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Disclaimer See chapter 1
Notes: This is still the same story I wrote five years ago. I'm editing within an inch of its life and doing some rewriting, but the basics are the same. One of the big changes is some of the chapters have new names and breaking them up into bite sized pieces.
Rating: PG-13
Previous chapters and sections: Ch 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part I; Ch 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part II


The Moving Finger Writes


by

Lattelady

Ch 2 - The Cost Of Honor

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The Saratoga November 1, 2063

Twice during the night Com. Joan Brill heard Dr. Kirkwood call out in her sleep. The first time she went to check on her patient, she was surprised to find Col. McQueen still sitting by the bedside. The rulebook said she should send him on his way but when she saw the usually gruff, with-drawn man calm the restless woman with quietly whispered words, she hung back and observed in wonder.

“I’d never harm her, Commander.” McQueen looked up and caught Joan silently watching him from the door.

“I never thought you would,” Joan’s voice was husky with unexpected emotions. The Major’s unusual body language touched her on levels she hadn’t had time to examine. “But it’s my job to check on her. I was surprised to see you still here.”

“I owe a debt.” He looked embarrassed for a moment, before his face closed down, becoming grim and serious. “Maybe this will be a partial down payment.”

“You owe me a drink for letting you stay.” The Commander’s eyes sparkled. McQueen’s gentle care of her patient was something she wouldn’t have believed if she hadn’t seen it. “And none of that rot gut they serve in the Tun Tavern. If I’ve learned anything in my 20 years in the Navy, it’s that any Marine worth his salt has a bottle of good scotch stashed away somewhere.”

“Well, never let it be said that I’m not worth my salt. You name the time and the place.” He gave her one of his half-smiles as he turned back to his real concern.

“Col. McQueen,” Brill reached for his arm, her natural inclination was to touch, but she stopped short, realizing he was a man who guarded his personal space. “Be out before change of shift.”

“No one will know I was here,” he whispered as he returned to guard the sleeping woman. He was as concerned about Jen’s reputation as the nurse was.

Joan shook her head. 'I think the only thing that is important is that Dr. Kirkwood knows you’re here, bucko,' she thought as she checked on her other patients. She would give a month’s ration points to learn the back-story on that one.

McQueen made good on his promise. The Commander never heard or saw him again that night. One minute all was quiet, as she did her rounds, the next, she heard water running and movement in Kirkwood’s bay. It was her only clue that he must have gone.

“Up a little early aren’t you, Doctor?” Joan asked as she entered the small single room where Jen was leaning against the tiny sink washing her face. “How did you sleep?”

“I had a few nightmares, but nothing I couldn’t handle.” She avoided the Commander’s steady gaze and refused to admit how much a certain solemn, silver-haired Colonel’s presence had contributed to her ability to sleep.

“How’s your head doing?” Brill was fascinated by the woman standing in front of her wearing a hospital gown, short curly hair that looked as if someone had taken a hatchet to it and a small gold rope bracelet on her left wrist. ‘There was more than meets the eye to this one.’

“Much better, but I hurt in places the medical texts never mentioned,” Jen groaned as she stretched. “How are my patients doing?”

“The General was restless during the night, but everyone else slept well. There’s a Red Cross transport due in today. It’s taking wounded to the Clara Barton. As of last night, the General and three of the others were slated to be on it.” She didn’t miss the proprietary way the doctor had spoken of the men with whom she’d been stranded.

“I want to see them before they go.” She stated briskly. “Sorry, Commander,” Jenny looked sheepish, as she realized how rude it was giving orders to the nurse when technically she was a patient. “I guess you can take the patients away from the doctor, but you can’t take the doctor away from the patients.”

“After what your group went through, I understand how it might be hard to let go.” Joan smiled back. “But for now, you need to get into that bed. Pull up something to read, if you like, on the console to your left, but rest a bit more. Breakfast will be brought around in 30 mikes and the Doc’s will be doing rounds not long after that. Commodore Ross left a message that he’ll be in to speak with you at 1100 hours.” She helped Jen back to bed, and then took her through the commands to pull up the ship’s library before she left.

