Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a long one.

Lawndale 2021


Opening Theme:

Excuse Me, Excuse Me…

I guess I'll have to be direct

If you're gonna' stand-stand on my ne-neck

Then-Then-Then you'd better check un-un-un-under the sea

Cause that is-is-is-is where you'll find-find me

Underneath the-the Sea - Transmission Error

Transmission Error

Transmission Error

Transmission Error

Episode 1-13: Terror Under The Sea!

Date: Saturday, November 14, 2021

Daria Morgendorffer opened her eyes groggily as she climbed out of bed. She slowly made her way into the bathroom to freshen up before making her way into the kitchen, where her aunt, Amy, was already sitting down. "Quinn up yet?" Daria asked sleepily.

"Nope," Amy replied after sipping her coffee. She looked up from her data tablet to see her niece taking a seat at the table. "Want some coffee?" she asked her. Daria nodded her head tiredly. Amy got up and walked over to the cupboard to pull out some coffee grounds and filters.

"What flavor would you like?" Amy asked Daria. "What's still there?" Daria asked her in return. "Well, let's see what your friend Jane didn't exterminate during her frenzy the last time she was here. Hazelnut, Dark Roast, French Vanilla and some Original regular flavor," Amy replied. "I'll...French Vanilla," Daria said tiredly.

"When did you go to bed last night?" Amy asked her as she prepared the coffee. "Don't remember," Daria said. "Hmm. Got any plans for today?" Amy asked her. "Um... go to work on the bridge. Come back, and sleep," Daria replied. "No seeing Jane and Tom for pizza somewhere? No pizza? No Jane? Just go to work, come home and sleep?" Amy asked her curiously.

"Did that yesterday," Daria mumbled in response. "Really? Tell me about it then," Amy requested.

Line Break

"Okay people, listen up," Captain Hank Murphy said as he stood in front of several Sealab crew members on the bridge. They were gathered around a large conference table. Sitting at the table were Commander Anthony DeMartino, Daria Morgendorffer, Amy Barksdale, Jodene Sparks, Marco Rodriguez, Charles "Upchuck" Ruttheimer III, Debbie Dupree, Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn, Derek "Stormy" Waters, Commander Angela Li, Lieutenant Tommy Sherman, Lieutenant Commander Janet Barch, and Dr. Ilad Virjay.

"I called all of you here because one of our research subs has gone missing. Debbie here will explain the situation," Murphy finished. "Ahem, at twenty-one forty, last night, a deep-sea research sub, with a crew of five, went missing about four nautical miles south-east of here, near a series of as-of-yet unexplored caverns, near a trench," Debbie explained.

"This trench is currently marked for exploration, and the sub was beginning the scouting phase of the research operation. The sub's ID is DS6-WY-LV426-F161. The highest ranking officer on board the sub is Lieutenant Marianne Scarpelli," Debbie stated.

Daria raised her hand. "Yes, Lieutenant Morgendorffer?" Debbie asked her. "You guys sent a manned submersible into depths that haven't been properly explored yet? What's the water pressure in that region?" Daria asked. "Um, well-" "Lieutenant Morgendorffer raises an EXCELLENT point," Commander DeMartino stated.

"In an as of yet UNEXPLORED REGION, an un-manned research probe or RV would have been a more logical and safe option," he stated. "Yes, I must agree with Commander DeMartino," Commander Li said. "Sending a manned research vessel into a location with unknown water pressure and other variables is extremely dangerous."

"Well," Debbie said, "The thing is... we did send an unmanned probe into that region. The manned sub was there to deploy the probe and retrieve it. However, something went wrong with the probe, and the sub went silent after sending a message stating that they were attempting to retrieve it."

"This message... did it explain what went wrong?" Dr. Quinn asked Debbie. "Well, it didn't go into a lot of detail, but it did give a basic outline of the situation," Debbie replied as she retrieved a data tablet and connected it to a computer terminal. The TV on the wall was selected as the main screen for showing the data.

"This is why I installed that thing for you, Captain," Amy said quietly. "Not for Chopper Dave."

"Here we go," Debbie said as the information from the tablet was displayed on the TV screen. Everyone turned to watch.

[Message Received: 021:40:14 Hours]

[From...Lt. Scarpelli, on board Research Sub Deep Star 06]

[To...Sealab Mission Control]

Un-manned probe has suffered mechanical failure. Exact cause unknown.

Last recorded pressure readings not high enough to destroy probe.

Preparing for investigation of probe.

Last recorded data received from probe has been archived on backup drives stored in water-proof safe. Beginning mission to retrieve probe in 10:00 minutes.

[End Message]

"Well, that was riveting," Sparks commented. Amy gently elbowed him.

"So, there's been no response in the last twelve hours?" Daria asked Debbie. "That is correct," Debbie replied. "So...who's going out to find them?" Upchuck asked. "The team will consist of myself, Stormy, and you, Lieutenant Ruttheimer," Debbie replied. "Me?" Upchuck asked her. "Yes," she replied.

"Lieutenant Ruttheimer, you do know how to pilot a submersible, correct?" Debbie asked him. "Well, I passed the basic training course, so...yes, but I haven't had to operate one since that time," Upchuck replied tentatively. "Good. You'll be Stormy's backup," Debbie said.

"When do we set out?" Upchuck asked her. "At eleven hundred hours today. Get yourself ready and meet up with Stormy and me in the sub bay in ninety minutes," Debbie said to him.

"Yes, ma'am," Upchuck said reluctantly. "Alright. Lieutenant Morgendorffer will maintain contact with Lieutenant Commander Dupree's sub while Commander Sparks will maintain contact with Marco and Dr. Quinn's submersible, which will be going alongside Debbie's sub," Captain Murphy said.

"Commander Li, you will be required to ensure that nobody uses the vehicle bay until this operation has been completed," Murphy said. "Commander DeMartino, you'll be going with Dr. Quinn and Marco. Dr. Virjay... um, help us when, err, if we bring back survivors," Murphy said.

"Okay then, everyone get ready."

Line Break

Debbie Dupree looked out the windows of the submersible as she watched the various marine life go about their daily lives. Upchuck adjusted the acoustical equipment of the research sub carefully, as specified on the notes that Debbie had given him. Derek "Stormy" Waters was piloting the sub.

Upchuck had been nervous about being in a submersible piloted by Stormy of all people, but Debbie had assured him that piloting a submersible was the one thing that Stormy could do efficiently without majorly screwing up. Upchuck trusted her judgement, but he had insisted on bringing a spare wet-suit and air-tank, just in case.

"So," Stormy began, "What was the last known location that research team Four-B reported from?" "The grid coordinates are right there on the dash, Stormy," Debbie said as she watched a deep-sea dolphin, a type bred specifically by Sealab, swim by. Upchuck listened with fascination as Stormy behaved in a competent manner.

She's right, he thought, he actually knows what he's doing for once. Sort of like Kevin Thompson when he plays football, only with important knowledge about math and directions involved. "Doo-do-doo!" Stormy whistled while piloting the submersible to their destination.

"We're approaching the sub's last known coordinates," Stormy said as they neared the trench. A few minutes later, they were at the edge of the cliff overlooking the trench. "It looks kind of spooky," Stormy said. Upchuck used the sub's optical equipment to search for the missing research vessel.

"Hey, I think I see our missing sub," Upchuck said. "What's the ID code on it?" Debbie asked him. "Um, don't you mean serial number?" Upchuck asked her. "Whatever, as long as we can identify it," Debbie said. "Um... it's... DS6-WY-LV426-F161," Upchuck said.

"That's the ID of the sub that we're searching for, right?" Stormy asked Debbie. "Yes. Yes it is," Debbie said solemnly. "Should we move in closer?" Stormy asked her. "No, not just yet. Try radioing them," Debbie said.

"Come in, Deep Star, this is Sealab. Come in, Deep Star, this is Sealab. Do you read me? Please respond," Upchuck said into the radio. There was no response. He tried again for another ten minutes, with each passing moment of silence only adding to an ominous sense of dread building up within everyone.

"Debbie," Upchuck said, "I don't think they're going to respond. I don't think we made it in time." "Well, we still haven't investigated the sub itself yet. They could just have malfunctioning equipment," Debbie said, trying to sound hopeful. No one was convinced, not even Stormy.

"This is Rescue Sub 02," DeMartino's voice said over the radio. "Rescue Sub number two, this is Rescue Sub 01. We have located Deep Star. We have attempted to make radio contact, with no success," Upchuck said into the radio.

"What is the physical condition of Deep Star?" DeMartino asked. "We have not yet begun an thorough investigation of the sub," Upchuck replied. "Understood. We will prepare an unmanned probe to search the sub. We are not going to go in ourselves until we have ascertained the extent of the sub's depth," DeMartino said. "Affirmative," Upchuck said.

Line Break

"There... see that?" DeMartino said as he and the others watched the video feed from the probe as it glided over the immobile form of the Deep Star, which was resting on a ledge down in the trench, just outside of a wide opening to a cave. "Yeah. It's a hull rupture," Marco said. "The pressure at that depth is... not enough to cause a rupture, especially not for a sub built like Deep Star," Marco stated as he looked at the pressure-meter displayed on the monitor.

"Radio Dupree. Tell her what we've found," DeMartino said to Dr. Quinn. "Come in RS-One, this is RS-Two," Dr. Quinn said. "This is RS-One. We read you, RS-Two. What have you found?" Debbie asked over the radio. "Deep Star appears to have suffered a hull rupture. We're going to start preparing for an internal investigation after the probe completes its sweep," Dr. Quinn said.

