Hawk Peters banked to the left and dove rapidly as he tried to lose the Fin Corporation plane that was firing on him. He jumped as he felt his scouter being hit, and spiralled toward the ocean, leveling off just meters before the surface. He lost his tail as he flew close to the water , and then checked the damage readout as he gained altitude again. "Wolf Five to Lead." "Go ahead." Commander Winters answered. "I've got major thrust damage." Hawk reported. "Switch with Phoenix Six for the starting run." "Aye sir." Hawk answered. "Aye sir." Phoenix Six, Atlas answered. A blinking light on Hawk's control caught his eye, and he swore. "Scratch that Lead… I've got an engine meltdown starting….I'm gonna hafta bail." "Acknowledged Wolf Five." Ashman said. Hawk sighed, and pushed the ejection button. Nothing happened. He pushed it again, and swore to himself as he remained in the failing craft. Hawk punched in the override eject code, and the panel sparked at him in response. He looked at the small countdown clock, and narrowed his eyes at the small amount of time that he had left until the engine would explode. Fifteen seconds!! his mind screamed, as the panic started to set in. I don't want to die!!! Anger took over as Hawk pounded his fists against the control panel of his scouter. The canopy of his craft blew off, and he was ejected upward, and out of his failing craft. The parachute opened, and he watched as his plane exploded a few seconds later, and then fell in a fiery mess to the ocean below. Damn! That was close!

"Reinforcements are on the way sir." Petty Officer Elisha Cardle announced from the weapons control. Thank God Sebastian thought. He checked some readouts and raised the sub slightly to avoid being fired upon. "Tell them to hurry, we've got a few more uninvited guest joining the party." He looked at Peter. "Tell me some good news." Peter held up his finger to stall Sebastian momentarily, then he reported what had come over the radio. "Andrew reports that they just dropped off the Blazers. They're trying to figure out a way back over the reef to join us." "Great." Sebastian replied. "We need all the help we can get." He dove toward the ocean floor and watched as two torpedoes shot out from his sub. They exploded against the hull of the shuttle that was, until recently, giving him so much trouble. "One torpedo left sir." Elisha reported. "Save the 'cruise's'." Sebastian said. "We may need them…..and go easy with the A.S.W.'s." A.S.W.'s were Anti-submarine warfare, and cruises were cruise missiles which were remote controlled. "Feel free to use the lasers as much as you want." "Aye sir." Elisha responded.

"Wolf Two-Five to Wolf One." "Go ahead." Daphne replied as she shot her lasers at a Fin Corp. scouter. "Remember when I told you that I had no bad feelings about this mission?" Derek asked. "Yeah?" "Well, I take it back." Derek said, an instant before a missile blew into one of his wings. "DEREK!!" Daphne screamed in horror, and watched as he ejected. The scouter exploded, sending fragments in all directions. The chair Derek was in started to spin out of control as it was hit by a large piece of wrecked metal. Daphne watched through tears as the automatic parachute opened, then became tangled. Derek started to fall rapidly toward the ocean. NO! NO! NO! NOT DEREK! PLEASE, NOOO!!! Daphne was jolted out of her vigil when a missile came dangerously close to sending her into her own free fall. When she looked again, Derek was no where in sight.

"This looks like our best bet." Marco said as he pointed to a section on the small relief map. "The reef seems to be a few feet lower in this area." Andrew nodded. "I don't see any other way…..If we get a good run at it, we just might make it without too much damage to the hull." "Only one way to find out." Marco said as he turned the sub toward the mentioned area. "Everyone strap themselves in." he ordered. "Anything on the other side?" "Negative sir." Andrew answered as he checked the readouts. "All right, …..here goes nothing." Marco said as he pushed the throttle to full.

"The structural integrity is holding at sixty-five percent." Ensign Parker James reported. "Shields are at forty percent." Mitch made his way to the front Underwater Two, and leaned between Joyce and Chief Byron Stanley. He looked at a few readouts before he went back to the weapons control. Keiko Tin looked up at him. "Target the sub shooting at us." He told her. "Two A.S.W.'s and a cruise." He could feel everyone looking at him. "DO IT!" "Yes sir." Keiko said, and keyed in the orders. The semi-sub shuddered as the missiles launched out. Keiko guided the cruise missile to the target, and it exploded into the larger submarine. The two A.S.W. missiles hit at different points, and the Fin Corp. sub broke into two pieces and sank to the ocean floor. "No sense having them if you're not gonna use 'em." Mitch said, and walked back to the front of the sub.


The semi-sub glided easily over the reef, and ran straight through an electrical net. Consoles sparked, and a noticable line of energy ran down Underwater One. Anyone who had been unlucky enough to be touching a console received a rather large shock. "Damn!" Marco yelled, and followed it up with a few choice phrases. His whole body surged with the shock, but he held onto the controls. The sub sat dead in the water as the interior surged with energy. It began to sink to the bottom. "Don't touch anything!" Marco yelled as he held his hands away from the controls. He counted to five, then tried to start the engines. He closed his eyes when nothing happened, counted slowly, and tried again. "Sir." Andrew Michaels said as he checked some readouts. "It's no use sir." Marco looked at him, then sighed. "Contact start point for rescue." He said in a dejected voice.

"Come on Marco, where are you?" Sebastian muttered as he maneuvered away from the craft that was firing on his semi-sub. He turned to Peter. "Contact Marco, and see what the hell is taking so long." "Don't have to." Peter said as he touched the radio ear piece. "They just radioed for rescue." Fear grabbed at Sebastian. "Why?" he asked in a low voice. "Ran through the net." Peter answered. "Seems that it now runs around the entire island, including the reef." "So, in other words, they're sitting in the middle of a battle with no power." Sebastian said as he dove slightly, and someone fired the lasers. Dead in the water… sitting ducks. "Any injuries?" "None that were mentioned." Peter answered. "Just a lot of shocks." Sebastian exhaled, and decided that he did not like this mission.

Mitch turned as the alarms started to sound. "What the hell is wrong now?" Joyce glanced up, then went back to what she was doing. "That is to inform us that the shields are almost gone." Mitch sighed and shook his head. "How much do we have left?" "About ten percent." Parker James answered. This is not the way I envisioned myself dying Mitch thought as he ran back to the engine room to help the ground crew member reroute systems to cover the shields. A screeching alarm sent a chill through his body. "That's all she wrote!" Parker yelled. "Shields are gone." Goodbye Angel Mitch thought. Sorry babe.

"We've got five incoming, should be here in about two minutes." Andrew Michaels announced as he checked the control board. "Any chance that they're our guys?" Marco asked. Andrew shook his head. "Ship idents mark them as Fin Corp." Marco stood up and walked to the back of the semi-sub. He pried open a panel, grabbed the wires inside and yanked them out of their hook ups. He searched through the jumble in his hand, and locating what he was looking for, pulled a wire free. "Badger." Marco said, and waited until the Genetic joined him. "We're not going to be able to wait for rescue. We've got some bandits on the way, and we can't protect ourselves beyond the missiles….I'm going to try an abbreviated cold start." He paused. "If anything happens to me, I want you to back up Andrew like I said, remember?" Badger nodded and Marco turned back to the panel. "Andrew?" "Yes sir?" Andrew answered. "I'm going to try a cold start, wait at least thirty seconds after I'm done before you start the engines again." Andrew stared at Marco. A cold start? Are you crazy? "Yes sir." He replied and turned back to his readouts. A cold start…That could kill him. Marco rubbed his hands on his pants, then reached out with the wire. "Wait sir." Badger said. "Is what you are doing dangerous?" "I hope not." Marco said and gave his friend a half smile. "The most that could happen is that I'll be electrocuted."

Sebastian turned around as he heard a noise. "What the hell--?" Peter turned to see, and then swung back to his console. "There is no report a hull breach." He stated calmly. "Well, we aren't imagining the water that's on the deck." Sebastian said. "Somebody find out where that water is coming from!" he yelled. "Seal around the hatch is cracked." Dan MacNeal finally answered. "Must have happened during that last hit." "Can you stop it?" Sebastian asked. "I have no desire to drown in this sub." "I'll see what I can do." Came the reply. Sebastian sighed and looked at Peter. "Get on the line to control and tell them to get off their asses and send the back up that they promised." "Do you want me to tell them it exactly that way?" "Yes." Sebastian said. "Exactly word for word."

Mitch was thrown back against the wall of the engine room as the sub lurched wildly. He felt a tearing sensation on his arm, and looked down to see a large gash running from shoulder to elbow. DAMN! He put his right hand against the bleeding cut, and stumbled out to the main area, being careful to avoid the jagged broken panel that had caught his arm. Parker James stood up quickly and hurried over to him. He helped Mitch to the medical kit, and sat him down. Parker flipped open the kit, took out some large gauze bandages and put them against the cut. Mitch held them as Parker took out a few more things, them he took the gauze away. "This is going to hurt." Parker warned and ran a liquid antiseptic cloth down the length of the open gash. Mitch's eyes grew wide and he grunted in pain. "Dammit to hell and back!" he exclaimed raggedly, and turned his head as Parker finished dressing the wound. "Good news sir." Keiko Tin announced. "The back up is finally here…Three sub-cruisers and a dreadnought." Mitch smiled weakly. "Inform them that we are going to help Underwater One, then we're getting the hell out of here."

Marco held his breath as he touched the wire back to the control board. He felt a tingling sensation start, then was suddenly thrown back against the opposite panels as the energy surged violently. Damn! I failed. He put out his hand as he fell to the deck, and felt pain shoot up his arm as he landed. He heard someone approach him, be he waved them off. I let them down. I was wrong to try this. Marco knelt on the deck for a few moments before he tried to get up. He put his right hand down, and yelled out as the pain traveled up his arm again. Marco felt hands lift him up, and he looked into the worried faces of Badger and Casey Matte. "I'm okay." He mumbled weakly. He looked down at his right hand, and realized that he could not feel it. He let the men lead him to a bench, and he sat down and carefully put his wrist on his lap. Marco felt the sub move as the engines kicked in, and he smiled to himself. We just might make it after all. He looked down as Badger attached something to his arms, and watched as the other man unbuttoned Marco's shirt half way, and then attached two small sensor discs to his chest. Badger checked a few readouts on a hand held 'auto-doctor', then looked at Marco. "I have hooked you up to the auto-doctor, it will monitor your systems and diagnose any treatments if necessary." Badger told him. "The power of the shock you just received was highly above normal." Marco nodded, as he could not find the energy to answer with words. He started to feel drowsy, and closed his eyes as he leaned his head back. He opened his eyes as a strange feeling passed through him, then everything went black. Badger grabbed Marco as he passed out, and gentle lowered him to the bench. He turned, alarmed, as the auto-doctor began to beep rapidly.

Sebastian watched as the sub fired at him, and inhaled sharply as a missile made it


Commander Daphne Kajazinsky-Ortiz landed her scouter on the temporary airstrip start point, and taxied quickly to the holding area. She shut down her craft, and climbed down to the deck. She looked up as other aircraft started to land. The mission was over, the Island was once again in the hands of democracy….and the E.N.R.. But at what price?, she thought. All she had been able to get from control was that one of her semi-subs lay wrecked on the ocean floor, three of the members in it were dead, and the rest were injured. The other two subs also carried injured members, one of them in semi critical condition. The scuttled subs occupants had been rescued, and now her entire Underwater force was being brought in on a 'super carrier' which would arrive in approximately eight hours. Daphne spun as she felt a hand on her shoulder, and smiled in relief. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you." Derek said. "Are you okay?" Daphne asked. "Bruised and cut." Derek answered. "But otherwise fine." Daphne moved forward and hugged him. "I didn't know if you were still alive or not. This is exactly why I didn't want you to fly." "Next time, I'll listen." Derek said. "I heard two of the Underwater's docked with the carrier. Any idea which two?" Daphne pulled away. "They wouldn't tell me…there's an information freeze in effect until the carrier docks." She looked around. "Where's everyone else?" "Either in Med Bay, or resting." He paused. "Did we lose any pilots?" "Not us." Daphne answered. "Phoenix lost three, Excelsiors four." She smiled weakly. "I guess we were lucky." "Hey." Derek put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure Marco's okay." Daphne held out her hands. "I hope you're right." Derek took her left hand and looked at it. There was a red stain in the middle of the glove. "What's this?" he demanded. "The cut reopened." Daphne answered. Derek stared at her. "Med bay…now!" "I have to report." Daphne objected, and went to walk past him. Derek planted his feet firmly, and crossed his arms. "Do I have to throw you over my shoulder and carry you there?" "I have to report!" "You can do that from Med bay." Derek told her. "Do you have any idea how dangerous it was to fly injured?"


Daphne rolled over in bed and put her arm out to Marco. She opened her eyes and looked around when she realized that she was alone. She sat up sleepily, and listened for her husband before she climbed out of bed and started for the living room. Daphne stood by the piano and scanned the dimly lit living room. "Marco?" she whispered loudly. "What." came the quiet reply. Daphne turned to where the voice had come from, but could not see him. She walked over to the bar, and found Marco sitting on the floor behind it, an untouched bottle of whisky beside him. "Are you okay?" Daphne asked. Marco shrugged. "I don't know.....I think so." He looked at the whisky bottle, then replaced the lid, and put it on the shelf. "I couldn't sleep." He tried to smile at her. Daphne sat down on the floor beside him. "Do you want to tell me what's bothering you?" "Nothing's bothering me bella." Marco said. "I told you that I couldn't sleep." He leaned his head back against the wall. "I wish that you would stop asking me what's wrong." "I'm sorry, but I worry about you." Marco sighed. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine." "Are you sure?" Daphne asked. Marco looked at her, then stood up. "Of course I'm sure." he said in an angry voice. "You know, I'm really getting rather tired of you not believing me!" He stormed out from behind the bar, and headed for the patio door. "I need some air." he said as he opened the door, and walked out. Daphne stood up, looked at the open patio door, and sighed. Marco paced along the patio, ignoring the December cold, and muttering to himself as his bare feet slid across the soft surface. He stopped at the railing and started to tap his hand against it as he looked up into the nearly winter sky. He suddenly pounded his closed fist against the railing. "Dammit to hell!" he said loudly. You stupid, stupid ass. How could you be so stupid! She's only trying to help, and you yell at her! Marco closed his eyes tightly and shook his head. I can't take this anymore he decided. I've got to get out of here for a few minutes, so I can think. He looked back at the open door, then hopped over the railing and started to run across the back yard.

