Author’s note: The story below is an extensive rewrite of the first story I ever submitted to a zine( Silent Running 3) back in 1998. My grateful thanks, as always, to Lill whose patient advice ensured that I rewrote the rewrite!
Lieutenant-Commander Christopher-Chip-Morton turned restlessly on to his back and thrust his hands beneath his blond hair his long fingers linked together cushioning his head. Staring tiredly into the darkness of his private cabin he allowed a frustrated sigh to escape as he pondered the reasons for his wakefulness when his whole body longed for the peaceful oblivion of a good night’s sleep.
been a long hellish day and the reason he couldn’t sleep was because he had yet
to come to terms with what had happened in the last twenty-four hours. It had
started out so normally. After a five day cruise to check out some new systems Seaview had docked in
With a heavy sigh Chip fought to control the wave of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him as he allowed his mind to replay the subsequent events of that afternoon: the unexpected call from Admiral Nelson, the order to take the call in the privacy of his cabin, the unbelievable shock that John Phillips had been killed and the expectation that he would break this upsetting news to the crew. Looking back Chip realized that he had gone on to autopilot for the rest of the day. Although he had choked once or twice on his words when he relayed the news to the crew he had managed to fulfil all his duties in his usual calm and efficient manner while burying his own feelings beneath a mask of rigid control. No wonder he couldn’t sleep! Alone with his thoughts he was finding it impossible to close his exhausted mind to the reality of John’s death. It had been so sudden, so unexpected and so unfair! John had been so proud of Seaview; he had been enjoying the new challenge in his career and he’d been too young to die.
Pulling his right hand out from beneath his head Chip wiped angrily at the moisture that seeped out from beneath his closed eyelids before rolling on to his stomach and punching vigorously at his pillows. Then, suddenly aware that he wasn’t going to find solace in sleep, he rolled on to his left side and threw his long legs over the side of his bunk. Pulling himself into a sitting position he rested his elbows on his pyjama clad knees and rubbed at his face with his hands, feeling the dampness on his cheeks and the roughness of his unshaven chin. Glancing at the luminous hands of his watch he saw that he’d been tossing and turning now for more than three hours. It was obvious that he needed something to take his mind of John’s death; something like work.
Deciding that it wouldn’t do any harm to check that the boat was ready to sail whenever the Admiral arrived back Chip stood up, stretched his arms above his head and padded on bare feet to the head. Turning the shower on full and, shedding his pyjama bottoms, he stepped under the heavy spray lifting his face to the refreshing feel of the hot water. As he continued his shower he allowed his tired mind to dwell on another pressing problem: who was going to command Seaview on her forthcoming mission? Right now he was in command but he had the sense to know that it was only temporary and he suspected that whatever was going on behind the scenes was extremely serious and that the Admiral may well want someone more qualified in charge. That didn’t exactly bother him. Sure, he knew he had the knowledge to command but he didn’t have the experience and he didn’t relish the idea of gaining it at this point in time. He knew that the Navy was full of very competent captains who would give anything for such a prestigious appointment but he also knew that the Admiral wouldn’t appoint just anyone. It had to be someone special, someone who would have a feel for the uniqueness of the boat and her exceptional, hand-picked crew. As he stepped from the shower and reached for a towel Chip realized that it was unlikely an appropriate candidate could be appointed at short notice and that, in reality, they were probably looking at a temporary appointment in which case the responsibility could fall to him. Rubbing his blond hair dry he reflected that he‘d better get himself sorted out as he reached for his razor. The Admiral wasn’t going to be too pleased with him if he was too tired to do his job properly. Soon as he was shaved and dressed, he’d take a tour of the boat, update the log, and catch an early breakfast. Maybe then he would be able to snatch a few hours sleep!
