A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "JAG" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
Admiral Chegwidden’s office
The Admiral sat behind his desk staring at the framed portrait of Francesca. She was so young, so beautiful, so reminiscent of the young woman whose file sat on the desktop.
“Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie, Sir.”
“Thank you, Mr. Tiner.” The Admiral looked up from his daughter’s image and gazed at the pair of lawyers who stood at attention before his desk. As the door clicked shut behind Tiner he gestured them to be seated. “At ease.”
Dropping their salutes Mac and Harm settled into the chairs.
“We’ve been handed a case which has been removed from the civil courts due to a change of venue. Ordinarily it would be sent to the USAF JAG but there is a strong conflict of interests and it was decided that another branch office would be more appropriate. We are that office.” AJ paused and folded his arms on the desk. “But before I assign you to this case I want to ask the two of you a question.”
Mac and Harm shared a curious look. Intrigue was not common to the Admiral.
“Before I go into the details I want to know what your opinions are of reserve officers in the military.”
Mac’s brow furrowed in thought. “Permission to speak freely, Sir?”
“Of course, Colonel.”
“It is my understanding that an officer is an officer, Sir, regardless of their duty status,” Mac supplied. “I know there are some feelings of animosity in the ranks but it’s nothing too serious. I’ve heard some discussions concerning the promotions of reservists, some thoughts that a reservist’s promotion is easier to achieve than a promotion in active duty.” She explained when the Admiral’s expression turned questioning.
“Sir, what does this have to do with the case at hand?” Harm glanced from Mac back to the Admiral.
“Several months ago ZNN covered a story of a Lieutenant in the USAF reserve who willingly gave herself over to a group of terrorists in exchange for three civilians. The group held her for four weeks before the Marines were able to extract her.” AJ reached into the file on his desk and pulled out a photo that he held out to Mac.
Mac spoke up, “I remember the situation, ZNN kept up continual of the story for several days. It was all you heard about whenever they were on.” Reaching across the desk she accepted the picture and looked down at the woman. It had probably been taken just after basic training; one of those staged, head and shoulders, ‘I’m so happy to be in the military’ portraits that they encourage you to send home to mom and dad. But in all the pictures she’d seen similar to the one she held, Mac had never been so stunned. Lt Julia Waters would probably pass as a fashion model before anyone thought she was in the military, even in the uniform she sported. Huge dark eyes framed by short chocolate colored tresses, a clear golden complexion and beautiful flawless smile all accented by delicate patrician features. She handed the picture to Harm as AJ continued speaking.
“Lt Waters has been in the reserves for five years working with the MP in the crime lab. When she’s off duty she’s a graduate student in the forensic sciences at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She was visiting DC with her mother and son when the civilians were taken hostage and she volunteered her services to the hostage negotiators. They didn’t agree with her solution to take the women’s place but couldn’t argue with the improvement of a single hostage over three. She may have led the terrorists to believe that they would have a better bargaining position if they had someone in the military as opposed to civilians.”
“Surely she knew the about government’s refusal to deal with terrorist negotiations,” Mac gaped.
“Yes she did. Regardless, she willingly took the place of the civilians. It is assumed that she believed she would be better equipped to survive captivity.” AJ reopened the folder on his desk and removed a handful of photographs. “These were taken by the Marine medic who accompanied the team that extricated her.”
Mac hesitantly took the pictures and had to suppress a startled gasp at the condition of the woman they displayed. She was not recognizable as the same person from the previous photo. Whoever it was that had held her had, for lack of a better word, mangled her. “Sir, I don’t understand the problem. She was obviously tortured; even I can see that just from the photographs. What’s the problem with this case?”
“When the Marines went in, they were able to take seven of the men into custody. They are guilty of terrorist activity to be sure. However, the Lt was encouraged to press against them charges of aggravated assault and rape. The only problem being,” AJ stopped; he had difficulty accepting the very existence of the terrorists’ claims but had to voice them nonetheless. “The men in question insist that Lt Waters was a consensual partner in their sexual activities, they insist too that she was a consensual partner in any abuse she suffered.”
“That’s outrageous.” Harm spoke up at last. He glanced over at Mac, clearly reading the shock in her eyes. “But you said that the Lt was ‘encouraged’ to press charges?”
“Yes, she was at first willing to forego pressing charges due to the severity of the crime they were already charged with. After a few days she was encouraged by her CO that additional charges couldn’t hurt, that they might in fact add to the sentencing of the men.”
