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And A Bottle of Rum...

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Nathan Bridger sighed as he sank down into the easy chair in his small but comfortable quarters feeling, once again, the weight of command as it settled heavily upon his shoulders. The events of the past week would have been enough to exhaust the strongest of men and he was no longer an officer fresh out of the Academy. With a strength of will borne of years of experience he cleared his mind of tiring thoughts and allowed himself to drift away into happy memories, only to be rudely pulled back moments later.

'Captain to the Bridge.'

Bridger raised himself from the comfy chair with a groan and moved quickly to the intercom.

"What is it, Hitchcock?"

'We've got a blip on sonar. Something big heading this way.'

"I'll be right there."

There were times when he wished he had stayed on his South Sea island, living the peaceful existence of a beachcomber. Bridger snorted to himself as he strode along the corridor. He had never been just a simple beachcomber and - to be truthful - he had few regrets in giving up that life. Moments later he was striding onto the Bridge, his eyes scanning the instrument displays. A frown added new lines to his already seamed face. Somehow he suspected there was no danger to his man-made ecosystem for instead of the intense activity that should have accompanied Hitchcock's message he found only the usual sign of day-to-day business being carried out around him - except for the deserted WSKRS station. Bridger's hard stare at being dragged from a well-earned rest break fell upon the beautiful chief engineer. The startling blue-grey eyes fixed on his with a certain amount of regret.

"I'm sorry Captain. False alarm. We seem to have a glitch in the system. Ortiz is checking it out."

Bridger sighed and nodded his head in acceptance. It was not the first time and probably would not be the last before they managed to remove all the bugs from the programs. seaQuest was a new boat - and she was unique.

"Keep me informed. I'm heading back to my quarters."

With that he turned on his heel and stalked from the Bridge, still shaking his head in resignation.

The door to his quarters opened silently despite the thickness of the steel alloy used in its construction. It would hold under many tons of pressure should the hull be breached. He stepped inside the room, closed the hatch behind him and made his way back towards the easy chair. Part-way there he faltered and drifted off towards a small bookcase lined with books both old and new. His gaze flicked along the length of each shelf but he made no selection - nothing appealed. The long day shift had taken its toll but it was the release of tension following the end of the Broken Ridge incident that had crept up on him causing this strange lethargy. He thought briefly of Commander Ford. The younger officer had taken quite a beating from Cobb and his men but Kristin had promised he would be back on duty inside of a week. Knowing Jonathan Ford as well as he did Bridger had no reason to doubt her. Bridger thought of his crew. They had all played their parts well during that mission - even Krieg had proved himself to be a good officer when it truly counted. Bridger smiled at the thought. He had not expected Krieg to overcome his baser instincts for anything - except money.

Bridger stretched to ease the kinks out of a stiff back. He had spent more than his usual amount of time on the Bridge today being too hyped up to concentrate on research. Without volition his hand moved to open a nearby cupboard and the sight of a bottle of Scotch whiskey caught his eye. He smiled as his conscious mind explained his unconscious action. Thinking of Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg had reminded his subconscious of the small bottle provided by the supply officer.

"What the hell! I deserve this."

He reached for the bottle and poured a small measure into a glass then topped it up with ice. Carrying his prize to the comfy chair, he slid into its welcoming embrace then cursed as a sharp knock filled the room. He eyed the small drink for a moment, wondering where to hide it - and then ignored it. Let whoever it was think what they liked.

"Come."

The sound of the handle turning was followed by the almost silent sigh of the hatch opening. Bridger kept his face neutral as his security officer and friend entered. Crocker's eyes immediately caught sight of the small glass of amber liquid.

"Is that scotch?"

"Yes... a very small scotch."

Bridger sighed inwardly as Crocker scratched at his beard in contemplation.

"Shouldn't make a habit of turning to that stuff. Now... I'd recommend a dark, Jamaican rum with..."

"Chief! Can we suspend the whiskey versus rum debate until another time?"

"Sure... I just came by to drop off this list. We pick up this party at our next stopover."

Bridger ignored the slightly hurt look in the other's eye and accepted the clipboard. He scanned the list, wincing as two of the names brought unwanted memories to the surface. He could do without the arguments those two eminent scientists would bring as they each tried to devalue the other's theories. Baby-sitting some scientists was no fun at all.

