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A Hero's Death? MAG
"Pain." That was the one recurring thought going through Scott Long's mind.
"PAIN." It was getting worse, he looked about. It was a barren world, one barely capable of supporting life, and he was stuck here.
"PAIN!" A rather inhospitable world, not a great place to be when you're dying. Especially when you're from Earth.
"PAIN!" Scott took in his situation, he had a good deal of glass, metal and silicon in his gut. He had no radio with which to contact Earth. The experimental Starwarrior class ship he was in charge of was totaled, and he was on a planet which was controlled by the Stohrans. Not good.
"PAIN!!" War was not his nature, but since Earth and Stohran had declared war upon each other, all trainable young men had to join Star Command to fight in the war. Star Command saw that Scott was one of the best star pilots they had ever seen, but he refused to engage in combat, even in training. He was labeled a coward, and was made a test pilot. Scott hated being a coward, but there was nothing he could do except to become the best test pilot there ever was. Andby the time he had turned 30, he was known as the greatest test pilot since a man who had become a legend, who lived when airplanes that traveled at the speed of sound were considered very fast - Chuck Yeager. But Scott was still called a coward.
"PAIN!!!" He would always be called a coward, and now he was dying a coward's death. He had taken the new Starwarrior X-1 out for an extended test flight, and had run into a Stohran fighter squadron. Since he wouldn't fight he would run. So he turned around and accelerated to full power, and prayed. Unfortunately he was shot down, and crash landed on the planet he was now stranded on.
"Bloody hell, I'm dying," he said this out loud, but no one was there to hear. Then he saw a Stohran ship land nearby, all his training from the academy told him he should activate the self-destruct on his ship when the search party came near and kill them all, but his nature told him to wait. He did.
After about ten minutes he saw that the search party were medics, or were they? He had been told by his instructor that Stohrans would do almost anything to capture members of Star Command, and torture them. His instructor had quoted a song about another legend, Harry Truman: "Never trust an enemy. Never cheat a friend ..." Scott knew there was more after that part, but he couldn't remember it. He knew that the next line was very important, but he still couldn't remember it. The Stohrans drew nearer, and Scott gave the self-destruct system power, and he would hit the switch when the power reached full. He would kill everyone within a 12 mile radius. He would ...
"Just doing what you think is right usually works out in the end ..." Scott murmured. That was it! That was the line he had been trying to remember, so he followed that advice, and turned off the power. Even if he died, he wouldn't kill others. He passed out.
When he came to, he wasn't hurting as much and he was on a hospital table, but the doctors were Stohrans. Scott didn't care. One of the doctors asked,
"Why didn't you destroy your ship, and kill your enemies?"
"Because," Scott said feebly, "I don't believe in war, nor do I believe in killing, and by destroying my ship I would be going against my beliefs, and would make the war more intense because I would have destroyed people who were trying to save me. I have always been called a coward, and I resent that. If I had destroyed my ship I would be called a hero, but I would know as I die that I am truly a coward. But by doing what I think is right, I will be called a coward in death, but I will know that I am a hero. Thank you for trying to save me, and good-bye ..." Scott closed his eyes, and never opened them again.
Back on Earth, everyone called him a coward, and even refused to take his body back from the Stohrans.Thus the Stohrans gave him a hero's burial.
Five years later the war ended with a treaty signed by both the Stohrans and the people of Earth, and it was recognized that Scott Long's deed of not destroying the Stohran rescue party was the turning point from which peace came. So Scott was finally recognized as an intergalactic hero, and the planet he crashed on was named for him. It is now called Long's World. n