A TASTE OF VENGEANCE
By Ellen Reed
Lee Crane, commander of the atomic submarine, Seaview, sat in the officer’s mess wolfing down his salad as he quickly scanned the day’s reports. His executive officer, Chip Morton, sat nearby moodily picking out the mushrooms from his own meal. It had been a frustrating day and Chip was tired. He really wanted a hamburger but had decided to substitute that less than healthy meal with something a bit more nutritious. He sighed and glanced at Lee. Crane’s plate was empty but Chip doubted that Lee even knew what he’d just eaten. He noticed Lee frowning as he read.
“Well, any clue to why the thermostat on the reactor isn’t registering properly?”
Lee grunted and shook his head in irritation. All day the reactor’s thermostat had been shutting down the system claiming that the reactor was overheating when in reality it was well within normal limits. They were on auxiliary power while they tried to repair the problem but it was a drain on their power and systems did not work well. In their current situation, they weren’t going anywhere. Lee sighed and pushed the plate away. “I guess I’ll have Sharkey tear it apart again,” he grumbled. “There must be something we’re missing.”
Chip pushed away his own plate with a slight grimace and stood up. “I’ll go talk to Sharkey now,” he said and hurried from the room.
Lee sat silently for a few minutes more rubbing his eyes
before gathering up his papers. His head
was throbbing. He pushed back his chair and stood up abruptly grabbing onto the
edge of the table as a wave of dizziness washed over him. It passed in a moment
but Lee held on for a little longer. He’d been feeling a bit off all day and
now he was beginning to suspect he was coming down with something. Great. Just
what he didn’t need. There was a
mountain of paperwork that still had to be taken care of. With the admiral off attending a scientific
Chip headed to the missile room to look for the Chief. He stopped for a moment in thought and turning, headed to the reactor room instead. He had an idea about the problem and wanted to check it out. A few minutes later found him entering the reactor room. Expecting it to be empty, he was startled to find crewman Nash busily at work. The crewman looked up, equally surprised. “Oh, Mr. Morton, sir,” Nash stammered stepping away from the reactor controls. “Chief Sharkey sent me down here to check the thermostat again.”
Chip frowned, sensing an odd tension in the man. “And were you able to fix the problem?”
“Aye, sir!” replied Nash quickly. “It took awhile but I finally found there was a defect in the circuit board. But, it’s working now.”
Chip looked towards the reactor and noted it did indeed seem to be working properly. Still, there was something about Nash that bothered him but he couldn’t put his finger on it. “Very good, Nash. Carry on.”
“Aye, aye sir!”
Chip took one more doubtful look at the crewman and left. Nash let out a long breath, finished screwing the panel back onto the control console and silently made his own way out of the reactor room disappearing down the corridor. His work there was done.
Admiral Harriman Nelson wearily crossed the teak and
mahogany paneled lobby of the Jakarta Hilton. He was in
He looked at his watch and sighed again as he realized it was well past midnight. His weariness multiplied as he remembered that he needed to be up early the next morning for more sessions. He was presenting a paper at the opening session and he still needed to make sure his notes and Powerpoint presentation were in order but when an old colleague had invited him to dinner, he hadn’t been able to resist. He had a weakness for Indonesian cuisine. Now, he had to pay the price for his procrastination.
A few moments later found him fumbling for his key card outside his hotel door. Maybe he shouldn’t have had that last scotch. Finally opening the door, Nelson stumbled slightly as he stepped into his room closing the door behind him. As he felt around for the light switch a soft voice caused him to freeze. “Please stand still, Admiral. I have a gun and can see quite well in the dark.”
Nelson stood still trying to make out a figure in the dark. There was just enough light filtering in through the partially closed drapes for Nelson to detect someone across the room, a slight glint verified the presence of a gun. “Who are you?” Nelson demanded wondering if he could somehow make it out of the room without being shot. “What do you want?”
The man laughed softly. “You don’t recognize my voice,
Harriman?” A second later, the table lamp flicked on and flooded the room with
a soft light. A short, wiry man stood there, gray haired with icy blue eyes. A
mocking grin curved his lips. Nelson gave a start. Of all the people he thought
might be here, Jacob Vandergriff would have been at the bottom of the list. Two
years ago, he had tried hard to kill Lee Crane and very nearly succeeded.
First, he’d sent Crane off on a secret suicide mission and when that failed,
kidnapped Lee, shot him, and left him to die in an abandoned farmhouse in the
“What the devil are you doing out of prison?” Nelson growled.
Vandergriff laughed again. “I have many powerful and influential friends, Harriman, especially in the People’s Republic but honestly, that’s really not important. Perhaps you’d be more interested in what brings me here this evening.” He pointed his gun towards a nearby chair. “I suggest you sit down and make yourself more comfortable.”
Nelson cautiously moved further into the room and reluctantly settled himself into the indicated chair. Sitting back, he waited patiently for Vandergriff to continue.
The other man stood silently for a few moments allowing Nelson time to study his adversary. Vandergriff’s face was thinner and more lined than Nelson remember. However, his determination was as evident as ever. Vandergriff leaned against the mahogany desk settled against the wall. “How is our friend, Captain Crane?” He spat out the name as if it tasted especially foul.
Nelson’s mouth thinned in irritation. “He’s fine. No thanks to you.”
“Is he?” Vandergriff smiled slowly. “Are you sure?”
Nelson went cold. He recognized that look. “What have you done?” the admiral snarled starting to rise from his chair.
“Stay right where you are!” snapped Vandergriff bringing the gun to bear on Nelson’s head. Slowly, Nelson sat down, his anger barely restrained. As soon as he was certain the admiral was back under control Vandergriff relaxed slightly.
“What have you done to Crane?” Nelson asked again through gritted teeth.
Vandergriff paused as if considering how to proceed. He cocked his head then asked. “Admiral Nelson does Cortinarius orellanus mean anything to you?”
Nelson frowned in confusion. He had no idea where this was going. “Yes,” he said slowly still thinking hard. “It’s a kind of European mushroom. It’s more commonly known as Deadly Webcap…” He stopped, eyes widening. “What have you done?” he repeated hoarsely.
“I know your dear captain has a fondness for mushrooms,” Vandergriff grinned although his eyes remained as cold as ever. “I simply made sure he received some chosen especially for him. “
“You…you poisoned him?”
“Deadly webcap,” nodded Vandergriff with obvious satisfaction. “Perfect for my needs. It is easily mistaken for nonpoisonous varieties and symptoms can take days or even weeks to appear. And even when they do, poison is usually the last thing anyone suspects.”
“Why are you telling me this?” demanded Nelson tightly. “What do you want from me? Surely you wouldn’t be telling me all this just to keep me up to date. You must want something.”
“Yes, Admiral, you are correct. If all I wanted was Crane’s death, I could have chosen something far more effective than poisonous mushrooms but I am a sporting man and I wanted to give you a chance.” Vandergriff paused again. “Admiral, I want the blueprints to build my own flying submarine.”
“You’re insane!” Nelson almost laughed in disbelief. “I’m not going give you the blueprints to the flying sub!”
“Not even to save the life of your friend? Or…” his eyes narrowed. “To keep a nuclear warhead from falling into the wrong hands?”
Nelson shook his head trying to make sense of this bizarre situation. “What are you talking about? What nuclear warhead? How…” He trailed off as the purpose of Seaview’s current assignment occurred to him, horror draining the color from his face.
Vandergriff laughed again. “Admiral, I know that the Seaview’s mission is to replace all the remote firing mechanisms in the undersea missiles. Thanks to me, the People’s Republic has cracked the code and can now fire a missile at any time should it so choose. The problem was, they didn’t know where the missiles were located or to where they were directed. Now they know the location of exactly one of those missiles.
Nelsons continued to struggle to figure out how all of this was connected. He was definitely regretting that last drink. “What the devil has any of this got to do with Crane? Or the flying sub?”
Vandergriff slowly shook his head and sighed. “Admiral Nelson, is this really all that difficult to understand? I want the blueprints for the flying sub so I can build my own. If you give me the plans, I will be happy to tell you which missile they have located. There is currently a People’s Republic agent on board your submarine whose job, in addition to poisoning Lee Crane, is to sabotage the Seaview to prevent it from reaching the missile before his government does. Yes, I realize the People’s Republic does have nuclear weapons but none so refined as ours. You certainly wouldn’t want them to learn any new tricks of the trade, now would you? Plus, once you have delivered the plans I will even give you the antidote to the poison. I developed it myself. Without it, there is no question that Captain Crane will die.” He paused thoughtfully. “Although it is quite possible that it is already too late but at least with the antidote, he might have a chance.”
Nelson struggled to keep his composure. What was he supposed to do? If he refused to deliver the blueprints, not only would he be possibly allowing one of the least stable nations in the world to acquire one of the most sophisticated nuclear warheads ever developed but he could also be condemning his friend to death. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?” he growled. “You could be telling me this simply to get the plans when in reality none of this might be true.”
Vandergriff simply shrugged. “You’ll just have to trust me on this. Or, you could contact your sub and check on Crane although he might not be showing symptoms yet. It can take as long as three weeks for them to appear but as I understand it, if it takes that long, his kidneys and liver will probably be so damaged nothing can save him.” He stood erect and took a step towards the door. He held up a small piece of paper showing it to Nelson. “You haven’t much time, Harriman. You can contact me at this number when you have the blueprints.” He placed the paper on the desk and began to slowly make his way towards the door, never turning his back on Nelson. As he reached the door, Vandergriff cocked his head and again studied Nelson thoughtfully. “I hope you don’t do anything stupid, Harriman. I’m giving you an opportunity to save not only Crane but prevent a possible nuclear disaster. All you give up are the plans to a small flying submarine. I don’t think that’s so much to ask. Think about it.” He then turned and disappeared.
Nelson sat frozen for a moment then sprang to his feet and dove for the phone. There was no time to waste.
