Even Kittens have Claws

Part One -- by Becky Ratliff


The Box
The Darkest Night
Promises to Keep
An Echo of Yesterday
Even Kittens Have Claws

Thanks to Patrice Badger, Gabrielle Bessey, Karen Evans and "Speedbump" for all their help and virtual Oreos! Errors, of course, are entirely my own-- I don’t NEED any help with those!

I can be reached at my husband's e-mail address,
Please reference the story title or my name in the subject line.

Disclaimers and Copyright Notice:

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.

Christy Ames, Mark Miller, “Crazy Judy” Ellison, and 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.

The quotation from _The Art of Peace_ came from an e-text which was unfortunately uncredited, I have no idea whose intellectual property this is. This quotation is used without permission, and I have no intention to infringe upon the rightful owner’s copyright of it.

“Who’s Who”

83rd squadron “Cats”

Major Todd “Wildcat” Flannery, C.O.
Captain Rob “Jaguar” Trent, X.O.
Captain Jennifer “Bobcat” Haskell
Lt. Sam “Lynx” Smith
Lt. Billy “Panther” Fulton
Lt. Mike “Tiger” Mershon
Lt. Kimberly “Leopard” Snowdon
Lt. Richard “Lion” Parker

Lt. Commander Mary O’Leary, MD -- flight surgeon
Dr. Walker (Rank ?) -- another flight surgeon
Lt. Commander Judith “Crazy Judy” Ellison --
C.O. of the _Saratoga’s_ recon squadron
Lt. Mark Miller -- Search and Rescue (SAR) pilot
Lt. Christy Ames -- nurse, also SAR
Lt. Gloria Fallon -- nurse, also SAR
Sandy, Melissa -- more nurses
Lt. Sedley -- launch controller
Ens. Julie Giordano -- quartermaster corps and paintball fan

Even Kittens Have Claws
copyright Becky Ratliff, October 1996

(On the Saratoga, August 2064, Monday)

Vansen lay on her bunk staring out at perpetual night. On one of her doctors’ recommendations, after Marged, she had started a journal. The doctor had realized she wasn’t forthcoming about anything too personal in sessions with the psychologists, and he viewed them with as much suspicion as she did anyway. Understanding, he had suggested the diary as a way of privately organizing her thoughts.

She saw no use for a typical “Dear Diary” type thing. She filled out too many daily logs to do more of the same in her private time. Instead, it had turned into more of a scrapbook, with “scrap” being the operative word. Here was the latest picture of her niece, which had come attached to email from her sister. A lot of it was poetry....if you could call it that, it didn’t rhyme....and she thought it was pretty bad. But the doctor had been right. Putting things down in words helped sometimes. So, she had kept the thing up even after she felt like she no longer needed to talk to anyone about what had happened on Marged.

Her beeper went off, there was a number to call which she didn’t recognize. She crossed to the phone and dialed. It was Todd Flannery, the C.O. of the 83rd, trying to organize a paintball game for that Friday.

She checked the roster. “It looks now like we’re clear after 1600, but I still haven’t got my newbies yet. There are only four of us.”

“Damn it, I need another team. More than half my squadron are FNK’s, don’t you think you can handle them?”

Cooper came in, as usual he let the hatch slam. It wasn’t supposed to do that, and she HATED that noise. She was going to have to find out why somebody from maintenance hadn’t got his butt up here to fix it yet.

She thought about Todd’s challenge. Probably...but one of those FNK’s might have been a paintball expert back home, and she could trust Flannery to skim over that fact. “Tell you what...I can probably get four other people to fill out a team, just to keep things even. There’s Julie down in supply, she likes a good paintball game.”

“Yeah, a pickup team’s fine with me. As long as it’s eight people slinging paint.”

“All right, you’re on. We can get together at Tun’s....Thursday after patrol? To agree on the scenario and victory conditions.”

She heard his chair squeak as it swiveled. “Umm, yeah, Thursday’s good. See you then.”

“See you.” She hung up. “Hey, Coop, we’re on for a paintball tournament Friday afternoon. Think Christy’d want to play?”

“Umm...yeah, if she’s off. This is a cute picture of Marion the Bug.” Her niece had got that nickname among the 58th because her Halloween costume this year was a ladybug, Anne had sent a picture which had got passed around the squadron.

