"You'd better take these before you go in," Angie pulled out some earplugs from the top desk drawer and handed them to the Captain of the Seaview.
Neither could exactly decipher the aggravated words behind Nelson's closed door but no doubt something was bothering the Admiral.
Lee raised an eyebrow as he sat on the edge of Angie's desk and snitched one of the peppermints she always kept at easy reach.
"Harryyyyy!" came an oddly familiar and† feminine whine from the inner sanctum.
"Edith," Angie explained.
"Say no more," Lee sighed. "So, what's little sister done this time?"
"I have no idea. And I don't intend to find out," Angie grabbed her purse. "I routed incoming calls to the main switchboard. †I'll be in the cafeteria. Good luck Captain."
"Leaving me to fend for myself, is that it?" Lee grinned. Normally on a first name basis, Nelson's administrative assistant resorted to Crane's official title when nervous, upset, or just not in the mood to flirt. Which they did, frequently, though neither took it in any way seriously.
"At least you can escape to your office or Seaview. I may have to spend the entire afternoon listening to him fuss!"
"I suppose I should go in and rescue him, but somehow I seem to remember some paperwork just waiting for me. However," he winked, "my duties include rescuing damsels in distress. I'll beep you when it's safe to come back. "
Angie had just reached the door to the corridor when she heard a resounding smack followed by Lee's "Ow!"
"You shouldn't have been in the way!" the firebrand that was Edith Nelson was saying to Crane as if he were some kind of disgusting insect. She saw no need to apologize for her banging Nelson's door open too quickly and too hard, smashing against Crane's unfortunate head and brushed past Angie with a 'humpf' and out of the office.
"You okay Lee?" Angie hurried to retrieve a first aid kit.
"I'm fine," he said, as he looked at his bloody fingertips from fingering the wound." I think, anyway. What was that all about I wonder?"
"Hold still," she ordered as she dabbed the gash with alcohol.
"What happened to you?" Nelson asked as he exited his office in search of a file.
"Edith hit him."
"It was an accident," Lee said. "I forgot to duck. Actually it was the door."
"She seemed a bit mift," Angie said.
"I see. Hold still Lee," Nelson commanded as Angie finished up with a bandaid. "I don't suppose either of you know anyone with a valid driver's license willing to take Edith down to San Quintin today?"
"San Quintin??" Angie exclaimed, "That's in
"You always were good with geography...sorry my dear. I didn't mean it like that. I think you can tell I'm a bit stressed," he sighed, "Edie's gone and gotten herself into a bit of a bind."
"What happened?" Lee asked accepting Nelson's nod to accompany him back to his office.
"Well, in a nutshell," he picked up a flyer on his desk and handed it to Lee, "She was supposed to be in LA this morning to on a cruise. It departed before she even got up this morning. Next port of call is San Quintin...she hopes to pick it up there."
"Why drive? Surely there are flights," Lee said.
"Not when they're all booked. She's upset with me because I won't have her piloted down in the flying sub. But she has to learn to draw the line between business and pleasure."
"I know it's none of my business but what's so important about some cruise?" Lee asked. "Won't they let her reschedule or giver her the money back?" he asked.
"It's a bit difficult to believe but she said it was a
Girl Scout cruise and she volunteered to help chaperone."
"Whoa... Just what kind of Girl Scout troop can afford a cruise?" Lee asked.
"The kind that belong to Troop Beverly Hills."
As if the locale explained everything Lee asked, "I thought she hated kids? Or at least didn't get along with them?"
"The troop leader managed to convince her that a prospective husband should see her in a maternal type role so it's more of a scouting expedition for her to find one."
"Good grief. There's someone this friend has in mind?" Lee added.
"None that I'm aware of. So the problem at present," Nelson continued, "is finding someone to drive her all the way down there with enough self control to keep from killing her."
"I know she's been a bit touchy lately..."
"Touchy? When I also told her there was no way I would order the motor pool to provide transportation, and that I wouldn't ask anyone in my employ to do so, she flew off the handle. I realize not showing up doesn't look good for her, but she has to face the consequences of her actions or lack of them," Nelson fiddled with some keys, "Not only did she miss the boat, Lee, come to find out she's been driving under a suspended license! Breaking the law apparently doesn't frighten her. But tempting the Mexican authorities does."
"She has a Porsche?" Lee recognized the logo on the keychain Nelson was handling.
"Yes," Nelson went to the vast window and pointed to it. "Not exactly my style. ...I'll take her home now."
Crane reached out for the keys, "I'll drive. I'll even get her to the ship."
"Lee, no," Nelson said," It was presumptuous of her...you don't have to do this. Besides, it's a very long drive; probably no place to stay the night and..."
"Angie?" Lee peered his head out into the outer
office, "Do I need a passport for
"Lee, really," Nelson was growing uneasy, "I have to ask you not to do this. She just has to learn her lesson."
"Oh, I'm not doing it for her, sir."
"I'm doing it for the Porsche," he winked. "Angie? See if there's a place I can bunk down there. Little sister will have accommodations on the ship of course, but I don't fancy lurking around in a foreign city at night looking for a place to rest my weary head."
"I may regret this; you certainly will, no doubt," Nelson handed Lee the keys," I'll have someone get you a change of clothes from Seaview for the return trip while Angie arranges the details. For a secret agent I'm surprised you don't know about the immigration laws regarding our next door neighbors. I just hope Edith will appreciate all the trouble you're going through."
"There's a problem, Lee," Angie entered, " You can't drive the car more than 20 miles into
"Well that's it then," Nelson said.
"Not necessarily...no, I'm not going to ask Edith to sell me the thing Angie; I'll take her in my car."
"You might want to change your mind," Angie continued, "There's special Mexican auto insurance you'll have to buy, a visitor's pass, and then you have to pay a fee to guarantee you'll be returning the vehicle to the states, and..."
"I get the picture. I'm still going. Besides, my car needs a little exercise."
"Your funeral. At least your passport's in order," she handed it over, "Next time please file it away properly. Where was this last anyway, smells like skunk."
"That's because it was almost eaten by one," Lee said reluctantly handing the Porsche's keys back to Nelson. "I'll let you do the honors telling Edith I'll take her."
"Oh thank you. Thank you very much, Lee."
"And make sure she has a passport too. Sir," he added with a grin.
Chief Sharkey looked on worriedly as the equally concerned crewmen loaded the area behind Crane and Edith's seats with NIMR fabric travel kits. In answer to Crane's raised eyebrow, he explained, "First Aid, water, stuff from Cookie, oh, here's an updated map and a printout of the best route...oh yeah," he added a couple of electronic devices, †"your tracking beacon, and a secure link to the comm center and..."
"We're only going to
"You will be careful won't you sir?" Sharkey asked.
"Good grief, it's like you expect him to go into battle!" she added. "Cheech!"
"I'd say big brother's just making sure I deliver you to your ship without any unnecessary detours," Lee said. "They do happen, you know, even below the border. Thanks Chief."
"Yes sir. Uh..."
"What now?" Edith demanded.
"Well, I just wanted to wish the Skipper luck ma'am."
"Good grief," Edith said wearily, "Next they'll be asking to come along to baby-sit you!" she looked at Crane, revolted.
"Uh, Actually sir," Kowalski entered the fray,"having a third might not be a bad idea and..."
"He's a big boy!" Edith exclaimed, "He can take care of himself! And there's not room unless you want us all squished together up here. Can we please get going Lee?"
"Perhaps chaperone would have been a better word Ski," Crane said diplomatically.
"Humph! As if you'd even dare!"
"Thanks for the offer, Ski," Crane fastened his seat belt, "but she's right about already being a bit too crowded for a referee."
"Aye sir," Kowalski said relieved to be out of
Miss Edith's glare, but not out of the Skipper's presence. He'd already decided
to cancel the shore leave he'd just been given when he'd heard about Crane's little
jaunt. All the way to
"Well?" Edith asked as Crane didn't put the car into drive after he started the engine.
"Seat belt," he pointed to hers, "Sorry to confuse you with an accessory you don't recognize."
"Just shut up and drive," she clicked herself in.
In moments the car passed through the gate and they were on their way.
"How long do you give them?" Ski asked the Chief, shaking his head.
"Well, if I was a betting man, I'd say oh,
"I'd make it
"Ten to one, he makes her get out and walk before they hit the next intersection," Cookie said.
"No, gentlemen," Nelson approached having heard their bets, "He promised to take her all the way. And don't read anything into that."
"No sir!" "Absolutely not sir!" came the aghast replies at the very thought.
"What you should be betting on, is if he can avoid getting a speeding ticket," Nelson chuckled, joined by the men's laughter as they returned to work
It was not until the Mexican patrolman gave Crane a knowing
wink that Lee had had enough. It was bad enough to have been pulled over for
going five miles above the speed limit; it was another that Officer Francisco
had the impression Crane and Edith were an item. Told the fine would be have to be paid before he could return to the
"Really!" Edith complained, as they got out of the car, and entered the lobby, "It could have waited."
"It won't take long, and your ship doesn't leave until tomorrow morning anyway."
"Have you even looked at this town? Not even a McDonalds! Let alone anywhere decent to go to the bathroom."
"We'll go to the next town for a rest stop; should be a bit bigger according to the map. In the meantime we can just dig into the stuff Cookie packed."
"Maybe you're an aficionado of Spam but I'm not!"
"Actually, if you'd ever bother to visit the submarine and base you hold almost half the shares of, you'd know we have pretty decent food aboard and ashore."
"You call that pig fodder food?"
"What is eating you?" Crane asked, "No pun intended, but damn it Edie, you used to be nice. We all liked you. What happened to change all that?"
"Don't call me Edie!"
"Okay, how about Cruella then?"
"That's below the belt Crane, even for you."
"If the shoe fits."
"Ohhh!" she exclaimed, giving him a resounding slap.
"Thanks, I needed that," Lee said after a moment.
"Senor, Senora?" Francisco indicated they follow him into the Chief of Police's office.
"I'm not a Senora, I'm a Senorita."
Francisco said something in Spanish to the cleaning woman, who, irritated at the interruption got up from scrubbing the floor and huffed out.
"My apologies. Perhaps that will change, no?" he nudged Crane.
"No!" Lee and Edith said in unison.
"Ahhh. Well, to business. I need you fill out some paperwork, Senor Crane, then you can pay the fine when the Chief returns after siesta."
"Can't you do it?" Lee asked.
"I'm sorry. Rules."
"So when is this siesta over?" Edith asked.
"Oh, about four o clock."
"Four? We have to get to San Quintin!" Edith said angrily. "I wouldn't want to drive with him a night!"
"She's a little anxious about the cruise ship," he added by way of explanation to the officer.
"Ahh. The 'Love Boat', no? That will patch things up between you two, no?
"I don't suppose there's someplace to eat in this place?" Edith asked.
"Well, there is the tavern..."
"Is it air conditioned?"
"Ah, no.† In
fact, the only place with air conditioning is your car. If the top works, that
"Why mine? He was driving."
"The Chief, he is a stickler for details."
"Must be an inherent trait," she said, and handed it over.
"I do not understand."
Edith pointed to Lee, "he can tell you all about Chiefs," as
"I will keep your passports safe. Perhaps you would care to order for us?"
"Of course. You cannot expect me to be ungracious. I will keep you company while we wait. I would like the special,if you would be so kind to order for me. They will understand," Francisco said.
"Well don't order anything for me," Edith said. "I'll have what's in the car."
"Food? Ah, that might be a problem," Senorita Nelson. Rules. Some foods cannot enter the country."
"I have no idea...his lackey's just packed us a bag. You'd think Angie would have told them about any restrictions. Now if you have Spam at the Tavern, he'll just love that," Edith said. "Not that his shipmates do. They just adore him so much they cater to his every whim. Can't even let him out of their sight lest he bump his toe on something," Edith snipped.
"Now you're just being silly," Crane said.
"Shipmates? Ah, senor," his face fell, "You are employed by the cruise ship? To escort Miss Nelson to it? You are not lovers seeking to patch things up?"
"Lovers? Yeech!" Edith said. "And the Moonlight Serenade's way out of his class," Edith said. "Lee's one of my brother's employees, that's all. He's taking me to the cruise ship as a favor to him."
"Then what is it you do?" Francisco asked Crane.
"I work for the Nelson Institute."
"What he means, is, "Edith said, "Is that my brother hired him to captain his precious submarine,"
"Don't talk about her like that," Crane said.
"I'll talk about Seaview any way I like!"
"Seaview? The ship with the big windows?"
"The same, and..." she was about to say more as
"Forgive me Senorita Nelson," Francisco said, "we will finish up here shortly. You go to the tavern, have a drink. On me. Here," he wrote a small note and gave it to her. "Show this to the bartender."
"I really am sorry if we've offended you in any way," Lee began.
"Ah, senor, I mean Capitan, we are honored by your presence in our humble village."
"I don't suppose that will lessen my fine?" Lee asked with a grin, joking.
"Ah, no," he grinned. "Now, let us check those foodstuffs. There may be some I will not have to confiscate."
It was cooler in the tavern than she'd expected.
"Hey, wait a minute...Look, Senora...I don't want my palm read."
The woman paid her no heed and began to 'tsk' shaking her head, then suddenly grinned, got up and headed to the bar. Taking out a small grime covered bottle from a locked chest that looked remarkably like Spanish antique, she began to mutter gleefully as returned, pouring out a small jigger of the stuff and handing it to Edith.
"Uh, no thank you. I'm sure it's delightful, but..."
"Oh, you'd better take it Senora..."a little boy said.
"Senor-it-a," she corrected.
"Senorita, excuse me. But you'd better or she'll put the hex on you. She's a witch you know."
"No, I do not know, and that's a terrible thing to say! That's all fairy tale stuff. I know you're just a child but..."
"Senorita, I am no stupido. But
"Well, I never.."
"Oh why not humor her Edie," Lee said from the doorway holding a jar of pickles and a couple of bags of potato chips in victory.
"I told you not to call me that!"
"I'm getting rather tired of you telling me what or what not to think or do. Besides, she's just a poor old woman. Don't hurt her feelings."
While the two were arguing,
She poured another, but if he expected her to give him a second he was pleasantly surprised she turned to Edith, while pointing to Crane. Oh she was good, Lee thought, laying a little guilt trip on Edith. In the end, just to get rid of her pestering, Edith forced herself to drink the contents in spite of the moldy taste that reminded her of frogs for some reason.
"Now, we eat," Francisco slapped Crane and Edith on the back.
It wasn't long before the villagers, having been alerted, crammed the tavern, showing off everything from flowerpots to ponchos in the hopes of the rich Americanos† buying something.
They were a little hard to ignore, so in between mouthfuls of some really tasty nachos, Lee and Edith pointed and oohed and ahh'd appropriately before deciding on a few insignificant souvenirs.
The sound of some guitars playing added to the increasingly carnival or fiesta type atmosphere. Even the children showed off some traditional dances and encouraged the couple to be taught some of them, even to donning various colorful and historical costumes. †It was thirsty work and when Lee finally had a chance to down yet another lukewarm coke that had been appearing on the table with great frequency, Francisco nudged Crane in the ribs, "You would like to be lovers with Miss Nelson, no?"
