Spoilers for "Splashdown" and "Weapons of War"
The bedding was starched, coarse beneath him. The air, it wasn't cold or warm; it hung heavily around him. The workings of the ship were a familiar, but not a pleasing backdrop. A constant droning pushing him forward, getting him nowhere.
There was no life in here. Not even in him. Everything was dull, hard, lifeless. Nothing was as it should be. Everything, everyone, had changed.
Ford was more stoic, more in control than ever, but Tim knew it was a false front for the unease that ran through him. Anything could happen. There were no rules.
Piccolo was still the comedian, but even he had sobered. In Tony he saw the only "good" outcome of the whole mess; Tony had matured, faced his problems. He at least seemed to be growing. Still he missed some of Tony's exuberance.
Lucas. Lucas was striving to be something else, what, even he didn't know. In part, he was struggling to be a man, or what he thought a man should be. He had so much going for him, and yet nothing seemed to go his way.
Lonnie, well nothing could change Lonnie. Good or bad, at least she was consistent in her "Lonnie-ness". He thought back to when they had "dated". His face softened as a smile spread over it. He smiled. Yes, he could still do that, but only while reminiscing over past events. The present held no smiles for him. The future - no one knew what it held.
His eyelids fluttered. Rolling his head to the side, he let his arm fall to his nightstand drawer. He slid it open, reached inside, and withdrew the worn beads. They warmed quickly to his touch, always comforting to him, but now...
He brought his hand back, clutching the rosary to his chest, to his heart. He raised his head slightly to look at one of the large beads. Familiar vignettes were etched into the silver: Gabriel, Gethsemane, Galilee.
The joy, the sorrow, he knew, but where was the glory?
How could he make it to Galilee, when Gethsemane consumed him? Where was his angel in the dark of night?
His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak. He was drained, empty. What could fill him again?
He moved his fingers expertly to the first bead. He looked at the symbols: the cross, the heart, the anchor.
He touched his hand to his head, then down again, and toward each shoulder. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the pillow.
He could see a lush green meadow. He looked up to an azure-blue sky and white fluffy clouds. He felt the breeze and the warmth of the sun upon him. He raised a foot and placed it gently, yet firmly on the path before him.
In a dark lonely place, a soft voice began,
"In the name of the..."
HEAD OUT ON THE HIGHWAaaaY,
LOOKIN' FOR ADVENTUuuuRE,
IN WHATEVEeeR COMES OUR WAaaY
Tim pulled the visor down against the sun's rays. He wished he had something to protect his ears from the onslaught they were suffering. He should be relaxing on a beach somewhere, or sitting in a park at an easel. Instead, he was heading toward some dirt dive, with Piccolo belting out every song that blared from the car's sound system.
Tim moved to adjust the radio's volume, but Tony quickly brushed his hand away.
He tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "Tony. The driver is supposed to be in control of the radio. It's like a rule. I'm sure of it." He took his eyes off the road briefly to glance in his friend's direction.
Tony turned, his eyes peering out over his lowered shades, and replied, "Not when you're driving, it's not. And... about the driving... you could pick it up some. We are on our way to a race track, ya know." Sliding his glasses back into place, Tony drummed his open hand against the dash, "Tally Ho, and all." He leaned back and continued his version of singing.
RACIN' WITH THE WIiind
AND THE FEELING THAT I'M UNDER
LIKE A TRUuuE NATURE'S CHIiiLD
WE WERE BOooRN, BORN TO BE WIiiLD
Tally Ho, and all?
He should give the guy a break and lighten up. Tim had sensed for some time that part of Tony's attitude was forced. They were all trying, Tony was just better at it, usually.
Tim loosened his grip on the wheel and tried to enjoy the day. The car glided along the nearly deserted road, passing through a checkerboard of farms. The day was hot, but the convertible's top was down and the air did feel good. Tim took in a deep breath of fresh air; it was something they both could use. Tim noticed a large mural on one of the buildings up ahead. He remembered seeing similar ones as a kid. It wasn't the same as the good old red barn variety, but it was nice to see some tradition carrying on.
What could be better than cruising through the countryside with the top down and the radio cranked? He was getting into it. Tony continued to belt out the old songs. What the heck? Tim joined him.