"Something wrong, Nathan?"

"No... just tired. Long shift."

Bridger raised his eyebrows in amazement as Crocker nodded wisely and then headed for the door. Normally his friend was not astute enough to know when he had outstayed his welcome, being a little *too* insensitive on occasion. Crocker partially turned back on the threshold.

"If you need to talk..."

Bridger smiled gently, grateful for the offer even though he had no intention of taking it up this time. Crocker closed the hatch behind him, for once recognizing Bridger was not in the mood for talking be it serious or just plain gossip.

Several minutes passed before Bridger dropped the clipboard onto the low table. The visitors were not due for a few weeks so there was plenty of time to worry about them later. He reached forward for the scotch once more.

The hatch swung open suddenly.

"Hey Captain, I found a way to increase..."

"Don't you ever knock?

Lucas was taken aback and his bright blue eyes dropped to the glass near Bridger's outstretched hand. He eyed both glass and Bridger uncertainly and then cast aside thoughts of 'Nathan Bridger the alcoholic' and carried on as if nothing were amiss.

"I just figured out a way to increase the concept build ratio in the AI program attached to Darwin's..."

"That's great, Lucas, but can this wait..."

"Sure, I'll start on the changes and then show you the results..."

"That's fine, Lucas."

Bridger watched as the whirlwind of teenage energy exited from his quarters with the same suddenness by which it arrived, the brilliant young mind already formulating the necessary code amendments. The older man smiled, shaking his head at the exuberance of youth as he relaxed back into the padded seat. Slowly he reached for the glass one more time. His arm tensed, halting its movement at the sound of loud voices in the corridor beyond, but this time there was no interruption. Bridger grasped the cool glass and pulled it to his lips, inhaling the familiar aroma before allowing the warm liquid to trickle into his mouth, savoring the expectation of fire blazing down his throat - then spat it out with force. He slammed the glass down onto the table, staring at it in disgust, then in one swift motion he leaped to his feet and was yelling into the intercom.

"Lieutenant Krieg to the Captain's quarters. Now!"

-ooOOoo-

Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg raised his head from where it was buried in the innards of a box of pornographic holotapes that had fallen off the back of a boat so to speak. He swallowed hard as he recognized the anger in his captain's voice. For a moment he considered pretending not to have heard the summons but that would be mutiny - and if Bridger's tone was anything to go by he might not be too averse to following through on one of Crocker's more fanciful ideas on how to deal with mutineers; ideas that Crocker had already threatened Krieg with on more than one occasion.

"What have you done to upset the Old Man this time?"

Krieg's expression of disbelief was genuine for once as he turned towards the fresh-faced youngster assigned to unload the new supplies. He could not think of anything that would have rattled the captain's cage to this extent except for... No. His supplier had sworn on his mother's grave that the parts were genuine and made of high quality steel - and Frank had never let him down yet. Krieg swallowed hard, aware there was always a first time. He steeled his features into his usual innocent yet predatory expression, a soft smile playing over the full lips. The perfect camouflage.

"Probably needs a new resistor in the holographic unit."

Krieg took a deep breath and headed out of the door. As he walked along the long corridor his mind was in turmoil belying his outward expression. Krieg knew there were many things he could get away with - minor infringements of unnecessary regulations to relieve the monotony of off-duty time on-board a submarine - but he would never mess with the boat knowingly. Every life on board depended on the high quality of the spare parts they carried. It was his one, and to some, his only redeeming quality. Of course, there were those who interpreted this single-minded attitude as self-preservation...

All too soon he found himself standing outside the captain's door. He lifted his hand - and hesitated as a surge of cowardice raced through him, his mind working overtime. Krieg smiled and let his knuckles rap against the hatch so softly he could barely hear the sound from his side of the door.

"No-one home. Must have gone to..."

The hatch opened and Krieg swallowed hard as he caught sight of the retreating figure through the small window set into the thick metal plate. He stepped into the room wondering whether Nathan Bridger had been standing by the door waiting for him, or if the Captain was as psychic as the rumors implied.

The straight figure with arms clasped behind seemed carved out of stone. Krieg stood to attention automatically beneath his captain's stony gaze and waited for the ax to fall. A hand came forward clasped around the center of a familiar bottle.

"What do you call this?"

