Pirate’s Web by Pauline Owers
With thanks to Diane and Liz, I could not have written it without their help.
Lee Crane stood in the missile room watching the two crewmen breaking open the crate containing the new DPV Scooters. The 3 speed, lightweight scooters had a top speed of 5 mph, and could operate at a depth of 180 feet.
They had been tested as thoroughly as possible in the pool at the institute, and in the shallow waters off shore, now it was time to test them in the open sea. “Chief, I want these checked and ready to go when we reach the co-ordinates.”
“Aye, Sir.” Sharkey acknowledged. “Okay, you guys, you heard the skipper.”
“I’ll be in the control room. Let me know when you’re finished, Chief,” Crane said, turning away.
Stepping through the hatch, Lee headed forward. It would take two hours to charge the scooters. That would give him time to prepare for the dive. He intended to lead the dive himself, and had chosen Kowalski to accompany him, although the crewman did not know yet. He felt a sense of anticipation about the dive, he loved scuba diving.
It made a pleasant change to be doing something for the institute, rather than some secret government mission. It meant that he could relax a little and indulge in something that he enjoyed. Of course scuba diving wasn’t completely without risks, but both he and Kowalski were experienced divers. Lee smiled as he made his way to the control room. He had an affinity with the sea and the creatures that inhabited it. A big part of his life was entwined with the sea, and they still had a lot to learn about its depths. His position as Captain of the Seaview had given him opportunities that he would not have had in the regular navy, and his close involvement with Nelson’s research had taken him into new interests and situations that he would never had considered.
were in the Pacific, off the coast of
Lee entered the control room via the rear hatch and moved to join Chip Morton at the plot table. “Chip, what’s our status?”
Morton looked up from the charts. “Green light on all systems. We’re ready to start the tests whenever you are.”
“Good,” Lee nodded. “The DPVs should be ready in two hours. I’ll take Kowalski with me. He’s checked out on the scooter’s operations.”
“See if you can find us something interesting to look at, Chip,” Lee smiled at his friend.
“There isn’t much in this area, but if we change course, there’s the wreck of a trawler about here.” Morton indicated on the chart.
Lee studied the chart, calculating how long it would take them to get there. “How deep is she?”
“About 150 feet.”
“Great, set a course, Chip.” Lee said cheerfully.
“Helm, come to course 122 northeast.” Morton ordered, walking forward to stand behind the helmsman.
While Chip took care of the course change, Lee did a circuit of the control room, briefly stopping at each station, he didn’t really expect to run into anything unexpected on this trip, but it paid to be vigilant, especially on a submarine. Although the observation windows in the nose gave the Seaview an advantage over other subs, the instruments were the eyes and ears of the boat. Walking around the vertical plot table, he moved to the AMRAC computer and pressed the print button, tearing off the resulting printout, before returning to the chart table.
“On course at standard speed,” Morton reported as he joined Lee at the plot table.
Lee nodded. “Carry on, Chip.”
“Sonar contact, bearing 180,” Kowalski reported from the sonar station. “One thousand yards.”
Lee turned from the plot table and crossed the short distance to stand behind Kowalski, looking over the man’s shoulder. “Slow to one third.”
“One third, aye,” Chip unshipped the mike to relay the order to the engine room, and then returned it to its clip before moving to helm control. “Steady as she goes.”
Slowly the wreck of the trawler began to take shape ahead of them as Seaview edged closer. Chip watched the gauges, monitoring depth pressure and outside temperature.
“Depth?” Lee asked, still standing behind Kowalski.
“One hundred and fifty three feet.”
“Take us up to ninety feet and bring us up over the wreck,” Lee ordered, walking forward to the observation nose.
“Aye, Sir. Ten degrees up bubble, level off at ninety feet,” Morton ordered, returning his attention to the depth gauge as Seaview responded. The powerful beam of the light in the nose swept over the wreck as they ascended, giving a brief glimpse of the rusting hulk. “All stop.” Chip finally ordered, allowing their momentum to take them into position. “Ninety feet, trim satisfactory.” He reported.
Lee turned from the observation nose. “Very well, take over, Chip. Kowalski, you are with me.”
Sir,” Kowalski removed his headphones and handed them to
“Stay in visual range,” Crane instructed Kowalski as they left the Seaview. “And if anything goes wrong, don’t forget to cut the motor; we don’t want to lose you or the scooter.”
“Aye, Sir,” the rating acknowledged.
At this depth the water was fairly clear, but the scooters were equipped with lights. Crane adjusted the throttle to the lowest speed, reminding himself of the feel of the controls. Angling the scooter down, he started the decent towards the wreck, leaving the sleek shape of Seaview hovering above them. “I’ll do a circle of the wreck,” he told Kowalski. “Follow me down.”
“Right behind you, Skipper.”
Crane felt completely at home in the water. As he approached the wreck from the stern, he levelled out and banked into a turn that would take him around what was left of the ship. He checked his depth gauge and adjusted trim. The scooters would make diving easier, and the diver would use less air as they would not use energy propelling themselves through the water. They would also allow them to cover a larger area on one tank of air. With a quick check on Kowalski’s position, he continued along the edge of the wreck, keeping well clear of any likely hazards. Diving wrecks could be dangerous. Several divers had died here when they had become trapped by falling wreckage and were unable to get free before running out of air. However, Crane had no intention of entering the ship to investigate on this dive.
The bulk of the ship appeared to be intact, although the superstructure had rusted and its nets had long since decayed. She was approximately sixty five foot long, with a beam of nineteen to twenty foot. Lee wondered when and how she had sunk. The ship was lying on its side, but that did not necessarily indicate that she had capsized. It could have happened as she settled on the seabed. From its size, he guessed that it was not a commercial trawler, but a private fishing vessel. As he continued along the length of the ship, he could not see anything to indicate what had caused her demise. A variety of Molluscs had colonised the hull, and a myriad of small crustaceans and fish swarmed around the structure, searching for food. They would be in the area for several days, and Lee would make sure that on the next dive he took Patterson along with an underwater camera.