Mac shook her head in disbelief at the brutality of humankind, the woman had been through so much already, she could understand her reluctance to put herself through any more. But to have the terrorists make such a claim…
“She’s on base in Virginia, her two week annual duty started yesterday. Her CO apparently attempted to let her put off her service time but she refused. I’ve already contacted her CO to let him know you’ll be on base tomorrow to speak with her; he is being very helpful by assuring full cooperation. He’s had Lt Waters under his command for most of her reserve time and has nothing but admiration for the woman.”
Harm and Mac stood with the Admiral.
“The Lieutenant has been through a lot in the last few months, I don’t want her to have to go through anything more than is absolutely necessary. She willingly placed herself in a highly volatile situation in order to live up to her vow to serve and protect the American people.” The Admiral watched the pair who stood in front of him; he didn’t believe the warning was necessary but couldn’t help but voice his concerns. “Dismissed.”
“Yes, Sir. Aye aye, Sir.” Their agreement rang out in the sudden silence of the office and both Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie turned and left the room.
AJ looked down again at the portrait of Francesca, Lt Waters was the same age as his daughter. He’d willingly risk a court-martial to see to it that anyone who dared violate her in such a way paid his due. He only wondered to what extent Mac and Harm would go to protect this woman and punish her attackers.
Harm paused at the threshold, his fist raised to rap on the door, when her heard a soft noise coming from inside. Curious, he waited and listened. She was awake and he could hear her moving around the interior of the apartment. A sudden thought broke through his concentration as he visualized the long list of Mac’s former admirers. Shaking the thought from his head, he knocked on her door.
“Hey flyboy, I was beginning to think you were just going to stand around lurking on my doorstep all morning. I saw your car pull up,” she laughed, his shocked expression still evident. “It’s not as if a lot of people come and go in this building this early in the day.”
“Are you ready?”
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” she assured him, picking up her briefcase and cover from the couch and smoothing her jacket with an automatic gesture of dancing slender fingers. “As much as I love being in your company this ride is not my ideal way to spend the morning. But even as much as I don’t relish being cooped up in a car for several hours, I’m dreading this interview even more.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Harm stepped back out into the hallway and waited as Mac locked the door. “So, you want to pick up some breakfast on the road?”
“What?! You’re actually acquiescing to food being consumed in your precious vehicle? This case must be getting to you as much as it is to me.”
Office of the MP
“Admiral Chegwidden told us that you’d be coming.” Commander Adams extended a hand to the two JAG lawyers after they’d exchanged salutes. “The Lieutenant is down in the crime lab, I’ll send word to her in a moment. Please, have a seat.”
Mac looked around the room and slipped into the chair closest to the door. Harm perched in a seat across from the Sergeant.
“I would like to speak to you first, if that’s alright with you.” Adams reclaimed his own chair and leaned back.
“Of course, Sir.” Harm was curious to hear what the man had to say.
“Lt Waters has recently been recommended for promotion. Although the reserves don’t promote in the same manner as active duty, the request is now under scrutiny. It is expected to go through without too much trouble. Strictly off the record, Julia is probably the best lab tech we have, even if we don’t ‘have’ her all that often. I’ve been trying to convince her to transfer into active duty from the reserves for as long as I’ve known her. We don’t really get that many people into the Air Force in any field relating to forensics, and she’s one of the best even in her graduate school, if her professors are to be believed. I’ve had her for four years now; she’s almost like another daughter to both my wife and myself. She even brought her son over to my home last Christmas.” The Commander paused, taking a deep breath before continuing, “We’re all concerned about her. She’s changed since she’s come back to us. Please, I’m asking you as a concerned family member, please be careful with her. I’ve never know her to be anything close to fragile but she’s walking a fine line right now.”
“Of course, we don’t want to upset her,” Mac stated, “we just need to speak with her about what happened. She’s the victim in all of this.”
“Thank you. She may have walked into the situation fully aware of the consequences, but she in no way deserved the treatment she received.”
“Definitely not,” Mac agreed. She wondered why the CO was so concerned, unless Lt Waters was currently having to deal with adverse reactions…
“I’m glad to hear it, not everyone has been so understanding,” he said in confirmation of Mac’s assessment. “I can send for her now, or would you rather walk down to the lab?”
“Just tell us where she is, we’ll go to her. She was told we would be by to see her today, wasn’t she?”
“Yes, she’s been expecting you.”
Mac and Harm pushed open the door the Commander had directed them to and stepped into the sea of blue uniforms. An amazing number of personnel were crammed into the rather small room, standing around partitioned cubicles and gleaming lab tables.
Their presence was at last noted and the din stopped as all personnel snapped to attention.
Harm had to suppress a chuckle at their surprise; it was obvious these people were unused to unexpected visitors in this remote area of the fort complex. “As you were. We’re looking for Lt Waters.”
“You must be the JAG lawyers, Sir, Ma’am.” The ensign who addressed them pointed across the room to a far corner, “Star’s in the rear storage hold.”
