family I looked for first.
The house was in darkness, the only light coming from a fire that raged out of control to consume the buildings across the way, but it had obviously been ransacked.
Jason was two meters away from the corrugated metal porch, closing at a desperate sprint when his sister rounded the side of the house and collided with him. She was bloodied and covered in soot and dirt and she took his face in her hands and pleaded with him no to go any further. He pushed her away and carried on, calling the names of his wife and child in a fervour of denial.
Coward that I was, I stayed put, my legs shaking and threatening at any moment to give out.
His family were dead, that I knew and I thought things couldn't possibly be worse until I heard the screaming.
It was like nothing I have ever heard before or ever want to again…pure anguish. The physical embodiment of someone having their heart ripped out and their world torn apart. It echoed in the emptiness and seemed to go on forever.
Then a few wide eyed people started to come forward out of the darkness, dirty and wounded to tell us what had happened.
Marianna was not a pilgrim and she had said as much to the men that came calling. She could even produce papers to prove it. That would be fine they said, but the half-breed children, including pregnancies of a viable stage were still subject to their orders. She had continued to plead their case and was almost home free when the marines searching the house had turned up Jason's silver cross hidden in a locked drawer.
He had, inadvertently, condemned his own family to death.
The fact that the cross was concealed so thoroughly made all of Marianna's careful arguments look like a deliberate dodge, she was Pilgrim scum after all and so were the kids.
She still had the damned thing in her clenched fist when I saw her body lying motionless on the ground, a mess of blood and bullets beside her daughter.
The bastards had taken care of everyone. And everything.
I moved aside to throw up with impressive gusto, Jason was on his knees with his head in the dirt, howling incoherently and Persephone was hanging on to him for dear life.
What a tableau we must have made.
The next few days were a blur of grief and smoke. We knew that it was only a matter of time before the Confederation sent troops back to get us, or to nuke what was left of our world in to oblivion.
We stayed only to lay the dead to rest, and for Pilgrims that means a pyre. To bury the body in the dirt is to trap the spirit forever inside the corporeal remains, and in essence condemn it to hell.
It was as Jason stood watching the flames with a glazed and shattered expression, that we noticed he was wearing the cross around his neck.
It no longer looked like it was made of silver. The blood drying between the rays of the rising sun and in the ridges cast in to the metal, had turned it to the colour of burnished rust.
Some crosses carry inscriptions from loved ones or are made with elements that react to show the icon at its most lustrous upon the wearers body, but this one had become a literal and utterly cruel metaphor.
He left, alone and without a word as to where he was going. And the next time I saw him was on the bridge of a Pilgrim war ship, the Arcturus .
After what had happened you could be forgiven for thinking that we went back out of some sense of forgotten loyalty, or even repentance.
There were no epiphanies or conversions, we hadn't seen the light and Jason didn't blame his lack of faith for his tragedy.
He blamed humanity. Coming back in to the arms of the Alliance gave him the opportunity for revenge, and that was the only thing that kept him going.
I went back because I had no where else to go.
Shared pain had briefly brought Persephone and I together, but her suffering lent an intensity to our affair that was seriously damaging. We fought constantly and I awoke after one particularly bad night to find that she had taken her own life.
I didn't have to tell Jason, I couldn't stop my sorry face from spilling the gory details the moment he asked where she was.
With another life taken, another person he cared for gone, hate rushed in to fill the void carved by grief and the transformation was complete.
He became the ideal, purging his soul of the impurity that was emotion, he existed only to wage war against the non-believers. He would be the knife that would spill their blood, the divine judgement against the race that had wronged him.
And there was nothing I could do but watch.
The war was all but lost, our people and our territories on the verge of extinction and still the fighting went on with a venomous intensity. Most of us knew by now that no amount of aggressive tactics could get the Alliance out of the shitter it had dug for itself and I immediately regretted my decision to return. I did not want to die for these pointless people and their ridiculous dogma. Our ship was sent to hold the line at the siege of Peron, what was to be the last decisive battle of the Pilgrim wars.
It turned in to a bitter campaign of attrition. The Arcturus stayed the course for as long as she could, and did her fair share of damage to the enemy carriers.
But her luck only ran for so long and the ship was eventually outclassed and outgunned by the well financed and quickly replenished Terran forces.
We were boarded before the ship could be scuttled and the few survivors arrested and taken back to the Sol system as prisoners of war.
To Earth, the very planet we had been schooled to believe was the source and centre of all degradation in the universe. We were going to Hell.
Then came total surrender and the signing of the Cygnus Treaty. What remained of the Pilgrim Alliance was to disband immediately and as a collective penance, every one of us was to abstain from space travel of any kind. It was as though the very air we breathed had been taken from us.
But I suppose for our sins we deserved it.
Jason couldn't deal with the sudden quiet thrust upon him as a POW. They took away his war, his fight, the only things he had left to live for. He isolated himself from the rest of us and spent his time alone with only his demons for company.
His first attempt at suicide was inside the walls of the internment camp and it only failed because of my intervention.
Afterwards he broke down and told me the truth about what he felt. It was his fault that his family were dead. And all the anger he had directed so forcefully towards humankind had been the only thing that helped ease a painful burden, so big it was crushing him.
I wondered if cutting him down was the best thing I could have done, if letting him die might have been a kindness after all.
I didn't want him to blame himself for something he couldn't change, but the only thing I had left to offer was the same tired old sentiments. I wanted to tell him to remember the way things had been when he was happy, but that in itself seemed like a device for torture.
He was so tired and so beaten down that by then he would have taken any scrap of relief the universe had offered.
And it came in the form of a Pilgrim by the name of William Wilson.
Bill to his friends, of which I doubted he had ever had any. A man so bitter he wore it like a badge and gave it form in his twisted grin.
He saw something he could use in Jason Sansky. A vacancy, an empty space, a man with no hope and no purpose and lacking the essential will to live.
Someone he could easily manipulate.
He wove us some sad story about his losses in the Peron Massacre, a tale which he seemed to embellish every now and then to his advantage and used it to connect himself to Jason.
Under the wing quickly became under the thumb and he poured poison in to Jason's ear until it became the blood in his veins. Convincing him gently and quietly that he would get his chance to strike at the very heart of the Confederation and all it took was patience.
To his credit, patience was the one thing Wilson had in spades.
His anger was a slow burn and he dined on it for twenty years of hard graft before his plans finally came to bear. He taught his protégé well too.
Jason Sansky didn't experience falling rain until he was almost thirty and when he stood alone in the dark, getting wet just because, the rain washed the blood from the cross around his neck and made it shine a little for the first time in years.
He liked it here. He was comfortable in the Captains chair and with command of the Tiger Claw, even though he knew why the honour had fallen to him he allowed himself the denial.
He had finally had time to appreciate things in his own way and he got on all right with humans and their unassuming little lives, after all it was the same kind of life he had wanted for himself.
There are pictures of his time at the academy in Houston, and Wilson is in every one. Like a shadow, following him everywhere with his constant watchful eyes and twisted grin warning him not to get too attached to the people around him.
I wish to God Jason had had the will power to break free. To shun the influences of his guilt ridden past and his corrupt heritage, because in the end he couldn't take any more. It wasn't hate that made him do the things he did to the Tiger Claw and her crew, it was apathy.
Pilgrims have no hard and fast rules about the condemnation of the soul that takes its own life…the only thing I can hope for now is that he has finally found peace among the stars.