You Are Our Heroes


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Scene Title You Are Our Heroes
Synopsis Showing thanks for those who protect and defend the Constitution.
Date Dec 27, 2009

Mess Hall, USS George Washington

The mess hall is one of the busiest places aboard the USS George Washington. Due to the fact that everyone eats in shifts, the place is always hopping — and especially as the ship is on alert and waiting for a call to action, everyone's somewhat on edge. The holiday spirit has been present in some forms — trees in a few places, Christmas and Hanukkah services offered by the chaplains, and the MWR personnel (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) have made a point of setting up Secret Santas and movie nights and assorted other things geared toward helping the service members not entirely miss out on the holidays. Elisabeth and Cat, guests aboard this floating city, have managed to volunteer their services as well in an impromptu sort of gift for the crew. The MWR lieutenant has procured (one should NEVER ask where a supply sergeant procures things from, the MWR lieutenant has learned his lesson and not queried the situation at all) an amplifier, and a small stage has been set up in the mess hall. It's garnered a lot of interest from all the crew members passing through, especially now as Elisabeth and Cat take to the platform and get ready to entertain.

There's a guitar over her shoulder, held by the strap; a Fender in dark blue. Cat plugs the lead into the amp which was scrounged up among things brought aboard by Marines. Must be Marines, given that the Navy proper has no sergeants. Unless, of course, that sergeant raided the Navy. She too doesn't ask. Instead, as fingers move over strings and frets to create notes which test the instrument's tuning and correct where needed, she lets her eyes wander. "I wonder if there are any musical people here now, that don't have to eat and run off to a duty station."

Another thought follows and is given voice. "How will it go over if these people suddenly have to stand at attention?"

There's a soft laugh. "Based on what I know of the military, if they have to stop and stand at attention, you should stop playing. Because it means they need to be able to hear whatever is being said," Elisabeth tells her. And then once Cat indicates that the guitar is ready — which Elisabeth already knows just because she's got a good ear — the blonde turns to the room. Many eyes are already on them expectantly simply by virtue of Cat's instrument making noise. Elisabeth, wearing a simple pair of blue-hued digital BDU pants and a black T-shirt with a pair of small combat boots that she's breaking in for use in the extraction, looks almost military in appearance. Her hair is pulled up into a ponytail instead of braided, but she could pass at this moment for a soldier. She raises one hand to gain the attention of the rest of the room and calls out,

"Ladies and gentlemen, for those we haven't met, my name is Elisabeth and this is Catherine. We are not sailors or soldiers, but you have all been kind enough to share your ship and its amenities with us, and some of you have shared your holiday spirit with a small group of civilians far from home. We have little enough with which to say thank you for what you've done for and with us personally, for what you're going to do in the week to come, and for the service that you provide our country. You who give your time, your energy, and sometimes your very lives to protect and defend the Constitution — you are our heroes. And since we are here, and you are here, we'd like to say thank you the only way we can. If there are any of you out there who have a bit of musical talent you'd like to express up here with us, feel free to join in! And Merry Christmas." She glances at Cat to see if the lovely brunette has anything to say.

"Not quite that," Cat replies with a chuckle, "more that they'd need to stand because of what I'm playing to start off with." Eyes rest on the detective, as she elaborates "The Anthem, in Hendrix's style." Silence follows, though, while the mess hall crowd is spoken to and Cat's eyes track across the people to see if anyone stands and/or approaches. "Sax players, drummers, bass guitarists…"

In her head are the chords of that first tune and the details of two others to follow.

Elisabeth ohs at that and chuckles. "We'll warn them." There are several looks of apology — because there *are* people who do those things but they can't bring instruments aboard. There's not enough room to pack it all up in a sea bag. Though a couple of people head for the kitchen to see if they can come up with some percussion instruments — or makeshift ones. "Fair warning, I'm pretty sure no one gets to move for the first one in the set. After that, anyone who wants to join in, by all means, do so." Elisabeth steps back to let Cat begin the first piece.

As the first chords of "The Star-Spangled Banner" begin to resonate through the room, Elisabeth's hand goes to her heart…. and there's a sharp clatter of movement and the sound of a couple hundred pairs of boots clunking together as a room full of military personnel scrambles off their seats and comes immediately to attention. You've never seen a room so still.

As stated, she plays it in the fashion Jimi Hendrix used at Woodstock decades before, fingers easily moving over the instrument. Cat's voice doesn't join in, also keeping with the style of that version. Her skill, honed across more than ten years of playing guitar, is demonstrated. Nimble fingers too, the same dexterity which allows her to use things read in books about anatomy and emergency medical procedures.

In time, the last chord fades to silence which lingers briefly, as she muses aside to Elisabeth "Surely there's some kind of instruments aboard. The modern Navy doesn't carry bands on ships?" Say it ain't so!

Throughout Cat's rendition of the anthem, there is zero movement in the room. There's even zero movement in the hallway outside the mess, as everyone who can hear the music also has to stop what they're doing. Kitchen staff included. Once it is complete, however, and the room is free to move, there is applause for Cat. And someone near the small platform gets an idea — he heads for the intercom system at a run to go make a call down to the MWR office. There actually is a small ensemble of violinists, a cellist, and a couple of trumpeteers on board — but none of them happened to be in this room. He goes to summon them while the show plays on.

Once the anthem's over, Elisabeth looks over the group — some of whom are whistling and making appreciative noises — and then back at Cat. This looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. She waits for her partner in crime to pick the next thing. It's always a little bit amusing to her that the music is where she and Cat connect the most.

