Disclaimer: "Space:Above&Beyond", its characters and devices, are the property of Glenn Morgan and James Wong, Hard Eight Productions and Fox Entertainment. While no permission has been granted to use these characters and devices, this is a work of fan fiction, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Authors Note: The Arrival is the first part of the Shadow company story. I would like to thank the following people for helping me write this story: Jan (Soups) Trotter and Kes thank you for the beta reading, Mexal for sharing information on black ops and VA2 thanks for all the e-mails you've send me with everything there is to know about weapons

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Shadow

by

Wiena Rijstenberg


Part one: The Arrival

NewYork 2046

State orphanage, section C girls dormitory 2:00AM.

She's tired so damned tired, but she's still alert waiting for things to come. Her hand reaches under her pillow, checking if the knife is still there. She sees a movement from one of the other beds, and she knows she's not the only one still awake.

She starts praying "Please God let him choose someone else tonight. I can't go through this again."

The door opens almost soundlessly; she hears the heavy breathing. The knot in her stomach ties: his footsteps are moving towards her direction. A final prayer shoots through her head "Please Please let him pass."


New York 2058 State Court

Let the defendant rise.

"The State New York versus Dana Troy. Hear your sentence.

You have been found guilty of murder in the first degree, also you have been found guilty of being a participant in a criminal organization. Your penalty will be death by lethal injection. The execution will take place tomorrow morning at 6:00AM. The accused has the right to a last plea to the court. Do you understand your sentence?"

"Yes I did, and no I won't." The look on the women's face shows no expression at all. She has a pale complexion; her head has been shaved and her brown eyes look stoically at the people who condemned her. She tightens her fists as two court marshals take her back to her temporary cell.


Death row cell block

"You get one chance and one chance only, so listen up." The Marine Col. is looking down at the small figure in front of him." We know of your martial art skills and your ability to survive in a hostile environment. We want you to join the Marines; we need someone with your skills. Don't think that we let you go; you will be kept in indentured servitude. And the assignments we will send you on will be so dangerous that you probably won't last a year. We're not offering you a ticket home, only a chance to live another day." The Marine officer finally ends his monologue looking down at the woman standing in front of him. She stares right back at him; after a minute he has to turn his eyes away. Finally he starts talking again. "You don't have much time left, so make up your mind. In a few minutes they will come to get you. So what will it be? Live or Die!".

"Lets go." She stands up from her bunk .

"Listen to me for one more minute." The Marine steps in front of her. If you try to escape or try to contact any of your former so-called friends I will immediately have you executed. Do you understand my conditions?"

"Yes ....Sir"!


Saratoga 2065

Cmdr. Ross is waiting at the docking area for Col. McQueen to board the Saratoga.

"Welcome back, Ty." Cmdr. Ross welcomes his old friend as he reports back to active duty. "You look as good as new. How is your new leg doing?"

"Thanks, Sir. I'm glad to be back, and I think I'll get used to it," Col. McQueen replies with an ironic smile. "Sir, is there any news on the MIA's?" .

"No, I'm afraid not. We have located them several times, but when our teams arrive it's too late, and they have already been relocated. But they're still alive and that leaves us hope that we will retrieve them," Com. Ross ends. "Lets go to my cabin. I will fill you in completely: The war has become more grim since the bomb explosion at the peace talks and we do need your expertise, so I'm glad you're back." Com. Ross leads the way to his cabin and he closes the hatch behind them.

"Please take a seat. Would you like a glass of Bourbon? " Ross opens the dialogue.

"Why do I get this strange feeling that you're going to tell me something unpleasant?" McQueen replies to Ross as he sits down.

Ross smiles as he answers, "You know me well, my friend; I've got news for you and I don't think you'll be pleased.' Till now we've been failing on ground ops to retrieve your people; I've taken measures to make sure that headquarters send me the best ground ops they' have. I've pulled some strings, and the old man granted my wish for a special ops team. I think this team will be a welcome addition for future assignments as well." Ross ends his monologue, trying to keep a worried look from his face.

But McQueen immediately replies, "I get the feeling that there's an angle to this."

"There is." Ross takes a deep breath. "These Marines are former criminals; they've been assigned to the Marines so they could avoid their sentences. I have been advised by their former CO to keep them separated from the other Marines to avoid problems, but I'm not going to give such an order. We are no prison warders although these Marines are held in indentured servitude. The only positive thing about this is that this is they are the most successful team we have. The old man granted my request on the condition that you'll take it up, you are to be the CO of this team. And I think if anyone can handle this wild bunch , you can." Ross ends his release and takes a seat next to McQueen trying to figure out the expression on the younger man's face.

Finally McQueen replies, "Does this mean that I'm no longer in command of the 58th?" And he stands up and starts wandering through the cabin.

Ross answers to his friends back, "There's not much left of the 58th, but you're still their commander. And this new team will only be added to your command. Hawkes and West will return to their quarters this afternoon, and the replacements for the 58th will arrive in a few days."

"Do I have a choice?"

"No," Cmdr. Ross answers with a strict look upon his face.

Nodding his head, McQueen asks, "Could I see all the files and when are they boarding?"

"The team arrives tomorrow at 7:00PM.You'll have the latest updates, files and the expected location of the MIA in a few hours; you can begin with operation Sandman and get accustomed to your new team as soon as they are settled."


Col. McQueen enters his old cabin; he senses a welcome feeling of coming home. After he has cleared away his luggage, he takes a seat at his desk. There's a frown on his face as he opens the first file that is marked "Strictly Confidential". Capt. A. Troy:

A woman's face is looking straight at him. Her head has been shaved and her eyes look enormous in that small face and so dark, so dark. Instinctually, he knows that this woman is going to get him into trouble.

He whispers "Who are you?" as he starts to read .

He is surprised as he reads that this woman is the notorious "Shadow" he had heard about, but he always assumed that she would be a he.

"A merciless killer." They condemned her for murder and being a participant of a criminal organization; they had only enough evidence to prove one murder case, but they expected her to be involved in several others. She had publicly admitted her guilt and was therefore sentenced to death. The Marine Corp. had selected her to be a member of a special elite troop; her skills made her a perfect choice. In the following years she outlived all her team members. And for the last three years, she had her own team. After that came a long row of the operations she attended and her role in them. He closed the file, looking even more worried.

There was a knock on his hatch ; disturbed, he answered, "Who's at my hatch?"

"It's West and Hawkes, sir, reporting for duty"

"Come in." McQueen raised from his chair glad to see the last two people left of the 58th.

"Glad to have you back, sir, " Nathan West smiled as he addresses his returned CO. The look on Cooper Hawkes' face was more worried as McQueen noticed him looking at his artificial leg.

"Heard you were as good as new, Sir".

"Yes. I am. And its good to be back. I expect both of you back in your old quarters this afternoon; reinforcement for the 58th will arrive in a few days. There has also been a special group of Marines been added to my command , they'll arrive this afternoon."

"Sir, a special group!?" The look on Nathan's face was worried.

"Calm down, West; this new squad is going to help us get our MIA's back; they are specialized in ground op. And they are probably the only ones who can get the job done. They are not pilots, so the 58th will stay a separate squadron; they will only join you on ground operations. I expect you to work with me on this," McQueen ends.

"But, Sir! A special group what do you mean with special?" Hawkes asks.

"It's a group of former delinquents. The 31st squadron. Their nickname is 'The Shadow Company'. Maybe you've heard off them."

After a short silence West answers, "I heard of them, but I thought these story's were all rumors, and that there's no such squad." The look on West's face gets even more worried: A thick frown forms between his eyes as he looks at Cooper, who replies:

"Criminals, Sir, like me, convicted to the marines or what."

"No, these people all escaped death row by joining the marines, and I want you both to really watch your sixes when your with them. They are the best we can get and we do need them. " The look on McQueens face assured them that there was no discussion possible.

"They'll arrive at 0700 hours tomorrow. I expect you both to be present at cargo bay 5. And now get your gear and return to your old quarters".

Col. McQueen turns his back on the two men and sits down at his desk waiting for them to leave. As soon as he hears the click of the door he starts reading the next file.


Present time 7:00AM

West and Hawkes are observing the new arrivals at loading bay.

Hawkes sounds really shocked as he remarks, "There are women among them. Did you see the last one leaving the APC? "

"Yeah," Nathan replies "They've had their head shaved and the last one has a terrible scar on her face." They observe the group gathering around the smallest of the two women. She is obviously their leader: they could hear her telling them to line up.

"OK people get your gear and line up!" Dana's eyes wander through the cargo bay looking for an officer in command. She notices the two man in the corner; they were obviously discussing the new arrivals.

"Hmm, look like fly boys to me. The rest looks like regular cargo bay personal , I thought our new CO would meet us here! Wait , who's that?" She looks at a man entering the hatch of the cargo bay. "This must be him , its a Colonel!" She watches the look on his face as he addresses the two Marines standing in the corner.

