Disclaimer: The characters and situations of 'Space: Above and Beyond' depicted in this story are legal property of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Hard Eight Production and 20th Century Fox Television and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's note: The story is set somewhere between Eyes and Stay with the Dead.
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THE ANONYMOUS MARINE
They don't notice me. And that is okay, because I understand why. I have also been one of those veterans in a squadron who never acknowledge the existence of the replacement. Of the newbie...the 'rookie'. Hell, in this war, none of us are rookies. I am not, at least.
I served with the 81st since I graduated. Two years, until the CO and I were left lone survivors. Then I got transferred to here. The USS Saratoga.
The 58th Squadron.
For them I am just another face. And that is okay. I don't care anymore. Still, they are forced to acknowledge my presents. When in battle, they tell me what to do. They say 'Great job!' or 'Nice one!' when I shoot a Chig. West does that a lot. The others as well. Like I was some rookie.
I am not a rookie. They aren't rookies either.
I am the one in the background. The one who stands there or walks around in the bunkroom in my underwear. The Marine that is always there but whom no one sees. That's me. At all times. The replacement.
Though sometimes I catch their attention. Like now...
"Are you trying to get yourself killed? Juke left!" Vansen screamed into the communications link.
I juked, straightened my Hammerhead and fired a missile on the Chig I had locked in front of me. It hit. "Negative, ma'am," I replied. No names. Another thing that showed that I was a replacement. They don't have the time to remember my name.
"Looks that way to me," Hawkes replied, no doubt grinning since he blasted the last Chig. Then he fell into formation with the rest of the 58th.
"Sorry, sir," I repeated, my voice low and serious. I don't bother to say something else. West is going to give me the 101 talk about engaging the enemy and then it will be out of the world. I don't bother to defend myself, it never works.
I stand in front of West 30 minutes later. He is the unofficially XO, right after Vansen who is Honcho. McQueen is away on some meeting. Vansen never takes care of these things...she sends West to do the dirty job.
"Disobeying an direct order and putting yourself and us in danger," West begins, frowning. "That is unacceptable, Lieutenant"
He doesn't bother to read my name off my flightsuit. He just throws a look on my rank insignia and starts jabbing. I wish to shut him up but I don't move a muscle. I am a 2nd Lieutenant. He is a full Lieutenant. A Silver bar.
I stand there in attention, nodding and saying, 'Yes sir', but I am not really listening. So I screwed up. Big deal...but we survived. I know that the Wild Cards have done bigger mistakes then the one I just made.
Finally, West decides that I have had enough and leaves. Most likely to sit on his bunk staring on that photo tag he wears all the time.
I enter the 58th's quarters and walk to my bunk. It's not a very thick bunk at all but I sit down on it. The Wild Cards overlook me and go on with their own business. Some head off the rec room, others to the Tun.
Alone again. I smile and get up, walking to my locker. There is almost nothing in it and I get undressed before stepping under the shower. The hot water makes my skin turn pink but I don't care. I just let the water run soothing down my back and over my head.
It's like those old songs about war. How you don't know your real buddies until you are bit by a snake in a place you can't reach. We don't have snakes here so I won't experience that in the nearest future.
I am not worried about my future. No reason to be. You learn that very soon in the Corps.
I head to the Tun afterwards. The 58th are sitting together playing poker. I don't gamble so I don't bother to sit with them. I just order a drink and move to sit alone by the counter. The bartender gives me a look as if to say 'Don't worry, they'll come around'.
Yeah right. I down my drink and order another one, something which The CO of the 58th, Lt. Colonel TC McQueen, notices. I hadn't realized he was back from the meeting so soon. He approaches me and eyes me with that ice-cold stare. "You have a mission tomorrow, Marine," he reminds me. His voice is as cold as his stare and you don't need to me a rocket scientist to know that he is a tank. You can see it. Maybe because In Vitros don't blink as much as humans...
I nod and he walks away. As usual I avoid conflicts. Even the Colonel does not remember my name. Hell, why am I here?
Going down planet, McQueen tells us. Patrol duty. Everyone has to have that in their Tour of Duty. Me, I have done this a few times. They tell you it is routine. Everyday stuff. Shit, whom are they kidding? This hasn't been everyday stuff since Korea.
But then again, we Marines have always done this. Patrolling and standing guard on the wall. My senior drill Instructor used that line. Standing guard on the wall making sure that the normal man and woman could celebrate Christmas...
It's the soldier that gives you the right to say your meaning, burn the flag, have fair trails and curse the world leaders. But it is the Marine that punches the living daylight out of you for burning that flag. Our flag.
I sit alone in a corner of the ISSAPC throughout the trip. I just stare out of the porthole, not caring about the others. My bitterness towards them has grown over the last days and they have not noticed.
Why do I care what they think? Just because we are meant to be a team, just because we are meant to be friends and stick together doesn't mean that they will take the time to learn my name.
Afraid to get hurt? Oh, stop it. It's just that we are Marines. Semper fi, do or die. Marines stick together. They have all through history. It's not without reason why they call us 'a band of brothers'.
But we aren't just Marines. We are human beings as well. And that's the reason they are shutting me out. I am the Marine in the background.
We step off and start patrolling. In silence, of course, since Vansen ordered radio silence. But that is all right. I have no one to talk with anyway.
The next thing happens so fast. Me and Wang walking together in silence. Then suddenly a scream. A terrible, throaty scream. And I realize it is I screaming. It sounds so far away. I can't feel anything except...fear. Because I am staring up into the armour of a Chig. It looks at me as if to mock me. As if to say, 'You fought good, human'. As if. I didn't struggle at all. My weapon lies on the ground and where is Wang? Out of sight. I smile bitterly over this. And the worse past is that I know and understand. It happens so fast. And then, he kills me....
McQueen sat in the Tavern, frowning slightly over the letter he had to send to an unfortunate Marine's mother. It was the normal stuff but he was expected to write about a glorified death, honour, Country and sacrifice. A lot of bull.
Still, he started the letter with dear mister and misses...what had been the Marine's name? He looked through the after action report the Wild Cards had given him. Marsden. Harriet Marsden. He continued writing. It was easy because he had had too many of these letters. He knew what to put in it.
Another dead Marine, Ty thought as he sealed the letter with the final words; 'Your daughter was a great addition to the Squadron and will be greatly missed. My condoles. Respectfully, Lt. Colonel TC McQueen. Commanding Officer of the 58th USMC Squadron'.
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