WELL, I'M ON MY WAaaY, I DON'T KNOW WHERE I'M GOiIN'
I'M ON MY WAY, I'M TAKIN' MY TIME, BUT I DON'T KNOW WHERE
GOODBYE TO ROSIE, THE QUEEN OF CORONA
SEE YOU, ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD
SEE YOU, ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD
SEE YOU, ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD
They sang together until the song faded out. Tony was one of a kind. Tim marveled at his friend's ability to coerce him into almost anything. Betting on horses? This would be his first and last time. Definitely. If they ever got there. It seemed like most of Tony's vices were still legal, some were just harder to find than others. Tim smiled to himself as the car sped along, Tony could get the Pope to join him in any one of them.
Resistance was futile with Piccolo.
First Contact. He had been just a kid, about 9 or 10, the first time he had seen it. His uncle, a diehard Trekkie, had been excited about seeing it on the big screen again and had taken Tim along.
The boy had been fascinated with the movie's themes of space and time travel, aliens, cyborgs. The interest sparked by that movie had lasted well into adulthood. The possibilities were endless. His beliefs, firmly rooted even at such a young age, were questioned, but in the end, the challenge strengthened those beliefs. He had needed the structure to ground him. He had struggled with the juxtaposition at times, but had learned to live with it.
Until it had become reality.
He still wasn't sure of that, not really. Hyperi_
"Tim!" Tony popped him on the arm, causing the steering wheel to jerk. "Get your specs checked, buddy. You missed it."
Tim righted the car, reversed, and made the turn into the entrance he had just missed.
"Tony. You never hit the driver." He had started to think about something that he just shouldn't let in. He wanted to regain some semblance of normalcy and correcting Tony seemed to be a good idea.
"Rules. Rules. Rules." Tony slipped out of the car, shutting the door behind him. He began to walk away, but paused and leaned over the hood of the car. "We're gonna have fun, Tim." He turned and headed for the gate.
Tim set the brake and reached for the keys. He couldn't ignore the dread that had started to overtake him at the mere thought of that time. It was like being stuffed into a crawl space.
We're gonna have fun, Tim.
Fun? He felt like the world was pushing in around him. He clutched the steering wheel and dropped his head against his forearms. He stared through the column and tried to shut out the images that flickered before his eyes. Hyperion. No one had had the same experience there. No one spoke of it after the initial debriefings. No one. Not ever. He turned his head to the side, trying to catch a breeze, but the air continued to hang heavily around him. When would his life return to normal? What was normal?
"O'Neill!" Tony bellowed over the crowd.
Tim's glasses were knocked askew as he jerked upright.
"Whadaya doin', takin' a nap?" Tony stood by the gate, hands on hips. "Come on, Tim."
Tim took a deep breath, "I'm coming, Tony." Tim straightened his glasses and grabbed the keys from the ignition. Why did it have to overshadow everything? I'm trying. God knows, I'm trying.
As he turned to pocket his keys, he caught a glimpse of himself in the rearview mirror. Solemn brown eyes returned his gaze. He stared back at them, unable to turn away.
A passerby would have assumed the serious young man was looking out toward the crowded lot, intent on finding someone...
He was searching, but what he was looking for, he couldn't find.
Tim stepped out of the car and tried to leave the darkness behind. He made himself feel the power of the sun, the coolness of the breeze.
This is what's real. This is what matters. Let it go.
The roar of his dream became a barely audible croak in the reality of his darkened room. He sat doubled over in his bunk, sheets twisted about his legs, his head resting on slightly bent knees, his arms lying limply at his side.
He gulped in stale air trying to steady the racing pulse that pounded through his body visibly shaking him.
He eased back, leaning against the cool wall as he tugged the sweat dampened sheet free of his legs. Drawing the sheet up to his shoulders, he sat in a fetal position, arms crossed, hugging the damp fabric to him. He stayed there, staring out blankly before him, until finally his head sank down to his chest, and his soft, even breathing again filled the room.
His head felt like it was filled with cotton, most of it crammed compactly right behind his forehead. His neck ached, no, everything ached. He tried stretching out his arms, but the resistance in his tight muscles was too much for his half numbed limbs. He gave up. Dropping his arms, he rolled his head from side to side listening to the sickening sounds his neck made at the movement. Those muffled crinkly sounds always made him think of gristle clinging to the back of a Thanksgiving turkey. That image, more than anything else, any government rulings, any high moral ground, had turned a young boy into a vegetarian.
