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seaQuest: The Dawning
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"Whoa, whoa, let me get this straight." Tony was incredulous. "Youíre saying that youíre Bobby Bridger?" He looked from Jim to Nathania. "Are you nuts? Have you all lost your minds?"
Lucas stepped forward.
"Look, I know it doesnít make much sense, Tony." He ran a hand through his hair. "I mean, I donít even understand how something like this is possible, or IF itís even possible. But all I know isÖ" he looked at Jim. "Thatís Bobby."
Miguel surveyed the faces around him, but kept his mouth shut. He wasnít certain what to say. His family was Latin, one of the most magical heritages to have. He remembered his abuela telling him stories and superstitions from their history, but he hadnít really placed much faith in them. He knew other families did, though. His best friend growing up was Alejandra Dias, and her family had Mexican roots. Every year, they celebrated Dia de los Muertos, the one night a year when the threshold between life and death was so thin that the spirits could return to earth. The Dias family celebrated with a large family dinner, with an extra plate set out for each of their deceased relatives. Then, later that night, they would meet in the familyís graveyard and hold a candlelight vigil, placing flower, fruits and candy on each gravestone. Even if he didnít believe the spirituality behind it, he always thought of it as a nice gesture of respect and remembrance. But Alejandra held tight to her beliefs, swearing that she knew her brother returned every year. Maybe, Miguel thought, just maybe she was right.
     Nathania walked over to Tony and took his arm, gently stroking the underside of his wrist with her fingertips.
"Itís true, Tony." She whispered. Jim nodded.
"Your friend is fine, Tony. Heís still here, listening to every word that we say, and when I leave, he will return to you."
"When you leave?" Natalie was shaken. "Youíre leaving again?"
Bobby walked over and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Natalie, I have never left you." He said. "Iíve always been right beside you, beside dad. I could never leave you all." He stepped back and turned to Anya. "Youíve always known that I was here Anya. Who else knows how often you lose your damn car keys? You know, if youíd remember to hang them on the hook when you come through the door, you would always know where they are." He smiled.
Anya looked at the ground, wiping away a tear before looking back up at him.
"But why my house? Why not your home on the island?"
At this, Bobby chuckled.
"No offense, but Iíve lived with my mom for long enough, donít you think?"
Lucasí jaw dropped and Natalie reached over to wrap her arm around his waist.
"WaitÖCarolÖ"
"Aunt Carol lives on the island?" Natalie finished for him. Bobby nodded.
"Sheís always been there, protecting you and dad. How else do you think our house escaped a hurricane with barely a scratch? Mom always loved that house."
Miguel finally spoke up.
"Bobby, forgive me, but if youíve always been here, why choose now to appear?"
Bobby sighed.
"Because it was the only way I could set things right." He walked over and took Anyaís hand, pulling her from Tonyís grip, and led her across the room to take Natalieís hand. He stood in the center of the room, surrounded by the two girls he had missed so much. Lucas walked over and stood beside Tony, wondering what was about to happen. Bobby gripped their hands.
"Iíve watched for years as our family fell apart, and how you two tried to hold everything together. I saw how much pain I put you all through after I disappeared, and I saw when you finally started to heal and live your lives again. But dad, he still blames himself. He thinks that somehow he could have protected me; if he had dissuaded me from joining the UEO, if he had changed my commissionÖhe thinks he could have changed everything. Heís determined to protect you. He loves you, and I know you love him as you loved your father. And so, I need you to do something for me."
"What, Bobby? Weíll do anything, you know that." Natalie said. Booby smiled and gripped her hand.
"I know you would. In Anyaís attic, there is a box that Aunt Sara brought over, itís some of my things from the ship. She didnít want dad and mom to have to go through it, she knew that was one pain they didnít need, so she brought it over here."
"I have it." Anya said softly. " I never wanted to open it, but Nathan knows itís here."
"I need you to open it, Nat-a-brat. In the bottom, there is a letter that I never got to mail. Please, itís very important to me. I need you to deliver it to my father for me, he needs to see what is inside. Will you do that?"
Both girls nodded gently.
"Yes." They whispered simultaneously. Bobby smiled and kissed each of their foreheads.
"Iíve missed you both so much, and I am so proud of the women that youíve become. Anya, I always knew that you and your music would change the world, and Natalie, my smart Squirt, you never cease to amaze me. Iím always with you both, remember that."
Anya panicked.
"Youíre not leaving us now, are you?"
"Bobby, no!" Natalie threw her arms around him in a desperate attempt to keep him. Bobby wrapped Jimís strong arms around them both.
"I love you." He whispered.
And then he was gone.

