seaQuest: The Dawning
They say that time heals all wounds. I call bullshit on that. The pain just grows with time. Itís been over a month since Jasperís plane fell from the sky, but when I close my eyes, it feels like it just happened. I donít think Iíve slept 8 hours this entire month. But I donít remember much of this month either.
The Daytona was reclaimed by the UEO. The hostages were released unharmed and the hijackers were sent to jail. They applied for asylum, it was denied, and they have appealed. Iím going to be called to testify against them next month. Personally, I hope they all burn in hell. I wish capital punishment still existed and that I could be the one that flips the switch. But thatís not going to happen.
The UEO searched the waters for 3 weeks following the crash, and though they found wreckage, they never retrieved Jasperís life capsule. We "buried" him anyway, shortly after. I can still hear the eulogy ringing in my ears. "We are gathered here today to pay tribute to the memory of Jasper Alan Riley. He was a beloved son, loving fiancé, a compassionate friend, and a courageous soldier who did his job to the end."
I put down my pen and slammed my journal shut. My grief kept encouraging me to write, to "put my feelings and emotions down on paper." I didnít know what good it would do. Words were meaningless. Throughout the past month, I had heard every apology, every sentiment, every offer of condolences expressed in dozens of different ways. Nothing made a damn bit of difference.
"Hey, Jo." A voice said softly. I turned to see my brother standing beside me on my porch.
"Hey, Jimmy." I said. Without another word, he handed me a cup of coffee.
"Feel like some company?" he asked. I nodded, and he carefully sat down on the swing beside me.
Jim had been granted a one month leave of absence from his duties aboard seaQuest. He never left my side, even during the first week when I couldnít lift my head from the sofa pillow for anything. He spoon fed me soup when I couldnít bear to take a bite, wiped my tears with endless numbers of tissues, and held my hand in his while I slept, so that when I woke up, I wouldnít be alone. I didnít know what I would do without him. All our years of chaos and turmoil melted away in an instant, and I would love him forever for that.
"You know I have to go back to seaQuest next week." he said, carefully. I nodded.
"I donít want to go, Joey. I donít want to leave you."
"But you have to." I finished. "I know, Jim. You canít stay here and take care of me forever."
"Have youÖhave you thought about what youíre going to do?"
I shook my head.
"No. My rotation is going to be up in three weeks. Captain Arrington said that I could apply for reassignment, or I would be eligible for an honorable discharge." I stared into my cup. "Actually, I donít like either option."
"What would you do instead?"
"Stay here. Lock the doors. Draw the shades. Curl up on the sofa and not move for all eternity."
"You mean a repeat performance of the past month?" There was a slight humor in his voice, but more sadness.
"Something like that." I said. He sighed.
"You know, Jo. Manda and Alex are going to be reassigned to Miramar West. You could apply there, and go with them."
"And what, Jim? Watch them get married? Have children? Have the life Iíd always dreamed of having, and came so close to possessing for my own? No! I told you, Iím never flying again. And Iím not going to transfer anywhere just to be someoneís tag-along, third-wheel. Forget that!"
"Then what, Jo? Stay here forever?" He sighed. "I donít mean to be cruel, but you canít keep sitting here and wasting away like this. I know how badly youíre hurting, and Iíve been more than happy to stay here, taking care of you. And I would stay here as long as you needed me to. But I know itís not going to do you any good. You need to get up, Jo. You havenít been out of this house in weeks. Mandaís even stopped coming by now."
"She stopped coming by because sheís locked in her house with Alex." I muttered bitterly. I didnít mean to be jealous of them, or begrudge them their relationship. I knew that they were hurting as badly as I was, but at least they had each other. "I just wish you didnít have to leave againÖ"
"JoeyÖ" Jim warned me. He didnít finish his sentence. He didnít have to. I knew how difficult I was being.
"Iím sorry, Jim." I sighed. "I justÖI donít know what to do with myself. I had everything all figured out. For the first time in my entire life, I could look at myself and know exactly who I was, and where I would be in 6 months. I had that stability. I know I need to get out of here. I canít stand to be in this house anymore. I wishÖ"
"You wish what?"
"I wish I could just pack up and leave. Get out of here. Get in my car and drive somewhere. Anywhere. As long as itís not here."
"So why donít you? Take the discharge and leave."
"I canít." I took a sip, and the coffee burned my tongue. "Everywhere Iíd go, Iíd be reminded of him. I spent enough of my life running from my problems to know that it doesnít do anything but prolong the agony."
"Itís true." Jim pushed lightly with his feet sending us into a gentle swing. "So what if you re-enlisted? Took another tour?" I shook my head.
"I canít fly again, Jim. You know that. Itís not going to happen."
"There are other things to do in the Navy besides fly planes, you know."
"And what would I do? Join you on seaQuest?" I laughed. Then I looked at him. He was serious.
"Jim, you canít be serious. What would I do?"
"Join the security team. With your qualifications and experience, youíd be a shoo-in."
"Iím sure Captain Bridger would be absolutely thrilled with the idea of me joining your team."
"ActuallyÖ" he let his voice trail off as he looked down. "Heís kind of the one who suggested it." He finished. I just stared. I couldnít find any words to say.
"Are you serious?" I finally stammered. Jim nodded. "I could serve a tour aboard seaQuest. I could stay with you." I continued, making sure I had heard him right.
"I already had the paperwork drawn up." He said. "All you have to do is say yes."
I pondered the thought. I had nowhere to go. I couldnít stay here in this empty house, listening to every creak in the night, and hoping that Jasper would come home. I couldnít move to Miramar West, I couldnít stay stationed here. I had nothing, and no one.
Except a brother who loved me enough to risk his career to bring me aboard his ship. I could do this, if I had Jim by my side.
For the first time in over a month, I smiled.
"Yes." I said.