A Tight Fit, Part II
By Michelle Pichette and Holly Cushing
Admiral Nelson sat in the Brig, staring into the fish bowl that rested on the bunk in one of the cells, and muttered under his breath, "Change already. Just change."
"Are you sure you want him to do that with you right there?"came a voice from behind him. Nelson glanced over his shoulder to see his assistant, Doctor Dominica Babin, standing outside the cell’s bars, grinning at him. She was young, only twenty four years old, but she was brilliant. In fact, she was so incredibly brilliant that he had thought she wouldn’t take his offer of a position as his assistant here on the Seaview. Now that she’d been working for him for six months, he didn’t know how he’d done without her for so long. "Why don’t you come out here to will him into large fierce form?" she suggested. "After all, poor Captain Crane would have major heart failure if he came down and saw you there."
"Doctor Babin, this is my boat and I’ll sit where I please, whether Captain Crane likes it or not," Nelson told her. He was in a rather sour mood because she had gotten to see their finny guest change and he hadn’t. He knew it wasn’t fair to take his frustrations out on her, but she didn’t seem to mind.
"Suit yourself, Admiral. Just stating it for the record," she told him with an unaffected shrug. "I finished that DNA work up. We have something that shares no common DNA with anything in our data banks."
That surprised the Admiral and he turned to look fully at Doctor Babin now. The Seaview’s computer contained the most up to date DNA information on marine creatures. Nelson had even gone so far as to add what could be obtained on supposedly extinct creatures after the whole Loch Ness incident. "None? How is that possible?"
"Search me. It’s a really funky helix. Have you looked at it yet?"
"No, not yet." Doctor Babin had told him that she’d been putting everything concerning the fish up on the computer for him to peruse at his leisure so that he wouldn’t have to keep coming down to the lab for updates, but he hadn’t looked at any of it yet. He’d been busy down here in the brig, getting absolutely nowhere. The Admiral glanced back at the fish bowl, but aside from the bubbles rising from the aerator that he’d set up, nothing at all was happening in the bowl. In fact, he would’ve sworn that the fish was glowering at him, if a fish could glower. He sighed and rose, closing the cell door behind himself as he joined Doctor Babin outside. "I just wish we knew what had triggered the change the first time. Are you certain nothing special happened directly before it transformed."
Doctor Babin shrugged again. "Nothing much, unless you count Kowalski tapping the bowl, but that was a couple of minutes before anything happened. I’d say fish guy didn’t like Kowalski, but he didn’t change again when Kowalski carried him down here. Maybe he just ran out of air in the bowl and was heading out for more. If Kowalski had actually gotten him into the tank, we might still be none the wiser." She smiled at him, her dark brown eyes twinkling with amusement and Nelson grinned in spite of himself, patting the little Marine Biologist on the shoulder. His hand stung when he did, the healing wound still a little tender. Nelson still hadn’t forgiven the fish for that unwarranted attack.
"I could always unplug the aerator and see what happens." That would show the little beggar, he thought. "No," he amended quickly when Doctor Babin began to look concerned. She was a gentle person and so humane with their specimens that Nelson had accused her of spoiling them on several occasions. "I wouldn’t want to hurt him. At least we know how to get him back under control if he gets out of hand."
"Bright light. Both you and Kowalski said the creature shrank from the flash on the camera."
"Well, yeah, but it might not have necessarily been the flash, you know. There was this episode of the show The Night Stalker when Kolchak confronts these aliens with his camera, thinking his flash was keeping them at bay, but actually it was the sound the recharger made that the aliens didn’t like."
"This isn’t a television show, Dominica. This is real life," Nelson told her with a mildly scolding tone. Doctor Babin was a veritable font of strange trivia on all sorts of topics and sometimes Nelson wondered how she had gotten to know all the bizarre things she couldn’t have learned in college.
"Hey, life imitates art more often than you’d expect and I’m just saying that we aren’t absolutely sure that’s what made the fishman turn back into his current, passive state. The light bothered his eyes, but it’s not like he has eyelids. Have you tried flashing a bright light at him to see what he’d do?"
