Let’s Answer: 100 Ways to Make Life Easier for Trans People

I did the one where it talked about how to make life easier for black people and for women.  These lists are awful and I always feel drained at the end of them, but here’s another list and it caught my attention.  Let’s talk about 100 ways that I can make life easier for trans people.  Here’s a link to the article.

1. Respect people’s pronouns. This is really not very complicated! If someone tells you how they identify, you have no say on the matter. Use the pronouns they use.

Sure, why not.  So long as it isn’t some stupid pronoun like xir/xirself or ze/zeself, I got you.  If you’re gonna pull that shit, then my pronouns are master/master.  So you have to say to your friends – master said my pronouns are dumb.

2. Still on pronouns: if you don’t know somebody’s pronouns and want to get it right, either use gender neutral pronouns (i.e. they/them/their) or quietly and discreetly speak to the person and ask. Be aware of your surroundings and those around you before doing so – do not out this person or put them in an unsafe situation.

Nah.  I don’t think so.  I’m gonna use the pronouns I think fit the gender as I see it unless told otherwise by the person.  I don’t get into this gender-neutral world that people want to live in.

3. Trans folk can use gender neutral pronouns, so please do not assume that we must adhere to a binary.

You can use whatever terms you want.  I don’t care.  Free country.  And can we PLEASE stop using the world “folk.”  It’s fucking people.  I swear, when I hear them use the term “folk” unironically, I think of the Pepperidge Farm commercials.

4. Try to start removing binary language from your everyday conversations. If we all make conscious efforts to steer away from gendering everything, this will have a knock-on effect that stops our learnt obsession of having to divide everything into binaries.

Um, no.  I’m gonna speak how I see fit.  If you don’t like it, don’t talk to me.

5. Trans women are women. This is not up for debate – so don’t try to.

I’m fine with a trans person identifying themselves however they wish.  Not my concern nor my problem.

6. Trans men exist! We are often overlooked or forgotten, so try to remind yourself that we are out here and can find the male cis world hard to navigate.

There is this assertion this person has, that people like me just hate trans people on the face of it, so we refuse to acknowledge their existence.  I’m anti-SJW, after all.  Again, I’m fine with trans people identifying themselves with whatever gender they want.  Even idiots like Milo Stewart.

7. Call out transphobia WHEREVER you are! Even if a trans person is not present, be our defence. Hateful language perpetuates the dangerous cycle of violence.

Yeah, no.  If someone’s talking to me and they say some hateful shit, I might be like “dude, what the fuck?”  But if I just hear something someone is saying, I’m going to leave them alone.  Much as I would hope other people leave me alone when I talk to other people.

8. Understand and be vocal that transphobia is never “funny,” “in jest,” or “banter.”

If I’ve learned anything from the Cyberpunk 2077 nonsense, it’s that what constitutes transphobia is always evolving with you people.  So tell you what – I’ll make the jokes I wanna make.  If you don’t like them, you can not talk to me.  In fact, let’s start that right now.

9. Don’t refer to us as a whole. Do not make sweeping generalisations about every trans person. We are all individual people with different opinions.

Can someone tell the writer of this article that?  This entire fucking post is about how to treat an entire community of people as if they are all the same.  Irony, it’s a learned art.

10. Reject the idea that transitioning looks like one thing. People wish to transition in various ways. If someone doesn’t want to or can’t medically transition, this does not mean they are “less trans.” There is no such thing as “less trans” or “more trans.” This is a personal journey that doesn’t need to tick any boxes in order for the transition to be validated – by anyone!

I couldn’t possibly care less about how people transition.  For real.

11. NEVER ask anything about our genitalia or body. “So… do you still have everything down there” as a puzzled hand flutters near our privates is not ever going to be OK. That is final.

This depends on the situation.  If we’re getting hot and heavy and I know that you’re trans, I have every right to ask.  If we are in a sexual situation, as part of consent, I have a right to know what I’m getting myself into.

12. Oh, let’s not forget that we do not all know each other. The queer community is bigger than you think.

Again, articles like this treat the LGBT community like a Borg collective.  I happen to know it’s bigger than one would think.

13. Try to refrain from using language that is heavily influenced or derived from queer culture if this is not your community. Words and phrases are a way of communication in code for a large majority of the queer community (like “reading”). Language creates a dialogue within the queer community that is meant to protect and ensure safety.

I’m sorry…what?  The term “reading” is part of the gay community?  The fuck?  Yeah, fuck you.  I will use whatever terminology I want, and if you don’t like it, you can suck it up like a big boy/girl.

14. Do not enter queer or trans safe spaces without a queer person asking you to be there or without making sure that allies are welcome.

No worries there, whoever, because I have no desire to go to a queer/trans safe space.  At least not without someone asking me to be there.  People who designate an area a “safe space” are probably not the kind of people I’m going to like getting to know.

15. When you are in queer spaces, repeat: “This is not my space, I will not fill it” and actually do what you say.

See previous answer.

16. Be aware of your hands. Do not touch people without consent in all spaces – and especially queer spaces – and especially avoid touching trans people who often are triggered by physical contact involving parts of their body.

You know what, this I agree with.  Don’t touch me, ever.  I don’t like to be touched, and I guess you don’t, so tell you what – you don’t do to me, I won’t do to you.

17. If you are called out for being offensive, do not argue. This is not a debate. Apologise. Take a moment to reflect. If necessary, leave or give the space over to those you have offended or upset.

If someone calls me out, I absolutely will argue, because they are making a spectacle of something.  Someone wants to talk to me in private, that’s something else.  But you call me out in public, I’m gonna argue with you all day.  You started that fight, not me.

18. Never try to argue with a trans person that something isn’t transphobic.

No.

19. Remind us that being trans isn’t a burden or a bad thing!

It absolutely isn’t a bad thing, but given that most of the population isn’t trans, and society doesn’t have the same view on it that it does on the gay community, it has a burden.  Technically, being gay is a burden too because the average person is straight.  Being gay is a minority situation.  We all have our crosses to bear.  Sorry if you don’t like that, but reality doesn’t conform to what you want the world to be.

20. Recognise the strength and power of your voice.

Okay.

21. Now use it.

Using it now, to reply to you.

22. If a trans person is being verbally assaulted, made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or being attacked in any way and needs your help – open your mouth.

If someone asks for my help, I’ll do so, but I’m sorry – I’m not gonna put myself in a difficult situation without someone asking.  That’s a huge imposition.

23. This being said, do not become the ally that speaks over or for a trans person in this situation. Ask if we want you to step in because there’s nothing more frustrating than cis person silencing you. It happens enough, jeez!

See, this kinda makes my point about why I do nothing unless asked.  Because these people don’t appreciate it when people go out of their way.  And wait, didn’t you JUST SAY that people should step in in a situation where someone is being verbally or physically attacked?  Gotta say, your yin-yanging on ideas is a real doozy.

24. Talk to us about more than gender! Movies, what we had for dinner, our next holiday – anything that isn’t constant emotional labour.

Tell you what – you don’t talk to me about your gender, I won’t talk to you about it.  I have no more desire to talk about that than apparently you do.

25. Take us off your mood boards. Book us, pay us, and celebrate us.

…What?

26. Do not fetishise trans folk. We are not your sexual experimentations, tokens, or reason to rebel against your parents. We are not here for you.

I’ll be sexually attracted to whatever I’m sexually attracted to.  You have no more right to tell me how to conduct myself in what I want than I do you.

27. Criticise the media. Write to the newspapers, institutions, and publications that are spreading hate towards the trans community. Create polls and petitions. National news portrays us as monsters and threats to society. We can’t stop them from doing that on our own.

Making fun of conservative news is a good pasttime of mine.  Not on your behalf, but because they say so much stupid shit that’s comedy gold.

28. Learn what Mx means.

No.

29. Talk to the generation above you – your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. You can’t always change traditional mindsets, but you can give them a new perspective.

I come from a conservative-ass extended family.  My own parents are cool, but the rest run the gamut.  And I know for a FACT that if I broach any of these subjects with them, it will just start a fight.  I’m trying to avoid these people as much as I can already.  Don’t need to add that to the problems.

30. Support the generation below; speak to young kids. Make them aware that gender is a spectrum and they don’t have to commit to one gender for their whole life. Educate them on their freedom and choices.

Yeah, no.  Here’s what I’ll do for the gender below – if they are super young, I ain’t gonna say shit.  When they are old enough for gender dysphoria to manifest, then I’ll talk to them about how that works, and say that they can look into if they want to see about transitioning when they are old enough to make an informed decision, or not.  I’m not gonna give kids bad information like you lot.

31. Don’t buy gendered things for kids around you. This just pushes the ideas that boys must like blue and girls must like pink and only one of them can play football in their spare time. I don’t even particularly like either colours!

Good for you.  As for me, assuming I buy something for a child (highly unlikely), I’ll get them whatever I think they’ll like.  Fuck your stupid-ass opinion.

32. Stop pretending only trans people experience name changes or surgery. Me changing my name and a friend getting married and changing her surname meant we had to go through some similar legal process. Help trans folk with these legal procedures, whether that’s telling us which bank is easy to change your name with or going through the deed poll process with us. It means it doesn’t feel like these are “trans issues” – they’re just really confusing forms that nobody quite understands!

This sounds like a huge imposition on my time and I don’t actually care enough about your issues to do anything, so no.

33. Share your platforms. I am tired of cis people talking about trans health. Ask us to talk, educate, share our stories, and pay us. This way you don’t get the credit for the lives we live.

Oh fuck off.  I’m not talking about your issues.  And I’m not paying you for anything.  What should people pay you for, existing?  Are you an Instagram influencer now?  Wanna do some Internet panhandling?  I’m sure a decent chunk of the people who are seriously trying to discuss stuff like this are doctors and people who understand these issues from a scientific standpoint.

34. Support trans artists. Rock up to our exhibitions. Buy our books. Listen to our podcasts. Use your social platforms to share the incredible things we do despite the adversity we face.

I’m sure they don’t have this opinion of Blaire White.

35. Don’t expect trans folk to always congratulate you for being an ally. Sometimes you’re just being a good person. I don’t get a gold star for just being a good person.

I don’t think you are a good person.  I think you’re a judgmental asshole who I have no desire to know.

36. Donate to organizations and charities that are set up to aid and help trans folk. There are so many organisations struggling with funding. Without lots of these resources we can’t access things like mental health services and free meet-ups.

I donate to charities I think will do the most good.  You do the same, and power to ya.

37. Do not tell us what RuPaul, Trump, or the Daily Mail said about us. Chances are we already know.

Good for you.

38. Post about the #blacktranslivesmatter campaign – highlight that trans people of colour are targets of violence.

I have ZERO respect for any of these identity politics hashtag movements.  Kindly fuck off with that nonsense.

