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. Survival is episode 26 of the Round2 series and had to meet several plot points.

PG-13 rated, for war time violence

Comments are welcome at Werrf@aol.com

Episode 26


Writer: Werrf
Beta: Mary
Producer: Mary
Executive Producer: Tom

Captain Shane Vansen of the USMC crouched behind a rock to catch her breath. The atmosphere of 2063 Yankee had a decided shortage of oxygen. She guessed that no more than fifteen or twenty percent of the air she sucked into her lungs was oxygen.

Her M-590 was heavy in her hands as she scanned the horizon with her night vision goggles. 2063Y's thick cloud cover meant that the noon sky was no brighter than a cloudy twilight. At night, it was totally black. Even with her NVG's at their highest sensitivity, she had to strain her eyes to make anything out in the green haze.

Damphousse dropped into a crouch next to her. The other woman's face looked almost alien, her dark skin a strange shade of moss-green, the goggles over her eyes making her look like something from a 1990's science-fiction show.

"This is ridiculous, Shane," Damphousse hissed. "We can't go on, it's getting too dark. We could walk over a Chig and not even know they were there."

Damphousse was right, of course. In the last thirty-six hours, they'd marched at least twenty klicks from the ISSAPC's crash site, stopping once for a four-hour rest. Vansen wouldn't begin to feel safe until there were at least another thirty klicks between them and the wreckage, but at the same time they couldn't push themselves so hard that they collapsed with exhaustion.

"Okay, 'Phousse," she replied wearily. "Start keeping an eye out for a good spot to lay up."

"We passed a cave about half a klick back," the other woman replied. "It looked pretty deep to me, we could…"

Vansen nodded. She had to admit, she was feeling the miles, too.

"You're in the lead," Vansen said.

Damphousse nodded her acknowledgement and started to pick a careful path back the way they had come. Vansen followed her as far back as she dared – about twenty metres. Any further and she was sure she'd lose sight of her friend in the green haze. She gripped the stock of her bulky M-590 rifle and tried to concentrate on not making any noise.

The night was filled with strange noises. 2063 was, according to what little research had been done on the planet, devoid of animal life. That didn't stop what sounded for all the world like animal noises coming from all directions. Just an hour ago – or was it two? – she could've sworn she'd heard an elephant trumpeting nearby. Ten minutes of listening had failed to produce any repeat of the sound…leading her to wonder if she was in fact going quietly insane.

Up ahead of her, Damphousse reached a rock wall and crouched next to a narrow spot that, despite the NVG's, was totally, completely black. Vansen carefully made her way over to crouch next to Damphousse.

"Here is it, Captain," Damphousse said, rather unnecessarily, Vansen thought but didn't say. The Captain tried to peer in, but it was pointless. The cave was totally black. She tried to hide her shudder, but she couldn't pretend that her deep-seated fear of the dark didn't exist.

Out of the corner of her eye, Vansen saw Damphousse reaching for a flare.

"What're you doing?" she hissed.

"We can't go in blind, Shane," Damphousse argued. "There could be a Chig platoon in there."

Although the thought of light was definitely appealing, Vansen forced herself to be practical.

"'Phousse, if we light off a flare, every Chig for fifty miles is going to be in there."

"Well we've got to do something!" she whispered fiercely. After a few moments though, Vansen reached up to her adjust her goggles.

"Turn your goggles right down," she ordered. She turned the dial on the side of her goggles until all she could see was black. Suppressing the urge to scream, and dialling down her desire to vomit, she fumbled for the switch on top of her headset.

"Let there be light," she murmured, then flicked the switch on. Immediately, her vision was filled with green, as an infra-red torch flicked on, illuminating the scene before her. It was a better alternative than a flare, since only an enemy with IR goggles would see it – the intelligence division had decided that Chigs couldn't see infra-red, and didn't often use IR sensitive headgear, so the Marines had to believe them.

Vansen blinked several times as her eyes adjusted to the new picture, then she examined the cave in front of her.

"Thanks for the warning, Shane," Damphousse complained. Not knowing what to expect, the sudden illumination had taken her by surprise.

Vansen shrugged her apology, then slowly stepped into the cave. The first few metres were narrow, barely wide enough for one person to get through, then it opened into a decent-sized chamber. At least, the Marine Captain thought as she surveyed the room, it would be easy to defend.

'Phousse stumbled in behind her Captain. She glanced quickly around the cave, then sank wearily to the floor, fumbling with the straps of her bergen. Vansen squatted down beside her.

"How's the head?" she asked. Damphousse had been unconscious during the APC's wild descent into the atmosphere of 2063 Yankee, and Vansen had been torn between escaping from the crash site and letting her friend rest. On Vanessa's insistence, they'd moved out, but the punishing journey and thin air couldn't be helping.

"Oh, it's not bad," she replied, lying. Vansen could hear it in her voice.

"Get some rest," she ordered. "I'll get the screen set up."