When Lee woke up early that morning, he felt worse than ever. As he attempted to sit up, he immediately doubled over with severe stomach cramps. With a groan, he stumbled to the head as nausea overwhelmed him. When he emerged some time later, he was pale and shaking. Damn it, he thought miserably. I must have the stomach flu. His entire body ached and he was desperately thirsty. He lay back down on his bunk knowing he should put in a call to Dr. Jamieson. Yes, he would. He just needed to rest for a moment. Then he would call. He closed his eyes as he began to drift off but they snapped open a moment later as he lunged again for the bathroom.
Thirty minutes later, he sat slumped in his chair trying to
pull himself together. He simply didn’t have time to be sick but he also had to
admit, he might have to sit this one out. He again considered calling down to
Jamieson or attempting to make his way down to sickbay on his own when the
intercom buzzed. “Skipper?” came
Lee took a deep breath and tried to sit up straighter. Pushing a button he lifted up the receiver. “Crane here. Is that you Admiral?” He rested his head on his hand. It felt like it was going to explode.
“Yes, Lee, it’s me,” replied the Admiral. He sounded anxious. “First of all, Lee, there is an enemy agent on board Seaview. His mission is to prevent you from picking up the rest of the missiles and replacing their mechanisms. The People’s Republic has apparently discovered not only the location of one of the missile silos but the firing code as well. They have their own sub en route to pick up the missile. Problem is we don’t know which missile it is.”
For a moment, Lee was distracted from his own misery “Well, that explains our never ending string of mechanical failures!” he said angrily. “No sooner do we get one thing repaired than something else breaks down!” He paused a moment. “Any idea who the agent is, Admiral? All of the crew has been with us for awhile. We don’t have any obvious candidates.”
Nelson sighed in frustration. “I’m sorry, Lee, but I don’t. It’s imperative that we find out who it is and get the rest of those missiles before they do.” He paused then said tentatively, “How are you feeling, Lee?”
Lee was surprised. How could the admiral know he wasn’t feeling his best? “Well,” he began having no intention of admitting he was sick.
“I want you to be completely honest with me, Lee,” interrupted the Admiral sternly.
Lee grimaced slightly as he felt the nausea rising again. “I…uh…well I think I might be coming down with some kind of minor stomach bug but honestly Admiral, it’s nothing serious!”
Lee blinked in surprise as he listened to the admiral softly cursing. “Lee,” he finally said, “I’m afraid it’s more than a simple stomach bug. You’ve been poisoned.”
“Poisoned?” exclaimed Lee in disbelief, “How could I have been poisoned? I’m sure it’s just the flu!”
“Lee, have you by any chance, eaten mushrooms lately?”
“Mushrooms? Uh, sure, several times. But I’ve never had any problems with mushrooms before!”
He could almost hear Nelson shaking his head. “That’s because you’ve never eaten Deadly webcap before.”
Lee tried to laugh in disbelief, but was forced to double over in pain as another stomach cramp threatened to overwhelm him. Maybe the admiral was right. Panting, he finally replied “Chip’s eaten mushrooms as well. Has he been poisoned too?”
“I doubt it,” said the Admiral slowly. “Poisoning you was something personal.” He stopped. Nelson really didn’t want to reveal to Lee that Vandergriff was on the loose and gunning for him again. He had come so close to killing Lee…twice…and it had taken a long time for the Seaview’s skipper to recover. For awhile, they’d doubted he would ever return to command his beloved submarine.
Lee picked up on the hesitation. “Out with it, Admiral,” he grunted, “Who is trying to poison me?”
Just the name was enough to send Lee’s head spinning He
suddenly saw himself again imprisoned in that eastern European dungeon, deathly
ill from typhoid and pneumonia. Then he was back in the abandoned farmhouse in
“Lee? Lee! Answer me!” Lee blinked and realized he had dropped the receiver. He could hear Nelson shouting his name. Slowly, painfully he reached down and snagged it.
“I’m here, Admiral.” He could barely get the words out. He suddenly felt more exhausted and weak than ever before.
“Lee, listen to me,” he could hear Nelson saying urgently;
“You need to get down to sickbay and tell Jamieson what’s going on. I want you
on the flying sub and on your way to
Lee barely heard him. His reeling mind was still trying to process all this information. “Admiral,” he interrupted rubbing his pounding head, “I don’t understand. Vandergriff is in prison!” He paused. “Isn’t he?”
“Vandergriff was here. He told me all this himself. I contacted Naval Intelligence and they confirmed not only had he escaped but also about the People’s Republic breaking the code. However they weren’t aware of the fact that a missile had been located. Vandergriff told me that he would tell me which missile they were after plus give me the antidote if I would turn over to blueprints for the flying sub.”
“Admiral!” Lee cried, “You can’t do that! Who knows what that lunatic would do with his own flying sub! Besides, he could be bluffing.”
“No, Lee,” replied Nelson grimly, “I don’t think so. We both know how thorough Vandergriff is. I honestly think he’s on the level which means Chip needs to find the rest of those missiles and we need to get you off that sub as soon as possible. A severe tropical storm is building in your area so there’s no time to lose.”
Lee was about to respond when a thunderous explosion abruptly shook the Seaview and the connection died. Lee was thrown from his chair and slammed into the side of his bunk. Grunting in pain, he struggled back into his seat and signaled the control room. “Chip! What’s going on?”
It took a few moments before Chip’s harried voice responded. “Skipper, there’s an unknown sub out there that just fired at us! The torpedo missed and detonated on a rock formation behind us.” As he spoke, the sub lurched to one side as the Seaview took evasive action, avoiding a second torpedo. Lee scrambled to his feet and staggered to the hallway. He gripped the doorframe of his cabin and took a couple of deep breaths to try and steady himself. Poisoned mushrooms be damned. The Seaview was in danger and his place was in the control room. Sickbay could wait.
A few moments later, Chip looked up as Lee entered. He frowned in concern. The skipper looked terrible. His face was ashen and covered with perspiration. He looked as if he could barely stand. Chip hurried over. “Lee!” he said quietly, lending his commander a supporting hand. “Are you all right? You look terrible!”
Lee attempted a weak smile. “Just a stomach bug,” he lied. “I’ll be fine. Now, what’s our status?”
Chip looked unconvinced but turned to the problem at hand. “We didn’t detect the sub until it suddenly appeared and started firing at us. I have no idea why since they refuse to answer any of our hails. We’ve already lost them.”
Feeling lightheaded, Lee leaned against the periscope railing for support. “Chip, the admiral told me there’s an enemy agent on board this ship. The People’s Republic has not only deciphered the firing codes for the missiles but has learned the location of one of the silos as well. This agent’s mission is to delay Seaview long enough for the People’s Republic to retrieve that missile. That sub was obviously the one sent to pick it up.”
Chip stared at Lee in surprise. “So all of our mysterious mechanical failures…”
“Are the result of the agent’s delaying tactics.” Lee sighed and winced as a sharp pain cut across his already aching back. Great, he thought absently, a new pain to worry about. He shook his head slightly to clear it. He felt like his brain was working in a fog. Now was not the time to fall apart. “What’s the damage report from that blast?”
“Nothing too serious although it did damage our communications array. Right now, we can’t communicate with anyone outside of this submarine.”
Lee nodded slowly. Chip looked troubled. “Lee…” he began studying Lee’s haggard face, “Maybe you should head down to sickbay. I can handle things here. ”
Lee opened his mouth to protest when a call sounded from the torpedo room. “Mr. Morton,” crewman Patterson’s voice was worried, “We were just double checking the torpedoes and there’s a problem with the firing system. It won’t respond. Sir, right now, we can’t fire any torpedoes.”
Lee cursed softly. “Mr. Morton,” he said firmly, “I want you to head down there immediately, find the problem and fix it. Right now, we’re sitting ducks.” He paused, noticing Chip’s anxious expression. “Chip, honestly, I’ll be all right. Once this is taken care of, I’ll go see Doc. I promise.” Still unhappy, Chip nodded and hurried away.
Chip’s mind raced as he considered all that Lee had told him. He was worried that Lee could collapse at any moment. As he hurried down the corridor, the alarms began sounding. “Torpedo off the starboard bow!” came a terse announcement. “Brace for collision!” Chip braced himself as well as he could before the entire sub rocked back and forth in response to the explosion. Chip didn’t even remember hitting the ground as the concussion knocked him off his feet.
Chip listened as different areas of the boat called in damage reports. A few leaks here and there but the Seaview was holding up. However, if they couldn’t fire the torpedoes soon, he wasn’t sure how long they could hold out. A few moments later found him in the torpedo room. Chief Sharkey was already there, up to his elbow in a tangle of multicolored wires.
“What’s the status, Chief?” asked Chip approaching the group of anxious men watching the repair work.
Sharkey stood back, wiping the sweat from his brow. “I found a short in the system, sir.” He replied, his voice rough with frustration. “But it’s still not working. I’m beginning to think it might be something in the circuitry room. I just sent Nash to check on it.”
Chip nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll go see how he’s doing. Carry on, Chief.” Leaving the men to their work, Chip hurried down the corridor to the circuitry room.
It wasn’t long before Chip strode up to the circuitry room door. He hesitated a moment, listening carefully, then cautiously pushed open the door and peered in. Crewman Nash stood before one of the panels, a bundle of multicolored wires in his hand. He looked up as Chip stepped in. “Uh, Mr. Morton, sir” he stammered in surprise glancing down at the wires. Obviously he wasn’t expecting anyone to follow him in.
“Chief Sharkey told me he’d sent you down here, Nash,” said Chip calmly. “Have you located the problem with the torpedo firing system?”
“Uh,” Nash turned to face Chip but now there was a gun in his hand. His eyes narrowed in irritation. “I know exactly what’s wrong with firing mechanism, Mister Morton. And when I’m done here, there will be a lot more wrong with this boat than just a faulty firing system.”
Chip froze. “So, you’re the People’s Republic agent.” He was thinking hard. He should have suspected Nash after finding him in the reactor room. He had to stop this man.
Nash grimaced. “So, you know, eh? Yes, I am working for the People’s Republic.” He glanced at his watch. “But my job here is almost done. Soon, we will have the missile and the Captain will be…” he stopped and just smiled.
