The following story was originally written around 15 years ago and the original version was published in a zine about 5 years ago. This is the new, changed version and my first major submission to a website. I would like to express my gratitude to Lill for her comments which sparked the rewrite and for her encouragement that ensured I finished it; and to both Lill and Lyn for their help in making it readable!
By Sue James
“Who was that iceberg I just passed in the corridor?” Chip Morton asked as he entered the office of his best friend and commanding officer at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research.
“Iceberg? In the corridor?” Lee Crane looked curiously at his executive officer. “Describe it.”
Chip frowned thoughtfully as he sat down on the black leather chair opposite Lee’s desk. “Tall… greying hair… spectacles….”
“Oh, you mean Dr. Westhal,” Lee grinned.
“Doctor?” Chip made a face. “Medical doctor?”
scientific. She’s in charge of the weather research team we’re taking to the
she has a glare that could freeze
“She does?” Lee looked amused. “What did you do to her?”
“Me? Hey, I didn’t do anything,” Chip protested his innocence. “I smiled at her and said 'Good Morning' and… WHAM! She gave me the GLARE! Looks like one unfriendly lady to me.”
“She’s been friends with the Admiral for years,” Lee remarked leaning back in his chair.
“Has she?” Chip was surprised. “What would the Old Man want with an old ice maiden like her?”
“She mightn’t be an “Old Ice Maiden” in his company,” Lee laughed. “and she may have been a little formal but I wouldn’t call her an ice maiden.”
“You’ve met her?”
“I have and you will too…at the reception on Thursday evening.”
“Reception?” Chip groaned. Attending formal receptions was one of the less attractive aspects of his work as executive officer of the world famous submarine Seaview.
“’Fraid so, pal,” Lee laughed again. He wasn’t keen on the formal aspects of their work either but he didn’t have quite the aversion to it that Chip did. “Dr. Westhal will enjoy seeing us together. She thinks that I’m far too young to be in command of a submarine like Seaview. She asked the Admiral if he was sure I know what I’m doing.”
“And he said not to worry because the exec is really in charge of the boat!” Chip teased.
“Yeah, and he looks like he just graduated High School,” Lee shot back good-naturedly.
“I do not,” Chip protested.
“Jan thinks you do,” Lee said in reference to Chip’s secretary.
“That’s because she’s old enough to be my mother.”
“Yea, well so is Dr. Westhal,” Lee said seriously. “And she’ll probably think the entire crew should still be in High School.”
“Except Sharkey,” Chip pointed out.
“Except Sharkey,” Lee nodded in agreement.
Chip was all set to continue but Lee forestalled him with a raised hand. “Hey, I called you here to discuss our next trip.”
“Ah, yes,” Chip nodded agreeably and assumed an air of seriousness. “Taking Dr. Westhal and her team to set up their weather research station?”
correct,” Lee nodded. “We’ll be setting out for the
“06.00 hours. It’ll be a long trip, three or four weeks, maybe longer. We’re going to help them set up the camp so a lot depends on the weather conditions and how close we can get Seaview to their chosen position. It could be a long haul on foot.”
“I’ll get started on loading our Arctic gear and sorting supplies.” Chip made a note on his battered clipboard. “How many in the Doctor’s team?”
“Eight including her.” Lee scratched behind his right ear with his pencil. “Beats me how anyone could opt to live out on the ice for six months. I prefer a warmer climate myself.”
“You don’t have ice running through your veins,” Chip remarked dryly. “Unlike the good doctor!”
Lee frowned. “I hope you’re not going to set yourself against her, Chip. This trip is potentially dangerous. I don’t want any trouble on board.”
“I’ll be the ultimate professional, Lee; you know that,” Chip responded seriously. “Anything else I should know now?”
Lee passed a sheaf of papers across the desk. “Here’s a list of all the equipment Dr. Westhal’s team will be bringing aboard.”
Chip took the papers and glanced through them. “That’s quite a load.”
“Yes, and it all needs to be checked and security tagged by one of our teams.”
“I’ll get on it as soon as it arrives,” Chip made another note on his clipboard. “Any idea when we can expect it?”
“You’ll have to consult with Dr. Westhal on that. Some of it is being flown in from the East Coast.”
“Right.” Chip shrugged his broad shoulders. “Anything else I should know?”
“No. You busy tonight?”
“Not that I know of,” Chip stretched his arms above his blond head. “You want to meet for dinner?”
“Sounds good to me,” Lee consulted his wristwatch. “I’ll meet you in the parking lot at 19.00 hours.”
Chip Morton set out for Thursday’s official reception in a positive frame of mind. Despite his joking with his friend and skipper he was a fair minded man and was willing to concede that he may have seen Dr. Westhal at an inopportune moment in one of the Institute’s corridors. It would be unfair of him to attend the gathering with his opinions set in concrete so he approached the event with a generously open mind.
evening started well. Chip encountered one meteorologist who came from his
Dr. Westhal was in conversation with Admiral Nelson and his sister, Edith, who was visiting her brother from
her home in
“Here’s your chance to redeem yourself,” Lee muttered as they crossed the room. “Smile nicely.”
“I smiled last time,” Chip grumbled indignantly. “And she glared at me for no reason.”
“Were your teeth clean?”
“Ah, Lee, Chip….” Admiral Nelson smiled at the two younger men. “Glad you could make it.”
As if we had a choice, Chip thought philosophically.
Turning to Dr. Westhal, Nelson said, “You’ve met Captain Crane?”
“Hello again, Captain,” Dr. Westhal smiled briefly at him and shook his proffered hand.
“And this is my executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton. Chip, Dr. Marion Westhal, scientist in charge on our next trip.”
“Pleased to meet you, Doctor Westhal,” Chip said politely and offered her his hand. She eyed it distastefully and then, as if aware that everyone’s eyes were upon her, she shook it cautiously as if she was afraid that she might catch something.
Unnerved by the scientist’s reaction towards him Chip folded his arms across his chest in what Lee recognized as a defensive gesture. Marion Westhal, however, did not seem to notice as she eyed both officers in a speculative fashion.
“I don’t know, Harry. Are you sure that these boys know what they’re doing?” she asked with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
The Admiral roared heartily, Edith smiled and Lee grinned politely. Chip just stared ahead, his expression unreadable as Nelson replied, “They’re not boys, Marion. They just seem like it to us.”
“They help to keep Harry young,” Edith put in. “He likes to believe that they’re his contemporaries!”
“I do not!” Nelson protested.
“Ah, but you’re as young as you feel,” Marion Westhal said with a smile at Nelson. “Like me, Harry, I’m sure your work keeps you young.”
“It certainly does,” Nelson nodded. “Though sometimes I feel that it is responsible for ageing me before my time and these two don’t help!”
can imagine,” Dr. Westhal said with a tight smile. Catching the look Nelson
frowned. “Don’t get me wrong,
“Oh, I don’t question your judgement, Harry,” she assured him. “I shall be honoured to work with your men.” She smiled at Lee. “I’m sure you know what you’re doing, Captain.”
“I’m sure I do!” Lee assured her and everyone laughed even Chip although he didn’t feel like it. He was wondering what he’d done to provoke the hostility that the doctor was directing at him. It didn’t make sense and he was never comfortable with situations that didn’t make sense-- even after some of the things he’d experienced aboard Seaview.
“I said you could probably see her tomorrow morning. Is that possible, Chip?”
“Sorry, Sir,” Chip blushed slightly, aware that he’d not been listening. “See who?”
“Yes, Sir, of course” Chip nodded. “10.00 hours,” he asked the frosty scientist, “in my office, Doctor?”
“That will be acceptable, thank you,” she responded formally.
As soon as was politely possible Lee and Chip made their excuses and moved to the other side of the room where a huge buffet filled tables running along the length of one wall.
“Have you and Dr. Westhal met somewhere before?” Lee asked curiously as he helped himself to a plate and began to fill it with a variety of cold meats, crusty bread and plenty of pickles.
“Never,” Chip responded adamantly.
“She doesn’t seem to like you,” Lee said unnecessarily. “But she kept looking at you as if she knew you from somewhere and the memories weren’t good!”
“I don’t know her and I don’t wish to know her,” Chip growled as he helped himself to a very large slice of chocolate cake.
“Never mind, I’m sure she’ll be much too busy with her work to bother about either of us,” Lee remarked as he began to eat his food.
“Mmmm,” Chip muttered in response, his mouth full of cake. He just hoped Lee was right.
Chip Morton was at his desk in the Institute’s administration block by 08.00 hours the following morning. He had a mountain of paperwork to attend to and he felt that concentrating his attention on that might help him to forget that Dr. Westhal was meeting him at 10.00 hours. He was not looking forward to the meeting at all. He knew instinctively that the frosty scientist didn’t like him, which did not particularly bother him. He wasn’t keen on her but he met all sorts of people in the course of his work and he knew that he was more than capable of treating her courteously as a fellow professional. However, that didn’t mean that he had to look forward to it.
The intercom on his desk buzzed at exactly 10.00 hours. Putting down his pen Chip acknowledged the call. “Yes, Jan?”
“Dr. Marion Westhal is here to see you, Commander Morton,” the soft friendly voice of his secretary reported.
“Very well, send her in, Jan. And no interruptions until she’s gone, please.”
“Of course, sir.”
The intercom went dead and seconds later the door opened and Dr. Westhal appeared.
Chip looked up from his desk and smiled a greeting at her as he stood politely. “Good morning, Doctor. Please have a seat.” He indicated the chair in front of his desk.
“Thank you,” she said coldly, glowering at him as she sat down.
Chip frowned slightly as he sat down again, disconcerted by the undisguised hostility he could see in her grey eyes. Before he could say anything the frosty scientist spoke condescendingly. “I suppose you’re used to women falling at your feet?”
Chip hesitated and then, in an effort to lighten the heavy atmosphere he responded jokingly: “Only my nieces.” He couldn’t understand what he’d done to provoke this woman. He’d only met her twice and could think of nothing he’d done to alienate her. It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t that he expected everyone to like him but as Seaview’s exec the ability to get on well with different people was a vital part of his job and it was a job he knew he did well. He had never met such instant hostility before-- at least not from someone on his side-- and he was unsure how to deal with it. Dr. Westhal continued to look angrily at him from her seat opposite his desk and Chip found it slightly unnerving as, clearing his throat, he said calmly, “I believe we have a job to do, Doctor. May I suggest that we get on with it?”
“Of course,” Dr Westhal nodded grimly and opened the large file she had bought with her. “I believe you already have a list of the equipment we’re bringing with us, Commander?” At Chip’s nod, she passed some plans across the desk to him. “This is a map of how I envisage the camp will be set up. If you listen carefully I will explain about the role and sensitivity of some of our equipment.”
Chip sighed inwardly but kept his face impassive as he leant on his desk and listened carefully. He had to admit that he was impressed with the Doctor’s obvious knowledge of her subject and her understanding of all the scientific equipment her team would be using, some of which was beyond his own comprehension. The meeting was over within forty minutes and, although it went smoothly, Chip was heartily relieved when the scientist finally stood to leave.
“Thank you for your time, Commander,” she said stiffly as she closed her file. “I won’t bother you any longer. Goodbye.” She was out of the door before Chip could respond and he stared after her thoughtfully. He had a very uncomfortable feeling that he hadn’t seen the last of her hostility and found himself looking forward to the end of this upcoming mission before it had even begun!
Chip’s next encounter with the hostile scientist came that afternoon. He was in Seaview’s vast hold supervising the loading of some of Dr. Westhal’s equipment when an icy voice boomed from behind him.
“Commander Morton! I want a word with you!”
Chip froze momentarily at the sound of her voice and noted that the work crew had all stopped to stare in surprise at the woman who would dare to speak to the exec as if he was a naughty child. Quickly recovering his composure Chip indicated to the men that they should carry on working and then turned on his heel to face the angry scientist.
“Who told your men they could open my crates?” she demanded furiously.
“I did,” Chip replied coolly. “And you really shouldn’t be down here, doctor. It’s off limits to unauthorized personnel.”
“Don’t you tell me what I can and can’t do,” she retorted indignantly. “I don’t take orders from you. Now why did you allow them to open my crates?”
Chip had an uncomfortable feeling that if he stood his ground an unseemly argument was going to ensue, but rules were rules and this was a hazardous area. He decided to answer her question and then ask her again to leave. “We’re opening your crates because it’s part of our security procedures,” he said evenly, his voice carefully controlled. “Everything has to be checked and security tagged.”
“Says Admiral Nelson.”
“Ah,” she hesitated for a moment, obviously thrown by his reply. “Well, you’d better be careful young man because if anything is damaged I’ll hold you directly responsible.”
“As you wish, Doctor.” Chip had to work hard not to glare back at her. “Now if you don’t mind, we have work to do and this area is strictly off-limits.”
“I’m going,” she stared fiercely at him over the top of her spectacles for a moment then turned towards the door. Chip watched her go with a sigh of relief. She really was a very difficult woman and he was beginning to feel mentally and emotionally exhausted from working so hard not to retaliate towards her. He wasn’t at all sure that he could survive a long cruise with her without doing or saying something quite unprofessional.
Lee Crane eyed his friend speculatively as they went over last minute sailing details together. Despite the cool, professional exterior that the exec presented to the world Lee knew him well enough to know when he was hiding his true feelings and he knew that, right now, Chip Morton was both angry and confused.
“Do you think I should talk to her?” Lee asked. “Tell her to leave you alone.”
“Tell who to leave me alone?” Chip asked innocently, his arctic blue eyes giving nothing away.
“Dr. Westhal of course. I don’t want her upsetting you. I want you to have your mind on the job.”
“I will have my mind on the job,” Chip grinned suddenly. “I’m hardly likely to have it distracted by the likes of Dr. Westhal. Give me credit, Lee.”
