* * *
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
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
“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
“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
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.
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