This fanfic is roughly a sequel to Rachael's Walker's, "Betrayal". If you haven't read that yet, you may want to before you read this. By the way, Rachael read this over for me, I decided that using ideas someone else gives you is not plagiarism.

One Man at a Time


by
Rebecca Morris

In sleep, he twitches and moans. He feels the weight of the pistol in his hand, smells the blood and fear, his own and that of the young lieutenant kneeling before him. The soft seductive voice of his tormentor is at his ear. "Do it, T.C. Pull the trigger and there will be no pain. Reclaim your freedom and dignity." In his dream, the lieutenant's face changes to the sergeant's who had cost him the lives of 27 comrades. Then it's him, on his knees in front of the sergeant. Now he stares down at himself, gun at his own temple. The pistol in his hand bucks, the lieutenant slumps. The sleeper jerks awake, his eyes staring into the darkness.

"Damn! 'Tanks don't dream.' Yeah, sure." T.C. McQueen awakened in the cell of the old Spanish fortress. He cursed the introspective streak that seemed to have been bred in him. Certainly the InVitroAuthority had not intended that. Humanity had created the In Vitros, "tanks", some twenty years earlier. They had sliced and spliced DNA, created zygotes, gestated the new humans in tanks for eight years, achieving the physical and intellectual maturity of an 18 year old. The purpose was to create perfect soldiers, miners, peons, people to do the jobs that were too dirty for natural born humans to want, too dangerous for anyone with ties to family, blood or legal. McQueen was one of these, bred to be a miner. But he was pretty sure that whatever quirk drove him to question incessantly was an error. The IVA had not meant to breed questioners. He questioned now.

At first the AIs had left him alone. There was no way to mark how long. Maybe he'd been there weeks, maybe days. The AIs had accessed his military records, they found out about the 120 days of solitary confinement he'd been through as a conscript convicted of striking his squad leader. They knew that solitary had not broken him then, it would not now. But there were other ways, ways they knew too well. His torturer had broken him. Broken him with physical pain. Broken him with his own lack of connection to the natural borns, a disconnectedness that the natural borns fed every time he heard the words "stupid tank". The AIs understood that. They too had been created by humanity to serve, only they'd been created of diodes and chips. Their programming controlled them, until they'd been given the opportunity to rebel by the Stranahan virus.

McQueen had tried to blame the AIs for the murder he'd committed at their instigation. He'd tried to blame the natural borns whose bigotry and treatment of him left him susceptible to the AIs' brainwashing techniques. It didn't work. His own ruthless self evaluation led to the conclusion that he had pulled the trigger. His internal discourse demanded the truth. He'd done it, now he had to get on with what his code of honour demanded, assuming he lived. His body had been injured, even his InVitro stamina was perhaps not enough. He'd lain in his cell for another unmeasurable time. Instinct made him to drag himself to the door when his captors pushed pans of food and water through the slit at the bottom. He wasn't sure if that same instinct would give him the strength to plan and execute an escape.

McQueen jerked out of his ruminations. The chirping of AI modems just outside of the cell door alerted him to their presence. The light from the open door blinded him. He pulled back into the corner. This was the first time they'd opened the cell door since he'd broken, since he'd committed murder at their behest. Fear rose in his throat like bile. They were back, the soft pleasant voice he hated... the fear he hated.

"T.C., are you awake? Yes, I see you are. We've brought you some company."- Another form catapulted into the room, landing on the floor in front of him. "Maybe you could share your experiences with this nice young man. Tell him how much easier our relationship can be if we're just nice to one another."

The door closed, leaving the room illuminated only by the slitted windows at the top of the wall. The new prisoner lifted himself from the floor and dusted himself off.

"Whoo! There's a nice fellow."

McQueen did not answer, pulling his flight suit closer around himself and withdrawing further into himself. The other man came closer, squinting into the dark.

"I'm Glenn Ross, Commander, US Navy." He held out his hand. McQueen continued to ignore him. "Come on, man. Looks to me like we're in this together."

Looking up at the intruder, McQueen cleared his throat, rusty from screaming before, rusty from disuse more recently. "McQueen, Captain, USMC." He tried to move and gasped, stifling a yelp of pain.

"Captain. You hurt?"

"I'm okay." McQueen's rough breathing and almost tremulous voice belied his words. The commander mover closer, kneeling down by the makeshift pallet McQueen had constructed from the dirt on the floor. Ross gently opened the top of the flight suit, wincing himself at the cuts, abrasions, and burns revealed.

