**Note--for those of you who have not read The Nemesis Syndrome,
don't be taken aback by the fact that Kowalski's first name is Stan.
I'm aware that his brother was named Stan in an episode of the series,
but based on a comment by Del Monroe a number of years ago about that
name and his character, I have taken the liberty of giving it to him.
Besides, character wise, Kowalski is a Stan. It is this kind of "inconsistency"
that might have given Irwin Allen a thrill.
| Robin Malloy stood shivering,
drenched in lamplight as she studied NIMR's landing field and the coming
dawn. Clouds bound the horizon, flushed darkly pink in anticipation
of sunrise. A distant yellow blot, the just-landed Flying Sub punctuated
charcoal tarmac still cool in the receding night. Morning would
bring light and possibly solutions to some of the questions that plagued
her. She hoped so, but wasn't holding her breath.
you to the bone." She turned away, tears welling in her eyes.
Nelson pulled her close. "Knock it off," he said gently. "We have a fair idea of what you went through; nothing to be ashamed of. We're as concerned as you about these dreams. You're right--there may be something about Nemesis we don't know--something that lingers, that might turn aroun and bite us on the rear--that's why we've come. By the way, where is Harlow?"
"That's the thing, Harriman, Bill's not here. He's been missing for almost a week"
"A week? You've got to be kidding."
She frowned and shook her head, felt a shiver run across her back.
"How the hell does a security man go missing for a week without it getting flagged?
"Bill requested unscheduled personal leave six days ago. According to records, because of family business he had in Oregon," Robin said. "He was supposed to report back yesterday. He didn't. And his family wasn't expecting him so they never inquired. I checked his apartment just before coming here--nothing's missing. Didn't take any luggage, clothing or travel gear--not even his toothbrush. Wherever he went, he did it quietly and quickly."
Crane scratched his head and squinted. "There's something wrong about this. Why would a man request several days leave and not take luggage or even a change of underwear? Interesting....our dreams started six days ago. Harlow disappeared six days ago? The timing stinks." The captain's gaze shifted rapidly between Nelson and Robin Malloy. "Does any of this bother anyone else?"
As they proceeded toward the field gate and the innards of the Institute beyond, the morning sun crept toward the horizon and turned distant clouds and much of the sky blood-red.
"For crying out loud, Mr. Morton, why are we suddenly steaming like crazy north for the Bering Straight?" Chief of the Boat Francis Sharkey glared at Seaview's XO. "Remember what happened the last time Seaview headed north? I thought the Captain and Admiral had seen enough ice country for a while.
Morton turned to face seaman Kowalski.
"Sir, if there's nothing going on up front, I'd like to have some time in the nose. I'm just off duty, sir."
"You OK? Morton said. Kowalski in particular had been hit hard by the all-too-recent death of his good friend, Pat Patterson.
"I'm fine, sir." Kowalski said, automatically.
Morton nodded towards the observation nose. Kowalski about-faced and headed forward. Moments passed and Seaview's XO heard the distant sound of observation's privacy screen hushing shut. Now, where was I? he mused. Oh yeah . . . stop thinking, start doing. Maybe it's about time for a fire drill.
Phone calls and emails relating
to the disappeared Bill Harlow funneled into the Institute all morning--messages
from security, Harlow's family and friends, and from various local and
Kowalski slumped into a huge, comfortable leather chair and swiveled about for an unobstructed view out Seaview's observation ports. The chair was one of several that had been installed in the nose several weeks before on the Admiral's instructions. This had prompted joking comments in some quarters that "the old man" was getting soft.
Not so , Kowalski thought as he stared into the black sea. Not after going through what we did with that Nemesis thing. Not after loosing so many crew--especially someone like Patterson--a real friend . . . a comfortable place to sit and think seems totally called for. Patterson . . . my good friend . . . why did you have to die? You--of all people. Why'd you have to go and blow yourself and the Flying Sub to smithereens? You saved the boat and probably the world, but it was supposed to be me. Crane wanted me on that mission. But you stepped in and volunteered. You said you didn't have a wife at home expecting a baby; you didn't have the responsibilities I did. The only problem is, now your dead. I don't know, I just don't know . . . it was supposed to be me--Crane wanted me out there . . .
A tear ran down his face and he didn't bother to wipe it away; the privacy doors were closed, he was alone.
Crane wanted me out there . . .
He rubbed his eyes, wiped the moisture from his cheek, stared deeper into the tunnel of black out front. Spots of light, white at first, then multi-colored, floated at the perimeter of his vision. He heard his heart beat rhythmically, barely audible somewhere in the distance--somewhere a million miles away. It was accompanied by a hint of other sound, like the wind. A far-away voice blowing through the back of his mind; a voice that knew his name.
"Stan," it called. "Stan, it's fine, don't worry." the voice said.
"What?" he heard himself say. He stood in blackness surrounded by hints of swirling color, spots of light that tried to claw their way onto the stage. Yes, Kowalski realized he was standing on a dimly lit stage surrounded by teasing lights and endless night beyond. And those tantalizing, dancing shimmers of light wanted in, wanted onto the stage with him. They and the voice were trying to tell him something. The swirl of lights, red and green and blue--there were too many to count, too many colors. They moved closer and closer, pushing the darkness aside, pushing their way onto the stage in front of him, seemingly on the verge of coalescing into--what? A person?
With a final, singular effort, the bubbling luminescence resolved into a figure. Someone, Kowalski realized, who looked remarkably like Pat Patterson.
"Pat?" Kowalski's demeanor hardened. "No. You're dead!"
All the same, the spitting image of Pat Patterson stood center-stage in the gloom, staring at Kowalski, bearing a look suggestive of pain, either past or present. Slowly, he extended a hand. For comfort? The figure's lips--Pat's lips--moved ever so slightly and spoke the faint suggestion of a word that defied recognition despite Kowalski's rapt attention.
Born and raised in the Northwest, Robin Malloy felt at home gazing
out at the shadowy Douglas firs that raced by, a forest so dense,
it seemed it might at any moment, burst past the barrier of asphalt
to obliterate them and the road they rushed along. "David
Lynch got it right."
| "No specifics;
just a feeling I got from talking with the head of the place, a Dr.
Martells. We'll see for ourselves soon enough."
Nelson steered the car onto a narrow road that cut directly into the forest. As they passed from the main highway, trees rose on both sides and merged overhead to form a dark canopy that cut off the night sky. It was as if they had entered a gloomy forest tunnel that had no end. In spite of their progress, an air of deathly stillness descended on them and would not let go.