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Classification Adventure, Romance (H/M)
Length Approximately 34,000 words; 94 pages (8 ĹĒ x 11Ē)
Spoilers General through beginning of Season 7
Rating GS (Language)
Author's Notes I hope you enjoyed this story. This is how I've always wanted to see Mac. Strong, competent, and not always a victim.


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5



2000 HOURS


Her first thought was of pain. Hers. She hurt all over. 'What the hell happened?' Slowly opening her eyes, she looked around.

'SHIT.' She gently turned over to lie on her stomach, and pushed up to her knees.

'Uuughh.' She took a shallow breath and looked around again. Bodies were scattered all around the bridge. She remembered walking off the bridge when the ship shook violently and then she woke up to this.

She looked at the person laying closest to her. Dead, if the vacant stare meant anything. With a momentous effort, she grabbed onto the hatch and pulled herself up. That effort left her muscles shaking and her lungs trying to take deep breaths which seemed impossible. Holding her side, she slowly drew in a breath and carefully felt her ribs, 'A couple must be broken. Just great.'

She looked around the bridge again. 'SHIT.' The windows were blown out and the Captain... she made her way over to him. He was slumped back against his chair. She put two fingers on his carotid artery, then sighed, 'Two dead, the rest unconscious, I hope.'

"Bridge, can anyone hear me!" Burst through the bridge phone speaker.

It startled her, but jumping in shock was asking a little too much now. She made her way to the bridge phone, looking at the bodies scattered around her.
Taking the phone, "Bridge. MacKenzie." Short and to the point, she reverted to it from habit.

A pause. "Carleton, Troop Deck. Colonel MacKenzie?"

"Affirmative. Status?"

"Ma'am, all Marines are accounted for, injuries are minor. We've been trying to get off the deck, but the doors are sealed. We're about through with the torches. We haven't been able to contact anyone, but you."

Grinding her jaws together and taking a short breath, 'SHIT', "Captain, once you've cut through the hatch, these are your orders. Secure the ship. Until we know differently, assume we've been boarded by hostile forces. Send one squad with an officer and medic to the bridge. I want the squad with the techs on it. Take any actions necessary to secure the ship." Taking another breath, "You are authorized the use of lethal force."

Starting again, "When you find able Navy personnel not needed to run or repair the ship, use them to secure the ship. I want reports every 10 minutes. I'll put the ship on GQ to bring the systems, or what's left of them, on combat status."

A brief, bare silence, then "Affirmative, Colonel. We will secure the ship. Lethal force has been authorized." A loud noise was heard in the background.

"Ma'am, we've gotten through the hatch. Marines are being deployed; a squad should be there shortly."

A quick thought and she got ready to retune the bridge phone to the Marine tactical frequency, "Captain, we need to use COMSEC as much as possible. We'll switch freq to freq every 10 minutes. After this comm, go to Marine Tac freq, then to the LSO freq."

"Roger. In 10."

Mac looked around the Bridge again. 'SHIT.' She walked over to the alarms and hit the GQ. Instantly alarms blared out across the ship. She took the mike, "General Quarters, General Quarters. This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill. Damage Control report status to the Bridge." She went over to the hatch and secured it.

Fifteen minutes had passed since she regained consciousness and assumed 'command' of the bridge. A Marine in command of a Naval aircraft carrier. A lawyer yet. 'SHIT.'

She looked around the bridge again; no one else had woken up yet. Not a good sign. She couldn't think about that right now, there was a ship to look after. Other people on that ship. She went over to the radar screens. Nothing she could detect was showing on the screens. A quick thank you winged its way above.

A low moan sounded from one of the bodies on the deck. It was one of the Communications Techs. She slowly walked over to her. The Tech opened her eyes, looked around, and then immediately locked on Mac.

"Ma'am, what happened?"

"Can you get up? What's your name?" The Tech slowly got up.

"I'm Seaman Rosarios, Ma'am. This is my first deployment. What happened?"

"Okay, Rosarios, I'm not sure what happened, but we're looking into it. I need you to get on communications and find out if you can hear anything. I've put the ship on GQ and Damage Control reports should be coming in soon."

A pounding on the hatch sounded. "That should be the Marines. Let me get in place and then go let them in, but stand out of the way." The Tech went wide-eyed, but nodded and made her way over to the hatch.

Earlier Mac had taken a sidearm from one of the officers on the bridge - in case she needed it. She took a defensive position to the hatch, taking aim. She nodded at Rosarios.

Rosarios slowly opened the hatch from behind.

Suddenly, Marines shot in, high and low, taking offensive positions on the bridge. They took in the situation and the Marine officer stood up.

"Colonel MacKenzie? I'm 1LT Stone and this is my squad. Sgt Kowalski is my medic. What are your orders, Ma'am?"

"Thank you, Lt. That's Seaman Rosarios, she's a Comm Tech. I need radar, navigation, computer systems, and someone to pilot the ship. I need to know where we are. I've ordered damage reports, but I haven't heard anything yet. Have Kowalski go around the bridge and determine everyone's status."

He nodded, "Miller, take radar. Simpson, computer systems. Ivanisvech, navigation. I can pilot the ship. My family has their own fishing boats in New England."

The Marines fell-to. Soon the ship and the area around the ship were being monitored. Sentries were posted around the exterior of the bridge. Finally, damage reports slowly started to trickle in. The first was from Sick Bay. Rosarios waved Mac over.

"Ma'am, this is Commander McGregor. He's the OIC of Sick Bay." In the background, Mac could hear the low murmurings of the marine squads reporting in.

"Doctor McGregor, this is LT Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, temporarily in command of the bridge. What's the status of Sick Bay?"

