By Pat Cave & Lillian H.
“Mr. Morton, is the diving party back aboard?” Captain Crane asked with a smile.
“Yes Sir, all secure,” his Executive officer replied.
“Very well. All ahead standard, 10 degrees right rudder, steady as she goes.”
“Aye, Sir,” Morton replied as the repeated the instructions firmly.
Both officers watched as their ever efficient crew followed the orders and they set sail once more.
Several hours into their journey, they stood together at the plot table each man glancing occasionally towards the Observation Nose, where two men sat at a table, talking earnestly and pouring over research material that was essential to their present mission. For the past week they had been investigating kelp beds and the wide variety of specimen fish that lived there. All part of the research the N. I. M. R. had agreed to sponsor.
“The Admiral’s quite excited about this, isn't he?” Lee murmured amusedly.
“They're both scientists, they get excited over the strangest things.” Morton replied neutrally, concentrating on the charts in front of them.
Lee looked at his first officer and friend, as he laughed softly, “Still not comfortable with the scientific community, Mr. Morton?”
Chip answered wryly, “I'm reserving judgement for the moment, Captain. There have been too many times in the past when we've had a scientist aboard that caused trouble.”
“That's a bit cynical wouldn't you say? After all we are primarily a research vessel.”
“I have no problem with research, Lee, just the scientists who do it,” Chip grinned sardonically at him.
Lt. Bobby O'Brien approached his senior officers as the crew started the watch change.
“Captain, Mr. Morton, the Admiral asked if you would both join him and Professor Sullivan for dinner in the nose.”
“Thank you, Mr. O'Brien,” Lee answered his second officer cheerfully as he proceeded to explain the course and heading. After signing the log he turned to the younger officer.
“The conn is all yours, Bobby, try not to scratch the paint work.”
O'Brien smiled confidently, “I'll try not to, Sir. Mr. Morton would probably have me do the repairs personally.”
“You got that right, Mr. O'Brien,” Chip replied sternly but the twinkle in his eyes belied his unsympathetic tone.
Crane and Morton approached the Observation Nose and saw that Will Jamieson, Seaview's CMO. had also joined the Admiral and his guest.
“Lee, Chip, sit down, glad you could join us.” Admiral Nelson encouraged.
As both men sat and helped themselves to food, Lee turned to Prof. Sullivan and smiled. “How are you enjoying the voyage so far, Professor?”
Both scientists had been so concentrated on their research that they had spent little time socialising and remained secluded in the lab for long hours, this was only the second time they had all eaten together.
“I'm enjoying it immensely, Captain. You are very lucky to have such a vessel at your command. Seaview is a wonderful ship.”
“According to Naval tradition a submarine is referred to as a 'boat', Patrick,” Nelson informed the younger man warmly.
“Oh, I'm sorry. I've always been more interested in what swims in the ocean that what sails in it,” Patrick Sullivan laughed.
The men around the table smiled understandingly.
“How is the research coming, Admiral? Found any likely answers yet?” Jamie enquired.
“Not yet, Will. All our tests are negative so far but we haven't given up hope, I'm sure Patrick is on the right path.”
“It's good of you to be so supportive, Admiral, your confidence in my research is gratifying. I know that the solution to the problem lies in using the right kelp specimen... we just have to find it.”
“Your research has sound scientific facts to back it up, lad. The Institute is always willing to support any research that will benefit mankind and using growth enhancing hormones to improve the fish stocks in the seas of poorly developed countries is certainly a worthy aim,” Nelson stated firmly.
“Sorry, I must have missed something. If you're improving the fish population with growth hormones why are we searching out kelp feeding beds?” Jamie questioned.
Nelson looked at Prof. Sullivan and nodded encouragingly, “Go ahead, it's your theory.”
As the men sipped at their coffee, the officers turned their attention to the confident young scientist in their midst as he explained his research. He had joined the Seaview on this voyage after an impassioned request to Admiral Harriman Nelson personally, had piqued the older man's scientific curiosity. Nelson had made investigations and found that Prof. Patrick Sullivan was new to the research community, his background was vague but his present work was outstanding. He had formulated a process by which the tuna fish stocks in poor breeding grounds could be enhanced to a level sufficient to sustain whole communities. He was using natural growth hormones from other species to encourage rapid growth and increased fertility. Unfortunately, after reaching a certain maturity, an increased level of toxicity became prevalent in some specimens and the fish became harmful for human consumption and deadly to the fishermen who caught them. He was trying to identify the natural enzyme found in kelp feeding fish that provided immunity. That, he concluded, could be used to create a suitable genetic antidote that could be introduced into existing stocks by way of the growth hormones.
“So you see gentlemen, if the Admiral and I can solve the toxicity problem then the research can be applied to other species and we could populate the oceans of the world sufficiently to relieve at least some of the starvation that is currently devastating mankind.” Sullivan finished eagerly.
“Now you understand why the Institute must be involved, Will.” Nelson said earnestly.
“Yes, I can see that success in this field would certainly alleviate much suffering in the world. It certainly brings the miracle of the 'loaves and fishes' into perspective, doesn't it?” Will Jamieson murmured thoughtfully.
Patrick Sullivan looked across at the man opposite as he assessed him. “Interesting you should make that analogy, Doctor, I hope that when we solve this problem, I will be able to turn my research to grain harvests.”
Will Jamieson smiled warmly. “In that case Prof. Sullivan, you have my wholehearted support. Anything that can benefit suffering humanity should be given every possible chance to succeed.”
“You approve then?”
“Who wouldn't? I can't condone suffering in any form, I'm pretty sure that's not what the Almighty had in mind at all.” Jamieson replied gently.
“I wholeheartedly agree, Doctor.” Sullivan answered smiling broadly at the older man.
Gradually the dinner party disbursed and Nelson and his guest remained.
“Dr. Jamieson is an interesting man. He seems to be genuinely concerned for those around him... part of his professional duties I suppose.” Sullivan commented offhandedly.
Harry smiled reflectively. “Not completely. Will Jamieson is a naturally compassionate man. He feels very keenly the suffering of all his patients. I sometimes think he suffers every pain they do until they recover.” Nelson looked at Patrick Sullivan and said pensively. “I know for a fact that he can recall the exact name, face and circumstance of every patient he has lost. Buried deep within that man is a lot of regret and self-criticism, he never forgives himself for what he perceives as his failures. I suppose that's what drives him to try so hard. I just hope that one day it doesn't drive him too far.”
Sullivan smiled indulgently and said softly, “It can often be hardest of all to forgive ourselves.” He turned slightly to observe the crew and Lee and Chip as they checked with Mr. O'Brien before turning in. “You are very lucky to have gathered such a dedicated crew, Admiral. Your Captain certainly reflects his care for the men, even your distrustful Executive Officer is not as immune as he likes to pretend.”
Harry laughed warmly. “Don't be too offended by Chip's manner, it's his job to be suspicious. He has a natural antipathy towards most scientists I'm afraid, born out of bitter experience with some of the more obsessive and unstable men of science that we have had dealings with. He usually views most visitors aboard as possible hazards until they leave. Lee can be just as cautious when it comes to his crew's safety.”
“I see, than I must try hard to be the one scientist that breaks the mould of their preconceptions.” Patrick laughed.
Nelson stood as he stretched himself and turned to the still seated younger man. “Crane and Morton are excellent officers, as well as best friends to each other and I'm lucky to say, also to me. Fiercely loyal to the Seaview and its crew; they would take any action necessary to protect them. That's what makes them so effective; they are both pretty formidable, sometimes that sort of teamwork is hard to challenge.”
Sullivan smiled. “No need to explain. I can understand their attitude, they are right to be careful, none of us are ever exactly what we seem to be.” He stood and said pleasantly, “Goodnight, Admiral, sleep well, I really hope we have better luck tomorrow.”
