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seaQuest: The Dawning
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          When I arrived at the port, Jim was standing outside the pressure seal to meet me. I shifted my bag on my shoulder, and he reached forward to take it from me.
"Here, I got it." He said. He led me through the pressure dock and aboard the seaQuest without another word. I looked at him as he walked in front of me, his broad back straight with tension.
"Jim?" I said softly. He continued walking. I quickened my pace until we were walking abreast.
"Jim?" I asked again. This time he turned to face me, raising one eyebrow.
"Iím sorry." I said.
"For what?" He asked.
"Pushing you." He grinned.
"Hey, I knocked you to the ground. I think weíre even." he started to move again and I stopped him.
"And for losing it in front of your captain. I know it embarrassed you and looked really bad for both of us."
Jim looked at me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
"Jo, you didnít embarrass me, and Bridgerís a good guy. He, uh, he lost someone he really loved to. We all know what youíre going through. But I wouldnít push it too much further. Youíre still a UEO officer, even if you really wish you werenít right now." He continued walking and I followed him through the corridors until we came upon a steel door. He turned the handle and led me inside.

"These are your quarters. Theyíre not much, but I doubt youíll be spending much time in here." I looked around. For not being much,  this room was nicer than any base quarters Iíd ever slept in. I had a bed, dressed in white sheets with a blue comforter, a black desk, a gray sofa, and a huge bouquet of orchids beneath the aqua tube that ran through one wall. I walked over and pressed my hand up against the glass.
"Swim tubes." Jim said. I nodded as he continued. "Darwin will swim past here on his way to C Deck. You just have to watch out for Tony."
"The one with the gills."
"Ah." I said. Jim had told me so much about his crew that I was excited to finally be putting the names with faces. I crossed the room to the bed and sat down. As  I did, Jim dropped my bag and pulled the chair out from the desk. He sat in front of me.
"Do you want to see the ship?" He asked. "I have about an hour before I have to go on duty." Silently, I shook my head.
"Maybe later then." He said. I looked down. I felt all the weight of the day sinking into my stomach.
"Can I get you anything? Some food?" I didnít respond, and Jim sighed.
"Can I do anything? I feel so helpless." I looked up.
"Can you just sit with me? Just for awhile?" He reached forward and took my hand.
"Iíll be here as long as you want. Or until I have to go to the bridge."

     I must have cried myself  to sleep, because the next thing I knew someone was knocking on my door. Sitting up, I noticed that Jim was gone. He must have gone on duty. The knocking came again.
"Just a minute." I called, rolling off the bed. When I opened the door, a short woman with dark hair greeted me.
"Iím Wendy Smith." She said. "May I come in?" I motioned her inside.
"Sure." After  shut the door, she crossed to the sofa and sat down, motioning me to sit beside her. I did.
"Iím the Chief Medical Officer aboard the seaQuest." I nodded, instantly realizing why she was here.
"Look," I said, "I appreciate you coming down here, but I really just want to be alone right now."
"Ok." She said, nodding her head. "I understand. I just wanted you to know who I was and that my door is always open. No matter what hour." I looked away and she reached out to touch my knee. "Sometimes, itís good to be alone. And sometimes itís good to be around other people. Ok?" She stood up and let herself out.
          I drew my legs up to my chest and leaned back against the sofa back. Be around people. Now, how the hell could I do that when the one person I want to be with isnít breathing? And apparently I killed him.
I rested my head on my knees as my body was once more racked with sobs. This is a nightmare, I told myself. I have to wake up. This canít be real.
          Desperately, I opened my eyes wide, and squeezed them shut, trying to force myself from this dream. It didnít work. This was real.
"Oh, my God, Jasper." I closed my eyes again. I could see his face. His messy dark hair falling in front of his eyes. The way his green eyes would sparkle when he smiled, and turned gray when he was angry.
I could feel his fingertips on my flesh. He was here, even if he was only in my mind.
"Jas." I whispered into the room. The image of him in my mind leaned forward to brush my cheek.
"Jas, Iím so sorry. Iím so sorry. I donít know what happened up there. Iím sorry, Iím sorry, Iím sorry." I repeated over and over, my voice cracking and water soaking my face and uniform. In my mind, I felt his arms wrap around my waist as he pulled me close. I felt his lips brush against my forehead.
"I love you." I heard echoing over and over as I drifted into a dreamless sleep.

