Since this is deleted part of a story that was long since written, I’m not interested in any
critiques, but LOCS are welcome.
By Diane Kachmar
Lee was sure Nelson would refuse to let him stay and help, but as Crane countered each objection with a logical reason for remaining, Lee could see he was winning the Admiral over. The new fuel was very important, but there was no way Nelson would test it alone. It was a two-man procedure and Crane was only other person with a high enough security clearance to be in the room. When this was over, Lee was determined to find a way to get a select few, men he trusted to look after Nelson, to assist in these endeavors. If he pushed enough, Crane could get the necessary paperwork through. Nelson was too important to the Institute to continually be put at risk. Too many things had already gone wrong in Lee’s short tenure as Captain of the Seaview. Crane was determined to change that as soon as possible. In the meantime, this fuel was badly needed and it had to be tested in field conditions before they could proceed with the manufacture. They had prepared as well as they could. It would work or it wouldn’t. Lee did not want to think about the not working part. He had been here almost six months and he liked it. Going back to the Navy was no longer an option.
He felt Nelson’s gaze roving over him, weighing and measuring. “What it goes up?” the Admiral asked quietly. “You know there is a distinct possibility it may do that.”
“Then we’ll go up together,” Lee replied, with total honesty. “However, if I do my job as monitor, I will avoid that. Chip double-checked everything with me. We’ve done everything we can to insure the safety of the boat. Let’s do this test and get it over with.”
Nelson shook his head. “You were never this stubborn at the Academy.”
Lee smiled. “Never had the rank, sir. Now you’ve hired me to run this boat--”
“Yes, I did. All right, son. You win. Seal the door.” Nelson moved to the lab table, waiting for Crane to cycle the door and take his position at the monitor station.
For something that was supposed to be volatile, the fuel mixture remained strangely quiescent, as if it wasn’t mixing properly or feeling the heat Nelson was adding degree by careful degree. Lee almost jumped when the generator abruptly started. Something had started to work. Lee checked his indicators, the temperature was in a good range, the generator was turning at a good clip, a few more minutes and they could shut the whole thing down.
Lee was writing down the readings, when there was a small popping sizzle and he was blinded by a white flash. Seconds later he was flung against the rear bulkhead. The impact knocked the wind out of him. Crane slid to the floor, gasping, fighting off the pain. He found himself gasping even harder.
Fumbling for the mouthpiece of the fire protection gear that hung at his side, Lee snapped the mask into place over his mouth and nose and began breathing deeply to clear both his lungs and the lingering fuzzy-headedness. The room was filling with white smoke. There was pressure on his ears. The room had sealed. The boat was safe. Now he needed to put the fire out. As Lee swung his gaze across to the room to where the chemical flame burned, it abruptly went out with a whoosh. Must have exhausted the fuel supply. Good. Lee struggled to get his legs under him and raise himself off the deck. He could not see anything within all the white smoke. Crane reached out and placed his hand against the bulkhead to feel for the vibration of the exhaust fans. They were on and would soon clear the room. He had to find Nelson. Make sure he was all right. If he had been blown clear, chances were the Admiral had been, too.
Not wanting to put his hand down on anything scorched by fire, Lee cast about until he found a row of deck plate rivets to orient himself in the room. Then Crane began crawling in the direction where he was most likely to find Nelson. Lee had gone about 6 feet when he ran into something soft. He shook the Admiral by the shoulder. No response. Lee felt Nelson’s neck for a pulse and found one. He tried to rouse him again, but Nelson’s limp body only rolled over.
Crane went searching for the Admiral’s fire protective gear and found it. He pulled the mask up and was about to place it on Nelson when he noticed the broken tubing and that it was no longer connected to the air tank. Useless. Where were the spares? Stores Cabinet. Lee shook his head. Nelson had already been breathing smoke for too long. He’d never make it to the cabinet and back in time. He might make it one way. Crane’s hand was unbuckling his own gear, even as he decided. He laid his tank next to Nelson and taking one last deep breath, Lee took off his mask and put it over Nelson’s mouth and nose.
Lee crawled around Nelson and headed for the cabinet. It seemed a very long way and he probably would have made it, except that he had to breathe. The breath caught in his throat and burned, but he continued on, almost plowing into the cabinet. It was warm and when Crane tried to wrench it open, the handle would not turn. Lee tried again, but it didn’t budge. He could feel himself starting to pass out from the lack of oxygen. The steady thrum that had been buffeting his ears stopped as his world faded to gray. He had waited too long.
Crane shook his head. Something was wrong. He couldn’t think. But he had to. The thrum was important. What was it? Why did he need to hear it? There was something he had to do before he let go.
Suddenly, Lee knew what was wrong. The exhaust fans were no longer on. If they didn’t clear the air, the room would not unseal. If the room didn’t unseal, Nelson would run out of air. It was too late for him, but there was something he could do to insure Nelson survived.
