All characters and plot devices that are taken from Space: Above & Beyond are the property of it's writers, producers and the owners of the series. They are used without permission. No copyright infringement intended.

I think the poem that is at the end of this chapter was written by my Grandmother. I found it in her handwriting on the inner cover of her favorite book of poems, shortly after my Grandfather’s death. If someone else wrote it, thank you for letting my Grandmother and me borrow it. It says what she felt and what Jenny felt, too.

*Shin-Ken is the Japanese word for ‘real sword.’ To do something with a real sword means to do it with utmost earnestness. To have an attitude proper to a real sword means to be deadly serious.* Taken from The Book Of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, translation by Thomas Cleary.

Rating R



Phyllis Christie

   The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

                                                                                from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

It took time for the information brought back by the Saratoga to be sifted through and verified. With Major McKendrick’s influence the process moved more quickly than it would have, but for many it wasn’t quick enough. The World Senate that had been wasting countless hours arguing The Big Bang Theory versus, Chig ancestry on Earth, now had something real to talk about.

The documents proved that Diane Hayden, Carleton Stryker and Aerotech had been collaborating with the enemy. They were never able to prove who had taken the lead, Stryker, Hayden or Aerotech, but the damage was done.

Howard Sewell’s widow brought forth information that her husband had hidden away over the years. His secret collection of rumor and innuendo, that he had chased down until he had a strikingly clear picture of the real workings of The Company. It was the final nail in Aerotech’s coffin. The mega corporation was taken over by the United States government to be dismantled and broken up into many smaller private entities.

Sewell’s documents had detailed lists of elements found on both Tellus and Vesta. It was theorized that the colonies were an attempt by Aerotech to plant an Earth presents on those worlds as a prelude to a declaration of ownership. This was supported by the find of a deposit of Sewell Fuel in a vault in The Space Labs division of the underground compound that was part of the huge Company.

Carleton Stryker and Diane Hayden were convicted of treason and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Stryker was found beaten to death in the prison laundry, bound and gagged, with a cigar burn on the back of his neck, two days after sentencing. They were never able to find out who killed the condemned man. There were a number of in-vitro inmates in the prison, but after questioning them all, nothing was gained. Carleton Stryker became another prison mystery.

When news of Stryker’s death reached the Saratoga Jenny Kirkwood breathed a sigh of relief.

“Jen?” McQueen motioned her out of the rec room where they had just heard the new. “It wasn’t me. As much as I would have liked it to be, it wasn’t.”

“I know what he did has been eating at you,” she smiled at him. “But I’m so glad it wasn’t you.”

“The first few days after I heard I was angry enough for it to have been,” he hated that the dark side of him was still so close to the surface. “Ross was smart. He kept me busy and had all the out-goings monitored closely under the guise of ‘protecting McKendrick's information’. There was no way for me to get in touch with my contacts on Earth.”

A month later Diane Hayden went to her death insisting that she had been manipulated by Stryker and was innocent of anything except loving the wrong man, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The war continued after the deaths of Hayden and Stryker. The Chigs fighting with all they had to protect their sacred moon. The place where life begins for them and where they go for renewal, never dying, always being reborn.

The United Nations, now led by Secretary General Chaput, and his pro-war activists pushed harder than ever to exploit the first chink found in the enemy’s armor. Within months, the war took on a life of its own. It became death for death’s sake. The few that whispered about genocide did so with fear, realizing that it could end that way for either races.

The New Secretary General couldn’t fight the in-vitro issue any longer. It had became politically correct, almost trendy to be an in-vitro. Areas that had been closed to that section of society suddenly welcomed them with open arms. It was a confusing time that created distrust from the group of people who could have most benefited from it. Civil Rights workers took full advantage of the sudden shift in thinking and did all they could to get protective laws passed.

Dr. Roger Abaan lived long enough to see his dream become a reality. The United Nations outlawed the IVA. The use of artificial gestation was strictly sanctioned and could only be used in conjunction with assisted conception, in certified fertility clinics.

McQueen’s body responded to the stem cell therapy better than anyone could have hoped for. He was recertified for full combat duty just before Christmas 2064. Two days later he flew his last mission with the Wildcards.

Saratoga, December 20, 2064 -0200 hours

Thirty-six hours after the 58th had left, Jenny wandered into Sickbay, a cup of coffee in her hand. She had tried sleeping in the quarters she shared with McQueen, but had only tossed and turned. She had gone back to her own quarters, closed her eyes and tried to pretend that he was just down the hall sleeping. It hadn’t worked.

