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<title>&lt;Captain Kitty&gt;</title>

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<div class=Section1>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Cat's Paw<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>*Sequel to 'Spellbound'<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>By <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Carol Foss<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, look what the cat

dragged in,&quot; Lt. Commander Chip Morton grinned from his second mouthful of

candied corn <span class=GramE>in<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>Seaview's</span> deserted Observation Nose. <span class=GramE>The<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>damp</span> and disheveled intruder wasn't exactly

unexpected. <span class=GramE>Just late.</span> Add to the fact he was sporting

more than a week's growth of beard and hair in desperate need of a barber, it

was only natural for his friend to add, &quot;You look like a wet dog.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Gee thanks. I got

caught in a cloudburst, okay? Where's the coffee?&quot; he looked in vain for

the carafe that was usually kept at the ready on the sideboard, even when the

sub was moored at her home dock.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Been drafted for the

party,&quot; Chip looked at his watch pointedly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Party</i>?</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> What party?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>do</i> remember the Halloween <span

class=GramE>party don't</span> you?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Cripes, I forgot all

about it. Do I <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>have</i> to go?&quot;

Commander Lee Crane added hopefully.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, if Lola finds out

you reneged on purpose, she'll make sure you'll be doing paperwork till Hell

freezes over. Which means you'll be grumpy and irritable when we pull out

tomorrow and it will be up to <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>me</i> to

soothe everyone's ruffled feathers, including Nelson's. He's really sore at you

by the way. Still, she <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>and </i>he might

conceivably forgive your slithering around undercover which got you all hot and

bothered, hurt or so brain damaged that you forgot about tonight or some such

thing.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I wasn't

undercover!&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yeah,

yeah.</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> So that's <span class=GramE>why<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Joe</span> Jackson<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>admitted to the Admiral that you'd

volunteered more than<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>40 hours worth of

agency business before the new fiscal year.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<span class=GramE>Which

won't happen until July!</span>&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Damn it Lee, you've

been gone more than two and a half weeks! Almost three! No word to anyone. Face

it Lee, you, sir, are in the doghouse. Even Lola used words I won't repeat in

polite company.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Crane mumbled something.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Didn't

quite hear that.&quot;</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All right all

right,&quot; Lee sighed, &quot;if you must know, I took <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Sea Sprite</i> out...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lee, Lee, Lee,&quot;

Morton shook his head, bemused and incredulous, if such a thing were possible

at the same time. &quot;You took that wreck of that sailboat of yours out

instead of spending your shore leave with <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>her</i>?

That does it, you <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>have</i> to have brain

damage from all of your adlepated stunts and....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Chip, please,&quot; Lee

hesitated, &quot;she's been getting a bit too...serious. I needed time. <span

class=GramE>Time to be alone and think.&quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;And?&quot;</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm not sure yet...I

don't know if I'm ready for the kind of commitment she wants.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Have you slept with

her?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;None of your

business...but no...<span class=GramE>she's</span> not that kind of

girl...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>think</i>,&quot; Morton snorted. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Chip~.&quot;</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Okay <span class=GramE>okay</span>

not another word. C'mon then. The party's already started. I told them I knew

you'd be back in time for our departure tomorrow. All you need now is a

costume.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>You're </i>not in costume,&quot; Lee regarded Morton's khaki uniform.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>I </i>have a hat,&quot; he plopped on a plumed 18<sup>th</sup> century

naval officer's cap from a box of party supplies. &quot;Lola <span class=GramE>left<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>you</span> a choice of costumes. This one is

made of some kind of Spandex. She has one like it, only hers is white.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No,

absolutely not!&quot;</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Lee

exclaimed, aghast.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ah

c'mon.</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> She picked it out

special.For the perfect couple. Get it? Purr-fect?&quot; he chortled. &quot;<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>But, </i>if you insist on <span class=GramE>hurting<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>her</span> feelings, you can use his

one,&quot; he pulled out a pink feather encrusted outfit. &quot;Kind of

appropriate don't you think?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm a Crane, not a

Flamingo.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Close enough for

government work...toss you for it if you can't decide.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I don't think I feel

very well. Just tell everyone I'll be holed up aboard with the pink

stuff...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Sorry, no can do. Self

preservation you know. Now, decide, bud.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>*** <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Great party

Harriman,&quot; Admiral Jiggs Starke, aka 'Henry the 8<sup>th'</sup>, grimaced

sipping the punch, &quot;the kind your grandmother probably gave.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm sorry about it

being a dry party, Jiggs,&quot; Nelson, aka the 'Wizard of Oz', laughed,

&quot;employee's kids you know. Don't <span class=GramE>worry,</span> you can

join me later for a little private libation.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;At least your girl did

a good enough job decorating the cafeteria.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Administrative Assistant</i>...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;My my, we are picky

tonight, aren't we,&quot; Starke sat his empty cup beside the skeleton's hand

groping the side of the punch bowl as eyeballs floated around in it. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I have reason to

be.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Just pass me earplugs

when you lay into Crane, <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>if </i>he gets

here.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The gate said he

arrived fifteen minutes ago...Chip promised he'd get him here. Speaking of

whom...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Morton was waving happily,

stopping to talk to a few crewmen as he made his way toward the two Admirals. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, he's back,&quot;

Morton finally said as he poured himself some punch, &quot;wasn't undercover.

He <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>says</i>. Lola's giving him what for

though, not to mention adding a few last minute touches to his costume. I had

her meet our prodigal in the lobby.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;So, what's he coming

as?&quot; Starke asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Gee, cat's got my

tongue, sir,&quot; Chip snorted.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Word spread rapidly that the

errant Skipper had returned and the party began to liven up a bit more. More

folks took to the dance floor while others continued to enjoythe several games

and goodies set out for themselves and their children. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>But there was a subtle change

in the atmosphere as one stifled gasp followed another around the room as Lee

Crane and Lola Hale entered.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh my

God...&quot;Nelson said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Amazing, isn't sir,

what a man will do when he's in love,&quot; Morton chuckled.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What're they wearing, <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>leotards</i>?&quot; Starke asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Spandex Unitards,&quot;

Morton explained, &quot;not leotards exactly, but a kind of body suit. You

know, I never knew Lee could curse in so many languages when he was pulling it

on. Still, better than a fluffy Flamingo, which of course as a Crane he just

couldn't abide. <span class=GramE>Something about birds of a feather.&quot;</span>

<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Is he <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>supposed </i>to look that scruffy?&quot;

Nelson asked,&quot; or is he hurt?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, well, no, at least

I don't think so.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, I think that

costume is outrageous!&quot; Starke fumed. &quot;A black cat is one thing, but

leotards! It's absurd! If it were me, I'd choose a new girlfriend!&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Cut him some slack,

Jiggs,&quot; Nelson grinned. &quot;You've been in love once or twice yourself,

remember.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He's the Captain of the

Seaview. <span class=GramE>Should show some dignity, even if this is a costume

party!&quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Indeed, in dramatic contrast to

Lola's whites, Crane's also came with tail, elastic headband with ears, and a

little black nose glued to his own with white whiskers. Black ballet slippers

with little white claws painted on them finished the costume.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Donít even say

it,&quot; Crane approached, having found a legitimate excuse to escape the

women accumulating around <span class=GramE>himself</span> and Lola. &quot;I

feel like a complete idiot. And it itches like hell,&quot; he added under his

breath as he poured some punch into a paper cup. &quot;Okay, hers is ready;

where's the coffee for me?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Jiggs had the last of

it, <span class=GramE>&quot; Nelson</span> said, &quot;now, where the..<span

class=GramE>aah</span>...acchhoo! Where the hell have you <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>been</i> all this time?&quot; he asked in his most 'Admiraly' pose

which wasn't easy with green hair and padded belly. Even his new watch had a

stone that matched.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName

w:st="on">Running</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on"><i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Sea</i></st1:PlaceType></st1:place><i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'> Sprite</i> through her paces...needed to

get away for awhile...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Do- you- mean- to-

tell- me that aaa...aaa...aaachoo! That you've been <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>sailing</i> all this time?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh, that poor

girl,&quot; Starke added his own outrage.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;There's no law that says

I have to spend every spare minute I have with her, and even I'm entitled to a

little time to myself at times, you know.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;She was terrified for

you!&quot;Nelson almost yelled, &quot;and we were damn well worried ourselves!

Aaa aahhchoo! I almost used the EBL to contact you, but visions of interrupting

you in some vital covert action prevented me. In spite of ONI's assurances to

the contrary. They've lied before.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Sir, please. I've

already been through the third degree with Chip.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I guess I have no

choice but to be<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>satisfied with your

explanation, though you might as well <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>be</i>

a cat from the stealthy way you acted....you are okay though aren't you? You

look a bit drawn around the eyes.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm fine. Except for

this damn outfit.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, hello there

Captain Kitty!&quot; Lt.Cmdr. Will Jamison approached, several officers and

some crewmen in tow, presumably drafted for punch duty by their ladies as well,

most of <span class=GramE>whom</span> were gathered in corners casting sidelong

glances at Crane's form fitting costume. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Very funny, Doc, and

before you say anything, it was her idea, not mine. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, look at me

Skipper,&quot; Riley said,&quot;my girl made me come as a cow.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Bull, actually,&quot;

Doc intervened. &quot;Consider it a compliment. Be grateful you only have horns

and no udder &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Merlin or Nostradamus,

Will?&quot; Crane asked regarding his long purple tunic and pointed star

encrusted hat.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Merlin.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Too bad. I was hoping

you could whip up some coffee...maybe the vending machine...&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Out of order,&quot; Doc

said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Does anyone have a

couple of quarters?&quot; Lee spread his arms akimbo,&quot; no pockets.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Weren't you listening

Crane?&quot; Jiggs asked, &quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>No</i>

coffee.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, there's got to be

<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>something</i> better than Kool Aid.

That's what this is, isn't it?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, and it's not all

that bad,&quot; Chip said pulling some loose change from his pocket, &quot;Here

you go.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Thanks.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>With a mischievous grin Crane

headed off to scout the various beverages, returning to his friends holding a

pint of milk he'd already opened and begun to chug down.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lola was quick to join him,

and patted dry some of the milk Lee had managed to get on his black nose and a

few of his whiskers.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Meow,&quot; was all he

managed to say to his friends before the couple joined the crowd on the dance

floor gyrating to a lively rag time piece.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Talk about

Purr-fect,&quot; Riley laughed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Huh?&quot;Morton asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The tune, it's 'Kitten

on the Keys!&quot;<span style='color:red'><o:p></o:p></span></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Almost all stations were

manned and ready for Seaview's departure to the Southern Hemisphere at the

bequest of the Navy to test a new piece of equipment. There was just one

problem. Seaview's Captain hadn't reported yet.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Anything?&quot;</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Nelson asked O'Brien while he lit another cigarette

in the Observation Nose.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Phone doesn't answer.

Voice mailbox is full. Emergency Band Locator doesn't get any kind of response,

security had his apartment manager check to see if he was in; he wasn't;<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>no trace of his car....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Then try something <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>obvious</i>.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Miss Sweetly says <span

class=GramE>Lola,</span> I mean Miss Hale's taking a personal day.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I can <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>just</i> imagine,&quot; Nelson sighed.

&quot;Get her on her home phone then. Pipe it through the speaker phone.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It was difficult for Ski not

to chuckle over his imagined <span class=GramE>and<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>awkward</span> situation.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Kowalski!&quot;</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Morton chastised, &quot;Keep it out of the

gutter.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Aye sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I have Miss Hale on the

phone sir,&quot; <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sparks</st1:place></st1:City>

reported over the PA.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Let me speak to

Lee,&quot; Nelson began without preamble as he flipped the switch on the

intercom speaker. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Lee?</i>&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, Lee, Commander

Crane if you prefer, but get him, even if you have to wake him up!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He's not here. <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span></i>He

was <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>supposed</i> to have breakfast with

me this morning before shoving off...and I don't appreciate you thinking that

we've been sleeping together!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All right. All right. I

apologize. Now, did he say anything about where he may have planned to go after

the party last night?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, after we went to

the Kit Kat Club...what's that?&quot; she asked of the men's snickering,

&quot;Am I on speaker phone?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Never mind that, what

happened after the Kit Kat Club?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, I wanted to show

off our costumes to Lin, but,&quot; she paused, &quot;we kind of left in hurry

before I could find <span class=GramE>and<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>introduce</span> her to Lee. He, er, well if you must know, he was

propositioned. Most women find him attractive, but this was a lot

different.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;How?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It was a guy.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Morton bit his lip manfully

as many of the crew couldn't help themselves exploding into laughter.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Of course,&quot; she

continued, &quot;we got the you- know- what out of there, flank speed I think

you boys call it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No doubt. Go on.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Took me straight home.

Didn't even stay for a drink. Then he said he was going to get a few zzz's

aboard Seaview...you did check his cabin didn't you?<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I can guarantee you

he's not aboard or anywhere on the Institute grounds,&quot; Morton said firmly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What do you think could

have happened?&quot; Lola asked, &quot;and<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>now that I think about it,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>he did

look kind of furtive at times last night. Oh lord, what if it wasn't the

costume? What if<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>he'd really been on

assignment with ONI and he had something better to do than go to that damn

party and keep me company?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Excuse me Admiral,

Lola, &quot;O'Brien said, &quot;But where did he put his wallet in that

costume? I mean, if he was driving fast, maybe he got pulled over for

speeding...and with no drivers license...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh my God, I put it in

my purse and we both must have forgotten about it.. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'll check SBPD,&quot;

O'Brien headed to the radio shack. In moments he returned. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>was</i> arrested for speeding and driving without a license.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nelson visibly sagged in

relief.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>But</i>&quot; the young officer hesitated, &quot;he was released last

night.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The staff of the Santa

Barbara Police Dept. were, as in most cities, overworked and underpaid. Invaded

by the 'wannabe' Navy that Chief Abigail Dunmore had always regarded the Nelson

Institute, it's staff gritted their collective teeth as she and one Admiral

Harriman Nelson butted heads, Nelson demanding to know just why his Captain had

been released late last night to find his way home cashless, in ballet slippers

and without so much as having made the legal phone call all detainees were

allowed by law.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Look Admiral. For the

last time, he was properly ticketed and brought in for identification. The

military fingerprint database proved he was who he said he was, and when he

assured us we could charge the fine to his account at your Institute, we let

him go. Minus his car, of course. For that, he'll have to come in person,

license in hand.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You should have called

us!&quot; Chief Sharkey bellowed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That was <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>his </i>decision, not yours, not ours. And

we didn't hold him very long. We actually did him a favor, letting him go

without any fuss. Couple of<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>guys in the

holding tank really liked those tights, or whatever you call them,&quot; she

snorted.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh, gawd,&quot; Sharkey

moaned.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Did you check all his

normal haunts? Perhaps he got a ride with someone and stopped off someplace for

a little action. Or maybe he's<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>just

pussy footing around. Ha.Ha,&quot; she giggled, making her look a lot younger

than her 50 plus years. If the situation weren't so serious Nelson wondered if

he might actually like to get to know her better. However...<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Are you going to put

out an APB out on him or not?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Like we already told

your submarine people, it's<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>got to be 48

hours before we can consider him missing.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He could be lying dead

or dying along the highway,&quot; Sharkey bemoaned, &quot; hit by a semi,

slipped down the cliffside, eaten by wild coyotes...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Francis, chill,

&quot;Nelson ordered.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Sorry sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Very well Chief <st1:place

w:st="on">Dunmore</st1:place>...wait...did you release any of the men in the

lock up with him at the same time? Perhaps one of <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>them</i> gave him a lift.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's a free country,

&quot; <st1:place w:st="on">Dunmore</st1:place> pulled out some files from a

stack on her desk, &quot;Let's see. There were only a few drunk and

disorderliness last night. The drunks, no way, the disorderlies, maybe, &quot;

then she started to laugh, &quot;says here one of them kept telling anyone

who'd listen that your boy was a real cat! Tried to pet him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Sharkey almost swooned. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Look, Crane's was

already a closed case by the time I reported for work this morning,&quot; she

rifled through a rolodex, &quot;but, considering his position, national

security and all, I'll get an adult amber alert out. It might not do any good

at all, but it's worth getting you off my back.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Thank you.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;By the way Admiral,

when one of ours went missing, it was hell for us to <span class=GramE>wait<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>that</span> damn 48 hour limit.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>He was cold, wet, and naked.

