By Jules 6

A SeaQuest story – Ben Krieg has hatched a new plan to try and make it up to everybody on-board for his earlier mistakes. The original title probably doesn’t suit the new chapters, but I decided to tie them in together. I am writing this out of order for the new time line.

Author Notes – I was going to write a new story, but instead added it onto what you have already read. There will be a few occasions throughout a couple of my stories after “Please Tell Someone” that has to do with Lucas experiencing headaches or migraines.

Most of the time any headache or migraine Lucas experiences will have a specific reason for the plot to that story, but there will a few scattered times where they are random and have no identifiable cause. This is all leading to a much later story “A Second Opinion” which will give a definitive answer, but it is not anything like cancer or brain tumours or any such other causes. Something new and totally different, and a few clues are already planted in place in “Please Tell Someone”.

This story is set two years after the events starting in Please Tell Someone so Lucas is a lot more comfortable around the crew and is currently sixteen years old. The adoption between him and Bridger has happened by this time. The origins for Krieg’s nickname of ‘Junior’ on very rare occasions will become known through other stories. And Ben is the only one Lucas will tolerate calling him that nickname and it is fairly infrequent.

The sensitivity to some specific types of medications and their ingredients that is mentioned for Lucas in this chapter, will be introduced and addressed a little more in the earlier chapters currently being written for the new and unpublished story “The Green Pen” and a few other follow up stories as to what that exactly entails. By the time of this story, it is an accepted fact for his medical history.

The story of the respiratory illness that Lucas has been suffering from will be part of the plot for an upcoming story A Packed Suitcase, yet to be written. Another new story yet to come called “The Accident” will follow on from this story. The mention of Lucas losing his voice will be explored more in another story set directly before and leading into A Packed Suitcase to be called A Silent Voice.

As I continue to fix older stories, there is always plotting afoot for new stories in the background.

I know a few people liked the last couple of chapters, so hopefully someone out there is still reading this new material.

Chapter Three – A New Plan Hatched

With the exception of Lieutenant Krieg, the remaining crew members who had found themselves caught up in the debacle that saw Lucas misplaced for several hours were currently standing in the launch bay area.

The time was approximately six a.m. in the morning, and the announcement had come over the loud speaker about the arrival of the launch carrying the new scientific personnel, their luggage and equipment.

As a myriad of new faces started to pour out of the now opened sea launch doors, the crew members stood ready to assist as instructed. All of them had had very little sleep in the last several hours and would rather be in their own quarters doing just that. None of them were looking forward to more of the wrath of Doctor Kristin Westphalen.

Commander Ford had other crew members assigned and standing by ready to help with unloading luggage, stores and the new passengers, having a little empathy for the men standing nearby.

Captain Bridger was waiting impatiently as well for a totally different reason, waiting to see for himself that Lucas was alright as Kristin had assured him.

Commander, have everybody gather in one of the science labs so that they can be assigned their sleeping quarters. I am sure that Doctor Westphalen is going to want to talk to them all as a group before allowing them to disperse throughout the vessel too much,” Bridger instructed his Second-in-Command.

Aye, Sir,” Ford agreed readily.

The guilt that some of the men carried about Lucas was only renewed when they could hear his hoarse voice before being able to see him. By the time he emerged from the launch bay area, walking with Kristin at his side, they could see for themselves how tired he looked.

The baseball shirt he was wearing had several different stains marring the fabric, and the garment had seen better days. “I want to have a shower first, please, before I agree to doing anything else,” came the croaky pleading from the teenager.

Bridger came up to the doctor and his young charge, very pleased to see him, but not the state he was in. He held back from embarrassing the boy in front of the other crew members and new staff members. Giving him a family embrace would have to wait until they were in a less public place.

Hi,” was the only cautious greeting Lucas gave him, realising that the Captain was probably looking to chew him out about leaving the SeaQuest.

Nathan had to be satisfied with putting a hand on his shoulder for the moment. But the teenager openly objected to even that, pulling away from the Captain’s supportive hand.

You might want to wait until after I have had a shower, the clothes I have on are a write off,” he said glumly. By the time he finished speaking, he was rubbing at his throat, indicating how raw it felt.

I need some water; it feels like a thousand little nails are stabbing my throat.”

Kristin’s temper appeared to have cooled considerably as she spoke to Lucas, “I will get you some water for your throat, and take a look at it, once you have had your shower,” giving in a little to his request. It had not been a fun experience riding back in the launch for him.

Lucas groaned out loud at the pain in his head as his headache spiked again, closing his eyes briefly and trying to turn his face in any direction away from the bright lights that were flooding the launch bay area.

The lights are too bright in here,” he grumbled in complaint, being forced to open them again, squinting and turning his face away in the opposite direction of the strong illumination. His eyes were bloodshot and displayed his level of tiredness.

Doctor Westphalen, I have arranged for your new staff to all meet in one of the science labs together,” Ford informed her. “I am sure you will be wanting to talk to them just as soon as you are ready,” repeating what the Captain had already pre-empted.

Thank you, Commander Ford, my new assistant, Annette, will be able to fill in for me until I get down there. Most of the new faces will be familiar enough with her,” Kristin replied.

Some of the new scientific staff were still filing past, down the corridor and heading away from the launch bay.

It should be a crime to be awake and that happy this early in the morning,” Lucas grouched, regretting he had spoken again with his inflamed throat. His headache was still very much present and growing more bothersome by the second.

From where he was standing, Lucas spotted Miguel and Tim standing off to the side. Both of them were dressed in their usual U.E.O. uniforms. They also looked a little tired.

What happened to you guys?” the teenager asked plainly, walking over to them, “I was waiting for ages outside that convenience store like I told you I was going to do.”

We went looking for you we promise, Lucas,” Tim began speaking first, not sure how much he should be revealing right now. “We had a few problems inside the store that took longer than we anticipated.”

You guys just ditched me and left,” Lucas said with a small amount of annoyance creeping in. “I had no way of getting back here to SeaQuest or even knowing where any of you went to.”

Miguel wanted to say something in their defence, but held back for a minute as the teenager continued to relay his whole sentiment about the misguided adventure. They could understand how he felt not knowing all of the details yet, but they had tried to find him before the bar-room incident.

Wait until I find Krieg,” Lucas added, and immediately started looking about the faces around the moon pool for his best friend, the missing-in-action morale officer.

I think any explanations of what went on last night can wait until you have had your shower and I have seen you down in med-bay,” Kristin suggested. Neither she or Lucas had heard the full version yet, but it could wait.

I want you to limit using your voice for the next few hours and maybe tomorrow to give your throat the chance to recover a little more,” the doctor said to him. “Otherwise you will risk losing your voice entirely again just like you did the last time. And I am sure you don’t want to repeat that couple of weeks.”

Lucas let out a wince of pain from his headache, rubbing at his temple with his fingertips, but then forced to swallow harshly and move his hand to his neck, trying to indicate how sore his throat was becoming again. Unfortunately he was inadvertently signalling how poorly he was starting to feel overall to her as well, nodding reluctantly and heeding her warning.

Commander Ford spoke to Kristin, “Doctor, I sent Lieutenant Krieg down to med-bay not long before you arrived. He should be waiting for you when you get down there.”

Something happened to Ben?” came the immediate question laced with concern from Lucas looking at O’Neill and Ortiz for an answer, forgetting about his own pain for a moment at hearing Ford’s statement. “Why didn’t anybody tell me there was a problem when we first arrived?”

Ford was kicking himself a little, looking at the Captain with an unspoken apology, knowing he should have spoken to the doctor quietly to one side away from Lucas first. It was no secret on-board SeaQuest that Ben Krieg was always looking out for the teenager’s best interests when they were together anywhere. It could also be argued that Lucas’ own loyalty could be just as strong as their friendship had continued to grow over the last couple of years. And Krieg wasn’t usually sick or hurt that often, which drew his attention even more.

You can see him for yourself when you arrive down there after your shower,” Kristin assured the worried teenager. She had not known that the Lieutenant had been injured either before now when she had been berating them over the video-link.

Use the Captain’s quarters if you like, but Nathan stay with him outside the shower, he still has some of that medication in his system,” she warned, not wanting to voice her concerns out loud about his earlier unsteadiness. “You can bring him back down to me in med-bay when he is finished to see to the cuts on his fingers.”

I will be totally fine on my own, I don’t need anyone to babysit me or to take me there afterwards,” Lucas objected, his croaky voice betraying him again as he spoke and not helping his declaration. His agreement to restrict the use of his voice broken already, but understandable given what he had just found out.

Come on, let’s do what Kristin asks and go from there,” Bridger negotiated, seeing and hearing that the teenager was less than well himself and needing some of the doctor’s brand of care.

Lucas started walking off away from the moon pool area with the encouragement of the Captain, still rubbing at his throat, “I want to know what happened to Ben?”

Once they had reached Bridger’s quarters, the teenager went about collecting a fresh set of clothes, and headed for the shower. He kept a few sets there now on a regular basis apart from his own cabin.

Bridger had taken up sitting on the couch while he waited for Lucas to take his shower. Thirty minutes later, he emerged with the fresh clothes on, using a towel to dry his hair, but making a face at the discomfort from his headache. The steam from his hot shower had done nothing to alleviate it, but rather had caused it to come to life more.

Starting to feel a little more like yourself again?” the Captain asked, but he could see the redness of his eyes and lethargic posture to answer his own question.

No, not really,” Lucas admitted, rubbing at his throat again, before tossing the towel aside.

It is good to have you back safe again and mostly in one piece,” Bridger declared, standing up and surprising the teenager with a heartfelt embrace that he had been wanting to give him when he first arrived back.

Lucas accepting and returning the gesture, “You weren’t too worried about me now were you?” he poked in fun for a moment, adding a smile. But one look at the Captain’s face and noting the spontaneous display of affection told him otherwise.

You were,” he pointed out with the simple statement, his smile fading.

No matter how many times it still happened, he was secretly grateful that someone was in his life who did that now. With both of them now comfortable and relaxed in each others company, it was still such a nice feeling to have someone show that they cared that much about him. On the odd occasion Lucas still needed to pinch and remind himself that it wasn’t all a dream.

You didn’t totally freak out did you?” knowing from previous experience that the Captain tended to get more than over-protective at times.

If he wanted to give himself any credit about knowing the man he was talking to at all, or learning anything about him in the past two years, he should have known how things would have turned out. Bridger could be known to be bordering on obsessive at times about knowing where he was, if he was in good spirits and if he was taking care of himself, even when he was on-board the vessel.