She kept remembering dinner with Glen Ross that evening. Jenny had been sitting in the Mess Hall, contemplating the food on her plate when the Commodore joined her.

“You really should eat,” Ross pointed at her plate. “Starving yourself, won’t bring him back any faster.”

“Glen, I don’t need taking care of,” she raised her left eyebrow and gave him a pointed stare.

“I know that,” he smiled. “And so do you, but I promised McQueen. And before you lose your temper, cut the man some slack. He’s new at this caring business. It makes him feel vulnerable and I’ll lay odds he hasn’t felt that way in about 18 years.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help being a bit surly.” Working hard to keep her mask in place, she reached for her bracelet, then bit her lip in frustration when she remembered that it was hanging with a pair of dogtags somewhere far away.

“Jenny, it’s okay,” Ross reached gently for her left wrist, knowing what she had been looking for and why it was missing. “You’re allowed to worry.”

“Please, don’t tell him,” her voice broke as she stopped trying to hide anything.

“He already knows. That’s one of the reasons I know he’ll be back.”

“He must hate it!” Jen sighed. “I tried so hard to hide it from him the morning he left.”

“Hate it, no, but he does worry about you. As long as this war lasts, McQueen is a Marine first, but did you ever stop to wonder, what it must be like for a man like him, to have what he has with you? He’s never had that before, Jenny. It means a lot to him. You mean a lot to him,” the Commodore leaned back in his chair and took a sip of coffee.

“Thank you, Glen,” Jen smiled. “Thanks, for taking care of me.”

Sickbay 0230 hours

It was very late and she had expected to find Sickbay deserted. Instead she found Chico Voss playing solitaire, “Chico, are you all right?” Voss usually didn’t spend after hours time in Sickbay unless there was work to do.

“I’m doing about the same as you are,” he grunted as he looked at his watch.

“Oh...Oh?” Jen had seen the other doctor with Maria Del Mar a few times, but hadn’t thought anything of it. How could she have missed it? She smiled as a simple answer came to mind: Ty. “Are you waiting for Maria?”

“Yes,” he shook his head. “Now I know why you spend so much time down here. They notify us first, if....when they get back.”

“Do you want me to leave you alone?” Jen began to back out of the office they shared.

“No please, stay, it really helps to have someone who understands.”

Two hours later the Marine squadron returned, dirty, tired, and victorious. Both doctors went their separate ways, each trying to look as if they didn’t have a worry in the world and for a moment they didn’t.

By the New Year, the Wildcards’ squadron was expanded to become a Marine Flight Wing, with a permanent assignment on the Saratoga. McQueen was promoted to full Colonel, his job become the Bridge Tactical Officer and head of the newly formed group. To his disgust, and Jenny’s relief, he never flew a mission again.

Vansen received a field promotion of Major, becoming Flight Officer for the 58th Wing . The other members of the Wildcards were promoted to Captain. West, Hawkes, Del Mar and Connelly each had a squad of highly trained and experienced pilots. Damphousse acted as Wing Exec and became Vansen’s wingman. The Wildcards grew into one of the most deadly and sought after groups in the 5th Marines.

Lt. Com. Jennifer Kirkwood was promoted to full Commander and became the Chief Medical Officer of the Saratoga. This kept her busier than ever, with the added responsibility of running Sickbay, added to her load of patient care.

With the advent of Jenny into his life, McQueen appeared to change for a while. He became more open, more easily approachable. His promotion brought an end to that. Where before he had to sweat it out when six Hammerheads were on missions, now he was counting in 32 very special ones and countless numbers of others. He became the Iceman again, except in the presence of the original Wildcards. Even with them, he fought to keep his guard up where he could. It was only behind the locked door of his quarters, with Jen, that he let himself go.

They were there for each other the night that Vanessa Damphousse’s Hammerhead came in riddled with bullet holes. The young pilot covered in blood, alive, though she had lost the sight in her left eye. Her optic nerve, to that side, destroyed. Captain Damphousse was sent home on the next hospital shuttle, with a medical discharge from the Marine Corps.