A few more minutes took him to the bow, and he again banked into a turn, coming around to the other side of the ship. He let the scooter take him alongside the hulk, while he studied it. How many people had perished with this ship? He had a great respect for wrecks and the remains of the people that had died in them; he would not want to disturb their underwater grave. As he moved up and over the wreck, he caught sight of an eel peering out from its hiding place in the open hatch of the wheel house.
Signalling to Kowalski, he headed away from the wreck to try a few manoeuvres in the safety of open water where there was less danger of things going bad if a malfunction should happen. He also wanted to check out the scooters to their maximum depth.
An hour later they returned to Seaview. The test had gone well, and the scooters had performed perfectly. They were agile and easy to manoeuvre down to their limit of 180 feet. There seemed to be an added bonus that the noise of the scooters frightened away fish, so there was no danger from sharks or other predators’ while operating the scooters. Although that did have its disadvantages as well; if they wanted to study anything at close quarters, they would have to turn off the motors.
changing out of his diving gear, Lee made his way to the control room, pleased
that he would have good news to report to Nelson. The Admiral had remained behind in
“How did it go?” Chip asked when Lee joined him at the plot table.
“Fine,” Lee smiled. “I’d like to do a sweep with the magnetometer to build up a picture of the wreck and look for any debris that may be scattered over the seabed.” Combining the echo from sonar with the magnetometer would give a detailed picture of the seabed, and show anything buried beneath. Although this was not really part of the mission, it would be good practice for the control room crew.
“Aye, Sir, I’ll see to it,” Chip nodded, turning his attention back to the charts to work out a search pattern.
Chip at the plot table, Lee moved aft to the radio shack. “
“Aye, Sir,” the operator acknowledged, glancing up at Crane before flicking switches and calling the institute.
Lee waited while the call went through. “Admiral, this is Crane.”
“Go ahead, Lee.” Nelson’s voice replied over the radio.
“The test was a complete success, Admiral. I’m going out again tomorrow to carry out further trials.” Lee reported happily.
“Good, if all goes well, we’ll add the DPVs to Seaview’s diving equipment.”
“Yes, Admiral. They will be very useful,” Lee agreed.
“Keep in touch; let me know how things go.”
Admiral – Seaview out.”
Lee handed the headset back to
“One, zero, zero feet.”
They were almost at periscope depth and Lee was tempted to take her up for a look around, but he did not want to interrupt the survey. He was happy for now to watch the changing view though Seaview’s unique windows.
Lindsey Jamieson unlocked the door of Chip Morton’s beach house and stepped inside, closing the door behind her. She was greeted by Captain, an American shorthair cat who trotted down the stairs and followed her into the kitchen. “Hello, Captain.” Lindsey dropped her keys onto the counter and picked up the empty food bowls, putting them into the sink to wash. Captain butted her legs impatient for his breakfast. “All right, it’s coming,” she told the cat. As she washed the bowls, they were joined by Missy, Captain’s sister. “Hello Missy,” Lindsey smiled and bent to scratch the cat’s head. Missy purred loudly in response.
Getting two pouches of food from the utility room, Lindsey returned to the kitchen and emptied one into each bowl, while Captain continued to rub around her legs. “Here you are,” she set the bowls down on the plastic feeding mat and both cats immediately dived in. While they scoffed up the food, Lindsey refilled the water bowl and stood watching them. Missy was boss and if she didn’t watch her, she would quickly gulp down her own food, then chase poor Captain off and eat his, too. Lindsey couldn’t help smiling at the comparison with Lee and Chip. Lee didn’t eat enough to keep body and soul together, while Chip ate everything in sight.
Lindsey had taken over looking after the cats while Chip was away, when he had moved into the beach house near hers. The place seemed strangely quiet without him around. Both cats followed her into the lounge and started chasing one another around the couch. When Lindsey sat down, Missy came and sat at her feet, swiping at Captain with her paw as he approached. “Now you two, no fighting,” Lindsey chastised.
Captain wandered away and leaped up onto the window ledge to sit and look out, while Missy jumped up onto the couch and curled up on a cushion next to Lindsey. She purred contentedly as Lindsey stroked her. “You’re a pretty girl.” Lindsey said and Missy mewed in reply. The silver tabby had a white face, chest and belly, and all four paws where also white. Captain had more white on him, both his front legs where white. They were both different personalities, Missy was affectionate, but also loved to be outside exploring and chasing any seagulls that got too close. Captain was more aloof; he spent most of his time on Chip’s bed while he was away.
“Well, guys, I have to go now,” Lindsey got to her feet; she was on the shift. Captain jumped down from the ledge and headed for the stairs. Come on, Missy,” Lindsey gently picked her up and carried her out into the hall, closing the door behind her. Missy ran back into the kitchen, and Lindsey filled a dish with dry food to keep them going until she returned before picking up her keys. Missy followed her to the front door, then moved to sit on the stairs as Lindsey opened the door; neither of the cats ever ventured out the front of the beach house.
Lindsey unlocked her car and got behind the wheel.
opposite his friend and C.O in the wardroom, Chip watched Lee pause between
mouthfuls of cherry pie, to sip his coffee. Lee’s light-hearted mood had
persisted since they had left
“What?” Lee asked, realising that he was under observation.
Chip shrugged, “Nothing, I’m just not used to seeing you eat a proper meal without being coerced by Jamie,” he teased.
“Diving always makes me hungry,” Lee replied, pushing away the now empty dish.
“I’ve noticed,” Chip smiled after draining the last his coffee.
“More coffee, Sirs?” the steward offered as he approached with a coffee pot.
They both nodded and pushed their cups forward for a refill. “Thanks.”
“Can I get you anything else?” the steward asked when he had finished pouring the coffee.
Chip had already had a second helping of pie, while Lee had still been on his main course, and decided that if he had any more; he would be awake with indigestion.
“No, thanks, Diaz, that will be all.”
“So, how come you get to play with the new toy?” Chip complained jokingly.
Lee shrugged. “I wanted to test it out to make sure that any bugs have been ironed out before it goes into general use. I don’t want to risk anyone getting hurt or worse.
