The Darkest Night
Promises to Keep
An Echo of Yesterday
My fanfic is archived at the following WWW sites:
Mission Status - Space: Above and Beyond
Space Above and Beyond Creative Works Center
and on my web page at the Sunset Grill
Thanks to Patrice Badger, Gabrielle Bessey, and
Speedbump for reading behind me and providing
encouragement. (Who am I kidding? Where would I be
without them? They wrote half of this! Thanks, ladies.)
I can be reached at my husband's e-mail address,
Please reference the story title or my name in the subject
The Characters and situations of the TV program "SPACE: Above and
Beyond" are the creations of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Fox
Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions, and have been used
without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
All other characters not belonging to Glen Morgan and James Wong,
Fox Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions, are my creations and
property. Permission is hereby granted to use them in fan
fiction, providing that the author acknowledge my rights to them.
copyright Becky Ratliff, September 1996
An Echo of Yesterday
by Becky Ratliff
On the Saratoga, July 2064
Shane Vansen decided now would be a good time for the
nervous breakdown she had been putting off for the last
two weeks. She had spent half the morning filling out
reports on their last uneventful patrol, in between playing
phone tag all morning trying to find out why the 58ths
laundry had been late the last three times. Also, their water
cards had not been in the weeks ration packet...and now
her beeper was going off. She resisted the urge to pitch it
across the room and touched the message button. A
computerized voice ordered her to report to the
Commodores office at her earliest convenience....which
She shut her eyes a moment, trying to think how they
would have handled this before McQueen had been sent
back to Earth. She would have been doing the reports, that
was what, while he would have settled the laundry problem
and the ration card snafu with one phone call each. That
was the difference between a Captain and a Lieutenant
She had to get her butt to Rosss office now. Nathan,
go down to the laundry, see if you can find, whats his
name, Lieutenant Hall, and straighten out this mess.
Promise him anything reasonable, we need our clothes.
Phousse, youve helped me with these reports before. Fill
them out, and Ill go over them when I get back from the
Commodores office. Coop, go stand in line at the
quartermasters office and find out why we didnt get our
water cards, Id kinda like a hot shower tonight! She
thought of something. And dont anyone call my beeper
while Im in a meeting with the Commodore unless its an
emergency. A REAL emergency!
Hawkes asked conversationally, What kind of trouble
dyou think youre in with the Commodore?
She felt a ball of ice in the pit of her stomach. What it was,
she figured, was the other shoe about to drop over the
Anvil thing. She had a mental flash of her court-martial and
answered Hawkes a little sharper than she meant to. Just
because Commodore Ross wants to see me doesnt mean
Im in trouble.
Nathan said, Lets go, Coop. Well come visit you in the
Gee, thanks. She stepped into the bathroom to comb her
hair, it had grown out just enough to fly all over the place.
A couple of barrettes came sailing through the doorway to
land neatly on the mirror shelf. She turned around to see
Phousse closing her drawer. How did she....dont ask,
Vansen decided. The clips pulled her hair back enough to
look presentable, at least. She headed up to Officers
Territory and to the commodores office.
She stopped outside the hatch for a long moment before she
gathered the courage to knock. When he answered, she had
no more excuse for delays. Captain Vansen, reporting as
She stepped inside and saluted, stood at ease on the
commodores order. Ross handed her a folded sheet of
paper. She unfolded it and began to read, thinking at first it
was some kind of summons. But then she realized what it
was and stared at it in disbelief. But, sir, this has to be
some kind of a mistake!
No mistake -- Major.
Sir, yes, sir. I do not understand, sir.
Ross showed her to a seat. Vansen, Im going to ask you
to put yourself in an extremely awkward situation for any
officer. First, nothing said here is to be discussed with
anyone other than the persons involved, understood?
Vansen took the seat that Ross indicated, and he abandoned
formality. "McQueen managed to make himself some
important enemies when he led that action against the
Golem. People who would have preferred it if Aerotech
had not been...embarrassed by that incident. I have
expected them to take action against him, and they did not
disappoint me. I won't discuss how I came to know this,
other than to say that I have a few highly placed friends of
"Are you saying that Colonel McQueen is in danger back
on earth, sir?"
