seaQuest: The Dawning
Echoes Of Banaba
Rated R for Violence.
Song featured is Alicia Keys, Troubles, from her album Key Of A Minor. Lyrics reprinted without permission, please, Ms. Keys, don't come sue me. It's an act of respect, nothing more.
Jonathan Ford awoke to the sound of his alarm screeching in his ears. Angrily, he turned over and slammed his fist on top of the flashing numbers in an effort to silence the wailing siren. He was half tempted to throw the small box across the room and watch it shatter.
“Too God damn early.” He groaned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He leaned back against his pillow and sighed. On the other hand, maybe it was a good thing his alarm had gone off when it did. It had managed to rescue him from another nightmare. Another Banaba dream.
He closed his eyes. He could still see it so clearly. Miles of gray stone corridors. The constant chill in the air, and the metallic taste of recycled air. In his mind's eye, he walked down that corridor, the same one he passed through everyday on his way from his quarters to the wing where he worked, only this time it was different. This time he was not alone. Just as he rounded the south end of the turn, he was overrun by a torrent of security guards, their footsteps pounding on the stone as they ignored his presence and raced behind him down the hall. He whirled around, watching their backs disappear, rigid with tension and fear, and he wondered where they were going in such a hurry; what emergency lay at the other end of those frigid walkways. Shaking his head, he turned around to continue on when he came face to face with a pair of blue eyes. In that moment, all he could feel was fear. And then he woke up.
The dreams had been coming more and more often, different circumstances every time, but the last thing he saw before his alarm or his racing heart startled him awake was a pair of piercing blue eyes, so cold they sent chills coursing through his bones, even in memory.
Jonathan rolled over in bed and put his feet on the floor. He wasn't the sort of man to be bothered by a dream. They came and they went, no mind or matter behind them. Still, he had to admit, this one spooked him. It wasn't that he hadn't considered talking to Doctor Smith about it. He had. He had even walked the short distance upstairs to her office and had one hand poised to knock before he lost his nerve and turned around. The commander of the flagship did not consult a psychiatrist over a few bad dreams. What kind of impression would that leave on his record? He shook his head, he could see it now. “Commander Ford is exceptionally capable and would be fit for his own command, except for his bouts with mental instability arising in the form of nightmares.” There goes his shot at making captain before he turned 35. No, better to get it under control himself. He had been under a lot of pressure lately, re-fitting the weapons bays with new Sentium torpedoes. He was certain that was all that was bothering him. It would pass.
Jonathan stepped into the shower and decided that today would be a good day to use a few gallons of his monthly water ration. As he waited for the water to be heated and arrive, he created a list in his mind of the day's duties. The last seven torpedoes would be arriving today. Before they reached the ship, he would have to have Lucas run a complete diagnostic on their silos. As they arrived, a team would have to inspect each missile, top to bottom, and then carefully place it in its proper silo. Then they would call for the commander who would acknowledge that each missile was in the right place before he sealed the weapons bay and created a new, random launch code. The procedure was simple, and didn't require much activity on his part, just passive supervision.
Finally, the warm water began to cascade down from the nozzle and Jonathan closed his eyes and tipped his head back. Nothing like a hot water shower to start the day. He remembered back to when he was a boy, in the days before water rationing. Each morning, his mother would get up and shower before Jonathan or his brothers woke up. He remembered walking into the bathroom after she had gotten out, the mist still clinging to the mirrors and the soft scent of her soap hanging in the air. It was comforting. Now, everything was as efficient as possible. Speaking of efficient… Jonathan glanced at his watch and groaned. He turned off the water and reached for a towel.
Quickly, Jonathan slipped into clean shorts and a freshly pressed blue jumpsuit. After a fast shave and tooth-brushing, he was ready to face the day.
“Commander?” Miguel Ortiz raised an eyebrow and looked over at his superior. Jonathan stood staring into space, watching the missile inspection, but not really absorbing the activity around him. He didn't even acknowledge the sensor chief's call.
“Commander Ford?” Miguel tried again. Finally, the senior officer turned.
