SEAQUEST 2032 - THE MISSING YEARS
Captain Oliver Hudson strode briskly down the dimly lit corridors of the Seaquest. Periodically he returned the salutes of the UEO technicians and his own crew working at points along the wall. But he did not break his stride until he reached the bridge. There he stopped and looked around, a frown of disapproval on his face.
To his eyes the bridge was a scene of confusion. At every station, weapons, navigation, life support ... , there were technicians buzzing around. The grey jump-suits of the UEO mixed with the dark blue of the Seaquest crew. They all appeared to be busy, but Hudson could not detect any order to their work. The scene before him was an affront to military discipline. Maybe it had been a mistake to let the kid loose on such a big project. He'd only been in the navy for six months afterall, he'd never actually gone through the training ... Hudson broke off his musings as he spied a pair of thin blue-clad legs sticking out from under helm control. He strolled over and looked down, grimacing as he saw the trailing wires spilling from the console.
"Ensign Wolenczak?" he enquired.
There were a crowded few seconds. The Ensign's legs jerked, there was a sharp bang, a cry of "Ow!" and a muttered curse, before Lucas emerged from underneath the console rubbing his head and looking sheepish, "Sir?".
"Progress report, Mr Wolenczak."
Lucas stood beside his captain and surveyed the bridge, he took a small electronic pad from a pocket of his jump-suit and checked it with the activity around them. "Right on schedule, Captain. Primary hardware has been installed, we're installing the secondary hardware now. All stations should be ready for software updates in about five hours." He was interrupted by a loud bang from the weapons console. Sparks jumped out from the electrics.
At the console Tony Piccolo grabbed a mini extinguisher, but it was not needed. Piccolo turned to Lucas, "Sorry, Luke. The fuse tripped again."
Lucas sighed, "Okay, Tony. Try a J7 conductor." He turned back to the captain, "Maybe five hours was a bit optimistic." he said. Hudson only raised an eyebrow. "Maybe closer to eight ... or ten ..." Lucas's voice trailed off as Hudson's expression grew darker.
Hudson looked around the bridge again, not looking at Lucas, he spoke quietly, but Lucas knew that the man was angry, "Mr Wolenczak, your estimate for this refit time was 36 hours, you've had 25, and my boat is still in no condition to sail," a brief thought that the young ensign had probably been working for the full 25 hours crossed his mind, "I expect the work to be completed on time." Hudson turned to the ensign, "The navy cannot afford "optimistic" estimates, remember that." Lucas nodded silently and watched the captain stalk off the bridge. He rubbed his eyes, until that moment he hadn't felt tired at all.
ELEVEN HOURS LATER...
The UEO Technicians were gone. Every console was back in place, not a wire to be seen. Hudson looked round in approval, glad to see his regular crew at their stations. He glanced up at the computer station, Lucas was staring intently at his screen and Hudson felt a brief pang of guilt as he saw the dark circles of fatigue under the boy's eyes, maybe he had been hard on the kid, but it had worked, and hopefully he'd know better the next time. Hudson turned to face forward.
"Helm control !"
Lonnie Henderson looked down at the captain, "On line, sir !"
"Ready." Piccolo sounded pleased.
Tim O'Neil straightened in his chair, "Ready, sir."
Hudson continued round the stations leaving computer control for last. He looked up at Lucas.
"All systems green, ready to go, Captain."
Hudson beamed, an unusual sight. "Well done, ensign. Well done to you all. Right, let's get going. Take us out Henderson."
"Aye, sir." Lonnie swiftly looked over at Lucas. She could not believe that Hudson was not going to relieve him. Couldn't the man see the young ensign was practically asleep in his chair?
Seaquest moved smoothly out of the dock and headed for the open sea. On the bridge Commander Ford returned from the launch bay and stood beside the captain.
"You missed the big switch on, Commander."
Ford nodded, "I'm sorry I did. I'd have liked to have seen the look on Lucas's face when it all came together."
Hudson looked at Ford curiously, he hadn't thought of that. He glanced up at the computer station, taking in the droop to the ensign's shoulders, the circles under his eyes. Give the kid a break he admonished himself. "Mr Wolenczak !" Lucas snapped to attention, "I think you deserve a break, Ensign. Get some rest, I don't want to see you up here until tomorrow morning."
Lucas nodded slowly, "Yes, sir." He rose from his chair and handed his headset to the officer who relieved him. Lonnie smiled to herself, maybe Hudson had a heart afterall. Lucas made his way off the bridge.
Hudson turned back to Ford. "We're heading straight back to the Macronesian border, " he told him, "There's been a slight rise in border raids while we've been in dock."