 The shuttle ride back to seaQuest was silent. Jim sat in the pilotís seat, completely lost in thought. He remembered everything that had happened. He felt like he had been watching a movie of his own life, seeing himself speaking to people and doing things that he had never done before. He could feel every one of Bobbyís emotions somehow tangling with his own. When Bobby had that horrible sandwich, Jim had tasted it, knowing that it was peanutsÖand yet he couldnít understand why he hadnít gotten sick. He shook his head. Maybe it was better not to question the supernatural. Some things just couldnít be explained. He didnít feel any different, and throughout everything, he wasnít scared. Bobby had calmed him, making him understand that he was in no danger, and that there was an important mission to be carried out. When Bobby had left him, there was a hollowness inside of him, despite his gratitude at being free once again.
     Miguel came up and sat beside him in the co-pilotís chair.
"Howíre you feeling?" He asked softly.
"Alright. A little cold, but other than that Iím feeling fine. You know, for just being possessed and all."
Miguel grinned and handed Jim a jacket from the closet. Jim slipped it on gratefully.
"Good to know." Miguel smiled. "So, do you have any idea what weíre going to tell the Captain?"
Jim shook his head.
"No. Not a clue. Iím guessing that heíll see that we brought Tony back, and not question anything else. But, honestly, I donít think that we are the ones who have to worry about it. Whatever is in that letter, itís going to be up to Natalie and Anya to tell the Captain. Speaking of, howíre things going back there?" He nodded to the back of the shuttle. Miguel shook his head.
"Theyíre quiet. The girls keep passing that letter back and forth between them, but they wonít let Tony or Lucas see what it says. Every now and then, one of them will say something, but you know how sisters are. They donít have to talk to have a conversation." Miguel grinned. "Itís pissing the hell out of the guys."
Jim chuckled.
"Well, considering what I went through, Iím sort of curious  about what it says myself." He sighed. "But, whateverís in there is personal family business, I guess."
"Speaking ofÖwhat exactly do you intend on telling Joey?" Miguel tried to sound casual.
"Nothing." Jim said with finality. "Sheís got enough to deal with without having to deal with this."
"Agreed." Miguel looked down at his console. They were approaching seaQuest. Miguel slipped on a headset and flipped a switch.
"seaQuest DSV, this is shuttle MR2 requesting permission to board."
Tim OíNeilís voice came through the headset.
"Shuttle MR2, you are cleared for docking bay 2. Welcome back, guys. The Captain says that heíll meet you in the shuttle bay."
"Thanks, Tim."
"seaQuest out."

Nathan Bridger pounded up the steps of the shuttle bay and waited impatiently for the docking doors to open. He was fuming, ready to rage at Tony for leaving the ship and going AWOL to see Anya. His niece! Who did he think he was? Especially after Nathan had specifically forbid it! He was going to see the brig for this, and he was NEVER going to be allowed near Nathania again. Nathan shook his head in frustration, not even wanting to deal with Lucas and Natalie yet.