Some of what Joan had heard and seen in the last twelve hours was beginning to make sense. Every time she had spoken to any of the men from Kordis, they had a new story to tell of the Lady-Doc and how she had kept them all alive for almost four weeks. The men particularly liked to tell of the tales that Kirkwood had told them to keep them occupied. They were daring adventures about a Marine pilot who they all referred to as The Major. McQueen’s presence in sickbay, last night, made sense, if her line of thinking was correct. She bit her lip to keep from sighing, 'This can only end badly for the little Doc,' she thought.
.........................................

“Are you up for some visitors?” A short, dark-haired female Marine stuck her head in Jenny’s room.

“Do I know you?” She had finished eating breakfast moments earlier and pushed her tray-table to the side, sitting up straighter. The woman looked familiar, but she couldn’t place her.

“Sorry, Doc, I’m Lt. Shane Vansen and we’re the Wildcards.” She indicated, as she introduced them. “This is Lt. Vanessa Damphousse, Lt. Paul Wang, Lt. Cooper Hawkes and Lt. Nathan West.” Each nodded and smiled as their name was mentioned. “We helped extract you from Kordis yesterday and wanted to see how you were doing?”

“Please, come in.” She welcomed the company, even if it came in a crowd. “Thank you again for what you did. I’m not sure how much longer we could have survived.” She bit her lip and refused to be haunted by what could have happened. Reality was difficult enough to deal with.

“No problem, Ma’am. We were glad to help.” Wang smiled.

“We come with gifts,” ‘Phousse added as she held out a black Saratoga coffee mug that she had been hiding behind Cooper.

“Well, then definitely come in.” She could smell coffee from three feet away. “Is that what I think it is?”

“Here you go Ma’am,” Vanessa handed the mug to Jen and grinned as she watched the doctor curl both hands around it, inhaling the aroma, before she took a sip. She appeared to be enjoying it with all of her senses.

“How? How did you know?” Jenny took another swallow. They had all missed coffee on Kordis, but this was the closest to cappuccino she’d had in months! She could even taste a slight hit of nutmeg.

“We can’t take the credit for it, Ma’am,” Wang replied. “We ran into Col. McQueen as we were leaving the Mess. He commented that the coffee was bad down here, during his last stay, and suggested, since he didn’t have time to drink his, and we were headed this way, we might see if someone wanted it.”

“Oh…” Suddenly she was back three years, tumbling to the sand after a forty minute run to work-off indignant anger. Ty had been waiting for her with a cup of cappuccino in one hand and her windbreaker in the other.

The Doctor had stopped speaking in the middle of a thought. Her eyes had a faraway look and her lips curved up into a tiny smile. “Ma’am, are you all right.” Shane reached over and touched her shoulder.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to let my mind wander.” She shook her head unable to look the young men and women in the eyes. “Please give the Maj—the Colonel my thanks.” She had introduced him to the espresso and milk drink. It gave her a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach to know he still drank it.

“Sure will Ma’am. You really like that stuff?” Cooper was bemused, but there was no accounting for taste. “All the ‘Toga’s got is powdered milk. Seems like a good reason to take it black to me.”

“After what I’ve been drinking for the last three months, this is just fine.” She grinned at him. “Besides it reminds me of home,” her voice cracked with longing.

“Well…ah…in that case, there’re a couple of Tanks that work in the Mess. They make it special for the Colonel. I could....” Hawkes wanted to make a good impression on the woman who had done so much for in-vitros. He was surprised when her mug hit her table with a thud and she glared at him with cold eyes.

“No one, Lieutenant...” She looked on his shirt to verify his name, “Hawkes. No one uses that expression in front of me! The word is in-vitro, not tank. In-vitro, if you must make a distinction at all? Got that?” Her eyes were laser sharp as she looked into his.

“But Ma’am...” Coop was caught out of his depth. He had never run into a natural-born that was so passionate about the issue, unless they were chasing him with a rope.

“Excuse me, Dr. Kirkwood,” Nathan cut in. “Hawkes is in-vitro.”

“All the more reason you shouldn’t use that degrading term, Lieutenant.” Her voice softened as she motioned the big Marine to her side. “That’s one of the many ways people use to control you. If you think of yourself as less, how can you possibly expect others to think of you as an equal? It’s bad enough that they take away your heritage.” She shook her head. “Please, don’t get me started on this issue. I’ll talk your ears off.” Jenny picked up her almost-cappuccino and savored the flavor.

