Approaching the coast of Yemen
Saturday June 5, 2004
“Hammer, come right to 030.” Skates said over the headset.
“Roger, 030.” Harm replied as he eased the stick over to bring the
Tomcat right a few degrees.
“Sky fox, this is Eagle-eye. We have you on our screens. Going to
tac-2.” Came over the radio as Harm and Skates moved closer to the
shoreline. Harm hated the call sign and he was sure it was Webb’s doing.
Changing the radio frequency Skates replied “Eagle-eye, this is Sky fox.
We will be feet dry in two mikes. See you soon.”
“Roger Sky fox. Looking forward to it.”
Harm remained silent as he concentrated on staying low to the waves and
bringing the Tomcat safely to the coast of Yemen. “Henry control, this
is Sky fox. We are going feet dry.” Skates reported as Harm eased the
Tomcat’s altitude up to make the coastal crossing.
“Roger Sky fox, good luck.” The Captain’s voice came back.
“See anything yet?” Harm asked as he deftly guided the Tomcat over the
“Nothing yet.” Skates answered. “There they are. Eagle-eye this is Sky
fox. We have a visual. We’re taking up position now. You may begin your
Harm glanced out the side of the canopy to watch the helicopter begin
its approach to the small town where the extraction was to take place.
He still didn’t know who or what was being extracted, but then again it
wasn’t his place to question orders. He may want to, and when he got
back he was going to beat Webb until he talked, but until then he had a
job to do.
“Hammer, I have two bogies on radar. Five miles out….looks like they’re
curious about something.”
“IFF?” Harm asked.
“Not one of ours, or anyone friendly.”
“Yes sir. Henry control, this is Sky fox. We have two unknowns five
miles out, requesting instructions.”
“Sky fox, Henry Control. You are weapons free, fire if fired upon. Keep
Eagle-eye in the air.”
“I heard.” Harm said before Skates could repeat the message for him.
With his thumb he disarmed his weapon safety and changed his weapon
selector to arm his sidewinders. “Going hot.”
“What’s the altitude?” he asked.
“Angels five, roger. Eagle-eye, this is Sky fox. We’ve got some nosy
neighbors and we’re going to go take a look.”
“Roger Sky fox. Good hunting; we’ll be back up in five mikes.” Came the
Easing the throttle forward to pick up more speed Harm adjusted his
course and altitude to intercept the two bogies Skates had picked up. If
they were Yemeni he would turn around and make it look like he was
heading back out to sea, if they were dissidents he would probably have
to show them off with some muscle.
“Hammer…I’ve got some more intel on them. Looks like they’re MIGs...Foxbats
would be my guess. They Yemeni don’t have any Foxbats.”
“Thanks Skates…keep an eye on them.”
“Intercept in just under a minute….I have a visual. They’re Foxbats all
Adjusting the course slightly Harm made to split the two approaching
aircraft in the middle of their formation. Suddenly the shrill klaxon
sounded to indicate an attempted missile lock. “They’re trying to get
Flipping the switch for the ECM module in the plane’s nose Harm hoped
the slim seconds the counter measures gained him would be enough. As the
two planes got closer Harm saw the luminous flower that indicated the
firing of the fighters cannons.
“Henry Control this is Sky fox. We’ve been engaged, repeat we’ve been
engaged. Tally-ho!” Harm said into his mic. “Fox 1 away.” He announced
as he triggered the first missile. Moving his thumb slightly he switched
his selector to arm his cannons. “Guns guns guns.” He called as he
triggered the cannon to fire at the MIGs without waiting to see if his
missile scored a hit.
As he blasted past he heard Skates yell out “HELL YEAH! Scratch one bad
guy.” Pulling a high g turn Harm zeroed back in on the remaining MIG in
time to see him execute a turn of his own and head back the way he came.
“Henry Control this is Sky fox. One bogie down…no chute. The other one
decided not to dance.” Skates reported on the radio.
“Roger Sky fox, good work. Return to your station.”
Without acknowledging the order Harm continued his turn at lower g’s and
moved back towards the town where the extraction was taking place.
“Eagle-eye, this is Sky fox, what’s your situation?” Skates asked.
“We are heading back out…the package is secure. Thanks for the cover.”
“Anytime. Nice working with you.” Harm said as he guided the Tomcat back
out to sea and started the climb to 10,000 feet. “Henry Control this is
Sky fox. We are en route home coming up on Angels 10.”
“Roger Sky fox, see you when you get home.”
“Going safe.” Harm announced as he moved the master arm switch to safe.
“Nice flying boss.” Skates said from the backseat.
“I live to serve.” Harm said flippantly with a smile. There were few
things he liked more than flying, especially in the thick…even if it was
only for a few minutes. Sometimes he wondered what the World War II
fighter pilots experienced in their protracted dogfights. Sadly with the
supersonic fighter jets of today a long and drawn out dogfight was rare.
Two hours later Harm was releasing the canopy and pulling off his helmet
while he stifled a yawn. Already his plane captain was making his way
towards Harm’s Tomcat with a stencil, a can of paint and a big smile.
Even though it wasn’t exactly SOP to record the kills on the sides of
the planes anymore, Harm felt it gave them a link to the past and had
authorized the plane captains of his squadron to keep count.
Climbing down from his jet Harm and Skates started making their way to
the ready room only to be stopped by a man wearing an unmarked flight
suit. “Commander, Lieutenant. This way please.” He said in a loud yell
to be heard over all of the machinery.
“And you are?” Harm asked wearily.
“I am Mr. Webb’s associate. He is unavoidably detained and asked me to
discuss your mission with you. The Captain has graciously allowed me to
use one of the JAG offices.”
“How ironic.” Harm said with a shake of his head. Might as well get this
A few minutes later the man was securing the hatch and turning with a
slight smile to face Harm and his RIO. “From all reports the mission
went off like clockwork. I congratulate you Commander.”
“Thanks…are you sure Webb planned this? His plans don’t usually go this
“I assure you, Mr. Webb was in control of the mission from the very
beginning. Now about the resistance you encountered?”
“Two MIG Foxbats. We splashed one and the other bugged out. Didn’t see
anything else worth mentioning.” Harm reported with a yawn.
“Well the package has been secured, and you have both returned safely. A
rousing success if I might say so Commander. Allow me to express my
congratulations once more.”
“So what was the ‘package’?” Skates asked.
“Sorry Lieutenant, need to know.”
“And we don’t need to know.” Harm said bitterly. He hated being used if
he didn’t know why. It was like kissing a woman he couldn’t
see…interesting and exotic for the first little while and then it just
got plain annoying.
“That will be all Commander. If you would be kind enough to submit a
written report to the Captain by 0900 tomorrow I think that will be
sufficient. Mr. Webb did however ask me to remind you of your next set
of orders.” The man said looking at Harm’s flight suit pocket
“Yeah yeah. Tell Webb I want to speak to him when you see him again.”
“I will pass on the message Commander. Good evening.” The man said as he
stood up and opened the hatch.
“What’s all this about sir? More of the deep dark secret stuff Commander
“Something like that Skates….something like that. Why don’t you hit the
rack? I’ll do up the report for the Captain and then do the same thing.
I have a feeling we’re going to have a busy day tomorrow.”
“If you say so sir. I’ll see you in the morning CAG.” Skates said as she
came to attention and then turned crisply to leave the small office.
Making his way to his office Harm was glad it was going to be a short
report; nothing to comment about on the way out or the way back and only
the single action to report. Reaching into his pocket Harm pulled out
the envelope Webb had given him before he left so suddenly. Breaking the
seal as he closed the office hatch behind him Harm pulled out the single
sheet of paper in the envelope. Glancing over the orders Harm shook his
head. What did Webb think? That Harm and his pilots were his personal
playthings? Looking at the orders once more he grunted. Nothing in them
except a simple patrol, albeit one that was not one of the regular
patrol routes. Turning on his computer Harm pulled up the program that
contained the maps of the operational theatre. Keying in the path the
patrol plan Webb had given him would take Harm was not surprised to see
that it passed over some heavily contested parts of Iraq. Well, at least
when the CIA was involved he would get some action, at least in one
sense of the word.
Turning off the program he was running Harm fired up his email client.
