The blame for this story has many origins. The Beatles and Yellow Submarine come to mind, not to mention the old days of the chat room...
One More Chapter
Commander Lee Crane, captain of the submarine Seaview, paced the area in front of the dive hatch, every one of his nervous habits betraying his agitated state. He continued to twist at the ring he habitually wore and on occasion he would stop and push his long fingers through already tangled dark hair, down over the back of his head to rub the nape of his neck. Then his fingers would reach for his ring again and continue with the disconcerted twisting.
“What’s keeping them?” Lee growled, aware that no one had an answer for him. He continued to pace, continued to twist at the ring.
Will Jamieson, Seaview’s CMO, had spent the last five minutes watching his commanding officer work himself into a frenzy. “Skipper, calm down. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Lee wasn’t convinced. “What could the problem be? I’ve never heard of anything like this happening,” he replied with an uncharacteristic ache in his voice.
Jamieson felt the young man’s pain only too well but until they got the divers inside and determined the nature of the distress, they could only wait. And waiting wasn’t one of Lee’s strong points. Normally they would have had open communications between both divers but, for some reason, only one had a working connection. The lack of audible contact from the distressed diver hadn’t helped Lee’s frazzled nerves.
Finally the dive hatch swung open to reveal the two divers: one taller and broad-shouldered wearing a black wetsuit, the other shorter and stockier, dressed in silver. The silver-clad diver pulled the mouthpiece free and yanked off his hood as the other diver did the same, although at a considerably slower pace. The second the mouthpiece left Chip Morton’s lips he started giggling, like he’d heard the funniest joke in the world and couldn’t wait to share it.
Lee, unnerved by his friend’s odd behavior, cast a worried glance to his commanding officer. “Admiral?” he asked.
Admiral Nelson could only shake his head. “He started that about halfway into the dive. I couldn’t get him to stop. I can only assume it’s got something to do with the new tanks.” Nelson started to unzipped the front of his suit while letting Sharkey help him shed the heavy air tanks.
Meanwhile, Jamie had converged on the giggling blond, maneuvering him to a nearby bench. Jamie reached for the zipper on the front of the wetsuit but Chip was having none of it. He slapped ineffectually at the doctor’s hand.
“Hey there, I’m not that kind of guy,” he said sharply, eyeballing the doctor as if he’d never seen him before. “I happen to have a girlfriend, so there,” he reported tartly, punctuating the comment by sticking his tongue out at the doctor and blowing a noisy raspberry.
Lee, his deep concern replaced by growing amusement, watched the interplay with interest.
Jamieson tried to reason with the blond. “Chip, I just need to check your vitals. I can’t do that unless I can unzip the front of your suit,” he said.
Chip continued to eye the doctor. “Why? Is it vitally important?” Another wild giggle burbled up. “Get it? Vital? Important?” And Chip erupted into another round of chortling.
“Whatever the problem, he seems to be in an obnoxiously good mood,” Nelson observed dryly.
Lee crossed his arms over his chest as Chip’s dilated eyes, blue irises hardly more than a thin ring around dark pupils, finally locked onto his friend.
“Leeeee! Hey, let me tell you about the big ol’ fish me and the admiral saw! Chip waved wildly to his best friend and shot to his feet. He wobbled for a second, but his legs just weren’t cooperating, and he ended up dropping back down on the bench. Hard. “Oowie!” he snapped as his rump came into contact with the bench with more force than he’d intended. He jumped back up, turned and shook his finger at the bench. “Bad bench! You’re going on report for conduct unbecoming a bench!”
“Ah, Mr. Morton, let the doctor look at you and I’ll take care of the bench,” Lee chided, finding it hard to not give in to laughter. Apparently Chip’s weird constitution had struck again. Something in the oxygen mix in the new tanks wasn’t setting so well with the ultra-calm and super cool exec.
“Okay. See?” Chip spun around in a small circle, bare feet slapping wetly against the deck.
Jamie stared. “Chip, what are you doing?”
“You wanted to look at me? See, don’t I look all manly in black? Oh, Lee, go get my jacket! Serena likes me in my jacket! You can take a picture and send it to her!”
Lee covered his mouth with the back of his hand. Beside him, Nelson was also trying hard not to laugh. “Only if we can tell her about this. She’d never believe it,” the admiral said just under his breath.
Meanwhile Jamie was growing irritated. “Chip, if you don’t move your butt and sit down on that bench, you’re gonna regret it.”
Chip got a very speculative look in his eye and then grinned. He plopped back down on the bench and began wiggling his posterior as he sat. The wet suit squeaked against the metal bench as he moved. “Oh, listen! Music!” he exclaimed happily.
“Skipper, can’t you make him behave?” Jamie pleaded.
“In this mood, I doubt it,” Lee replied.
