Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the TV-Programme 'Space: Above And Beyond' depicted in this story are legal property of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Hard Eight Production and 20th Century Fox Broadcasting and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement intended.

This story and the characters of Megan Chambers, nine-eight squadron are purely fictional and legal property of U. Fritz. The story is not open for distribution or sale in either fanzines, ftp-sites or elsewhere without the permission of the author.



Trials And Tribulations




Farnax System - Icelos III 2066

"Your mission is compartmentalised and code red, number nine-eight squadron. If you or any of your squadron members get captured, there will be no SAR, no extraction." Air Commodore Coulthard said, watching the solemn faces of the five young RAF pilots in front of him.

This mission was vital to the victory of the United Earth Forces. Try as he might the Air Commodore couldn't shake off a foreboding feeling, although Intel had assured him that there was no risk.

But one thing he had learned for sure in this war. What Intel told him and what the actual situation on planet was, were two completely different matters.

The man sighed.

"Any questions?"

Megan Chambers, Squadron Leader of the number nine-eight RAF squadron, stood up.

"Sir, I can speak for all of us when I say that the Intel reports you have given us are useless. How are we supposed to break an enemy sentry web with no back up and insert a highly unstable, not to mention, untested, satellite into the atmosphere of Icelos III? We don't even know if they have a squadron of fighters stationed behind the web ..."

"I told you, all you can rely on solely, is your own abilities. I know the Intel is crap. But these are the orders from top brass. Now go out, insert the satellite into the atmosphere of Icelos III and come back alive. Dismissed!"

The officers stood up and filed out slowly.

Flight Lieutenant Connor Firth shook his head as the nine-eight flight squadron, also known as the Storm Squadron, made their way to the flightdeck of the aircraft carrier HMS Wellington.

"This is ludicrous," he snorted and Susan Parsons turned her head back slightly towards him.

"It is sheer, utter madness, Con. But orders are orders."

Megan Chambers had quietly listened. Parsons was right, orders were orders. Especially now as it seemed that the United Earth Forces could win this war, if her squadron was able to insert this satellite into the atmosphere of planet Icelos III.

IF ...

Clapping her hands together she looked at her squadron.

"Cut the skipchatter. We have our orders and we will execute them!"

After they had gone through their pre-flight checks, the squadron was launched out of the hull of the HMS Wellington in their Tornadoes, making their way to planet Icelos III. Normally the Tornadoes were equipped for two, pilot and NAV officer but on this mission they had been revamped. Megan and her squadron had been especially chosen to fly those enhanced jets as they usually flew the single seat BC-48, better known as Spitfires.

"This is Storm One to Storm Leader, two mikes until our meeting with the sentry web. The satellites are three-point-two-one Ks off port bow and three-point-one-two Ks off starboard." Connor reported over the com.

"Roger that, Storm One," Megan acknowledged. "Keep your noses level and jam the sentry web in... three ... two ... one ... NOW!"

The LIDARS showed that the jamming device functioned properly but Megan still felt nervous. She checked her HUD and LIDAR again as her squadron made the insertion.

With Megan's jet at point the Tornadoes slipped through the sentry web but the beeps on the LIDAR affirmed that there was a Chig squadron on their heels already.

"Storm Two to Storm Leader," Susan Parsons said. "Got two bogeys on my LIDAR, repeat: two bogeys on my LIDAR at seven and eight. Closing in fast!"

"Confirmed, Storm Two, let's get the satellite off on its course!" Megan replied and switched on the digitals for the satellite insertion. "Insertion in ten ... nine..."

"Lord, Megan look out!" She heard Petey Mullen shout a warning. "Two more bandits have locked on!"

Mullen's fighter sliced across one of the Chig fighter's path but the Chigs weren't phased by it, they were still locked onto Meg's jet.

"Evade, Megan!" Connor cried as he engaged one of the five Chig fighters who had appeared.

Megan knew that if she evaded now, she needed even more time to send the satellite on its way again. Only three seconds left.

"Negative, Storm One, I'm right on course. Stall the Chigs as long as it takes!" She flipped the button open and counted down the last seconds .... two ... one ... GO!

The minute the satellite was on its way, Megan's jet was hit by heavy laser fire. The Tornado rocked ferociously to and fro and the digitals showed that her thrusters had been hit. Soon they had taken out the five Chigs and the sky was clear but Meg's jet was still out cold.