Early the next morning Captain Crane walked away from the radio shack, studying the message in his hands. “Mr. Morton?” he said as he approached the plot table.
“Yessir,” Morton turned to look at him.
“We've just received the latest weather report. That squall we were told to expect has developed into a full-fledged storm. Communications are already being affected. For the next few hours we can expect a bumpy ride. The current surges are expected to disturb the ocean even at these depths.”
“Do you want to dive below it?”
Crane considered the charts. “No, the rock formations around here are too dangerous. If we hit one we could cause considerable damage. I think we might just have to rough it out.”
“Aye, Sir. Should we warn the Admiral? They might have experiments that they want to suspend or protect.”
“Good idea. I'll go down as soon as I inform the crew.” Lee turned to pick up the microphone just as the Seaview rocked slightly. “On second thoughts you better go down now and tell him the situation.” Lee smiled. “Besides you haven't met 'Boris' yet, have you?”
Morton raised one eyebrow and asked suspiciously. “Boris?”
Lee Crane's dark eyes shone with private amusement. “You'll see.” He laughed as the boat took another dip to starboard.
Chip knocked on the lab door once, opened it and entered. He saw two heads bent closely together over a microscope. Neither man seemed aware of his presence, as he waited patiently to interrupt; he casually looked around and was stunned by the sight of a large, white rat running along a glass pen that stretched along one wall of the lab.
“You must be 'Boris'”, he murmured distastefully. Chip's intense dislike of 'vermin' was well known to Lee. He shuddered a little as he watched the creature. Lee would pay for this, he vowed silently.
Hearing the voice, the Admiral and Dr. Sullivan turned to look at the speaker. “Chip? I'm sorry, we didn't hear you come in, is there a problem?”
Dragging his attention from the source of his discomfort, he looked at the Admiral respectfully, “Captain Crane sent me down with the latest weather report, sir.”
“Oh, what seems to be the problem?” Nelson enquired.
“We have a strong storm overhead causing some turbulence, sir and the rock formations in the vicinity mean we can't safely dive any deeper, so unfortunately, we are going to have a bumpy voyage for the next few hours.”
“I see. Well, we have enough samples to keep us busy for now, so we can suspend the diving parties until it passes.” Nelson smiled as he observed Chip's sidelong glance at the rat pen. "I see you've met...”
"Boris, yes, Sir."
“I see Captain Crane has already introduced you.” Harry chuckled. “Come and have a look at this, Chip.” Nelson indicated the microscope in front of him.
Morton came to stand beside the lab bench and bent down to the microscope's eyepieces. “What am I looking at, Sir?” He asked carefully as he observed the slide positioned there.
“That, Mr. Morton, is possibly a solution to our problem.” Sullivan answered happily.
Chip looked up. “Does that mean we don't have to search out any more kelp beds?”
“Not so fast, Chip. We still have a lot more tests to perform but it is looking promising, if we can only isolate the enzyme that provides the immunity, we may have a cure.”
At that moment the Seaview turned sharply to port then starboard and tipped the three men off their feet. As they all fell to the dock, glass test tubes, Petrie dishes and sample slides crashed down around them as the boat calmed back down and levelled off.
“Are you all right, Admiral? Professor Sullivan?” Chip asked as he gained his feet first and proceeded to help up the other men.
“Yes, yes.” Nelson answered irritably. “Tell Lee to get us into calmer waters for now. We will have to wait out the storm and return later.”
“I'll tell him, sir, but I'm not sure that's going to be possible right away. Do you want me to send a crewman to help with all this?” He surveyed the chaos around him.
“No, we need to see what's salvageable... just get the boat stable!” Nelson ordered as he and Patrick started to gather up the unbroken dishes.
Chip resisted the temptation to try and explain the widespread nature of the storm and after retrieving a few of the larger pieces of broken glass, headed for the door. “I'll tell him, sir.” But Nelson and Sullivan were already preoccupied and did not answer.
Outside Chip exhaled deeply, the next few hours were likely to be very fraught. He started to walk back to the Control Room, absently sucking at a small cut to his palm. Lee was going to have to do the explaining, the Admiral might listen to him better.
Chip had felt fine when he had returned from the lab a while before but now as he once more fought off the dizziness that made the Control Room seem to spin round him, he realised that if he didn't hand over the watch he would not only be in difficulties but would be endangering the boat. He now knew he should have taken action half an hour ago when he had first begun to feel hot and light-headed but he'd hoped that it would simply pass off by itself, instead of which he had begun to feel increasingly ill and was experiencing difficulty breathing as his temperature rose. He glanced at the duty roster lying on the plot table, then taking a few deep breaths to steady himself he unhooked a mic.
“Mr. Baker to the Control Room immediately. Acknowledge.”
“Baker here, sir. On my way.”
Chip took a careful look round the Control room; everything seemed to be in order so he could safely hand over. The sound of footsteps on the metal spiral staircase announced Baker's arrival and Chip mentally prepared to make the huge effort it was going to take him to get through the next few minutes without causing his colleague any concern.
“Here's our current position,” Chip indicated on the chart, “keep her steady on her present heading and call the Skipper in about 30 minutes, he'll give you the co-ordinates for the next diving team. Understood?”
“You have the conn, Mr. Baker.”
It was abrupt and not the detailed hand over he would have liked to have done, Nelson could haul him over the coals for it later if he wanted to, right now he didn't have a choice, he just had to get some rest.
The most junior of the senior deck officers, Baker was a little surprised to be called on watch two hours early but he was beginning to realise that strange things sometimes happened on Seaview and the best thing to do was to simply go along with it and learn as he went. He picked up the clipboard and started an all-stations check.
Chip had almost reached the top of the staircase when without warning a wave of pain hit him hard. Gasping, he gripped the banister tightly as his senses reeled. Mercifully it ebbed away as quickly as it had come but it left him shaken and breathless. For a moment he considered reporting to Will Jamieson but then it was pointless to waste Will's time on something he felt he could probably sleep off. His cabin seemed like a mile away but he reached it at last and pausing only to splash some cold water on his face he collapsed gratefully onto the comfort of his bunk.
For one of the rare times in his seagoing life, Lee found himself at a loose end. His paperwork was now all checked, signed and stacked neatly in his out-tray, maybe he would go and check on their progress in the Control Room - it was Chip's watch so the younger officers would not feel intimidated or undermined by the presence of their Captain and, he smiled to himself, besides it was time he got the truth out of Chip about that blonde he'd been rumoured to be seeing. He was surprised therefore but not particularly worried to find Baker on watch, if there was a problem he needed to know about Chip would be the first to inform him.
“What's our position, Mr. Baker?”
“Just here, Sir.”
“That's fine. Did Mr. Morton say where he was going?”
“No, Skipper, not a word but he went towards Officer's Country.”
Lee flipped open the logbook to find that Chip had not officially signed over the watch, in fact his normal impeccably neat handwriting had become untidy and finished in the middle of a sentence.
“I may be wrong and I may be speaking out of turn,” Baker said quietly, “but he didn't look too good when he left here.”
“Right, leave it with me.” Lee turned to the charts. “When we reach our destination, here, have the Chief send out the next diving party, they know what they are to look for.”
“Carry on, Mr. Baker.”
Lee made his way towards Sick Bay, just in case Chip had reported sick, and if not he'd have to find out just what was going on. He found the Sick Bay empty except for Frank, the senior Corpsman, who was sitting behind the desk, playing chess against himself.
Lee smiled as he entered. “This is one place where it's good to see the crew with nothing to do.”
“Not nothing, Skipper," Frank indicated the board, “I'm keeping my mind razor sharp.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“Was there something I can do for you, Sir?”
“No, just taking a walk round.”
Frank sighed to himself after Lee had left, on the rare occasions when the Skipper or Exec had nothing to do, it usually meant a fire drill or emergency escape drill or something similar and just when he'd nearly got himself nicely checkmated, too.