Nelson nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. He’d actually tried quite a few things along those lines while Doctor Babin had been finishing up the DNA analysis. "Nothing. I tried different spectrums, every camera flash we had aboard, even a sustained light. He didn’t like it much, but he didn’t shrink or grow. We’ll be in Santa Barbara soon. When we get there, we’ll move it to a secure lab and put our heads together on what else we can try. For now, why don’t you show me what you’ve got on the tests you ran?"
Doctor Babin pursed her lips. "Have you eaten today? And coffee doesn’t count."
Nelson assumed his sister Edith had been talking to the good Doctor again. The two of them got along pretty well, much to his chagrin, because Edith kept feeding her concerns to Doctor Babin, assuming correctly that his young assistant would keep an eye on him while they were away from port. "Doctor Babin..."
"That means ‘no,’ then. Okay, I’ll bring what I’ve got to the Officer’s Mess and we’ll have lunch while we go over it," she told him. Nelson would have argued about it, but he knew a hopeless cause when confronted with one. He’d have to try siccing Doctor Babin on his Captain, he thought with a mental smile. If anyone needed a couple of meals forced into him, it was Lee.
Nelson was about to verbally concede to her demand, when there was a crash behind them. He turned to see the fish had changed again, it’s bowl now smashed on the brig floor. Standing well over seven feet tall on its newly sprouted legs, the fishman leered at them from the brig. It didn’t make a sound, but before the Admiral could react to the change, alarms wailed through the boat and Chip’s voice boomed over the intercom, "Intruder alert! Intruder on deck..."
Before he could finish, another fishman stepped into the brig, smashing the intercom with a fin as he did. Nelson grabbed Doctor Babin and spun her behind him, though he was unarmed and the fishman before him stood head and shoulders above him. The new fishman didn’t make a sound, he simply advanced toward them, backing them down the line of cells, a second and third coming in behind him. Nelson could hear voices rising somewhere nearby and he kept pushing Doctor Babin away from the fishmen because he knew help was on the way. The second fishman entering the room reached through the cell bars and touched the captive fishman. As they touched, they shimmered and vanished. Nelson heard Doctor Babin murmur, "Whoa!" as the fishman before them laid a fin on the Admiral. The world seemed to turn inside out and the Seaview vanished, to be replaced with endless water.
The fishman before Nelson nudged him with a fin, urging roughly towards his left, but Nelson had been seized by an brutal wave of nausea and it took every ounce of his strength to keep from vomiting. His eyes and the wound in his hand stung from the salt water he was immersed in and he was totally disorientated, but the fishman was insistent and he forced Nelson to his left and down. Suddenly, Nelson’s feet found no purchase and he dropped down into something, bouncing lightly as the rest of his body followed his legs into what could best be described as a bubble. The bubble was about five feet in diameter, so he couldn’t stand straight, not that he tried. He could breath here and, thankfully, the cool air in his strange prison squelching his nausea. Just as he began to try to straighten himself out, Doctor Babin was pushed through the side of the bubble and pretty much on top of him.
"What? Where?" she was gasping. She looked a little green herself, so Nelson assumed she had also been affected by whatever had brought them to wherever they were. He struggled to help her onto her knees, but it was difficult to move. With the two of them in the bubble, there wasn’t much room. He looked around, hoping to see something familiar or somewhere to escape to, but all he could see was open water and fishmen. He held Doctor Babin gently against him as she coughed out some water.
"Dominica, are you hurt?" Nelson asked as Doctor Babin began to catch her breath. She was soaking wet, just like he was, and shivering a little, but she didn’t appear to be at all harmed.
"No, I’m okay," she replied. She didn’t try to move out of his arms, not that there was much of anywhere to go. She gave him a tight lipped look of determination as she straightened up a little and soon finished composing herself. Nelson was glad she wasn’t the hysterical sort. They had been in rough situations before and he’d always been a little surprised that someone so small and fragile looking could be so strong. "I don’t think they want to hurt us or they would have just let us drown. I wonder why they grabbed us when they were rescuing their friend."
