This is a stand alone story, written for Halloween in 2008.
One minutes things were just fine the next minute Seaview bucked wildly, hard to port. No one was expecting any turbulence and yet some rogue current just rolled in from somewhere and knocked the submarine around like a bathtub toy.
Lee clawed at the crates in the small compartment, trying to keep his balance as Seaview listed like a drunken sailor. The ties holding the crates down snapped under the strain and they slid out from under the netting. In slow motion, three heavy wooden crates plowed into Lee. He tried to move out of their way but, under the wildly shifting deck, Crane simply couldn't move fast enough. With the moving force of several hundred pounds of freight slamming into him, Lee was thrown into the bulkhead, snapping his head hard against the metal plating. Bonelessly, the young skipper slid down to the deck, half supported by the mangled remains of the largest of the three crates.
Cold seawater began lapping at Lee's black shoes.
“Control Room, what the devil is going on?” Admiral Nelson's voice bellowed though the intercom at full volume. Wincing, Chip scrabbled off the deck from where he had been thrown and snatched at the mike on the plot table. “We're not sure just yet, some kind of rogue current. We had no warning before it slammed into us. I'm still trying to get a damage control report.”
“I'm on my way down. Carry on, Chip.”
“Aye, aye sir,” Nelson clicked off and Chip double clicked the mike. “Damage Control, I want a full report and get me a casualty list!” Morton barked and was rewarded by a steady stream of reports as various parts of the boat responded to his call. Sharkey, Patterson, Kowalski, all calling in on the status of their various sections. Patterson reported that communications were spotty past frame sixty. There were scattered reports of flooding but a short in the wiring filled the lines with static and the reports coming in were none too clear.
Nelson came clambering down the stairwell. His sapphire eyes swept the Control Room and came to rest on the exec, the blood trickling it's slow way down the right side of his head and the way the blond officer was holding his right arm close to his chest.
“Chip, you need to be in Sick Bay,” Nelson said as Chip fixed his somewhat dazed looking blue eyes on him.
“It's just a scratch, sir. It can wait. We've got a short in communications, interfering with the reports coming in past frame sixty. We've also got some flooding but I haven't been able to pin down where yet.”
Chip blinked, feeling like an idiot for forgetting about Lee. “He was doing a walk about the boat. I don’t know his exact location and I haven't heard from him since Seaview calmed down.” Clicking the mike again. Morton's voice echoed through the sub.
“Captain Crane, please report your location.” Chip waited, but got no answering response. He repeated his order and still got no answer. Chip drummed his fingers against the mike housing. He couldn't leave the Control Room and right now he couldn't spare a search party. Nelson was also getting that concerned look.
“Keep a handle on things here, I'll work my way aft and see if anyone has seen him. See if you can't get someone on to work on communications. We need the intercom working. The minute we get things under control, I want you in Sick Bay.”
“Aye sir, I've got Patterson on that as we speak. If anybody can pin down the short in the line, it's Patterson.”
With a light slap on the exec's shoulder Nelson headed aft, bypassing repair teams on the way. Seaview shuddered once more, not with the force of the earlier shake up, but enough to make everyone hold their breath. With renewed determination, Nelson plowed forward, seeking Crane or any sign of him.
Lee tried to fight his way back to consciousness. He couldn't focus. Everything was fuzzy and the pounding in his head wouldn't allow him concentrate. Weakly, he lifted his head and tried to focus on the mike, swinging on its cord, knocking against the bulkhead. He had to get to the mike. He could call for a damage control team if he could just make it to the mike. A hazy, indistinct figure stood by the hatch, just standing there watching Lee as he struggled to his feet.
Why isn't he calling for help? Doesn't he see the compartment is flooding? Lee thought, trying to recall the crewman's name. Something about him was off. With a shiver, Lee realized he could see right through the figure in blue, the hatch door clearly visible through the man's body.
Lee tried to push off from the crates when Seaview shuddered. The tremor knocked the already unbalanced skipper off his feet and his head collided with the edge of the crate. Lee dropped unconscious into the rising flood waters, the edge of the broken crate stained a deep crimson from Lee's blood.
The transparent figure in front of the hatch turned and passed though the steel door as if it didn't exist.