“And have they worked out? The bugs I mean.”
“Yes, so far, so good.” Lee smiled at Chip. “You want to head up the dive tomorrow?”
“You’re going to trust me with the Admiral’s new toys?” Chip joked.
“Sure, why not? Besides, you’re always telling me that I never let you off the boat,” Lee grinned.
“Okay, you’re on,” Chip smiled back. “I’m going to turn in. Have you done your rounds?” He teased as he slid out from the table.
Lee grinned as he got to his feet. “Got to keep the crew on their toes.”
“I thought that was my job,” Chip shot back light-heartedly as they both headed for the door.
“Diving party is ready to go,” Chief Sharkey reported over the intercom.
Lee took the mike from its clip. “Very well,” he acknowledged. Returning the mike to its clip, he walked forward to the observation nose. Seaview’s searchlight played over the wreck below, in stark contrast to the diffused light filtering through the water from the surface. He watched as the divers came into view and moved towards the wreck. It was easy to distinguish his Exec from the others by his yellow scuba gear. Lee smiled, remembering how Chip had complained about the colour.
Lee never tired of watching the undersea world spread out before the observation windows. He followed the progress of the divers as they reached the wreck; Patterson was busy with the camera, making sure that he had plenty of pictures to take back for the Admiral. Chip and Grey moved around the wreck, Chip going to port and Grey going to starboard.
Dragging himself away from the view outside, Lee returned to the control room to check sonar. With divers outside, they needed to be vigilant. Kowalski, their best sonar operator was seated at the station, with Riley on fathometer. Lee moved in behind Kowalski to look over his shoulder. Apart from their divers and the wreck, there was nothing on the screen. Moving on, Lee did a circuit of the control room, finishing up back at the plot table.
“Sonar contact, Captain,” Kowalski reported. “Bearing 178 degrees relative, range 1000 yards, depth 200 feet.”
Lee hurried to join the sonar operator. “A sub?” he asked, looking over Kowalski’s shoulder.
“No, Sir, and I’ve never seen a biologic reading like this before. Must be forty foot long.”
Lee watched the echo on the edge of the screen, the echo looked familiar. But it couldn’t be, giant squid were not found at this depth, they preferred to hunt in the dark depths of the ocean. Turning, he unhooked the mike from the periscope mount. “Missile room, do you have contact with the divers?”
“Yes, Sir,” Chief Sharkey replied.
“Advise them that we have an unidentified contact, bearing 178 degrees relative to their position.”
Lee returned the mike to its clip and turned back to Kowalski. “Where is it now?”
“Going away. Depth now approaching 300 feet. I don’t think it is a threat to the divers, Sir.”
Lee nodded. “Keep an eye on it.”
Chip broke away from the others divers to check out the contact, bringing the scooter up to full speed, he descended to the scooters maximum operating depth. The contact was too deep for him to follow, but he might get a look at it if he could get closer. Whatever it was, it had obviously picked up the sound of the scooter and was making a run for it. The other divers were rapidly being left behind as he pursued the mysterious contact.
He followed it for nearly 5000 horizontal feet at his diving limit before giving up. Whatever it was, it had disappeared down into depths where he could not follow it. Cutting his speed, he made a one eighty turn and headed back to join the other divers. The ocean still had secrets that they were yet to discover, but with Seaview’s ability to go deeper than any other sub, they could explore the hidden depths that had never been glimpsed before.
“So what do you think it was?” Chip asked, standing beside Lee at the plot table.
Lee shook his head as he absently fiddled with the pen he was holding. “I don’t know, Chip. It profiled like a giant squid, but they are found in much deeper water.”
“It could have been looking for an easy meal.”
“Umm maybe, but you didn’t see anything?”
“No, it was moving too fast. Probably frightened by the sound of the scooter’s engine,” Chip suggested. He could tell that Lee was not going to let it go, he wanted answers. “It went too deep for us to pursue.”
Lee nodded thoughtfully. “All right, Chip, we’ve spent enough time here. Plot a course. Let’s see if we can find out what or who our visitor was.”
“Aye, Sir.” Chip turned his attention to the charts to plot the course. While beside him, Lee called the engine room and gave the order to get underway. “Helm, steer course 182, steady as she goes.”
Seaview moved away from the wreck site and headed for deeper water, following the course taken by the mystery contact. “Take us down, make depth 600 feet as soon as you are able,” Lee ordered.
Chip felt the slight tilt of the deck as they started the decent, leaving behind the euphotic zone and heading into the twilight zone. He could tell from the fathometer echo that the bottom was dropping away beneath them, and beyond the observation nose, the water was changing colour as they left the sunlit shallow water.
“Depth 600 feet,” Chief Sharkey reported.
“Very well. Anything on hydrophones?” Lee asked.
Riley shook his head. “Negative, Sir.”
“It’s probably miles away by now,” Chip commented. Although giant squid where sometimes aggressive, this one, if that indeed was what it had been, appeared shy and timid.
“Follow the bottom down to one thousand feet. I have to call the Admiral. Carry on, Chip.”
“Aye, Sir,” Chip watched Lee head aft to the radio shack before returning his attention to the control room.
An half an hour later, Lee returned to the control room with new orders from Nelson. “Chip, secure the search, and set a new course. Here are the co-ordinates,” he handed the note he’d written the details on to Chip. “The Admiral wants us to take a look at some cave formations. Take photos, collect samples, that sort of thing.”
“Aye, Sir,” Morton took the piece of paper.
Lee glanced around the control room, already thinking ahead to his next dive. Nelson had said that the cave entrance was only 140 feet down, so they should be able to use the scooters. He intended to take both Kowalski and Patterson with him. Lee very rarely went diving without Kowalski as his partner, and Patterson was the best underwater photographer they had. “Chief?”
“Have the scooters checked out and ready for another dive.”
“Yes, Captain.” Sharkey hurried off towards the aft hatch and the missile room.
When they arrived at the co-ordinates, Lee intended to use the well, the scooters were heavy and it would be easier than manoeuvring the scooters out through the escape hatch. With Seaview in shallower water, sunlight filtered through the water and in through the forward windows, you could almost forget that you were aboard a submarine; the control room took on a whole new ambiance.
