Taking liberty with the time they've spent at COA because I lost track

*The COA mission, etc., are a combination of information taken from the CIA mission statement, US Navy, and FBI core values.

Chapter 25

There was a chill in the air, not unexpected this time of year in northern New England. With each soft gust of the autumn breeze, small piles of red, yellow, orange leaves were picked up and swirled around the freshly manicured lawn. The COA's main green had been transformed overnight from an empty, yet serene, grassy area, to one filled with members of the agency. In the center, surrounded by the red brick buildings of the campus, a stage had been erected and in front of it, lines of simple white chairs had been meticulously arranged.

As the early morning gave way to midday, the quad began to fill, the white seats slowly claimed. At first glance, a stranger would assume an impeding university graduation ceremony. However, at closer look they'd realize something was amiss. There were no caps and gowns, and certainly no proud parents, grandparents, or children waiting to witness the event.

Lucas, along with the rest of his recruit class, filed in one-by-one, filling the first row of seats in front of the stage. It felt almost surreal. After two months within this agency, their training was officially over. The purpose of this ceremony was two-fold. It represented both an end and a beginning – an end to recruit training and the life they'd known before, and a new beginning with the COA. Lucas pulled his jacket in a little closer, the cold air biting at exposed skin, and glanced around at his friends. As the COA was not a publically recognized agency or military branch of the UEO, there was no uniform or official dress code, rather, each member of the recruit class had come to their graduation dressed in whatever professional attire they'd had with them when they'd arrived. For Tony and Lucas, this meant their khaki UEO Navy uniform, while the others wore a combination of military, police, and civilian attire. After wearing the same clothes for so long, it seem somewhat strange to see friends represent the lives they were leaving behind.

Lucas had never attended a Naval Academy graduation, nor had he ever witnessed a military graduation ceremony of any kind, but he didn't imagine it would be much like this. There were no guest speakers, no long speeches, and no words of motivation for the new recruits. Rather, it was more of a solemn occasion than celebratory. The Commander in Chief emphasized the life-long commitment each of the new COA agents was about to make to the agency, and how it was a decision not to be taken lightly.

Commander in Chief Hokstad stood tall on the stage, addressing the small audience. "The core mission of the Covert Operations Agency is to protect and defend the United Earth Organization's member states from terrorism and foreign intelligence threats. We are the UEO's first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go. We carry out our mission by conducting covert action to preempt threats or achieve UEO policy objectives, and our actions are rarely acknowledged or rewarded. We do all this with honor, courage, and commitment. As COA agents and operatives, we uphold the highest standards of conduct. We hold ourselves – and each other – to the highest standards. We embrace personal accountability and we reflect on our performance and learn from that reflection."

He paused, a steely gaze falling on each of the graduating recruits. "If you cannot or are not willing to uphold this mission, or to embrace the COA's core values, I urge you to rethink your commitment to this agency. Those of you who are willing to pledge yourself to the mission of this agency, please stand and raise your right hand for swearing of the oath."

The Commander in Chief waited for the group to stand before continuing. "Please repeat after me –

I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the United Earth Oceans against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

The Commander waited for the graduates to finish before finally breaking out into a smile. "Congratulations Agents. Now let's celebrate."

The small group assembled outside let out a loud cheer, and a thunderous applause erupted from the audience. Lucas and Tony both stood to congratulate their friends.

"I can't believe it's finally over," Andre grinned, shaking Lucas' hand. "And I still can't believe you guys decided not to sign on – after everything we've been through."

Lucas laughed and patted his friend on the shoulder. "I guess we're just not cut out for this place."

"Yeah right. You two fit in here from the get-go – better than others even. What's the real reason?"

Lucas paused before responding. He'd thought long and hard about taking the offer to join the COA permanently. Ever since they'd returned back to Earth, there just didn't seem to be a place for him on the boat. He'd spent a lot of energy trying to be the soldier that was expected of him, but he never seemed to be able to live up to those expectations. At least, not in Hudson's eyes. He knew the COA had accepted him and, despite his previous experiences with the agency and Roberts in particular, he'd actually grown to like it here. However, no matter how well he fit in, it just wasn't home. He'd miss his friends, and most of all he wasn't willing to cut ties with Captain Bridger. "Maybe I'm just a die-hard submariner and just not ready to live on dry land yet."

