Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the TV programme "Space: Above & Beyond" are the creations of Glen Morgan and James Wong, FOX Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions and have been used without permission - no copyright infringement intended.

The character of Mary Sommers is mine. I am by no means an expert in courtroom terminology so please forgive any mistakes. This story is just a bit of highly unlikely fun and definitely not to be taken seriously. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Please e-mail me if you have any comments - only constructive criticism please to: mel@opal64.freeserve.co.uk

From a Jack to a King


Mel Maxwell

Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes sat stiffly in a small office onboard the USS Saratoga waiting for Commodore Ross. He had been summoned about twenty minutes ago, no reason for the request being given at the time. He knew that the Commodore wouldn't be giving him another dressing down after his and West's near suicidal mission to rescue the surviving members of the 58th. The Commodore had already severely dealt with them regarding their insubordination. What worried him was the presence of the two M.Ps standing guard outside the office.

His mind drifted back to the events which had followed the 58th's rescue of the Tellus POW's, resulting in the loss of three of his closest friends and the departure of the only man he had ever looked up to, Colonel McQueen. Within a matter of hours, his world had been shattered into a million pieces - they were the only people he had ever cared about…

Cooper had lain on Shane's bunk lost in thought, contemplating all the things that the Wild Cards had gone through together. He thought about Shane and everything that she had taught him. He was finding it difficult to accept the fact that she was gone and that he was alone again. Accept, that is, for Nathan West. Cooper glanced over at Nathan laying on Paul's bunk, obviously trying to come to terms with the loss of his friends too.

Finally, unable to stand the strained silence any longer, Cooper turned towards Nathan and said, "I know they're out there waiting for us to go get 'em."

"I know," said Nathan, trying his best to swallow down the aching lump in his throat, not making eye contact with Cooper. "They've denied our pass code access to the Hammer Bays. I checked."

"What!" yelled Cooper, swinging his legs off Shane's bunk and angrily standing up. "You mean you tried to go after them without me!"

"No, of course not!" Nathan replied, jumping to his feet, reflecting Cooper's angry stance. "I was just…"

Cooper wasn't going to give Nathan a chance to explain. "Well, what the hell were you doing?" he demanded, grabbing the front of Nathan's flight suit, sending him crashing into the hatch door, "I bet you were just sneakin' off again, like you did at Tellus. What the hell's wrong with you? What was it that McQueen said when you did that? Oh yeah, 'this war wasn't made just for Nathan West!'"

Nathan had wondered when Cooper was going to react to the recent tragedies. After watching the injured McQueen transported away back to Earth, Cooper had hardly said or done anything, obviously the shock making it difficult for him to communicate his feelings. Nathan had expected the In-Vitro to do something, maybe even breakdown and cry, but he hadn't expected anything quite so violent or the violence to be directed towards him. He put up his hand to protect his face from the fist he imagined was flying his way.

Nathan suddenly felt himself released from the In-Vitro's powerful grip. He opened his eyes to see that Cooper had collapsed back down onto Shane's bunk, clutching his head in his hands.

"West, I'm sorry," Cooper mumbled through his fingers. "I just… I just don't know what to do."

Nathan sat down next to Cooper. Feeling awkward, he patted the emotional In-Vitro's shoulder reassuringly. "Look Coop, I know it's frustrating but I've got a few ideas how we can get to them."

The two marines had talked long into the night, going over Nathan's plans and making new ones, putting together a plan of evasive action.

One of Nathan's plans had involved the stealing of E Allan Wayne's Aerotech ISSCV which Nathan noticed, during the ensuing chaos caused by the bomb onboard the Saratoga, had been left unattended on one of the loading bays far below them. It hadn't taken Nathan long to figure out the pass code, and before anyone on the Saratoga realised it, the two remaining members of the 58th were out into space.

While Nathan piloted the craft, Cooper was seated at the controls of the gun turret. He remembered the Commodore's voice floating loud and clear through the communication link.

"5-8, get your sorry butts back here this minute," the Commodore's voice was emotional, almost pleading. Then his tone had changed sounding harder, more commanding, "And don't think I won't fail to court-martial the both of you, remember that you two are already grounded pending further investigation. Do I have to remind you that going AWOL…."

