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Lost Future #5 "Home, Sweet Home" pt. 1/2

Seaquest
Lost Future
"Home,Sweet Home"

By Cindy Brewer cindybre74@aol.com

PANAMA CITY,
FLORIDA

Joshua Thomas Ford's shrill cry broke the night silence.
Katie Hitchcock Ford groaned inwardly as she tried to bury her head deeper into her pillow,but she knew her son wouldn't wait for long.

"Who's turn is it?"Jonathan Ford's sleepy voice asked from the left side of the bed.

"Mine."Katie replied,her voice muffled.

Katie let out a long sigh as she forced herself out of the warm bed and into the cold room.She loved her son dearly,but she couldn't wait until he slept through the night.
She pulled her shoulder length brown hair away from her face as she wrapped a turquoise blue robe around her body.Her bare feet padded down the hallway of their new house and into her six month old son's nursery.
Her crankiness vanished as soon as Josh's big black eyes stared back at her.As Katie scooped him up and headed down the stairs for a bottle,she still couldn't believe that someone would be calling her mommy.
As the formula heated on the old stove,she began to sing to Josh softly thinking what a difference a year made. If you had told her a year ago that she'd be married to Jonathan Ford and have a son,she'd have fitted you for a straight jacket.

The plastic,recycled of course,bottle finally heated she manuvered herself and Josh over to an old wooden rocker that Jonathan had found at some flea market somewhere.
Josh suckled the bottle hungerily,and Katie could already tell he was going to be tall and thin like his father. She rested her head against the chair,still not quite believing all this was real. That she was in her second marriage and had an infant son.
Katie knew Jonathan was having the same fears and insecurites she was,even though he would never admit it.

Her blue eyes flew open as she felt someone staring at her.Katie glared,then smiled at her husband through the camera lens.

"Jonathan,don't you think home movies could wait until daylight?"

Jonathan Ford knelt down so he could get both of them in the video camera's eye,"What?And miss sharing this beautiful sight with the world?"

Katie laughed,"You do and you're dead."

Katie didn't really want to get into this tonight,but knew she had to bring it up,"Jonathan,we really need to talk.We only have three weeks until the Seaquest comes out of dry-dock."

Ford placed the small camera on the kitchen counter as he pulled a chair up next to Katie,"I know.Its just been so hetic."

Katie smiled,"I know,between Nathan's trial.My swim around the Triangle,and our great vacation we've hardly had two minutes alone together."

"Its been a heck of a way to start a marriage."

Katie looked down at Joshua,"And a family.Jonathan,what are we going to do?"

Jonathan let his son play with one of his fingers,"I've been thinking about this for awhile now,Katie.Why don't you come back to the Seaquest with me."

Katie's blue eyes began to flare,"As what?The first officer's wife?"

"We could really use you as an engineer."

"What about Josh?We can't just keep dumping him on your poor mother."

"He'll come with us."Ford said firmly.

Katie stared at him,"On a sub?Jonathan,do you realize how dangerous...."

Whatever Katie was about to say,was forgotten when their vidphone beeped.
Katie rose and hit the correct button.

"Who could be calling this late?"Jonathan asked,concerned.

Laura Krieg's concerned face filled the small screen,"Katie?Jonathan?I'm so sorry to be calling you so late,but I took a chance that you'd be up."

Katie felt fear creep up her spine,Ben's mother would never call this late unless something had happened,"Its alright,Laura.What's wrong?"

Laura absently wrung her hands,"I know I shouldn't have called you with this.Ben,didn't want me too."

"Laura,"Katie began her voice tight,"What happened to Ben?"

"Katie,the salvage boat he was on exploded.The whole thing collapsed inward,trapping everyone on board."Laura paused looking briefly at Josh,"Oh,Katie he may never walk again. Part of his spine was crushed."

Katie felt her knees go weak,and she nearly dropped Josh.
Jonathan quickly took Josh from her and placed a supportive arm around her shoulders.