When Vanessa left Bethesda Navel Hospital, she took the first shuttle to California to meet Patsy the woman she had heard so much about. Knowing there she would find a connection to the group she felt lost from. Catalina had the added benefit of Frank Savage’s proximity and his knowledge of what was going on in the war. The young ex-Marine was surprised to find she wasn’t the only person to be thinking along those lines. Kylen Celina had been living with Patsy since her release from the extensive debriefing sessions for POWs. Savage was gone most of the time, often to places not even Patsy knew about. She was glad for the company of the two young woman who shared the same ties she did.

The three woman spent the duration of the war living in the house on Catalina. Kylen and Vanessa found bits and pieces of themselves that had been lost in the last year. They listened to the ocean and walked the beaches and trails of the Island, and felt themselves begin to heal. When mail arrived or news of the war came on TV, other tasks were forgotten. All three of them knew that a chunk of their hearts lived on a space carrier far away.

With the loss of Damphousse, Jenny Kirkwood pulled away from all but the core group of friends she had established. It seemed easier not to care about people, than to lose them to death or damage that couldn’t be repaired. It was only with Ty that she felt really free to be herself.

That winter the last big offensive of the war was fought. Allied forces were making an all out push for the Chig moon. It was a bloody fight, that the Chigs were determined not to lose. In their last ditch efforts to save their race, they began flying death missions into the the bridges of Earth Force ships. One such mission was flown against the Saratoga.

Jenny was in Sickbay when the wounded from the Bridge began coming in. Her heart stopped when she recognized the blood covered body of Pete Chang, followed by an injured Commodore Ross.

The only thing that had saved Ross’ life was the door to his ready room, that he had just closed behind him, as he went to his office to get some work done. He was unconscious, with his right arm broken and body covered in metal splinters from the door that had saved his life.

The Medical Corps struggled for hours trying to save the lives of men and women who Jen knew usually worked along side of McQueen. She didn’t know which was harder, the idea of seeing him on a stretcher or wondering where he was.

“Jenny,” Joan Brill stuck her head in the door of the operating room, where the Doctor was doing an Open Reduction and Internal Fixation of the fracture to Ross’ arm. The nurse pointed to the window behind the anesthesia machine.

The fear on Jen’s face was replaced by relief when she saw a grim and dirt covered Col. McQueen staring back at her from the sub-sterile next door. He nodded his head at Jen, then went back to work in the Command and Control, after whispering something in Brill’s ear.

That night McQueen and Jenny held on to each other tightly. The Colonel had been briefing a group of Hammerhead pilots or he would have been on the bridge. It had saved his life. For the first time he had looked into the face of his own mortality and recognized it for what it was. He didn’t like what he saw looking back at him.

“Jen, do you love me, really love me?” He asked with so much desperation it took the woman in his arms by surprise.

“Of course I do!” She was afraid she knew what was coming next, he was going to try and make her leave the Saratoga.

“Then marry me, now, tonight if possible,” McQueen had heard rumors that the Chaplain was preforming marriage ceremonies on the sly. When he had gone to sickbay to assure Jen he was all right, he had found the older man comforting some of the wounded and had had a long talk with him.

“Ty, if we go to Ross, he’ll have to send one of us off the Saratoga, I won’t do that.” Jenny had stood as witness for Maria Del Mar and Chico Voss, when the Chaplain had married them in a very private ceremony, less then a month ago. She had never told the Colonel about it, because she didn’t want him to be in a position where he had to choose between the rules of the Corps and caring about his friends.

“There’s a way around that, and knowing you like I do, I would bet you know it too,” the slight flush that spread across her cheeks confirmed his belief.

“Jen, I could have been killed today. Ten minutes either way and I would have been standing behind Pete Chang,” he whispered as he remembered seeing the mangled body of the man he had worked along side of for over a year. “If something were to happen to me I want you to have the privileges and protection of being my wife.”

“Don’t say that, please,” she held onto him tighter then ever. Jenny could here the words he wasn’t saying. As his lover she would be just another woman who had slept with an in-vitro. As the widow of a much decorated Marine Colonel, she would have the benefits of his rank and name to protect her from racial slurs. It didn’t matter to her, but she knew it did to him. “Nothing is going to happen to either of us.”

“You’re not answering my question,” he looked at her carefully needing to know how she really felt.

“I’ll only marry you if it’s something that you would want even if there was no war going on around us now.”

That night they were married in the privacy of Joan Brill's quarters. The nurse acted as witness as the Chaplain preformed the ceremony. Everyone understood that it was to be kept a secret. Only the old minister knew how many of those marriages he preformed. The computer would send copies of the marriage certificates to Earth when the war was over.