"Colonel? - What happened to the Captain and the bridge crew?"

"They're incapacitated, Doctor. The medic is doing what he can and as soon as we can secure a passage way from here to Sick Bay, we'll get these people to you. Now, what's your status?" That said in a getting pissed Marine voice.

The doctor wasn't stupid, "Colonel, we've got a full complement of doctors, nurses, and corpsmen, but we can't get out. I've tried unsuccessfully to contact Engineering and Security for assistance. I finally got through to Troop Deck and I was advised to contact the Bridge. We've just got a few bruises and sprains. What can we do?"

"Standby. As soon as we can get there, we'll cut you out." Waiting for a moment, "We have casualties on the bridge."

This time he paused, "Acknowledged. The Captain?"

She looked over at the medic. He shook his head. She spoke back into the mike, "I'm sorry, Doctor. Captain Carleton expects to reach your area in another 10 to 15 minutes."

"Aye, Aye Colonel." With amusement in his voice, "Ma'am, you may well be the first Marine to command a Naval aircraft carrier." Now a frown sounded, "How are you doing, Ma'am?"

The medic had attended her first, much to her dismay, and had cleaned her head wound and taped her ribs. "I'm fine. The medic already got me. He can fill you in later. Keep me advised of your situation. Bridge out."

"Ma'am?" This from 1LT Stone. She looked over at him. "Why don't you sit down?" He gestured to the Captain's chair. The Captain's body had been removed and taken somewhere. Now it was merely a chair waiting from someone to occupy it. A Naval officer, a Ship's Captain, not a Marine officer. She continued to look at it.

'Suck it up, Marine. You're all this ship has for a Commanding Officer. You can get court-martialed later.' Everyone looked at her as she moved to the chair. She sat down and laid her hands on the arms.

Calling out with all the confidence the Marine Corps had drilled into her, "Rosarios, Bridge recording on."

"Aye, Ma'am. Bridge recording on."

"This is Lt Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, USMC, JAG Corps, temporarily in command. Approximately 2 hours, 15 minutes ago, the ship took several missile hits and the ship has automatically locked down. Casualties and injuries are high. The Captain and most of the Bridge crew are casualties. The Marines, under the command of Captain Carleton, are currently securing the ship. One-half of the ship has been secured at this time. No hostiles have been found. We are working on the assumption hostiles may be aboard, but we have confirmed that the damage is from missiles."

Looking out over the ocean, then at the Marines and the one sailor manning Bridge Ops, "We are securing the Sick Bay Deck now and will be transferring the wounded and casualties there shortly."

"Captain. I mean, Colonel." Rosarios started, looking embarrassed.

MacKenzie looked over at her, "I've got the Flight Deck."

"Good. Can you put it on speaker?"

"Aye, Ma'am. This is Cdr Hutchinson."

"Cdr, this is Lt Colonel MacKenzie, what's your status?"

"Colonel? What happened to the Captain? What's going on?" Hutchinson sounded angry and confused.

"Cdr, the Captain and most of the bridge crew are casualties. We've been hit by 4 missiles, one that apparently misfired. I've assumed command of the ship. What is your status? How soon can you get in the air to fly cover?"

All she heard was silence. 'I guess I better get used to this.'

"Colonel MacKenzie? Commander Rabb's partner? Has he reported in?"

She already knew that answer. No.

"No, Cdr Rabb has not reported in, but our communications are limited due to malfunctions attributed to our damage. Engineering is attempting to repair that and the engines. That's why I need to know when you can get in the air. I need you to defend the ship."

More silence. That pissed her off, she didn't need flyboy egos getting in the way. She waited.

Then, "Commander, do you read me?"

Evidently he came to a decision. "Ma'am, we've had a few injuries, but the planes are air worthy. We can get up as soon as we can raise them to the flight deck and make sure the catapult is working. Do you know when that will be?"

She looked over at Stone. He was acting as her Exec.

He looked at his board, "From what's available from Engineering, we should be able to get the planes up in about 2-hours."

She nodded at him. "Cdr, we should be able to bring everything on-line in about 2-hours." Taking a deep breath, which hurt her ribs, "Commander Hutchinson, you are authorized lethal force to defend this ship. This authorization is granted as both the Acting Captain of this vessel and the JAG. Do you acknowledge?"

Silence. "Aye, Captain. I acknowledge authorization of lethal force."

"Good. Commander, I need one of the pilots or RIOs to act as LSO and also another one as Air Boss on the bridge."

"Acknowledged. I'll have one officer not flying be LSO and one as Air Boss for your staff." She raised an eyebrow at his wording, "Commander, I'll also have a Marine hand carry to you a recording of my bridge report. I need someone to get high and away and send it COMNAVAIRLANT."

"Acknowledged, Ma'am. I'll be waiting."

"Ma'am?" It was Stone again. He walked over to her chair.

She looked up at him. "Yes?"

"I've got some updates for you. Sick Bay is now accessible and all wounded and casualties from the Bridge are there. The ship is 75% secured and both Marine and Navy security personnel are ensuring it stays that way. I've released our medic to Sick Bay. Engineering has revised its estimates for the Flight Deck and itís coming up in 45 minutes. Engineering also reports that the engines have suffered some malfunctions, but are expected to be working, in a limited capacity, in about 3 hours. Engineering teams have deployed around the ship to ensure our seaworthiness, but we don't seem to have any sea-level openings. Intra-ship communications are up and we can contact all areas of the ship. Off-ship communications should be up in about an hour, but there's some problems in that area, and staff offices are closed and the personnel have been reassigned to combat and combat- support positions. Oh, the Mess is also open and sending up coffee and snacks."

