Bittersweet Sixteen



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Bittersweet Sixteen

by Red Witch

Rated: K+

Summary: Commander Walsh agonizes on helping a young Shane Gooseman find his place in the world. A world that doesn't understand Supertroopers.

The disclaimer saying that I don't own any Galaxy Ranger characters has been made into a birthday cake. Here's another early Goose fic I made up using my deranged imagination. Don't take it too seriously, just more crazy ideas from my mad brain.

"You've been pretty busy these past seven weeks," Commander Mark Jenson remarked to his old friend Commander Joseph Walsh. "I don't know the details of your last command but the way you're burning through the midnight oil one would think that this next project of yours will be ten times more difficult."

"Believe me Mark you have no idea how much difficulty I can handle," Walsh made a grin at his sandy haired old friend.

"Considering your protégé Gooseman I can imagine," Jenson groaned.

"What did he do this time?" Walsh groaned. "I was only gone for half a day. It couldn't have been that bad!"

"He destroyed all the targets on the target practice range," Jenson gave him a look.

"That doesn't sound so…"

"For the next five years," Jenson added. "We are literally without targets."

"Oh…" Walsh winced.

"Walsh I don't know where you found Gooseman but maybe you should consider sending him back," Jenson gave him a look. "Don't get me wrong, he's enthusiastic but he's a bit trigger happy even for my tastes. And a little too aggressive for Captain Ares' taste."

"Still smarting from that hand to hand combat practice the other day?" Walsh made a grin.

"My second in command takes his duties as well as his skills very seriously," Jenson told him. "He certainly didn't like being shown up in front of his own men by some kid half his age."

Even younger actually, Walsh thought to himself.

"Seriously Joseph from what I've heard that boy is half the reason you've been moving around from base to base all these weeks," His friend gave him a look. "What's it been? Five, six bases?"

"Eight if you count a few overnight stays," Walsh sighed.

"Well maybe if you were around a bit more he might calm down a bit," Jenson remarked. "You should know better to take on a protégé without properly training him and then going off on one of your…"

"SIR!" A soldier ran into the room hastily saluting. "There's a situation in Training Room A Sir!"

"What kind of situation?" Jenson asked. "As if I don't have any idea."

"It's Gooseman! He's taking on a whole platoon!" The soldier reported.

"Oh no! Now what?" Walsh swore under his breath. He and Jenson ran to the training room. There a bare chested Shane was fighting several men successfully. Some were on the floor, clearly hurt.

"STOP THIS! STOP THIS! GOOSEMAN! ATTENTION!" Both Walsh and Jenson yelled at their men. They stopped fighting.

"It's Gooseman! He started it!" One man shouted pointing at him.

"Yeah it's all that freak's fault!" Another man shouted.

"They hit me!" Shane protested. "They attacked me! I was just defending myself!"

"Look at him Commander!" One of the soldiers shouted, pointing to Shane. "That thing ain't human!"

Walsh turned and saw exactly what the soldier was referring to. Or rather, what wasn't there.

With his bare chest Shane couldn't hide the fact that he didn't have a navel.

"What the hell?" Jenson did a double take.

"He's an alien!" A soldier shouted. "A freaking alien!"

"I'm not an alien!" Shane shouted. "I'm human!"

"The hell you are!" Another soldier shouted from where he lay. "No human can fight like you! I think he broke my leg!"

"He's hardly even bruised!" Another soldier shouted. "Look at him!"

"The way he moves, it's more like an animal!" Someone else shouted. "And he fights like one too!"

"There's a shock," A tall man in his late thirties with a buzz cut and muscles walked into the room. He was carrying a folder. "I thought all those rumors were just a story floating around but they're true! He's one of them isn't he Walsh?"

"Them? What are you talking about? What is he Walsh?" Commander Jenson asked.

"I know what he is," Captain Ares spoke. "And I know what your pal Walsh has been doing the past twenty years."

"Captain if you are thinking about divulging classified military secrets…" Walsh growled.

"They ain't secret no more, sir," Ares handed Jenson some files. "These just came over the wires. From the higher ups in the Board of Leaders themselves. What we've been assigned to do."