He stretched his legs out. For the moment they simple felt tingly, not an unpleasant feeling, but the shooting pains would soon start as blood began pushing its way slowly through the shrunken vessels. That's how it always felt at least, as if the veins had been vacuum sealed.
Tentatively putting weight on his deadened arms, he edged forward. His arms gave way and he lost control, his back hit the bed with a soft thud, his head hit the wall with a smart crack.
He stared up at the ceiling; his favorite pastime of late.
Why me, Lord? Why me?
His next favorite pastime, asking for answers he didn't want, and wouldn't get. Not until he was ready to hear them.
He knew this. He'd analyzed every situation. He'd gone over every action again and again, searching for faults, wanting to lay the blame somewhere; on himself, anywhere. It didn't matter. There was no wrong move. There could be no blame. Anything that had happened to him_ to any of them- if he could only stop being so selfish and really look around him to all the others that were going through their own turmoil. All that had happened, no matter how bad, had happened for a reason. The reason escaped him. Reasons have a habit of eluding almost everyone, most of the time. But, the end result was that he couldn't think of any way things could have been handled differently. Hyperion or Kimura: everyone had done what they thought was best, what they felt they had to do, under the circumstances.
Hyperion or Kimura, that's how he thought of her, he had dehumanized her. Kimura: an incident, a mistake, a regret. It wasn't right and he knew it. Turning-the-other-cheek -- great catch phrase, tough reality.
He felt his pulse beating in several places. Blood was pumping back through him. Cold limbs were waking. His mind cleared. Like a cloud, the cotton had begun to wisp away. The sun hadn't disappeared; it had only ducked behind the clouds.
…this too shall pass.
He was going to have to stop having nightmares. Never mind what it was doing to him emotionally; physically, it was killing his back.
Tim rolled over onto his side leaning forward to squint at the clock that was glowing 5:45. How many mornings were like this now, waiting in silence for the alarm to sound the beginning of his day, thoughts crowding his mind, pushing away sleep?
Come on Tim, cut it out
He leaned over, grabbing his glasses from the night stand, as he turned off the alarm. But instead of rising, he lay back. Tucking his hands behind his head, he remained there, staring at the ceiling for a moment longer before finally swinging out his legs and standing up in a full stretch.
Piccolo will kill me if I don't turn up soon.
He hurried through his early morning routine before heading for the mess hall.
Tim strode down the corridor lost in thought. He had always seen Tony as his exact opposite, he still did in some ways, but he had come to respect the man. He'd noticed a determination and strength in Tony that lay beneath the wise-guy exterior. Over the past few months he had also come to depend on him. Whenever they worked the same bridge shift, they'd meet in the mess hall and talk and joke around as they ate.
Me, joking around with Piccolo.
Those shared meals combined with Tony's mandatory-attendance shore leaves had been the best thing for him. He smiled at the memories they now shared. They were a compliment to one another. Tony was still a bit crazy; he'd do just about anything. Tim had found that he enjoyed being around someone so alive. And with Tim, Tony didn't always have to be "on." But Tony had others on whom he could rely. It seemed like Tony's spirit of adventure was the only thing that pulled Tim along most of the time. Tony had kept him sane; he was sure of it.
Tim could handle work, he had to, people depended on him. But other than that, he'd only been going through the motions, half the time not even bothering to force a smile. With Tony, he had some fun, albeit grudgingly at times, but he'd been able to let go. He needed that, he needed to learn how to let go, if it meant going to extremes, or what he thought of as extremes, so be it. So be it.
Tim rounded the corning heading for the mess hall nearly running into Lonnie. He stepped back avoiding the collision.
"That's okay Tim. You meeting Tony for breakfast?"
"I saw him in there. Same shift again?"
"Yeah, uhm." He pointed in the direction of the mess hall. "I better get going." He started to pass her.
"You doing okay, Tim?"
Tim turned and shrugged. "Yeah, I'm doing great."
"Okay." Lonnie looked up at him thoughtfully. "Well, I better be going too. I'll," she paused. "I'll see you later then."
