Year One: Duquesa Bay

"Querida"

Sitting at a large metal desk inside his SCU office, Dr. Javier Sanchez studies some paperwork. He suddenly scowls and then flings a spreadsheet across the room.

Javier: (Sighing) How does the university expect me to run this department if they give me shit for a budget?

A young, redheaded student pops her head in the door and grins at him.

Javier: (Now smiling) Did you finish your paper yet, Heather?

Heather: (Making sure her extra tight top is now in sight) Um, not quite - I'm still a little unfocused in my conclusions - I was hoping you could help me tighten them up a bit?

Javier: (Scratching at his beard) I'd love to, Querida - I'll tell you what, I need to finish a few things here so why don't we meet up at Quartz Lake in a couple of hours - you can assist me in conducting some fresh water experiments and I'll take a closer look at your... paper

Heather: (Giggling and twisting her hair) I am so there, Sandy, BYEEEE

Watching one of his favorite students slowly close the door behind her, Dr. Sanchez smirks to himself and resumes his work. He picks up the office phone and dials.

Javier: (Leaving a voice mail) Hola, Shelby - I am going to need your help on this budget tomorrow so clear a few hours in the morning after your labs and tell Hajanian I really need him to cover tonight's lecture for me... unless I can convince Erika to do so - later!

As he hangs up, a call comes through for him on his cell phone.

Javier: Hello? - oh, hi Oni... actually, I was just about to call you - I'm going to be running a little late tonight so don't hold dinner for me - um... sure, I could do that - hold on, let me get a pen - OK, go ahead... cottage cheese, wild rice, and toilet paper - got it, I'll see you later, Querida

He hangs up and then dials it again.

Javier: Anita, it's your favorite brother in-law - listen, I still don't have any conclusive evidence for you on those acoustic waves but I have now ruled out the porpoise - although is possesses the characteristic shape, the amplitude is more along the line of a very large orca - oh, and do me a huge favor, please bring your sister some cottage cheese, wild rice, and toilet paper - I'm going to be working late to get you some more answers on this mystery... gracias!

Just as he hangs up his cell phone, his office phone rings.

Javier: AY... hello?

The man suddenly stiffens up and begins to sweat.

Javier: Yes, sir - I will have those tests completed for you by week's end - oh, fine, tomorrow night if you insist - are we meeting at the regular location? - I'll be there for sure... can I expect my regular payment then? - no, NO - sir, I really don't think we need to involve her - but, but... whatever you think is necessary, goodbye

After picking at his cuticles for a moment, Dr. Sanchez leaves his office. Now in the main atrium, he saunters over to the department secretary.

Javier: (Looking at his watch) Is Dr. von Meer still in class?

Secretary: She should be out in about 20 minutes, professor

Javier: (Taking off) Thanks

Making sure no one is around, he quietly slips into Erika's office and closes the door. Once inside, he begins to search through some papers while flipping on her computer.

Javier: (Writing some notes) My, my... what have you been up to, Rikka?

He takes a ZIP disk out of his jacket and begins to copy over several files.

Javier: (Waiting for the computer to finish) I know you're used to living in the lap of luxury but that shouldn't prevent you from wanting to succeed... and succeed we will!

He takes out the disk and looks between the slats of the window shade. Waiting for a trio of students to leave the hall, he darts out of the room and heads back to his own office. On her way up the concrete stairs, Erika returns from class and calls to him.

Erika: Where's the fire, Sandy?

Javier: (Spinning around on his heel) I WAS JUST LOOKING FOR YOU

Erika: (Fixing her glasses) Here I am

Javier: I was hoping you could...

Erika: (Walking away) No

Javier: But

Erika: NO

Javier: You don't even know what I was going to ask!

Erika: (Sighing and facing him) No, I cannot sub for you tonight

Javier: Please?

Erika: Have Tim do it

Javier: He's already done it twice

Erika: What is so important that you have to duck out?

Javier: (Clearing his throat) Department business

Erika: HA - does this "department business" happen to involve a certain grad student with really perky... ears?

Javier: (Looking down at his shoes) And what, pray tell, do you have to do that's so important tonight, Miss Recluse?

Erika: (Half smile) Family business

Javier: Ah - hey, listen, I just finished reading the student evals this morning...

Erika: (Rolling her eyes) Here it comes

Javier: You received outstanding marks in most fields...

Erika: But?

Javier: The area of "relating to and caring about your students" was mediocre... well, actually, more on the poor side

Erika: Are you suggesting I start listening to NSYNC songs and fuck them in the student union bathroom? - oh, wait, that's YOUR method

Javier: (Turning red) That only happened ONCE, it was during Ona Rosa's hypertensive pregnancy, and the girl seduced ME

Erika: Right

Javier: Look, I understand you resent having to teach "beneath" your level of knowledge but that's part of the job

Erika: Maybe I should adopt Shelby's method of bringing in homemade cookies and sharing wacky island tales!

Javier: It works! - c'mon, surely you must have a wacky tale or two to tell?

Erika: (Biting her lip) Not really

Javier: THEN, MAKE UP ONE

Erika: Can I borrow a few from you?

Javier: You don't NEED to - your class is 4:1 male, YOU'RE DROP-DEAD MODEL GORGEOUS... USE IT

Erika shakes her head and looks away from him.