Why, oh why did weird things keep happening to him?<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Last night had been a nightmare. The thunder

had mocked Lee, as the torrential rain soaked him. And it had been like

navigating a puzzle to find his way to the main road to NIMR. The ground had given

way and he tumbled and skidded down the mud slicked cliffside to the beach.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>When he'd finally seen less

than stellar house he hadn't expected it to be occupied, and had sheltered

under it's<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>back porch<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>as the tide came dangerously close. And now

he was a prisoner of good intentions. Oh well, any port in a storm as he looked

up at the matronly woman offering him a fresh bowl of milk on the kitchen

floor.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Let's try again, shall

we?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Crane's stomach rumbled.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>'Oh, that's a good

kitty,&quot; she scratched behind his ears, &quot;A purring cat is always so

soothing.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I wasn't purring and don't know how I morphed into

this fleabag, lady. If you're going to feed me, how about a nice juicy steak?

And a Martini would be nice.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Of course, all she'd been

hearing were the meows and yowls from the bedraggled black cat. As soon as

she'd spotted the creature huddling in the corner a little before dawn, she'd

been hooked.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>And so Lee had found

himself picked up, brought inside, his mud caked fur bathed in warm soapy

water, dried off<span class=GramE>,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>combed</span>, brushed, and blown dry, as the woman made sure he was

free of any remaining sticky burrs and gravel that had imbedded themselves in

his fur and paws. It wasn't that he hadn't appreciated the<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>shelter and attention he'd received, but he

had to get to Seaview before she sailed if she already hadn't. And most

important, he had to convince Nelson of his...er...altered state. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Now, you be a good boy

and use the litter pan this time, makeshift or not.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Fishing you out of the toilet is not my idea

of a permanent relationship.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Wasn't <span class=GramE>my<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>fault</span> I slipped off the edge.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Cut me some slack! I'm not exactly used <span

class=GramE>to<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>being</span> a cat. <o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>That wasn't altogether true.

Lee Crane <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>had</i> been a cat before, when

he and Chief Sharkey had been hexed by Mirabelle Darcy. The bone fide and

centuries old <span class=GramE>witch,</span> was now, quite rightfully, a frog

in the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Whipsnare</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceName

w:st="on">Amphibian</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Research</st1:PlaceName>

<st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Center</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>. Lee had to wonder

if she'd managed to break out of her warty existence or if someone was playing

around with one of her equally ancient spellbooks.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It was bad enough just being

a cat, but having to have had someone pull you out of<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>a toilet had been just too humiliating. Back

to the present and the<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>bowl of milk. He

had to give felines their due, it was hard to lap up liquid with the back of

your tongue, not to mention keeping it from splashing all over your fur. But he

<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>was</i> thirsty, so he slurped his fill,

even if it wasn't a Martini.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Before he could make good his

escape when the opportunity presented itself, he was plopped into a cardboard

box, and sealed in.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>   </span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was mistaken. There was

something more humiliating than falling into a toilet. Having your buttocks

held firmly while a lady veterinarian took your temperature anally was far

worse. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Feisty isn't he,

Lin?&quot; Dr. Yvette Abercrombie laughed as he yowled his displeasure.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He certainly is, but

he's a bit odd.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>I mean, I didn't see him

lick himself clean once. And when he <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>condescended</i>

to use the litter pan instead of the toilet, it was as if he deliberately

turned his back to me. Didn't scratch the litter before or after either. Maybe

he can't see well?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No, no, his eyes are

fine. Maybe he doesn't quite know to be a cat...could be feral or abandoned as

a kitten. Instincts can only do so much; It takes a mother to teach their

kittens what you might call the social graces. Then again, he could be

retarded.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Retarded<span class=GramE>?Retarded</span>?I have a

degree in Electrical Engineering from <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Annapolis</st1:City></st1:place>

and</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Ow! Ow!Take it easy, will you? </i>Lee spat as the thermometer was

removed. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Normal.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What do you think he

is? Burmese, <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Bombay</st1:place></st1:City>?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Neither. Not with those

greenish eyes. Besides, you say he had very curly, almost human looking fur

when it was wet. Not a trait of either breed that I know of. Well, physically

he's fine, could use a bit of padding though. Has good heart and clear lungs so

he must be a non smoker,&quot; Yvette laughed. &quot;Still, I'd like to take a

blood sample if you're going to keep the little fellow. You can leave him here

if you like....you know, Lin,&quot; she swabbed and drew a small vial of blood

from inside an elbow as the assistant held the protesting Lee still. Or <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>was</i> it an elbow? Lee was uncertain if

cats had had elbows. &quot;I've never seen such beautiful chameleon eyes

before.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, I noticed that

right off.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>One minute green, then gold,

then brown.. sometimes they even look hazel. You know, <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>that's </i>what Iím going to call him that! Chameleon!&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I have a friend who's

really into cats though she doesn't have any of her own just now. You ought to

show him to her. Maybe you can enter him in the mixed breed category in the

Santa Barbara Cat Show. It's coming up soon. Anyway, you can leave him here a

few hours and I can<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>get a sperm sample

and check for volume and motility if you'd like to breed him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I'm out of here! </span></i><span style='font-size:

14.0pt'>Lee struggled.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;As for not being all

that tidy, well, non castrated toms sometimes don't take as much time and

effort to groom themselves as fixed cats do. I can do that too for you if you'd

prefer.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>The hell you will!</span></i><span style='font-size:

14.0pt'> Crane spat, claws outstretched.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Fixing him might make

him a bit more sociable too, still...what pretty kitties he could father,&quot;

she rubbed under his chin and put a band new collar on him<span class=GramE>,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>complete</span> with license and temporary

name tag.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Will you stop talking about me like I'm a prize stud?

If you think for one minute that I'd...I'd...and with an animal, you're sadly

mistaken!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Let me think about

it,&quot; Lin said while 'Chameleon' was unceremoniously put into a loaned cat

carrier, but before it was latched shut, he managed to leap out, and dart out

of the examination room. In moments he'd raced out the clinic's door from which

a new client was entering. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Commander Lee Crane, Captain of the submarine

Seaview</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>,&quot; the TV reporter was

saying,&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'> has been reported missing,

postponing the vessel's scheduled departure. Private sources tell us that he

was last seen at a branch jail <span class=GramE>of<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>the</span> Santa Barbara Police Department.'<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The head and shoulders mug

shot showed Crane still in his little black nose and white whiskers.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Arrested for speeding and driving without a license, he was released on

his own recognizance minus his car of course. In his own defense, he had, it is

reported, attended a Halloween party at the Nelson Institute, his costume, a

one piece unitard, like the one shown here from the National Ballet Company,

left little room to store any kind of personal possessions&quot;'<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That's for sure,&quot; </span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>another reporter laughed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;So far there have been no reports of a man seen

lingering anywhere in a cat costume...and now, in other news...&quot;</span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Jiggs, how could you go

to the news?&quot;Nelson paced his office, puffing away, not even noticing the

distinct flavor of his favorite brand of ciggarettes.&quot;He'll be a laughing

stock!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, but at least he'll

be back.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>What was the old saying? Out

of the frying pan and into the fire? Oh, he'd made his escape from the vet's

office, but where was he? He'd completely lost his bearings. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Suddenly the smell of food

assaulted his nostrils and his sharp eyesight finally focused on...

Dillardia's! Now, if he remembered some of the introductions from last night

correctly, Riley's current girlfriend was the diva chef's daughter! Now if he

could only hitch a ride if Antonia was joining the many friends and family

seeing Seaview off...if the boat was still in port that was.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>So cautiously, ever so cautiously, he pussy

footed the corner.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Blast. Double Blast.</span></i><span style='font-size:

14.0pt'> No vehicle was parked at the service entrance.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>But the back door to the

kitchen was open and his stomach rumbled again. He suddenly realized just how

hungry he was, his nostrils opening wide. Maybe he could snag a piece of pasta

or something.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Without warning he found

himself looking up, at least from his point of view, at the biggest meanest

chef in creation. Minutette Dillardia herself! Lee realized he'd better use

whatever resources he had. He'd never known<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>a woman of any age or demeanor able to resist a poor pathetic

animal.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lifting up a paw, he asked or

at least tried to, <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>'Pweeese, can you

spare some linguini?'</i> <span class=GramE>and<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>batted</span> his eyelashes...did cats even have eyelashes? He couldn't

tell.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Of course all she heard were

feline cries.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What's this? You mangy

cat! You want me to get closed down! Get outta' here!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Mangy! I just had a five star grooming!<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>I'm...er...well, anyway, I'm Captain of the

Seaview and I need to get back to my boat, but<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>I need some fuel before I collapse from exhaustion! Now, will you do

your patriotic duty or not?</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> he meowed

and wailed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Whoa...calm down

kitty...&quot;Minutette said as the cat paced back and forth, lifting <span

class=GramE>it's</span> paw now and then for effect. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee had little doubt batting

those damn invisible eyelashes was working. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Are you hurt? Oh you

poor little thing. Look, I gotta' hide you. The Health Inspector's

here...Toni?&quot; she called urgently, &quot;Toni! Come here!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey, it's a kitty

cat!&quot; the young woman smiled, pleasantly surprised.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>know</i> that. Just put it in the broom closet, okay? I'll get a plate

of something for it. And make sure you wash your hands after okay?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Okay okay, cheech. Even

I know that, Mom,&quot; she scooped up the cat. Within minutes Lee was safely

seconded next to brooms, mops, and a vacuum cleaner of questionable age.

Minutette opened the door not many minutes later and sat down a large plate in

front of him. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Years ago Lee wouldn't

haven't objected to Sushi. But he had dealt with enough Fishmen, Lobstermen,

and sea life of various sorts since becoming Seaview's master that he'd rather

just do without, thank you very much. The heaping pile of fish offal, scales,

and the odd eyeball was not in any way appealing. And the aroma wasn't all that

great either. Lee looked at the plate, then up to the chef, then down at the

plate again.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What's the matter? Cats

like fish, don't they?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Actually Mom, it's only

cause' we've spoiled housecats with it. In the wild cats don't touch fish, Lola

says....I've never seen it around here before, Mom. With that collar, he's no

stray... just lost, or abandoned, &quot; Toni knelt down to check his collar.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I'm not lost, just er<span class=GramE>..temporarily</span>

misplaced.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Says here, name's

Chameleon. I'll call the SPCA registration hot line for his owner...how about some

ice cream Sweetie? Last folks didn't finish dessert...&quot;<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh very well, Toni, <span

class=GramE>go</span> ahead,&quot; Minutette said, &quot;but check the

newspaper for any missing cat ads before calling the SPCA. Maybe there's a

reward.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Poor baby...&quot;Toni

scratched his ears, and soon returned with a half melted glass cup of multi

colored Tuti Fruiti, and closed the door before Lee had a chance to<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>consider his options further.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No, I haven't seen any

strays around here,&quot; Lola studied the picture Yvettee and Lin <span

class=GramE>were</span> showing her in the office, &quot;I'm glad you had the

good sense to take this photo, Lin. What beautiful curly fur!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes,&quot; Lin said,

&quot;I'd never seen a cat with wet fur like that; sorry about not rinsing out

all of the soap suds before taking the picture.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's a darling photo!

You should submit it to a card company. I'd buy one... You know, that fur<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>kind of reminds me of Lee's hair...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Any word on him

yet?&quot;Yvette asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No...<span class=GramE>but</span>

the Admiral promised me they'd find him, even though he can't delay sailing

much longer.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm sure they will,

dear,&quot; Lin said, &quot;as for Chameleon, well, he must have been so

frightened by his visit to Yvette, that he just ran away. And he was so...so

strange...&quot;Lin began to share her experiences with the black stray that

sadly was hers no more.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Miss Hale, I...oh,

excuse me,&quot; Nelson had unintentionally interrupted and turned around.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No, wait, please sir.

Dr. Yvettee Abercrombie, Miss Lin Needlemeyer, Admiral Nelson.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;A pleasure.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Any word<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>on Lee yet sir?&quot;Lola asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No. Nothing. This sort

of thing has happened before you know. Heavens, that cat has curly fur!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Only when wet,&quot;

Lola and Lin said in unison.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Harriman,&quot; Jiggs

Starke entered, &quot;You'd better call your search parties back and get a

little rest before shoving off tomorrow. They haven't made any headway and the

cops are getting offended that we're getting in their way.&quot;<br>

&quot;Damn it, Jiggs, where the hell is he?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee wasn't all that keen on

Tuti Fruiti; he'd have preferred Chocolate or Strawberry, but at least it was

palatable and he already felt better for it but as refreshing as it had been,

he really needed to get to NIMR.<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Nothing in the paper

for the past week, Mom,&quot; Toni opened the door and removed the plate.

&quot;What a messy eater...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Minuette knelt down with her

as they used some dishtowels to wipe off some of the sticky mess on Lee's fur.

As soon as they rose, Lee leapt out of the closet.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey, where do you think

you're going?&quot; Toni asked, picking up the struggling cat, &quot;I don't

think he likes to be held Mom. I hope nobody's hurt him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Why not call it a day a

few minutes early and take him home for now. I have a busy schedule tonight and

I don't want to have to keep checking on him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But I have a date!