"Understood. We'll be standing by, over," Debbie said over the radio. "Okay, keep moving the probe forward," Dr. Quinn said as he turned to look at the monitor. "Do you think that depth and pressure are safe for someone in a diving suit?" DeMartino asked Dr. Quinn. "Maybe for an atmospheric diving suit," Dr. Quinn replied.

"Did we bring one with us?" DeMartino asked him. "Yes, but Debbie's sub should have one in it as well," Dr. Quinn replied. "So, which one of us will be joining which one of them?" DeMartino asked him.

Line Break

"Okay, now make sure that the inner airlock door is sealed at least three minutes before you open the other one," Debbie said from inside the atmospheric diving suit, or ADS, in the sub's tiny airlock. Each of Sealab's medium-sized small subs had a basic airlock, which was right behind the cockpit.

"Understood," Upchuck said as he watched the airlock doors close shut between him and Debbie Dupree. She had insisted on going out herself. After the airlock was ready, Debbie opened the outer hatch and exited the sub. She waved over at the other ADS user heading towards her.

"Hey, gorgeous, what's up?" Dr. Quinn asked from his ADS. "Come on, let's get moving," Debbie replied as the two began their journey towards Deep Star.

Line Break

Debbie moved silently through the water-filled compartments of Deep Star. She'd already found two drowned members of the crew after entering an inner airlock between compartments. The entire sub had been flooded.

"I guess... there was nothing we could have done," Debbie said solemnly as she surveyed the control room of the sub. Lieutenant Scarpelli was floating in the water in front of her with, strangely enough, a knife in her hands. That was odd.

"Hey, Quinn... why is she holding a knife?" Debbie asked him. "I don't know. A knife can't hurt water," he replied. "Come on, let's find that black-box and the data kept in the safe. We need to at least take that much back with us before leave," Debbie said as they pushed forward to grab the safe from its hiding place.

"There," Debbie said as she managed to pull the safe from its hold. "Okay, now we can get the black box and leave," she said. "Wait, shouldn't we also try to get the probe as well?" Dr. Quinn asked her as she moved towards him. "Hmm, you're right. It would give us more information on what happened. You go look for the probe while I get the black box," Debbie said.

"Understood," Dr. Quinn said as he turned around and exited the room. He carefully made his way through the corridors of sub, before he finally reached the room where the probe was held. The final two crew members were in there.

"Damn," Dr. Quinn said as he grimaced at the sight. He quickly went to work retrieving the probe, before he noticed that one of the crew members looked... strange. Something about the way he looked just seemed...different from a normal drowning victim.

Dr. Quinn grabbed the probe and made his way back to meet up with Debbie.

Line Break

"And why did he have to go back for a second trip?" Commander DeMartino asked irritably as the sounds of the airlock flushing out water died down. "He said he wanted to gather some of the bodies. I guess he wanted to give them funerals or something," Marco replied.

After another ten minutes, Dr. Quinn finally entered the cockpit. "Okay, we can return to Sealab." "Good," DeMartino said. "This place is giving me the creeps."

Line Break

"So, when do we send out a proper towing team to get the sub?" Amy asked as the crew once again assembled around the conference table on the bridge. "We'll do that later today or some time tomorrow. Right now, I want to examine one of the bodies we brought back," Dr. Quinn replied.

"Dr. Virjay can handle that, Dr. Quinn," Captain Murphy said. "Yes, but I would like to help. I did, after all, bring them back. Something about one of the bodies seems... unusual, and I'd like to see if maybe we could gain some clues as to what happened," Dr. Quinn responded.

"Very well, Dr. Quinn will lead the examination of the bodies alongside Dr. Virjay. But," Captain Murphy stressed, "I want this done in a strictly professional manner."

"Understood, sir," Dr. Quinn replied. "Lieutenant Sherman will assist you," Murphy stated. "Now, the towing operation will begin tomorrow, with Marco leading the team to retrieve Deep Star. Lieutenant Commander Barch will assist Debbie in overseeing the retrieval of data from the probe," Murphy said.

"Sparks and Morgendorffer will... do whatever they normally do," Murphy said. "Okay," Daria replied. "Lieutenant Barksdale will be assisting Dupree and Barch with the towing of Dark Star back to Sealab tomorrow, and Commander DeMartino and I will be reviewing certain policies revolving around our exploration vessels and protocols," Murphy said.

"What about me?" Stormy asked. "You and Ruttheimer will be assisting the towing tomorrow," Murphy replied. "The rest of you are dismissed to your normal duties."

Line Break

"Dr. Quinn, the states of these bodies are all clearly indicative of drowning. I do not see any point in continuing this examination," Dr. Virjay said after removing the bodies from the black bags that had been transported in. "And there is seawater on my tables and floor. I do not appreciate this at all," Virjay complained.

"Just look at the last one," Dr. Quinn said. "Fine," Virjay said reluctantly. "Okay, not what... what the?" Virjay asked as he looked at the body. Dr. Quinn moved his hands over the dead man's chest. "Feel his chest," Dr. Quinn said. Dr. Virjay placed a hand on the man's chest. "There's a beat of some kind. Feel it?" Dr. Quinn asked.

"Yes. But... that is not a heartbeat," Virjay said. "It's... too irregular." "Hook him up," Dr. Quinn said. "Let's check his vitals." "What vitals? He's dead. The irregular pulse could be trapped water or an air bubble in his lungs," Virjay said. "I'm not so sure," Quinn replied.

After hooking up the vital-signs machine (as Stormy often called it), Dr. Quinn and Virjay listened with fascination as the beat within the man's chest increased in tempo and frequency. Soon, there was an odd noise, and both men looked at his chest to see his skin pulsing. "What the hell?" Quinn asked, his amazement slowly being replaced by fear.

Soon, a lump began to form around the pulse, and the man's skin started to stretch as it grew. "Dear god!" Dr. Quinn exclaimed as a whitish carapace slowly broke through the skin. "What the hell!?" Tommy Sherman exclaimed as he entered the infirmary.

Line Break

"Attention, this is Dr. Quinn. We have enacted quarantine in the Med Bay. All paths leading to the infirmary and surrounding areas will be locked down in sixty seconds," Dr. Quinn shouted over the intercom. "For your safety, please remain in your rooms and do not attempt to enter the Med Bay."

"Oh, that's just lovely," Daria muttered as she heard Dr. Quinn's broadcast. "Just what the hell did they do with those bodies to require a quarantine?" Sparks asked out loud. "Do we really want to know?" Daria asked him.

"Usually, no, but Dr. Quinn rarely ever invokes the quarantine lock-down, which means that something serious is going on," Sparks replied. "What usually happens during a medical quarantine in Sealab?" Daria asked him.

"Well, from what I do know, usually the infirmary and the immediate surrounding corridors are locked down. The emergency air filters also start up as the ones connected to the rest of the station get blocked and shut down. The Med Bay has its own set of air filters and life support system, independent of the rest of Sealab, specifically for an emergency situation where a quarantine would be enacted," Sparks explained.

"How will they get out of there?" Daria asked him. "They won't, at least until the quarantine is lifted, or if it spreads to outer areas. When that happens, the entire pod will become locked and all lifts and tunnels leading to the other pods will be blocked off," Sparks said. "What if someone tries to enter without authorization?" Daria asked.

"The transportation tunnels connected from that pod to the others will become flooded with water. They won't be purged until the whole quarantine has been lifted. Anyone trying to leave will have to use the airlocks and either have a wet suit or a submersible," Sparks explained.

"Has this happened before?" "Only once. I don't know all the details, but nobody was able to enter or leave Pod 04 for at least a week," Sparks replied.

"Um, Sparks? The Med Bay in Pod 04... is it the only Med Bay in Sealab?" Daria asked with a hint of worry. "It's the primary Med Bay, but not the only one. But, I should mention, the only other Med Bay with the same equipment in located in Pod 32," Sparks replied. "All of the other pods have small infirmaries and medical stations, but none of them have the amount of supplies and equipment that the Med Bays in Pod 04 and Pod 32 have."

"We're in Pod 01, right?" Daria asked. "Yeah," Sparks replied. "Do we have any tunnels that lead directly from our pod to the ones in Shanks' jurisdiction?" Daria asked. "Um... no, we don't. We only have tunnels traveling directly to Pods 02, 03, 04, 05, and 06."

Line Break

An hour later...

"It was... it was some kind of parasite," Dr. Quinn said through the console. "Do you think it was carrying any contagions?" Commander Li asked. She and the others had gathered on the bridge to communicate with Dr. Quinn and Dr. Virjay over the communication console.

"I don't know. We've tested all of the bodies, the air, and our blood, but the results haven't been finalized in the computer system yet. We need to find that thing. It can't be allowed to escape this pod. We have to capture it. Dead or alive, we must contain it. We're going to need help," Dr. Quinn stated. "The only way to get someone in there is with authorization from myself, Captain Shanks, Commander DeMartino, or Commander Li," Captain Murphy said.

"We need help either way. Look, after the computer finishes it analysis and reports the results, we'll call you," Dr. Quinn replied. "Very well. We'll be waiting for your report. If there are no indications of contagions or anything deadly to humans, we'll lift the quarantine and simply place the pod into a partial lock-down state," Captain Murphy replied. Commander Li nodded her head in agreement.

