This is a stand-alone story, fitting anywhere in the Voyage timeline. It was inspired by the song, “Not my Time,” by 3Doors Down. From the moment I heard that song, I always envisioned it as Lee’s theme.

The Island

Sharon H

 

~<<>>~

The Volunteer

 

Why I was standing in hip deep, stinking, fetid water, being chased by a dozen gunmen with very good aim?

 

Oh, yeah, right. I volunteered. Now I remember. What was it Sharkey said? Never volunteer? Right now that was sounding like pretty good advise from an enlisted man.

 

So how did I know there were a dozen men chasing me? I didn't. Twelve just sounded like a nice round number. How did I know they had very good aim? I had a very lovely bullet crease on my left side and a bullet lodged my left shoulder. Since I wasn't standing still with a sign that said 'aim here' with little arrows pointed at me, I figured they must be pretty good marksmen.

 

Back to my present situation: standing in hip deep, nasty, stinking water. This job just keeps getting better. The things I do for my country. I had jumped into this drainage ditch, hoping to throw off my scent to the dogs. Yep, dogs. What egoistical, power hungry general doesn't keep a bunch of man-eating, half-wild dogs at his beck and call? Right now a pack of the furry buggers was trying to hunt me down. I had other plans. No way was I about to be Fido's chew toy.

 

I was running out of time. I had to get back, before somebody came looking for me. Worry wart. He hadn't even wanted me to take this mission, tried everything to talk me out of it. In the end the admiral pulled him aside and had a talk with him, even going as far as to back my decision to go in alone. I didn't need the distraction of a second. I could work faster on my own.  At least we parted on speaking terms. I'm not sure I could have left with bad feelings between us. He set up the rendezvous point and I swore I'd try my hardest to make the pick up time. I lost my radio, having dropped it somewhere back there after I got shot for the second time. I had no way of contacting Seaview and cluing them in on my situation. Running out of time and options, I decided to keep to the ditch. The raw sewage I was standing in would kill my scent and the scent of any blood. Moving along the bank, I eased down stream, mud squelching under my shoes, water up to my belt. I was trying not to think of the hundred and one diseases and parasites living in the disgusting soup, not to mention other things like leaches. I could feel the current starting to pick up as I moved into deeper water. My ditch was slowly turning into a creek.

 

The creek bed was rocky and uneven and wouldn't you know it, I slipped, my right ankle twisting under me. Gasping with pain, I fell to my knees, ripping a hole in one trouser leg, and leaving a deep, long scrap on my hide. Add that to my burning shoulder, my aching side and the now my throbbing ankle. I could hear voices now, louder, and the barking of the dogs as they got closer. Crap. Crap-crap-crap. Nope, that was what I was standing in. Jamie would kill me if I made it back in one piece. Me with three open wounds, wandering around in a sewage ditch. Smooth move, commander. Nice going. Jamie's gonna strap you down in a bunk in Sickbay and you won't see daylight until Christmas.

 

I had to make it back to Seaview. I was the only one who knew the disarming codes for the bomb we found planted on the ocean floor. I was the only one who knew how to retrieve said codes.  Retrieving the codes had been a breeze. In and out, no prob-blem-o. The problem came when I tripped an infrared alarm on my way out. I may have mentioned it before, but ‘oh, crap’ came to mind. Why can't an ONI mission ever, for once, be simple and straightforward?

 

One small blessing, there was no moon. The night was a black canvas, with just the stars for illumination. I picked up my pace as best as I could, dragging my right leg, holding on to my left shoulder, looking like something from a bad horror movie, no doubt. Yeah, Quasimodo and me. Igor, fetch me fresh brain…

 

The current was pushing me along now, getting stronger. The water was now chest high and rising. I had to fight to keep from stumbling as my throbbing ankle protested against me putting any weight on it. Sounds off to my right made me stagger and jerk up sharply.

 

“Keep looking! He can't have gone far! I want him alive!” I heard a voice ring out and I ducked, dropping down into the filthy water, up to my chin. I took a deep breath and with a prayer to the god of antibiotics, I dipped under the surface and crawled along the bottom of the creek bed as far as I could. I came up for air twice, the voices and the sounds of the dogs getting fainter and more distant each time I came up. 

 

Things were starting to get hazy and gray. Blood loss and shock, no doubt. A person can only go so far on adrenalin. I let the current carry me along, making better time than trying to walk.  If I were remembering the maps correctly, this creek was the same one that came out close to the rendezvous point. If I could keep from over shooting the beach, I still had a chance. I just had to stay ahead my pursuers.

 

“Going somewhere, American?” a voice asked me. I glanced up to see General Zhan himself, standing on the bank with an automatic rifle in his hands. Crap. This was not how I planned things. I hate it when things don't go according to plan. I didn't answer him, but stood my ground, weighing my options. As I mentioned earlier, options were in short supply at the moment. There was a click and I spun, to see two more gunmen, their weapons trained on me. If I hadn't said it enough, double crap.

 

“Out of the water, American. You have something that belongs to me,” he said, and bent down to extend a hand out to me. Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly.  I reached up with my good arm and grabbed his hand, a plan beginning to form in my head.  I started to lever myself up onto the bank, then stopped and let my full weight pull him down into the creek.

 

Gunshots splattered into the water around us. Apparently, Zhan's cronies didn't care who they took out and had forgotten the orders that I was to be taken alive. The general had an arm around my throat, and I managed to elbow him in the chest. He let go and I dove, heading downstream as fast as I could kick, using the momentum of the current to put distance between us. I could hear more gunshots and shouting now. They must have realized I had gotten away. I kicked upwards and broke the surface, gasping for air. 

 

“There he is!” I heard a shout and whipped around in the direction of the new voice. I saw four figures in black heading straight for me. Ignoring the pain in my shoulder, the stinging in my side, I took another breath and dove again, desperation giving me the strength to kick harder. Behind me I felt the impact as four bodies dove in after me. Seconds later they were on me, four against one. I tried to wriggle out of their grasp, and collided with the creek bank; with my left shoulder. Gasping as the pain screamed through my body, everything suddenly went gray and then black.

 

~<<>>~

Rescue

 

Three hours late. I thought he said he knew what he was doing. Going to be easy, he said, there's not a system I can't break into, he said.

 

So why was he three hours late?  

 

I scanned the horizon line, desperate to see his silhouette come over the top of the sand dunes. Nothing. A hard ball of fear was knotting up in the pit of my stomach. Why hadn't he contacted us? Had he gotten lost? Had he been captured? Injured? Attacked by a pack of rabid albino weasels? A thousand scenarios, each one more bizarre than the next flashed through my mind.

