OUT OF THE BLUE
SUMMARY:The seaQuest crew are sent to investigate research on an underwater oceanography station, but a routine check turns out to be more dangerous than they ever imagined.
DISCLAIMER:I don't own any of these characters (except some minor ones) & acknowledge the genius of those who do (until Season 2 anyway). They are copyright of Amblin Entertainment, Universal Studios, Sci-Fi Channel etc. Please don't sue. My account's firmly in the red anyway.
I apologize for using MEDS as a devious organization in this story & mean no disrespect in nicking the name. I doubt it will affect your reputation!! I also apologize for the terrible formatting. I knew it was going to get screwed on upload!!
RATING:15 (English rating) R (US ratings) - violence, language.
AUTHOR'S NOTE:I have followed the ELF canon of Lucas being physically abused by his father before being put on seaQuest although this doesn't feature heavily in the story. It is helpful but not necessary to have seen the episode 'Brothers & Sisters'.
Since it is the general consensus that the first series was the best (& I include myself in that) this story is written as though the crew from the first tour stayed on seaQuest for another tour.
FEEDBACK:Yes, please. This is my first SQ fic, so I'd like to know how I'm doing. Send to clairestillfloating. .
In the middle of the Arctic Ocean, hundreds of feet beneath the turbulent waves, the black waters are torn with the soundless speed of a huge creature marking its traceless, unending path through the liquid depths. Unaware of the wind's cruel and incessant beating on the land masses miles above its head, seaQuest follows the contours of the land with all the stealth of a fearless killing machine. Its streamlined hull, coated with a semi-biological skin, could easily be mistaken for a prehistoric predatory monster of the deep. Yet, this is a pioneering achievement of modern science, an incredible invention built by the North Pacific Confederation, wending an eternal path around the world in an effort to maintain peace and provide assistance to those in peril beneath the sea. Like a rogue knight from King Arthur's Round Table, seaQuest performs the unenviable task of protection and amelioration between the divided territories instigated by warring countries after the 2011 collapse of the United Nations. Impressive in her sheer size and capabilities, coveted perhaps by Nature herself, its silent slicing through the dim sea, is set in strange antithesis to the hive of human activity it contains.
The seemingly simple, seamless external body provides essential life support for over two hundred seamen, military personnel, civilians and scientists. It is their job to ensure that the multitudes of people currently living and working beneath the ocean's surface do so in peace, effectively monitoring Earth's entire liquid surface single handed. So far, things had been going well.
Captain Nathan Hale Bridger made his way stridently to the bridge where his crew were already assembled, maintaining the smooth running of seaQuest under his command. This morning, or so his watch told him, was a good one for her captain. Bridger was feeling unusually buoyant, finding a spring in his step as he took his place in front of the forward screen monitor and cast an interested gaze around the room which was illuminated with countless tiny lights like an unseasonal Christmas party. "Commander Ford, how are we doing?" Jonathan Ford turned his brown eyes momentarily towards his captain before returning his concentration to the screen in front of him. "We're on course and three hours ahead of schedule, sir. I would estimate that we'll hit the Bering Strait in about an hour."
"Good. I have some paperwork to deal with. I'll be in my quarters if anyone needs me." Ford nodded curtly. "Yes, sir." Bridger took one last look at his men, a mixture of pride at their admirable work but also with a twinge of regret that there wasn't a crisis demanding his immediate attention. One of the alluring aspects of becoming a naval man and, especially, being captain, was the minimal amount of paperwork to be dealt with. It was only typical that, when everything was going swimmingly, an enormous pile of letters and documents would arrive for his instant perusal and comment.
