By Sam Seal
(Based on the characters of the series 'Space: Above and Beyond', created by Morgan and Wong.)
The scratching was
louder this time. An unfamiliar sound - of sharp claws on
a bare metal floor. Followed by a long, low growl that
started gut-churning fear deep in Cooper Hawkes belly.
The unmistakable sounds of a predator!
And it was under
The sound came
again. Scratch, scratch... and the soft sound of ripping
cloth. This was too much for Hawkes, who now knew without
a doubt that his secret stash was in danger of discovery
by the Unknown Bogey. He had to act.
Very slowly, the
Lieutenant slid his K-bar from its sheath, rolled into a
sitting position and prepared to drop from the top bunk
into a crouch, tackling the would-be thief from behind.
Noting the slumbering forms of his companions by the dim
glow of the night-light with brief regret, Hawkes made
he bellowed, launching himself onto the crouching black
said the would-be thief - and licked him wetly on the
face with what felt like a wet mossy flannel, liberally
smeared with the gravy from half of a rather nice steak
and kidney pie that Hawkes had been hoping to save for an
PIE!!! " he cried in anguish, attempting to
wrestle the small, wriggly black puppy to the deck and so
retrieve the remaining half. But the dog beat him to it,
whipping the soggy handful from the Lieutenants' hand and
wolfing it down with many a happy whuffle of appreciation
and a furiously wagging tail. "You greedy little
b&$%&úd!" Cooper hissed. "I was saving
that!!!" Hawkes grasped the dog firmly in an
arm-lock, and was about to try prising its jaws open in a
final bid at pie retrieval when dazzling light suddenly
flooded the room.
"Cooper - let
it go. NOW!!!"
Hawkes sighed resignedly and released his grip on the
puppy, which promptly started licking his face all over
again. It also attempted to climb onto his lap - not easy
considering that the Lieutenant was still kneeling on the
It seemed like a
good time to get up. "It ate my pie," Hawkes
explained in a small voice to the remainder of his
Squadron. "The General gave me that pie - personally!
It crept in here and it ate my Souvenir English Kate
and Sidney Pie!"
"You had a
pie?" Wang wailed. " I never had pie! I like
"How come we
didn't have pies!" Vansen added, bursting to the
front of the group and pointing an accusing finger at the
gravy stains on the floor. "It's not fair! We
risk our lives in the Thick - every day, almost,
and all we got for dinner was... "
bemused Colonel McQueen suggested from behind them.
Everyone became embarrassing quiet.
But not for long.
After all, this was the 58th.
"Cooper - are
those my new curlers under your bunk?"
Vansen demanded furiously.
see PG while you were down there?" West asked,
getting down on all fours and peering under Hawkes' bunk.
"Maybe, you know, hiding behind your
bed-socks!" Damphousse added as she picked up a well
chewed lump of something that might, once upon a time,
have been a size five woolly sock. "Eurch! It's all wet!"
she complained. "And not just from being
Wang held the punctured leather ellipsoid aloft in
Everyone turned to
look at Hawkes.
After a couple of
minutes it began to dawn on Cooper that he might
just be in trouble.
he said, raising his hands in innocence, "Blame the
dog - not me."
YOUR dog!" they chorused.
After a couple
more minutes Hawkes remembered that it was,
indeed, his dog - given to him by General
Ffortescue-Smythe (on the grounds that he'd forgotten to
return it) shortly before the 58th and all the other
prisoners had been rescued from the prison ship
'Chigditz' by a group of real Marines (namely
Marines who obeyed orders right away and without
question, Marines who didn't have shouting arguments
whilst deep in the middle of Enemy territory, or go AWOL
every time it suited their purpose, or have bizarre
phobias about little things like blood, the dark ect.
ect. ect... The kind of Marines that Colonel McQueen
could only dream of).
crouched to retrieved the metallic remains of his Purple
Heart. It was bent. Most of the enamel had come off. So
had Washington's nose. And the ribbon was nowhere to be
seen. He winced slightly - it was also covered in
regarding his puppy in the same way McQueen was apt to
regard the 58th. "What am I supposed to do
with you?" he said, unconsciously quoting the
Colonel. " And I'm all covered in
gravy," he added (definitely not quoting the
The puppy wagged
its tail hopefully, and propped both front paws on the
he ordered the puppy in a hopeless voice. Suprisingly,
the puppy dropped to the deck.
he suggested. The puppy sat.
down!" he added experimentally. It dropped to the
deck, still wagging its tail for all it was worth. This
was something worthy of further investigation, he
over?" he tried. The puppy rolled.
Hawkes looked up
at McQueen - about to apologise for the sad demise of the
Purple Heart - and paused.
There was a
thoughtful, distant look in the Colonels' eyes...
That afternoon the
58th were sitting or their bunks, reading magazines and
trying to think of a suitable name for Hawkes' puppy -
now collectively forgiven for all past misdemeanours by
courtesy of it being Cute.
about... Merit!" Damphousse suggested, tying a
rather ragged piece of purple and silver ribbon into a
bow around the puppy's' head - just to see the effect it
had on Hawkes.
Wang asked incuriously.
she repeated patiently. "See - it's sewn onto this
ribbon. Hey - didn't she get spammed down on
"Guess it must have been hers, then."
