Another thanks to Liz for inspiration, suggestions and beta. There are a couple of terms in this story that might not be clear and have been defined at the end of the story if you want to skip to the definitions for clarity before you read. This is again set in my AU universe, which is a contemporary one and not the VTTBOTS world of the 60's and 70's.
IN THE ARENA
"Where have you been, it's after 0200."
"Quiet you'll wake Tim and Rick."
"You couldn't wake them with a brass band, now answer me, where have you been?" Chip was so angry his voice came out more like a hiss than his normal baritone. "If you get caught you could be separated. You're crazy wandering around this time of night."
"It's okay, I've got a pass, sort of."
"A pass, sort of! For God's sake, Lee are you crazy? This is the third night in two weeks that I know of. You're going to get caught if you keep it up."
"It's okay, I was getting extra tutoring from Captain Striker and it got late, he gave me a pass."
"Extra tutoring twice this week alone until after midnight on English Comp? Come on, Lee, I'm not a total idiot. What's going on?"
"Go to sleep."
Chip hesitated. He'd planned to have it out tonight with Lee. To tell him he had to stop the late night rambling around the yard and the lame excuses but now he felt there was nothing more he could say. They'd been best friends for a year and a half, ever since their first semester as roommates, and now suddenly he felt shut out of Lee's life. The past month and half he'd hardly spent more then a few hours out of class with his supposed best friend and he was hurt and angry. Chip turned over in his bed and punched his pillow back into round and closed his eyes.
When he woke the next morning Lee was already up, showered and shaved and bent over his Engineering notes at his desk sound asleep. Chip wondered how long he'd been at it before sleep claimed him and gave his shoulder a shake. "Rise and shine, buddy, if you're going to get that memorized you need to crack on."
Lee awoke with a start nearly jumping out of the chair, so that Chip scrambled back away from him half tripping, "Gees, Lee, take it easy, I figure if you're just now studying for the Engineering exam you better get at it."
"Thanks, Chip, I guess I sort of dozed off." Lee gave him a half smile and rubbed at his face before turning back to the open notebook.
Chip started to say something else about Lee's late nights but decided he'd gotten all he was going to get on that subject. He turned and left for the head, his towel over his shoulder and his bath kit in his hand. At the best of times Lee wasn't very forthcoming and the past few weeks had not been the best of times. Lee was more like the morose, sad eyed youngster who'd first come to their room two years ago. He didn't say anything unless asked a question and he answered most of those with one or two words. He seemed to spend most of his time avoiding Chip to the point where Chip was beginning to avoid him; unable to face that their friendship had some how or other just ended. He couldn't understand what'd happened. One minute they were best buddies the next Lee was too busy for a cup of coffee or a trip into Annapolis.
By the time Chip came back from the shower Lee was gone. Chip stood staring at his friend's neat desk and the bulletin board above the desk. There were a dozen photos on the bulletin board all taken at the Morton home. Most of them were pictures taken by Lee of Chip and his parents and sisters. There was only one photo with Lee in the picture. It was taken at this year's Christmas dinner and showed Lee with Chip and his parents and sisters all posed in front of the Christmas tree holding up a collection of gifts and hamming it up for the camera. Chip leaned closer and studied the photo. He didn't think he'd ever seen Lee as happy as he'd been that day. It was if he'd finally felt himself to be truly at home with the Mortons that second Christmas with his family.
Chip gathered his books and slowly walked out of the room trying to think what could be going on. No way Lee had suddenly gone from that boy in the photo to this, didn't have time to talk to him person, something had to be wrong. Chip wasn't going to just let Lee walk away from him this way. He'd make Lee talk to him, but he remembered that had been his intention last night when he stayed awake waiting for Lee to return and he'd failed.