Lee shrugged. If Chip wanted to joke about it then so would he. “Okay. I must say I never thought that I’d see the day when a woman wasn’t charmed by you,” he teased.
“I do not charm women,” Chip objected. “Any more than you do!”
Lee laughed. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t I try and charm Dr. Westhal. Keep her away from you?”
“Good luck!” Chip smirked. “She’ll eat you for breakfast. Anyway, we don’t have to worry about her, Lee. She’ll probably spend all her time with the Admiral. They are friends, aren’t they?”
“True,” Lee agreed. “I expect they’ll spend the whole cruise holed up in his lab.”
However, in the end Admiral Nelson was unable to sail with them.
“What do you mean, you’re not coming?” Lee eyed the Admiral with concern.
sorry, Lee but I have to go to
“Can’t it wait?”
it can’t,” Nelson frowned. “I admit that I’m a disappointed to miss this trip
but you don’t need me. You know what you’re doing. I trust you, Lee, and so does
“Tell that to Chip”, Lee thought but didn’t say as much. They’d just have to cope with her as best they could.
To begin with the trip went smoothly. They sailed on time at 06.00 hours on Saturday morning and Dr. Westhal kept out of the way spending most of the time in her cabin although she did accept Lee’s invitation to view the ocean from Seaview’s famous windows. The scientists on her team were a friendly bunch who kept out of the way and enjoyed Seaview’s hospitality. In conversation with them Lee came to realize that they both liked and respected their leader, which made her attitude towards his exec even more puzzling. What was it about Chip that made her so hostile? Every time she laid eyes on him they were eyes full of loathing although she tended to avoid him and he, in turn got on with his work and ignored her. On the few occasions that he needed to speak to her he was polite and professional and she was cool and frosty in return. It was a puzzle that Lee dearly wanted to solve.
Then, with Seaview only hours from their destination, disaster struck. Running down the forward stairs that led from Officer’s country into the control room Lee Crane lost his footing, fell down the last four steps and sprained his ankle.
“At least it’s not broken,” Jamie said cheerfully as Lee glared in disgust at his swollen ankle. “Several days’ rest and…”
“Several days?” Lee interrupted, his tone agitated. “How long is several days?”
“Four or five,” Jamie replied, unmoved by his patient’s obvious annoyance. “More if I don’t think it’s healing well enough, which it won’t if you defy me and try walking on it before it’s ready to be walked on.”
“But we’re due at our destination in less than 48 hours,” Lee protested. “I’m supposed to be leading the team to help Dr. Westhal set up her research camp.”
Jamie couldn’t help smiling. No matter what was wrong with him the skipper always had a reason why he couldn’t possibly follow the doctor’s orders.
“I’m sorry, Captain but even if we don’t reach our destination for another four days there is no way you’re going to go trudging across ice and snow. Doctor’s orders!”
“But nothing. Let Chip go; he’s perfectly capable.”
“I don’t think he’ll want to,” Lee muttered, annoyed at his own carelessness and the doctor’s unperturbed cheerfulness.
“He won’t have any choice if you order him to,” Jamie said firmly. “And whether he goes or not you are staying here and that’s final. Understood?”
“I suppose so,” Lee grinned ruefully at the doctor. After all it wasn’t his fault and Lee knew he was right. If any other member of the crew had suffered the same injury he would be backing the doctor’s orders. He certainly wouldn’t allow them to join a shore party. Nevertheless, it was frustrating and he didn’t think that Chip was going to be too thrilled at the prospect of going ashore with Dr. Westhal. Lee was confident that his exec was probably counting the hours to her departure!
At the time of his captain’s accident Seaview’s exec was off-duty and fast asleep and it wasn’t until four hours later that he heard of his friend’s misfortune. Having received the news from Lt. Craig Morrison in the officers’ wardroom Chip took a detour to Sickbay on his way to the Control Room. He found Lee sitting on a bunk with his feet up reading a report.
“Shouldn’t you be resting?” Chip enquired teasingly.
“Don’t you start,” Lee groaned. “There’s nothing wrong with my brain, Mr. Morton.”
“So, how on earth did you do it?” Chip asked as he sat down on the edge of the bunk, ignoring the mild display of temper.
“I don’t know exactly,” Lee glared at the offending ankle. “All the times I’ve run down those stairs… I’ve never slipped before. It’s just one of those things I suppose. I’m sorry, Chip.”
“What for? It’s your ankle, not mine,” Chip grinned.
“You know what I mean,” Lee sounded worried. “There’s no way Jamie’s gonna allow me out on the ice with this…”
“Yeah, I know,” Chip interrupted. “I get to go instead. Don’t worry about it, Lee. I don’t mind; it’ll make a nice change.”
“Are you sure?” Lee asked doubtfully. “I know how much you were looking forward to getting rid of our guest. I hate to think that I’m forcing you to work with her.”
“Never let it be said that I shirked my duty!” Chip proclaimed with more light-heartedness than he actually felt. “Maybe I could feed her to a hungry polar bear?”
“Better make sure she doesn’t feed you to one,” Lee grinned. “Seriously Chip, are you sure you don’t mind?”
“Sure,” Chip nodded. “I admit that I’m not happy about her attitude towards me, but that’s her problem, not mine.” He paused, his expression intensely serious. “Could be she’ll refuse to go ashore with me anyway.”
“True,” Lee nodded. “But she’s a dedicated scientist, Chip. I would have thought that this project is too important to delay just because she doesn’t like you very much.”
“She hates me,” Chip emphasised the word. “You didn’t hear the way she spoke to me at the institute, Lee. And her eyes…they’re colder than the temperature outside this boat.”
“Maybe you remind her of somebody,” Lee said thoughtfully. “I know she’s quite “frosty” as you put it but she certainly hasn’t turned out to be the problem I had anticipated. She’s been quite polite and friendly towards the crew and her team seem to think well of her. In fact, the only time she’s been bad-tempered with me it was over you! Maybe you remind her of a former lover. You know…left her for another woman …broke her heart sort of thing….”
“What heart?” Chip enquired sarcastically. “I thought she ran on battery acid.”
“Be serious,” Lee admonished him. “Think about it, Chip. Remember when you first saw her? You said she glared at you in the corridor and she didn’t even know who you were then. She’s made remarks about your appearance to both of us. It could be that you remind her of somebody she has a grudge against.”
“I thought scientists were supposed to be logical, rational people,” Chip said in a tone of voice that indicated he didn’t agree with his friend’s theory. “That sort of behaviour is illogical and irrational.”
“Love can do funny things to your mind,” Lee said authoratively.
“So can sprained ankles,” Chip scoffed amusedly as he stood up and stretched his arms before sticking his hands into the back pockets of his uniform trousers. “Are you going to give Dr. Westhal the bad tidings or d’you want me to do it?”
“I’ll do it,” Lee decided. “And if she complains I’ll threaten to postpone the landing party. That should make her agree to co-operate with you.”
As both Lee and Chip had expected Marion Westhal was not very pleased that Chip was going to be leading the landing party.
“I suppose, in these circumstances that I’ll have to put up with him,” she said when Lee gave her the news. “At least he appears to be very competent,” she added grudgingly.
“He is,” Lee replied seriously, his hazel eyes reflecting his concern, “Which is why I’m sending him in my place. Whether you like it or not, Doctor, Commander Morton is the best man for the job.” He paused. “To be perfectly honest, he’s probably better qualified than I am. He’s an excellent navigator and he doesn’t mind the cold at all. Too long out there and my temper is liable to be on a very short fuse.”
“Really?” Marion Westhal actually smiled. “I don’t believe you, Captain. You’re just trying to make me feel better about your friend.”
“I’m trying to ensure that you’ll co-operate with him,” Lee answered uncompromisingly. “Truthfully Doctor, I’ve half a mind to cancel your trip until I can lead the landing party myself.”
“You can’t do that, Captain!”
“I can do whatever I like,” Lee said, unperturbed by the growing anger he could see in her cool grey eyes. “Getting your team established out on the ice is my responsibility. I have to send the best men for the job but I’m not happy about sending Commander Morton out there when you seem to have a grudge against him for no apparent good reason. If you can’t promise me that you’ll co-operate fully with him then you’ll just have to wait until my ankle heals.”
“You’re really serious, aren’t you?” Marion Westhal asked soberly.
“Yes I am,” Lee spoke in his best command voice. “I don’t know who Commander Morton reminds you of, Doctor, but I can assure you….”
“Who says he reminds me of anyone?” Marion Westhal interrupted testily. “I don’t have to like everyone I meet, Captain.”
“You don’t know him,” Lee argued. “From what I can see you took an instant dislike to him without just cause. Now I’m telling you he’s an excellent officer and as far as I’m concerned you couldn’t be in better hands.”
“You really care about him, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. We’re very good friends.”
“How long have you known him?”
thirteen years,” Lee replied, intrigued by the doctor’s sudden interest in his
friendship with his exec. “We were roommates at
“Do you trust him?”
“With my life. Why?”
“I just wondered,” Dr. Westhal sounded dismissive. “I suppose Harry thinks a lot of him too?”
“Enough to poach him from the Navy before Seaview was even built,” Lee frowned. “Look Doctor I don’t see what these questions have to do with the business at hand. Are you going to co-operate with Commander Morton or are we going to postpone your trip?”
“I’ll co-operate with him,” Dr. Westhal nodded. “Don’t worry, Captain. The project is too important for me to risk delaying it by squabbling with your friend. We’ll go ahead as planned and I’ll leave Commander Morton alone.”
“Good,” Lee smiled with relief. “We’re about twenty-four hours from our co-ordinates now. I suggest you ensure that your equipment and your team are ready to depart as soon as we surface,”
“They’ve been ready for days, Captain,” the doctor replied. “We’ll be all set to go as soon as you give the word.”
“Fine,” Lee nodded his approval. “I’d like the remainder of this mission to go as smoothly as possible.”
As Marion Westhal took her leave, Lee Crane stared thoughtfully after her. He hadn’t missed the way she had tensed when he suggested that Chip reminded her of someone. Her response had been too quick and defensive and he was convinced that he’d touched a nerve. But who was it that had caused her to take such an intense dislike to his exec? He wished that Admiral was aboard; he’d known the doctor a very long time and, maybe, he might have an idea of who it was in her past that Chip resembled.
Seaview got to within three miles of where Dr. Westhal wanted to set up camp and the massive submarine broke through the ice enabling the shore party to set out for their ultimate destination. Besides the doctor and her team of six scientists the shore party consisted of Chip Morton, Lieutenant Craig Morrison and eight members of the crew. Although they used three motorised snow vehicles to transport all of their equipment only the two drivers got to ride; the rest of them had to walk. However, despite the brisk, icy wind they strode along at a steady pace and reached their destination an hour and ten minutes after leaving Seaview.
The first priority on reaching the co-ordinates Dr. Westhal had chosen for her base camp was to construct the flat-pack huts in which the scientific team would live and work for the next five to six months. The area was soon a hive of activity as everybody set to work. Dr. Westhal moved about from group to group giving instructions on her preferred layout of the camp and generally overseeing the work. Chip let her get on with it. It was her camp after all and she seemed to know exactly what she wanted. He was quietly impressed with her organizational abilities, which were a good match for his own. Still he’d be glad when everything was completed and he could take his team back to Seaview. Dr. Westhal had been very civil towards him since Lee had spoken to her but Chip could tell that she found it difficult and didn’t want to push his luck by hanging around any longer than was necessary. With that in mind he set to work helping to erect one of the huts. The sooner they were finished the sooner he could leave.
“Looks like that’s about it, sir,” Craig Morrison commented over two hours later as he and the exec surveyed the completed camp. “Quite a little village isn’t it?”
“Certainly is,” Chip nodded absently, one eye on the newly completed camp and the other on the ominous looking storm clouds scurrying in from the east. “Craig, soon as the remaining equipment is installed we’d better have something to eat and start back to Seaview.”
“Yes, sir,” Craig followed his superior’s gaze eastwards. “D’you think we’re in for some bad weather?”
“Could be,” Chip nodded and turned to look at the junior engineering officer. “I’m going to radio Seaview and see if I can get an updated weather report.”
his way to the communications hut Chip found it empty. Undeterred he sat down
by the radio and operated the appropriate switches and dials that would enable
him to make contact with Seaview. His first request to speak to someone on
board the submarine was instantly responded to as
“This is Seaview. Hello, Mr. Morton. Do you want me to patch you through to the skipper?”
“Yes, please, Sparks.”
There was a short pause and then Lee’s voice could be heard.
“Hi, Chip. Everything sorted?”
“Well, we’ve finished setting up the camp and the men are having something to eat but I’m a bit worried about the weather, Lee.”
“Yes, I’ve just been looking at the latest weather report,” Lee replied. “The changes forecast for twenty-four hours’ time seem to have come about a lot quicker than expected. What’s it like there?”
“The wind is increasing and there’s some terrific storm clouds racing in from the east,” Chip told him. “I don’t know if it would be wise to try and get back before it breaks or not. How long does the weather report predict the storm will last?”
“It should be clear by tomorrow morning but that’s by no means certain. The weather up here does change with terrific speed and it’s not always easy to predict,” Lee paused. “Maybe Dr.Westhal’s project will improve the situation.”
“Great,” Chip responded, a little sarcastically. “But that’s not gonna help us now, is it? If we stay here are you still going to be there tomorrow morning?”
“I hope so,” Lee replied, “but if we’re not it’ll only be temporary. We can always come back for you if we’re forced to seek shelter under the ice for a while but if you get stuck in a snowstorm between here and there might not be anyone to come back for.”
“True,” Chip acknowledged reluctantly. Three miles might not be far but in sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow and with a sixty mile-an-hour iced fury coming at them from one side he knew that they could easily be thwarted in their efforts to get “home”. “I guess we’ll stay the night then.”
