Please be advised that there is some very slight erotica as well as a brief segment of intense violence that some might find disturbing.

 

Sequel to Knight Errant, there are references to the story. All you really need to know is that Lee is a fully functioning knight, but not Knighted in the royal sense. A warning was given that when he acquired a cat there was a test coming. He was injured during the course of the story. In medieval armed combat he had to kill his opponent to survive. A cat lent a helping claw. This story picks up with no time lag between. Thanks extended to Pauline for her encouragement and for sharing one of her locked stories with me and thus inspiring me to take a different view of Nelsons sister. A way more fun one. Thanks also to Kate for her kind words and assuring me that in the Voyage Universe, anything goes!

As usual all errors etc are mine.

 

 

Knight Light - Dizzy Dolphin

 

 

 

 

Waking aboard his beloved Seaview was one of Lees favourite things. The upgrade to some of the boats systems was now complete and they would be departing today for Australia. He could have waited until this morning to come on board but preferred to start a departure day on deck. Especially since it seemed that when he didnt things like a little clown and wax-men chased him around the boat. Not to mention that after his recent experience and convalescence he needed the comfort of home.

 

He began to stretch in his bunk but then suddenly froze; there was an odd weight on his stomach. He looked down to find a silver tabby cat looking back at him, large green eyes flecked with gold. OK, he thought, guess I wasnt dreaming, the cat is in my cabin. The cat in question stood up on Lees stomach, arched its back in a feline stretch and, in the process, unsheathed impressive claws. It jumped down to the deck, paced several steps away, turned and curling its tail around its body sat looking expectantly at Lee.

 

Lee swung his legs over the edge of his bunk and thought things over. He supposed he was in violation of some law about transferring animals from one country to another. Although technically he didnt do a thing, the cat just showed up. Hmm, if the cat stays on Seaview then Im going to need supplies and pretty quickly, things like cat litter. He wasnt thrilled about that aspect of cat care. There would have to be litter boxes in other places besides his cabin, the cat should be free to roam around the boat.

 

While contemplating cat care issues and trying to decide whom he could assign to litter duty, Lee got ready for the day. As he left the head, the cat strode in and gave a loud yowl. Lee looked down at the cat, umm, sorry I dont speak cat. The cat yowled again and put one paw up on the toilet lid. Lee shrugged. The cat pawed the lid again. Curious, Lee lifted the lid, the cat jumped up and bracing itself on the rim took care of the call of nature, and then jumped down. Lee almost tripped over the lip of the shower stall, having taken a step back in his surprise.

 

No way! He exclaimed with considerable volume.

 

The cat proceeded to jump back up on the bunk, wash its face, and generally tidy up.

 

There was a quick knock on Lees door, it opened, and Chip stuck his head in, Did you just shout No Way, whats up?

 

Lee was trying to think of a reply when Chip spotted the tabby. Ah Lee, you seem to have a cat on your bunk.

 

Great powers of observation Sherlock.

A little testy this morning, arent we. Amazing how these critters keep getting onboard, you want me to take him topside for you? Chip opened the door the rest of the way in order to enter and get the cat.

 

Hands off my cat Mr. Morton, Lee warned, walking over to his bunk.

 

Your cat! The Admirals never going to let you keep him Lee, or is it a her?

 

Hes a he and the Admiral will so let me keep him.

 

Wanna bet?

 

Out, Lee barked. In reply to Lees order, Chip stuck his tongue out, so Lee let fly with a pillow. Chip easily ducked it, but Admiral Nelson did not. The Admiral had been on his way to breakfast when he had heard raised voices from the direction of Lees cabin. He had headed towards the noise to see what was going on and arrived just in time to be the recipient of Lees airborne pillow as it flew past Chip and out the door.

 

The Admiral examined the item that had collided with him, and then held it out to Chip. Mr. Morton I believe Captain Crane may be missing a pillow. He tried to maintain a stern expression. Truthfully, he quite enjoyed catching the Captain and his XO in their little boys mode.

 

Gentlemen I expect you both to join me for breakfast in the wardroom. He then continued down the corridor, chuckling to himself. He had caught a glimpse of Lee beyond the door, Yes indeed, not often you see a half dressed Captain Crane lobbing a pillow at his XO. He laughed aloud, causing heads to turn as he passed a couple of crewmembers, who wondered what they had missed.

.....

 

Not a word Chip.

 

Do knights have pets?

 

Thats four words.

 

Apparently they throw pillows.

 

Chip knew when to beat a hasty retreat, as Lee stalked towards him he tossed the pillow at Lee and scooted out the door calling back, see you at breakfast. He then hightailed it down the corridor after the Admiral.

 

Not many minutes later Lee entered the wardroom, picked up a plate and put more than his usual amount of food on it. He joined the Admiral and Chip at their customary table.

 

The Admiral surveyed Lees plate, Thats encouraging Lee, work up bit of an appetite this morning?

 

Yes Sir, had a good nights sleep too.

 

The Admiral could not resist, Have enough pillows?

 

Ah, yes Sir...sorry about that.

 

Hmmmm, was all the response Lee got.

 

Find anything interesting in your cabin this morning Lee? Chip asked, and in consequence received a sharp kick under the table from Lee.

 

Ouch!

 

Nelson wondered what Chip had been up to. While a little high spirits were all to the good, Lee still wasnt fully recovered from his injuries and the Admiral didnt want Chip harassing him too much.

 

Ill need to have a quiet word with Mr. Morton.

 

Admiral, Lee began, do you remember my telling you about how I managed to..., he stalled out, he didnt like thinking about it, much less putting it in words. Hed had to choice but to kill his opponent, but it still left a bad feeling in his gut. He abhorred the loss of a life, even to save his own.

 

The Admiral knew what Lee was referring to, and wondered why he was bringing it up.

 

Yes Lee, I remember your account of the fight.

 

I was wondering why the cat did what it did, Sir.

 

I have no idea Lee, Im just very grateful that the cat, for whatever reason, distracted the man before he managed to kill you.

 

Yes Sir, laying there I was certain he was about to drive his sword through my gut and pin me to the ground, Lee shuddered. I owe that cat a lot.

 

I guess we all do lad, replied the Admiral. He was finding the conversation rather odd, Lee never brought up his experiences like this. It required a great deal of heavy duty manoeuvring to get Lee to talk about any injuries he sustained, to get him to open up about his feelings was near impossible. The Admiral was pleased that upon occasion he could get Lee to open up to him, it was an encouraging sign of the trust and respect that was continuing to grow between them.

 

Wish I could be sure that the cat has a good home, Lee continued.

 

I do too.

 

You do Admiral?

 

Well of course I do Lee. As I said, I personally feel very grateful to that cat.

 

Thank you Admiral, it means a lot to me, Lee smiled.

 

The Admiral still puzzled about the whole discussion replied, Youre very welcome Lee. There are still a few things we need to discuss about our cruise, meet me in my cabin in about an hour.

 

Aye Sir.

 

Nelson left the wardroom while Chip and Lee remained to finish their breakfast.

 

You know Lee the Admiral didnt say you could keep the cat.

 

As good as Chip, you heard him. He feels very grateful to Argent and wants him to have a good home. What better home than here with us?

 

You know that he cant be the cat from Scotland. Argent, what kind of name is that?

 

Hes the same cat, I know he is. Argent in heraldry was tincture of silver. It was one of the colours used to emblazon coat of arms, and he is a silver tabby.

 

Is this another one of your knight things? Chip groaned. Hed decided not to argue the cats origins with Lee, no way the Admiral would let Lee keep the cat no matter where it was from.

 

Not exclusively, there are lots of interesting things to learn about medieval times,

 

Fine, but I still say the Admiral hasnt said you can keep the cat.

 

They each grabbed another mug of coffee and headed to their respective destinations. Chip to the Control Room, Lee to the Admirals cabin, via the stores clerk.

 

.....

 

Good morning Captain, Patterson greeted, having pulled stores duty this shift.

 

Patterson, Id like a special order brought on board before we leave.

 

Yes Sir, what would that be?

 

Enough cat food to last for the entire cruise.

 

Cat food, Sir? Patterson was sure hed misheard the Skipper.

 

Yes Patterson, cat food, tinned and dry...and Patterson,

 

Sir?

 

Lets just keep this between ourselves for now.

 

Itll have to be listed on the manifest Sir.

 

I know, but no need to draw anyones attention to it, Crane told him.

 

Yes Sir, I mean No Sir. Actually, Patterson wasnt exactly sure what he meant, but if the Skipper wanted cat food, far be it from him to argue the point, very far be it. Hed enter it under miscellaneous items, and hope no one asked him about it.

 

Lee made a quick stop at his cabin. He had squirreled away his leftovers from breakfast and now presented Argent with scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns. He wasnt sure what the cat would think of it as a meal but needed have worried, Argent was quite happy with his repast. As Lee would soon find out, he need not have bothered ordering the cat food.

 

.....


Lee and the Admiral spent the next couple of hours going over details for the cruise to Australia. As well as ensuring that the updates to Seaviews systems were all working correctly they would be studying the deep sea Chimaera* fish, also called the Longnosed Chimaera found in the waters around Australia and taking a general look at the health of the northern section of the Great Barrier reef.

 

After the meeting, Lee headed to the Control Room.

 

Status report, Mr. Morton.

 

All crew accounted for, systems green across the board. We can shove off any time you like Skipper.

 

Very well Mr. Morton, proceed.

 

Aye aye Sir, picking up the mic Chip issued the required commands, Now hear this, make all preparations for getting underway. Station the manoeuvring watch.

 

Manoeuvring watch set Sir. All the other stations also reported in to Mr. Morton as ready.

 

Captain, all stations ready to get underway.

 

Take us out Mr. Morton.

 

Manoeuvring, port engines ahead 1/3. Navigation, heading 271 degrees.

 

When clear of the breakwater Lee ordered a dive to 100 feet, then when in deep water gave the warning of the angles and dangles** manoeuvre, a personal favourite of his. Chip rolled his eyes and hung on, Lee occasionally got carried away and added some twists to it, thankfully not this time.

 

After the completion of the manoeuvre, the two of them hunkered down over the chart table.

 

So were counting fish off Australia, sounds about as exciting as counting seals, joked Chip.

 

Personally, I found the seal count cruise very exciting, countered Lee.

 

You would, you got to go play with a mermaid, Im still ticked you never introduced me.

 

Next time Chip, I promise.

 

Uh huh, how many mermaids do you figure youre going to meet?

 

You never know Chip, you just never know, Lee grinned. Changing the subject to the cruise at hand Lee continued, Well be doing a lot of deep dives so using Trimix, well also be using the FS1. We should reach the area in... 12 days. Chip I want you to make up the diving rosters, Ill be piloting the FS1 since I cant convince Doc to let me go on any of the deep dives.

 

You didnt really try to get cleared for deep dives did you, thats below 200 feet?! Chip was incredulous that Lee would even consider it; he could tell that Lee still had periodic discomfort from his injury.

 

Im well aware of what the deep dive depth is Mr. Morton. I am a Navy Master Diver ***. As I said, Doc would not clear me. Take that any way you like.

 

Chip backed off, he could tell that Lee was starting to get his back up and he didnt want to start a fight so changed the subject.

 

Has the Admiral met Argent yet?

 

No, but Im sure their paths will cross eventually.

 

.....

