Disclaimer: The characters and situations of 'Space: Above and Beyond' depicted in this story are legal property of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Hard Eight Production and 20th Century Fox Television and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement intended.
This story and all non-canon characters are purely fictional and legal property of the author. This story is not open for distribution or sale in either fanzines, ftp-sites or elsewhere without the permission of the author.
This story was written for the Round2 Project - like a Round Robin the Round2 members write episodes to continue season two. Dilemma is episode 25 of the Round2 series and had to meet several plot points.
PG-13 rated, for war time violence
Comments are welcome at email@example.com/a>
Executive Producer: Tom
"Damnit, Ty, what can I do?" Ross said, his voice loud in the stillness of the room.
Unbidden the events replayed again in Ross's mind. Wayne's voice rising in timbre as it came through the intercom; the sound of glass breaking; coughing and screaming; then the explosion. His frantic run down the corridor to the site of the explosion; being a spectator as damage control doused the fire; watching as McQueen was rushed to sickbay; acknowledging the four body bags that were brought out last.
A loud knock at his door finally penetrated through the dark thoughts.
"Who's at my hatch?" Ross barked as he made a conscious effort to pull himself together.
"OOD, Sir! A message coded 'Your-Eyes-Only' just came through, sir," shouted a voice.
"Enter," Ross said as he turned from the porthole and walked to his desk.
The OOD entered and handed the packet to Ross. Standing at attention, the Ensign waited as Commodore Ross read the orders.
Anger replaced Ross' usual calm countenance as he read the words displayed on his monitor. He waited as the message encrypted itself to diskette. Ejecting the diskette, he turned to the OOD. "No reply, Ensign."
"Yes, sir," said the OOD as he swiftly departed Ross' quarters.
The words from the message were imprinted on Ross' mind. 'Will be arriving in twenty-four hours aboard the Saratoga with remaining Joint Chief, General Jolanta Schultz Meyers, to coordinate new battle plans with recently elected new Joint Chiefs also arriving Saratoga. Prepare cabins and assign security detail. Place remaining 58th members on detached duty until charges can be defined.' Signed, Joint Chief of Earth Forces Admiral Benjamin Holliday Burton.
Damn! Just what I don't need, the Joint Chiefs
meeting on my ship. Don't they understand security has
Bastard's probably planning a surprise attack that'll get us all killed.
Wearily reaching for his guitar, Ross strummed a few chords of blues hoping to calm himself. Resigned to the fact that he had to follow Burton's orders, he opened the channel to the bridge.
"OOD," he said.
"Sir?" replied the disembodied voice.
"Have the CO of the marine security come to my quarters."
"Yes, sir," said the OOD.
Holding Rosalyn in his hands and strumming softly, Ross waited for the commander to arrive. He reverently laid Rosalyn aside when a knock sounded at his door. "Enter."
The burly marine major snapped to attention in front of Ross's desk. "Major Adams, sir. You requested my presence."
"Major, I want you to assign two squads of MP's as security for the Joint Chiefs. Admiral Burton and Marshall Meyers will arrive within twenty-four hours." Watching as Adams balled his fists, Ross narrowed his eyes. "Get it off your chest, Major."
"Sir, we're still sorting through the facts from the explosion. I can't guarantee that the Joint Chiefs weren't targeted for death during the peace negotiations."
Raising an eyebrow in surprise, Ross stood up and leaned across the desk.
"Explain yourself, mister!"
Eyes locked on Ross' face, Adams went to parade rest and said, "Sir, I have reason to suspect that the bomb may have been previously planted in the conference room."
"Sir, the force of the explosion was directed toward the table. That's an indication, to me, that the Joint Chiefs were targeted, sir!"
Anger replaced surprise on Ross' face. "Then I suggest you double the guard on the Joint Chiefs. I will not have a repeat of that disaster on my ship! Is that understood, Major?"
Snapping to full attention and saluting, Adams said, "Sir! Yes, sir!"
