Papa Doc was flying with her again tonight, and he was driving her nuts. There was nothing to do on plane guard but keep the bird in the air and fly in endless D-loops, yet he was on her constantly, fussing and micromanaging as if this were her first time in a  cockpit. By the end of the three hours, Monica’s nerves were shot. 

As they set down on the ship’s port side, toward the stern, Monica noticed the SEAL  on the catwalk. It was downright disquieting how he popped up everywhere, silently watching, observing everything as if he were doing some kind of inventory.  No, not just observing. Like he was memorizing everything. 

Marsupials. She’d looked it up. Born underdeveloped, with features that never quite caught up. The marsupial family included koalas, possums, and Tasmanian devils.  Which, she wondered, was he? 

When she stepped out of the Knighthawk and looked over toward the edge of the deck, he was gone.  

Ten minutes later she was in her stateroom, undressed and lying back in her rack,  talking quietly back and forth with Kris, her best friend, in the bunk below. It was past midnight and their roommate Anne lay fast asleep on the other bottom bunk a few yards away. The empty fourth rack above Anne’s had belonged to Micaela, the copilot on the helo that went down. It was the loudest thing in the cabin.  

“So how was Papa Doc?” Kris’s hushed voice drifted up from below. It was Kris who’d coined the nickname, and she was the only soul on board who dared voice it out loud. 

Monica replied with a groan.  

“That good, huh?”