Nathan had turned off the comm-link without responding to the Commodore's threat. They knew that they were in deep-serious because of informing what they believed to be an innocent alien life-form the Roundhammer plans for Anvil, little realising that the life-form had turned out to be a Chig. Getting into further trouble by stealing the Aerotech ISSCV and heading after their squad mates didn't matter to them, they were bound to get drummed out of the Corps anyway.

Getting to the planet on which they had last seen their team mates falling towards in the decapitated ISSCV cockpit, hadn't been as difficult as they had anticipated. They hadn't spotted a single Chig scout. It had been eerily quiet in that region of space. Nathan had thought the reason for this was that the Chigs were probably regrouping, getting ready for their next offensive after the failure of the peace talks.

It had taken them roughly four hours to locate the crash site on the nearby planet, the sky constantly darkening. Cooper remembered how his heart had almost stopped when he saw the wreckage. He doubted that the two women had survived and felt nauseous at the thought of finding them dead inside the pile of twisted metal. He recalled looking at Nathan and seeing him pale, obviously the same thought had occurred to him too.

They were still both trying to come to terms with Paul Wang's probable death. The vision of Paul sacrificing himself so that the hostages could be saved, still fresh in their memories. Even Nathan, with his strong faith, had admitted to Cooper that he doubted Paul had survived the collision with the Chig fighter. The thought of losing Shane and Vanessa as well was almost too much. They had to believe for their own sanity that the two women were still alive.

Once at the crash site Nathan began to explore the wreckage while Cooper began to circle the wreck, securing their position. Cooper scanned over the nearby rocky hills with his night-vision binocs ready to detect the faintest movement. As he rounded the corner of the cockpit he nearly fell over the legs of a prostrate Chig warrior. He dived back for cover and called out for Nathan to do the same. The two men then inched their way back around the corner, M-590s ready to confront the dead Chig and came across another two. The bodies reeked, they must have been there for some time.

"This means that at least one of them is still alive," whispered Nathan with a relieved grin.

"Yeah, me," croaked a hoarse voice from the shadows. "Nice of you guys to drop by. What took you so long?"

"Paul, is that you?" asked Nathan as he and Cooper rushed to Paul's side. Paul Wang lay in the shadows, propped up against the wreckage. With shaking fingers, he clutched an M-590 rifle close to his chest. The young marine was injured, pretty badly from the look of it.

Cooper stared incredulously at Paul. "How come you're ali…??" He was stopped from finishing his question by Nathan's firm restraining hand on his arm.

Unbuckling his pack, Nathan pulled out a carton of water and put the straw to Paul's cracked lips. He knew there was no use pulling out his first-aid kit, it would have been totally inadequate to cope with Paul's injuries.

"I crashed into those trees back there," Paul whispered, "I guess they broke …" he suddenly collapsed into a fit of coughing. Recovering he continued, "… broke my fall."

"Shh, Paul, there's no need to explain," reassured Nathan. "We're gonna get you out of here, just hang on buddy."

"Good job I was wearing my lucky shirt," gasped Paul. It was typical for Paul to try and diffuse a tense situation with one of his cracks.

"And there was me thinking that rank smell was comin' from those Chigs. Should have known it was that damn Bears shirt," retorted Nathan with a smile at his friend.

Paul's expression changed from one of glad relief to one of foreboding. "I don't know if they're still alive," Paul whispered. "I haven't heard a sound from their wreck since I greased those Chigs."

Cooper had started to examine the wrecked cockpit gingerly, not wanting to shift too much wreckage in case the two women were lying injured beneath. Nathan's voice had been raw and cracked with emotion as he called out their names and it was Nathan who had spotted a small booted foot peaking out from under a slab of twisted metal. Cooper remembered Nathan looking up at him, his eyes expressing his thoughts - now we find out if they're alive or dead.

The two men got a hold of the heavy metal slab slowly raising it to one side. Inside the smashed cockpit area of the ISSCV was total blackness. Cooper pulled off his night-vision binocs as he held the flashlight, slowly running its intense beam from the booted foot upwards. He nearly dropped it in shock when he reached Shane's blood covered face. Her eyes blinked up at him, her pupils dilating as they adjusted to the light. Her lips moved as if trying to speak, but no sound came out.

