by J. Lynn
Footsteps! The great detective Sherlock Holmes raised his head at the sound, but did not turn in the direction from which the sound came. Listening intently, he brought his formidable powers of deduction into play to determine just who was coming down the stairs. The footsteps were familiar, very familiar. They could belong to none other than his long-time friend.
Admiral Harriman Nelson laughed at the conceit of pretending that he was the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. He had certainly become caught up in the book of Sherlock Holmes stories that Edith had given him to bring along on this mission. Even though he had read these stories before, he felt like he was discovering them for the very first time. His thoughts became more serious as he focused again on the footsteps. Yes, it was definitely Lee Crane, Seaview's Captain, descending the spiral steps to Seaview's Observation Nose, but the steps were slower than usual, lacking the Captain's usual vigor.
Nelson put his book on the table as Crane sat down across from him. Looking closely at the younger man, the Admiral could see exhaustion both on the Captain's face and in his posture. "You've been off duty for several hours," observed Nelson. "Shouldn't you be sleeping?"
"I tried, but I was too restless to sleep." The Captain's voice dragged a bit just as his footsteps had on the stairs. "I'm not sure why exactly. I just felt uneasy so I..."
"Decided to check on things." finished Nelson. "Did you find anything wrong?"
"No. The crew's tired--this mission was hard on them--but they're all doing their jobs. They're good men."
The Admiral abruptly changed the subject. "Have a doughnut."
His reactions slowed by fatigue, the Captain looked bewildered. "What?"
"I said, have a doughnut. If you're not going to sleep, then you might as well eat something." The Admiral pushed a plate across the table with one lone doughnut sitting on it.
Crane reached for the doughnut, frowning as he picked it up. He tapped the doughnut against the plate and the sound was like that of a rock hitting against the china. He laughed as he said, "I think that doughnut is more tired than I am!"
Nelson chuckled. "Well, it's still good for dunking. I think there's some coffee left." He waved his hand in the direction of the coffeepot across the room.
"It's probably cold." groused Lee. Despite the pessimistic response, the Captain started to rise from his chair. When he was halfway up, Seaview shuddered violently and the Captain was thrown against the edge of the table. The force of the collision forced an involuntary grunt of pain from him. It was a long minute before he rose with his arms wrapped around his stomach to ease the pain.
"Lee!" exclaimed the Admiral. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fineóit just knocked the wind out of me." replied Crane shortly. "I want to know what the hell that was!"
Both men headed for the Control Room. "Mr. Morton, report!" ordered Crane.
"Damage Control reports no damage, Sir." replied Seaview's Exec. "There are also no reports of casualties. Engineering, the Reactor Room, and Navigation report no anomalies--no sign of turbulence--nothing."
"Then we don't know what the hell hit us."
"No, Sir." said Morton.
"Surface the boat, Mr. Morton. Let's check our position."
Before the Exec could issue the necessary orders, Kowalski sang out, "Sonar contact with an unidentified object."
"Belay the order to surface." snapped the Captain as he moved to the sonar station. He took one look at the screen and then barked out a rapid series of commands. "Mr. Morton, take us down to 500 feet then match the vessel's course and speed. Their detection gear isn't that good so they probably haven't noticed us. Even if they have, they can't go that deep so they won't follow us."
As Morton issued the order to dive, the Captain leaned in the direction of the radio shack. "Sparks, monitor all communications--intercept all messages sent or received by that vessel."
"Aye, Sir." responded Sparks.
Nelson had been silent while Crane was issuing orders, but as the Captain turned to face him, he spoke, "Lee, did you recognize the sonar contact?"
"Yes, Sir," said Crane, then for the first time since they'd felt the violent shudder, he hesitated before continuing. "It's a World War I U-boat, Admiral."
Nelson was stunned. He opened his mouth to dispute the idea when he heard a voice behind him.
"He's right, Admiral. Your Captain is very sharp!"
Nelson turned toward the voice. "Pem!" he exclaimed.
"In the flesh, Admiral, in the flesh," said Pem. "Surprised to see me?"
"I have to say that I am," admitted Nelson. "We destroyed both you and that watch of yours the last time we met. I don't see how you could have survived."
"Oh, I didn't, Admiral. I died in that explosion. Damned inconvenient."
"If you died, then how can you be here?"
"Well, you see, it hasn't happened to me yet--it's not so easy to get rid of a time traveler. We can die many times, but there's always a younger self that can travel around in time. Don't trouble yourself trying to understand, Admiral. It's far too complicated for you."
"Stop bragging, Pem." interrupted the Captain. "You've shown us you're alive. Now take us back to our time."
"Oh, Captain, I can't do that just yet. I'm working on a very important project and I need your help."
"There's no way in hell we'd help you with anything, Pem." declared Crane.
Pem lost his jovial manner, retorting angrily, "You obviously don't know what you are talking about, Captain. I can assure you, you will be most anxious to provide me with the assistance I am seeking." Just as quickly as he had lost his good humor, Pem regained it. "You'll see, Captain, you'll see. We're on the same side this time! Did you hear what I just said--this time? Wasn't that a clever play on words? In this time we're on the same side even though in other times--your time--for example, we're on different sides."
"Pem," interrupted the Admiral. "If you're so sure we'll want to help you, why don't you tell us what you want us to do?"
The little man opened his mouth to reply, then stopped and shook his head. "No, Captain Crane was rude to me so I think I'll wait and let you find out for yourselves. You're very clever, Admiral. I'm sure you'll figure it out. Now, what shall we do while we're waiting? Perhaps a tour of the boat?"
"The only part of the boat you're going to see is the brig." declared Crane. "Master-at-Arms, escort Mr. Pem to the brig and assign a guard to watch him."
"Captain," Pem pouted. "That is really most inhospitable--no way to treat an ally, a brother-in-arms, a...." Pem continued chattering as he was led away.
"Lee," said the Admiral. "Do you really think that was wise? We need him to tell us what he's up to, and he won't do it if he's angry at us."
"He's angry at me, Admiral, not you." replied Crane. "I'm sure if you go down there in a little while, he'll be more than happy to brag about his latest plan."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Nelson grinned. "He is an egotistical little man, isn't he? All right, Lee, I'll wait a bit before going to see him in the brig. That will give me some time to review the logs from our previous encounters. I'll be in my cabin if you need me in the next half-hour. Then I'll have a little talk with Mr. Pem."
"Aye, Sir," replied Crane before he turned away to lean over Kowalski at the sonar station. Nelson watched him closely for a minute. He wanted to ask Lee how he recognized the U-boat so quickly from the sonar contact, but looking at the Captain's tense posture, he decided now was not the best time. Still disturbed by the Captain's behavior, Nelson headed for his cabin.