Stu's only got<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>a little extra time off

because his Captain's AWOL.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lock him in the

bathroom then.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I hope you mean the

cat, Mom,&quot; the girl laughed,&quot; Can't Emily and Daniel babysit

it?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;They're barely old

enough not to need babysitters themselves, but, I suppose they can watch

him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>In minutes the girl had

plunked Lee into a lidded box on<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>the

passenger seat of her black and chrome Corvette convertible and sped off.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey!&quot; she

exclaimed as Crane managed to escape the flimsy box, but instead of cowering in

a corner, or jumping out of the speeding vehicle,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>he rose up on his hind legs, stretched out

his paws on the dashboard and was clearly enjoying the wind in his fur. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I guess you're not a

scardy cat after all,&quot; Antonia nearly sang out.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I was </span></i><u><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>not</span></u><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span><i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>scared. I'm checking to see if you're going

anywhere near NIMR. But this <u>is</u> a great little car,</i> he mewed<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>.<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey Toni!&quot; some

boys about her same age on motorcycles in the next lane waved as she slowed,

waiting for the red traffic light to change.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;When you get a cat?

Looks like<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>a hood ornament.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Hood ornament! The very idea.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Don't

you growl at me cat!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Leave it alone Buzz.

He's not hurting you.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;C'mon.. let's get it

on...I have a place we can be alone.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I told you before to

leave me alone. I'm not interested.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But I am,&quot; he took

her arm, but in<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>a flash Lee had attached

his claws to the bully's arm, his body following, and forced some of the

leftover Tuti Fruiti still on his tongue to foam out the corners of his mouth

as he showed off his feline fangs. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Get it offa' me! Ow!

Ow! That hurts! Oh gawd hurry up, before it bites me...is it rabid or

something?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Toni could have sworn the cat

turned to her with a wink.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Or <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>something</i>,&quot; she said calmly, &quot;You might not want to try

to accost me again Buzz. My Sweetie is very protective, but,&quot; she added,

&quot;you <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>might</i> want to get a rabies shot,

just in case.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>   </span>C'mon sweetheart,

&quot;she gently pulled the cat, who had a hard time figuring out how to

retract his claws, off the bully and put him back on the passenger seat. As the

light changed she sped off, the motorcycles turning the opposite direction.

Fast.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Thanks,&quot; she

laughed, and Lee began to unintentionally purr. &quot;How about that, my own

little attack cat. Sure glad I recognized that Tuti Fruiti...I would have

thought you were rabid myself. Uh oh,&quot; she added as thunder boomed. &quot;We'll

have to hurry before that rain comes down. The top's got some holes in

it.&quot; She pressed the switch for the lid to rise over the cockpit. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Emily! Daniel! Look

what I brought home!&quot; Toni called out as she carried Lee in. Instead of

having sought shelter under the seat from the leaks<span class=GramE>,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Lee</span> had kept his post, scouting as it

were, and if he was honest with himself, enjoying the ride. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh!&quot; the girl,

Emily, 10 or 11, clapped her hands and extended a gentle hand,&quot;you poor

thing.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Crane made sure he didn't say

anything he'd regret in case this innocent child took his meows the wrong way.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Name's Chameleon. Got

lost somehow,&quot; Toni sat him down on the floor, &quot;Mom <span

class=GramE>says<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>you</span> and Danny

get to babysit him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I got better things to

do than look after a stupid wet cat!&quot; Danny, about 13 said sourly. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He's not that wet. Look

guys, I only have a few hours with Stu. And Sweetie here saved me from Buzz. If

he hadn't gotten involved, something awful might have happened. I think you

both are old enough know what I mean. Now, bring me my hair dryer.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Your hair's fine,&quot;

Emily said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;For the cat!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But won't he get all

fuzzy? Like a permanent?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I<span class=GramE>..er</span>...I

don't know...but I think we should get him warmed up a little at least.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He can have some of my

hot chocolate right now,&quot; the younger girl sat her mug in front of Lee,

the marshmallows bobbing up and down. It made him feel a bit seasick, but tried

a lap or two. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He likes it!&quot;

Emily said gleefully and began to pet him in earnest. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee didn't know how, and

right now he didn't care, as his body responded with deep purring which made

the kid even happier.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well,&quot; Daniel

said, &quot;he's not going to get any of my Spaghettios.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Spaghettios? Spaghettios?

Lee's ears perked up. There was something about that canned food that reminded

him of something....of course. Now <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>if<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span></i>it was one of those special alphabet

versions.... Lee bounded away from the mug and plunked himself on the top of

the living room's coffee table where Danny's meal lay.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Aha!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee started using his paws to

sort through the alphabet mini letters..<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey stop that!&quot;

Danny<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>pushed Lee off the coffee table. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'll get you some

tuna,&quot; Emily retreated to the kitchen, &quot;Come on kitty...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Perhaps surrender <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>was</i> indicated in this case, the kids

wouldn't catch on anyway...<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Certainly the can of tuna

wasn't bad, just missing something. Like a couple of slices of rye bread,

lettuce, tomato, mayo....<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Now let's see if there's anything I can find out on

the news about Seaview's sailing...Nelson's sure to have men searching for

me...'' </span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>he returned to the living

room and batted the remote control in Daniel's hand.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey Toni?&quot; Danny

yelled, &quot;Your cat's acting weird.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Deal with it!&quot; she

called from her bedroom. &quot;Did you dry him off?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Do it yourself! Come

get the stupid cat! He's bugging me!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The doorbell rang. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Cheech!&quot; the boy

rose and huffed over to open the door revealing the red haired blue eyed

All-American boy next door, his vintage Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle with

sidecar leaning dangerously on an equally vintage kick stand.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Riley! I've never been so glad to see anyone in my

life before! </span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee jumped off the couch

and ran around and around the seaman, meowing feverishly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey, I didn't know you

had a cat. What's the matter with it?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>It's me! It's me! C'mon Riley open your eyes! You've

seen me as a cat before!&quot;</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Lee

batted Riley's legs.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm sorry,&quot; Toni

arrived, changed into a nice dress and heels, slightly out of breath, picking

the protesting Crane up, &quot;he's just trying to protect me...it's a long

story.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, Toni,&quot; Riley

began, &quot; I tried calling earlier but I only just got back from one of the

search parties...do you mind if we just get some pizza maybe? The Admiral's

really upset, the XO's ready to blow a gasket and the Chief's gone

ballistic...I just don't think I can enjoy a real restaurant or bar... I'm

awful worried about the Skip.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>But it's me! It's meow! Uh oh...Hey<span class=GramE>!Wait</span>

a minute! </span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was suddenly aware that

Danny hadn't finished all the Spaghettios. Quick as a flash he was upon them

again, searching for the letters with his nose and paws which might just prove

to the crewman who he was.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Please Stu, Look at the letters will you! Look at me!

I'm desperate! </span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>he yowled.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He's kind of

weird,&quot; Toni sighed. &quot;C'mon Chameleon, lets get you out of the way if

you can't behave,&quot; she took Lee to her bedroom and locked him in. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nobody noticed the L-E- that

Crane had managed to spell out.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;If Captain Crane is

alive, he'll find a way to get in touch, won't he?&quot; Toni asked as they

enjoyed their pizza at the kitchen table.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He knows too much. What

if he's been kidnapped,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>bound and

gagged, and tortured or...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Stu, C'mon.. you're

probably just imagining things.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But he's just...<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>vanished</i>.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Antionia's bedroom was more

typical of a teenager than a young woman, but considering she still lived at

home it wasn't all that surprising.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Lee

almost winced at the pink canopied bed, fluffy pink pillows, etc. It wasn't

that he disliked pink, but all over the place like this it was a bit

nauseating. But the fates had been kind. Over there, just visible from under

the heaps of clothes a chair beckoned, right under an open window.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey Stu, you're back

early,&quot; the NIMR guard said later that night, &quot;You don't have to be

here till morning. So, have a good time? &quot; the guard waved the crewman to

the small vehicle parking area.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Just great,&quot; he

answered, sarcasm dripping from his tone, &quot;all she could talk about was

her stupid cat! Then he ran away, right out from under her nose. Said he must

have felt bad vibes from me. Called him Sweetie! Sweetie! That's <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>my</i> name! &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Suddenly Lee leapt out from

under the spare helmet in the sidecar and ran toward the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName

w:st="on">Administration</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Building</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey! Well, <span

class=GramE>that's<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>just</span> swell,

now he stows away in my bike!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Calm down, don't have a

cow.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Name's Chameleon. Toni

was just looking after it till they could find it's owner.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, he can't have

gone far. 'Sides I know just how to lure a cat,&quot; he clicked the Food

Services Dept., &quot;Hey Gus? You got any raw fish, yeah, scraps are fine...

&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Charts and charts of charts

littered every conceivable space in Nelson's office as his<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>fevered smoking compelled Jiggs to open up

the office balcony to help clear a little air.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Sorry,&quot; Nelson

joined him.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Harry...about

Crane...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I know...I know... damn

ONI. They won't aaaa aaachoo,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>admit

anything.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I thought you got rid

of that cold.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Not a cold. Doc said it

was an overload of...aaa...aaa.acchoo, histamines...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>There was a sudden movement

in the heavy vines intertwined with<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>the

wrought iron balustrade on the 2nd floor. Lee loosed his hold on the vines and

emerged onto the balcony. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Finally!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey!'Starke boomed, as <span

class=GramE>the<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>cat</span> ran into the

office and jumped onto Nelson's desk.&quot;Get your hairy butt off of

Harriman's desk!&quot; he picked up the struggling hissing feline.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Easy Jiggs, it's just a

cat,&quot; Nelson pressed the intercom, &quot;Security? Nelson. We have an

intruder here. No, nothing serious. Just aah<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>aaachoo pussyfooting around,&quot; he laughed, &quot;It's a cat. What? Why

yes, it's coal black. Collar? Yes,&quot; Nelson reached for the tag,&quot; yes

that's it all right.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Check with Riley

for his girlfriend's<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>number.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;And hurry it up!&quot;

Jiggs added before Nelson ended the call.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Settle down,

Jiggs,&quot;Nelson took the cat from him, &quot;That goes for you too Tiger. I

mean Chameleon; gads what an awful name for a strapping fellow like you. That's

better...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Great Caesar's Ghost, I

think it likes you!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm kind of surprised

myself. I've never been partial to...aaa..aaaaaachhoo...to cats. &quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Quick as a flash Lee used the

lesser grip to jump free and onto the desk again, and began to pat the computer

keyboard.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh no you don't,

buster, &quot; Nelson picked him up, &quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Bad</i>

kitty. This is highly sophisticated piece of technology. Not something to play

with...see? Look at what you did,&quot; he pressed the intercom again,

&quot;Communications? Get me Chip Morton. My personal computer's a

aaachoo...acting up.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>For Pete's sake, give me a friggin' chance to finish

will you?</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Lee meowed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You sure you didn't

just press the wrong button again, sir?&quot; a voice hesitated.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You don't question

orders sailor, you obey them!&quot; Starke bellowed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Right away sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I keep telling you that

you need to attend a computer class,&quot; Jiggs sat down in the comfortable

lounge chair, while Nelson maintained his grip on Lee.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>He's right Admiral. And while we're on the subject,

you really shouldn't use Seaview's computer for the odds on winning the Lottery

or the Santa Anita horse race either. Blew a fuse that time.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Noisy fellow aaa

aaachoo! Aren't you?&quot; Nelson laughed, &quot;Doc said he was sure I wasn't

allergic to cats or dogs...but I think he may have been mistaken.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You wanted to see

me?&quot; Morton ducked into Nelson's office a few minutes later,&quot; Hey,

it's a cat.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Brilliant powers of

observation Mr. Morton,&quot; Starke snorted. &quot;Now, fix Harry's computer.&quot;

<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What's wrong with it?<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>had </i>it tuned to the NCIS director's office for any updates on Lee,

now that they're involved,&quot; Nelson said, &quot;Now it's nothing but a

blank blue screen, except for that little code on it. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;If I didn't know any

better it almost looks like the old DOS system...but that's Word, that's a word

processing system but the toolbar's not showing...never mind. You lost your

connection to NCIS. When did you get a cat, sir?&quot; Chip asked as he tried

to figure out the I- M-L-E-E on the screen.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>I</i> aa aaachoo! didn't.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The stupid cat popped

in here like it owned the place and decided to play with Harriman's toys,&quot;

Starke explained, &quot;if it's ruined his computer....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Couldn't have done

that, sir,&quot; Chip scratched behind Lee's ears, &quot;could you. You know,

you're a pretty kitty. I bet Lola would like you. Looks like a panther, doesn't

it, sir. Well, that's<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>no code I'm

familiar with. Makes no sense that I<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>can

see either, unless the cat actually meant to type something in felinese, &quot;

Morton joked. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I did<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>you

idiot!</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>I'm Lee, Chip! I'm Lee! And I would have finished if I hadn't been

interrupted! And I'm <u>not</u> a pretty kitty!<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Is it talking back to

me?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Seems<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>like it,&quot; Nelson laughed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Security arrived with an

animal carrier and Starke waved them in.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;We'll take the cat off

your hands.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>No!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Whoa Tiger!&quot;

Nelson warned as Lee hissed, fur rising.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Nobody's going to hurt

you,&quot; security said, &quot;Except maybe Riley.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Riley?</i>&quot; Chip asked as the screen returned to NCIS.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Seems this kitty cat kind

of stowed away in Riley's sidecar. Antonia Dillardia was watching it till she

could get the SPCA to find it's real owner. By the way we found out who it

belongs to. One of Miss Hale's vet's friends. A Lin Needlemeyer. Well, I'd

better hurry. You know darn well sir that Hell hath no fury like a woman

scorned or if her kitty cat's absconded. I remember when Miss Lola...well,

never mind that now sir....er...if you'll hand him over?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Wait a minute, I've

been thinking. Call Miss Hale and see if her friend can pick him up at her

place.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>You'd like that over a stay in

the kennels wouldn't you, Tiger? No barking dogs to upset you,&quot; Nelson

handed Lee over to the man, struggling fiercely.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I guess not,&quot;

Nelson chuckled as Lee found himself deposited in the carrier, but<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>not before he heard Chip asking Nelson

if<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Seaview's mission could be postponed

a little longer.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No Chip, I've afraid

we've delayed long enough. By order of the SecNav we've wasted enough

time.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Trying to find Lee is

not wasting time!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;We know that

Morton,&quot; Starke said. &quot;But for this mission Seaview's been

specifically requested by the Navy to test out this new software.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Which is just plain

stupid, if you ask me. Any boat can babysit that thing they installed to listen

and identify vessel signature noises. Why us?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Payback of some kind

I'm sure,&quot; Nelson said. &quot;I tried Chip, I really did. You know I don't

like leaving things as they are. But orders are unfortunately, orders. <span

class=GramE>Captain or no Captain.&quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What a pwitty wittle

kitty...&quot; the bathrobe clad Lola opened the carrier as the man grinned at

her appreciatively.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lola, I love you</span></i><span style='font-size:

14.0pt'>, Lee meowed, <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>but will you please

stop using baby talk?We've discussed this before. And as for you Mister,</i> he

hissed with a backward glance, <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>quit

looking at my girl like that!<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh, yeah, by the way,

Riley said the cat's a bit weird.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, Lin told me about

Chameleon's little idiosyncrasies.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The Admiral calls him

Tiger.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, I guess you have

middle name, Chameleon. Chameleon Tiger Needlemeyer, sounds just fine for the

show.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh yeah. Compliments of

the cafeteria,&quot; he handed Lola a huge plastic container, &quot;Lots of

leftover fish stuff.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh, he's going to be in

Cat Heaven!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>More like<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Cat

Hell.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Stu also said he likes

Spaghettios,&quot; the man laughed, and handed a few cans over. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, you'd better get

back to the Institute, thanks for bringing him over. Now, let's take a better

look at you, Chameleon. Name's right on for a cat with such magical eyes...just

like Lee's,&quot; she sighed sadly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>That's because I <u>am</u> Lee!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What's he trying to pat

his paws at?&quot;<span class=GramE>the</span> man asked from the door,

&quot;Don't you worry Miss Hale, I'm sure they'll find the Skipper soon.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I'm right here! I'm right here! And I need your help!