Marco leaned against the back fence, breathing hard, and sweating in the cold night. He had run the entire distance from the house, not stopping until he thought that his lungs would burst from the cold air being sucked in to them. He looked at the lights from the house in the distance, as he fought to catch his breath, and realized that it was stupid for him to be out here in only sweatpants, and a t-shirt. It would serve you right if you got sick, you jerk! "What the hell is happening to me?" he asked. He swore out loud, and headed back across the three acres toward the house. Daphne was laying on the couch, sleeping, when Marco finally walked back in. He went over to her and sat down on the floor beside the couch. He watched her for a long while, before he got back up and walked into the bedroom, returning shortly with a blanket. He covered his wife with the blanket, then sat down on the floor beside her again. Marco watched her face, until he himself finally fell asleep.

Marco woke with a start, and looked around the living room in confusion, until he realized where he was. He stretched lightly, and tried to run his hand through his hair, only to smack himself in the forehead with his cast. He swore silently, and rubbed where he had hit with his good hand. He glanced at his watch as he turned around. Daphne was watching him . "Morning." she said softly. "Morning." Marco responded. He leaned his chin on the cushion beside her arm, and closed his eyes. Daphne touched his cheek with her fingertips. "I'm sorry I made you upset last night." Daphne whispered. Marco opened his eyes and looked at her. "What?...You have nothing to apologize for. If anyone should be sorry, it's me....I had no right to yell at you." He kissed her fingers. "I'm so sorry....I find myself getting angry, and I don't know why." He closed his eyes again. Daphne ran a finger along his cheek. "It's all right, I understand. You went through a lot during the mission." Marco looked at her. "What I went through was minor compared to what others went through....All I did was sail through a net and ruin the chance of making it back in time to help." Daphne suddenly realized why Marco had been in a bad mood ever since they had returned from the floating dock. She sat up on the couch and stared at him. "Nothing that happened was your fault." she told him. "You pulled off your part of the mission, and almost killed yourself while saving your sub." "But if I had been there, maybe no one would have been killed, and my friends wouldn't have been injured." Marco sat up and looked across the room. "I was stopped by an electrical net, one that I should have known would be there." "How many times do I have to tell you that what happened is not your fault?" Daphne asked. "I want you to drop this guilt trip that you have been on for the past few days." Marco exhaled. "It's not guilt." He rubbed his left hand over his face. "It's just the way I'm feeling at the moment." He chuckled slightly. "It's also this stupid medication they have me on......I can't concentrate on anything....and it's makes me so angry at times." Daphne put her almost healed left hand on his shoulder. "Those were the side effects that the doctors described." She kissed the back of his head. "So don't worry about it....I love you regardless."

Marco stood in the middle of the kitchen and looked around in confusion. He had come in for something, but had once again forgotten what it was. He sighed in annoyance. "Daphne?" he said loudly. "Yeah?" she answered from the living room. "What did I come in here for?" "Orange juice." came the reply. "Right." Marco muttered and walked over to the fridge. He took out the container and went to take a drink. "Use a glass Marco." Daphne said from the living room. How does she always know? Marco put the container on the counter, and reached for a glass. The glass slipped out of his hand, and when he went to grab for it, his arm hit the juice container, knocking it to the floor, and shattering it. Crystal flew everywhere, and orange juice flowed out along the floor. Marco stared at the mess. "Shit!" Daphne opened the door and rushed in. "What happened?" "Don't come in." Marco said and held out his hand to keep her back. "There's glass all over the place." He took a step back. "Go on out, I'll clean this up."

Daphne looked up from the couch as Marco walked out of the kitchen. He sat down next to her. "All clean." he said. "I'm sorry I broke your crystal." Daphne put her head on his shoulder. "It's okay, I can always get a new one....How did it happen?" Marco sighed. "The glass slipped out of my hand, and I knocked over the container when I went to grab for it." He kissed the top of her head. "Guess I shouldn't have tried to pick up a glass with my right hand." he commented, and looked at his injured hand. Daphne sat up and stared at him. He stared back. "What?" he asked. Daphne said nothing, and Marco sighed again. "If you're thinking of telling me that it was stupid of me to use my right hand, then save your breath. I know that I shouldn't have done it." "I didn't say a thing." Daphne said. "And I wasn't going to." Marco leaned back on the couch and continued to look at his wife. "Could you please stop staring at me?" he asked. "You're making me nervous." "I'm sorry." Daphne answered. "It's just that you're so incredibly sexy." Marco laughed. "Thank you." He leaned foreword and kissed her. "And thanks for not making a deal about the rampant stupidity I've displayed lately."


Marco turned away from the window and sat down at his desk. He had been back at work for two days now, but found that he just couldn't seem to get into a routine. He tried to do a few reports, but gave up due to lack of concentration. His wrist itched under the cast, and he was starting to get tired again. He finally gave up trying, and leaned back in his chair. "Got a minute?" A voice said from the doorway. "Sure Hawk, what's on your mind?" Marco said and waved Hawk in. "Well, actually,...I was wondering how you're doing." Hawk said and sat down in a chair in front of the desk. "I'm fine." Marco answered. "A little sore, a little tired, but fine." "Uh-huh" Hawk said. "Would I be risking a cast in the face if I told you that I didn't believe a word of what you just said." Marco stared at Hawk. " What makes you think I'm lying?" He sighed. "Listen, I appreciate the concern, but I've just got a few things that I have to work through." "Near death has an effect on people Marco," Hawk said. "I was not near death." "All right then, thinking that you're going to die, has an effect on people," Hawk said. "And, when you got that rather large shock, you thought that you were as good as gone, didn't you." He nodded slightly as Marco shrugged. "Maybe." Marco said in a soft voice. "And what's bothering you is that your supposed last thoughts were not on your wife." Marco glared at him. "Have you been talking to Daphne?" he demanded. "Whoa right there." Hawk told him. "No, I have not been talking to Daphne about this...It just happens sometimes man." He paused. "When I had to eject from my scouter, and the canopy wouldn't open, I knew that I was going to be dead very soon if I didn't get out." Hawk smiled sadly. "And all the time I was punching in the code...I mean, it was only about a ten second stretch,...but in that time, do you know what I thought about?" "Denise?" Marco guessed. "No." Hawk said as he shook his head. "I thought about how I would miss seeing sunsets from my balcony." He laughed softly. "I knew I could die any second, and I thought about a sunset.....heck, I didn't even think about Daphne." "It's different with me Hawk." Marco said. "She's my wife, and at that moment, she was the furthest thing from my mind." "You start to get sentimental during a mission, and you get dead real quick." Hawk pointed out. "You're a professional, and your mind took over from your heart." He stood up "Are you still one that medication?" "No, ended it a few days ago. Why?" "Because, tonight, you, me, Mitch, and anyone else who cares to join us, are going to go out and get totally and completely drunk." Hawk said. "And I won't take no for an answer." "Get serious." "I am completely serious Marco." Hawk told him. "Why do you think that Daphne and I always share a bottle after a mission?" "So you can hit on her." Marco deadpanned. "Besides that. We do it to remind ourselves that we are still alive, and that second guessing everything will get you nowhere." Hawk paused. "It doesn't have to be alcohol, hell, one time we shared a jug of milk......Accept help from your friends if they offer it." "Okay." Marco agreed. "I'll see if I can make it." "That's all I ask." Hawk said and walked out of the office.

Daphne smiled as Marco walked into her office. She keyed off the program she was using on the computer, and leaned back in her chair. "Well, hello, sweet thang." she said, "To what do I owe the honor of this visit?" Marco sat down on her couch. "I can't seem to concentrate on work today, so I thought that I would come and bother you for awhile." "Believe me love, you are never a bother." Daphne said as she got up and walked over to sit beside him. "Maybe you should book off for a few more days." "Why?" Marco asked. "So I can spend all my time sitting around staring at the walls? I can do that here just as well as I can at home." Daphne put her arms around him. "Stop being such a Grumpy Gus," she told him. "Your bad feelings will pass, so stop dwelling on them." Marco sighed. "Maybe, maybe not. I might just decide to stay a Grumpy Gus for the rest of my life.....However long that is." "You and I are going to grow very old together sweetheart." Daphne told him. "Of course, if you don't stop talking like a quitter, I might just do something to shorten that prediction considerably. Dig?" "In other words, snap out of my mood, or you'll snap me out of it...and not in a way that I'll like." "Now you're starting to understand." Daphne said and kissed the side of his face. "Have you talked to the Naval 'shrink' about your feelings yet?" "No." Marco said. "And I don't plan on." He looked at her. "I will work through my worries on my own...with your help....I don't need any outside person trying to tell me something that I already know...judging me,...and then telling me what's wrong, when they actually have no clue because the weren't there, and they don't know what –“ He trailed off and stared blankly at her. "Sorry." "I take it that you've dealt with Navy 'shrinks' before?" Marco shrugged and leaned back into the couch. "Years ago." he answered. Daphne leaned back beside him and took his hand. "Want to tell me about it?" "What's to tell?" Marco asked, starting to sound angry. "Stupid quack thought that I crashed my bike on purpose." he closed his eyes. "Why did he think that?" Daphne asked softly. Marco open his eyes, and looked at her. "Probably because I was doing over a hundred in the rain." He squeezed her hand lightly. "....Anyway, I don't like shrinks, and I'm not going to see one." "Okay, it's totally up to you." Daphne said and kissed him. "Hawk invited me to go out with him and Mitch tonight." Marco said, changing the subject. "He seems to think that we can all benefit from getting completely drunk." "See, I told you, Hawk's not a bad guy. You just have to get to know him." Daphne said. "I think that you should go out with them tonight...just stay out of trouble." "What kind of trouble could we get into?" Marco asked. "We're all kept men." "Keep up that kind of talk, and you'll find yourself unkept and sleeping on the couch tonight." "Oh!" Marco grunted. "You are one mean lady." He smiled at her. "See, my mood is getting better just by talking with you." He kissed her and hugged her. "Baby, you are the cure that I need."

Mitch took a long drink of his beer, and looked around the bar. "It feels weird to be someplace other than the Second Half." "I know." Marco said. "But Daphne invited the girls out for a ladies night, and she laid claim to the bar first." "Did you get hold of Sebastian?" Hawk asked. "He's got Lamaze class tonight with Katherine." Marco said. "Same with Derek and Sasha." He took a drink from his glass. "Peter said he might stop by tonight." "Who else might be coming?" Mitch asked. Hawk shrugged. "I don't know. Everyone's still a little bummed from the Memorial Service yesterday....A few of the Phoenixes said they might drop by...if they don't ship out tonight" "Just as well." Mitch said. "I don't exactly feel like a big group tonight."

Daphne smiled at the people who were sitting at the table with her. "A house?" she asked Angel. "Mitch said that?" Angel nodded. "I think it was more to get my mind off of what might have happened, and onto the future, but...I'm going to make sure that he remembers it after we're married." Daphne laughed and took a drink of her beer. "Make sure that you do. I love Mitch like a brother, but he has a bad habit of not following through on things." "Ain'’t that the truth." Angel laughed. She turned to the other person at the table. "You're awful quiet." "She's still scared of me." Daphne said, and looked at the person. "Aren't you." Denise Shepard tried to smile. "Maybe a little." she admitted. "But I'm starting to think that you're not as bad as people say." "Yes, I am." Daphne said as she took another drink. She laughed at the look on Denise's face. "Relax Denise. If I wanted to get you, you'd be dead already." "That's exactly what Hawk said." "Listen to him, he knows what he's talking about." "Stop it." Angel said. "Enough scaring." Daphne smiled. "All right. I'm sorry if I made you scared of me." she said to Denise. "I guess I should take it as a compliment when someone thinks that my husband is worth hitting on." She motioned for another beer. "And, since you and Hawk are together, I thought that maybe I should get to know you.” Denise nodded. "I want to thank you for all that you've done in the past two weeks." "What do you mean?" "Putting me up at that hotel, helping Hawk with his accounts, stuff like that." Denise said. Angel looked at Daphne. "You're going soft chickie. Helping someone out like that." "Anything to stick it to Kirsten." Daphne said. She waved to a person who entered the bar. "There's Joyce." "Sorry I'm late." Joyce Royale said as she sat down. "Had a tough time finding a taxi." She motioned for a beer. "You know Denise?" Angel asked. Joyce shook her head, and Angel introduced them to each other. "Hey!" Daphne said. "Who wants to blow this place and head on over to The Prowlin' Stallion?" "The strip club?" Angel asked. "Exotic dance club." Daphne corrected her. "Let me have a few beers first." Joyce said. "Then we'll discuss shoving money down men's g-strings."

"Anybody want to shoot some pool?" Hawk asked. "In case you haven't noticed, my wrist is in a cast." Marco said, and then pointed to Mitch. "And he's still all bandaged up." He glanced up. "But I think I see someone who would probably play." "Evening sirs." Andrew Michaels said as he approached the table with Badger and Casey Matte. "Andrew," Marco said, " you are an officer, and you're allowed to call us by our names.... Will there ever be a time when you stop with the sirs' and start calling us by our given names?" "I don't know sir." Andrew said, and the whole table started to laugh. "Here's the deal." Marco said. "If both you and Casey can go the whole evening without calling me sir,....then....I'll sign you both a two day leave for whenever things start to quiet down." He looked at them. "Deal?" Andrew and Casey looked at each other, and nodded. "Deal, si-- Marco." Andrew said. "What if they lose?" Hawk asked. Marco smiled. "Well,...with my wrist in a cast, I find it hard to make out reports. If they lose, they spend two days filling out reports for me." "Oh." Casey moaned. "Please, anyting but dat." "That's the bet, take it or leave it." Marco said. "What de hell, we'll take it." Casey said. "I could always use a two day leave." "Great." Hawk said. "Now, who wants to shoot some pool?" "I will." Andrew volunteered. "Although I'm afraid that I'm not very good at it."