Line Break

"The results are in," Dr. Virjay said as he turned to Dr. Quinn. "Nothing found. Nothing in the tissue samples; nothing in the air samples, and nothing from our own blood. We appear to be clean." "Only after four hours of analysis from a computer system using 480 gigabytes of RAM to perform repetitive calculations and comparisons of available data," Dr. Quinn commented somewhat bitterly. "And they couldn't install a newer system for us after adding the other pods to the base... why?" Dr. Virjay asked him.

"I don't know and I didn't ask," Dr. Quinn replied. "Hey, Ilad, where's Lieutenant Sherman?" he asked as he looked around the room. "He left to go take a walk and use one of the rest rooms an hour ago. He was getting very impatient," Virjay replied.

"Well, we'll have to find him. But first, we need to call the bridge and tell them that we're clean," Dr. Quinn said. "I'll go look for him," Dr. Virjay said after grabbing a hammer from a table near the door. He'd grabbed it from a tool box earlier as a safety measure.

Line Break

After reporting on their health, Dr. Quinn and Dr. Virjay were allowed to leave the quarantine zone. They both headed for their respective quarters to change clothes and shower before heading for the bridge in Pod 01. Tommy Sherman had opted to stay behind and keep an eye on the Med Bay until they returned.

Currently, they were on the bridge, along with the others. "We have the entire Med Bay area sealed off, along with the tunnel that connects directly to it," Commander DeMartino said as pointed to a layout map of the pods.

"Now, this thing is fairly small, correct?" DeMartino asked Dr. Quinn. "Yes. While it appeared to be rather soft, I do believe that this life form is an arthropod of some kind," he replied. "A crustacean, most definitely, but I've never seen one quite like this," he added. "How dangerous is it to humans?" DeMartino asked him.

"I don't know. It was hiding in Ensign Snyder's corpse, but it most likely got in there after he died," Quinn said. "With how large it was? It had to have grown substantially after entering his body," Virjay commented. "There is no way that it could have gotten inside of him without creating some kind of entrance wound if it were that large from the start. Mostly likely, it was using his body as an incubator...or its exposure to our atmosphere had an unusual effect on its metabolism and growth."

"Will it continue growing?" DeMartino asked them. "I have no idea, but as a crustacean, or any kind of arthropod, it won't be able to grow very large in our environment without being crushed by its own weight. At least, not without being either totally or partially submerged in water to help with buoyancy," Dr. Quinn said.

"All right. We'll try to catch it. After that, you guys can decide on if you want to kill it and study it or throw it out an airlock," DeMartino said. "Do we absolutely have to catch it alive?" Daria asked. "Not really, but if it's possible, then please do so," Dr. Quinn said.

"So, how do we do this? Do we split into teams or search as one large group?" Debbie asked. "We'll split into three teams: Blue, Red, and Gold. Blue team will consist of Commander DeMartino, Lieutenant Barksdale, and Lieutenant Ruttheimer," Commander Li said. "Red Team will consist of Dr. Quinn, Lieutenant Commander Barch, and Lieutenant Waters. Gold Team will consist of myself, Dr. Virjay, Lieutenant Commander Dupree and Lieutenant Commander Marquez. Meanwhile, Commander Sparks, Lieutenant Morgendorffer, and Captain Murphy will stay on the bridge and watch our progress through the pod."

"What about Lieutenant Sherman?" Amy asked. "He'll be added to Blue Team after we meet up with him in the Med Bay. That is where we will begin our search. We will have all corridors locked down except the ones that will take us on a direct path to the Med Bay, and then we will lock down all of the doors and go through the pod, with each team checking one section at a time, opening and closing access junctions and doors manually," Commander Li said.

"What kind of weapons or capture devices will we use?" Upchuck asked. "We'll use nets, stun rods, batons, and tasers. We won't need to use any guns or blow-spears," Li replied confidently. "Commander Sparks and Lieutenant Morgendorffer, please alert all other pods that Pod 04 will be blocked off and locked down until further notice. All medical emergencies to be transferred to Pod 32 and/or the nearest available infirmary and medical station," Angela Li ordered.

"Understood," Sparks said as he and Daria returned to their stations and began making their announcements.

"All right. Captain Murphy, do you know how to use the spare communications station?" Li asked him. "Yeah. I remember when I had to contact the surface for something a year or two back. I forget what I was calling them about, though," Murphy replied.

"As long as you know what to do," Commander Li said. "All right, lets get this party started. Let's go!"

Line Break

"So, what exactly is going on?" Jane asked over a communications console. "I can only say that an animal of some kind is on the loose in Pod 04. Please, Jane, don't enter Pod 04 until its been cleared. Keep yourself and everyone out of there until we've reported it to be clean. Can you promise me that?" Daria asked her.

Jane nodded her head. "Yeah, I can keep that promise," Jane said reluctantly. "Just, be careful, okay?" Jane asked her. "I'll do my best," Daria replied. "Okay. When this is over, Tom and I will have a pizza or two waiting for you tonight," Jane said with a small smile. "Thanks. I'll be looking forward to it," Daria replied.

Line Break

"Why do I have to carry the net?" Upchuck asked as the group neared the entrance for the Med Bay lobby. It was a large and wide lobby, looking very much like one seen in a ground-side hospital. It was circular, with several chairs in corners and in the middle, along with shelves and three TV's displaying information about Sealab's healthcare system.

"Gee, this kind of reminds of that video game I once played a while back, before everybody was moved from Lawndale to Sealab. Something called... Something Isolation," Upchuck said as he and the others disembarked their transport carts and looked around the Med Bay lobby. He'd never actually been to this part of the Med Bay before, having been very conscious about his personal safety and health since he'd arrived at Sealab.

Still, the emptiness of the lobby and the lack of noise, aside from the TV's, was unnerving to him. "I'm kind of creeped out," he said quietly, although Amy and DeMartino both heard him. They both also silently agreed with him. The Med Bay was creepy when no one was there, even though the lights were still on.

"Now, just because there's a lock-down in place doesn't mean that the receptionists can just run off and not stay at their posts," Commander Li said in annoyance. "They probably left with whatever patients that had in order to reach a different medical station in another pod," Dr. Quinn surmised.

"Well... I guess it's okay, but where's Lieutenant Sherman?" Li asked as she looked around. "He should have been waiting for us, right?" "We did call and ask him to wait for us in the Med Bay, but we didn't say which part, so he's probably waiting for us somewhere inside," Commander DeMartino said.

"All right, let's move. Remember your teams, everyone!" Li said as they split up and began searching the Med Bay. Two hours later, after a thorough sweep, it had been concluded that neither the creature nor Tommy Sherman were in the Med Bay. "So, where did they go?" Upchuck asked nervously.

"I didn't see any broken vents in any of the rooms, so the...creature, must have escaped through an open door. We checked every single room and cabinet and bed in the Med Bay," Dr. Quinn said. "Lieutenant Morgendorffer, do you have any visuals on the Med Bay and the surrounding areas?" Commander DeMartino asked over his headset.

"Negative. There's nothing on your level. Sherman and that thing must be on a different level," Daria replied over the headset. "Understood," Commander DeMartino said. "Okay then, we'll have to split ourselves between levels. Red Team will search Level Five and below, while Gold Team will search Level Seven and above. Blue Team will search the rest of this level. Afterwards, Gold Team will join Red Team," DeMartino said firmly.

Line Break

"Man, this place gives me the creeps," Stormy said as he, Dr. Quinn, and Lt. Commander Barch scoured Level Four. "This level three of the Med Bay," Dr. Quinn said. "We mostly store supplies around here, although there are some spare infirmary rooms," Dr. Quinn explained as the trio moved through another corridor. Janet Barch shined her flashlight down at a vent on the floor, and noticed that it had been ripped outward.

"Dr. Quinn, Lieutenant Dumbass, look," Barch said. "What happened to the vent?" Stormy asked as he knelt down to get a better look. "I think our friend may be responsible," Dr. Quinn said. Stormy put his hand on the vent. "Eww, there's something wet in here, he said as he raised his hand. Janet aimed the flashlight at Stormy's hand.

"Is that... blood?" she asked. Dr. Quinn knelt down and shone his flashlight inside the vent. There was indeed a smear of blood in it. "We'd better keep looking for Sherman," Quinn said as he rose back up. "Can I wash my hands?" Stormy asked. "There should be a hand-washing station in one of the supply rooms," Quinn said. "Okay, I'll catch up with you guys after I clean up," Stormy said as he ran into a room.

"Do you think he'll be able to find us?" Barch asked. "Probably not. We should move slowly, then," Quinn replied.

Line Break

Stormy walked slowly through the storage area, looking for a sink. The room smelled sterile and of cleaning supplies. There was, however, a hint of something else in the air as Stormy made his way towards the showering area. The lights were of low quality, nearing the end of their life, and occasionally flickering.

"Man, when was the last time anybody was in here?" he asked as he walked into what looked like a shower room. "Huh. They store supplies in a shower room? That's weird," Stormy commented as he looked around, noticing some boxes lying on their sides. He saw a sink over in a corner and went over to it.

As Stormy turned on the faucet and grabbed some soap, he looked in the mirror, noticing something sticking out from behind some of the boxes and crates. He dried off his hands with an air-dryer before walking over to the mess of boxes. He put his hand on a box and felt it sink a little before he lifted his hand.

