Thank you to those who took the time to review 'Keep Moving Forward.' I know OC stories aren't everyone's cup of tea so every review is very gratefully received. But if you have a criticism, please make it constructive. Writers gain nothing from nasty feedback except a loss in self-confidence.

Shudunedus beta'd this one too – she's been a huge help and added some Katie contributions to this one too.

Set shortly after the Season Two episode 'Alone'

A/N - The stories I write are all part of a series which read in sequence. See my profile for the running order.

seaQuest concept and characters are the intellectual property of Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures. I own nothing and do not profit.

All chapters now added.

***

Chapter One

seaQuest DSV – 4600 II

0748

Mid North Atlantic Ocean

42N 17' 36.8", 24W 26' 0.94"

Sensor Chief Miguel Ortiz rubbed his eyes as he strolled through the large set of clam doors and onto the bridge of the seaQuest. It wasn't especially early in the day, but he'd forced himself to stay up late the night before and finish a book, and now he was suffering for it. He ran his hand through his mane of dark curls and shook his head to clear the fog that usually accompanied tiredness. His stomach let out a large growl as he took a seat at his station.

'Maybe I shouldn't have had that extra helping of eggs,' he thought to himself.

He barely had time to sign into the ships systems before a blonde haired youngster bound up the steps to his left.

"Morning Lucas," he greeted the boy through a yawn, though in actual fact, 'boy' was slightly offensive. Lucas Wolenczak, although the youngest member of the crew, showed maturity beyond his 18 years of age.

Miguel watched him take a seat at the station beside his own and chuckled, despite himself as he noticed the addition that had been made to his shirt. "So what will it be, Luke? Tango? Foxtrot? A waltz maybe?" he smiled.

Lucas looked at him blankly. 'Has this guy just pulled a double watch?' he thought. Miguel made a spinning motion with his finger, indicating for him to turn round. With trepidation he agreed, sitting silently as he felt something being peeled off his back. Turning back round sharply, he held out his hand to take the piece of paper Miguel was offering to him. The words, 'I'm in the mood for dancing,' stared back at him. Infuriated, he screwed up the paper and his face. "Piccolo!" he growled and marched back off the bridge.

Miguel laughed to himself. With characters like that onboard, life never got dull. He was relieved to see everyone having a laugh again. Things hadn't been easy lately. They'd faced a lot of dangers together as a crew, not least ancient curses, aliens and being propelled into the future to secure a safe world for mankind. It had tested them to their limits, but had brought them closer.

"Captain on the Bridge!!" he shouted as Captain Nathan Hale Bridger walked to his seat. All the crew rose and stood to attention.

Nathan eyed them all appraisingly. The sight of his well turned out crew made him smile inside. He really did have the best of the best.

"As you were," he told them and they returned to their duties – ready to begin another watch.

***

seaQuest DSV – 4600 II

1300 hours

"Sir, there's a secured transmission coming in from the Secretary General."

Bridger sighed. 'Couldn't one watch go by without a hiccup?' he thought. "Patch it through to the Wardroom, Mr O'Neill."

"Aye, Sir," O'Neill transferred the call as Bridger walked, purposefully, off the bridge.

"The bridge is yours, Commander," he shouted behind him.

"Aye Sir," Ford nodded.

"What do you think that's about?" Ortiz asked the Commander.

"Nothing, with any luck," he replied nervously, wishing he could be so sure.

***

Nathan sat himself down in the wardroom and brought the transmission on screen. Secretary General McGath stared back.

"Mr Secretary," Nathan addressed him.

"I've no time for pleasantries, Nathan. This morning the UEO received top-level intelligence concerning possible nuclear and biological experimentation in the Caribbean. I need you to turn your ship around and investigate this immediately."

Nathan sighed inwardly. Despite being outlawed by the UEO, scientists still persisted in pushing the boundaries of these dangerous fields of research. "What kind of experimentation?" he asked.

