Author's note: So this one is a little...weird. It's prompted by the fact that Kristen Schmid is in both series in a main role.
For those who didn't watch Tomorrow People: Kristen played Adam, head of the Tomorrow People. The Tomorrow People were a group of teens who were the next stage of evolution; they could teleport and communicate telepathically. They also had a 'no killing' prohibition that was literally built into them. Megabyte was Adam's second-in-command, a sarcastic American who was hugely loyal to the group as a whole and Adam in particular. Ami was often the voice of reason and had greater insight than the others. Jade was younger than the others and had only just joined them when the series ended.
The off-screen death of one of these characters is briefly discussed. I have nothing against that character, the story just worked out that way.
For those who don't watch Sea Patrol; it's set aboard HMAS Hammersley, a patrol boat in Australia's Navy. The series is really good, but they use a lot of Navy terms which can be offputting for new viewers. Kristens plays Robert Dixon, the radio operator. He's fantastically sarcastic and very private, and the combination means he doesn't have any really close friends on Hammersley, though he's getting more friendly with Bomber.
Commander Flynn is the boat's captain, mostly called Boss. His second in command is called X. Buffer is the strong man of the crew. ET is the electrical technician and occasional pilot. Swain (Coxswain) is the ship's medic and main pilot. Bomber is ship's cook and second medic. I think that's everyone I mentioned, though there are other crew members.
Look, we're all running away from something. You're ahead. At least you know what you're running from.
Robert had lied, just a little bit. Just enough to make Bomber feel better. He knew exactly what he was running from.
He never expected it to come back to haunt him in the middle of the Coral Sea, though.
It started so slowly, with a headache he had trouble shifting. Six years ago he'd have known it straight off; but he was out of practise, out of the habit of thinking in those patterns, and the significance of the pain escaped him until it was too late.
In the afternoon of the third day he intercepted a distress call, passing the details to Commander Flynn. "It's a charter boat, sir. From the sounds of it the captain's gone down...the girl thinks maybe a stroke, she doesn't know...and neither of the passengers can steer. They're currently drifting."
"Did you get co ordinates?"
"Yes sir." He passed them over to Nav, who scanned them and did the sums quickly.
"We're about half an hour off, sir."
"Make the course correction, Nav, and warn the crew. Charge, get on the EOD."
Ro turned back to his console, ignoring the noise behind him. Flynn leaned over his shoulder. "Are you still in contact, Ro?"
"No sir, the connection..." He swallowed against a surge of pain. "The connection dropped."
"Yeah, it's just a headache."
"You need to go see Swain?"
"No sir. Thank you." He carefully began fiddling with his controls, trying to resume contact with the drifting charter.
Flynn wandered off, watching the EOD for a few minutes, checking over Nav's shoulder. When he came back to Ro almost fifteen minutes later the charter was still incommunicado, and Ro was having to shield his eyes against the light coming in through the window.
"Ro, go find the Swain. That's an order," he added when Ro baulked. "X can keep trying to raise the boat."
"Aye sir," X agreed easily. Ro capitulated, heading out on deck.
"Something to worry about, sir?" X murmured.
"Not sure yet. I'll let you know. Keep trying that boat...they may not be in the cabin."
Swain was on deck, talking to ET, when Ro tracked him down. "Talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure, mate." Swain nodded to ET, leading Ro inside the nearest doorway. "Something wrong?"
"I've had this headache," he said reluctantly. "Boss sent me down to talk to you."
"Right. How long have you had it?"
"Four days, on and off?" Ro followed him into the room that served as ship's infirmary. "It's not all the time, worse in the day, but it's been getting worse."
"This ever happen before?" Swain was counting his pulse under his breath.
"When I was a teen, for a bit. My doctor said it was puberty. I don't think it's that this time."
"Light bothering you?"
"It is today. It hasn't been up to now."
"Right. Anything else? Just the headache?"
"Just the headache."
"Ok. It sounds like a migraine. I'm going to sign you off for today, give you some painkillers. I want you to eat something and then go lie down in your rack, alright?"
"Swain, we've a rescue..."
"We can handle it without you. Here." He handed him a packet of pills. "Take two, wait twenty minutes. If it hasn't worked, take another. The third one will knock you out, though, so make sure you're in your rack, yeah?"
"Yeah. Thanks." Ro tucked the packet into his pocket.
"I'll talk to the boss. Go eat something, now."
Swain grinned, watching him go, before heading up to the bridge.
