by Diane Kachmar
Kowalski moved down the deck quietly. There wasn't supposed to be anyone on board but the skeleton crew and the duty that was on was babysitting watch in the control room, watching the status board. Which was all green and would stay that way until everyone came back from leave.
So why was he hearing noises coming from the missile room??
The hatch door was open as Martin came around the corner, which explained why he could hear someone, but Ski was sure he had closed it behind him the last time he was through here. Of the eight men on board, six, including him, were sleeping and remaining two had the watch.
He had left his mates asleep in crews quarters aft and he knew the others wouldn't leave the control room during watch. So who had woken him up?
Ski eased into the missile room. If it was someone unauthorized, Morton would have base security keel-hauled. Martin eased past the last missile silo to acquire his target.
Even under the welding shield and in civvies he recognized the tall frame bent over the machining table. Ski waited patiently until the weld was complete, and Crane turned off the torch, put it down on the bench and pushed up the heavy shield.
Crane pulled a cotton rag out of his back jeans pocket to wipe the sweat from torch flame from his face.
"Do you need some help with that, sir?" Ski spoke into the cavernous quiet of the bay.
To his credit, Crane only flinched slightly at being surprised and then turned around, sliding the rag down his neck.
"Kowalski," he acknowledged. "I don't know there was rounds tonight. I checked in with duty watch before I came down here."
"I'm not on guard," Martin admitted. "I heard something. Someone trained me to always respond to things I hear that aren't right."
The Captain almost smiled. "Then I'm sorry I woke you up with my idea for a
slight modification. I thought I was far enough away from aft not to disturb any of you."
Kowalski shrugged. "I've had my four, plus I have to get up soon. It's my turn for galley duty." He moved a step closer.
Crane moved aside from the table to let him in. "It may not work, we'll have to flow test it, but I wanted to get something mocked up before I lost the idea." He rubbed his neck with the rag. "Middle of the night is not a real convenient time to have an idea, is it? It needs more shaping." His hand rose to pull the shield back down.
Martin reached in a cautioning gesture, not sure he should be doing so.
"Sir, you really should have woken one of us to come down and help you with this. We wouldn't have minded and this equipment should not be used alone."
"You want to stay?" Crane raised an eyebrow. "I would have thought you'd rather be sacked out in your rack."
"Rack time is over-rated. So is shore watch," Ski admitted. "If you got something better for me and Pat and Boots to do, We'll gladly volunteer."
"All right." Crane gestured at the metal clamped into the vise. "Get some gloves on, turn it when I tell you to and maybe, we have this done by the time you have to start making breakfast."
Martin grinned. Working with the Skipper would be a much more interesting way to spend his time in port than watching a status light stay green the entire time they were docked.