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Chapter 9:
Shadows of the Past


"...a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces. Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again."
--- Thomas Wolfe, “Look Homeward, Angel”


UNKNOWN TIME
UNKNOWN DATE
UNKNOWN PLACE

 

Harm opened his eyes to darkness again, then closed them as voices and images crashed over him once more.

"I *hate* you, Daddy," five-year-old Harmon Rabb screamed, tears running down his face. "I hope I *never* see you again!"

"I'll be okay, Harm," Lt. Joseph Young whispered. "Dying's not so bad, I swear it isn't."

"But Joe," Lt. Harmon Rabb laid his hand on his friend's wasted shoulder. "You *promised* me you'd fight this."

They came and kept coming, images, voices, and memories too fast to stop. They churned together, ran together, and followed each other in quick succession:

Two men in chaplain's uniforms stood in front of his open door, talking to his mother. "We regret to inform you that Lieutenant Harmon Rabb Sr. was shot down over Vietnam, and is now officially classified as Missing in Action."

The body bag unzipped to reveal Diane, her face lifeless and her chest smeared with blood. "You'll be assisting with this case, Commander."

Death. Death surrounded him, mocking him with its existence in his memories. Voices triggered other memories, all mocking him with pain. Life was pain. Death was freedom:

Gunfire. Sixteen-year-old Harm turned back to see his sweetheart crumple to the ground, red liquid spreading over her chest. He turned to run to her, but Stryker grabbed his arm. "That's suicide, son," the man said gruffly, tugging on the teenager's arm. "Let's get the hell out of here."

Pain. Pain was his friend, because it held back death. As long as he hurt, he was alive, and he could find a way to make it back to Her. Wherever She was, it was always safe.

A flash of light called his attention to her right hand. Engaged. She had accepted Bugme's proposal.

He couldn't see. The carrier deck was blurry, impossible to land on. Too low! They were too low! There was no way he could avoid crashing into it.

Pain. Pain and more pain brought Harm fully awake. The drug was leaving his system, but he knew that the relief would only be temporary. In his moments of lucidity, he realized that this was the end of the line. Joey had been right; death didn't look so bad. Perhaps he was interpreting what his late friend had said, but at this point, an end to the pain and torment would be welcome.

Larry and Moe kept his hands bound all the time now and had even started to tether his ankles. He'd been moved to another, smaller cell, so the gouges that he'd carved in the wall were now inaccessible. Time had no meaning. Neither day nor night truly existed.

The only real thing was pain. The only memories that gave him comfort when under the influence of Starlight were the ones of Mac. Good or bad, memories of Her made him feel better in this hellhole. Sometimes, he almost thought that She was with him, soothing away some of the pain.

Harm looked in the direction of the door as he heard the telltale creak that preceded its opening. Dim light trickled through the cracks as the third man that he liked to call Curly slipped through. Larry and Moe followed him. Before Harm could force his sluggish body to react, Larry and Moe grabbed him and looped more wire around his bonds before winding it around a metal loop set high in the wall.

The position made his cuts break open once more as Curly approached him. The dirty little man pulled out a syringe, swiftly jabbed it into Harm's stomach, then depressed the plunger. Sadik walked in and motioned to the three stooges to leave the room. "So, Commander. Are you enjoying your stay with us?"

Harm replied by spitting at Sadik. He really didn't have much spit to spare, so the projectile fell far short of the odious man.

"That wasn't very nice, Commander," Sadik said with a smirk. He walked closer and punched Harm in the stomach, following that with another punch to the face that made Harm's head come in contact with the wall. For a few minutes, he saw stars and could barely hear Sadik's words.

"It's only a matter of time... you *will* tell me every bit of classified information that you know before I let this be over." Sadik reached up and yanked on Harm's wrists, making the wire that bound them cut into his flesh deeply.

Harm felt the now familiar sensation of the drug taking over, and almost welcomed the painful memories it brought. At least, in his memories, *She* was there. He could open his eyes and almost see her, feel her gentle touch and hear her whispering to him that it would be okay, and that She would keep him safe. "My Sarah," he murmured, then fell into oblivion.

 

1535 Zulu
20 December 2003
Roberts' Residence
Falls Church, Virginia

 

Mac hesitated before knocking on the door. It had almost become routine for her to show up there on the weekends lately, but she still felt reluctant to intrude. She took a deep breath and waited for the answer. With Harm missing, she had started to rely heavily on Harriet and Bud just to keep her sane. Clay had been out of the country for a little over the month, so she really didn't have any other friends to turn to.

Mac pasted a smile on her face as the door opened. "Hi, Harriet," she said softly.

"Colonel," Harriet said with a smile. "C'mon in." She opened the door wider and gestured to her.

Mac went in the house and followed Harriet into the living room where she was stopped by a blond whirlwind barreling into her legs. "Aunt Mac!" he said happily. "I hoped that you'd comed."

"Hey, kiddo," Mac said, mussing the child's hair.

Little AJ grabbed her hand and pulled her over to the couch. "Aunt Mac, why are you sad?" he asked, his little face creased in a frown.

Mac sat down and held out her arms towards the little boy. AJ climbed into her lap and gave her a big hug. "Can I get you anything, ma'am?" Harriet asked before Mac could answer Little AJ's question.

