||Drama, Romance (H/M)
words, 67 pages (8 ½ x 11”)
||Everything up to
||'Second Chance' is
property of Trisha Yearwood, Mark Wright and MCA Nashville. No
copyright infringement intended.
||I promise that this is
a shipper story, and it will lead to a happy ending. But I still
fear that some of you won't like it. Please, don't sue me... And
I just wanted to add that I actually happen to like the names
'David' and 'Catherine', as two people in my family are called
that. So, please, don't let your dislike of them being used in
JAG fanfic prevent you from reading this story. I know that it's
highly improbable that Bud should ever become an admiral, due to
his injury. So let's just say that, thirty years from now, the
Navy might have changed its policy in this respect, as well as
in admitting women to the SEALs.
||Two young JAG officers
are assigned to headquarters - only to find that history seems
to repeat itself...
What do you do
When love comes along
And offers your heart
A chance to move on
With no guarantees
No safety net
You trust what you feel
You take that first step
Just close your eyes
Reach for the moment
Before it slips by
Here is your second chance
Take it and fly
(Trisha Yearwood: 'Second Chance')
July 6th, A.D. 2033
White House Rose Garden
"...although by that time his plane had already been hit twice by enemy
fire. Still, the captain was able to land safely on
Turkish territory where Colonel Shultz finally received the necessary
medical attention. For putting the colonel's life and
safety ahead of his own, Captain David Mackerras, United States Marine
Corps, is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Captain Mackerras, front and center!"
The tall, young man in impeccable dress blues stepped in front and
sharply snapped to attention. President Chelsea Clinton
took the award from its case, carefully pinned it to the captain's
uniform jacket and then complimented and thanked him.
The audience gave a round of applause and the ceremony was over.
Mackerras left the stage and was immediately surrounded by
Rear Admiral Bud Jay Roberts, Judge Advocate General of the Navy, rose
from his seat, frowning. He knew everyone would let
him pass if he pulled rank but even after all the years of his career he
was still reluctant to do so. But on the other
hand he hated to wait in line. At least today he wasn't alone. Shifting
his weight from his prosthesis onto his good leg,
Bud turned and smiled at his wife who had, for once, been able to
accompany him to an official occasion.
Ever since Captain Harriet Sims had become Brussels NATO headquarters
spokeswoman on naval affairs five years ago, Bud was
lucky if he saw her once every two months. With AJ away at Aviano and
Lydia married in New Zealand, Bud felt lonely more
often than he would admit, lonely and old as he had passed 60 a few
years back. But he still had his job. And who was he to
deny his beloved wife the chance to transfer to Europe? Ever since she
had started doing public relations for the Pentagon,
her career had progressed marvelously. Brussels was the pinnacle of her
career. There was nothing more after that. She had
told him so herself. How could he have held her back?
She was still as beautiful as she had been when he'd first met her on
the Seahawk during the crossing-the-line
investigation with Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie.
Rabb and Mackenzie... Bud's frown deepened. Today had been such a
beautiful, sunny day - until he had first set eyes on his
new subordinate. A few days back, Bud had skimmed the captain's service
record for the first time, and unwelcome memories
had surfaced. Memories that he thought he had successfully buried long
ago. Obviously, he had been wrong.
A fighter pilot who had lost his full flight status due to an eye injury
and had decided to turn lawyer instead. True,
David Mackerras was a Marine and he flew Hornets, but the fact that he
had, in the course of an investigation, saved his
commanding officer's life with a risky flight maneuver while being fired
upon and therefore was awarded the DFC, had rung
too many bells in Bud's head to make him stay calm. When he had received
the invitation to the ceremony that was to be held
in the White House Rose Garden, the uneasiness had deepened. But it
hadn't been until this morning, when Captain Mackerras
had been presented to him, that Bud had felt his stomach knot tightly.
Mackerras was at least 6'3 in height, was
well-trained and well-built, had dark hair, amazingly blue eyes and the
very same one-billion-watts flyboy-smile he knew to
be Commander Rabb's. He had needed all of his iron will that he had
built up during his rehabilitation to not flinch at the
Harriet had by now managed to join him in the crowd. Smiling
encouragingly, she hooked her arm through her husband's.
"The similarity is incredible," she observed quietly, with her head
motioning to the captain who seemed to be reveling in
"Yeah. But it's more the situation that's getting to me," Bud replied.
"You weren't there, but I can tell you, it was
exactly the same back then."
"Let's just get it over with, okay, hon?" Harriet gave him another quick
smile before it was their turn to compliment
When they had exchanged a few pleasantries, Bud began to walk down the
path, making Mackerras follow him.
"You're leaving, sir?" the young man asked.
"Yes, and so are you, Captain," Bud retorted. "You and your new partner
have been requested to investigate a case down at
"Uhm, sir, my transfer over here was rather unexpected." Mackerras
frowned slightly. "I didn't even get to know whom I
would be partnered with."
Bud motioned to a figure clad in immaculate dress whites who was walking
in their direction. Mackerras had to squint his
eyes almost shut to make out the officer as the late afternoon sun was
shining directly into his eyes.
The four officers came to a halt on the gravel path. Mackerras turned
his head in surprise as he heard his CO inhale
sharply. And in pure bewilderment he noticed that Captain Sims gave her
husband's arm a quick encouraging squeeze, having
paled a little herself.
