Disclaimer: I don't own seaQuest or any of the characters portrayed in this fic. I'm not making any money from this story.
Set some time after the unaired third season episode In Father's Footsteps
A/N Well, this is just to fill an angst craving I've been having of late... Cheers to Diena and Teresa for encouraging me to write third-season ELF. This one's for you guys :).
Hudson heard the door slam shut behind him and a loud click. He whirled, still in motion from the push that had sent him flying into the room, and grabbed the handle, twisting it hard, but the door didn't budge. He kept pulling and twisting for a moment or two longer, just to make sure, but without results. Sighing, he turned to survey the room. He heard movement a short distance away, and turned his head rapidly, but in the half-light all he could make out was a dim form. "Who's there?" he asked sharply.
"Captain?" a familiar voice replied.
Hudson relaxed slightly. "Ensign. How long have you been here?"
There was a pause, then Wolenczak's voice came again. "Maybe two hours. Did they catch Tony and Dagwood?"
Hudson shook his head, then realised the ensign wouldn't be able to see the movement in the dimness. "I don't know," he said, beginning to feel his way round the walls. "We got separated. Is there any way out of this box?" He looked up to the small grate on the ceiling from where the faint light was filtering down; it was too high to reach.
"I don't think so." Wolenczak sounded apologetic. "It's kind of hard for me to check it out."
Hudson stopped at that, turning and looking in the direction of the ensign's voice. His eyes were becoming more used to the light, and he could see a greyish blur now which he took to be Wolenczak's face. "What do you mean by that, soldier?"
He heard the young man shift with a slight groan. "I've been shot," he said, and now Hudson heard the undercurrent in his voice for the first time. "I think it's not too bad," he added.
Hudson was crouching beside his ensign in a heartbeat. Close up, he could see Wolenczak's features more clearly; he was sitting propped up against the wall, clutching his stomach with one hand. There was a dark smear across one of his cheeks.
"Where? Your stomach?" Hudson asked tensely, and Wolenczak nodded. "Let me see." He peeled the young ensign's arm away from his body, ignoring the wince of pain that crossed his face, and probed gently with his fingertips. Wolenczak drew his breath in sharply, and Hudson pulled his hand away; his fingers were slick with blood.
"We need to put some pressure on that," Hudson said briskly, and ripped off the sleeve of his shirt with an abrupt movement, folding it up into a pad. He pressed the material hard against the ensign's wound, eliciting another groan. "Hold that there," he said. "I know it hurts, but you've got to keep pressing as hard as you can." Wolenczak nodded, blinking hard. When Hudson was sure that he was following instructions, he stood up to appraise the room once more.
A thorough inspection revealed no weak points in the wall, no air vents, no other openings apart from the locked door and the grille high above their heads. There were no items of furniture to stand on or electrical outlets to break into. Hudson thought that if Wolenczak stood on his shoulders he might be able to reach the vent, but, glancing at the ensign sitting motionless in the corner, he doubted very much that he could even stand on his own feet. In short, they were well and truly trapped. Sighing in frustration, he sat down on the floor, leaning against the opposite wall from his cellmate.
"No way out, huh?"
Hudson looked up in surprise at the bitter tone in Wolenczak's voice. "Not at first glance, Ensign, no. Do you have any bright ideas?"
He heard Wolenczak shift position slightly. "I'm all out of ideas, Captain," the young man said, sounding tired. "I guess we just have to wait."
The sound of running feet echoed down through the grating above them. Hudson looked up in surprise as fast-moving shadows flitted across the bars of light that the grating threw on the floor. "Something's going on," he said, standing up. But the noise retreated; whatever was happening was nothing to do with them.
Hudson sighed, stretching his back and shoulders. He had no idea how long he had been sitting in the cell: with little light and no stimuli, time seemed to lose all meaning. He was pretty sure it was a fair while though: he was beginning to feel hungry.
"How're you doing, Ensign?" he asked, walking over to where Wolenczak sat slumped in the corner. There was no answer. Suddenly worried, Hudson crouched down in front of the young man and checked his pulse. The slow, steady breathing reassured him: Wolenczak was alive, but sleeping. On the other hand, that meant he wasn't applying pressure to his injury. For a moment, Hudson considered waking him up, but he thought better of it. It's not like I have anything better to do anyway, he thought ruefully, sitting down beside the ensign and reaching out to press down on the pad.
"How long have I been asleep?"
