Only 17

By: Ladylou

Disclaimer: Roswell and its characters are owned by Melinda Metz, Jason Katims and the WB Network. I’m only borrowing them. Please don’t be cross.
Author: Ladylou (ladylouj⊕
Spoilers: none
Rating: G
People: Michael
Notes: The song “I was only 19 (A walk in the green light)” is written by John Schumann and performed by Redgum.
Feedback: required and appreciated. Emails also welcome.
Dedication: to deraZor, as always, my cybersister and editor, thank you.
Also, Thank you so much to Kayarra, who surprised me greatly by nominating me in the writing awards. I only just found it. Hey! Now I can quote Kyle........"I'm just happy to be nominated!" LOL!


Michael Guerin slumped in his seat in the back of the classroom as he waited for his 20th Century History teacher to arrive. What did he need to learn 20th Century history of a planet that wasn’t even his own for anyway? He hoped the rumours that the new teacher was unusual were true.

The teacher strode in, walked confidently to the teacher’s desk and hefted the tape desk onto the table, feeling the students’ gasp of surprise as he did so. Happened every time. He turned to the classroom, looking them over carefully. The usual variety of students. Some bored, some interested, some that clearly wanted to be anywhere but in class on a fine summer’s day.

“G’day. I’m Mr Strauch, your teacher this semester. We’ll be studying 20th Century history. That does not mean that we only concentrate on one country. We will look at world trends and events, and how they impact on bigger and smaller countries. And”, he patted the stereo; “we will also be considering the music of the era too. Oh, and before you ask, I am Australian, I don’t know Crocodile Dundee, and most Australian towns do NOT have Kangaroos in the main street.” A chuckle broke out at this.

“And now to work. We’ll start off by looking at something you may find interesting. The Vietnam War.” Mr Strauch began his lecture by outlining the political situation in Indo-China in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s before turning to the conscription arguments which raged in every country which sent its young men to Vietnam. Michael felt his interest rise a point or two. As a soldier, war was something he could relate to. Mr Strauch then handed some papers around the class, explaining that he was going to play some anti-war songs from Australia, which would probably be unknown to most of the students and the lyrics were on the sheets for them to follow. He explained that while some of the place names and expressions used would be unfamiliar, the essence of the song was what mattered. He hit play, and the nasal, strident tones of the first singer filled the room.

“I was only 19 (A Walk in the Green Light)”

Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal
It was a long march from cadets.
The 6th Battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card
We did Canungra, Shoalwater, before we left.
And Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean
And there’s me in me slouch hat, with me SLR and greens,
God help me, I was only 19.

From Vung Tau riding chinooks I’ve been in and out of choppers now for months
And we made our tents a home, VB and pinups on the lockers
And an Asian orange sunset through the scrub
And can you tell me Dr why I still can’t get to sleep?
And night time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only 19.

A 4-week operation where any step could mean your last one on two legs
It was a war within yourself.
But you wouldn’t let your mates down till they had you dusted off.
So you closed your eyes and thought about something else.
And then someone yelled out Contact! And the bloke beside me swore
We hooked in there for hours and then a god-almighty roar
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon
God help me, he was going home in June.

And I can still see Frankie drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
On a 36-hour rec. leave in Vung Tau
And I can still hear Frankie lying screaming in the jungle
Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row.
And the Anzac legend didn’t mention mud and blood and tears
The stories that my father told me didn’t seem quite real
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel
God Help me, I was only 19.

And can you tell me Doctor why I still can’t get to sleep?
And why the Channel 7 chopper chills me to my feet
And what’s this rash that comes and goes,
Can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only 19.

Mr Strauch hit the stop button on the stereo.

“Right! You’ve heard what they think of war. Now let’s see what you think of it. I want each of you to write me a piece about war. Imagine you’re a soldier, in your first battle. Picture the scene for me. What’s happening? Couple of pages, maximum. Any war, real or imaginary, any time period. All I really want is your thoughts. Just make sure that I know the setting in the opening paragraph please. To be handed in at the end of class” he sat down to the groans of the students.

Michael Guerin, sitting in the back of the class, was oddly energized by the lecture and the songs, especially Redgum’s ‘Only 19’. He could relate to that. He was a soldier too. Hell, he’d even killed a guy in war. He picked up his pen and began to write furiously.

2099. For some time now, the Earth has been a battle ground for refugees from the planet Cartecba and their mortal enemies, the Skins. Most Earthlings are not even aware of the war being waged around them. The only Earthlings who do know about the war are those who have been forced by circumstance to acknowledge the truth that “little green men” walk among them, looking and acting just like humans, or those Earthlings whose suspicious nature makes them an even more dangerous enemy than the Skins and leads them to investigate anything outside of the ordinary.

Melchar surveyed his battlegroup as they slumped around the walls of their bunker, processing the ramifications of their first battle. An ill-assorted lot of humans and Cartecbians, but strangely, a group who had proved time and again just how much they depended on each other for success in their mission.

