|Disclaimer: "Space: Above & Beyond," its characters
and devices, are the property of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Hard Eight
Productions and Fox Entertainment. While no permission has been granted
to use these characters and devices, this is a work of fan fiction, and
no copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHORS NOTE: "Interview with the Vampire" by Anne Rice is mentioned but not quoted. Comments are welcome and may be sent to Dora Shelton at dshelton. Enjoy!
"Ty, I don't see why you are so concerned with this. You should be glad that there are friendships out there to be made by these kids, besides with each other. You are being too protective of the 58th since they returned to the Saratoga after being stranded on Demios." Commodore Ross knew that Col. McQueen had the squadron's interest at heart. He also knew that he still blamed them both for leaving the 58th stranded for two months on the planet, while they left to engage in the offensive against the Chigs after the loss of the Eisenhower. With that in mind, = he could not bring himself to be hard on Col. McQueen in this matter.
McQueen stood in the Commodore's quarters with his hands behind his back. "Commodore, I simply want to be sure that the relationship with the civilian flight crewman is not going to interfere with their performance. She has been assigned to the 58th's flight crew for only a short time, and has been spending a lot of time with my Marines. I want possible problems stopped before they surface, and I don't want to have to approach the civilian supervisor to get her history." He looked down toward the floor before continuing. "I'm just looking out for them."
Ross smiled and sat down at his desk. "You need to let them look after themselves, Ty. You have nothing to make up for."
McQueen looked up quickly, a guarded look in his eye. He looked away to the side and replied, "But I do, sir." He looked back to Ross, this time with determination, "And you know I do."
Ross sighed, knowing that he could not argue this point with McQueen because it would do no good. He knew McQueen would never back down, and Ross still felt his own guilt sharply. To give in to McQueen in small matters like this was not difficult. "All right, what is the crewman's name?"
Ross sat back, elbow on the armrest of his chair, chin resting in his hand. Obvious recognizing the name, he replied, "Interesting."
"You know her, sir?"
Ross stood and walked to the port. Looking out into space, he answered, "I know of her." Smiling to himself, he turned back to McQueen. "She requested transfer from the relief unit to the crew assigned to the 58th as soon as the position came open. She was not senior, in fact had only two months of duty under her belt at the time. She had proven more capable than most seasoned flight crew members, so she got the job." He turned back to the port. "I reviewed her record myself at the time she was recommended to receive the assignment over several others who were more experienced. Her history is interesting, but nothing to worry about, I assure you."
McQueen was not satisfied. "What is her history, sir?"
Ross turned to look at McQueen, then returned to his desk. Pouring both of them a drink, he handed one to McQueen. "Sit down, Ty." Both men sat and McQueen waited expectantly, knowing that Ross would give him the information that he requested.
Ross held up the glass, looking at it in the light. He sat it down on the desk, and looked at McQueen. "Her husband is Lt. Robert Scott of the 142nd Marines assigned to the USS Capistrano. He is a good pilot, I understand. They were only married two weeks when he was shipped out and Heather went into flight crew training without ever telling him. She wanted an assignment to the Capistrano, but drew the Saratoga instead. She was top in her class, and the only new recruit we had drawn since the war started. We normally pull only experienced crewmen. She is good Ty."
"I know she is good, Glenn. I have seen her work and have no complaints there. My concern is if she is good for the 58th. They don't need to be distracted from their duties." McQueen's familiarity toward the Commodore was proof of his concern.
Ross smiled. "Let the relationship go. A little distraction may be good for them. If there are problems, she can be moved." He sat back thinking. "It is odd, though, that she has never requested a transfer to the Capistrano since her assignment with us." He looked at McQueen and added, "I would hate to lose her."
McQueen understood the warning not to interfere. When he considered it, she was one of the best flight crewmen assigned his deck. Besides, Ross might be right, maybe she would be a helpful distraction, not a harmful one. "So would I, Commodore, if she turns out to be good for those kids."
Heather was finished with duties for the day. She sat on her bunk, reading an old book. She found that there was a rash of good writing about 100 years earlier. She was enthralled in her latest acquisition, "Interview with the Vampire," and considered this particular writer wonderful. She had heard that there was a film made of the book. She looked forward to seeing it.
