Meg blinked a few times, unsure of where she was. After a couple of minutes she realized that she was lying on her stomach. She tried to stand up but found that she could not move. She twisted her head to look around. She saw that the room had been completely destroyed, the door was gone; walls had fallen. She saw two bodies lying on the other side of the room. She tried to call out but instead started to cough, the dust irritating her throat.
She tried again "Hey, can you hear me?". No answer, no movement. "They must be dead" she thought in panic.
She tried to free herself again and after maneuvering a few minutes she was able to free her left hand. But whatever she did she could not move her right hand that was pinned at her side, the lower half of her body was pinned under a desk. It was starting to get dark, she could not tell if anyone else was around. "Help! Somebody, please help me!" Meg faintly yelled. "Can anybody hear me?!"
Harm stood numb outside the collapsed building, fire fighters trying to put out the small blazes. Police officers were trying to hold back the crowds and the news crews that had gathered. He counted at least half a dozen ambulances that had pulled up and he could see that some of the fire crews had already started to pull out some of the victims out of the former Naval Intelligence building.
Admiral Chegwidden had ordered him to stay away and let the rescue teams take care of everything but he couldn't… not when his Meg was somewhere in that building trapped under those ruins. He knew deep down in his heart that she was still alive, she had to be alive… "Please God let her be alive, I don't think I could stand loosing her," he prayed as he was headed towards one of the paramedics' team that were taking care of one victim, a grey haired man that he instantly recognized. "Ollie! How are you? What happened? Was Meg with you?" he asked the questions with such rapidity that it took the Colonel a little to register them all. He seemed to have a broken leg and a head injury, from what Harm could gather.
"Commander…I don't know what happened exactly. After we talked on the phone I was headed towards the second floor of the building when the blast occurred. Meg was still on the third floor with Captain Strong in Bruce's old office." Ollie said with a pained voice. "I still don't understand how this had happened, we had the entire building checked out… unless the explosive vest that Marshall had put on Anderson had another charge attached to it that we hadn't seen".
"Sir, we need to let us take the victim to the hospital" said one of the paramedics to Harm.
"Yes, I'm sorry" he said a little embarrassed.
"Call me if you hear anything about Meg," Ollie called back.
Harm was about to answer him when he was interrupted by Admiral Chegwidden's angry voice "Mr. Rabb, what the hell are you doing here? I got a call from Commander Collins telling me you were interfering with his rescue teams. They don't need you to play hero Mr."
"I'm sorry sir, but I could not sit around in the office and do nothing" Harm answered with an annoyed voice of his own. He could not care less what anyone thought, he would not leave until Meg was found. Three hours had passed from the explosion and the military and the civilian rescue teams were working hard to get to the victims.
"Look Comdr., don't make me regret letting you go along with Comdr. Turner and Lt. Roberts at this investigation, and you were supposed to go to Bethesda and talk to the victims and not stay here, you are not trained for rescue mission MR" the Admiral finished even more annoyed. He then saw Ollie being carried to one of the waiting ambulances "Colonel, how are you?" he asked concerned.
"I am all right Admiral given the circumstances" Ollie said with a small smile. "Don't be so hard on the Comdr., he's just worried about his fiancée" Ollie finished nodding in Harm's direction.
"Yes I suppose you are right" the Admiral said with a tired sigh. "We will talk later Colonel, I'll come by to see you at the hospital. I'll keep you posted regarding the rescue" he finished turning around and getting back at Harm's side.
He studied the young man for a second. He had seen him tense before but now it was at different level, his back seemed that would break, his hands were shaking, his face was full of anguish and he stared at the building as if he could scan it and know where he would find Comdr. Austin. Seeing him like this made his anger subside, he could only imagine what he felt… He knew that if Meg did not make it out of this that would mean the end for the Comdr. After everything that he went through over the past few years this would be the final drop in his life glass. It finally registered to him what Ollie had said "he's worried about his fiancée". That was why they had seemed so happy that morning when they had walked into his office; they had finally admitted what they felt for each other and had done something about it. That was why Meg had requested to speak to him after the negotiations were over. He just hoped that they could still have that talk…
"She is going to be fine Mr. Rabb, Comdr. Austin has pulled out of worse situations than this," the Admiral said putting a comforting hand on Harm's shoulder.
"If they find her before she has a panic attack," Harm said with anguish in his voice.