Nelson passed yet another work gang, shoring up a section of bulkhead with timbers and metal supports. He exchanged a few words of encouragement to each of the groups he passed and asked each one about the missing skipper. So far no one had seen him.
Nelson was getting more and more worried with each passing step. Was Lee laying unconscious somewhere? Was he even alive? No, Lee had to be alive, Nelson refused to believe anything else. Pausing at a intersection, he pondered which way to go. Without warning the temperature nosedived and Harry could see his breath hanging in the air like a silver cloud. The numbing cold sank into his bones and left him shivering. Harry wrapped his arms around himself, chaffing at his shoulders. At the far end of the corridor stood a hazy figure, dressed in a blue denim shirt and darker blue trousers. He seemed to hover several inches off the deck. The figure stared at Nelson, then turned, motioning for him to follow. Transfixed, Nelson found himself obeying, moving through the frost coated corridor.
The figure stopped and turned to look back at Nelson. Harry was trying to put a name to the indistinct figure but his features where hard to make out. As Harry got closer, the figure turned away and literally vanished though the closed hatch. Harry closed his hands around the hatch wheel. The metal so cold, it burned his hands and fingers. Gripping and turning the wheel, Nelson became aware of a whispering, barely loud enough for him to make out.
The skipper. Find the skipper. Help the skipper.
Pulling on the hatch, Nelson was nearly knocked down by the force of the waist high water that poured through the open hatchway. Clawing for the mike just around the corner of the flooded compartment, Nelson yelled for a damage control team to compartment forty-seven, on the double, then waded into the hold.
Crane lay on his side, drenched and bleeding from a nasty head wound, his body half hidden from view by a couple of badly damaged crates. Nelson dropped down by Lee's side, bushing way the wildly curling dark hair to get a better look at the wound. Lee stirred weakly under Nelson's touch, muttering something under his breath.
“Easy, Lee. You're gonna be fine, just take it easy,” Nelson urged, but something had Crane agitated and he wouldn't calm down. Lee shook with the cold and Harry pulled him closer, trying to keep Lee warm until the damage control team arrived.
“Admiral, it was Blake. He was here. It was Blake, I saw him.” Lee managed as deep shivers wracked his lean frame. Nelson held on to him tighter, glancing around and wishing that damage control would hurry the devil up.
A shimmer out of the corner of his eye caught Nelson's attention. In the farthest corner, the clear figure of the blue clad crewman waited. He saluted the admiral then slowly faded.
“Sir?” Kowalski's voice broke through Nelson's daze and brought his attention back to the shivering man in his arms.
“Kowalski, get the Doc down here, the skipper's hurt,” Nelson said, trying to focus but he couldn't push past what he had seen. What he and Lee had seen.
“Aye sir, right away,” Kowalski grabbed for the mike, but this time only static crackled over the line. With a disgusted growl and a quick look back at his admiral and skipper Ski took off down the corridor.
Lee was shivering violently, unable to stop. Nelson pulled the young man closer to his chest, trying to will some warmth into the skipper’s body.
“Lee, I need you to stay with me, Lee. Open your eyes for me. Come on, lad, I know you can do it.” Nelson pleaded. But Lee had slipped back into unconsciousness. The unnatural cold of the compartment wasn't helping either man. Nelson refused to let go, as if it was his grip alone that was holding Lee's life in check.
“Admiral,” Will Jamison's voice washed over Nelson and he looked up to see the doctor hovering close by with Frank and Kowalski.
“He's so cold, Will, I can't get him warm,” Nelson said, as Jamie knelt down by his side, gauging Lee's pulse and vitals. Gently, he peeled the half frozen commander out of the admiral's grasp.
“Sick Bay, gentlemen, and double time it. He's slipping into second stage hypothermia,” Jamison barked and John and Ski got their skipper loaded onto the stretcher. Harry rose to his feet, watching the other three work. Almost in daze, he followed along behind them.
Will noticed immediately that something was amiss with the admiral the minute he stepped into compartment forty-seven. The paper white completion, the dilated eyes that looked like dark staring pools. At first, the CMO was willing to chalk it up to Lee's condition. It hadn't been the first time Nelson had found the skipper and pulled him away from death's door. No, something else had the admiral dancing with shock. If he could get him in Sick Bay, maybe Will could narrow down what had the admiral so spooked.
