seaQuest: The Dawning
****AUTHOR'S NOTE: Ok, it's been suggested that I put a disclaimer at the top of this. Like most writers, writing is my therapy. I use it to deal with issues that I'm not ready to deal with in my own life. This story is no exception. This summer, I lost a good friend of mine in a sudden accident. He was so young and his death hit us all very hard. This story is about my healing process, and learning to live again after losing someone that you loved. ****
"Red sky at night, sailor’s delight…
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning…"
Ancient Sailors Adage
"Jim, there’s been an accident…"
The captain’s words kept ringing in Jim’s head, but never fully registered. An accident. Through the haze, he heard Captain Bridger tell him that his sister had been in an accident and had been taken to New Cape Medical Center. He felt Miguel Ortiz drape an arm over his shoulder and lead him out to the boat. He vaguely remembered the boat trip up the coast to where a team of UEO personnel were waiting to escort them by squad car to the hospital.
An accident. It couldn’t be true. Not today. Not this day. Not the day after Thanksgiving, a time for family and hope…this couldn’t be happening to him.
"Miguel…"he said softly, looking over at his friend as they sat in a private waiting room in the Intensive Care Unit.
"Yeah, Jim?" Miguel looked over at his friend. Jim Brody was the strong officer, confident, honorable, and without emotion. In the 2 years that they had served together, Miguel had never seen Jim drop his guard. Now, Jim was ashen, and his eyes looked glazed over. Slowly, he rocked back and forth on his chair, repeating a mantra in his head.
This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening…
"I…I can’t…" Jim couldn’t finish. Forming words was too difficult, cost too much energy. Miguel nodded, understanding. He reached over and placed his hand on Jim’s, offering silent support. Jim looked at him gratefully before retuning to his dazed state.
Captain Bridger knocked softly and entered the room. He knelt beside Jim.
"Jim, the doctors are going to be in in a moment. But there is a young man outside who would like to see you."
Jim nodded, and Bridger stood up and opened the door. A shaken Alex Jamison walked in.
"Jim…" he gasped, crossing over and kneeling beside Jim, tears in his eyes. "Jim, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry…"
Jim looked up. His sister’s friend and fellow pilot.
"Alex…what happened? What’s going on?"
Alex collapsed on the floor, his head in his hands.
"We were flying back from Icarus. It was just a standard run, we were bringing back two new planes to Miramar, and…we thought we’d compensated for the storm…but it caught us over the ocean…we tried to get back out, to get to the coast, but…Joey didn’t make it that far, her plane…it went down in the water. I tried to get back to her, but I was too late, her plane went under before I could get there…I shouldn’t have left her, man, I should have gone back sooner,…" Alex broke down. Jim leaned over and wrapped his arms around Alex.
But she is alive, he thought. She is alive, or I wouldn’t be here. We’re in a hospital, that means there’s hope, right? God, don’t let her die, please don’t let her die…
Lucas and Tony sat in another waiting room down the hallway, with the other crew members. Nathania and Natalie had stayed behind, feeling awkward at the hospital. Westphalen was at the nurse’s station, trying to coax some answers out of them, but it was no use.
"This is unbelievable." Lucas muttered, to no one in particular.
"Yeah." Loni responded. She shook her head. What a way to finish Thanksgiving, here, in the hospital, with a crew member in the ICU. She and Joey had never gotten along too well, but they both respected each other as crewmates. Jonathan Ford leaned over and took her hand. She squeezed it gratefully. Tony groaned, and held his head in his hands.
"This isn’t fair."
Down the hall, there was a knock at the door. Bridger opened the door and Dr. Smith appeared with another doctor, a tall balding man. Jim stood up.
"Doctor, how is she?"
"Mr. Brody, my name is Dr. Curtis. I’m from the ER, but I will be overseeing your sister’s case."
Jim shook his head, to frustrated to acknowledge the title.
"How is she?" he demanded. Dr. Smith stepped forward, sensing just how close the man was to collapsing, and knowing that what she had to say wasn’t going to offer any comfort.
"Jim, maybe you should sit down."
