There should probably be some sort of warning for this story. Maybe PG 14 given the sophistication of the modern child. (In other words they know a heck of a lot more than I did at that age, back in the Neolithic Era) Some might view it as +18. Nothing graphic, but tons of innuendo, suggestive scenes and one very suggestive scene, bit of language here and there. One bit of blood but not grossly so. Tiny bit of violence, but not described in detail, and anyway the Admiral had it coming. P.S. sorry for all the references but I can never figure out what I do and dont need to explain.

 

 

 

Thunder Rolls - DizzyDolphin

 

 

Admiral I wont do it. Lee couldnt believe hed just said that to Admiral Jones of ONI. He couldnt believe he was refusing a mission.

 

Excuse me COMMANDER CRANE, Im sure I didnt hear you correctly.

 

Shit he looks pissed. Sir, I respectfully refuse the mission.

 

YOU RESPECTFULLY REFUSE THE MISSION, in what mans Navy do you get to pick and choose your missions Commander Crane?

 

Im not in the Navy, Sir. Im a reservist.

 

Oh that can be remedied Mister, yes indeed it can. ILL HAVE YOUR SORRY ASS BACK IN THE REGULAR NAVY SO FAST YOUR HEAD WILL SPIN.

 

WELL BETTER MY ASS BACK IN THE NAVY THAN WHERE YOU WANT ME TO PUT IT...SIR.

 

*****

 

Some of Lees ONI buddies were crouched outside of Admiral Jones closed door. This is going to be the stuff of legends, Daniel snickered.

 

You wouldnt think it was so funny it was your ass in there. However, Mike was grinning just as much as Daniel was.

 

Quiet you two, I dont want to miss a word of this, Gerry hissed at them.

 

How could you possibly miss hearing a thing? Theyd put a thunder storm to shame! Mike was darned good and sure hed never have the nerve to raise his voice to Jones, but Lee didnt seem to have any reservations.

 

*****

 

Lee continued in a more controlled voice, Admiral Nelson will not let you recall me.

 

He knew it was a long shot, he wasnt certain that Nelson would be able to stop him from being recalled. He was, however, certain that if the Admiral knew what he was being asked to do, that hed support his stand. Well he hoped so. The Admiral had a weird sense of humour sometimes.

 

It just so happens Commander that Admiral Nelson has already been informed that you may be recalled to active duty on a matter of national security. There isnt a bloody thing he can do about it. One other thing Commander...if I do have to resort to that, you wont be going back to reserve status, ever. You can kiss NIMR and the Seaview goodbye. Id love to know who the NSA (National Security Agency) agent is thats handed me this opportunity, Id give him or her a big kiss.

 

Jones was hoping Crane would stay dug in on this, he wanted him in ONI full-time. He would have to fight Admiral Starke over it; Starke would love to get Crane back on a Navy sub. While Admiral Starke might not be overly thrilled in some ways with Crane, he still knew quality when he saw it, and they didnt come any better than Commander Lee B. Crane.

 

Man Jones is playing dirty. These assignments are supposed to be requests not orders. Of course Lee knew that in real life there wasnt much of a difference between the two.

 

There has to be some other cover I can use, Sir. Lee was aware that hed basically just caved. He simply couldnt risk losing Seaview, or the Admiral.

 

There is nothing wrong with the cover Commander. Youve got a good singing voice, and as far as Im aware theres nothing wrong with your body. Anything I should be aware of in that regard?

 

No Sir, Lee replied miserably. He was wondering if he could somehow break a leg, he certainly seemed to get enough injuries when he didnt want them. Now that he wanted one hed probably stay in perfect health.

 

Glad we could resolve your reservations Commander. Youll start training tomorrow.

 

Training Sir?

 

Training Commander, unless you already know how to do this.

 

No Sir. At any rate not the way you want it done. Lee certainly didnt live a monastic lifestyle, but what he did for certain girlfriends was a far cry from what the cover required.

 

Didnt think so. I gather its fairly demanding physically. Youll also be instructed in, ah, body care.

 

Sir?

 

No body hair Commander. Smooth and soft as a babys bottom.

 

How about you just put a bullet through my head, Lee mumbled.

 

Didnt quite catch that Commander.

 

Nothing Sir.

 

Dismissed Commander.

 

Lee would have snapped to attention but his body was already ramrod straight, a position hed maintained throughout the entire meeting. He saluted, turned smartly and exited.

 

Jones smiled, well hed almost gotten Crane on insubordination, it was still possible the Commander would refuse to go through with it. The look on Cranes face when hed mentioned the body care was priceless. Sort of makes me wish I taped these meetings, Jones chuckled to himself.