"Thanks, Harriet, but no." Mac hugged Little AJ. "Where's Bud?"

"Oh, he and Commander Turner are playing basketball." Harriet answered. "They've been working on mending their friendship, and since Harm isn't here right now..." Before Harriet could finish her thought, a thin wail could be heard coming from the second floor. "That's Jimmy--I'll be right back, ma'am."

"Aunt Mac, why are you sad?" Little AJ asked again. "Is it because Uncle Harm's gone away like Daddy does sometimes?"

Mac was quiet for a moment, and she dropped a kiss on the top of Little AJ's head before she said anything. "Sweetheart, you know how Uncle Harm hasn't called you in a while?"

"Uh huh, but he said that he had to go play pretend, and it might be until Santa comes afore he can call me again." Little AJ smiled at Mac and gave her a hug.

"AJ, baby, something happened to Uncle Harm--the bad guys took him away." Mac bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from breaking down.

Little AJ slid off her lap and held out his hand. "C'mon, Aunt Mac," he said. "I've got somethin' I wanna show you."

Wordlessly, Mac stood, took Little AJ's hand, and let him lead her upstairs to his room. They walked inside, and Little AJ released her hand before pulling a chair over to a wall. He climbed up on it, and pulled a picture off a hook, then got down. "You can sit on my bed, Aunt Mac," he offered with a smile.

Mac sat down and held out her arms to Little AJ. "What's that, sweetheart?" she asked.

Little AJ walked into her embrace, then showed her the picture. "It's me an' Uncle Harm. Before he went away, he took me flying." A joyous smile lit up the little boy's face. "It was just him an' me, without the *baby*." The child's face twisted into an expression of disgust.

"You look like you two had fun," Mac commented.

"We *did*. Aunt Mac, Uncle Harm told me that he had to go stop a very *bad* man, and that he'd come home, 'cause the bad guys aren't allowed to win." Little AJ looked at her earnestly. "He'll come home, Aunt Mac, because he *promised* that we could go flying again."

"And Harm always keeps his promises," Mac whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "Baby, sometimes as much as we want to keep promises, other people do things that make it impossible."

"I know." Little AJ said calmly. "Uncle Harm could get hurt like Daddy did. It just means that I have to ask God to bring Uncle Harm home safe."

Mac bit her lip. "But God doesn't always answer prayers," she murmured.

Little AJ grinned. "Me and Bobby was talking about it. He said that his mommy said God *always* answers prayers, but sometimes, He just says no." A fleeting look of disgust crossed his face. "I know that's true, 'cause I got *Jimmy* when I asked God for a baby *sister*."

Mac laughed a little, and hugged AJ closer. "And why did you want a sister instead of Jimmy?"

"A'cause maybe a sister wouldn't cry all the time, and Bobby's sister doesn't steal his trains and his brother *does*."

"But I thought you said that girls are gross," Mac said with a smile.

"Girls *are* icky," Little AJ agreed.

"Then how come you like me so much, huh, kiddo?"

"You're *not* a girl, you're *Aunt Mac*, just like Mommy ain't no girl, neither."

Mac started tickling him. "I am *so* a girl," she said teasingly.

"Not!" the child shrieked.

"Am, *so*," she said, tickling him even more. Little AJ squirmed out of her grasp as Harriet walked in the room.

"Mommy," Little AJ said breathlessly, "can I go into the backyard to play?"

"Sure, sweetie, but stay in the backyard, okay?"

"Okay, Mommy." Little AJ hurried out of the room, leaving Harriet and Mac alone.

"AJ drag you up here?"

"Yeah, he wanted me to see this," Mac handed the framed photograph to Harriet.

Harriet looked at the picture and smiled. "That was a good day," she said. "Harm let me tag along; it was Little AJ's first flight, and I just wanted to make sure that he'd be okay."

"Did he talk to you about anything?" Mac asked.

"No," Harriet reached up and pushed some hair behind her ear. "He's kept in touch with AJ, but he hasn't talked to Bud or me." She laid her hand on Mac's arm. "I'm sorry, Colonel, but the most contact that Harm has had with me is the present he sent for Jimmy."

"That was what Bud said a few weeks ago," Mac murmured. "I miss him," she said finally.

"I know you do, ma'am," Harriet murmured.

Mac went on, heedless of what Harriet was saying. "It's funny, y'know? He came after me in Paraguay after I ditched him. I know Harm--I asked him what he'd give up for me once, and he's more than proven that." She played with her ring for a few minutes before continuing. "He came to rescue me and offered everything--and I told him that a relationship between us would never work."

"You did?" Harried asked, shocked.

Mac nodded. "To be fair, it was his fault, too; we seem to have a singular talent for pissing each other off."

Harriet smiled. "I seem to remember some spectacular fights between the two of you."

"Yeah... we're always doing that and I don't even know why, really."

"We all know how you and the Commander feel about each other, ma'am," Harriet said.

"How's that?"

"Why, it's easy to see--the way he looks at you when you're not watching, ma'am. Commander Rabb loves you."

Mac chuckled humorlessly. "Why is it that people keep telling me that? Why am I the only one who can't see it?"

"Maybe it's because you and Harm have lived practically in each other's back pockets for the better part of eight years, and you've gotten too used to blocking out your feelings to see his?" Harriet grimaced. "I'm not sure if that makes any sense."

