Disclaimer: seaQuest and its characters are not my property, and I am making no money from writing this story.

Warning: this fic is likely to be quite nasty and lurid and involve a fair bit of death, possibly some gore etc. Do not read it if you can't cope. On the other hand, I personally think it's quite fun. But then, I've seen way to many horror films. You have been warned...

I haven't written much of this yet, so people who've read my other fics may find I update a little less often than I have with them. On the other hand, you never know...

Cabin Fever

Chapter One

"Easy does it, Chief, you're almost there."

Crocker grinned to himself, listening to O'Neill's voice, slightly crackly with static, coming over the shuttle's radio. "I've been piloting crates like these since you were in diapers, son," he replied, "you don't need to give me advice."

There was an embarrassed silence on the other end of the line. Crocker shook his head. That boy took everything too seriously. Reminded him somehow of himself at that age. "I can see the docking port," he informed the Lieutenant. "Am I clear?"

"You're clear to dock at port C," O'Neill informed him.

Crocker nodded to himself and carefully piloted the shuttle towards the port. He may have been doing this for longer than he cared to remember, but lately his hands had not been as steady as he would have liked. He hadn't told anyone, of course. It wouldn't do to worry them. All the same, he had the feeling the captain knew. Bridger always seemed to know these things.

There was a satisfying clunk as the shuttle connected to the port. "Perfect," Crocker muttered to himself, activating the seal. "You're only as old as you feel." Trouble was, he felt pretty old.

"How long is it since they've checked in again?" he asked O'Neill, heading back to the main body of the shuttle where the three other members of the security team were waiting.

"Five weeks," came the reply. "They missed their scheduled monthly check-in a week ago."

"And the UEO hasn't sent anyone till now?" Crocker asked in surprise.

"This outpost is seriously isolated," O'Neill reminded him. "This was the first opportunity the UEO had to send a boat without damaging any ongoing research."

"If I was stuck out here in the middle of nowhere with a broken radio and only five other grunts for company for five weeks, I might start questioning the UEO's priorities," Crocker muttered.

"Hey, don't forget these guys are marines," O'Neill observed. "They're trained to survive in difficult circumstances."

Crocker didn't answer. The shuttle door had just cycled open, and he was too busy covering his nose and mouth with his hand to pay attention to what O'Neill was saying.

"Oh, man," groaned Lieutenant Hoyle from beside him. "That stinks."

"Is the air bad?" O'Neill asked, sounding concerned.

Crocker grimaced. "It's bad all right," he said, "but it's breathable." He peered into the darkness of the docking bay, trying not to breathe too deeply. "Bring oxygen canisters just in case," he instructed his men. He stepped into the gloom, shining his flashlight around in an attempt to locate the light switch. The air was thick with the smell, sickly and sweet. Crocker had smelt it before: rotting flesh. "I've got a bad feeling about this," he muttered to himself.

Ensign Hernandez followed him in. "I've found the light," she said, her voice muffled by the handkerchief she had tied over her mouth. She flicked the switch.

Nothing happened.

"The lights are down," Crocker informed O'Neill. Looks like the air- recycling system is shot too. Guess maybe the generator's packed up." He swept the room again with his flashlight. It was empty. "Hello?" he called. There was no reply except his own voice, echoing eerily back to him from the metal walls.

"It's so quiet," muttered Seaman Rogers, the youngest member of the team. It was true: there was none of the hum that all the sailors associated with underwater facilities.

"Guess the generator is down then," Crocker said quietly. He somehow didn't want to talk at normal volume. "OK, let's take this room by room. Rogers, Hoyle, take the flanks. Hernandez, bring up the rear. Report anything strange you see."

"I've already seen a few strange things here," Rogers muttered, but a look from the chief silenced him.

"Just keep alert. I have a feeling there's not going to be a welcome party." They headed for the nearest exit, sidearms ready.

It was in the third room they entered that they found the first evidence of what had happened to the crew of the outpost. It was some kind of storage room, and Crocker was sweeping his flashlight along the walls when he heard Hoyle gasp.

"I've found something," the lieutenant said.

Crocker turned quickly and pointed the beam of his flashlight in the direction of Hoyle's voice. The younger man was kneeling on the floor beside a shapeless bundle. He looked up. "It's a body," he confirmed, reaching over to press two fingers against the man's neck. Suddenly he jumped back and stood up, wiping his hand hastily on his pants.

"What is it, Lieutenant?" Crocker asked tensely. The man turned to him and blinked, dazzled by the flashlight.

"Either he's made of jello or he's been dead a fair while," he said, grimacing in disgust.

Crocker sighed. He had been right about the smell then. "We found one of the crew," he said into his comm. "He's long gone." He turned the body over with his foot, and forced himself to examine the half-rotted face. He noted the hole in the side of the skull.

"Can you see how he died?" This was a new voice, though familiar enough: Captain Bridger. Crocker could almost see his old friend leaning over the communications console, face tense and concentrated. He swept the floor with his flashlight, and something glinted back at him. He stepped forward and examined the object more closely. It was a gun.

