A What If? Story-
[In the early 1990's, evidence began to mount that aliens from the planet
Mor'Tax were beginning a second attempt at conquering the planet Earth.
Under military auspices and strict need-to-know security, a small mixture
of scientists and military personnel took up the fight against this extra-
terrestrial enemy. Waging war with high tech research and military might,
the 'Blackwood Project,' soon became both the planet's first line of
defense and her best hope at victory.
The final episode of the first season was entitled 'The Angel of Death.' In
it we learned that Mor'Tax was not the only alien planet interested in the
future of mankind. Mor'taxians begin to die by the scores; a trap set by
the Blackwood Project backfires, resulting in the capture of Colonel Paul
Ironhorse, their security officer, by a beautiful, mysterious woman with
the power to recognize and destroy the enemy despite their human 'host'
disguises. It is revealed that the woman, Q'Tara, is an alien synth -- an
android able to traverse time-space between her planet, Q'arto, and Earth.
Ironhorse is hypnotized into trusting her and released. He returns to her
warehouse base with teammates Dr. Harrison Blackwood, Dr. Suzanne
McCullough and computer whiz Norton Drake to offer their assistance in her
fight. Unfortunately, Mor'Tax discovers the location of her base and
attacks; Q'Tara is badly damaged and each human seriously if not mortally
wounded. Alien technology enables Q'Tara to self-repair; she then
distributes life energy to the humans, healing them, before returning to
her own planet, making the promise to return in one year to continue the
What if Q'Tara had not been able to regenerate herself after the clash with
the Mor'taxians? Q'Tara's Legacy is an alternate universe version of this
episode. I postulate on what might have happened had Q'Tara not had the
power of self-regeneration. Two of the Project were obviously mortally
wounded if not already dead; two less so and probable survivors. This story
picks up after the final scene and before the coda of that episode.]
He awoke to a world awash in red; red mist dancing before his eyes, red hot
agony filling his body and mind. Memory remained an elusive sprite, but
gradually the mist parted and Harrison Blackwood came to the awareness that
he was lying on his back, staring up at a great, chambered ceiling far
above his head. He blinked rapidly, attempting to clear his vision further
but the view remained stubbornly unchanged. The roof stared down at him
mockingly, wavering in and out of focus and seeming to lean ominously to
He took a deep breath and made an attempt at movement, then gulped,
clamping his stomach with one hand, breathing noisily until the nausea
subsided enough for him to take stock of himself. The pain was condensing
as well, flowing from his whole body into a sharp cramping sensation
centering in the vicinity of his right shoulder. He fumbled for it with a
shaking hand, staring stupidly at the red smearing his fingers.
"So that's what it feels like to be shot," he croaked irreverently, having
to fight to quell the hysteria that rose unbidden at the incongruity. "Not
all it's cracked up to be."
He closed his eyes, face going lax as he initiated an ancient Tibetan
technique for mastering the body and suppressing sensation. His lips moved
soundlessly in a timeless chant, his mind supplying the music to the
litany. It was hard, harder than it had ever been, and he succeeded only
barely, achieving more a fringe awareness than a true meditative trance.
"Focus on the light within," he told himself aloud. "You are one with the
Having gone as far as he could, he clenched his jaw against what he could
not shut out and began to explore the microverse that was his own body. A
true master of the art would have been able to block one by one the nerve
impulses carrying the pain from his damaged shoulder, even regulate the
blood vessels in his head to eliminate the blinding headache that was
robbing him of mobility and thought. Harrison was talented but he was no
master, and was only partially successful in his bid. There was simply too
much to block. Maybe with a few decades more experience....
The familiar phrase snapped him out of his induced trance. His eyelids flew
open even as the pain crashed back down, reestablishing the consuming
crimson tide and wiping away all traces of his trance. He fought it back
gamely, slowly reemerging from the smothering mist into the gathering
shadows of the great room.
Room? Where was he, anyway? From what little he could make out from his
decidedly unclear vantage, it looked like he was lying in some big
gymnasium or warehouse. But how had he come to be here? And when had he
He broke the surface of awareness then, the past not completely revealed to
his questing mind. Something scraped against his head when he turned it.
Further examination proved it to be a sleek, booted leg clothed in black.
Moving only his eyes, he followed it upward, past trim hips and slim body
to the mass of black curls framing a delicate, utterly expressionless face.