"So what you're saying is that I'm so blinded by what I feel that I can't see what he feels for me?" Mac asked.

"That pretty much sums it up, ma'am," Harriet said. "I'm not the only one who sees how... wistful he looks when you're around. I think he's scared that things wouldn't work out, and then he'd lose you."

Mac laughed softly. "I think I need an instruction manual. He once said that what he wanted most was to never lose me, and now I may have lost him permanently."

Harriet hesitated for a few minutes before voicing her thoughts. "Ma'am? Do you remember when the Commander crashed his plane trying to get back in time for your wedding?"

"How could I forget?" Mac asked quietly. "It was one of the worst moments of my life, but this is much, much worse, because we're stuck in limbo, and we can't get out of it."

"Ma'am, you found the Commander in the middle of the Atlantic that night." Harriet took a deep breath. "Do you think you could do it again? I mean, he's even more lost now than he was then."

Mac grimaced. "I don't know, Harriet, but I can try; this is inexact at best." Mac closed her eyes and concentrated. She'd always been subconsciously aware of Harm's whereabouts, so it was a matter of 'finding' him and trying to see where he was being held.

Mac took a deep breath and focused completely on her sailor. Finally, after much effort, she found him, but she couldn't see where he was. "I found him," she murmured as she opened her eyes. "But it doesn't do us any good, because it's too dark where he is to see anything."

"I'm sorry, ma'am," Harriet said. "It was a long shot--"

"Harriet, I *found* him," Mac interrupted. "I don't know where he's being held, but he's alive and he's in pain." Her face clouded over. "Whoever found him has been hurting him, and we have to find him soon." She hugged the picture of Harm and Little AJ to her chest and let her hair fall forward, obscuring her face. Wherever he was, she needed her sailor home with her where he belonged.

 

Chapter 10:
Worst Case Scenario



"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly."
--Patrick Overton



2234 ZULU
26 DECEMBER 2003
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION
COLOMBIA

 

Jack stared at the site through a set of high-powered binoculars, searching for any sign of Sadik. Beth was currently asleep in the camouflaged shelter behind him, and Webb couldn’t seem to stop his incessant pacing long enough to do anything *useful*. “Stop it, Webb,” he snapped.

“Stop *what*?” Webb continued to pace, the dirt and gravel rolling beneath his expensive sneakers.

“Stop pacing,” Jack hissed. “You’re going to give away our position.”

Webb dropped to the ground. “What the hell do you think you are? A recon marine?”

Jack grinned. “Yes,” he said blandly. “At least, I was before the NSA recruited me.”

Webb rolled his eyes. "Great. Just *great*. I'm on what amounts to a training op in the Colombian jungle with a man who's not only a super-spy, but a semper fi do or die recon marine trying to rescue a man who can out sneak the best sniper that's ever been in the service."

"Can it, Webb. You can whine later; I have to find out if this is really where they're holding Harm." Jack adjusted the focus on the binoculars.

"Can we please do *something* else than just *sitting* here?" Webb asked.

"Let me guess," Jack began. "You want to rush in there, shoot up the place, and then try to locate Harm, right?"

"Sounds good to me."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Now *that* is a prime example of why you're the FUBAR king; you get people killed that way. We're going to find out if Sadik is here, because where he is, they'll be holding Harm. We need to know *exactly* how things are being guarded and how the place is run."

"I'm sick of doing *nothing*," Webb grumbled.

"Tough, kiddo. I've got one of ours sneaking in tomorrow as kitchen help so we can find out the exact layout of the compound. *After* we get all the intel we can, *then* we'll call the sweeper and cleaner teams that I've got on standby and get Harm out." Jack turned around to glare at him. "Is that *clear*, kid?"

"Yeah. So are you using Gunnery Sergeant Galindez as our inside man?"

Jack looked at Webb as if he were crazy. "Are you *kidding*? In case you've forgotten, Sadik has *seen* the Gunny. I tapped Sanchez for this mission."

"But Sanchez doesn't have the experience--"

"Wrong Sanchez," Jack said laconically. "What? You think that the Company only has one Sanchez on the payroll?"

"I didn't think--"

"That's your problem, Webb. You don't do *enough* thinking. After this mission is complete, I may have to recommend you for a desk job or that you *never* end up leading an op again." Jack grimaced. "You're dangerous, kiddo, because you don't plan enough and you get our people killed. How you've managed to survive this long is a mystery to me."

"You military types have no appreciation for creativity," Webb grumbled.

"In our line of work, planning comes *before* creativity, and in case you haven't noticed, lots of the field agents that our Intel community hires are either military or ex-military."

Webb rolled his eyes. "I know, I know, you military types--"

"Shut up, kid. If you're not going to grab that extra set of binoculars and look for Sadik, go take a nap or something." Jack heard the scuffing of feet as Webb retreated and continued to survey Sadik's hideout. The small compound was surrounded by a high fence topped with razor wire. Luckily, the position they'd picked was high enough to see over the wall, and fifty feet of jungle had been cleared on all three sides of the compound.

Jack could see several buildings behind the fence, including some that had been dug into the hill on the fourth side of it. He'd bet anything that Sadik would keep a prisoner in one of those underground rooms, where rescue would be difficult. If Harm was really inside, it would be a hell of a job to get him out.