Nelson looked outside of their little bubble at the fishmen swimming around them. There were quite a few now, more than a dozen, and Nelson became uncomfortable with their big teeth in this form. He wouldn’t have been half so unnerved if they looked like the orange, bugeyed fish he’d caught two days ago. "I think they’re watching us. Maybe they’re just curious."
Doctor Babin seemed to take in their surroundings with him now. "Well, it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere. Any idea of where we are or how we get back to the Seaview?"
Nelson let out an edgy laugh. "None what so ever."
"Just checking," she sighed, then seemed to force a smile onto her face. "And I’m sure you’ll think of something. Bet you’re wishing you’d had breakfast now."
Somehow, her little joke eased the tension he was feeling and Nelson rubbed her shoulder gently. Doctor Babin had always been very vocal about her certainty in him and he hoped that some escape opportunity would present itself. He wouldn’t want her last moments to be spent thinking her faith in him had been misplaced. As much was her confidence in him was reassuring, Doctor Babin’s unwavering calm was even more settling at the moment. He would think of a way to thank her for it when they were safe again. "I don’t know if that’s true. I think I would have lost anything I ate after that trip we took. You’re sure you’re all right."
"A little cold, but otherwise, I’m fine, Admiral."
Nelson bit back the words ‘good girl,’ though he was sure that she wouldn’t take them the wrong way. He just squeezed her shoulder. That was when the fishmen outside their bubble swam up close. First one, then another nosed their bubble, tossing them effortlessly about between them. The movement sent them both flying within their prison, crashing into one another until Nelson wrapped his arms around Doctor Babin and hugged her firmly to him. She didn’t struggle, returning his tight embrace, going to far as to wrap her legs around him as well, tucking her head solidly under his chin.
The fishmen bumped them around like this for so long, the Admiral’s arms began to cramp. Finally, their bubble cell spun to a halt, and slowly Nelson looked around. The fishmen had gone back to swimming around them at a distance, almost ignoring them now. "Is it over?" Doctor Babin asked meekly as few moments later.
"I think so," Nelson replied, carefully loosening his grip on her. He ached all over and there was blood on the bandages on his hand. He winced unconsciously as he moved it and Doctor Babin must have seen he was in pain because she took his hand carefully in hers to look at it. "I think the wound opened a bit in the fracas, but it doesn’t feel too bad," he assured her, carefully taking his hand from hers.
"But if you’re bleeding..." she started, concern readily apparent on her face.
"No, no. It’s fine," Nelson told her firmly. "See, the blood’s already drying on the bandages. Best to leave it alone. I’m just wondering why they did that."
"They were playing catch?" Doctor Babin suggested. If she didn’t have a totally serious expression on her face, Nelson would have thought she was joking again.
"Maybe they didn’t want us to get too comfortable. Whatever the reason, we’d better be on our guard. These fishmen seem very erratic in their behavior, so there’s no telling what they’ll do next."
Doctor Babin nodded and they both tried to watch what the fishmen were doing for the next couple of hours. Nothing much happened during that time. The fishmen simply swam around their little refuge, watching in silence. Nelson and Doctor Babin huddled together, their body heat the only warmth to be had, the edges of the bubble as cold as the water around them. Somehow, their air didn’t run out, the Admiral unsure as to how the oxygen was being renewed, but he knew it was.
Just as Nelson was starting to think the worst was over, one of the fishmen approached their prison again, this time piercing the bubble and coming up between them. He snarled at Doctor Babin then shoved Nelson back out through the bubble wall, nudging him up and over to where a small group of the fishmen were gathered. Prodded to the center of the circle, Nelson was probed by several fins and noses. He lashed out at them, but they were too fast and too much in their element, while he was running out of air quickly. Just as his vision began to blur, he was pushed roughly by one of the fishmen and soon found himself gasping for air in Doctor Babin’s arms. She didn’t say anything, just held him, but she was warm and dry, two things he definitely wanted to be just then, so he didn’t move from where he’d landed until he caught his breath and stopped shivering.