Lola help me! Help me!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Poor baby...calm down,

no one's going to hurt you... &quot;she stroked him.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>'I know that!'</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>

he moved away as if snubbing her.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You know, he actually

rode in <span class=GramE>a<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>cycle</span>

sidecar and climbed up the bushes to get into the Admiral's<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>office. <span class=GramE>Probably why he's

so scruffy.&quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lee's scruffy at times

too, &quot;Lola mused. &quot;Oh God I'm so scared for him...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Now now...do you want

me to call the Admiral or maybe Mr. Morton to come sit with you awhile?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No. Thank you. I'm sure

they have enough on their minds.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Good night ma'am.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Night.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I don't have to tell

you,&quot; Nelson briefed his <span class=GramE>officers<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>later</span> that evening in the conference

room, &quot;that I expect the same degree of professionalism and excellence

that I've come to expect from you under Captain Crane's command. I'm sure you

won't disappoint me or the Navy. It will be a rather simple mission. All we

have to do apparently is log the various vessels the special array will

identify. Commander Morton, of course has assumed the position of<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Acting Captain and will remain so until

further notice. Lt. O'Brien will be Acting XO for this mission. Any

questions?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Will we be on radio

silence?&quot; <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sparks</st1:place></st1:City>

asked. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No need to be. This is

not a fox and hounds exercise. We're really nothing more than a cargo ship this

cruise.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'd like to request

permission to remain behind sir,&quot; Jamison said, &quot;in case Lee will be

needing my professional help when he's found. I'm sure Frank Granger will be

able to manage...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Very well, Doc. I have

no objection to the senior Corpsman in your stead. You're excused.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Me

too!&quot;</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Sharkey said, &quot;I

mean, well, what if Doc needs help keeping the Skip in the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName

w:st="on">Med</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Center</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>...you

know how good he is at escaping and...<span class=GramE>oh</span> gawd sir, do

we <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>gotta' </i>go on this mission.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Stow that kind of talk

Chief,&quot; Morton ordered. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm sorry

Sharkey,&quot; Nelson said, &quot;I realize how you feel. How we <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>all</i> feel; but I need you aboard Seaview.

&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Aye sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Jiggs, you sure you

won't come along after all? It's really your place as Commander of Submarines

Pacific...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Someone's got to put

the fear of God into Crane when he gets back.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>For a moment Nelson wasn't

sure if his old friend was joking or meant business.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Very well. We'll be

getting underway tomorrow morning at 0400. Good night...Chip? How about joining

Jiggs and <span class=GramE>I</span> for a nightcap?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Thank you sir, I'd be

delighted.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>*** <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Though the Spaghettios had

been tasty, there wasn't a pasta letter in this variety,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>so convincing Lola of his identity that way

was impossible. She hadn't even paid attention to him when he'd tapped various

newspaper sections as she'd cut them for litter. Words and phrases such

'Captain' of 'Seaview',' Missing' or 'Crane'. But what had been most irritating

was how she treated him like a<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>kitten,

er...baby. At least it wouldn't be too long of a walk from her apartment back

to NIMR, for come hell or high water, he was going to be aboard Seaview when

she sailed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>There had been a saying his

Mother had told him years ago that 'When the Lord closes a door, He opens a

window'. Well, this time it was the other way around and Lee was ready for it

as Lola greeted Lin at the door. Crane dashed out under their legs and into the

night, running hard and fast. He couldn't believe his luck, for seemingly

waiting for him was old # 7, one of the few bus's which made stops almost on

NIMR's doorstep. It was almost 2300 and this was the last ride of the

evening.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>He even recognized some of the

night shift's custodial crew chatting among themselves as they boarded, and

took refuge in one of the ladies' tote bags unawares before it was whisked up

with her into the vehicle. Trying to still his heavy breathing<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>he had no desire to be discovered by yet

another matron with maternal instincts.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>Fortunately the bus doors had closed before Lola and Lin, lagging far

behind, were seen or heard.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You've got to be

kidding,&quot; Morton, replied on Nelson's phone,&quot; All right, we'll leave

it in your hands. Out.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Now

what?&quot;</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Nelson asked from the

balcony, Jigg's already having retired to the guest quarters elsewhere on the

grounds.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Chameleon got loose

again. Caught a bus.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>what</i>?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Caught a bus. Number 7,

<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>but</i>...<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Go on...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Apparently he'd gotten

into one of our<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>night worker's tote

bags, hid there for the duration.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Jumped

out after she'd arrived in the ladies locker room. You know, I think someone

needs to have a long talk with that cat,&quot; Morton laughed then continued,

&quot;Then it ran down the corridor and out the automatic doors.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Seems to have disappeared into thin air.

Security will keep a look out, but a black cat at night? In any case, I'd hate

to be in it's shoes, I mean paws, <span class=GramE>if<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>those</span> ladies get their hands on

him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No kidding? A <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>bus</i>? That is one weird cat!&quot;

Patterson chuckled as the boat began to slowly fill up with personnel. It was

far easier for the single men to stay over the night before an early departure.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, I don't mind if

they never find him,&quot; Riley pouted.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yeah, yeah, quit

harping on it will you,&quot; Ski checked his watch. &quot;Whatever Toni calls

it, it's a <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>cat</i>, you're her man. And

there ain't no equal in that respect. So don't worry about it, kid okay?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Okay. Thanks Ski.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>*** <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was glad of his black

coat. It made blending into the night so much easier. He was glad supplies had

already been loaded. No floodlights and busy crew to elude. Secrecy was

essential in that he didn't want to risk being discovered prior to sailing or

until after Seaview was was well away from the point of no return. He did not

want to risk being sent home even by the Flying Sub before he could convince

Nelson who he was.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Choosing an opportune

moment he stowed himself in O'Brien's duffle bag while the Acting XO was saying

goodnight to his bride before boarding. Lee knew Frank O'Brien would be too

busy for sleep what with the remainder of the time before sailing<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>to properly stow his gear, so a quick getaway

from the relative safety of the Lt.'s cabin would be simple. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>In the closed animal clinic,

the fax machine was emitting a message. Meyerling Labs had somehow mixed up the

last sample sent. The sample from one feline, Chameleon by name, was missing.

The blood from his <span class=GramE>sample,</span> was human.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Stretching his muscles, Lee

was glad that he could use the top bunk to pull the ventilation <span

class=GramE>grill<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>open</span> and just

walk into the shaft. He had to smile to himself. Could cats smile? O'Brien had

simply tossed his duffle onto his bunk while <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place

w:st="on">Sparks</st1:place></st1:City>, his roommate's, was already stowed,

the man probably catching a bite to eat in the Wardroom with the other night

owls. Lee hurried along the winding shafts, assuring himself that his cabin was

probably unoccupied though it was Chip's right to use it as Acting Captain. He

really needed to use the head. And this time, he promised himself, he wouldn't

fall in.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Aaachoo!&quot; Nelson

grabbed a tissue as he spent the next few minutes in a sneezing fit. He and

Morton had opted to board Seaview early themselves and were discussing their

missing friend and team-mate when Nelson cocked an ear<span class=GramE>,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>&quot;</span>Did you hear something? It came

from the ventilation shaft...hope it's not rats. Most boats have an infestation

now and then...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Not</i> Seaview,&quot; Morton assured him, &quot;The Skipper would

glare the fleas off of them...damn, I hope he's okay, sir...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Now was not the time or place

to reveal himself and sadly Lee continued his journey toward the bend in the

vent and to his cabin. He'd been right about Chip, for the cabin was empty of

any new occupant save Lee.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>After his er...business, Lee

hopped up onto the sink and looked at himself in the mirror. He was a sorry

sight if ever there was one. His fur was matted and dusty again. He grimaced at

what Lin would say if she saw him like this after all her hard work. Of course,

he'd purposely managed to contort himself enough to get the damn collar off his

neck, leaving it in the vent. The less they knew about him right now, the

better. An ordinary cat, if discovered, would give him more leeway, than if

hustled back to a certain lady.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>He was

reminded by his tired eyes and series of yawns that he'd been without sleep for

more hours than even Doc would approve of. But he had work to do and was soon

tapping some inquiries into his personal computer. Before he knew it, he'd

fallen asleep on the keyboard. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm not sure how it

could have happened, <span class=GramE>&quot; Will</span> Jamison checked the

report Dr. Abercrombie had sent with Lola and Lin the next morning. &quot;That

lab's never had a mix up like this before. I wonder <span class=GramE>who's</span>

blood it is...&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I don't care about

that!&quot; Lin pouted, &quot;I want to know that my baby's okay! He could have

fallen into one of your aquariums, drowned or been eaten by one of your damn

trained sharks <span class=GramE>or<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>dolphins</span> or something.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lin~&quot; Lola tried

to calm her down.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm sorry. It's

just...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I know. But cats have a

great homing instinct. He's probably on his way to your home right now.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But he's only just met

me! It was an accident that he used my beach house for shelter. He didn't pick

me. I picked <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>him</i>! <span class=GramE>There

's</span><span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>a difference. Yvette said he

was probably ferral...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'll have maintenance

make a sweep of the labs,&quot;Jamison said, &quot;the lab-rats might be

tempting.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Eeeyooo.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You okay Lola?&quot;

Doc asked after a moment, &quot;I know it's hard about Lee...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I know Will. It's

just...I can't help feeling it's all my fault...he wouldnít have been pulled

over if he hadn't been wearing that stupid costume...I mean...we wouldn't have

been speeding home...I wouldn't have had his wallet in my purse...we...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's not your

fault...it just happened. Okay?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Okay.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey!&quot;Cookie

glowered at the men breakfasting in the Crew's Mess, Seaview well underway,

&quot;Who's been in my galley?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Huh?&quot;Ski looked up,

as bewildered as the rest.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Somebody's been

scrounging around. Got into my peanut butter cookies! Crumbs and<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>bits of cookie dough<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>all over the counter and the floor.. <span

class=GramE>and</span> then there's spilt water and milk... When I find out <span

class=GramE>who</span>...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Probably Morton,&quot;Ski

said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He ain't that sloppy,

no matter how <span class=GramE>hungry<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>he</span> gets.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Maybe <span

class=GramE>it's</span> rats,&quot; Riley said, &quot;I heard Mr. Morton

talking to O'Brien about vermin control when we get home.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee yawned, glad to be back

in his cabin<span class=GramE>,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>still</span>

smacking his lips; he resolved never to eat raw peanut butter cookie dough

again. He could swear some of it was still stuck to his tongue, even though the

baked cookies themselves had helped to scrape some of it off.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Of course, there was no way he'd been able to

open the fridge, and had had to do with water from the tap until he discovered

the measuring cup half full of milk. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Meanwhile, his computer had

continued to search out any information that might determine what, if any,

blame for his condition could be made to Mirabelle Darcy. So far, there was

nothing. Turning the computer off, he leaped from the desk to the ventilation

shaft again to spy on<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Seaview's progress

from the Control Room. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>*** <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It could be something

you're exposed to ashore and aboard, &quot;Granger was saying to Nelson in <st1:place

w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Sick</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Bay</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>,&quot;perhaps

a new cleaning solvent, a different soap or shampoo even. Maybe something we

all use. Companies do change their formulas.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well that's just

great!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;There is a shot I can

give you that might help reduce the sneezing temporarily, but I guess Doc will

order a more involved test when we get back.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I see.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;In the meantime, why

don't I have some men run a checklist on everyone's personal toiletries and our

cleaning <span class=GramE>supplies,</span> see if there's anything new or

different.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Good idea, in the

meantime, <span class=GramE>I<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>heard</span>

something scampering around last night. What's the current protocol if we have

a rodent infestation?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Don't get bitten.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Very

funny.&quot;</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, for now, don't

eat or drink anything that's been left unattended.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That leaves Captain Crane's,

Mr. Morton's, and Mr. O'Brien's stuff,&quot; Patterson was saying as the men

entered the Captain's Cabin.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Wouldnít it be weird if

the Admiral was allergic to his own after shave?&quot; Riley asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He'd be sneezing

constantly then,&quot; Ski said, &quot;No, has to be somebody else's

stuff.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey guys?&quot; Pat

interrupted from the head<span class=GramE>,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>&quot;</span>Over here. Look at this,&quot; he ran a finger over the

loose black fur on the edge and in the sink.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Uh oh,&quot; Riley

pointed toward the main cabin area, &quot;over there!<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>The vent's open.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That's got to<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>be one big rat...&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>*** <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;We'll be at these

coordinates in about three hours, Mr...er...Captain,&quot; O'Brian reported to

Chip.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;There's only one

Captain of Seaview and his name's Lee Crane.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I still think we should

have pulled out of the exercise. It's not a Seaview essential after

all...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You heard the Admiral,

the Navy won't take no for an answer.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Excuse me sir,&quot;

Kowalski reported to the officers, extending his hand,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>&quot;We found this in the Skipper's

cabin.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What is that? <span

class=GramE><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Fur</i>?&quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Long black strands of

it all over the place. In the sink, on the toilet, on the desk, on the

computer. And the ventilation shaft was wide open. I hate to say it, but I

think we have rats sir. Big ones.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Take those samples to

Sickbay,&quot; Morton ordered, &quot;Granger may be able to identify just what

kind of rodent we're dealing with. Sharkey, <span class=GramE>get a party</span>

to check all essential wiring...any sign of nibbling sing out. O'Brien, get a

team to sweep the vents. Place some traps.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Right away.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er. Mr. Morton?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes Patterson?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Last night, Cookie told

us somebody had gotten into the galley, made a <span class=GramE>mess,</span>

crumbs all over the place.Must've eaten cookies...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Why wasn't I informed?<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ski thought it was

you.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Kowalski!&quot;</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Sharkey scolded.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Sorry sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Anyone exhibiting signs

<span class=GramE>of<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>gastrointestinal</span>

distress report to Sickbay,&quot; Morton clicked the mike,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>&quot;Anyone who ate any cookies last night

report as well. And if you see any rats, mice, whatever, <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>don't</i> provoke them. They can carry diseases we're not prepared

for.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Oh swell</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>,

Lee thought from his hiding place. <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>They

think I'm a rat.</i> He'd been aboard boats with rat infestations before and

the ensuing protocols were no picnic. Well, he wasn't going to put Seaview and

his crew through that, even if it meant they'd probably put him ashore early.

