“All ahead, dead slow,” Captain Lee Crane ordered, nodding as the acknowledgement of his order was returned. The exec had pushed the crew to get the new equipment loaded. Seaview was on a tight deadline. They couldn’t waste anytime in getting to Sealab One. Due to the timeframe, it would be quicker to launch FS1 than turn the sub around.
“Would it be so bad if we left him?” Chip Morton asked. From across the plot table Lee glared at him, but he edges of his mouth twitched in a smile he was trying hard to hold in.
“If we did, this would be the one trip we would need him. Won’t take me a half an hour to go back and pick him up while you hold this course. Is the Flying Sub ready to launch yet?”
Chip nodded. “Sharkey’s just given her a complete checkout, just before we left. Once we clear the tunnel, we can launch.”
“Very well,” Lee acknowledged. He paused, watching the lights of the tunnel leading out of Seaview’s underground subpen flit by. Up coming was the tunnel entrance. Slowly, the great submarine eased out of the tunnel and Lee grabbed the mike once more.
“Maneuvering, all ahead one quarter,” he barked. He turned to Chip who was already moving toward the Flying Sub hatch.
“He’s going to accuse us of leaving him behind on purpose, you know that, don’t you?” Chip asked as he cracked the hatch.
Lee retrieved his flight jacket from the stowage locker, shrugged into it, and grinned wickedly.
“I’ll explain everything to him. He should know we’d never leave him behind on purpose.”
Chip raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t we? I can think of a time or two were I’d have been happier if he hadn’t been onboard.”
“You want to explain that one to him when he’s back on board?” Lee questioned. Chip held up both hands in surrender.
“Oh, no. I’ll pass, thank you. The man plays dirty. I’d rather he were on my side, thank you.”
“That’s what I thought. I’ll be back in a flash. You won’t even miss me. Stay on this heading, once we pass the break water, increase to three quarter speed.”
With that Lee descended down into the Flying Sub. Moments later there was a slight bob in the sub as the small submersible dropped out of the nose, then powered forward to head for the surface, and disappear.
Chip stood on the nose for a long time, trying not to give into the laughter trying to bubble up. Off all the people to leave on the dock, it had to be him! But Chip has checked the rooster, he’d signed on, one of the first ones, as was his habit. What ever possessed him to go back ashore with Seaview so close to launching was going to be an interesting story indeed.
True to his word, thirty minutes later, Lee was docking FS1 and Chip waited, almost impatiently, for Lee and his passenger to appear.
Lee’s head was the first to pop up from the hatch. Seconds later, the balding brown head of Seaview’s own Chief Medical Officer emerged, looking embarrassed yet slightly exasperated.
“Jamie, we’re sorry, but according to the logs, you were already on board. What on earth did you have to leave for?” Chip asked, giving the doctor a hand.
Will Jamieson held up a stack of folders. “These. Immunization records for the crew. I forgot them and figured I had a few minutes to run back and grab them. Of course, by the time I get back to my office, the elevator was down for repairs, and I had to take the stairs, then I had to negotiate around the rewiring project for the new lighting on the office floor. By the time I got back, YOU had already launched.”
Lee tried to look completely innocent. “Well, we are in a hurry. Dr. Cavanaugh is begging for our help. He says he’s isolated a new element and he needs this new equipment to run some more detailed tests. The admiral was insistent we not miss our departure time.”
Lee and Chip exchanged looks. Each man glanced around the Control Room then turned back to each other.
“Ah, Lee, have you seen the admiral?” Chip asked in small voice.
Lee wiped a hand over his eyes. “No, I haven’t.”
Chip braced both elbows against the table burying his face in his hands. Lee snagged his jacket from the plot table and headed back to the Flying Sub hatch.
“Get ready to launch FS1, Chip. Again. Seems I have another pick-up to make.”