“I think that would be best,” Lee agreed. “I hope Dr. Westhal doesn’t mind.”
“Too bad if she does,” Chip replied a little too sharply. He was tired, hungry and cold and not at all keen on spending an entire night out on the ice in the middle of an Arctic blizzard. The last thing he wanted was an argument with Dr. Westhal over his right to sleep in her camp.
Lee noticed the sharp edge to his friend’s voice and winced. Obviously he was in no mood to be teased. “Okay,” he said carefully. “I think you’d better radio in every half hour until nightfall, Chip, so that we can update you on the weather reports and our situation here.”
“Understood,” Chip confirmed. “Over and out.”
Chip turned the radio off and stretched his tired body as he stood up. He wasn’t surprised that Lee had advised him to stay put. He knew it was the right decision. To set off for Seaview now would be reckless and foolish. Chip was surprised at himself for even considering it an option; it wasn’t usually in his cautious nature to take unnecessary risks. But then he wasn’t accustomed to being stranded at the top of the world with hostile female scientists. Sighing heavily to himself he set out to tell the others of the change in plans.
As soon as he opened the door of the communications hut Chip was glad that he’d agreed to stay and sit out the storm. Although darkness was officially another three hours away the sky was black with clouds that seemed to sit almost on top of the huts and the snow had started to fall heavily, whipped along by bitingly cold winds and reducing visibility to only a few yards. Keeping his head well down Chip made his way to the mess hut and pushed the door open. He found his men and the scientists seated around the stove eating tinned stew from plates balanced on their knees.
“Hey, Mr. Morton!” Kowalski hailed him from the far side of the stove. “We saved you some stew.” The amiable Sailor indicated the pan sitting on top of the stove.
“Thanks, Ski,” Chip nodded in gratitude and then let his eyes scan quickly around the hut. There was no sign of Dr. Westhal.
“Where’s the doctor?” he asked Craig who happened to be closest to him.
“In her office,” the younger officer replied. “Said she had work to do. She’s got everything in there, sir; even her bed and her own stove. Looks like she’s planning to stay there until we come for her.”
“Possibly,” Chip shrugged and turned so that he could address everyone. “There’s a big blizzard blowing out there, men, so we can’t get back to Seaview today like we’d planned. I’ve just been talking to the skipper and he and I both agree that we should stay here until morning.”
There was a mixed reaction to the news. Some of the men cheered while others looked decidedly anxious.
the storm be over by morning?” young
“We hope so,” Chip replied. “We’re going to get half-hourly weather reports from the Seaview so that we’ll know when exactly the storm is expected to pass.”
“Will the Seaview be okay, sir?” Kowalski wanted to know.
“Yes,” Chip responded confidently. “If the weather deteriorates further she might be forced to seek shelter under the ice and we’ll lose radio contact for a while but she can surface again afterwards. In the meantime you best make yourselves comfortable. It’s going to be a long night.” He turned again to speak specifically to Craig Morrison. “I’m going to speak to Dr. Westhal. When I come back we’ll sort out the sleeping arrangements and, maybe, some entertainment.”
“Fine, sir,” Craig grinned. “You going to eat your stew now or when you get back?”
“When I get back.” Chip knew that if he sat down and started filling his stomach with hot stew he’d be very reluctant to get up again and it was only polite that he let Dr. Westhal know of the change in plans. He could just imagine how she would react if she was left to receive the information second-hand from a member of her team or Seaview’s crew.
Swirling snow swept around Chip as he walked quickly from the mess hut to Dr. Westhal’s hut and the wind howled furiously. He knocked loudly on the door and then pushed his way in without waiting for an answer thinking that it would be impossible to hear anything above the howling of the wind.
“Didn’t your parents teach you any manners?” Marion Westhal turned on him almost as soon as he’d stepped inside.
Chip frowned as he shook the snow from his parka and removed his outer mittens.
“I did knock but I didn’t think you’d hear me over the sound of the wind.”
“Hmmph.” The doctor glared at him. “What do you want anyway? Isn’t it about time you were leaving? I’m very busy you know; I don’t have time to deal with your unnecessary interruptions.”
“I’m sorry,” Chip muttered irritably. “I just thought you should know that because of the weather situation we won’t be leaving until the morning.”
“Oh.” For a moment it looked as if the frosty scientist didn’t know what to say to Chip’s announcement and then, quite unexpectedly, she smiled. “I should think that comes as quite a disappointment to you, Commander.”
Chip’s frown increased. He was already annoyed that he couldn’t get back to Seaview for at least another sixteen hours and he was worried too, wondering what would happen if Seaview was forced to dive back beneath the ice for any length of time. It was extremely galling to think that Dr. Westhal found the situation amusing especially when nothing else seemed to please her.
“It is a bit worrying,” he replied stiffly. “Hopefully we should be able to get away as soon as it’s light.”
“And if you can’t?”
“If we can’t we’ll just have to wait until we can. I’ll make sure none of my men are a nuisance to you, Doctor.”
“I should hope not! Now if you’ll please excuse me, Commander Morton, I’ve got a stove to fix.” She turned to the stove in the middle of the hut and shook it rather vigorously.
“Don’t do that,” Chip said sharply. “It’s dangerous.”
He moved across to look at the stove as Marion Westhal turned to give him yet another look of complete and utter disapproval and distaste.
“I know what I’m doing,” she said icily. “I don’t need you interfering.”
“You don’t look as if you know what you’re doing,” Chip said in his most authorative tone. “Shaking it isn’t going to do it any good.”
“Oh, and I suppose you can fix it, can you?”
“I might be able to,” Chip nodded as he slipped the fur-lined hood of his parka back off his head. The stove might not be working but the infra-red wall heaters were doing a good job of keeping the hut warm. “And if I can’t I expect one of the crew can. It can’t be anything too difficult.” He slipped off his inner mittens and crouched down in front of the stove.
“I can do it for myself!” Dr. Westhal snapped as he began to investigate the simple ignition system. “It is on; it just won’t go above low. I expect one of your sailors broke it when they were going through my crates for your security check.”
Chip ignored the complaining voice and concentrated instead on what he was doing. The thermostat control seemed to be stuck. He applied a little brute force to it but it wouldn’t budge. Thinking that it would be safer if the stove wasn’t alight he activated the off switch earning himself another rebuke from the glowering doctor.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she snapped at him.
“Making it safer,” Chip snapped back. He was tired and hungry and past trying to be civil. He looked again at the thermostat control and applied all his strength to dislodging it. He was quietly satisfied when, after a moment’s resistance, the control moved.
“There,” he turned to face the glowering doctor and resisted the temptation to grin triumphantly. “The thermostat control was just stuck. It should be okay now.”
“Good. Just light it again and get out of here!”
It was on the tip of Chip’s tongue to tell her to do it herself but he wanted to ensure that it was working properly so he bent down and relit the stove.
“You might as well put it on high,” Dr. Westal snapped again.
Chip sighed to himself and started to move the control dial again. There was an alarming hiss but the stove stayed at “low”. Concerned, he started to reverse the same control.
“Now what?” Marion Westhal started irritably. “I…”
What ever else she’d been going to say was lost as, with a blinding flash the stove blew up virtually in Chip’s face sending him stumbling backwards his thick, insulated clothing on fire.
Blinded by the brilliant flash and searing heat and well aware that he was on fire Chip abandoned his usual self-control and screamed loudly in pain and terror, a scream echoed by the extremely shocked scientist. For one dreadful moment she stood rooted to the spot paralysed by fear. Then her muscles came back to her and, moving swiftly, she grabbed the blankets from her bed and smothered the flames eating at Chip’s clothes before extinguishing the remains of the stove. Then, confident that the flames were well and truly out she turned on the injured exec.
“You IDIOT!” she screamed at him. “What did you want to go and do that for?”
Chip didn’t answer her. Badly shocked and in considerable pain he lay curled up on the floor his injured hands clutching at his face.
“Did you hear me?” Marion Westhal took a step closer to him at which point the door flew open and Craig Morrison rushed in, closely followed by Hayes, Kowalski and two members of the doctor’s team.
“What happened?” Craig demanded, his brown eyes quickly scanning the scene.
“The stove blew up,” Dr. Westhal said, her voice suddenly shaky. “I think he’s hurt.” She pointed at Chip who, hearing Craig’s voice, was now attempting to raise himself from his position on the floor.
Deeply concerned Craig moved to kneel beside his injured superior and laid a comforting but restraining hand on his left shoulder. “Easy, Mr. Morton. Just lie still and we’ll get you some help. He turned to Hayes and Kowalski. “I want water and the first aid kit and ask their medical officer to get in here.”
“Aye, Sir,” Kowalski and Hayes were out of the door almost before Craig had finished speaking. As they disappeared Dr. Westhal spoke up again. “It’s…it’s his own fault…”she said shakily. “I…I told him to go but he wouldn’t…he…”
Craig made no comment but turned to one of the scientists. “You better get her out of here,” he said quietly. “Get her something warm to drink.” He turned to the other scientist. “Dan, pass me those pillows and then fetch some fresh blankets from somewhere.”
The stocky scientist passed the pillows to Craig without comment and then left the hut on the heels of his colleagues leaving Craig and the injured exec alone.
Gently Craig lifted the exec’s head from the floor and slid the pillows beneath him. Chip groaned deeply in obvious pain, his damaged hands still clutching at his face. Craig was about to try examining his injuries when the door opened again admitting Hayes, Kowalski and a flurry of snow.
“Hansen’s just coming,” Hayes announced as he set a large container of water on the floor and proceeded to unscrew the top.
“Good,” Craig nodded. “Fill those bowls with water and then we can soak his hands in them.” He turned his attention back to the exec.
“Listen, sir. We’ve got some cold water here and we’re gonna soak your hands in it. It’ll probably hurt but….”
“I can’t see,” Chip spoke suddenly and unexpectedly, uttering his first words since the explosion. His voice was low and barely audible but the panic behind his words was horrifyingly clear to his colleagues. “Everything’s black.”
Craig frowned deeply and exchanged concerned looks with his two companions.
“Water’s ready, sir,” Kowalski said quietly.
Craig gave his superior’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Let me move your hands, sir and then I can take a look at your eyes.”
“I can move them,” Chip’s voice remained quiet but unmistakeably determined and very slowly he moved his injured hands away from his face revealing scorched skin, singed eyebrows and eyes screwed up tight.
Craig frowned. “You know you can’t see because your eyes are closed, sir. Can’t you try and open them?”
“No,” Chip’s voice shook. “It hurts, Craig.” He sounded upset and Craig wasn’t sure what to say as he and Kowalski gently guided his hands into the bowls full of cold water.
Chip groaned loudly as his very painful hands made contact with the cold water and he struggled briefly making it necessary for his colleagues to tighten their grip on his arms.
“I’m sorry,” Craig said softly, “but it should help.”
Chip bit his bottom lip in obvious pain, his eyes still tightly closed. Craig studied him with concern. Although a sizeable portion of his fur-lined waterproof trousers and the right sleeve of his parka had been burnt away the flames had barely had a chance to start on the layers of clothing that he wore underneath limiting his injuries to his hands and face. Craig supposed that he could be considered fortunate but if he really couldn’t see…Craig didn’t want to think about that possibility. He was very relieved when the door opened to admit Ronnie Hansen, the scientific team’s medical officer and Dan Pascoe with the requested blankets.
While Hansen attended to the exec’s injuries with professional efficiency Craig set about clearing the mess that the explosion had caused. He rolled up the blankets that Dr. Westhal had used to extinguish the flames and put them by the door together with the damaged stove knowing that it would have to be examined to find out what had caused it to explode. Then he made up the bed in the corner with the fresh blankets. The best place for the exec right now was undoubtedly Seaview’s sickbay but, as it was unlikely they would be able to get him there before morning, Craig intended to use Dr. Westhal’s office as a temporary sickbay. He didn’t think it would be fair to take him outside into the driving snow and bitterly cold winds just to move him into one of the accommodation huts.
“Seaview’s on the radio. The skipper wants to talk to Commander Morton.” Young Ed Taylor burst into the room letting in yet more snow and another blast of icy cold air.
“Did you tell him anything?” Craig demanded.
“No,” Ed shook his head. “I didn’t talk to him. The radio operator did. He told me to pass on the message. Said the skipper’s expecting Commander Morton to call him.” He studiously avoided looking at the injured man who was still laying on the floor while the Doctor painstaking wrapped each of his fingers in gauze after applying a special ointment to each one. He continued to look away as the exec’s voice broke into the silence. “Craig?”
“Yes, sir,” Craig crouched down beside him.
“I’m supposed to call in every half hour,” Chip paused to lick his dry lips with an equally dry tongue. “Tell him I’m sorry.”
“I will,” Craig stood up to leave. “You take it easy, sir. We’ll get you back to Seaview as soon as possible.”
In the communications hut the radio operator, Alan Delaney, waited patiently for someone to come and talk to Seaview’s captain. The man hadn’t sounded very happy when Delaney had told him he might have to wait before someone from the landing party could speak to him. He had naturally wanted to know why but Delaney had told him, truthfully, that he didn’t know why. All he knew was that there had been an explosion and someone had been hurt but he didn’t want to be responsible for giving the captain half a story. He was relieved when the door to his hut opened and a snow covered figure entered. Delaney watched as the figure removed his hood and mittens to reveal one of Seaview’s officers.
“You got Seaview on there?” Craig demanded.
“Yes, sir,” Delaney nodded and handed Craig a set of headphones.
Craig took them with a nod and spoke through the microphone. “Hello, Seaview. This is Lieutenant Morrison. Can I speak to Captain Crane?”
“This is Crane.” The skipper’s voice came over the airwaves accompanied by an aggravating crackle. “Craig, what’s going on and where’s Mr. Morton? He was supposed to radio in ten minutes ago.”
