The deck was cold under my backside, the bulkhead hard against my back. Cradled in my arms, the skipper lay still. Only the steady thrum of life under my fingers as I checked for a pulse once more gave me reassurance that Captain Crane was still alive.
FS1 was dead on the bottom, slammed there by some random rogue current. The impact had knocked out the radio and the air. We had been working on the repairs with me under the console trying to fix the radio while the skipper was on his feet working on the air system. Neither of us had been ready when another of those weird currents lifted FS1 off the bottom and almost flipped her. When I was able to get my feet under me, the skipper was curled up against the bulkhead. He was so still I thought he was dead.
On my knees, I crawled over to him and ran my fingers through his thick black hair, finding the growing bump at the back of his skull. Yep, the skipper got popped a good one. I took off my jacket and folded it under his head, careful of the knot and turned my attention to the air system. It was completely fried. I doubted if even Patterson could fix this thing and there wasn't anything with wires Pat couldn't splice and fix.
I eased back to the skipper and pulled his head into my lap. I didn't want him rolling around if FS1 decided to do another dip and roll. There was nothing else I could do. Seaview was expecting us to rendezvous with her within the hour. I just prayed we had enough air to last us until she got to us. We had scuba tanks and if I had to I could hook the skipper up with a regulator and a tank.
Thinking back, I couldn't help remembering all the past times the skipper put his life on the line for one of us. Like that time a giant whale swallowed the diving bell. He personally led us down the throat of that thing to rescue the admiral. That took guts. How many people do you know who would swim between the jaws of a whale? And there was that time we got swallowed by a mutant Man-o-War. The skipper kept his cool and got us all out in one piece. I owed him something for that if nothing else.
Hard to believe this was the same guy who tried sneaking onboard Seaview back in the day and punched me in the jaw. Oh man, was Mr. Morton ticked. He promised to give Commander Crane a good chewing when he got the chance. My first thought was 'nice knowing you, Mr. Morton.’ For the life of me I couldn't understand how Mister Morton was gonna get by with chewing out a ranking officer. How was I to know the two were old buddies from back in the day?
Was I surprised when he got us through that first mission in one piece. I thought we were goners for sure. He even managed to impress that Wilson guy, and he struck me as someone who didn't make friends easily.
I tell you who the skipper really impressed: The admiral. They turned out to be a good match, even if it sometimes it turned into a yelling match. Those two could butt heads like two stubborn bulls. The skipper never seams to stop worrying about the boat. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty, either. I can't count the times I've seen him crawl under some console or panel and come out looking dirtier than a whole Damage Control Team.
I had to admire him. I didn't want to at first. Captain Phillips was my skipper and no upstart kid was gonna waltz in and take over just like that. But Captain Crane was different. He wasn't like any skipper I had before I went reserves. I seriously doubted I would see another like him. He took risks like no other skipper I'd ever seen before.
The skipper tossed a little in my hands. I wished the radio worked. Like the air unit, it was fried beyond my ability to repair it.
"Easy, skipper. Seaview's on her way. Just take it easy, sir," I said to him, hoping the sound of my voice would calm him down. I was no Mr. Morton, but maybe the skipper would listen to me and settle down.
The skipper opened one eye, pinning me with a pain filled, golden eye. Even fighting what I knew was a killer headache his gaze still carried an intensity that made you want to make him proud.
"Another rogue current?" he whispered. I nodded and he closed his eye. He was still conscious, but tense. I could feel the muscles in his back and shoulders tense up as he obviously considered our predicament.
"Yes sir. Nearly flipped FS1. Knocked you across the deck. That was about fifteen minutes ago."
"Are you hurt?" he asked me quietly.
"Just a little bruised. How about you, sir? Anything broken?"
"No, just feels like I went through a window with my head. What about the radio? The air?"
"Both out, sir. Fried to a crisp. Seaview can track our last communication and get a fix on our location. We can't be that far off course. You know exec. He'll break out the oars and paddle if he thought he could get to us any faster."
I felt the skipper chuckle at the mental image of the XO ordering a hundred and twenty-five men with oars, pushing Seaview through the waves, with the admiral on the bridge with a bullhorn, no doubt. Slowly the skipper settled down and I felt him take a deep breath and slowly let it out.
"I guess we wait then," he breathed.
"Yes sir. Shouldn't be long now. Just relax and let me take care of things."
Commander Crane kept his eyes closed and gave his head the barest of nods. "Very well, Kowalski. Carry on," he said to me.
"Yes Sir, just doin' my job sir."