"Shane…" whispered Nathan, tears of relief streaking down his dusty cheeks. She was alive, but looked badly injured, her leg twisted in an awkward position beneath her body.

Cooper quickly pulled out a carton of water from his pack, like he had seen Nathan do for Paul, placing the straw to her lips. She took a few long deep swallows and released the straw. Cooper remembered the strange look on her face, as she reached a hand up to him and brushed a tear away from his cheek. He hadn't realised that he was crying. He had never cried before, nothing in his short life had ever seemed worth crying about, except her. He heard Nathan draw in a ragged breath.

"Shane, is 'Phousse…..?"

This time, Shane found her voice, "I don't know…" she whispered, her own eyes now wet with tears.

They had found 'Phousse still strapped to her seat. They were relieved to find that she too was still alive, although unconscious. Cooper remembered the vivid image of Nathan cradling the limp 'Phousse in his arms after cutting her out of her straps. She looked as if she were nothing more than a sleeping child.

Cooper and Nathan had been as careful as they could as they removed their squad mates from the wreckage. Shane had insisted that Paul and Vanessa be taken back to the Aerotech ISSCV first as they were in a much worse condition than herself. Even though Shane was badly injured, her voice had lost none of its commanding tone.

Leaving Nathan to make Paul and Vanessa comfortable, Cooper had rushed back for Shane. He could see the vague shapes of Chig warriors fast approaching the smashed ISSCV and in a heart-stopping panic, he realised that in his haste he had left his rifle behind and that there was no time to go back and get it.

As he approached Shane, Cooper could see the panic in her eyes as she twisted her head in turn from him and then to the approaching Chigs. He saw her jaw drop as she realised that he wasn't armed. He knew that she would give him hell as soon as they got back - if they got back. Cooper prayed that West had got the engine running.

"Where the hell is your gun?!?" Shane exclaimed as he reached her.

"No time to explain," he replied breathlessly. "We gotta out run them, you can kick my ass later. Now grab on!"

The Chigs were now beginning to shoot at the wreck and their laser fire clanged and sparked off the metal. Shane's face contorted with pain and she cried out as Cooper quickly removed her from the wreckage and up onto his back.

As they began to dodge their way through the laser fire, her arms tightened around his neck and he felt her hot breath on his ear as she gasped, "I knew you'd come for me..."

Cooper was brought back to the present as the door to the office swung suddenly open. He stood to attention as Commodore Ross entered the room.

"At ease, Lieutenant," said the Commodore, and indicated for Cooper to retake his seat. The two M.Ps also entered the room and stood silently in front of the door.

"Now I know that you do not know why you have been summoned, Lieutenant Hawkes," said Ross. "And I'm afraid that I do not have good news."

Ross' face was grave as he looked down at the papers in his hands. "There is no easy way to say this, Lieutenant," he continued, "but a warrant has been issued for your arrest concerning an incident that took place on Earth before your indentured servitude. You are to be arrested on the suspicion of first degree murder."

Cooper's face momentarily fell in disbelief. He knew almost at once who he was accused of killing. He had known that it was only a matter of time before his past caught up with him. Since fleeing the In-Vitro Educational Facility after the incident he knew he would have been impossible to trace on the streets of Philadelphia. He had just been another anonymous face in the city's vast homeless population.

The Commodore studied the young In-Vitro's face as he imparted the news. Hawkes had seemed momentarily taken aback, then his eyes had fallen down to the table, understanding the Commodore's words as if already admitting his guilt. Ross wished that Ty was there, standing by his side lending his support to the situation.

"I have taken the liberty of hiring an attorney on your behalf," Ross said. The compassion in voice failing to take away the sting of his earlier words. "Your trial is to take place on Earth in the US state of Philadelphia where the alleged crime took place. These people," he waved a hand in the direction of the M.Ps, "have been assigned to accompany you back to Earth."

The Commodore then nodded to the M.Ps who then opened the office door to let in a police sergeant. The sergeant stood in front of Cooper, took out his badge and showed him his identification.

"Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes," began the sergeant. "I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Mr Carl Voight, an In-Vitro Education Monitor, on January, 2nd 2058."

The officer continued to read Cooper his rights. The M.P.s then placed handcuffs on his wrists and led him away to one of the ISSCV loading bays. Cooper complied without any resistance, feeling as if he was sleep-walking through a hideous nightmare.

The courtroom was smaller than Cooper had imagined. He stood in the dock, wrists still locked together by the cuffs, facing the judge. He could see the jury out of the corner of his eye, twelve expectant faces waiting for the cross examining to begin.

He knew that the dead man's wife and family were seated in the public gallery, but so was Nathan, Shane and McQueen, the nearest thing to a family Cooper had. Only Vanessa Damphousse and Paul Wang were missing, their injuries making it impossible for them to attend but he had been told that they were both making good progress.

Cooper had pleaded not guilty to the murder, he had maintained that the killing had come about from an act of self-defence. The military attorney Commodore Ross had hired, Mary Sommers, had proven excellent. He had been pleasantly surprised to find out that she was a staunch campaigner for In-Vitro rights and her cross examination of the In-Vitro Education Monitors who had known Cooper, had left them and their corrupt evidence tied in knots.

The court had also heard character testimonies from Shane Vansen, Nathan West and Colonel McQueen, all of which were highly favourable. The court was also told of Cooper's heroic actions in battle which had resulted in him and his squadron being awarded the Montgomery Star for bravery defending Earth from the Chigs.

Cooper had been surprised to hear the glowing report that Shane had given to the members of the court. For the past few months she had been acting strangely towards him. He remembered that in the past whenever he had needed to talk to her, she had always been there for him, but recently it was like she kept trying to push him away, using any excuse to avoid him. He wondered what he had done to upset her. It hurt him to think that she was angry with him. Vanessa had noticed Shane's attitude too and had just advised him to stay out of her way for a while.

His thoughts were interrupted when the judge indicated for him to take the stand. Now it was his turn to tell his side of the story. He knew what he was going to say and the challenges he expected from the Voight family's attorney didn't faze him. He knew that he was innocent of the murder charge, it was just a matter of convincing the jury that the killing had not been preconceived.

Cooper proceeded to tell the court about the night that Voight had come into the bunkroom he shared with nine other In-Vitros. He explained that when he had lain down on his bunk, he had found a scrap of paper from a fellow In-Vitro under his pillow. The note had warned him that the monitors planned to 'erase' him for being 'defective'. Moments later Voight came in and told him that he had monitored the onset of a head-cold and ordered Cooper to go with him so that he could receive treatment.

The Voight family's attorney crossed the room to stand before Cooper to begin his cross examination. "The note that you received warned you that the monitors planned to 'erase' you, is that correct Lieutenant?"

"Yes," answered Cooper, realising what line of questioning the attorney was going to take.

"Can you tell me what you think the definition of the word 'erase' is?"

"I took it to mean that they were going to kill me."

"And why should they want to do that?" the attorney arched his eyebrow.

Cooper paused for a moment, trying to make sure the words he chose would be the right ones. He spoke out addressing the jury clearly and slowly. "I think it was because I started to question their authority…" he stated.

"…You see, the monitors don't like it if you start asking questions. They want you to behave like a dumb 'tank', follow their orders. We're not taught to have a mind of our own. I think they thought that a 'tank'," he spat out the derogatory word, "who could think for himself was somehow dangerous..."

The attorney paused considering Cooper's answer. There were murmurings from the public gallery behind him. The judge took advantage of the pause in the proceedings to announce a short recess. Cooper was led away to the cells by an M.P.

Cooper had been cross examined for over an hour now with no visible end in sight. He felt mentally drained. If he was found guilty of first degree murder, he could face execution by lethal injection, although Mary had told him that with his war record it was highly unlikely. The worse possible scenario she could think of if found guilty, he would face a long-term prison sentence. She was confident that together they could convince the jury of his innocence.