Ares strutted to the center of the room, glaring at Shane. "They're called Supertroopers. Genetic mutants. Commander Walsh has been growing them in a lab and training them to go out and fight the enemy aliens any way possible. Basically they were supposed to replace us. But something went wrong and most of them went crazy. And worse…Some of them got away."

Shane's green eyes remained cold, showing no emotion as Ares glared at him. "Some of your friends just knocked over a spaceport like it was a gas station. A male and female. They stole a spaceship and killed seven people doing it. Not to mention destroying the whole place."

Not Darkstar and Stingray…Not Darkstar and Stingray…Shane pleaded silently in his mind, yet not betraying any emotion in his face. He nearly collapsed in relief when Ares flashed a picture of Chimera and Gravestone.

"They're born killers," Ares snarled glaring at Walsh. "And he's responsible for creating them!"

This caused a stir among the men. "We've been assigned to help hunt these animals down," Ares said. "Sir I highly recommend we start by locking up that one!"

"No!" Walsh said quickly. "He's not one of them! Not anymore!"

"He's a mutant freak," Ares snapped. "Look what he did without even trying! He's a danger to everyone around him!"

"No he isn't!" Walsh protested. Then he saw the men on the ground. It clearly contradicted what he said.

"Walsh I'd like to see you in my office," Jenson said clearly. "Captain Ares…Escort Gooseman to the stockade. And keep him in restraints."

Shane betrayed no emotion as he was shackled. They didn't even allow him to put a shirt on. Walsh gave him a look saying Don't worry Shane, I'll sort this out. But it was lost amid the heckles and jeers the soldiers gave him.

Soon Walsh and Jenson were in Jenson's office. "All right Walsh. Spill it. And don't give me that BS about military secrets. I want the whole story. Now!"

"Part of it you know already," Walsh sighed. "Twenty years ago the Board of World Leaders put me in charge of the Supertrooper Project."

"Where you've been growing genetically altered killers like mold spores," Jenson growled. "That's why he doesn't have a navel is it? He was raised in a test tube!"

"Let me finish," Walsh held up his hand. "They were supposed to be the last line of defense against alien attacks but…Seven weeks ago…Something went horribly wrong. They were exposed to an unauthorized genetic accelerant. It mutated most of them. Enhancing their DNA to give them incredible powers but it made them unstable."

"What kind of powers?" Jenson asked.

"Laser eye vision, enhanced strength, healing, chameleonic abilities…" Walsh sighed.

"And Gooseman can do that?"

"No, he was the only one not exposed to the gas," Walsh explained. "He managed to contain most of them. If it wasn't for him we'd have an entire army of insane Supertroopers on the loose instead of just seven."

"So what? You decided to keep him in your quarters like he was some kind of pet?" Jenson asked.

"I know this is hard for you to understand," Walsh sighed.

"You're damn right it's hard for me to understand!" Jenson snapped. "Joseph we used to argue against genetic enhancement of soldiers! Remember? The moral implications? Playing God with the human body? Does that ring a bell?"

"Things change," Walsh said softly.

"Obviously," Jenson growled. "In all this time…How could you do this Joseph? How could you betray some of the very principles we believed in?"

"You think this was easy for me?" Walsh growled at him. "You have no idea how bad the situation is and how desperate Earth is for protectors! You have no idea what I've done, the sacrifices I've made…"

"And if you have any sense you'd make another one," Jenson snapped. "I can understand you wanting to reward the mutant for not turning on you but you have to face reality! He's an inhuman monster! A monster you created!"

"He's only a fifteen year old…" Walsh began. Then he noticed the calendar and realized the date. "No…He's sixteen now. Today was the day he was decanted."

And some birthday present he's gotten. A lesson on hate and intolerance, Walsh reflected.

"Why are you so determined to protect him?" Jenson asked.

"I have my reasons," Walsh sighed. "I'm responsible for him, Mark. He's the only good thing left from the Supertrooper Program. I can't abandon him."

"So what do you want me to do Joseph? Just turn him loose so he can injure or kill more people?"

"He wouldn't have done anything if he wasn't provoked! I know him!" Walsh said. "Check the security cameras! I'm sure they'll prove his innocence!"

"I'll look at them," Jenson punched up the data on the computer.