"Hawkes, West I expect you to show the new squadron to your quarters and accompany me to welcome them aboard". She looks at the three men approaching her team who were still waiting for things to come: their faces showing no expression at all. She steps out of line.

"Sir, 31st squadron reporting for duty , Sir."

"At ease, people. Welcome to the Saratoga. My name is Col. TC McQueen ; I'm your commanding officer." She notices from the corner of her eyes the unrest of her squad as he introduces him self. I remember who he is; he's the last off the Angry Angels. Only the tank stayed on active duty.

"Damn, they put a *Tank* in command!" flashes through Dana's mind. "A tank colonel nevertheless. The team isn't going to like this! But on the other hand he can't be any worse than our last CO, Col. Henson." Her thoughts get interrupted as she hears him address her.

"Capt. Troy, I expect you in our briefing room in an hour; Lt. Hawkes will show you the way." She looks at Hawkes and senses what he is: Well, well ; another tank its crowded here with them it seems.

"Lt.'s. Hawkes and West will accompany you to your mutual quarters. Get settled, I'll see you in an hour." And with these words he abruptly walks away; occupied by his own thoughts, leaving them behind in the care of the two young Lt.'s. He feels shocked after seeing the face of Capt. Troy, the face he saw yesterday on the photograph but now with terrible scars on it . What could have happened and why wasn't that fixed?

West clears his throat," Would you please follow me." and leads the way followed by Hawkes at the end of the line.

"I hope they didn't get assigned to guard us," Dana ponders. "Stationed in space away from Earth , I had hoped things would finally lighten up." As they enter their quarters she notices the tense look on the young marine's face.

"What's up, West, spill your guts. Having problems with convict Marines, or what?" Dana asks impatiently.

Nathan West turns towards her as she speaks. "Capt. Troy, to me all that counts is that you people are Marines, and your past does not concern me, as long as it doesn't endanger the 58th ma'am. I do have a request though, Hawkes, and I would appreciate it if you wouldn't bunk on our MIA 's beds." West points out the beds he's referring to. His face looks totally frozen up as he waits for her reply.

"OK, people, you've heard the man, we can respect that. We are well accustomed to losing squad members so we know how it feels. So bunk up, but leave these three in the front empty."

The look on Nathan's face relaxes, and he hears her say: "Let me introduce you to my people; they ain't as bad as they look on first sight." And she smiles ironical which gives her face a demonic look.

"The woman next to me is Lt. Hayden, not related to 'The Hayden'." Nathan and Cooper see the rest of the team looking away, suppressing a smile.

"The tall man in the rear is Lt. Johnson, he snores awfully so make sure he doesn't bunk next to ya. And the two other Lt.'s are the Manson brothers; they're always together; they would probably bunk together if I would allow them to."

"You'd better take that back, Troy, " one of the Manson brothers states and steps forward .

"K, just kidding Johnny." And Hawkes is surprised as he sees the change in her face as she's really smiling.

"Despite of what you may think of us, or heard for the matter, make up your own mind and don't be prejudiced."

"And I would like to add to the 31st that this also includes them, *No Prejudice* and I don't think I have to step into detail here." Dana looks straight into her squads' faces, giving them a silent warning.

Cooper steps forward and presents his hand to Dana Troy , "Welcome, ma'am; I didn't volunteer to be a grunt either, but I found here a home I hope you people will also." That breaks the ice between the 31st and the last two members of the 58th.

"I'll take the bunk next to the hatch; so get settled, people." She sees West's surprised look as she tells them she won't sleep next to the rest off her squad. She gives West a hand and explains why she choose the bed in front off the cabin next to the 58th.

"Call me mad, but I have to sleep next to the door or I won't be able to get much sleep at all." And she throws her luggage on the empty available bunk. Handshakes are exchanged, and the 31st starts to get settled in their new quarters on the Saratoga.


One hour later

"Here it is.' Cooper stops in front of a door leading to the briefing room. Looking upon the tensed look upon the woman's face, he feels the urge to calm her.

"The Col. isn't that bad you know. Just relax he's a fair commander. "He grins, and she watches the Big tank return to their quarters. I better get a grip on my emotions if this young IV can read my face that easily. This young tank is one thing, but the other can destroy my squad if I'm not careful. I saw the look in his eyes as he introduced himself, he's certainly a man to consider. She straightens her shoulders and raises her hand and knocks on the door.

"Enter."

Dana opens the door and steps in; she is surprised to see that Col. McQueen isn't alone. A dark colored man is standing next to him, they are both bending over some maps on the table. As she approaches she salutes the two men; she notices that the other man is Com. Ross. He is the officer that required their presence at the Saratoga, she remembers. They are both observing her intensively, their eyes are cold as stones. So she just stands there waiting for the first to address her; they are giving her the creeps, but she isn't going to show them any emotion and she makes sure that there is no expression on her face.

Finally, Cmdr. Ross addresses her "Capt. Troy, I am not sure that I did the right thing bringing convicted Marines to my ship, but if you or one of your man ever give me cause for regret, let me tell you that you'll wish you had never been assigned to the Saratoga."

"And why is that awful scar on your face?" Ross blurts out, and then he continues his monologue.

"Here on the Saratoga we will treat you as all the other Marines; we will not keep the 31st apart from the rest of our squads." Dana's eyes flash surprised.

"Although your position is different from the other Marines, I expect you to look normal and keep out of trouble. Do I make myself clear Captain?"

"Yes, Sir" Dana nods her head as Ross ends.

After a few seconds of silence Dana replies: "Sir, Col. Henson found it a waste of money and time to have my face reconstructed; he said that he hadn't yet given up hope, that one day soon I wouldn't' make it back."

Cmdr. Ross blinks his eyes a few times before answering, "As soon as mission Sandman is ended we will have it reconstructed," his face showing his disapproval.

"And now lets get to work. Before me one this table , we have all the maps that intelligence could provide us with. Operation Sandman will start in 2 days as we approach the Tellux star system; our objective is to retrieve our MIA 's. They've been missing for over three months now. All former operations to retrieve them failed; on all the operations we arrived too late and the Chigs had already moved our MIA's. We believe the MIA's to be in a good condition still; apparently they want to use them in a trade of some kind. But I'm only guessing about that." Ross ends as he turns toward McQueen.

"You'll be working with Col. McQueen on this, I will leave you both alone to work on operation Sandman now." After nodding to Col. McQueen, Cmdr. Ross leaves the room leaving them alone in the briefing room.


Col. McQueen looks at Dana as he addresses her.

"Capt. Troy I want you to have a look at these maps and tell me what you think about them. I read in your files that your an excellent planner, so lets get to work. We have only two days left before we reach the planet Argon7, and we must be ready.

"That's fine with me, Sir. First I would like to examine everything about the planet's environment. And I would like to see the satellite pictures as well , assuming that they did come up with these photos, Sir".

"They did, Capt." and he picks up the satellite map and hands it over to her.

"Are we going to need CO2 support on this planet , Sir" .

"No, Capt. but you will have to worry about water supplies because of Argon7 is a hostile dessert.".

"Sir," "I would also like to have a list with all equipment and weapons available on the Saratoga." Dana enjoys the excitement of a new operation; she feels the adrenaline pumping through her veins. As far as she is concerned, the planning of an operation has always her favorite part of any mission. Professionally, she starts to work asking the Col. several questions and in the meanwhile studying the ground pictures from the satellite.

"Could you please fill me in, what went wrong on the other missions". She asks as she keeps studying the satellite photographs.

"All the other missions failed I think because the Chigs knew we were coming: somehow they had access to our plans. The MIA's were moved always just shortly before the marine's arrived. On one of the missions there was a message found left by the MIA's. It said : I believe in you." McQueen looks away not willing to show her any emotion on his face.

"Was this message authentic or a frame job, sir?" and she, amazed, notices the passioned look upon his face as he answers here.

"Oh, it was a message of our MIA's; no doubt about this".

Surprised, she thinks "He cares about them I never thought that there would be a tank who cares about anything else than himself. I think I'll have to observe this one for a while; what a strange man;. what a passion lay in these eyes and what an anger." She has to pull herself hard back to reality.

"Sir , I would like to suggest that we work with a tight security on this operation using as few people as we can."

He nods to her , "It has already been taken care of".

"How many MIA's have to be retrieved, Sir".

"We have found the location of two female MIA's, Capt. Vansen and Lt. Damphousse."

"Sorry to interrupt you, Sir, but I understood that there were three MIA's," Dana adds, surprised.

"Yes, Capt. Troy; there are but the chances that Lt. Wang is still alive are very unlikely; he sacrificed himself so the others could get away. The chances that he survived the explosion aboard the ISSCV are minimal and very unlikely, but I haven't given up hope yet. At this moment your team counts five people, but if Wang is still alive, then you'll be short on people. "I've decided that there will be a sixth member , I want you to take Lt. Hawkes with you on the mission."