By the time the Admiral called again Chip was beginning to feel more than a little frustrated. The boat was ready to sail and he’d managed to snatch a few hours’ sleep but he had no idea when they were due to leave and the crew were getting edgy. Refused permission to go ashore, they had too much time to reflect on the loss of their Skipper while speculating on who had killed him and why. As Chip didn’t really know anymore than they did he couldn’t answer their inevitable questions and he had begun to share the sense of unease that was permeating the entire boat.
trying to concentrate on a report about the latest upgrading of the boat’s
computers when the intercom buzzed and
“Chip! Is everything okay there?” Nelson sounded both tired and anxious.
“Everything’s fine, sir,” Chip reported reassuringly. “We’re ready to sail whenever you give the order.”
“Good,” Nelson sounded both relieved and pleased. “Now listen carefully, Chip. This next mission is vitally important so please double check everything and be prepared to load some more cargo when I arrive back.”
“What sort of cargo, sir?”
“I can’t tell you,” Nelson sounded apologetic, “but trust me, it’s important. I’m bringing a guest back with me so you better have a guest cabin prepared. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir; perfectly clear. Do you know what time you’re expecting to arrive?”
“About 22.00 hours. We’ll sail as soon as the cargo is aboard.”
“Yes, sir,” Chip hesitated. “Is that all, sir?”
“No, Chip,” the Admiral paused before continuing quietly. “The Navy are loaning us one of their Skippers for this cruise. He should be arriving sometime this evening, hopefully before I get back. Make sure you give him a proper welcome aboard.”
“Yes, sir,” Chip frowned at the telephone convinced that he had detected something in his superior’s voice that he didn’t quite understand; a sort of teasing tone that didn’t make sense in the current circumstances. Biting briefly at his bottom lip he asked almost tentatively, “Er, do we know who the Navy are lending us, sir?”
“Oh, didn’t I say,” Nelson sounded almost jovial as he replied. “Sorry, Chip; his name’s Crane…Lee Crane. I believe you might know him from somewhere?”
Lee! Lee was their temporary Skipper? Chip was so shocked he almost dropped the receiver. Keeping tight control over his suddenly rising spirits he replied carefully, “Yes, sir; I believe I do. Is there anything else I need to know?”
“No, Chip; that’s all for now. I’ll see you soon.”
At the other end of the line Admiral Harriman Nelson put his own receiver down with a satisfied smile. It was typical of his very reserved executive officer to try and disguise his feelings but Nelson had detected a hint of joyful surprise in the younger man’s voice and he was both glad and relieved. Although he had tried hard to control his reactions when Nelson had told him about John Phillip’s’ death the older man had known, even over the telephone, that Chip Morton had been shocked and upset which was perfectly understandable. Despite the difference in their ages the two men had got along very well and had made an excellent command team for Nelson’s beloved Seaview. However, Harriman Nelson suspected that together Lee Crane and Chip Morton had the potential to make an even better team and, if this forthcoming mission was a success, he planned to persuade Crane to accept permanent command of the Seaview. He was confident that the young officer was the perfect man for the job.
Santa Barbara Chip Morton went about his duties feeling a lot happier and more
relaxed now that he knew when to expect the Admiral back and, more importantly,
who was going to command this upcoming mission. He still felt enormous sadness
at John’s death but he was thrilled at the thought of seeing Lee Crane again.
Inseparable during their four years at the
“Mr. Morton! The Chief said to tell you that the Admiral will be arriving in the next thirty minutes. And the new Captain has arrived on board, sir!” Joe Gordon practically spat the last sentence, his voice very stiff and formal. Chip frowned slightly as he replied, “Thanks, Gordon. Tell the Chief I’m on my way.”
“Aye, sir.” As the crewman turned and exited his cabin, Chip wondered if it was just his imagination or whether Gordon had really sounded hostile towards their temporary Skipper. He couldn’t blame the man he supposed as he straightened his tie and reached into his closet for his jacket and cover. The crew had been very fond of John and they had been devastated at his death only twenty-four hours before. It was only natural that they be reserved with his replacement, wary even. A captain had to earn his crew’s loyalty and respect; only obedience came with the position. As he made his way to the control room Chip had to admit that he would probably be feeling a little reserved himself if it wasn’t for the fact that Lee Crane was their temporary captain. Nevertheless, he hoped the crew weren’t going to be too hard on Lee; that really wouldn’t be fair.
