seaQuest: The Dawning
A short time later, they were strolling arm in arm along the promenade. The streets had been built with an old fashioned feel to them. Cobblestones paved the roads, which werenít intended to be driven upon. Tall white buildings held huge glass display windows, offering sights and sounds for the passerby.
"Wow, a bookstore." Joey commented. "You donít see many of those, not since most books were transferred to story disks."
"You want to go inside?"
"Sure, weíve got time."
Jim opened the door and motioned Joey inside. He smiled as her eyes widened and she got a silly smile on her face. She walked around the room, tracing the edges of the books with her fingertips. It had been so long since she had stepped into a bookstore, and therefore no one knew her secret passion. Gasping, she spotted a thick, leather bound book, (a rarity, since leather was outlawed in 2011), and carefully opened the cover.
"Do you know the book?" Jim asked, stepping close. Joey nodded.
"I used to have this when I lived in London. Christine used to read to me before bed, and this was one of our favorite books. I was so little then, and I couldnít pronounce most of the words, but she would teach me as we went along."
"Whatís it called?"
"Itís called The Never-ending Story. Itís a fantasy. Itís about this boy, Bastian, who steals a book from the bookstore, only when he reads it, heís transported into the story, but he doesnít know it. So, heís watching all of these adventures of Atreyu, whoís trying to find a cure for the Childlike Empress and..." her voice trailed off as she saw the amused expression on Jimís face. "I guess you had to read it." She finished quietly. Jim shook his head.
"No, that wasnít why I was smiling." he picked up the book. "I know the story. Very well, in fact. Grandpa gave me a copy of this book when I was little, and I would read it over and over."
"Are you serious?"
"Completely. How funny is that? Half a world away and we loved the same book?"
"I canít believe you read that! Thatís so crazy." Joey grinned. "Who would have thought?"
Jim was about to respond when an alarm beeped in his coat pocket. Both of them jumped.
"Ford to Brody."
Jim pulled his PAL from his pocket.
"Brody here. Uh, Lieutenant Commander Brody, and Lieutenant Brody."
"How about I guess which one Iím talking to?" Ford seemed mildly amused. Jim rolled his eyes.
"Yes, sir. Whatís going on?"
"Thereís been an emergency and seaQuest has been called away. Weíre going to send a launch for you two in the morning at 900. I expect you to be at the docks at that time."
"Aye, sir." Jim cast a worried look at Joey. " Emergency, sir?"
"A tritium leak at a nearby mining facility has caused massive damage to the nearby eco-system. They have requested that seaQuest help participate in the cleanup." Joey gasped as Ford continued. "The damage to the wildlife...well, itís going to be substantial."
"Sir, do you want us to take a launch and meet with you?"
"No, thereís really no need for you to be on board. The captain said you two can return to the ship in the morning."
"Aye, sir. Brody out."
Jim looked at Joey.
"Well, I guess weíve got some unexpected shore leave."
Joey looked down.
"I am not staying in this dress all night long."
"Somehow, I guessed that youíd have a problem with that. Come on, I saw a store a few blocks back. We can pick up some clothes, and then find a hotel."
Joey sat down on the couch, dressed comfortably in baggy jeans and a sleeveless tank top. She drew her legs under her and curled up with a cup of coffee. Jim came out of the bedroom, toweling his face. Joey motioned toward the coffee pot.
"I brewed a pot, if you want some."
"Thanks." Jim pulled a cup off of the counter. They had rented a small hotel suite for the evening; two bedrooms, one bath, joined by a common living room. Jim prepared his coffee and sat down on the couch next to Joey.
"So, what do you think?" Jim asked.
"I think that a tritium leak in this area is going to cause massive devastation, especially this close to a coral reef."
"Is work all you think about?" When she nodded, he continued. "I agree with you. But, hopefully seaQuest will get there soon. Our science department is next to none. Weíve got special teams designed to handle just such an emergency, which is why they called us in."
"I know." She sighed, taking a small sip from her steaming cup. Jim looked down.
"Hey, um, Jo? Can I ask you something?"
"Why were you upset at the restaurant?"
Joey pressed her lips together and looked away. Jim put down his cup and leaned forward. It was important that he know what had happened, because he had felt something, too.
"Joey, itís ok to talk to me."
Joey looked into his eyes, trying to read his expression.