"Excellent. Any change in our heading?"

"We're drifting about 1 knot every hour. The sea is calm, we're heavy, and we should be able to navigate as soon as engineering comes up. The closest land mass is South America about 8 hours away at best speed. We aren't in any danger of entering any countries' waters."

"Rosarios, we're still recording?"

"Aye, Ma'am."

"As you just heard, 1LT Stone has just reported our status as of 3 hours from missile attack. 1LT Stone is acting as my Executive Officer. I will maintain command until I receive word from COMNAVAIRLANT to relinquish it. I accept any and all responsibility for my actions during my command of this ship. This tape will be delivered to Commander Hutchinson for transmission to COMNAVAIRLANT. MacKenzie out."

Thirty minutes later the Marine sentry called out, "Ma'am, There's a LTCdr Navidad from Flt Desk?" She nodded and he entered.

Walking up to her, "Colonel, I'm LtCdr Navidad, I'm here to be the Air Boss."

She smiled, "Excellent, we need to get those planes up." She nodded at the Air Boss station, "We don't have a staff for you yet, but hopefully we'll find some soon. Take your station."

"Aye, Ma'am," he walked over and started reviewing the station and bringing it up.

She nodded at Rosarios who pulled the tape from the recorder and handed it to the Marine Corporal that was standing by. He looked at Mac, saluted, and went to Flight Deck.

Mac silently sighed to herself. Stone watched her, as he had for the past 3 hours. She was decisive, knowledgeable, and didn't take shit from anyone. Damn fine Marine. That surprised him, he always felt women, and especially female lawyers, weren't really Marines. Shaking his head, 'Damn fine Marine.'

The Marine Corporal trotted up to Commander Hutchinson, "Sir, here's the recording from Colonel MacKenzie." He held it out and Hutchinson took it. Hutchinson looked at it and the Corporal.

"Corporal, the Marines are protecting her, aren't they?"

Staring him in the eye, "Yes, Sir. She has more Marines around her than the President has Secret Service. No one will get near her unless she wants them to." Nodding, Hutchinson dismissed him.

Lt Steve Corelli, his RIO, walked up to him. "What was that about, Wolf? Is our Lady Marine Captain impressin' you?"

Snorting, "Hell, yes. She's got us and the Marines so tied together we can't shit without the other knowing where and when."

Looking at his aircraft, "You know, I went up to the bridge and talked with her for 20 minutes about what's happening and what we need to do."

Glancing at the ocean, "She's made some tough decisions and she's not even trained to captain a ship. Hell, if she does anything wrong, they'll blame it on her being a woman." Looking at Steve, "She doesn't deserve that, and I'll support her if and when it hits the fan."

Taking a breath, "Yeah, she impresses me too. The Marines think she walks on water. I'm beginning to wonder if she doesn't."

A voice yells out, "Wolf, Fox, the Captain... ahhh, Colonel wants you up and away!" The LSO, LtCdr Ford, stood on the flight line.

"Yeah, yeah, tell our Lady Captain we're up in 15!" In 15, his squadron was up and away. Some flying close cover, some high and out, and one way out to transmit the recording.

Mac silently sent thanks that the Tomcats were finally in the air. Going over the checklist in her mind, 'The ship was slowly - very slowly - getting under control. Injuries were still being assessed, and Engineering had its repairs underway. I guess that means itís time for a staff meeting for a status report and more decision-making - by guess who. I'm definitely going to Leavenworth. I wonder if they'll let me bunk with my Uncle.'

"Lt Stone? Would you please arrange a staff meeting with all departments in the closest conference room for 30 minutes from now?"

"Aye, Ma'am. Are you going somewhere?" He asked, when she stood up.

She looked at him, "Just the head, Lt." She looked back, "Would you have coffee and food available at the meeting?"

He nodded, both at her and when she wasn't looking, at the Marine standing in the window. The Marine nodded back and spoke in his radio. She was being protected. Whether she wanted it or not.


2330 HOURS


She slowly walked into the staff meeting. Slowly as her ribs hurt and she hadn't had any sleep since the night before. Dr McGregor had sent a nurse to the Bridge every hour or so to check on her. She wouldn't take any pain killers as she had to be in total control. Stone followed her in. They had left a 3d watch LT in command until after the meeting.

The meeting consisted of the Doctor, Engineer, Security, LSO, Weapons, Navigation, Computer Systems, Mess, Logistics, Intelligence, and Communications. The Air Boss, LtCdr Navidad stayed on the bridge to watch the airspace and the flights.

She nodded her thanks to Stone as he poured her a fresh cup of coffee and gave her a roast beef sandwich.

She began, "The ship is secure. My thanks, Captain Carleton, for a fine job. Also, for 1LT Stone and his squad, I'll personally be making recommendations for them. Seaman Rosarios, too." He nodded.

"No hostiles were found, but we've got many injuries and fatalities. We've lost almost a third of the crew. Additional damage to the ship was discovered. Commander Schreiber's engineering teams have stopped or are repairing the damages." Taking a drink of coffee and nodding at Schreiber, "What's your current status?"

"Cap...Colonel, we've got most of the worst damage repaired. The engines are back on-line for 1.25 knots, but itís enough to keep us stable in this current. We anticipate being up to slow moving within 3 days. We should be able to get to full speed when the next supply shipment arrives."

Slightly smiling and nodding her appreciation, "Commander McGregor's Sick Bay has been working non-stop on the injuries the crew sustained. Would you please bring us up-to-date?"

"Yes, Ma'am. As you said, we're still assessing the injuries, but we think approximately 1000 crew members were injured or killed due to the attack. The most critically injured are about 200. Everyone else should be fine within 3 days to 2 weeks."

