Hide and Seek
Lee Crane glanced once more toward the nose and their three guests. Three unhappy guests. Dr. Robert Malcolm and his two associates, Colin Worth and Ray Bellmen, were geologists who had been told in no uncertain terms that the minerals they were looking for lay beyond Seaview’s crush depth and there was no power on earth that could make Nelson force his crew to undertake the dangerous dive, no matter how rare and vital said minerals were.
“Somehow I get the feeling this isn’t over,” Chip Morton whispered as he moved to stand by Lee’s side, surreptitiously glancing at their guests as he looked over the maps spread out on the table.
“You and me both. They gave up way to easily. This rare mineral they’re looking for is the key component in a new fuel cell they’re developing. I can’t see them giving up to start a search for a new source when they’ve already found a source.”
Chip shook his head. “It’s a hundred twenty-five to two. They don’t stand a chance if they tried something. Beside they don’t have any weapons. All the firearms are completely locked down. As a precaution, I had an inventory done on the armory. Everything’s accounted for and there is no way they could have snuck a gun on board.”
“I hope you’re right, Chip. I guess I’m used to something going wrong around here.
Footsteps on the stairwell got everyone attention as Admiral Harriman Nelson descended into the control room. His deep sapphire blue eyes still flashed with repressed anger from the blow up with Malcolm. For a second he stood at the foot of the stared and aimed his glare at the three geologists.
“Have you finally gotten it through your heads that we are not going into that trench?” Nelson asked, frost glazing each word.
“It would seem arguing with you is futile, Admiral. You have made your mind up and there is no dissuading you.”
Nelson snorted. “I’m glad you see it my way. I’m sure if we look over your data, we can find another more suitable site to search.”
“Perhaps. You’ve seen the geological signature. Do you have any suggestions for a possible search area?”
Nelson moved to the plot table. “Possibly. Take a look at this area,” he invited as he picked up a pencil and pointed to a spot on the map. The three geologists moved to flank Nelson, Malcolm on his left, Worth on his right and beside Lee, while Bellmen moved between Lee and Chip
Malcolm studied the spot on the map Nelson indicated. “Yes, I do see a possibility here.”
It happened so fast, Lee didn’t even have time to react. Worth threw a punch to his gut, then wrapped an arm around his neck. Something cold and jagged was pressed hard against his throat. Lee recognized the serrated edge of a diver’s knife. He grabbed at the arm around his neck, but he saw Chip in the same position. He stopped struggling as Malcolm pointed his own blade directly at Nelson’s chest. The admiral was bent over backward against the plot table, his eyes darting to Lee and Chip.
“I think we like this area better. Nelson, you are going to get my minerals for me.”
Nelson was furious. “I told you, the site is below our crush depth. You’ll kill us all!” the admiral snarled. Malcolm was unfazed.
“We’ll take the flying sub. We can collect the samples we need with the retractable arms and come back here. Seaview goes home, nobody gets hurt. Everybody wins.”
Nelson entire body quivered with barely repressed rage. Lee and Chip were both helpless and there was nothing Nelson could do for them except to play along.
“I suppose you want me to pilot the flying sub?”
Malcolm smiled. “Of course. Crane and Morton will remain here with my associates, as insurance of your cooperation. Time is of the essence, don’t you agree?” Malcolm gestured to the flying sub hatch. He stepped away from the admiral and Nelson straightened. His fury still blazing, he took two angry steps forward.
Bellmen tightened his grip on Chip, pulling his head back further and digging the blade into the flesh of Chip’s throat. A small sound escaped from Chip’s lips as a very fine trickle of blood oozed from under the blade.
“Easy admiral. Bellmen is a nervous sort of fellow. Now move. Slowly,” ordered Malcolm with a sneer.
Nelson kept his steps slow and easy as he walked to the hatch. He gave the wheel a few spins and pulled the hatch cover off. The dark hole below him seemed an ominous entity, waiting. Harry swallowed back a remark as he glanced up once more to see his captain, Worth still holding the knife tight to his throat. Nelson had no choice.
