By Sam Seal
(Based on the characters of the series 'Space: Above and Beyond', created by Morgan and Wong.)
could stand the screaming no longer. He slowly lowered
his coffee mug, drummed his fingers on the table top
thoughtfully, before picking up his side-arm and checking
that it was loaded. Reassured that it was, he rose from
his chair, crossed the room and carefully opened the door
from his Quarters.
Nothing. But the
sounds of screaming were louder now. He tilted his head,
trying to get a fix on the source of all the noise. It
seemed to be coming from the direction of the Dormitory
which was situated, for everyone's safety, at the end of
the dead-end corridor. Which made McQueen's room The Last
Bastion Of Sanity on the entire ship before any
unsuspecting Crew-member were to encounter...
Their Actions were
the Stuff of Legend throughout the Fleet. Their Name
alone cause the Strongest Marine to tremble. Wherever
they went, their Reputation preceded them. Friend and Foe
alike knew to get out of their way - before there was
McQueen was their Leader. He used to think this was
something of a Mixed Blessing - but he'd been wrong. He
knew now that it hadn't been a Blessing at all.
He approached the
entrance warily, un-holstering his weapon as he moved.
Even though the door was closed, it was unable to muffle
the shrieks of agony, the bellows or rage and Wang's
threw open the door, ready of anything.
was, except feathers. He withdrew back into the corridor
and gazed, horrified, at the vision before him. It was a
scene from Hell. Dante could not have done better!
The room resembled
the aftermath of an explosion in a Chicken Factory. Only
with more noise and no yellow scaly feet - at least none
in evidence at this time. He thought he could vaguely
distinguish some figures moving around in the midst of
the blizzard. Vansen stood poised for battle centre
stage, whilst West lay sprawled on his stomach across the
floor. Meanwhile, Wang stood transfixed in one corner,
having Hysterics and trying to fight off Damphousse, who
was frantically attempting to shut him up by stuffing one
of Hawkes' dirty bed-socks into his mouth.
re-holstered his side-arm, regretfully. "What the
HELL is going ON here!" he demanded furiously.
over West and battled her way over to him. She pulled
herself up to her full height and snapped off a smart
thought, that at least explains most the feathers and
some of the noise... He sighed, supposing that he really
ought to try getting to the bottom of it all.
for which was..?" he asked apprehensively.
Vansen took a
moment to consider, before answering truthfully
"Sir! West drank all the lemonade at our..."
she hesitated, "...at our Midnight Feast, Sir!"
McQueen replied, not really seeing at all, but damned if
he was going to let them know it. "So you all jumped
West, using your pillows to bludgeon him to the
taken aback. "Sir, no, Sir! Only until he cried
"And did he,
me, please, why IS he laying on the floor, Vansen?"
Vansen failed to
look McQueen in the eyes and she answered "He's...
Sir! The Lieutenant is looking for... something,
Sir!" She was obviously unwilling to expand on the
But McQueen wasn't
about to let her off the hook quite so easily. He
regarded her levelly, and raised an inquiring eyebrow.
started to sweat. "Permission to Take the Fifth,
Sir?" she begged feebly.
with satisfaction. "Permission granted, Vansen.
Besides, I want to hear his excuse for myself. Now, go
fetch a vacuum cleaner and start clearing up some of this
The Colonel sighed
heavily. Oh God, he thought, do I really want to dig any
deeper into this? Well, Duty Calls, I suppose... He
brushed passed the near-bolting Vansen, clambered across
to where West was laying, and prodded the prone form
experimentally with one foot. "WEST!"
Nathan West scrambled unceremoniously to his feet and
sketched a salute with one hand, whilst trying in vain to
brush the worst of the feathers off his shirt with the
the Lieutenant bleakly. "Do you have ANY idea what
you look like, West?" he asked critically.
West shuffled his
feet. "The floor was dusty, Sir," he explained
at a far more reasonable volume than Vansen's
full-blooded bellow, whilst simultaneously trying to work
out why none of the feathers seemed to have settled on
West," the immaculate C.O. suggested laconically,
"after Vansen has finished with the vacuuming, YOU
can... personally... wash the floor!"
If there was one
thing McQueen really enjoyed, it was Poetic Justice.
