58th Squadron Quarters
04: 14

"Shane, Shane..." a faint voice called out from afar.

Lieutenant Shane Vansen instinctively opened her eyes responding to the sound of her name. She propped herself up on her bunk and curled up responding to the cool breeze. In the distance she could see a figure, although she couldn't exactly make out who it was. "Who are you?" she called out nervously. There was no reply.

The figure began to move toward her. As it moved closer and closer she was able to make out a face. Shane's anxiety quickly turned to joy as she recognized a familiar face. "Cooper? Is that you?" she asked out loud. Once again, there was no reply. "I'm so sorry," she said in a weak voice.

Cooper Hawkes continued to move closer toward her. "I know Shane, I know..." he finally replied. Cooper was just inches away from her now as he stood in front of her bunk. His had a serious look on his face. He seemed to have something important to say.

"Cooper, what is it?" Shane asked.

There was a long, pregnant pause. "I can't stay long, Shane. I just wanted you to know that I'm still alive and that I miss you Shane. all of you...." he said softly before walking toward the door.

Miss her? What on earth was he talking about? He was right there in their quarters. "Wait!" Shane called out after him. "Cooper, stop! Where are you going?" Cooper Hawkes briefly stopped and turned around to look at her one last time before he continued to walk away. Why wasn't he stopping? "Hawkes!" she yelled out as she got up and ran towards him. As she got closer toward him, she lunged at him but... he was gone! "No! Cooper...don't leave me," she screamed.

"Shane, Shane..." a voice called out.

Shane opened her eyes and saw her three squadron mates peering down at her, their faces full of concern. "I saw Cooper... he was here! Right here, in our room" she said frantically as she pulled herself up off her bunk. "I..." Shane felt a hand on her shoulder.

Vanessa sat down beside her and hugged her. "Its okay. It was just a bad dream."

Shane shook her head. It wasn't a dream. "I saw him. I really did. Why don't you guys believe me?" she asked despairingly, her voice beginning to crack. Once again, tears started to flow from her face. Shane burried her face into Vanessa's welcoming arm's.

'Phousse' hugged her even tighter. "It's okay hun...," Vanessa re- assured Shane, rocking her gently in a motherly fashion as both Paul Wang and Nathan West looked on.

USS Saratoga

"Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen" Colonel Ty McQueen said as he entered the observation deck full of marine aviators. As he entered the entire room stood at attention. "At ease," he said coming to the front of the room. "I have a meeting with Commodore Ross in half an hour so let us begin immediately. It has come to my ..."

Sitting in his seat, Nathan glanced over at his squadron mates. He glanced over at Damphouse who was intent on listening to Colonel McQueen's ramble. Paul Wang too listened intentively, although Paul did have time to acknowledge him. Looking over his shoulder he glanced at Vansen, who seemed out of it. Nathan shook his head seeing his friend sit emotionless, her face stone, her mind drifting into the unknown. His eyes still wandering Nathan gazed over at an empty seat, one probably taken up by his friend Cooper Hawkes. Sadness filled his heart as he stared at the empty object. After a long, pregnant pause he turned around and began to listen in as Colonel McQueen continued with his briefing.

"...for those of you who are on patrol today, be careful" McQueen warned. "The Chigs have found a way of scrambling our LIDAR systems, and as you are well aware by now, we lost a pilot yesterday during a routine reconnaissance mission. You all know the dangers of being out there so I don't want to have to tell you again. Alright, look sharp and watch each other's backs out there," McQueen said looking over directly at Vansen. "Dismissed!" With that the daily briefing was over and the pilots closed their notepads and began filing out of the room. "Oh, and one more thing," McQueen called out as they were about to leave. "Funeral services for Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes will be held in Launch Bay 5 today at 13:00 hours. Anyone not on active duty is encouraged to attend."

"Encouraged to attend my ass! That's a bunch of bullshit" Shane Vansen angrily said as she slammed down her pad shut and got up from her seat. "So what, funeral services are now based on voluntary attendance? When the hell did this come about?" Shane muttered underneath her breathe. Some of the pilots who happened to have overheard her blowup darted looks of surprise her way while others quickly made their way out of the room knowing full well an ugly confrontation was about to break out.