He began to sit up and was about to say something about the fishmen definitely not liking him at all, when Doctor Babin took his wounded hand in hers and started to undo the dressing. The Admiral was going to tell her it was fine, but the truth of the matter was his hand hadn’t stopped hurting since their initial tossing around. Once she got the bandages loose, he could see why. He had torn one of his stitches and his hand was starting to swell, the wound plainly showing signs of infection. "Never a first aid kit around when you need one," Doctor Babin said, then began fish something out of one of her pockets.
"I appreciate that you’re trying to help but..." the Admiral began to tell her, then she pulled out a small sewing kit. "Now, I might regret asking, but why would you be carrying that?"
"Because we were about two days from port when the fishmen snatched us. This is probably going to hurt," she told him, then began to knead the swollen part of his hand, pushing in toward the wound. To say it hurt was an understatement, but the Admiral sat tight and waited for her to finish, keeping most of his pain to himself. She forced a lot of pus from the wound and slowly the discomfort eased, as did the swelling. She took a small brass scissors from the kit and cut away the torn stitch, then pulled out a needled threaded with some heavy looking black thread and redid the stitch. Once she was done, his hand ached some, but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as before she had started.
The Admiral cleared his throat, then said, "Jamie better watch his back."
"I don’t think I’ll be putting Doctor Jamieson out of business any day soon," she said with a little smile, then used her scissors to cut off one of her sleeves to use as a bandage. Nelson was going to protest, but her clothes were dry and his were still quite damp. She cut off the cuff, using it to clean the wound as well as she could before binding his hand up again. "You should try keep that hand still," she said as she finished up.
"You’ll have to explain my delicate condition to our hosts. They seem to have it out for me. So, what would the Seaview’s position relative to port have to do with a sewing kit?"
Doctor Babin gave him a warm smile. "Well, right about now, I usually get a lot requests for button and hem repairs."
Nelson ran a hand through his hair, a little embarrassed by his crew’s behavior. "The men shouldn’t be bothering you for things like that. They shouldn’t be bothering you at all. I’ll have a talk with them."
Doctor Babin laughed softly and shook her head. "They aren’t bothering me. Usually, when I’m doing mundane repairs, the gentleman in question talks to me about his girlfriend or wife. What should they get them for an anniversary or birthday or just plain missed you present? If I were them, would I like to got to this restaurant or to that sort of club? Things like that, usually. Fredericks practiced proposing to me yesterday."
"Fredericks? I didn’t even know he was seeing anyone."
"Oh, yes, for about a year and a half now, actually. I hear it all. Usually good things, but sometimes it’s bad. ‘She’s so distant lately. Can you think of anything that I can do to keep her interested?’ ‘I can’t believe she broke up with me. What did I do wrong?’ ‘She’s seeing someone behind my back. I just know it!’ ‘I got this letter.’ That’s the worst, when the woman doesn’t even have the decency to break up with the poor guy face to face. That and bad news from doctors."
Nelson nodded. There had been a few emergency leaves due to illness in the family lately, one that ultimately ended with the death of a child. Being the old bachelor he was, Nelson could only imagine how hard that was to bear. "As long as they aren’t bothering you, I suppose I’ll just leave well enough alone. I’m actually a little surprised that none of the eligible bachelors aboard have made any overtures toward you after all this time."
Doctor Babin smiled again. "Well, you did sort of make a point of warning them all off me when I first came aboard. I’ve gotten a few poems and little gifts from secret admirers all the same. The best, though, was in Hawaii. Kowalski, Patterson, and Riley took me to this hang out of theirs. We all went to wash up because there was a wait and somehow I made it out of the bathroom before them, so I went to wait for them in the bar. Some men started hitting on me and Riley came back and warned them off. There were a half dozen of them and even when Ski, Pat, and Johnson showed up, they were still insisting that I was going to their private party. All of a sudden, there were a dozen other Seaview guys there, asking if the mashers had a good dental plan. You should have seen those loud mouths beat feet. Your sailors asked if I was hurt or upset by what had happened and it took me five minutes to convince them that I was fine. Somebody said something about nobody gets to mess with their Marine Biologist and I just spent the rest of the night thinking how sweet they all are."