"Thank you. LtCdr Ford?"

The Acting LSO, replied, "Ma'am, the squadrons are scheduled around the clock and the maintenance crews are performing their jobs well. As you know, we've had two incursions into our air space, but only one could be hostile. Due to that, we'll assume that a hostile attack will occur from the air."

"Agreed." Thinking, "Was the hostile before or after the tape was relayed to COMNAVAIRLANT?" Looking at her and thinking about her question, "It was after. Do you think there's a connection?"

"Yes. It was why Commander Rabb and I are here in the first place." Taking a deep breath, then holding her ribs, she slowly enunciated, "But at this time, that's classified."

Doctor McGregor, "Captain..ahh..Ma'am, you need to take something for those ribs and get some sleep."

She smiled tiredly at him. Her smile reminded everyone that she was injured, but also about the gravity of the situation she had put herself in, "Yes, Doctor, I know. I will get some sleep. Otherwise my Exec will knock me out." She looked over at Stone, who was wearing the stoic Marine face.

"The Exec determined that most of the third-watch Bridge crew are still available to pull their shift. I'll take advantage of that and get some sleep and a shower. Will that be acceptable?"

McGregor, "Acceptable if you really do it. I know you, Captains. Uhh."

She waved her hand to drop it. "Weapons?"

"Yes, Ma'am." Lt Watson learned from her peers. Or at least tried. "The damage occurred due to a missile hitting our weapons compartment. Which, fortunately for us, was the misfire. We've defused, removed, and stored the misfire for further investigation. Almost 90% of our missiles and ammunition are good." She looked at her Captain, "Ma'am, if you need it, we've got it."

A feral smile crossed her face, "Excellent, Lt. If we need to, we can kick ass."

"Yes, Capta... Ma'am." She also fell into this almost automatic response.

"Computer Systems?"

"Ma'am, we took the most hits. That's what closed down most of the hatches and electrical systems. Our back-up computers were also hit. My question would be how did they know where both primary and secondary systems were located? They're not even close together."

Shaking his head, "However, due to my teams' hard work and some good luck, we're able to divert to a third server we were designing when this happened. We should have all of our systems on 3 within the next 2 hours. We can have 1 or 2 back up within a day, Cap...Ma'am."

She looked at LT Giles. Then she looked over the staff. In a low, serious voice, "I'm not sure you realize how much I appreciate you and your crews. You are professionals, experts at your jobs, and deserving of any praise I can possibly give you. This ship has risen up, fought back, and I am proud of you. If you can call me Captain, I can only respond with my most deep-hearted thanks and respect. I am so very proud to be part of this crew. You have proven that the military does have the best."

She let the silence reign for a few moments, "Let's get back to work. Dismissed." She nodded at everyone.


0230 HOURS


"This is Batman and Robin, do you read? Enterprise, are you there?" Commander Rabb and his RIO, Robin, had been out for over 4 hours and didn't know what happened to ship. More silence. They hadn't heard from the Enterprise in those 4-hours.

Suddenly, "Batman, this is Wolf. What is your status?"

'Status?' Rabb was confused.

Rabb's RIO called out, "Batman, we've been targeted! By Wolf!"

'SHIT' "Wolf, this is Batman. Why have you locked weapons on us?"

"Batman, answer with your status."

Thinking hard and quickly, "Our status is weapons are locked and loaded. Fuel is at one quarter, and we have no bogeys."

"Batman, transmit radio signature." Harm froze, as did his RIO, no one asked for that unless something really bad had happened.

"Acknowledged. Transmitting radio signature." The RIO sent it.

"What's wrong, Wolf?"

"Sorry, Batman, but I had to be sure. Big E was hit. We're on war-footing and I would have shot you down if you hadn't cleared."

Rabb didn't breathe. What the hell happened? Oh, God, Mac!

"Batman, I've got clearance for you from the LSO. Follow me in for a landing. Switch to Marine Tac freq."

Robin answered, sighing in relief as now she could hear the chatter from the ship again, "Roger."

"Wolf, what happened? What about Mac?"

Silence. "Itís not good. But you need to talk with the Captain. She can explain it."

"SHE?" He repeated out loud.

"Yes, she..." Silence. Then his voice hardened, "Don't mess with our Captain, Rabb."

Twenty minutes later, Batman and Robin landed safely. The LSO came trotting out. "Batman, Robin. Glad you're back. I've scheduled you into the flight rotations to round out the squadrons. Go get some food and sleep before your next flight." They nodded automatically in response.

Rabb looked around. There were Marines in battle gear with weapons. But Navy security personnel were with the Marines. Mixed teams of Navy and Marines. He looked closer and saw smoke damage and curled steel. "Oh hell, what happened?" He and Robin looked up to the Bridge and saw nothing but blackness and broken windows.

Maintenance was up there replacing the windows and in their opinion it was almost done, in Rabb's opinion he only saw a quarter of the windows blown out.

He started to run to the bridge. Started is key, he didn't even make it to the corridor before he was thrown down to the deck with 5 Marines and 2 Naval personnel, weapons out, looking at him.

Not good.

"What can we do for you...Commander?"

Well, that was different.

"Uhm, I'm looking for Colonel MacKenzie. I'm her partner, Commander Rabb."

Navy looked at the Marines, "If he's her partner, what was he doing away from the ship?"

"Commander, can you answer that question?" The Marine Sergeant, who was flanked by two Navy personnel, asked.

Looking up from the ground, he debated whether trying to use his rank or answering the question was best. The latter seemed best.

