Disclaimer: seaQuest and its characters are not mine.

This is a sequel to "Pro Patria Mori". The story will not make sense unless you've read the previous one.

Well, you guys wanted a sequel, here it is. How's that for service? : ). Enjoy!


Chapter 1

Private Maria Nguyen was bored. She supposed she should have expected it when she signed up – if she'd wanted excitement, she should have gone for navy, not army. All the front lines in this war were under the sea. But her mom had been so worried, had begged and pleaded with her to choose a less dangerous occupation. She had been determined that the armed forces were for her, but to please her poor mother she had dressed in green instead of blue. And now she was stuck guarding this dump of a building on a godforsaken island in the middle of nowhere, with no-one for company except a few timid eggheads who hardly ever came out of their holes and three or four other soldiers. She felt like she was going slowly crazy, and wondered about a transfer onto a submarine. She would take any job she could get, she would clean toilets all day if only it meant she could see some action.

She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn't her the soft clinking sound as a shadow slipped over the chain-link fence behind her. The first she knew about it was when someone grabbed her from behind. She reacted fast, but the months of sentry duty had dulled her reflexes, and she was not fast enough. Her blow went wide and strong hands tightened around her neck. The last thing she saw before she lost consciousness was a shadow flitting before her eyes, merging with the black spots as her brain began to shut down.

"Captain on the bridge!"

Lieutenant Tim O'Neill jumped to attention, feeling his stomach tie itself in knots. Sure, serving under Captain Stark had been no walk in the park, but Bridger was another matter altogether. He had been gone for six months, and O'Neill had dared to hope that he wouldn't be coming back; he'd heard that Bridger was hiding out in some tropical island paradise with dancing girls and unlimited supplies of cane rum. Somehow, he found this image hard to reconcile with the rigid, military man who had captained the seaQuest for two months at the beginning of the tour. But if it kept him from shouting at O'Neill, then he didn't care if he'd gone to play the banjo with the Grateful Dead.

Nathan Bridger appeared at the back of the bridge, and looked around at his assembled crew. He looks older, O'Neill thought. His face was deeply tanned, and the lines on it had grown heavier. There was something softer about him too, though O'Neill couldn't quite put his finger on it.

With a perfunctory salute, Bridger turned and made his way to the captain's chair. "At ease," he muttered, as if as an afterthought. O'Neill raised his eyebrows, and exchanged surprised glances with Miguel Ortiz. This was the paragon of military precision who'd had them all jumping to at a moment's notice? What the hell happened to him? O'Neill wondered.

But he knew what had happened, of course. They all did. Robert's death had affected all the senior crew to some extent; Krieg had even taken a month's leave to deal with his the loss of his best friend. Tim had only known the young man a few weeks before he died, but he had liked and respected him. They all had.

Bridger called a meeting of the senior crew almost immediately after he came on board. There were several issues he wanted to deal with. The most important would come last.

The senior staff filed in, on after another. Commander Jonathan Ford was first. He looked more confident than he had when Bridger had left. Then Lieutenant Commander Katherine Hitchcock. The lieutenants O'Neill and Ortiz came next, and Bridger saw that he still made O'Neill nervous. He was sorry for that. Maybe he could make amends.

Ship's doctor Kristen Westphalen regarded him with a sympathetic expression as she entered the room. She had liked Robert very much, Bridger recalled. More than she liked his father. He heaved a sigh, and wondered if he had managed to alienate the entire crew without noticing. I was so bound up in myself and my flagship, he thought. But he had paid for it.

His old friend Manilow Crocker, chief of security, gave him a sad smile. And last of all was Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg, Supply and Morale Officer, and Robert's best friend. Krieg held Bridger's eyes for a long moment, and Bridger was the first to look away.

When all were seated, Bridger sat too. He looked around at the faces of his senior crew, remembering the day eight months before when he had done just the same; it felt like years had passed. Everything had been so different then. The feeling of pride and triumph he had had then, standing on the deck of his boat, his baby, had been replaced by an empty resignation, and regret for what he had been. But for better or worse, he was responsible for these people once again. He cleared his throat.

"Well," he said, with a smile, "it's customary at this point for the new captain to say a few words to introduce himself. However, I think in this case that won't be necessary."