Turning away from the hub of activity, he wandered casually back towards his own quarters. He paused at the cafeteria, deciding that he couldn't possibly set to work on a half empty stomach and his breakfast of reconstituted porridge had hardly been what one would call appetising. Bridger was even more relieved to find that the queue was particularly long, thus ensuring that he wouldn't be able to do anything remotely constructive before nine thirty. He took his place behind the resident doctor, Kristin Westphalen, "Morning, Kristin. Late breakfast?" She gave him an unnecessarily sour look,
"Quite the contrary, Nathan. I've been up all night working on the algae sample we took off Inuvik yesterday." Nathan raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"That must have been some find, then." Kristin moved along the line a couple of steps, taking a soda from the rack as she passed. "Well, it's not every day that we find a potentially new species of life form. It's very exciting." The smile which had lit up her face suddenly took on a less joyous aspect, "I just wish Lucas would show a bit more enthusiasm with it." Nathan laughed, "Teenagers don't get excited about anything these days except cars and girls. Lucas is no different...just substitute computers for cars." Kristin looked sceptically at the morning's food offerings and nodded, "Yes, he'd probably just tell me I need to get out more." She gave a flourish with her hands as she continued, "But he's a scientist, Nathan! You would have thought he might be remotely interested. Sometimes I think I would have to tell him it had a computer chip inside to even get a flicker of a reaction." Nathan nodded, mutely. He had not seen much of Lucas over the past few days, having been busy with countless other matters. Now that he had the time to sit back and enjoy being on his boat for a while it dawned on him how guilty he felt for ignoring the boy. "Where is Lucas anyway?" Kristin filled her tray and they moved over to a secluded table near the far wall. "Oh, he's been holed up his room reprogramming some system or other. What he gets up to in there I have no idea!" Bridger took a sip of his coffee and pondered this for a moment. Sometimes it was on the days when Lucas said nothing that his actions spoke volumes and it was becoming simpler to deduce his mood by his daily activities. Retreating to his room for more than twelve hours at a time without creating some kind of mischief was never a good sign. "Perhaps I should go talk to him, lure him out." Kristin widened her eyes in a tone of surprise and wryly added, "And when you're done there I expect you'll climb Everest before tea?" Nathan offered her a haggard smile of amusement. Kristin patted his arm reassuringly, "Well, if you succeed, could you send him in my direction? I could use a hand."
Oblivious to these discussions about him, Lucas Wolenczak was staring into the aqua tube which ran behind his bed, his eyes glazing vacantly as seaQuest's resident dolphin, Darwin, did rounds of the ship before repeatedly returning to his friend's room and tapping on the glass with his smooth, grey beak. Lucas, however, was miles away. His mind hadn't been able to tear itself away from one particularly painful subject since he had been interrupted from sleep two nights ago.
At about two o'clock in the morning, when Lucas would usually have been busy chatting on the Internex but had decided to get an early night, a call had come through on the satellite link and the teenager had been awoken from a rather pleasant dream by the machine's incessant beeping. Rubbing his eyes wearily, Lucas had tuned in to receive a message from his sometime father. "Dad?" He had blinked a couple of times in disbelief. He hadn't heard from or seen his father for...well, a long time, so why now? Perhaps he was still dreaming.
"Sorry to wake you, son. I didn't realize the time difference." Lucas sat up, suddenly alert and focused; this was no dream. "Why? Where are you?" Dr. Lawrence Wolenczak flapped his hand as if his whereabouts was completely inconsequential, "Oh, Tokyo. I'm doing this conference...anyway, it's all pretty dull stuff." Lucas felt himself physically deflate for a moment. The only times he ever got calls from his father was when there was bad news, an apology or a request, but occasionally, it was because he wanted to see his son. It didn't matter how many times it was one of the other three, Lucas always held onto the hope that he might be able to see him face to face. Inwardly chiding himself for being so stupid and optimistic, he mustered up a more jolly tone to his voice. "Oh, that sounds great. So, uh, what did you want?" The doctor said nothing for a moment, his eyes wandering from his son's face to something at the side of the screen, as if he had other, more important things to be doing than bonding with Lucas. "Well, actually, it's kind of silly, really." Lucas felt hope rising in his chest again. The sudden assurance gone from his voice made it sound suspiciously like Dr. Wolenczak wanted to talk about something personal and was having difficulty getting the words out. "I just...well, I know I haven't been a good father to you, Lucas. God knows, I've messed up more than most, but..." At this, he looked directly into the link, his eyes boring into his son and Lucas felt all the ill feelings he had ever had towards him melting away with the sudden love he was sure existed beneath his father's driven façade. "...I do love you, Lucas. You know that, right?" Lucas opened his mouth to speak but his voice came out strangely strangled and he cleared his throat in an attempt at casual. "Yeah, I know." There was an awkward silence, neither one knowing what they should say, until Lucas questioned, "So, what have you been doing since..." His father suddenly interrupted and carried on as if he hadn't heard the question at all. "The reason I want to say this is because...there was this boat, this, uh, experimental trial run I attended." Lucas sat rapt, stunned that his father was capable of saying any of this, let alone explain his reasons behind them. "Anyway, the crew were young... inexperienced...and there was an accident. Some people died, people I knew." He paused and, after a moment, Lucas tentatively said, "I'm sorry." Dr. Wolenczak looked up at him, his face suddenly weary and his son couldn't help wondering if those were tears glistening in the corners of his eyes. "The fact is that it made me recognise how precious life really is." He smiled, immediately resetting the tone of the conversation, "I know it sounds corny and the greetings cards have been telling it to me for years but...the truth is that I never even really thought about those people much, you know? I had worked alongside them for years, even done the odd social gathering with them, but we never hung out or went fishing together. I know that you and I have never been close, Lucas, and I'm sorry I can't be with you to say all this face to face, but...it was important to me that I say it now." Lucas wasn't sure how he was expected to respond to that but all he could feel at that moment was immense love for a man who had callously discarded him when he didn't fit into some grand life scheme. "Thanks, Dad. It's important for me, too." Dr. Wolenczak smiled, almost bitterly, and quickly gestured to something happening out of Lucas' limited viewing range. "Anyway, I'd better go. I've got some...business that needs attending to." Focusing intensely on his son again, he leaned forward and quietly intimated, "I'll talk to you soon, son." Lucas managed a rigid nod before the link went dead and he was left staring at a blank screen, his heart pounding with a strange excitement.
