A fourth season story. Written for the Nelson’s Mad Lab story challenge.
The warm air of the South Atlantic Ocean brushed a tepid breeze across Lee Crane’s face as he stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier. The sea always called to him at times like these, and he longed for her comfort now. He breathed in the salt air and gazed at the expanse of water, longing to be part of it. He supposed that the call from the sea was one of the reasons he had joined the Navy in the first place. The other was duty, an equally strong call to a person who listened to his heart as much as his mind when making his career choice. It was exactly that reason why he now found himself on the deck seeking solace at this particular moment.
Seaview was about to embark upon a mission that would test the limits of both technology and the human body. Its merit was so profound that he found himself wholeheartedly agreeing with the voyage, though he’d stipulated that he, himself, would be the test subject. He wouldn’t lower one of his men down to the inky depths without knowing for himself that the experiment would be 100% successful. So, he had agreed to ride the Bell down to an incredible 35,000 feet below the surface, which wasn’t quite so astounding, considering that the Bell was built for just that capability. What was incredible was the new air mixture he would be breathing. Dr. Braddock’s formula was so cutting-edge, that no other scientific study being conducted at present even came close to its promise; a breathing mixture capable of lowering one into the extreme depths and then back to the surface without decompression stops or the need to recompress in the decompression chamber! Needless to say, he was intrigued. A drop to 35,000 feet required two hours of decompression stops scattered throughout the ascension, as well as twenty-four hours in the decompression chamber.
He had thus, volunteered himself as the subject, but unlike other times when Seaview conducted experiments, he wasn’t privy to all the details of the experiment. He was aware that the previous dive had had a set-back, but that Dr. Braddock had complete confidence in his new formula. What that set-back was, he had been left purposely uninformed. The answer as to why such knowledge was kept from him being; scientific method. As the test subject, he could unconsciously take on symptoms and side-effects merely by the power of suggestion, coupled with what the scientist called psychological hysteria. That is, the shock of the experiment, along with the physical changes the breathing mixture invoked as it changed the chemical breakdown of oxygen and nitrogen in his body, could indeed be enough to cause his mind to take on the suggested side-effects; perhaps, invoking psychological symptoms of the bends that weren’t based upon true physical fact. It made perfect sense and he was willing to go along with it, especially since Admiral Nelson wasn’t satisfied just to take Dr. Braddock’s word for it.
At this very moment, Harry was leading a team of NIMR scientists on a thorough investigation into the breathing mixture. Dr. Jamieson had been fully briefed as well, and it was in no small part, his faith in Seaview’s doctor that gave him the confidence to continue with his commitment. All of which, was going on nearly 3,000 miles away as a crow flies, in Santa Barbara.
He had just finished an unexpected ONI mission in the Caribbean and was currently awaiting his transport to take him back to the States, when Braddock approached both Admiral Nelson and the Pentagon with the experiment. Lee accepted the mission thousands of miles away based on his faith in Harry and Jamie, and the opportunity to take diving to the next logical level. The clincher to the parameters of this highly unorthodox mission was that Braddock insisted that it be done at a certain time and place. He was in fact, attempting to recreate the first experiment exactly; again… scientific method.
So, he found himself both intrigued and yet concerned with the quick turnabout from an ONI mission to sea voyage. He expelled a cleansing breath and then breathed in the salty air, revitalizing himself and feeling his resolve return as he privately examined the parameters of the mission. This is what Seaview was created for, he comforted himself silently. He felt his peace return, followed by a thin smile at the thought of ascending without hours of decompression. The spirit of exploration and adventure took over his previous misgivings as he checked his watch. His ride would be leaving soon, so he took in the ocean’s call once more, before turning toward the flight deck. He was already geared in a g-suit and was flying second seat in an F-14 fighter jet. Within hours he’d be back in San Diego, and then air lifted by the Navy, whose stake in the experiment was driving the hastily put-together voyage as much as Braddock. He’d be delivered straight to Seaview’s deck by early afternoon, where he’d take command of the mission. By early tomorrow morning, he’d be taking his first of two scheduled dives down into the abyss, and perhaps breaking new ground for diving exploration.
He crossed the flat top’s deck and retrieved his backpack, filled with his ONI gadgets and spy apparel and sought his host to offer his thanks for their hospitality, while still very much in thought about the experiment. In the perfect world, they wouldn’t be rushed; Harry would have already put the formula through its paces. But in spite of it all, he had complete faith that the Admiral would see to the successful outcome of the experiment; the Admiral would authorize the first dive from Santa Barbara and then review the data before making the decision on the second dive. It was that level of commitment that Harry had promised that gave him the confidence to proceed. Thus, was the last of his second guessing; he was ready to proceed full speed ahead and smiled again at the thought of decompression-less dives.
The transfer to Seaview went like clockwork, and he had arrived finding the Boat in the capable hands of his first officer, Chip Morton, and running as efficiently as ever. The next morning, he was cleared for the dive, and excitedly boarded the bell with expectations that the experiment could revolutionize deep diving.
Everything after that became nothing but disjointed memories of a beast he couldn’t comprehend… like a nightmare he couldn’t seem to wake from…
* * * * *
Lee had been livid to wake and find that a crewman had been killed by some unknown creature aboard Seaview. Sharkey and Kowalski both verified that a beast had been spotted, though there was some discrepancy in size. He’d gone to bed feeling very fatigued and exhibiting a strange manifestation on his hand, but Braddock had assured him it was completely normal and within the experiment parameters. Apparently, the breathing mixture had a by-product producing weariness, but he woke feeling quite normal. The hairy manifestation on his hands was gone, and most certainly put on the back burner as he dealt with this emergency. His mind didn’t make any connection to his illness the night before and the beast roaming Seaview in an officer’s uniform. It was too ludicrous to even contemplate, even if he hadn’t been compromised by a DNA altering experiment. All he knew was that a saboteur had wreaked havoc on his submarine and killed one of his men. His anger swelled, and his mind blocked inconsistencies that should have sent him straight to Jamie for a check-up. He was presently ignoring the bullet crease on his arm, having no explanation for the injury and deciding that he must have injured it without realizing when he blacked-out on the first dive.
Then, slowly, disjointed memories started returning that utterly confused him. Nothing made sense, the memories were fragmented and not necessarily manifesting themselves in timeline order. He had no idea that the beastly DNA inside him was confusing his senses, and as such, didn’t recognize that he wasn’t fit to make the decision to dive again. Dr. Braddock’s insistence that the dive must proceed seemed reasonable; so, he invoked captain’s privilege and authorized the dive himself, even though communications with Santa Barbara had been cut-off, thanks to the damage caused by the beast. If he had been in his right mind, he would have never done so, especially with a murdering beast aboard, but his mind wasn’t right. It was affected in ways he couldn’t understand, prompting him to ignore warning signs that he would have gladly heeded any other time. Of course, he had no idea that Braddock had derailed such warning signs when the scientist intercepted his visit to Jamie after the first dive.
Even as Lee prepared to climb aboard the bell, he knew he wasn’t well, but strangely moved ahead with the dive nonetheless; a part of him wanting to get it over with, though it made no sense. He had enough sense to question himself one last time, walking to the mic to inquire if the Admiral had been reached, but the good sense that his years of experience provided, became more and more unavailable to him. Memories assailed and confused him, as he remembered details dimly, like an out-of-body experience. Even so, he was unable to accept the growing concern that somehow, he was the beast. His rational was compromised as he stepped inside the bell, pushing back the festering pain that should have stopped the lunacy of another dive.