     Someone was knocking at the door again. Muttering a curse, I pulled myself off of the sofa and threw open the door. Miguel Ortiz was standing there with a tray in his hands.
"Hi, Joey." He said softly, and looked down.  "Jim, uh, Jim wanted me to bring this by in case, you know, you wanted to eat or something." I nodded and opened the door to let him in. Miguel walked over and put the tray down on my desk before turning to face me.
"Is there, uh, anything I can get you? Anything you need?" I just shook my head, unwilling to trust my voice. He nodded and came back to face me.
"Jo, IímÖIím so sorry." He wrapped his arms around me, and I laced my hands behind his back. For a moment, he just held me. He didnít say anything. Somehow, he knew that nothing that he could say would be heard. He sighed.
"Jim will be off duty in a couple of hours. The captain gave him a shorter shift today. Do you want me to stick around for a little while?" I shook my head.
"No. Thanks, Miguel. I justÖI just need to be alone."
He nodded.  He stepped out of the door, but turned back to face me.
"I know you know this, but if you need anything, ANYTHING, you know where to find me. Even if itís just someone to hold your hand and pass you tissues. Iím here."
"Thank you" I whispered and shut the door. I barely glanced at the tray of food on my way to the bed. I wasnít hungry. I couldnít imagine being able to keep anything down, anyway. I collapsed on the bed and buried my face in the pillow.

     I heard a tap on the door, and rolled over, pulling the pillow over my head. Whoever it was, they could go away. I didnít want to see any more crew members, any more doctors, no one. The tap came again, followed by the latch releasing.
"Joey?" Jim asked. I heard him shut the door. I couldnít find the energy to raise my head.
"Jo, you awake?" I felt his hand on my shoulder, shaking me slightly.
"What?" I groaned, refusing to move. The weight shifted on the bed as he sat down.
"Iím sorry to do this to you, junior, but you have to get up." I rolled over.
"Did you just call me junior?" He smiled.
"Yes, I did. Now, come on." He stood up. "We need to get to the wardroom."
"Whyís that?"
"Because the captain ordered me to bring you to the wardroom immediately." I closed my eyes.
"I donít want to." He sighed.
"I know Jo, but you have to." Groaning, I sat up. Jim grabbed  my arm and helped me to my feet. He glanced over at the desk.
"I see Miguel brought you food." I reached for my bag and pulled out a thermal shirt. I slipped it on and zipped my uniform over it. SeaQuest was colder than I was used to.
"You didnít eat anything." Jim continued. I shook my head.
"I wasnít hungry."
"You need to eat." I glared at him.
"Jim, Iíll eat when I feel like it. Ok?" He raised his hands in defense and nodded.
"Ok. Sorry." I sighed.
"No. Iím sorry." I stepped up to the door. "Come on, letís just get this over with." Jim followed me as I stepped into the hall.

     The wardroom was filled with people when we entered. Bridger and Ford stood at the head of a long table, deep in conversation. Bridger looked up as we entered.
"There you are." He motioned for me to come and sit down in the empty seat to his right. Jim sat down beside me. Bridger looked down at me and smiled.
"Iím having a little trouble." He said. "Iím not sure what to call you, seeing as we have two Lieutenant Brodyís on board currently. Iíve heard Jim call you Joey. Would it be ok with you if I did as well?"
I nodded my head, as he continued.
"Thank you. Joey, Iíd like you to meet my senior staff. You know Commander Ford. To his left is Lieutenant OíNeil," I smiled weakly as Tim nodded. The captain didnít know that we had already met while Jim was on leave. , "next we have Lieutenant Henderson, Chief Ortiz, Lucas Wolenczak, our chief computer analyst," a teenager with messy blonde hair and striking blue eyes. I took a quick intake of breath and felt Jim grip my hand as Bridger finished. "and of course, your brother." Without a word, Jim looked at me. I knew he saw the resemblance between Lucas and Jasper. I wasnít imagining it. Blinking hard against that thought, I looked at the other crew members.
"Hi." Bridger nodded at Lucas who leaned forward.
"We had the information from the flight recorders transferred to the seaQuest. Iíve correlated every piece of information with the on-board computers. Iíve managed to determine that nothing has been tampered with since the planes touched down."
"Meaning what?" I asked. Lucas sighed.
"Meaning that the information that you were given about the missiles you fired was correct."
          I bit my lip and shook my head. I closed my eyes, refusing to cry in front of this child and this crew. Jim squeezed my hand and I pulled away, clasping my hands to my lap. I took a deep breath and looked him dead in his eyes. He was the first to flinch and leaned forward to press a button on the table.
The large vid screen at the head of the room came to life. A plane schematic stared back at me. Tim cleared his throat, and looked at me, sypathetically.
"Weíve researched the database using the information we gained from your computers and have determined that the planes that attacked you were newer technology than we have ever seen. That is why you didnít recognize them in the sky."
"So what were they?" Jim asked. Tim stood up and walked to the screen.
"The Falcon 720. So named for its agility in the sky. The plane can literally change directions entirely twice and continue on its way with no disruption to the engine flow."
"But how can that be?" Ford asked. I shook my head. I had heard about this plane, but didnít give a damn about the scientific aspects.
"And who owns it?" I demanded. Tim shut off the screen with a flick of his wrist and looked at me.
"It belongs," he said, "to the UEO." I practically leapt out of my chair.
"What?!"  Bridger placed a hand on my shoulder to steady me.
"The UEO owns these planes? I was flying against my own kind?" I continued. Tim sat down and looked at Ford.
"Yes." Ford said. "The UEO owns the 7 Falcons who flew against you yesterday. But they werenít UEO pilots " I collapsed back into my chair.
"What are you saying, Commander?" Ford sighed.
"The planes had been stolen."
"All 7 Falcons, the first of their kind, were aboard the carrier Daytona." Bridger began. I could tell he was hating every word that came out of his mouth. "She was last heard from three days ago in the mid-Atlantic, about 400 miles off the coast of the Carolinas. Since that last communication, it was determined she was taken over by a crew of exiled refugees from the Mariposa Colony. The UEO received a communication acknowledging responsibility for the attack shortly after your squadron returned to base."
"What?" I gasped.
"The refugees apparently were aboard a submarine headed for New Cape Quest, where they hoped to receive sanctuary from the UEO. Evidently, panic set in, because the raided the Daytona, hoping to gain leverage."
"Or hostages." Henderson added. Bridger glanced at her.
"Or hostages." He continued. "Apparently they took every ranking officer on board hostage, and offloaded the enlisted men onto their submarine, after first disabling the radio. When they discovered the Falcons on board, the pilots among them decided to take them for a joyride."
Ford spoke up.
"When they saw your squadron in the air, they assumed that you were coming to attack them and the Daytona. So they fired first."
My head was spinning. A hijacked carrier, stolen jets, hostagesÖno wonder the UEO had been looking for a scapegoat.
"And the submarine?" Jim asked.
"A hauler recognized its signature and hauled it into New Cape Quest about two hours ago."
"And the Daytona?" I asked.
"The refugees are offering to exchange the men, the planes, and the ship in return for asylum."
"Theyíre not getting it, are they?" Ford shook his head.
"No." He hit a button on the vid screen, and an aerial photograph of the Daytona appeared. "The UEO is planning to take the Daytona back by force. Weíre counting on the fact that when the refugees see UEO planes headed toward them, they will use the Falcons to defend themselves. While those planes are in the air, the UEO is going to land 6 other planes on board, blocking off any landing opportunity the Falcons might have. UEO soldiers are going to storm the carrier."
"And the hostages?" asked Lucas. "What about them?" Ford shook his head.
"We pray that our men get to them in time." I stood up.
"I want to fly." Everyone in the room turned to look at me. Bridger shook his head.