 

*****

 

As Lee closed Admiral Jones door he heard someone give a wolf whistle, followed by a rendition David Roses Stripper, in harmony.

 

Daniel, Gerry and Mike were leaning against the far wall grinning at him.

 

Well you obviously know all about it, Lee looked like someone had just run over his dog.

 

Dont look so sad pal. It wont be that bad. A few hip swivels, pelvic thrusts, Gerry matched movements to his words then he and the other two broke out laughing.

 

You think its so f-ing funny you do it.

 

Whoa, language Lee! That, more than anything else, told them how badly their friend was taking this assignment.

 

Come on Lee, you dont have to think about this again until tomorrow. Lets hit a pub or two, Mike suggested. We three are off to Afghanistan tomorrow, lets all relax tonight.

 

His friends were already in civvies, Lee had a locker at ONI where he kept spare clothes, and other assorted items, every agent had one, even those not full-time. While not normally a big drinker, he thought he might make an exception tonight.

 

He changed into black stonewash, low-rise boot-cut jeans, they had zippered pockets, chains dangled here and there. He pulled on a black t-shirt, it had a rather gruesome skull, snake and sword design on it. Lee didnt care, it was going to be a pub crawl, not a fashion event. He didnt want to wear his uniform shoes, the only ones he had in his locker were his black and red Nike Air Max Turbulence trainers, theyd do. Grabbing his black hoodie out of the locker he slammed the door shut, twirled the combination lock and joined his pals.

 

*****

 

Nelson was not a happy Admiral. He, Lee and Chip had travelled to Washington together. He had meetings regarding mission proposals to attend, normally Lee would join him to provide input regarding Seaviews role but Chip would be filling in for Lee this time. Admiral Jones had informed Nelson that he had need of Lee for his own meeting. Jones had not given Nelson any further information other than to say that Nelson could expect Lee to be absent from Seaview for at least a month and that it was possible that Lee would be reactivated to full duty with the Navy.

 

Their meetings over the Admiral and Chip headed back to the hotel.

 

Did Lee say when his meeting would be over, Sir?

 

No, but I imagine he finished before we did. I told him when wed likely be done and that if hed meet us in the lobby wed all go out for dinner.

 

Arriving at the hotel they looked around the lobby, no sign of Lee. Chip went over to the desk and asked them to ring Lees room, no answer. The desk clerk didnt recall seeing Lee come back to the hotel.

 

They left word that they would be at the Capital Hill Grille, just in case Lee had forgotten the plan. Not that it was likely he would, Lee had a mind as sharp as any Nelson had ever met. His big worry and Chips, was that ONI hadnt already sent Lee off on whatever mission they had planned. It could sometimes happen that fast.

 

Dinner passed pleasantly enough, Nelson was getting to know Chip better and Chip was beginning to relax around him. It helped that they had the common ground of Lee to fuss over. Chip knew some of the more classified stories from Lees former sub command and after a drink or two would sometimes share a story.

 

They were hauling some Marines to somewhere or other and there had been some friction. Nelson nodded, he knew what that could be like. Lee had been speaking to the Control Room shift about taking the high road and not letting any comments lead to improper behaviour, i.e. fights. When he finished he realized his XO, Davey, wasnt there anymore. Lee decided hed better go find him. His little talk had been as much for his XO as anyone, Davey had already butted heads several times with the Marine sergeant. Lee didnt get to far when he heard Davey dressing down a crewman. Seems one of the Marines had asked for instructions on using the head, the crewman told the guy that when he was done he needed to open the red valve...and then the flapper.

 

Nelson laughed, it wasnt the first time hed heard of this type of misdirection. Of course the red valve opened the boats air connection. The flapper still being closed the contents of the bowl would have exploded out and over any hapless person in the head.

 

I imagine Lee wasnt overly pleased by this, Nelson smirked.

 

Nope, in addition to the dressing down from the XO the crewman got to clean the head, and give a lecture to the Marines, complete with diagrams, on the correct way to use the head onboard a sub.

 

Yes, that would be Lee, never misses a teaching opportunity, the Admiral chuckled. I really have to socialize more with Chip, Im sure there are a lot more stories and Ill never get them out of Lee. I wonder if I could get Chip to let me in on some of the things that he and Lee get up to, on and off Seaview.

 

Dinner was over and still no sign of Lee, they finished their drinks and took a cab back to the hotel. It was getting on toward 2200 by the time they arrived.

 

Their cab pulled up at the hotel; there was a cab ahead of them that was discharging passengers. They heard a bit of a commotion from the front cab.

 

Come on buddy ol pal, this is your stop.

 

Nelson thought he recognised the voice and looked over to see a man swaying on his feet trying to help someone out of the cab.