It was a pity that the Admiral was missing this opportunity to join in the diving, but as head of the institute, he was always in demand, and never had as much time to spend at sea as he would like.
“On course, proceeding at standard,” Chip reported, breaking into Lee’s thoughts.
“Very well, carry on, Chip.”
There was no sign of the cats when Lindsey arrived, but both bowls were empty so they had been in; Chip always left a top light open in the utility room for them. She washed the bowls and filled them before unlocking the patio door and sliding it open. Both cats arrived as she stepped out onto the deck to call them. As usual there was a squabble as both cats fought for her attention. “Come on, you two,” Lindsey walked back through to the kitchen with Missy leading the way, running ahead of her to get to the food before Captain.
When Captain hesitated, seemingly afraid of his bossy sister, Lindsey moved the bowl to another part of the kitchen and he immediately tucked into the food. She would really have to speak to Chip about Missy; she was getting really greedy, gulping down the food so fast, she nearly made herself sick. Well if she thought she was going to chase Captain off and hog his food as well, she could think again. Lindsey would make sure that Captain had his fill before she left.
Chip’s house was bigger than Lindsey’s; the kitchen had dark wood units with built in appliances and a limestone floor and worktops. She stood watching the cats and thinking about Chip; he would not be gone long this time. Seaview was just up the coast and it would not take them long to get back to base. A least she didn’t have to worry quit so much this time. Seaview was not on a secret dangerous mission, although with Lee Crane, you never knew what sort of trouble he would get himself into, but at least her father should be safe. Life was certainly never dull since she had taken the job at the institute medical centre.
Going deep, Lee led the men to the entrance of a collapsed lava flow that had formed a cave, and he swam in for a closer look. A number of chambers opened off the cave, each lit by a different colour hue. Lee surfaced in a large chamber that seemed to glow with a golden hue as if lit by the sun. Stalactites sparkled, giving the impression of being made of gold and diamond dust. The chamber floor was flooded, and the water reflected the walls and ceiling. He could not believe that this had formed naturally from volcanic activity. He could understand why the Admiral was so interested in the caves. Signalling to Kowalski and Patterson, he swam to a stalactite, and chipped off a piece to take back, placing it in a specimen bag attached to his weight belt. They spent several minutes in the chamber while Patterson took photographs, and Lee and Kowalski collected specimens.
The next chamber was lit by a
greenish blue glow. Lee
didn’t know what he had expected, but it wasn’t this. The chambers
had an almost magical feel, but they appeared to be just empty cave formations. He would be interested to see the
results from the specimens when they returned to
His curiosity aroused, Lee headed for one of the archways. There was a tunnel, but he couldn’t see where it led. “Kowalski, Patterson.”
“Aye, Sir.” Kowalski hurried to join Crane at the tunnel entrance closely followed by Patterson.
As they went deeper they seemed to be on an incline and no-longer wading through water. The tunnel seemed to be man-made, and Lee was beginning to wonder if they had stumbled upon a hideaway for pirates or smugglers. Removing his tanks, he placed them on the floor of the tunnel, along with his mask and the scooter, which he was still carrying. “You two stay here.” He whispered before slowly proceeding into the cavern.
It was lit by different coloured glowing spheres, which sat on top of limestone pillars. There were wooden crates and ornate chests, and the floor was strewn with shells and what appeared to be precious stones. Now Lee was sure that these caves where the hiding place of pirates, maybe long since dead, and undiscovered until now. Moving further in, he stopped and picked up an old brass sextant. Placing it on top of one of the crates, he opened one of the chests. It contained a ship’s log, the leather cover was decayed and he could not make out the name of the ship. There was also some rolled up charts, but not of any sea he could recognise.
Lee had the feeling that he was being watched. He looked around the cave, but there was no sign of anyone else. Yet still he couldn’t shake off the feeling. He glanced to where his men were waiting, when a noise from behind him made him turn.
“So, we meet again, Captain.”
“Captain Brent? But you’re dead.”
“You cannot kill some-one that is already dead. I thought you would have realised that, Captain,” Brent pointed to the specimen bag still attached to Lee’s belt. “You came to steal my treasure.”
Lee shook his head. “You expect me to believe that you are some sort of ghost or the spirit of a pirate?”
“It is of no consequence what you think, Captain. However, I under estimated you last time, I will not make that mistake again.” Without warning Brent raised the pistol he was holding and fired.
For a few seconds, Lee stood frozen with shock as the small metal ball struck him in the thigh. He automatically pressed a hand to the wound, feeling the blood seeping through his fingers.
“That should slow you down.”
Lee stumbled, feeling light headed. Then he was grabbed by two of Brent’s men, and the pain flared, causing him to cry out, then everything went black.
“A sub?” Morton asked as he turned from the plot table and moved to stand behind the sonar operator.
“Don’t think so, Sir – I’m not sure what it is.”
Morton watched over the man’s shoulder, reaching to adjust the controls. They both watched the blip move slowly with each sweep.
“Riley, anything on hydrophones?”
“No, Sir,” Riley shook his head.
“What the devil?” Morton asked, frowning at the screen.
“Where did it go?”
“I don’t know, Sir.”
“Is there a malfunction?”
Morton continued to watch the screen for a further minute before walking away. “All right, let me know if it comes back.”
“Aye, Sir.” This was the second unexplained contact
they’d had. Maybe the exec
was right, and there was a malfunction in the equipment. Unless... there was another set of sonar
waves, from another boat, cancelling out the signal.
Hovering on the edge of consciousness, Lee opened his eyes, swirling images floated in his field of vision. His head was swimming, and his leg felt like it was on fire. With an effort, he pushed up onto his elbows, but fell back when dizziness hit. For a moment he lay waiting for the dizziness to subside, regaining some of his strength.
“I advise you not to try anything.”
Lee turned his head and squinted up at Brent standing over him, watching him dispassionately. “Who...are you?”
“You know who I am.”
“What is this place? What are you doing here?”