Vanessa nodded and rested her head gingerly on her bergen. Twenty seconds later, a division of Chigs marching through couldn't have woken her.

Eighteen hours later, twilight spread across the landscape of 2063 Yankee. Shane crouched in the mouth of the cave and watched as the desolated landscape was slowly lit up – if you could call it light.

If you could call it a landscape.

Plains of barren rock stretched out as far as the eye could see – which, under the dim green light, wasn't very far. Here and there were small mounds of gravel, some only a couple of feet high, some as high as thirty feet, deposited by goodness knows what. The cave she crouched in, she now knew, was dug into the side of a small cliff at the base of a range of mountains. This planet may not be pretty, she decided, but it was surely a geologists dreamworld.

She checked her watch. There was just enough light for her to see that she'd been asleep for eighteen hours. Two full days since the crash. Nathan, Cooper and Paul were probably begging McQueen to let them go out to search for their comrades.

Behind her, Damphousse stepped around the black screen that had shielded them from detection as they slept and walked out to join her friend.

"Reminds me of Mars…" she said quietly. Shane nodded.

"Only not as pretty." She turned and squinted at 'Phousse's injury in the dim light. "How's the head?"

"Fine," the Lieutenant replied. "It's only a scratch, anyway."

"Can you think straight enough to set up the radio?"

"I'm fine, Shane. Really."

"Okay. Get the radio set up as soon as possible."

Vanessa nodded her compliance. "Ten minutes." She headed back into the cave to find the small satellite radio that had been stored in the ISSAPC's cockpit.


On the bridge of the USS Saratoga, Lieutenant Mike Jenkins was bored. It wasn't a good condition for the chief of communications aboard a US Navy supercarrier, but communications duty did that to you – especially when the fleet was under Emissions Control – not broadcasting any signals, lidar turned off, communications silent, so as not to inform the enemy of their location. He often wondered what was the point of EMCON these days, when Chig Lidar had been known to locate, track and guide missiles to destroy a hammerhead over 500 MSK's away, but you couldn't expect the military to change its spots overnight, and EMCON was what you did under these circumstances.

He looked around to see if there was anyone he could shout at to alleviate the boredom, but even that relief was denied him – everyone under his command was doing their jobs quietly, carefully and busily, under the approving eye of the Commodore – and you don't yell at someone the Commodore approved of.

As a last resort, he began fiddling with the reception gear, hunting through the frequencies. Maybe he could find an old radio show to listen to.

As he twiddled the controls, something caught his attention.

"...peat - s Queen of H - s - t - toga battlegroup -."

He frowned and fiddled with the controls a bit more. Without turning, he called: "Commodore! I'm picking up a friendly transmission…I think it's from the Wildcards…"

Ross was next to the Lieutenant in precisely 1.43 seconds.

"Lemme hear it," he ordered.

"It's very weak sir…I'll try to clear it up for you." With that, he began spinning dials and flipping switches, totally unaware that his boredom had vanished.

Commodore Ross stood over the young Lieutenant and watched him work with slowly increasing impatience. But he couldn't yell at him – the youth was clearly doing the best job he could under the circumstances, working hard against inexperience. So he just stood there, hands on hips, and watched.

After a full minute of switch-flipping, Jenkins turned to his CO.

"I've got it back, sir," he reported.

"Let's hear it."

On the command, Jenkins switched the transmission to a small speaker in the panel. For a few seconds there was silence, then it came through, loud and clear:

"This is Queen of Hearts to Saratoga battlegroup."

Everyone within earshot let out a cheer when they heard that. Even the Commodore, normally steadfast in front of his people, sagged slightly with relief.

"…requesting extraction at reference Charlie Hotel Lima Mike. Out."

The Lieutenant looked up at his commander. "Permission to respond, sir?"

Instantly the smile that had grown on Ross's face vanished.

"Permission denied. We're at EMCON, Lieutenant."

"But sir…"

"But nothing! I will not advertise our location to every Chig ship in the sector. Send a tight-beam transmission to the Berlin requesting they send an extraction team."

"Yes, sir!" the Lieutenant replied, turning back to his panel and working away madly. Ross strode back to the centre of the bridge and looked around. Suddenly everyone was working hard again – there was a sense of urgency in everyone. The Wildcards were alive. They needed the Saratoga's help. And even if the 'Toga couldn't fly out and rescue them herself, they were going to do their jobs and hopefully, they all believed, help the 'Cards just a little bit themselves.

"Is it even getting through?" Damphousse asked her superior.

"No way to tell. If the fleet's under EMCON, they won't respond anyway."

"Is the radio even working?" she asked acidly, earning a glare from Shane.

"This isn't Demios, Vanessa," the Captain replied. She quickly disassembled the radio and packed it into her bergen, then stood.

"Come on. We've got to get moving." She pulled her bergen onto her shoulders and started walking in the dim light.

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