The storm was violent. The winds buffeted the flying sub. Lee Crane took a fast hold on the controls as he loosened his black tie on his tan uniform. The storm grew in ferocity and intensity the more he flew in it. Torrential rain battered the small craft, while unceasing thunderclaps made her convulsive uncontrollably. He could feel the sweat build up underneath his leather flight jacket. It was supposed to have been a milk run and now this. Never is easy when you work for Nelson, he thought to himself.
As his hazel brown eyes stared intently into the storm. He could see the bolts of lightening emerge from the dark angry clouds. His uniform had become wet from sweat and worry. Sweat dripped down his neck from his short black hair making his shirt collar damp. He wiped the sweat from his brow, hoping to see a path away from the storm. He felt the controls grow sluggish and unresponsive. Now what?
"FS1 to Seaview. FS1 to Seaview," he tried to remain calm. He could only hear static but he refused to give up. The storm had come up unexpectedly and he would make better time flying. He had flown in worse but this time FS1 just didnít seem to be responding to the controls.
Suddenly the craft was hit by lightening, which sent sparks and debris flying. The acrid smoke of burnt wires, metal and plastic filled the air as he felt the controls go dead. Unable to control the vessel, it started to pitch and sway violently in the storm, helpless.
Crane choked from the heavy smoke as it swirled around him. He desperately tried to contact Seaview as FS1 spiraled toward the ocean below, but got no response. When the craft slammed into the ocean out of control, with a force so strong, he flew out of his torn seatbelt, and smashed on the front bulkhead and view port. The flying sub impacted on the coral reef, as he was tossed backwards against the control seats.
"Any word from Lee yet, Sparks?" Admiral Nelson paced in the small alcove that held communications for the Seaview, his blue eyes boring into the young officer. Nelsonís tan shirt was unbuttoned, and he had a concerned look on his craggily face. He saw everyone elseís too. He knew everyone looked up to him, a father figure, now everyone was turning to him for guidance on Craneís disappearance.
Captain Crane was long overdue reporting. He was supposed to have docked with the Seaview hours ago. Crane had gone ashore on a short mission and was supposed to have returned by now.
What made it worse was the storm coming up unexpectedly, quickly turning into Monster storm of unheralded proportions. The gale force winds wrecking havoc on sea and shore alike. Even when Nelson ordered the Seaview to go down 200 feet, the force of the storm could be felt.
Nelson wondered if Lee would be able to survive the stormís intensity along with the flying sub. He had designed it for conditions just like these but it had never been tested. He grew impatient and worried with each negative reply.
"Sorry, Admiral. Just the same. Static. Must be this storm." Sparkís young face looked up at the Nelson, his face looking for some help and reassurance.
"Its okay, Sparks. Just keep trying," Nelson said as he patted Sparks on his shoulder as he headed out to the observation nose. He looked back at radio shack and the observation window.
Lee slowly opened his eyes to semi-darkness. As he lay on his back, he could see the reflective light from the ocean. The rest of the little sub was totally dark. He rubbed at his temples to feel dried blood on his forehead and had a vague sense he should be doing something. His right shoulder seemed to be on fire as he tried to sit up, which caused him to lie back down and close his eyes. Too much pain. Too much pain.
The sub rocked slowly as it slipped from the reef, the slow moving currents were pushing the craft deeper and deeper towards the ocean floor.
Frustrated by the lack of any sonar contact, Chip Morton scanned the charts for the hundredth time, on the plotting table, which contained the last reported position of the flying sub. His once fresh tan uniform was now wrinkled and soggy as he nibbled on the end of his pencil, after he passed his hand through his short blond hair. Again and again he rechecked the sonar, hydrophones and anything else, which might give him a clue to FS1ís location. He should have changed and even gotten something to eat but couldnít with his friend somewhere out in the ocean.
As he looked through the nose, his knew his answer was hidden in the deep blue mystery of the sea.