Inside Krieg folded in relief. A submarine Captain with a damaged boat was one thing but an annoyed customer for one of his more illicit supplies was something else entirely. This he could bluff his way out of... hopefully.

"Scotch, Sir - at least that's what my supplier said when I... He said it was the finest quality from the Glens of Scotland... If you read the label..."

Krieg reached out to point at the elaborate decor of a fully-antlered stag standing proudly on a craggy mountainside with purple heather scattered around its hooves. Immediately, the bottle was pulled beyond the supply officer's reach. Bridger's eyes narrowed as he took in the innocent expression. The label stated everything Krieg claimed - except this was not like any scotch Bridger had ever tasted. He remained silent as the young officer flowed on with his well-oiled patter for calming an irate customer, but as he listened Bridger felt a strange sensation building deep within him and, for the first time in days, a swell of warmth bubbled it's way to the surface of his mind. Watching Krieg trying to dig his way out of a con gone wrong was always an entertaining experience and this time was no exception.

The captain read indecision on the handsome face. Krieg was starting to run out of steam having been given no reaction - irate or otherwise - on which to tailor his usual excuses. One part of Nathan Bridger wondered what would happen when that stage had been reached, his scientific curiosity wanting to know if Krieg could run out of words, but another part of him could not prevent the smile from reaching his tired, dark eyes.

Inwardly Ben Krieg was sweating hard. Anger he could deal with - even tears - but Bridger remained as unmoving as a statue...then he saw it. The almost imperceptible glitter in his captain's eyes brought a surge of relief and renewed confidence. Bridger, himself a good reader of people, realized he had failed this particular experiment.

"Krieg. Just get me a decent drink... Now."

Krieg took the offending bottle from Bridger's hand and saluted crisply.

"Yes, Sir. You won't regret this. I'll find the best bottle of... alcohol on the boat and..."

Bridger waved the supplicating officer out of his quarters, shut the door behind him then sank into his chair and laughed.

Just outside the door Krieg slumped against the corridor wall, a fatuous grin creeping across his face as he praised himself for successfully handling another angry customer. A sudden thought popped into his head, freezing the beaming smile on his face. Where was he supposed to find this promised nectar of the gods? They had not set foot off the seaQuest in over two months - apart from the stopover at Broken Ridge. He had only managed to sneak two bottles on board from the colony. Unfortunately, both were from the same supplier.

Crocker! Krieg's eyes lit up as he caught sight of the security chief passing the intersection up ahead. Crocker was the nearest thing to a salty old sea dog on-board seaQuest and tradition had it that old sea dogs always had a secret supply of rum stashed away for emergencies. But how to convince him to part with his precious supply? Krieg hurried after the man, his mind working furiously.

-ooOOoo-

Persuading Crocker to part with his illicit supply of dark Jamaican rum turned out to be surprisingly easy for previous experience had given the sharp-minded supply officer an insight into the chief's character - in particular his almost puppy-like attitude to one Nathan Bridger. Krieg only had to mention the captain's name once before finding himself being led deeper and deeper into the bowels of seaQuest.

"Are you sure you remember where you stashed it?"

Krieg wrinkled up his nose in disgust as the smell of stale air and oil filtered into his lungs. The lighting was dim and unevenly spaced casting dark shadows where someone with a vivid imagination could visualize tormented souls and demons.

Crocker glanced back at the young lieutenant as they passed beneath another of the dim overhead lights. The slightly fearful expression brought a sadistic smile to the chief's face and he allowed old seafaring tales to fill his mind and mouth.

"They say there are ghosts on every ship that sails the seas. Sailors whose bodies have sunk into Davy Jones' Locker and whose souls float on the currents until compelled to flow towards passing ships..."

"Eh... Really?

The consternation on the handsome young face increased as Krieg looked harder into the surrounding darkness hoping to find nothing in the deep shadows. He missed the gleam of pleasure that sprang into older eyes.

"Here."

Krieg watched as the chief pushed open a bulkhead door and eased his not inconsiderable frame through the narrow gap. Beyond was pitch black except for the small amount of light spilling in from the corridor. He gulped as Crocker was swallowed by the darkness and then jumped as the brilliance of a halogen bulb split the blackness, illuminating the small storage room. Krieg felt himself compelled to follow Crocker into the room, feeling like a moth hypnotized by a flame. He watched and waited as the older man reached behind a strong conduit that ran from floor to ceiling, all fear suddenly forgotten in the discovery of new treasure.