 

That’s when we heard the gunshots. That did it for me. I signaled my little group and we set out climbing the ridge, keeping low. I could hear dogs now, off in the distance and again my imagination took over;images of my friend being torn apart by a pack of Dobermans made me break out in a cold sweat.

 

“Sir, looks like a creek, just on the other side of the tree line,” Ski whispered to me, gesturing. I remember the creek from the maps we had studied and the comment that he could follow the creek right up to the fence and nobody would ever be wiser.

 

“Let's check it out,” I whispered back. I could still hear the dogs but the gunshots had stopped. This could be good or bad. Splashing. I could hear splashing now. We were standing not far from the creek and Ski was shining the flashlight up and down the bank, the light playing over the creek itself. Suddenly something broke the surface and Ski and I both surged forward, Ski shouting to the others, “There he is!”

 

He whirled around wildly and stared straight up at us. The he was gone, disappearing under the surface. What was wrong with him, didn't the idiot recognize a rescue when he saw one?

 

Ski and the others didn't need my urging. They ran forward and plunged into the filthy stinking water. I followed, about to dive in as well, when Ski broke the surface with a triumphant “Got him!”

 

It took all five of us to haul him back onto the bank. He was unconscious and bleeding from what could only be a gunshot wound in the shoulder. He was alive. That was enough for me. 

 

~<<>>~

Found

 

“Commander, I need you to wake up for me. You've napped long enough.”

 

That was Jamie. Why was I hearing Jamie? I had been captured, right? The creek? With a long, slow breath, I opened my eyes to see Jamie's concerned face hovering over me. He smiled at me, reaching for a wrist for a vitals check.

 

“I'm on Seaview? How'd that happen?” I asked, more confused than anything. Not that I was complaining, but there seemed to be an episode missing from my little field trip. I tried to set up only to have Jamie push me back down into the mattress.

 

“Settle down. I just dug a bullet out of your shoulder and that crease on your side has eleven stitches, so I don't want you jostling around and undoing my handy work. Just keep still. How are you feeling?”

 

“I'm fine,” I said automatically, despite the fact it felt like a knife was stabbing me in the side and my shoulder throbbed in time with my heartbeat. Jamie locked his eyes on mine and waited. I groaned. “Alright, I hurt. Happy now?” I ground out, hating to admit it, but knowing Jamie wouldn't let it rest.

 

“Happy that you're in pain? What do you think I am, a sadist? Be reasonable. I can give you something for the pain that won't knock you out, if you'll just work with me here.  Beside, you have visitor who's walked grooves in the decking since you were brought in.” I didn't have to ask who it was.

 

Jamie moved out of my line of sight and there he stood, leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed. I sighed. I was about to get read my rights. Well, I was ready for him. He was hardly one to throw stones.

 

“I can't let you out of my sight for a day, can I? Two gunshots wounds, a bruised ankle, and smelling like an open sewer. Good grief, what did you do, go swimming in a cesspool?” he asked me, dropping down in to the chair next to my bunk.

 

“How'd you find me? Did you get the codes or not?” I snarled, side-steeping the question. The last thing I wanted to explain was how I ended up in a sewage ditch, of all places. I did not need the third degree from him, even if I was positively—pardon the pun—chipper to see my best friend. I had thought I was a goner. The last place I expected to be was in Seaview's Sickbay, good old home away from home.

 

“Ski spotted you in the creek and when you didn't seem to recognize him, he and three others dove in after you. They ran with their gut, figuring you were probably hurt. As far as the codes, relax. Yes, we found them. Had to disinfect them before we could use them, but the bomb has been deactivated. Thanks to you.”

 

“Somebody had to go,” I said defensively.

 

“You know you were three hours overdue?” he asked me softly. I couldn't meet his gaze instead closing my eyes and feeling the throb in my shoulder slowly ease.

 

“There were complications,” I replied. I heard him chuckle at my answer.

 

“That's my line,” he said. His tone changed, suddenly serious again. “When we lost radio contact with you, I knew something had gone wrong. I couldn't let you swing out there. I took a party on shore on the hunch you might need some help. You might know computers, but I'm the extraction expert,” said Lee Crane, those golden eyes of his shadowed with worry and concern, emotions I was fully acquainted with each time Lee was late from one of his assignments. That's when I saw the admiral come in. Instinctively I tried to sit up straighter but he only waved a dismissive hand at me.

 

“Just relax, Chip. You've earned a little rest,” he said, watching us both with those piercing blue eyes. Even after knowing the admiral all these years, being pinned by that gaze was always unnerving.

 

“I still say I should have been the one to go,” Lee groused from his chair, his expression turning dark. I watched as the admiral put a restraining hand on my buddy's shoulder, keeping him in the chair and not pacing the length of Sickbay like he had a habit of doing when agitated.  The calming touch of the admiral was clear, even as Lee continued to glare at me. Tough. Now you know the feeling, pal.

 

“Lee, we've already had this discussion. Chip was the only one who could get into their computer system and retrieve those codes. Don't worry. I'm sure you'll get another chance. ONI seems to have your number on speed dial.”

 

The admiral came over by my bunk and looked down on me, taking in the bandage on my shoulder and side, and the wrap around my ankle. I saw something flicker in the back of his eyes, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Was this how he watched Lee when he was the one in this bunk?

 

“Was it worth it, lad?” Nelson asked me quietly, almost too low for Lee to hear. I blinked, not sure what he was taking about. Was what worth it? Didn't he think I could do this? Just because I don't like ONI doesn't mean I won't do what I have to. Lee's the extraction expert, but I'm the expert when it came to computers and software. He couldn't have gotten past the computer's firewall. I could. Granted, getting out was a bit of a challenge but I managed albeit with a little help apparently. We stopped a bomb from blowing up. We probably saved thousands of lives.

 

“Yes, it was worth it. That bomb would have taken out this whole chain of islands. Lee couldn't have done this. I could and I did. I don't regret my actions. I would do it again.” I said, surprising myself with my answer. I saw both the admiral and Lee grin. “What's so funny?”

 

“Strange words coming from someone who hates ONI.” Lee chuckled and I had to agree. I hated to watch Lee come back looking like something had chewed him up and spit him out. Now here I was, our positions reversed. Hard not to find the humor in that, even if I hurt like something had chewed me up and spit me out. Jamie came to my side and fiddled with the IV.

 

“I know the signs. Don't argue with me Chip. You need to rest.”

 

The admiral, still chuckling, nudged Lee toward the door, taking Jamie's not so subtle hint. “Come on, Lee, let's let our volunteer get some sleep.”

 

I watched Lee disappear around the corner, but the admiral stayed and turned to face me.

 

“Chip. I've never doubted your abilities, on or off boat. I thought you should know that. You've made us all proud today. If you hadn't gone in, this whole region would have gone up like Hiroshima. You were right. Lee couldn't have done this. His talents lie in other areas. You deserve to know I appreciate what you've done.”  