Jack sighed and hunkered down to wait. Scuttlebutt said that Sadik's prisoner was still alive because they were trying to extract information, but such things could change quickly. He only hoped that the ex-Navy pilot could withstand whatever methods the terrorist used for long enough to extract him.

 

1500 Zulu
13 January 2004
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

 

AJ paged through the report he'd just gotten from Jack Olsen and smiled. Technically, it wasn't something he was supposed to have, but Jack owed him a favor. He'd managed to convince him to get him updates on the search for the Commander. He sighed as he got to the end of the short document. So far, there had been little progress. They'd managed to locate a compound that the terrorist supposedly operated out of, but Sadik had yet to show himself.

Jack had other operatives looking, but so far, he'd come up dry. AJ leaned back in his chair and sighed before reaching for a stack of personnel files. He couldn't truly replace Harm, but he'd have to find somebody who might be up for the job.

He started looking through the new files, hoping for a miracle. There simply weren't any attorneys in the service that were up to Rabb's standard. AJ's eyes lit on a file that he'd somehow managed to overlook. He opened it and examined the contents. He grimaced. This one *might* end up being as good as Rabb--in a few years. Major Elizabeth Pierce, USMC. According to her record, she was an average pilot and her case record showed that she had promise.

AJ sighed. Unfortunately, she was the best candidate he currently had available for the position. "Coates!" he called.

"Yes, sir?" Coates poked her head in the door.

He held the file out to her. "I need you to draft some orders; Major Pierce is to report here on Monday to start her new assignment."

Coates came in and took the file from him. "Aye, aye sir," she said, coming to attention. He watched as she left his office. He pulled his glasses off his face and rubbed the bridge of his nose. There were times that he really hated his job and this was one of them. His heart was rebelling against replacing Harm, but the SecNav was breathing down his neck, and he really didn't have a choice.

A small blond head poked into his office before a little boy dressed in Class A's followed. Little AJ marched to the front of his desk and came to attention. A tolerant smile stole over AJ's face. "At ease, sailor."

"Hi, Uncle Admiral AJ," the little boy said before clambering into one of the large, leather chairs.

"What can I do for you, sailor?" he asked with a smile.

Little AJ looked at him hopefully. "Can I have a treat?"

AJ grinned, reached in his desk, pulled out a package of cookies, and offered some to the child. Little AJ took two cookies, then bit into one.

"What do you say, sailor?" AJ asked.

"Thank you, Uncle Admiral AJ," he said. Little AJ chewed thoughtfully on the cookie and swallowed. "Aunt Mac is getting more sad," he said finally.

"Why do you think that is, sailor?" AJ asked.

"Because Uncle Harm is lost," Little AJ answered immediately. "Mommy says that Aunt Mac tried to find him, but that it's too dark where he is for her to see."

"Did you know that your Aunt Mac found Uncle Harm once?" AJ asked.

"Uh huh. Mommy says that it's 'cause Aunt Mac loves Uncle Harm an' that they're soul mates, so she always knows where he is." Little AJ ate another bite of cookie. "Sir, why doesn't Uncle Harm just ask a policeman how to get home? I miss him, and he makes Aunt Mac happy."

AJ sighed. "Sailor, there aren't any policemen where he is for Uncle Harm to ask."

"Is that 'cause--" Little AJ's head snapped up, and he slid out of the chair. He hurried over to the fireplace, and stared into the flames. "Uncle Harm!" His small hand reached towards someone that AJ couldn't see.

AJ got up and hurried over to the child. "What is it, sailor?" he asked, gentling his normally rough voice.

Tears started to run down Little AJ's face. "The bad men have him," he whispered. "The bad men are *hurting* Uncle Harm, real *bad*."

AJ gathered the child up in his arms and began to rub his back awkwardly. "Shh. It's okay, AJ. A friend of mine is going to try and rescue him."

Little AJ rubbed his face against the Admiral's jacket. "Really?" he whispered.

"I promise. My friend Jack and I are going to try and get Uncle Harm home."

"Thank you," the boy whispered before wiggling out of the Admiral's embrace. "Can I go see Mommy now?" he asked, coming to attention.

"Dismissed, sailor," AJ said with a smile.

"Aye, aye sir," he said. Before Little AJ could leave the office, shouts started coming from the bullpen. AJ got up from his crouch and hurried out the door. Harriet was holding people back as Coates tried to revive his chief of staff.

"What's going on here, people?" he said.

"The Colonel, sir, she just collapsed," Bud answered as he fanned her with a file.

AJ hurried over and knelt down beside the unconscious woman. "Everyone get back. Lieutenant Sims, call 911 and get the paramedics over here."

"Yes, sir."

AJ didn't bother to watch as his staff began to obey his instructions. "Colonel Mackenzie," he said as he shook her shoulder gently. "Mac, wake up, please. You've got a lot of worried people who want to know if you're okay."

Coates placed a cool, damp cloth on the Colonel's forehead. "She was talking to me, sir, when she grabbed her stomach, then her head, and keeled over."

"Do you know what could have caused it?" he asked.

"No, sir. I've seen something similar happen, but it was always after someone'd had the crap beat out of them, sir."

