Legal disclaimers: The characters and situations of the televison show Space: Above and Beyond are creations of Glen Morgan,James Wong Hard Eight productions and Fox broadcasting and have been used without premission. No copyright infridgment is intended.
Many, many thanks virtual
chocalate and roses to my beta reader and good friend Marilyn Cox aka Space girl for all
her support and encourgement. I couldn't have finished it without you.:-)
The Wildcards Reshuffle The Deck
Part One of Six
Lieutenant Colonel T.C. McQueen (retired) stood on the porch of the small farmhouse watching the sun set below the rows of corn. How did he end up here? He still didn't know. After being injured in the explosion on the Saratoga a year ago they had shipped him home.
A piece of metal from one of the conference tables had wedged itself into one of the lower vertebrae of his spinal cord. The blast itself had taken off the lower half of his left leg.
With technology how it was they could've operated and removed it, but since he was an InVitro they didn't want to risk his addiction to pain killers. Since the piece of metal wasn't causing any major damage to his body they had left it there and sent him home with an Honorable discharge, a medal and a wooden leg, so to speak.
With part of his pension he had bought this place on a whim. Remembering hearing one of the instructors at the InVitro facility talk about his Grandfather's farm in Iowa and how it had always been a place of peace for him.
McQueen ran a weary hand over his face before looking up at the stars. Hell he'd give this place up in a second if it meant he could be back on the Saratoga fighting the Chigs. Back with the 58th.
Ty walked east and sat down in the porch swing that had come with the house. His heart heavy as he thought of those of the 58th who had been killed trying to bring the Colonists home. God, he still couldn't believe they were gone. Wang, Vansen, Damphoose.
He'd never forget the look on Nathan West's face when he first saw the young Lieutenant after he had learned of their deaths. McQueen stood again and leaned against the railing. He often wondered about West. Where he was. How he was handling the loss of his friends.
Glen Ross had tried to keep him updated on West for a few months after the peace talk fiasco. Then the War had gotten worse and Ross's calls became fewer and fewer. Ty tried to keep an eye on West on his own with the few contacts he had left, but he lost track of Nathan after he was transferred off the Saratoga.
As for Cooper Hawkes, well McQueen still received regular letters from him. With his sentence up and the loss of so many of his friends Hawkes had opted for Earthside duty. Last Ty had heard Cooper was stationed in Miami at the Vitro facility there. Fighting the Chigs best he could from this far away and being involved in the Vitro movement for equal rights in the military. McQueen turned away from the railing and opened the screen door, time to fix something to eat then check on the horses.
A headlight splashed across the screen door catching his attention. McQueen turned seeing a lone figure on a motorcycle coming up the gravel driveway. Not expecting company, Ty's hand instinctively reached down for a gun. His hand closed around air and he made a fist in frustration. Some habits were hard to break.
As soon as the driver dismounted from the bike, he knew who it was. "Hawkes." Ty greeted the young man stepping down from the porch, "What brings you to this neck of the woods?"
Cooper Hawkes took off his black helmet and placed it on the left handle. Brown hair fell forward as he turned to face his former commanding officer.
"Hello, Colonel." Hawkes replied shaking the older man's hand.
McQueen smiled, "We've been through this, Cooper. You're not under my command any more you can call me Ty."
Cooper smiled, "Whatever you say, Colonel." He replied. Knowing he could be less formal but still called McQueen Colonel out of respect.
McQueen gestured to the farm house,"Come on in. I was just about to fix something to eat."
"Good I'm starved." Cooper replied.Then in a whispered voice he said, "I have a message from Nathan."
McQueen stopped on the porch and stared at him, "Is it that bad out there that he couldn't trust the vidphone or a secured channel?"
Hawkes nodded, his brown eyes concerned, "I'm afraid so. I'll explain it all inside, Colonel.You never know who could be listening."
McQueen glanced around but saw nothing but corn, "Getting a little paranoid are we Hawkes?"
Cooper smiled sadly, "I wish I was paranoid. Then this whole thing would make sense."
University of Arizona Research Hospital
"What is it, Tom?"
Tom Halloway smiled, holding a small package wrapped in brown paper, "This just came from you."
Kylen stood and took the package from the young intern, "Thanks,Tom."
"No problem." The young man replied leaving her alone to open the package.
Kylen at first thought it was some research equipment she had ordered then she saw Nathan West's familiar scrawl. Her heart skipped a beat as her fingers struggled with the tape that bonded the paper together. She had only heard from Nathan once since her rescue from the Chigs. She knew that was because of the War, but a part of her had always thought it was because of the loss of his friends. That seeing her reminded him too much of what he had lost that day.