"What are you talking about?" the Admiral asked with a frown.
"She's claustrophobic sir" Harm answered looking the Admiral in the eyes. He then started to tell him about their first assignment on the Tigershark.
"You're claustrophobic, aren't you?" Harm asked one hand on the wall behind Meg's head.
"Me? No… I…" Meg stammered, taking short breaths.
"The hell you're not," Harm said as he pushed her into the Officers' Ward Room. He looked at her with his hands on his hips. "Why didn't you say something?"
"It's never been this bad," Meg had said walking around the room.
"You've never been on a submarine…" Harm said.
"What are you going to do?" she asked pacing around.
"Relieve you, get someone out here who can do the job." He said pacing as well.
"You can't do that sir, my career would be over," she said walking towards him.
"Well right now a couple of thousand lives are a little more important than your Naval career Lt., which would not be over. You'd be assigned duties unaffected by your phobia…" he said.
"What, like shuffling papers in some JAG office?" Meg asked, standing face to face with Harm.
"Well, it would have a window," Harm said sarcastically.
"That is not funny sir" she said angrily.
"No, but it's honest. Which is a little more than…" he could not finish as he was interrupted by an angry Meg.
"Look, damn you! Don't you dare…"Meg interrupted
"Watch it Lt! Or your Naval career would be over, here and now" Harm said authoritatively.
Meg stood attention "Sorry sir, I apologize, sir…"
Harm studied her for an instant "Look at you… you're coming apart like a paper doll…"
"Look, just give me a chance to beat this…" Meg said pleadingly.
"I don't think you can…"Harm answered back.
"You don't like me because I replaced Kate," Meg in an angry tone and narrowed eyes.
"No, I don't like you because you didn't disqualify yourself from this mission, that at last I would have respected," Harm said walking out of the room.
Meg stared after him and then slammed the door loudly. Harm cringed at the sound of the slamming door as he walked down the hall…
"You bated her, didn't you? To keep her mind off the claustrophobia," Chegwidden said with a knowing smile.
Harm just shrugged and grinned slightly "She was mad at me the entire time we were on that sub, but in the end things were alright…"
"And thus began the start of a beautiful friendship" the Admiral commented knowing just how strong that friendship had been, unlike his friendship with Mac.
Harm sighed, "I know her sir, and I can imagine what the inside of that place looks like, and also the darkness and the cold that are coming soon… We have to get her out of there. She cannot fight those closing walls and the cold of November…" he said shivering slightly. He was interrupted by Comdr. Collins approaching them.
Comdr. Collins saluted the Admiral then said "Admiral, sir… What can I do for you? As you can see, I am a little busy…" he finished a little annoyed. He did not appreciate the interruption.
"Comdr. I wanted to know how things were going and if we can be of any help to you?" said the Admiral sternly.
"I appreciate your concern Admiral but we can handle the situation; we had recently installed a new system of keeping track of who is in the building and right now we have our people going through the records and determine who is missing and who isn't" he said looking at Harm and AJ. "As for the victims, so far no casualties, sir, approximately 60 people have been pulled out from the building. More than half of them actually made it out themselves. Most suffered cuts and bruises and a few had more severe injuries like broken ribs and concussions. But for the most part everyone has been lucky" he finished with a sigh.
Chegwidden nodded. "Any idea how many are still inside?"
"About 50 people." Collins answered "And we hope to be able to pull them out quickly. It's almost 6 o'clock and it's getting darker and the temperature is going to drop…"
"Thank you Comdr," said Chegwidden in a grateful tone. "Let's hope everyone will be pulled out safely".
"Yes sir, now if you'll excuse me I have to get back to my men" he said while saluting and turning away.
"Well Mr. Rabb I'm going back to JAG, the SecNav will want some answers. If you intend to stick around try not to step on Collins' toes again" the Admiral said looking sternly at Harm.
"Yes, sir" said Harm saluting Chegwidden and then watched as he was heading towards his car, with hands clasped behind his back.
He then looked back at the half collapsed building. Large lights illuminated the buildings, giving light to the rescue crews. News crews stood behind barriers that the military police had set up around the area. Many were conducting live broadcasts- all speculating on what had happened. Harm knew who was responsible: Lt. Comdr. Justin Marshall, Bruce's partner before Meg.
The moment Harm had met the Lt. Cmdr. he had instantly disliked him, something about the way he looked at Meg gave him the creeps. And he could not shake the feeling that the man was bad news. Meg herself had become tense the moment she had laid eyes on him.
