Disclaimer: The characters from the TV series "Space: Above and Beyond" are the property of Glenn Morgan, James Wong, Hard Eight Productions and Fox Broadcasting. They are used with respect but without permission. The remaining characters are creative property of the author and may not be used without permission.
Rated: PG-13 for language and mild animal abuse
Grateful thanks to J.C. for the idea for half of this tale and my cockatiels for the other.
SMOKIE AND BUTTS
enroute to Hermes sector
The lights in the quarters of the 58th
Squadron were low in keeping with the after-Taps time it was. West was
still up; busy with trying to finish a letter home while the rest of
the group began to sleep. If the light at the desk wasn't preventing
that from happening.
"Nathan, please wrap it up." Shane moaned
and buried her face in a pillow. The light was a distraction that was
hard for her to endure.
West looked over his shoulder and worked
even harder to finish his letter. Telling his folks about 'Butts' had
been the best episode he could remember in a long time. It helped to
take his mind off of memories of Tethys. His folks had been worried
sick and only relaxed once they heard from him via videofeed.
His eye sought out the form of the scraggly
orange cat that bore the late-Colonel's name and grinned as it sat by
the side of Hawkes' bunk. Seeming to contemplate whether or not to risk
curling up on his favorite sleeping spot- Hawkes' stomach. How many
nights had he heard the unfortunate 'thump' of a cat body against the
floor or wall when the angry In-Vitro dislodged it from its cozy spot.
West had come to find that IVs hated animals as pets because they got
far better treatment than any 'Tank' could ever hope to receive from
This cat gamely put up with being thrown
off time after time and still returned to Hawkes. Hell, Butts LOVED
Hawkes. It would hiss and spit at the others but it always purred for
him. Didn't seem to realize that it's life would be exceedingly short
had not the 58th adopted him as a mascot.
West kept writing, even as he heard the
angry growl of his fellow pilot and the resulting whomp of a cat body
on the deck plating.
"Coop, how about just setting the cat
down." Vanessa groaned and shifted in her bunk.
"No. I hate the damn thing! It needs to
learn." Hawkes rolled away from them and onto his side, facing the wall.
West wrote on.
-Butts has been a rather touchy mascot.
We named him after a Colonel who came to our squadron quite a while
ago. I told you both then how he was. Well, this cat is like Ray Butts
was to all of us, except Coop. Yet again, he has thrown the cat off
Literally THROWN the animal off.
It never seems to get injured and keeps
returning all the time to rest on his stomach. Coop has a death wish
for the animal but we'll keep Butts around for as long as we are allowed
to. You see, we had a ship meet with us a while ago
"Nathan, turn out the light!" Vansen growled
again, this time fully awake and sitting up in her bunk.
"OK, just let me finish this last bit."
Nathan would have to leave the tale of the Colonel having a cockatiel
from that same ship that had given them Butts.
Maria threw a cover over the birdcage
that now resided in her quarters near her bed and heard the sleepy chirp
of the gray bird as it settled down for the night. She gave a few small
kissing sounds with her lips and smiled before retiring to her bed.
It certainly was never a desire of hers to own a bird; much less this
overgrown parakeet, but the little creature wormed its way into her
It had been in the Mess Hall that she'd
first seen the flapping, squawking creature as it eluded the workers
from the 'Tiber' who had inadvertently allowed it to escape. The tiel's
unclipped wings gave it powers of fast flight that kept it out of the
hands of those chasing it. Until they finally gave up and left, too
tired to pursue and getting too many dirty looks from those trying to
eat supper and avoid having themselves bumped into their plates.
Maria had finally consented to eat some
of the pesto spaghetti the Galley cooked up and was busy wrapping it
about her fork when she saw the bird waddle up on its bony feet. Its
nails making tiny, clicking noises on the shiny tabletop. Its black
eyes intent on the strand of pasta hanging out of her mouth. Watching
it disappear and inched forward.
As she sat alone, she didn't need to worry
about it being scared off. The bird's gray beak and pearl-colored facial
spots against the gray feathers made Maria think of a puff of smoke.
