Nelson wasn't the only one on edge. The tension in the Control Room was palatable. Finally, he'd had more than he could bear.
The young man in question, startled, dropped the mike and scrambled to pick it up. “Sir?”
“I'll take the conn...”
“Belay that,” the Captain interrupted. “Carry on, Lt.”
“Aye Skipper,” Sparks responded from the plot table, and continued to issue minor corrections to the great sub's progress.
“Lee...”Nelson grabbed Crane's arm.
“Would you like to go lie down, sir?”Lee whispered, “I can wake you when it's all over.”
“Hmpf!” Nelson glared at Crane's lighthearted and utterly failed attempt at humor.
“I guess not.”
“Maybe the Admiral's right, Lee,”Chip Morton interjected, from his white knuckled grip on the periscope railing.
“Lee,” the XO pleaded.
“Enough gentlemen. If you can't handle the current situation, I suggest you go to the Wardroom.”
“Kicking us out, Lee?” Nelson asked.
“If I have to. Frankly sir, you're both distracting the Lt.”
“It's my boat!”
“Sorry sir, this is something the Lt. has to do.”
“I don't see why,”Nelson muttered, “It's not part of his job description.”
“You know damn well that...”
“Stop it! Just stop it!”Sparks turned. “Skipper. I'm sorry. I just...can't.”
“Admiral, Chip, would you give us a moment. All stop,” the Skipper ordered his men and motioned the Lt. into the Observation Nose, closing the pleated doors behind him.
“Well, that went well,” Nelson said sarcastically.
“Lee does have a point,” Chip said even though his heart wasn't in it.
“Sparks already has his dolphins. I don't see why Lee's so damn adamant about this.”
Just then the pleats opened and Sparks, coffee cup in hand, returned to the plot table and resumed his 'command' stance.
“All ahead one quarter, “ he ordered.
It was all Nelson could do to avoid groaning. When this was all over he was going to have a little talk with Crane. He may be Seaview's skipper, he may even be Nelson's closest friend, but this was, well, just plain stupid.
Crane made a great show of taking a seat in the Observation Nose, leaning back in one of the new loungers, feet up, facing the great windows, the picture of cool, calm confidence, coffee mug in hand.
“Er, maybe we should join him,”Chip condescended. “Sir?”
“It's a plot, Chip,” Nelson whispered, after the men had passed Sparks and headed forward, “a dang fool plot that's going to cost me. I'm not made of money.”
“Sir, I'm sure that's not Lee's intention.”
“Ah, decided to join me gentlemen?” Lee turned, grin on his face.
“Lee,” Nelson hissed, “if he so much as scratches the paint...”
“He won't. But if he does, Seaview is due for a new paint job...maybe something in corvette red.”
Before Nelson could respond the great sub passed through the outer edge of the undersea tunnel.
“All clear, sir,” Sparks voiced.
“Well done, Lt.”Crane raised his mug, “you may return to the radio shack. O'Brien, take over...well, I guess I don't get that paint job yet,” he grinned and took a slug of his coffee. “The flying sub on the other hand...”
“Don't press your luck,” Nelson headed to the sideboard, “Lee?” he indicated the bottle of scotch next to the coffee pot.
“Well, you don't think I that I was that calm do you?” Crane whispered.
“You plied Sparks with a little false courage too, did you?”
“Not at all, I simply told him the first time I took Seaview
out the tunnel I was just as nervous.”
“Heavens,” Nelson mocked with a grin, “And here all this time I thought nothing short of dinner with my sister could faze you. Speaking of whom...”
“Admiral. I'm not the type of man to kiss and tell. Besides, I'm well stocked up on bicarb. Comes in a pill form now, did you know?”
“Skipper?” Sparks appeared, and handed the Captain a communique.
“Ah...”Lee signed it and smiled up at the Lt.
“Thank you sir,” Sparks grinned and returned to his post.
“What was that all about?” Nelson asked.
“Oh, just responding to the Reserve Board that our communications officer has now met all of our line officer qualifications...and that he didn't scratch the paint.”
All three laughed, then as Crane rose, he patted Seaview's window frame, “Red, honey, one day, I promise.”