Final chapter. Thanks for all your support. Stay tuned for Story 2, Money trail coming soon
Chapter 29: Enough
Joe sat back on the seat provided to her in the conference video room. The dual screens from the mini-subs had long been turned off, as far as Joe knew both of them had already started their two hour journey back to the surface.
However, the images that had been on the screens themselves seemed to have been burned into Joe's brain. She just couldn't manage to banish the image, even for a moment.
It's not like she hadn't seen bodies before. She worked criminal, it was just part of the job.
But a big heap of rotting bodies, almost a mass grave, that was something she had never encountered.
Who would do such a horrible thing?
The question kept running through her head, the only thing besides the images of the dead that wouldn't leave her in peace.
And it wasn't bad enough that there were so many dead, what made it that much worse was all the infants.
Was there anything more horrible than the slaughter of children?
Mr. Ozera had already excused himself from the video chat, almost right after the images of the dead had come on he had left. Joe really couldn't blame him. The Dragon captain's video screen was still rolling, but he himself was gone. He had left, forgetting to turn off the camera, once the sub started to return, as had the sub room operator.
Ilia and Josh stayed with her for a moment, then Josh turned off the feed, unable to stay any longer.
The screens just kept getting dark until only Jack was left, looking at her.
"Are you alright, Joe?" he asked.
Joe opened her mouth, an automatic 'fine' about to leave her lips. But the word just wouldn't come. The truth of it was, she wasn't fine. She wasn't fine at all.
"Good job, Joe." Jack said after a moment when she clearly wasn't going to respond. "You completed your task as asked of you. I'll uh...I'll take care of the clean up from here on. Why don't you...and Kai go on vacation."
The word 'vacation' had Joe looking up. "What like...leave?"
"Just temporarily." he smiled. "You'll probably want to visit one of the MCRC therapists as well. Alright?"
Joe opened her mouth to argue, 'I'm fine' right at the base of the throat. But, again, the words just wouldn't come. Instead, with a bit of disbelief that she would so readily agree, Joe said, "Alright."
"I have to go now." Jack smiled at her then his video feed, too, went black.
Joe was left all alone, with only the empty screen of the Dragon captain's camera to look at.
It was too much.
She didn't want to be alone.
The silence was deafening, she wanted someone, anyone, to be there with her.
As if it suddenly became electrically charged, Joe jumped out of her seat and walked as quickly as she could out of the conference room.
It was strange, as soon as she left, it was as if she entered a different world. Comm. room 2 was a busy beehive, as it always was, filled with people completely unconcerned and unaware of the massacre just a few miles below their feet.
Joe left the room, the operator would turn off her video chat for her, and she started walking through the familiar walls of the Haltija.
She fully intended on going to the sub room. Ilia should still be there, helping retrieve the mini-subs. They could comfort each other, like friends do.
Instead, as if they had a mind of their own, Joe's feet directed her away from the sub room, towards the deck.
She climbed out of the bowels of the ship and into the sunshine which seemed almost inappropriate now.
Before she knew it, Joe was standing at the railing of the ship, watching the Dragon floating in the water. It looked almost as peaceful as the Haltija.
Of course it did. Very few people were in on that conference call, very few people even knew what was down there. It seemed almost unreal that no one was affected by so many forgotten lives that lay just beneath them.
Joe looked down at the water, a bit hesitant to do so. Almost as if she were afraid one of those pale, lifeless bodies would come floating up if she did.
It wouldn't, of course.
The hole that opened in the base was actually not all that large, and not even in the same room as the bodies.
Yet still, Joe felt a little bit of apprehension as she watched the dark blue waves dance almost merrily against the hull of the ships. And, for some reason, she felt almost a bit betrayed. As if the ocean had hidden this awful secret from her on purpose.
She wanted to turn away from the water. She wanted to hunt down Ilia as she intended and hug her friend or even just go to her room and cry for a while.
But she didn't.
Despite ordering her feet to turn away, Joe stood, almost completely still, at the rails of the ship.
She waited, she didn't know what for, but she waited.
For a while, nothing happened. The day went on as it would, as if nothing had happened.
Then, after what seemed like an eternity, a bubble floated to the surface.
Joe felt her back straighten and her attention snapped to the spot where it popped.
A moment later another, then another appeared.
Then the water became almost frothy and, a second after that, the metallic hull of a submarine, not quite mini but no where near full sized, bobbed out of the water.
Joe felt the breath catch in her throat as the Dragon's people began preparing to bring the sub in.
But they weren't fast enough for him.
As Joe watched, the escape hatch on the top of the sub opened and Kai's glorious, white haired head came out of it.
Without bothering to take off his clothes or even begin the transformation, Kai jumped into the water and swam towards the Haltija as a human.
This was what she had been waiting for, Joe realized as she went to the pulley system with the platform and lowered it to the water.
She wanted company, she wanted the comfort of someone, it just wasn't Ilia that she wanted. She wanted, she needed, Kai.
Kai climbed onto the platform and slammed his hand on the button that would bring it up.
Almost painfully slowly, it began raising itself towards the ship deck.
It hadn't even drawn even, it was still a few feet lower than the deck, when Kai jumped off of it and ran to her.
They came together in a simple but powerful embrace.
He hugged her tight, squeezing her so hard that the bullet proof vest he still wore hurt a bit. But Joe didn't care. She hugged him back, burying her face into the curvature of his neck, taking in his scent, drawing comfort from his presence.
