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Disclaimer: See first post
Rating PG-13
Previous chapters and sections: Ch 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part I



The Moving Finger Writes


by

Lattelady

Ch 1 - The Lady And The Major - Part II
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She was flying. It felt wonderful to simply lie there and fly. But, oh God, her head hurt and she was so cold. She wanted to open her eyes but it seemed like too much trouble. Then she remembered the lightening and the bombs as they were leaving the planet. Had she seen Ty? Yes, that made sense, to see him and to be flying. He lived to fly…but…but..?

“Nooo...”she moaned as she fought to open her eyes and get back to reality. “I’m seeing things as well as hearing them,” she whispered.

“Easy there Jen, you hit that hard head of yours.” McQueen wiped blood off of her forehead with a damp cloth.

“Ohhhh,” her eyes flew open as the cloth touched a deep cut in her forehead. She grabbed his wrist to pull his hand away from her face. Leaning her nose into his sleeve, she inhaled deeply the scents that were Tyrus Cassius McQueen: sandalwood aftershave, warm man, and a trace of hammerhead fuel. It had amazed her, when they had first met that she’d always been able to smell the slightest fragrance of hammerhead fuel when around him. She’d been his doctor in detox and had known he hadn’t been around a fighter in weeks.

“Is it really you?” She looked at the blood-reddened cloth that he held. “I don’t feel dead, but I’m cold enough to be.” She shivered as her brain tried to make sense out of all that had happened.

“Oh God,” she looked around frantically. “Did my men die too, or was it just me?”

“Wait a second, Jen. You’re not making any sense.” McQueen pulled off his field jacket and wrapped it around her. He was beginning to worry that she had taken a harder hit to her head than it appeared. “You’re not dead and neither are your men.”

“But you’re here.” Her eyes filled with tears for the first time in months and she hated that he would see her cry. “If I’m not dead, I must be crazy.”

“Easy,” his voice ground to a whisper as her hand moved over his cheek. “You’re not crazy or dead.”

“You feel alive! But, they said...” She fought the blackness that was exploding behind her eyes. “They said all the Angels died and I got...I got...a telegram...”

He gently wiped the blood from the unconscious woman’s brow. She looked like hell. She’d lost weight she could ill afford to lose. She was confused and in pain, but what worried him most was the haunted look in her eyes.

“Colonel?” A slim dark lieutenant called from the bunk above. “Is Lady-Doc going to be all right?”

“I can’t answer that for sure. My guess is that she will be, after some rest and care. She took a good thump to the head, though.”

“She saved my life, she and the Major--”

“Major? Was there someone else down there with you guys?” Wang was horrified that they might have left someone behind. “We only saw the six of you.”

“No, Sir,” Sgt. Stark pulled himself to the edge of his bunk to look back at Wang and McQueen. “The Major wasn’t there, not in the flesh. But his spirit was there, in the stories The Lady would tell us at night. And well, I think, somehow, he was the one who kept her going.”

“A few nights ago, I almost gave up and died.” Davis looked up groggily at McQueen.

“The Lady got real mad at me. She told me The Major would be waiting on the other side and if he found me wanting, he’d kick my ass back to Chig country.” Davis grinned for the first time in weeks. “I was more afraid of what he’d do to me for running out on his Lady, than I was of any Chig. No way I was going to die and have to explain that to him.

“You can’t fool me, Davis,” Stark kidded his friend. “You just wanted to find out how The Major and his squad found that last pirate stronghold beyond Saturn.”

McQueen had moved down the row of bunks to where General Savage was sleeping. He heard the men talking and realized that Jen had been telling stories of the Angry Angels to keep her men entertained. And he had a sick feeling he knew who The Major was. He was just thankful that she hadn’t used any names.
............................................................

Saratoga landing bay, a few hours later:

Stretchers arrived, people called out and soon all that was left was the echo of running feet. It had taken less than five minutes after landing, for medics to strip the transport of its six patients.

“Good work everybody. 5-8, you’ve got the next 24 off,” Ross called from the deck of the landing bay.

“Yes Sir,” the young Marines answered as they shut down the craft and gathered their gear.

“That order is for you too, McQueen,” Ross said to his friend as they walked toward the elevator.

“But Sir...” he protested.

“No buts, take some time off, get drunk, play some poker, watch some of those movies only you think are funny. Bottom line, get some rest.” The Commodore headed off toward Sickbay, leaving McQueen with the last thing he wanted right now: time to think.
He made it through a shower and a meal that he hardly tasted. He tried going to the Tun Tavern for poker, but wasn’t interested in the hands he was dealt. The last straw came when a loud-mouthed doctor joined the game and began telling stories about the “Lady-Doc” who was sleeping in sickbay.

“When we got her cleaned up, she turned out to be a real looker. You guys know who she is, don’t you? I wouldn’t mind being marooned on a planet with her for a few weeks. Maybe teach her what a real man is like, if you know what I mean?” The doctor winked at Hawkes and Wang.

“Are you going to play or talk?” Coop growled, not understanding the last reference to Kirkwood, but not liking it on general principles.

“Any reason a man can’t do both?” The Doctor grinned. He was new to the Saratoga and didn’t realize that McQueen and Hawkes were in-vitros.

“Yeah, maybe there is,” West muttered. ‘The man was either stupid or looking for a fight.’ Nathan wasn’t sure which, but he was willing to accommodate him either way.