He grabbed the box and lifted it up, moving it over before he glanced down at what was beneath it. He stared blankly for a few seconds before realization sank in at the blood-stained body of Tommy Sherman. His torso had been ripped up, and there was blood everywhere around him. He had a look of agony on his face.

Stormy dropped the box and slowly backed away, not noticing the red and brown-splotched legs dropping down slowly behind him. He didn't stop until he felt something pressing against his back. He jerked forward before turning around. "Huh? What the..."

Stormy's words died in his throat as he looked at the thing in front of him. "Holy... shit. Quinn! Barch!" he yelled as two of the creature's appendages slowly moved forward and began to encircle him. "Q-Quinn! B-Barch! Someone! H-Help!"

Line Break

"I bet one of the faucet handles is stuck or he couldn't find the soap," Quinn said dismissively. "I know that he's dumb, as most males are," Barch said. Quinn glanced at her. "With... a small number of exceptions, I will admit, but Lieutenant Waters really seems to have less of a brain than most of the other males down here. Only Kevin Thompson seems dumber than him," Janet said.

"Well, I've known him for a while and... actually, you're pretty spot on," Quinn said as he and Janet decided to turn around and help Stormy. "Um...who has the net?" Janet asked him. "Stormy-oh right. I took it from him when he-" "Help! Quinn! Quinn! Hel-aaahh!" they heard Stormy scream. That was when they picked up the pace.

When they arrived at the room where Stormy had been, there was only Tommy Sherman's corpse and some of Stormy's blood on the floor. They looked around, before finally seeing a large maintenance vent cover on the floor, causing them both to look up, following the climbing handles going up on the wall before settling their eyes on the uncovered duct.

"Stormy!?" Quinn cried, gripping his stun prod tightly. There was no response from the vent. "Stormy!?" he yelled again, louder this time. Again, his cry was met with cold silence. "Stormy..." Quinn said quietly, with a hint of fear in his voice. There was no other sound in the room, save for the occasional drip of water from the sink.

"It just... it just took him," Quinn said as he sat at the conference table. Initially, when the group had returned from Pod 04, Daria had felt relieved and had prepared to contact Jane, but when she saw the Stormy was missing and that Dr. Quinn was looking shaken, she'd decided to hold off. "Did you see what happened?" Daria asked Dr. Quinn.

"No. We just saw some blood on the floor, Tommy Sherman's corpse in the corner, and the open vent up near the ceiling. This thing... it's grown. It has to have grown, if it can lift a full-grown man up and drag him into a vent like that," Quinn replied.

"Is there any chance that Stormy's still alive?" Debbie asked. "No... I mean, I don't think so," Quinn replied solemnly. "Then it's time we break out some firepower," Commander Li said.

"Guns?" Murphy asked her. "Mm-hm, I've got some shotguns and an assortment of small-arms in the Security Center Armory. Some Franchi SPAS with collapsible stocks, some M4's, some M12's, M19's, Uzis... a flamethrower or two," Angela Li said with a grin.

"But if it's using the air and maintenance ducts to move around... how are we going to catch it in a spot where we can actually get at it?" Upchuck asked. "We don't know if it's still growing or not, but if it is still growing, then it won't be able to hiding in those vents for very long," Quinn said. "It'll need to move into more open space in order to move around, or else it'll become trapped."

"Then why don't we just let it stay in the air vents until it becomes trapped and dies?" Amy asked them. "We don't know that it'll stay there that long, and we need to make sure that it can't leave the pod. Besides, those air vents can take it almost anywhere in the pod, with only a few locations excluded," Li replied.

"That's true. We need to hunt it down and catch it before it manages to hide somewhere that we can't get it out of," Quinn said. "We need to drive it out into an open area. Then, we can either unload Commander Li's weapons on it or we can lure it into an airlock or a sub bay and drive it into the ocean."

"How exactly do we accomplish that?" Debbie asked. "We have to scout the vent system, and make sure it isn't in there. We'll have to go through each section of the pod one by one, vent by vent, and seal all of the entrances behind us to keep it from getting away," DeMartino said.

DeMartino brought up some schematics on one of the computer screens. "Each of these vents have hatches that can be closed, so we can block off its route of escape and drive it out to where we want it to go," he said.

"Okay, but that means someone has to go into the vents," Marco pointed out. "Oh yeah. So, who wants to crawl inside the dark, claustrophobic maintenance vents?" Amy asked. "I'll go," Commander DeMartino offered. "No, I'll go," Captain Murphy said. "You know, both of you could go," Marco said.

"It would be a lot safer for two people instead of just one," DeMartino agreed. "I'll go get the weapons," Commander Li said. "Marco, grab a transport cart and meet me in Pod 03," she said as she left the room.

Line Break

"Okay, pick your weapons," Commander Li said as she carefully laid out an assortment of shotguns, pistols, stun rods, cattle prods, and two flame throwers on the table. "Didn't you say that you also had some M4 carbines and a few other things?" Dr. Quinn asked her. "Oh, I was referring to my Benelli M4 shotguns. Besides, if this thing is like a crab or something, then we need stuff that will crack a shell. Besides, these shotguns have pretty decent range," Li replied.

"Shotguns are short range weapons, though, aren't they?" Upchuck asked. "Oh, you naïve little fool. You don't really believe that video game shotguns actually represent the true range of real life shotguns, do you?" "Well, the shotgun from the very first Halo game had a realistic range," Sparks commented. "An anomaly. Future entries in the franchise would reduce the range quite drastically," Li commented.

Sparks shrugged his shoulders as he reluctantly agreed with her. "Um, getting back on target, what are the chances that the cone of spread for these shotguns will damage the maintenance vents?" Marco asked. "You won't be using shots. I've gathered slugs for you to use instead," Li replied. "Smaller range of spread, but the impact is much more concentrated," she added.

Commander DeMartino picked up a Franchi SPAS-12. It had a collapsible stock, meaning that it would be easy to wield while moving through the maintenance ducts. "I know what I'm taking with me," DeMartino said. "This is a flashlight attached to the bottom, right?" he asked Commander Li. "Let me see that one," she said as she walked over and looked at it. "Yes, just remove the cap," she said.

"Cap?" DeMartino asked. "Yes. Some of these have custom attachments. I have caps put on all of them so that nothing gets in there," Li explained. "Um, are any of these weapons water-proof?" Daria asked her as Amy picked up a Benelli M4 Super 90 shotgun.

"Um, they should be okay if they aren't completely submerged for more than three minutes, although I really wouldn't advise submerging them for more than even one minute, just to be safe," Li said quite calmly. Daria and the others were somewhat surprised by Angela Li's demeanor. Usually, she was a bit of a wannabe dictator, but today she had undergone some kind of change.

"Now, Captain Murphy, what weapon will you..." Angela trailed off as she saw Murphy holding a flame thrower. "I think I know how this works," Murphy said. "Um, yes. You'll want to be next to or in front of Commander DeMartino while in the ducts," Li said. She looked over and saw Upchuck carefully picking up an old M19 hand gun.

"Lieutenant Ruttheimer...what kind of license or even clearance do you have for handling these weapons," she asked him as she also glanced over at Daria. "For that matter, what kind of clearance do you have either, Lieutenant Morgendorffer?" Li asked her.

"We have clearance for at least the stun rods, handguns, and spear-guns," Daria replied. "I'm afraid that, while it is in the best interest to make sure that you can defend yourselves, I cannot allow you to use anything other than the stun rods, tasers and cattle prods," Li said.

"Huh?" Upchuck asked. "Lieutenant Ruttheimer, this is not a video game. If you shoot yourself or one of your fellow crew members by mistake, there are no health-packs or checkpoints to restart at. Damage can be permanent. An untrained gun user can be just as dangerous as a trained gun user, although for completely different reasons," Li explained with narrowed eyes.

"Commander Sparks... you should have enough clearance," Li said. "Um, true, but I'm not sure if I'm really allowed to use a gun, at least not without oversight. Remember, I'm technically still serving my sentence," Sparks replied. "Hmm, yes, I'd forgotten about that," Li muttered.

"Well, the thing is trapped in Pod 04, so I don't really think that the three of you will have to worry about needing to use any weapons anyway. Still, the stun rods and cattle-prods should at least give you some form of defense. The rest of us will head over to Pod 04 to initiate our plan," Li said.

"Morgendorffer and Sparks will provide assistance again, and use the cameras in the ducts to guide Captain Murphy and Commander DeMartino in their pursuit of the creature, while the rest of us take station at specific access junctions," Commander Li said with a tone of confidence.

The group began pouring over the schematics and floor plans for Pod 04, spending over an hour mapping out a route to an airlock that they would drive the creature into. While Commander DeMartino and Captain Murphy would search the ducts, two teams would cover specific locations near the airlock and the controls for the duct system.

Amy and Marco would control the doors and hatches from the pod's primary control center, while Upchuck and Debbie would watch access junction 4-C, and Barch and Quinn would cover the junction closest to the Airlock 5-D. Dr. Virjay would cover the entrance hatch to the duct that Murphy and DeMartino would enter, before leaving to catch up with Commander Li at the airlock after the hatches sealed.

Line Break

"This is pretty spacious for an air duct," Murphy said as he held his flamethrower ahead of himself. He kept it pointed straight ahead. DeMartino kept his Franchi SPAS-12 under his arm, with the stock still collapsed on the top. He flicked on the flashlight attached to his communications headset, as well as the flashlight attached to the gun. Captain Murphy followed suit.