39. If you are dating a trans person, try to understand their triggers. For example, me and my partner call my menstrual cycle “Lucifer.” So if I text her to say “Lucifer is here,” she knows to bring chocolate and pillows. You can also try covering tampon or pad boxes and wrapping with cute cartoons or their favourite colour.

My Groj, do you people want to be coddled.  I won’t be an asshole if I know something is a sensitive subject for you, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to pamper your ass.  Christ, what world do you think you live in?  This is why people say that Gen Zed/Millennials can’t handle life.

40. Do not tell us we “are playing the victim,” WE ARE THE FUCKING VICTIM.

Yeah…you kinda made the point about how you play the victim.

41. Do not attend panels that address gender and/or trans identity if everyone on the panel is cis.

There will never be a point, in my life, where I will be attending a panel about gender/trans issues.  Ever.

42. Give trans creatives platforms to share work that aren’t all about being trans.

Why do I have to give this to you?  All the social media you could ask for exists.  And we know that right now it has a very hard-left bias.  So why do you need me to give you a platform?  You couldn’t ask for more by yourself.

43. Do your research. For all ignorant questions, divert to Google. Google is your friend. I am not, especially if you’re asking me how doctors make a penis from my leg.

Remember that point about you saying you don’t get a gold star for being a good person and my response about thinking you’re just an asshole?  Let’s revisit that for a moment.

44. If trans folk do have to explain something to you that may be uncomfortable, triggering, or upsetting for us, buy us a bunch of flowers, take us for dinner, drop something into our PayPal. No labor should be free.

Oh fuck right off with this shit.  Yeah, let me pamper you for asking a fucking question.  Fucking Internet panhandling at its finest.  Let me guess, you have a Patreon.

45. Transphobia is a huge issue in the queer community. Do not let other people who identify as queer get away with things, because they can be by far the worst.

I’m not gonna tell anyone how to think, and I would expect the same courtesy in return.

46. Record transphobic incidents. (Caveat: This is only if your immediate assistance is not needed and you have checked you can use this footage by the person involved.) Share this with everyone you can. It may lead to prosecution or people in positions loosing their job. Nobody should still be allowed to be a CEO and use offensive slurs.

Fuck you.  I’m not gonna try and destroy someone’s livelihood because of what they do in their off hours.  If they are unprofessional on the job, that’s one thing.  But I’m not gonna go after a person that said something impolitic when they aren’t at work.  Fuck people who think like you too.  All that stuff about you being a good person, let’s log that in the trash.

47. Don’t question someone’s religious beliefs because they are trans and you think they go against what it says in a holy book. This isn’t your business, OK?

No.  It’s a valid question.  How can you possibly believe in a deity who outright says that how you are is an abomination unto them?  Really asking here.  This interests me.

48. Trans issues are not for profit. That’s it.

Are you fucking kidding me?!  You just told people if they ask you a question to pamper you or give you a Paypal donation!  There cannot be this level of cognitive dissonance!

49. “Queer” is not a theme. Do not have a “queer” house party and let boys who still use the word “faggot” wear your heels and dresses because it’s fun.

I don’t do house parties, so I think we’re good on this one.

50. Drag queens are not always trans, but they can be – so respect that!

Sure.

51. Do not make someone feel bad after dragging you for something you have done that is deemed transphobic. Your guilt is not my guilt to feel.

If someone I know made a big deal out of stupid bullshit, yeah, I got no issue making them feel bad for making this my problem.

52. Don’t ask what gender dysphoria feels like because it’s a stupid question and there’s no way you can try to understand it.

For someone who wants everyone to understand their “struggle,” you certainly do go out of your way to tell them not to ask about what it’s like.

53. Ask your friends or trans folk you know if they’d like company when going to hospital appointments. Hospitals are scary at the best of times and sometimes you don’t always get the treatment, doctors, or results you want. Be there to give a hug, at least.

I mean…I guess.  Having spent over a month in a hospital because of a head injury and a subsequent coma, I don’t fear them all that much.  But sure, if someone I know has to go to the hospital and they are nervous, I’ll be there for them.  No problem.

54. Do anything you can to stop trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) from leaving stickers, leaflets etc. Tear down everything you see associated with them.

I was wondering if TERFs would ever come into this conversation.  I don’t think I will.  It’s kinda nice to see the community fighting amongst itself.  Identity politics does this a lot, and it’s entertaining.

55. Do not engage in question-based conversations with TERFs. You have nothing to learn from them.

Hey, I got an idea – how about you don’t tell me who to talk to and I won’t tell you who to talk to.

56. Correct others when they misgender people.

No.

57. Gender and sexuality are not the same thing. Remember that at all times.

This is all part of a long, convoluted conversation that people like the person who made this list have helped perpetuate, so I’m just gonna walk this off as – sure.

58. Do not ask a trans person’s partner what being in a relationship with a trans person “makes” them. It makes them in love, now fuck off.

Again, I won’t tell you how to talk to your people, you don’t tell me how to talk to mine.

59. Trans Lives Matter should be more than a hashtag. Push it further than social media.

No.

60. Tell your trans friends and partners how great they look. Highlight the changes after hormones, surgery, or even just a good skin day.

This reminds me of that thing about the “TRANS-lator 3000” comic where, if you tell a trans person how well they are passing, it’s an insult.  You people can’t even make up your own minds on this shit.

61. You are not a true ally if you allow your partner to use transphobic language. Educate your friends and family.

Not an ally.  Just a casual observer.

62. Love your children regardless of what gender they identify as. Most self-hate for many trans folk comes from not being accepted at home.

Never having children.  As of this year, removing myself from the game, medically.  I mean to be part of the solution to overpopulation, not the problem.

63. Offer shelter, money, food etc. The basics of survival are hard for trans folk. If you have enough to spare, try to offer.

No!  They can work for it like anyone else.  I give to homeless shelters and organizations to help the homeless, so if that is their issue, I’m helping them and other people the best I can.  You make being trans sound like this huge Lawrence of Arabia kind of endeavor.

64. This is not a “phase.” Do not tell me it is one.

I ain’t telling you shit.  You seem really unpleasant to me.  As for Milo Stewart, I think that it is a phase.  Someday the little dork will grow up.  That’s a good thing.

65. If your trans friend is leaving a social situation and feels uneasy about travel, offer to walk them to a train station and wait with them, drive them home, or get them a taxi. Travelling home alone by yourself can be a scary scenario.

Why does the person writing this always want me to make huge impositions for people?  If it’s my friend, sure.  If it’s not, no.

66. Do not think you are saving us. We don’t need saving. You are helping us to have what everyone else has without having to ask for it.

The irony of this statement in respect to the rest of this list is just staggering.

67. Be active about your allyship. Just saying you are an ally but not doing enough to actually make a change isn’t enough.

Not an ally.

68. Avoid gendered slang terms like “dude,” “man,” or “missy.” For trans people, these too feel like misgendering.

I’ll speak however I like, thank you.  Dude is a non-gendered term in my mind.

69. Expand your knowledge of gender. For example, the Yoruba language is genderless. There is also a third gender in many spiritual philosophies.

No. I don’t care about Yoruba.  Fuck them.

70. Decolonise the way you think of gender. Remind yourself that these social constructs are postcolonial issues that the western world have pushed onto people.

*rolls eyes*

71. Be hyper aware of the systems that work against trans folk in issues like policing, housing, and health care.

Fuck off.

72. Offer to help go to health meetings and assessments. These spaces and the people within them can be very triggering and cause distress.

NO!  Unless someone I care about asks me to attend something and tells me why, the answer is fucking no!

73. Correct yourself if you accidentally misgender someone. It doesn’t matter if it was an accident – it still hurts.

Sure, if it’s a friend.

74. Make no excuses for others. No trans person wants to hear one of your friends say something offensive, only for you to say, “I’ve known them for ages, they don’t mean it like that.”

Uh, no.  I’m going to step in on account of a friend if I know that the friend wasn’t trying to be offensive.  Sometimes things come out wrong, and your precious opinion doesn’t override that.  Egotistical bitch/bastard.

75. Don’t forget that racism is rife in the queer community and trans people of colour are often the most vulnerable. Protect us.

I’m glad that somebody brought this up.  “People of color” tend to be the least accepting of the LGBT community.  But I’m sure you mean that just white people are evil.

76. Do not call yourself an ally if you do not believe in complete intersectionality. You be xenophobic and be an ally for trans folk. It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid!

Not an ally.

77. Sex work is a service. Again, this is not up for debate. Do not try to stop trans folk from advocating for and implementing their own safety measures. Do not hide your prejudice against sex workers with fake worry.

I got no beef with people who do sex work, so your point here is mute.

78. Do not ask to try on or feel a strap-on, breast plate, or packer. These belong to us.

I needed a good laugh.

79. Believe trans folk when they say they have been targeted. Recognise the hatred that is thrown at us from so many angles.

Depends on who’s telling me.

80. Read Charlie Craggs’ To My Trans Sisters, Juno Dawson’s The Gender Games, C Riley Snorton’s Black on Both Sides, and Travis Alabanza’s Before I Step Outside (You Love Me).

No!

81. Relearn there is no universal trans experience. Not all of us go through the same things – we are all shaped by our varying lives.

Wait, did you just admit that you know you’re out of ideas and are now retreading old ground?  Ugh…

82. Share our work. Often our talents are overlooked based on our gender identity.

If your work is any good, sure.

83. Step down. Take up less space. If you are asked to do or take about something that you think your trans friend, partner, or coworker is more qualified for. Give our names.

No.  I wanna get ahead in this world.  I’m tired of being poor and scraping along.  If I have a chance to do something that gets me farther along, I’m gonna take it.

84 Love us and see us as human beings. After all, that’s what we are!

I will love other people and see them as human beings.  Not you, person who wrote this.  I am convinced that you are an unrepentant dick.

85. Watch Pose, Paris is Burning, Tomboy, Tangerine.

No!

86. Learn the correct terminology. Instead of saying “when you were a girl/a boy” say “your assigned gender at birth.”

No.

87. “Transgenders” is not a thing. We do not fall under one group. Never say that.

Yet-another retread of something we’ve already talked about.

88. Fight for our rights. Block and report pages or people spreading hate, too.

Not gonna try and stifle other people’s freedom of expression because it makes you mad.  Sorry-not-sorry.

89. Help to introduce gender neutral bathrooms. They should be way more common. Ask for them at work, cafes, bars, and venues.

Got no problem with you doing that.  Not gonna help.  As I said, not an ally.

90. If somebody who is trans asks you to go to the bathroom with them, go. This can be a very unsafe space for us.

Yeah…I’m gonna have some follow-up questions if someone asks me to go into a bathroom with them.