Wouldn’t be fair, huh? Chip almost laughed out loud as he recalled the thoughts he’d had only minutes before meeting up with Lee again in Seaview’s Control Room. There he was worrying that the crew might be too hard on their new captain and who got the hostility treatment? He did! And from someone he most certainly never expected it from. Admittedly, Lee’s arrival on board wasn’t at the best of times and they’d barely had chance to say “hello” before circumstances dictated that they focus on their respective jobs but Chip had expected some acknowledgement of the friendship that existed between them…that he thought existed between them. He had been totally unprepared for Lee’s strictly formal attitude and the lack of friendliness in his eyes and his voice. He realized that his friend had come straight from his own command and was used to the strict formality of the regular Navy but even so a smile wouldn’t have hurt. Would it? Bemused, Chip shook his blond head and pulled himself to attention as the Admiral’s car drew up to the gangplank. Much as he would like to question his friend about his behaviour he knew it would have to wait. They had important work to do!
Pushing his half-drunk cup of coffee to one side Chip Morton rested his elbows on the table in front of him and rubbed at his forehead, squeezing his eyes shut as he tried to ward off the dull pain that threatened to become a full-blown headache. It was hardly surprising that his head should be aching he reflected as he stopped rubbing his head and stretched his arms and legs in a bid to release the tension that seemed to envelop his whole body. This mission had been high pressure from the moment they left port with a crew who were none too happy with their new Captain and the added tension of not knowing what their mission was about. Not that the secrecy was Lee’s fault, he was only following his own orders, but the crew were only too ready to distrust him.
The unexpected depth charge attack had left them all in no doubt that whatever they were up against it was highly dangerous, a fact confirmed by Lee’s announcement that they were on war alert. War! Like a great many of the crew Chip had never actually been at war and, although he knew that he was trained for it, it was still a sobering thought and not something he wanted to dwell on while he was on duty. He was confident that whatever happened Seaview had a very high chance of making it home again especially with Lee at the helm. His friend was a natural at commanding a submarine and developments so far had given him plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his skills with the boat and with the men some of whom were beginning to exhibit signs of grudging respect for their new Skipper even if they didn’t seem to like him much.
Well, that was to be expected and Lee really hadn’t helped his future prospects with that stupid stunt he’d pulled when he came aboard. Chip hadn’t been overly surprised when he found out what had happened. Lee always had been rather impulsive and unconventional but, even so, Chip wondered why he had felt the need to upset the crew like that. In the circumstances it was rather insensitive of him and, to Chip’s mind Lee Crane had never been guilty of such a trait. Quite the opposite in fact which made his very formal attitude towards Chip himself all the more puzzling.
Picking up his coffee again and sipping at the lukewarm liquid Chip tried to think of reasons why Lee was acting so oddly. Admittedly he must be tired after leaving his own command at a moment’s notice to fly thousands of miles across country to undertake a highly dangerous mission in charge of a crew who were still in mourning for their first captain. Was it possible that his friend hadn’t actually wanted to command Seaview for this mission? It was very doubtful that he had been given a choice and although permanent command of such a special submarine was a huge honour Lee was only a substitute. In short, he was being used and when this mission was over he would, presumably, be going back to his own command. Maybe that was factor in his strange attitude? He didn’t know this crew but he had been given the responsibility of getting them to perform to their best in very exacting circumstances; it wouldn’t do for him to appear “soft” by getting friendly with them or by exhibiting signs of familiarity with his executive officer.
His coffee finished, Chip stood up and made his way back to the Control Room. Maybe when this mission was over and things were back to normal he and Lee might get a chance to talk and straighten a few things out before his friend had to return to his duty in the Navy.