 

I wasn't sure what to say. I'd been working with the admiral since the first rivet was set in Seaview's hull. There were times he was a demanding, hard driving terror, unrelenting in his desires and passions.  Then there was now, encouraging and almost gentle. He could tear you down and in the next breath build you back up with one word or one look. “Just part of my job description, sir. You needed an expert in computers. I was the best choice. Like I said, I would do it again,”

 

“I don't doubt it, lad, not for one minute. Now that you're back, maybe I can convince our illustrious skipper to turn the con over to O'Brien and gets some sleep, ” the admiral said.

 

“Good luck with that. You know he'll have a thousand and one reasons for just five more minutes at the con.”

 

“And you have a thousand and one reasons for staying in that bunk and healing. Now, get some rest, Mister Morton, that's an order.”

 

I couldn't stop the yawn that split my head in two. I was fighting a losing battle with Jamie's sedatives. Tired and sore, I closed my eyes and let sleep claim me. I was thinking of Lee, coming after me after he lost radio contact. How many times had I done the same for him? I was reassured, in a way, knowing just what lengths your best friend would go for you, and knowing that your efforts are well and truly appreciated. Just before I drifted off, I managed to confirm the admiral's order.

 

“Aye aye . . .sir.”  

 

 

 

~<<>>~

Last Words

 

Four days later…

 

“You're not a super spy. One of these days you're not gonna come back from one of these assignments.” Chip Morton snarled, pacing the floor of my cabin. Chip had only just been released back to duty, his left arm still in a sling, another bandage hidden under his uniform khaki shirt. Hooking his right hand into the right back pocket of his khaki trousers, Chip stopped in front of my desk giving me coldest stare he could conjure. I paid little attention to the rantings of my oldest friend, having heard it all before. Meanwhile, I stayed seated, looking over a handful of papers before going off on this next assignment. I figured Chip was going to drop by at some point but something about my friend's tone was making me uneasy.

 

Chip continued to glare at me. At the moment I was dressed in a black turtleneck, black jeans and a black leather jacket. Not my flight jacket, this was my own, an old friend I'd had since the Academy. I wore it as part of my 'spook' gear, as Chip called it. I glanced over another report then stuffed it into a folder.

 

“Chip, would you ease off? This has to be done. Beside you volunteered last time and you never leave the boat. What's the difference?” I said, trying to placate my long time friend.

 

“I leave the boat plenty of times. Remember that disaster with the Angler[1]? I took a landing party to look for both you and the admiral. Twice I went back to that stinking little island. And that mess with the Admiral's sister. Let talk about Grafton, shall we? Or Venus? How could you forget possibly Venus?” Chip barked.

 

I drew back in surprise. “That's not what I mean. I don't get what the difference is, you volunteering; somehow you got the admiral to back you up. I volunteer to finish up and you act like this is my farewell tour or something.”

 

“Finish up? I did what I went into do,” Morton snarled back.

 

“Not like you didn't do a great job, but the compound has to go. Since you normally lead the demolition team, somebody else has to go.”

 

“Then let's just aim a couple of missiles at the island and be done with it. Thirty seconds and POOF! Gone like Krakatoa. Why does it have to be you? At least let me assign you someone as backup. ”

 

I looked up at my XO, pausing as I resorted through a sheaf of papers on my desk. “Krakatoa? That's pretty harsh. This has to look like an accident. We've already talked about this. And no, I don't need any backup, I'll work better on my own.”

 

“A second party might just save your sorry six this time around,” Morton growled, his voice low and serious.

 

“Chip, what's gotten into you? I know you don't like me doing these but I've never seen you so hostile before,” I replied, as I took a good long look at Chip. Morton's crystal blue eyes were dark with anger and the lines around his mouth were tight as he fought not to say exactly what was going through his mind. Then he opened up and let me have it.

 

“I'm just tired of watching you come back in pieces. Broken arms, cracked ribs, concussions, some power hungry general gets a hold of you and shoots you full of drugs. I don't know how much more I can take. Lee, every time you come back hurt and broken, I can't help but wonder how many time can you be broken and not break? Before something in you shatters, before something in me shatters,” Morton spat, the anger in full throttle refusing to stay caged.

 

I took a deep breath as I tried to not to explode back at Chip. “I'm not going to break, Chip,” I said, trying to be reasonable. But Chip Morton wasn't in the mood for my reasonable attitude.

 

“You say that now, what happens when the next egotistical dictator gets his hands on you and beats you to a pulp or pumps you full of some mind altering drug in an attempt to make you spill your guts? What then, super spy? This crew has already lost one skipper. I can’t sit back and watch them lose a second. In case you've forgotten, I've been where you're going, I know this General. He's not one to give up.”

 

“I'm not going to argue about this right now. We can talk about it when I get back,” I said only to have Morton snap back at me viciously.

 

“If you come back. If we can find you. If you can make it back to the pick up point,” Chip would have gone on had I not slammed my open palm against the desktop.

 

“That's enough! Mister Morton, you're out of line. One more crack like that and I'll give command to O'Brien.”

 

“You wouldn't dare. I'm the senior officer on this boat when you're not here. Command of Seaview is mine.” Chip ground out, his eyes narrowed as he considered my threat.

 

“Senior officer? Then start acting like one and not some spoiled little brat!” I shot back at him and regretted the words the second they left my mouth. I watched as surprise then shock flickered through Morton's eyes. Then as suddenly as I saw them, all emotions were gone. His eyes turned to ice blue, offering no warmth of friendship or brotherhood. Gone was my best friend, Chip. Standing before me now was Lieutenant Commander Charles Morton, executive Officer, cold, calculating and as emotionless as a glacier. I had seen this man many times before in the Control Room but never had he stood in my cabin. “Chip,” I began then stopped as Morton snapped to attention before my desk, his eyes focused on a point just over my head, his free arm at his side, those long fingers doubled into a tight fist.

 

“Are you turning command over to me, sir?” Chip asked, his voice as cold and hard as the Arctic wind.

 

I exhaled sharply. This could turn ugly, fast. “Yes, Chip, command of Seaview is yours.”

 

“Do you have any special orders, Captain?”

 

“No, Mister Morton, no special orders. Mister O'Brien has our course,”

 

“Then if you'll excuse me, sir, I need to report to the con.” Morton clipped out sharply. I met his cold gaze with a burning glare of my own.  If he wanted to go all Navy on me, fine. Two could play at this game. I could be just as hard headed as he could.

 

“You're dismissed.” I barked at him and saw the flinch that he tried to hard to hide. With that, Chip Morton stalked out of my cabin, leaving me to wonder how I was going to salvage this.

