Note: This story beings where episode #2 'City Beneath the Sea' lets off....
"He's sure takin' his sweet time about it," Ski complained as waited in one of Seaview's rubber Zodiac's 'parked' at one of the nearby slips in the small Grecian isle's harbor.
"Wouldnít you?" Patterson simply snorted in amusement. While used to Ski's odd complaints about the new Captain, could it be he was simply jealous? That Gounaris woman sure was a looker, even in the bulky form hiding wetsuit. "He was ordered to escort her home wasn't he?" Pat continued, "He's just following orders."
"Yeah, well, there's orders and there's orders," Ski muttered as he watched the lingering Crane, also still clad in a wetsuit. Kowalski's gloomy mood was interrupted by the sight of a bent over and rather curious old lady squeezing between the couple, shoving a live octopus at the Captain.
"You think he needs help?" Ski asked, but in reality hoping to witness the Captain's embarrassment up close and personal.
"Let him handle it himself Ski. He'll call us over there if he needs anything. Looks like he's doing just fine to me."
And he was. While Crane's understanding of Greek was limited, it was enough to 'appreciate' the yet to be cooked Calamari, examining it, turning it this way and that, and nodding that† it was a fine specimen, but indicating he had† no money on him.
Shaking her head with exasperation she forced the creature more firmly into his hand and muttered something about it being a gift. After all, if he was going to marry the spinster Gounaris girl...
Melina sputtered that she wasn't going to marry him, and surprised and disappointed, the old woman simply patted the young man's hand in sympathy and departed, insisting Crane keep the Octopus.
"Oh, Lee, I'm sorry," Melina apologized for her, trying to hide a giggle.
"Do all the village grandmamas try to get you hitched?"
"Almost. But a few friends think I'm better off without a man. I used to think so...now I'm not so sure...."
The octopus chose that moment to slip out of Crane's hand and attempt its escape. In what appeared like a comedy of errors the two tried grabbed it at the same time, only to cause the slippery creature to pop out of their hands. It flew briefly†† into the air and plopped into the water at the edge of the landing dock.
"Uh oh," Lee said as they both laughed, unable to help noticing the old woman, whose hands were on her hips, shaking her head in sorrow. "Have to do something about that," he quickly plunged into the brackish water. Occasionally popping up for air, he finally rose with the errant celephopod in victory along with a calcified locket in his other hand as Melina laughed, and amused fishmongers applauded. The old woman caught Melina's eye, and pointed to Crane encouragingly and folded her hands in pleading supplication. He might be a foreigner, but he was a nice looking foreigner, and could very well be this girls' last chance.
The old woman squeezed in between them demanding to examine the bauble herself. Using a hairpin from her bun's net, she got it open as the young people simply looked at each other, unable to say the words they both wanted to....
Suddenly the old woman turned pale, threw the locket into the water and began to push Crane away from the girl, jabbering vehemently.
"What's wrong?" Lee asked.
"I don't know...wait...she† says it's cursed, we're cursed, or at least you are..."she laughed, and tried to hand back the octopus to the grandma but was slapped by the old woman for her action.
"Hey!" Crane took the woman's arm, "Cursed, my ass; there's no such thing. Oh go away you silly woman," he tried to shove her away with as much gentleness as he could. With an angry glare she returned to the gathering crowd, waving her hands about, muttering all kinds of epithets of doom and gloom and slimy foreigners in general.
"I'm sorry Lee; I don't know what's gotten into her, superstitious old crone...what should I do with this creature?"
"Toss it over the side?"
"No, they would blame you for any bad fishing days...it's cursed too, you know," she said sarcastically.
"You know, you look mighty lovely when you pout."
"Lovely? In this?" she fingered the increasingly sweaty wetsuit.
"In anything...can I see you again sometime?"
"Any time you like..."
"You'll be okay?" he asked, concerned by the aroused crowd," they won't hurt you will they? You can come back to Seaview with me if you think..."
"I'll be fine," she touched his cheek to their disapproving gasps. "In fact," she added defiantly, "Let's really give them something to talk about." With that she kissed him. Firmly. On the lips. A long kiss, to the horrified gasp of the assemblage.
"Uh oh, looks like we have company," Crane said as they parted, noticing the old hag and her groupies point toward the couple while complaining to a priest. "I didn't mean to get you into trouble..."
"Donít worry, besides, what can he do?"
"I don't know, but he looks like he can make life difficult for you here."
"It can't be any worse than loosing Papa. I'll be okay, really Lee..."
By now the priest had taken on an incensed stance, his hands on his hips. Still silent, but still speaking volumes.
"I uh, guess I'd better go...Melina are you sure?"
"Iím sure," she said firmly, handing him back the octopus.
It was a little difficult with the squirming creature but he managed to give her a departing kiss, and then headed toward the nearby slip and the Zodiac.
"Donít say a thing," he handed the squiggly creature to Kowalski as he boarded. Melina was now inundated by the crowd, pointing at her, at him, arguing, but she stood her ground and even managed a kiss to the air which incensed the crowd more, and encouraged Lee to send one her way to their disapproving groans before she was obscured from view.
"Okay, let's get back to Seaview," he ordered.
"You look like you could use a drink," Nelson studied the freshly showered and changed Crane entering the Observation Nose from the spiral ladder.
"Thanks," the Captain sank into one of the 'porch's loungers, and took a swig, "You know, for some strange reason I'm suddenly in the mood for some good old homemade lemonaide..."
"I'll ask Cookie if..."
"Please sir, don't bother him. Besides, all we have aboard is that imitation powdered stuff...funny, I haven't thought of home or my mother in a while..."
"That'll be all for now Clarke," Nelson said to the crewman working at the Forward Console," but wait for the printouts then take them to the OOD."
"Right away sir."
"How long has it been, Lee? Since you've been home."
"Not since I took command of my last boat. I just never seemed to have the time. And when I did, things got in the way."
"It's called 'life', lad. It happens to all of us. But don't worry. Once you're a little more settled into things, I'm sure I can arrange some time off for you to go see her. Or perhaps she could come out here. I'd enjoy meeting her."
"Perhaps, but it might prove embarrassing," Lee said awkwardly, "she has an irritating habit of ruffling my hair and pinching my cheeks, including my friends...I mean...."
"I'd be honored to be included in that category. And after all, I wasn't exactly making it up when I told Miss Gounaris I was your friend."
"Did you mean the part about being my enemy, partner, big brother and blood brother too?"
"Absolutely. Along with wanting to bash your head in sometimes," he laughed.
"Since you're in such a good mood, maybe I should ask
for a raise," Crane joked.
"Perhaps," Nelson laughed, "Oh, by the way, Lee, Cookie wants to know how you want your octopus prepared. He's never done one before. I had no idea you were partial to them."
"I'm not sure I am. I've never had one before, "Lee interrupted with a sheepish grin," but honestly, what else could I do? I could hardly turn the old lady down, besides, she reminded me of my grandmother, at least at first, before all that cursed crap. Still, fresh octopus might beat all the canned tuna Cookie's been ladling down our throats. I haven't had the heart to tell him, but I really can't stand Tuna Casserole..."
The sound of both men laughing was music to Clarke's ears as he climbed up the spiral ladder with the printouts.† A little more than an hour ago they all thought the Skipper had died in the destruction of Zeraff's underwater city, a 'regrettable but expendable loss' as Nelson had said when he'd ordered torpedoes against it.
"Yeech, I can't believe the Skipper's really gonna' eat that thing," Ski pondered of the creature he'd plunked into one of Nelson's specimen tanks when he'd come aboard.
"I just hope he don't expect too much," Cookie
said watching the creature try to hide behind a plastic deco-rock, "They
didn't teach us such fancy stuff at the
"Maybe he likes 'em raw and you won't have to cook it...."
"Maybe...It'd save me a heck of lot of trouble trying to figure something out."
Checking on the stats when he entered the Control Room, Crane meandered around the various controls, taking in all the details and stopping to hover over Patterson's shoulder. To anyone else he simply appeared to be spot checking the crewman's work, but was Crane actually holding the back of Patterson's chair for support? Morton wondered.
"Are you all right, Captain?" the XO whispered at his side.
"What? Whatever makes you think I'm not?"
"Well...never mind. But surely you must be tired out. Why not go get some rest, sir."
"Actually, that's not a bad idea. Take the
"It's not that, sir, it's just...I mean..."
"It's okay Chip," he patted Morton's shoulder genially, "Whenever or if ever you like it. It's not an order." With that he gave the Control Room a satisfied nod and departed.
"Well," Ski wondered as he and Cookie headed to the Crew's mess. "I seem to remember somebody telling me you can fry the tentacles of squid and octopus just like onion rings. Maybe the Skipper'd like that?"
"Doesn't like the real ones," Cookie snorted.
"Hey, maybe Mr. Morton would know something. He's a gourmet you know. Takes the girls to all the best places. They almost wait in line for him."
"Just trying to show off to them."
"Maybe. But it wouldn't hurt to ask."
Lee hadn't been completely honest with his XO, but there was no need to alarm anyone. He was a little tired, and even one of Zeraff's guards had worn sunglasses against the fluoresant glare in Zeraff's city.† Eye drops would help soon enough. As for his bruises, they didn't even show very much.
"Well," Morton pondered as Cookie popped the culinary question to the XO in the Control Room, "I know squid and octopus can be saute'd, grilled, pickled,† stewed, even raw or...oh, I don't know. I've never had Calimari, but I understand it's pretty common in this part of the world. The Skipper hasn't even given you a hint of what he wants?"
"Hmm. Well, I wouldn't worry about it. He'll let you know when he's ready for it."
"But I still won't know how to fix it," Cookie complained.
"Look, why don't I contact the girls back at the Institute. Maybe they can find something out."
"That'd be great Mr. Morton. I'd like to be prepared and..."
"Corpsman to Deck B, ladder 14!" Malone's voice screamed over the PA. "The Skipper fell down the stairs and broke his neck!"
"Don't touch him!" Frank yelled over the mike," I'll be right there!"
"Wha..."Crane's voice half moaned.
"Skipper you're alive!" Malone left the live mike dangling as he rushed to Crane's side.
"What happened?" Crane began to sit up, " Oooh...must've tripped or something...I don't seem to remember..."
"Who cares as long as your neck's not broke! But uh, maybe you'd better not try to get up just yet."
"Hmm. I don't feel anything out of place; except maybe my pride," he sat up anyway, "Did you see what happened?"
"No, but I heard a hell of a thump just as I was coming around the corner and there you were, out cold on the deck."
"Out of my way Malone," the Corpsman arrived with stretcher bearers, knelt, and began to go give Crane a cursory exam.
"Ow!" his patient reacted to the penlight in his eyeballs.
"Stay still, I need to check your pupils."
"I didn't know I was a teacher."
"That's a joke, right, Skipper?" Malone asked worriedly.
"Yes, Malone," Crane reassured the man as he began to get up off the deck.
"I'm not finished!" Frank complained.
"Well, I'm not going to Sickbay in a stretcher!"
"Okay, but at least let us help you...you're wobbly."
"My ankle's a little sore, that's all."
"Is he gonna' be okay?" Malone asked.
"If a man can get up and walk he's usually not at deaths' door. Even if he has a concussion."
"Concussion?" the frightened crewman asked.
"Definite sign of one. I just won't know how bad it is until I take some X-Rays. And I'd stake my license that he didn't get it falling down the stairs. Isn't that right Skipper?"
"Okay," Crane said after a pause, "So I got roughed up a bit by Zeraff's goons. But I'm fine now."
"We'll see. Come along sir," Frank said taking his arm form firmly, as Malone and the stretcher bearers followed.
"Why didn't he say anything about being hurt there?" Morton asked angrily as Nelson checked the log in the Control Room. You don't seem too surprised."