"Uhm," Admiral Roberts had found his voice, "Lieutenant, meet Captain
David Mackerras, United States Marine Corps. Captain,
this is Lieutenant Catherine Raleigh, United States Navy SEALs, your new
'Uh oh, a female SEAL,' Mackerras frowned inwardly. 'Okay, I'm a Marine.
I can handle it. Better start with a smile.'
Flashing her a radiant grin, he held out his hand. "Dave," he said
The lieutenant, who until now had looked at her CO, turned to face
him... and stared. Seconds ticked by. Three... four...
Dave was starting to wonder if he had put on a base-cap instead of his
cover or something similar that could cause a
reaction as this. Just as he slowly started to let his arm sink, the
lieutenant seemed to emerge from her state of haze and
hastily grabbed his hand. "Cate," she said slowly, her voice wary.
All at once, the brilliant sun was gone as one of the few fluffy clouds
floated in front of it, shading Dave's view. He
relaxed his eyes and for the first time really looked at the woman in
front of him. And all of a sudden he felt his knees
weaken and his stomach tighten while his vision started to blur.
He was looking at the face of a woman that he was sure he had never met.
He would have remembered having ever seen such
captivating huge eyes. The woman had short brown hair, though not too
short, and she was rather tall, at least 5'7. Her
skin had a natural tan as if at least one of her ancestors hadn't been
Caucasian and her handshake told of power and a
Cate surely was a fascinating woman, but what troubled Dave
considerably, was that, in spite of his brain telling him over
and over again that he didn't know her, somewhere deep inside him he was
convinced that they must have met before. And the
situation began to outright scare him when he realized that Cate's
reaction upon seeing him seemed to mirror his own
feelings. Her attitude was all professional now, but her eyes couldn't
hide the deep disturbance she was obviously feeling
in her soul.
As they just stared at each other, the admiral suddenly spoke up, his
voice low and strangely uneven. "Do you two know each
"Yes, sir." They answered simultaneously, making their eyes widen still
more as they realized what they had just said.
Cate was the first to find her voice. She smiled a little embarrassedly.
"Uh, excuse me, Captain, of course I don't know
you. I just had some kind of a..."
"Déjà vu, I know, Lieutenant," Dave cut in cautiously, his eyes never
leaving hers. "Me, too."
The admiral's voice was suddenly very tight and gruff. "Well, don't get
too close, you have to work together," was all he
choked out before hurriedly leaving the site without turning back.
Harriet swallowed to will down her own uneasiness and then kindly
addressed the two extremely bewildered officers. "You
must excuse him. Today is... well, a strange day that somehow keeps
bringing up unwelcome memories wherever he looks."
"Yes, ma'am." Dave didn't really know what to make of the Navy captain's
Cate drew a deep breath, knowing she was bold to ask what she was about
to, but something told her that the captain had the
key for her very own stormy state of mind that was utterly inexplicable
to her. "Ma'am... if it isn't too much to ask... I
think it would be good if we knew what's troubling the admiral... for
our future working environment's sake, I mean."
Dave only nodded, pleased to find that his new partner seemed to be
Harriet smiled slightly. "It's a long story."
"It might be worth it, ma'am," Dave said carefully, burning to know what
on earth he had just been dumped into.
"Okay, then." Harriet started to walk down the path, the young officers
following her. "I guess I need to start right here,
in the White House Rose Garden, on a day just like today, when a young
pilot, who had turned JAG lawyer and was to be my
husband's mentor, received his first DFC..."
July 7th, 2033
Base Guest Quarters
Utterly exhausted, Dave was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling,
trying to get some order into his racing mind. Today
was supposed to be nice and easy. He had thought he would first be given
a medal and then all the time he needed to adjust
to his new designator. He had obviously been wrong. He had gotten far
more than he had bargained for.
First of all, his new CO seemed to resent him for something that he
didn't know anything about. Then there was his new
partner's reaction at seeing him. And finally his own frightening gut
feeling that, for some inexplicable, cosmic,
statistically impossible, whatever... reason he was sure that he knew
her. Where from? He kept searching his mind, over and
over again, but couldn't come up with anything that might help him.
And then there was Captain Sims' disconcerting look-alike story. Dave
had to concede that, at least from how she had
related the events, too many little details seemed to mirror the
captain's friends. Hell, something like this would have
given him the creeps, too. 'Admit it, Stearman,' he silently told
himself, addressing his mind by using his call sign, 'It
did give you the creeps when you saw that face. But why?'
A hesitant knock on his door shook him from his musings. "One moment,
please." He quickly put on a T-shirt and some sweats
and went over to open the door. He wasn't really surprised to see his
new partner standing outside, a folder in her hand.
"Uhm... Captain, I'm..."
"Dave," he cut in with a slight smile.
"Yeah, right." She looked away for a moment, nervously clearing her
throat. Then she seemed to remember her SEAL training,
squared her shoulders and firmly looked up at him again. "I'm sorry if
I'm disturbing you. But I thought you might want to
see this. Can I come in?"
"Sure. Would you like a cup of tea?"
Her smile was a little curious. "Where did you get it from?"
"Wow. Yes, thank you, I might need a cup of tea."
"Just sit down. I'll be with you in a minute." Dave closed the door
behind her and then vanished into the bathroom. "Don't
tell me you were still working, Lieutenant," he called while preparing
"Cate," she called back, her voice holding an amused edge.
"No problem. No, I wasn't working. But I felt I needed to do a little
research on something else and I thought you might
want to see what I found."