 

~<<>>~

Visit

 

I thought I heard raised voices coming from Lee's cabin. Chip must have found out Lee was going onto the island with a plan to obliterate the compound Chip had found. That's when I heard Lee's voice rise above Chip’s.

 

“Senior officer? Then start acting like one and not some spoiled little brat!”

 

Oh no. My children seemed to be having a little spat. I gave the two a few more minutes. I didn't want to walk in on something those two needed to work out. I heard the click of Lee's cabin door, the echo as it was slammed shut and the retreating footsteps of a pair of hard soled oxfords. Time to reconnoiter. Cautiously I stuck my head out of the cabin. I didn't get four stars by running blinding into danger.  I was greeted by silence in the corridor. So the coast was clear. I made my way to Lee's cabin and tapped lightly

 

“Come in.” Lee sounded tired as he spoke through the door. I eased the door open and slipped inside, pushing the door shut behind me. I glanced down at Lee, setting behind his desk, noticing the drawn expression and the pained look in Lee's golden eyes. “Sounds travel,” I said as nonchalantly as I could muster. I jammed my hands into my pockets, leaning against Lee's bunk. I had the satisfaction of seeing Lee blush slightly and he lowered his eyes, gazing up at me through dark lashes.

 

“Chip's a little upset with me now,” Lee said, bringing his hands to the top of the desk, twisting at the ring he wore on his right hand.

 

“I see. That explains the drop in temperature in your cabin. Dare I ask what about?”

 

“What else? ONI. He's gone all mother hen on me again, insisting that one day I'm gonna be killed doing this. To hear him tell it, I can't leave the sub without a fully staffed medical team to follow my every move. Do you realize that whole weeks go by without me requiring even an aspirin?” Lee said.

 

 I was having a hard time not laughing at the man. If he knew how close to a whiney ten-year old he sounded, he would be mortified. I had to come up with something that would maybe get Lee to see that Chip meant well. “Lad, have you ever looked at it from his side before?”

 

“Admiral, I know what he's going through, I just dealt with his mission and him coming back injured. I understand.  He doesn't have to be so pigheaded about this. Why can't he understand why I do this?”

 

I fixed Lee with my best, don't-try-to-fool-me-stare. “Have you ever tried to explain it to him?”

 

“It's ONI, Admiral. As much as I would like to, I can't very well tell them 'no thanks'. It's like disobeying a direct order,” Lee began only I cut him off with the wave of a hand. I moved in on his desk, planted both hands on the edge and leaned in slightly.

 

“That's not what I mean, son. I mean why do you do this? Why did you let yourself get roped into Johnson's big happy family? On a personal level, why do you do this?” It was a question I often asked myself, usually as I sat by his bunk waiting for the sedatives to wear off.

 

Lee's golden eyes blanked for a moment. “Admiral, Chip's known me since I was eighteen. He knows me as well or better than anyone. I always assumed…I mean…” Lee stammered, trying to comprehend the fact that his best friend might not know him as well as he thought Chip did.

 

“Maybe, just maybe, you need to have a chat with Mister Morton, once you get back, of course. It will give the two of you something to talk about until Jamie clears you for duty,” I said dryly, trying hard not to grin.

 

Lee glared up at me. “Not you, too,” he groaned.

 

“You have to admit, your reputation doth precede you in these matters. Right now Jamie is inventorying his stores of antibiotics and painkillers.”

 

“You're not serious.”

 

“Would I joke about a thing like antibiotics and painkillers?”

 

Lee just shook his head and tried to change the subject. “Admiral, I can't leave with Chip so angry. Not that I think this is going to be a problem, but I just don't want to leave with him so upset.”

 

“Lee, you let me deal with Mister Morton, you just get those charges set and be at the rendezvous point at the appointed time. Prove Chip and Jamie wrong and come back in one piece. This one time.”

 

~<<>>~

Hunted

 

My breath coming in ragged gasps, I slid down to the ground, bracing myself against the trunk of a tree, trying to get my hammering heart to slow down. It was a race now, a race between me reaching the rendezvous point or them finding me.

 

I fell into the same trap that caught Chip. It was easy to get in, harder to get out. Infrared sensors caught me as I was laying the last explosive. Now I had half the island on my back trail. I had thirty minutes before the first timer detonated. That first explosion would trigger a chain reaction that would take out the complex and probably half the island. I had to be off this island before that happened. If Chip could make it back with a bruised ankle and a bullet in his shoulder, I knew I could get back in one piece.

 

That’s when the first bullet ricocheted off the tree behind me, spraying splinters everywhere. It took everything in me not to yelp and run. That was exactly the reaction they were hoping for. I couldn't give away my position.

 

A howl sent the hairs on the back of my neck on edge and with a belated, sinking feeling in my gut, I remembered Chip's story about the dogs. Half starved mutts I did not need right now. I pulled myself to my feet, keeping low and ducking from tree to tree as I tried to maneuver though the dense forest.

 

Another bullet zinged by my head and I ducked and rolled, trying to make myself a small a target as possible.

 

“Come out, come out, where ever you are,” a singsong voice called out in the darkness.

 

No thanks, I'll pass, if it's all right with you, I thought, staring into the darkness, watching for any movement. Off to my right a figure dressed in green fatigues inched through the trees, a rifle in a two-handled grip. Not good. Pardon the expression, but I wasn't up for a game of tag. I certainly didn't want to be 'it'.

 

“I know you are here, the sensors tracked you into this forest. You will not find it so easy to leave my island. Why don't you save us both a lot of trouble and give up now?” he called out, glancing from left and right as he tried to pin down my location. I watched as he raised the rifle, took aim in my general direction and squeezed off a shot.  

 

The bullet kicked up a cloud of dust about a foot away from me. My involuntary jerk gave my position away and my pursuer took aim again as I scrambled to my feet. I ran, bullets impacting against the trees and the dirt around me. A white-hot lance of fire shot through the calf of my right leg and I staggered, desperate not to go down. I couldn't give up. It wasn't my time yet.

 

That's when I tripped, my left foot hanging in an exposed root. I rolled, doing a nosedive into the damp soil of the forest floor. My follower still had a few rounds left in his clip and he wasn't giving up. Another round impacted on the ground near me, sending up a spray of mud and leaves.

 

I levered myself up to my feet and felt a low rumble. Thunder. I felt the first drop falling through the trees and I knew my luck was running out. With thunder, came lightning. Bright, illuminating, lightning.

 

The first flash nearly blinded me and made me a big target in the middle of the rainforest. I pressed up against another tree and heard the dull 'thunk' of something hitting the trunk by my ear.