"Mark you know me. You know that if I had any doubts in my mind…" Walsh began.

"No Walsh," Jenson cut him off. "I don't know you anymore! Not if you've done the things you say you've done!"

They looked at the security footage. "See, he didn't start the fight!" Walsh pointed out.

"Even if this is true," Jenson sighed. "How long do you think you can control him?"

"He deserves a second chance," Walsh said. "I know I can do this."

"I'm not so sure," Jenson sighed.

"Mark please," Walsh asked. "When have I ever asked you for anything before? I'll take him off your base. I'll go somewhere else with him. Mark?"

Jenson got to his feet and gave Walsh a look. "This goes against my better judgment…" He growled. "Come on. We'd better get your pet out of the pound."

Walsh made his way with Jenson to the stockade. To his horror he saw Captain Ares holding a taser like weapon, ready to attack Shane who was chained behind bars. "Let's see how well you fight now," Ares grinned as he prepared to shock him.

"Captain!" Walsh shouted. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Putting this animal in his place, Sir," Ares gave him a disdainful look.

Without thinking Walsh knocked the weapon out of his hand and grabbed a shocked Ares by the collar "If you hurt him I'll…"

"WALSH!" Jenson snapped. "Captain, release the prisoner into Commander Walsh's custody."

"What?" Ares snarled.

"You heard him," Walsh snapped. "On second thought I'll do it myself!" He took the keys from Ares and released Shane from his shackles and the cell.

"There's a car in Parking Lot A you can use," Jenson said coldly. "And put some clothes on him."

Walsh nodded and took a green shirt from a nearby hanger. "Thank you Jenson." He gave it to Shane who put it on. It was too small but it fit, barely.

"And Walsh," Jenson added before they left. "Consider our friendship over. I never want to see you or that thing again."

Neither Walsh nor Shane said anything as they made their way to the car. Walsh took the wheel and drove off base. "Did they hurt you?" Walsh asked Shane.

"No. I'm okay. Commander," Shane said softly. "You have to believe me. I didn't start this. I didn't. I know I've started some fights before but not this time!"

"What happened Gooseman?" Walsh sighed.

"We were going to play a game called Basketball," Shane told him. "They said it would be shirts verses skins. They told me to take off my shirt and when I did…"

Walsh let out a breath and parked the car to the side of the road when they were quite a distance away from the base. "Shane…You know how lucky you were just now, right?"

"I didn't do anything!" Shane protested. "They attacked me!"

"I know Shane," Walsh said softly. "I believe you."

"Why?" Shane asked. "Why did they act like that? They're not Supertroopers. I wasn't a threat to them."

"They thought you were," Walsh sighed. "Because you were different. People become afraid and sometimes lash out…"

"I was different than the other Supertroopers and they lashed out at me all the time," Shane realized. "But at least then I could fight back. That's how Supertroopers respect another, by fighting."

"It's not that simple with humans," Walsh told him.

Shane closed his eyes and made fists with his hands. "I don't fit in with Supertroopers. I tried so hard and so long to do so but I never really could. And now I don't fit in with humans…I'm neither. Where do I fit in Commander? Why am I so different?"

"Shane," Walsh gently put his hand on the boy's shoulder.

"Where do I belong?" Shane asked softly, his voice betraying his fear.

"I don't know, Shane," Walsh said gently. "But I promise, I'll help you find a place where you do belong. I swear it."

"I'm a burden to you aren't I?" Shane was fighting his emotions. "You don't have to lie to me, Commander. I'm not…useful."

"No, no that's not true! You're not a burden, Shane," Walsh told him.

"All I do is cause you trouble," Shane shook his head. "You're losing your friends and everything else because of me!"

"It's not your fault," Walsh said.

Shane made an animal like cry and burst out of the car, tearing across a large field. "GOOSE!" Walsh shouted. "Come back!"

Shane stopped midway, letting out a frustrated scream. He kicked the ground several times. He started pacing back and forth. "Goose! Calm down!" Walsh caught up to him.

"I hate this!" Shane paced back and forth. "I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!"


"I hate feeling…" Shane couldn't put it into words. "I'm not a Supertrooper. I'm not human! I'm nothing! NOTHING!"