Head down, pen in hand, Seaview’s executive officer tried hard to concentrate on the paperwork on his desk but despite his best efforts one thought kept nagging at his mind until, finally, he threw down his pen and sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as he contemplated the news that was the prominent topic of discussion throughout the massive submarine.
It was official, Lee Crane was to be Seaview’s new Captain! Chip Morton was pleased…for Lee, for the boat and for the crew. The only one he wasn’t pleased for was himself! Oh, he knew that Lee would make the perfect Skipper and that given time to adjust the crew would follow him without question. Already, many of them were singing his praises for his skill in defeating the forces that sought to prevent them achieving their goal and for his unquestionable bravery in going out on the ice in what was almost a suicide mission to rescue Wilson and Malone. It had gone a long way to raising his credibility in the eyes of the crew.
Chip had to admit that he’d been as impressed as everyone else. What bothered him was the formal barrier that had sprung up between him and his so-called best friend. Despite the fact that they were safely on their way home and Lee had been given permanent command of Seaview he remained rigidly formal in his attitude towards his executive officer when on duty and seemed to be avoiding contact with him the rest of the time. Chip didn’t like it. He wasn’t used to being treated with so much distant formality especially aboard Seaview and he didn’t know what to do about it.
It was so ridiculous! Of all the officers in the US Navy that Nelson could have chosen to replace John, Lee Crane was the only one Chip really knew, the only one he could call a real friend; or so he had thought! Outside of his family, Lee was the one person who Chip had always believed he could turn to if he was in trouble, the only one he could rely on, the only one he could totally trust! True, they didn’t see each other very often and neither of them were great letter writers but whenever they had met up it had always been as if they had never been apart…until now. Chip just couldn’t believe that Lee had changed so drastically. It crossed his mind that maybe Lee just didn’t want to be seen to be friendly with his subordinates but surely they could still talk in private? Or could they? If he was totally honest Chip had to admit that he hadn’t been trying very hard to be friendly towards Lee and was probably as much to blame for their current lack of communication as he was. He had considered offering his congratulations on Lee’s captaincy but he seemed to spend most of his down time shut away in the Admiral’s cabin which had given Chip the excuse he needed to avoid making the first overture. He’d probably only get rebuffed anyway.
With a heartfelt sigh Chip reached again for his pen and tried to
refocus on the paperwork in front of him. Maybe when they got back to
Seaview’s second-in-command was in the process of packing the few belongings he wanted to take ashore when there was a sharp knock on his cabin door.
“Come in!” He turned, wondering who it could be when he knew that most of the crew had gone ashore, and frowned when he saw who it was.
“I think we need to talk,” Lee Crane said quietly as he closed the door and walked across the floor to stand by the desk his hazel eyes fixed on his new executive officer. Chip folded his arms across his chest and stared back, his lips set in a firm line. Lee’s words had sounded almost like an order and he didn’t quite trust himself to respond without sounding churlish. For nearly a minute the two young officers stared searchingly at each other as if each was trying to assess what the other was thinking. It was Lee who finally broke the uncomfortable silence.
“Look I realize that you may not want to talk to me right now but I think that if we are going to work successfully together we need to be honest with each other about what we’re thinking and feeling and we need to do it now before we go ashore and try and forget about this mission. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Chip swallowed and the slight frown between his blue eyes deepened as he considered Lee’s words. He was surprised at Lee’s unexpected visit but deep down he acknowledged the sense in the Captain’s desire to “clear the air” and he recognized that they needed to do it now even if a part of him wanted to tell his new Skipper to “Clear off and leave him alone!”
Taking a deep breath he dropped his arms to his sides and buried his hands in his trouser pockets. “I guess you’re right,” he acknowledged with a slight nod of his head while inwardly berating himself for the childish comment that ran through his mind simultaneously, “You are the Captain after all!”