He didn't see Lee again that day aside from lunch until he met him getting changed for their afternoon cross-country run. He made a point of waiting for Lee to change and running beside him as they headed north along the river with the rest of the track team. Lee smiled at him when they began the run but didn't say anything about the previous night. Chip talked a bit about his day and Lee contributed a few remarks about his tactics class with Captain Nelson, his favorite class thus far at the Academy. Chip laughed at him and told him he had a serious case of hero worship. Lee joined his laughter and for a few minutes it felt like old times as they ran and talked and laughed.
After they showered and changed Chip asked Lee if he was going into town Saturday, something he wouldn't have needed to ask a few weeks ago. Now he had no idea what Lee's plans were from day to day.
Lee answered, "No, I'm meeting a few friends at Capt. Striker's house for dinner in the early afternoon." Not meeting Chip's eye as he spoke but keeping his attention on tying his shoes. "Sorry, Chip, maybe next weekend."
"Sure," Chip told him and started to walk away before he stopped himself and came back. Lee looked up at him quizzically from a piece of paper he was reading. "You there all night or you want to go in town in the evening?" he decided he wouldn't beg, but he wouldn't just give up either.
"What's the matter with you," Lee yelled angrily. "I told you to buzz off, can't you take a message, you act like your in charge of my life; like some kind of Captain bossing me around all the time, telling me what to do. Why don't you just strike your flag and get out of my life." Lee finished this tirade by pushing his hand against Chip's chest repeatedly until the bench caught the back of Chip's legs and he collapsed on the seat looking at Lee with amazement.
Lee continued to push against his chest with his hand, "What's the matter got nothing to say if you're not pushing me around. Just going to strike your colors and shut up?"
Lee jabbed him again and Chip reached up to grab his hand, beginning to get angry. When he wrapped his hand around Lee's wrist his friend grabbed a handful of his shirt and jerked hard on it so Chip almost came up off the bench. Letting go of his shirt after a moment Lee looked at him intently before turning away and leaving the changing room. Chip sat silently watching his retreating back more amazed than angry at the whole display, more certain now than ever that something was seriously wrong.
The other midshipmen in the room were either staring at him or ostentatiously looking in the other direction. Chip ignored them and grabbed his cover and tried to pull his shirt straight as he stomped out of the room after Lee. He'd only gone a few strides when he realized he couldn't get his shirt straight. He stopped just outside the door and jerked at his shirt again swearing softly to himself before realizing there was something stuck inside the third and fourth buttons. He reached inside his shirt and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and stood looking at it trying to understand what was going on.
The paper had a small map drawn on the back and what he assumed was a time of 4:15 written in one corner, the other corner said Chauvenet. He went over everything that Lee had yelled at him in his mind. The stupid yelling that hadn't made any sense to him at the time suddenly seemed to possibly mean something, he hoped. He stuck the paper in his pocket and hurried up the stairs to the main level and the phone inside the front door of the Field House. He checked the directory and dialed Captain Striker's number, hoping he wasn't about to make a fool of himself.
"English Department," a female voice said.
"I'm trying to reach Captain Striker, please."
"I'm sorry the Captain has left for a meeting, would you like to leave a message or a voice mail?"
Chip hesitated pulling the piece of paper out of his pocket, "Voice mail please." He decided if he was going to be an idiot he'd rather not look stupid in front of any more people than necessary.
"This is Captain Striker, please leave a message."
"Hello Captain, This is Midshipman Morton. I believe Midshipman Crane has asked me to leave you a message. I may be in error, but I think he wanted you to know that he was meeting someone," Chip hesitated for a moment, if he got this wrong either he or Lee could find themselves in some difficulty. He thought for a moment about the expression on Lee's face as he yelled at him to "Strike your colors". "I believe Lee Crane wants you to know that he's meeting someone at 1615 in the steam tunnels." Chip quickly twisted the map and read off the twists and turns, of what he thought was Lee's message. After he hung up the phone he checked his watch and saw that it was already 1550. Shoving the paper back in his pocket and jerking his shirt straight he headed out the door and across the yard toward Chauvenet.