"Don't worry Cap, nothing spooky about this one," he said reassuringly. "Looks like a straight suicide."

There was an audible sigh at the other end of the line, then Bridger's voice came back. "Don't touch anything," he said. "What about the others?"

Crocker shook his head. "I dunno yet, Cap, but it's not looking good." He looked around at his team. Their expressions ranged from disgust to fear. "Let's go find 'em."

The outpost was not large, and it didn't take the security team long to find the rest of the marines. Three of them were stretched out in the refrigeration unit, although since the power had gone down this had done little to preserve the bodies. The smell was particularly unpleasant in there, and Crocker found himself grateful for the lack of insect life in the hermetically sealed undersea environment. It was times like these, he reflected, that he couldn't remember why he'd allowed the UEO to persuade him to delay his retirement for one more tour. He shivered. This place gave him the creeps. Even with the team behind him, and the knowledge that the seaQuest was only a few hundred metres away, he felt a deep sense of isolation and claustrophobia. If he felt like that, how much stronger must the feeling have been for the marines who were trapped here for six months at a time?

The last two bodies were in the recreation room. One was sitting slumped over at a long table. The other lay on her front on the floor, halfway between the table and the door. Trying to run, Crocker thought. Both had been shot in the back of the head. He shook his head in sorrow.

"Well, Cap," he said, sighing, "looks like a pretty open and shut case to me. Only takes one guy to go crazy in a place like this and before you know it everyone's going home in body bags. I've seen it happen before."

"So you think the one in the storage room killed all the others?" Bridger asked.

"I'd say so. Probably killed the ones in the cold store first, then their buddies got 'em laid out before he got around to finishing the job."

"All the same, don't move anything. The UEO will want to send a team of investigators."

"That's up to them, Cap, but I can tell you what happened here without wasting any more money."

"Nonetheless," Bridger's voice was firm, "there are going to be six families wanting an explanation of this tragedy. Is your team OK to find the generator and try and power it up before you come back?"

Crocker did a quick sweep of the flashlight beam over the faces of his men. Rogers looked sick to his stomach. Hernandez was slightly pale, the handkerchief still covering the lower part of her face. Hoyle, the most experienced of the three, seemed to be taking it best. Crocker himself was beginning to feel a little nauseous from the constant reek. "Yeah, that's a good idea, Cap," he replied. "This place could do with a little atmosphere."

Half an hour later Crocker stood up with a sigh and brushed off the knees of his jumpsuit. "I'm sorry Cap," he said, "the generator's taken a beating. Looks like he didn't want them using the radio."

In his mind's eye he could see the captain nodding as he absorbed this information. "I'll send some engineers to fix it," he replied. "We'll want it up and running before the investigators get here. You'd better come on back now, Chief."

Crocker nodded gratefully. "Can't say as I'll be sorry to see the back of the place," he said, almost to himself, as he and his team began the trudge back through the echoing darkness to the shuttle.

"Nathan, I want you to stay in the area and host the investigating team." Noyce looked tired. Bridger couldn't help being glad that it was the admiral's job to inform the families of the tragedy at the outpost. All the same, Noyce's orders meant that he too would have a difficult task.

"Can't you send someone else?" he asked hopefully. "We're supposed to be heading up to the Arctic Ocean before the whales migrate."

Noyce shook his head. "Six of my soldiers are dead, Nathan. I think this takes priority." He ended the communication before Bridger could reply.

"You try explaining that to Dr. Westphalen," Bridger muttered at the UEO insignia that now filled the screen. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on. At that moment there was a knock on the Ward Room door.

"Come in," he called.

The door opened and a familiar head peered around it.

"You wanted to see me?"

Bridger smiled. "Lucas. Come in, take a seat." The teenager came all of the way into the room, sloped over to the table and slumped down in a chair. Sloppy, thought Bridger. Everything about the boy was sloppy: his tousled hair, his baggy clothes, the way he slouched about... Bridger grinned inwardly at himself. You're showing your age again, he reprimanded himself.

He leaned forward slightly. "I've got a job for you."

"Oh yeah?" Lucas raised his eyebrows, looking singularly unimpressed. Bridger raised his own back.

"Yeah," he said, mimicking the teenager's tone. "I need you to go down to the outpost with Hitchcock and help her fix the generator."

At this the young man straightened in his chair and his eyes lit up. "You mean the haunted outpost?" he asked, looking interested all of a sudden.

Bridger rolled his eyes. "It's not haunted. There was a tragic accident, that's all."

Lucas shrugged. "You say potato, I say potahto."

Bridger shook his head. "Well, haunted or no, I need you down there, and I don't want you wandering around. It's not pleasant, believe me. I want you to stay with Hitchcock. No exploring."

Lucas nodded. "No looking for ghosts," he said with a grin.

"That's right. Particularly because the only people who see ghosts are people who believe in them, and I know that you are too rational to be one of those people."

It was Lucas' turn to roll his eyes. "Whatever," he said, standing up. "Is that all?"

Bridger sighed. "Just be ready to go in half an hour."

The young man's grin broadened. "Very cool."