Daphne looked up as Reide approached the table. He smiled, then handed her a piece of paper. Daphne read it, then started to laugh. She handed the paper to Angel as Reide left. Angel read it, then looked at Daphne before she handed the paper to Denise. "What's so funny?" Denise asked, and then read the paper. "Cute." she said, then handed the paper back to Daphne. "Am I missing something?" Joyce asked. "Ahem." Daphne said, then read the note. " "Whatever you decide to do tonight, just make sure that it does not involve a visit to the Prowlin' Stallion." And it's signed Marco, Mitch, and Quinn." She started to laugh again. "Oh, how well they know us." "So, do we go anyway?" Angel asked. "N--o." Daphne said slowly. "Let them think that they're the bosses for one night. We'll go some other time." "Oh no!" Denise said as she looked at the door. "She's here!" The entire table looked, and Daphne stood up. "Be right back." She walked across the bar, and approached the front door. Reide was talking to a person, and Daphne nodded to him. "I'll handle this." she said. Reide nodded, and moved away. Daphne looked at the person. "What are you doing here?" Daphne asked. Kirsten Peters smiled tightly. "I'm meeting someone here, if it's any of your business." "Yeah, it is my business." Daphne said. "You see, I own this bar. You are not welcome here, so get the hell out." "I thought that this was the only bar in town that welcomed anyone, regardless of who they are." Kirsten said. Bitch! "Fine, have your meeting, and then get the hell out." Daphne told her. "But if you cause even the slightest trouble, then I will throw you out myself. I'll be watching you." Kirsten smiled sweetly, then noticed Denise. "What is that slut doing here?" "Don't even start!" Daphne said. She motioned to Reide. "Please show Ms. Peters to a table... She won't be staying long."

Hawk grumbled as he sat back down at the table. Andrew sat down opposite from him, still counting the money he had just won at pool. Hawk looked at Marco. "Why didn't you tell me that the kid was a shark?" Marco shrugged, then laughed. He finished off his drink, and signaled for another one. "Hey guys." Derek said as he sat down at the table. "I thought you had Lamaze tonight?" Mitch said. "I did." Derek answered. "Sasha kicked me out for the night. Said that I was driving her crazy." He motioned for a drink. "I saw Sebastian. He's not going to come out tonight. His shoulders bothering him, so he's just going to go home." "You're going to have to do some serious drinking to catch up." Hawk told him. "Can't." Derek said. "I'm driving, so it's coffee for me tonight." "Next time, take a taxi like we did." Mitch said, then sighed. "Over thirty bars in a ten block area, and they had to come to this one." "What are you talking about?" Marco asked. Mitch pointed to the door, and he turned to look. "I vote we pay our tab and find a better bar." Hawk said "I'm with you." Mitch said. Marco turned back and looked at them. "No." "Marco." Mitch said in a warning voice. "Remember what Daphne said about staying out of trouble. And those guys definitely constitute as trouble." "Will you two relax." Marco said. "What's the worst that could happen?" "A few of them could be making their way to our table." Andrew said. "Well, well, well." Commander Kyle Brodeaur said. "Looks like we meet again." "Evening Kyle." Marco said. "I didn't know that you were back. Have a pleasant trip?" "Cut the crap Smash." Kyle snarled. "I believe that there was something we were going to resolve when I got back." "Love to be able to accommodate you," Marco said, and held up his right arm, "but as you can see, I have a cast on. Could I take a rain check on beating the crap out of you?" "We either do it now, or I drag you out of that chair and take you outside." Marco stood up and looked at him. "You would actually start a fight with an injured person?" Kyle looked at him. "In a bar? How do I know that your crew won't gang up on me if we go outside?" Kyle scoffed at Marco. "I don't need them to finish you off." Marco sighed. "Go away Kyle, you're starting to bother me." He sat back down and took a drink of beer. "Once a wuss, always a wuss." Kyle snorted. "Does Daphne know what a wimp you are? Seems to me that she would benefit from a real man." Marco shrugged, then swung his casted wrist back quickly, hitting Kyle square in the family jewels. Kyle fell to the floor with a grunt. Marco calmly finished off his drink. One of the Blazers started to approach, and Casey Matte pointed at him. "Don't even think about it mon ami." Casey said. Tombay Lieushiquana glared at him. "I haven't forgotten about you Cajun." he said, then looked at Andrew. "Or you either, punk." Andrew looked at him and smiled politely. "Are you just going to leave your Commander groaning on the floor?" T.L. snarled at him, then bent down to help Kyle to his feet. "Now go away." Marco said without turning around. He looked at his friends. “Now, we can leave."

"Stop fidgeting." Daphne told Denise. "Kirsten is not going to come near you tonight." "That's fine, but what about tomorrow, or the next day?" Denise asked. "I can't stay in that hotel forever." Angel smiled at her. "Don't worry about it. Kirsten will not be around for long." Daphne looked at Angel. "What do you mean by that?" "I called in a few favors, and by tomorrow morning, Kirsten will be long gone." Denise gasped. "You don't mean killed, do you?" "Of course not!" Angel said. "She's meeting with someone who's going to give her an offer she...shouldn't refuse." "I like your style." Daphne said. " Now could we please change the subject?" "Did you know that Kirsten sold Hawk's guitar?" Denise said. Angel and Daphne stared at each other. "She did?" Daphne asked in an angry voice. Denise nodded. "That bitch!" Daphne stood up and walked quickly over to Kirsten's table. "What!?" Kirsten demanded. "Where did you pawn the guitar?" "I don't have to tell you anything." Kirsten said, a second before she was lifted out of the chair. Daphne held onto the front of Kirsten's shirt. "I asked you a question." she said in a dangerously low voice. "Antique store on fifth." Kirsten said. Daphne dropped her back into her chair, and walked away. She came back to her table and sat down. "She sold it to that junk store on fifth." Joyce looked at her watch. "That place is open for another hour." "You sure?" Angel asked. "Yeah." Joyce said. "I live right down the street from it." "Let's go." Daphne said, and stood up. "It's only a ten minute walk from here." "Hi!" Keiko Tin said as she walked up. "Glad you could make it Keiko." Daphne said. "Come on, we've got an errand to run." "It's December." Angel told her. "It's cold out." "I got my car." Keiko said as she held up her keys. "Where are we going?" "To rescue a guitar." Daphne replied, and started for the door. "Of course." Keiko mumbled to herself. "How silly of me to ask."

"I hope you realize that they're probably going to follow us out to the parking lot." Hawk said as they walked across the bar. "You're probably right." Marco answered as he opened the door. They group walked outside, and headed to Derek's mini van. "Nice vehicle." Hawk said semi-sarcastically. "I love my girls dearly, and wouldn't trade them for the world, but you try to drive with three small kids in a normal car." Derek said. "Not to mention the two that are on the way. This van is the only thing that keeps me sane during family outings." Marco climbed in, and turned to watch the door of the bar. "Humph. Guess they had enough of us." Derek started the mini van and drove out of the parking lot. "Where to?" "Let's crash the ladies night out." Mitch suggested. "Unless of course they ignored our note, and went to the Prowlin' Stallion." "Nah," Marco said, "they wouldn't go after we asked them not to.....They'll let us think that we're the boss, and go some other night." He looked around in the dark. "The first one to tell Daphne anything about what happened in there, gets to scrub out our hanger with their toothbrush...Have I made myself clear?" "Crystal clear." Mitch answered. "You going to tell her yourself?" "Yeah, right." Marco said in a sarcastic voice. Like I have a choice.

"How may I help you ladies?" the man behind the counter at the antique/pawn shop inquired. Daphne leaned casually against the counter. "I'm in the market for a guitar." "Yes, I have many guitars." the man answered. "Anything in particular?" "An acoustic guitar." Daphne said. "A 2031 acoustic guitar to be exact." The man frowned at her. "I have none, now please leave." He turned away. Daphne walked over to a display, and picked up an extremely old baseball bat. "This is nice." she said as she looked at it. "Louisville Slugger. My favorite brand." She walked back over to the counter. "Now," she continued, as she lightly bounced the bat on the counter, "the 2031 acoustic guitar is in an old beat up case, with gold trim." The man stared at the bat as the bouncing became harder. "I...I told you, I don't have it." "The guitar case also has some very faint initials on the bottom...R.J.P." Daphne said, as if she had not heard the man. She started to walk around. "Ohh, these are nice." she said, and tapped an antique mirror with the bat. She looked at the man. "I want that guitar, or else I start batting practice." The man put his hand up. "Don't do anything....I'll get the guitar." He turned to go to the back room. "Hold it." Daphne said. "Go with him." she told Angel. Angel followed the man, and soon returned with a case. She put it on the counter, and opened it. Inside sat the guitar that Hawk had inherited from his grandmother. "A man came asking about this a few days ago." the man said. "The lady I bought it from told me not to tell anyone that I had it. She said that it was a family heirloom, and that her ex-husband was trying to steal it from her." "So she pawned it?" Daphne asked, and shook her head. "Are you really that stupid?" She looked at the man. "That lady was the thief. How much did you give her for it?" "Five hundred dollars." the man answered. "But she said she would be back for it." "She won't be." Daphne said. "I'll give you three-fifty for it. You only lose one-fifty, and I don't call the cops on you for buying stolen merchandise." The man sighed. "Deal." Daphne put the baseball bat down on the counter. "I like this. How much?"

"Hey ladies!" Hawk said as his group approached the table. "Mind if we join you?" "What happened to the he-man night out?" Daphne asked as she gave Marco a kiss. "Wait, don't tell me. You couldn't stay away from us for one more second, and you had to run out of whatever bar you were in, and rush to our sides." "Yeah, sure." Mitch said. "That sounds like a good of a reason as anything." "Don't be a smart ass." Angel told him. "So, why are you really here?" "It's a free country." Marco said. "Besides, the element in that last bar got real seedy, real fast." He looked at Daphne. "The Blazers are back." Daphne wrapped her hand gently around his collar, and pulled Marco closer to her. "Did you get into a fight?" Marco smiled at her. "Whatever do you mean?" Mitch looked at Hawk. "Game of pool?" Hawk nodded and stood up quickly. "That sounds like a very good plan." He followed Mitch away from the table. "Hold on, I'll join you." Casey said, and got up. Andrew look at Daphne and Marco staring at each other. "Wait for me." he said, and followed. Badger stood up and went with him. Derek watched everyone with an amused expression on his face. "Now, tell me that you didn't get into a fight." Daphne said. "On my honor, I did not get into a fight." Marco answered. Can't exactly call one hit a fight. Daphne looked at Derek. "Leave me out of this." he said and turned around to watch the people at the pool tables. Marco sighed. "He said something, I hit him, he fell down, end of story. One punch is not a fight." "What did he say?" "No." Marco said and put his finger up. "Don't even bother, because I am not going to tell you." He kissed her. "Now either you drop it, or I'm going to catch a cab and go home." "Fine, I'll drop it....for now." "Everything cool now?" Mitch asked as he sat back down. "More or less." Daphne answered. "Finished with your game so soon?" "You know me." Mitch said. "I suck at pool. And with my arm still sore--" He shrugged. "I'll be right back." Daphne said as she got up. She look at Marco. "Do you think that you can stay out of trouble while I go to my office for a few minutes?" "I'll try." He watched her as she walked away. "God! Sometimes the truth isn't the best way to go." "You're going to have to do some heavy duty sucking up to make up for this one." Mitch said, and motioned for drinks for the table. He watched, curious, as Daphne walked out of her office with a large case. "What the hell is that?" he asked as she sat down with it. "You'll see." she told him. "Hey, Hawk!" she yelled over the rock music. "Yes ma'am." Hawk said as he walked up. He saw the case on the table, and stopped. He walked up to it and slowly opened it. He put a hand on it, and closed his eyes in relief. "How did you find it?" he asked as he took the guitar out of the case. "I asked Kirsten, and then we went to the pawn shop tonight and got it back." "She told you where it was?" "In a round about way." Daphne said as Hawk turned it over in his hands and checked it over. "It was in that junk place on fifth." Hawk looked at her. "I went there, but they said that they didn't have it." "I convinced them otherwise." Daphne said. "I also bought a rather nice baseball bat." "Thank you hon." Hawk gave her a kiss on the cheek. "You have no idea how much this means to me." he said as he put the guitar back into the case. "Can I leave it in your office for awhile?" Daphne nodded, and Hawk left to put the case back. Daphne sat down beside Marco. "What was that all about?" he asked. "Kirsten sold the guitar that Hawk inherited from his grandmother." Daphne told him. "That guitar has been the only constant thing in his life, and it's special to him." Marco kissed her. "Do you know how much I love you?" He smiled. "Now, suppose you tell me exactly how you convinced the pawn shop that they had the guitar."

Marco reached out and lightly touched Daphne's face with his right hand. Daphne kissed the cast, then kissed his fingers. They were standing in her office, because Marco had told her that he wanted to tell her something. "What did you want to tell me?" Daphne asked. "Nothing." Marco said. "I just wanted to be alone with you for a few minutes." He pushed her against the wall and started to kiss her neck. "I haven't been very pleasant the last couple of days, and I want to try to make up for it." "I have no problem with that." Daphne said. "But can't you wait until we get home?" "Could, but I don't want to." Marco answered as he pushed lightly against her. He started to include her shoulder in his kisses. "Just make sure the door's locked." Daphne said in a husky whisper.

"I'm glad you got your guitar back." Denise said as she cuddled against Hawk. "Me too." Hawk answered. "I just can't believe that the guy gave it back." "Daphne bought it." Denise said. "I thought she told you?" Hawk sighed and closed his eyes. "No, she must have left that part out." She had told him about the baseball bat, but that was it. "How much did she pay for it." "Don't worry about it." Angel said from across the table. "Forget about it until later." "Fine." Hawk said, although he no intention to. He looked at the door and sighed. "Looks like they decided to follow us after all." Angel turned to look. "Well, I guess that just about ruins this night." She watched as the Blazers noisily made their way to a large table. The office door opened, and Marco and Daphne walked out with their arms around each other. Marco glanced at the Blazers, then they continued on to their own table. "No one fights in my bar." was all that Daphne said as she sat down. She looked at Marco. He sighed. "I’m not going to let them ruin what is turning out to be a wonderful evening." Marco told her as he ran he hand along her thigh. He looked across the table. "Andrew?" " Yes sir?" Marco smiled. "Just wanted to tell you to be at my office bright and early tomorrow morning to start on those reports." Andrew realized what he had said. "Shit!" Marco smiled again. “I usually start after the briefings.” "Tanks a lot mon ami.” Casey said to Andrew as he got up. He walked toward the hallway that led to the restrooms. Derek watched as one of the Blazers, T.L., also got up and headed in the same direction. Oh man, that can't be good he thought and got up also.