"Storm One to Storm Leader, do you copy?" she heard Connor's strained voice through the com.

"Loud and clear, Storm One. The satellite is on its way, repeat, the satellite is off. Retreat back to the Wellington ..."

"Megan, your thrusters are out ... we are not leaving you ..."

"That is an order, Lieutenant, retreat! Repeat: retreat immediately to the Wellington!"

Checking starboard and port Megan noticed that the Tornadoes remained on course, doing their best to keep her out of the line of fire.

"WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, LIEUTENANTS? I gave you an order. RETREAT! NOW!" Megan shouted into her com.

"Roger that, Storm Leader. Storm Squadron retreating," Connor acknowledged over the com, a definite edge to his voice.

"Megan .... good- b...," He bid down on the farewell. It was bad enough to know that there was no back up. "Keep your head down, Meg. We'll find you."

"Get out of here, Con and take them home," Megan said and she watched as first one then all jets veered away from her position.

"Meg? We'll be back, I promise," Susan's voice was heard over the com.

"Yes, Susan ... I know... thank you."

Her Tornado had already been caught by the gravitation of the planet. Megan switched off the com and prepared the landing sequence. If she was lucky she would make it down onto the planet's surface alive.

IF ..., she thought. When she tried to re-start the retro-thrusters, her eye was caught by one small picture she had glued onto her panel not so long ago.

The photograph showed her and a handsome US Marine Corps Lieutenant. It had been taken on her only R&R at the Bacchus almost two years ago. She had been happy then, had been with Cooper Hawkes.

A sad smile curved Megan's lips, as she kissed her gloved fingertip and put it onto the cold celluloid image of Lt. Cooper Hawkes.

"I'm sorry, Coop," she whispered.

Chapter One

Transit to Earth - November 2071

Captain Cooper Hawkes was on his way back to Earth. He had been in strenuous negotiations with the Ina'ye, the Chigs.

Ever since the war had ended two years ago he had been one of the staff officers of the high command who dealt with the Chigs and the various treaties they had yet to sign.

From time to time Cooper missed the days of his raucous pilot's life but all things considered he was glad that, as an In-Vitro, he had made it to such a high position.

Many of the higher ups had doubted that an In-Vitro would be suitable for such a highly delicate job, but Hawkes had proven himself as a valuable asset. His IV aggressiveness and his zeal to learn was the right mixture to deal with the Aliens.

Hawkes sighed and rubbed his eyes wearily. When the meeting back on Earth was over he had five weeks liberty accumulated, and he was still unsure of how or where to spend it.

McQueen had invited him over. Also, Commodore Ross had asked him to visit him and his family but those visits would only take a week, and what was he supposed to do with the rest of his R&R?

He didn't know where to go as Earth was still the home of his distress, where he had fled the In-Vitro facility and where he had almost been hanged. He felt like an Alien there.

Watching the stars float by, he had a feeling of yearning, of belonging to something, to someone.

The stars were his real home, flying amongst them in a hammerhead was his fulfilment of joy and home.

But his fly-boy days had been over as soon as he was made Captain two years ago.

"Sir, we are preparing to land, Sir!" the voice of the young Lieutenant disturbed his troubled thoughts and Hawkes looked up.

The young Lieutenant had been assigned to him as his personal aide, though Cooper was still not sure where the man's loyalty really lay.

With a nod, he said: "Thank you, Lt. Jeffries. I can see that!"

"Sir, yes, Sir," Jeffries ducked his head and hurriedly walked over to his seat again.

The young man sighed wearily and gathered his things together, always eyeing the Captain from guarded eyes.

He had not been working long as Hawkes' aide and he was still nervous around the man. Not sure how to react to the In-Vitroes' mood swings from time to time.

Ever since the Captain and he had been heading back to Earth the Captain's mood had been deteriorating.

Better not cross swords with him now, the young Marine thought.

Hawkes watched as the APC landed at the airbase. It still amazed him that he was about to return to Earth, set foot on the very soil he had been forced to leave nine long years ago. Home - was this his home?