With a grunt Harrison forced himself up to one elbow, taking a long look at
the alien creation. Q'Tara lay on her side facing the window, and by the
light of the dying sun he could see the burned circuits and massive
internal damage the android had suffered when....
When what? He couldn't quite remember. Surely she hadn't been so damaged
when he and Ironhorse had gained her side just minutes after the shooting
had ceased. There had been a hole in her ... its abdomen, but not the still-
smoking conglomeration of wires and melted steel her chest and lower face
now resembled. He closed his eyes again, struggling to recall, then shook
his head, dismissing the worry until later. Right now he had more immediate
concerns in the form flanking Q'Tara on her far side.
"Colonel?" Making the supreme effort, Harrison wiggled awkwardly across the
synthetic remains, grimacing at the renewed pain in his shoulder. He was
bleeding still, and badly. Whoever manufactured that bullet should be shot,
he thought, fine lips twisting into a humorous rictus. It should have taken
my arm clean off! A nervous giggle escaped him, shocking him back to
sobriety. Better get hold of yourself, Doctor. You can fall apart later.
... if there is a later.
Blood escaped the body of Paul Ironhorse from two separate sources, but
judging from the amount, not at a dangerous rate. Tentatively, Harrison
reached out, pressing trembling fingers against the other man's throat,
seeking a pulse. For awhile he couldn't find it, and a leaden weight
settled in the pit of his stomach, the pain of impending loss overshadowing
the fire in his shoulder. He leaned closer, peering frantically into the
bronze skinned face, then jerked backward when Ironhorse loosed an oath.
"If you're planning on kissing me, Doctor," the Army officer snapped,
cracking his eyelids, "don't."
Relief nearly spilled him back into the void, and the physicist had to
breathe deeply to remain even partially upright. He did sink back, running
a hand through his curly hair, his right arm lying loose at his side.
"Thank god," he whispered with genuine reverence to any deity that might be
listening. "I thought we'd lost you again."
Ironhorse propped himself up, the sharp, stern planes of his face softening
at the other's obvious distress. "I'm still here. More or less. Where are
we?" With a heartfelt groan he finished sitting and peered around,
squinting up at the high ceiling much as Harrison had done minutes before.
Harrison bit his lip. "Yeah. Oh. I wonder how long we've been here?"
Ironhorse studied the window, dark eyes trailing from it to the lengthy
shadows covering the polished tile floor. "Judging by the light I'd say
it's after six. We've been here a couple of hours."
"But doing what?" One hand trailing up to clasp his bleeding shoulder,
Blackwood shut his eyes, boyish features creased with concentration. "Wish
I had my tuning fork," he muttered, sensing rather than seeing the other's
grimace. In lieu of said memory retrieval assistor, he hummed lowly to
himself, summoning the missing images. "Okay, I remember you coming back
and telling us about Q'Tara."
"Only one is needed for so small a task," the soldier recited as if by
rote. "But we came here to offer assistance."
Large blue eyes snapped open, memory jolting home. "We were attacked,"
Harrison gasped. "The aliens knew where we were. I was shot! They had
"...enough to outgun us." Ironhorse's voice was grim, shaken despite two
decades of combat experience. "Didn't take them long, either. Five minutes
from the time they stormed us to the time we went down."
Blackwood gulped, memories rushing in, a burst dam that had held back the
red. It was overwhelming now, and Harrison drowned in the reliving. The
shells had flown thickly, buzzing past his head like angry hornets.
Providence had decreed he'd not lost his head then and there. As it turned
out, he'd felt more astonishment than pain when the bullet had smacked
home; the pain hadn't come until sometime later.
The shooting had stopped only minutes later; the aliens had obviously
accomplished their mission and departed, leaving them lying on the floor
like so much carrion. He remembered the flame-hot agony of crawling to
Q'Tara's side, the Colonel close at his heels, the conflagration doused
with the shock of discovery upon finding that what he'd taken for a living,
breathing woman had actually been a construct, perfectly in every detail.
Scientific curiosity had kicked into high gear at the revealed circuitry
beneath the synthetic skin. He'd been certain the wires were changing --
reweaving themselves. A self-regenerating system, perhaps?
That's when it had happened: a brilliant burst of escaping energy had
poured from the android and writhed around them like a live thing, then
vanished as suddenly as it had come. He'd felt no pain -- had felt nothing,
in fact, save the encroaching blackness, until he'd woken scant moments
ago. If that was a hard radiation burst, part of his mind insisted on
pointing out, they would all be dead in a matter of hours. They'd certainly
taken enough rads in the past year to cut their lives short as it was.