“Go on, Admiral. Rank has its privileges,” Malcolm fairly giggled.
Lee watched as Nelson cast one last glance to him. There was something unreadable in Nelson’s eyes as he vanished into the crawl way. Malcolm climbed down after. Just before he pulled the hatch shut, he address his associates.
“Like we discussed. Remember that.” Then Malcolm disappeared, pulling the hatch shut.
No one in the control room dared move. Lee felt the dip in Seaview’s nose as the flying sub berth flooded then the slight bob that said the craft had launched. The small submersible drifted by the windows, then slowly descended into the depths of the unnamed trench. Deeper and deeper she went, into the darkness of the abyss. Lee found himself holding his breath. She couldn’t go much further. Surely Nelson had a plan, he wouldn’t just blindly go…
The explosion sent a shockwave rocketing toward Seaview. Lee reacted instinctively, pulling away from Worth. In seconds it was over as dozens of crewmen joined in. Both geologists were soon subdued.
“Get these two to the brig!” he shouted, rubbing at his neck. Chip was wiping the thin cut on his throat with a handkerchief. Lee grabbed up the mike and barked out orders.
“Damage control report!”
Reports came back in that Seaview had suffered no damage in the explosion. In something of a daze, Lee hung up the mike and walked to the front of the sub. He pressed a hand against the thick herculite windows, staring ahead.
Debris was still floating, distinct pieces of yellow, some still had the blue striping. Gone was Malcolm. Gone was Nelson. Gone was a piece of Lee Crane’s heart and soul.
“Admiral?” Lee called out softly. A hand gently seize his shoulder. Chip stood behind him, his gaze as haunted as Lee’s as he stared out into the sea. The bloody handkerchief was still clutched tightly in the other hand.
“No. It can’t be,” Morton whispered.
“We saw it, Chip. We both saw her explode. It wasn’t an illusion.”
A click sounded from the flying sub hatch. Lee and Chip spun to see the wheel slowly turning, then the hatch was thrown back.
A slightly worse-for-wear Admiral Nelson heaved himself out of the hatchway. His auburn hair was wild and tangled, and he was starting to sport a lovely bruise on his cheek and jaw. He tossed a disgusted look to his officers, who just stood staring.
“A little help?” he asked and Lee and Chip both jumped into action, helping him to the deck.
”But flying sub, it exploded, we saw it. How did, I mean, you…you should be dead!” Lee exclaimed, eyes darting from the window to Nelson himself. The admiral chuckled.
“I feel pretty good for a dead man then. Malcolm and I had a bit of an disagreement once we got into the flying sub. He punched me, I punch him and Malcolm fell into the main circuitry panel. The shock killed him. There was still Worth and Bellmen to deal with, so I programmed the flying sub into a direct dive, knowing it would explode once it reached its crush depth. Meanwhile, I hid in the crawl way, waiting for the shockwave of the explosion to give you the distraction you needed to deal with our knife wielding assailants. I trust you have everything in order?”
Chip and Lee exchanged surprised looks then both men smiled.
“Yes sir, Admiral. Everything is under control now. I take it we’re no longer looking for minerals?” Lee asked weakly, his mind still reeling from first the shock of losing Nelson, then finding him alive.
“Nope. I want to try to recover as much of the flying sub as possible. I don’t want someone of the unfriendly nature trying to piece her together. I’ll be in my cabin, Lee. Carry on.”
Nelson staggered up the steps as Lee and Chip stared after him. They weren’t the only ones. The entire watch was dumbfounded. Chip finally found his voice as he drifted back to the plot table.
“Hide and Seek, Admiral Nelson-style. Lee, remind me never to try to out think that man,”
Lee laughed as he leaned against the table for strength.
“You’ll get no argument from me, Chip. He has his own set of rules. If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never be able to out think him.”
“Would we want to?” asked Chip with a grin.
Lee considered Chip’s question, thinking about Nelson’s mind and how it worked, how he seemed to always know just what was going on and how he always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone.
“You know Chip, I don’t think I could if I tried.”