 

Chip had been observing the scene as well and tapped the Admiral on the shoulder, Ah Sir, isnt that one of Lees ONI friends?

 

Ah huh, I believe so.

 

The Admiral had a good idea, as did Chip, just who was getting helped out of the cab, and why.

 

Lee crawled out and stood, unsteadily, holding on to Gerry for support, just as Gerry was also using him to stay upright. They both overbalanced and began using the cab to keep themselves upright. This seemed very funny to them and they started to laugh.

 

I think Im really gon..na regret this tomorrow, Lee slurred between laughs and trying not to fall down.

 

Ah buddy, I think yous gonna gret it now, Gerry slurred back. He had spotted Nelson and Chip approaching.

 

Lee looked in the direction Gerry indicated, SHIT.

 

Four star Admiral approachin Lee, straighten up. Gerry tugged on Lees arm, Lee tried to come to attention, and did, if you didnt count the 25o angle to the side. That lasted about 10 seconds before he started to topple. Chip hurried forward and grabbed his arm.

 

OK Lee, just hang onto me.

 

Well at least he isnt in uniform, Nelson remarked to no one in particular. He wasnt quite sure what to make of the chain jeans and gruesome T-shirt. Lee also appeared to have a black hoodie tied around his waist.

 

Hey Admiral, came from inside the cab. Could you pour Gerry back in here. Well leave Gyspy Rose Lee in your capable hands.

 

At that remark Gerry doubled over in laughter and Lee tried to pull away from Chip and get back into the cab, apparently intent on mayhem.

 

Ill Gypsy Rose, you, he sputtered.

 

Chip took a firmer grip on Lee and moved him away from the cab. The Admiral took charge of the situation. Gerry was shuffled back inside the cab where Mike and Daniel still sat.

 

Mike felt, for Lees sake, that the Admiral should be given some sort of story.

 

Nice to see you again Admiral Nelson, Im sort of the designated find the right door guy tonight.

 

Nelson could tell that Mike had been drinking as well, but obviously not as much as the others had.

 

We invited Lee along for a night on the town since were all busy as of tomorrow. He needed a little R&R before...well cant tell you why, but just take my word for it, Lee needed a night out.

 

Nelson nodded. He knew there were some things Lee couldnt share with him about his ONI work. He had an understanding with the men in the cab about Lee. Anything they could tell him to keep Lee safe, they would. Apparently, whatever this was about hadnt yet escalated to life threatening.

 

He satisfied himself that the occupants would be able to make it to wherever they called home in D.C. and the cab departed.

 

He still couldnt help but wonder, What the hell went on at Lees meeting with Admiral Jones? This is totally out of character for Lee. Even if he had been recalled to active duty he wouldnt have gotten this plastered.

 

Well Chip, seems we have a friend to put to bed.

 

At the moment Sir Id settle for getting him through the door and into his room.

 

They both had to chuckle at the standard, Im fine that Lee mumbled in their direction.

 

Sure you are Lee, youre just peachy keen. How about you try putting one foot in front of the other, Ill let you know when to stop. Chip tried to steer Lee towards the door.

 

Chip I told you, Im fine.

 

Chip looked over at the Admiral, who simply stood there observing. It appeared that he was going to leave it up to him to handle Lee.

 

Uh huh. Lets just test that hypothesis out shall we. Chip let go of Lee and to Lees credit, he did get halfway to the door before veering off course.

 

Lee was muttering as he went, Damn him. Should resign.

 

The Admiral had been keeping pace with his two officers, he now took Lees left arm while Chip regained Lees right. Both men had heard what Lee was saying. Chip looked at the Admiral, What could be so bad that hed think about resigning? Does he mean ONI or the Navy?

 

Lets get him inside and pour some coffee down him, then maybe we can find out.

 

They guided Lee through the entrance, got him up to his room and Chip started the coffeemaker.

 

Lee was still muttering to himself, rather be pumped full of bullets. Nothing wrong with a little hair.

 

Nelson untied Lees hoodie and dropped it on a chair, then he propped Lee up on the couch and removed his shoes. What the hell could the mission be? Bullets, hair?

 

Coffee will be ready in a couple of minutes Admiral. Nelson nodded, looking worriedly at his closest and dearest friend slouched on the couch. Nelson knew that Lee had been through hell and back on numerous ONI missions, even upon occasion, during Seaview missions. None had elicited this type of response.

 

There was a groan from the couch, Gonna be sick. Lee lurched up off the couch, not sure of his surroundings or which way he needed to go.

 

Nelson took hold of him and got him to the facilities just in time. Lee dropped to his knees in front of the toilet and emptied his stomach. Nelson knelt to Lees left, he placed his left hand against the tank and wrapped his right arm across Lees back and under Lees right arm, bracing Lee against him so he could support some of Lees weight and steady his balance.