Bomber was the only person in the mess when he wandered in. "Aren't you on duty?" she asked, glancing at the clock.
"Medical leave." He gestured vaguely when she frowned. "Migraine, Swain thinks. He wants me to eat something."
"I've got some soup I could heat up?" she offered. "Only take a couple of minutes."
"Sounds good. Can I get a glass? Got to take the painkillers."
"Yeah." She passed him the glass, watching him carefully fill it and swallow the two pills. "I've never seen you have a migraine before."
"I've never had one. Not since..."
The glass slipped through his fingers and smashed into pieces. Bomber flinched, already reaching for paper towels.
"Sorry," he muttered, crouching awkwardly.
"It's...Ro? It's fine. Go sit down. Soup's almost done. I've got this."
Ro did, staring at his hands. Bomber cleared up the glass and water and brought his soup over. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just...nothing."
Bomber eyed him uncertainly for a moment before nodding. "Right. Eat up. There's more if you want it."
Ro struggled through the soup. The noise in his head was getting louder and when he stood up from the table it was a moment before he could focus on the door.
"Ro?" Bomber sounded very far away. "Are you alright?"
"Mmm." He took a step, lurching to one side.
"ET!" Bomber yelled, and someone was holding him up from behind.
"Ro, mate, you alright? -Where's Swain?"
"I've seen him," Ro said carefully. "M'supposed to lie down."
"Let's get to your rack then. Bomber, go find him for me, will you?"
"I'm alright!" Ro protested, but if ET answered he couldn't hear it over the sudden yelling in his head. It was almost words, now, in two voices, a man and a woman...
Ro pulled away from ET suddenly, hurrying to the nearest hatch. ET cursed, following him, but Ro had a headstart and he made it to the deck rail ahead of him. Below them the RHIB was returning from the little charter; Swain was working on a man who had to be the captain, while the two passengers were talking to X.
"Mate..." ET said from behind. Ro waved him off, barely realising that the noise in his head had cleared as though it had never been.
Then the girl looked up and saw him.
They brought the injured man up first, taking him straight down to the infirmary; Swain had time for a quick glance at Ro, but he didn't stop and Ro didn't ask for his attention. The headache was fading away, now, without the noise in his head to sustain it.
ET was still hovering nearby, but Ro continued to ignore him, watching as the passengers climbed the ladder. The red-haired man was talking to the girl; she was ignoring him, eyes locked on Ro, and as soon as she was on deck she made straight for him.
Ro backed up fast, knowing what was coming, and Buffer caught her before she could get too far. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, you'll have to come with me."
"Adam," she protested, "what's going on? Where've you been?"
"My name is Robert, ma'am," Ro told her. "You must have me confused with someone else."
Adam, she protested.
The sudden intrusion set off a spike of pain and he reeled, snatching blindly at ET's sleeve. Buffer pulled her further back, handing her off to Spider and her friend. "ET, you got him?"
"Yeah, it's all good," ET assured him. "Ro, will you let me take you below now?"
"Yeah," Ro muttered, turning his back on the two young passengers. The man was glaring at him, one hand pressing the girl's face into his chest. "I'm coming."
It was too late, of course.
Jade had pierced what remained of his shields and, out of practise, he couldn't get them back up. Every word she and Megabyte said was as clear as if he'd been standing next to them.
It's not Adam, Jade. You know it's not.
He heard me.
He was sick, that's all. Adam would never ignore us like this.
That was a little pointed, Ro mused, wondering if Megabyte knew he was listening. They'd spent three years together; he'd known Jade for only a year or so. It would be much easier for Megabyte to sense him.
There was a soft tap at his door and Swain put his head in. "Ro? You awake, mate?"
"Yeah." He sat up, gesturing the other man in.
"I talked to ET."
Swain sat, watching him carefully. "How're you feeling now?"
"Better, actually." Jade and Megabyte were still murmuring somewhere in the back of his mind, but it was easier to ignore when he had something else to focus on.
"You had some trouble earlier?"
"Yeah, I thought I was going to be sick for a minute. Wasn't really thinking, I suppose, I didn't realise you guys had gone already."
"Show me your wrist, mate. You look a little better. How many pills did you take?"
"Just the two. Once I was lying down it started to get easier."
Swain nodded, counting under his breath. Megabyte was cautioning Jade about leaving Austere.
"How are they? The passengers?"
Swain glanced up at him. "Concerned after your run in?"
Ro shrugged. "Just wondering when they'll be off the boat."