"A little secretive, aren't we?" Smirking, Dave emerged from the
bathroom, carrying two steaming mugs with the teabags
still in. He handed her one and then sat down on the chair opposite to
She just smiled back and handed him the folder.
Raising his eyebrows quizzically, Dave took a look at the first page. It
was a copy of a Washington Post article from the
WP Internet archive, dated thirty years back. 'Bomb at Berlin U.S.
Embassy: two Americans dead' he read. And the subtitle
went on: 'Navy commander and Marine lieutenant colonel died in the
blast. Were they involved in the bombing?' Beneath was a
photo of the officers in question. Dave's mouth dropped open. He
instantly understood his CO's reaction upon seeing them
this morning. Those two, standing in front of the entrance to JAG
headquarters, were Cate and his physical twins. And
underneath the photo he saw the officers' names, just as he remembered
Captain Sims mentioning them a few hours back:
Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie.
He looked up to find Cate thoughtfully looking at him. "What do you
say?" she asked simply.
"Feels kind of odd to have a dead double that's accused of bombing an
embassy," he stated slowly. "But somehow, from how
Captain Sims spoke of them, I can't bring myself to believe that they
did it." He thumbed through the thin stack of paper.
"Did you find anything that could tell us if they did?"
Cate frowned. "No, and that's the weird part of it. I found lots of
stuff about their careers. They must have been an
outstanding team. But after this article everything just seems to be
erased. No funerals. No further information. I even
tried the military databases. Nothing. Okay, I didn't have the time yet
to search thoroughly. But it strikes me as kind of
odd that all this seems to be highly classified. Or just vanished from
the records..." she let her voice trail off,
insinuating her opinion where the information had gone.
Dave took a sip from his mug, lost in thoughts. "I'm starting to wonder
what kind of man he used to be," he said
eventually, staring out of the window. "And if I happen to be anything
"From what I read, Rabb must have been singular," Cate answered quietly.
"There is a portrait of him in here that was
published in the Navy Times in 2002. It was him who took out the dirty
nuclear missile that threatened one of our battle
groups during the Afghan war."
"Oh, really?" Dave shot her a surprised glance. "I heard about that in
one of my classes. Didn't remember the name, though.
What do they say about his personal background?"
"Pretty much the same as Captain Sims told us. Rabb seems to have been a
man who easily turned a task into an obsession.
Take his father. He went MIA in Vietnam on Christmas Eve of 1969. Rabb
managed to trace him all the way up to Siberia, went
in search of him on his own, stole a MIG, was shot down and still
managed to find out his father's fate and eventually even
got to know his Russian half brother."
"And his military career survived that?" Dave's frown was incredulous.
Slight chuckling preceded Cate's answer. "It seems that's where my own
double steps into the picture. Mackenzie not only
followed him around the world on her own account, it seems that she even
convinced their CO that Rabb needed her there. She
was with him in the MIG when they went down. And a little further down
the article says that, in Afghanistan, she saved him
when he stepped on a landmine. But the most extraordinary thing is that
she even seems to have supplied the correct
coordinates where he was to be found when he was lost at sea once. She
claimed that she didn't know how she did it. But the
rescue teams found him."
"Wow." Dave needed a moment to digest the information. "So Mackenzie was
kind of a guardian angel for him. He must have
meant a lot to her."
"And vice versa, apparently," Cate went on, perusing another article.
"Here, for example. Rabb and Mackenzie were on the
Watertown, doing an investigation, under the polar ice. They had no way
of escaping and the ship's doctor all but killed
both of them. Especially in her case it seems to have been really close,
and if it hadn't been for the commander she would
have died. Or over here." Cate's finger moved several paragraphs down.
"Her husband died of a gunshot wound and she was
accused of murder. Rabb defended her against all odds and cleared her
name." She took another thoughtful sip of tea. "I
wonder if they ever got involved," she mused.
"Captain Sims told us that they never did," he reminded her. "Although
she seems to think that they were meant for each
other and deeply in love, both of them."
Cate smiled. "I think the captain is a very emotional woman. What she
told us sounded a bit like out of a novel."
"True..." he chuckled, studying his hands that were toying with his mug.
"What do you know about Colonel Mackenzie?"
"Oh, that's nice, Captain," she playfully scolded him, "You don't know
me and already you have me do all the work and then
just fill you in? Sorry, that's not gonna work." Her grin told him that
she didn't really mind. She had a beautiful smile,
"I'm sorry, Lieutenant," he replied with a smile. "I guess I should have
told you right away that I tend to be curious."
"I'll let it slip for now," she conceded, still grinning mischievously,
silently enjoying their easy banter. "So, to
appease your curiosity, here's what I know about Mackenzie. She grew up
in Arizona, apparently with an abusive father. She
was an alcoholic at sixteen and married early to get away from home.
Eventually she decided to get her life back on track,
dried out and ended up in the Corps' Officers Candidates School. Law
school, JAG. That's it. She must have been one real
iron-willed Marine, or she wouldn't have made it to Chief of Staff at
Dave grinned. "Well, that's us. Semper fi."
Cate just grinned back. "I guess we might even have admitted someone
like her among us SEALs. And we sure do have the
Dave raised his mug over her head in mock threat. "Shut up, squid. I'm a
no-nonsense Marine, too."
They stared at one another for a few seconds, both smiling
challengingly. Then Dave's mouth began to twitch violently and a
suppressed snort from Cate was the answer. The officers finally allowed
themselves to share a hearty laugh, both noting in
slight astonishment how utterly comfortable with each other they had
grown in no time.