Kai whispered sweet nothings in both Greek and English into her ear. Joe didn't understand most of it but she didn't care. All that mattered was that he was there, he was with her.
Across the water, Kai's men were being helped out of the sub and back onto their ship, pulling with them the still collared Crispin.
"Take him to the med-bay." one of the sailors said. They would leave his collar on until they could prove that he wasn't a threat to them. Siren's were powerful mythics. If his voice was strong enough, he could take over the entire ship. They didn't know, and until they did, they would be careful.
Crispin didn't care if the collar never came off at that point. He was just happy he was alive and that he could once again feel the bright sunshine on his face.
Yet part of his heart still mourned for Ashley and the other two girls that he had left behind. The men didn't say anything about it, yet Crispin knew without being told that he was the only survivor of the entire base.
It was, somehow, a lonely thought.
"Are you okay, Boo-boo?" Ilia asked as she left the sub room. In all honesty, the mini-subs could practically raise themselves from the water. She was only staying because she didn't she could handle being by herself for a while.
Ilia didn't work criminal, dead bodies were something she saw rarely and mostly on TV. Seeing all those poor people thrown into a pile like so much garbage was physically sickening to her.
"Hey, Ilia." Josh smiled at her.
After seeing the bodies, Josh had practically run from the room and stationed himself outside in the hall. Like he wanted to seek the shelter of his room but he didn't want to abandon his duties either.
What a trooper, Ilia thought.
"How you doing?" she asked, smiling a bit.
"I'm fine." he smiled back, though it didn't quite reach his eyes which seemed dead and dull.
"Really?" Ilia said. "You look like you're about to have a melt down."
Josh took a deep breath, like he was about to speak, but then let it all out and seemed to deflate a bit. "I feel kind of...guilty." he admitted quietly, almost like he wasn't even talking to her.
"Hey, this isn't your fault!" Ilia told his fiercely, putting her hands on his shoulders and looking at him right in the eye. "No one could have known what was going on down there."
"Yeah. Yeah." Josh agreed almost mechanically.
"Nothing we could have done would have changed anything." Ilia continued. "This isn't our fault. It's whoever put that evil place down there! It's his fault!"
"Right." Josh smiled at her, but it still didn't reach his eyes. "Thanks, Ilia."
"Why don't you go lie down, Josh." Ilia told him. "I'm sure Doc has something that could put you right to sleep, go ask him for something. I'll take care of things down here."
"You're a good friend, Ilia." Josh leaned forward and kissed her cheek before turning and walking away.
Poor guy, Ilia thought. She just hoped that he, that any of them, weren't cursed with nightmares because of this.
And even as she thought that, she knew they would be. She herself certainly wouldn't be resting easy for a long time to come.
Kai was holding Joe close, they were lying in her bed, their bodies covered with a blanket. Her head was resting on his shoulder, his arm was around her body, keeping it as close as possible to his.
Their free hands were clasped together, their fingers intertwining and loosening lazily.
The Haltija had begun it's long trip home. The Siren and Griffin right behind it. The Dragon had taken over jurisdiction of the case and the Phoenix would reach the area shortly to begin retrieving the bodies, or what was left of them. Anything left unattended down there was swallowed up by the ocean life sooner rather than later.
But that wasn't their problem anymore.
Kai and Joe were taking off for a while, taking a break from work with not only Jack's permission, but his insistence.
Joe didn't know what was going to happen with the case anymore, nor was it her problem anymore. She had done her job and that was to get to the bottom of the lights. She didn't want to think about it for a while. In fact, she didn't want to think at all for a while.
It was enough to just lay there with Kai's arms around her, letting the gentle rocking of the ship keep her suspended just between sleep and consciousness. It was a gloriously thought-less place. There, the only thing that mattered was that Kai's slightly cool body was there, keeping her just that perfect temperature between and warm and cool. During hot summer nights, sleeping with his cooler body would be wonderful.
Joe had never been more certain than of the fact that she would spend the rest of her life with this man. That she ran to him even before she knew she was going to do so was proof enough of that for her.
"Kyma." he said suddenly, breaking the silence.
"Yes?" she responded automatically, trying to stay in that special, thought-less place.
"I love you." he kissed the top of her head, that beautiful red hair shinning in the low light of the setting sun through her tiny window. The entire ride back to the surface, as he watched his beloved ocean flow across the sub's windows, all he could think of was her. The need to get to her side, to pull her close and fill his hands with all that fiery red hair had grown with every foot of water they rose through.
By the time they broke the surface, his mind was so filled with thoughts of her, all he could think about was leaving the sub and returning to her. He took the vacation offered by Jack gratefully. All he wanted was to get out of this place.
Maybe they would go visit her family in the lake-less Iowa. It would be perfect because he planned on talking to her parents about marrying her.
He kissed the top of her head again then watched with a bit of a smile as she snuggled in closer to his body.
"I love you, too." she told him. They were words that were almost overused, but they were suddenly so perfect and meaningful.
There were a lot of unanswered questions about the base, who was behind it, and even who was the traitor aboard the ship, but it didn't matter. None of that mattered right now.
All they wanted was to leave this mess behind them for a little while, leave it to whoever came after them.
They would heal, in time. After a while, the sharp image of all that death would finally dull, maybe it would even fade a bit. It would probably never leave, but that was the cost of working criminal.
If nothing else, at least out of all this, they found each other.
And, right now, that was enough.