"No. Youíre not going up there."
"Sir, Iíve already fought against these Falcons once, I know the capabilities. Iíve got more experience than anyone else youíre going to put up there." Jim stood up beside me.
"Joey," he said gently. "you canít fly. Thereís no way. Iím sorry." Desperately, I looked at the captain.
"Sir, please." I begged. Bridger crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head. I knew that there was no budging him. Sighing, I collapsed back into my chair.
"I am, however," he said, "willing to offer you a place on the bridge, so that you may see the events firsthand." Gritting my teeth, I nodded. It was the best I was going to get.

Bridger turned to face the rest of the crew.
"Our mission begins in one hour. I expect you to all be on the bridge at that time, regardless of when your shift begins." Everyone in the room stood up and began to file into the hall. I stood up, and waited for everyone else to leave. Jim stood behind me and waited until the door was shut.
"Sir," I began. "I realize that you are not in my chain of command, but you are a ranking naval captain and I am currently stationed aboard your boat." Bridger raised one eyebrow.
"Iím not backing down on my decision to keep you grounded, Lieutenant." He said. I nodded.
"I know." I reached down to my uniform and fingered the set of gold wings. Carefully, I reached inside and pulled the clasp apart. I took a breath. I knew I couldnít fly. Even if the captain had let me go, there was no way I was ever going to be able to climb into another cockpit. It was over. I was finished. Reaching towards the captain, I held out my wings. He eyed them carefully.
"I donít have to accept those." He said. I nodded.
"I know, sir. But I wonít be flying again." I felt Jimís hand on my back.

"Joey, think about this." He said softly. I turned to him.
"I have. Jim, I canít do this anymore. Do you think I could ever take off again without seeing his face?" I shook my head. "Itís been confirmed. Lucas is right. It was me. Regardless of the situation, or how it happened, I canít fly with that ghost beside me." I felt a tear pour onto my cheek as I turned to the captain.
"Please take these, sir. Iím done." Swallowing deep, Bridger reached forward and pulled the gold from my hand.
"Iíll take them," he said, "but I wonít turn them in. Broken wings heal, in time. And I believe that you will fly again. Maybe not for the UEO, but I believe you will take to the sky once more. When you do, come find me, and Iíll return them to you." He placed his hand on my shoulder. "Alright?" I nodded.
"Yes, sir."
Jim wrapped his arm around my waist.
"Come on. You are going to get something to eat before we head to the bridge, even if I have to hold you down and force feed you." I smiled at the mental image, daring him to try as we walked out the door.