"I told you I was curious," Dave went on when they had quieted down a
bit. "So, tell me, who's Lieutenant Catherine
"Well," she answered openly, "To make a long story short, I can sort of
identify with the colonel. I'm no alcoholic but I'm
trying to quit smoking for the fifth time," she admitted sheepishly,
only to add with a tinge of pride in her voice, "My
last cigarette dates five months back, that's four weeks longer than
last time." Dave raised his eyebrows in amused, but
obviously honest acknowledgement.
"I had a happy family until I was sixteen," Cate went on, sobering. "I
grew up in a very small town in Ohio. My parents
loved us very much, and although we were always a little short on money,
they always managed to make ends meet."
"Yeah. My little sister Barbara, me and... my twin sister Larissa." Her
expression shadowed at her last words.
"What happened?" Dave asked quietly, not knowing if he was in the place
to do so, but deciding that Cate would tell him if
Her voice was rather low and distant when she answered, not really
addressing him. "The summer I turned sixteen, Dad and
Larissa both died in a car accident. It was dreadful. Mom lost it
completely. We had a pretty hard time to keep her from
killing herself. That was when I ceased to be a happy child and instead
became the caretaker of my family. In one week's
time. Kind of defined my personality," she added, looking up at him and
"I'm sorry," he said simply, compassion shining in his eyes. "What made
you join the SEALs?"
"I won a scholarship for a local college. My politics professor had been
a SEAL once, and one day he talked to me about
joining the Navy. I thought it over and decided it would be the best
thing I could do with my life, to provide for my
family, too. So I did it. After a couple of operations they seemed to
discover that I had a negotiating talent. So they
asked if I was interested in becoming a lawyer. I finished law school
last year. Any further questions, counselor?" Her
smile had returned, at least partially. And Dave was glad about it.
"No, thank you." 'At least for the moment,' he silently added to
himself, resisting the sudden urge to ask her if she was currently seeing someone. 'Now, where did that come from?' he wondered,
angry with himself. 'You just started working in
the same chain of command. Don't screw it up, Stearman.'
"What about you, Captain?" Cate challenged him with a slight smile.
"Who's David Mackerras, the aviator-hero?"
Dave winced at her words, blushing slightly. "Please, don't call me
that, Cate. I'm no longer an active pilot." Seeing her
questioning glance, he explained. "All I ever wanted to do was fly. I
don't know where that came from 'cause there are no
pilots in my family. My grandfather was a Recon Marine. So it was kind
of logical for me to join the Corps. I trained to
"Five years ago, I was hit by anti-aircraft fire while flying a control
mission over Afghanistan. I had to eject and went
down somewhere in the desert. Upon landing, I suffered a face injury..."
he indicated a long, thin scar that went from the
middle of his forehead right down to the corner of his eye, "...that
affected my vision. End of dream. I'm only glad I can
still fly occasionally although I lost my full flight-status. And that I
had an apt face surgeon who didn't screw up my
looks," he tried to lighten the mood, flashing her his flyboy-grin.
"Anyway, someone came up with the idea of becoming a
lawyer and, well, here I am. Graduated last year, just like you."
"And who's Dave, the private person?" she asked.
He gave her a lopsided grin. "A spoiled rich guy from Beacon Hill,
Boston. I had everything that a boy could possibly want,
up to my first BMW in front of my door on my sixteenth birthday." His
smile faded a little, his voice lowering as he went
on, never breaking the eye contact. "But I didn't really have a family.
My mom and dad didn't get on well, but never
divorced, for social reasons. My dad runs a private investment firm that
has clients throughout the upper class. Family
problems would have ruined the reputation. So they stayed together, but
they would always compete for my love. It made me
sick. My uncle David, my father's brother after whom I'm named, was the
only one who really cared. He's in the Corps, too,
a lieutenant colonel, forensic pathologist. He supported me when I
eventually dared to tell my parents that I intended to
join. Any further questions?" he returned her question from before.
"What do you do when you're not trying to save the world, Captain?"
He once more flashed her his contagious grin. "I look at the clouds."
"What?" Cate let out a little incredulous chuckle.
"I'm very much interested in meteorology. Came with the flying, I guess.
And when it gets too dark to watch the sky, I
either do a little jazz on my saxophone or watch a nice documentary on
Cate smiled a little sheepishly. "Don't tell anyone, okay?"
"Okay..." he acknowledged, curious.
"I love reading Italian crime stories, like Donna Leon or Andrea
Camilleri. And I go out watching birds," she told him.
He cast her an inquisitive look. "What's wrong about birds or Italian
"It's grown to kind of an obsession. I don't have much of a social life,
you know..." she answered, sounding a little
Somehow her answer made him feel relieved. He again tried to shake off
the feeling. "I guess you will have some now," he
said, smirking, "From what I hear, Admiral Roberts sees JAG headquarters
as some sort of a family. Seems to be a tradition
that Rabb and Mackenzie's CO, Admiral Chegwidden, inaugurated and that
was continued by Roberts' predecessor, Admiral
"Oh," was Cate's sole comment. She didn't know if she liked what she had
just heard, since she was normally comfortable on
her own and was not used to having company too often. But on the other
hand - if everyone at HQ turned out to be as
easygoing as her new partner, she might as well give it a try, she
resolved. After all, being a SEAL, she knew what
teamwork meant. Maybe she could just stretch the concept out to
encompass her private life as well.