Nelson walked quietly down the corridor to the brig. He wanted the opportunity to observe Pem before the little man knew he was there. As he approached, he saw that Pem was sitting on the bunk, snapping his pocket watch open and closed with a bored expression on his face. He brightened when he saw the Admiral.
"I assume you're here to let me out of here?" he asked as he rose from the bunk. "Well, it's about time. Time, heh-heh, get it?"
"I get it, Pem." replied the Admiral. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm afraid I'm not here to release you--that's up to Captain Crane."
"But you're an Admiral. You outrank him. You can override any of his orders that you damn well please."
"Not when it involves the safety of the ship. He believes you are a danger to Seaview and her crew and until I can convince him otherwise, you'll stay here. Why don't you just tell me why you brought us here--if we're truly on the same side as you claim, then I'm sure he'll release you."
The little man pouted. "That would make it too easy for him. He was rude to me so the good Captain will have to figure it out without my help."
The Admiral sighed to himself--'I guess we'll just have to do this the hard way.' Carefully composing his face so it didn't betray his impatience, the Admiral spoke, "It is too bad that Captain Crane doesn't appreciate your cleverness. There's so much we could learn from you."
Pem responded to the flattery. "Oh, absolutely, there's so much I could teach you. Why, I could teach you about--"
"What I really want to know," interrupted Nelson, "is how you know an older version of you died on Seaview? How can you know what will happen to you in the future?"
"Research, my dear Admiral, research." declared Pem proudly. "I'm a historian in my time. Your ship's logs were preserved and I read through them all. That's how I learned that I will die on your ship. It's in your past, but for me, it's in my future."
Nelson thought Pem's profession was strangely appropriate since the man did look like a caricature of an absent-minded professor. He was certainly not a harmless absent-minded professor, however, and the Admiral knew he had to question him carefully. "But if you knew that you were going to die before you put yourself on board Seaview, why did you do it? Wouldn't it have been better to avoid that episode on Seaview?"
"Admiral, you don't understand. The older Pem didn't read about it in the logs because it wasn't in the logs until he went to your ship."
"So our history was changed and the logs you, this younger you, read are different than the logs the older you will read."
"Exactly, Admiral. By George, I think you've got it!"
"I'm also getting a headache. That doesn't make sense." grumbled Nelson.
"I told you that you wouldn't understand it. It has to do with alternate time lines," chortled Pem. "Shall I try to explain it to you?"
"No, don't bother. But there's something else I don't understand--if you know that's going to happen to you, Pem, why don't you just go back to that time and do it all over again, making sure you don't repeat the events that led to your death?"
"It's not so easy as that, Admiral. You still have a very primitive idea of the laws of time. If I, as I am now, were to go to that time period again, I'd meet up with my older self and that simply wouldn't work. It's too complicated for me to explain it to you, but it just isn't possible. No," he sighed sadly, "I will die there."
"So your research revealed that you died, or rather, from your perspective, that you will die on Seaview. I'm curious--what did you learn from your research into this time that made you want to come here?"
Pem looked at him sharply. "You're trying to trick me, Admiral! You think you can flatter me into revealing my purpose in bringing you here. You think you're smarter than I am--why, you're just like them. They thought they were smarter, too, but I'll show them just like I'll show you! I'm not going to tell you anything more--you and your precious Captain can figure it out for yourselves and then you'll be more than willing to help me." Pem turned his back on the Admiral.
Nelson knew he wouldn't get anything else from Pem until he had calmed down. He was sure there were clues to Pem's motive somewhere in that tirade--that reference to 'them' had to mean something, but he had no idea who 'they' were and Pem wasn't about to answer any more questions. Disappointed that he had failed to learn more about Pem's scheme, the Admiral headed back to his cabin.
For the next two hours, Seaview shadowed the U-boat, watching and listening for some indication of the vessel's next objective. Suddenly Sparks sang out, "Captain, I'm getting something."
Crane was in the radio shack leaning over Sparks in an instant. Sparks handed him a piece of paper as he said, "We'll need to put the computer to work decoding it, Skipper. I sure hope the computer's been programmed with all those old World War I codes."
The Captain scanned the printed page without answering Sparks. He turned abruptly to Morton who had followed him to the radio shack and the Exec saw Crane's face was chalk-white. "Mr. Morton, you have the con." was the curt order. Before Morton had time to reply, the Captain had bolted from the Control Room.
Alarmed by the Captain's uncharacteristic behavior, Morton quickly turned the con over to O'Brien and raced after Crane. He saw him disappear into the head and then heard the sounds of someone being violently ill. He debated using the intercom to summon help from Sickbay, but rejected the idea since Pem would hear the call. He also didn't want to leave to summon help himself. Fortunately, he caught sight of two crewmen at the end of the corridor. "Patterson, Riley!" he called.
"Aye, Sir," both men chorused as they turned to answer his summons.
"Captain Crane has been taken ill." explained Morton. "Patterson, go to Sickbay and tell Dr. Jamison to get here on the double. Riley, you go to the Admiral's cabin and get him. Under no circumstances are you to say anything about this on the intercom. Got it?"
"Aye, Sir." the men chorused again before hurrying off to carry out their orders.
Morton heard the sounds of the toilet flushing and water running in the sink in the head. A few minutes later, a pale Lee Crane emerged. He only took a single step out into the corridor before he sagged against the wall.
"Lee!" exclaimed Morton, reaching out to support the Captain who was now slowly sliding down the wall. The Exec propped Crane in a sitting position against the wall, then rose to go into the head. Returning to kneel by the Captain's side, he used a cold, wet towel to gently wipe the sweat from his friend's very white face.
"Easy, Lee. Jamison's on his way."
"I'll be fine. Jus' give me a minute." mumbled Crane. "I don't need a doctor."
"How about letting me decide that, Captain," said the voice of Will Jamison, the ship's doctor. "Mr. Morton, what happened?"
Admiral Nelson came hurrying down the corridor as Chip was explaining how Lee had bolted from the Control Room after they received the message from the other vessel and then had been violently sick. While he listened to the Exec, Jamison took the Captain's pulse and blood pressure.
"I don't think it's a virus," said Jamison to Nelson and Morton as he continued his examination of the strangely unresponsive Captain. "We haven't been ashore for weeks. Food poisoning isn't likely, either, since no one else has reported any symptoms. Besides, I'm willing to bet that our good Captain hasn't eaten for a while."
Jamison had hoped that his last remark would provoke a defensive reaction from the Captain, but Crane was still quiet and withdrawn. Jamison exchanged concerned looks with both the Admiral and the Exec.
"Jamie," said Nelson abruptly, "Lee was thrown against the edge of the table in the Observation Nose when Seaview shuddered several hours ago. Could he have internal injuries that are just showing up now?"
Jamison palpated Crane's stomach and abdomen. "There's no sign of injury--no rigidity, swelling, nothing."