"Lee. Lee, son. You need to get awake, son," a low and reassuring voice called. A familiar voice.
"No, Dad. I want to sleep a little bit longer. Just a few more minutes." He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep.
"No, son. You canít sleep. You have something to do. You do remember donít you?"
He looked up to see a familiar figure. Just like he remembered him when he was ten. Dressed in his Navy whites, tall and lean with curly black hair and fiery brown eyes, he was ready to go on a cruise. Lee would often get up early to make sure he said goodbye. He knew his father would be home again, with stories and gifts. Home. His dad would be home in a few short months. Home.
He couldnít believe it. Dadís dead isn't he?? He remembered so clearly that spring day when Admiral Mazel and the Chaplin came to call. His father wouldnít be coming home, ever. An accident. He had stood there unable to cry. Heís dead! He was in shock when he heard about his father. A ten year oldís shock, knowing it was a dream and Dad would show up. It was a mistake he wanted to shout. They were lying.
"Címon son you have to pull the emergency beacon. Your friends have to be able to find you. You have to help the Seaview find you. Son, do you hear me?" Captain Lou Crane stayed in the shadows out of reach of his sonís injured body.
He closed his eyes again. Anything to take the pain away. What beacon was he talking about? His clouded mind tried to remember, something just out of reach.
"Chip. Well you stop pacing. Well find him. I know we will."
Nelson berated Chip for something he knew he should be doing as he ran his hand through his short red hair. His other hand hooked into his pocket.
"I wish I had your optimism, Admiral. Weíve searched the area twice and there's no sign of Lee or the Flying sub," his lips in a tight thin line.
"Lee knows what he doing. Havenít you told me enough times, Chip? Besides with the new emergency beacon we will be able to get a fix on him," he hoped. If only Lee could push the button to signal for help.
He opened his eyes, something was shaking him. The sub was shifting. He needed to let Seaview know he was here, but how? The emergency beacon. It was the Admiralís new invention; by pressing it he would send out a silent signal for help along with a buoy.
He cradled his right arm on his stomach and with quiet determination and effort he slid himself to the control panel. Nausea and pain were constant, he choked back both. He felt like the sub was rolling but knew it wasnít. Closing his eyes, he thought it would help, but it had no effect on his injured body. Just the simple act of movement made him want to throw up. The sub seemed to be spinning along with shooting pains in his right arm and shoulder. Every muscle in his body seemed to scream in protest.
He could see the silhouette figure, again. He shook his head only to feel the pain pulse once again in his temple. Canít be? Heís dead, has been for years. Iím hallucinating from the pain and lack of oxygen. His logical mind tried to reason what he was seeing.
"Why did you leave, Dad? I needed you. I needed. . . You missed out on everything. You said you would never leave. You gave your word. My graduation, the academy. Why? Why?" His words tinged with bitterness and regret.
"It was just my time, son. But it isnít yours. You have a lot to do. Youíre famous now. The Seaview is famous. Besides youíre not going to let the Admiral down. Are you?" His fatherís voice conciliatory and reassuring.
Admiral. How did he know about the Admiral?
Chief Sharky kept on making marks on the board as the sonar searched each sector for the flying sub. Crane was a good man and could handle himself in any situation. But as the hours went by, he could see the crewís morale going down. The Skipper had put his life on the line for them so many times. Each mark a nail in the Skipperís coffin. Life just wasnít damn fair!
He wiped his left hand in front of his eyes. He was supposed to do something what was it? The beacon. The beacon.
He once again, slid to the panel. The movement made his pain more intense, which caused him to bite his lower lip as a tear rolled down his cheek. He stretched and searched long and hard to find the button. His fingers felt, each button. He knew what each button was for just by how it felt and its location, for this sub was his baby.
The button. Where is that damn button?
He reached for it almost touching it, when darkness came and the pain stopped.