"‘Their’ Marine Biologist? Hmm. I didn’t realize I was hiring you for them. And to think I was worried about how the men would react to you at first. You and Miss Simmons." Rowena Simmons was the Head Engineer on the Seaview and had started at the same time as Doctor Babin. The Admiral had hired her as a test case for the Navy to see how the men would react. So far, everything was pretty much business as usual.
"Oh, the guys love Ro, too, but with the Captain pretty much going after her from the beginning, they’re a little more careful about how they show it. The only thing that Ro’s complained to me about is how the guys pretty much fling themselves in front of danger to protect her."
"She doesn’t like to be made to feel helpless?"
"She doesn’t like it when they get hurt doing it. Maybe a little of that helpless thing."
Nelson smiled a little at her. "Doesn’t it bother you, all of us chauvinistic men treating you like a weak female?"
Doctor Babin grinned back. "Is that what’s been going on? And here I thought it was because you didn’t to break in another Marine Biologist. Patterson told me something some rather grisly tales about some of the other scientists that have worked on the Seaview. And before you get all mad thinking he was telling tales out of school, it was to make me feel better about being looked after in the first place. Pat told me that even if I were a man, I’d still probably have sailors guarding me from harm to keep your boat’s reputation from suffering further."
Nelson frowned a little, looking back at the fishmen that had gone back to circling them. "We didn’t do such a good job this time."
"The day is still pretty young. Right now, I’ll just bet you that Captain Crane is tracking us down and before you know it, the Flying Sub is going to come out of nowhere to scoop us up. What was for dinner tonight, anyway? You know Doctor Jamieson is going to tell us to have a double helping after today’s missed meals."
Nelson’s mood eased again. "Aren’t you the least bit afraid of our current situation?"
"Would it make you feel better if I started sobbing like a baby?"
"You are incorrigible, young lady," Nelson said, but he patted her on the upper arm, smiling. He looked around outside their prison and realized that all but three of the fishmen were gone. "They’re leaving. I wonder why." Actually, he was wondering what it meant to them. Doctor Babin looked out with him now as another of the fishmen swam away, but Nelson began to notice something else. "It’s getting dark," he told her softly.
"So maybe they’re going to wherever they call home?" Doctor Babin asked him.
"If they all go, we’ll try to escape and get to the surface. From there, we’ll see if we can plot our location by the stars or spot a vessel or land," Nelson told her at a whisper as another of the fishmen wheeled off and disappeared into the darkening waters. The final fishman approached them, nudged their bubble about a little, then swam off as well. "There, that’s all of them. Let’s find a way out of here."
"Yes sir!" Doctor Babin replied enthusiastically.
They felt over their entire prison, probed, prodded and poked the entire surface with everything they had, including Doctor Babin’s little scissors, but the bubble refused to burst. Finally, the Admiral sat back, scratching at the back of his head. "This is the toughest bubble I have ever seen."
Doctor Babin gave the unyielding surface a kick, then sat down as well. "So, what do we do now?"
"We wait. With luck, you were right about Captain Crane winging his way to our rescue and he’ll find a way to break us out of here. For now, let’s conserve our strength," Nelson told her, not that he was happy about giving up for the time being. "If the Captain doesn’t come, perhaps when the fishmen return, they’ll bring us some fresh water and food. I just don’t understand why they brought us here. They don’t seem to be scientists. In fact, it’s like they’re playing with us."
Doctor Babin nodded. "I know. I was thinking that before, when they tossing us around and when they were poking you out there. It was like they were playing with a new toy. Is it possible that they’re just children?"
Nelson frowned. "Very powerful children, if that’s the case. I haven’t had much practice dealing with children either, especially alien children."
"Me neither, at least not the alien part. Some of the kids I babysat when I was a teenager were a little monstrous, but shark-toothed fishmen they weren’t," Doctor Babin said.
