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Chapter One

“Might I have a word, Sir?” the crewman requested as he stood at the door labeled Lt. Gen Joseph M. Quimby, M.D.

Nodding, the commander offered him a chair and had him close the door behind him. “Why so formal, Nick?  Is everything alright?” he asked gently, noticing the man’s discomfort.

“Um, not really, Sir, uh, Joe.  It’s your two………….”

“Oh, Lord… what now?” Dr. Quimby rolled his eyes, leaning back in his chair. 

Nick shook his head. “You wanted us to tell you when the shouting got out of control.  It has.  So much that the stupid killer whale is flinging water out of the tank!  It’s getting way too close to the computer consoles.  I tried to talk with Mike and got the door slammed in my face.  Ordinarily, the yelling wouldn’t be a problem, but the water is. We’re starting to worry.”

“Ton is reacting to Samantha’s emotional state, to be sure.  She needs to explain things to him or close the tunnel.”

“Agreed. I don’t want them in trouble for this.  I mean, it’s obvious they are working on something serious, but I’m afraid of electrocution. That damn whale really kicks up a spray,” Nick shrugged, seeing his commander nod.

“I would be too.  So tell me, son. How did you get picked to come tell me this wonderful news?” the man asked with amusement, standing to escort the crewman back to the labs. 

Nick chuckled, following him. “Luck of the draw.  We have a jar with our names in it for such things.”

“You’re kidding me,” the Commander paused.  “No, I guess you wouldn’t.  Don’t ever be afraid to come to me, you know I won’t take your head off. That’s Scott’s job.”

“Sir, believe me, you and Scott are not the one we are afraid of.  It’s her,” Nick shuddered. 

Dr. Quimby made a face, patting the man’s shoulder affectionately. “Yes, well, like I’ve said before, she is a force to be reckoned with at times.  Let’s get this resolved.”

The two walked into the lab and were greeted with loud shouting easily heard through the door of the testing room. Ton swam anxiously in the tank and, upon recognizing Sam’s “bull,” the orca flung a tail full of water to soak the General to the skin.  He then breached and sent a large wave cascading over the edge of the tank to flood the floor.  The computers, although several yards away and located up on a different level, came dangerously close to being splashed.  Dr. Quimby stood still, momentarily stunned by the ice cold water.  He caught his breath and slapped the tank.

“You stop it now!” he ordered before turning to the direction of the testing room.  He grabbed a towel and stood at the top of the four steps, pounding on the locked door.  His beloved “adult” children were still too busy yelling loudly at one another to hear him.  He snarled, turning to the crewmen. “Call them on intercom.  They are both dead meat.”

After finally getting their attention, the door opened slowly. “Yes? Hey Dad, what happened to you?” Michael cried as his dripping wet father was unsuccessfully drying himself with a towel.

“What happened?” Dr. Quimby roared, now cold and angry. 

Sam peeked out from under her brother’s arm, her five feet two inch body well protected by his six feet three inches of muscle.

“What happened is I have raised two very disrespectful kids who seem to think the world is deaf to their shouting matches.  What happened is that your damn whale is about to blow this lab up because he, like you, has no regard for anyone around him.”

“But Daddy, we were just working,” Sam said, as if that were the answer.

Dr. Quimby glared at her.  She bit her lip, hiding behind her brother.  Michael wished, for that moment, he could do the same.  His father was giving him the look that, despite being the same height and build, still made him feel like he was five instead of 22. “Dad, I’m sorry.  We didn’t realize it had become so disruptive,” Michael said calmly, coming outside the room and looking around.  The whale, able to see his “calf”, immediately calmed. 

Dr. Quimby pointed to the tank. “His breaching and spouting is a fire hazard, plus introduces risk of electrocution to my crew!  If you cannot control him, then you are to lock that tunnel! Use some freakin’ sense!”

“Will you please chill out? We hear you just fine, there is no need to yell.  For crying out loud, we see the problem,” the girl said smugly, hands on her hips.

“Chill out? No need to… you haven’t heard yelling yet, little girl!” Dr. Quimby thundered.

“I am not a little girl!  I’m 18, for Heaven’s sake!”

“Nick! Go get General Jenkins this instant,” her father’s voice took a deadly turn to a low growl as he shot daggers at her.

“No!  Daddy, please! Don’t involve Uncle Scott! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound that way,” the girl pleaded, wrapping her arms fearfully around her brother’s waist from behind. 

Michael pulled her away. “You have a big mouth.”  He faced his father, meeting him eye to eye. “I am respectfully asking you if you would like to go into the offices or should we continue this discussion out here in front of our crew? I don’t believe the latter is conducive to rectifying the problem, do you, General?”

“You’re right. After you, Lieutenant,” Dr. Quimby gestured with his hand, regaining his composure. He pointed to the offices while facing his daughter and sent her off with a solid smack to the backside.  The crew smiled, watching her absently rub while scurrying inside.