 

Four inches of steel quivered in the bark. Acting on instinct, I grabbed the hilt of the dagger and yanked, pulling the blade free. I had a weapon now, besides my Beretta. I wasn't in the mood for one-on-one combat and I was kind of pressed for time. I took off, heading for what I hoped was the direction of the rendezvous point. I had a good sense of direction and I hoped I was right. I limped as best as I could, as fast as I could, when suddenly the ground under me gave way and I was falling.

 

Chip's creek. I had landed in Chip's sewage drain off. The smell was unbelievable. Damn, it was cold! Chip forgot to mention the cold. I fought my way to the bank, pulling myself up into dry land. Just when I thought I was home free, something zinged out of the darkness, catching me low in the right shoulder. There was no stifling my yell as the pain surged across my chest and arm. With my left hand, I pulled the thrown blade free as blood poured from the wound. That's when I was tackled around my waist and we both were thrown backwards into the creek. I lost my grip on the second blade as we fell into the rushing water.

 

We broke apart and I got my feet under me. My attacker was smaller than me, and built like a barrel, short and round. He glared at me maliciously as he fought for balance on the uneven creek bed.

 

“I’ll cut you up good, boy,” he growled over the rush of the water and drew out a long serrated knife, lunging for me. I dodged and twisted, not an easy feat in cold, rushing, hip deep water. At one point, I lost my footing and went down, my ankle twisting painfully under my weight. Wonderful, now Chip and I would have a matched set. My attacker rushed in on me, taking advantage of my slip and we grappled as he tried to drown me in the cold, nasty water, an arm around my windpipe as he tried to hold me down. I came up sputtering, a rock in one hand. I introduced said rock into the side of my attacker’s head and he let go of me. He still had the knife though, and he came after me again, knife low for a gut stab. My ankle throbbing, the cold water numbing my feet, and my leg throbbing from the deep crease, I was losing speed. One swipe of that knife came too close, and I felt the sting as the blade swiped across my mid-section. I got another hook in then the other guy got brave. He reversed the hold on his knife and threw it, hoping to score on me. Instinct took over and I reacted with reflexes that surprised even me, reaching out to snatch the thrown knife out of the air as it whizzed by my ear. I felt the edges cut into the palm of my hand as my fingers closed around the sharp blade.

 

 For a second my attacker only stood there and then the panic washed over him, as he realized he was now facing an armed opponent. I grinned, reversed form and in a rare bloodthirsty moment, threw the knife back at my would-be-assassin. It caught him square on the throat. In slow motion he fell backwards onto the cold, black water and the current took him downstream.

 

I pulled myself up out of the creek onto the bank. I was frozen, soaking wet and now bleeding from a dozen cuts and scrapes, not to mention the slash across my stomach and the crease on my leg. Chip would yell for sure. Oh well, won't be the first time.  How much further was rendezvous point? A few yards? A few more miles? I wasn’t sure. I had to keep going. It wasn't my time. I had to get moving. Behind me I heard a click then a voice called out to me.

 

“You can turn around. Slowly. Hands in the air.” I had little choice. I raised my hands, and slowly turned to face my captor. Make that 'would be' captor. Time was up.

 

The first timer detonated and the explosion lit up the night sky, followed by the chain reaction. We were too close to the compound and the explosion picked us both up like rag dolls.  I was flung backwards, back into the creek, my body connected solidly with the creek bank. I swore I heard something 'crunch' as I slid into the cold rushing water.

 

~<<>>~

Confessions

 

I found myself staring off into space for the third time in the last half hour. Mentally I berated myself for not paying attention. Not that anything was going on but as Acting Captain I felt I should be paying closer attention. There were too many cards on the table right now and I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of complications.

 

Lee and I had parted with some pretty harsh words. He called me a spoiled little brat and I had responded the only way I knew how, turning completely cold on him. I hadn't seen him leave, hadn't wished him good luck. This general would hunt him down like some wild animal and all Lee could tell me was that I was acting like some spoiled little brat. Spoiled brat, indeed. I didn't get eleven stitches in my side and a hole in one shoulder for being spoiled.

 

Maybe I was being spoiled. Lee was right, I'm usually the one to lead the demolition team out but Jamie had me on light duty. I couldn't pilot FS1, I couldn't handle a zodiac and diving was out of the question. I just don't think Lee understood the risks. Waltzing in and dropping off a couple of pounds of explosives and prancing out of there wasn't as easy as it sounded. I just could not make him listen. He never listened to me. You'd think after being in my shoes for a few hours, he knew what I went though every time he left the boat for one of Johnson's piece of cake assignments. So I was three hours over due. How many times had he been ten, twelve hours over due, or missing for two or three days while I paced holes in my cabin floor wondering if he was going to make it back this time?

 

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea for the two of us to serve together. We had been friends before but working together had only strengthened that bond and I was as close to Lee as I was to my own family. I couldn't walk out on him. I had seniority on Seaview, even if Lee did outrank me. I was a plank owner. I watched the first steel plate lay down. Seaview was as much mine as the admiral's.

 

But Lee was as much a part of Seaview as any plank owner. I couldn't ask him to leave. It would be like ripping a part of his soul out. He would bleed to death from that wound. Without Seaview, I don't think he could bear to even be near the sea. If either of us were to leave, it would be me. I could go back to the Navy, get my third stripe, maybe my own command.

 

But I would have to give up Seaview. Was I strong enough to do that? Looking around me at the watch so carefully paying close attention to their instruments, at the observation windows, the sleek curves of the nose, I wasn't sure I could do that. How could you walk away from this?

 

I was supposed to be mad, but I found myself trying to understand how Lee could walk away from all this each time ONI handed him some trumped up assignment. That sense of commitment, that inner something in him that drove him. He'd always been that way, back to the time when I first met him. He had to do what was right. Didn't matter that the odds were against him or that time was running out. He had to do what was right. Maybe it was genetic, I don't know. Lee Crane was my oldest, closest friend. I thought I knew him better than I knew myself sometimes. But faced with this, trying to understand what makes him tick, I was beginning to wonder if I knew Crane at all.

 

Something touched me on the shoulder and I whirled around, torn from my thoughts. I found myself looking into the brilliant sapphire blue eyes of Admiral Nelson himself.

 

“Chip, when was the last time you had any sleep?” Nelson asked softly. I looked away unable to answer. The instruments of the plot table were suddenly very interesting. Something about the current marked course didn’t sit right with me and I set to work correcting my own course.

 

“That’s what I thought. Consider yourself relieved for the next ten hours. Get some sleep.”

 

“But sir . . .” I jerked up to face Nelson, surprise and indignation in my eyes. First Lee threatened to give command to O'Brien and now Nelson was ordering me to stand down. Couldn't I just do my job? Protesting obviously wasn't going to do any good.  The admiral stood firm, physically taking the pencil from my slack fingers.