How can I ignore the concern in the tone of her voice, the way she's looking up at me?
Tim stopped her before she made it past him and in a lowered voice confessed, "Lonnie, I'm not great, but I'm okay. I was just thinking. I do that a little too much lately, but I'm okay. Really."
Lonnie's face softened. "I thought I saw something going on behind those big brown eyes." She stepped forward and brushed aside an errant lock of hair that had fallen in front of his eyes. "You've always thought too much. But, if you need to talk…"
Tim had to fight the urge to step back from her touch. He'd been shying away from pretty much any physical contact. He was too sensitive. Everything was too personal. He had simply wanted to be left alone. He hadn't wanted, or been able, to trust anyone. On the bridge, okay, he trusted his crewmates, but personally…He'd tried reaching out to someone, someone that was far removed from the … the 'experience.' He'd tried reaching out as a means of fixing the… the mess he'd become, but he'd only made it worse. He'd managed to create something else that he had to deal with now. He had tried to ease the pain and had ended up with more. It had killed his hope, and that had been all he had left.
Tim suddenly remembered that he was standing in the corridor with Lonnie. And Lonnie was looking up at him, eyebrows raised. He took a deep breath and reached out, grasping her small hand in his.
"No Problem, Tim." Lowering her voice she leaned in and whispered, "You were doing it again."
"Ah… Yeah, I was." He smiled and then with a shake of his head, "I really should go."
"Okay. I'll let you off the hook this time." She gave him a bright smile and gave his hand a light squeeze. "I'll see you later, O'Neill." She turned and disappeared around the corner.
Her hand had felt good in mine.
He looked after her for a moment then crossed over into the mess.
He gave a nod to Tony who was already sitting at a table.
"Stay away from the pseudo eggs buddy," Tony warned through a mouthful of food. "They're worse than usual."
"Chew or talk, Tony. Chew or talk."
"Good one Tim," Tony shot back, flinging bits of flapjacks as he pointed at him, fork in hand.
He went through the line and, heeding Tony's warning, passed on the eggs and instead chose a bowl of fruit and a bran muffin.
Tony eyed Tim's tray as his friend took a seat at the table.
"I said stay away from the eggs, buddy, but you could liven it up some, ya know." He took a swig of coffee; black and full strength.
"Yeah, and do you know what that does to your insides?" Tim gestured toward the steaming mug.
"Same thing it's doing to yours? And by the way," he continued, "you look like hell."
Tony looked around to the other tables. "I call 'em like I see 'em."
Tim started in on his breakfast, spearing a section of melon. He looked up briefly and then stared again at his bowl. "I woke up early."
"And this is news?" Tony asked.
"Ha. Ha. Tony," he replied after a few chews.
Tony smiled to himself. "Well you won't have any trouble sleeping tomorrow night. You ready to get into some trouble?"
Tim looked up as he unwrapped his bran muffin. "I'm not going anywhere, Tony." Tim said. He waved off his friends protests, "It's not my choice this time. Hudson has me running diagnostics." He bit into the muffin, quickly washing it down with some coffee.
It is kind of bland.
"No way!" Tony threw down his napkin and leaned back in his chair, tilting it on its back legs.
"Tony, you're go_" ...ing to fall over.
Tony raised a brow and cocked an ear toward Tim.
"You sure you weren't gonna say something?"
"No," he laughed. "Not a word. I'm just sitting here relaxing…" He mimicked Tony by kicking his own chair back and resting it on its back legs.
"See? Not a care in the world. Just han_" He was cut off as his chair slammed forward. He looked up in surprise to find Lucas standing behind him, grinning.
"Don't you know that you can get hurt doing something like that? You were too busy studying to learn that in school?"
Tim's face broke out in a wide grin as he stood. "I must have been, Lucas. I must have been. When exactly did you learn that, whiz kid? At Stanford?
"That's it." Placing a hand on Tim's shoulder, Lucas carried on good-naturedly, "You're not allowed to hang out with Tony anymore. It was weird before, but now it's getting downright scary."
"Ha. Ha. Luke. Ha. Ha." Tony replied as he and Tim walked away from the table. Lucas only groaned watching the two unlikely friends laughing boyishly as they dumped their trays and headed out the door.
Very weird, but very good.