“Biding my time until my ship is ready to sail again.”
“Cut the crap, Brent. You don’t have a ship, and we blew your underwater complex out of the water,” Lee yelled in anger.
“Put him in irons,” Brent ordered.
“No! You can’t do that. He needs medical attention,” Kowalski protested.
Lee moaned as he was pulled roughly to his feet. He staggered between the two men, his vision blurring as he was half dragged away. He vaguely wondered where Kowalski had come from, he’d ordered them both to stay put.
“Mr. Sebastian, see to the Captains wound. I will consider your fate, and that of your men. In the meantime you will remain here.”
“No, wait...” Lee protested, “Let them go.”
“So that they can report back to Seaview? Do you take me for a fool, Captain?”
Morton checked his watch, Lee was overdue. The diving party had been out almost an hour and would be running short of air. Taking the mike from its clip on the side of the table, he called the missile room. “Chief, anything from the Captain?”
“No, Sir. They should be back about now.”
“Very well, have another diving party ready to go. If we don’t hear from them in the next five minutes, I want a search party ready.”
Chip returned the mike to its clip. “Activate nose camera,” he ordered, taking a few steps to the view screen as a crewman turned it on. He studied the screen for a moment, but there was no sign of the divers. Turning away, he moved to the sonar station. “Any sign of the divers?”
Walking forward, Chip’s blue eyes scanned the underwater vista spread out before them for any sign of Lee and the other divers. Finding none, he unshipped the mike. “Missile room, this is Morton. Get those divers out.”
Within thirty seconds, the missile room hatch opened and the divers appeared, lead by Chief Sharkey. Chip watched on the monitor as they disappeared out of sight into the caves. He couldn’t help wondering what they would find – hopefully Lee, Kowalski and Patterson alive and well.
Chip watched the monitor for another
minute before turning it off. How
could Lee get into trouble on a simple dive? He wasn’t safe to be let off the
boat, he thought with a mixture of irritation and concern. He considered whether he should call
Lee gritted his teeth against the burning pain in his leg as he was forced to sit on the cave floor and his wrists locked into shackles attached to the wall. His vision blurred and his muscles and tendons protested painfully.
Brent knelt in front of him. “Well, it would seem that I have the upper hand this time, Captain. I will see you later. Try not to die on me.” He got to his feet and turned away.
Remaining where he was, Lee looked around. Kowalski and Patterson were close by, both struggling against their captors as they were also shackled.
“Are you all right, Skipper?” Kowalski asked.
“Yes, I’m okay, Kowalski,” Lee hoped that he sounded better than he felt. Although the crude binding had all but stopped the bleeding, the projectile was still in there. If it was lead, it needed to come out before he started to develop an infection, or even lead poisoning.
“What are we going to do, Sir?” Kowalski asked.
“There is not much we can do; we’ll have to wait it out.”
“What do you think they will do to us, Skipper?” Patterson sounded nervous.
“Don’t worry Patterson, we’ll get out of this,” Lee assured him, even though he was not confident about it himself.
“There was no sign of them, Mr. Morton. That place is a labyrinth of caves, it will take hours to search them all,” Sharkey reported as he shrugged off his air tanks and laid them on the floor of the missile room.
It wasn’t what Chip wanted to hear. “Very well, Chief. When you’ve changed, report to the control room. We’ll set up a rotation; I want search teams out around the clock until we find them.”
Chip turned on his heels and hurried out of the missile room, headed for the control room. He hoped that he would not have to report Lee’s disappearance to the Admiral; he knew how close the two of them had become since Lee joined Seaview. Neither of them voiced it, but they were as close as father and son.
He made his way forward along the
maze of corridors, his footsteps echoing on the metal deck. A ladder took him up to the control
room, and a few seconds later he was stepping through the aft hatch. He headed straight to the radio shack.
What had started as a pleasant day was turning into a nightmare. Chip waited for the call to be connected. He wanted to get a look at the entrance to the caves for himself once he had spoken to Nelson.
The Chief arrived in the control room as Chip finished his call to the Admiral. Nelson had not been happy and Chip had half expected him to order the Flying Sub sent to pick him up.
“Dive, all dive. Make depth two hundred feet,” Chip ordered. “Ahead dead slow, five degrees left rudder.” He the observation windows as Seaview turned slowly towards the cave opening.
By the time they reached two hundred feet, he could see the entrance to the caves, Seaview’s searchlight reaching into the dark maw. “All stop.”
“All stop, Aye.”
Chip walked forward to the observation nose to get a better look. He could just make out a faint gold glow from somewhere inside the cave. “Chief?”
“Yes, Sir,” Sharkey hurried forward to join him in the nose.
“There seems to be some sort of light in there,” Chip nodded towards the entrance.
“Yes, Sir, the whole place is lit by some sort of weird luminescence. Ain’t natural if you ask me.”
Chip frowned at him. “What do you mean?”
Sharkey shrugged. “It just didn’t look like any cave I’ve ever seen.”
“Are you telling me that it isn’t a collapsed lava flow?”
“Yes, Sir, I guess I am.”
Damn it! Lee could have walked into a trap. Who knows what could have been waiting for them, smugglers or pirates, or worse. “Recall the divers; I’m taking the next party out myself.”
With an effort, Lee opened his eyes. Pain from his leg was slowly spreading outwards. He had slumped sideways toward the cave floor.
“Are you okay, Sir?” A concerned Kowalski asked.
“Yes, I think so.” He winced as he slowly levered himself into a sitting position and rested back against the wall. His arms and shoulders ached and the shackles dug into his wrists.
“Take it easy, Sir.”
“I’m all right,” Lee insisted. “How long was I out?”
“Only a few minutes. We need to get you back to Seaview and have that wound looked at.”
If only. Lee looked around, it was doubtful that Brent would have left the keys within reach this time. The last time he had been Brent’s prisoner he had got lucky. His guard had been sloppy, and got too close. “We’ll have to wait and see what their next move will be.”
“Do you think Mr Morton will send a search party to look for us?”