Some of the other crew members could be called out on doing the same thing from the Captain cues. And it wasn’t completely unheard of for Bridger to rope them into carrying out surveillance on his behalf so Lucas himself wouldn’t get suspicious. But most days the teenager prided himself with being able to tell what they were up to.

Lucas guessed that such tactics came from everything that the two of them had been through and weathered together, and he couldn’t be too critical when he thought of how bad some of the outcomes could have ended up from the past.

But then he answered his own question without needing to use his croaky voice. ‘Who am I kidding’ he silently admonished himself.

Bridger had suddenly found the carpet on the floor to his own cabin more interesting than wanting to be honest about just how much he had indeed ‘freaked out’.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave without telling you,” he offered as a poor excuse. “I just didn’t think head and it seemed like a good idea at the time when Ben first asked me. But then it started turning into nothing but an afternoon and evening to forget. I was only planning on getting some food and some fresh air.”

Commander Ford organized a search party with the security guards for you at the base on the mainland once we realised you were missing and had not made it back to the launch,” Bridger informed him, deciding he deserved to know.

A search party!” Lucas said in complete shock, thinking that such a move was going a little overboard. More guilt was starting to set in about causing anybody enough worry about his whereabouts. “I am sorry that you had to send other people out looking for me. Kristin knew where I was eventually, but I didn’t have any way of contacting anybody else before that.”

They couldn’t find you at first either. You were gone for over nine hours, and I didn’t even find out myself that you were with Ben until after 3a.m. this morning, when the others arrived back on-board. I thought you were still in your cabin sleeping. So did Jonathan.”

I wanted to go out and start searching for you myself, but there wasn’t any spare launches left to leave here,” the Captain told him, wanting to make it absolutely clear that he would always put aside anything else less important until he knew the boy was safe and sound.

I was with Miguel, Tim and Ben for the most part,” the teenager interjected, not realising just how long he had been absent until it was pointed out to him, “You usually don’t have a problem with me being in their company.” He had never intentionally wanted the Captain to worry about him so much.

And I wouldn’t have had one this time, except for a few small little details,” Bridger replied.

With his headache still throbbing, Lucas was waiting for the Captain to tell him what the answer was, because his brain wasn’t really switched on at the moment.

Commander Ford didn’t know about Tim O’Neill being roped in at the last minute and going on your little impromptu jaunt either. And then to make matters worse, Ben neglected to tell anybody that you were going with them, including myself and Kristin.”

Oh,” was the only response he could think of straight up at that piece of information. Being left to his own devices in his own cabin with very little company for the week, he had been unaware of any of the level of planning that Ben had gone to get the other crew members to accompany them.

He could safely assume that Ford would be chewing out Ben in the foreseeable future as well as the Doctor and the Captain. He would have to make it clear to those involved that he deserved some of the blame as much as Krieg, and wouldn’t let them all take the fall for his own poor choices.

How are the fingers by the way?,” Bridger asked, changing the topic of conversation to other matters. Kristin had told them on the video-link call that she would need to look at them.

Lucas looked down at his hand, almost having forgotten about the cuts from the glass inside the store, casting a critical eye over the marks that they would even need anything. “They will be fine. They were stinging earlier at the store when it first happened, but the bleeding has stopped now.”

Let’s go down to Kristin in med-bay and find out how Ben is doing,” Bridger said in compromise, wanting the doctor to look him over when she could. Mentioning Krieg’s name was more likely to gain the teenager’s co-operation than saying that he wanted the doctor to take a look at him instead.

Guess I have to face the firing squad sometime,” Lucas voiced, knowing Kristin’s fierce reputation at times. Thankfully he had not been on the receiving end of it too often, but it looked like his luck was changing for the worst again today. “I can hear her yelling at me already.”

By the time Bridger and Lucas reached the med-bay area, the Captain could plainly see how much the headache was bothering the teenager. He was almost ready to admit defeat and willingly submit to Kristin’s administrations just to gain some relief. Almost.

Ben Krieg was seated on a chair inside the medical facility, but quickly stood up and was looking over at his friend, incredibly relieved to see him. He didn’t like the pained expression the youth wore though, or the tiredness he could plainly see.

Before Kristin and the Captain could exchange words, the two friends spoke to each other first.

What happened to your face?” Lucas said with fresh concern growing, seeing the darkening bruise on Krieg’s cheek.

Then there was also the dishevelled appearance of his friend, with the torn Hawaiian shirt and the grimaces of pain from that Ben was trying not to draw attention to.

Don’t worry about me. Where did you get to?” Ben asked, frowning as he heard how croaky the kid’s voice was.

Are you alright?” knowing how stupid that sounded as soon as the words had left his mouth. “Someone said you were close to throwing up outside?”

I am fine,” the teenager replied but not elaborating and rubbing at his neck and grimacing, sitting down on one of the beds, lifting his legs up onto it and turning onto his side, demonstrating how “not fine” he was to those in the room.

You can take up residency in that bed beside him, Mr Krieg, now that we have established how bad both you are at admitting the truth,” Kristin instructed.

Lucas, I thought you might be looking for this to help ease your sore throat,” she said, waiting for him to turn over and face her, before sitting up, and then handing him a glass of water. “There are some other soothing remedies I can employ after you have had some more fluids.”

Bridger was standing next to Lucas’s bed, but monitoring what was happening to Ben at the same time. Lucas drank the water, giving an audible sound at the instant but brief relief. His head was throbbing and the coolness of the pillows was very inviting. He laid awake though, watching as Kristin went about talking to Ben.

Any headache present, Mr Krieg?” Kristin asked as she gently examined the bruise.

Yeah, actually there is,” Ben answered ruefully, running his fingers through his short black hair.

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Lucas reluctantly agreed as a secondary comment as his own headache spiked in response.

Kristin, Ben and Bridger all gave a surprised look towards each other at the teenager’s honest and open confession. The boy had missed the exchange between them entirely.

Would you like me to bring you a tray of food?” Kristin asked Ben.

Not unless you want to see it make a sudden reappearance,” Lucas answered, his eyes closing, not realising that the doctor had been talking to the other patient in the room.

Without any further conversation for a moment, Lucas was falling asleep before Kristin could even begin her assessment of him. The teenager already admitting to having a humdinger of a headache, and feeling nauseous.

He already told me he felt like throwing up earlier last night,” Kristin whispered, picked up his left hand and looked carefully at the cuts on his fingers. “As I mentioned, probably only a side-effect of the medication I provided, and not having something in his stomach when he took it.”

The teenager didn’t bother acknowledging what she was doing or even twitch at any of her procedures that involved her caring touch, though he did still frown on more than one occasion at the lingering discomfort. The residual effects from the medication she had left him with were causing the drowsiness to return, but no longer offering any significant decrease in relieving pain.

They look better now than they did a few hours ago, and they won’t need stitching,” she stated, placing small waterproof covers around them to keep them clean and dry. “Back at the lab when I first looked at them, I was concerned there might be some slivers of glass embedded in there, but thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case either.”

I will keep an eye on his headache for the remainder of the day and check on him again over the next couple of hours,” she said to Bridger, seeing him visibly relax now that the teenager was being taken care of and finally sleeping peacefully where he could see him.

Nathan watched as Kristin laid a light cover over the youth, happy that he was comfortable enough and content to let him rest without further interference. Tomorrow she would recheck his recovery progress from the respiratory infection that had been plaguing him. She had been fairly optimistic with how he was fairing when she had checked him before she had left the vessel, but being outside on such a windy night when he was supposed to be indoors had not done the boy any favours.

When the doctor turned back to address Ben, and to ask if he was wanting any food or needing medication for his own headache, the man had thwarted those efforts, having fallen asleep as well, facing away from them during that short time of tending to Lucas.

Bridger and Kristin both shared a laugh at how alike the two friends could be at odd times without even realising it.

I think they can keep each other company in here for a few hours today, before I release them back to their own cabins,” Kristin commented, taking a second light cover and placing it over Ben’s sleeping form. She doubted that Lucas would want to stay where he was once he was more alert.

I think we could both use a few more hours sleep ourselves today,” Nathan commented, seeing tiredness on the doctor’s face too. She had been keeping long hours herself the past few days with the heavy burden of the new staff coming on-board. The crazy schedule of the day was going to keep both of them busy for the next several hours at least.

For the next two hours, Kristin was kept busy in her science labs helping with the new staff members and conducting the orientation meeting along with her assistant Annette.

The two ladies had finally been able to share a much needed cup of coffee in the small kitchenette before the next task of the day was to be tackled head-on.

Captain Bridger was currently arriving on the Bridge, and looking to give Commander Jonathan Ford a few hours rest until at least lunch time.

Captain, on deck,” came the announcement from the security officer as the dome doors opened and the siren wailed in the background.

Jonathan, you had better alter your duty roster for the remainder of today. Kristin has assessed both Lucas and Mr Krieg, and both are currently sleeping down in med-bay and I don’t expect that we will see either of them making an appearance for work any time soon,” Bridger instructed.

Both of them are sporting headaches, but should be fine a little later. Doctor Westphalen will keep tabs on them throughout the morning,” the Captain added to his report.

I have already pre-empted that a little, Sir, and removed both Krieg and Lucas from today’s duty roster of shifts. Mr O’Neill and Mr Ortiz have also been given time off today to get some extra sleep before their next shifts tomorrow,” Ford told his commanding officer.

You make sure you go and do the same thing now, and you can come back and meet me in the mess hall about lunch time. By that time, I hope Kristin can get some rest herself with the help of her own staff, and I plan on trying to catch up on some myself after checking on our resident computer whiz of course.”

With Commander Hitchcock absent for the next few days, Captain, rather than you and I having to soldier on throughout the day between the two of us, I intend of using a little back-up on the Bridge with your permission?,” Ford commented.

You certainly have my agreement to employ any staff changes you deem are suitable or necessary, Jonathan,” Bridger responded.

This morning is chaotic, but that should soon settle down, before we start our journey back into Pearl in three days time,” Ford surmised.

I will have more information about that for you by lunch time, Commander. Admiral Noyce is due to talk to me whilst I am on duty this morning,” Bridger stated.

Thank you, Sir, I will talk to you more then,” Ford agreed, giving a formal salute and proceeding to walk through the dome doors.

Back down in med-bay, Benjamin Krieg had turned over on the bed, not having remembered falling asleep, and noting that someone had covered him with a blanket. He went to turn over on his back, trying to work out what had awoken him. He listened intently again.

