|DISCLAIMER: The universe of Space: Above and Beyond is the property of Glen Morgan and James Wong and Hard Eight Productions, borrowed with all my love and admiration for their outstanding work and creativity, but nonetheless without permission. No copyright infringement intended.|
A/N: This is kind of an experiment for me. I wanted to describe what I think was going on in McQueen's mind after the events of *Tell Our Moms...*. Which is kinda funny since I still haven't seen the last two eps :) but thanks to Brian Wight who wrote me an outstanding 7-pages long summation of those two eps and the people on jmdg-l :P~~ with their excellent insight of what makes this character, Ty McQueen, tick, I think I can venture it. But it'll be losta "character blah blah"...as a friend lovingly calls it :) so, you action-lovers, consider yourselves warned. :)
*The Five Rings* is a reference to a TV report I've seen during the Olympics that visited an exhibition in Atlanta called *The Five Rings: pain, fear, triumph, joy and love*... ..well, and inspiration struck me... :)
THE FIRST RING - PAIN
*...I really thought I knew what pain was...I really did...Heaven knows in the 20 years of my life, I had more than enough occasions to experience all the existing kinds of pain - the physical pain, the psychological pain...and the emotional pain.
I know what physical pain can do to you. If it's strong enough and lasts long enough, it can make you retreat into a darkness within your soul you didn't know existed. It's dark there...warm...you could even call it comfortable. So comfortable that you feel safe - safe from the pain that forced you to go there. But it's also frightening. So frightening...because you are no longer yourself... you are...well, who or what is it that is at this dark and warm place? I'm not sure...but it can't be much more than just pure existence... and I fought too hard and brought too many sacrifices to become the person I am that I would have chosen to stay there...
I know what psychological pain can do to you. It's worse than the physical one. Oh yes, definitely. The torture I endured as a POW is still on my mind - a lot...clear and sharp...hurting. Still. I can't forget. The worst thing about torture is not the physical pain, is not the torturer himself, but what he makes you think. Every time I see a silicate, the shame surfaces...shame of having surrendered...of reacting the way they wanted me to...They want you to doubt everything you've ever believed in, want you to believe in them instead, do what they want you to do, break you ...and if they are persistent enough, then that's exactly what they achieve...And if you survive the torture, they let you go...to live with the knowledge that you've betrayed your believes...yourself...and that you haven't been strong enough to withstand them...And the pain follows you everywhere - no way you could escape it... Paul knows...or knew... I'll never forget him confessing to us on Minerva about the tape... the pain that displayed on his face, echoed in his voice...it was like listening to myself...to the thoughts I've been twisting and turning for years now...How could I have judged him without judging myself first?...
But all that - all the physical and psychological pain, no matter how destructive, how violent - is *nothing* against the pain that emotions can inflict on you...I'd rather undergo another three days of torture by AI's than experience this pain again...Is friendship and love, is attachment to other people worth the pain you risk to suffer when you lose them? After she left me and we divorced, I would have said: no. Because the pain was too violent...There had been moments when I had thought about ending my life because of the pain...instead I did Green Meanies...Well, I don't know if that was a better choice... But somehow I survived...but I never really recovered from the emotional wounds...I wanted to rip this pain out of my heart, wanted to rip my heart out...and even envied the silicates for their lack of emotions...Sheeezzz...
I never thought I'd feel good about attachment again in my life...until *they* stepped into my life.
But I failed. They trusted me and I failed. I failed to protect them and now most of them are dead. I lost them. I had the chance of my life, and I lost them.
I lost them....I lost them...I lost them... *
The ISSCV was on its way to Earth.
Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius McQueen lay on a stretcher in the back of the carrier vessel. From his position he wasn't able to get a glimpse of the stars outside, but he had no motivation to enjoy the surroun- ding, anyway. Instead, he was staring at the ceiling. Since they had left the SARATOGA. But he didn't see the ceiling as well. He didn't see anything. He was just staring. Motionless. For hours now. To an extent that one of the medical nurses on board wondered if the colonel might have died unnoticed and now just lay there with his eyes open. But a check of his chest moving up and down convinced her of the opposite.
Tyrus wished he *had* died. When he had jumped towards the window in order to protect that Aerotech geek, he had been ready to die. For the fraction of a second he had even thanked the Lord for the opportunity to give his life with a vengeance. But he hadn't wasted much time with thinking at that moment. It was a reflex - plain and simple. But one he was proud of. He had reacted like a Marine, not like a tank. Proving everyone that at least one tank, this one, was not a coward and *did* stand for something. Giving the ultimate sacrifice for someone he disliked, someone he thought would have deserved death much more than anyone else, in case it was true that this man was at least partly responsible for the horrible war they were fighting for over a year now.
