Michelle Pichette


Chapter 53



* * *

     It was half a day into the cruise when Nelson found himself in the Officer’s Mess, getting some coffee.  He was taking it to his cabin when he happened to notice Doctor Babin sitting in the Crew’s Mess, staring into a mug of what was most likely tea.  He went into the room and saying, “You have an awfully serious look on your face.  What, or should I be asking who, put that look there?”

     Doctor Babin looked up at him and offered him a pale reflection of her usual smile.  “I was just thinking of Seamus, of how upset he was when I left him this morning,” she replied. 

     Nelson nodded, knowing that staying on that dock rather than coming with the Seaview had been the last thing that Harper had wanted.  “You’ll be back with your young man in just a few weeks,” he reminded her none the less.

     “I know,” she sighed, “but I don’t know if he does.  He told me a lot about his past and it seemed like people left him an awful lot, usually in the most horrible ways.  Murdered, killed by human eating aliens, died in wars, sucked off into space, just plain left sometimes, usually at the worst possible moments in his life.  And he’d lost everything, really, when he was brought here.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable of him to worry that maybe we’re going to disappear on him too.”

     Nelson offered her a little grin, setting a hand on her shoulder.  “He’ll get used to the idea that some times people do actually come back.  Don’t worry.  He’ll be all right,” he told her, then felt his expression grow serious.  “I know you’ve had very good reasons to be concerned for Seamus lately, but you aren’t rushing into anything you’re going to regret later, are you?”

     “What?  Marrying him?” Doctor Babin said with a much more sincere smile and a little laugh.  “I think I’d regret it if I didn’t marry him.  I’ve never been happier than when I’m with Seamus.  No, like I told Ro, he’s the one.  You know, that person you kept asking me if I’d found yet, the one that made changed coming back to port into coming home.”

     Nelson felt a warm smile ease on to his own face.  “Good.  Then we’ll have to make arrangements for flying your family over to California and I’ll get Katy working on a reception to be remembered.”

     “The loan of the ship and Lee is enough, thank you, Admiral,” Doctor Babin said, still smiling.  “I can take care of the rest.”

     Nelson knew that Doctor Babin probably could put together something nice, even limited as she was by not being in port at the moment, but he had resources, and not just monetary ones, that she didn’t.  “I know you can take care of things, but I want to.  Seamus has come to mean a lot to me as well, Dominica, as have you.  Let me do this for the two of you.  Consider it a wedding gift,” Nelson said.

     Doctor Babin looked touched by his words.  “All right, but only if it isn’t going to be a bother,” she acquiesced.

     “No bother at all,” Nelson assured her.  “You put together a guest list and we’ll get some invitations sent out, then make travel arrangements for your family.  Katy is well used to putting together receptions.  I doubt that she’ll bat an eye at another one.  It will certainly be far more enjoyable than the fundraiser was.”

     “I guess I’m weird.  I didn’t mind the fundraiser,” Doctor Babin laughed.

     “Really?” Nelson asked, not quite believing it.  “Even with Senator Barrett’s... indiscretion?”

     “Okay, I could have lived without that, but otherwise it was fine.  The food was certainly wonderful.  I think I gained five pounds that night!” she laughed.  Nelson sincerely doubted that, but he was happy to see her smiling and laughing again rather than worrying over Seamus.  He wondered if he should tell her about his plans concerning the Institute.  No, he told himself, he would do that later, after he and Seamus had gotten a chance to talk about it a little more.  Poor Seamus certainly seemed rattled enough when Nelson had told him his plans earlier, which had been the opposite of what Nelson had intended.  He smiled, thinking about his protégée, Lee, Doctor Babin and so many others that worked for him.  His bright, young, shining stars, they were the future of the Institute and the world.  They were what he would give to the future and hope that generations to come would be better for it.  As he stood and talked with Doctor Babin, he looked forward to the coming years and the good that would be in them.

* * *

     Late on their third day out of port, Lee was standing at the chart table in the Control Room, idly scanning the course they would follow for the next few days when Patterson’s voice interrupted his thoughts.  “Skipper?” the sailor said a little unsurely.  Crane went over to the sonar station where Patterson sat and Pat said quietly, “Sir, remember that funny blip we were getting when we were headed into port?”

     Crane nodded.  “Our tail.  It’s back,” he assumed.

     “Yes sir,” Patterson said, still keeping quiet about it.  He probably didn’t want to make anything of it until one of the officers decided that it was something to be concerned about.

     “When did it start up again?” Lee asked.

     “Just brushed our sonar for the second time when I called you, sir, but I’d bet anything that it’s the same contact as before,” Patterson told him.  Lee frowned.  Anyone else might be guessing, but Patterson was one of their best sonar men.  If he was sure, then it was the same thing tailing them as when they had been limping back into port.  Lee thought about the huge squid-like creature that had attacked the Institute and frowned.  He had convinced himself at the time that it had been what the Seaview had been picking up on their sonar on their way back in to the Institute.  Was there more than one?  Lee forced down a shudder at the thought.

     “Where are you picking up the contact?” Lee asked.  Patterson indicated a spot to their stern, slightly to starboard and a little above them.  It had been the same place they had been last time.  Lee felt like sighing.  At least their mysterious tail was consistent.  That worked to his advantage.  If they got another hit on sonar, Lee would take the Flying Sub out in the opposite direction, then swing around behind it from above.

     As he turned from Patterson, about to order the Flying Sub prepped, the Seaview suddenly shook violently and alarm claxons wailed through the boat.  “What the...” Lee started, then looked out the herculite windows.  Instead of seeing ocean, he saw what looked to be inside of another vessel, one that had to be huge if it had just swallowed the Seaview.  “Damn, I hate aliens,” Lee muttered under his breath, then sounded the General Quarters alarm.  He had barely managed to do so when reports of intruders began to come in.  Lee felt like cursing.  What was going on?

     That was when the five aliens appeared in the Control Room.  “You will surrender immediately or harm will befall you,” one of them declared impassively.  Edwards didn’t wait for an order, he simply threw himself at the nearest alien, fist flying at the gray, ridged face.  The alien caught his fist before it connected and it looked blandly down at Edwards as he struggled to pull free.  Then the alien squeezed the fist in his hand.  The sound of bones crunching filled the Control Room and Edwards screamed.  “Is more harm required?” the alien asked, sounding bored as it released Edwards, who fell to the deck sobbing as he cradled his damaged hand.

     “Stand down,” Lee ordered everyone, glaring at the alien.  If he were armed, this wouldn’t be going down this way, but Lee didn’t want anyone else hurt.  He hoped that Chip or the Admiral or Sharkey would be arming the rest of the crew at the moment.  He stood there, looking at the ugly, black-eyed brutes before him, really, really hating aliens.

* * *



Chapter 54
Belonging, Chapter One
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