DeMartino glanced behind him. He nodded at Dr. Virjay, who was holding a Benelli M4 as he watched the two men carefully crawl into the darkness of the ducts. Virjay watched with unease as they soon disappeared from view in the darkness, with only the distant lights of their headsets providing evidence that they were there at all.

On the bridge, Daria watched through the men's progress through the camera feed. She'd called Jane earlier and had informed her of the severity of the situation, although she had left out a few specific details. She'd also asked Jane to keep an eye on he sister for her until she and Amy could return to their housing unit. Checking the cameras that were ahead of the men on their long journey, Daria scanned the screen for anything that looked unusual.

Back in the ducts, DeMartino and Murphy had reached the third access junction of level 06. DeMartino looked around the duct, searching for scratch marks or anything that could indicate the presence of Sealab's uninvited guest. He frowned at the lack of evidence or trail.

DeMartino gently placed his hand on Murphy's shoulder, causing the older male to turn his head to look at him. "Hold still," DeMartino said. "Barksdale, Marquez, come in," DeMartino said. "This is Lieutenant Barksdale. I read you, Commander," Amy replied over the headset.

"Barksdale... close the hatches behind us. We've reached access junction Six-dash-zero-three," DeMartino said. Murphy raised an eyebrow. "Sir? Are you sure you want us to do that this early?" Amy asked him. "Yes. We know that these sections are clear, and we want to keep them that way. Close the hatches behind us. That's an order," he replied calmly.

"Understood. Closing the hatches," Amy said. DeMartino turned to watch the hatch circling shut behind him and Murphy. DeMartino brought out a data tablet with the schematics for the pod on them. The light of the data tablet shined on his face. "There should be a control panel not too far from here. We can use that to manually open and close certain hatches if need be," he said to the captain.

"Good idea," Murphy said. "Say, how much ammunition did you bring with you?" Murphy asked DeMartino as he gestured toward his shotgun. "The gun's full, and I've got a pouch with twelve spare rounds," DeMartino answered. "Why? Are you running low on fuel?" he asked Murphy. "No, I was just curious," Murphy replied.

"Fair enough. Come on, let's keep moving," DeMartino said. Murphy began moving forward again.

Line Break

"How long have they been in there now?" Marco asked Amy. She looked at her watch and checked one of the clocks on the wall. "It's been an hour now," she said as she gripped her Benelli M4 tightly. "I haven't heard from them in a-" "Barksdale, Marco, we've reached the sixth access junction. We're preparing to move down to level five," DeMartino said over the headset.

"Affirmative," Amy replied quickly. "The hatches behind us are closed. I'll tell you when to seal the top of the shaft once we reach the bottom of the T-junction," he said over the headset. Amy and Marco waited five minutes before they heard from DeMartino again. "Seal the top of the shaft. We're moving on," he said.

Back at access junction 4-C, Barch and Quinn waited in silence for the two men to report again. Barch occasionally flashed a light into the shaft, looking for any sign of the creature lurking within. She held her Franchi SPAS firmly as she kept it aimed at the opening of the shaft.

Dr. Quinn held his Benelli M4 gently as he glanced around corridor. Their headset came to life and both of them listened intently as Daria's voice came out.

Line Break

"Commander, stop. I saw something on camera five-ten, in junction Five-dash-Zero-Four. It was only there for a second, but it's in there with you. It's on that level," Daria said over the headset. Commander DeMartino held his breath for a few seconds as he turned around to look behind him. Junction 5-04 was in the opposite direction of where he and Murphy had been going.

"Lieutenant Morgendorffer... I don't suppose there's a T-junction with a ladder in that area, is there?" he asked. "Let me check the schematics," Daria replied. "There is one in that area," she replied again two minutes later.

"Check the cameras for level four, and see if it's moved down there. We'll check out the junction carefully. Contact Lieutenant Barksdale and have her seal the hatches from Five-Eight forward, and the hatches from Five-Three back. Leave just the junctions Five-Eight through Five-Three open," DeMartino said. "Understood," Daria replied with a hint of hesitation in her voice.

Three minutes later, DeMartino heard Amy's voice on his headset. "Commander, are you sure that blocking off all of your escape routes is a good idea?" she asked. "Those are also escape routes for that thing as well, Lieutenant," DeMartino replied. "Barksdale, I want you to seal the hatches for all sections underneath Level Four. We know the general location of the creature."

"Understood. Good luck, sir," Amy replied. DeMartino and Murphy could hear the hatches closing in the distance. DeMartino and Murphy maneuvered around each other so that Murphy was in front of him as they crept forward in the dark. "Morgendorffer, do you see it on any other cameras?" DeMartino asked.

"Yes. There's something blocking camera five-twelve, just a few meters away from the previous sighting," Daria replied. "Good. We know where to go," DeMartino said as he and Captain Murphy continued their slow trek. There was a strange stench in the air that grew stronger as they pressed forward.

Eventually, the two men came upon the location that Daria had spoken of. They both remained silent and still as they studied the thing in front of them. It seemed to be laying in an odd position, and it had a strange look to it. It seemed limp and inert. For a full sixty seconds, both men remained tense and alert as they waited for it to do something.

"Lieutenant Morgendorffer... the creature is... um, dead. I think it's dead," DeMartino said as he looked over what appeared to be its corpse. "Wait...there's a large tear in the back, and it's hollow," he said as he shined his light into it. "It molted," Quinn's voice said over the headset. "It molted? You mean like a snake shedding its skin?" DeMartino asked as Murphy quietly wandered over past the shell.

"Yes. Crustaceans do that. Can you describe what it looks like?" Quinn asked. "It looks like some kind of spider or shrimp thing. Murphy, what do-Murphy?" DeMartino asked as he searched for Captain Murphy. The older man had disappeared. DeMartino shined his light ahead and saw Murphy just as he climbed down the ladder of the T-junction.

"Murphy, get back here!" DeMartino hissed as he quickly moved forward. "Murphy," he growled as he looked down at the older man. "I thought I saw something," Murphy said as he aimed his flamethrower into the darkness. Both men heard a scuttling sound and each turned to looked into the darkened shafts to find the source.

"You heard that too, right?" DeMartino asked Murphy as he gripped his shotgun. He kept a finger near the trigger, but not on it. Beads of sweat began to trail down his face as he aimed his shotgun in one direction and then another. He gulped as he heard the scuttling sound again, but he still couldn't determine its source.

"I think it's coming from this direction," Murphy said as he turned around and aimed his flamethrower in what he thought was the direction of the sound. He pulled the trigger and sent a stream of fire into the shaft. He sent another, and another. He waited a few seconds before hearing the scuttling again, and he sent another stream of fire in the direction of the sound.

The scuttling stopped. "I think I got it," he said quietly. "But I don't smell anything burning," he noted with a frown. "What?" DeMartino asked him.

Line Break

"I said, I think I-aah! Anthony, get it off, get if off! Help me! Pull me up, pull me up!" "Give me your hand!" "Shoot it, shoot it! Do some-aah! Aah! Don't let-aahh!" Murphy screamed over the headset. "Murphy, Murphy!" The sounds of fire roaring filled the air, as well as a sharp cry from DeMartino, before the headsets went silent.

Daria listened in silent terror as she heard a faint panting sound from DeMartino's headset, before the thud of him falling. Then there was the sound of him firing off three rounds from his shotgun, before the panting began again.

She quickly switched fully over to DeMartino's headset and listened to his panting as he tried to crawl around in the shaft. She tried to speak, to say anything to help him, but the words were caught in her throat. Her throat felt constricted as she frantically watched the camera feed, looking for Commander DeMartino, but seeing only empty passages in the ducts.

DeMartino's panting soon stopped as he fired his shotgun again, and then the air was silent. Daria counted the seconds passing by before she finally could speak again.

"Commander DeMartino? C-Commander? Please respond. Commander?"

Line Break

Marco slammed Captain Murphy's flamethrower onto the conference table. Amy still gripped her Benelli tightly while she placed the broken Franchi SPAS 12 onto the table as well. "This is what we found," Amy said. "What about their bodies?" Commander Li asked them. "There weren't any bodies. We couldn't find them. All we could find were their weapons, that empty husk, and some blood," Marco said.

The group was silent while they thought about their situation. Upchuck was the first one to speak. "Commander Li, you have a large security force, right? Can't we just send a few small teams of your people in there and have them hunt this thing down?"

"No. I have given my men and women strict orders to guard the transport tunnels that connect Pod 04 with the other pods," Li replied. "Couldn't we just... abandon Pod 04?" Upchuck asked her. "No! We need that Med Bay. The one in Pod 32 is large, but we need both Med Bays in order to properly handle the full load of Sealab's current population," Debbie exclaimed.

"Dupree is correct," Li said. "We need both Med Bays, which means we cannot abandon Pod 04. We must reclaim it," she said. "So... what's the plan?" Daria asked. "We lure it out into the open," Li said. "How do we do that?" Daria asked. "We have to make it want to leave it's hiding spot," Amy said.

"We won't need to wait too long, hopefully," Quinn added. "What do you mean?" Li asked him. "That thing just molted a while ago. It's still growing, so it won't be able to stay in those shafts for very long before it becomes trapped," Quinn said.

"But if it becomes trapped and dies in the air vents, then the smell will travel throughout the whole pod," Upchuck commented. "How long would it take to properly sanitize and clean the entirety of the air ducts in Pod 04?" Li asked. "Too long," Marco said. "It would be a health hazard for the Med Bay as well."