“What about the Captain?” Chip demanded sharply.
Nash laughed. “I saw Crane today. He didn’t look his best I must say. I wonder why that might be?”
Chip felt ill. “What have you done?”
Nash just shook his head. “Mr. Morton, I really don’t have time to discuss this. All I’m saying is you might start looking for a new skipper. Now, what to do with you?”
The words were no sooner out of his mouth when another explosion sent the two men reeling across the circuitry room. Chip lunged for the gun as Nash sprawled against the nearest panel, sparks flying. The two men fought desperately for possession of the weapon. Chip panted with exertion as he gripped the barrel of the gun, fighting to turn it away from his chest. Another explosion sent them flying again when a loud blast reverberated throughout the small room. Chip felt as if a steel rod had been jammed into his side. He gasped in shock as he collapsed to the floor, all strength leaving his legs. He felt nothing but a deep, penetrating cold. A moment later, the pain arrived; a fire that flared so hot, it threatened to engulf his entire body. Chip’s head was reeling and his vision was failing as the scene before him slowly faded to white. He could just make out Nash pulling himself to his feet across the room, the gun still pointed towards Chip and then, there was nothing.
Admiral Nelson stared at the phone clutched in his hand, the line dead. Absently, he ran his hand through his sandy hair. Something had happened on Seaview plus it was obvious Lee was showing signs of poisoning. If Seaview had been attacked then Nelson knew full well Lee would never leave. He would remain in command of his beloved sub until he collapsed. Nelson knew he had to get hold of the antidote and take it to Seaview himself. It was Lee’s only hope. But how to do it? Vandergriff wouldn’t give him the antidote unless Nelson turned over the blueprints to the flying sub. Nelson sighed. He could have his secretary fax him the plans from the Institute and have them within hours. Slowly, a smile spread across his tired face. With a nod of his head he put the call through. Vandergriff would get his blueprints.
Lee felt strong hands gently help to his feet; swaying weakly, he could barely stand. “Skipper?” came Kowalski’s worried voice. The last torpedo explosion from the unknown sub had sent them all careening across the control room and Lee found he simply didn’t have the strength to pull himself back up. He took a deep breath trying not to groan from the deep pain in his back. He looked to the crewman who continued to maintain a firm hand on the captain’s arm. “Sir? Are you all right?”
Lee suppressed an irrational chuckle. No, he most certainly was not all right but right, that was the least of their problems. “I’ll be fine, Kowalski,” he finally managed, waving the crewman away. He vaguely wondered how long he could continue to say that with a straight face. “I’ve just picked up some kind of virus. Just give me a second.”
“Skipper! Torpedo off the port bow. Ninety yards and closing.”
“Hard right rudder! All ahead full!” Lee snatched up the mike. “Missile room! What’s the status on those torpedoes!?”
“Still not working, sir!” came Sharkey’s prompt reply. “Mr. Morton went to the circuitry room to see if he could find the problem there.”
Lee clicked the button again. “Mr. Morton, report!” He waited a few moments. “Mr. Morton!” Again, no reply.
Before he could try once more, the torpedo exploded on a seamount twenty yards away. The shock waves again sent the Seaview reeling and crewmen flying. Lee felt Kowalski’s grip tighten as he attempted to keep his captain from harm. When the sub settled down once more, Lee scrambled for the intercom mike. “Damage report!” He listened carefully to the list of leaks and other damage but luckily, the Seaview still remained relatively unscathed. He turned to the crewman manning the sonar station. “Where is that sub now?” he demanded curtly. The nausea was returning not to mention the sharp needles of pain behind his eyes and he was finding it hard to concentrate.
“Moving away, sir. Bearing One two zero degrees. 500 yards and increasing.”
Lee nodded and staggered towards the plotting table. He pulled out a chart and studied it carefully. It would appear the sub was heading towards either silo #75 or #77. Irritably, he wiped the perspiration from this face. He felt cold but his body was sweating profusely and he would kill for a drink of water right now. He could feel the eyes of the crew on him, wondering what was wrong. Damn it! Where was Chip? He turned to Kowalski who was still hovering nearby. “Go to the circuitry room immediately and find out what’s happened to Mr. Morton!”
“But sir!” Kowalski protested eyeing the captain’s drawn features. He wasn’t sure what was keeping the skipper on his feet but he didn’t think it would last much longer.
“That’s an order!” snapped Lee glaring at the man before him.
“Aye aye, sir!” Like Chip before him, Kowalski hurried from the control room determined to return as quickly as possible.
It only took Kowalski a few minutes to reach the circuitry room on the deck below. He pulled opened the door and froze in shock. Chip lay sprawled on the floor, a puddle of dark crimson blood pooling beneath him. “Mr. Morton!” cried Kowalski, kneeling beside the wounded man. Reaching down to feel the carotid artery, he was able to just detect a faint, thready pulse. He glanced around briefly for any evidence of the assailant. Seeing none, he quickly snatched up the intercom mike. “Circuitry room to sickbay! We need you immediately, Doc. Mr. Morton’s been shot!”
The captain’s voice now came across the speaker. “Kowalski, what’s going on?”
Kowalski swallowed, looking down at Mr. Morton’s lifeless form. “Mr. Morton has been shot.”
There was a moment of silence. “I’m on my way.” Kowalski slowly returned the mike to its cradle, then reached down and gently loosened Chip’s tie, hoping to ease his breathing.
It wasn’t long before Dr. Jamieson swept in with two corpsmen in tow. The doctor bent down and checked Chip quickly. He moved away and nodded to his companions to load Chip onto the stretcher they’d brought. As they carried Chip out of the circuitry room to sickbay, Lee came hurrying down the corridor. Jamieson stared at the captain and frowned. The skipper was obviously ill but he’d have to deal with that later. Chip needed him now.
Lee watched in dismay as the doctor and stretcher bearing his friend moved away from him. He glanced into the circuitry room where Kowalski was hard at work repairing the damage done by the unknown assailant. “Kowalski, what happened?”
Kowalski paused in his work, looking down at the complicated series of wires in his hand. “I don’t know, sir. I found Mr. Morton lying there on the floor and called for help.”
Lee leaned against the wall trying not to look at the pool of Chip’s blood still glistening on the floor. He could feel his gorge rising and he was shaking. He took a few deep shuddering breaths fighting the intensifying bouts of dizziness.
“Sir?” Lee opened his eyes at the sound of Chief Sharkey’s anxious voice. “Sir! I just heard about Mr. Morton.” The chief glanced around the room with a scowl. “Where’s Nash? He was supposed to be here fixing the problem.”
“Nash,” repeated Lee softly, his eyes narrowing. He pulled himself upright. “Chief, get together a search party and find Nash. I think he may be the one that’s been sabotaging this ship and probably shot Mr. Morton. Make sure everyone is armed but try to take Nash alive. Kowalski, you keep working here and get that torpedo firing system working! I’m heading back to the control room.” Orders given, Lee turned and hurried away. He needed to make it to his cabin quickly. He really didn’t want to throw up in the middle of the corridor.
Thirty minutes later, Lee slowly walked into the sickbay. He had to admit that he almost wished he was here to turn himself in so he could collapse on a bunk and let the world go on without him. His mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton despite the large quantity of water he had gulped down once he’d reached his cabin. He had then made a brief stop in the control room to make sure they were still on the trail of the mysterious sub before finally making his way to sickbay to check on Chip. Dr. Jamieson looked up from where he was adjusting an IV line attached to Chip’s arm. “How is he, Doc?”
Jamieson stood up and studied the captain. He really didn’t like what he saw. “He’s not out of the woods yet,” he replied quietly, “He took a bullet in his lower right abdomen but fortunately I was able to remove the bullet and the damage wasn’t too severe. He’s lost a lot of blood, so I’ve got a call out for donors.” He glanced down at Chip’s pale face. “But he’s strong, Captain. His chances are good.” He took a step closer to Lee. “Now, as for you, do you want to tell me what’s going on? You look terrible.”
Lee inwardly groaned. He knew coming down here to check on Chip had been risky and that Jamieson would undoubtedly try and pull rank as the chief medical officer. “Doc, it’s just some kind of virus. I’ll admit, I feel lousy but obviously I’m in better shape than Chip! Now, I need to get back to the control room. We have a crisis and I can’t stay here.”
Jamieson glared at the captain a moment then sighed in resignation. “Very well, Captain, but I want you back here as soon as possible. You look like you can barely stand.”
Lee sighed irritably. “I’ll be fine but we need to nail that sub before it gets to the missile silo and I’m afraid that as good an officer as Mr. O’Brien is becoming, I don’t think he’s ready to handle this on his own.” He paused, suppressing the urge to rub his throbbing back. “Doc, I’ll admit, I’d be happy to collapse right here and now but, that’s not an option. Not now. I have work to do.” With that, he turned and left.
Jamieson watched him leave, then slowly shook his head. He was sure the captain was lying to him and that this was no ordinary stomach bug but there was nothing he could do to stop him. He just hoped that when the captain did finally collapse it wouldn’t be too late.
Nelson sat silently in the highest tier of seats in the viewing hall of Monas, the monument dedicated to Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands. He watched absently as the massive doors of the vault protecting the copy of Indonesia’s declaration of independence slowly slid open to display the document. It was a bit melodramatic, thought Nelson idly as he scanned the room. He clutched the briefcase on his lap more tightly. There were a large tour group and a number of school children from the Jakarta International School sharing the auditorium with him. The drone of the recorded narration reciting the story of Indonesia’s freedom drowned out the sound of the children’s chattering. Nelson checked his watch and sighed. Vandergriff was late and the presentation would be over soon. He sighed again and studied the image of the Declaration on the screen overhead. It was only a few lines long yet accomplished the same ends as Jefferson’s greatest creation.
Nelson jumped and turned abruptly to find Vandergriff sitting two seats away. Nelson cursed himself for his moment of inattention. “Hello, Vandergriff,” he grumbled.
“Do you have the blueprints?” Vandergriff was staring intently ahead as if absorbed in the historical presentation.
“Right here,” replied Nelson indicating the briefcase. “Do you have the information and the antidote?”