"You're not…"

"Yes I am! I try! I really do try but I can't fit in anywhere! I can't.." Shane stopped pacing and turned away from him.

"I'm causing you nothing but pain but I don't know where to go," Shane said, his voice small and timid. "I can't run away because there's nowhere for me to run to. I can't stay with you because I'm hurting you. I should leave you but I can't…I…I don't want to go. I don't want to lose you too."

It took all of Walsh's self control not to throw his arms around the boy then and there. Never in his life was the old soldier torn between duty and personal feelings. "You won't lose me, Shane. I promise. But you have to be careful if you want to survive. You have to be strong. And you must never forget…Never forget what you are."

"I wish Max were here," The boy was close to tears. "He'd know what to do."

"I wish he was here too," Walsh sighed as he put his hand on Shane's shoulder. "But he's not."

"I know it's a lot to ask," Shane looked at Walsh, nearly breaking down. "But please don't abandon me. Please. I'll try harder not to get into fights. I promise. Just please don't leave me alone."

"I won't," Walsh said to him, pulling away. Knowing if he held on he would break down and embrace the boy.

"You're the only thing I have," Shane looked at the ground in shame. "You're…I…You are the closest thing I have to family."

More than you will ever know Shane, Walsh thought to himself. You have no idea how badly I want to hold you and tell you everything. To tell you the truth about…About me. But for both our sakes I can't. Besides, you're confused enough as it is. Telling you…Would only make things worse.

I never thought I would get so attached to you. But I have. And it's killing me that I can't be the father you need so very badly right now.

But I can be your friend and listen to you. I can be your teacher and show you the way in this strange world of ours. I can protect you with all the strength and power I have. I promise you Shane, you won't be alone forever. I'll find you a place no matter what it takes or how long.

And I can do something else for you too…

"Shane," Walsh spoke. "Do you know what date today is?"

Shane frowned. "It's July 27th. What of it?"

"Do you remember anything important on this day?" Walsh asked.

"No I…" Shane thought. "Wait…Today is the day I was decanted. Wasn't it?"

"Actually today is the day you were born," Walsh emphasized. "I don't want you using that word 'decanted' any more. You're a person, Shane. And people are born, not decanted."

"But I wasn't considered officially viable until…" Shane was confused.

"That doesn't matter Shane," Walsh interrupted. "All that matters is that you came into this world on this day. You are sixteen years old Shane. And that is a very important milestone in a person's life."

"It is?" Shane blinked in surprise.

"Yes," Walsh drew himself up to his full height. "And I think that calls for something special. Come with me."

"Where are we going?" Shane asked following him.

"First we are going to get you some new clothes," Walsh told him. "And I could use some as well. There's a town not that far from here. Then we're going to get some supplies. We're going to need them."

"For what?" Shane was curious.

"You'll see when we get there," Walsh smiled.

"Where are we?" Shane looked around the wilderness. He was wearing black jeans, a red shirt and a brown jacket with boots.

"It's a national park," Walsh explained. He was wearing civilian clothing as well. Green shirt, jeans, brown jacket and boots. Both men were carrying backpacks with some supplies. "You're lucky that we were so close to it."

"What are we doing here?" Shane asked.

"We're going to spend the next two days camping," Walsh said. "Maybe get some of that aggression out of your system before we go to another base."

"But don't you have to…?"

"I've called in and taken care of that," Walsh nodded. "Right now we need to set up our tents. It'll be dark soon. By then we'll be ready for your very first birthday party."

"Party?" Shane's eyes widened.

"Well not a real party. More like a mini celebration," Walsh said.

"Celebrating my birthday?" Shane was confused. "Why?"

"Because…" Walsh hesitated. "Because in many ways my life has changed because of you. Most of it for the better. I'm glad you were born Shane. Even if you don't feel that way right now."

Shane stood there surprised. "Now let's set up our tents," Walsh grinned.

Soon it was dark. Both Shane and Walsh were sitting around the campfire. "So these are marshmallows?" Shane blinked at the gooey substance on the stick. "And you eat them?"

"Yes," Walsh nodded. "Go on. Try them."