"I suppose I'm not. When he was aboard Nautilus," Nelson chuckled, "he had a slight altercation with a knee knocker, and careened to the deck from the momentum.† Hard. Of course," Nelson grinned, "offering to share his care package from home didn't hurt his assurances to witnesses that he was 'fine' and it it didn't need to be reported. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and some kind of Rice Krispee Treats, S'mores flavor, if I remember correctly."
"Oh man..." Patterson's mouth was watering at his console as he and every man on station listened in.
"So you can understand the men's predicament. Especially when he convinced them that it would be a waste of taxpayer's money to bother the OOD with it."
"But all accidents have to be reported. He had no right to hide it, let alone bribe them."
"Oh Ensign Crane was well aware of standard operating procedures. He just chose to ignore them."
"How'd you find out then?" Morton asked.
"I didn't," Nelson laughed," at least not from him," he raised a finger to his lips in a 'shushing' motion and patted his stomach.
"You didn't you put him on report? And the crewmen too?"
"I hadn't the heart. Especially after..."
"Admiral Nelson?" Frank's voice came over Sickbay's intercom, "Can you please come to Sickbay...oh no you don't Skipper...."
"Look, I told you I don't know how long I was knocked out," Crane's voice said noticeably irritated, "by the time I came to, they'd already removed my scuba gear and put me back into their jumpsuit. Melina was dry too."
"And you're sure they didn't do anything to you for the three days you were missing prior to that?"
"Actually they were pretty civil, even if I was stuck in the brig until Zeraff got there. Look, Frank, I've had concussions before. Bad ones. This is nothing to get upset about. "
"Sir, even minor concussions have to be treated with a little caution.† And you can't tell me those bruises don't hurt. How many men beat you?"
"I don't know, I wasn't counting," Crane said exasperated, "I was only trying to escape when they brought Melina in..."
"And you went to her rescue and got beat up for your trouble," Frank interrupted.
"Of course I did! What do you take me for?"
"I'm sorry sir, I didn't mean it that way, I just need to recap your story for my report or Morton will have my hide."
"Now you're just being paranoid. He's not that bad."
"You haven't been on the end of the tongue," the Corpsman snorted in reply, "where are you going? I need you to stay here under observation."
"I'm not going stick around in Sickbay when I'm perfectly capable of...."
"Sir, please!" Frank interrupted. "It's my job! If anything happens to you I'll be held accountable!"
For a moment Crane said nothing then sighed in resignation, "How long?"
"24 hours at least, less if I see definite signs of improvement. I'll have to check you frequently to see if there's any further brain swelling and your ankle's not all that good either, but at least it's not a bad strain."
"Okay, okay...you win. At least there's a clinical excuse you can give Kowalski for my swelled head. I have the distinct impression he's still a bit sore with me."
Both men laughed.
"At least let me get some of the paperwork I've been working on," Crane continued, "I'll be right back. That is, if you'll let me work on it in this prison?"
"I don't see why not, if you don't overdo it. Your eyes are going to be sensitive. I'll have someone go get it."
"Sorry, it's in my safe...I'll be right back," Crane reassured him and fled.
"There's got to be an easier way to earn a living," the Corpsman muttered, "Ski? What are you doing here?"
Without saying a word, the intruding Kowalski picked up the dangling errant†††† mike shaking his head, replacing it to the cradle with a resounding 'plink'.
"Skipper?" Morton knocked, then receiving no answer entered the Captain's unlocked cabin awhile later.
"Is he in there?" the Corpsman joined the XO.
"No, he's not," Morton clicked the desk intercom, "Captain Crane, this is Morton, please respond."
"Attention all hands, this is Morton. Captain Crane doesn't respond to his hail. Find him."
"Belay that," Nelson's voice came over. "He's with me in the lab, Chip."
"What's he doin' there?" Frank hissed, "He's supposed to be in Sickbay."
"That's what I want to find out. Come on."
"So it's going to be a mother?" Crane asked Nelson while holding the squirming octopus.
"Not yet. She's just waiting for the right moment, or would be if she was free. As I said, she's bearing several spermatophore packets; there's no way to tell how long ago the mating took place. In the normal course of event's she'd find a suitable den,hide it with rocks, lay her eggs and release the male's stored contribution to fertilize them. Then she'd watch over them until they hatch, open the hole, to release them and die."
"It's the nature of the species."
"Doesn't seem very fair to me."
"A great deal in nature isn't; some things I suppose we're just not supposed to understand."
The sound of the lab door banging open brought an end to the philosophical discussion.
"Is he in there?" Frank asked as he almost bumped into Morton, who was blocking† the doorway and mad as hell as he stared at Crane.
"Do you- have- any- idea- how worried we were when you didn't answer your hail Lee?" Morton demanded.
"Not that I didn't want to, Chip, but as you can see..." Crane showed the creature off.
"And I had my hands full too or I..." Nelson was beginning to say apologetically as he dried his hands.
"That creature doesn't look like paperwork to me, Lee," Morton interrupted.
"I only stopped by to check on things here first," Lee began to slide the octopus into the specimen tank, " ' Dinner' here looked sick, so I had to get the Admiral's advice. That's when he discovered she was in the family way, or will be..."
"I don't care. You weren't supposed to take a detour. Now, if you'll accompany Frank to Sickbay. Sir," he added pointedly.
"I still have to go get the reports," Crane washed and dried his hands.
"Forget going after the damn reports! I'll carry your blasted safe to Sickbay myself †if I have to, but you're going with Frank now, Lee."
"It's for your own good sir," the Corpsman pleaded apologetically.
"So you've told me, but it's only been a few minutes and..."
"It's been a half hour!" Morton said peeved.
"Cheech, and I thought the Navy ran a tight boat. Sorry," he †momentarily raised his hands in an exaggerated sigh of mock surrender," what, no cuffs? Well, one good thing about this..."
"What's that?" Nelson asked.
"At least I got Chip to call me by my first name for a change," he grinned and preceded the Corpsman out the door, tailed by Morton, to satisfy himself of Crane's compliance.
"Well," Malone headed to the Crew's Mess, "I hear octopus is mighty popular in fancy restaurants."
"Maybe...must be an acquired taste," Ski said, hoping for something more substantial than the packaged snacks set out in between scheduled meal times. It was only 0330 and the galley crew wouldn't be anywhere near setting up for the First Watch. In fact, Ski thought sourly, they were probably all still asleep.
"What is it?" Ski asked as he bumped into Malone who had come to a sudden stop just outside the desreted Mess doorway.
"Shhhhshh! Take a look!" Malone whispered, "you ain't gonna' believe this!"
"Where'd you learn to cook like that?" Cookie was asking of the still pajamaed and bathrobed Crane in the Galley, frying sausage links of all things. "Most guys don't know about adding water to make them glaze over like that."
"My Mom always did the frozen ones like this... You're not going to put me on report then?" he jested. "It was hard enough to sneak out of Sickbay."
"Aw heck," Cookie laughed, "I couldn't see who it was at first. You want some eggs to go with those? It'd go great with those links."
"That depends if you still have any fresh left or just the powdered or liquid stuff."
"I got two fresh left. †Now you just relax here, that's it, sir," Cookie said as Crane hitched himself up onto the 'Tween through's countertop. "Now you got a bird's eye view on a master scrambler. Hey, that's kinda' appropriate, bird's eye view, you being a Crane and all," he laughed.
"Uh, I think I changed my mind," Malone whispered and turned, "I mean, he sure as heck doesn't want anyone knowing he busted orders."
"I don't know...concussions are serious business...."
"Look, Ski, do what you want, but I was never here. Okay?"
"Now what's the problem?"† Nelson asked as Morton huffed over to join him in the Nose in the morning. †Chip had been uncharacteristly testy this cruise.
"You know how Cookie had promised me Eggs Benedict for breakfast today? The last two eggs! But it turns out that he fixed it for the Skipper! I wouldn't mind so much if either of them had asked me first. And apparently it happened last night, when the Captain snuck out of Sickbay!"
"Wait, Chip," Nelson said confused, "I went by Sickbay this morning and Lee was sound asleep."
"He could have snuck back in," Morton said sourly, "No-one would've been the wiser, if Malone hadn't blabbed...apparently the whole crew knows. You know, sir, I'm becoming a bit tired of being left out of things lately. It never happened when Captain Phillips was in charge."
"Excuse me sir," Chief Jones said from the spiral stairs as he brought Nelson some reports, "I couldn't help overhearing, but you got it all wrong."
"Well?" Morton asked.
"Well, first, it wasn't Eggs Benedict at all, sir. It's true that Cookie found the Skipper in the Galley after hours. He told me all about it. It was around 0330 and he was livid somebody had managed to invade his territory so to speak, you know he brought that motion detector from home aboard...."
"Get on with it," Morton interrupted. "What about the Captain?"
"Well, when he hears the signal go off in his quarters, he thinks somebody's up to no good...he dashes to the Galley but he sees it's the Skipper frying sausages. You know, the fast cooking frozen kind...."
"I don't care what kind!" Morton fumed.
"Anyway, Cookie don't have the nerve to challenge him about it..."
"Hmphf!" Morton snorted, "He won't even let the Admiral in there unless it's an official inspection or something..."
"Go on Chief," Nelson ordered.
"So, they start talking...about home and stuff. †Then outta' the blue Cookie offers to fix him some eggs to with the sausages. Scrambled was how he had them. Cookie said the Skip had a great time, and laughing a lot. He's not in trouble is he? The Skipper? †I'm sure he didn't know they was the last fresh eggs. And the Corpsman was going to keep waking him up all night anyway so..."
"He was ordered to Sickbay. He could have passed out and broken his neck breaking that order!" Morton fumed.
"But he'd been sayin' along that he felt fine..."
"I don't give a damn what the Captain said! He had no business putting himself at further risk!"
"Chief," Nelson said calmly, "have Cookie and the Corpsman report to my cabin. Chip? I'll leave it to you to round up our Captain."
For a moment Nelson pursed his lips, unsure really on just how to treat the situation, then with a resigned sigh headed to his cabin.
"So you were aware that he left Sickbay in the middle of the night?" Nelson asked the yawning Corpsman in his cabin.
"Of course I was, sir. I'd only just gone to bed; I used the bunk across from him, like I do when I have a patient to keep an eye on. Well, I was almost asleep when I saw him get up from the corner of my eye. †He'd improved so much from his exam an hour before, that †I didn't think he'd come to any harm. Besides, I thought it might do him good to think he was getting away with something, break some of that moodiness ..."
"And is that a standard medical practice?" †Nelson interrupted.
"Well, it is a known fact that if your patient is happy, the body's not too far behind...anyway, I followed him on the sly. †Then when I saw Cookie catch him...well, he'd have called me if the Skipper got faint or something. So I let them be. And he did come back sir. This morning after another exam, I was confident enough to realease him."
"He's not in his cabin," Morton barged in, "and he hasn't answered any of our hails, I've sent out a search party." He then tapped a pointed finger against the Corpsman's chest, "This is all your fault Mister. If you'd taken care of him like you were supposed to he wouldn't be lying dead or dying someplace."
"Chip. We don't know anything yet. Frank says he should be fine."
"Then where is he and why doesn't he respond?"
"Mr. Morton?" Curley's voice came over the PA, "We found him. He's in the Lab.."
"The Lab?" Nelson mused.
"What the heck is he doing there?" Morton griped over the desk intercom to the Chief.
"I wouldn't know sir. Here he is now."
"Admiral, what's wrong?" Crane asked through the mike.
"Why the hell didn't you respond?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear anything."
"That's right sir," Curley said, "the mike in the Lab doesn't work. We're in Corridor B-6 now"
"I see," Nelson intervened before Morton blew another gasket, "Very well. Thank you Chief. Bring the Captain down to my cabin will you? Then get a maintenance team to check out the problem."
"That'll be all Chief.† Frank, you're dismissed...."Nelson said, still at his desk as the errant Crane entered his cabin," and close the door behind you," he added.
With rather undisguised concern etched in their backward glances, they did as ordered, leaving Crane with his inquisitors.