"No! I don't know why you seem to....."He stopped, distracted by the sight of Edith, emerging from the back twirling around now in a modern Flamenco dress. Almost translucent seashells and pearls decorated the blue and white tiered and ruffled fabric, the matching lace mantilla framing her face.
"She is quite beautiful, no? Capitan?"
"Perhaps you would care to join her for a picture? Capitan? Senor?" he asked, a satisfied grin on his face at Crane's continual stare at Edith, dancing now, her fingertips busy with castanets.
"Miguel, help Capitan Crane with the matching costume...."
Lee offered little resistance as he was led away to change.
A nod to
"Excuse me Admiral," Angie reported to Nelson going over some reports with the Chief the next morning, †"Have you heard from Edith or Lee?"
"Well, the Cruise Director called. They delayed sailing an hour waiting for her, but she never showed. I tried calling Lee on the comm link but it's turned off..."
"He has a tracer," Sharkey said, "I put it in the car myself."
"We checked. It was turned off at some point after crossing the border."
"It may be nothing," Nelson sought to reassure her, "but...I have a bad bad feeling about this. I think we should go to Yellow alert, Chief, recall everyone...and get me ONI. "
It was the sound of sheep, more than the smell of them that permeated Edith's nostrils the next morning. Still half asleep, wondering how a sheep could have gotten aboard a cruise ship, she haphazardly groped for the robe she usually left on top of the bedspread, only to find her hand pressing on something firm and not at all fabric. Confused, turning, she was greeted to the backside of a naked man.
"Agghh!" she screamed, grabbing what she could of the sheet she saw crumpled on the floor, and looking in vain for a phone to call the police while backing away and adding the bedspread on the floor to her wardrobe.
"Wha...what's the matter?" the man turned, his senses as garbled as hers had been.
"Lee!? What are you doing in my bed??" She shrieked.
It didn't take a rocket scientist for either to decipher the situation and Crane, rising before he discovered† he too, needed a little something to cover himself with, flushed at the exposure and grabbed pillows to hide himself front and back.
"What the hell?" he asked her.
"I can't believe we....gross!!"
"Neither can I and I sure as hell think I would remember something like that...in fact, I don't remember anything at all. You?"
"Just some dance..."
"Me too..."he finally found their discarded clothes, and put them onto the bed, keeping a firm hand on at least one of his pillows." I'll change in the bathroom, at least that's what I think it is," he indicated a small nook covered by a fabric curtain. "Edie?"
"What?" she hissed then saw his furrowed brows as he picked something out of the jumble of clothes. "What is it?"
"Can you read Spanish?"
"There's a bunch of stuff here with our names on them...some are stamped with some kind of seals...some receipts, and...."he paled, "uh oh."
"What?Wha's uh oh?"
"Edie? †Brace yourself, but... I think we're married," he held up an elaborate document decorated with fancy printed calligraphy.
"Married? Let me see that!" she padded over, careful not to loose her grip on her voluminous toga.
"See, our names...our signatures... in ink...the date... 'matrimonio'? I may only know a few words in Spanish but this sure looks a lot like 'Matrimony' to me."
"It could still be a mistake. Maybe we didn't actually do anything," Lee said.
"We woke up in the same bed, stark naked! And we didn't do anything? What time is it? Can we still get to the boat?"
"How can you think about the damn cruise at a time like this? Hell, I don't know what time it is, my watch is missing. Judging from the sunlight, it's late morning. The boat's probably already left."
"Well, hurry up and get dressed then find out how far away we are. We might be able to catch it at the next stop..."
"Suit yourself. But first we're going straight to the Chief of Police to get this marriage annulled!"
"I'm sorry Capitan Crane, Mrs. Crane," Chief of Police said, "as I've explained, an annulment, it will be difficult if not impossible without due cause. It will however be easy if the bride submits to an examination for proof of virginity."
"That's archaic!" Edith shouted, the couple wearing the costumes, as Crane had been unable to find their clothes at the tavern.
"Now, why the change of heart? It was apparent to everyone you belonged together and...."
"We didn't know what we were doing!" Lee said, "And we don't remember you at all. †Surely..."
"But I took your money, see, my signature? Yours?"
he picked through the receipts they'd brought along, "the fees for the license,
the wedding itself, even the traffic ticket given by my deputy, not to mention
faxed copies of your birth certificates and other preliminaries you signed for
the license. You are legally married and recognized as such by the laws of
"Yeech!" Edith said toward Crane.
"Look, we donít want to be married," Lee tried to remain calm, "if we'd been in our right minds we wouldn't have. Now, please, quit trying to talk us into accepting it and tell us how to get an annulment or at least a divorce!"
"Very well Capitan. †I will need your signatures on the initial
paperwork," he fumbled around in a file and blew some dust off an
appropriate form. "You can get a divorce today in
"Be-cause," Edith said dangerously, "I hate him! I loathe him! And I don't want the word 'divorce' to even hint that we were ever married, that enough reason for you buster???"
"Sign there, and there," the man sighed. "They will want to contact a character witness. Perhaps your brother the Admiral?"
"Ohmygosh, Harry," Edith whispered.
"Uh, not a good idea," Lee said.
"Do we have to tell him? Do we have to tell anyone?" she pleaded.
"Perhaps a call to the gobernador...maybe he will be able to bend the rules. Still other couples don't know what they're doing either and their marriages work out to ripe old ages or until death and..."
"Even if they were drugged?" Lee asked.
"Drugged? What do you mean?" the Chief asked, unerved. "We have no drugs here. We are law abiding citizens."
"Look, neither of us remembers having anything but
lukewarm cokes, but that's no good as we don't remember much of anything anyway,
but we do remember chugging down some awful tasting stuff that old woman...what
was her name? Oh yeah,
"Me too!"she replied in like.
"Capitan, Senora... you are just upset. A herbal tonic that's all it was I'm sure. Officer Francisco mentioned she thought you both looked in need of one. I've had many of her tonics myself and..."
"Well something happened to us!" Lee shouted.
"Wait," Edith suddenly remembered the boy, "a kid called her a witch..."
"Si, it is rumored, however..."
"Where is she?" Edith demanded.
"What are your intentions Mrs. Crane?"
"Do you have to call me that??"
"What are you thinking of Edie?" Lee asked.
"And I told you not to call me that either. I'm going to see the old hag and have her remove whatever spell she put us under! This is a nightmare!"
"Don't be stupid. What can she do? Send us back in time? I'd like to know whatever it was she gave us to drink. If we can get a sample analyzed, then maybe the law will have no choice but to grant an annulment and right now."
"Francisco?" The Chief called the man in, "Get Concepcion to hand over some of her tonic she used last night," then returned his attention to the distraught couple, "In the meantime, we can give you both a blood test. It will take a while. Please, take my advice, children. Give it a little time. You may come to realize you were meant for each other and...."
"When hell freezes over!" Edith was practically in tears.
"Edith, after they draw our blood, why don't you go back to the hotel and rest awhile. I'll wait here for the results. Perhaps Franscisco can tell us what happened to our clothes and car as well."
"Admiral!" Angie and the Chief of Security called out, racing into his busy office," the CIA †just tracked a conference telephone call from the Chief of Police in El Enamoraado to Governor Ricardo, "Something about a Lee Crane, an urgent situation he said."
"He was also tied into the Mexican Drug Enforcement Agency," the Chief added, "that's when the CIA decided to contact us to see where our Lee Crane was. But the original call inMexico was† garbled and† they think...they think they heard gunfire...then they lost the signal."
"They killed Lee!"Angie wailed.
"We don't know that. Calm down,"the Chief said.
"He's right. It was a truck backfireing for all we
know. Patch me through to the CIA and DEA.
"Well, that went well," Lee complained as the sped away from the village and back onto the highway. "Simple herb tea my ass."
"I can't believe the Governor actually told you to take our bedroom problems out of his country and never come back. They should be grateful. We spent a lot of money on clothes, souvenirs, and pictures, apparently, not to mention on our," she gulped, "wedding. Damn, I wish I could get your ring off. What did you stick it on with, bubble gum and super glue?"
"I told you, I don't remember. At least nobody should notice with all the others you're wearing."
"So get some kind of solvent when we get home. Speaking of home, you sure you don't want to tell Nelson? He's your brother. He loves you. He'll understand. He might even try to help....We could be divorced by tomorrow if..."
"No, I want it annulled. We'll go with the story that you made a wrong turn, got us lost and was too late to get me to the boat so we went with the flow and became tourists, okay?
"Sounds stupid to me. He'll be sure to know we're lying."
"I donít see how. And we have pictures to prove we had a great time," she practically snorted in derision.
"But he can read me like a book. He'll know we're up to something."
"Will you help me out in this or not?"
"Okay, okay. I'll be the fall guy in this, but only if you quit with the whining. Anyone ever tell you how irritating it can be."
"Well, excuuusee me!"
"See? That's what I mean.
"Good grief. Okay, okay. I'll try."
"Fair enough.....I wonder what that's all about?" he asked himself of the veritable fleet of US and Mexican police helicopters headed in the direction they'd just come from. "At least they can't clock me for speeding."
"Thank God for small favors...soorrry."
The Chief couldn't help wincing as he emerged from Nelson's inner office, closing the door behind him. He'd just reported to the Admiral that the tracker and comm links were simply defective but the Admiral was bellowing at Crane again nonetheless. The poor Skipper. All he did was misread the map.† You'd think Nelson would be grateful nothing had happened to him or Edith. †Instead the Admiral and all those bigwigs with him were blaming him for the all the time and trouble they'd gone to trying to find, arrest or rescue the errant couple.
He remembered how irritated the boss had been while scouting the suspect areas in the Flying Sub when informed of Crane's checking in at NIMR's front gate, but he should be over it by now."Give him a break, already!" Sharkey said under his breath with a backward glance at the closed door.
"Do we still have a Skipper, Chief?" Kowalski was just one of many wondering the same thing as they milled around in the outer office. Even Angie hadn't gone home though it was almost 8 pm.
"Damned if I know," Sharkey replied, "When I reported, the ONI guys were saying something about putting him on suspension for sheer stupidity. Their words, no way mine. Then Nelson followed up by asking the Skipper to give him one good reason why he shouldn't do the same thing to him regarding Seaview and...."
Nelson suddenly opened the door, followed by the remaining government agents as they headed to the corridor.
"Again, my apologies gentlemen, for involving you in nothing more than...than an impromptu vacation!" he said angrily. "I don't care if the comm link was broken. Crane knows the rules. All he needed to do was pick up a phone and inform security about the change in plans!† Not only was he derelict in his duty reporting such, he was damned inconsiderate to me! I never would have thought either of him, and I assure you nothing like this will ever happen again."
"It had better not," one of the men in black was heard saying as the elevator doors closed on the group.
For a few moments nobody had moved in the hushed outer office. Taking a deep breath, the Chief was just about to intrude upon the miscreants still in Nelson's inner sanctum when the Admiral barged back in. Sharkey caught a glimpse of Miss Edith sitting, her arms folded across her chest, her head bent forward, And the Skipper just about to sit down when Nelson, barely setting foot in his office growled, "Did I give you permission to sit Commander?"
"No sir," Crane snapped to attention.
"Chief?" Nelson turned as if an afterthought,
"what is everyone hanging around here for? Get back to work or go home,
all of you. But first have security call a cab for my sister."
"Harry!" Edith objected. "I'm quite capable of driving myself home."
"Not on a suspended licence. And you've been enough trouble without getting my Captain involved."
"Now wait a minute," Lee said, "it's not all her fau..."
"You're at attention Mr. Crane. What are you waiting for Chief?"
"Yes sir, Miss Edith?"
"I think you're being very mean!" she shouted at her brother.
"Oh you do, do you? Well, I'll be even meaner. I'm keeping your Porsche. That's right. You want to go anywhere, get a cab or better yet take a bus. Get an idea on how a lot of normal people get around without others at your beck and call, or...he glared at Crane, "subjected to your feminine wiles."
"Sir, she..."Lee began.
"Must I send you back to the Navy for a refresher course in military discipline? You are at attention. You will remain at attention until I'm through with you. You will not even speak until I give you permission to do so, is that understood?"
"Harry, please!" Edith surprised herself, "It's not his..."
"I'm sick and tired of trying to decide which of you is more to blame than the other! Changing your mind without a word to anyone is something I might have expected of you young lady, but not by a full Commander in the United States Naval Reserve and Captain of Seaview. Not by a long shot. I'm disgusted with you both. Pick up your damn pictures and get out of here," he turned and poured himself some whiskey.
Edith hastily retrieved the souvenir photos' of Edith and Lee in various costumes apparently enjoying themselves immensely, and then scurried out with Sharkey.
"That includes you Commander. Well, what †are you waiting for ?" Nelson quipped, glass in hand.
"To tell you how truly sorry I am...."
"You've done that. Now get out...." he ordered.
Crane executed a sharp military turn that would have made John Paul Jones proud, closed the door behind him,then heard a glass shatter against the back of it.
Yes, the ruse had worked well. It hadn't felt good, and Crane was beginning to regret the whole plot despite his Oscar worthy performance, but at least the secret was safe.
A short while later Nelson finally gave up fuming and drove the ever ready NIMR 'golf cart' toward his bungalow on the grounds then changed his mind and just idled awhile. Used to living alone, he had several local and distant properties, but he didn't feel like being at any of them now. He needed to complain to somebody who gave a damn. His dignity and that of the Institute was in shatters. And he had nobody to blame but himself really. It was he who had jumped the gun and made certain assumptions, but damnit, Lee knew better! It was Crane's fault first.
Then he remembered there was one place where he could express himself, where he could expect a little soothing balm, no questions asked, and headed there.
Lee had appreciated Kowalski's offer to drive his exhausted CO home. However, he managed to dismiss the man and the rest of his crew, with assurances that he'd emerged from the woodshed relatively unscathed. But it was no good, for as soon as he'd climbed into his car, he groaned at the mere thought of turning the key from exhaustion. Giving up on himself, he sought the one refuge he knew he could finally let go and relax a little.
Edith offered the Chief a drink as soon as he'd carried her luggage into her vacation timeshare, just as polite as she could be. It was as if she was the 'sweet girl next door' she'd been like a few years before, at least according to what he'd heard. So maybe the 'good time' the Skipper had shown her had worked. And there was another thing. Was it his imagination or was she wearing the Skipper's onyx ring. At least it looked like his ring. Maybe a smaller version of it? There was an awful lot of stuff on her hands so it was impossible to tell. Still, this was on the left hand even. On a very significant finger. And he'd seen some of the photos of her and the Skipper costumed in everything and anything remotely with a Mexican flair, from traditional hats and ponchos, to the more elaborate Flamenco dancer costumes. They'd been really smiling in that one...hmmm.
Nelson strode purposefully toward the sideboard of fine spirits he kept in Seaview's Observation Nose. He kept the lights off, to lick his wounds in the comforting darkness. But so, apparently, had Crane, who had fallen asleep in one of the loungers, a stale cup of coffee drooping from a fingertip dangerously. What was it with Crane and coffee?
Gently extruding the cup, Nelson tried not to disturb him. Why, he had no idea. Perhaps he wasn't that angry with Lee after all. Damn, he just couldn't stay mad at him as long as he should. Lee had only been trying to make it up to Edith, he snorted, remembering her smiles on the souvenir photos.