The Captain finally seemed to pull himself back into the world around him. "It's not a virus, or food poisoning, or an injury." he declared. "I got sick when I read the message from the U-boat Captain." His stomach contracted visibly and he swallowed convulsively. "The message was from Krueger." he whispered.
The other three men exchanged shocked looks. Nelson was the first to find his voice. "Lee, how do you--" was all he got out before Jamison interrupted. "The Captain needs to go to Sickbay. This conversation can wait."
Both Nelson and Morton knew that Jamison was right. Morton helped Jamison get Lee to his feet, but the Admiral pulled the Exec aside before he could accompany them to Sickbay. "Chip," said the Admiral in a low voice, "Take the con. Keep shadowing the sub and monitor all communications. I'll be in Sickbay with Lee. If anything changes, send someone to get me--but don't put it on the intercom."
"Aye, Sir." acknowledged the Exec. Chip turned to go to the Control Room as the Admiral went to help the Doctor with Crane. Both men were still stunned by Crane's revelation. "Krueger! God help us," prayed Morton, "and, especially, God help Lee!"
Nelson sat down on a chair across the room while Jamison examined the Captain. The Admiral's thoughts went back to another time when he had sat in this chair, waiting for the Doctor's report. Jamison had been operating on Crane to remove a bullet that he, Nelson, had fired while under Krueger's control. He remembered the long hours after the surgery, sitting at Crane's bedside, waiting for him to regain consciousness. Nelson remembered how his feelings of shame and despair had mingled with weariness to nearly overcome him. At one point, his resolve weakening, he had lowered his head to rub his eyes. When he straightened up, he saw that the Captain's eyes were open. "Lee!" he breathed quietly. The Captain turned his eyes toward the Admiral and Nelson steeled himself against what he might see in those eyes. What he most feared seeing was an empty gaze for that would mean that Krueger had destroyed Crane's mind. But if Lee's mind and memories were intact, then he was sure he would see the look of shocked betrayal that he had seen in his Captainís eyes before he collapsed in the Control Room, the look that haunted him. He held his breath as he met the Captain's gaze. The gaze was focused, not vague, but devoid of emotion.
Lee spoke in a quiet voice. "You brought me back from the island." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes." replied the Admiral. "I couldn't let Krueger have you."
"He's gone." Again it was a statement, not a question.
"He's with Lani and he'll never come back. We blew up the island. You're safe from him now, Lee."
The Captain nodded as if satisfied, then closed his eyes and went to sleep. It was the last they had ever spoken of Krueger--until now. Nelson had worried about Crane's silence. He'd even approached Jamison to ask if the Captain should be urged to see a psychiatrist. He remembered the conversation clearly.
"Admiral," said Jamison, "Usually I would recommend a consultation with a psychiatrist after such a severe emotional trauma, but not in this case. I know several good psychiatrists, classmates from medical school, but I don't think that any of them would believe Lee's story. They'd all be convinced that he's delusional and suffering from a deep-seated mental illness. Lee doesn't need to have his story or his sanity questioned. That he survived the experience with his mind intact makes him one of the sanest men I've ever known. No, I think he should stay away from psychiatrists."
"All right." agreed the Admiral. "But shouldn't he talk to someone about it? Shouldn't we encourage him to talk to us?"
Jamison considered the suggestion, but then shook his head. "Krueger forced Lee to do things, terrible things, against his will. If we try to force him to do something he doesn't want to do, even though we think it's for Lee's own good, then we're acting just like Krueger. Lee needs to be in control right now and he needs us to respect his judgment about what is best for him."
Nelson still wasn't convinced. "Are we really sure he knows what's best?"
"Admiral," Jamison hesitated for a moment. "You may think I'm entirely out of line here, even bordering on being insubordinate, but I have to ask you this. Do you want Lee to talk to you about Krueger because you think it will help him, or because you want him to help you with your guilt over shooting him? It's not fair to expect that from him, Admiral. He has quite enough to do to heal himself."
Nelson was stung by the question. He would have answered angrily, but Jamison's earnest tone forced him to examine his motives. He sighed as he admitted "You're right, Doc. I guess I was thinking more about myself than about him. I would like the chance to tell him that I couldn't fight Krueger and to ask his forgiveness, but as you said, it isn't fair to ask him to help me."
Jamison's voice was kind as he replied, "Let's just give it some time, Admiral. I think he knows he can talk to us if he needs or wants to. Let him do it his way."
That way had been to put the experience with Krueger behind him with never a reference to the incident. The mention of Krueger now had stunned Nelson. Was Lee right? Could it be Krueger in command of that U-boat? Or, was Lee just suffering a delayed reaction to the earlier trauma, a reaction triggered by the sighting of the U-boat?
The Admiral's reverie was broken and he returned to the present as Jamison crossed over to the medicine cabinet next to his chair. He took out a syringe and a medicine bottle, then walked back over to the Captain. Nelson rose, crossing the room to stand near the foot of the Captain's bed.
"Skipper," said the doctor. "Your pulse and blood pressure are way above normal levels. I want to give you some medication to help you calm down."
"No," insisted Lee in a voice that nearly cracked from stress. "Not something that will put me to sleep. I can't go to sleep! I have to be in control!" He struggled to sit up, but the doctor restrained him with gentle pressure. Nelson moved to the other side of the bed to help if needed.
"I know that, Skipper." soothed Jamison. "This won't put you to sleep. I promise. Listen to me. Right now your body is in a "fight or flight" state. All the body's resources are mobilized to fight danger instinctively. Digestion stops, which is why you were sick to your stomach, and blood flow to the brain is reduced to give instincts--not rational thought--full rein. You say you need to be in control right now and I agree with you. The medication I want to give you will take the edge off. You'll be able to think more clearly. I'm not trying to trick you, Skipper. Let me help."
"You're sure it won't put me to sleep?"
"I'm sure," said Jamison as he administered the injection. "Now, what I'd also like to do is have you stay here for a while so I can give you some fluids intravenously. I'm sure you haven't eaten or slept in quite a while and the fluid loss from being sick dragged you down even further. The IV will restore your fluid balance and make you feel stronger. It's no substitute for proper rest and food, but it will help you keep going."
"Listen to him, Lee." urged the Admiral.
"I can't stay here, Admiral." argued Crane. "I have to get back to the Control Room."
Nelson hesitated, then asked quietly, "The message we intercepted, the one from Krueger, what did it say?"
"You believe me? You believe that the message was from Krueger?"
"Yes, I believe you. Lee, what was in the message?"
"He reported the sinking of their last target and was requesting new orders."
"Then we have some time while he's waiting for his orders. You can stay here while Chip monitors communications in the Control Room."
"What about you?" Crane looked at him through narrowed eyes. "You look like you're up to something."
"I'm going to talk to Pem. I think our uninvited guest planned this--remember he said that he was sure we would want to help him. I think he brought us here to meet Krueger. I want to find out why."