“I know, sir,” Craig swallowed. “He said to tell you he’s sorry.”
“Sorry?” Back on Seaview Lee Crane frowned quizzically at the radio set in his cabin. What was Chip sorry for and why did Craig sound so worried? He felt his stomach muscles clench in apprehension as he asked carefully: “Is there something wrong, Craig?”
He heard Craig Morrison take a deep breath before the answer came over the airwaves. “Yes sir. There’s been a bit of an accident; one of the stoves exploded.”
“Exploded? How? Is anyone hurt?” Even as he asked the question Lee had the sinking feeling that he knew what the answer was going to be.
“I don’t know what happened,” Craig replied, “but Mr. Morton’s injured. I don’t know how serious it is. Their medical officer’s looking at him now.”
“I see,” Lee replied quietly. “Is he conscious?”
“Yes. He’s burnt his hands and he says he can’t see but his eyes are all screwed up tight so I don’t know how bad it is.”
Back on Seaview Lee Crane closed his eyes briefly and asked quietly, “Anyone else hurt?”
“No. Dr. Westhal was the only other person there when it happened but she wasn’t hurt.”
“Does she know what happened?”
Craig hesitated recalling the scientist’s claim that the explosion had been Commander Morton’s fault. Certainly his injuries indicated that he had been in contact with the stove when it blew up but that didn’t mean he was responsible.
“Craig?” Thinking that the junior engineering officer hadn’t heard him Lee repeated his question. “I said does Dr. Westhal know how it happened?”
“I wouldn’t know, Sir. She was rather shocked and her team took her away somewhere.”
“I see,” Lee rubbed thoughtfully at his chin with one hand and wished he’d never sent his friend out on to the ice. “With this weather the way it is there is absolutely no way we can get you back aboard before morning. Call me back as soon as you have a better idea about the extent of Mr. Morton’s injuries. And see if you can talk to Dr. Westhal and find out exactly what happened.”
Craig removed his headset, handed it back to the radio operator with a quick “thank you” and left the communications hut to return to Dr. Westhal’s office. When he got there he found that Ronnie Hansen had finished treating the exec and was in the process of making him comfortable in what had been Dr. Westhal’s bunk.
Craig crossed the floor to the bunk and looked down at his injured superior. The exec lay on his back with his head and face almost completely obliterated by bandages. His hands, also bandaged heavily, lay on pillows on either side of him. Craig thought he looked terrible.
“How is he?” he asked quietly.
“I can still talk,” Chip spoke irritably before Hansen had a chance to reply. “Did you talk to Captain Crane? What did he say?”
“He wanted to know why you hadn’t called in,” Craig replied quietly. “How do you feel, sir?”
“I’m fine,” Chip lied. He knew it was obvious that he was far from all right but that didn’t mean he had to admit it. His injuries meant that a lot of extra responsibility now weighed heavily on Craig Morrison’s young shoulders and Chip didn’t want to add to it by admitting that he was scared, in pain and anxious to return to Seaview as soon as possible. “Did you tell the skipper what happened?”
“And what did he say?”
“He just asked a lot of questions,” Craig didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t want to tell the man that they had no immediate hope of getting back to Seaview.
“I see,” Chip realized that his response was somewhat ironic and shut up. Craig stared at him unhappily. He was used to the exec taking deceptively easy control of events with calm efficiency. It was unnerving to see him hurt and effectively helpless, leaving Craig to deal with an unsatisfactory situation to the best of his own ability. Feeling suddenly inadequate he turned to Hansen.
“As soon as you’ve finished here, I’d like to talk to you.”
“Sure,” the M.O bent to speak to his patient. “You try and get some sleep, Commander. I’ll make sure there’s someone here all the time so if you need anything just ask.”
“Th…ank you,” Chip muttered tiredly as the drugs Hansen had given him began to take effect. “I’m… very grateful.”
“Is he going to be okay?” Craig hissed urgently as he and Hansen crossed to the far side of the hut to talk in private.
“I think so,” Hansen whispered. “I know it doesn’t look good but his burns are only superficial. He’s really been incredibly lucky; if the doc hadn’t acted so quickly he could’ve been very seriously hurt.”
“So it’s not serious?”
“The burns aren’t, no, although he is in a lot of pain.”
“But what about his eyes? He said he couldn’t see.”
“I know,” Hansen nodded, “but he can’t…or he won’t…open his eyes so it is hard for me to say. It could be that his eyelids and the area around his eyes are too painful for him to open his eyes or, because he’s in so much pain, he’s afraid to open them in case he can’t see.”
“So you don’t really know.”
“No, I don’t,” Hansen, agreed. “But my guess is that he shut his eyes instinctively against the explosion so the chances of them being damaged are pretty low. I think he needs to be examined by a specialist though… as soon as possible. If there is anything wrong a delay in treating him properly could make a lot of difference to the quality of his sight in the future.”
“I see,” Craig frowned. “I’d better go and report to the skipper. He wanted to know how badly Mr. Morton was hurt. D’you mind staying here?”
“No. You go ahead. I can stay here as long as you want.”
“Thanks,” Craig smiled. “I’ll see you later.”
Before he went to speak to his captain again Craig went in search of Dr.Westhal. He found her in one of the accommodation huts with several members of her team. She looked up as Craig entered, her thin face an unhealthy white colour. Craig thought she looked as if she’d been crying.
“How is Commander Morton?” she asked as soon as she saw Craig.
“He’s not too bad,” Craig said shortly. “Your medical officer seems to think he’ll make a good recovery but we’ll know more when we can get him back to Seaview”.
“And when will that be?”
“Hopefully tomorrow morning but it depends very much on the weather. Doctor, can you tell me what happened in there?”
“I’m not sure,” Dr. Westhal regarded him solemnly. “The thermostat on the stove was stuck and your commander said he’d fix it but when he tried to turn it up it exploded.” She paused. “I didn’t ask him to interfere you know… it was his choice. I told him to go away and leave me alone. It’s his own fault that he got hurt, not mine.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t anyone’s fault,” Craig replied calmly. “The stove was obviously faulty. You’re lucky that it didn’t explode when you were in there on your own.”
Dr. Westhal looked at the floor, uncomfortably aware that Craig was right. Unsure of what else he could say the young officer took his leave and returned to the communications hut to report to Captain Crane.
Back on Seaview an increasingly worried captain waited anxiously for another message from the weather station. He felt so guilty about sending his best friend out there to get hurt and knew he’d never forgive himself if Chip’s injuries were as serious as they had sounded from Morrison’s first report. He wondered what Chip had been doing alone with Dr. Westhal and whether she was actually responsible for what had happened to him. She’d certainly seemed to hate him enough to hurt him but Lee wasn’t convinced that she would actually have done so. He wished Craig would hurry up and call back. He…. The intercom interrupted his thoughts.
“Sir, I think we’ve got to dive,” Bobby O’Brien’s worried voice echoed in Lee’s cabin. “The build up of ice and snow on the hull is increasing too rapidly and the icepack is moving in on us. If we stay here too much longer we might not be able to move.”
“Are you positive?”
“Yes sir. We have to get out of here.”
see,” Lee sighed unhappily. “Have
“Aye, sir,” there was a note of relief in the acting exec’s voice. Lee wished he could feel the same relief. It promised to be a long night.
Back at the research station after receiving Spark’s message from Delaney an equally despondent Craig Morrison went to report the news to the rest of the crew.
“Did they say exactly when they’d be back?” Kowalski questioned.
“No,” Craig shook his auburn head. “Just that they will get here as soon as they possibly can. Anyway, even if they could stay on the surface we couldn’t get back to them tonight. The weather is supposed to improve by morning but it can be very unpredictable. I suggest you all get some sleep so we’ll be ready to leave as soon as the weather clears.”
“What about Commander Morton? How is he?” Johnson wanted to know.
“He’s not too bad but we're worried about his eyes,” Craig replied. “Hansen gave him a sedative and he’s watching him now.”
“I think we should do that,” Kowalski spoke up. “Hansen can’t stay up all night. I think we should have a rota so he’s not left on his own.”
“That’s a good idea,” Craig agreed tiredly. “I’ll go first.”
“I’ll go second,” Kowalski offered. “Wake me up in two hours.”
It was during Kowalski’s “watch” that the exec woke up from his drug-induced sleep and immediately tried to get out of bed.
“Steady on, Sir,” Kowalski caught hold of his shoulders as he attempted to raise himself on his elbows. “You’re supposed to be resting.”
Chip sighed heavily and allowed himself to be pushed back down on to the pillows. “What time is it?” he asked tiredly.
“Nearly 03.00. How’d you feel, sir?”
“I’m fine,” Chip lied. To be honest he felt really ill. His hands were hurting him, his head ached, his throat was sore and the impenetrable darkness was making him nervous but he wasn’t about to tell Kowalski any of that. “Where’s Mr. Morrison?” he croaked.
“Asleep.” Kowalski replied quietly. “But I can fetch him if you want, Mr. Morton.”
“No, I don’t want him.” There was a pause. “Why are you here, Ski, shouldn’t you be asleep?”
“I’m… a… I was just watching out for you, sir,” the Sailor admitted. He felt a little embarrassed. The exec wasn’t the type to welcome any fuss and he didn’t want to upset him. “In case you woke up and needed anything. We… er… we set up a rota.”
“I see,” Chip almost smiled. He’d have done exactly the same if it had been anyone else in his current position. “Is there anything to drink around here?”
“Sure, what d’you want?”
“Something cold…my throat hurts.”
“There’s milk,” Kowalski offered.
“Here you are then….” Very gently Kowalski slid his right hand beneath the exec’s head and raised him up so that he could drink comfortably from the cup held in the Sailor’s other hand. Irritated by his inability to manage such a simple task for himself Chip longed to push the help away but knew that to do so would be foolish and ungrateful, as he couldn’t do it himself. He couldn’t do anything and the realization scared him. He wished he’d never touched that damn stove. He drank all of the milk in the cup and muttered his thanks as Kowalski gently lowered his head back onto his pillows.
“D’you want anything to eat?” Kowalski enquired.
For a moment there was silence as Kowalski wondered what else he could say and Chip fought against the need to ask the Sailor to fetch the medical officer. The pain in his hands seemed to be getting worse with every waking minute and so did his headache. He desperately wanted something to ease the agony and yet he hated to admit that he couldn’t cope with it. He let out an involuntary sigh, which Kowalski immediately responded to.
“Sir, are you sure you don’t need anything else?”
Chip swallowed. “Did… did that medical guy leave any painkillers?”
“No, he said we were to wake him if you needed any. D’you want me to fetch him?” Kowalski asked, his voice betraying his own anxiety.
Chip swallowed again. “Yes, I do… please.”
“I’m on my way.” Kowalski paused at the door. “Will you be alright while I’m gone?”
“Yeah,” Chip managed a small smile. “I’m not going anywhere.”
After what seemed like an hour to the suffering exec, but was in fact only five or six minutes, Hansen arrived accompanied by Craig Morrison who was finding it impossible to sleep.
“Hurting, is it?” Hansen asked in his soft drawl as he knelt down by Chip’s bedside.
“Very…” Chip’s voice shook suddenly. “And I’ve got a headache.”
“Well, this should take care of it,” Hansen said quietly as he prepared a syringe. “And it’ll help you sleep.”
“I don’t want to sleep,” Chip retorted irritably. “I just want something to stop the pain.”
“Right.” Hansen didn’t bother to argue as he swiftly inserted the needle into his patient’s left arm. “Are you warm enough?” he enquired as he rearranged the layers of blankets.
“Yes. Did Kowalski come back with you?”
“No,” Craig Morrison, silent until now, spoke up. “I told him to get some rest, sir.”
“Oh,” Chip was silent for a minute, then he asked the question that Craig had been dreading. “You heard anything more from Seaview, Craig?”
Craig looked enquiringly at Hansen who shook his head. “Don’t tell him they’ve gone” the medical officer mouthed the words.
Craig nodded and said quietly. “I spoke to Captain Crane about twenty minutes ago. He said the bad weather is still expected to pass by the morning.”
“Good.” The satisfaction in the exec’s voice made Craig feel incredibly guilty. He wondered what Morton would say when he found out he’d been lied to.
Seeing the young officer’s look of guilty concern Hansen beckoned him over to the far side of the hut. “Don’t worry about it,” he said quietly. “It’s better that he doesn’t know your submarine had to leave. It’ll only cause him unnecessary worry. With a bit of luck you might be back on board before he wakes up.”
“He said he doesn’t want to sleep,” Craig hissed unhappily.
“I know,” Hansen smiled, “but there was enough sedative in that shot to keep him asleep for at least eight hours. Don’t worry,” he continued confidently as Morrison frowned. “I know what he said but he’s better off asleep. Believe me.”
“I suppose”. Craig was still unhappy about it. Chip Morton might be injured but he was still the senior officer and Craig didn’t think he was going to take too kindly to being lied to or having his wishes ignored. It was all right for Hansen; he didn’t know what the exec could be like when he thought someone had stepped out of line. Still, the doc was only interested in helping him and Craig managed to smile.
“Thanks, if you want to go back to bed I’ll stay here. I can’t sleep anyway.”
“You need to get some rest,” Hansen said reprovingly. “I could give you something to help.”
“No thanks,” Craig shook his head. “I’ll be alright. I’ll get one of the crew to relieve me in an hour or so.”
“As you wish,” Hansen nodded at the exec who was now sleeping deeply. “He should sleep for hours, but if he does wake up and he’s still in pain, just call me.”
“I will,” Craig nodded. “Thanks again doc.”
When dawn broke across the camp some hours later there was still no sign of a let-up in the weather. In fact, it seemed that the storm was actually getting worse and looked as if it was going to confine the whole team to their huts. This did not please Dr. Westhal who was aghast to discover that her office was still occupied.