“Come on guys, she’s just a skirt and one with an unsavory reputation to begin with. The kind of men she hangs out with, well, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. LADY-Doc my ass,” Voss laughed until he realized the only sound at the table was McQueen tossing his cards onto the pile of chips.

“Lieutenant,” McQueen’s voice was quiet and deadly. “Lt. Com. Kirkwood is your superior officer; as such you owe her respect. Have you served in a field hospital, as yet?”

At that moment Voss knew what it was like to look into the eyes of a Marine who gave no quarter. “A..a..a.. no Sir.”

“Maybe, when you do, you will remember Dr. Kirkwood with a bit more honor, until such time, as an officer and a---gentleman?” McQueen’s brow crooked over the last word his voice full of doubt. “You owe her an apology due her rank.”

“But...?” Voss was shocked at the unexpected hostility from the table of Marines.
“Be very careful what you say next, Lieutenant. You are bordering on insubordination.” The cool-eyed colonel fought to keep his anger from boiling over. The satisfaction he would gain from planting his fist in Voss’ face wasn’t worth the possibility that it would bring more attention to the woman sleeping in Sickbay.

“The Lieutenant wishes to apologize for everything he said regarding Dr. Kirkwood. He meant no disrespect to the Commander.” Voss was looking straight ahead in his seat. He would have saluted if he were wearing a cover.

“By the way, Lieutenant, you owe two other apologies, before you LEAVE.” West cut in, ignoring McQueen’s frown. “The Colonel and Lt. Hawkes are in-vitros. They may choose to overlook the slur you have cast upon them, but we don’t.”
“You got that right!” Wang agreed. Squad pride was at stake here.

Voss visibly paled. He had heard about Jennifer Kirkwood and the In-vitro Rights Movement for a long time. He didn’t realize how strong a bond that was, nor that natural-borns were backing it up to this extent, especially, after the assassination of Chartwell by an in-vitro. But what really made his blood run cold was the fact he’d just insulted a Marine Colonel.

“Colonel and Lieutenant, I meant no disrespect to either of you.” Voss knew when to cut his losses. “Please accept my apology.”

“Dismissed, Lieutenant.” McQueen drank what was left of his beer and turned to West. “You should have left it alone. That sort of thing is just asking for trouble.”

“No, Sir!” Nathan replied. “The Colonel may choose to ignore an insult to the Colonel and Lieutenant Hawkes, but this Lieutenant does not. Nor will the 58th, Sir.”

“What? What did he say?’’ Cooper was exasperated. He realized that somehow Voss had insulted in-vitros and Dr. Kirkwood at the same time and that he had missed it.

“Then the 58th had better grow up,” McQueen spat back.

“What about Dr. Kirkwood, Sir?” West argued. “Think about the insult to her?”

“I was thinking about her, West.” He stood, cold determination replacing his hot fury of moments earlier. “That’s why I left it alone. I’m out of the game.” He moved quickly through the swinging doors of the Tun, never looking back.

“What was that all about?” Shane watched her commanding officer’s exit as she and Damphousse took the chairs vacated by McQueen and Voss. She had heard just enough at the end to be curious.

“Damned if I know.” Cooper picked up the cards and began to shuffle them. “One of you guys better explain it to me!”

“I thought McQueen was going to take a swing at that guy.” Wang shook his head. “It was a close call.”

“Strangest thing I ever saw. Voss made an off color remark about Com. Kirkwood and the Colonel blew. Then when Voss insulted in-vitros, he just sat there. He never even demanded an apology.” West was looking toward the door where McQueen had just exited, a speculative look in his eyes.

“You’re talking about our McQueen?” ‘Phousse was more interested in what the men were telling her than playing cards. “He’s a stickler for protocol; I can’t believe he wasn’t insulted. He usually has those guys saying so many ‘Colonel, Sirs,’ their tongues are tied in a knot.”

“Not this time. You know how he gets all tight and kind of frozen looking?” Wang shook his head remembering. “This time he looked as if he had a volcano ready to erupt under all that ice.”

“I still don’t understand what happened.” Hawkes realized he had been insulted, but had missed it.

“If we’re going to talk about this, let’s take it somewhere private.” West looked around, the Tun was getting busy.

The Wildcards moved as a group for the door, to head back to their quarters. None of them wanted to have that conversation in public in case Hawkes lost his temper. They knew that no matter how angry Cooper got, Shane would be able to keep him under control. And it was best done in private.
............................................................

Wildcards’ Quarters:

“You guys know who Jennifer Kirkwood is?” Nathan asked as he reached into the envelope along his bunk that held his personal things.

“I know I’ve heard the name before, but I can’t place it,” Wang replied.

“I do, but didn’t realize it until just now.” ‘Phousse smiled.

“She wrote this. ‘The In-Vitro Chronicles by Jennifer Kirkwood, M.D.’,” West read the title of the slim book as he handed it to Hawkes.

“Why would anybody want to write a whole book on in-vitros?” He was mystified, though strangely pleased.

“This book was a major contribution to the In-Vitro Rights Movement.” ‘Phousse smiled at Coop. “It lit a fire under people and politicians that helped change laws regarding treatment and care of in-vitros. Many people credit Dr. Kirkwood and her book as the driving force that did away with the last remnants of forced servitude.”

“She did all that?” Hawkes was impressed. “But why was McQueen mad then?”

“Voss made a comment about Dr. Kirkwood’s reputation.” West was feeling out of his depth and turned to Shane for help.

“Hawkes,” Shane spoke quietly as she sat on Coop’s bunk beside him. She took care in choosing her words so she wouldn’t insult or embarrass him. “Voss was implying that Dr. Kirkwood had had sex with in-vitros.”

