Even Kittens have Claws

Part Eight -- by Becky Ratliff

See Disclaimer Information in Part One

Christy still had a big smile on her face when she got to work. Dr. O’Leary asked with patently false innocence, “Did your karate lesson go well, then?”

“Mm-hmm,” she replied, and the sparkle in her eyes was the only elaboration she made on that statement. She checked over the evening meds and then offered the clipboard to Dr. O’Leary.

The doctor carefully examined each entry before signing off, then Christy unlocked the medicine room to fill the cart. O’Leary said, “Something agrees with you!”

“Yes, it does!” Christy replied cheerfully. She was almost whistling as she pushed the meds cart down to the wards.

O’Leary grinned and shook her head, she’d either cheer the patients up or annoy them to death, one or the other! She pulled her patients’ charts and prepared to make her rounds.

She looked up as someone came in, it was McQueen. She waved him back to the table where she was working and pushed her glasses up to give him the once over. She didn’t see any blood, and he was carrying a book. She relaxed, it didn’t look like she was going to be needed in a professional sense. “TC? Have I got one of yours in here? I thought I’d released young Cooper this morning.”

“No, nothing like that. I just brought this book for Christy.”

“She’s passing meds right now, I’ll send for her.”

“There’s no need to take her away from her duties, Mary, but if you could see that she gets this, I'd appreciate it.”

“Certainly. Have you time for a cup of coffee?”

“I can make time for one cup, I suppose.” It was an ill-kept secret that the nurses’ station had the best coffee on the ‘Toga. He refilled Mary’s cup as he helped himself, no ceremony there since they both liked it strong and black.

She closed the chart she’d been working on. McQueen had never expected to make friends with a doctor, he had always had good reason to be suspicious of most of the ones he’d had occasion to be around. But Mary O’Leary had been aboard the ‘Toga before Glen and Judy had been assigned here, and they had introduced them. She was exactly what she appeared to be ... a direct, honest, down-to-earth, motherly individual who genuinely liked nearly everyone she met. She could fit right into the stereotypical wise, caring family doctor role. She was also one of the best flight surgeons in the business.

Ty had known Mary to be completely without prejudice where he was concerned. But even he had been a little surprised at the swift, decisive action she’d taken with regards to Cooper’s phyllophetamine addiction. As soon as the incident had become known, she’d started a paper chase to determine who was responsible. By the time Cooper was well enough for Ty to begin his own search for the doctor who was to blame, it had been too late. Mary had already gone first to Glen and had the fellow unceremoniously shipped off the Saratoga on the first shuttle out. Then she’d filed charges against him through the medical association. To no one’s great surprise, the disciplinary action against him had gone no further than a reprimand -- but Mary had seen to it that the Navy didn’t want him any more, and that was something. More importantly, it had served notice to the other civilian doctors that such careless and unethical conduct would not be tolerated...at least not aboard the Sara.

It hadn’t been until his injury, though, that he’d really found out how tenacious Mary was. He was quite sure that she was the reason he’d survived the first few critical hours from the time of the explosion until she’d turned him over to the medevac team. Once he’d returned to Earth, she’d kept track of his case at Bethesda. After his operation, rehab had not been easy and the results had not been guaranteed. It seemed like every time he’d started to feel like he was beating his head against a brick wall, though, he’d found an e-mail from Mary giving him a solid medical reason to stop feeling sorry for himself and get back to work.

She asked, “What is all this about someone bothering Christy?”

“It was more a case of what could have happened than what actually did. Some Navy boys were giving her a rough time, Judy broke it up before it went anywhere.”

“So that’s where the karate lessons came from?”

McQueen was perfectly happy to let that slide. He’d just as soon that people thought Cooper’s art was karate or something like that, and didn’t start asking a lot of questions about where he’d studied. “That’s right.”

Mary’s concern was down a different alley anyway. “He seems like a good kid.”

“I think they’re good for each other. You know what they say about opposites.”

“I know it.”

“They’ll be all right, Mary.”

She nodded and laughed. “I thought I was done with this when my youngest one got married.”

McQueen finished his coffee. “Ahh, Mary, you’ll always have a new crop of kids to look out for.”