Looking around the room, he recognized that he was still in med-bay. His headache was gone, the bruise on his face, still tender to the touch, and he was missing several hours.

He looked over to the opposite wall, and noted that Lucas was occupying the bed, and currently facing him lying on his side. He heard another sound, and he realised that the noise was coming from his friend. The kid still had his eyes closed as though sleeping, but a sound of discomfort was definitely coming from that direction.

Krieg threw back the cover and got off his own bed, and padded across the tiled floor to the other bed.

Lucas, are you alright buddy?” he whispered, not wanting to wake the kid if he was trying to sleep.

Please make it stop,” came the barely audible plea from the teenager, as he wrapped both hands around the top of his head and groaned a little louder at the pain he was experiencing.

Hang in there, I will go and find someone to help,” Krieg promised.

Kristin had been tending to some slides in laboratory two when she came across Ben in the corridor, heading in her direction. To say she was surprised to see him wandering around was an understatement.

Mr Krieg,” she scolded lightly, “What are you doing out of bed before I have formally released you?”

I came to find you, I woke up and my headache is completely gone.” he started to explain, but concern soon started showing across his face. “Lucas was trying to sleep in the bed on the other side of the room, but he seems to be in a quite a bit of pain. I couldn’t tell what was wrong and wanted to come find you. I did try and find out by talking to him, but he didn’t answer.”

Kristin put aside the clip-board she had been writing on, and both of them quickly made the short distance back to med-bay.

Ben stood at the foot end of the bed, whilst Kristin put a hand on teenager’s shoulder, and spoke very softly to him. She could see the scrunched up expression on his face to indicate his pain level from the headache.

The doctor whispered a few words to him in a question, and Krieg saw the teenager slowly nod at her suggestion. “Stay with him for a minute, I will be right back.”

Kristin returned with some medication and a small glass of apple juice, hoping the drink would also help with his sore throat.

Regular strength Tylenol,” Kristin said to Ben as they both saw the teenager accept the tablets and wash them down. He turned over onto his opposite side and was trying to go back to sleep.

He was complaining about how bad his headache was before he came back on the launch with me. They should help and after a few more hours of sleep, he will be feeling much better,” the doctor informed him. “It must have been bothering him to be willing to admit how bad it was getting and wanting to accept the medication. He didn’t even want me to leave the ones with him that he took last night.

I knew his throat was bothering him some by the time we reached the convenience store, but he never said anything about having a headache,” Krieg remarked.

Are you planning to go back to sleep yourself?” she asked, “You could use some more I am sure. There isn’t much I can do about the bruising on your face except offer some ice.”

No, its fine. Still gives more than a little tickle if I poke it, but other than that, I will survive. I was planning on getting some more sleep, but back in my own cabin, unless you have any further objections?”

Kristin looked him over for a few more seconds, “No objections, but I am holding you to your word about the sleep,” she returned with a smile.

Do you want me to find the Captain and let him know about Lucas?” Krieg enquired as he headed towards the door.

He was going to be tied up on the Bridge for a few more hours, but I am sure he will get away just as soon as he can to visit,” Kristin answered.

The current time was closer to lunch by the time Captain Bridger had left his shift on the Bridge and headed towards the medical area. He was hoping to do two things, firstly get Kristin to take a well earned break and get some sleep if she hadn’t done so already. And secondly, visit Lucas before getting some sleep himself.

Noyce had not contacted them yet as promised about the matters he had spoken to Ford about, but no doubt the Admiral had merely been caught up and would be in touch as soon as he could. There was no rush and plenty of time.

Ford had taken over from the Captain for a few hours, promising to let Bridger know of any developments in his absence.

Nathan found Kristin just outside the science laboratory’s small kitchenette, looking more than a little tired. “I hope you are going to get some rest yourself,” he said with a little worry in his voice.

I was just about to head to the mess hall for a well-earned cup of coffee and some lunch, before I leave everything in the capable hands of my new assistant, Annette,” Kristin informed him with a tired smile.

I just have one more task, and you can join me if you like?” she enquired, knowing the reason why the man had wandered into her area in the first place.

One more?” he questioned, thinking anything else could wait a few hours surely.

I want to check on Lucas again,” she stated, and then saw his expression change to a puzzled one. She had expected him a little earlier and hadn’t informed him yet.

Mr Krieg awoke a couple of hours ago, and offered to inform you,” she began, “The headache Lucas was suffering from when he first arrived back, became worse.”

Worse? Is he alright now?” Nathan immediately asked, heading towards the room he had last seen the teenager sleeping in.

I offered him some medication, and he accepted. He was going back to sleep when I left the room,” Kristin assured him. “Ben promised to go back to his own cabin and rest.”

Upon arriving back in the medical room, the bed the teenager had been occupying was vacant.

Maybe he went back to his own cabin as well?” Nathan commented, knowing from experience that the boy liked his own company rather than being in down in med-bay when he wasn’t feeling well.

Let’s go and check on him, and then get that lunch,” Kristin suggested, speaking briefly to Annette as she left, promising to return after a few hours.

Upon reaching the small cabin located in Mammal Engineering, Bridger knocked out of courtesy, but tried the handle when no answer was received. The door was unlocked, but flicking on the light switch and peering inside, the bunk bed was empty and the teenager’s whereabouts remained a mystery.

I swear I have to keep tabs on that boy every minute…” Kristin started to say in mock anger as the two of them made their way to the next most obvious choice for where he was.

Both of them headed towards cabin A119, and knocked on the door. There was movement coming from inside, so somebody was behind the door.

The door opened, and a bleary eyed, Ben Krieg looked at both of them with confusion, he had swapped his torn Hawaiian shirt for a new one and had a shower himself upon returning from med-bay.

Hey, I was sleeping just like I promised,” he gave as the excuse for his lack-lustre appearance.

I apologise for waking you, Mr Krieg, I wish the same could be said for your wayward friend,” Kristin said, “He didn’t come here to visit you then obviously.”

Lucas?” Ben said, trying to clear his head, and rubbing at his face. “I thought he was still in med-bay with that bad headache?”

He is supposed to be,” the doctor relayed. “I went to check on him just now with Nathan, but he has left med-bay and is not in his own cabin.”

You lead, I will be right behind you,” Ben said, wanting to find the kid too, mumbling about starting to agree with Bridger’s sentiments recently about putting a tracking device on Lucas.

The three concerned adults entered the main entrance to the mess hall, and sighed in relief a little at seeing the missing teenager absconded on his own at one of the far tables.

Behind them, approaching footsteps revealed, Miguel Ortiz and Tim O’Neill who were heading to get lunch themselves.

Afternoon, Captain and Doctor Westphalen,” Tim greeted them.

Our young resident genius was missing for a few minutes,” Bridger informed them. “Kristin said his headache was worse.”

Good to see him trying to eat, at least,” Ben whispered, as the group made their way to join the teenager. Although better than it had been two years ago, it was still one issue that had not changed significantly for the better.

As they neared the table, they were able to see for themselves that the teenager was focusing more on keeping himself awake, rather than looking up at anybody in front of him.

Lucas,” Bridger said quietly, sitting on the bench seat beside him, and trying to gain his attention.

Oh, Hi,” Lucas greeted his new found audience, looking up and surprised at see more than one person. “What are you all doing in here?”

Some of us were looking for you,” Kristin scolded lightly, sitting down herself on the opposite side of the table. “Has your headache eased at all?” she asked, watching his facial expressions in case he was trying to mask anything from her.

Ben, Miguel and Tim took up a seat each on the other side of the table as well.

A little, but not a lot,” the teenager admitted, rubbing at his temple to emphasis the comment. “Throat is not as sore at the moment thought, which is a good thing. And I don’t feel like I want to throw up now. I thought the food and having something in my stomach might help.”

Your voice sounds a whole lot better than it did before,” Bridger agreed in response, noting that it didn’t sound croaky as the teenager spoke.

Kristin picked up the tub that Lucas had in front of him, eyeing his lunch choice with a questioning look. “Vanilla ice-cream?”

It doesn’t hurt going down, and it isn’t soup,” Lucas pointed out, not wanting to justify his choice of food.

He had only awoken twenty minutes ago, and wasn’t looking to engage in any meaningful conversation until his headache had gone away completely. But judging by the number of people now gathered at the table around him, that probably wasn’t likely to happen.

Feeling better, Ben?” Lucas asked, his friend seated directly across from him, the bruise having darkened over the last couple of hours, and standing out prominently.

Much better,” Krieg answered, “Just need a bit more shut-eye,” he complained. “Like everybody at this table, I can see.”

Bridger could see Lucas rubbing at his forehead, noting that the teenager had done so on a few occasions since they had joined him at the table.

Do you know where your headache came from?” he said, his voice laced with fresh worry.

No, but every little noise or sound is echoing inside my brain like it is being amplified tenfold,” Lucas complained. “I haven’t had a headache this bad very often before,” he admitted to Kristin.

The spoon there that Miguel is stirring his coffee with as it hits the side of the mug,” he added, Ortiz immediately stopping the action and giving an apology.

Ben shuffled about on the chair he was sitting on, “The sound of a chair scraping on the floor,” the teenager bemoaned as he put the lid on the ice-cream container, signalling that he had eaten what he wanted for now.

The sound of footsteps approaching them, saw Commander Jonathan Ford joining the group.

Good Afternoon, Captain, everybody,” the dark-skinned man greeted them.

Jonathan, I didn’t expect to see you here just yet?” Bridger questioned, thinking that his second-in-command had been taking over from him.

Well Sir, with Katie still away and us being a little short-handed on the Bridge between yourself and I, today is the best time to put my new training into place for someone who is trying to get a little experience and climb the officer ladder.”

Oh, that is what you were talking about earlier when we spoke,” the Captain answered with approval of the measures put into place, “Who did you start with?”

Lucas was trying to keep track of the conversation between Bridger and Ford, but after hearing Katie’s name mentioned, he could see the strained look that briefly crossed Ben’s face. There was genuine regret there about something, but about what he didn’t know. He would have to talk to his friend later on when nobody else was about to find out.

Lucas had tried to broach the subject with Ben briefly another day about what was bothering him, but his friend only mumbled something about her currently being away. It was clear that Ben knew a little more to the story than that, but the teenager respected his friend’s privacy, and recognized that it was something he didn’t want to talk about.

I decided to start with someone the regular crew is a little more familiar with, Sir,” Ford informed the Captain. “Wayne Watkins is the most senior person next to Commander Hitchcock, and has been patiently waiting for his chance.”