She carefully set her fork down as the tiel came and helped itself to
the pasta on her plate. Happily pulling strands off her plate with its
beak and getting pesto and Parmesan all over it. It ate spaghetti for
a few minutes, then flapped up to a ridge by the ceiling. It took to
flapping down a lot of the dust and stuff that lodged up there until
the kitchen workers brought out a broom and scared it from the Mess
It was later that night when Maria had
heard the chirping in the venting system. While she knew the bird had
somehow gotten in there, she was too damned tired to go after it. Through
the night she had the weirdest dream that involved the tiel's chirping
growing louder. When she awoke in frustration, she noted the small little
bird sitting just inside the vent cover that was over the Grimsley saddle.
Suffice to say that it was only later she discovered that cockatiel
feces dried up to near nothing and could be flicked off with a fingernail.
Such knowledge was not available when the Colonel darkly looked upon
the bird and got dressed. Vowing the creature would wind up as Cornish
Game Hen for the Mess Hall's dinner.
Now she slept in the same quarters as
her once-free pet. Hoping the klaxon wouldn't send the bird into feather-ripping
fits. They both needed sleep badly.
Glen Van Ross eyed the scraggly captain
of the 'Tiber' with a dangerous glint in his eyes. The fact that the
repairs on the man's ship were taking so long coupled with the fact
that animals were loose all over HIS ship. It put the Commodore in a
"The 'Saratoga' is NOT a damn zoo for
children, nor is it a PET SHOP for my crew! I am beyond perturbed at
your thick head not interpreting this, Captain Walsh!"
Walsh, though thin, looked every inch
the amicable sort to everybody who met him. Save his crew. His washed-out
hair and equally washed-out eyes beamed joviality in the face of the
'Toga's angry leader. The only other person who would've done that would
have needed to be 'high'. Whether on drugs or rank, take your pick.
"But Commodore, what possible harm can
"Quite enough! I have reports of skulking
animals through hallways along with random hairballs and excrement in
odd corners. Unusual scents that can ONLY come from 'marking' being
done. One of my squadron commanders even has a damn bird in her quarters!"
Walsh tried not to blanch. It was true
that the bulldog, 'Archie', he had brought aboard did a bad number by
pissing on Ross's shoe but
"I want every animal you brought aboard
rounded up and held in quarantine until your life support systems aboard
your ship are fixed! No damn excuses, Captain, or the Navy will be sending
you a bill if I don't send my Master-at-Arms on a hunting spree first.
Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Commodore, you have been quite clear.
It will take some time."
"Then you best start NOW!" Ross retorted
sharply and the errant captain of the space freighter left very quickly.
Morning- 58th's Quarters
The first sensation upon awaking the next
morning was one of a wrinkled nose for Shane. The smell was enough to
make her gag outright. The rest of the squadron was having quite the
same reaction, as Hawkes still remained asleep.
"Good God! That animal took a dump in
here?!" West threw his legs over the side of his bunk and was very careful
to put his feet only in areas that had been gone over with his eyes
" Nessa, hit the venting fan will you?"
Shane looked over at Hawkes and kicked the bunk's frame. Butts growled
and cast yellow eyes at them as he remained on Hawkes' stomach. Grateful
for the rush of unscented air as Damphousse kicked the vents on.
The entire 58th eyed their comrade as
he awoke groggy but not enough to prevent the cat from being flung off
of him and his proximity. The animal skittered out-of-sight as Hawkes
caught the full whiff of the stench.
"Yes, you will find it and fire it down
the toilet as soon as you do." Shane replied silkily to his bewildered
"He's YOUR pet. You got clean-up until
you find a litter box."
"But..I didn't ask for him!" Hawkes protested
but stopped as McQueen came in with their morning roster.
The man tried not to show any reaction
but the eyes registered his fellow InVitro's consternation. As much
as he wanted them to sort it out among themselves, McQueen opted to
remind them all of something.