That’s when Chip finally realized that the admiral was still in the room and watching him. “Ohh, Admiral, I was wondering, since you’re all smart and stuff, maybe you would know the answer to this.”
Nelson favored the oddly acting young man with an indulgent smile. “What might that be, Chip?”
“Does bottled water have an expiration date? What happens when it goes past dating, does it turn into tap water?”
Nelson gaped for a minute as questions Chip would never have normally entertained began to spill out. “Have you noticed that toilet paper doesn’t come with instructions? What if you’ve never seen it before? Shouldn’t there be an instruction manual or something? And why do they call paintings paintings when they’ve already been painted? They should be called painteds! Ooh, ooh and if olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from? Yew, that’s just nasty to think about,” Chip said, frowning at the last question, the furrow between his eyes growing deeper with his scowl.
Lee felt the first chortle erupt and he tried hard to stop it. It came out like a choked snort and he bit down on his knuckle to distract him. But Chip wasn’t done. He stood up and Jamie pressed a hand to his shoulder to force him sit back down. Chip grinned and shot back to his feet. Jamie pressed him back to the bench. Chip gave into another wild giggle before he started singing “Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!”
“Admiral! Lee!” Jamie howled as Chip continued to slap at the doctor as he tried to take Chip’s wrist to take his pulse. Morton just wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t wanna hold hands,” he whined. “Oh, what a neat name for a song…I wanna hold your hand…”
“I’m just trying to take your pulse,” Jamieson ground out between clenched teeth.
“Ah, but will you give it back when you’re done?” Chip asked slyly. The XO brightened as he thought of another brilliant question. “If fish travel in schools, shouldn’t whales travel in universities? Get it? University of Whales?”
“Admiral, please do something!” Jamieson begged.
Nelson was trying hard not to laugh. With an enormous effort, he turned to Sharkey who had been overseeing the dive and to Patterson. “You two, not a word of this gets out. We’re going to have a devil of a time getting him to Sickbay without half the crew seeing him like this.”
“Sir, we could clear the corridor between here and Sickbay,” Patterson offered.
Nelson was nodding. “Good thinking. Sharkey, get on it. Doc, do what you have to do with Mr. Morton,”
Jamieson was already growling. “Not much I can do. I can’t sedate him, not without knowing exactly what he’s interacted with. ”
“Patterson, take the exec’s tanks down to the lab. I’ll analyze the contents and see if there’s something in the mixture or the new tank lining that’s causing the interaction.”
Meanwhile, Chip was singing again. “Circles, circles, we’re going around in circles…Ah, man why does that song sound familiar?” he was asking softly. Without warning Chip yawned and then glanced around, blinking his eyes as he tried to focus on the closest person who happened to be the doctor. He grinned and waved at the older man. “Hi, Doctor Jamieson. So. What’s up, Doc?” and Chip started laughing this time, bypassing the giggles altogether. He slid off the bench, landing with a squeaky, wet slap onto the deck.
Lee finally got himself under control. “We need to get him to Sickbay. He can’t stay here,” he said.
“No kidding,” Jamieson snapped.
Meanwhile, Chip had leaned back against the bench, both hands folded over his flat stomach. He let loose another yawn and this time his expression turned positively groggy. “Is it nap time yet?” he asked of no one in particular.
Jamie’s face lit up with an idea. He dropped down by Chip’s side. “It’s past your nap time actually. Chip, would you like to take a nap now?”
“Oh, yeah, I sure would. The admiral’s a nice guy to work for, but for an old dude, he really gets around. He should slow down. Is it healthy for senior citizens to be so fast?” he asked and another yawn took over. He didn’t seem to notice that the admiral was still in the room. A choked off snort and a muttered something made it clear to everyone that the admiral had most definitely heard that remark.
Morton’s eyes drooped shut and Jamieson griped his arm. “Not yet, Chip. We need to take a little walk first. Come on, up with you,” Jamieson coaxed. Lee moved closer to offer his assistance. With Jamie on one side and Lee on the other, they gently lifted the wobbly blond off the floor. Only Chip’s feet seemed to have acquired a mind of their own.
“Stop it down there. Attention!” he commanded as his uncooperative feet flopped around like a pair of landed fish. Finally he was able to stand. Chip then realized he was flanked on both sides and his expression turned serious. “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?” he asked in a low, conspiratorial whisper. Lee licked his lips and tried not to laugh again.
“No Chip, you’re not in trouble. You’re just in a little over your head,” Lee tried to explain.
Chip threw his head back to stare upwards. “I don’t see anything over my head,” he stated brilliantly.
Jamieson motioned with his head and together he and Lee gently led the bemused XO up the corridor. Sharkey had done an excellent job of clearing the way. They didn’t encounter anyone and were able to guide the still softly singing officer to Sickbay. They steered him toward the exam table and Chip once more yawned hugely.
