Thanks again to Kate for beta-ing this story for me.
RIGOURS OF COMMAND
Captain Lee Crane quickly stifled a yawn as it came to his lips. He saw O’Brien give him a sideways glance and decided it was time to hit his rack.
“I’m off to have a few hours sleep. You have the con Mister O’Brien.”
Lee was tired. He had only just finished an ONI mission when Seaview had been ordered out to sea to conduct a seismic survey. What made it worse was Chip having to go into the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Between undertaking the ONI mission and this voyage, he was lucky to have slept for three straight hours at any one time.
He had just about made it to his cabin when he caught sight of Stu Riley leaning against a bulkhead. Normally Lee would have greeted the young seaman and continued on his way. This time, something made him pause.
“Everything okay, Riley?”
Riley looked up just as a tear escaped from one eye. It was then that Lee noticed the crumpled piece of paper in his hand.
“It’s nothing, Sir,” he replied quietly as he straightened up and brushed the tear away.
Lee decided he had two choices, the first to ignore what he’d just seen and get some sleep, leaving Riley to work it out for himself. The second to drag Riley into his cabin and see what was wrong. For someone like Lee Crane, there was only the one answer.
“Stu, come into my cabin for a minute.” He opened the door and Riley followed.
Two cups of coffee later, he’d discovered that Riley’s mother had gone into hospital the day before to have emergency heart surgery. She still wasn’t out of the woods.
Lee pressed the button on the intercom. “Kowalski, can you report to my cabin? It’s urgent.”
thirty minutes, Riley had disembarked Seaview
with Kowalski. The FS1 would return him
He suppressed another yawn and made his way to the observation nose, too wired up now to sleep. The silvery moon shimmered on the ocean in front of Seaview, mesmerizing him to sleep. Almost as soon as his eyes had closed he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Captain, we’ve got an unauthorized surface contact.”
Lee sat up straight, confused after his brief catnap. “Uh, where…what’s it’s bearing, Mister O’Brien?”
“It’s coming straight at us, Skipper.”
Lee rubbed his weary eyes, stood up and made his way unsteadily into the control room. “Sonar, time to contact?”
“Approximately thirty minutes, Sir. We’ve been monitoring it, but it suddenly changed direction to come to an intercept course.”
“Hmm. Patterson, any indication of the type of craft?”
“It looks like a very large surface vessel, Skipper.”
“Dammit,” Lee muttered under his breath. “Are there any other ships closer than us?”
“No, Sir. The nearest ones are a few days away.”
“Alright, send them a reply. We’ll meet them at these coordinates. I’ll go and apprise Doctor Jamieson of the situation. Find out as much information as you can and relay it through to sick bay.”
To his disbelief, he found Jamie nursing a broken wrist. “What happened to you?”
Jamie looked sheepish. “I, uh, got it jammed in the head door.”
Lee groaned, normally he might have found it mildly amusing. Right now with a ship full of seriously sick passengers it was just another hurdle to jump over.
“What is it, Lee?”
Lee explained the situation. “Are we able to assist them?”
“Salmonella poisoning can be deadly if it’s not treated properly. What’s our expected ETA?”
Lee looked at his watch. “About thirty minutes.”
“Frank and Tim can go over with Ski and Patterson.” Jamie stopped when he saw the look on Lee’s face. “What is it?”
“Kowalski’s not onboard. I sent him out in the flying sub to take Riley home.”
Jamie took a deep breath. “Okay, Sharkey will have to go as well. I’ll give them the medication and equipment they need and coordinate from here.”
Lee nodded to Jamie’s wrist. “Who’s going to set that fracture?”
Jamie gave Lee a faint smile. “Who do you think?”
“Oh, no…I’m not qualified for that,” protested Lee.
“Giving me that I’m-only-a-Captain look isn’t going to work. The others will have their hands full preparing their kits for the ship. That leaves you,” he gave Lee a wicked grin. “After all, you’ve had more broken bones than the whole crew put together. That has to count for something.”
“I suppose I could help,” he said reluctantly, doubting any real medical ability on his part. “Just don’t blame me if I set the wrong bones together.”
Jamie grimaced, then called the medics, Patterson and Sharkey, and gave them instructions.
One hour later Lee had done about all he could for Jamie and headed back to the control room. A couple more hours and he might actually be able to put his head down.
“Medical party to Captain Crane.”
“Crane here, go ahead.” What now!
“Uh, Sir, you’d better come over to the cruise ship, we’ve got a bit of a problem.”
Lee took a deep breath and counted to five before replying. “What’s the problem?”
“Ah, well, Skipper, I think it’d be better if you came onboard and saw for yourself.”
“Very well,” he replied tersely. “I’ll be over in fifteen minutes.”
later, Lee was scratching his head. The Sea Sapphire was, as
“Damn”, he muttered, trying to figure out a solution, any solution except the one that now presented itself. “Crane to Seaview.”
O’Brien’s voice came across the radio. “O’Brien here, Skipper.”
“Mister O’Brien, make a call to Admiral Nelson to let him know the seismic survey will have to be conducted with a skeleton crew. Ask him if he wants to join the boat and Kowalski can pick him up on the way back.”
“Why’s that, Sir?”
Lee sighed. “The bridge crew has all gone down with Salmonella poisoning as well. They’re going to need us to crew the bridge until they improve. I need two more with large ship tickets to be ferried over, then we’ll get underway immediately. Some of the cases are quite serious and we need to make the nearest port as soon as we can.”
“Will do, Skipper.”
“That means you have Seaview until the Admiral comes aboard.”
“Yes, Sir,” came the uncertain reply.
“You’ll be fine,” he reassured the junior officer. “Crane out.”
Once the other two crewmen were aboard and he’d found out that the Admiral would indeed be joining Seaview, Lee made preparations to get underway. Only when the crew had settled into their new stations did he leave the bridge, taking a portable radio with him in case he was needed. He almost made the shared quarters he’d been allocated, when he found what he thought would be a quiet place to rest. The lifeboat already had half the studs open, so he glanced quickly around, and after assuring himself nobody would see him, he eased inside. It was a large lifeboat, made for a good many people, so using his jacket as a pillow he snuggled up and closed his eyes. He had only just drifted off when something soft and furry rubbed across his face.
Lee jumped about two feet before he realized that the intruder was a cute ginger moggy. After a minute, he realized it seemed to be limping, so he gently took its paws and examined them one by one until he found what he’d been looking for. A small metal splinter had almost worked its way into the soft pad. He gently put his nails around it and pulled it out, much to the cat’s delight as it began to purr loudly. When the cat snuggled against his chest, he lay back and thought about the last twenty-four hours. John Le Carré had gotten it all wrong. It wasn’t Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It should have been Skipper, Counselor, Doctor, Vet. With that thought he finally managed to slip into a sound sleep.