Shane cautiously sniffed the slightly burnt white fluff and tasted it. "Gooey.." He blinked trying to get the mess off his face. "But good."

Shane took a look at the sky above them. They were out in the middle of a huge expanse with no trees or anything to block their view. "Nice view isn't it?" Walsh remarked. "I haven't done this in years. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it."

"It's beautiful," Shane whispered, his eyes full of wonder. "So many stars…"

"I knew you would like this," Walsh said, enjoying the starry night. "I always used to catch you staring at the sky way after curfew."

"I like looking at the stars," Shane told him. "They make me feel…safe."

"They do? How?" Walsh asked.

"Because they're always there," Shane told him. "And they always will be. No matter how horrible or ugly things get on Earth or any other part of the universe…They'll be there, shining, beautiful. Peaceful. They have so many secrets, so many things we don't know about…I like to look at them and wonder what kinds of worlds are out there, just waiting to be discovered."

Walsh was marveled at the look of wonder in Shane's eyes. They were full of hope and delight. It was a look Walsh hadn't seen since…

Since Shane was a very small child, still in the nursery. Before he had begun his Supertrooper conditioning.

Looks like we didn't completely destroy his innocence, Walsh felt relieved. There's still a small part of him that's very much a child. But that child is going to have to grow up fast if he wants to survive. He's already grown up too fast too hard in ways…In ways no child should ever have to be.

Jenson was wrong. Shane's no monster. I am.

By now several fire flies were glowing in front of them. Impulsively Shane got to his feet to inspect them. He caught one in his hand, gently inspected it and let it fly away. He smiled and watched the fireflies glow around him as a light breeze ruffled his short blond hair.

Lord let me give him this one night of innocence, Walsh silently prayed. Just one last chance to be a child again. To give him…What I've cruelly denied him all these years. Just a bit of happiness and peace before he's shoved back into that harsh world.

A world that doesn't want anything to do with him.

But I will do everything in my power to give him a place on Earth..

I promise…

"I've never seen fireflies before," Shane told him as he returned. "Not real ones."

"You usually don't see them over the ocean," Walsh took out a small cupcake. He put a candle on it and lit it with a match. "All right. Now I know this isn't a real birthday cake but it's the best I could do."

"I've heard about these," Shane said as he took it. "I make a wish right?"

"That's right," Walsh nodded. "Make a wish but don't say it out loud. Then blow out the candle. Supposedly it makes your wish come true."

"Does that really work?" Shane asked, not believing it.

"Sometimes," Walsh shrugged. "Personally I think it's how hard you work for something that makes it work. But still…Go ahead Shane, make a wish."

Shane thought for a moment then blew out the candle. "I wished…"

"Don't say it," Walsh interrupted. "That's your secret. But I think I can guess anyway. Go on Goose. Eat it."

Shane split the cupcake in half and gave part of it to Walsh. "Have some."

"It's your cake."

"I want you to have it," Shane smiled.

"Thank you Shane," Walsh took it and ate it. "That was good. And now…" He took out a small box. "I didn't have time to wrap it or anything…"

"What's this?" Shane was puzzled as he took it.

"Your birthday present," Walsh grunted. "It's not much but…"

"Another present?" Shane was amazed. He opened the box. It was a large orange bandana. "This is for me?"

"Yes, it's a bandana…" Walsh was amused.

"I've seen them wear these on Tri-D!" Shane tried to put it on and tie it. He wasn't successful at first.

"Here let me show you how to do it," Walsh tied it for him so it looked like a tie. "There. It looks good on you."

"I like it!" Shane admired it. "Thank you Commander. I really like it."

"Good," Walsh grinned. It amazed him how Shane was grateful for the smallest things. Then again considering the life he's led…

Shane looked out at the stars again. "This has been a good birthday. Thank you. I've never had a real one before."

"I'm glad," Walsh nodded. Apparently the harshness of the morning had been forgotten for the moment. And you will have many more. I promise.

Shane lay on his back looking at the stars with a smile on his face. Neither man said anything. There was nothing to say. Soon Shane's eyes began to close. Walsh watched the young man fall asleep. Carefully he took a blanket nearby and covered Shane with it.

"Happy Birthday, Shane," Walsh said softly, a smile creeping on his face.