“Hey, give me that!” Shane grabbed at her diary, but Coop was faster. Seeing a chance to royally pester Shane, he stood up and held the diary high overhead -- well out of her reach.

“You write poems!” He exclaimed, craning his head back to read.


“What’ll you give me for it? Hey....this one about your parents....wow, that’s really good, Shane. I didn’t know you could write poems.”

“You didn’t know I could do anything except shoot chigs! Damn it, Coop, give it back.”

Cooper laughed and skipped nimbly just out of her reach. But then he hit Page Up and happened onto another poem. After reading only a few lines, he sat down hard. Shane grabbed the notebook and turned to the viewport. She was shaking with fury and embarrassment and she realized she was about to start crying. She was *not* going to start crying in front of Cooper!

“That’s...about you...and McQueen?! Is that for real or were you just making it up?”

Shane didn’t answer. Cooper saw her shoulders trembling slightly and only then realized how he had trespassed on her privacy. “Oh, God. Shane, I’m sorry. I was just fooling around....I never meant....Shane, will you LOOK at me!”

The fear in his voice got to her, she turned around. “What do you want me to say, Coop!”

“I don’t know--Shane, it wasn’t like I had ANY idea!”


“I’m sorry, Shane. I swear.”

She blinked hard and put the notebook in her footlocker. “I shouldn’t have left it lying there while I used the phone.”

“No, I shouldn’t have touched it, I knew it was yours.” Very hesitantly, he reached out to touch her cheek. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

“I know. It’s okay, Coop. Forget the diary. You’re not gonna forget the rest of it.”

“How long -- how -- oh, crap, you are both gonna get in such trouble.”

Cooper’s eyes could be so expressive, sometimes, like a little kid’s, and now what she saw there was a very real worry. He was right, damn it. She said the only thing she could think of that had enough of the truth in it to be a reassurance. “No! Not as long as the Colonel’s on this advisor status thing. There’s no chain of command right now.”

“But there WILL be! This bullshit isn’t going to last forever. Shane, he could go to the brig, and I don’t know what they’d do to you!”

“I know that!” She sat down across from him. “Coop...you’ve got to understand. We didn’t go looking for this to happen! But when it does....oh, hell.”

“People make falling in love sound like some kind of a disease. Like when you catch it you start acting like a goof.”

“Well...I guess that’s partly true.”

“I don’t understand. What did I do wrong--”


“You never liked me that way.”

“Oh, God, Coop. It wasn’t _anything_ you did wrong. I love you more than my life, you know that, don’t you? But it isn’t the same kind of love.”

Shane had never said “I love you” to him before. Even though for all these months, especially since the peace conference had gone haywire and everything that had happened after that, it had been there unspoken whenever any of the five of them were in the same place. It was hard enough to understand love without trying to understand different kinds of love. “Kind of like, the way you love
your sisters or Marion the Bug?”

She looked up. “That’s it _exactly_.”

“And once NB’s decide you’re family, there’s no way you’re ever gonna get to do it,” he said.



Because, Coop,” she said, getting exasperated. “I feel like you’re my brother, or sometimes even like my son...you know I raised my sisters after our parents died...and I just couldn’t imagine--”

A loud alarm cut off the conversation. General quarters. For an instant Shane was glad she had been rescued from explaining that one. But then half a second later a hit rocked the ship and more alarms went off. Hawkes jumped up, grabbing gear to run for battle stations. “That sounded like a freakin’ big one--!”

Vansen jumped off the bunk, instinctively looking to see if she’d closed her footlocker. “Yeah, I wonder where it hit? Let’s go!”

Cooper grabbed her arm for a second. “Shane, I’m okay with this. I swear to God, nobody’ll find out from me.”

That was another hard learned lesson. Never, ever leave unfinished business when general quarters went off. If she didn’t come back....if he didn’t....this had to be put to rest now. She smiled and took his hand for a moment. “It’s okay.” Anyway, Vansen believed the part about nobody finding out from Cooper, but she wasn’t so sure he was okay with it.