91. Pride is not for you to get drunk and smear glitter on your face. Respect that this is not your space.

Fuck off.  If you don’t want people to have fun at a public event, then have a fucking funeral, you pedantic prick.

92. Trans-only groups are there for a reason. These are also not your spaces.

Fair enough.

93. Your curiosity does not come before our comfort. Don’t expect answers and labor.

If you don’t wanna answer people’s questions, then don’t get mad when people don’t have an understanding of your issues.  They came to you wanting to learn, you told them no.  That’s on you.

94. Saying “I do not see gender” is hella problematic. We don’t need another way to be erased.

Fuck off.

95. Don’t assume anything about gender dysphoria. Not everyone experiences it and not everyone experiences it in the same way. People navigate it with different coping mechanisms.

Remember that point I made about people asking questions and you not answering them?  Kinda comes back here.

96. Do not deny your privilege. If you tell me that being a cis heterosexual white man doesn’t mean you haven’t “had it rough,” I will tell you that you are wrong.

Fuck off with your Original Sin bullshit.

97. I also am not playing Top Trumps with you. Don’t try to top my experience.

Top Trumps?  Is this a British thing?

98. Not everything needs labels. As my grandmother would say: “Baby, some things just be as they be.”

You all are the kings/queens of labeling things.

99. Intimacy can be even more complicated for some trans folk. Respect boundaries and ways people feel comfortable with nudity, tactility, and sex. This may been being patient or unlearning what we deem as ‘sex’.

What?  Unlearning what “we deem as ‘sex'”?  What the fuck does that mean?  Oh, right, I shouldn’t expect answers from you because you’re an asshole.  Never mind.

100. Find your own ways to disrupt the cis world. There are so many ways to do this.

Fuck off!

I hate these things so much.  Why I torture myself by doing them, I’ll never know.

Until next time, a quote,

“I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.” – Professor Farnsworth

Peace out,

Maverick

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A Wife, A Soldier, An Assassin

That, my dear readers, is the title of this little narrative.  Let me tell you, I don’t do these kinds of things much.  It’s hard for me to maintain an idea long-term.  This little concept for a story started with me being bored as fuck at my job.  So I decided to let my mind wander, and it came up with this.  It’s been fun writing it.  I’m gonna have links to all the parts of the story, in the order I wrote them.  Hopefully you all enjoyed this too, and will come back to it.  I will say that I may end up writing more stories of the missions of the STARS in various posts.  I will be adding them to this post if I do, so check back if you don’t follow my work regularly and want to see if there’s more stuff.

Act I – A Wife
A Chance Start of a Friendship
The Hidden Story (Part 1)
The Hidden Story (Part 2)
Old Friends, Lost Dreams
Unveiling Some Truth, But Not All
A Thanksgiving to Live For

Act II – A Soldier
Lost Sisters, Old Wounds
A Preparing for Battle Tale
Camaraderie Between Branches, and Sisters
A Den of Secrets and Lost Family
Bad Dreams, Bad Behavior
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 1)
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 2)
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 3)
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 4)
On Home, Gardens, and Babies
An Assassination, In Front of a Choir
The Principles of Youthful Love
Pictures and the Road Down Memory Lane
Home for the Holidays (Part 1)
Home for the Holidays (Part 2)

Act III – An Assassin
The Binary Compound Mission (Part 1)
The Binary Compound Mission (Part 2)
The Binary Compound Mission (Part 3)
Talking Until the Morning Light
The Submarine Mission (Part 1)
The Submarine Mission (Part 2)
The Dream
The Truth About Killing
Saying Goodbye to Her
Coming Full Circle (Part 1)
Coming Full Circle (Part 2)

As I said, there will be more mission stories, but the central narrative is finished.  I hope to see you all again later.

Until next time, a quote,

“War all comes down to these tiny stories about people’s lives that will never be the same.” – Eugene Richards

Peace out,

Maverick

Coming Full Circle (Part 2)

The phone rang.  Annoying.  Had to disengage myself from Ashley’s arms.  She was so soft.  Not nearly the cuddle-bug that Jean was, but still.  Looked at the clock.  0300.  Who would call at this hour?!
Picked it up.  “Hello?”
“Quinn-chan?!”  He sounded awfully perky.
“What do you want, Toriyama?  It’s really fucking early.”
“Oh yeah.  Sorry.  There’s something that I thought you ought to know.  Got a hot tip from someone.  Can’t say who.  They had me do some work on other documents from North Korea.  Very shady stuff.  Was something I found.  Thought you’d like to know.”
Now he had my attention.  “I’m listening.”
“Not over the phone.  Just give me an address.  Will ship it to you.”  A brief pause.  “But you may not like this, Quinn-chan.”
My tone was ice-cold.  “If you have something you think I’d like, then send it.”
“Ya, ya.  Okay.  But don’t say I didn’t tell you so if you no like it.”

It was dark, just how I like it.  A trip I had made years before.  Now I was making it again, for an entire different reason.  But I needed to know.  Had to know.  Needed an answer that only this man could give.  Didn’t know if he would be happy to see me.  Probably.  We had parted on good terms, after all.  But this wasn’t at all a good thing.  Old wounds that needed to be resolved.
Right back where my revenge started.  Sitting in the back of a car.  Well, laying in the back of a car.  Heard the door open.  As before, he was on his phone.
“Yes sir.  We’ve already got the President’s approval.  Once the budget goes through, we’ll get it started.  Thank you, sir.”
Silence.  Guess he was mulling things over.
Sat up.  “Another star on your uniform.  Very impressive.  You won’t be saying ‘sir’ to anyone here, pretty soon.”
He didn’t even have to look in the mirror.  “Pierce.  We have to stop meeting like this.  You know, if you wanted to talk, you could have just come to my office.”
I shook my head.  “There’s no official record I’m here.  Flew in under an alias.”
Still had that look where he was processing.  It was intense.  Even now, he still had it.
“Okay.  What did you want to talk about?”
“Got my hands on some interesting intel.  Real crazy stuff.  Seems the story about the attack on the Pacific Fleet didn’t end for them with the death of those who orchestrated it.  KPA did some digging.”
“Oh yeah?  And what did they find?”
I got very close.  “They found that it was curious that the dissident faction seemed to know exactly where to send their popper planes.  I mean, it isn’t like they had a big satellite network.  China had already told them no.  So how did they know where to strike?  Got me curious too.”
There was a little twitch in the man’s neck.
“Making me wonder – did the leak come from us?  Was there someone in our military who made sure they got it?  And if so, was my mission just to cover their tracks?  A big song and dance that helped them come out looking squeaky clean?  And also got us peace with one of our biggest adversaries?  Lots of questions.  Which then makes me wonder – was the guy who sent me on this wild goose chase the same one who knew where this all came from?
“Then I found out that the newly christened Delta Team got their start with a black ops mission here in the US.  Some ‘threats to national security’ iced.  Sounds like someone in the Navy used the STARS to clean house.  Sure would be a shame if it was the same person who sent me on my mission.  Wouldn’t it?”
The Admiral actually smiled.  “Not bad, Pierce.  But don’t think for one second that you’re innocent in this.  Like you said, you were gonna do this one way or the other.  You came to me looking for intel.  We both used each other.”
My knife slide into his neck like it went into butter.  “My wife’s dead because of you, you piece of shit!  Because you had to go scheming.  I told you that I would make her killers pay.  And now I have.  You’re the last loose end.”  Pulled the blade out.  He was dead in seconds.  “Goodbye, Amiral.”
Got out of the car.  My ERC-7 was on, and I exfil-ed the parking garage the same way as I had come in.  All these years later, and there was that same cathartic feeling that I had when I watched that mess hall full of KPA soldiers choke and scream and die.  But now it really was done.  She could rest.  And maybe, just maybe, so could I.

Epilogue

This was it.  What we had all been drilling for.  The last week here was nothing but drilling for the graduation ceremony.  Everything was regimented.  Every fucking thing.  We even had a practice hall that we used for the exact purpose of getting ready for the real deal.  But this was the home stretch.
My excitement was growing and growing.  While Petty Officer McGrath was yelling at us, I would be thinking about getting to see them again.  Dad told me wouldn’t miss it if the world was ending.  So had the rest.  All the letters we got.  Speaking of, had to get my duty done.  My tenure as the Mail Officer was coming to an end.  A post that I kicked ass at.  It was cool that I got the girls back home to send letters to the guys and girls who had no one writing to them.  Telling them that they were doing good work and that they knew it was hard.  I got a reputation around here as the person trying to help everyone.  Got the attention of the base commander.  No joke.  Felt proud of that.
Now the day had finally come, and here I was.  Dress whites on, I was ready.  We were all in formation.  My shipmates and I were in the 193, fourth in line.  Walked in to that room, and for the first time, I felt all the pride inside seeing all those people, to congratulate us for making it this far.  It wasn’t easy.  Not everyone makes it through boot camp.  Not everyone should.
I was there the day the girl died from heat exhaustion.  She didn’t want to look weak to her shipmates, so she hadn’t told Petty Officer.  Eventually it was clear, but by that point it was too late.  I can’t imagine being the CACO and having to tell her family that she died before she even got to be a Seaman.  Petty Officer was pissed.  Gave us all a talk as we did air-chairs that it doesn’t make us tougher sailors to die because we don’t report problems.  That we have a duty to our shipmates to look after ourselves, because we are all we can depend on.  When a ship is on fire, or we are under attack, all we have is each other.  So we have to trust each other.  That stuck with me.
Something to know about graduation from boot camp – it’s literally you standing at attention for 45 minutes.  No joke.  You cannot break formation or go at ease until they give you liberty.  Another thing is that they have people there whose sole job is to see those who are struggling and escort them out.  People pass out doing this.  Not even kidding.  Was hot as fuck, too.  Hated it.  But thinking about them all out there, watching me, seeing me in uniform, it made it so much easier.  Couldn’t wait to see Dad’s face.  Or hers.  She had promised that the rest would be here too.
Worst part of it all was when we all had to sing, in “unison,” Anchor’s Aweigh.  Never have I wanted to cringe more than I did then.  It was terrible.  People were off-key, not keeping time, and I hate singing unless I know I’m alone in the shower.  This was terrible.  Felt so humiliate to even be there.  Could almost feel her smirking at me.  But then, she’d been down this road before.  So had all of them.
Finally, and I do mean finally, the announcer came on.
“Now, let me say, Liberty!”
Everyone cheered.  Finally getting to break ranks, I knew Dad would come charging in to find me.  Sure enough, within moments, there he was.  Dressed in a blue suit that fit him like a glove.  Looking sharp, Dad!  Felt out-classed, all of the sudden.  But I wouldn’t when I had the officer’s dress uniform!
“Hey, sweetie!”  He gave me a big hug.  Kind of took the wind out of me.  “You look great in that uniform.  I’m so proud of you.”
Smiled at him.  “Thanks, Dad.  Not looking so bad in that suit.  Feeling outclassed.”
“Not for a minute, honey.”
Just then, I saw them.  Each standing in officer dress uniforms.  A little strange, considering that they weren’t in the Navy anymore, but these women were legends in the STARS.  I could see people looking at them with instant respect.  And in the center, there was she was.  My teacher.  My best friend.  The mom I never had, but I’d never tell her that.  Her hair was done up in a perfect bun.  She really did look the part.
Walking over, I immediately stood at attention.  Their uniform showed that they outranked me.
“Well done, Seaman Phillips.”
“Yes ma’am.  Thank you, ma’am.”
She stood at attention and saluted.  I returned it.
“Carry on, Seaman.”
Couldn’t get the smile off my face.  “Thank you, ma’am!”
Now she held out her arms.  “Give me a hug, kiddo.”
I jumped into her arms.  Just like old times.  Being 14 again and training with her.  Nothing had changed.  Except Quinn.  With her was Bethke, who was looking a little sheepish.  She was still enlisted, leading Alpha Team.  Beacham couldn’t be here, which made me sad.  But she did write and tell me how if I didn’t get through boot she would put her foot up my ass.  Believed it.  Pennyfeather couldn’t be here either.  Being Beacham’s right-hand woman was hard work.  Gave Rodriguez a hug.  She looked the most awkward in uniform.  Ever since she left it, she was always in something that had less layers, and showed more skin.  Even now, she still was looking for tail.  Some things never change.  Lastly, there was Crow.  Scuttlebutt back home was that her and Quinn were getting pretty close.  Nothing official, but part of me hoped they were.  I think they’d be cute together.
“I’m proud of you,” she said.
“Thanks, Quinn.”
It’s strange, but in that instant, for just a second, I thought I saw a woman with brown hair, just behind her.  Then I blinked, and she was gone.  I know Quinn has always been skeptical of the afterlife.  I am too.  But I like to think, that Jean was there too, also proud.
But now, I had a couple hours of Liberty.  Had to make the most of it.  Worst part was – no drinking.  I know that Rodriguez would hook me up.  Next stop, A School.  The first stop on the way to earning my wings.  I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Fin

