Disclaimers: Vansen and all other characters and scenes from the series "Space: Above and Beyond are copyright Fox Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fiction. The story itself belongs to A. Aaronson. It may not be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies may be made for private use only and must include all copyright notices and disclaimers.
The background art is the 92nd Squadron "Diamondbacks" patch and is used without permission of the owner
The 92nd Squadron "Diamondbacks" - The Official Kristen Cloke Fan Club

Notes
The author is aware that the radio communication portrayed here does not correspond exactly with the episode "...Tell our Moms we did our best", and so does not require mail correcting it. Now think, why might Vansen's poignant last line from the episode be missed out?


ROGER THAT

by

A. Aaronson


"Roger that."

The comm link clicked off. That was it then. Shane had consigned herself and Vanessa to death, to give Nathan a chance to save the colonists. She knew it was the right decision, the only decision for a marine, her name would be honoured as one who had sacrificed her life for a greater need. All this she knew, and yet, as the cargo section of her APC seemed to fall away from the viewscreen, she could not help but feel a sudden impulse to call for help, to order Nathan to save her and ignore the colonists, trapped and helpless in the cargo section which had, moments ago, been attached to her shuttle.

Even as she was gripped by this desire she ruthlessly quashed it. She was their leader and, as a leader must sometimes be willing to give the order to leave friends behind, she must be prepared to order that she herself be left behind. It was hard to believe that those metal cans floating in space in front of her contained the people she cared about most in the universe, all of them. The APC crews called their ships 'box crates', Hammerhead fighter pilots called them flying coffins. It had started off as a joke, no one laughed at it anymore, they were the dodos of spacecraft and too many good people had died in them. And now Vanessa and her would be added to the list. Not in a fighter, not even with a gun in her hand, she noted, "Flying ace", "Queen". It was a bitter irony.

This is crazy, she thought, I'm going to die and all I can think about is spacecraft specs. Despite this her mind desperately wanted to think about something aside from the kilometres of air between her and the ground. She thought about her pool cue, her 'deadly weapon', what would happen to it? It'd be sent back to her family, to her sister, but what was the point in that? She didn't play pool neither did her husband, she had five thumbs on each hand when it came to ball games, always had done. She'd probably throw it up in the attic somewhere where it wouldn't see the light of day for years. Maybe they'd give it to her niece, that'd be okay. Maybe she'd sell it, at least then it would have the chance of being used again. She didn't like that, the idea of anyone else playing with her cue, even if they were good and won loads with it... especially if they were good. She really wished she had her cue with her now.

The APCs could no longer be seen but a small explosion illuminated their position. More Chig fighters were coming in, her friends were fighting out there, maybe dying, maybe she would have a welcoming party in the after-life of those she had led to their destruction.

A wave of anger crashed over her, she was helpless, not only to help the others but also to defend herself, the only reason the Chigs hadn't destroyed her already was because she presented no threat, she was insignificant, something not even worthy of annihilation, even at the prison in Kazbeck she at least had a goal, a hope of survival, a chance for revenge. But now, nothing, not even the chance of life, the retro boosters and the chute wouldn't save her from the impact on the planet below, and even if by some miracle she survived the toxic atmosphere outside meant that the tiniest hole in the hull would let in enough to kill her.

Another explosion, bigger this time, allowed her to get a fix on the battle. It was far too bright to be a Chig fighter, it must have been Nathan's APC or the cargo section of hers. Her mind froze with the enormity of that small flash of light. Either the colonists or Nathan and Paul were dead, and if that were the case then the rest of them, undefended, would die quickly after. Her mission had almost certainly failed. Her sacrifice had been for nothing, she almost wanted to cry but her eyes remained clear, she didn't feel connected anymore, it was like it was happening to stragers.

She looked over at Vanessa, she couldn't tell if she was unconscious or dead. She had tried to wake her up before but then she wondered why bother? Why did she want to wake her up? What would she say to her? She was happier in her ignorance, trusting in the ability of her friends to succeed against all the odds as they had done so many times before; they had failed her as they had failed themselves and all the colonists who were already dead. Nathan had found his Kylen, they had been united at last after a year of searching for the Telus colonists and then they had been separated, permanently, scant minutes later.

If only she had been knocked unconscious when her APC had been blown in two like Vanessa, then she need not have lived through this humiliation. Had John Oakes passed out after he rammed that superfighter? Had he never known that his last act had saved her life? She hoped he did, that he could be proud that his sacrifice had not been in vain. Then she realised that she had failed him too, his sacrifice had saved her, but she had done nothing to make it worthwhile. The stars had been quiet for too long, she had to know what happened to Nathan and the others, she was desperate, she would have given up the last few moments of her existence to know for sure, for better or for worse; but the radio had long ago given up the ghost and so she was alone, with her fears, her shattered dreams and her memories.

Dear John, she still cared for him, loved him in a way, love isn't something you can turn off like a tap, he would have missed her if he'd still been alive; but now who would mourn her if her squadron, the 58th the 'Wildcards', were dead? The Colonel would, but he had been through all this before, the loss of his unit and his friends, before she had even met him. Her sisters? They would, in a reserved kind of way, all her friends were dead, all her family estranged. Those first stumbling attempts at reconciliation seemed so inadequate now. She no longer begrudged her sister using the name she had chosen to be her child's for her own baby. She wondered what it would have been like, to have stayed on Earth, to raise a family, to be a mother, to feel such and unbreakable connection with another human life. A fleeting sense of loss touched he soul.