Ross shook his head. "No, they don't usually work that
way. Disappearances and phony accidents cause too much
of a scandal when something goes wrong. What they've
pulled is a lot less complicated. My source warned me that
when Colonel McQueen gets out of rehab, he isn't going to
be recertified for active duty. I'm not talking about a
medical discharge, what they'd do is transfer him to some
teaching or administrative post in the middle of nowhere.
Somewhere he would never be in a position to threaten
them again." Ross' tone of voice set the word them in
bold type and italics. "Understand me, this is the kind of
battle that's won or lost without a shot being fired, and the
enemy has clear superiority...but I have the advantage of
surprise. What I'm going to do is request that Colonel
McQueen be reassigned to my personal staff in an advisory
capacity. People owe me a few favors. That request will
"So...in reality, nothing will change except on paper."
"Exactly. But I need to put someone in command of the
58th -- on paper. Obviously I can't pull in someone who's
unaware of the situation. What I'm asking you to do is to
command your unit -- on paper. I know it's a lot to ask of
someone who has the career ambitions you do. I have no
way of knowing how long this situation will continue, and I
realize that I am asking you to put your own career
advancement on hold for as long as it does."
Vansen said, "Sir. I do not have a problem with the
Ross looked into clear dark eyes and saw as much of
loyalty as he ever had in a career that spanned two decades.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, would be too much to ask one
of the Wild Cards to do for another. "Thank you, Major."
"Sir, is the Colonel aware of all this?"
"Not yet. He won't receive his orders until he returns to
the Saratoga next month."
"If you don't mind me making the observation, sir, I don't
envy you the job of telling him."
"No, Major Vansen, you certainly should not," Ross
(Bethesda Naval Hospital Bionic Research Facility,
The humid summer air that rushed through the door was a
contrast to the air-conditioning inside the lab building. It
was 1700-hours, quitting time, but still very warm. As TC
McQueen crossed the hospital campus he joined a crowd of
people heading for the parking lots and bus stops, on their
way home. Most of them paid little attention to him. He
still walked with a cane, but no longer depended on it to the
point where anyone noticed. After a month of having
people jump to open doors and offer to carry packages for
him, it was good to be anonymous once again.
After he had seen the amazing job the plastic surgeons had
done on Shane's acid burns, he knew he shouldn't have been
surprised at anything. Still, when he had first seen his
bionic leg it had looked anything but real. That was before
it had been grafted on. Now, a layer of his own flesh and
blood covered the prosthesis, and after ten days, it was
invisible. He still thought he limped quite a bit, but that
was due to the fact that he hadn't yet adjusted completely
to the cybernetic implants that controlled the prosthesis.
His rehab doctor had told him that he should start seeing
improvement in that on a daily basis now. It appeared
Silicatronics was capable of doing something right, at least
once in a while. He still had another two weeks of
rehabilitation and tests before he would ship out for the
For the time being, home was a room in the convalescent
center. He was in self-care, it was more like a motel with
good maid service than a hospital floor. That was fine with
him, he hadnt been able to wait to get away from the
constant attention on the surgical floor. Here, he could
come and go as he liked, and as long as he reported on time
to where ever he was supposed to be, no one was
concerned about it.
The nurse at the desk looked up as he stepped off the
elevator. Colonel McQueen? You have a visitor, shes
waiting for you in the lounge.
Who is it?
The nurse shrugged, it wasnt her job to keep track. Some
blonde woman. Real well dressed, looks like a business
woman or something?
McQueen followed the corridor back to the lounge. Its
single occupant was standing at the window that
overlooked the hospitals campus green, she didnt look a
bit different than she had the last time he had seen
her...nearly ten years ago. Leah. This is a surprise.