"Says something about our reputation, doesn't it, Captain" commented Ford.
"I guess it does, Commander. But we can't be everywhere at once."
There was a soft thud from behind them. "What was that?" asked Ford. Both men looked around the bridge. Nothing seemed wrong there, and no one else seemed to have heard anything. Ford stepped forward, listening, the sound was not repeated. He glanced at Hudson, who shrugged and nodded. Ford moved forward and off the bridge, searching for something out of place.
Business carried on as usual, but only for a few seconds. "Captain !" Ford's shout was heard by everyone on the bridge. Hudson whirled and hurried out. He raced down the corridor and skidded to a halt round the bend. Ford was crouching over a still figure lying on the floor, he was already ordering a medical team through his PAL. Hudson stepped forward and looked down at Lucas Wolenczak. Ford met his eyes, gravely, "I guess Lucas was more tired than we realised." he said.
Dagwood stood still against the wall of the medical bay, mop in hand, not even pretending to clean the floor anymore. He had insisted that the place was overdue for a good cleaning and Doctor Perry had only allowed him to stay in the medical bay if he was very quiet and didn't disturb Lucas's rest. But she had been smiling although she sounded stern. But that had been eight hours ago. And Dagwood could tell that the Doctor was worried. Lucas still had not woken up. He kept muttering about water, and the strange thing was, Dagwood thought he recognised the phrase he was using, "water, water, everywhere...". Dagwood could not remember where he had heard it before. Now Doctor Perry and Captain Hudson were standing at the foot of Lucas's bed, and Dagwood slowly edged forward to hear what they were saying.
"Vitals are stable. There doesn't appear to be a concussion. To all intents and purposes he's just asleep." that was Doctor Perry.
"So, what's the problem?"
"He's not moved since he was brought in here, he's not opened his eyes, he hasn't even snored ! This is not natural sleep. He keeps muttering about water, but he doesn't wake up to get some."
Dagwood edged closer as Lucas muttered that phrase again, "water, water, everywhere ...". Dagwood tilted his head to the side, "... and not a drop to drink." he said slowly. Perry and Hudson looked up at him in surprise, "What did you say, Dagwood?" asked the Doctor.
Dagwood gazed at her, " ... and not a drop to drink. I think it's a poem. I think Lucas taught me it." Dagwood looked back at his friend, "But I can't remember when." he continued sadly.
Hudson looked at Dagwood thoughtfully, then turned back to Perry. "Have you tried waking him up?" he asked.
Perry grimaced. "To be honest, I'm afraid to." She looked slightly sheepish, "My grandmother always said not to wake a sleepwalker, I thought this was something similar."
Hudson sighed. "Well, you're the doctor, Doctor." He was interrupted by O'Neill over the PAL.
"Captain, we have an incoming shuttle. It's Cap ... er Nathan Bridger. He's requesting permission to come aboard."
Hudson gazed at the ceiling, "Now what," he muttered, "All right, Lieutenant, permission granted." Hudson clicked of his PAL and again addressed the Doctor. "Do what you think is best, Doctor." Hudson turned and left the medical bay.
Commander Ford ushered Nathan Bridger into the ward room. Hudson rose to greet him. "Nathan, good to see you, it's been a while."
"Oliver," returned Bridger. The two men shook hands and Hudson gestured for them to sit down.
"So, Nathan, what can we do for you?". Hudson poured three glasses of water and passed them round. Bridger came right to the point.
"One of the crew is sick." he said flatly, "Who is it?"
Ford and Hudson exchanged glances, "No one's sick, Captain." said Ford slowly.
Hudson gazed at Bridger, "Ensign Wolenczak is asleep in med-bay. Doctor Perry is beginning to be concerned at the length of time he has been there."
Bridger passed a hand across his face, tiredly. "Of all of them, it had to be Lucas, didn't it." he said quietly.
"Is Doctor Perry right to be concerned ?" asked Hudson, carefully.
Bridger looked up, "Yes, she is." He took a deep breath, "What I am about to say must not leave this room, is that clear?" Hudson and Ford nodded. Bridger continued, "When I told the crew that the Hyperion resistance had rescued us and sent us home, I left out most of the details ..."
Water lapped gently at the side of the dinghy. The twin suns of Hyperion had gone down hours before and had been replaced by the soft yellow glow of its moon. Lucas and Dagwood had lost track of time, neither of them sure how long a Hyperion day, or night would last. Only the distant blinking light of the marker bhoy they had set up to show where the Seaquest had gone down gave them an indication of how far they had travelled. It was a very small light.