Once in Sick Bay, Ski turned the skipper over to Frank, and vanished to join up with the damage control teams. Nelson hovered just inside the door, watching as the corpsmen worked quickly to get the soaked uniform off the young commander and redressed in warm dry Sick Bay greens. As Will worked to clean the wound just under Crane's hairline, he began asking Nelson what he knew. “How long had he been laying in water?”
“I . . .I have no idea, he was soaked by the time I found him. Same with the head wound. He was semi-conscious when I got to him,” Nelson said, somewhat detached. Will glanced up, to see the Admiral staring off into space.
“Admiral, maybe you should get out of that damp uniform, get warmed up,” Will suggested. He saw Nelson's blue eyes snap into focus.
“No, I need to check with Chip, make sure he's doing alright and get an update on our status. You'll keep me updated on Lee's condition?”
“You know I will. Go on, check on your other boy and get out of that uniform. The last thing you need is a case of pneumonia.”
With one eye on Nelson, the other on Crane, Will watched the admiral leave Sick Bay, and shook his head. Turning his attention back to Lee, Will noticed the skipper stirring, trying to crawl back from unconsciousness. He tossed restlessly and was muttering incoherently.
Lee's eyes abruptly snapped open and Will found himself looking into two fathomless wells of darkness. Lee reached out and grabbed hold of Will's wrist, the slender fingers locked around Will's wrist in a grip of death.
“I saw him. You have to believe me,” Lee pleaded, the raw desperation in his voice made Will's heart ache in sympathy. With Lee's history, he could have seen anything. With that head wound, there was no doubt that Lee was seeing things. Will tried to be sympathetic.
“I believe you, skipper. I need you to calm down, I need to clean the wound and get you stitched up.”
“You have a head wound, Lee. You've lost a lot of blood and your pushing second stage hypothermia. Let me do my job, skipper.” Lee slowly released Will's wrist and lay back down on the examine table. Clearly, something else was bothering Seaview's commander. Calmly, Will explained what he was doing even though he was fairly certain Lee wasn't hearing him. “This is a local anesthesia, skipper. I need to numb the area so I can stitch the wound.”
Again, confusion clouded Lee's jade touched hazel eyes, almost as if he didn't know he had a head wound. He glanced back up at Will. “Wound?” he whispered.
“Yes, Lee. You hit your head. Now just relax, skipper.” Will hoped by continually using Lee's and the title of 'skipper', Lee would relax and let him work. The ploy seemed to be working as Lee closed his eyes and slowly began to relax. Will heaved a long sigh, motioning for Frank to come closer. The corpsmen was one step ahead of the doctor; this not being the first time their Sick Bay-disliking-commander was confined here.
“I.V.'s ready, sir. Just waiting to see if you want the usual,” Frank said. Will nodded and Frank moved toward the cabinet, searching for the sedative for the skipper's I.V.
With the wound on his head finally cleaned and stitched, Lee was finally moved to the bottom bunk, the I.V. set up and a mild sedative administered into the line. Will figured it wouldn't take much to send Lee under and he didn't want to completely knock him out. Lee, meanwhile, still tossed uneasily as the fluids began to circulate through his lean muscular frame. He peered up at Will one last time. Something flickered in the back of Lee's eyes and Will knelt down next to him. “What is it skipper, what's the matter?”
“What if he comes back? What if he's like Krueger? What if he comes back?” Lee asked in a small, almost frightened voice. Will laid a protective hand on his young commander's shoulder.
“Who, skipper? What if who comes back?”
Will watched as Lee's expression went blank as the sedative and the blood loss finally caught up with him. Just before he dropped, he locked eyes with Will. “Blake. Jamie, what if Blake comes back?” Lee closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Blake? Who was Blake? Will wondered, slowly rising to his feet and making his way to his desk. Feeling exhaustion trying to creep in, Will leaned back in his chair, watching Lee from the small alcove. What, or who had Lee seen that had pushed him to the edge of terror? Had the admiral seen the same thing? And who was Blake?
Chip braced himself against the table, fighting off another wave of dizziness. He wasn't ready to hand the con over to O'Brien yet. The younger man was getting better but he wasn't up to multi tasking quite the way Chip could juggle things.