"Their captain's stable. We're transferring him to HMAS Melborne and towing the boat back to land. We'll let the passengers off then. A day or so. Listen, get some sleep tonight, come see me in the morning before you start your shift. If you're still feeling ok, I'll sign you back on."
Swain nodded, letting himself out and closing the door quietly behind him.
It wasn't that easy, of course. Megabyte and Jade were still arguing; Ro couldn't risk yelling at them. He was too wary even to try and raise his shields in case they sensed it. It would prove beyond doubt he was who they thought he was.
Jade was getting more and more desperate, yelling at Megabyte, who had somehow found himself in the role of peacekeeper. It wasn't a role he'd been used to when Ro had known him, but a lot could change in five years.
He suffered through the argument for almost another twenty minutes before climbing out of bed and heading up on deck, hoping the fresh air would help calm him down. If he was relaxed enough, he might be able to ease some shields into place without alerting the others.
ET was coming out of the mess as he passed. "Hey, mate, you alright?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm good. Thanks, for earlier."
"No worries. Sure you're ok?"
"Mmm, fine. Night."
Bomber chased him. He'd been hoping she wouldn't, but the weird friendship they'd formed had made it virtually impossible.
He paused just outside the hatch. "Yeah, Bomber."
"You sure you're alright? You were very far away earlier."
"Yeah. I'm alright. I just..." He struggled with his habitual secrecy for a moment. He hadn't confided in anyone in years, brief talks with X aside. "Bomber, can you keep a secret?"
"Yeah, course I can."
"No, I mean a real, take-it-to-your-grave secret?"
"Ro, talk to me. You're creeping me out."
He drew her to the rail at one side, briefly checking on the others. Jade was asleep, worn out, and Megabyte was...on the move. That wasn't good.
"The two passengers we brought on board? I know them. Or...I used to know them, I guess."
"Ro, you told that girl..."
"When I was a teen, I...some stuff happened. I ran away, I made it all the way to London and I lived there for nearly three years. I knew them then, but it was...Bomber, it was lifetimes ago. I was a whole other person then. I've mostly dealt with the stuff that made me run, but I can't...I can't talk to them. I can't do it. It's not part of my life, this life."
"Ro, calm down," Bomber ordered. "Seriously. Take a few breaths, alright? No one's going to tie you to a chair with them or anything."
He dropped his head, forcing several deep breaths and distantly registering that Megabyte had come up on deck. Buffer was shadowing him, but he wasn't doing anything bar standing at the rail.
They were at opposite ends of the boat. He still didn't have to do anything.
"Better?" Bomber asked.
"No problem. Right, I have a very important question."
She took a deep breath. "While you were living in London, did you do anything illegal?"
He huffed out a breath. "No. I did...sort of consultancy work. It's complicated. But no, I never did anything illegal." He thought for a minute. "Maybe B&E once. Didn't steal anything, though. That's it."
"You were good friends?"
"And what happened?" He shook his head, and she added quietly, "You can't leave it there, Ro."
Catching his look, she crossed her heart. "To my grave. Now talk."
"Our friend died. It wasn't any of our fault; mine, maybe, for not getting to her faster - but she was put in danger because we were together, because of what we were doing. I couldn't...face them, after that. It all fell apart. And when I came back here my dad was sick."
"Why'd you sign up?"
"To get away from my dad," he muttered. "It doesn't matter," he added at her look. "It just...I'm not who I was then, and they aren't part of who I am now."
"I don't think that's true," Bomber said gently. "If they weren't anything to you, you wouldn't be sitting up here trying to talk yourself out of talking to them." Ro made a face, and she added softly, "We're all running from something."
Ro sighed, rubbing his face. "Talk to him?"
"I think you have to."
"You suck," he said without heat.
"I've been told. Go on. I've got stuff to do in the mess, so come see me afterwards." She squeezed his hand, getting up and heading back belowdecks.
Buffer was still watching Megabyte, well within earshot. Ro paused beside him.
"Something I can do for you, RO?" Buffer asked.
"Buffer, do me a favour," Ro said quietly. "Go get a coffee."
"I need to talk to him." Buffer raised an eyebrow, and he added, "We were friends, once, and it ended badly because of me. I want to try to sort it out. Just go get a brew, give us ten minutes."
"Can't do it, Ro." Buffer glanced around, adding more loudly, "Oh dear, that rope over there is not stowed properly. I should take care of that."