"Man! You are all fucked up!"

With his last strength, McQueen pulled away from the other's concern. "I'm okay," he reiterated.

Rising, Ross tore a corner from his khakis and dampened it in the pan of water.

"Let me clean some of that up." He returned to kneel by McQueen. Unable to summon the strength to push him away, McQueen sat quietly under the navy officer's ministrations. It felt odd, after being alone, being sure that no one would come, no one would care. He resisted the seductive pull of the other man's concern.

"You're a mess, man. How long you been enjoying these folks' hospitality?"

McQueen shrugged, wincing. "How do you tell?"

The other rocked back on his heels, "They picked me up yesterday, 27 Jun."

Clearing his throat again, "7, 7 Jun."

"God! Three weeks?! You been alone the whole time?"

A brief nod, "Yeah."

"What's your unit?"

"Just seconded to the 127."

"Hm," Ross nodded, "They were called to Orlando, right after you were taken."

Trying not to let his interest reawaken, McQueen could not resist. "How are things going?"

Now it was Ross' turn to shrug, "We're kicking some serious butt. That's no surprise. We've had them on the run since '53. Looks like they're planning something at Kennedy Launch Facility. That's why the 127 was pulled from Guantanamo."

McQueen turned away, unwilling to be drawn back into the world, back into the war. He closed his eyes, pretending to sleep. His new cell mate moved around the room, measuring the limits of their confinement. The sound of another's step, after three weeks in solitary, disturbed his silence, forcing him to be aware of the other. As an InVitro, McQueen had known the cruelty of virtual slavery during his indentures, had felt the scorn of the natural born commanders while in the InVitro platoons, and lack of respect from his peers since receiving his commission. None of that had hurt as bad as his awareness now that the silicates expected his presence, his brokeness, to help them break this other officer. He remembered why he had enlisted in the first place. He snorted softly to himself, "Yeah, one tank who wasn't lazy, one tank who stood for something." He let these damn robots break him, making him nothing again. It had taken them three days to undo 10 years. He drifted off to sleep on these bitter thoughts. .

"Hey, Captain!" McQueen jerked away from the hand on his shoulder, the voice in his ear. Ross repeated, "Hey, it's a dream, man!"

"What?" Inarticulately McQueen could not quite figure what was happening.

"You were having a nightmare."

"Huh. Oh. Yeah" McQueen came awake.

"Look, I'm getting tired of calling my room mate 'captain', especially when he wakes me up in the middle of a good sleep."

"Sorry."

Ross looked at him steadily, "My name is Glenn."

Giving in, McQueen grumbled, "T.C."

"What's T.C. stand for?"

"Tyrus, Tyrus Cassius."

Grinning, Ross clapped McQueen on the shoulder, "There, that wasn't so hard, was it, Ty? Now how the hell are we gonna get out of here?"

"Don't you think I've tried?" McQueen withdrew into his pride.

"Of course. But there's two of us now. Might make a difference."

"Two of us?" McQueen grimaced, "As you so eloquently put it, I'm all fucked up. I'm not even sure I can walk."

"Let's give it a try." Ross started to help him up.

"Goddamn it, leave me alone!" McQueen pushed Ross away. He pressed his hands against the rough stone walls, pulling himself up.

"You are one prickly son of a bitch, Ty." Ross stood by shaking his head with admiration for the other's perseverance and dismay for his unwillingness to accept help. Standing against the wall, panting with effort, McQueen looked at his cell mate,

"I'm nobody's son, Commander. I'm an InVitro, a tank."

Ross paused, nodded, "I'd heard there were a couple of IV officers. Nice to finally meet one. Can you walk?"

Now it was McQueen's turn to shake his head. The man's casual acceptance stopped any answer he might have made. He pushed off from the wall, taking a few tentative steps. He felt his legs give out, knew that hitting the stone floor was going to hurt. This time, when his cell mate grabbed him, he didn't fight it. Ross held him and eased him down. He lay against the natural born, just for the moment allowing himself the luxury of support from another person. He closed his eyes, waiting for the pain in his battered body to subside.

"I guess that answers that question." Ross couldn't hide his disappointment.