Pushing past the pain of his pounding head and the throbbing of his shoulder, Chip forced himself to concentrate on the reports in front of him. That’s when Seaview tilted, just slightly. Chip recognized the early warning signs and snapped up the mike.
“All hands, brace for turbulence, repeat all hands, brace for . . .” and Seaview was once more rocked by what ever rogue current had started this whole nightmare. Behind him, the computer sparked and flared. Chip felt the submarine tilt and then the deck seemed to drop out from under his feet. Crewmen were yelling: they were loosing trim, maneuverability was gone, the diving planes were locked . . .
Chip spun on one heel. The Circuitry Room. They had to restore power if they were going to pull out of this dive. Chip yelled into the mike over the popping and crackling of the Control Room coming apart at the seams. “Circuitry Room, what's going on down there?” But there was no answer. Without waiting for a volunteer, Chip headed out of the Control Room, with a shout at O’Brien to take the con until he got back.
Chip found the Circuitry Room empty and main panel dark. He lunged for the override switch, slapping at it with frantic determination. Another wave of dizziness washed over him making Morton stagger into one of the live panels. A jolt of electricity shot through Morton's body and he crumpled to the floor in a twitching convulsing heap.
His body still jerking as residual power faded from his system, Chip could have sworn he saw a familiar muscular figure in khaki, with COB chevrons on his shoulders. Blackness rose up to greet Chip as the vision faded.
Nelson was on his way to the Control Room when Seaview once more tilted out of control. He braced himself against the bulkhead and hung on until the bucking stopped. There was a definite forward tilt and the lights flickered. Nelson lunged forward to the Control Room but stopped when that other worldly cold wrapped around him again, seeming to rise up from the decking its self. Nelson watched as frost began to form under his shoes, racing along the decking and up the bulkhead, like the fotage of a high-speed camera. At the end of the corridor, at the junction that would lead to the Circuitry Room, stood the very clear and very transparent figure of the late Chief Curly Jones.
“Curly?” Nelson asked, not ready to believe what he was seeing. The figure, like the figure he had seen before in the flooded compartment, simply turned and walked down the corridor. Nelson hurried after, his shoes slipping on the frost, now melting away.
Curly stopped outside the Circuitry Room door. Again, Nelson could just make out an indistinct whispering, like a voice in the wind.
It's Mr. Morton. He needs you, sir. There was no mistaking Jones' gravely voice, no matter how whispery it was. The shadowy figure walked through the closed door. Nelson grabbed the handle, also burning cold to the touch, and pushed.
On the floor of the Circuitry Room, a familiar figure lay on the floor, curled in a ball. The air was thick with smoke, choking Nelson as he grabbed Chip by the shoulder and turned him over. The blond was pale and barely breathing.
“Chip, come on, son, give me a sign,” Nelson pleaded with the exec, but Chip was unresponsive. He pulled one of Chip's arms over his own shoulders and lifted Morton off the deck. Turning toward the door, Nelson was once more faced with the undeniable figure of Curly.
“Chief?” Nelson whispered, his own voice catching as Jones smiled, then he, like the vision of Blake before, slowly vanished.
Harry half carried, half dragged the exec into the corridor. Carefully, Nelson lowered Chip's body to the deck. Feeling for a pulse, Harry felt Chip's body shudder and grow still. Morton had stopped breathing.
“NO, Chip, no! Come on lad, breathe,” Nelson pleaded and began pounding on Chip's chest, begging the younger man to breathe. Chip gasped and sucked in a breath, fighting to come around. Nelson laid a hand on Morton's shoulder as Chip tossed his blond head back and forth. Chip never fully came around, but like Lee, he was muttering something.
“Can't be. Dead. Curly. He's . . .he's dead,” the agitated officer mumbled, then grew silent. Nelson got an arm under Chip's shoulders and heaved the blond to his feet. He pulled one of Chip's arms over his own shoulders and Nelson wrapped an arm around the other man's waist. Half dragging the unconscious man, Nelson started for Sick Bay.
“Admiral? Chip!?” Will exclaimed, as Nelson appeared in the doorway. The doctor was on his feet and on the moved, getting Chip on the examine table.