"Mhhfuf?" Crane took in Nelson observing him more like some kind of lab specimen than his Captain.
"Oh, sorry," he rose quickly, "I'll go."
"Lee, wait...Perhaps we both need to wind down a little."
"She makes it all better somehow," Crane said, tapping Seaview's window as he sat on the sill.
"I know what you mean," Nelson chuckled then grew serious. "I've had time to think about it. I'm sorry the way I laid into you...not what I said, just how I said it."
"My own fault. Didn't obey Ski's advice."
"Ski? What's he got to do with anything?"
"Oh, just something he always says...'Never Volunteer'."
"Am I correct in assuming from your tone," Nelson said, "that you're still on speaking terms with me? I wouldn't blame you if not."
"You were right, I was wrong. Nothing more needs to be said."
Nelson rose, heading to the sideboard, and poured out another drink, "Here," he handed it to Lee.
The tumblers clicked and for a while the two just sat in the loungers, soaking in the feel of the boat, watching the night crew and the lights from the dock through the great windows.
"Watch it!" Chief Sharkey grumbled, climbing down the ladder into Seaview's Control Room the next morning.
"Give me a break, I didn't mean to bump into you," Kowalski said as he jumped off the last rung and joined the Chief to inspect one of the consoles.
"Try not to be so clumsy next time!"
"Okay, okay! What's eating you anyway? You've been in a bad mood all morning."
"And you haven't been?" Sharkey countered.
"Okay, I'm in a bad mood. We all are. Man, if we have to break in a new Skipper..."
"I uh, don't think that's gonna' be necessary...look," Sharkey pointed.
Nelson and Crane were sound asleep in the Nose recliners, the spent bottle on its side on the deck between them.
"I guess they made up, huh?"
"You think?" Sharkey said, taking in the sight of an almost cherubic looking Crane, tucked under a blanket, leaving no doubt as to which of them placed it there.
"Maybe we ought to do this later," Ski whispered, "I mean, it was a rough day for the Skip yesterday and the Admiral could've almost burst a blood vessel or something."
"Or something?" Nelson brought his lounger upright, but too quickly, and clutched his head groaning.
"Sorry sir," Sharkey said quietly, "We didnít mean to wake you."
"Would you like some of Doc's hangover remedy?" Ski asked.
"Not a bad idea.. I'll live. I'm not sure however about the Captain. Can't hold his liquor at all. Was out before we'd even gotten to the 40th 'bottle of beer on the wall'...."
"You were singing together?" Ski asked.
"Well, I was. I'm not sure if what I heard from Crane could actually be construed as any way musical. But dolphins like it apparently. Heard us through the plating. Probably thought he was one of theirs...can't say I remember when they left..."Nelson squinted his eyes looking out the windows, then edged the blanket a bit higher under Lee's chin, then checked his watch."Oops. Missed my own briefing...don't tell him I was late okay?" he grinned. "Make sure nobody disturbs him, Chief."
"Aye sir. I'll keep watch on him and make sure the work parties are postponed."
"Thanks. If I'm this bad, I'm sure he couldn't stand hearing a pin drop."
Recent events had been conveniently forgotten or at least ignored by the time Seaview had returned a little more than two months later from war readiness drills with the Navy. Nelson was reviewing the official reports with Crane along with old friend Admiral Jiggs Starke when Edith burst into his office, followed by a flustered Angie.
"I'm sorry sir, I couldn't stop her," Angie said.
"It is customary
to go through channels, or at least knock, Edith," Nelson said. "Thank
you Angie. Well, "he returned his attention to his sister, "You should
have called. I had no idea you were coming back to
But she was ignoring the niceties and had been rather brusquely pulling Crane by the sleeve out of the offices and into the corridor.
"Wonder what that is all about..."Nelson mused.
"Does Crane always have this effect on young women?" Jiggs was asking Nelson jovially.
"Yes, but not on her...yes Angie? What is it?"
"I'm sorry sir," the confused and worried girl said, "but I couldn't help overhearing as they went into his office. She was saying something about an annulment being out of the question..."
"Annulment? What the..."
Within minutes Nelson was in Crane's office demanding answers from the two, Starke and Angie a not so polite distance behind him in the doorway.
"Let me get this straight, you're married?" Nelson asked.
"You got me pregnant, that's what's changed!"
After about a year Nelson spoke, "Are you sure?"
"Don't be an ass, of course I'm sure."
"Is it †his?"
"What do you take me for? It's his all right!"
"Just trying to get the facts; you have been known to..."
"Shut up Harry. I'm talking to Lee!"
"Yelling, more like," Angie said.
"I..."Lee took a calming breath, still stunned by the news, "Oh, lord....Edie, if it's mine you know I'll take responsibility..."
"They're yours. You think I didn't have a prenatal amniotic DNA test?" she snipped.
"They?" Nelson asked.
"Triplets!" she whined. "And they're all his. And the stupid hospital says they have to have your name on the birth certificates 'cause we're legally married!"
"Now wait a minute. This is a shock to me too you know, but I'm not mud."
"It's customary for a child born in wedlock to carry the father's name," Starke said.
"Wedlock?" she whined, "We didn't want to be married, we donít want to be married! And I sure as hell don't want to have his †name, or saddle them with it. So," she removed a form and handed it to Lee, "I've applied for a legal name change back to †Nelson regardless of present or future circumstances. And I want you to sign a waiver that our babies will be Nelson's too."
"You heard me, 'no'. I might not remember the events that led to their conception, I might not even want to remember if by some miracle I could, but I'll be damned if I won't have what's rightfully mine. Use Nelson-Crane for them if you have to, but Cranes they are!"
"Enough!" Nelson said, "Can't we sit down and discuss things calmly?"
"Calm? Calm? After what he's done to me??"
"Well I sure as hell didn't do it alone!" Lee retorted.
"Oh why did I even bother to tell you, I might as well have gotten rid of them for all the help you are."
"Get rid?" Lee paled, scared. "Edith, look, please, that's not an option really is it? You wouldn't just...I mean...you will go through with the pregnancy at least? For their sake? I'll take full and complete custody if you don't want them..."
"Placing them up for adoption is an option," Starke butted in.
"I...I don't know..."Lee ran a hand through his hair, a sure sign of his distress.
"It's too early for a decision for either of you," Angie said.
"She's right," Nelson said. "You need time to
think. We all do. Now, I want you two to fill me in on exactly what happened in
"I'm sorry I lost it earlier Harry," Edith said in the relative quiet of Nelson's bungalow.†
"I know, hon. You've always been a bit bossy."
"So are you."
"Here they are," Lee said entering the unlocked front door with the Mexican documents he'd kept at his apartment. "Legal's right behind me. By the way, Edith, I forgot to ask, what are they, boys or girls?"
It was to mild laughter that the NIMR lawyers and paralegals entered the room to help scrutinize the documents with Nelson and the Cranes.
"Still no luck?" Patterson asked his pals Kowalski and Riley shaking their heads 'no' and joining him in the busy Crew's Mess a few months later. Seaview had been on a tedious and unsuccessful hunting expedition.
"I donít know why the Admiral's still trying," Riley said. "Wipe out."
"We haven't spotted a single whale anywhere near these latitudes," Ski added, "let alone any aggressive gangs of them.† If you ask me, I think those weekend fishermen were pulling a fast one just to get in the news."
"Tell that to the Admiral," Chief Sharkey said. "He's on fire to find these whales. He thinks they're Blue Whales and I heard him telling the Skipper he'd give almost anything to find out for sure. Seems not even scientists know about the blue whale's migration patterns."
"Well," Pat said, "I'm sorry for the Admiral, but I'm glad we have a nice relaxing stress free mission for once and..."
Just about all of the men in the mess groaned. Priority calls meant one thing and one thing only. Vacation time was over.
"I've never heard anything like it," Nelson was saying in the Control Room, returning Malone's headset, "I agree some of it is whale song, but I can't make head or tail of the other...maybe the salinity and depth's affecting things. Chip? Bring us in about a hundred yards from the point of origin."
†Nelson picked up the mike, "Lee? We may have found our objective."
"The Skipper's still on that call sir,"
"I didn't mean to interrupt you, Lee," Nelson continued, "Come to the Control Room when you have a chance."
"Aye sir," Crane's voice came over, however he didn't quite manage to click the brand new intercom installed in his desk all the way off.
"So we were drugged?" Lee was asking the director of the DEA on the speakerphone.
"Well, not legally, no."
"What would you call it? I donít care if this woman Conception claims it was nothing more than a love potion..."
"I'm trying sir. It's jammed on the Skipper's end."
"Lee, turn off your intercom," Chip said on the mike, hurrying to the radio shack when there was no response.
"It won't hold up in any court until the chemical equation is fully evaluated. However she did brag about it to the undercover agent when she recognized the pictures of you and Edith. Said it was in the stars that you two belonged together then waxed on and on about some old Conquistador's medicine chest. Apparently it's been providing her help with her matchmaking and fortune telling skills."
"I'm sorry sir,"
"I'll take care of it," Nelson said, "Chip,
get everyone's ears back on their jobs, and get the master electrician to the
"The stuff dissipated by the time you and Miss Nelson were tested. There were a few drops left in the vial. What can be evaluated, Commander is a highly potent accelerator of pheromones."
"You're the living proof of it. This variety just happens to be so potent they stimulate the libido to the point of obsession. And blocks the normal restraints we all have, you know, the kind that protect us from acting on subconscious impulses. That's what we have so far, though there seems to be some indication that the more restrained one is on succumbing to sexual impulses, the more effective it is in bringing them to the fore.
"Your memory loss was due to your neuron's being over stimulated. Fried is probably a more accurate term. You may never remember that night.† Pretty strong tonic for something that's been ripening since the 1600's. I'm surprised it didn't make you both ill or kill you. We've been in touch with the Mexican authorities. I don't think there will be a problem obtaining that annulment as it did hinder your cognitive reasoning......what is it?"
"I..we're not sure about that now... I mean, what with the babies..."
"Well, no hurry," the director said. "I'm sure you'll want to discuss it with Edith. When should you be finished with this cruise?"
"About four weeks..."Just what did you mean about 'subconscious impulses' I assure you I certainly had no such impulses with Edith Nelson."
"Well, she's not really all that unattractive, and you are a normal healthy male...You've never thought about it at all? Not even a fantasy about her?"
"Okay okay, calm down. I'm not saying you had a subconscious desire to ravish her, just...."
"All right, maybe once or twice I had...thoughts. A long time ago. She was different then. †Nothing recent."
"The drug worked on her too Commander. You probably both just got carried away... I'll see to it the paperwork is ready for you when you get in anyway."
"Admiral? Sparks? Wha..." Lee asked as Nelson entered his cabin unannounced, "Oh, that's just grea..." was all the crew heard as Nelson unplugged the malfunctioning intercom.
"Well at least we know what the fishermen saw, sort of anyway," Malone said as he helped re-install the last of the old communications equipment in the Observation Nose.
"I've never seen the Admiral so fascinated," Ski said glimpsing the pod of whales from the windows in various contortions, the divers a polite distance with cameras, and a few spear guns for injecting medical and tracing implants. "But, I can't say the skipper's all that thrilled about it. I think he's had enough about any kind of mating habits, regardless the species," he laughed.
"Almost finished?" the Captain asked midway on the spirial ladder.
"Just about Skipper," Ski said, "Where'd the Admiral get the new units from anyway? We gotta' report a malfunction...keep other boats from installing them."
"That's already been done," Lee sat on the window ledge, facing the men, "we're fortunate it was only the one unit and that we weren't in an emergency situation...these were supposed to cut down expenses. Shoddy workmanship, or design flaw?" he picked up one of the spent units.
"Both actually, sir," Malone said. "Really surprised too. This is a good company."
"I know. The CEO's appalled. He's offered to replace them all, but I think we'll just stick to tried and true for now...I'm glad you kept them in storage Malone. Good job," he headed aft.
"Good job my ass," Ski hissed. "You were so damn fired anxious to go on shore leave you just left 'em sitting there."
"Yeah, well he doesn't know that!"
"You think he heard what I said?" Ski asked, a little concerned. Crane had dark circles under his eyes and was looking gaunt. Gossiping about his...uh...situation wasn't going to help.
"Hell I don't know...maybe. Don't worry about it though. He's a tough egg."
"Yeah, I guess," Ski sat on the table, "But he still couldnít bring himself to look out the window at the whales doing the tango."
Seaview had her work cut out for her. Nelson insisted on documenting the movements, socializing and even play of the Blue Whales. Even Crane had been drafted by Nelson to lead †one of the dive teams to take skin and barnacle scrapings of some of the beasts which had come to tolerate, and even assume Seaview was a kindred creature.
One of the bulls, during the expedition, in fact, got a little too interested in what he must have thought was an unusual female and it took some skilled maneuvering on the part of Seaview's Captain and crew to keep the sub's virtue intact, finally resorting to electrifying the hull and emitting a high frequency sound irritating to any denizen that got too close. It was irritating to the men as well, as it was clearly audible to humans.
By the time Seaview returned home, her Captain was not a happy camper. It didn't help that no sooner had she docked, that Edith dragged Lee to a seminar designed for prospective parents, new and alumnus. Not that she wanted him to be a part of her life, but for the sake of their offspring, having decided against an annulment or divorce (for the moment), she thought it was a good idea they learn what was involved. And it didn't hurt to needle him for her predicament even if she was equally to blame.
Women in various stages of pregnancy and their husbands, friends, and some adult family members were treated to endless lectures, mini movies, and even live demonstrations at the seminar. Everything in fact, from safe breast feeding to diaper changing. But it was the no- holds- barred film presentation of an actual birthing process that had forced Lee to quickly excuse himself from watching someone's blessed event and charge to the restroom.
†"Some men just don't know how to handle that part," the visiting lecturer ad-libbed as the film soon came to a finish and the group broke for refreshments in the lobby.
"Certain careers help with how a man responds," she added. "What does your husband do Mrs. Crane?" she asked.
"He's Captain of the submarine Seaview," she answered, surprised that she hadn't actually cringed at the word 'husband or her legal title of 'Mrs.'
"Well, at least he knows how to handle his torpedo," one of the men laughed.
Emerging from the men's room, having finished retching and slapping cold water on his face, Lee found himself the subject of a lot of amused glances and barely stifled laughter. He was grateful when Edith patted his 'paper husband's arm gently and led him out of the building and to safety.
Sharkey was passing by the Crew's mess a few months later when he heard the laughter from inside. This contracted mission for the Navy to verify undersea missile launching silos was long and exacting, and frankly he was getting awfully tired of it. It would be a break to get in on whatever his shipmates were finding so amusing. But still, he knew this crew to well....
"Okay, hand it over," he ordered entering. "It's got to be contraband or something off limits."
Ski handed the NIMR newsletter over. It had just arrived via the chopper's mailbag. Normally there was nothing unusual of a photo showing Seaview's dock loaded with crates marked 'Prop. NIMR' emblazed on them. But the emblazoned stencil of 'Prop. CAPT.' on Edith's maternity top left little to the imagination about who was responsible for her condition as she joined the staff at the impromptu birthday party for the Chief of Maintenance, especially with it's short diagonal and center arrows pointing to her greatly expanded midriff.
"Like Way off limits," Riley quipped adding to the mirth.