"No, I'll be able to do it. Just give me a minute." McQueen drew a couple of deep breaths, and, this time using the other man for leverage, stood again. This time, one step at a time he made it from one wall to the other. The abused flesh between his legs ached. The cuts and burns on his chest throbbed, keeping time with his increased heart rate. Ross remained where he was, watching as McQueen laboriously made his way around the cell. His admiration for the other man's tenacity growing with each step.

"Okay, Ty. Take a break."

McQueen stopped where he was, "Is that an order, Commander?"

"Don't be stupid, Ty. It's a suggestion, but a smart one."

At the word "stupid", McQueen had stiffened, ready for the next word... "tank". Caught again by surprise at the concern in Ross' voice, he sank to the floor against the wall. He wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. The pain from his wounds, the stress from needing to be able to walk, the heat from this Caribbean fortress, all served to weaken him. Eyes closed, his last thoughts before sleep being on the renewed hope this natural born had brought. Ross watched his new comrade slip into sleep where he sat. The IV was a prickly SOB, for all he disavowed being anybody's son. As a young Naval officer, Ross had had little dealings with the InVitro platoons, lately disbanded. They had been mostly attached to Army and Marine units. But he had noticed the way that they were treated by their own officers and noncoms, all natural borns. He had heard all of the stories about "tank" disloyalty, "tank" laziness. Well, now he knew for certain that one of the stories was false. InVitros could dream, or at least they had nightmares. Ross moved over against a wall to sleep himself.

"Good evening, Glenn Ross." The soft voice intruded on the two captives' sleep. This time rough hands did jerk them up. Both men were held on either side by silicates. "Sorry about the accommodations, Glenn. I hope being with this tank has not been too much of an inconvenience. This was the best we could do on such short notice."

Ross smile sarcastically, "The quarters are fine."

"Oh, good. I am AlvinPJ. A general entertainment model. And I have succeeded in entertaining, haven't I, T.C.?" He turned to McQueen, a smile on his silicon enhanced lips. "And, I must admit, I found Captain McQueen quite entertaining as well." He moved close, stroking McQueen's face with one finger. Turning back to Ross, "Now it's your turn to entertain me. You don't even have to tell me anything new. I just want to know how much your superiors know about our plans."

"You go to Hell!" Ross spat out.

"No, its your turn for that." He walked out of the cell, leaving his underlings to escort Ross out. The two holding McQueen dropped him to the floor, backing out of the cell.

During the wait for his cell mate, McQueen forced himself to circumnavigate the cell twice. The pain from using his aching limbs softened the guilt he felt for being glad that it was not him the silicates took this time. He had just sunk to the floor for the second time when the door opened and Ross was propelled in. McQueen crawled over to him, turning him over. The man was out cold. As Ross had done for him, he dampened the corner of shirt, wiping the natural born's face. Ross slowly regained consciousness. He was a little surprised to find his head cushioned by his cell mate's lap.

"I take it back." He croaked, waking McQueen out of a light doze.

"Take what back?"

"That silicate is not a nice fellow." Ross grinned, white teeth showing against dark skin. He got another pleasant surprise when his companion actually returned the smile, albeit tentatively. McQueen's smile went as suddenly as it had come, and he stiffened a bit, clearly signaling that this moment of sharing had ended. Suppressing a groan, Ross sat up.

"It's not too bad, just bumps and bruises so far. But if we're gonna get out of here before I'm in worse shape than you, we better go soon."

"We only have to make it out of Havana. These entertainment type AIs don't do jungle that well."

"Yeah." Ross nodded, "And most of them are pulling out of this area."

"So, you do know something."

Ross leaned over, putting his mouth next to McQueen's ear, "Is it safe to talk in here."

McQueen shrugged, the breath of the other man's words making him uncomfortable. "I had the opportunity to pretty thouroughly check out the cell. I've had no reason to think its bugged, and since I was alone, the AIs would have had no reason to bug it."

Nodding, Ross continued "I've been doing intelligence analysis for the last six months." He pulled back slightly, "These AIs live by 'take a chance'. Right now they're losing badly. In '53, at the Ho Chi Minh City Convention, the United Nations were feeling conciliatory. The AIs signed the accords, then have been pretty much ignoring them. You and I can testify to that." He paused, "United Nations isn't feeling that nice now. Too many good men and women have died, been tortured. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't find ourselves a couple of heroes when we get back."

McQueen snorted, "Well, one of us will be."

"What do you mean by that?"