 

As it happened, at that very moment, Admiral Nelson was passing by the Captains cabin. He heard a noise from inside and paused, Strange, Lee shouldnt be in his cabin, wonder if he isnt feeling well. Nelson knocked and opened the door to check, the light on Lees desk was on, and sitting next to it was a cat, looking for all the world, like it was reading a report that was lying open on the desk. There was a book on the deck; the Admiral assumed that the noise he had heard must have been the cat knocking the book off the desk.

 

Come in Admiral

 

The back of Nelsons neck prickled and he had a panicked filled moment as his thoughts flashed back to Kruger, deceased relatives and other disembodied voices that had boded ill. Oh Good Lord, please not again, he begged silently.

 

Whos here? he asked the apparently empty room.

 

I am, the cat rose, walked to the desk edge nearest Nelson, and sat. The cats vaguely familiar green and gold eyes locked on the Admirals eyes. Your Captain has named me Argent, you may call me that. I said come in, and please close the door, we need to talk.

 

.....

 

Things were running smoothly in the Control Room, Chip was checking some of the instrument readings. Lee was forward having a cup of coffee and admiring the view through the windows. The light flickered and danced through the water, he could watch it for hours, if time ever allowed. He heard the familiar step of the Admiral coming down the spiral ladder.

 

Admiral, care for a cup of coffee? he asked while turning to face Nelson. Sir, are you feeling ok? the Admiral looked rather pale.

 

Yes to the coffee and I feel fine.

 

Lee wasnt sure he believed the last part.

 

You seem to have a cat in your cabin Captain.

 

Chip had come forward and had heard the Admirals last statement. Oh this should be good, lets see you wiggle out of this Lee. He carefully schooled his face to maintain his infamous XO mask.

 

Ok, here goes nothing, Lee put on his most innocent expression, Yes Sir, we talked about that at breakfast.

 

Yes, I do recall this mornings conversation, although apparently I didnt understand exactly what it was about.

 

I told him you wouldnt want a cat onboard, Sir, Chip chimed in and received an extremely dirty look from Lee; Ill get you for that Chip.

 

The cat stays Mr. Morton, and you stay away from it, Nelson firmly told Chip.

 

Sir? Chip had no idea why he was suddenly the one in trouble.

 

You heard me Mr. Morton...Lee Id like a word with you, in my cabin.

 

Yes Sir, Lee threw Chip a smug look as he followed the Admiral up the ladder, You have the Conn, Mr. Morton.

 

.....

 

Excuse me Admiral, youre telling me that my cat talked to you?

 

In a manner of speaking, it was more like telepathy.

 

I see Sir, hes umm, never talked to me. Youve been working very hard Admiral, perhaps a little rest....

 

Dont humour me Captain Crane, weve been through enough, and seen enough, to know that the strange and unusual happens, and it happens rather a lot to us, snapped the Admiral.

 

Yes Sir, so what did Argent say? and in duplication of Nelson earlier, Crane thought, Oh Good Lord, please not again.

 

He told me that he was assigned to you as your Guardian, and that neither I nor anyone else was to interfere with him.

 

Guardian, why would I need a Guardian?

 

Lee, off-hand I can think of a dozen reasons. Ive often wanted to have you watched 24/7, but this isnt what I had in mind. Lee bristled at that statement. Nelson continued, Argent reminded me of something a woman once said to me, that I was to watch for the time when a feline joined you, that there would be a test coming.

 

A test, what kind of test? Of me, of you? What woman? Lee was now pacing in front of the Admirals desk.

 

Argent didnt elaborate on what was involved in the test. Given that Argent is your Guardian, Id say youre the one whos going to be tested. The Admiral didnt bother explaining about the woman.

 

I dont think I like this much Admiral.

 

Didnt think you would lad, doesnt warm the cockles of my heart either. According to Argent, we are to carry on as planned. Who knows, maybe hell tell you more than hes told me.

 

Should we fill Chip in?

 

No, Im not so sure that Chip wouldnt have Jamie sedate us and wrap us both in straightjackets if we told him the cat talks to us.

 

Well, to be accurate Admiral, thats only happened with you.

 

Captain.

Yes, Sir.

Dont push it.

No Sir.

 

Lee left the Admirals cabin and headed to his own, almost hoping that it was just that the Admiral needed some R&R. He hesitated when he got to his door but then opened it and went in.

 

Argent was stalking back and forth. Its about time you got here, Lee heard clearly in his head.

 

Lees mouth dropped open slightly, OK, so either both the Admiral and I need to be committed, or the cat is talking to us, he mumbled.

 

Shut the door Lee, were you raised in a barn?

 

That was just too much for Lee, No I was not and Im not accustomed to being spoken to by a cat.

 

Good for you, replied Argent, I was dreading the oh so mundane you can talk observation.

 

Lee didnt know why but he felt oddly pleased that the cat seemed to approve of him, sort of.

 

By the way, advised Argent, you dont need to literally speak to me, I can pick up your thoughts, makes things much easier especially when other people are around. Wouldnt want you looking crazy.

 

Lee started to speak, then stopped and thought his words, you told the Admiral that you were my Guardian, where are you from and why are you guarding me?

 

Argent was indeed impressed, this man adapted quickly, accepted the out of the ordinary relatively easily, although Argent could sense an underlying current of unease.

 

Where am I from? Here, there and nowhere, a place out of time but encompassing all time. In other words, you wouldnt understand. Why am I guarding you? Because you need it, according to the Admiral pretty much all the time.

 

Lees thoughts started to object.

 

No he didnt say so, just something I picked up in a general reading of him. To continue, some time ago one of our contacts advised the Admiral that you were to be tested. You are an unusual man Lee Crane, born of humans but not entirely human...

 

I dont understand, Lees thought broke in.

 

Didnt think you would, if youll let me finish, grumbled Argent, you probably will still not understand but you might have a bit of a clue.

 

Go ahead Argent Im listening.

 

Should hope so.

 

Lee grinned, he couldnt help starting to like the cat.

 

In every tale or legend, Lee, there is a kernel of truth.

 

Lee recalled that the Admiral had said very much the same thing to him just before the Rock Men incident. Nelson had been reading some of the lore about the area they had been cruising through.

 

Argent picked up Lees thoughts, Good for the Admiral, now if youll stop interrupting. Humans have many stories of fairies, djinn and other magical beings. They arent magic; they are real. Entities have visited this planet all through its history, and as you know from experience, continue to do so. Some of these entities fell in love with a human and assumed human form. Children were born from many of these unions, and these children inherited a part of the entities essence. Once introduced into a human line it continues from generation to generation.

 

Are you telling me that this happened in my ancestral past? Lee asked, silently.

 

Yes it did. A great many human lines carry the essence. It has lead to, among other things, clairvoyants and magicians, not everything they do are mere illusions; the essence manifests in many varied ways, or sometimes not at all.

 

Lees mind was in hyper drive, Im not human!

 

Argent sighed, Of course you are. You are just as human as the vast majority of the people on this planet.

 

Hold on, what do you mean the vast majority? There are non-human people here.

 

Argent kept his next thought to himself, oopsie didnt mean to open that can of worms.

 

Sending his thoughts to Lee again. Never mind that, keep on topic. In your case you are very sensitive to alternate realities, spectral beings, etc; in other words, the strange and unusual. You must have noticed and wondered about it.

 

It has crossed my mind a time or two. It only seems to have happened since I joined Seaview. My life was relatively normal until then.

 

Argent again shielded his thoughts from Lee, Nothing normal about your relatives Lee. Wonder what you would think if you knew you were a descendent of a very old, powerful and noble House. They have watched your line very closely. Most unusual that pairing was, for her to have come down here, fallen in love, bearing the man a child and then leaving. Yes, your male ancestor must have been quite remarkable.

 

Resuming his conversation with Lee, Argent continued, Time, and circumstance Lee, the potential was always there. Youve always been driven to be the best at whatever you do, to do the right thing regardless of personal cost. It should have come as no surprise to you that you were attracted to the stories and life of knights, champions of the people. To quote part of the code:

        To protect the weak and defenceless

        To fight for the welfare of all

        To guard the honour of fellow knights

        To keep faith

        To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun

        Never to refuse a challenge from an equal

 

Lee recognized the points as part of the Knights Code of Chivalry in the Song of Roland.

 

He was starting to feel uncomfortable, he never thought of himself as anything special, he just did what needed to be done, up to an including giving his life if need be.

 

Exactly, Argent replied, That is the nature of a Knight, a Champion. Serve and Protect no matter the personal cost. In certain cases, it is necessary to conduct a test of the person where the essence has manifested.

 

I take it Im one of those cases. What kind of test?

 

Of Mind, Body and Spirit, we must know if you are able to withstand a lifetime of dealing with the responsibilities you take upon yourself and of dealing with the paranormal; will you stand firm in the Light or turn to Darkness.

 

How will I be tested? When?

 

The test could begin at any time and take any form.

 

What Argent didnt tell Lee was that if Lee failed, Argent was there to terminate him, and if he passed, he was there to ensure that Lee and anyone else who became involved remembered nothing at all about it.

 

Lee ran his hand through his hair, rubbed at his temple; it was a lot to take in, if he believed it. Feel kind of like Im in a Star Wars spin-off or something, Jedi Knight Crane, O lordy wouldnt Chip have a field day with that one.

 

Not that dissimilar I suppose, if it helps you to cope, go with it, Argent thought back to him. Theres a reason you people come up with these ideas for movies, books and TV shows. Oh by the way, nix on the cat food, whatever youre having will be fine with me.

 

Lee heard Chip page him on the intercom, Captain Crane to the Control Room. Lee punched a button, Be right there Chip. After the conversation hed just had with a telepathic cat, the normal page felt out of place, he felt out of place. His world was definitely tilting right now. He looked over at Argent, not really sure what to say, maybe after he talked to the Admiral, perhaps between the two of them they could make some sort of sense out of it all.

 

Argent sat there watching Lee, it had gone better than hed expected; most humans had passed out long before he finished explaining things. As Lee left for the Control Room Argent followed him out; might as well take a look around the boat, hed likely be here for awhile.

 

.....

 

Chip had several status reports he needed Lee to review and sign off. While Lee dearly wanted to go talk to the Admiral, he had to put in some time in the Control Room during his watch.

 

Chip noticed that Lee seemed very distracted, Something up Lee?

 

No Chip, just, ummm, thinking about those fish.

 

Yeah, sure you are, in a pigs eye, thought Chip.

 

Just then, Argent jumped up on the chart table.

 

Uh Lee, we seem to have a visitor.

 

Argent sat in the middle of the table and looked Chip over, cocking his head first one way and then the other.

 

Chip started to move towards the cat to lift him off the table.

 

Remember what the Admiral said Chip, hands off the cat.

 

Actually you said that Lee, the Admiral just said I was to stay away from the cat.

 

Picking him up is not staying away.

 

He cant sit on the chart table.

 

He seems to be doing just that to me.

 

Argent glanced over at Lee, Blondie here a little slow or something?

 

Lee cracked up.

 

Chip, of course, didnt hear Argents comment and couldnt understand what Lee found so amusing.

 

Argent jumped down and strolled up and down the Control Room, occasionally a crewmember gave him a stroke or a scratch behind the ears. If the Captain didnt have an issue with a cat onboard, then neither did any of them. Playing his cat role he responded with the typical back arch and purr, actually it all felt pretty good. He then, as cats do, strolled nonchalantly out.