 

“This is non negotiable, Commander. You’re not going to do him any good if you keep riding the ragged edge of exhaustion. He's not overdue yet. I’ll contact you if we hear something. Now. Your cabin—before I sic Will on you. I’m sure he and his collection of syringes would be more than happy to make a house call. He's not happy about you being down here, even if he has cleared you for light duty.”

 

I was out maneuvered and I knew it. Reluctantly, I backed down. “Aye sir.” I said and for the first time in three days felt as exhausted as the admiral suggested. I surrendered my position at the plot table to the admiral and headed for the spiral staircase. About half way up Nelson called out to me.

 

“Mister Morton?”

 

I stopped and looked back, those eyes boring holes into me. It was always unnerving to be caught in that glare. It never seemed to bother Lee.

 

“Something on your mind, son?” he asked me.

 

Admiral Nelson had to be a mind reader. He always knew when something was bothering Le, and somehow he always got Lee to confide in him when he wouldn't open up to me. I never resented him for that, there were just some things Lee felt better about telling the admiral that he just couldn't talk to me about. I was Lee's sounding board for things he couldn't talk to the admiral about. Now the admiral was working those powers of observation on me. I took a chance, feeling that the more I bottled this up inside, the closer I came to really blowing up.

 

“Why does he do this? Why does he let ONI lead him around like a balloon on a string? I've been thinking about how hard it would be for me to leave Seaview, and I don't understand how Lee can do it each time he gets asked to do something for ONI.” I made my way back down the staircase, avoiding the admiral's gaze but feeling those blue eyes on me, measuring, weighing.  

 

“Maybe that's a conversation you need to have with him, lad. I'm sure it's a conversation that long overdue.”

 

At the base of the stairwell I stopped and realized the admiral was right. In all these years I have ranted, raved, and cussed over Lee taking these assignments, but never once have I bothered to ask him why he did it. “You'll let me know if you hear anything, sir?” I asked, trying to cover my insecurities. The admiral gave me one of those half grins, like he was trying hard not to smile at me.

 

“You know I will. Now off with you. I'll just keep Bobby company.”

 

I made my way back up the stairs, too many things on my mind to let me get any real sleep. 

 

~<<>>~

Wounded

 

I felt myself being carried downstream. Everything ached, no, every thinghurt. Too bad Jamie wasn't here to hear that. I could really use Jamie right now. Jamie had lovely painkillers that could make everything hurting just melt away.

 

It was getting harder and harder to hold on to reality. I wanted nothing more than to find a dry corner and curl up. I was shaking uncontrollably as the cold water sucked the warmth from my body. I was sliding into shock, battling hypothermia and blood loss. Jamie, where was Jamie when I needed him? I get a splinter and he wants to sedate me. I break half the bones in my body and he's nowhere to be found.

 

The current slammed me against a logjam; the truck of a downed tree impacting with what I knew had to be cracked ribs. Hissing in pain, I tried to pull myself up out of the water, but something was wrong with my right arm. Every time I tried to move it, the pain sang through my arm in concert with all my other injuries.

 

Chip wasn't going to like this. I hadn't even seen him before I left, he was so angry. I had never seen him so angry before. The admiral had promised to talk to him, to try and make him understand. Without that promise I couldn't have left.

 

Another explosion split the night air and something upstream gave out. I felt the pressure wave as a flood of water exploded down the channel, running over the bank, carrying with it debris, branches and bodies. I couldn't climb out fast enough, my arm wouldn't work, and my muscles were freezing up with the cold. The wall of water slammed into me, lifting me up over the logjam, taking it out with a resounding crunch. Caught up in a tangle of branches and limbs, trying to keep my head above water, something whacked me solidly on the back of my head. That was the last thing I remembered.  

 

~<<>>~

Rescue

 

“Admiral, you have to let me go,” Chip was arguing with me again. Normally a very intelligent man, I was surprised that Chip had not yet learned that arguing with me wasn't a very wise tactic. Still, there he was, trying his best to look intimidating with that arm still in a sling and looking like he hadn't sleep in a week. Not very intimidating but he was trying so hard, I hated to tell him I wasn't impressed. He could deny it till doomsday but I knew his argument with Lee was still bothering him. I had hoped that by ordering him to stand down and get some rest he could put things into perspective and get a grip on his emotions. Apparently my tactic hadn't worked very well.

 

That was before we detected the explosion on the island. No signal from Lee. Chip looked ready to chew nails and spit tacks.  Hence his announcement that I had to let him go.

 

“Mister Morton, you have eleven stitches in your side, a bullet wound in your shoulder, and not near enough sleep to suit either myself or Will. I will refrain from mentioning you still walk with a slight limp. I clearly remember ordering you to stand down for ten hours, no more than six hours ago. You are no condition to be leading anyone anywhere right now.”

 

Those blue eyes of his seemed to glow as something filtered past them. He turned away from me and moved to look out the observation windows. “I can't leave him out there. Not after the way I acted. He thinks I hate him and I can't let him go. I have to at least try to find him.”

 

“Easy lad. Lee doesn't hate you and I think you know that. You're not going to do either you or him any good if you leave this boat in your present condition and end up getting hurt further than you already are.”

 

Chip was unpersuaded by my statement. “I can't just leave him there. If something's gone wrong . . .”

 

Chip couldn't finish the sentence but I knew what he was going through. Lee and I'd had our fair share of arguments. Chip was trying to deal with the fact that his and his best friend’s last words had been harsh ones. It wasn't an easy thing to deal with and I sympathized with him. However sympathy was not something I was ready to dole out at the moment. I had a landing party to lead and one stubborn ONI agent to retrieve. If I could find him.

 

“We're not leaving him, Chip. I'm taking Kowalski and a few others and we're going to comb every square inch of that island. “We will find him. I’ll move heaven and earth. I just want you to know that.”

 

“Yes sir. You couldn’t do any less.” Chip said to me with just a touch of a grin.

 

I headed for the hatch and the waiting landing party. “Keep her afloat, Mister. Morton. Have Will on stand by.”

 

“Aye, sir,” Morton's acknowledgment followed me up the hatch.

 

We shoved off from the side of Seaview, Kowalski at the outboard. The zodiac bounced over the water, hardly a dot on the ocean's surface. I would have preferred to take the Flying Sub in but any surviving radar would have picked her up and I was more interested in stealth right now. The island was coming up fast, a dark blot on the horizon.

 

Short flashes of lighting danced in the clouds overhead as we hit the beach. Other than our own light it, it was the only source of illumination. We pulled the zodiac up on to the sand and stopped to regroup.