Lee knocked on Chip's door and then entered without waiting for a response. Chip was lying on his bunk, flushed with fever and in obvious distress, dark circles already beginning to form under his eyes.
“Chip? What's wrong?”
“Don't know... be okay... just need... rest.”
Lee put a hand to Chip's head. “You're burning up, pal. Does Will know about this?”
“No. I'll... sleep it off.”
Lee picked up the telephone. “Sparks, find Dr. Jamieson and get him to Mr. Morton's cabin on the double.”
“Lee... didn't give... proper instructions... Baker.”
“It's okay, I've spoken to him, everything's under control.”
“That's good, I... “ he broke off, grimacing as another attack of pain convulsed him, leaving him limp and breathless.
Lee crouched down by the bunk. “Don't worry, Jamieson will sort this out.”
Much to Lee's relief Will arrived almost immediately and taking in the scene in one glance asked, “What happened?”
Lee shrugged. “I don't know, I just found him like this. He was okay an hour ago.”
Jamieson felt for Morton's pulse and lifted one of his eyelids. “Well, his pulse is rapid, his breathing shallow and he obviously has a high temperature. We need to get him to sickbay, whatever is wrong with him, I can't deal with it here.”
Jamieson called for corpsmen and a stretcher as Lee watched his friend suffer another spasm, eliciting from him an extended groan that left him gasping.
“Easy Chip.” Jamieson reassured him as he reached across Chip to steady him. “I know it hurts but try to lie quiet. We'll get you down to sickbay and find out what's going on with you. I think you may have to look forward to an extended stay this time, Commander, let's hope we both manage to endure the experience.” He stood aside as the two corpsmen gently lifted Chip onto the stretcher and left the cabin hurriedly for sickbay.
Walking side by side with Jamie, Lee asked. “What do you think is wrong with him?”
“I have no idea. You say he was all right an hour ago?” Will asked distractedly. They entered sickbay quickly and the corpsmen gently deposited the feverish first officer onto the central gurney.
“Yes, we were together in the Control Room. I went to my cabin and he took the conn.” Lee stated as he watched Chip's shirt cut away and a heart monitor and blood pressure cuff were attached to his friend.
Chip was very restless and seemed to be fighting Jamie and Frank as they sought to calm him. “Must get... away... not... here... danger... Sea... aghhh.” Morton's words were barely audible and he convulsed several more times, each accompanied by loud cries of pain.
“Can't you stop that... give him something to help?” Lee demanded anxiously.
“Not until I know what's wrong with him. I could just make it worse.” Jamie answered, quickly drawing blood from Morton's arm as his medical corpsman, Frank and John, fought to place Chip in restraints. Handing the sample to Frank he ordered. “As quickly as you can, we need answers, fast.” Turning back to his patient he asked loudly. “Chip? Chip, listen to me... I can give you a mild sedative but I need you to tell me where it hurts... what sort of pain is it?” Jamie tried to capture Morton's attention but Chip just continued to move restlessly and appeared not to hear him. Turning to Lee the Doctor asked. “Has he eaten anything different? Did he go out on any of the dives? Has he complained of anything at all? Been anywhere? Dammit, this is so sudden and severe, he has to have come into contact with something!”
Lee watched Chip's feverish movements and John's attempts to sponge away the perspiration from Morton's body and tried to think of anything that Chip had done that could have affected him so badly.
“Doctor,” John called, "he has a small cut on his palm, it seems inflamed."
Will came over and examined the small wound. “Take a swab if you can. We have to try and find the cause for all this.”
Something triggered in Lee's memory. When he had returned from delivering the message to the Admiral, Chip had been wiping a cut on his hand... he had reported Nelson's annoyance at the damage caused to his samples during the boats turbulence. What if... Lee snatched up a mic and called. “Admiral, this is Crane. Could you and Professor Sullivan please come to sickbay immediately.”
“Captain, is this urgent? We are in the middle of something important.” Nelson's voice replied irritably.
“Yes Sir, very urgent. Mr. Morton has been taken seriously ill.” Crane replied tightly.
“We'll be right there.”
Chip was a little calmer but still restless when Nelson and Patrick Sullivan hurried in. Taking a quick assessment of Morton's condition, Harry demanded of Lee, “What happened?”
“I found him in his cabin like this, about twenty minutes ago.” Lee answered hurriedly. “He had a cut on his hand when he came back from the lab, is it possible he touched something down there?”
Nelson looked at Sullivan and a look of alarm passed between both men. “Will, what's his condition?” the Admiral demanded again.
“He has a temperature of 103, rapid pulse, shallow breathing. His blood pressure is bordering on dangerous and...”
Another seizure convulsed the Exec's body and a cry of pain was wrenched from him to echo in the room. Jamie prepared a hypodermic syringe and injected it into his patient. Chip slowly relaxed but was still not completely calm.
“As I was saying... he is suffering from ever more frequent seizures which are becoming severe.” Jamie watched as Morton still moved restlessly, his face bathed in a soft sheen of perspiration and his blond hair turned dark with sweat from his body.
“What are you giving him?” Sullivan asked.
“A mild muscle relaxant. I daren't risk anything stronger until I get his blood and other test results back. He's allergic to so many treatments... I have to be sure I won't be aggravating his condition.” Jamie turned to look at the waiting men but something about the Admiral's and Sullivan's expressions alerted his suspicions. “Admiral, do you know something? Have you any idea what's wrong with him?”
Nelson looked at Lee then away again. He ran a hand through his hair, a sure sign to those who knew him well of his agitation. “It's possible he may have accidentally been infected with the toxin we've been working on... he must have cut himself on the specimen slide we were studying in the lab when we experienced the turbulence.”
There was silence in the room. Crane looked at Nelson and the scientist. “Didn't you say that there was no cure for it yet and that it was fatal?”
Nelson swallowed heavily, keeping his gaze on the sick man, unable to look Crane in the eye.
“Admiral, is that true?” Jamieson questioned urgently.
Not looking at either of the waiting men he answered roughly, “Yes... yes, it's true...as yet we don't have an antidote.”
“Will he be able to fight it on his own?” Lee demanded tensely.
Nelson looked quickly to Sullivan who looked him in the eye with no sign of encouragement. “It's... unlikely. This particular toxin multiplies rapidly in the host and usually results in... that is... he probably won't survive.” Nelson finished harshly.
“He's going to... die? You can't mean that... Admiral, there has to be something....” Lee grabbed Nelson's arm to gain his attention. Looking him in the eye, Nelson saw pain and anguish reflected back at him.
“I'm sorry Lee, truly sorry... there's very little time to find a solution... death usually occurs within twelve hours.”
Lee looked anxiously towards Chip's pain racked body and moved to the rail at the side of the bed that protected patients during stormy conditions. Grabbing hold of the bar he looked down at the gaunt features of the man who had been his best friend for almost half his life. He couldn't be dying... it wasn't possible.
“Admiral, I want you to give me all you know about this toxin. There has to be a way of slowing it down. We need time to find a therapy but at the rate his body is being attacked, he won't last long enough....” Jamieson turned to look at his patient. “We can't give in like this, there has to be a way... something you haven't thought of....”
“Will, we've tried everything... so far nothing works. Of course we'll double our efforts but time is against us....” Nelson struggled to find the words.
“Well, I have several medications he can tolerate and I intend to try them all... there has to be an answer. I won't just stand by and lose him, I refuse to let him die without trying everything in my power to save him!” Will Janieson declared strongly.
Patrick Sullivan watched the scene with increasing dismay. A fine young officer was suffering needlessly because of him and as a result three other men were deeply distressed by the events.
“Come along, Professor, we need to go and find a miracle.” Nelson growled as he left and Patrick glanced once more at the Captain and Jamieson as they concentrated on Chip's semi-conscious body. Extraordinary measure would definitely be needed, he decided and he quickly followed Harry.