Even now, as he stared into the clear blue water of the aqua tube, the young man couldn't shake off that odd feeling. He had expected it to die down a few hours after his father had phoned, perhaps even give him one sleepless night, but after two days Lucas had to accept that he was having trouble dealing with this one. He couldn't concentrate on anything for longer than five minutes before his mind started wandering back to their conversation, he found himself unnecessarily snappy towards other crew members as if everything would be fine if he could just be left alone. They only reminded him that he was hundreds of feet below the ocean's surface and probably miles away from any semblance of land.
A knock on the door brought him momentarily out of his reverie and Lucas grunted, "Come in." Bridger stepped inside, quickly surveying the room with one sweeping glance and noticing that there was very little evidence of activity amid the usual mess. Usually, the room looked like it had been hit by a rather considerate tornado with everything except the boy's precious artefacts preserved from the 1990s flung down haphazardly on the floor and chair back. Lucas turned his blue eyes from the aqua tubes to the captain with an impatient air of annoyance, "Did you want something?" Nathan paused, gauging how he was expected to respond to this. Clearly, the teenager was upset about something but whether it was related to some computer program he couldn't figure out or whether it was more serious was yet to be deduced. "Actually, Dr. Westphalen wanted you to help her. She's been up all night working. Now would be the perfect time to offer some assistance."
Lucas snorted, "What, with algae samples? Great, sounds like a blast." Nathan ignored the tone of sarcasm and moved some clothes off the chair so he could sit down. "Well, if you'd prefer you can always help me. I've got a ton of papers to read through. Some summaries would certainly make my job easier." Lucas watched as Darwin swam round to his window for the twentieth time that hour and said bitterly, "Then, perhaps you should get a trained chimp on board instead." Bridger had to admit defeat on the 'keep him busy' front and decided to try and slightly more familial approach. "Lucas, is there something the matter?"
The young man was almost too quick to say, "Nothing's the matter! Why should there be anything the matter?" Nathan recognised that he needed space and stood up, slowly.
"Well, if you want to talk about something, anything, you know where to find me." Lucas didn't reply and Bridger took one last look at the angry expression on the boy's face before stepping outside and closing the hatch door.
Lucas waited until he heard the final twist of the hatch door before turning away from the aqua tube and glaring venomously at the miserable cell he had come to call home, an ugly hulk of grey metal. Things suddenly seemed a whole lot worse than they had moments earlier. He hated the fact that, somewhere in the jumble of emotions, he had known that Bridger was the one he wanted to confide in, who could provide some kind of support. Yet, as soon as it was offered, Lucas had pushed him away and now he was back to having no one again. His anger spent, the boy's mood subsided into dejection and self-pity and Lucas wasn't sure which one he thought was worse. He had been having quite a good week before the phone call and so it was quite typical that someone should throw a spanner in the works at the most inopportune moment. Why did his father have to ring now? With this question, Lucas' emotions took another sharp right as his anger redirected itself away from himself and towards the man who had caused the commotion. Those had never been tears in his eyes, they were just bright light reflections. In fact, whatever sincerity there was in his voice or words, that phone call had been instigated by pure selfishness. His father had simply got an attack of guilt because his friends had died in some stupid experiment and now he was trying to make himself feel better by saying a few kind words before signing off for another year. True to form, Lucas had fitted into his role perfectly, reassuring the good doctor that he understood, that everything was fine. In fact, he had pretty much managed to excuse his father for every misdemeanour he had ever committed for the past seventeen years. Nice one, Wolenczak, Lucas wryly congratulated himself. Of course it was important for him to say how much he loved his son, how sorry he was, because it gave him peace of mind so he could sleep well at night and get on with creating a new empire for himself.