The boat yawed suddenly. Crocker tightened his grip around the conduit as he watched Ben Krieg lurch sideways, barely keeping his feet.

"What the hell was that...?"

The second sudden motion of seaQuest sent Krieg crashing head first into the bulkhead.

"Ben!"

Violent swaying and the groan of strained metal continued for several moments more as Krieg's unconscious body slammed into one wall followed by the next. Crocker dropped the torch and reached towards the seemingly lifeless body while trying, desperately, to maintain his precarious hold on the thick conduit. As the body rolled passed for a fourth time Crocker snagged the uniform sleeve, feeling his body almost torn in two between Krieg's weight and the conduit as the floor tipped away once more. As the boat tilted back, violently, in the other direction he took advantage of the moment to gain a stronger hold on the unconscious man.

With dismay he watched as the dropped torch rolled out into the corridor, its light flickering before distinguishing itself completely. Suddenly, the darkness was pierced by a deep, flashing red which filled the room with grotesque shadows giving warning of something Crocker had never ceased to fear. He could only watch in horror as the bulkhead door sealed shut with an ominous crunch, plunging them into total darkness. The hull of seaQuest had been breached and they were shipping water.

-ooOOoo-

"It's turning around for another attack."

Bridger gazed around from station to station taking pride in his crew as they followed procedures without the slightest hint of panic. He heard the clam-shaped doors close behind him but ignored them to continue his scan of the Bridge. The run from his quarters had left him breathless but speech was unnecessary as each individual reported in as his eyes caught theirs. Ortiz looked up from WSKRS control.

"I've got visual."

"Put it on the main screen."

The gelatinous creature glowed dimly with bio-luminescence, it's multiple tendrils floating behind in the strong current caused by it's own body forcing water aside as it pushed it's way towards seaQuest once more.

Bridger turned to Communications where O'Neill calmly repeated a distress signal over and over in several different languages. He halted the soft litany and turned to his captain.

"Sending on all bands. Distress buoys are launched."

"Captain, we have a breach in Lower Engineering. Bulkheads are sealing."

"Severity?"

"They'll hold."

"It's turning away."

All attention returned to the viewer to watch the dimly lit creature recede into the dark depths.

"All engineering crew accounted for, Sir."

Bridger sighed and nodded his gratitude to the chief engineer.

"Ortiz, see if you can locate and track that thing. O'Neill, contact Dr. Westphalen. Hitchcock, I want a full update on that hull breach in ten minutes."

Bridger watched in silent appreciation as his crew turned to their tasks without a murmur of dissent.

"Captain?"

"Lucas. You okay?"

He had not noticed the boy slipping onto the bridge seconds before the clam-doors sealed but was not surprised to find him there nonetheless. Bridger pushed the youth into his command chair, dragged a handkerchief from his pocket and held it out. Other tasks demanded his attention and he turned away to deal with them leaving Lucas to cope with the gash on his hand alone.

The lovely face of the seaQuest's head scientist filled the secondary viewer.

"Kristin, Ortiz has film of the creature that attacked us. It looked like a giant Scyphozoa. I want to know where it came from and why it attacked seaQuest."

"Where's Darwin?"

Bridger turned to face the youth, understanding the young man's fear.

"If he had any sense he high-tailed it away from seaQuest. Try calling him in."

-ooOOoo-

Only the harsh breathing of his injured companion and the long, drawn-out groan of metal moving under pressure could be heard inside the sealed storage room. Otherwise it was as dark and silent as a crypt. Crocker pushed the thought of crypts and soulless moans away before his mind found associated words such as Grave and Death. No light penetrated the darkness not even the dimmest glow from the bulkhead lights in the corridor outside which should have become more apparent through the tiny door window once his eyes had adjusted to the dark. Whatever had hit seaQuest had shorted the electrical supply to lower engineering.

The boat had lain quiet for the passed few minutes and Crocker decided to take a gamble that Bridger had resolved whatever problem had caused the severe yawing. He released his hold on the conduit and slipped to the floor still grasping the thick material of Krieg's navy jump-suit.

"How bad are you hurt, son?"