He'd have to figure out another way to speak to Nelson. But the grill was shut

fast. He butted his head and paws against it to loosen it to no avail.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Must be one in <span

class=GramE>there<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>now</span>!&quot;

Riley said, &quot;I see <span class=GramE>it's</span> eyes. Man, like it's

huge!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Morton took out a gun from

the arms locker and cocked it.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Uh oh...wrong time and place...</span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Lee scampered off as fast as he could out of range.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Morton opened the grille and

fired toward the black heap.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Ow!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>a cat!&quot;</i> Ski exclaimed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I can <span

class=GramE>tell<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>that</span>. Get in

there after it,&quot; Morton ordered, &quot;But be careful. <span class=GramE>Could

be rabid.&quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I think you only winged

him sir,&quot; Ski was heard moments later, as he pulled on Crane. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Be careful, it could be

rabid,&quot; Morton said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Moments later Ski emerged,

cat in hand, <span class=GramE>it's</span> shoulder bleeding.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Did you have to use a gun Chip? Of all the...ow<span

class=GramE>..take</span> it easy Ski!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I think he's giving you

both a tongue lashing,&quot; Sharkey said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Can't say I blame

him,&quot; Morton said ruefully. &quot;Get it to sickbay. Riley, you go with

him. I'll join you shortly after I report to Nelson.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>****<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Is it Chameleon?&quot;

Nelson asked as Granger treated the bullet crease in Sickbay. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, he's black all <span

class=GramE>right,</span> sir,&quot; Riley said, &quot;But Chameleon had a

collar. And he acted weird, sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, taking refuge in

the Captain's cabin, using the head, and apparently sleeping on his keyboard

certainly meets that criteria,&quot; Morton said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Ow!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Sorry, kitty,&quot; the

Corpsman said as he patted the wound with antiseptic cream and placed a bandage

over the small shaved area. &quot;He'll be all right. Actually he's been pretty

good considering. Wish the Skipper could be as good a patient...&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You know buster,&quot;

Nelson picked Lee up gently, &quot;you are in <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>big </i>trouble. Nearly gave us the heebie jeebies thinking you were a

rat. Aaachoo! As it is...I guess you're along for the duration.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Where do you want us to

put him?&quot;Ski asked. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;My cabin.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Your</i> cabin sir?&quot; Morton asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>my</i> cabin. I won't have it fouling up

Crane's.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Hmpf.</span></i></span><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, actually,&quot; Ski

said, &quot;it uh wasn't all <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>that</i>

bad. I mean, he just probably wasn't strong enough to flush the toilet...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Even so, &quot; Morton

said,&quot; what's to keep it from getting into things, even the vent

again.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>He's a danger to himself and to

Seaview. See to it that a cage of some sort is made.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Now wait a minute!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Good idea,&quot; Nelson

agreed, &quot;In the meantime,&quot; he added to the creature in his arms,

&quot;let's see if we can prove your identity, hmm, Tiger?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;How sir?&quot;Granger

asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, Chameleon's

supposed to be curly when wet, isn't he? Test it out.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Granger quickly soaked a

washcloth and dribbled it on Lee's lower back. The fur curled wildly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You know, that almost

looks just like the Skipper's hair!&quot; Ski exclaimed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>That's because I <u>am </u>him!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Have Cookie send

something down to my cabin,&quot; Nelson said, &quot;I'm famished. Something

for our cat burglar too.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I didn't steal anything! And I'm not really hungry

Admiral...but thanks for the offer. I'd rather have a little chat with you in

private. Perhaps using<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span><u>your</u>

computer?<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'd swear that cat's

trying to talk with you, sir,&quot; Granger laughed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You sir,&quot; Nelson

sat the cat down on the deck of his cabin after he'd closed the door, &quot;

have been ah aaachoo, a great deal of trouble.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>You don't know the half of it Admiral</span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>, Lee jumped onto the desk and pounced on the

computer's keyboard.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh no you don't,&quot;

Nelson picked him off the desk. &quot;What is it about you and computers? Nice

and warm, is that it?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>No that's not it, if you'd just let me get a word in

edgewise...damn thing's taking time to turn on..is it unplugged?<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, Chameleon,&quot;

Nelson said, sitting on the bunk, &quot;even if it turns out that you're <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>not</i> Lin's pet, I'll see if any of the

staff at the Institute would care to adopt you. I would of course, if I didn't

live alone and am gone too much. You're an interesting specimen.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I'm not a specimen, I'm Lee! I'm Lee! Now stop petting

me and put me down so I can prove it to you! Er...a little lower...mmm...I've

been longing to get<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>that itch

scratched...thanks...<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;So you <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>can</i> purr.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>No, no no..I didn't mean it...put me down Harry,

please!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>His meows were interrupted

when Cookie arrived at the open door with a tray of food.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ah, and what do we have

here?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ham sandwich, mug <span

class=GramE>of<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>soup</span> for you, sir,

and a can of tuna for the kitty. We don't have any Spaghettios...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Close the door, Cookie.

Let's see if he's hungry,&quot; Nelson let him go.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Instead of choosing the can

of tuna on the deck, Lee chose Nelson's desk and began to devour the sandwich.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Discriminating fellow

aren't you,&quot; Nelson laughed and took a sip of his soup. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That soup okay,

sir?&quot; Cookie asked, &quot;Stowed by mistake, from the Day Care.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's fine Cookie, I

quite enjoyed Alphabet soup as a boy.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Alphabet soup? </span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee's

ears perked up. Leaving the sandwich the cat dangled claws in the mug hoping to

snag some<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>letters of interest.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Now <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>that's</i> weird. I'll bring you another

sandwich and more soup now that your new roomie's helped himself to it. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, thank you,&quot; Nelson

mused, looking at the cat with interest. &quot;Rather intent on playing with

his food isn't he?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yeah, kinda' like he

did with those Spaghettio's at Toni's, like Riley said. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Excuse me sir,&quot;

Granger knocked, peering in at Nelson's leave to come in. &quot;The cat's fur

matches the sample Ski found in the Skipper's cabin... DARC? If I didn't know

better I'd say it's trying to spell something...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Just gibberish. Must be

the size of the pasta bits that intrieges him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Darcy! Darcy, Mirabelle Darcy! C'mon use your brain

Admiral! </span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee patted the pasta on the

desk.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Is it yelling at you

sir?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Probably wants more

letters to play with...Antonia Dillardia was keeping it awhile, probably fed

him a bit too much Italian.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>They gave me raw fish offal and Tuti Fruit Ice Cream!

C'mon Harry, would you please stop thinking of me as a cat and as an

intelligent human being instead? And if you'll notice, I'm not eating it!<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Y, I need a Y! </span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee dangled claw after claw to try to pull out another

letter..<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, if we're going to

be keeping each other company, Tiger, sorry, <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Chameleon</i>,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>I suppose I'll

need to make you some toys,&quot; Nelson rose and pulled out a small something

from under his bunk, and waved it in front of him, &quot;There, how aaachoo!

About that?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Oh gawd, Harry. You can't expect me to play with a

sock ?</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Crane looked at him aghast.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I guess not.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;They've made the

cage,&quot; Chip entered, &quot;Doesn't seem to have eaten much...&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Riley, behind him, sat the

cage down in a corner.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That cage <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>is</i> large enough for <span class=GramE>him<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>to</span> be comfortable isn't it?&quot;

Nelson asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Plywood floor with a

couple of thick towels,&quot; Morton said, &quot;wire mesh frame, and a pan of

dry oatmeal.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Oatmeal?&quot;<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Well

yes sir. Has to be flushable kitty litter. Biodegradable...dried oatmeal's<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>perfect. Get it..purr fect?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>That's not funny Chip....Y!</span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Lee proudly<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>snagged the letter and pushed it to join the others, <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Look! Look! Will you look!<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Enough of that yelling,

Tiger,&quot; Nelson scooped him up.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>&quot;I have to get back to work and can't have you getting into everything.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>No! No! You<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>don't understand! Admiral! Stop! Harry!Please!!!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>In moments Lee was seconded

to his new home away from home, complete with facilities, water bowl and a dish

of what looked like 'Goldfish'* cheese crackers, courtesy Cookie and a wicked

sense of humor.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was mad. Nothing he had

tried had worked to free himself, but he still had his voice, in a manner of

speaking, and he used it. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Do you hear that?&quot;

Sharkey whispered to O'Brien of the weird echoes down the length of the sub.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What the

dev...&quot;Morton raised an eyebrow.. &quot;Riley! Go quiet that cat down!

&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Why me?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Did you say something

mister?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, who me sir? Uh how

can I stop it sir? Other than drowning it?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nelson raised an eyebrow.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Not that I would

sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Good,

because you've just pulled catsitting duty.Take his mind off things.</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Keep him caged or make sure the door's closed if he

isn't<span class=GramE>,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>but</span> give

him something to occupy himself with. A toy, food, but shut him up,

understood?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Aye sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Let me outta' here! <o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;C'mon kitty, play with

the nice string already!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>No.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Stu?</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Morton sent me to give you a hand...&quot;Ski knelt

down <span class=GramE>beside</span> the rating,&quot; Engineering reports they

can hear him all the way down there.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Tell me about it. Like,

he's possessed or something. I've tried Cookies, ice cream, even Ravioli! All

cats like to play with string, except this one.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Wait...what about the

computer...Mr. Morton said he played with the one in Nelson's office

ashore...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Now you're talking!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No

way, man.</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> You want it to fry the

thing? The computer I <span class=GramE>mean,</span> all that fur...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Okay, let's take him to

the crew's quarters then. Maybe a video will calm it down. How about that

Chameleon? Would puddy tat like to see 'The Cat Creature'? Or maybe 'That Darn

Cat'... or how about Bagheera from 'The Jungle Book'?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Iím not a puddy tat! I don't want to watch a movie, or

compare myself to a black panther! Get me<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>out of here so I can show you I'm me! <o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Wow, he's pissed.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Nah, just having a

hissy fit!&quot; Ski laughed. <span style='color:red'><o:p></o:p></span></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt;color:red'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was frustrated as hell,

still trapped in his cage, too hoarse to holler any more. His cat sitters and

some of the men off watch in the Aft Crew's Quarters were almost finished

watching a new more mature version of 'The Jungle Book', making comments about

Chameleon's 'big brother'. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Stow the sarcasm!<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>And he's </span></i><u><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>not<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'> </i></span></u><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>my big brother...only Harry has that

right and...<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Sounds like he's

choking on a hairball or something,&quot; Sharkey turned, removing the DVD as

the film ended.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Hairball?</span></i></span><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Hairball? I assure you I ...aahhggghhh.

</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee gagged as the matted slobbery fur

came shooting from his esophagus and out his mouth. <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Ptuie!<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><br>

</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Admiral's pet or not, I ain't

cleaning it up after you, Tiger or Chameleon, or whatever the Admiral calls

you,&quot; Riley said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Let's see,&quot;

Sharkey read one of the multi media boxes, 'The Cat Creature'...an Egyptian

Queen is really a cat and metamorphosis's back and forth...good gravy what a

bomb...wait...ooooh., there's a pretty dame in it&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Meredith Baxter

Birney,&quot;Ski <span class=GramE>whistled<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>in</span> appreciation.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Whatever, she's a

dish.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Chief! Chief! That's it! Watch the movie! The same

thing happened to us! Remember Mirabelle Darcy! Put the two together, man! <o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey guys, he's acting

weird, again,&quot; Sharkey said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Just put in a new movie

to clam him up will you Chief? <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Or make him stop

hopping around like a cat on a hot tin roof!...We got <u>that</u> movie? It's a

classic.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>No! No! No! Will you idiots listen to me?<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I think the Admiral was

watching it in his cabin last week...&quot; Ski said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Okay, I'll go

check.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Well, it was time for the

pathetic little kitty <span class=GramE>act</span> again, only Lee never felt

less than acting...<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Er excuse me, fellows, but I'm starting to get

desperate now.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I wish he'd shut

up,&quot; Riley snapped. &quot;I can't think. I'm gonna' beat you at Scrabble

this time Ski.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Scrabble...of course...at last....c'mon guys...let me

out! See sore paw<span class=GramE>..see</span> sore paw.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Granger said he was

okay...maybe he got a sliver...&quot; Ski furrowed his brows. &quot;That cage

got made pretty <span class=GramE>quick</span>. Stu, close the door....I'll

pull him out.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>In moments he'd opened the

cage door, &quot;Here, kitty, kitty, kitty...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>My name is Captain...</span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee argued as the seaman pulled him out and exmined

his paws.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I don't see anything

wrong.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>There will be if you don't let me prove who I am.<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Maybe we should let him

be just <span class=GramE>be</span> awhile,&quot; Ski sat him on the deck.

&quot;Okay Chameleon, is that better?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee jumped up on the Scrabble

board and began to paw through the letters he'd quickly tipped over out of

their containers. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Must think they're

Spaghettio's, stupid cat,&quot; Riley groaned.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I guess...looks kinda

like he's into L's and Ee's....C's, R's, A's, N's<span class=GramE>,<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>uh</span>...guys? Is he spelling what I think

he is?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Another E was proudly placed

at the end of his name and Lee looked up expectantly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Uh...oh...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Get the Chief down

here! Fast,&quot; Ski ordered.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Ski I could kiss you!</span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Lee sighed, and began to scrounge for more letters.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yeah?&quot;</span></span><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Sharkey was closing the Admiral's small DVD/Video

cabinet, &quot;What's so urgent Riley?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The cat...he's...he's

spelling out 'Lee Crane'.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Some

kind of joke, right, kid?&quot;</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No...he's really

spelling stuff! Like that DARCY there by the mug of soup.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Darcy?</i> What? Oh shit! &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;So you mean to tell me,

<span class=GramE>&quot; O'Brien</span> asked as Riley and Sharkey stood before

him in the Control Room, &quot;that Chameleon is actually <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Captain Crane</i>?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes sir,&quot; Ski

said. &quot;He's been trying to talk to us...the spaghettios, the computers,

now Scrabble..&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;This is in very bad

taste!&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Skipper's been changed

into a cat before, sir,&quot; Sharkey said, &quot;Me too. I of all people

shoulda' thought about it...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>In a matter of minutes,

O'Brien had turned the <st1:State w:st="on">Conn</st1:State> over to <st1:place

w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Sparks</st1:City></st1:place>, and crossed his

fingers that he wouldn't be laughed off the boat should he be proved wrong. The

crew often played practical jokes, but never at the expense of the Skipper...it

was unconscionable.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>By the time the Acting XO

arrived in the aft crew's quarters, men crowded around watching in awe as the

cat spelled out answers to their questions with the little wooden squares. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All right, ask it if

it's Captain Crane,&quot; O'Brien ordered Kowalski.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

Why don't

you ask me yourself Lt?</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg">

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee

spelled out.<p>

 

 

 

<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It was the witch,

wasn't it,&quot; Sharkey said,&quot; That's what you were trying to say with

the alphabet soup. About Mirabelle Darcy...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

She <u>may</u>

have had something to do with it. She or her jewels or spellbook or something.