“Star?” Mac queried.
“Sorry, Ma’am, I meant Lt Waters. Star’s her handle, Ma’am.”
“Thank you, Ensign.”
“One moment, Ma’am, and I’ll get her for you.” The young man ducked through the motionless crowd and disappeared into a back room.
Mac arched a bemused eyebrow at Harm as they waited for their client to appear. Their wait was short and they were soon watching as a tall woman strode purposely across the room, the crowd of personnel parting in front of her. Mac glanced at the mixed expressions on the faces of those who stepped out of her way; some were full of unabashed admiration but some held unquestionable enmity.
“Commander Rabb, Colonel Mackenzie.” Lt Waters snapped to attention once she reached them, raising a tanned arm in a crisp, precise salute.
“At ease, Lieutenant. Is there someplace private where we could speak with you?” Harm had also noted the attitudes of the men and women who filled the room and was anxious to get the Lieutenant into a less overtly hostile environment.
“Yes, Sir. If you would follow me, there’s a conference room just down the hall.” She turned toward the ensign they had first spoken to, before reaching for the doorknob. “Thank you, Ensign Harries. I’ll be back after lunch.”
Lt Waters led them down the hall to a quiet, dim conference room, she was notably uneasy about the meeting, but it was understandable considering the circumstances.
“Have a seat, Lieutenant, and try to relax if you can. I’m Harmon Rabb, or Harm,” Harm hoped to put the younger woman at ease by dropping the impersonality of rank. “This is Sarah Mackenzie. We’re lawyers with the Judge Advocate General headquarters here in Virginia.”
“Yes, my CO called me into his office this morning to tell me you were coming. He also said that you were the best councilors that Admiral Chegwidden had at JAG,” she paused briefly and took a deep breath before she continued, “forgive my impertinence, but could we just get on with the interview? The topic is somewhat… distressing.”
“Lt Waters, Julia,” Mac began, “we understand that there is some animosity concerning your position in the hostage crisis.”
Taking her cue from Harm, she replied, “Mac, my friends call me Mac.”
“Mac,” Julia took another deep breath, “there has been some… concern that I should not press charges due to my willingness to place myself into what was known to be a volatile situation. It’s kind of strange because I wasn’t even considering pressing charges until Commander Adams convinced me it would be best if I did. I’m beginning to wonder whether I didn’t make a mistake. I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t rethink my position in this whole mess; just go back to my family and school and the reserves and get on with life as usual.”
“Could you tell us what happened? We do have the reports you gave to both the Marine medic and to Commander Adams but we’d like to hear it from you as well.”
“Alright. I had taken both my mother and my son to DC for the weekend. My little boy has never seen the Smithsonian and so we were going to make a day of it. We never made it that far. DC is filled with so many uniforms that I didn’t really take notice of the commotion until I overheard someone asking about the welfare of the hostages. I’m not even sure what happened next, I knew there wouldn’t be any negotiations, and I couldn’t let those women suffer. The lead negotiator was just using stalling tactics but the situation was becoming more dangerous for the hostages.”
Julia took another deep breath. “I sent my mother and my son on to the museum without me and stayed behind with the negotiators. When I suggested that I go in so that the civilians could go free I think the negotiators thought I was joking. The leader of the terrorists happened to over hear my suggestion and agreed to the exchange. As a matter of fact he insisted that I be sent in or they would start killing the hostages. At that point everyone’s hands were tied, I couldn’t have changed my mind even if I’d wanted to. The Marine commander was hoping they would have a chance to take out some of the terrorists during the hostage swap; they managed to take out three men once the women were safely out of the line of fire but I’d already been taken into the building.”
“Were they angry that you had, in some manner, helped take out three of their men?” Mac was scribbling furiously on her legal pad.
“Oh yeah, they were not pleased. I was taken to their leader immediately. I stood in the center of the warehouse while he walked around me, I couldn’t decide whether he reminded me of a stalking cat or a curious toddler until he lashed out. He struck me across the jaw but I refused to move. That only seemed to make him angrier, he struck my stomach and I fell to the floor. He then was joined by his compatriots and they kicked me until I was no longer conscious.” Julia stopped to take a deep breath.
“The next thing I was aware of was being tied down to these wooden pallets. My whole body ached and I couldn’t determine if they had further violated me while I’d been unconscious. My guess is that they did. My clothes had been removed. Over the next several weeks they took turns battering and raping me, I lost track of time and I couldn’t determine how long I had been held. All I could think though is that at least those civilians were released scared but relatively unharmed.”
“They were trying to break my spirit, they told me so. It made them furious that I refused to succumb to their ministrations. I tried not to cry out although that became next to impossible as time passed and my injuries became more numerous.”
