Read an Exerpt of The Long Way Home

The night was perfectly clear and still, the pure brilliance of countless stars making up for the absence of the moon, as outside the tar-paper Nissen hut Lieutenant Vin Tanner sat, as indeed he had been sitting, for untold hours. The perfectly relaxed but unchanging posture belied the storm of emotions that raged within him, but each minute that ticked away only served to torment rather than ease his already disquiet soul.

Missing. At his back, the quarters he shared with Larabee and Standish stood empty, a barren reminder that they had not come back. Chris, Ezra and Buck. Missing. Seventeen hours had passed since Overdue had turned chillingly to Missing and finally to the dreaded Missing Presumed Lost and while his heart refused to believe, his head kept reminding him of the odds and with every passing moment hope faded. Come the dawn he would be flying with another crew. Nothing unusual in that, he had told himself, subbing for absent crew was standard practice in the squadron. Absent crew. Goddamn it, who was going to replace Chris or Ezra or Buck? He raised a hand, the first movement he had made in more than two hours, and rubbed at tired eyes but he knew the prickling he felt behind the lids was more than just the grit of sleeplessness. Who would replace them? No one. Plain and simple. No one. A new pilot, a new exec, a new waist gunner - positions filled with new faces, new names - but it would never be the same.

Abruptly he got to his feet and, digging his hands deep into his pockets, started to walk, the stunned lethargy that had held him captive suddenly replaced by the intense and overwhelming need to move, if only to reaffirm that he was still a living, breathing entity. He walked, unthinkingly, not sure where he was going but sure he could no longer stand the painful silence of the empty barrack room over which he had kept watch for so many hours. Waiting patiently. Watching. Hoping. His emotions, having swung from raw anger to crushing sorrow and back again countless times, were in tatters; and he no longer knew what he felt except an incredible sense of loss.

Larabee's Lady. He had not meant to come to this place --or maybe at some primal level, he had --but now he was here on the parkway, staring up at the barely visible nude painted vividly on the nose of the bomber, he understood in some small measure what had driven him towards the flight line. He stood quietly for several moments as a host of memories flooded into his mind, and he allowed them in freely, then as his throat constricted painfully he reached up and touched the cold metal skin.

Missing. He wanted to shout, he wanted to scream to the heavens at the injustice of it, he wanted to hit out at something, anything, but instead he wearily rested his head against the comforting solidarity of the Fortress -- and prayed.