"The worst kind. We've had satellites combing the island in question for the past two hours. We'll have building schematics and personnel numbers to you within 30 minutes. Just turn the boat around and get to the bottom of this."

"Alright – you're making me nervous. What is it you want us to do exactly?"

"Storm the facility, disable the operations and gather as much intelligence as you can. I want to know what's going on in there. The UEO has a zero tolerance policy on this kind of thing, Nathan. It's all in the files we're sending you. Keep me informed."

The transmission ended, leaving Nathan's heart pumping and mind racing, already preparing a course of action. He pressed the communicator on the desk.

"Commander – turn the boat around, make for the Caribbean, I'll have more specific co-ordinates shortly. And have all senior staff assembled in the Wardroom in 30 minutes."

"Aye, Sir." Ford looked at Ortiz and raised his eyebrows.

"I guess nothing was too much to ask for," Ortiz remarked.

"I guess so." Ford turned as Brody walked onto the bridge.

"What's the panic?" Brody asked.

"Don't know yet, but it doesn't sound good."

"How bad is not good?"

"I think you should prep your team," Ford answered, simply.

Brody stood for a moment, judging how serious the Commander really was before nodding. "Aye, Sir," he said, and walked away.

"New heading established, Sir," Henderson informed him from the helm.

"Good – keep her steady." Uneasy, Ford took a seat. He didn't like being in the dark.

***

"This morning the UEO received top-level intelligence regarding nuclear and biological weapons experimentation at a secured facility in the Caribbean," Bridger explained, addressing his senior staff some half an hour later.

He brought the various details about the facility onto the main screen for the crew to review the situation.

"How reliable is this intelligence?" Brody asked, already trying to piece together a possible plan of operation, should the need arise.

"From what I understand, this comes from within – someone who got cold feet or an attack of conscience," Bridger replied. "The facility is heavily guarded. Whatever is going on in there, they don't want it known about, and that's exactly why the UEO is sending us in. Brody, you'll take a team in and secure the facility. Take prisoners if necessary, but hold them onsite – the backup can deal with them once they arrive. At our present speed, you'll have three hours to formulate a plan. Commander, Mr Ortiz – you'll go with him. You'll take Piccolo too, the more manpower the better."

"Piccolo isn't trained for this kind of situation, Sir," Ford protested. The seaman was a convict, serving onboard the seaQuest as part of an inmate release program, and Ford had never quite grown to trust him with these kinds of scenarios.

"At this time I don't care – he's quick on his feet, he can fire a weapon and can go where the rest of you can't," quipped Bridger, silencing his first officer. "Doctor Smith – prepare med-bay, we'll need as many spare beds as possible. Lucas – you and I will be part of the first team in there after the building is secured. Look out what equipment you think we'll need."

"What are we trying to find out?" Lucas asked

"Everything," Bridger said simply. "Mr O'Neill, you'll keep the UEO informed of the situation and remain ready to assist wherever you're needed. I don't know how this one could play out. We are potentially dealing with armed nuclear weapons, so be prepared for anything. Are we clear?"

The staff nodded and rose from their seats, looking at each other and silently assessing the severity of the situation, before departing to carry out their designated jobs.

***

Seated in the first shuttle launch, Ford, Ortiz and Piccolo gave their weapons a final check, along with the other sailors who had been assigned to the mission.

"I can't believe these crack-pots think they can still get away with this kind of thing," Ortiz stated sharply.

"There'll always be crack-pots thinking they can change the world, Miguel," Ford added. "They become so obsessed with what they're doing that they can't see the bigger picture anymore."

He stopped as Brody climbed down from the cockpit. "We'll be landing in one minute," he informed them. "Everyone set?"

"As much as we can be, Lieutenant," Piccolo chirped, "as far as going in blind is concerned."

Brody nodded – it wasn't the ideal situation – that much he could agree with. But it wasn't the first time he'd gone into a potential combat situation with limited intel. It was part of the job – just something they'd have to deal with. "Defend yourselves with reasonable force on this one," he ordered, receiving definite nods in return. None of them were going to have a problem with that.