"I've heard from them," Nelson said cooly, "now I'd like an explanation from you. About last night."
"Oh c'mon. It wasn't a case of AWOL. I was hungry. Frank was taking a catnap, what harm could a few minutes do? Even he'd kept saying how much better all my readings were and that he was probably going to discharge me earlier than he planned."
"That didn't give you cart blanche to sneak out!" Morton said.
"Enough Chip. Is that all it was Lee, you had a snack attack?"
Morton couldn't help noticing that Crane responded by looking a little bit like a boy caught with hand in the Cookie jar. Nelson had noticed too, and raised a familiar eyebrow, waiting.
"Okay," Crane finally admitted, "It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get away for awhile."
"You were under orders..." Morton said.
"Look," Crane sat on the edge of Nelson's desk. "I know what I did wasn't exactly SOP, but..."
"You're the Captain for god's sake!" Morton griped, "How do you expect us to feel when you sneak out of Sickbay and put yourself in even more danger! Damnit Lee, we already lost Philips, we donít want to loose you too..."
"I'm sorry. I guess I wasn't thinking of it like that. Glad to know you care though," he added lightly.
"Well then," Nelson said, handing Crane cigarette, which he declined, but Morton accepted gratefully, "now that we've cleared things up, what were you doing in the Lab?'
"Checking on Squishy. I didn't know you smoked, Chip."
"I don't. But after what you've put us through...Squishy?"
"You named the creature, Lee?" Nelson asked.
"Why not? After all I wasn't all that thrilled with the idea of eating it in the first place, even though I was willing to try. But now, knowing she's going to be a Mom...and that she's going to sacrifice her life for her babies...I just can't do it."
"So what's the difference if she dies as somebody's food or by Mother Nature?" Morton asked, confused. "You haven't complained about Spam, and god only knows what different parts and kinds of animals go into that..."
"I know it's illogical. I can't explain it. It just doesn't feel right. I mean, there she was, minding her own business when she was caught in the first place, then she manages to escape my and Melina's clutches, and then I went and recaptured her. Well,† I feel responsible. I'd like to make it up to her somehow...find her a nice hidden den where she can give birth and die in peace, the way nature intended."
"Nature also intended us to eat seafood," Morton said. "Do you have any idea how expensive fresh Calamari is in some of the better restaurants? That octopus could be worth a more than a couple days pay if it's prepared properly. Maybe more."
"I'd still like to find her a suitable home. How about it Admiral? Can we go back? To put her in her home waters?"
"Very well, Lee. Set a course."
"Thanks," Crane flashed him a grin and departed.
"Admiral," Morton said when they were out of earshot, "the men are already anxious to get home. You don't have to do this just because he looked like a kid pleading to keep a stray dog."
"Be that as it may, the crew will just have to wait," Nelson responded, rather amused by Morton's dead on verbal image.
"Well, at least Cookie will be pleased," Morton said.
"That's the scoop. Apparently, he feels so sorry for the stupid thing, that he talked the Admiral into taking us back to those islands. The Skipper's even going to be taking out a dive team to find just the right home for it. Cheech! I never would have thought of Crane as the kissy- feely type, especially with some dumb animal."
"Maybe he got hit on the head harder than we thought."
"Did you say something Sparks?" Morton sauntered over.
"Uh, no sir, just trading off."
"Well, hurry it up," Morton turned and feigned ignorance, grateful for his 'stone face'. A nickname since his Academy days, he could create an unreadable countenance which came in mighty handy at times. Especially as the man in question was at the plot table right now deciding on the most likely spot to search for Squishy's new home. Not quite certain if Crane had heard the two Jr. Officers, Lee was certain by now to be aware now of the gossip beginning to circulate. And it was his, Chip's self appointed job as the XO, to see that the Captain, no matter how crazy, was spared any excess distractions.
"But there's no reason why I shouldn't lead the team," Lee was arguing with Morton and Nelson over lunch in the Wardroom as 'Operation Mommy' continued. "After all, she's my octopus and..."
"Granted, you were returned to duty," Morton admitted, "but...."
"Frank says its okay."
"He said that it probably wouldn't hurt you. That's not the same. You just got over a concussion and..."
"I'm afraid I have to agree with my Corpsman's medical opinion," Nelson said," Lee will lead the dive...Hmm, that looks good Wills, "he added to the Galley crewman who was headed to the sideboard with a new dessert. "What is it?"
"Baked Sliced Apples, Fake sugar, no crust. I don't suppose you got any more recipes to show us Skipper? "
"This is yours, Lee?" Nelson asked, a little taken aback.
"Made it all by himself he did," Wills said proudly and handed the men three servings.
"What is he, our Captain or our cook?"
"It would be better with ice cream anyway," Morton said after a bite," I don't suppose you have a recipe for that too?"
"Actually I do," Lee grinned, "but I'm not sure that cast iron stomach of your could handle it."
"Why all the sudden interest in food, Lee?" Nelson asked. "Chip's supposed to be our resident gourmet."
"I don't know. I don't normally even think of food much. †I just felt like it."
"If you tell me the ingredients Skipper," Wills said, "we can start putting it together..."
"I didn't mean for him to make some literally!" Morton said.
"Oh,"Wills replied noticeably disappointed.
"Captain Crane has more important things to do than cook, as I'm sure you do," Morton continued.
"Yes sir, of course sir. Foolish of me to think otherwise."
"A moment Wills," Crane rose, and led the man out into the corridor for a little damage control.
"You know Chip," Nelson said, "I have the distinct impression you'll be eating your words soon, in more ways than one."
"Where's the Captain?" Nelson asked as he and Morton entered the Control Room and looked around. He hadn't returned to the nerve center of the boat as planned.
"He was on the phone a little while ago," O'Brien said, "In his quarters. †Private call he made."
"Nobody on this boat is allowed private calls except the Admiral!"
"Maybe he doesn't know that sir."
"He's the Captain! Of course he knows! Who was it and where was it to?"
"The island we're going back to. It was to the girl, you know, the one he rescued from Zeraff..."
"Do- you- mean- to tell me," Morton said ominously, "that Captain Crane made a personal phone call to his...his...girlfriend?"
"Well, uh, yes sir, but...I'm not sure she's actually his girl 'cause..."
"Never mind," Nelson sighed.
"He wanted some topographical information and..."
"How convenient," Morton interrupted.
"The girl would know the area more intimately than us," Nelson mused.
"Well," Morton grinned in turn, "it sure isn't Standard Operating Procedure."
"No, but I wonder what we'd both do if our positions were reversed," he couldn't help grinning. "However, you have a point. †I may regret this, but I think I need to have a little talk with our Captain."
About time, Morton almost said out loud.
"Sir?" Kowalski waylaid Nelson as he headed to Officer's Country and Crane's cabin. "Me and the guys were talking. Why go to all this trouble for an octopus? Why not just dump the thing overboard? "
"I've made my decision Kowalski. Anything else?"
"No sir....what was that?"
"I'm not sure," Nelson hurried the pace toward the sounds.
This time Crane's scream was loud enough to reach the adjoining corridor.
Galloping now to the Captain's cabin, Nelson slammed the door open without preamble.
The napping Captain was thrashing wildly on top of his bunk in the throes of some kind of nightmare; groaning, screaming, his face and hair wet with perspiration.
"Lee?" Nelson shook him to no avail. "Lee!" he tried again against the flailing limbs and groans.
"Lee!" Nelson grabbed his arms, pulling him up, only to receive a punch in his solar plexus to Crane's half sombulent response, falling backwards to the deck gasping for breath.
"Admiral!" Lee shouted, still a bit dazed, rushed to and knelt by Nelson's side. Ski had already beaten him to it and was giving the Admiral a preliminary going over.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Lee said contrite, "I didn't know it was you. I thought it was them," he shuddered, "Ski, call the Corpsman for him."
"I'm fine," Nelson managed to say as he rose, albeit gingerly, "them?" he asked Lee as Ski made the call via the wall mike.
"Just a stupid dream...I was just resting, and wham...this dream."
"Dream, my ass. That was a bone fide nightmare. So," he allowed himself to be seated by Crane and Ski in the Captain's chair. "Want to talk about it? You're trembling. And† soaked," he felt Lee's sweat stained uniform.
"It was stupid really, but it was pretty intense. Made no kind of sense. Kid stuff..."
"Pat could figure it out for you sir," Ski said returning, "His grandmother was into dreams...he learned all about how to interpret them and..."
"What happened," Frank arrived on the scene.
"I hit him," Crane said.
"It was an accident," Ski explained.
"Of course it was an accident," Nelson expounded. "He was in the middle of a nightmare and I startled him. You should be checking him, not me. Just look at him!"
"Me? Look at you!" Crane ordered. "Your jaw..."
"My jaw is just fine and..."
"I didn't see any sign of concussion, Frank," Kowalski told the Corpsman over Nelson's protestations," and he can move his jaw without any trouble."
"I agree," the Corpsman finished checking the Admiral, "but I'd still like to be certain. Admiral, if you'd go with Ski to Sickbay while I check out the Skipper?"
"I told you I'm fine."
"Not you too? †Do I have to call Morton, sir?"
"Brrrr.."Crane said, "Better listen to him, sir. He says our XO is a lethal weapon."
"I did not, sir, only that, oh never mind. Now for your Skipper..."
"What's going on?" Morton interrupted, panting at the wide open doorway.
"It's all my fault," Nelson was saying about to go with Ski as Frank began to unbutton Crane's shirt. "My god!"
"No kiddin?"Jones asked as Kowalski as the crewman returned to duty.
"No kidding," Ski said, "These bruises weren't from any kind of beating I've heard of. Round,like suction cup marks. But, here's the kicker, by the time Frank finishes using his stethascope, they're all fading. Doesn't have 'em at all now. Like I said, weird."
"How are you feeling now?" the freshly showered and changed Crane peeked into Nelson's cabin awhile later.
"I should be asking you that," Nelson said, rising from the 'lie down' he'd been pressured into taking. "I'm fine Lee, really. Now," he patted the bunk, inviting Lee to sit beside him. "Tell me about this dream of yours. Anything to do with Zeraff or Miss Gounaris?"
"Not you too. I told Frank, all they did to me before Zeraff arrived was to keep me locked up. Nothing happened till later."
"Very well. So, tell me, just what was the 'them' in you dream?"
"You're going to think Iím nuts, but, when you pulled me, I thought you were one of...one of the," he hesitated, eyes downcast in sheer embarrassment, "one of the Octo-People."
"I told you it was crazy."
"I'm not laughing. Go on."
"In a nutshell, I was a galley slave. No, not Cookie's. A galley slave, in ancient
"Quite a dream. Sounds to me like it was simply influenced by everything's that's happened to you lately. Ancient lands, an octopus, your imprisonment by Zeraff...."
"I'm still sorry I hit you."
"Forget it," he checked his watch, "I think I've had enough rest. Join me in the Nose for a drink? I think I'm in the mood for that lemonaide too."
"Skipper?" Chief Jones approached Crane in the Control Room awhile later." Here's the list of volunteers for the dive, but we're short one person..."
"No we're not. In fact, we should be picking up a passenger any time now, an expert in these waters."
"You hired a diver?" Nelson asked, as surprised as Morton.
"Hired isn't' exactly the word I'd use. The inter-island Ferry should be in range when we reach our rendezvous coordinates. Oh, and see to it that Guest Cabin A is ready."
"Aye sir," Morton said with only the slightest hesitation and began preparations as Crane headed aft. "Then you didn't know either about us taking on some whiz head, sir?" he asked Nelson.
"No disrespect, sir, but don't you think you're going to a lot of time, trouble, and expense for these whims of his."
"My boat, my trouble," Nelson replied, and turned to leave.
"You never did personal favors for Phillips," Morton said under his breath.
"Mr. O'Brien?" Nelson turned, "you have the Conn. Chip? With me."
