Even Kittens have Claws

Part Three -- by Becky Ratliff

See Disclaimer Information in Part One

The noise and the crowd at Tun’s started to close in on Vanessa, she felt the beginnings of a headache and the old familiar cramp in her jaw. Cooper and Nathan were talking about getting up a poker game, but she didn’t feel like that at all. She decided her headache probably had a lot to do with drinking an ice cold beer on an empty stomach. A snack and an early evening sounded like a good idea. She made her excuses and left the bar.

The quiet in the corridor was an instant relief. Vanessa stopped in the officers’ mess, the serving line was closed but there were vending machines. She swiped her card in the coffee machine, then checked out the snack selection while her coffee was brewing. She settled on a cheese sandwich and popped it in the microwave, took her snack over to a table. A bunch of nurses were sitting at the far end of the table, they looked run ragged. Vanessa recognized Christy and gave her a smile and a tired wave, got a sunny Christy grin in return. Then she turned her attention to her sandwich and savored the taste of the hot, melted cheese.

Her headache felt a little better after she ate. On the way out, she got a candy bar for dessert.

Vanessa stepped into one of the observation bays, for no real reason, other than that it was peaceful and quiet in there. She leaned against the viewport, there was an ISSCV with a repair frame out there. Working on those bay doors, she supposed. The repair frame the ISSCV carried was more or less a flatbed with a little bay at either end where there were airlocks. Whenever engineering had to go EVA to make repairs, that was home base. She had almost gone into engineering...but that could wait until she was too old to fly! Munching her candy bar, she watched the work progress for a while, then turned her attention out into the star-field itself.

As suddenly as if someone had turned out the lights then switched them back on again, the Saratoga’s observation bay disappeared. Vanessa found herself walking down a seemingly endless corridor. Everything seemed deserted, but she could hear distant moans and cries of misery. There were doors on either side, each with a barred window, but every time she thought to stop and look through one some force pulled her onward.

A familiar weight caught her attention...her Ka-bar. She’d never noticed being armed in one of her visions before, what could that mean?

Up ahead was a door with a bright light streaming through the bars. She stopped there and pulled at the door. It was locked. She looked through the bars. The light blinded her, but she could barely see the silhouette of someone moving around in there.

Whoever it was turned around and looked right at her. She felt an ice-cold presence, then she was propelled forcibly out of the vision and back into reality.

The next thing she knew she was lying on the deck. She squinted, trying to clear her vision, and took deep breaths to calm her racing heartbeat. She had just made contact with something, she was sure of that...but what could it have been? Obviously this was something she should report...but there wasn’t any procedure for something like this.

A strong hand closed on her arm and someone helped her up, over to one of the benches. She focused on Commodore Ross. Oh, this was meant to be, all right. There couldn’t be any doubt about that!

“Lieutenant, are you all right?”

“Yes, sir, I think so, sir. Let me get my breath for a mike.”

He nodded, and waited patiently until she was a little steadier. “Do you need a medic?”

“I don’t believe so, sir.”

“Then let’s have an explanation of what happened.”

“Yes, sir! I -- don’t quite know *how* to report this, sir. You know I’m a psychic.”

“I’m aware of that, Lieutenant. As a matter of fact, Col. McQueen told me that you saved his life on Vesta with one of your premonitions.”

“Yes, sir. There was a sniper. Sometimes I see things a little while before they actually happen, I was...warned...in time to push him out of the way.”

“And this was another of your premonitions?”

“I don’t know, sir.” She outlined what had happened. Putting it into the dry, official terms of a report helped make some sense of it, but not much. “Sir, I don’t think this was a vision of the future. I have the feeling that whatever just happened, it was in real time. I think...I really was somewhere else for a moment there...and whoever, or whatever, that was didn’t want me there. I can understand if you think this is crazy. In a way, I do too. But I don’t think I was dreaming or hallucinating. I fell when I was pushed!”

“I believe you,” Ross told her quietly. “I won’t pretend to know how this talent of yours works, but I’ve certainly seen enough evidence that it does. Do you have any idea who it was that pushed you?”

“No, sir. But it was...cold. That was the impression I got of it. Ice cold. Sir, I know this is important. But I don’t know what to do about it.”

“For now, there isn’t much you can do,” he told her in a common-sense tone. “Stand down and wait to see what develops. If you should have any more of these episodes, I want you to tell me at the earliest opportunity. And, Lieutenant.”


“I doubt these visions are going to be concerned with just how classified the information you obtain might be. Come straight to me with anything else like this. Don’t tell anyone else, except Major Vansen or Colonel McQueen, of course. Otherwise you might attract the attention of the Spook Squad again, and I’m not so sure that would be a wise thing for you to do!”

“Yes, sir!”

“Shall I walk you back to your quarters?”

“I’d be much obliged if you would, sir.”

By the time they reached the 58th’s hatch, Damphousse seemed to have recovered from the incident, so Ross left her there. He made a mental note that the next time he saw Ty, he would have to ask him more about the Lieutenant’s gifts. Beyond that, there didn’t seem to be anything he could do about the situation either, at the moment anyway.


Vansen combed her fingers through her hair and shook it back. “What was going on at Tun’s, should I be getting back?”

“There’s no hurry, that poker game will go on until they close.”