"Dismissed, Major. You have your orders." Eyes smoldering, Ross watched as the MP exited before cussing. "Goddamn!" exploded from his mouth.
The red haired woman with emerald eyes, staring out the porthole of the ISSCV as it curved through space headed to the Saratoga, glanced at the screen of her computer. A gray uniform, an insignia of the German Earth Forces over her left breast, denoted the rank of General. Jolanta Schultz Meyers had been elected as one of the Joint Chiefs of the Combined Earth Forces three years previously.
She had a mystical air about her. Even during her military career, she had proven again and again that women were excellent strategists. Meyers had served both in intelligence and on the front line during the AI rebellion of 2033. The medals adorning her chest were testimony to her courage under fire.
Meyers had been dirt side when the Chig ambassador proposed peace. She and Burton had been at the UN building when news of the explosion aboard the Saratoga was sent. It had been her suggestion to depart immediately for the Saratoga and set up a base of operations that would allow the newly elected Chiefs to see for themselves the state of the war.
"Jo, we're on final approach to the 'Toga. Any new strategies show on the computer?" asked Admiral Burton.
"Quite a few actually," she replied. "Surprisingly, the machine has come up with some very interesting counter moves." Tapping the screen, she pointed to one as Burton leaned over. "This one is the most promising. A diversionary attack by the 5th Battle Group to draw the Chigs back from Earth."
"The 5th? Isn't that Logue's group?"
"It was," Meyers replied. "Any idea who's in command now?"
"Haven't heard. I assume that David will fill us in once we see him."
Turning to Meyers, Burton whispered conspiritively into her ear. "Have you heard what he said to Diane Hayden when she congratulated him on his new job?"
Laughing, Meyers nodded her head. Clearing her throat, she lowered her voice and spoke with a heavy Scottish brogue.
"About bloody time!"
"Yes! The man is incorrigible," Burton said. "Also, happens to have one of the finest military minds around."
Nodding, Meyers glanced at Burton. "What's your feeling on things?"
Pursing his lips before answering, Burton paused before answering. "I think we need to regroup. The forces against us are more than we can meet at the present time."
"Ben, we have to attack, now before they realize how weak we are," Meyers insisted.
Gazing at his hands, Burton spoke in a whisper. "We can't, Jo. We have to regroup. We lost too many people at Demios and Ixion. That's why we were so eager to listen to the peace proposal."
Biting back a bitter reply, Meyers glared angrily at Burton. "Ben, the Chigs know how weak we are. We have to do something drastic."
"We'll see. It will be a majority vote between the five of us, Jo." Turning his worried face to hers, he said, "We all have to understand the consequences."
Admiral Benjamin Holliday Burton came from a distinguished Naval family. His great grandfather had been the first Admiral Burton to sat sail in a brigand built in Norfolk, Virginia during the War of 1812. Each conflict, each war, an Admiral Burton had served his country to the best of their ability.
The current Admiral Burton had been elected as one of the Joint Chiefs of Earth Forces five years ago. His career had been spent planning logistics and strategies from either the Pentagon or the UN building. He had never served on the front lines; never been exposed to danger; never issued orders for men to die.
His eyes twitched, and he unconsciously twisted the Annapolis College ring on his finger in agitation. Burton had never wanted a command position. His forte had always been in logistics.
"Ben," asked Meyers, "are you okay?" The concern in her eyes shadowed the doubts that she felt as she watched the obvious display of despair.
Startled, Burton replied, "Certainly."
Nodding toward the hatch as the ISSCV docked, Meyers said. "Then attempt a smile, Ben. At least for the troops."
Embarrassed by her reprimand, Burton waited until the crew chief had passed before answering. "Jo, don't ever lecture me again."
"Admiral Burton," Meyers replied, "I will do everything in my power to win this war. And that includes telling you to smile."
Raising from her seat, Meyers proceeded down the aisle. The cadence of her heels striking the metal was the only outward indication of her anger.