“So?”

“Remember when he said he wanted to show her what a real man was like?” Nathan lacked Vansen’s patience, when dealing with Coop.

“Shit,” the big in-vitro shouted. “We should have pounded him into the floor!” He wanted to get up and hit something, but Shane had a grip on his arm and wasn’t letting him move.

“Cooper,” Damphousse, moved to his other side. “There are always going to be ignorant people like that. We just have to learn to rise above it. I think that was what McQueen was trying to do.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Hawkes challenged the young black woman.

“One hundred years ago, blacks were fighting the fight that in-vitros are fighting today,” Damphousse reminded him. “It takes brave people like this,” she held up Kirkwood’s book. “And brave people like you and the Colonel to make a difference
............................................................

After McQueen left the Tun, he wandered the corridors of the Saratoga, unintentionally ending up outside sickbay.

“Commander,” he walked up to the nurse at the duty station. “I led the SAR team that took the 918th medical group off planet, I was wondering how they’re doing?”

“They’re all doing much better, Colonel.” Commander Joan Brill had been around for a long time and was not about to let any hotshot Marine invade the privacy of her patients.

“Is the Lieutenant Commander going to be all right?” Ty could push with the best of them when there was something he really wanted to know. “She was unconscious most of the way to the ‘Toga, and when she did wake up, she was confused.” He frowned unsure of what he hoped to gain by further questions.

Commander Brill made a quick decision. She had heard about McQueen for years, and had stitched him up on more than one occasion. The in-vitro was as tough as they came. The only times she had seen him in sickbay, when he wasn’t bleeding all over her floor, were when one of the Wildcards was injured. She was intrigued that he would show up, no blood in sight, at 2100 hours, asking about an apparently random woman who he’d helped extract from a hot LZ earlier in the day.

“Dr. Kirkwood is in bay five, if you would like to check on her.” She tried to look uninterested as she took her seat at the nurses’ station, but he felt her eyes burning a hole in his back as he headed for the small room at the end of the hall.

There was just enough light over Jenny’s bed for him to be able to see the sleeping woman. He couldn’t make out the dark circles under her eyes or the bruise on her right cheek, but he knew they were still there. A white bandaged covering stitches on her left temple where she had been hit when the wall exploded behind her, was new and easily discernible. He walked slowly to her bed unable to take his eyes off of the woman who had saved his life and his soul three years earlier.

She moaned in her sleep and turned on her side, her hand reaching for a blanket that had slipped from her shoulders.

“Shhh, you’re safe now,” he whispered. As he reached for the blanket and pulled it close around her, his fingers brushed the back of her hair and neck. “What the hell are you doing out here?”

“No, look out,” the sleeping woman whimpered fighting some unseen demon.

“Easy does it, Jen,” McQueen whispered. “I won’t let anybody hurt you,” he promised as he pulled up a chair to guard her as she slept. He owed her that, for all the nights she had guarded his sleep when he had been too out of it from drugs to guard himself. He hated to think about that time in his life, but tonight, he would honor her and remember it all.
............................................................

The In-Vitro Health Facility L.A. California, three years earlier:

Maj. T.C. McQueen had made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. He’d let himself be seduced back to the world of phyllophetamines, or Green Meanies as they were called on the street. The first time he had gotten hooked on the drug that is so addictive for in-vitros, hadn’t been his fault. Some unthinking or uncaring doctor had prescribed it for him as pain control while he was recovering from injuries received as a POW during the Artificial Intelligence War.

But, this time there was no one to blame but himself. The failure of his marriage followed by a painful divorce had sent him over the edge looking for an escape. Unfortunately, instead of going on a weekend drunk as he had planned, he had run into a guy selling Greens and the next few weeks of his life were spent in a total blur.

After going through detoxification and rehabilitation once before, he knew the nightmare that he faced the second time around. To admit he needed help had been one of the hardest things he had ever done. But he knew he had to get his life back together. The euphoria the Greens provided was followed by longer and longer periods of intense loneliness mixed with irrationality and streaks of violence. He had to lick it this time for good or he might as well put a bullet in his head.

The clinic had been hell until one night, as he fought unseen enemies in his sleep; a woman’s voice penetrated his fogged brain. He could hear The Voice on the edge of his dreams. He knew if he concentrated hard enough, it would guide him to safety. There was something else cutting through the fog as he tossed on his bunk, something that went with The Voice. McQueen smelled a scent that he’d came to associate with it but he couldn’t place it. It made him think of flowers?

Oh the third morning of detox, after being tortured all night by AI’s only he could see, the only thing that kept him sane was The Voice and the scent of roses that was always present when he was being lead to safety by reassuring words. Soft voice and the scent of roses meant he wasn’t a prisoner any longer that it was all happening in his head. Those were his last thoughts before he slept a deep dreamless sleep for the first time in weeks and his last for days to come.
............................................................

“What do you think you’re doing?” Lt. Jennifer Kirkwood’s evening rounds had been delayed due to an emergency. She arrived at the lock-down ward to find the patient in room seven in four-point restraint and shouting in panic.

“Ma’am we’re preventing the Major from hurting himself,” the burly Sergeant responded as he looked in the glass and wire window of the padded room where McQueen was still struggling.

“Didn’t you bother to read this man’s chart, Corpsman? He fought in the Artificial Intelligence War and was a POW. You can’t restrain him like that; it’ll drive him out of his mind. Unlock the door,” she ordered. “Between the restraints and the drugs, he thinks he’s back being tortured by AI’s.”