As with any Cartecbian battle group, and there were many scattered anonymously across the Earth, each of the four off-worlders in the group had a specific role to play in both its survival and its success in the greater war. Perhaps his group was the most crucial to the entire war. He suspected so. Back on Cartecba, he had been the King’s War Duke, the chief of the military for the planet. He was the warrior of the group able to shoot an energy bolt that could disarm, disable, dismember or kill from his outstretched hand. He glanced across the room firstly at the other male off-worlder, Jetchar, King in Exile of Cartechba, and the group’s healer and leader, who was sitting idly caressing his human partner’s hand. While it looked as if Jetchar was only interested in his woman, Melchar knew that the actions were automatic, as necessary to Jetchar as breathing and his brain was in fact processing information and formulating plans and ideas all the time. Melchar’s glance then moved to the two off-world women: Bell-Sa, Jetchar’s sister and heir to the throne who specialized in retrieving information from captives by the subtlest of mindsearching abilities and lastly Gla-sa, who had only recently joined their group. Her power lay in her mind-warping; the ability to make people think they were seeing something other than the truth in front of their faces. A handy trick.

The four humans in the group were just as varied. Two male, two female, one older, three young like the Cartecbians. Ella, Maggie and Homer were all teenagers in human terms. Homer was a whiz with electronics, Ella, Jetchar’s woman, had a scientists brain, and was a clear thinker with the ability to process information and formulate strategy faster than any other human he knew and Maggie. Maggie was just Maggie. The human who loved and supported him unquestioningly through all the trials they had met and would meet. Ella, Maggie and Homer had been best friends before being drawn into the off-worlders circle. Now their circle had enlarged, but it brooked no outsiders.

The fourth human, the adult, was the strangest member of the group. Cartecbian battle groups usually worked in secret, but his group had a strange ally: Constable, the town’s top lawman. Sympathetic to the off-worlders he made life easier for them in a hundred unseen ways, allowing them to go about their business unquestioned by normal authority figures.

Tonight’s business was always going to be ugly. A human enemy-sympathizer had been captured and questioned – never torture, it was strictly against their beliefs, and besides, who needed torture when you had Bell-Sa and Gla-sa to get inside people’s heads and mess with their minds?

As was their way whenever danger was imminent, Homer had protected the four girls (they did not have to see a captive, to be able to extract the information they needed), while he, Jetchar and Constable dealt with the captive. A government operative with a deadly hatred and deep-rooted fear of offworlders, Snake had proved difficult to crack. They three men were just returning to question him again, when he stood up from the chair in which he had been tied, and pulled a gun on them. Constable, who spotted the danger first, crash-tacked Melchar and Jetchar to the floor and came up shooting his own weapon, but missed. As he tried to reload his gun, Snake took deadly aim on him. Melchar jumped to his feet and unleashed a full strength energy bolt at him. He fell back against the wall and lay still. They ran over to him and Constable confirmed his death. Melchar’s first kill.

Melchar’s first kill.

Melchar’s first kill in this bloody war. The first time he had ‘fired’ any kind of shot in this bloody war and it had to kill a human. Bile rose in his throat as he contemplated the danger the group was now in from killing a human, and a government operative at that. Who knew what trails he had left which would lead straight to them?

Homer and the girls had come racing down from their safe room when they heard the row, concern and fear on their faces. Melchar pushed Maggie aside as she tried to console him. He couldn’t let her be part of this group anymore. Couldn’t put her in that kind of danger anymore. He loved her too much.

Constable prowled the room, clearly torn between his human duty as a lawman, and his allegiance to the Cartecbian’s cause. The group waited for him to make a suggestion.

Questions swirled around the group like poisonous clouds. How did Snake get a gun? How did he get untied? Gla-sa soon found the answers, bleeding to death on the floor behind some broken furniture: Beau, a jealous rival of Jetchar’s had snuck into the bunker, untied Snake, and passed the weapon to him. Beau, Constable’s son, was dying. Jetchar had no hesitation in using his healing powers to save Beau’s life, even though Beau was no friend of the group.

Melchar stood apart, hating himself for taking a life. Jetchar tried to console him, but Melchar would not let himself be helped. The bottom line: Jetchar gave life through his healing ability, Melchar took life.
God help him, he was only 17.

The bell rang as Michael finished the final sentence. The students filed past Mr Strauch, handing in their essays, and the teacher tried to gauge the feelings showing on every face. As Michael walked past and added his essay to the growing pile, the teacher recalled what he had been told about him “not one of the school’s great participators…only works when he feels like it…” the usual negative platitudes. Knowing that, Mr Strauch had been surprised to notice the younger man writing furiously the whole lecture and was mystified to understand why the student now looked ….he searched for the words….at peace with himself.

The end.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Oct-2001 10:17:42 AM ]