“You’re a fine one to be talking, TC McQueen,” she scolded, and the laughter that set her green eyes dancing took thirty years off her age. For a moment, he had a glimpse of the young girl she’d once been ... that young girl was never far beneath the surface where Mary O’Leary was concerned. “Go on with you and let me get my rounds done!” She smiled. “Just leave the book, I’ll give it to Christy.”

McQueen put it in the middle of the table near the neat stack of charts, and left sickbay on his way up to the briefing room. Shane would already have started, but today should be fairly routine.

She had things under control when he got there, he nodded to her to go ahead and took a seat against the wall. The Saratoga was investigating reports of a build-up of chig forces in a system connected by a wormhole network to the chig home system as well as several others believed to be
enemy strongholds. The Yorktown and the Colin Powell were on similar missions in two other of these related systems.

The system they were in had a lot of good places to hide, however, with three good-size asteroid belts and two inner planets capable of supporting life. The patrol might be routine, or they might discover something that would lead to a battle -- there was no way to know until they got out there.

Chairs scraped back under the table as the four Wild Cards headed for their lockers to gear up.

McQueen saw them off from the flight deck, just as he did nearly every mission they flew, unless his duties demanded that he be somewhere else. Every squadron developed their little rituals and that was one of the 5-8’s, that before they went out they should all be together for a few minutes. Sometimes he had a bit of last-minute advice or someone had a question, but mostly it was just a good-luck thing. He didn’t believe in luck ... not really, whatever happened was the consequence of actions taken and he believed most of the time you made your own luck. But, all the same, he was always there...and, usually, he’d be there waiting when they got back.

When they were away, he headed up to his usual duty station. It was a quiet watch, no one came across any sign of enemy activity. He and Ross spent most of it keeping an eye on things and talking quietly.

McQueen usually spent time with the 5-8 in the Tun after they all got off duty, but he knew Shane was already not looking forward to her meeting with Todd. So today he decided it would be better to give her a little room, and took his old station at the end of the bar. ‘Phousse took that as a signal not to crowd too much, she got Hawkes, and Sam and a girl named Jennifer from the 8-3, into a foosball game. McQueen could occasionally hear the good-natured banter flying back and forth across the table when the juke box was between songs. Vansen and West, Flannery, and his X.O. Rob Trent were at the 5-8’s usual table. He had heard Sam mention that the remaining three Cats had stopped by sickbay to check on Billy Fulton.

At the other end of the bar, down by the jukebox, were a dozen or so Navy officers. They had their own party going, they weren’t paying any attention to the Marines.

Judy Ellison came in and slid onto the stool beside him. “Hi, handsome, can I interest you in buying a sailor a drink?”

She sounded tired and looked worse. McQueen waved his card at the bartender, who splashed scotch into his glass and asked Judy what she’d have. “Sam Adams,” she replied.

“When’s the last time you ate anything?” McQueen asked her.

She considered. “I think yesterday?”

“And a cheeseburger with fries,” McQueen added to the order. The bartender set Judy up with an ice-cold bottle while the cook started her order, he knew her well enough not to pour it. She liked it right out of the bottle.

“Rough one?” McQueen asked.

She shook her head and grinned. “Just a long one, TC ... I’m getting too old for the long ones. You know recon.”

He nodded. It was impossible to think of Judy as getting too old for anything, though.

The bartender set Judy’s meal in front of her, the aroma made her realize just how hungry she was and she dug in. “Hey, thanks for the sandwich.”

The sailors apparently got tired of feeding the jukebox, because it fell silent and no one started another song. Behind them, McQueen heard Flannery kick back in his chair, it scraped against the bulkhead. “What do you say we make this a little more interesting?”

“Yeah? What did you have in mind?” Vansen asked.

“I hear you take anything bets,” Flannery grinned. “What’d McQueen make you do, anyhow?”

She grinned right back. “You’ll be the first to know.”

“You wouldn’t care to--”

“Not on your life, Todd Flannery.” Somehow she managed to sound perfectly friendly, but at the same time threaten mayhem.

Not unexpectedly, Flannery got off that heading. “The losers treat the winners to a steak dinner with all the trimmings,” he suggested.

“Real steaks? It’s a bet,” Vansen agreed. They shook hands on the bet. Vansen saw the look in Flannery’s eyes as he held her hand for just an instant longer than he had to ... the reluctance with which he let go. It shook her. That look was real attraction ... more real than Flannery cared to admit, apparently, because he quickly turned away from her gaze and busied himself with finishing off his nachos.

