A stand-alone story that fits just about anywhere in the Voyage timeline. This is another of those rare occasions where the admiral had something to say to me.
The hot water blasting over me was the finest thing I could remember in a long time. The pounding spray over my shoulders and back muscles eased away days of tension and strain I wasn't even aware of until I peeled out of the dirty, sweaty uniform. I could still smell smoke, seawater, and the faint coppery tang of blood. Looking down at my feet, pink water swirled down the drain. I watched the retreating water until it ran clear, fingers mover slowly over the deep scraps over my chest and stomach. Quite frankly, I wasn't even sure how or when I got them.
I turned to face the spray, running both hands through my sweat soaked, filthy hair, feeling the buildup of grime and dirt of the last few days. The water on my bare chest stung against the scrapes, but they needed to be cleaned and short of a visit to Sickbay, this was the best way to clean everything up. Jamie would yell if I didn't tell him about each and every little splinter but I had other things to worry about. Getting Seaview off the bottom and in one piece was first and foremost on my mind.
I ached. I don't bounce back the way I used to, when Jiggs and I ran together. Let's not go there, the less said about those days, the better. I think that's why Jiggs doesn't care a whole lot about Lee. Maybe something about Crane reminds my oldest friend of himself when he was younger. Or maybe Crane reminds him of me.
I continued to let the water wash over me, enjoying the privileges of rank and taking my time. Seaview's crew always had a nearly never-ending supply of hot water and I fully intended to use my share. Closing my eyes, I considered the events of the last few years.
John's death hit us all hard. I knew they were aiming for me and it always hurt, knowing that he got caught in the path of a bullet meant for me. I did the best I could for his widow and two children. They would never need to ask anyone for anything, not after John gave his life for his country. It was least I could do for his memory.
The sadness and grief I felt after his death had been tempered by the news that Lee was being assigned to Seaview, on temporary loan from the Navy. If I was slick, I could have two of the best officers turned out of the academy since Jiggs and I graduated. Have I ever mentioned what a humble old cuss I am?
I'd been watching him and Morton together since the day they entered the Academy. It wouldn't be until Chip's second year that I saw the gifts that could make him the executive officer I needed for Seaview. I wanted Crane but the Navy had baulked, wanting a more experienced skipper at her helm. I relented, not happy, but seeing their point of view. The fact I need the funding for Seaview may have played a hand in my willingness to acquiesce to their demands.
Reluctantly I shut the water off and stepped out of the shower. I wrapped a towel around my waist and draped another over my shoulders. With one hand, I wiped the steam from the mirror and watched as blue eyes peered back at me.
John had been a good choice. He had good instincts and the new crew respected him. Chip worked well with him but there was something missing. Like two matched horses, trained to work in tandem, only once wanted to pace, the other wanted to trot. I needed the two of them to be in step. I had no idea what sort of things Seaview would be asked to do, and I couldn't afford to not have my two ranking officers out of sync with each other in a crucial moment.
But that moment never came. John had been assassinated and Lee Crane stepped in. I was determined to do everything in my power to see he stayed. Lee was a natural born sub-commander, running on instincts I swear were gifted from another life. I knew the second I briefed him in the nose, after that stunt of sneaking on board Seaview, that he was hooked. Crane and Seaview were made for each other. Maybe I had unconsciously designed her with Lee in mind, who knows. I now had a command team that nothing could beat and there had been many who had tried. They were in perfect step with each other, knowing what one needed from the other almost before the order could be issued. Once that had been Jiggs and I, before circumstances put us on opposite sides of a desk.
I ran a comb through my tangled hair, toweled off and began pulling on fresh, clean clothes. I was still lacing up my shoes when the intercom buzzed. With more than a little share of dread, I hit the receiver. "Yes, Lee?"
"Admiral, sonar's picking up an intermittent contact, a few hundred yards off our port bow," Crane voice sounded over the speaker.
Damn. We only just got off the bottom. We couldn't afford to play hide and seek with an unknown now. "What's it read like?" I asked with a sinking feeling. If Crane was concerned, I knew I should be.
"Reads like another sub." I heard Chip's voice in the background, and a muttered curse as Morton obviously didn't care for the news he was reporting. Lee's voice mirrored the disgust I heard in his Exec's.
"Sir, Chip just reports sonar confirms two contacts. We seem to have picked up a pair of shadows."
"Alright then. I'll be right down."
Without a backward glance, I was out the cabin door, heading for the Control Room. Whatever was out there was about to bite off more than he could chew. You just didn't play tag with Seaview when Lee Crane was on watch and Chip Morton backed him up. This promised to be interesting.