The doctor in her was disgusted with Sgt. Gains for taking the easy way out and strapping her patient down. The woman in her was appalled! The corpsman knew the clinic rules: no restraints except in a life-threatening emergency. Jenny hoped that all the hours she had spent trying to gain her patient’s trust, hadn’t just gone down out the airlock due to Gain’s laziness. In his frenzied condition, she doubted the Major would recognize her, so she might be back to square one.

“But Ma’am....” Sgt. Gains began to key in the door code, while trying to change her mind.

“I said unlock the door, Sergeant. What part of that order didn’t you understand?” The top of Jenny’s head didn’t come as high as the Corpsman’s shoulder, but, when she used that tone of voice, she frightened him.

“He’ll tear us apart and himself as well, if we undo those straps.” Gains unlocked the door, but didn’t want to enter the room.

“Well, then we just won’t let him, will we?” She marched into the room with Gains behind her. “Give me a hand getting these things off him.”

As soon as the restraints were removed, the Major sprang to his feet, ready to fight. He couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing. His vision was blurred and he wanted to feel the satisfaction of his fists connecting with automated skin and breaking a few motherboards to relieve the roaring in his head. They were trying to trick him again, he thought. These two didn’t look like AI’s, but he knew better. He lunged for the large one, but fell as his legs gave out.

“Get out of here, Sergeant!” Jenny called as she knelt by the fallen man.

“But Doc?”

“I said out! Now! And lock the door,” she ordered. “I’ve got a hypospray of ketamine handy, so keep an eye on us. If I have to use it, with the Greens still in his system, I’ll need to intubate him fast!” Normally the medication wouldn’t shut down his respiratory functions but phyllophetamines were unpredictable when mixed with other medications and she wouldn’t take a chance that could be lethal to her patient.

“Major, let me help you.” Jen touched her patient’s shoulder.

“No!” He squinted. ‘What tricks were the AI’s trying to pull now?’ His mind was moving a mile a minute, but nothing made sense.

“Easy does it. I’m not going to hurt you.” Jenny kept her voice soft and even as she moved away giving the man plenty of room. “Why don’t you get up? It’s cold down there.”

“McQueen, Tyrus Cassius, Major, 821-36-97440.” He kept repeating his name, rank and serial number as he stumbled to his feet and pulled away from this new enemy.

“Ahhhhh!” He cried out as his muscles contracted in massive cramps that had been building up in intensity for the last few hours.

“I can help you.” The soft voice of the woman invaded his brain. Her arms moved around his waist. She took his weight and they limped to the bunk in the corner of the room.

“Let go of me,” he gasped, trying to free himself from her. “Don’t tie me down anymore.”

“I’m not going to let anyone tie you down.” Jen was horrified at the marks on his wrists where he had pulled against the straps.

“Take deep easy breaths and don’t fight the spasms. It will only make them worse.” Rubbing her hand along his shoulder, as he curled on his side, she could feel the muscles move beneath his skin as they tightened. “There isn’t anything I can give you for the cramping,” she whispered as his body was racked with pain.

McQueen gasped as sweat dampened his t-shirt. He fought to gain control, but minutes felt like hours. He wanted to hit out, to fight, but every time he moved, his muscles cramped and his bones were pulled almost out of their sockets. Outside of the pain he heard The Voice again, soothing him, telling him of sunny days with blue oceans and starry nights. The Voice spoke about flying free, but most of all it was telling him he was safe.

“There you go, Major, the spasms seem to be lessening.” The Voice was just outside of his vision. It sounded familiar somehow. He wanted badly to trust The Voice. He was so tired. The Voice was right: his muscles were relaxing. Maybe he could trust it after all. Or was it just another AI trick?

“Take deep easy breaths, there you go, that’s much better,” Jenny could feel him relax beneath her hands. If she could keep him still, hopefully, the spasms wouldn’t be too bad. From her research in phyllophetamine addiction, she knew that the next few hours were going to be the worst for him.

McQueen felt his body relax completely. His mind was in a whirl. They had him again. Those damn AI’s had him again. But this time he had fooled them. They’d left him untied. Looking over his shoulder at the AI that was left to guard him, he saw that she was small. Her hand looked fragile on his arm. One move and he could snap her circuits in half and be out of here. ‘Don’t move yet,’ he thought. ‘Not quite yet, that stupid AI trusts you. Just a few more breaths and I’ll be able to gather the strength to take her out’. He watched her over his shoulder as she sat on the side of his bunk, her hand relaxed and rubbing his back.

“Ohh-rah!” he screamed his battle cry as he turned leaping to his feet, grabbing the little AI by the shoulders and slamming her against the wall.

“Don’t unlock that door!” she gasped as she was bounced against the wall, causing the hypospray, holding the ketamine to fly out of her pocket and roll under his bunk.

“Who are you?” McQueen’s eyes bore into hers. She didn’t feel like an AI. She felt human. And her eyes....they looked like a woman’s eyes. In his confusion he gripped her tighter, holding on until his mind cleared.

“Major, I’m Jennifer Kirkwood, your doctor. You’re in phyllophetamine detox,” her voice was soft and gentle as she used reality to help fight his hallucinations. “Please, you’re hurting me.”

“No,” he shook his head in denial. His face inches from hers. “No, that was years ago. I kicked the damn Greens years ago!”