"I don’t want to sit down." Jim pushed away her hands. "I want to know what’s going on with my sister."
Jim saw the doctors exchange looks and Wendy nodded.
"Jim, please, sit down." she gently pressed. As he did, she sat down beside him. "Jim, Joey’s in critical condition. There was…a lot of damage. She’s being prepped for immediate surgery, because they have to stop the internal bleeding."
"Oh, God." Jim gasped. Wendy paused a moment before continuing.
"She has multiple broken bones as well as a skull fracture."
"Is she going to die?" Jim asked flatly. Wendy looked away, not wanting to give an answer. She didn’t know, but the outlook was not good. "Oh, shit!" Jim cried, realizing that she wasn’t going to respond to his question. Dr. Curtis spoke again.
"The next few hours are going to be very critical. She’s going to be taken into the operating room shortly, and then we’ll decide on the best course of action after that."
"Jim, I’m so sorry." Alex said, collapsing into a chair. Bridger placed a hand on the man’s shoulder.
"Thank you, Doctor." He nodded as Curtis left the room. Wendy closed her eyes, feeling the agony inside of Jim. She knew that nothing she could say would ease that, and she wasn’t willing to lie to him. There was a very real chance that he would be an only child again by nightfall. Miguel stood up.
"I, uh, I should go and tell the others, I guess." He bit his lip and walked out of the room.
Tony looked up as Miguel walked into the room. His olive complexion was bed sheet white, and his hands were thrust deep into his pockets. Tony stood up.
"What’s going on?"
Commander Ford stood up, followed by Loni. Lucas remained seated, one hand on Dagwood’s shoulder. The GELF didn’t understand what was going on. The only thing that he knew was that one of his friends had been hurt. Miguel bit his lip again, drawing blood. He didn’t feel the pain. He had never imagined having to say this to his friends. It wasn’t one of those things that anyone had taught him to do, no one trained you for something like this. Miguel looked down and shook his head.
"There was…a lot of damage. It doesn’t look good." he said, softly. Tony’s jaw dropped.
"What do you mean, it doesn’t look good?!" He yelled. Ford placed a hand on his shoulder.
"No!" Tony said, pushing Ford away from him. "What’s going on? What do you mean?!"
"They’re, uh, taking her in for surgery, uh, now. There’s internal bleeding, broken bones, her head’s fractured,…she’s pretty messed up."
"Is she going to be ok?" Loni asked, gasping when Miguel shook his head.
"The doctor’s don’t know."
Ford stepped forward.
"Where’s Dr. Smith? Maybe she’ll have some answers."
"Wendy is the one who told us." Miguel said softly. He stared at the faces in front of him. He felt completely spent.
Tony collapsed back into his chair. It wasn’t fair. Things like this don’t happen to people so young. But then he remembered that Joey’s own fiancée had been killed earlier in the year, shortly before her assignment to seaQuest. They were all soldiers, their lives more expendable then most. It wasn’t fair. Just last week, he and Joey had watched West Side Story together. She was the only one who shared his passion for old musicals, and better than that, she had promised not to tell anyone about it. It overwhelmed him how someone could be so full of life one day, laughing and joking, throwing popcorn at one another, and so close to death in the next moment. It seemed impossible.
Miguel watched as Tony sat down. No one spoke. Death had never touched this crew so close to home before. He turned and started to walk down the hallway. That was the one thing that he could never get used to, and kept him from applying for his officer’s exam. Losing comrades in an instant. Yet, soldiers of all nationalities faced that every day, sometimes more than a dozen time in a day. Somehow, you were supposed to build up a tolerance to it, to be able to go on with your duty. To expect that someone wasn’t going to come back. Miguel couldn’t do it. He could never get used to seeing people fall, and he couldn’t stop the nightmares that came shortly after he was forced to pull the trigger on someone else. Every person who went down was somebody’s lover, somebody’s sister, or son, or daughter, or friend. It didn’t matter what they were fighting for or what side they were on. Everyone was loved.
Lucas looked over at Dagwood, seeing whether he had understood what Miguel had just said. The man was looking down at the floor.