The shuttle hit dry land with a lurch; propelling them upwards and out of their seats, ready to unload.

"Let's get this over with," Brody swallowed and led the team out of the hatch.

Their less than subtle entrance had already attracted attention from guards on patrol around the beach. Within an instant of leaving the shuttle they were pinned behind it, as gun blasts fired over their heads.

"I had a better reception in prison," Piccolo retorted as he leaned round the corner of the shuttle and fired at the guards.

Ford climbed up the side of the shuttle and fired over its' roof. "Definitely hiding something," he commented.

"We have to move," Brody decided, looking around him for a route. "You and you with me," he pointed to two of his men. "Those bushes up there by the fence, cover us! – MOVE OUT!" Brody ordered.

They took off at a sprint as the others provided cover fire. Through the relentless laser fire, one of the men leaped in the air and dove for the bushes as a blast landed inches from his foot.

"You alright?" Brody asked.

"Yes, Sir," the man hitched his weapon into position and nodded. Now with two positions to work from, they took turns covering each other and running out to fire on the guards. Eventually the enemy numbers thinned enough to allow Ford to lead the remaining men over to the fence, leaving a contingent to guard the launch.

Brody quickly checked to make sure everyone was present.

"Do your thing, Ortiz," Ford ordered.

Ortiz pulled out his equipment and carefully attached it to the electric fence. He twisted the dials and engaged the device, before looking expectantly at Piccolo.

"Why do I have to try it?" Piccolo protested.

"Get on with it!" Brody barked, pushing him forward.

Tentatively, Piccolo touched the fence, tempted to fake an electric shock but thinking better of it under the current circumstances. Having suffered no bad effect he turned back to Ortiz and nodded. "Nice job." He moved back to keep watch and allow Ford and Ortiz to cut through a section of the fence.

After removing the detached section, Ortiz handed Piccolo the wire cutters and cleared away his equipment.

"You three with us; the rest of you guard the shuttle and keep this site secure!" Brody told his men. "Let's go," he nodded to Ford, Piccolo and Ortiz.

They all pulled themselves through the fence, weapons primed, and ran to cover behind an outbuilding. A blast rang out as the guards fired on them, fully aware of their position.

Under cover, Ortiz and Piccolo ran to the other side of the courtyard, and cleared a path for Ford and Brody to join them. Between them again they stunned the guards, but knowing full well that reinforcements were likely on the way.

Ortiz quickly made his way to the nearest entrance and attempted to break-through the security codes.

"It's no use – it's encrypted, it'll take a while," he groaned.

Brody grimaced. "Bull to that," he said and fired off rounds into the control panel. The door swung open in front of them.

"Or you could do that," Ortiz said, eyebrows raised.

They funnelled into the building, instantly meeting resistance strong enough to fell one of Brody's men. As he fell to the ground, stunned, the others turned to face the oncoming onslaught, fired up for a fight.

"Fire at will!" Brody yelled, unleashing a torrent of laser-fire, and forcing the guards to pull back.

"Guard this exit!" Brody ordered his remaining men.

Ford and Piccolo pressed forward while Brody and Ortiz double backed to clear the corridor behind them. They met a group of stunned white-coated scientists attempting to leave.

"On the ground!" Brody yelled, resulting in instant, and terrified compliance.

Clearing room by room, he and Ortiz made their way down the corridor.

The building was an aging wreck. It reminded Ortiz more of his old Cuban elementary school than a research facility; it was in desperate need of some repair work. The missing ceiling panels revealed exposed wiring and decaying roof beams while the whitewashed walls had turned sickly yellow and were coated in decades of grease. It seemed the walls weren't the only thing covered in grease and dirt; their feet stuck to the floor as they traversed the narrow corridors. Brody turned up his nose at the strong musty smell.

"More labs," Ortiz commented after the third room.