“Good,” a sudden familiar smile broke out on Lee’s face but Chip remained stony-faced unwilling to let go of the anger and frustration that had been building up over the past few days. “Do you really want me to be honest?” his blue eyes narrowed challengingly as he stared at his long-time friend.
“I do,” Lee nodded. “Whatever’s on your mind, Chip…just tell me.”
“Okay,” Chip looked down at the toes of his shoes before lifting his head again and looking directly at his Captain, blue eyes locking on hazel. “But first off, I want you to know that I’m really pleased you’ve been given permanent command of Seaview. The boat needs someone like you in command. You did a great job out there in very difficult circumstances and you proved that you’re more than capable of being in command. You impressed everybody, and I think you’ll find that the crew are more than happy to have you as their Skipper even if they are still a bit sore at you.”
“Sore at me?” Lee blinked. “Oh, you’re referring to my arrival on board! I’m sorry if I upset the men, Chip but I did have my reasons for coming aboard like that.”
“I’m sure you did!” Chip frowned slightly but he kept his mouth closed and Lee frowned back at him. “I take it you’re one of the people who’s sore at me?” he said coolly.
Chip merely raised one eyebrow his lips set in straight line. Lee felt a surge of irritation rise up, he was more than aware of just how stiff necked Chip Morton could be when he put his mind to it. “Look, Chip,” he said seriously. “I came to talk with you as your friend, not as your new CO but we’re not going to get anywhere if you hold out on me! Whatever we talk about here is private, between us…I’m not going to report you for being unprofessional so for goodness sake be honest with me…friend to friend, it’s never stopped you in the past!”
Chip’s frown turned into a full blown glare and he turned his attention to the deck as he debated his response to Lee’s challenge. He knew that, strictly speaking, Lee didn’t have to be having this conversation with him. At the end of the day Lee was the Captain and he didn’t have to justify his actions to his executive officer. What Chip thought or felt was of no consequence; as second-in-command he was paid to follow orders whether he agreed with them or not and he was well aware of his position. It was all very well Lee telling him to be honest but it wasn’t that easy. Admitting that he was pleased Lee had got command was one thing but telling him that he thought he had made mistakes was another and Chip wasn’t sure that he could do it while they were still in uniform and aboard Seaview. If they were some place else it would be different, he wouldn’t hesitate to say exactly what he thought but here… it was hard to go against the ingrained training that taught respect for the superior rank.
“I know it goes against the grain,” Lee seemed to read his mind as he cut into his thoughts, “but I’m not leaving here ‘til you level with me, Chip so if you want to eat tonight I suggest you say what’s on your mind.”
“Okay,” Chip looked up, a decisive scowl on his face. Stepping away from his bunk he moved closer to Lee, who was still sitting on the edge of the desk, and looked down at him.
“I will level with you, Lee. I admit that I wasn’t impressed with the way that you came aboard and the implied criticism of our security procedures but I suspect that the Admiral has already told you what he thinks about that…” the slight inclination of Lee’s head and the brief downcast of his eyes told Chip that his suspicions were correct…” and that’s not the main reason I’m sore at you anyway,” he paused and when Lee showed no sign of reacting he continued, his deep voice so low that Lee had to concentrate intently on his words.