It took him almost ten minutes to walk to Chauvenet and another five to get through the lobby and down into the basement and through the old wooden door into the steam tunnels, nicknamed Ho Chi Minh Trail by the midshipmen. The complex of tunnels interconnected half of the Academy buildings and to the initiates provided access for all sort of skullduggery. Chip had never spent much time in the complex having only visited once during Army-Navy week to participate in a particularly complicated prank that he and Lee and a dozen other youngsters had dreamed up to annoy the second-class men.
Now as the door closed behind him he stood studying Lee's map trying to remember if there was more than one entrance to the tunnels from Chauvenet--he sure hoped not. He turned right and started walking west, counting passages off to the left until he came to the sixth turning. He took the side tunnel and started jogging trying to keep his footfalls as quiet as possible, glancing down side tunnels as he passed them. The place was eerie, no noise except the sound of his own feet hitting the bricks and his breath in the damp, cold air. After ten minutes of slow jogging and four more turns he slowed to a walk and tried to listen, he thought he'd heard voices.
Sure he heard something he stopped at the end of an intersecting tunnel and listened again. Yes, voices, but further ahead. He walked slowly forward before realizing the voices were behind him. He ducked into the next tunnel and walked until he came to the recessed bricked over door way to some building that'd probably been torn down a hundred years ago. He stepped into the doorway out of sight of the intersecting tunnel and listened until the voices passed before carefully walking back to the main passageway. He could see two men twenty feet ahead of him, they must have been maintenance workers since they wore jeans and work shirts, not uniforms. He stayed in the side tunnel and watched until they stepped into another passageway seventy feet further along. Looking around cautiously, not sure what had bothered him about the two men, he resumed his journey. The map took him to the same tunnel the two men had entered. He carefully peered around the corner.
He could see them still walking away and waited until they again disappeared from sight. This was stranger and stranger. He wasn't an expert on the tunnels, but he had a good sense of direction and knew where he was in relationship to the buildings above. There was nothing down that tunnel; they were traveling away from the yard. It had to be one of the old heat tunnels that ran to a building long gone. He checked his map and turned to follow the men. Well, at least it looked as if he was right about there being some sort of meeting going on down here.
He moved down the tunnel keeping close to the sidewall, moving rapidly between support arches and empty doorways, hoping if they came back around the corner he would have time to duck out of sight. He thought, what a fool you are Morton, as if he could stay out of sight if they came back this way. Still though, he went slowly and carefully, the hair on the back of his neck all but standing on end. Something was very strange here and he sure hoped he'd understood Lee's message and that Captain Striker listened to his voice mail frequently. He wondered if he should just go back and get a Jimmy Legs to come and figure it all out. But he thought he'd sound a fool saying he saw two men in the steam tunnels and had a crumpled up piece of paper from his roommate. So he kept walking and listening, vowing if he saw them coming back he'd just make a run for it and to hell with his dignity.
By the time he reached the intersection where the two men had disappeared he'd slowed to a very cautious walk. He stopped well before the tunnel entrance and listened. He could hear them talking but the acoustics were so strange he couldn't understand the words. When he got to the end of the tunnel he realized they were speaking a foreign language. At that he turned and immediately started back the way he'd come. This was too strange for a third class midshipman; this needed a Jimmy Legs for sure. He didn't get very far before there was a shout and instead of running he turned to look.
"HOLD IT, STOP THERE," the shouter had a gun and he froze--a gun in the steam tunnels under the Academy. All he could think was "drug deal" and he looked about desperately for a place to run for cover. The man with the gun shouted down the tunnel behind him and Chip could hear other voices answering him and the sound of feet hitting the bricks running. He thought this was likely his last chance and figured if he was half the broken field runner he thought he was he could make it. He started running, dodging right and left as he sprinted down the tunnel.
He would have made it too if he hadn't run into yet another man coming around the end of the tunnel. The two collided and the man grabbed his arm and held him tight. Chip hit out at him and managed to knock him loose but by that time the man with the gun was beside him screaming, "PUT YOUR HANDS UP."