Chaplain Baeslack had thought long and hard on his decision to go against the regulations of the Navy. In the end the Chaplain decided his first duty was to God, and secondly to the men and women on the Saratoga. The Navy came in a distant third.

On August 12, 2065 a war weary group of peace negotiators met. The delegation from Earth was lead by Cyril McKendrick. The Chigs were lead by a small unassuming member of their race. The only one of them to have had contact with Humans, in a non-combat situation. The Wildcards would have recognized him as Pastie, the caretaker of the nursery on the Chig moon. To his race he was known as The One Who Protects The All. A man of great power and leadership.

Jenny and McQueen were home by December 15, 2065. They had planned to leave immediately for an extended trip on the Windswept, but put it off when Cooper Hawkes asked Shane Vansen to marry him. The couple had been closer than any one realized in the last months of the war. Shane and Coop had spent a lot of time with Maria and Chico, acting as cover for the them.

On December 20, 2065 they were married in front of the fireplace in Jenny’s living room. All the original Wildcards were there. Maria and Vanessa were bridesmaids and Nathan best man. Jen and Ty acted as parents to both the bride and groom. Shane was given away by her sisters. They said their vows to the sound of a roaring fire in the fireplace and the rain pounding on the roof.

“That was a lovely wedding,” Jenny cuddled close to Ty.

“It took me by surprise,” he kissed her head as he pulled her close to his side in the bed Jenny had slept in all her life. “You knew didn’t you?”

“I’ve known how Coop felt for a long time, I just didn’t know the feeling was returned.”

“I hope they’re going to be all right,” McQueen sighed at the suddenness of it all.

“They will be, they had the best teachers in the Universe: Nathan and Kylen.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he smiled remembering the photo tag that was so much a part of the Wildcards they could have worn it as a patch. Nathan had given it back to him the day the Saratoga picked the 58th up from 2063Y.

They stayed on Catalina until the day after Christmas, then boarded the Windswept and weren’t seen again by anyone until June 2066. No one had to ask why they went, one look into there eyes had told it all: too much death; too much pain; and too much suffering. They cut their trip shorter than they would have because Jenny had contracted a strange flu, that made her unusually susceptible to sea sickness.

Her ‘flu’ was born on January 20, 2067. She was named Patricia Cassidy McQueen. The child that neither parent had ever expected to have was the final step in the healing that had started at Shane and Coop’s wedding. It seemed the doctors had been wrong. It wasn’t that Tyrus McQueen couldn’t have children, but given the damage inflicted to him by AIs, the odds were about a million to one.

Ty and Lars began in earnest to make their dream of building racing boats come true. It had caught the men by surprise when they discovered Jenny had the business instincts of a shark. Patsy could have told them, but no one bothered to ask her. It was Jen who had played the stock market ever since her father died and turned the small inheritance she had split with Patsy into substantial portfolios for both of them. She could read a balance sheet and make sense out of tax laws with out batting an eye. The men gave up with out a fight. They would build the boats, Jen could run the business side.

Cooper Hawkes joined McQueen and Lars in their company, Shin-Ken Boats. He discovered the joy of creating with his hands and found an inner peace he never thought to obtain. As the three men built the designs that McQueen and Lars drafted, they grew close. Jenny taught Coop to sail and often it was McQueen and Hawkes who raced the Black Gull, spreading the reputation of the company with each race they won. The midnight hull became as much a signature of a Shin-Ken Boat as the small sword on the bow under its name.

Nathan and Kylen were married on July 7, 2066. They had waited until Jenny and Ty were back from their trip. The Wests settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan where Nathan used the G.I. Bill to go to law school. He and Mitch had planned for a long time to go into practice together.

That same fall Vanessa Damphousse joined Nathan at The University Of Michigan to get her Doctorate in engineering. Vanessa and Kylen had become close friends during the time they had spent on Catalina and remained so all their lives. A year later Mitch Connelly asked Vanessa to marry him. They were married in small ceremony in upstate New York.

Maria and Chico Voss settled in Boston where he was on the staff of Mass General Hospital. Maria loved the New England atmosphere that was so different from the Texas ranch where she grew up. Her love for the past and tradition was in it’s glory in one of the oldest cities of the United States. She worked in an antique shop for a year then opened her own shop, giving her better hours and the freedom to come and go as she pleased.