Watkins has been on the Bridge for some time and knows the protocols and procedures, but has not actually taken full control without supervision by one of us before,” Ortiz spoke up, “His style is a little different to both you Commander Ford, and Katie Hitchcock.”

He is, but hopefully it will give both the Captain and I the chance to recharge for a few hours,” Jonathan commented.

Lucas hadn’t said anything during this exchange, nor had Tim O’Neill.

Keep me informed on his progress, Jonathan,” Nathan requested.

Now that the formalities were over, Commander Ford looked about the table, trying to assess everybody’s mood and well being. He wasn’t entirely impressed by what he could see in front of him.

How are you feeling Tim and Miguel?” he asked casually, starting with those he was sitting closest to.

Needing sleep, Commander,” Tim answered truthfully, with Ortiz nodding in agreement. But at least neither of them were suffering from any injuries.

Krieg over there looks like he went a few rounds with a prize fighter in a boxing ring. The Captain and Doctor Westphalen both look like they could use some much needed sleep themselves as well. Lucas sitting at the end of the table there is sporting a bad headache,” O’Neill offered in assessment of those present.

Despite his own discomfort, Lucas couldn’t help but keep looking back at his friend Ben’s face, the guilt showing clearly on his own tired features.

Finally he couldn’t just sit and not ask the question, the silence that was enveloping everybody was grinding on his last nerve. “Are you going to tell me what happened or do I just have to guess?” addressing the question to Krieg.

Ben looked over at his teenage friend and then glanced at Bridger and Ford, trying to decide for himself how much to reveal. But he ended up making the choice of being completely honest. His friendship with Lucas from the start had been built on that foundation and he wasn’t about to change anything about that now.

The Captain and Commander Ford both seemed indifferent about how much to tell the boy, and they had yet to hear his version of events after exiting the store, so perhaps that is where they should start.

I am yet to hear much of anything about this little journey any of you took,” Kristin pointed out matter-of-factly, crossing her arms in a no-nonsense pose and looking at the faces around the table. “Anybody want to go first?”

Lucas turned his attention back to the table, swallowing and feeling her eyes on him and expecting him to start. He looked from Kristin then turned to look at the Captain, seeing the expectant look on their faces. He shrugged his shoulders a little resigning himself to telling them what had happened from his perspective.

After you left my cabin, the Captain did come and visit me too,” Lucas began, looking over at the doctor as he spoke. “I was still feeling lousy as you know, and by the time he left, was looking to spend a little time somewhere other than within those four walls. And to see some other faces for a while.”

Kristin was trying to keep her expression composed, but hearing his statement about feeling lonely, wasn’t helping that endeavour. She realised that he was willing to shoulder the blame away from Nathan.

The Captain said I should be getting something to eat, but during the last week, everything had been tasting like nothing but cardboard, and I couldn’t stomach the idea of any more soup again,” he continued. “When Ben came along and offered to take me up-world to get something to eat, I didn’t need much convincing.”

Ben wanted to add some explanation as well, but held off, letting his friend tell his version without interruption first. He could always embellish afterwards if needed. He hadn’t realised that being cooped up in his cabin for more than a week had been driving him a little stir-crazy. He wish the kid had of spoken up sooner, and he could have done something about his boredom.

By the time I followed Ben onto the launch, my head was just aching. I saw Miguel and Tim on-board, but didn’t question if either of them were supposed to be there or not.”

We arrived on the mainland without incident, and Ben said that he had someone arranged to pick us up,” Lucas stated.

This time around, Ben did interject into the conversation, “I was going to take you all to my Dad’s diner.”

The one you have been talking to me about for a few months?” Lucas enquired.

You know about this place, Lucas?” Miguel asked. The first any of them had heard about it was when Ben was standing by the moon pool giving his version of events to the Captain.

The rest of the crew at the table were surprised, but told themselves that they probably shouldn’t have been. Ben had often been Lucas’s confidante in the past about a whole host of matters, and it seemed that at least on this occasion, the premise was being reversed, and Lucas had kept some things shared from Krieg to himself.

Yeah, Ben told me about it, and how his Dad wants him to take over one day,” Lucas replied, glancing over apologetically at Krieg. Ben waved a casual hand gesture back at him to signal that there was no hard feelings about it being out in the open now for others to know.

Kristin was getting a little lost, this being the first time she had heard anything about Ben’s family or them owning any kind of food establishment.

I will tell you later,” Nathan promised, trying not to interrupt the teenager’s train of thought too much.

I still aim to take you all there one day,” Ben said good-naturedly, and meaning to do just that as soon as time allowed.

Next time I will not be going with Barry,” Lucas emphasised, annoyance creeping into his voice, and he rubbed at his head as his headache throbbed as a result. “I don’t care how we get there.”

Barry?” Kristin now prompted, seeing that his mood had changed very quickly.

The doctor wanted to know the reason for it. Vaguely she remembered Lucas mentioning something about a driver when he had turned up in the company of the security guards outside the research facility. At the time she had been more stunned and concerned about his own appearance at the time rather than who he was speaking about.

Lucas slumped a little more down in posture, and his face took on a very sullen expression as he recalled what the guy had said. It still bothered him, no matter how much he tried to deny it. And it bothered him more that he wasn’t able to block it out like others would have him believe after the length of time that had elapsed.

Nathan put a comforting hand on the teenager’s shoulder, having heard what the taxi-driver had inferred, knowing how any references to his father would have been received.

When it was clear that the teenager wasn’t going to repeat what had happened, Ben stepped in to explain what had happened to the doctor.

Barry wasn’t the regular taxi-driver, but wasn’t one of the most charming of personalities. He is ex-marine, and his cab was like a local sewer. He found out about us being sub-mariners and started making jokes at our expense. That part wasn’t a problem, and our resident genius here soon put him in his place with a few choice words of his own, defending us. But then the guy started in on Lucas, and made some wild, hurtful accusations.”

Lucas was almost ready to leave the table and bolt, but stayed at Nathan’s insistence, but kept his gaze focused upon the table. He knew that the teenager didn’t want to hear the driver’s words again.

With Lucas’s eyes fixated on the table in front of him, Bridger looked over at Kristin and silently mouth the name, Lawrence to inform her of the subject causing the teenager’s sudden mood swing. The man’s name had not been said out loud, but knew the doctor was smart enough to draw her own conclusions and understand what had occurred.

Kristin was able to lip-read fairly well, and her expression softened towards Lucas, but inwardly wanted to kick something hard on his behalf.

I let him get to me when I shouldn’t have,” Lucas said, looking up and apologising to the crew members who had been in the car with him. “I wasn’t really thinking straight when I tried opening the door and getting out of the car whilst it was still moving.”

Kristin almost gasped out loud at that statement, looking over at Nathan first, and then at Ben who displayed fearfully, and nodded in confirmation that it was the truth.

The next thing we know is that we are all standing on the road, after being dumped there, and have to make our way on foot for a while,” Ben continued where Lucas had left off. “There was civilisation somewhere nearby, we just had to find it.”

The efforts that Ben had made to negotiate with Lucas and preventing him from wandering away on his own were left out.

We didn’t have to walk too far before stumbling across a few shops and businesses, but most of them were closed,” Miguel added. “The first place we found open was the convenience store.”

Everything was fine in there at first, we were all in there looking at various things,” Ben recounted. “Lucas went to buy water at the counter.”

I still owe you for the water, by the way,” Lucas confessed. “I am sorry it slipped my mind and I forgot to bring my wallet.”

These nice girls come into the store, but our young friend here choked big time at a chance to score himself a date or a phone number. All he got for his efforts was a fleeting glance of concern, and a coughing fit,” Ben said, much to Lucas’s embarrassment.

It was you that was more interested than me, my throat was feeling too sore then to talk to them anyway,” Lucas shot back, his mood improving slightly. “I went looking for the good food you promised me, but there was only vending machines, and none of them had anything that was worth sampling. And I didn’t have any money anyway, so gave up on the idea of gaining food.”

At least Lucas would have only been attempting to say hello, and wasn’t trying to spy on those girls like you and Miguel were, Krieg,” Tim O’Neill pointed out.

Spying on them?” Bridger questioned, with a look of disapproval from anyone under his command, on or off-duty. He wanted more of an explanation for this, as some of it had been left out of the earlier report he and Jonathan had received.

Miguel and Krieg had the good sense to look contrite at their Captain’s disappointment in their behaviour. Boys will be boys as someone would probably tell him, but that didn’t let them off the hook.

I just wanted to know what they were doing,” Tim said to the people gathered at the table. “They were looking through the gaps in the shelves and trying to work out what to say to the girls to get their attention.”

Then you went and wrecked it for us by getting cold feet,” Ben pointed out, only to earn himself a dark look from Kristin at his antics.

I walked out of that aisle and turned around the corner, but didn’t realise that Lucas was approaching from the opposite direction. For a few minutes, I guess we all lost track of where he was even in the store,” Tim admitted. “Lucas and I didn’t see each other until it was too late and both of us crashed into each other and ended up sprawled on the floor.”

I tried to steady myself, but some of the larger glass jars were bumped off the higher shelves, and smashed onto the floor around us,” Lucas continued. “That was where I got the cuts to my fingers, I was trying to catch them before they broke, but couldn’t save them. The liquid stuff stank and was slippery.”

The smell was definitely offensive and powerful,” O’Neill agreed, knowing that the clothes he had been wearing were soaked in the contents as well.

You didn’t tell anybody you cut your hands from the glass when we came running and checking if anybody was hurt,” Ben scolded, “You said you were leaving the store and would be waiting outside.”

Yeah, well by then my headache had grown to monstrous levels, and my throat was killing me, and I just didn’t want to be there any more,” Lucas admitted petulantly. “I should have told you that at the time I guess, but I just wanted out of there. The whole afternoon had ended up a waste from start to finish.”

I left because I was tired, and my head was hurting too much, and I just wanted to make our way to the launch and back to SeaQuest.”

I wanted to follow you outside because I knew something wasn’t quite right, but the store owner was intent on keeping the rest of us inside until the damages were assessed and paid for,” Ben commented. “The girls must have left by that time as well, and headed over to Molly’s Palace.”

By the time we were allowed out of the store, it was dark and the breeze had picked up considerably,” Miguel interjected. “We tried to get the store owner to let us back in to contact someone from there to help find you, but the guy wouldn’t even hear us out.”

Molly’s Palace?” Lucas questioned, this was the first time he heard mention of the place.

A bar owned by the equally charming Carla. She and Barry would be the best of friends,” Ben quipped, giving a first-hand account of her acid tongue and overall sour disposition.