He sat in the jump seat, suddenly feeling like this is where he needed to be and actually sighed in relief when the bell was lowered. He reported feeling great, and then the pain resurfaced, once again taking over his whole being as he writhed in agony. Then he saw the beast in his own reflection of the port window. Only now, did he begin to understand about the beast, but it was too late. Still in pain, he reached for the mic to hail Chip, but he hadn’t activated the transmission and his call for help went unheard. It mattered not, for at that moment, the beast remembered the source of the pain in his arm, and his rage grew. Fueled by unrelenting pain of his continuing transformation, the beast tore apart everything he could get his hands on. His movements were awkward and the pain too blinding, or he might have succeeded in damaging the bell irreparably and ending his own life right there.
The hatch opened only moments after he had transformed back into Lee Crane. He stepped wearily to the deck of the Missile Room to the report that Admiral Nelson was back aboard and fiery mad that Captain Crane had authorized the dive without word from him. He reported to the Admiral, defending his right as captain to launch the bell, and trying to wrap his mind around the facts that were now glaring at him; that somehow, he was the monstrous beast terrorizing Seaview. Then he heard the entire story, Harry had discovered that Braddock’s mixture was unstable. He admonished Lee for taking the second dive, but it was apparent that Lee was suffering physically, even as they spoke. Then Harry reached for his arm, and flinched in pain at his grasp. Lee had no choice but to fess up to what all the previously disjointed memories had told him; he was the beast that Chip had shot.
“I had it coming,” Lee responded, shaking his head remorsefully. “I killed a man in cold-blood,” he lamented. “I keep telling myself, I’m not myself… I’m under some spell,” he continued. “But it doesn’t help,” he added sorrowfully.
Harry assured him that he had the antidote and there wasn’t any time to lose, so they rushed to sickbay; but even then, the whole story hadn’t come out. Lee’s mind was still not completely his own, it never dawned on him to question Dr. Braddock’s earlier insistence that he was fine. The fact was no one even knew that he had sought medical help, and he didn’t have the presence of mind to let Harry know.
Jamie bandaged his arm and readied the hypo with the antidote, but it was too late, the beast had found its way back to the surface once again.
* * * * *
The pain was unbearable. He had no control over his actions, his rage was inconsolable; but somewhere deep inside he knew the answer lay in the bell. It had all started in the bell. There was little left of Captain Lee Crane’s ability to reason as he threw crewmen around like rag dolls. All he wanted was for the pain to stop. He had no understanding that two genomes of DNA were warring for the right to call his body home. The human side of him was simply pushed aside as the Beast manifested itself in his body, a direct result of Dr. Braddock’s gas mixture. And so, without the ability to reason he attacked Dr. Jamieson and Admiral Nelson then fled Sickbay in the full-fledged rage of a mad beast, leaving behind the very antidote that could save his life. In his current state, Lee Crane was simply along for the ride as the Beast wreaked havoc on his beloved submarine. His mind was still under the creature’s influence, but somewhere inside Lee Crane fought to emerge. Regret over his inability to control his own actions, mixed with sorrow at taking the life of one of his own men, clouded his reasoning even more. Still shrouded inside the Beast, he fought to end the destruction at his own hands. The bell would either cure or kill him; at this point he didn’t care which. He barely had enough human available to him to operate the winch, while setting up a delay in the mechanism before locking himself inside. Inside the bell, he collapsed to the deck, writhing in pain as the Beast forced itself back into complete control.
Pain seized him again in agonizing waves of misery as the bell dropped into the depths. Suddenly, the bell broke loose; free falling to the trench below. Lee barely had the presence of mind to register a vague thought that the end would come soon; and found he was strangely comforted by it. That was the last thought his human side could render as the Beast took over once again, its rage at the ongoing pain dictating its senseless acts of aggression.
A sudden tug from the bell threw him to the deck and for a few moments the Beast was rendered unconscious, but then the blinding pain returned. Suddenly, he was aware of clanking noises on the hull and readied himself to pounce as soon as the hatch was opened. He jumped out, throwing crewmen aside, desperately trying to evade their capture before several tranquilizing darts dropped him to the deck.
“Load him in the bell,” Admiral Nelson ordered. “I’m going to administer the antidote at enormous pressure.”
“But Sir, you can’t risk it,” Sharkey interjected, “the same thing will happen to you!”
“We won’t be using Braddock’s air, now lower us to at least to 30,000 feet,” the Admiral ordered, watching as the crewmen laid the beastly form of Lee Crane on the deck of the bell, his face completely transformed into a strange and wild creature. “It’s just a theory, but if I inject the antidote at extreme pressure he might just have a chance.”
There was no arguing with the Admiral as he climbed in the bell; so, Sharkey dogged the hatch, uttering a silent prayer that the tranquilizers would keep the beast asleep long enough for the Admiral to administer the antidote.
“Okay, you heard the Admiral. Let’s get the bell into the water, and fast!” Sharkey shouted, the intensity in his eyes barely disguising his deep concern for both the Admiral and the Skipper.
* * * * *
Harry settled into his jump seat, stopping to gaze down at Lee. His features were disfigured and marred with beastly hair and fangs. Even the structure of his face had been changed at the genetic level, with the handsome lines of Lee Crane’s face lost to the grotesque features of the beast. He felt the bell lower and readied the hypo, watching carefully for any sign of the sedation wearing off. The DNA had changed so drastically in such a short period of time that Harry knew that there was more than a small chance that Lee’s metabolic rate was operating off the charts; increasing the chance he would wake before the antidote was administered. It was a chance he had to take.
“Twenty thousand feet, Admiral,” Sharkey reported.
Ten thousand feet more… only a few minutes more, Harry thought. He’d calculated that the antidote’s properties would be extended at the tremendous depth that had initiated the gas interaction in the first place. It had to work.
“Thirty thousand feet, Sir.”
Harry leaned over and administered the shot then waited for signs that he had hypothesized correctly. As the antidote raced through Lee’s system, small subtle changes began to occur. Soon, those changes were joined by more radical transmutations as the DNA reversal began to transform Lee from beast to man again. The strange facial hair that had produced the werewolf affect had receded; next, changes in the bone structure of his face began to manifest. He was grateful that Lee was still sedated, as these changes would surely have been extremely painful. Finally, the strange fang-like teeth were forced to recede. It was at this point that Lee’s abnormally increased metabolic rate managed to allow him to waken. Dark circles under his eyes broadcasted the extreme changes that his body had endured, as the exhausted man lay drenched in his own sweat while the antidote attempted to purge the beast from him altogether.
Harry saw the physical changes of the reversion, but it was Lee’s eyes that told him that his best friend was back, followed by a small smile full of gratitude. He was well aware that Lee was still undergoing changes internally but was confident that the antidote was reversing the effects of Dr. Braddock’s air mixture. He reached for the mic, feeling confident in his decision to issue the order to retrieve the bell.
“Bring us up, it’s all over,” he issued, partly as an order to Seaview, partly to assure Lee that the antidote was working.
Lee acknowledged with a slight nod, obviously very weary and his emotions running high with heightened hormones trying to dissipate through his system.
Harry shipped the mic; they were facing two hours of decompression stops at prescribed intervals, along with a slow controlled ascent.
“How are you doing, Lee?” Harry asked, leaning over and placing a concerned hand on his shoulder.
Lee shivered, still perspiring and breathing back groans. “Still hurts… but it feels different…”
“The antidote is working, Lee. You’re not just temporarily reverting back; your DNA is rewriting its genetic code to expel all traces of the beast, just like antibodies eradicating a virus.”
Lee looked down at his shaky hands, and gasped; horrified to still see the remains of course hair and elongated fingernails.
“I’m certain the antidote is working, Lee. Be patient,” the admiral encouraged.