"Pem! I forgot all about him!" His mouth set in a grim line Crane proclaimed, "I'm going with you." He started to get up, but both the Doctor and the Admiral restrained him.
"No, Lee," said Nelson. "It's better if I talk to him alone. We have a strange rapport. I think if I'm alone with him, I can coax him into revealing his purpose in bringing us here. Once we know what he's up to, then we can figure out how to stop him. You stay here and let the good doctor do his job--I'll come back after I've talked to Pem."
Lee agreed, although reluctantly. "Be careful, Admiral. There's no telling what he has up his sleeve."
"I'll watch myself." promised Nelson. He hesitated a moment, wanting to ask Crane more about Krueger, but looking at the Captain's pale face, he decided it would be better to give Lee some time to gather his strength.
Pem jumped to his feet as soon as he saw the Admiral approaching. "You've talked to the Captain," he exclaimed, "He's decided to release me."
"I've talked to the Captain," acknowledged Nelson. "But we didn't talk about you. The Captain had too much on his mind to give any thought to you. It seems that we know the Captain of the U-boat--his name is Krueger."
"Yes, yes I know," said Pem impatiently. "Gerhardt Krueger. You encountered him in your time and he wanted the Captain's body."
Nelson was angered by Pem's nonchalant attitude to their previous encounter with Krueger, but he couldn't indulge that anger. When he spoke again, his voice was dangerously quiet. "So you planned this--you knew about Krueger."
"Of course I knew, Admiral. I told you--I read the logs."
"It wasn't in the logs." replied the Admiral. Nelson remembered how Lee had asked Chip to bring the shipís log to Sickbay. He'd written a very brief entry about a struggle with an intruder that had resulted in his injury and the death of the intruder. The intruder's name was not entered into the log. No, Pem had not learned about Krueger by reading Seaview's logs.
"Of course you're right, Admiral. It wasn't in the official logs. But it was in the Captain's personal logs. He wrote long passages about Krueger and about the...possession...I believed he called it. Yes, possession, that's it."
"So that was how Lee dealt with it. He couldn't talk about it, so he wrote about it." Nelson's face became even harder as he pictured Pem reading those anguished words and then deciding to use the Captain's pain for his own ends. It was getting more difficult to restrain his anger, but the Admiral knew he had to stay in control. Once again he forced himself to speak quietly.
"So you knew of our past with Krueger. Why bring us to him? What do you want from all of this?"
"Oh, nothing much--just some help in retrieving a certain document."
"A document? What sort of document?"
"A very important document, Admiral. One that I've spent a long time--there's that word again--looking for. They thought they could hide it from me, just like they thought they could keep the watch from me. But I outsmarted them. I have the watch and soon, with your help, I'll have the document."
The Admiral noticed as he had in their earlier conversation, the reference to the mysterious 'them.' He wanted to know who 'they' were, but any mention of them seemed to drive Pem into a rage. Nelson knew he needed to keep the conversation focused on the document. "Pem, I don't understand at all. Where is this document?"
"Why, on the merchant vessel, of course."
"What merchant vessel?"
"The one that Krueger's going to sink. You see, it's perfect--you stop Krueger from sinking the merchant vessel and then your men can go aboard to retrieve the document for me. The Captain can have the pleasure of destroying Krueger and I'll have my document."
Nelson was still confused. "You've lost me again. Why do you need us? Why don't you just use your watch to put yourself on board the merchant vessel so you can retrieve this document for yourself?"
"Oh no, Admiral, no. That won't do at all. I need your men to get it for me. I know exactly where it is. They can just pop over, get it, and come right back. Simple as can be. Then we can go to any time we want to. It will be so much fun."
"Pem, we don't want to travel around with you. We want to go back to our own time. If, and I do mean if, we help you get this document, it will be on the condition that you return us to our own time."
"Oh very well." said the little man petulantly. "You're such a party-pooper, Admiral. You're just like them, you know. They said we shouldn't meddle. They said it might cause harm--no sense of fun at all, at all. I'll show them, though. Once I have that document, my watch will run forever. I'll go to whatever time interests me. They won't be able to stop me. They..."
Pem was so caught up in his ranting about the mysterious "them" that he had forgotten the Admiral entirely. Realizing that he'd learned all he could from Pem, Nelson left to return to Sickbay. He walked slowly at first. He didn't want to return to Sickbay until he had the beginnings of a plan to stop Pem. Soon, his pace quickened as an idea came to him, then slowed again as he realized how much he would have to ask of his Captain. "Lee's been through so much," he brooded, "Is it right to ask this of him, even for Seaview?"
Nelson opened the door to a darkened Sickbay. The only light came from the lamp on Jamison's desk where the Doctor sat making notes on a chart. Jamison looked up as the Admiral entered. "Is he sleeping?" asked Nelson in a low voice.
Before Jamison could answer, a voice spoke clearly in the dim light. "No, I'm not asleep. Jamie, turn the lights on--the Admiral and I need to talk."
"Aye, Skipper," said Jamison, reaching for the light switch. He crossed the room to his patient's side. "I'll remove the IV, Skipper, and then I'll leave you two alone."
As soon as the Doctor had completed his work and left the room, Crane sat up slowly and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He stayed seated on the bunk, his hands gripping the edge of the mattress. Nelson gave the younger man an appraising look. "You look a bit better. How do you feel?"
"Don't worry about me, Admiral. I'll be fine. What did you get out of Pem? Did he tell you what he's up to?"
"He didn't tell me everything, but enough that I have a pretty good idea of his plan. Before I get into that--there's something we need to talk about first. Lee, after the 'incident' with Krueger was over, we never talked about it. I'm sure you just wanted to put it all behind you, but now--Lee, I have to ask--how did you know the message was from Krueger?"
The Captain's mouth was set in a flat line and his voice sounded flat and emotionless. "The message was in his personal code." He swallowed before continuing. "I know that code just as I know everything else he knows. It's still in my head--I guess it's been there ever since he..." The Captain didn't finish the sentence--there was no need since the Admiral knew he was referring to the time when Krueger had possessed Crane's body.
"I don't know why it all came back now--maybe because he's so close--but that's how I knew all about the U-boat's capabilities when we first spotted it. Admiral, I never studied German, but right now if you were to speak to me in German, I could understand it."
"Lee, I don't what to say, how to help. I--" With the guilt that had haunted him all these years nearly overwhelming him, Nelson found he couldn't continue.
The Captain broke the silence by changing the subject. "What about Pem? What did he tell you?"
The Admiral pulled himself together. "He brought us here, to Krueger, deliberately."
"How does he know about Krueger?"
"The same way he knows that he died on Seaview. In his time he's an historian so he reads historical documents such as Seaview's logs."
"But Krueger wasn't mentioned in Seaview's logs."