A war that would go on without him because he hadn't lost his life as a result of his heroic action but his leg.
And a war that took from him the one thing he worshipped most: his kids. At least most of them. West and Hawkes survived but were submitted to an uncertain future.
Of course, Tyrus knew that in war people die. He had always known that. But that didn't change anything - it didn't make the pain subside. Didn't make the thoughts go away...the thoughts about the three of his kids who didn't make it back to the SARA-TOGA that day. The ones he had lost forever. The thoughts about the two he had to leave behind without the further possibility to watch over them, to guide them, to be there for them...without the further possibility for his kids to be there for *him*...to watch over him...to guide him...He was alone again...
*I lost them...I lost them...I lost them...*
Those were the only words in his mind. Like a mantra he recited them over and over again. It so possessed him that he didn't even feel the pain return when the painkillers lost their effect. He didn't take notice of anything around him. When the doctor came to check his vitals, Tyrus didn't take the look off the ceiling since he didn't care for what the doctor had to do, anyway.
There it was again - the emotional pain. The kind of pain he would have liked to never capture his life again. But there it was, stronger and more demanding than at the time of the break-off with his wife. More hurting, more violent than at the time when he had lost the Angry Angels...But in a strange way, Tyrus welcomed the pain with open arms. As long as the raging pain would occupy his mind, he wouldn't have to think about the time after the pain would have eased...the time when he would have to face the facts: no kids anymore to be around him...to chat and laugh and play table soccer in the TunTavern behind him while he would be sitting at the bar, alone, with his Scotch, secretly listening to their voices, enjoying their presence and the knowledge that they accepted him in a way that no other squadron ever had before. That they trusted him completely...and that he could trust them with his life, if necessary...
Suddenly, the mantra stopped. A picture formed itself in his mind. It was that British major they met on Minerva, McKendrick. Tyrus remembered the moment when he just had stepped off the tank to face the major and accuse him of taking the cell that would have brought them to their scheduled rendevous point. McKendrick was defending himself, denied the accusation. And then all of a sudden, the major pointed his machine gun at him. Tyrus knew, knew for sure, that his kids immediately would be pointing their guns at McKendrick to defend their colonel. So, he didn't even flinch to grab his weapon. He was so sure...*so* sure his kids would defend him...and he was right. There they were: moving like one body in threatening the British major to put down his gun...Never in his life had he ever felt this way. This total support, this blind trust was something he had never experienced with the Angry Angels. No matter, what great a squadron the Angels had been, no matter that he had been an active pilot in that squadron and still felt connected to it - at that special moment back on Minerva, he realized that the Angels were finally history for him. That he now was a Wildcard. A full member of the 58th squadron with his callsign being *QueenSix*. The *Black Knight* was gone, the Angry Angels now finally behind him. The Wildcards was the squadron where he now belonged to. With his life. AND his soul. And his complete devo- tion.
Those five kids had given him the feeling to be a human being. Not just a tank. They were pretty much the only people he felt comfortable around with. All his life he had had trouble feeling comfortable around people, especially natural borns. Always prepared for harassment. Harassment against InVitros that was so common among natural borns. For a long time he had often felt like a battered dog when he had overheard yet another sleezy joke that was sometimes whispered, sometimes openly spoken out with him standing nearby. Did those people have the slightest idea how it felt to be treated like that? Did they have any clues? Obviously no...and they didn't care, anyway. They considered tanks to be...well, to be *just* tanks. Less worth than pets and usually treated worse than animals. At a certain point in time, Ty had gotten used to the treatment, had gotten used to the pain...the pain that always had been the worst part of the harassment. He had gotten used to the pain - but that hadn't diminished it at all. It had been of the same violent and destructive strength...until he was assigned to the SARATOGA.
He had never had any business of getting close to subordinates. That was something every commanding officer usually tried to avoid with all means possible. But those five young Marines had slowly gotten under his skin, had torn down all the walls he had built in the course of the years to protect himself from any further possibility to get hurt to the core again. During the last months he had found himself more and more seeking their company, not on purpose or openly, but in *accidently* walking by when they were checking their Hammers, in being in the O-room when they boarded their cockpits for a mission, in joining them in the rec room, in joining them in the Tun for a game of poker, in sitting at the bar when they were there...Their proximity eased the pain that followed Tyrus everywhere, and it surprised him, realizing that -with his kids nearby - he usually loosened his wariness, his self-defensiveness instinctively since he knew for sure that they wouldn't harm him. He felt safe. And comfortable around people. For the first time in his life. But only with his kids.