 

Have you considered the, ah requirements for keeping a cat on board Lee? Chip just couldnt see how this was going to work.

 

Not a problem, he uses the head and is happy with eating whatever we are having.

 

Uses the head! Oh come on Lee, you cant expect me to believe that, and dont cats have different dietary requirements than we do?

 

Lee was about to answer when Chief Sharkey joined the conversation, Excuse me Mr. Morton, Sir, but Ive heard of that. My Aunt had a cat that used the facilities rather than a litter box. Ive heard tell of others too.

 

Chip nodded, OK, fine, that part works out, I guess.

 

Yep, just have to let the crew know that if he is scratching at a head door, to let him in, Lee advised.

 

And just how do you propose to go about letting everyone know that?

 

Lee smiled and picked up the mic, Now here this, this is the Captain.

 

Chip swallowed and started to choke.

 

Lee continued, with a grin at his respiratory distressed XO, We have a new crewman aboard, his name is Argent. He is a silver tabby cat, mine. Being the Captains cat I expect you to extend to him every courtesy.

 

Chip choked even more, Sharkey was getting concerned about Mr. Morton, he was turning an interesting shade of red.

 

If Argent requests entry to a head please open the door and raise the lid, hell take it from there, that is all, Lee put the mic back in the bracket and surveyed his XO.

 

Message given Mr. Morton. Would you like me to summon a corpsman for you, your face is rather red?

 

No Sir, Ill be fine, wheezed Chip.

 

In that case Ill be with the Admiral if you should need me; you have the Conn Mr. Morton.

 

Aye aye Sir, Chip managed in a more regular voice.

 

Lee ascended the forward ladder, headed for the Admirals cabin.

 

Mr. Morton, Sir, would you like a glass of water or something, Sharkey was still concerned.

 

No Chief, thank you, resume your post.

 

Aye, Sir

 

Chip had the definite feeling that he wasnt getting the entire picture regarding Lee, the Admiral and the cat. It wouldnt be the first time he had to piece things together for himself. He would be watching Lee very closely, when these things went galley-west Lee was typically in the middle of it, bleeding from some part of his anatomy.

 

Argent listened with amusement to Lees announcement. He surmised that there was more to Lees public broadcast than just letting the crew know about his presence. In the quick reading of Chip that hed done in the Control Room hed found that the two had an interesting relationship, while as devoted as brothers to each other there wasnt much either of them wouldnt do to harass the other. Hmmmm, guess siblings are the same no matter what universe youre from.

.....

 

Admiral Nelson sat at his desk and pondered what Lee had just told him. His Captain was sitting across from him, an expectant look on his face.

 

So, if I understand things correctly Lee, in the distant past, one of your ancestors.... he wasnt quite sure how to put this, Lee bailed him out.

 

Yes, Sir, at least according to Argent.

 

Well that would be one explanation as to why the strange and unusual always seem to target Lee. A further thought occurred to Nelson, Im not exactly immune myself, does that mean that in my ancestry............, he gave himself a mental shake, no if Id been told that Id sure as heck remember it.

 

Admiral, are you ok? Nelsons silence was worrying Lee.

 

Oh ah, yes...yes Lee, Im fine, sorry just thinking. I suppose all we can do for the moment is keep an eye on Argent and see what happens.

 

Yes Sir, makes me feel like a walking target though.

 

Then Id say that the situation around here is pretty much normal, Nelson quipped. He was trying to relax his Captain a bit; Lee was looking stressed. If Chip hadnt noticed already he would any minute; Lee didnt need the complication of trying to appease his XO.

 

I can see it now, Chip badgering him, come on Lee I know something is wrong, give Lee caving, fine, it just so happens that one of my ancestors got in on with an alien entity. They had a kid, now an alien has shown up here a few hundred years later, in the form of a cat, to test me to see how things turned out.

 

Nelson decided that he most definitely was going to have to come up with a list of things that required Mr. Mortons personal attention.

.....

 

Argent always hated this part, waiting around for the test to begin. He would occupy himself until then poking around the boat, there were bound to be some things of interest to see. He had high hopes for Lee, but hed seen very promising Champions fail, it always grieved him to have to deal with that. He had never participated in a testing in quite this situation before, where a previously tested Champion was a close friend of the one to be tested. While Crane had the inborn potential and had proven himself to be a truly exceptional man, Lee had been correct, the essence hadnt fully manifested until he began working with Admiral Nelson. The relationship between these two men was very personal and very deep, more so than they admitted even to themselves. Together they brought out the fullest potential of the essence in each other.

.....

 

Seaview arrived in the Australian waters and the crew started the final preparations for the Admirals project.

 

Lee how much do you know about this fish? Chip asked. He wasnt really into marine biology, nor was Lee but Lee was often a captive audience for the Admiral.

 

Lets see, Lee got his thoughtful what the heck did the Admiral tell me look on his face.

They are related to sharks and rays, have a skeleton made up of cartilage and their skin is smooth, no scales. They were given the name Chimaera because they look like they are made up of various other creatures. They have a disproportionately large head and large, well-developed eyes. They have an odd, rabbit-like mouth filled with plate-like grinding teeth. The tail is long and rat like, for propulsion they rely on flapping their large, wing-like pectoral fins. Most of them have a prominent, strong spine at the beginning of the first dorsal fin, which is venomous but not usually lethal. Lee paused, There endith Chimaera 101, courtesy of the Admiral. Actually there was a lot more but I sort of lost focus.

 

Chip had raised his eyebrows at the bit concerning the spine, The Admiral is going to let you play with something that has a venomous spine, doesnt sound like a good idea to me.

 

Contrary to your belief Mr. Morton, I do not always get injured on a cruise.

 

Right Sir, can you name me five cruises where you havent been in mortal danger, injured, captured, or possessed?

 

Lee decided to ignore that question the truth being that he couldnt do it.

 

We wont be bringing any of the fish onboard, so not a problem. Ive seen the short-nosed variety, found them when diving with some pals off Washington state. People there refer to them mostly as ratfish; you can find them in 20 to 60 feet of water. They can grow to up to 3 feet in length, have silvery-bronze flanks sprinkled with white spots, and amazing emerald eyes that reflect a diver's light like cats' eyes.

 

So why are we preparing for deep dives? Chip wanted to know, 20 to 60 feet is nothing,

 

Thats the shortnosed Chimaera, the Admiral wants to study the longnosed ones. Chip rolled his eyes. Lee continued, They are found at depths of around 600 feet on down, this time of year they come up a little shallower so hopefully the divers wont have to go down that far. Ski and I will be taking FS1 down beyond the 600 foot mark to film ones on the bottom and to take water and seafloor samples.

 

Chip guessed that Lee couldnt get in to much trouble inside FS1, although he had been proved wrong about that before. Well at least Ski will be there to keep an eye on him.

.....

 

Argent was getting impatient, there were only so many things to look at on the submarine, and hed seen them all at least twice. The crewmembers seemed to like having him around, lots of treats and scratches. He enjoyed talking with the Admiral and they had even played a game or two of chess...

 

The Admiral appeared to be concentrating on the chessboard but something else was on his mind. Argent looked thoughtfully at Nelson.

 

Admiral, I may not be reading your mind right now, just to keep the game fair, but even so, I can tell you arent thinking about the game.

 

Nelson snorted, it was still a bit disconcerting to him to have Argents thoughts arriving in his head. He learned back in his chair, taking his eyes off the board and looking into Argents eyes.

 

I was thinking about eyes Argent. Something has been niggling at the back of my mind.

 

Of course Argent knew what it was, hed picked up on it before Nelson had worked it out and had wondered when the man would get around to asking. He remained quiet, letting Nelson think it out in his own good time.

 

The eyes of the woman who told me about you were very similar to Lees, that unusual mix of colours, green, brown with flecks of gold. Lees eyes can and do change colour and intensity. While he isnt forthcoming with how he feels about things, I can often tell by looking at his eyes. Your eyes are similar in colour too.

 

Nelson stopped there, the question implied but not asked.

 

Very observant of you Admiral. I take it your question is, can you tell those who have an ancestor that wasnt from earth by examining eye colour? The answer is No, you cant. There are progeny with blue eyes, brown eyes, grey eyes, etc. In some instances, though, you can use eye colour to identify the ancestral line once you know the relationship is there. In Lees case, his other world ancestors always pass on what you call hazel eyes that alter colour and intensity according to their emotions. Another one of the lines always produces strikingly intense blue eyes in males and green in females.

 

Argent wondered how long before Nelson put that together or if the memory wipe done years ago would prevent the man from making the link.

 

Nelson didnt get a chance to think about it as just then there was a knock on his door.

 

Come

 

Chip entered the Admirals cabin and saw Argent and the Admiral both intently staring at the chessboard set up on the desk. Nelson moved his bishop; Argent stretched out his paw and moved his Queen.

 

The cat plays chess!!!! No way! Chip blurted. How did you teach him to move the Queen? belatedly adding the Sir.

 

I didnt.

 

Perplexed and still looking at the cat Chip told the Admiral that Lee had sent him to pick up the additional instructions the Admiral had for the dives tomorrow.

 

The Admiral handed several sheets of paper to Chip. On his way, out as he closed the door, he was thinking, I have to find Lee; hes never going to believe this.

.....

 

Chip found his Captain checking out the FS1, making sure everything was ready for the next day. Lee had the utmost confidence in his crew, but he still liked to be hands on, especially with the FS1. He loved piloting her and spent as much time as he could tweaking systems and generally providing TLC. Lee heard someone clatter down the ladder.

 

Lee youre never going to believe what I just saw!

 

Well if Im not going to believe it Chip, dont bother telling me, Lee teased his friend. Here hold this, and he handed Chip a small electrical panel. I decided to replace it, just to be on the safe side. It still has some time before it is scheduled to be changed, but down that deep I dont want to have to be messing around with it if it blows out.

 

Uh huh, so are you going to listen to me or not?

 

Fire away, I always listen to you, Lee replied, and muttered mostly to himself, usually whether I want to or not.

 

I heard that Captain.

 

I commend your hearing Mr. Morton.

 

The two friends laughed, they enjoyed bantering back and forth.

 

When I went down to the Admirals cabin, he and your cat were playing chess. Well obviously they werent really playing, but the Admirals trained Argent to move pieces around.

 

Nope.

 

What do you mean, nope? I saw it myself.

 

Oh I dont doubt that you saw them playing chess.

 

Just a minute, I get it; you and the Admiral set me up, didnt you? Chip accused Lee.

 

Lee just laughed, and quickly finished installing the new panel. Come on Chip, Ill buy you a coffee. They exited up the ladder into the nose; Lee poured Chip a mug of coffee from the urn kept there. Chip gave the old panel hed been holding to a crewman to be dropped in the recycling container.

 

This isnt over Lee, I will get you back for setting me up. It wasnt uncommon for Lee to somehow get the Admiral involved in his schemes but Chip wouldnt dare include the Admiral in any retaliation. Lee, however, was fair game.

 

Lee scanned the Control Room; everything looked and sounded fine. Ok Chip, lets see what the Admiral has noted down for tomorrow. The two spent the next couple of hours reviewing the dive roster and revising the plans to include the extra items Nelson had added. Lee would be going out in the FS1 in the morning so he didnt have another duty shift after this one. When he and Chip were satisfied with the revisions he headed to the wardroom for a quick meal, then did his customary walk-a-bout and headed for his cabin.