Nelson answered quietly. "I know. Pem read your personal logs."
Crane's grip on the edge of the mattress tightened until his knuckles were white. He, too, spoke quietly. "So he knows and brought us here deliberately. Why?"
The Admiral shook his head slightly as he answered. "He wasn't entirely clear, but he said something about needing to retrieve a document from a merchant vessel that Krueger will be ordered to sink. Apparently he wants this document very badly. We're to stop Krueger from sinking the ship and then help Pem retrieve the document."
"Then he was right when he said we'd be on his side," declared Crane. "Krueger must be stopped."
Shocked by the Captain's attitude, Nelson exclaimed, "Lee, we can't just decide to get involved and change history. We'd be playing God--acting just like Pem. Who knows what the repercussions of our action would be?"
Crane jumped off the bunk and began frantically pacing back and forth in the small room. "The only repercussion will be to spare the world any more of Krueger's evil deeds. Krueger is evil incarnate. No one knows that like I do--no one! His thoughts and feelings were in me. He'll destroy anything or anybody to get what he wants. He feels no remorse, no compassion for his victims. He has to be stopped!"
"Lee, listen to me." Nelson argued. "He's more of a threat to you if he's dead."
"Do you think I'm only concerned about myself?" So angry he was nearly out of control, Crane whirled to face the Admiral. "I'm not just thinking about what he did to me. I'm thinking of his victims, the ones he's destroyed, and the ones he will destroy if he's not stopped." He hesitated and then still looking directly at the older man, Crane continued in a quieter tone. "I'm also thinking of the ones he controlled."
The Admiral suddenly understood why Lee had never blamed him for the shooting. Lee knew that Krueger had been in control, not the Admiral. Nelson's voice shook as he spoke to his friend. "I still have nightmares. I see the look in your eyes just before you fell. That look will be with me until the day I die."
Crane's voice was quiet, but unlike the Admiral's, it was steady. "Admiral, when you had a choice, you came after me."
Their eyes met and held in understanding and respect. There was no need to say anything more.
It was Nelson who broke the silence. "Lee, we can't do what Pem wants us to do. This document--he didn't say exactly what it is--but I think it will tell him how to create a renewable power source for his watch. He'll be able to go to any place, to any time, and change history however he pleases. We can't let him have that document!"
Lee sighed heavily. "Part of me knows you're right, Admiral, but to stand by and watch Krueger kill without even trying to stop him--!" Crane sat down on the bunk, his fists clenched, his head down. He fought a silent battle within himself then raised his eyes to look up at Nelson. "All right, Admiral. We'll let Krueger sink the merchant vessel. I can't say I like it, but you're right, we can't let Pem have that kind of power--and we shouldn't interfere with history. But if the merchant vessel sinks and Pem doesn't get his document, how can we convince him to return us to our own time? He's going to be pretty upset with us."
"True, but I've got a plan that I think will work."
"Mmmm," mumbled Lee distracted for a moment by his own thoughts. "Admiral, this doesn't make sense. Why does Pem need us? Why doesn't he just materialize himself on the merchant ship and get the document himself?"
Nelson shook his head slowly. "I don't know--he just said it wouldn't work." A sudden revelation hit the Admiral. "That's it! He's already tried that. He did board the merchant ship, Lee. He was on board when Krueger sank the ship and he died. That's why he wants us to stop Krueger and retrieve the document--he can't go on board the ship again because he's already there."
Crane frowned. "I don't really understand any of this time travel stuff, but I guess it doesn't matter. One more question--if you're right, and the document does describe a renewable power source for his time device--then what is it doing on board a World War I merchant vessel?"
The Admiral mentally reviewed his conversation with Pem, remembering the references to the mysterious 'them.' "Pem kept saying that 'they' didn't want him to have that document. He said they'd hidden the document just like they'd hidden the watch to keep it from him. I'm only guessing, but I think that the people who invented this time device realized the harm it could do and tried to keep it hidden from those who would abuse it. Maybe they hid the document in the past--on a World War I ship that was going to be destroyed."
The Captain looked thoughtful. "I guess that's possible. Well, however it got there, we have to keep Pem from getting it and still convince him to send us back. You said you had a plan?"
Nelson opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by a knock on the door of Sickbay. Morton entered with a piece of paper in his hand.
"Skipper, Admiral," he began, "The U-boat has received its orders. There is a merchant vessel in the area, and the U-boat has been ordered to intercept and sink it. The U-boat has changed course and increased speed. We're still matching it. Do you have any other orders?"
Crane got slowly to his feet. "So it begins." he said softly.
"Lee," said Nelson. "Chip could handle this. You could stay here..."
"No, Admiral." said Crane firmly. "I'm Seaview's Captain. It's my responsibility." Assuming the burden of responsibility for the ship and her crew seemed to strengthen Crane. He was still pale, but he stood straight, and his voice was firm and decisive. "Admiral, you said you had a plan. You can fill us in on the way to the Control Room."
Crane was standing at the chart table when Pem entered the Control Room accompanied by the Master-at-Arms. The little man seemed possessed by a feverish excitement that he could barely contain.
"Captain," exclaimed Pem. "I'm glad to see you finally realized that we are indeed on the same side. I'm looking forward to seeing the Seaview in action. That U-boat doesn't stand a chance. How soon do we fire the torpedoes? Maybe I could push the button?"
Crane ignored the man's prattling, addressing himself instead to the Master-at-Arms. "Mr. Pem is here as an observer only. Should he attempt to interfere in any way with the operation of this vessel, you are to restrain him using whatever force is required."
"Aye, Sir." replied the Master-at-Arms.
"Now really, Captain, is that necessary?" protested Pem. "I won't interfere. I just want to watch Seaview go in for the kill. This is so exciting!"
A voice rang out from the sonar station. "Contact with a surface vessel, Captain! The U-boat is surfacing and heading on an intercept course, Sir!"
"Slow to one-third, Mr. Morton." ordered the Captain.
"Aye, Sir. "Slow to one-third."
"Captain, why are you slowing?" demanded Pem. "Chase him down!"
Crane continued to ignore Pem so the little man turned toward Nelson who was standing on the other side of the chart table. "Admiral, countermand his orders. We've go to stop that U-boat!"
"Now, Pem," soothed the Admiral. "Captain Crane knows exactly what he is doing."
"Oh!" exclaimed Pem. "You mean he's toying with the U-boat? Well, I suppose that's all right--just as long as he doesn't play too long."
"Captain," called the sonar tech. "The U-boat has fired torpedoes. Impact with the other vessel in two minutes."
"All stop, Mr. Morton," said Crane.
"Aye, Sir." replied the Exec. "All stop."
"No, don't stop!" shouted Pem. "What's the matter with you, Captain? Fire torpedoes! Hurry up, or it will be too late! Admiral, order him to fire the torpedoes!"