I couldn’t get the stench off my clothes, and my stomach was starting to feel more than a little queasy without any food in it. I thought I was going to throw up, so I tried to find the nearest bathroom,” Lucas said, explaining where he had gone after exiting the doors to the convenience store.

When I got back, I waited and waited, but nobody was coming out. By then the doors were locked and the shutters had been pulled down, so I thought you guys had ditched me, and headed back to the launch.”

I walked back where we had travelled with the taxi-cab. When I finally made it back to the base, there was nobody about because of the time, but as I was crossing the lawn section, the automatic sprinklers sprang into life, and I was drenched from head to toe. I had no way of knowing where you guys were, I was soaked to the skin, and no way of contacting the SeaQuest, so I sat down on the little bench feeling pretty miserable about everything.”

I was sitting there shivering from being wet, not heeding what you said about bringing a jacket, when I found the medication that Kristin offered me earlier and left in my shirt pocket. I took them with the last of the water I was carrying. The next thing I know someone is shining a torch light in my eyes, and asking for me by name.”

The security guards that the Captain and I sent out to look for you, Lucas,” Ford surmised.

The only thing I had on me was Kristin’s contact number,” the teenager remarked, “And that is when they brought me to you at the building where you were.”

The medication I left with you was a night-time blend. I had hoped it would alleviate your headache, but help you get some sleep too. Taking them on an empty stomach probably only added to your nausea and certainly would account for you being unsteady on your feet when you got to me,” Kristin informed Lucas.

We definitely didn’t ditch you,” Ben guaranteed the teenager. “We came out and you were gone. We started searching for you thinking you had gotten bored, and it wasn’t long before full scale panic set in.”

We were looking for you, Lucas, but went in the other direction towards Molly’s Palace, thinking you might have made gone in there out of the wind, looking for all of us,” Miguel chimed in.

You thought I went into a bar, Krieg?” Lucas said in surprise and gave a brief laugh. “The Captain would have had my head on a platter,” he added, turning his head and giving Bridger a small smile that promised he would not have gone into such a place, even if the situation presented itself.

Bridger playfully cuffed his head with a look of ‘You had better not!’ and returning a grateful smile of his own, thankful that the teenager was usually responsible.

Going inside there was a mistake, but we did,” Ben added. “Turns out that the place is run by some shrew of a woman named Carla, who looked like someone had run over her a few times and then put a cigarette in her mouth.”

Yeah, we had better check with Doctor Westphalen about our vaccination status,” Miguel said. “The place could have been carry all sorts of disease.”

The one main rat present was serving at the bar, to those girls,” Krieg commented, meaning the awful woman Carla they had encountered. “Her startling personality came to the forefront when we explained that we were only in there, looking for you,” Krieg remarked.

I tried again to use my charming personality to explain to her that we were only in there looking for you Lucas, but she was trying to throw us out,” Ben said.

That is where you went wrong in the first place, Krieg,” Ford commented, knowing that the Morale Officer could use his easy going nature when it suited him.

Oh ha ha,” Krieg shot back to Ford, but almost everybody at the table was laughing at Ben’s expense, knowing Ford’s accusation to be quite accurate.

Lucas had a smirk on his face, but was not laughing at his friend.

Then the troll at the bar accuses me of running down her place and chatting up the two girls, so she called over her Neanderthal of a bouncer, Charlie, from over in the back corner.”

Big guy?” Lucas asked in assumption at the description Krieg had given about the man.

Big, ugly, and a brick short of a brain cell. Leg and arm muscles built like tree trunks, but he made up for his lack of smarts in jealousy, when Debbie came out from the kitchen, and heard what we were doing in there,” Ben answered.

Debbie, a waitress come out from the kitchen, having heard everything going on,” Krieg continued. “At least she was willing to listen, so I explained why we were there to her, and gave her your description, Lucas. ”

Carla had poured drinks for the girls and wasn’t intending on letting them leave before they finished them,” Miguel recalled. “They were feeling more then a little intimidated and wanted to leave.”

That is when out gallant knight in shining armour, Tim O’Neill over here, came to their defence, and offered for the girls to come back with us,” Ben said, sharing a knowing smile at Tim, who was looking mighty uncomfortable himself now at being in the spotlight.

Bridger and Ford shared a chuckle again at hearing just how mixed up and out of control everything had become within a few hours. They knew that Ben and the others had never meant for things to get this crazy.

I started asking Debbie to contact you, Sir,” Ben addressed the Captain, but Charlie got hot under the collar and said she wasn’t doing nothing for us.”

I tried to diffuse the situation and was going to talk to Debbie outside, away from the bouncer,” Krieg explained. “The waitress told him to back off and take a hike. But unfortunately I ended up causing her to fall, and she ended up on the floor, taking the tray of drinks with her.”

The bouncer snatched up Krieg by the front of his shirt, and punched him twice before he even knew what happened,” Miguel told them. “That is how his shirt got torn.”

So that is how Ben ended up laying on the floor in a daze as well,” Ortiz filled in. “But then I saw the guy was intending to kick him when he was on the ground, so I jumped in and was ready to stop it.”

You were ready to take on the bouncer, Ortiz?” Ford asked with a whistle of pride. Hearing how big the bouncer was, it was clear that Ben might not have been the only injured party had tempers boiled over even further.

Thanks, Miguel,” Ben said, giving the Cuban man a hand-shake of gratitude. “I always knew you were the little bulldog of this crew.”

Lucas paled a little at hearing that Ben had been punched and almost kicked. The guilt about the bruising he could already see resurfacing. Hearing about Miguel’s near miss didn’t diminish his own culpability on the whole saga.

I am sorry you got hurt because of me, Ben,” the teenager voiced.

Hey, don’t beat yourself up, Lucas, you weren’t to know,” he said, trying to relay any fears his friend was having. “Sorry about your fingers and your baseball shirt.”

Luckily for all of us, Tim here came to everybody’s rescue,” Ben declared with relish.

Tim shrank away from the spotlight again, but gazed around and could see the looks and surprise on those at the table.

What did you do?” Lucas asked, wanting to know. The communications officer was normally not known for showing anger at any time, so the idea of him getting involved in any physical altercation was difficult to fathom.

I turned on the over-head fire sprinkler system that is inside the place,” O’Neill answered, but not really feeling that he attributed too much at all, like it was being retold.

Everybody in the room, us, the girls, Carla, the huge ape, everybody, including the inside of the bar and all furnishings, was drenched in gallons of water,” Ben said triumphantly. “So we all got a little wet just like you, Lucas.”

With most of the full version of events now out in the open, Lucas decided that now was just as good a time as ever to address Commander Ford about any impending punishment or sanctions.

So what is the damage bill from everything?” the teenager asked.

You don’t need to worry about that, Lucas,” Ben tried to assure him.

No, Ben, I am just as much to blame as any of you for whatever happened there and any breakages, and deserve the same treatment,” Lucas stated firmly.

Three thousand, four hundred and sixty-nine dollars, and twelve cents, was the estimate given to us before we heard the final report from law enforcement,” Ford informed him.

Lucas could scarcely believe the amount being quoted, and coughed out loud to mask his shock, thinking that he would be needing to make contact with his bank to gain some funds. His impromptu night out was turning into even more of a nightmare than he could ever have imagined.

That includes the breakages from the store of the jars, and the water damage to ‘Molly’s Palace’, Ford confirmed.

Bridger could see the downcast mood of the teenager darkening but he was also proud to see the boy’s maturity shining through with stepping up to the plate with the others involved.

Tell him what happened next, Commander,” he instructed.

Technically the store damages still need to be paid for, but they shouldn’t amount to any more than twenty dollars,” Ford reported.

I will split the damages with you, Lucas,” Tim offered, “Because we were the ones involved there, not Ben or Miguel.”

Done, I will get the money for you as soon as I get back to my cabin,” Lucas said, feeling the burden lift from his shoulders a little at what had to be paid for. And Tim was right about the two of them being liable.

Ben and the others have been exonerated from any of the other damages to Molly’s place for the water damage and other losses,” Ford shared.

Really, they have been let off the hook?” Lucas queried, unable to mask the skepticism in his voice. “Why?”

Debbie told the local police what had happened, and who was really to blame,” Ben announced cheerfully, hoping it would perk up the boy’s mood.

And then the authorities gave the Captain a little call to inform him that we were returning on the launch, with the new supplies, and we arrived back here just before 3 a.m. this morning,” Ben finished.

Well my little jaunt back here wasn’t any fun either,” Lucas pointed out. “I was nice and comfortable until Kristin came and told me we had to leave. It felt like I had just fallen asleep.”

Sitting at the table, Lucas yawned to emphasise that statement, his headache still making itself known.

I only wish I had some clean clothes for you to return in at the time, Lucas,” Kristin remarked, “You had only just fallen asleep, before I had to wake you up again.”

There was that one nice lady on the launch, I am not sure of her name,” Lucas remembered. “I am positive I have never met her before, but she seemed to know my name.”

That would be Annette, my new assistant. I will introduce you to her a little later, once you have had some more sleep,” Kristin promised. “I am finally getting one after all this time, and she has been a great help so far.”

Well, I don’t know about her, but the rest of the science people aboard the launch couldn’t get far enough away from me because my clothes stank from the pickled onion juice,” Lucas huffed. “I might have been standing up with my eyes closed, and there were too many people trying to talk over the top of each other at once. But I heard them gossiping amongst themselves and what they were saying. They wanted to get as far away from me as possible but couldn’t because of how tightly packed in we all were.”

I will probably hear them snickering every time they see me walk past one of them in the corridors over the next couple of weeks. I will hear them whispering, “There goes onion boy!”

Those at the table laughed good-naturedly at the teenager’s expense, and were relieved that he could joke about himself. There was a time when they walked around him as though on egg-shells, knowing that others had made poor and undeserved jokes in the past about him that had caused him to doubt his place on SeaQuest.

All jokes aside, next time you leave this vessel, I am putting a tracking device on you,” Bridger vowed. “Maybe I might have to think about putting one on all of you,” he added, turning to the other crew members.

Pftttt,” Lucas scoffed in jest, ‘I dare you’ on his face as he looked back at the Captain in challenge, but he couldn’t hold the expression very long, and it wasn’t long before he was frowning due to his headache again.

Lucas was thankful to be back on-board and amongst family and friends, and pleased that Bridger’s own fears about him missing, had been put at ease too.

I promise I will make it up to everybody at this table very soon for everything that happened,” Ben declared with sincerity.