But I checked with the computer. She's still a frog and nothing's missing.

 

</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Wait,&quot; O'Brien

said firmly, stunned, &quot;You men could be moving the squares with strings or

remote controls or something.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

What can I

say to convince you, Frank? Wait, I know. You have a pair of non regulation

shorts with little red hearts on them your bride must have given you. They were

in your duffle bag. That's how I came aboard. I'm sorry if it embarrasses you

but think of how I've felt all this time stuck as a cat.</i>

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh

gawd...er...&quot;O'Brien nearly fainted. &quot;I'd better...er...prepare the

Admiral...&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>As he clicked the PA to

request meeting the Admiral and Morton in the Observation Nose, he turned

toward Crane, &quot;After you Skipper,&quot; he motioned towards the door.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Any idea why O'Brien

asked to meet us?&quot; Morton wondered.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Your guess is as good

as mine.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Everyone's been on edge

this cruise. And we all know why.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Chip, I had no choice

but to sail. The Sec Nav...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What is that cat doing

back here?&quot; Morton said of Lee, whose tail was held high as he led the

small group forward.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>As befitted his rank, O'Brien

was succinct and to the point. The Skipper was no longer missing and had been

under their noses all along. Only as a cat. Chameleon in fact. Straight from

the source.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh, you've been well

and truly had!&quot; Morton said. &quot;I'll speak with<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>the crew Admiral.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>I don't know how they did it, but...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That's what I thought

at first,&quot; O'Brien interrupted, &quot;but...the cat, er, the Skipper, <span

class=GramE>well,</span> he knew something nobody else <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>could </i>have known. Er...okay Riley, set up the Scrabble board on the

table.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee hopped up and began to

pull at some of the letters. Then looked at Nelson expectantly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

It's me, Harry.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Pretty good trick, <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>how</i> are you doing it?&quot; Nelson

asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;And the Skipper never

calls the Admiral Harry,&quot; Morton added.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er...actually,&quot;

Nelson began, &quot;he does, sometimes...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

 

I know it's

difficult to accept, but you have to help me.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm not

sure...&quot;Nelson mused, as Morton looked more closely at Chameleon.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's happened before if

you remember, sir...&quot;O'Brien said. &quot;When the Chief got turned into a

dog and the Captain into a cat, only this time...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, the Skipper

checked on that. Mirabelle Darcy is still a frog since one of her spells

backfired, and none of her stuff's missing.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Which can only means

that<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>he <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>hasn't </i>been bewitched again and this is still some kind of bad

joke,&quot; Morton said firmly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>You <u>have</u> to believe me! </span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee hissed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Sorry, I'm

still not sure how that happens. Please Admiral...Harry... You're my only hope.</i>

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All right, all

right,&quot; Nelson said, his nerves frayed, &quot;for the sake of argument,

tell me something only you and <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>I</i>

know. Not Chip, not O'Brien, not one member of the crew or anyone at NIMR. Not

the Navy, not ONI, not the SecNav, not the President. And not even Edith.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The cat pondered a moment,

headed to the massive computer, pawed in a few numbers and then waited for

Nelson to read the printout.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nelson turned ashen and

crumpled the paper into his pocket.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Is it him?&quot; Morton

asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;God help us, it

is.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee returned to the plot

table, jumped up and spelled out <img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know

about either of you, but could sure use a drink. And make it a double.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hold it, &quot;Morton

said, &quot;you're still a cat. It could hurt you. At least let us check with

Sickbay.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

Granger's a

corpsman, not a vet. Besides, he'll only say no. </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;We're still going to

check,&quot; Nelson ordered and nodded to Chip to raise Sickbay. The answer was

a definite 'donít know sir'.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Then how about a fried egg sandwich?</span> Some coffee would be

nice too.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

***<p>

<p> class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All this

time...&quot;Morton groaned less than a half an hour later in Lee's cabin as

Crane finished his sandwich, which had been cut up into small bits by Nelson.

After a few more laps of the saucer of coffee, Lee leapt off the desk and went

to the head.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;At least <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>that</i> mystery's solved,&quot; Nelson

paced, &quot; but if we don't know how it happened, how the devil do we get him

back?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>After Lee had finished his

business, he pounced up to the bunk and the Scrabble board Chip had ready and

waiting for him. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The silence was

uncomfortable. Chip decided the two probably needed to talk privately and

excused himself.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well Lee?&quot; Nelson

finally asked when they were alone.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

What do you want

me to say? Frankly I can't think of anything more right now. Except the sooner

this mission is over and we get home, the better.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I called you a

specimen! A <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>specimen</i>!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

You also

promised me a good home. Treated me well, and even gave me a better name than

Chameleon.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Fair exchange, I'd say.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;And we'll lick this

thing Tiger...er sorry, Lee. I don't know how, or when, but I promise you we <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>will</i>. You look done in. Why not take a

catnap, er...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>It's okay Admiral</span></i><span style='font-size:

14.0pt'>, Lee meowed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

Thanks, I

think I will,</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg">he

 

 

 

 

added for Nelson's

benefit.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>As Nelson left Lee in peace,

he hoped he could keep his promise. For right now, he was as bewildered as he'd

ever been in his life.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm having a little

difficulty believing it, Harriman,&quot; Starke was saying via Nelson's

videophone.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Is this one of Chip's

or Lee's sick jokes?&quot; Lola added, Angie shaking her head behind her,

&quot;because<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>I have to tell you sir, I

don't appreciate it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm not that bad,&quot;

Morton pouted, &quot;<span class=GramE>and<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>it's</span> not the first time; surely you know about the Darcy<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>incident.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Damn,&quot; Jiggs said,

smacking his forehead, &quot;I completely forgot you telling me about it,

Harry.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>I</i> don't remember, &quot;Lola said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ah yes, &quot;Nelson

said, &quot;well, we all kept it rather quiet...the first time Lee and Sharkey

were in effect, bewitched by Mirabelle Darcy, a 400 year old witch, give or

take a couple of centuries. However, she doesn't seem to be responsible this

time. And Sharkey seems to have avoided a second transformation....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh you bad bad boys!

How can you keep on joking like this!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Miss Hale, Lee Crane is

feline,&quot; Nelson said firmly, &quot;black, with changeable eye color.

Probably your friend's stray. And his fur is curly when wet.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I won't believe it till

I see for myself <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>and</i> talk with

him!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I had every intention

of letting him tell you himself! But he's sleeping right now,&quot; Nelson

tuned the videophone to Lee's cabin. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>He wasn't there.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>With the freedom of the boat

in hand, er, his paws, Lee, after his catnap, had pounced off the bunk and headed

to the Control Room. Men he'd passed by gave him an odd look or two, as word

had spread like wildfire about his er...condition.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>He'd used the spiral ladder

and was sitting on one of the<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>rungs and

gazing out over the spectacular vista from<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>Seaview's view ports with an occasional glance to the Control Room. He

hadn't meant to intrude on O'Brien's authority, but<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Acting XO<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>approached with a loud enough voice to be heard by all hands,

&quot;Skipper, would you like to take the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:State

w:st="on">Conn</st1:State></st1:place>?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>No, Frank, this mission's yours and Chip's. Thanks for

asking though</span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>, he meowed. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, I've taken the

liberty of setting out paper alphabet and scrabble squares in all vital areas

of the boat sir, so we can understand you...er...communicate....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Indeed the letters were heaped

in neat piles on the plot table and periscope stand and in every conceivable

space for ease of use, just waiting for him. In a few moments he'd

verified<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>that he wanted O'Brien to

remain Acting XO... for now.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>O'Brien was about to argue

the point, when Lee angled his ears and headed to the Navy's experimental

system. Hopping up onto the<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>console,

currently manned by Kowalski,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>he pawed

at his earphones.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Ski took them off and lay

them down within Crane's earshot immediately.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er...I didn't hear

anything sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>But the Captain had, and

bounded back to the plot table.

 

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

It's the Galileo</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But the system hasn't

isolated her signature yet,&quot; <span class=GramE>O'Brien<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>said</span>.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

Trust me. </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ski, make a note for

the official report that the Galileo's signal is not being picked up by the new

software, but has been identified by..er...<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>another

source</i> aboard Seaview. Note the coordinates and the time for

documentation.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

How

many signals have we picked up during this operation? </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Five,

sir.&quot;</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

Out of 20

vessels in the containment area? Not <span class=GramE>too<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>impressive</span> for a couple of million

dollars worth of software.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Maybe they didn't

install it right when we were on shore leave,&quot; Ski offered.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lee? Nelson,&quot; the

Admiral's voice interrupted over the PA. &quot;Report to my cabin would you? I

have Miss Hale on the videophone. She, er...doesn't believe what

happened.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The men's hearts bled for

him. Facing life as a cat was one thing. Your girl, quite another.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He's on his way

sir,&quot; O'Brien clicked the mike shaking his head.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The argument was still in

full swing by the time Lee arrived at Nelson's doorstep so to speak.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I don't know why you're

insisting on hurting me like this!&quot; the blonde was saying.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Have we ever lied to

you?&quot; Morton tried to persuade her.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Those were probably

matters of national and international security,&quot; Nelson said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>decided</span></span><span style='font-size:

14.0pt'> it was now or never and quietly entered the open room and hopped up on

the desk.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lola? <o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Is that him?&quot; Lola

asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He's the only cat

aboard!&quot; Morton said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well to quote one of

those scientific methods the Admiral is always spouting, if it looks like a

cat, acts like a cat, smells like a cat, it probably <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>is </i>one!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

It really is

me Lola,

 

 

 

</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg">

 

he spelled.</p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's a robotic, isn't

it. You're testing it out on me, aren't you? &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Wait,&quot; Nelson

said, &quot;Lee? Get in the shower.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<i>

 

What? Oh.</i><p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;And I suppose you

understood what it just meowed at you,&quot; Lola said sarcastically as Lee

hopped off the table and went to the head, Chip behind him to do water knob

duty.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Not at all, but I

remember what you said about Lee's hair....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span>In moments the soaked Crane returned and<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>hopped back up in front of the videophone.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Curly when wet, <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>just like Lee's hair</i>, you said. Now,

does <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>this</i> fur really look like an

ordinary cat's? I should think <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>these</i>,&quot;

he lifted some of Lee's furry but curly ringlets, &quot;speak for

themselves.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh no, no, no! Oh,

Lee!&quot; Lola began to sob.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm going to give you

two a little time together.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>We'll

conduct a full fledged teleconference in the Observation Nose later. Together

we may be able to figure out what happened. See if Dr. Abercrombie knows

anything about cat lore, legends and stuff, but don't inform her about Lee's

conversion...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Will do, Harriman... Oh

stop your blubbering, woman!&quot;he spouted to Lola, still crying behind him.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Hey! Don't you talk to her like that! </span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee hissed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm not sure I want to

know what he just said.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Would you

stop speaking over me as if I didn't exist? And if you ever speak to her like

that again, Admiral or no Admiral, I will make your life miserable.

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg">Sir!</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg">he added.<P>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All right Lee, all

right,&quot; Nelson said, &quot; I'm sure we all got the message. We'll meet in

the Nose in about an hour.&quot;<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>In

seconds the couple were alone via the videophone.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Man, I could hear her

crying all the way down the corridor,&quot; Malone whispered as he relieved

Ski. &quot;Then, when I passed by Nelson's cabin, I<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>saw the Skip just sitting there, staring at a

blank screen. Ski? You think the boss'll be able to figure it out?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He has to.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;If I'd only

known,&quot; Doc was saying on the large monitor, &quot;I mean, for a cat's DNA

to test as human...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Did it prove Crane's

identity?&quot; Nelson asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, no, the results

from the national data base haven't come back yet...&quot;he looked off to the

side.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Anything wrong?&quot;

Morton asked<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I think they, Lee and

Lola I mean,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>had...<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>words</i>...Angie's trying to calm her down...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Harry, it's been over

an hour...&quot; Jiggs interrupted.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;We're still waiting to

hear from the Museum,&quot; Morton said, &quot;they're checking the Darcy

diaries and manuscripts for anything about shape shifting, stuff like that. And

the reptilian research lab confirmed what Lee said, that Frog #0978 is still

there, fat and happy....unless....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Unless somebody

switched frogs....&quot;Nelson mused. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But that's impossible

Harry, you said it was implanted with an identity chip...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I know...and it still

matches. Where the devil's Lee? He's been paged twice already.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Excuse me sir,&quot;

Ski approached, &quot;Malone saw the Skipper in your cabin a while ago,

but...er...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But what?&quot; Morton

asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, the video call

had already ended, but he was just sitting there, staring at the screen...said

he looked <span class=GramE>kinda'<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>spooky</span>.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Probably

brooding.</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Go tell him it's

time.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Aye sir.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Thank you Mr.

Scales,&quot; Nelson ended his private call to the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName

w:st="on">Salem</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Museum</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>

and returned to the conference table. &quot;They confirm the Darcy collection

safe and <span class=GramE>secure,</span> and nothing in it about changing

people into animals. I'm afraid Mr. Scales thinks our inquiry's a bit odd. Had

to tell him it was research for a book.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;So it wasn't

her,&quot;Sharkey sighed. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well it had to be

somebody!&quot;Jiggs spouted.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm ready now

sir,&quot; Lola appeared at his side, her eyes red. Angie sat next to her

prepared to take notes. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Excuse me sir,&quot;

Ski returned, &quot;But he's not in your cabin, or his. I also checked the

Wardroom, Sickbay and...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lee?&quot; Nelson

clicked the mike.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Harry? What are you

doing? He can't even click the damn thing properly without an opposable

thumb.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I er..wasn't

thinking...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Chief?&quot; Morton

ordered, &quot;Get a search party going...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nelson returned to the

monitor. &quot;Stand by...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Brooding wasn't the word for

it. Lola hadn't taken Lee's transformation very well. She could hardly be

expected to. There was no way Lee could ask her to continue their relationship

if he had to spend the rest of his life like this. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>For the next 15 minutes

Seaview was subjected to a stem to stern search. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It wasn't the first time

Crane had hidden himself away someplace when he didn't want to be found...even

by his friends. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;There are all kinds of

places he could have gotten trapped in or fallen into...&quot;O'Brien mused.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The pressure

hatch!&quot; Morton ran aft.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>But there was no sign he'd

ever been there.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What about the Flying

Sub?&quot; Sharkey asked as he conferred with Morton. &quot; He's used it

before when he's been in a snit.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;There's no way anyone

or anything could get into it, not even from her aft hatch. And what do you

mean when he's been in a snit?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er...well...he

is...sometimes...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Stupid, stupid, stupid!</span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'> Lee groused after he'd yowled in pain. The vent was

easier than stepping up <span class=GramE>and<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>over</span> the several<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>knee

knockers of the hatches on his way forward, but there was a drawback in that

some of the rat traps that had been laid hadn't been removed yet. He'd been

careful to avoid them, even if they were pretty impossible to set one off

unless one was in the mood for cheese. Until now. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It had all begun when he

noticed a few ants, drawn to the feast. He'd made a mental note to have Seaview

properly fumigated when she returned to port. But in his case it was too late. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Trying to shake off one or

two of the biting ants that had somehow attached themselves to his fur, he

bumped backwards smack into one of the traps, which caught his tail. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It was bleeding and it hurt

like hell. But at least it was a part of his new anatomy that he didn't need to

walk. He hadn't been able to remove it and with each step the pain was

getting<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>worse. He also discovered that

the ants preferred 'cat' food to cheese.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>No telling how many times he'd been bitten now or what Granger would

say. He wondered if his growing nausea was due to thinking about it, or if

these damn eight legged critters were poisonous. His paws were growing

painfully swollen, and it was getting hard to breathe. The next grille and

freedom was a long way away.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Control Room?&quot;

Patterson's voice came over the PA, &quot;We heard a god awful wail followed by

some distressed meowing a minute ago from somewhere in the aft ventilation

shaft. He sounds really hurt. Riley's gone in already to try to find him. He's

got a throat mike.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Very well,&quot; Morton

clicked the mike, &quot;Sickbay? Stand by. We think the Skipper's hurt.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Any idea how?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Not yet.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'll be ready.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Okay, okay<span class=GramE>,<span style='font-style:

normal'>Lee</span></span></span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> panted, <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span>don't

panic...you're just scared.<o:p></o:p></i></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>He had every reason to be.