Chip did and turned slowly toward his pursuers, the two men in jeans, an older man in khakis. The fourth man, who'd caught him as he turned the tunnel corner, grabbed a firmer hold of his arms so he now stood surrounded by the four men he didn't know and Lee Crane in his immaculate working blues. The men were all talking at once in some foreign language Chip didn't recognize, arguing with a great deal of vehemence. Lee just stood silently to one side listening, a small smile on his lips, his eyes never leaving Chip's face.
Just as the arguing seemed to be coming to some sort of resolution Lee began speaking in his quiet, confident way, addressing all of his remarks to the older of the four men in some indecipherable language. As he spoke Lee would from time to time nod his head at Chip, his lip curled with disdain.
Chip stood silently listening wishing he could understand what was being said and fearing it was his life being discussed. He looked at Lee's disdainful expression and the angry sneers on the other men's faces and decided he was in a great deal of trouble. Lee made to grab his arm and Chip decided he needed to try and help himself.
"Don't let him take me. Let me go, I won't say anything." He looked at Lee with all the fear and loathing he could manage and pleaded to the older man for his freedom. When Lee again tried to grab his arm he pulled away violently almost knocking the man who was holding him down. "Keep away from me," he managed to almost spit at Lee who pretty much ignored him, still addressing all of his remarks to the old man, who finally nodded his head at Lee and gestured with his chin to the man holding his arm.
Whatever had been said the result was that Lee held on to one of his arms and the man with the gun grabbed the other and they headed back down the access tunnel where he'd been caught eavesdropping earlier. The other three men hurried away down the main tunnel. As they walked Lee's companion continued talking rapidly in the foreign language the four men had been using, apparently very upset about something.
When they turned the final corner into the tunnel where the four men had been meeting Chip saw that it wasn't a dead end but instead branched forty feet further down where it met yet another cross tunnel. They continued about twenty feet down the tunnel before the man with gun stopped walking and began talking to Lee again. Lee listened silently nodding his head from time to time until he suddenly went still and held up his hand to the other man and spoke softly, "Distama."
The other man was silent both obviously listening hard, in spite of himself, Chip listened too. So he was surprised when Lee suddenly slammed into his companion bearing him to the ground, wrestling for control of the gun. It took Chip only a second to join in the mad scramble and the two of them easily over powered the now unarmed man. Not satisfied with gaining control of the gun, Lee hit the other man hard in the face. When the man went limp with a glazed look in his eyes Lee grabbed his handkerchief and stuffed it in the man's mouth.
"Give me your handkerchief," he said to Chip and used it to tie the gag in place. "Did you call Striker?"
"Yeah, I had to leave a voice mail, he wasn't in his office."
"Damn," Lee said softly sitting astride the semiconscious man, holding his shoulders pinned to the ground, "Damn, what do we do now?"
"What's going on?"
Lee ignored him; looking at the man on the ground, "Quick use your belt, to tie his feet." As he spoke Lee yanked off his belt and rolled the semi-conscious man over and tied his hands behind his back. Lee pulled the man's feet up and tied the ends of their two belts together. Satisfied with their hasty binding job Lee went through the man's pockets and found a cell phone that he turned off and dropped into his own pocket before straightening. "That should hold him for a while, come on, we've got to hurry." Lee grabbed the gun off the ground started back down the tunnel the way they'd come, running, and talking to Chip over his shoulder as they dashed along. "Attar and I were supposed to help you commit suicide and meet the rest of them over in the basement of King. We've got to hurry."
Chip considered demanding more information but after a few strides he had to concentrate on his breathing and his footing. The passageway floor was awkward and uneven as well as poorly illuminated by a light every fifty feet and Lee was running fast. After five minutes of running through the maze of tunnels Lee slowed and spoke between breaths, "I need you to go up to the main level when we get back to Chauvenet and call Striker again. Tell him it's at 1830 in King hall."
"What is and where are you going?"
"I'm going to try and slow them down until you can get the cavalry to the rescue." Lee panted out.
