Spoilers: "One for the Money," "The Insurance Man Always Rings Twice" and "A Girl's Life."

Anything even remotely fact-like, scientific-sounding and military-sounding is sort of made up by me, using whatever little information I can find on the web. "Semper Fi" is short for "semper fidelis" which means "Always Faithful." It's the Marine Corp Motto. "Prooemium" means "Prelude." "Nullum Gratuitum Prandium" is a nice way of saying "there's no such thing as a free lunch." "Amor Vincit Omnia" is translated at the end.

Semper Fi

by azuremonkey

Part 1: Prooemium

0600 -- Camp Pendleton, CA (54 degrees F)

Michael Wiseman, human cyborg extraordinaire, got out of the jet, none too elegantly. Hey, he'd never ridden in an F-16 before. Give him a 747 and a long-legged stewardess in First Class any day.

"My seat stayed in an up-right position the entire trip, my beverages were room temperature and the meal was practically nonexistent," Michael groused good-naturedly, to no one in particular.

"At least the pilot kept you abreast of your flying altitude and speed, Mr. Wiseman."

Michael turned and saw that Dr. Theodore Morris had come out to the airfield to greet him. "Actually, that part, I could have done without," Michael returned, dryly.

"Well, if we're through with the chit-chat portion of this program, let's get started, shall we?"

And the mysterious Dr. Theo, who had more tricks up his sleeve than Lance Burton, led the way. It wasn't as if he were asking. No, it tended to be more like a warning. It was Dr. Theo's special way of saying, "We're going to have fun now." And you just knew, that by "we" he meant "he". He would be having fun.

And that tended to worry Michael. Very much.


7:35 am -- New York Suburbs (54 degrees F)

"Heather, turn the TV off and finish getting ready for school." Lisa Wiseman was distracted and a little nervous. She had a lot to accomplish today. The last thing she needed was for her teenage daughter to start acting up again.

"I'm almost ready, Mom!" came the impatient reply from the living room. Heather Wiseman was still upset about being grounded for two weeks -- that was evident. It was Homecoming Weekend. Not that Heather really wanted to go to the stupid football, anyway. Where all of her friends would be. It was just that the new transfer student was the starting running forward, or back, or something like that. And he was pretty cute.

The TV continued to blare in the background "From the halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli. We fight our country's battles on the land as on the sea. The few, the many, the proud. Join the United States Marines today."

"Heather, I'm not going to tell you again. Turn the TV off and finish your breakfast." Quickly throwing the morning dishes into the dishwasher, Lisa tried to hold back a sigh. For every step she took forward with her daughter, a week later, they somehow managed four steps back.

Fifteen minutes later, Heather was astonishingly out the door. Lisa stopped in the kitchen to turn the dishwasher on. As she grabbed her handbag off the counter, she mentally prioritized her day --

Clank! Chug! Thud!

Turning quickly, she saw water running out from under the machine. And smoke billowing out from the top.

Staring at it in astonishment and growing dismay, Lisa thought, "Apparently, the last thing I needed was for my dishwasher to start acting up."


0800 -- Camp Pendleton, CA (69 degrees F)

Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps training facility, is situated between Los Angles and San Diego. It encompasses 125,000 acres and 17 miles of Southern California coastline. And Michael had a feeling that by 23 hundred hours, he would be intimately familiar with every inch of its terrain.

"The Senators," who apparently funded the project that is Michael Wiseman, wanted to test Michael's special abilities alongside some of the toughest men and women in the US. Which was why they had flown out to Camp Pendleton. To put Michael to the test against fifteen Marines.

Michael wondered what the fall out would be if he failed to perform up to expectations. A thought that worried him. A little. He could only worry about that a little. He was too busy worrying a lot about something else.

Fifteen Marines.

Who were currently staring at him as if they were going to have him for breakfast. Without breaking a sweat.

He had tried smiling at them. No response. He'd held his hand out for a handshake - BIG mistake. That had landed him flat on his back. Not the most outgoing bunch he'd ever seen. But Michael was getting used to being ignored, to having his friendly overtures thwarted, to being seen but not heard. Actually, come to think of it, with the group surrounding him today, his only ally was… Dr. Theo. OK, that scared him a lot.

Currently, he was dressed in fatigues, awaiting orders, he presumed. He'd spent about 45 minutes exercising alongside the Marines. Another bad idea. It seemed the more weight Dr. Theo added, the more the Senators murmured their approval, the more the Marines growled. Covered in a fine layer of sweat, Michael was anxious to get the day going. He was used to having his new abilities measured. But he was always by himself. Apparently, he couldn't play well with the other kids. Frighteningly enough, he was getting used to solitary.

"Mr. Wiseman." Dr. Theo had walked up to him, while he had been musing. Shaking his head to clear his disturbing thoughts, Michael tried to lighten his mood. "Hey, Doc. I seem to have gotten drafted. Are we at war? Shouldn't someone warn the President?"

