Nathan dismissed Splendor from the blockade with the admiral's blessing, so Shan and Henderson could get a head start on the journey to Hawaii. Charleson caught a ride with them. Brody accompanied Drs. Levin and Westphalen back home to seaQuest and all three of them promptly excused themselves, presumably to bed. Hitchcock remained with Krieg in Auckland, but with the jet copter, they would easily be able to make up lost time. SeaQuest stayed until the UEO officially ended the blockade, when all the major cities no longer had lines waiting to receive vaccine and the CDC declared the virus 'contained'.
In the end, New Zealand lost more people than they did in the 2011 earthquakes, but fewer than the tsunami of 2016. Kristin turned out to be right about public opinion. Polls proved the UEO was more popular than ever before. The CDC destroyed all remaining virus samples, but since it had been in the wild and there was no way to know whether Zellar had hidden some, they promised to produce and store a large supply of antidote in case of another breakout. Although still not quite able to let go of her previous grudge, Kristin approved of the present course.
With Ford, Brody, and O'Neill back on the bridge, there was some semblance of normalcy, but the death of Kendall and the continued absence of Shan, Henderson, and Hitchcock cast a shadow of gloom over the crew. At least Piccolo no longer had to wear a sling and was able to take his station again.
Nathan ordered a speed of three-quarters, which was considerably faster than anything but a Navis-class, without risking damage or burnouts. Still, the distance seemed to drag on forever.
Lucas made good use of the time, conferring with his Node 3 friend, Nick, about the financial backers of the coup attempt. All the money tied to Dre had been funneled through dummy accounts. The rich guys lost whatever they invested, but they couldn't get arrested or lose all their other wealth. Much more money had gone into Gen-U-Flect, and they used a large chunk of it to hire very shrewd lawyers. Everyone who died in the bunker was declared a rogue to save the parent company. It looked like Gen-U-Flect would get off scot-free. They would keep every cent of their money and continue to operate, although Special Agent Townsend swore they'd be watched by the FBI and NCIS from now on.
Dr. Smith also used their travel time to finally finish the autopsies on Kaman and Shapra. She reported that they died of speargun wounds and nothing else. The Liberté virus was in their cells, but they had been exposed for less than an hour before their deaths. They probably never felt any of the effects.
SeaQuest made it to Honolulu where Nathan requested the use of the underwater berth. Surfacing anywhere near Pearl Harbor would mean a media circus, and he didn't have the heart for it this time.
Townsend made sure the bodies of Kaman and Shapra were handled appropriately and he also accompanied Mika to the airport. Dr. Wise's location was being kept top secret, as he was now in protective custody, but Townsend would take his daughter to see him. Evidently, she told Kristin she was interested in coming back to seaQuest after she made sure her father was well and didn't need her. Both Kristin and Jonathan seemed happy with that prospect.
Kendall's funeral was scheduled for two days after their arrival to give the chaplain some time to confer with the Punchbowl managers and to give Splendor a little more time to get there. SeaQuest had overtaken her even though she left first. Hitchcock and Krieg flew in just ahead of Shan and Henderson.
The day of the funeral was sunny and bright, but with plenty of island tradewinds to counter the tropical heat compounded by dress whites. Had it been less than three weeks ago that they'd all been on this same island, wearing these same formal clothes but for that silly bachelor auction? It seemed like a lifetime ago. An American flag draped over the coffin, but the UEO flag was also waving from a nearby flagpole and on the fenders of the hearse and its escorts. The ceremony was closed-casket, presumably because Zellar's toxin had not left the body fit for viewing, or possibly because the toxin necessitated some sort of safety seal.
Nathan led his officers in volunteering to be pallbearers. Ford, Hitchcock, Krieg, Brody, O'Neill, and Shan along with Ortiz, Piccolo, and Kendall's assistant from engineering all served. Not only did most of seaQuest's military come, but at least half of the science personnel also attended. Charleson opted not to attend, citing awkwardness and a possible upstaging as the reasons. Admiral Noyce and Secretary McGath flew in from the mainland to award the Medal of Honor on behalf of the President, who didn't make the trip.
The chaplain spoke of honor, bravery, and sacrifice, but he kept his sermon short and he gave everyone an opportunity to speak who wanted to.
Nathan stepped forward first. "Many of us would not be here today had it not been for Chief Kendall. His humility allowed a dolphin to be the figurehead and take the glory while he worked silently in the background, never expecting any rewards or accolades. The modular trimaran he designed will be available commercially in the near future, but its invention was born of necessity and saved many of our lives when we were prisoners without hope of escape. He didn't even know how to sail when he built the boat that had to cross ancient seas where there was no one to radio for help and no weather or GPS satellites to guide him. He let scientists and enlisted men take the helm because that was what worked. Kendall was a man who made things work—people and machines. He later learned to sail and he captained that boat with great pride. He will be greatly missed."
Hitchcock related an engineering story which probably only a handful of people could fully appreciate, but it was short and touching enough outside of full understanding that it made people smile and nod.
When no one else had anything to say, the chaplain closed the service with a prayer. There was a 21-gun salute and the flag was folded and handed to Nathan. After the casket was lowered, the chaplain invited everyone to climb a short hill and look out on the Pacific. With Kristin on his arm, he followed the crowd, glad to get out of the sheltered area and into the cooler breezes blowing up from the ocean.
On the sparkling sea below, sailing by with her brightly colored sails, was skyQuest. Nathan's breath caught in his throat almost exactly as it had the first time he saw her from his dreary prison cell on If. People gasped with awe and Kristin squeezed his hand gently.
Smooth sailing, Captain Kendall. Fair winds and a following sea.
Later that year, Dr. Guy Peché and Dr. Kristin Westphalen were both nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine, while Benjamin Krieg and Charles Kendall were nominated for the Peace Prize. Of the four, only Dr. Peché won. He used the money for immunology research.
A/N: Thanks so much to those who followed and encouraged me. I know it got a bit long, and for that, I apologize. If I ever write another seaQuest story, I promise I'll start a new thread.