"But for what?" Brody asked. The more labs he saw, the more disconcerted he became - noticing the absence of any standard scientific equipment, and instead the presence of medical appliances. Whatever these labs were for, it wasn't the biological experimentation they were anticipating.

"I'm not reading any radioactivity," Ortiz said.

"Isn't that a good thing? Cover me!" Brody said as he rounded a corner. He and Ortiz faced off with six heavily armed men guarding a door. "Grenade!" Brody yelled. He released the pin and pulled Ortiz back round the corner. Despite covering their ears, they were both momentarily deafened by the blast.

"You alright?" Brody yelled.

"Yeah – go!" Ortiz answered.

He provided cover while Brody rounded the corner and proceeded to kick down the previously guarded door.

As Brody entered the room, he stood, stunned, all fears about what they'd find suddenly shattered by the reality in front of him. In shackles, chained to the wall was a young woman, bruised and barely conscious, in white medical scrubs. She struggled to pull her head up to meet his gaze.

"Jim?" she whispered.

A further wave of shock coursed through his body as realisation took hold. Suddenly numb, his hands were unable to keep a hold on his weapon and with a sharp clang it fell onto the linoleum floor at his feet, startling the person before him. "ORTIZ!!!!" he yelled, his hammering heart bringing him back to reality.

Ortiz ran into the room and took in the sight. He, like Brody, stopped dead in his tracks, taking in the unexpected sight, before moving silently to drop to his knees beside Brody and the woman.

"Jim," she whispered again, her head hanging.

Brody cupped his hand around her face and pulled it up to look at them, causing Ortiz to start in panic.

"Oh my god, it's Beth," he panted, "It's Beth!"

He brought his hand out to softly stroke her cheek, and his heart thumped as she pulled her eyes up to meet his. The relief and desperation he saw in them, as she registered his identity, was overwhelming. She licked her dry, cracked lips in a struggle to speak. He pulled out a container and poured water into her mouth, supporting her head as she drank eagerly.

"Easy, easy," he soothed, pulling the container away and checking her over for any visible signs of injury. "What are you doing here?" he whispered.

Brody, meanwhile, got straight on his PAL to Ford. "Ford?"

"Yeah?"

"We need an evac now!"

"Who's hurt?"

"A prisoner – we have to get her out of here."

"Negative – no prisoners to be transported to seaQuest."

Ortiz snatched the PAL from Brody and yelled into it. "Commander, it's Beth – it's Beth Allen."

Ford silenced. "Where are you?"

"We're at the far end of the north-east corridor," Brody said, picking up his weapon again and moving to the door.

"Hold position, we're coming to you," Ford ordered, signing off.

"It's still clear," he informed Ortiz and returned to sit by him and Beth. "How did this happen?" he asked her.

Beth looked at her old friend and her mouth trembled. She let out an anguished sigh and shook her head in frustration – exhaustion halting the hundreds of words she wanted to release.

Brody took her face in his hands and forced her to look at him. "I'm going to get you out of here – I promise! You hear me?" he asked, looking for an answer. When she hung her head once more and turned it away from him he grasped hold of it firmly, looking her in the eye. "You hear me?!?"

Her eyes refocused on his and she nodded, this time with more certainty.

He and Ortiz both snapped round, weapons ready, as Ford and Piccolo burst through the door.

"My god!" Ford exclaimed, seeing the figure before them. "What's she doing here?"

"Tony – wire cutters," Ortiz asked, anxiously.

Piccolo opened his bag and pulled out the two pairs of cutters. He and Ortiz set to work carefully cutting through the metal bands around Beth's painfully thin wrists, while Brody supported her body.

"She's like a rag doll, who is she?" Piccolo asked.

"Not now, Tony," Ortiz said sharply as he cut through the last of the band. As her other arm was freed, she limped backwards, and he took her weight into his arms. "It's alright," he soothed, as she gasped in pain, "I got you."