Shrugging, "I don't think the world is ready for a tank hero. Hell, they're not even ready for tank voters."

"I must have missed something. I thought IV enfranchisement passed in'47."

Another snort, "And in '48, 30 of the 55 states passed laws disenfranchising anyone who was now or had ever been in a state of indentured servanthood." He looked Ross in the face, "You ever met an InVitro who wasn't indentured right out of the tank? Those of us that survive gestation and decanting come out owing the IVA three to ten years, depending on our jobs."

Ross looked discomfited, "Yeah, you're right. But things are getting better everyday. Indentured servanthood is in the process of being banned right now, except in very specific cases. And most states have some provision now for re-enfranchising former indentured servants."

"You just don't get it!" McQueen stood and began another slow circuit of the room, his anger giving him the strength."It's not that easy. You hire a lawyer, You petition, *beg* the court to give you the rights every other American has by birth." He paced, his movement growing easier. His anger grew, anger against those who had made him vulnerable to Alvin's words, anger at himself for listening to them. "I'm the token 'tank' officer. So theDOD could say that not all tanks are being used for cannon fodder. I'm here 'cause the only plane left for the 'tank' was an SA-43T. When the AIs got between me and my squadron... Christ! They didn't even cover me. I had to land my plane to get out of the way of AI missiles."

Ross had watched McQueen, listened to his tirade, his own face reflecting the pain that the in vitro didn't dare to let show. At these last words, he started. "Your plane is flyable? Where is it?"

McQueen stopped his pacing, realizing his cellmate had an idea. "About two clicks south of Havana. I managed to get her camouflaged and was on my way to Gitmo when I got picked up."

"Hm...if it's still there... Look," He paused looking around him and signaling McQueen to move closer. "The AIs don't need to know this. The Saratoga is in Earth orbit, waiting to stop them if they try to launch. We think that's why all the sudden activity around Canaveral Launch site. If we go exo-atmosphere, the AIs won't be able to follow."

"How do we get out of here?" McQueen tried not to be too hopeful.

"We 'take a chance'. The AIs are pulling out. Intelligence reports that they're already down to 35% strength here."

McQueen nodded, "I'm with you."

The chance presented itself sooner than expected. Ross lay on the floor, still watching McQueen pace when three AIs, the Alvin and two others came in. Apparently assuming that Ross was no threat, the two guards grabbed McQueen.

"Ah, T.C., good to see you up and around. I knew a guest would bring you out of the doldrums. And Glenn, I do hope we don't have to go through any more of this unpleasantness."

Playing 'possum, Ross lay where he was, only letting his eyes show his deep anger. Alvin walked over to McQueen. He opened the front of the flight suit, his fingers, lightly touching the burns and cuts on McQueen's chest.

"You tanks certainly do heal fast. The miners on Omicron Draconis must have found that highly entertaining. I know I do." His hand dipped lower, below the waist band. "Maybe you and I could put on a little show to entertain the Commander."

McQueen stood immobile as Alvin fondled his genitals. Against his will, his flesh began to respond to the silicate's expert manipulations. Disgust warred with a fear he could scarcely contain. The miners had not been particularly gently with the newborn tank, but few of them had intended to cause pain. Alvin had nearly destroyed him. He waited for the inhuman grip to tighten, to bring him to his knees as it had before. He almost sagged with relief when the silicate removed his hand, pulling up the zipper on the flight suit. They said the AIs had no emotions, couldn't "enjoy". But the Alvin and his associates were smiling, giving every evidence of enjoying McQueen's discomfort.

McQueen could not meet Ross' glance, shame welling up in him. It was the soft throat clearing that caught his attention. Both he and Alvin turned to Ross. McQueen noticed a slight loosening of the hands on his arms, as the guards, too, looked at Ross. McQueen nodded slightly. Ross returned the nod and launched himself at the Alvin.

McQueen turned in his captors' hands, grabbing the machine pistol that hung from the left hand guard's shoulder. He pumped several rounds into the other guard, then swung the butt at the back of Alvin's head, distracting him from pummeling Ross. He again reversed the weapon and within milliseconds, all three AIs lay on the floor, electronic components chirping distress. McQueen gathered up the weapons, including the kabars and harness.

"If they managed to communicate before we put their lights out, we're gonna have visitors."

Ross stood up, still stiff. "Let's not be here. Hand me one of those pistols."