Andre gave him a sidelong look - one that told Lucas he knew he wasn't being completely honest – but didn't push further. Instead, he gave Lucas a grin before accepting a handshake from someone directly behind them.

The graduation and swearing-in ceremony was followed by a surprisingly lavish reception that seemed to go on for hours. After mingling with both the veteran and new agency employees for a while, Lucas found himself wandering away from the noise. It wasn't much of a revelation to find himself standing in front of the park bench where he'd met with Roberts a handful of times. It was just far enough removed from the celebration that he could take a moment to enjoy a moment of solitude.

It was barely early evening, but the sun had already started to set. Lucas sat down and stared out across the green. He could see his friends and their new colleagues mingling under the white tent. Every once in a while he caught a word or two that drifted across the quad to where he sat. He smiled. Lucas couldn't quite define how he felt at that moment, or how he felt about his most recent experiences with the COA. He knew his opinion had changed since the first time he and Roberts had met. He had a lot of respect for the Agency and their agents, and was a little more accepting of their procedures, but he now he knew he could never be one of them.

Lucas closed his eyes and breathed in the crisp fall air and smell of leaves. He was going to miss this – being outside – and wanted to savor every moment before he headed back to seaQuest. He didn't have to open his eyes to know that someone had stepped out of the dark. He knew immediately who it was.


"Mind if I sit down?" The older man replied, already moving towards the empty space.

Lucas nodded slightly and shifted over, before turning his gaze back to the celebration in the distance.

"I don't think I need to ask what you're doing out here."

They both sat in silence for a few minutes, until Roberts spoke again. "I can't say I was surprised that you turned down the offer to stay here permanently, but I am a little disappointed. Every person in this agency would be honored to have you as part of their team. You and Tony both. Just so you know, the door is open for you. When you're ready to leave seaQuest, just say the word. You belong here."

"Thank you." Lucas stared at John briefly before continuing. "It was a tough decision. I mean, much harder than I thought it would be. I never wanted to be here in the first place."

"I know, and I'm sorry that I put you in that position. It was selfish."

"I can think of a better word to describe it," Lucas smirked.

John Roberts grinned in response. "Doesn't take a genius to figure that out."

"I hated you for ordering me here – even more than I hated you for what you did to me before."

"I know."

"I don't hate you anymore, but it doesn't mean I can forgive you yet."

"I can live with that."

Lucas looked at the older man. He had been surprised to realize that he no felt animosity towards Roberts. To him, it didn't make sense. There was so much that Roberts had said and done that just didn't sit right with him, but still, Lucas could begin to see reason behind his actions.

"I guess I won't be seeing you again for a while. Don't take it the wrong way, but I hope it's not any time soon."

"You can't get rid of me that easily, Wolenczak. I'm piloting your launch back to seaQuest tomorrow, before heading off on my own."

"You have another assignment already?"

"Sort of. Just not the kind you would expect." John grinned. "I'm taking some time off. Heading to a little island in the Yucatán."

"Wait, what?" Lucas looked at Roberts in disbelief.

"Somebody once told me how important it was not to take family for granted. It just took me a while to take that advice to heart."

Lucas grinned. "Must be one smart guy."

"A genius." Roberts winked back.

They sat in silence for a moment before Lucas spoke up again. "So, have you told him yet, or are you going to show up on his doorstep unannounced? You don't want to give the old man a heart attack."

"I haven't quite figured that out yet, but I had hoped you might help."

"Yeah? How?"

"I've got time now if you want to come with me to make a call?"

Lucas looked at Roberts, and could honestly say that he saw the man. There was no mask, no evidence of his position within the covert agency. Looking back at him was a man who sincerely wanted to make amends and trusted Lucas to help.

"I'd like that." He smiled.

Author's Notes: I just wanted to thank everyone for reading and "reviewing" over the course of time it took me to write and post this story. I do apologize for the ridiculous amount of time it took me to get it done. Hopefully it was worth it. Season 2 story is coming next.