AUTHOR'S NOTE: I guess this is many things. It is a disclaimer because as great as the characters are..they're not my own and so this story doesn't want to infringe upon anyone. This is true..I swear it. Secondly, it is a sincere thank-you to those whose hearts and souls are behind this work. It goes out to the cast and crew and goes out to those on-line whose comments and thoughts on what goes on in the show have been appreciated.

And lastly, I suppose, I sincerely hope that you like this, my first entry into the Space fan-fic world. There are bound to be some inaccuracies, I don't claim to be a pro(hey..I'm only 17..gimme a break :).
In any case, I would like feed-back of all types. Thank you, enjoy and as Shane Vansen would say.."We're going in hot so look alive."

Not Rated

Alex Quirolo
Part One of Two

There are those who would say that being alive six years makes me little more than a child. Maybe they're even right. But then again, those same people are back on Earth wearing designer suites and watching bulletins on the war come over their wall-sized televisions. Me, I'm fighting the war. Battle after battle.

This one started about six hours ago. Who knows when it'll end...I've never been good at guessing. I'm almost out of caps but that don't mean much because I think they've gotta be getting low too. For the last six hours all I've heard is gunfire. I've got maybe three clips left all together but I guess I can always use Shane's.

Shane. Our Captain. Our field C.O. She took a hit to the gut for me. I think she yelled for me to get down but there was never the time. Just like that. No thank you's and no acceptance speeches. Just bam bam. She launched herself into the air and I heard her moan..not scream. Good ol' Shane. She's alive. Too tough to die. Thank God...whatever God there is. I'd miss Shane bitching and all. Who'd ever thought I could miss that. I guess that's a joke. I need to laugh right now. There's nothing really funny though. She's okay though..because she's gotta be. Plain and simple. I can't let her die; she wouldn't let me. There's very little that I can do to help her right now; I used the gauze and the sterile pads in the first aide kit to try and stop the bleeding but she's starting to burn up..and I should have listened better in the first aide courses. Nah, I know what I'm doing..I hope.

Extraction is about fourteen unbelievable hours away. I'm not sure that Shane can survive that long. Not with the bullet in her stomach. I guess I've got to get it out. We might not be able to make it to the evac site so I've gotta keep her alive for longer than I'd like to contemplate.

As soon as it gets dark, I'm gonna try and move Shane to a safer location. I'll take the bullet out there. I hope the others are having better luck. The radio equipment is dust so I'm in the dark about them. We split up hours ago. Shane's worried about them. I guess I am too. I mean..they're family. I never thought I'd say this but I'm not sure I can deal with losing them.

I look into the sky and I can see that it's beginning to get dark. Not much longer now. Can't say that I'm looking forward to this.

Darkness fell over Danerus at just after eighteen hundred hours on Marine Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes' indiglo digital military issue digital watch. Without looking at his weapon, Cooper loaded a clip and cocked it.

"Hey, Shane," He said, crawling over to where Captain Shane Vansen was lying. Her head was rested against a smooth, flat, grayish rock and her torso was covered by Coopers' jacket. Her bloodshot blue eyes were open and staring painfully and distantly into the star sprinkled black velvet night. When she heard Coopers' voice, she shifted ever so slightly to acknowledge it. It was enough for Coop to see the large, straying splotch of maroon blood on her uniform. There were specks of blood between the "V" and the "A" on her i.d. badge. He leaned closer to her and whispered, "I'm gonna get you outta here, okay?" He slid his well-muscled arms under her and lifted her onto his back, "Hold on, Shane...I'm gonna get you home, I promise."

Cooper and Shane both knew the same senseless truth though; it was a promise he could never guarantee. Before the 58th had left for the mission to Danerus, their C.O., Lieutenant Colonel T.C. McQueen had looked them all in the eyes and said, "Look alive, whatever you do. You've been through a lot so I know you can handle this but twenty hours on a hot planet is gonna be hell and you all know that in war, the only guarantee is death. Make it home. Watch your six and watch each others'." Cooper realized that Shane had watched his and it made him angry that he'd let her down but he swallowed it and told himself that he wouldn't let her down again. He wasn't willing to give up and he prayed that she wasn't either.