The paper finally gave way allowing a small object wrapped tightly in yellow paper to tumble into her hand. From the square shape she knew what it was. Confirming her suspicions her thumb accidentally pressed the button on the lower half of the picture frame. Her own voice greeted her. I believe in all of you.
Finally the photo tag was free and she held it up to the light. Gently tracing the outline of Nathan's face. He looked so young in this photo. She had been shocked at how 'old' Nathan had become when she saw him on the Saratoga. The war had changed him greatly she could tell. She could only pray it was for the better. That the loss of too many friends and crewmates hadn't turned his gentle soul into a bitter and cynical one.
Kylen was about to place the photo on her desk when she saw the picture slip from its frame a little. With one finger she tried to straighten the photo, but there seemed to be something behind it, obstructing her task. Curious, the young blond woman took the photo out of its frame and saw a tightly folded piece of white notebook paper.
With slightly shaking hands she gently unfolded it and began to read:
My Dearest Kylen,
I apologize for not keeping in touch with you more
often, but the War has gotten so much worse this last year I barely have time to think let
alone have any free time to write.
I need a favor from you. I know its a lot to ask of
you to leave your position in Arizona since you finally got your life back after it was
stolen by the Chigs. You know I wouldn't ask unless I had no one else to trust.
Please take a few weeks off and go to Iowa. McQueen
has a farm there. Hawkes should already be there and he'll fill both of you in with what I
have in mind.
Kylen, if you trust my love, do this. But please do
not tell anyone. And I mean anyone of where you are going or why. Your life as well as
millions of others is at stake.
I appreciate this more than you will every know, my
love. Be safe and keep an eye on the others for me.
All my Love, Kylen stared at the letter for several moments absorbing
what Nathan had asked of her. She would do what he asked without hesitation. She had found
out after she returned to Earth that Nathan had risked his career as well as his life
several times to look for her. Following whatever lead he could find. He never gave up on
her. She had loved him more than ever for that. She carefully folded the letter and placed
in the pockets of her khaki pants. Something jangled in the packaging paper and she turned
it upside down. The metal chain tumbled into her lap. With a smile she threaded it through
the hole on the top of the photo tag and clasped it behind her neck. Once the necklace was
in place she picked up the receiver of her desk phone. Glancing at her rolodex she dialed
her supervisor. "Kay? It's Kylen Celina. I'm sorry to do this to you
on such short notice but I just received a call from my sister. It seems my Aunt is
critically ill. I may be gone several weeks....my sister and I are the only family she has
left." As she listened to Kay Wilson, Kylen absently twisted the
phone cord around her fingers, "Thank you so much for understanding. I'll call you as
soon as I know what's going on." Ending her conversation with her boss Kylen hit the
disconnection switch with her finger and dialed a new number for the airlines. She had no
idea when Nathan had wrote that letter since it wasn't dated. She only hoped she could get
to Iowa in time.
I apologize for not keeping in touch with you more often, but the War has gotten so much worse this last year I barely have time to think let alone have any free time to write.
I need a favor from you. I know its a lot to ask of you to leave your position in Arizona since you finally got your life back after it was stolen by the Chigs. You know I wouldn't ask unless I had no one else to trust.
Please take a few weeks off and go to Iowa. McQueen has a farm there. Hawkes should already be there and he'll fill both of you in with what I have in mind.
Kylen, if you trust my love, do this. But please do not tell anyone. And I mean anyone of where you are going or why. Your life as well as millions of others is at stake.
I appreciate this more than you will every know, my love. Be safe and keep an eye on the others for me.
All my Love,
Kylen stared at the letter for several moments absorbing what Nathan had asked of her. She would do what he asked without hesitation. She had found out after she returned to Earth that Nathan had risked his career as well as his life several times to look for her. Following whatever lead he could find. He never gave up on her. She had loved him more than ever for that. She carefully folded the letter and placed in the pockets of her khaki pants. Something jangled in the packaging paper and she turned it upside down. The metal chain tumbled into her lap. With a smile she threaded it through the hole on the top of the photo tag and clasped it behind her neck. Once the necklace was in place she picked up the receiver of her desk phone. Glancing at her rolodex she dialed her supervisor.
"Kay? It's Kylen Celina. I'm sorry to do this to you on such short notice but I just received a call from my sister. It seems my Aunt is critically ill. I may be gone several weeks....my sister and I are the only family she has left."
As she listened to Kay Wilson, Kylen absently twisted the phone cord around her fingers, "Thank you so much for understanding. I'll call you as soon as I know what's going on."
Ending her conversation with her boss Kylen hit the disconnection switch with her finger and dialed a new number for the airlines. She had no idea when Nathan had wrote that letter since it wasn't dated. She only hoped she could get to Iowa in time.