Crocker did not gain a reply but then he never expected one. In the darkness he began to fumble along the arm until he touched the bare skin of Krieg's neck. The steady throb of blood being pumped by a strong heart gave him little relief for that same heartbeat could be forcing the life-giving fluid out onto the cold metal floor. His hand moved upwards and encountered sticky wetness. The memory of Krieg's head impacting with the wall and the iron-smell of blood confirmed his suspicion that the supply officer had been knocked unconscious - although the biggest clue had been the lack of verbal chatter from the normally garrulous officer. How serious the damage, Crocker couldn't tell - not without light to see. The security chief stripped off his jacket and balled it up before carefully placing it under the injured man's head.

"You'd better not die on me, son, cos', believe it or not, Nathan likes you. He doesn't trust you - but he does like you."

Crocker pushed back the damp hair he felt plastered on the invisible face below him.

"I can't do anything more without some light. I wonder if that torch rolled back in before the bulkhead sealed."

As he crawled around the dark room, hands sweeping from side-to-side as they hoped to contact the small cylindrical torch, Crocker thanked whatever gods existed that he had moved his supply from the main storage room. This room was barely one-tenth the size of the other so, if that torch was in here then he was sure to find it. His attention was caught by a soft moan and he stopped dead, listening for signs of panic should the supply officer be regaining consciousness, but all fell silent once more so he continued with his search. Another minute passed before his fingers wrapped themselves around the object he was seeking.

"About time our luck changed for the better."

Crocker flicked the switch. Nothing. He shook the unit violently and smiled as he was rewarded with a stab of brightness that seemed to illuminate the entire room blinding him for a moment.

Another soft moan filled the otherwise silent chamber. Crocker sank down by Krieg's side and took a deep indrawn breath as he saw the extent of the supply officer's injuries for the first time. The unnatural bend in Krieg's left arm could mean only one thing. It was broken.

"I need something to immobilize that arm."

A search around the room revealed nothing of any use until he spotted the end of an unused pipe.

"Wonder what this was supposed to be used for? Well, my mother told me never to waste anything sooo..."

With a wrench the pipe was snapped at a weak joint. Moments later Crocker was binding the pipe along the length of Krieg's arm using strips of cloth from his own undershirt. He sat back heavily to survey his handiwork, more than a little concerned at the lack of response following the initial cry, yet grateful he had not had to deal with Krieg screaming in agony.

The temperature in the room had been decreasing steadily over the passed few minutes and he shuddered as it dropped still lower. It didn't take a genius to figure out why yet Crocker could not resist the allure of the small window. He pursed his lips in consternation as his worst fears were confirmed. The light of the torch reflected back off the debris floating gently through the water-filled corridor. Crocker turned away from the hatch and sank down with his back against the cold bulkhead. He pulled the unresisting man against him and covered them both with his large jacket, moving Krieg's head until it was more comfortably pillowed against his shoulder.

"There's nothing more we can do now - except wait."

-ooOOoo-

The clam doors had been unsealed as soon as the danger had passed and Bridger watched as his crew went about their duties with the quiet efficiency of a well-tuned engine.

"Captain! Two crew members are unaccounted for."

Bridger turned towards Commander Ford in both surprise and concern. He should have guessed the Commander would not have remained in Medbay while the boat was under attack, his sense of duty was too strong. Bridger considered berating the officer but that could wait. There were more important worries to deal with than a mild case of insubordination.

"Who?"

"Chief Crocker and Lieutenant Krieg."

-ooOOoo-

Darwin flicked his tail to gain an extra burst of speed as he recognized the familiar shape and echo of seaQuest. Within moments he was swimming through the access way that led into the maze of water-filled tubes that formed his own personal corridors through the flagship of the UEO. He slowed considerably and watched the air-breathers as they went about their duty, using the barest of flicks to keep his momentum going forward. He halted as Lieutenant O'Neill came parallel, pleased with the warm sense that washed over him that implied everything was okay in his new world.

O'Neill stopped and placed a hand against the transparent wall by Darwin's head. He projected a sense of well-being, still awed by the amazing empathy that existed between himself and Darwin, an empathy that Darwin also shared with Captain Bridger. With the greeting made, O'Neill carried on towards the Bridge. Darwin kept pace with the young lieutenant until their paths separated and then sped onwards to the pool at the center of the Bridge.