Commodore Ross, dress uniform immaculate, snapped a salute as General Meyers departed the ISSCV. "Welcome aboard the Saratoga, General Meyers," he said.
"Thank you, Commodore," General Meyers replied after returning the salute.
Warily eyeing the two marines that stood to the side, a hint of a smile stretched her lips. "My guards?"
"Yes, ma'am." Motioning the men forward, Ross introduced them. "Lieutenants Mosler and Adams. They will escort you to your cabin and have been ordered to stand guard."
A raised eyebrow was the only indication of surprise that Meyers allowed to show. "I see, Commodore."
"Yes, ma'am," Ross said. "If you will follow the lieutenants, I'll have your gear brought to your cabin."
"Very thoughtful, Commodore." Following the men from the bay, Meyers stopped and turned around. "Have the other Joint Chiefs arrived yet?"
"Yes, ma'am," Ross said. "I've requested that dinner be served in the visitor's mess at 1900 hours."
A smile that touched her emerald eyes split Meyers' face. "Commodore, all that I have heard about you is true. Will you be joining us?"
Standing stiffly, Ross' body language spoke volumes of what he thought of the Joint Chiefs. "No, ma'am."
Pausing, her eyes flashing danger signals, Meyers said, "I see. Then may I offer an invitation?"
"Ma'am," Ross began, "it... Ma'am, is that an order?"
"Do I need to make it an order, Commodore?" asked Meyers.
"Make what an order?" asked Admiral Burton from behind Ross.
Snapping around, Ross saluted. "Sir! Welcome aboard, Admiral."
Returning the salute, Burton glanced at Meyers. "Jo, what order are you talking about?"
"The order for Commodore Ross to join us for dinner."
Puzzled, Burton turned to Ross. "Of course you'll join us, Commodore. We have many things to discuss." Dismissing the subject as closed, Burton continued. "Commodore, is my cabin ready? I would like to rest before dinner."
"These men would show you to your cabin, sir. They have also been assigned as your guard."
"Nonsense, Commodore Ross," Burton said. "I don't need any guards. Why that would be an affront to the soldiers stationed here."
"Sir," Ross said, "we are in the midst..."
"I won't have guards," snapped Burton. Turning to the MP's, he said. "You are dismissed."
"Sir, that isn't..." Ross snapped.
"I said they were dismissed. Just who do you think, Commodore, is giving orders here? You run your ship, I'll take care of the fighting men."
Striding down the corridor, Burton failed to notice the look of anger on Ross' face.
The three new Joint Chiefs were drinking coffee and talking, killing time until Admiral Burton arrived. They had known of each other, but had never been in a position until now that they could share ideas.
General Josef Markovich Gorelko had been in command of the 21st Russian Battle Group, heavy weapons, before being picked by the UN as a Joint Chief. His background had primarily been in logistics, but he had shown unusual determination in his defense of Ryticon (Yankee 1827) when the Chigs attacked. Patterning his defense after the Battle of Stalingrad, Gorelko instructed his men to booby trap their abandoned equipment in hopes that at least some of the Chigs would meet an untimely death.
From shallow camouflaged pits, he and his men waited until the Chigs approached. Defying all odds, they stopped the Chig advance, but the price was costly for a planet that had been catalogued as 'not important' by the UN.
Of his command, seventy-three percent made it back to the 21st Battle Group.
Gorelko learned afterwards that orders to withdraw from the planet, two days prior to the Chig attack, had been sent to the wrong Battle Group.
In his defense of the planet, Gorelko had lost the heavy weapons and twenty-seven percent of his command. His reward, a quick promotion and a place on the Joint Chiefs. The Russian president didn't want questions asked about why the orders had never arrived in time to withdraw.
Admiral Ryoji Yamakawa had just received his posting to the Joint Chiefs. The Japanese imperial house had chosen not because of outstanding merit, but because his family was the most powerful in Japan. Yamakawa was a figure head in uniform, nothing more.