"When is Evac?" Shane asked, her voice little more than a whisper. Her voice was etched with the same pain and agony that he saw in her eyes. She was trying like the devil to be strong because in her eyes, to be helpless was to be worse off than dead.

"Oh-seven twenty in the morning... over twelve hours away. Don't worry..we'll be okay. I'll get the bullet out.." He felt her tighten her grasp on him. "Oh come on," Cooper taunted, "You trust me...don't you?" It was a curious question.

"With my life, Cooper. I mean that.." She coughed violently and he looked at her in alarm. She squeezed his shoulder gently and continued, "But that doesn't mean I want you cutting me up in search of a Chig slug."

He nodded thoughtfully and then said, "Well ya ain't got much choice." He slung the first aide kit over his hip and began to move, bending low under the round peaks of the grassy hills that he and Shane had used for cover. "There's dense underbrush about a quarter of a click away. That should be good enough cover. C.M.A. for me, okay?"

She nodded and then looked over his shoulder at his watch. Hers had been shattered when she'd fallen after being shot. The digital read-out read: 18:32:34.

On the way to the underbrush, Cooper discharged his weapon twice and each time he could feel Shane tremble a little bit. Whether it was from fear or from the feeling of helplessness, he wasn't sure but it bothered him just the same. After what seemed like ages, he finally ducked under some trees and set her down in a small clearing surrounded by the dense greenery. The Chigs would only be able to find them by pure luck. He very quickly pushed together several ferns and long plants in order to make something of a bed. "Here," he said, picking her up and moving her to it. "Good?"He asked with a small smile.

"Uh huh," Shane replied. She sounded exhausted.

"Okay. Look, and I might have some trouble making it to the Evac site..." Coop started, unzipping the first aide kit.

"Then you'll go alone," She replied. Her voice was dead-serious.

"Not likely," He said calmly. He frowned and studied the med-supplies in his hands; gauze, tape, sterile pads, disinfectant pads, scissors, pain-killers and 100 proof alcohol.

"Coop, that's..." She coughed and a shiver ran through her body. She swallowed and tried to start again, "How far are we from the Evac site?"

"It's a ways, Shane. Don't think about it right now." He unscrewed the cap of the alcohol and began to pour it over his knife.

"Cooper, if it comes to that, you'll go alone. That's an order." Shane said stubbornly.

He stopped what he was doing and frowned. After a beat, he crawled over to her and sat down next to her. He placed a hand under her neck and lifted her head so that he could look into her eyes, "I'm not leaving you so to hell with orders. Now, I'm gonna heat the knife 'cuz I gotta get the bullet out so I guess you better trust me."

I don't like to bleed. I'm not scared of the sight of blood..I just don't like it. Especially not mine. When I was eight years old, I tried to walk up a slide backwards. When I got to the top, I leaned over the side and started to yell, "I made it!" I think I got the first part of the sentence out before I toppled head-first over the side of the slide. I hit the ground hard and gashed open my head. I tried to be brave but it hurt like hell. This hurts worse.

We are all supposed to be together right now. The Wildcards. Things seldom work out as planned. I'm surprised McQueen's never said that. Well, when the Chigs engaged us after little more than two hours of a twenty hour surveillance mission from hell, we all split up to get a better advantage. Cooper Hawkes and I went up and over the hills while Nathan West, Vanessa Damphousse and Paul Wang took to the rocks and trees. I guess we got too far apart because I have no idea where they are. Or even if they're alive. I'm trying not to think about that. Good thoughts..good thoughts. Coop is with me. That's a positive at least.

While the Chigs were advancing on us, Coop ran out of ammo and had to reload. It was only for a split-second that he was exposed but it could have been forever. Time slowed down..hell, it may have stopped. I saw one of the Chigs point his gun directly at Coop's head and I had no choice but to jump in front of him. Trust me, I don't want to be a hero..I want to live. Live to see my niece. Live to see my Squadron. Hell, live to see another silicate. Okay, maybe that's stretching it. If I hadn't jumped in front of him, he would have been killed for sure. I called out his name but there was never really any time for him to react. Only me. I could feel the bullet rip through my uniform and then my skin and at first it didn't hurt but the moment I hit the ground, I could feel everything all at once. I heard Cooper scream for me and then there was a whole lot of gunfire. I don't know how long it took but then Coop was above me, saying my name over and over. All my emotions were going crazy and I was trying like mad to grab onto a lifeline. Cooper was it.