The Bridge was a hive of activity which Darwin took in philosophically. He could sense tension within Nathan Bridger and the others which was quickly communicated to O'Neill. Perhaps all was not so cosy following the attack.

Darwin had been out feeding when the jellyfish struck and had returned as swiftly as he could but had been unable to enter seaQuest until the creature moved off. He clicked and whistled for attention and was rewarded by the burst of warmth emanating from Bridger and Lucas.

Lucas Wolenczak grabbed the vocoder handset and keyed it to Darwin's frequency.

"Darwin, you okay?"

'Darwin okay. Darwin swim. Creature gone.'

Darwin sensed that his presence had eased some of the tension but not all of it. He waited patiently, certain he would be informed of any problems that affected his world. The computer translated some of the words but many more were indecipherable. He recognized names: Krieg, Crocker and the word 'unknown' but without context it was impossible to decide what was wrong.

Bridger rubbed a hand across his forehead and turned back to face the engineering station. Half an hour had passed since the attack and there was still no sign of his missing crew.

"Any more data on that breach?"

"Forward compartments are flooded as is the main access corridor. Most doors failed to seal - electrical or computer fault, I'm not certain which. I have divers preparing to enter via seaQuest hatchways."

"Commander Ford, any trace of the Chief or Lieutenant Krieg?"

"None. It would appear you were the last person to see either of them."

Bridger rubbed his eyes as he relived the last conversation with both officers. Crocker had been wanting to extol the virtues of rum over whiskey and Krieg had promised to find some alcohol... any alcohol. He raised his head suddenly. No... surely he wouldn't have... not for Krieg. No, not for Krieg but for...

"Jonathan, our missing crewmen are in Lower Engineering. Start rescue procedures."

"Sir..? Why would Ben go to Engineering?"

Bridger turned to face the concerned chief engineer seeing for the first time the strain darkening her eyes.

"For a bottle of dark Jamaican rum."

He turned away from the confused expression trusting the commander to carry out her assigned duties with no further questions although he had seen the indecision in her eyes. Hitchcock and Krieg may no longer be husband and wife but Bridger knew they still cared about each other. However, he also knew Hitchcock was too fine an officer to allow emotions to get in her way. She would return to her task of repairing seaQuest, smothering the urge to take control of the search for Benjamin Krieg.

Bridger moved out of earshot, taking Commander Ford with him.

"Jonathan... Most of Lower Engineering is flooded, the seals failed. Katie knows this but..."

"Yes, sir. I understand. If we find them... not alive... I'll keep it quiet until you've had the chance to break it to her."

Bridger nodded feeling his heart constrict in his chest the same way it had on that fateful day when William Noyce arrived informing him of the death of his son, Robert. His gaze fell upon the unruly yet brilliant teenager who was hanging over the edge of the center pool stroking Darwin. He could understand his paternal feelings for the displaced boy but surely Benjamin Krieg was just another in a long line of crewmen who had served under him over the years. Bridger took a deep breath as he tried to explain the knot of fear that gripped him. There had always been a little warmth from the knowledge that Ben had known Robert at the academy but... Looking back he could not remember when the crew of seaQuest had snuck under his guard, filling part of the void left behind following the death of both his wife and his son - but as Bridger gazed around suddenly he realized how important each and every one of them had become to him. He took a deep breath and forced the emotions aside. His thoughts turned to the other missing man.

"I wish I'd let you have that debate on rum versus whiskey."

"Sorry, Sir?"

Bridger flicked a hand in dismissal.

"Just thinking out loud. Carry on, Commander."

-ooOOoo-

Crocker shivered and held on tighter to the man cradled in his arms. He had not needed to know the surrounding rooms were flooded, for that was obvious by the resonating sounds as objects bumped into the walls on either side.

He breathed shallowly, afraid the oxygen supply in the small room could run out at any moment. The pessimistic side of his nature had already decided they were dead. No-one knew where they were - if they even knew they were missing - but another part of him wanted to believe they would be saved. He ran a hand through the short dark hair feeling the clammy warmth of a forehead in the darkness. Sitting in the dark was not his idea of a fun day out but he wanted to conserve the batteries for when - or if - Krieg awoke.

A sudden head movement and a sharp intake of breath gave the first warning that Krieg was conscious.

"It's okay, son."

"I can't see."