"Looks like you're all alone." T.L. said as he walked up behind Casey. Casey turned around and looked at him. "Look dat way. What?! You going to try to beat me up?" he asked in an accented voice. "Well, go ahead, take your best shot." He looked over the other man's shoulder. "I can handle this." "You think I'm stupid enough to fall for that?" T.L. asked in a rude voice. "Fall for what?" a voice said from behind him. T.L. spun around, and looked in shock at the much taller man who had spoke. "Excuse me," Derek said, "but could you move so that I can get by?" T.L. moved silently to the wall, and Derek walked by him, and into the restroom. T.L. faced Casey again, and his arrogance was back. "No friends going to run to your rescue?" "Only dem." Casey said and pointed. T.L. turned around again, and seeing no one behind him, turned back...only to be met with a right fist to the face. He fell to the floor. "Sucker." Casey said, turned, and walked into the restroom. "What happened to your friend?" Derek asked. "Strangest ting," Casey said, "he slipped and fell right into my fist." "These floors can be slippery at times." Derek said. "But I would suggest that you get back to the table before he gets up."

Marco sighed as he watched Kyle make his way across the bar. The man was weaving, and could barely stand up as he walked to the pool tables. Andrew Michaels looked up from the game he was shooting with Keiko Tin, and sighed. "Well, you're a pretty little thing." Kyle slurred to Keiko. "Why don't you come over to my table, and we can get to know each other." "No thank you." Keiko said politely, and turned back to the game. "Don't you know who I am?" Kyle said in an angry voice. He grabbed Keiko by the elbow. He looked down as a pool cue landed on his arm. "The lady doesn't want to go with you." Andrew said. "So remove your hand from her arm." He looked evenly at Kyle. "Go away kid." Kyle slurred. "We're busy." "You're drunk." Andrew answered. "And don't call me kid." Keiko turned her arm in his grip, and maneuvered so that she had Kyle's arm in her own grip. Kyle looked down, shocked. "I said no thank you." Keiko said. "Now leave me alone, or I might just forget that I'm a lady, and shove your head through this pool table." She let go of his arm, and turned back to the game. "You heard the lady." Andrew said. "Blow." He also turned back to the game. He could hear Kyle as he stumbled away. "Thank you." Keiko said softly. "Oh, yeah, like you needed my help." Andrew said as he shot at the balls.

Kyle stumbled up to the table, and leered at Daphne. "Hello Daphne. Given any thought to what I said." "Go back to your table and sit down Kyle." Daphne said. "I have absolutely nothing to say to you." Casey walked up to the table, and looked at Kyle. "Excuse me sir, but one of your men seem to have passed out in the restroom hallway." He sat down. "T.L., I believe." he said innocently. Kyle looked at him, then turned and walked away. "Passed out?" Marco asked. "Or punched out." Casey took a drink of his beer, and avoided the question. Marco sighed. "I want to speak to you, over there." He pointed and stood up. "Right now." Casey sighed, and followed Marco . Hawk sat down beside Daphne. "Why didn't you tell me that you paid for my guitar?" Daphne smiled. "Because it was no big deal, and suppose to be a secret." "How much." "I'll tell you how much I paid, if you tell me what Kyle said before Marco hit him." Daphne said. "No." "Why not?" Hawk laughed slightly. "Because I don't feel like cleaning the hanger with my toothbrush." He smiled at the confused look he got from Daphne. "That's what we were threatened with if we told you." Daphne nodded. "Well...As Commander, I have the power to override any threats made by my X.O." "Sorry." Hawk said and shook his head. "It's really better if you don't know what was said." He smiled. "Trust me on that one." "Was it about me?" "How much did you pay for my guitar?" Hawk asked as he hadn't heard her. "Doesn't matter." Daphne told him. "The look on your face when you got it back was worth every penny, or, in this case, international credit chip." Hawk looked away. "I need to know, so I can pay you back." He looked at her. "You're the only person who knows what that guitar really means to me." "Please drop it." Daphne said. "I know how valuable a grandmother is....just accept it and forget about how much I paid." "All right. I guess you're not going to tell me." Hawk said, and leaned back in the chair. "But, I will find out." Marco returned to the table with Casey, and sat down beside Daphne as Hawk stood up. Marco took a drink of his beer. "I think I'm about ready to go home." he said to Daphne. "You all right?" Marco nodded to her. "Yeah, just a little tired. I'm going to need a lot of rest if I'm going to oversee the refitting of the semi-subs tomorrow." Daphne smiled at him. "Okay, we can leave if you want to." Marco nodded. "I want to." He paused and looked around. "Besides, I can't see that we'll have a fun time in here anymore tonight." Daphne stood up, and waved to the friends at the table. "We're gonna leave now. You guys feel free to stay as long as you like...The next round is on the house." She smiled at the look Mitch gave her. "Just remember that this is my bar, and I do not like people fighting in my bar." Derek stood up. "I'm going to go too. You two need a lift home?"

Daphne leaned back against the couch as Marco kissed his way down her body. He worked his way back up, and kissed her deeply. "I love you so very much." he whispered as he looked into her brown eyes. "I can't tell you how sorry I am at the way I treated you the past few days, but....I think I'm going to be all right now." He ran his hand along her back. Daphne smiled at him. "I hope so. I hate to see you sad." She leaned foreword, and pushed him back onto the cushions. "And once you get that cast off in two days time---" she said, and arched her eyebrows. Marco laughed. "Oh, bella. I don't know what I would do without you."



Daphne looked up from her desk as she heard a knock at her door, and stared in mild shock at the person who stood there. Daphne got up quickly, and snapped to attention.

"Captain." she said.

Captain Zachary McKinnon returned her salute, then smiled. "You can relax Daphne, I'm not here on official business." He walked in and stood in front of her desk. "Your mother asked me to stop by, and see if it was safe for her to come for a visit."

Daphne looked at her step-father. "Well, I guess that depends on why she wants to visit."

"Aleena will be moving into our new house this week, and she just wants to see you." Zachary said. "She feels bad about what happened the last time you two talked, and she wants to try to smooth a few things over."

Daphne tapped her fingers against her desk. "I don't know sir. A few things were said last time that have changed the way I look at my mother." She sighed. "Give me a few days, and I'll think about it."

Zachary nodded. "I'll let her know." He paused. "She really is sorry."

"She always is."

"Look, I'm not totally aware of your past with your mother, but don't you think that you're being a little hard on her?"

Daphne stared at Captain McKinnon for a few seconds before she came to a decision. "Sit." she said, and pointed to the chair in front of her desk. Zachary sat in the chair, and Daphne leaned on her desk. "When I get through, you are going to be totally 'aware' of my past with my mother."


Mitchell Jackson stared at the controls of the scouter he was working on and grimaced in disgust. The squad had received replacement crafts that morning, and they were in even worse shape than the ones that had been destroyed on the mission.

Mitch rubbed his upper left arm lightly, glad to be finally rid of the bandages. Even though the doctors had been able to laser the wound , he had to keep it wrapped for a little over a week, and he found more of an annoyance than a help. He glanced down at the scar that ran from his shoulder to his elbow and shook his head in disbelief. The doctors had assured him that the scar would almost disappear in time but he knew better, since that was what they had told him about the scars from his big accident more than seven years ago. He could still see those scars every time he took his shirt off, especially the rather large on that ran along his entire rib cage.


He jumped slightly, then smiled at the person who had called his name. "Yes my love?"

Angel looked at him with concern. "Are you all right? I've been calling your name, and you looked like you were a million miles away."

"I'm fine," Mitch answered, "just doing a little memory trip." He smiled again. "Listen, I was thinking, do you have any plans for this weekend?"

"Well, tomorrow Daphne and I are going to go to lunch with Katherine, but I'm yours all Sunday."

Mitch nodded thoughtfully. "I just got a call from my mother, and she'll be here this weekend...and she would very much like to meet you."

Angel stared at her fiancee, and suddenly discovered that she could not catch her breath.


Marco walked into the office and smiled at the person behind the desk. "Hey amigo, nice to have you back."

Sebastian Phillips returned the smile. "It's good to be back." He watched as Marco sat down in the chair in front of his desk. "Is there something that I can help you with?"

Marco shrugged. "I don't know.....yeah.....maybe.....ah, forget it." He stood back up and started for the door. "Sorry to have bothered you."


"Yeah?" he answered as he turned around.

"Drag your ass back to that chair, sit down, and tell me what's bugging you." Sebastian said. Marco sighed and went back to the chair. "Good. Now, we've been friends for a long time, and I can tell when something’s bothering you." He smiled. "So, spill."

Marco sighed and looked out the window behind his friend. "I just wanted to tell you that I was sorry that I wasn't there to help you when you were under attack....Maybe if I had been, you wouldn't have gotten hurt,....Elisha and Randy...would still be--" He broke off, blinked a few times, then looked at Sebastian. "Anyway, I'm sorry."

Sebastian stared at Marco in stunned silence. "Nothing that happened was your fault Marco. We got hit by the missile because there was a sub in the way, and I couldn't get out of there fast enough."

"I was in charge of the underwater aspect of things, and I should have been there." Marco said. "By not being there, I failed in --"

Sebastian cut him off. "Stop this right now!" He leaned foreword. "I will not have you blaming yourself for something that was an accident. You got that? An accident. We were at war..no, we are at war with the Fin Corporation, and things happen during war. People die, accidents happen...Lieutenant-Commanders sail through cloaked electric nets and almost electrocute themselves attempting to save their crewmates." Sebastian stared at his old friend.

Marco returned the stare. "War is a handy excuse, but not one that I'm willing to use." He sighed. "Just accept the apology, all right."

"Will it stop you from blaming yourself?" Sebastian asked. Marco shrugged. "Okay. I accept the apology. But only if you stop blaming yourself." He leaned back. "Do you remember what you told Daphne a few years ago about blaming herself for Operation Tiger Call?"

Marco exhaled slightly and looked back out the window. "I told her that she shouldn't blame herself, because things happen that we have no control over."

Sebastian nodded. "Exactly. Now, are you going to follow your own advice, or are you going to spend five years feeling guilty, like she did."

"It's easy to give out advice." Marco said. "A little bit harder to actually follow it." He looked at his blond friend. "I'll try." He stood up.

Sebastian stood up also, and walked around the desk. "Good." He smiled at the shorter man. "Now, how are you otherwise?"

Marco shrugged. "I'm fine....and I really should be going. The new crafts finally got here, and I haven't had a chance to look them over yet. And I still have to check on Andrew and Casey, and see how those reports are coming."

"All right, I'll let you get away with changing the subject this time." Sebastian said. "Go, do your work.....But, please, remember that I do not blame you for anything." He touched his nose. "Besides, Katherine kinda likes the new nose."

Marco nodded. "It does look better since you broke it. You don't have those annoying pretty boy looks anymore."


Captain Zachary McKinnon stared at his step daughter for a long time after she had finished speaking. She had just told him everything about growing up with her mother, and he was finding it a little hard to absorb.

"I..I"m sorry." he finally said. "I had no idea that it was that bad."

"It made me the person I am today." Daphne said. "If she had been a model mother, I doubt that I would have ever ran away to the navy.....and I never would have met Marco.....And you would not have re-met my mother and married her." She stood up. "I do believe that mom is sorry for what she has done, even if she can't bring herself to admit it to me.....I mean what happened the last time we were together. About what happened while I was growing up, well, she thinks that she did nothing wrong." Daphne shrugged. "Nothing will ever change that fact."



Angel Turqui shut down her scouter and sighed deeply as she pushed the canopy open. Wetness fell onto her face, and she looked up. Oh, great…just what we need. Rain. It’s not bad enough that someone decided to blow up the city, but now it’s gotta rain!?

“It’s suppose to be Christmas DAMN IT!” Angel yelled and pounded a fist against the control panel. Lights flickered briefly, then went dark.

“Oh, great,” she mumbled, “that’s all I need.” Angel climbed out of the craft and walked towards the hanger. Mitch caught up with her before she entered.

“How’d it go?” he asked.

“Two hours of security flights, and nothing.” Angel answered. “Of course, there’s not much to see when you’re flying at cruising speed.”

“The presence of the crafts will help.”

Angel stopped walking. “With what?!” she demanded. “The damage has already been done…the brass was stupid not to have tighter security around this city.”


“I mean, my God!” Angel continued. “Port McKay is here! Did the navy think that the Fin Corp. wouldn’t try something against it?!”

“Calm down.”

Angel drew back and threw her helmet against the building. “DO NOT TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!!” she shrieked. “I just spent two hours looking at the destruction.”

She stormed into the hanger as Mitch looked after her in shock. He bent down, picked up the helmet, and followed.


Hawk Peters leaned forward as he read the report that appeared on the computer. He glanced up as he heard someone approach, then quickly keyed the screen off.

“What was that?” Martin Coster demanded.

“Nothing.” Hawk replied as he stood up. “Did you need something?”

Martin sighed. “When are you going to get over the past?”

Hawk stared at him for a moment. “And which past would that be Martin? The past where you basically forced me out of my position in the U.G.A.? Or the past where you let me believe that my wife was dead?” Hawk held up his hand as Martin started to respond. “Forget it…I’m not interested in any reason you may have for either.” He spotted Marco across the room.

“Excuse me.” Hawk said, and walked away. He could feel Martin’s eyes burn into his back, and resisted the urge to turn around to look. Get over the past??


“Yeah?” Marco said as he looked up.

Man, does he look tired. “Uh, I just…intercepted a report for ‘the quads’.” he said and motioned to the four U.S.B. agents. “They have someone in custody that matches our bomber.”

