What the hell was wrong with me? Do I have a sign on my forehead saying, here I am, possess me?
Lee Crane was setting in the nose, the crash doors closed behind him. He wasn't in the mood to play twenty questions tonight. His mind was in overdrive, still reeling from the after effects of his possession by King's mutant sea creature weeks ago. Lee contemplated the sea before him, letting the reflection of light play across his hands, watching the ripple effects dance across his skin, hypnotic and relaxing. Lee took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Why me? What's wrong with me? Do I have some kind of mental weakness that lets this stuff home in on me? King's creature. That living brain creature of Lindsay's. That creature from the space capsule. Not only did that thing taken over my mind, it had attached itself to nearly everyone else on board. Including Chip.
I should have been stronger. I could have helped the others. Crane thought, thinking about that alien touch on his mind, how some detached corner of his brain had recoiled in horror at what his body was being forced to do. It was like watching himself on the other side of a mirror. A train wreck; knowing what was happening but unable to stop it or even act. He had never talked it over with Chip before. Lee wondered what it had been like for him.
Kruger's presence in his mind was like an oil slick atop the water. It had left him feeling tainted and dirty somehow. He could have killed her. Cold bloodedly killed her and smiled while doing it. He had killed before, with a weapon from a distance and with his bare hands but always in the line of duty. Not in cold blood. Not when possessed by something so evil.
Lee was so deep in his thoughts that he never heard the footsteps until a hand reached out and touched his sleeve. Crane whirled, instinctively knowing who it was but his nerves where so tight he couldn't stop the gasp of surprise that escaped him.
Admiral Nelson looked up at him, those sapphire eyes incandescent in the dim light of the Observation nose. “Is there a reason you're setting down here, alone, brooding in the dark?” Nelson asked, perching himself on the edge on the conference table. He knew something had been bothering Lee for several weeks now and he was willing to let it go until now. Seaview would be off the coast of Manhattan tomorrow and he needed Lee to be at his best for what they had to do.
“I'm not brooding,” came Lee's defensive reply. He turned his gaze back to the sea and refused to meet the Admiral's gaze.
“You've been down here for the last forty-five minutes. You haven't responded to the intercom and you've closed the crash doors. Sounds like broody behavior to me. But what do I know, I'm only a marine biologist, not a psychiatrist.”
Nelson was rewarded with a small half grin and a snort from the dark haired young man. “Admiral, you're not 'just' anything. I don't doubt for one minute there isn't a problem you couldn't solve, given enough time.”
Lee realized he had painted himself into a corner. Nelson was one of the most brilliant men he had ever met. He should have known at some point the admiral would sense something was preying on his mind. Lee was never sure how Nelson managed it. He spent more time in his lab than in the Control Room, yet he always seemed to know what was going on. Crane was willing to put his money on Chip, but more often than not, Morton was just as surprised as Lee by the admiral's insights. “I'm not sure it's a problem that can be solved, sir,” Lee finally said.
Nelson kept his expression neutral. “Won't you let me be the judge of that? I can't fix a problem if I don't know what the problem is.” Harriman wasn't sure Lee had even heard him. Crane continued to stare out the windows, his golden, jade touched eyes hooded as shadows of emotions danced across their surface. Finally Lee spoke, his voice low and touched with uncertainty.
“It's me, Admiral. I feel defective, broken, like I'm a target for whatever's out there. I don't know how much longer I can continue to command Seaview if every alien or supernatural thing sees me as some kind of back door.”
“You're still brooding about King's sea monster.”
“And Lindsay's creature, and everything else that seems to see a 'this space for rent' on my head.”
“Lad, you're forgetting we have all had our encounters. Kruger possessed me and made me shoot you. I couldn't stop myself. It was like an out of body experience. I could see myself but I couldn't stop myself. Chip was possessed with you by that space creature we brought aboard. Have you talked with him about this?”
Lee shook his head. “It's never come up. I don't want to bring it up for him.”
Nelson only nodded. He could understand Chip not wanting to talk about his experience. Harriman turned his attention the sea as he tried to organize his thoughts. “You're right, Lee, this is one of those things I can't fix. Some people are just more sensitive to these things than others, like mediums.”
“I don't see ghosts, Admiral, I don't talk to the dead. They just want to move in. Can I be Seaview's captain if I'm not myself? I'm a danger to the crew every time we encounter something not of this world,” Crane argued sourly.
“Lee, I've told you before. I've always wanted you for Seaview. Phillips was a good man, he was a good skipper, but Seaview is yours. The only one who can come close is Chip. I won't sit here and listen to unfounded fears about your command ability. You're borrowing trouble. Nothing we've run across has ever been able to keep its hooks into you for very long. I should think that alone would constitute that you're a fighter. I need you at Seaview's helm. This is not a question of ability. ”
“You still trust me? I tried to sink Seaview, hell, I've tried to kill you, more than once. How can you trust me, after that?”
“Lee, I shot you in cold blood, in the Control Room, in front of over a dozen crewmen. How can you trust me after that?”
Trust. Friendship. Loyalty. Stronger than any force on this planet. Lee began to understand now. Nelson saw the shadows fade from his friend's eyes and an expression of understanding slowly materialized.
The two sat in the nose for a while longer, no words needed between the two. Two officers, two friends, father and soul son. It was Lee who broke the silence.
“I know we're headed for the eastern coast of the United States. Are we taking on guests?”
“Cargo. We're going to try stave off an international incident, if we time this right. You and I will be taking the Flying Sub to New York and picking up a three-thousand year old sarcophagus for transport back to its home country.”
“Sounds harmless. I'll have Chip order a complete check on the Flying Sub.”
“Sounds like a plan. Why don't you run a final check on things and get some sleep? We've got a busy day tomorrow and we both need to be at our best,” Nelson suggested. Lee rose to his feet and hit the crash door release. The doors slid open smoothly and Chip Morton spared a quick glance at his commanding officer.
“Status report, Mr. Morton?” Lee asked, his voice carrying the familiar ring of confidence and control.
Nelson smiled to himself watching Lee and Chip go over the end of the shift reports and last satellite reports on their position. This upcoming run would be good for them all. Granted it was so secret right now the only one he had told was Lee but it was a simple courier run. Pick up the sarcophagus, take it to its home country and present it before the peace talks. Nelson didn't see what could go wrong.