“Would you autograph this?” Nathan West stepped forward, holding his copy of The In-Vitro Chronicles. “I never heard you speak, but we were at the Rights rally in Houston. You had been slated to be there, but were scratched at the last minute due to illness.

She held the book tightly in one hand. Her other hand moved to the back of her neck to cover her scar. She hadn’t been sick. She had been mugged just hours before she was to speak at the rally. It was a relief to know that it wasn't general knowledge.

“You really want me to sign this?” She blushed.

“Sure do, Doc. You’re a part of history.” Nathan smiled at the woman whose book was having such an impact on so many lives.

“That’s not why I wrote it,” Jenny protested. “It was something that needed to be written, that’s all. It was never meant to be about me. It was only to be a small book that told in-vitros where they came from. Something to give them a reason to feel proud about their century old heritage...” She ran out of steam as she faced the grinning Marines.

“Well it did all that, and more.” ‘Phousse smiled at the woman who had unwittingly caused sweeping social changes. “After Diane Hayden was elected Secretary General, she quoted your book on the Floor of The World Council, squelching once and for all any attempt to bring back indentured servitude.”

“I didn’t realize how out of touch I’ve been. I wasn't even sure who won the election. I‘ve been on Kordis for the last three months.” She shook her head at all that had happened. “Do I make this out to you, Nathan?” She indicated the book in her hand.

“Could you sign it to....Kylen and Nathan?” A silence fell over the room at West’s request. Jen didn’t miss the tension as she quickly wrote on the inner flyleaf and then handed it back to him.

“Thanks...” He read the inscription and caught his breath. ‘To Kylen & Nathan: always believe, it is what gives us our future in uncertain times, Jenny Kirkwood.’ “Thanks Ma’am, will you excuse me?” He left quietly with the book in hand.

“What did I do wrong?” Jen addressed the rest of the 58th.

“You did something very right, Doctor,” Vanessa Damphousse stepped toward the bed. She had seen the inscription in the book. “Nathan’s fiancée, Kylen was on the Tellus Mission. He was supposed to be there, too, but, well it’s a long story.”

“Does he know if she’s alive?”

“He believes she is. We believe she is.” The four young people shook their heads in agreement as Vanessa spoke.

“Why don’t you guys head back,” Vansen indicated to Wang and Hawkes to break the silence “’Phousse and I’ll follow shortly.”

After the men had said their good-byes, Shane stepped toward the woman in the hospital bed. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, Dr. Kirkwood.” She reached into her sleeve pocket. “I cut my own hair, ‘Phousse’s, and a few others. I couldn’t help noticing yesterday....?” Her voice subsided as she pulled out a pair of short sharp scissors.

“You think I need it evened out a bit?” Jen chuckled. She had dreaded facing Commodore Ross looking as if her hair had been through a meat grinder. “I’m a good surgeon, but cutting hair just isn’t the same. I was trying to figure out if I could get down to the ship’s barber and not be missed.”

“Don’t go there unless you want a buzz cut.” Both of her visitors said at the same time, causing all three women to laugh as they helped Jen to a chair and wrapped a blanket around her.

“It’s really not as bad as it could be.” Shane ran her hands through the uneven curls. “What did you use on it, bandage scissors?”

“No, they aren’t sharp enough. Actually it was a K-bar,” she admitted shyly.

“In that case you did a great job....” ‘Phousse chuckled until she saw a dark look come over Shane and the room became deathly quiet.

“I forgot to worn you…” Jenny froze as she realized that Vansen and Damphousse were staring at the back of her neck. “Look guys it’s just a...”

“It’s a burn scar.” She felt Shane’s rage. “And not that old of one either. How in the hell did that happen?”

“It’s nothing, really,” Kirkwood denied.

“It looks like something from where I’m standing! Did one of those men on Kordis hurt you, Ma’am?”

“No, no,” she protested. “They would never harm me in any way.” She thought for a moment, but didn’t see an alternative to the truth. “I’ll tell you, but it isn’t to go any further and that’s an order,” Jen spoke with authority, reminding the Marines that despite her disheveled appearance, she was still military.

“Yes, Ma’am,” they both answered.

“Your hair’s a bit short in the back. Part of that scar is going to show,” Shane warned.