"What's going on?"
"A bomb, a bomb in King in the middle of dinner." Lee slowed again as they came to the door to Chauvenet and held out his cell phone and the gun, "Speed dial two." When Chip hesitated he shoved the phone and gun at him and took off running.
Chip tore open the door and sprinted across the basement floor toward the lobby stairs keeping an eye on the phone waiting for the stupid bars to indicate he had reception. Finally two thirds of the way up the stairs he stopped and hit the number two speed dial button. The phone rang once and was answered.
"Striker, report Crane."
"Captain, this is Morton. Lee said it's at 1830 in King Hall, a bomb."
"Where's Crane now?"
"He's gone after them in the tunnels, he said to slow them down."
"Where in the tunnels?"
"I don’t know, sir. I assume King but I don't know for sure."
"Okay, good job Morton," and the phone went dead in his hand.
Chip jammed the phone into his pocket as he turned and ran down the stairs and back toward the tunnels. Why hadn't Lee told him where he was going?
Once he got back to the tunnels Chip took a moment to orient himself before he took off running toward King Hall. The tunnel ended at Bancroft and he had to cut through the Bancroft basement and spent a frustrating three minutes finding the connecting tunnel to King. Once he came into King basement he closed the door carefully and stood listening before walking quietly down the middle of the cavernous space. The basement was full of surplus tables and chairs and packing cases that looked like they dated from World War One. He was about forty feet into the building when he heard quiet voices off to his right and he stopped walking. The voices were muffled and indistinct but by walking and listening and walking again he finally tracked them to the southwest corner of the cellar. He peered around a pile of old wooden chairs and crates marked Christmas to see Lee and the three men from the previous meeting. One of the men was being helped into a bulky jacket, as Lee and the oldest man seemed to be arguing about something.
Chip ducked back out of sight again around his pile of old Christmas decorations and tried to think what to do. He guessed as long as Lee was with the three men and they weren't obviously detonating a bomb maybe he could just wait and see what Striker did. He could hear Lee's voice now getting louder and more strident. He wished they were speaking English so he could know what was being said. He hazarded another quick peek around his blind and saw that the men were now standing and preparing to leave. Not good.
Chip pulled out the gun and checked that the safety was off. This wasn't good at all. He took a couple of deep breaths wishing he had more time to think things through, not at all sure he was making a good decision. Holding the gun in the two handed grip he'd seen police use on television he stepped out from behind his cover and yelled in as confident a voice as he could manage, "FBI HANDS ON YOUR HEADS."
There was a momentary stillness as they all stood motionless. Lee moved first grabbing something from the older man and slamming into him hard so he staggered to one side, almost falling over. Lee didn't waste any time following up on his shove into the other man, he just ran. The three men totally ignored Chip after one quick glance and took off after Lee. Not having any intention of being left behind, Chip took off after them on a parallel course through the maze of packing cases and discarded tables and chairs. He saw Lee about twenty feet in front of him passing his line of travel having turned ninety degrees, apparently headed for the entrance to Bancroft's cellar. Chip changed direction to try and catch up to Lee at the cellar door.
He needn't have bothered as Lee scared him half to death, grabbing his shirt and half yanking him off his feet behind a pile of crates marked Halloween. Lee put his finger to his lips before glancing around the corner of the crates and then snapping his head back and pointing off to their right. Chip took the lead assuming Lee was headed for Bancroft. They moved slowly and quietly through the crates cautiously peering around each intersection before proceeding. This cat and mouse game lasted perhaps five minutes before there was a sudden loud yell and the sound of running feet. They'd been seen. The two of them started running in earnest, now no more than thirty feet from the door.
For all of the guns being so much in evidence the pistol shot was still startling in its loudness and unexpectedness. Chip did a quick jog to the right trying to put something between him and the gun. He no more then made the turn when he realized his error as he saw one of the men coming directly toward him from this new direction. He tried to turn back but knew he'd never make it as the man's gun began to rise in his direction.