With Brody's help, they both hauled her to her feet.

Head spinning, she struggled to place her feet solidly beneath her. "I need a minute," she rasped, her breathing strained.

"We don't have a minute," Ford shouted from the door and fired at the men advancing down the corridor towards them.

"Do you have her?" Brody asked Ortiz

"Yeah," Ortiz reassured, holding Beth protectively. She leant heavily on him, her arms clutching him tightly, in her struggle to remain upright.

Brody readied his weapon and went to the door to assist Ford and Piccolo. "How many are there?" he asked.

"Seven or eight at best," Piccolo shouted, pulling his head back round to safety.

"What do you think?" Brody asked.

"I think we need to get out of here," Ford said, sternly, looking over at Beth clinging to Ortiz like a lifeline.

Ortiz gripped her hands, reassuringly, as they watched the situation develop. To his relief, she'd managed to gain some semblance of balance and had her feet planted more securely on the floor.

"I'd say we're being threatened with full force – it's about time we gave some back," Brody quipped.

"I'd go with that, Sir," Piccolo agreed.

With restricted options, Ford was inclined to agree. "Piccolo, take the left with Brody," he ordered, taking position at the right hand side of the door. "Set lasers to full-power, fire on my order." He looked behind to Ortiz. "Ortiz, move her back."

Ortiz nodded and gently, but urgently, guided Beth to stand against the wall, slightly further along from the others.

Ford didn't have to wait long before giving the order to open fire. He, Brody and Piccolo were soon engaged in a gunfight that had both sides entrenched and unwilling to give ground.

"This isn't getting us anywhere!" Brody shouted above the successive blasts. He moved back behind the doorway and pulled another grenade off his belt, before shooting a questioning glance at Ford.

He nodded in agreement. "Give me a second one," he ordered.

With grenades in hand, they both leaned out opposite sides of the doorway and threw the explosives towards their targets.

"Fire in the hole!" Brody yelled, ducking round the corner and holding his head in his arms.

Ortiz pulled Beth to the ground and covered her ears, as the two explosions sounded simultaneously. Once the noise had cleared, there was nothing left but silence and a persistent ringing, which he took to be his own ears sounding in complaint. After his ears, his next thought was to get Beth back on her feet and get moving.

"Alright?" he asked, as they walked over to join the others.

"Yeah," she said, quietly.

"Brody, Ortiz – take Beth. Tony and I will cover you," Ford told them.

The grenade blasts had cleared a substantial path, leaving them to move unhindered towards the entrance. Ford radioed ahead, telling the men to keep the way clear and prepare to move.

Between them, Brody and Ortiz supported Beth – half carrying, half pushing as she struggled to keep pace, continually groaning with the effort.

"Where are you hurt?" Brody asked, hoping to provide some relief to her pain, but she didn't respond. "Beth, where does it hurt?" he repeated.

"God Damn it! I'm just sore, you moron," she rasped, agitated.

Ortiz managed a smile, recognising the same stubborn determination he'd got to know so well. He looked up and ground to a halt as Ford peered round a corner ahead of them, his hand held high indicating them to stop.

It was over before either Ortiz or Brody had a chance to react, and they turned, too late, to find Beth snatched away by one of the guards – a gun held to her head and struggling with all her remaining strength to free herself from his grasp.

The two of them instantly raised their weapons, furious.

"Drop the weapon," Brody said, sternly.

What happened next, Ortiz would never be sure of. He would always recall staring into Beth's eyes, as the negotiations carried on around him. He would never be able to shake the pleading in those eyes, the desperation that said, 'Get me out of here, or I won't survive.'

Whatever route of negotiation Ford and Brody were taking, it was leading nowhere, and they all knew it. They were wasting time. Being held in one place only increased their chances of being surrounded again.

The desperation in her eyes was growing past panic to near madness. Clearly terrified at the thought of being abandoned again, she was throwing all her might into trying to free herself from the secure hold the guard had on her.