She stifled a yawn and Nelson reached out and squeezed her shoulder, gently drawing her next to him. "We’re both tired. You rest here and we’ll keep each other warm like we were earlier. All right?" Doctor Babin nodded and got comfortable next to him, Nelson wrapping an arm loosely around her shoulders as the light began to dim more quickly. "Now I suppose I can’t say anything about it if one of my men gets cozy with you," he said with a soft laugh.
Doctor Babin echoed it, then replied, "You know, Edith is of the opinion that if you were twenty years younger, your sailors would have serious competition. I think she was feeling me out to see if I had designs on my boss."
Nelson felt a blush spreading across his face and he was glad that it was now difficult to see. "Edith needs to mind her own business."
"Don’t be too hard on her. She worries about you and she doesn’t like to think that you might be lonely. Believe me, I’ve told her that as far as I’m aware, you’re content with your life and that you don’t need some wet behind the ears Marine Biologist to complete it."
"You aren’t ‘wet behind the ears,’ Dominica."
"Everything’s relative. Besides, it seemed to mollify Edith for the time being. You’d better watch yourself when we get back to port. I think she’s going to try to fix you up with some friends of hers."
"She’s tried before. You’d think she’d learn."
Doctor Babin laughed softly again. "There are some things that people choose not to learn."
Nelson nodded silently. He’d looked after Edith when she was young and lately she’d gotten it into head that she’d return the favor by looking after him. She meant well, he supposed, but he knew he was going to have to have a talk with her about it if she was going to be interfering with the people who worked for him. He was glad that at least Doctor Babin didn’t seem to have taken offense at Edith’s matchmaking attempt.
Soon it was pitch black and after a while, the two of them dozed together. Nelson woke with a start, unsure why he had awoke or how long he’d been asleep. He could feel Doctor Babin’s sleeping form still pressed against him, though he couldn’t see her. The Admiral kept still, not wanting to wake her, thinking that it was better that she sleep. He carefully lifted his arm and illuminated his watch face. They’d been taken by the fishmen almost sixteen hours ago and Nelson was beginning to rethink the whole breakfast issue. He would have to make it a point not to skip meals from now on, he thought as his stomach grumbled at him.
Nelson lowered his arms, wrapping one gently around Doctor Babin again. He had begun to worry a little and he carefully stroked her dark brown hair. What if their captors were children and didn’t know to feed them or give them fresh water? He’d been deprived before. He could take harsh conditions for a fairly extended period of time. The last thing he wanted was for his young assistant suffer, though, not that he expected that she’d complain. He knew there was nothing he could do about it even if she did. They were cut off from any form of help, possibly not even on Earth any longer. He didn’t know how to communicate what they needed to the fishmen, nor did he know if their captors would care if he could. Nelson hated this, hated being helpless. There had to be a way out, he told himself, there had to be.
Nelson sat there thinking about it until his head began to hurt, to no avail. While he was racking his brains, it began to get light out again. Shortly after he gave up trying to think of a way to escape, two of the fishmen returned. He watched them, but unlike before, they were not just swimming lazily about. In fact, if they were anything like sharks, their posture toward each other seemed down right hostile. They chased each other around and snapped and snarled. Nelson began to really worry as he watched them, fearing they might take their bad mood out on him and Doctor Babin.
He had just finished thinking this when one of the fishmen broke away from the other and swam up to them. With one swift movement, it pierced their prison, seized Doctor Babin’s ankle with it’s sharp teeth and dragged her out of the bubble. "No!" Nelson bellowed, throwing himself after them, only to rebound roughly back onto his rump. The fishman and Doctor Babin had vanished from sight by the time he righted himself and he pounded the invisible barrier holding him in with both fists. The other fishman wasn’t pursuing them, simply swimming around the bubble. "Help her! She can’t breathe underwater! Please, she’s hasn’t done anything to you!" he yelled at the fishman lazily circling him. He either didn’t understand Nelson or didn’t care about what he was saying. The Admiral rammed his prison with his shoulder and clawed at it with hands and feet until he was utterly exhausted. Only then did he collapse, feeling defeated.