“I’m sore at you because of the almost hostile way you’ve treated me since you came aboard. We haven’t exactly had a fun time here recently. It was tough…” he swallowed and for a moment his eyes veered off from Lee’s face to focus somewhere on the bulkhead behind him, “…losing Captain Phillips, nearly losing the Admiral, not knowing what was going on. I’m not looking for sympathy,” his eyes came back to Lee’s face, daring him to commiserate. “I’m just saying how it was here before you arrived. Ideally we needed time to come to terms with what happened before we got a new Skipper, before we had to set out on another dangerous mission but in reality we didn’t get that so you can imagine how pleased I felt when I found out you were going to be our temporary Captain,” he paused a slight smile twitching at his lips before he continued,
“Knowing you were coming, knowing I could trust you, knowing that you would be more than capable of stepping into an awkward situation and making it work. It was a huge weight off my mind but then you antagonize the crew before you’ve even been introduced and then you act like I don’t even exist. I know that I’m subordinate to you, Lee and I know we can’t be buddies in the Control Room but do you realize that, until now, you’ve only spoken to me to give orders.” Chip paused for breath. His gaze moved off again, this time to look at the deck and when he spoke again, Lee could hear the pained confusion in his voice even though he sought to hide it. “Maybe I’m being unrealistic Lee but I didn’t think that having you as my Captain would mean that we had to totally ignore our friendship…” he hesitated, his eyes meeting Lee’s once more and when he spoke again his voice was edged with barely contained anger, “…I always thought that we could make a good team if we got the chance to serve together but maybe you disagree and that’s your prerogative,” Chip glared at his friend, “But if you don’t want me as your exec then you have a big problem, pal because I am not about to give it up! I’ve worked damn hard to help make Seaview the boat Admiral Nelson dreamt of, I like my job and I’m good at it and I’m not it giving up…not for anyone and that includes you, Captain Crane!”
His speech over Chip stepped back, breathing heavily, and sat down on his bunk. Placing his hands on the mattress either side of his body he let his shoulders droop, head down, eyes on the deck as he waited for Lee’s response.
“Ouch!” His eyes on his friend’s bent head, Lee Crane winced as he processed his heartfelt words. He had known that Chip was annoyed with him but he hadn’t realized just how much he had hurt his friend’s feelings. It wasn’t often Chip allowed anger to get the better of his carefully controlled emotions but he had come very close to losing his temper as he told Lee exactly what he thought of their current unsatisfactory situation.
Lee shook his own head as he debated what he could say to improve things. He was shocked that Chip could even think that he didn’t want to work with him. He realized that although he had made a success of a difficult mission he had failed miserably when it came to the working relationship between himself and his best friend. His mission now was to try and put the situation right!
“I’m sorry, Chip,” he said quietly. “I was just doing the job the way I thought best and you were a casualty of how I chose to deal with certain difficulties. Would it help if I tried to explain?”
“It might,” Chip looked up from his study of the deck to regard Lee with a puzzled expression. He was mindful of the fact that as his CO Lee didn’t owe him any explanations but grateful that, as his friend, he appeared keen to put things right. “You haven’t made much sense since you came aboard so if you think you can explain, go ahead; it might help.”
“Right,” Lee frowned and ran his hand through his hair again as he considered how he could try and explain his behaviour to his friend. After several seconds of silence during which Chip gazed up at him thoughtfully Lee took a deep breath and plunged in, “I guess the bottom line is I was
a little in awe of your achievements I suppose. You’re the exec on the mightiest boat in the world and you were one of the Admiral’s golden boys. He chose you, he had the pick of the entire US Navy and he chose you! I have to tell you, Chip that when Admiral Nelson gave you the post of exec on Seaview I was really pleased for you. You’ve always worked hard and you deserved this position but…” He paused; it wasn’t easy to admit one’s faults, even to your best friend. Taking a deep breath Lee continued, “I was pretty envious too.”
Envious! Chip raised his fair eyebrows again, this time in disbelief. He hadn’t thought of that and he couldn’t entirely understand it. “But why?” he asked seriously. “Lee, you already had your own command. To have become exec on Seaview would’ve meant demotion!”
“Would it?” Lee asked, a challenging note in his voice, his dark eyes fixed on his friend’s questioning face. “Chip, you know that Seaview is no ordinary sub. She’s unique. Special. Everybody in the submarine service would give their right arm for the chance to serve aboard her but they won’t get it. The Admiral only chooses the best…the elite…people like you but I admit that I was a little disappointed that he didn’t ask me to join him. I’ve admired him for so long and Seaview is such a magnificent vessel.”