“What happened?” Will asked, getting a sense of Morton's vital signs. He glanced up long enough to same the staring, dazed expression he saw on Nelson's face earlier.
Nelson jerked back to reality. “Oh, he . . .he hit his head during the first tremor. Did something to his right arm as well, I think, he was favoring it earlier. I found him like this in the Circuitry Room.”
“Looks like a pretty bad whack on the head. Dislocated shoulder, burns on his hands and arms. Electrical shock, no doubt. I want to keep an eye on him for a few hours make sure the heart muscles aren't damaged. Frank?” At the sound of his name the corpsmen appeared from the back of the Sick Bay. “We need to pop that shoulder back into place, stitch his head wound and treat the burns.”
Frank nodded and started gathering what they needed. Nelson wandered over to Lee, sleeping in the lower bunk. What had he seen? Blake, who had died saving Seaview when she was caught in minefield. Now Curly, who had touched a short in the Circuitry Room and the resulting shock had stopped his heart cold. He never stood a chance.
“Admiral? Are you alright?” Will asked, watching the man space out for the third time. Nelson shook his head free of the cobwebs and faced the doctor.
“No, nothing. Just thinking. Are they going to be alright?” he asked, gesturing to his officers.
“They'll be fine. Lee's hypothermia has left him a little weak, but he needs the rest anyhow. He'll be fine in a few days. Chip's going to need to wear a sling on his arm, to keep that shoulder quiet, the burns need to be wrapped and the knot on his head might make him dizzy for a few days. He'll need to out of commission for a few days longer than Lee, but you'll get them both back before long.”
Nelson nodded as he listened, still trying to explain to himself what he had seen. He didn't realize Will was calling his name until the doctor touched him on the shoulder.
“Who? What? Will?” Nelson focused back on his CMO.
“Admiral, who is Blake?”
“Lee was mumbling something about Blake being like Krueger. His exact words were 'what if Blake comes back'. I'm afraid with his head wound, Lee might have been delusional.”
“He's not delusional, Will. Maybe later, when I can wrap my head around all this, maybe I can understand what's going on and convince myself it was real.”
Seaview was on her way home. O'Brien had stepped up and taken over, picking up where Chip had left off, handling the damage control reports and keeping on top on the repairs. It was hours later, nearing midnight, and Seaview had at last moved out of the area of the devastating mystery currents. They were finally on a heading that would bring them back to Santa Barbara in about six days.
Nelson had eventually gotten the chance to change clothes. His uniform had been stained with blood, a reminder of the two that now rested in Sick Bay. When Nelson was sure everything was under control and the night watch had taken over, he made his way to Sick Bay. He found Will still on duty, hovering over the two current occupants with his typical concern.
“Been wondering when you were gonna show up. Pull up a chair and sit with your boys for a while. I'd rather see you in a bunk than a chair, but at this point I'll take what I can get.”
Nelson eased down in the chair that seemed to waiting for him. He stretched his legs out, hearing bones creak and feeling aching muscles complain. “How are they?”
“I would have called you had there been a change. Both are still out and resting, which is the best for them right now. They'll be awake soon enough, and I'll have a fight on my hands trying to keep them both down.”
“I'll see what I can do to keep them a little more agreeable to an extended stay,” Harry replied with a dry chuckle.
Will laid a hand on his employer's shoulder and gave Harry a reassuring squeeze. “I'm off to catch a quick shower and see what I can smuggle out of the galley. John's on duty now, he's down in stores checking on a few things, but he shouldn't be gone long. Anything changes, you can call either him or me.”
“We'll be fine. Go on and get cleaned up. You've had a busy day.”
“We all have, Admiral. Try to relax a little. Your boys will be fine.”
With that comment, Will headed off, leaving Nelson alone with Lee and Chip. Both men were still and sleeping peacefully, neither seemed affected by what ever they had seen.
Blake. Curly. Had he been seeing things? There were a number of explanations for why he had seen the image of two dead men. But the voices? How could he explain the voices and that unnatural cold? Harry considered compartment forty-seven, the area he had found Lee. The compartment he had been led to. There was no doubt about it. Blake had led him to Lee. Blake had died in that compartment, sacrificing himself to save Seaview, trying to make up for a stupid mistake on his part. Was Blake's spirit still hanging around? Considering Lee's history with the supernatural elements, if he had seen Blake, it only seemed natural that Lee would draw a comparison with Krueger.