Just as Shane was about to head out of the briefing room McQueen, who happened to be speaking to another aviator, stopped her. "Vansen!" Shane stopped and turned around facing him.

"Shut the door behind you," McQueen ordered. Shane did what she was told and when the door was closed McQueen started in on her. "You wanted to ask me something, Lieutenant?"

Shane Vansen shook her head. "No, Sir."

"If you have something to say to me, you say it. I don't have a problem with that. However, when you want to put on a show for the other pilots in the room it becomes MY PROBLEM!"

"Fine! I won't do it again. Are we through here?" Shane asked defiantly.

"The next time you act up I will have your behind so quickly you won't know what happened to you. Now Lieutenant," McQueen said pointing a finger at the door behind her, "GET OUT OF MY FACE!" McQueen fumed angrily as Shane turned around and left.

Shane walked quietly back to her room. When she stepped through the door the rest of her squadron mates were waiting.

"What was that all about back there?" Paul asked, referring to the incident in the briefing room.

"Back off!" Shane snapped back shoving her way through Wang as she headed over to her locker. Just then Shane felt a hand on her shoulder. "For Christ sakes LEAVE ME ALONE!" she yelled out and without any thought at all she turned around and struck Vanessa, who was standing behind her, on the head with a clenched fist sending Damphouse instantly to the floor.

Nathan and Paul stood stunned at what had just happened. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Nathan angrily demanded as Paul ran to Vanessa, who lay motionless on the floor.

"Just back off, alright?" Shane defended herself before storming out of their quarters. As she did both Nathan and Paul helped Vanessa to her bunk.

58th Squadron Quarters

"Can someone please help me with these buttons?" Paul Wang called out fumbling with his gold-coated buttons, and in the process of doing so, broke an eerie silence which be felled the quarters of the 58th Squadron. Neither Nathan, Paul, or Vanessa said a single word to each other for what seemed like hours as prepared for their friend's funeral service. The three friend's loathed wearing their tight and old-fashioned dress uniforms and hated attending formal events and ceremonies. Consider the circumstances, they were going to hate this occasion even more.

"Here," Nathan said coming over and doing up Paul Wang's buttons for him. 'I wonder where Shane is?' he thought to himself. They hadn't heard from or even seen her since she stormed off earlier in the morning.

Paul smiled. "Thanks, man."

"We'd better head out," Vanessa said looking at the clock directly in front of her. As she headed toward the door she picked up Nathan's cap on his bunk and threw it at him. As they headed out Paul called them back.

"Shouldn't we wait for Shane?" he asked standing in the doorway. There was a silence as both Vansen and Nathan looked at each other.

"No, we shouldn't be late for Cooper's service," Vanessa curtly replied. "I wouldn't feel right if I was late for his funeral and besides, I could care less where she is at the moment," referring to Vansen. Obviously she was still very sour about being pummeled onto the floor by Shane's fist earlier in the day.

The three well dressed marines made their way down the long and narrow corridors of the USS Saratoga and toward the flight bay in silence. The usually five-minute long journey from their quarters took noticeably longer today than usual but given the nature of what they were going to do it didn't really care.

Nathan looked at his watch as they entered the hanger. The time read 13:00 hours. He thought they'd be the last one's to show up at Cooper's service but there was only a handful of marines here. 'There can't be more than 10 people here' he said to himself shockingly. He quickly exchanged looks of surprise with both Paul and Vanessa. "Didn't McQueen say it was at 13:00 hours?"

"Yes, I did" Ty McQueen replied, turning around. "Unfortunately, we're the only one's here." Straightening the bottom of his dress uniform he watched as Nathan, Paul, and Vanessa joined the 'handful' of other marines at attention. McQueen quickly inspected the marines as he walked by them. "Where's Vansen?" he asked whispering in Paul's ear.

"I don't know, Sir."