“Major McQueen, you’re hurting my arms.” She pushed gently against his chest. She knew she was going to have finger shaped bruises where his hands were digging into her and resigned herself to a few weeks of long sleeves. “Please, Major, we need to get you laying down before we both fall down.”

“No, it’s a trick,” he whispered

“You’re going to be all right.” Jen wasn’t afraid, but she knew she should have been. The average Marine knew over 200 ways to kill with his bare hands. It was rumored that in-vitro’s were taught hundreds more. Added to that was his superior height and strength potentiated by the phyllophetamine madness.

“Look at me, Major, really look at me.” She gazed into his eyes and saw the beginning of doubt. “I’m not an AI. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Who are you?” He shook his head trying to clear his vision. A memory buried deep was trying to surface.

“Jenny, I’m Jenny…ahh…Dr. Jenny Kirkwood.” She saw a moment of recognition flicker in the blue depths of his eyes.

“I know your voice....but it’s more than that...” He leaned his head against her neck and inhaled. “Roses? I remember smelling roses and hearing a soft voice and I knew I was safe.”

She could feel his arms begin to shake and knew muscle spasms were starting, again. “Please, let me help you. I won’t let you fall.”

“You want to help? Don’t let them hurt me again...” He fought the pain that was moving up his body. He still held the woman, but this time not to harm her, but to protect himself.

“We can get through this together.” She gripped him around the waist the first spasm shook him. Together they stumbled to the bunk and she got him back where he belonged.

“Don’t leave,” he whispered pulling her hand to him. “As long as there is the scent of roses, I know I’ll be safe.”

It was a long night for both of them, but Jenny stayed by his side helping him fight his demons. When the spasms shook him and he couldn’t fight them, she fought them for him. They had other long nights in detox, but that one was a turning point for Tyrus Cassius McQueen.
............................................................

The Saratoga October 2063, Sickbay:

“I can’t stop the bleeding,” Jenny whimpered as she tossed and turned, bringing him back to the present.

“Easy there.” He fingered the short curls that surround her face. He was intrigued as he played with her thick blonde hair. In all the time he’d known her, it had always been long. “You’re safe. Go back to sleep.”

Her eyes tried to open as she smiled. “It’s so nice to dream about you and not see ships exploding.” Then her eyes closed and she slept.

He folded his arms on her bed and put his head down as he gave in to exhaustion. It had been a long, rough day and he had been fighting to keep a door locked tightly on memories that were better left buried. But he owed a debt to the woman whose soft breathing was playing hell with his composure. Maybe if he paid that debt in full, the door would be easier to keep locked.
............................................................

The In-Vitro Health Facility L.A. Calif. three years earlier:

McQueen didn’t know how many nights Dr. Kirkwood spent in the padded room sitting beside him. He had lost track of time somewhere along the line. He remembered bits and pieces of what had happened, but was never sure what was drug-induced nightmare and what was real. All he knew was that when she was there, he felt safe, at a time when his world was out of control. It was a new experience to let someone else take care of him and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

One evening, not long after he had been moved from the detox room to a regular hospital room, Jenny arrived later than usual. Knocking on his open door, she didn’t see him at first. The pool of light from his reading lamp showed a bed with unwrinkled sheets; so tidy you could bounce a quarter on them, and a book sitting open. Everywhere else there was only shadows.

“Major McQueen?” She called out softly, her breath catching as he turned quietly from the window in the corner. His dark navy blue sweat suit caused him to blend with the shadows and the night.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He watched her as she pulled off a bright flower-print scrub hat and tucked the piece of colorful cotton in the waist of light blue surgical scrubs. Hair, usually kept neatly under control with clips and hairpins, fell past her shoulders in waves.

“How are you feeling tonight?” She asked as she consulted her palm computer for the latest test results on her patient.

“Better.” His eyes traveled over her disheveled appearance and tired droop of her shoulders. “Since when do they let shrinks perform surgery?”

“They don’t.” Jen smiled up at him as she twisted her hair on top of her head and wove a pencil through a makeshift bun she was trying to put into place. She knew she didn’t look the least bit professional, but her tailored slacks and silk blouse were in her locker along with her lab coat. Scrubs would have to do. Once she showered and changed, she doubted she’d have had the energy to do her rounds.

“According to your latest blood tests...” She pulled a chair over to the light by his bed and sat down as she moved through the screens looking for his records.

“So why the surgical get-up?” He leaned his hip against the foot of his bed watching her, unsure what to think about this new side to his doctor.

She looked up at him, slipped out of her clogs, and put her sock feet up on the edge of his bed. “The five of us who run The In-vitro Health Facility have to wear many hats.” She grinned as she lifted the end of the scrub hat she had just taken off. “I’m a surgeon by specialty, but have done extensive research into the phyllophetamine family of drugs so they fall under my providence. You already had your first session with Jamison Werner, our group psychiatrist this morning.”

“So you’re the one I have to thank for that,” McQueen grunted.

“It’s all part of the hospitality.” She shrugged and smiled.

“By the way, just make yourself right at home.” He thought she looked about sixteen years old in the baggy scrubs. He was sure she had no idea that soft curls framed her face instead of staying put in the lop-sided bun she had so determinedly pulled her hair into moments ago.

“I think I will. It’s been a long day.” She leaned her chair onto its back legs as she returned her attention to the small computer and sighed quietly as the muscles in the back of her legs began to stretch out after standing for almost nine hours.

McQueen did a double take. This was not the woman he had been watching for almost ten days. Her posture was so out of character that it was like watching a stranger. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, until he looked into her eyes and realized she was putting on an act.