"Chip?" Lee asked, unable to concentrate on the fudge brownies Morton had been scarfing down in Crane's cabin. "How do they do it?" Lee asked, "Women. How do they mange babies and stuff? I mean, the actual having them..."
"What brought this on? You still brooding about that stupid seminar? Lee, women have babies all the time..."
"They don't have to watch that end. Whatever happened to 'keep the father in the waiting room ' type of delivery?"
"Those days are long gone buddy. Get used to the idea. Or you can simply renege on your promise to be there.† Frankly I'm surprised she wants you to."
"Temporary insanity, that's all."
"So," Morton said after they stopped laughing, "What have you two planned to do? Same house, separate lives or different dwellings, and scheduled custody? Lee, you two have never...uh...I mean since then? Sorry, none of my business."
"I've been as chaste as a monk. I'm not sure about her; however...forget I said that, especially since she's taking things pretty well now, considering."
"I'm surprised she hasn't opted for a divorce. You can sue her for it you know."
"No. I won't be the fall guy in this...and we have the triplets to consider. Besides, she won't make up her mind on either count. One minute she's all for the separate bedrooms idea, then she can't abide me being within ten miles of her and wants a divorce at least thinks about one. But that's not happening as much as before. In fact, she was actually nice to me almost the whole time we were looking at houses...she's decided to stay put in Santa Barbara."
"Lee, bud. A lot of kids do just fine with divorced parents...don't let this situation mean a self imposed exile from living your life."
"I...I just don't know what I want anymore..."
"Lee?" Nelson's voice came over the squawk, "I'd like us to make that dive now," "Right away sir."
Nelson had already suited up when Crane arrived in the Missile Room.
"Which do you want Skipper?" Ski asked first holding up the team leader's yellow wetsuit, then pulling a black one from the guys behind him and held it up, huge grin on his face.
Even Nelson's face started to contort. "I'm sorry
Lee..."he couldnít help himself, "I swear I
had no idea..."he bubbled over.
The fully zipped up and assembled black neoprene was enhanced by a wide chalk arrow slanted downward into the crotch with the words 'Danger-High Voltage'.
For a moment nobody noticed that Crane wasn't laughing with them, but they stopped soon enough when without a word he turned and departed.
"Uh, it was only a practical joke, sir," Ski told the Admiral.
"A good one too, and he knows it. Forget it. He's just in one of his moods. Since I don't seem to have a diving buddy, anyone want to volunteer? How about you Kowalski?"
"If you don't mind sir, I think I'd really rather go apologize."
"Very well. Permission granted. Patterson, how about you?"
"Chief, tell Mr. Morton that Captain Crane will not be on this team after all.
"I'm sorry sir," Ski said after finding the Captain in the Observation Nose,
It just sort of happened. I mean, the newsletter and all and..."
"It was in bad taste and you know it.... I'm sorry Kowalski," he rubbed a hand through his hair, "I've just been on edge lately. I know it was only a joke. I should be apologizing to you actually."
"No sir. We should've figured you're getting kinda' stressed."
"It's just that..." Crane hesitated and looked a bit lost. "I'm not sure if I can handle it after all....I mean, I thought I could. But the closer we come to it... I'm not sure I know how to be a daddy to three little girls."
"Skipper," Kowalski said gently, "you'll do fine. And there's not a male in creation that really understands girls anyway."
Ski was glad his CO was managing a smile at that. "I have two kid sisters, sir," he continued, "but it wasn't till they reached puberty that they got hard to figure..."
"Ski, you are supposed to be making me feel better, aren't you?"
"That didn't come out right. What I was trying to say is that they turned out fine. And a lot of the credit goes to my mom and my dad. It'll be okay sir, you'll see. Anyway I'm still sorry about the joke. †Uh, will you be going on the next inspection dive?"
"You know, I think I just may...and I'll use the black suit," he winked, "Keep my reputation..."
"You wanted to see me?" Morton entered the NIMR outer office. Seaview had been in port a few days now and Angie was increasingly frustrated.
"Oh, Chip, good. I 'm glad you're here; tell me, can you decipher any of these?"
"Good lord," Morton said after glancing through a few of the reports scattered on her desk, "Lee's handwriting's getting as bad as Doc's."
"He's got a lot on his mind...unfortunately legibility isn't one of them...they're not all bad, but I can't very well get them filed properly if I can't tell what he's written in some of them."
"There's only one way to find out."
"I was hoping we could avoid it," Angie sighed.
"Well, from what I've seen and heard, I think our newlyweds are actually starting to get along somewhat."
"Then you wouldn't mind taking these to the Cranes and finding out what I need to know," she said. It was not a question.
"What? Without backup? C'mon. Besides it will give you a chance to see the new house you've been so envious of."
No sooner than Chip and Angie had arrived at the front door, which was wide open to vent some of the strong paint and cleaning chemicals, that they heard the two, though out of sight.
"Ow!"Lee was saying.
"Well if you'd had the decorators do it like I wanted you wouldn't have fallen off the stepladder. A trained monkey could do a better job painting or wallpapering than you."
"Will you quit harping on me? I was just trying to save us a little money. Even I have some pride."
"It's my money and..."
"I could have afforded the other house."
"Is that what all this about? †Your super deluxe male ego?"
"And if it is? And did you have to hire that Nanny without even consulting me? They're my kids too."
"So what? Lee, maybe we should have decided on the annulment or divorce after all if you're going to take this husband and father business all that seriously."
"Well maybe we just should have!"
"Okay! Sign the damn papers. Either of them! You get whatever you want anyway!"
"At least I won't have to saddle them with your name then, let alone live in the same house with you!"
"We already drew up the papers for the legal Nelson-Crane names and..."
"If we're annulled none of that counts. Any children I have will be Nelsons. Period. Your name might be on the birth certificates as the father, but it's customary in this state for children born out of wedlock to take the Mother's surname."
"Over my dead body!" Lee erupted "I'll never sign the papers then. You can sue for divorce instead...Edie, look. I still want to be a part of their lives...and I think we're both being hasty...heat of the moment I guess. Let's hold off any big decision for now...I'm sorry I got on your nerves. I'll even hold my tongue in front of you and the kids. Just let me stay near them.... I can't make any excuses for why I blow my stack with you sometimes," he said apologetically. "It's just...you're from a whole different social circle than me. I'm uncomfortable enough with your lifestyle without you and your globe jetting friends make me feel like I'm nothing more than a prize stud."
"Well, what would you call it?" she snorted, patting her huge belly.
"We were actually starting to get along," he mused, "almost like friends again, but..."
"But then you went ahead and bought this monstrosity of a house without so much as a 'what do you think' to me," he said, almost pouting. "Next you'll be hiring maids, a chef and maybe even a pool boy. Why can't we live like normal people? They can handle three kids, even more. It's not like there won't be any help at first, †from Mom and some of the home helper agencies †the Admiral found us...."
"And how long do you think your Mother can stay? She has a life, Lee. A life back East. Besides, I had a Nanny growing up. So did Harry."
"And you both had miserable childhoods; he's told me all about it."
"Okay so we didn't exactly have loving parents. But some of the help was adequate, one or two of our nannies were even nice. You'll be gone half the time anyway. I agreed to you living in the same house, Lee. You can't expect me to give up everything I'm used to in turn. And what's wrong with the Nanny I hired?""
"Well, she's British for one thing...."
"And?" Edith asked.
"And I think she was a drill sergeant in a former life."
For a moment neither said anything and even Lee could see it for the pitiful excuse it was for his frustration. With a sheepish grin he fell into a gentle laughter joining hers. "I'm sorry. That was kind of mean, and unjustified."
"I'm sorry too, Lee, I guess I have been a bit...inconsiderate. I promise you Mrs. Windsor won't be that bad. And..I guess you're right about sticking it out, marriage wise. For the kid's sake."
"And for the kids' sake, we really have to decide on the names."
"Well, I'd still like Aralyn, Bellina, and Celine."
"Lee," she patted his arm after a moment of silence, "how would you feel if your daddy named you after his old boats?'
"There was nothing wrong with my boats!" he said indignant, '"and they're nice names..."
"Got to be an occupational hazard, you and your damn boats. Sometimes I'd swear you're a Nelson."
"How about as middle names?"
"Tell you what, I'll think about it...but for now they're going to be Annabelle, Becky, and Cathy okay?"
"I guess," Lee aquiessed, "Okay."
Thinking it was as good a time as any to intrude; Chip rang the doorbell and hollered before stepping into the open entry. "Anybody home?"
"Come on in!" Lee yelled and was at the door, Edith following, to find Morton and Angie looking cherubically innocent.
"I don't know about you, but I could use some tea," Edith said, heading to the kitchen. "The Goodyear blimp has dibs on the chair. We're still waiting for the rest of the furniture to arrive."
"Care to join us for a bite?" Lee asked Chip and Angie. "Nothing fancy. Actually a couple of slices of cold pizza in the fridge from yesterday. I'm sorry about no chairs...she's been staying at her timeshare and I've..."
"Yeah, I know bud," Chip said. "Your cabin aboard Seaview or your soon to be relinquished bachelor pad. And I like cold pizza."
"Me too," Angie said and joined Edith.
"So, what brings you both here in the middle of a workday?" Lee asked.
"On a mission for the institute," Chip handed him the files.
"Observant as ever Skipper...There's just one problem," he scattered them on what room was left on the counter as the women set out the pizza and paper plates. "Nobody can read them," he added.
"Wha..."Lee opened one, then another...his brows furrowing...
"Don't tell me you can't decipher your own handwriting?"
"Okay, I won't tell you. Look, after we eat, I'll do them again. So, how's the Admiral enjoying his stay with the President?"
"Pestering the hell out of them with all his talk about becoming an Uncle. Even went shopping with the First Lady. Picked out three pairs of little white socks with ribbons and ruffles on them in different colors so he can tell the girls apart...sorry, you're not supposed to know. It's a surprise for the baby shower..."
Lee slapped a hand on his forehead.
"Don't tell me you forgot?" Edith groaned. "It's for the best I suppose. You'd only be in the way anyway."
"Edith!" Angie exclaimed.
"Well, you've been to these things before, no doubt," she took a bite of her pizza wedge, "It's mostly all girl talk anyway..."
"But he's the father!"
"It's okay Angie," Lee said, "Maybe I'll have a cold or be on assignment or something."
"Lee ~ "Morton said.
"With Seaview," he reassured Chip then hesitated.
"What? What is it?" Chip demanded.
"I've already turned in my resignation with ONI."
"Lee..."Chip was almost at a loss for words."Are you sure? I mean... I know how much it means to you...not that we wouldn't mind ourselves, but...you know we'd rather you be happy."
"And I'm damn good at it too. But now...I guess having a wife and kids changes things."
"Don't go blaming me," Edith said at Morton's glance. "First I've heard of it."
"I mean there's enough risk aboard Seaview without adding to it," Lee explained. I'd even wondered about leaving Seaview," Lee added softly, "but she talked me out of it."
"What? I never..." Edith said confused.
"She as in the boat," Lee clarified, "We had a long talk after the mission ended."
"Now I've heard everything."
"He always talks to her," Morton said calmly. "Glad she managed to tell you what you wanted to hear, Lee."
"Me too," he smiled. "I'm not really in the mood for pizza. I'll head on back to the office to redo these reports."
"Escape you mean," Edith said, "I know how much you and everyone else resent me."
"Edie," Lee warned.
"Well its true isn't it? Even you don't really like me, even if you did a few years ago."
"Gee, I wonder why," Angie couldn't help muttering.
"Ang,"Lee said gently.
"It's all about him isn't it?" Edith turned on Angie angrily, "I've stolen him away from you and every other female in the place isn't it. You've all been just itching to get into bed with him, all of you! †Well, dearie, I had him first, so there! Even if I can't remember it," she began to whine.
"That's enough Edie," Lee touched her arm gently.
"I...I'm sorry everyone. Really, Lee, Angie. I'm sorry...I didn't mean it... I don't know what came over me. I...I'm just too tired...it's not easy for me either you know...and I have to bear the brunt of it all....I don't want to be a mother!" she was near tears. "And it's damned uncomfortable...I wish they'd hurry up and come, it's nearly 8 months, that's full term for triplets...."
"Can the reports wait over the weekend, Angie?"Lee asked.
"I won't complain. C'mon Chip, we'd better get back to the office."
Lee escorted them to the entry. "Thanks," he said under his breath. "I think maybe I need to do a little damage control. Take her someplace fun and relaxing for a change."
"He didn't even bother to tell you where?" Nelson fumed, dumping his brief case on his office desk Monday afternoon.
"I called later Friday, Saturday, Sunday and this morning, but no-one's home at the new place, the old place, or her place."
"Well this is just peachy! And against regs, just like last time..."
"Well, actually no sir. †He gave Security a sealed envelope of how to get in touch, but..."
"But he gave them strict orders not to open it unless it's a national emergency or if the loading crew dents Seaview..."
"Excuse me sir," Angie popped in, "The gate called. Lee's back. Edith's with him. They're headed to the dock."
"The dock?" Nelson rubbed a weary hand over his eyebrows. "I understand him going there, but her, willingly? Angie, tell the dock master I want to see them in my office ASAP. No excuses, no detours. Chip? I know Lee has a kind of legal claim on Edith, but damnit she's my sister and I don't like not being informed of her whereabouts, especially in her condition."
"They do have a right to some privacy sir."
"Of course but..."he looked up at the implication."You don't think they..."
"Good grief no, sir," Morton looked aghast. "He just wanted to help her calm down. Probably took her to some health spa."
"Yes, yes, you're right. Would do them both a world of good. Yes, yes. That has to be it."
Anyone not in the know or in earshot would assume Lee and Edith were an ordinary couple as she held onto his arm while walking the length of the dock looking the submarine over. †
"Well, it looks fine to me," Edith said.
"She. Only bogeys or enemy subs are 'it's."
"Okay okay! Anyone'd think you're my brother! Besides, what possible trouble could she have gotten into just sitting here?" Edith insisted.
"All sorts of things. Broken lines, tumbled crates...."
"Excuse me Captain Crane" the dockmaster hurried over, 'Admiral Nelson wants to see you right away. His office. You too Miss Edith, uh, I mean Mrs. Crane, ma'am," he stressed after she'd raised an eyebrow and patted her swollen belly in response. She might not like the idea of being married to Crane, but had been finding that it was giving her a kind of† status even higher than that of being the boss's sister and part owner of NIMR and Seaview. Why? Who knew? She'd really have to talk to Dr. Joyce about that.
"Where the devil have you two been all weekend?" Nelson ranted, hovering over the couple that had barely set foot in Angie's crowded outer office. It wasn't unusual for Crane to sport casual attire off duty but Edith looked a bit unkempt. Was it the no make up, casual Bermudas, orthopedic shoes and heavy white socks? Or maybe the bright blue top with "Daddy's Little Mermaids" in bright yellow with King Triton daring anyone to argue across her midriff while three cherub mermaids swam under his protection.
"We checked everywhere! Even your obstetrician, hospitals. I almost went to the police! You have some explaining to do!"
"You look a bit flushed Edith...Mrs. Crane," Lola instantly corrected herself. Lee might encourage first names, but the 'little woman's glare reminded her she definitely did not and woe be to anyone on the place who didn't remember her new claim to fame as the Captain's wife.