“Just do the best you can, please. I’ll deal with any questions, if they should arise.” Jenny turned in the chair, gathering courage to talk about what had happened.

She relaxed as she felt Vansen run her hands through her hair and heard the quiet snipping of scissors. Both Marines were waiting uneasily for her explanation.

“Ok...it was at the rally that Lt. West was talking about.......The one where I was to speak.......Then became too ‘sick’ to attend.....” Jenny talked in fits and starts. She had told most of the story to one other person. His anger had been so great that he had cut himself off from her, convinced that he held part of the blame. “There were five of them......I fought......ended up with some broken ribs and a broken wrist.........One of them decided......He decided that since I was in favor of in-vitros, that they would give me a navel on the back of my neck. The one who did it was a cigar smoker; I could smell it on him. That's what they used.”

“My God!” ‘Phousse was shocked.

“Did they ever catch the bastards?” Shane stopped cutting and gripped Jenny’s shoulder.

“No, they didn’t, but it could have been worse.” She swallowed bile as she thought about what they would have done to her. That part she hadn’t told anyone else. At the hospital in Houston, Ty’s rage had been so intense; she hadn’t dared say anything.

It felt good to be able to talk to these women and Jen was surprised how much she needed to verbalize what had happened. “They had started to...to tear at my blouse, when Cigarman, decided it would be cute to brand me first. It saved me, really it did. They couldn’t hold me down and keep my mouth covered. My screams were heard and they were scared off.”

“Why the hell weren’t they caught?” Shane’s hand began to shake and she didn’t understand why. She was fully aware of the prejudice that existed against in-vitros and that it was even worse for natural born women who sided with them. But this attack made it personal in a way that didn’t make sense.

“It was dark, and they wore ski masks....Look it was months ago...The burn had to heal in order to get optimal results from plastic surgery, but war broke out. And well, I just didn’t want to deal with it. It cost me too much.” She was shaken and needed badly to change the subject. “How’s the hair coming along?”

“Take a look for yourself.” Vansen helped Jen over to the mirror above the sink.

“You did a great job, thanks!” She smiled at her reflection, and then turned to the women who were watching her. “You’re right, the scar isn’t covered completely. If you should hear any talk, or questions, please, say you heard I received the injury when the ISSCV crashed four weeks ago.”

“You gave us an order, Ma’am, we’ll follow it.” Shane’s features had closed down and she looked as if she was about to do battle.

“Lt. Vansen, you and I know there are ways around that. I may be Navy Medical Corps, but I wasn't born yesterday. It’s not for me that I’m asking this.” The stuttering frightened woman of a few moments ago was replaced by a commanding personality. “I’m not the only Movement supporter this has happened to. One hears rumors all the time. In the few cases where it was verified, it caused a polarization of factions and violence broke out. The Movement is a peaceful one. Violence only detracts from the real issues and, in many cases, serves to remove any progress that is being made. This is a ship of over 5,000 people and I refuse to be the cause of harm to anyone, on either side of the issue.”

“Point taken, Dr. Kirkwood,” Vanessa stepped forward and touched her shoulder. “Your secret is safe with us?”

“Thank you very much, not only for the haircut, but also for listening. I didn’t realize how much I missed the company of women.”

“Anytime, Ma’am.” Shane smiled and meant it. “We need to be getting back. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you.
.........................................

Jenny looked at her watch. It was only 0930 and she was getting restless. Dr. Chico Voss had been in shortly after her visit from the Wildcards. She had enjoyed the ‘Card’s visit far more than his. He had been short tempered, bordering on rude. Although he hadn’t said when she was getting out of Sickbay, he had extended her ambulation privileges so she was free to move about and visit the men who had been her patients.

Reaching for the gear bag she had always worn when in the field, and pulling a hospital robe over her gown, she headed out to see General Savage. She had something she had to give him before he was evacuated to the Clara Barton.

“General?” She knocked quietly on the door of his room. “It’s Dr. Kirkwood, may I come in?”

“Come,” he called out

She moved to the bed where he was propped up. He was still pale, but there was no sign of fever. “How are you feeling today?” She automatically reached for his wrist and took his pulse.

“I’m doing much better, young lady. I owe you for my life and for the lives of the men who were with us.” A stark white dressing hid his left shoulder and what was left of his upper arm, making the big man look even bigger.

