Mirror of Dreams
The two men stared at each other, each mirroring the confusion and even the fear the other had to feel. Both were tall and lean, with dark hair that when left untamed would morph into a riot of curls. Dark eyebrows topped molten amber-hazel eyes. One was older, by twenty years or more. Deep lines etched the edges of his mouth and around his eyes. It was apparent to everyone they were the same person, despite the obvious age difference.
“Who are you?” Commander Lee Crane asked his double, eying the single star on each collar and the deep knife wound that ran from mid jawline to stop under the black eye patch he wore over his right eye.
“I’m you, if the future doesn’t change.” Admiral Lee Crane said, his voice touched with what the younger Lee felt was sadness or even regret.
“The future that waits for you. A future without the admiral. A future where you’ve lost your crew. Where Chip tries to stop you before you launch the missiles that will sent this world into a nuclear winter.” Admiral Crane reached up to touch the plain black patch, the sadness and despair welling up in the still visible eye.
“The admiral?” Commander Crane whispered, gripping the periscope island for support.
“Killed by an assassin. You, or rather I, had undertaken an ONI mission to recover stolen intelligence. It’s a trap. Separate me-you-from the admiral. I didn’t find out about it till a week after he’d been dead. My warning to you: Don’t accept Admiral Gates’ mission. Stand down. Resign if you have to. Don’t leave the admiral alone.”
Commander Crane swallowed down his shock, still unable to believe his eyes. Behind him the crew was as still as death as the drama before them unfolded.
“That doesn’t answer how I become you,” Lee said to his older image. Admiral Crane looked away, moving to the front of the sub to gaze out into the sea though the windows he remembered so well. Beyond he could see his submarine, Seastrike, waiting for his return. Built along the same lines as her predecessor, she lacked the grace and beauty of Seaview. Seastrike was built for one purpose and one purpose alone.
His younger self was waiting for an answer. The admiral took a deep breath, shoving his hand into his trouser pocket to grip the small round device that had made this trip possible. When the time came, he would go back, but not before he stopped the horrific chain of event he had set into motion.
“I went after the admiral’s assassin. Damn People’s Republic. I gave Chip command of the Seaview. By the time I got back, it was too late. We had a spy onboard. He infected the entire crew with a genetically altered virus. Two-thirds of the crew died. Chip was only a handful of people to survive. I lost control and launched two nuclear missiles at that damn country. I didn’t care. I wanted to wipe them off the map.”
“Chip tried to stop you? Me?” the younger man asked. Off to the side, standing by the stairwell, Chip Morton watched in silence, waiting, listening to hear of his own fate.
“He didn’t want me to launch the missiles. He tried to stop me. He didn’t have a gun, so he grabbed a diver’s knife and we fought. He managed to catch me in the eye.”
Seaview’s skipper felt his breath hitch as the story progressed. Surely Chip had lived…
“I managed to get the knife away from him, but he lunged at me again. I didn’t do it on purpose, I just wanted them to pay for the admiral and for the crew. I wanted revenge so badly. Chip’s blood was all over my hands…I held him as the light in his eyes just died. I killed my best friend.”
No one spoke. Admiral Crane turned away, unable to face himself or the man whose life he would take in years to come. Instead he stared out the windows once more.
The younger Crane placed a hand on his shoulder and spun him around. “Why are you telling me this, why?”
Admiral Crane took a deep shuddering breath, not even sure if he could find the words to express his grief and loss.
“I destroyed half the world in my need for revenge. When what was left of the world leaders came together and the story got out, I was charged with the murder of Chip and of genocide. I build Seastrike and went into hiding. I can’t do this any more. I can’t live like this any longer. I can’t let you become me. Not when I have the power to change it.”
Admiral Crane withdrew his hand from his pocket and opened his tightly fisted fingers. In the palm of his hand rested a small antique pocket watch.
“Pem’s watch,” the younger Crane gasped. “But how?”
“The admiral repaired it. I figured out how to work it and came back here, to set things right, to make sure you don’t become me.”
“You-I-launched two missiles at the Peoples Republic?”
“Driven by grief and a desperate need for revenge. I’m begging you not to walk the road I’ve walked. Please.”
From the radio shack Sparks’ voice called out, “Skipper, FS1 one approaching. Admiral Nelson wants to know what’s going on,” the radio operator called out.
Commander and Admiral exchanged looks. Finally Admiral Crane pushed himself into action.
“I did what I came to do. I have to go.” He darted for the flying sub hatch and vanished down the ladder. Minutes later the two flying subs circled each other, as if testing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Finally the newcomer vanished into the under belly of the Seastrike. The flying sub that Lee knew docked in her berth and in no time Nelson swarmed up the ladder and onto the deck.
“Lee, what the devil is going on here?” Nelson demanded.
“Admiral, you won’t believe this…” that was as far as Lee got in his explanation. The Seastrike suddenly just exploded and Seaview was tossed wildly in the shockwave of the blast. Lee was tossed like a rag doll to the deck, his head slamming into the bulkhead. He descended into darkness.
Lee was aware of voices calling his name. He ached and his whole body felt too warm, like a bad sunburn or something.
“Lee, can you hear me? I know you probably hurt, so just nod your head.” It was Jamie. Lee obediently nodded, his head feeling like it was a concrete block. He managed to find the strength to open one leaden eye.
“Jamie?” he croaked, his throat as dry as a desert. He tried to raise up, but only managed to prop himself up on his elbows.
“Easy Skipper. Just relax. You’ve got a couple of pretty bad burns. You’re not going anywhere for a few days.”
“Burns?” Lee whispered. No that wasn’t right. But Jamie only nodded.
“You were in the circuitry room and one of the panels shorted out. You are one very lucky man. If Chip hadn’t
come along when he did, you might not have made it. Smoke inhalation would have killed you.”
“So I’ve been unconscious?” Lee asked.
“For about eight hours now. You’ve must have had one doozy of a dream, Skipper. You’ve tossed and muttered for the last hour.”
Lee relaxed back into the mattress. A dream. It was all a dream. Himself, the Seastrike, the story of the admiral’s assassination. Lee jerked up again.
“Jamie! The admiral! I have to talk to the admiral! And Chip, I have to see them both!”
“Skipper relax. I won’t have you getting all worked up. If you promise to calm down and rest afterwards, I’ll call both of them up here.”
Lee nodded. Minutes later Admiral Nelson and Chip both were standing by Lee’s bedside. Both had worry and concern in their eyes as they hovered over their friend.
“Lad, what’s wrong?” Nelson asked, recognizing something was troubling his young captain. Chip reached out and rested a hand on Lee’s arm.
“Jamie said you wanted to see us? Are you alright?” Chip asked. Lee nodded as he closed his eyes, dropping back into the embrace of the mattress and pillows.
“Everything’s fine now. I just needed to see you. I needed to see you both,” Lee mumbled, unaware that Jamie had introduced a sedative into the I.V.. Just before he finally drifted off, he reached out for Nelson.
“Tell Admiral Gates to stuff his assignment.” In minutes, Lee had drifted into a deep untroubled, dreamless sleep, no longer troubled by the nightmare of losing everything he held dear, no longer haunted by the mirror of his dreams.