"She's right. I should have noticed. Please, sit down, here. Now," Nelson escorted her to one of the chairs in front of Angie's desk.
"Sunburn Harry. That's all."
"Yes, I'm afraid my new hat just didn't to the job," she retrieved it from her outsized handbag and put it on. "Lee has one too."
"You...you went to
"Go on Lee," Edith said, "put yours on."
Lee sheepishly pulled his wadded up souvenir from a pocket and plopped the fabric cap on his head, the Goofy teeth dangling over his forehead, its long ears flopping over his own.
It was impossible for Angie, Lola, the Chief, and Chip not to laugh. Even Lee joined in.
"Lee, how could you!" Nelson was not amused. "She's nearing her time. All that walking? Those rides....you realize it could have induced labor? Well do you??"
"Harry pipe down," Edith insisted, rearranging Lee's cap to a more rakish angle, "he took good care of me. Insisted on a mobile chair even, so there. And I only went on the stupid rides, kid's stuff. They have warnings all over the place for people like me not to go on the ones I really wanted to. Lee couldn't either. You know they pulled their submarine fleet in the 80's? You should have seen his face fall when he found out.† Even the cups and saucers had a warnings. But we chose to ignore it. What was it called?"
"Mad Hatter's Tea Party," Lee said.
"Anyway, I was fine. And it was Lee who got sick! Poor
baby. At least he wasn't too ill to stuff himself with hot dogs. †And the fireworks! We were going to come home
after they ended, but it would be a long drive and we were having such a great
time we decided to stay over the whole weekend. And we didn't even have to
leave the grounds to get a hotel. Did you know Walt Disney, the man himself, had
his own apartment on
"There's got to be more to it than that," Nelson scowled. "I seem remember that documentary, and it's not free, even for VIP shareholders. Which if I may be so bold, you are not. In fact I doubt if Lee could afford it if he was. †I doubt if I could."
"He didn't have to pay a cent."
"Edith...you continue to go too far. I don't like you showing off, paying for everything. I don't like it."
"I didn't pay a dime and I don't like your attitude either. And Lee's no gigolo."
"Damnit, I know he's not! I didn't mean to imply..."
"And for your information, smarty pants, when they learned Lee was Captain of the Seaview, well, they sort of made a deal."
"Somehow I donít think I want to know," Nelson ran a hand through his hair. "
"Just a little PR," Crane said sheepishly.
"For a commercial," Edith added proudly, "I'm in it too."
"A commercial??"Nelson said incredulous.
"Why not? All we did was allow them to film us having fun. They'll put it all together and show it when it's finished...now what?" she asked taking in his scowl.
"You let them use your names? Lee's position?"
"What's wrong with that?" Edith asked.
"I can't believe I'm hearing this...Lee how could you? It's not only dangerous, it's highly unprofessional."
"Anybody's who's anybody already knows who I am. It's
not like I'm going to be kidnapped or anything because I'm seen at
"And your wife? She's high profile Lee...and now..."
"Oh good grief," Edith rose, "Stop being a such a woos and help me and Lee unload the car. We got heaps of souvenirs for everyone...and he paid for them, so you don't have to worry about that stupid male ego you both seem to share."
"I doubt you can afford this,Lee, " Nelson removed her cap, sparkling as he examined it with a frown.
"Rhinestones, Harry," she took it back, exasperated, "simply rhinestones. You have a problem with that? And it's none of your business what he buys me and for how much!"
"Hmpf. Chip? Why don't you and the Chief unload their car? Angie, don't you both have some files to attend to? Lee? With me. We need to have a little talk."
Uh oh, Chip and
Angie looked sorrowfully at 'Goofy'. Sharkey and Lola did likewise. Nelson was
"Now," Nelson interrupted their musings as Lee had already headed into his inner office. "Lola, you escort Edie down to the lobby. Security will take you both to my bungalow. Make sure she rests. †I'll see to the call Angie," he ordered as he closed the door behind him.
There was silence in the inner sanctum at first, then full blown shouting.
"He must've forgotten to turn on the automatic soundproofing," Morton nodded to Angie.
"But sir..." Sharkey interrupted. "I mean...its not top secret..."
Morton took the initiative and reached for the button under the hesitant Angie's desk. "You think I don't want to know too? Lee's my friend as well as my CO. So is Nelson. I don't like seeing them at odds with each other, but this...conversation is their business, not ours."
"But he's the Skipper sir..." Sharkey explained sadly as the soudproofing took effect.
"And because he is, we're going to honor his privacy. Right Chief?"
"Right sir...but we don't gotta' like it."
"Come on, let's go unload that car."
"It's been almost two hours," Angie said arriving in Morton's office to hand over another cataloged box of the souvenirs she'd indexed. Others were already heaped on chairs and atop Morton's desk, already labeled for division amongst Seaview's crew and NIMR staff.
"For all we know he's giving Lee details for the next mission," Morton said.
"Sure, sir," Sharkey said as he helld up a 'Captain Hook' T-Shirt with H. Nelson embroidered on it. "If you don't want to believe something, one excuse is as good as another..."
The sound of a door slamming from down the hall gave lie to the alternate explanation.
All three squeezed into Morton's door frame just in time to see Nelson punch the elevator button with something akin to venom. Crane was not behind him, nor did he emerge from the †outer office a few minutes after Nelson had already departed.
"Maybe you'd better go see if the Skipper's okay."
"Chief..."Morton warned, "You think he can't take it?"
"No sir! I mean of course he can...but..."
Morton checked his watch. "Long enough. Come on."
"Lee?" Morton asked softly as he entered the inner office.
The man in question had his back to the doorway, his feet propped up on the edge of Nelson's desk from one of the guest chairs, his eyes closed.
"Lee?" Chip repeated, concerned.
"It's okay Chip," Lee said wearily, his eyes still closed, unmoving. "I'm only rabid to him."
"God, Lee, what happened?" Chip took the seat next to him forgetting all about Sharkey and Angie, both of whom made sure to keep the door open between the offices.
"Let's just say I've been reminded and reprimanded for my increasing lapses of judgment. You'd think he'd be happy she had a good time. Maybe the first in years..."
"You sound almost....husbandy," Chip said for lack of a better word.
"I think you mean 'husbandly'."
"I know what I said."
"Okay. Yes, you're right. I guess I do...you know, Chip, we had some time to talk at Disneyland, Edie and me, really talk...oh I know she's still, well, a bit snooty...and you know, some of it's actually his fault, long story."
"You didn't tell him that?"
"Afraid so. Told him not to yell at her later either, my right as her legal spouse, paper, platonic, †or not."
Morton whistled, and then quietly asked, "So how long are you going to remain with Seaview or do I take Acting Command right now?"
"He's not that vindictive...but I'm afraid things are going to be a bit cool between us for awhile. He's already told me about our next assignment. I won't be going along."
"Now wait a minute... he has no right to treat you like that..."
"His boat....Chip? I wish you could have been with Edie and me the weekend. You know, she almost had that little sparkle we all used to know..."
"Yeah, I noticed she was actually tolerating you, even defending you."
"Yeah," Lee grinned, "how about that."
"Well, Skipper, you look beat. How about something to eat as you finish those reports you promised?"
'Damn, I forgot all about them...if you donít mind I'd like to check on Edie first."
"Nelson's probably already there."
"I doubt it. If I know him as well as I think I do, he took me at my word, and headed to the boat instead."
"She is his sister, Lee."
"And my wife...there are some boundaries even he won't cross...find your present?"
"Not yet...Lee, are you okay, really?"
"Call for you Admiral, the Institute,"
"Put it through the monitor."
It flicked on.
"Admiral!" a harassed looking Angie almost shouted, "Either you get a better switchboard router or I quit! The staff and I are getting sick and tired of fielding all these stupid phone calls!" she continued as she yanked the jack from her phone.
"Whoa...what's going on?" Morton asked trying to soothe the ruffled feathers.
"Obscene most of them," she continued, "and all thanks to that stupid commercial!"
"Ahh, the publicity, I take it..."Nelson began.
"Publicity? I can handle publicity. These are sex crazed women, and even some men, yeech, wanting to meet Lee in person to...to explore his 'equipment' since he's apparently done such a fine job with his! And if that's not enough, he's also getting sent brownies and cookies and bunt cakes because the 'poor boy looks far to thin' for his own good!"
"Brownies might not be such a bad idea, Angie," Morton said.
"It's a security nightmare! God knows who made or what might be in all this stuff."
"Too much butter and sugar?"
"That isn't funny Commander. It would be an awfully easy way to hurt him, maybe even get rid of him, sending him food with poison in it. They could even be bombs."
"How's Edith?" Nelson asked.
"Driving us crazy. She's supposed to take it really easy now, but †oh no, Little Miss Princess, excuse me, Mrs. Queen,† has to go traipsing off with some of her snotty friends. And the Nanny! She really was a drill sergeant in the British Army! And there is a pool boy now. And a maid. Lee spends most of his free time down by the dock just sitting and staring at Seaview's empty dock. Even his Mom's concerned, he looks so haggard. She got in a few days ago and..."she suddenly hesitated.
"Well?" Nelson asked .
"Let's just say the two Mrs. Crane's took one look at each other and bingo, Instant Animosity. And poor Lee's stuck right in the middle. I'm worried about him....he...he called ONI. I don't know what he said to them, it was a scrambled line on his office phone but..."
"Go on," Nelson demanded.
"I think he's asked to be reinstated."
"Oh shit,"Morton couldn't help himself.
"Where is he now?" Nelson asked.
"Well, depending on traffic probably down at the TV studio in LA trying to get the commercial pulled. I have to admit Edith's starting to get a bit tired herself of the phone calls she's getting. Mostly complaints that she's not taking good enough care of her husband, but some are obscene about her too. We reported †those calls to the phone company to block, †but they just keep coming in, some are even faxed. It's been a nightmare...."
"Just how bad is this commercial?"Nelson asked.
"It isn't bad at all. But...well, you'll see..."she popped in the tape and turned the videophone toward the wall TV....
It was a colorful montage of children of all ages enjoying the various attractions at the 'happiest place on earth'. Certainly nothing for anyone get all hot and bothered about. Until...
"While our submarine fleet was retired years ago, †Commander Lee Crane, the real life Captain of the Submarine Seaview and his bride, the former Edith Nelson still experienced all the fun to be had at Disneyland..."
Another montage of the couple spinning madly in the Teacups and Saucer's ride, eating hot dogs and cotton candy on Main Street, watching a parade, laughing after exiting the Pirate ride, Lee hamming it up with an eye patch and plastic sword. They were seen exiting †The Haunted House, and even the the Small World rides. Then they were shown 'oohing and aahhing at the evening fireworks over Cinderella's castle.
"Whether you enjoy
our firework spectacular...Or make your own..."the narrator said, †as Crane winked at the camera, '
"What's wrong with it?" Morton asked innocently enough, though knowing full well the answer.
"What's wrong??" Angie asked as she retuned the videophone to face herself, "You can't be that naÔve. Make your own fireworks? That wink? What are folks supposed to think?"
World is the honeymoon capital of the world, why not
"Because Lee and Edith don't even like each other! Yet the whole world thinks they're madly in love!"
"Maybe they...changed their minds," O'Brien offered.
"Hah! Double Hah!"
"Angie, could it be you might be a little jealous?" Chip said.
"Jealous? Me? Of what? I know she's your sister Admiral, but she's a pain in the ass, and Lee and me and everyone here is suffering for it."
"Was it or was it not Lee who made the commercial deal?" Nelson asked calmly.
"Then you field all the stupid calls! I quit!" she slammed out from behind her desk, the sound of Lee's heavy 'oomph'.
"Ang, what..."Lee's voice said.
"Let me go! I'm sorry I bumped into you but..."
"Uh...hey...what's going on? It's not like you to cry...."
"I'll cry if I want to! And I don't work here anymore! I quit!"
"C'mon angel, calm down," he soothed, "now, what's wrong?"
"I thought you were at the studio...."
"It's amazing how the common telephone can cut down on gas. .... The videophone light is on?"
"Oh..uh...yes...Seaview on the line."
"You just left it like that?"
"I'm not your employee, Commander."
"I told you to let go of me."
"Not until we get this straightened out. I'm not letting you quit, and I won't let Nelson let you quit. †Besides, the place would fall apart without you, you know that.... Come on, now calm down...Sit. Stay."
"You're as bossy as your wife."
"In this case I'll take that as a compliment," he turned the videophone toward the both of them in the guest chairs across the desk. Angie was pouting, tears on her face. Lee had sheen of sweat on his bare chest, the laces of his boxing gloves dangling from one arm. "Admiral, Chip? What the devil's happened?"
"Apparently your commercial's caused too much stress for her to handle..." Nelson said concerned.
"Nonsense. That's right isn't it Angie?" he turned toward her, "there's nothing you can't handle for your favorite fellas, right?" he asked her gently, "right?" he asked again, even softer.
"Oh all right...but Lee..."
"Was it the calls again? Look, I'll take care of the switchboard, or rather I'll get security to...we'll make sure those calls are fielded and dumped before they can even reach up here, okay?"
"Okay...Lee?" she wiped an eye, "Thanks."
"No problem...now, go get yourself cleaned up. Then join Edie and me for a bite."
"Right away Captain," she gave him a beautific smile. "I'm sorry I acted like a spoilt child Lee, Admiral..." she added to the screen and left.
The crew looked at Crane in even more admiration. †In one fell swoop he'd turned the irate woman back into the sweet secretary they all took for granted most of the time.
"The studio, Lee?" Nelson asked after a moment.
"Well, Disney doesn't have a problem pulling the commercial if we reimburse them for the loss of revenue it was estimated to bring in...And the stations don't have a problem if we accommodate them in like, so...I'm afraid we're stuck with it, if we want to pay the crew that is. However," he grinned, "when they learned about all the crackpots out there, they've agreed to pull the wink and the innuendo."
"Did you know about it before it aired?"
"Not the way it came out, no. All they told us was to act happy. I swear neither Edie or I had no idea how they'd put it all together. That wink was for something Edie bought and was showing me...I thought I'd made a good deal, but all this trouble..."
"Speaking of trouble," Nelson said, "I think our XO has a few things he'd like to say to you."
"Uh," Chip hesitated.
"Well? C'mon, I'm stinking up the place. Gave myself a real workout..."
"Never mind Lee."
"O'Brian? Front and center," Crane ordered, "What does he really want to tell me?"
"Well, he was kind of upset when he heard about you calling ONI, sir."
"Lee?" Chip asked..."you didn't did you? Sign back on with them?"
"I'm not doing much good just hanging around here, now am I." It wasn't a question.
"You're doing this to spite me aren't you," Nelson said calmly.
For a moment Lee was silent and gave Nelson a raised eyebrow. "You offering me my job back?" he asked, but it was impossible to mask just a hint of amusement.
"Damnit Lee, you weren't fired you know."
"Yes, I know," Lee said calmly, "but I've never been dismissed from a mission for no good reason before either. What am I supposed to think?† 'Teaching me a lesson' by keeping me off the boat is something an irate father would do, not my friend, or boss, or even brother in law, technically speaking."
"If we were Navy," Nelson mused lightly, a twinkle in his eye, "I could put you up on charges for outright insubordination for that Commander."