 

It was around 0200 when he finally put the lights out. He was one of those people that seem to be able to function on a minimal amount of sleep. The Admiral, Chip and Jamie frequently encouraged him to get more rest but hed taken to quoting them a lyric from one of his favourite Bon Jovi songs:

 

Until Im six feet under

I dont need a bed

Gonna live while Im alive

Ill sleep when Im dead

Till they roll me over

And lay my bones to rest

Gonna live while Im alive

Ill sleep when Im dead

 

It usually earned him a smack on the head from Chip, a very loud snort from Nelson and an exasperated Captain from Jamie.

 

.....

 

Ski shifted slightly in FS1s co-pilot seat, he had the controls; Lee was using the trip to give Ski more experience piloting the craft. They had lots of room so if Ski zigged or zagged a bit it wasnt a big deal. They were leaving the reef area and heading for deeper water.

 

Ok Ski, ease up a bit with your left hand, thats right, try to feel her, you should be able to tell her position with your eyes closed.

 

Easy for you to say, Skipper, Ski thought, but just nodded, intent on gaining his Captains approval.

 

Ok Ski, were going to head for the bottom, just take it nice and slow.

 

Aye aye Sir.

 

This part would be trickier as they would follow a rock wall down, but Lee had faith in Skis growing abilities, and Lee was a firm believer in learning by doing, for most things. If there was a problem, he was right there to help. He sat back in his seat and tried to appear relaxed and to be doing nothing more than taking in the view as Ski piloted the FS1 to the ocean floor. Chip and the Admiral will never let me live it down if we bring her back scratched; he kept the thought to himself.

 

Things went smoothly and they reached the bottom unscathed, obtained the required samples using the special collection arm and even shot some footage of a couple of Chimaera. Not wanting to overtire Ski, Lee took the controls for the return trip.

Hey Ski, you ever wonder about doing a spiral in FS1?

 

Cant say that I ever have, Skipper. Kowalski was afraid he was about to find out about it though.

 

Lee grinned rather wickedly. Instead of doing the customary approach pattern for a docking, Lee sailed past Seaviews observation nose.

 

Ah, Mr. Morton Sir?

 

Yes Patterson, what is it? Something wrong with sonar?

 

No Sir, the FS1 isnt coming in for docking, she went right past us and seems to be picking up speed.

 

Chip picked up the mic, Seaview to FS1, Seaview calling FS1, come in FS1.

 

FS1 to Seaview, Lee answered the hail.

 

Lee do you have a problem out there?

 

Just giving her some exercise.

 

Before Chip could ask Lee what he meant Patterson spoke again, Sir, shes coming about, looks like the Captain is going to make another pass across the nose.

 

Chip looked out the large observation windows just as FS1 came into view, doing a tight corkscrew, all the way across until she was out of sight.

 

I hope Lee and Kowalski have their harnesses done up real tight, he said to no one in particular.

 

I hope the Captain has a very good reason for doing that, Nelson said from behind Chip. Having been absorbed in the display outside Chip hadnt heard the Admiral enter the Control Room. Nelson held out his hand for the mic.

 

Nelson to FS1, come in Captain Crane.

 

Ooops, Lee said, as he grinned over at Ski.

 

Crane here Admiral.

 

If youve finished playing around out there Captain, Id like a word with you in my cabin just as soon as youre back aboard. Which I expect will be shortly.

 

Yes Sir, Crane out.

 

Shes approaching for docking, Sir, Patterson announced.

 

Right side up I hope, Nelson mumbled as he left for his cabin.

 

Chip didnt tell the Admiral that this wasnt the first time Lee had pulled that manoeuvre, hed done it at least once before, when Chip was with him. It had done interesting things to his stomach; he wondered how Kowalski was doing.

.....

 

You ok Ski, you look a little green? Lee asked.

 

Im fine Sir, Ski lied, hoping that hed make it to the head in time.

 

Lee knew the look; hed seen it on Chips face not so very long ago. He reached around to a small storage bin opened it and pulled out a barf bag. Sometimes they took visiting dignitaries out and about on FS1, and not all of them were happy fliers. He handed the bag to Kowalski, you didnt hear it from me Ski, but Mr. Morton didnt do so well the first time either, you get used to it.

 

If you say so Sir, and Kowalski promptly revisited his lunch while Lee docked the FS1.

 

.....

 

Lee wasnt sure how much of the line, just giving Kowalski some experience in unusual movements the Admiral bought, but Nelson had let the subject drop after a rather large HRUMP.

 

Do you think you got some good samples? Nelson asked Lee.

 

Yes Sir, we also have some interesting footage of the fish exhibiting territorial behaviour.

 

Lee figured that, more than anything else distracted the Admiral from his FS1 manoeuvres.

 

.....

 

Argent really wanted to get things over with; he wasnt thrilled with the new twist. Given the growing bond between the Admiral and the Captain it had been decided that the test needed to be adjusted. It would now include them both, even though Nelson had passed his own test years ago.

.....

 

Well Jamie? Lee asked the CMO.

 

Youre doing very well Skipper, healing nicely, and before you ask, NO. You are still not cleared for the deep dives. Its only with reservation that I might consider letting you dive the shallow ones.

 

Lee was about to argue the point but he looked at Jamies raised eyebrows and stern expression and decided there would be nothing to gain by riling the man.

 

So youll advise the Admiral that Im okd for shallow diving, Lee said, sort of half question half statement.

 

Jamie sighed, I said I might consider clearing you for shallow dives. If I do, I want your solemn word that you wont dive below 100 feet; you will stop any dive where you start to experience pain or feel unwell in any way, and that you will report to me immediately upon coming back aboard after each and every dive.

 

Geesh Doc thats a lot of rules!

 

You dont want to follow them, thats fine, I wont clear you for diving at any depth.

 

Ok ok, I didnt say I wouldnt agree to them, just that there are a lot of them.

 

Your word Skipper.

 

I, Lee Brayden Alexander Crane, do solemnly swear to abide by all that stuff you said. Lee grinned at Jamie.

 

Not good enough Captain, give me what I need to hear.

 

Lee sighed, I will not dive below 100 feet, and I will stop any dive and surface if in pain or feeling unwell. I will report to you in Sick Bay after each and every dive.

 

When will you report to me?

 

Immediately upon coming back aboard.

 

Very good Captain. The Admiral will have my report shortly, with my stipulations and your agreement to them. Now get out of here, Ive got things to do. Jamie had learned that he needed to be very specific with Lee; the man could squirm his way out of almost any agreement when it came to his health.

 

Lee gave Doc one of his better smiles, and hurried out of Sick Bay, he knew that there was a dive scheduled soon and he wanted to be on it. He had dived the Great Barrier Reef on several occasions but not this far north; he was looking forward to seeing the northern section. They wouldnt be looking for Chimaera, the water wasnt deep enough, instead theyd be taking a general health reading of the reef and its inhabitants.

 

Seaview was on the surface, two dive zodiacs were already in the water and almost ready to go. The Admiral came topside to watch, as Lee and the other divers, Kowalski among them, finished securing the specimen containers and dive gear. The Admiral and asked for and received permission to use a secluded beach on Forbes Island as a staging area for the day. He motioned for Lee to come over to him.

 

Lee wondered if the Admiral had received Docs report yet, or if he was about to try to pull him from the dive.

 

Doc cleared me for the shallow dives Sir, he began before the Admiral had a chance to speak.

 

I know Lee. I wanted to be sure you are planning to follow Docs orders. The Admiral had discovered that it was often a good idea, a very good idea in fact, to back up any medical orders given to Lee with his own. You will do exactly as Dr. Jamieson has instructed you, understood Captain?

 

Yes Sir, didnt have any plans not to. Lee knew that there would be no wiggle room on this, especially when Nelson addressed him as Captain.

 

Mmmm, glad to hear it. Theres a lot of shark activity in these waters, keep a good watch. See you when you get back.

 

Yes Sir. Lee read the subtext easily, Be good and stay out of trouble.

 

Lee and his dive crews roared away from Seaview in the zodiacs, looking forward to a great day of diving. It certainly was that, crystal clear waters, Gorgonian sea fans, Cabbage Corals, Feather stars, Parrot fish, Trumpet fish, Silvertip sharks, Grey reef sharks and Whitetip reef sharks, to name a few of the sights.

 

The water was warm enough to do without a wet suit however everyone still wore a dive skin.**** Australia was notorious for its jellyfish, some lethal. The skin provided protection for the divers from the venom injecting nematocysts found on jellyfish tentacles. The dive skin would also provide some protection from coral scrapes.

 

.....

 

Lees team had finished their last dive of the day. The men had stripped out of their dive skins and some had pulled shorts on over their Speedos. Many divers preferred wearing nothing under their wetsuit or skin, normal swim trunks tended to bunch up, be uncomfortable and make getting in and out of either skin or wetsuit more difficult. Most of Seaviews divers wore Speedos as a compromise.

 

Lee dug around in his gear bag looking for his shorts. I know I threw a pair in here.....CHIP MORTON..... you had better hide when I get back on board! His bag had only been out of his sight for a couple of minutes while he signed off reports, but apparently that had been all the time Chip had required to light-finger Lees shorts out of his bag.

 

Lee pulled out and put on a white cotton T-shirt, at least his XO hadnt taken that as well. He didnt really mind being in his red Speedos, it was letting Chip score that got to him. It was a game between them to see who could get whom the most times on a cruise. They watched each other like hawks, looking for an opportunity, ok, one point Morton, but just you wait, vengeance shall be mine.

 

Everyone spent the next hour cataloguing and loading specimens into their zodiac. Once that was done, they had some time to relax as the other team was still diving the reef.

 

Some of the men were playing cards and others were doing a bit of beachcombing, wandering along the shoreline.

 

Lee looked for Kowalski; he spotted him stretched out on his stomach on the warm sand, his head resting on his crossed arms, apparently asleep. He was looking fit and well muscled, the latter better toned than they had been a couple of weeks ago.

 

Seaview had athletic equipment onboard, exercise bikes, versa climbers, rowing machines, and free weights. Lee usually worked out with Chip but when Chip was on watch or had other duties Lee had started asking Kowalski to join him. It was against boat rules to work out alone, even if there were other crewmen there you had to have a spotter. Lee knew that he could ask anyone in the workout room to spot for him, but he wouldnt have been as comfortable as he was with Ski.

 

Standing in the sun and looking out over the sparkling water Lee pulled off his T-shirt and dropped it to the sand. While his skin naturally tanned quickly, he liked to wear a bit of protection so applied some suntan oil. His well developed upper body and highly defined abdomen glistened in the sun as did his rippling back muscles. He drew in several deep breathes, exhaling slowly after each. He then bent at the waist and keeping his legs straight placed the palms of his hands flat on the sand, stretching his lower back, hamstrings and calves. He straightened up and lacing his fingers together palms out, raised his arms high over his head to stretch out his upper back and sides, bending slightly to the right and then the left. A few squats and lunges took care of stretching his glutes. To finish off he moved his feet shoulder width apart and holding his abdominals tight, he clasped his hands behind his back and lifted them until he could feel a good stretch across his chest.