The two men stepped into the corridor of the ancient fortress. Moving together as if they'd been partnered for years, each checked one way.

"This way, Commander!" McQueen led out. They made their way to the courtyard, and then to the street. The streets were empty. The Habaneros not killed by the AIs had fled to the countryside. Ross and McQueen met only a couple of silicates, and made short work of them. As they reached the city limits however, their luck ran out. At the barricade, an AI rose, aiming his rifle at McQueen.

"Duck!" Ross yelled, raising his own captured fire arm. He got off a round into the silicates chest, but not before the projectile from the AI's gun hit McQueen in the shoulder. The impact spun him around, knocking him from his already unsteady feet. Ross made sure of the AI, then knelt by the wounded Marine. "Ty! Damn it man, I said 'duck'! Don't leave me now."

McQueen opened his eyes and almost smiled, "I've always wanted to say it, 'Its only a flesh wound.'"

Ross pulled McQueen's hand away from the wound and opened the flight suit, gently examining the wound. "No, I'm afraid you've got a broken clavicle. Damn, if the subclavian gets severed you ain't gonna make it." Suddenly Ross realized McQueen had raised and leveled his pistol. "What the h..." Before he could finish the sentence, McQueen squeezed off a shot over his right shoulder. Ross looked around to see an AI crumple to the dirt behind him.

"Thanks"

"Bind it up tight, Commander. I lose much more blood and you 'ain't gonna make it', unless you're checked out on the SA-43T."

"I'm not." Pulling McQueen into a sheltered alcove, Ross took off his own shirt and T-shirt. Using the kabar, he cut the tee into strips, using them to bind McQueen's wound. "Maybe we should wait here 'til dark. Give you a chance to rest."

McQueen started to shrug, then though better of the gesture when he felt the ends of his shattered bone shift. "I don't know. The AIs have considerably better night vision than we do. Has the bleeding stopped?"

Ross peered at McQueen's shoulder, trying to determine if there was any fresh blood. "I think so." He rocked back on his heels, crossing his arms across his chest. "You know, Ty, I've been thinking about what you said in there."

McQueen had leaned back against the wall of the building, cradling the arm on his injured side with the other. He opened his eyes. "Said about what?"

"About In Vitros." He looked down, not meeting McQueen's eyes. "Everything you said in there was true, and more. In Vitros were made to do the shit work that no one else would do. And the natural borns have been trying to prove they deserve that crap ever since. This thing about the IV platoons refusing to fight, I was there. I saw how those units were being used, nothing more than clay pigeons, to draw enemy fire. Expendable. Replaceable." Now he caught McQueen's eyes with his own, "I just want you to know that there are people, natural borns, that don't see IVs that way.

You know, IVs aren't the first," He paused, "My grandmama lived with us when I was a kid. She was old enough to remember the bad old times when Americans of African descent went through the same kind of shit. A black woman in a party dress was seen as a hooker, a black man in a nice car was a pimp or a drug dealer. She told me that the war for equal rights could only be fought one battle at a time, one man's mind at a time. I look at you, Ty, and a see a man, a man I'm proud to serve with."

Now McQueen looked away, embarrassed by the unexpected and, and to his mind, undeserved praise. "Lets get out of here." He used the wall and levered himself up, starting out of the alley.

By nightfall they'd made it the two kilometers to McQueen's downed fighter. Finding the fighter where he'd left it, covered by cut branches, McQueen sat down heavily. Relief weakened him, almost as much as the lost blood. He leaned on his knees. Ross started to remove the camouflage, cursorily examining the burn damage on her flanks.

"You sure this thing is space worthy?"

McQueen looked up, marking the scars, "Yeah. You're just lucky I drew the trainer. There's a back seat." He stood and began to help the naval officer. As the covering cleared away the fighter's lines became clearer. Ross noticed his companion's hand occasionally linger on the hull. He wondered if the Marine was aware that his gestures betrayed the depth of emotion the InVitro tried so hard to hide. McQueen tried to climb up to release the canopy, found that his left arm refused the task. Ross noted his difficulty and mounted to the other sideof the plane, releasing the canopy lock on that side. McQueen stood beneath the wing clearly frustrated.

"Don't sweat it, Ty. I'll get the canopy." McQueen just shook his head.

"I can't even get into the damn cockpit with this arm."