Marco stood up. “Really?” He glanced at the government men, then motioned Hawk closer. “Get him transferred to this base.” he whispered.

Hawk looked at him in slight shock. “Are you sure??”

“When we get what we need from him, we’ll give him back.” Marco answered. “Once U.S.B. gets their hooks into him, he’ll be useless to us.” He paused, and rubbed his eyes. “Ah, think up some excuse for the transfer and put him in--“ He was interrupted as someone tapped on his shoulder.

“Yes?” Marco said as he turned around.

Angel glared daggers at him. “What are you doing about this situation?!” she demanded.

“I’ll let you know at the briefing.” Marco said calmly. “Go rest until then.”

“Do NOT tell me what to do!”

“Ang.” Hawk put in. “Don’t.”

Angel looked at him. “Shut up Quinn!” She turned back to Marco. “I just finished a security flight! You have no idea what the city looks like!…It’s a mess, and it’s all your fault!”

Marco felt the room spin slightly as he stared at Angel. Silence assaulted his ears as everyone within hearing distance stopped talking, and looked at him.

“Angel!” Hawk said in a harsh whisper.

“No.” Marco said and held up his hand. “It’s okay. Everyone is tired, and it’s been a difficult day.” His voice sounded strange to him. “Please, tell me Ms. Turqui, how is this my fault.”

“Forget it!” Angel said.

“Fine.” Marco said and shrugged. “But the next time you start laying blame, you better damn well have an explanation to back it up.” He started to turn away, but stopped. “You are excused for the rest of the day…get the hell out of here.” He turned back to Hawk.

Angel stared at him as the words soaked in. She glanced to her left as Mitch appeared beside her. “I…I didn’t…Marco?”

Marco glanced over his shoulder. “You have your orders Ms. Turqui.” he said in a calm voice. He looked at Mitch. “Find some place for her to sleep…I don’t want to see her for the rest of the day.” He motioned to the door, then faced Hawk again.

“Do what we discussed, then report back to me.” he told Hawk.

“Ah, yes sir.”

Marco walked away and headed for the hanger office. He could feel all eyes on him as he opened the door and entered. He slammed the door behind him……Hard.


Daphne stretched lightly as she stepped out of the Port McKay Headquarters, then started towards the hanger. She had just finished her flight report with the Admiral, and had to check on how things were going before she could continue with anything else.

Deal with this…deal with that. Do this first, then do it again. Training had been brought to a halt due to the bombings, not to mention any plans her squadron may have had for Christmas.

She looked around briefly at her surroundings and blinked in amazement when she noticed it was dark. No wonder she thought as she looked at her watch. Eighteen hundred hours. Let’s see…hmmm, nineteen hours since the bombings, and we got nothing!


Daphne turned to the voice and smiled slightly. “What are you doing here?”

Derek Crowman stopped walking when he reached her. “I work here…… remember?”

“You’re suppose to be with your family.”

“Sasha ordered me back to work.” he told her. “She wants me to help find out who did this and bring them to justice.”

“She said that?”

“Well…I cleaned it up a bit, but that was basically what she meant.”

Daphne smiled slightly at that. When mad, Derek’s wife could curse enough to make a sailor blush.

Derek sighed. “She is very pissed that someone planted a bomb outside of our house.”

“I’m sorry.” Daphne said, and suddenly felt very tired.

“For what?” Derek asked. “Don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault……Two of Sasha’s cousins are staying at my place, so she’ll be fine.”

Daphne nodded. “Good…I’m on my way to deal with the U.S.B. …come help me.” She started to walk to the hanger again.

“When was the last time you slept?” Derek asked.

“What year is it?” Daphne responded dryly. “I was getting ready for bed when the explosions started.”

“Thirty six hours?” he asked.

“Give or take.” She had been up early the previous morning, and had not slept since. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

“Sure you will.” Derek responded, unconvinced.


Mitch knocked lightly on the office door, and entered quietly. He closed the door behind him and walked to the desk.

“Angel says she is sorry for what she said.” Mitch told Marco, then continued as the other man just stared. “She didn’t mean to imply that it was your fault.”

“Really?” Marco said in a hard voice. “Because that’s the way it sounded.”

“She meant to say that it was the navy’s fault for not having more security.”

Marco leaned back in his chair and looked at Mitch with eyes of stone. When he spoke, his voice was thick with accent and weariness. “The navy’s fault?…What the hell does she think I do for a living?!…I know exactly what she meant.” His hand began to tap rapidly on the arm of his chair.

“The Fin Corp. planted the explosives.” Marco continued. “Everyone’s place was hit…But me, I was hit twice. Once at home, and an attempt at Marscom.”

“Hey, now look--“

“No one, not even Daphne, had a second attempt made.” Marco said as if he hadn’t heard. “Therefore, it was me they were after.”

“That’s not what Angel meant, and you know it!” Mitch said. “If you would only listen to what she has to say….let her explain what she meant, then you would see that.”

“I don’t want to listen to anymore explanations today.” Marco said. “Tell Angel we’ll discuss this tomorrow.” He closed his eyes as another headache started. “Now, if you don’t mind, leave me alone.”

Mitch started to say something, changed his mind, and turned to leave. “It really isn’t your fault.” he said, then walked out of the office.

“Never said that it was.” Marco mumbled.


“This is Mr. Crowman.” Daphne said as she introduced Derek to the U.S.B. agents. “From this point forward, all your correspondences will be through him.”

Agent Strade acknowledged Derek with a nod.


Marco blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes as the words in front of him started to blur again. He put his elbow on the desk, his head on the hand, and stared at the screen. He felt his eyes close once more, but this time decided not to fight it.


Hawk smiled as the transfer confirmation came over the computer system. He acknowledged it quickly, then erased all traces of the communication. Now to call and reserve a room for our soon to be guest, Hawk thought. Better do that in the office, away from snooping eyes. He was not worried about what the detention center might say to the request…they were getting use to ‘holding onto individuals’ for Commander Kajazinsky-Ortiz, no questions asked. Hawk stood up and started for the office.

Daphne intercepted him halfway was there. “Where’s Marco?”

“Ah…he’s in the office.” Hawk answered in a wary voice.

“What happened this time?” Daphne sighed. “Did he lose his temper again?”

“Again?” Hawk asked. He told her about the incident between Marco and Angel. “--- and then he excused her for the rest of the day, and told her to get the hell out.”

Oh, boy. Daphne exhaled deeply. “I need to talk with Marco.” she told him. “Whatever you were going to do, use my office at headquarters for it.”

“Okay.” Hawk answered. “Tell Marco that the ‘package’ we discussed is on it’s way.”

“What package?”

“I’ll let Marco explain that one to you.”


Agent Strode placed his hands firmly on the table, and stared at Derek. “Are you implying that you will not grant me access to the main computer.”

Derek smiled up at the man. “No, I am not implying that at all……I am stating that as a fact…You have already been informed that the mainframe is off limits.”

Agent Strode stood up. “This place is totally impossible.” he grouched, then walked away.

Well, that didn’t take long, Derek thought. Only here five minutes, and already pissed one G-man off…..I guess I haven’t lost my touch after all.


Daphne stood just inside the closed office door and watched Marco as he slept behind the desk. He looks so peaceful, she thought. Seems almost a shame to wake him. She walked over and touched his face gently. Marco opened his eyes slowly and looked up at her. He sat up straight, and stretched. Daphne started to speak.

“No talk.” Marco said as he reached out and pulled her down onto his lap. He kissed her hungrily and hugged her tightly.

“Marco, I --“

“Shhh.” Marco whispered. “Just shut up and let me hold you.”

Daphne looked at the love in his eyes, and put her head on his shoulder. They sat in silence for a long time.

Marco finally spoke. “I never got you a Christmas present……I’m sorry.”

Daphne kissed him. “All I want is for you to be happy.” She frowned slightly at the weird expression that crossed his face, but decided not to mention it. “We have a few things to discuss.”

“Such as?”

“Hawk wanted me to tell you that the package you discussed is on the way.”

Marco patted her leg. “Up.” he said, and stood after she got off his lap. “Did he say when it would arrive?”

“No.” Daphne pursed her lips, and looked straight into his brown eyes. “Care to explain this package?”

“The U.S.B. has a man matching our bomber in custody.” Marco told her. “I had him transferred here.”

Daphne stared at him. “You what!?”

Marco stood straighter. “I had him transferred here.” he repeated. “We need any information he may have.” Marco sighed as Daphne continued to stare at him. He crossed his arms, and returned her stare.

“Are you going to bitch about this decision also?” he asked, and arched an eyebrow. “Cause if you are, save it…I made a decision, and you’re just gonna hafta live with it.”

“You’re absolutely right.” Daphne said. “You are in command during my absence, and I trust you completely to make the right decisions.”

Marco looked surprised…then suspicious. “Who are you, and what have you done with my wife?” he demanded.


Marco stood outside the simulator and checked a few readouts before he entered. He walked to the front of the pseudo semi sub and sat down in the pilot's seat. "Run prelim." He ordered as he stared at the control panel. "Aye sir." Andrew Michaels answered and went through the predeparture check list. He glanced at Marco, and noticed that the other man was still staring at the controls. Marco wet his lips. Daphne had ordered a casual simulator run to keep everyone occupied as they waited for new crafts as well as their next assignment. Although his injuries had healed in the nearly three weeks since Magaro Bay, Marco could not get rid of the small feeling of dread he experienced every time he thought about missions. "Everything checks out." Andrew announced. He looked at Marco. "Sir?" "I heard you." Marco answered. It's just a simulation, so stop acting like a ninny. He reached out, typed in a few coordinates, then leaned back. "Everything all right sir?" Marco looked at Andrew. "I think it's time that you led a sim." Andrew looked shocked. "Pardon?...sir." "You did an excellent job at Magaro Bay." Marco said. "In fact," he stood up, "take the pilot's seat. Badger will be the copilot." Marco turned and walked to the back of the simulator, stopping for a few moments to talk with Badger. Andrew watched as Marco went into the engine room, then got up and changed to the pilot's seat as Badger approached.

Casey Matte looked up as Marco entered the engine room. "Andrew's lead, Badger's co, Alec is on weapons, and you're on enviro." Marco told him. "Aye sir." Casey replied. He paused for a moment. "Every't'ing all right sir?" "Just doing a change of pace Ensign." Marco said. He nodded toward the main area. "Go on...I'll be handling the engine room today." Marco watched as Casey left, then he leaned against a control panel and sighed deeply.

Daphne read through the reports of the morning's simulations, added a few notes, then filed them away. She reached out and punched up the training area on her vid phone. "Yes ma'am?" Petty Officer Gary Desmond said as he answered. "Lieutenant-Commander Ortiz please." Daphne said and smiled. She watched as Gary looked around for Marco. "Sorry ma'am." Gary said. "He does not seem to be here." Really? "Get me Badger then." She saw Gary motion, then he was replaced by the tall Genetic. "How may I help you Commander?" Badger asked. "Have you seen Marco?" "I have not seen him since the simulation ended." "Thank you." Daphne said. "Could you send Ensign Michaels to my office please?" "Yes, Commander."

Sebastian Phillips walked through the Port McKay Officer's Club and sat down at a table. He looked at the other occupant, and leaned forward slightly. "What's wrong?" he asked. "Nothing's wrong." Marco answered and took a drink of his beer. He turned his head slightly in order to avoid Sebastian's gaze. "Then why are you drinking in the middle of the day?" "Go away." Marco responded and finished off his beer. He motioned for another one. Sebastian stared at his friend. "I'm not going anywhere." "Fine...suit yourself." Marco finally looked at him. "How'd the sim go?" "I let Andrew lead it." Marco said as he accepted his drink from the server. "Why?" "Because I couldn't." Marco told him, then downed over half of his beer. He put the mug down and stared at it. "A stupid simulation, and I couldn't do it." he added in a whisper. "I see." Marco looked at him. "No...you don't." Sebastian could see the hardness in Marco's eyes, but beyond that he could see the confusion that the other man was trying so hard to hide. Marco blinked, and it was gone. Marco finished the remainder of his beer, then stood up. "Where are you going?" Sebastian asked "Don't know." came the reply. "You've taken all the fun out of drowning myself in beer,...so I guess I'll find something else to do."

"What happened during the simulation?" Daphne asked. Andrew Michaels hesitated before he spoke. "The Lieutenant-Commander said that he felt it was time that I led the sim." "Why?" "Because I don't think he wanted to do it." Andrew answered, then looked at the floor. "Sorry ma'am." "It's okay Andrew." Daphne told him. "I want this conversation to go no further this office." "Yes ma'am." "How did Marco seem during the sim?" "He spent most of it in the engine room." Andrew said. "But from what I did see of him, he seemed...unsure?"

Sebastian caught up with Marco just outside the Officer's Club door. Marco looked at him and sighed. "I really would rather if you didn't follow me." Marco said. "Sorry buddy." Sebastian replied. "But I think it would be better if I be your shadow for a while." Marco looked at his long time friend, then turned away. "Not going to drop this, are you?" "Nope." "Fine." Marco said. "Just try to keep up." "I'll do my best." Sebastian answered. He put his arm on Marco's shoulder. "So buddy, where to?" Marco shrugged and swayed slightly. Sebastian stared at him. "Just how many beer did you have anyway?" "Not many." Sebastian finally realized that Marco's accent was more pronounced; a dead give away that he had drank more than 'not many'. He crossed his arms and stared harder at his friend. Marco sighed and looked at the ground. "How many?" Sebastian asked again. "Five, six...seven." Marco answered and shrugged. "I lost count." He turned and started to walk. "You comin' or what?"