Shane Vansen became a civilian flight instructor at the newly opened El Toro Marine Air base. The Corps had retained the name of the base that had closed in the 1990’s, but moved it to a deserted corner of Camp Pendelton. She commuted from Catalina where she and Coop lived. Shane knew she would probably never be able to give up flying all together. She had sailed as a child, but it couldn’t replace flying.

On March 15, 2070 in Auckland, the American Sword’s night black hull edged out Team New Zealand by two boat lengths in the last round of the America’s Cup, to bring the Cup home for the first time since the war. The Shin-Ken built boat was captained by Stan Turek and Cooper Hawkes was a member of the crew.

Jenny McQueen stood watching her husband as his eyes were trained on the race and the boat he had designed and help to build. For a moment she was taken back in time. McQueen had the same stance he had when he had watched Hammers coming back to the Saratoga. A fighting look on his face. Jen smiled to herself, loving the Warrior that was so much a part of him. Instead of fighting with guns and Hammerheads, his weapons had become sheets of canvas, wood and fiberglass. Now days he pitted his knowledge of the sea, the wind, and the tides, against other men’s, in the the boats he sailed and those he created and built for others to sail.

The people who had forged a life long friendship on the Saratoga met once a year in the spring on Catalina. The group grew into a second generation of Wildcards. Their parents insisting that they were the Wildest Cards of all. Commodore Ross would join them if he was in Space Port. The Saratoga had survived the War and he was on permanent assignment along the DMZ that marked the buffer between Chigs and Humans.

On June 15, 2092 on a beautiful sunny day, Patricia Cassidy McQueen married Paul Vansen Hawkes in Patsy’s rose garden on Catalina. Cassie and Paul had grown up in each other’s back pocket, they were best friends or worst enemies, depending on when in the last 25 years it was. In the end the friendship won out. As Admiral Ross was fond of telling Cassie, just as he had told her father, ‘love is friendship set on fire.’

As McQueen walked his daughter down the path between the rose bushes, he was amazed that the tiny baby that he had held in his arms such a short time ago had turned into a lovely young woman. She was Jen with his blue eyes. It would catch him by surprise when certain expressions crossed her face or gestures that she used were so much her mother.

Where had the time gone? How could she have gone from a little girl who had trouble walking without holding on to their hands to this lovely young woman who was walking into a man’s arms. Flip-flops and scuffed sneakers had given way to sleek sandals and stylish high heels. She had grown up, but no matter the changes, Catalina, sailing and her parents had remained a constant.

After handing Cassie over to Paul, he took a seat in the front row beside Jen. How had he gotten so lucky? The answer was sitting beside him. He smiled at his wife as he handed her his handkerchief and put his arm around her. For Ty, it all began to change when Jen came along.

“It’s all right, Ty, they really love each other, you know,” she whispered to him, her gray eyes swimming with tears. “But I’m going to miss her terribly.”

“I know,” he smiled into her face as he wiped away the tears. “If they’re half as happy as we’ve been, they’ll be just fine.”

June 28, 2108 Catalina Island 2250 hours:

Jenny was tired and her back hurt. She turned off her computer and pulled out the information crystal. She had been writing almost constantly for the last nine months. With a sigh she knew it was complete.

“You started this, Ty, but I’ve finally finished it,” Jen whispered to the picture that was sitting beside her computer. “It’s all here for Cassie to read. I can’t help wondering what you’d think. I know you thought you were writing a war story when you started this, but even what you’d written was so much more than that. I’ve turned my Warrior into a romantic hero. Would you hate that, or did you realize that there was so much more to you, even back then? Glen always used to say War was the greatest romance of all because it brought out the best and worst of mankind. It made people go to extraordinary length and do unimaginable deeds. It did that for us. You in particular.”

The old woman climbed into the bed she had shared with her husband for forty years, up until the day of his death the previous November. Jen reached into her nightstand and pulled out the little book containing the poem Sea Fever. It was the same book she had given Ty that first Christmas they had spent together, when they were both with the Angry Angels. She read the words she had written on the inside cover, the night he died, November 22, 2107. The ink was smudged from the tears she had cried as she had tried to figure out how she was going to go on without her Warrior by her side:

The things you loved I have not laid away,
To molder in the darkness day after day.
They are all about me, intimate and dear.

I do not keep your chair a thing apart,
Lonely and empty, desolate to view.
But if one comes weary sick at heart
I sit him or her there and comfort him for you.