There wasn’t any more time to talk about it as the hatch closed behind them. Movement in the corridor was quick, but not panicked and there was no sign of smoke or damage. Whatever it was, it hadn’t affected this section.

She opened her locker and geared up. Damphousse and West scrambled in two steps behind them. By then they had orders to get wheels up on the double.

Vansen didn’t know where McQueen was. If he hadn’t been on the bridge he’d have been on his way there as soon as general quarters sounded. *Where* had they been hit and how badly? She forced herself to leave her worries about that in her locker as she got into her gear. Anything that could threaten McQueen was a threat to the carrier, and it was her job to protect the carrier. So the only sensible thing was just shut up and fly.

The flight deck was controlled chaos. The ready squadrons were already gone and the 5-8, like the others on alert, were getting off the deck as fast as they could. Vansen dropped into her cockpit; right away, a mechanic leaned over to help her with her helmet.

Across from her, Hawkes was all business--until he noticed her glance and gave her his typical grin and thumbs up...and then a long, speculative look. She let that pass...for now...until she figured out how to handle it. Please God, she didn’t need Cooper jealous. She didn’t need Cooper jealous of Ty.

She was relieved to hear McQueen’s voice over her radio, asking their status.

“Ready to rock-and-roll, Queen-6,” she replied crisply.

“Okay, here’s what we’ve got....”

The situation was one they had been dreading for some time, the Saratoga had been surprised by a chig mother ship. Sooner or later, it had been bound to happen. It wasn’t, thank God, one of the big hive ships they’d seen at the Battle of Jupiter--one of those could give several supercarriers a fight to remember, and the Sara and her entourage would have been no match for one. There had been reports of these smaller, faster but less heavily armed carriers for about six months now, but Vansen had never actually seen one before.

They roared out of the launch bays and formed up. Vansen could see from out here that the hit had come aft and damaged the hangar bay right below the bridge. That was bad enough...it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

She wasn’t the only one looking. “Okay, people, there’s nothing to see here, move along!”

Two mikes later, she was in the middle of a furball, as first they took care of a bomber squadron then joined up with the 83rd to deal with a truly persistent gang of chig fighters. A couple of the 83rd’s newbies were in serious trouble. They’d been cut off from the rest of their squadron, which left them suddenly on their own against a superior enemy. Vansen and Damphousse evened the odds considerably when they arrived on the scene.

Almost immediately, though, Vansen had her own survival to worry about. The chig squad leader singled her out as the best pilot of the lot and took her on as a personal project, and she found herself drawing on all her experience and skill just to stay alive. She got inside his turn, though, and half a mike later she was juking to avoid flying through the fireball that had been his plane.

The fight went on in a similar vein for a long while, but the fighter battle was secondary to the battle between the two capital ships. The Sara finally got payback for that launch bay hit; Vansen saw one hell of a big explosion in the bottom wedge of the chig ship. The enemy broke off and they were ordered not to pursue, low on fuel and ammunition as they were.

She saw emergency personnel over in the 83rd’s area. One of Todd’s had been hurt but survived. All in all, both squadrons had been pretty lucky, considering. The losses among the new people especially had been serious. A lot of C.O.’s were going to be writing letters to next-of-kin tonight, and she was very, very thankful she wasn’t one of them.

Coop did have a sore hand, she noticed that in the locker room later. He tried to pass it off as nothing, but she made him let her look at it. “How did you do this, Coop?”

“I don’t know, it just started hurting. I think I might have hit it on something when I got jumped by those four or five chigs. I wasn’t paying too much attention, there were too many of ‘em out there.”

“Go down to medbay and get it looked at.”

Coop hated medbay with a real passion. Shane didn’t blame him, not after some damn quack down there had got him hooked on drugs. “I don’t wanna go to medbay, Shane, it’s nothing--”

“Oh, yeah? Make a fist.”

He got his hand about half closed before he winced and swore. Nathan looked up from his locker. “Think he broke it?”

“Would I have told him to make a fist if I thought he broke it? No, but it looks like a bad sprain and that can be almost as much trouble. No more arguments, Coop, get moving, you just need a scan to make sure. Quit bitchin’ and get it over with.” She watched him out the hatch, shaking her head. Her day wasn’t over yet, she still had to wrap this one up.

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