Tim scanned over the various readouts displayed on the console before him. To be quite honest, he normally enjoyed this part of his job. Everyone grumbled about running diagnostics. Dragged in by the tide of peer pressure, he grumbled along with them. But he liked it. Normally. Today the quiet of the empty bridge wasn't peaceful; it was unsettling. He usually enjoyed the solitude after weeks spent surrounded by people; now he simply felt lonely.
He caught a glimpse of her as she stepped onto the bridge. Kimura. He had wanted some company, but he wasn't desperate. He winced. Desperate. He looked up to acknowledge his superior's presence. "Commander. Everything is checking out fine. I've already run-" Kimura interrupted him, "I'm not here to check up on your work, Tim." She hesitated, looking off toward the main screen, she asked, "How are you doing?"
No way am I getting into this.
"I really need to keep on top of this, if it's not about work…." Tim trailed off.
"It was just a question, Lieutenant." Kimura retorted as she turned to leave.
"I'm sorry," Tim blurted out. His voice was a little too loud, a little too forced. He turned slightly in the direction of the departing woman; his former confidente.
"I'm sorry you used me. I'm sorry you hurt me. I'm sorry I can't drop it. I should. I know I should, but I just can't right now." His eyes dropped.
I said I wasn't getting into this. Aw, Hell...
"I've lost myself. I have to make things right..." he faltered. Placing a hand against his chest he continued, "...in here, before I can do the same with you." He stared at the lower console waiting for, dreading her reply.
"I did what I had to do-" Tim made a move as if to turn. "No wait. Let me finish. I know you don't want to discuss this, but it won't go away. I'm not going away. I did use you. Whether that precludes my being able to care about you… well, that's beside the point."
Her voice softened. She sounded like the woman he once knew, or thought he had known. He turned to face her, but she was looking away.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I used you. I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm sorry, Tim." Looking up at him, through him, she finished, "I did what I had to do and I did it the only way I knew how."
Back was the cool detachment, back was the woman he now knew. Clasping her hands behind her, she gave Tim a curt nod , "Lieutenant." Kimura turned sharply and marched out.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
Tim jumped at the sound of the voice.
"Lonnie!" A relieved smile spread across his face.
Lonnie strolled over to Tim and leaned on the back of a nearby chair. "Yet again, I find you deep in thought." She cocked her head back, gesturing toward where Kimura had just exited. "Of course, I can see why."
"What are you doing here, Lonnie?"
Lonnie flopped down into the chair. "Nice change of subject, O'Neill. We decided you might need some company."
"We?" Tim asked.
"We. Tony and me. We figured you'd be done here pretty soon and could use some entertainment." She turned back toward the corridor and mumbled, "Use some cheering up, is more like it."
"Tony's putting it together right now," she added.
"Oh great," he paused, "but I guess it can't be too bad if you're involved. Did he get kicked out of his usual haunts?" Tim asked over his shoulder.
"Timbo. You're killing me." Tony walked onto the bridge clutching at his heart. "Do you really have that low an opinion of me?"
"Tony, I think you know the answer to that one," Tim threw back before slipping out of his chair. "Well, my work here is done." He looked at Tony, "Do I at least get to pick my poison?"
"That could be arranged." Tony winked at Lonnie.
"Come on guys," Lonnie said, linking arms with the men as she passed between them, pulling them along.
Tim eyed the mess hall. Tony had set up chairs and the main movie viewer. The place reeked of buttery popcorn. He glanced over at Lonnie. "I'm assuming that this isn't your usual fare, Tony."
"No," Lonnie said, "and it's not yours either. It's way beneath you." She pushed him into one of the chairs and sat down beside him. Tony plopped down on the other side and shoved a bowl at him.
"I'm not eating that stuff, it'll clog_"
"Eat the popcorn, Tim."
"Okay." He grabbed a handful and with a wary look, raised it to his mouth and reluctantly began to chew.
Oh.. I am *not* letting Tony know how good this is…
"Heh, heh, heh… Tim, Don't you know I can read your mind?"
Tim spilled some of the popcorn as he shot a worried look at Tony, but recovered just as quickly. "Yeah, well, what am I thinking now?"
"I really don't think Lonnie would give you a second chance, but you could try." Tony shrugged his shoulders, "It could happen."