He ordered both to sit, holding his finger up before his youngest had a chance to talk back. “I wouldn’t if I were you, young lady.  You’re already in enough trouble for your smart ass comments,” the man said firmly, staring her down.  She glared back before losing her courage.  She sat with a huff, arms crossed, and was still that way when Scott walked in.

“What’s going on?” he asked calmly, taking in his surroundings.  His niece was glued to her chair with a huge scowl on her beautiful face and her arms crossed tightly over her chest, and his nephew appearing more than a little panicked at his entrance.  Finally, his best friend and brother-in-law, wet to the bone, stood rigidly with his hands on his hips, brows drawn into a huge frown, and the vein in his neck popping from anger.  Scott inhaled deeply.  He had walked into a brigade of barracuda.  He rubbed his hand down over his niece’s long auburn braid before sitting on the edge of the desk.

“Once again, we are having some issues with respect and safety, Scott,” Dr. Quimby explained.  “I would like your opinion about their complete unprofessionalism in the lab and some suggestions regarding what to do about it.”

“Daddy, you—”

Not a sound from you, young lady! You and I will deal with your mouth when we get home tonight, understand me?”

The girl slunk in her chair, arms crossed tighter.  Scott poked her gently. “I think your father is waiting for a response, princess.”

“Believe me, he doesn’t want to hear what I have to say!”

“Samantha!” all three said.  She only scowled deeper. 

In one sweep, Scott moved her chair to face him, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her to look into his face.  Good, there was some sense left in that beady little brain, he thought, seeing true fear in her eyes. “You are to apologize immediately or you will also hear it from me tonight,” he ordered sharply, staring right at her. 

She gulped loudly unable to maintain the return glare and finally looked down. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said quietly. 

Scott pushed her chair back roughly. “You will be if you continue with this attitude.  Mike, have you anything smart to say too?”

“No, Sir.  I wasn’t the one being rude.  At least,” he had the decency to color a little, “not to Dad.  I suppose my yelling and the water problem is very disrespectful to my crew. And it did put them and the equipment in danger.”

“You suppose?” Dr. Quimby asked roughly. 

Michael took a deep breath. “No, you’re right.  It was definitely disrespectful to the crew and I exposed them to an electrical hazard.  I’m sorry.  It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Who are you kidding, mister?  As long as the two of you work together, this will continue.  I think it’s time we relocate her to a different lab,” Scott announced.

“No!” brother and sister shouted, standing. 

Scott pointed and decided to pull rank. “Both of you sit down.  Not a word.  You have forgotten that I am the Base Commander and a Major General.  I draw the line when you are insubordinate to my sub-Commander and disregard the men under my command.  As the lead physicist, I also clearly see how your behavior is preventing my research from being completed. I’m not telling you not to work together.  You just need to work in separate labs.  The seal unit should be ready for you in the next few weeks.  You may take your part of the crew with you.”

“That’s not fair!” Sam yelled, “All my research is in here! That’s clear on the other side of the bay. We have to take a boat to get there if we drive together.  I don’t have a car!”

“Sam, hush. Dad, Scott, we really need to be together for my work as well.  You know she’s an integral part of the neuroscience study,” Michael said quietly. 

Dr. Quimby nodded. “He has a point, Scott.  Maybe we should assign visiting times.”

“Supervised? Like two little bullies on a playground?” Scott asked, seeing his nephew stiffen with embarrassment.  His niece just glowered.

“Perhaps,” Dr. Quimby paused.  “I do feel that both need to be reminded about basic courtesy and consideration.  You are grounded for two weeks, both of you.  That means no car, Michael.”

“Dad, I am 22 years old,” Michael protested.

“Then act like it, damn it.” Scott snapped. “Your behavior is deplorable.”

Michael lowered his face and mumbled, “Yes, Sir.”

“It’s because you are an adult that I would have expected more from you.  You are under house arrest. Same rules apply as when you were younger.  No TV, phone, or computer.  You are to stay confined to quarters when we are home and are only to come out for meals or work.  Consider yourself fortunate that your diplomatic immunity protects you from being given office hours or a write up.  Failure to pay your dues will cost our trust and respect.”

“Yes, Sir,” Michael sighed, still not looking at his father. 

The man turned to his daughter. “Well? Am I talking to myself here?”

“No.”

“Samantha Anne, if I have to remind you one more time about your attitude, I will start counting time.  Do you really want that?” Scott growled.

The girl looked at her uncle with undisguised fear.  That was the worse she could experience, time with Scott.  Minutes that he would give his all to make her pay the price. “No, Sir.  Yes, Daddy, I understand.”