"We need to flush it out before it become trapped in the ventilation system, and we have to do it soon," Dr. Quinn said. "Yes, but how?" Marco asked him. "We'll proceed with Commander DeMartino's plan," Amy said in a reluctant tone. "What!?" Debbie asked her incredulously. "Are you crazy? We'll just end up like the others!" Debbie snapped at her.

"It's the only way," Amy said, her eyes downcast. "Does this mean that you are volunteering for this?" Commander Li asked her. Amy was silent for a minute. "Yes," she said as she looked Commander Li in the eyes. "I'll go in there, by myself if I have to, and I'll flush it out to the airlock, or some open space where everyone can get at it," she said.

"And if you die, who will take care of your nieces?" Sparks asked her. "I'll make sure I don't die," Amy said. "Amy..." Daria said quietly, "Don't do this. There has to be another way." "I'm sorry, but this is the only option until we can get that thing out of the air vents," Amy said as she looked at her niece. "I'll join you," Commander Li said.

"Marco, those hatches from Level Five up are still sealed, right?" Amy asked him. "Yeah. I made sure to close them manually after we got out of there," he said. "What about the hatches from level four and below?" Amy asked him. "They're still sealed. That thing is trapped between those levels," Marco said.

"Then we can lure it out into Level Four or Level Five, and then we can blast it with everything that we've got," Amy said. "We'll just have to keep the access points for those vents open," Marco said. "Okay then. We'll set up at these points," Amy said as she brought up a schematic. "Dr. Virjay and Barch can guard the opening at junction Four-G, and Marco and Debbie can watch Four-A, while Ruttheimer and Quinn can watch the opening at Airlock 5-D."

"Does everyone know what they're going to do?" Amy asked. "Daria, you and Sparks will provide support again over the headsets." "Yes," Daria said as she nodded he head.

Line Break

Less than an hour later, the plan had been enacted again. Amy and Angela Li were both in the vents, retreading the steps of Commander DeMartino and Captain Murphy. "Okay, we're at the husk," Amy said over the headset. "Does everyone copy?" she asked. Everyone responded before she and Li began moving forward again.

Line Break

Dr. Virjay watched the opening of the vent with nervousness as he held his shotgun. Barch had her shotgun ready as well. Another hour had passed, and there had been no confirmation of the creature by Commander Li or Lieutenant Barksdale. "We've checked the whole system. It isn't in here," Amy said over the headset.

"Then where is it?" Janet Barch asked as she peered into the air vent. "We're going to leave the air vents now. I want all vent opening sealed, except for Five-D," Amy said. Barch sighed in frustration as she slumped against the wall next to the vent opening. She pressed the button to close it and closed her eyes as she listened to it sealing shut.

"Dammit," she muttered. "Hey, Virjay, do you think we should meet up with the others?" Barch asked him. When she didn't hear a response, she opened her eyes to see that Dr. Virjay was gone. "Hmpf, leave me alone, just like my ex-husband. Bastard," Barch whispered as she grabbed her shotgun and began searching for the doctor.

"Doctor Virjay?" Barch asked as she saw a shadow moving beyond a corner. She marched forward, intending to berate the doctor.

Line Break

"Commander Li, Amy, I can't contact Dr. Virjay on his headset. Lieutenant Commander Barch is searching for him, but she can't find him either," Daria said over their headsets. "He went missing? When did-" "I need assistance, now!" Janet Barch screeched over the headsets. A series of shotgun blasts could be heard. "Get back here you fu-"

Barch was cut off after static filled the air.

Line Break

Janet Barch winced as she tried to move from her spot on the floor. She should have seen the gas canister in front of the creature when she was shooting it, but she had developed a form of tunnel-vision, and had focused only on the creature. The explosion had also set off the sprinkler system, and soon her uniform was going to be soaking wet.

She tried to find her shotgun, but it had been knocked out of her hands when the force of the explosion had flung her back. She heard a strange series of noises and turned her head to see the creature slowly moving towards her. "Come on, you bastard," she growled, trying to mask her fear. "I'll take you with my bare hands!"

Dr. Quinn slumped against the wall as he looked over at what was left of Janet Barch. She'd given the creature a fight, to be sure, but it hadn't done her any good. Marco made a silent prayer for her. "Damn. I wish I'd known you a lot better, Barch," he said quietly, "You were one hardcore badass. Rest in peace."

"Dammit," Amy muttered in frustration and mourning. She and Barch may not have exactly been friends, but they hadn't been enemies either. "It isn't your fault," Li said as she glanced over from the carnage at Amy. "None of us had predicted that the creature had already left the vent system by the time we'd returned to the pod," she added.

"If anything, I should be the one blaming myself. After all, I'm the head of security, and at least six people have already died on my watch. You, on the other hand, are just a maintenance worker," Commander Angela Li said.

"Hey, Debbie, how's Ruttheimer over there?" Amy asked shakily as she saw the other two people standing in the hallway. Upchuck was crouched down next to the wall, his knees pulled up to his chin. He had been the one who'd found Barch's remains. He'd become mostly unresponsive since then.

"He's shaken," Debbie replied. "We should take him to the bridge or someplace else. He shouldn't be here any longer," Debbie said. Dr. Quinn walked over and helped Upchuck stand up. "Come on, Chuck, we need to get moving," he said to the boy. Upchuck simply nodded his head, keeping his eyes downcast.

"What about Dr. Virjay?" Commander Li asked. "What about him?" Marco asked. "Well, what's left of him?" Commander Li asked. "Not much," Marco replied as he turned around and started walking back to the others. "Okay, We're done splitting up," Amy said. "From now on, we're moving together as a group. We can't risk it any more," she finished.

Line Break

Daria watched the group moving on the monitors, slowly making their way back to the transport tunnel between Pod 01 and Pod 04. Her eyes widened when she saw the camera footage for the corridor leading to the tunnel. "Guys, the creature is at Corridor 06-D7, right near the tunnel," she said into her headset.

Line Break

"Dammit!" Amy spat. "Can we overpower it?" Debbie asked. "That's why we're moving as a large group," Commander Li said. "Come on, it's payback time!" she said as she readied her flamethrower. The group moved forward at a steady pace.

"Daria, keep that camera feed on your monitor. Do not let that thing out of your sight," Amy said into her headset. "Affirmative," Daria replied.

Thirty minutes later, Daria's voice came over their headsets. "It's breaking through the tunnel's airlock doors!" "Try to find an override," Amy said. "Never mind that!" Li shouted. "We're almost there! We can just fry that thing and be done with it," she said as she began moving ahead of the group. Marco ran to catch up with her.

"Commander, wait! We need to stick together!" he shouted. Debbie was close behind him, readying her shotgun. "It's broken through the doors!" Daria shouted. "Daria, try to locate an emergency override from your console. Ask Sparks for help if you need it!" Amy shouted.

Line Break

"The override only works for the doors on our side," Sparks said. "We can't override the emergency doors on that side. Pods one through ten don't have that option; only pods eleven through thirty-six do," Sparks explained. "Dammit!" Daria exclaimed.

Line Break

"There! I see it!" Li shouted as she ran forward. Marco and Debbie were close behind, readying their shotguns. The creature had fully entered the tunnel by the time the trio had reached it. "Eat some of this!" Li shouted.

"No, not in the tunnel!" Marco shouted as Li short forth a stream of flame at the creature, with Debbie firing her shotgun in tune. "No! The emergency fire safeties will-" "FIRE DETECTED. FIRE DETECTED. SPRINKLER SYSTEM ACTIVATED."

The sprinklers came on and dowsed the group. Commander Li and Debbie had already stepped into the tunnel. Debbie had fired her last slug before she began reloading, this time using shots. She took a step forward, and accidentally left her finger on the trigger. The creature had turned around and was charging them.

Li had a maniacal grin on her face as she waited for the creature to get closer. "That's right, come to mama!" she shouted as the beast lunged forward. "Got it!" Debbie shouted as she finished reloading. She took a step forward. She fired two shots in quick succession, with the recoil making her step back. She slipped from the water.

He finger was still on the trigger, and as she tried to grab for something to hold onto, she squeezed the trigger, and accidentally shot the fuel tank of Li's flamethrower.

Marco stepped back as the explosion sent fire and smoke shooting past him. "Debbie! Commander Li!" he shouted. The plugs in his ears prevented him from hearing the cracks of the tunnel before the leaks began to spring forth. Marco looked inside the tunnel and saw the creature lying down in the water that was building up.

Debbie and Li's corpses were also in the water. "Debbie," he whispered sadly as he walked over to check for any sign of a pulse. "WARNING. FLOODING DETECTED. TRANSPORT TUNNEL UNSAFE. WARNING! PLEASE EVACUATE THE TRANSPORT TUNNEL IMMEDIATELY!" the voice of the computer system announced.

Dr. Quinn, Upchuck and Amy had just arrived at the tunnel entrance when the alarm had gone off. "Marco, we need to find another way!" Quinn said. Marco got up slowly. "But, what about... Debbie and Li?" Marco asked him. "Debbie?" Quinn asked as he saw her body in the water. He rushed forward and cradled her body to his.