The doors swung open slowly, and Nathan was further enraged to see Tony and Anya step through holding hands. He opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when Anya raised her hands.
"Uncle, I know youíre angry at TonyÖ"
"Youíre damn right Iím angry!" He turned to Tony. "You lied to me, to the commander, and you went AWOL. Do you realize the punishment for a crime of this nature?"
For his part, Tony looked duly apologetic, but he had been warned by both girls to keep his mouth shut. Nathan was surprised to see Natalie step through the doors.
"Uncle Nathan, it wasnít Tonyís fault. He was on his way to see Sergeant Page when Nathania and I called him." She said softly, stepping up beside her sister, who nodded.
"Is this true?" Nathan asked, looking to Tony. Tony nodded.
"Yes, sir. The girls needed help with something."
"Help? Help with what?" Nathan wasnít sure he believed what he was hearing. Natalie held up the letter.
"Help with this." She handed the letter to Nathan, who caught his breath when he saw the return address.
"OhÖ" He breathed, looking for a moment like he might collapse. Anya stepped forward to steady him.
"We found this in my attic when Natalie and I were cleaning. It was in Bobbyís footlockerÖI guess the UEO decided they would deliver it in person, rather than mail it." Anya sighed. "We read itÖand I think that itís something that you should know about."
"We asked Tony to come over, knowing that he was on shore leave for the day. We didnít know what to do, but we thought that we could come with him when he went back to the ship. We never imagined that you would think he went AWOL."
Lucas, Jim, and Miguel stepped through the doorway, silently watching the conversation. Natalie turned and walked up to Lucas, taking his hand. Nathan was in too much shock to speak. Slowly, he turned, not willing to open his mouth for fear of what he might say. He walked out of the docking bay without a word, leaving everyone around him staring at each other.
"Should I go after him?" Natalie asked softly. Anya shook her head.
"No, let him go. He needs to read that alone."


Dear Daddy,
     I havenít called you that in a long time, have I? But here I am, my first Christmas at sea, and I guess you could say that Iím more than a little homesick.
     Iíve been thinking a lot about what you told me when I was younger. I remember the day that Nathania was born. Aunt Maddy brought her over, and you and mom had a huge party at the house to celebrate. Everyone was around her, wanting to hold her, bringing her gifts. No one even noticed that I was there, it seemed, so I got upset and I left. It didnít take you long to find me, hiding in the rafters of the boat launch. You sat me down on the dock and pulled me into your lap. Do you remember what you said to me? You told me that just because there was a new baby in the family, it didnít make me any less special. In fact, it made me more special, because I had a very big job  to do. Nathania didnít have any big brothers to teach her how to do boy things, like drive a boat or throw a baseball, or to stand up for her when someone was trying to hurt her. You told me that it was my job to watch over her, so I did. Ever since Natalie was born a year later, those girls have been my little sisters, and I have loved them so much. After Uncle David and Aunt Maddy passed away, I saw you step in when I know it must have hurt you very much to be a father to your brotherís children. That taught me so much, dad, because you taught me that family is a manís first priority, and his only love.
     Anya and Natty are grown up now, finally teenagers, and I canít tell you how proud I am of the women they have become. They are smart, beautiful, and so full of life. I look at them and I feel proud, which is stupid, because I know that I didnít have any part of it. It was you. But they are my family and I love them and you very, very much. I donít think I tell any of you that enough.
     Daddy, I want to tell you about another love of mine, also inspired by you. Iíve spent the last 2 years designing a project of my own, a boat. Not a submarine, but a house boat. I want to build it from the keel up, as you say, and I want this boat to be a gift to my family, and to my own wife and children when I have them. I want to watch over my family as you took care of ours. I want to teach them about the ocean, and show my children how to find their way by the stars, just like you showed me when I was a boy. I want to be like you dad. Even though I know I can never be the amazing father that you were, I want you to know that in everything I do, I will be following your example. Iíve put the plans for my boat in the rafters of our boathouse. I was waiting for the perfect moment to tell you about them.
     I have to go dad, my shift begins in 10 minutes, and you taught me to always be on time. I love you, give the girls my love, and tell them that I will see you all very soon.
Always your son,
Bobby


     Carefully, Nathan refolded the letter and clutched it to his chest. Bobby had never made it home after he had sent this letter. That mission was his last. A slow tear traced its way down Nathanís cheek, and he began to sob. He cried tears for his son, for his wife, and for the family heíd almost pushed away, but most of all, he cried for himself.