“Not for all of them.” She bit her lip as she remembered the three who had survived the crash, but she had been unable to save in the days that followed.

“Lady-Doc, you did all you could do. By rights we should be dead.”

“But…”

“Don’t argue with me.” He frowned, her skin had faded to parchment, it made her freckles stand out and her gray eyes appear almost black. “You’re looking paler than I remembered. Since they didn’t give me a chair, come up here with me, Doctor.” Savage reached with his good right arm and took her weight as she maneuvered to sit facing him on a bed that was higher than her waist.

“That’s better, now I don’t have to worry about you passing out.” He smiled at her.

“The only reason you think my coloring is off is that you’re used to seeing me with a dirt smudged face. I’m fine, just fine.”

“You can’t lie for shit, Lady-Doc. You’re being eaten by guilt for things that were beyond your control. You did your best, and at times more than your best.” He indicated his left shoulder. “That’s more than anyone could have asked. You’ve got dark circles under your eyes and a haggard expression to prove it.”

“General, it’s hard, knowing how different things could have been if my working conditions hadn’t been so primitive.” She raised a hand helplessly pointing where his missing arm should have been. “I am so sorry for having to do that the way it was done.”

“Jenny,” he gripped her hand in his. “It saved my life. The doctors tell me the flap is healing nicely and I’ll be able to be fitted with a prosthesis when I get back to Earth. It won’t be one of the new ones, using AI circuitry, but I fought those bastards in the last war and I’m not so sure I want one anyway.”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.” She looked at him under her lashes unsure where the truth lay.

“I thought you knew me better than that, Doctor.” He raised his brow and gave her a stern look. “When you have doubts about what happened, think how different things would have been, if you’d had nothing to work with at all, or even worse, if you hadn’t survived the crash. We all would have died. ‘The past is the past and can’t be changed; we can only change how we let it affect our future.’” He grinned at her as he quoted from The In-Vitro Chronicles.

Recognizing her own words, she blushed. “I hadn’t realized you had read it, Sir.”

“I may not always agree with your politics. But I am not a man who restricts his reading to one side of an issue, my dear.”

The door opened as they were talking and Commodore Ross and Col. McQueen arrived for their meeting with the General. “Sorry to interrupt you Frank,” Ross called out. “I’d like you to meet Lt. Col. McQueen. He is the man I mentioned when we talked earlier.”

“Colonel,” Savage acknowledged the introduction.

“Sir,” McQueen’s response was respectful, but coolly crisp.

“It’s no interruption, Glen. This is Dr. Kirkwood. I was telling you about her last night.” A significant look passed between the two high ranking officers that Jenny missed and McQueen didn’t like.

Standing with his back to the closed door, something sharp gnawed at McQueen’s insides. He had heard the gentle endearment the General had used toward Jen and she was sitting on his bed and holding his hand. Had she changed over the years? Was she the type to be casual about a strange man’s bed? But then Savage wasn’t a stranger. They’d been stationed together for three months. He didn’t like where his mind was going, so he clamped down on it. ‘Bury it,’ he thought to himself. ‘This is not productive thinking. Besides, it’s none of my business.’ The winter chill in his eyes was the only clue that all was not well in Tyrus Cassius McQueen’s world.

“I should be going.” Jenny slid down from Savage’s bed. McQueen was concentrating on a spot above her head as if she wasn’t in the room. Where had the man gone who had helped chase away her nightmares? She knew she had moved too quickly when black spots swam in front of her eyes and her legs felt like jelly, causing her to grip the tray-table to regain her balance and pride.

“Dr. Kirkwood?” Ross moved to her side. She had blanched as her feet hit the deck.

“I’m all right, Commodore.” She held up her hand to ward him off, determined to stay upright. “It was just a touch of dizziness, but it’s gone now.” She shook her head to clear away the last of the vertigo and took another deep breath as she squared her shoulders to prove her point.

“I stopped by to assure myself that you were all right and to give you these before you’re shipped out for the Clara.” She reached in her gear bag and opened the false bottom.” I believe they belong to you.” She handed him his flight wings. “General, I’m very glad to be returning them, instead of sending them to Commodore Ross, so he could give them to your wife as a memorial. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave you to your meeting.”