"Debbie! Debbie! Come on, please speak to me!" he cried. Her eyes were glazed over and her neck was limp. "Debbie," he cried softly, "No. Please... say something." "WARNING, TUNNEL PRESSURE UNSTABLE. PLEASE EVACUATE TUNNEL IMMEDIATELY. FLOODING IS INCREASING IN TUNNEL. EVACUATE TUNNEL IMMEDIATELY."

Marco had already begun helping Quinn move Debbie's body, which was easier with the water level rising. "Guys, move! You need to get back in here before the water level reaches the door's sensors!" Amy shouted. Marco shot his head up immediately.

"Come on, Quinn, we need to move, now!" he said as he let go of Debbie's body. "But, Debbie-" "We can come back later! If we don't move now, we'll be trapped in here, and the water won't leave until we patch the tunnel from the outside and activate the purge system! Now, move your caboose!" Marco shouted at him, forcing him to drop Debbie's body.

The two men rushed over to the entrance, the water level quickly rising. Dr. Quinn had entered first, and Marco was right behind him, until he tripped on part of Debbie's shotgun, which had been blown over to the entrance by the force of the explosion. "Dammit," Marco grunted.

"EVACUATE TUNNEL IMMEDIATELY," the voice announced. "I know, you stupid-Aah!" Marco cried as the doors slammed shut on his waist. The water level had reached above the door's sensors, activating the emergency fail-safe. "Oh god, oh god!" Marco cried.

"My back!" he cried as Quinn and Amy grabbed him. The space left by his body between the doors had allowed the water to begin entering the tunnel's airlock. "I can't feel my legs," he rasped out painfully. Blood was coming out of Marco's mouth now, indicative of internal bleeding. "Why won't the door open for him!" Amy cried as she tried hitting the manual open button.

"It-aagh, won't do that! There's too [hic] much water! Just, just go!" Marco said. "You'll drown to death in here!" Amy yelled at him. Once the other airlock doors closed, the water would be trapped, but so would Marco. "It's okay!" Marco cried, despite wanting to be helped. "My back... It's broken, isn't it?" he asked as the water continued to rise in the airlock, spilling out into the hallway.

"Yes, but if we can get you to the infirmary, then we-" "Don't bother, Quinn," Marco said as blood began to mix with the water. It was coming from the other side of the door. Quinn looked over through the space and saw Marco's left leg being devoured by the creature, which was still alive.

"It's still alive!?" he cried in disbelief. "G-give-give me my knife!" Marco demanded. "What!?" Quinn asked him. "My knife! Give me my fucking knife!" Marco cried out painfully. Amy reached over and grabbed his knife from his waistband, handing it to Marco. "Thank you," Marco said to her.

"Now, go! Go!" Marco shouted as Amy reluctantly pulled Dr. Quinn out of the airlock and began closing the other door. "Marco," Quinn said with a pained tone as he slammed a fist against the wall next to the airlock door. "God damn it!" he shouted as he heard Marco's cries as he tried fighting the beast. The tunnel door had managed to open after the outer door had closed, allowing Marco his final fight.

Line Break

Daria closed her eyes and rested her head between her arms, tears streaming down her face as she agonized over her inability to help anyone. Sparks looked over and shrugged. He wanted to help her, but he honestly had no clue how to do that. Then something struck him. "Hey, who's left?" he asked her. He could hear her beginning to sob now, quietly, trying to hide it from him, but it was still quiet apparent.

"Daria, who is sill alive?" Sparks asked her in a firmer tone. He reached over and shook her shoulder. "I couldn't help them," she sobbed. "I couldn't help any of them!" "Lieutenant! Who is still alive!?" he asked her again. "W-Wha?" "Who is still alive?" he asked her again.

"Upchuck, Dr. Quinn and Aunt Amy," Daria replied. "Then try helping them stay alive. I have to take care of communications traffic for the other pods by myself for now, but you are the only one that is still with them. Help them get out of there alive," Sparks said. There had been a huge surge in communications traffic between medical stations across Sealab since the evacuation of Pod 04.

"Daria, they need you to guide them out of there. So focus on that, and you can cry afterwards, okay? I won't tell anyone," Sparks said. Under normal circumstances, he would consider recording her crying to use as blackmail, but the current situation made that completely out of the question. His conscience had escaped from its cage, and now it was in charge.

"Okay," Daria replied softly, still trying to fight back her tears. "I-I'll do it," she said.

Line Break

Quinn and Amy slumped against the wall near Upchuck, watching the airlock door. "Where's the nearest tunnel?" Amy asked Dr. Quinn. "On level four. It connects to Pod Three. The next one is on level five. It connects to Pod Six. There's another one on level three. It connects to Pod Two. The final one is on Level Seven. It connects to Pod Five," Quinn replied tiredly.

"I guess we should start moving," Amy said as she got up. She walked over to Upchuck and got him to stand. "Charles, I need you to walk. Can you do that?" Amy asked him. He nodded his head. "Okay. I know you've been through a yesterday and this morning, but I'm not going to carry you," Amy said. Upchuck nodded his head as he looked her in the eyes.

"I can do that," he said in a choked voice. "I... I can walk." "Okay. That's all I need you to do right now. Just walk," Amy said quietly. Upchuck nodded his head. "Okay. Which tunnel do we choose?" Amy asked Quinn.

Just as he was about to respond, they heard a loud beep. "TUNNEL DESTROYED. AIRLOCK BREACHED. PREPARING EMERGENCY LOCK-DOWN PROCEDURE." "What the-" the airlock shot open and water began flooding into the corridor. "Jesus Christ! Run!" Quinn shouted. Amy and Upchuck began running away from the water. They could see emergency doors beginning to close up ahead. "We can make it! Just keep running!" Quinn shouted as he kept his eyes focused ahead.

The trio moved faster, just managing to jump through the doors as they closed. "Ouch, my side," Upchuck whimpered. "My arm hurts," he groaned. "You'll live," Dr. Quinn panted as he lied on his back. "Daria, come in. This is Amy. Where's the nearest service elevator?" she asked over the headset. "They've all been shut down by the emergency lock-down," Daria replied. "I can't get them open from here," she added.

"Shit!" Amy cursed. "Okay, are there any paths we can take to service ladders or..." Amy trailed off when she saw the hatch to the ventilation system. "Amy? What's wrong?" Daria asked over the headset, concerned. "Daria, I need you to look up the schematics for the ventilation system and tell me which access junction is the closest to a transport tunnel," Amy said.

"Okay. Just give me a minute," Daria replied. "You want us to go in those vents!?" Upchuck asked her with disbelief and fear. "It may be our best option," Amy replied. "No way! I'm not going into those vents!" Upchuck protested. "Chuck, that thing is too big to fit in there anymore. It won't be able to follow us," Quinn told him.

"Are you sure?" Upchuck asked him. "I'm positive. It's too large to fit in there," Quinn replied confidently. Upchuck took a dep breath. "The closest is on level four. That tunnel will take you to Pod Three. There's also a moon pool on level four. The only way to get down there is through the vents," Daria finally replied over their headsets.

"Fuck!" Upchuck swore. "I don't like it any more than you do, but it's our only option. now come on," Amy said as she opened the access hatch to the vent system. "And we have to go down? As in below the flooded level?" Upchuck asked.

"Yes," Dr. Quinn said in a matter-of-fact manner as he ushered Upchuck into the vent. Amy was already ahead of them. "Daria can you hear me? We're in the vent, and we're heading down to level four. I need you to be our eyes," Amy said over the headset. "I can do that Amy. Just keep moving until you reach a locked hatch. There should be a manual opening for it or another override near a control panel three sections ahead of you," Daria said.

Eventually, the trio reached the control panel. "Okay, Daria, I'm at the control panel. Now, I need you to look up some of the master control settings on one of your console's screens. I need to make sure that any hatches I open won't be connected to the hatch at the tunnel on level six. I need you to do that before I do anything else," Amy said. "Yes, Amy," Daria replied.

Meanwhile, Amy booted up the control console. "Damn, theses things are older than the ones in the newer pods," she muttered as she watched the loading message appear on the console screen. It soon displayed the last date and time that it was accessed, which had been several hours earlier by Commander DeMartino.

Amy quickly used the small keyboard to select the command-based interface, rather than the mouse-based one. There was a track-ball with a cover over it next to the keyboard, but the device had not been properly integrated into the system when it had been installed. It was sluggish and unreliable as a result.

Amy quickly accessed the menu for the hatches. "Yes," she whispered. There was an option for opening and closing each hatch individually. "Daria, have you found anything yet?" Amy asked her over the headset. It was at this time that Upchuck had realized that both adults had forgotten their weapons when the tunnel had been breached. Only the M19 that Upchuck had managed to sneak into his tool belt had remained with them, and he hadn't brought any spare ammunition.

He didn't dare take it out now to check if it was full. He simply left it where it was, and kept his eyes focused on Amy's task. "There should be an option to open and close the hatches individually," Daria replied. "Same here. I found it. Okay, it shows the following hatches are still sealed," Amy said as she relayed the list of them to Daria over the headset.

"Daria, I need you to look at a schematic and tell me where each hatch is located and where it leads," Amy said. "I'm on it," Daria replied. Soon, the trio were moving through the vents, making their way down the path that Murphy and DeMartino had taken earlier. "Hey," Upchuck said as he shined a flashlight around, "I found a data tablet."

"I think that was Commander DeMartino's," Quinn said as he picked it up to examine it. "It is," he said in confirmation. "It has a set of schematics on it," Quinn said after he turned it on. "We can use it then," Amy said before they resumed their trek.