She leaned forward on the bunk, intent, when a shadow fell over the page. One of her crew mates, Jonathan, yelled into the barracks, "Mail shipment just arrived."
Heather looked up. Setting the book aside, she grabbed her boots and quickly put them on. As she entered the hallway, she fell into the flow that moved toward the flight deck holding the transport ship carrying the mail.
On entering the flight deck, she saw a group of civilians off to the left. She joined them and heard her name called after about five minutes. When she answered, she was handed a bundle of 5 letters. Looking through them, four were from Rob, one was from the Marines Corps. She stuck the bundle into her pocket and headed back to the barracks.
The letters from Rob were routine. He had a recent encounter with a Chig squadron had bagged another craft kill. He always referred to killing the craft rather than the pilot in it. It was a matter of propriety with him. He passed on news from the squadron and told her he missed her. The last letter was dated two weeks earlier.
Heather stared at the open letter from the Marine Corps laying open on her bed, tears rolling down her face. Her back against the wall, knees to her chest and arms wrapped tightly around her legs, she tried to stop the tears before the others came back. The words from the letter echoing around in her head:
"Dear Mrs. Scott, We are sorry to inform you of the death of your husband...."
The soft, perfect etiquette of the rest of the letter did not lessen the blow of the first line. They certainly lost no time in delivering that line, she thought. It went on to explain that the Capistrano had encountered numerous Chig squadrons and Rob was shot down while engaging them. The letter told of what a fine officer he had been, all those things meant to comfort you in the memory of the dead. But Heather found no comfort in the words. Only the realization that he was killed the day after sending his last letter.
In fact, after the first blow had its impact, she felt nothing, only numbness. And loss. She suddenly felt completely and totally alone, a feeling she had never in her life experienced. She didn't even know that the tears still poured down her face.
Vansen sought out the flight crew supervisor. She had not seen Heather on the flight line, or anywhere else for that matter, in five days. Finally, a crewman directed her to a tall blonde man standing with his back to her.
"Mr. Wallace." Vansen called to him while still approaching him. She was not going to let him get away again. She had been chasing around, searching for him for an hour.
Wallace turned to see who was calling him. "Yes, Captain?" he said impatiently. Just what I need, he thought, another complaint about some trivial nothing.
Vansen eyed him, not knowing what provoked his tone. "Where is Heather Scott? I have not seen her for almost a week." She immediately noticed that he became more tense, looking around at the other crewmen who were near. She saw that they all looked at each other cautiously.
Wallace held a hand in the direction of an empty platform off to the right. "Please, Captain, lets speak over here." He touched her on the arm as if to direct her movement in that direction. They walked several paces before he began speaking. He quietly explained that Heather was off duty for a few days, as her husband had been killed in the line of duty.
He watched Vansen as this information was understood. He saw the questioning look on her face as she stopped walking and stared at him. Then he saw the anger begin to set in, as she wondered why she had not been told sooner. He did not want to give her the opportunity to dress him down, so he began speaking again. "I know that you are Scott's friend. You would have been informed sooner, however, she specifically requested that nobody else be told. She wanted to settle the matter in her own mind before having to deal with anyone else. I felt that I must respect her wishes. She moved temporarily into separate quarters for one week."
Wallace slowly looked around the room, at the other workers as he spoke. Many of these people had expressed concern over her seclusion, feeling that it was not good for her to be alone at such a time. He agreed with them at first, so he had visited Heather daily. But what he saw was not someone in a deep secluded depression. He saw a strong willed person settling her personal affairs in the quiet necessary to accomplish such matters. He was amazed at the strength he saw grow in her every day. Wallace looked at Vansen and continued. "I can assure you, Captain, that Scott is handling this very well. She will be moving back into the barracks tomorrow. Maybe you could visit her then.
He waited, looking at Vansen expectantly. She tilted her head and demanded to know the location of the quarters where Heather was staying. Wallace sighed, expecting this request. He gave her the location and watched as she left the flight deck.
Vansen went directly to the quarters where Heather was housed, knocking on the hatch loudly. She heard the familiar voice on the other side. "Enter."