Perchance so much that now seems incomplete Was left for me in my poor way to do.
And I shall love to tell you when we meet,
That I have done your errands, dear for you.

“I don’t think I’ll have much more time to wait?” She whispered as she felt the odd beating in her chest, that was becoming more and more painful in the last month.

“No, not much longer, Love,” a deep familiar voice answered in her head.

“Good,” she smiled as she closed her eyes, and caught the scent of Hammerhead fuel and sandalwood aftershave. The book slipped from her hand and the light beside her bed glinted off her bracelet one last time.

When she looked around again, Ty was standing beside her, young and strong as he had been on the day they were married in Joan Brill’s cabin on the Saratoga. “Take my hand, Jen.”

“I’ve missed you, Love,” as she gripped his hand she felt young again.

“I’ve been right here with you all the time,” he smiled as they walked away from the body of the old woman in the bed. “Remember not even death can defeat an Angry Angel.”

“I know, but it’s been hard. I’ve been like a bird with only one wing since you’ve been gone.”

“It’s been the same for me, Love, but now we can soar again, together,” Tyrus McQueen held tightly to her hand and they walked out the door into a world filled with stars that seemed to go on Forever, because it did.

In my romantic indecision there is a second ending to this story. Both ending are the same until you get to the last few paragraphs.


June 30, 2108 Catalina Island

A somber group had gathered at the house on Catalina. It was the same group that had come there at least once a year for the last forty years. Every June the McQueen’s would have a reunion. As children were born, the group grew, until the original Wildcards were out numbered by what they called the Wildest Cards of them all, the next generation.

Today they came to pay a final tribute to the memory of Col. Tyrus Cassius McQueen, USMC Retired. The original Wildcards and their husbands and wives gathered in the study where Jenny and Ty had spent so much time. Jen managing the business side of Shin-Ken Boats and McQueen the creative.

“I want to thank you all for coming,” Cassie McQueen Hawkes’ fingers shook a bit as she held a large envelope. “Daddy left this for all of us,” she fought tears as she opened the package and pulled out a letter that she read for the first time.

My Dearest Cassie,

I know at times you grew up feeling as if you had a house full of much older brothers and sisters, but I see the way you still look at your husband and I know that it was a household full of love. If Coop, Vanessa, Shane, Nathan, Maria, and Mitch were my first children, you are the child of my heart.

You are so like your mother. Over the years it has amazed me to see Jen looking back at me, except with my blue eyes. In the nine months since her death, I’d watch an expression come across your face or the way your body would move and it would be Jen. Seeing so much of her in you broke my heart and saved my sanity at the same time. She lived on in you, therefore I could live too.

The data crystal that’s with this letter is the story of that Great War and all that lead up to it, for your mother and me. When I first began writing it, I was sure I was writing a war story, but it turned out to be a romance.

Back in ‘70 when Stan Turek sailed the first of my Shin-Ken boats to victory in an Amarica’s Cup, Jen told me that though I had given up guns and Hammerheads, I had became a warrior of the sea. The tides, winds and currents were my war. My weapons were my knowledge, sheets of canvas, wood and fiberglass. I wonder what she’d say if she knew her warrior had written a romance?

Glen Ross used to say that War was the greatest romance of all because it brought out the best and worst of mankind. It made us go to extraordinary lengths and do unimaginable deeds. I don’t know about that, but it forged together the hearts and souls of the people who meant the most to me.

In the lessons of caring we had some good teachers. It is no surprise to me that each of us who learned about love on the Saratoga are still together after all these years. Maria and Chico, Shane and Coop, Mitch and Vanessa, your mom and me, we had the best teachers in the universe: Nathan and Kylen.

The photo tag that is at the bottom of this envelope was carried by either Nathan or myself all during that long war. It became as much a part of the Wildcards as our Flushed Out Cards patch. It bound our hearts together and reminded us we were human in an inhuman war. Even after Kylen was rescued, it was a symbol of what we were all fighting for.

It’s taken me almost a year to write the story that I’m giving to you. I’m tired and I think my waiting may be over soon. The last few nights I’ve dreamt of Jen. Each night the dreams become more intense. Last night I could could even smell the rose fragrance she always wore. We will love you always and watch over you.
Love, Daddy

“The latter is dated June 28th, the night that he died,” Cassie handed the old photo tag to Nathan and Kylen. Nathan pushed the voice activation on the tag and into the hushed room could be heard Kylen’s clear young voice, “I believe in all of you.”


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