Since he had joined seaQuest, Lucas had found himself a new family, people who took more of an interest in him than his own parents had ever done. Somehow, just when everything in his life was falling into place, his father had taken the opportunity to remind him that he didn't belong with Bridger or Westphalen and that he would always be a misfit. Resting his chin on his arm, Lucas looked back into the aqua tubes and put one hand on the glass as Darwin tapped his beak against the glass. "Hey, Darwin." Running one hand through his scruffy blonde hair, he got up slowly and stepped out into the hall. It was time to swallow his pride and go to see Bridger after all.
Nathan had rearranged his nautical equipment and brushed away the layers of dust on his books before disciplining himself long enough to sit down and open the first file on the growing pile beside his desk. He was just reading the first paragraph for the second time when there was a knock at the door. "Come in." Lucas poked his head, tentatively round the door then quickly said, "Oh, sorry, you're busy. I'll come back later."
"No, no. It's okay. Come on in." Lucas closed the door behind him and moved awkwardly over to the desk, slumping into the chair. Bridger closed the file and moved it away from him, giving the boy his full attention. "What's up?"
"It's my dad. He called." Nathan tried to hide his surprise. No wonder Lucas had kept it to himself. If there was one thing Lawrence Wolenczak could get a PhD in without raising a finger, it was tying that boy into knots and the look on the teenager's face said it all.
"The other night...late." He paused and looked at the captain from under dark eyebrows.
Nathan enquired, "And? What did he want?"
"He...wanted to tell me that he loves me." Bridger sat back in his chair, processing the circumstances of this information. "And what did you say?"
"I didn't know what to say. I just...I know everything he's done..." Nathan finished the sentence for him, "...but you still love him." Lucas gave him an affirmative look. "It's only natural to feel that way, Lucas. He's your father. Just because you two haven't always got along doesn't mean that you have to stop caring." He paused. Not getting on was an understatement considering Lucas' history of physical abuse at the hands of his father. However, no matter what his feelings, Bridger had to acknowledge that Lawrence and shown significant tact and sensitivity in trying to make amends for his wrongdoings, no matter how reprehensible they might be. He had realized that some bridges could never be rebuilt and that he would have to make the best of what he could salvage.
"Maybe, but sometimes I wish I could...just hate him. It would make things a whole lot simpler."
"Sure it would, but then you wouldn't be human." Bridger came round to the front of the desk, kneeling down in front of Lucas and forcing him to meet his gaze. His eyes were already taking on a slightly pained expression as Bridger put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, "Listen to me, kiddo. No matter what happens, you are always going to love him and, no matter how hard it gets, I want you to know that I'll be here for you."
Lucas nodded feebly and then choked out, "But I guess I'm afraid that...one day I'm going to have to choose." At this, he looked up at Bridger, his eyes filled with a mixture of vulnerability and hope that the captain would provide reassurance or offer an answer. Nathan understood how tough it must be for the boy and he agreed that it was thoughtless of Dr. Wolenczak to call Lucas up out of the blue, but similarly, he also knew what it felt like to be at that end of the line. With Robert and Carol both gone, Nathan had almost lost count of the number of times he wished he had told them how much he loved them or given support when he had claimed to be too busy. Hell, he even cast his mind back to Robert's Little League games and regretted the time he had been unable to attend. Nothing seemed too insignificant when his family wasn't there anymore and Bridger had learned to value the relationships he did have more with each passing day. Putting a reassuring hand on Lucas' cheek, he said firmly, "You don't have to choose, kiddo. That's the great thing about life, nothing has to be black and white."
Lucas smiled wanly and was about to offer to help with the paperwork after all when the vidlink sounded from behind the desk and Bridger quickly flicked on the monitor. Commander Ford's face appeared, his expression unreadable but undoubtedly serious. "Captain, we need you on the Bridge." Usually, Nathan would oblige without further question, especially considering Jonathan Ford's reputation as a reliable and intelligent commander. He always had an impeccable sense of timing when it came to dealing with any military matter. However, in light of the much needed heart-to-heart he had just been having with Lucas, Nathan was loath to leave it open, unsure of whether the boy had said all he wanted to air. Pausing to wait for some further information, he prompted, "Why? What's going on?" Ford simply stared at him for a moment as if uncertain of how to phrase it. Nathan flicked his hand nonchalantly, "Never mind, I'm on my way." Ford nodded and the link went dead as the captain turned back to Lucas. "Are you okay here?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll, uh, just do some summaries or something."