Daphne looked around as she entered the Sea Wolf main training area, and smiled at Derek as he walked up to her. "If you're looking for Marco, he's doing a sim." "Really?" Daphne said. "Good." Derek shook his head. "Not really...he's doing a flight sim." Daphne's eyebrows went up in surprise. "A flight?" She paused. "Why is that not good?" "Well...he didn't exactly seem...right." "Explain." Derek sighed slightly. "I really don't know. Marco did not seem to be...how can I describe it?...all there?" He paused. "He appeared to be confused...maybe even drunk." "And you let him fly?!" Daphne accused and set off for the flight simulators. Derek followed her. "It's only a simulation Daphne." he told her. "Besides, he pulled rank on me." Daphne stopped and stared up at her tall friend. "He did WHAT?" "Don't worry about it." Derek said. "Marco needs to work something out. Now, I'm not sure what it is that he needs to do, but I'm giving him this chance to figure it out." "Who's flying with him?" "Sebastian, Peter, and Hawk." Derek answered. "Last I checked, Marco had three out of ten kills." He smiled at Daphne. "Don't worry, he'll be fine."

Peter Anderson scanned the virtual sky in front of him, then glanced down when another plane appeared on his scope. He adjusted a few sensors, frowning at the results. "Hey Sebastian?" he said into his radio. "How many bogeys you say this sim had?" "Fifteen." Sebastian answered. "Why?" "I just picked up another one on a lower band." Peter said. "I thought we got rid of them all." "We did." Sebastian replied as he adjusted his sensors to the lower band. He smiled slightly at the blip that appeared. "Well, well, well, seems as if someone wants to take us on." "What say we play with this one before we take him out." Hawk said. "What did you have in mind?" "Hmm...Well, it's just a sim, so nobody's gonna get hurt." Hawk said absently as the mystery scouter came into view. "Sebastian, you and I will buzz from above, Marco and Peter from below." "No prob." Sebastian answered. "Got it." Peter replied. Hawk waited a few moments for Marco to respond. What the hell is wrong with that guy today? "Hey Marco...you still with us?" "Hm?...Yeah, buzz from below." Marco answered. He looked around. "One question." "Go ahead." Hawk said. "Where is the other plane?" Hawk looked around. "SHIT!" He adjusted his scopes. "I think we're the ones being played with. Probably a stealth feature." Cute. "Keep an eye out for him." Peter said. Marco threw his scouter into a sharp dive when his missile lock warning sounded. "Found him." Marco commented as he watched a missile fly by. He leveled out then climbed steadily and turned to face the pirate craft. Marco fired at it, and grimaced when the other ship moved easily out of the way. He watched, slightly fascinated as the craft fired at the three other scouters. "Ahhh! I'm hit!" Peter said, then laughed. "Meet you three in the pub later. Looks like I'm buying first round." He pulled away and headed back to the base. "Who is this guy?" Sebastian asked as he moved to avoid being shot down. "Probably Derek." Hawk answered as he fired his lasers. "Or a damn good computer add on." Marco said, and fired. He smiled when his shot clipped the pirate's wing, and sent it into a barrel roll. "Nice shootin' buddy." Sebastian said. He watched as the plane leveled out just above the ocean and skimmed the surface before it started to climb again. "Impressive." Hawk stared at the other craft, then smiled. He flicked a switch and spoke to the mystery pilot. "Fancy bit of flying....Commander." "Thank you." Daphne replied and flew up beside the three remaining planes. "Daphne?" Marco said with mild confusion. "What are you doing up here?" "Getting shot at." she replied easily. "You?" Marco laughed. "Hey, you shot at me first."

Marco climbed out of the simulator, stretched lightly and walked over to the capsule Daphne was sitting in. He looked down at her. "Why did you join the sim?" he asked. "I wanted to see what you could do." Daphne answered and stepped out onto the platform. "You sure you weren't checking up on me?" "No." Daphne replied. Marco stared at her. You, my love, are lying." He leaned against the capsule lid. "I don't much enjoy being checked up on." Daphne sighed. "My office." she said, and walked away.

Marco walked into the small training building office and stood in front of the desk. Daphne looked up at him. "Sit." "I'd rather stand." Marco replied. "What did you want to see me about?" As if I don't already know. "Are you all right?" Marco sighed and sat down in the chair. He stared at his wife for a long time before he spoke. "I froze during the sim this morning...and I couldn't lead it." He ran his hands over his face. "Feeling confused?" Daphne asked. Marco nodded slightly. "Is that why you visited the Officer's Club?" Marco leaned back in his chair. "What are you getting at?" Daphne smiled softly. "Don't get upset love.....I'm concerned about you." "Don't be." Marco told her. "I'll be fine." "I want you to talk to somebody about this." Daphne said. "It's obvious that you are still bothered about what happened during the last mission." "I am not going to see a shrink." Marco said as he stood up. "I've already told you that." He looked at her with dismay. "I will work through this......with or without your help." He turned and walked to the door. "Marco." Daphne said as he opened the door and walked out. She stared at the door as it closed.

Daphne looked at her watch, sighed, and keyed off the program she had been reviewing on the computer. She looked up as someone knocked on the door. "It's open!" she called, hoping that it was Marco. The door opened and Mitch walked in. "Hey babe." he said, then stopped when he noticed the look on her face. "What's wrong?" Daphne tried to smile. "I was hoping it would be Marco." Mitch crossed the office and stood by the desk. "Why?...Everything okay between you two?" He sat on the corner of the desk. Daphne leaned back in her chair and looked up at her best friend. "Marco is having...doubts...about his abilities." Mitch tilted his head. "Abilities?" He thought for a moment. "In other words, that shock spooked him more than he thought it did." "Exactly." Daphne answered. "He's hurting...confused, and I don't know how to help him." "Let me talk to him." Mitch said and stood up. "I know where he's coming from."

Marco leaned against the plastisteel barrier that ran around the roof of the Sea Wolf Headquarters and stared blankly out across the harbor. He didn't feel the winter wind as it blew his hair around, nor did he didn't feel the cold as he watched the late afternoon sky grow progressively darker. He continued to look out as he heard someone approaching from behind, and didn't move when Mitch walked up and stood beside him. Mitch leaned against the chest high barrier and looked out at the harbor. "How's it going?" Mitch asked casually. "Been better." Marco admitted. He closed his eyes against the headache he had as a result of drinking earlier in the day. "Daphne send you after me?" "We talked, and I told her that I would try to talk with you." Mitch said. "She doesn't know how to help you." "And I suppose you do." Marco said as he continued to watch the activity in the harbor. "Yeah, I guess you might." "Have you considered talking to someone about this?" "I am NOT going to see a shrink!" Marco said loudly. "Fine." Mitch said calmly." "I'm here...you can talk with me." He paused. "After I crashed, I thought that I was fine...I didn't want to talk about it with anyone, including Daphne. That was probably the biggest mistake of my life......And most likely the biggest reason why I can't fly." Marco looked at Mitch for a few moments, then turned back to the harbor. "Let me ask you a question." Mitch said. "What happened after your bike accident?" "What do you mean?" "From what you've told me, you could have died from that accident." Mitch said. "Yet, you still ride a motorbike." "It took me a long time to get back on a bike." Marco pointed out. "I can't wait that long to work up the nerve to pilot again." "Why did you do a flight sim?" Mitch asked. "Because flying seems safer." "Believe me, it's not." Mitch answered. "Besides, where is it written that you have to pilot the semi-sub? Assign the task to someone else." "I'm a section leader." "So am I." Mitch said. "I don't pilot...Joyce does." Marco looked at him. "If I don't pilot, then....what?" Mitch shrugged. "I don't know. You could man the weapons...do anything you damn well please until you feel comfortable about piloting again." "What if I never feel comfortable about piloting again?" Marco asked quietly. He looked down at the plastisteel barrier, and stared at it blankly for a few moments. "I ran through that net and put everyone, including you, at risk...I almost killed myself trying to fix the sub.....I don't know if I'm able to put myself in that type of situation again." "Then don't pilot again." Mitch answered. "Just don't quit...You will regret it." Marco looked up at Mitch. "Do you regret quitting?" Mitch exhaled and nodded. "Yeah, I do....I didn't have the guts to fight anymore, and I took the easy way out. I blamed my condition on...physical, instead of mental." "Well, I'm not ready to quit." Marco said. "Not yet at least." He shivered against the cold night air. "What I am ready to do however, is get the hell off of this roof and go someplace warm."

Daphne leaned back in her chair and looked at the wall in front of her. She stared up at the Canada relief map that hung behind her desk, then went back to reading the data notepad she was holding. She tossed the notepad behind her, onto her desk, then swung around in the chair. She inhaled sharply when she saw the person sitting on her couch. "Sorry." Marco said. "Didn't mean to scare you." He smiled shyly and looked at the floor. "You ready to go home?" he asked in a quiet voice. Daphne stood up and walked to the couch. "How are you?" she asked as she sat down. Marco put his arms around Daphne and leaned his head on her shoulder. "I just want to go home." he whispered, and tightened his hold briefly. "Home it is then." Daphne answered and kissed the top of his head.

Marco lay in bed that night, staring at the ceiling. He tried to sleep, but much to his annoyance found that he could not. His mind kept replaying the conversation that he had with Mitch, and he finally decided that the other man was right. No reason why I can't delegate pilot duty to someone else....After all, I was trained as an engineer. I could do that for a while. Marco rolled onto his side and put his arm around Daphne. He watched her sleeping face until the alarm clock sounded.


Denise Shepard slipped out from under Hawk's arm, climbed out of bed and made her way out of the bed room. She walked softly across the living room, entered the kitchen and got herself a glass of water. Denise turned, curious when she felt a slight breeze, and looked at the balcony door in mild confusion. How the hell did that get open? she thought and walked toward it. Denise reached out, closed the glass door, and stopped when she saw the enclosure that ran along the balcony's edge. Her eyes grew wide as she looked at it. "Quinn!" she cried in a loud voice. "Hawk!" Hawk was in the bedroom door in an instant, and quickly looked around the living room as he made his way to Denise. "What's wrong?" he asked, then looked to where she was staring. He pulled open the big glass door and stepped out onto the balcony. Hawk swore as he stared at the writing that was on the slightly opened slide window portion of the barrier. He reached out and touched the words, then looked at the red that came off on his finger tips. He rubbed his fingers together. Lipstick. He turned and reentered the apartment. "Get your things." he told Denise. "We're leaving." He put his hands on her shoulders. "Dee?" Denise looked up at him. "Someone was here while we were sleeping." she whispered. "We could have been killed." Hawk closed his eyes at the scared look on her face, then pulled her close for a hug. "This was only to scare...Go on, get your stuff." He let go, and watched as she slowly walked back to the bedroom. He turned back to the patio and glared at the writing. I WAS HERE! was scrawled in red lipstick. In his ex-wife Kirsten's handwriting.

Hawk stared at the floor, completely lost in thought, as Daphne detailed the squadron's days' events. His mind kept wandering back to the expression on Denise's face when she was looking at the little message left at his apartment. How the hell did Kirsten get in? he thought. I put up new security precautions and everything. How, how, how?...Why?...Ah, she's crazy, she doesn't need a reason. Hawk jumped as something hit him in the head, and he looked up in confusion. He glared at Daphne as he rubbed the side of his head. He reached down, picked up the tennis ball and threw it back at her. Daphne easily ducked the object. "Do my briefings bore you Lieutenant?" Hawk sighed and glanced around, stopping in shock when he realized that they were alone. Where the hell did everyone go!? "What's wrong?" Hawk looked at Daphne in surprise. "What?" He sat up straight. "Nothing's wrong." Daphne stared at him. "Then either start paying attention during briefings, or don't bother showing up." Her voice had a decidedly Arctic edge to it. "Piss off." Hawk said without thinking. He blinked in surprise. "Don't you ever talk to me like that again Lieutenant Peters." Daphne said in her icy tone. "Whatever." Hawk stood up and started for the door. Daphne stood up also. "Where are you going?" Hawk spun and faced her. "I am going to do my job!...You know, the job I so stupidly joined up for again!" He stared at her in anger. "This gig is totally screwing up my life!" "Hawk?" "Save it!" Hawk yelled. "I am not interested in anything you have to say!" "Hawk." Hawk pointed at her. "Just keep your mouth shut!" he said loudly. "You want to know what's wrong?...How about the fact that I have let my guard down completely since I joined back up with you!" Daphne stared at him blankly as his words sunk in. "I should have never helped at the Gulf Colony!" Hawk yelled. "My life has gone straight to hell since then!" Daphne watched in shock as Hawk stormed out of the room. Now what the hell brought that on??

Hawk stomped out into the hallway, mad at Daphne, mad at himself. He stopped when an arm blocked his path, and he glared at the person who was in his way. "Get the hell out of my way!" he growled. Hawk narrowed his eyes dangerously when the other person refused to move. "Were you eavesdropping?!" "Daphne asked me to wait while she talked to you." Marco answered in a calm voice. "It was kind of hard not to overhear." He stared at Hawk and reminded himself once again that he was not going to interfere in the argument that he had just heard. Hawk's patience was up. "I said get out of my way!" He shove the other man out of his way. Marco hit the wall, hard, and glared at Hawk. Normally, Marco was an easy going person, but these past few weeks had been anything but easygoing. He reached out, grabbed Hawk and slammed him against the opposite wall. Hawk and Marco stared at each other. Hawk blinked at the anger in the other man's eyes. Marco suddenly let go and stepped back. "Sorry." he muttered, then turned and walked down the hall. What the hell? Hawk thought, momentarily forgetting his own problems.

Hawk's bad mood grew throughout the day, and by early afternoon the word was out to steer clear of him all together. He had snarled at, barked at, and generally treated like dirt anyone who was unlucky enough to come into contact with him. At this moment, Hawk was sitting on the back of a chair in the simulation area, totally oblivious to his surroundings as he stared at the floor in front of him. Mitch sighed, shook his head, than looked back at the person he was talking with. "So, are you going to see what his problem is?" Daphne glanced over at Hawk's unmoving figure. "Nope." she answered. "Why not?" "Because I don't feel like being his target again." She glanced up as she saw Marco approach. "Where did you take off to?" "Meteorology." Marco answered. "I had a little chat with Denise." "And?" Marco looked over at Hawk. "I'll let you know." He turned and walked to where Hawk was sitting. "I want to speak with you." Marco said politely. "In the office." "Get the hell away from me." Hawk said and turned his head to look at Marco. Marco's demeanor changed from polite to dangerous in an instant. "Listen up pal, Daphne may tolerate this attitude you're in, but I don't!...Now, you either drag your ass into that office, or I'll drag you in there myself!" "Marco--" Hawk started to protest. "I talked with Denise." Hawk stared at Marco in shock. "What did she tell you?" "I'll tell you in the office." Marco said, then walked to the office.