Don't think about that, Harrison told himself sternly, reining his drifting
concentration only with difficulty. "How bad are you hurt?" he asked
The soldier shot him an irritable look. "Not as bad as I look. Right arm is
just a graze." He lifted the limb, moving it experimentally, then used it
to clamp his left arm. "The bullet went right this one, though; smaller
caliber than I expected. Painful but not serious." He felt in his pocket
for a handkerchief, and, with Harrison's help, tied it around the
sluggishly bleeding wound. "That should hold it until I get some stitches
in there. At least, I won't lose enough blood to pass out on you." He
examined the knot, nodding satisfaction, then looked up expectantly. "I
need to see your shoulder."
"I'm fine," Blackwood mumbled, feeling nauseated again when the room
decided to tip. "We ... need to find Suzanne and Norton."
Ironhorse caught him, righting the scientist before the room could slide
away altogether. "I haven't forgotten them, Harrison, but I'd prefer you
didn't bleed to death while we're looking. Can you get your jacket off?"
Blackwood did so carefully, mildly mesmerized by the amount of blood that
saturated the material. Why is everything so red? Ironhorse gritted his
teeth and forced his right hand up to the back of his neck until he could
touch the long commando knife sheathed under his shirt. He slid it free,
scenting the air with the faint aroma of oiled leather. "Jackass leather,"
Harrison murmured giddily, earning a wry lift of the other's dark brow.
"Not going to let me forget that, are you?" Ironhorse said in as
conversational a voice as he could manage. "I'll have you know, that's the
finest sheathe money can buy."
"A-appropriate," Harrison said, making a try at normalcy himself.
The razor edge parted Harrison's jacket easily, spilling out the mobile
telephone onto the tiles unnoticed by either. Ironhorse supported the
injured arm on his knee and probed gingerly at the large bruise decorating
the shoulder area. "No exit wound," he said, adapting a chatty tone to
distract the scientist while he worked. "Must still be lodged here in the
muscle." He pressed gently, evoking a muffled gasp. "Sorry, Harrison. I
needed to check for broken bones. I don't feel any," he added making some
attempt at comfort. "You'll be all right in a couple of days."
"Terrific," Blackwood muttered, blinking away the tears the other's
ministrations had produced. Contrariness forced him to add, "Aren't these
things supposed to rip your arm off when they hit?"
Ironhorse chuckled at the tone though there was no humor in his face. "You
might have caught a ricochet. Be glad for small favors." He used the battle
blade to cut strips from the bullet shredded shirt and tied them into place
as a makeshift bandage, while Harrison Blackwood clenched the rags in a
white knuckled grip, his teeth gritted against the pain.
"All right now?" the soldier asked, sitting back on his heels and examining
his handiwork critically. Blackwood managed a nod, but didn't waste time on
himself. He raised both voice and head, peering around into the surrounding
gloom. "Suzanne? Norton?" The two listened anxiously for any hint of reply,
but only the mocking echo of his own voice answered the hail. "Norton?"
Ironhorse caught his arm.
"Over there." The Indian pointed to the tipped-over cart they had
pathetically referred to as 'cover.' "That's where we were when everything
went down." Helping each other along, the two made it to their feet and
crossed the short distance, rounded the makeshift shield.... He froze,
bracing himself on the barrier, brown eyes going wide in shock.
Harrison was aware of him only peripherally and then not at all. His legs
gave out and he slipped out of Ironhorse's stabilizing grip, collapsing
before the wheelchair that carried the mortal remains of Norton Drake.
"No." The plea was offered to the sky, half prayer-half invocation.
"Please, no." Glazed, chocolate colored eyes bore deeply into his own,
stripping him naked beneath their merciless scrutiny. "I'm sorry, Norton."
Tears welled over his eyelids, gathering and falling unheeded down the
light stubble on his cheeks. "I'm so sorry."
Ironhorse gulped audibly and took a wobbly step forward, resting a hand on
the other man's shoulder. "You can't help him, Harrison. We've got to find--
"Suzanne!" the physicist finished, spying the lounging body against the
wall. The two scrambled to Suzanne McCullough's side, kneeling by her inert
form. If you refused to notice the blood caked in a stream from her lips,
or the gaping hole in her chest, you could almost believe that she merely
rested, lounging comfortably in front of the TV or chatting with her
daughter. Long hair had escaped its confinement, haloing the lovely
features in a glowing brown nimbus. "She's still beautiful," Harrison
whispered sadly. "I never told her that. I should have at least once.