"Yes, and if we were Navy," Lee continued in the same mode, "I could say the same for you for discrimination due to irrational personal animosity."
"Been watching too many Navy lawyer shows on TV for your own good lately?"
"What else to I have to do. There's not a paperclip out of place or a report to finish...I'm going stir crazy."
"Will you give up ONI?"
"That a threat or an offer of continued employment on my boat?"
"What the hell do you think," Nelson said exasperated, "I couldn't stop you if I tried. Do what you damn well please, just make sure you're free to Skipper our next cruise. And I am sorry Lee...I did act like an irate...well, big brother anyway..."
"Apology accepted. Chip? I didn't really mean that about no paper clip out of place...and there are some reports with your name on them I just felt compelled to let you finish..."
"Lee, honey?" a woman's voice interrupted.
"Hi Mom, be with you in a minute. Any last minute details you need us to attend here before Seaview's arrival Admiral?"
"No, I think you've handled them all pretty well..."
"Lee?" Edith's voice penetrated, "It's either her or me!"
"Now what?" he turned.
"She's been complaining about Enrique's uniforms again!" Edith griped.
"This one's a thong!" Mrs. Crane the mother objected. " A †purple sequined thong! Disgusting!"
"He's the pool boy; he has to wear a swimsuit!" Edith countered.
"Lee wouldn't be caught dead in something like that."
"Oh yeah? Bet I could convince him."
"With your wicked wiles no doubt."
"I've been a nun and he's been a monk! But bribery can work wonders. So, if he wants his part of the house to stay all nice and masculine and wood paneled instead of pink with little white lace curtains, he'll wear one himself if I ask him."
"Actually," Lee said, "pink's a nice color. I seem to remember a submarine in that shade."
"Ohhh!" Edith stomped off.
"Chalk one up for late night TV," Lee said. "Mom, enough with the complaining though, okay? I don't like having a pool boy anymore than you."
"Why do you persist in keeping this sham marriage..."
"Just accept it, okay?"
"I don't have a choice, you're so mule headed. She's just so...irritating!"
"This whole thing's hard for her too you know, Mom. Cut her a little slack."
"You're starting to like her!"
"I liked her long before the wicked witch of the west put a spell on her...if we handle things well, maybe we can reverse it..."
"Oh my poor baby...you're so deluded. I just hope she appreciates all you're doing for her. Other men wouldn't have bothered."
"I'm not 'other men'."
"Damn right," Ski offered amid the crew's rather vocal approval remaining the Cranes they were still live on the vid link.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt," Mrs. Crane said.
"Perfectly all right..."Nelson said.
"Don't be too long," she continued to Lee, "I have some chocolate chip cookies waiting for you. Made from scratch," she couldn't' resist running her hand through his hair lovingly then headed away, Crane following, the videophone temporarily forgotten.
"Mom," he was heard to whisper, "Enough with the hair. Especially in front of my crew."
"I'm your mother, it's allowed."
"Shhh," Morton ordered the chuckling Control Room officers and crew, including himself.
Seconds later, Crane returned none the wiser that they'd all heard.
"Lee," Nelson said, "You sure Edie's okay? She looks ready to pop."
"She is...any day now. At least she's agreed to the
"Iím sure it will be different with the real ones," Nelson said. "And maybe I can double for you if it gets too...uh...nerve wracking."
"Uh, Lee," Morton said, "About those cookies..."
"Don't worry; I'll save some for you. Or talk Mom into making a fresh batch for everyone you when you hit port."
"We'll hold you to that Lee," Nelson said, "See you in about a week. Seaview out."
It was a moderately uneventful return to base. Only two minor accidents due to a faulty light switch, and a dropped pot of spaghetti had broken the rather boring monotony of charting the vents.† By now no one expected anything more exciting to happen than the odd sea turtle following them home.
"Checkmate," Ski said gleefully as Cookie started paying off bets in the crowded Crew's Mess.
"Cheech, Ski, you're the luckiest sob that..."
"Turn it on in Lab A," Nelson's voice responded.
Patterson didn't bat an eyelash as he turned on the monitor in the mess too.
"...c'mon, c'omon!" Mrs. Crane's voice came through, "my poor baby, my poor baby! Work, you piece of junk!"
"Ma'am? It won't work at all if you hit it like that," Smitty said, "here, let me...sometimes the Skipper says the boss gets his stuff from Army surplus, but these gadgets are supposed to be top of the line...." he turned on the correct switches to bring up the videophone fully, "Evening Seaview, we have a uh...situation."
"What's wrong? Where's Crane?" Nelson asked.
"Well, we can't find him sir and...."
"Nobody †will tell me anything!" Mrs. Crane interrupted, the rain pelting the window, the lightening flashing.
"Well sir. It's like this. Apparently Captain Crane went after his wife when she left in a tiff about something this afternoon. Rumor has it about Enrique...Anyway," Smitty continued, "there's' still no response to his pager. It's almost 9 pm here and..."He hesitated.
"And the highway patrol said there was an accident on the intercoastal highway," Mrs. Crane sniffled, "A red car! A red car smashed on the rocks below. Lee's car!"
"We don't know that yet ma'am," Smitty tried to calm her down. "They haven't recovered the wreckage yet..."
"Oh my baby!"
"It's not them!" Angie rushed in. "Edith just called Nanny from the Mall to see if she wanted them to bring home any double chocolate fudge peppermint ice cream. Lee's with her, and apparently still giving her hell for running off like that if Nanny heard things correctly and...."
"All this time they've been in the Mall?"Mrs. Crane exclaimed.
"Smity?" Nelson said. "You tell Captain Crane to contact me as soon as they return, no matter the time, understood? Go to their house if you have to, but give him the message so there's no delay or mistaking it."
"Sir, he was only going after his wife..."
"Angie? 'Nelson ignored him, "Thanks for helping out. Can you stay with Mrs. Crane until Lee and Edith return?"
"Of course sir."
"Very well. Seaview out."
"Hey, look...it's the news dame with the big hooo...."
"That's the Santa Barbara Mall..." Cookie said as it's parking lot showed the flashing lights of several emergency vehicles, smoke still billowing from one of the stores.
"Isn't that where the Skip...."Cookie began but stopped to listen...
.....'We're here at the Santa Barbara Mall,' the reporter began,† 'where an ice cream shop on the second floor, Creamy Creations, received †extensive damage from a fire sparked by a direct †lightening strike,and †a collapsed roof from the damage and heavy rainfall. Other businesses were also affected and there is some structural damage. According to Mall Security, there are no confirmed casualties. However, there is a rumor beginning to circulate that a heavily pregnant woman and her companion may have fallen victim to both fire and the collapsed roof'...
"Sparks!" Nelson's panic stricken voice came over the PA.
"Workin' on it sir!"
Ski raced to the Control Room, just about everyone else doing so as well.
"I'm afraid the rumor may be true Admiral," the Police Chief said through Seaview's emergency band frequency at Spark's station, "We're checking the cars in the parking lot, but its slow going, even the phone lines are down. Damn peculiar, they don't go out during a power failure as a rule, especially for an entire city and its suburbs? Wind, fallen trees, yes, but a lightening strike? It can down some lines, but this widespread?† Some of my boys are wondering if maybe this was more than a little thunderstorm...at any rate, we'll keep you posted on what we find out about Captain and Mrs. Crane. "
"Thank you. Seaview out. Sparks? Have you gotten through to Captain Crane's house yet?"
"No sir. But O'Malley's driving over to the Skipper's house to see if he's there. Check on his Mom too."
"Admiral?" Morton called as he turned up the volume of the TV link.
... 'We're waiting for word for...here they are, being escorted out of the mall by firefighters..we'll try to get an interview...'
"It's not them, it's not them!" Sharkey exclaimed in relief.
"Calm down," Morton ordered the crew, "there could be other victims in there, including the Skipper and Miss Edi..Mrs. Crane. Sharkey, keep monitoring the TV, and to find some more that might have news teams there... O'Brien, you have the conn. Sparks...whatever you can."
"Aye sir," all three responded as Morton joined Nelson who had retreated to the Observation Nose.
Nelson was standing, staring out the windows, scotch in hand. Morton closed the accordion doors separating the heart of the boat from her massive windows.
"I know, " Chip finally said gently."I was scared shitless too."
"Normally I'd say, 'whew' and get on with things, but she's so close to her time...and you know how I feel about Lee...Chip? Are you disappointed in me? What I mean to say is there you are a plank owner of Seaview, for years my most trusted and faithful friend and employee, then Lee Crane comes aboard and we hit it off like...well..."
"Admiral," Morton took the liberty of pouring himself a drink, "I think the world of Lee too. My feelings aren't hurt."
"Sir, I saw the spark between you two when most the crew was still ready to toss him overboard...you and I never had that...and if Lee's more a son to you, remember I've come to care for him as a brother."
"You're a very special man Chip Morton."
"Remember that in my fit rep."
Both men laughed, relieved that Lee and Edith weren't lying dead in the mall and also that they'd cleared up the little niggling of guilt Nelson had never really voiced to Morton.
"Not yet?" Nelson was asking Angie on the videophone.
"No. Admiral. I know there are still some areas without power or communications, but we're fine here...I'm worried. They would have called...if only to check on his mother and the institute."
"Oh, if I hadn't insisted about Enrique," Mrs. Crane was berating herself .
"It's no one's fault," Nelson said..."
"I'm sure he's fine Mrs. Crane," Morton added. "
"Lee would have called."
"Don't you ever touch me again, Lee Crane!" Edith's voice screamed.
"I don't remember touching you the first time! Can't you hold it in? We need to get you out of here!"
"Always the big hero aren't you!"
"We wouldn't be in this mess if you hadn't gone off like that, then after I finally find you, you talk me into shopping with you and then †if that wasn't enough,† into this unfinished condo you're thinking of buying!"
"Well, I didn't cut the power to the elevator! I only wanted to take a look at the storm from the penthouse!"
That didn't stop them from giving me a key! And the penthouse is finished. They want buyers!"
"There's battery lighting in the well...."
"You can't expect me to climb on your back †while you shimmy down the damn elevator well? †I'm too far along in labor if you haven't noticed!"
"You want to be stuck in here all weekend? At least we can get out to the next level and then I can go for help. And you might not have gone into labor if you hadn't rushed around like that."
"You didn't have to follow me!"
"I have a responsibility...."
"Enough with your stupid responsibilities! Agggh. †I'm sick of responsibility! First my father, then Harry. You used to be fun to be around."
"So were you before you got a burr stuck up your a..."
"Oooohhh! Lee, I don't think I could go with you even if I wanted to," her breath was starting to come in gasps, " Agggghhhh!† This baby's coming, and she's coming now..and it's all your fault! †Nelson's never come this fast! My mother spent almost two days in labor with Harry! And can't you fix the damn sprinkler? It's starting up again."
" I'm hoping it's just a short circuit and not fried by lightening. I'm sure that's what did it. †But I didn't smell any smoke when I checked the well. †Be grateful for the battery lights."
"Hh hh hh hh ...
"That breathing's really supposed to help?"
"Didn't you pay any attention in the seminar?
"I threw up, remember."
"My hero....then just pretend your'e a quarterback...ahhhh...grr...hh hh hh† ahhghhg... uh oh..."
"What? What to you mean 'uh oh'?"
Nelson found himself on the deck being revived as the drama played on, Edith's screeching was worse, then suddenly quieted, followed by a smack and the sound of a baby crying.
"What are you doing with my lipstick?" Edith panted. "Oh that's just swell. Scrawl the number on her tummy. What if she's allergic to Max Factor? What are you doing with my new cashmere sweater?"
"Got to wrap them up in something. And they'll need the extra warmth won't they? They're supposed to go into the neo natal unit aren't they? This is dangerous."
"The cops and a rescue squad's on the way,"
"How are you feeling?" Lee asked.
"Like I could
"I think my level of intelligence is enough to figure that out... Maybe they can feel the adrenaline, †know they should put on the jet propulusion and...Uh Edith? We have a problem.."
" Ohh ohhhh. Aggggggghhhh! You're telling me? Oh god, oh god...Lee, something's wrong! It doesn't feel like the first one...agghhhgh...yeowwww!"
"Don't push! I think it's arse first..."
"Well, do something! Shoot me if you have some other James Bond stuff, only this time use something that works! Oh god it hurts!" she screamed.
"Easy...easy...I think I †remember James Herriot having to turn a baby around in that book my Mom tried to get me to read...."
"He was an animal doctor working on a cow!"
"Can't be all that different... sorry, this is going to be a little yucky for both of us..... Any better?"
"A little....do more of whatever you're doing."
"Remind me to talk Nelson into giving Doc a raise just for going through medical school...this is the grossest thing I've ever experienced in my life..."
"Just don't throw up on me" she gasped," or the baby..."she added.
"Easy..that's better...come on baby...come on...come to da...whoa," he said as the second baby plopped into his hands and began to wail without any encouragement, "Uh, Edie, we have another †problem.."
"What? What problem?"
"There's not enough lipstick left for the next one."
"My purse. Free sample..."she gasped trying to catch her breath," Damn it, Lee, I thought they weren't breathing or something..."
"Sorry. I wonder what's taking so long with the next one getting started. Maybe she wants to sleep in."
"Her and me both. Maybe this one's going to be norm....ahhh ahhhh...guess not."
"Hope numbers two and three aren't going to have an inferiority complex. My shirt and t-aren't as soft...how are you doing?"
"Wishing it was you pushing three watermelons out of your aa..aaahhhhh...hh hh hhh...yeeeee. I'll never forgive you,† never! Aghhhhh! Lee-eeeeeee!"
"Sleeping in, hell," Lee said, "he was dampening his rod."
"It's a boy."
"That's impossible!" Edith panted.
"See for yourself," Lee showed their son off, then marked him with a bold number 3 on the tiny chest before pulling off his t-shirt to bundle him up. "Since the doctors made a mistake about them all being girls, you think maybe there's another one hiding in there?"
"God, I hope not..." she sighed heavily, worn out.
"The sprinkler's cleaned them up a little..."
"Let me see..."
"Here you go Little Mama...what's wrong?"
"They all look like you!"
"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that... I was hoping at least one would take after the Nelson's."
"With those lungs there's no doubt of it."
"I'll tell 'Uncle' Harry on you for that," she tried some humor, "Ohh, that hurts."
"We still need to get out of here. If you think you'll be okay, I'll climb in the well to the next floor, and go and get help, but I still don't want to leave you all alone..."
"Anyone ever tell you you're god awful cute when you're wet? Your hair gets all curly and makes your eyelashes sparkle..."
Edie, I think maybe your blood sugar's dropped too low after the event...affected
your comprehension about the gravity of the situation. And just †what †is
it with women and my hair?"
"Sorry, Lee. I don't want us to to be stuck in an elevator anymore than you. They look pretty normal to me...a bit smallish, but I don't think they'll actually need any special stuff....triplets did just fine in the olden days you know...well, some of them, anyway. I don't know. As for your hair, it's a girl thing and... The water's stopped! What'd you do, summon your good luck fairies?"
†A voice ordered. "This is the
"Maybe your little toe gadget worked after all James," she whispered to Lee as the doors were forced.