"Itís just..." she sighed. "Jim, I wish I was like Dr. Smith, so I could just transfer everything from my head to yours in an instant."
"Well, we donít have that option."
"I know." She looked down. "You have no idea," she started, slowly. "what you meant to me. What it means to me to have you here now. All my life, Iíve been the castaway. I couldnít relate to the other kids in school, because they all had families. And when people found out that my father came from a test tube, and my mother was in a cryogenic chamber, and that my other mother was killed...well, the comments didnít stop."
She looked up, not sure how much information she wanted to share. Jim moved closer to her, seeing her indecision. Finally, she sighed, and began again.
"Jim, bad things happen to kids...girls...trapped between foster homes and the streets. When I moved back to America, I learned to hate everyone around me, and I learned how dangerous it was to let anyone close to me. And, when things would happen, and I would be alone... and hurting...I still had you. Because you were just like me, and I could open up to you and you werenít close enough to hurt me too. I canít tell you how many nights your letters saved my life."
Jim opened his mouth to speak, but suddenly couldnít find the words. He knew exactly what she was alluding to, and what she was still afraid to say.
"Joey...I..." She shook her head.
"When we were dancing at the restaurant, I realized that you were real. You werenít just a piece of paper, or some guy I barely knew on my computer screen, or in my house. You were flesh and blood. And for a moment, that terrified me, because suddenly, you were in that place where you could hurt me. That you had been there for a long time now, since Jasperís plane went down. And I wasnít sure exactly how you had gotten there without me noticing."
"Joey, I would never hurt you." he touched her hand. "Please, if you know nothing else, know that."
"I do know that." she smiled weakly. "And thatís what took me by surprise."
"You took me by surprise tonight, too."
"Oh really? Howís that?"
"Because for almost 20 years, youíve been the little girl thatís been writing me stories and sending me photos. When I was in military school, and I had been told that my mother was dead, back before I knew that she was in cryogenic stasis...I have never felt so alone. I was in this huge school, surrounded by other boys, and teachers who really couldnít care less about our personal lives. My only family had given me up, too. And you were the only one left, the only friend who knew what it was like. Even if we never talked about our mothers, or our family, it was enough for me to know that you were there. And when I was taking care of you, thatís all I could think about. Somehow, you became this beautiful, real woman, when I was used to having a tiny little girl in pigtails take care of me."
"You think Iím beautiful?"
"I never took care of you. It was the other way around."
"Not for me." Jim smiled, leaning back against the couch. He sighed, loudly, and Joey smiled.
"Never figured weíd be having this conversation tonight."
"I know, tell me about it. IĎm glad we did though."
"Thereís just one more thing I have to do."
"Oh, yeah? Whatís that?" Jim raised an eyebrow. Grinning, Joey threw her arms around him, and felt his strong arms close around her back. She kissed him softly on the cheek before pulling away and returning to her previous position on the couch.
"What was that for?" Jim asked, smiling.
"Because I wanted to. Havenít you learned yet? I never explain myself."
"Spoken like a true Brody." Jim chuckled.
"Damn straight." she grinned, taking a long drink of her coffee, long since cooled. "So..."
"So..." Jim replied, as Joey yawned. "You sleepy?"
"A little, yeah. I was working with Tim this morning."
"You want to just kick back and watch a movie or something?"
Jim picked up the remote and began flipping through the channels.
"Howís this?" The classic movie channel was showing an action movie that looked promising.
"Perfect. Hang on a minute." Joey ran to the other room and grabbed a pillow off of her bed. She curled up with it under her head, so that she was facing Jim. Jim smiled, as he watched her eyes close almost immediately. He turned down the volume on the movie and watched as her breathing became slow and steady. He smiled to himself before reaching to pull a cotton throw off the back of the couch. Carefully, he tossed it over her sleeping form before setting the clock and settling back to watch the end of the movie.
"No!" Joey screamed, sitting straight up and looking around her. A light came on.
"Joey? Whatís wrong?" Jim knelt on the floor beside her. "The dream again?"
"No." she sighed, and leaned back against her pillow, trying to calm her racing heart. "Another one. Just a nightmare."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Iím sorry I woke you up."
"No, donít worry about it. Are you sure youíre ok?"
"Iíll be fine."
Jim flicked off the light and curled up beside her, wrapping his arms over her shoulders. He stayed awake until he was sure that she was asleep once again, before allowing himself to close his own eyes and return to his dreams.