 

Easy lad, itll be over soon, Nelson soothed.

 

When things seemed to have taken their course Chip handed the Admiral a mug of tap water.

 

Lee heres some water, rinse your mouth lad. Lee obeyed and rinsed several times. Oh isnt my life just wonderful. Drunk, puking my guts out while a 4 star Admiral hangs onto me to I dont fall in the toilet. What really bothered Lee was that it was Nelson he had just made a total fool of himself in front of, worse than a total fool. What must he think of me? I cant even explain why.

 

The Admiral and Chip assisted Lee onto his bed, where they stripped off his pants and t-shirt. Not much point in trying to get coffee down him now, what he needed was sleep. They got him under the covers and tucked them in around him. He was sound asleep before they finished.

 

Chip was worried about Lee, it was not like him to drink to excess. Yes, he would have a drink or two and over the years Chip had seen him pretty relaxed, but nothing like this. He was sure that Lee would want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after him when he woke up tomorrow and remembered just who hed been drunk, and then sick, in front of.

 

I should have found some way to get the Admiral out of here before Lee got sick. Sure, Morton, as if the Admiral would leave Lee when he was in this condition.

 

Chip knew that Lee and the Admiral were close, really close. Seeing the Admiral holding Lee in the bathroom and trying to comfort him, Chip realized it was a lot more than just friendship that the two had. As deep and abiding as his and Lees friendship was, there was something more between Lee and Nelson.

 

Admiral if you want to head back to your room Ill sit with Lee for awhile, to be sure hes ok.

 

As much as the Admiral wanted to stay, he knew that it would be better for Lee if he wasnt there when he woke up. No son liked his father to witness certain lapses in judgement, and Nelson, while never having told Lee, felt very much like a father towards this exceptional young man.

 

Ok Chip, if he needs anything call me, and Chip...

 

Yes Sir.

 

This never happened. When he wakes up, if he doesnt remember my being here, leave it that way.

 

Chip nodded his understanding. It reminded him of one time with his own father, when hed not been at his best. His father never mentioned it, never let on he knew a thing.

 

Before leaving Nelson reached down and tucked one of the blankets in a bit snugger around Lee. In sleep the years and cares fell away from Lee, he looked like Nelson imagined he would have as a child at rest, innocent and carefree. He placed a gentle hand on Lees cheek giving it a quick stroke, Sleep well lad.

 

Harry looked over at Chip, who had settled himself in the recliner and was carefully examining the wall to his left. Harry walked over to him and rested his hand on Chips shoulder giving it a gentle squeeze.

 

Good night Chip, call me if you need anything.

 

Chip nodded, realizing that his relationship with Nelson had moved up a level or two. Nelson was trusting him with a very caring, private side of himself that Chip doubted few ever saw.

 

*****

 

Harry rolled over in bed, not sure if he was awake yet or not. Bam, bam, bam . What the devil! Who was knocking on his door that loudly.

 

The morning fog immediately cleared from his mind. He quickly checked the bedside clock as he lept out of bed. On the way to the door he pulled on his robe. 0800, hed been more tired that hed thought. Then again he hadnt fallen asleep until 0300.

 

As he expected it was Chip at the door.

 

Hes gone Admiral.

 

What do you mean Lees gone? Only one person it could be.

 

I fell asleep in the chair, when I woke up a few minutes ago he wasnt there. I checked the room; all his things except for his uniform are gone. I found a note.

 

Chip handed the Admiral a creased piece of paper.

 

 

Sorry about last night, cant explain. Please take my uniform back to NIMR. Where I hope I will still have a job when I get back. - Lee

 

PS Take good care of my Lady, and the Admiral while Im gone.

 

 

Not a man of many words our Captain.

 

No Sir. I dont understand how he could be up and functional after last night. Chip was feeling guilty that Lee had managed to get his stuff packed and clear out without his having heard a thing. I dont even have a clue what time he left.

 

Its not your fault he slipped out Chip. I wouldnt have expected Lee to be functional yet either. You know how quickly he can metabolize any sedation Jamie gives him, likely he does the same with alcohol. The clerk downstairs should be able to tell us what time Lee checked out. While Lee may not be telling us much, Admiral Jones had better have an explanation to offer.

 

The Admiral was indeed correct about the hotel clerk, according to him Lee left around 0630.

 

It happened that one of the coffee shop staff was just getting off work and she overheard them ask the clerk about Lee Crane. She had seen the men together before and had served them once.

 

Excuse me, I couldnt help but overhear you ask the clerk about your friend.