If he was at the stores cabinet . . . Lee turned to his left and crawled almost blindly to the panel where he and Chip had installed the emergency back ups to every system in the room. He could see the panel in his mind. Crane lunged forward and pushed the button to get the fans going again. Nelson would survive. The roar of the fans was the last thing Lee heard as he let the gray take over and he slumped to the deck, unconscious.
* * * * *
Chip Morton had been waiting for the alarm klaxon and hoping each moment of silence would continue, but when the blaring bleat started, he knew the luck he had been counting on had run out for his two superior officers.
He glanced over at O’Brien, who nodded. Morton strode out of the control room to take the ladder down to the next deck and the lab. As he came up the corridor to join the DCP party, he heard a clatter on the deck behind him. Will Jamieson with his paramedic, Frank, was coming after him. Chip was glad to see him respond and hoped the Doctor’s service would not be needed.
“What happened?” Will demanded as he joined him at the hatch.
“Don’t know yet.” Chip cocked his head. “When it’s safe to enter, the hatch will unseal.”
Jamieson reached out to lightly touch the hatch. “It’s not hot.”
Morton shook his head. “The fans wouldn’t be going unless something set them off. Lee was adamant whatever happened it wouldn’t leave the lab, even if– ”
As if to contradict him, the fans suddenly cut off.
“Now what?” Will asked.
“I don’t think that was supposed to happen, there is a cycle that has to be done– Jenkins!!”
One of the DCP party raised his head and looked Morton’s way.
The crewman shook his head. “Not near enough time, sir. Want me to–?”
The fans abruptly came on again and everyone waiting visibly relaxed. At Jamieson’s questioning look, Chip shrugged and mouthed, “Glitch in the system?”
The Doctor frowned. “I thought you two double tested everything.”
“We did,” Chip answered curtly, wishing the doors would cycle, but he knew better.
Finally, the hatch released with a hiss to admit them. Wisps of white smoke still hung in the air and the lab table was a charred ruin. Nelson lay on the floor between the hatch and the table, only the slow rise and fall of his chest indicating that he was still alive.
Lee was sprawled on the floor in front of the back up control panel and he wasn’t moving at all. One button glowed green above him in mute testimony as to why the fans had come on.
Will pushed past Morton to drop to his knees beside Crane, his hand going beneath Lee’s ear to find a pulse. After a few tense seconds, he moved to turn the Captain over.
Frank started in alarm as he made the same check of Nelson. The paramedic jumped up, hurriedly crossing over to where Will was, digging in his bag. Frank brought out an oxygen cylinder with a mask and handed it down to the CMO. Jamieson strapped the mask onto Lee, who inexplicably had no gear on. The Doctor flipped the cylinder to on.
Frank shook his head. “Nelson’s gear is damaged and nonfunctional. The Captain must have discovered it and given the Admiral his mask, before he– ”
“How bad?” Chip asked, causing both of them to look up at him.
Will’s hand went to Lee’s neck again. “I can’t tell how much smoke Lee has ingested, but he’s not dead yet.”
Crane gave a slight shudder beneath the Doctor’s hand and his chest rose slightly. Jamieson rocked back on his heels. “That’s good. He’s responding to the O2. Let’s hope all we have to deal with here is smoke inhalation. Get two stretcher parties in here to take them down to Sick Bay. I’ll give you a full report once I run the tests.”
Chip nodded. “I’ll surface the boat and vent the air. Get this mess cleaned up.”
Will looked up at him. “Extron isn’t going to like your report.”
“Nothing I can do about that, Will. Call me when you can.”
Chip watched as Nelson and Crane were carried out the room. He’d best concentrate on what he could fix and let the rest take care of itself.
* * * * *
Harriman Nelson was a notoriously bad patient, but right now Will would have welcomed a fit of temper, any demand to get out or . . . Jamieson rubbed a tired hand across his forehead. There was more wrong here than an experiment gone awry and he wasn’t sure how to fix that.
At least Crane had stabilized. His allergic reaction to the treatment of choice had brought Lee perilously close to death a second time. They were all blaming themselves. Will for not knowing his patient better, Frank for not noticing the respiratory distress and giving Crane the epinephrine sooner and the Admiral–
Will shook his head. He wasn’t quite sure what Nelson was blaming himself for, but one only had to look at the Admiral to see he was suffering. Which wasn’t making Nelson’s recovery progress any.
Jamieson walked into the Sickbay to find a familiar tableau. Nelson standing beside Crane’s rack, looking down at his young Captain.
“It’s still too soon to expect him to come around,” Will said quietly as he reached for Lee’s wrist for check his pulse. “But we are confident he won’t have another anaphylactic episode, with the meds we changed him to. I noted everything in his records, so this reaction won’t happen again.”
“Wasn’t your fault, Will, you couldn’t have known.”
“And it’s not your fault the fuel exploded. Now, will you please go lay down. You’ll never get better until you do.” Jamieson reached over and closed his hand around Nelson’s wrist. “I won’t let him die. Not on my watch.”
“I know, Will. I never should have agreed to let him--”
Jamieson dropped his hand with a rueful smile. “Lee doesn’t take no for an answer.”