"-and that's basically it" Hawk said as he finished telling Marco about the writing that Kirsten had left. "Why didn't you tell anyone?" Marco wanted to know. Hawk shrugged. "I don't know.....embarrassment I guess. I let her slip right by me......I relaxed my guard too much." He looked Marco straight in the eyes. "Besides, you and Daphne have a little too much to deal with to be involved in my problems." "I don't follow you." "Come on man....you've been a walking time bomb ever since we got back from the last mission." "How so?" Hawk wasn't sure, but he thought he heard absolute weariness in Marco's voice. He leaned forward slightly in his chair. "You walk around like there's nothing bothering you.....but......I've seen you when you think nobody's around. Your eyes get dark, your smile disappears....and you act like something's....missing." "Do not." Marco said in the same tired voice. "Like this morning." Hawk continued. "The look in your eyes when you slammed me against the wall......Man, I thought I was a goner." Marco stared at Hawk for a few moments. "We are here to discuss your problems....not mine." "So, you admit you're having problems?" Marco leaned back in his chair and stared again. "What are you going to do about Kristen?"

Daphne looked up as the office door opened and Marco walked out, followed by Hawk. He looked at her, then made a bee line to where she was standing. Daphne tried to judge his mood by the look on his face, but was having no luck. "I'm sorry." Hawk said as he stood in front of her. He looked at her neutral expression. "I said some mean, hurtful things to you, and I'm sorry." "Did you mean any of the things you said?" Hawk thought for a moment. "This morning, I did....Now, I definitely do not....I was having a "feeling sorry for me" episode,...and sometimes I say stupid things." He looked at her face hopefully. "Still love me?" A smile broke through Daphne's stone expression and she laughed. "Yeah, sort of.....care to tell me why you alienated everyone today?" Hawk glanced back briefly at Marco, then nodded. "Sure." "Good." Daphne said. "Then we can discuss the punishment you are going to receive for mouthing off to higher ranking officers." "Aw, man!!!!"


The figure walked quickly along the darkened street, not noticing the cold as he scanned his surroundings. He stopped in front of a building and looked up at the Christmas decorations as he slowly took a small package out of his pocket. Last one he thought as he dropped it into the sidewalk trash basket and then hurried away. The figure rounded a corner and checked his watch. Perfect timing he thought and took out a small electronic box. He looked up at a sign above his head which read: One Shopping Day Left Until Christmas! "I'm afraid it won't be a Merry Christmas this year." he said out loud, his finger hovering over the small button on the box. He pushed the button.

Peter Anderson bolted up in bed as he heard an explosion outside his apartment building. He jumped out of bed and ran into the living room. His roommate, Alec Shulz appeared beside him. "What the hell was that?" he asked. "Explosion of some sort." Peter answered. He went to the living room window and looked out. "The building across the street is on fire." he commented and turned back around. He stopped when he noticed a figure standing in Alec's bedroom door. "Who's your friend?" Alec motioned and the figure joined him. "Peter, Mari....Mari, Peter." he introduced, then went to the window to look out. Something beyond the burning building caught his attention. "Uh...Peter?" Alec said. "I think there's more than one fire out there." "What?" Peter went back to the window. "Yeah..." "I can't see well enough from here." Alec said. "I'm going to head up to the roof for a better view."

Marco rubbed his eyes wearily and went back to what he was working on. He dropped the pencil he had in his hand and it rolled under the desk. Marco sighed as he got out of the chair, and knelt down to fish it out. He was under the desk when a large explosion sounded outside. Marco jumped, and forgetting he was under the desk, smashed his head solidly on the underneath. He swore loudly and shook his head as his vision started to darken. "Marco!" Daphne yelled as she ran out of the bedroom. She was pulling her housecoat on as she looked around. "What was that!?" "An explosion." Marco said as he slowly stood up. He rubbed the back of his head. I have got to stop doing that!! "You stay here...I'll go check it out." "The hell I'll stay here!" Daphne said and started for the door. Marco's head hurt too much for him to argue. "Put some shoes on."

Peter and Alec looked out in amazement at the city below them. At least twenty fires were burning at various spots; some large, some small. "We have a Scrooge in our midst." Peter said. "Somebody wants to screw the holidays." "Unbelievable." Alec muttered and shook his head in disbelief. "Maybe we oughta check in...just to let everyone know we're okay." He looked down and watched absently as firemen tried to put out the blaze of the building across the street. Peter closed his eyes briefly. He opened them when he heard someone walk up behind him. He turned and saw the woman Mari walk up. She was now fully dressed in a military uniform, with the patch Lieutenant M. Korsh on her chest. Air Corp. patches were on either shoulder. "Sorry to interrupt." she said. "But a Lieutenant-Commander Ortiz called, and he wants the both of you at headquarters immediately." "Thanks." Peter said, and walked away. Mari turned to Alec. "He always this uptight?" Alec laughed slightly. "Naw, Pete's a good guy. I guess the middle of a 'city roast' was not the best time to meet." He kissed her lightly. "I gotta go." "Yeah...I think I'm going to check in." Mari looked out over the city dotted with bright fires. "If things get any worse, the military might be needed." "I hope you're wrong." "Me too."

"I told you about her." "No you didn't." Peter said as he walked quickly toward the Sea Wolf headquarters. "Yeah." Alec insisted. "The one from the Air Corp. that I met in the lounge." "The one who threw her drink in your face?" "That's the one!" Alec answered. "Besides, that was a misunderstanding." He opened the building door and walked in. "I bet." Peter answered. They walked into the meeting room, annoyed to see that they were one of the last to arrive. "Glad you could make it." Sebastian said as he spotted them. "Half the city's streets are closed because of the fires." Peter told him. "Grab a seat!" Marco said loudly from the front of the room. Peter and Alec sat down as Sebastian made his way back to the front. Peter looked around for Daphne, but could not see her. Marco sat on the table and faced the group. "Nearly two hours ago, eighteen small bombs were detonated in various locations in the city. Most were set in or around empty buildings, others were set in...non empty areas." He paused for a moment. "Thirty minutes ago, the Fin Corporation laid official claim to the planting and setting of these bombs." Everyone looked at him in shock, then at each other. Marco continued. "That's all I've been told so far......Um, how many had a bomb go of right by their place?" He sighed quietly as every hand went up, then he slowly raised his own.

"Where's Daphne?" Peter asked when the briefing was over. "She's in a meeting with the Admiral and his staff." Marco said. "Who was that who answered your vidphone?" "Huh?" Peter blinked. "Oh, that was Alec's friend Mari." "The one from the lounge?" Marco asked in disbelief. "Yep." Peter answered as he looked around. "Hey, where's Derek?" Marco's face darkened slightly. "I told him to stay home. He has three terrified kids there who need him more than we do right now." Marco sat on the table again and sighed. "Thank God nobody was killed." "We get any injuries?" Peter asked, and noticed that a few others were also missing. "Parker's bedroom window got blown in by the blast." Marco said. "He's got a few cuts, but the doctor wants to keep him in for a few hours.....Joyce's place burnt down...She's in the office with Angel." "Aw, man." Peter sighed. "She lived above that flower shop on fifth, didn't she?" Marco nodded. "Yeah. Fire started a few doors down, and took out half the block." He looked at his one time roommate. "How about your place?" "Building across the street." Peter replied. "Been empty for about a month... yours?" "They tried to take out the fence." Marco answered. "It's blast proof, so all they did was blow a rather large hole in the sidewalk." Mitch hurried up to Marco, and stared momentarily. "I pulled in every favor I had, plus a few you had, and got the bomb squad to check out the Second Half." "And?" "Nothing." Mitch answered. "But...on a hunch I had them check Marscom Properties too." "Ohh, I don't think I want to hear this." Marco said. "They pulled an undetonated bomb from the bushes." Mitch said quietly. Marco stared at him. "That doesn't make sense. Why not the bar?....I mean, if the Fin Corp. is after Daphne, why not the bar?!" "Too much security?" Mitch replied. "There are camera's everywhere at the bar." "There are cameras at Marscom too." Marco said. "I need to think." He said, and walked away. Mitch and Peter looked at each other in silent confusion.


Ensign Andrew Michaels added a few notes to a personal notepad, then checked his work against the main computer. He stared at the screen, shook his head in anger, then went back to the notepad. He pushed a few readouts on the small screen, and sighed when the answer appeared. NOT what I wanted to see.

"Whatcha doin' kid?"

Andrew looked over his shoulder, then back at his electronic notepad. He handed it to Hawk.

"Very interesting, but what am I looking at?"

"The large dots are the explosion locations." Andrew explained. "The lines join them together into the Starburst logo."

Hawk nodded as he looked at the picture. The Starburst design was the logo of the Fin Corporation. "Only they would think of blowing buildings to match their logo." he muttered. "Wait a minute...there were eighteen explosions, and one found dud... There are twenty spots on this diagram."

"The Second Half." Andrew answered.

"They couldn't find one there."

"It fits with the Starburst logo."

Hawk exhaled slowly. "What are the rest of these locations? Between the squadron, there are about ten residences...Marscom and the bar make twelve." He looked at Andrew. "What are the other eight?"

"I'm running that now." Andrew said with a nod toward the main computer. "Could be locations picked to make the logo." He stared quietly at the screen for a few moments. "Your place get any damage?"

"They blew up a few tacky statues that were in front of my building." Hawk answered. "First couple of floors got damaged pretty bad....officials evacuated the building...Not fun walking down eighty-three floors...smoke, dust, people shoving." He stared blankly at the table. "And to think it was aimed at me."

"You okay?"

Hawk blinked, and looked at him. "Hm?...yeah, sure. How's Parker?"

"He'll be fine." Andrew answered. "His bedroom is beside the living room. The blast blew in both windows...we got glass everywhere." He looked down as a row of address appeared on the computer screen.

"That's a lot of names." Hawk said.

"I programmed for all addresses and names with a half block of the other eight explosions......Recognize anybody?"

"No." Hawk said as he scanned through the list. "I guess these were just random hits to--" He trailed off as an address caught his eye.

"Oh no." Andrew sighed as he saw the same address.


Marco looked at the addresses, then back at the map on the notepad he was holding. Of all the arrogant, self centered, egotistical....explode a city in the design of your logo?! He glanced up at the others.

"Any luck?" he asked calmly.

Andrew shook his head. "Vid phones are still suffering from overload."

Mitch put down his hand held radio and faced Marco. "Still nothing in or around the Second Half....they're gonna keep lookin' though."

Marco nodded. "I want you to pull every security camera you can from all these addresses." He nodded toward the main computer, then passed the notepad to Mitch. "Try to find someone to link this all together." He turned and walked away.

"How can he be so calm?" Mitch asked.

Sebastian looked up from what he was working on. "Ever hear of the calm before the storm?"


"Well, Marco is that." Sebastian said. Mitch looked at him curiously. "Marco is on his last ounce of patience. He's ready to blow...big time."


Marco stepped out into the cold December night. He had a headache, and needed some fresh air. He could smell smoke in the air, and could hear fire bells and sirens. Merry Christmas he thought sarcastically. Marco suddenly smelled a different kind of smoke, and he turned toward it. A small burning ember was all he could see.

"I thought you quit?"

"I did." came the reply. The ember fell to the ground and scattered slightly before a boot stepped on it. Casey Matte walked out of the shadows.

"What are you doing out here?" Marco asked. "Besides smoking."

Casey shrugged. "I get a little claustrophobic at time." He paused and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"What bothering you Case?"

"I went into Laine's bedroom.....after de blast." Casey said. "She has...had dis big oak wardrobe...it fell on da bed...destroyed it actually." He sighed. "After Laine die, I always t'ought...what if? What if she 'ad manage to bail in time...not been caught in the fireball."

"If she had survived New Zealand, she would have died under the wardrobe." Marco finished for him. And you probably with her.

Casey nodded glumly and stared at the ground. "I t'ink she would have rather die in battle, then in bed...so close to Christmas." He took out another cigarette and lit it. He offered one to Marco.

"Tempting, but no thanks." Marco said. He eyed the cigarette again, then shook his head. He had already quit smoking twice, and didn't need to start up again.

"During the Krisca Wars," Casey said suddenly, "the pirate use to plant explosion in much dis same way."

"I didn't know that."

The Cajun nodded. "Of course, it was da Krisca logo, not Starburst."

"How do you know so much about the Krisca War?"

"My father die during it." Casey said, and took a long drag from his cigarette.

Marco looked at him in mild shock. "I knew your father was listed as K.I.A., but I didn't know how."

"Please do not tell the Commander." Casey said. "I don' wan' her to read the wrong t'ings into it."

Marco nodded.


Both men turned quickly.

"Lee's at the front gate." Mitch told him.


"Zach said that I should come to the base if anything ever happened." Aleena McKinnon said as she accepted a mug of coffee from Marco.

"We've been trying to get hold of you since we found out there was an explosion near your house." Marco said as he sat down on the couch beside her. "Are you all right?"

Aleena nodded. "Takes more than an explosion to do me in. Wish I could say the same thing for Zach's car." She looked around his office.

Marco looked at his mother-in-law in amazement. "They blew up his car?"

"Yep...that classic mustang is now just a twisted wreck." She took a drink of her coffee. "A few pieces are on the doorstep...a few more are on the roof...I think."

Marco watched as she drank more of her coffee. He could see her hands shaking. Just like he daughter....unwilling to admit to being scared.

"I've got Sebastian trying to reach the Caspian." Marco told her.

"They're probably still on blackout maneuvers, but he should be able to get a brief message to Cappy for you."

"Thank you." Aleena said and smiled. "I guess this brings the war up another notch."

"That it does." Marco agreed. He sighed as his radio sounded.

"Never a moments rest." He took it off his belt and keyed it on.


"Update sir." Andrew Michaels' voice replied. "The Caspian has been notified, Captain McKinnon said he'll call when he can...Reports have been coming in about additional explosions up the coastline....We're still trying to get info on that."

"Trying is not good enough!" Marco said, finally starting to lose his cool.