Until next time, a quote,

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” – Plato

Peace out,

Maverick

Coming Full Circle (Part 1)

“When I first joined the Navy, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life.  It was all just something to get me out of that town and doing something important.  Boot camp was the loneliest I had ever been.  All the people getting mail from their families, it hurt.  You’d get the occasional guy who got a Dear John letter from a girlfriend.  Had a couple girls who got it from their girlfriends.  Never saw boyfriends sending this shit.
“Then I joined up with the STARS, because it felt like something worth doing.  They sold me on it being a unit for women, helping them get into combat roles.  The training we got, the places we visited, it was incredible.  I’ve done arctic training in Canada with CANSOFCOM.  I’ve crawled through sand with Kurdish fighters.  I’ve run through jungles with COPESP.  And I learned how to disappear in cities with the SAS.  It was amazing.  Difficult.  I thought that it couldn’t be harder than boot camp.  You can’t imagine how wrong I was.  The SEALS have Hell Week.  We had Hell Months.  When we got sleep were the good nights.  When we didn’t was pretty usual.  So many women dropped out or were flunked out.
“At first, we were seen as just the women-force.  What they called the FDU.”
“What was that?” Johnathan asked.
“The Frigid Dykes Unit.”
“Christ.  You’d think they’d give you more respect than that.”
I chuckled.  “Respect is earned, in the military.  And we eventually did earn it.  Like you wouldn’t believe.”
Emily was sitting on the edge of the bed, feet up and arms around her knees.  Kiddo looked awkward.  But I made the choice to finally be open with them.  These two were the closest thing I had to family since losing my wife.  Now I had to give them the full story.  Minus the classified bits.  I think.  Sometimes it’s hard to know with a unit that was breaking the law and sometimes operating on American soil to kill threats to the country.
“For a while, we were just a stealth unit, infiltrating, getting intel, setting explosives, whatever needed to be done.  Sure, there would be the occasional kill we’d have to make, but soon the brass realized our ability as killers and saw fit to have it become a bigger and bigger part of our operations.  One of Alpha Team stood out among the rest in regards to being a good killer.”
“Who?” John asked.
“Me.”  So many memories flashed before me.  So many kills.  The ways I could do it.  How I was always seeing ways to kill people.  “I was so good at it.  They had me doing more and more of it over the years.  Until finally I didn’t even know if I could stop.  It was doing things to me.  Mentally, physically, you name it.  The only person who was able to help me get out of the darkness with killing was Jean.  That’s part of how our relationship began.  She asked for some shore leave so all of us could unwind.  Our first date was that night.  The beginning of what would be the best relationship I’ve ever had.”
Both my companions looked awkward.
“Oh Quinn, I’m so sorry.  I can’t imagine how awful it was to lose her.” he said, finally.
“Ever since, I haven’t been able to get past it.  Haven’t been able to let the killing go.  It’s all I know how to do.  So I keep doing it.  But now there’s no outlet.  My hands aren’t shaking, but my mind is still breaking.  I don’t know how much more of this I have in me.  But you all came into my life, and I feel like maybe, just maybe, there’s a future for me.”
Emily smiled at me.
“I’m sorry, kiddo.  I didn’t mean to hurt Ashley the way I did.  It’s just, there’s so much guilt inside me for what happened.  I was the one who convinced Jean to go on deployment when she did.  I wanted us to actually be able to spend a Christmas together in our new home.  Two years, and we still hadn’t been able to.  I wasn’t going to let that year be different.  Wanted to make tasty food for us.  Maybe have some of the girls who had no family over.  Make a feast for all the sisters.  That’s been in the back of my head for years.  Guess it caught up with me that night.”
All she did was nod at me.
“I think I’m finally ready to see if I can move forward.  I can’t leave the company I started, but I can start looking at the jobs I get offered.  Maybe change my criteria.  Some of the girls I served with are looking to leave the Navy.  No point letting good talent go to waste.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” John replied, with that approving dad look.  He really did remind me of my old Lt.  “If you’re ever looking for a CFA, I might know a guy who has the credentials.”
“What about the company you’re with now?”
He shrugged.  “It’s good money, but truth be told, I want something more challenging.  Handling the legal side for a Private Military Corporation sounds like one hell of a challenge.  I like it.”
There was this moment that passed between us.  Reminded me of when I had been negotiating with the Admiral after Jean died.  Two equals, figuring shit out together.
“Well, we’ll see when we get there.  Not committing to anything now.”
He nodded.  “Absolutely.  Decisions like this should always be given a great deal of thoughts.  But I’m glad you’re finally starting to think about your future.”
So much weight off me.  They were all on the same page.
Looked over at Em.  “You mind looking after Natayo and Shadow while I’m still in here?  They said it will still be a couple more days.”
She nodded.  “Sure!  They’re pretty great.”
“Thanks.  But you know, once I’m out of here, we’re back into training.  You’ve been slacking off!  Can’t have that.  And I want to expand your education.  Have you learn some new stuff.”
That got her attention.  “What new stuff?!”
“It’s time I teach you how to fight.  Some basic CQC.”
“Hell yeah!”
When her dad gave her a look, we both cracked up.

A couple days went by.  Finally getting back home, still recovering from a bullet wound.  I had gotten lucky.  Bullet went right through me.  No major arteries knicked, but my intestines had been perforated.  Did some surgery to get me patched up, now it was just about recovery.  Spent my days resting, for the most part.  Wasn’t going to risk my stitches getting undone.
Kiddo would come over.  I’d talk with her about what we would be doing.  Basic combat stances, being able to read opponents, relaxing her muscles.  Had a kitty perched on my lap pretty much the entire time I was recovering.  Pussy got some serious love.  Pupper wasn’t especially pleased with this.  But Emily was taking him out to run.  That did make a happy dog.
Finally, after what felt like forever, I was back on my feet.  Had to recover a LOT of strength.  Apparently I lost a decent amount of blood.  Now it was about getting my strength back and then going back into it with kiddo.
Something else that happened because of what I did – apparently I had a REALLY big fan club at Emily’s school.  Word got out about the badass former STARS member who saved the lives of students and even got a shooter to put the gun down.  The accomplice was dead before he hit the floor, but the first guy did surrender without incident.  None of the other students were hurt.  Only casualty of the event was me.  Got to talk to a news crew.  Being regarded as a hero was the weirdest shit ever.  All these years, a hero is the last thing I felt like.  But now, here I was, getting thank you cards, flowers, even a stuffed kitty with a card telling me to get well.  It was a cute snow leopard design.  Natayo now attacks it all the time.  It’s super cute.
Ended up going to Em’s school, and the second I walked in the door, the staff came to greet me.  The principal shook my hand.  Got to sashay into kiddo’s class and walk in like a rock star.  My old Navy hoodie was covered in blood, but it seems my Alpha Team sisters were all over that.  They got me a new one, that had Alpha Team’s insignia on the back.  The same one that Jean designed.  Not gonna lie, cried a bit when I opened it.  But I wear it so proudly.  Seeing that hoodie, so many people were all over me.  The adulation felt nice, but I didn’t let it go to my head.  At least, I don’t think so.  People asked me what it was like being in that situation, and I leveled with them that my first thought was with taking out the first kid.  But I pushed myself past my worse angels to reason with him, and I was glad I did.
I think everyone expected military bravado.  Eff that.  I wanted them to know the truth.  Needless to say, kiddo was something of a rock star for being chill with me.  For a little while, it made things awkward when we’d go to the pool to do training sessions and people would want to shake my hand of whatever.  But eventually the craziness died down and everyone moved on to the next thing.  In the age of Internet culture, nothing stays a huge deal for long.
Stuff with my company was changing too.  I had a couple of assassination contracts I had already agreed to.  Once a contract is signed, I can’t get out of it.  So I knew that I’d have to play those out.  I could do that.  The pain wasn’t as vivid.  The mental stress.  Maybe all of this was tied to how I had been holding everything in.  Was it the same way when Jean and I were dating?  I couldn’t talk about anything back then, either.  Perhaps the secrecy was what was fucking up my life.
One day I got a text from Ashley, wondering if I was doing anything.  Was kind of shocked.  After what happened between us, I figured she hated my guts.  Turns out, she was just scared and didn’t know how to deal.  Kiddo had talked with her, and now she was hoping to get another chance to spend a fun night together when she was in town.  I do remember how unbelievably attractive she was.  And pretty good in bed, too.  I needed a woman in my bed again.  Since the bad dreams had stopped, I was certain this was gonna be crazy.  I told her to wear something really sexy, on top and underneath.