"Where is he?"Katie demanded,struggling to keep her voice from breaking.

Laura Krieg's face brightened slightly,"San Francisco."

"I'll be there as soon as I can."Katie promised,feeling Jonathan's eyes on her.

Katie glanced at the clock on the wall and realized it was too late to go back to sleep,but to early to get up.

"You're not seriously considering going,are you?"Jonathan demanded as he followed her back up the stairs.

"I promised her I would."Katie replied softly as she pulled a brown leather suitcase out from under the bed.

"Katie,Seaquest leaves for Cairo in four days."

Katie began to sort through dresser drawers,"I'll be there. You can go ahead without me,and I'll meet you."

Jonathan really didn't want to be the bad guy in this.He knew she had to go,but didn't want her too.He crossed the room and pulled her into his arms,"Katie,he doesn't even know you're coming."

Katie zipped up the suitcase,"I know,but I have too."

Jonathan caressed his wife's face tenderly,"I don't want to sound like the oger here.But we need this time together,Katie."

Katie looked deep into his black eyes,"I know,and we will.But he needs me."

She encircled her arms around Jonathan's neck,"He's paraylized,Jonathan.He's no threat to us."

Jonathan stared deeply into his wife's beautiful blue eyes,wishing he could believe that.All he could think of were those old sayings of first love,being your only love. Katie was his,but he knew that Ben was hers.
Trying to shake those thoughts from his mind,Jonathan leaned forward to kiss her.Katie responded by untying the sash of her robe and letting it fall to the floor.

"I love you."Jonathan whispered as his mouth captured hers in a deep kiss.He kicked off his shoes and struggled out of his jeans as he lowered Katie onto the bed.

SAN FRANSICO,
CALIFORNIA

Katie Ford ducked against a brisk wind as she stepped off the trolley car. Her blue eyes studied the brick hospital as she walked through the revolving door.
She had know idea what she was going to say to Ben when she saw him,but she knew she had to see him.
The young black woman behind the desk directed her to the rehab wing.

As she walked down the starch white hallway,the harsh smell of antiseptic filtered through her senses. Katie almost walked past Ben's room,so lost in her own thoughts. She backtracked and peeked in.
Ben Krieg was sitting in a wheel chair,staring out the window at the busy San Francisco Bay.

"If you're looking for more blood,I don't think I have any left."

Katie tentatively stepped into the room,"Ben,its me."

Ben's brown eyes turned to look at her.Surprise flickering over his handsome face,"Katie?How?"

Katie smiled as she crossed over to him,"Your mother called us last night."

Ben took in her wind blown appearence,"Where's Josh?"

Katie smiled,"With his father on their way to Seaquest."

Ben stared at her,"You dumped a trip on the Seaquest to come babysit me?"

"Ben,when your mother told me what happened,I had to come."

Ben wheeled the chair back over to the window,"I don't need your pitty."His voice turned to a whisper,"Especially from you.That's why I specifically told her not to call you."

Katie placed a gentle hand on his shoulder,"This isn't pity,Ben.I'm here to help."

Ben glared up at his ex-wife,"What are you going to do,Katie?Hold my hand?Go back to your husband,I'm sure he wasn't thrilled about this."

Katie knelt next to him,"No,he wasn't,but he understood."She paused not quite sure how to ask,"Ben,what happened at Nassau to put this rift between you two?"

Ben Krieg turned away from her,"This isn't the time,Katie."

Katie sat down on the corner of the hospital bed,"I'm not going anywhere."

Ben sighed,"Okay.I told him that I was still in love with you.I guess he didn't take to kindly to that."

"He never mentioned anything."Katie replied thoughtfully,recalling sometimes that Jonathan had seemed distant.She had figured it was just all the new responsibility.

Ben smirked,"I guess he figured that it was best to let sleeping dogs lie."

Katie stood and removed her navy blue felt coat and hung it in the closet,"Okay,who's your doctor?"

Ben stared at her,"Katie,what are you doing?"