The green methane clouds swirled around outside the viewscreen, beautiful but unnatural. The booster fuel was running out, these Wildcards had played their last hand. Then, all of a sudden, the comforting pressure exerted on her by the booster was gone, she felt herself lifting out of the chair as the cockpit went into free fall. The chute was released, she slammed back into the seat as it opened, and once again felt her stomach drop out of her as the chute was ripped off. Her skin was slick with fear, her heart was pounding, this was really happening, she really was going to die, no way to survive.

She'd faced death before, she'd faced it all the time, but she had expected it to come from a lucky shot from a fighter blowing her to atoms or the bullet of a sniper drilling through her brain. She'd never expected to have time to really realise what was going on. Her brain sprinted through its memories as the adrenaline kicked in. Her life fleeted by in an instant, she never dwelled on one for long. Basic training, the na´ve reply "To defend my country, sir!", her talk with Cooper on their way to their first mission, why did she confide in him? A weird sense of empathy with his own plight? Doesn't matter, skip on, Pagodin's blood splattered face, the AIs, why couldn't she have killed more of them, another failure, hundreds more flashed through, killing Chigs, so many of them, shouting at Ross, a burnt teddy bear, a pitiful alien face, a fierce helmet, Winslow and McQueen, John ... John, the birth my niece, laying down with the dead, a finger of sugar, a cell with Vanessa. Vanessa, who'd joined up to find a direction in life, it certainly gave you that, straight down to die on a place which doesn't even have a name, only a serial number. Her heart beat so fast it felt like it was going to explode, it boomed in her head even as she heard the roar of the wind outside, the tightness of the strap holding her down. She could feel everything around her, smell it all, taste her own fear, she'd heard that some people experienced a moment of perfect peace just before they died, she wasn't even close. (Pumping heart, can't breathe, just want to scream, to scream and scream and scream) [NEVER!]. Racing blood, rampant adrenaline, fear, growing, building, a tsunami gathering speed, the furies of millions of tonnes of water, monstrous, terrifying, howling all around her, a promise of untold devastation.

impact


There was no peace. Her body exploded, every fibre screamed in the agony of death. Her vision was splashed with red, the pain was all-consuming. She was no longer a person, all she was was pain; the agony defined her very being. Time distorted, elongated, seconds stretched into years, into ages, her death cry was eternal, and yet it was over in a moment. She felt trapped at the height of the rush, the peak of the experience; then as her body was crushed, as each centimetre of skin and muscle and bone was pressed beyond its limit and was rent apart, it was over. She stopped feeling, her senses were overloaded. She had burst from the volcano into the quiet blue waters beyond. The world was dark. The world was ... green?

She could see nothing but the green, felt nothing but a touch, a pressure on her back. A feeling that something was there, a presence, holding her, comforting her, soothing her. Her mind was a blank, no impulses raced along her neural pathways. Then the memory came back, of the explosion, the eruption, the massive wave and the thunderous break across her body. She whimpered, she twisted and buried her face in the presence, she held it as if for dear life, and it held her. It made her calm as the thunder and the fear receded; no, not fear, as the memory of the fear, and the pain, faded. She felt herself breathe, no air came in or out but it was comforting. She could feel the presence but she could smell nothing, and could only see the green. She felt at peace.

A thought drifted through her consciousness like a breeze. It wasn't her own, it was the same as the soothing but this expressed sympathy, and love and a sense of well-being. Now she was calm she finally felt it clearly. She tried to ask a question, to query, but nothing formed except the feeling of curiosity. But it was enough.

?

<(safety, reassurance, affection)>

dead?

<(safety, peace, affirmation)>

query, identity

<(safety)>

who are you?

<(image)>

?

<(image)>

?

< (image: hood, cape, skull, scythe) >

comprehension, fear

<(safety, reassurance)>

laughter, nervous

<(relief, pleasure)>

query, location?

<(complex image)>

?

<(unimportant, safe)>

safe

<(desire to stay, necessity to leave)>

alarm!

<(safety, reassurance, necessity)>

query (image of friends)?

< (image: Paul releasing the cargo section of Nathan's APC) >

< (image: Nathan attaching his APC to Shane's cargo section, Cooper and the colonists knocked off their feet inside) >

< (image: Paul roaring with his primal scream, drifting through space in the cargo section. Firing, firing, as he is consumed by the explosion) >

< (image: Nathan and Kylen, another separation, her to Earth, to safety, him to continue fighting. The colonists, safe, embarking behind them) >

< (image: a long last embrace) >

< (image: Nathan and Cooper, side by side, on their bunks, in their empty barracks, staring into space) >

happiness, pride, pain, loss, sorrow

<(safety, affection, reassurance, explanation)>

comprehension, acceptance, peace

<(peace)>

where now?

<(ignorance)>

come on

<(reluctance)>

please

< (brief image) >

oh

<(necessity to leave)>

desire to stay

<(necessity to leave, urgency)>

acquiescence

<...>



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