"A full military force is en-route to secure this facility. How you act now may decide your fate later," Ford told the guard.

"I have my orders. Just like you have yours," he barked back, and began moving away from them, back along the corridor they'd just come from.

At that moment, with what could only be described as an almighty shriek of defiance, Beth managed to slip from his grasp and turn to face him. Pushing him away, she threw out her right arm and, with some unearthly force, sent him propelling through the air until he hit the back wall and crumbled to the ground, some fifty feet away.

Disbelief, mixed with unease and fear, paralysed Ford and his men as they stood attempting to make sense of what they'd just seen. Only when Beth began to sway before them and collapse to the ground did they awake from their daze.

"BETH!!!" Ortiz yelled and ran to her side.

Brody, too, dropped beside her. "Gods! She's out cold, get her up!" he exclaimed, and together with Ortiz, carried her onwards to the entrance, where Brody's two men still stood guard, with the other recovering on the ground.

"Can you stand?" Ford asked him, receiving a tentative nod in response. "Good, come on," Ford pushed them onwards and joined the others, crouched down low against the outside wall. They were surrounded on either side.

Brody set Beth down on the ground and gently slapped her face. "Beth! Beth!" She groaned and her eyes flickered open. "Good girl – you have to stay with us," he spoke reassuringly. "Do you think you could stretch to a run?"

She closed her eyes and nodded weakly.

"This is insane, she's barely conscious," Ortiz protested.

"She can do it!" Brody barked, "She has to do it!" he said, determined. They both helped her to stand once more.

"Just tell me when," she breathed.

Piccolo and Ford fired off a few rounds to clear the way then nodded to Brody.

"Alright on three; one, two, three!"

Brody and Ortiz pushed her forward. They kept her running ahead of them, maintaining speed despite her stumbling and failing legs. Gun blasts erupted all around narrowly missing them. Beth's focus was so much on reaching the fence that she barely registered the sharp pain in her left arm. Brody climbed through the fence first and pulled her through after him. As Ortiz followed her through, she jerked suddenly as her entire body seized. He looked to her arm and saw a dart sticking out from her flesh.

"She's hit," he exclaimed, "she's hit!"

Her body racked with spasms as the first wave of the toxin coursed through her body. Ortiz pulled out the dart and held it up. Whatever it was, most of the contents had entered her body. Brody gathered her into his arms, and under cover from his men carried her into the shuttle. Once inside, he lay her on the seat and knelt beside her.

"Is everyone on board?" he shouted.

"Everyone accounted for, Sir!" Piccolo shouted back.

"Pilot, go! Get us back to the seaQuest!" Brody barked.

Beth's eyes roved, unfocused and she struggled to breathe. "Jim!!!" she whined.

"I'm here, I'm here," he reassured. "You'll be ok," he soothed, stroking her hair.

"M…guel?" she choked. Hearing his name, Ortiz moved closer and took her hand.

"He's alright," Brody said, "Just hold on, a little bit longer."

Beth shook her head, "Can't," her eyes flickered shut.

Brody shouted directly into her face, "Beth, don't you dare, BETH!" He didn't get a response and quickly checked for a pulse, while Ford radioed seaQuest.

"Med-bay this is Ford, we have a priority one medical emergency, request you meet us at the med-evac hatch."

The shuttle jerked as it made an emergency dock with the seaQuest. Brody gathered Beth into his arms and carefully carried her over to the hatch, laying her down on the slab and pushing her into the tube where she would be moved into the boat. "Let's go," he told the others urgently, leading them up out of the shuttle and through the launch bay to where the hatch from the shuttle opened out on the other side.

Doctor Smith, accompanied by Bridger and Lucas, were already waiting to meet them.

"What's going on?" Bridger demanded.

"We encountered something unexpected, Captain," was the best explanation Ford could give.

"More like someone," Piccolo added.

They all stepped back to allow Smith and her staff room to open the hatch and pull out the slab onto a gurney.