She walked quietly out of the room; back straight, head high, refusing to look to the right or the left. The only outward sign of nerves was her right hand fumbling with the bracelet on her left wrist. Her dignified exit caused her to miss McQueen’s eyes softening momentarily, as they followed her departure.

“Your wife, Frank, what’s going on here?” Ross’ eyebrows shot up. He knew his friend had been divorced for years. His ex-wife hated the Air Force and would have probably destroyed the antique wings.

“This,” Savage handed the wings to Ross. “Look on the back. Under the clasp, there’s a small hidden compartment.” Ross followed Savage’s instructions, and a tiny data chip fell into his hand.

“Well I’ll be damned. So that’s why you were so frantic to locate them last night.” He laughed. “The Doctor was too out of it to be questioned. Whoever checked her belongings is going to find himself reassigned from security to KP for a good long while.” The Commodore declared.

“Don’t be too rough on your man, Glen. Jenny Kirkwood is a remarkable woman. She wore that bag, even when she slept. Not that I saw her doing much of that.” He frowned when he remembered how difficult those four weeks had been for the doctor. “The data chip was safer with her than it was with me. I’d bet a year’s credits she realized there was more to my wings than sentiment. When I realized how sick I was, I gave them to Lady-Doc to keep in case I didn’t make it. I told her to be sure to get them to you, with special instructions to send them on to my wife. I figured any mention of Marilyn would be a red flag and cause you to take a closer look.”

“Speaking of Dr. Kirkwood, I made some careful inquires as requested. I brought Col. McQueen along, because he came to me with further information that may be of interest to you.”

“I’d like to get her settled before I’m shipped out. I owe her my life and want to make sure she is safe. Until I can get this chip analyzed by a specialist in DC, I won’t know if we’re worrying unnecessarily about...well her security...among other things.”

“From what I can gather, we’re not.” Ross frowned. “I tapped into my source in the Joint Chiefs’ office. It wasn’t what I’d hoped.” The Commodore knew Savage wasn’t going to like what he was going to tell him. “According to my man, no one knows where the pressure is coming from, but the gist of it is that Dr. Jennifer Kirkwood is to be assigned to a ‘very forward’ unit for the duration.”

“I was afraid of that.” Frank nodded in frustration. “That was about the response I got when I tried to get her transferred off Kordis. I pushed harder and then we got so busy trying to keep the Chigs off our backs, it became a moot point. What is it that you can add to all of this, Colonel?”

“I talked to the doctor late last night, Sir.” McQueen proceeded carefully, not wanting to compromise Jen in any way. He told Savage the story that she had told him, about the defense of in-vitros after Chartwell was killed, and the subsequent closing of the Facility, and all five doctors being shipped out.

“Sir,” he turned to Ross. “Could your source find out where the other four doctors who ran The In-Vitro Health Facility are posted?”

“I’ll handle that from Earth, Colonel,” Savage cut in. “It’ll be easier from there, and given my political leanings, there is less chance that I’ll raise any red flags. Until we get this resolved, Glen, can you keep her here?”

“I’d be glad to. We’re always short staffed in Sickbay.”

“We’ll need more than that, if we’re to cover her six and yours.” Savage looked thoughtful.

“What did you have in mind?”

“We need to make sure she is assigned to a unit, at least on paper, that sees real action. That seems to be the message you and I are getting from Command.” Something was very wrong and Frank couldn’t figure out what it was. It didn’t make any sense that one small doctor could have made enemies powerful enough to reach into the higher echelons of the Armed Services. “I have to tell you Glen, I don’t like this one bit. My gut tells me someone wants Dr. Kirkwood and her group out of the way permanently.”

“I hope you’re wrong but in case you’re not, I’ve got the perfect place for her.” Ross smiled at McQueen, who got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. “The 5-8, Col. McQueen’s squad, always seem to be in the thick of things and they have two in-vitros. Given her specialized area of medicine, we can almost make it sound logical.”

“Sir, she’s not a pilot, nor a Marine, what are we going to do with her?” The Colonel protested.

“This is a paper assignment only, Ty. She’ll spend most of her time in Sickbay. Isn’t one of your people on temporary duty on the Kitty Hawk?”

“Yes, Sir.” McQueen didn’t need to check the records. He knew where all the members of his squad were assigned at all times. “Lt. Winslow is TDY’d to the 42nd until more of their people gain experience. She’s expected back in mid to late December.”