Once he had thought that Earth could really be his home, back when Megan Chambers had come onboard the USS Saratoga with the United Forces Exchange Programme. Back then, he had thought that it would be possible for him to have a family, to love and be loved. But that dream bubble had been destroyed once and for all when he had received the small yellow notification from the RAF, informing him of her death on some godforsaken Chig infested planet ...

Closing his eyes, Cooper thought back to that time. She had already been missing in action for seven weeks when he had received the note. Seven weeks where he had expected a letter from her, seven weeks where he had not known that she was gone.

He could still remember the day when he had accompanied Nathan West to the landing bay, watching the other natural borns receiving letters and parcels from loved ones back home.

"Hawkes, Cooper!" the young sergeant had announced and held up a small letter. Cooper had exchanged a look with Nathan and his friend flashed him a wicked smile.

After that Coop had walked cockily away from the hatch frame he had been leaning against and snatched the letter out of the sergeant's hands.

To Lt. Cooper Hawkes,
58th Squadron, 5th Airwing, USMC
USS Saratoga
From United European Armed Forces
Ministry of Defence

Cooper had frowned at that and turned the letter hesitatingly in his hands.

Why on Earth would Meg write an official letter? he had asked himself.

Was this supposed to be a joke?

Lt. Colonel T.C. McQueen had seen Cooper toying with the letter and if it contained the same information he had just received then it would be better if he was to accompany the young IV.

"Hawkes!" he said and the Lieutenant snapped to attention, almost slipping the letter to the ground.

"Sir!" he said and looked sheepishly at his CO. "I'm sorry, Sir, I ... I was .. I just thought..."

"On my six, Hawkes, I think you better have some company before you read the letter."

"Sir?" Cooper had inquired uncertainly but he only addressed the Colonel's rigid, retreating back.

After Cooper had entered the Colonel's cabin, he watched silently as McQueen opened a bottle of Scotch and poured two glasses of the amber liquid.

McQueen turned around and leant against his desk, crossing his arms across his chest, he watched the young Lieutenant.

"Open the letter, Cooper," he had ordered gently and Cooper's head had snapped up in surprise.

"Sir, do you know what this is all about?" he had asked.

"Yes, Hawkes, open that letter ...."

He had opened the letter then, had read the words that at first he did not understand.

"We regret to inform you that Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Megan Louise Chambers has been declared Missing in Action on 23rd October 2066. She died valiantly in the service of His Majesty King William V. at the battle of Icelos ..."

After that, all was a blur, he had not noticed that McQueen had gently pushed him towards a chair, that he had given him the Scotch.

He had come to his senses somewhat when he had felt the strong liquid burning in his throat and even then he could not believe it, he had not been able to fathom that the one woman he had loved even more than his friends from the 58th squadron, was gone - dead. He had tried to believe that it had been a mistake, that she was still alive.

She had ceased to exist. Hope had ceased to exist, just like his life.

Back then he had taken every opportunity to get into hot zones. He had been downright reckless, and more than once he had endangered his own life to save those of his squadron, but there had been a hardness in him that had surfaced. He had grown up all of a sudden. The rest of the Wild Cards could not understand why he was taking such high risks, that he deliberately sought out danger until McQueen had told him off, had made him understand that Megan had died in the knowledge that he, Cooper, was still alive. McQueen had told him that in order to mourn and respect her death, he should try to live for the both of them.

He had tried, cherishing the memories of her and over the months and years to come he had managed to live again - barely.

About three months later he had received another letter. Immediately, he had recognized Megan's handwriting, had seen the stamped envelope which dated back from almost half a year ago. Back then he had stuffed the letter back into his locker unopened. He couldn't bear to read her words, couldn't stand being reminded of what was and what he had lost. McQueen had tried to reason with him but he had been stubborn, Megan was gone.

The ISSCV had landed on the airbase and blazing sun greeted Hawkes and his aide. Adjusting his mess kit and cap, Cooper stepped out onto the tarmac and both men walked over to the main buildings of the airbase.

The HQ buzzed with life; privates and officers of all armed forces from throughout the United Nations were busy preparing for the final talks.

For a moment Cooper hesitated. He already had had a feeling of alienation but now, here in this very room, it was almost overwhelming.

Jeffries, his aide, moved forward and watched him before he spoke:

"I will see where Commander Coulthard's office is, Sir."

He was about to walk over to the registration desk, when Cooper's voice held him back.