"Pem, I will do no such thing. Captain Crane is in command."
Frantic at the inaction of Crane and Nelson, Pem shouted at the crew. "What's the matter with you people? Krueger is going to sink that merchant vessel and murder innocent people. He must be stopped!"
The crew, like the senior officers, paid no attention to Pem's ranting. They sat stoically at their stations, doing their assigned jobs. If any of them doubted the wisdom of their Captain's orders, there was no sign of it on their faces or in their demeanor.
Pem looked around the Control Room. "If no one here has the courage to fire those torpedoes, then I'll do it." He lunged toward the firing panel, but the Master-at-Arms quickly moved in front of him.
"Sir, you are not to interfere with the operation of this sub." As Pem struggled to move around him, the Master-at-Arms restrained him with a firm grip on his arms. "I said, Sir, you are not to interfere."
Pem continued to struggle until the sonar tech's voice rang out once again. "Direct hit on the vessel, Captain. She's going down, Sir, and sinking fast."
Nelson saw Crane's hands tighten on the edge of the Chart Table. He would have liked to say something to Crane, but neither Pem nor the crew needed to know just how difficult this had been for the Captain. The Control Room was totally silent save for the noises from the ship's instrumentation. The silence was broken by Pem's anguished cry.
"It's gone. Now I'll never find it and you, Captain, and you, too, Admiral, are responsible."
Pem drew a large breath to continue his tirade, but Nelson spoke before he could continue.
"Pem, it's not over yet. Items on the vessel can be retrieved by divers once it settles on the bottom, and by the look of things, that won't take very long. Even though we were not willing to change history by preventing the sinking of this ship, we are prepared to assist you by sending out divers to comb through the wreckage. Of course," he said smoothly, "They'd have a better chance of finding the document if you accompanied them."
Pem was doubtful. "Do you think paper could survive and not be ruined?"
"You're an historian, Pem." said the Admiral. "Surely you know that papers on sunken ships have often been retrieved from safes. If this document of yours is so important, I'm sure it would have been in a safe."
"That's true, that's true," exclaimed Pem, growing more excited. "It was in a safe. Very well, Admiral. I'll accompany your divers. When do we get started?"
Nelson turned to the Captain, "Lee, what do you think?"
"The ship's sinking rapidly, Admiral." replied Crane. "I think by the time we get suited up, she'll be on the bottom."
"Well, then," said Pem, his good humor restored, "Let's go. What's that old expression of yours? Ah, yes, I remember--last one in is a rotten egg!"
"What do you mean, is it waterproof?" Of course it isn't--it's a delicate piece of machinery." Pem's outraged tone of voice made his opinion of both the question and questioner abundantly clear.
Kowalski, who had been assisting Pem with the diving gear, was fast losing patience with the little man. "Sir," he said with all the tact he could muster, "If it's not waterproof, then I would suggest that you leave the device on board. It could suffer water damage if you take it with you."
Pem narrowed his eyes. "It's a trick, isn't it? You'll get me out there without my watch and then you'll use it to go back to your own time. You plan to leave me stranded, don't you?"
Nelson had been talking quietly with Crane who was also suited up in diving gear, but the commotion involving Pem caused the Admiral to quickly intervene.
"Pem, I assure you it's not a trick. Captain Crane is going out with you. Do you really think that I would abandon him in this time?"
"Mmph," harrumphed Pem. "I suppose not. Oh, very well, I'll leave it here." He handed the watch to the Admiral. "Are we ready, then?"
"Yes, Pem." replied Crane. "We're ready. If you'll just step into the escape hatch, we'll head out."
Pem entered ahead of the Captain. Nelson caught Crane's arm to stop him from following. "Stay in contact, Lee, and be careful."
"Don't worry about me, Admiral. I'll be fine. Just figure out a way to get us home. I've had more than enough of this time."
The Admiral acknowledged Crane's statement with a slight nod and released his arm. Kowalski secured the hatch behind the divers. Nelson turned to Chief Sharkey. "Chief, there's a folder on the desk in my cabin that contains my notes from our last encounter with Pem. Get the folder and bring it to the Reactor Room. We can use Seaview's reactor to power Pem's watch and get us back to our own time."
"Admiral," protested Sharkey. "You aren't going to leave without the Skipper, are you?"
"Of course not." replied Nelson brusquely. He couldn't imagine a worse fate for Crane, being abandoned in time with his most feared enemy. "That's not going to happen," he promised himself. "I'll get us home--all of us." Impatient to start on his plan, he barked at the Chief. "Go, Sharkey, on the double. We don't know how much time we'll have before the Captain returns with Pem."
"Aye, Sir," replied Sharkey, practically running out of the Missile Room.
Nelson reached for the mike. "Nelson to Control Room."
"Lee and Pem have left the ship. Keep in contact with them and follow their progress on the monitors. Also, keep monitoring the U-boat and watch the area for other ships. Report any changes to me immediately. I'll be in the Missile Room, hooking up Pem's device to the reactor."
"Aye, Sir." replied Morton.
Morton's gaze was focused on the images of Crane and Pem as they appeared on the view screen. The vessel had broken in two when it sank, and the divers were approaching the larger of the two sections. A shout from the sonar tech broke his concentration.
"Mr. Morton, I'm picking up three surface vessels. They're heading straight for the U-boat's position. The U-boat is aware of them and is submerging."
"Damn," said Morton looking at the sonar screen. "It's a convoy. The Allies used convoys equipped with depth charges to destroy the U-boats. That merchant vessel must have been a decoy to draw out the sub. How long before they're in position to drop depth charges?"
"At their present speed, I'd say no more than five minutes."
Morton seized the mike. "Admiral, we've picked up a convoy of three ships heading for the U-boat. They'll be in position to drop depth charges in less than five minutes."
The reply came over the intercom immediately. "Tell Lee and Pem to get back here on the double. I'm just about ready to activate the device, but we've got to do it before the shock wave from the depth charges hits us. Let me know as soon as they're aboard."
"Aye, Sir." Morton quickly clicked the button to clear the mike. "Morton to diving party. Come in, Skipper."
The few seconds it took Crane to respond seemed to stretch out endlessly for the worried Exec. Finally, he heard his Captain's voice. "Crane here, what is it, Chip?"
"We've picked up three ships heading for the U-boat. They'll be in position to drop depth charges in about five minutes. You've got to get back on board before they drop those charges."
"Understood. We're on our way. Crane out."
The Captain spoke to Pem. "Pem, you heard Mr. Morton. We have to go back."
Pem ignored the warning, pretending he hadn't heard, so Crane swam closer to him and grabbed his arm. Crane was not surprised that Pem resisted returning to Seaview without the document. He was well aware of the man's obsession with creating a time device with an inexhaustible source of power. He did not underestimate the depth of the obsession, but he did underestimate Pem's agility and physical strength. He was caught off-guard when Pem attacked.