 

Satisfied that hed taken care of any kinks from diving he settled down against a log to enjoy the warmth of the sun and sand, relaxing to the hypnotic sound of the surf creaming up onto the beach. He let his mind wander...Edith Caitlin Nelson. He recalled the time when hed first seen her. She had been at NIMR visiting Nelson in his office. He was dropping off some reports that the Admiral wanted. Nelsons secretary wasnt at her desk so hed knocked twice and entered after getting the expected Come.

 

Sitting on the edge of the Admirals desk, skirt hitched up displaying long slender legs was one of the most strikingly attractive women he had ever seen. Long wavy titian hair cascaded down her back, spiked bangs adorned the creamy white skin of her forehead, and intense green eyes sparkled with mischief.

 

The woman and the Admiral had been laughing about something and she had turned her head toward the door as hed entered. He had been momentarily stunned when their eyes met, a frisson of heat had travelled down his body, and pooled between his legs. He remembered thinking, or more like praying, Oh no, dont you dare! Hed moved his hands, thankfully holding file folders, down lower, just in case.

 

#####

 

Lee, why are you just standing there? Come in, the Admiral greeted him.

 

Somehow finding his voice he replied, Ah...sorry Admiral, didnt mean to interrupt. And just what am I interrupting; she looks young enough to be his daughter. He was rather embarrassed with himself, detecting a hint of jealousy in his thought.

 

Not at all Lee. Edith Id like to introduce to you Seaviews Captain, Commander Lee Crane. Lee this is my sister Edith.

 

Sister! Holy crap! Im so dead in the water. Very pleased to meet you Ms. Nelson, Lee responded in his very best manners as he moved forward to extend his right hand, having juggling the files to his left one. His earlier worry having instantly deflated upon learning who she was.

 

Ms. Nelson slid off the desk, revealing a little more leg in the process.

 

Just how accidental was that? Lee wondered.

 

They shook hands and Lee found her hand to be warm and soft with a pleasantly firm grip. He hesitated a moment before releasing it.

 

Harry you appear to have made a very fine choice, she grinned impishly at Lee, as she slowly looked him up and down. Lee flushed from the scrutiny but hoped she liked what she saw.

 

Captain my big brother insists on calling me Edith, but I prefer Caitlin, my middle name. As Im sure well be seeing a lot of each other she appraised him once more, and once more, he flushed in response, lets drop the Ms. Nelson.

 

As you wish Caitlin, thats a lovely name, and please call me Lee, he gave her one of his endearingly shy smiles.

 

You have a very nice smile, Lee. She reached out and taking the files from him and without looking dropped them on Nelsons desk, then she took both Lees hands in hers. You have beautiful hands, such long fingers, she released his left hand but continued to hold the right one, palm up in her left hand. She ran the fingertips of her right hand lightly over his wrist, down to the tips of his fingers, matching her fingertips to his. She gave him one of her own shy smiles.

 

Lee swallowed hard. Nelsons sister, Nelsons sister he kept repeating to himself.

 

Lee didnt know it but ever since then it had been a source of amusement to Nelson to watch Lee fight to maintain the correct demeanour around his sister. Hed known Lee was in trouble the minute Edith had set eyes on him. He knew that look in his sisters eyes. She very definitely approved of Seaviews Captain. She certainly never missed an opportunity to invite Lee to join them for dinner when Seaview was in port and she was in town. Always picking a place that had dancing, nice slow and oh so closed position dancing. What she didnt know, he strongly suspected, was that shed met her match, in more ways than one. He also recognized the look in Lees eyes. Edith, my girl, or Caitlin as you prefer, it may be a game to you right now, but once I give Lee the nod, you wont know what hit you. In the meantime, I think Ill just sit back and enjoy watching the two of you dance.

 

#####

 

 

Lee was slipping into an almost trance like state, warmed by the sun and his thoughts. I might have to be correct when around Caitlin, but the Admiral cant keelhaul me for daydreaming. To wrap my arms around her, feel her body mould to mine, brush my lips against her full, soft, sensuous ones, then deepening the kiss, exploring the sweetness of her mouth, our tongues stroking and teasing back and forth. The feel of her body under my hands, caressing her, slowly removing her clothes, cupping her breasts in my hands, lowering my mouth to suckle first one and then the other, her moans of pleasure. Her fingers unbuttoning my shirt, stripping it off, the feel of her hands slowly exploring my body, back, chest, abdomen, moving lower and lower; unfastening my pants, pulling down the zipper, sliding her hand......

 

Lee groaned deeply as a shudder ran through his body, gotta stop this, what was that quote from King Lear O, that way madness lies.

 

He opened his eyes and took a quick look around; thankfully, no one was near him. No one had heard him groan or could see the reason for it. He definitely felt that a good long swim was called for. Cold water would be better but hed take what he could get.

 

He got up, and retrieving his mask, flippers and snorkel swam out to the reef. He started counting fish, anything to occupy his mind. He spotted some Butterfly fish, a carpet of colourful anemones, and their partners the clown fish, with over a thousand species of fish inhabiting the Great Barrier Reef there was no shortage of beautiful things to watch and count. He dove down and followed a green sea turtle, he tried to hitch a ride by grabbing onto its shell. The turtle had other ideas. An Olive Sea snake swam along the coral to Lees right, while not usually aggressive they are curious and since they are venomous Lee kept an eye on it until it safely passed him by. Lee kicked back to the surface and floated in the warm water watching the spectacle below him.

.....

 

Kowalski stretched on the sand, Oh man I didnt mean to fall asleep. Hope the Skipper didnt notice. He looked around, some of the guys had a card game going, he didnt see Captain Crane anywhere. The other dive team had just returned and their leader, having spotted Kowalski, was heading over to him.

 

Hey Ski, wheres the Skipper?

 

Dont know, cant be far. Kowalski called out, SKIPPER.

 

One of the men playing cards looked up and called over. I saw the Skipper grab his mask and stuff and head out over that way Ski. He pointed out to a part of reef area that was fairly close to the beach, but still a good swim out.

 

Ski shaded his eyes with his hand, scanning the oceans surface in the direction indicated. He could just make out someone in the water. He walked down to the edge of the surf and hailed his Captain, he didnt really think there was much chance of the Skipper hearing him. Walking back to where the team had placed their diving gear he noticed that while Captain Cranes mask, flippers and snorkel were gone, his dive skin was still there.

.....

 

Lee was completely relaxed, letting the motion of the water gradually move him along over the reef. Suddenly something grabbed his arm. Instinct taking over he rolled in the water, breaking the hold on his arm and dragging his assailant under the water. He wrapped his left arm around his attackers neck and held him under keeping his own body on top. He heard someone yelling at him from a few feet away; he looked over and saw Scott from the other team treading water. Skipper thats Kowalski youre holding under! Lee let his neck hold go and hauled Kowalski up.

 

Ski was no fool, he knew that the Skipper could out fight him in or out of the water, so when Lee had rolled him under and held him there he had simply relaxed, hoping that the Skipper would let him up in time.

 

Kowalski what the hell did you think you were doing! Lee shouted at him as Ski gulped air.

 

Sir, the seaman gasped, you didnt hear me calling you. You dont have your dive skin on. Worried about Irukandji, ***** Sir.

 

Shit, Lee thought, I never even considered it. Lets get back to shore Ski, you ok to swim?

 

Yes Sir, no problem.

 

The three men headed in. Lee didnt think there was anything to worry about, he didnt feel any irritation anywhere on his skin. Just the same, when they got to the beach Kowalski insisted on looking him over very thoroughly.

 

Dont see anything Skipper, you feel alright?

 

I feel fine Kowalski, just fine.

 

Good, Sir. Doc will give you a once over too.

 

Im sure he will Kowalski. Lee had absolutely no intention of mentioning this to Jamie. If Jamie or the Admiral found out how careless he had been, theyd likely ban him from diving for the rest of the trip. He was sure he hadnt been stung. There had been no jellyfish reported from any of the divers, he had not seen any either.

 

In short order everything was loaded into the zodiacs and they headed home to Seaview.

 

Chip was topside to greet them, Everything go alright Skipper?

 

Lee knew the question was really, What happened to you this time?

 

Everything went very smoothly Mr. Morton, I think we have enough samples to satisfy the Admiral and keep him occupied for awhile. Lee then did a quick turn in place, see not even one shark bite.

 

Bloody miracle, he heard his XO say as Chip left for the Control Room.

 

Lee made sure that Kowalski had lots to keep him busy, and assured him that he was on his way to Sick Bay for his post-dive check-up, no escort required.

 

.....

 

Everything seems to be ok, anything youve neglected to tell me? Jamie asked Lee.

 

It all went like clock-work Doc, dont have a scratch on me.

 

Jamie realized that Lee hadnt really answered the question, but, as everything looked fine to him, he decided to overlook it.

 

OK Skipper, youve had a busy day, I suggest you get something substantial to eat and then hit your rack.

 

That an order Doc?

 

I can make it one.

 

Ok ok, just kidding.

 

Lee didnt feel like eating but he was tired and he had a bit of a backache. It was well outside the timeframe for Irukandji syndrome symptoms to show up so he figured he had just strained a muscle flipping Ski in the water.

 

By the time hed made it to his cabin his back was more than a little achy. Damn damn damn, he groaned, it cant be...too long. He tried to reach for his cabin mic but his muscles started to spasm, it felt like his body was ripping itself apart. He fell to the deck. As his stomach cramped he vomited, again and again. His chest muscles felt like they were going to crush his heart as they also began contracting. He couldnt get himself off the deck, apart from the continual brutal muscle spasms he couldnt move at all. It was all he could do to keep breathing, and he wasnt sure how long he could keep that up.

.....

 

The entire boat must have heard that, Chip thought, at the ear-piercing yowl that Argent had let out. Who stepped on the cat? but the only answer he received was a running Admiral following the cat up the spiral ladder.

 

Damn, somebody cheated, the Admiral had heard loud and clear in his head. There was no doubt in Nelsons mind as to what Argent meant. The test had started, but something was wrong.

.....

 

Pain was Lees whole world.

He was in a barren dirt yard, tied by the wrists between two poles. The sun beat down in blistering intensity. His wrists were above his head but his arms were not fully extended. This meant that he could stand and not have his weight pulling on his shoulders or wrists. That is, for as long as he could remain standing.


They started with a cattle prod, back, arms, legs, abdomen and chest, again and again. The pain and spasms so severe Lee vomited and retched until he thought hed ruptured his stomach. Sweat poured off his body.


Then came the whip, slashing cruelly across his back and shoulders, burning, ripping.  He didn't know who they were, he couldn't even recall how he came to be here. The only thing he did know, they wanted the satellite missile codes.

.....

 

Hurry Admiral, hurry Argents command rang in Nelsons head as he dashed after the cat.

 

Arriving at Lees door Nelson flung it open. Lee lay on the deck, soaked in sweat, muscle spasms wracking his body. The Admiral grabbed for the mic with one hand and Lee with the other, Easy lad, Doc will be right here.....Sickbay this is the Admiral, medical emergency in the Captains cabin, repeat medical emergency in the Captains cabin. Break the damn sound barrier!

 

Argent, what is happening to him? Nelson asked the cat as he tried to pull Lee away from the vomit on the deck. He wanted to hold and cradle Lee against him but Lees cramping muscles made it impossible to keep him still.

 

They delayed the reaction to...

 

Argent didnt get any more out as Jamie and his corpsmen came charging through the door.

 

Whats happened to him? Jamie asked.

 

I dont know, we found him like this.