"I should get going," she said finally, gathering the articles and
putting them back into the folder she had brought.
Dave walked her to the door. In the doorway she turned, smiling
slightly. "I think I might want to know more about what
happened to Rabb and Mackenzie."
"Yeah, me, too," he replied, smiling back warmly. "We'll start working
on that as soon as we have a little more free time.
As neither of us seems to have a significant other to devote time to..."
"I'd love that, Dave," she said. "Good night."
"To you, too." He was about to close the door, but thought the better of
it and stepped in the corridor. "Cate," he called
She turned. "Yeah?"
"Somehow I get the impression that we'll make a good team." He didn't
really know what had made him say it but he was glad
She smiled. "I think so, too. Very pleased to have met you, Captain."
Dave just nodded a smiling goodnight and closed the door, all of a
sudden feeling very eager to continue working. His new
job promised to be interesting, to say the least.
July 13th, 2033
Falls Church, Virginia
A knock on her door made Cate look up from the file she had been
intently studying. She couldn't quite wipe the guilty
expression off her face as she quickly closed the folder and stuffed it
in between the many others that were piling up on
her desk. "Uh... enter!"
"You there, Lieutenant?" she heard her partner's slightly amused voice.
"Yeah, right behind the walls of paper."
He stepped up to her desk and removed a stack of folders, enabling them
to actually see each other. "Did you plan on
setting a new working record, Cate?"
She chuckled slightly. "Not really. But I hate going down to the
archives. So I usually take up as much as I can at one
time. And, by pure coincidence," she stressed the word, grinning a
little mischievously, "I came by this." She handed him
the file she had read earlier.
Eyebrows slightly raised, Dave sat down opposite to her and opened the
folder. Then she heard him whistle through his
teeth. "Coincidence, huh?" he asked with a smiling wink, his voice
barely hiding his curiosity. "I doubt you found this in
our archive. Files that date more than 25 years back are stored
elsewhere. So how did this get here?" he asked sternly.
She grinned slyly. "I requested it."
"While we were at Pensacola?"
Chuckling slightly, Dave shook his head to himself, turning to the first
page that read 'People vs. Coen' and dated back to
2003. Sobering, he skimmed the first pages, getting a first insight into
the case. Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. and
Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie had been sent to Berlin to
investigate a small-scale explosion that had caused minor
damage at the new American embassy that had just been built next to the
Brandenburg Gate, in the very heart of the capital
of the reunited Germany. Responsible for the bombing was one Marine
Gunnery Sergeant Ari Coen, retired after having fought
in the 1991 Gulf War.
Coen apparently wanted to protest against the U.S. trying to reestablish
peace negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians. With the help of an ex-Mossad agent he had known in
Kuwait, he had smuggled a small explosive device into the
nearly completed building. But the bomb had defects and didn't detonate
in full. Gunnery Sergeant Coen had been arrested by
the Berlin Police. Rabb and Mackenzie had been ordered to fly out
together with - Dave stared for a moment - Lieutenant Bud
"The admiral was in on this, Cate." Dave looked up at her in surprise.
"Yes, I know. He was to sit second chair to Colonel Mackenzie as trial
Again Cate got a full-blown flyboy-grin. "I see you already studied the
case. So, tell me, where does it start to get
To his slight surprise, his normally humorous partner frowned. "About
three pages later on they seemed to be getting to the
point. But all pages that might be of interest seem to be missing. I did
a little research and I found that the explosion
they were to investigate actually happened on June 30th, whereas the
bombing that they seem to have died in took place on
July 4th. And there's nothing to be found about that in the online
Dave sighed. "That's unfortunate. All I could dig up was another
article, taken from the TIME magazine, two years after the
blast. Apparently, on July 4th, President Bush was in Berlin, meeting
with the Israeli prime minister Sharon and the
Palestinian president Arafat. The German chancellor Schroeder was
present, too, although back then the German-American
relations were rather strained because of the war in Iraq. But Germany's
close relations to Israel as well as Palestine
apparently outweighed the transatlantic strain.
"Whoever planted this bomb would have succeeded in killing four heads of
government in one single strike if it hadn't, for
some reason, exploded within the secluded security bunker. Had the
attack been successful, it would have effectively
prevented any negotiations from taking place. They were due to start
that day, right there in our embassy, on neutral
ground, so to say. And thankfully, they did. You know where those peace
talks led, don't you?" He looked up to meet her
"Wasn't that the first round of the talks that set the ground for the
Treaty of Vienna of 2009?" she asked, trying to
gather her history knowledge.
"This doesn't make sense."
"I mean, why would Rabb and Mackenzie want a hand in an attack to
prevent Middle-East peace negotiations? What did they
have to do with the affair anyway? Neither of them was Jewish or
Muslim," she reasoned, more to herself than to him.
"Her grandmother was Iranian," Dave argued, failing to sound convinced
by his own argument.
She stared at him indignantly. "Oh, come on, Captain. You don't think
that this would make someone like her, a high-ranking
Marine officer, I repeat, a Marine, violate your cherished Code of
Honor, now, would it?"
He felt just a little offended, but willed himself to swallow it down,
knowing his argument had been a stupid one. "Okay,
okay..." he held up his hands in defense. "Just thought I'd mention it.
But you're probably right."
"Of course I am," she stated firmly.
He frowned. 'A female SEAL, I knew it...'
Seeing him frown, Cate realized she hadn't been too subtle in her choice
of words. Blushing slightly, she decided to
apologize. "Look, Dave, I... I'm sorry for my Code-of-Honor statement.