Lee nodded, realizing that something was definitely going on inside, if the pain he was still experiencing was any indication; then he shivered again, nearly chattering his teeth in the process. Harry noticed and opened the supply cabinet for an emergency blanket, unfolding a shiny silver heat blanket.
“You’re taking a chance, Admiral,” Lee admonished, stopping and grimacing before continuing, “coming down with me. What if you’re wrong?” he finished, his eyes dropping to his hands still showing the manifestation of the beast DNA not yet purged from his system.
“It was the only way,” Harry replied, spreading the emergency blanket over Lee, “And I’m not wrong,” he assured with the familiar confident half-smile that Lee knew so well.
Lee’s attempted smile was marred as he grimaced again, silently enduring the internal changes as the bell’s ascension stopped with a slight tug.
“Seaview to Bell.”
Harry reached for the mic. “Bell here.”
“Admiral, this is Morton. We’re timing your first decompression stop.”
“Very well, Chip. Captain Crane and I are doing fine. Nelson out,” Harry said, his remark meant to ease the Exec’s concern. He hung up the mic and smiled openly. “Looks like Chip’s in the Missile Room overseeing the ascension.”
Lee smiled weakly, before curling in pain. He was still sweating profusely, even though he was shivering under the silver survival blanket Harry had placed over him.
“No!” he whispered frantically curling tighter in pain.
“What is it, Lee?” Harry inquired with a concerned hand on his shoulder.
“Something happening inside,” he answered. “Not again,” he pleaded with himself, trying to will his body into submission. He’d been through the change several times already, and well-recognized the feel of impending mutations.
“You’re DNA is reverting back, Lee,” Harry reasoned, but Lee shook his head.
“You don’t understand, Admiral,” he said with near panic in his eyes, “I can’t control the Beast!”
“It’s all right, Lee…”
“Admiral, I killed a man!” Lee continued, desperately trying to make his best friend understand, as he unconsciously clutched the edge of his blanket in a tight fist.
“Look at your hand, Lee,” Harry urged calmly.
Lee looked down at his hands, drawing strength from the Admiral’s confidence and swallowing back the fear that had unwittingly risen to the forefront. Though the unsightly hair still prevailed on the back of his hand, the darkened fingernails had begun to fade.
Harry waited a moment, watching as understanding sunk into his friend, and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Your DNA is reverting back at the molecular level. I imagine the reversion will be painful, but it’s going to work, Lee,” he assured confidently.
Lee nodded, his eyes lowering in self-reflection before finding his voice again. “I killed a man; one of my own crewman, Admiral,” he remembered remorsefully, his emotions running high.
“No, Lee, it wasn’t you,” Harry countered.
“It was my hands… and he’s dead.”
“Tell me what you remember, Lee,” Harry said calmly, knowing full well that he already obtained a confession from Braddock. He realized that Lee was compromised by heavy emotions, fueled by what he supposed was an oversaturation of hormones running rampant through his body during the reversion, but he also knew that his friend needed to face this head on, to know the truth for himself.
Lee breathed in tiredly, turning over on his back as the pain inside released its hold, and swallowed as he confronted the fragmented memories of his beastly counterpart.
“I didn’t remember anything at first,” he started, staring distantly past the bell’s hull to his memories. “I remember not feeling well, and this,” he said raising his still hand slightly in reference to the animal-like hair still present on the back of his hand. “I went to see Jamie, but he wasn’t there. Dr. Braddock told me that my symptoms were normal and would pass.”
Harry pursed his lips tightly at this new bit of information, realizing that Lee had sought help and by some bit of bad luck, Jamieson hadn’t been in Sickbay at the time, or all of this may have been averted.
“I should have known better, but I was so tired and he told me I’d feel better after a good sleep,” Lee continued. “I remember being in tremendous pain in my cabin before falling asleep… and then waking to the news that a crewmember had been killed by a strange beast.” He stopped a moment and swallowed hard at the bitter taste of his next words. “I didn’t remember attacking the crewman until after the second dive, after I transformed again, and even then, it was disjointed and dreamlike. When I stepped out of the bell the second time, I felt even worse physically and memories had slowly begun working themselves closer to the surface.” He made strong eye contact with Harry, taking full responsibility for his actions. “I remember now vaguely attacking the crewman; the pain was incredible, and it was like I was two different people. All the Beast in me wanted was for the pain to stop, he violently attacked anything and everything that got in his way.”
“What do you remember about the attack?” Harry pressed, trying to encourage Lee’s memories to the forefront.
“I… threw him against the bulkhead, I think I hit him… but I don’t remember strangling him,” he said closing his eyes regretfully at the actions his mutated body performed with him locked inside, barely aware of his own actions.
“Crewman Anderson was alive when you left him, Lee,” Harry revealed calmly, the conviction in his expressive blue eyes shouting for Lee to accept the truth of this revelation.
“But how? Jamie said his neck had been snapped during strangulation,” Lee reasoned, desperately wanting to believe Harry, but not able to accept the idea with the overwhelming evidence staring back at him on his hairy hand. “Anderson was a strong man; who else would have been able to do it?”
“Dr. Braddock,” Harry answered.
“Braddock?” Lee questioned incredulously, not quite understanding how a man in a wheelchair could have managed such a feat.
“You’re aware that Dr. Braddock was the first to test his air mixture?”
Lee nodded. He was aware that there had been setbacks on the first tests, those results had been kept from him in the interest of “scientific method”. It was only after his dive that Jamie divulged that Braddock’s paralysis was a result of the failed test. A complete medical analysis disproved any physical reason for the paralysis, which was why Jamie had been confident in proceeding with the experimental dives.
Harry hadn’t been comfortable with the Braddock’s hurried tests, which was why he had stayed in Santa Barbara to personally supervise NIMR’s own study of the air mixture. He had argued that the very scientific method Braddock was citing should have dictated a slow and careful study, but the Pentagon had weighed in with an order to proceed unless Harry could prove the gas wasn’t ready. On paper, it looked good, and Harry had no reason to believe that it wouldn’t work, but he continued his tests even as Seaview set sail without him. He had hoped that he was being overly cautious; if only that had been true. Blast the Pentagon’s order! Blast scientific method! He cursed silently before continuing.
“His paralysis was deemed psychological in nature,” Harry continued, “and therefore, pertained to his psyche only; so, after modifications to the air mixture, a second test and participant was approved.”
A small jolt was followed by the bell rising again and an immediate hail from Seaview.
“Admiral, this is Morton. You’re underway again, next stop at 20,000 feet.”
Harry reached for the mic. “Very well, 20,000 feet,” he said, shipping the mic, and turning his attention back to his friend. “How are you feeling, Lee?”
“About the same; feels like a war going on inside,” he answered distractedly. “Admiral, what did you mean that Braddock was strong enough to kill Anderson? He was in a wheelchair.”
“But he wasn’t paralyzed, Lee. After you attacked us in Sickbay, Jamie and I came to and Braddock wasn’t there. Now, you know he couldn’t have managed the hatches without help. He admitted to me later that his paralysis had been temporary, but soon after he developed the same symptoms as you.”
Lee’s eyes widened as he took the Admiral’s words in, adjusting himself back into a half-sitting position against the bulkhead with Harry’s help.
“I don’t understand. When did you find this out?”
“Someone took a shot at me in the corridor when we were looking for you. I knew you were in no condition to handle a gun, and I had already determined that Braddock wasn’t paralyzed. So, I used a boat-wide hail to notify Chip that I’d be in my cabin, and then went there and waited for Braddock to show up. He shot up my duffle bag thinking it was me, and I had my proof.”
“Why did he want you dead?” Lee asked incredulously.
“Because, he knew I had figured out his secrets. He sent you down in that bell knowing what would happen to you, Lee. He used you as a guinea pig to find a cure for himself.”