Eyes linger on the departing one, before her Cat's fingers move again. This time there's an intro, after which her voice joins in. The sound is improvised, bits and pieces altered to make it work with the guitar, but still faithful to the sheet music she looked at earlier. A grin forms, then her face becomes once again focused on what's at hand; more than any other time she's in her element. Stage performance before an audience hasn't happened since early in December 2008, and in her head she's a rock star working the crowd. Eye contact is made with various people around the mess, she presents the semblance of playing directly to them while moving around in something the style of a panther.

"Stand, Navy, out to sea, Fight our battle cry;

We'll never change our course, So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll out the TNT, Anchors Aweigh. Sail on to victory!

And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!"

Fingers play out the instrumental section between verses; when it's time for the second to begin she is silent, however. Perhaps Cat has different ideas for the singing of those lyrics and doesn't think anyone needs to be told.

Certainly not. There are no words for the exuberance that the carrier personnel show for Cat's version of their personal fight song. Before she hits the end of the first stanza, most of the voices in the room have already raised, nearly drowning out the guitar itself. Elisabeth, for her part, merely adjusts the accoustics for this one, allowing the guitar's sounds to float above the sea of voices but not loud enough to drown out the primarily male group of voices. Elisabeth's laughter is unheard beneath the din, but her blue eyes sparkle with it. The men and women of the USS George Washington are a great crowd.

"Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh.

Farewell to foreign shores, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.

Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,

Until we meet once more. Here's wishing you a happy voyage home."

Her fingers keep going, there's little space of silence between those two verses taught to recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station for basic training and the next selection. There are Marines aboard, although likely a much smaller number than of sailors and naval officers, and it's for them Cat now performs with voice joining in at the appropriate spot.

"From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli;

We fight our country's battles in the air, on land, and sea;

First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean;

We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine."

And again singing is left to the crowd, although it may be quieter, with the start of the second verse.

This song is much quieter — it is a hymn, not an anthem. The Marines in the room all go silent and to attention, as is their custom to show their pride in their fellow Marines, their Corps, their Country, their heritage, and their battle hymn. The sailors around them show their respect for these men and women by giving appropriate voice to the lyrics for them.

"Our flag's unfurled to every breeze, from dawn to setting sun;

We have fought in every clime and place where we could take a gun;

In the snow of far off northern lands and in sunny tropic scenes;

You will find us always on the job — The United States Marines."

It is in the final stanza that Elisabeth, who has been making sure the accoustics work properly, also adds her own voice finally.

"Here's health to you and to our Corps, which we are proud to serve;

In many a strife we've fought for life and never lost our nerve;

If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven's scenes;

They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines."

At the end of this, all the personnel in the room go wild, whistling and cheering. And only now, finally, do several people carrying other instruments arrive. Two trumpets and two violins arrive in the hands of varied-rank crew members. They come up to the platform and grin at the two women — a lovely brunette Petty Officer, a blond Lt. Commander, a Marine sergeant, and a Marine colonel yank chairs up to the platform to flank the civilian musicians. It looks like the party's getting into full swing now. At the back of the room, Lt. Joe Ratcliffe, MWR officer, smiles faintly as he checks the video camera he's had running since Cat and Liz began setting up. The Captain's going to love this.

It goes on from there for some time, Cat being in her element with the setting; rock before an audience. That's the genre she sticks to as much as possible, seeming to easily know most things older and younger personnel present might call for, with the distinctive absence of country. Cat, even here, is still Cat. It probably must rock to be played. Though in such cases she may rest and let others handle the load.

Elisabeth loans her voice to pretty much everything Cat wants to play. Everything from Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" to Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" to Mike & the Mechanics' "Silent Running" to Enrique Iglesias's "Bailamos" to Pat Benatar and Joan Jett to The Eagles and Steve Miller Band and so many more. For upwards of a couple of hours Elisabeth and Cat and their accompanists play. Something for everyone, and something to make everyone roll their eyes. It's the best way to play a concert. People come and go, trading out the audience as some go on duty, some hit the rack early, and some just leave to make room to allow others to come see in person. The sailors and Marines show their appreciation for this gift of time with a standing ovation as the two women finally have to call a halt to the performance, slipping out into the hall amid profuse thanks and even a few teasingly ribald offers.

A while later, out on the deck with a cup of steaming tea for her throat (courtesy of a very grateful kitchen staff it even has honey in it), Elisabeth smiles at her companion. "That was worth every bit of effort we gave it."

"It's been a year," Cat remarks. Her guitar is still over a shoulder, the empty case carried in hand, as cola is enjoyed slowly. "Always good to get on stage and rock. Someday," she muses, "I'll do it regularly again." Silence follows, her bottle is tilted back to yield a measure of the liquid content. On her face as it lowers is a mildly giddy smile. "The Colonel with the horn, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. Man could've been a pro."

Elisabeth laughs out loud at that. "I didn't know the words to that one, but damn, it was fun to watch." She sips her tea and grins a little.

Closing her eyes, she takes another small drink. When they reopen, Cat's gaze settles out over the water. No words are used over what for her is an extended comfortable silence spent just basking in the feeling of having played before an audience.

When she does break quietude, she's turning toward the detective. "We should see about doing another after dinner today. But right now, it's time for the gym." To perform the regimen of sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, and practice of Krav Maga moves Elisabeth and Abby perhaps became familiar with during time spent in Russia.

What remains in the twenty-ounce bottle is then imbibed, the empty plastic carried away to deposit in an appropriate container as she goes below decks.

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