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“What if I asked to go home?” Bruce asked Monica. He did not care for her dismissive answer regarding ‘the facts.’
“I would have to tell you that not only do we not have any capacity to get you back to Nebraska, and the best we could do is drop you off in D.C. next time I go to report. But that even if we did get you to D.C. how would you get to Nebraska on your own? Do you have any funds at your disposal?”
Bruce hadn’t thought of that. If he had been gone for seven years he doubted that any of the accounts were still open. But wouldn’t someone have to have him declared legally dead. Was that an automatic thing when there was not activity on accounts? And if in fact he had no money, how was he going to survive?
“I’m not sure,” Bruce answered. “I hadn’t really thought about that. What are you proposing, if you hadn’t planned on taking me home?”
Monica’s green eyes locked into Bruce’s, searching for some sort of hope and replied, “I was thinking that as long as you accidentally landed in this project that we should make some use of your knowledge.”
“How would you do that?”
“I would like to officially introduce you to the rest of the crew. They only know that we picked someone up in the middle of the night. I was leery of doing any introductions until you were well rested and had your voice back. Now that you do I think it would be great to let them know who you are and what you’ve been through. We have been out here for almost seven months; you have been out here for seven years! Your knowledge is valuable to this project. I would also arrange to have you paid so that when the project is done you would have some funds to get home.”
Bruce thought about that and responded, “Can I think about this for a little while? It is a bit overwhelming to be offered a job right in the middle of finding out that I have been missing for seven years. If I accept that means I would be gone for over nine years by the time I get back.”
“You can certainly think about it,” Monica said, “But I would advise you to weigh your options carefully. If we have any chance of finding the island your mother is still on, you are the only one who would recognize it.”
Bruce grimaced, “I see your point.” He looked around his room, at the blank walls and the singular bed. “I suppose if you put it that way, I don’t really have any other options but to stay and help you.”
“Just out of curiosity, how much are paying me for my assistance?”
“There are seventeen months left on our contract and every member receives twenty thousand dollars for every month they stay, as long as they complete the mission. So in your case, assuming you remain until the end, you will receive three hundred forty thousand dollars.”
Bruce gasped. When he had left for the family vacation he had to postpone a job offer for forty thousand dollars a year. Here is was seven years later and he was being offered a vast amount of money. “Monica, when you put it that way; I’m not really sure that I have any other options.”
“I was hoping you would feel that way! Welcome to the team.”’
Bruce joined the rest of the crew that evening for a meal. Jack had come to his room to escort him so that he wouldn’t be alone. Bruce’s emotions were all over the board. He was excited and apprehensive at the same time. It had been a very long time since he had ‘sat’ down for a meal with people.
Entering the room he saw six people sitting around a rectangular shaped table. The dining area had windows and he saw a vast ocean surrounding them. As soon as approached the table all of the people got up from their seats. Monica was the first to reach him and said, with a huge smile on her face, “Welcome to the team!”
A fair-haired man, who could not have been more than twenty-five introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Matt. We’ve actually met before, but you probably don’t remember. You and I shared one hell of a ride off an island into a helicopter.”
A man, not much older than Matt said, “I’m Joe, and I was the one making sure that helicopter didn’t fall out of the sky!”
A gentleman who appeared to be in his early fifties grasped Bruce’s hand and said, “Son, I am so glad you are joining us. My name is Lyle and I have been charting unchartered land since before you were born.”
“Hi, I’m Stuart,” A small man with wire-rimmed glasses stated. “I work with my dad to make sure the charts are accurate.” Bruce looked from Stuart to Lyle and faintly saw a familial resemblance.
A burly man or short stature appeared in front of Bruce. “My name’s Carl and I am the captain of this ship!”
Just then a man entered the room pushing a cart of steaming food. “Howdy! My name’s Steve and if you don’t like the food….too darn bad!” The whole room broke into laughter.
Steve proceeded to place plates upon the table. A plate of steaming vegetables, a bowl of mashed potatoes, sliced roast beef, a bowl of gravy and horseradish sauces. Bruce’s mouth watered at the sight of so much food. He took a seat at the table. Jack and Steve did the same. As Bruce was eating he wondered how and why he got to this place, but the absolute deliciousness of the food he was eating overpowered any other thoughts in his mind.