"Thanks," Ro murmured.
"Ro," Buffer said, more seriously. "Stay out of arm's reach."
"He isn't going to..."
Ro nodded quickly. "Alright. Out of arm's reach."
"I'm watching," Buffer warned him.
"I got it."
Megabyte hadn't moved, hadn't given any indication that he was aware of them, but Ro could feel the tension from here. He leaned against the rail, a careful arm's length away.
"Do you need anything?" he asked quietly.
"Do you care?"
"Mark." He half-turned, leaning one hip against the rail to glare at Ro. "I use Mark now. You'd know, if you'd bothered to speak to us in the last five years."
"Jade cried herself to sleep. Did you know?"
"Yeah," Ro murmured. He'd heard the echo of it, distorted through a link that had been all but dead until today. "I knew."
"Adam..." Megabyte was tired, suddenly, the white-hot anger gone from his tone.
"My name is Robert," he said gently. "Robert Dixon. My name's always been Robert. I'm sorry I ran. It wasn't you. You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah." Megabyte turned back to look out over the railing. "We knew it wasn't us. But you never...you wouldn't talk to us. We tried, for months we tried. And after a while you weren't even ignoring us. You just weren't there."
"Yeah." Ro sighed, leaning against the rail. "Can...if I explain, will you listen?"
"You have excuses?"
"Not excuses. Reasons. I don't have any excuse."
"Yeah. I'm listening."
He glanced across the deck. Buffer was watching them carefully from just out of hearing range. "After we...I couldn't stay on the island anymore. It wasn't – right, there. I didn't mean to go home, I went to see an old friend. But he had a message for me. My dad was sick. Really sick. So I went home, just quickly."
"Adam, you should've...we'd have helped you."
"I didn't want you near him." He had to concentrate to keep his voice even. "My dad wasn't anyone I wanted anyone near. I wasn't going to stay."
"But?" Megabyte said gently.
"It was...time passed. I didn't realise how long. And the more time that passed, the more it seemed like I didn't..."
"Belong," Megabyte finished softly. "You're broadcasting," he added off Ro's look. "Turn it down, or you'll wake Jade. And she definitely won't listen to you."
"Sorry. Out of practise." He closed his eyes, pulling his shields up again. It was harder than it should have been; once those shields had been part of him, but he'd gotten out of the habit and it was so much harder now.
Megabyte watched. "You always belonged with us, you know."
"I know. But we're dangerous together, Meg—Mark. You two haven't gotten in nearly as much trouble since I've been gone."
"We work with my dad," Megabyte said dryly. "Plenty of trouble."
"Not before that," Ro insisted. "After I left and it was just you two. No mad scientists, no alien invasions. None of it."
"No," he agreed slowly.
"Because together we're trouble. We're dangerous. Apart..."
"It wasn't your choice."
Megabyte took a step towards him; Ro shook his head quickly. "Better not. Buffer's watching us, if he thinks you're trying something..."
"He worries about you?"
"He worries about the crew. That's what he's here for. He's not that worried about me."
Megabyte studied him, frowning. "Robert," he said after a minute.
"I was born Robert."
"Your name was Adam. We all knew."
"Adam Newman," he said reflectively. "First of the Tomorrow People...I didn't want to be Robert anymore, Mark, and I believed it so strongly you all did too. I wasn't lying. I wasn't Robert then."
"You didn't have to go back to him if you hated him so much."
"He was my dad."
Megabyte nodded. "We'd have taken you, and danger, over safety without you."
"It was my job to project you."
"Ami died, Megabyte!"
He could see Buffer shifting out of the corner of his eye, and he made a conscious effort to lower his voice. "Ami died. Because we were together."
"Ami saved the world, Adam. Don't you dare take that away from her."
"I'm not taking anything. She died because I was too slow."
"You weren't even there. None of us were."
"That's my point." He shook his head when Megabyte went to speak again. "That's not what I came to talk about."
"Reasons," Megabyte agreed.
"Yeah. Reasons. I wasn't...it was never about leaving you guys. But I had to forget Adam, when I went home. He couldn't...I had to be Robert to survive."
"And this?" Megabyte waved vaguely at the boat. "When did this happen?"
"This was running away too. But I don't think I'll be running any more."
"How can you be a soldier, Adam? You still can't kill anyone."
Ro smiled faintly. "I'm a peacekeeper. I'm a radio operator, Mark, I barely leave the boat except for shore leave. I can't remember the last time they asked me to hold a gun."