In one swift motion, Pem slammed the Captain against a large rock, then raised his knife to slash through Crane's air hose. The blade also cut into Crane's shoulder, slicing through the wet suit and drawing blood. Despite being stunned by the initial blow and the pain from the shoulder wound, Crane's survival instincts remained intact. Instinctively he held his breath and headed toward Seaview, abandoning Pem to his obsession.
In the Control Room, Morton saw the attack on the view screen. Maintaining the rigid control that was often mistaken for emotional detachment, the Exec grabbed the mike and issued a string of crisp orders. "Missile Room--the Captain's air hose has been cut and he appears to be injured. He's heading for the escape hatch. Stand by to assist him. Sickbay--the Captain may require emergency treatment. Send a team to the Missile Room."
Another voice was heard on the intercom. "Nelson to Control Room."
"I'm ready to activate the device as soon as Lee is aboard. If the convoy drops depth charges, how long before the shock wave hits us?"
"Morton did the calculations in his head. "About 30 seconds."
"How long before they're in position?"
"They could drop the charges any time now, Sir."
"Let me know when Lee's aboard--we have to get out of here before we're hit by the shock wave."
"Sir, what about Pem?"
"He made his choice, Mr. Morton." replied Nelson curtly.
"Aye, Sir." Morton clicked the mike. "Missile Room, you heard the Admiral. Sing out the instant the Captain's on board."
"Aye, Sir. We're ready."
Morton turned to the view screen. Crane was still swimming toward the hatch, but his progress was slow. Chip could see that he was barely using his right arm. "Come on, Lee, hurry." he murmured quietly.
A shout broke the tense silence. "They're dropping depth charges--detonation in ten seconds--the shock wave will hit us thirty seconds later." Morton seized the mike--
Crane struggled to stay conscious as he swam toward Seaview. His shoulder hurt with every stroke and his lungs felt like they would burst if he didn't take a breath. He could see Seaview at the end of a black tunnel that seemed to grow narrower as the blackness on the sides closed in. Chip's voice suddenly cut through the blackness, briefly widening the tunnel. "Lee, the convoy dropped depth charges. You've got thirty seconds before the shock wave hits."
Crane saw the hatch in front of him. "Almost home," he thought. Using the last of his strength, he stretched to reach it, and was abruptly assaulted by an overwhelming rush of images and sounds. He thought of the old saying about having your life flash before your eyes at the point of death. But these images and sounds weren't from his life--it was Krueger's life he was seeing. It was Krueger who was dying.
Crane stopped as Krueger's emotions surged through him. He felt Krueger's strong will to live, his regret at leaving Lani, and his defiance even in the face of death. There was no remorse for anything he'd done in his life--just anger that his life was ending. Abruptly the anger was interrupted, replaced by realization. Krueger knew that his mind had touched the mind of another--one still living, but also near death. Exultation surged in Krueger as he realized he didn't have to die--his body could die, but his mind could live on in the body of another. Ruthlessly, he dominated Crane's mind, pushing it aside, leaving Crane powerless to resist.
In the Control Room Morton was horrified to see Lee stop so close to the hatch. As he reached for the mike to contact Crane, the Admiral's voice came over the intercom.
"Chip, what's going on? Is Lee on board yet?"
"No, Sir. He's just outside the hatch, but he's stopped--it's like he's frozen. Admiral, the convoy dropped the depth charges. The shock wave will hit in twenty seconds."
Crane felt Krueger possessing him as he had before. He struggled to resist, but he was too weak. Krueger's thoughts and emotions were filling his mind, his soul. His thoughts, his feelings, his very will were all being buried by Krueger. As he struggled against Krueger, he became aware of a new sound in his head, a familiar voice calling--calling to him, not Krueger. He knew the voice--it was the Admiral's voice. He concentrated so he could hear the Admiral's words.
"Lee, you've got to fight. Think of Seaview, Lee. Seaview needs you. The crew needs you. Fight for yourself and fight for Seaview."
"Seaview!" Thoughts of the magnificent sub filled his mind, driving out everything else. He lunged for the hatch. As he entered, he felt a pair of hands seize him. He started to struggle as he had against Krueger, but the world around him exploded into violent gyrations, and then he knew nothing.
Jamison looked up from the chart on his desk when he heard the door to Sickbay open. He was not surprised when Admiral Nelson entered. Anticipating a difficult conversation, the Doctor rose to greet his superior office. The Admiral's eyes scanned the room quickly before he acknowledged Jamison.
"I came to see Captain Crane. Where is he?"
"I released him a short time ago." Hoping to avoid a barrage of questions, Jamison quickly continued, "His injuries were not serious. He was suffering from mild oxygen deprivation, but recovered quickly. Did you know Kowalski was in the airlock with an extra set of tanks? Apparently as soon as he heard that the Skipper's air hose had been cut, he strapped on a pair of tanks, grabbed an extra set for the Skipper, and then waited in the airlock. They both got a few bruises from being thrown around when you activated Pem's device to bring us back, but nothing serious. The Skipper also suffered a knife wound to the shoulder when Pem attacked him, but it was a superficial wound. I put in a few stitches, but if our good Captain were a less active man, I wouldn't have bothered."
The Admiral, showing obvious impatience with the lengthy explanation, interrupted the Doctor. "So you're saying that he's all right physically, but what about his mental state?"
Jamison sighed. "That's not as easy to diagnose, Admiral. He was quiet, but I wouldn't say he was withdrawn. He answered questions, but didn't volunteer anything. I didn't push him. He's exhausted both physically and emotionally so I suggested he get some rest, but I'd bet my medical license that he's off prowling around the ship. Admiral, we're just going to have to trust him to handle this in his own way."
Nelson frowned and said shortly. "The same advice you gave before."
"I still think it's best, Admiral. The Captain's strong--if he wasn't, he'd never have survived the first experience with Krueger. Be ready to listen if he wants to talk, but let him take the initiative."
"All right, Jamie. I won't push him either. I just hope he'll ask for help if he needs it."
"We just have to trust him, Admiral."
"And hope he'll trust us." rejoined Nelson
Leaving Sickbay, the Admiral went first to the Captain's cabin. When he didn't find Lee there, Nelson headed for the Control Room. As he entered, he saw Morton at the Chart Table and the rest of the crew carrying out their usual duties. Morton looked up as Nelson approached him.
"The minor damage we suffered during the trip through time has all been repaired. We're proceeding on course for Santa Barbara."
"Good work, Chip. Have you seen Lee?"
Morton nodded. "He came through a little while ago. I think he went on to inspect the ship. I told him everything was fine, but you know him. He can't rest until he's checked everything himself."
Nelson took some small comfort in the fact that the Captain was behaving normally, but he was still worried. "Chip, I know you've been on duty for hours, but Lee's exhausted. Is there any way to give him some extra time off before his next duty watch?"