Miguel's face cracked open into a wide grin as he snapped on a fresh pair of latex gloves.
“Silos one through four are filled and waiting for inspection, sir.”
“Very good, Ortiz, thank you.” Ford nodded and turned away. Miguel took a breath and a step closer.
“Yes, Chief, is there something else?” There was mild irritation in his voice, and Miguel bit his lip.
“Uh, no, sir. Just wondering if everything was ok, that's all.”
Jonathan sighed. He and Miguel were close friends. They were polar opposites; Jonathan was calm and collected while Miguel was outgoing and social, but they complimented each other perfectly. Jonathan always looked forward to commanding a mission with Ortiz because between them, nothing needed to be said. Obviously, Miguel was going to be able to tell when something was troubling Jonathan, and like any good friend, he was concerned. Unfortunately, right now he wasn't a friend, he was a crewmate. Jonathan shook his head.
“Everything is fine, Ortiz.” He allowed himself a small waiver. “No, it's not really.” He added softly. Miguel nodded.
“Coffee and television tonight? The Lasers are playing the Phantoms. Gonna be a hell of a game.”
“Sounds good.” Ford smiled for a moment before returning to his normal stoic expression. Miguel nodded and walked over to silo five. Whatever was going on with Jonathan, maybe he could get some answers tonight.
Three hours later, Jonathan picked up his communicator.
“Ford to Bridger.”
“Captain, all seven missiles are in their silos and have been inspected and sealed.”
“Very good. Return to the bridge. I'll have Lucas set up a diagnostic, and we'll run a test targeting pattern.”
“Aye, sir, I'm on my way.”
Jonathan turned around and surveyed the bay behind him. Only a handful of personnel milled about, most of them avoiding returning to their previous stations. Miguel had returned to the bridge an hour earlier to run a pre-diagnostic on the launching mechanism. Jonathan clapped his hands.
“All right people, we're done here. Let's move it! Clear the weapons bay.”
Instantly, people scrambled for the door and a few seconds later , Jonathan was staring at an empty room. He punched in his code and sealed the doors, switching off the lights as he went. He walked the long distance up to the bridge and slipped into his seat beside the captain's chair. Bridger turned to him and nodded before calling up to Lucas.
“Alright, Lucas, how's that diagnostic coming?”
“Everything checks out, sir. No complications or anomalies of any kind, or, at least nothing's showing up on the board.” He brushed his blond locks back with one hand and slipped on a headset. Ford raised an eyebrow at Bridger.
“Both comforting and unnerving.”
“I agree.” Bridger smiled and turned to Henderson. “Ensign Henderson, prepare to run the targeting test.”
“Lay in the targeting coordinates.”
“Coordinates laid in, sir.”
Jonathan listened for the sound of the missiles powering up, but what he got instead was a harsh flickering of the bridge lights and an angry klaxon screaming in his ears. Instantly, he braced himself.
“Report!” He barked, looking over at Lucas.
“Captain, I'm reporting massive power failure to the weapons systems. The feedback I'm getting it that the missiles are being targeted without authorization.”
“Shut them down!” Bridger hollered.
“Sir, I can't. The computer has locked out the bridge controls, we're going to have to do it manually. You and the Commander are going to have to use your weapons keys and access code to shut down the system and restore power to my controls.”
“What?” Bridger screamed, tearing his key from his necklace. Jonathan followed suit, slamming his key into its slot on the console. What had gone wrong? What had happened? Somehow, he had the feeling that it was his fault, and in an instant he remembered why.
“Sir!” He screamed above the alarm. “I only changed the launch code on the missiles themselves, not on the silo doors! That's why its reading the target as unauthorized.”
Bridger's face flushed red hot.
“You what?” He shouted. Then, he tore his glare away. There would be plenty of time for explanations later, and Ford better have a good one. He turned his key in the console.
“Command override. Vocal Authorization, Captain Nathan Hale Bridger.” He punched in his access code and turned to Jonathan, who did the same. The few milliseconds the computer took to acknowledge the override seemed like an eternity. Finally, the siren fell silent and the entire bridge took a collective sigh of relief. Jonathan looked down, feeling the penetrating glare of his senior officer. His cheeks flushed with shame.