Lt was coming out of the base.  He had a look on his face of it being a long day.  He fiddled with his keys, trying to unlock the door.
“Hey,” I greeted.
The look on his face was one of shock.  “What are you doing here, Pierce?”
Hopped off the rail I was sitting on, tossing him a beer.  Not some domestic shit.  America makes crappy beer.  Just gonna put that out there.
“Just in the neighborhood.  Figured I’d come visit.  Looking sharp, I see.”  Suddenly something caught my eye.  There had been a change to his uniform.  New collar, shoulder, and sleeve chevrons.
“Lt. Commander now.  Rock on!  So does this mean you’re not in charge of Alpha Team anymore?”
He shook his head.  “For now I’m still here.  A replacement is being selected from the program.  It’s in a bit of a bind.  We’re having new women integrated into Delta and Echo teams, but since several team members are leaving the ranks because either their enlistment is up or they asked for a transfer, we may end up having to compartmentalize the teams into new ones.”  Then he gave me a wry look.  “I mean some of those leaving have cards from your company.  You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
I gave the biggest innocent face ever.  “Who, me?!  Never!”
Guy chuckled.  “Smart ass as always.”
“Aye, sir.”
“I heard you talked with the other girls.  Once they stopped shit-talking you, I knew something happened.  They’re playing it close to the uniform, but I know something happened.  They talked about coming to visit you.  And convinced me to sign that card we sent after you got shot.  Heard what happened at the school.  Very impressive, Pierce.  On both the kid you talked down, and the one you took down.”
It still felt good, getting adulation from my old LCO.
“Thank you, Lt.  Well, guess I can’t call you that anymore.”
He snorted.  “Might as well.  It’s what the others still do.  No respect around here.”
Gave him a wink.  “Not a bit, sir.”
Leaning against the car, he took a swig of the beer.  “You look a lot better, Pierce.  I remember that day I saw you at the hospital.  You looked like shit.”
“Yeah.  I was in a bad place.”
“And now?”
“Now, I’m in a different one.  Not entirely sure what’s gonna happen, but I think that I am on the path.”
He nodded.  “I’m glad to hear that.  Part of me always hoped that one day you’d end up in charge of a team with the STARS.  But then, you were always following Beacham’s lead.  She’s one of the people we’re looking at to replace me.  Give her a HUGE promotion and then give her command of Alpha.  Don’t tell her I said that, Pierce!  Understood?”
“Wilco, sir.”
“Thanks.  I put her name in myself.  That woman has the makings of a great commanding officer.  Someday I know she’s gonna be where I am now.”
“You’re not wrong.”
We stood there for a few moments, just drinking beer and listening to the noise of the base.  F-22s landing down the way.
“I heard you’re finally getting a divorce form Vicki,” I said, finally.
“Why am I not surprised you know that.”
“I am so glad.  That woman was a bitch, sir!”
“She was a little rough around the edges…”
“No!  She was a bitch.  We all hated her so much.  She treated you like her dog.  Hope your lawyer takes her to the cleaners.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that’ll happen.”
“We live in the age of equality, sir!  That means that women can be fucked over in a divorce as much as any man.”
Another snort from him.  “Yeah, I’m sure.  But no way am I gonna get out of this without paying alimony.  At least my son is in college now and I don’t have to worry about child support.”
“No kidding.  Up here it’s a bitch.”
“Copy that.”
From there, we have finally reached a point of being able to be personal.  Some light conversation.  His son heading to Cal-Tech, to study to be an astrophysicist.  Wanted to end up doing some work for the Navy.  Made his father proud.  I could feel that.  Would make me proud too.
Finally, Lt looked to leave.  “So, you gonna be alright, Pierce?”
“Aye, sir.  I think I will be.”
He held out his hand.  “It was good to see you again.”
Shook it.  “You too, Lt. Commander.”

Until next time, a quote,

“I started the lab because I was never able to create friends.” – Okabe, Steins;Gate

Peace out,

Maverick

Saying Goodbye to Her

All I could do is stare at her.  That perfect face that I remember so well.  The long, flowing brown hair.  Still wanted to play with it.  Run my hands through it.  In those cute PJ’s with the flannel pattern.
“You’re finally up!” she said.
All I could do was stare.
“Never thought the day would come when my wife wouldn’t have any words for me.”
My mind was struggling to make sense of it.
“You’re here!” I finally managed to get out.
Her smile deepened.  “Yup.  I’m right here.”
“But, why?  How?  I don’t understand…”  The rational part of my brain was struggling to make sense of it, but couldn’t.  Like a piece of a puzzle that I was missing.  It bothered me just as much as that would.
The smile was fading.  “Aren’t you happy to see me?”
How she said that tore at my heart-strings.  Started shaking.  Tears welling up.
“Of course I’m happy to see you!  All I’ve wanted for what feels like an eternity is to see you.”
In a flash she was standing in front of me, pulling me into her arms.  Even with the height difference between us, never have I felt smaller.
“Quinn, I’ve wanted to see you too.  I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too.  Every day without you, I felt like I was there a little less than the day before.”
“I know.  And it’s been breaking my heart to see you this way.”
I pulled back, looking into her eyes.  Now she looked like tears were eating at her.
“Why?”
“I don’t want you to be unhappy, Quinn!  Why would I want that?!  I love you!  Just because I can’t be with you anymore doesn’t mean I want you to be unhappy!  Do you really think I’m that kind of person?!”  The insistence there.  It wasn’t accusatory.  It was begging.  Trying to reach that deep part inside.
“I…I thought you would have blamed me.  It’s my fault you died.”
Now she had that look that only a mother can have.  “I made the choice to go on deployment early, Quinn.  Not you.  I have to own that.”
“I would give anything for it to be me and not you.”
She grabbed my arm roughly.  “Don’t you say that!  You hear me?!  Don’t you ever say you’d rather be dead.”  Voice cracking.  “Seeing how much risk you put yourself in, the lengths you have gone to, what you’ve done to yourself, it hurts me so much.  And I couldn’t say anything to you.  Screaming, beating on the glass from this side, but all I could do is see you hurt yourself more and more.”
Tears were openly flowing down my face now.
“But then you found this new person in your life.  That sweet kid who looks up to you like a big sister.”
I chuckled.  Laughter while crying.  Looked like a mess, I’m sure.  “I’m old enough to be her mom.”
“Well, she hasn’t treated you like one yet.  And she’s been good for you.  Seeing how far you’ve come, it made me think that maybe you’d be okay.”
Even more tears.  Red faced, just a big blubbering kid.  This was not a dignified look.
“I tried to make it work, Jean.  I really did.  But it all fell apart.”
“You haven’t lost your friend yet.”
“But if I’m here, and we’re talking, that means I’m dead.  So I have lost her.”
She shook her head.  “You’re dead, but not permanently.”
Immediately I looked up, scared to death.  “No!  Please, don’t tell me I have to leave!”
A sullen expression.  “Yeah, you do.  You’ve lost a lot of blood, but you’re not dead yet.”
“I can’t do this alone!  I don’t want to leave you!”
A moment passed between us.
“We have some time, sweetie.”
“How long?!”  I couldn’t do losing her again.
“At least the rest of today.  Like I said, you lost a lot of blood.  We can talk, eat, whatever you want.  Okay?”
Nodding like a little kid who had to accept a bad situation.  “Okay…”
“So, what do you wanna do?”
Looking at my face in the reflection of my oven door, I giggled.  “Well, for starters, clean myself up a bit.  I look like shit.”
“Yeah, you do.  So, a shower?”  That little hint of hopefulness in her voice.
Now I was smiling.  “I’d like that.”

Watching her put her hair up in a towel.  My hair had gotten a bit longer.  Enough that now it was rubbing on my neck, but not long enough that I couldn’t just air dry it.  That had been so magical.  The longest shower I’ve ever taken, but whatever.  Worth every second.  Now I was just laying on the bed, staring at her putting her hair in a towel and then looking back at me.
“What?”
“Nothing.  Just admiring the view.”
She winked at me.  “It gets better.”
“Oh really?”
Getting on top of me, rubbing her nose against mine.  “I’ve missed this so much.  Even if it’s just for a little while, having you like this is so perfect.”
Looked away.  “Don’t talk about it ending.”
“Sorry, love.” She leaned in closer, the tenderness of her lips was breathing life back into me.  A pause.  “But you know what else I’ve missed?”
“Hm?”
“Your cooking!  You have to make me something amazing!  You got this amazing kitchen in this rad as fuck house.  Show me what you can do, wonder woman!”
Now we were talking!  Kissing her, I then pushed her off and got up.  Best to get dressed.  DIdn’t want to be making something that could potentially spill on me with next to nothing protecting the skin.
As I took off the towel and got into my dresser, now I could see her staring.
Seeing me give her a look, she shrugged.  “Just admiring the view myself.”

The rest of the morning was the two of us in my kitchen.  She sat at the stool by the counter, while I was all over the place.  My first big idea was something from my Midwestern heritage – fried cheese curds.  So unhealthy, but dammit, it was delicious!  Another Midwest dish that I made up for dessert was cream puffs.  Used to have these at the state fair when I was little.  Never got around to making them for us.  But now I was making up for lost time.  She helped me prep them.  Could hear her stomach growling to consume from where I was.
Put the puffs in the fridge, and we eat fried curds on the veranda.  Sat at the table, eating from a large plate I piled them onto.  White cheddar was my base for these things.  So fucking tasty!  The two of us talked about old stories.  The party after the ceremony of my wedding.  How drunk Rodriguez got, throwing up in the coat room.  Our days on deployment back when she was still one of my COs.  That was so damn long ago.  Not half a life-time, but closer to it than I’d like.  That time when Bethke had to make a stink with LT to cover us when Jean had stayed in me and Rodriguez’s quarters.  We really were family.  Or when I came home from a deployment of several months and the pupper and kitty damn-near attacked me with love.  Then me having to go over the uniform for an hour to get all the hair off.  So many good memories.
Finally, we got to the cream puffs.  Holy fuck!  I always knew that my cooking skills were boss as fuck, but damn!  Never did I think that I would be this good in a pinch.  Sudden inspiration was a powerful thing.  Saw some cream on the edge of my wife’s lip, so I licked it off.  This led to some kissing.  No complaints.  Felt so good.