After a while Chip seemed to calm a little. The blood test results confirmed their worst fears and Jamieson had tried a stronger sedative to help minimise the effects of the seizures.
“He's responding a little. That's good. At least that should ease the pain for a while... but not for long I suspect. It will buy him a little rest anyway.” Jamie looked towards Lee. “I suppose you want to stay?” He sighed tiredly and moved a chair to beside the bunk. “Here sit beside him. I'm not sure how much he will hear or understand but talk to him anyway, it might comfort him.” He moved away as Lee sat down, smiling gratefully at the doctor.
“Thanks Will, I'll be here if you need to be doing something.” Lee noted the tiredness and concern that haunted Jamieson's face.
“I'll be at my desk with the text books, if you need me... there has to be something I can do,” he muttered almost to himself as he turned away.
Lee sat watching his friend occasionally move his head from side to side, in the disturbed drug induced rest. He hardly recognised the gaunt shadowed features of the man on the bed as his long time friend and second-in-command. From all those years ago he remembered that eager young man who had welcomed and encouraged his friendship as they both set out on the glittering futures before them. The brotherhood that had been born from those days had weathered many storms and separations as their duties had taken them to different postings in their naval careers. Finally they had been reunited again when Lee had been brought to Seaview by another tragedy.
“Lee...?” The faint whisper was barely audible.
Crane stood and leaned towards the pale figure. “Chip... I'm here, what do you need? Shall I get Jamie?”
Chip licked his lips weakly and shook his head slightly. Lee picked up an ice cube from a bowl on the table beside the bed and passed it gently over Morton's dry lips. “Thanks...”
“Is there anything else I can do?” Lee asked as he returned the cube to the bowl.
“No... at least... Lee... am I dying?” Chip's words were whispered haltingly and Lee thought he might have misheard but one look at the intense blue eyes fixed on him, he knew that he had heard correctly.
“Shhh, Chip... don't think about it. The Admiral and Prof. Sullivan are working in the lab right now, they'll find the antidote in time, I'm sure of it. Jamie's working on finding the right drugs to keep you stable until we can cure you.... You just need to hold on, buddy.” Lee assured him urgently.
“Lee, don't lie to me... not now....” Morton interrupted a little stronger. “I... need you to promise... me something....” His voice faltered and Lee repeated the ice cube treatment. “Promise me... that when you see Mom and Dad... you make it easy for them....” He struggled to finish.
“Chip, don't talk like that... we'll beat this.” Lee desperately tried to keep the pain from his voice.
Morton shook his head slightly, “We both... know the chances... are slim....” He stopped as he struggled to stay focused. "Just... promise me Lee... that they don't know the details... let them think it was quick and painless.” Chip pleaded.
Lee saw the agitation that racked Chip's thoughts and he tried to find the right words to comfort him.
“Lee...!” Chip insisted again as he became more restless.
“No, Chip... try to stay calm, you might set the seizures off again.” He was more than aware of the concentrated piercing gaze of cobalt blue eyes as they begged for his promise. He took a deep and painful breath as he shut his eyes momentarily and then nodded. Opening his eyes he looked at Chip and agreed quietly. “Of course I promise... but there will be no need.... I know we’ll....” He felt the lump that formed in his throat as he kept his emotions under control.
“Thanks Lee... kinder that way....” Morton relaxed again. A faint smile touched his lips as he said. “I warned you, scientists... always bring... trouble.” His eyes fluttered shut.
“Chip?” Crane whispered.
“Yes.” Chip replied without looking at him.
“I'm sorry. This is all my fault, if I'd gone down to the lab....”
“You'd be here... and I'd be the one apologising....” Chip interrupted softly. “Let it go, Lee... not your fault... don't blame yourself.”
Lee used a cold cloth to mop away the perspiration on his friend's brow. “Chip, you can't give up. We'll find the antidote but you have to stay positive....” Lee clamped his mouth shut as an overwhelming wave of emotion swept over him.
“I know... buddy... I know... we've been lucky, Lee. We've... had some good times... you and I….” Morton grimaced as another bout of pain racked his body.
“Chip? I'll get Jamie….”
“No... no, it's passed....” His breathing was very laboured now. “Lee, let me say this... while I still can....” Chip opened his eyes and looked earnestly at his friend. “Thanks... for everything... being my friend.... I... I couldn't have done it without you... remember what we agreed back... in training? We'd always be there for each other... and you have been, Lee... I knew I could... rely on you... never... let me down... I'm gonna miss you... and the Admiral...” He smiled slightly as he fought the weakness and fatigue. “Just... don't let the crew... give Bobby a hard... time. He'll be... fine... just let him find... his own way... he'll make a good Exec.” Another cry was wrenched from him as yet another seizure convulsed his body.
“Chip? Chip, don't give in!” Lee called anxiously. “You've got to fight it! Seaview can't do without you.”
Morton struggled for breath as he replied. “Sure you can... just listen... to advice sometimes... and don't be so bull... headed... you'll do fine... just remember... to let others help... occasionally... you don't have... to do it all... alone.” Chip swallowed painfully, “...it hurts, Lee, it hurts so bad... don't know how much longer... never expected it to end... like this.” Small beads of sweat formed on his brow, testament to the fight his body was waging. “Can't seem to fight anymore, Lee... I'm tired... so very tired....” his voice faded.
“Chip, listen to me, you can do this, you can't give up, I won't let you... remember all the times you've pushed me. You always made me fight with you; wouldn't let me give in... well, I won't let you give in either. You've got to fight this, that's an order, Mr. Morton, fight!”
“Yessir....” Morton answered weakly as he looked at his best friend, regret filled his eyes. “I'm trying, Captain... never... disobey an order... but this time... maybe...” A faint remembrance creased the corners of his eyes. “This is one race, Lee... I just might lose... “ Pain ripped another groan from the weakened man on the bed.
The first cry of pain had brought Jamie from his office but he had listened to the end of their conversation considerately. Now he picked up the already prepared syringe and injected Chip once more. Slowly Morton relaxed and seemed to drift into an uneasy sleep. Jamieson turned to Lee and saw the devastation Morton's condition had wrought on this strong man.
“What did he mean, 'one race he might lose'?” Jamie asked gently.
Lee continued to concentrate on Chip as he replied. “The only place, during our training that he always beat me, was on the athletics track. Never lost a race, he was track champion for four years.”
Jamie watched the way Lee gripped his friend's shoulder, willing him to respond. “Lee? Lee, listen to me,” he said to the Captain firmly, “go and take a break... there's nothing you can do here. Let him rest undisturbed while he can. You need to eat something; go and do that now and come back in an hour.”
Lee shook his head vigorously. “No, I'm staying!”
“Go and see to yourself and the boat, Skipper; you need to do that. I'll stay with him. He should be all right for now, according to the Admiral's time scale... we still have a few hours yet to spare.”
Crane dragged his eyes away from Chip and concentrated on the Doctor's concerned gaze. Slowly he centred himself and nodded. “Yes, all right, I'll check the boat but I won't be long…. I'll be back soon... don't want him to face this alone….” Lee swallowed his bare emotions with difficulty.
“He won't be left alone Lee, not for a moment, I promise.” Will answered softly. Lee nodded and after one glance at the man he thought of as his brother, he left swiftly....
Lee made his way through to the Control Room and after checking with the watch officer that everything was in order, he crossed the observation nose to where Bobby O'Brien sat, papers and a stack of folders spread out before him. O'Brien finished writing and looked up at Lee's approach. "I've revamped the duty roster, Skipper, if we all pull an extra hour on the end of each shift we should be able to cover Mr. Morton's watches."
Very quietly Lee said. “Would you jump in his grave as quickly?”
