Infamous History by Chris Anderson

Disclaimer: seaQuest belongs to other people.

My name is Marilyn Stark. *Captain* Stark, if you don't mind- or even if you do.

What? You haven't heard of me? Oh, of course... I am old news now, long gone, presumed dead... They should be so lucky.

They were afraid I would come back someday, that I would finish what I started. But as the years wore on, they grew complacent; if I hadn't come back by *now*, perhaps I wasn't going to?

I was only biding my time, waiting for the moment...

Perhaps it has come at last.

It started with Nathan Bridger. My mentor and my father's oldest friend. They were Navy men from Navy families, and had served together since before I was born.

Bridger, like my father, was a member of the last generation to serve the old governments, the last generation to give their allegiance to the flag of the old United States. America is still there, of course- I was born there, in fact- but it was part of something larger, one of the mulit- national Confederations. Ours was NorPac- the North Pacific Confederation.

The world was always on the brink of war in those days when Bridger and my father served together, and I suppose they both got tired of it. War is one thing, peace another, and both can be dealt with, but something that is neither? Day in, day out, year after year?

It's a wonder more people didn't break under the stain.

Bridger was a brilliant man- even I, even now, will admit to that. He knew the tension would have to break someday, that a war was coming. And he was selfish, I suppose- like most military men, he wanted his side to win. We couldn't do it with the tools we had then.

He conceived of a ship like no other; the best, the grandest, the most powerful...

It was the seaQuest, and years later it would become my obsession.

Before that, it was Bridger's. He put his heart and soul into that ship, and there were those who said he never got them back; that the ship consumed him, taking everything he had. Perhaps it's true. Perhaps it was simply that after the death of his son, seaQuest was all he had left. (His wife, of course, only reminded him of losing Bobby...)

By the time seaQuest was completed, I had been serving my confederation half as long as I'd been alive. It was two years before the day that would change everything, and Bridger's dream needed a captain. It would have been him, of course, if it hadn't been for the fact that by the time the seaQuest was commissioned, he had gone. He was gone years before that, actually- the ship had begun to remind him of Bobby's death aboard a naval vessel, and he had fled civilization.

He left while I was at sea, dragging my first command, an aging old-style nuclear sub, home at the end of what would be its last cruise. I was helping to hold that thing together- spit, bailing wire, curses and not a small bit of hope- while he was running away from...everything.

They told me as soon as we reached port. My hands were covered with grease- the lifeblood of that old boat, bleeding out in my arms- when they offered me command of the seaQuest.

I remember feeling as if I'd lost Bridger and his wife, Carol, the same way I had lost Bobby. My family was never... well, they were never any number of things, and the Bridgers had taken me in so many times, so many holidays when I was a lost little girl who didn't want to go home... And now they were all gone.

I was angry, but not angry enough to refuse the command. I had always felt it should have been one of us- Bridger or one of his students- the apprentices, they called us, the students of the old master.

I accepted the command. I didn't waste any time trying to fathom the flaws in Bridger's psyche, though I was furious that he wouldn't stand his ground and face his fears. (He couldn't run far enough to escape Bobby's ghost; I could have told him that, if he'd only ever asked.)

And for two years I lived in my father's world, Bridger's world. The world that had given birth to the need for the seaQuest- near-but-never war, we called it.

For two years I had the power to begin, and to end, the war at my fingertips. And for two years I didn't use it, because the standoffs always ended. Because the orders were never given. Because, I came to realize, my superiors were too *afraid* to make that call.

One day I made it for them.

It wasn't much, really- but it didn't take much to set things off, not back then. We had realized that the resources of Earth's oceans were all we had that we hadn't yet exploited, and everyone was quick to make up for lost time, staking claims... Claims which then had to be defended.

I learned later it had been begun by a teenager, doing the sorts of things teenagers will. A little unauthorized side trip, just across the line from where he ought to have been, doing something he ought not to have been doing...

I remember similar little adventures in my own youth. They were entertaining at the time, but none were enough that I would have wanted to risk what that teenager almost did.

It was a nexus, like the Four Corners back in the states; a place where four territories met. The boy crossed four lines; the various confederations holding mining rights and so forth sent four subs.

Nor Pac sent the seaQuest.

For the longest time the orders couldn't get through, and I hoped, I prayed- please let this be the time. Please let it be now. Let this be the last straw- let's for God's sake get it over with.

But the orders came, and they were- back down, stand aside, show them you are a coward without the courage to do what has to be done... Until the next time, when we are all back here again, playing out the same roles... We wouldn't be back in Livingston Trench, or probably not, but the site of the conflict hardly mattered. It was the same thing, over and over again...

And I was tired of it.

I knew what no one else did; that there was only one way to end this. To start it, and finish it, all at once.

My first officer argued, of course. But I was the captain, and the command decisions were mine.

I made the call, and I was so close- so close!- to unleashing Bridger's masterwork at last... And then, in that one instant, I lost everything I had.

And that traitorous bastard, my exec, who I had *trusted*, who I had mentored and taught and nurtured the way my old officers had done with me- he turned on me. Took my ship- *my* ship!- and took the powers of command from my hands. I stood there, furious- too stunned even to move, to strike him the blow he had *earned*- And I waited for the others, my loyal crew, to come to my aid. I was their Captain, and he was... he was nobody.

They never came.