Col. McQueen looks upon Dana and sees her face filled with disbelieve, and than he notices the anger that slowly make her eyes ........darker.

Finally she blurts out: " The Col. can't be serious about this! You want to bring an untrained and unprepared man in my group, I thought the Col. wanted this mission to be a success.". Suddenly he moves; he narrows the distance between them and brings his face real close to hers as he snaps at her

"Do I look like I'm joking?! Lt. Hawkes is a well-trained marine; he has never failed on a mission, and he knows the MIA's that you'll be looking for. So Lt. Hawkes will attend at the mission or maybe that is the problem for you. Do you have a problem with Invitro's, Capt. Troy?" he ends his monologue on a deceivingly soft tone. His face is so close to Dana that she can see the well-suppressed aggression in his eyes.

Carefully, she choses her words; "Col. McQueen, this is going to be an very delicate mission and I don't have the time to baby-sit, he could get us all get killed. And I have to think of the people in my squad. And maybe you're right! Yes, I don't like Invitro's very much. I've learned to know them as very selfish and lazy people, drunks and addicts; I never met an Invitro that was any different. I never trusted them, and they never gave me a reason to trust in them." She knows she's overstepping her balance and that he can take severe measure's against her, but she can't deny her aversion against Invitro's.

Finally he turns his eyes away, stepping back and turning his back towards her.

She hears him ask on a surprising, soft tone: "What makes you dislike Invitro's this much?"

"Sir, where I grew up , I saw them daily laying in the gutter. They were on dope or alcohol , stealing and robbing , raping and killing. You could never trust them because they would stab you in the back if you would turn your back on them. And look at my face; I put my trust in a tank once and see what it brought me. He was one of us, a Marine, but he sold us out to the AI's; he tried to buy his freedom with our lives. I was the only one that came back, the only one that lived through the tortures and survived."

McQueen turns around; his eyes are searching her face and he isn't surprised anymore about the passion and hatred he sees upon her face or of the passioned tone she speaks in. His thoughts are going through his mind rapidly: Can I ever work with her? Will she ever learn that she can trust me?

He steps in front of Dana, watching her eyes closely as his voice sounds in a dark timbre: "You leave me no choice; if you cannot put your trust in me, than I cannot allow you or your squad to stay on the Saratoga. Do you want to me to report this conversation to Cmdr. Ross, or will you cooperate?" Dana bows her head: she knows she has no choice because returning to Earth would mean that she would also have to return to Col. Henson, and that is something she wants to avoid at all costs. She lifts her head and looks upon Col. McQueen and sees into his ice cold blue eyes as she clears her throat:

"Sir, I don't wish to leave the Saratoga and I'll do my best to cooperate. I'll take Lt. Hawkes with me, although I still think he will endanger the mission; trust is something that should be earned, Sir, but I'm willingly to give it my best if you are, Sir." He looks in her eyes trying to see if she speaks sincerely. And finally he is satisfied with what he sees. Then he answers her:

"We better get back to our plans; we only have two days left," and steps back to the table to study a new file.

Dana feels the tension easing up, and she's just glad that things are in the open now and she joins him at the table .


Two days later.

Four hours before operation Sandman was going to start Dana enters their quarters: "OK people listen up. I want to see the 31st and Hawkes in Briefing Room 6 in 10 mikes; be there." And she walks away not responding to the surprised looks on the face's of the 31st as they hear that Lt. Hawkes is going to join them.

At Briefing Room 6 Col. McQueen observes the 31st squadron enter and notices the tense look upon their faces. He looks at Capt. Troy closing the hatch and heard her raise her voice:

"Sit down fast! I've got things to say to you. Listen well. I'm not going to repeat myself. In less than 3 hours we will attend at operation Sandman, it is our goal to regain the missing MIA's of the 58th. After you leave this room, you are not allowed to discuss this among yourselves or with others. Do I make myself clear."

The look in her eyes was ice-cold and the 31st knew not to fuck with her right now; it meant don't ask any questions and do as your told.

"Manson, I'm putting you in charge for the equipment we will be taking with us, and I want you to check everything before it gets stashed into the ISSCV. Hayden, I want you to check our parachutes and prepare a Halo jump for 6 people. And Johnson, I want you to take care of our provisions and medications. I will be giving you all a list of everything that I want you to check on." She makes a few steps closer towards the team, making sure she has everybody's attention as she continues:

"You do not need to know where we are going; the only thing important to you is that the planet has a CO2 environment and the territory will be hostile. The planet is mostly covered with desert, so we will be playing in a giant sand pit out there. After we arrive at our target we will dig in and camouflage; the plan is to observe for at least 48 hours. If there's any change of plans you will be notified, but in the meantime there will be a complete radio silence. I will let you know the moment and time we'll move in. Lt. Hawkes, you will stay with me. The others will receive their coordinates after we arrive and start with our observations at the planet. Hawkes, you will take care of our communication towards the *Sara * and you'll keep the maps." She notices the unrest on her peoples' faces as they were reminded again that Cooper would be joining them. She gives them a last cold look without saying a word, and she notices that they are getting nervous as she still maintains silence. She folds her hands behind here back, and she continues on a soft tone

"I don't think that I have to remind any of you how important this missions is! Lets go do it!" And she turns her back on them, walking towards Coll. McQueen. "Sir, did the last reports come in that I requested?"

"Yes, they did, Capt.; if you will walk with me, I will provide you with them." And he watches the members of the team walk out of the room in complete silence.

"Hawkes, I would like to have a word with you. Meet me in my cabin in a hour," he adds as Hawkes leaves the room.


McQueen is sitting at his desk as he hears the knock at his hatch.

"Come on in, Hawkes." McQueen stands up and walks towards the young Invitro. He notices the puzzled look on Coop'ers face, wondering why he is summoned to meet McQueen privately in his quarters.

"At ease Cooper, I want to talk to you in private before you leave. I want you to be very alert on this mission and watch your six very carefully. The 31st is not like the 58th. I don't know this team well enough to trust them completely. But they are Marines and they will do their duty, I want you to follow Capt. Troy's orders. But be aware that these people have an enormous feeling of distrust against Invitros."

"Why, Sir? I haven't noticed any feelings of hostile behavior against me!" Cooper looks upon his CO 's face to find some answers.

"The 31st had some bad experiences towards Invitros in there squadron in the past, and I expect that this will be held against you." His voice sounds sincerely worried as he keeps monitoring the look on the young IV's face.

"I never did them no wrong but I'll watch my six, Sir." And Cooper starts to walk towards the door as Col. McQueen turns his back on him signaling that the talk was over.

"Bring them home, Hawkes " he hears his CO softly adding these last words.


At the same time, Dana looks upon the tensed faces of her squad, and she is feeling proud of them. They never questioned her authority, even if they don't agree, but now she feels she has to say something to take away the tension among her squad.

"People, listen up." Dana is calling her squad to come closer to her; she closes the hatch of their quarters. "I know that you don't like that Lt. Cooper Hawkes will be attending on this mission, but I want you all to behave in normal and respectful way towards him. We have to work together on this one, and I don't want to remind you that they will ship our ashes back to Earth and Col. Henson if we fuck up. And we don't want that to happen, do we! I noticed the last three days that you are all really enjoying the privilege's that we are having aboard the Saratoga. So lets go do this job and maybe we can stick around a little bit longer aboard the 'Sara'". Dana looks at their faces as she continues , " I know we had some major problems with IV's in our squad, but lets give Hawkes a fair chance. Remember he's a member of the 58th and he has a great record, and Col. McQueen assured me that he has been on missions like this before."

Kay interrupts her by asking, "But he has never trained with us or went on any mission with us before so why take him now with us on such a precarious mission. What if he fucks up".

"Kay! Listen! You all listen!" Dana answers. " We can all fuck up, but lets watch each others' sixes and we can get the job done. Col. McQueen ordered me to take him with us on this mission because he thinks we need an extra man. This is the last thing I'm going to say about this, and lets just get ready for this assignment." Dana opens the hatch door and nods toward here squad as she starts walking towards the cargo bay getting ready for departure.


Operation Sandman

Dana watches the team getting ready for the jump out of the ISSCV; she checks her watch and makes one last remark toward the squad. "I'll be seeing you in a few minutes and remember radio silence." She nods. "Queen six, this is Shadow one: we are ready to jump. Radio silence. Now."

"Shadow one, this is Queen six; understood, and we expect you to radio in as agreed on".

"Check your watches, ready, ready hack." And she signals to get ready for the jump.

After they have landed, Dana tells her people to gather around her. "Our objective is 15msk Northeast, stay low and silent, let's go" and she watches the daylight leaving the planet's surface and watches the two moons following their way at the firmament. Good, it would be dark soon giving them a chance to dig in for the next 48 hours before they could be noticed . They arrive after dark and Dana is giving each of them their coordinates and their last instructions ."Observe and watch, but no intervention unless I give the order to do so understood?"

"Cooper, you're with me" and she walks away towards the place that would be their shelter for the next 48th hours.