"I told you.I came here to help and that's what I intend to do."

Ben fought to keep his hopes from rising,"Don't you have to meet Jonathan?"

Katie smiled reassuringly,"Not for a few days.Now,lets get you back in bed and I'll go talk to your doctor."

Ben Krieg smiled for the first time since the accident,"Katie,"He said stopping her in the doorway,"Thank you for coming."

Katie returned his smile,"You know I'm always here if you need me and I always will be."

Ben nodded and closed his eyes,quickly falling into a dreamless sleep.

PEARL HARBOR,
HAWAII

Some how Jonathan Ford wasn't really surprised when the first person he saw was Loni Henderson.Jonathan sighed as he stepped out of the airlock,latiely Loni always seemed to know when he needed a friend.

"Did you enjoy your vacation,Jonathan?"Loni asked as she took Josh from him.

Sadness flickered across his black eyes,"Most of it."

Loni looked behind Ford as he continued walking,"Where's Katie?Is she coming on the next launch?"

Ford's voice had the distinct tone that he did not want to talk about it,"I have this feeling she won't be taking any launch."

Loni hugged little Josh tighter as she watched Jonathan storm toward his quarters.Her brown eyes filled with concern as she turned to the infant,"Are your Mom and Dad having problems?"

Josh was more interested in Loni's gold necklace,his tiny hands trying to grasp it.

Loni let out a long sigh,"Or was it something that was never meant to be?"

Jonathan wasn't surprised two days later when he received a call from Katie.

"Jonathan,I think I'm going to stay in San Francisco a few more days.I'll meet up with you in Cairo."

Ford's worry and insecurities seemed to burst to the service at that moment,"Katie,if you wanted out of our marriage,why didn't you just say so?!"
Jonathan angrily switched off the viewscreen,even though he could still see Katie's stunned expression.

Loni Henderson smiled softly as she saw Ford introducing his son to Darwin.

"Little human."Darwin's childlike voice said through the speakers.

Jonathan laughed,forgetting how good it felt to do just that,"That's right,Darwin.This is my son.Josh."

Ford's statement must have been to much for Darwin's translation program to grasp because the dolphin only said,"Ford's little human."as he gently sprayed water on Josh.

Josh giggled,his tiny right hand grasping at air.

Loni picked up one of Darwin's plastic balls and absently tossed it to the dolphin,"I'm here if you need to talk."

Ford didn't look at her,"About what?"

Loni turned to face him,"I can see it on your face,Jonathan.I know you and Katie are having problems."

"Not anymore."Jonathan replied,his black eyes filled with sadness,"I gave her the way out that she wanted.If she wants to be with Ben Krieg I'm not going to stop her."

Loni heard the catch in his voice,"Don't you love her anymore?"

Jonathan whirled on her,"Of course I love her."He stared down at Josh,"More than ever."

"Then why aren't you fighting for her?"

Ford turned and started to walk away,Loni barely heard his answer,"One of the first rules of command,Loni.You know when to walk away from a losing battle."

SAN FRANSICO,
CALIFORNIA

Ben Krieg was exhausted. He had just returned from his usual grueling physical therapy sessions.He stopped the chair,surprised to see Katie slumped in a chair. Unshed tears made her blue eyes even brighter.

"Katie?What's wrong?"

Katie's voice was filled with disbelief as she stared out the window,"Ben,I think my marriage just ended."

Ben's brown eyes widened,"Why?Because of this silly trip?"He spun his chair around,"Where's the phone.I'll knock some sense into him."

Katie's voice halted him,"I think this was just the final straw."

Ben moved as close to her chair as he could,"Aren't you even going to fight this?"

Katie stared at him,"What for?You know Jonathan when he makes up his mind."

Ben took her hand in his,seeing the tears creep into her eyes,"What can I do,Katie?"

Katie stared at him for a long moment,then as gently as she could moved to sit in his lap,"Hold me,Ben.Just hold me."
That's exactly what Ben did, consoling her until Katie had no more tears left.