“We’ll quarter the Doctor into Winslow’s billet for the time being. It’ll make things look more authentic and be easier for her to acclimate. Before the Lieutenant gets back, we’ll move Kirkwood. Once she’s on her own, I’d like her placed where we can keep an eye on her until we get this mess straightened out. Ty, you and I’ll work out the details later. I’ll let her know about her new post, when I meet with her this morning.”

“General Savage, can’t you take her back to Earth with you as your personal physician?” McQueen didn’t like the idea of Jen caught in the middle of a war.

“I thought about trying it, but I’m not sure I’ve got the political clout to go against the Joint Chiefs.” He shook his head in doubt. “It’s a battle I’d relish, if I thought it wouldn’t be doing her more harm than good. They were able to get to her on Kordis. She wouldn’t survive a day at home.”

“You think that’s why your base was hit?” Ross gasped. “That would indicate treason at an extremely high level.”

“Exactly, then again it could be nothing, but I’ve never really believed in coincidences. Our airstrip was well hidden by natural weather phenomena and modern stealth technology. We had no problems until I pushed to have her transferred.” Savage looked from the Commodore to McQueen and back again as he gripped the tiny communication crystal in his hand. Once he had it analyzed he would know just what, if anything, they were up against. “I am certain of this, Jennifer Kirkwood spent over three months on Kordis. During the last four weeks, while we were in hiding, she may not have been the highest-ranking officer there, but she was in command. Once I’m sure it’s safe to do so, without calling undue attention to her, I’m going to see that she is decorated for it. In the mean time, gentlemen, I plan to see that she remains safe and alive.”

Glen Ross nodded, fully aware that Frank was keeping something from them. “Having a doctor with the 58th could have saved us a lot of problems and given us a jump on that new Chig ‘light bomb’ they ran into on Tatarus. Assigning Dr. Kirkwood to the Wildcards is sounding better and better.”

“You’re planning on dropping her into hot LZ’s to protect her?” McQueen still didn’t like it. After seeing her beaten and burned in the hospital in Houston a little over a year ago, he’d sworn she’d never be harmed again. Then yesterday happened and he realized how easily Jen could have died on that Godforsaken rock and he’d never have known, never been able to...to...ah set things right between them. No, Colonel McQueen didn’t like it one bit. He wanted her safe and happy on Earth. Unfortunately that didn’t appear to be an option.

“We’ll keep her in Sickbay as much as possible,” the Commodore spoke reassuringly. He’d caught the fleeting moment of pain and worry that had crossed Ty’s face. “She only needs to go on a few mission with the ‘Cards and we’ll pick them carefully.”

“I trust you two to see to her wellbeing.” Savage looked between Ross and McQueen. “You pick her missions so no one gets suspicious. The rest of the time she stays on the Saratoga. To make this work it has to look authentic, or she’ll end up in another deathtrap like Kordis.”

“We can do this, Frank. We can pull it off. It’s as good of a solution as we’re going to come up with. Dr. Kirkwood isn’t a novice to carriers or battleships. She was Medical Specialist to the Angry Angels.” Glen added. “She traveled with them on extended space missions.” He looked to McQueen for conformation. “This won’t be all that different.”

“You were with the Angels, Colonel?” Frank Savage asked. He was remembering the stories he had heard about the 127th over the years. Now he knew why some of Dr. Kirkwood’s tales had sounded so familiar.

“Yes, Sir, I was.” McQueen nodded unsure what that had to do with their present situation. “It seems like we’re trying to weight the odds on Jenny Kirkwood’s life. I hope we’re choosing the right ones.” Small odds were better than no odds and if things were as bad as he believed them to be, he’d rather have her near by where he could keep watch over her. He was strong enough to put aside all the odd memories and feelings that had surfaced the night before. He had a war to fight that would keep him focused.

The General gauged the cool-eyed Colonel by the door. He hadn’t missed the look of surprised dislike that McQueen had quickly suppressed, when he had first entered the room. Savage had wondered at its cause. He had seen the way McQueen’s body had tensed when the Doctor had become white and dizzy. Then watched as the Colonel appeared to relax, leaning back as if he didn’t have a care in the world, when Ross took charge of that situation. ‘Maybe there was more to this than meets the eye?’