It was a matter some heated debate among the crew later as to just what Nelson was going to say to Morton behind the closed doors of his cabin. Of course, it was impossible to tell anything, for when the XO had finally emerged, he was as unreadable as ever. Nobody wanted to loose him. He'd been with Seaview from the start. But if it came to a decision about which one of their senior officers to keep should he be compelled to split the pair, Nelson would in all likelihood choose Crane. Rank had its privileges, and so did the fast forming friendship between the two.
Nelson and Morton were waiting to greet their guest when Crane, immaculately groomed, joined them and waited to lend a helping hand up to their passenger, who was just now climbing down the ladder from topside.
"Miss Gounaris?"Nelson asked, surprised by Lee's sheer gall.
"Admiral Nelson. It's very kind of you to invite me."
"I don't believe you've been properly introduced to our Executive Officer, Lt. Commander Chip Morton," Lee said.
"Kowalski will show you to your quarters," Nelson said. "I've suddenly remembered a few things I need to discuss with Captain Crane. "
"Sir. This way, ma'am."
"I'll see you in a few minutes," Crane cast her a lingering look to which she responded by blushing appropriately.
Kowalski's cough interrupted their reverie.
After appreciating the view as she followed Ski aft, Nelson raised a questioning eyebrow to Crane. "I invited her?"
"Never mind. Lee.." he began, his mind a whirlwind of negativity, but found himself at a loss for words. "Inform me when we're ready for the first scouting dive. And Lee?"
"Get rid of the cologne. I don't think there's anything more you can do to impress her."
"I didn't bring her here to impress her, she's..."
"I know, I know, an 'expert in the area'...speaking of which?"
"Come to course 348 Mr. Morton. That'll take us to the
Papadias Ridge. Melie thinks that's an ideal spot for Squishy to make her home.
If we hurry we may be able to make it before dark. I'll go check now to see if
our guest is comfortable. You have the
"Aye sir," was all Morton dared as crewmen smirked at their stations. There was no doubt about it. She was the Skipper's girlfriend all right.
"I've never been there myself, but I'd say right about here," Melina said as she and Lee checked some charts a little later in the Nose.
"May I ask how do you came to this conclusion Miss Gounaris," Nelson asked as he joined them.
"My Papa told me."
"Mr. Gounaris was a salvage diver," Lee began to explain. "Fishermen from all of the islands valued his opinion; the best fishing grounds, the kinds he'd seen underwater...including Octopus. This area, he told Melie there weren't too many...perfect for our little mother to be to hide out without being disturbed."
As he prepared himself a drink, Nelson couldn't help notice how the two seemed buoyed up by the sheer presence of one another. He also observed that she'd changed from the more practical Bermuda shorts to skirt and blouse, which only enhanced her femininity. Not a good idea aboard any sub, no indeed.
"But we only have about a half hour of daylight," Chief Jones complained to Morton in the missile room. "That's hardly enough time to..."
"The Captain wants to go out. Any
"No sir, but I still don't like it."
"Get the team ready. The Skipper and Miss Gounaris will be along shortly."
"And havin' a woman on the team's not such a good idea either."
"You want to tell him that?"
"Uh, no sir. No way. But having a woman aboard is bad luck and..."
"Not for him," Ski laughed as he grabbed a wetsuit.
Nelson and Morton watched from the Nose as the team made their preliminary sweep around and through the coral ridge before the distance and refracted light from the surface made it impossible. They were, however, able to listen in to the team's communications to each other and to the OOD via the new throat mike's Nelson was testing for the Navy. Might as well kill two birds with one stone, he'd said.
It was mostly general chatter between the divers and Seaview or between themselves about this rock or the other, and informing the OOD where they were going until ...
"Now if I were an Octopus Mother," Miss Gounaris was saying, "I'd like that spot there, but there aren't enough rocks to close the den...."
"I think you'd be a good mother," Crane replied.
Morton rolled his eyes in response from Crane's undisguised flirting. Or was it something more serious...strange, he'd never seemed like a family man to Chip.
"Tell that to Father Ballios," Melina continued, "He think's I'm...what did he say, oh yes, that I'm too bossy. To Opinionated."
"I think that's one of requirements. My Mother can't keep from telling me exactly what she thinks, from my early adlepated ideas of becoming a hockey player or sub Captain to what I'm having for dinner," he laughed "I guess it's...a 'Mom thing'. Only wanting the best for me, even if I might not agree."
"So, why submarines instead of hockey?"
"It's a long story. Let's just say the first sub I saw infected me good and proper. Then my life's dream was subs or nothing and...oooh.," he doubled over.
"Lee? Lee? What is it, what's wrong?"
"I...I don't know...like a knife in my side...Curley? Emergency...help...."
"C'mon, C'mon..."Morton muttered while awaiting the returning divers in the Missile Room. The Corpsman and his crew were waiting too, along with Nelson, and most crewmen and officers not currently on duty.
Finally the 'clear' light glimmered and the hatch wheel turned. Crane was curled up, clutching his side. Kowalski was already leaning over him, beginning to unzip his wetsuit feeling something wet and slimy coating his hands as he did.
"He's bleeding!" Ski shouted as the wound was revealed.
"But it's impossible on the face of it!" Morton said as the team began to mutter amongst themselves with incredulity, Crane having been whisked away to Sickbay.
"See for yourself," Chief Sharkey handed him the tunic of Crane's wetsuit." There ain't no way any knife got through, no holes or tears in it. What's the explanation sir? What's wrong with him?"
"I wish to god I knew."
"It's the same as before, "the Corpsman told Nelson and Morton just outside Sickbay, exasperated as much by the crowd milling around as with his patient inside."This time, it was a stab-like wound. Not deep, I'll grant you that, but I know what I saw and treated just a few minutes ago and now it's gone! It's like he's haunted or something, these phantom wounds."
"Do you have any explanation?" Nelson asked.
"A couple, but they're kind of like groping at straws..."
"Is he gonna' be okay?" Chief Jones asked.
Crane said emerging, pulling the terry Sickbay issue robe's belt tighter over
his naked form underneath with an undisguised vengeance, "at least now."
Crane ran a hand through his hair."
"I don't know," he said, nodding to Ski who approached with slippers, and helped steady Crane to put them on, "but the first thing that makes any kind of sense is some kind of delayed stress reaction, or...."
"How could it be stress related?" Lee interupted. "I was having fun outside."
"Or," the Corpsman continued, "You may have been experiencing incorporeal† experiences similar to Stigmata."
"Stigmata. Technically Christ
like wounds some people have experienced; bloody holes in the hands and feet,
the side. Pretty well documented...St. Francis of
"Suction bruises are hardly the marks of Christ, and this thing was on the wrong side! Besides, I'm no saint. Don't even say it Morton," he pre-empted Morton's almost voiced, 'you're not kidding'."
"I didn't say you had it, sir, only that it has a family resemblance.† Some cases have a psychological and physical explanation, like the mind making the body think it's hurt so it reacts accordingly, or others that are still mysteries."
"You mean he could think these wounds into being?" Nelson asked incredulous.
"Well, technically, yes sir. But I've never heard of anything as wild as these. Or maybe it's just some kind of psychic or extrasensory thing. You know, like when a mother thinks she feels her kid's broken a leg and it turns out they did. Or like when a bone fide psychic helps the police find a criminal from 'seeing' a crime happen miles away or decades ago. Or when some gypsy sees into future or..."
"Or when somebody's under a curse," Crane said sarcastically.
"Could be.."the Corpsman sighed, "At this point Skipper, I'm inclined to believe just about anything."
"I see," Crane said without much conviction. "Well this is just dandy. Something's wrong with me but what?"
"Have you ever had ESP? Unexplained intuition? A sixth sense about anything?"
"Well, Lee?" Nelson pressed, already knowing the answer.
"That was just a quirk, everything on that boat was due for repair, you know that sir."
"Ordinarily I'd agree, however, now..."
"Admiral?" Morton asked, "What's this all about?"
"Simply," Nelson began, "Ensign Crane was pestering every senior officer he could to have the sonar checked. It sounded 'funny' to him, he said. I sure as hell couldn't hear anything unusual; nobody could and we were headed home for maintance anyway. †But Crane being Crane," Nelson grinned, "he inspected it himself; I didn't find out till later; he had the third watch usually, Anyway, there were frayed wires and a couple of shorts, one more and the damn thing would have exploded in a crewman's face...at the time we simply chalked it all up to an over zealous young officer and a shoddy manitance schedule."
"And it still could be," Crane insisted.
"Any other times Skipper?" Frank asked.
For a moment Crane was silent, then ,"A few...piffling things most of them... intuition, that's all."
"Oh, that's just swell," Morton said, "Now we have ourselves a psychic Skipper!"
"Look, Morton," Crane said before Nelson could intervene, "I didn't ask for these things to happen."
"Enough," Nelson said. "We'll look into it all more thoroughly later on. Right now, I suggest we let Captain Crane return to his quarters to clean up and join us for supper in the Nose. Cookie's gone to a lot of trouble for us to entertain our guest in style."
"Wait, Admiral, Chip?" Lee said, "In my entire career, I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but until we know what's really happening to me and how to stop it,if we can, †I request permission to step down from command."
"I...didn't mean it like that Lee..."Morton stumbled over his words.
"Well, I did. Do you accept command or not?" Crane said without emotion. "I'll give it to O'Brien if I have to. I mean it Chip."
"Very well. I think just to be on the safe side, I won't be on any more of the dive teams either. Melina can lead...or at least point out the best spots for Squishy. I'd kind of like to get it all done by tomorrow night if we can...I just want to go home." With that he turned and walked away, the spark of life snuffed out of him.
Crane hadn't come forward yet, and it looked to Cookie that supper might end up being a dismal affair as he checked the table in the Observation Nose, laid out special with the best white tablecloth he could find.
†"Ignoring it isn't going to make it go away," Melina finally said from her lounger as the small group milled around, "There's got to be some way to figure out what's happening to him."
"How?" Morton said, "Unless you believe he's under a curse or has some weird psychic connection to the universe."
"You sound like you're angry with him. Aren't you worried for him? Think how he must feel."
"I'm sure Mr. Morton is very concerned about the Captain," Nelson said, "He just has a difficult time expressing himself, isn't that correct Chip?"
"Absolutely sir, Miss Gounaris."
"Are you sure he's joining us?" †O'Brien asked.
"Well, I was," Nelson said.
"So, there really is something to it?" Crane asked Patterson as he pulled on a plain green turtleneck over equally plain denim slacks.
"Oh there's a lot of fraud out there, sir. But there's also the kinds of stuff that's just, well, inexplicable. Like yours."
"So you think I experienced somebody's stab wound, or that there really are Octo- people?"
"No sir" Pat laughed, "Not that. That was probably just a physical reaction to an imaginative dream, like the Admiral said...but the stab wound, actual bleeding, well...."he spread his arms."Frank and the Admiral can't be all that wrong. Unless it's the curse, and even those have some credence..."
"Captain?" Chip entered the open doorway, "What's taking..."
"Oh shit," Crane said wearily as he saw Morton's attire," not Dress Whites...Pat? Thanks. You can go now."
"Aye sir," he grinned and left the two alone together.
"Sorry. I was delayed..." Crane grabbed his dress blue uniform.
"You do have whites don't you?"
"I didn't think Seaview used them."
"Well, we'll just have to do something about that," Morton took the blues from Crane's hands and hung them back up, "Wait here. I'll be right back. And comb your hair...we have a lady aboard...sir."
"I can't breathe in this!" Crane said loosening the high collar.
"Nope, already tried his before I grabbed you..." Morton said.
"There's got to be some officer left aboard his size..."the Jr. Officer said.
"Look, "Crane said, "thanks for trying, but this isn't a Presidential visit. The Blues will have to do."
"I found it just where you said Mr. Morton," Chief Jones, at the door said, holding up a uniform in a clear garment bag.
"You've got to be kidding!" Crane said as the men gaped.
"The Admiral didn't actually say †'Formal'," Chip seemed to muse, "in fact; he didn't say Dress Whites either..."