His announcement though was met with audible groans and exclamations of not wanting to be involved in the next caper the Morale Officer tried to cook up.

Ben, I haven’t even had the chance to get over this ‘fun-time’ yet, Lucas implored, noting a nod of agreement from Miguel and Tim at his comment.

I promise it will be worth your while this time, Lucas,” Ben stated.

Lucas laid his head on the table and groaned out loud again, not from pain, but knowing that he would be the first victim of whatever Krieg had in mind.

Looking up at his friend, “Do me a favour next time around, Ben, don’t come calling or knocking at my door,” he pleaded. “Actually come to think of it, when I go back to my cabin, I am putting a heavy bolt on the inside of the hatch to lock you out.”

Now that hurts, Lucas,” Ben retorted. “How can you even think of doing that to a good friend like me?”

Favourite baseball shirt, Krieg, you owe me,” Lucas reminded him. “And no food like I was promised.”

The banter between the two friends was welcomed by everybody at the table, hoping that everything would soon return to normal on-board.

Now it was Kristin’s turn to intervene against Ben. “Don’t worry Lucas, I am start selling tickets today. Would you like to buy any?”

What are the tickets for?” the teenager asked, but could see her exchanging looks with Krieg, so he knew it couldn’t be good for his health.

Lucas’s smile widened as he saw Krieg lower his own head onto the table and groan out loud in abject misery at whatever fate Kristin had in mind for him.

Tickets to Mr Krieg’s imminent execution for his misdemeanour’s and his yearly physical evaluation which has been brought forward a few months,” Kristin answered with her own unique brand of sanctions in mind.

Oh come on, Doc, have a heart would you, I told you and the Captain I was sorry. The kid is here now, returned all safe and sound. I didn’t mean to temporarily misplace him, so there is no need to stoop to such underhanded tactics is it?”

Everybody at the table was now laughing at Ben’s expense and his impending punishment. He looked at each face at the table apart from his friend, looking at them with a hopeful expression, only to be give an exaggerated gasp of horror as each person shook their head negatively.

Come on, Lucas, you can help get me out of this, right?” Pal?? Buddy?”

Lucas looked at his friend briefly, before turning back to Kristin, “I will buy three tickets, thank you, Kristin,” Lucas asserted.

There was no way he was going to miss such an opportunity. “I assume the money is going to a good cause?” He didn’t really care where the money was being spent, if Ben was going to be on the end of one of Kristin’s legendary punishments, he wanted to be there with bells on.

Oh only the best cause, Lucas, new equipment for my science department. I assure you, the money will be well spent,” Kristin replied with a smile, looking over at Krieg as she spoke.

Three tickets!” Ben spluttered in indignation, hardly able to believe his friend would turn on him so quickly. “But there is only one of you.”

Yeah, but I am sure that there are a few other people around here wanting to watch too,” Lucas responded.

We will gladly take you up on that offer, Lucas,” Tim offered, pointing his thumb in Miguel’s direction.

Ortiz nodded his head in agreement, “We wouldn’t mind being part of the audience.”

You know, I never really liked any of you people,” Krieg huffed.

Ben looked over at Commander Ford and saw the man was joining in with the laughter and jibes, “Don’t worry, Commander, Sir. The Doc already has your number too,” Krieg revealed with delight. “Don’t forget revaluation!”

Bridger couldn’t help but laugh at Ben’s torment of Ford. Lucas was surprised by the man’s random outburst.

Revaluation of what?” Lucas asked innocently, missing the punch line somewhere.

His abilities to command this vessel when the Captain isn’t about,” Krieg answered with a air of superiority, pleased to see the scowl appear on Ford’s face at his own impending battle with Doctor Westphalen.

That is yet to be determined by someone else with a military background, and above the pay rate and extensive expertise of Doctor Westphalen,” Ford informed Krieg with authority. He had hoped that Bridger would take note of his protest as well at the assessment of his abilities, but seeing the amusement on the Captain’s face, he might be mistaken about that.

Everybody present thought Lucas said it best, what they were all thinking, but were too afraid to say out loud.

Man you must be crazy taking on Kristin on your own,” he said to Ford.

Ben couldn’t help but guffaw in fresh laughter, the teenager was probably the only one who would get away making such a statement to Jonathan’s face like that, in front of Kristin, unless it was Bridger himself.

That is what I have said to him,” Krieg commented. “And have done so on more than one occasion.”

What makes her think you were not up to the task, Commander?” Lucas directed at Ford.

But Krieg jumped in to answer before Jonathan could, “We all escaped the SeaQuest under his watch when his back was turned.”

Most of the crew at the table were laughing, but Lucas soon stopped as he realised that his actions may have gotten more people into trouble than he originally thought, and the guilt was only added to what he felt over Ben being injured. Ford should not have to bear any consequences when he was nowhere near the launch or the mainland.

My brain isn’t back to working just yet with this headache, Commander, but when it eases, I will put in a good word for you,” Lucas offered truthfully.

Thank you, Lucas, but I don’t think that will be necessary. I will let you know if anything develops,” Ford replied. Like the Captain, he could see the teenager’s genuine attempts at making amends for his involvement and was appreciative of his offer of shouldering any blame.

What about putting in a good word for me?” Ben queried.

Nope for you, I am going to be the star witness for the prosecution,” Lucas remarked.

I knew there was a reason I didn’t like you, ‘junior’,” Krieg taunted his teenage friend.

The use of that nickname got the desired response he was looking for.

I hate that nickname you deliberately gave to me, Krieg,” Lucas scowled.

Yes, I know you do, that is why I said it,” Ben teased.

You start calling me that one more time Krieg, and I am going to start calling you ‘Benny’ from now on,” Lucas said, knowing how much Ben detested that variation of his own name.

There had been an unwritten agreement between the two friends, that the only time Lucas could use the said awful name, was when he was in trouble and secretly trying to gain Ben’s attention.

Kristin was keeping an eye on the teenager, and couldn’t help but notice the fatigue and pain becoming more noticeable and prominent on his features, no matter how much he was trying to mask them. It was time to put a stop to everything for a few hours for everybody seated at the table. She was looking forward to getting some sleep herself and could see that Nathan was showing signs of tiredness himself.

Lucas, before you two get any further into that little area of discussion, I think you both should be going back to your cabins and trying to get some more sleep,” Kristin interrupted. “Apart from your headache, your body is still recovering from the respiratory infection you had before your little excursion.”

Oh that….,” Lucas said, taking stock of what she was saying, and silently agreeing. He had wanted to hear about what happened, and had enjoyed the banter between himself and Ben, but his eyes were feeling more than gritty and sore.”

Yes, oh that, and you still have a stern lecture coming from me yet about your latest wayward activities,” Kristin promised.

The others winced on his behalf at the mention of one of the doctor’s legendary ‘lectures’ for the teenager, but knew that he was getting off fairly lightly compared to others.

Lucas looked over at Bridger for a moment, hoping he would back him up about against Kristin’s edict, but the doctor spoke first. “He is still in trouble as well as you, and the other people at this table. Except for when he is being Captain,” Kristin confirmed.

You as well?” Lucas asked in complete astonishment, that the Captain was being lumped into trouble with Commander Ford, Ben, himself and the others.

Bridger was about to open his mouth in his own defence, but he erred on the side of caution, and kept any comments to himself, but nodded in answer to the teenager’s question.

The other men at the table laughed heartily at the Captain’s plight. Oh how the mighty had fallen, and in such a short space of time. They knew Doctor Westphalen well enough that she was more bluff than bark, but it was funny to see their fearless leader, quickly admitting his own defeat to her.

Wow, I missed out on a lot by the sound of it by being away for just one night,” Lucas remarked.

It certainly doesn’t get boring around here, Lucas,” Ford added with irony.

I am heading back to my cabin to sleep,” Lucas said, getting up from the table, and yawning again and rubbing at his forehead.

I will be by later to check on you,” Kristin informed him. “Let me know if your headache doesn’t improve beforehand if you need to.”

He gave a wave of acknowledgement to her as he trudged out of the doors of the mess hall, headed down the corridor towards his cabin.

Everybody else at the table soon departed company. Ben Krieg affirmed that he too was headed for some more sleep, as did the others. It should be a fairly quiet afternoon.

Two hours after leaving the mess hall, Lucas was still in his cabin, trying to get his headache to ease, without success. He kept tossing and turning, without being able to get comfortable enough for his headache to improve. He had fallen into a light doze not long after promising Kristin to get some sleep, but now the pain was making that virtually impossible.

The teenager was feeling fairly miserable, and just wanted the pain to leave him alone for a while. If that meant going to find Kristin to ask her for some medication, then so be it.

When he reached the science labs, there were a lot of new faces, and no Kristin about. He looked into the kitchenette, but she wasn’t there.

Annette, Kristin’s new assistant came across the young man she had been briefly been introduced back on the mainland. “Hello,” she greeted him politely, but was concerned when she saw him grimacing in pain.

Um, Hi,” he answered, squinting at the bright overhead lights, “I was looking for Kristin?”

I think she is still sleeping in her quarters,” Annette she informed him. “Did you want me to go and get her?”

Lucas thought for a minute, and considered it. He had wandered in this direction for that exact purpose, but upon hearing that the doctor was getting some sleep herself, he felt guilty about disturbing her.

I will catch her later. Can you please let her know I was looking for her?” Lucas requested.

As soon as I see her, are you sure you are alright? I can get someone else if you like?” she offered.

Kristin had been treating him when the security guards had brought him to her, and she knew he had been complaining of a sore throat on-board the launch when they arrived on SeaQuest.

No thanks, when you see her will be fine,” Lucas promised, and went to leave the area.

Upon leaving though, he didn’t want to go back to his own cabin just yet. When he was feeling this lousy, there was only one other place that he felt like going to that he wouldn’t be found by anybody else in a hurry. And that is where he headed now.

Knocking on the door first, he had expected a reply to come from the other side. When that didn’t happen, he turned the handle and pushed the door open, only to be greeted by silence and an empty room.

Drinking a glass of water, he removed the shoes he was wearing, and laid down on the soft surface, hoping that the quietness would help with his headache and allow him to drift off to sleep.

An hour later, Kristin had emerged from her own cabin, and made her way to the small kitchenette in the science department. Her sleep had been restful, but not as long as she would have liked. Hopefully if everything went smooth enough this evening, she would be able to call it an early night after dinner with Nathan.

Kristin,” Annette called out to her, as she spotted the red-haired doctor with coffee cup in hand. “I hope you had some sleep?”

A little, but looking for some more later on this evening, thank you,” Kristin answered.

