S:AAB - ensemble (leans toward Vansen/Hawkes); Rated PG .
"Cooper! You're going to be late!"
"Just a sec!" he yells down from his upstairs bedroom.
Elizabeth Hawkes shakes her head and puts four slices of whole-wheat bread in the toaster. She gives the eggs a quick stir and looks at the clock above the kitchen table. Is it her imagination or is the morning going by at light-speed? Or maybe it's the fact that she's checked the clock no less than seventeen times in the last three minutes. She thought clock-watching slowed down time, not sped it up.
"He's got plenty of time," her husband, Richard, assures her. "Quit being a mother-hen." He plants a kiss on the top of her head, his hand smoothing over her salt-and-pepper hair.
"I can't just turn it off like the water faucet," she complains with a hint of impatience.
"Hey, mom, what's for breakfast?" Cooper bounds down the steps, two at a time. She remembers when he'd barely been able to crawl up the stairs.
"You don't have time for breakfast; you've got to report to the bus in less than an hour." She sighs, "I guess I can make it into a sandwich, and you can take it with you."
"That'd be super, thanks." He kisses her on the cheek. "Hey, dad, can you help with my duffle?"
As father and son head back upstairs, Elizabeth hastily puts together a breakfast for Cooper. She holds back tears as she realizes it'll be the last such meal she'll make for her son for a long time.
Sooner than she'd like, her all-grown-up Cooper is ready to leave, to catch the bus that will take him to worlds beyond the dust crops of Iowa, beyond the safety of her apron strings. She wishes it were as easy as he makes it look.
"I'll write, mom," he promises, giving her a peck on the cheek before tossing his duffle into the back of the pickup. "Every week."
Richard climbs into the cab. She wonders if they'll ride in silence. Probably. Richard's always been a quiet man and Coop…well, why say it when you can do it.
He rolls down the window to wave goodbye. "Next time you see me, mom, it'll be Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes, USN." He grins, dimples winking into view. "But I won't make you salute, honest."
She waves and laughs, as expected. As the truck lumbers off down the driveway, she wipes tears with the hem of her apron and turns away.
"Damn you, you stupid Tank!" Shane Vansen's in a snit. Standing in the dark and pouring rain, she continues to vent her anger and frustration. "It was a stupid training mission. A fucking walk in the park. No enemy, no weapons fire, and no damn casualties!" She breathes deeply, a futile attempt to reign in her emotions. "Vanessa mopes around. Paul doesn't even want to watch porn anymore. Hell, Nathan's affected too, though he won't admit it." She shudders. "Pags is the worst. He blames himself, you know." She wraps her arms around her waist, trying to ward off the empty ache of loss. "What happened, dammit?! Were you so busy watching everyone's six you forgot about your own? Or did you want to die?" She falls to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks, shivering from the cold and wet. The only witness to her pain is a cold tombstone that reads simply, "Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes, USMC SAC, R.I.P."
Specialist Cooper Hawkes moves with a combination of stealth and grace only a trained soldier can possess, his ears trained on the darkness around him, darkness lit only by the muted emergency lights. Shortly after he and Corporal ShaneVansen split from the rest of their platoon, someone cut the power completely. That meant the Silicates had successfully penetrated the base and were dangerously near the weapons depot.
A slight movement catches his attention, and he tenses at the sound of a nearby footfall. He waits a few seconds longer then swings his arm out suddenly, the intended victim avoiding the blow just in time. Surprised, Hawkes jerks back.
His prey, taking advantage of Hawkes' surprise, whirls around and kicks him in the side. The kick doesn't have enough power behind it to hurt, but Hawkes loses his balance, his gun skidding off somewhere to his right. He rights himself and narrowly avoids a blow to the head that would have left him unconscious. He dances away, arm shooting out and catching the AI in the stomach.
The Silicate cries out, and Hawkes whips his foot around, catching her behind the ankles. She falls, landing with a loud and painful sounding thump on her back. He's on her in an instant, delivering a blow to the side of her head that incapacitates but doesn't kill her; the RAM in her head might give them valuable information as to plans for future attacks.
The sound of someone clapping has Hawkes scrambling for his weapon. He snorts in disgust when he sees it's only Vansen. "You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"Nicely done, babe," she congratulates him. "I was going to help, but you've clearly got things under control."
"How long have you been standing there?" he asks.
"Long enough." She kneels on the other side of the Silicate. "Come on, let's get the memory and rendezvous with the others."
"I wish the f-ing AI War was over already. Then we could have something of a normal life."
"You wouldn't know 'normal' if it bit you on the six," she jokes. "Then again, neither would I."
He smiles at her, and she blows him a kiss. "You're fucking awesome, you know that?"
He knows -- but it's nice to hear it sometimes.
Cooper Hawkes tingles in anticipation. They're close, he knows it. He just wishes that they were there already. Setting up camp, surveying their new home. Just. There.
He's got the jitters so he walks around, pretty much in circles. Close. So close.
"You're making me dizzy, Cooper, sit down."
He looks at Kylen and smiles. "I can't."
"It's not going to make us reach atmo any faster." She laughs.
"It's just..." He sits next to her and she puts down the letter she's been reading. "It's almost like I've waited my whole life for this, ya know? Like I'm supposed to be here, in this place, at this time."
The look in her eyes is sad. It's so fleeting he almost can believe he imagined it. "I know what you mean," she answers. She pats him on the knee. "You're pretty cool, you know, for a -"
Her voice breaks off and Cooper can feel the bile in the back of his throat. "For a Tank, you mean."
She shook her head. "For a guy."
The loudspeaker squawks, then a series of beeps can be heard. "Trans-Tellus injection complete." More beeps. "Prepare for entry."
Cooper gets up and does a jig. Kylen smiles and goes back to her letter. Shouts and catcalls of joy bounce off the bulkheads.
Thirty seconds later the Chigs open fire.
"Mr. Hawkes! Mr. Hawkes!" The reporter sticks a microphone near his face. "Tracy Tolliver, Channel 17. Just a few questions!"
His arm tightens around the shivering woman beside him. "You can contact my firm tomorrow. I'll have a statement ready by then."
"Your actions tonight were nothing short of heroic, Mr. Hawkes," the reporter persists. "How did you know an attempt would be made on Miss Vansen?"
"Personal security is my business. Miss Vansen is a client. I'm paid to know things," he curtly replies.
"Miss Vansen, how do you feel about tonight's events?"
The brunette beside Hawkes ducks her head and tries to become invisible. "Don't worry, honey," he reassures her, "I'm getting you outta here."
"Mr. Hawkes, does the fact that you're dating Miss Vansen have any bearing on your uncanny knowledge of the attempt on her life? I mean, you did seem to have knowledge even the police were unaware of."
He squints against the bright camera light, noting for the first time the logo on the side of the microphone: The Daily Trash.
With a low growl he shoves the reporter away and ushers the frightened woman at his side toward a dark sedan. Within seconds they are speeding away.
Tracy Tolliver turns to the camera. "Well, folks, it looks like Cooper Hawkes doesn't want to talk anymore. But it makes me wonder: what does the owner of Hawkes Inc., the hottest personal security consulting firm on the east coast, have to hide? More than the fact he's taking a 'hands on' approach to Miss Vansen's security? Let's not forget that Shane Vansen is one of the top legal advisors to Senator McQueen." She lets that sink in then flashes a toothy smile. "It's one story this reporter's not about to drop. Stay tuned tomorrow for more information."