Vandergriff held up a small briefcase of his own. “I do.” Now he looked directly at Nelson. “Well?”
Nelson looked down at the case in his lap and then reluctantly held it out towards Vandergriff. Smiling, Vandergriff took the case and proffered his own. Nelson stared at him for moment before seizing it. He immediately opened it. Inside was a small vial of pale, amber liquid and an envelope. He quickly opened the envelope, studied the contents and nodded. He glanced at Vandergriff who was scanning the documents Nelson had provided. “It all looks very good, Nelson,” said Vandergriff quietly. He reached into his pocket and brought out a second vial. “Here. You’ll want this as well.”
Frowning, Nelson reached for the vial. “What’s this?”
“The second part of the antidote,” replied Vandergriff returning the documents to the case. He looked up at the admiral. “Had I not been convinced these blueprints were genuine, I wouldn’t have given it to you. The one vial alone will not save Crane. You must give him the entire contents of the first vial intravenously and twelve hours later, give him the second. It may be that it is too late to do any good, but it is his only hope.” He locked the case and stood up. “Good-bye, Admiral. Give my best to the dear captain.” Vandergriff gave Nelson a mocking salute and joined the crowd of tourists and students filing out of the auditorium.
Nelson waited a few minutes longer before rising and making his way out into the museum. He glanced around but there was no sign of Vandergriff. Gripping the case tightly, he hurried from the building where his driver was waiting for him. Nelson quickly climbed into the sedan and slammed the door. “The American consulate,” he ordered and settled back to watch the sprawling city go by. As soon as he got there, he needed to arrange for transportation to the Seaview. He just prayed this antidote was the real thing.
“Captain Crane!” Lee looked up from the plotting table to see Sparks signaling him. “Sir, I’ve managed to rig a temporary communications link and I have the admiral. This won’t last long but it should be good for a few minutes at least.”
Crane hurried over and picked up the mike. “Admiral? Is that you?” The reception was poor and it was hard hear anything over the crackling of the static.
“Lee!” cried the admiral in relief. “What’s happened? I haven’t been able to raise you for hours.”
“Our communications array has been damaged, Admiral,” replied Lee. “Sparks has managed to rig a temporary set-up. We were attacked by an enemy sub and Mr. Morton has been injured. We think crewman Nash is our agent.”
“All right, Lee. That sub is headed for Silo 75. You need to get there as soon as possible and prevent them from retrieving that missile. I am on my way to rendezvous with you there. Also, I have the …” the admiral’s voice was lost in an onslaught of ear blasting static.
“I’m sorry, sir,” said Sparks frantically adjusting knobs and switches. “I was hoping it would last longer than that.”
“That’s all right, Sparks,” Lee sighed rubbing his eyes. “At least we know where we’re headed.” He turned to Lieutenant O’Brien. “Mr. O’Brien, we need to get to that silo as quickly as possible. How are the repairs coming?”
“Sir, the reactor is now operating normally and we are back to full power. Kowalski is still working on the torpedo firing system but expects to be completed within the next fifteen to twenty minutes.”
Lee nodded. “Very good. Helmsman, set our course to vector one seven zero. Flank speed. We need to catch that sub before it can get the missile.”
“Skipper! The sonar is picking up something.” The sonarman paused as he carefully studied his screen. “It looks like our sub! Bearing one two zero.”
Lee heard the words but they didn’t seem to register. They had been chasing that sub for hours now and were finally closing in on the silo. He frowned trying desperately to think.
“Sir?” Lt. O’Brien stood nervously nearby.
Lee blinked. O’Brien’s voice helped him focus. “How far we from the silo?”
“Nine thousand yards, sir.”
“All right,” Lee rasped, his throat painfully dry. “I think it’s clear we have found the correct silo. Now, we just have to destroy that sub.” He took a deep breath. “Mr. O’Brien. Are the torpedoes operational?”
“Good. Load all torpedoes and prepare one and three to fire.” He listened distantly as O’Brien gave the order. God, all he wanted was to lie down and sleep.
“Torpedoes ready, sir.”
Lee nodded wearily. “How far to the sub?”
“Three thousand yards and closing.”
“Torpedoes! Bearing one one zero! Two thousand yards and closing!”
Lee cursed softly. “Fire torpedoes one and three!”
“Hard left rudder!” ordered Lee, “All ahead full!” Seaview veered hard and Lee stumbled, grabbing onto the plotting table to keep from falling.
“Torpedoes still on us, Skipper!”
“Release the noisemaker,” snapped Lee hoping the decoy would divert the torpedoes away from the Seaview.
They stood waiting anxiously as the sonar man tracked the incoming missiles. “They went for it, Skipper!’
Lee could feel the crew relax slightly as the enemy torpedoes passed harmlessly by. A moment later Patterson, who was listening intently through the hydrophones announced “Two explosions, sir.” He paused a moment and grinned. “I can hear it breaking up. Looks like we got her, sir!”
Lee sighed in relief, sagging against the plotting table for support. He closed his eyes for a moment as he felt the sub around him beginning to spin. “Very good,” he finally said. “All ahead one third. We need to make sure she’s dead and pick up that missile. Sparks, what is the status of our communications?”
The radioman looked out from the small radio shack area. “I’m sorry sir, but the array is still nonfunctional. We haven’t been able to send out divers to repair it. We still have no communications.”
Lee fought the heavy weight of exhaustion. “All right as soon as we pick up that missile I want a diving party out there to repair that array as quickly as possible. We need to contact the admiral and let him know what’s going on.” Now he reached down and grabbed the mike. “Master at arms, what is the status of the manhunt.”
“Still no sign of Nash, sir but we’re combing every inch of the sub. We’ll find him.”
“Very good,” Lee acknowledged. He now turned to Lt. O’Brien. “Mr. O’Brien, let me know when we’ve picked up the missile and made all our repairs. I’m going to my cabin for a few moments and then sickbay to check on Mr. Morton. You have the conn.” Mustering all the strength he could, Lee stood erect and strode confidently from the control room. It wouldn’t do to let the men see him falter.
The short trip to his cabin felt as if it was a hundred miles away. Lee’s lower back screamed in pain with every step. In fact, his entire body ached, begging to collapse. He opened the door to his cabin and mechanically pushed it open. He stepped in and staggered to his desk. He was about to collapse into his chair when a sound caught his attention. Turning, he frowned in confusion as he spied Nash standing several feet away, a satchel across his shoulder and a gun held loosely in his hand. He was studying Crane as one might the results of a science experiment.
“Hello, Captain,” Nash said, a slight smile tugging the corners of his thin lips. “Feeling a little under the weather, sir?”
“Nash,” croaked Lee with a weary resignation. “Come here to finish the job? Sorry to say I’ve lost my taste for mushrooms.”
Nash smirked. “Figured it out, did you Captain? Oh well, fat lot of good it’ll do you. As I understand it, poisonous mushrooms don’t have any antidote and looking at you right now, I don’t think you’ve got much time left.” He laughed and shook his head. Then, his face lost all signs of amusement. “I was not happy to hear you managed to destroy our sub. I guess that means you’re about to pick up the missile. This is not good, Captain, not good at all. Now what am I supposed to do? My cover has been blown and I have no way to get off this sub.”
“Well, you could just give yourself up. That would simplify things considerably,” Lee muttered.
‘’Or…” Nash eyed Crane thoughtfully, “You could take me out on the flying sub.”
Lee gave a short scornful laugh. “Do I look like I’m in any shape to fly anything? If what you say is true, I’ve got one foot in the grave. What makes you think I’ll last long enough to get you to wherever it is you want to go?” He swayed drunkenly and grabbed onto his desk chair for support.
“I think you’ll last long enough, Captain,” Nash replied evenly. “You only need to get me to the surface. A “fishing” boat should be in the area monitoring the situation. They’ll pick me up and you can die in peace.” He smiled again. “Yes, I think that’s a fine idea, Captain. We’ll just stroll on down to the observation nose and you can get me out of here. Move.” He jabbed the gun towards the door.
Lee took a deep breath and turned back to the cabin door. He hoped that someone would be passing in the corridor, but all was quiet. Painfully, he shuffled down the hallway towards the spiral staircase leading to the observation nose. He could hear Nash breathing behind him. Quietly, they moved down the stairs and found themselves in the empty observation nose. Lee’s heart sank as he noticed the heavy crash doors firmly shut. They had been closed as a precaution during the attack.
"Sorry Captain," Nash smirked, "Nobody knows you're here. Now open the hatch before you keel over."
Lee attempted to think of a plan as he worked at the hatch cover. He simply couldn’t concentrate. Sweat dripped from his brow and he grunted in pain as his stomach cramped. Slowly he turned the hatch wheel and struggled to lift the heavy cover. In exasperation, Nash pushed him aside and pulled it open. He then shoved Lee into the opening and watched impatiently as Lee tumbled down the ladder and collapsed onto the deck of the flying sub. Nash quickly clambered down after him. Reaching down, he yanked Lee to his feet, propelled him to the captain’s seat and pushed him roughly into it. Buckling the captain in place, he sat himself in the adjoining seat. He pointed the gun at Lee’s head.
“All right, Crane, let’s go.”
“Why should I take you anywhere?” Lee snapped irritably. “What does it matter if you shoot me now or just let me die from the mushrooms? Either way I’m dead.”
Nash shook his head slowly. “Captain, Captain, Captain,” he sighed. “Do you think I wouldn’t have thought of that? I knew you personally wouldn’t have much incentive to help me but what about to save the Seaview?” Lee looked up sharply and watched as Nash pulled a small device from inside his shirt.
“Captain,” said Nash holding up the device. It was about the size of a package of cigarettes. “This is a remote detonator for a bomb I’ve placed aboard the Seaview. Unless you take me to the surface and help me escape, I’ll have no choice but to detonate the explosive. It’s placed in a highly critical area which would undoubtedly send this sub and all hands to the bottom. All because of you. On the other hand, if you do as I ask, I’ll give you the detonator and be on my merry way. It’s a simple as that.”