 

Yes, thats right, was there something you wanted to add? Nelson asked hopefully.

 

Lee, uh, Mr. Crane came through the shop early this morning, he asked for a coffee, black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love.

 

Nelson recognized the Turkish proverb about coffee. Out of curiosity, he asked her what she had served Lee.

 

A shot of caf cubano1 and an extra large double espresso to go.

 

Chip whistled softly. Thats a fair slug of caffeine even for Lee.

 

Well he certainly looked like he needed it. I have to go now, I hope you find him. With that comment, the young woman left.

 

Chip I dont think we are going to find out anything more here. Im going to ONI, youre welcome to come along if you want to.

 

Yes Sir, I want to.

 

Nelson smiled, he knew Chip would not rest until they had found Lee, or at least made sure he was ok.

 

As it turned out, they did get one more piece of intel as they left. The door attendant remembered Lee, and to both Nelson and Chips surprise told them that Lee hadnt wanted a cab, said he preferred to walk.

 

Once inside their cab Chip turned to the Admiral. Sir if Lee didnt take a cab, then he must still be in D.C.

 

I dont think we can make that assumption Chip. Lee is a highly trained agent and hed know wed try and trace him. It may be that he simply went around the corner to another hotel and took a cab from there to the airport or wherever.

 

Nelson didnt want Chip to get his hopes up, it could well be as Chip suggested, or equally, as he suggested.

 

*****

 

Lee felt marginally better physically after walking to ONI. The coffee had definitely helped. He picked up his briefing package from his locker, where he had dumped it the night before. He left the building and hailed a cab, he was to begin training in hour.

 

Lee read quickly through the package. He would be joining an established all male revue in Vegas, seems one of their members had some sort of accident and they needed a replacement quick. Lee wondered, not for the first time about a mission, if ONI had arranged the accident in order to insert an agent where they wanted one. There has to have been a better cover than this! Hmmmm seems ONI decided that my cover name Lee Glen is still usable. He knew it was always best to keep as close to an agents real name as possible, or at least one the agent has used before. It helped to avoid slip-ups.

 

Lee Crane mulled over Lee Glens bio. Male dancer for the last 10 years, single, straight. Well thank you Admiral Jones for small mercies! Not that Lee was prejudice, to each their own. This is going to be hard enough without also trying to appear to be playing for the other team. Hmmm, Ive performed in Europe of late, just got back to America, looking to hook up with a revue. As well as dancing I sing. Wonder if they will expect me to sing while I dance?

 

His cab came to a stop outside a modern looking building. Lee paid the driver and went in. No one was at the entrance to meet him; he could hear music coming from further inside. He headed toward the source of the music. Going quietly into the dance studio he watched while a very attractive and obviously talented female dancer practiced. It was a contemporary piece and she danced flawlessly. When the music stopped, from off to his left side Lee heard someone clapping. He looked over and was surprised to see Stephen sitting on the floor.

 

The dancer did a little bow to Stephen and then walked over to Lee.

 

I take it you must be Commander Lee Crane. Lets see what Ive got to work with. She circled him, looking him up and down. Lee looked over at Stephen who just shrugged his shoulders. Lee was in plain black jeans, solid black T-shirt and his old black leather jacket.

 

Cant really tell much, but at least youre tall and relatively good looking. Lee was a little miffed at the relatively part.

 

The dancer knew what she was doing though; shed been warned that she was likely to meet with resistance, more so from tall, dark and handsome than from tall, sandy and adorable. So she had started the conditioning right away, a little poke at the male ego. As well as teaching them the moves and routines theyd need shed also have to do some breaking down of mental barriers. Being Navy officers there was the whole Officer and a Gentleman they needed to get beyond. While male strippers could certainly be gentlemen, their occupation usually didnt bring that thought immediately to mind. Lee and Stephen needed a new mind-set about their bodies and how to use them. Although maybe not beachboy so much but man in black here certainly looks every inch the proper officer, even out of uniform.

 

My name is Yvonne, Im your instructor. We have a lot of work to do so lets get at it. Lee if youd put your stuff over there with Stephens, and then the two of you strip out of your shirts, shoes and socks.

 

Not much for chitchat apparently, Lee thought to himself, which was fine with him, he didnt really want to talk anyway. He hadnt left his bag at ONI, he didnt plan on returning there. He had a room booked at the hotel agents used when in town. He walked over to where Stephen was still sitting on the floor and dropped his bag and jacket with Stephens.

 

Whats your story? he asked. I thought you were out of the country.

 

I made the mistake of coming back. Jones hauled me into his office, figured you needed company, and it happened that another spot had opened up as a backup. Dont worry Lee, youre still first string. With any luck I wont have to take the stage.