"I've already seen to it, Admiral," replied Morton. "O'Brien will relieve me in an hour and then he and I will trade off for at least the next twenty-four hours--or longer if Lee needs it."
"Thanks, Chip. That should help."
Nelson tapped his hand absently on the Chart Table for a few moments as though undecided about what to do next. Finally, after a look around the Control Room, he went on to the Observation Nose, closing the crash doors behind him. His eyes fell on his Sherlock Holmes book, which was lying on the floor just below the windows. It had apparently landed there when Pem first pulled Seaview through time, then remained there, forgotten during the crisis. Nelson went over and picked up the book. He carried it to the table, setting it down carefully. He pulled out a chair, but before he sat down, he reached into his pocket and pulled out Pem's broken pocket watch, placing it on the table beside the book. As he stepped to the side of the chair, he felt something crunch beneath his foot. Looking down he realized it was the doughnut that he'd offered to Lee hours earlier and when he bent over to retrieve the broken pieces, he remembered that Lee had said the doughnut was more tired than he was. As Nelson placed the broken pieces of the doughnut beside the broken watch, he wondered if Lee, too, had been broken. His somber thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps on the stairs. He looked over and saw Crane descending into the Observation Nose. He smiled and greeted his Captain.
"I figured you'd turn up here eventually."
Crane stood beside the table where the Admiral sat. "Did you need me for something? I didn't hear a call on the intercom."
"I didn't want to interrupt until you'd finished what you needed to do."
"I made a tour of Seaview, to make sure everything is all right."
"And is everything all right?"
"Yes, the crew has completed all the repairs. They were tired before all this started, and they're more tired now, but they're still giving their best."
"So Seaview and her crew are all right, but what about her Captain? Are you all right?"
"I'm not sure," admitted Crane, moving away to look out the windows. "I'm tired, so very tired, but I'm afraid to sleep. I'm afraid Krueger will be there in my mind again. He was there, you know, when he was dying. Somehow he touched my mind and I felt what he was feeling--his regret at leaving Lani, his will to live, and his ruthless determination to take anything, absolutely anything, to get what he wanted." Crane paused, then continued speaking in a voice so quiet that Nelson had to strain to hear his words.
"He knew that our minds touched in that moment before he died. When we met him in our time, years after his death, it was no accident. He had been looking for me and if he ever gets free, he'll come after me again." Crane struggled to keep his voice from breaking--he didn't want to show the Admiral how frightened he was, yet he needed reassurance. "Admiral, if he comes again, I don't know if I can resist him. I couldn't before and, even this time, if I hadn't heard your voice, and if Kowalski hadn't been in the airlock, I think he would have had me."
The Admiral rose from his chair, slowly walking to stand beside his Captain. He put his hand on Lee's uninjured shoulder. "Lee, he won't ever be free again. We blew up the island. You won't ever see him again."
Crane turned violently, shaking off the Admiral's hand. "You can't be sure of that! We thought Pem was dead, yet he came back. And even though we think he died again out there, I'll wager that we'll see him again. Maybe Krueger can't get free, but we could be taken back to his time again, or taken wherever the hell he is now. The evil that is in Pem and Krueger doesn't die--it's always there, ready to come back again and again!" Lee turned back to the window as if he were ashamed by his display of raw emotion.
Nelson was silent for a moment, trying to find the words that would help his Captain and friend. Finally, he moved forward to stand beside Crane, and he, too, gazed out the window into the ocean depths. "Lee," he began, "Do you remember what I told you at the end of your first mission commanding Seaview?"
The Captain turned slightly to look at the older man. "Of course I do. You said, 'As long as there are destructive forces in the world, as long as there are secrets of nature to be probed...there will be work for us. On missions just as vital and dangerous as this one.'"
Nelson nodded, "Seaview is needed, Lee, and she'll continue to be needed because you're right--we can't rid the world of all the evil that's out there. All we can do is resist the evil forces to the best of our abilities so they don't gain the upper hand. I know sometimes it seems impossibly hard, especially now when you're exhausted. What you have to remember, Lee, is that you don't have to do it alone. As long as you're aboard Seaview, you'll have Seaview and every member of her crew, including me, with you. If we do meet up with Pem or Krueger again, and I hope to God we don't, we'll face them together and we'll defeat them together."
Nelson saw a small flicker of hope appear in Lee's eyes as he gave the Admiral a wan smile. "I can't ask for more than that, can I?"
The Admiral smiled in return. "I think it's the best offer out there." Before Crane could reply, Nelson continued, "Now, I talked to Chip--you're not scheduled for a duty watch for the next twenty-four hours, and you've already taken a tour of the boat, so there's no reason you can't get some sleep. It will help, Lee, I'm sure of it."
"You're probably right," admitted Lee. "And I think I will be able to sleep now, Admiral. Thanks."
Watching Crane head for the stairs, Nelson pushed the button to open the crash doors. Instantly an enticing aroma floated into the Observation Nose. Lee turned around to ask, "Do you smell something?"
Before the Admiral could respond, a cheerful voice rang out. "It's doughnuts, Sir, fresh baked." The voice belonged to Cookie who was holding out a plate piled high with doughnuts.
"You've been baking doughnuts?" inquired the Captain incredulously.
"Aye, Sir." replied the ship's cook. "I like to keep busy when things are tense. An' I thought the crew could use a treat when everything got quiet again. I brought these for you and the Admiral."
"Good man, Cookie." Nelson clapped Cookie on the back with one hand while reaching for a doughnut with the other. "Go on, Lee, have a doughnut."
The Captain reached for a doughnut. "Thanks, Cookie. Now make sure all the men get some--even the men on duty in the Control Room."
"Aye, Sir!" said the cook, beaming.
"Relaxing discipline a bit, Captain?" inquired Nelson.
"Cookie's right." replied Lee. "A treat will raise the crew's spirits."
"Maybe even the spirit of a very tired Captain?"
Lee smiled, a tired smile, but a smile nonetheless. "It just might, Admiral. It just might. Good night, Sir."
"Good night, Lee." Nelson remained in the Observation Nose, looking out the windows, as he ate his doughnut. When he'd finished eating, he retrieved his Sherlock Holmes book from the table and he, too, headed off to his cabin. He paused outside the Captain's cabin, looking to see if there was light showing under the door. He was pleased to see no light and, after leaning close to the door, he was even more pleased to hear only the sound of soft snoring. As he straightened up, he felt his book slipping out from under his arm. Tucking it more firmly in place, he grinned to himself, "The great detective Sherlock Holmes deduces that the good Captain is asleep--the best thing for him." Content now that the danger had passed for Seaview and her crew, the Admiral Nelson, AKA Sherlock Holmes, walked down the corridor to his own cabin.