That was out of line. We have ours and you have
yours, they are pretty much the same and that's a good thing. I'm
sorry," she repeated.
Somehow he felt flattered that she felt the need to make up for her
faux-pas. Casting her a tentative smile, he instantly
forgave her. "Let's just forget about it, okay?"
"So," he looked at her expectantly, "Where do we go with this? We
haven't really dug up much until now."
Cate shrugged a little helplessly. "Honestly, I don't know. What about
talking to Roberts? He was there with them."
Dave's face took up a doubtful expression. "I don't think that will get
us much of anything. Roberts still seems to want to
avoid seeing us as much as possible."
"Let's just give it a try, okay?"
He sighed. "Okay, but I'll blame it all on you when he begins to chew us
She looked up, momentarily incredulous, only to find him smirking in
mockery. Giving him a frowning smile, she slapped him
on the arm. That is... tried to slap him on the arm. For, as if he had
known beforehand what she was about to do, he had
drawn back in time to make her slap stop in mid-air. Cate and Dave
exchanged a confused look, both smiling embarrassedly.
Judging that whatever had just happened would be treated best if
ignored, they made their way for their CO's office.
"Lieutenant Raleigh and Captain Mackerras for you, sir," came the
yeoman's voice over the intercom.
Bud involuntarily frowned. 'Just what I needed...' He wiped his face
with his hand. "Have them come in, Merrick."
The two young officers entered and came to attention in front of his
desk. "At ease," he waved them off. "Have a seat. What
can I do for you, Lieutenant, Captain?"
Dave looked at Cate, his expression a little helpless. Then he drew a
sharp breath and braced himself, facing the admiral.
"Sir, we... uh... your wife informed us about your former colleagues
here at JAG, Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie."
Bud's frown intensified notably, making even the decorated Marine
aviator flinch a little. Nevertheless Dave went on. "I
beg your pardon, sir, for making such a bold request but... the
lieutenant and I agreed that, in the interest of our
working relationship with you, sir, it might be helpful if we knew what
happened at the Berlin embassy. We dug up a little
information on our own but there seems to be very little to be had. We
thought... as you went with them... maybe you could
tell us about that investigation... sir."
Both officers stared and hastily jumped to their feet as they saw their
CO get up, walk over to the window and look
outside, seemingly seeing nothing. For a few long moments neither spoke
a word. Then Bud, never looking at his
subordinates, found his speech, his voice tight. "All you need to know
is in the papers. Rabb and Mackenzie died in the
"But, sir," Cate spoke up, her voice ringing with doubt, "The question
remains if they were really involved in this as
everyone claims they were. With all due respect, sir, I find that hard
"Do you?" Bud's voice was cold and guarded. His gaze never left the
Cate cast her partner a puzzled frown. Dave's expression told her that
the admiral's reaction was just as surprising to him
as it was to her. 'Damn, Raleigh, you're a SEAL. You can handle this.'
"Yes, sir, I do," she ventured boldly, waiting for
"So what, Lieutenant?" Bud turned and glared at her. Cate was taken
aback by the openly displayed hostility in her CO's
eyes. But she held his stare and suddenly, somewhere deep down, detected
a frightening amount of desperation in the
admiral's expression as well.
Dave nervously cleared his throat. The situation was quickly getting out
of hand. Better prepare for take-off. "Sir, I'm
sorry we bothered you with our request. But you wouldn't happen to know
someone who can help us investigate this?" As soon
as the words were out, Dave knew he had made a mistake. 'Bravo Zulu,
Stearman. Now he's at your tail.'
With a few quick strides, Admiral Roberts stepped up to him and although
Dave was several inches taller, his CO's stare
made him snap to attention and stare straight out. He almost felt the
admiral's nose on his chin.
Bud barely controlled his fury. "This is none of your damned business,
Captain!" he shouted. "Rabb and Mackenzie are not to
be talked about again, not in this office, not in the bullpen, not
anywhere near JAG. They betrayed their country and our
trust and they got what they deserved. Period. No one is ever going to
investigate this case again! Do I make myself
"Yes, sir!" Dave and Cate shouted in unison, thoroughly shaken.
Bud drew back a little, panting, and flashed each of his subordinates
another killing stare. "Dismissed!" he hissed, deadly
"Aye, aye, sir!" The young officers exercised a by-the-book about-face
and exited the office.
Bud briefly closed his eyes and let himself fall into his chair. He had
known that, sooner or later, the Rabb-Mackenzie
issue would have come up. He just wished he'd have had more time to
prepare for the actual emotional impact. This brief
exchange had been the exact replica of one of the many occasions when
Harm and Mac had been chewed by Admiral Chegwidden.
The expression in Mackerras' eyes - Bud knew that, the moment he had
denied the information, he had kindled a dangerous
flame within the aviator's soul. Dave would make the discovery of the
truth his personal quest now, just like Harm would
have. And Raleigh had made it clear that she wouldn't leave his side.
Bud sighed deeply, wiping the corners of his eyes. Why did they have to
be so similar to them? If they had only half of the
heart and passion that he had once known in Harm and Mac, Bud knew he
wouldn't be able to keep a professional distance.