It made a man wonder when Kirkwood and McQueen had had a chance to talk. For that matter, Savage knew that the Doctor was no whiner. There had to be a bond here for her to have told him the story that he had just told them. It all added up to a very interesting picture. ‘Was this tough Colonel the source of the Doctor’s hidden strength? Savage thought to himself. 'It looked like Ross had picked the right man for the job of keeping watch over her’.
.........................................

“Dr. Kirkwood,” Ross stuck his head into Jenny’s room at exactly 1100 hours. “May I come in?”

“Please do, Commodore.” She pushed aside the console where she’d been writing a report of the last four weeks. “Have a seat, Sir. It appears a doctor rates higher than a General in Sickbay. I’ve got a visitor’s chair.” She cocked her left eyebrow in humor.

“General Savage has been telling me some amazing stories about you.” It was hard for him to imagine the slight woman, sitting before him, having the strength to do all that she had done.

“I did what was needed, Sir. I only wish it could have been more.” She tensed and fingered the gold rope bracelet on her left wrist.

“Were you negligent in your duties in anyway?” Ross’ voice was gruff.

“No, Sir.”

“Were you careless?”

“No, Sir.” Jen gripped the thin rope tighter. “You’ll have my report as soon as I get it finished.”

“Damn your report.” He reached over and covered her hands with his. “Listen to me, Lieutenant Commander, you did your finest and from what I hear that was damn good. You can’t carry the responsibility of this war on your shoulders. All you can do is your best and get on with it. Do I make myself clear? Besides, you’re going to break that nice bracelet, if you’re not careful.”

“Yes, Sir, and thank you.” She smiled at him as she forced her hands to relax. ‘When had this become a habit,’ she wondered, still feeling the imprint of gold rope on her fingers.

“I should be thanking you, Doctor,” Ross gave her hand another squeeze before letting go of it. “You saved the life of one of my best friends. Frank Savage may be Air Force, but I don’t hold that against him, too much. We go back a long way.”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re a very nice man, Commodore?” Jenny smiled at him.

“Please, Doctor, talk like that will ruin my reputation.” Ross screwed up his face into a fierce scowl making them both laugh.

“Don’t ever let it be said I damaged anyone’s reputation.” She countered as she fluttered her eyelashes outrageously.

“Dr. Kirkwood, I see it is going to be a pleasure to have you around.” He liked talking to her. She was sensitive, smart and funny.

“Pardon?”

“You have a new posting, as of 1300 hours today.” Now came the tricky part. Ross needed to make this sound as if it was a completely normal to assign a doctor to a Marine Aviator Calvary Unit. “I know you’ve been with the General for the lasts three months, but I approached him to see if he would release you to serve on the Saratoga.”

“You’ll have to excuse me, Commodore, but I wasn’t aware that was how postings were given.” Jen had a feeling she was being maneuvered, and didn’t like it.

“They usually aren’t, but I have a squad with some special needs, and we’re understaffed in Sickbay. Since you were only on loan to the Air Force for the Kordis assignment, you fill the bill.” He looked her in the eyes and dared her to call him a lair.

“What kind of special needs does this squad have, Sir?” Jenny was skeptical, but couldn’t figure out why the Commodore would be trying to pull a fast one on her.

“The 58th, Colonel McQueen’s squad, has two in-vitros. I understand your research specialty is in that area. The plan is for you to split your time between them and the Saratoga’s Sickbay. I believe you’ve worked with the Colonel when you were both with the 127th.”

Well that explained why McQueen had looked through her as if she were transparent, when she had seen him in the General’s room. He thought of her as nothing but trouble, unfortunately, passing out at his feet on Kordis only proved his point. This didn’t feel right to her. She was missing a piece of the puzzle. “What’s really going on here, Sir?” she challenged.

“You have been given a new assignment, Lieutenant Commander,” Ross brazened it out.
“Dr. Voss is releasing you from here this afternoon. I’ll see that Col. McQueen has one of his people escort you to your new quarters. I’m told it will be a few days before you’re fit to return to active duty, so use the time wisely.”

“Yes, Sir.” Things were spiraling out of Jenny’s control again and she didn’t like it.

On To Ch 3 - Because of You - Part 1

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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