“All right,” sighed Lee. He had no strength to fight this. He doubted Nash would keep his word, but he was too weak and in pain to argue. He would just have to hope for the best. He could barely form a coherent thought in his muddled brain but he thought he could at least manage to take the flying sub as far as the surface. He winced as another sharp pain shot through his back. Reaching out, he began hitting switches to prepare for departure. He frowned as a warning light blinked incessantly, informing him of a problem in the electrical system. He heard Nash cursing as the man also noticed the light.
“Who wired this damn boat?” snarled Nash ripping off his seat restraints. “Every time I turn around there’s some stupid electrical problem! Alright, Crane, on your feet. You need to fix this.”
Slowly, Lee undid his own harness and awkwardly pushed himself to his feet. Nash was right behind him. As he moved towards the electrical access panel Lee tensed, then hurled himself at Nash reaching for the gun. Nash, thrown off balance, grabbed onto the pilot’s seat then viciously backhanded Crane with the butt of his pistol. In his weakened condition, Lee never had a chance and dropped to the floor in a heap, blood flowing from a cut on his brow. Nash shook his head in disgust, stepped over Crane’s prostrate form and opened the panel himself. He’d just have to take care of it himself. Then he’d rouse that idiot Crane and get the hell out of here. It was just a matter of time.
“Mr. O’Brien!” Sparks called from the radio shack. “We have communications again. Admiral Nelson is calling.” The young lieutenant hurried over and took the microphone. “O’Brien here,” he said tersely.
“Mr. O’Brien?” came Nelson’s impatient voice. “What the blazes is going on down there!?”
O’Brien swallowed nervously and exchanged glances with the radioman. “Sir, we were able to track down the enemy sub and destroy it. We are about to pick up the nuclear warhead they were trying to retrieve.”
Nelson was silent for a moment. “Thank God for that,” he breathed in relief. “Now, where is Captain Crane?”
O’Brien frowned. “After we destroyed the sub, he said he was going to his cabin and then to sickbay to check on Mr. Morton. He gave me the conn and I haven’t heard from him since.”
“How did he look?” Nelson asked quietly.
"It was a simple question Mister. How did he look?"
“Well, actually, not very good, sir,” O’Brien admitted. “He looked quite ill as a matter of fact.”
“All right, Mr. O’Brien. I am on my way to the Seaview right now.” Nelson was all business now. “ETA fifteen minutes. I’ll be aboard a Navy helicopter. The weather has gotten considerably worse but I think we’ll just make it. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir” replied O’Brien with some relief. “We’ll be ready.”
“Good,” said Nelson, “Now patch me through to sickbay. I need to talk with the doc.”
Dr. Jamieson sat at his desk quietly updating Chip’s file. The executive officer was running a slight fever now and Jamieson was keeping a close eye on it. He didn’t want Chip developing any infections. He jumped as the intercom on his desk crackled into life.
“Doc, this is Nelson, do you read me?”
Jamieson reached over and punched the button. “Loud and clear, Admiral. Our communications must be working again.”
“So it would seem,” Nelson replied. “How is Chip?”
Jamieson glanced over at the figure in the bunk across the room. “He took a bullet in the abdomen, Admiral, but he seems to be holding his own.”
“Good.” The relief was obvious in Nelson’s voice. “And Lee?”
Jamieson frowned in confusion. “The skipper? He’s not here right now although he looked terrible when I saw him earlier. He said he had some kind of stomach virus.” Jamieson paused as he remembered Lee’s gray, haggard face. “I personally think it could be something more serious but he wouldn’t come in while the Seaview was under attack. Do you know something I don’t, Admiral?”
“I’m afraid I do, Doc Nelson sighed unhappily, “Lee has been poisoned. Deadly webcap mushrooms.”
“Deadly webcap!” Jamieson exclaimed in alarm. “Admiral, I don’t claim to be an expert on poisonous mushrooms but I know those are among the worst!” He ran his hand across his face as he considered this. “I also don’t believe there are any antidotes for poisonous mushrooms,” he added slowly.
“Well, I may have one,” replied Nelson brusquely “It’s a long story that I don’t have time to go into right now. You need to find Lee and get him into sick bay. Deadly webcap attacks the kidneys and liver. It may help if you can put him on dialysis to relieve the pressure on his kidneys assuming they haven’t stopped working all together. I am on my way to Seaview right now and should be there shortly.”
Jamieson stood up. “I’m on my way.”
The Seaview slowly emerged from the sea as the Navy helicopter circled overhead like a giant bird of prey. The weather had deteriorated dramatically in the last hour and the chopper was barely able to keep airborne. Fighting the ferocious winds and rain, O’Brien hurried topside to greet the admiral as he descended from the aircraft. It took several tries before he was safely on board. A moment later, the helicopter lifted away and soared back into the west. Nelson cursed to himself as it disappeared. He had hoped to send Lee back with them but in this storm, that was impossible.
Unable to be heard over the storm’s roar, the men silently fought their way back into the relative safety of the submarine. Shaking the water from his rain gear, Nelson turned to the young lieutenant. “What’s our status?”
O’Brien panted slightly, trying to catch his breath. “As I reported earlier, we destroyed the enemy sub and were about to retrieve the warhead when you arrived. Nash has yet to be captured but I have several search parties combing the ship.”
“And the Captain?”
O’Brien frowned. “I don’t know sir. He wasn't in Sickbay and he wasn’t in his cabin. I have everyone I can spare doing a full search trying to locate him now. Nash too."
Nelson nodded as they reached their destination. “All right, Mr. O’Brien. Keep searching. We need to get this missile squared away. Now, let’s go get it before something else happens!”
“Sir!” cried Riley turning to O’Brien who had just returned from the missile room. The missile from Silo 75 had been retrieved a short while ago and O’Brien had been supervising the operation. “The flying sub access doors are opening!” O’Brien turned to look through the front nose windows and groaned inwardly as he realized no one had given the order to reopen the crash doors after the attack.
“Open the crash doors!” Nelson barked from his position at the plotting table. “Activate nose cameras!” As the doors slid open, the monitor flickered to life showing the yellow manta-shaped form of the flying sub gracefully arcing away from them. “Sparks, contact the flying sub immediately!”
Nelson hurried over to stand near the radioman as Sparks tried to raise a response from the FS1. “I’m sorry, sir,” Sparks finally said. “The radio is receiving but they simply refuse to answer.”
“It must be Nash, sir” said Sharkey coming to join him, “But he doesn’t know how to handle the flying sub.”
“Well, whoever is at the controls obviously does,” mused Nelson. Sharkey nodded as they watched the sub disappear.
“Admiral?” Nelson looked around as Jamieson stepped into the control room. The doctor glanced around quickly. “Any word on the skipper? I’m getting very worried.”
Nelson suddenly felt ill as he turned and stared at the front viewports where the flying sub had been visible just moments ago. He turned to look at Sharkey whose horror-stricken face mirrored his own. “Sir!” choked Sharkey barely able to get the words out, “Surely you don’t think…”
“That Nash kidnapped the skipper and is making him fly the FS1?”
“What!” Jamieson cried in shock turning to look out the windows. “The skipper is in the flying sub?”
“Well, I very much doubt Nash could pilot her himself,” replied Nelson, “And since Crane is missing, it's the logical answer."
“This is terrible!” said Jamieson beginning to pace as his agitation grew. “If we don’t treat him immediately, that poison will kill him!”
“Poison?” asked Sharkey in alarm.
Jamieson hesitated as the rest of the control room crew turned to gape at the doctor. He sighed, exchanging looks with Nelson who gave a slight nod. “Yes. I’m afraid so.”
Sharkey stared at Jamieson. He was numb with shock. He could hear the crew around him muttering in low, urgent voices.
“Yes, poisoned,” repeated Nelson impatiently. “ I’ve got an antidote that might help but only if we can get him back here immediately for treatment!” He turned back to Sparks. “Try contacting the flying sub again. Maybe they’ll answer this time.”
Sparks nodded and reconfirmed his settings. “Seaview to FS1. Seaview to FS1. Please come in FS1.” He paused, listening for a response. The entire control room waited. Sparks shook his head in frustration. “Seaview to FS1. Seaview to FS1. Captain Crane, if you can hear me, please acknowledge.”
“Seaview, this is FS1. Sorry for the unexpected departure, but I’m sure you understand.” Nash’s voice was confident and relaxed.
“Nash!” replied Nelson angrily, “What do you think you’re doing? Is Captain Crane with you?”
Nash could be heard to chuckle. “What I’m doing should be fairly obvious, Admiral. I’m escaping! And yes, the Captain is here. I’d put him on but I’m afraid he needs all his powers of concentration to keep this thing moving. I’d hate to distract him in his current condition.”
“Nash,” said Jamieson stepping closer to Nelson. “Captain Crane is very ill! He needs immediate attention. Please let him return!”
Nash laughed again. “I think I understand the captain’s condition better than anyone, Doc, seeing how I’m the one that poisoned him! I just need him alive long enough to get me to safety. Besides, there’s nothing you can do for him anyway. He might as well be doing something useful in his last hours!”
“Mr. O’Brien!” called Riley again. “Sonar shows a surface vessel heading this way on vector two seven zero. Looks like a fishing vessel of some sort.” He studied the screen a moment more. “It appears to be on an intercept course with the flying sub.”
“Must be Nash’s getaway vehicle,” muttered Sharkey angrily.
Nelson scowled in frustration. What could he do? He couldn’t very well blast the flying sub out of the water, especially with Lee on board. Although capturing Nash would be ideal, the main goal was to get Crane back safe and sound. He activated the mike once more. “Nash, a boat is headed your way. I assume it’s for you?”