"As I recall, Hawkes was the only one
who didn't want the animal around. The rest of you volunteered to have
the animal in your quarters. I think it is unfair to saddle him with
"But the thing only likes Hawkes!" Nathan
protested, mouth engaging before brain. He caught the steely eyes of
McQueen and backed-down real fast.
"That may be so, but the cat belongs to
all of you. For the time being. The Commodore is in the process of having
ALL animals from the 'Tiber' rounded up and penned until their ship's
life-support systems are back on-line. That is, unless you all want
to pitch in to keep
Almost as if on cue, Butts came out and
began to purr and twine itself about McQueen's leg. If it was gratitude
or a butter-up for food, they all didn't know. Only thing was, McQueen
began to get a little red in the face at the furry, noisy creature.
"Get this thing some food and clean up
the pile. After that, your patrol and CO awaits you on the Deck."
McQueen left double-quick, leaving the
whole 58th watching their 'mascot'. The day's roster left on the desk
by the door.
The Hammerheads cut a sleek diamond but
the chatter over the radio was not as sleek.
"Damn cat. It is not my thing!" Hawkes
muttered darkly. The entire ten past minutes had been a bitchfest about
the scrawny, walking hairball.
"You're the only person it likes, Hawkes."
Campeau shot back. The unwilling discoverer of the pile of cat turds
in the shower. Stepped on with bare feet.
Maria sighed in the confines of her cockpit.
"If you folks can't quit your bitching and pay attention to your LIDARs,
Butts will be removed permanently."
It seemed to have the desired effect of
shutting down the grousing, but it also raised the disturbing question
about 'Smokie'. What point was there in threatening to take Butts away
if she wouldn't have her tiel hauled off as well? She was damn close
to outright buying the bird but Ross was not enthused about ANYBODY
having an animal pet on his ship. That had to be respected.
She consulted her blank LIDAR but her
eyes caught the approach of Chig tri-wings first. "Bandits! Two o'clock!
Time to rock and roll!"
The Hammerheads peeled off into their
positions as they began to work for their pay.
There weren't any feathers to speak of.
No doubt the klaxon had blared but Smokie only gave a bright series
of chirps as her owner came in the door and tossed her helmet on the
bed. Clinging like velcro to the cage bars as she came over.
A smile cracked her face as she opened
the cage door and the cockatiel happily jumped out onto the door and
crawled up to the roof of its cage to preen.
The crew came into their quarters and
got greeted in a very uncustomary way by Butts. Rather than hissing
and scurrying off, the animal stayed and purred like it was a friend
with everyone. Catching everyone off-guard. Arching its back and sinking
clawless pads into the decking.
Only Shane recognized what was seemingly
up with Butts. She hadn't wanted to say it, since the cat seemed so
MALE. Its not having the 'equipment' in back notwithstanding. Some neutered
cats had them removed in total. Finally, the time had come as the cat
yowled incessantly and rolled on the floor provocatively.
"Butts is not male." Her eyes watched
the warm petting by her squadronmates freeze up. They were encouraging
the actions of a cat in-heat.
"He is a she?" Hawkes sat up on his bed.
"She needs to be 'fixed'."
Vansen watched Damphousse look on the
"This cat was meant to be a farm animal,
according to what Captain Walsh was saying a couple days ago. If she
is going to remain here any longer, she needs to be fixed or she'll
drive us nuts with her yowling, hormones and horniness."
The faces all turned to Hawkes, who blushed
beet red. He was still having a hard time believing his cat was female
and not male.
One of Walsh's handlers dragged the errant
dog by a choker collar back to its pen on the Cargo Bay as Ross watched.
Rather approving of the clean up of his ship.
"As soon as you are done here, I want
you to begin getting the 'pets' out of the private quarters." Walsh
He didn't want to tell this Commodore
that he was approached earlier by a group of aviators wanting their
cat neutered or by a Colonel who wanted more birdseed for her cockatiel.
Best not to tell him about the parakeet that one dockworker had ride
around under his vest. "Yes, Commodore."