Nathan smiled, "Okay. I'll have to remember how useful you are when you have a problem, exploit it more often!" He headed towards the door then turned back suddenly, "Oh! When you've done that Dr. Westphalen really does want your help." Lucas rolled his eyes at the prospect of spending his day staring at some microscopic seaweed and it was lucky for him that Bridger was too far down the corridor to hear the ugly comment which went with that image.
Bridger stepped onto the bridge, allowing his presence to resonate with the rest of his crew. They all seemed to stand to attention somehow when he entered and this made Nathan feel proud. He enjoyed the fact that his entrance could have such a commanding effect but the disciplined atmosphere which succeeded was never borne out of hatred or fear for their captain. It was a respect for the often difficult job he performed and a desire to please him. Stepping over to where Commander Ford was sitting, staring at some flashing monitors and speaking quietly but firmly into his headset, Nathan placed a hand on his shoulder. Ford looked up, quickly signing off with whoever he was talking to. "Captain, Admiral Noyce wants to speak to you. He has an assignment in this area for us."
Bridger nodded, "Is he still on-line?"
"No, he wants you to get back to him within the hour."
"Fine. Get him back and I'll take it in the ward room."
"Yes, sir." Bridger strode off the bridge, taking a cursive glance over the rest of the crew members working there as he went. Ford turned to Lieutenant Tim O'Neill, the geekish, spectacled communications officer who was busily plugging in different connections and gabbling in some foreign language or other. "O'Neill. Get Admiral Noyce back on-line and put him through to the ward room."
"On it." Tim announced proudly, looking a little too grateful to have something else to do with his time. This shift had felt like forever and he was looking forward to getting back to his quarters some time soon, not to mention grabbing something to eat. He had also been painfully aware of Commander Ford's constant glances in his direction as if he imagined Tim was up to something.
Jonathan Ford had to wonder what O'Neill got up to in his own recess of the bridge because often it didn't look like much and the laughter which occasionally issued from his conversations with Japanese, French and Italians alike sounded too much like fun. However, since there were few other crew members with O'Neill's grasp of languages, Jonathan was forced to accept them at face value. Besides, Tim was a trustworthy member of the crew, sometimes too much of a do-gooder, so most people turned a blind eye to the moments when he sounded suspiciously like he was chatting up a girl. Clearly, the time he had been spending with Ben Krieg lately was paying off and not in a good way.
Bridger made his way leisurely down to the ward room where he waited somewhat impatiently for Noyce to return his message. Nathan was glad that the seaQuest was being given a new, purposeful mission...assuming that was the admiral's reason for such urgency. Not only did this give the captain an opportunity to ignore his paperwork for another week or so but it also gave him a vent for all the adrenaline which had been building up since they had left Scotland days earlier.
He was put out of his misery as O'Neill's eager face appeared on the vidlink screen. "Captain, Admiral Noyce is back on line."
"Put him on." Tim nodded in assent and within a second his face had been replaced with the grim, lined face of his superior. "Nathan, thank you for returning my call so quickly." The captain tried to hide his curiosity as he let the casual niceties take there course before inquiring, "What can we do for you, Bill?"
"There's a sub-surface ocean research base off the coast of Anchorage which has been carrying out studies on both the adjacent rock face as well as in the water itself. They have been somewhat cagey with the information they have released concerning their finds but the Anchorage seismologists and geologists have been sending the complaints thick and fast." Bridger listened intently, occasionally prompting the admiral to elaborate. "Why?"
"Well, their own studies show that tremors below sea level could have an adverse effect on the plate tectonics. That is to say, they think these oceanographers are tampering with and possibly corrupting the tectonic plate vibrations."
"I see. What does the seaQuest have to do in this?" Noyce looked a little uneasy for a moment before saying, "Considering that your submarine has one of the best science crews in the world, I want you to take your people in there and look around..."
"You mean snoop?"
"Don't twist my words, Nathan. I simply want to you to police what's going on in there, make sure everything is running smoothly and safely."
"Come on, Bill. Any old government grunt could do this. Why don't you just send someone in from land to check it out?"