Might as well send a few emails off while he was here. After the program
checked his mailbox Harm saw that he had four new messages. Two from
Mattie, one from Bud and Harriet and one from Mac. Ignoring the one from
Bud and Harriet for the moment, Harm read over Mattie’s emails quickly
smiling as he read about her days and frowning as she told him about a
date she had. Writing a quick reply to Mattie Harm asked about more
details about the date. Closing down Mattie’s emails Harm opened Mac’s
to find a single line written.
Stay safe out there. –Mac
Pausing for a minute Harm replied to her email with a devious grin. He
responded to her single line with a single line of his own.
Got a paper cut today. Want to kiss it better? –Harm
Chuckling to himself Harm fired up his word processor to type up his
after action report to the Captain.
Somewhere in the Persian Gulf
Sunday June 6, 2004
“Morning CAG.” Captain Ingles said as Harm came to attention beside him.
Harm extended the single page of his after action report. “Here’s the
report on last night’s mission sir.”
“Captain, the helo is requesting permission to land.”
“Granted. So CAG, I’ve been informed I need to be able to spare you for
a few hours again tomorrow night.”
“Aye sir…looks to be a simple patrol…but you know what they say about
“CAG?” the Captain asked in some confusion.
“They can be deceiving sir. Who’s on the helo?”
“Our new weapons officer, and a surprise for you. Seems Tyler won’t be
returning to us.” Ingles said referring to the Patrick Henry’s chief
weapons officer who had taken seriously ill and had to be medivac-ed a
week before to a nearby hospital ship. Looking down at the clipboard he
held the Captain continued “A Lieutenant Allison Porter. She’s supposed
to be very good.”
Nodding silently Harm watched the helo approach and touchdown on the
white square marked on the deck for the purpose. Two individuals
disembarked from the helo and made their way across the deck. He
couldn’t be sure but there was something about the one of the left that
looked familiar. He racked his brain but he couldn’t remember ever
having come in contact with a Lieutenant Porter before. ‘Probably
nothing’ he thought.
“What’s the schedule like today CAG?”
“Pretty routine sir. Two plane elements running combat air patrols for
two-hour hops. Most of the squad is going to be in the air at one time
or another today.”
“Think you’ll have time to promote one of your officers CAG?” the
Captain asked with a poorly concealed smile.
“Who’s that sir?”
“Skates. Her promotion came through and I’m sure she’d like you to be
the one to do it. She seems to have developed the idea you walk on water
Harm.” Captain Ingles said with a laugh.
Harm smiled at the Captain and gave him a nod. “I’d be honored sir.”
Harm liked the Captain, he had since he first met him a few years
before. The Captain always seemed to be a fair man and a good commander.
In a lot of respects he reminded Harm of the Admiral.
Just then the hatchway opened and the two new arrivals stepped onto the
deck. Harm continued to watch out of the port side window as two of his
birds went up for their next patrol and two more came in.
“Lieutenant Porter reporting for duty sir.” A shockingly familiar voice
said from behind him. Harm turned quickly to face the new arrivals and
saw not some unfamiliar Lieutenant but someone very familiar Meg Austin.
Seeing Harm looking at her Meg shook her head slightly indicating he
shouldn’t say anything.
“Welcome aboard Porter. I’ve heard good things about you.” The Captain
“Lieutenant Commander Riley reporting for duty sir.” The tall man beside
Harm recognized the name as a new pilot that was being attached to the
“This one is yours CAG. I’ll let you get him settled in.”
“Aye, aye Captain.” Harm said as he extended a hand towards Riley.
“Welcome to the Henry Commander. I’m Commander Rabb.”
“Thank you CAG.”
“You drive Hawkeyes don’t you?” Harm asked referring to the ELINT
planes. The Patrick Henry had three of the small planes that provided a
bird’s eye view of any aerial combat zone.
“That’s right sir.”
“Odd you’d come in part way through the cruise.” Harm said casually.
“Not my place to question things CAG, I just go where they tell me.”
“Don’t we all Riley. Don’t we all. If you’ll come with me I’ll get you
settled into your berth and show you around. Captain, Lieutenant.”
“CAG.” The Captain said with a nod indicating Harm could carry on.
“Sir.” Meg said.
Four hours later Harm was standing on the fantail watching the two
Tomcats in the air on approach. He heard the hatch open up behind him
and Meg walked up to the rail beside him.
“Harm.” She said quietly.
“Meg. Or is it Allison?”
“While we’re here it’s Allison Harm.”
“Want to tell me what’s going on?”
“I wish I could Harm, I really do.”
“Then why don’t you?” Harm asked, finally turning to look at Meg.
“When it's all over Harm, I promise I’ll tell you everything I can. For
now, can you please promise me you’ll think of me as Lieutenant Porter?”
Shaking his head he turned back to watch the second Tomcat touchdown
barely catching the number 2 wire. “Shaky, too damn shaky.” He muttered
to himself. “You shouldn’t have to ask…Allison.”
“I know that Harm, but thank you anyway.” She said as she came to
attention and saluted him. “I shouldn’t stay out here any longer, people
can see us and I have no reason to be consorting with the CAG.”
“Just say you came out to watch the drivers park their rides.” Harm said
with a smile. “Hey….”
“Yes sir?” Meg said still standing at attention.
“Did you ever end up dating another pilot?” Harm asked with an innocent
“Damn you Harmon Rabb…you’re not supposed to be making me laugh.” Meg
said with a barely suppressed smile. “And no…I haven’t dated a pilot
since that one Italian.”
“Too bad. Dismissed Lieutenant.”
“Aye, aye sir” Meg said and then she turned and ducked back into the
bowels of the carrier.
‘Now what was this all about?’ Harm thought as he turned back in time to
watch the next patrol take off.
Persian Gulf aboard the USS Patrick Henry
Monday June 6, 2004
Harm had been on the bridge all day with the Captain directing flight
operations. It was funny he thought. For years all he had wanted was to
be the CAG on a carrier helping young pilots do their best to defend his
country. Nine years ago that had changed in one fateful night when it
was taken away from him in a blinding ball of fire. During the months it
had taken him to heal on his grandmother's farm he came to admire the
officers of the JAG corps who helped him during the inquiry. His dreams
no longer attainable he focused on becoming the best lawyer he could be,
only to find that his dream wasn't dead, only forgotten. Once again he
had thought he wanted to be CAG…but now that he was here he couldn't
stop thinking about JAG and the life he had there, the people he
considered almost family.
"CAG…are you listening to me?" the Captain's voice cut through his
"Sorry Skipper. What was that?"
"Why don't you head down to the mess deck CAG…you've been going all day
and you haven't had anything to eat. I'm sure the cook could whip up
something for even your deviant food preferences."
Smiling Harm shook his head. "It’s all right sir…there's another patrol
due back in a few minutes…I'd rather stay to check them out."
"Harm…that's all you've been doing the whole time you've been here;
you've done things with the Raptors even Keeter couldn't do. They're
getting better everyday…but you're still going to be the proud papa
pushing them harder and harder. But you need to give even yourself a
break son. Don't make me make it an order."
Bringing himself to attention Harm nodded crisply. "Aye, aye sir. I'll
be back in 30 minutes."
"No you won't CAG. You've got a mission tonight in case you've
forgotten. Grab some rack time…you'll need it."
"Aye, aye sir." Harm said reluctantly.
Once he made his way to the officer's mess though he had to admit the
Captain had a point. He was hungry, he just hadn't realized it. Looking
at the selection of food available though he had to shake his head. Too
many people on this ship ate dead meat. Not enough good, healthy
choices. Grabbing a big bowl of salad and a cup of coffee Harm made his
way to a corner table where he could be alone with his thoughts.
Picking at his salad distractedly he did more thinking than eating and
without his noticing it the watch changed and a group of young officers
came into the mess to grab a late lunch. Many of them greeted him with
simple nods or a polite "CAG". It took him a moment to realize that Meg
was among those just coming off watch for a bite to eat.
"Lieutenant Porter." He said when she was walking back from getting her
plate. "A moment please."
"CAG" Meg said warily. "Something I can do for you?"
"I was wanting to talk to you about the phalanx system…it hasn't been
tested in awhile. Please, join me?" Harm asked, trying to come up for a
reason for him to be talking to the Chief Weapons Officer.
"Certainly sir." Meg said, well aware that a simple Lieutenant would not
turn down an invitation by a Commander. Sitting down Meg made certain to
sit across the table from him to maintain the illusion of a nervous
junior officer dining with a man like the CAG.
"You know sir, you've developed quite a reputation on board." Meg said
Shrugging Harm looked around the room before he turned back to Meg.