His heart was racing, and he was starting to see things. Dark creepy things he

was hard pressed to identify....<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I hear him! He doesn't

sound good,&quot; Riley pressed his throat mike. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The seaman finally saw him,

Crane's bent tail dripping blood, still encased by the metal trap as he

painfully crawled, practically on his belly further down the vent and out of

sight. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Skipper? Skipper?

Wait...don't move! I'm coming! Control! Frame 45... Skipper! Hold on! I'll be

there in a sec....oh damn....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>All hands waited with baited

breath as they listened in over the PA that <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place

w:st="on">Sparks</st1:place></st1:City> had tuned the mike to.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'> </span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I've got him!<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Easy Skipper, easy...how on earth did you get

your tail caught in a rat trap... I got it off him...but I think it's broken

his tail, it's bleeding....ow! <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Ants!</i>

Did they bite you? Skipper? Skipper? Hey guys, his paws are all swollen, his

eyes look weird and he's not breathing too good! Meet us at Junction 4!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was too hurt and

exhausted to even acknowledge his rescuer as Riley put him inside the top of

his jumpsuit, and crawled them both to the exit, the seaman having the good

sense to stow one of the ants in his jumpsuit's zippered pocket for

examination.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Granger had laid Crane out on

the gurney, paws sweating, breathing labored.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Riley, do you have any

sign of swelling or discomfort from your bites?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Not a bit, but the

Skipper's getting worse.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;We've got Dr.

Abercrombie on <span class=GramE>the<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>video</span> monitor now,&quot; <st1:City w:st="on">Sparks</st1:City>

piped through to both Control Room and <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName

w:st="on">Sick</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Bay</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>

as Granger rushed an oxygen mask over Lee's face. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I understand you have a

medical emergen...ohmygod. Is that Chameleon?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, no. It's the ship's

cat, Tiger,&quot; Morton covered from the Control Room. &quot;Admiral Nelson's

trying to identify the kind of ants that bit him...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Red or Black?&quot; she

asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Red! Red! Red!&quot;

Riley yelled, &quot;Do something Doc, he's dying!&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Calm down, Stu,&quot;

Ski said as he grabbed a thermometer,&quot; Excuse me sir,&quot; he whispered

to Crane as he took the cat's temperature....&quot;temperature's 106.5,

ma'am.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Too

high, even for a cat.</span></span><span style='font-size:14.0pt'> Wet down his

paws and tail only, no where else, that would trap in the heat. Get an

anti-pyretic ready if we have to use it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I found it!&quot;

Nelson emerged from the Sickbay office,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>&quot;Harvester ants...painful stinging bites, not poisonous

but...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But they can cause

severe allergic reactions, and in some rare cases, we believe hallucinations.

All right...at least we know what we're dealing with...do you have

adrenaline?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yes, right on it,&quot;

Granger said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'd recommend the same

dosage as for a newborn infant. He's the same size and weight<span class=GramE>..&quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>In seconds Lee had been

injected with the life saving serum. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It wasn't long before Granger

felt it safe to remove the oxygen mask.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The swelling should

come down soon,&quot; Dr. Abercrombie said, &quot;now, what happened to his

tail?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, he had a little

accident,&quot; Ski said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No tailbones <span

class=GramE>broken,</span>&quot; Granger showed her photocopies of the X-Rays.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I agree. Considering

the<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>trauma, use a local anesthetic for

the stitches, it'll be easier on him. You know,&quot; she furrowed her brows,

&quot;he looks a lot like Chameleon...he also has the same curly fur when it's

wet...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Perhaps he's a

relation...&quot;Morton covered.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Chameleon was all alone

when Lin found him, besides most non-castrated Toms tend to keep to themselves.

I'm a doctor. I know how to keep a confidence.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>Chameleon's actually your cat isn't he, Admiral? What did you do to him

to cause him to run so far away? Cats do run away, but not usually far away

from a good meal.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The swelling's gone way

down,&quot; Ski interrupted, &quot;temperature's better too.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Doctor,&quot; Nelson

said firmly, &quot;I didn't <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>do</i>

anything to him.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er, Admiral,

Commander,&quot; Granger intervened, &quot;perhaps you'd care to wait outside

while I stitch him up.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm staying right

here,&quot; Nelson said firmly and stroked the back of Lee's head.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Me too,&quot; Morton

stood, arms folded.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Look, Lola, if you're

keeping something from me... &quot;Lin was saying over a bite in the NIMR

cafeteria.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I...I can't say

anything....but I asked you here to tell you that I don't think Chameleon's

coming back...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hello girls,&quot; Dr.

Abercrombie approached.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ohmygod, he's been run

over or something...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>'No, it's not

that...&quot;Lola hastened...&quot;Yvette's here because they needed her

expertise for<span class=GramE>..er</span>...Tiger, the ship's cat.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Tell me,

Lola,&quot;Yvette asked, &quot;does the Admiral always keep a cat aboard

Seaview? Because he should really take better care of him...and keep that sub

of his insect and rodent free.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm sure he will after

this,&quot; Lola sighed.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You look awful, have

you had any sleep lately?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I've some personal

problems...Lee....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>'Ahhh. Yes....you wanted to

take it to the next level and he didn't, that it?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He...was <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>uncertain</i>...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Men who look like your

dreamboat Captain don't need to make a commitment; they're having too much

fun.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lee's not like

that!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You're smitten with him

and he knows it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That doesn't mean he

doesn't love me.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Has he shown it?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, he humored me by

wearing a unitard! He sure didnít want to. I have some pictures...I thought

they were <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>nice</i> costumes...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Easy Skipper,&quot;

Riley said a few hours later as Lee sat up on the gurney, testing his limbs.

&quot;Dr. Abercrombie said for you to rest.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>I feel fine!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh, sorry

Skipper,&quot; Granger sat some alphabet letters on the gurney.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Never mind, </span></i><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee

meowed and jumped down.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hey! Come back here!

Skipper? Skipper!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Looks okay to me,&quot;

Riley said as Lee ran down the corridor.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>There was <span class=GramE>a<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>heated</span> argument coming from the

Observation Nose, most members of the Admiral's tele- conference<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>all talking at once from the monitor and from

the confrerence table. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But that's

impossible!&quot; Lola was saying from the monitor.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Really Admiral, it's

absurd, &quot;Angie added.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Do you have another

explaination?&quot;Nelson demanded.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Er, care to fill me in? </span></i><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee meowed from the spiral ladder.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What are you doing out

of Sickbay?&quot; Jamison shouted, &quot;you're supposed to be resting...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;We're pretty sure we

know what happened, Lee,&quot; Nelson said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You see, it's like this,

Skipper,&quot; Sharkey began....<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's the only

explaination,&quot;Morton interrupted.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's a stupid

explaination!&quot;Lola shouted.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You have a better one,

Miss Hale?&quot; Nelson demanded.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Hey!<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Are you hissing at

Harry, Crane?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

Lee moved some squares,<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

What's going on? </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He thinks it's <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>my</i> fault!&quot; Lola yelled.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;She did tell you that

she wished you'd be warm and fuzzy all the time, just like you were that <span

class=GramE>night,</span> didn't she?&quot;<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

What's that got to do with anything?</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It was Halloween

night...&quot; Starke piped up.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Under a full

moon,&quot; Morton added.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;She put a spell on you,

Lee. Unintentional but...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

Are you out

of your minds? Lola's no witch! <i><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;There's more Lee,&quot;

Nelson said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er...she bought some

emeralds, Lee,&quot; Morton said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What she and we <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>didn't</i> know,&quot; Nelson added,

&quot;is that the curators at the museum had sold off some of the lesser Darcy

gems...to help pay for flood damage repairs, and they well, are reputed to have

powers, you remember.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

They lost

their power centuries ago! </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Mirabelle <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>said</i>, &quot; Morton said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Miss Hale was wearing

them the night of the party...&quot;Nelson said. &quot;They must have caused

her words to be taken as casting a spell... changing you into a warm fuzzy cat.

Logical really, considering you were wearing a cat suit...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

I'm not <u>fuzzy</u>,

just a bit furry.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The fact remains

whatever magic was in those emeralds, they, combined with her wish changed

you...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;So all she has to do is

to wish you back,&quot; Morton said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, I think your

theory is ridiculous!&quot; Lola pouted, then, &quot;So, Lee, how on earth did

you manage to get your tail caught?&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

The rat trap

jumped out and attacked me. Actually, I was checking my ant bites when I backed

into it. </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But you are okay

now?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Yeah, I'm

fine, I guess.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Morton's going to pick

her up with the flying sub; bring her back with the gems.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Belay that!

We're still<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>in the containment area. Or

has everyone aboard this boat forgotten about our mission?</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Get going Morton,&quot;

Starke ordered, &quot;The sooner the better.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

Am I Captain

of this boat or not? </i>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg">

 

 

Lee left, soon

pouncing on the Navy console. This time Ski merely took off his headphones and

laid them down for the Captain to listen to.</p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You're a <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>cat!</i>&quot; Jiggs voice followed

him.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;He has a point

Lee,&quot; Morton said, &quot;In your condition there's no time for you to give

immediate orders or responses...the squares enable communication, yes<span

class=GramE>,<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>but</span> the delay

compared to speech, well...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;And you're still on the

sick list...&quot;Jamison said loudly.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's not that we don't

want you in command, son,&quot; Nelson approached apologetically. &quot;But

even you have to see it's illogical, from a military point of view...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee knocked the earphones off

the console, meowed apologetically to Ski, hopped down, <span class=GramE>headed</span>

aft and out of sight, turning once to glare at Nelson, fire in his eyes.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, that went

well,&quot; Nelson muttered. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What on earth are you

doing Cookie?&quot; Riley asked the chef as he mashed up the piece of cherry

pie as some of the sailors just released from their watch filed in.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;For the Skip. Thought

it might make him feel better. You know. About his command being taken

away.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Did the Admiral have to

do that?&quot; Riley asked, <span class=GramE>&quot; I</span> mean the Skip's

still Crane, just has a new body like, that's all.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;A new body that makes

it impossible for him to be understood without taking the time to use all those

little squares,&quot; Patterson said, &quot;the Admiral has a point; the

Skipper understands<span class=GramE>. &quot;</span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Maybe. But, like, if

you'd seen that glare. Think how he must feel. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Think how Nelson feels.

Kinda like betraying your own brother.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was idly flipping one

page to another on the computer. He was so intent on his own moodiness that he

barely noticed Cookie's arrival with the dessert plate of pie and a dollop of

vanilla ice cream.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Dr. Abercrombie?&quot;

Nelson asked, frowning, as Morton helped her out of the Flying Sub.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I couldn't help

myself,&quot; Lola emerged after, &quot;I <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>had

</i>to tell her, and before you get upset, she thinks she may be able to shed a

little light on Lee's transformation.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er...we have other

guests sir,&quot; Morton said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Officer Dunbar?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I thought I'd better

talk to you in private, but Admiral Starke thought perhaps it would be

advantageous to poole our resources...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Mine too, but I still

donít believe it,&quot; yet another woman emerged.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Miss Needlemeyer,&quot;

Nelson ran a hand through his hair. Things were going downhill fast. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Doc?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, you don't think

I'd stay behind.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ladies,&quot; Morton

said, &quot; If you'll follow me to the guest wing...Admiral Starke, you know

the one we usually assign you to....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I want to see Chameleon

first, I mean...Lee...&quot; Lin interrupted. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well it seems as though

the cat is well and truly out of the bag, literally,&quot; Nelson said,

&quot;O'Brien, would you escort Miss Needlemeyer to the Captain's cabin.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee was just finishing up the

ice cream when O'Brien opened the door after a knock, Lin braced for the sight

of her poor lost cat. He was a sorry sight. And though he'd finally forced

himself to lick himself clean, the fur had caught on his tongue, making him gag,

so he just didn't even bother to finish. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh Chameleon!&quot; she

raced to him but stopped herself from picking him up in time, &quot; I

mean...Captain Crane...I was so worried about you.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

I'm fine. Thank you for all your help when I needed it.<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I...I found it hard to

believe at first. Frankly I thought Lola was a bit adlepated...but

now...er...do you need some help cleaning up?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Actually,

yes, I'd appreciate it, thank you. </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Let me get this

straight,&quot; Nelson asked Officer Dunmore in the Wardroom, Lee sitting on

the table, freshly groomed, &quot;that detainee who thought Lee was a cat might

have actually seen a little transformation before the total result? But if

that's the case, surely your officers would have seen something unusual.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Perhaps, unless it was

so minor that nobody noticed...or...well...maybe it was on and off...though we

found his unitard more than a mile away, just yesterday.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Um hum...and what about

your theory, Dr. Abercrombie? This kind of thing can simply 'happen', no spells

required? Mr. Scales of the museum assured me there was absolutely nothing in

Mirabelle's spell books about shape shifting.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;According to some

mythological works, spells aren't required,&quot; Yvette said, <span

class=GramE>&quot; if</span> one's agreeable to it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Agreeable?</i>&quot; Lola fumed, &quot;I doubt very much that Lee was

agreeable to be turned into a cat!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Even if the love of his

life wanted him to be 'warm and fuzzy' all the time?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Perhaps subconsciously,

but not...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But that's all it would

take. But somehow, the elements got confused and mistook your warm and fuzzy to

mean warm and furry, and the Captain's willingness, in a manner of

speaking.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Humph.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, what do you think

Captain Crane?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

I'm open to about anything if it will get me back. But

it's a bit hard to believe it wasn't a spell of some kind. We've dealt with

that sort of thing before. So all I have to do is think myself back into a

human? </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;That's the gist of

it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee closed his eyes and sat,

apparently in a trance. Opening his eyes, he looked at his paws then back up to

the Dr.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Doesn't work.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Try Lee, try!&quot;

Lola closed her eyes, &quot;I want Lee to be a man again. <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>My</i> man.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt'>So do I, so do I, </span></i><span style='font-size:

14.0pt'>Lee mewed. But to no avail. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All right, let's try it

with the gems,&quot;Nelson said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>In seconds Lola had put on

the earings.&quot;I <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>don't </i>want Lee to

be warm and fuzzy or furry anymore. I want him back. Scruffy or neat as a pin,

I want him back. I want him back as a human!<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>For about 10 seconds nobody

said anything as Lee sat waiting...and waiting...<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Are you sure those are

Mirabelle's?&quot; Morton finally asked.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I bought them from a

reputable auctioneer. I have the certificate of authenticity from the museum.