“The surgery didn’t go well did it, Lieutenant?” His quiet deep voice caught her off guard. Her mask slipped long enough for him to see deep pain and loss. He marveled as she battled to regain her professional calm.

“I’ve told you before; I prefer to be called Doctor...” For a moment she thought she could keep up the deception, but exhaustion won out and the front legs of Jenny’s chair hit the floor, followed by her feet. “Well, your powers of perception are greatly improved. What gave me away?”

“You don’t strike me as the kind of woman who would be casual about a strange man’s bed,” McQueen grinned and nodded toward where her feet had been resting. “The bravado was a good touch, but as I said, you’re not the type.”

“Hmm I’ll have to keep that in mind.” She slid into her clogs and stood, unsure if she’d been insulted or complimented. “Your latest blood tests are within normal limits, but I’d like to make sure your electrolytes stay that way.”

“You’re not going to tell me about it, are you Doctor?” He had heard the unusual activity and running feet in the early morning, but had missed the significance.

“I can’t, Major, but thank you for asking.” She smiled sadly.

“Will you be all right?” It was disconcerting to see the woman who had been so strong for him looking fragile.

“Nothing a few hours sleep and a hot meal won’t take care of.” She smiled and changed back to her old self before his eyes. “Okay, McQueen, you know the drill. Stand straight, close your eyes, and touch your nose with the first finger of your right hand and then the left. Repeat it five times...Very good. Now walk in a straight line, one foot in front of the other, toe to heel...Excellent. Now, up here.” She patted his bed and engaged the controls to raise its height once he was in place.

Jen stood three feet in front of her patient. “Look at me right here,” she said as she touched her nose. “Without moving your head, follow my finger.” She moved her hand to the right, and then to the left as his eyes tracked perfectly. “Much better!”

“If you don’t make it as a surgeon, the Marines can use you as a drill sergeant.” His eyes followed her fingers as they went through the quick neuro exam.

“From you, that’s high praise,” she chuckled as she stepped to his left side with a pencil-sized flashlight in her hand. “Close your right eye.” Leaning in she rested her left hand on his shoulder for balance and looked deep into his left eye. “Now the other side please.”

The first time Jenny had done that kind of test he’d wondered if she was playing games with his head. Some natural-born women enjoyed teasing male Tanks. But as he had said earlier, she wasn’t the type. She was always cool, professional and kind.

This time there was something different and it wasn’t simply her hand on his shoulder, which was usually light and controlled, but tonight shook ever so slightly. He didn’t know if it was caused by the tickle of her hair on his cheek mixed with her soft rose scent so close to his nose. Maybe it was her wristwatch, safety-pinned to her pocket of her scrubs, now forgotten as it swayed over her left breast. Or was it the vulnerability he had seen in her eyes earlier? She was breaking his concentration and it only served to add to his restlessness.

“You’re doing much....better, Major.” Jen made quick notations on her computer as she talked.

“I hear a ‘but’ in your voice, Doctor.” He had moved back to the window, intent on watching the stars again but the doubt he sensed in her drew his full attention.

“As I said earlier, you’re very perceptive. It’s a good sign that you’re so discerning. From what I’ve read that’s your norm.” She stepped closer, being careful to stay outside of his personal space. “But at this point in detox, especially given the results of your blood tests, you shouldn’t be as moody and restless as you are. That is not such a good sign.” Jenny hugged her hand computer to her chest, meeting his cool inscrutable gaze with a warm compassionate one.

“You have to understand, Doctor,” McQueen’s voice sounded as if he’d had to pull it from the depths of his soul as he spoke of things he’d never shared with anyone. “I usually am a bit...moody and....restless.”

“Major...” Jen’s brow rose in disbelief, “Moody I’d buy under different circumstances, but restless...never.”

“Stop crowding me!” he snapped. The small blonde woman read him too well. She’d seen him out of control and vulnerable. It gave her the advantage, causing his anger and frustration to grow.

“McQueen, talk to me! I’m only trying to help.” She shot back, her temper frayed from too many hours of fighting to stem the flow of blood and losing.

“Talk to you? You’re a surgeon, only good for cutting and stitching.” His cold sarcasm reduced all the care she’d given him to nothing. “Why are you here anyway, looking for cheep thrills digging around in a Tank’s emotions? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya, Doc, you’re wasting your time, we don’t have ‘em.”

“Ahhhh,” she gasped and rocked back at the biting insult. “Don’t ever talk about yourself that way again.” She glared at him. “You’re right, though, I am a surgeon. If you’d be more comfortable with our psychiatrist, I’ll arrange for Dr. Werner to see you in the morning.” As she spoke Jen saw something flicker in his cold blue eyes. For a moment they were filled with confusion and fear that he fought to mask.

They stared at each other, both trying to understand the other. It was a small thing on McQueen’s part, but essential. He saw again how disheveled and exhausted Dr. Kirkwood was, despite her best efforts to appear otherwise. She saw a man who was fighting to get gain some control of his life.

“Very good, Major,” she murmured. “You’re not only perceptive, but manipulative, as well.” She smiled gently to take the sting out of her words. “The manipulation is a good thing when used appropriately, but at the moment it can only hinder your progress.”

“In the Corp, they call it commanding,” his reply was gruff, but his anger had slipped away.

“I’m sure they do.” She looked up at him assessing and nodding at what she saw. The movement of her head caused the pencil that held her hair in a sloppy bun to give way and fall to the floor. Thick blonde waves surrounded her face and dropped to her shoulders as she stooped to pick up the fallen object. But McQueen beat her to it.