Vansen entered the quarters, finding Heather seated at a table going through a pile of paperwork. Heather looked up and smiled sadly. "Hey, Shane, pull up a chair."
Vansen sat at the table and looked over the paperwork. Insurance, joint property holdings, family stuff. She then looked at Heather, who had sat back to watch her, judging her reaction. "I just heard." She looked at Heather, wondering what to say. "I'm sorry to hear what happened to Rob." What else was there to say?
Heather smiled, "Thanks." She leaned her arms onto the surface of the table and sighed. "I got five letters when the mail came. Four from Rob and one from the Corps. Luckily, I read the ones from Rob first." Her eyes misted over, as she looked down at the table. "God, Shane it hurts, you know? But I keep telling myself that I am lucky that we were not married longer, because then it would hurt even more. " She looked up, tears rolling down her face. "Once it sank in, I felt so lost. He was the only family that I had, since my parents died several years ago."
Vansen leaned forward and reached across the table, placing her hand on top of Heather's. "He's not all you have, you know. You have friends who will be your family. You have me and you have Hawkes." Thinking a moment, she continued. "Coop found a family in the 58th. You will find your family in all your friends now, too" She smiled, tipping her head to look up under Heather's hair hanging down in her face, into the eyes that were starting to dry again. "I would have been here, you know that. I just don't understand why you shut me out."
Heather looked up at Vansen, not realizing that she had hurt her by excluding her from the pain she felt herself. "I had to deal with this alone, Shane. I had to build my strength and deal with my own issues before I could deal with anyone else. I hope you can understand."
Vansen smiled. "I do, but I still wish you had come to me."
Heather nodded. "Well, tomorrow I move back to the barracks, and the next day it's back to work, trying to get back in the swing of things then. I will probably rely on you a lot soon enough. " She wanted to change the subject, but knew that Vansen was only setting her own mind at ease over the situation. "How long do you think it will be until the final papers arrive from the Corps?"
Vansen thought a minute. "Well, when Neil West was killed, I think the flag and papers were delivered to his parents about a month later. I will find out and let you know." She stood, satisfied that Heather was going to come through this OK. "You know where to find me. Otherwise, I will see you in a couple of days." She put her hand on Heather's shoulder and gave it a squeeze, then left.
As the hatch closed, Heather sat back, thinking. She realized that everything was going to be all right at that moment.
Vansen rarely sought out Col. McQueen, and never went looking for Commodore Ross. But she wanted their input and would need their permission to do what she wanted to do. Her idea was not in accordance with normal military procedure, but it was something that she felt was important, and she hoped that they would allow it.
She learned from the bridge security officer that they were together in the Commodore's quarters so she headed there. Now, standing outside the door, she felt nervous. Taking a deep breath, she pounded on the hatch. She waited to hear a reply from the other side, but instead the hatch opened. Commodore Ross was startled to see her there. Inside, she could see Col. McQueen sitting on the far side of a desk. He saw her and immediately stood, with a worried look.
"Captain, this is an unexpected visit."
Vansen took a deep breath and plunged in. "Yes, sir. I was hoping to have a word with you and Col. McQueen, sir." She waited as they exchanged concerned looks with each other.
Ross looked back at Vansen and stepped aside. "Of course, Captain. Enter. It must be important or you would not be here."
Vansen nodded and entered the Commodore's quarters. The hatch boomed closed behind her.
Two weeks passed. Heather appeared to have recovered from the shock of Rob's death, and worked as hard as ever. She was replacing worn hydraulic lines when Wallace approached her.
"Scott, I received word that you are to meet with Commodore Ross on the flight deck tomorrow at 0800 hours." Wallace reached up and patted her on the shoulder with a sad smile. "It appears that the burial flag has arrived and there is some formal presentation that is made in delivering it. Military funeral protocol, which requires non uniform dress. You can take the rest of the day if you wish."
Heather nodded. God, she thought, what morbid speech will she have to listen to just to be handed a flag?
A Marine security officer arrived at the barracks in dress uniform at 0745 hours to escort Heather to the flight deck. She thought nothing of it, thinking it routine.