 

Lee scowled at Stephen, Fine with me if you want to take the lead on this one.

 

When pigs fly buddy.

 

OK you guys, enough dawdling, get your stuff off and your butts over here.

 

Lee and Stephen exchanged glances as they stripped down, their look said it all, Ill break your leg for you if youll break mine.

 

Yvonne had them stand about four feet apart and looked them over. Oh ya, plenty of good material here to work with. Very nice backs, shoulders, chests and abs on both of them. Well get to it girl, have to have them ready in two weeks.

 

She stopped and stood in front of Stephen, nice and close and slowly roved her eyes over him until he started to fidget and turn red, then she did the same with Lee.

 

Oh for pity sakes you two, you cant tell me youve never been ogled before. If you cant take it with your pants on, how are you going to do when they come off? Speaking of which, drop em. Lets see what else youve got.

 

Yvonne thought Lee was going to stalk out at that point. Hed gone ramrod straight and was making no move to remove his pants. Stephen didnt look any more pleased but at least he was unsnapping and unzipping.

 

The Hell Im dropping my pants in front of her, Lee thought to himself, but said I was expecting a male instructor.

 

Well guess what sweet cheeks, youve got me, and I said drop em. Yvonne had moved to stand about 4 inches from Lees face. The tone of command in her voice was such that Lee almost reached for his pants.

 

No.

 

So you prefer dropping your pants in front of a guy huh.

 

Stephen had paused in shedding his pants, and decided that he would like another few feet between himself and Lee. Hell hed like a few miles.

 

Holy Shit Lees going to .....

 

Lee closed the four inches between himself and Yvonne, he dropped his voice to a predatory growl, When I drop my pants in front of a woman, hers are already off and the only dancing going on is the horizontal mambo.

 

You dont say, and before Lee knew what had happened he was flat on his back gasping for air and Yvonne was hauling his pants off.

 

What the hell!, he yelled when he could.

 

Oh, I may have failed to mention that Im not just a dance instructor, my regular job is as a Navy Seal2. Well look at you Commander, a tighty-whitey guy, somehow I was thinking more leopard print.

 

Stephen backed away some more, Oh lordy that woman has a death wish, and Lee wants to kill right about now.

 

Yvonne turned to look at Stephen.

 

Pants almost off lady. Uh funnily enough, leopard print.

 

Thats no lady Stephen, spit Lee.

 

Yvonne looked down at him, Sticks and stones Commander, now if youd get your ass up off the floor and line up.

 

Yvonne was by no means sure Lee would comply; in fact, she was rather surprised that he hadnt decked her. It had been a big gamble that she would get her blow to his diaphragm in without him blocking it and sending her sprawling to the floor in a leg hook like the one shed used on him in combo with her punch.

 

Lee was plenty pissed, mostly at himself. Damn I should have decked her when I saw the punch coming. Shes a hell of a lot stronger than she looks. Navy Seal, isnt that just wonderful. Serves you right Crane, next time hit her.

 

He rubbed the back of his head, it had hit the floor with a pretty big bang. Dont suppose Im lucky enough to have a concussion. Wheres Jamie when I need him.

 

Stephen walked over and extended his hand to give Lee a little moral support, and help him up from the floor.

 

We having fun yet? he asked.

 

Yvonne did another of her circles around the two men. Stephen noticed that she was keeping a little further away from Lee than before.

 

Nice legs on both of you, strong well shaped thighs. She stopped behind Stephen and stepped close, he could feel her breath on his back and then her hands on his butt, squeezing. He took a deep breath and held it.

 

Relax Stephen, breath, she stroked his cheeks up and down. Get used to it; youll have a lot less on than your leopard print on stage.

 

Actually Lee is probably the one thats going to be on stage.

 

Really, oh well.

 

She didnt approach Lee, and oddly he couldnt decide if he was relieved or disappointed.

 

The rest of the session was less traumatic for Lee. Yvonne put on some music and had them do rhythm exercises in their skivvies. Some days I really love my job!

 

Lee gritted his teeth through it all and just told himself that he had swimsuits that showed more than his underwear did, so no big deal. Hed do what he had to do, but he wouldnt put any effort into it.

 

*****

 

Nelson and Chip arrived at ONI and went directly to Admiral Jones office. Harry didnt slow at Jones secretaries desk, he went straight through the reception area, flung the door open to the private office and stormed in. Chip hesitated, not sure if he should follow the Admiral into the office or not. Nelson had obviously not remembered he had Chip in tow. Jones secretary motioned for Chip to take a seat as she got up and closed the door to her bosss office. Trust me Lieutenant Commander, you do not want to be in there with those two. Ever see two thunderheads collide?

