Well, folks, I'm back. It's been a month and I simply cannot wait to share more with you. For those of you who wanted me to take a longer break, sorry, I just can't seem to help myself.

This is the sequel to Hard Time.

You really NEED to read Hard Time to understand what's going on. You will probably be lost if you don't.

This thread is going to be more of an episodic, continuing serial rather than a traditional story, at least for a while. I am going to be covering the major background arcs: getting characters I want in place and showing how things are different in 2022-23 because seaQuest did NOT get hijacked by aliens.

Noyce has come out of retirement and is back as an admiral. Some other regular characters are going to change a little (get promotions, change bridge positions, etc). Henderson will not make lieutenant in my AU. Maybe NCO, if I can ever find her anything to do that will earn some attention. She and Jonathan are not going to get together. I never quite bought that relationship in the canon. In my little AU, she'll have a casual, on/off relationship with Miguel, but nothing too serious.

They fudged Lucas's age on TV, with no time passing between S1 and S2 even though they had to build a whole new seaQuest. They changed the dates from 2018 (beginning of S1) to 2021 (beginning of S2), but they still treated Lucas like a minor (and of course, Jonathan Brandis didn't age two years over one summer either), so I am going to modify Lucas's birthdate to make him now 17. He will turn 18 on 23 December 2022. Yes, I know that puts him at 13/14 for season 1, which is ridiculous. But then, so were some of the canon plotlines. Just close your eyes and pretend S1 was in 2021 instead of 2018. Or just ignore the dates. We don't need no stinkin' dates, do we?

There isn't going to be a single conflict for a while. At some point (when I have the "players" ready) I probably will present a threat / major conflict and do a more traditional story, which I may do in a separate thread, depending on how germane it is to what else I have going on here. I plan to change the "description" every time I post an update, so if you subscribe to the "story alert" you will get a short synopsis of that particular chapter when you get the alert email.

Standard Disclaimer:

The following is a work of fan-fiction based on characters and situations created by Rockne S. O'Bannon for the 1990s television series, seaQuest DSV. The seaQuest name and concept are registered trademarks of Amblin Entertainment and Universal Television. I claim no rights to their intellectual or commercial property. This work is offered for entertainment only and in sincere tribute to their much-beloved creation.

Chapter 1

12 September 2022

Once they'd paid their respects and thanked the captain and crew of the Ronald Reagan, Captain Nathan Bridger offered Admiral William Noyce the best guest quarters on seaQuest with a tone of insistence that even Bill couldn't mistake. Sure, he'd get home faster if he took a jet copter, but Nathan needed to discuss in depth what he'd learned in the future and besides, he owed Captain Stafford a favor and taking Noyce off his hands was the least he could do. Bill accepted, so they sent a shuttle for him and then seaQuest parted ways with the aircraft carrier. Nathan returned to Galapagos Colony, where they'd left their science staff and where Darwin was loitering about because he didn't want to be trapped indefinitely while they hid in a deep trench.

While docked with the colony, the captain extended an invitation to Governor Sanchez for dinner aboard seaQuest as a token of appreciation for being so hospitable in the middle of the crisis. The governor accepted and enjoyed the V.I.P. tour as well as some fine cuisine. Nathan asked Miguel to accompany them because, frankly, Tim needed a break. He'd taken the Hyberion language burden so seriously and mentally frazzled himself trying to do the impossible. The governor tried to speak English as much as possible anyway, with the sensor chief only helping him over a few rough spots. Sanchez invited the crew to come visit the colony, but Nathan felt they'd already been too much of a burden. He accepted solely on behalf of Dr. Smith, but assured the governor he'd bring seaQuest back another time.

Wendy needed a good long vacation, and he'd promised her she would get it at the first opportunity. Finally, she had her chance. He didn't pry into her plans, but because seaQuest's tour was over, she didn't need to be back for several months. Nathan really hoped she could disappear for a good long while.

Everyone who'd been on If came to the Launch Bay to see her off. Nathan saw her slipping cards to people as she kissed cheeks and accepted hugs. When he got his farewell hug, she gave him a card, too, and whispered, "Just in case you need to talk to someone." It was a business card for a psychologist, presumably a friend of hers. While Nathan didn't think he would avail himself of another psychologist who didn't know what they'd been through, he was very glad that Wendy had found a substitute so that no one would have any reason to disturb her leave. Talking to Noyce about her position for the next tour was one of the first things on his agenda.