"I was not!" Tim turned toward Lonnie. "I wasn't."
"Thanks for the ego boost, Tim." She looked a tad irritated, but shrugged it off. "I know I'm not your type."
"I didn't mean it like that, Lonnie."
"I know, I know." She reached behind him and whapped Tony. "Trouble maker!"
"Okay, okay. I was kidding around. Can I start this thing up now?"
"Please!" : "Please!"
He settled back balancing the bowl in his lap as he shoveled in more popcorn.
I'd love to have a fountain coke, and maybe some snow caps. I'm definitely regressing...
The old Columbia Pictures logo flickered on the screen. Evidently the movie hadn't been enhanced when transferred to disk. Tim tried to recall what movies were made in the early days of Columbia Pictures.
Capra did some of his films there. It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, It's a Wonderf- no that was after his Columbia years. But then he went on and did those great educational bits like Hemo the Magnificent! Those were great.
His reverie was broken by the blast of a swinging version of "Three Blind Mice."
"Aw, Tony. The Three Stooges?!"
Looking over at his two friends he shrugged and said, "It seemed appropriate."
"Yeah, and Tim's Moe," Lonnie quipped.
"Moe?" he asked.
"As long as I'm Curly," Tony quickly added.
"Why Moe?" Tim continued.
"I'll take Larry; he held the group together," Lonnie offered, stuffing more popcorn into her mouth.
"Moe's a jerk!"
Lonnie leaned back and looked at Tony. "He could be Shemp."
"I can't be Shemp if he's Curly," he pointed at Tony. "That'd be like throwing D'Artagnan into the Three Musketeers."
Lonnie frowned, "You know, all the girls love D'Artagnan, but he just gives me the creeps."
"I'm Porthos. He's the partier, right?"
"Yeah, right," Lonnie replied before adding, "Tim would be Aramis, definitely Aramis. Now I'd be--"
Tim sat between the two, movie and popcorn forgotten.
"Wait! Stop!" he finally interrupted, his eyes darting back and forth. "What are we doing?"
Tony and Lonnie froze.
"I don't want to be Moe or Shemp or Aramis, okay?"
Tony held up his hands in a all too familiar gesture. "Fine, Tim. Don't get all bent out of shape."
Tim stared ahead. "Let's just watch the movie."
"It's actually a collection of shorts," Lonnie began. Tim turned sharply toward her. "Uhmm.. it's not really a movie. Movies are full length films, right?" She smiled hesitantly. "Although, I guess it moves, so… it's a movie, sorry." Sinking down into her chair, she turned back to the screen.
"You are Moe," she mumbled.
Tony shook with laughter as he Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk-ed, but he suddenly jumped back in surprise as popcorn was pelted at him, sliding down his face leaving buttery trails.
His mouth dropped open as he turned to look at Tim, who was grinning from ear to ear.
"Moe was the mean one, right?" Tim asked.
"Aahhhahhahahahha." Lonnie doubled over holding her mid-section. "It's an oldie, but a goodie," she managed between gasps.
Tony wiped at his face and then reaching across Tim, smeared some of the greasy residue down Lonnie's face.
"You're right Lonnie, it is!"
She tried to control her fit of laughter long enough to get some ammunition, but was only able to grab a few kernels in her giggle-weakened grasp, before pitifully flinging some in Tony's direction.
Tim wiped at her face. "Sorry Lonnie. I wouldn't have done that to you."
Lonnie took a deep breath and rubbed her face down Tim's sleeve. Leaning her head against his arm, she looked up at him and said, "I would have."
Before the words were out of her mouth, Tony had grabbed some bug juice from the counter and dumped it over Tim's head, catching Lonnie's face with some as well. Two birds…
"No way!" : "You pig!"
Lonnie and Tim lunged at Tony, knocking over the chairs in their haste.
"Food fight!" Tony roared.
Grabbing handfuls of popcorn, they preceded to wreak havoc throughout the mess hall; unknowingly mimicking their counterparts on screen.
Tim secured the steel door before pulling his shirt up over his head as he walked across the room.
Should I even try getting the stains out of this?
He shrugged and threw it into the wall bin. He'd have to try, or it'd drive him crazy.
Visions of popcorn flying through the air filled his mind. They'd acted like a bunch of kids. It had been fun.