I am glad I found you, because that young man you introduced me at the facility, was down here looking for you earlier,” Annette informed her.

You mean Lucas?” Kristin questioned. The science labs were a regular haunt for the boy, but she wouldn’t have expected him back down here today after chasing him from the mess hall, back to his cabin to rest.

Yes, he came down here asking for you in particular,” Annette confirmed. “I was a little worried about him at the time, he looked to be in some pain. I did offer to come and find you straight away, but he didn’t want to wake you, and asked me to let you know when I saw you next.”

Thank you, I will go find him now and see what is troubling him,” Kristin commented. She was pleased to see him a little more comfortable these days in coming to her when he wasn’t feeling the best. On this occasion she wished he had followed through until he had done so.

Kristin had made it past the moon pool, on her way to Mammal Engineering when she spotted Nathan coming in her direction.

He is not in his own cabin, if you are looking for Lucas,” he informed her.

He isn’t?” Kristin said, “Annette just same and told me he was down in the science department looking for me.”

I got a couple of hours sleep, but then Commander Watkins came to me, asking for my advice on a matter on the Bridge while Jonathan was sleeping. I left my quarters, and only just returned a few minutes ago to find I have a visitor.”

Both adults knew that Lucas going into Nathan’s quarters was not an uncommon occurrence to get away from too much distraction, and work away on one of his projects without interruption. They knew it was one of the sanctuaries he sought to get away from people when he wasn’t feeling well and was trying not to say so.

Kristin followed Nathan back to his own quarters, and together they both entered. Lucas was lying down on the Captain’s sofa couch, with two pillows, one underneath his head, and the other on top. She could hear a grimace of pain coming him as she approached.

Lucas?” Kristin said softly, lifting the top pillow a little, but finding that the teenager refusing to relinquish possession.

Turn down the lights, please,” Lucas begged, as the migraine continued to sap his energy and making him more miserable.

Nathan walked over to a wall, and pressed the dimmer switch for the lights, dampening the overall brightness in that section of the room. It was clear now why the teenager was using the pillow over his head for, to block out the light and make it as dark as possible.

It is hurting so much,” he complained to her. “Please do something so I can sleep.”

I will be right back with something to help,” Kristin promised him, knowing that the headache had been going on for far too long now.

Stay with him, I will return in a few moments,” she said to Nathan.

Bridger nodded his head in acknowledgement, but was worried himself about how long this headache had been holding on. Lucas had mentioned about having it when Kristin had examined him before going to the mainland with Ben.

Kristin quickly returned with an oral medication and a glass of water. “Lucas, can you sit up and take this for me, please.”

Reluctantly, Lucas lowered the top pillow, pulling himself up into a seated position and accepting the medication. “I don’t care what it is at this point, as long as it works,” he said. “Next time, an ice pick through my skull might be less painful.”

This is Sumatriptan and it should help with any nausea as well,” Kristin told him, but looking upon his pinched features and rumpled appearance, she didn’t know how much of her medical advice he was taking in. His eyes were terribly bloodshot. “It will take about fifteen minutes to start working.”

Lucas groaned out loud at that information, laying down again and turning onto his side, and putting the pillow back over his head, despite the lights being turned down.

Kristin sat beside him on the couch for a few minutes, massaging the back of his neck, and trying to get him to relax enough for the medication to wind its way into his system.

Thank you, that feels nice,” the teenager said in appreciation. A few more minutes and she could feel the tenseness start to ease, allowing himself to drift closer towards sleep.

When she was satisfied that he was finally dozing, Kristin stood up and the two of them moved out of earshot, not wanting to talk in case he heard them. From previous experience, he was a fairly light sleeper unless he was injured or under the influence of medication.

I will monitor him for the next couple of hours,” Kristin whispered. “But we don’t have to hover over him the whole time.

I plan to be up for quite a while yet, so I will call in and check on him as I can too,” Nathan said as the two of them quietly closed the door. “Why do you think this headache is holding on so badly?”

I am not sure. He has had one or two occur in the past without much explanation as to their source, but this one is probably one of the worst. I had previously put it down to dehydration and from lack of food, but he has eaten now, and had fluids, so it should have begun easing. I did give him a dose of Tylenol when he first alerted Ben in med-bay, but it didn’t seem to have much of an effect.”

Upon entering the mess hall, intending to share in an early dinner, Kristin and Bridger were met with Commander Ford and Ben Krieg also sitting at a table, talking quietly together.

Good evening, Captain, Doctor Westphalen,” Ford greeted them both formally. “I should be ready to take back over some of the duties on the Bridge now, Sir, and relieve both you and Commander Watkins.”

That would be great, Jonathan,” Bridger responded. “I did sleep a little, but Wayne came and wanted some help. I was happy to do so.”

Do you mind if we discuss a few matters over dinner, Sir?” Ford asked, not wanting to encroach on the man’s eating time, but there were quite a few issues that needed his personal attention.

No, Jonathan, just let me get us a plate of food and come back to the table,” the Captain requested. He knew the next few days aboard the SeaQuest were going to be busy ones. Whatever they could get out of the way now, would help immensely later.

Kristin was happy enough for Nathan to chose a plate for her, as she sat down opposite Krieg on the other side of the table. “You look much more rested than you did earlier,” she commented with a smile.

Yep, slept like a baby, and had a shower, and ready to put some food away now,” Ben said. He had already gained a plate from the kitchen, and was slowly making his way through what was in front of him.

Nathan now returned, having selected a small meal for both Kristin and himself. Both of them were still tired and wouldn’t be looking for a heavy meal. Strong coffee was definitely needed though, which he had also gained for both of them.

Is Lucas awake yet to be joining us for dinner?” Ben asked casually, hoping to just chat to his friend. “That kid really needs to eat more than ice-cream today.”

No, I am afraid he won’t be, Ben,” Kristin said, the tone of her voice changing enough to draw the attention of both the men they were seated with.

His headache got worse again after he left here,” she stated. “Annette came and told me when I woke up that he was looking for me earlier.”

Is he alright?” Ben asked, putting his fork down, knowing this was the last thing any of them wanted for the teenager.

He is in my quarters now, on the sofa couch. And he was actually admitting to us about not feeling great, or words to that effect. You know how often both of those things happen,” Bridger replied. “Not that I mind, I keep telling him he can go in there any time without needing a reason.”

Actually admitting it, and being in your quarters?” Krieg said with surprise. “He must really have been hurting.”

Nathan nodded his head affirmatively. Each of the crew members at the table were surprised that the teenager would openly admit such a thing to the doctor.

I have given him a specific migraine medication, and he finally started relaxing a little before we came in here to join you,” Kristin told them. “Hopefully by now it should be working enough to help him rest without pain.”

Don’t you still have to be careful what you use on him?” Krieg asked, knowing a little about the teenager’s medical history since coming on-board SeaQuest.

Yes, I made sure that the dose was carefully measured due to his sensitivity to the ingredients in some medications, but this one should merely help relieve his pain, and allow him some extra sleep. That is the only way he is finally going to beat off the last of his illness. I will monitor him for any adverse effects,” the doctor answered. “I don’t expect there to be any to worry about.”

Satisfied with Kristin’s prognosis, Ben went about continuing his own dinner, though he was listening to the topic of conversation around the table.

Captain, I am sure that you are aware of the preparations that Admiral Noyce has put into place for the U.E.O. joint exercise campaign that is due to start in three days,” Ford spoke.

I haven’t had a chance yet to hear everything Bill has planned, tell me what you know so far,” Bridger instructed.

Well, Sir, it is going to be a massive exercise, not just on our part, but all of those involved. Including all military personnel aboard this vessel, and all of your scientific staff, Doctor Westphalen, new and seasoned,” Ford stated.

The majority of those personnel, military and scientific alike will be absent over three days, leaving only a few people left on-board SeaQuest. You, and Doctor Westphalen will have an important conference with the Admiral during the first day, but would be free to return here that night.”

And I will be sitting back here, relaxing free as a bird,” Krieg stated, clearly very happy that he wasn’t going to be attending or participating at all.

You are not going?” Bridger said in surprise to Ben, but then looked at Ford for an explanation for him not being part of what was considered ‘mandatory exercises’

Unfortunately I have no idea how Krieg’s name was omitted from the list, Captain, his name must have merely been missed,” Ford said, eyeing Ben trying to catch a glimpse that he had anything to do with altering the system.

It’s not what you know, but who,” Ben said with a cheeky grin, finishing off his meal and pushing his empty plate and cutlery aside.

Actually it brings up the possibility of Ben being able to help out in another area,” Ford hinted, giving a grin of his own when he saw the Morale Officer’s unspoken objection.

Don’t worry Lieutenant, I am sure that what I am proposing won’t be too much to your disliking, and may even have the stamped approval of the Captain and Doctor here,” Ford taunted.

Bridger raised an eyebrow at Ford’s less than informative statement, wanting to know what his second-in-command was torturing Ben with.

Sir, during that time, the only other person that will be left on-board the SeaQuest on his own is Lucas,” Ford stated. “And I am not sure it is the sort of event that Lucas would ordinarily like to attend anyway.

So you were thinking?” the Captain prompted, thinking to himself what it meant for Lucas to be left to his own devices for a number of hours.

I was thinking he would be bored if he was made to attend, and with Krieg not attending, Lucas wouldn’t be entirely left on his own to work too much during the time you and the doctor were absent from the boat,” Ford suggested.

Any objection that Krieg had been thinking about, dissolved in an instant. He had no problems at all being in the teenager’s company for any length of time.

You are right, he would be bored,” Bridger agreed with the Commander’s assessment.

And if left to his own devices, he would be working non-stop without a break,” Kristin interjected, know full well about the workaholic habits of the teenager.

I think you might be the right person for the job, Ben,” Bridger commented. “And he is less likely to get suspicious about someone watching out for him if it was you.”

I would be happy to stay behind and hang out with him, Sir,” Ben offered.

No doubt if he was hearing this conversation, he would be declaring that he doesn’t need anybody babysitting him,” Bridger remarked with a laugh. “But I am not entirely happy with the idea of leaving him on his own for the whole day either, even in your company. He is still on the fringes of getting rid of and recovering from this recent bout of illness.”

Lucas wouldn’t want to go to the event or the dinner afterwards either,” Kristin surmised. “He doesn’t normally like those kinds of affairs, and rarely wants to stay in the luxury accommodation that is assigned specifically for you Nathan or any guests.”

I will work out something, Sir. Something fun to get him away from the computers and his programming as well as taking care of himself,” Krieg said, as he started planning in his head.