 

Jamie noticed the we, but didnt see anyone else with the Admiral. He tried to get a set of vital signs without much luck.

 

Ok, we have to get him down to sickbay right now I cant do anything here. Thomas, Rob with all his convulsing were going to have to be really careful moving him on the stretcher. Just then Kowalski arrived; any emergency in the Captains cabin was bound to bring him. Doc was glad to see Ski, the extra set of hands would be very welcome.

 

What is it? Ski asked, as he helped get his Captain onto the stretcher and secured as well as they were able to.

 

We dont know, Doc told him.

 

Its been too long to be Irakandji Syndrome, Ski said.

 

Jamie looked at him, Irakandji, why would you suspect that?

 

The Skipper went for a swim without his skin, didnt he tell you when you checked him over?

 

From the black look that crossed the doctors face Kowalski drew his own conclusion.

 

A similar look crossed the Admirals face. Nelson looked at Argent, who just nodded his head.

 

Its Irakandji Doc, Nelson said to Jamie.

 

Cant be, way to long since he got back.

 

Just trust me, it is.

 

They were ready to transport Lee. Kowalski took one end of the stretcher, Nelson the other. Jamie and his corpsmen were at the sides of the stretcher to steady it and Lee as they made the all too familiar trip to sickbay with him.

.....

 

"DOC!" Rob hollered.  Jamie looked up in time to see the Admiral collapsing.

"What happened?" he asked as he assisted his corpsman to lift Nelson onto a bunk. He rapidly began an assessment.

"No idea, he just suddenly passed out."

 

Jamie and his corpsmen had been working on Lee, trying to get an IV started, it wasnt easy as Lee was continually jerking and trying to roll into a foetal position. Jamie had administered an anticonvulsant and a painkiller, Fentanyl, 100 times more potent that morphine. Finally resorting to restraint straps hed managed to get an IV line in.

 

The Admiral had seen Lee being treated in far worse circumstances, there was nothing in the situation that should have caused Nelson to collapse as he had.
.....

 

Admiral Nelson was feeling very disoriented and groggy, he couldn't remember what had happened.

"Ah about time Admiral, I thought you were going to miss the rest of the fun," a man taunted him.

Yes, now he remembered, he and Lee were captives.  He was tied to a chair, Lee where was Lee? These men wanted something, what was it...his memory blurred again for a moment.

"Have you decided to give us the codes to the satellite system yet Admiral, or shall we continue entertaining ourselves with your Captain, hmm? One of you will give us the codes."

How could I have forgotten even for a second? Nelsons eyes travelled to the big screen high-def TV in the room. On the screen in living colour, he could see Lee. His back was a mass of lacerations, blood dripped down his back, landing in the dirt.  Sweat ran down Lees sides, his breathing laboured, gasping. The ropes binding his wrists to the polls had torn the skin when his body had twisted and convulsed from the cattle prod they had used on him earlier. Blood oozed from the wounds creating meandering red trails down his arms as if they were obscene rivers marked on a bloodthirsty map.


Nelson watched as two men approached Lee from behind with a bucket, full of what appeared to be water.

 

A man of the sea your Captain, eh. Cant have him missing his beloved salt water now can we, the man beside Nelson smirked.

 

The Admiral watched as the contents of the bucket was slowly poured over Lee's back. He could see Lees body go rigid, his hands ball into fists above the bloody ropes binding his wrists.

 

.....

 

Lee tensed and bit back a scream as the salt water flowed onto his raw and bleeding back. It felt like a million stinging jellyfish clinging to him. His breath came in short gasps as he tried to control his response to the pain, holding himself rigid, enduring the unbearable burning. He could only hold still for just so long before his body twisted and shuddered in a futile and involuntary attempt to shake the water off, more blood traced down his arms from his wrists as the ropes bit deeper.


One of his tormentors stepped in front of him, pulled his head back and poured some fresh water into his mouth.  It was not meant as a kindness. They didn't want him dying of dehydration, it would spoil all their fun, and they still needed the codes.

Nelson's pain was no less for not being the one bound and tortured in the yard.  This was his dearest friend, his chosen son that they were brutalizing.  Every act that caused Lee pain caused him pain.  He desperately wanted to give the tormentors what they asked for, wanted to hold Lee and comfort him, to get him to Seaview and Jamie's expert care.  He could do none of those things; all he could do was sit there and helplessly watch as Lee was savaged.

 

He didnt know the name of the man in the room with him, he just thought of him as captor.


Captor sat back and looked at Nelson for a few minutes while his thugs outside with Crane took a smoke break.  Even then, they continued to torment Lee, taking the ends of their burning cigarettes and pressing them against Lee's skin, raising blisters.

Captor could see plainly enough that Nelson was concerned for his Captain, more than concerned. Nelson flinched with every stroke delivered, every agony inflicted.  Even so apparently something more was needed. Nelson didn't show signs of breaking and neither did Crane.

An idea occurred to Captor, this should prove interesting.

He untied Nelson, hauled him out of the chair, dragged him through the house and out into the dirt yard where Lee was bound.  Lee's head was down, Nelson wasn't certain Lee was conscious as he wasn't reacting at all to the burning cigarette ends. 


He was placed in front of Lee. For once he was almost at a height with his Captain as Lee wasnt standing anymore, but hanging from his wrists, knees bent. They ripped off Nelsons shirt and tied him to Lee, arm to arm, thigh to thigh.

 

Lee, roused by the activity, tried to focus on something other than pain. He slowly realized that something was bound to him. He raised his head to see what it was and could not believe what his eyes told his brain. They had tied Admiral Nelson, stripped of his shirt, face to face with him.

 

Lee, Nelson choked out his name.

 

Sir..... what?..... how?, I didnt....know you.....here too, Lee spoke in a dry, cracked voice almost too low to hear.

 

Lees exhaustion and pain overcame him and his head slumped forward, his forehead resting against the Admirals neck. Nelson angled his head so that his cheek pressed gently against Lees head, hoping to provide at least some measure of comfort.

 

Awww, aint that sweet, one of the thugs sneered.

 

The Admirals head was suddenly jerked back by his hair. Lee raised his head, leave him alone you bastard, he spit out with as much force as he could muster.

 

The man holding Nelsons head looked at Lee, Either one of you can get this to stop. All you have to do is give us a few numbers. Then he spoke to Nelson, What do you say Admiral, want to take your Captain here inside? Nice soft bed for him, plenty of water to drink. We have a lovely big medical kit in there, full of painkillers and bandages. All it takes for you to have all of that for him is just a few numbers, hmmm?

 

Nelson wanted that more than hed ever wanted anything in his life. Lee saw the pain and regret in the Admirals eyes, knew that there was more than one kind of torture being inflicted and endured here.

 

Im fine right where I am, Sir, he told Nelson.

 

In a voice filled with loathing Nelson told Captor, Go to Hell and burn.

 

Captor laughed, Perhaps I shall, but your Captain is going to believe that hes already there.

 

He released Nelson and walked away to stand behind Lee.

 

The Admiral was not prepared for what came next. When Captor had brought him out he thought that they were going to start on him, but not so.

 

He watched as the two men who had been torturing Lee moved once more to stand behind Lee. Captor reached into a sack that had been lying on the ground and brought out a brand new toy. While the whip that they had used before was a six-foot bullwhip, the one he now tossed to one of the thugs was similar to a cat-o-nine tails, but had bits of metal and stones woven into each strand.

 

If Nelson had thought watching before was horrific, this was far worse. At a nod from Captor the whips lashes were sent across Lees already shredded flesh. The thug was good with a whip, sometimes it would be full strokes that tore into Lee, other times the thug would snap the whip at the last moment so that only the tips of each strand landed, digging into Lees back. Again and again the whip struck, metal tearing already torn flesh, stones pummelling the raw wounds. Nelson felt each stroke in his very soul. He sought to find some way to help Lee, by sheer force of will to send strength from his body into Lees, but there was nothing he could do.

 

Lee tried to hold his body still and to be silent. He could feel Nelson pressing his body against his, trying to support him in some way.

 

All too soon, Lee passed beyond his capacity to control his bodys reactions. He now shuddered with every blow, strangled moans escaped from his lips. Finally, Lees head dropped to Nelsons shoulder.

 

Captor signalled his man to stop.

 

He walked over to the bound men, grabbed Lees hair and pulled his head back as he had done Nelsons earlier. Hmm, not much point in whipping an unconscious man, hey Admiral? Anything you might be wanting to say to me?

 

The Admiral could think of a great many things, but held his tongue.

 

Fine Ill just let the two of you hang here a bit, give you time to think things over while we wait for your Captain to rejoin us. With that, he let go of Lee and walked away. Lees head fell once again against Nelson.

 

The Admiral was thankful that Lee was unconscious; anything that would give Lee some respite from the torture was welcome.

 

After what seemed like all too short a time, Lee softly spoke, Admiral, are you ok?

 

Nelson couldnt believe his ears, of all the things to be worried about!

 

Yes Lee Im fine, he whispered back.

 

Good, afraid.....maybe they...hurt you when.....was unconscious.

 

No son, they left, so I could think things over.

 

Nothing to think about Sir.........cant tell them............either of us.

 

I know Lee, I know.

Nelson again pressed his head against Lee. Neither of them realized the men had returned.

 

Well well, look whos back, so glad. One last chance, what are the satellite codes? Either of you tell me and you both go free. Say nothing and one of you dies while the other watches, up close and personal.

 

Silence

 

Have it your way then.

 

The two thugs came over. One of them held Lees right arm tightly while the other brought out a scalpel. He drew the blade down along the side of Lees arm, slicing deeply. Blood welled from the wound and flowed down Lees side. As much as he did not want to add to Nelsons burden, Lee hadnt been able to hold in a groan and shiver as the blade had made its painful way down his arm.

 

The next slice opens the vein, Captor said, and he paused expectantly. Still nothing. He gave a shrug, enjoy your blood bath Nelson.

 

The other thug came over and grabbed Nelsons arm, holding it away from Lees so that his partner could get at the vein. Nelson tried to fight them, to move Lee so that they couldnt make the cut but Captor put his arm around his throat, and held him still in a choke hold. Last chance, Captor whispered in his ear.

 

From his wrist downward for about 3 inches, the scalpel followed Lees vein, blood gushed out and ran down both his and Nelsons joined arms and continued down their chests and abdomens.

 

The thugs did the same with Lees left arm. Lees lifeblood poured away down the Admirals arms and over his body. How can I possibly bear this?, Nelson wailed in his mind.

 

Lee looked into the Admirals eyes, saw the misery there, and whispered, Dont do it Sir, this will all have been for nothing if you tell them. Nelson watched as Lees eyes began to lose focus, doesnt hurt now.

 

Nelson felt tears flooding from his eyes, running down his face and body to mix with Lees blood. His voice breaking, Lee, Ive never said the words.....but I love you son, very much.... I....hope you knew.

 

Yes Sir....I knew.....I love you too....Im...sorry. The last spark of life died in his eyes and he was gone.

 

The Admirals world shattered, Lee, was dead. Im sorry, what they hell did Lee have to be sorry about? He had endured everything, given everything, he had not waivered, he was true to the bitterest of ends. Ill be with you soon son, wait for me Nelson whispered, he would not waiver either, these animals would not get from him what Lee had not given.

 

.....

 

Doc, I think hes waking up.