********

Jonathan Ford stopped dead in his tracks as Christmas carols were piped over the ship's speakers.
Christmas?Already?With how hectic their lives had been the last few months,he and Katie had completely forgotten about Christmas.
Maybe it was for the best,that they were apart.Then his gaze fell on his son.A smile broke across his face,this may be the worst Christmas he'd ever spent.The least he could do was make it the best one Josh ever had.
After all it was his first.

Jonathan shifted Josh to his left arm,humming slightly to himself as he turned the doorknob to his quarters.He stopped hearing someone call his name.

"Jonathan,glad I caught you."Loni Henderson began slightly out of breath,"I know there's a big Christmas party tonight,but I wanted to give you this in private."

Jonathan gratefully took the gold wrapped present as he let her into his quarters,"You know,I completely forgot Christmas is Sunday.If they hadn't started playing Christmas carols I probably would've."He looked at her sheeplishly,"Loni,I haven't even shopped yet."

"That's okay."Loni replied as she took Josh from him,"I didn't expect anything.With all you've been through this year."
With careful hands,Jonathan unwrapped the gold paper.

His black eyes widened as he looked at his friend,"How did you know I loved Mysteries?"

Loni smiled,"I just took a wild guess.You're so good at solving problems,I just took a chance that you liked mysteries."

Jonathan lovingly caressed the leather bound collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries,"Thank you,Loni.I love it."

Jonathan still didn't know how it happened.One moment he was reaching for his son,the next he was kissing Loni Henderson. When he finally pulled back,she looked as shocked as he was.

Loni's brown eyes stared at him,"Jonathan,what was that for?"

"Misletoe?"Ford replied lamely.

Loni looked like she didn't know what to do,and Jonathan didn't blame her.

She handed Josh back to him,"I care about you alot,Jonathan.It might even turn into something more than friendship.But don't just come at me on the rebound."Her brown eyes turned tortured,"I couldn't handle that again."

Jonathan Ford found himself wondering what had just happened,while Loni fled his quarters.

Loni Henderson curled up against the steps,watching Darwin play in the moon pool.
She ran her right hand through her short brown hair,trying to untangle some of the tangles.
What had she just gotten herself into?Jonathan Ford was a married man with a little boy.He may not be very happy at the moment,but he was still a married man.

"Ho,Ho,Ho."A familar voice said from behind,but she didn't turn around.

Loni did however glance up as a tiny stuffed reindeer was dangled in front of her.

"Oh,Brody he's adorable!Is he for me?"

Blond,blue eyed Jim Brody smiled as he sat down next to her on the steps,"Yeah,I thought he could keep Addison company."

"Thank you,Jim."Loni replied,sadness coming back to her brown eyes.

"Hey,why so glum?This is Christmas,remember?"

Loni tried to smile,"I know,but something just happened that I have no idea what to do about it."

Brody was instantly concerned,"Did somebody hurt you?"
Loni stood and walked toward the moonpool,"Not exactly."

"Then what?"Jim asked following her over.

Loni hugged the little reindeer tighter against her,"Jonathan kissed me."

Brody stared at her,"Jonathan Ford?"

Loni nodded.

"Wow."Jim said softly as he ran a hand through the warm water,"You think you know a guy."

"I think he was as shocked as I was."

Brody turned to face her,"I thought he and Katie had patched things up?"

"So did I.She was supposed to take a position on the Seaquest.And I guess when she decided not to come for some reason,it was just the last straw.He said he offered her the way out that she wanted."

Jim's blue eyes were full of concern,"Divorce?Watch yourself,Loni.This whole situation could get real ugly,real fast.I don't want to see you get caught in the crossfire."

Loni smiled slightly,"Neither do I.That's why I told him that I didn't want a relationship on the rebound."

Brody nodded approvingly as he turned his attention back to Darwin,"Good.Maybe that will be the end of it."

Loni had a far away look in her eyes as she said,"Maybe."