"No, no, no," he murmured to himself, burying his face in his hands. He didn’t get a chance to do more, because he was thrown roughly to one side. The fishman was tossing his prison around again and Nelson got angry at the creature. "Stop it! I’m not a toy! Stop this now!" he yelled angrily as he was buffeted around.
It was then that Nelson felt something almost exploding in his head. Disappointment flooded his mind, but somehow he knew it was directed at the fishman and not at him. His prison spun to a halt and Nelson looked out to see two huge creatures that more resembled the fish he’d originally captured than the fishman that had been tormenting him. Thoughts assailed him, ‘shouldn’t be going off alone,’ ‘shouldn’t be taking strange primitives as pets,’ ‘shouldn’t be treating lesser creatures roughly, cruelly,’ ‘this would not happen again.’ It wasn’t words that he was hearing, just concepts that were all but leveling him. The fishman was feeling shame, but it was over being caught. In fact, Nelson got a flash of petulance when the larger creatures, probably his parents, made it plain that they would be returning Nelson to his proper place. The smaller creature began to brood, thinking it unfair that he had to lose his new toy.
The Admiral forced himself to the edge of the bubble, facing the gigantic creatures that were chastising his captor. "Not just me," he said, trying to think the words as clearly as he could while he spoke. "There was another person taken here with me. She was taken away. Please. You’ve got to..." Nothing touched him or his prison, but there was the rush of lights and the nausea, so Nelson knew he was being teleported again. He didn’t want to be, not until he was sure that these aliens knew about Doctor Babin. He didn’t have a choice, though. When it stopped, Admiral Nelson found himself kneeling on the Control Room floor, Captain Crane standing not two feet in front of him, looking down at him in utter surprise, as was every crewman in the room.
"Sir, where... how..." Kowalski said, by him and helping him to his feet.
"Kowalski, no questions right now. Just help the Admiral to Sickbay," Crane told him.
"No," Nelson said, shrugging Kowalski’s hands off him. "We have to find Doctor Babin. She’s... I don’t know where we were, but she’s in danger and we have to find her."
Captain Crane touched him gently on the arm. "Sir, we’ve been searching for the both of you since you vanished, but... You sort of found us. How did you get back here?"
"I was teleported back by..." He didn’t know how to finish the sentence because he wasn’t sure if the larger creatures that had come were parents or a different species entirely.
"By... by that, sir?" Kowalski stammered, pointing toward the nose. Nelson turned as everyone followed Kowalski’s finger. There, in the nose, stood a large, orange creature, which was holding Doctor Babin in it’s fin-like arms. It looked almost comical with it’s bulgy eyes, but Nelson knew it was one of the larger creatures, and that made it intensely powerful.
"We don’t mean you any harm," he tried to assure the alien. He was a little worried because Doctor Babin was so still, but he could see that she was breathing, so at least his worst fears had not come to pass.
The alien looked at him, then down at Doctor Babin. Her mouth moved soundlessly, then she said in a stiff voice, "No harm intended. Not proper, our meeting." Nelson reasoned the alien was speaking through Doctor Babin and he worried about it somehow hurting her. "No. Not hurt," she said to his unvoiced concern. "Lack means to communicate effectively. Undeveloped minds."
"He means us, doesn’t he?" Lee asked quietly.
"I’m afraid so," Nelson replied. He began to approach the alien, reaching out his arms, saying, "Thank you returning Doctor Babin. I was afraid you didn’t understand me when I told you she was missing. May I have her, please."
"Much misunderstanding. Some day, time proper for meeting. Grow in peace," Doctor Babin said as the alien placed her gently in his arms. Nelson was about to ask some questions, ask to establish some sort of exchange between their worlds, but the alien vanished without further comment. Doctor Babin moaned softly and raised a hand to her head. Kowalski arrived before him as if on cue, taking her carefully from him. The Admiral was actually glad the sailor had come forward so quickly, because he was suddenly trembling with exhaustion.