But what about Curly? Jones had died in the Circuitry Room, working on a rewiring project when he touched a bare line by accident. The resulting charge had stopped the big man's heart and he had died instantly. Curly had always thought a lot of Chip. The two of them had a great deal of respect for each other and Chip had been deeply touched when Curly died. Was Jones still around, keeping a watchful eye on the XO?
Harry suppressed a shudder then realized it wasn't his nerves. The cold air that swept through Sick Bay wasn't as severe as the first two times, but it was enough to alert Harry that something was happening. He turned around in the chair, his eyes scanning the room. Automatically tracking movement, Harry focused on a form slowly coalescing in the far corner of Sick Bay. He was tall man, in khaki, the stripes on his long sleeved jacket clearly visible.
John Phillips smiled at Admiral Harriman Nelson.
“You look good, Harry.” The words sounded hollow, as if they were echoing from deep under ground.
“I'd like to say the same for you. Why are you here, John?” Nelson asked, feeling his heart galloping wildly. Never in a million years had Harry even dreamed he would be having this conversation.
“We've always been here, Harry. Think of us as a special detail, so to speak”.
“Myself. Young Blake. Chief Jones, of course. O'Mara. Grady. A couple of others I'm sure you'll remember. Most died on board. I was the first, and while I was killed off boat, I was still given the choice.”
Nelson stood, jamming his hands in his pockets and leaning against the bunk supports.
“Choice? What kind of a choice?”
“I wasn't ready to leave Seaview. Face it, Harry, Crane was awfully young on that first mission. I thought he might need some help, someone to nudge him in the right direction. Seems I misjudged my successor.”
“Lee's a good commander. He has good instincts,” Nelson said, casting a gaze back to the sleeping young man.
“He is. Better than I was with near twenty years more experience. He and Morton make a good team. Its important to keep this team, the three of you, together.”
“So I really saw Blake and Curly?”
“Yes. The veil between the living and the dead is thinnest this time of year. Blake sort of keeps watch over his skipper. Haven't you wondered how you always seem to know when he needs you?”
Nelson crossed his arms over his chest, keeping his expression neutral. “And I suppose Curly keeps an eye on Chip?”
Phillips eyes seemed to twinkle, despite their transparency. “Those two were always close.”
The deceased commander’s transparent form seemed to pulse before re-solidifying. Nelson noticed that the ghostly form seemed to hover a few inches above the deck, like the figure of Blake had.
“I assume someone keeps an eye on me,” Nelson conjectured and watched Seaview's first skipper grin.
“It’s a hard job, Harry, but somebody's got to do it. You three are a difficult trio to keep up with.”
“We'll try to be a bit more careful in the future,” came Nelson's dry reply. Phillips laughed, a deep hollow sound, like wind rolling over the sea.
“As if there was chance of that happening,” Phillips said finally. He turned his gaze to the two men in the bunks next to Harry. “Brave men. It wasn't their time. You three have much to do yet. Seaview's job has only just begun. I'm glad we had this chance to talk, Harry. Tell your commander that Blake means him no harm. Those like Krueger are few and far between. Unfortunately, Crane seems to attract his kind. Lee is a strong man. With you and Morton by his side, there isn't anything he won't overcome. Take care, Admiral.”
“You said you keep watch. Will we ever see you again?”
Phillips form continued to fade. “Always a chance, Harry. Always a ghost of a chance.”
Then he was gone.
Unable to sit still, Harry prowled the Sick Bay, going over the encounter in his mind. How was he going to explain this to Lee and Chip? Were they going to remember what they had seen, or would they put it off to hallucinations? How do you explain the ghost of a murdered man, returning to set the record straight? From the looks of things, it would be sometime before either officer came around to even consider what had happened.
Nelson's gaze came to rest in the surface of Will's desk, the pile of reports, the medical journals, and the desk calendar. Under the ocean surface, with only the changing of the watches to signal the ever-changing days, time passes differently for a submariner. Harriman felt all the color drain from his face, as he slowly comprehended the day's date.
October thirty-first. Also known as All Hallows Eve. Halloween.