Crocker fumbled around until he could flick the on-switch on the torch. His eyes watered as the sudden light pierced into them. Krieg froze when he found himself propped up against the older man, an arm holding him securely in place.

"Look, Chief, I've heard all these stories about lonely sailors but..."

"Well sorry, Ben, but you're just not my type. I prefer them long-legged, blond and female."

The strong arm loosened its grip around him.

"Where are we?"

Crocker grabbed Krieg's right arm as the younger man tried to sit up but not in time to prevent the cry of pain as Krieg tried to use his left arm for support.

"It's broken."

Krieg didn't bother to answer, having to devote all his attention to remaining conscious. He slumped back against the security chief.

"You could have warned me before I... Where's the rum? I hope that didn't break as well. Bridger will kill me if..."

Crocker chuckled at the entrepreneur spirit that was still alive and kicking.

"Sometimes I can almost see why Nathan likes you."

"What?"

"The rum's still in one piece. Tell me about Robert."

Crocker hoped Krieg was too preoccupied with his pain to notice the sudden change of subject for he had not meant to let slip Bridger's increasing attachment to his crew.

"Aaahh. That hurts... Robert? You mean Robert Bridger?"

Crocker didn't waste his breath replying.

"What d'you want to know?"

"I knew Robert when he was a boy not much older than Lucas. Head in the clouds dreaming of being in the military. Wanted to be the captain of his own ship one day."

"He would have made it had he lived. I wasn't in the same league - but I liked him. He had this laugh that made you forget how angry you were and laugh alongside him... I remember one of the Academy training exercises. He seemed invincible, stood out on deck manning the guns until they holed us, then he pushed everyone else into the life rafts when she started to go down. I remember yelling at him that it was time to go but he laughed and said he'd see us all soon. Sometimes I wish I was more like him - but I'm not - and I never will be."

Krieg sighed and then moaned softly.

"I feel sick."

"It's okay, son. Probably just a concussion. If you lie still it won't feel so bad."

"Does he really like me?"

"Who?"

"The captain."

Crocker sighed in resignation.

"Yes... though I've often wondered why 'cos' you're as far different to Robert and Lucas as the Bahamas are to the North Pole. Why don't you try and get some sleep. Conserve some oxygen."

"Does that mean you're not gonna sing?"

"Cheeky whelp."

-ooOOoo-

Jonathan Ford slumped back into his own seat on the bridge as he continued to dictate instructions to the rescue crews. He ordered them to ignore all flooded compartments well aware that any occupants of these were already dead and therefore beyond help. In addition, unsealing these would waste valuable time - time that Crocker and Krieg could ill afford should they both still be alive.

"This is crazy. There has to be a faster way of doing this. They could be running out of air as we speak."

"Perhaps Darwin could help."

Ford gazed from the earnest youth to the attentive dolphin wondering whether there was any chance then realized he had absolutely nothing to lose.

"What can he do?"

Lucas turned on the vocoder handset.

"Darwin. Krieg is lost in seaQuest where water entered. Can you find Krieg?"

'Krieg lost?'

"Yes. Krieg. Can you find him?"

'Krieg swim in water?'

"No. Krieg was inside seaQuest."

'Air breathe!'

"Yes. Can you find Krieg."

'Darwin find Krieg for Lucas.'

"YES!"

Ford glanced up as Bridger approached, having overheard part of the conversation.

"Commander Hitchcock, where's the nearest sea access tube to the damaged section?"

Katie Hitchcock wasted no time in bringing blueprints up onto the secondary viewer. She quickly pointed to several but Ford pointed to another - the access via seaQuest itself.

"Can we get Darwin through there?"

Hitchcock's eyes were caught and held. Her thoughts turned inwards for a moment before she slowly started to nod her head.

"Difficult... but not impossible and it's the closest access. I think it's worth the risk."

"Do it."

-ooOOoo-

Krieg pulled deeply on the air around him but his body ached from the diminishing supply of oxygen being drawn into his lungs. He felt Crocker move and moments later felt the cool surface of a half-full bottle of rum being pushed into his right hand.

"Should've stashed that where the oxygen cylinders are kept."

Krieg smiled. It was ironic what you thought of as the world gradually narrowed down to the small room in which you merely survived. His oxygen deprived brain began to consider all the alternatives but, like a drunkard, he couldn't quite decide how to act. One part of him wanted to scream out 'I don't want to die', yet another part wanted to emulate Robert Bridger, standing on the foaming deck, his jaunty smile daring the gods to act against him.