After eating, we decided to digest on the lawn.  The sun was out and the wind was blowing.  Time to be women and get a tan while enjoying each other’s company.  Was no noise of the neighbors, so we spread a blanket, got naked, and took in the rays.  A growing part of me was desperately wishing this day never had to end.  You ever have someone who you can just be quiet with and it’s alright?  Feeling their love right next to you, and that’s all you need.  That’s how this was.  No words, just soft emotions and closeness.  This led that same part of me to think about how this could all be a dream.  I mean, the afterlife is just a myth, right?  Everything in your body is connected to your sensations.  So none of this is real, right?  Whatever.
“Does it feel real?” she asked.
Weird!  Like she’s in my head.  “What?”
“What we’re sharing right now.  Does it feel real?”
“More than anything ever has before!”
“Then it is.  Maybe the conscious mind doesn’t get it, but if you feel it, then there it is.”
How did I get so lucky with this woman?
Snuggled in closer, pulling her into my arms.  Tanning was about to go to a much more fun place.

Hours went by.  Went back inside, snuggled up and took in the view of the ocean.  Hours on the clock flew by and before I knew it, I was making dinner.  Old fashioned Jambalaya.  So damn tasty.  We saw in front of the TV watching a forgotten hilarious comedy called Top Secret and laughed until we cried.  How this movie, made by the same guys who made Airplane was forgotten baffled me.
Then I saw the clock.  It was getting late.  Really, really late.  No!  Why?!
“I’m not leaving,” I told her.
She gave me a sad look.  “You can’t stay, Quinn.  Your body is recovering.”
“I’ll find a way to stay here.  I can’t go back.  What’s waiting for me out there?  The empty bed.  The lonely fridge.  The work that’s killing me inside.  I can’t go back to that.”
“What about the friend you made?  Her dad?  They’re family to you now, right?  And our puppy and cat.  You gonna leave them to fend for themselves?  I don’t think you can be that cruel.  I know you better than that.”
Tears again.  Dammit!  “I can’t do this, Jean!  I leave you now, and it’s forever.  I can’t lose you again!”
She put her hand on my face.  “Baby, you aren’t losing me.  Not forever.  A whole bunch of years down the line, when you’ve lived a full life, and I’m gonna be right here, waiting for you.”
Bawling.  “So what, I just say goodbye?!  Like ‘see ya, honey!’?  Like I’m going on some long-ass deployment?!”
“Not in so many words.”  A deep breath.  “When I was on that ship, and we had taken damage.  When we were sinking and there was no way out, the thing that hurt me more than anything was the fact that I’d never get to say goodbye to you.  But I’m here, now.  I have you here.  I want to be able to say goodbye and know that you’re gonna be okay.  You know?”
No words.  Just incomprehensible noise amidst crying.  Finally, words came.  “I do this, then what?  Find some other person?  Forget about you?”
A stern look.  “You really believe you’re gonna forget about me?”
“I never could.”
“Then there you go.  But yeah, you move forward.  Maybe you don’t start dating, but you at least start living.  Spending time with your new family.  Looking after my family.  Taking care of the fur babies.  Seeing some fun places.  Your new little sister will need a guide if she ever gets into the Navy to be a pilot, you know?”  She took my hands in hers.  “It’s not saying you’re gonna forget about me.  It’s saying you’re gonna move forward and have a life.  A full life.  Then, when it’s done, and we meet again, you can tell me all about it.  I love your stories.”
I looked right into her eyes.  “You promise, you’ll be here waiting for me?”
“I promise.  I love you, Quinn.”
“I love you too, Jean.  With all my heart.”
We hugged tightly.  Never wanted to let her go.
“Let’s get to bed.  I wanna go to sleep in your arms again.  At least give me that.”
“Aye-aye.”
“There’s my woman!”
Smiled at her.  The perfect wife.

Soft skin, in my arms.  Felt consciousness drifting away.  Sleep was coming in.  Couldn’t help it.  She’s so warm and soft.  Running my fingers through her hair.  Would play with it for hours, if I could.  Then sleep came upon me.
“Goodbye, Jean.”
“See you later, Quinn.”

The sound of beeping.  My eyes opened.  For the first time, in what felt like a million fucking years, my eyes were opening.  There, sitting in a chair, was John.
“Hi.”

Until next time, a quote,

“Don’t forget about me.” – Chloe Price, Life is Strange

Peace out,

Maverick

The Truth About Killing

A few weeks had passed since that night with Ashley.  Everything that followed was about as bad as I could have expected.  After getting all the tears out, she got dressed and stormed out of my place.  Having gone back over to Emily’s, I got an absolute earful from the kiddo the next day about how much I had hurt her cousin and how she was so angry with me.  Though not just for hurting Ash.  She was also mad at me because I was about to kill myself.  That part I understood.  All the crying and yelling and asking me how I could do that.  Asking if I even thought about how she’d feel if she found out I had done that.  The words hurt.  They bit at my soul.  Between bouts of crying and yelling, she told me that if I was just gonna kill myself to not talk to her anymore.
And that’s how our PT and everything else ended.  My sources told me she had kept up with swimming.  In fact, she seemed to be doing it harder than ever.  That part made me happy.  At least some good came from our time together.  I’d take that.  As for me, I found slipping back into old routine had become pretty simple.  Shadow still joined me on my morning runs.  He loved it.  That made me happy.  I had him taken to a groomer here in town to have him trimmed.  A golden retriever mutt was a big responsibility.  The German Shepherd in him made the hair not grow as long as you’d think, but still longer than I wanted.
Before I had met Emily, and all this had happened, each day passed as uninteresting as the next.  I would do any research or procuring I needed for my next job.  There was one in my queue.  This one was admittedly a little interesting.  Killing a corporate executive, in a manner that absolutely had to look like an accident.  My sources were getting a dossier prepared on the target, and then we could have a meeting on possible methods of elimination.  A German man.  Such a shame, that one of the greatest warriors on Earth was being paid a king’s ransom to eliminate him.  Oh well.
I would go for my morning PT, spend some time playing with Natayo, do some work stuff, then have the rest of the day where I would watch movies or some other form of escapism.  Such standard days.  Nothing even remotely interesting happened.  Would have to think about how I could have my pets looked after when I went on a mission.  Maybe I could hit up Crow.  This was a nice place, and I could trust she wouldn’t trash it.  My pets loved all my sisters.
All of the good feelings in my life were slipping away.  Couldn’t talk to Jean’s family.  Didn’t even want to think about them.  They told me we were starting over, but what her father said was so fresh in my mind.  What if he blamed me too?  I didn’t like sleeping after the night of the dream.  Insomnia was all over me, but that was fine.  Meant that my pupper didn’t get to have a good night in bed like usual.  He was an unhappy camper, but he would get to chill with me on the couch, so he couldn’t be too unhappy.  Watching whatever stupid show was on Netflix.
For so long, I thought that I had it all figured out.  Then this young person came into my life, and everything I had was all fucked up.  My world was turned upside down, and I didn’t know who I was anymore.  And just when I feel like I had this shit figured out and could move forward, this happens.  What had I done?

Fate has a funny way of getting back at me at the strangest times.  She’s a mean bitch, and I had done her wrong before.  As it happened, I was getting materials ready for my next job.  I had a general idea of what I was going to do, but it hadn’t taken shape yet.  Poison was the word.  There are so many of them.  The one I was looking for had its roots in the Amazon (what little is left now), able to kill quietly and leave no trace of itself.  Would look like a typical infection.  By the time they knew what had happened, it would be too late.  The perfect tool for the criteria they gave me.
My phone rang.  Picked it up and saw kiddo’s name there.  What did she want?
“Hey,” I answered.
“You at home?” she asked.
“Aye.  What’s up?”
“I left my report at home.  It’s sitting on my bed.  Can you grab it for me?”  Her tone was so deadpan.  Only called me because she needed something.  Oh well.
“Sure.  Be there in 30.”
“Cool.  Thanks.”
A step in the right direction?  A woman can hope.  I jogged down to her place and knocked on the door.  Best to see if Betty’s there instead of just busting in, right?  Turns out, she wasn’t.  That’s when it hit me – she called me because Betty was gone.  The feeling of hope faded out, but part of me figured it’s best to try and make lemonade out of this situation.  She did call me, after all.  I missed my friend.

When I got to Olympia High School, I saw that this wasn’t much to look at.  The exterior was unassuming.  Because this is Washington, it was nice to look at from the outside.  There were kids chilling outside.  Guess they let kids go off campus at lunch.  Reminded me of where I grew up.  In fact, that’s the feeling I got here.  It really was like something I grew up with way back in the day.  Made me feel a little old as I stared at the entrance and the sign with the clock above it and thought back to when I was a kid.  Before everything went to shit, and I was a pariah.  Over half my life ago now.  At least from when I started.  How nuts is that?!

Being a freshman was the worst.  You go from being at the top of the stack in middle school to this.  It sucked.  Now I was stuck in another alien place that I had to learn all about, with people who probably were going to be dicks to me.  Only one of my friends was here.  The other two either were in a different school, or in the case of Cassie had moved.  It was hella hard, watching her leave.  Cried for ages.  Felt like I was losing more than a friend.  She was one of the few black girls in this town, and when you’re a minority in farming country, that can be a little sticky.  But she was such a great friend.  And the older I got, the more I thought something else about her.  It was strange, but with me all the same.  Maybe someday I’d figure it out.
At least big sis was here.  Though, would she want her little sister around?  I hoped so.  Lulu was glad he wouldn’t be going into this by himself, but having a big sister to watch my back sounded nice.  I pulled my backpack up and started toward the door.  Guess we’d find out what school was going to be for me soon enough.  Hopefully it didn’t suck.  In fact, I would do my best to make it exciting.  Cute boys, maybe having a car someday, and lots of fun girls to get to know.  That last thought stuck with me.  Daddy always said I was friendly.  Who knows who I’d meet.  Positive attitude time!  It was a new day.  Let’s see what happens next.

