A missing scene from A New Mission. Contains a bit of dialog from the aired episode, so not mine, darn it.

Never Get Off the Boat

-- by 10k_fever

10K was floating. Not on water, but on a cushion of cloud sailing across a verdant landscape filled with deer, elk, and even a moose or two. He’d never seen a moose, at least not a live one, so he smiled at the sight of all those beautiful animals roaming free upon the great, unfettered meadow.

The sound of a horn playing very loudly disrupted his idyll. Who was the Johnny-one-note bleating on the trombone?

He opened his eyes and dropped immediately back into reality. The trombone was an emergency klaxon of some sort, and he was flat on his back on a narrow table in a small, cluttered room, an operating room.

Gut shot, men in weird uniforms – not U.S. Navy, that was certain…and a submarine? He’d never been on a submarine, and the bleat of the klaxon, people shouting, and the tiny metal room of his accommodation made him hope he’d never see the inside of one again.

He sat up, the warning horn urging him to get up and get moving. There was nothing quite like the over-bearing sound of an alarm to get the adrenalin flowing. His abdomen was bandaged. Yep, gutshot, a bad one. The wound was sore, but not particularly painful. But why wasn’t he dead? It was strictly an analytical observation, because the high-caliber bullet driven into him surely should have killed him. How long had he been on board? It didn’t feel like a long time to him, and yet his wound was healing. All these confusing thoughts were making his head hurt. Or maybe it was due to the smoke drifting into the medical bay.

The sub must have one helluva medical team, he reflected, standing up to test his balance. At least he was wearing his pants. He found the rest of his clothes and other gear piled on a nearby counter, gathered them up, and went to the open door. Left or right? With certainty, he chose right and headed up the narrow passageway.

He remembered the mission and knew he had to find Murphy, who had come aboard the sub with him. Whatever was happening on the boat – submarines were called boats, he remembered – wasn’t his concern, but Murphy was the mission, the only thing he cared about right now.

He found the subject of his quest without difficulty. Murphy stood beneath an open hatchway with three others: a woman in a white lab coat, one sailor – or maybe a soldier, since he didn’t look at all like a sailor to 10K – and another man who must have been the captain, judging by the braid on his not-Navy uniform.

“10K, we’ve been waiting for you,” Murphy said amiably. “I’m glad you found us.”

What? Being found should have been the last thing Murphy wanted, especially if 10K was doing the finding. But 10K told himself it didn’t matter, finding Murphy was all that mattered, and he’d done that.

“Hand the man your stuff.”

The not-sailor had his hands out to take 10K’s things, so he gave them over obligingly. The man went up a ladder, where he passed the bundle to a second not-sailor who was waiting topside, before going up himself. 10K could see blue sky behind the figures, and hoped he was going to follow his clothes outside this tiny, noisy, metal box. Besides, his eyes were starting to sting from the smoke, and more smoke was filling the corridors. The sub was on fire.

“Up you go, kid,” Murphy said.

10K climbed the ladder willingly, eager to be out in the fresh air and open space, even if it turned out to be the middle of the ocean. He had no idea where they were or how much time had passed since leaving the restaurant on shore, and he really didn’t care. He just wanted out.

As he joined three not-sailors on the deck, he noticed a launch bobbing alongside. A Zodiac, he reckoned, a rigid inflatable model with real seats on either end of the mid-mount helm controls, in this case a very ordinary looking steering wheel. An outboard motor provided the method of propulsion. The foam-filled collar bladders surrounding the hull would keep the boat stable in all sorts of weather. Whatever its brand name or features, it was not the sort of inflatable raft one would normally find on a submarine. It had to be land-based.

During his idle musings, the others had joined him on deck. Murphy gave him a gentle shove. “Quit drooling over the transportation and get in the boat.”

Never get off the boat. Words of wisdom…from someone. The sub was a boat, but it was on fire, so getting off of it to get onboard another boat probably overrode the sound advice. He would still be on a boat, if not the specific one he’d started on. His head was getting befuddled by all these conflicting thoughts.

“Get in the boat!” Murphy said impatiently.

10K’s mind focused, and he climbed down to join the two not-sailors in the smaller boat. After him came the woman – perhaps the elusive Doctor Merch? – and the ship’s not-Navy captain. He felt a lot better now that he was outside and breathing the fresh ocean air, and pretty much forgot about the submarine burning and sinking just a few feet away. He was alive, and life was good.

Instead of taking one of the seats, he settled down against the foam-filled collar lining the hull and started to put on the rest of his clothes. He was pleased to see everything was there, including his goggles and bandanna. Even his rifle was alongside his duffle.

However, one thing seemed very odd: Murphy, like a good shepherd, had stepped into the boat last, something he would never do. He would never be the last one to escape from danger; always, he thought first of himself, leaving the others in the group to protect him.

Ah, yes, the group. Where were they? Back on land, awaiting their arrival? Or had enough time passed that they’d gone off somewhere? How would he find them? And why was Murphy, who was supposed to be on the submarine helping the CDC create a cure for the zombie virus, coming back with him? Sinking sub…okay, that might do it. He realized he should have thought of that sooner, but it didn’t seem important.

And the sub was definitely sinking. Huge billows of black smoke rose through the open hatch behind them and towered against the sharp blue of the sky. How many others were onboard, he wondered? Did anyone else escape?

His head throbbed harder as the inflatable pulled away from the protection of the sub’s bulk and headed into open water. Murphy helmed the boat as if he were the captain aboard the flagship of a fleet, standing proud and tall behind the wheel. For a second, 10K thought it was funny, but then his head spiked a new level of pain and he decided it was time to quit thinking so much.

He was growing sleepy, and curled up on the deck. The loudness of the motor and the constant thumping of the boat through the sea faded into the background. He was back with the deer and the elk. Oh, yes, and the moose. He wouldn’t forget the moose. Drifting again, he felt no fear. He was at peace.

*****

“Let’s move, people.” Murphy’s voice, insistent.

10K popped up from inside the boat and sat on the inflatable collar to check his bandage. Everything looked fine. “What happened? Where is everybody?”

Murphy didn’t answer the question. “This way, kid. Let’s go.”

He stood up, realized they had landed on a rocky shore, tossed his duffle out of the craft and climbed out after it.

“We gotta find Doc, and Addy, and Warren,” 10K insisted, picking up his duffle. Three all-terrain vehicles were parked nearby, two of them ATVs, the other a five-passenger utility. Those definitely hadn’t come from the sub. Maybe they were some sort of ground support brought in earlier by a supply ship? There was just too much weirdness going on to worry about the details.

Murphy sounded full of confidence. “I already said thanks. We’re going our own way now.”

10K felt angry. “No, we kept you alive all the way to California. Where are you going?”

Murphy turned away, but 10K heard his answer clearly: “To start a new world.”

He tossed his duffle into the storage bed of the utility vehicle. “I’m not going anywhere with you, Murphy.”

Okay, maybe staying with Murphy was his best option until he found the others. It was the only logical thing to do. But then he realized he had already jumped into the vehicle. When had that happened? Had his action come before his thought, or the other way around? He couldn’t remember, but he knew something was very odd about this whole situation.

He gripped the roll bar as the vehicles pulled away.

The End

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