Lucas swallowed dryly and gazed out at the endless ocean. "Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink." he muttered. Dagwood looked over at him, curiously. "What is that?" he asked. "It's a poem, Dagwood. That's all I remember of it."
Dagwood tilted his head to the side quizzically, gazing out at the waves, then his face cleared, "I understand," he said, "we are in the middle of an ocean, which is all water, but we can't drink it."
"You got it, Dagwood." said Lucas, smiling. But the smile didn't last long. Lightyears from Earth, the only home he'd ever known lying at the bottom of the sea, their friends ... Lucas turned away from the thought of what had happened to their friends. He had to get help from somewhere. There was no way he was going to leave his friends behind ...
"Well, Commander, do you remember your dreams ?"
Ford looked towards his new captain. "I don't remember what I've dreamt," he said slowly, "At least not about Hyperion. But there have been times since we've returned that I've woken up from nightmares and not known why they were so frightening."
Bridger nodded. "The system is working." he said. "The process was designed to allow our memories to surface during sleep. To be dealt with at a subconscious level if you like, without intruding on our conscious minds."
"And since Ensign Wolenczak was working for 36 hours straight ..."
"... He hasn't had a chance to access his subconscious in his dreams. He's been overloaded." Bridger gazed at Hudson accusingly, "Did you have to push him so hard ?"
Hudson had the grace to look embarrassed. "What can we do to help him ?" he asked.
"Nothing," said Bridger, grimly, "He'll wake up when he's ready."
"In another ten years ?" asked Hudson.
Bridger looked away.
Thirst, terrible thirst.
Lucas slid down the side of the dinghy, and closed his eyes against the harsh suns blazing away in the sky. He didn't know how long it had been. Even Dagwood had not said anything for a long time. Lucas wanted to go over to him, to check that he was all right, but he had no energy. No energy to even open his eyes.
The small craft started to rock. A bubbling noise out in the ocean. Was a storm coming ? But the suns were shining, how could it be a storm. A dark shadow passed across his eyes, maybe it was a storm. Lucas felt himself drifting away, is this what it feels like to die ? Is this what the crew felt when they died ? One way to find out ... let it go ...
He woke up sharply.
He was lying on an unfamiliar bed, grey metal walls around him.
Lucas turned to the voice, "Dagwood ?" he asked incredulously.
"That's me." Dagwood beamed happily, glad to see Lucas awake.
"What is going on ?"
"Maybe I should answer that." said a new voice.
Lucas turned to the doorway, "Tobias ! I thought you were dead !"
Tobias smiled, "Not yet, Lucas. How are you feeling ?"
"I feel great." said Lucas.
"Good, you had us worried for a while, but I'm glad to see you are better."
"You still haven't answered my question, Tobias." said Lucas severely.
"I know, I know," said Tobias placatingly. He moved forward and sat on the edge of the bed. Lucas watched him carefully. "You saw that the Seaquest was hit by a mine," Lucas nodded, "And you saw the base explode?" Again Lucas nodded. "Well, the explosion was enough to stop the Kraytax on that occasion. We were trapped when the base collapsed. We nearly made it out too, but we weren't the only survivors. The Kraytax ambushed us as we went for the shuttle. Miguel and I were the only ones who made it. The rest are prisoners of the Kraytax."
Lucas shook his head in confusion. "You mean, they're alive?"
"I hope so, Lucas. I truly hope so."
"What about the ones on Seaquest ?"
Tobias looked grim. "That's a different story. I doubt if there were any survivors on the ship." Lucas hung his head. Tobias squeezed the boy's shoulder. "Don't give up, Lucas," he said. "We brought you two back, maybe we'll find the others."
"I'm not giving up just yet." declared Lucas. He regarded Tobias with a puzzled look on his face. "There's something different about you, what is it ?"
Tobias grinned, "You know I always pictured you with dark hair."
Lucas's face cleared, "You can see ?" he asked in wonder.
"For the first time in thirty years," confirmed Tobias, "We've got some great medics here, and they're working over time in the miracle department."
"Well, I hope they don't run out of miracles." said Lucas, "We'll need all the help we can get."
The two Captains stared down at the still figure on the sick bay bed. One regarded the occupant as a son, one who hardly knew him, but both felt the over-riding and automatic instinct to protect.
"You'd better have him restrained," said Bridger, quietly.
Hudson glanced towards the old warrior. "Is that really necessary ?" he asked.
Bridger looked up from Lucas for the first time. "Yes," he said sadly, "It is very necessary."
TO BE CONTINUED ...