Cooper and Dana work in silence the next couple of hours making their hiding place as save and comfortable as they can. The sun is rising and they camouflage themselves, so that they can't be noticed by any hostile patrols. And the observing starts, waiting for things to come as they keep an eye one the bunker's entrance. They don't have to wait for long before the first Chig's aircraft fly over in what looks like a standard patrol flight to recon the planet's surface. After a few hours a Chig cargo vessel lands near the bunker, and they watch what seems to be an exchange of duty. Dana counts 20 Chigs changing the guards . The cargo vessel departures an hour later leaving the troops of fresh arrived Chigs behind.

After sunset, Dana finally allows herself to relax a bit, knowing that there wouldn't be anymore patrols that day. She checks on Cooper and is pleasently surpised to see him still watching carefully through his night vision binoculars . She crawls towards him, whispering towards him "How are your supplies, have you still got enough water?"

"Yes Ma'am, but I feel like I'm a piece of toast; you only have to turn me around " he grins. Automatically, she smiles back at him and Cooper notices with a shock that she would be pretty if her face wouldn't be that deformed. Dana notices the look of interest on his face and she looks back angrily this time and he wonders what he did to piss her of all of a sudden.

He hears her whisper, "I'll go check on the others and you stay put. I'll be back in a few hours." She crawls out of the manhole, leaving Coop on his own.


She returns two hours later bringing some fresh supplies. "Get some sleep now, Coop. I'll wake you in a few hours." She watches the Invitro getting himself comfortable and closing his eyes. In her mind she runs throughout the things she has watched that day and she tries to think of the best strategy to go for to enter the bunker. She notices Cooper turn in his sleep and is reminded of his professional behavior that day and she tries to reassure herself that him coming on this mission would work out fine. Looking at him still makes her feel nervous; she remembers the glance he had in his eyes earlier as he looked at her .But she decides that she will deal with that if it ever gets out of hand. A few hours later she wakes him up, softly rocking him. She is surprised at his fast move, he throws her on her back pointing his K-bar at her throat ripping her night visor off. She sees the look of recognition on his face as he becomes fully aware of his surrounding.

He rolls of her, whispering "I'm sorry , but don't do that again, sometimes I get a little itchy."

Dana tries to calm her heart as she sits up and makes a promise to herself not to try this again; next time she will throw a rock at him .

"Its OK Coop, no harm done and I'll be *careful* next time. I'm going to sleep now, wake me at sunrise." Dana goes back to her own spot and pulls her legs to her chest trying to create some extra warmth. Damned it is cold here at night and she isn't looking forward to another day in the frying sun as well and she feels her self sink asleep.


Daylight comes fast and Dana awakens she signals at Coop that she is awake, and they start another day observing under a burning sun. There is an arrival of a Chig cargo vessel, as the sun came at its highest point; Dana feels her whole body tense as she sees a group of five people driven out of the bunker. She sees from her eye of perception that Cooper got his gun ready and that he was ready to move quickly; she signals to him to stay low and not move a muscle. She gives him an angry look making an cutting gesture with her finger on her throat. He lays down again and Dana relaxes; she raises the scope of her HK psg-21 and starts to study the prisoners who are lead to the Chigs vessel. She feels a great feeling of relieve as she realizes that this is a group of male prisoners. This would definitively not be a good time to go in; it was still daytime, and they would make sitting ducks. The Chigs air support would bomb their asses off.

She always preferred the benefit of surprise; it would buy them some more time. She looks towards Hawkes again , signaling to him " Its OK , stay low."

Coopers body relaxes as he understands this is another group of MIA's. He realizes that all this waiting is getting to him and that he wants to go in and kill some Chig's.

That damned heat: he imagines himself sitting in his Hammerhead; nice and cool.

He focuses back on the target letting out a sigh, after a while he looks over at Dana and wonders why she dislikes Invitro's that much that McQueen felt it necessary to warn him .

The cargo ship leaves with the unfortunate prisoners going who knows where and Dana notices that it will be dark again soon. She starts to check and prepare her rifle and ammunition, getting geared up for things to come soon.

At sunset she moves towards Hawkes, whispering to him "I'll be back in two hours , make sure that you're ready to leave, stash the supplies and camouflage equipment. We can't leave traces. And watch your six while I'm away."

Cooper smirks about her last comment, what does she think that he is? A baby or something? He watches her back as she moves away from him fast towards the positions of the other team members. She reminds him of a cat as he observes her moving through his night binocular. He is checking his weapons for the last time as she returns. Dana sits down next to him, saying "We move out in 10 mikes"; she watches him checking on his rifle. "Did you ever use this type of rifle" she asks .

"No , but I used a similar like this one but I prefer the M590 I think!" Cooper watches Dana drink her last water ration .

She smirks, "I watched you at the rec. room; you were playing with the M-640. You just have to think of this as a similar gun. You need to aim precise, every shot has to count; no waste of ammunition." She grins at him. "And you're not giving away your position towards an enemy. . . . Com'on lets move out, cover my six and watch where you put your feet; I'm going to mark the booby traps so that we can move fast when we have to leave for extraction. We will meet the others at the bunker door."

Cooper nods and silently they move towards the bunker, carefully watching their steps for any possible ground mines. Luckily they only find a few, and Dana observes Carl Manson as he opens the bunker door with a special device that was provided to them by Aerotech; sometimes these *bastards* came in handy. The door opens silently, Dana goes in first, signaling Cooper to stay close to her.

Nothing happens and Dana feels a slight relief that they can have a look around before being detected. Leading from the entrance she notices two hallways leading towards places deeper in the bunker. She signals towards her team. Hayden and Johnson take the left side; Hawkes and she take the right. Dana makes the hand signals for explosives and points out to Carl and Johnny where she wants them to put the C4 at. Using the C4 at the entrance of the bunker will buy them a little more time as they have to extract. They only have to worry about possible air support .She checks her watch, signaling them 20mikes, ready, ready hack.

Dana and Cooper move out pair wise, and Cooper shoots the first Chig that steps out of the first room they approach. Dana quickly rolls into the room and takes out the two remaining Chigs who are so surprised that they have no time to reach for their weapons. They continue their search and reach a stairway that seems to lead to a downstairs level. They find a closed door but they can hear those strange clicking sounds that Chigs make. Dana signals Cooper to stand at the other side of the door and in three seconds she will open the door. Both step in at the same time, starting shooting their rifle at the same time.

The four chigs sitting at a table never knew what hit them before they went down.

Dana feels a sense of relief as she becomes aware that the Chigs still weren't alerted of their presence. It seems that this time they have no idea of a new rescue attempt taking place it would explain why there were no guards at the bunker door. When they step back in the hall and move on, Cooper smells something strange and points it out to Dana.

She signals him to follow his nose and to lead the way.

Within two minutes they reach the first cell blocks and what they see make them feel sick instantly. There was an awful smell of unwashed body's and human excrement. They found five cells; two of them were empty. The other cells contained 4 prisoners each.

Dana signals toward Cooper to check on the faces while she keeps an eye on the hallway. The prisoners are asleep, it is dark in the cells. Cooper rips off his goggles and starts to look for familiar faces. None of the prisoner wake up, and Cooper moves towards the next cell as his body stiffens: There she is, oh my God! She looks awful; he would have almost not have recognized here. Shane. Dana notices his excitement and watches him working on the lock of the cell.

Thank God: they are still here and look alive; although barely. She notices as she sees the woman that Cooper is moving towards, too. She lays on her side, her face terribly bruised and bloody; her hands were holding her knees to her chest.

Cooper puts his hand on her mouth preventing her from making any sound. But the woman seems not aware and doesn't react. Cooper lifts her from the ground, and he is surprised about the weight. They must have been trying to starve their prisoners. He feels a deep sense of horror as he imagines what she must have been through. He puts her on the ground before Dana's feet and starts t o check out the other cells.

Dana watches the woman she knows must be Capt. Vansen for a second and realizes this one will not give her any problems on their way back ; she seems catatonic. Cooper returns, signaling that she is the only one.

They hear gunfire of Chig armor and the lights go on; she throws away her night visor. Dana realizes that they have been discovered, and she uses her headphone immediately. "Hayden , Johnson report!" she commands. "Mansons, come in. Where are you?"

An answer came immediately "We're on our way, boss," one of the Mansons replies. Dana answers: "Take the right gangway. We'll meet you half way and deliver a package for you to abstract. Hayden, Johnson reply." Dana leads the way as she tries to reach the other half of her team. Cooper carries Vansen and follows Dana, trying not to think of all the horror his friend must have gone trough. He feels a great rage building up, and he wants to make someone suffer for this. Dana hears a static sound on her intercom and the voice of Kay Hayden:

"Capt. we're in deep shit here, Chigs everywhere we can't move forward or back; need immediately assistance; we have a package; I repeat-- we have a package!". Dana is relieved to see the Manson brothers; she yells back in her microphone;

"Kay, we're on our way. Help will arrive in a minute." She looks at Cooper and says

"Please Hawkes, let her go," as she notices the absent look on his face. She touches his arm, and it seems like he's awakening out of a dream. "Come to your senses, Marine; there's more work to do!"