Lieutenant Sims hurried over. "The ambulance is on its way." She paused, then continued. "Sir, the Colonel has been trying to find the Commander every day; she says that she can find him, but that she doesn't know where they're keeping him. She mentioned something about trying to keep the link open between them."

"That could explain it, sir," Bud said. "That's often the way in some sci-fi, so considering the Colonel's... gifts, it's possible."

"Sometimes, Colonel, I wish that whatever genes gave you this peculiar ability would've skipped a generation." AJ sighed. "Lieutenant Sims, I'm sure that you have other duties to take care of; I'll stay with the Colonel. Lieutenant Roberts, I need you to go downstairs to wait for the ambulance. Petty Officer, don't you still have orders to draft?"

"Aye, sir," the three of them said in unison, then headed off.

AJ reached for the Colonel's hand. "Mac, we need you to wake up; we can't do without you, too, and Harm will need you if they can pull it off," he whispered.

He waited with her until the ambulance came. He wanted to go with her, but there was simply too much to do, so he sent Coates with instead. It was time to set up another appointment with the SecNav; something more had to be done to get Rabb home.



Chapter 11:
Darkest Before Dawn



"I am weary of it all, where is the sense in all this pain and joy?"
--Goethe "Wanderer's Song at Night"



UNKNOWN TIME
UNKNOWN DATE
UNKNOWN LOCATION

 


Harm struggled against the drug, trying desperately to fight the effects. He was getting to where he measured time by the constant injections, and he knew he was losing ground. Each successive shot seemed to have a greater effect, as if the drug residue was building up in his bloodstream. He swallowed hard as another wave of memories crashed over him.

Mac stood in front of the cab and looked at him. "Things are never going to work out between us," she said.

"Why not?" he asked desperately. He'd come all this way to save her and try and tell her how he felt; things *had* to work with them, or there truly was no justice left in the universe.

"Because we both want to be on top. And that's physically--and emotionally--impossible."

That had been, possibly, the worst day of his life, because she'd taken his hope away. Pain. It almost felt good to feel it; at least it was something.

"I, Patricia Reed Rabb take you, Franklin Jeffrey Burnett..."

Thirteen-year-old Harmon Rabb blocked out the sound of his mom betraying him and his dad and sighed. He'd failed. He was supposed to be the man of the house and make her happy, but she was marrying that... that used car salesman.

Failure. He was no good for anybody. Death would be preferable to where he was now. Maybe they'd let him see his father again in whatever might follow. Maybe his dad wouldn't hate him for all the mistakes he'd made. In his world, if he screwed up, people he cared about died:

Harm woke in a white hospital room and looked around. "Mace?" he croaked. "Mace, are you okay?"

"Darling, I'm sorry," his mother's face came into view. "Mace didn't make it."

He'd screwed the pooch then. It didn't matter that the board of inquiry said differently, it was the truth. He *always* managed to mess things up in one way or another. He never got anything one hundred percent right:

"You need to find something to allow that independence. Drive a cab, wrestle an alligator. I don't know."

With the Admiral's words, he knew that he'd messed up again. JAG was better off without him. Mac was better off without him. Hell, he'd be willing to bet what was left of his life savings that the Admiral was happier now that he was gone.

A single tear rolled down his cheek as the monitor beside the bed in the sterile environment flat lined. Joe was gone. They'd discovered the Lieutenant's leukemia a little while before his own ramp strike, and it had gone into remission long enough for Joe to come and visit during his own recovery. One of his best friends had just died a senseless death.

It was inevitable. Anyone who got close to him either left or died. He deserved to be alone, just like he always had been. He had very few memories of being loved for who he was, without restrictions. Sometimes he thought that he was one of the people wandering the earth that didn't deserve to have anybody really love him.

Sixteen-year-old Harmon Rabb watched from his vantage point as Stryker attempted to sneak into the encampment. They'd heard that POW records were being kept there, and they had to try and get a look. His eyes widened as he saw a Vietnamese solider walk directly for the Colonel. He aimed his AK-47, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger. The man soundlessly crumpled to the ground, a single bullet wound in his forehead...

Death. He brought nothing but death and pain to those around him. Harm opened his eyes as the drug gave him a temporary break. He shivered as the door opened and Larry and Moe skulked in. Without a word, the two men hung him from the hook again, then took turns working him over before leaving.

Sadik walked in, tapping the air out of another syringe. Curly followed, wheeling a metal cart over the hard-packed dirt. Harm bit his lip as he noticed the battery and cables on it.

"Commander, I am losing my patience," Sadik sneered. "You have enjoyed my hospitality for far too long without giving me *anything* in return." He lunged forward, stuck the needle in Harm's stomach, and depressed the plunger. "Let us see if Starlight and what you rescued your friends from will make you talk." He reached for the stripped wires and sparked them together.

Harm closed his eyes and focused on the one person who could keep him sane and whole. She was the key to everything he wanted. At this point, rescue was unlikely, so his dreams were all he would ever have of Her.

 

0345 Zulu
31 January 2004
Undisclosed Location
Colombia

 

Jack smeared the black makeup on his face, making sure that all areas of his skin were covered. He looked over at Webb and grimaced, because the boy had forgotten to cover his neck and behind his ears. "Kid, c'mere," he said. "You missed some spots."