After the recess Mary Sommers gave a passionate speech concerning In-Vitro rights by exposing the In-Vitro Programme for what it really was, a cruel way of making cheap human life. She told the court how these unfortunate men and women were robbed of eighteen years of their lives, only to be decanted and thrown into battle or some other type of servitude, without any socially useful education.

She went on to tell the court that In-Vitros were a human substitute originally intended to replace the huge loss of human life brought about as a result of the A.I. War. After the war, the programme had then turned sour because some natural-borns considered themselves too good to fight or do the 'dirty jobs' themselves. No wonder the In-Vitro platoons were dissolved - who could blame them for not wanting to fight, they had nothing to fight for. Any natural-born human should be ashamed of violating an In-Vitro's right to a decent chance in life.

"You said that Mr Voight took you away for treatment for your head-cold. Where did he take you?"

"He took me to the place where I was born," Cooper's voice was low and he shuddered as he remembered the nauseous feeling of being flushed from the tank onto the birthing table, fluids gushing out around his weak body.

"Did you still think he was going to kill you?"

"I wasn't sure. I remember feeling alert. Very alert."

"What did Mr Voight proceed to do?"

"He listened to my chest with a stethoscope and then my back."

"What were your feelings about this? Did you voice any concerns?"

"I was frightened, really scared. I didn't say anything."

"Going back to this note you received, Lieutenant Hawkes. This note warned you that something unpleasant may be about to happen to you. Did you take any precautions to prevent anything from happening to you?

"Like what?… I don't understa…"

"Did you arm yourself, Lieutenant Hawkes?"

"No, we weren't allowed near any weapons at that time. We were too young."

"Did you not have access to cutlery, perhaps?"

"Yes, but it was made out of plastic."

"What happened to make you suspicious of Mr Voight's examination?"

"I caught sight of the monitor's reflection in an empty tank. He was holding up a knife, about to stab me in the back. I jumped off the table and hit him a couple of times, trying to get the knife out of his hand. I got the knife and stabbed him…"

"Did you know that you had killed him?"

"Yes. As an In-Vitro I was taught 687 ways to kill a human-being before I was a year old but I wouldn't have killed him unless he tried to kill me first. I killed him in self-defence. It was him or me." Cooper glanced at the judge and then the jury, trying to guess if they believed him or not.

"So you freely admit that you killed him. When you got the knife out of Mr Voight's hand, why did you feel the need to stab him three times, Lieutenant Hawkes? Could you not have used something to restrain him while you made your escape?"

"It happened so fast. Like I said before, I was frightened. All I had been taught since I was born was how to react to hostile situations and to kill and," he said almost under his breath, "that America loved me."

"What did you do after you stabbed Mr Voight?"

"I took his security pass and ran for the nearest exit. I was frightened, I couldn't think straight. All I knew was that I had to get away as quickly as possible… I'd never been 'outside' before..."

The judge had completed his summing up and the jury was now locked away somewhere deciding his fate. Cooper sat in his courtroom cell, his head in his hands. It was impossible to know which way the judgement would go. He thought about the Wild Cards and mulled over something that 'Phousse had once said.

"Do you think that if we had all met under different circumstances, we would've hung out together?"

He thought that in his case it would have been extremely unlikely, the thought almost making him laugh. He remembered his surly attitude to his squad mates when he had first met them, and theirs towards him. He had been angry at being sentenced to join the marines. They wanted to be there, he didn't. Now he was glad that they had managed to form a strong bond of friendship, he needed them at a time like this.

Six long hours passed by before he was once again summoned to the courtroom.

"Members of the jury, do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of first degree murder?" asked the judge, when the courtroom had settled down.

"We find the defendant not guilty," said the spokesman for the jurors.

"Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of manslaughter?"

"We find the defendant not guilty. We believe that the killing was the result of self-defence."

Cooper twisted his head to look behind him and grinned at his 'family' in relief. Shane had jumped to her feet, he was surprised to see her do so as she had just had the cast removed, her leg having been broken in three places. She looked at him and seemed to be about to shout something. McQueen and Nathan restrained her and pushed her back into her seat. She suddenly seemed overwhelmed by relief. Cooper watched bemused as she put her hands over her face and buried her head into Nathan's shoulder. Nathan put a comforting arm around her and gave Cooper a broad grin and a thumbs up signal.

"Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes," said the judge, regarding him sternly. "this jury has found you not guilty of the charges brought against you and believes that you killed this man in self-defence with no preconceived intention of doing otherwise. Because of your mental age at the time, and the fact that you were acting on instinct brought about by the violent teachings of this In-Vitro Educational Facility, you are now acquitted of all charges brought against you."

The judge continued, "I have also been granted permission to quash the earlier sentence passed upon you that forced you into indentured servitude in the US Marine Corps. The courage and bravery you have displayed and the honours that you have received are a credit to someone who has been failed so greatly by his country."

"You may therefore leave this courtroom with an honourable discharge, a free man able to make decisions for yourself and those around you. This courtroom is now adjourned."

Cooper sank down into his chair, hardly noticing a police officer removing the cuffs from his wrists. Mary came up to congratulate him, the cheers from the public gallery echoed around him. He was finally free for the first time in his life.

Back at the hotel room the military had provided for him, Cooper sank down on to the bed. He tried to take in some of what had been going on around him for the past few days. Straight after the trial he had sent Commodore Ross a message to say that he wanted to stay a part of the 58th and the Corps, they were his 'family' after all.

He smiled to himself, he finally felt like he was somebody. He had been surprised and flattered at the amount of praise he had received. He had only done what Shane had advised him to do; basically make the best of a bad situation. Her advice had actually paid off and now he was free.

The Wild Cards had arranged to meet up the next day to visit Vanessa and Paul in hospital, it would be their first time together in ages. Maybe then he'd get the chance to ask Shane about her attitude, he couldn't cope with all the confused signals she was sending him. The situation was making him angry and he kept going over everything in his mind, trying to remember what he must have done to upset her. He kicked off his shoes and headed for the bathroom, a very hot shower was what he really needed right now.

Suddenly he heard a loud knock at the door. He groaned at the timing and rushed out of the bathroom to open the door. His attorney, Mary Sommers stood in the hallway, briefcase in hand.

"Hi! Can I come in?" she asked, her eyes widening at his state of undress, she quickly averted her gaze away.

Cooper realised that he was only wearing a towel wrapped tightly around his waist. "Oh, I'm sorry… I was just about to take a shower," blushing, he looked around for something to put on.

"Don't worry Cooper," she laughed, "My husband wanders round the house all day in just his shorts, I'm used to it!" And he definitely doesn't have a body like yours, she thought to herself.

"I just called by, because I need you to sign a couple of documents, that's all. It'll only take a minute." She laid her briefcase on the bed. "Is it me or is it really hot in here?" she asked, peeling off her jacket and unbuttoning the top button of her blouse.

"Yeah, it is a bit," answered Cooper and walked over to the balcony doors and slid them open. "How's that?"

"Much better, thanks." Mary removed the documents from her case and passed them to Cooper. He sat with them at the table and quickly read through them.

Just then there was another knock at the door. Cooper stood up to get it. Mary who was nearest the door, put her hands up to him. "No, no, let me get it," she said.

She opened the door to reveal Shane Vansen standing in the hallway, attempting to hide something behind her back. Her face fell as she was greeted by Mary, who leaned comfortably against the doorframe and the sight of Cooper, half dressed behind her.

"Look, I'm sorry if…" she stammered out the words, her eyes taking in the unexpected sight. Oh God, she felt like a complete fool. She nearly dropped the bottle of champagne and the two glasses she was holding behind her back. "I'll just go…" she turned and fled down the corridor. She was even more angered by the hot tears burning her cheeks.

"Shane!" she heard Cooper yelling after her. "Where're you goin'?"

Cooper pushed past Mary into the hallway, in time to see Shane disappear around the corner.

"I've signed your papers, they're on the table," he called out over his shoulder, and as an afterthought he added, "Oh… and thanks for everything." Turning away from his attorney, he bolted down the hallway after Shane.

"Shane! Shane stop!" He was surprised at just how fast she could go with her newly healed leg, she had been on crutches yesterday.