"NCIS, DROP YOUR WEAPONS," came from somewhere off to his rear but the arrival of their rescuers was going to be too late for him. He tried to hurry his turn by pushing against the crate with his hand and realized he still held the gun he'd never even considered firing.
That was when he was tackled and sent flying across the floor and the guns began firing in earnest. For the next few seconds there was just a confusion of someone lying on top of him and his head ringing from hitting the concrete and the sound of gunfire. Then he was rolling over under the dead weight of Lee. He looked up fearfully but the man with the gun was down and the basement seemed to be full of people in blue windbreakers with NCIS stenciled on their pockets. Chip pushed against Lee with one hand while he felt along his head with the other.
"You could have killed me, I've got a knot on my head the size of an egg." He looked at Lee when he made no reply.
"Lee?" He gently pulled himself out from under his friend and rolled him over on to his back. He'd been shot. "HELP, I NEED SOME HELP HERE." Chip called out as he tentatively applied pressure to the seeping hole below Lee's shoulder. Then more quietly as he pressed with more authority against the wound, "You idiot."
"Mr. Morton, I assume." Chip looked up into a grim, grey haired man's face.
"Let me take a look at that. HOLLORAN OVER HERE." He called over his shoulder as he knelt down beside Chip and began unbuttoning Lee's shirt while Chip kept pressure on the wound. The warm feeling of Lee's blood seeping between his fingers had him swallowing convulsively. He looked away from Lee's still face to the older man not sure what he should be doing.
"You boys did a really good job. I'm sorry we were so long getting to you."
"Captain?" A short heavy set man came up beside them and knelt down beside Lee. "Move your hand, kid, I got him now." He said kindly to Chip who reluctantly moved back and allowed the other man to take his place.
"Holloran will take good care of him, don't worry."
"Yes, sir." Chip looked around as if he'd never seen the basement before and then down at his hands covered in blood.
"How many were there?"
"Good we got them all."
"Four, actually, Lee and I left one tied up in the steam tunnels." Chip fished the crumpled up original note from his pocket and handed it to the older man. "There." He pointed to where they'd left the man tied with their belts in the tunnel a lifetime ago. He stared at the note stained with Lee's blood where Chip had held it. He looked down at his hands sticky now as the blood was drying. He'd need to wash his hands. He needed to report for dinner. He needed to get his friend to a hospital.
Chip looked past the other man at Lee now divested of his shirt and swathed in a field dressing by Holloran. He took a slow deep breath fighting down the sudden feeling of panic that he hadn't felt during their run through the maze of the King basement.
"Captain, I'd like to get him out of here and into a hospital," Holloran said.
The man with Chip turned and looked at Holloran and then at Lee. "Is he conscious?"
"Sort of, sir, a little disoriented."
The man stepped over to Lee and knelt down next to him. Chip followed him and stood uncertainly behind him looking at Lee lying on the floor, white faced, glistening with perspiration. "Good job, Crane, we got them all."
"I threw the detonator up on top of one of the packing crates." Lee said softly, pausing between words.
"I wondered why they didn't just blow it when we came down here. We'll have you out of here and all patched up in no time."
"I'm good, Lee," Chip said from where he was standing behind the older man, his hands closed in tight fists, nearly rocking with anger. He could see Lee looking around trying to locate him but after a moment Lee's eyes closed and his breathing slowed.
"Okay, Danny, get him out of here. PETE," he called in a loud voice to another man at the end of their alley of crates, "give Danny a hand with this boy, get him upstairs. One of the officers will make sure he gets to the hospital."
"I'll help," Chip said stepping around the man to help Holloran lift Lee.
"I still have a few questions for you, Mr. Morton."
"After I see to my friend." Chip said in as even a tone as he could manage around his rage. He could see the man's face tighten in anger as he considered his answer. He almost wished the other man would try and stop him, give him some excuse to strike out and act on some of the anger that seemed to be pulsing through his body. But the man just nodded and walked away, Lee and Chip apparently forgotten.