There were a few minutes of silence before Nash came back on. The man just couldn’t resist the temptation to goad the Seaview crew. “Right you are, Admiral! Right on schedule, too. Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering just what are my plans, eh? Well under other circumstances, the good captain would accompany me. I know my bosses would love to have the opportunity to ask the captain of the famous Seaview a few questions but frankly, given his current state I see little point in dragging him along. He’ll be dead long before I’d get him home.” He paused again. “I would also love to bring the flying sub back with me. I can think of quite a few people who’d pay plenty to get their hands on this little beauty! Sadly, I can’t fly it and my rescuers don’t have any way to take it along, so I guess it’ll have to stay too. Now, the question is, do I destroy it or let you retrieve it along with your soon to be late commander? I have a nice little explosive all ready to go right here. ”
“Nash!” spat Nelson furiously “You know you can’t get away. We know where you’re headed and we can easily follow you.”
“Admiral Nelson,” laughed Nash, “If you do that, I will be forced to detonate the bomb I have placed on board the Seaview.” His tone turned deadly serious. “Listen to me, Nelson. I can destroy both the Seaview and the flying sub. And that’s exactly what I’ll do unless you let me and my escape vessel go unharmed. Do I make myself clear?”
Nelson and Sharkey exchanged glances. This was not good.
Chip slowly opened his eyes. He blinked as he tried to focus on his surroundings. Ah, yes. Sickbay. So, at least he wasn’t dead. That was good. He tried to move and grunted in pain as he became aware of the wound in his abdomen. Nash. That son of a bitch had shot him! Chip reached up and rubbed his head trying to remember exactly what had happened. Nash had been sabotaging the circuitry room! Chip frowned as another image of Nash came to him. An image of Nash in the reactor room. Could he have been doing something in there as well? One more memory surfaced from his encounter with Nash in the circuitry room. The man had implied he had done something to Lee. Poisoned him perhaps? Anxiously, Chip looked around hoping to see Dr. Jamieson nearby but at the moment the room was empty. Chip was alone. Biting back a cry of pain, Chip struggled to sit up. It wasn’t easy. His head began to swim and breaking out into a cold sweat, he collapsed back against his pillow. He had to tell someone what Nash had been up to! He closed his eyes to think but his body, still healing from the serious trauma it has sustained, had other ideas and Chip slid back into unconsciousness once more.
Nash set the mike back into its cradle and glanced at his pilot. He shook his head. He was beginning to wonder if Crane would last long enough for them to reach the fishing boat after all. Crane’s face was a sickly gray, his eyes sunken in deep cavernous shadows. The bruising and blood completed the image of a man on his last legs. He was breathing hard and Nash could tell the captain was in pain. But, he had to give Crane credit. That man was positively stoic about it. Other than a few involuntary gasps, he hadn’t given any indication of the agony he must be in. But, Nash knew he couldn’t keep it up. Crane was wracked with violent bouts of shivering and his body was soaked in sweat. Nash figured it was the captain’s sheer determination to safeguard the Seaview that kept him from collapsing.
Nash checked his watch. It should only be another 15 minutes before they reached the boat. He was concerned about the weather. A strong tropical storm was directly overhead but according to his calculations he should meet up with his boat within the eye. As he stared through the front viewport, he fingered the detonator in his pocket. He wasn’t sure his superiors would appreciate him destroying the Seaview without specific orders to do so although he was fully aware of numerous previous attempts made to annihilate the nuclear sub. If he needed to, he wouldn’t hesitate to push the button. He glanced again at Crane. The captain was fully focused on his job of controlling the flying sub and seemed oblivious to events around him.
If I destroy the flying sub with Crane aboard, I’d probably be doing him a favor, he thought absently. He considered this, studying the captain more carefully. He noticed a distinctive yellow tinge to Crane’s skin now and his face and hands were obviously swollen. Liver must be starting fail along with his kidneys. Yep, killing him quickly would definitely be the humanitarian thing to do! He chuckled softly to himself.
Crane looked at him, meeting his gaze. “Planning on blowing me up too, Nash?” he rasped as if reading his captor’s thoughts. Nash almost winced at Crane’s rough, pain-filled voice.
“Well, to be honest, Crane,” Nash replied casually, “I was giving it some serious thought. I figured I would be doing you a favor. Put you out of your misery so to speak. As I told you before, there is no cure for mushroom poisoning. You’ve only got hours to live by the look of you. So, I could make your death quick and painless or you can drag it out, hour by agonizing hour. Personally, I just hope you survive long enough to get me to my destination.”
Lee gave a short bark of laughter. “I think I’d rather take my chances with Mother Nature if you don’t mind.” He broke off with an anguished bout of coughing. He closed his eyes for a few minutes fighting for breath.
Nash sighed and leaned back in his seat with a shrug. “Well, we’ll see, Captain. You’ll die one way or the other. Just get me to that boat before you do or it won’t be just you that passes over the Great Divide.”
Lee glared at him but had no further strength to argue. Wiping sweat from his face he checked his coordinates once more. At least he had managed to keep them on course. He knew he didn’t have much longer. The shivering was becoming more intense and difficult to control. He wouldn’t be surprised if he moved into convulsions before too long. His vision also seemed to be fading in and out making it difficult for him to read the gauges and dials. I guess the cavalry won’t be arriving at the last minute to rescue me, Lee thought sadly. Not this time.
Nelson looked at the expectant faces around him. Dr. Jamieson appeared more agitated than ever. The admiral turned to Sparks once more. “See if you can raise the flying sub again.”
Sparks nodded and in a few moments Nash responded. “FS1 here. What can I do for you, Nelson?”
Nelson took a deep breath. “All right Nash, we’re going to allow you to leave unhindered. All we ask is that you release Captain Crane safe and sound and reveal the location of the bomb.”
Nash laughed. “No can do, Nelson. At least not yet. That bomb is my insurance policy and there is no way I’m giving that up! And you know the good captain stays with me until I’m safely away.”
Nelson turned to Riley. “How much longer before they reach that fishing boat?”
“Approximately seven minutes, sir.”
Nelson clicked the mike once more. “All right, Nash. We’ll wait. But then you must release the Captain or we’ll blow you and that boat out of the water.” He disconnected and turned to the chief. “Find out what’s going on with that bomb squad. We’ve got to find that explosive before Nash’s rendezvous with that boat!”
“Aye aye, sir!”
Jamieson looked defeated. “I’d better get back down to sickbay and check on Mr. Morton,” he sighed. “Let me know if anything changes concerning the captain.” Nelson nodded and watched Jamieson as he strode from the control room.
The doctor reached sickbay a few minutes later to find Chip once again struggling to sit up. Frank was valiantly trying to convince him to lie back down with little success. “Sir! If you get up, you could start bleeding again! This is a very serious injury!”
“I have got to talk to the captain!” panted Chip fighting to stand. “It’s absolutely vital!”
“But Mr. Morton!” began Frank desperately trying to control his charge, “Please!”
Frustrated with his body’s failure to respond, Chip snarled angrily at the hapless corpsman. “I need to talk to the captain! NOW!”
“Mr. Morton!” chided Jamieson hurrying forward. “You need to lie down immediately! You are in no shape to go anywhere!”
“Doc!” cried Morton in relief. He collapsed back onto his bunk and reached for Jamieson’s arm. “Doc, I need to talk to Lee immediately. I need to tell him about Nash! He’s the saboteur!”
Jamieson looked decidedly unhappy as he struggled to decide just how much to tell Chip. Finally, confident that only the truth would work, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We know about Nash. And…” he hesitated, “the captain isn’t on board the Seaview. He was kidnapped by Nash to pilot the flying sub.”
Chip blinked in confusion then erupted in pent-up anger. “What!? But Lee…Nash told me he’d done something to Lee. Poisoned him or something. Now he’s making him fly the flying sub?”
“Mr. Morton!” replied Jamieson firmly, “If you don’t lie back down and relax, I’m going to have to give you something to knock you out. Look. You’ve started bleeding again!”
Distractedly, Chip glanced down at the growing crimson stain blossoming across his hospital tunic. “But, Doc,” he said weakly, grimacing with pain, “who’s in charge? Bobby? I need to talk to him!”
Jamieson stood undecided. Chip’s wound needed immediate attention but short of knocking the man out, he knew Chip wouldn’t settle down until he’d spoke to someone in charge. Chip’s ragged breathing and his wild, desperate expression finally convinced the doctor to make the call. “It’s all right, Chip,” he soothed, “The admiral just returned and has the situation in hand but I’ll call him down. Now, you need to relax and let me tend that wound. All right?”
Unable to speak, Chip closed his eyes and nodded. He could feel the darkness gathering at the edge of his consciousness but he couldn’t let it in until he’d spoken to the admiral. The safety of the Seaview depended on it.
A few moments later, a harried Nelson hurried into sickbay. Jamieson turned from Chip’s bunk to meet him. “Mr. Morton was adamant that he talk to you immediately. I felt it must be important or I wouldn’t have called you down given the current situation.”
“OK, Doc,” said the admiral, “Thanks.” He stepped to Chip’s bunk and frowned at the blood soaked tunic. “Chip?”
Chip opened his eyes and smiled briefly with relief. “Admiral. I know you know Nash is the saboteur and what he’s done to Lee, but I think he may have done more damage here than we know.” He stopped and had to take several deep, shuddering breaths. His strength was rapidly failing. “I found him doing something with the reactor control console earlier. I thought he was repairing the thermostat but now… I’m not so sure.” He closed his eyes and with his last breath before losing consciousness whispered, “Check the reactor room.”
Nelson turned and exchanged shocked looks with the doctor. Could it be the bomb? Quickly the admiral snatched up the intercom mike and punched the button. “Chief! I think the bomb might be in the reactor room control panel! Get over there on the double!”
“We’re on it!” Sharkey replied and Nelson’s shoulders slumped in exhaustion.
“I hope Chip’s right,” muttered Nelson checking his watch. Nash should be reaching the boat in just a couple more minutes. He took a look back at Chip. The doctor was with him again tending the wound. Nelson uttered a silent thanks to the stricken exec and hurried back to the control room.
Lee gripped the flying sub’s controls with white knuckles. He was afraid he would pass out if he couldn’t stay totally focused on the job at hand. Distantly, he could hear Nash speaking to someone on the radio. It was obvious he wasn’t speaking English so Lee assumed he was speaking to the people on the boat they were meeting. All he wanted was for this trip to be over. At this point, he hardly cared if Nash blew him into a million little bits. Well, no, that wasn’t true. He did care. It infuriated him to think this jerk might get away with what he’d done.