 

Chip nodded to her. Hed seen it in nature and hed seen it on Seaview. While Lee and the Admiral were close friends, they did have differences of opinion upon occasion, and you did not want to be in the middle when that happened.

 

*****

 

Harry stood in Jones office for a moment, at first to angry to say anything. Jones squared up in his chair, here we go, raise the storm flags. He had expected Harry to show up today, hed heard about the little R&R his men and Crane had engaged in last night. He knew Crane would not have breached orders and told Nelson about the assignment, but Harry was no fool. Crane, who was not a drinker, arriving back at the hotel in the state he had reportedly been in was all Harry would need to put things together. He might not know the details but he knew who the responsible party was for his Captains condition.

 

I seem to have missed hearing your knock, Harry.

 

Nelson moved forward, slowly, deliberately. It wasnt often that he could loom over someone but since Jones had stayed sitting he took the opportunity. He placed both his clenched fists on Jones desk, leaned well forward into the mans personal space...What assignment have you given to MY Captain? he growled out slowly into Jones face.

 

Sorry Harry, classified and all that. Jones knew he was stoking the fire, but if he could get Nelson mad enough he might get something he could use to pry Crane away from Seaview. He still had hopes that Crane would give him that opportunity himself, but if not, maybe between Cranes initial refusal and Nelsons storming in here, he could make the Navy see that Crane should not be left on reserve status with NIMR. Waste of a brilliant officer.

 

As usual, Jones underestimated his adversary. Nelson read a wealth of information from Jones face as hed thought about his plan.

 

Not going to work Jones. You are not getting Captain Crane and neither is the Navy getting him back. Hes much too valuable right where he is.

 

Jones couldnt help but smirk a bit at that, given where he knew Crane to be right now, and what hed be doing.

 

Nelson did not like the look on the face of Admiral Jones one bit.

 

Frank, whatever assignment youve given him, it hasnt gone down well. Given the number and type of assignments hes taken on in the past this one must be way out of line for him to react as he has. Lees put his life on the line more times than I want to think about, been in the most horrendous of situations, endured...

 

I know Harry, I read the debriefs, did some of them myself.

 

So help me Frank if you dont tell me whats going on with Lee...

 

Youll what Harry? Are you threatening me? Part of the Navy deal in giving Crane to you was that hed be available when required. Hes willing to do his duty, at this point Jones couldnt help himself, he wanted to see Nelsons reaction, well not counting this mission, he did try and refuse it.

 

The sound level of the conversation had been steadily rising, it rolled like thunder now.

 

Lee tried to refuse it! Good God man what have you gotten him into! Harry couldnt imagine what Jones had done, Lee took on missions that were expected to be suicide ones without batting an eye.

 

Hes into what I say he needs to be into. I made it very clear to your precious pet Captain just what refusing a mission would cost him. Hes grown disrespectful of his superiors, and that Harry, is your fault. Crane needs to be back in the Navy, well set him straight about his position in the order of things. Well keep him too damn busy to be mouthing off his superiors.

 

You mean youll keep him too damn busy trying to stay alive. You dont fool me Frank, you want him full-time in ONI. Starke wants him on one of his boomers.

 

So what if we do Harry, he belongs in the Navy, the regular Navy. Not off counting seals or chasing whales.

 

Harry wanted to come across Jones desk and throttle the man. He knows that on many of the Seaviews missions if it hadnt been for Lee, the entire planet would have been lost. The crack about seals and whales is to bait me, but why? Of course, so Ill lose my temper and maybe give him more ammo in his efforts to get Lee assigned back to regular duty.

 

If it wasnt for the Seaview and Captain Crane, Frank, you probably wouldnt be alive today. None of us would be.

 

Jones had the good grace to flush and lower his eyes at that statement. He knew the truth of it, but he still wanted Crane.

 

Outside the office Chip had been listening to the raised voices rolling back and forth like peals of thunder. Hed almost gone into the office when he heard Admiral Jones crack about seals and whales to tell the Admiral a thing or two about those missions.

 

A courier arrived and handed the secretary an envelope. She opened it, read the contents and quietly said, Lord help us all.

 

Bad news? Chip asked her.

 

Depends on which Admiral youre talking about. She looked at the door trying to decide if she should take it in now, or wait until Admiral Nelson left.

 

Chip felt his stomach turn to ice. Is Lee already in trouble on the mission? Is he hurt?

 

Debra got up and went to the door, it seemed relatively quiet in there at the moment. She looked at Chip and mouthed Sorry, then knocked and went in.

 

Admiral Jones, this just arrived for you by courier, Sir. I thought youd want to see it right away. She handed him the message and quickly left.