Startled O'Brien looked up at him but replied calmly. “The Admiral asked me to....” he stopped as Lee placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I'm sorry Bobby, I should never have even thought that, let alone said it.” He sat down heavily as the shock seemed to catch up with him.
“I understand, Skipper.” O'Brien quickly poured a mug of coffee and pressed it into Lee's hands. “The whole crew are behind Mr. Morton. If there's anything more I can do?”
Lee drank the coffee gratefully letting the warmth flow into him. “It's all down to the Admiral, Sullivan and Will now." He fell silent watching the fishes outside the window.
O'Brien turned back to his work, words were of little use, the best thing he could do for everyone now, was to fill in for Chip and not lose hope.
After a moment or two Lee stirred and stretched, coming back from whatever thoughts had been occupying him. More his normal self as the coffee revived him he said. “Okay, Bobby, what is there for my attention?”
Nelson entered the Sick Bay quietly as he saw Will examining Morton's restlessness and heard the soft tone as he tried to calm him. He approached the bed slowly and Will turned to him. “Harry.” he acknowledged and turned back to his patient. “He's no different, although I've managed to slow the frequency of the seizures.” Turning, he walked aside and looked at the older man. “I take it you have no good news?”
Nelson dragged his gaze from his stricken officer to Jamieson's drawn features. “Not at the moment. We have some tests running that might be promising but....” Harry passed an impatient hand through his hair. “Dammit, Will, there's so little time!”
Will put a hand to the shoulder of his friend and patted it gently twice. “I know, Harry, I know. Have you got the research notes?”
“Patrick is gathering them together, he'll bring them to you shortly.”
Jamieson nodded as he went to sit at the desk, starring unseeing at the textbooks that covered it. Harry came to stand by him. “I expected to find Lee here.”
Will sighed heavily. “He was until five minutes ago. I sent him to go and get something to eat... he needed the break, not that he will of course. I told him to come back in an hour but he will no doubt be back sooner.” He picked up a book and started to turn the pages, searching for an answer. Harry took the seat at the side of the desk and studied his friend. He could see the deep concern buried in the tired eyes and the strain that pinched at his features. “How are you, Will? Don't you think some rest might be good for you?”
Jamieson looked angrily at Nelson. “Rest! You expect me to rest!” He threw the book down in frustration. “How, Harry? How do I rest, knowing that I'm likely to lose a patient because of my inabilities?” Will stood and jamming his hands into his pockets, started to pace. “This time a friend... a good friend.”
“None of this is your fault, Will. It was an accident, a freak accident. You can't blame yourself.”
“Who do I blame then? You, Sullivan, God?” He came to sit at the desk and looked intensely at the Admiral. “I'm the physician here. I'm the one who is supposed to save lives! I can't save him!” Will looked across at Chip's semiconscious face as it grimaced slightly in pain. “I can't even relieve his suffering. What good does it do, Harry, to keep fighting the inevitable?”
“Will, you have saved his life and the lives of countless others so many times before. Without your skill and dedication, there would have been so many more deaths. Don't reproach yourself for sometimes not having all the answers.”
Jamieson leant his elbows on the desk and leaned forward placing his hands over his eyes. “Maybe you're right, Admiral but right now all I see are the faces of the men I've failed. Every face etched on my memory and I don't think I have it in me anymore to carry on after... if….” He took his hands away and closed his eyes momentarily, then turned to look at one of his oldest friends. “It doesn't get any easier, Harry and I'm tired, tired of all the pain, the regrets, the endless self doubts. Tired of seeing young men die before they should because I can't prevent it... I can't do it anymore... I don't want to do it anymore....” he finished quietly.
Nelson leaned closer, putting a hand out to squeeze his friend's shoulder. “Will? What are you saying? You're giving up? Leaving Seaview... the navy?” When Jamieson looked away and did not reply, he continued. “You can't! We need you.” Harry shook him firmly to gain his attention. “Now is not the time to make this decision, Doctor.” He said sternly
“Now is the perfect time, when you're faced with another failure, you really have to decide if you're doing more harm than good.”
As Harry about to argue further, a cry of agony reached them and both men stood and hurried to Morton's bedside. He was convulsed in pain and even though he wore restraints, his body was thrashing, straining against the restrictions. Jamie filled another syringe and injected him quickly. The movements slowed and gradually the pained expression ebbed away, leaving him quiet but obviously distressed.
“I don't know how much longer his body can tolerate this, the painkiller is already less effective. We have to find the antidote, Harry, before it's too late.”
Nelson looked anxiously at Morton's suffering and turned to Will. “Do what you can for him, I'll be back.” He took one more look at Chip and left. Outside he nearly bumped into Patrick Sullivan. “Patrick, I'm sorry, I didn't see you. Is there news?”
“No, Admiral, I was just bringing the research notes for Dr. Jamieson,” Sullivan replied softly.
“Oh, I see. Well, he'll be glad to receive them. I'm going back to the lab.” Nelson answered abruptly and left, striding away deep in thought.
The young scientist watched him go as he considered the conversation he had just overheard.
Will wiped a hand across his tired eyes, fighting off his growing drowsiness and carried on reading. He had pulled out every article he could find on toxicology and he and Frank were studying them in detail. At Will's insistence Frank had reluctantly gone to get some sleep and now he sat alone in the dimmed light of the Sick Bay, his reading lamp the only bright spot.
Sullivan tapped on the open door and entered. He was carrying a large folder.
“Here's everything I have on our research Doctor, as you asked.”
“Thanks, I'm not getting very far with any of this.” Will indicated the books spread out on the desk.
Sullivan came to an immediate decision, after all The Boss positively encouraged unilateral action. He knew he had limited power acting on his own but there was something he could do to at least temporarily help Morton until he could summon his friends. Time distortion was easy for him. He could take human seconds and stretch them for his own purposes. Instantly, time for Will and the Seaview froze, leaving only himself and Chip aware. The young officer was barely conscious now, occasionally moaning deeply when the pain gripped him. Sullivan laid a cool hand on Chip's burning forehead and mentally delved deep into Chip's mind. Beneath the fever-induced nightmares, buried deep by years of training and self-discipline, he felt fear. This he could do something about. He concentrated intensely for a few seconds, then settling Chip's sheets more comfortably for him, he crossed back to Will.
Something in the expression on the Doctor's face made him pause remembering the Admiral's words over dinner the previous evening. He placed his hands over and above Will's head and again closed his eyes in concentration. There was a very deep seated distress here, that Will would never allow to show, the man was blaming himself bitterly for his inability to help his friend, a blame that defied logic but then people were not always logical. The Boss would have to know about this. He resumed his former place in front of Will's desk, effortlessly snapping time back into place as he did so.
“I'll let you know as soon as we come up with something,” he told Will and then left the sickbay, leaving the Doctor to his notes.
Chip did not know where the white light came from or the gentle voice in his mind telling him not to be afraid but now the fear had faded and a calm determination to fight filled his soul.
“Admiral, why don't you take a break?” Sullivan suggested. “you've been at this for hours and you haven't eaten yet. A break might clear your head. I can carry on.”
Nelson sighed. “Yes, you're probably right. I could do with seeing how Lee is. I'll be back in 15 minutes - call me if you come up with anything.”
“Of course, I'll call you immediately.”
Sullivan waited a few moments to give Nelson time to get down the corridor then locked the door of the lab. Now was the time he could summon his friends, the frantic activity of the day watch changing to the night watch had subsided and at least half the crew would be asleep. Opening his brief case he took out a slim white candle and set it carefully in the middle of an empty bench, then switched off the electric lights. In the backwash of light from the illuminated fish tanks he stood quite still for a moment or two focusing his mind before silently praying for the help that was so desperately needed. Gradually the room began to fill with a brilliant white light as his friends gathered round him and then he was one of them, ethereal, wraithlike and infinitely powerful. When they 'spoke' the words passed through their minds, they had long ago surpassed ordinary speech.