"I was on a mission. I had to meet another plane. That's all I can say. Colonel MacKenzie will be able to confirm this mission."

They looked at him. Then they quickly searched him. No weapons. They let him up.

"The Captain should be asleep. But the Exec is on the Bridge. Please come with us."

They led him to the Bridge. He looked at the bridge crew and he looked around surprised. They were a mixture of Navy and Marines manning Bridge Ops. Again, not normal.

"Lt Stone, Commander Rabb would like to speak with you." Stone nodded, and they dropped off at the door. Not leaving, because they just weren't sure and they'd rather be safe than sorry.

"Commander?" Stone walked to him.

"Exec?" Rabb questioned. He stared at Stone. He thought, 'A Marine Exec? A 1LT?' His surprise filtered through his demeanor and it wasn't appreciated by the Bridge crew or the security forces.

"Yes, I'm the Exec of the Enterprise. What do you need?" Stone asked evenly, not taking any shit from this officer. Just like his Captain.

Finally, Rabb realized that he was on shaky ground. "Sorry, Exec. But I'm really confused. When Robin and I left, everything was fine. Now everything has changed. Can you tell me what happened?"

Looking at him, Stone noticed how Rabb was locking down what he felt. "Commander, approximately 1 hour after you and Robin left, the Big E was attacked by missiles. Four hit. Three direct and full explosions. The fourth was a misfire, directly into the ammo deck. The bridge personnel were the first taken out. Colonel MacKenzie was the only surviving officer on the bridge. She took command."

Rabb was shocked by what Stone said. 'Mac in command of the Enterprise?'

"Lt Colonel MacKenzie is in command of the Enterprise?" he asked.

1Lt Stone's expression became more implacable, if that was possible. Harm realized that he had said or done something, again, unacceptable. She'd been there and done what was needed while he was on his mission.

"Would you take me to see the Colonel?" No longer was he autocratic. He wanted, no he needed, to see Mac.

"Yes, sir. Please follow me. She just woke up."

They led him down to her quarters. The ones they had originally been assigned. Stone knocked. "Captain? I've got Commander Rabb here to see you." Stone nodded, stared at the Marine/Navy guard force, and left. The guards stayed.

The hatch opened, she looked at him, then the guards. She nodded and stepped back into her quarters.

She shut the hatch and they looked at each other. He was tired and confused. She was hurt. He saw the bruising on her forehead and how she held herself tightly. She looked tired. But she didn't look confused, she looked resolved. They continued to stare at each other.

Then, softly, "Harm, I may need a good lawyer. Know one?" She tried to smile, but it was a weak attempt.

He held out his arms, "Yeah, I know one. You need one?" She stepped into his arms.

When he tightened his arms, she moaned, "Gently, Flyboy. I've got some broken ribs."

He softened his hold, but didn't let go. "Mac, what happened?"

She laughed, or maybe laughing was too happy of a description, "Harm, we were attacked. Everyone around me was dead or dying. I had to take command." A tear fell from her eye. No sound, just a single tear silently sliding down her face.

"Everything is all right, for now. I'm here. Just relax for awhile."

She slowly pulled away form him. But not going too far. "Did you hear what happened?"

He nodded, she looked down then back up at him, "Harm, this situation is...I don't know what it is. But I've taken command of the ship. I've sent a report to COMNAVAIRLANT, as Acting Captain of the Enterprise."

Shaking her head at what's she done, what she had to do. She took an almost deep breath. He saw her clutch her side. He took her back in his arms, resting his head upon hers.

She tightened her arms around him, then let him go. She repeated, "Harm, I've taken command of the Enterprise." Shaking her head, in shock, "I still can't believe it."

She walked back to the bed and sat down, snorting in depreciation, "I'll probably be in Leavenworth for the next 20 years. Think you can plea bargain well enough for me to bunk with my Uncle?"

He studied her. Proud, bruised, strong. He smiled sadly - for herself, for him and how much he loves her, and for what she's sacrificed. "Can I offer one pilot for duty, Skipper? Also, my services as a lawyer, if you need one."

She went back into his arms. "Harm, I've missed you so much." She hugged him as tightly as she could, and whispered, "I've been so afraid that I wouldn't see you again." She tightened her hug, "I promised myself that I would tell you how much I truly love you."

Sighing in relief, he said softly, "I love you, too."

They stood there, in each other's arms. Suddenly they were kissing, deeply, almost desperately. Trying to say with a kiss what they couldn't with words.

Suddenly a sound resounded throughout the room. "Captain to the Bridge. Captain to the Bridge."

Harm saw the mantle of the captaincy settle around her shoulders, along with the stoic Marine facade. She moved away from him and called the Bridge. "MacKenzie here. What's the problem?"

"Skipper, we have a bogey approaching north by northwest at Angels 10. The current flight is on its way to meet it. We have another bogey approaching from the west on the surface. The Marines want to launch to meet it away from the ship."

Harm saw her shoulders tense and wanted to put his hands on them to relax them.

"All right, put the ship at GQ and send the Marines out. I'm on my way."

She looked over at him, pain in her eyes, "Harm, please report to the flight deck. You may need to launch. I've got to get to the Bridge."

He nodded. He watched the pain transcend into maturity in her eyes. How can someone who's seen so much pain already, get even more? He didn't understand that, but knew she needed him to do his job. He reached out to touch her cheek, "I love you. I've never loved anyone more than I love you."

She nodded with tears in her eyes. She captured the tears and forced them back. He saw more of the transformation into being The Captain.

Unable to take his eyes off her, he watched as she left her quarters and saw her guards fall-in around her. Then he went to the flight deck alone.