He belonged to them - they belonged to him ... But he had never dared to admit it to himself completely. There were still some protection mechanisms working that told him that as the 58th's commanding officer he was exchangeable. The Wildcards was a United States Marine Corps fighter squadron and would live on under any CO. They didn't need HIM.
But as he was laying there on the stretcher it finally dawned on him that they in fact needed him, and only him. Not exclusively as their commander, but as their trustee, their care taker...their father. He had seen it in Nathan's and Cooper's eyes when they had met shortly before the colonel's departure from the SARATOGA. They hadn't been saying good-bye to their CO, but to their father. And it struck Tyrus now that up to this point in his life he hadn't known anyone who would have ever felt the need to wish him good-bye (except for Ross) since no one ever had cared about him that much.
These kids cared for him, truely cared for the person Ty McQueen - not just for the tank, not just for the Marine, not just for their CO, but for the person. For the man who had told them everything they knew about fighting, surviving and about holding together as a team. Just like a family. With him being the father.
But he had failed in taking care of them...he had lost them... No one left he belonged to, no one left to be comfortable around with... his family torn apart or dead...he was alone. Alone again. Alone.
And the pain returned. Unbearable this time.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!!!" he suddenly screamed, shocking everyone on board the ISSCV. The medical personnel hadn't heard anything from the colonel since they had left the SARATOGA, so this sudden outburst caught all of them off guard. All they did for moments was to stare at the Marine.Then a doctor regained his composure and ran over to the patient who he believed to suffer from his leg injury in order to help him. But when he was just about to give McQueen another sedative, the colonel, not screaming anymore but still raging, started lashing out with his arms, trying to hit anyone or anything nearby.
That was not McQueen-like behaviour. He knew it, knew it exactly while he was twisting and turning on the stretcher, and he was disgusted by his behaviour. But he couldn't stop. He wanted to hurt someone to make someone else feel the same pain that was driving him crazy. Why should he be the only one suffering like hell? He was out of his mind, acting like an out-of-control tank.
"Nurse, orderly - c'mon over and help me restrain this man!!!" the doctor yelled since he was no longer able to keep McQueen under control. "We need to strap him down! Please, Colonel, don't make it worse than it already is!" But Ty didn't stop. The pain that was burning inside was too fierce that he could have surrendered. He needed the distraction or he would have gone completely nuts.
After the medics had strapped the Marine down to the stretcher, the doctor turned to look his patient in the eyes. "If the pain was so intense to cause this outburst why didn't you call me when you felt the painkillers subside?" he shook his head in irritation. "There was no need to go through this."
For the first time, the doctor saw McQueen focussing his attention on him. The colonel's light blue eyes narrowed when they looked at the Navy doctor who suddenly felt the creeps crawling up his spine. There was something in his patient's eyes that made him feel uneasy. "There are no drugs that could suppress this pain... believe me..." Ty answered in a low voice filled with resignation. Then his eyes went back to seemingly study the ceiling above. The doctor couldn't help it but he was sure the colonel was not talking about his leg...
Tyrus had gone back to his former motionless state. Staring. Without seeing. It seemed as if the unusual outburst had never happened. Because his mind had recommenced to work, he was now able to keep himself somewhat under control. But he just didn't see any need to talk to anyone...What should he talk about? Was there anything left that was necessary to be discussed? Tell someone about his feelings? No...That was the last thing he would have done...except - with his kids maybe...but even that was unlikely...now more than ever...
He grunted sarcastically.
Anything else? Like looking out of a porthole...Why should he do it? It wouldn't change anything. Enjoy the view? What, just to see Planet Earth see approaching? With it a life that he didn't know anything about...with it an uncertain future...?
Another pictured formed itself in his mind. Hawkes in detox isolation. Ty recalled the expression on the young InVitro's face when he was answering the colonel's question "How badly do you want to stay a part of the 58th?" and responded: "They're the only family I'll ever have." So young but already so wise...
He didn't care for his future.
There was no tomorrow right now.
..the day that took everything from him he ever wanted to have.
The only family he would ever have.
*I know what emotional pain can do to you... It can make you retreat to that dark and warm place that you thought you would only reach through physical pain. It can make you surrender to it in a way you thought you would only surrender to a torturer, only surrender to psychological pain.
But emotional pain is the only pain that matters.
The only pain that REALLY hurts.
I thought the pain I endured in my three days as a POW in the hands of the AI's was the worst thing that I could ever experience.
I was wrong...Oh Lord, I was wrong...*
end of the first ring...
The sequel to this story is The Second Ring *Fear* also avaliable at this site.
Next : Book II - The Second Ring - Fear