“Your reflexes have returned I see.” Jenny held out her hand for the long yellow object he’d picked up off the floor. Less than an inch separated them as they knelt under the window.

“Are you keeping a mental checklist?” He knew they were watching him and it added to his feelings of being trapped. He was a prisoner again, one of his own making, but a prisoner none-the-less.

“We have to chart your progress.” She smiled apologetically as she tried to rise. Her legs were stiff and tired from standing in surgery for over nine hours and didn’t want to cooperate.

Gently and unobtrusively McQueen wrapped his hand around her upper arm and took her weight as they stood. The feel of her slim muscles over small bones felt familiar, but he knew he’d never touched her before.

“Thank you,” she smiled gratefully. “Why don’t we sit down?” She motioned him to the side of his bed as she took the visitor’s chair. “Now, lets start again? What can I do to make this easier for you?”

McQueen blinked to hide his surprise at her causally spoken question. There were a hell of a lot of things a woman who looked like her could do to make things easier for a man. A tiny voice inside of him wondered if the return of desire was anywhere on that checklist she was keeping. Even as he thought it, he knew she hadn’t meant her question that way. As he’d stated earlier she wasn’t the type to be casual about a strange man’s bed and he doubted she was casual about strange men period.

“Major, please, if you’d really be more comfortable with Dr. Werner--”

“No,” he cut her off. “No, I...ah...trust you.” Ty realized that he did and it caught him by surprise. He could only think of one other person who he trusted, Captain Glen Ross.

“All right then.” She smiled slightly and leaned toward him in her chair. “I know we’re both tired, but we’ve already broken through your wall of command, so talk to me.”

“I need...I need...” he whispered. McQueen couldn’t remember ever asking anyone for help before and the words simply wouldn’t form. He tried a different tact. “I’m feeling trapped. It’s like being a POW all over again.”

“I see,” she murmured. Jen leaned her elbows on her knees, supporting her chin with folded hands as she thought of the best, most honest way to respond. “I can understand why you would feel that way, but it is important for you to recognize a few things.” She straightened and leaned closer to him. “Most importantly, you aren’t a prisoner. You signed yourself in, you could sign yourself out right now, but if you did, you wouldn’t be recertified to fly. That’s the whole point, about all of this, isn’t it?” She touched his arm to make sure he was listening to her. “I get the feeling you need to fly like others need to breathe.”

“Do you think I’ll ever be allowed back in a cockpit again?” his words were hushed as he fought anxiety.

“Yes, I do, but it’ll take work. You need to get healthy and prove to me that you’ve kicked the Greens forever, then, if necessary, I’ll pull every string I have to get you back in the sky.” She pulled back, realizing that she had been invading his personal space for too long. “As for your immediate problem, I have an idea about that. I’ll get back to you about it first thing in the morning. Try and get some sleep.”

As she left, she turned back for one last check on her patient. He was lost in thought. His eyes staring off into a distance, seeing things she could only imagine.
............................................................

The Saratoga Sickbay 2063

Jenny woke slowly to a pounding head and the even breathing of a man she had thought had died months earlier.

“Ty?” she whispered as she watched him sleeping. Still confused by all that had happened, but never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she reached out and ran her fingers over his silver hair that was so close under her hand. Her wrist was grabbed in an iron grip as he moved instantly from sleep to wakefulness.

“Your reflexes are as good as ever, I see.” Jennifer Kirkwood smiled sleepily at Lt. Col. T.C. McQueen, as his fingers loosened.

“Jen, what the hell happened?” he whispered.

“That’s what I’d like to know,” her voice cracked. “May I have some water, please?”

“Let me help you.” He supported her back when she tried to sit up but was unable to do so unaided. When her hand shook as she held the glass, he curled his fingers over hers as she drank.

“Thanks.” She missed the warmth of his body against hers after he laid her back down and moved to his chair. “God, I’m so confused!”

“Shhhh or the Old Battle Ax will throw me out.” He leaned his elbows on her bed, unable to pull away from her completely.

“That ‘Old Battle Ax’ runs a tight ship. You Marines are all alike, no respect for the Medical Corps.” She relaxed as they fell into the comfortable old banter.

“I agree, she’s a damn fine nurse. She’s sewed me up once or twice,” he admitted. “Jen, what in the world happened and how did you get out here?”

“No, you first.” She reached for his hand, needing to touch him to make sure he was really alive. She needed assurance too badly to wonder why. “I was told all the Angry Angels died in The Battle of the Edge.”

“We almost did,” he shook his head, not wanting to remember. “Three of us made it back to Earth. McDougall died before I shipped out and I don’t know what happened to Watts. The last time I saw him he was in a coma, on life support.”

“But you’re all right, nothing happened to you?” She watched his face carefully in the shadows for any sign that he had been hurt.

“I’m alive,” he dug for the words to tell her about that last battle. Until now he hadn’t talked about it to anyone, since the official debriefing. “My hammer took a hit and I lost stabilizer controls. As I was fighting to keep the Chigs off me long enough for my secondary systems to kick in, my console exploded. That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital in Loxley.”

“Nooo,” she whispered.

“The explosion shattered the faceplate of my helmet. I had burns, and a wrenched back, but the major damage was to my inner ear. My balance was destroyed. They were able to restore it by implanting a myo-electronic feedback device.”

“But you’re a hammerhead pilot,” Jenny gasped at the ramifications of what she was hearing. “Those MEF’s can’t withstand the G-forces produced in battle.”