"Mr. Wiseman, we're ready to begin the assessment." With that, Dr. Theo pointed to a large knapsack on the ground, which Michael threw over his shoulders. Walking behind the other Marines, who were similarly burdened, Michael wondered if their knapsacks were as heavy as his.

Looking past them, Michael noticed barbed wire over a mud pit. Well, he figured he'll be getting a workout today.


Part 2: Nullum Gratuitum Prandium

10:50 am - Manhattan, NY (50 degrees F)

Lisa Wiseman found she was already an hour behind. Because of the dishwasher. It was beyond repair. Good thing the insurance money had come in.

At Bleeker, she got off the subway train and crossed the underground system to the F track. Only to find that there would be a delay of two and a half hours. Not what she needed.

Holding back a sigh, she climbed up the stairs and walked the few blocks to West 4th. And stepped on a piece of chewed gun, which she had to scratch off with her shoe. Back below ground, she realized she had just missed the E and had to wait 10 minutes for the next train. The New York City subway system at its best!

When the trained arrived, she barely squeezed into the car and stood pressed up against a man with the most horrendous body odor. At 53rd Street, she exited and, back at ground level, she quickly looked around. Finally, almost 35 minutes later, she found the address she was looking for - and found that the store was closed for remodeling!

Well, she guessed this meant she might actually make it on time for her next appointment. She decided to walk to Times Square, arriving at the cute little Italian restaurant at the same moment as Sarah. After hugging and saying how long it had been, they followed the waiter to their table.

Since they were having an early lunch, Lisa opted for a small salad and a plate of capellini pomodoro. As she and Sarah were catching up with each other, one of the other patrons jostled Lisa. And sent her soda flying down the front of her blouse. She excused herself and went into the restroom to clean up. There was still a stain, but it wasn't too horrible.

After paying for their meal, she and Sarah said their goodbyes, promising to get together soon. Lisa collected her things and exited the restaurant.

Out into the pouring rain.

Lisa realized that she had forgotten to bring her umbrella. She walked faster, trying to make her way to the subway station.

"I could have handled everything else. But why did it have to rain. Today of all days. I just wish it would stop raining!" Lisa muttered, hurrying down the subway stairs.


1300 - Camp Pendleton (82 degrees F)

What he wouldn't have done for a little rain.

Michael Wiseman was tired. But he was also thirsty. Very thirsty.

The day had progressively gotten warmer and the hot sun was gleaming directly into Michael's eyes. This obstacle course event had started almost four hours ago. Michael had crawled ungracefully under the barbed wire fence. Through the mud. Which now covered him from head to foot.

"Well, I make quite a fashion statement," he muttered, his parched mouth causing him to croak slightly.

"How are you doing, Mr. Wiseman?" Dr. Theo said into Michael's ear.

"Great. When's the next lemonade stand?"

"We're clocking you at 37 miles an hour. You've improved in the last few days."

"Wonderful. So, when's lunch?"

"Lunch is waiting for you. You just have about one third of the course left."

"A third? Left? How long does it take someone to finish the whole course?"

"About four days. We want you to finish it in a matter of hours."

Michael climbed to the top of a wall and back down the other side. He'd climbed about ten such walls in the last few hours. He continued the conversation because it kept his mind off his growling stomach and fatigued body. " Yes, but I give you this gift now, what am I going to wrap and put under the tree Christmas morning?"

"Mr. Wiseman, we're sensing a deceleration in your moving speed. Is there a problem?"

"Yeah. Where's the ground?"

"You need to swing using the ropes provided for you."

"Great. Now I'm Tarzan!"

Michael swung from rope to rope, while Dr. Theo, viewing Michael on hidden cameras, looked on his creation with pride. "Oh, he floats through the air with the greatest of ease, this daring young man on the flying trapeze," the Doctor sung into Michael's ear.

"Serenading" -- Michael gasped for a deep breath of fresh air before continuing - " I could do without. Now, water. Water I would kill for. And a shower. In that order."

He let go of the rope and landed on both feet. He took off running, wondering how much longer a third of the course would take him.


3:00 pm - Manhattan, NY (45 degrees F)

"It's going to take how much longer to get the car fixed?" Lisa asked into the telephone.

The mechanic had made it clear to Lisa that the car wasn't going to be ready anytime soon. Lisa knew there had to be a way to get the car done faster. But Michael normally handled these matters. Lisa had never been any good with mechanical things. Whenever anything broke down, Michael dealt with it.

But Michael wasn't here to deal with anything anymore. And Lisa didn't know what to do. So she just asked the mechanic to hurry and hung up.

She made a quick call to Heather, reminding Heather to eat what was in the fridge, not to open the door to strangers and said she'd be home by 11:00. She finished the call and went back into the classroom.

She was having a hard time concentrating on her real estate class. There were so many things to take care of these days. Lisa knew that Heather helped as much as she could. But Heather was also a teenager. And Lisa didn't want Heather to miss out on things just because Lisa was having a hard time getting her act together.