U.S.S. Franklin Roosevelt
Nathan was still, even a year later, mad as hell that the PTB (Powers that Be) didn't allow the Saratoga to hold a memorial service for them. The area was too volatile for a memorial service they had said. It was too much of a risk to hold the Saratoga there for a funeral when she was needed elsewhere.
A smile curled at Nathan's lips as he remembered watching Commodore Glen Ross fight Admiral Tilson tooth and nail. Ross had given the older man hell but Tilson still outranked him. The Saratoga had left that area of space without even a recorded playing of Taps.
Nathan stood and began to pace the small area. Wang, Phoose and Shane deserved a hell of a lot more than that. The Wildcards were the best unit in the Marine core and this was how they repaid them? It had been an honest mistake what had happened on the planet. Anyone of the holier than thou brass would've done the same thing the 58th did. They had honestly thought that it was a new species of life that was going to be destroyed by Roundhammer if they didn't warn it. They had never seen a Chig without armor before how the hell where they supposed to know what it looked like. Nathan still thought the Brass was punishing the 58th for that mistake by not allowing the Saratoga time to grieve for the fallen Wildcards .
A month later was the soonest he could get leave. Even with that Ross had pulled ever string in the book to get it for him. With that leave Nathan took one of the spacefighters and went back to the area of space where the battle had occurred. He had tried several times to get in touch with Hawkes to no avail. The Chigs had come up with a new way to scramble outgoing signals.
Before he had left the Saratoga he had rigged a speaker on the outside of the plane. Looking at the planet that had claimed Vansen and Phoose's life he had turned the speaker on. He opened a deck of playing cards and placed it on the dash board.
The solemn notes of Taps began to fill the cold vacuum of space. Nathan raised his hand in salute and held it there a long time after the song was completed. Tears ran freely down his face as he said goodbye to his friends.
"The Wild Cards will live on." He had vowed to his friends, "I will not let them forget us. I promise you that."
The alert siren snapped Nathan back to the present reality. With a sigh he walked over to the com unit and punched in an identification code. "All members of the 44th marine squadron must assemble immediately in the War room for debriefing."
So much for sleep, Nathan thought wearily as he straightened the collar of his uniform. He thought briefly of Kylen and prayed that she had gotten his package and was on her way to Iowa.
The horrors he had seen in the last year needed to be addressed and brought to the public's attention. But he didn't have enough clout to do that so he hoped with the reinforcements he was bringing in they would be able to bring some of these secrets to light.
Operation: Homeward Bound
It seemed like the injured cargo hold tumbled through space for hours, slowly leaking precious oxygen. Silence made Paul open his eyes. The Chigs had stopped firing. He was surprised they hadn't finished him off.
A white dot of light caught Paul's attention. It seemed to be slowly moving toward him.
This is it. Paul thought swallowing a wave of panic, My jig's up. I'm going to the great stadium in the sky.
However as he focused on the dot of light Paul released it wasn't an Angel. He fought to curb the sudden hope he was feeling. The dot of light looked to be coming from the control panel inside a life pod.
Paul scrambled to his feet, sliding more than running over to the far wall of the cargo hold. Sure enough barely visible in the darkness was the hatch to an escape pod.
Sending off a silent prayer Paul activated a switch to the left of the door. Several tense seconds later it slid open welcoming Paul inside. Paul raced inside thanking whoever the genius was who had thought of having the escape pods run on their own power. He knew his time was short so there would be no time for precise calculations. Paul hit the eject button and prayed that the pod wouldn't burn up in the planet's atmosphere. Seconds after the pod was floating free of the cargo hold Paul had to shield his eyes. The cargo hold he had been in minutes before exploded in a million pieces.
Cooper Hawkes nodded, "He sent me a sealed envelope. I have instructions not to open it until this mystery person gets here."
Steam rising from a pot of water on the stove caught McQueen's attention. He quickly walked over and turned the black knob to a lower number. Absently he picked up a box of pasta noodles and emptied half the contents into the gray pot.
Ty picked up a wooden spoon before asking, "You have no idea who this other person is?"
Cooper smiled walking over to the kitchen counter that housed the stove and a small cutting board, "I know who it is."
Realization dawned in McQueen's blue eyes as he glanced up from the pot of noodles, "Kylen." He said softly.
Hawkes nodded, "She's the only other person West would trust. His brother's dead. The three of us are the only surviving members........." Cooper turned his head quickly as his voice started to quiver.
McQueen placed a metal lid on the pot and walked around the counter placing a supportive hand on the young man's shoulder, "How are you doing with all of this?"