He didn't feel like changing, so he took off his pants and crawled between the sheets in his boxers. He was exhausted. He hadn't laughed like that in a long time. Ten years at least.
He was glad that the decision to remain aboard seaQuest had not been his own. Maybe he would go after this tour, if things didn't heat up too much with the Macronesians; if they did, well, the decision would be taken away from him again. "Join the Navy, see the world," he mumbled before drifting off to sleep.
"I've been thinking about going back to sub school."
"Yeah. I want to be a Senior Lieutenant."
"SOAC, that's six months, you know?"
"Yeah, Jon. I know."
"You looking for advice, Tim? Because I think it's a great idea, if you're doing it for the right reasons."
"Can there be wrong reasons for advancement?"
"Well, it's not like you have to decide right now. Which is a good thing, since we're supposed to be on the bridge."
"Pride. It can make you a better person, give you focus, make you strive for greater things. It can also consume you, cloud your judgment, make you foul everything you've built up. I think you've seen its effects first hand, Lieutenant.
"Off the record, Lieutenant Commander Kimura is not my favorite person, but you did this to yourself, O'Neill. I'd've pulled you off this sub and thrown you to a tribunal, if I didn't know you were a better sailor than what I'd seen evidenced. You've proven that to me of late, but I'm not approving your leave for SOAC mid-way through a tour, and that's probably the best damn thing for you.
"I can't stop you from doing as you please at the end of this tour. Hell, I'm glad to see the ambition, but I wouldn't want to lose you for much longer than six months. I'd hate to lose someone else that works so well with our team."
What are my reasons? What's my motivation? Do I simply want to get out of an awkward situation? Do I feel guilty for putting my ship in jeopardy? Is Fredricks' blood on my hands? Do they still trust me? Should they still trust me? Do I still trust myself?
Pride? Is that what this is eating away at me? Have I replaced fear and uncertainty with embarrassment and shame? Is it that I fear everyone has discovered my insecurities, my loneliness, my separateness? Is it pride that keeps me from giving Kimura a chance? Is it because she's so strong, and I'm so damn weak? It seemed out of character for "this" Kimura to even try once; Why did she continue? Did she really care? Which was the "real" Kimura….
Why can't I sleep?
"With all the technological advancements, I can't believe we haven't figured out how to remove grease stains from fabric." Tim picked up his mug and took another sip of the hot coffee.
"Well, at least we got this place cleaned up." Lonnie smiled, looking around the now filled mess hall.
"Like the 'Queen of Giggles' did much to help." Tony hooked a thumb toward Lonnie and rolled his eyes.
"Hey be nice, or I won't make you anymore breakfasts."
"You put it in the microwave, Lonnie," Tim replied.
"And I did a fine job of_"
ALL HANDS, BATTLE STATIONS! ALL HANDS, BATTLE STATIONS!
"Shit!" Tony said.
Lonnie pushed back her chair, "We're on."
The friendly banter came to an end; their shared leave forgotten as they headed for the bridge. They wouldn't be discovering a lost city, encountering a new life form, or aiding in a new scientific endeavor. No, those days were gone for the most part. And peace was gone entirely. Now it was conflict, destruction, death.
They entered the bridge veering off to their respective stations.
"Let's move people!" Captain Hudson blared as the last few personnel edged past the closing clam doors.
The target was an unidentified Jansen class sub. Way too sluggish and weak for the Macronesians, even on a covert op.
"Flood all forward tubes, prepare plasma torpedoes, 70% charge," he ordered. "What the Hell do they think they're doing?" he breathed quietly through tight lips.
"Loading, 70% charge," Tony confirmed.
Tim interjected, "There is a torpedo away. Target has fired, and she's headed in."
"Countermeasures. Sound collision," Hudson snapped.
ALL HANDS BRACE FOR COLLISION. ALL HANDS BRACE FOR COLLISION.
The aftershock of the deflected torpedo shook the bridge.
"Port side strike, minimal damage, but we have water on_" Commander Ford began.
"Close it off! Weapons?" Hudson blasted his way through the procedures as Ford directed his own set of orders to the crew in the damaged areas.
"Loaded and charged, sir," Tony responded.
"Fire." Hudson stood glaring ahead, hands clasped behind his back.