Lieutenant General David Logue was another matter altogether. He had been picked by King William V personally, over four other senior officers. Logue was Scottish, but had received his military training at Sandhurst. He commanded a light infantry division that had seen action during the AI wars and on Demios.
Logue's military career had been exemplary. He had been assigned to a light infantry company where his actions during a particular AI attack had caught the eye of intelligence. He had been reassigned immediately to a joint US and English unit. It was during that time, Logue became friends with Ross and McQueen.
"Good," said Burton. "We're all together. Sit down and let's get started."
Chairs scraped as the Joint Chiefs found seats around the table. Commodore Ross sat between Burton and Meyers. He spent a few moments studying the seated men. Of all the Joint Chiefs, Ross personally knew Logue. The others were unknowns.
"Gentleman," Burton said then nodded to Meyers, "and lady. I've asked Commodore Ross here to give us an update."
"Sirs," Ross began. "As you know we are facing two hive ships that should reach our position within the next forty-eight hours."
"Excuse, please," interrupted Yamakawa. "What is a hive ship?"
A raised eyebrow was Ross' only indication of surprise. "It's the enemy equivalent of our carriers, Admiral, but much larger."
"Yes, I see," replied Yamakawa. "How do you know it's larger?"
"Oh, bloody hell!" Logue said, though it took the others a moment to decipher the heavy Scot's accent. "Man canna you naught keep your bloody stupidity to yaself?"
"General Logue, that's enough!" said Burton.
Impatiently tapping a finger on the table, Logue leaned forward. "The man's a bloody fool! We dinna get here to explain the facts..."
"I said, that's enough!" Slapping the table for emphasis, Burton stared Logue down. "Commodore Ross, continue."
Closing his eyes, trying to regain his composure, Ross paused before he stood and walked over to the map overlay. Picking up a pointer, he said, "Sirs, we are faced with a potential threat to Earth. The Chigs..."
"Were did this information come from, Commodore? I see nothing on the map to indicate that Earth will be attacked." Standing beside Ross, Gorelko peered at the display. "I see nothing indicating that Earth would be the target."
"Sir!" Ross said. "The potential of threat is there. If you look at the vector the ships are using, you will see that..."
"That isn't proof, Commodore. We need proof."
"Are ye all bloody fools?" roared Logue. "Give the man a chance to explain the situation."
Turning around, Gorelko glared at Logue. "I see no reason to trust his information. Especially, since the 58th gave information to the enemy."
Ross stood ramrod straight as he said, "Sir, request permission to be dismissed."
"Commodore Ross, please sit down," Meyers interjected before a fight could ensue. Daring any of the men seated to speak by the simple gesture of a finger against her lips, she continued. "I, for one, understand your concern. I believe that General Logue does, too. Unfortunately, our other members can't seem to grasp the concept that we are at war with a highly technological species."
"I demand to know what is being done with the 58th?" asked Gorelko. "They need to be drummed out of the service."
"The 58th is on light duty, sir," replied Ross in a surprisingly calm voice.
"The need for pilots during the upcoming fight..."
"They committed treason! And that invitro commander of theirs should be tried with them!" yelled Gorelko. "The Chigs aren't massing for an attack. If anything, they are heading away from this solar system."
"Sir! With all due respect, sir, you are a fool!" said Ross as anger got the best of him. Waving his arm toward the map display, he continued. "All you have to do is study the logistics and see that Earth is where the Chigs are headed. We have to stop the advance here, before they reach Earth."
Swearing, Logue physically stepped between Ross and Gorelko. "Glen, sit down, now!"
"Sir!" said Ross as he walked back to his seat.
Hands on his hips, Logue glared at Gorelko and said, "You are a bloody idiot and a fool." Each word was punctuated by a tap of his foot, and the Scottish accent had entirely disappeared. "How the hell you got elected is beyond me. Have you no eyes to see that Glen is telling the truth. If we don't counter attack now, the initiative is lost."