Cooper sat down in the oak rocking chair, finally looking at McQueen with haunted eyes, "Does it ever go away?"
Ty tilted his head, not quite understanding, "What?"
Hawkes jumped to his feet, walking over to the bay window that looked out over the corn fields, "The pain." He replied in a whisper, "I see their faces every time I close my eyes at night. I think of them every minute that I'm awake."
McQueen sat down in a straight backed blue cushioned chair next to the fireplace, "So do I, Hawkes. All I can tell you is that it gets easier with time."
Cooper stared at the older man, "It's been a year. I thought by now it would be better."
McQueen stood and walked over to the mantle. Sitting on top was a polished maple box, about the size of an old fashioned jewelry box. Ty lifted the lid and took out a square wooden object. Silently he handed it to Hawkes. Cooper took the object from McQueen. Shane Vansen's face stared back at him. It was a picture of her in full dress uniform standing next to her sister and niece.
"Last Christmas was the soonest I was able to go visit them." McQueen explained quietly, "They were hit pretty hard by Shane's death but they seem to be coping. I thought you might get more use out of that photo than I could."
Cooper nodded his right hand gently tracing the outline's of Shane's face. "Thank you, Colonel. I had almost forgotten how pretty she was."
McQueen heard the sound of a engine coming up the driveway and glanced out the front door, "Sounds like our mystery guest is about to sign in."
Cooper stared at him, "What?"
Ty shook his head, "Never mind." He replied as he walked out onto the porch.
Operation: Homeward Bound
Shane hoped they had. That Nathan West finally had his happy ending with Kylen. Her friend deserved that. She felt the intense heat and saw the metal start to turn orange. Shane closed her eyes and leaned back against the seat knowing this was one fight she had lost.
USS Franklin Roosevelt
The men and women immediately jumped to their feet, coming to attention.
A tall sandy haired man in his late forties crossed to the center of the room,"Be seated."
Admiral Paul Tilson cleared his throat as he faced the group of twenty men and women under his command, "I apologize for calling this meeting at this ungodly hour of the morning but as you all know this War has no time clock."
The Admiral turned his brown gaze to face Nathan, "As you all know the 44th lost their commanding officer on the last mission to Upeg. Colonel Mark Williams was a good friend and more importantly a good officer. He will be missed greatly."
The room fell into a solemn silence as Tilson allowed a moment of remembrance.
Paul Tilson cleared his throat, "Lieutenant Colonel John Oakes will take his place." The Admiral began raising his hand toward the doorway," Colonel, please tell the 44th what they're next mission is."
Nathan West thought he was seeing things. When Tilson had said the name John Oakes, Nathan had written it off as the fact it was possible that two people could have the same name. Now Nathan was staring at his commanding officer. The man who had saved Shane Vansen's life over Haleg by sacrificing his own to take out the Red Baron. Or so they had thought.
The brown haired man in his mid thirties didn't acknowledge Nathan's presence or seem to have any visible scars from his encounter with the Red Baron over a year ago.
"Thank you Admiral." Colonel Oakes began turning his attention to the computerized map behind him, "We have just learned that the Chig's are gathering their forces around a small astroid planet twenty light years from their home planet. The 44th's mission is to go in and drop a listening device on the astroid and get out without interacting with the enemy."
"If we know most of their forces are there," Nathan asked, "Why aren't we sending in a full force? Just wipe them out. End this thing now."
Oakes finally met Nathan's gaze, "Because we want to get a leg up, so to speak on what the Chig's plans are. If we were to send in a full force it would frankly be sending lambs to the slaughter. Our energy resources are rapidly decreasing. If we sent a full force in right now the War is lost." He turned to face the group, "Any other questions?"
"Good. I want the 44th on the Flight deck in twenty mikes. Dismissed." Nathan remained seated while the rest of the squadron filed out. After Tilson left West stood catching Oakes before he left the room.
"Well, you look pretty good for a dead man." Nathan said folding his arms across his chest.
John Oakes sighed as he shut the door, turning to face West, "I wasn't sure if you remembered me."
Nathan's brown eyes narrowed, "Its kind of hard to forget a man who sacrifices his life a friend of mine."
"Let's just say the rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated." John replied.
Nathan stared at him, "Why? Why fake your death? Why cause Shane that kind of pain?"
Oakes adverted his gaze, "Believe me Nathan, it wasn't my choice, but it was what I had to do to survive." He met Nathan's gaze, "I heard about Shane and the Wildcards. I'm sorry Nathan. I know what that kind of pain feels like. You better get going. You have less than seven mikes to be suited and on the Flight deck."
"Yes, Sir." Nathan replied bitterly before exiting the conference room.