“Commander Ford, report to the wardroom. Lieutenant O'Neill, you have the bridge.”
“Aye, sir.” O'Neill slipped off his headset and pulled himself into the command chair. Humiliated, Jonathan followed Captain Bridger off of the bridge.
Bridger waited until the wardroom door was shut before turning to face Jonathan with his arms crossed over his chest.
Jonathan shook his head. The captain wanted an explanation Jonathan couldn't give. Bridger sighed and sank into the chair behind his desk. He looked Jonathan over carefully before speaking.
“Jonathan, I've served as your commanding officer for over two years now. I'd like to think that I know you fairly well. You're extremely capable and intelligent, and there is no one else with whom I would trust my life or this boat to.” He leaned back as Jonathan stared down at the floor. “That being said, I know that you don't screw up like this. You attention to detail and procedure has been nothing less than exemplary until today. What happened down there, Commander?”
When Jonathan looked up and didn't respond, Bridger leaned forward.
“Jonathan, if there's something going on, I need to know about it.”
Jonathan felt shame and embarrassment well up inside of him.
“Sir, I've been…distracted. I know it's no excuse, and won't erase the tragedy I almost caused today, but I'm sorry. I shouldn't have let my personal life interfere with my duties.”
Bridger took a breath and let it out, evaluating his thoughts. He didn't want to report this to command, and he certainly didn't want a black mark tarnishing Ford's record.
“Jonathan, I'm giving you seven days unassigned, paid leave. I want you off duty for a week, beginning immediately.”
“Sir, you're suspending me?”
“No, Jon, I'm giving you time to resolve whatever personal issue it is that is occupying your mind. If you need to leave the boat, I'll arrange for a shuttle to be available for you. In fact, I recommend it. You need some time away.”
“Sir, I don't need to leave seaQuest, or take time off.” Jonathan was adamant.
“Commander, this isn't a discussion, it's an order. Seven days. You can take it as unassigned leave, or as a suspension. Your call.”
Jonathan bit his lip. He knew when he'd been beat.
“I'll take the leave, sir.” He met Bridger's eyes. “Thank you.” He added, softly. Bridger shook his head.
“No thanks needed. You're an outstanding officer, Jon. But the most important part of commanding is knowing when you have to take care of yourself. Now, go. Pack. Do whatever you have to.”
Jonathan turned the key in his apartment door and pushed open the door. It had been almost four months since he had set foot in his home, and everything looked the same as it did when the boat put out to sea. Meticulously clean, although a light scattering of dust decorated the tabletop.
“Guess I need to get that air filter fixed after all.” He muttered, tossing his bag onto the sofa. He walked over and threw open the refrigerator door. He made a face and slammed the door shut. “And make a trip to the supermarket.” He added, bitterly. He flicked on the overhead lamp and surveyed his home. It felt wrong. He shouldn't be here. He should be in his quarters aboard seaQuest, or on the bridge doing his job. Anywhere but taking time off because of a few bad dreams. He sighed and settled into an armchair and closed his eyes. Still, it felt good to sit down, even if he couldn't get his mind to turn off.
A knock sounded at his door. In confusion, he groaned and stood up.
“Now who the hell is that?” He asked aloud. He opened the door and was greeted by the smiling face of Miguel Ortiz.
“Afternoon, Commander.” Miguel grinned. Jonathan motioned him to come inside.
“Miguel? What are you doing here?”
Miguel set a duffle down on the floor and a bag of groceries on the kitchen counter. He'd been to Jonathan's many times before, and he knew how empty Jon let the cupboard get.
“Well, the captain seemed to think that I needed some time off of the boat as well.”
“In other words, he didn't trust me alone.” Jonathan shot bitterly.
“No, in other words, he thought you could use a friend.” Miguel said gently. Looking at Jonathan, he could tell it was the truth. The man looked much older than his 30 years. “Besides,” he continued. “I come bearing food. You can't be too angry.”
Jonathan smiled weakly and began unloading the groceries.