"Let’s go to Sickbay, sir," Crane said, setting a hand on his shoulder. Nelson nodded, not seeing the sense in arguing about it any further now that Doctor Babin was safely back with them.
Two days later, as they approached their Santa Barbara dock, Admiral Nelson sat in his office, still trying to get the entire episode down in his logs. Doctor Jamieson had wanted him to stay a little longer in Sickbay when he’d discharged himself early yesterday, but Nelson wanted to get back to some semblance of normality. Besides, Doctor Babin was playing model patient, which was keeping Jamie from being too annoyed. She was a little dehydrated and had apparently swallowed a lot of water, but there was no permanent damage and Doctor Jamieson said that she’d be just fine by the time they reached port. That came as welcomed news to Admiral Nelson, since most people that wound up one of his misadventures weren’t that lucky.
He picked up the picture Doctor Babin had taken of the fishman, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand, then there was a knock at his door. "Come," he said just loud enough for whoever was outside his door to hear. He smiled a little and put down the picture as Doctor Babin let herself in. "I was just thinking about you," he told her. "How are you feeling?’
"Just fine. Really. Between Doctor Jamieson and the guys, I’ve been royally pampered for the last couple of days," she told him as she came to his desk. "They are all so sweet, worrying over me like that. I don’t think I’ve been alone for a moment since the alien brought me back. And before you ask, no, they weren’t making nuisances of themselves."
Nelson motioned for her to sit down, saying, "Actually, I was wondering if you remembered anything of what happened after you were dragged off."
Doctor Babin pulled the chair before his desk. "Some. My rude awakening wasn’t much fun, but I blacked out pretty quickly. The next thing I knew, fishman’s daddy was talking through me in the Control Room. That was really strange, feeling another mind touching mine, communicating so directly that words do not exist to describe it. Most of what passed between us, I couldn’t hang onto, but there were some things..."
She paused, looking off a little stroking a temple absently and Nelson leaned forward, not knowing what to expect. "I saw cities, their cities under the sea. Beautiful... Magical... You could never imagine... They have no wars, no sickness. They can control parts of their minds that we haven’t even tapped into yet and they use that power to make art and music, to visit other worlds." She seemed to shake herself back to the present again and smiled at Nelson, which made him relax again. "But somehow they don’t seem to do any better than we do at keeping their kids from misbehaving. You should have felt how embarrassed it made the elders that their children mistreated us poor primitives."
Nelson leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin. "I guess that children can be a handful in any race. Kidnapped and abused by a bunch of juvenile delinquents. How will we ever live it down? And what have we got to show for it? A picture and a few samples."
Doctor Babin smiled, picking up the fishman picture from his desk. "A picture is worth a thousand words?" she ventured.
"You know that every other scientist in the world is going to find some way of making this out to be some sort of hoax if we decide to tell the public about what happened."
Doctor Babin shrugged. "So we keep it to ourselves. Maybe the elder was right. Maybe it’s just not time yet. Maybe we do need to grow a little before we’re ready for what’s out there."
Nelson shook his head, but he smiled. "Some of us less than others. I only hope I’m not too old to learn some things from my assistant."
Doctor Babin made a horse lips sound. "You? Old? Could never happen, sir. Well, I should go. Ski and Pat and Riley want to make sure I’m totally recovered, so they’re taking me home and spoiling me a little more. I shouldn’t make them wait. Did you want me to come in tomorrow so we can go over all this?" She was indicating the notes on his desk about the fishman.
Nelson shook his head. "No. This can wait. For once I think I’m going to take a couple of days off."
Doctor Babin raised her hands to her mouth in feigned horror as she stood. "Who are you and what have you done with the real Admiral Nelson?"
"Out!" the Admiral said, pointing at the door, but he was still smiling. Doctor Babin laughed quietly as she let herself out. Nelson watched her go, then looked back at the notes on his desk, finally sure as to what to do with them. He gathered all the papers and computer disks up into a folder and put it into his safe. "Someday," he thought as he closed the safe door then turned the combination lock. "Someday."