Admiral Chegwidden stalked from his office, past the bullpen, into the elevator and was gone. Lt Roberts went up to Tiner.

"Tiner, what's wrong with the Admiral?" The both continued to watch the closed elevator doors.

"I don't know, Lt. But the SecNav called him, and then the next thing I know-" He gestured to the Admiral's departure. "I'd make a guess that isn't good."

"No, probably not." They went back to work.


The SECNAV, the CNO, and Admiral Chegwidden sat around the display screen and listened to the taped message from the Enterprise. Shocked. There was no indication that anything was wrong.

"Sir, we can bring up infrared satellite pictures of the Enterprise now. The timestamp on these pictures is 0400."

So saying, there it was. As they magnified it, they were able to see the missile damage, aircraft taking off from the flight, and a Marine vessel being launched from the ship.

They had the pictures magnified one more degree, and they were able to see the tiny figure of Colonel MacKenzie as she walked up to the Bridge from the outside. She was surrounded by security personnel. The next picture was of her going into the Bridge, which had blackened sides and they could see Engineering replacing windows.

The CNO looked at Chegwidden. "Tell me about MacKenzie."

Out of the darkness, Webb spoke up, "She's a damn fine Marine and she's doing her damndest to keep your boat afloat."

Chegwidden got a long-suffering look on his face, "Well, as much I hate to agree with the CIA, Webb is right. Colonel MacKenzie is one of the finest officers I've ever met. If a Marine has to command a Navy ship, then I would have no problem selecting MacKenzie."

"Glad to hear you say that, Admiral." In walked the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The SECNAV waved him to the table.

"Commandant, Webb, please take a seat. Let's discuss what's going on. Webb, let's start with you."

"Yes, well, this appears to be part of the mission that sent Rabb and MacKenzie to the Enterprise in the first place. I've got someone on the ship and the package was received, well, at least additional information about the package was received."

Sitting back in his chair, "Since my latest update from about 30 minutes ago, you've got around 1000 dead or wounded. Mackenzie's got the ship on war-footing. She's fully integrated the Marines and the Navy into one group. They've started to call her Captain."

Shrugging, "She calls herself Colonel though. She's been practically everywhere on the ship when she's not on the bridge. She's been in Engineering, Sick Bay to visit with the wounded, the Flight Deck, and most of the decks below."

Looking at the table, then up to Chegwidden, "She's also got a couple of broken ribs and probably a slight concussion." Waiting a beat, "Her Exec is a 1Lt Stone."

Looking at the others, "Yeah, she's got a Marine as Executive Officer of the Enterprise. He's decided that she needs protection. So she's got a security team of Marines and Navy personnel around her whenever she leaves the Bridge or her quarters. They've got roving security forces throughout the ship and COMSEC is the standard for the day. They keep changing the freq on a random basis for communications on or around the ship. The pilots swear that some demented person in the lowest part of the ship randomly throws darts to choose the frequencies." A few smiles cross their faces.

The CNO said, "The question is, do we keep MacKenzie out there as Captain or do I drop a Captain in?

Chegwidden and the Commandant look at each other, then at the SECNAV, who said, "No, I'm not stupid. They've accepted her for this emergency and I'm not going to complicate the problem. At least itís not Rabb."

Webb chuckled, "Rabb landed and went looking for Mac. Evidently he didn't clear it with anyone and found himself looking up from the deck into the faces of her security team. He had to explain who he was to her Exec."

The SECNAV momentarily looked amused, then sighed, "We still don't know who shot the missiles at them. We still don't know who is involved. Webb, when the Hell am I going to know? I'm not making any changes until I know that. We can't even send them any supplies until we know."

"We think they were hoping to sink her. They did get one missile into the Ammo Deck, but it misfired. That's probably the only reason they're still there. We think we should be able to name most of them within the next few days. We're working the few names we've got now and when we get the rest, we should be able to wrap this up."

A decision made, "All right, we'll leave MacKenzie as acting Captain of the Enterprise and Stone as her Exec. Itís working and we won't change it."

The CNO and the Commandant exchanged glances and nodded their agreement.

Chegwidden, "Sir, is there anyway we can communicate with them? Webb, you've got a contact on the ship."

Webb, shrugging, "Itís very difficult right now. There's some sort of interference around the ship and my contact has already burnt out 3 power supplies trying to break through it."

"Sir, couldn't we use the same method as Colonel MacKenzie did when she sent us a taped message?" Chegwidden looked at the CNO and the Commandant.

"This would also give us the opportunity to approve of Colonel MacKenzie's temporary assumption of command. I'm sure she's thinking that she's going to be spending time with her Uncle in Leavenworth after this is over," again Chegwidden looked over at the Commandant, who nodded in agreement, and then back to the CNO and SECNAV.

Slowly considering this request, the SECNAV nodded to the CNO. "Tell me, Admiral, on her next promotion; because if this goes well I would assume she'll be short-listed for promotion, will we promote her to full Colonel or Captain?" They all stood up.

"Tape the message and get it out to her."




Admiral Chegwidden walked back in. "ATTENTION ON DECK."

"Sturgis, Roberts, Sims, Gunny, Imes, Tiner- where's Singer and Mattoni?"

They're in court, Sir." They had gathered around him.

The Admiral walked toward his office and gestured that they follow him.

When they had gathered around his desk, "There's been an incident on the Enterprise."

At their startled glances, "Rabb's fine, but Mac has some broken ribs and concussion." He looked down at his desk and straightened some papers. The Admiral is normally blunt and for him to prevaricate like this was making them nervous.

Sturgis finally asked, "Sir, what happened to the Enterprise?"

Straightening up, his expression hardening, "This goes no further than this room. That's an order. Do you understand?"