Cooper hands Shane to Carl and brushes his hands through her hair, and he looks so sad. But the look in his eyes changes as he looks upon Dana: "Lets go kick some Chigs ass.".

"Mansons, take the package to the abstraction point, watch out for the booby traps and radio in for immediately abstraction!" Dana screams the last words over her shoulder as she tries to keep up with the tall Invitro in front of her.

They reach the other corridor and hear the sound of Chigs rifles only a few meters in front of them. Hawkes stops and looks carefully around the corner of a turning point; Dana steps close him and both see the crossfire their team mates are under.

There are no words necessary as they both jump out, taking out the Chigs who were firing on their mates from this side. Every shot counts, and it gives Dana a good feeling noticing that Cooper has just a good shot as she has.

They crawl their way up to Hayden and Johnson, trying to avoid the shots of the other Chigs who still were firing upon the team.

Finally they reach them, and Dana notices the dark colored woman, who is laying underneath Kay as she tries to protect her with her body. The woman's face is partially covered with bandage and Dana yells at Hawkes." Is this Damphousse?"

Cooper crawls towards the wounded women and lifts the bandage. "Yep , Capt. This is Phousse," and he notices that except the wounds on her head she seems to be unharmed but unconscious.

Dana touches Kay Hayden's arm and starts to fire at the Chigs as well." Kay, I want you and Johnson out of here. Take the Lt. and go for the abstraction point. We'll give you cover. Go on my sign." Dana takes a hand grenade from her belt and pulls the pin; she looks at Cooper "On three!"

The enormous sound of the explosion seems to blow up her ears, but Hawkes and she immediately jump out and make their way to the place the other Chigs are sheltering, giving Hayden and Johnson the time they need to retreat.

Without thinking and just acting on instinct they both react, killing everything that still moves; showing no mercy and no second thoughts. They look at each other for a second as the silence grows hard on them; Cooper notices that she licks her lips and she reminds him of a cat licking it self in pure satisfaction.

The wild look on her face disappears as she lowers her lids "Hawkes, lets get the hell out of here!! Do you hear that sound too?"

Cooper turns his head towards the sound he heard as well "More Chigs coming this way," he says. "Wait I just want to have a look around in this cells for a sec," and he opens the first cell door. He sees three man lying on the ground tied up in irons at the wall, but there is not a familiar face among them.

One of the men looks at him with an hopeful expression on his face. "Please take me home."

And Cooper feels his stomach turn as he realizes that there won't be enough time to save them all and that he has to leave them at this hell hole.

"I'm sorry I can't," he whispers, and he sees the despair look upon the man's face.

"Please don't leave us like this."

Another man tries to crawl towards him but is stopped by the length of his chains. "Kill us then. Don't let us rot in here."

Dana steps into the cell and yells at Cooper: "Hawkes, get your butt out of there! We have only five minutes before the C4 will blow up."

Cooper glances a last time at the man he has to leave behind, but he turns around and follows Dana out of the cell. "Capt.,"-- Cooper reaches for Dana's arm and touches her.-- "is there nothing we can do?"

"You have two choices Lt.. One is to shoot them and save them more suffering or report this back to headquarters and pray they let us go back to get them. But in the meantime we must get out of here or we will be joining these people very soon in their cells."

"Troy , I still have to check the last cell."

"No, Coop." Dana replies. "The others already checked and we are running out of time." Dana turns her back on him and starts to hurry back at their tracks; she can tell from the sounds of the Chigs' boots on the metal floor that they'll be there fast. As she looks over her shoulder she notices that Cooper isn't following her, and she curses "Damned , fucking shit tank" and she turns around and her anger is so big she feels like shooting the Invitro herself.

She finds him sitting on his knees, next to what seems to be an Asian male; she can't be sure because of the injuries. She starts to scream at him "What the hell do you think you are doing , mister? Retreat now, or we will end up like this one."

"It's Paul; he's my friend; I can't leave him behind." Cooper lifts the seriously battered man and tries to avoid all the other hands who were reaching for him, begging to him to take them as well. They leave the cell, and after only a few yards Dana feels the blast of the Chigs' gun just missing her by an inch. She yells at Cooper "Go and make a run for it and don't look back, I'll cover your ass." She lets herself fall on the ground, using the dead Chigs as a cover and starts to reply to the Chigs' fire. She moves towards the last cell door, trying to give Hawkes the time he needs to get out of the firing zone. She hears him on her microphone as he makes a run for it with his precious friend in his arms.

"What about you? You won't make it this way; the C4 will go off any sec."

"Just Go, I'll do what has to be done. . Semper fi!!" Dana never lets her eyes move away from the Chigs who are moving towards here rapidly. She takes her last round of KTW amo out of her Teflon jacket and reloads her Heckler. In what seems only a second she starts to fire upon the Chigs again and pulls out her last smart grenade.

"This is it," she thinks, and she throws the grenade and takes cover inside the cell.

A huge explosion follows and Dana thinks, "Now or never," and she makes a run for it. She doesn't look back to see what effect the grenade has; she feels that she gets hit, but she knows that it only scratched her because she's still on her feet. She reaches the corner and makes a run for the hallway as she can hear the Chigs that survived the grenade , increasing on her fast.

Finally she reaches the entry of the bunker, and she is surprised that the C4 hasn't exploded yet. A last adrenaline shot give her legs wings, and the time clock of the C4 detonator gives one beep, and she knows she won't make it although she can see the darkness outside the bunker. She feels the blast and fly's through the air and then nothing, total blackness.


Dana regains consciousness and feels hands on her body, and the first thing that is going trough her head is: Don't touch me. Please don't touch me. Her head becomes more clear, and she recognizes the big Invitro who's checking upon her body's injuries. "What the hell are you doing, tank? I told you to get out," she murmurs; she can hardly recognize her own voice.

"Not without you Ma'am," and he pulls her up to his chest and runs down the hill carefully watching his steps towards the still waiting ISSCP .

She hears voices scream "Com'on, com'on Chig's patrols are on their way; they can arrive any second."

She hears the zooming sound of the Chigs' fighter jets approaching, but then they were in the ISSCV and the door got closed.

Hawkes lays her on a stretcher, and a medic is pushing him aside to check upon her immediately. He feels the ISSCV take off and hears the board guns answering the hostile fire.

She grabs his hand, and he can see that every movement costs her badly; he moves closer to her as he watches the grimace on her face as she tries to speak again.

She whispers "Thanks, Coop for coming back. I guess I'm still in the game," and she feels herself being thrown back in that dark, dark place.

"Sir, would you please move aside?" Cooper raises back to his feet and starts to look for his friends .

He hears the Marine at the intercom talking to the bridge of the Saratoga.

"Queen six, this is Maddox all the packages have arrived. Need immediately air support. We are under fire. Repeat. Need assistance."

"This is Queen six. Sit tight. Help is on its way." The board canons of the ISSCV are firing upon the Chigs aircraft.

He throws his helmet off and sits down next to Vansen, looking at that once beautiful but now terribly battered face. And slowly he feels the tension slide away, and he feels everything will be OK again: he has his family back.


Saratoga

Cmdr. Ross and Col. McQueen are at the docking bay as the door of the ISSCV opens and they watch the medical team that is standing by to take over. They observe them taking care of the wounded; both notice that the people on the stretchers look like they returned from a trip from hell.

McQueen steps towards Hawkes and the Marines of the 31st "Hit the showers and get to the officer's mess. There's a meal waiting for you. And get some rest; I'll see you in the briefing room at 1500 hours."


She tries to open her eyes, but it feels if she had sand in her eyes, and she notices that the room is dark.

A nurse stands next to here bed, and she hears her say, "Try to stay calm and don't try to move. You have a serious concussion. You'll be fine, just give it some time. The doctors were able to stop your internal bleedings, and they say you will be up in no time. You're one lucky Marine."

Dana grimaces. She doesn't feel that happy, and she has to vomit. The nurse cleans up her face and, she feels herself fall back in a narcotic sleep. After what seems only minutes she wakes up again; she can focus her eyes more easily now. She notices the man next to her bed reading through some files.

McQueen looks up and finds her awake. "How are you feeling".

Dana murmurs "Next question. I feel like I was run over by a tank; it drove forward and backward." She notices the wrinkle that raises between his eyebrows.

"Sorry , bad choice of words I guess."

"Your excused ... this time." He gives in with an nod of his head. "If you're up to it, I would like to talk to you about what happened; I have to finish the final reports."

Dana sighs. She doesn't feel up to anything. She can't even focus for a long time, but she'd rather get it over with so he can leave her and she can go back to sleep. "OK, but make it short. I don't feel very well." .