Lisa glanced at her watch. It was 3:30. After the class, Lisa had to hurry to a dinner party at the Mitchell's. They were old friends and Lisa knew Ruth and Roger would be there. At least it was something to look forward to.


Part 3: Amor Vincit Omnia

1700 - Camp Pendleton (77 degrees F)

Sure, the weather had cooled somewhat. Now that he was done with the obstacle course. The day was conspiring against him. And that lunch that he'd been looking forward to... How is anyone supposed to look forward to weeds? And grass roots and such? They shouldn't even call it food as far as Michael was concerned.

The Marines that Michael had left in the dust hours ago, were all gathered around, ignoring Michael again. The Doc was talking to the Senators. Michael could barely make out the discussion, but whatever it was, the Marines, who were standing closer to the Doc than Michael was, were grinning - big, wolf grins. Michael moved closer to Dr. Theo, attempting to listen in on the conversation.

"I believe that you'll see the range of abilities Mr. Wiseman possesses at the live-fire range."

"Excuse me... uhmmm, wait a minute." Michael decided he needed to get in on this discussion. He walked the few steps to where Dr. Theo was holding court with a half a dozen Senators and bigwigs. "Live-fire range? What exactly would a live-fire range be?"

Dr. Theo half-turned and glanced at Michael out of the corner of his eye. "The live-fire range is a firing range measuring approximately 5 km by 16 km."

"And the 'firing' part? Would that be consisting of guns?"

"It would indeed be consisting of many guns." Dr. Theo gestured for Michael to follow him away from the others. "Not to worry, Mr. Wiseman."

"W-worried. I'm-m not worried about a thing... Except for this live-fire range, thing."

"It's not what you're thinking."


"Yes. Because I know how you feel about guns."

"Well... good. As long as we have that straight."

"Yes. You're not going to be firing a weapon."

"Oh. Well, then what am I going to be doing? Watching?"

"No, Mr. Wiseman. You will be our moving target."


6:45 pm - Manhattan, NY (42 degrees F)

Lisa darted quickly in front of a speeding taxi and, safely on the other side of the sidewalk, made her way to a high-rise near Park Avenue. She'd had time to change into dry clothes and fixed her make-up a bit. The Mitchell's always threw wonderful dinner parties. They were big clients of Michael's (or were, she supposed), but they had such a good relationship with each other, that, over the years, the Mitchell's and the Wiseman's had become friends.

She got off the elevator and knocked on apartment number 1545. Elliot Mitchell answered the door. He helped her with her coat and led Lisa into the spacious living.

Which was filled with couples.

Roger was at the bar, talking to Henry. Ruth was on the sofa, with Henry's wife, Elise. Barbara Mitchell walked into the room with a plate of hors d'oeuvre.

Lisa tried to blend in and act like she didn't realize she was a fifth wheel, but she felt it was pretty obvious. She didn't know why she hadn't thought of that. Everything Michael and she had done socially had been as a couple.

Lisa smiled at something Elise said, not having really listened. She had looked forward to this dinner party all week. Now, she just wanted it to be over with so she could go home. And start dealing with this new twist.

She was now just a party of one.


2000/10:00 pm- Manhattan, NY (40 degrees F)

"The live-firing range, that was fun. Having fifteen insane Marines shooting at me."

"They've all had their mental status completely checked and I can assure you that each and every one of them is indeed sane."

"So you say. But then, you weren't their live target. Oww!!"

"Well, if you had let the doctor on the base look at it, you wouldn't be in this much pain now."

"Thank you. No thank you. I just wanted to get home as soon as possible."

"I didn't know you liked your living quarters so much."

"I don't," Michael replied. "But it's a better alternative to staying on that base one more second."

"The Marines were just doing their job."

"Oh, right. Calling me their 'point-man' and joking about firing an M-79 at me. Talk about a 'deep serious'," Michael muttered, while glancing out the window.

"Oh delightful. You picked up the lingo."

Michael had been used as a human target, which was just the last thing in a long line of humiliations and degradations. Why did he put with it? He had the strength to break out of the car and the fall from the moving limo wouldn't hurt him. Not more than he'd already been today. He didn't have to stay and give in to this. Why did he then? Why'd he continue to -

And then he saw something that made his heart stop.

"And I thank God I'm alive
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off of you"

It was Lisa, in a tailored suit, making her way to Grand Central. His eyes followed her, even after the limo turned right. He continued to stare where she had been for a moment longer.

"Pardon the way that I stare
There's nothing else to compare
The sight of you leaves me weak
There are no words left to speak
But if you feel like I feel
Please let me know that it's real
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off of you"

And that's when he remembered why he stayed, why he put up with it.

They say love conquerors all.

Yeah, but he wondered what they said about shrapnel embedded in one's torso.

END Comments to: mad_megt@hotmail.com