 

“Kowalski, where's this creek I've heard so much about?” I asked, figuring Lee did the same thing Chip did, followed the creek in and slipped under the fence. What had me concerned was the fact that the explosion had been detected right on time but our skipper had not.

 

“This way, sir. Believe me, you'll smell it long before you see it,” Kowalski said to me, as he took the lead, a heavy-duty flashlight playing over the ground. I could make out the sound of rushing water and from the look on Kowalski's face, something wasn't right.

 

“Sounds like it's higher and faster than when we found Mister Morton,” he said. We came over top a rise and I could see what he meant.

 

The valley below was a flooded stinking mess of mud, debris and bodies. In the light from my party, we made out the still corpses of at least a dozen uniformed men, mixed among the litter of barrels, crates, pieces of torn lumber, and downed trees. Kowalski had been right. The smell was like an open sewer and it made my stomach roll. I fought back my gag reflex, pulling out a handkerchief and wrapping it around my face bandit style to try and filter out the smell. My party followed my example. I took the lead, playing my own flashlight over the debris. I was looking for Lee's body, dead or alive. There was no way I could leave this island unless I knew one way or the other. My fear, looking at the destruction, was that Lee might have been washed out to sea if he had been in this creek when the floodwater crested. If that was the case, we might never find his body.

 

We followed the creek down stream, keeping to the banks, watching the floating debris with a careful eye. Occasionally another body would bob to the surface and I would hear a collective sigh when it turned out not to be Crane. Up ahead the creek made a sharp left hand turn, and the elbow was jammed tight with more debris and detritus. More bodies were entangled in the conglomeration of tree limbs and two by fours. The men didn't need my urging. We set to work, digging through the mess, not sure of what we would find.

 

It was Monroe who called out over the rushing water. “Admiral, I found him, I found the skipper!”

 

I clambered over the logs and limbs, and there he was, reminding me of the punch line to an old joke I had heard Lee make about himself on one of the many occasions he had ended up in Sickbay. What do Lee Crane and a newspaper have in common? Both are black and white and red all over

 

The dark sweater he wore was ripped in a dozen places and where his bare skin was exposed I could see nothing but bruises. Blood crusted the side of his head and his dark curly hair was caked in mud. As I looked closer, I realized that what I had taken for mud on his sweater was actually more blood and there was a deep wound high on the right side of his chest. A slash across his midsection revealed another deep cut. Lad, what did you do, get in a sword fight? Knowing Lee Crane, anything was possible.

 

It took us another half hour to dig Lee out of the jam. He was deeply unconscious, thank goodness. As we dug him out, it was obvious he had at least a broken leg. The bone protruded at least two inches outside its normal resting place. Jamie had his work cut out for him today.

 

At least we had found him. Battered and bruised, but alive. That was all that mattered to me. Lee was as close as I would ever have to a son. Like Chip, there would be no living with myself if I hadn't at least made the effort. Too many times I had thought I had lost him and had been unable go back for him. I wasn't going to let this be one of those times. 

 

~<<>>~

Not My Time

 

Bones, muscles, tendons, every fiber of my being hurt, every nerve was aflame with sensation magnified a hundred times. The tiniest touch was like a knife thrust. All I could hear was a cacophony of sirens and yells that made no sense to me. All I could smell was mud and sewage. It permeated everything, overriding all other smells.  The smell alone was enough to make me sick to my stomach. One voice cut through the ringing in my head, one voice that I knew from somewhere, one voice that rose above all the others.

 

Hold on. Hold on to me. It's not your time, just hold on…

 

Someone took my hand up in a firm grip, sending needle sharp points of pain shooting up my arm and across my shoulders. I couldn't stop the gasp that escaped me. I knew that voice, I knew that grip, I'd hard it before, knew the feel of the hand holding mine. I knew but I couldn't make him know, I had to let him know I was still here. Somehow I tried to make my fingers work, to tighten against the grip on my hand.

 

That's it, stay with me, help is on the way, hold on, just a few more minutes longer, I know you can do it, it's not your time yet.

 

I had called him a spoiled brat…I shouldn't have done that. I had to apologize before it was too late.  I couldn't leave with him thinking that I was mad at him. I couldn't…Another wave of pain washed over me and I couldn't stop the silent scream that made me arch my back, gasping for breath, tightening my grip on the hand that held mine. I was aware of more voices, calling out numbers and figures.

 

“Internal bleeding, he's coughing up blood, possible punctured lung, compound fracture, left tibia and fibula, heart rate . . .Doc, he's slipping, heart rate's failing, respiration is slowing . . .we're losing him!”

 

I didn't want to hurt any more. I didn't want the pain. I just wanted peace. I felt my grip on Chip's hand loosen and felt myself floating. Forget the voices, forget the pain, I could be free.

 

“NO! LEE, YOU HAVE TO STAY WITH US! I WON”T LET YOU GO!” Chip's frantic, panicked yell yanked me back to myself and I opened my eyes to his face seeing the grief, worry, anguish filled blue eyes staring down into mine.

 

Not my time, not my time. Chip's words repeated in my head as I fought to claw my way past the agony my body was in. I felt hands on me, and something cold and sharp pressed against my chest. Another voice, this one deep and resonate like liquid velvet, like dark satin called my name. Lee, hold on, son, I know you can. Prove to us you can stay with us. Something brushed against my forehead. Slowly the pain began to fade, and with it my ability to hold on to reality. I drifted off, Chip's grip on my hand my anchor back to this world, the admiral's voice my anchor on this life.

 

~<<>>~

Apologies

 

I stood in the doorway of Sickbay, two days later. Jamie had exercised his greatest power and declared Chip medically unfit for duty. We both knew that there really wasn't anything wrong with Morton that he couldn’t be on light duty, but with Lee down and Chip already running ragged, it was the best solution to the problem of getting the stubborn, mule headed Exec to slow and give his over-taxed body a chance to heal up.

 

I watched them both: Chip camped out in the chair, an untouched lunch tray on the small table at his side. I don't think he had eaten a full meal in the last two days, not since Lee had nearly died on the operating table. Cookie had already voiced his concern to me. It was one of the reasons I was here. One of the reasons.

 

Lee was still in a coma. The floodwater had knocked him about so badly, he had injuries to his kidneys and spleen, a broken leg, and a punctured lung. He had a concussion as well, added to a stab wound on his upper chest and a deep cut across his midsection. Jamie had his hands full fighting off infection that threatened with each breath Lee took. With the blood loss, near hypothermia, that toxic soup he had gone swimming in, not even Jamie was certain what had jerked Lee back to us after he flat-lined. I was ready to blame pure hard headed-ness. I had known Lee Crane long enough to know he wasn't going to let a few things like life-threatening injuries keep him from his gray lady.