McQueen stood silent for a while and then looked over at Vanessa, noticing the black mound over her left eye. "We'll wait another five minutes for Vansen to show up" McQueen said. The five minutes came and went and there was still no sign of Shane. After consulting his watch McQueen walked up to the chaplain and whispered in his ears.

"Lets us begin," Chaplain Ed Acreas said as he initiated the service. "We are gathered here today to wish a fond farewell to Marine Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes. Lieutenant Hawkes was a fine gentlemen as well as a fine office and a great, great friends to his companions."

The marines stood in silence as the chaplain began his service. Standing beside Vanessa, Nathan West's attention shifted from the chaplain's eulogy as his eyes gazed upon the empty, flag-draped casket in front of him. He smiled as he remembered the good times he had with his friend but his face dropped as he realized those good times were now over. Nathan's heart ached and his sadness grew more intense as the service went on. It wasn't long before his eyes began to water.

Beside him, Paul and a few of Cooper's female friends could be heard weeping. Vanessa Damphouse or 'Phousse' as she was affectionately known tried to fight back her own tears but she too was powerless against them.

Shane meanwhile stood outside of the hanger doors in silence and wiped a tear from her eyes. She couldn't bring herself to come into the bay nor could she face the rest of her squadron mates. An overwhelming sense of sadness and loss swept through her as tears streamed from her eyes uncontrollably. Shane dropped to the floor and hugged her knees before burying her face into her chest. "It's all my....fault," Shane muttered softly as she sobbed away.....alone and by herself.

19:43 Hours
Commodore Ross's Quarters

"Come," Commodore Glen Van Ross called out responding the knock on his door. Looking up briefly from his guitar he saw Colonel T. C. McQueen standing in front of him.

"Sir," McQueen said quickly saluting the naval commodore. "I just thought I'd drop off the active duty rosters for tomorrow" he said offering Commodore Ross the file.

"Thank you, Colonel. Just leave them on my desk." Commodore Ross instructed still in the midst of playing his guitar. As the colonel began walking away, Commodore Ross put down his guitar and called after him. "Is that all, Ty?"

"Yes, Sir" McQueen replied, turning around. "Why do you ask?"

"Because, I know you better than that Ty. You could have gotten one of the junior officers to bring down the duty roster to me, or better yet, you could have left them on my desk. Instead, you brought it upon yourself to come down here and bring it to me yourself. So, something must be on your mind."

McQueen paused, his face deep in thought. "I just can't help but think we could have done something more for him," McQueen said as he tensed up

"You mean Hawkes?" The graying and frail commodore asked, offering McQueen a seat.

McQueen closed the door behind him and seated himself directly in front of the Saratoga's commanding officer. "Yes, Sir. We should have went after Hawkes. One search-and-rescue mission doesn't seem like an appropriate response. I mean, we have so many resources available to us here on the Saratoga that we could have used such as long range sensor sweeps for example. I can't help it think we gave up on him too soon, too quickly. I think we should have done more to look for him."

"Colonel," Ross paused, "that was all that we could do considering the circumstances. A land-based search-and-rescue mission is very dangerous and the chance of casualties might have been too high to take a risk. I'm all game for taking risks but there are so many unknowns." Ross paused to take a sip of his coffee. "It was just too risky. I think you made the right decision to call off the search when you did. Besides, the chances of Hawkes surviving this long in enemy territory are slim and probably getting slimmer by the hour."

McQueen nodded his agreement. "I guess you're right. However, with your permission Commodore I'd like to continue monitoring the planet just in case we pick up a signal from him, anything."


"Thank you, Sir" McQueen replied getting up.

"By the way, Colonel" Commodore Ross said leaning back on his chair still with the active duty roster in his hand, "I see you have taken the 58th off the active duty roster."

"Yes, I have" McQueen replied turning around. "They are a pilot short and although there is a general shortage of pilots on the Saratoga I've decided to take them off the duty roster until I can arrange for a transfer. They're a good group of young marines and they've got good chemistry between them. I don't want to break up this bunch.

"Very well, Colonel. I trust your judgment."


Previous : Part One

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