"Aye, sir. 1500 meters… Impact… Ship is down, sir."
"I'm still not getting any response, sir."
"Okay. Let's send over a transport, Commander."
"Aye, sir. Commander Kimura, with me. O'Neill scramble security team Alpha."
Security team Alpha to Launch Bay. Security team Alpha to Launch Bay.
Tim listened intently, waiting for transmissions from the downed sub.
Finally, Ford checked in. Tim relayed his report, "They've found only one person on board, sir."
"One person? Well, who is it, O'Neill?" Hudson demanded.
"They don't know sir, he says he'll only talk to you."
"Get us back on course, Henderson. O'Neill, you have the conn."
The relief on the bridge was evident. It had been a mild skirmish at best. No one killed, no one even injured. Not a bad day.
"So this guy_"
"Direnzo," Tim added.
"_Direnzo's got it in for Captain Hudson, so he takes on the UEO's flagship?" Tony asked. "This guy's a couple pepperonis short of a pizza, if you ask me."
Lonnie eyed her cards thoughtfully, her teeth tugging at her bottom lip. "He watched his livelihood blown to Hell as the UEO stood by and didn't do a thing to stop it."
"That's not true, Lonnie," Tim interrupted. "The people had been evacuated. Captain Hudson had his orders. He was told to hold fire. Back then the UEO didn't want to get into it with the Macronesians over one small outpost. Of course, they ended up losing one right after another after that."
Lonnie gave Tim a slap as he tried leaning over to get a look at her hand. "Cheater! Anyway. I'm not saying the guy's right. I'm just outlining his frame of mind. It sent him over the edge. It's not the first time it's happened. You've been there before right? Madeline Stark." She glanced over at Tim before placing a card on the table.
"Marilyn," he corrected. "But she had more firepower, a crew, and a military background."
"You're defending her, Tim?" Tony asked.
"No, of course not. She went after civilians to get at the UEO, at seaQuest. No." He paused for a moment. "I got my dolphins under her command."
"Uh, oh. Tim's going down memory lane," Tony jagged as he rearranged his cards.
"No. Well, maybe. It's just _ she wasn't bad. She was a good captain. She lost it, like this guy. She snapped. None of the multitude of psych batteries caught that. I mean, they don't just throw us down here for months with their best equipment. She was a good captain."
"You try so hard to see the best in everyone, Tim. But you can never know what's going to happen. 'Best laid plans_' " Lonnie slapped down another card and announced happily, "Clubs!"
"What not 'vapid and infantile' enough for you?" she replied smartly. "Best in almost everyone…," she mumbled.
"I can't believe I'm sitting here playing Crazy Eights with the Bickersons," Tony added as Lonnie laid down her final card - the Queen of Clubs. "And Lonnie's winning," he groaned.
"Trying to cheat at Crazy Eights, now that's pathetic." Lonnie trailed her hand along the wall as they made their way back to their quarters.
"I was stretching."
Her curls bounced as she shook her head in denial. "Nuh-ah!"
They stopped outside her cabin. Facing the door with her hand poised to push it open, she paused and said, "It's been nice spending time with you guys. It's been _ fun." She looked back over her shoulder. "You know?" Her warm eyes searched his for understanding.
Tim directed his attention to the name plate in front of him. He fidgeted with the plate, sliding it back and forth, before dropping his hand. "Yeah, I know. Tony's good for a laugh." He finally looked at her. "He's been a big help to me. He's a good guy. So are you... I mean, a woman... You've..."
She opened the door and took a step inside. "I know what you mean," she laughed softly. "Tony is a good guy... so are you, Tim… for a cheat. I never took you for a cheat."
"Haven't you heard? I'm full of surprises. I thought the whole ship knew that now." He stepped away before adding, "Night, Lonnie."
"Night, Tim," she returned.
He headed off toward his own quarters. Halfway down the corridor, he could hear the steel door finally click into place.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
seaQuest DSV/2032 is ©MCA/Universal, Amblin Entertainment, and the Sci-Fi Channel.
"Born To Be Wild" written by Mars Bonfire ©1968
"Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" written by Paul Simon ©1971
Ending quote is from the Bible - John 1:4-5.
©1999 Raye - This story is not to be sold/used for profit. Copies must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.