 

I could just barely make out Chip's low voice, talking to Lee. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jamie watching me with a raised eyebrow. He rose out of his chair but I motioned for him to stay. Chip didn't need me standing over his shoulder. He had enough to deal with right now.

 

“I'm trying to understand you, why you do this. If you'll just wake up, you can tell me yourself. Lee, I need you to wake up, open your eyes and look at me. You can call me a spoiled brat everyday for the next ten years if you just open your eyes,” Chip was saying. I watched as he bowed his head into his free hand, every muscle in his body betraying his exhausted state. Jamie had tried to get him to go to his cabin and rest but Chip had insisted that he had to be there when Lee woke up.  Jamie didn't have the heart to tell Morton that with Lee's head injury, that might not happen.

 

I decided I had eavesdropped long enough. I stepped forward and dropped one hand on Morton's shoulder. He flinched under my touch but didn't look up. I could feel tense muscles under my hand and for the first time I realized the exec was close to breaking.

 

“Son, you need to get some rest. You're exhausted. Go back to your cabin. I'll have Cookie send up something hot. You need something in your stomach other than caffeine,”

 

“Lee was right. I acted like an idiot. I let my personal feelings get in the way of my job and now I may not get the chance to apologize. I have to be here when he wakes up. I have to tell him I'm sorry,”

 

I'm not a man given to expressions of emotions but Chip's anguish was so palpable, it broke my heart. I tightened my grip on his shoulder, hoping to send him some of my own strength.

 

“I stay here with him and I'll call you if he wakes. You need some sleep, Chip. Will is starting to consider an artificial solution if you don't make a voluntary effort.”

 

That got Morton's attention. Wearily, he lifted his head and looked up at me with tired sad blue eyes. He was pale and the dark circles under his eyes only made him look worse. “Slip me a mickie, would he?” he joked tiredly.

 

“He's just concerned about his patients. Come on, son, I'll walk you to your cabin. I don't want you falling down along the way and cracking your head against the bulkhead. Jamie has his hands full at the moment, don't you think?”

 

Reluctantly, Chip let me walk with him to his cabin. We picked up a third along the way: Frank, whom I had seen talking to Jamie as we left Sickbay. Chip didn't realize we had company until we reached his cabin and Frank stepped forward.

 

“Sir, how about you let me help you into some clean clothes and change out the bandages?” Very cool was Frank. Frank might even be able to get Chip to eat a few bites of something. I'm sure Will had already made a few suggestions. Chip cast me a look and I simply nodded.

 

“I'll call you if anything changes, I promise. Let Frank do his job, alright?”

 

I walked back to Sickbay and sat down in the still warm chair. Lee was still out, still pale as death, the respirator keeping his airway open so he could breath, the chest tube filtering fluid out of his punctured lung. For a long time I just watched him, this man who did so much to protect his country.

 

“Chip's going to worry us to death until you come out of this, you know that don't you? I had to do some fast-talking to finally get him to go to his cabin. It would be nice if I could call him up and tell him you were going to be fine. We would all sleep better if you would just open your eyes. I know Jamie would give a lot to hear you say 'I'm fine',” I said quietly.

 

An hour passed, then two. At first I thought it was just a trick of my eyes, but then it happened again. Lee's eyes twitched. Faster and faster, his eyes under his lids moved, his breath quickened. He was fighting the respirator. “Will,” I called out and felt the doctor's presence behind me.

 

“Well, I'll be,” he said, reaching down for Lee's wrist. “He's coming out of it, I think. Come on, skipper, It's time for you to prove how stubborn you are.” Jamie made a motion for Frank, who took one look at us then darted out into the hall. I had no doubt he would bring Chip back with him. Suddenly Lee's golden eyes flew open and those two pain filled orbs stared up at us.

 

“Skipper, help me out here. Hold up your fingers, on a scale of one to five, and be honest with me. I can't help you if you lie to me,” Will said, already fiddling with Lee's IV and a prefilled syringe. Slowly, without raising his hand, Lee spread all five fingers of his left hand out on his chest.

 

“That bad? I thought as much.” Will injected something into the line, and I watched as Lee's eyes cleared somewhat. The tight lines around his mouth faded. He reached out and took one of my hands, turning it palm up. With a finger he traced out the initials C M on my palm.

 

“On his way. Just relax,” I urged. That’s when Chip appeared in a rush, slightly out of breath. He took one look at Lee and I saw all the tension melt away like water through a drain. I stepped away from the chair and Chip sat down and leaned forward.

 

I backed away and Will did the same. I could hear Chip speaking but this time I did not listen. I followed Jamie back into his small office, both of feeling drained. “Well?” I asked as a general question.

 

“With Lee out of the coma, I can give Chip a few more days to rest up and you can have him back. Once the sling comes off, he can go back to full duty. Lee's going to be down a bit longer but I assumed you gathered that.”

 

“What's important is we have them both back. They can work this out between them and maybe come to understand each other a little bit more,” I replied and turned to watch the two. Dark and fair, light and shadow. If the powers that be were to ever give me the power to pick my own sons, I would not hesitate to pick Lee and Chip.

 

“Will, what say you and I go down to the Wardroom. I'll buy you a cup of coffee. I think these two have a few things to work out, and Chip has a few things he needs to get off his chest. Let’s give them a little room,” I invited. Will nodded and stood up. We walked quietly out of Sickbay, Frank hovering just outside.

 

My boys were back and we could all start to heal now.

 

End

srh  

 

LOC:  appleone19@aol.com

 

It's Not My Time

Written by Brad Arnold, Chris Henderson, Matt Roberts, & Todd Harrell

As Performed by 3Doors Down

Looking back at the beginning of this
And how life was
Just you and me and love and all of our friends
Living life like an ocean

But now the current's only pulling me down
It's getting harder to breathe
It won't be too long and I'll be going under
Can you save me from this?

'Cause it's not my time, I'm not going
There's a fear in me and it's not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know, ooh, but I won't go

I look ahead to all the plans that we made
And the dreams that we had
I'm in a world that tries to take them away
Oh, but I'm taking them back

'Cause all this time I've just been too blind to understand
What should matter to me
My friend, this life we live, it's not what we have
It's what we believe in

It's not my time, I'm not going
There's a fear in me, it's not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know

But it's not my time, I'm not going
There's a will in me and now I know that
This could be the end of me
And everything I know, ooh, but I won't go!
I won't go!

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
And there might be more than you can see

But it's not my time, I'm not going
There's a fear in me, it's not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know

But it's not my time, I'm not going
There's a will in me and now it's gonna show
This could be the end of me
And everything I know

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
And there might be more than you can see
But I won't go, oh no I won't go down, yeah



[1] The Enemies. Season 1-Vol 2: Disk 3-Side A