“What do you mean I can’t use my office?” she asked Craig, her tone indignant. “Young man, I have important work to do. I can’t afford to sit around wasting time just because your submarine has got lost!”
“I’m sorry,” Craig said rather helplessly, thinking that the doctor had certainly recovered from her shock the evening before, “but Seaview will get here as soon as she can and then we’ll be gone. Until then Commander Morton is staying in your office.”
“Can’t you move him someplace else?” The doctor asked, her tone slightly more reasonable. “He can walk can’t he?”
“I think so,” Craig replied, “but he is hurt and he can’t see. It wouldn’t be fair to move him. Besides, he’s sleeping right now; your medical officer has him sedated.”
“Hmmph,” Marion Westhal snorted. “Well, in that case, I’ll just have to put up with him won’t I? I daresay that if he’s asleep he’s not likely to disturb me.”
I don’t think that’s a good idea, Doctor. I…!”
“Nonsense!” Dr. Westhal interrupted. “Somebody has to stay with him, right?”
“Well yes,” Craig nodded, “but….”
“No ‘Buts’. ” she carried on, giving Craig no chance to speak “If he’s sedated I can’t disturb him and he can’t disturb me but… if he does wake up there’ll be someone there. Don’t look so worried, Lieutenant. I’m not going to eat him.”
Craig didn’t reply. The formidable scientist sounded so determined that he couldn’t see any point in arguing with her but he was sure that the exec wasn’t going to be too pleased if he woke up and found his only company was Dr. Westhal.
“Listen,” Marion Westhal smiled slightly, aware that the young officer wasn’t happy with her proposal. “If my M.O. agrees to my suggestion will that put your mind at rest?”
Craig shrugged. “I suppose so.”
“Good.” Dr. Westhal sounded satisfied. “I’ll get on with my work then. In the meantime feel free to let your men use our recreational facilities, Lieutenant. It wouldn’t do for them to get bored.”
Back on Seaview after a restless night Lee Crane was facing the fact that there had been no real change in the horrendous weather conditions. It was still snowing hard and the wind was still very strong. The weather room had admitted that it could well last most of the day and Lee was becoming more and more concerned about the chances of getting his friend the medical treatment he needed. It was so frustrating and he longed to pace his cabin and think but knew that Jamie would have him in sickbay if he thought he wasn’t resting his ankle. All he could do was wait and hope that the weather would change sooner than predicted.
Although she found his unwelcome presence in her private domain very disturbing Dr. Westhal was determined that the plight of Seaview’s exec should not be allowed to interfere with her work. Moving her desk to the far side of the hut and placing her chair so that she had her back to him she sat down and attempted to absorb herself in her beloved facts and figures. However, much to her chagrin she found that her willpower was not strong enough and contrary to her usual single-mindedness she found herself easily distracted. Irritated she threw her pen down on the desk and pushed the chair back across the wooden floor.
Standing up she paced around the small space before coming to a reluctant stop in front of the bed where the injured man lay sleeping peacefully. Gazing down at him she found that his total unawareness of the inconvenience and distress he was causing made her clench her fists in suppressed anger. How she longed to wake him up, to yell at him, to grab hold of him and physically shake him for the mess she felt he’d created but she knew that wasn’t possible. It would be cruel and unfair, and despite her anger she did feel a very slight twinge of guilt. She was well aware that if he had not insisted on trying to fix the stove for her, it could’ve been her laying there injured and she didn’t like to see others suffering whoever they might be.
Nevertheless, the circumstances did not change the way she felt about this man. However irrational it might be she hated him, and his well intentioned actions which had resulted in his injuries only made her hate him even more because it meant that he was still here when she desperately longed to be rid of him. She wished that Seaview would hurry up and come back so that he would be gone and then, maybe, she could forget all about Commander Morton and this inconvenient and unsavoury incident and get on with her research.
Totally oblivious to Dr. Westhal’s angry presence Chip slept deeply all morning. When he finally awoke after nearly ten hours of heavily drugged sleep he was dopey and confused. Momentarily forgetting where he was and what had happened to him he was aware of just one thing…he couldn’t see. Distressed he attempted to lift his right hand intending to remove the obstruction covering his eyes but his hand started to throb painfully as soon as he moved it and he heard himself groan involuntarily.
“What seems to be the problem, Commander?” The unmistakeably gruff tones of Dr. Westhal reminded him instantly of where he was and why he couldn’t see.
“Nothing,” he muttered, barely audibly.
“Nothing, huh? Well, if it’s nothing, would you kindly be quiet. I’ve got important work to do here, Mr. Morton.”
Chip gritted his teeth against the harshness of the scientist’s tone and wondered, rather desperately, where everyone else was. It was obvious that he and Dr. Westhal were the only occupants of this place. He turned his head slightly in the direction of the scientist’s voice and listened. The most dominant sound he could hear was the howling of the wind and he guessed that the storm that had stranded them here was still in progress. He wondered what the time was but thought it best not to ask. However, he did need to know what was going on and the best person to give him that information would be young Craig Morrison. He ran his dry tongue around his equally dry lips and then enquired quietly: “Where’s Lieutenant Morrison?”
There was a pause before the same harsh voice replied, “He’s resting. This is my hut and I didn’t want anyone else in here disturbing my work.”
Chip sighed inwardly. What on earth was Craig thinking, leaving him at the mercy of Dr. Westhal? As if he wasn’t suffering enough. He could hear the suppressed anger in the doctor’s voice and he suddenly felt unduly nervous. He knew that she hated him and it was obvious that his injuries had not changed her opinions of him. What if she decided to hurt him further? He wouldn’t be surprised. He recalled only too well the cold hatred in her eyes and voice right from the start of this mission and didn’t doubt that his continued presence here was upsetting her. Part of him was filled with curiosity about her unreasonable, irrational reactions towards him but the other, greater part just wanted to get as far away as possible from her and the only way to do that was to risk her wrath again by asking another question. Clearing his throat he asked, croakily, “Could you fetch Mr Morrison please?”
“I’m not one of your crew, Commander,” Dr. Westhal’s voice was chilling and callous. “I’m very busy. I don’t have time to run errands for you. Now I’d appreciate it if you just keep quiet until the storm ends and you can go back where you came from!”
“I know you’ve got work to do,” Chip responded quickly, “but so have I and I need to speak to Mr. Morrison, NOW!” His tone of voice was commanding and on Seaview it would have resulted in immediate compliance from any member of the crew but the disagreeable Dr. Westhal was not impressed. Striding across the small space between her desk and the bed she leant over him and spoke clearly, her tone just as bitter as it had been before.
“May I remind you, Commander Morton that you are in no position to do anything and that includes giving me orders. I am the one in charge here, not you. I realize that’s tough for someone like you who is used to having his orders obeyed but that’s the way it is now. It’s your own fault you’re stuck here and I don’t like it any more than you do so kindly be quiet and let me work!”
Stunned by both her words and the tone of her voice, Chip shrank back slightly against his pillows, once more concerned that the obviously angry scientist might try and strike him. He heard her footsteps walking away and sighed quietly with relief. What sort of a monster was this woman? Much as he hated to admit it, even to himself, Chip Morton was afraid. Afraid of the impenetrable darkness, afraid of his own helplessness and afraid of this woman who appeared to have him at her mercy. He wasn’t sure what to do. One thing that he prided himself on was being in control of events and of his emotions but, right now, he didn’t feel in control of either. His head throbbed; his throat was dry, his hands burned and his eyes stung. He was desperate for a drink but was sure that if he asked for one he’d be inviting another tirade.
He wondered, not for the first time, why this supposedly brilliant scientist hated him so deeply; he wouldn’t mind so much if he thought he somehow deserved her contempt but he knew that he didn’t and that, added to his intense dislike of feeling vulnerable, made him suddenly angry. Why the hell should he just lay her and accept her orders? There was nothing wrong with his legs. If she wouldn’t fetch help for him, then he’d do it himself. He listened carefully but couldn’t hear her although he knew she was still in the hut with him. Maybe she was getting on with her work as she had said she wanted to do. Gritting his teeth against the pain he knew his proposed actions would cause Chip pushed himself carefully into a sitting position. By using his elbows he was able to avoid putting pressure on his injured hands and, once upright, he sat for a moment quietly satisfied with this small achievement. Listening carefully, it seemed to him that Dr. Westhal was unaware that he had moved or, maybe, she just didn’t care. Feeling more in control now than he had since his accident, Chip took a deep breath and attempted to swing his long legs over the side of the low bed. This was more difficult than he had anticipated as someone had tucked the blankets very firmly around his legs and he had to kick hard to free himself. He was totally unaware that he was being watched from the other side of the room.
From her desk diagonally opposite the bed, Marion Westhal watched with a mixture of scorn and grudging admiration as her “enemy” struggled to free himself from the bed. “Stupid fool!” she thought to herself. “What on earth did he think he was going to do even if he did manage to get up? He couldn’t see, he couldn’t use his hands and he had no boots. There was no way he could go anywhere.” However, she couldn’t help but admire his determination even if it was misguided. It was obvious, from the way his mouth twisted in pain, that he wasn’t finding it easy and, yet, it was equally obvious that he was someone who didn’t give up easily.
Leaning back on her chair she studied him resentfully as he sat on the edge of the bed with both sock covered feet on the floor and his shoulders hunched as he balanced his elbows on his legs just above his knees with his bandaged hands tucked in towards his chest. His head was bent forward and he was breathing heavily and she guessed that the effort of getting to that position had exhausted him. He didn’t seem inclined to move any further and for a moment, she found herself staring at the top of his bent head. His blond hair was dark with sweat and stuck out at odd angles from the bandages which encircled much of his head. If she was totally honest with herself there was little to identify him as the very smart and capable executive officer she’d first seen back at the Nelson Institute. He could have been anybody. She wondered if his friends would recognise him easily or whether they would need to look twice…and, yet, his presence in her hut still filled her with revulsion. Even though she could no longer see most of his face his very existence threatened her piece of mind.
“I don’t know who Commander Morton reminds you of….” She recalled again the words Captain Crane had spoken to her before the landing party had left Seaview and how she had tensed, suddenly afraid that somehow the very astute captain had read her mind. She also recalled her answer, too quick and too defensive, “Who says he reminds me of anyone? I just don’t like him.” “You don’t even know him,” the captain had pointed out and she knew that he thought her arguments were irrational. And they were. She knew they were but she couldn’t help it.
She had spent many years in preparation for this project and she couldn’t afford to risk its success by using up precious time and emotional energy facing up to the demons that Commander Morton’s admittedly good looks had brought to mind. Oh, she knew it wasn’t his fault exactly but she knew the feelings that had risen from the dark recesses of her mind were threatening to overwhelm her. Most probably he was, like his captain, a very pleasant young man. It was very obvious that his men thought a lot of him and that Harriman Nelson, who was a very good friend of hers, thought very highly of him. She suddenly wondered what Harry would say if he knew how she’d shouted at one of his command team, if he knew how the man was suffering while she just sat back and watched. It wasn’t really her; she wasn’t an unkind person. Her past, the past that she had tried so hard to forget, had taught her to care about others whoever they were and not to have prejudices, and yet that had all been swept away as soon as she had set eyes on Lt. Commander Chip Morton, and she detested him for it.
On the other side of the hut and, still oblivious that he was being watched, Chip was summoning up the strength to stand up. He was aware that he was only wearing socks on his feet and wondered where his boots were, not that he would be able to get them on even if he could find them. He felt utterly fatigued and depressed and, really wanted to lay back down and hide under the blankets but his pride dictated that he do everything he could to take control of his circumstances and, taking a deep breath, he began, very slowly to raise himself to a standing position. He was totally unprepared for the wave of dizziness and nausea that swept over him as he came upright, one moment he was standing unsteadily and the next he was falling forwards as he blacked out.
Regaining consciousness several seconds later, Chip found that his headache intensified as two sensations assaulted his senses simultaneously. First and foremost was the pain. He’d fallen heavily on his right side, squashing his already painful hand beneath his body and scraping his chin on the wooden floor. Secondly, there was the discordant sound of Dr. Westhal’s voice as she launched into another angry monologue.
Towering above him she screamed abuse, as he lay dazed and unmoving. “You stupid, stupid idiot! I thought I told you to lay quietly, Commander. I thought I told you that I have important work to do, but do you care? No! What the hell do you think you were doing anyway? There’s an arctic storm blowing out there and you think you are going to march out of here in your socks? Use your brains! You can’t see, your hands are useless and you can’t even keep your balance. You’re stuck here until the storm finishes so I suggest you come to terms with it. Do you think you are some sort of bloody hero? Don’t you know when to concede defeat?”
There was a pause as the furious scientist paused for breath and, anxious to escape her fury, Chip tried frantically to move away but as soon as he tried to lift his head, the dizziness returned and he was forced to stay put as she continued her verbal assault. She moved closer, bending right over him. “Get up, Commander. You can’t stay there; you’re in the bloody way! D’you hear me?” She screamed at him now. “I said get up, damn you get up!”
When Chip failed to comply she grabbed hold of his left arm and started to pull at which point the tormented exec finally lost control of his own temper. He’d worked hard, ever since the start of this mission to be polite and professional towards this infuriating, irrational woman and now he’d had enough.
“Let go of me!” he yelled and was relieved when he felt her grip loosen although she didn’t release her hold immediately. “Let go!” Chip, repeated his command, trying to put as much force as he could into his very croaky voice. “I don’t give a damn what you want, DOCTOR. I want to get out of here, away from you, your irrational attitude and your senseless hatred. Now either you help me or I’ll manage by myself and report your behaviour to Admiral Nelson at the earliest opportunity. See what he thinks of the way you treat injured personnel in your care.”