"I would like to know how you got wounded. You knew about the time clock, and you should have been out in time." McQueen starts.

"Didn't Lt. Hawkes answer that question already?" she replies, waiting for his answer.

"Lt. Hawkes stated that he thought there was still time, and at almost the same time you gave the order to retreat, he found LT Wang and he couldn't abandon his teammate." Dana closes her eyes for a moment, buying some more time to come up with an answer. McQueen looks at her curiously, waiting almost impatiently for her answer.

"Capt. Troy, have you fallen asleep?"

"No Sir, its hard to remember the things correctly; it seemed like everything happened at the same time. We were under great pressure and I can't remember when exactly I gave the order to go back. We could have gotten out in time, but then we would have to abandon Lt.Wang. Sir, how are the POW's of the 58th doing? Will they be OK again?" She really liked to know, but also hoped this would change the subject.

"They have already left the Saratoga; they will be transported to a special sanitarium which has specialized in war traumas on Earth. Lt. Damphousse is still in a coma but seems unharmed; they think her injury is caused by their crash; they have good hope for her. We don't know if Vansen or Wang will pull through; they are the ones with serious traumas." McQueen looks upon Dana adding, "But I don't have to tell you anything about that. You've been there; haven't you?" He pauses for second looking upon her intensively. She is glad that he finally starts talking again because she really doesn't want to go any further on this subject.

"How many other POW's did you count? " McQueen goes on with the next question and she feels relief that he will let it go this easy.

"I counted 24 other POW's and they looked just as bad as the ones we rescued; we've got to go back for them, Sir."

"I'm afraid that's impossible right now, Capt. The Chigs have probably relocated them by now. Do you think you would be able to identify some of them when you're feeling a bit better?"

"Yes Sir, some of them, but not all; looking at them hurt too much." He could her see make a grimace under the bandage on her face.

"Sir, they were so ......desperate, so full of hope that we were there to take them home." He notices a tear running down her cheek, and sees her hands clinch to fists trying to get a hold of herself. He notices the color change on her face and quickly he rises to his feet, opening the door of the private room , yelling at someone in hallway. "Nurse, get in here." And he hears the vomiting sounds behind him in the room.

He turns around and looks at Dana hanging over the side of her bed, throwing up on the floor .The nurse pushes him aside and helps Dana back on her back, telling her to relax and that she will clean up everything in a second. As Dana tries to make apologies for the mess she makes, the nurse flashes a furious look at Col. McQueen "Col., I have to ask you to leave this patient; she's in no condition to be questioned.

McQueen nods. And walks up to the other side off the bed. "Capt. Troy, I will return in a few days; you rest now."

Dana opens her eyes, feeling very uncomfortable that he has been a witness at her vomiting all over.

She notices a look on his face she had not yet seen before as he speaks his final words before he leaves the room. "I think that the 31st is a very professional squad, and you did a good job".

He leaves her puzzled with his last remark, and she hopes that things might work out just fine. Relieved, she closes her eyes, and she hears the nurse cleaning up the mess she made, and she falls back to sleep.

The nurse wakes her up in what seems only to be a few minutes .

"Capt. Troy, I have to wake you up every few hours to make sure you're still conscious. And you have a visitor, a very tall good-looking marine, he doesn't seem to be very at ease here at sickbay," she smile's at Dana . "Too bad," she adds, and leaves the room with a wink.

Dana tries to get her head clear again, looking at the man in the door who seems undecided if he would enter or leave.

"Come in, Hawkes. What brings you here? Do you want to gloat at me as I throw up all day , or what?" the sound of her voice isn't very friendly. He steps closer to her bed, she now sees the insecure look on his face and that she has hurt him with her hostile attack.

"I'm sorry Hawkes; I'm not in a very good mood, I'm afraid. Sit down. I want to thank you for getting me out" she moans as she tries to lie a little bit more comfortably.

"The last thing I remember is the ceiling getting down on me; how did you get me out of there?"

Cooper relaxes as he searches for words. "I handed over Paul to the Mansons and I went back as quick as I could; I was almost there as I saw the explosion. You had almost made it: I saw your boot sticking out on some off the rubble. I just hoped your leg was still attached to it."

She has to smirk on that comment realizing very well that the C4 could have blown her to pieces. Cooper explains how he was be able to lift some of the very heavy stones off her and that Kay and Johnson helped him pulling her out while the Manson were helping the MIA's get boarded. After that, they took position at the anti-aircraft canons of the ISSCV to buy some more time as the first fighter jets of the Chigs arrived.

Cooper asks if she remembers anything, and Dana has to shake her head: the last thing she remembers clearly is the blast of the C4. She has no accurate recollection of him rescuing her and their talk aboard the ISSCV.

She clears her throat "Cooper, I want to say thank you for coming back for me. I guess it can be very handy having an Invitro on the team; I'm glad you're so strong that you could lift the rubble off me " His face lightens up and she decides that she should tell him that except for his going AWOL on her after she gave the order to retreat she thinks he is a good Marine. He also has an extraordinary good shot. She tells him that and if there would be another mission she would be glad to have him on her side.

She notices the insecure look that returns on his face as he falters: "I'm sorry that you got hurt; I should have followed your order, but I had to know if Paul was still there. Paul has been my friend since we were at boot camp, and I had to make sure.

"Have you? Have you told McQueen?" he hesitates.

Looking at him and seeing the repentant look upon his face ,she sighs "No Hawkes, I didn't tell him you went AWOL on me; I told him that you probably didn't hear me, and that I couldn't remember it very clear anymore. But hear me CFB: If you ever disregard my orders again, I will leave you behind; we were very close to screwing the operation. The reason that I didn't tell is if I would have been in your boots I would have probably done the same. But hear me, next time you could us all get killed."

He's relieved and she hears him say, "It won't happen again Ma'am."

Dana nods, "Stop calling me Ma'am; you know my name." And they hear some loud voices coming from the closed door.

She recognizes one voice; it is Kay's; she seems to be very impatient to see the woman she looks upon as a friend for a long time . Dana grimaces and realizes that she can forget about having a little rest. The door opens, and the worried faces of the people of her squad are looking at her.

"Dana, are you OK? They didn't want us to see you before. They seem to think that we are too much for you at the moment." Kay walks in the room followed by the nurse who tries to stop them but she gives in with a sigh and leaves them alone as she notices the happy look upon the patient's face.

"I'll be up and running before you know it; it looks worse than it is. The worst thing is this terrible headache. My head feels like it could explode every second. I guess I look like shit," and she tries to give them a smile but that hurts even more. She touches her face and feels at the bandage on her face.

"The Col. told us that they have given you a face reconstruction as well; they must have thought it would be much cheaper this way," Kay smirks . Dana's face sobers; she will feel naked without her scars ; she grew attached to them.

At least it got rid of all the unwanted attention of male Marines who tried to make a move on her thinking she was an easy prey.

She looks upon their faces, at their worried looks, except for the knowing look upon Kay's face. "I would like to rest now, I hope you come back another time." The 31st and Cooper rise to their feet and tell her they will be back.

When they reach the door they heard here voice, " 31st , stay out of trouble and watch each others' sixes"

They turn around a last time to salute her.


Two weeks later Dana returns from the gym; she has started training again. The doctors are still amazed about her quick recovery.

Except for a little headache she feels like reborn; she will be in shape in no time, she thinks. She starts to run through the corridors, looking forward to head for the showers. She almost runs in to Col. McQueen as he steps out of a hatch unexpectedly. She jumps aside, almost losing her balance.

"What are you doing, Capt.? Trying to get back at sick bay as fast as you can?" He looks upon her and notices the perspiration on her body and her wet tanktop.

"You should take it slow; you'll be back fighting in this war soon enough." His eyes slide over her body and keep still at her face and she frowns her eyebrows. She knows he is looking at her cheeks and she keeps her face without any expression.

"Yes Sir , I hope so," she answers.

"Hit the showers, Capt." And he turns his back on her going his way. She feels a strange feeling in her stomach as she watches him walk away: She still isn't very at ease with her new look.

Dana walks back the last hallway and is totally occupied with disturbing thoughts about a certain Col.


A few weeks later Dana enters the Tun and she notices her squad sitting at a table away from the others. It doesn't seem to bother them, they are playing cards. She orders a beer and pulls up a chair and joins them.

"Dana you want in?" Carl asks.

"Nope, I just want to relax and listen to the music tonight. I see Kay has the biggest part of the pie as usual; she'll strip you naked if you don't watch it."

The door of the Tun opens and McQueen enters taking a seat at the bar, ignoring everybody as usual.

What a strange man, a loner; he seems to have only a few friends aboard the Saratoga. The last few weeks they had only a few ops, but she really starts to respect this Invitro-Colonel. He never treats her squad any different than he does the 58th and he seems not to care that they are former delinquents. He treats them like the Marines they are and expects full dedication on every OP. they are assigned to. She watches Hawkes and West entering the Tun followed by their new teammates. Hawkes and West come over to their table and ask if they can join in on the game.