Crocker grasped weakly onto the younger man as a small chuckle emanated.

"What's so funny, Ben?"

"We're dying - and I don't care - I think."

"I care. I want you to live."

Crocker watched as a tear overflowed Krieg's eye and rolled down his cheek.

"That's the nicest thing anyone ever said to me, Chief."

The torch flickered and Krieg looked up into the exhausted face above him one last time before the battery finally gave out.

"Nice seeing you, Chief Crocker."

"You too, Ben."

The light faded throwing them back into darkness.

-ooOOoo-

Darwin flicked his tail to gain momentum as he raced to the next compartment. He halted by it and sang his song, listening for the echo that would indicate air beyond the sealed door. By instinct he knew this room was full of water and swam swiftly to the next - and then the next. Many more doors passed before he paused, his echo coming back with an unique hollowness of sound traveling through air. He marked the spot and raced back for the water-breathing humans. He watched as their jerky motions drew them to this room and then raced on to find the next air-filled compartment.

A new sound echoed back. The sensation of husky, whispered voices played across his delicate nerve endings. Human voices. Darwin understood instantly what he had found and returned to the divers, pulling them away from the other air-filled compartment with a nudge and a flick of his fins. They paused indecisively for a moment before following.

Darwin banged on the compartment wall until the others arrived. Ford took out a small wrench and began a tattoo of Morse code. He waited but nothing happened. He tried again.

-ooOOoo-

Ben Krieg straightened against the other man.

"I... dreamed... I... heard... banging."

Crocker listened carefully and then a smile stretched across his face.

"They've... found us!"

Gently, he eased the injured man to the floor and crawled towards the sound of the noise, torch still in hand. Once he reached the bulkhead he drummed the metal torch case against the wall in the well-known signal of those in dire need. S-O-S.

-ooOOoo-

Darwin went wild, flicking backward and forward around the divers as he felt the echo bounce across his sensitive nerve-endings noticing the increase in bubbles from the excited humans. He glided back and forth in curiosity as a large device was placed against the wall, watching as the water was displaced by air, sealing it tightly against the bulkhead.

The sound of a cutter was muffled but a cheer arose when the circle of metal fell inward and a waving arm extended through the newly created hole. Ford turned the handle that would flood life-giving air into the oxygen depleted compartment.

-ooOOoo-

Several hours later Bridger wandered into the deserted Medbay to find Lieutenant Krieg fast asleep with Kristin Westphalen seated beside him. His arm was neatly bound to induce proper healing and his forehead covered in a stark white bandage. The doctor glanced up as Bridger came to a halt beside her.

"How's the chief?"

"Asleep. I just left him in his cabin."

Kristin smiled.

"Well, apart from the cold and the lack of oxygen he seems to have come through okay. Unlike this one."

She indicated towards the sleeping figure with a nod of her head.

"He fought the sedative I pumped into him. Seems he had an important duty to perform for his captain..."

Kristin reached under the bed and pulled out the half-full bottle of dark Jamaican rum. She watched as he took it from her hand, unscrewed the lid and took a swallow directly from the bottle. He lowered it, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and smiled.

"They were both right. This is the best damn alcohol on-board seaQuest." He offered her the bottle and she took a small sip before returning it, eyes widening as the liquid sent the sensitive inner skin of her lips tingling.

"Do you mind?"

Kristin smiled as she gave up her seat for Nathan Bridger. She had plenty of tasks to keep her occupied and, although looking after injured crew was one of the more important, she did not argue as she relieved herself of this particular duty. The doctor paused on the threshold of the Medbay and turned in time to watch Nathan Bridger pour a small measure of the dark liquid into a glass. He settled back into the comfortable chair.

"By the way, Nathan. I never did figure out what that creature was - nor why it attacked us."

"Perhaps you were never meant to."

Kristin frowned as his eyes crinkled up in a tired smile then she remembered an old saying of her father's. 'All things happen for a reason - but not necessarily for the reason you would expect.'

Her own smile widened in understanding as Bridger turned his attention back to the sleeping young officer and she whispered to him in a soft voice that would not carry across the small room.

"Welcome back to the human race, Nathan."

THE END