SAN FRANSICO,
CALIFORNIA

Katie Hitchcock leaned against the window of Ben's hospital room watching the snow fall.
She smiled,a modern miracle weather machine were. A decade or two ago,snow in San Francisco would have been unheard of.
Katie heard Ben aprroaching,but didn't turn around.She hugged herself tighter,wondering how it had all happened so quickly?One moment she and Jonathan were happy.They had Josh.Bammm the next minute he wants a divorce.
Was there something wrong with her that made men want to leave?

"Ben?"Katie asked quietly,"Is there something wrong with me?"

Ben stared at her,not quite sure what she meant,"What do you mean,Katie?"

Katie turned to face him,silent tears streaking down her cheeks,"Is it me?Am I the reason my marriages keep failing?Am I so horrible that no one can stand to be around me for more than a year?"

Ben Krieg felt his heart starting to break,feeling her pain.He wished he had Ford right here so he could knock some sense into him.

Ben took her hand and gently pulled her onto his lap as he wheeled the chair closer to the window,"No,Katie.Its not you."

Katie curled up against him,"Then why do they always leave?"

The pain in her voce tore at Ben's heart,"Because we don't realize what we have until its gone."

Katie fell into an exhausted sleep.

Ben gently kissed the top of her head,"I'll never leave you again,Katie.I promise."

*******

Loni Henderson tried her best to get into the Christmas spirit as she stepped into the cafeteria.
The crew had gone all out this year with decorations. Gold and silver garland crisscrossed the walls. Big red bows hung in several places. There was even a beautiful tree in the far corner.
Her attempt at Christmas spirit faltered as she stepped all the way into the cafeteria and saw Jonathan joking with Brody.
Jim instantly caught her gaze and motioned her over,but she shook her head.She didn't want to face Jonathan quite yet.

Jonathan Ford let out along sigh as he saw Loni join Lucas Wolenczak on the opposite side of the room.

Brody cleared his throat awkwardly,"Jon,Loni told me what happened between the two of you earlier."

Jonathan turned to face his friend,Josh asleep in his arms,"Jim,I don't know what happened."

Brody nodded in understanding,"I know you don't.But if I see her hurt,you'll answer to me.Got it?"

Jonathan watched Loni hang ornaments on the tree with Lucas,"Got it."

SAN FRANSICO,
CALIFORNIA

Katie returned to the hospital early the next day,seeing no reason now to meet Jonathan in Cairo. When she walked into Ben's room she stopped in surprise.
Ben Krieg was standing.She had begun to think she wouldn't see that again.

"Hi,Katie."Ben said leaning heavily on a pair of crutuches,"I have a surprise for you."
Ben tentatively straightened his spine and he let the crutches fall.

Katie instantly scurried toward him,but Ben waved her back.

"No,stay there."

"Ben...."Katie protested.

"Just wait."Ben replied with a smile as he tentatively moved his right foot forward.Then the left.Then the right again.
To Katie's amazement,Ben Krieg walked right to her.

Katie caught him as he started to fall,"Bem!This is wonderful!When did you start to walk?!"

Ben grinned,"A few days ago."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I wanted to surprise you,"Ben replied as he sat heavily down onto his bed,"I didn't want to get your hopes up if it didn't work out."

"I'm happy for you,Ben."

Ben looked at her with concern,"Are you going to be alright?"

Katie smiled ruefully,"I always am."

**********

The animated yellow ball shot right past Loni's paddle.An easy shot for anybody.

Lucas glanced up from the table top screen,"Loni,that was the world's easiest shot.How could you miss it?"

Loni didn't seem to hear him,her brown eyes fixed on something.

Lucas followed her gaze to Jonathan Ford.The teen smiled in understanding and waved his hand in front of her eyes.

"Loni?You can come back to Earth now.Loni?"

That seemed to snap her out of it,"What?Oh,Lucas I'm
sorry.I guess I'm not really into this."

Lucas smiled,shutting off the game,"I gathered.Do you want to talk about it?"