Naval Intelligence had sent him to participate at the negotiations but all through it he kept undermining Meg to such extent that even Anderson got annoyed.
"Comdr, if this, sorry excuse for a Naval officer, keeps interrupting us I'll get my toys and leave," Anderson said sarcastically, addressing Meg. All through the discussions Anderson has only addressed or answered to Meg ignoring his counselors or the rest of the JAG team.
"Lt Comdr could you please step outside for a few moments," Meg addressed Marshall.
"Look Comdr, I have no intention of stepping outside. It's clear you cannot handle this if you let this traitor rule these proceedings" Marshall said in a mocking voice. Harm was about to tell him a piece of his mind when Meg cut him off.
"I'd watch that tone if I were you Mr. Last time I checked I was a superior officer and head of this negotiation. You want to challenge that, feel free, but I assure you that if you keep this up, you'll be facing more charges than you can count," Meg had said in a strong angered voice, eyes blazing, her face only inches apart from Marshall's. "Now, be so kind and step outside before I throw you out".
Harm had never felt more proud of her. Despite the fact that on the outside see looked like a delicate flower, everyone could see that she was anything but.
"Fine, but you'll pay for this "Comdr"," Marshall said hissing and walking out the door.
"Now that's more like it. I never liked that sleazy bastard and I still don't understand why the Navy hasn't kicked him out yet." Anderson said in disgust.
"Well you should know sir, he was after all under your command for almost 5 years" Meg said sarcastically.
"I may have done some bad things Comdr, but it's nothing compared to what he is capable of" Anderson said with a knowing look.
"Gentlemen would you give us a few minutes alone?" Meg said addressing the defense attorneys.
"With all due respect Comdr I don't think…" Lt Johnson started but could not finish.
"Leave, all of you" Anderson said in authoritative voice looking at all of them in turn. "That includes you too Comdr Rabb" he finished when he saw that Harm was not moving.
"Either I stay or Comdr Austin comes with me. Your choice Captain" Harm answered in a leveled voice. He was damn if he was going to leave Meg alone with the man responsible for all the heartache in her life. Even though she did not show it he knew that she was affected. He was amazed though that Anderson seemed to really respect Meg and never once treated her with condescension.
"It's good to know that you have someone that will stand up for you Maggie. And judging by the way he looks at you, I can really bet he's more than just a friend" Anderson said with nonchalance.
"Cut the bull Mr. Anderson. What is this charade all about? You and I both know that the information you have given us so far is false and that your so called accomplices are only a diversion. Question is why." Meg said in a sharp tone of voice.
"Bold as always aren't we. You always forget my dear that it was your boldness that got you in this mess in the first place" he finished in a mocking tone.
"I won't say it again, what the hell is this all about?" she said again in an angrier voice.
"Asking for forgiveness, that's what this is about" he had said stunning both Meg and Harm. He placed an old picture on the table and pushed it in Meg's direction. Harm saw her beautiful eyes widen in shock and her face turn livid.
"Where did you get this?" she has asked in a ragged voice.
"Meg what is it?" Harm had asked concerned, forgetting about protocol and saying her given name.
"It…it's my dad" she had stuttered tears running down her face.
Harm took the picture from Meg and took a look at it, flipping it he saw the writing "Vietnam, 1974, Dan Austin and Thomas Anderson".
"Dan and I had been partners for a very short time, but in that time I had learned to respect and love him as a friend. In the years to come I had tried to build a good career to make him proud and show him that he hadn't saved my life for nothing, but I got sick and the treatments cost me everything I had. So I started to sell weapons and information for money." He took a deep breath and continued "I know it's no excuse for what I had done but it's done and I will pay for everything but, I am not a murderer. I never intended to harm anybody, Marshall was the one that had planted those bombs and who got Bruce killed.
Harm felt like he had been struck by lightning. He could not understand how a man that had been obvious friends and partner with Meg's dad had tried to ruin her life, and he could only imagine how Meg felt in those moments.
As if reading his mind Anderson said "I had no idea you were Dan's little girl, I thought it was your husband's name…" he was interrupted by Meg's sarcastic voice.
"What difference would have made? You were willing to get innocent people killed and sell out your country, it's only ironic that your partner's daughter was the one that caught you" she finished.