"Yeah, you can. You just need a little help from your friend." Ross jumped down from the wing he was standing on and moved over to the one McQueen had tried to mount. He climbed up and released the other canopy lock. Jumping down again, he formed a stirrup with his hands and held it out to McQueen. "Okay, Ty. Mount up." McQueen hesitated, as if to refuse the offer of help, then relented. Placing his foot in the proffered stirrup, he rose, grabbing with his good arm. Standing on the wing, he picked up the flight helmet from the seat and put it on, wincing as the action forced him to use the injured side. He struggled into his seat. Ross followed suit and the two men belted themselves into their respective seats. McQueen efficiently went through the pre-flight check list.

"Okay, Commander. Here we go." The VTOL craft rose above the tree tops, taking off horizontally as they reached open air. "We're gonna have to take it slow. I'm not sure she or I can take the Gs of a sharp take off."..."Damn!"

"What?" Ross knew he was a fine naval officer, but planes had never been his forte. He looked around him for the danger McQueen saw.

"On the LIDAR. Five clicks and closing. The AIs may not have any exo-atmospheric fighters, but they've got plenty of conventional ones, and here comes a squadron of them. I'm going to have to take her up in a hurry. If I black out, wait 'til we make exo, then hit the egg head switch. That's the red one by your right hand. Then radio the Saratoga. Got it?"

"Uh, yeah. But Ty."

"What?"

"Try not to black out, okay?"

"Yeah" With that, the fighter pulled into a near 90 degree climb. Within minutes, the cerulean sky over Cuba was replaced by the deeper blue, then the black of space. The craft shivered, but held together as they left the Earth's atmosphere.

Ross slapped the back of McQueen's helmet, "Good job, Ty." There was no response. "Ty? Damn it! I told you not to black out." Ross flicked the switch allowing the craft's computer to guide her, then switched on the radio.

"Saratoga, come in please."

The radio crackled, then Ross heard a sound sweeter than the angels. "Unidentified SA-43, this is the Saratoga, please identify yourself."

"Saratoga, This is Commander Glenn Ross, I'm with Marine Captain T.C. McQueen. He's currently unconscious, and I'm no pilot. Can you talk me in?"

There was a moan from the other seat, then a voice, "I'm okay, just get me the coordinates."

"McQueen," Ross grinned, relieved. "Good to hear from you, old son. You get that, Toga? Just give the man the coordinates and have a medical team waiting for us in the landing bay."

"Roger that." The radioman delivered the coordinates. A moment later another voice came on the radio.

"Commander Ross, would that be TC McQueen, the InVitro with the 127. We were beginning to think he'd gone South on us."

"Yeah, its me." The voice from the front seat was laboured.

Minutes later the craft landed, the cockpit disengaged, and Ross and McQueen found themselves surrounded by flight crew and medics.

"Sir," The flight surgeon stood by Ross' side. "Can you get out on your own?"

"Of course I can. See to McQueen, he's the one that got shot." Matching actions to words, Ross removed his flight helmet and stood. The flight surgeon continued to hover. "Lieutenant! Please assist Captain McQueen."

"Sir, with all due respect, current triage policies require the assessment of human casualties first."

"Human!?" Ross' outrage was clear.

"Poor choice of words, sir. Natural borns."

Standing now on the flight deck, Ross put his face up to the flight surgeon's, nose to nose, his voice dropped dangerously low,

"This man just saved my life. More importantly, he is serving his country and you will see to his wounds, now. Or my boot will be so far up your ass, you'll need a tonsillectomy to have it removed."

The surgeon backed off, signaling his team to assist McQueen. The Marine sat in his cockpit, his head leaning back against the seat. One of the medics removed the helmet, revealing a face even paler than his usual pallid tones. His hair was plastered to his skull and beads of sweat shone on his upper lip.

"He's shocky!" The blue eyes opened, fixing the medic leaning over him with an icy glare. "But conscious." The medic leaned closer. "Can you stand, Captain?"

"Yeah," His voice was thready, but with one of the team assisting him by his good arm, he rose and started the climb from the cockpit. He crumpled, caught by the medics, and was laid out on a waiting stretcher. McQueen caught Ross' glance and he quirked a wry smile. "Things getting better?"

Ross knew he'd heard his own exchange with the flight surgeon. "One battle at a time, Ty. One man's mind at a time."

The End

The sequel to this story is That's What Friends are for also avaliable at this site.

Rebecca Morris 1996

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