For a while after Chip’s words there was silence save for the continuous howling of the wind around the small hut. Completely exhausted now, Chip remained where he’d fallen unable to move for fear of another attack of dizziness and wondering what would happen next. Dr. Westhal had moved away from him and now stood by her desk, shaking with anger and shock. Despite the weakness of his voice, the Commander’s words coupled with her own total loss of control had shaken her. She’d already wondered what Harriman Nelson would make of her behaviour and knew that she didn’t want him to find out. She would feel so ashamed. She didn’t doubt the commander’s threat and knew how illogical and unreasonable she would sound if she was forced to defend her actions. She wondered absently what would have happened if Nelson had sailed with them as originally planned. He would have been sure to have noticed her behaviour in the same way that his young captain had. What would she have told him if he had queried her attitude towards his executive officer? She couldn’t have told him the truth, she was sure of that.
A groan from the floor focussed her attention once more on Commander Morton. Looking at him now, as he lay helpless and in obvious pain, she suddenly found that the sight of him no longer filled her with as much revulsion as before and she began to feel a little sorry for him. Still, she didn’t want to be the one to help him. She wanted him out of her way as much as he wanted to go. Walking over to the door she turned the knob and edged it open. Thick white snowflakes obliterated the camp and she was forced to let the door slam shut again as the wind threatened to take it. It was obvious that the weather was not going to allow either of them their wish.
Feeling suddenly very tired and very depressed Marion Westhal turned back to the centre of the room. A wave of guilt assaulted her. What had brought her to this? Wasn’t she just as bad as the man she despised him for? Approaching the unmoving figure on the floor, she said quietly, “I’m afraid the weather is against us both, Commander, so we better make the best of it. Shall I help you back to bed? You can’t stay there like that.”
There was no immediate answer and she wondered if he was still conscious. She was debating how she could move a man who was a good seven inches taller than her and a great many pounds heavier when he spoke, his voice low and filled with pain. “I don’t think I can move. I’ll only faint again.” He sounded so defeated that she found her own strength of mind returning.
“Of course, you can, Commander. I won’t let you faint.”
You can’t bloody stop me! Chip thought crossly, but he said nothing. He felt too ill and didn’t have the strength to get involved in another argument. If she thought she could get him back to bed, let her try. He felt a hand on his left shoulder and his muscles tensed as the scientist said quietly, “If you can roll on to your back, it’ll be easier to get up. I’ll help you.”
Bewildered by this sudden change in his adversary’s attitude, Chip allowed her to help him roll onto his back where he lay for a moment, biting his already bleeding lower lip against the pain that now seemed to radiate throughout his body. He wished now that he’d never tried to get out of bed, it was obvious that the odds had been stacked against him but he had been unable to lay there and do nothing. Don’t know when to concede defeat! Those were part of the words that she’d shouted at him. And he knew that was true, he never had known when to give up, he always had to keep on fighting until he completely ran out of strength by which time he was usually in a worse position than when he’d started… just like now.
“Alright,” Marion Westhal’s voice broke into his thoughts and he was struck again, at how much quieter and softer her tone had become. Maybe his words about Admiral Nelson had really frightened her? “Next step, sitting up….”
“I can’t….” Chip muttered dejectedly.
“You can,” Dr. Westhal’s said forcefully. “I’ve watched you, Commander Morton and I know you’re not the type to give up. Now come on… up!” As she spoke he felt her hands sliding under his shoulders from where she started to push. It was clear that she also didn’t know when to quit and, reluctantly, Chip used his elbows to help push himself into a sitting position. However, as soon as he was upright the dizziness returned and he would’ve fallen backwards again if the scientist hadn’t remained kneeling behind him supporting his back as she pushed his head down towards his knees. It crossed his mind that she could now do him some serious damage if she wanted to but he had no choice but to trust her as he fought against the pain and nausea that kept assaulting his senses. He was relieved when, a few minutes later, his head started to clear and he struggled against her hold on the back of his head.
“Better, now?” she queried, her voice sharp and business like.
“Yes,” Chip mumbled his reply.
“Good… now let’s get you on your feet.” He felt a firm hand on his right elbow. “When you’re ready, Commander. I won’t let you fall. I promise.”
It was on the tip of Chip’s tongue to say that she wouldn’t have a choice if he fainted again. He remembered that the scientist was at least six inches shorter than his six feet and was incredibly thin; he didn’t think she would have the strength to support someone of his size. However, appearances could be deceptive and as he came slowly to his feet and the dizziness returned he felt an iron-like grip on his elbow and another firm hand on his back as she propelled him towards the bed.
Five minutes later, he was back in bed with the blankets tucked firmly around his aching body. His throbbing hands rested once again on pillows by his sides and something cold and wet was pressed against the cut on his chin.
“Thank you,” he stuttered his gratitude and wasn’t surprised by the scientist’s gruff response.
“Forget it, Commander. Like I told you before, you couldn’t stay on the floor; you were making the place untidy. Now maybe this time you’ll accept your limitations and stay where you are until help comes. I promise you that as soon as this storm is over you’ll be out of here so fast it’ll make your head spin.”
Ironic choice of words, Chip thought tiredly. He was sure his head would spin, that was if it didn’t explode before then.
“Now can I get you anything?” Dr. Westhal’s voice was still firm and business-like but not as icy as it had been before. “You must be thirsty; Mr. Morton and I would think some pain relief might be welcome.”
“It would, thank you.” Chip listened as she moved away from him and he heard the sounds of liquid being poured and packets being opened. He wondered tiredly if her sudden desire to help him was because of the threat he’d made to tell Admiral Nelson about her behaviour, or was she about to poison him? He thought how irrational that idea sounded but he knew he wouldn’t have a clue what she was giving him.
“Here you go….” He felt her hand beneath his head, supporting him as she held a metal cup to his lips. “Drink it!” she ordered.
“What is it?” he asked suspiciously.
“Milk. Milk and crushed aspirin. It’ll do you good, Commander.”
“No sedatives. I don’t want to sleep.”
“You’d be better off asleep,” she replied gruffly, “but there’s no sedative, just aspirin. It’s all I’ve got and I doubt it’ll ease your pain completely but it should help a bit. I’m sure if Ronnie had realized how bad the storm would get he’d have left medication for you, but he didn’t so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for something stronger.”
“Aspirin’ll do,” Chip muttered and drank gratefully from the mug she’d offered. The milk was cool and tasted incredibly refreshing to his desperately dry mouth and throat. Hopefully, the aspirin would take the edge of his headache and enable him to think more clearly. When he had emptied the mug Dr Westhal released his head and he sank gratefully back onto the pillows. “Thank you,” he muttered.
“No trouble,” she answered briskly and he heard her move away across the hut. “Is there anything else you want, Commander?”
“No, thank you,” Chip replied.
“I’ll get back to my work then,” Marion Westhal said quietly. “Try and sleep, Commander. It’ll help the time pass more quickly.”
Chip listened as the scientist’s footsteps crossed the space between the bed and her desk and he heard the sound of her chair scraping on the wooden floor as she sat down. He knew that her advice to try and sleep was sensible but, although he felt drowsy, he was still in too much pain and too anxious to fall asleep properly. In addition, the sound of the wind howling and whistling around the hut kept him awake and alert; it was so incredibly loud. Chip recalled reading somewhere that the loss of one sense heightened the reactions of those left and wondered whether the loss of his sight had made his hearing more acute or whether the wind was really that loud. He shifted his legs restlessly and tried not to think about his eyes, although it was difficult not to when they kept stinging and watering beneath the bandages. The thought that he might never see again scared him so much that he couldn’t allow himself to dwell on it and he tried hard to force his mind to think of other, pleasanter things but every thought brought him back to the possible loss of his sight. Thinking about Seaview made him wonder about how he would cope without his job, a job that he loved. Thinking about his life ashore just made him think about all the things he wouldn’t be able to do, like watching his beloved football on TV. Feeling increasingly distressed he turned his fragmented thoughts to his family only to find himself worrying about being a burden to his sister and brother-in-law. Wherever his thoughts went they came back to his sight. Without thinking he sighed heavily and immediately heard the sound of Dr. Westhal’s chair scraping across the floor.
“What’s wrong now?” she asked gruffly as her footsteps approached the bed.
“Nothing, you say?” she repeated his words as she stood and observed him. His legs were moving restlessly under the blankets and she wondered whether it was pain or boredom or both that made him unable to keep still. Looking down at him she realized that the more she looked at him the less his appearance frightened her. It was hard now to recall the features that had invoked such terrifying memories. With the bandages covering his upper head and face, the fresh scabs on his chin and his badly bitten lower lip he didn’t look anything like the young man she’d taken such a strong dislike to. He could have been anybody and she found that her earlier stirrings of compassion for him began to grow a little stronger. Fetching her chair she placed it by his bed and sat down.
“I am sorry, Commander,” she said quietly. “Despite what you might think I didn’t want to see you get hurt. I admit I don’t like you but it’s nothing you said or did, it’s just the way things are and I am sorry that you’ve been hurt. I don’t think that you deserved it.”
For a moment Chip didn’t say anything as his mind fought to assimilate this unexpected turn of events. The last thing he had envisaged was an apology from the frosty Doctor. He really had believed that she had been pleased about his injuries and that she somehow enjoyed his suffering but now her words of apology forced him to rethink his own ideas and he found that his earlier curiosity was reawakened.
“So why,” he asked now. “If I haven’t done or said anything, why do you hate me?”
“Does there have to be a reason?”
“I think so,” Chip licked his sore lips as he replied. “Was Lee right?”
“Lee?” The question momentarily confused her. “Oh, you mean Captain Crane?”
“Yes, he thinks I remind you of someone, someone who’s upset or hurt you in the past.”
“I know, he told me,” Marion Westhal replied and Chip detected an abruptness back in her tone as she continued, “but it’s irrelevant, Commander. I’ve said I’m sorry, let’s leave it at that.”
There was a silence after her words and Chip realized that he risked antagonizing her again if he persisted in asking for an explanation but his curiosity was aroused and he was anxious to talk about anything that might distract him from his own pain and fears so he said quietly, “I don’t think it’s irrelevant. Not to me. You admit that I’ve done nothing to deserve your hatred and yet you continue to hate me. Don’t you think I deserve an explanation?”
“Not really,” Marion Westhal replied coolly. “I doubt that you’d understand it, Commander, even if I told you.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” Chip argued. “It might do you good to talk about it.” Even as he spoke the words he realized that he’d gone too far.
me good?” Marion Westhal got to her feet, her anger back in full force. She
started to pace the small room, twisting her hands together agitatedly. “Who
the hell do you think you are Commander to lay there and tell me what would do
me good? You’ve got no idea! No idea at all. I know you’ve been hurt now but
what do you really know about suffering, Commander Morton? Real suffering that
is. Not just physical but real soul tearing hurt? Look at you... typical post-war American. You’ve
had all the privileges…Blond hair, blue eyes, good brain,
“Shut up!” Chip suddenly shouted back at her. “Just shut up! I don’t know who the bloody hell you’re mixing me up with, Doctor but you’re obviously so damn bitter about it that it’s warped your mind. You’re talking rubbish, absolute rubbish. You don’t know a damn thing about me or about my life, so don’t make assumptions based on your own prejudices.”
“How dare you talk to me like that?” Marion Westhal derided.
Chip swallowed hard and raised himself up on his elbows, his own anger giving him strength. “I dare for the same reason you do! For your information, Doctor, I have not had an easy life. My parents were killed when I was ten years old so don’t tell me that I don’t know what suffering is.”
For a moment there was silence except for the continuing sound of the storm outside.
Chip slumped back down on his pillows and was surprised to find that his whole body was trembling with physical and emotional exhaustion. He hadn’t meant to explode like that but he had found the doctor’s assumptions insulting and he’d had enough of her attitude problem. He was surprised when she spoke again to hear that her voice was full of quiet apology.
“I’m sorry, Commander. I had no idea….” She sounded upset but Chip was past caring and growled his reply.
“No, you didn’t and nobody could expect you to but you’re so bloody twisted and bitter that you can’t see beyond the colour of my hair.”
“That’s not true,” Dr. Westhal protested.
“Isn’t it?” Chip challenged his own voice suddenly very croaky. “You weren’t talking about me. You were thinking about some former boyfriend or husband or something.”
“I wasn’t,” Marion Westhal’s voice sounded choked. “Honestly, Commander Morton. I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. It was wrong of me to make those assumptions. It must have been very hard losing your parents so young.”
“Just forget it,” Chip muttered wearily. “It was a long time ago. I’ve grown up and moved on. I don’t hold it against anyone else. We all have our problems, Doctor Westhal, but it’s how we deal with them that counts and whatever your problem is I suggest you sort it out before you’re forced to work again with someone who has blond hair and blue eyes.”
“It’s not that easy,” Doctor Westhal said unhappily.
“Nothing worth doing ever is,” Chip responded. “Could you get me another drink, please?”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Dr Westhal seemed only too pleased to have a change of subject. “Will milk do?”
“Yes.” Chip listened to the wind as the doctor went to fetch his drink. It sounded as if it might be losing its ferocity and he wondered if the storm might finally be coming to an end. He hoped so. He couldn’t wait to get away from this waking nightmare.
“Here’s your drink. Let me help you up,” Marion Westhal’s subdued voice interrupted his thoughts and he felt her hand lifting his head as the cold rim of the cup touched his lips. The milk was cold and very refreshing and Chip drank greedily, soon emptying the cup. He licked his lips and savoured the smooth feel of cold milk on his dry throat as the doctor eased him back down.
“Is the storm dying out?” he asked now. “The wind isn’t as strong as it was before.”
“I’ll go and look.”
Chip listened as the doctor crossed the wooden floor to the door. He heard the door creak and then felt a rush of freezing air cross the room as the door opened.
“Good news!” the doctor said cheerfully as she shut the door. “The wind is dying down and the snowfall is lighter. Looks like our enforced time together is coming to an end.”