"Dagwood?" Lucas knelt beside him.
"I do not understand." he said.
"Joey was hurt, Dagwood. There was an accident last night and her plane went down. She’s hurt really badly."
"Is she dead?"
"No, Dag, she’s not." Lucas bit his tongue to keep from adding, yet.
"Then why is Miguel so sad?"
"Because she might die." Lucas choked on the last word, and looked down.
"Then I do not understand. Why is it like that?"
Lucas sighed and sat down on the floor at Dagwood’s feet. How do you explain death to anyone? Does anyone really know enough about death to describe it?
"I don’t know, Dagwood. I really don’t. Sometimes, people get hurt, and it’s no one’s fault, and there is no reason. It just happens. And there’s no warning."
"Could Lucas die?"
Lucas took a breath.
"I...I...yes, I could."
I don’t want Lucas to die. I don’t want Joey to die. Why must people die?"
"I don’t know."
Deep inside, Lucas was asking the same question. Why? Lucas was a man of science. He didn’t know if he believed in a divine God or not, but he knew that there was a sense of order in the world. But how did nature, or God, or order decide who lived and who died? Was there some kind of cosmic scorecard, a checklist of people, an number to keep track of how and who and why? And did the why matter? There was no reason for Joey to go, she was a good pilot, and a good friend. And hadn’t she been through enough? Was this some kind of karmic punishment for a past indiscretion? It didn’t make sense. None of it made sense.
Ford leaned back on the couch, holding Loni to his chest. He felt responsible. Logically, he knew he shouldn’t. There was no way he could have known what would happen when he agreed to loan Joceanna back to Miramar for the weekend. He hadn’t ordered her onto the mission. He didn’t have a hand in any of it. Yet, in this moment, Jonathan realized how responsible he felt for every member of his crew. He was their commanding officer, the one who was supposed to guide and lead them into battle, and to make sure that everyone returned home safely. That was his fear about becoming captain. As much as he wanted his own command, he was terrified of being the man ultimately responsible for the lives of his crew. He didn’t want to be the man that got to write the letters home to families who had lost a loved one. He didn’t want to be the one to create widows, and orphans, and heartbroken loved ones. Gently, he stroked Loni’s hair.
Jim didn’t feel Wendy’s hand on his own. He didn’t acknowledge Bridger standing in the corner. He barely heard Alex’s tears. All he could hear was the beating of his own heart. It didn’t seem real. After everything that they had gone through together; being split up as babies, raised on different continents, reunited in their teens, and finally stationed together aboard seaQuest. It didn’t seem possible that everything could have all been for nothing. It could disappear. And in that moment, every argument, every petty fight, every unkind word that had been spoken between them over the years came flooding to his mind. Like the time he had called her a test tube baby. He, of course, was one as well, as she was kind enough to retort. What had it all been for? Had he ever said he was sorry? He looked up as Miguel came into the room.
Miguel sat down on the sofa on the other side of Wendy. He didn’t know what to say. There weren’t any words that he could get out, everything sounded trivial and stupid. What do you say so someone in that position? Miguel leaned back and closed his eyes. And why did he feel so guilty about hurting as well? It wasn’t his sister upstairs in surgery. How could his pain even compare? And why did the feelings he was having feel so horribly selfish? He didn’t want Joey to die, not because she was a good person, or because he didn’t want Jim to lose his sister. He was hurting, because HE didn’t want to lose Joey. Because he cared about her in a way that she would never know about. He hadn’t wanted to say anything, because she had only lost her fiancée eight months ago. And now he might not get that chance...and he felt terrible that that was the greatest of his worries.
There was a knock at the door, and Dr. Curtis peeked through the crack.
"Mr. Brody?" he stepped into the room. "Your sister is out of surgery now. She’s being settled into a room here in the ICU. The surgery was successful in that we were able to stop the bleeding. But her condition is still critical."
"Can I see her?"
Dr. Curtis looked uncertainly at Wendy, who cast a stern look in return. Finally, Curtis relented.
"Yes, you may. But only for a few minutes. I will send a nurse for you in a moment."