"My God!" Bridger exclaimed, as he identified the woman on the slab, moving back further as Brody barged past to take her hand.

Doctor Smith checked her for vital signs. "She's barely there – MOVE!" she ordered, running away with her staff as they wheeled the gurney down the corridor, with the others close behind.

Ortiz caught Lucas by the arm and handed him the dart. "Find out what this is!" he barked before running after them.

"Will she be alright?" Lucas shouted, but all he received was silence.

***

Minutes later Beth was hooked up to machines and IV drips in med-bay, a crowd of concerned faces gathered at the foot of her bed, watching, as Smith and her team worked. After a while she looked at them and shook her head, with both confusion and defeat. They all sighed in dismay.

"The best I can do is try to keep her stable," she told them. "She's heavily bruised, probably internally as well as externally, dehydrated, malnourished. I'll know more after I run some tests."

Ortiz ran his hand over his face. He couldn't believe what was happening. For over three years, this girl had haunted his thoughts and now here she was, lying in front of him, clinging to life. His mind whirred.

Unable to comprehend the situation without a detailed explanation, Bridger ushered both Ford and Piccolo out of the room. "I want a debriefing in the wardroom in one hour," he ordered as they walked down the corridor. "And this better be good," he laughed, half in fear, half in anger at whatever barbarity they'd encountered.

"Who is this chick?" Piccolo asked as they walked.

"She's a scientist, came aboard the last seaQuest for five months doing a research project. We haven't heard from her since then. How she knows Brody though is beyond me," Ford replied.

"Any idea what she was doing in that place?" Piccolo asked.

"Your guess is as good as ours, Tony," Ford replied, as he and the Captain marched ahead.

"Man!" Piccolo exclaimed. "This is heavy!"

***

"Mr Brody and Mr Ortiz to the Wardroom," Bridger's voice called across the ships communication system.

The men sat unmoving next to Beth's bed. Barely a word had passed between them during the last half hour. Her condition hadn't changed and neither had the position of the two men watching over her. Jim sat clasping her hand while Miguel could only look on helplessly.

"Come on," Wendy spoke softly, urging them out of their seats.

Upon reaching the wardroom, Bridger eyed them, disapprovingly. "I know this is difficult for you both, it's difficult for all of us, but that's no reason to neglect your duties. I wanted you both here five minutes ago."

"Sorry, Sir," they both mumbled as they sat down.

"For those of you who weren't on our last tour, Elizabeth Allen is a friend to many of us. She spent a great deal of time aboard seaQuest and is well respected among the crew. It is therefore very important to us all that we find out as much as we can about this facility, and what she was doing there." He paused to take in the solemn faces. "Lucas – what did you get from the dart?" he asked the boy.

"I analysed the contents. It's, uh, it's a neurotoxin, a highly potent neurotoxin. So strong that, from what I could gather, it's capable of shutting down the human nervous system of in a matter of seconds. She should be dead, Captain. I can't figure out how she's still alive."

Ortiz' throat constricted, suppressed emotions suddenly rising to the fore. "Can you reverse it?" he asked.

"It's possible, but I'm going to need some time."

"I don't know how much you'll have. Her entire body is in shutdown. Her neural output is at less than 10% of normal and falling. I can't read anything from her. I've never seen anything like this. I'm with Lucas; I don't know how she's hanging in there," Doctor Smith added.

Brody shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I, um, I might have some information on that, Captain."

"Speak up, Lieutenant," Bridger said.

Brody took a moment to gather the right words. "First you all have to realise that I've been keeping this to myself since I was a child, so I'm placing a great deal of trust in every one of you." He breathed out deeply and then said, "You'll all have heard of the B.E.T.H. genetics project?" Blank faces stared back at him.

"The Bio-Engineered Telekinetic Human project, yeah, of course. It was supposed to be a pre-cursor to the development of the G.E.L.F.s. Some scientists claimed to have created a human capable of controlling matter, but it was just a hoax, Lieutenant," Lucas told him.