"As I said, I have made mistakes and I will pay for them but I am not the monster Marshall has all led you to believe. He was the one that planted the bombs five years ago and the one that killed Lt Comdr Carmichael not me. I have said this before but no one believed me" Anderson said with a sigh.
"And what makes you think that we will believe you now?" Harm asked looking at Anderson intently.
"Frankly Comdr I don't give a rats ass what you think or believe, all I am interested in is keeping a promise that I have made Dan long ago. That I would look after his baby girl…" Anderson said in a repented voice.
"And what's that got to do with all of this?" Meg asked him with a ragged voice. She was still looking at the photo she was holding in shaky hands.
"Three years ago I was contacted by a man called Ethan Williams, who presented me a plan that would help me get out of prison, a rich man and also give me the opportunity to get my revenge on you. At that time I had no idea who you were and I did feel a little grudge against you" he said with a tight smile on his face. "I still had some "friends" at SEATAC who were willing to help us in exchange for o good sum of money, so I went along with his plan."
"Which was what?" Meg asked sternly.
"To steal the missiles and make it look like we were willing to cooperate only if you were let to come with me and retrieve them" Anderson answered. "I'm sure that at some point, even you had suspected of being my intent". After Meg nodded he continued "I never met him in person, we communicated through o prison guard who would bring me his letters and his packages. When the weapons got stolen one of our men messed up and stole the wrong missiles. They were the same type as those we tried to sell to the Chinese, only we did not have the guidance chips. I was willing to abort the mission when Williams told me that we still had a chance, that we only needed access to Bruce Carmichael's old seif at NI".
"But how would he know that the guidance chips are there?" Meg asked confused. "Unless… oh my God" Meg exclaimed in shock, covering her gasp with her hand.
"Williams and Marshall is one and the same person" Anderson finished for her.
"But why would Marshall want to hurt you?" asked Harm confused.
"When I worked at weapons I was stalked by a colleague" said Meg in a ragged voice. "He followed me everywhere, he called me at all hours of the day… I was not interested in him but he didn't get the message. When he wouldn't stop I reported him to our CO… three days later he tried to rape me… I struggled, I screamed but to no avail… finally one of the MPs happened to walk by and heard my screams, he shot Williamson in the shoulder. When they took Williamson to the infirmary he escaped…"
"Let me guess, they never found him?" Harm asked with sarcasm. He had listened to Meg's story and with every word she said he felt his blood boiling with anger.
"No, they never found him" Meg said with a sigh "I always felt something familiar about Marshall but it had never occurred to me... That's why he got Bruce tied up to that bomb, he knew I would never leave him behind…" she said in a voice full of pain.
"But he never counted on Comdr Krennick being there or the bomb squad. He was taken by surprise and he used that opportunity to play hero and to put the whole blame on me." Anderson said in a resign voice.
"You were the one that called Ollie and asked him to move the negotiations to this Monday?" Meg asked in a calmer voice.
"Yes, after I read an article in the Navy Times about your career and also about you receiving the Navy Cross, I put two and two together and realized who you were" Anderson said with a tight smile. "So I called Dan's best friend, told him who I was and the whole plan."
"So what is going to happen?" Harm asked in concern.
"We are going to keep up the pretense of these negotiations until Oliver and the head of Navy Intel give us green light to go and retrieve the chips, along with Marshall witch will be awaited by a couple of MPs to take him to jail. You will finally be safe and I will have my conscience free from the guilt of having contributed to the death of Dan's daughter" Anderson finished looking in Meg's eyes.
Just when she was about to say something her cell phone rang "Austin" she answered sharply. "Allison, hi, yes we were just talking… they have? That's great. Who? Ollie called Smith too? I'm fine, don't worry. Yes, I'll be careful. I'll call you later to tell you how everything went" she finished the call then looked at Harm "That was Captain Krennick, they have located the missiles. The coordinates that PFC Childs, Lt Gentry and Captain Anderson gave were good." She said letting out a sigh of relief.
"At least now you know for sure that I am telling the truth" Anderson said with a small smile. It was the first time Harm saw him showing any emotion. "You better call them back Comdr, before Marshall gets suspicious."
"Yes, let's get this over with" she said getting up from the chair and walking to the door to let everyone back in.
After another hour of supposed negotiations, Meg, Anderson and Marshall went to Navy Intel to retrieve the guidance chips while Harm and Bud went to the Admiral's office where they informed him and the SecNav of the developments in this case.
