Addy, September 2018
We were eating dinner when it happened. Our locked front door burst open, and Robert was up in an instant. It was Captain Matthews with a single armed MP Officer at his side.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Lieutenant?" he demanded of Robert. He was in his face now.
"Stay out of this Addy," Robert said to me, then turned his attention to Matthews. "To what are you referring to, sir?"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about."
"I needed to send something to him, he thinks I'm dead!"
"Send something to who?" I asked.
"And to bring civilians in on this," Captain Matthews continued, shaking his head. "I can't protect you forever."
"I didn't expect you to, sir."
"Civilians?" I asked. That was when Charlie and a member of the former IT crew on the Achilles were also escorted into our quarters. "Charlie?"
He gave a short wave, but looked guilty as all hell. Momma-bear stepped in then. "Captain, I demand to know what's going on and why you're manhandling my crewman!"
Captain Matthews looked to me, glared, actually, and said, "He's your assistant, but you're all my crew."
"With all due respect, sir," Robert started to say, but I cut him off.
Finishing for him since I knew the words would be less disrespectful from my mouth, I said, "You haven't had a crew in five years. Not a real one."
"Contacting anyone outside this colony is forbidden for a reason," Matthews said, addressing us all. "You should all be lucky I caught wind of this before anyone else above me did. I won't report you but you have better have had a damned good reason." His glare ended pointedly on Robert.
"They think I'm dead, Captain," he said gravely. "I can't let them think that."
Matthews shook his head, like there was something he wanted to tell Robert but couldn't. After some obvious deliberation, he said, "Your father does. Carol Bridger passed away some time ago, and your father wouldn't have received your message in time to be saved anyway. He's captaining the seaQuest."
I remember Robert telling me about his father's dream sub, how he wanted so badly to see it finished. But I thought his father was done with that stuff, the military, I mean. That he was a man of science now. And his mother…
Robert's face fell when he realized what the Captain had said, and I reached out for him. "Robert…" I took his hand, fearing any other action in front of the Captain right now would not be accepted.
He grabbed it and held tightly, looking up to the Captain long enough to say, "Unless there is a punishment you're about to hand to me, I'd like to be alone now, sir."
"Just don't try it again," Matthews said. "I'm trying to protect the members of this crew the best I can but when you people go and try things like this…"
"Like what?" I asked. "Talking to our family?"
"Addy," Robert warned, but it was already too late.
"No, you know what?" I said, taking a step toward Matthews. "You come in here, threaten Robert just to turn away, drag my science crew member in here, say he's not mine, and then still lay claim to all of us? Here's something for you, Captain: you're the reason we're still here in the first place!"
My voice rose with every word. "You're the one who was underreporting our advancements with the project, you're the one who was hiding things from the UEO! Regardless of what they were going to use it for, you were the one that kept it going for so long! We could have gone home eight months into the damned project, but where are we now?"
I took another step toward him, daring retaliation. "You can't waltz in here like this, Captain. The Achilles was your responsibility, and look at where we are. Sure, it's life but it's not the life we could have had—no, should have had—if your ego didn't get in the way!"
Captain Matthews looked me directly in the eye for a few long moments of silence. I could tell Robert was furious, but I couldn't decide at who it was directed. "Finished, Doctor?"
"No," I said, taking one last step. "You kept Robert's mother's death a secret for God knows how long. How many of the rest of us have lost someone and don't know? Who are you to decide just how disconnected we are to be? Can't we at least look in on the world we're missing out on?"
"Even if I reported progress on the Achilles mobius hole project accurately, it wouldn't have ended in the crew's best interest," he said.
"How so?" I challenged.
"It just wouldn't have. I knew things I shouldn't have known, and I made decisions accordingly"
"You played God," Charlie said quietly from behind Matthews.
"No," he said. "I was looking out for my crew the best I knew how. But this was never supposed to happen. This imprisonment was never part of it," he looked at me, "ever. And I'm incredibly sorry that this has happened. I'm doing my best to get us out of here but when stunts like this," he pointed at Robert and I's vidscreen, "keep getting pulled, I can't protect you."
"Implying that other people have also tried to do the same thing," Robert said. "Am I right, sir?"
He nodded. "Just don't do it again. Come to me and I will see what I can do. I can get you information but sending messages to your family is not the right idea, even if it seems like it is. These are dangerous times we are living in now, and the remnants of this crew are not looked highly upon by those who knew what we were doing. That's why we're here."
"Imprisoned," Charlie whispered, as if to finish the Captain's sentence.
"More like protective custody," Matthews pointed out.
"Some protection," I said. "All someone has to do is jam a shuttle through that window," I pointed at the far, sea-facing wall.
Captain Matthews all but shrugged his response.
Twenty more minutes of rules and regulations passed before Captain Matthews and the others finally left. I showed them to the door and locked it, turning back to face Robert who was staring out through our window at the open ocean.
I came up behind him, placing my hands on his shoulders. "It's going to be okay."
"He's somewhere out there," he said, monotone, almost spacing out.
"Maybe he'll find us," I reassured him. "One day, he could just show up here."
Robert sighed. "We don't even know where 'here' is, Addy."
"Well," I said. "It's somewhere. And it's on Earth, in an ocean, at a reasonable depth. Somewhere at a depth subs can get to. There's a good chance he'll float on by one day, and we'll get rescued."
"Some sight that'll be," he said. "Dad rushes in to save the day on his dream sub, to save his son, daughter-in-law and the rest of a crew that worked on a submarine twenty years ahead of the seaQuest." He chuckled. "I can't wait to watch the irony unfold."
"He'll be so proud of you," I told him.
He turned to me, disbelieving. "Will he, though? Guess that depends on how the project was going to be used and if he knows the truth, now, doesn't it? About the only thing I think I've done right in the last eight years was asking you to marry me."
I didn't know what to tell him.