She had dressed in a simple short, black dress. She had few civilian clothes onboard, since she never needed them, but she was relieved that she had this dress along. It was plain, but could be dressed up for formal parties, if there were ever a need for her to attend one. Today, however, it was just a plain black dress on a widow going to her husbands funeral.
She walked down the long corridor with the Marine. She looked over at him, so stiff and formal. And so young. She wondered what he thought of all this. Did he worry about his family going through something like this someday?
At the entrance to the flight deck, he stopped and tapped the hatch three times. He turned to face the opposite wall as the hatch was opened from the inside. There she saw another single Marine in dress uniform, holding the hatch open for her to enter. As she stepped inside, she looked at him.
Before she could turn, she heard Col. McQueen's voice. "Mrs. Scott. Please allow me." She turned to see him holding his arm out to her formally. As she took his arm, she felt lost. She saw movement out of the corner of her eye, and turned to see the 58th lined up at the far end of the flight deck in full dress uniform. She looked back at McQueen, who could feel her hand shaking on his arm. He realized that she had no idea what was going on.
As he began walking across the deck slowly with her in tow, he quietly explained. "Normal military protocol is to have a single Marine deliver the burial flag to the family. " He looked at her and smiled. "The 58th, however, requested a special ceremonial transfer of the flag. They felt that it was more appropriate if the flag would be delivered by those closest to you, wanting it to be a *family* ceremony." His stress on the word family, caused her to stop walking.
Heather quickly looked at McQueen, who had returned to his normal serious expression. Recovering quickly, she began walking with him again. She could not tell if he approved of this, but it clearly was something out of the ordinary.
McQueen finally looked at her as they neared the line of Marines. "We gave our approval. I hope you don't mind."
They stopped about ten paces short of the line. Heather's eyes began to mist. "How could I mind, Colonel?" She placed her other hand on his arm she held and squeezed it. "Thank you."
He smiled as he stepped back and moved off to the left.
At the same time McQueen stepped away, Commodore Ross approached her and gave her a few words of encouragement. He expressed his hope that she would decide to remain with them, because she was needed onboard. He added that this need stemmed not just from her work, but from her relationships as well.
Ross stepped away from her, moving to stand in front of Vansen, a short distance off to her right. McQueen stepped forward and stood two paces Vansen to her left, directly across from Ross. Vansen was in the center of the five members of the 58th, lined up before Heather. West and Wang, at either end of the line, each took one step forward. They turned to face each other and advanced until they met in front of Vansen. They then turned, went between Ross and McQueen and two paces past, then stopped. They then faced each other and stepped back. Once in line with Ross and McQueen, Vamphousse and Hawkes on either side of Vansen took one step forward. They repeated the actions of West and Wang, falling in line two paces away from each.
Heather saw all of this through the mist in her eyes. She now looked down the short corridor of uniforms at Vansen, standing at attention at the other end. The officer who had admitted Heather to the flight deck approached Vansen from her right, carrying a folded United States flag. It sat in his open, outstretched palms. He stopped, holding the flag directly in front of Vansen. She took the flag from his hands and he seemed to fade away to Heather. She saw Vansen look down at the flag, then up at Heather. Vansen slowly advanced down the corridor of uniforms, stopping in front of Heather.
The words were spoken slowly but sincerely. "We present this flag in honor of those fallen in this war. They are our brothers in arms, our fallen family. We protect and accept the life they leave behind as our own. Accept this token in the spirit in which it is offered and let the spirit of life carry on in us all." Vansen held the flag out to Heather in her outstretched hands.
Heather looked at the flag and up at Vansen. "You did this for me?" She waited for an answer, but no words came, only a smile from Vansen, who nodded. Heather reached out and took the flag in her hands as a single tear rolled down her cheek.
She held the flag to her chest. At that moment she awoke to the fact that she had built a family around her and never realized it. She was never alone, and would never have to be. Then she stepped forward and hugged Vansen. She looked at Hawkes and Vamphousse over Vansen's shoulder, then at the others beyond them, still clinging to Vansen. The 58th broke the line, and gathered around the two women as Heather released Vansen and stepped back.
Next : The sequel to this story is Heather: Acceptence also avaliable at this site.
Dora Shelton © 1996