Quite a few of the scientists he'd sent to Galapagos had made other arrangements and were already gone. Those that did come back aboard either had more equipment they needed to unload or they simply wanted to stick it out and be with seaQuest when she made her triumphant return to home port. Being the UEO's flagship, seaQuest usually enjoyed pretty decent send-offs and returns, but after disappearing for a week and having everyone think she'd sunk only to suddenly reappear just in time to battle an alien mothership (an impressive spectacle beheld by at least half of the planet in under 24 hours, thanks to Lucas's viral distribution campaign) Nathan had a feeling her homecoming was going to be one spectacular show this time around.

He usually wasn't very big on parades and limelight, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to capitalize on the publicity while he had it. Funding for another seaQuest-class submarine wasn't going to be easy to come by, but if he started pushing for it now, while he was the whole world's media darling, he might have chance. Noyce was another part of his scheme. People hadn't forgotten that he'd been the Interim Secretary General of the UEO. He wasn't in office long enough to commit any grievous errors, so he was well-loved. Popular wisdom had it that if he had run against McGath, he probably would have won. Of course, Bill knew his main appeal was simply that he'd stopped Andrea Dre from forming a dictatorship. Beyond the fact he wasn't a politician, nor did he want the job to begin with, Bill was smart enough to quit while he was ahead. And Nathan was smart enough to use his popularity and have former-Secretary Noyce standing with him when he drove seaQuest into port.

They left Galapagos with Darwin back aboard, but Dr. Smith and about half of the regular science crew gone. While it wasn't as eerie as when the entire civilian complement had been evacuated, seaQuest still felt a little empty. Barring any complications, they were going to take a leisurely trip back home at about three-quarters speed.

"Why don't you just take the Panama Canal, Nathan?" Bill griped when they were alone in the captain's quarters.

"Are you in a hurry? Janet's probably glad to have you out of the house. We'll be back in Florida in a week, even going around South America."

Bill poked him in the chest with his index finger. "You just don't want the tour to end."

It was true he didn't look forward to the dry dock time when he'd be stuck doing paperwork and counting the days until he could get back out, but he had a lot of wooing and lobbying to do this time. He'd be lucky if he found a weekend to go back to his island and fish. "No, I just hate paying the Panamanians a month's operating costs just to save a few days."

"Oh, come on. You're heroes. The UEO can afford it. This is going to be the homecoming of the decade."

"If the UEO is feeling generous, then they can put it towards a new submarine."

"Look, I support you building a whole fleet, but they're not exactly cheap, you know. And now you're going to have to compete with the space program even worse than before. People are going to want military spacecraft, not just exploration probes."

Damn. He hadn't thought of that when he told Lucas to spread the video. Of course people would be afraid. He couldn't blame them. He wasn't altogether comfortable with the reality of aliens who could swoop in and grab any poor Earthling who wasn't armed with nuclear missiles. He was really hoping he could sell the idea that the clueless Hyberions just accepted they were in the wrong and put seaQuest back to promote good will and galactic harmony. But Bill was probably right. The space lobbyists would use this against him.

"Bill, the threat to the UEO isn't from space, not for at least twenty years, maybe longer. We've got much bigger problems right here and right now. The UEO needs to have another seaQuest-class submarine, maybe two or three. We could lose seaQuest in plenty of other ways. It wasn't that long ago that I had to destroy the last one to prevent an ecological disaster. Who's to say that can't happen again?"

"How do you know there's no threat from space?"

"I've been to the future, remember? I know."

"And who's going to believe that after what they just saw? Besides, in that future you visited, seaQuest was stolen in secret and no one knew about the aliens. That means you've changed history. You don't know what's going to happen now any more than anyone else."

"I know people like Deon and Bourne are planning to weaken the UEO and use land-melting weapons to change the face of the globe."

Bill rolled his eyes. "Land-melting weapons? Come on, Nathan. Deon is a playboy and Bourne's barely a blip on Wall Street's radar."

"They didn't build their empires overnight. What we do now matters."

"We can't lock someone up when he hasn't done anything yet."

"I don't want to lock anyone up! Even if we eliminated both of them, someone else would step in to take their place. The point is, we can't just sit around and hope that greedy, power-hungry people and confederations are going to accept peaceful democratic rule. We don't have any colonies in space that need protecting, but we do have colonies all over the oceans. SeaQuest simply cannot cover the entire planet at once, not to mention how much trouble we'd be in if anything happened to her."