“The Boss is concerned about the human.” One of the figures stated. “It is not his time to die, he has many important things yet to do.”
“I know. What about the other one? He is tormented by his perceived failure and suffering immense guilt because he cannot help his friend.”
“We will take them both and heal each according to his needs.” The first voice said. “We will go now.”
The candle flared into life and instantly time again stopped for Seaview.
He wanted to open his eyes but the light was too strong and his eyelids were so heavy. Pain throbbed through his temples as he tried to turn his head but something was restraining him. His brain began gradually to make sense of the information his senses were feeding it. White light? Pure white light, brilliant and more dazzlingly beautiful than the brightest summers day, was shining all around him. He became away of a movement and made an attempt to turn towards the faint rustle but still his head would not obey him. He could not feel any attachments to his skull or body and he could not make a move. It felt as though he were held in a form of suspension, conscious and alert but with no physical control over himself.
“Who's there.… ?” His voice sounded strange even to his own ears, weak and ill-used, the words were a whisper of his usual commanding tone.
No reply came back but a wraithlike vision appeared to him, examining him with gentle curiosity as he stared back at the ghostlike apparition, his mind recoiled with shock and the figure faded back into the light.
He felt shaken and disturbed, summoning his voice again he demanded. “Who are you...?” Again his speech sounded unfamiliar. “Where am I? What are you doing to me?” As the seconds ticked by with no reply be came more anxious. “Answer me! What's happening....?” A flick of pain and fear began to disturb him again.
“Commander, calm your thoughts... we will not harm you.” The words echoed in his mind but he did not think that he had heard them in the normal way.
“Who are you? Where am I?” Morton's voice was strengthened by his disquiet as he struggled to find answers to his fears.
“You are safe... nothing can harm you in this place... we were summoned to bring you aid….” The words were spoken in the softest tone, evenly and almost no inflection at all. Again Chip had the impression that the speech was more felt by him than heard.
“Summoned... I don't understand... why can't I move? Set me free, let me see you....” He was stronger now and wanted to confront the figure that, in his mind, held him captive.
“It is only your own suspicions that prevent it. Let go of your fears and you will be able to see us.”
“Us?” Chip struggled to call out. “Jamie? Lee? Anybody? Help me.” Pain started to echo more strongly through his body.
“Commander, you cannot be heard. It is only your mind that calls out. Be calm, you will not be harmed, we come to relieve your suffering. Do not be afraid.”
“Professor Sullivan? Is that you? Where are you? Why can't I see you?” Chip called anxiously to the familiar voice.
Slowly a vision formed and the face of the scientist appeared before him but even though the features were recognisable his face looked different. “Chip, do not be afraid. Your friends will heal you soon but for the moment we will sustain you to give them the time they need.”
“I don't understand. Who are you? You're not Patrick Sullivan. What have you done to him?” Chip Morton's mind frantically considered all the possibility of his situation. Alien intrusion, an hysteria brought on by his infection, madness? Was the toxin that attacked his body, now sending him insane?
“No, Commander, you are not insane. Your understanding is clouded only by your own reluctance to seek a more divine answer. Open your mind, release the fears that hold you and accept our intervention freely. Your trust will not be misplaced, for we have been sent by Him to bring you peace.”
The words resounded in his mind like a sudden revelation. “Him...you can’t mean… you're angels?” Chip's mind reeled at the certainty of his statement. He knew he was right... Angels. His vision now cleared and he saw several ethereal figures surrounding him, all gazing at him with serenity and calm.
“That is a title given to us but do not concern your thoughts with who we are, you must rest peacefully now, we will hold you in our care, until your friends are ready.”
He had the hazy sensation of floating weightlessly, his body suffused with warmth so tangible that he imagined a fire glowing with him. Almost as quickly as the feeling overwhelmed him, it was gone and all that was left was painless, restful, tranquillity...
Will turned another page of Sullivan's incredibly detailed notes, sensing as he did so a change in light levels in the room. Annoyed he looked up to find his reading lamp switched off and a slim white candle burning brightly in it's place.
“What the... ?”
The light brightened to encompass the whole room. Will crossed to Chip's bunk but his patient seemed undisturbed by it. He looked around as the sickbay faded into the light.
This must be a dream, he must have fallen asleep despite his best efforts, dammit, he didn't have time for this.
“Do not be concerned Doctor, we have been summoned to help.” The calm voice seemed to come from nowhere.
“Who's there? I can't see you, the light's too bright.”
Immediately the light dimmed fractionally and he thought he could make out shapes, formless and changing, shimmering in the air.
“Our apologies. Is that better?”
“Who are you? What do you want? I don't have time to waste like this.”
“On the contrary, you have all the time you need.” Will knew that voice. “SULLIVAN?”
“That is one of my names. I have many others. Look to your patient, Doctor.”
Will turned to find Chip breathing deeply and slowly in easy sleep. Not believing what he was seeing Will checked Chip's pulse to find it stronger and steady and for the first time in 16 hours the strained look of pain had passed, unaided by drugs, from Chip's face.
“I... I don't understand this.”
“He is, as you would know it, asleep. He will come to no harm, we will hold him like this for as long as it takes.”
“As long as it takes for what?”
“Until you can find a cure.”
“I don't have anything to cure him.” Will was almost shouting in frustration, “I can't help him!”
“Doctor Jamieson you must calm yourself. The cure can be effected in time.” Sullivan's voice echoed.
“Who are you? What are you really? Why are you here?” Will demanded anxiously.
“Please trust us, Doctor. Your fears are clouding your thoughts, be not afraid, for we are whatever you need us to be.”
“Whatever I need... I need you to explain this... all of this.” Will turned to try and find something familiar to him but all he saw was the white light that emanated from the burning candle and the halo of softer light that formed an aura around the translucent beings. “I'm dreaming, I must be!” Will ran a hand over his face. “This can't be real, none of this is really happening....” he muttered exhaustedly and looked down at the calmed face of his patient and friend.
“Your concept of reality, Doctor, may differ from ours but I assure you that what you are experiencing is in actuality, real.” The formless figures floated in the haze of white light as they studied the human who was watching them with obvious apprehension.
“He is a spiritual man but requires answers for his fears.” The speech was unheard by Will. “His mind is open enough to accept us... let him be told all that he needs, it will help him to accept our healing and to aid his friend when the times comes....” Sullivan said softly.
“Doctor, we know what is troubling you. You worry about the inevitability of death. Who decides what is inevitable? You? You're not God, William Jamieson.”
“So I blame God do I, when he dies?” Will demanded angrily, although something about these 'beings' was beginning to have a calming effect. He felt, although he did not know why, that he was among friends.
“Everyone dies, you of all people have come face to face with that but you have a unique gift, those whom God saves he can only save through your hands and the hands of those like you. Without your efforts a lot more people would be lost or suffer unnecessarily. This you already know. Why therefore have you abandoned hope?”
Once again the figures spoke amongst themselves. “Can we show him, do you think?”
“His self doubt is crippling him, this must not be allowed to continue.”
“I see only humility and compassion in this man, he runs no risk of arrogance or selfish pride, I think we can take the risk.”
“Very well then, so be it.”
“Doctor, look into the candle flame and tell us what you see.” Will found himself obeying without question. The flame appeared to grow larger and he could make out a series of faces, children’s faces. Some of them seemed to be laughing at something he couldn't see, others appeared to be looking directly at him as if they could see into his soul.
“I see children. Why? Who are they?”
“These children will grow into some of the men and women whose lives will be saved or enhanced because they will cross your path, if you carry on and not just throw away your talent and skill. The strength to carry on will be given to you but only when you need it - do not look for it in advance.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Only believe us, that is all we ask, for at present you can only see through a glass, darkly.”