Loni shook her head as she stood,"I don't think talking will help.Merry Christmas,Lucas."

"Merry Christmas."Lucas replied,watching her with concern as she left the cafeteria.

SAN FRANSICO,
CALIFORNIA

Katie jumped slightly at the knock on her hotel room door.A messenger wearing a polite smile handed her a computer disk.
Katie tipped the messenger not liking the official government seal on the cover.
She knew what it was even before she slipped it in the computer.Katie had received one exactly like it almost two years ago from Ben.

Divorce papers.
She felt fresh tears start to flow as she began to read the cold harsh words describing the end of her second marriage.
Oh,Jonathan Katie thought sadly to herself,How did it all go so wrong.

Katie smiled briefly as she thought of her son.Then her smile vanished reading that a custody hearing would be held as soon as both parties were available.
She glanced out the window hearing music as she got closer she realized people were caroling.Katie's eyes flew to the calender.December 25.She had completely forgotten about Christmas.
Her blue eyes sadly glanced back at her computer screen.
"Merry Christmas,Katie.'She thought bitterly.

GREAT BARRIAR REEF
AUSTRALIA

Loni Henderson didn't want to say she was avoiding Jonathan Ford,but that's exactly what she'd been doing.And quite successfully.She had swapped shifts with people who weren't on Jonathan's shift.
Loni thought she had made it, until the Captain's summons woke her.

"Sorry to wake you,Ensign,but we're going to need your expertise on this one."

Loni sighed as she hit the correct button,"On my way,Captain."

"Henderson,Ford I want you to take a launch over to the reef see if you can find out what's causing the coral to break up."Bridger ordered as soon as Loni stepped through the Clam doors.

Loni stared at Nathan Bridger trying to find a way out,"Captain,wouldn't somebody else be more qualified?"
Bridger looked at her curiously,"Do you have a problem,Ensign?"

Loni's nervousness returned,"Ah,no Capt...."

"Good."Nathan said briskly.

Loni backpedaled slightly seeing Jonathan coming toward her.

"You can't avoid this one,Loni."Ford said as he walked past her,"Come on."

Loni sighed and quickly followed him to the launch bay.

Lucas perched himself over Bridger's command chair,"I don't think that was a good idea,Cap."

Nathan turned around,"Why?I thought those two were friends?"

Lucas cleared his throat,"Its just gotten a little awkward of late."

Nathan stared at the teen for a moment,then he understood,"Ah."

MR-5 had barely cleared the Sea doors when they began to feel turbulence.It got worse the closer they got to the reef.
Loni stifled a scream and hung onto her seat as a huge piece of coral came hurtling at them.Hitting them broadside.

Ford clenched his teeth as he fought for control,"Loni, hit the light.I want to see what's going to hit us."

"Aye,Commander."Loni said more bitterly than she intended.She hit a switch and light illuminated the sea floor in front of them.Just in time to see a piece of coarl the size of a truck hurtling toward them.

"Jonathan!"Loni cried out,fighting to keep the fear out of her voice.

Ford yanked the wheel hard to the left.The coral tumbled harmlessly passed.But the abrupt move caused the grass hopper shaped vehicle to roll over several times before Ford regained control.

Jonathan stopped the launch for a moment,struggling to catch his breath,"Loni,are you alright?"

When she didn't answer him he turned in his seat.Sudden fear gripping him.

"Loni?"Jonathan called again.She was conscience but seemed to be in shock.Just staring straight ahead.

Loni forced herself to snap out of it,"I'm okay,Commander."

Jonathan sighed,"Will you stop calling me Commander."

Loni grinned,"Of course,Commander."

Sensor Officer Miguel Ortiz spun his chair around to face Bridger,"Captain!The launch has stopped."

Bridger's face was instantly concerned,"Commander,is everything alright?"

Jonathan Ford's shaky voice came back through the static,"Yes,Captain.We just had a very bumpy ride.We're back on course now."

