I watched Crane leave Sickbay and I gave the doctor a quick look. He gave me a nod and found something to do at his desk, leaving me alone with Harriman. I pulled a chair up and dropped down into it.
“Don't you have someone to terrorize?” Harry growled. The growl was the same as I had remembered it, the same one that used to send junior officers running for their lives when he cranked up the volume. And they said I ate commanders for breakfast. I settled down to play out a new chapter in a forty plus years of friendship with one Harriman Nelson.
“I've ridden your crew hard enough, Harry. I'll give 'em a break now that this tub of yours is back on course and out of danger. I thought I would stick around and keep you company, that is unless you have better places to go.”
“I seriously doubt Doc's
going to be very receptive to letting me out of here anytime soon,” came Harry’s grumble. From the desk I heard the doctor's low
muttered “Got that right,” I turned but he was busy with some reports or
whatnot and didn't look up. I chuckled and turned back to Harry. “You had us
scared for a second there, you old shark. Crane thought for sure you had some
kind of brain damage. Turns out to be an allergic reaction to some drug they
put you on in
Harry graced me with an inelegant snort. “You sitting by my bedside after I've had a paranoid-delusional episode? No, this is new.”
“Not the first time I've sat
here, waiting for you to come clawing back to life. Remember that bar fight in
Harry rolled those brilliant blue orbs that had every woman I had ever met swooning. “You're never going to let me live that down, are you?”
“Never. If it hadn't been for the fight you started, a dozen servicemen would have been killed when that bomb went off.”
Harry let loose a long sigh. “Jiggs, for the thousandth time, I did not start that fight. The whole thing was a result of bad intel on the part of ONI. I was supposed to find the bomb, not drop half the bar in the infirmary.”
“You just keep telling yourself that and someday I might believe you. They came dragging your sorry six in and it looked like you had been through a cheese slicer. I still don't think I've ever seen bruises in so many colors.”
“You should see some of Lee's,” Harry said. I watched as his eyes focused on something only he saw. I knew Crane was active ONI but until now I wasn't sure how he felt about that: Harry's pet skipper also one of ONI's pet agents. Obviously, Harry wasn't all that thrilled.
“As bad as what we used to come back with?”
“I think Lee's got us beat in the bruise and laceration department. You didn't see what Gamal did to him,”
“Gamal?” Another name I was familiar with but I didn't know all the details. Apparently more happened to Crane than was mentioned in the reports. Harry just shook his head as if to clear the vision only he saw. Again I was reminded that there was something deeper between Harry and Crane, something more than just commanding and subordinate officer. If ever I saw a father and son bond, there was one between Harry and Crane. I should know, I had two sons of my own. Crane looked up to Nelson like my own sons looked up to me. Since Nelson didn't have any children of his own, it looked like he was taking Crane under his wing or maybe that was fin? “Crane really that good?” I asked.
Harry nodded slightly. “He was born for this, Jiggs. You've seen him in action—you know how good he is at this. Seaview was created for him and somehow he was born to guide her.”
“Harry, aren't you taking this a bit too far? He's good sure but any commander could have adjusted to Seaview. Why didn't you just give command to Morton when John was killed and that whole earthquake mess was over with?”
Harry snorted again. It was his way of showing contempt without being overly insulting. “Who says I didn't? Chip is the finest executive officer I've ever seen. He doesn't want command, not yet. Besides, he can do things with computers that would make your head spin. Call me greedy, but that's a resource I'm not ready to turn lose of yet.”
Morton? A computer wiz? He didn't look it. Of course, watching Morton, I didn't think much about him. Literally. The man just sort of faded into the background. One minute he was there, the next he was relaying orders practically before Crane could bark them out. Those two unnerved me a bit. It was kinda of like they were on some sort of psychic wave link. Morton seemed to know what Crane was thinking, anticipating the orders, but waiting for affirmation before acting. Like I said, unnerving. “You've got a good pair of boys there, Harry. Let me know if Morton ever wants his own command. Got a couple of boomers who could use some new blood.”
“You just keep your mitts off my officers, Jiggs. When Morton's ready for command of something, you'll be the last to know. I have plans for Chip that do not include you or your boomers,” Harry snapped and I choked back a laugh. Harry always was a possessive cuss.
He had closed his eyes again, but I could tell he wasn't asleep. Harry was like the brother I never had. He was by far the most brilliant person I had ever known. Seaview and his Institute were proof of that. I just hoped he wasn't making a mistake keeping those two. Would they be able to put country and duty before friendship? It might come down to that someday. I hoped they could make the right decision. There had been times when Harry and I had faced that very same decision. I never regretted any of my decisions but then I was old Navy. But that wasn't my decision to make. That was Harry's problem.
Watching my friend, I could tell he was fighting a losing battle with those drugs. Who would have thought Harry would have an allergic reaction to Cortisone, of all things. Maybe it's a good thing he didn't have any kids. That sort of thing could be passed on.
“Let me worry about Crane and Morton. You just do your job and let me—and them—do ours.” Seems like his officers weren't the only ones in the mind reading business.
“You really are proud of them, aren't you, you old shark?”
Harry did not open his eyes, but I saw the smile. “You heard me. You've got your sons, Jiggs. I've got mine. Makes me very proud indeed.” Harry's voice was thick and slightly slurred as he fought to stay awake for a few more minutes. I watched his breathing grow slow and regular, heard the deep contented sigh as sleep finally won the battle and Harry conceded defeat for the moment. I crossed my arms over my chest, waiting for when I was pretty sure Harry was too far gone to hear me.
“You have every right to be, Harry.”