A/N: The characters and situations of the television program "SPACE: Above and Beyond" are the creations of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Fox Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions, and have been used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Special thanks go to RosieMac who unknowingly inspired me to take a stab at writing fan fiction, rather than just reading it.
The Hand We're Dealt
"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
- Abraham Lincoln
The battered forward section of the crippled APC thrashed violently as it's emergency thrusters struggled valiantly against the forces of planetary reentry. The colour had begun to fade from Lieutenant Shane Vansen's vision as the damaged craft continued to plummet towards the rocky surface of the world below. She fought against the G-forces threatening to drag her into unconsciousness and focused on the blaring alarms that now reverberated around the claustrophobic cockpit.
*Proximity Alert - Five thousand kilometers*
*Inertial dampeners failing*
*Thruster fuel reserves at eleven percent*
With a herculean effort, she moved a heavy gloved hand towards the control panel and began flicking off the amber warning lights. One by one the warnings ceased until only the dull drone of the altimeter continued to bleat it's impotent warning of impending doom.
*Proximity Alert - Four thousand kilometers*
Turning her helmeted head, Vansen stared at the unconscious form of Lieutenant Vanessa Damphousse seated beside her. Unburdened by the knowledge of their imminent fiery demise, Damphousse's unconscious body hung limply against her restraining harness. Her head lolled lazily with the turbulence and Vansen could see droplets of blood pooling on the glass shield of her friends helmet.
"Hang in there 'Phousse" Vansen muttered softly.
*Proximity Alert - Three thousand kilometers*
Staring up through the fire wrapped canopy, Vansen could see the stars. Somewhere amongst them she knew her friends were fighting for their lives. How had it all gone so wrong, the war was supposed to be over wasn't it? How had a simple prisoner transfer, a cake walk by anyone's standards, gone so horribly awry? Hurtling towards the planet below, Shane realized that the fine details of the last hours of her life were immaterial, the war's continuation had little consequence to her now. Her battle was over and the thought of finally finding peace after a lifetime of fighting brought Shane a strangely surreal comfort. The urge to sleep grew more pressing and darkness slowly veiled her vision. She closed her eyes.
*Proximity Alert - Two thousand kilometers*
"Shane, take care of them." chirped a soft but defiant cry. Shane gingerly opened her eyes and after a moment of groggy disorientation stared in wild confusion at the hard face of her matriarch.
"M-mom?" stated Shane hesitantly.
Marion Vansen stared down at the weary form of her eldest daughter as she calmly replied "Shane, take care of them." in a matter of fact tone.
"You're...dead...Mom" retorted a stunned Shane in a muted tone.
"Shane, take care of them." the older Vansen intoned once more.
Shaking her head would only worsen her condition but Shane shook it anyway in hopes of clearing her vision of what was obviously a skull trauma induced hallucinat-
"Shane. Take. Care. Of. Them." stated the voice insistently.
Struggling to focus, Shane squinted as she replied meekly "Who Mom...who do I take care of?"
The ghostly apparition pointed out towards the stars then turned it's spectral hand towards Damphousse. After a moments emphatic pause, the hand pointed directly at Shane.
"Shane, take care of them.". The wraith stated resolutely.
"I've done everything I could Mom" pleaded Shane "But it wasn't enough. You're dead. Damphousse and I are dead. I don't know about anybody else and at this point, I quite frankly don't care. There's nothing else I can do, I can't take care of anyone anymore."
Marion paused as if to reflect and stared deeply into her daughters eyes. After a moment she turned her back on Shane and in the tiny confines of the APC's forward compartment the smallest of whispers wafted through the air:
"Take a chance."
The fine hair on Shane's neck stiffened and her eyes grew wider. "What did you just say?"
The shadowy figure floating before her remained silent, but for a series of soft mechanical clicks and beeps.
Pain wracked her body as a red hot fury built up in Shane's chest. Through gritted teeth she spat at the apparition "What. Did. You. Say!"
Slowly the figure turned to face her once more and Shane growled as she looked upon the battered, semi-mechanical face of her mother. The wraith met her seething, tear filled glare with two white cross-hair lined eyes and with a whimsical smile stated cheerfully "Take a chance!".
Unable to contain her rage, Shane balled up a fist and threw an awkward punch at the taunting specter. With a satisfying shattering noise her hand collided with a firm, unrelenting surface and abruptly the world turned sideways.
*Proximity Alert - Ten kilometers*
Shane's eyes burst open and she stared through the blackened canopy glass at a ragged fluttering parachute hammering back and forth in the wind as it slowed the capsules downward spiral. Lowering her gaze to the instrument panel in front of her she saw the broken glass panel cover of the emergency chute deployment button. She'd remembered laughing about the "big red button" in basic. The idea that in a war of space travel, inertial dampeners and rocket thrusters, a simple piece of cloth could do one bit of good to save your life had been comical. Now staring out at the vast expanse of fluttering fabric in spasm overhead, she smiled at the memory of Sergeant Major Bougus harshly chewing out Hawkes when he muttered about the utter uselessness of cloth chutes:
"What did you just say about "cloth hankies"? You think this is funny Hawkes? When your fuel's at bingo, your engine's dead, your thrusters are shot off, and that big hard rock you're plummeting towards is getting awful close you'll be goddamn grateful that some bespectacled, high foreheaded, pencil pushing brain trust candidate had the forethought to equip those "cloth hankies" in to the multimillion dollar state-of-the-art attack craft that you've just converted into a flaming brick. Once you've hit the silk you will be a different person, I personally guarantee that. You will bow your head in silent thanks to whatever passes as your God and you will praise him from the bottom of your heart not just for the advent of such a fine device as a cloth parachute, but also for giving you the opportunity to so eloquently subvert the reapers wrath so that you can continue to serve in the finest military unit to grace the Earth, the skies and the heavens above!"
How very prophetic those words had been Shane thought as she turned to her unconscious copilot with a grin. She quickly checked Damphousse's restraints as best she could and shouted to her friend with measurably more self assurance than before "Hang in there 'Phousse!".
Crossing her arms across her chest Vansen counted off what could be the remaining seconds of her life as the altimeter's bleating turned to screams and then shrieks.
"This is gonna hurt..."