"We both should have," Ironhorse said in a choked voice.
"She may have been the most uptight lady I've ever met but ... she was my
friend." Harrison completed the thought he'd started two years ago,
allowing the words to drift upward on the dust-laden air. "Not much of a
eulogy, is it."
"They're never good enough," the soldier returned with quiet dignity. He
did the woman the last service of closing her sightless eyes, while
Harrison touched her hand. Her flesh was cold, and Harrison shuddered and
withdrew, looking away. He nearly broke then, a soft, grief stricken moan
escaping, but Ironhorse gripped his shoulder again, holding tight. "Hang
on, Harrison," he said bracingly. "We still have to contact the
authorities. In about a half-hour we're going to be inundated by police and
military. We need to get our stories straight before then." Blackwood
turned a pale face up to him, a question and cognizance in his bright blue
eyes; Ironhorse managed a wan smile. "Neither one of us are going to be
able to drive out of here, and we need to get Omega in for a final
At least some of that penetrated the haze. "Omega ... yes. My phone...."
Ironhorse clapped him on the back, and only someone aware of the situation
would have noticed what pains he went through to avoid looking at the duo
corpses of his friends or the brittle, over-controlled look in his dark
eyes that bespoke emotion only temporarily held at bay. "Where is your
Where? Harrison glanced down at himself, using his left hand to pat his
jacket pocket. "I ... we ... it's next to Q'Tara." He waved in the
android's general direction but when continued to sit where he was, his
eyes fastened on their dead comrades, the Army officer reached down to pull
him up, then gasped when the action pulled on his wound. That caught
Blackwood attention as nothing else could have. He jerked his head up to
stare wildly at the officer. "Paul, are you--?"
Though considerably paler than he'd been even minutes before, Ironhorse
managed a wan smile. "Minor strategic error," he admitted wryly, clamping
his left arm. "Think you can make it by yourself?"
Harrison nodded. He made to get to his feet then stopped and reached out,
his fingers closing over the makeshift bo Drake had wielded against their
attackers. He used it first to haul himself erect, then as a crutch,
enabling him to follow his friend across the wide chamber at a rapid
The phone was where it had fallen. Ironhorse dialed Omega Squad's emergency
line and gave orders for evacuation without offering more than a few words
explanation. He then let the phone drop to the floor and turned toward his
slumped companion. "That was Derriman. He'll be notifying General Wilson to
take care of the police."
Harrison, his reality submerging under a thick layer of shock and grief,
lifted his head toward the window. Ruby tinted sunbeams angled through the
dirty windows, growing longer with each passing minute; it was getting
late. He dropped his gaze, eyes widening as he became more aware of his
surroundings. The circular room resembled the battleground it was: the
floor was littered with shell casings and the gelatinous remains of alien
bodies. Weapons and equipment lay scattered, the spoils of war abandoned
for salvage by the dead. By his side lay the fallen, black clad form of the
alien built synthetic woman who had called herself Q'Tara, as loose limbed
as any mannequin. "I-I hope they hurry," he murmured drearily. "I don't
want to be here in the dark."
With a pained grunt, Ironhorse lifted his arm, resting it on Harrison's.
"They'll be here in a half-hour. Just hang--" His conversational tone broke
on the last word as he caught sight of a glint of metal from beyond the
makeshift barrier. "Wheelchair," he choked, controlled manner crumbling for
the first time. "I'm sorry, Norton." A shadow of infinite weariness passed
over the angular features, turning the brown eyes black and as frozen as
outer space. "Lousy war."
Mutely, Harrison stared at him, then swiped at his face, surprised when his
hand came away wet. Finally he whispered, "It was only a matter of time.
The aliens take everyone." The tears fell harder, sorrow making him rock.
"Everyone." He didn't react to the tugging at his sleeve, or the gentle
beckon for his attention.
"Harrison." Ironhorse, swallowed hard, staring with shocked pity at the
other man's bent curly head, then slid an arm painfully across the slumped
shoulders. "It'll pass, Harrison. It'll be all right." His voice was filled
with such sympathy that the physicist's final reserves broke.; he lowered
his head and gave in to the grief.
Ironhorse pulled him closer, tears on his own face, mumbling words of
reassurance, meaningless beneath the weight of a sorrow that neither could
bear, while the shadows grew longer and the sun began its final plunge
beneath the horizon.