"I wish I could but top level jurisdiction wants seaQuest in there. It does make sense, Nathan. You are closest and it would be days before we could get our people up there. Besides, perhaps a bit of UEO clout will shut these people up once and for all." Bridger had hoped for something more interesting and more up his street, but he would have to make do. He always felt a bit useless when it came to technical issues, knocking around the submarine while he waited for Lucas or Kristin to give him some news in plain English. "Fine. I'll turn her about." Suddenly, an unpleasant thought crept into his mind and he waved a hand in front of the screen, accusingly. "Just as long as I don't have to get mixed up in some environmental science war. I don't want to end up playing peacemaker among these people." The admiral's face took on a strange contortion and Bridger began to wonder if that hadn't been half of the deal. Well, he may be captain of a UEO submarine, but there were limits to his diplomacy and petty arguments between scientists over who had jurisdiction over specific areas of the land and sea or who owned what equipment and deserved which portions of funding pushed him to the limit.
"Just be a fair negotiator where you can, Nathan. That's what we're here for, after all." Nathan nodded, dubiously. Sometimes he got the distinct feeling that all these bogus assignments were sent his way intentionally because he was miles below the surface of the water and wouldn't be able to cause a scene for at least a few weeks. Signing off as civilly as his temper would allow, the long-suffering captain made his way back to the bridge.
Lieutenant Tim O'Neill had found some amazing discoveries in an antiquarian book shop when the seaQuest had moored off the coast of Scotland and he had finally found a moment to peruse his purchases. Despite the time which had elapsed since their departure from land, he had been hard pushed to find a moment when the communications officer was required for some task or other and then tiredness had prevented him from savouring his bedtime reading. Instead, he was dead to the world the moment his head hit the pillow.
Now, however, he had two pure, untainted hours of freedom before his next shift began and he intended to relish every second of it with his new copy of Braidwood's 'A Social Reflection of Greek Architecture'. Tim had practically run from the mess hall with his lunch in an effort to avoid being engaged in conversation with anyone and had successfully retreated to his room without further disturbance. He took a gentile sip of his coffee and opened the first page, inhaling the musty aroma of history trapped between its pages. He stared at the frontispiece and examined the date given in Roman numerals at the foot; he was determined to wallow in his new acquisition and take conscious note of every watermark and every letter regardless of its significance.
Tim was in the middle of reading the preface when there was a heavy knock on his door. Sighing at his poor fortune, he opened his mouth to speak before thinking better of it. Perhaps if he sat really still the person would go away. The knock came again louder. Still, Tim sat silently. When no further banging ensued, he assumed whoever it was must have gone away and he was just settling back on his bunk again when the door swung open and Ben Krieg entered. "You can't trick me, O'Neill. You gotta get yourself one of those extra locking devices. I could get you one half price if you want." Tim presented him with a withering look, refusing to make his sometime friend comfortable and muttered, "Yeah, that'd be great. Why don't you get on it?" Krieg smiled and sat down at the desk, rifling through the books which were piled there. Tim waited for a few moments until he was certain that Krieg wasn't going to tell him what he wanted, then asked, "Krieg?" Ben continued to look through the books for a moment before glancing up, "Yep."
"What do you want?"
"Oh, right, yeah. I need your advice." He swung round on the chair, ignoring the unimpressed expression on his friend's face. "I need you to teach me some Danish."
"Danish? Dare I ask why?" Krieg huddled forward, conspiratorially, and outlined the shape of a curvaceous woman with his hands. Tim rolled his eyes; it was hard to believe, but somehow so typical, that Ben would manage to sabotage his precious moments of peace and quiet for something as trivial as a woman. "She was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen in my life, all blonde hair and baby blues. I swear she's like a gift from the gods themselves."
"Well, I don't have any books on Danish. Sorry." Tim turned back to his book as a cue for Krieg to leave but was blessed with no such luck. "Then you'll just have to teach me without a book. Come on, O'Neill, it can't be that hard, right?"
"Not for a person of average intelligence, no, but then..." Ben ignored the insult and punched him lightly on the arm, "Just give me a few pointers, all the basics..."
"You mean, like 'hello', 'Can I have a return ticket to Copenhagen?'"
"Maybe if she was a train driver...No, I need the seduction stuff, the dream lover vocabulary. Get me?" Tim's annoyance was giving way to vague amusement by this point, if only because he enjoyed tormenting the lieutenant. "Believe it or not, that side of the language didn't really come into my training much."
Krieg was not going to back down, "Yeah, but you could give it a try, right?" Succumbing to the man's incorrigible insistence, Tim closed his book and hid it under his pillow before preparing for the onslaught. "Okay, let's start with 'I love you'."
Lucas had been sitting behind Bridger's desk for all of five minutes before algae samples began to seem a lot more appealing. Drifting aimlessly down the corridor, he found himself on the sea-deck where Kristin Westphalen was leaning over some lab equipment laid out on one of the console areas. She looked up as he passed and called, "Oh, Lucas! Come and look at this!" Rolling his eyes in mock exasperation, the boy stepped into the room, reluctantly.