As fate would have it, things would go wrong for me in all kinds of ways.  But that was history now.  A long, depressing history of how Lady Luck had fucked me over five ways ’til Sunday.  I had the paperwork she needed, in a manila envelope.  Time to head inside.  Something caught my eye, as I headed in.  A kid, with a look on his face that I had seen before.  Maybe he’s emo?  I know I am out of touch, so maybe I’m just reading into it.  He wore this ratty brown coat, and had a duffel bag hanging down at his side.  All the alarms in my head were going off.  Something was off about this kid.  No, this was all just nerves.  Kids can be weird as fuck.  I knew plenty that people thought were serial killer types that just were misunderstood.  Had to get kiddo her paper.
I had texted her that I was arriving and she told me to RV with her at the entrance.  That worked.  Looking around at the various things hanging on the walls.  A trophy case with Lacrosse, rugby, track, swimming, and soccer trophies.  Not bad.  Back in my school, it was all about football and basketball.  Midwest to West Coast.  A larger gap then you’d think.  In more ways then one.  A TV monitor on the wall, with changing displays of things like the school lunch menu, hot items at the school store, various sporting and school events.  People looked at me like I was some kid’s mom.  I’m not that old!  Christ.
That’s when I saw kiddo heading down the hall toward me.  She had been talking to some girl.  Seeing me, her friend broke off and left.  Guess she figured we needed some privacy.  Courteous of her.
“Hey,” I greeted.
“Hey.”  There was a bit of awkwardness there.  “So, do you have my report?”
“Aye.”  Gave her the manila envelope.
“Thanks.  You’re a life-saver!  I was pretty fucked without it.  DIdn’t wanna call dad.  He’d give me an earful about forgetting it.”
I nodded.  “Well, your secret’s safe with me.”
She couldn’t help but smile.  “Thanks.”
We stood there for a bit.  Time to bow out?
“Well, I guess I should be going,” I said, finally.
Looking up.  “Wait!  So, are you doing okay?”
Thought for a moment.  “It’s another day, you know?”
Kiddo looked down.  “So, you’re not gonna, you know…?”
Felt pain inside.  “I’m still here, aren’t I?”
She nodded, then looked up.  “Yeah.  Maybe we could chill sometime?  I’ve been kind of cooped up at home.”
Felt so much better.  We were still friends, even now.  “Aye.  I got nothing going on for the next few days.”
“Cool.  Guess I’d better get to class.”
“Aye.  See you later.”
That’s when I saw it again.  The kid from before.  He was walking in, hand inside the duffel bag.  Alarms were going off in my head.  Something was wrong here!
“Kiddo!” I said, quietly, “Get behind me.  Do it now!”
Immediately she was on edge.  “Why?!  What’s wrong?!”
“Just do what I say!  Something’s about to happen.”
Emily ran to my backside, grabbing my shoulder.  She could see what I was looking at.  From the duffel bag, the kid from before produced a 12 gauge Remington shotgun.  The entire hallway was staring, with kids either running or too scared to run.  He took aim at a pretty young brunette.
Instantly my hand was inside my jacket.  From a concealed holster I pulled out my Glock26.
“Drop it!” I shouted.  “Drop the weapon!”
He looked right at me, this expression that’s hard to put into words on his face.  Like, when an animal is cornered, but not backing down.  Desperate, angry, dangerous.  A whole bunch of things.
“You shoot me and I’ll blow her brains out!” he shouted back.  Cracking voice.  What was this kid’s deal?
It was a bit of a standoff.  Washington didn’t have guards at their schools.  The shootings you see virtually everywhere else hadn’t really caught up to this state.  So for the moment it was just us.  This was bad.  His weapon was loaded for bear.  At this range, if he fired, that girl’s guts were gonna spray the floor.  Shaking hands, but his finger was on the trigger, and at this range he couldn’t possibly miss.  There was no doubt I could land a head-shot, but my range was further, and by the time I fire, so would he.  Yup, this was bad.  Really, really bad.  What were my options?  A thousand ways I could kill this kid.  Young skull.  Bullet would kill him, no doubt.  Maybe wound him?  No, then he would still kill the girl he’s aiming at.  There was no possible scenario of me firing that doesn’t result in him killing his target.  What do I do?  Kiddo was behind me, clutching me tight.  I could hear her crying.
For the hostage, she was bawling, losing her ability to stand and dropping to the floor.  Kid had pissed herself.  A sad day for that cute long skirt she was wearing.  Faculty were trying to get kids away, but I could see that plenty who had been too scared to run were glued where they stood.  There was a surreal quiet to this moment.  My training was telling me a thousand possible ways to make this kid dead, but none of them had it where that poor girl didn’t get her head or chest destroyed.
Another option presented itself – I had to keep this guy talking.  Maybe, if I could keep him busy long enough, the cops could assist in this endeavor.  Plus, there was something about him.  The look on his face, scared angry, like panicking.  If I could calm him down, maybe there was a chance.  Okay.  I could do this.
“Why do you wanna to kill that girl?” I asked.  For the first time in 15 years, my Midwest asserted itself.  This was a strange feeling.
“She’s one of them.  These fucking kids at this fucking school.”
“So you wanna kill more people?”
“Yes!”  Shaking, but talking.
“Why?  Why do you wanna kill the kids here?”
“They’re all the same!  Plastic people who you can’t tell apart!  I hate them all!”
I could feel there was more to it.
“Plastic?  What do you mean by that?”
“Fake!  They’re not real!  Everybody’s on their fucking phones all fucking day!  They all listen to the same music and do the same shit.  I can’t stand it.  None of them will give anyone who isn’t like them the time of day.  They’re fucking robots!”
Getting deeper.
“They won’t give you the time of day?  Is that it?”
He got defensive.  This look as he stood there, deliberating whether to tell more or not.  Something in his mind was clicking.  Thoughts telling him that he was on the right path.
“Yes!  I mean, no!  They just suck!”
Had to be insistent.  Some part of him was looking to talk.  “You said yes!  Are they not talking to you?”
“Of course not!  I’m that weird kid.  The smelly kid.  The kid who likes hunting and guns and has a poor family.  Nobody gives me the time of day.”
Okay, we were making progress.  “So why do this?  Why come in here and kill all these people?  You gonna kill the teachers too?”
“Damn right!  They treat me like shit too.”
Teenage angst.  All the drama.  But then, I knew at least a little of that.  “So, you kill people.  What then?”
“Then everybody’s talking about me!  Then I’m not just the weird kid that nobody cares about.  Everybody wants to know why I did it!  The news will cover it all day for fucking weeks and every person in the country will want to know all about me!”
So that’s it.  Suddenly I hated this kid a lot less.  Couldn’t let him do what he’s planning, but his motivations were starting to come into focus.
“Fuckin’ A, kid.  Being a kid nowadays must really suck.  Everywhere you go, everyone’s online or on the phone or whatever.  The Internet was supposed to connect eerybody, but instead it just pushed eeryone apart.  Can’t imagine how lonely it must be to grow up today.  Friends that exist on screens, but you have no connection to in real life.”
His hands were shaking a bit more, but his finger was off the trigger.  “So why shouldn’t I do it?!  Why shouldn’t I kill them and get them ALL talking about me!”
I shook my head.  “Kid, if you do this, yeah, they’ll all talk about you.  But you know what they’re gonna say?  What a piece of shit you are.  Asking why you are such a monster. At least for a little while.  Then the news will start yellin’ about guns and schools and they won’t be talking about you anymore.  You’ll just be part of the news cycle.”
Tears started flowing down his face.  “So then what should I do?!  What the fuck should I do?!  Kill news people?!  Kill politicians?!  Who do I have to kill to get people paying attention to me?!”
I shook my head.  “Listen, kiddo, killing people isn’t gonna help you.  It’s not gonna make your loneliness better.  It’s not gonna make the pain go away.  Take it from me, it’s gonna make it a whole hell of a lot worse.”
Now he wasn’t looking at his target.  He was looking right at me.  “How would you know?!”
Lowering my weapon, I looked past him.  “Because I’ve been killing people for a very long time.”
He was confused.  “What?  What you do you mean?”
“When I joined the military, I did it to get out of where I was and see if there was a better life out there.  Joined the Navy because I figured the best way to see the world was behind a cannon.  When my CPO asked me if I wanted to get into STARS, I figured it was a good way to do something fun.  It was a new program to show what women could do.  I didn’t realize what that meant.  They trained me to kill, then expected me to.  At first it was just when we had to, but then they realized that we had skill as assassins.  That I had skill.  It was a genuine gift I had, being able to know when and how to kill someone.
“At first it was hard.  I rationalized it, try to reason it away, but it never did.  Kept biting at me more and more and more.  But then I met someone.  Someone wonderful who changed my life.  I gave them my heart and swore that I would love until death do we part.  And that’s what happened.  Now all I had was the killing.  It’s all I know how to do.  All I’m good at.  Through a PMC company I run, I make a killing off it.  A king’s ransom.”  The pain was back inside.  “But I can’t keep doing this.  Each day I wake up, there is a little less of me inside than there was the day before.  I go through life, and I think about how I would and could kill people.  Even now, my brain is going through all the ways I can take you out, trying to find a way to save the hostage.
“I need this to stop.  Because if the day ever comes that I can’t stop myself from killing, then the last body I’ll take down is my own.  That’s better than becoming a monster, who will be hated by the people I care about.”
Emily grabbed my arm, holding tight.
The armed kid looked at me, then back down at his target.  The girl was a red, teary mess.  Then he looked at his weapon.
“So what am I supposed to do?  If everybody already doesn’t like me, what the fuck am I supposed to do?”
I let out a sigh.  “You start talking to people.  Maybe a whole bunch won’t like you.  But I bet there are plenty of kids who feel just as lonely and want someone to talk to them.  Though, for now you’re gonna go away.  You done fucked up.  Still, you’re young.  It ain’t too late for a new heading to your life.”
That’s when he looked back at me.  “Maybe for you too?”
Smiling a bit, I nodded.  “Yeah.  Maybe.”
Letting out a deep breath, the kid started lowering his gun.  Success!  Now I just had to get him to put it down, and then this could be all over.  I looked to Emily, motioning for her to stay put.
Walking over, I saw looks of approval from everybody who was viewing this from where they were either hiding or hadn’t been able to run from.  Had I just done something heroic?  There was a stellar thought.  Former killer, STARS assassin, saving lives.  Hell yeah!
Suddenly, the kid looked pale.  “Mike, don’t!”
I turned in a flash to see another kid standing there, in a camo jacket with messy blonde hair.  An accomplice!  He had a loaded .44 pistol.  Kid fired right into my gut.  In a flash, my weapon came to bear.  Blasted a hole right into his head.  He hit the deck, brain matter leaking out.  I fell to the ground, hearing Emily screaming and running over.  She put her hand on my gut.  Blood was pouring out.
“No!  Quinn!  Please God no.”  She just kept saying no over and over again and she tore up her shirt to ball up and put on my wound.
Felt the life draining out of me.  So this was it.  This was how the life of a STAR ends.  Not too shabby.  Saved a bunch of lives.  Not a bad way to go.  The voices of people who came running over and others was getting more and more distant.  This was it.  The end.  Everything was fading to black.

I woke up in the bedroom of my house.  It was a nice, clear, sunny day outside.  Not the cloudy and rainy mess it had been.  What’s going on?  Getting up, I saw that I was wearing this cute flannel number that Jean had got me for Christmas a few years back.  Thought that burned up with the house.
Walking into my kitchen to make coffee, I suddenly saw someone sitting in a chair in my living room, facing out at the ocean.  Jean!  She was in matching PJs, a mug in her lap.
“You’re up!” she greeted.