After so many years, after all that had happened, he still missed them
dreadfully. But he knew he never again wanted to be
so close a friend to anyone. He had to keep Raleigh and Mackerras out of
his heart. Being close to someone just made you
hurt all over at the end. Besides Harriet and his kids, Bud was
determined to never ever let anyone become dear to him
Once they had closed the admiral's door behind themselves, Dave and
Cate, as if on silent agreement, both made a beeline to
Cate's office. Dave shut the blinds and sat down opposite to Cate at her
"What was that?" he only asked, confused beyond belief.
Cate studied her fingernails, her brow furrowing. "I have no idea." Her
voice sounded defeated.
"So they were in on it after all," Dave stated quietly, feeling a sharp
pang of disappointment. He had come to like the
commander and found him a person to identify with. This news clearly
shattered the fine image.
"They weren't," Cate answered distractedly, drawing invisible patterns
on her desk with her left index finger.
Dave looked up at her, his confusion still rising if that was even
possible. "What do you mean, they weren't?"
Cate stopped her movements and locked her gaze with his. "I saw his
eyes, Dave. I swear, I have never in my life seen a man
so desperate. This isn't just the despair one feels after the loss of
friends or even after having been betrayed by them.
This was anxious despair, the urge to let something out but having to
keep it inside. There's something lying underneath,
I'm sure of it."
Dave felt himself captured by her intense gaze. "How did you figure that
out, Lieutenant?" he asked slowly, never breaking
the eye contact.
Cate's expression shadowed. "I had a lot of practice reading my mother's
mind in the months that followed my dad's and my
sister's death," she explained in a low voice, averting her eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Catherine." Dave gently covered her hand with his,
feeling her fingers intertwine with his while his stomach
Her beautiful brown eyes shone with unshed tears when she looked up.
Dave's heart immediately went out to her. Cate's face
lit up in a slight but sincere smile of gratitude. "Thank you," she only
whispered. For a few moments they just sat in
"Dave?" Cate finally asked, noticing that their hands were still joined
but feeling reluctant to break the contact.
"Yeah?" his eyes were full of kindness and concern.
"You want them to be innocent as much as I do, don't you?"
"Let's call Captain Sims in Brussels."
The spell was broken. Dave drew back his hand and raised his eyebrows.
"Don't you think you're taking this a little far
now? Calling NATO headquarters for personal interest?"
Cate earnestly looked at him. "She was the one who informed us in the
first place. I think if she knew something she
wouldn't hold it back."
His expression clearly showed his doubts but he was willing to give it a
try. "If you call her right now maybe she's still
at the office. Do you have the number?"
Cate pulled a business card out of her wallet, giving him a genuine
smile. "Up to her personal extension." With that she
took the receiver and dialed the number, switching on the loudspeaker.
"Captain Sims? Please excuse me if I'm disturbing you, ma'am. This is
Lieutenant Catherine Raleigh from JAG Headquarters."
"Lieutenant!" Harriet's voice was cheerful. "That's a nice surprise. How
are you and Captain Mackerras?"
"Uhm... fine, ma'am, thank you," Cate replied self-consciously. 'This
was a bad idea, Raleigh,' she scolded herself.
Harriet at once detected the tension and had her suspicions. She
immediately decided to spare the young woman the need of
having to talk to her about Bud. Harriet was sure that this was why Cate
had called. "Let me guess: you asked my husband
about Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie and he kicked your sixes,"
she only stated, her voice neutral.
"Well, yes, ma'am." Cate was at a loss for words at Harriet's direct
"So now you feel you need to collect information on the events to ease
the tension at JAG?" Harriet went on.
Despite herself, Cate had to chuckle slightly. "That's right, ma'am."
They could hear Harriet smile as she answered. "I expected as much."
Then she seemed to sober. "I'm sorry, I can't tell you
anything. I'm not allowed to. But I know someone who might be able to
fill you in."
"That would be very helpful, ma'am. Who is he?"
"His name is Clayton Webb and he used to be a CIA deputy director. He
was with them when the bombing at the Berlin embassy
occurred, but he left the Agency after that. He's living entirely by
himself now, up north in Yukon Territory."
"Wow, that's far north. How do we get there, ma'am?"
"Is Captain Mackerras with you, Lieutenant?"
Cate handed Dave the receiver. "I'm here, ma'am."
"Do you know how to fly an antique biplane?"
July 15th, 2033
The insistent ringing of the phone made Dave's head jerk up. He hadn't
fallen asleep over his Post, had he? Frowning, he
reached over to where his cordless phone lay on the coffee table.
"Flyboy, it's me."
Unbeknownst to him, a smile slowly spread over his face as he leaned
back into the sofa cushions. "Hey, ladysquid," he said
softly, "To what circumstances exactly do I owe this unexpected
Cate chuckled. "Just shut up, will you?" she replied just as softly.
Sensing that this wasn't just another casual phone call like the ones
they had gotten accustomed to over the last few days
when they had talked a lot about the case and its implications, he
sobered. "You okay, Raleigh?" he asked, concerned.
She inhaled deeply and let out the air in a determined manner. "Yeah.
It's just... I just got off the phone with Patricia
"With whom?" he asked, at a loss.
"Before she remarried, her name was Rabb."
"What? The commander was married?"
Cate's smile made its way across the phone line. "No. She's his mother."
Oh God. For some reason Dave felt his stomach sink. "Why did you call
her?" he only asked quietly.
"Because I had the feeling that if there was anyone who wouldn't
hesitate to tell the truth, it would be her. Mac... umm...
the colonel doesn't have any living relatives left. So I called
Commander Rabb's mother instead although that probably
should have been your job."