“I know,” Chip chewed subconsciously at his bottom lip. It had never entered his head that Lee might envy him. He knew there were officers in the Navy who would do almost anything for the chance to join Seaview. Who wouldn’t? But Lee? Envious of him? Hell, Lee had gotten his first command almost as soon as Chip had achieved his promotion to lieutenant-commander. What was there to envy for someone with Lee’s abilities and ambitions? Chip shrugged his broad shoulders.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have risen through the ranks so quickly?” he suggested, half joking, half serious. “If you’d still been an exec when the Admiral was recruiting he might have given you this job instead of me!”
“I doubt it,” Lee shook his dark head. “You’re a far better exec than I ever was; you actually enjoy paperwork for one thing but maybe you have a point. When Nelson gave you the position of exec I did think that maybe climbing the career ladder so quickly was actually a disadvantage. I hadn’t enough command experience to be Seaview’s Captain; it was obvious that a prestigious boat like this needed someone with more expertise than I had and it did cross my mind that had I been in a lesser position I might have had a chance of getting on board!”
“I had no idea! You never said anything!” Chip shook his blond head. He felt dazed by Lee’s admissions. His friend had always been so successful; it was strange to realize that he hadn’t been completely happy about his own position in the scheme of things.
“I realize that I’ve surprised you,” Lee said quietly, “but that’s only a small part of what I was thinking when I came aboard, Chip.”
“It is?” Chip looked enquiringly at him.
“Yes,” Lee smiled slightly. “I was envious of you, but I was also wondering how you would react to me coming on board and taking over and how that might affect our friendship. You are second-in-command, when John Phillips died you automatically stepped up to temporary command and then I come in and take over. You had a right to feel resentful; I know I would have done!”
“Yes, but I’m not you, am I?” Chip grinned slightly. “I’m perfectly happy where I am. I don’t want to command; not yet anyway. Beats me how I got this far so quickly; I’ve never had your ambitious streak.”
“Maybe not,” Lee grinned back, “but you do have the ability, Chip. You know Helen’s really proud of you?”
“Is she?” Chip frowned quizzically at the unexpected reference to his much older half-sister. “How’d you know?”
“She told me,” Lee’s grin broadened at the look of confusion on his friend’s face. “I saw her, you know…Helen and Chris and the kids…about six weeks ago. Didn’t she tell you?”
Chip shook his head. “I haven’t spoken to her for a while; it’s been very busy here. I’ll probably have a few letters waiting for me when I get back to my apartment,” he continued to frown. “So, how come you saw them?”
a long weekend before my boat set out on a three month tour. I was going to
visit my mother but she’s gone to
“I’m sure they were,” Chip smiled back. “And I’m sure Helen made some comment along the lines of it was nice that someone could find the time to visit!”
“Well, she did mention that they hadn’t seen you for a while,” Lee admitted.
“Yea, it’s not so easy to see them now I’m based out here but like I said I enjoy this job and I’m not giving it up for anyone not even my family although,” his voice took on a wistful tone. “I do miss them a lot.”
“They miss you too,” Lee acknowledged.” Helen did say that she wished you weren’t based so far from home but she is immensely proud of you.”
Chip shrugged, suddenly embarrassed, “She’s biased,” he grinned. “And you’re changing the subject, Lee. Why didn’t you tell me this before; I could’ve put your mind at rest days ago…and mine too for that matter!”
Now it was Lee’s turn to shrug, “I didn’t have a chance; there was so much to focus on and I had other concerns as well, it wasn’t just about me and you.”
”Huh?” Chip waited patiently for his friend to explain.
took a deep breath, his eyes still focussed on his friend’s face. “When I got
my orders to leave my command and fly to
Chip remained diplomatically silent. He thought, wryly, that he’d not been far wrong when he had tried to think of reasons to explain Lee’s strange behaviour.
“I guess I knew that the crew would be suspicious of me,” Lee continued, talking faster now that he had got into his stride. “Especially as I’m so young; it was a challenge proving myself on my previous command. I suppose that I wanted to prove to them straightaway that I was the right man for the job and that I was in charge. That’s why I came aboard the way I did. I thought it might give them something else to think about too,” he grinned suddenly. “I think I even wanted to prove myself to you; to show you that I was worthy of stepping into Captain Phillips’ shoes.”