"Lieutenant." He said stressing the rank. "I've been thinking about
something to work out the phalanx crews and I could use your input
before I took my proposal to the Captain."
"Certainly CAG…perhaps I could come by your office later?" Meg asked
"I'm heading there now. Please join me when you're finished your meal."
Harm said as he downed the last bit of coffee and stood up. He nodded
politely to the steward who came to clear away his dishes and then
nodded to Meg. "Lieutenant. I will see you later."
"Certainly CAG." Meg said nervously.
Harm only had to wait ten minutes before someone was knocking on his
hatch. "Enter." He called.
Meg ducked in and then closed the hatch behind her before coming to
attention before Harm's desk. "You wished to see me sir?"
"Grab a seat Lieutenant." Harm said as he stood and walked over to
listen at the hatch for a moment. "Can't hear much through these damn
things…which is good. We need to talk."
Moving back around his desk he sat down looked thoughtfully at Meg for a
minute. "Are you here on an undercover JAG investigation? No wait…don't
answer that…you couldn't tell me even if you were. Damn it…why didn't
the Admiral tell me there was something going on here? I could have
helped." Harm asked in frustration. "I thought he trusted me again."
"The Admiral has nothing to do with this sir." Meg said quietly. "And
I'm sure he does trust you."
"What do you mean the Admiral has nothing to do with this? You're a JAG
officer…why wouldn't the Admiral have anything to do with your being
"I'd tell you if I could sir." Meg said, her anguish showing through.
"Really I would."
"Then why don't you? You know you can trust me Meg."
"Trust isn't the issue here Harm, it’s orders. I'm sorry, but I can't
tell you anything. Not even the Skipper knows I'm anything other than a
Narrowing his eyes Harm looked at Meg with a thought he just didn't
like. Something about this felt all too familiar, and he didn't feel
comfortable with it. However it wouldn't do to air his suspicions…she
would most like just deny them. "Not even the skipper knows? What's
going on here Meg. No…don't answer that…you'll just tell me you can't
tell me again. Meg, you've changed in more ways than one since we last
saw each other. There was a time you would have told me anything because
you trusted me."
"I seem to remember one time in particular when you failed to let me in
on all the details of one of our missions once…sir." Meg said with heat.
"That was a long time ago Meg…a long time ago. Fine…if you don't want to
tell me anything I won't push it. I know it won't do me any good…you'll
just be even more bullheaded about it. Now if you'll excuse me I need to
rack out for a couple hours before my next mission."
Jumping out of her chair Meg came to attention and then turned to open
the hatch. Before she could open it however Harm interrupted her. "Oh
"Yes sir." She said as she turned around.
"I meant what I said about the phalanx crews needing to be worked out.
I'd hate to come back one day and find out my deck had been blown away
because one of your crews were asleep. Come up with a plan to exercise
them and submit it to the Captain by 1600 today."
"Aye sir." Meg said with a frown.
"That will be all. Dismissed Lieutenant."
"Aye, aye sir." Meg said and then she ducked to exit Harm's office.
With a sigh he decided to check his email to see how Mattie's date had
gone. Firing up his client he waited until his messages were downloaded
from the server. Nothing from Mattie, one more from Bud and Harriet,
probably more pictures of AJ, and one from Mac. Smiling he double
clicked his mouse on the message from Mac. When it was opened it
revealed another short email.
In your dreams Flyboy. Seriously Harm, I worry about you; we
all do, even the Admiral. Stay safe and come home in one piece. –Mac
At one time he would have written back saying he was home…but he wasn't
sure anymore. Things just didn't feel like he'd thought they would.
Deciding he wanted to think about things before writing a response he
closed Mac's email and shut his computer down. Thinking about it Harm
decided it would probably be best to follow the Skipper's 'advice' and
get some rack time before he had to be up to do the evening briefing.
USS Patrick Henry
Walking into the briefing room Harm stopped when the call "Attention on
Deck!" rang out.
"At ease people. This one's going to be by the book…we're keeping up
with the two plane elements, two hours patrol schedule. Tuna…you and
Reaper are going up in 30 minutes; Echo and Tomahawk you go up two hours
after Tuna and Reaper. Just because we haven't seen a lot of action
don't let your instincts go soft, keep your eyes open and watch each
other's sixes. My gut tells me something's going to happen soon.
Skates!" Harm called out with a frown.
"CAG?" his RIO answered from her seat two rows back.
"Front and center."
"Aye, aye sir." Skates answered and then jumped out of her seat to come
to attention in front of Harm at the front of the briefing room.
Everyone else in the room was watching the CAG and Skates and didn't
notice the Captain standing in the doorway watching as well.
"You're out of uniform Skates." Harm said shaking his head sadly. "What
am I going to do with you?"
Mutely Skates looked up at Harm with a question in her eyes. She knew
there was nothing wrong with her uniform the look said.
"Attention to Orders! From this time forward I do hereby appoint
Elizabeth Hawkes to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the United
States Navy with all rights and privileges with such rank. Raise your
right hand and repeat after me Skates." Harm said with a smile as he
reached into his pocket to pull out the small box containing the new
rank insignia for Skates.
After swearing her in and pinning the new insignia to her flight suit
Harm waited until the other pilots and RIOs had congratulated Skates on
her promotion. "Now, we'll have to figure out the wet down arrangements
at our next liberty. For now we have missions to fly and ships to keep
safe. Skates…stay behind. The rest of you, dismissed."
As the rest of the flight crews filed out of the briefing room Harm
heard more than a few shocked "Skipper" greetings. After they had all
left the Captain entered the briefing room. "Attention on Deck!" Harm
called out and he and Skates came to attention.
"That's enough of that CAG. Congratulations Skates…well deserved."
Captain Ingles said as he shook his newest Lieutenant Commander's hand.
"It’s been a long time coming, and I'm glad Hammer was the one to give
it to you."
"It means a lot to me coming from him Skipper…I mean…no offense sir."
Skates said blushing.
"None taken Skates…I know how much you look up to the CAG. Now…has he
filled you in on your op tonight?"
"Not yet sir. I was just about to." Harm answered before Skates could.
"Carry on then. And Hammer…be careful out there tonight. There's a foul
wind blowing over the deck son, and it’s making me feel like a young
midshipman on my first cruise." The Captain said before turning and
leaving the ready room.
"An op tonight sir?" Skates asked with a raised eyebrow. "Another one of
those hush-hush missions?"
"Hush Commander." Harm said with a wink. Walking over to the map wall he
pointed out the route their patrol would take. "Our mission is to fly a
high altitude combat air patrol along this route. We have no word on
what we can expect in the way of resistance. Weather doesn't look the
best, but we should beat anything coming our way back."
"But that takes us into contested airspace CAG. What are we looking
"I don't know Skates, and that makes my hair itch. There's something
about this mission that just doesn't feel right."
"You'll get us back Hammer." Skates said with a quiet confidence in her
"I hope so Skates…I hope so. Let’s suit up and go see what the friendly
skies have to offer us tonight."
"Aye, aye sir." Skates said and then she turned and preceded her
commanding officer out of the ready room. Harm couldn't help but notice
there was an extra spring to her step he hadn't seen the day before. It
was always good to see deserving officers get promoted; sometimes it
made it all worthwhile. Thinking of deserving officers and promotions
led him to think about Bud and his accident. It was such a shame that
Bud's injury had cut his career short; there was no justice in him
having a terminal rank of Lieutenant when Harm knew he had it in him to
go all the way…Bud had the makings of a great Judge Advocate General
when the time finally came for the Admiral to step down, and now the
Navy would never allow him to realize his potential. Once, what seemed
like ages ago, Harm knew people thought the same way about him, but he'd
done things since then that just wouldn't look good in the service
jacket of a JAG candidate. No review committee in DC would approve him
for the big chair now. Suddenly Harm thought about how amusing Commander
Allison Krennick would have found that. He hadn't thought of her in
years. Shaking his head he followed Skates out on the flight deck and
out to his Tomcat. Time to get his mind where it belonged; on the
mission. Like he told his pilots, just because it was quiet was no
excuse for going soft.
"Ready sir?" Skates asked as he came up beside her.
Giving her a grin and a thumbs up Harm replied with his accustomed easy
confidence "I was born ready Skates."
Grinning Skates mounted the ladder and pulled herself into the backseat.
Harm followed her up on his own ladder and jumped into the front seat.