Brody stared back, "Trust me Lucas, its no hoax. They just wanted it to seem that way. Beth is…B.E.T.H."

"That's ridiculous…" Ford began.

"Commander, how else do you explain what she did to that guard? Neither you, nor me, nor Ortiz could have thrown him through the air like that, and we're ten times stronger than her. Those people had her in there so they could experiment on her!" Brody struggled to maintain control. "Her DNA is bio-engineered. That's why she's still alive."

No one dared breathe for fear of rippling the still silence that had descended on the room. But whether it was a silence of shocked acceptance or stunned disbelief remained to be seen.

"The pills…" Lucas whispered – the unexplained mystery suddenly falling into place.

Having been thinking the same thing, knowing glances were exchanged between O'Neill, Ortiz and Ford.

"What pills?" Brody asked, confused.

"We'll explain later, Lieutenant. But for now, let's say that what you're telling us is true. What's your relationship with Miss Allen?" Bridger asked.

Ortiz looked at Brody in anticipation, eager to know the story.

"When she was five years old she moved next door to me and my grandparents. Before then she'd been kept in a secure experimental facility where they tested and trained her for their own interests. Someone within the project decided to take a stand and had her smuggled out. That's when I came to know her. To cut a long story short, I found out what she was capable of and sort of looked out for her." They all stared at him, listening intently. "When she was 14, I went away to Annapolis. I always came back for holidays, but three years down the line I came back and she wasn't there. My grandparents told me that she'd left. Some men had turned up one day asking for her and she'd disappeared. I assume they got hold of her. But since then she must have escaped and starting living somewhere; that's when you all met her. They obviously found her shortly after she left seaQuest and have been holding her again."

Again, silence descended on the room – this time there was definite shock as acceptance of this new truth tried to seep through.

"But she's so…" Lucas began.

"Normal?" Brody asked.

"Vulnerable," Ortiz finished.

He and Brody locked eyes and an understanding passed between them.

It took a few more moments before anyone was ready to break the contemplative pause in proceedings.

"What can we do?" O'Neill asked.

"Lucas, I want you and Doctor Smith to concentrate solely on producing an antidote for this toxin. Whatever you need, we'll get it for you."

They both nodded, immediately standing up to walk purposefully from the room.

"Commander, Mr O'Neill, you two will come with me to search the facility, and get Henderson too."

"Aye, Sir," O'Neill also left.

"What about us, Sir?" Brody asked, referring to himself and Ortiz.

"You both obviously care for Miss Allen a great deal, and she needs your support. However you are both important members of the crew, so I don't want you neglecting your duties. I want only one of you sitting in med-bay. The other is to remain on the bridge. I intend to get as far away from here as possible, as quickly as possible." The four men left the wardroom together. "And post two guards to med-bay," Bridger added.

Brody and Ortiz looked stunned. "Sir, Beth isn't dangerous," Brody insisted.

"I never said she was, Lieutenant, but the people who want her quite clearly are. Mr Ortiz, you'll report to the bridge please."

Bridger and Ford walked away leaving Ortiz and Brody standing awkwardly together with Beth like an invisible wall between them.

"If anything changes I want to know," Ortiz said solemnly and began to walk away.

"Hey, Miguel," Brody called. Ortiz stopped and turned around, his face drawn. "What was that about pills?" he asked.

Ortiz sighed, not particularly wanting to dredge up old memories at that moment. "When she came aboard she was addicted to sleeping pills. All she told us was that she was suffering nightmares and things had got so desperate she'd turned to the drugs. She never told us what caused them. I guess now we know," he laughed, dryly.

Brody stood, taking the information in, not particularly surprised at what he'd heard. "She's going to be alright," he told the other man, more as reassurance to himself than anyone else.

Ortiz nodded and continued to the bridge. Brody walked in the opposite direction, back to med-bay and the friend he'd left behind all those years ago.