"Why attack?" asked Admiral Burton. "I see no reason to attack until intelligence can assure me that Earth is a target."
Turning, Logue said, "No reason? For God's sake!" The look of astonishment on his face spoke volumes of the contempt he felt for the others. "Don't you realize that the Chigs are determined to attack? The peace negotiation was nothing but a red herring."
Admiral Yamakawa spoke into the silence. "We must decide. I vote for waiting."
"I agree," said Gorelko.
"Agree," replied Burton.
"Don't you fools hear what you're saying?" asked Logue, red faced with rage. "Don't you think the Chigs will take this opportunity to attack?"
"General, it's a majority vote. We wait," replied Burton. Turning, he addressed Ross. "Commodore, I'm making the Saratoga our flagship while we are here. I see no reason to switch to another ship."
Stunned, Ross said, "Sir."
Looking at the assembled Joint Chiefs, Burton dropped the next bombshell.
"We need to convene a military tribunal. I suggest that since the 58th is a Marine squadron, myself and Admiral Yamakawa act as judicial panel. We'll vote on the third judge or one of you may volunteer."
"What!" shouted Logue. "You don't know the first thing about the circumstances."
"Sir!" Ross said, "I protest!"
"Gentlemen," shouted Burton into the chaos, "that is enough! The 58th and Colonel McQueen will answer charges of treason. Cowardice in wartime will not be tolerated."
Ross' face drained of blood. The ramifications of the outcome of the tribunal was not lost on him. If the 58th was found guilty of treason, McQueen and the kids would be executed.
"Commodore Ross, I understand that you are looking for the members of the 58th that aren't aboard ship. Have they been found?"
Shaking his head, Ross cleared his throat before answering Burton. "Not yet, sir," he managed through dry lips. "Though we believe that Captain Vansen and Lieutenant Damphousse stood a good chance of surviving the crash."
"General Burton, I wish to be included on the panel," General Meyer said.
"Thank you, Jo. As soon as the other members are retrieved and Colonel McQueen is returned to the Saratoga, we'll convene the tribunal. Anything else?"
"Excuse, please," replied Yamakawa.
"Should we not invite Secretary General Hayden and the press to attend the trial?"
"Excellent suggestion," Burton answered. "Commodore, send messages and issue the invitation." Twisting the ring on his hand, he added. "Have Colonel McQueen recalled. I believe he was sent to Bethesda Naval Hospital."
Ross couldn't fathom what was happening. "The man is wounded, sir. He can't be moved."
Frowning, Burton narrowed his eyes. "That was an order, Commodore. Colonel McQueen is as guilty if not more so than the 58th of treason. I have a problem with the report of what happened during the negotiations. McQueen better provide the answers."
Lips tightly pursued together, Ross nodded.
"Commodore, you're dismissed." Waiting until Ross left, Burton said, "David, I won't put up with your attitude. Either accept your position or put in for a transfer."
Anger clearly etched into his features, Logue stood. "I'll bloody accept. Someone has to protect the soldiers from your decisions."
Standing, Burton nodded, then said. "Majority rules here, David. We have to work within that framework."
"Ben, drop it. Both David and I understand that you are senior officer. We will follow orders until we can prove that the orders are detrimental to lives."
Nodding, Burton replied, "Good. Now, gentlemen, I suggest that we find our cabins and get some rest. We have a lot of work to go over before the tribunal. Jo, I'd like to see you after the others leave."
"Certainly, Admiral," Meyers said as she sat back down.
Pacing the room, Burton stopped beside Meyers. "Jo, why did you volunteer for the tribunal?"
With a smug smile on her face, Meyers rose and stared into Burton's face. "To make sure that the 58th gets justice."
Shocked at her implications, Burton could only stare at her back as she exited the room. Unconsciously, he twisted the ring on his hand.