“No, I guess I should be grateful. Miguel,” he met his eyes, “thank you.”
Miguel just nodded and put a carton of milk into the refrigerator.
A short time later, the two were seated on Jonathan's balcony, beers in hand, staring out at the water. Jon had said hardly a word since his arrival, and Miguel was concerned. Jonathan's reputation as the strong silent type didn't extend to personal time with friends. In fact, there were times when the boys couldn't get Jon to shut up long enough to get a word in edgewise.
“So,” Miguel began slowly, “are you going to tell me what's going on, or am I going to have to beat it out of you?”
“I'd like to see you try.”
“Eh. But see, then my career would be over, and you'd have to tell my mother why her baby boy went AWOL. So why don't you save her the heartbreak and spill?”
Jonathan sighed. He wanted to, desperately. Miguel was the one person on board who he felt he could trust. He had been on board when Jonathan had been forced to relieve Marilyn Stark of command, and had supported his decision. If it were just about the dreams, he would have been fine. But this wasn't just about a couple of dreams, and explaining what it WAS about would be treason.
“Miguel, I wish I could. But the UEO made everything classified.”
Miguel nodded slowly.
“Ok…so, is there a way you can clue me into some of the things that aren't quite so classified?” When Jonathan looked away, Miguel leaned forward and looked at him. “Jonathan, this is me, alright? Your friend. And right now, I'm not one of your crew. I'm not asking you to spill military secrets, I'm just asking you what I can do to help.”
Jonathan looked to the ground, then back at Miguel.
“Early in my career, when I was an ensign, I was on rotation at a classified location.” He began slowly. “I, I can't say what went on there, but people were getting hurt, and the UEO was allowing it to happen. I couldn't stop it, I was just an ensign. There was nothing that I could do. But I wish I could have.” He looked down at the ground. He wondered what Miguel must think of him now. “After I left, I was told I couldn't tell anyone what went on there, and I never have. But they can't erase my memories, or the dreams I keep having about those days.”
Miguel was speechless. He hadn't expected anything like this. He'd thought the problem was a woman, maybe, or command insecurity. Nothing like this. He didn't know what to say, but he felt he should say something.
“And those dreams?” He pressed gently. Jonathan shook his head.
“I keep seeing the faces of the ones I couldn't help. Especially one person, but it's just their eyes I see. I can't see anything else, and I don't remember who they are or were. Just their eyes. And I can feel their fear.”
Miguel let out a breath.
“Have you…talked to Wendy about any of this?”
Jonathan shook his head.
“No, how could I? Even telling you what I did could get both of us court marshaled.”
“Well, I'm not telling anyone, so you don't have to worry about that. But Jon, this is serious stuff. Post-traumatic stress type stuff. It's more than just a dream, it's something that you haven't been able to deal with.”
“And how am I supposed to deal with it, Miguel? I've managed to keep it aside for ten years now. I don't know why it's chosen now to resurface. I'm not an ensign anymore, and I've got a ship to run. I can't be dealing with issues like nightmares.”
Miguel shook his head. He didn't have an answer.
“Maybe the captain's right. Maybe a few days off will help you. And if you need help looking for answers or anything, you know that I'm on your side.”
Jonathan nodded, but he wasn't sure what answers he could find in a few days. He wasn't even sure of the questions.
When he was first stationed at Banaba, he didn't know about the genetic experimentation taking place just beneath his feet in the tunnels of the base. It was just another posting to him, until one day when he had been ordered to work in a part of the base he had never been to before. He remembered being worried that he would get lost on the way underground, so he had left early that morning. He didn't know what to expect, but he certainly hadn't expected to find nearly 2 dozen GELFs in various stages of experimentation and manipulation. He hadn't expected to see so-called-doctors strap a patient to the operating table and puncture his skin with knives without anesthesia. He didn't expect to see arms cut off and grow back within two minutes. He hadn't even dreamed that such a thing was possible. Doctors were supposed to help the people they worked on, even if those people had been genetically engineered. He never thought that the UEO would sanction the liters of odd blue liquid that he saw dripped into screaming, writhing patients. But they did. And as part of the UEO, he sanctioned it as well. So, he did his duty, ushering patients from room to room, using sedatives and force when necessary. It was his job, and he thought that whatever was being done to these patients would ultimately help thousands of others. That was how he justified it in his own mind, or maybe it was just the thought he clung to so that he could live with himself. But was this living? He wondered how long it was going to be before Dagwood noticed the shame in his eyes whenever Jonathan saw him enter a room. He would give anything to go back and change things, but he couldn't.