Ross looked on approvingly as the men
brought in a yipping, little lap dog. Had the wonderful feeling of 'good
riddance' until he saw the Guinea Pig. Another handler had spirited
it out of the enlisted mens' quarters. Only then did it trip a childhood
memory of his older brother killing his pet back then.
It had been the only pet he'd ever really
liked and his sick bastard brother killed it when Glen had finally fought
back against the bullying he'd received. He never forgave Clifford for
that. Even all these years later.
In a most unlikely move, the Commodore
went over and picked up the furry creature. His eyes softened as he
held the warm, furry animal in his hands.
The house seemed so cold and lifeless
without the folks there. The War must've kept them at work for whatever
reason. It certainly made a difference to Maria as she comforted the
gunmetal grey Himalayan cat named 'Gus' that she'd grown up with. At
this point she didn't care if they ransacked her apartment out in Mukwonago.
The War was getting way too serious. Reports of Soviet troops making
their way out from Chicago were too urgent to not be believed. She'd
had a thought of driving West but of what use was it when the Soviets
were blocking the interstates and blowing-up those who were on the road
already? Maria was busy eating a ham sandwich as Gus slept peacefully
in the living room window. The light of late afternoon was casting an
eerie glow in the space and on him. Tears came into her eyes as she
watched the animal. Knowledge of possibly having to kill him heavy on
An uneasy shift in the
interim of sleep. A brush of her hand against moist eyes. A sob stifled
by semi-consciousness. Deep breath and sleep resumed while the 'Toga
edged closer to the Hermes sector.
The smell of the sweaty
mount she rode hit her nose as he went down to an easy walk. Her hand
stroked his hot neck and sun-warmed hair. The easy movement under her
telling her that all was well on a fine spring day
It was perhaps the one morning when Hawkes hadn't thrown Butts off of
him. In fact, the cat had been able to peacefully sleep on his warm,
human bed the whole time. The peace between him and his In-Vitro bed
was now comfortable and not uneasy as before. Nobody noticed the animal
get quietly taken off of his perch and spirited away.
Ross looked over the last of the animals that had found new homes
coming back. Couldn't help but notice the two men who came back with
some injuries, since bandaged, into sight as well. The cause of their
pain came in with a birdcage and a bird that stubbornly clung to the
sides with its little feet and chirped mightily.
The Commodore watched Strasser hand over the bird with a curious,
hard look in her face. Obvious that she didn't want to do this but knew
that the present situation demanded it. He waited for the transaction
to complete and stepped aside to speak with her.
"What made you give it up?"
Maria turned to Ross, then watched her bird for as long as she could.
Her throat twisted with sadness but her voice came out clear, if soft.
"When the Soviets invaded, it took a week or so for them to get up
to my parents home from their base in Chicago. In that time I wavered
back and forth between keeping the family cat with me or killing him
to spare him pain. The day came when those invaders came to my street.
I had grabbed my parents' gun from their bedroom and was going to take
the cat into the basement when soldiers broke in the door. Gus flew
out the door and ran down the driveway before realizing that he didn't
want to go towards the trucks on the road. I flung the gun from me and
ran to a window as the invading soldier made a grab for me. The soldiers
in the truck let a volley loose and killed our family's cat where he
stood." Maria looked again at Ross when Smokie could be no longer seen.
"They laughed as the cat writhed to death on the driveway. I cursed
myself for not having the guts to do the right thing then. I vowed I
would never willingly place any such pet in that arena again. Since
then, I've always tried to do the right thing. Much as I liked this
bird, she has no place on this ship where she could be put in harm's
way. It is the thing you owe a pet is to keep it from harm. As much
as you owe to it to keep them fed and cared for." Ross nodded. All along
he had figured she'd been through something along that line.
The pets of the 'Saratoga' left without incident for their own home
on a terra-formed planet with colonists not too in danger from the ravages
of war. There placed, hopefully would live a life more the kind their
species would feel used to. They had, though, filled their own niche
in the lives of their human caretakers for as long as they were part
A happy memory in an otherwise onerous existence.
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