Kowalski sat hunched over the sonar screen. He felt closeness to Crane unlike other captains. He listened intently with the headphones for something, anything. The once reassuring ping wasnít sounding. He looked at his screen showing nothing. He not only considered Crane his captain but also a friend. Címon, skipper. Be out there. Weíll find you. I know we will.
"Any contact yet, Ski?" Chip asked, again, looking for an answer. His tan uniform a contrast to Kowalskiís bright red one. As they both sat hunched over the screen.
Ski just shook his head, no and showed his disappointment. Knowing each hour going by meant the chances of finding the flying sub were decreasing and so was Craneís.
"Admiral. He doesnít have much air left. What are we going to do?" Chip stared at the Nelson. His arms crossed in front of him, trying hard not to lose his composure.
"We just have to wait, Chip. Just wait," Nelson replied.
They both stared out through the observation window, hoping for some contact or sign of the flying sub. Each knowing as the minutes ticked off, Leeís chances of survival diminished.
He rocked again.
"Lee, push the button. Push the button." The voice kept on insisting breaking into his tortured sleep.
He woke up and this time he reached up with all his might and pushed the button.
"Good boy, thatís my son."
And the light faded again.
"Admiral! Admiral!" Sparks yelled. "Iíve picked up the beacon."
The whole boat seemed to erupt in quiet cheers, as Chip and Nelson exchanged relieved looks. Chip quickly calculated the course for the damaged flying sub. "Okay, men look sharp. Go to course two seven zero degrees at flank speed." Nelson nodded in agreement.
He looked at the shape, again. "Why, Dad? You promised you would come back. You promised." He was back at age 10 seeing his father go off to sea. He had hugged him and stood tall, a good sailor, not knowing he would never return.
The figure just stood there, half in light and half in shadow not answering. It seemed to be disappearing.
"Dad! Dad! Donít go. Please donít go. Dad. Dad," as tears finally flowed. Finally crying for his father taken by the ocean he loved so much, something he hadnít done.
The flying sub clanked into position and he opened his eyes slightly. "Dad. Donít leave again. Dad," he pleaded as he wiped away the tears.
"Címon. Címon. Open the hatch," Chip paced nervously as the flying sub docked with the Seaview.
Nelson and Chip hurriedly went down the stairs. The lingering smoke made them both cough as they made their way over to Lee. Once there, they found him near the panel, mumbling and pale.
"All right. All right. Letís get Lee to sick bay, now," Nelson bellowed as they both carried him out of the side hatch.
Crane opened his eyes to find himself in a nice, clean bed in sickbay. With his forehead in a bandage and his right arm in a sling, he found himself staring up at Chip and Nelson. Thankful help finally came, not knowing himself if he would survive.
"You had us worried, Lee," Chip smiled. "Wondered if you were going to make it back," and tried to laugh.
"Well you were complaining it was a boring cruise. I wanted to make it interesting," he smiled weakly.
"Chip." Nelson spoke softly, his signal that he had duties elsewhere.
"Talk to you later, Lee." Chip turned around and headed out of sickbay.
"Glad to have you back, Lee. The doc said you were in pretty bad shape." Nelson said as he pointed to the doctor in the next room. "How did you do it?"
He lay there a few minutes. I donít believe it. How is the Admiral supposed to?
"I donít know really. I mean, youíre not going to believe it and neither do I. My father. . . my father he was there in the sub with me."
Nelson gave him a perplexed look.
"See. Maybe it was my subconscious fighting for my life the only way it knew how." Reaching over with his injured right hand he grabbed the ring on his left hand holding tightly, his fatherís ring. The only thing he had left of his father.
"Well the important thing is your safe and here. The docís giving me looks. Get some rest and well talk about it later," Nelson nodded, turned quick and headed out of sickbay.
A yawn escaped Lee as he began to give into his exhaustion, but not before saying a silent prayer, "Thanks, Dad," then feel promptly asleep.