Hudson jerked out of the daydream he had drifted into and looked round at Wolenczak in surprise. The source of light in the corridor above them seemed to have moved slightly, so that the bars of light now fell across the ensign's face. Hudson noticed the sweat beading on the young man's forehead and upper lip. "I have no idea," he said.
Wolenczak nodded and wordlessly removed Hudson's hand from the pad, replacing it with his own. "Thanks, Captain. For looking after this, I mean."
Hudson nodded, standing and wiping his fingers on his uniform pants; they were sticky now with dried blood. "Well, I can hardly sit around here idly while my ensign bleeds to death," he said, meaning to sound cheerful. It came out as brusque instead. Wolenczak didn't seem to have noticed, though; he leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. Hudson looked away, and began to search the walls for some means of escape for what seemed like the umpteenth time.
There was a low rumbling sound, ending on a long gurgle. Wolenczak opened his eyes, startled out of his reverie. Hudson was glad the dimness covered his slight flush of embarrassment.
"Just my stomach, Ensign. Nothing to worry about."
"Oh." Wolenczak closed his eyes again. "Do you think they're going to bring us anything to eat?"
Hudson shook his head. "I have no idea. I hope they're too occupied with what Piccolo and that dagger have been cooking up to worry about feeding us."
"What makes you think they're still alive?" Wolenczak asked bitterly.
Hudson stared at him for a moment. He'd never been able to understand Ensign Wolenczak. He was one of the most intelligent men of his generation, and had seemed keen to become a soldier; Hudson had thought he would be a very good one. And to begin with, it seemed he had been right. Wolenczak made some mistakes early on, sure, but then new officers always did. He seemed to have learned from them, and to have realised that not following orders was no longer an option for him. He had become serious-minded and dedicated to his work, and Hudson had been pleased.
Lately, though, the ensign's behaviour had become more and more erratic. Serious-minded was one thing, but Hudson couldn't remember the last time he had seen the young man smile. Then there was that business with his father... Wolenczak was lucky to still have his freedom, let alone a commission, after that stunt. Hudson knew that he was not regarded with affection among the crew, but he was a good enough captain to know that unhappy men do not a good crew make. And it was clear as day to him right now that Lucas Wolenczak was not a happy man.
"What makes you think they're not?" he asked carefully.
Wolenczak gave a lopsided shrug. "It's just the two of them out there," he muttered. "Dagwood's strong and Tony's good at getting out of stuff, but..." he trailed off.
Hudson sat quietly for a while, thinking. Wolenczak's breathing was slightly laboured; he could hear it over the humming of the engines. After a while, he spoke.
"Do you ever regret becoming a soldier, Ensign?" he asked.
"Of course not, Captain," Wolenczak, sounding startled. "Why do you ask?"
Hudson sighed. "If I'd wanted a UEO-sanctioned answer, Wolenczak, I would have asked the PR department."
There was a pause. "Well with all due respect, Captain, if you think you already know the answer then why did you ask?" Wolenczak's voice was neutral, but the captain detected a mutinous undertone.
Hudson raised his eyebrows slightly, although he knew that the ensign couldn't see them in the dark. "Coming back from Hyperion must have been difficult for you, what with all the changes."
"It was difficult for everyone, sir," Wolenczak replied, still in that carefully blank tone.
"I'm not asking about anyone else, Ensign," Hudson said. "I'm asking about you."
There was a long pause, and Wolenczak's head dropped slightly. For a moment, Hudson thought he might have passed out, but then his low voice came back through the half-light: "Yeah, well, everybody has to grow up sometime."
Hudson woke suddenly from a shallow sleep to find himself staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling. He shifted onto his side, wondering why his mouth was so dry, when he caught sight of Ensign Wolenczak's face, the bars of light from the grille still illuminating it dimly, and remembered where he was. The ensign seemed to be sleeping, but when Hudson crouched beside him to check his pulse, he opened his eyes.
"Captain," he said, sounding tired.
"Ensign," Hudson acknowledged him, checking the young man's pulse anyway. It was too fast, but there was nothing he could do about that. Wolenczak's uniform front was soaked with blood now, but he was still pressing the pad to his wound. Sitting down next to him, Hudson gently removed his hand.
"I can do it," Lucas protested.
"You're too weak," Hudson replied firmly. To be honest, he wasn't feeling so great himself. It had been a long time since his last drink of water. Whether Piccolo and Dagwood were still alive or not, it looked like their captors weren't planning on feeding them.