Pulling on his helmet he toggled the cockpit release so that it would
close on the hydraulics. As soon as it was secure he and Skates went
quickly through the preflight check list. Once they were done he gave
the thumbs up to the plane captain. He could feel the deck vibrate
slightly through his Tomcat as Tuna and Reaper were thrown into the air
off the short deck by the hydraulic catapults. Soon the plane captain
was giving him the signal to wind up his engines before the cat threw
them into the darkening sky. Easing the throttle forward Harm felt the
whole plane begin to vibrate as the powerful turbines spooled up past
"Once more into the deep blue yonder Skates." Harm said with a wink in
Looking over at his plane captain Harm gave him a quick salute and then
the thumbs up to indicate everything was looking good and he and Skates
were ready. The plane captain returned the salute and then went down on
one knee with his arm extended straight out to signify a launch.
Suddenly Harm's Tomcat was rolling across the deck and was thrown into
the air. Pulling back on the stick Harm opened the throttle a little
more to give it some speed as he climbed into the air.
"Henry Control this is Poniard, we are airborne." Skates sent back on
the radio. God, another idiotic call sign. 'Must be Webb for sure.' Harm
"Roger Poniard. Switching control to Raven Sierra-6. Good hunting." The
air controller said informing them that they were being handed over to
one of the Hawkeyes that was orbiting the area.
"Poniard this is Raven Sierra-6, we've got you. Come right 045 to begin
"Roger Raven Sierra-6, coming right to 045." Harm said as he made the
requested adjustment in his course. That voice sounded vaguely
familiar…he didn't really consort with the Hawkeye pilots a whole lot so
he didn't know them as well as he knew his own pilots even thought he
officially had command over them as well.
Keying his mic to the internal setting Harm asked "Skates…who was that?"
"Not sure sir…I think it might have been the NG Riley. Why?"
"Just curious…he sounded familiar is all. Now that you mention it, it
did sound like Riley."
"Well…looks like we've got a long and boring run in front of us CAG."
"Let’s hope so Skates…let’s hope so. My gut still tells me something's
up…and the Skipper's foul wind is still blowing. How long until refuel?"
"An hour an a half."
"Right…I'm going to go a bit higher to conserve fuel." Harm said as he
pulled back on the stick a bit.
"Good idea CAG. Coming up on Angels 25." Skates called out when they'd
reached 25,000 feet.
"Sit back and enjoy the ride Skates. Call out if anything pops up." Harm
said as he settled in for the boredom associated with long uneventful
A little over an hour later the radio crackled before Riley's voice came
on. "Poniard this is Raven Sierra-6. You guys looking for a rest stop
"That's affirmative Sierra-6. We're going to set down and ask for
directions soon if we don't get some juice soon." Skates replied.
"Roger that. You should see your next fuel station on your radar any
Harm sat quietly scanning the darkened sky while he waited for Skates to
let him know she had the refueling plane on her scope. He didn't have to
"Roger Sierra-6 we have them on our scope. Hammer bring us right 010
"Got it Skates." Harm said as he adjusted the stick slightly to bring
them to the new course. Easing the throttle back he flipped the switch
to extend the refueling rod and activate the system used to line up with
"Poniard this is Slammer we've got you on approach. You guys thirsty?"
"That we are Slammer, that we are. Please drop the basket." Harm said
with a chuckle. Tanker drivers always thought they were funny.
"Basket is deployed and waiting. Your speed and line looks good."
"Roger Slammer…wait one." Harm said as he guided his Tomcat right up
behind and below the large flying fire hazard. Easing the stick and
throttle to make his tiny adjustments Harm felt a slight bump as the rod
extending from his Tomcat nestled into the basket.
"We have positive contact Slammer. We're ready for a drink."
"We've got all you need Poniard. Starting the pumps now."
Five minutes later the Tomcat had topped up the tanks and was ready to
continue on mission. Keying his mic Harm said "We've full up Slammer,
thanks for the drink." And then he hit the switch that retracted his
in-flight fueling rod. As he watched the basket was withdrawn into the
underbelly of the tanker plane which then banked right to move out of
"We jump to the pump for you boys. Happy trails." The voice of the
communications officer of the tanker said with a laugh.
"Thanks boys…catch you on the flip side." Harm said as he brought his
Tomcat back on course for their patrol route. There was another
refueling scheduled on the outbound leg in another hour for a top up and
then straight home.
"Hammer, our orders call for us to come left 030 now and drop to Angels
"You got it Skates." Harm said making the necessary adjustments.
"We are coming through Angels 10….now." Skates called as their altitude
"Poniard this is Raven Sierra-6 over." Riley's voice said in the night.
"Sierra-6 this is Poniard….go ahead." Skates said.
"We've got some bad news…and some worse news. Which do you want first?"
"Give us the bad news."
"We just picked up 3 bogies entering the umbrella. Looks like MIGs, but
we don't have a positive for you yet."
"And the worse news?"
"We've got some kind of mechanical problem up here…we've lost 50% power
to our number 2 engine."
"Sierra-6 this is Poniard actual. Can you determine the problem?" Harm
asked with concern.
Thinking for a minute Harm silently let off a few choice phrases.
"Sierra-6 head on home. Get them to send up the standby."
"Please repeat Poniard." Riley asked for confirmation.
"I repeat, return to the Henry. Have them launch the standby immediately
and they'll be on station in 30 mikes."
"Poniard, are you aware that if we turn around you will be out of the
umbrella for twenty mikes before Sierra-4 takes position?"
"You heard me Sierra-6, return to base."
"Roger Poniard; returning to base. Good luck."
"CAG, are you sure? We won't have long range coverage for twenty
"Don't you trust me Skates?"
"All the way CAG, but we won't be able to see what's out there until
they're on top of us."
"Sierra-6, what is the location and bearing of the three contacts?"
"Poniard…bogies were twenty miles out…you will intercept on your current
heading in six minutes. Be advised that you are exiting the
"Understood Sierra-6. Take that bird home."
"Good luck CAG. Raven Sierra-6 out." Riley said before signing off.
"Sing out when you see them Skates." Harm said as he chewed on his lower
Five minutes later Skates called out. "Hammer…we've got four bogies two
miles out. MIGs…Floggers. Repeat, not three, four. They are moving to
"Roger. Going weapons free." Harm said as the warning klaxon announced
at least one of the bogies trying to get a lock. Flipping his master arm
switch off Harm reached up and turned on his ECM suite.
Suddenly the warning tone became one long tone and Skates called out
"They've got lock! I've got one…two…three missiles inbound!"
Not bothering to answer Harm pushed the stick forward to begin a steep
dive. As his nose passed the incoming MIGs Harm pushed down on the
trigger. "Guns guns guns!" he called out. Flashes along the canopy of
first one and then two of the enemy MIGs announced direct hits.
"One…two bogies down CAG. Two to go."
Pulling out of the dive Harm watched as the missiles that were tracking
his Tomcat flew off into the night narrowly missing them. Flipping his
selector switch Harm armed his sidewinders and pulled up and into a turn
bringing him up behind one of the MIGs. The seconds drew out as he
waited for his own targeting system to indicate that he had a positive
lock on the MIG. "We have tone sir!" Skates called out and Harm pushed
down hard on the button to launch his missile. In just seconds the rear
end of the MIG exploded into flames as the missile did its job. "Smoked
him CAG!" Skates said calmly.
"Where's the other one? Did he bug out?" Harm asked, scanning the sky
for the faint glint of moonlight off metal to tell him where the
remaining MIG was.
"Looking…CAG he's above us…he on our six CAG!"
Suddenly the warning light and klaxon came on again for a missile lock.
Looking over his shoulder and then the other shoulder Harm pulled the
stick back and to the right to initiate a steep climbing turn. Leveling
out suddenly, Harm pulled back sharply to begin a loop.
"He's still with us CAG. This guy's good."
"Not that good." Harm said through clenched teeth. He'd be damned if
this rebel pilot got the best of him.
Pulling through the loop Harm glanced in his mirror. "Skates…where is
"Still tight on our six CAG. Can't you lose this guy?"
"I'm trying Skates, I'm trying." Harm said just as the missile warning
light went off. 'What the?' Harm thought just before he felt his Tomcat
shudder with cannon hits. Warning klaxons and lights came on all over
his control board.
"CAG we're hit bad!" Skates called. "Mayday Mayday, this is Poniard.
We've been hit and we're going down!"