As he rounded the corner he saw Shane leaning against the wall opposite the elevator, her back to him. Her head drooped down and her long dark hair hung over her face. The bottle of champagne and glasses were still in her hands. Clutching onto his towel, he put his free hand on her shoulder and turned her to face him.

"Shane, what is it? Why'd you run off like that?" he asked, almost shaking her. "Have I done something wrong?"

She looked up at his face, a picture of blue eyed concern. "I'm sorry Coop, I didn't mean to interrupt. You two just caught me by surprise that's all."

Cooper's eyes widened when he realised what Shane meant. "You mean that you thought me and Mary were about to…." He paused feeling suddenly embarrassed. "She just came by to drop off some papers. I was taking a shower. Nothin's goin' on Shane, honest!"

Shane felt ashamed of herself for jumping to the wrong conclusion, she was behaving just like a stupid kid. "You mean that?" she asked.


"I brought you this to celebrate with," she held up the champagne, struggling to smile.

"It's a great view from up here, isn't it?" said Cooper, as he and Shane sat on the balcony of his hotel room.

Shane glanced up from pouring the champagne. The view was a typical late evening skyline. She had forgotten that Cooper had probably never seen anything like this before. She took another look at the view, properly taking it in. The deep blues of the sky faded into patches of inky black. Streaked across the sky were orange and yellow clouds, reflecting the light from the sun as it sank down over the horizon. The tall buildings in the distance looked like they had been carved from a single block of dark blue stone. Multi-coloured lights shone out from windows and doors, and pretty neon signs added a touch of cheap glamour to the scene.

She passed Cooper a glass of champagne, and smiled as she watched his nose crinkle up as he took a sip of the expensive drink. "So, Coop," she started, "how does it feel to be a free man?"

"I'm not sure, I haven't really got used to the idea yet. I'm surprised to see you here though," he said, changing the subject. Now that he was free, he suddenly found himself feeling more insecure than usual. "I didn't think we were meeting up 'til tomorrow."

Shane set down her drink, and gazed back out at the skyline. The reason she had come to see him suddenly making her nervous. She had thought a lot about each member of the 58th over the past few weeks, especially Cooper.

When she was lying in the wreckage of the ISSCV cockpit, she knew it was only a matter of time before she either died from extensive blood loss or, she shuddered at the thought, the Chigs discovered herself and 'Phousse. But, for some reason they had stayed away from the crash site. She had heard gun-fire outside, but just thought that her fevered imagination was playing tricks on her, little realising that Paul had dragged himself away from his own crash site in a bid to protect herself and Vanessa.

Eventually the gun-fire had faded away, and as she lay there helpless, she thought of some of the things she had regretted not doing in her life, things that she should have said or done. And since she was close to death, she knew that she probably wouldn't get the chance to put any of them right. She had vowed then and there that if she ever got out alive, she would at least tell Cooper why she had been behaving so badly towards him, she owed him an explanation.

"Cooper there's something I've been meaning to say to you…" she started, not totally sure how he was going to react to what she had to say.

"What?" he asked regarding her dark, downcast eyes. Maybe at last she was going to lecture him about what it was he had supposedly done wrong.

"Do you remember when we were headed to Mars and you made that lunge at me?"

Cooper nodded, squirming a bit as he remembered her pushing him away and slapping him after he had driven his mouth down hard onto hers. He hadn't been sure what he was doing at the time, he just remembered being overcome by strong powerful feelings for her. Her lips, as she spoke so earnestly about her early life, driving him crazy. Man, he had really blown it.

"I just wanted to say," she continued, "that I'm sorry I hit you." That was not what she had come to say, and she knew it. She just couldn't seem to find the words, not with him staring so innocently back at her like that. She had rehearsed this moment in her mind for days, getting her speech just right. Just him being so close to her made all the words fly out of her mind.

Cooper laughed and said, "We both know I got what I deserved." He knew that she hadn't come out of her way to tell him that. He knew her well enough to know that whatever it was she wanted to say, she was finding it difficult to voice, which was unusual for her. She was starting to frighten him, she was usually so direct. It was obvious to him that whatever it was, it had to be pretty bad.