"Captain Bridger's going to flip if he finds out what they did to the seaQuest," Wolenczak said.
Hudson looked at him in surprise. "Why would Captain Bridger have anything to do with it?" he asked.
Wolenczak looked at him for a moment, then shook his head slightly. "Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry Captain, things are getting kind of messed up in my head." He reached up and rubbed his forehead, leaving it smeared with blood. "I don't know what's wrong with me these days."
Hudson patted him on the shoulder with his free hand. "You'll be fine," he said, trying not to sound worried.
There was a pause, then Wolenczak spoke again. "You know, Captain Bridger used to be different."
Hudson wondered where all this talk of Bridger was coming from. Wolenczak's face was glistening with sweat; Hudson tested his forehead with the back of his hand and could feel the heat coming off it before he even touched the skin. "How so?" he asked.
"What?" Wolenczak looked at him, seeming surprised. Then his face took on a look of realisation. "Oh. Well, when I was a teenager, he was... smarter." He frowned. "Although I guess I'm still a teenager. Kind of."
Hudson wondered if this was what it would be like talking to a drunk Ensign Wolenczak, and decided he didn't want to know. "Smarter?" he asked, trying to keep the young man awake.
Wolenczak nodded. "He knew everything then. And he liked me. Now... I don't know."
"Nobody knows everything, Ensign," Hudson said. "Not even me," he added as an afterthought.
Wolenczak wasn't listening. His head had fallen forward onto his chest. Hudson tried to swallow around his dry tongue and hoped to God his men were still alive out there somewhere.
Hudson couldn't tell if his vision was blurring or if it was just that the light was growing even dimmer. He looked up at the grating in the ceiling, and decided it must be the light. That was the only explanation he was willing to countenance.
Wolenczak was awake again. His breathing was shallow and ragged, but he seemed more compos mentis than last time. "So I guess we never did think of a plan," he said, in a tight voice.
"I wouldn't write us off just yet," Hudson said, with more bravado than he felt.
For a while, the two men sat in silence. Then Wolenczak turned his head slightly to look at Hudson. "Would you do something for me, Captain?" he asked.
Hudson looked at him in surprise. "Well now, that depends on what it is," he said.
Wolenczak nodded slightly. "Would you tell Captain Bridger that I'm sorry for whatever it was that I did?"
Hudson shook his head. "No, Ensign, I won't. I believe in settling arguments face-to-face, no go-betweens."
Wolenczak thought about this, and swallowed. "But when- if I die, you'll tell him for me, right?"
Hudson frowned. "What makes you think I'll let you die, soldier?"
"Somehow, I don't think you're going to have a choice, sir," Wolenczak said, avoiding his eyes. When Hudson opened his mouth, the young man shook his head. "Please. I'm not a child. I know what death is... I've seen it enough times. The last time I saw my father, we argued." He looked away. "I don't want this to be the same."
Hudson took a deep breath. Somehow, he'd always thought he was the last person who could be accused of treating Ensign Wolenczak like a child. But this was not the time for that particular argument. "Yes. I'll tell him," he said.
It was a clanking sound in the corridor outside, followed by a hammering on the door, that woke Hudson from his reverie this time. He blinked, sure his vision was acting up now. He heard muffled voices, and went to stand up, then remembered the pad he was still pressing against Wolenczak's stomach. His fingers felt numb, but he kept them there. Wolenczak was unconscious, but still alive. And something was happening.
There was an astonishing sound of screeching and tearing metal. A moment later, light flooded in through a hole in the wall where the door used to be, dazzling Hudson's eyes. A large, bald head appeared, silhouetted against the doorway. "Lucas?" it said.
"Dagwood," Hudson croaked, thinking that he had never been so pleased to hear the dagger's voice. "Help me with Wolenczak, he needs medical attention."
The dagger came lumbering into the room, his expression still masked by the back-lighting. His voice was worried. "Lucas hurt?"
Another, smaller silhouette appeared in the doorway. "Captain? You OK?"
Hudson struggled to his feet, keeping his hand on the pressure pad as the dagger lifted Wolenczak's body as if he weighed nothing at all. "I am now, Mr. Piccolo. If you wouldn't mind putting your hand here and pressing down..."
Piccolo did as he was asked, and Hudson followed the strange trio as they headed down the corridor. "Well, Ensign," he muttered, "looks like you're going to have to say your piece to Bridger yourself."