"Puppy's a boy!"
Hawkes muttered, gently retrieving the dog from
Damphousse's bunk before she thought to squirt it with
something smelly, like deodorant or girlie perfume.
how about... Marion," West said with an evil look in
Vansen lobbed a
pillow at West. "Shut up, Nathen!" she
Hawkes decided it
was time to make a protective wall around the puppy with
his arms. "I told you - puppy's a Boy!"
Christian name was really Marion," Wang pointed out
truthfully. "Hey! Maybe you could call him John
Hawkes asked, not being au fait with Westerns - which was
a pity, because he would have loved them.
"He played a
Cowboy in loads of old films," Damphousse explained,
patiently starting to darn what was left of her socks.
thoughtfully. "So... Shane's sister named her
daughter... after a Cowboy? "
Wang promptly had
hysterics all over the floor. "Yeah - at least
everyone'd know she was a Vansen!" he sniggered.
can shut up, too! Your not so tough!" She addressed
the others. "Hey guys - remember his face when he
found out he was drinking Urine Recych. that time?"
it was Budwiesser..." Wang answered defensively.
"And at least I stopped drinking it when I
found out what it really was."
pillow of her own, Vansen was forced to reach across and
steal West's - causing him to retaliate with a cudgel
made from a pair of socks - by stuffing one balled-up
sock into the end of the other and swinging it with gusto
from the top of his bunk.
After about ten
minutes of this, Vansen, Damphousse, Wang and West
realised that Hawkes hadn't been joining in the
rough-housing as he normally liked to. They turned to
inspect the silent Lieutenant worriedly.
moving," Vansen murmured.
think he's..' you know... dead, do you?" Wang
whispered nervously. "His eyes look really
West took a step
closer. "Nooo... I'm not sure, but I think he's...
Damphousse gasped. "I mean - the thought of Coop
'Thinking' puts me in mind of... I don't know... Tectonic
Plates or something..."
"What do you
think he's thinking about?" Vansen asked nervously.
think," West replied.
Commodore Ross's Quarters...
"This is an
important mission, Ty," Ross said from his chair,
where he was currently attempting to link a 'C Minor 7'
to a 'Dominant 7 a forth higher' using the most difficult
fingering. "Only the best (strum) Marines in the
Corps (strum) for this one, so the high-high-ups (strum)
are insisting (strum) on the 58th for the job
(stru-twaaannnggg!). OW!!! Dammit! " The
Commodore placed his guitar carefully on the floor and
turned to face McQueen. "Damn thing sounds too
Dominant anyway," he grumbled.
McQueen relaxed a
notch. At least there hadn't been any singing.
the 58th - " he started.
Ty," Ross cut in gently, "I know your fond of
those kids - "
"But - "
"And none of
us want to place their young lives in danger -
"Ah - "
"But they are
Marines, and as such it is their Duty to fight
front-line in the coming conflict down on Pantyhose -
Ross was absently fishing around in one on the drawers,
in search of another D string.
name is Patroclus, sir. He was a friend of Achilles. And
about the Wild Cards, sir? The thing is - "
Ty," Ross insisted, triumphantly brandishing a
new D string at the Colonel and reaching for the guitar.
Sir." McQueen burst out. "They don't have a
clue! Cooper's DOG has a better Military Instinct.
And he's a damn sight easier to train, too." He
raised his eyes Heaven-ward in an appeal for strength.
"They are utterly hopeless..."
The Commodore eyed
his friend with compassion. "Of course they are.
That is why we gave them to you. If anyone could lick
them into shape it would be you, Ty. Also, we thought it
might help bring you out of yourself - maybe help you
forget the 127th. The Top Brass have always known they
" McQueen gasped. He felt stunned. Not only stunned,
but also horribly betrayed.
"Uh-huh. Nevertheless, they are going,"
he insisted calmly. " And when
they go it is up to you to see that they are fit for the
purpose." Ross reached for his pitch-pipes,
indicating that this particular conversation was at an
McQueen was far
beyond mere 'stunned' by this point but - after a sudden
burst of inspiration - he rapidly began functioning
normally again. "Then - Permission to go with them
to Patroclus, sir!" he begged, eyeing the
Ross nodding in
immediate comprehension. "Permission granted,
Colonel. And... you have my Express Permission to
use Any Means Necessary to turn the 58th into an
effective fighting force by Thursday morning."
entered the Wild Cards Bunk-rook silently, loath to break
the mood. He approached Hawkes bunk, and moved slowly
he whispered. "What are you doing?"
with infinite slowness, then turned to face the others.
"I've thought of a name for my puppy," he
back in amazement.
remembering that story the Colonel was telling us - you
know - about that bunch of Pilots in the Second World War
who dropped those rubber bombs - "
" - Bouncing bombs - "
" - on all
six-one-seven Squadron," McQueen prompted.
"Yeah. Well, the Guy in charge of them had a
dog just like mine, and when I saw him hiding under my
bunk I thought for a moment that he was one, so I
figured I could call my puppy - "
McQueen warned him in alarm, suddenly realising that the
spectre of Political Incorrectness loomed darkly.
Hawkes blinked. "No!" he said defensively. "I mean - I'm going to call him 'Chigger'...."