“I was a hammerhead pilot,” he smiled sadly.

“Oh God, I’m sorry,” Jen shook her head in disbelief. She was one of the few people who understood the gravity of his loss.

“It could have been worse,” his voice turned cool, indicating the subject was closed.

“What about Collins?” Jenny had been at Gloria’s memorial service, but needed to hear first hand what had happened to her.

“She fought long and hard like the rest of us, but the Chigs blew her hammerhead into a million pieces. One second she was there and the next she wasn’t. It happened so fast I don’t thing she felt a thing.”

“Oh, Gloria!” she signed, feeling the loss of her friend deeply. The bond between the small blonde doctor, once known as Angel-Doc, and the tall mouthy pilot, call sign Gabriel, had surprised everyone, not least of all Gloria Collins.

“You’re the only one I know of who got away with calling her by her first name.” McQueen smiled. “If any of us had tried it, we’d have been ducking her right hook.”

“Wait a minute,” Jenny had been distracted by the fact he had been injured and had let him lead her away from what had been worrying her. “I still don’t understand. I received a telegram from the Marines, officially notifying me of your death.”

“It had to have been a clerical error. So many people died in that battle. I’m sure at one point they thought we were all dead.” He was trying to dance around the issue.

“That still doesn’t explain why I got you next-of-kin telegram? It doesn’t make any sense.” She pushed.

“I put your name down as the person to be notified in case of emergency.” He decided it would be easier to gloss over it now, than have her do any snooping on her own. “It seemed more appropriate than to have Amy’s name notified.” He was careful not to say when the change had taken place. After all, she had been his doctor three and a-half years ago, then again for almost a year when she was assigned as Medical Specialist to the Angels. It was the logical thing to do, wasn’t it?

“Now it’s your turn, Jen, how did you end up on that godforsaken planet?”

“I’m not sure really. When war broke out, I was still officially on medical leave, so I joined Dr. Werner in Washington when Secretary General Chartwell was assassinated. Things went crazy. There was a state of martial law for in-vitros. They were being arrested and questioned, then forced to take an oath of allegiance. The worst part of it all was that no in-vitro was allowed the right of council.

“We took it all public, being as noisy and pushy as possible. It was amazing. We raised enough support to force the issue. If we couldn’t do away with the oath of allegiance, we insisted that anyone questioned had a right to council. At the very least one of the five of us had to be present to protect anyone who didn’t know his or her rights. It took a while, but cooler heads prevailed.”

McQueen remembered his own experience after Chartwell had been killed. If it hadn’t been for Commodore Ross, he and Hawkes could have been in deep trouble. He still felt dirty when he thought about the incident.

“When we got back to the In-vitro Health Facility, we had lost our grants and government funding and we had all been reassigned. It happened so quickly that none of us realized what was going on until it was too late.”

Something wasn’t right here. He didn’t like what he was hearing, but he couldn’t put his finger on the problem. It sounded to him as if someone wanted the doctors out of the way, someone with power. “Where are the others assigned?” he carefully probed.

“I don’t know,” she sighed. “They split us up. I do know that we were all posted off Earth, even Carmine Delaney. Ty, Carmine is almost 78 years old.”

“I’ll see what I can find out.” His unease was growing. “It sounds as if your politics may have gotten you into trouble again.”

“I’m not going to argue politics with you tonight. My head hurts too much to think straight,” she challenged.

“It’s not your politics that bother me. It’s the way you approach them.” he frowned pushing her bangs out of her eyes.

“Stop that!” She gripped his wrist and glared at him. “I know my hair is a mess. I’m a mess…but…” She shrugged refusing to feel sorry for herself. “I took a K-bar to it the first week we were in the cave. It kept getting in my way.”

“Didn’t I offer to do that for you once?” His eyes sparkled as he remembered her irritated rejoinder a year earlier.

“Yes, you did, thank you very much.” For a moment she was back on the deck of the Windswept. Her hat had been blown off in a squall and she’d had to scramble to keep it from going overboard as she’d gripped her hair to keep it out of her face. McQueen, sitting at the wheel, had offered her the use of his butterfly knife, and grinned at her dilemma.

“Jen,” he touched her cheek bringing her back to the present. “It’ll grow back.” He really wanted to tell her how attractive she looked with wild uneven curls dancing around her face, but he wasn’t a man who used words like that.

“I know,” she sighed. “If nothing else it’s given me a new appreciation of those wicked knives you Marines carry. They’re good for chopping firewood, cutting your hair…and…ah…amputating a man’s arm.” Her stark words caught him by surprise.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he whispered, finally realizing how bad things had been for her the last four weeks.

“I was terrified that they’d die before we could be rescued. General Savage would have if I hadn’t…ah…hadn’t...” She shivered at the memory of trying to use the large blade like a scalpel.

“Jen, look at me.” McQueen gently raised her chin until their eyes met. “You did what had to be done.”

“I know.” She nodded and took a deep breath.

“Good, now you need to get some sleep.”

“Yes, sir, Colonel, sir.” She gave him a forced grin and a cocky salute. She was afraid to close her eyes because of the frenzied dreams that were lying in wait for her. Once he left he would never know that she’d done everything in her power to stay awake.

“Close your eyes, Jen.” He had seen fear cross her face and knew about the demons that were waiting in her sleep. “I’ll stay here with you.”

“You won’t leave me?” She asked tiredly.

“No, I’m right here,” he promised.



To Ch 2 - The Cost Of Honor

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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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