"Ah..." made Dave, letting his voice trail away. He wasn't really sure
if he'd have had the guts to call Mrs. Burnett.
"Uh... what's she like? How did you find out about her anyway?"
"I called the airfield that Captain Sims told us about, you know, where
Ha... where the commander kept his Stearman."
Dave smirked to himself as he cut in, "Call them by their names, Cate. I
tend to do that, too. It's kind of strange you
should feel so connected to someone you never knew," he added in a low,
thoughtful voice. "Isn't it?"
"Yeah. It scares me quite a bit, Dave," Cate quietly admitted. "Anyway,"
she went on, trying to lighten the mood, "Harm's
biplane is still there. And the guy actually seemed to be pleased to
hear that there was someone who still cared for it."
"For 'her', SEAL," Dave gently corrected her. The tender way that he
spoke of an old plane, just as if it were an old lady,
made her smile. Dave went on. "I'm sure she even has a name."
Cate couldn't suppress a giggle. "Eeyop."
Dave's eyebrows went up. "Don't tell me he called her..."
"Sarah. You get the picture, Marine," she cut in, laughing. "But the guy
at the airfield claims that the plane was named
after Rabb's grandmother, not after the colonel."
"I'll believe it when I see it," Dave only commented dryly.
"Well, whatever." Cate was obviously eager to go on. "He told me that
'she' was still in excellent condition and that we
could always take her up. We just had to get the documents from Harm's
mother in California. So I researched her number."
Dave could hear that she had sobered again during the last words.
"How did she react?" he asked cautiously.
Cate let out a sigh. "At the beginning it wasn't nice. She was as cold
as ice, barely said a word when I explained the
reason for my call. Then she, very calmly, asked me if I was out of my
mind. I explained what had led us to this point and
she eventually seemed to understand that we're not looking for some
sensation. I left out the part about our very personal
"Why? I'm sure she would have understood better if she knew our
motives," Dave argued.
He heard her swallow. When she went on, her voice was low. "Dave, that
woman was broken. Entirely and irreversibly. I mean,
imagine: she's young, married to a naval aviator - Harm Senior - who's
deployed to a war zone. She is told that he's MIA
when her only son is six years old. She tries to be both mother and
father to Harm, sees her son grow up to follow his
father's footsteps. She almost loses him in that ramp strike. But he
grows up to be an outstanding lawyer. He plays the
hero without thinking, gets 'this' close to dying several times and yet
always comes out unscathed. And then she loses this
extraordinary child of hers in a terrorist attack that he, of all
people, is proclaimed guilty of. She - for whatever
reason - is bound to keep quiet. I could never tell her, 'hey, you know
my partner's the spitting image of your son.'"
"Okay, got it," he acknowledged. "So... what did she say about the
"I wouldn't have thought she'd do it. But she said she'll get them to us
when we set off in two days from the airfield."
"Wow." Dave's face again lit up to a smile, both at the thought of going
up in the very plane that had given him his
call-sign, and at the thought of taking his friend with him. Friend. Was
Catherine Raleigh his friend? Dave was determined
to believe she was, just as he was ready to be hers if she wanted him
to. 'Please do, Cate.'
"Hey, you still with me?" Cate's voice was just a little puzzled.
Dave shook himself from his reverie. "Yeah... sure... I'm sorry. So...
we set off to the Yukon the day after tomorrow at
0700, right?" he asked lightly, just to say something.
"Yes. And don't forget the coordinates that Captain Sims gave you," she
"I won't," he replied with an audible smile. "By the way, did you know
that my call-sign is 'Stearman'?"
"How did you come by it?"
"When I was five or six, my uncle gave me a little model of a Stearman
and I always had it on my desk on the carrier. Odd
coincidence, isn't it?"
Cate's voice took up a resolute edge. "I think it's time we stopped
talking of 'coincidences' here, Captain. This is weird
and scaring the hell out of me but I refuse to accept that the both of
us stumbled into nothing else than a statistically
exceptional cluster of similarities!"
Dave's answer was a hearty laugh, albeit tinged with a trace of
uneasiness. "Whoa, power down, squid, you needn't try and
convince me of something that I could have said myself." He sobered, the
uneasiness surfacing clearly. "What would you call
"I don't know." Cate sounded somewhat distant and lost in reflection.
"If we were in India, we'd probably speak of
reincarnation," she tried her escape in a joke that, at the same time,
sounded half-earnest. "After all, I was born only a
few weeks after they died."
"Me, too," Dave chuckled, at the same time feeling his palms get sweaty.
"You don't really believe that, do you?!? Umm... sorry for the sharp
tone." Cate became aware that she was clutching her
receiver way too firmly.
"Uh... no, of course not. So," he opted for a slight change of topic,
"When's your birthday?"
"September 24th, 2003," she gladly took the offered line of
"Mine's August 1st. At least the dates aren't theirs," he added softly,
sensing an odd feeling of relief at the discovery.
As the silence stretched, Cate reluctantly decided to end the
connection. They both needed rest and time to prepare for
what could easily become a journey to their very own roots. "Do you know
how to get to the airfield, Marine?"
"Yeah, I have the address on my laptop. Dress in layers, okay? That'll
keep you even warmer than the best winter clothes.
Remember we'll be immobile up in the air."
"Aye, sir!" she acknowledged mockingly, chuckling. "Good night, Dave,"
she added in a gentle tone, "And, odd as it may
seem, I'm looking forward to our trip."
"So am I," he answered just as warmly, smiling. "Good night, Cate."