The relation between them and these two member of the 58th is relaxed, but there is still a little tension between 31st and the rest of the 58th squad.

She tries to think of a way to change this; maybe a joint assignment will help.

If they will have to work together they might find a way to learn to respect each other. Kay taps West on his shoulder:

"Killed any Chigs today? Or were you out again playing with your SA43 again?" she grins, showing him that she is only teasing.

"No Chig attacks for the past three weeks; its seems they're on vacation, or maybe they're cooking something, and we will find out when its served upon us."

"I heard you people have a mission briefing tomorrow." Cooper looks at Dana.

"Any chance that they could have found the location of the MIA's we had to leave behind"

"I have no idea, Coop. McQueen told me last week they were still searching. How many people did you recognize from the pictures they showed us?" Dana asks and she let her hand slide through her hair.

"I recognized only two for sure, but in the conditions they were its hard to say." The silence that follows make them all tense; everybody seems to be occupied with their own thoughts.

Kay bends over the table smiling at Dana and breaking the tension. "Its strange isn't it feeling your hair grow back." And she also rubs her now back-growing blond hair.

They all have to smile about that and Dana remarks "I'm just glad things finally are easing up for us",

"Look at us, sitting in a bar, drinking and playing cards; this would have been impossible if Henson would be still in Command." Johnson grins and waves with his cards. "Do you think they will ship us back in time? Because I feel no need ever to look upon that ugly face again; he made life hell for us." Carl looks upon Dana for reassurance.

"I think when this war is over there will be no need for us any more in space, we will probably be stationed again on Earth" she replies.

"NO WAY I'm going back." Johnny Manson looks upon Carl to back him up.

"Dana, if they send us back to Henson, Johnny and I will find a way to go AWOL." Carl notices the disturbed look upon Nathan's face.

"West you have no idea what life has been for us since we have been drafted: Col. Henson is a sadistic pervert; he made live hell for us."

Dana interrupts. "Maybe so, Carl, but where would you go: there's no place you could hide; they can track you down; you should find a doctor who would be willing to remove the chip in your neck first." Dana lowers her voice "You don't stand a chance."

"A chip?" Cooper looks at all their faces waiting for an answer.

Kay answers him, "This is to make sure that we will always return or they track us down and the needle is still waiting for all of us."

"I heard you talk about Henson before and you seem to think of him as a monster but he's a Marine, Capt. Troy." West looks at Dana.

"Believe me, West, this man is a monster: he wears a Marine uniform but he's a sadistic pervert. You know what his idea of having a good time is!? "He goes watching the executions, and he orders us to accompany him, so we can watch and learn, because this is where we will end." Dana shakes her head trying to get rid of the nasty memories. She closes her eyes for a second, but then opens them and bends over to West:

"Have you ever watched an execution? Did they ever made you watch the death of one of your teammates?" Dana rises abruptly on her feet. "I'm turning in. Maybe there will be work tomorrow." Dana leaves without looking upon the shocked faces of Hawkes and West.

She feels that awful headache increasing and heads out of the Tun; she is unaware she is being followed.

McQueen, however, is. He has observed them the last few minutes and he has been wondering what is going on; he did notice the shocked face of West and Hawkes and watched Dana leave with a grimness on her face. He now notices the man on the table next to door, who without emptying his drink rises abruptly and follows her. McQueen senses that something is going to happen, and he decides to follow as well.


"Shadow." Dana hears a soft voice behind her as she is returning towards their quarters. She feels the hairs on her arms rise as she hears that name whispered. Quickly she turns around, looking at an old, familiar face she hasn't seen in 7 years. "Shadow is dead. Stay away from me, Mike. "I'll get in big trouble if someone finds me talking to you ."

"Damien sends a message. He thinks that it will be safe now you're away from Henson." Mike grins at her.

"Not here, you idiot; if someone sees us, it will be my death sentence. The order still stands that if I have contact with someone of my former gang I still get executed." She grabs his arm and pushes him towards the now dark flight deck. She walks him to the darkest place she can find behind one of the cockpits of a SA43. Neither of them is aware of the man that follows them; he takes a stand in a dark alcove and listens to them talk.

"Nobody will find out, believe me; they have no idea who I am; they gave me great false credentials." Mike Tores winks with the tags on his breast. "I'll be leaving tomorrow with an Cargo ISSCV, Damien made all the arrangements."

Dana snaps at him, "I want you out of here. Things finally lighten up for us and I want to keep it that way, so stay clear." She turns around and wants to walk away, but he grabs for her wrist.

"Don't you want to hear Damien's message?" Mike looks upon her face in the dark, but he can hardly tell what she is thinking of.

Dana keeps silent. Part of her wants to know: Damien is the only man she has ever loved.

She hears him say "He wants you to know that he still loves you, misses you, and he hopes that you have forgiven him." Its silent for a while, but then she whispers:

"Forgive? Why? He never betrayed me, and I knew the risks ; there was nothing he could do to get me out."

Dana pulls her wrist back. "I want you to leave now. Give him this message: Dana Troy is *dead* ; the woman he once knew doesn't exist anymore. Now go leave me alone."

Mike shakes his head, but he turns around and leaves the flightdeck. Dana is confused and is totally occupied with her thoughts as she follows him a minute later.

She passes the dark alcove, and suddenly something catches her attention; she sees a movement. On pure instinct she knows that somebody has been watching them and she grabs for the silhouette in the dark, grabbing for its uniform she feels hands touching her shoulders and without a second thought she punches for the stomach and the face .She hears the air that she punches out of its lungs and feels the person who was spying on her hit the floor. The silhouette isn't moving, and she looks upon the wall behind her for any light switches nearby. She turns on the light and looks upon Col. McQueen laying out cold on the floor.

"SHIT ... HELL..... FUCK.....DAMNED". She is in big trouble . *Big Big* trouble it rambles through her head, and she falls to her knees. She puts her hand in his neck checking on life signs . He's alive, but unconscious. She stands back up and starts to pace up and down. She is one dead Marine, not only for breaking her vow but also for hitting her CO.

Before she knows it, he is awake and back on his feet. His face shows an awful rage.

He snaps at her "You must really have a death wish, being so stupid." McQueen tries to get a grip on himself. His anger troubles his mind and he knows he has to get out of there before he would do something to her. He looks upon the woman in front of him who seems to have shrunk. Her head is bowed and her shoulders hang down.

"Stand to attention, Marine!" he growls. Dana automatically obeys, looking at his face.

She sees the pure rage on it and notices his eyes-- which seem to flame.

"I want your ass in Cmdr .Ross's office on 06.00 hours. You just bought yourself a ticket home." He turns and leaves the flightdeck with large agitated steps.

Dana feels her knees shake and sinks down on her butt. She grabs for her head: the pain is now so severe she could hear her heart beat in her ears, and she feels sick. Slowly, she rocks forward backwards. Finally she stands up and checks her watch; it is midnight; she has to wait for another six hours, and she decides to go back to her quarters. She better start to pack her things. Why hadn't he just called the MP's? She expected that she would be in the brig in no time. But he probably wants to inform Com. Ross first and make arrangements that she can leave on the first transport for Earth. Dana's mind works overtime. She enters the hatch and goes straight to her locker; she doesn't notice the rest of her team enter with Hawkes and West.

Kay immediately senses something is wrong as she looks upon Dana's face and she sees her packing up her gear.

"What the hell happened? What are you doing?" she blurts out. And the others also look upon her with a lack of understanding on their faces.

"I screwed up, big time. McQueen told me I bought myself a ticket home." she throws the things she has been packing through the room. "I have been so stupid, so unbelievably stupid." She feels the tears come up in her eyes, and she shoves Kay aside, leaving her friends behind in total disbelief as she leaves their quarters.

"I don't get it. What happened?" Cooper looks upon Kay for an answer. but she shakes her head.

"I have no idea, but it must be serious; I'm going to find out," and she leaves also.


Two hours later Cooper is laying on his bunk; his mind is still troubled on what could have happened. Neither of them had returned, and they had agreed to get some sleep.

He couldn't stand it anymore, and he raises to his feet, trying not to make a sound as he wants to search for them. "Coop" he hears Nathan's voice "Are you going to check on them?" He nods and tries to figure where he should start to look first.

He finds them after an hour of search at the Widow walk sitting close together, and he hears them softly speak. He decides to listen for a while: maybe this will give him some answers.

"You should go now, Kay; I would like to sit here by myself for a little while, and I want to be alone when I go. . . .

"Dana, what if I go talk to him and explain? Maybe he will understand; he might change his mind."

"No, don't. You haven't seen his face. He would have loved to kill me himself. I will never forgive myself that I hit him; I never meant to. It was just that he grabbed for me the moment I pulled him out of the shadows and I reacted instinctually. God what stupidity!" She starts to cry again, rubbing her eyes constantly, trying to get a hold of herself . "I can't remember when I last cried this much, or it must have been the night I watched my mother get murdered."