Nathan West wailed Wang-ishly, wringing his hands and
blinked. He hadn't expect West's reaction to be quite
that violent. "Damn it! West - I wanted you to clean
the damn floor - not audition for the role of Lady
"But Sir! You
don't understand! She's GONE!" West cried,
brandishing an empty match-box under the Colonel's nose.
"And if Vansen uses the Hoover - she might be
took a moment to mentally review West's last statement.
He didn't THINK West had been referring to Vansen as the
Potential Victim - the Saratoga's complement of Domestic
Appliances had never featured highly in its Military
Arsenal. Which sort of implied...
"WHO might be
killed, Nathen?" he asked gently.
forlornly. "PG, Sir."
he repeated, bemused. "Now, Nathan, I know I'm
probably going to regret asking this, but... exactly WHO
pet, Sir. I keep her in this match-box." He
indicated the empty box that hung from his neck, next to
his ID tag. "She's a wood louse, Sir," he
whispered confidentially, "and she eats dust,"
he added. "Except, her box got tipped onto the floor
during the fighting and now she's gone. But - I have
faith. I WILL find her..."
watched West wander off to inspect the underside of the
wash-basin anxiously. Where had he heard THAT particular
tale before, he mused.
Rubbing his face
wearily with one hand, McQueen progressed steadily
through Chicken Hell until he reached Damphousse and Wang
at the back of the room. (He was perfectly well aware
that these were not, in fact, chicken feathers at all,
but most likely goose feathers - but the 'Exploding
Chicken' imagery was far too deeply ingrained in his
sub-conscious for him to worry about it now...)
Wang was still
attempting to scream around a mouthful of Norwegian
Double- Knit. Damphousse had finally succeeded in
wrestling her friend to the floor, and was currently
kneeling on his chest, slapping his face lightly and
telling him to Shut-The-Hell-Up!
Damphousse with some fondness. She was generally the
least rowdy and aggressive member of the 58th, whilst
still managing to make a good Marine. She'd never gone
AWOL, never answered back, never got into drugs or drink,
never played the Fool. She was also practical, had a
healthy dose of Common Sense, and mean Right Hook...
Plus, she could
always be relied upon to provide him with the odd piece
of chocolate when the craving got too much...
up," he ordered mildly, helping Damphousse to her
feet. Then they both had to help Wang up and un-bung
himself, at which point he threatened to start getting
hysterical all over again, until Damphousse elbowed him
hard in the ribs. McQueen decided to give him a minute to
pull himself together.
he asked patiently, "what's YOUR problem?"
Wang glanced about
nervously. He was still on the edge of panic even now.
"It's all these feathers, Colonel," he babbled.
"When I was a kid, back in that Hell Hole, I used to
wake up and find them in my bed, on my clothes, even on
my FACE. I HATE FEATHERS!!! I'm NEVER going back there -
d'you hear me? NEVER!!!"
McQueen replied, enlightened. "Well, if you feel
THAT strongly about it, DON'T go back! Personally, I
thought Chicago was OK for an Industrial City, what with
its attractive lake-front location, excellent
Transportation Network and interesting variety of
Cultural Centres, including the Alder Planetarium and the
Chicago Historical Society - famous for its material on
the American Civil War. Not to mention the Lyric Opera,
which has revived the city's tradition of having its own
opera company, which was established after the successful
merging of two other
companies early in the Twentieth Century. Plus the high
percentage of employment, the low crime rate and
excellent housing facilities initiated at the beginning
of the Twenty-first Century. But if its really a problem
for you..." he called out through the haze to Wang's
rapidly receding back.
He bent and
retrieved the less soggy of the two socks cast so
casually to the floor. "And speaking of
Problems..." he added, glancing around thoughtfully.
shrugged non-committally. "He said he was going
the urge to bury his head in his hands and walk out.
"I hate to be the one to break this to you,
Lieutenant," he said, "but The Saratoga's
currently twelve light years away from any single body of
water big enough to float a boat on, let alone sur -
He was rendered
speechless by the remarkable appearance of the previously
unaccounted for Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes. Remarkable in
as much as the fact that he was wielding a surf board
whilst wearing nothing but a pair of Board Shorts and a
garland of bright hibiscus flowers.
Hawkes said cheerfully, and proceeded to stow the board
beneath his bunk. Then he turned to slowly gaze around
the room, awe-struck. "Hey guys," he complained
in a hurt voice, "why didn't anyone tell me it was
going to snow..."