Javier: It's only to your advantage, in and out of the classroom

Erika: You sound like my mother

Javier: And you should listen to her - oh, by the way, Anita is still pestering me for info on that acoustic wave anomaly

Erika: (Subtle grin) Don't worry, I'll have something for the good lieutenant to look at soon enough

Javier: I appreciate that - you know, Rikka...

The tone in his voice piques the woman's interest.

Erika: What?

Javier: I really do appreciate your help

Erika: For the last time, I am NOT doing your lecture tonight!

Javier: I mean with other projects

Erika: Sure, no problem

Javier: And if you ever needed MY help with something, I would like to believe that you could come to me and ask for it

Dr. von Meer wrinkles up her nose and chuckles half-jokingly.

Erika: What could ever I possibly need your help with, Sandy?

Dr. Sanchez looks on as Erika disappears behind her office door.

Javier: (Under his breath) You would be surprised

After sorting through some mail and phone messages, Erika sits down at her desk and flips on the computer.

Erika: (Touching it) Hmm, it's warm - someone has been using it - more justification for keeping a separate lab

She checks to see which files were previously opened.

Erika: (Sitting back) Heh, Sandy you have yet to learn how to cover your trail... I hope your wife doesn't see all the porn sites on your home computer

After deleting the files completely, she now sips at some hot tea and gazes up at a small photo of herself and her former colleagues in Sri Lanka.

Erika: You think you know something, Dr. Sanchez... it's not even the tip of the iceberg

Dr. von Meer quietly flashes back to her time on the island with her advisor, Dr. Samadara Ranasinghe of the Indian Ocean Marine Institute.

Erika: (Finishing up in the lab) That's that... TIME FOR THE BEACH, YAY

Turning around, she notices her mentor observing her intently.

Erika: (Embarrassed) Is there something wrong, Dr. Ranasinghe?

Sam: (Carrying a large sack) Erika, I have been your advisor for over a month, when are you going to start calling me Sam?

Erika: (Stiffening) I apologize, I adhere to a strict principle of always addressing my superiors by their titles

Sam: (Cocking her head) This is not the army

Erika: It's a sign of respect and what I believe in

Sam: Of course

Erika: Actually, I was hoping to speak with you alone

Sam: (Pulling up a lab stool next to Erika) Go ahead?

Erika: I don't want to sound like I am bragging but I'm almost out of work - I'll be completing my main courses of study here in a matter of days

Sam: Yes, I am well aware of this

Erika: I still have more than three months to go

Sam: I am aware of this as well

Erika: Then, what do you suggest I do?

Sam: (Tapping her sack) I'm sure we'll figure out something for you to do

Erika: (Flustered) I don't appreciate the ill-defined response

Sam: It will all become very clear to you soon enough - I have the rest of your time here well-planned out

Erika: Again, not to sound rude, but I really have NO INTEREST in your fields of marine geology and metallurgy - transgenic ichthyology is what I'm here for... PERIOD

Sam: Yes... and no

Erika: (Gritting her teeth) Excuse me?

Sam: What if I offered a link between all three?

Erika: Honestly, Dr. Ranasinghe, the link could be made of diamond-studded dancing Devis and I wouldn't care

Sam: (Taking out an old book from her sack) Not quite but within the range

Erika is agape over the ancient text. She looks to her advisor for permission and then begins to delicately leaf through the pages.

Erika: (Reverently) How old is this book?

Sam: Older than your country and mine... many times over

Erika: What does it say?

Sam: I will teach you - do you know the definition of Nereid?

Erika: (Thinking) Sea nymphs according to Greek Mythology... as well as a moon of Neptune

Sam: Very good

Erika: I don't understand?

Samadara carefully pulls back the shell bracelet on her right wrist and revels a peculiar marking that starts to glow an eerie blue. Erika stumbles back off of her stool in astonishment.

Sam: (Grabbing the young woman's hand) You will

Snapping back to the present, Dr. von Meer wipes a tear from her eye and returns to work on her computer. She sends an instant message to Morrigan.

Anon1: Ms. McBride, are you there?

MMcB: u again

Anon1: Yes

MMcB: what do u want

Anon1: A few moments of your time

MMcB: it's NEVER a few moments with u

Anon1: We need to start making plans

MMcB: 4 what????

Anon1: I will discuss that with you when we meet

MMcB: nooooo

Anon1: What?

MMcB: i don't think so

Anon1: Why?

MMcB: not until u tell me more

Anon1: And I will do that when we meet

MMcB: u r NOT getting it

Anon1: I am trying to

MMcB: u leave me in the dark (!) about everything - i can't find any info on nidium

Anon1: That is not the right name and there is a reason for that

MMcB: TELL ME

Anon1: Not over the internet

MMcB: : - PPPPPPPPPPPPPP

Anon1: When you decide to act like an adult, I will tell you more

MMcB: when u follow thru on your promise - i will listen

Anon1: Promise?

MMcB: i will b paying a visit to martel's office tomorrow nite

Anon1: Oh, that

MMcB: yes THAT

Anon1: I will be there

MMcB: u better b or that's IT

Anon1: What is it?

MMcB: i'm tired of being your pawn

A message flashes on the screen that says Morrigan has signed off. Erika takes another sip of her tea and gazes once more at the photo on the wall.

Erika: No, Morrigan, I am your pawn and you do not even realize it... yet

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