Pulling back on the stick Harm did his best to level his Tomcat, but the
controls were sluggish and unresponsive. He could see the flames
reflected on his wings and if he had to guess he would bet there was a
hell of a lot of dark black smoke too. Swearing Harm reached up and
clipped his visor down and looked in the mirror to see Skates doing the
same. "Mask on Skates! Pulling the handle….now!"
"At least it’s dry land CAG!" Skates said as Harm pulled the ejection
handle and blew the canopy.
The last thing Harm saw as his chute deployed was the sight of his
Tomcat turning into one big fireball.
Somewhere in Iraq
Tuesday June 7, 2004
Harm winced as Skates tied the bandage around his leg. He was still
slightly embarrassed that he had to punch out, land without a scratch
and then had the stupidity to fall down on a rock to get injured. It had
taken him the better part of a couple hours to find Skates in the dark
desert the night before, but he had and he'd led her to a secluded wadi
he had found while looking for her. They had huddled together for warmth
not wanting to chance a fire even when the temperature dropped below
Two hours ago the sun had come up and Harm had left Skates to scout out
the area. It was during this little excursion of his that he had tripped
and fallen on a hidden chunk of rock. Limping back to where they had
camped he had had to endure Skates laughter as he explained what had
"I saw some dust clouds off in that direction." Harm said pointing
north. "We're going to have to go on the assumption that whoever it is
they don't mean us well…as far as I can tell we're in contested
Skates nodded silently and began to gather up the gear they had salvaged
from their ejector seats. Harm checked the magazine in his .45 and slid
it back home. Ensuring that the safety was still on Harm slid the
handgun into his pocket and moved to help Skates pack up. Her limp was
getting worse and he wasn't sure it was a simple sprain as she kept
telling him. He knew she was tough, but the landing hadn't exactly been
"Where we going CAG?" Skates asked when she had everything gathered up
and ready to go.
"I say we move away from whoever's out there and follow the wadi that
way." Harm said pointing away from the direction he'd scouted.
Skates just fell in beside him and started limping when he started
limping. The two of them made quite the pair.
All through what Harm guessed was the morning the two of them made their
way down the shallow wadi. As far as Harm could tell it would be a small
stream during the wet season, if this blasted land ever had a wet
season. As they sun rose higher Harm started to look for shelter for
them to rest under during the heat of the afternoon. The best he could
find was a slight indentation in the side of the wadi where the two of
them could get a little shade. Tapping Skates on the shoulder he nodded
towards the indentation and they both hunkered down for the afternoon.
"How much water do we have left?" Harm asked after drowsing for awhile.
Skates handed him one of the two canteens that was about half full.
"The other one's still full, but if we don't find a source soon we're
going to be mighty thirsty." Skates said wearily.
"We'll stick to one mouthful every half hour. I know it’s going to be
rough Skates, but it should keep us alive." Harm said quietly. "Get some
sleep Liz. I'll keep watch."
"I'll stay up with you CAG…I can't sleep just yet."
"Get some sleep Skates. We're both going to need all our strength to get
out of this. That's an order Liz."
"Aye, aye sir." Skates said with a smile then she rolled over and closed
Harm hated the fact that they had had to abandon their seats with the
built in locator beacon, but anyone unfriendly out there would be
looking to find those seats, and they did not want to be around when
they came calling. He left signs for any friendlies that found the spot
but they had to move on. They had water and food for two days at best,
one .45, a med kit and their flight suits and helmets. Neither one of
their radios had made it through the landing. Not much to build a house
with, but then again he wasn't exactly looking to join the neighborhood.
While Skates slept Harm eased the left sleeve of his flight suit up to
reveal a deep purple bruise that looked to be getting larger. He didn't
think it was broken, but he couldn't be too sure. His hand still worked,
and he could wiggle his fingers, but it was starting to hurt like hell.
Reaching over Harm popped open the med kit and grabbed a couple
painkiller pills which he popped dry. Leaning back Harm set the .45 on
his lap and settled in to keep watch while his RIO slept.
Six hours later Skates was shaking him awake. "Almost night time
CAG…sun's starting to go down. Thought you might want some food." She
said as she held out an MRE pouch.
"Great…cold uncooked…lasagna." He said reading the side of the pouch.
"One good thing about these things."
"Whatever it is CAG, I can't see it." Skates said with a grimace.
"Well…I can be pretty sure that whatever 'meat' is in these things isn't
really meat." Harm said with a big smile.
Laughing Skates handed him one of the canteens so he could use his one
mouthful to wash down the barely digestible meal.
"I'm gonna go take a look around…see if we'll be safe here for the
night." Harm said after they had finished eating.
Skates nodded silently and watched him stand up and start to limp up the
side of the wadi. "CAG?" she said when he got to the top.
Looking back down at his RIO Harm couldn't help but notice her little
smile. "Yeah Skates?"
"Don't fall on anymore rocks."
Smiling Harm shook his head. "I'll try not to sailor. Keep the home
fires burning. Back shortly."
Harm slowly moved his way among the sand and rock around their position
looking for signs of habitation or activity of any kind. After what felt
like hours he decided to turn back, he hadn't seen anything. Just as he
was turning around he caught sight of a wink of light in the distance.
Stopping he dropped flat and looked at the light for a few minutes. From
the way it shifted and flickered he guessed it was firelight…and it
looked to be a good many miles away. Probably not a threat, but he made
a mental note to warn Skates and then keep a sharp eye out during the
Making his way carefully back to Skates Harm made sure to let her know
he was coming by whispering her name as he got to the top of the wadi
bed. When she responded he slid down right next to her.
"Looks to be pretty clear, but there's a fire or something a couple
miles out. Keep a good eye out tonight when you're on watch…we don't
want someone sneaking up on us."
Nodding Skates slid closer to Harm and it was then that he noticed she
was shivering. "Skates…I'm going to put my arm around you so we can warm
up. The temperature is starting to drop again." Harm said as he watched
the fading light.
"Green light Commander…" Skates said with a smile. "But just for the
arm. I'm still engaged you know."
"How is your fiancé taking you being at sea again?" Harm asked,
remembering she'd given up a stateside posting to serve on the Henry
"He wasn't too happy about it…but he understood." Skates said quietly.
After a few minutes of silence she went on. "CAG…can I ask you
"It’s personal sir." She warned.
Harm was pretty sure he knew where this was going after his question
about her fiancé, but talking was better than sitting silently. "I think
I know what you're going to ask Skates…but go ahead." He said wearily.
"It’s just sir…Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie sir...whatever happened
between you two? If it’s too personal sir you don't have to answer…but
it just seemed to me when they brought us back from the drink she cared
for you a lot." She said with another shiver.
Sighing Harm wiggled closer to Skates. "In a way I do mind you asking
Skates…but it’s not like it’s classified information. Mac and I…well
it’s been a rough little while between the two of us."
"What happened sir?"
"A lot. I…well Skates I went haring off after her on a mission when I
was ordered not to. I thought she needed saving, and she did. There was
even a moment…I thought we were finally going to be able to cut through
all the bullshit between us." Harm said thoughtfully, remembering the
conversation he and Mac had had in the jungles of South America, how
close he had come to telling her how he truly felt. "But just like every
other time we both backed off. I didn't say what I wanted to, we got
out, she started to date Webb, and things have been…strained between us.
We just can't seem to work things out Skates. I guess I've pretty much
blown it with her."
Skates didn't say anything when he finished, she just sat beside him
with her arm around him. After a couple more minutes Harm went on.
"Thing is Skates…I'm tired of fighting with her…we just can't seem to
stop. Every day it seems we have to go off into a fight in order to be
able to go home at night. And things have become…even more complicated."
"How so sir?" Skates asked quietly.
"Liz…we're sitting in the desert freezing our asses off waiting for
someone to find us. Do you think we can drop the 'sirs'? My name's Harm
in case you forgot."
"All right sir. I mean Harm."
"After all we've been through Skates you think it would be easier for
you. Anyway…complicated. Well…a week or so before I shipped out an old
friend came to visit…Meg Austin. She used to be stationed at JAG HQ with
me…she was my junior partner for about a year. We ended up getting
pretty close during our year together…" Harm said.
"You didn't, did you Harm?" Skates asked in shock. She knew the CAG was
a little unorthodoxed, but she couldn't picture him doing something to
throw away his career.
"Not that kind of close Skates. Not that I didn't think about it…and
joke about it with her. Things just…didn't go that far. I suppose having
Commander Krennick trying to sleep with me probably had something to do
"Excuse me?" Skates asked in shock again.