“Ah man, I’m like so totally tired. Hey, check me out, I sound like Riley! Does that mean I have to, like, start listening to his music? Because his music, like, totally sucks. For real, man.”
Lee swallowed down his laughter and tried to keep his expression neutral. “No Chip, you don’t have to listen to his music. You need to just let the doctor do his job.”
“Hey, doctors have needles. I don’t like needles. He’s not going to give me a shot is he? I don’t need a shot! And I don’t need a shot in the butt! Every time I come down here, I get a stupid shot in the butt. Serena’s gonna ask me how the cruise went and I’ll have to tell her I got shot in the butt again.”
Jamie was grinning as he motioned for Frank to help with Morton’s wetsuit. This time Chip didn’t resist as he was gently separated from the neoprene gear. “No Chip, I am not going to give you a shot. I promise.”
Chip leveled a sleepy glare at the physician. “You wouldn’t lie to me now would you?” Another yawn followed the question.
“No, Chip, I wouldn’t lie to you. Now let’s get you into something more comfortable.”
“Oh, too bad I don’t have my cookie pajamas!” Chip exclaimed with a wide grin.
Jamieson and Lee exchanged looks. “Cookie pajamas?” both men asked in unison.
Frank was helping the officer into a pair of Sickbay greens. Finally dressed in something other than a wetsuit, Morton collapsed into the nearest bunk. He stared at his feet as he wiggled his toes and began to explain his comment. “See, Serena has a weird sense of humor. I like that actually. Not that she’s weird, but that she’s got a sense of humor.”
“Chip?” Lee urged, hoping Morton would get to the point.
“Well excuse me for talking about the woman I love,” he snorted in a huff, rolling his eyes. “Anyhow, she got me cookie pajamas for my birthday a few weeks ago. They have big chocolate chip cookies all over them. Get it? Chips? Chocolate chips?” Once more Chip started giggling but it wasn’t as pronounced as earlier. Frank gently pushed the blond down into the mattress and pulled the blanket up over him. Another yawn ended anything else Morton had to say. His eyes closed and within a few minutes, Chip was out like a light.
Lee and Jamieson continued to exchange bemused looks. The entrance of the admiral, now changed into an appropriate uniform, interrupted what Lee had been about to say.
Nelson took one glance at the sleeping officer and smiled. “Well, that’s one solution,” he commented.
“It does solve a few problems,” the doctor agreed. He accepted the patient’s chart from Frank and reviewed the corpsman’s notes.
“He’s going to be utterly embarrassed when he finally wakes up,” said Lee.
“If he remembers. It’s possible he’ll wake up simply feeling rested and not have any recollection of the past half an hour,” replied Jamieson.
“That would be a blessing,” agreed the skipper.
“I’ll keep an eye on him for the next six to ten hours, just to make sure there aren’t any lasting effects. I suspect he’ll just sleep. Admiral, I’d feel better if you can give me some idea of what he might have reacted with. And in the meantime, I’d suspend any further diving tests until we determine the exact cause.”
Nelson nodded. “I agree. The last thing we need is a couple of loopy crewmen. We were lucky we were able to corral Mister Morton so easily. I’ll be in the lab then. Keep me updated if his condition changes.”
With a backwards glance at the young executive officer Nelson took his leave. Lee continued to stand, arms crossed over his chest, a half-grin on his face.
“Lee, are you plotting something?” Jamieson asked.
Lee batted innocent eyelashes. “Me? No, just thinking.”
Jamieson snorted as he sat down behind the desk. “Thinking. Plotting. With you there’s little difference. Chip’s fine for the moment. You need to scram. I don’t need two of you cluttering my Sickbay.”
Lee chuckled. While he wasn’t exactly plotting anything, he had filed away the newly acquired information for future retaliation. Cookie Pajamas? Wendy was going to love to hear about this. “You’ll let me know…”
“If his condition changes,” Will finished. “You know I will. Now vamoose, Skipper.”
“I’m going, I’m going. You don’t have to get pushy,” Lee said with a grin and took his leave, aware that Chip was in the best of hands.
As his Sickbay emptied of superfluous officers, Jamieson cast a glance toward the sleeping Morton. He spent a few minutes following up on Frank’s vitals check, just to make sure there hadn’t been any drastic changes as the gas, or whatever it was, filtered out of Chip’s system. But the exec’s pulse was regular and his breathing seemed to be normal. Will sat back down. He fervently hoped that once Chip did wake he’d have no memory of what he’d said or how he’d acted.
Pulling out Chip’s file, he began to make notes concerning the incident: just another chapter in Lt. Cmdr. Charles Morton’s medical file.