There were a few nods and smiles around the table in acknowledgement of his gentle humour. O'Neill looked astonished for a moment, but had the good grace to look embarrassed when he saw the captain looking at him. Was I really so much of a monster? Bridger wondered.

"You all know the circumstances of my departure from this boat," Bridger continued after a moment's thought. "I did not intend to return; however, certain... circumstances persuaded me that I was still needed here. I know that in the past I have not been the most easy-going of captains. However, I hope that you will all find me approachable and open to suggestions. I am aware that this crew is of the highest quality, and I do not wish to waste any of your talents." He took another look around. Almost everyone looked surprised now. Well, that was nothing to the surprise they were going to get next.

"I have also taken on a new crew member. He should be here any minute." As if on cue, there was a knock on the door. "Come in," Bridger said.

The door opened, and Tim O'Neill was shocked to find himself looking at a man he never thought he'd see again. The one person who made him more nervous than Captain Bridger.

Lucas Wolenczak.

O'Neill could see immediately that, whatever transformation Bridger had undergone, Lucas had not shared in it. His hair was a little longer, he was a little thinner – if that was possible – but his face was still an emotionless mask, and his eyes still blazed intensely.

And he still made O'Neill nervous.

"I think you've all met Commander Wolenczak before," Bridger said, looking round the table. Those who had managed to gather up some of their wits nodded. "He will be assisting Commander Hitchcock with the ship's computer systems. He will not be assigned a rank, but I hope you will afford him due respect and give him assistance when necessary." More nods. Hitchcock gave Lucas a slightly astonished smile.

"One more thing," Bridger added. "The circumstances of Mr. Wolenczak's original arrival on this boat are classified top secret. They are not to be discussed with anyone, including UEO intelligence officers. As far as anyone outside this room is concerned, we found Mr. Wolenczak on a refugee ship, discovered his origins and his talent with computers, and took him on as civilian staff. Is that understood?"

O'Neill got the impression that Bridger was staring directly at him as he said this. He nodded, blushing furiously. Bridger nodded and sighed.

"That is all, for now. Dismissed."

After everyone else had left the Ward Room, Lucas and Krieg remained, sitting at the long table. They were silent for a time. Then Krieg looked up and smiled.

"It's good to see you, Lucas," he said.

Lucas nodded. "It's good to see you too, Ben. I only wish it were under better circumstances."

"How was prison?" Ben asked, attempting to be light-hearted. The question came out wrong.

Lucas shrugged. "Unpleasant."

"Did they, uh..." Ben trailed off, not sure he wanted to know, but wanting the younger man to be able to tell him if he needed to.

For a moment Lucas stared at the wall silently. Then he turned to look at Krieg. "They got what they needed from me," he said, without flinching.

Ben sighed, feeling a lump in his throat. "Robert would have been so pleased to see you here, a member of this crew."

Lucas dropped his gaze, staring at the table top. "I hope it works out. For his sake," he said softly.

For a moment the two men sat, lost in their own thoughts. Then Ben got up to leave, leaving Lucas alone.

Alexander Bourne allowed a sneer to crease his elegant features. "My dear captain," his said, his tone dripping with sarcasm, "I think you'll find that international law has been dead and gone since the early years of this century."

The captain, a thickset man with an irritating, bullish manner, shook his head. "All the same, sir," he said stubbornly, "I don't feel comfortable with this. They're civilians, sir."

Bourne raised his eyebrows in disdain. "Since when has it been your job to care, Captain?" he asked. "I was under the impression that this was the navy, not a children's home. After going to all the effort of stealing this technology from the UEO, you think we're going to test it on our own people?"

The captain shook his head again. "Of course not, sir, but-"

"But me no buts, Captain. That's an order." He terminated the communication and settled back in his seat with a smile. He enjoyed his job, and he was good at it. He had the feeling that one day he was going to be an important man indeed. And for that to happen, he had to be sure that the Pacific South-West Federation gave up this useless charade of truce with the UEO, allowing its neighbour to accrue ever more power and territory picking off small fry like the Free Nations and the San Juan League, and used some power of its own.

He pressed a button on his desk console. "Captain Lang? This is Minister Bourne. Are the preparations complete?" Having received an affirmative answer, he paused for a moment before taking the step that would destroy the last semblance of peace in the world.

"Good. Let's go to war."