“That’s good.” She made herself comfortable again. “Oh, God, right now this is all I want out of life. You and the stars and the music.”

“For another hour or so, anyway. When I was at Bethesda, I got a weekend pass and I drove down the Parkway. I found a little bed and breakfast in one of those small towns in Virginia, I ended up sitting out on the porch half the night with the couple who own the place. For that one night I almost forgot there was a war on. I want to take you there one of these days.”

Shane smiled. “I remember you mentioned that place in an email. I’d like to go when the leaves turn, I’ve heard the Parkway is really beautiful then.”

“Maybe next fall...”

“I want to show you my favorite place, too. It’s a park in the Sierras. My sisters and I used to borrow our landlord’s camper and go up there several weekends every summer. Lauren and I always wanted to go backpacking, but Anne’s too civilized for that. She’d spend her time at the lake while Lauren and I went hiking and rock climbing. That’s where she met her husband. The park has a lodge and cabins that overlook the lake, I always thought that would be so nice.”

“That sounds like it would be a good place to go on our honeymoon.”

“Oh! That would be perfect, it’s only about an hour and a half from Anne’s house.”

They looked at each other, suddenly realizing that was the first time they had talked about marriage as though it were a certainty. Shane asked, “Do you think we’re tempting fate by making plans?”

McQueen held her tightly. “I don’t believe in fate. We make our own destiny. And even if there is such a thing as fate, we’re tempting it just by living. I don’t care. I’ll wait until this war is over...but only because I know I don’t have to wait any longer than that.”

Shane nodded. “Then it’s going to be _our_ time.”

Ty kissed her. “Right now is our time.”


Nathan and Cooper’s card game broke up only because the bartender threw them all out so he could close up. Their path led them past sickbay. Cooper snapped his fingers. “Shane wanted me to ask Christy about the paintball game Friday, but I forgot. Let’s stop in for a minute and see if she’s busy.”

“Sure,” Nathan grinned. “How many people do we need?”

“Eight, total, but she’s going to ask that girl named Julie.”

“Maybe Mark wants to. I saw him down on the firing range the other day. He hits what he aims at,” Nathan said.

“Good, then we’ll only need one more guy if they can both play.”

Nathan pushed the hatch open. “Maybe that guy on ‘Phousse’s mechanic crew. What’s-his-name, the big guy.”

“He’s too much of a target,” Coop objected. “He’s a head taller than me!”

“Well, do you know anyone else?”

“Maybe Shane does.”

Coop saw Christy at the nurses’ station and made a beeline over there. She looked up. “Is your hand okay?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s fine. Listen, are you doing anything Friday at 1600?”

“No, I’ll be off, why?”

“Do you want to play paintball with us?”

“I’d love to, Cooper!” She smiled.

Cooper looked into eyes the color of the summer sky and found himself suddenly very nervous. “That’s...that’s great,” he managed to stammer.

“I’ll be looking forward to it. This is going to be fun.”

Dr. O’Leary called for Christy from somewhere further back in medbay. Coop and Nathan headed on back to the 58th’s quarters. Coop said, “Why is it I get the feeling she thought I was asking her to do something else besides paintball?”

“Well, you did just ask her out on a date...kinda.”

“I did?”

“Yeah, sort of. Not a *date* date. But kind of a, you know, group date. Like going to the movies with a whole bunch of other people or something.”

“What if I wanted to ask Christy out on a real date?”

“Well, it’s just like that. You just ask her if she wants to do something and she says yes or no.”

“Where did you take Kylen on your first date?”

“The fall dance at school,” Nathan said with a smile. “We’d been friends forever, done stuff together like going out lobstering on our uncles’ boats, but that was the first time I ever actually asked her to go out with me. We were in the ninth grade. And I guess it had finally dawned on me that she was a girl instead of just another little kid. My mom dropped me off at school, and her dad picked us up after the dance and took us out for milkshakes and hamburgers.” By then, the smile had turned into a wide grin. “She was two inches taller than I was, I had braces, and I stepped all over her feet. But she went out with me again the next time I asked her.”

“How do you know when you love somebody that much?”

Nathan realized the conversation had got real serious all of a sudden. “I don’t know...Kylen and I...it just kind of snuck up on us. I guess I was sixteen when I figured it out. One Sunday we were in church and the preacher’s sermon was on the 13th chapter of First Corinthians. That scripture’s about love. And everything he said...described the way Kylen loves me. Look, I’m not real religious now, and I sure wasn’t when I was a high school kid. My brothers and I mostly just went to church to keep our parents happy. But right then I just felt like...I was the luckiest fellow who ever lived. And there was no way I was ever going to let her get out of my life...no matter what I had to do to live up to her.” Nathan shook his head. “You just know, Coop. I know that isn’t an answer, really, but it’s the best I can do.”

“I think I understand what you mean, though,” Coop said thoughtfully.

“Any particular reason you’re asking?” Nathan teased. “Initials wouldn’t be C.A., would they?”

“What? Christy? No! She’s a lot of fun, that’s all. We just like to do the same things.”

“Yep. That’s how it starts. Next thing you know, you’ll be checking out engagement rings and stuff.”

“Not me. No way. I’m not gonna catch anything that makes you act like a goof.”

Nathan gave him a bewildered look. “I don’t get it.”

“Never mind....”

Go to Part Four

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