“Thank goodness for that!”
Chip’s words were heartfelt and he thought that he detected a hint of amusement in the doctor’s tone as she replied: “My thoughts exactly, Commander!”
So that was that, Chip thought with relief. Even if Seaview couldn’t get here yet the end of the storm would at least mean that he could be moved from the doctor’s hut to some other accommodation away from her. It meant that he never would get the answer as to why she hated him but it had become obvious that she did not intend to share her reasons with him and that he must be content with her apology. It was….
“So what are we going to tell the others about your chin?” The doctor’s voice interrupted his thoughts and he sensed that she was close to the bed again.
“Yes Commander. That’s a nasty scrape and it wasn’t there the last time anyone else saw you, so what are we going to tell them?”
“I’ll tell them the truth,” Chip responded irritably. “It was my own fault and… Ah….” He paused as realization suddenly dawned on his tired mind. “You don’t want your team to know that I was forced to get out of bed because you refused to help me? Is that it?”
“It doesn’t reflect well on their leader,” the doctor sounded worried, “and it’s so unlike me; it’d take some explaining.”
“Yes, I can certainly understand that,” Chip said, slowly as an idea began to form in his mind. “You might have to tell them the truth that you’re refusing to tell me, is that it?”
“Don’t start that again, Commander. I’ve already told you that you wouldn’t understand.”
“You don’t know that, you’re just making assumptions again,” Chip challenged boldly. “You tell me the truth and I’ll tell your team and my men that I fell out of bed.”
prefer to think of it as a compromise,” Chip replied quietly. “And don’t tell
me again that I won’t understand. As you pointed out earlier I graduated from
There was a long silence as Marion Westhal considered his words. It was clear that he was determined to know exactly what lay behind her attitude towards him and part of her wanted to tell him but it was so hard to talk about that she wasn’t sure she could put it into words without getting emotional. But did that matter? It wasn’t as if he could see her and in a few hours he would hopefully be gone and they would never meet again. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing….
She cleared her throat. “Alright, Commander, I’ll try to explain it to you. What do you remember about the war? The Second World War.”
Chip sighed, “Nothing. I’m not old enough to remember the war but I have studied the history. I do know about it.”
“Hmmph, you know facts. You don’t know what it was like,” Marion Westhal murmured reflectively.
“So tell me,” Chip urged softly. “Tell me what it was like for you.”
“What do you know of Adolph Hitler?” Marion Westhal’s voice seemed to come from far away, as if she’d already gone back in time.
Chip felt confused by the way the conversation was going. “Chancellor of
“Did you know that one of his goals was to create a master race?”
“I’ve read about it, yes.”
“And are you not aware, Commander Morton, that you fit his ideal perfectly? With your blond hair, blue eyes, physical strength and good brain you have everything that made a perfect human being in his eyes. Hitler would have loved you.”
“And that’s it?” Chip’s voice betrayed his incredulity. “You hate me because Hitler would have loved me? That’s crazy!”
“Oh, there’s more, Commander, a lot more. Have you heard of the concentration camps?”
“Have you ever wondered what life was like inside one?”
“Not really,” Chip confessed quietly, suddenly wishing that he’d never pushed her to talk but still curious to know what she was going to say.
don’t have to imagine, Commander. I know. I was born in
Chip wisely made no comment as he tried to understand what she was telling him. It sounded so unbelievable. He’d read about what had happened to the Jews but that was all. It was hard to believe that a survivor was talking to him now. No wonder she hadn’t wanted to tell him. He forced his exhausted mind to focus as she continued.
“My mother and I survived but she died not long after the end of the war. I was nearly sixteen. My mother had relations in the States and they insisted that I come to live with them. I had nowhere else to go so I accepted their invitation.” She trailed off, her voice sad.
Chip waited patiently. He wanted to ask more questions but did not want to intrude further, although he still couldn’t understand where her hatred of him fitted into all this.
“I guess you’re wondering how my experiences affected my attitude towards you,” Dr. Westhal seemed to read his mind.
“Yes,” he nodded slightly.
“I spent five years of my life in that concentration camp, being guarded by Germans several of whom fitted Hitler’s ideal and one of them…” she paused, “one of them looked like you, Commander. I don’t just mean that he had your colouring. I mean that he looked like you. He had the same features, the same shaped head and face, even his smile was like yours except that his was evil and yours isn’t. He could have been your twin.” Her voice sounded distressed. “Those soldiers made our lives a living hell and they derived pleasure from it. They made us cut our hair very short. They deprived us of food. Never allowed us privacy to bathe… they…they used physical violence against us and some…” Marion Westhal swallowed tensely, “…some women they used for their… pleasure…”
There was silence as the doctor fought to regain control of her fragile emotions. Then she continued, her voice raw. “I’ve spent a lifetime trying to forget those years, Commander but when I first saw you in the corridor back at the Institute and you smiled at me, all those memories came flooding back. It was like meeting a ghost, reliving a nightmare and then, when I found out who you were, I had to be hostile towards you. It was the only way I could cope.”
Chip was so stunned that he didn’t know what to say. Whatever he had thought she was going to tell him, it was nothing like this. He felt rather guilty now for pushing her to give him a reason for her attitude. He hadn’t missed the intense emotion behind her words and knew that it couldn’t have been easy for her to relate events she’d rather forget. Chip could understand that as he still had great difficulties talking about the traumatic events of his own childhood but, in comparison to Dr. Westhal’s past, he’d had a relatively easy time.
Marion Westhal mistook his silence for misunderstanding and there was defensiveness in her tone as she interrupted his thoughts. “I told you, you wouldn’t understand.”
“But I do,” Chip hastened to reassure her. “I do understand why your memories meant you had to hate me, but why didn’t you tell Admiral Nelson? He’s your friend; he could have arranged it so that we didn’t have to see each other. I could have taken leave or….”
“Maybe,” the doctor’s voice sounded weary as she interrupted him. “But as you may understand now, Commander, I don’t find it easy to talk about. I don’t want to talk about it. I’d rather just forget.”
“And all the time I was around you were forced to remember,” Chip couldn’t help feeling incredibly guilty. “It sounds rather inadequate in the circumstances but I am sorry, very sorry. I never imagined that your reasons could be so… so justifiably painful.”
For a long time there was silence in the small hut while both occupants were lost in their own thoughts. Dr. Westhal eventually broke it.
“Can I ask you something?” Dr. Westhal’s voice penetrated Chip’s thoughts again.
“I know that you’re American, but do you know where your family originates from? I mean….”
“Do I have German ancestry?” Chip responded helpfully.
“Well, do you?”
Chip hesitated, unsure of whether the truth would create new tensions between them.
“Yes, I have,” He paused. “My mother was half German. Her father’s family moved to the States in 1906.”
“I thought as much,” Marion Westhal sounded rather self-satisfied and Chip felt his own anger return.
He accepted that he looked like someone she remembered way back in her past but he didn’t like the implication that there was some distant relationship between him and the Nazi soldier who had caused her so much anguish. “I don’t take after my mother’s family,” he replied coolly “If that’s what you’re thinking.”
“I’m sure you must take after them in some respects,” Dr. Westhal said calmly.
but I look like my father,” Chip replied, his voice intensely serious. “And his
family were from
“I see,” Aware that her insinuation had upset him and, suddenly feeling very tired, Marion Westhal decided against pursuing the subject any more. Getting up she walked again to the door opened it and looked out. To her immense relief the wind had dropped to a slight breeze and the snow had stopped falling.
“Good news!” she announced with forced cheerfulness. “The storm has finished, Commander.”
The one outside or inside, Chip wondered. “Thank goodness!” he said with equally forced optimism “Could you fetch Mr. Morrison for me please?” he spoke almost eagerly. “We need to get going if we’re going to get back to Seaview before dark.”
“I’ll fetch him,” Dr. Westhal said quietly. “So long as you promise to lie still while I’m gone.”
“I promise,” Chip, answered seriously, “just hurry will you.”
Marion Westhal returned after five minutes bringing Craig Morrison with her. As Craig had known he would be his superior was very unhappy to hear that Seaview had left.
“What do you mean she’s gone? Gone where? Why didn’t you tell me Mr. Morrison?”
“You were asleep, sir.” Craig replied unhappily. “We didn’t want to disturb you.”
“You wouldn’t have disturbed me,” Chip snapped. “I’ve got a right to know what’s going on, Mister!” Pain, fatigue and disappointment helped to fuel an unusual display of temper from Seaview’s exec. “You should have told me. I’m still in command of this landing party. Any reports from the Seaview should’ve been given to me immediately.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Craig muttered quietly. “It won’t happen again.”
“It better not,” Chip’s voice was harsh. “When did you last hear from them?”
“Early hours of this morning, sir. We’ve heard nothing since the skipper called to tell us they had to dive. I guess they’re looking for a place to surface now that the storm has passed.”
Chip sighed. He was so desperate to get back to the warmth and safety of Seaview that he found Craig’s news hard to accept. It was already late afternoon. Chances were that unless Seaview managed to surface nearer to the camp, which was an unlikely possibility, it would soon be too dark for any rescue mission. The thought of spending another night on the ice, helpless and in pain filled him with dread.
“Very well,” he spoke shortly to Morrison. “Make sure somebody is monitoring the radio at all times and report to me the minute you hear anything. Understand?”
“Aye, sir,” Craig nodded and left. He hoped Seaview would make contact soon. He didn’t want to have to deal with the exec’s bad mood indefinitely.
Meanwhile, back on Seaview, some sixteen miles away, Lee Crane’s mood was no happier than that of his executive officer.
“Are you sure we can’t get any closer before nightfall?” he demanded of Bobby O’Brien.
“Positive, sir,” O’Brien nodded. “If you remember, we knew when we dived that we might not be able to get so close to the camp a second time. The ice pack is shifting all the time and….”
“Yes, I know,” Lee cut Bobby off mid-sentence. “So what you’re saying is we can surface here and they can walk sixteen miles to reach us, which they won’t be able to do before nightfall, or we can try and find a place to surface closer to the camp but then it’ll still be too dark to get them back on board tonight.”
“That’s right, sir,” Bobby nodded unhappily.
“It’s not good enough,” Lee muttered unhappily. He wasn’t really worried about the landing party. If necessary, they could survive at the research station for weeks, but they needed to get Chip back aboard Seaview as soon as possible. It was almost twenty-four hours now since he’d been hurt. It wouldn’t be fair to make him spend another night at the camp. And what if the weather changed again? The outlook was quite favourable but it was by no means guaranteed. If another storm blew up it could be days before they got Chip back aboard. Lee wasn’t sure he could cope with the constant suspense and the crew were getting jittery. It wasn’t good for morale to remain under the ice for an indefinite amount of time.
“It’s a shame we can’t launch the flying sub,” O’Brien’s voice interrupted Lee’s thoughts. “If….”
“Yes, we…wait a minute….” Lee’s hazel eyes shone with the germination of an idea. “Maybe that’s it… if I took the flying sub out maybe I could find an opening in the ice closer to the research station. At least I’d be able to bring Mr. Morton back with me.”
“It’d be awfully risky, sir,” O’Brien said doubtfully. “And what if you can’t find a break in the ice?”
“What if we took Seaview to open waters and I flew in from there?” Lee asked, wishing he’d thought of this before.
“It’s at least two hours sailing to open waters,” O’Brien pointed out. “And there’s the flight time and it’ll be dark and…”
“They can give me a homing signal to go in on,” Lee dismissed O’Brien’s objections. “If we head out to sea now I could be airborne by 18.30 hours. I could have Mr. Morton back aboard before 21.00. Surface now and we’ll tell them what we’re intending to do.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“The flying sub!” Chip Morton greeted the news from Seaview sceptically. “He’s crazy. He’ll never get it launched from beneath the ice …”
“He’s not going to, sir,” Craig explained carefully. “They’re heading for open waters and he’s going to fly in from there. The skipper reckons he’ll be here within three hours. You should be back aboard Seaview by 21.00”
“Me? What about the rest of you?”
“I guess so,” Chip muttered quietly. Part of him didn’t think he should leave before the men he was in charge of but he knew nobody, least of all Lee, would listen to any argument and he was so desperate to get “home” that he wasn’t even going to voice such a thought.
Lee Crane was struggling into his arctic clothing when there was a knock at his cabin door.
“Come in!” He pulled a thick sweater over his head as the door opened and Jamie appeared.
“Doc. What can I do for you?” Lee pulled his sweater straight and grinned at the doctor.
“It’s more a case of what I can do for you,” Jamie said sternly.
“Oh,” Lee frowned and sat down on his bunk. “Look, Jamie, I know what you’re going to say but my ankle’s a lot better now and there’s nobody else aboard who has the experience to fly FS1 so far. It’s not like I’m going to be walking.”
“What about when you get there?” the doctor queried. “Walking on ice and snow puts a lot of strain on your ankles.”
“I won’t be walking very far,” Lee, said his voice and expression serious. “For Chip’s sake I want to land as close to the camp as possible. We’re just going to walk in there, collect Chip and come straight back out. It’s not going to hurt me, Jamie.”
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to take the flying sub out there?” Jamie asked sceptically. “I wouldn’t have thought it would be easy to land it on the ice and snow.”
“It’s just the same as landing it anywhere else,” Lee replied confidently. “It’s equipped to land on any terrain known to man. I know the situation isn’t ideal, Jamie but the priority is to get Chip back aboard Seaview as soon as possible. I can rest my ankle later; it’s trivial compared to Chip’s injuries.”
“Point taken,” Jamie sighed. “What time do you expect to arrive back?”
“All being well we should be back by 21.00 hours,” Lee replied. “But I’ll radio in as soon as we’re on our way back so that you’ll know just when to expect us.”
“We’ll be ready,” Jamie said confidently. “If I think it’s necessary how long do you think it’ll take to fly Chip to the mainland?”