"She was the Admiral's aide…thought she had something to prove…she
pretty much just viewed me as another conquest. Nothing ever happened."
Harm assured Skates. "Anyway…Meg comes to visit just before I shipped
out, and she pretty much comes out and tells me that she asked to be
transferred all those years ago because she was afraid she was falling
"And now she's back?"
"Not anymore…she's was just in DC for a TAD…she's not there anymore."
Harm said elusively. It wasn't a lie after all. "Anyway…since Meg's been
visiting Mac's been acting all weird…she even told me she doesn't like
"Sounds like she's jealous Harm."
"About what? Meg and I are just friends."
"Harm…you just told me the woman said she thought she was falling in
love with you when you worked together. Now she suddenly shows up again
and she confesses this to you? Sounds like Colonel MacKenzie has reason
to be jealous."
"How do you mean? Mac's with Webb now…she's moved on past whatever we
might have had in the past."
"Doesn't sound like it to me Hammer; sounds like she's got a case of the
Hammer blues. What are you going to do?"
Sighing Harm shrugged his shoulders slightly. "I don't know
Skates…that's the problem. I never know how to 'do' anything with Mac…no
matter what I do she goes off on me. I always end up pushing her further
"Well sir…she called off a wedding for you…she gets jealous when another
woman you were close to shows that she has feeling for you…you ever try
telling her you love her?"
"I can't Skates…she's with Webb. And besides whenever we try to talk we
end up fighting, I told you that."
"Just makes the making up that much more fun Hammer. You want my
advice…you either got to tell her you love her or let her go for good."
"I have..she's with Webb." Harm said dejectedly.
"Doesn't sound like it Hammer….you keep saying that like you're trying
to convince yourself of something."
Silently Harm looked out at the night sky, watching the now familiar
patterns of stars slowly move in their eternal dance. "Get some sleep
Skates. I'll keep first watch." Harm said bitterly. Maybe she had a
point…maybe he hadn't let Mac go completely. Was he being fair to Mac by
holding on, even a little bit? Could she be truly happy with Webb as
long as he was around?
"Night sir. And if I were you sir, I'd do the talking and not the
letting go. All I know sir is you've gone through a lot for each other,
and it'd be a shame to waste that by walking away." Skates said and then
she dropped her head to Harm's shoulder to try and get some sleep.
Looking back up at the stars Harm sat and thought some more. What right
did he have to tell Mac he still loved her? And even if he could bring
himself to let her go completely, what would he do? He couldn't let her
go and still see her every day…he would go nuts; the last six months had
proven that. So where would he go? Could he handle being a shipboard
JAG? Or a base JAG at some foreign station? After working at HQ as
senior lawyer? Maybe he could stay on board the Henry as a pilot…make
his designator change permanent…again. Could he step down from being CAG? Keeter would be back in a couple months…and the job was his by
rights. Harm was just a…substitute teacher. Maybe he would leave the
service and set up a private practice somewhere…but then again why would
he do that with two years left in his 20?
Reaching down Harm picked up a pebble and tossed it across the wadi. All
this wasn't even addressing what he would do about Meg. And speaking of
Meg, why was she on board the Henry. She had pretty much admitted that
it wasn't a JAG op…if the Admiral didn't know it wasn't JAG. So who
could it be? Harm paused in his thoughts as he thought this. There were
only two other possibilities and he didn't like either one. Naval
Intelligence or CIA. Swearing silently Harm looked for something else to
throw. So why had she been at JAG? Was she actually advising someone at
the Pentagon or was she simply setting up a cover. So what about her
time with him? Could he trust anything she'd said? What had happened to
the Meg he'd known?
Looking up again Harm was surprised to see a lightening of the sky to
the east. It couldn't be morning already, could it? Skates had only gone
to sleep a few minutes ago. Softly he began to shake Skates. "Skates…get
up. Something's going on." He said softly.
"Harm? What is it?" Skates asked sleepily.
"Not sure…it’s getting light out though."
Yawning Skates slowly stood up. "You stayed up all night Harm?" she
asked in shock.
Shaking his head Harm continued to watch the sky lighten until he had to
admit that it was indeed morning and he'd been sitting there thinking
"I guess I did…I was busy thinking on what you said Skates…guess I
didn't realize how long I'd been at it."
"Well we can have breakfast I guess." Skates said leaning over to pull
out their last two meal pouches. As she was straightening up to offer a
choice to Harm he held his hand up.
"Hear that?" he asked quietly.
"Hear what? I don't…"
"Shhh. There…do you hear it now?" he asked quietly.
Skates stood there obviously straining to hear what Harm heard. After a
couple minutes she nodded slowly. "Sounds like…engines. Vehicles?"
Harm nodded silently and motioned her to stay put. Pulling out the .45
once more Harm wormed his way up the side of the wadi until he could see
over the edge. Swearing silently he slid back down to the bottom wincing
as he put weight on his injured leg. "It’s vehicles all right. Trucks,
jeeps, even a couple light armored vehicles by the looks of them. About
a mile away…and they aren't coming to take us home."
"Shit." Was all Skates said. Both of them made their way up the side of
the wadi to where Harm had been laying and watched as the vehicles
slowly got closer.
"I'm sorry I got you into this again." Harm said with genuine regret. He
always seemed to get this young woman into trouble when she flew with
"Well sir…I think this makes me senior member of the 'I punched out with
Harm' club. And it’s not your fault sir. You sure do know how to show a
girl a good time though…and you always manage to pick interesting
Smiling Harm shaded his eyes against the rising sun and looked back at
the approaching vehicles. After a couple more minutes he cocked his head
to the side…he was starting to make out another sound…something
rhythmic. Thump thump thump thump.
"An apache sir!" Skates said excitedly, pointing off to the left. "Three
of them!" Sure enough a trio of the combat choppers were coming in low
and fast towards the approaching convoy. At the same time all three
started firing their gattling cannons into the cluster of vehicles. Two
of the trucks and the jeep burst into flames immediately and then the
helos banked in tight turns to make a second pass, this time firing
their rockets into the armored vehicles.
"Makes a hell of a show, doesn't it Commander." A familiar voice said
from behind them. Turning his head quickly Harm saw the familiar smiling
face of Gunnery Sergeant Galindez.
"GUNNY! Damn am I glad to see you man."
"Me too sir." Gunny said with a barely detectable pause. Behind him were
a number of marines wearing desert fatigues. "Captain, we've got our two
Sliding down the side of the wadi Harm limped up to Gunny and slapped
him on the shoulder. "Get a medic over here Gunny…the Lieutenant
Commander twisted her ankle when we put down."
"Yes sir…and it looks like you can use one yourself sir if you don't
mind me saying. Corporal, get up here and take a look at these two."
"Yes gunny." The medic said and rushed up to sit Skates down and started
to give her an examination.
"Commander, this is Captain Waters, my CO." Gunny said as another man
Nodding respectfully the Marine Captain shook Harm's hand when it was
"Damn glad to see you Captain."
"Thank you sir, although you may wish to reserve that judgment."
"In a minute sir, I want to have you checked out by Corporal Anders
first. We've been looking for you since you didn't return to the Henry."
"Well we're glad you found us Captain."
"One moment sir." The captain said when he saw his radioman coming up to
him. Taking the handset he listened for a moment to whoever was on the
other end. "Roger Sand hawk, we have the package. Thanks for the cover."
Handing the handset back to his radioman Captain Waters motioned for
Harm to follow him.
Moving a short distance away from his men and Skates Captain Waters
looked at Harm with regret in his eyes. "Commander…sir…"
"What is it Waters? Spit it out man."
"Damn it sir, this isn't right."
"What is it Waters?" Harm asked tersely. After a day and a half in the
desert he had no patience left.
"Sir, the Iraqis didn't just chance across you here…they're looking for
you. Everyone is sir. They're saying on the news that you shot down an
unarmed civilian aircraft…there's talk of a War Crimes trial sir."
"Come again Captain?"
"Like I said sir, it ain't right. Sir…my brother serves on the
Seahawk…he's a machinist's mate. Damn it Commander, he was there when
you played tag with that tomahawk. You saved his life sir, and the life
of everyone else on that boat. You're the real deal Commander…a hero.