"Isn't this amazing?! Look at the way it reacts to the different light sources." Arranging different lamps around her precious sample, the doctor flicked some switches and stood back proudly as the algae began to camouflage itself. Lucas crossed his arms and tried to muster a little enthusiasm, "Fascinating." Kristin nodded, ignoring his tone of sarcasm, and prodded at the sample again. She sighed, "If only we'd been given a little longer to examine it's environment. Who knows what other information we could discover." A voice from the doorway interrupted her reverie,
"Give us a few hours and you might be able to." Lucas and Westphalen looked up in unison as Bridger stepped through the door. Lucas had been looking forward to getting top side for days and he was eager to leave the sub. "Why, what's going on?" Now it was the captain's turn to pull a disapproving face. "We've just received a call from Admiral Noyce. He wants us to carry out a routine investigation on a marine research base off shore at Anchorage."
Kristin could barely contain her excitement. "Ooh, how long are we going to be there?" Nathan scratched the back of his head, wearily. He was glad that some of his crew were pleased that seaQuest was being forced to backtrack and waste precious time over angry environmentalists while she could be maintaining world peace or, more importantly, mooring herself so that her crew could enjoy some well-earned shore leave. "I'm not sure. That depends on how co operative they intend to be." He turned to Lucas, his face already taking on the customary 'Don't mess with me on this trip' expression. "Lucas, we'll be needing your expertise on this trip, too. Noyce wants everything checked out, top to bottom, which includes going over their computer networks with a fine-toothed comb."
"Gosh, it's like Christmas already!" Lucas noted dryly, already imagining the excruciating boredom which inevitably went hand in hand with routine system inspections. "Do you want to throw in a requisite reading of 'War and Peace' or perhaps a surprise UEO conference or is this just a personal gift?" The teenager was already regretting how much he had been pestering the captain about being treated more like an adult. Okay, so he often felt excluded amongst so many adults but the down side was that he was unable to escape chores like this one.
"I know that it isn't the most exciting prospect but that's why you get paid for it, because it isn't a hobby anymore." Lucas stared back at his captain defiantly, crossing his arms firmly across his chest. Bridger opened his eyes wide in an even more stern look, "Don't forget that you're a representative of the UEO on this trip. Act like one - no tantrums." It was not a request and Lucas nodded, emphatically. "Yeah, yeah, I know." He muttered, "I'm surprised you haven't got me in uniform for these little pleasure trips yet."
Bridger eyed him up and down, taking in the scruffy mop of blonde hair, oversized baseball shirt and well worn jean. "Perhaps that's not such a bad idea. Go pack. We'll be at Anchorage within the hour." Lucas didn't need any further prompting. Besides, the one, single perk of this job was that it might get his mind off everything that had been going on with his father, or, more to the point, what hadn't been happening at all. Today was just one of those days when Lucas wished with all his heart that he had just been a test tube baby or something, free from the burden of being someone's psychologically traumatised child. It sucked and even being shoved miles under the surface of the ocean was not enough to rid him of a father. Lucas felt the familiar and unwelcome stinging of tears in his eyes at the mental picture he was unconsciously drawing of a happy family he could barely remember. They had existed, hadn't they? It wasn't just some twisted figment of his warped imagination from the fill-in-the-blanks version of his life.
Shrugging himself back to the reality of packing, Lucas returned to his quarters. He wasn't going to go there again. It took too much energy and only ever had one structure - circular.
Within the hour, the crew were standing in the MEDS (1) docking bay while service men scurried around to help unload any required seaQuest equipment. Things were not getting off to a good start for Nathan. No one of authority had come to meet them and they had been standing in the draughty bay for at least ten minutes. Lucas had already taken to picking at the stickers on the UEO crate he was carrying but despite giving him disapproving looks and swatting his hand away, Bridger had eventually given up and allowed the teen to slowly destruct it, unhindered. Eventually, Lucas realized that his nails were never going to get the last part of the blue triangle off so he decided to make use of the crate as a seat instead. "Lucas, do you have to do that?"
Lucas looked up at him with a sullen glare,"What?!" Nathan looked despairingly at Kristin, who simply patted him sympathetically on the arm.