Lee turned to look at the worried crewman. “Yes, Patterson, I’m sure that they are already looking for us.” How long did Brent plan on holding them? He must know that someone would come looking for them. Or were they the bait? Frustrated by his inability to contact Chip and let him know that they were all right, Lee worried that the search party would walk into an ambush.
It was getting increasingly difficult to stay focused; he could feel the strength draining from his body. He shivered as a chill ran down his back. He knew that without medical treatment, there was the danger that he could go into shock from loss of blood. He wished that there was some water to drink, aware of the need for fluids.
Shifting, he attempted to ease himself in to a more comfortable position against the unyielding cave wall, and tried not to think about how bad he felt. How long had they been here? He was losing track of time. The persistent throbbing pain in his leg added to his weakness. An unacceptable weakness that he wouldn’t give in to. He was responsible for the safety of his men and he was determined to get them all back safely to Seaview.
Morton had every available diver in the search party. Leaving Seaview, they made their way towards the cave entrance. Once inside, they split into two man teams to search the three main caves. After spending several minutes searching the cave and finding nothing, Chip moved on to the adjoining one to see if the other team had any better luck.
Sharkey and Riley appeared from one of the tunnels leading off the main chamber. “Mr Morton, we’ve found the scooters and the Skipper’s gear.” The Chief reported. “It’s this way, Sir.”
Morton followed Sharkey down the tunnel, the other men following behind. He could see light at the end of the tunnel from what appeared to be another chamber. He ignored the gear that Sharkey had found, and signalled the men to be quiet, before moving carefully to the end of the tunnel.
Squatted at the opening to the chamber, laser pistol in hand, Chip’s eyes searched the interior. His expression darkened as he spotted Lee, Kowalski and Patterson chained to the wall. “Sharkey, Scott, you come with me. Riley, stay here and keep watch.”
“Yes, Sir.” Riley acknowledged.
Cautiously, they edged their way around to where Crane and the others were.
“The Skipper’s been shot, Sir,” Kowalski said urgently.
Chip moved to kneel beside Lee. “Are you okay?” he asked quietly.
Lee lifted his head, eyes half closed. “Chip...it’s Brent...he’s...”
“Okay, Lee, take it easy.” Chip put a restraining hand on Lee’s shoulder. He used the laser to free Lee’s wrist from the manacles. It instantly dropped open, and Lee slumped against him. He quickly did the same to the other side, and then gently eased Lee back against the wall, holding him in place. “Hold on, Lee. We’ll get you back to Seaview.” He turned to look at Kowalski, who had been freed by Sharkey. “Are you two all right?”
“Yes, Sir – we’re fine.” Kowalski confirmed.
“You and Patterson take the Captain back to Seaview. We’ll round up Brent and his men.”
“Arr, Mr. Morton, how good of you to bring the Seaview to me.”
Chip pivoted, firing his laser. It hit Brent in the hand and he yelled in surprise, dropping the pistol to the cave floor.
“Good of you to join us, Captain Brent.” Chip got to his feet, leaving Kowalski and Patterson to help Lee up and support him to the entrance of the cave. “Send a full security team back, we don’t know how many more of them there are down here and I want them all,” he ordered.
Lee was motionless on the table as Jamieson prepared to treat the wound in his leg. He’d already set up an I.V. to counter his shock, which would help Crane back to fuller consciousness, once he stabilized. He was reluctant to use a surgical anaesthetic on Lee with him being so weak from blood loss, but he couldn’t wait any longer.
Leaning close, Jamieson spoke to his patient. “Captain, I’m going to administer a local to the wound site. The projectile is still in there and I have to get out. Try not to move.”
“Get on...with it,” Lee mumbled weakly, proving he wasn’t as out of it as he looked.
The Doctor made several injections of the anaesthetic around the area of the wound, watching for any sign of distress from his patient. He also put some directly in to the wound; a new procedure that had proved effective in relieving post-operative pain. So far, so good.
“How’s he doing?” he asked the Corpsman who was monitoring the Captain’s vitals.
“Blood volume is still a little low, but he’s responding to the IV therapy.”
Jamieson nodded. “Adjust the IV flow.”
Taking up a swab, he cleaned the area with betadine while he waited for the lidocaine to take effect. The small lead balls fired by the antique pistol could do serious damage, but fortunately in this case, it had missed the bone and major blood vessels. Most of the damage was to muscle. The doctor picked up a scalpel.
It only took him a few minutes to find and remove the ball. After sluicing the wound with saline and cauterizing the last of the bleeders, he sutured the wound closed. He placed a dressing over it and then bandaged the leg. “All done,” he commented as he covered Lee with a blanket.
Lee’s eyes opened at his voice, and he struggled to sit up.
“Hey, not so fast,” Jamieson placed a restraining hand on his chest. “You’re not going anywhere. We’ll get you settled into a bunk and then I want you to sleep.”
Lee was much too weak to be moving around yet. Even with the IV, it would take time for his body to make up his blood loss.
“I’ll call him, now please, settle down.”
“I’m...okay,” Lee managed sleepily.
Jamieson smiled. He would have been worried if Crane had not at least attempted to argue. But they both knew that he wasn’t going anywhere for at least twelve hours, more likely twenty-four, and then he’d only be releasing the Captain to his cabin.
Lee recognised the sound of the footsteps on the metal deck as someone approached the bunk.
“Lee, are you awake?”
“Chip,” Lee opened his eyes and smiled at his Exec. “Don’t look so worried, I’m okay. Jamie said the surgery went well.”
Chip squatted down beside the bunk. “I know. I already spoke to him. Did you want something?”
“Yes, Captain Brent...?
“In the brig with the rest of his band of pirates,” Chip interrupted, “So you can relax.”
“Good. Have you spoken to the Admiral?”
“Yes, he wants us to return to port. I think he wants to see for himself that you’re okay.”
“Looks like you get to be Captain again. I don’t think Jamie is going to let me near the control room,” Lee joked.
“He’s right, too. You need to take it easy; you lost a lot of blood. I should go and let you sleep. You look exhausted.”