Up until this point, Shane knew that Cooper had a crush on her, and she had laughed about it, even when the other members of the Wild Cards had teased her about it. She had strong feelings for him too, though she would have described them at the time as being nothing more than maternal. So what had changed her feelings for him? She didn't know, but somehow over the past few months her feelings for him had grown beyond a sort of maternal protectiveness to become deeper and stronger, and it frightened her.

When those feelings had first crept upon her, she had instantly denied them. If she gave into them, she realised she could stand to lose her position, and her career meant everything to her. Maybe Winslow had been right - all this time in space was making this girl fidgety, but she knew deep down that what she really felt for Cooper was more than just plain lust.

Shane also felt that by getting involved with anyone or anything but the Corps would somehow be like a betrayal to her parents memory. She longed to be a career officer, following in their footsteps, becoming the success that they might have been had they lived. She had considered it professional, at the time, to try and lock away her personal feelings for the sake of her career.

Now Cooper was in the way of all that, and she had hated him for it. She had tried to distance herself from him (as much as she could in the limited space they occupied), but she had hated herself even more when each time he had come to her to talk or for advice, she had coldly rebuffed him. The first time she had seen his hurt expression had been like a knife twisting in her gut. She had convinced herself that this was the way it had to be, it was for the best. Now she realised that she had just been lying to herself about her parents memory, using them as a shield to prevent herself from facing up to the truth. Worst of all she had been lying to Cooper, he didn't deserve to be treated like that.

Panic suddenly struck her, supposing Cooper didn't have those feelings for her anymore. He had changed, they all had. He had lost a lot of his childishness over the past six months. Even Nathan had admitted that Cooper had grown up a lot but when she had seen that tear on his cheek when she lay in the wreckage, a huge wave of what could only have been described as love washed over her. It had shocked her, she hadn't been ready to confront her deepest feelings. She had never felt anything like it before, not even for Jon.

Opposite Shane, Cooper watched the strange expressions that were crossing her face in uncomfortable silence. He leaned across the table and took her hands in his and asked, "Shane, what is it? What's wrong? Tell me what I've done to upset you." She flinched under his touch and he pulled his hand away not wanting to upset her even more.

"No, Cooper, don't…" she pulled his hand back. "I don't know…" As her words evaporated, Shane grasped onto his hand as if she never wanted to let him go. She reached across the back of his head, pulling him gently towards her. Their lips touched and developed into a long sweet kiss. Shane had always believed that actions spoke louder than words.

"That's what I came to tell you," said Shane as they both sank back down into their chairs. She almost laughed out loud at Cooper's expression. His eyes were wide and he pressed his fingertips to his mouth, surprised that she had kissed him so passionately.

She stood and held out her hand, "Come on," she said as he took it.

She led him to the bed and pulled him down next to her. He hadn't said anything, just stared at her as if he couldn't quite understand what was happening. Shane cupped his chin and kissed him again, letting her hand drop down, running it lightly over his T-shirted chest, feeling his heart pounding against her fingertips like a frightened animal.

She noticed fearfully that he wasn't responding to her seduction. Half jokingly she smiled and said, "Come on, Coop, work with me here," and began to unbutton her blouse. She stopped as his fingers closed over hers.

"No Shane, don't," he said quietly. Shane almost felt her heart tighten. So, her thoughts on the balcony had been right, he didn't want her anymore.

"It's not that I don't want to... I do, but it just don't feel right. Not now, anyway." Cooper avoided her incredulous stare and glanced away from her as if finding something more interesting to look at on the carpet.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because if we did, uh… you know, it would spoil things for us, for the 58th. I don't want to lose your friendship Shane, or theirs." She gaped at him, taken back by the level of maturity expressed in his statement.

Selfishly, it hadn't even occurred to Shane that Cooper might refuse her, no man ever had. Stunned, Shane realised that she was the one who was going to have to wait until he was ready. This time she knew that she would be able cope with putting her emotions on hold, and maybe sometime in the future, who knows, things might work out between them. She smiled at him and said, "Do you know something, Coop?"


"I think you've just grown up on me!" She punched him playfully on the shoulder.

"Yeah, I know. Wanna go bowling instead?" he asked, and then hugged her to him in a tight embrace.


© Mel Maxwell November 1998

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