Harm watched as Julia continued to elaborate on her treatment. Her face was a mask of calm determination and her voice was flat. Even as she described the tortures she’d endured she refrained from expressing any emotion. She could have been reading a flight manual for all the sentiment she displayed.
“The medic who examined you at the scene stated that you were conscious when he found you?”
“Yes I was. Actually I thought he was one of my captors at the time and I struggled with him as he tried to free me of my bindings. I believe I gave him a black eye before he could convince me that he wasn’t the enemy.”
“I don’t think he included that in his report.” Harm frowned at the paper he held. “Probably he was determined not to admit being struck by an Air Force officer, you know how Marines are…” He grinned at Mac, trying to lighten the mood a bit. This woman had dealt with enough terror; she needed some levity.
Julia grinned slightly. “I think I scared him. I was pretty wild by that point.”
Mac raised her gaze from her notes. “Well, I think that covers the initial interview.” She shuffled her notes into her briefcase, smiling at a sudden thought. “Julia, do you know of anyplace decent to eat around here?”
“The food in the mess will turn even the strongest of stomachs. I was planning to leave base and go to a local salad shop for lunch. It’s not too bad and they’ve got some pretty good sandwiches. They make a killer Cobb Salad.”
“How about having some company… if you don’t mind?”
“I don’t mind at all. Since I’ve been back it’s as if I’ve got the plague, even the people who don’t blame me have been keeping their distance. And Commander Adams, as dear as he is, is smothering me with his concern.”
The Salad Shop
“I thought you were just saying it was a salad shop, I didn’t think that was the actual name,” Mac murmured, biting into her sandwich.
“Not too original, but the food more than makes up for it.” Julia pushed the salad around on her plate with her fork. As much as she knew she needed to eat, she wasn’t even remotely hungry. The sight of food just made her stomach queasy.
“Not hungry, Lieutenant?”
Julia’s head jerked up at the comment. Directly behind Harm stood a tall man in a captain’s uniform. “Not really, no. Captain Skarda, these are the JAG lawyers Commander Adams requested for my case.” She gestured to the pair of uniformed officers who shared her table.
At the mention of her upcoming trial a shadow flickered across the Major’s eyes. “I see.” He quickly saluted Mac and Harm before continuing, “Star, could I speak to you for a minute… in private?”
“Sure, I’ll be right back.” Julia flashed a wavering smile at Mac and Harm before rising from the table and following him out the door, her expression turning cautious before she’d reached the sidewalk.
Mac looked at Harm once Julia had disappeared through the door. “That was interesting.”
He took another bite of his salad, nodding in agreement. “I wonder what he needed to say to her that couldn’t be said with an audience?”
Mac raised her eyebrows and continued to devour the sandwich, waiting for the Lieutenant’s return. Julia was gone for several minutes before the door opened and she slipped back into her seat. Her face was drained of what little color it had managed to achieve after their interview. Her expression was drawn and tense.
“Are you alright, Julia?”
“Yeah, just more of the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s just say that there are more people on base who think that pressing charges is a mistake than who support me. Tom’s just one of the most vocal of the opponents. They’re apparently drawing up a petition of some kind to try to block the trial based on its invalidity.”
“Invalidity? How can he possibly claim that the charges are invalid?” Harm’s dislike of the mysterious captain was growing by leaps and bounds. “And why does he have such a vested interest in it to begin with?”
“Tom and I were dating before the hostage situation,” Julia whispered, struggling to keep her voice level.
Mac spoke up, “Before the situation? You stopped dating after your extrication, or after you decided to press charges?”
“I didn’t see him again until after I spoke with the MP about pressing charges. I had tried to call him once I was released from the hospital but I couldn’t seem to catch him or even get his answering machine to leave a message.”
“Don’t be bullied into doing something you don’t want to do.”
“I won’t. But it does seem like it would be so much easier to just drop the charges, or to never have pressed them to begin with.”
Mac stood against the doorjamb. Their drive back had passed in relative silence, the radio filling in the void but doing nothing to cease the endless roiling thoughts of the case. The Lieutenant was not only dealing with the aftermath of her rape but she was also having to handle an openly hostile working environment. The case was too important to be dropped, but Mac wasn’t sure she could continue to function to the extent the Julia currently was were the circumstances reversed.
Mac turned around to find Bud watching her curiously, “What is it?”
“The Commander asked to see you twenty minutes ago, Ma’am…”
“Oh, right, I’m on my way.” Ducking back into her office to retrieve the files Harm had asked her for, Mac strode into his office. “You requested my presence, Commander?”
“Mac, I wanted to get your thoughts on the case.”