And now they want me to take you and the Lieutenant Commander into
custody and return you to the Patrick Henry for some kind of
Harm stood there in shock as what the Captain had said sunk in. There
was no unarmed civilian aircraft, he was sure of it. Arrested? An
"Damn it Commander, they should be giving you another medal, not hanging
you out to dry." Captain Waters ploughed on unaware of Harm's reeling
Shaking his head Harm held up a hand. "You're supposed to take us into
"Yes sir…like I said sir, taking you into custody is the crime here."
"Captain…that's not for you or I to decide." Harm said looking at the
younger man who was so earnestly trying to tell Harm he did not want to
do his duty. Sighing Harm lowered his arm. "Captain…you've been given an
order you must obey. Son, you do what you've got to do, and I'll do what
I've got to. The truth will come out son…there was no civilian aircraft,
and they're going to have a hell of a time proving otherwise. Do your
"Commander Rabb, it is my duty to inform you that you are under arrest
for the suspected commission of war crimes. Please surrender your
sidearm and come with me." Captain Waters said in a deep sigh.
USS Patrick Henry
Wednesday June 8, 2004
From where he was sitting next to the door of the helo Harm could see
the Master at Arms standing just outside the hatch that led into the
tower. The Marines had taken Skates and him back to their camp and got
them some food and water and then patched them up the best they could
before they were whisked away in a helo from the Henry. And now they
were coming back home, to face whatever the fates had in store for them.
Harm felt the helo touch down on the pitching deck and then the crew
chief slid the door open. "Sir, Ma'am. The Master at Arms will escort
you to the bridge."
Nodding Harm jumped down to the deck and then helped Skates down.
Ducking their heads they both limped towards the Master at Arms.
"Commander, Lieutenant Commander, if you'll please follow me the Captain
would like to see you on the bridge."
Once more Harm just nodded and then followed the large sailor into the
bowels of the ship. Minutes later they were standing at attention in
front of the Captain.
"Damn it Commander, what could you have been thinking? No don't answer
that…I don't really want to know. An unarmed aircraft, Commander? Do you
have any idea what kind of shit-storm we're going to be in now? I've
already spoken with JAG, I let them know as soon as you were recovered.
The Admiral assures me he is going to have a team here ASAP to do the
investigation. Until then you are both confined to quarters. You are to
speak to no one until the team from JAG arrives. Is that understood?"
"Yes sir." Harm and Skates said at the same time. Harm knew there was no
point in protesting his innocence to the Captain at this point. His best
course of action was to wait for whoever came from JAG and make his case
"Master at Arms…escort the Commander and Lieutenant Commander to their
"Aye, aye sir." The burly Master at Arms answered. As he led Harm and
Skates off the deck Harm caught sight of Meg looking at him sadly from
her duty station.
For the next two days Harm only saw the outside of his quarters when he
needed to use the head. His meals were brought to him in his quarters,
and he didn't even speak to the guards beyond letting them know when he
needed to take care of business. He was lying in his rack reading the
Art of War when he heard the low buzz of conversation outside his hatch.
Probably just the guards being changed he figured. He didn't even notice
the hatch being undogged until it started to swing open. Immediately it
was followed by a familiar head of stylishly short chestnut brown hair.
Closing his eyes Harm took a deep breath. This was not going to go well,
he could already tell. Why the hell did the Admiral send Mac to do the
Mac didn't say a word as she entered his quarters, she didn't speak as
she closed and dogged the hatch. She was silent as she placed her
briefcase on his small table and started to pull out the files she would
"Commander." She said finally when she had everything arranged on the
table. Closing his eyes once more Harm felt his heart skip a beat at how
hollow her voice sounded.
"Mac." He said quietly as he got up from his rack. "I suppose I should
have known the Admiral would have sent you or Sturgis."
"Sturgis had just returned from the Thomas Lyons…he wasn't available."
Mac said quietly. "Would you like to give me your statement first?"
Sitting down at the table Harm reached out to take her hand only to see
her snatch it away. "Please keep to the task at hand Commander." She
said with a frown.
"The 'task at hand' Mac? Fine. You'd like my statement? Fine. Last week
Webb came to me with some new missions…" Harm stopped speaking as he
noticed the look Mac was giving him. "What?"
"Fuck you Harmon Rabb." Mac said savagely and then she stood up and
banged on the hatch. When the guards had undogged it she left, leaving
her briefcase and papers.
Half an hour later she returned and Harm hadn't moved from where he was
when she left. "I apologize for my outburst Commander. If you would like
Lieutenant Commander Roberts will take your statement." Mac said
starting to put her files and pads back in her briefcase.
"No I don't want Bud to….wait. Lieutenant Commander Roberts?"
Nodding slightly Mac smiled just the barest smile. "The Admiral wrote a
letter to the LC review board outlining everything Bud had done. It was
amazing…he was accepted for promotion with a unanimous vote."
Harm couldn't help but smile at the news. "Good for Bud, but I still
don't want him to take the statement, I want you to take it Mac."
"I'm not sure I should Harm…"
"Clay's dead." She said simply.
Harm rocked back in shock. Webb dead? "How…when? Are you sure? I mean
he's…" Harm thought back to the time that Webb had fakes his own death.
"I thought of that Harm…not this time." Mac said sadly as she sat down
opposite of Harm. This time when he reached for hand she didn't pull it
"How did you find out?"
"I squeezed it out of his aide." Mac said and then she took a deep
shuddering breath. "Damn it Harm…why didn't you tell me he was here? You
knew I thought he was in Germany."
"Mac...you know I couldn't. It was need to know." Harm said gently.
"Now you're starting to sound like him." Mac said softly.
"Mac…you know if I could have told you I would have." Harm said and then
stopped, suddenly made aware of how similar his words were to Meg's when
she avoided his questions.
Standing up suddenly Mac snatched her hand back and started to pace. It
wasn't long before Harm noticed her shoulders shaking as she sobbed
quietly. "Why the hell is this place so small?" she asked viciously,
banging her hand against the bulkhead.
Standing up Harm walked over to her and grabbed her hand to stop her
from hitting the steel bulkhead again. Holding her shoulders Harm gently
turned her to face him, looking down into her glistening brown eyes.
God, he could get lost in those eyes so easily.
"Hey." He said softly. "You're going to hurt the bulkhead."
Mac snorted as she tried not to laugh and cry at the same time. Suddenly
she threw her arms around him and squeezed him hard. Wrapping his arms
around her Harm felt her shoulders start to shake again as her sobbing
renewed. Slowly he moved a hand up to stroke her hair softly. "Hey
there…it’s ok Sarah." He whispered softly. "It'll be ok." After what
seemed like hours she lifted her tear-stained face to lookup at him.
"My heart stopped when the Admiral told me you'd gone down again Harm; I
thought I was going die. I knew something was going to happen to you…I
could feel it." She said softly.
Not knowing what to say Harm held his silence for once. Slowly Mac took
her arms from around him. She took a step back to break his embrace of
her and then before he could say anything she brought her right hand
across his face in a full-armed slap.
"DAMN IT HARM! When are you going to stop doing this to me? I can't take
it anymore. I…just can't take it anymore. You're not Superman you know?
One of these times you're not going to come back."
She struggled against him for a minute when he tried to pull her back
into his embrace. "I'm sorry Sarah…I'm so sorry I scared you again." He
whispered when she finally gave in and let him hold her. Without
thinking he placed a soft kiss on top of her head as he continued to
whisper how sorry he was.
No matter how many times he took her in his arms to comfort her he would
never get over how it felt to hold her against him. How good her hair
smelled, how soft it was, how her skin smelled. He would hold her for
hours if he could; unfortunately after ten minutes she slowly pushed
herself back out of his embrace.
"Harm…I need to get your statement. I need to know what happened." Mac
said as she sat down again. She pulled a tape recorder out of her
briefcase and turned it on. "Wednesday June 9, 2004. 1456 Zulu. The
following is the sworn statement of Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr., United
States Navy. Please state your current duty posting."
"Commander of the Air Group aboard the USS Patrick Henry, deployed to
the Persian Gulf." Harm said. Sitting down across from her Harm nodded
once. Now was the time to make his case. "I'll tell you everything
Mac…CIA be damned. Yes, it was a CIA mission. My CIA contact has had me
flying missions for the last three weeks." Harm said, careful not to
stir up her pain by mentioning Webb's name. "Six days ago he gave me
another mission, and a set of orders for my next mission after that one.