It is silent for a while before Dana speaks again: "Even if he ignores the fact that I hit him, he will never forgive me for breaking my oath to the Marines Corps. I promised never to have contact with any former gang members under any circumstances, and I broke it. He's a man who lives by strict rules and the Marine Corps is his way of life; he believes in all it stands for."

Kay's face looks defeated as she answers: "I understand why you don't want to stand trial again with Henson around; you won't stand a chance anyhow."

Dana answers: "I'd rather be damned than that, the last thing I will see in this world will be his face. I remember the first time he took me to one of the executions: he stood next to me and made me watch the face of the convicted marine; he whispered in my ear, One day it will be you upon this chair, and I'll be there watching how you'll be fighting for your last gasp of air, and it will be a feast day."

Cooper watches them as they hug each other tightly, and he hears Dana say, "You've been a good friend, Kay, and a hell of a team-mate; you made this last three years bearably and I want you to tell Roy, Johnny and Carl that I think of them as my family. Keep them out of bar fights, Kay, and they will do fine here. You are all wonderful marines-- the finest I have ever seen." She pushes Kay aside, wrapping her arms around herself,; turning her back, looking out of the port hole.

Kay steps back looking at Dana and she can't find the words to say.

She searches for words: "I will look after them and try to keep them out of trouble, I promise; I think its hard for me to except that the only freedom for us is ...Death. Semper fi, Dana-- maybe in a next life ..... ." Her voice breaks, and she walks away before she will change her mind and not leave at all. It is just so unfair.

Cooper watches Kay leave and follows a minute after her, not sure what to do with what he has learned. Cooper decides to consult with Nathan. Nathan always knows what to do, he ponders. He goes back to his quarters as quickly as he can, he wakes up Nathan, signaling him to follow him; he sees that Kay is laying on her bunk looking at him, but he ignores her.


Both men stand in the corridor, and Cooper makes sure nobody can hear them as he starts to explain to Nathan.

"Damned." Nathan says, "I think you should go talk to McQueen, Cooper, if there's anybody he will listen to it's you. I'll go up the widow walk and keep an eye on Troy. I'll try to stop her if I can. We at least have to give it a try and make sure he understands about this Henson chap." Cooper nods and walks away.


Cooper knows that McQueen is on duty at the command bridge and he knocks at the hatch..

A Lt. opens asking him about his business.

"I would like to have a word with Col. McQueen if its possible; its real urgent." The Lt. nods and walks towards McQueen, who is talking to some people across the room. McQueen looks disturbed as the Lt. tells him the message, and he looks at Cooper standing in the door. He walks towards Cooper, his face without an expression, his eyes cold as ice. He steps into the hallway closing the hatch. "What's up, Lt. Hawkes, did Capt. Troy send you?"

"No Sir, she doesn't know I'm here; she believes it won't do any good".

"She's right; she broke the rules, and she knows the punishment for it, and she has to accept the consequences for her actions."

"You told her to be at Com. Ross's cabin at 0600 Hours, Sir."

"Yes, I will be there right after my duty here is up."

"She is not going to be there, Sir," Cooper blurts out.

"What do you mean not going to be there? Explain yourself, Lt." With an angry look upon his face he steps closer towards Hawkes.

"I saw her and Lt. Kay leave our quarters tonight, and when they didn't return I decided to go look for them. I found them at the Widow walk; they were talking, saying good bye; I was eavesdropping, Sir".

"*Saying good bye *. There's no way she can possible get off the Saratoga, and I made sure that her former gang friend is in the brig, so he can't help her," McQueen answers.

"Not the way you think, Sir; I think that she's going to end her own life"

McQueen shakes his head. "That's the most idiot thing I have ever heard; I don't believe a word of it."

"Sir, please hear me out," and Cooper starts to talk fast, now and than stumbling upon his words. "She's not going back, Sir: she'd rather die than ever be shipped back to Earth. You have no idea what's awaiting her there when she gets back." And Cooper repeats the whole conversation he has heard between Dana and Kay. He also tells him about the other stories he had heard in the Tun that evening from the other members of the 31st. Col. McQueen doesn't say a word, and not once does the look upon his face change; As Cooper finishes the story, he just turns around and opens the hatch. "Major Wright, the bridge is yours; I'll be away the rest of the shift."


McQueen followed by Hawkes walk their way up to the Widow Walk and never speak a word . McQueen is troubled by his own thoughts. Troy was out of line tonight, way out of line, and the normal procedure was that she would have to face courts martial for this. He almost can't believe the story Cooper told him about Col. Henson. Can this be true? He has to know for sure, because if this is true somebody has to put a stop to those sadistic practices. Somebody like that would be a disgrace to the Corps.

West sees them coming, and he feels relieved that the Col. would come with Cooper; he hadn't been to sure about this. He walks towards them on the hallway and whispers "She still sits there and watches out of the porthole checking her watch now and then."

McQueen nods and says, "Stay here. I'll go in alone." He walks into the room trying not to make a sound.

She notices that someone is in same room with her as he is only a few feet away. He sees her hiding the knife from his point of view.

"Stand to attention, Capt. I want to have a word with you." He notices that she moves the knife upon her sleeve in a wink.

"Tell me about Col. Henson; I want to know if the stories I heard are true". McQueen looks upon the expressionless face of the woman standing in front of him.

"Did he make you watch several executions of Marines who were on death row?"

She was silent for a few seconds, thinking about why he was here, how he found out. It couldn't have been Kay; she would never do a thing like this. And what to think of his sudden interest of her former CO. She notices that he is impatient, and she answers:

"This man enjoys watching other people suffer and die; he 's a sick son of a bitch."

"Watch your words, Captain! How many times have you been in the execution room?"

Dana answers, "I think 8 or 9 times, Sir. He always took us there whenever he thought that we should be reminded of what would happen to us if we didn't obey-- and to show us who was in charge."

There's a look of disgust on his face and he asks, "Why did you never file a report on this?"

"We have always been kept isolated from other squads, and who would believe us Sir. And more important, who would care. I tried once and he had me thrown in the brig for 90 days in solitude; I was kept in the dark all that time and I got fed only once a day ; I learned my lesson fast. Col. Henson hated his assignment from the beginning; he never wanted to be the CO of a convict Squad. He had hoped that we would all die very soon so that he would get assigned to a new squadron. He willingly sabotaged several missions, and just hoped we wouldn't return; he sabotage weapons or withheld information or backup. I lost several good men-- Marines, friends--because of him. We got a mission on Helas: our goal was to search for an AI activity on that mining planet; we had flown in there from Earth, and soon after we arrived we found out that the planet seemed to be flooded with AI's, and I called in for help, we never got a reply; the radio was sabotaged. You remember the Invitro I told you about, Henson had lied to him promising him a free ticket home, we learned. We were left with no other possibility than to surrender after a while. The AI 's tortured us all for days; six Marines died on Helos. I was the only one who escaped; I managed to survive and after a week an army APC arrived, and that was my ticket home. You should have seen the look of disbelieve on his face when he saw me stepping out of that transporter alive. He warned me, that if I ever made a official report, he would make sure that I would be executed the same day. After another short silence she states : "I got promoted to Captain for this, and headquarters decided to give me my own Squad." McQueen notices the bitter look upon her face; he feels chilled inside .

"The pestering didn't stop, but he never pulled a stunt like on Helos again." McQueen winks a view time with his eyes and looks away; the silence grows thick on Dana. Suddenly he speaks:

"I will have this investigated, and if this is true, the man is a disgrace to the Marine Corps, and he will face Court Martial. "He stretches his arm, holding his hand up: "Give me the knife." McQueen looks upon the stubborn look that got on her face. "I can not trust you if you don't put your trust in me to do the right thing."

Dana figures that if she would hand over the knife her fast way out of here was gone. She knows on the other hand that if she doesn't put her trust in him he would turn against her. Her instinct tells her she can trust him, and she has no other choice than to hand him the knife hoping for the best. She gives him the knife, and she notices his sigh of relieve: He had been holding his breath, unsure about her reactions. She figures out that he also has to learn to trust her to do the right thing.

"Capt. Troy, I want you to return to your quarters and take some rest, you still have a briefing tomorrow and I want you to be fit." He sees her surprise and relieve and remarks, "I'll keep an eye on you, and never make me regret this."

She salutes him and turns around; after a few steps she stops, looking at him once more. "Col. McQueen I'm really sorry I hit you; I never mend to hurt anybody; I just acted on instinct."

He nods and turns back on her, looking out of the portch bay she has been staring out for hours. She leaves and finds Nathan and Cooper waiting in the corridor. "I should have known it could have been you two."

"Thank Cooper. He went to talk to McQueen." West grins.

"Thanks, Coop; I seem to be thanking you a lot lately." And they all have to laugh.

"I get to live another day." And together with the two other Marines she goes back to their quarters .

END OF PART 1

Wiena Rijstenberg 1998

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