Lee’s eyes lowered as he slowly made sense of the information Harry was sharing.
“He lied to me in Sickbay, so I would make subsequent dives,” Lee realized, somewhat bewildered at Braddock’s callousness and ability to lie so easily with his life on the line. “Are you sure he was affected in the same way?”
“He transformed before he died.”
This was the first Lee had heard of Braddock’s demise and was visibly shaken by the revelation of all Harry had told him.
“How do you know that it was Braddock who killed Anderson, and not me?” he persisted, desperately wanting to believe he hadn’t killed a man in cold blood, even though it didn’t change the outcome of the death of his crewman.
“He admitted to murdering Anderson when I confronted him.”
“Murdered?” Lee asked nearly exasperated. “What did he possibly have to gain from killing Anderson after I left?”
“He killed himself before answering that question, but I believe I know the answer. You see, he needed you to be as desperate as he was for a cure. Braddock knew that you would eventually remember the transformations, and he was attempting to force your hormones and emotional state into the same desperation that he was living with.”
“But why?” Lee asked, shaking his head incredulously.
“Scientific method,” Harry replied evenly. “You were his guinea pig, Lee. He was trying to recreate both the experiment and his own body’s reaction. He was seeking a cure for himself, first and foremost.”
Lee started to run his hand through his hair but caught sight of the beastly hair on the back of his hand and stopped himself, dropping his hand into his lap instead. “More like mad science,” he grumbled irritated and tired of the whole mess.
“I’m sorry, Lee,” Harry said solemnly. “I should have never agreed to the dives.”
Lee sighed wearily. “How could you have known? It looked good on paper, that’s why I agreed.” He leaned his head back against the bulkhead and swallowed, losing a little of the frustration of earlier. “If it wasn’t for you, I’d still be subject to Braddock’s lies and his damn experiment,” he said, not able to keep his emotions from coming to the surface as he laid a hand against his stomach and squeezed his eyes shut, riding out another wave of pain. He swallowed again and refocused on Harry. “What made you question the experiment to begin with?”
“Initially, I wasn’t comfortable with all the rush. He had Washington convinced that the conditions were perfect now, and that we’d have to wait another year for all the numbers to line up like this again, and I had to agree with that assessment. But, I was still uncomfortable, especially when Braddock rejected me as a test subject and lobbied for you specifically, in hindsight it was probably because your weight and height more closely matched his,” he explained.
“And here I thought I volunteered,” Lee jested unconvincingly.
“Both he and Washington knew you’d volunteer; his lobbying was directed at keeping me out of the bell, and frankly, he was more than happy to have me sidelined in Santa Barbara,” Harry continued. “At any rate, I looked over Braddock’s original formula and his adjustments. It just appeared to me that his modifications didn’t address the issues he claimed to be addressing. Soon after, I discovered that he had irradiated certain compounds, but by then the radio aboard Seaview wasn’t receiving, so I couldn’t stop subsequent dives. I hurried through an antidote and rushed back, but by then you had already dived again.”
“I guess I wasn’t thinking straight,” Lee admittedly wearily. “I kept trying to tell myself that I was fine, and I wanted to believe Braddock.”
“You were already affected, Lee. Your ability to reason was highly compromised,” Harry suggested to his agreeing nod.
“I remember thinking, that it had all started with the dives, and maybe another dive would cure me… or kill me,” he said looking back up at Harry. “At that point, the pain was so severe that I didn’t care which,” he admitted. “But, I don’t understand how Braddock managed to hold on to his ability to reason when I was so affected?”
“He only had one dive, the subsequent dives were cancelled when he was retrieved from the test bell paralyzed, but the transformation was already taking place inside him. His beastly symptoms didn’t manifest themselves until sometime later, which was why he increased the irradiation of the compounds for your dive. He was clearly trying to force the transformation process into manifesting itself quicker.”
Lee’s head lay heavily back against the bulkhead, he had dropped the blanket in his lap and though he was still sweating in large drops of perspiration, he was no longer shivering.
“He knew I was affected the first time, why bother sending me down for more dives?” Lee asked, finding it hard to come to terms with the Braddock’s barbarism and total disregard for his subject’s suffering.
“Because you hadn’t been permanently affected yet,” Harry explained. “Your human DNA was still the dominant genome in the sequence; he needed the subsequent dives to force the human DNA into submission to the Beast’s. As his guinea pig, he needed your condition exactly like his.”
“I don’t understand,” Lee said airily, blinking his eyes and trying to hold it together as the antidote attempted to purge his body of the unwanted mad scientist’s air mixture. “Braddock’s dominant DNA wasn’t human anymore?” he asked in clarification, struggling to understand through the pain he was still enduring.
“Yes, you see, what Braddock unlocked in his air mixture was a strange and up-to-this point, undiscovered virus with an apparent ribonucleic acid. That RNA attached to the genome sequence and began overriding your DNA sequence through a retrovirus. It’s complicated, but definitely possible,” he added. “Braddock’s condition had progressed to the point that the virus had become dominant, which was why when he died, he reverted back to the beast.”
“So, the antidote wouldn’t have worked for him?” Lee queried.
“No, I don’t believe it would have, and I believe Braddock knew that as well. That was why he wanted me out of the way. My cure for you wouldn’t have solved his problem,” Harry answered, just as the bell jolted slightly and then stopped its rising motion.
“Another decompression stop,” Harry informed, reaching for the mic just as Chip hailed.
“20,000 feet, Admiral.”
“Very well, Chip. Is Jamie standing by with the Decompression Chamber?”
“Very well,” Harry replied shipping the mic and taking in Lee’s exhausted form, reclining back with his eyes closed and still sporting dark circles under his eyes. The silence was magnified without the sound of the water’s resistance against the hull of the bell in motion as Lee slowly opened his eyes.
“You know, Sir, I was very angry back in Sickbay,” he said clearly disappointed, drawing a leg up to his chest and swallowing back a groan. “You and Jamie both knew about Braddock’s paralysis… and nobody bothered to tell me, all in the name of Scientific Method,” he nearly spat out sarcastically. “Even without this,” he said lifting up his hand to show the coarse hair that hadn’t yet given way to the reversion process yet. “What if I’d come out unable to walk?” he challenged pointedly.
Harry pursed his lips tightly. Lee had a right to ask this question; he had a right to be angry. His best-friend’s life was put on the line in the name of scientific discovery, and he had placed his seal of approval on the whole blasted affair. Was he any better than the mad-scientist that had landed Lee in this position in the first place? he questioned silently.
“Would it have changed your mind about the tests?” Harry asked, needing to know the answer to this question. Had Lee agreed to be the guinea pig to Braddock’s experiment solely because of his misplaced trust in his best friend to protect him, he accused himself silently, feeling more like a mad-scientist than Braddock at this point.
“It might have… those are pretty high stakes,” he answered honestly.
Harry nodded. His lips pursed tightly, feeling the burden of knowing that this time, he had let Lee down. He’d let Washington decide a scientific matter. True, he’d been pushed against the wall, but if he’d found the answer sooner, before Lee had made the first dive…
“It wasn’t your fault, Sir,” Lee said, interrupting Harry’s silent self-recrimination. “I wanted Braddock’s air mixture to work as much as anyone. It’s true that the reason I agreed was because you and Jamie were my safety net; but neither one of you let me down. It was Braddock who blocked Jamie’s care; and while you were busy making an antidote for me, he was busy scheduling dives to get what he wanted.” Lee stopped to take a breath, clearly not feeling well, before continuing. “Everyone thought the mixture would work, including me. And I know that you wouldn’t have allowed the dive if you thought for a minute paralysis was possible. I know that,” he said airily, squeezing his eyes shut tight again in obvious distress. “I want you to know that I know that,” he reiterated, almost as if he were saying his goodbyes.