“Yeah, I am tired,” Lee let his eyes drift shut, content to let Chip take Seaview home. “Good night, buddy.”
Chip chuckled. “It’s not night yet. I’ll stop by later and give you a status report.”
Lee nodded, relaxing into the comfort
of the bunk. They would be back in
Forty eight hours later, Lee limped up to the control room, closely followed by Seaview’s doctor.
Will Jamieson had taken it upon himself to make sure that his recalcitrant Captain followed his orders by personally driving him home. Lee was not happy at having to leave his beloved red sports car at the institute, but Jamieson had not given him any choice.
Chip Morton stood by the conning ladder, signing off the last of the departing crew. He smiled as he saw his Captain and friend. “Lee, do you need a ride home?”
“No, he doesn’t, thank you. I’ll be driving the Captain home,” Jamieson replied before Lee had a chance to open his mouth.
Chip raised an eyebrow and exchanged looks with Lee.
“Thanks, Chip. Will I see you tomorrow?” Lee asked hopefully.
“Sure, I’ll stop by in the morning. I want to see what you’ve done to the place.”
“I believe my daughter is waiting for you topside, Chip.” Jamieson inserted, wanting to hurry Lee along.
Chip grinned. “I’ll be along as soon as I have checked the two of you off and handed her over to security.
Turning off the coastal road, the doctor followed Lee’s directions to his newly acquired home; only Lee Crane could find a disused lighthouse for sale. Lee had told him that the tower had been damaged in an earthquake in 1925 and the lens broken. It had been deemed too expensive to repair and the lighthouse had remained empty, only coming onto the market recently. Jamieson pulled up out front and glanced at his patient seated beside him. “Are you sure this place is habitable?”
Lee grinned. “Yes, Jamie. The house has been fully restored, but I still have plans for the tower.”
Jamieson opened the car door and got out. He grabbed Lee’s duffel from the back before walking round the car to help Lee out. “I can’t say that I’m happy about you being out here alone.”
“I’ll be fine, Jamie.”
Jamieson shook his head, he’d heard that too many times before. “Come on, let’s get you settled in. I want you to rest.”
Lee took his bag from Jamieson. “Thanks, Doc. I can manage, there’s no need for you to stay.”
“Sorry, Lee, I’m not leaving until I make sure that you have everything you need. I don’t want any excuses for you to leave here until you’re stronger.”
Lee smiled. “Don’t you think this is taking your responsibilities a little too seriously, Jamie?
“No, you are still my patient, even if we are not aboard the boat.
“Yeah, and I’m still the Captain.”
“Yes, I am aware of that Captain, but if you tear those stitches, you’ll be in big trouble.”
“Okay, Doc, I hear you.”
“I hope so.”
Lindsey didn’t find it easy when it came to men. She was naturally reserved and didn’t open up to people until she was sure she could trust them. Since Simon, she hadn’t really been interested in going out with anyone. Chip had been really sweet, stopping by the medical centre whenever he could and he had even bought her flowers. She smiled as she thought of Chip’s persistent pursuit of her. In the end she couldn’t resist those blue eyes and that smile.
The smile stayed in place as she caught sight of the subject of her thoughts crossing the gang blank. She didn’t usually meet him off the boat, but she was anxious to see him and did not want to wait until after work. They got so little time together as it was, with him being at sea so much, and her working full time. Then of course there was Lee Crane, he and Chip had been friends for a long time, and Lee played a big part in Chip’s life. They usually spent time together when on leave, playing golf or tennis, but this time Lee was under her father’s supervision, and was not allowed to do any of those things.
“Hi Lindsey, what are you doing here? Is everything okay?” Chip asked, pushing his cap back.
“Yes, everything’s fine, I just wanted to see you,” Standing on her toes, she reached up and kissed him. “Welcome home.”
Chip’s strong arms encircled her and he lifted her off her feet as he returned the kiss.
She wound her arms around his neck, kissing him. She surprised herself by how much she wanted to be in his arms.
“Wow, that’s the best welcome I’ve ever had,” he smiled.
Talk about sweep a girl off her feet. Lindsey felt herself blush as he put her down.
“Where to?” He asked, slipping an arm around her waist.
“I have to go back to work, I’m on my break. But I’m off all weekend.” She said, hoping that he did not have mountains of paperwork.
“I’ll walk you to
“I’d like that,” Lindsey didn’t want to go back to work; she wanted to stay with Chip. She wished that their schedules where more in sync so that they could spend more time together. But she knew that Chip was a dedicated officer and she was going to have to get used to his being away at sea if there was any chance of things becoming more serious between them. That was scary. She hadn’t realised that she was getting so involved with him. This had started as a casual relationship, but now she realised how much she cared about him and wanted to be with him. Did he feel the same about her? She wondered.
“What would you like to do on Saturday?” Chip asked.
Lindsey thought for a moment. She didn’t really care what they did as long as they were together. “Why don’t you come over to my place? We can walk on the beach, sit on the deck and soak up the sun, and I can cook us a meal.”
“Sounds good. What time?”
“Any time, but not too early.” Even when he was on leave, Chip would still be up at his usual time. And after working Friday, she would not want to be dragged out of bed at the crack of dawn. “You can even invite Lee to dinner.”
“Lindsey, you don’t have to do that.”
“I know, but he’s your friend and I hate to think of him stuck out there alone. I know dad wouldn’t let him drive his car.”
“Why don’t I invite Becky, we can make a foursome.” Chip grinned mischievously.
“Chip, you’re not match making are you? Lindsey smiled. Becky was her father’s secretary, and it was no secret that she was crazy about Lee.
Chip shrugged. “Lee needs a push in the right direction occasionally.”
“Okay, on your head be it.”
They paused at the entrance to
“I’ll look forward to it,” with her mind still on that last kiss, and with a stupid grin on her face, Lindsey headed inside.
Nelson stood looking out of his office windows that overlooked Seaview’s dock. He couldn’t help feeling disappointed and slightly angry that Will Jamieson had spirited Lee away while he had been preparing the paperwork on Brent and his cohorts ready for their transfer from Seaview’s brig into the custody of the authorities. Damn it, he’d wanted to see Lee before he left.