At about 3:30 Meg called them and told them what had happened: Marshall had killed Anderson when he had realized he was framed and tried to take Meg hostage in order to get away but Ollie and one of the MP's was able to stop him.
Harm had felt all the hurt and confusion Meg had in her voice when she had called him, he knew how much everything affected her.
"Are you all right sweetie?" Harm asked.
"I'm not sure, I don't know what to feel or think anymore Harm. I'm just glad all this is over" she answered with a heavy sigh. "Anyway I just need to go over some papers with Captain Strong and then I'll come back to JAG" she finished with a small smile.
"I can't wait for you to get here, we still need to have that talk with Chegwidden. The sooner he knows the better" Harm said with a broad smile on his face.
"Yes, I almost forgot about that" Meg said with a broad smile of her own.
"You forgot that we're supposed to get married in a few weeks… Now I'm hurt Meg. I thought that you loved me just a little or were you just using me for sex?" Harm said in a mock tone.
"Very funny flyboy, I didn't forget that we are supposed to get married. You're not getting out of this one. I forgot that I have to talk to Chegwidden about my transfer back to Washington, working with you again made me feel like I was already back" Meg relied back in a soft voice.
"I know. Hurry back, I miss you already" Harm said tenderly not caring that Bud and Harriet heard every word he spoke. He could see from the corner of his eye the surprised looks they gave him.
"Me too Harm. You know you mean the world to me, always have and always will." Meg said with feeling. "Look I have to go now, Captain Strong is waiting for me. I'll see you in an hour, bye."
But he didn't get to see her, 15 minutes later they were informed that an explosion had occurred at Naval Intelligence Headquarters. In that moment Harm had felt like his whole world had collapsed around him. And now he was standing in front of the collapsed building, fighting the pain he felt in his chest and praying that Meg was still alive and that the rescue teams would find her soon.
Harm wandered over to where Bud was standing, taking notes on all of the officers that had been pulled out, "Hey Bud…" He said over Bud's shoulder.
Bud turned around and looked at him nervously. "They still haven't found her yet sir…" he said quietly anticipating Harm's question.
"How many have they pulled out?" Harm asked quietly.
"They're up to 75 survivors, but there're still about 35 they haven't found…" Bud said looking at his notes.
"Any word from Comdr Turner yet?" Harm asked in a tired voice.
Bud shook his head, "No sir…Uh, Sir?"
"Yes Bud?" Harm answered raising his head from the notes and looking at Bud.
"Uh… Maybe you should go home sir…It could be a while before they find the Comdr and you should get some rest sir…" Bud said in a concerned voice.
"I'm fine Bud. I have to stay… I can't leave…" Harm said.
"Sir…" Bud said pleadingly.
"I'm fine Bud," Harm said walking away.
Alexandra Strong closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had pushed the chair and some of the debris that had fallen on top of her. The explosion had torn a large hole in the wall of her office- large enough for her to squeeze through it. She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the bright light coming from the spot lights that the rescue teams had put up to help with the rescue. As she walked around the corner of the building, some of the emergency personnel spotted her.
"Over here!" on of the medics yelled at his partner. "We have another survivor. Bring that med kit"
The young medic rushed over to Captain Strong and supported her to the nearby ambulance.
Harm looked over when he heard the medic's shouts. He squinted his eyes and saw that it was an old friend, Captain Alexandra Strong, the head of Naval Intelligence. He rushed up to her and saw that she was covered with blood.
"Alexa! Are you all right?" he asked concerned and also eager to know if she knew where Meg could be located.
Alexa looked up and nodded "I'll be fine… Have you heard anything about Meg?" she asked but already knew the answer judging by the way Harm looked.
Harm shook his head "75 people have been pulled out and Meg wasn't among them… I kind of hoped that she was with you" Harm said nervously. Seeing her shake her head his heart sank even further "They're still looking for other survivors…"
Alexa had known Harm ever since he has been a small boy, they had grown in the same neighborhood and also their paths have crossed during their years in the Navy. About five years ago she had met Harm's new partner and had known instantly that there was more between them than a simple friendship. She also had been a witness to all the bets that had run around the house, she and Admiral Chegwidden had lost 500 bucks to Senator Marion when Meg had transferred back to weapons. They both had bet that Meg and Harm would end up getting married but it was not to be. But it seems they had been right about one thing: if they were to meet again they would not hesitate to take the chance of being together… Now she hoped for Harm's sake they would not loose that bet too…
"How were the people they had found? Were they seriously hurt?" she asked as the paramedic took her blood pressure.