Suddenly, Lee doubled over, sliding completely to the deck and curling in pain.
“Lee!” Harry called, placing a hand to his shoulder and waiting for a response.
“It’s happening again, Admiral,” he breathed out. “You’ve got to find a way to restrain me,” he begged. “I can’t control it.”
Harry watched as Lee writhed in pain, he’d been certain the antidote would work. He watched Lee’s extended hand for signs that the reversion was failing, but if anything, the coarse hair had significantly receded. Yet, his pain was undeniable. Quickly, he began working through the problem; experimental air mixture; multiple dives in two days; antidote administered at pressure; decompression stops… That’s it! He realized silently then grabbed the mic.
“Chip, pull us up ASAP and get the decompression chamber ready.”
“Do it!” he shouted back, shipping the mic and reaching for Lee’s shoulder.
“Lee, listen to me. You’re not reverting back, its decompression sickness. Your human cells weren’t saturated by Braddock’s mixture, only the beast’s. Don’t you see? The mixture only works with the beast’s cellular structure,” he said, but got no immediate response.
A not so gentle tug, and then a fast ascent followed as Chip’s voice was heard once again.
“We’ll have you aboard in fifteen minutes, Sir.”
“Very well, Chip. Have a stretcher ready for the Captain.”
The sound of Chip’s voice held little outward indication of the concern Harry knew resided in Seaview’s first officer; a concern he heartily shared at this point.
“Lee, did you hear me? It’s decompression sickness.”
Lee groaned, followed by a nervous chuckle. “Between a beast and the bends… I’ll take the bends,” he joked, opening his eyes and trying to smile through the uncomfortable illness, while taking comfort in the notion that he wasn’t about to turn into a ghastly beast capable of attacking his best friend. He only hoped the Admiral was right. A quick look at his hands confirmed that the last of the unsightly beast’s remnants were almost gone, just as the Admiral had said.
Harry twitched a small tight-lipped smile in response to Lee’s attempted humor, but the sentiment faded quickly. “You had three dives without decompression, and now this is your fourth dive and ascent. The beast’s cells could have handled a single decompression for all four dives under saturated dive conditions, but not your human cells. It only proves that you’re reverting back to your human cells, Lee.”
Lee acknowledged with a distracted nod and then looked into Harry’s eyes, clearly concerned despite the good news that his human genes were winning the DNA battle inside his body.
“We’re ascending too fast for you, Admiral,” Lee recognized airily, knowing that Harry was buying himself a case of the bends as well with their rapid ascension.
“I’ll be all right. We have five minutes to transfer to the chamber safely and start the decompression sequence,” Harry assured his friend, who seemed to be weakening considerably. “I designed the chamber in relation to the dive hatch for just this contingency,” he added confidently.
Lee nodded and then smiled weakly, at his next thought.
“I seem to remember doing this before,” he reminisced with a groan still curled tightly.
“Admiral Faulk’s atmosphere exchange?” Harry clarified, remembering well both the dive and the rapid ascent that had bought all three surviving subjects of Faulk’s test an extended trip to the decompression chamber. They had nearly lost all three men recompressing their cells after the failed experiment.
Lee chuckled. “We always seem to be chasing that deep dive,” he mused weakly, managing his pain and oddly at peace.
Harry smiled tentatively. It was true; Seaview always seemed to be on the cutting edge of disaster, especially when charting new avenues to the depths.
“Admiral, this is Morton; estimated time to dock, five minutes.”
Harry reached for the mic. “Very well. Is everything ready?”
“Aye Sir. We’ve got a clear path to the chamber and Doc is ready for both of you.”
“See you on top,” Harry said signing off.
“When they… open the hatch… head straight for the chamber,” Lee said with heavy eyes, his face distorting with the pain of inert gases that had formed dangerous bubbles in his body tissues, threatening to block blood vessels and possibly damage surrounding cells. “Don’t… worry about me… Chip will get me there,” he said, before closing his eyes and mercifully losing consciousness.
Harry expelled a heavy breath and twitched a half-smile at Lee’s concern for his well-being, and not missing the “order” his stricken captain had issued between airy breaths. The admiral had, indeed, downplayed the consequences of the rapid ascent for his friend’s sake. Lee, however, was well aware of the dangers and his concern meant a lot to Harry. The last thought was followed by a slight jolt as the bell cleared the water and was raised from the open well, then swung into place onto the Missile Room deck. He reached over and a placed a paternal-hand on Lee’s shoulder and held it there a moment, then patted calmly.
“We’re home, Lee,” he announced comfortingly, before withdrawing his hand as the wheel turned on the hatch.
* * * * *
Harry jumped out, faltering slightly on legs weakened by the rapid ascent and bubbles now forming in his cells. He reached for his sore shoulder, a sign that he indeed had the bends as Chip steadied him.
“Chief, get the Admiral to the chamber,” Chip ordered.
“Belay that, I’ll follow the Captain,” Harry countered, waving Sharkey’s helpful hand away as he watched crewmen climb in to retrieve their unconscious Skipper.
“Sorry, Sir, you’ve been overruled,” Chip replied matter-of-factly.
“Overruled? By who?”
“By the acting captain of this vessel,” he replied employing his infamous command glare. “I’m ordering you to Sickbay now,” Chip said in the no-nonsense a voice he used with subordinates.
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Harry replied in jest, relenting to Chip’s very good sense of the very probable medical emergency at hand, and laughing inwardly at being outranked by Lee first in the bell and then his First Officer here in the Missile Room.
A nod from Chip encouraged Sharkey to guide Harry along, as Chip turned his full attention to the deeply unconscious man being lowered from the bell’s hatch to the waiting stretcher. Chip tucked Lee’s hands inside the blanket as restraints were added for the ride to Sickbay, noting the coarse hair on the back of his hand, apparently the last of the mutations still holding on. Moreover, the dark circles under his eyes and the pained expression on Lee’s face indicated his condition was serious. Whether it was related to the antidote and the Beast, or to Decompression Sickness he didn’t know. All he knew was that they were now in a life or death race to the Decompression Chamber before Lee’s illness took a serious turn for the worse.
* * * * *
Chip arrived only a few minutes after Lee, having stayed behind to supervise securing the Bell. When he arrived both the Admiral and Lee were already in the hyperbaric chamber, the hatch was still open and Jamie was inside settling his patients in. Chip had expected to see Lee unconscious and wrapped in a wool blanket but was surprised to see Harry unconscious and bundled in the same fashion. Jamie hurried out of the chamber and a corpsman secured the hatch.
“Start decompression sequence,” Jamie ordered, as his corpsman turned the wheel slowly bringing the pressure to a deep dive of 35,000 feet.
“What happened to the Admiral?” Chip inquired solemnly.
“He collapsed not long after he arrived,” Jamie replied, watching the pressure gauge.
“Can they take that much pressure?” Chip inquired, stepping up closer, his eyes wide and his forehead furled in concern.
“They have to. The Admiral didn’t have much time to explain, but the Skipper’s multiple deep dives are going to require a full recompression for 35,000 feet; that’s 6,000 decibars,” Jamie answered, barely looking away from the pressure gauge.
Chip expelled a worried breath for the extreme recompression. “What are their chances?” he asked solemnly, knowing that the last time the hyperbaric chamber had been used at this pressure they had nearly lost all three men.
Jamie sighed. “All I can tell you is it worked before, even with Dr. Archer’s bad heart, but I don’t know what effect Braddock’s air mixture will have on Lee during recompression, and there are a number of variables that could play into both of their recoveries. We’ll just have to wait and see,” he replied, laying it on the line, and softening his approach now that the chamber was at full pressure.