At their nods and "Yes, Sirs." He continued.

"The Enterprise was attacked by missiles, 4 of them." Startled exclamations sounded until he silenced them with a look.

"Casualties and injuries have been severe. I'm not going to go into it, but command has been assumed by Colonel MacKenzie."

This time no sounds - just shock. They had thought maybe Rabb, in an outlandish nightmare, as a temporary measure, but Colonel MacKenzie - she's a Marine. Marines don't command Navy ships.

Amused at their shocked expressions, he added, "Her Exec is a Marine 1LT Stone."

Finally, Sturgis asked, "Sir, how does a Marine command a Naval ship?"

At Chegwidden's flinty stare, "Not to say that Colonel MacKenzie isn't capable of commanding a ship, but she's not trained for it. What happened to the other bridge officers?"

He looked them in the eye, "Evidently she was last man standing on the Bridge and no one else was there to take command. She sent the Marines out to retake the ship and had one squad sent to her for assistance in Bridge Ops. I can't say too much due to OPSEC, but apparently neither the Navy or Marine personnel have any problems with her commanding the ship. She's got aircraft patrolling the skies over the ship and Marines ready to repel or board anything on the surface. She's doing a damn fine job and I'm extremely proud of her."

Sitting back in his chair, chuckling, "Just think of it, the first woman to command an aircraft carrier and itís my Marine Chief of Staff."

Gunny was standing straight and proud. It was a Marine Corps officer commanding the Enterprise and it was Colonel MacKenzie. He knew she was good, he saw it on the Guadalcanal and again in Indonesia, not to mention here in the office.

"Hey, somebody better stick Gunny in the side, we don't want him to explode Semper Fi'ing all over the place," Sturgis joked.

Everyone laughed. Harriet asked, "Sir, is there anyway we can talk with Colonel MacKenzie?"

Sighing, "No, I'm sorry to say, we can't. We can only use taped messages passed along from aircraft to aircraft to the ship. So only the most important messages are being sent."

Gunny asked, "Sir, how long will Colonel MacKenzie command the Enterprise?"

"The SECNAV, the CNO, the Commandant, and I concur that she will Captain the Enterprise until this situation has been resolved."

"Interesting choice of words, Sir." Sturgis regarded the Admiral steadily.

"Well, Commander, when you assume the responsibility, you get the title."

"Yes, sir. Will she need a lawyer when she returns?"

"If I know the Colonel, she'll have already retained Rabb."

The room fell silent.

Commander Imes spoke up, "Sir, would they prosecute her?"

Shrugging, "I don't know, Commander, it all depends on what happens while she's in command. Just the same for any Captain."

Gunny spoke up, "Sir, I'm sure the Captain understood the risks when she assumed command."

Looking up at the Gunny, "Yes, Gunny. I'm sure you're right. The Captain knew." lancing around the room, "All right people, let's get back to work. If I find out anything more, I'll let you know."




Commander Hutchinson walked onto the Bridge and over to Mac. "Ma'am, we just received this taped message from COMNAVAIRLANT." He handed it over to her. She looked at him and nodded her thanks.

Looking over to Lt Stone, "Exec, please call the senior staff together, I think we should hear this together."

Twenty minutes later, they were all gathered back into the conference room where they had their first meeting only yesterday. It had been 17 hours since Mac has assumed command of the Enterprise.

Doctor McGregor, Commander Schreiber, LT (JG) Giles, Commander Hutchinson, 1LT Watson, CPT Carleton, LtCdr Ford, and LtCdr Ziegler, the Intel Officer. Mac walked in followed by Lt Stone and sat at the head of the table. "All right, you all know we've received a message from COMNAVAIRLANT. I wanted you to hear it with me." She nodded at Stone and he pushed the button to start the tape.

"Colonel MacKenzie, this is Admiral Chegwidden. I understand you've taken on a new position. If you needed a change from being my Chief of Staff, you should have told me. The Enterprise has caused quite a ruckus and besides me the SECNAV, CNO, and Commandant are here. Oh yeah, so is Webb." There was another pause and a rustle of paper. She remained calm and steady and the staff looked at her, then back at the table.

"Colonel, we understand that you've found yourself in the midst of a hostile situation and have taken command. After all these years you've controlled Commander Rabb, the Enterprise should be easy for you. Colonel, I want you to know that I'm very proud of you. Colonel, the CNO wants a few words with you."

They hear "Sir," in the background. Then the CNO began speaking. "Colonel, I understand that you've been acting as Captain of the Enterprise since last night. I appreciate the fact that you got your situation report to us as quickly as you did. Unfortunately, for the time being, it appears we'll have to continue to use this method. There's some type of interference in your area and we're having a hard time breaking through it."

The Intel Officer sat up at that piece of information. "Colonel, after discussions with the SECNAV, the Commandant, and Admiral Chegwidden, we have decided to officially appoint you as the Acting Captain of the Enterprise for the duration of this situation, backdated to yesterday when the missiles hit the ship. Therefore all actions you've taken have been with the full authority of the Department of the Navy."

The CNO continued, "I would assume that by now you're trying to figure out why we're not sending a replacement bridge crew to the Enterprise. We believe that what happened to the Enterprise is related to the case that sent you and Rabb there in the first place. Therefore we can't send you any personnel or supplies. You'll have to do everything with what you've got. Captain, you've got a good crew, but by now you've probably figured that out. You're going to need them. Good Luck, Captain MacKenzie. The SECNAV would like to say a few words."