While Jamieson’s report had said that Lee’s injury was not life threatening, Nelson would still have liked to have seen and spoken to Lee himself. Granted, Lee would be back after the weekend to have his stitches removed, but he still would have preferred to see him now. Didn’t Jamieson realise how important Lee was to him?
He was more than Seaview’s Captain, he was a friend. Nelson had found himself having paternal feelings towards his young Captain, which had gradually grown stronger with time. It sometimes made things difficult, and other times Lee plain drove him crazy with his stubbornness.
Lee had recently moved from the guest apartment where he had been staying, to this lighthouse that he had bought. Nelson’s hadn’t seen it yet, but he understood that it was pretty remote and he worried about Lee being there alone. Lee was very independent and wouldn’t appreciate him fussing, but he wished that Lee had stayed on in the guest apartment at least until his injury had healed.
Of course the real problem was that it irritated him that Lee had been injured on what should have been a simple cruise. He blamed himself; if he hadn’t asked Lee to investigate the caves this would never have happened.
A knock on his door broke into his thoughts. “Come in,” he called as he pulled his gaze from the window and returned to his desk. He was a little surprised when Patterson entered.
“I have those photographs for you, Admiral,” Patterson held out a 8 x10 envelope.
“Thanks, Patterson,” Nelson took the envelope. “You didn’t have to bring these over personally. You should be on leave.”
“It’s no problem, Sir.”
“Well, thanks anyway. Now off you go.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
As Patterson turned and left the office he opened the envelope and pulled out the photographs. This is what Lee had been injured for. One thing was certain, come hell or high water, Nelson was determined that he was going to be aboard the next time Seaview sailed.
Stretched out on his bed with his back supported by a stack of pillows, Lee gazed longingly out of the window at the ocean; he was bored. Why was he always the one to have his leave curtailed by injury? When they had left on their last cruise he hadn’t expected it to end like this. His leg injury had proved more painful and debilitating than he’d expected and he hated having to take pills.
Adding to his frustration was that there was so much that he wanted to do, including working on his new home, but instead he was lying here, unable to do even the simplest of things without hurting his leg. He hated this enforced inactivity. He wondered what time Chip would turn up. Although he complained about his friend’s fussing, he was looking forward to seeing Chip. Normally they would play golf or tennis, but his injury had put pay to that. He should be making his way down stairs as he hadn’t given Chip a key yet.
Carefully he eased himself off the bed, putting his good leg to the floor first and reached for the stick propped against the bed – a departing gift from Jamie. A jolt of pain lanced down his leg as he came to his feet. Leaning heavily against the stick, he waited for the pain to fade before limping to the door where another thought struck him; how was he supposed to shower without getting the bandage wet? He’d tackle that problem after breakfast he decided.
It took him several minutes to negotiate the stairs; mindful of his leg he did so slowly and carefully, not wanting to give Jamie any reason to haul him back to Med bay. When he reached the bottom of the stairs he headed for the kitchen. He hadn’t eaten since last evening and he didn’t need another lecture about taking care of himself. After making a pot of coffee he settled on bacon, eggs and toast. If he had a good breakfast, he would not need to worry about lunch. Although if Chip was here, he would insist that he eat something. Why was everyone so obsessed about food?
A short time later he carefully lowered himself into a chair at the table and used another to support his injured leg. It wasn’t the most comfortable of positions, but at least he could manage to sit long enough to eat breakfast, then he would stretch out on the couch. He sighed heavily, what was he going to do with his time? He didn’t have the stitches out until next week, and then maybe he would be a little more comfortable. He was determined that he would be fit for duty by the time Seaview sailed again. There was no way that she was going to sail without him.
The smell of bacon floating out of the kitchen told Chip that at least Lee had eaten breakfast. He followed his friend through into the lounge and watched as he dropped onto the couch.
“Help yourself to coffee, there’s a fresh pot on the stove.”
“Thanks,” Chip followed the smell to the kitchen and poured two mugs before returning to the lounge. He placed the mugs onto the coffee table and folded into one of the comfortable chairs. “So, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine, just bored,” Lee complained as he reached for one of the mugs.
Chip smiled, he knew how much Lee hated doing nothing. “I guess you’re not good at relaxing.”
“This is not my idea of relaxing.”
“Are you sure about staying here? You could come and stay at my place.”
Lee shook his head. “No, Thanks Chip. You and Lindsey deserve some time alone; heaven knows she doesn’t see much of you as it is. You don’t need me getting in the way.”
“You wouldn’t be in the way and Lindsey has invited you to dinner tomorrow.”
“That’s very nice of her, but I’m not sure...”
“Lee, stop acting like a jerk, it’s only dinner,” Chip interrupted. Lee was too stubbornly independent for his own good some times and it drove everyone crazy, including Seaview’s CMO.
“Okay,” Lee conceded. “Thanks.”
“If it makes you feel better, we’ll make it a foursome.”
Lee put down his mug and stared at Chip. “Wait a minute, do I detect a plot? What are you up to Morton?”
“Who me? Chip replied innocently. He knew that Lee would be suspicious. “I only thought that you might enjoy some female company.”
“Yeah, like who?”
Chip shrugged. “Do you have a preference?” He was pretty sure that Lee wasn’t seeing anyone at the moment.
“No, as long as it’s not Edith, I don’t need to be worrying about the boss’s daughter.”
“I promise it’s not Edith,” Chip levered himself up and picked up his empty mug. “More coffee?”
“No, thanks. I want some fresh air and sun,” Lee struggled to get to his feet and Chip immediately took his arm, helping him up.
“Are you sure you should be walking on that leg?”
“Yes, it’s fine. I only want to walk along the cliff for a little. I can’t sit around here all day.”
“Okay, but I’m coming with you, I don’t want you falling over the edge or something,” Chip ignoring the glare Lee gave him and the mutterings about not needing a keeper. He’d let Lee have his walk and then try and persuade him to go to lunch with him at The Breakwater restaurant in the harbour. Lee loved seafood, and they even served New England clam chowder.