“Your uncle shouldn’t have to threaten you to mind me or behave appropriately.  That tells me that you have forgotten our last encounter.  Well, sweet one, this time won’t be forgotten.  You are to be in my room at exactly 1930 this evening. That’s 7:30, Sam, in case you forgot.  We will have a very long talk about your behavior, got it?”

“Yes, Sir,” she said meekly. 

He turned to his son. “And you? Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

“Um, yes Sir,” the young man began, carefully choosing his words, “First, I am senior to her.  It’s my responsibility to control the outbursts.  I didn’t realize Ton was breaching.  I agree we should not put the men or equipment at risk.  I promise it won’t happen again, not on my shift anyway.”

“Very well, I will accept that.  What will you do to prevent it in the future should we decide to allow the two of you to continue working together?” Dr. Quimby said, watching as Scott firmly unfolded his niece’s arms and ordered her to sit up straight.

“I promise that I will not start the arguments.  I also promise to find a way to communicate to Ton the danger he puts his calf in when he breaches.”

“Calf?” Scott asked. 

Michael nodded. “Yes, Sir.  Ton views Sam as a calf that he has fostered into his pod.  His breaching is in response to her primitive impulses.  He thinks she is running from a hunter, even though he knows it’s me.”

“Interesting.  So if she doesn’t feel cornered, then he doesn’t respond?” Scott asked, eyeing his niece. “Why isn’t he breaching now?”

“Not enough impulsing, I guess.  She doesn’t even need the band much with him anymore.  Dad, Scott, listen.  I’m so sorry about today.  Please let us work together.  I will keep control as best as I can on the yelling and Ton.  It’s important, for more than just our research.  We need each other in this environment.  She needs me even more.”

“Are there still problems with some of the men?” Scott quivered, hair rising. 

Michael nodded. “We have a handle on it.  None of them are in R&D.  It’s armory.  Please think about it.”

“We will.  That does not change the fact that the unit will be ready for her work.  Perhaps we can cross train both crews.  What do you think, old man?” Dr. Quimby asked his friend.

“I think that’s an excellent idea.  We’ll talk about that later. I want to finish this discussion.  I have one solution,” Scott said, kicking his niece’s foot off her knee where it was crossed defiantly. “I’ll put out a requisition to get that room sound-proofed.”

“That means we still can argue.” Michael looked confused. 

Scott smiled. “I know as well as you do that the fighting is part of your process.  It’s just way out of hand and needs some toning down.  However, there is no reason that your poor crew has to partake in the headache.  Do you think Ton will still breach if it can’t be heard?”

“Yes, Sir, quite possibly.”

“Then we will find a way to put some kind of interference frequency around it.  This will also hide the sound of your sister crying when you spank the hell out of her little attitude.  Samantha, you are to show respect to your brother as though he were one of us.  He is your senior officer and team mate, and you are to treat him with honor and deference. I trust him not to take advantage of this order, either.”

“That is so not fair, Uncle Scott!”

“One minute,” Scott said immediately.

“Please, no! I’m sorry!”

“Two minutes.”

“Yes, Sir, Uncle Scott,” she tried hard not to show her tears.  She was in for a very unpleasant evening.

“That’s better,” he said, patting her head as he stood.  The two were ordered to the floor to clean up the water and apologize to their crew.  Scott watched his niece stomp away and tried not to laugh.  He leaned his elbow on his friend’s shoulder. “What a handful that one is.”

“Yeah, and she won’t be a happy handful when we are done with her tonight.  Two minutes, huh?” Dr. Quimby smiled.

“Longest two minutes of that child’s life.”

“Take her before dinner for a nice warm up.  It will give her something to think about while waiting for me.”

“And you think I’m a sadistic bastard?” Scott teased, walking out to their offices. 

Dr. Quimby laughed.  “Think nothing.  It’s a fact.”

***

“You’re awfully quiet,” Michael mentioned, glancing at his sister on the console next to him.

She looked up. “My big mouth just keeps landing me in more trouble.  I’m so dead tonight.”

“Yeah, sorry about the fight,” Michael said apologetically.

“Me too,” she answered quietly.  “I had no idea Ton would react that way.  Let me talk with him if I can, okay?”

“Use the neuroband to make sure he gets everything,” Michael said.

Sam obeyed and slipped the device around her neck.  She sent out images to the orca regarding the danger his breaching caused and what their shouting had been about. The conversation was short with Ton dismissing the shouting as penguin squawks.  Insulted, he swam off in a huff, irritated for trying to protect his calf from nonsense. Pods didn’t yell at each other, but penguins did.

“Guess he told us, huh?” Michael winced. 

“He’s really developing an understanding of human emotions.  Man, we’re really being chewed out today.  Well, at least we don’t have to worry about that anymore.  Mike?  Do you think they were serious about separating us?”

“Yes.  In part,” Michael answered.  “Let’s just try to keep the volume down for a while, okay?  I do have a question for you.”