*~*
Eight Months Later
*~*
Natalie stood on Nathanís dock and smiled as Lucas came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. She looked over at Tony, who was anxiously spinning circles, searching for Anya. Today was the day that Bobbyís ship was going to be christened, and the entire crew had gathered with friends and family to celebrate. Anya had given a concert the previous night in Sydney and  had to catch a morning flight to  make it back to the mainland in time. She still hadnít arrived, and Nathan had been in the house all morning, staring at the phone. Natalie glanced at her watch and sighed. It was almost 5:00, and Anya was two hours late. She looked up to see Nathan on the balcony, smiling down at her and Lucas. Ever since he had read Bobbyís letter, he had been a lot more accepting of their relationship. He still wasnít ready to give his approval, but he was trying to be more supportive. Natalie figured it was better to take what they could get.
     Miguel walked over, Joey on his arm, and Jim in tow.
"Hello." He smiled. "So, todayís the big day, huh?"
Natalie smiled.
"Yes, as soon as we all get here." She looked down at the dock where the beautiful, new houseboat floated peacefully. Bobby would have been an amazing shipbuilder. He had thought of everything. There were bunks for children, plus a huge master bedroom. Once you were inside, you forgot that you were at sea. Everything had been designed exactly as Bobby had planned it, from the large galley, to the glass keel for watching the ocean from beneath the boat.
Lucas turned as Tony walked over.
"Hey man. You heard from her?"
Tony shook his head.
"No. Her flight took off on time, thatís all I know."
The door of the house slammed, and all of them turned to see Nathan walking slowly down the steps.
"Sir?" Lucas asked as he approached. "Is everything ok?"
Nathan shook his head.
"Weíre going to have to begin without her, weíre going to lose the daylight soon." He looked to the sky and squinted as the sun sank further down the horizon. Sighing, he stepped onto the dock, and pulled himself up onto the boat. Instantly, the crowd of people became silent and pushed their way forward towards the captain.
"First of all, I want to thank you all for coming. It means so much to me, to all of my family, that you came here to celebrate with us."
     Suddenly, the door to the house slammed again, causing the entire crowd to turn and stare as an embarrassed Nathania Bridger raced down the steps.
"Iím sorry!" She mouthed to Nathan, who nodded and smiled. Anya raced over to Tony, who wrapped her in a huge bear hug and kissed her on the cheek before turning back to the captain.
"As I said, thank you ALL for coming today." He smiled at Anya who blushed again. "As you know, today we celebrate the completion of a very special project. This boat was the dream of my son Robert. Eight months ago, he reminded me that family is a manís first priority, and his only love. He created the plans and had hoped that we could build it together for his family. He never got that chance." Bridger stepped down onto the dock and slid the bottle of champagne from its magnum. "Edgar Allen Poe once wrote something that captures everything that Robert believed in. Poe said "Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." And so, I dedicate this boat to my son, Robert, and to my family. I give you, the Dream By Day." Nathan shattered the bottle on the hull to the smattering of applause and proud cheers. Nathan stepped back, smiling. "I have one more thing to say. This ship was intended for Bobbyís family. In his absence, I know that he would have wanted nothing more than for this boat to go to the two women he was closer to than anyone else. Nathania, Natalie, would you please come up here?"
Exchanging surprised looks, the girls made their way through the crown and stood by Nathanís side. He gripped each of their hands in one of his own.
"Girls, I want you to have the Dream By Day. And I want to thank you forÖfor everything." He added softly. A tear fell from Natalieís cheek as she wrapped her arms around him. Anya wrapped her arms around them both. Lucas turned to Tony and grinned. As the groups applauded once more, the trio separated, each wiping tears from their eyes. Nathan tried to smile.
"And now, the barbecue is hot, and they tell me that everyone is hungry. Letís celebrate."
     Grinning, the crowd dispersed and began to make their way up to the house and over to the volleyball net near the barbecue. Lucas and Tony started to approach the girls, but stopped when they saw them climb aboard the boat. Nathan watched them and smiled, before turning and walking up to the house, nodding at Lucas and Tony as he passed.
     Anya walked to the end of the boat and watched as the last rays of the sun sank behind the horizon. Natalie came up behind her and gently draped her arm over her sisterís shoulder. She watched as a tear fell down Anyaís cheek.
"What are you thinking?" She asked, gently. Anya wiped the tear.
"Bobby. Do you think heís here?"
Natalie nodded.
"I know he is. He wouldnít miss this for anything."
     Together, they watched as a shooting star streaked across the sky.
"I told you so." Natalie giggled.

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