Another story that features Serena Harrison but this tale is more about Chip, Lee and bad timing.
I slid through my cabin door and shut it firmly behind me, breathing a sigh of relief. I dropped bonelessly to the bunk and worked my shoes off without untying them. They landed with a dull thump onto the deck. My feet were still damp. The socks clung stubbornly to my feet but I finally pulled them loose. They landed with a wet splat next to the shoes. My trousers were soaked from the knees down. The rest of me was in various stages of dampness. Welcome to a day in the life of an XO. Dear Mom, while on an archaeological expedition to find the wreck of a six-hundred year old Spanish galleon, led by the admiral and a rather attractive, red-headed marine archaeologist named Serena Harrison, we encountered a bit of turbulence as a result of an undersea quake. As a result of said quake, we blew a bulkhead and I, being in the area at the time, volunteered to help shore up above-mentioned bulkhead hence the reason for wet shoes and trousers. Maybe I wouldnít write Mom about that little tidbit. She worries about her kids enough as it is.
I was so tired all I really wanted to do was curl up on the bunk and just go to sleep. I could still smell stale salty seawater, smoke from the welders and sweat. I really needed a shower before I went to bed. So I had to get out of the rest of my clothes. Showering fully clothed sort of defeats the purpose. I pulled the tie free of my collar and tried to work the buttons of the shirt loose. When I finally got the shirt off, I carried it and the tie to the hamper and dropped them in. Laundry detail would pick them up later. The belt landed with a clink in the sink. My wallet, still damp, I sat behind the faucet. The half soaked trousers and everything else joined the shirt in the hamper.
I turned on the shower, set the water as hot as I could stand it, and stood under the blasting spray, letting it hit my shoulders and neck then run down my back. My muscles were tight and the hot water helped to loosen the knots as I stood there, one arm braced against the shower wall, the other pushing my hair out of my eyes. I couldnít get Serena Harrison out of my mind.
The day had started when Doctor Harrison mentioned to the admiral she needed a database set up to collate the samples collected from the debris field, one that would interface with her translations of the San Isabellaís manifests. Did he happen to have someone on board who knew programming? Lee had smirked and the admiral more than graciously volunteered my services. I get to work with the pretty lady and Lee gets to dig around in the mud. Some days I really loved my job.
I liked Doctor Harrison. She was smart, had an off sense of humor that I completely understood.† She was respectful of the crew, didnít demand the impossible, and was unending in her praise when the divers brought up something useful. She seemed a little self-conscious about herself. She had a slight limp, the end result of an accident a few months ago. But she was still a competent scientist else the admiral would never have accepted her aboard.
I soaped up, rinsed, and then shut the shower off. I wrapped a towel around my waist and padded barefoot back to the cabin to dig out clean clothes. The wet socks were still in the floor. Sighing, I started to bend over to pick them up. Thatís when Lee knocked. I know it was Lee, cause his voice followed the knocking.
"Chip? You still up?"
"Yeah, come on in," I said. I was hopping that he had arrived with food. Lee had promised he was going to pester Cookie for some dinner for the two of us. I had missed the last meal when the bulkhead blew and my stomach was reminding me of my lapse. Loudly.
The door flung open and Lee waltzed in with a tray of delicious smelling concoctions balance on one hand.
Now remember. I was barefoot, bare-chested with towel for modesty, my hair uncombed from the shower, and holding a pair of wet, dripping black socks in one hand, my pajamas in the other. Lee and I had roomed together for four years. Nothing about me was going to surprise him and vise versa. That wasnít my problem. Right behind Lee was Doctor Serena Harrison, all 5'4" of her, a notebook and the old log books in one hand, a pencil in the other.
She stopped short just inside the door and stared. Her eyes stared at the top of my head, paused when she reached the level of my chest and followed me down to my toes. Then she locked those green eyes on mine and grinned crookedly. I stood there like an idiot, frozen to the deck. She shoved the pencil behind her right ear, drew her books under her chin, glanced over to Lee and back to me. The grinned turned into a real smile, even though she had turned as many shade of red as I had. She backed out of my cabin. "Itís not really important, Commander. Iíll come back when youíre a little more together," she said and vanished around the corner.
Lee had set the tray on my desk and was doing his best not to laugh in my face. "Chip, you have got to believe me, I had no idea you were in the shower . . ."
"You idiot! You could have warned me she was with you before you threw the door open! Just because I like the woman doesnít mean I want her to see me half naked at the first opportunity!" I hissed at him and stalked back to the head to change clothes. Then I realized I was still holding my wet socks. I looked back at Lee.
"Chip, donít do anything youíll regret," he warned. I raised an eyebrow, wadded up one sock and let it fly. Wet socks do not a good projectile make. Lee ducked, and the slow moving sock sailed over him and though the open door. I hadnít seen anybody outside the door. He just happened to walk by just as the sock cleared the door frame.
I cringed, put one hand on the bulkhead and covered my face with the other. Looking down, I desperately wished the deck would open up and swallow me whole.
The sock had smacked him slap in the middle of his face, right between the eyes. My wet, black sock, framed by a full set of stars on the admiral's collar. Morton, you are a dead man.
Lee had wisely moved out of the line of fire and was sitting on my bunk, looking as innocent as only he could. The admiral peeled my sock off his face and held it out away from him between two fingers. Water dripped off the offending object onto the deck. "Mister Morton, would you care to explain this?" he asked, trying to wipe the water from his face.
"I was aiming at Lee, sir." If I was going down, I was taking my skipper with me.
"I see. Lee, what did you do to your XO to warrant having a wet sock lobbed at you?" asked the admiral, now hefting the soggy projectile in his hand, as if considering itís weight.
"I neglected to warn him I had Doctor Harrison with me when I entered his cabin, sir. He was attired as you see him now and was not amused at having the lady he is enamored with seeing him thusly un-attired."
"That would warrant a wet sock projectile," the admiral rumbled in an amused bass. He eyed Lee setting on my bunk. "And just where is the other sock?"
I lifted the sock in question up by the toe. Drip-drip-drip.
"On my mark Mr. Morton."
"Aye, Sir." I wadded the sock up in my hands as the admiral wadded up the one in his possession.
"Chip, admiral, can we talk about this?" Lee pleaded, knowing his doom was at hand. His ONI training wasnít going to help him now.
We both let fly and both socks hit home, slapping Lee on the left side of his head, across his ear, while the other hit him square on the mouth. He reached up, pulled the socks way from his face and shook his head, accepting his defeat.
"In case you're wondering gentlemen, that is why I have four stars. Carry on."