The admiralty seemed to expect me to feel grateful to them; instead of a public court-martial, they handed me a dishonorable discharge, and I was supposed to think it gold. They had the gall to recommend psychiatric evaluation, but they had given up their authority over me when they let me go; they couldn't compel me to anything, anymore.

I refused their kind offer, and vanished off their radar. They must have thought they were the lucky ones then- that I had gone without a fuss, that I would cause them no more trouble...

Things might even have turned out that way, if they hadn't made one mistake.

After Livingstone, the confederations decided they'd had enough. They hammered out a peace accord- I never learned exactly how, diplomacy not being a great interest of mine- and formed the United Earth Oceans Organization to administer the new peace.

And they gave the UEO the seaQuest. Not as a warship, no- the UEO had no need for one of those. They stripped all but the most innocent of defensive weapons, installing in their place vast facilities for scientific research, and re-commissioned the queen of Nor Pac's war fleet as a peacekeeper.

A *peacekeeper.*

That was the final insult, the final straw. Until that point I had been moving from place to place, doing what I had to in order to survive, not really grounding myself anywhere. Not becoming involved in things, really- I did odd jobs, few of them legal. I existed. Until the UEO raped the seaQuest, that was enough.

Afterward, it was not.

I had made... you couldn't call them friends, but allies, in the underworld, and most of them were as unhappy with the UEO as I was. In their ways they were very much like me; the damned pacifists had taken their lives and their livelihoods, and as for me, a simple return to the days of old was no longer enough for them.

My comrades, too, wanted revenge.

There were several attempts made. I recall sitting in on several meetings in which plans were discussed; foolish plans, ill-thought out, if they had been thought out at all before their creator had opened his mouth. Most of them were men, and the few women I met at these gatherings were in, shall we say, other lines of work. But the men learned quickly that I was not, and after a time I came to an understanding with the prostitutes and the junkies, as well. They stayed out of my way, I stayed out of theirs. At any rate, several attempts were made, all of them doomed to failure, and I just sat back and let the idiots weed themselves out.

In the end the only ones left standing were the ones who had chosen not to take part- the smart ones- and the ones who hadn't know what was going on in time to sign up- the idiots.

Joining me in the back corners, watching Darwinism in action, was a man who introduced himself as Maxwell. Maxwell had connections; he had made inquiries, and knew who I was- or, more importantly, who I had *been*. He told me he worked for his father- I was prepared to laugh at this, until he told me who his father *was*- and that his father had a proposition.

Maxwell's father was George LeChen, a career criminal, and something of a legend. He had realized that the seaQuest was as much a symbol to the UEO as it was a problem for his people, and he had decided to do something about it.

I was almost reluctant, at first. seaQuest was *mine*, and I wanted her *back*. But if I couldn't have her... well, it's cliché, I suppose, but true nonetheless. Mine, or no one's.

So. Maxwell and I set out- LeChen, I think, sent him along to keep an eye on me, but Maxwell and I quickly developed an understanding- and found ourselves a crew. It wasn't much of one, even by his standards- let alone mine. Pirates in the old tales I had heard as a child had been smart, cunning, ruthless, and bloodthirsty.

*My* pirates, on the other hand, were crude, stupid, and cruel. I'd taken the best of a lot of very bad apples, and made the most of them. With a competent second, and the heavily modified old Russian sub supplied by LeChen, I though we had a chance.

Until UEO scraped up Bridger to come after us, that is. I probably should have seen it coming, but I hadn't thought about him in a long time.

The crew, of course, thought we'd had it as soon as we learned Bridger was in command. But I was ready- not for that, but for something. The seaQuest would come after me- that was the whole idea, of course- and years ago I had laid my plans. I left a little package in the ship's computers- a virus that disabled minor little things such as engines, weapons, and eventually the computers themselves.

We were so close to winning I could taste it, when Bridger's pet dolphin stuck a sonar tag onto our hull. Which was then followed home by an e- plasma torpedo. If it hadn't been at half-charge instead of full, I would be dead now.

I escaped in the ship's mini-sub, with Maxwell. Not loyalty; leverage. There was only one thing George LeChen loved more than money, and that was his son. I knew that if I saved Maxwell, LeChen would overlook my failure to destroy the seaQuest.

And as it turned out, I needed the LeChens more than I thought. I suffered nerve damage in the torpedo strike, and there were days when the pain was so bad I couldn't walk, couldn't move...

I nursed my hatred for years, rethinking my plans, gathering information, seeking out people with the talents and the intelligence to help me.

Everything that happened to me, from Livingston Trench onward, I blame on the crew of the seaQuest, past and present. Ford, who relieved me; Bridger, who took my place; the kid who hacked through my virus to bring the computers back on line; even the dolphin. (Maybe especially the dolphin.)

You say I am bitter? You're right. And so what? After everything they did to me- all they took from me- I have the right to be bitter. And *you*- you have no right to say anything. You weren't there. You can't know. Every step I cannot take, every time I have to lean on a cane or the stair rail or, God save me from the humiliation, *Maxwell* (because I have never leaned on another living soul, not since I was a child... they always let you down in the end)- Every nightmare, every pain- I remember that it was Bridger and his friends who caused it.

And it's Bridger and the others who will pay for it, someday.

They can go on with their lives; they can forget I was ever there. They can tell themselves that I have died or gone to ground, lost my mind and given up. They can delude themselves as much as they'd like. But the fact remains.

One day I am coming home. One day I am coming back for what is mine.