“You didn’t have to prove anything to me,” Chip responded sincerely. “You just needed to talk to me, Lee. I could’ve helped you.”
He sounded hurt and Lee smiled apologetically, “I know but I didn’t see it like that, did I? I wanted to prove my worth to Admiral Nelson. I know it sounds arrogant but I knew I could be the man he was looking for to replace Phillips and I wanted him to realize that. I sure didn’t want him to think that I’d depended too much on your knowledge and expertise.”
“I see,” Chip nodded thoughtfully. “It certainly makes a lot of sense I suppose and I’m glad you’ve taken the time to explain. I was beginning to worry about how we were going to work together if we couldn’t even communicate with each other.”
“I’m sorry,” Lee said again, “Although…” he hesitated and eyed his friend with a challenging gaze. “You could have come and spoken to me!”
“True,” Chip nodded again. ”And, believe me, I did think about it but I didn’t know what I could say. I guess I didn’t feel that I could start questioning how my new CO chose to do things. It’s your prerogative to decide how you want to run the boat and it’s my job to support you whether I agree with you or not!”
“True,” Lee grinned as he ran his hands through his dark hair, “but I certainly hope that we can work together in harmony, Chip, at least most of the time!”
“I hope so, too!” Chip grinned back and then frowned quizzically as Lee said, “You know I guess that was another factor in my strange behaviour.”
“I didn’t want to get too involved,” Lee said simply. “To fool myself into thinking I belonged here. I didn’t want to start enjoying myself too much. It was going to be bad enough having to leave the boat now I’d actually spent time aboard without leaving you and a potentially enjoyable working relationship before it had even got started properly. It was just easier to freeze you out and I’m sorry I did that.”
“Apology accepted,” Chip said quietly.
“Thank you,” Lee eyed him intently. “I do think we could make a really great team together, don’t you?”
Chip laughed suddenly; he was so relieved that Lee’s treatment of him hadn’t been personal and wasn’t going to be permanent. Standing up from his bunk he crossed the deck and held out a hand to his friend. “I don’t know,” he grinned mischievously. “I always have thought that we could make a great team if we ever got to serve together but you’re crazy, Lee,” he laughed again as his friend grabbed his hand and then pulled him into a rough embrace.
“Is that any way to address a senior officer?” Lee said teasingly as they stood back and eyed one another face to face.
“I guess not,” Chip struggled to contain his laughter at the mock indignation on his friend’s face, “but if we’re going to work together we have to get one thing straight from the start.”
“I’m only subordinate to you on duty,” Chip said warningly, his blue eyes sparkling playfully. “Off duty, I can say whatever comes to mind and, even give the orders!”
“I think I might regret such an agreement,” Lee laughed, “but it sounds fair enough. You can start by telling me where to go now. I have no idea where to eat or even where I’m going to sleep.”
can always bunk down at my place if you don’t mind the couch…or the floor!”
Chip offered. “And I could show you the sights if you like,” he grinned
wickedly. “I bet you don’t know the first thing about life in
“And I suppose you’re an expert?” Lee grinned back.
“I do have experience,” Chip nodded. “D’you want me to share it with you?” He picked up his holdall and reached for the door handle.
“I think I might regret this,” Lee muttered as he stepped out of the cabin into the passageway.
“You probably will,” Chip agreed as they headed towards the Control Room en route for the dockside. “You have been warned!”
They laughed suddenly and rather loudly at each other and from his cabin further down the passageway Harriman Nelson smiled to himself. It sounded as if his to senior officers had sorted out the problems between them and that pleased him immensely. He was confident that he had a potentially excellent command team in Lee Crane and Chip Morton and, unless he was very much mistaken, he didn’t think that they would disappoint him.