"If you've had a change of heart about the military, I can get you command of one of the Navis subs—state-of-the-art stealth and weapons, no science or research."

Yeah, those silly manta ray wannabes were so useful when Mariah used one to destroy three of our oxygen regenerators. The captain refrained from voicing that thought and shook his finger at the admiral. "Oh no you don't! I want seaQuest. Where would you ever get the idea that I'm against science? Maybe we should wonder why these very advanced aliens, who didn't give one flip about our research capabilities, went after seaQuest and not a Navis."

"Maybe LeConte and Keller didn't know about the Navis-class."

"Maybe. But I'm not talking about loading up the oceans with a bunch of weapons. If we had more subs like seaQuest, they could be doing research, but also keeping an eye out for trouble and be able to step in if the situation warranted it. We act as a deterrent presence."

"Cops on the beat, eh? Look, I'm on your side, but I'm also telling you the reality. I'll support your campaign, but don't be surprised when no one listens to us old sea dogs."

Nathan rolled his eyes. "What is the point of throwing a big harbor parade and calling us heroes if we're so irrelevant?"

Bill shrugged. "Everybody loves a party."

Now he knew why he got a headache every time he talked to Bill. No one else could be so agreeable about disagreeing with him. He decided to change the subject and he didn't bother easing into it. "I want Kristin Westphalen back."

"I thought you liked Smith?"

"She's stepping down from CMO to pursue psychology and parapsychology full time. Getting Westphalen back was her idea."

"Smith is leaving us?" Noyce looked alarmed.

Good. That means he recognizes her talents. "Actually, she's staying. We need a Chief Psychologist and I couldn't pass up her terms."

The admiral shook his head. "It'll never fly. If you try to claim anyone is a basket case, they'll relieve them of duty."

"Did I say 'basket case'? Did you even hear me when we first got here? We were tortured, Bill. My entire bridge crew, including Lucas. And we were forced to watch each other's tortures. We need counseling and we want Wendy because she was there. No one else is going to understand what we went through."

Bill flashed one of his patented smirks. "Lots of psychologists are trained in PTSD. Torture isn't anything new, unfortunately."

"Oh, really?" Nathan was already standing and he wasn't in uniform. On a whim, he whirled around and lifted the back of his shirt to expose his scars. He looked over his shoulder to talk. "And how many of those 'trained psychologists' can say they held their patient's hands during something like this?"

Bill gasped. "My God, Nathan. All of you were beaten like that?"

"All the men, yes." He lowered his shirt and turned around to face his old friend. "The women were threatened with rape if they didn't conceive a child with one of us, so our captor would have another generation to torture. Wendy had her feet beaten 60 strokes with a stick and a leather strap because she refused to cooperate. Do you have any psychologists on that list of yours who can say the same?"

"Okay, you need Dr. Smith," the admiral conceded. "But why can't she stay on as CMO? A full-time psychologist is not in the budget."

"She has a private grant, Bill. The UEO won't have to pay her."

The admiral grinned. "Well, that's different. What's the problem then?"

"Her replacement. I want Westphalen."

"That's up to Westphalen, isn't it?"

"Are you telling me that her funding got cut purely out of coincidence? No one leaned on her donors because of that torpedo incident at Monito Island?"

Bill flinched. "You know we can't have civilians launching weapons."

"It was the right thing to do and you know it. Besides, she didn't actually launch them herself. A very competent weapons specialist did."

"On her order."

"She's a civilian. She can't give orders outside of Medbay. It was a recommendation from the head of the science department. It was brilliant reasoning that saved lives and a priceless treasure. If she hadn't thought of it and convinced Phillips to do it, the whole incident would have been a public relations nightmare. She saved our butts. But someone made sure she paid for it."

"It wasn't me, but I'll look into it." He narrowed his eyes. "Are you sure this isn't personal?"

Bill had seen him sitting alone with her over a candlelit dinner on the eve of her departure. He'd intended to tell her how he felt at that dinner, but he was interrupted twice and then completely thwarted when he had to save the world. There had never been another chance after that. He'd kept in touch with Kristin, but without hope of seeing each other, he hadn't spoken the three words he wanted to. And he was sick of hiding. "I'm not going to deny I have feelings for Kristin. You show me where the regulations state I can't have a personal life and I'll resign."

"Like hell you will. If I can't retire, then you can't either."


"Did you just agree with me?" The look on his old friend's face was somewhere between shock and bewilderment.

Nathan grinned. "I always agree with you when you're right."