“Well, Crane,” Nash said turning to his gray-faced pilot. “Looks like our little voyage is about over. The boat is waiting for us dead ahead. All you need to do is surface close enough for me to get aboard. Once I’m safe, your job is done.”
“I let you go, of course! Just as I promised!” He glanced back at the satchel he had brought with him when they’d escaped. He fingered the detonator in his pocket and smiled to himself. “Just as I promised!”
Lee brought the flying sub to the surface where a small fishing boat could be seen directly ahead. Clumsily, he maneuvered the flying sub closer to their destination. The seas were choppy but within the eye of the storm, their violence was tempered. When he got as close as he dared, Lee cut the engines, allowing the craft to float on the surface then, with a low moan, he slumped forward in his seat and was still.
Nash gazed at Crane as he prepared to ascend the ladder to the upper hatch. “Well Captain, I thank you for getting me here. I’d say till we meet again, but that’s very unlikely under the circumstances.” Before leaving he paused, picked up the black satchel and studied it thoughtfully. His eyes flicked to Crane’s still form. Perhaps it would be better to make sure the bomb was safely out of the captain’s reach. Nash quickly removed the package of explosives and glanced around the flying sub’s interior. Striding to an access panel into the craft’s engines, he swiftly unscrewed the panel and firmly jammed the bomb deep into a space within the mechanism. Stepping back, he replaced the panel, making sure he screwed it in tightly. He then turned back to the captain with a smug grin. “A little good-bye gift for you, Captain, although I doubt you’ll appreciate it!” He tossed the detonator into the air and deftly caught it, placing it back in his pocket as he picked up a nearby life vest. With a last glance at the figure in the pilot’s seat, Nash scrambled up the ladder and was gone.
Lee waited a few moments before slowly lifting his head. He looked around and then fought to unbuckle himself from his harness. His swollen, trembling hands seemed unwilling to follow his commands. With a gasp of pain, he pulled himself out of the seat and stumbled to the engine access panel. Trying in vain to remove the panel he pounded on it in frustration when it refused to budge. He was out of time. Quickly he turned to the supply cabinet behind him. Flinging open the door, he pulled out a single scuba tank, one kept in the sub for emergencies. There was no time to don a wetsuit, not that he could have found the strength to do so, but he refused to let that son of a bitch blow him up! If he was to die now, he’d do it on his own terms, in the embrace of his beloved sea. Not at the hands of someone like Nash.
Struggling to don the tank, Lee collapsed to his knees by the hatch in the floor. His head was swimming and he felt the strength draining from his limbs. With all the will he could muster, he forced one hand then the other onto the wheel and turned. It didn’t budge. Lee panted in pain and frustration as he tried again, pushing with one hand and pulling desperately with the other. Finally, bit by bit, he could feel it start to move. But would it be enough?
Nash greeted the crew of the fishing boat as they pulled him from the rough sea. Turning to the captain, Nash commanded him to move the boat as quickly as possible away from the flying sub. With a throaty roar of the engines, the boat surged ahead rapidly leaving the small yellow craft in its wake.
“Sir,” reported O’Brien as Nelson strode into the control room. “Sonar reports that the flying sub has just reached its rendezvous with the surface vessel.”
Nelson grabbed the intercom. “Chief!” he barked, “Have you found that bomb?”
“No sir, not yet. We’re taking apart the console right now.” The intercom fell silent and Nelson gripped the mike even more tightly than before.
“Sir!” Sharkey’s voice was excited. “We found it! It looks pretty complicated though.”
“Take it to the torpedo room and fire it out one of the tubes! Hurry – the flying sub has just reached its rendezvous!”
“Aye aye, sir!”
The tension in the control room grew with every passing moment. Men silently wiped sweat from their faces as they waited. Would Sharkey get rid of that bomb in time or would Nash send them to the bottom?
“Sir!” Riley’s voice sounded across the room. “Torpedo tube number one has been fired.”
After a few minutes, Nash deemed the distance adequate and then slowly, deliberately pushed first one button and then the second. He grinned widely as he waited for the explosions he knew were soon to come.
The words were no sooner out of Riley’s mouth than the Seaview was rocked by a powerful explosion. Men were thrown across the control room by the concussive force, sending them careening into the equipment and each other. They had ejected the bomb in the nick of time.
Riley, rubbing his throbbing head, quickly scrambled back into his seat in front of the sonar screen looking for the two points he knew to be there. Yes, there was the boat. It was moving away rapidly and yes, there was … Riley froze as he watched the flying sub wink out of existence and disappear from his screen.
“Admiral Nelson,” he choked still staring uncomprehendingly at green glow of the sonar grid. “Sir, it’s…it’s gone! The flying sub! It’s gone!”
Nelson limped to the young sonar man’s side and frantically searched the screen for the second blip, for the distinctive shape of the flying sub. It was nowhere to be found.
“Admiral Nelson, sir,” Patterson said slowly. “I’m picking up sounds of a second explosion.” He looked up. “The coordinates match those of the flying sub.” The room went completely still as all the men turned to stare at the admiral.
Nelson’s face was white. “Helmsman,” he said in a hushed voice. “Set coordinates for the last location of the flying sub.”
“Aye aye, sir.” Silently, the men turned back to their duties but their minds were with their captain.
As if in a dream, Nelson slowly made his way to the observation nose. Lee couldn’t be dead! Perhaps Nash had taken him on board the ship after all. Perhaps. The admiral sank into one of the seats near the front view ports and stared blankly into the cold blackness of the sea.
“Sir?” Nelson turned reluctantly to see Chief Sharkey standing uneasily before him. The man’s face was stricken. ‘Is…is it true? The flying sub’s been destroyed?”
Nelson sighed wearily. “Yes Chief, I’m afraid it has.”
Sharkey dropped his eyes and swallowed. “And…the skipper?”
Nelson was silent. He looked back out into the sea. “I don’t know, Chief. All we can do is assume the worst.”
“I see.” Sharkey blinked rapidly and looked away. He had seen the skipper beat death so many times it didn’t seem conceivable that he should lose now.
Nelson’s jaw tightened with anger. “Once we’ve searched for remains of the flying sub,” his voice hardened, “we’ll go after Nash.”
As the Seaview approached the last coordinates of the flying sub, she slowed and gently nosed her way forward. With a pang of sorrow, Nelson noted numerous twisted pieces of charred canary yellow metal along with other debris floating silently past as they made their slow descent to the bottom. It was all that was left of the flying sub. Nelson’s head dropped as he forced himself to accept the obvious. There was no possible way for Lee to have survived that explosion. He glanced at the Chief standing beside him. The man’s face was a study in grief. Nelson smiled sadly to himself. Sharkey was one of the most caring men he knew and he took every casualty very hard. The captain’s death would be especially difficult for him.
Suddenly, Sharkey stepped forward thrusting his face close to the viewport as he peered intently outward. “Admiral!” he gasped pointing, “Look!”
Puzzled, Nelson joined the Chief following his gaze. His eyes widened in disbelief. He stared for a second more then whirled around. “Mr. O’Brien! Get some divers out there on the double! It looks like Captain Crane!”
His mouth open in shock, Sharkey continued to gape at the khaki-clad figure lying lifelessly on a ledge of rock a few yards away, partially buried by pieces of debris. It certainly looked like the skipper. He was wearing a single scuba tank and slow, sporadic streams of bubbles gently ascended from the breathing apparatus.
“Bubbles!” Sharkey exclaimed softly. The captain was alive.
A few minutes later two divers had reached him and cleared away the pieces of wreckage “He looks pretty banged up,” announced Kowaski as they began the return trip to Seaview, “but he’s alive!”
Nelson quickly clicked on the intercom. “Doc! We’ve found Lee and he’s alive. Kowalski is bringing him in now.”
Jamieson responded immediately. “I’m on my way!”
Moments later, Nelson and Sharkey hurried into the missile room followed by Jamieson, his two corpsmen and a stretcher. They waited impatiently as the water drained from the escape hatch. As soon as it was clear, Sharkey leaped forward and began frantically twisting the wheel to open the hatch. Kowalski stepped out first, supporting Crane with the help of Patterson behind.
“Come on you guys,” snapped Sharkey, “Get the Skipper out of that gear!” Several pairs of hands peeled the tank from the Skipper’s back and then gently laid him down on the stretcher. Nelson stepped forward as Jamieson crouched beside the captain. Lee’s face was badly bruised and blood flowed freely from a deep gash in his head. He stood, nodded to his men and in a moment, Crane was swept off to sickbay.
As Jamieson ordered an IV prepared, Nelson reached into his pocket and handed the doctor the two vials. “Vandergriff said to administer the first vial through an IV and then the second one twelve hours later.
Jamieson took the vials and studied them. Exchanging glances with the admiral he nodded and carefully injected the contents of the first vial into the IV port. He sighed. “Well, that’s done.” He studied the captain’s bloodied face. “Now, I’d better find out what the damage is.”
Nelson stood silently nearby absently pulling at his collar. “Is there anything I can do, Doc?”
“I don’t think so, Admiral. I can let you know his condition as soon as I’ve done my evaluation.”
Nelson and Sharkey exchanged glances. They knew when they weren’t needed. “All right, Doc,” said Nelson taking a last look at his friend’s unmoving form. “I’ll be in my cabin when you know something. Come on, Chief. Let’s let the doc do his job.” Sharkey nodded and glumly followed the admiral out of sickbay.
Once the admiral and Sharkey had gone, Jamieson turned to Frank. “All right, let’s see what we’ve got.” Quickly and efficiently, like a well-tuned machine, the two men stripped Crane out of his sodden uniform. Jamieson winced at the ugly black and blue bruising covering a large portion of the captain’s chest and side. While Frank began taking blood samples, Jamieson soon discovered a number of the captain’s ribs had been broken and cracked. He cleaned and examined the gash in Lee’s head. It was deep and would require a number of stitches. Jamieson was sure the captain also had at least a concussion. As Frank finished drawing blood, Jamieson turned to him. “Get that tested for renal function immediately.” Jamieson sighed and got down to work.