"The elevator will be moving soon," the fire chief said entering, "We're rigging a generator....how are they?" he asked the EMT's who were already hovering over Edith and the babies, taking pulses and blood pressures. "So, what're their names?" he asked as he pulled out some ID bracelets and a pen.
Lee was about to speak but Edith stopped him with a hand on his arm," Aralyn, Bellina, and Celine.† That's one, two and...Oh, wait...three's a boy...we can't use Celine for him..."
"Harry," Lee said after less than a second's thought, "Harry Chip. "
"Chip? That's a new one," the firefighter said.
"For Chip off the old block. It's a friend's name, at least that's how he got it he told me..."
"Looks more like a chip off of you. Last name?"
"Nel...' Lee began only to be interrupted again.
"Crane," Edith said, "Just Crane. Iím Edith Crane, Mrs. Lee Crane, and you can figure out his from that I'm sure."
"Edie," Lee warned.
"Sorrrrry. Didn't mean to be rude."
The elevator began to move.
"Let's you into the hospital for observation..."
"Can we go to the Nelson Institute?" Lee asked. "They sort of have things waiting for us..."
I remember you! You're the Crane's from
"Do you think they're okay?" Lee asked.
"Mister, those are the healthiest pair of lungs I've heard in a long time...."he said waiting for the paramedics waiting with the gurney to take the new mother and babies to the ambulance."Her's too," he whispered to Crane.
The last Seaview heard before Nelson nodded to
"You wanted to see me sir?" Morton asked Nelson in the Nose a few hours later as Seaview ploughed through the depths.
"Yes, Chip. Have a drink and pull up a chair."
"Thank you sir...and if I didn't say it before, congratulations on becoming an uncle. How are you feeling? "
"A bit overwhelmed."
"Same here. What's the box?"
"Don't you remember? †From when we laid the keel?"
"Seaview's time capsule? I thought..."
"There's something in here I forgot about till now," he pulled out a large velvet covered book. "This Bible's belonged the Nelson's for I don't know how many generations, even before they came over on the boat...I tucked it in the box †before we stowed it in the 'tween hull. There's my name and Edith's in my grandmother's hand. Hardly enough room to write any more family records in the back.
"Impressive...a bit illegible though."
"Ah, yes, well, rumor has it some of my ancestors got a bit soused after welcoming new additions. Probably those are in their hands. You know, I was sure Edith was going to insist on Nelson-Crane for the kids," he wrote Lee's name next to Edith's along with the date of their 'marriage'.
"Don't you think they might still change the names? I mean the stress of the situation...they might not have been thinking clearly and..."
"They can attend to any legal paperwork however they like later on, but they're being entered now and for posterity as Aralyn," he wrote, " Bellina, and Harry Chip Crane."
"What about the girls' middle names?"
"We'll let Lee fill them in later. To the Cranes," Nelson raised his glass," all five of them."
Edith was propped up in the bed, remote control in her hand watching a soap opera and eating popcorn.
"Hey bro," she said softly turning to Nelson, "about time you hit port. Shhh, "she nodded towards Lee, asleep in the chair next to her, his legs outstretched in the afternoon sunlight.
"Have you seen them?"
"Not yet. Really you two, you didn't have to name the boy after me and Chip."
"Speak for yourself sir," Morton said just having entered from behind him, "I mean, after all we've done for Lee over the years...he owes us something."
Lee yawned, "Hmf? Wha..."
"Hey sleepyhead," Chip said, "Iím honored by your actions, but you don't have to call the boy after me."
"Sorry, too much trouble to change the birth certificate. What do you think wifey? Should we contact vital records?"
"Not a chance."
The couple were grinning like a couple of
"Lee," Edith said, "after you take them downstairs, stop by the cafeteria and bring me back some double fudge ice cream with sprinkles this time. And a baloney sandwich," she added.
"Yes dear?" Chip mouthed to Nelson in shock as the Admiral mouthed 'wifey' just as perplexed, as they followed Crane out.
"No doubt about him being the father at all..." Ski said, observing Crane's son yawning from behind the large glass wall. A few other proud parents were looking at their own, but most of the observers were there to see the Captain's scions. In fact quite a crowd from Seaview had gathered to look at the triplets before going home.
"Babies aren't supposed to have hair like that," O'Brien commented. "It isn't normal."
"Whoever said the Skip was normal?" the Chief said.
"I'm inclined to agree," Crane said jovially showing the babies off to Nelson and Morton.
"My god Lee..." Nelson took in the babies.
"Yeah, poor kids," Lee said.
"What?" a passing visitor was heard whispering to the woman beside her, as they squeezed by, indignant, "Those are beautiful babies!"
"So's mine," a different woman approached, and ran a hand through Crane's hair.
"Mom~" he warned.
"Live with it. Lee, dear, do you realize that everyone's laughing about the fact that the girls are named after two of your boats..."
"They're nice names!"
"I give up. My son, the submariner."
"Begging your pardon Mrs. Crane, "Ski said, "he's a damn fine one. And they are nice names."
"Excuse me, Captain Crane?" one of the maternity nurses emerged from behind the glass window with a phone she plugged into the wall, "the wife."
Lee picked up the receiver.
"Yes, we just got down here and...Uh huh. No, but...what? I thought you decided against it †after they spit up on you...nobody thinks any less of you for that!...I see. Well screw your friends; it's none of their business anyway! Tell them to go to...you did? I'm proud of you....yes; I'll bring them right up. Okay, hon."
'Hon?' Had he gone completely mad? Mrs. Crane wondered along with most of the crowd.
"Time for the troops to go upstairs again," Lee told the nurse while he unplugged the phone and handed it back.
"I wish she'd make up her mind," the Nurse complained, returning to the baby observation ward.
"Admiral, you and Chip go on back up with Mom...I'll join you shortly."
"Is something wrong Lee?" Chip asked of Lee, whose attention was now focused on the back row of the displayed babies. And his were in the front.
"Yes, very wrong," he headed to the nurses' station on the floor leaving his friends and mother confused and concerned.
"Captain Crane almost panicked when he fed one the first time," one of the attendants said, as she handed Nelson the blue blanketed baby in Edith's room. "Admiral Nelson, meet Harry Chip."
The baby began to cry lustily.
"I don't think he likes me."
"Don't worry, he will," Mrs. Crane Sr. handed Nelson a bottle for the baby.
"Look at him concentrate on that bottle," Chip laughed of Harry Chip, "Looks a lot like Lee when he plots a course..."
"Belle, meet your Uncle Chip," she supplied Chip with his bundle.
"She's a Crane all right," Morton said as Bellina wailed her displeasure of being moved from the basinet, "Bellows just like him," he joked. "Hey, her eyes are changing color like his..."
"And you Aralyn, maybe your Mommy can teach you some manners this time," the Nurse said handing the firstborn to Edith.
"I wonder what's keeping Lee," Chip mused.
"Probably checking on the Jane Doe," the Nurse said writing in a clipboard, "that's a baby farmed out from General earlier today. Found abandoned at Child Services. Captain Crane just fell in love with her. Not that he isn't already head over heels with his own."
"He didn't mention her," Edith said.
"He probably thought you had enough on your mind."
"Last but not least," Lee entered, wheeling a forth basinet, and picking up the pink bundle inside, sat on the edge of Edith's bed. "She's already been fed," he said softly. "I just thought she might like to be held awhile."
"She's....deformed," Edith whispered in disgusted shock. She'd expected a beautiful baby as her own were, not something so horrible to look at.
"It's called a cleft lip and palette. They've been trying to find out who she is from the birth records in the area, but so far...nothing.... she's an awfully sweet little girl," he almost cooed to the little form, "I've already contacted a plastic surgeon. It'll be expensive but..."
"Lee," Edith hesitated, "I agree it's a charitable thing to do," Edith began, "but you can't save the whole world..."
"Why not, I've done it before. Ask him," he indicated Nelson. "Hold her awhile," he told Edith, "she needs a woman's touch,"† Lee took Aralyn and placed the foundling into Edith's arms.
"Lee," Nelson said, "you can't afford that kind of surgery...Let me ..."
"I appreciate the offer but I can't ask you to do that."
"Why ever not?" Nelson said as he handed his sated baby back to the nurse who returned him to the comfort of his basinet.
"Because I want to adopt her," he startled the group. "It's only one more, Edie. How much more trouble can that be?" he said so quietly one wondered if they heard correctly.
For an indeterminate moment of silence Edith looked at Lee as if she were seeing him for the first time, then she ran a finger gently over the baby's forehead, "She is a sweet little thing. Not fussing at all. But even with Nanny and a day helper..."
"We can handle it, I know we can."
"Harry?" Edith said without taking her eyes off Lee and touching her husband's cheek said, "I think you need to write another name in the Family bible."
"You mean it?" Lee asked Edith, growing excited. "I want you to want her too...not just because I do..."
"You'd better have the staff change the name in her bracelet Nurse," Edith said "I donít care if she is going to be named after one of Lee's boats. Rewrite her as Celine."
"You can't just change her name like that."
"Please," Nelson said, "You can pencil it in under the 'Jane Doe' until the paperwork's approved."
"It's not going to be as easy as they think," Riley shook his head later as he enjoyed the barbequed ribs he and several of his single shipmates routinely frequented when Seaview docked. "State agencies have †more rules and regs to adopt a baby than there are in one of Admiral Starke's reports."
"They're sunk," Ski shook his head sadly.
"But we have three of our own, and my crew has wives and families and....."
"Captain," the staff assistant at the State Adoption Services branch was telling him over the pile of paperwork later that day, †"I know it sounds unfair, but it's in the child's best interest."
"Best interest?" Lee rose and began to pace," Donít talk to me about a child's best interest. I was abandoned. Granted I didnít have a disability or deformity, except perhaps my own stubbornness. Even with the best intentions, this is a mistake in judgment. †I've spent my life trying not to remember some of the heartaches I suffered being shuffled from one facility to another, some of them nothing more than covers for the kinds of abuse you're not supposed to talk about. If my wife and I can give this little girl a chance at a normal life, like the Crane's gave me, what difference if I captain a sub. Other military fathers do without any interference."
"Sir, please try to understand. Certainly you can appeal my decision, but they rarely bend the rules. Your combined income with Mrs. Crane and the fact that you're already parents will be in your favor, as well as your generosity regarding the surgery, but..." he let it drop. "You might be allowed to foster the child on a temporary basis...I can try to get that approved by the weekend."
"Yes, of course we'll foster her, but remember we'll do whatever it takes to give this child a chance at a real life... even if I have to resign from Seaview. God knows I love my boat almost as much as my babies, but if Seaview could speak she'd say go for it. It will take a little time...things that have to be arranged..."
"Even so, it may not be enough Captain..."
"Submit the appeal."
Within weeks of the infants release from the
There were sequential surgeries on Celine and each time she came through with flying colors. Now it was only a matter of time before the plastic surgery to refine some scars would be complete. †
The Cranes were taking their parental and foster duties seriously and even impressed Lee's mother enough that she was more than satisfied they'd be able to cope even on the Nanny's day off. And glad a local agency recommended to them had dependable day help.
Each time the Skipper had returned to the boat after shore leave or the days ashore in between cruises while awaiting his resignation to be finalized, he practically plagued everyone †with picture after picture of his babies, and tales about their latest little adventures, from bath time to sleeping and feeding patterns. Nelson was almost compelled to issue a 'cease and desist' order but couldnít bring himself to say anything. Let the boy enjoy his present happiness. When the time came, when he no longer had Seaview, Nelson knew a part of Lee would be unable to fill the void.
As for the Captain's matrimonial state, well, one had to agree that the couple's 'one house'/ separate lives' experiment had been working better than anyone had expected. Edith had actually reduced her snide remarks to just a few per day, and toned them down dramatically when they happened. She'd even agreed to discharge Enrique for a weekly pool service that her husband preferred. Lee had still escaped to Seaview now and then, presumably to get away from her at times and perhaps even the noise of four healthy pairs of lungs. One such night the respite was short lived, when Edith was reported to have been seen boarding soon after as well. †So much for his safe haven.
"Well, Harriman," Admiral Stark was saying on the Control Room monitor after completing a particularity difficult phase of yet another war game, " Seaview's made the rest of us feel like first raw recruits.† Another feather in your cap, old friend."
"Hey, I'm just the figurehead here;" Nelson laughed, "I think you need to address the Captain if you're giving out accolades."
"Of course, that goes without saying....so, how's he taking this last cruise before he beaches himself."
"He didn't want to do it, Jiggs. He had to."
"I didn't mean it like that. Damn shame he had to sacrifice himself like that. Makes one wonder just how far 'big brother' is willing to go..."
"I'm sorry sir," Sharkey walked over, "
"I don't like the sound of that Harriman..."
"I know...thanks for the praise Jiggs. I'll pass it along, though..."
"Don't worry. He'll get his official pat on the back. He really did a fine job all these years. In my Navy and yours...I hope he can handle being a civilian in the purest sense of the word. I have my doubts about that."
"So do I Jiggs, so do I. Seaview out."
"I'm sorry Captain," Vince from legal was on Crane's videophone as Nelson knocked softly and peered in. Crane gave him a nod of approval while he listed to the institute lawyer, "It looks iron clad..."
"I doubt it was Seaview to begin with. That would have been a hindrance but I feel this is more a case of statistics."
"Statistics? We're good parents! Why would they take Celine away and...?"
"No one doubts that.... You were abused as a child, is that correct?" he asked, looking at his notes. "Pretty brutally if these reports are accurate?"
"Yes, but I don't know what that has to do with anything."
"I'm afraid it does. Quite a lot," Vince sighed." You know that some parents who were abused as children abuse their own?"
"I've heard it happens but..."
"The State run Adoption Services feels it's just too risky to place any children with former victims. It's a numbers thing."
"If that's how they feel, I'm surprised they didnít take all my kids!"
"They still could. Hypothetically. Captain, everyone who knows you and Mrs. Crane knows there's not even a remote possibility of any kind of abuse, but the state does, in certain circumstances, have the legal right to act in what they believe to be the best interest of the child...in this case, they feel removing the baby Jane Doe..."
"Her name's Celine."
"As I was saying, they feel removing 'Celine' will avoid the risk altogether, statistically speaking."
"Of course it is....it's just that there's been such a movement to avoid any risk factors at all...Your wife's already filed for a hearing."
"How's she taking it?"
"Not very well," Angie appeared at Vince's side, "you can imagine...in fact, she was so hysterical she fainted. Lola's with her at the Med Center. We'll make sure someone's with her when she's released. I'm sure the Nanny has enough on her hands."
"Thanks...can you try to get in touch with my Mom..."
"She's already on the plane..."
"Lee?" Edith darted from the door to the videophone, "He's on? Oh, Lee, it was horrible! They just shoved us out of the way and took her! She was bawling fit to be tied. I think she knew!"
"Of course she knew...we'll get her back. I donít' know how yet, but we will..."
"Captain..." Vincent warned.
"Don't worry, I'm not sending a swat team. We'll get through this maze of red tape, Edie, I swear it. Now, are you okay? Angie said you fainted."
"I'm fine, for somebody 8 weeks pregnant."
It took a moment to sink in.
"Pregnant? But we only...I mean... we shipped out the next day for this mission."
"Only takes once, remember. Twins this time...they tell me at this rate we'll have our own baseball team. They said I have some kind of condition that makes me prone to multiple births apparently. And your little swimmers are pretty insistent too, so they tell me."