"Jeffries, it is Air Commodore Coulthard. He is a British RAF Commodore," Hawkes said.

"RAF, Sir?" Jeffries inquired somewhat dumbfounded.

"Royal Air Force. They fought alongside with the USMC and the other United Earth Forces in Operation Roundhammer ... but that was before you joined the Corps ..."

"Yes, Sir," Jeffries replied. "I was too young when Roundhammer started." The young Marine turned towards the clerk at the desk and Cooper watched him.

"Me too," Cooper said quietly to himself but he cut himself short and followed Jeffries over to the desk.

"Well, I don't have a Captain Hawkes on my list, Lieutenant," the young Navy officer behind the desk said, when Hawkes reached his aide.

"You have to, he has an appointment with Air Commodore Coulthard," Jeffries replied somewhat flustered, blood rushing to his neck and face.

The Navy Officer snapped to attention when he saw Cooper standing beside Jeffries, and taking in the medals on Cooper's mess kit, the Silver Star, the veterans medal of OP Roundhammer, the Purple Heart, he saluted.

Saluting back, Cooper asked: "What seems to be the trouble here?"

"Sir, I'm sorry, Sir. But I can't seem to find your name on the list."

"Then you better check that list again," Jeffries started but was cut short by Cooper.

"Ensign, check the computer and the lists again, I'm sure that my aide made an appointment with the Air-Commodore ...."

"Sir, yes, Sir!" the young ensign replied and busied himself on the computer again. "Captain Hawkes, Sir, I have found your name, I'm sorry; it was misspelled. Commodore's Coulthard's office is on the second floor, room 2.17, Sir."

"Thank you, ensign," Cooper replied and with a dismissing salute he turned towards the stairs.

Jeffries hurried to follow his captain and when they had reached the bottom, he asked:

"Sir, do you need my assistance?"

Cooper stopped and looked down onto the young Marine.

"No, Jeffries, that is not necessary. Just make sure to get my gear to the officer's barracks and then you can enjoy your R & R."

After a moment of consideration he added. "Give my regards to your fiancée, Jeffries."

The young man blushed.

"Thank you, Sir ... I sure will ... Sir!" With that Cooper dismissed his aide and for a moment he squeezed his eyes shut.

It's amazing that I can pick up the telltale signs of lovesickness in the young man so easily and yet I have never been in love himself, he thought.

No, that's not true, he told himself. I have been in love ... somehow. But the war has prevented me from pursuing that matter any further, losing Megan forever. After that I had pursued my military career, pushing away the thought about love, banishing it from my life.

I am what I am. Love is what it is, beyond my reach.

Cooper Hawkes sighed quietly and made his way up to the second floor. Coulthard's office was easily found and after a short, but determined knock, he opened the door.

The young woman behind the desk greeted him with an open smile.

"Captain, what can I do for you?" she inquired and after Hawkes had informed her, she shook her head slightly.

"I am sorry, Sir, but Commodore Coulthard was called away on a family matter. But I'm sure his aide can help you ..."

The comphone beeped only twice before it was answered.

"Yes, Corinne, what is the matter?" the dark-haired woman asked, skimming through the papers on her desk.

"Squadron Leader, Captain Hawkes of the US Marine Corps is here to see Commodore Coulthard, I wonder if you could help him ... "

"Captain Hawkes?" the female officer asked in a shivering voice. But then she controlled herself and said more levelly: "Corinne, send him in ...and I need the agenda of the peace talks."

After she had switched off the comphone, the woman buried her face in her hands.

Cooper, a voice inside her head screamed.

It seemed to be a lifetime since she had seen him last. It had been on the Bacchus, the Aerotech pleasure ship. These few hours with him had been pure bliss and she remembered those moments every hour and every minute of her waking days. The memories had kept her alive during that gruelling time of the POW camp on Icelos.

Inhaling deeply, Megan shuddered, banishing the memories of the POW camp and rubbed her eyes wearily.

She was not prepared for this, she thought. She was not ready to face Cooper and her past. Not now, perhaps not ever. The past and especially the memories of it still haunted her and the effects were still too obvious.

Shaking herself mentally she tried to push the awful memories aside, but try as she might it was impossible.

Next : Part Two of Trials And Tribulations

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