"Everything from bruises and cuts to broken ribs and concussions, I guess it just depends on how far they were from the epicenter of the blast…" Harm said pinching the bridge of his nose.
Alexa touched his arm slightly and commented "You sound so cool and professional"
Harm gave a small smile despite the somber mood he was in "I promised Chegwidden that I wouldn't lose it…"
Back at JAG Headquarters, Admiral Chegwidden was sitting at his desk looking over some files when he heard the intercom "Sir?"
"Yes Tiner, what is it?" Chegwidden said into the intercom.
"The Secretary of the Navy is here to see you sir" Tiner said.
"Send him in," Chegwidden answered standing up and then watched as the Secretary walked into his office. "Mr Secretary…"
"AJ, where are we on this bombing?" he asked as he was shaking Chegwidden's hand.
"I have Comdr Turner and Lt Roberts looking into it, they will begin a parallel investigation" Chegwidden answered.
"The President wants answers and fast and my phone has been ringing off the hook. The media is going crazy over this, especially after the leak on the bombing threats that the Naval Intelligence officers received in the last months… their running wild with this and claiming it's terrorist attack…" the Secretary said in an angry voice.
" I understand and I assure you we will do everything possible to find out what exactly had happened, but I really think that our first concern should be the naval officers and the personnel that are trapped in that building" Chegwidden said firmly.
"Keep me posted" the Secretary said turning on his heels and exiting the admiral's office in a hurry.
After the Secretary had left, Chegwidden settled back down in his large easy chair. He rubbed his hand over his eyes and leaned his head back. Everything had seemed to turn out all right with the Anderson case, they had retrieved the missiles and finally caught Marshall but then all hell broke loose when NI Headquarters blew up. Until now no one was found dead but he knew that with each passing hour the chance of finding any other survivors grew slim. And to top it all up one of Navy's best prosecutors was still trapped and he knew that if she were to die, that would also mean a slow death for Rabb. He could still remember vividly the day she had been shot in her office and how it had affected him.
"How the hell did we get involved in this?" Chegwidden had asked his two top attorneys standing behind his desk.
"Purely by accident sir, Hemlock infiltrated the offices of a British naval Comdr named Nelson and by mistake downloaded Yeltin's schedule to Lt Austin's fax" Comdr Krennick answered.
"He came into our office to retrieve the fax and shot Lt Austin because she could identify him" Harm added.
"But we have a chance to catch him with this" Krennick said producing a sketch. "It's a sketch of Lt Austin's shooter…"
"Witch the other agencies don't have…" Chegwidden said as he took the paper from Krennick.
"No sir" Krennick answered crisply.
"Screw 'em, steal their thunder" Chegwidden said looking down at his desk and then looking up.
"Sir?" Harm asked confused.
"Screw 'em, steal their thunder! SOB comes here and shoots one of my officers, I want him stuffed and put in my trophy room. And I want us to do it…" Chegwidden had said with determination.
"Aye, aye sir" Krennick and Rabb replied crisply.
And whether or not he liked to admit it, he always held a soft spot for Austin. Her caring nature, her strong character, the warmth with witch she talked to everyone around her had endeared her to him. He prayed that she was still alive…
Meg's eyes dropped but she shook her head to stay awake. She brought her left hand up to look at her watch but it was to dark for her to see anything. She tried again to free herself from the desk that had her pinned to the ground, but to no avail. She tried to yell for help again. "Can anyone hear me? Someone please help me!" She broke down, tears falling from her eyes, from her best guess she was sure that she had been there for several hours. She hoped that they haven't given up on finding any survivors. "I have to stay awake. I can't give up…" she thought to herself.
At the same time Harm paced back and forth mostly wondering if Meg was all right. He looked at his watch and saw that it was after 19:30. Four hours had passed by since the initial blast and they had managed to pull out most of the people trapped inside. Luckily there hadn't been any casualties, but as the time passed the chances of finding survivors grew slimmer. He kept repeating the same mantra over again in his mind "Please let Meg be alive!" His thoughts were broken by the ringing of his cell phone "Rabb!" he answered sharply.
"Harm, its Allison Krennick" he heard the ragged voice of Meg's sister in law. "Have they found Meg yet?"