 

Jamie leaned over the Admiral and checked his vitals, Yes, looks like it, been one hell of a night in here.

 

Jamie... the Admiral said unsteadily, he wasnt sure where he was but he thought he knew the voice.

 

Right here Admiral, youre going to be just fine.

 

Ill never be fine, nothing will ever be fine, they...killed Lee, the pain of those words so very evident on his face and in his voice.

 

Whoa Admiral, Im not sure what youre talking about. The Skipper is going to be ok, it was touch and go there for awhile, but the crisis has passed.

 

Lees alive...hes here?

 

Lee is alive and he is here. Hes sleeping at the moment. Im guessing that must have been some dream you had.

 

I have to see him, Nelsons voice quavered. He attempted to get out of the bunk but Jamie stopped him.

 

Just hold on a minute; lets be sure youre ready to be on your feet.

 

Jamie took another set of vitals, and decided it was relatively safe for the Admiral to get up.

 

Nelson approached the treatment gurney where Lee lay, asleep on his back. The Admiral moved a trembling hand down first one and then the other of Lees arms. No wounds followed the line of the veins; no lifeblood flowed out. He felt for a pulse and found one, slow, strong and steady. Lees chest rose and fell in deep and easy breathing movements.

 

Nelson started to feel a little unsteady on his feet. Jamie took his arm and helped him back to his bunk.

 

I dont quite understand why Admiral, but you are exhibiting signs of shock. I need you to lie down and stay that way for awhile.

 

As long as I can see Lee, Jamie, I need to be able to see him.

 

Yes Sir, not a problem, he isnt going anywhere. Time we moved him into a bunk anyway.

 

After getting the Admiral settled Jamie and Thomas gently and with great care moved Lee into the bunk opposite the Admiral. Lee didnt wake up but he did shift slightly onto his side. Jamie took another set of vitals and then snugged the blanket around Lee.

 

Jamie?

 

Hes fine Admiral, now I want you to do what the Captain is doing, and get some sleep.

 

I just want to watch him for awhile first.

 

Jamie still didnt know what to make of the Admirals obvious distress. Youd think Lee had just come back from the dead or something.

 

Nelson eventually fell asleep, exhaustion briefly overcoming his need to keep watch over Lee. When he woke up a couple of hours later, he felt a moment of panic. Where was Lee? He looked over to Lees bunk and was relieved to see confused hazel eyes looking back at him.

 

Lee, son, are you feeling ok?

 

I guess so Admiral, I seem to be in sickbay though, what about you?

 

Im fine now Lee.

 

Jamie came over when he heard the two men talking, he gave Lee a once over lightly and then did the same with the Admiral.

 

You are both doing extremely well gentlemen, he announced.

 

Jamie what happened, I seem to remember being in a lot of pain in my cabin, then I was somewhere else... Lees voice trailed off.

 

I dont understand what took the symptoms so long to manifest but apparently you were stung by the Irukandji jellyfish, it was touch and go there for awhile. We are going to have a very long talk about you withholding information from me.

 

Lee looked down, clearly uncomfortable about the pending talk. Nelson noticed that Lee stared at his arms for a moment and then flexed his back as if checking for something.

 

Jamie is it ok if Lee and I talk for a bit, privately?

 

No reason you cant, Jamie told him, although he was curious about the private part. I could use a trip to the wardroom; Thomas will be in the office area, if you need anything just holler.

 

As he left Jamie pulled across the accordion curtain that was used to partition off the office from the bunk area.

 

The Admiral got up and went over to Lee, lowered the railing on the bunk and sat on the edge by Lees side.

 

Roll over on your stomach lad. Lee did so, mildly curious. Nelson pushed Lees sickbay scrub shirt up, he ran his hands up and down Lees shoulders and back several times, seeing no breaks in the skin, no bleeding wounds or bruises of any sort, feeling only healthy skin and flesh beneath his hands.

 

Um Admiral, while I enjoy a back rub as much as the next guy, mind telling me why?

 

You know why Lee.

 

It wasnt a dream Sir?

 

No son, it wasnt a dream, Im not just sure what it was.

 

You both know what it was, although you didnt at the time, wouldnt have been much of a test if you did, Argent jumped up on Lees bunk.

 

Lee reluctantly rolled back over; hed rather liked the back rub.

 

Nelson rested his right hand on Lees right forearm and looked deep into Lees eyes, Lee, what were you sorry about?

 

Lee knew what he was being asked; he didnt pretend otherwise. Lee rotated his arm under Nelsons hand and took hold of the Admirals forearm in a firm grip, which the older man returned. With his eyes locked on the Admirals he replied, That I was leaving you there alone. That I wasnt going to be there to protect you. With me dead, I knew theyd start on you, and for that I was so very sorry.

 

Nelsons throat constricted painfully and tears once again filled his eyes. What had he ever done to deserve a man like Lee Crane in his life?

 

Bravo, came Argents thought to both mens minds, and that is why you have passed the test, both of you. Regardless of the physical or emotional pain, regardless of the sacrifices to be made, neither of you surrendered in order to spare yourself or the other.

 

Neither the Admiral nor Lee felt particularly noble about it, the traumatic experience still very fresh and painful to both men.

 

If its any consolation to you, the memory of the test will be wiped from your minds, as will the memory of my presence here from everyones memory.

 

When? Lee and Nelson asked in unison. There were some things they werent sure they wanted to forget.

 

Usually immediately, but in your case, I think youd like some time together first.

 

Yes, Argent, I know I would like to talk to Lee about some things.

 

As I thought, but be aware that even that will be removed from you memories; however, any changes in your relationship will remain.

 

The two men nodded their understanding.

 

.....

 

Jamie had never heard of anyone recovering so quickly from Irakandji syndrome, but all Lee seemed to have required was a good solid sleep once the worst was over. The Admiral also got over whatever had afflicted him.

 

Jamie still had no idea what had caused Nelson to collapse. Why cant they just break a bone, he grumbled to Thomas, broken bones are so much easier to deal with. It wasnt the first time Jamie had made this observation and Thomas was pretty sure it wouldnt be the last.

 

Chip had been pestering Jamie for reports on Lees condition and the Admirals. When informed of the dramatic improvement he had dropped by Sick Bay for a visit to see for himself.

 

No need to get to comfortable in here Mr. Morton, theyll both be out tomorrow morning, Jamie advised him.

 

Hi Chip, report, Lee was hoping to divert Chip from what could be a well deserved but lengthy XO lecture.

 

Aye Sir, Seaviews Skipper went swimming in Irakandji infested waters with absolutely no protection, even though he had his dive skin with him. He failed to mention this to the CMO when reporting for his post-dive check up. As a result he greatly inconvenienced his XO by nearly dying.

 

Nelson snorted rather loudly.

 

Chip carried on, And caused the Admiral to collapse in Sick Bay.

 

Leave me out of it Mr. Morton, Nelson told him with a chuckle.

 

Nelson loved watching the show when Lee and Chip reversed roles, it didnt happen often but when it did it was well worth the price of admission. Nelson had been flabbergasted the first time hed witnessed it. Lee had accepted the punishment as decreed by Chip for, in Chips words, recklessly endangering the person of the XO. Nelson never did find out what Lee was supposed to have done, just that it was something around Lee, Chip and the FS1. He had to admit that for the following week Chips shoes had never been shinier.

 

Do you have anything to say for yourself Captain Crane? Chip asked in his best XO voice.

 

No excuses Mr. Morton, Sir, Lee answered Chip.

 

I see, Chip put his hands behind his back and rocked back on his heels, I suppose flogging is out of the question, he was startled by the sudden flinches from both Lee and the Admiral. What was that about?

 

Definitely out of the question, Nelson stated.

 

Doc would probably object to my putting you on bread and water for a week, so I guess thats out too, hmmm. Chip started to grin.

 

Oh oh, Lee thought.

 

I seem to recall that a certain Captain once volunteered his XO for KP duty, Cookie was very appreciative of the extra help.

 

Food wasnt very good that day, Lee mumbled.

 

Well youre going to have a chance to see if you can do better. Ill let Cookie know to expect you, lets say Tuesday next week.

 

Aye aye Sir.

 

Nelson figured that he might want to skip meals that day. He was also wondering just what the crew would make of their Captain working in the galley. They certainly knew that Captain Crane involved himself in all aspects of Seaviews operation, but as far as he could recall this had yet to extend to galley duty.

 

The crew were well aware of the dynamics between their Captain and his XO. They usually never knew the cause but were frequently amused, well hidden of course, over the penalties that their Captain and his XO inflicted on each other. Nelson decided the crew would probably get it right in one; the Captain had ticked off his XO.

 

Privately Lee smirked; Chip did not know that not so long ago he had taken gourmet-cooking classes. Those classes were going to come in very handy. Hed show Chip a thing or two, as long as he could convince Cookie to let him do some of the cooking. The man was very territorial.

 

Doc, as promised, released the Admiral and Lee from Sick Bay the next day. Lee was assigned to light duty until Jamie was sure he was truly back on his feet.

 

Lee stopped by his cabin to change, he looked around for Argent, but he didnt see him. After making himself presentable Lee headed out for a walk around his boat. He stopped by the galley to have a word with Cookie, turned out Chip had beat him to it.

 

Good morning Skipper, good to see you out of Sick Bay, Sir.

 

Thanks Cookie, good to be out. If it wouldnt be too big a disruption Id like to join you next Tuesday to practise some cooking skills I recently acquired. Lee might be the Captain but all captains knew you stepped lightly around your cook.

 

Mr. Morton mentioned youd like to lend a hand in here next week, didnt realize he meant cooking, Sir. You know its not as easy as you might think.

 

Not implying it is Cookie, I know it takes enormous skill to produce the fine meals that you and your galley crew serve every day. Just between you and me, Lee lowered his voice conspiratorially, Ive taken some cooking classes and I was hoping that you could watch me and give me some pointers, it would mean a lot to me.

 

Lee knew he had it in the bag when he saw Cookies face light up at the compliment and the man absolutely grinned when he mentioned his having taken cooking lessons.

 

Why, itd be a pleasure Captain.

 

For the next hour Lee roughed out his menu for Tuesday with Cookie. Cookie would have one of his junior cooks check to be sure they had everything necessary to prepare the meals.

 

After Lee left, Cookie advised his galley crew that come Tuesday there would be a new head Cook for the day. Under his watchful eye, Captain Crane would be in charge of meal preparation. A number of eyebrows rose, a soft chuckle or two could be heard. Cookie sighed and smiled, We survived Mr. Morton blundering around in here, and I imagine well get through having the Captain here. Might not be so bad, he sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

.....

 

That taken care of Lee headed for the Control Room, a bounce in his step and almost whistling Food Glorious Food from Oliver, hang on to your stomach Chip Morton, come Tuesday its in for a surprise!

 

.....

 

Lee knew Lieutenant OBrien had the Conn this watch so, while trying not to look like he was checking up on things, he did just that.

 

Everything satisfactory Mr. OBrien?

 

Yes Sir, depth 90 feet, speed 25 knots, course laid in for Santa Barbara.

 

Very well Mr. OBrien, carry on.

 

Aye aye, Sir.

 

When he had entered the Control Room Lee had seen the Admiral sitting by the windows, he went forward to join him there.

 

Nelson hadnt turned around when he heard Lee talking to OBrien, he knew Lee would come to him. As he heard Lee approach, he turned, giving Lee a smile. I think wed both like to talk about some things, but not here. Lets go to my cabin.