Alright, for now I agree, but we will have to talk more to Lucas about it when he is feeling better,” Bridger remarked, intending to talk to Ben more on the matter later.

I don’t know why the U.E.O. and Bill didn’t have this whole exercise before Kristin went to all of the trouble of moving the scientific staff on-board today. They could have had the campaign before they got here and save themselves a lot of double handling,” Bridger said with annoyance creeping in about bureaucratic red tape. “But that is U.E.O. logic for you.”

Only a handful of people will be able to return to the SeaQuest that first night, Sir,” Ford pointed out. “Mostly only a handful of senior staff members, including yourself and Doctor Westphalen should you choose to do so. The scientific community and military personnel will be staying on base over three days and two nights in assigned accommodations also.”

Commander Hitchcock has been doing something completely different for a few days and that will continue until after this event. That is the reason she is away now, and has been secretly doing a few other things outside of the SeaQuest lately as you are aware,” Ford commented. “Not many people know about anything about what she is involved with.”

Kristin looked over a Ben’s face and saw a similar troubled expression to what Lucas had noted earlier when her name was mentioned. She wanted to reach over and ask if he was alright, but the normally jovial man tensed up and went to grab a fresh cup of coffee to avoid anybody’s scrutiny.

The three people left sitting at the table, exchanged questioning glances after the dark-haired man, but none of them were aware of what turmoil was causing the distraction that they could see.

Ben returned to the table with his coffee, but wasn’t prepared to talk more about Katie or anything she was currently away doing.

Kristin, do you have any idea of how long Lucas might be out of action for?” Ford asked, clearing his throat a little, and realising how callous the question sounded, when they had just been discussing about him feeling unwell.

The Commander could see the questioning looks he was getting from all three people, and regretted having to do so, but he was running out of options.

Before the doctor could answer his question, the Captain jumped in first, asking a question of his own in return.

Why?” Bridger asked plainly, his one word answer demonstrating how he felt with the teenager’s name and work being brought up in the same conversation already.

I apologize to you both, and to Lucas, but some of the crew are actively voicing their needs for his help in quite a number of areas because they simply cannot keep up with the systems he has in place, or the pace he usually works at,” Ford commented. “They were already looking for him a week ago when he got sick with the respiratory virus and was confined to his cabin.”

Please don’t let Lucas know any of that right now, he is already going to be unhappy about the amount of backlog that is no doubt already waiting for him, since his absence for that week,” Bridger ordered, “It has been over a week since he has been able to work on the updates and glitches that surface on-board this place from time to time.”

You start letting people know too soon that he is on the mend, and he is only going to work himself day and night until he is sick again from over-working,” Krieg interjected. “You all know how passionate he gets. He will be putting more pressure on himself than anybody else can.”

Commander, I am putting everybody aboard this vessel on notice about the consequences from me should they even think about waking Lucas before he is ready to do so during the next twenty four hours. And I extend that to at least seventy two hours for any requests for work, even if he says he is better, until I give him the all clear,” Kristin warned.

Now I am glad that he decided to take refuge in the Captain’s quarters away from anybody trying to reach him.”

Understood, Doctor, I will inform them all that they will have to be patient a while longer,” Ford said, not wanting to ruffle any more feathers.

I am going back to check on him now, and then I will meet you on the Bridge briefly before you take over, Commander,” Bridger stated, as he finished the last mouthful of coffee.

Yes, Sir,” Ford said he got up from the table and headed to the Bridge. “Good evening, Doctor and Lieutenant.”

Ben, you keep any loiterers away from Lucas’s cabin for the next few days, and nobody else needs to know that he is currently in my quarters,” Bridger ordered.

No problem at all, Sir,” Ben promised. “I am heading back to my own cabin now. My next shift doesn’t start until tomorrow morning.”

Goodnight Sir, Kristin,” Krieg said as he too left the mess hall.

Bridger and Kristin left the mess hall a few more minutes later, after Kristin had finished her own meal, wanting to call in on Lucas.

Opening the door as quietly as possible, Nathan walked over to the couch, pleased to note that there were no longer any sounds of pain coming from between the pillows.

The teenager was no longer gripping the top pillow tightly in his hands to prevent any light from reaching him.

Kristin went one step further, gently lifting the top pillow away from the teenager’s head to reveal his peacefully slumbering face, and smiling that the medication was indeed doing its job. She put her hand on his forehead, trying to detect the temperature of his skin. He was laying on his stomach with his facial features completely relaxed.

No temperature at all, and he is sleeping at last,” Kristin quietly remarked, very pleased.

The Captain went over to the second bed that was in the room and removed the blanket, “I thought he would at least made use the bed, now that I have one put in here for him,” he whispered to her.

I don’t think he cares where he is at the moment, as long as he is comfortable and pain free,” she replied, taking the blanket and laying it down over Lucas and pulling it up to his shoulders. “And he feels safe in here.”

Whatever you gave him has really knocked him out this time around,” Bridger said, noting that Lucas had not stirred in the slightest at any of their administrations.

Yes, I suspect so. I did measure the dosage carefully like I told Ben, but the medication’s properties are still designed to have a sedating effect on the person using it. In his case, the sleep may last a little longer than normal. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at the moment. He could definitely use it.”

I have to head to the Bridge like I said to meet with Jonathan for a few minutes, but after that, I plan on coming back here, and doing nothing but reading quietly and catching up on sleep myself. I can keep a good eye on him, while you get some more rest tonight yourself.”

That would be very much appreciated,” Kristin said in gratitude. “You know where to find me if either of you need me.”

Kristin and Bridger left his quarters together, but parted company outside in the corridor.

Kristin returned to the science department, and carried out a few menial tasks before speaking one final time with Annette and then heading to back to her own quarters to wind down.

The few minutes that Bridger thought he would be spending with Jonathan Ford, turned into an hour before he was satisfied that everything was progressing as well as it could. Anything else that needed to be done could wait a few hours. He was more than ready to hand over to his second-in-command, and was happy to be heading back to his own quarters for the night.

Bringing with him, a hot cup of coffee, Bridger set that on a small table beside his reading chair, making sure that the lights over the sofa couch were still turned down. He adjusted the ceiling lights over his armchair to allow enough good light to read by.

Changing out of his uniform into pyjamas and a robe and slippers, he picked up the book he had been reading over several weeks and set it beside the coffee mug.

With his slippers on the carpet, he was able to approach the couch without making a sound. He didn’t know how the kid was breathing in there, and gave a silent laugh at the cocoon that being faced with.

The blanket was now pulled up and over both of the pillows, Bridger gently pealed back one corner, and smiled that Lucas was still asleep, and deeply so it would appear.

He was getting much better at being able to check on Lucas without waking him. A far cry from the boy’s first few days and nights aboard SeaQuest.

It was in private moments like this that he was able to take stop for a moment and take stock of the important things that had come into his life. Especially when that certain someone wasn’t in a position to be arguing those points with him. And be truly thankful to have this strong-willed, complex, but generous and brilliant individual challenging him every step of the way.

The Captain returned to the armchair and sipped at the hot beverage. He put on his reading glasses, and opened up to the place he had bookmarked.

He prayed that the remainder of the night was pain free for Lucas. Being in this room, Bridger would make sure that no-one disturbed him until he was ready.

The clock was about to turn 3.a.m. on the digital clock beside the bed of Ben Krieg, when the man suddenly sat bolt up in bed. In the middle of the night, the perfect idea had just presented itself of how he could make up for his ill-planned trip in the launch.

He had been trying to figure out how to do just that when he came back from dinner in the mess hall, and he started thinking about what Ford had mentioned to the Captain about the impending U.E.O. combined science and military exercises.

He would be able to make it up to everybody in one foul swoop, the Bridger, Doctor Westphalen, Ford, O’Neill, Ortiz and Lucas. And the best part about his epiphany was that it could all happen right here on SeaQuest, so there was not need to worry about anybody getting lost or misplaced this time around.

If his brilliant idea came to full fruition, then there would be plenty for everybody to eat, so that would give him plenty of brownie points with the Captain Bridger and Doctor Westphalen, for encouraging Lucas to eat more. The kid wouldn’t have to do much, just help out a little and would learn something new as a skill.

Bridger and Kristin would be doubly thrilled, and the teenager wouldn’t be over-tired or over-worked. They could both do it all in one day if they worked together, and he could shoulder most of the responsibility. Ford would be able to see his organisational skills.

Krieg knew he would have to talk to the head chef Don about using the equipment in his kitchen. That included the brand new stove and oven that the man kept raving about, that cooked virtually everything on its own if you believed everything he bragged about it.

Getting up from his bed, he grabbed a notebook and a pen, knowing he was going to have to start making many lists. He was going to need to talk to a few people, and work on getting Commander Ford to relax the duty roster for himself and Lucas during the next few days. That shouldn’t be too difficult considering Bridger and Kristin’s concerns about the kid getting too much work thrown his way already.

Some invitations would need to be designed and sent out, and most importantly, when Lucas was awake, he was going to have to sweet talk his friend into agreeing to help get the whole affair off the ground.

It would only be one day of preparation and a few hours that night. It was going to work, it couldn’t miss this time around.

Saturday was three days away, and would be the best time to have the event he calculated, on the first night of the U.E.O. campaign because there wouldn’t be many crew members coming back on-board. Which gave Lucas enough time for his migraine to go away and to be fully over his respiratory illness, and well on the way to feeling better.

And best yet Ben told himself, it all could happen before next Thursday, so he could still avoid Kristin’s threat of completing his physical evaluation.

The plan was almost fool-proof.

Planning to be continued………………………


Author Notes: Thank you for continuing to read. There wasn’t much happening in this chapter, but the next ones should mostly be fun and comical. I am leaving the angst and hurt stuff mostly aside (shocking I know – I am getting rusty). But there is enough of both coming in spades in other stories to make up for it, I promise.

I am still writing the first chapter to the new story in the adoption arc, The Green Pen but that is taking a lot longer than I originally planned, because there is so much happening in it.

As to all the secrecy surrounding Katie Hitchcock and what she has been up to, those answers will not come out in this story, but stay tuned.

I cannot update any of my 2nd season stories, new or old, until I have written Africa which deals with Ben Krieg’s departure from SeaQuest (yep still bugs me majorly to this day), and that one will be a long one, but have yet to put any words on a page.

So please bear with me, I have been planning that story for almost 10 years in my head since finishing The Perfect Christmas Present (which will be getting its own new major additions and changes)

Hope you enjoy.