The familiar words ran in Will's head. “You... you're... angels?”
“We have been called that. Now we must return you both to your own time.”
Anxiously Will said. “What about Chip, I....”
“Peace, Doctor. As we promised he will sleep soundly until such time as he can be cured. There will be no more suffering for him - we will guard him.”
Instantly the candle disappeared and the white light faded back to the Sick Bay's dimmed night lighting as Lee and Frank entered together.
“I'm sorry, Lee, I can't explain it.” Will answered Lee's disbelief. At least it wasn't a lie, he couldn't tell the man he'd been talking with angels. “I'd say he'd fought it on his own but we know that's not possible and he's showing no signs of improvement or deterioration. It's as if nature is buying him time. I know it's unscientific but I can't give you any other explanation. The best of it is that he's no longer in pain.”
“Does the Admiral know about this?”
“Yes, he was here only a few minutes ago, then Sullivan called him back to the lab. There's nothing you can do here Lee, so get out from under my feet, I have work to do, answers don't provide themselves... and yes, I will call you if there's any change.”
Nelson walked absent-mindedly into the lab, his thoughts still concentrated on the scene in Sick Bay. It was the miracle that they needed but didn't for one moment expect; he still couldn't quite believe it. After Will's call, he had gone down to see Chip's condition for himself; he felt tremendous relief at the pain free state of his first officer but complete confusion as to the reason. He looked around and saw Patrick Sullivan drawing a sample of blood from Boris the 'lab rat.'
“Admiral, is everything all right?” Sullivan asked gently.
“Yes, I think so.... Chip is sleeping peacefully. I can't explain it... this is not following the same course as the previous cases, they all died within twelve hours of infection, Chip is not improving but neither is he getting any worse!” Nelson sat heavily on the chair.
“Maybe we should just be grateful for the extra time this has allowed us to complete our tests.” Sullivan said quietly, noting the Admiral's obvious puzzlement.
Nelson straightened. “Yes, you're right, I just don't like things I can't explain.” He look at the syringe in Sullivan's hand. “Is that the latest test?”
“Yes, it's been three hours since we last tested Boris' blood.” Patrick smiled wryly, “The Captain even has me doing it now.”
“Well, let's see if it tells us anything,” Nelson said tiredly as they both turned to the workbench... “What's this?” Nelson asked as he reached for a bottle of clear fluid.
“What's that, Admiral?” Sullivan asked, preoccupied in the preparation of the sample slide.
“This! A bottle of Amino Acid... did you use this?” Nelson turned to the younger man.
Sullivan looked confused for a moment, then turned and lifted down another bottle from the storage shelf, the duplicate of the first in every respect except for the label 'Distilled Water'. He turned and looked at the other man. “I must have... I suppose I was tired and must have misread the labels.... I don't know how I could have made such a basic mistake...”
“Good grief, you know what this means, the last three hours have been wasted! We will have to start all over again!” Nelson fumed.
Sullivan studied the slide in his hand and then looked to Boris. “I'm sorry, Admiral, it was a stupid mistake but... our lab rat seems no worse off from it... “
Nelson turned and surveyed the lively movements of the white rodent, then frowned. Turning quickly back to the young scientist he said. “Give me that slide... we'll check it anyway.”
Some hours later both men were looking down at a small bottle of clear fluid that was sitting on the lab table.
“We did it, Admiral, we found the solution.” Patrick Sullivan smiled. Nelson continued to study the bottle. “Admiral?”
Nelson signed and stood. “We'd better get this down to sickbay... I'd feel happier with more extensive testing but under the circumstances... I just hope we're in time.”
Will filled a syringe, checked it and then hesitated. A small voice in his head was telling him to go ahead, that he didn't have a choice, while at the same time he didn't like the idea of what amounted to experimentation on a fellow human being and a friend.
“We've done all the tests we can, Will,” Nelson said tiredly, “I share your misgivings but we don't have a choice - he doesn't have a choice.” Nelson crossed to Chip's bunk and looked down at the sleeping man. “He'd be the first one to agree to it.”
“I just wish he could tell me that himself.” Behind Nelson's back Will glanced quickly at Sullivan who almost imperceptibly nodded. Will sighed. “If we're going to do this, then let's get it done now.” Quickly he injected Chip and dropped the empty syringe into the dish Frank was holding.
“Now, we wait.” Nelson commented.
“No, Admiral, now I wait. There's no point in you waiting around here.” Will told him.
Sullivan smiled broadly. “I think I can take a hint when I hear one.”
“I want to write up the notes on this.” Nelson said. “I'll be back, Will.”
“I don't doubt it.” Will said under his breath as they left. He folded his arms along the rail of the top bunk and rested his head on them. It had been altogether far too long a day. Frank said quietly. “There's some hot coffee and sandwiches that Cookie sent on the desk, he'll have my head if you don't eat them. Is there anything I can do while we wait.”
Will looked at him. “Yes, go and tell the Skipper what we've done and tell him I don't want him hanging around here until I call him... and thanks, Frank.”
Will sat down behind the desk, drank a cup of coffee and tried a couple of sandwiches. After a few moments he yawned and sat back in the chair, his eyes closing slowly...
“Doctor?” The voice was the calm tone of the angels. Will opened his eyes to find the candle burning again and the room bathed in white light.
“Your friend will live, do not worry. He has been given the will to fight and all his fear is gone. We release him into your care now, he will need your aid in his recovery.”
“How can I express my gratitude to you?” Will asked.
“We do not seek your thanks, you know what is expected of you. The choice, however, is still yours to make.”
Another voice said. “The Great White Candle of Time burns low, we must depart soon. Think on those things we have said and shown to you. We will meet again, as we have done in the past.”
“We have?” Will queried.
“Indeed. Patrick Sullivan is only one of our manifestations. We shall meet again even if our identity, for our own purposes, is not made known to you.”
“For now, William Jamieson, farewell.”
The candle once more disappeared and the light returned to normal. Like a man coming out of a dream, Will blinked in the changed lighting and stretched his stiff limbs.
Lee watched O'Brien carry out his checks in the control room. The man was competent and certainly had the liking and respect of the crew. Chip was right he would make a good Exec, a very different character to Chip but with a little adjusting on both their parts they would learn to work together if the worst happened. Inwardly Lee shuddered at the thought of having to officiate at another sea burial - a member of the crew was bad enough but... no, he didn't even want to think of it and determinedly he forced his mind back on to the job. At least for the moment it looked as if they need not search out any more kelp beds and with luck might be able to set a course for home soon.
Frank shook Will's shoulder gently, bringing him to instant alertness and Will realised he must have fallen asleep despite his intention not too.
“Yes Frank, what is it?” He stood hastily, pushing aside the textbook he had been reading as he had rested on one of the vacant bunks while he monitored Chip's condition.
“Mr. Morton's waking, Doc. His pulse and blood pressure are nearly normal and the fever's gone.”
Sitting on his patient's bedside Will took hold of Chip's wrist and called gently, “Chip, can you hear me?”
Morton's eyelids fluttered as he struggled to open his eyes to focus on the smiling face of his doctor and friend.
“Jamie. What's happening? Why am I still here?” His voice was weak and confused. He looked passed Will to see Frank standing at Jamieson's shoulder also smiling broadly.
“Jamie, am I going to be okay?”
“Yes, Chip, I think we can safely say you're recovering. You'll live to drive me to distraction for a long time yet. How do you feel... do you have pain at all?”
“No, no pain, just feel a little tired and stiff, muscles ache a bit.”
“That's not surprising considering the intensity of the spasms and convulsions you endured.”
“I guess my guardian angel must have put in overtime again.”
“Many a true word spoken in jest. Now then, I promised the Admiral and Lee that I'd tell them when you woke up but I can hold them off for a bit longer if you would prefer.”
“No, I'd like to see them.”
