Normal                                                                             

Graylady Sharon

 

The tension in the Control Room was thick enough to choke on. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. Most were afraid to even breathe for fear of attracting attention. Nobody wanted to be the next in line. Nobody wanted to be the next target.

 

In front of the periscope island, the body of crewmen Parson lay in quiet repose. Parson had made a fatal mistake and had paid for it with his life.

 

“You don’t seriously think you’re going to get away with this.” Harriman Nelson snarled, his voice low and deadly. His sapphire eyes flashed as dark hatred swam to the surface

 

“I know exactly what I’m going to get away with. Your crewman was demonstration that I mean business. Unless you want another man to join him, you’ll do exactly what I say.”

 

“You won’t take this ship. You’re outnumbered a hundred and twenty-five to one. You’ll never get a way with this.” Chip Morton growled, fists clenched as he tried to keep his emotions under control.

 

But the man they knew as Walter Garrison, supposedly an engineer, simply smiled and continued to train the gun on Admiral Nelson.

 

“I’ve planned this to the last detail. I have all the pieces of the puzzle. With your firing control system out of commission, you can’t move against me. The tiniest bit of resistance on your part and my creation, my collection of nuts and bolts, as you call it, will tear this ship apart. Now where is the good captain?

 

No one spoke. Chip felt every muscle tense with the effort of not turning to look out the Observation windows. He knew where Lee was. Every crewmen knew where Lee was, even if no had had actually seen him suit up and slip out the escape hatch.

 

Garrison’s eyes flitted from crewman to crewman, growing more agitated by the minute. The gun wavered in his hand as he shook with barely repressed rage.

 

“Answer me! Where is he?” he snapped, grabbing Nelson by the front of his shirt, and throwing him against the plot table, forcing him backwards as he levered the gun against his chest.

 

Nelson braced both hand behind him as he stared unwavering up at his assailant.

 

“He’s out of your reach. You can’t touch him. With any luck, in a few more minutes this house of cards you’ve built is going to come tumbling down, card by card. It’s over, Garrison.”

 

With a vicious curse, Garrison backhanded Nelson across the face. Chip surged forward, only to have the gun waved in his face. He stopped short, his heart hammering in his chest as Nelson slowly pulled himself upright, wiping a slow trickle of blood away from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand.

 

“Call him back! Call him back now!” Garrison screeched.

 

This time Chip stole a glance out the windows. “We don’t have radio contact with him, we can’t call him back.”

 

Garrison pulled a small square box from his pocket and with an evil gleam in his eye, he pressed a button.

 

There was a terrifying screech of metal and Seaview lurched to port then rocked to starboard. Chip grabbed at the table, helpless as Nelson’s body was thrown to the deck. Garrison braced himself against the periscope island, a wild unnerving laughter beginning to bubble out.

 

“If I can’t have Seaview, I’ll see to it none of us ever sees the surface again!”

 ~<>~

Lee Crane maneuvered around the mechanical nightmare, praying the admiral could keep Garrison off center long enough so he could set the admiral’s disruptor. Setting a bomb to destroy Garrison’s creation was too risky; the concussion of the blast could be fatal to Seaview. The disruptor Nelson had cobbled together would scramble the electrical system of the bucket of bolts, freeing Seaview from its death grip.

 

Suddenly the thing jerked and came to life. Crane couldn’t stop the gut wrenching pull in his stomach as massive mechanical hands gripped the bow and the tail fin of his lady, trying to rip the Seaview apart.

 

Swimming closer, Lee fumbled for the device clipped to his belt. With a flip of a switch, he activated the magnetic unit and came up behind the mechanical Frankenstein. Battling the currents and the turbulence generated by the robot’s thrashing, Lee managed to stick the device to the monstrosity’s back, right at the base of its neck.

 

The result was instantaneous. The construction froze then shuddered, losing its grip on the submarine. Seaview slowly righted herself; finally back on an even keel. 

 

Now, all he had to do was get back to the sub, repair the firing control and put a torpedo in that thing. Lee kicked hard for his boat, praying Nelson had everything under control.

~<>~

Kowalski was the first to see the gun go flying. Garrison has lost his weapon. Throwing himself out of his chair, he tackled the crazed man and the two rolled. It wasn’t much of a fight. Ski knocked the device from Garrison’s clutches and Nelson was there, snatching it up off the floor seconds before the submarine grew still.

 

“Take him to the brig and throw away the damn key!” Nelson ordered, grabbing for the mike.

 

“Missile Room, where the devil is Crane and how much longer till you get things repaired down there?”

 

The next voice Nelson heard made him sag with relief.

 

“Admiral, Crane here. Fire Control is operational and tube one is ready for firing.”

 

“Then what are you waiting for, Lee? Fire! Blast that thing into scrap metal!”

 

There was that second of recoil as the missile exploded out of its tube, homed in on the dormant robot, and detonated.

 

Seconds later it was over. There was nothing left of Garrison’s robot.

 

“Is it over?” Chip asked as the sub stilled, recovering from the shockwave of the detonation.

 

“I certainly hope so, hate to think I went through all that for nothing.” Lee said as he descended the stairwell. Nelson and Chip exchanged grins.

 

“How about we get turned around and head for home? I think I’ve had enough of giant robots and egotistical scientists,” Lee suggested. He paused for a moment, his expression sad as he saw the corpsmen carrying the body of Parson out of the Control Room.

 

Nelson noticed the shift in Lee’s mood, and decided he wasn’t going to let Crane brood over it. One man might be dead, but he had saved a hundred more. Later, when things had quieted down, he’d talk to Lee alone about Parson. Harry  turned his attention back to his young captain.

 

“You know, Lee. I couldn’t agree with you more. Let’s get back to something a little more normal, shall we?”

 

Chip snorted as he followed Lee to the plot table. “Giant robots and egotistical scientists. I thought that WAS normal.”