Episode One



On the Saratoga

"It is the decision of this court that Lt. Nathan West did not act in a traitorous manner while on Anvil. Nor was he a party to the traitorous actions being tried it this court. The court finds him not guilty of said charges. Lt. Nathan West is here by restored to active duty as of this moment and is released to join the 58thís pending Search and Rescue mission"

"However, the court has not yet come to a decision concerning Lt. Cooper Hawkes. Lt. Hawkes is to be returned to his cell until 19:30 hours, at which time the court expects to have come to a ruling. It is now 10:23 court adjourns until 19:30"

Nathan sat in stunned silence. Chair legs screeched on the metal floor as the judge rose to leave the courtroom.

"Wait" Nathan jumped up out of his seat, appealing to the judgeís back.

Cooper grabbed Nathanís shoulder and jerked him around, slamming him back against the table edge. Nathan flinched burned by intense anger in Cooperís eyes. Nathan moved to push free but cooper jerked him of his feet. The in vitroís strength always seemed to catch him off guard. The material of Nathanís uniform groaned threatening to tear.

"Listen," Cooper demanded, "One damn tank donít matter to them. Donít push it. Youíve got to find Shane and 'Phousse, Major Hyland ainít gonna do it."

Two MPs grabbed Cooper, pulling him off Nathan. Forcing him over the table they wrestled his arms behind him to be hand cuffed. Cooper gritted his teeth it was hard not to fight back, but there was no way he was going to make it easy for them. With rough haste the MPs jerked Cooper off the table and toward the exit. Cooper balked and jerked around to see Nathan. "Promise youíll bring her back!"

Nathan looked away. He couldnít meet Cooperís eyes. All around him the courtroom was in chaos. People clasped him on the back in congratulations, others, followed Commodore Rossís example and left in stony silence.

Damon Wallace remained seated, contemplative. This new turn of events sat rather well with him. Talk about your good olí marine core happy ending. The heroic soldier is absolved of all charges, kudos for the defense team. The tank is sentenced for his deeds, kudos for the prosecution. Everyone is happy. He tapped his finger against his lip. Someone had changed the rules in this courtroom. He was going to have to figure out what the new rules were before court reconvened. You canít win the game unless you know the rules.

Nathan struggled to control the frustration and anger raging inside. Slowly he looked toward the exit. Cooper was gone but he caught Major Hyland weaving her way towards him. His gaze slide past the major to the seat she had just vacated and the man still seated beside it. The man quirked an eyebrow but held Nathanís stare. He wore an expensive suit in a non-descript cut. Everything about him emanated control and corporate polish. Aerotech.

"Itís a set up!" Nathan suddenly felt like the floor had dropped out from under him and taken his insides with it. They had used him to set Cooper up. The whole thing was planned; he had just acted out the part they had written for him. Specters of his in ability to save his brother flashed before him.

"Lt. West!" Major Hylandís voice dripped with disdain, "You may have proven yourself to this court but I still have serious doubts. Mission briefing is in 5 Mikes. You better get your ass in gear if you expect to fly with the 58th again." Nathan quickly followed. Cooperís words "Major Hyland ainít gonna do it" dogging his step. How was he going to get Cooper out of this? Together, the 58th had been able to get out of anything, but now they were scattered, Shane and Vanessa MIA, Paul dead. Dead, how could you change that?

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