It took her a moment to turn around, as if she didnt realize
he was speaking to her. But then she recognized his voice
and turned to greet him. The name on her visitors badge
was Amanda L. Goldstein. Im sorry, no ones called me
Leah in so long...you and Daddy were the only ones who
ever called me that. Ive been going by my first name for
such a long while now. Ty, you look wonderful! When I
got back to the paper and my editor told me what youd
been through, I dont know what I was expecting!
I was lucky. You havent changed a bit. How have you
Ive gotten along. Ive been at the Times Sentinel for
three years now. Work is the reason I didnt come by
sooner, I was in Brussels covering the economic summit. I
just got off a plane this morning.
Im sorry I kept you waiting out here. If youd called, I
could have let you know my schedule.
I just dropped in on my way home from the paper, I
havent been waiting long at all. But I should have thought,
if you have other plans-- She suddenly seemed uncertain.
Not at all. Have you had dinner?
No, I havent.
Would you like to get something?
Id love to. That smile was still the same, capable of
lighting up a whole room. McQueen warned himself to
watch out. There were a lot of doors here that he had no
intention of reopening!
Give me a minute to change.
Ill get my car and meet you, she replied.
Fifteen minutes later, McQueen found Amy waiting at the
curb in a an upscale electric commuter car. She touched a
button to unlock the passenger door and moved her
computer case to the back seat. As he got in, he saw
pictures of two small children framed on her key-chain.
Amy nodded. Justin and Jennifer. Theyre twins, theyll
be four in September.
Theyre beautiful children. You didnt tell me youd
Amys eyes took on a faraway look. I didnt. Their
father was a dear friend, a reporter I knew from the paper
named Justin Mallory. He was killed before I knew I was
pregnant, a drunk ran his car off the road. Since then...Ive
concentrated on my children and my work.
Im sorry to hear that, Amy.
She nodded. Its been long enough that...its past. With
a visible effort, she shook off the memories. What about
you? Is there someone...out there?
Theres someone, he smiled. And thats all Im going to
say about it.
You always were one mystery after another, she said.
You shouldnt wave bait like that in front of a reporter,
you know. Ty, I swore I wouldnt lose track of you but....I
guess thats what happens. Didnt we say we were going
to stay friends?
McQueen hadnt made any real effort to be kept track of,
but he had to say something. Youre here now, thats
Again, that thousand-watt smile. Do you still like
He laughed. After all the hospital food Ive had lately,
there isnt much I wouldnt like.
I know this great little place about ten minutes from here.
Once she had maneuvered out of the hospital complex, she
logged the cars navigation system onto the traffic grid and
programmed in their destination. Then she called home to
check on her kids and to tell the nanny not to wait supper
Midweek, the restaurant was only moderately busy. Amy
got them a table out on the terrace, overlooking a park on
the edge of the Potomac greenbelt. They ended up lingering
over dinner and then walking down through the park to the
river, they had a lot of catching up to do. From the society
page job her wealthy father had arranged, Amy had built a
career as a respected journalist. Shed won a number of
awards covering international stories. After her twins were
born, she had accepted her current position because it kept
her in Washington for the most part. Only the most
important stories, such as the recent economic summit,
required her to travel these days.
McQueen told her about his career since the divorce, but
mostly in general terms, and more about people than
events. She had known the members of the 127th when
they had been married, but that had been several years
before the opening battle of the war. She had been
acquainted with Traci Collins, who had been new to the
unit then, but they had never been more than acquaintances.
McQueen put his grounded status in as matter-of-fact a
manner as he could, and moved on quickly from there to his
assignment as commanding officer of the 58th.
Amy sipped her wine. I knew you were with the 58th
now. Dont look so surprised, I couldnt help keeping
up with your career. Once the news room grapevine found
out we used to be married, I saw everything off the wire
with your name on it before practically anyone else did. If
I hadnt been out of the loop in Brussels, Id have heard
about this and been here sooner. I was so glad to hear those
two young girls had been rescued safely. Is Glen still
commanding the Saratoga?
So how is he? I always liked him the best out of everyone
I knew from the 127th. Did he ever get married?