There were only a few emeralds they sold. I got these two earrings, somebody in

<st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Boston</st1:City></st1:place> got the

other lone gemstone.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Maybe we need a witch

or warlock,&quot; Sharkey said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Absolutely not!&quot;

Nelson griped. &quot;We got into enough trouble last time. Get Mr. Scales on

the line again.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, in case nothing

works,&quot; Dr. Abercrombie said,&quot; Captain Crane must really learn how to

groom himself properly. Licking himself may bring up the odd hairball, but I

doubt he'd<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>want one of your crew

assigned to keep him combed and clean. You've all seen how messy an eater he is,

no offence Captain.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

None taken.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Your call to Mr. Scales

is on the speaker phone sir,&quot; Morton turned<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>the unit back on. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Nelson here again. I

realize there may be a privacy issue, but we really need to know the purchaser

of the other Darcy emerald. Miss Hale is one of my employees, and it's a matter

of the utmost importance.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But Admiral, surely you

already know.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;The other purchaser,

why, she's your sister. Miss Edith Nelson.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;My...<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>are you sure</i>?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I have the copy of the

check if you need it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No, that won't be

necessary. Thank you Mr. Scales. Seaview out.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

You can't

think Edith cast a spell on me!</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Never mind that

now,&quot; Nelson clicked for <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sparks</st1:place></st1:City>

to call his sister's private line.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Harry&quot; she

answered a few seconds later, &quot;What's wrong? I'm in the middle of a dinner

party!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Are you taking this

call in private?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm in the conservatory

with the door closed. Now what is it? Are you okay? Is Seaview? Is Lee?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Edie, did you buy one

of the Darcy gems?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Now how did you figure

that out? The Rolex company promised confidentiality when the set the

stone...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Rolex</i>?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I guess you <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>didn't </i>know... Yes, Harry. The new watch

I sent you.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er...yes...yes.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Keeps perfect time...er...goodbye. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Wait! What did you want

to speak to me about?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Never mind.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You interrupted my

party for no good reason? Harry, sometimes you're really dense. Oh, by the way,

be careful wearing that watch, I hear the Darcy emeralds were supposed to be

haunted...if you believe in that sort of thing,&quot; she laughed. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er...yes...well, thank

you...goodbye, sis.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Bye Harry. Say hi to

Lee, oh and tell him from me that he really shouldn't keep Lola dangling...it's

high<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>time he popped the question.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Uh, I'll tell

him...bye.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;So it's something <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>you</i> wished for or said, Admiral,&quot;

Lola said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Apparently. I just

can't think what.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Just what time was it

when that jailbird thought Lee was a cat?&quot; Jiggs asked. &quot;It might

help narrow things down.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;About ten minutes

before we released the Captain,&quot; <st1:place w:st="on">Dunmore</st1:place>

said. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I was already in

bed,&quot; Nelson<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>muttered then looked

at Crane, &quot;I'm sorry Lee. I don't know how I turned you into a cat,&quot;

he rubbed the stone on his Rolex, &quot;I just wish you weren't one. You must

know how much I want you back. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nothing happened.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm sorry,&quot; Nelson

barely managed to whisper as Lee slumped his shoulders, jumped off the table

and left.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It was past midnight when

Nelson entered the Control Room and looked toward the Observation Nose.

&quot;How long has he been up there?&quot; he whispered to Officer of the Deck.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Awhile. Just sits there,

looking out the windows.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Thanks,&quot; Nelson

said and headed forward, closing the accordion pleats behind him.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>After a moment Nelson spoke

to the cat on the windowsill, &quot;Want to talk about it?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Lee shook his head 'no' and

returned his gaze to the vista.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lee...please...talk to

me.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Crane turned and jumped on

the table. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

There's

nothing to talk about. I'm just going to have to live the rest of my life as a

cat. </i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I've racked my brain. I

can't remember anything I did or said that triggered your change.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

 

It's not

your fault, Harry. If you don't mind, I'd like to be alone a little while.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;All right, but not

here...it's upsetting the men. Lie down, rest. Use my cabin awhile. It's

further away from the guest wing. I'm not sure they wouldn't bother you there.

It's a sure bet they won't try my cabin. I'll be checking the Navy's

unit....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

 

 

<img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><i>

 

Thanks

Harry, I think I will, but don't spend too much time on it. Just tell the Navy

that it's not worth the patent it's written on.</i><img src="http://members.tripod.com/~seaviewzine/scrabblesquare.jpg"><p>

 

 

 

 

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Before Nelson could open the

pleats, Lee took the spiral steps, unable to face being so superfluous on his

own boat.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:14.0pt;font-family:Webdings'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nelson shot the stars for

lack of knowing what to do. It had been a long time since he'd done this task.

Usually a starlit sky was comforting, but the constellation Leo mocked

him.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>After he motioned the fifth officer

below, he couldn't help burrowing his head in his arms against the coaming,

tears forming in his eyes. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Dear God... Please,

make me remember what I did to him! Bring him back, please God, just bring my

son back.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>He'd expected Lee to have

returned to his own cabin already, but Lee was fast asleep, curled up on

Nelson's bunk, the picture of feline comfort. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Nelson toyed with the idea of

waking him, but instead, changed into pajamas and robe, and moved the lounge

chair beside the bunk. He was resolved that if<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>Lee was going to have to live at the mercy of his new body, Nelson would

do what he could to make it more tolerable, even if it meant bunking in a chair

beside him tonight. He could of course have used Lee's or a free guest cabin,

but there was something about tonight that made him want to stand watch

somehow. Nelson tried to remember some old proverbs or sayings to give him some

comfort regarding Lee's less than normal condition, but they eluded him and

sleep didn't come easily. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Damn,&quot; Lola

whispered, jumping down from the top bunk. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Me too,&quot; Lin

replied and sat up from the lower. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I just can't help

wondering what could have done it, &quot; Lola pulled out a small photo album

from her purse, &quot;nothing rings a bell...nothing...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Party

pictures...they're very nice....what's this one for?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I don't know...the

photographer must have taken it.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Looks<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>more like a security camera capture.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Say that again!&quot;

she exclaimed as she pressed the intercom link, &quot;Er..Communications? This

is Lola, er, Miss Hale...ask Institute Security if they have videos of the

Halloween Party? And if there was sound. Thanks.&quot; She dragged Lin to the

door, &quot;C'mon! We have to tell the Admiral!&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Minutes later the trio held

their breaths as the videophone played the tape in Nelson's cabin, Crane still

sound alseep. It didn't have good clarity, but when Nelson saw himself berating

Lee...<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh my god...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;What? What?&quot; Lola

hissed, &quot;I can't hear<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>a word of

it...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I...<i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>I </i>told him he might as well be a cat

from the way he'd behaved! It's my fault! <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Mine!</i>

Where's that damn watch....&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Pulling it from a drawer, he

pulled it on, turned, and gently stroked Lee,<span style='color:red'> </span>&quot;Reverse

what I said about Lee might as well being a cat from the way he

behaved....&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;It's not working,&quot;

Lola groaned.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Oh Lee, Lee...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Admiral,&quot; Lola

gently took his arm, &quot;It's all right to cry. I've shed an ocean of tears.

Let's go Lin. And sir, try to get some sleep.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Word had spread quickly that

the Admiral's second attempt to reverse Crane's spell hadn't worked. By the

time the day watch assumed their duties, it was a very depressed boat. Nelson

hadn't shown for breakfast. Neither had Lee.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'll go see if they're

okay,&quot; Morton said, with a last sip of his spent coffee.<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span><o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Admiral! Wake up!&quot;

Chip whispered, pulling on his robe's sleeves.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Hmm? What?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Shhhhh! Look!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>There on the bunk, Lee lay

toward the bulkhead, nude and <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>normal</i>.

<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No tail! He doesn't

have a tail!&quot; Nelson jumped up, quickly pulling off his robe and covering

Lee with it.&quot;Lee? Lee?&quot; he shook Lee's shoulder gently in order not

to startle him..&quot;C'mon Lad, wake up...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>*** <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I still can't believe

it,&quot; Lee said over breakfast, a vast spread, laid out for her Captain and

their many guests. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;At least it won't

happen again,&quot; Starke said, &quot;Harry tossed that watch and Miss Hale's

earrings overboard right after they found you changed back. Still don't know

how they worked, singly or together.&quot; <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But a<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>Rolex...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I think Miss Hale

agrees with me that you're worth far more than any watch,&quot; Nelson said.

&quot;You know, it's aaachoo, amazing, you actually look more like a cat right

now than when you were one!&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Very funny.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Must be the<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>hair...chameleon eyes...&quot; Lola grinned.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I'm never going to live

it down.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, I still think

you'd have placed in the Santa Barbara Cat show,&quot; Lin said.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;If I haven't said it

before, Lin, I really appreciate your taking care of me...if there's anything I

can do...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Just be nice to any

stray that comes your way.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>It seemed that no sooner than

Seaview had returned to port, Nelson had seen his friend Jiggs off and returned

to his office to get in some paperwork which had been sadly lacking his

attention. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No...oh no! <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>No</i>!&quot; he gave a strangled yell, and

leaned against the wall, shaking.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Atop his vast desk was a cat.

A black cat. On a boxed Scrabble game. Jumping up to join it was a white cat,

with blue eyes.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Admiral?&quot; Angie

entered, racing to his side. &quot;What's wrong?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;There! Look

there!&quot; he pointed and groaned, &quot;Lee...Miss Hale...they...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Ah, Admiral,&quot;

Crane sauntered in, Lola on his arm, &quot;I see you've met Bagheera and

Snowbelle.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Er..uh...if you're both

you, who the devil are they?&quot;he asked, breathing again.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Yvette said their

owners couldn't take care of them any longer...I kind of thought you might like

to have first choice. The other's going to Lin. &quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;<i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>Me? </i>Keep a cat?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, you did kind of

like <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Tiger</i>,&quot;Lee grinned.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;But Lee, I can't keep a

cat...I'll be sneezing all over the place.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;No you won't. Doc's

report just came back. You're <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>not</i>

allergic to cats. You're allergic to <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>me.</i>..my

hair gel. Must have been some residue on my fur. But once I stop using it, it

shouldn't bother you again...how about it sir,&quot; Lee picked up the black

cat, &quot;I'm kind of partial to my brother here. He needs a good home. And I

bet he can nip any rodent problem Seaview has in the bud.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Are you out of your

mind? We can't have a<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>ship's cat. Far

too dangerous if we're ever on silent running.<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>Besides it wouldn't be fair to him. He should be a pampered pet, not a

working animal...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Then you'll keep him

for yourself?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I can't Lee. Who'll

take care of him when I'm off to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:State w:st="on">Washington</st1:State></st1:place>

or something or...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>The cat purred in response.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;You er...you're a nice

little fellow aren't you,&quot;Nelson took him from Crane and began to stroke

it absently. &quot;I'm sure we'd all be glad to watch him for you whenever

you're away sir,&quot; Angie said.&quot;Oh, by the way, would you chair the

Scrabble Championship tonight? We planned it last month. Staff vs. Seaview.

We're holding it tonight. We tried to talk Lee into it, all the <i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>experience</i> he's had, but,&quot; she

giggled, &quot;he has other plans...&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;I guess I have no

choice in <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>either</i> matter,&quot; Nelson

grinned.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Lets' get out of here

before he changes his mind,&quot; Lee whispered to Lola. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Now, so we donít have

another missing in action situation,&quot;Nelson said, &quot;what are you doing

this weekend Lee? Remember, I need you back here on Wednesday.&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;Well, I kind of<span

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  </span>thought maybe I could get in some scuba

diving in the<span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

</span>Catalina's....er...sorry,&quot; he added as everyone laughed.

&quot;Er...come with me?&quot; he asked Lola, his romantic insecurity a thing

of the past.<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>***<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Now, everyone knows that mere

gemstones have no magical power except for those who value them, and witches do

not live captive lives as frogs in amphibian or reptilian laboratories. And

there's no magic in the stars, except perhaps toward those who's hearts are

aching. But far deep down below in the depths, three emeralds slumbered, the

last vestige of the magical powers Mirabelle Darcy had entrusted them with

spent, at least temporarily, to await the end of her captivity, for the next

time fate brought a victim her way. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&quot;If this relationship is

going to work,&quot; Nelson told his new companion later that night,

&quot;we're going to have to set some ground rules. <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>This </i>is off limits,&quot; he pointed to an expensive leather chair he'd

just removed it from. The cat of course, had no intention of listening and just

as quickly hopped back up onto it. &quot;Stubborn as Lee, I see. Now,&quot; he

studied the cat's pedigree papers while he sat on the sofa. &quot;I don't think

I can bring myself to call you Bagherra. How about Tiger...er no...I don't

think so, not after all I've been through. How about Buster? Ah, you like

it?&quot; he asked as the cat jumped up onto his lap and began purring.

&quot;Very well, welcome home Buster Nelson,&quot;he wrote the new name on the

form. Leaning back, he pondered over the magic, or was it Divine Providence

alone that had actually brought Lee Crane out of his cataclysm. And if such a

morph could happen again, especially since they didn't really know how it had

happened in the first place...but of one thing he <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:

normal'>was</i> certain of. At least he wasn't allergic to cats. <o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>&gt;'&lt;<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>Fini<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'>See Crane morph into

Chameleon<o:p></o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:9.0pt'>Spaghettios- A product of Cambell's Soup Company<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span class=GramE><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:9.0pt'>Scrable-A Hasbro Inc. board game.</span></i></span><i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span style='font-size:9.0pt'> <o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span

style='font-size:9.0pt'>Meyerling Labs is fictional<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on"><i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span style='font-size:9.0pt'>Whipsnare</span></i></st1:PlaceName><i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span style='font-size:9.0pt'> <st1:PlaceName

w:st="on">Amphibian</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Research</st1:PlaceName>

<st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Center</st1:PlaceType></span></i></st1:place><i

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span style='font-size:9.0pt'> is fictional<o:p></o:p></span></i></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

<p class=MsoNormal><span style='font-size:14.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

 

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