“Keep me informed,” Chip ordered.
“Aye, Sir,” Jamie replied respectfully, returning to proper decorum when addressing Seaview’s acting captain.
Chip acknowledged with a nod then gazed through the window at both unconscious men; one his best friend, the other his mentor. Here laid the very heart of Seaview; her captain and creator. To think of losing either one of them was distressing; to think of losing both of them was devastating. His heart sunk at that thought, until he squared his shoulders decidedly. He took a deep breath in, and by the time he expelled it, all signs of his personal concern were wiped clean from his face. He was in command now, and he wouldn’t let either one of these men down. He stepped away, leaving Dr. Jamieson to his work, as he headed to the Control Room as acting captain of the world’s most powerful nuclear submarine.
* * * * *
“Man, oh man,” Kowalski bemoaned as he zipped up the body bag over the mutated, beastly features of Dr. Braddock’s face. “That’s as close to a werewolf as I’d ever want to be again.”
“You said it,” Riley agreed, as they placed the shrouded body onto the stretcher. “Dude!” the young surfer-turned-seaman exclaimed in sudden recognition. “What about the Skipper? Do you think he’ll end up this way, too?”
“What about it, Chief?” Kowalski said, yielding to the wisdom of the stripes on the noncom’s sleeves.
“Are you kidding?” Sharkey asked incredulously, his facial expression adding more than a fair amount of an unspoken “you bozos” in his scrunched up, disgusted face. “That’s what the Admiral was doing when he took the Skipper down to the bottom to administer the antidote.”
“Yeah,” Ski agreed thoughtfully and then smiled confidently. “Yeah! The Admiral knows what he’s doing.”
“You bet he does,” Sharkey replied enthusiastically in his best “pep-talk” voice. “And before long, both the Skipper and the Admiral will be up and back at it. You just watch and see,” he added to their agreeing nods as the two ratings carried Braddock’s body out of the admiral’s cabin with renewed hope. As soon as they cleared the door, Sharkey turned around, quickly looking for some wood to knock on. Finding none he gave up and followed the stretcher out the door.
* * * * *
“You have a call, Mr. Morton. Admiral Starke, Sir.”
Chip dropped his pencil and headed to the radio shack, where he picked up the telephone receiver for privacy.
Spark nodded and transferred the call.
“This is Commander Morton, what can I do for you, sir?”
“Where’s Admiral Nelson or Crane? Washington is anxious for a report on Braddock’s experiment,” he demanded in his usual brusque manner when dealing with a junior.
“The experiment was a complete failure, sir. Captain Crane was adversely affected and Admiral Nelson had to lower himself with the Captain to 35,000 feet to administer an antidote. Both are men are currently in the hyperbaric chamber undergoing extreme recompression.”
“I don’t understand, even without Braddock’s air mixture there are protocols for deep dive decompression,” he bellowed.
“Aye sir, all I know at this point, is Dr. Braddock’s air mixture prevented Captain Crane from decompressing on the established schedule. He began experiencing dangerous symptoms of the bends at 20,000 feet and the Admiral ordered a rapid ascent.”
Admiral Starke harrumphed to disguise his concern then continued in his usual gruff form. “What does Braddock have to say about all this?”
“Dr. Braddock is dead, Sir. Admiral Nelson is the only one who knows all the details, but Braddock made an attempt on the Admiral’s life and then killed himself.”
Starke heaved a heavy breath. “What’s the prognosis?”
“The CMO is keeping me advised, but he tells me it’s a waiting game at this point.”
“Very well, Commander. Keep me informed,” he issued gruffly, attempting to hide his very real concern for Harriman Nelson and Captain Crane.
“Aye Sir,” Chip said as the line was severed from the other side. He expelled a silent breath and raised an eyebrow as he hung up the receiver.
* * * * *
“How are they doing?” Chip asked, entering the hyperbaric chamber treatment room and finding Jamie sitting at a desk surrounded by monitors.
Jamie sat back and stretched. “They’re eight hours into the decompression cycle. The Captain is still deeply unconscious, but the Admiral has been very uneasy,” he replied.
“Is he in danger?” Chip asked, his concern level ratcheting up.
“Both of their vital signs are elevated,” Jamie replied with a nod toward the monitors, “but there’s no indication of real distress. I think he may be dreaming,” he added, pushing away from the desk and walking toward the view port.
Chip sidling up next to Jamie, watching as Harry’s head tossed side to side.
“What do you think they’re chances are?”
“I’m afraid it’s too early to tell. There’s not much else to do, but wait,” Jamie replied with a slight shrug accompanied with a guarded, concerned smile.
“Are you going to be turning in soon?” Chip asked, returning to his capacity of acting captain and noting the doctor’s obvious weariness.
“I’ll be hitting the sack in little while. John will stand watch tonight and call me if there are any significant changes in their condition.”
“Very well, keep me informed,” Chip ordered.
“Aye Sir,” Jamie said then retreated to his desk to finish his charts.
Chip turned toward the view port once again, taking in the sight of his two closest friends undergoing the extreme recompression of 6,000 decibars. Lee lay still wrapped in his blankets, evidently having not stirred since being placed on the gurney over eight hours ago. He figured it was a good sign that Lee was out cold, and not writhing in the excruciating throes of the bends. His eyes trailed toward the Admiral where his restlessness was indeed disturbing. His blankets were ruffled and pushed away in his unrest, and the lines of his face revealed a certain amount of distress, although Jamie had said that physically his condition was stable. Probably just working through some heavy equation or some other experiment, Chip reflected with a small guarded smile and deep respect for the genius admiral.
He rubbed the back of his neck, tiredly, and offered a silent goodnight, before heading to his cabin to hit the sack. He was in command, and his responsibilities demanded he be at his best, even with his two closest friends lying in a hyperbaric chamber fighting for their lives.
* * * * *
Admiral Harriman Nelson tossed his head as an airy breath passed his lips. While his weary body endured the decompression illness brought on by the rapid ascent, his just as weary mind added to his distress with dreams he longed to wake from. Dreams that accused and taunted him relentlessly, as his own admission came back to haunt him. Lee had trusted him and this time he had let his friend down. Was he any better than any other mad scientists Seaview had hosted before?
In his dreams, images of Lee Crane’s beastly mutations passed before his eyes. His normally, perfectly styled hair was standing in all directions and was now a coarse and unruly matt on his misshaped head. His teeth protruded with unsightly fangs and his hands were hairy, with long darkened fingernails.
Those images gave way to his cabin, where hours earlier, he had admitted to Lee that he had been concerned about possible ill side-effects from Braddock’s mixture.
“And you let me go through with it?” Lee cried out accusingly, clearly hurt at the fact that no one had seemed fit to warn him about the specific dangers of the air mixture, which included the possibility of permanent paralysis, not to mention being transformed into a beastly creature. And no one thought this was important enough to tell me? he questioned silently.
“I had my suspicions, but the radio was down and I couldn’t get through to warn you,” Harry explained.
Lee dipped his head, remembering that, as the Beast, it was he who had rendered the radio useless in a primal rage brought on by unrelenting pain.
“At any rate, I have an antidote, let’s go,” the Admiral urged.
Lee nodded wholeheartedly, heading to Sickbay and completely trusting in the antidote the Admiral had developed to save him from a bizarre beastly existence.
They reached the stairwell ladder and stepped downward. Harry watched as Lee grasped the rail tightly in an attempt to stay upright as the Man-Beast inside weakened his friend considerably. With each step downward, changes in the Seaview’s interior began to manifest. Old bricks with white mortar seeping out unevenly replaced the cold steel of Seaview’s bulkhead. By the time they reached the bottom step, the corridor had been transformed as well. Lee swayed and reached for the centuries-old brick wall to steady himself as Harry took him by the elbow to guide him onward.