Until next time, a quote,

“End?  No, the journey doesn’t end here.  Death is just another path.  One that we all must take.” – Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Peace out,

Maverick

The Dream

I woke up in my rack.  All these years later, I recognized it in an instant.  Even recognized what ship I was on.  The USS Zumwalt.  Why was I here?  This made no sense?  Sitting up from my rack, I noticed that I was wearing a TOS.  What the hell was going on?!  Looking around the room, I saw Rodriguez’s stuff, but not the lady herself.  I stood up, looking down at my OPSAT.  Maybe it could tell me what was going on.
Osprey, what’s going on?
A brief wait.
Pierce, get on deck.  The enemy is on the ship!
I looked up, seeing right by the door, there was a QCW-05 hanging there on a hook.  There was also a holster for my Five Seven.  Why was there a Chinese rifle?  My SC-20K would be here on the ship.  No time to think about it.  If the enemy was on the ship, and I was told to get up top, I had to go.  Moving fast, always checking my corners.  The ship was silent!  Moreso than usual.  Where was the crew?  And why was it so dark?  Over 2/3 of the lights were out.  Not broken, but just out.  This made no fucking sense.  I know that Lt told me to get up on deck, but the command deck had to have people.  Why was I here if no one else was?
The walk there was so ominous.  Felt like the walls were pressing in around me.  Moved as fast as I dared.  Each clanking sound or groan of metal and I felt my nerves get even more on edge.  What the fuck was happening here?!  My training told me that it was a bad idea, but as I got closer, going up ladders and through doors, I started to run.  Had to get to the command deck, see what was happening here.  I could feel myself being watched.  What lights there were seemed to be getting more and more red.
I burst through the door, but there was no one in here!  Not a single person at their station.  Was I all alone on here?  Looking around, I saw my OPSAT had a new message.
Get to the landing pad, Pierce!  Your target is there!
Wanted to leave.  Wanted to understand.  Nothing was rational.
Osprey, what’s going on?!  Where is everyone?!  Why am I alone?  I don’t understand the mission.
Just follow your orders, Pierce.  Kill the target
.
I leaned up against the wall.  Even that didn’t help how exposed I felt.  No sound.  Just ominous silence.  The creaking of bulkheads.  Movement as the ocean tossed the ship a bit.  Not much, but enough to notice.  Some beeping at the consoles, but I didn’t know enough to know what any of it meant.  I wasn’t trained for this stuff.  Lifted my weapon.  If I killed my target, maybe I could get out of this nightmare.  As good a reasoning as I could find.  Back into the dark passageways.  The darkness got even more oppressive.  I was jumping at every sound.  Where were my sisters?  They would NEVER send one of us in solo.  Even at the most reserved, they send you with one other person.  But it was clear, nobody else was in here.  All the questions, without a single answer.
Passageway after passageway, it almost felt like every open door had a shadow looking at me.  They were filled with darkness.  Finally, I got out to the landing pad.  Bringing my weapon to bear, I sighted down on my target.  That’s when I saw them.  It was a silhouette, but they were there.  So Osprey wasn’t lying to me.  Alright, so I just kill this person, and then I get out of this mess?  Worked for me.  My weapon had a red dot sight, with an attachment of a zoomed scope to get in closer that I could flick on and off.  Nice!  Zoomed in.  Wanted to make absolutely sure that my target was dead.  As I looked through it, something threw me off.  This silhouette looked familiar.  It had a female form.  A woman as my target?
OPSAT buzzed.  Do it, Pierce!
Ugh!  Leave me alone!  Sighting back, again my aim was halted.  This person was familiar.  I knew this figure.  Wait, no!  It couldn’t be!  Stopped.  Lowered my weapon.  Stepped out onto the deck.
“Jean?!”  I called out.  “Is that you?!”  Ran as fast as I could, to reach her.  But when I arrived at where she stood, she wasn’t there anymore.  Like she had disappeared in the prevailing darkness.
Another buzz.  Dammit, Pierce!  Your target’s moved to the engine room!  Eliminate them!  That is an order!
Didn’t even care about that now.  I had to find her.  Why was she here?!  Why wouldn’t she talk to me.  Ran like a woman possessed inside.  The doors were all open, and I could feel the shadow eyes on me.  Through another passageway, until I reached my destination.  There was just enough light inside to see the same dark silhouette.
“Jean!  It’s you, right?!  Why are you here?!”  Again I ran at her, desperate to be where she was.  Right as I was about to reach her, the lights came on, blaring in my face.  Went blind for a couple.  Had adapted to the darkness.  Then they went down again, and she was gone.
“Jean!” I cried, desperately.  “Where are you?!  Why won’t you talk to me?!  PLEASE!”  Now I was screaming.
Yet-another buzz.  You have disobeyed orders, Pierce!  I will have you court-martialed if you do not follow my command!  Eliminate your target!  It’s gonna stick, this time.  No weaseling out of it with the Admiral.  Do the only thing you’re good at and kill your target!
Rage bubbled up inside me.  Fucking bastard!  I’m not a killer!  I’m an assassin!  And why does he want me to kill my wife?!  I would never do that!  Not in a million years.  I would protect her!  I’d do it now!  If they wanted her dead, I’d keep her safe.  Nobody could ever harm her while I am looking out for her.
You don’t believe that, Pierce.  You’re a killer.  We trained you, taught you, molded you.  This is all you know how to do.  You know I’m right.
That’s not true!  I was more than just a killing machine!  Jean showed me that I wasn’t just what they wanted me to be.  I was more.
How often do you think about killing, Pierce?  Be honest.
Tears started pouring down my face.  They’re wrong!  They had to be.  I’m not the monster they wanted me to be!  I got free!  I have a family again!
You’ll kill them, Pierce.  Just like you did your father.
I put that rotten piece of shit out of his misery!  After all he put me through, why shouldn’t I have been the one to finish things?!  It was quick and painless.  More than he would EVER have done for me!  He was dying anyway.  Why shouldn’t I have had the right to do that?!  Was more than those doctors were doing, keeping him alive as meat and tubes.
You didn’t do that to put him out of his misery.  You did it for revenge.
I didn’t have to listen to this!  Where was she?  I had been running down passageways, desperately looking wherever I could think.
Your target is on the landing pad, Pierce.  Eliminate them!
I wouldn’t!  We would get away from here and I would never have to think about any of this again!  We’d go home together.  I’d show her the ocean, wake up with the distant sound flowing in.  Hear her breathing next to me as we sat on the veranda together and ate breakfast.  Cuddled at night watching the moon.  I’d never let anyone hurt her.
Ran out onto the landing pad, seeing that same dark silhouette.
“Jean?  Is that you?  Please, talk to me!”  Was red, puffy, face streaked from tears.  The silhouette didn’t move.  “Are you mad?  Is that it?  Did I do something wrong?”  No response.  Just the breeze in the night air.  Tropical air.  “I’m sorry for what happened.  I would give anything for it to be me and not you!”  Dropped my weapon to the deck.  “You don’t know how hard it’s been without you.  I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.  I’m starting to think that I’m turning into a psychopath.  I need you so much.”
The silhouette just stood there in silence.
Felt anger bubbling up.  “So that’s it?!  You’re just gonna stand there and let me hurt?!  I fucking need you, and you’re just gonna stand there?!  I told you we’d be forever!  I made vows for better or for worse!  Does that mean nothing to you?!”
More silence.
“God-dammit, talk to me!”  I screamed at the top of my lungs.
Still nothing.
Drew my side-arm.  “Fucking talk to me, or I’ll open fire!  Tell me something!  Tell me anything!  Please!”
Just stood there.
“Don’t make me do this, Jean.  Please don’t make me do this.”  Sighting through the tears that streamed down my face without stop.  “Please…”
Only the wind.
“Fine.  Have it your way.”  Looking down, I fired.  The suppressed sound, ringing out in the endless night.
Just then, a light from the tower above came on.  It showed her, standing there, in her NWUs.  The old ones, blue and perfect.  I loved those things.  The green ones were so repulsive.  Blood poured out of her eye-socket, where the bullet had gone through.  The face was a mask of disbelief and pain.
“You killed me, Quinn.  You, and no one else.”  She fell and hit the deck.
I dropped to my knees.  A screaming, anguished cry escaped me, unrelenting, echoing out into the dark and endless sea.

I woke up in a pool of different hair.  Now it was dark brown, almost black.  Parts of it were streaked blonde.  She was beside me, naked, almost cuddling but not.  Sat up.  Didn’t put on a robe or anything as I stood up.  Walked over to the doors leading out onto the veranda from my room.  Walked right outside.  It was pouring down rain.  Quite cold, for Washington.  It didn’t even register.  Nothing did.  I didn’t feel anything.  Walked out onto the sopping grass, headed toward the cliff.  When I got there, I stood.  Looking out onto the drop.  I could do it.  Jump off the edge, fall, and that would be it.  Everything would be over.  I could be with my wife again.  There was this little voice in my head, telling me not to.  It sounded like someone I knew.  Who could that be?  With all this rain, it was hard to hear.
Then it got louder.  “Quinn?!  What are you doing?!  Come inside!”
Who was that?  Didn’t matter.  Nothing would matter pretty soon here.
The sound of feet stomping on the grass.  “Quinn, what the fuck are you doing?!  Get away from the edge!”
A hand grabbed my arm.  I shrugged it off.  This person was annoying.
“Quinn, what’s going on?!  What are you doing out here?!”  They sounded so worried.  Why?  Who was I to them?
Looked over, saw the hair, on this girl.  She had no clothes on, like me.  There was this look of fear on her face.
“Come on!  Let’s go back inside!  Please!”  Gentle coaxing.  She sounded so worried.  Was that genuine concern?
I looked back out at the dark ocean, how it called to me.
“Please, Quinn!  Let’s go inside!  I’m begging you!”
Confusion.  Then I saw an image in my head.  Emily!  Flashed back to reality.  The fog was gone.  I stepped back.  Saw Ashley standing there, soaking wet and looking scared to death.
“Let’s go inside!  Please!”
I nodded, starting back toward the house.  She put an arm around my shoulder, leading me in.  When we got inside, she shut the door and now I could see that she was crying.  She collapsed to the floor, sobbing.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” she demanded.  “Were you trying to kill yourself?  Is that it?!  Jesus fucking Christ!  Why would you do that to me?!  Fucking bitch!”
My legs suddenly gave out, and I hit the floor, leaning on the cold glass of the door.
“I’m sorry, Ashley.  I’m so sorry.”
We just sat there, with her crying and me not having any words to say, and wishing desperately that I did.

Until next time, a quote,

“What have I…what have I done?” – Heero Yuy, Gundam Wing

Peace out,

Maverick