"Boys or girls this time or one each?"
"Well, if the tests are accurate, and they should be, they used the new high tech amniotic something or other...my present two boys are going to have a little extra male companionship."
"But we've already used up 'Harry' and 'Chip' for names."
"I'm sure we'll think of more, Lee....when will you be home?"
"We still have one more phase to complete. I doubt I can get out of it...you know I would if I could. But its Navy business and they have rules."
"I tried to inform Mrs. Crane of that and that you won't be able to just saunter downtown to talk to a judge to fix things," Vince said.
"Please don't talk to Captain and Mrs. Crane in hat condescending fashion," Nelson †demanded.
"I...I'm sorry Admiral, I didn't mean it that way. It's just that she was so...."
"Yes, I'm sorry too, I guess I snapped. This is all so unfair. And stupid...I'm sure you're doing what you can to expedite matters."
"Edie?" Lee said, "You take it easy...hire some extra help even if you think you don't need it...Things are going to be pretty stressful and I don't want anything happening to you, or to numbers five and six. Did I just say that? Three more and we will have our own team, unless you count us and then we'll only need one more."
"Maybe help crew that old sailboat I keep saying I'm going to fix."
"Fix her up as much as you like, our children won't be setting foot aboard. You want them as a crew, you buy a new boat. No previous owners, and fresh off the assembly line if that's how they still make them," Edith tried her own hand at defusing the tension, then, "Lee? You okay?"
"Ready to burst my eyeballs and smash something against the bulkhead I'm so mad at the stystem for taking my little Celine away."
"I know, I feel the same way. Well, Lola's dangling her keys, so I guess she wants to take me home."
"Pick pick pick.... Lee? "
"It'll be okay. It has to be."
"I'll hold you to that."
"Seaview out," he turned off the videophone.
"Lee?" Nelson put a hand on Crane's shoulder.
Lee turned from the desk looking up at him, tears rolling down his face. "Oh, god Harry, what are we going to be able to do? Our baby, our baby..."
"Gotta'' admit, a bit of a surprise, them takin' the kid like that," Sharkey said in the Crew's Mess. "And the Skip getting her pregnant again; I guess shows things are okay between 'em now."
"I guess,' Ski said, "Or maybe they just caved into the moment. Happens to everybody now and then."
"In any case she's 8 weeks along and it's gonna be boys from what I hear," Cookie said.
"8 weeks?" Ski asked, "wasn't that when...."Ski began to smirk. So that's what was rocking the boat."
"Get those smirks off your faces,"Sharkey said quickly, "It was harbor turbulence dockside and you know it. Yeah, and can you knotheads imagine how the Skipper feels right now? His poor little kid snatched away like that? Maybe the others will be too? Some stupid bureaucrats making decisions they have no right to? We can laugh all about the Skip's uh...virility later. Right now he's gonna' need all the support we can give him, not snide remarks behind his back."
"Sorry Chief," Ski was the first to say," You're right. I guess we just weren't thinking. What can we do?"
"Damned if I know, just watch your mouths around him. Where is he now anyway?"
"Last I saw he was knocking hell outta' one of the punching bags again." Patterson offered.
"At this rate, it'll have to apply for worker's comp," Cookie said.
"Now that's the kinda' talk I mean," Sharkey said wearily. "He's gotta'' vent somehow. Better it than any of you, capiche?"
"Yeah, yeah, Chief, we get the point," Ski said.
"Okay...if I hear anyone speaking disrespectful like that again, you're on report; you can plead the 5th all you want. I ain't gonna' tolerate anyone hurting him anymore, not even you clowns."
"It's just kind of hard not to say stuff, dig?" Riley said.
"They you'd better not say anything," Sharkey slammed down his fork and departed.
"Like a mother hen when it comes to the Skipper," Patterson said, "But I see his point."
"Yeah, the Skip really needs us to be cool," Riley said. "So Ski, how'd you think we did on the war games?"
"You think they confide in me? But if I was a betting man, I'd say we really rubbed the Navy's nose in it."
"Damn right!" and various other phrases circulated proudly as the men got back to the business of wolfing down some more of Cookie's laden trays of food.
"Well, that's it gentlemen," Admiral Starke rose from his chair in the Observation Nose the next day. "Consider Seaview the undisputed victor in this exercise, as expected, but not exactly welcomed by us mere mortals."
"Thank you Admiral," Crane said, "Seaview has a great crew."
"I suppose you're anxious to get home now, Captain. I hear there're big changes for the Crane family."
"Uh, yes, Edith's expecting again."
"Jiggs," Nelson said trying to steer clear of the topic of home, "perhaps now isn't the best time...."
"Ah, yes. The adoption foul up...we're all outraged about that. I'm sure it's just a mistake. If you need a character witness..."
"Thank you," Lee said, "I might have to take you up on that. By your leave sir? I'll be in the Missile Room, Chip."
"Harriman?" Jiggs asked as Nelson and Morton headed to the Control Room, "the boy doesn't look well at all."
"I know. We're all concerned. He's been under a great deal of strain."
"Well, I'm sure he'll come through in flying colors like he always does...tell me though, if Seaview wasn't really the problem, I suppose he doesn't have to leave after all?"
"Nobody is really sure of anything yet."
"Well, we'll keep them crossed," Starke began to climb the ladder topside, Nelson following, Morton resuming his position at the plot table with O'Brien.
"I appreciate this offer as well," Lee told Nelson after Starke had departed, "but I wouldn't feel right about it. And it's not going to quicken anything even if I did take the Flying Sub home. The hearing's already scheduled as soon as possible and we can't do anything before then."
"You're right of course, lad," Nelson said, instantly regretting his use of the term at Lee's wince. For some unknown reason or even for lack of one, the term Nelson had occasionally used toward him in particular was becoming irritating to Crane, like his mother ruffling his hair. †The sooner Seaview returned home, the better for all, Nelson thought. Lee's nerves were wound tighter than an old fashioned watch spring. He really should have insisted on Lee hitching a ride aboard one of the nearby carrier's fighters. But Crane was insistent. Starke was on official business, Seaview no longer was. Both admirals had to admire his sense of ethics, still...
"Very well, I was just hoping for a little diversion."
"Yes sir. I'll keep trying though."
"Sharkey?" Crane stopped by the cabin the man shared with Chief O'Malley, "Have a moment?"
"Sure, Skipper come on in."
'Okay by me, sir," O'Malley agreed.
"Thanks. Chief, I was too busy to mention before but now I'm growing concerned...have I done something wrong?"
"The whole crew seems to be walking around on eggshells every time I so much as enter the same air space...like they're afraid of me."
"Afraid? Hell Skip," O'Malley said," they worship the ground you walk on. They'll never be afraid of you."
"Well, they sure seem to be now...I know I've been on edge, irritable at times, but..."
"Oh, that's just 'cause they don't want to embarrass you," O'Malley said as Sharkey turned red and glared at the man who spilled the beans.
"I don't understand. What's this all about?"
"They just know how to add sir."
"I don't appreciate riddles O'Malley.† Sharkey? Out with it. Now."
"I had no idea," Lee was pacing in Nelson's cabin, "All this time the whole crew knew we..." he stopped, flushed."I'm sorry," he continued. "I needed to get away, some place quiet. Edie did too. That's all it was, at first...then...I guess you'd say we caved into the moment."
"That was rather apparent from the news of the pregnancy, and now?"
"I want to be with her so much it hurts. My heart, my head, my..."he stopped himself from going further.
"My boy, I can call you that can't I?"
"Oh, shit, I'm sorry about that 'lad' business, it's just..."
"If I may continue?"
Nelson interrupted, "Good. What you need, both of you, is a honeymoon.
Time to be alone together, get to know one another better, your hopes, dreams,
desires, not to mention some intimacies so important to meld you together as a
couple. And definitely no distractions, no interruptions. As soon as feasible.
In fact, I'll foot the bill. Call it a belated wedding present. How does
"I...I don't know what to say."
"Just tell me when to book the flight and move into the guest room."
"It'll depend on Celine..."
"That goes without saying. And Lee? No matter what the court says, she'll always be your daughter, no matter who she ends up living with. And I think she'll know it somehow."
"Thank you Harry."
"Now, you go get some rest. You look half dead for lack of it."
It was a relief to be able to joke about the Skipper's reproductive agility as he himself let it be known that he didn't mind the occasional speculation about just when he might have to start adding additional rooms to his house. Things were almost back to normal the trip home, but it was a bittersweet trip nonetheless.
The ordeal waiting for the Skipper's return was just around the corner and every heart aboard bled for him.
"Surface the boat Mr. Morton," Lee ordered and soon climbed to the conning tower for what might be last his view from it as Seaview's Captain.
For awhile he said nothing, letting Morton and O'Brien tend to the business at hand entering the busy harbor toward the specially hewn channel to NIMR dredged years before Seaview had even been launched. If he'd wanted Lee could have done it all without coming up for air into the underground pier, sometimes still a blessing in rough weather. But today was stuff of daydreams, even if storm clouds were fast approaching. †Seabirds still sang their welcoming songs, dolphins rode the bow waves, and some even splashed high into the air. Crane could be forgiven for expecting a rainbow to add to the fitting tribute to his boat's return.
"Bring her in," he ordered Seaview into the channel.
The waiting families and friends waved hands and balloons as Seaview was secured by deck crews assigned to the task, Crane saw his wife† in an animated conversation with Angie, Lola, and Tish, his triplets tucked securely in two double baby buggies' as his mother was arguing with Nanny. There was little doubt as to whom would win, Lee thought, then giving the boat a final look stem to stern, he nodded in satisfaction and ordered Morton to dismiss the crew and climbed back down into the boat.
"Security watch is aboard," Chip handed Lee the clipboard, "We're the only two left."
"Very well," Lee signed it, and then looked around the now stilled Control Room, her machinery eerily silent. "Have a good shore leave.... I know you'll be a great Commander...I..."
"I hope I won't have to be...we still don't know Lee..."
"Thank you for that Chip. I...I think I'd like a few moments."
"Yeah, I know," he patted Lee's shoulder, retrieving the clipboard from Crane and climbed the ladder into the morning air.
"Well, old girl," Lee said softly to his baby of titanium, herculite, steel and aluminum, as he walked around the room, "take good care of everyone for me okay? You've been one in a million," he patted the hull before he too reached for the surface.
The silence was deafening as he emerged. The crowd of families stood still except for the children.
"Atten-hut! Captain on deck!" Sharkey ordered of the crew, most of those who could were crammed on deck, others ashore in a group, some with tears in their eyes, their hands at full military salute.
Even Nelson, to hell with protocol, was saluting.
Crane returned the salute the best he could then the colors, "Dismissed," he ordered, choked up, and headed down the gangplank to his waiting family.
"Three cheers for the best damn Skipper this side of...well everywhere!" Ski yelled out.
'Hip hip hooray's echoed around the dock before the men began to disperse, many stopping with their wives and children to give him their best wishes first.
Suddenly a black car drove up.
"Lee!" Edith said horrified. "It's them...the ones that took Celine!"
Immediately he took a protective stance in front of his children and crewmen rushed to his side daring anyone to snatch these kids away too.
"Lee Crane?" one of the men in a black suit said, "I believe you and your wife are missing something."
"Damn, doesn't this kid ever stop crying?" A woman exited the car holding a baby. "She's all yours," the woman handed the baby to Crane. It didn't go unnoticed that the infant stopped crying immediately and began to gurgle happily. "Lock, stock and barrel," she added, "and not just to foster. Here are your finalized adoption papers. It's customary to give a child a middle name; I hope you won't delay too long over it. We have a heavy workload to make any additions to the paperwork. Oh, and 'Captain' is it? You won't have to give up your career either. Seems we made a mistake."
For a moment all were dumbfounded as the officials drove away.
"I can't believe it, I can't believe it," Edith stroked the child's hair.
"She remembers us...she remembers us..."Lee kept saying.
"You said she would. Oh honey," she kissed her husband on the lips. A long kiss, the baby cocooned in between them. It took more than Morton's cough to bring the couple back to the present. Thunder did the job better as everyone began to hustle.
"I take it then Skipper, that I don't have to move my stuff into your cabin?"
"That's an affirmative Mr. Morton," Nelson said as he helped Lee put the baby in the empty seat, "However, you'll be in command when our two lovebirds go on a long delayed honeymoon. Not right away of course...I'm sure they want some time with their little uh, large family first...but donít delay it too long Lad...I mean Lee. "
"He fusses at you too?" Lee's Mother asked.
"Hates it as much as you ruffling his hair."
"Well, you're his boss. Use it."
"This all calls for a celebration," Nelson said, "Attention all hands, "the party's on me. 1400. Food, drinks and an indoor pool party at the Hilton if I can swing it. If not, beer, pretzels and barbeque at the cafeteria. And bring your friends too."
"It was all Edith's idea to go on that talk show," Angie was saying to Nelson in the office, barely managing to escape the rain, "You always said if you wanted something done, take it to TV. And it didn't hurt that the First Lady was just as outraged as everyone...you know these child welfare agencies really do their best, but sometimes they just get bogged down...still, they could have handled things better. Just because a statistic shows a generalized pattern doesn't mean it applies to all or is absolute. The Agency was so overloaded with mail complaining, begging for Celine to be returned, I think they'll be a bit more careful jumping to conclusions next time. Even some senators got into the act. And rumor has it the President himself had a little talk with the Agency's director. I keep telling Lee it helps to have friends in high places....That storm's really kicking in," she said of the darkening sky as Nelson turned on a lamp desk.
Suddenly everything went black.
"Admiral? Admiral? Stand back, he's coming around," Doc was saying.
"What...ohhh. I feel like a hundred miles of bad road..."
"You were on the receiving end of a fair amount of amps...not enough to kill or maim, but you did black out for a few minutes..."
"Everyone safe from the storm?"
"What storm?" Angie asked, concerned, sunlight streaming through the window. Her hair and clothing were different, he noticed, and the date on the calendar was wrong. In fact, the date was a little more than a year ago.
"Well, this is sure fried," Sharkey said, showing off the lamp. Shorted out probably. We had a power surge on that grid...just dumb bad luck you happened to turn it on just when it happened"
"Harry?" Edith barged in, "I missed my boat.
Can you get someone to drive me to
In the end Lee volunteered to take his errant sister, and just as he returned to his office it all came back to him with sudden clarity. All of it. Dream? Vision? Fate? Maybe even that rascal Pemm...
"Here's that report you wanted sir," Sharkey handed Nelson a folder. "You okay sir?"
"Fine, just thinking..."
"Yeah, I'm worried about them too. I mean, they could end up killing each other."
"Oh," Nelson said, a smirk forming on his lips, "You might just be surprised."
"Huh? Uh, yes sir..." he retreated to Angie's office, wondering if he should tell Doc that Nelson was acting kind of weird.
The Admiral practically hummed as he headed out of his office into the outer, telling his Administrative Assistant and Chief he'd be back later, then realizing they had to have heard his phone call, added, "wouldnít hurt.." his arms outstretched, laughing his way out.
Now everyone knows there is no such thing as a love potion or
a replay button we can use even for the best or worst moments of our lives. But
Note: Apologies for any errors of commission and/or omission regarding the legalities, only a few of which I was able to research adequately.