Just to the Sara, McQueen replied.
Amy reflected, Most of them seem so young. When did
The hell if I know, McQueen replied. You just turn
around one day and it happens, youre surrounded by kids.
This damned war, though...they dont stay kids long out
Nearly everyone I work with has someone in the war
zone, she said. There are seven gold star parents at the
paper. Seven! When the president announced that the war
was ending, of course we all believed it...we had Champaign
in the news room! And then to find out it had all been an
enemy trick--! She shook her head. If their intention was
to break morale on the home front, they certainly
This isnt over yet, he said.
Could they really be our...cousins?
Theyre not MY cousins, he replied. Im no scientist,
Amy, I dont know if theres any truth to their claims
about originating from the same genetics as life on earth.
But I dont see what it matters, considering they started
If theyre telling the truth, Aerotech started it, Amy said.
There was something in her eyes, a dark, smoldering hatred
that he had never seen before...this was in no way the same
woman who had been his wife. What is it, Amy?
Aerotech has been a project of mine for a while now, she
replied. Some stories take years to break. Ill work on
this one for the rest of my life, if thats what it takes...but I
will get to the truth.
You might not like what you find out, he said.
I know what Ill find out. Knowing it and proving it are
two entirely different things. But thats what I do. She
looked up then, getting off that dark subject before the
anger in her exploded. Would you mind if we go by my
house before I take you back? Its near the twins bedtime,
and Id like to tuck them in.
McQueen didnt mind anything that kept him away from
the hospital for a while longer. It wasnt a long drive to
Amys house. She had apparently gotten back into her
fathers good graces after the divorce, she was living in one
of the family homes. Arent you afraid it will get back to
your father that youre seeing me again? McQueen
instantly regretted the sarcasm in his tone of voice, but the
words were out.
Amy was tough enough to handle a little sarcasm, though.
Not any more, I stopped jumping when he says frog a
long time ago. But if youd rather sneak through the hedges
and climb the trellis to my bedroom again, Ill see what I
I got poison ivy from whatever was growing on that damn
She put her keys in her purse and reached over the back
seat for her computer. Was it worth it? Now a lot of her
own bitterness crept into the wisecrack.
I havent figured that out yet.
They looked at each other for a moment, and the whole
thing struck them both as funny in the same moment. In
laughter, they let go of some of the pain, and found that the
friendship was still hidden underneath, after all these years,
despite everything. Together they crossed the shadowed
lawn to the circle of light at the front door.
McQueens floor was dark by the time he got back to the
hospital. He bypassed his room and went out on the
terrace, people were likely to be out here any time but for
once he had it to himself. He swiped his card in a vending
machine and got a cup of soda, took it over to the rail and
looked out over the quiet campus.
Amys sudden reappearance gave him a lot to think about.
He realized only in retrospect how long hed waited for her,
and now, he wondered just what in the hell it was hed been
waiting _for_. Some kind of justification, he supposed.
The last big argument before theyd started with the
separation and the lawyers replayed itself, like an old video
that should have been thrown out a long time ago. The
memories still hurt, but now...since Shane...they were just
memories. Hed spent many an hour when he should have
been sleeping thinking of all the things he would have liked
to have said to Amy. And now that hed had the chance, he
hadnt really said much of anything.
He didnt know what hed been thinking, maybe that shed
been somehow frozen in time since theyd parted. Instead,
she was ten years older, too, a woman, not the girl he
remembered. Shed gone to the top of her profession. She
had a couple of kids...and a picture on the mantle to help
her raise them. He hadnt wished her that kind of grief...at
least he hoped to God he never had. Somewhere during a
lot of those long nights, it had crossed his mind to want her
to hurt the way he was hurting.
Now, somehow, all that seemed distant. And Shane Vansen
was the reason why. It would still be early morning ships
time, a few hours before reveille. McQueen wondered if
she were watching the stars and missing him. He finished
his drink, and went back inside. He had might as well try to
get some rest during what remained of the night.
<end part 1>
Go back to FANFIC
Go to Part Two