When I looked up into his eyes, it scared me because I'd never seen him so damned scared. Funny thing is that I almost asked him what was wrong.

They say that getting hurt is part of the game and in this case, war is the ultimate game. Only the stakes are a little more final. Damn, I sound like one of the silicates.

Cooper is in his own world. He's concentrating on getting the knife sterilized. He started a small fire a few minutes ago and I find myself thankful for the warmth and the light. I can see the agony and concentration etched on his young face.

As I sit here..waiting to fight the inevitable..I can't help but wonder and I know this is selfish and odd, but I wonder if living through the night to fight another battle really matters at all.

Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes was a fan of old movies. The ones with the live actors from the 20th Century. The In-Vitro educational facility in Philadelphia had had access to an amazing library of the old flicks. It had been the one good thing about the whole damn thing. As he finished turning the blade over in his gloved palms, his tired mind flashed back to the old westerns where the hero had saved some unfortunate person by removing a bullet from the person's body. Now, with the stars above and afire roaring, Cooper realized that he was the "hero" and Shane the "unfortunate person".He shook his head and muttered, "Not if I can help it." He wondered where he'd gotten his confidence.

He leaned over the fire and placed the knife among the orangish flames. He saw Shane squirm uncomfortably and it made him nervous. She was lying at an angle with her head up so she could watch his progress. He could make out a small, tight frown on her lips. Her left hand covered the hole that the bullet had made in her torso.

"Shane,"Coop said over his shoulder, "Do you remember the bowling passes I gave you for Christmas?"

"Uh huh," Shane murmured, eyes focused on the glowing knife. There was a slight edge of panic in her voice.

"Well, I feel bad about that and all. I mean it's no excuse but I didn't know and see..."

"Cooper,"Shane interrupted, gazing intently into his boyish blue eyes, "If we get back, I'll challenge you to a game."

He nodded and understood. "Okay," He said suddenly, pulling the blade out of the fire. "Let's get this done with. You ready?"

She locked eyes with him and gave him an expression full of strength and defiance. "It's gonna take more than a single shot to take me down, Coop. Make it happen." Her tone was obviously intended to give him confidence. He was thankful for it.

He tilted his head in acknowledgment.. He leaned forward with his left hand and grasped hers. He smiled tiredly at her and then placed their folded hands on top of her chest and used it to brace his other hand. He place d a flashlight in his mouth and leaned over. And with a level of intense concentration unparalleled, Cooper unhappily set to work.

It was a horrific five minutes. Every time Shane clenched her teeth to keep from screaming out in justified agony, she also squeezed his hand hard enough to break it. His heart nearly broke each time she bit down and he almost stopped completely when he saw a stream of silent tears spill down over her pale, ashy, white cheeks.

And then, just like that, it was over. And he was holding a blood-soaked Chig slug in his right hand. As he stared in astonishment at it, he wondered how one little piece of metal could cause so very much pain and torment.

For a few minutes as he bandaged her up, the silence boomed around them. The only real noise that kept echoing in Coopers' head was the gasping noise Shane made every time she inhaled. Coop's hand hurt like hell but he d didn't dare to pull it away from her in case another shiver of pain overtook her body. Not knowing what else to say, Cooper Hawkes whispered, "It's gonna be okay because I'm bowling 180 and I wanna clean your clock."

He heard a strained chuckle and then she hoarsely replied, "Maybe." Her voice trailed off causing the young man to look up in shock. His eyes grew wide with alarm as he tried to comprehend the situation. He saw that her eyes were closed and his heart fell to his knees. Until he saw. And realized. Her chest rose in a troubled and unsteady way but it meant that she was merely sleeping. He let out his breath and realized dully that he'd bee n holding it.

He touched her forehead with his free hand and was surprised at how hot it was. He ripped part of her torn shirt away and doused it with cool water from his canteen. He put the scrap on her forehead. Settling back against a tree, he very slowly and gently removed his throbbing hand from her limp one. Watching her with one eye, he carefully inspected his swollen and discolored hand and sighed. He reached for the first aide kit.

Next: Conclusion

Alex Queirolo© 4/15/96