"So why are you wearing them, and putting me to all this trouble?"
"To do our guest honor. Dress blues aren't half as impressive, but suit yourself," Morton said.
"Hey, that's a good one sir," Curley laughed. "Besides, the woman's a foreigner, she won't know no differernce."
"I just know I wouldnít want to shame Seaview," Morton continued. "And Nelson doesn't lay a table like this for just anyone. Sterling silver, no less. That only comes out for the President..."
"Aw, C'mon Skipper, you'll look pretty darn spectacular in this,"Curley said as Crane considered.
"I'll look like a fool, Lee muttered, weakening. "Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation?" Crane read the attached label. "This isn't even Navy! And for your information the rank structure didn't allow for..."
"It was a present from Miss Edith," Curley said, "that's the Admiral's sister..."
"I know who she is..."
"She bought it at auction, some movie memorabilia," Morton interrupted, "it's an accurate reproduction of a formal Captain's uniform right down to the style of brass buttons."
"My rank is Commander. So what's it doing aboard?"
"They didn't have the same rank structure back then, you know that, but you'd still be entitled to..."
"Chip?" Nelson's voice came over the PA,"what the devil's going on down there? Is everything okay?"
"Just fine sir," Chip replied through the intercom, "The Captain and I will be right down."
"It'd do Seaview proud Skipper," O'Brien said as Crane weakened, holding the garment.
"I could make it an order sir," Morton grinned slyly.
"Oh good grief, okay okay.. You'd better get back down to the Nose, Chip. †Give me a hand with this monstrosity you two."
Chip was still engaging Miss Gounaris in small talk when they heard footsteps coming down the spiral ladder.
"Excuse me; can I see Mr. Morton for a minute sir?"Curley asked.
"Is there a problem?" Nelson asked.
"He's having a little trouble with his epaulets, "Jones whispered to Morton.
"Epaulets?" Nelson asked, incredulous.
"Psst!" O'Brien whispered from above. "It's okay Curley," we taped the damn things on."
"What the blazes is going on?" Nelson demanded.
In answer Crane descended the ladder, immaculate, impressive, and damned embarrassed by the 1840's double breasted uniform; it's thickly fringed gold epaulets speaking of olden golden days of tall ships and the men who sailed them. If he was a little perturbed at Morton when he saw Nelson was in his unchanged working †khaki's, he gave no indication of it, except for one chilling glare toward the Acting Captain before joining Melina.
"Your plan seems to have backfired, Chip," Nelson said 'el sotto' as he poured his dinner companions drinks at the bar.
"I don't know what you're talking about sir."
"Have it your own way, lad, but instead of embarrassing him, that uniform was made for him. I've never seen a woman so enamored."
"She does look kind of happy."
Nelson couldn't help laughing as he, and then Chip rejoined the pair.
"What do you think Admiral?" Lee asked, "Pat thinks there may be something to that curse business as well as all that psychic empathy stuff. Maybe I should go ashore and get the old lady to tell me about it.."'
"But Lee," Melina interrupted, "it would take a Greek God to get her to tell you or me anything. We're...what is the word...bad blood."
"Me, maybe. You, never...Greek god, hmm? I† wonder...Chip? How would you like to do me a favor?" he said with a dangerous glint to his eye, brooking no argument. †"After we drop off Squishy tomorrow and head back to the island...how would you like to put that boyish charm of yours to good use?"
The early morning light filtered though the sea as Nelson and Crane sat in the Nose to watch what they could of the dive team as they appeared and disappeared as they searched for a suitable crevasse for the octopus.
"Coffee sir?" Wills asked the Captain as he replenished the carafe.
"No thanks, I think I need to lay off any stimulants for a while," he said as Nelson tried some.
"What'd you do to this?" Nelson asked." It's awful."
"Oh. Sorry sir..Cookie wanted to serve something more suited to the area."
"Just tell Cookie I'd prefer my coffee the same old way like I had for breakfast. †And no more surprises."
"Aye sir," the messmate said downcast.
"Leave it here," Crane poured himself some to try.
Wills waited with baited breath, as Nelson did. After all he'd been through, Nelson thought, now he was flirting with an assault on his taste buds?
"Actually," Crane said, taking a sip, "It's a nice change," he raised his cup to Wills.
"Are you out of your mind?" Nelson asked.
"I'll admit it takes a little getting used to, better with a little cardamom sprinkled in though."
"Cardamom? How do you spell that sir," Wills took out a notepad.
"Iím not sure. Cookie'll know. Pretty fascinating
history, coffee..." he motioned for Wills to sit. "Supposedly,"
Crane laughed, "a Turkish shepherd saw some of his sheep acting really
weird, jumping up and down and running around among other things...then he saw
the little beans they'd been munching on...one thing led to another and
whalla... kahve soon became the
drink to show hospitality and increase your libido. So you can
imagine its worth in the ancient trade routes. Some isolated villages in the
"Aye aye sir!" the crewman rose and happily retreated.
Crane waited until the man had climbed up the spiral stairs before he dumped the entire contents of the sugar bowl into his cup, and winked at Nelson.
They were still laughing as Crane drank his altered beverage when the dive team found a suitable home and the celephopod was finally released.
"Well, that's done then," Crane said. "If I haven't said it well enough before, thank you for accommodating me in this octopus thing...in everything."
"You're welcome," he replied," I just hope we can find some answers for you. I've already contacted an expert in...What is it Lee? Lee?"
"NO!" Crane shouted as he leapt to click the com link to the diver's," GET BACK! MOVE AWAY! NOW!"
"Lee, lad...what is it...what are you seeing?" he asked gently as he ignored the confused acknowlegement from the dive team." Lee? Lee, can you hear me? Lee!" he shook the man by the shoulders, and tried a different approach. "Tell me what you see, son," he asked gently. "Tell me what you..."
"Darkness," Crane whispered, his eyes glazed, visibly dilated. Heaviness...heat...pain..." his voice gained momentum. "No! No! Run! Hide!" he began to pant, "screams ...Seaquake!" he suddenly came to himself and reached past Nelson trying to hold him to the chair, pressing the intercom, "Control! Get Seaview the hell out of here, anywhere, as soon as the team's aboard!"
"Belay that," Nelson ordered, "...Lee..."
"Do you want to end up as they did?† Chip! Do it or we're all dead! Too late...too late!" Lee wailed and passed out.
The sound of Nelson arguing just outside Sickbay roused the safely seconded Captain from his unintentional slumber.
"Lee?" Melina's concern evident. She hadn't changed out of her wetsuit, her hair was still wet and tangled and Crane thought he'd never seen anyone lovelier.
"Not exactly. You don't have any strange marks this time, but you were out of your head."
"No quake. And there hasn't been one here in recorded history. They checked."
"Well, that clinches it. I'm possessed," he tried to make light of it.
"How you can joke about it...I'm frightened, Lee."
"So am I. What's the argument about out there? Me?"
"I guess so...nobody knows what to do. I think they
were talking about sending you a big Navy hospital,
"I guess they'll have to. Will you come with me?"
"Try to keep me away," she said with a soft smile.
"Piece of garbage, that's all it is," Malone said as the dive team had stripped off their gear and were stowing it away.
"Don't knock it," Curley said of the old jug he'd found on the way back to the boat, "Then why'd somebody dump it overboard? And look at all this crap on it now, some of it's hard as rock."
"Is that all you guys can think of?" Patterson asked. "The Skipper's lying in Sickbay as good as dead..."
"Actually, that's not true, "Wills entered with a tray of hot coffee for the team, "he came to a little while ago, none the worse for wear apparently."
"No kidding?" Curley perked up.
"No kidding. What's this?" he bent down to pick up the jug as the men were laughing appreciativley. "Some kind of amphora?"
"Am huh?"Curley asked.
"Amphora...they used these containers for oil, and wine, and all sorts of things in the ancient days...you'd better hide it. The Greek government might not be too pleased about you despoiling their ancient heritage."
"He's just kidding you, Chief," Ski said." That's right isn't it? You're just kidding?"
Wills shook his head. "Oh, they might give you a finder's fee, but unless you want to serve time in jail or a get a stiff fine, you'd better report this to the Admiral. What were you going to do with it anyway?"
"I was gonna' make it into a lamp for my wife."
"A lamp? Talk about illuminating history," he laughed but a little too hard as the antiquity fell from his hands and smashed to the deck. "Oh shit...shit, shit shit...Oh Curley I'm sorry...I'm...holy cow!"
"You realize you didn't have permission to bring this back with you," Morton scolded as the now uniformed Chief stood before him in the crowded Nose, the shards of he amphora laid out on the table with it's long hidden contents.
"I just thought it was some old jug somebody threw away."
"They may have done just that, by only by mistake. No, I think it's contents were deliberatley hidden." Nelson said," The Greek Antiquities Department will have to determine the value, but ," he fingered the gemstones and gold jewelry laid out, "I'd say it's pretty significant even aside from its age. Don't worry Chief; I'll make sure you're compensated appropriately.
"Hey," Ski nudged him, "you're going to be rich!"
"Wait a minute," Morton said, "not so fast. The Admiral provided the..."
"The Admiral," Nelson said, "is not the type of employer to claim the discoveries of others for himself, even I finance Seaview. Now, I know you're all itching to go back out to search for more stuff, but it's not my priority right now. The Captain is. A commercial flight home is out of the question; he could be a danger to himself and to the passengers if he has another attack. So, any treasure hunt,under the auspices of the† the Greek government, or our own, †will just have to wait...." he stopped, realizing belatedly† that the men had groaned as Nelson now held in his hand a filigree ornament of an Octopus.
"Gold?" Crane asked O'Brien while seconded to his cabin, †as the man kept him abreast of the latest "So far they've picked out gold, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds, not to mention engravings from the broken jug. Miss Melina is helping them decipher what they can of all the stuff but...she was a bit put out by the request."
"Put out? But she'd be the first to help. After all it's her heritage and..."
"Skipper," O'Brien took the liberty of patting his shoulder, " she only wanted to sit with you sir. That stuff means squat to her."
†The warmth of Crane's soft smile spoke volumes. No doubt about it. The Skip was in love too.
"You wanted to see me Lee?" Nelson asked with a little trepidation as he entered the Cabin a little while later.
"Yes. I think you're making a mistake about just leaving."
"Me? A mistake?" Nelson joked. Crane did not join in the humor and warning bells rang in Nelson's head.
"Taking me home is going to keep Seaview from participating in what could turn out to be a great discovery. Or at least something to add to the history books."
"Lee, I'm only thinking of what's best for you..."
"I know that. Look, I'm scared about what's been happening to me too, but I don't want to be responsible for the loss of any finder's fee or..."
"Or," he continued, "preventing Seaview from doing her job. Marine exploration's supposed to be her job, isn't it. Mysteries of the deep to probed? You told me that yourself when I first came aboard."
"This is different."
"It just is."
"You know, I'm beginning to think Chip's right. Most of the crew is. You've been showing me an awful lot of personal favoritism. I'd chalked it up to my position before, now I'm not so sure."
"Hmmf. What if I am? My boat, my prerogative."
"I'll kick myself off the boat myself if I have to. I
mean it Admiral. And I have a letter of resignation just waiting for
"Lee, son...please," Nelson took it out of his hand, "you're not thinking clearly..."
"Look, I agreee a commercial plane's probably going to refuse passage, but..what the Navy? And they can stick me in a hospital or take me home under restraint... you're always saying they owe you a favor. And we are Reserve...
"I don't know Lee. I don't like it."
"Admiral, Skipper, "he pleaded with Nelson's title from long ago, the only man aboard who really could, "please. Do this for Seaview. Her crew. And me."
Crane could see Nelson's inner turmoil, his pride, his ethics, and the knowledge that Lee was right, and holding the trump card with that pending resignation. And once submitted, even he wouldn't be able to stop it. Finally, his face a mixture of exasperated pride in the boy's loyalty and dread of what it might do, Nelson clicked the mike.