Megabyte nodded slowly. "Right."
Ro glanced at the hatch. "Think we have any chance of explaining to Jade?"
"You can try if you like, I'm not getting into that one."
"Hmmm. How's the General?"
"He's good. He keeps talking about retiring, but he's never going to do it. He wouldn't be able to stand it, watching us go on missions without him."
"Yeah, you said you were working with him? How's that work?"
"Espionage. I'm James Bond, man."
"Yeah? Gadgets and all?"
"On his budget? I have a phone, which I'm only supposed to use to call him." His voice dropped to mimic his father. "You and Jade don't need phones after all, Marmaduke."
"No, I suppose you don't."
"You can hear us."
It wasn't a question; Ro shook his head slowly. "I can now. Tonight. Headaches the last few days; I guess you were somewhere close. But not before that, not since I left."
"I thought I caught bits of it, tonight. Were you talking to someone?"
"Swain." When Megabyte frowned, he added, "Ship's doctor. He's been treating my 'migraines'."
"I met him on our boat, I think. Nice guy."
"Yeah, Swain's a good guy."
"High praise," Megabyte murmured.
"Sir, I have to ask you to go below now," Buffer said, stepping back into hearing range. "RO, you should hit your rack as well."
"RO?" Megabyte repeated.
"Radio operator," Ro said absently. "I'm going, Buff. G'night."
Night, Megabyte, he added.
Night. "Good night."
Swain signed him off next morning after making him promise to come back if he felt any migraine symptoms. Ro promised easily enough; now that he knew what had caused the pain, he could avoid it without any problems.
Flynn leaned over his shoulder while he was checking over the morning reports. "A little bird told me you had quite a chat with one of our passengers last night."
Ro glanced up at Buffer, who lifted both hands innocently. "Never said a word, mate."
"You knew?" Flynn demanded.
"I saw you through the window," Nav told Ro. "I didn't think it was important."
"It wasn't." To Flynn, he added, "Mark's father recommended me into the Navy. We were just catching up."
Flynn eyed him for a moment before nodding. "Right. We'll reach port this evening; that's all the time you have for catching up."
"We're good now, Boss."
He winced automatically, but Flynn had turned away and no one else was watching. I'm working, Jade.
You lied to me!
I know. I'm sorry. Mark told you, then.
As if he could lie about it! You've been gone too long if you thought he would.
No. I knew he'd tell you. Deliberately widening the thought, he added, I thought he might wait until you were off the boat, but...
Hey, leave me out of this, Megabyte demanded.
"Ro, are you listening?" Flynn said. Ro jerked, slamming his knee into the counter. "Do I need to send you back to the 'Swain?"
"No boss, I'm fine. Sorry. Won't happen again." Jade, I really can't talk now.
Jade scoffed, but she did stop yelling at him. She didn't bother shielding, though, so their conversation drifted in and out of his mind as he worked. Now that he was paying attention, he could ignore it, and after a while it was oddly comforting in a way he'd all but forgotten.
He went down to the mess when his shift ended, ignoring Spider and ET to talk to Bomber. "Hey."
"Hey! How did last night go?" She piled some lasagne onto his plate.
"Pretty good, I think. Time will tell." He pulled a face at the food. "What is this?"
"Lasagne. It's good for you."
"I'll bet." Mark, want some lasagne?
Bomber leaned forward, studying him. "Where do you keep going?" she demanded, half-exasperated.
"London." He was only half joking. "It's all good, Bomb." Taking the plate, he settled beside Spider and began to eat.
Adam, we're leaving soon, Megabyte told him.
Yeah, I know.
You really like it here?
He automatically checked to make Jade wasn't listening. Yeah, I do.
These guys are your friends?
We live, work and fight together, he said, vaguely amused and knowing the tone would come through.
Not what I meant.
"Budge up," Bomber ordered, sitting next to Ro. Spider moved along the bench to make room and Ro slid along after him, stealing Bomber's glass when she wasn't looking.
"Oi, get your own!"
"I would, but I'm stuck on the inside," he told her solemnly, going as if to take a sip and then passing the glass back to her. ET came in, and he added, "ET, grab us a glass, will you?"
ET waved at him, busy piling his plate with the remaining lasagne. When he was done he settled next to Spider, passing Ro's glass down to him. Spider absently filled it for him, already arguing with ET about something. Bomber tipped glasses with him, laughing at the surprise on his face.
Yeah, Mark, he thought. These are my friends.