Nathan said, “What say we show those guys how the game is supposed to be played?” He nodded towards the foosball table.

Apparently grateful for the interruption, Flannery said, “You’re on.”

They rooted for their respective teammates until they finished their game, then stepped up to the table.

Things were getting interesting, and a little noisy. This drew the attention of the sailors, who came down to watch the fun.

Judy glanced up at the mirror, and suddenly tensed.

Beside her, McQueen asked, “What’s the matter?”

“TC, don’t turn around, but I saw a few of those guys who were bothering Christy in that crowd, and I don’t like the way they’re looking at Cooper and that other kid. I didn’t notice them before when they had their backs to us. Now don’t you start anything--”

“I’m just minding my own business, Judy.” His tone was deceptively mild.

“Have you ever seen a bar fight start any other way?” Judy laughed. She finished her beer, she was sure she wouldn’t get a chance later.

Oblivious to the trouble brewing behind her, Vansen scored a goal. “Hey, Todd, if you shoot the way you play foosball, tomorrow’s gonna be an easy kill.”

“Oh, yeah, Queenie? I’m just getting warmed up. I’m gonna kick your ass on this goal ... and in paintball tomorrow too!”

Cooper laughed, “You guys gonna play or talk about it?”

That got the action started again, and the sailors started taking bets on the outcome. Everything stayed friendly until one of the sailors put twenty on the ‘Cards for the next goal. He was standing right beside Sam, who offered to cover the bet, both to defend his squadron’s honor and to pick up a quick twenty because he was pretty sure the Cats were going to make that goal.

The sailor allowed as how he didn’t intend to bet with any damn tanks. Sam turned around to get a good look at whoever had just insulted him, and the sailor sucker-punched him into the foosball table. Jennifer yelled, “Hey, Popeye, try that again!” And threw a punch of her own.

Vansen turned around to break it up, she was trying to pull Jennifer off the sailor. One of the other sailors punched her and knocked t hem both into Cooper, throwing all three of them off balance. At that, Flannery came right over the foosball table and waded directly into the middle of the group of sailors, punching anything in ’Toga blue. That cleared both benches, and within a couple of seconds a free-for-all had started.

McQueen and Ellison decided to try to break it up fast before someone got hurt, and security arrived, and people landed in the brig. If things were under control and no harm had been done when the authorities arrived, then Ross might be satisfied with dragging the senior officers over the coals, and leave it at that. It wouldn’t be the first time he and Crazy Judy had been on the wrong end of the Commodore’s temper, and they figured Vansen, Flannery and the Navy C.O. could take their share of it as well.

That plan appeared to be working, they were getting the warring sides fairly well separated. Then everyone noticed that Sam had been having fun with the Navy boy who had started the fight in the first place, casually flipping ice cubes out of a glass at him while easily evading the kid’s attempts to hit him. That alone would have been worth the price of admission, Judy snickered and told Sam to knock it off and clean up the ice mess. The bartender was all too happy to provide him with a broom!

Fortunately, the bartender had refrained from calling security when he saw that Ellison and McQueen had the situation in hand. The Navy squadron’s C.O. got his people out of there. Apparently most of them were unaware of the real nature of the fight, and weren’t taking it any more seriously than any other bar brawl, but the kid who had started it and a couple of others were not happy about the situation. McQueen figured they’d like it even less when their C.O. got finished with them.


Christy was finishing up her shift report when Dr. O’Leary got the chance to tell her that McQueen had left a book for her. She picked it up and looked at it curiously. The Art of Peace.

No one who had ever studied martial arts at all could have avoided hearing of this book or its author, Morihei Ueshiba. But Christy had never read it before. She opened the cover.


The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.

She had only meant to scan the first page to get an idea what she had in her hands, but five minutes later she was still standing there reading it, so mesmerized by the philosophy that she started violently when Dr. O’Leary asked her, “What is that, anyway?”

“I’m not sure...it certainly isn’t what I’d thought!” Christy replied. She looked up, smiling a little sheepishly. “Will you be needing me for anything else, ma’am?”

“No, dear, go on with you before someone puts you back to work!” She smiled, and watched Christy walk away. She was supposed to be off duty herself ... but it wouldn’t hurt to have just one more quick look at that lad in Three....

<end part 8>

Go to Part Nine

Go back to Fanfic