It seemed as if time had slowed to a crawl for Admiral Nelson. He had initially ordered the sub to follow the small boat with Nash but as they still had many more missiles to tend to Nelson reluctantly ordered O’Brien to resume their original mission. He’d go after Nash another day. Now, he waited for information from sickbay. It had been at least a couple of hours since they had picked up Crane and still no word. Nelson was finding it very hard to concentrate. He stood up and paced his claustrophobic cabin restlessly. Finally, unable to wait any longer he strode from the cabin and headed to sickbay.
He found Jamieson finishing setting Lee’s shoulder. It had been broken during the explosion. The doctor looked up as Nelson slowly approached. “How is he, Doc?”
Jamieson sighed wearily. “Well, Admiral, he’s still alive. That’s about the best news I can offer you at this time. He’s sustained a variety of injuries from the explosion but given time, should recover from those. However, he is suffering from acute renal failure. His blood chemistry is a mess; his creatine levels are through the roof and as you can see, he has retained a massive amount of fluid and has developed jaundice.” Nelson frowned as he noticed Crane’s swollen arms and hands and the yellow tint of his skin.
“His kidneys have completely shut down and his liver is failing,” replied Jamieson grimly. He indicated a tube in the captain’s abdomen. “I’ve started him on dialysis. Obviously, we’re not set up for doing that long term but hopefully it will prevent further damage until that antidote kicks in.” He paused, shaking his head. “If it kicks in. We’re assuming Vandergriff was telling you the truth. If it doesn’t work, then his only hope is an immediate kidney transplant. Admiral, we need to get both the captain and Mr. Morton into a hospital. I’d feel better if we were on our way to Pearl Harbor.”
Nelson looked unhappy. “Doc, you know that normally I’d just take them out on the flying sub but since that’s not an option and the weather is too rough for any other choppers to reach us, we’ve got a problem. Vandergriff could possibly the reveal the locations of other missile silos which means we have got to get those firing mechanisms replaced immediately. As long as they have the ability to fire those missiles, we’re all at risk. We have no choice but to continue our mission.”
Jamieson remained silent as he continued with his task of wrapping Crane’s shoulder. When he’d finished, he stepped back and met the Admiral’s gaze. “I’ll do what I can for both of them, Admiral. Let’s just hope that antidote is the real thing. Otherwise, there’s nothing else I can do for the skipper. He’ll be dead by tomorrow.”
A fleeting look of anguish passed over Nelson’s face, then he nodded. “I understand, Doc. Under almost any other circumstances we’d be on our way to Hawaii but our nation’s security is at risk until we take care of the rest of those missiles.” He ran his hand through his hair as he gazed sadly at Lee’s battered figure. He then looked over to the still unconscious Chip. With a heavy sigh he turned and headed out of sick bay. Without turning he said, “I’ll be in my cabin if anything changes.” Then he was gone.
Jamieson’s sickbay vigil seemed interminable as he waited for the twelve hours to pass before he could administer the second dose of the antidote. Although not as rapidly, Crane’s vital functions continued to decline and Jamieson prayed the captain would stay alive long enough to receive the second dose. Wearily, he rested his head on his desk and closed his eyes. The next thing he knew, Frank was shaking him gently by the shoulder. “Sir,” the corpsman said quietly, “It’s time.”
Jamieson slowly lifted his head and rubbed his eyes. Blinking against the light, he stood up and approached the captain. “Any changes?”
Frank shook his head. “No, sir. His creatine levels are still rising, although a bit more slowly and his liver function continues to decline. The same as before.”
Jamieson nodded then opened the cabinet where the antidote was stored. “This is his last chance,” he sighed filling a syringe with the pale liquid. “Let’s just hope it’s the real thing.” With that, he injected the liquid into the captain’s IV port. The response was immediate. With no warning, Crane’s body instantly contorted as a convulsive spasm tore through it. Several more violent spasms almost sent Crane careening from the gurney and it was all Jamieson and Frank could do to hold him in place. Bucking beneath their combined weight, Crane continued to convulse uncontrollably. The two men struggled to keep Lee anchored in the throes of the violent convulsion as gradually, the spasms grew weaker and weaker until finally they ceased. Panting, Frank stood erect releasing his hold on the captain, ready to jump back in if necessary. Donning his stethoscope, Jamieson listened to Lee’s racing heart frowning at its uneven rhythm. He shook his head as he removed the earpieces. “I don’t know if that reaction was good or bad. We’d better put on the restraints just in case it happens again.”
Frank nodded and together they securely strapped the captain to the gurney. “Do you want me to take another blood sample, Doc?” Frank asked as he tightened the final strap.
Jamieson thought for a moment. “No, we’ll wait awhile and give the antidote time to work. I have no idea how long this is supposed to take but I’m sure it’ll be awhile before we see any positive change.”
It was several hours after Jamieson administered the second dose before Nelson was finally able to break away to check on Lee and Chip. He was pleased to see Chip was conscious and eating what appeared to be broth. The exec didn’t look particularly enthused. “How are you feeling, Chip?” Nelson asked, approaching Chip’s bunk.
“I’ll live, Admiral,” replied Chip as he set down his spoon and eyed his bowl forlornly. “and maybe when Doc says I can have something beside beef broth and jello it’ll seem worth it!”
Nelson laughed and patted him on the shoulder. “I’m sure it won’t be long.” He turned to greet Jamieson. The doctor looked completely drained “Doc?” Nelson hesitated to say more, afraid of the answer.
Jamieson gave the admiral a weary smile as he led Nelson to the gurney where Lee still lay still loosely bound by restraints. Nelson was quick to note that his color looked better and he didn’t look quite a swollen. He turned to Jamieson, a question in his eyes. “The antidote worked, Admiral,” Jamieson said softly. “I wasn’t sure he was going to make it when we gave him the second dose and he had such a strong reaction to it, but over the past few hours there has been a definite improvement in his liver and kidney function. We won’t know for some time if there has been any long term damage but right now, I’d say his prognosis is good.”
“Thank God,” breathed Nelson with a relieved sigh. He had been very worried about both his senior officers and couldn’t bear the thought of losing either one.
It was early the next morning when Lee finally regained consciousness. He could feel an odd pressure on his arm and it took him a moment before he realized someone was checking his blood pressure. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking to try and bring the figure before him into focus. “Good morning, sir!” Lee thought a moment. It was Frank.
“Frank?” Lee rasped hoarsely. His mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton balls.
“Yes sir,” the corpsman replied with a smile. “Here, Skipper, drink this. It’ll help.” Lee could feel his head being gently lifted and a cup being held to his lips. He drank eagerly. “Not too fast, Captain!”
With a contented sigh, Lee relaxed back onto his pillow. “Skipper?” Another voice. Lee opened his eyes again to see Jamieson smiling down at him. “Welcome back, Captain. How do you feel?”
Lee had to think about this a moment as he took inventory. “Sort of like I’ve been beaten with a baseball bat then run over by a truck.”
Jamieson laughed. “That’s about right. You’ll be happy to know that the admiral was able to get us the antidote to the mushroom poison in time. I imagine you’ll feel lousy for awhile longer but we were able to stop the damage to your kidneys and liver. I’m afraid the rest of your injuries,” and here Lee became more aware of his painful, bandaged head, shoulder and abdomen, “were the result of the flying sub explosion.”
Lee groaned softly as the memory of escaping the flying sub rushed back to him. He wasn’t sure how he’s found the strength to open to escape hatch but the last thing he remembered was slipping into the water. His eyes snapped open. “Nash? The bomb?”
“It’s all right, Lee!” Lee turned his head to see Admiral Nelson striding towards him grinning. “Chip remembered seeing Nash in the reactor room and that led us to the bomb just in the nick of time. I’m sorry to say that Nash escaped but at least Seaview was spared.” Now the admiral’s face was grim. “I honestly thought we’d lost you when the flying sub exploded,” he said quietly. “I couldn’t believe it when Sharkey spotted you on that ledge! I thought the Chief was going to jump right through the viewport to retrieve you!” He laughed, laying a hand on Lee’s uninjured shoulder. “I’m just glad you’re alive!”
“That makes two of us, Admiral,” smiled Lee weakly. He frowned. “What about Chip? Is he…”
“I’m doing great, buddy,” came a voice nearby. Lee turned his head to see Chip propped up in an adjacent bunk smiling. Lee grinned back in relief. “Few more days and Doc says I can leave!”
“I said we’d see, Mr. Morton!” said Jamieson shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
Lee closed his eyes again, feeling himself drifting back into sleep when another thought hit him. He looked at Nelson. “Admiral?” he began hesitantly. “You didn’t actually give Vandergriff the blueprints to the flying sub…did you?”
Nelson coughed guiltily and then smiled. “I did, in fact, give him blueprints to the flying sub.”
“Admiral!” exclaimed Lee fighting vainly to sit up, “You couldn’t! That man is insane!”
“Lee!” cried Nelson gently pushing him back on the bunk. “Don’t worry. Yes, I did give him blueprints. I gave him the plans for FS-P1.”
Lee’s eyes widened in surprise. “The first flying sub prototype? But didn’t that…” He trailed off then began to laugh weakly as both Chip and the Admiral joined in.
Puzzled, Jamieson stared at the three of them. “Is that funny?”
Nelson, still chuckling, turned to the doctor. “The first flying sub prototype was a disaster. On paper, it looked perfect but after we attempted to fly it, it got about ten feet above the water and exploded! Thankfully, we were testing it unmanned. It took weeks to finally track down the calculation and design errors that lead to the defect. We ended up having to totally revamp the entire thing. Those plans are useless. With any luck, Vandergriff won’t see the problems either and he’ll blow himself up the first time he tries to fly it!”
This time, Jamieson joined in. In the adjacent room, Frank listened to the ship’s senior officers laughter as he put away supplies. He smiled to himself. Yes, things were going to be all right.
*A Slave to Duty by Ellen Reed available at http://www.teelajones.us/uw/preslave.html