Webb breathed out a long-suffering sigh and came over. Jack smeared the white areas with the grease paint, then checked for any more bare spots. "You're good," he said. "Have you blacked out all of the shiny metal bits on your person?"

"Yes," Webb answered sullenly. "Where did you learn this shit, anyway? They don't teach this at Langley."

Jack grinned. "They probably should. I had a buddy in the Marines who taught me." He took a deep breath to avoid laughing before he continued. "He had an... interesting civilian life; his parents made their living doing this kind of thing, and it almost broke their hearts when he went straight."

"And people say I have strange friends," Webb muttered.

"Gather around, people," Jack said, shining his flashlight on a patch of cleared ground. He picked up a stick and started drawing as Beth and the others joined him. "This is the compound," he said, pointing at his rough drawing. "For security reasons, this information was not forwarded before. It's only guarded by ten men, and most of the help goes home at night. Our inside contact, Sanchez, has already disabled the electricity to the fence." He circled an area on his map. "This is where it's been cut open. We should have no problems taking out the guards, but our goal is this building right *here*." He circled a building at the back of the compound. "Five men are inside; Sadik, three of his lieutenants, and our prisoner."

Beth pulled a picture out of her pocket and tossed it on the map. "This is the latest picture of Harmon Rabb," she murmured.

"That's right," Jack said with a nod. "Eliminate Sadik and his people, but you are not, under any circumstances to shoot that one. Our mission here is to destroy the weapon caches and eliminate the terrorists, but I'm expanding it to include rescuing one of our own. Is that clear?"

Nods and murmurs of 'yes, sir' passed around the group.

Jack pointed towards another building. "Sanchez says that the weapons are being kept *there*. I want everybody in and out quickly, no casualties on our side. As soon as we're out, I've got a cleaner team on standby to take care of our mess." He started drawing x's on the map. "Where these x's are, you'll find a guard. Eliminate them." Webb, Beth, and the sweepers took a good look at the map.

Jack pulled on a dark gray knit hat, picked up the picture, and wiped out the map. "As soon as the rest of the mission is complete, get out and we'll meet up at the extraction point. Beth, Webb, and Michaels, you're with me; we're going after Rabb."

Michaels separated himself from the other sweepers and came over to stand next to him. "We're going after Sadik and his lieutenants," he reminded them. "I want the rest of you to take out the guards, then go straight to the weapons cache."

He was met with a murmured response of 'yes, sirs'. "Let's go."

The group made their way soundlessly down the hillside before dropping to their stomachs to belly crawl to the camouflaged hole in the fence. As he crawled, he hoped that they'd be able to make it to Harm, complete the mission, and get him out. If they ran into problems, he did have back up waiting for his call, but he'd rather just get it over with. He bit the inside of his cheek as they reached the fence. It was going to be a long night.

 

2330 Zulu
30 January 2004
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

 

Mac sighed and pulled another set of paperwork toward her. It seemed as if her life was a never-ending stack of it these days. Clay hadn't been returning her calls, and Harm was still missing. Since her collapse, she'd narrowed their link, but she was constantly aware of what was happening to him--Harm was still in pain.

"Colonel Mackenzie."

Mac immediately stood at the sound of her CO's voice, and came to attention. "Sir," she answered. He'd started coming around her office to check on her after she'd been released from Bethesda two weeks before. Even now, it felt odd for him to come to her workspace instead of having her come see him.

"As you were, Mac," he said.

"Yes, sir," she replied, then sat back down. "What can I help you with, sir?"

"I'm here as your friend, Mac," the Admiral said quietly. "I need to know how you're holding up, and if you've managed to get a lock on Commander Rabb's position."

"No, sir," she murmured. "It's still too dark where he is."

AJ sat down on the chair in front of her desk. "Mac," he began hesitantly. "Can you tell how he's doing?"

Mac's eyes unfocused as she followed her link to him. A small crease appeared on her forehead, and she gasped. "He's in pain, sir." She bit her lip. "They're *hurting* him, Admiral, and it feels like they have been for quite some time." She looked at him, her brown eyes fast filling with unshed tears. "Is *anything* being done, sir? With as much as he's hurting, he could be dead soon," her voice got softer until she ended with a whisper.

AJ got up, closed the door, then turned around to face her. "Jack Olsen is in charge of the operation, and he's been keeping me updated."

"Please, Admiral--have they *found* him?" The knuckles on her hands started to turn white from the pressure she was exerting on the desk.

"Yes," was the short response. "Jack says that they'll be moving in soon, and he swore to me by all that's holy that he'd get the Commander out."

"Thank you, sir," she murmured, tears stinging her eyes.

AJ walked over and laid his hand on her shoulder. "Jack'll get him out, Mac, I promise."

"Yes, but what condition will he be in, Admiral?" Mac asked as she shut her eyes tight and put her face in her hands.

"I don't know," he admitted. "Can you tell what they've done to him?"

Mac shook her head. "No, sir. I only know that he's hurting badly."

AJ squeezed her shoulder. "It'll be all right, Mac. Jack said that, depending on how badly he's hurt, they'll airlift him directly to Bethesda and notify us when he can have visitors."

"Thank you, sir," she whispered.