“Three to four hours,” Lee replied quietly. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to finish getting ready.”
It was 19.30 hours precisely, fifty minutes after they’d left Seaview, when Lee Crane landed the flying sub to the west of the research station. Specially designed landing gear ensured a good grip on the snow covered terrain and Lee quietly hoped that his takeoff would be as easy as his landing had been.
When he emerged from the yellow craft he wasn’t surprised to find the landing party, minus his exec, waiting for him.
“It’s good to see you, sir,” Craig Morrison’s voice held a definite note of relief and Lee guessed that the young officer had found the past twenty-six hours something of a strain.
good to be here,” he responded as
“In Dr. Westhal’s hut,” Morrison replied, pointing towards the camp. “He’ll be really glad you’re here, sir.”
“I know,” Lee nodded and turned to the waiting sailors. “Okay men. Some of you give Andy a hand with the extra supplies we’ve bought. I want to be airborne again as soon as possible.”
He strode towards the camp with Morrison and soon came face to face with an icily polite Dr. Westhal.
“Captain Crane! It’s about time you arrived. You’ve no idea what a disruption all this has been to my work! I would have thought with all your hi-tech equipment you could have come back hours ago. Have you any idea how terrible it’s been for Commander Morton, wondering if you were ever going to come back for him?” The scientist’s voice softened with her last words and Lee frowned with surprise. He had expected an icy welcome but he hadn’t expected her to support his exec. In fact he had expected her to blame Chip for everything whether he deserved it or not.
“I’m sorry,” he said apologetically. “But the weather conditions were out of our control. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to collect Commander Morton and get out of here.”
“What about the rest of your crew?” Marion Westhal demanded.
“I’ll take Kowalski back with me but Lieutenant Morrison and the others will have to stay here until we can bring Seaview back for them.”
“And when will that be?”
“I don’t know,” Lee admitted. “Later tomorrow probably. It depends on Commander Morton’s condition. I’m not moving back under the ice until our doctor has examined his injuries. We might have to send him to a hospital before we can come back for the others but we’ve brought some more supplies and we will come back as soon as it is possible. I’m sorry that we’re inconveniencing you but I didn’t plan the bad weather or Commander Morton’s accident.”
“I suppose not,” Marion Westhal said grudgingly. “Your friend is in my hut if you want to follow me.”
Chip was half asleep when Lee and Marion Westhal entered the hut accompanied by Ronnie Hansen but he awoke as he felt the blast of cold air through the open door.
“Lee? Is that you?” He struggled to sit up only to find strong hands on his shoulders forcing him to remain on his back.
“I thought you promised to keep still,” Marion Westhal’s voice was reproving. “You can relax now, Commander. The cavalry have arrived.”
“Hi, Chip. I’m sorry we took so long,” Lee Crane’s voice was full of apology. “How d’you feel?”
“I’m fine,” Chip responded quietly. “But I’m glad you’re here. Can we go home now?”
“Sure can,” Lee replied cheerfully. “Just as soon as we’ve got you aboard FS1 we’ll head back for Seaview.”
“I can get myself aboard,” Chip said determinedly. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs, Lee. I’ve been laying here for over twenty-four hours and nobody lets me do anything.”
Lee sighed. He could hear the irritable and frustrated tone in his friend’s voice but he was determined that they would do things the way he had planned and he hadn’t planned on his friend walking anywhere. “Listen, Chip,” he said calmly. “The idea of me flying in here was to get you back to Seaview as soon as possible. The flying sub is a good ten minute walk from here across ice and snow. You’re in no fit state to walk it; you’ll just slow us down unnecessarily.”
“But nothing, Mr. Morton,” Lee’s voice took on its command tone. “You’re not walking and that’s an order!”
Chip sighed heavily and shut up knowing that he wasn’t going to win the argument. He remained silent as Lee and Hansen strapped him to a stretcher cocooned in layers of blankets and then carried him across the snow to the flying sub. While Kowalski and Anderson secured the stretcher for the flight home Lee went in search of Dr. Westhal who had disappeared while he was busy with his friend. He found her in the communications hut in conversation with her radio operator. She looked up when Lee entered.
“Hello, Captain. Are you ready to go?” she enquired politely.
“We are” Crane nodded. “I’ll be in touch as soon as possible about removing the rest of my men.”
“I look forward to hearing from you,” Marion Westhal almost smiled. “Goodbye, Captain Crane.”
“Goodbye, Dr. Westhal,” Lee nodded briefly and turned back towards the door. He was about to open it when the doctor’s voice stopped him.
“Yes, Doctor,” He turned back to look at her as she crossed the hut to stand next to him.
“I…”She hesitated. “I just wanted to tell you that the accident wasn’t Commander Morton’s fault. He was trying to help me and I wasn’t very grateful. What happened was just a pure accident. I…er…I’d be grateful if you would let me know how things turn out for him, Captain.”
“Of course,” Lee nodded, surprised by the sudden concern the frosty doctor seemed to be showing for a man she’d claimed to hate for no good reason. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to be going.”
As soon as the flying sub docked aboard Seaview a team of sailors carefully removed the stretcher-bound exec and took him to sickbay where Jamie was waiting for him.
Anxious to know exactly what was going on Lee made his own way to sickbay without even stopping to remove his heavy arctic clothing but he found that Jamie was not very welcoming.
“If you want me to look at that ankle you’ll have to wait,” he told Lee, his tone apologetic but firm.
“Of course I don’t,” Lee shook his dark head. “I just want to know what’s happening with Chip.”
“Soon as I know anything I’ll tell you, but it’ll be a while yet so why don’t you get some rest?”
“I thought I’d wait here.”
“Oh, no,” Jamie shook his head. “I don’t want an audience, Lee. I’ll give you a report on Chip’s injuries as soon as I’m through examining him and I’m not going to do that any quicker with you hovering on the threshold. Go and get some rest; you need it. I
promise you’ll be my first stop when I’ve finished here.”
“Alright doctor,” Lee agreed reluctantly. “I’ll go to my cabin.”
Lee couldn’t really blame Jamie for sending him away but he found that he couldn’t settle. Despite his sore ankle he paced his cabin impatiently. He was desperately worried about Chip’s injuries and was anxious to know whether they were going to heal completely. Although he knew that the accident wasn’t his fault he still felt a degree of guilt and responsibility for what had happened. If he’d been more careful himself he’d never have sprained his ankle and Chip would never have gone ashore with the landing party. It was a stupid way to think, Lee knew, but he couldn’t help such thoughts entering his tired mind.
It was over an hour later that Jamie finally entered Lee’s cabin following a quick knock at the door. Lee had become tired of pacing and was lying on his bunk but he was back on his feet as soon as he saw the doctor.
“Relax!” Jamie grinned as he sat down on the edge of the desk. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Are you sure?” Lee asked sceptically as he sat back down on his bunk.
“As sure as I can be,” Jamie nodded. “Hansen was right about the burns, they’re not serious although they will take time to heal completely. He was very lucky to have been wearing all that arctic clothing; it protected him from being seriously burnt.”
“What about his eyes?” Lee queried anxiously.
“As far as I can tell his sight isn’t damaged at all. He says he can’t remember but I think he must have shut his eyes instinctively against the explosion. It’s his eyelids and the skin around his eyes that’s causing the pain and that’s why he says he can’t open them.”
“But he can?”
“He will be able to; as soon as the swelling goes down. I managed to force them open so that I could look at his eyes but I know I hurt him,” Jamie paused. “I’d still like to send him to a hospital, Lee. Just to be on the safe side. It wouldn’t hurt to have specialists look at his injuries. He’s going to be out of commission for a few weeks anyway and he’ll be more comfortable in a hospital.”
“I doubt he’ll agree with you,” Lee grinned. “But I’ll get on to the arrangements first thing in the morning.”
“Okay,” Jamie hesitated. “There is one other thing.”
“What?” Lee was instantly alert for any problems.
“That abrasion on his chin, it’s nothing serious but the scab is very fresh. I’d say that he got that injury today, not last night, and I just wonder how he got it.”
“Did you ask him?”
“And he told me not to fuss, said he doesn’t know how it happened,” Jamie frowned. “It’s not important but I do like to know the details of all my patient’s injuries.”
“I’ll ask him,” Lee stood up. “I’ll go see him now.”
“No you won’t,” Jamie said firmly. “I’ve given him something to help him sleep. He didn’t want me to but he’s exhausted, same as you are. You can talk to him in the morning providing you get some sleep yourself.”
“Point taken,” Lee smiled. “Thanks Jamie. I feel more able to sleep now. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Hospital! What for? I thought you said I’d be OK.”
Waking up after nearly twelve hours of heavily drugged sleep Chip Morton was not pleased to discover that he was about to be transported to a hospital. He’d been so anxious to get back to Seaview where he could feel safe and start to relax and now, less than twenty-four hours after rescuing him they wanted to abandon him in some hospital somewhere.
“You will be alright,” Jamie said patiently. “But I want your eyes checked by a specialist, Chip, just to be on the safe side. Besides we’ve got to go back and collect the rest of the landing party. It’s going to be a couple of weeks before we get back to Santa Barbara. You’ll be lot more comfortable in a hospital.”
That’s what you think, Chip thought crossly. “I don’t mind staying here,” he said quietly, a pleading note in his voice.
“I know,” Jamie’s voice had an authorative edge to it. “But the arrangements are made, Chip and you’re going. Now, Lee’s outside. He wants to talk to you. Shall I send him in?”
“Of course,” Chip muttered his reply. Lee knew how much he hated hospitals; maybe he’d agree to try and change Jamie’s mind.
Lee, however, was as immoveable as the doctor. “No way, Chip,” he said apologetically. “I know you’d rather stay here but Jamie’s right. It’s a good idea to have you examined by specialists and you’ll be more comfortable in a hospital. We’re going back under the ice and you know how bumpy that can be. It won’t be any fun for you in here.”
“It won’t be any fun for me in the hospital either,” Chip responded moodily. “Where am I going?”
“Bethseda! You mean Washington?”
“Yes,” Lee said cheerfully. “They have all the expertise you need and it’s not too many miles from Connecticut.”
“Oh, no,” Chip objected. “I don’t want Helen to know, Lee. It’s not fair.”
“It’s unfair not to tell her,” Lee said seriously. “And she’ll have to know eventually. Jamie thinks they’ll only keep you in the hospital for a few days but your hands won’t be healed enough for you to take care of yourself. I figured you’d want to go to your sister’s but if you’d rather stay in the hospital I’m sure it can be arranged.”
“Okay. You win,” Chip sighed. He appreciated Lee’s thoughtfulness but he still hated the way everyone was organizing his life for him.
“So how did you cut your chin?” Lee’s question was casual but he didn’t miss the way his friend tensed in response.
“I dunno,” Chip lied even though he knew that he wouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.
“You don’t know?” Lee chided him. “I don’t believe you, Chip. How’d it happen? Did Dr. Westhal do it?”
“Of course not,” Chip’s reply was irritable. “Why’d you think that?”
“Well, we both know that she doesn’t like you. She must have been mad to have you stuck in her camp. I just wondered if you upset her.”
“I upset her a lot,” Chip muttered, “but she didn’t hurt me, Lee. If you must know, I tried to get out of bed and I fell. I scraped my chin on the floor.”
Safe in the knowledge that his friend couldn’t see his reaction, Lee grinned broadly. He could understand the frustration that would’ve made Chip try and get up and also understood why he had been reluctant to admit his activities to Jamie who would have had plenty to say about foolhardiness and not knowing when to quit.
“It’s no fun laying in the dark doing nothing,” Chip said now. “You would’ve done the same as me.”
“Probably,” Lee admitted. “So how was Dr. Westhal? She actually seemed quite concerned about you when we arrived. Did your injuries melt her heart?”
“Not exactly,” Chip replied quietly, “but she’s not so bad, Lee. Once you get to know her.”
“And you got to know her?” Lee was intrigued.
“A bit,” Chip hesitated. “You were right. I do remind her of someone.”
“I knew it,” Lee was pleased. “Who?”
“It’s a very long story,” Chip replied tiredly. “And I’m not even sure that it would be fair of me to repeat it.”
“Are you telling me she’s been confiding in you?” Lee asked incredulously.
“Not really,” Chip shook his head slightly. “She was just explaining why she’s been so hostile towards me.”
“But you’re not going to tell me?” Lee guessed.
“Not now, no,” Chip agreed. “I thought you were sending me to the mainland?”
“We are indeed,” Lee stood up. “I’m sorry, Chip, but it’s for the best.”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” Chip retorted.
“It’s got to be better than being stranded in the Arctic,” Lee remarked, cheerfully.
“It’s probably warmer,” Chip muttered. “But that won’t make it feel any better.”
“I guess not. I’ll go and check if the flying sub is ready for you.”
“Thanks!” Chip listened as Lee headed towards the door. There was something else he wanted to say before his friend disappeared, but he was reluctant to give rise to any more probing questions. He hesitated as he heard the door opening and then he called him back. “Lee….”
“Yes?” Lee turned back towards his exec’s bunk.
“When you talk to Dr. Westhal again, could you give her a message?”
“Sure,” Lee sounded surprised. “What?”
“Just tell her, Thanks for talking to me and… and for taking care of me. I know it wasn’t easy for her and it interfered with her work, but I did appreciate it and I never got around to saying so myself.”
“You could tell her yourself when we go back to collect them,” Lee suggested, a hint of amusement in his voice.
“Oh, no,” Chip’s voice was decisive. “I’m not going back there, Lee. When you go to collect them I’m going to take a vacation same as I should’ve done this time.”
“Deliberately miss a mission? You?” Lee laughed. “I’ll believe that when it happens.”
“Believe it,” Chip replied adamantly as he settled himself more comfortably against his pillows. “Because I mean it!”