Eventually, they made their way to the ladder to level four. "Okay, the last ladder," Amy said before she heard a whirring noise. It soon became a roar, like water in a tunnel. "You hear that?" Amy asked the others. "Amy, the hatch near the transport tunnel's been opened. you need to move! Daria shouted over the headset.

The trio quickly started climbing down, with Amy reaching the bottom first. "Which way, do we go?" Amy asked as she looked at the data tablet. "Okay, we go this way!" she yelled as she led the others through the ventilation shafts. Amy paused for Quinn and Upchuck to move past her after entering a junction so that she could seal the hatch behind them. "That should buy us a little bit of time," Amy muttered.

They soon managed to exit the final hatch and enter the corridor. "The tunnel should be this way," Amy said as she followed the signs on the wall. "Amy, that thing has opened a manual service shaft on level six. That shaft is wide enough for it to fit through and it leads all the way to level one. Levels Five and four are starting to flood! You need to get to the tunnel or the moon pool! You need to hurry!" Daria shouted.

"Which one is closer!?" Upchuck asked. "The moon pool is closer. It should have some atmospheric diving suits, so we can just go outside and make out way over to Pod One without much trouble," Amy said as they turned around. They quickly jogged through the corridors, listening as the sound of rushing water became louder. "Oh, give me a break already!" Upchuck shouted before he broke into a full-fledged run.

Amy hit the emergency close button on a wall for a set of double doors behind her, but they began to jam halfway up. "Dammit!" she yelled before she turned around and continued running. The group soon managed to reach the moon pool, with Upchuck slipping and falling onto the floor. His M19 and its holster slid out of the tool belt and over to a flight of stairs.

Quinn closed the doors as soon as Amy entered the room behind him and upchuck. Amy and Quinn quickly began setting up the pool for the diving suits. "Charles, I need you to go over to that control panel begin opening the pool doors. We need to do this now, before we get in the pool," Quinn said as he activated the ADS rack.

The rack swung out and five ADS were separated with space between each other by an electronic system. "Okay, Charles and Quinn, get those suits. I'll take care of setting up the pool and the timer for the automated system before I join you," Amy said from a control panel.

Upchuck and Quinn were both fully suited by the time Amy had finished setting up the system, when they saw the door to the moon pool open and water began rushing in. Amy was knocked back by the water before she managed to catch a handle bar and pull herself up. She waded over to the door as quickly as she could and slammed her fist on the controls, closing the door.

She was about to make her way over to an ADS when she saw the red form rising out of the water on multiple legs, with a strange lobster-like tail. The compound eyes, two of which were on stalks while the rest were stuck on the face, stared at her as its mandibles opened with a hiss.

Amy quickly backed up over to a set of stairs that led up to a catwalk. She made a mad rush up the stairs and ran over to the control panel in the middle of the walk-way. "Amy, what are you doing!?" Quinn shouted as Amy started the process for the ADS being dipped into the pool. The creature turned to look at them as the noise of the machine caught its attention.

As the creature turned and made its way to the pool, Amy grabbed a metal rod and banged on the walk rails to get its attention. The creature's antennae became rigid for a few seconds before it began stalking towards her. Amy looked around and ran toward a ladder, climbing up to the next catwalk level as one of the legs of the creature stabbed at the wall below her.

Amy adjusted her glasses as she climbed out onto the next catwalk and ran over to a holding unit containing a stun rod. She engaged the extender on it and looked down below, watching the creature as it began climbing up to get her. She ran over to the other end of catwalk as she saw the ADS system completely submerge itself in the pool.

Line Break

Dr. Quinn and Upchuck slowly made their way out of the airlock tunnel in the moon pool and began their trek outside. Quinn had attached a cable between his and Upchuck's suits.

Line Break

Amy jabbed the stun rod into the creature's mouth, causing it to stumble back. One of its legs caught the catwalk and tugged on it, jostling Amy and sending the rod out of her hands and falling into the water below. She quickly ran over to the ladder and climbed down before racing over to a cabinet holding tools. She opened it and grabbed a flare gun, listening as the ADS deployment system began ascending out of the water.

She ran over to the catwalk edge and looked down at the round pedestal rising up out of the water. She saw that the creature was still immobile and ran down the stairs over to the controls and began setting up the system for one more deployment. The rack swung out again and attached itself to an empty slot on the pedestal, automatically adjusting the ADS based on the previous usage.

Amy heard the hiss of the creature before it dropped down into the water below. She ran back up the stairs and onto the catwalk as the creature rushed at her. She ducked as one of its legs swung forward and managed to start climbing the ladder up to the next level. She heard metal clanging as she looked down to see the creature following her. She ran over to the other end of the catwalk, counter-clockwise around the room.

She pulled out the flare gun and loaded it, aiming it at the creature as it came closer underneath the catwalk, before it slammed two legs against the bottom of it. Amy fell back as she fired the flare, sending it straight at the ceiling. The sprinkler system activated almost immediately.

Amy got back up as she saw a claw come up and grip the catwalk. She ran past it, grunting as another claw swept up and knocked her over. "Oof," she grunted before she got back up and ran over to the ladder. The creature was a fast learner, and it was already waiting for her.

"Shit!" Amy cried as she ran over to the other end of the catwalk. She looked around for something to use, listening as the creature tried crawling up through the space between the ladder and the catwalk, only to become wedged tightly in. Amy looked over at a mechanical arm for the ADS rack. She quickly got up onto the rail, almost slipping from the sprinkler system, and reached out to a chain hanging down from the ceiling.

The creature banged against its holding between the ladder and the catwalk, causing Amy to drop forward. She grabbed the chain and held it as she swung over onto the mechanical arm, letting go of the chain and trying to hold onto the arm. The water made it difficult, and she soon found herself falling back onto the watery floor.

"Ah, fuck!" Amy said painfully as she rose out of the water. She saw the creature trying to wiggle its way out of the wedge. She quickly ran over to controls, stumbling on something in the water. She picked it up and saw that it was a holstered gun. She threw it at the creature as it hissed once more at her. She finally reached the controls and activated the ADS deployment.

Amy quickly rushed back over to the ADS and got inside of it, sealing it as she began to descend. "Great, my legs are soaked," she groaned as some water managed to get into the legs with her. Her griping was stopped when she heard and saw the creature finally manage to get loose from its confines and make its way toward her.

Amy took a deep breath as the creature moved forward, while the top of the ADS pole and pedestal lowered into the pool. The creature tried to stick its head into the space between the rim of the pool and the pool airlock doors, and managed to stall it, only for the weight pressing down to crush its head, sending goop and blood flying. One of its compound eyes landed on the helmet of Amy's ADS. "Yeah, fuck you too, buddy!"

Line Break

"I can't read anyone," Daria moped as she slumped against the console. "They're... they're dead," she said. "I tried to help them, but I couldn't! I... I couldn't save anyone!" Daria shuddered. "You did what you could. No one could have asked for anything more," Sparks said. Sparks was about to speak again when one of his monitors came to life. "Commander, there's activity in the moon pool of Pod One, but we don't have any authorized dives today," a maintenance worker said.

"Thanks, Crewman Lane. Send me footage of it," Sparks requested. Daria recognized the voice of Jane's brother as he spoke to Sparks. As Sparks looked at the footage, he grinned.

"Daria," he said, "Go to the moon pool. That's an order."

Line Break

"Just get me out of this thing," Amy said as she was pulled out of her ADS. Upchuck had a towel wrapped around him, while Dr. Quinn was busy helping Amy out of the ADS. The door to the moon pool opened and Amy looked over to see her niece staring at her with an unreadable expression on her face.

Amy watched as Daria slowly walked over to her, before forcing her aunt into a powerful hug. "Whoa! If I'd known you'd react this way, I would've placed myself in peril a lot more often," Amy said humorously. The door to the pool opened again and two adults ran inside. "Charles, what the hell happened to you!?" Upchuck's father cried as he ran over to his son.

"So... the sleaze-bag actually has parents," Daria said. "He isn't that sleazy. And anyway, he went though a lot, just like the rest of us," Amy said. "So, with Captain Murphy... dead, and Commander DeMartino dead... who's going to run Sealab?" Daria asked. "Captain Shanks will have to run the whole place until a replacement can be brought in. A lot people will need to be... replaced," Amy said quietly.

Amy put her arms around Daria and brought her into a close embrace. "Until all of that happens... Let's just go home and rest, okay?" Amy suggested. Daria nodded her head in agreement. "You can invite Jane and Tom, and just... say or do whatever you need to in order to get it all out. We'll take each step forward together. You, me, Quinn, and our friends," Amy said. "All of us. Together."

Ending Line Break

Ending Theme: Symphony No. 2 The Romantic, by Howard Hanson.

Well, I'm glad I finally got that out of my system! Back to the land of drinking and revenge we go! Anyway, it helps to read the story while listening to the music scores from ALIEN (1979) and Leviathan (1989), both of which were composed by the late, great Jerry Goldsmith.

This story was inspired by several sources, mainly Alien (1979), Deepstar Six (1988), Leviathan (1989), and Deep Rising (1998).

In the next episode, the Sealab crew celebrates that magical time of year when gunslingers run free throughout the land, and whiskey and revolvers are the symbols of life and death. I am talking, of course, about The Feast of Alvis, although I personally prefer Pastafarianism. It's tastier, and less likely to get ya' shot! Yeehaw!