"Go home and get some sleep, Colonel," he said, then left her office.

Mac sighed and rubbed her hand over her face. She never slept well, but lately she hadn't been sleeping at all. Without even looking in a mirror, she knew about the dark circles under her eyes that no amount of makeup could hide. She grimaced, gathered her things together, grabbed her cover, and left the office. It went against the grain to wait, but it looked like it was the only thing she could do until she could see her sailor again.

 

Chapter 12:
Shave and a Haircut



"We do what we must, and call it by the best names."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson


UNKNOWN TIME
UNKNOWN DATE
UNKNOWN LOCATION

 

Harm let his chin drop forward on his chest. He was tired of pain, tired of everything. He didn't know how long Sadik had been tormenting him, but he had managed not to say anything of importance. He allowed a half-smile to spread over his face. Sadik would not win; he would die before he said anything about the classified information he was privy to.

'Death before dishonor', the thought floated through his head. He couldn't remember where it came from, but it was true. He would die before he dishonored his name or betrayed his country. In his situation, death looked like a good option. Death... In death the pain, the guilt, and the fear would all leave him. And if what religious scholars claimed was true, his father, Gym, Diane, Joe, and all of his fallen comrades would be waiting for him on the other side. He hoped it was true, because he had a feeling that he was not long for this world.

Harm slumped against his bonds and blinked groggily. Sleep was his best temporary escape. What was it that Wordsworth had said? Ah... 'our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting'... Perhaps death was the same. Perhaps he could lose his unpleasant memories in death. He sighed deeply. Soon, he was sure, he would find out.

His eyes started to drift shut as his mind and body began to give into the sleep that he craved. It was quiet in his lightless cell; and for the moment, his memories weren't assaulting him. He had almost become accustomed to the silence and darkness where he now resided. Forays into the light meant pain, but the darkness was safe. The only other safe place was with Her, and he was sure that She was far from there.

He jerked his head up as he heard loud noises coming from behind the location of the door. Harm cried out as the door was kicked open, sending blinding white light into his sensitive eyes. Gentle hands pulled him down and carefully took off as much of the wire binding his limbs as they could. Dazzled by the light as he was, he couldn't really see his rescuer, but he was grateful to whoever had come to get him out.

"Harm," a familiar voice said. "It's okay, we're here to complete the mission and rescue you."

Harm blinked, trying to clear the spots from his eyes. "So, Commander," the oily voice of Sadik Fahd assaulted his ears. "Your *friends* have arrived to rescue you."

Harm heard a gun go off near him, and the voice of the terrorist was silenced. "Is that the last one?" He recognized the voice as that of Jack Olsen.

"Yes. I pocketed a vial of drugs that Fahd left out; he might have used it on Harm." Beth answered.

Harm tried to walk, but his legs wouldn't cooperate with him, so he allowed Beth and Jack to half-carry, half-drag him out of the building that had been his prison. More footsteps sounded behind him.

"Are you in one piece, Webb?" Jack asked.

"Yes. Sadik's lieutenants are gone; Michaels got all of them." Webb answered.

"Good job, Michaels," Jack said.

"Thank you, sir; let's get the hell out of here."

A soft chuckle was the man's answer, and it was the last thing Harm remembered for a long time.

 

1220 Zulu
1 February 2004
Enroute to National Naval Medical Center
AKA. Bethesda Naval Hospital

 

Beth smoothed Harm's filthy hair back from his forehead and grimaced. He looked *horrible*. His complexion was pasty gray, and she could see evidence of repeated beatings. As if that weren't bad enough, the medics had discovered track marks along his arms and on his abdomen, and he had some deep, infected cuts that were oozing blood and pus.

The medic started cleaning the cuts as best as he could before covering them with bandages. He swore softly as he got to Harm's wrists; it looked as if some of the wire that had bound them for the past two months had become embedded in his skin. "Do you have any idea what he was injected with?" the man asked.

Beth reached in her pocket and pulled out one of the vials that she'd stolen. "I found this near where they were keeping him."

"Let me see that," Jack demanded. He took a close look at the vial. "Shit. It's Starlight."

"What's Starlight?" the medic asked.

"Classified," was Jack's quick answer. "I'll have to call in some favors to get the antidote... I'll tell you later, Beth."

She nodded as he pulled out a SAT phone and started dialing. "Webb," he began, as he listened to the phone ring. "Make yourself useful and try and stop some of Rabb's bleeding."

Webb rolled his eyes. "If I'd wanted to be a doctor, I would've gone to medical school instead of the Company."

"Kid, get your sorry six in gear before I dump you out of this airplane," Jack growled.

"You wouldn't..." Webb said.

"Watch me," Jack said. "The man saved your life more than once, you started dating *his* girl afterwards, and the *least* you can do is help the man out when he's bleeding all over the place, *kid*."

Webb rolled his eyes before grabbing some gauze to dab gingerly at some of Harm's smaller wounds. The more extensive injuries had bandages on them, so only the smaller ones remained. "I *still* don't see the point," he grumbled. "We have medics, and none of these are particularly life-threatening."

Beth used a damp cloth to clean some of the dirt from Harm's face. "Do it because you're a decent human being," she said dryly. "Oh, wait. I forgot," she glared at him. "You're *not*."