“What?” she asked, wiping off the rail as Michael leaned against it to stand in her way.

“Do you feel I back you into corners when we argue? Like you’re being hunted?”

“Sometimes,” Samantha admitted.  “Well, not being hunted, but trapped.  You fight mean, brother. It stymies me at times.”

“Do I hurt your feelings?  I try to avoid low blows or insults, don’t I?”

“Hurt my feeling? Oh, My, no.  If you hurt my feelings, I would be in tears.  No, I just want to bitch slap you into being more reasonable. You are so pig-headed sometimes and won’t let me talk.  Do I hurt your feelings?”

“Can’t ever recall feeling that way,” he replied.  “I guess it’s safe to say we fight loudly, but respectfully.  At least there’s minimal name-calling, and no swearing or insulting each other.  Shit, Sammi, the folks should be proud of us, not pissed!”

“Tell them that,” Sam answered before joining her brother in a warm hug.  She rested her face against the bottom of his rib cage. “I’m scared, Mike.  Do something.”

***

Sam reached over to grasp her brother’s hand fearfully during the uncomfortable drive home that evening. He squeezed it gently before lifting it to kiss her palm. The silence was deafening for both of them.

“To your rooms,” Dr. Quimby ordered as they entered the house.  Sam went immediately, however, Michael stayed put.

“May I please speak with both of you for a moment?  It’s important,” he asked.  The two men nodded as they led the way into the living room.  They sat, looking up at him, patiently waiting for his comments. “First, I need to apologize.  I was wrong in everything that happened today and I take full responsibility. I need to be a better example of how she should behave and I haven’t been.  I know she looks up to me for things like that, so I’m really sorry that I shirked in that area.”

He took a deep breath. “She and I had a long, very quiet, talk after we spoke with Ton.  He told us we were stupid for squawking so much and won’t be breaching again.  I do feel, though, an interference frequency might help prevent anyone else from breaching if nearby.  Anyway,” Michael continued, “Sam and I realized that although we argue loudly, it is never about personal issues or as an attempt to hurt each other.  Even the name calling we do is more ridiculous than anything.  Is it necessary? Probably not, at least not for normal people, but this is probably the only normal thing we do as a brother and sister.  Seriously, can you recall the last time we really fought?  Not teased each other, but fought about something that didn’t involve her being in danger or being stubborn.  Like normal siblings? Over something stupid or childish?”

“Well, I really can’t remember that ever occurring,” Dr. Quimby admitted. 

Scott shook his head. “Me neither.  I don’t think you have ever fought like normal kids.  But then, you aren’t normal kids.  What’s your point?”

“My point is that we need to be allowed to have some kind of normalcy in our lives.  The men know we are fighting to process our work.  They don’t hear tantrums coming from the lab unless I provoke her and back her into a corner.  You trained us to come out fighting, and she is doing what she has been taught.  Even verbally, if you back her into a corner, what do really expect her to do? Lie down on her back and take it?  That’s not how you raised us.”

“Are you trying to tell us that she should be allowed to mouth off at us like she does, and to disregard the rules set in this family?” Dr. Quimby asked. 

Michael shook his head. “No Sir, not at all.  What I’m saying is that her response should be viewed in proportion to her entrapment, that’s all. She’s got a different temperament than I do, and you can’t expect her to act the same.  It’s not fair to her or to you.”

“Or to you,” Scott reminded him.  “I’m sure she has no problem in venting on you when she’s unhappy with us,” Scott smiled softly. “And sit down, you’re hurting my neck. When did you get so tall?”

“Truthfully, Scott, I spend more time holding and comforting her than I spend listening to her complain.  I’m her brother, but sometimes I feel more like a body-guard.”

“You are that, my boy.  What exactly are you asking of us?” Dr. Quimby questioned softly.

“Just think about what I said when you go after her tonight.  She’s terrified, with good reason, but also confused.  Remember what I said.  She doesn’t have the temperament I do and might not be so willing to grow up so fast.  She’s still only 18 and has been through more hell than anyone three times her age.  We need to give her a break.”

“Are you done, son?” Scott asked.  Michael nodded.

“Scott and I will talk about your comments and points discussed.  In the meantime, please go to your room and remain there until dinner.  You are still on confinement,” Dr. Quimby said, leaning back on the couch.

“Yes, Sir. Thanks for listening. Excuse me,” Michael said to his father, quickly leaving to obey. The two men looked at each other, trying not to laugh.

“I told you he should have been an attorney,” Dr. Quimby grinned.

“Maybe you were right.  We’ve raised quite a nice, respectable young man, haven’t we?  You also realize that the only reason he obeyed us regarding the confinement is to provide an example to his sister.  He’s really too old to ground now,” Scott chuckled, “so, what should we do?”


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