"No, they haven't found her yet" Harm replied.
Allison had hoped to hear some good news. Everyone in her family had been affected by the news. Cathy and Margaret were barely holding up; it took all her negotiations skills to stop them from hopping on the first plane to Washington and her husband was calling her every 15 minutes for updates. Margaret and Dan had been through hell when Dan Sr. had died and loosing Meg would be the final blow. They were a military family and knew that there was always the danger of loosing someone dear, but still…
And it was also unfair that this should happen to Meg when she had finally found her happiness. She recalled the conversation they had had over the phone that Friday night.
"Hello!" Meg had answered in a hurry as she finally reached for the receiver in her hotel room.
"Where the hell are you keeping that phone of yours. I've been trying to reach you for the last hour, I've been worried" said an annoyed Allison.
"Good to hear you too Allison" Meg answered with a little laugh. "I'm fine, don't worry, I just forgot to charge my cell phone and by the time I left JAG the battery was dead. Sorry about that. But anyway I'm sure you knew exactly where I was. I'm sure Cathy provided you with all the intel as she was the one who had called Harm's apartment to check up on me" Meg finished.
Of course she knew Cathy had called Harm, she was the one that provided the phone number and also had listened to their conversation, but she would die first before admitting that to Meg. "I have no idea what you are talking about" she answered nonchalantly.
"You are terrible liar Captain" Meg said good-humoredly. "So how are things back there?"
"Busy! And you would not believe the officers Chegwidden sent me… Well the marine is all right but the aussie..."Allison said in disgust. "And anyway you are trying to avoid the most important topic: how did it all go with our naval aviator?"
"You know, ok" Meg answered sheepishly.
"Details Comdr, I want details" Allison said with a little laugh.
"Well, I finally told him the truth about my feelings and it seems that he feels the same way…" Meg said in a happy voice.
"I knew it!" Allison said triumphantly. "So why are you doing at your hotel room? You should be at his apartment and preferably naked" she finished crookedly.
"He needed to set things straight with the woman he's been seeing" Meg answered.
"Figures, always a lady's man" Allison said rolling her eyes.
"Look who's talking! If I recall correctly, you were the one that kept chasing after him and tried to get him in your bed" Meg said with a little laugh.
"A lot of good that did… and I had no chance with him while he was paining for you, and don't try to argue this, you know I'm right. Why do you think he invented the excuse of being in bed with you when we were in Cuba? He could have found any other excuse, but he only thought of that one…"Allison said good-humoredly.
"I guess…" Meg giggled.
"So what happened after you talked?" Allison insisted.
"Not again…" Meg said exasperated.
"Hey, correct me if I'm wrong but the longer you go without sex the meaner and bitchier you get. And in your case it's been 5 long years" Allison said with a chuckle. She knew that this topic always embarrassed Meg and she loved to put her on the spot, for old time sake…
"Eat me!" Meg chuckled back.
"Hello, you just made my point" Allison replied back. "Seriously Meg, don't waste time. You and Harm are not 16 anymore, and you deserve to be happy and finally get the family that you want."
"Thanks Allison" Meg said in a tender voice.
"Don't worry about anything this weekend, just enjoy every minute you have together. I'll make sure nobody disturbs you during the next tow days" Allison said in a mischievous tone. "Oh, and I hope you enjoy the little surprise Cathy and I have put in your bag… Bye Meg and we'll talk on Monday" Allison said ending the call.
She was brought back to the present by Harm's voice "Allison, you still there? Captain Krennick?"
"Yes, I'm still here, I was just thinking of Meg" she said with a heavy sigh.
"We're all thinking about her right now…" Harm said in a ragged voice.
"Listen Harm, I need a big favor" Allison said
"If I can help…" Harm said with a sigh. He was not in the mood for making favors.
"I don't know for how long I can keep Margaret from coming there and I'm stuck here for the rest of the week" she could not finish as Harm cut in.
"Don't worry I'll take care of her when she arrives here" Harm said without hesitation. He and Meg's mom have gotten along splendidly from the first moment they had met and he was glad to have her around.
"Thanks Harm, I really appreciate it. And don't worry, I'm sure they'll find her soon…" she said in a determined voice trying to convince him and herself as well.
"Yeah…" Harm said quietly.
"Harm, Meg is tough and a survivor. She'll pull out of this as well" Allison said
"I know… I just don't know" Harm said in a vulnerable tone, the same one he had when Meg got shot.