"MacKenzie, we're doing everything we can here to clear-up this situation as soon as possible. Keep doing everything you're doing and keep Rabb under control. Things could be worse, he could be in command. You two keep my office in turmoil, now it will be female officers commanding Naval ships, and you're not even Navy. With you two it never ends. Good luck, Captain."

Then the Commandant came on. "Colonel, The Marine Corps is proud of you and your actions. We're the few and the proud, so therefore those that distinguish themselves come to our attention. I want you to pass onto Captain Carleton, 1LT Stone, and the Marines under your command, my appreciation and Semper Fi. Good Luck, Captain."

"Mac, I guess itís my turn." This time is was Webb. "Remember what we were discussing before you and Rabb went to the Enterprise? Well, itís coming together. But your end will be the dangerous one. You've got what you were sent to get, whether you know it or not. If not, find it. Tell your crew whatever you think they need to know. The less they know the safer for them. But you know that. Unless, of course, they launch more missiles. Your choice. Good Luck, Mac."

Chegwidden's voice comes back on, "Mac, we want you to continue sending your SITREPs as taped messages. Good Luck, Captain." The tape ended.

She looked around the room at the faces of 'her' crew. They all looked rather shocked, but pleased. "Commander Ziegler, we need a secure conference room to discuss the situation, can you get us one?"

"Aye, Skipper."

Three hours after the message from the CNO, they were all gathered into the Conference Room again.

"CAPTAIN ON DECK." They all rose when Mac entered the room.

"Please be seated." Everyone took their seats.

During those three hours, Intel had swept the room and Marine guards had ensured it security. Mac started, "I need to tell you more about the reason why Commander Rabb and I were sent to Enterprise." She gestured to Rabb, "I've asked the Commander to attend this meeting for that purpose."

He nods at everyone. They all look back at her.

She begins, "As you know, we were sent here to investigate the possibility of someone on the Enterprise being a spy, or at the least, passing information along the terrorist channels." She looked at them, steadily.

"According to our Intel sources, the information led to a chain of individuals from different foreign states that are linked only by their beliefs."

Silence, then the Intel Officer Cdr Zielger, "Skipper, are the 'foreign states' linked to the individuals?"

Mac smiled in approval, "Good question. It took the CIA 3 weeks to figure that out." She glanced at Rabb, then continued. "No, to the frustration and anger of the 'foreign states,' they are linked by their religious beliefs."

"That means that the states these individuals belong to, aren't representative of these individuals," this from Commander Rabb.

Then he looked up at Mac, "Skipper, they've been able to prove that these individuals are not part of their respective nations. They're working with someone or something else."

Keeping eye contact with her, "Ma'am, we were able to get the information to retrieve the package."

Seeing her eyes widen in shock, then compress in anger, he continued quickly, "Itís on the communications tape we received during the mission." Taking a breath, "But, we'll need to retrieve it for evidence."

Still not pleased, "And where would that be, Commander?"

He'd seen this mode before, the not pleased Marine mode - very close to the not pleased lawyer mode.

It was then that he truly realized what she reminded him of and what he saw in her - a Ships' Captain. He saw her look impatiently at him and knew he'd better damn well answer quickly, "Ma'am, we'll need to retrieve it from the UAE."

Silence, another decision made, then, "Very well, Commander. Please work with Commanders Hutchinson and Ziegler, and Captain Carleton for a retrieval plan. Get back with me when you have a plan."

Yes, Ma'ams and Skippers sounded in the conference room. She stood up and so did the room. "Dismissed." She left with Lt Stone following her.

After she left the room, she turned to Stone, "Mike, I'm going to my quarters to get some sleep." Looking him over, "You need some, too." He nodded, he had less sleep than she did.

"I left Lt(jg) Tomlinson in charge during the meeting. She can handle the bridge with the crew currently in place."

Looking at the decking, then back up "Skipper, she's good. She doesn't care if the crew is Navy or Marines, she just wants the job done."

Contemplating that statement, "All right, you go to the Bridge and tell Tomlinson that she's in charge until next shift." She turned from him, then back again, "Make sure I'm awake for next shift. I'll want her to debrief me." She raised her eyebrow at him.

"Aye, Ma'am. I'll be there also." She nodded her dismissal and he left, but her guards drew in closer.

She looked them over, she thought, 'So young, so determined.' She nodded at them and they went to her 'new' cabin.

Two squad members entered her quarters, then after a quick perusal, quickly left. Normally, there wasn't much to see. Except this time.

She walked into her new quarters, it was the Captain's quarters. Someone had removed the previous Captain's items and brought in her own. Her guards departed, leaving two outside the hatch. The remainder went to eat and get some sleep. It fulfilled two areas - one the Captain was back in the Captain's Quarters and it opened up her previous quarters to the wounded.

Inside she found what the security force had, Commander Rabb sitting at the table. When the guards secured her hatch, she walked slowly to Rabb.

"Harm?" she softly asked.

He stared at her. What he saw amazed him. He already knew she was a Semper Fi Marine. Kick-ass, loyal, trustworthy, stubborn, pigheaded, and determined. She was also human, scared, scarred, loving, and determined. He 'knew' she was a Marine, but he had really never seen her leadership abilities before. He knew she had them. He also knew she had been in combat before - he'd been with her for some of it. She was also the tough attorney. Now she was everything at once, plus commanding a Naval aircraft carrier. The flagship of the US Navy. He wondered how she handled it.

"Harm?" she asked again.

"Mac," he sighed. He held out his hand. Not sure what would happen.

She took his hand and he pulled her onto his lap. Both her arms wound tightly around his neck. He held her just as tightly. Relishing this time together.

He moved into her quarters that night. Her security squad didn't blink an eye. They just made sure what he brought into her quarters was safe. They even helped him carry it.



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