"Attention all hands, this is the Admiral. We will be assisting the Greek government if there's an archealogical dig, after all."
There was no need to continue. Even in Sickbay one could hear the jubilant shouts of treasure fever.
"But you wanted me to go with you," Melina pleaded as the blue uniformed Lee shoved his shaving kit into his duffle.
"I still do, but I think Seaview needs you more. With preliminary approval by the authorities to dig before their experts get here, you'e the only one aboard who can read Greek. And you can pronise me †Squishy isn't disturbed by the excavations."
"Navy Seaplane's here," Morton said from the
doorway, "Just a short hop to
"Sorry Chip. I won't jeapardize Seaview with my attacks or her right to be here."
"I'm here for the Skipper's bag, sir," Jones stood at the door.
"Wait, hold it," Cookie squeezed in past him. "Here," he pushed a tin can of something into Crane's hands, "In case you get hungry."
"What is it?" he pryed the lid open.
"Cookies, Peanut Butter Rum Chocolate Chip. Your Mom's recipe."
"You never baked me cookies when I had to go ashore," Jones complained.
"Relax Chief,' Morton said, "He's never made them for me either, and I have seniority...I guess you don't want me to go ashore then, to the old lady?"
"Forget it. Just a thought anyway."
"Lee...I"m sorry about the way things turned out. And the uniform," he said sheepishly.
"Thanks. Well, I guess I'm all set..."
"Well, Lee," Nelson shook his hand on the crowded topside decking as the boarding plank was connected to the seaplane, "Good luck."
"Take good care of my three girls?"
"Three girls?" Nelson asked confused. "Oh," he continued as 'Melina', 'Seaview', and 'Squishy' sunk in. "You have my word on that, son."
"Melie?"Crane took her
slightly to the side for a private goodbye, as Ski, chafing under the borrowed
Navy uniform for the trip. As long as† Crane's appointed guardian was
equipped with a hypo, the Naval Support Facility had no choice in the matter,
orders from the brass in
There was so much to say, but no time to say it...he raised Melina's hand to his lips."Until forever?"
"Until forever," she replied as he took his leave.
"From the information you've sent us," the Director of Antiquites said over the Nose monitor, "we can probably date the amphora to early Christian era, maybe a little before. It has a baker's guild embossing on it. Not as ancient as most museums would like, but sill worth a fair price, if it can be pieced back together. †The contents, however, are an entirely different matter. Those, I cannot even begin to estimate until they're evaluated by experts, both the loose stones, and the actual pieces of jewelry. The fact that they were stashed inside an ordinary storage container makes me think they were someone's accumulated wealth, the ordinary storage urn a kind of piggy bank. What's most intrieging is that some of the gemstones are in pre Ptolomic Egyptian settings, they could be priceless. Some of them are† Armenian, I can't judge the age of the enameling inlays at all. †Most are Roman, everyday stuff, and †a few Greek. †The Octopus ornament, for instance. That's one of ours. The octopus holds a respected place in our culture, espcially in food and mythology. However, the engraving writing on the back is not, probably scratched in by the owner, not a jeweler. It's †in ancient Armenian."
"What does it say?' Melina asked.
"Well, according to my staff, it translates roughly to 'Until Forever'...what?"
"Nothing, go ahead; so it's a love token?"
"Not in the way we'd think of it. That phrase was used as a parting prayer. This little beauty was for someone condemned to death."
Kowalski relaxed a little as the craft made her final approach. In spite of the promise of two weeks leave as compensation for 'babysitting duties', Ski'd still rather be doing anything than babysitting trhe Captain as Frank had termed it.
As Seaview's only Corpsman Nelson had considered him to valuable to send along and Kowalski, as the only other man to have gone through even a modicum of training was quickly drafted and instructed as to the use of the syringe he was to keep on hand at all times. 'Don't let him out of your sight', had been both Frank's and the Admiral's orders.
"I wonder what they're doing now," Crane had said quietly despondent just before they landed a minute ago, now waiting to deplane as the pilot hopped off to take care of some paperwork before turning the 'patien't over to the waiting jeep.
†Of course he was wondering about it, Ski thought. His whole career was on the line and †he'd been broody the whole short flight, staring down out the window from the low flying craft to the sea below. Wishing, hoping,Ski rightly assumed, to be back aboard Seaview.
†"Ski, we have to go back," Crane interupted his musings, "We have to go back† now..."he rose.
"Don't do this Skipper," Ski rose with him, "it's another attack, that's all," he pulled out the syringe.
"Wait! Ski, please. Trust me. Seaview's in danger. The divers. Chip. Melina. Nelson. Everyone."
"This'll make you feel better. Everything will be okay in a minute."
"No!" Crane broke free knocking Ski off balance, and dove into the cockpit, slamming the door behind him, locking it.
"Skipper! Skkipper! Don't do this sir!"ski pounded on the door as the engines revved to life again.
"Skipper! You're going to get us both killed! Skipper!"
Knocked backwards, Ski had no choice but to wait until the plane was level before gingerly closing the gaping passenger door.
"But Lee doesn't want that area to be disturbed..."Melina argued to the Antiquities Director on the Missile Room monitor.
"Look, Miss,"the Director said, "I don't care what he said. An archealogical dig, any dig, outwieghs protecting some stupid Octopus! Good Grief, woman, use your head. Now, do you want to join the team, or don't you?"
"Now wait a minute,"Morton said. "That's no reason to prevent her from diving.And you have no authority as to who does or doesn't dive."
"Have it your own way. Just make sure she doesn't use her 'duty' to her boyfriend's wishes to cloud your judgement about where to dig."
"Are you ready to listen to reason?"Crane's voice came over the seaplane's address sytem. "I'll keep it locked until you do."
"Skipper, please! I got no choice! You gotta' believe me, you're having an attack. Put us down! Then we'll discuss it!"
"It's not an attack. This is different."
"That's what you'd say if you were having one! We're gonna' die!"
"We're not going to die. But Seaview is, and all our friends if† we don't get to them in time. So shut up and sit down back there. Sorry there's no in flight movie on this piece of junk."
"Admiral?" O'Brian paged the† Missile Room, "We have a problem."
"Well?"Nelson asked as he finished zipping up his wetsuit.
"The Skipper stole the seaplane. He's headed back."
"I didn't know he could fly," Cookie said as he checked the dumplings on top of the simmering stew.
"Maybe he can't," Wills said, " All aircraft, military and civilian have been ordered† to stay out of his way."
"That doesn't mean he's bouncing around up there."
"Man, they're gonna' have his hide for this...touched in the head or not."
"Do you want us to come back in?" Morton asked,underwater,† his dive team halting the jury rigged silt remover as he was informed of the situation by Nelson.
"No, I do not want you come back in, "Nelson said, unzipping his unused wetsuit.
"He may be mentally ill or under a psychic attack, but he knows better than to..oh never mind. Continue with the excavation.I'm sending out more divers. I'll make sure both teams are relieved in about an hour, regardless if we're surfaced to pick up Crane or not."
"I had no choice!" Lee said as he, Ski and Nelson clambered down the Control Room ladder. "I had to get back here to warn you!"
"Lee, we've been through this before. There is no is no seismic activity. Look!"he shoved the printout in his face, "Nothing!"
"There will be!"
"You thought that before too Lee, and it never happened. Kowalski, you were supposed to be watching him! You're dismissed from further duty."
"I don't know how I know," Crane grabbed Nelson's sleeves, "but I just do! You're in mortal danger! Get the divers back in and clear out of here before it's too late!"
"I'm sorry Lee," he nodded to Frank and the Master at Arms waiting at the hatchway. "Take him."
"Admiral! I'm begging you!" Crane pleaded as his hands were cuffed behind him.
Nelson forced himself to turn his head, silent, feeling as guilty as hell.
The silence in the room now was deafening.
Crane watched the back of Nelson's stiff form, his arm leaning against the †periscope rail for support. God, how he must be hurting, Lee thought. But so was he.
"It's okay Frank," Crane said calmly. "I'll go with you. Ski? I'm sorry I got you into trouble," he turned and allowed the men to escort him away, Kowalski bringing up the rear.
"Wait," Crane asked as they headed aft, "At least let me write something in my log. Chip probably has it now..."
"After we get you secured in the isolation cell," Frank said." No detours. Admiral's orders before we even surfaced."
"Fine, just let me record something...for posterity, if they ever find us."
"That's enough Skipper."
"Hey, you can't talk to him like that!" Ski piped up. "He may be nuts, but that's uncalled for."
"Go take a hike. This doesn't concern you. And you weren't ordered to tag along."
"Look, bud," Ski took Frank's arm, "I don't care if you're the Surgeon General, you treat him with respect!"
"Look who's talking. You're the one who's always complaining about him."
"Yeah, well, I've kinda' changed my mind."
"You just feel sorry for him."
"Okay. Maybe. Probably. But..."
"I hate to interrupt, fellows, but...while we're here," Crane nodded to Morton's door. "You can lock me in if it makes you feel better. But I can hardly write up the log like this," he indicated the hands behind his back.
"I don't know," Frank said. "What do you think?" he asked the MAA.
"Well, he's not going to be going anywhwere,is he?"the MAA reached for his keys.† In a few minutes, they had entered the cabin, unlocked the cuffs, locked the door behind them to give Crane the privacy he requested, and waited outside until he called them.
But the call never came.
"Do you mean to tell me that you disobeyed direct orders and..."
"Well," the MAA stood in front of Nelson in Morton's disheveled cabin. "It was a reasonable request on the face of it . I locked the door myself. He sure as hell wasn't going to be able to get out that way."
"No, he used the air intake grid in the head!"
"He could be stuck," Ski pondered, as he peered into the small square passageway, "it's awfully tight in there."
Nelson ran a hand through his hair. "I am holding all three of you responsible..."
"Admiral?" O'Brien voiced over the PA. "The Missile Room Crew were checking the nets we're going to use if we find anything,† when they heard the escape hatch door open and close. And nobody was scheduled, six air tanks are missing, no wetsuits though..."
"Patch me through to the dive com link," Nelson clicked the intercom.
"Aye sir, com link activated."
"Lee? Answer me. It's Nelson."
"Damnit ,you're just making things worse! Now get back to the boat before you kill yourself! Lee! Answer me! That's an order Mister! Lee! Lee! Morton, are you listening?"
"You bet we are. Can't see him yet though and...."
Only Melina's scream was heard as the seafloor collapsed and buriend them under the seaquake's force.
Seaview herself was tossed violently in the turbulence, coming to rest in a drunken lurch overhanging a newly rent and jagged crevasse.
It took awhile for Lee to get his bearings after the quake. Nothing was the same. He could see Seaview's emergecny sail lights in the murk, so at least she hadn't been destroyed, yet.†
And †there was a more pressing need just now than checking his boat. And the sharks would soon scent the blood...
The manacles bit into his skin, making the trek to the dock a foretaste of what his life had become. The sunlight glimmered on the water and he remembered his new owner ripping the medallion off his neck, stained with the tears of his mother. At least it hadn't come to pass, his execution in the arena or the cross. His death as a Galley Slave would take awhile longer but come it would.
Crane shook the daydream off. He had work to do. Men's lives were at stake. But what to do? Where to dig? Suddenly several octopi, some hurt, swam away from sinkhole from what was once their home, filled up in areas under tons of rubble. One of the squiggling creatures brushed him, a suction cup sticking to his hand briefly as if pulling him.
For a moment he thought it was Squishy. But they all looked alike to him. Then a metallic glimmer in the octopus's direction took his eye.
Kowalski was already suiting up in the Missile Room before more divers were summoned for a rescue dive.
"I know I'm on suspension," he said as Nelson entered, "But I'm going out anyway."
"Consider it rescined, we need every man we can use."
"How are things anyway?"
As if in answer repair crews had gotten the great ship to right herself.