“This way,” the Admiral urged.
“But I thought we were going to Sickbay?” Lee inquired, leaning even heavier upon Harry.
“My laboratory is better, I’ll take care of you there,” he promised.
Lee followed obediently, too ill for anything else as Harry guided him deeper into the cavernous depths of his laboratory, found in Seaview’s basement.
“Trust me, Lee. I know what I’m doing,” Harry said evenly and without emotion. “Haven’t I always fixed things before?”
Lee nodded absently, placing one weary foot in front of the other as his head dipped lower. He just needed the Admiral to fix things and make him better; he was too ill to care ‘how’ at this point.
“Why every time we needed to defeat some planet-grabbing alien, haven’t I retreated here and emerged just in the nick of time with my newest invention to foil the dastardly devils?” Harry asked, smiling thinly as he reached their destination.
He swung open the heavy wooden door, where John the corpsman was waiting on loan from Sickbay since Jamie didn’t need his help bleeding a patient with leeches at the moment. Ah, the advances of modern medicine, he thought quite distantly.
“Get the Captain ready, Igor… I mean John,” Harry said with a dismissive wave as he passed Lee off to his assistant and then busied himself, putting on his dingy, grey lab jacket then reaching for his pad to write his notes.
“He’s ready, Admiral,” John informed.
“Good, you’re dismissed… but tell Jamieson I may need those leeches soon,” he said in an afterthought and looked about his state of the art mad-scientist laboratory. He examined the vials of liquid in various colors and whimsically selected his choices, before reaching for a beaker still filled with a previous mixture. Harry quickly dumped the contents into a basin and examined the beaker approvingly, before returning to his lab table and mixing up an ingenious mixture of several particularly delightfully bright colored substances, humming as he mixed the chemicals. Then he attached a port at Lee’s neck and stood back completely satisfied that the werewolf complex would be adequately countered by the antidote before returning to his notes.
“How is he?” Morton asked, having just entered the laboratory and studying Seaview’s unconscious captain on the gurney.
“Oh, he’ll be fine. My antidotes always work,” Harry said without lifting his head as he wrote.
“He doesn’t look so well,” Chip noticed.
“What do you think we should name the illness, Chip?” Harry inquired ignoring Chip’s concern and instead, raising his head and staring distantly as he decided.
“That mad-scientist Braddock shouldn’t get all the credit,” Harry fumed. “Why none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t lent my superior knowledge to his experiment,” he contemplated, before raising his eyes to the ceiling in deep thought. “So, I’m thinking the Nelson-Braddock Werewolf Complex would be adequate, don’t you think?”
“Aye Sir. When will he be up and around? Sonar shows a sea creature the size of the Statue of Liberty on our port side; hydrophones says an underwater fissure should open up under us at any time; the MMA says that we still haven’t caught the ape running around Seaview; and the Circuitry Room is a mess of wires,” Chip listed with a raised brow.
“Oh, give him an hour or two and he’ll be as good as new,” Harry replied with a slight twitch in his cheek. “I’ve never let him down, yet,” he added victoriously in a sing-song voice.
“Aye Sir,” Chip replied and left as Harry looked around, suddenly disgusted.
“Blast it all! Where are my leeches?!”
* * * * *
Lee moaned and pushed back the blanket from his chest, currently sporting medical probes and wires feeding his vital signs to the medical staff. He blinked his eyes wearily and took in his surroundings, immediately recognizing the inside of the hyperbaric chamber, even flat on his back.
He turned his heavy head toward the speaker alongside his gurney and found Jamie’s concerned face staring back at him through the port window. Wearily, he reached to activate the two-way communication and caught view of his hand, holding it there in his line of sight, as he took in the fact that all signs of his beastly counterpart were now gone. He finished the move to the speaker and depressed it.
“How long?” he asked weakly.
“You’re fifteen hours into the decompression cycle,” Jamie replied. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired… sore… like I’ve been run over by a freight train…”
Jamie nodded sympathetically. “Any pain in your limbs? Can you move your legs?”
“Just sore,” Lee iterated. He lethargically rolled his legs from side to side, thrilled to find he wasn’t paralyzed.
“Your vital signs are good,” Jamie informed. “Just rest and let the chamber do its work.”
A moan from the gurney next to him garnered his full attention as Lee’s head turned toward Harry, whose head was tossing restlessly from side to side.
“What about the Admiral?” Lee asked, turning back to Jamie worriedly.
“His vital signs are good, but he’s been restless. I think he’s dreaming.”
“He hasn’t woken yet?” Lee asked concerned for Harry’s well-being.
“Frankly, I’m surprised you’re awake. Perhaps your increased metabolism is helping to speed your recovery,” Jamie surmised. “And before you ask, there have been absolutely no signs of your previous affliction,” he added quickly, hoping to encourage his patient. “I’ll have to wait to confirm it. At this point, you’re just going to have to rest and wait out the decompression cycle.”
Lee nodded, too tired to continue the conversation and smiled slightly to ease his doctor’s concern, before reaching over and toggling off the two-way com. Immediately, he turned his head back toward the Admiral’s uneasy sleep and expelled a worried breath. He watched over his friend until his eyes grew too heavy, forcing him back to sleep, surrendering to his body’s need for rest. But even as he drifted off, he was still very much concerned for his best friend; the man who had saved him from a hellish beastly existence by sacrificially lowering himself in the Bell with a violent Man-Beast, created by that selfish bastard, Braddock.
* * * * *
Jamie rubbed his forehead then closed Dr. Braddock’s notebook.
“You mean he knew what was going to happen to Lee?” Chip asked incredulously sitting forward, and barely keeping himself from standing and throwing his hands into the air disgustedly.
“Apparently, yes. It seems he was looking for a cure for himself, and Lee fit the bill as the perfect guinea pig given their similar height and weight,” Jamie replied. He had briefly examined Braddock’s transformed body before committing it to cold storage for a formal autopsy once they reached port.
“No wonder he wanted the Admiral dead,” Chip said, remembering the sight of the duffle bag obviously disguised as the Admiral and the bullet hole it sported. “He knew the Admiral had figured it out.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Jamie said, rubbing a hand through his sparse brown hair. “Lee’s pain must have been tremendous,” he lamented.
“How are we going to be sure he’s cured?” Chip asked, moving from his anger over Braddock to his greater concern for his friend.
“The Admiral instructed me take a blood sample from the Skipper before placing him in the chamber,” Jamie said, standing and motioning Chip to the microscope projector as he turned it on. This is a normal human blood cell,” he said pointing to the left projection on the screen. “And this is what the Skipper’s cells looked like.”
Chip pursed his lips, noticing the oddity of Lee’s infected blood.
“And this one is from a sample I obtained from Braddock’s body,” Jamie continued.
“It’s something… in between,” Chip noticed, momentarily fumbling for the right words.
“Yes, but far more human than Braddock’s sample. I believe the Admiral’s antidote is working, but we won’t know for sure until I can obtain another sample. In short, we’re just going to have to wait.”
Chip nodded his understanding and walked slowly to the chamber view port. Lee looked much better, but the Admiral’s unrest was disturbing.
“And you still say that Admiral Nelson is recovering well?” he asked, concerned that Harry’s restlessness was perhaps an indication of pain.
Jamie joined him at the window. “His vital signs indicate that he’s not in physical distress,” he sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “It looks to me like he’s having a nightmare. I’ll know more when I can examine him at the end of the cycle.”
Chip nodded and then checked his watch. “That would be about four hours from now?”