He said he had to see to something else and would be there when I
returned to debrief me. That mission was to provide air cover for an
extraction mission…when I got back he wasn't there but another agent
was. He reminded me of the next mission and when I read my orders I saw
they were for a combat air patrol over contested territory. The mission
was slated for June 6, 2004. We took off just after 1800. An hour and a
half into the mission we linked up with our refueling plane. Shortly
after that the Hawkeye radioed that they had contact with three
unknowns. They also reported mechanical problems and I ordered them to
turn back and have the standby launched to provide the radar cover. A
couple minutes later we were outside the radar coverage and we engaged
the unknowns. There were four of them not three, and Mac I swear to you
they were all fighters…Floggers. They fired first, three of them getting
missiles off the rails, and at that time I returned fire with the
cannon, taking out two of them in the first pass." Harm said and then
paused as he thought back to the dogfight. "The next one was a bit
trickier but I came up behind him and smoked him with a sidewinder. I'd
lost the fourth one by this time and Skates was searching for him. He
was tight on our six and nothing I did could shake him. At the last
minute though, he switched from missile to guns. I don't know where he
hit or what he hit, but everything went crazy after he hit us…Skates
called in the mayday and I punched us out."
Harm waited while Mac made notes about everything he'd said. "How long
were you out of radar coverage?"
"We left the umbrella about four minutes before we engaged. I'd
guess…ten to fifteen minutes between leaving the umbrella until we went
"And once you'd punched out?"
"I tracked Skates' chute as long as I could but I'd been knocked around
pretty hard. Once I was down I did my best to find Skates…she was about
a half mile from where I came down. We then holed up in a wadi I'd found
while looking for her. The next morning we moved away from what we
thought were enemy forces and took shelter during the afternoon. We
remained in the same spot throughout the night and the next morning we
saw enemy forces advancing on our position. Before they could reach us
however three Apaches struck the column destroying most of the vehicles.
At the same time a Marine patrol led by Captain Winters located us. It
was then that I was informed of what was being said and the Captain took
us into custody." Harm said leaving out the fact that the Captain had
not wanted to carry out his order. There was no way he was going to
damage the young man's career.
"Why didn't you stay with your ejector seats? Surely the beacons were
"As far as I know they were…however everyone in the area, friendly and
unfriendly saw the lightshow we put on. I didn't want to wait around for
an unwelcoming committee. I decided it was best to make sure that Skates
and I were safe."
"When you refer to Skates you are referring to…." Mac said and then
waited for him to provide the name.
"Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Hawkes…my RIO."
"Is there anything else you would like to add at this time Commander?"
"Not at this time Lieutenant Colonel."
"Thank you for your cooperation." Mac said and then shut off the tape
recorder. It was then that he noticed how much her hand was shaking.
Reaching out he took her hand into his once more and gave it a gentle
squeeze, followed by a smile.
"It’s ok Mac." He said softly.
"It is this time, but Harm, what if the Marines hadn't found you, or the
Apaches hadn't been there?"
"But they did, and they were. There's no point in dwelling on what ifs
Mac." Harm said.
Putting everything in her briefcase Mac latched it shut and then stood
up. "I'll be back later Harm…Bud and I will have more questions I'm
Nodding Harm watched her walk slowly out of his quarters.
Two hours later Harm looked up from where he was reclining on his rack
to see a familiar figure step through the hatch with the barest hint of
"Bud! Congratulations on your promotion." Harm said as he jumped out of
his rack to shake Bud's hand.
"Thank you sir…I'm really touched that the Admiral went to such lengths
to get me a promotion when he's retiring." Bud said with a sad smile.
"Well that's the Admiral for…say that again Bud?" Harm said in shock.
"Colonel MacKenzie didn't tell you sir? The Admiral has announced his
retirement…I'm sorry sir…I'm sure this isn't the way you wanted to hear
about it. Probably why the Colonel didn't tell you when you spoke with
"Not your fault Bud…when did he make the decision?" Harm said as he sat
down heavily on the edge of his rack. He knew it wasn't rational, but
some part of him always expected the Admiral to be in the big office at
JAG. Admittedly he'd served twice as long as his predecessor, but still.
He was the Admiral, AJ Chegwidden, SEAL, JAG…father to all his wayward
children at JAG. "Wow." Harm said softly.
"We're still saying that sir. He announced it last week when he asked
Coates to book the Academy dining hall. I think he was trying to find
some way for you to be there sir…I know it'd mean a lot to him. But with
you flying around the clock and…well…your punching out sir, and now
this…" Bud shrugged helplessly.
"Sit down Bud, sit down." Harm said shaking his head one more time and
gesturing to one of the two chairs at his little table.
"Thank you sir."
"What can I do for you Lieutenant Commander?" Harm asked putting on a
false smile. He needed time to process the Admiral's retirement
announcement…but he knew Bud had a duty and hadn't just come for a
social call. "I take it you're not just here to flaunt your new bar?"
"Unfortunately not sir. Commander, the Colonel and I are investigating
the claims that you downed an unarmed civilian aircraft as you know. I
spent a good part of the last hour interviewing the flight crews and
well sir, something doesn't seem right to me. I wanted to ask you about
the Hawkeye…" Bud looked down at a file on the table in front of him.
"Raven Sierra-6. You said in your statement to the Colonel that they
reported mechanical problems and you ordered them back. Is that correct
"It is Bud."
"See sir, the thing is…I spoke to the plane captain in charge of the
Hawkeye and he said there was nothing wrong with it when they landed and
that the pilot only said that you'd ordered them to return to base."
"Well that's not the way it happened Bud. I'm telling you, they said
they'd lost power on their number 2 engine and couldn't complete the
mission…instead of risking their safety I ordered them back."
"That's not what the pilot…a Lieutenant Commander…Riley said sir."
"I don't give a damn what Riley said Bud, I know what happened! Check
the damn comm. logs, it'll be there." Harm said vehemently starting to
pace his small quarters. Why the hell would Riley lie? What the hell did
he have to gain?
"We're going to do that next sir." Bud said calmly. He'd seen his friend
storming and blustering before, and he'd seen him in a deadly rage.
Stopping in his pacing Harm's mind was working overtime. He needed to
approach this like it was someone else who was being investigated and he
was doing the investigating…"Bud…have you looked into Riley's service
jacket?" he asked suddenly.
Coughing slightly Bud nodded slowly. "I've requested it sir."
"Good good. Next I want you to…"
Coughing softly again Bud stood up and put a hand on Harm's shoulder.
"Commander? Harm, I know this is hard on you sir, but let us do our
investigation. Please sir, if you're going to do this you will ruin any
chance we have at a fair hearing before the World Court."
"What? Oh…damn. I'm sorry Bud. I know you and Mac are going to do your
best…I just hate sitting here and doing nothing. The walls are starting
to close in Bud."
"Harm? You're not a lawyer right now sir; let us handle things." Bud
said softly and then stopped when he saw the look in Harm's eyes. "I'm
sorry sir, I shouldn't have said that."
"No, you're right Bud. I shall leave myself in the very capable hands of
yourself and the lovely Lieutenant Colonel." Harm said as he sat down on
his rack once more.
"Thank you sir. I'll be back with more questions after we've had a
chance to review the logs." Bud said as he stood and replaced his files
in his briefcase. When he got to the hatch he stopped and looked back at
Harm sitting on his rack. "Harm?"
"Sir…I know it’s not appropriate for me to say…but…I know you couldn't
do something like this sir, it’s just not in you no matter how long they
had you in their claws."
"Thank you Bud, that means a lot to me. You're going to need to keep
your objectivity though if you're going to prove one way or the other.
If it looks like I'm guilty Bud, you're going to need to say that." Harm
said quietly. Looking up he saw the warring emotions in his friend's
"Harriet would kill me sir."
"Harriet would understand Bud. She would know that if I did do it that I
would need to be brought to justice, just like she would understand if I
didn't do it I should be exonerated."
"I know sir…it’s just that…well Harriet and I have something we want to
tell you, and we don't want to do it in the visitor's room in
"Well Bud, it's a good thing I have faith in you to find all the answers
then. You and Mac…I know you'll find all the answers." Harm said with a
sad little smile.
"We won't let you down sir." Bud said quietly and then he banged on the
hatch to have it opened. Stepping through he looked back over his
shoulder once to see his friend sitting on his rack with his head in his
On his rack Harm just sat there as the hatch was closed behind Bud
trying to ignore how much the closing hatch now sounded like a closing
jail cell. Bud and Mac would find out everything…they would prove he was
innocent. They had to.