Jonathan downed the last of his beer and stood up.
“I gotta get out of here. Why don't we head down to the city, catch a show, do something besides sit here in this house and feel sorry for me?”
Miguel stood up and sat his beer down on the table.
“You sure you should be driving?”
“Miguel, it was one beer. I'm fine.”
“Alright, sure. Sounds good, just let me get changed.”
Miguel walked into the house, picked up his bag and stepped into the bathroom. He wasn't sure that they should be heading out, he had a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. His mom had always said that Miguel had a gift of intuition, somehow he always knew when something major was going to happen. He had always shrugged off her comments until the day he was 12 and he felt something in his belly tell him to head home immediately. He found out later that at that exact moment, his sister had fallen off of a ladder and was rushed to the hospital. Since then, he had tried not to ignore his gut feeling. Still, if Jonathan wanted to get out of the house and do something, it was probably best not to argue. Maybe the commander just needed a night out on the town. Miguel stepped out of the bathroom and nodded at Jonathan, who had changed quickly and was now standing by the door, flipping his keys over in his hand.
“You ready?” He asked.
“Yep.” Miguel nodded. “Let's go.”
As he stepped out the door, the storm rumbling in his stomach began to rage into a hurricane.
Jonathan was flipping stations when Miguel's hand stopped his.
“Leave it, I like this song.”
Jonathan nodded and turned up the volume as Miguel leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. It was a soulful r&b piece, and Jonathan watched as Miguel's lips mouthed the lyrics, singing under his breath. Obviously, he knew this song well, which surprised Jon. All he had ever heard Miguel sing, or rather, scream was Bush and Pearl Jam, alternative rock groups of the nineties. Jon turned his eyes back to the road and listened to the lyrics, wondering what touched Miguel so deeply about the song.
Feel like the word is closing on me
Feel like my dreams will never come to be.
I keep on slipping deeper into myself, and I'm scared,
If you're troubled, you just gotta let it go
If you're worried baby, you just gotta let it go
All your hustles ain't for nothing, you just gotta take it slow,
If you need me baby, all you do is let me know…
As the last notes faded, and another song came on, Miguel opened his eyes, reaching over to turn down the volume. He felt Jon's eyes on him and he looked up.
“What?” He asked. Jonathan shook his head.
“Something.” Miguel raised an eyebrow.
“I just have never seen you sing a song like that, that's all.”
Miguel blushed lightly and looked out the window.
“Tell no one.” He smirked. “I don't sing.”
Jonathan nodded. Obviously, Miguel wasn't going to share his connection to the song, and Jonathan wasn't going to pry. He turned on his signal and changed lanes, though they were the only car on the road. It was later than Jonathan had thought, and the sun was sinking fast into a purple sky. Miguel watched the streetlights flicker on as they neared the city. As they came around a curve in the road, all he could see was red brake lights, and he groaned.
“Don't worry, I know a back way.” Jonathan quickly pulled off onto the next exit, and after a series of turns, they were speeding along a curvy two lane road running parallel to the crowded freeway.
“Nice, I'll have to remember this.” Miguel commented. Jon nodded and pressed on the brake to negotiate his way around a curve. His foot sank to the floor, meeting no resistance. Jon's brow furled as he raised his foot and stepped down again. Miguel saw the curve coming up and reached a hand up to the dashboard.
Jon glanced at Miguel as the car continued to race toward the turn.
“I…I can't stop…” he gasped. Miguel jumped.
“What?” He watched as Jon stomped his foot and reached for the emergency brake. It was too late. All he saw was the metal guardrail coming up too fast.
Then, there was nothing left to see.