“Yes,” Jamie said rubbing a tired hand across his neck.
“When was the last time you had a break, Doctor?” Chip asked, standing straight and clasping his hands behind his back.
“I have patients here…”
“Whose vital signs can be monitored from Sickbay by your corpsman,” he informed. “As captain, I order you get some serious shut-eye.”
Jamie’s impending protest was met with an instant glare from the acting-captain, as he re-thought his reaction and nodded.
“We’re going to need you at your best when they wake, Jamie,” he said, softening his stance and smiling. “Come on, Doc, first stop the Wardroom,” he continued, turning the tables on Seaview’s doctor as the two headed out the door.
* * * * *
“Lee? Lee!” Harry called, walking through Seaview’s corridors as the brick walls morphed back into the sleek steel bulkheads of the boat he had designed. “Where is everyone?” he asked himself out loud, before calling out again. “Lee!”
“I’m in here, Sir,” he heard as Harry opened a door that had suddenly appeared to his left.
“Lee, I just wanted to check on you; make sure the antidote worked…” he called, opening the door and stepping in before freezing at the sight before him.
“I’ll be right with you, Admiral,” Lee replied amicably, holding a phone to his ear and smiling, as he finished his phone call.
Sweat beaded over Harry’s forehead at the sight of Lee’s Man-Beast appearance, complete with wild hair, pug nose, fanged teeth, and hairy hands as he conversed on the phone seemingly unconcerned. His ship-board uniform was perfectly pressed, his oxford shoes shined, and his tie in a perfect Windsor knot.* He seemed to be oblivious to the incongruent situation as he conducted his business well-within the decorum of his capacity as captain.
Lee hung up the phone and looked over to Harry to greet him properly. “Hello Admiral, I’m sorry for the delay,” he said standing and reaching a claw like hand toward him to shake. “I’m ready to give you a boat status report as soon as you’re ready, Sir,” he said with a smile, and without any hint of discomfort at his appearance.
“Lee…” Harry stammered. “I… thought we cured you!”
“Oh this,” Captain Crane said looking down at his hands and chuckling. “It’s just a full moon, Sir, should be back to normal in a few hours,” he stated nonchalantly. “Now, shall we get on with the report?”
“This isn’t right,” Harry said, stepping back toward the door. “The antidote was supposed to work,” he said, clearly distressed. “I let you down, Lee. I’m sorry… I let you down…”
“Admiral?” Lee said, taking a step toward him as a foggy white haze appeared between the two friends. “Admiral?”
* * * * *
“Admiral?” Lee called, trying to wake Harry out of his obvious nightmare.
“I let you down… I’m sorry,” the admiral slurred in his sleep, his head tossing violently.
“Admiral!” Lee called, insistently trying to reach his friend.
Suddenly, Harry’s nightmarish torment gave way to the real world calling him, as his breathing slowed and his eyes fluttered opened.
“Are you all right, Sir?” Lee asked, standing over him with his uniform shirt now buttoned and his monitor leads laying neatly on his gurney, since he decided they were no longer needed.
Harry focused his eyes, almost afraid of the sight he might see, and then blew a breath of relief out to see his friend back in his human form once again.
“That was some nightmare you were having,” Lee noted with utmost concern in his hazel green eyes. The black circles under his eyes were gone, and generally he looked very well.
Harry blinked and sighed, fully coming to his senses, but not yet able to shake the nightmares of the last twenty-four hours. “I guess the chamber worked,” he said, trying to change the subject.
“Aye Sir. We still have a couple hours left on the cycle.”
Harry attempted to rise, but fell back, too weak to continue and moaned for the effort.
“Don’t try to move, Sir. I remember pretty clearly what it felt like after Faulk’s experiment.”
Harry clutched the blanket tighter and cleared his throat. “You’re looking extremely well,” he noted, wondering why Lee was looking so together, while he was still feeling like he’d been through the wars.
Lee shrugged a shoulder casually. “Jamie thinks my metabolism is still running a little high, he was surprised when I woke up hours earlier than he expected,” he answered smiling.
“And how are you feeling?” Harry asked, looking for confirmation that the beast was indeed purged from Lee’s system.
“Great! I feel fine, and Jamie says I didn’t have any reversions while I was out. He’ll know more once he can pull some blood samples, but he’s feeling pretty optimistic. I think I’m going to be all right… thanks to you.”
“Thanks to me?” Harry scoffed. “Thanks to me, I let Washington bully me into an experiment that I wasn’t comfortable with,” he said, all his private self-recrimination pouring out in both his words and his emotions. “We moved too fast, before the gas was fully tested; keeping vital information from you, and all in the name of scientific method,” he nearly spat out, then composed himself to say his next words. “I’m sorry, Lee. This time, I let you down,” he said, pulling his blanket up higher and suddenly feeling very cold and tired.
“I thought we settled this in the Bell,” Lee replied honestly, his forehead wrinkling in concern for his friend. “I admit I was angry, but Admiral, we were all fooled by Braddock’s manipulation. He pulled all the right strings for all of us; he knew just how to get what he wanted. And if you hadn’t persevered,” Lee lowered his head and shook it incredulously at the thought, “I don’t know where I’d be right now,” he finished sincerely.
Harry considered all he said and then chuckled, allowing Lee’s words to penetrate his ill-placed guilt. “Thank you, Lee, I appreciate that, but we have to learn from this,” he said stronger and more like the admiral Lee knew. “We need to set up protocols so this never happens again. No more mad science,” he determined.
“I agree, Sir,” Lee replied, but anything further he would say was interrupted by the heightened level of activity in the outer room, as the door flung open and John the corpsman came running in, followed by Jamie and Chip a moment later.
“What’s all the commotion?” Harry asked, lifting his head to see past Lee through the window.
Lee just laughed and ducked his head like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and then tilted his head toward the discarded monitor wires on his gurney. “My guess is they’re trying to figure out why my vitals fell off the monitors,” he explained, with a mischievous smile.
Harry chuckled, softly at first, and then louder as he found the humor in the situation accompanied by Lee’s boyish grin as he turned to face the music and own up to the medical mutiny of detaching his monitors on his own accord.
* * * * *
“As you can see,” Dr. Jamieson said, pointing to the projection on the screen, “your blood cells are completely normal once again,” he said, turning up the light and looking extremely satisfied.
“That’s good news, Jamie,” Lee said with a smile.
“Very good news,” Harry added, closing Dr. Braddock’s notebook in a definitive motion. “And now I think we can turn this experiment back over to Washington.”
“What’s to keep them from trying Braddock’s mixture again?” Lee asked with a raised brow.
“I intend to school certain admirals on the need for proper scientific method,” Harry replied vaguely to Lee’s knowing grin.
“In other words, somebody’s going to get a piece of your mind,” Lee replied, exchanging glances with Jamie, both men grateful that the fiery admiral’s fury was going to be directed in another direction.
“I’m not ruling that out,” Harry said with his own smile that faded in thought. “Someday, perhaps we will make it to the depths and ascend without decompression stops,” Harry mused. “But with good sound scientific method,” he vowed, “and without risking our men unnecessarily to do so,” he finished garnering an agreeing nod from Lee for the new protocol they intended to implement to protect Seaview’s crew from future mad scientists and their experiments.
“Now, gentlemen,” Harry continued with a smile. “Let’s go home.”
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*This scene based upon a candid production photo of David Hedison, in character as the Man-Beast, on the telephone during a break from filming. The photo can be found at the Iann network website, from David Hedison’s Gallery page. It was just too good to pass up. Lynn : )
Episode Credit: Season 4 episode, Man-Beast, written by William Welch, directed by Jerry Hopper, original airdate February 18, 1968
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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and her main characters belong to Irwin Allen
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