"Sorry sir, but the U.G.A. has stepped in and taken control of the situation."

"Anything else?" Marco asked between clenched teeth. The last thing he needed was to deal with the United Government Agency.

"There are two more people at the gate who are demanding to see you."

Demanding? "Did you just say demanding?"

"Yes sir." Andrew answered. "They say their names are Colleen and Duncan O'Rourke."

Marco stared at his radio in shock. Devon's parents?!


"Sign them in and escort them to my office."

"Aye sir."

Marco put his radio back on his belt and stared at the floor for a few moments. I do not need this crap!

"Marco?" Aleena asked quietly. "Marco?"

"Hm?" Marco looked up at her. He exhaled heavily, then stood up and started to pace the room.

Aleena watched nervously. She sat up straight as Marco stopped and looked at her. "What?"

"Colleen and Duncan O'Rourke," he began, "are really .....Daphne and Gregory Lezure."

"Who are they?" Aleena asked. "Wait...should you be telling me this?"

"Probably not." Marco admitted. "But, chances are you're going to find out when they get here." He started to pace again. "They've obviously been discovered, and will probably change their names again and move away anyway."

"Marco....you're rambling."

Marco stopped pacing and looked at her. "Sorry....Daphne and Gregory Lezure are Devon's parents."

"They're what!?" Aleena asked loudly. She stared at him in disbelief.

A knock sounded at the door, and it opened slightly. Mitch stuck his head in. "You need to be in the hanger." he told Marco.

"What now?" Marco asked as he motioned the other man in. He sat down on the corner of his desk.

"U.G.A. is very interested in the fact the Sea Wolf member residences were targeted." Mitch explained. "They want an explanation, and since Daphne's still in meetings, they want you."

Marco sighed and closed his eyes. "it's suppose to be my day off...all I wanted to do was sleep in, and go out and get Daphne a Christmas present." He opened his eyes and stared at the wall. Both Mitch and Aleena stared at him.


"Yeah, I know, U.G.A.." Marco answered. "I'll deal with them after the O'Rourke's."


Marco bit his tongue and slowly counted to ten as he stared at the Director of the U.G.A. He had another headache, and this conversation was not helping.

"--so naturally, I came here to oversee all investigations into these incidents." Martin Coster continued. "You will give me access to anything that I need. Any objections?"

Hm? Where to begin? "First off, they were explosions, not incidents." Marco said in a slightly heavier than usual accent. "Second, U.G.A. does not have authority on this naval base; and third, I cannot let you poke around inside our computers for information...the naval mainframe is classified."

"Now you listen here..."

Marco held his hand up. "It's been a very trying night Mr. Coster...don't add to it. What I can do, is cooperate with you in an interdepartmental capacity."

"I will not accept--" Martin began. He stopped when he saw a familiar figure behind Marco. "What the hell?"

"Martin." Hawk said curtly. He smiled slightly at the man who had pushed him out of his position with the U.G.A.

Marco glanced at Hawk. "You worked in the U.G.A., did you not Lieutenant Peters?"

You know it. "Yes sir. I was Assistant Director in the Caribbean Division."

"Good." Marco said. "Then perhaps you wouldn't mind helping Mr. Coster with his inquiries."

"It would be my pleasure." Hawk answered.

"Nothing past level two." Marco said, then walked away.


Aleena stared at Colleen and Duncan, and they stared at her. Mitch watched all three, and exhaled quietly.

"So, you are Daphne's mother." Colleen said in a light brogue.

"Yes." Aleena answered.

Oh yeah, Mitch thought, this is going good.


Marco stood on the edge of the dock and watched the sky lighten as the sun came up. It had been nearly nine hours since the explosions, and they were no closer to an answer now than they had been then. He heard footsteps behind him, and glanced to his side as Sebastian came into his line of sight.

"What now?" Marco asked in a tired voice.

"Just wanted to see how you were buddy."

"Tired and pissed off." Marco replied.

"How's the temper?"

Marco laughed slightly. "Almost lost it a few times." he admitted. "It's going to be tough keeping it under control." He closed his eyes slightly at a headache he had.

Sebastian nodded. He had seen Marco lose his temper before, and he wasn't looking forward to seeing it again. "You've got to stop letting everything pile up on you."

Marco looked at his long time friend. "If I acted on everything that's pissed me off this past month,...I'd probably be in the brig now."

"It's been a bad month." Sebastian agreed.

"It's been a bad year."

"Well, if you're gonna explode anytime soon, give me some warning do I can get to the fallout shelter."

Marco laughed. "I make no promises....U.G.A. still here?"

"Of course." Sebastian answered. "It's getting worse than Grand Central Station." He was starting to get his New York accent back, a dead giveaway as to how tired he was.

"Why don't you go on home." Marco told him. "I can handle things here."

Sebastian shook his head. "Nothing doing buddy. You need someone here to keep you from reaching meltdown."

Marco sighed and rolled his eyes. "Honestly, you would think that me losing my temper is a cataclysmic event."

"Nice word." Sebastian commented. "And almost true....Look, everyone here has seen you get angry, but no one, besides me has seen you lose your temper."

"Like there's a difference."

"Need I remind you what happened the last time?" Sebastian asked. "You totally freaked out over some minor argument with your brother, and trashed your family's sun room."

Marco frowned slightly as he remembered. He had pulled his vacation, and had gone to Cuba for a visit. Sebastian pulled his vacation at the same time, and Marco invited him down for a few days. It had been almost three months since Operation Tiger Call, and only a week or so since he had broken off his engagement to Macy. It had been a rough few months, what with the constant terrifying nightmares...not to mention the fact that Marco was nursing a broken heart. As usual, his brother Raphael took every chance that he could to argue with Marco. Then, after one seemingly harmless discussion, Raphael said something that pushed Marco past his breaking point. Sebastian had watched in amazement as Marco went after his brother. Raphael had managed to get away, and that set Marco off even more. When the dust settled, Marco was standing in front of a window, looking out at the grounds with a thoroughly destroyed room behind him....a room he had not remembered destroying, after a fight he did not remember having.

"That was a rare occasion." Marco said. "It won't get that bad again."

"Sure." Sebastian did not sound convinced.

"Would 'I' lie to you?"

"In a heart beat."

Marco laughed, turned around and headed back to the main base. "Enough slacking off, we've got work to do." He smiled when Sebastian caught up with him. It's great to have friends.



Daphne sighed, rubber her eyes, and tried to focus on what Admiral Carlton's aide was reporting. She closed her eyes briefly as she listened to the monotone voice, and put a hand over her mouth to cover a yawn. Ye gads! When the hell is he going to shut up?! Daphne shifted uncomfortably in the high backed chair as she once again attempted to listen.

"One moment." Admiral Carlton interrupted. The aide stopped talking and the Admiral looked at Daphne. "Are we boring you?"

Wa-oh! "Ah...no sir." Damn! Too slow to answer. Daphne sat up straight and looked at the Admiral. "Sorry sir...It's just that it has been ten hours since the explosions, and we have no new information."

"So...we are boring you."


"Take a twenty minute break everyone." Admiral Carlton said as he stared at Daphne.

Ohh, not good, Daphne thought as she stood up. A secretary approached and handed her a small electronic notepad. 'On code - Marco.' was all it said. Daphne typed in her access code and read the note.

Holy shit! All this happened while I was in here?! Caramba!

"Sir." Daphne said as she approached the Admiral. "I really must get back to my hanger."


"U.G.A. has set down camp and taken over."

Admiral Carlton sighed and thought: U.G.A., Universal Gigantic Asses. "Go." he nodded. "I doubt I could get you to pay attention now...Say hello to the outside world for us."

"Aye sir."


Hawk Peters listened semi-politely as Martin Coster, Head of the United Government Agency, explained in elaborate detail what he wanted done. Hawk waited until he had finally finished.

"In other words, you want all specs and hard info on the bombings." Hawk summarized.

Martin glared at him. "Exactly."

"Give him nothing." a voice commanded from behind them. "We are taking over."

Hawk turned and looked at the four almost carbon copy men and sighed. Great, more government.

"Agent Strade...United Security Bureau." one of the men said and showed an ID case. He went to put it back, but Hawk held out his hand and motioned for it. The agent passed it to Hawk, who opened it and looked at the badge and identification.

Well, I'll be... Hawk looked at them. "Little out of your jurisdiction isn't it?" He handed the ID back.

"It falls directly into our jurisdiction."

"It falls under U.G.A. jurisdiction." Martin Coster said. The four men gazed at him.

"Excuse me?" Agent Strade said. He looked up as someone approached.

"Lieutenant Peters?"

Hawk turned to the voice. "Yes sir?"

Marco stopped and motioned Hawk to him. "What's going on here?" he asked in a whisper as he stared at the new visitors.

Hawk motioned slightly. "U.G.A. versus U.S.B. ...It's the battle of the government agencies."

Geeze, flash a badge at the front gate, and you got free run of the place. Will this never end? Marco walked up to the U.S.B. agents. "I am Lieutenant-Commander Ortiz. How may I help you?"

"You can give us all your information, then vacate this hanger." Agent Strade said. "We will use it for our base of operations."

Marco clasped his hands behind his back and dug his fingernails into the palms in an attempt to stay calm. "No...I don't think that would be acceptable." Marco paused and dug his nails in further. Ouch! "What I can do, is offer you the same I did Mr. Coster......interdepartmental cooperation."

"We are here by order of the government." Agent Strade said. "Do not get in our way."

Excuse me??? "May I see your Senate Authorization papers?"

"They are on their way."

"You are aware that you need them to operate on a naval base." Marco said. "But, since you do not have them, you are, in fact, trespassing."

Agent Strade stared at Marco for a long moment before he smiled slightly. "Interdepartmental cooperation will be fine."

I thought it might.


Daphne exhaled nervously and then opened the door to Marco's office. Four sets of eyes looked up as she entered. Aleena went to her and hugged her daughter awkwardly.

"Are you all right?" Daphne whispered. Aleena nodded and let go.

Daphne smiled at Duncan and Colleen O'Rourke. "Sorry I couldn't be here sooner, but I've been in marathon meetings all night." she explained. "I just wanted to stop in and see how everyone was before I went to the hanger." She glanced at Mitch, who rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly at her unasked question.

"I really wish the three of you could have met under different circumstances." she continued. "But I guess that wasn't meant to be...I'm sorry."

"Tis not your fault child." Colleen said.

"Of course it's not." Aleena agreed. "It's that bastard Devon's fault."

"Mother!" Daphne exclaimed.


"Forget it." Daphne said and put her hand up, "I'm in no mood to argue... Mitch, take everyone to the guest quarters, find them rooms, then meet me in the hanger."

"Yes ma'am." Mitch answered and watched as Daphne left the room. He turned to Aleena.

"Nice goin' Lee."


Marco closed his eyes and leaned back into his chair. Only three more security tapes to view he thought as he opened his eyes again. He jumped slightly when he saw Daphne sitting on the table beside the computer.

"Hi." he said in a tired voice. "All through with the meetings?"

"Admiral Carlton thought it would be better if I was here instead."

"Yawned once too often, did you?" Marco asked in an amused voice.

"Basically." Daphne smiled. "Get everything settled with U.G.A.?"

"Sort of." Marco admitted. "I pawned them off on Hawk."

"You didn't?!"

"He's doing fine." Marco said in a defensive tone. He leaned back and rubbed his hand against his leg.

Daphne took the hand and looked at the little cuts on the palm. "What the hell did you do?" she asked in concern.

"I ...dug my fingernails into them during my, ah, discussion with the U.S.B." Marco said and pulled his hand away. "It was either that, or punch the guy."

"U.S.B. i************************************************** ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* ******************************** *********************************************************************************************************************************** ******************************ng tone.

"What?" Marco matched her tone, and unconsciously started to raise his voice. "U.S.B. wanted to take over the hanger and use it for their base of operations. I had to ....improvise."

"Did they have Senate papers?"

"The papers were on the way." Marco told her. "I had to offer them something to make them think I was willing to go along."

"Did you make sure that the Senate papers were on the way?"

Marco stared at her in disbelief. "Do I look stupid to you?!" he asked loudly. "Of course I checked. They're at the U.S.B. office downtown awaiting pick up!"

Sebastian stuck his head in between the couple. "Keep it down." he said. "I can hear you arguing from across the room."

Marco looked away in anger. "Yeah, fine...whatever."

"Good." Sebastian said, and cast a worried glance at his friend. "Now...what are you two discussing."

"She thinks I'm inept." Marco said as he flicked his hand towards Daphne.

"I do not!" Daphne told him. "I only asked a question."

"You were in a meeting with no communication." Marco stated in a hard voice. "I made some decisions.........do you, or do you not trust me?"

Daphne blinked a few times. "Of course I trust you. Why are you being so defensive?"

Marco muttered something in Spanish, and Sebastian got an instant case of deja vu as he watched the anger rise in the other man's eyes.

"Daphne, I think you better leave." Sebastian said.


"Go!" he replied in a 'don't argue' voice. Daphne stood up and walked away. Sebastian turned back to Marco. "Come on buddy. You need some fresh air."

Marco stood up slowly and followed Sebastian to the door. He could feel his head pounding, and could hear a strange rushing sound in his ears. Very faintly, he could hear Sebastian telling him to calm down as they made there was out into the early morning light.

Marco turned and swung out, connecting with the brick wall with a solid punch. He yelled as the pain snapped his anger away.

"Ahhh! Dammit! Shit!!" he said as he shook his hand, and added a few choice Spanish phrases. He looked around in confusion, until he spotted Sebastian.

"How did I get out here?"

"You don't remember?" Sebastian asked.

"Would I ask if I did?" Marco replied in an angry voice.

"Well, I can see that you're not finished blowing up yet." Sebastian held up his hand at the dirty look Marco gave him. "You were ready to meltdown, so I got you to leave the hanger."

"Oh....What, um...what did it?"

Sebastian shook his head. "I'm not going to tell you until you've calmed down."


"Really....I guess you wouldn't mind unclenching your fists then."

Marco looked down at his hands in slight shock and sighed as he unclenched them. He breathed deeply a few times. "I'm fine...I'm cool...I'm calm...now tell me what happened or I'm gonna punch you."