"That's a bit harsh, Beth," Jack said. "He may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but Porter instilled *some* ethics in him."

"Thanks, guys. Just keep on talking about me like I'm not here," Webb grumbled.

Beth smiled at him, then watched the medic start to bandage Harm's wrists and ankles. "Thanks, we *will*."

Jack smiled and reached for a roll of gauze. "Let me help," he murmured before he started to wind the material around one of Harm's lacerated ankles.

The medic pushed Webb out of the way to reach a large cut that he'd previously missed. "See?" Beth said, raising an eyebrow. "I always did think that he was practically useless."

"Beth--" Jack began warningly.

"Okay, okay," she said with a sigh. "Sorry, Webb. I'm just worried about my partner..."

"It's okay," he gave her a weak smile. "I kind of know how it works, and I'm worried about him for Mac's sake."

"Only for Mac?" Beth asked. "I thought that the two of you were friends not so long ago."

"We were--that is, as much as I *have* friends," he admitted. "But Jack made me think about it, and I'm not sure if Harm can forgive me for what I did. It wasn't fair to Mac, and it wasn't fair to him," Webb paused. "I haven't really been a very good friend lately."

Jack grinned. "The boy can learn!" he joked.

Webb walked over and slapped Jack on the back. "Never thought I'd get used to having a partner," he admitted. "I'm almost forty, Jack; if you'd just stop calling me 'kid', I might actually get to *like* having you around to watch my back."

"Kiddo--"

"Ja-a-ack," Webb groaned.

"If you insist, *Clay*, I won't call you that anymore, but I'll still be riding your six until you get things right, deal?" Jack held out his hand.

"Deal." Webb grabbed the proffered hand in a firm clasp and shook it.

Harm's eyes fluttered open. "Mac?" he whispered hoarsely. "Sarah?"

Beth leaned over him and smoothed his dirty, tangled hair back from his face. "We'll get her for you Harm, just as soon as we get to Bethesda, I promise."

"*My* Sarah," Harm mumbled. "Thought you were *dead*..." His eyes drifted shut.

Jack grimaced. "It's the Starlight. The sooner as we get it out of his system, the better."

"What do you mean?" Beth asked, worried.

"Well, the cat's out of the bag, now, so I might as well tell you. It accesses the part of the brain that stores memory, and the more powerful the memory, the more likely it is to surface," he explained. "Which means that the most painful ones come out first, and long term use makes them start acting like hallucinations."

"Shit," Webb muttered. "No wonder he's a mess."

Jack nodded. Explaining the rest could wait until later; it was more important to get Harm home and taken care of.

 

1400 Zulu
3 February 2004
SecNav's Office
Washington, DC

 

Kershaw smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Your officer has been rescued, but I'm afraid that I can't use him anymore."

Sheffield leaned back in his chair and shrugged. "I figured as much. I found out about the same time you did, Kershaw, and I've been getting updates on his medical condition."

Kershaw crossed his arms. "Any permanent damage?"

Sheffield shook his head. "The doctors say no, but they also said that he's in for a long recovery," he said with a sigh. "I wanted him for special ops, but we just saw how *that* turned out."

Kershaw inclined his head in agreement. "He got himself captured like a damn rookie."

"Yeah. He's too old to send back to flying, and in the shape he's in, it could take a while before he could do that anyway." Sheffield leaned back in his chair and grimaced.

"Didn't Chegwidden want him back?" Kershaw asked. "Even *I've* heard scuttlebutt to that effect."

Sheffield nodded. "He's tried to pull every string he can to get Rabb back, but I've been blocking him." He pushed his glasses up on his face and pulled a file towards him. "Chegwidden's been short-staffed on senior attorneys since the Imes fiasco."

"There you go, then." Kershaw said with a smile. "Now, you mentioned wanting a CIA agent assigned to this office. I'm sure we can come to some sort of *arrangement*."

Sheffield's smile mirrored Kershaw's. "What about Clayton Webb?" he asked.

"You don't want him, believe me." Kershaw grimaced. "The man is the biggest screw-up in the Company, and it's a miracle that he hasn't managed to get himself killed."

"I thought he had a good record..."

Kershaw favored Sheffield with a sardonic smile. "His most successful operations only succeeded because he pulled in JAG officers; we're having him retrained now."

Sheffield nodded thoughtfully. "So who do you recommend?"

"Jeffrey Murphy," Kershaw said immediately. "He's got a solid record, he's ex-Navy, and he's looking for something a little less risky than going after terrorists."

"Perfect. After the mess that Rabb got into, I think we'll stick a little closer to home... and have him undercover within the Navy."

Kershaw stood up. "I'll have his paperwork to you tomorrow and he'll report on Monday."

Sheffield stood and shook the deputy director's hand. "Thank you," he said with a smile.

"Not a problem," Kershaw turned and walked out of the room.

Sheffield sat back down, pulled a transfer form towards him, and started filling it out. He'd let AJ deal with letting Rabb know of his official status as soon as his assistant fixed the computer systems to show where Rabb had been for the past eight months.

At least *now* Chegwidden would stop bothering him about Rabb as well as a new senior attorney. He grinned, pleased with the fact that he was now killing *three* birds with one stone. Rabb was too much of a maverick, anyway, and he was well rid of him.

 

 

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