Nelson grimaced. “No, he doesn’t.” Harry looked over at him. “I tried to sleep, but I was drawn back here. I need to be here when he wakes up.”
“May not be for some time,” Will answered truthfully. “But if you must--” Jamieson sighed. “Let me get you one of the diagnostic stools. If I come back and you’re asleep, that’s it.
And you call me if he does wake up.”
Nelson nodded. “You bet.”
Will brought back the stool and got his second patient settled. “You might try talking to him. Both Frank and I have noticed he responds to that and sometimes it helps bring him around.”
“I don’t know what to say to him.”
“I’m sure you will think of something.”
“I know what I’d like to tell him,” Nelson growled.
“At least Lee’s in no condition to argue back,” Will observed.
A half smile creased Harry’s face. “You have a point there, Will.”
Jamieson was glad to see Nelson respond to the jibe. Maybe they would all get through this after all.
* * * * * *
Nelson wasn’t sure when he had taken up Lee’s hand up into his, but it felt right. The words of apology had come, haltingly, his voice still raspy from the smoke. Something had to change. Lee was too valuable, too vital to his plans for Seaview in the future to be risked like this. Harry should not have agreed to do the research, the money wasn’t worth what it had cost.
Nelson was shaken by the depth of loyalty Crane had shown him in such a short time. His Captain had nearly died for him. Nelson knew he could not let that happen to Lee. Not after John Phillips. Having said his piece, he did feel better, but Harry wished Lee had been awake to hear the words. He wanted to see Crane’s eyes. Nelson had come to count on Lee looking fearlessly back at him, seeing in those depths sure obedience, but as much and more than he would ever admit, reassurance that his decision was right and would be supported. Nelson put Lee’s hand back down on the bed, releasing him.
Crane twitched suddenly, his head rolling toward him and his eyes opened slightly, closed, then opened again.
Nelson put his hand down on Lee’s arm. “Steady, son. You’ve had a rough time, but Will tells me you’ll be better in a couple of days.”
Lee struggled to keep his eyes open and finally succeeded. “Ad – mir–” Crane could not get the word out.
“Took me a while to get my voice back.” Harry lifted his hand and moved closer to the bed. “There’s water here that will help. Let me lift you up so you can have some.”
He could feel Lee trying to move. Together they managed to raise Crane to a half-reclined position. Harry gave him the water slow sips at a time until Lee indicated he had enough.
“Thanks.” The rasp wasn’t completely gone, but Lee was having an easier time talking. He gazed up at Nelson. “Must have been bad if you are sitting up with me.”
“I was not sitting up with–” Nelson retorted and then saw the smile Crane was trying to hide. Harry shrugged. “Will let me, not sure why. I’m supposed to call him now you’ve come around.”
“Not your fault.” Lee reached out to catch his arm as Harry turned away. “It’s my duty–”
“No, it’s not!” Nelson replied vehemently. “That’s what I’m telling Extron. I’ll not risk this boat or you for them!” His throat tightened suddenly and he had to cough.
Crane blinked in surprise and let him go. “You’re not well yet.”
Harry waved his concern away. “I will be, no thanks to them.”
Lee slumped down on the pillow. “At least I have company, since I’m obviously stuck here for a while.”
Nelson smiled. “Jamieson will be glad to hear that.”
Crane raised his hand slightly, then let it flop back onto the rack. “Walking out is not something that I’m up to at the moment. I’m happy to be alive. When I couldn’t get the stores cabinet open and the fans cut off, well, I thought that was it. I didn’t mind, because I knew you would survive.”
“We were supposed to go together,” Nelson growled. “At least that’s what you said. I don’t appreciate you breaking that promise.”
Something flickered in Lee’s dark hazel eyes. “You wouldn’t have let me stay otherwise and it’s my job–”
Harry raised a hand. “Thank you for saving my life. We’ll discuss what I hired you to do later. When you’re well. I only want to know one thing. Why did you do it?”
Crane continuing gazing up at him. Finally he spoke. “General order 53,” Lee stated quietly and this time did not hide his smile.
“There is no general order 53,” Nelson replied, after he thought about it a moment.
“There is now,” Lee replied firmly.
It was Nelson’s turn to smile. “All right, son, so be it. Mind you, I’ll be taking steps to make sure you never use it again.”
“Whatever is best for the boat,” Crane answered. “You’d better go get Jamie. I’m not sure how much longer I can stay awake.”
“Long enough for me to take your vitals, Skipper. Then you can sleep all you want.” Will moved in next to Nelson and Harry stepped away to make room for the Doctor. “It’s a small space and you two have been at it a while. Loud enough to rouse me.”
“Jamie’s a light sleeper,” Lee observed as he closed his eyes. “Can’t get anything past him.”
“I’ll remember that,” Nelson promised as he watched Jamieson do his check.
“Much better,” Will announced. “Now I want both of you to stay in bed until we make port tomorrow. No excuses.”
Part 4 of ??