Two days later Chip stood in the infirmary room doorway for a minute and watched his friend. He remembered Lee lying on the floor of the King Hall cellar with that stupid half smile on his face while Chip's hands turned red with his blood.
Lee looked up from the textbook and notes he had scattered on the bed and gave Chip a tentative smile. "Hey."
"Hey, yourself." Chip walked into the room and dragged a chair over to the bed but didn't sit down. "How you feeling?"
"I'm fine, don't really know why I'm still in here."
Chip looked at him doubtfully. Lee's left arm was in a sling, his shoulder distorted by a big bandage. Still Chip thought he looked pretty good for someone who'd been bleeding to death two days ago.
"I stopped by this morning, but they said I had to wait until afternoon visiting hours."
"Thanks for dropping my Engineering notes off, they're giving me an extension on the exam until next week." Lee smiled, "I think that's a good thing."
Chip didn't return his smile just studied his face and waited.
"Why so glum?"
Chip exhaled slowly, now studying his shoes with the same attention he'd previously given to Lee's face.
"What's wrong? What's wrong? You're asking me 'What's wrong'?"
"I'm sorry, Chip, they told me I couldn't say anything so I couldn't explain why I kept blowing you off. I'm really sorry."
Chip looked up at Lee's admittedly contrite face and felt his own face flushing with anger, "I figured that part out, I'm not a total moron and if you aren't an idiot you know why I'm angry."
Now it was Lee's turn to look away, turning his concentration back to the textbook in his lap he began nervously ruffling the pages.
"What did you think you were doing jumping on top of me? You could have been killed! You almost were killed. You let me take my own lumps, don't be getting yourself killed jumping in front of my bullets." Chip spoke through gritted teeth his jaw pushed forward toward Lee, his hands clenched at his sides. He was suddenly so angry he was shaking. He took a deep breath and continued in a softer voice. "You had no right to do that."
Lee mumbled something inarticulately and Chip spat back him, "What? What did you say?"
"Um…" Lee continued to study the edge of the textbook as his fingers ruffled the pages, "I was afraid he was going to shoot you."
"And you getting shot instead is a solution to this problem how?"
Lee said something else softly directed toward the textbook on the bed. Chip leaned toward him angrily.
"What? What did you say?"
"I said you're important and I promised your mom I'd look out for you."
"You promised my mom? What are you talking about, I'm important? My mom never said anything and she certainly never asked you to jump in front of a bullet for me."
"I…um… it was that first Thanksgiving, when she hugged me, I promised her then, I maybe…I just didn't tell her." Lee's averted face prevented Chip from seeing his eyes, from understanding if this was some sort of a joke or if Lee was serious.
Chip tried to calm his anger, he pulled over the chair and sat down taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. Then he leaned forward so he could look Lee more closely in the eyes. "You promised my mom you would take a bullet for me because I'm important and you never told any one?" Chip spoke more softly feeling the words as much as speaking them, trying to figure out what Lee was talking about. "Look at me, Lee, so I can try and understand what you're saying here because I don't understand this. I'm no more important than you are. I thought we were friends, I thought I understood where you were coming from and then you throw me this curve ball. I don't understand."
Now Lee looked up at him and Chip could see he was searching for the words as he spoke, unlike Lee's normal glib responses.
"All those people who love you, you're very important. I couldn't just stand there and let him shoot you."
Chip studied Lee's eyes for a moment and realized his friend was serious, he actually thought Chip was more important because his family loved him. Chip started to argue and then paused to think before he spoke. Lee was right he realized if he'd been killed it would have broken his parents' hearts.
"You see, I couldn't let him shoot you, I could never have explained, I could never have…Chip you're my best friend. It's what best friends do." Lee's voice gained confidence as he spoke and Chip looked away from him before sighing and leaning back in the chair.
"Look, stupid, you're my best friend too and I'm older and it's my job to watch out for you and not let you do dumb stuff like that. So, um, don't do that again, don't jump in front of any more bullets, okay?"