"Don't start giving up on her Comdr, and that's an order from a superior officer" she said in an authoritative voice.
"Yes, ma'am" Harm said smiling in spite of his somber mood.
"Look, I have to go now but call me as soon as you hear anything" Allison finished.
"I will. I'll talk to you soon…" Harm sighed as he heard Krennick hang up the phone. Years back he would have been terrified to be related to Allison Krennick but now he could not care less. He looked back over the building where Meg was trapped " Just hang on Meg… Please…".
At Bethesda Naval Hospital everything was in frenzy, doctors and nurses, running from one victim to another, trying hard to make sure everything was going smoothly, as more victims were probably on their way.
Sturgis sighed and sat down in one of the chairs in the waiting room. He rubbed the back of his neck trying to dispel the headache that had been with him the past hour. He had been conducting interviews for the past couple of hours and he wasn't having much success… No one seemed to recall seeing anyone or anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. He sighed again and pulled out his phone.
"Lt Roberts…" Bud answered balancing the phone between his shoulder and his chin while he was taking notes
"Bud, have they found Comdr Austin?" he asked standing up.
"Comdr…Uh, no they haven't… There are still 15 people left in the building but they called off the search…" Bud said in a small voice almost afraid.
"What?" Sturgis yelled in the phone.
"It's getting darker and the lights they had set up aren't enough… They'll start looking again at 0500…" Bud said almost excusing himself for delivering such news.
Sturgis pinched the bridge of his nose as he asked "How is Harm taking the news?" He could just imagine the rage with witch his friend reacted. It had been clear to everyone at the office just how much he loved his former partner.
"He doesn't know yet sir… I was just about to go and tell him…" Bud said a little frighten at the prospect.
"All right, I'm leaving the hospital now and I should be there in half hour" he said walking towards the exit.
"We'll see you then sir" Bud answered. He hung the phone with Sturgis and walked over at Harm "Uh, sir"
"What is it Bud?" Harm asked with a sigh
"Uh sir… They're, uh, calling off the search…" Bud said nervously.
"What? What do you mean they're calling off the search?" Harm yelled angrily.
"That's what Comdr Collins said…" Bud said as he watched harm stalk off towards the Comdr.
"Comdr Collins" Harm called out "Lt Roberts just told me that you're calling off the search, is that true?" Harm edgy voice, hands on his hips.
"I'm afraid so Comdr. It's just too dark and dangerous to have the crews going through that mess in the dark" Collins explained quietly. "We'll start looking again at 05:00.."
"My fiancée is in there! You can't call off the search" Harm said grabbing Collins by the collar. "You've got to get her out of there!"
Collins shook himself out of Harm's grasp, he had tried to be patient with the young mad but he had managed to step the line of his patience. "You Mister are way out of line. I'm in charge of the safety of every single one of those men and I will not risk any one of them getting hurt in there. Now I've let you stay around here because your fiancée is in there and also because Admiral Chegwidden and Colonel North both asked me too, but you pull one more stunt like that and I will report you to the Admiral and forbid you from setting foot anywhere near this are. Do I make myself clear?" he barked back in Harm's face.
Harm slowly unclenched his fists and took several deep breaths. "I apologize Comdr… You don't understand… My Meg is claustrophobic… If she is trapped, I don't know…" he said in ragged voice.
Collins took a deep breath and straightened his uniform "Listen, I know you are concerned about her… I would be too if my wife were in there, but you have to realize that I can't not risk the lives of over a dozen men for one person. We'll start looking again at first light tomorrow morning but…"
"But what?" Harm asked feeling the panic rise in his throat.
"The remaining 15 people have been in there well over 6 hours and I'm not sure they'll make it through this night, the temperature is dropping well into 40s and we don't know how badly injured they are…"Collins sighed and looked straight in Harm's eyes. "Bottom line is, tomorrow morning's search could become a recovery effort and no longer a rescue effort".
Harm stared at him in utter shock and horror "You don't know Meg… she'd tough… she's alive, I know she is… I would know if she were… I would know…" he started shaking and tears formed in his eyes.
Collins placed a comforting hand on his shoulder " I don't want you to give up hope, we won't stop looking until we find every single one of those remaining officers, but you also have to prepare yourself…"
"No! With all due respect you do not know my Meg" Harm said angrily walking away.