"Admiral?" O'Brien called over the PA to the Missile Room. "All emergency systems operational, most other systems, a few leaks, but nothing too major, already being shored up. No response from the dive team, but Iím getting a picture from one of the tank cams. Might be able to get some sound if I can tweek it enough..."
"Must be Crane's. None of the teams were using them yet."
The monitor came to life, showing that tanks' eye view of still murky water as Crane's hands pulled on something. Suddenly the ancient manacle revealed it's †skeltatal owner's wrist, followed by the rest of the remains, to some his companions from what was left of the Galley shipwrek.
Suddenly Crane was swallowed up by a new sinkhole.
"Prepare for another seaquake!" Nelson ordered.
Men grabbed what they could to brace themselves. Seconds passed, minutes...
"Is it coming or not?"Ski asked.
"Look!"Curley shouted at the screen.
"Well this is just great," Crane was saying as his hand was seen wiping a trail of blood squirliing away from his head as his flashlight began to cut through the sandy black gloom, "now I need to be rescued," he snorted to himself as he examined his surroundings. It looked like he'd fallen into the outer egde of an undersea cavern. His light suddenly caught on something, blinding him.
It was a scroll of some kind. Not knowing why, he took the time to stuff it into his uniform belt. Then he noticed his bubbles blowing in a new direction,"Must be an undersea tunnel. C'mon Chip, Melie, be there..."
It was indeed a tunnel, to what, God only knew.
Finally, lit by his flashlight he saw the surface ripples of the undersea pond. Chip?" he called out,† removing his face mask and regulator as he broke surface, "Melina! Anyone!?" his voice echoing.
"Over here, Skipper, over here," a weak voice called back. "Help me..."
"Bates? I can't see you," he swung his flashlight as he clambered out of the pool onto the rim. "Say something to guide me!"
"Stuck, crushed...can't breathe."
While images of Crane's desperate efforts from the tank cam showed his stumbling progress through water, muck, and rock and encumbered by the extra tanks, rescue divers were already on their way from the sub, Nelson in the lead.
The cave seemed to have shrunk in size by the time† Crane had managed to find and †extricate the man from under the rocks and mud. Or maybe the air was too foul. Setting †the oxygen †tanks down, his own included, †he released a little air from one of them, hardly noticing his bloody hands.
"I think you'll be okay if you don't try to move too much. I'm not sure if that leg's broken or not. Do you know if anyone else is here?"
"The mud got 'em...pushed em, like me....maybe buried...buried alive!"
"Where Bates? Where do you think they were buried?"
"Does it matter? They're dead. All of em'..."
"You're alive arent' you? Stop thinking like that . They might just be stuck under some rocks, like you were. Now sit tight. I'll be back," he picked up one of the tanks and headed off.
"Lee! Bates!" Nelson finally pulled off his mask as he and his large rescue team surfaced in the same pond. It took awhile as they too clambered toward the boulders from behind which they found Bates, nursing his swollen leg.
"Lee? Lee!" Nelson's voice echoed as he and some of the men searched further afield for Crane .
"Ohhh, over here," the voice said, but it wasn't Crane's.
"Chip? Are you hurt?"Nelson prodded the man.
"Iím not sure. One minute I'm some kind of vortex, the next †Lee is turning on my regulator full blast to force oxygen into me...or maybe it's his...I don't remember that blue tank next to me.."
"He brought spares. Where'd he go?"
"I..I don't know. I guess I passed out again."
"All right. Can you stand?"
"I think...ohhh. Maybe not. Everything's spinning."
"Chip! I found them!" Lee's voice preceeded him as he emerged, filthy and tankless, his wet uniform sticking to his skin, "Admiral, thank God...they're forward, small cavern off that tunnel...Hurt,most of them. Some unconsious, but coming around I think."
"We'll get them,"Patterson said, he and the group moving to the area Crane had indicated.
"Hurry, there's not much time!"
"But I can't find Melina," Crane added, running a shaky hand over his hair. "You're hurt,"Nelson touched Crane's wound.
"This place is pockmarked with tunnels and holes, maybe more caverns," Lee ignored him, turning away, "I don't know where to begin and there's no time. Oh god show me..."
"Lee, calm down,"Nelson pulled a canteen from his belt, "You're shaking. Here, drink this. Hot soup."
"What do you think it is, some kind of sedative?"
"Here, pledge of good faith,"Nelson took a swig. "You've done enough. We'll take over. More divers are coming too."
"You don't understand, the walls are hot.You have to get yourself and the men back to Seaview. Get away before it blows. Volcanic, Methane, I don't know..." he trailed off as if he was smelling something.."Melie!" he ran off and dissapeared into one of the tunnels.
"I'll get him," Ski said, helping set down one of the men he'd carried over.
But before he straightened up, that very tunnel's entrance caved in.
Men† not needed to assist in the safe removal of the wounded back to Seaview dug frantically to remove the rocks and boulders at the tunnel's entrance.
"Can you see anything?" Morton called, shaky, from the pool's ridge as his dive team was assisted, some piggybacked with some of the resuce divers for the swim back to Seaview.
"I need more light!" Ski called down from atop †the pile of rock, a gap under the natural archway. "Most of† the tunnel's okay.. it's just the entrance that's jammed....I see the girl! She's breathing, but I think she's unconcsous... "
"And Crane?"Nelson asked, his own hands busy, "Do you see him?"
The ground rumbled giving imputus to clear a way in.
Ski managed to squirm his way† through the widening gap.
"My god," he let out.
"What?"Nelson demanded, "What is it?"
" A couple of skeltons, some manacles, petrified wood...Skipper!"
"Is he allright?"
"Some rocks got him, but...he's alive," Ski pushed and pulled them off of Crane, sprawled face down, worried even more by the gurgling sound from his blue lips. Nelson and some of the men had widened the gap enough to slither down but as Ski had no choice but to turn the man over, they too for a moment, could do nothing but stare at the ancient knife which had impaled† Crane's abdomen from from the partically exposed skelton that he'd fallen on top of.
Nelson was at Crane's side in seconds.
"No!" Ski yelped, grabbing Nelson's hand about to pull the knife out, "You could do more damage ...but we can't imoblize it either..god I wish Frank was here..."
The ground began to shake, more rocks began to fall from the cave's walls and cieling.
"We'll all be buried alive, if we don't move. C'mon, men, get the girl and the others out of here. We'll follow with Crane...Ski, you'll have to use your own judgement."
In seconds, the man had pulled out the jagged relic, torn Crane's shirt into wads†† to staunch the flowing blood and wrap strips of the cloth to hold it over place.
"Mel...Melie?" Crane's hoarse voice managed between gasps of pain as he came to.
"She's okay Lee," Nelson absently picked up the knife and suffed it into his wetsuit's belt, not knowing if she was or wasn't, but he wasn't about to upset Lee any more. "She's already on her way out."
"Feels... worse... than my dream," Lee clutched his side. "Get out... go! Now! I'll hold you back...go... "his voice grew weaker, "Seaview...away...Promise....meeee,"he clutched Nelson and went limp.
It was with difficulty that Nelson, Ski and four remaining divers carted Crane up the rocky 'path' and stumbled along to the pool as the ground began to give way, fizzures cracking open. †It was a piggyback ride through the turbulent undersea passageway despite their efforts to protect their precious cargo from further harm as they were battered against the rocky sides.
"If we're not aboard in five minutes," Nelson panted through his throat mike to O'Brien, "get the boat away!"
"That's an order mister!"
O'Brien had always wanted command. It had been his life long dream. But now, he wished he'd opted for 'information specialist' at the Academy. A career where he'd be safe and sound without having to take on any life and death decisions as he was faced with now.† He checked his watch. Again, the Control Room crew noted.
All the divers had returned, except for Nelson, Crane, and Ski. Frank was hard at it in Sickbay, and several volunteers were lending a hand, if only to wrap the shivering patients with warm blankets. Cookie and Wills were practicallly drowining any of the men who were halfway conscious with hot soup and sandwiches. But there was no idle chatter and every eye that could kept watch on the big clock above the door.
4:59; 5:00; 5:01; 5:02 the minutes counted down.
"Get us underway, flank," O'Brian ordered into his mike,"Everything you've got."
"They made it!" Curley's voice came over the Missile Room PA," They're undocking the outer hatch now!"
"Belay that!" the command officer shouted, sheer relief in his voice. "Stand by. Chief? Inform when they're safely aboard. Sickbay..."
"The Corpsman's already on his way down , sir,stretcher bearers too, " Cookie's voice †interupted.
"They're in!" Curley said, "Outer hatch closed."
"Get us the hell out of here!" O'Brien ordered.
It was a poor operating theatre, Sickbay being so crowded with patients stacked about, but it would have to do. Ski had quickly been drafted to shave and sponge the surgical iodine over all of the stripped Crane's abdomen. Volunteering to help rescue the team †had not exactly included becoming a surgical assistant. He was a little bit †embarassed †by the present task as well.
"Doing fine Ski," Frank checked the X-Ray one more time and checked the IV drips of saline, plasma, and blood. "Okay, I'll wash up. You think you'll be okay? I'll have to go deeper than I'd like. The x-rays aren't all that clear, it may have nicked some organs and he could be hemoraging, hell, I don't know how badly. I'm† a Corpsman, not a surgeon. Maybe now Nelson will listen to me† about getting a doctor."
Nelson's mind was not completely on Seaview as he confirmed O'Brien's emergency course in the Control Room, remembering Lee's cold clammy skin and blue lips. He couldnít much longer stand the waiting, the not knowing, then all hell broke loose...
Disembodied voices were desperately calling out and
responding as the boat, bathed in her
Nelson awoke to the sound of the intact machines flickering off and on, the smell of burnt metal and the sight of sparks mixing with the battery lights.
"He's alive," Patterson called out, as Nelson came to,, the flashlight's beam in his face.
"Lights coming back on," Chief Jones's voice said.
O'Brien was also using the shipboard monitor to visually scan various areas of the boat as he sent repair teams and received reports.
With one such click, †Kowalski was †still bent over Crane in Sickbay,to keep the gurney from toppling over until he was certain the roller coaster ride was over. One hand was still pressed hard against Crane's bleeding inscision. IV tubes dangling from the patient, as their posts had crashed to the deck, as had Frank, who was down for the count.
"Hold on Ski," O'Brien clicked the mike," Help's on it's way. Chief! Get as many men as you can spare to help to police up Sickbay and assist. Sparks! Get communications back up asap," he turned to Nelson, "We sure could use you in the Circutry Room sir. Can you make it?"
"If I could have have a little help..."
"By †the way, good job Mr. O'Brien," Nelson said, helped uo and headed aft supported by the crewman at his side.
While the turbulance had past, most of †Ski's helpers were having a difficult time of it. Ski was re-appling surgical iodine around and into Crane's gaping inscision. Two men had already fainted. Three soon had to excuse themselves for other reasons. Frank was too concussed to be of much good.
"Can we help?"Cookie asked at the doorway, Wills with him.
"I donít suppose either of you knows how to make a suture? No, I guess that's too much to hope for...yeah. you can help...look, I don't know what the hell I'm doing, but I know have to finish stitching him up before he bleeds to death. †Can you use that suction tube when I ask and do anything else I want? It's going to be a gory bloody mess, believe me. †Think you can handle it? Tell me now 'cause I'd reather do it all myself than have you upchuck all over us or pass out."
"You just tell us what to do."
Ski fought the urge to kiss them in sheer relief. Never
again would he brag about having almost gone through
"It's a fairy tale," the Director of Antiquities laughed a few days later at the TV news conference. "The beaten-gold scroll tells the story of a man and his friends cursed by a witch to become like the very Calamari they stole from her table. You can see from this sketch of it, that they're allowed to keep a few human characteristics while developing more octopus like features..."Everyone at the conference laughed.
But aboard the repaired, or at least patched up submarine, it was just a bit too close to home for the men watching.