As Will moved to pick up the mic, Chip took his arm and said sincerely. “Thanks for everything, Will.”
“For what very little I was able to do for you, you're welcome. It's really the Admiral and Professor Sullivan you have to thank.” He paused and then said more briskly. “Just promise me that next time you cut yourself you won't ignore basic health hygiene and suck an open wound, ingesting heaven knows what poisons....”
“Chip.” Nelson greeted him warmly. “Wonderful to see you on the mend. How do you really feel?”
“I'm getting better, sir, thanks I believe, to you and Prof. Sullivan. Without you two fighting my corner for me, I wouldn't be here now.” Chip answered sincerely.
“You did quite a lot of fighting on your own, son. You found the strength from somewhere to hang on long enough for us to complete the work,” Nelson replied.
“You really gave us a scare this time my friend.” Lee reached out and squeezed Chip's shoulder.
“Well Lee, I couldn't let you take Seaview out without me - you'd get yourself into all kinds of trouble.” Chip joked weakly.
Lee smiled. “The expression 'pot calling the kettle black' springs to mind. You do realise that you will have to review your opinion of 'vermin' from now on, Mr. Morton. Without 'Boris' the antidote might not have been found so easily - which goes to prove that a man's best friend is his rat.”
Chip shuddered. “I haven't forgotten that I still have you to thank for the unpleasant introduction to ‘Boris'.” Chip answered softly, giving him a look that promised revenge at the earliest opportunity.
Will, who had been waiting patiently, interrupted at this point. “Now you've seen him for yourselves I would like you both to go back to your duties and leave me to give my patient a complete physical. I'll let you know visiting hours after I assure myself that he's not hiding anything I should know about.” He started to usher the two officers out as they assured Chip they would be back as soon as the coast was clear.
As Will took a blood sample and carried out all the usual tests to confirm the effectiveness of the antitoxin, Chip watched him carefully. Now that he was fully awake he had started to remember the odd dreams that he had experienced; but what if they hadn't been just dreams?
“Yes, what can I do for you Chip?” Will asked as he sent Frank to the labs with the blood sample.
“How long has it been?” Chip asked quietly.
Will pulled a chair over to sit beside the bottom rack. “Until now... twenty-seven hours.” He confirmed, watching the confusion that crossed Chip's face as he tried to understand.
“But... the reports... they said death took place within about 12 hours. Why didn't I die sooner.”... Chip mused then looked warily at Jamieson. “Jamie? Did anything... unusual happen to me?” he asked softly.
“You mean other than being infected by a deadly toxin, enduring intense pain, fever and nearly dying?” Will asked mockingly, not sure he knew how to respond.
“I mean... did... that is... were there any visitors...?”
“Of course. Lee and the Admiral were haunting the place. Sharkey and several of the crew found their way here - it was all I could do to get any peace to work.”
Chip noted the forced humour, something was wrong here; something was being hidden from him. Had Jamieson experienced something was well?
“Jamie, I think we need to talk....”
“No... I don't think we do, Chip,” Jamie replied seriously as he reached out and grasped his friend's shoulder. “Whatever the reason you survived, don't question it. Just accept that you did and live your life giving thanks that you have another chance to make a difference. Miracles shouldn't be dissected by mere human logic, otherwise they cease to be miracles. There are things still beyond our understanding and I for one am glad that there is a higher power in this universe of ours.” He stood and gave Chip's shoulder a small squeeze.
Chip considered Will's words as he fought the desire for a logical explanation. Maybe Will was right; miracles couldn't be explained - but why should he receive one?
“But don't you.…?”
Jamie turned away ignoring Chip's attempts to carry on the discussion. “Now I suppose you intend to give me a hard time on your length of stay. If you rest for today then tomorrow when we reach home you can be released as long as you have someone to take care of you for a few days. By the end of the week you should be strong enough to look after yourself.”
Chip watched Will fill in the medical chart and realised that as far as Jamieson was concerned there would be no further explanation. “Very well, Jamie, have it your own way for now.” Chip replied very softly.
Twenty four hours later Seaview docked in Santa Barbara and almost immediately started to empty of crew, after, it seemed, everyone had come up to wish Chip well. Now he sat in the Observation Nose talking and laughing with Will, Nelson and Lee. The laughter faded as a familiar figure came towards them. Professor Sullivan smiled as he approached the seated men, coming to say his final good-bye.
“Patrick, please join us. Are you all packed up?” Nelson stood and drew the man into the group.
Sullivan took a seat smiling at the others, “Yes, thank you, Admiral, all packed. I just wanted to thank you all again for a most interesting voyage.” Turning to Chip he said, “I'm sorry that my presence caused you such harm, Mr. Morton. I suppose it hasn't helped to improve your opinion of scientists but I assure you we are not all so hazardous normally. However, you managed to help advance medical science and provide a solution for a great many others.”
“I know it was caused accidentally, Professor…. I am more than grateful to you and your... community... for all your help. Without it I suspect the conclusion would have been entirely different and for that I thank you with all that I have.” Chip spoke softly and with deep feeling as he held Patrick's gaze, trying to convey more than words to the other man.
Smiling and with a gentle nod, Patrick Sullivan said softly. “I completely understand but the outcome is as it should be, there is no need for further thanks.”
Standing he proceeded to shake hands with Lee and Chip and as he went to shake Will Jamieson's hand, the older man squeezed tightly and using his other hand to encompass Sullivan's hand completely Will said sincerely, “Thank you... Patrick... for you're timely advice and intervention, be assured I will remember it always.”
Again Sullivan looked deeply into the eyes of the older man and replied. “That is as it should be, Will. We all do whatever we can to end suffering and benefit mankind but sometimes we just need a little help to guide our best efforts.”
O'Brien who had walked through the Control Room and stood patiently waiting during the good-byes said, “Professor Sullivan, your car has arrived on the dockside, sir.”
Turning to Nelson, Sullivan shook his hand. “I will contact you in a few days, Admiral, when we have the final research analysis ready.” With that he followed O'Brien out.
Watching Sullivan leave Nelson commented. “There goes a good scientist.”
“There goes a good … man.” Will said softly.
O'Brien reappeared and handed Lee a clipboard. “That's everyone signed out now except for the five of us, Skipper.”
Lee countersigned the list. “Very well.”
“I hope you haven't been making too much of a success of my job, Bobby. I've heard you've been extremely impressive.” Chip commented warmly.
“Let's just say I haven't scratched the paint work.” Bobby replied.
Nice one! Lee thought to himself with a small smile.
“If you don't require me any longer, Skipper, I'll be off now, if that's okay.”
“That's fine, Bobby.” Lee shook his hand. “Have a good leave.”
“Thank you, sir, I will. Admiral,” Bobby acknowledged and made his way back across the control room.
“Well, Lee, if we're going .… “ Chip commented.
Will looked at Lee. “As he's staying with you, I expect you to make sure he obeys my instructions.”
“To the letter,” Lee assured him as he helped Chip up and they left together, laughing at Will's sceptical look.
Nelson and Will remained seated, both silently contemplating the events of the last few days. Nelson looked across at his old friend and hesitated, then said. “Will, have you thought anymore about our conversation?”
Jamieson smiled faintly and turned to face Harry. “I wondered how long it would take you to ask.”
Nelson continued to hold his gaze. “Well, what have you decided? Am I looking for a new CMO?” His voice echoed a faint trepidation.
Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly Will started to smile broadly. “Who else do you think you could get that would put up with everything the officers and crew puts me through on this boat? No, Harry, I think I'd better stay, if only to keep you all alive long enough to enjoy your old age!”
Harriman Nelson stood as Will did the same. Putting a firm hand on the doctor's shoulder he laughed contentedly. “This calls for a drink and I know where to find a particularly fine malt.”
“Lead me to it, Harry. Sounds like just what we both need...”