 

Lee nodded and took a quick look around the Control Room.

 

Seaview is fine Captain. Mr. OBrien has things well in hand.

 

Yes Sir, I know he does, I just like to... The Admiral cut him off, You like to do everything yourself, I know. the Admirals smile took any sting that might have been there out of the comment.

 

Nelson placed his hand on Lees shoulder and steered him toward the spiral ladder. Lee would have held back to allow Nelson to precede him but Nelson clearly wanted him to go up first.

 

When they got to the Admirals cabin, he again indicated that Lee should enter first. Once inside Lee perched on the corner of the Admirals desk, to his confusion, rather than taking his customary seat at his desk, Nelson simply stood a few steps from the closed door, looking at him.

 

Lee stood back up, feeling rather awkward as he returned Nelsons gaze. He was about to say something, although he hadnt figured out what, when the Admiral stepped forward and embraced him. Lee returned the unexpected show of affection and after a few seconds, the two released each other.

 

The Admiral broke the silence first, As men we dont say it very often and seldom show it but I couldnt be prouder of you, or love you any more than if you were my natural born son. I do not ever want to lose you. And, God forbid, if something should happen to one of us, I dont want to regret never having told you how I feel.

 

Lee swallowed hard; the feelings he had experienced when he was dying came flooding back to him, as they obviously had to the man before him.

 

And I couldnt be more honoured...to have you in my life as my friend...my father...or love you any better than if you were my natural father, Lee managed to choke out.

 

Neither man being able to continue talking, they simply hugged each other again.

 

Shit, I dont know how women do this all the time, its hard work, muttered the Admiral as he ruffled Lees hair and let him go.

 

Lee grinned, Yes, but it feels real good to have said it, Sir. Especially without the about to die part.

 

Couldnt agree more, lad. ummm Ive been meaning to say something to you about Edith, or Caitlin, as she seems to prefer to be called.

 

Oh shit, what did I do, what did I say, I dont think I did anything improper last time we went to dinner? Thank goodness he doesnt mind read, does he?

 

Nelson watched the look of panic cross Lees face and eyes. He had to pretend to cough to cover the smile breaking out on his face.

 

Lee Ive observed that the two of you seem to have an interest in each other.

 

I think so, Sir. Apparently, I didnt cover that up very well. He said the two of you, so she is interested in me, maybe more than a little. Is he going to tell me where I can put my interest?

 

I know you to be an honourable man Lee; I wouldnt be personally concerned if you wanted to get to know Caitlin better, even romantically.

 

Lee wanted to be crystal clear on this, so you wouldnt have any concerns or objections if I dated Caitlin?

 

None, other than to warn you that she usually gets what she wants, so be sure you want it too.

 

Lee took a deep breath, Oh I dont think that will be a problem, Sir.

 

Thats fine then lad, fine.

 

Having exhausted themselves emotionally they both gratefully began a more natural conversation.

 

Have you seen that blasted cat around lately Lee?

 

No Sir, come to think of it I havent. Maybe Argent has left.

 

Harumpf, was what Nelson thought of that.

 

There was a knock on the Admirals door, Come, Nelson said.

 

The door opened and Chip stuck his head in, Ah begging the Admirals pardon, but its 1400 and I dont believe the Captain has had lunch yet. I believe the CMO instructed that the Captain was not to skip any meals.

 

Is that so Captain? Of course Nelson knew it was but he was willing to play along.

 

I vaguely recall something along those lines, Sir.

 

It just so happens I havent had lunch yet either. Mr. Morton if youd like to accompany us, Im sure the Captain will be happy to comply with the doctors orders.

 

Yes Sir, my pleasure, responded Chip.

 

As they left the Admirals cabin and headed for the wardroom Lee inclined his head toward Chip, Havent you already had lunch?

 

Yes, but given that on Tuesday the quality of the meals is likely to be questionable, Im eating extra now.

 

Lee couldnt stop a big grin from spreading across his face. Chip couldnt help but wonder about that grin.

 

After they finished eating, the Admiral got up to go to his lab to look over some of the specimens that had been collected.

 

Youve got the first dog watch Skipper, Chip advised Lee.

 

Ah the joys of light duty. Lee could foresee an extremely boring week ahead of him.

 

.....

 

Lee entered the Control Room at 1530 and relieved Lieutenant OBrien early. As he was checking over the reports he noticed a problem reported from the circuitry room, deciding to check into it further he picked up the mic in his right hand. A strange hush seemed to settle around him, the normal sounds from the Control Room faded into the background. A soft white light was coming from above him, still holding the mic in his hand he looked up. The light strengthened and inside it, he could just make out what appeared to be the outline of a cat.

 

Its time Lee Crane, Knight of the Light, Champion and bearer of the essence of a noble line.

 

I thought maybe youd forgotten this part, Lee thought to Argent.

 

No, it is not permitted that you or the Admiral should remember what has transpired. It would be an unnecessary burden.

 

Not all of it Argent, not all.

 

The light slowly faded and as it did Lee felt lightheaded and disoriented. The light spread through the boat, erasing all memory of a silver tabby cat.

 

Argent thought to himself as he left, I like these men; perhaps I will check in on them from time to time.

 

In the Control Room Lee gave his head a shake, Crane to Circuitry Room.

 

Circuitry Room Aye.

 

.....

 

The rest of the watch passed quietly, Lee was satisfied with the progress in the Circuitry Room and found nothing else to pique his interest in the rest of the reports. When his watch was over he stopped in at the lab to see how the Admiral was coming along.

 

Come in Lee, this is fascinating. Take a look through the microscope, see the growth bands on the coral, you can get a lot of information from those. The age of the coral, the environmental conditions when it was growing...

 

Yes, Sir. Lee dutifully looked at the coral.

 

Nelson smiled, he knew darned well his Captain would far rather be looking at circuitry boards or system readouts. He felt a warmth spread through him as he looked at Lee. He knew hed been feeling fatherly towards Lee for quite some time now, but it suddenly seemed much stronger. Lee has come to be so important to me personally, as if he were my very own son. Have to talk to him about it one day; I want him to know how I feel. Time to tell him I have no objections if he wants to date Edith. Yes, one of these days well talk...

 

As Lee examined the coral, he felt a new stronger surge of protectiveness and devotion towards the Admiral. Heck if he wants me to look at coral, Ill look at coral, do it standing on my head if he asked me to. Someday I have to tell him just how much hes come to mean to me in so many ways. As if he were my father. Id like him to know how I feel. Like to ask him how hed feel about my dating Caitlin ...one of these days...

 

.....

 

Epilogue

 

Chip rolled over in his bunk. Well its Tuesday, THE Tuesday. This should be fun! Chip got himself put together in his usual immaculate way and headed down the corridor, hed see if Lee was ready. As he approached Lees door the Admiral was just closing it. Were too late Chip, hes not here.

 

Maybe hes eating breakfast before he starts messing things up for Cookie, Sir.

 

Mr. Morton just because you couldnt tell the difference between sugar and salt does not necessarily mean Captain Crane will have the same difficulty.

 

No Sir, Chip replied. But I wouldnt put money on it! It gets very busy in there and the canisters look a lot alike, the cook should have checked it when I passed it to him.

 

As they entered the wardroom they could hear compliments sailing in Cookies direction, Wow Cookie, this is fantastic! Hey Cookie youve outdone yourself! I want the recipe for my wife.

 

Chip and the Admiral had to admit that the aroma from breakfast was mouth-watering. Their mouths literally dropped open as Cookie answered the many compliments.

 

Dont tell me tell the Captain, hes been here since 0400 making your breakfast. Hey Skipper, they want your recipes.

 

Lee appeared beside Cookie, chefs hat on his head, Hey no problem, give your names to Mr. Morton and hell be sure to write you out a copy and give it to you.

 

Morning Admiral, Chip! Lee greeted them cheerfully, and then disappeared back into the galley.

 

Chip was astonished. Lee can cook? I dont believe it, Cookie let him cook! Cookie doesnt let anybody take over his kitchen. I thought Lee would be scraping pots and pans.

 

Well let that be a lesson to you Mr. Morton, dont underestimate your Captain. The Admiral was just as surprised as Chip but he wasnt going to admit it.

 

Just then Lee came back out of the galley, an assistant following him with trays laden with food.

 

If youd like to take a seat Admiral, Mr. Morton, breakfast is served.

 

With a flourish, Lee removed from the trays mini pie pans of Hash Brown Cheese Egg Pies and plates of French Toast stuffed with an mixture of Spiced Apricot Preserves and Cream Cheese, tops dusted with icing sugar and fresh ground nutmeg. Another plate was piled high with smoked Canadian bacon slices. There were also two bowls of fresh fruit, glazed with something that smelled suspiciously like brandy and a basket of freshly baked breakfast rolls.

 

Chip was speechless as Lee grinned at him. Well dont just stare at it, dig in, Lee instructed.

 

Chip took one of the Egg Pies, the Admiral started with the French Toast. Chip dug his fork into the pie and discovered that beneath the egg in the ample hash brown shell there was melted peppered cheddar cheese, he popped the forkful into his mouth and started chewing.

 

Gotta admit Lee, these are really good.

 

The Admiral looked over at Chip, Wait until you try the stuffed French Toast!

.....

 

When the assistant cook had checked with stores to make sure that the Captain would have all the ingredients he required, there was a bit of a mystery discovered. There seemed to be a lot of cat food on board, no one knew why.

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

*the Longnosed Chimaera belongs to the order of Chimaeriformes, there are 6 species of Chimaera Fishes that live in various oceans around the world. The name "Chimaera" comes from the Greek word Chimaera that means monster.

 

** ANGLES AND DANGLES - A submariners' term for a critical exercise that usually takes place right after a nuclear submarine leaves port. Once in deep water, the sub dives deep and then comes back up, both at a steep angle. Anything that is not properly secured will fall down, making some noise. These are known as dangles, and they must be corrected before a sub is fully rigged for silent running.

 

*** The United States Navy Master Diver is the highest qualification obtainable by a member of U.S. Navy diving community. A Master Diver has the most experience and knowledge on all aspects of diving and underwater salvage.

 

**** A dive skin is a thin, one-piece body suit, which will protect your skin from cuts, scrapes, abrasions, and stings which can occur while you are scuba diving. Dive skins are most commonly made out of lycra, an elastic fabric with a silky sheen. Dive skins offer almost no thermal protection and are not recommended for use alone unless you are scuba diving in very warm water.

 

*****The Irukandji (C. barnesi) is a small jellyfish approx 2cm diameter bell, responsible for an unusual and dramatic syndrome observed following stings in northern Australia, especially north Queensland.

The initial sting of the jellyfish is usually not very painful. But about 5-45 (usually 30) minutes after being stung severe low back pain; excruciating muscle cramps in all four limbs, the abdomen and chest; sweating, anxiety, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, headache and palpitations occur. The pain is severe, unbearable and comes in 'waves' (similar to labour pains), although never fading completely. Chest pain or 'tightness' occurs from spasm of the intercostal muscles (those between the ribs) as well as probable heart muscle pain in some severe cases.

In rare cases, the victim suffers pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs) which could be fatal if not treated.

 

No definitive treatment is currently available for the Irukandji syndrome. The Australian Venom Research Unit is currently involved in research to develop an antivenin to treat Irukandji envenomation.