"Now the knife, well it's quite common. A simple kitchen knife, roman in origin, however," he showed the cleaned up and polished relic off, "we know from the guild mark on the handle that it belonged to a certain sea merchant,quite ruthless and powerful enough to have made a place for hismelf in some of the surviving writings of the time. He's known to have purchased some of the early Christians marked for the Cross as extra labor or galley slaves,if the officials in charge of them were greedy enough and if he had enough cash or goods to persuade them. But, that doesn't mean he was doing the poor souls a favor. In fact, most died soon after anyway, some by his own hand for the 'sport' of it."
Visions of their fallen Captain, that very knife draining the life blood out of him, impaled maybe even by that same slaver, and in the same spot as he earlier phantom wound made Seaview's crew shudder...
"Of all the jewelry, the Ptolomic pendant is the most valuable, and was probably stolen and stashed away with the rest for safe keeping, perhaps even by the same Captain, as some of the minor pieces were common and may have belonged to the slaves themselves, such as the prayer token."
That too raised more than one eyebrow, though unseen by his shipmates as Crane watched the broadcast from his cabin's bunk, propped up by pillows, Melina, her arm in a sling and stitches in her forehead, by his side.
"Skipper?"Cookie entered the wide open door, "How're you both coming along with lunch? Frank kinda' wants to know."
"See for yourself," Crane ignored the broadcast and waved to the empty plates on the wheeled metal tray on the other side of the girl. "Could use some more coffee though. American style, that is. How's Frank doing anyway? Ski said the medical team the Navy sent over confirmed that he had a worse concussion than anyone on the dive team, including me."
"He must be okay if he's been laying into the Admiral for not reporting to Sickbay once things calmed down, even if only Ski was availbale to check him then. What do you think about all that?" the man indicating the press conference, "Man it's so weird, you picking up on all that psychic metaphysical whatever it is of the Universe they're calling it, past and present."
"Turn it off.† I think I've heard enough psychobabble and ancient history to last me a lifetime. It was just instinct and coincidence."
"Here's that status report you wanted Lee," Nelson entered, black eye and band aid in marked contrast to his fair complextion, handing him the printout, "We should be able to get underway in another day or two."
"Kind of the Navy to give us a hand. First to help with repairs, then a medical team, with a fully fledged physician, no less, and a pychiatrist."
"Lets say they owed us a favor."
"Admiral? I know that shrink has pretty much put me in the clear, but I'd kind of like to go through that extensive psychic evaluation that's available. I'd like to know if this was a once in a lifetime experience like they think or if something like this might happen again. It'd be damned inconvieient.."
"Lee," Nelson slapped his thigh and sat on the edge of Lee's desk facing him, "You go ahead and have all the pyschic visions or dreams you want! If I'd listened to you in the first place, I wouldn't be sporting this,"he rubbed his black eye," none of the crew would be on the sick list, and we wouldn't be facing a major refit when we get home. And of course, Miss Gounaris wouldn't have been hurt either. How are you feeling now, my dear?"
"I'm sure you're anxious to get home. And your
Ambassador to the
"I'm a big girl Admiral, I'm sure you would be better off with your men here."
"Not this time. Humor me. I wouldn't want to keep you from a proper welcome home."
"I don't understand."
"Let's just say, the Gounaris name is linked to wonderful discovery and puts your village on the map. Even the mayor will be there to greet you."
"I wish I could go along," Lee said regretfully, taking her hand.
"So do I. How long do I have Admiral?"
" A few hours; be ready about 1400. Well, I'll leave you two alone to talk awhile. Cookie? What are you still doing here? Come along."
"Easy sir," Kowalski said as he and Malone helped Morton beneath and above the ladder he was trying to manuver after returning to Seaview.
"What's this about?" Curley asked. "He feeling woozy from his concussion again?"
"Beats us. When he came back from some errand, he was like you see him." "Maybe we oughta get the Admiral."
"He's with the Skipper," Patterson said.
"Just the plase I wanna' go," Morton slurred.
"Maybe Sickbay'd be better," Malone said.
"Maybe, but I vote for the Captain's cabin. C'mon."
"Excuse me sir?"Jones asked from the still open doorway taking in the sight of Nelson sitting on the edge of Crane's bunk reading to him."We have a kinda'...situation again."
"At dead stop on the surface?"Nelson asked.
"They mean me!" Chip lunged himself into the cabin. "Found out all about the Skipper's little curse, I did," he hicupped. "You were right, Lee. Poor woman just couldn't resist my charms.Or buying her some drinks. Hey, don't turn green! †I meant the old crone, not Melina. I know when to keep ny hands off.. Anyway, while I was busy with the old goat, I made these two," he indicated Ski and Malone, do a little diving duty. TaDah!" he pulled the calcified locket ou of his pocket, "Cleaned up nice too didn't it..."
"The curse, Chip?" Lee asked, being helped to sit up by Curley and swinging his legs over the bunk.
"Oh, yeah. We got it all wrong! It's this that's a curse. †Anything from extra nose hairs to death by insanity. A hex charm bought and forgot from some flea bag carnival fortune teller... Just give one of these to somebody your'e mad at whalla...they're dooomed," he giggled. "Can you believe anyone buying that crapola? Didn't tell her that."
"Is this the one Lee?" Nelson took the charm from Morton.
"That's it all right. Good job men...thanks Chip. At least we can toss that explanation out the window," he chuckeld. "Chip? Just how many drinks did you buy her, and yourself? And what kind?"
"I don' †know...tasted a little like Licorice..."
"Licori...Ouzo?"Crane shook his head. "Chief? Let Frank know his services may be needed in the morning."
"Lee?" Nelson quizzed.
"Ouzo. It's a local drink. Deceptive taste. You could probably power Seaview with it."
Morton just hicupped in reply.
"Good thing you're still on the sick list," Nelson took Chip's arm. "C'mon lad, bed.Say goodnight to Lee."
"Goodnight ole' buddy ole pal..."
"You are too, you know that?"Lee said gently to
the non comprehending Chip, hoping for the eventuality. "Okay Admiral. You'd better hurry,
men have been known to get drunk by secondhand fumes."
It had been two months since Seaview had returned to
"Excuse me sir,"the dissaproving Kowalski interupted Crane as he completed another pull up in the Institute gym.
"What is it now, Ski? I told you, Frank certified me fit four weeks ago.."
"It's not that sir...we kinda' have a situation again..."
"You know, I'm getting a bit tired of all our 'situations'"
"The Govenor of
"The problem," Nelson leaned over his vast desk, "is that I don't want to go."
"I still don't understand...no law says you have to."
"Yes, well, when the President 'suggests' I attend, I don't have much choice do I?"
"The President's gotten involved? You'd think there'd
be more on his mind than a little PR fluff with the Ambassadors'
"Well, I mean, uh..."
"Angie?" Nelson turned on the intercom, "Send my RSVP to the invite. Oh, and Captain Crane will be going along."
"What?" Lee asked, afraid of what he'd gotten himself into for that faux paus.
"Oh and Lee, you might want to look at the bottom of the card."
"White tie or...oh crap...do we gotta?"
"Oh, yeah, we gotta. After all it's just a bit of 'fluff'."
"How'd I get the duty?"Ski complained as he finished knotting his tie on the afternoon of the big event." And why do they need me?"
"Just lucky I guess," Chief Jones patted him on the shoulder as most of the crew milled around waiting at the Institute's front door. "Tommy drives, you just hop in and out of the limo to get the door for 'em."
"I'm a sub jockey, not a trained rabbit!"
"Just do it. And don't embarrass no one. †There's gonna' be lots and lots of glitz at that thing."
"I feel like a trained monkey," Crane complained as he straighted the white bow tie, Chip helping in the robing process from the relative privacy of the Captain's office. "I smell a bit like one to," he said of †tuxedo like official Navy Black Formal Uniform which still had the distinct aroma of mothballs.
"Well you could have bought a new one like Nelson. There, you'll pass inspection."
"Ready Sir?" O'Brien peered in, "The Admrial says 'get a move on'. You look ill, Captain, should I get Frank?"
"He'll live,"Morton said, tucked Crane's cap under his arm and literally had to push the man out the door into the corridor, crammed with Insistute women milling about just waiting for another most unususal and welcome sight. There was a lot to be said of this far more formal uniform, the miniature medals instead of ribbons glinting on their chests.† The gold cumberbund did nothing for Nelson, but it showed Crane's lean form off to perfection.
Even the crew hanging around had to admit they made a pretty impressive pair, and the black suited Ski, getting into mood, snapped to his job with perfection.
Crane almost groaned at that, and nobody doubted he was in for a bad time. As for Nelson, well, what was that little smirk about?
At least, thought Cookie, they'd have a good meal at the designated hotel.
Nelson had a hard time not laughing as the younger officer suffered through the initial introductions, one matron after the other unable to resist the impulse to ruffle his hair in motherly fashion.
Lee almost sagged in relief as they were shown to their table. Until the process started all over again with the Ambassador's wife.
"Yech!"Ski sampled some of the several canepe's in one of the hotel's conference rooms set aside for the guest's chauffeurs, maids and valets as if to deliberately keep them out of view.
"Yeah," Tommy said, "I donít know what those are but they deserve a burial in the bilge tanks. You sure it's food?"
"On these little crackers? Yeah, it's food, I bet †even Mr. Morton wouldn't touch it."
Using his recent injury to avoid taking any of the matrons at the table to the dance floor, Lee cast Nelson a slight look of victory as he was stuck with the duty instead.At one such turn, Nelson couldn't help notice that Lee had risen suddenly and dashed across the floor to meet a very unexpected and familiar face.
"Seems to have healed rather suddenly, hasn't he,"his dance partner said snidly as Crane took Melina in his arms and swept her onto the dance floor.
"I've taken the liberty of asking Melie...Miss Gounaris to join us," Lee said,as the main course was beginning to appear on the floor, and pulled over a chair from the table over to seat her next to him.As the sliver domed platter was removed by the waiter and shown off to the diners at the table, Melina gasped, Crane's mouth fell open, and Nelson pursed his lips to keep himself from laughing out loud.
"If you don't mind I'll pass," Lee said.
"Me too," Melina said.
"Uh, Melie? " Lee said hastily, "Maybe another dance?"
In seconds they'd fled.
"They don't like it?" one matron asked.
"Let's just say they've had a little too much of Calamari lately," Nelson laughed,"It's a long story."
Most of the guests had left and Nelson was left clicking his heels as he waited for Crane's return.
"You want us to go find him?" Ski finally asked. "Maybe they stepped outside for †some air."
"Not a bad idea...I'll go with you. Just let me leave a message at the front desk so he doesnít think we've abandoned him if he shows before we get back."
Tommy drove the limo this way that in the hotel's proximity. He suddenly slowed, pointing. What grabbed his interest were not the golden arches, but the couple inside.† The two looked incredibly happy, oblivious to the fact that they were surrounded by more casually dressed patrons eyeing them with everything from awe to jealousy. The elegantly attired couple were enjoying their conversation, both using their hands to speak and both downing their milkshakes, hamburgers and fries with gusto.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking Tommy?" Ski asked, his stomach rumbling.
"Yeah, me too,"†
"Count me in, gentlemen,"Nelson added as they drove to the take out window of McDonalds.
The three were just finishing up their el fresco meal and disposing the evidence when Lee and Melina spotted them and headed to the parked limo, it's windows open.
"How'd you find us?"Lee asked Ski popped out to get the door,"Sure saves us a walk.So, Admiral, how was the Calimari?"
"Just get in Commander."
Nelson had almost decided to get out and have the front desk page Crane after he'd escorted Miss Gounaris into her own hotel, when Lee emerged, soppy grin on his face.And why not, Nelson thought. He'd been sated with good food, and had a nice long goodbye.
Lee had the same thoughts as the limo sped off to take them home, only his had an additional, if older reason. He still had that all important phone number....
*Calamari :Generic term for Squid and Octopus served as food.
*S.Cargo aka Escargo: Snail, cooked, usually served in the shell with melted butter and garlic-an 'aquired' taste.