Bridger looked out the front viewport,even though he couldn't see anything,"Watch yourself,Commander."

"Aye,Sir."Ford replied and started the launch forward again.

The first pass around the reef was uneventful,then a blip showed up on Loni's Sonar.She looked out the window,then back at the screen,then out the window again,"Jonathan,I think there's a ship trapped on the reef."

Ford shot a sideways glance at her,"Where?"

Loni pointed out the window,"There.About a hundred yards ahead."

Ford squiented into the dark ocean,"Looks like a ship.Try hailing it."

Loni nodded,hitting a few keys,"This is Seaquest launch MR-5.Do you copy?"
Silence.

Loni cleared his throat and called again,"This is Seaquest launch MR-5 do you copy?"

Silence was the only response.

Loni shook her head.

Jonathan hit a few keys,"Captain?"

"Go ahead,Commander."

"We're pretty sure we just found a ship trapped on the Reef.Their not answering out hails.I'm going to try to dock along side."

Bridger nodded,"Go ahead,Commander.But if it looks too risky bring her back in and we'll try something else."

"Understood."

Bridger leaned forward in his chair,"Mr.Ortiz send LONER ahead.Keep an eye on them."

"Aye Sir."

"Lucas,take Henderson's station.Just in case we need to pull them in manually."

MR-5 rocked wildly at Ford's first attempt to dock with the small ship.

Ford gritted his teeth,his knuckles white as he fought to keep the launch level,"Hang on.I'm going to try another pass."

Loni nodded and gripped the armrests.

As the MR-5 touched back down,the reef suddenly opened up.The small launch was tossed and turned.
Loni felt her stomach drop as the launch teetered on its back rails and slid into a small crevice.

Miguel Ortiz's screen went dark,and static filled his ears as the WSKR's suddenly went blind.He hit several keys and found the reason.

A huge mud cloud had kicked up,blinding everything.

"Captain!I just lost the WSKR's."He whirled around,"I can't see a thing!"

Bridger shot to his feet,"What happened?!"

Miguel shook his head,"I don't know.Something kicked up a huge mud cloud."

Bridger whirled on communications,"Mr.O'Neil,get me the launch!"

Tim O'Neil had been trying to do just that for the past several minutes,"I've tried,Captain.I've lost their signal completely."

Bridger hated feeling helpless,"Keep trying,Mr.O'Neil."

"Mr.Ortiz,any idea what kicked up this mud cloud?"

Ortiz shook his head,"No,everything was normal."

Lucas's voice drifted down from Henderson's station,"Captain!There's tons of volcanic activity around here."

Bridger was up the stairs in two steps,"An eruption?"

Lucas shook his head,"Looks more like geysers."

Nathan stared at him,"Underwater geysers?Are you sure?"

Lucas shrugged,"As sure as I can be,with the WSKR's out of commission."

"Lucas.what would happened to a launch if it was caught when a geyser erupted?"

Lucas's blue eyes were filled with concern,"Well,it would either tear it apart.Or it would get smashed on the coral."

Nathan sighed,this was not turning into a good Christmas.

********

Jonathan Ford came too with a pounding headache.His black eyes opened to find the launch in darkness.
As his memories came flooding back,he turned to the woman he was starting to care a lot about.

"Loni?Are you alright?"

Loni's voice was scared,but strong,"I think so.Where are we?"

"Inside the reef,I think."

Loni tried to unbuckle her seatbelt but cried out as a burning pain shot up her right side.

Ford unbuckled his and swung his legs over so he was facing her.Jonathan's eyes finally adjusted to the dark.He saw Loni's face white with pain.

Loni looked at him,grateful it was Ford she was trapped with,"Jonathan,I think I broke something."

With tender hands Jonathan gently eased Loni into a sitting postion.

"Where?"He asked softly.

Not thinking Loni pulled up her shirt and pointed to her right side,"My right side."

Struggling to keep his heart rate down his fingers gently probed the tender skin.When he reached the third rib,Loni cried out in pain.

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