Lee laughed at him and Chip joined in the laughter after a moment, "Okay, I promise no more jumping in front of bullets."
"Why don't I believe you?"
"Scout's honor," Lee said raising his fingers in a salute. "So what about the 'FBI hands on your heads' deal?"
"Always works on TV and you looked like you needed a diversion."
"I sure did, you were brilliant, I got the detonator away from Kahlid so they couldn't blow the vest pack." Lee smiled at Chip his eyes sparkling the green color that always meant he was amused, "but really FBI! You in your working blues, who was going to believe that?"
Lee sobered. "Yeah, pretty dangerous though, you could have gotten shot. You should have stayed in Chauvenet, you shouldn't have followed me to King."
Chip didn't grace that bit of stupidity with an answer he just frowned again, "I want to make sure I understand what just happened here, did ONI really ask a second year midshipman to infiltrate a possible ring of terrorists and they don't do anything to protect him? Am I understanding this story correctly?"
"No, no," Lee protested, "well, that is I already was studying Fiqh on Friday mornings in Annapolis at the Islamic Center. Some Admiral somewhere thought it would be a good idea and arranged it with the language department. Thought it would help me, you know, learn the customs and stuff since I already spoke the language. When they got word of the possible bomb threat, they suggested I could just change to the Madh'hab Madrasah and see if anything, you know, if anything sort of jumped out at me." Seeing the tightening in Chip's face Lee hurried on, talking fast now trying to forestall the anger he could see building. "It was an emergency, Chip, they needed someone immediately that the local people already knew. I'd been a student there since last year. I was the logical one."
"Lee Crane, boy spy," Chip shook his head ruefully.
"The message in the shower room, that was from Attar they'd changed the meeting time and date and he was waiting for me, so I had no way to get word to Striker and I was worried they might be moving the whole schedule ahead. So I gave you my message."
"Some message, what if I hadn't figured it out, what if I'd believed what you said? You'd have been down there all alone with four terrorists."
Lee shrugged his good shoulder and gave that silly half smile again that made Chip want to punch him, "something would have turned up."
"Something would have turned up," Chip got up from the chair and walked over to the window and looked out at the yard in the late afternoon sunshine. Something would have turned up.
Chip didn't reply to this obvious fallacy and stood silently trying to think what he could possibly say to Lee that would get through to someone who could walk into a cellar full of terrorists expecting something to just turn up. He watched the midshipmen walking in the bright, spring sunshine unaware of how close they'd all come to a disaster. How close he'd come to losing the best friend he'd ever had.
"I sure hope you've learned your lesson about those people. They aren't to be trusted if they just hang you out there and don't give you any better cover than that, you're just a kid they shouldn't even have asked you to do that in the first place and what were you thinking…" Chip stopped talking and turned around to glare at his friend. Lee's eyes were closed and he was clearly sound asleep, a small smile on his face. Chip shook his head with annoyance it was so hard to get in a really good rant at Lee. He never got mad and most of the time he didn't even listen, but this was the first time he'd just fallen asleep in the middle of one. Chip smiled slightly to himself. They were a good team. He smiled more broadly as he returned to the chair and picked up the textbook Lee had been reading. Tactics, he should have known. He laughed silently to himself he closed the book and leaned back in the chair to wait for his friend to wake up. They'd save the Academy, he and Lee, well the dining area any way. Yeah, they were some team.
The Jimmy Legs were the civilian patrolmen or masters-at-arms who provided security for the Naval Academy grounds, and were referred to by that name as far back as an entry in the 1923 Lucky Bag. The name stems from old 19th century Navy use of calling the shipboard master-at-arms by that name, since they often yelled out "shake a leg" or "clear the deck" to maintain discipline and prevent unwanted gatherings on board the ship.
Fiqh deals with the observance of rituals, morals and social legislation in Islam.
About the Title
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic" delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910 by Theodore Roosevelt. This is one of the many excerpts in the Reef Points Plebes are expected to memorize.