Krieg had moved away from the rest of the group with Katie, much to the relief of everyone else who had been on board the launch. Somehow, the conversation had turned to relationships and, foolishly, nobody had thought to change the subject before the pair had got stuck into each other. "I can't believe that we were married all that time and you thought she was your friend!" Katie Hitchcock's eyes practically glowed with the anger she felt, but Ben was having none of it. "Of course she was my friend. Remember that party we had in senior year of the academy? I brought her and then you two got talking..." Katie put her hands firmly on her hips, her jaw visibly tightening with each lie. "Well, if you hadn't been blind drunk and stupid, then you'd also remember the ball when I invited her as my guest. You two spent the entire evening dancing together, then you took her to the party." Ben paused for a moment, pretending to cast his mind back before smiling, smugly. "Ah, yes, if memory serves you couldn't find a date." Hitchcock was just about to make a biting comeback when Bridger's face came between them. "Do you two mind? This isn't a school trip, you know."
Before either of them could respond or Nathan could lecture them in full, a voice boomed from the other side of the bay, "Sorry to keep you waiting."
Nathan turned to see a tall, dark-haired man sauntering over in their direction and, as he came closer, Bridger couldn't help thinking that he looked rather young to be in charge of dealing with the UEO. He didn't like to be age-ist but he rather hoped this was just a messenger for some higher authority. The captain had learned from bitter experience that men who climbed the ladder that quickly usually became pretty reprehensible within the first few weeks of command and were completely intolerable by the time they left the profession, if someone hadn't assassinated them by that time, that is. It was bad enough that seaQuest had been forced to reroute herself in order to respond to Noyce's command without being treated like an ancient fossil by people thirty years younger than him.
The man was dressed in fairly casual clothes, dark green corduroy trousers with a plain black shirt set off by piercing green eyes and a dazzling Colgate smile. To all intents and purposes, he looked like he would be more at home on a catwalk modelling the Timberlake Winter Collection rather than on a deep sea research platform.
Nathan attempted to put his prejudices aside as the man offered a firm handshake and politely smiled. "Captain Bridger?" Nathan nodded, trying to be as gracious as his sceptical mind would allow.
"Yes, and you are?"
"Dr. Eric Wagner. I'm the head oceanographic scientist on the station at the moment. I'm sorry for the delay down here. There was a bit of a mix up over some information." Bridger waited for a further explanation. "We've been waiting for a vessel to arrive with a chief MEDS representative for the last week. He was supposed to be...uh," Wagner paused and scrubbed one hand over his stubbly chin, clearly uncomfortable. Nathan was getting impatient. "Supposed to what?"
"Uh, just basic routine inspections...and as I'm sure you will have noticed, our communications leave a lot to be desired. The launch bay is out of operation, too, so you'll have to excuse some of my people's behaviour. Put it down to cabin fever. We've been having some work done on the hydraulics so the shuttles have been put out of order for about a week now." Quickly dismissing the subject, Wagner gestured to a door on the far wall. Krieg gently inquired, "Didn't you get a call from Admiral Noyce saying that we were coming?" Wagner's piercing eyes darted in the lieutenant's direction, his expression undeniably bitter. "Yes, actually I did."
Krieg hadn't meant it to be a conversation stopper, but he battled on regardless. "Oh, because, perhaps that's why you haven't heard from your MEDS guy. Noyce might have issued a postponement order." Wagner did not reply but led the way into a wide, well-lit corridor and through to a comfortable conference room. Bridger enquired, "What exactly did the admiral tell you about our visit?" Wagner gestured to the seats and sat near the head of the large table, as far away from the UEO crew as possible, crossing his arms in a deliberately defensive position. "That you wanted to check the place out and enforce some ridiculous peace pact with those up top. I should tell you now that they're lying...as always. They'd do anything to shut us down. Listen, we may both be science teams but our aims and objectives are far from synchronized."
Nathan suddenly felt a pang of regret for not having made a better effort to get out of this assignment. After all, it wouldn't have taken long for Noyce to get someone on the Canadian mainland to come down and deal with this. There was a whole ocean out there with no one to defend it while he spent his time listening to scientists tell tales on one another. He was already growing weary of the subject and they hadn't even started yet. Placing his hands firmly on the table and adopting his most diplomatic, no-nonsense tone, Bridger said, "Listen, Dr. Wagner. I won't beat around the bush. We don't want to be here anymore than you want us here, so the quicker we get this job over and done with the better. Now I'm sure that you have plenty of work which needs your attention and we have a job to do, so if you could show us round, we can all get started." Wagner seemed a little perturbed by the captain's firm attitude, but from glancing round at the faces of the other crew, it was clear that there was no point in arguing. "Of course."
(1) - Marine Environmental Data Service