 

When Debra had entered, Harry had backed off from the desk and sat down. He wasnt going anywhere until he had some answers or at least more information. He was not going to like what he was about to learn.

 

As Admiral Jones read the message a large smile formed on his face, then he laughed aloud. Oh Ive got your boy by the jugular now. Yes indeed I do. Not a thing you can do about it either Harry. He handed the message to Nelson.

 

In response to your report regarding your meeting with Commander Lee B. Crane, please be advised that if he refuses the mission or by action or inaction deliberately jeopardizes his cover, you are to report this immediately. Steps will be taken to reactive Captain Crane to active status and appropriate disciplinary action taken.

 

Nelsons hand began to shake with the fury that he was barely containing.

 

You did this deliberately. Youve assigned him something that you know he cant or wont do. So help me Jones, if any harm comes to that boy because of your petty manoeuvring, there will not be a place on this planet that you will be safe.

 

Stow it Nelson. Hes not a boy, hes a man, more than that hes a highly trained Naval officer and ONI operative. Cranes perfectly capable of handling the assignment. I had my reasons for choosing him and I dont need to justify them to you. God you would think Nelson had given birth to Crane or something the way he carries on about him.

 

Hes Seaviews Captain and not under your command or the Navys. You had no business assigning him to anything.

 

Like I said before Nelson, part of the deal you made to get Commander Crane was that he would be available for special assignments when required by the Navy.

 

If youve read the deal then you know that it only applies when Captain Crane can be spared from his duties with NIMR, or in extreme circumstances. I also believe youll find that the assignments are subject to his being willing to take them on.

 

Unless the assignment is deemed crucial to homeland security, in which case he doesnt get the luxury of refusal.

 

Youre claiming that this is that sort of assignment and no one but Captain Crane was available or capable of taking in on?

 

Im not claiming anything. Ive assigned him a mission and hell bloody well carry it out or take the consequences, and as youve read, I have the backing required to carry out those consequences, Admiral!

 

Nelson had never come so close to hitting a fellow officer before. I will not forget this Jones. THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES ALL RIGHT, YOU CAN BE DAMN GOOD AND SURE OF THAT! Harry spun on his heel and stormed out the door, slamming it shut hard enough to rattle the walls. He stormed past Chip not even acknowledging his presence.

 

Debra looked at Chip, Well that was one of the more explosive thunder storms between them. Youd better go look after your Admiral, Ill see to mine.

 

Chip wished her luck and started after his personal Thunderhead.

 

Debra knocked and slowly opened the door to the inner sanctum.

 

Ah Debra, come in. I think I may have pushed Nelson a little too far this time.

 

*****

 

Chip caught up to the Admiral just before he got to the street door.

 

Nelson hesitated at the exit and blew out a huff of air, then stepped out.

 

Well Chip that could have gone better.

 

If you say so Sir.

 

Chip, theres not much point in you pretending that you couldnt hear the conversation. Lose the Navy training. You dont need it with me.

 

Chip knew that his relationship with Nelson had changed a lot since Lee came onboard. As Lee and the Admiral became closer, it transpired that so did Chip and the Admiral. Definitely not in the same way, or to the same depth but Lee often included Chip in his discussions with the Admiral. As close as Nelson and Lee where, Chip noticed that Nelson remained Admiral or Sir to Lee, while Lee was lad, boy, son, or if ticked Captain to the Admiral.

 

Chip, you with me here?

 

Sorry Sir, just thinking. From what I overheard, Admiral Jones didnt give you any particulars about what Lee was doing or where he was.

 

No, if Id kept my temper in check I might have gotten something out of that pain in the ass. As Im sure youve observed and Lees likely remarked to you, Im not known for my even temperament.

 

Lee may have mentioned it a time or two, Sir.

 

Nelson smiled. He was sure Lee had discussed the fact more than a time or two with his friend and confidant. He was glad Chip and Lee were so close; they both carried a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Nelson had watched as Lee gave Chip more and more responsibility in the running of Seaview, and Chip rose to the occasion brilliantly. Some captains liked to rule the roost as it were, but Lee trusted Chip and had no problem turning the conn over to him while he dealt with things elsewhere. For his part, Chip obviously felt protective of Lee, both as an XO should of their captain and as a big brother would. Of course as brothers will, they had disagreements and spats, but overall it worked very well, he considered himself a very fortunate Admiral indeed to have two such fine officers in his command.

 

I want to make a couple of calls Chip, depending on what I learn we will either stay here or head back to Santa Barbara. Lets go back to the hotel, or if theres something you want to see or do go ahead. Meet me in my room in about 2 hours.

 

Once in his room the Admiral took out his wallet and fished out a slip of paper, he dialled the number on it.

 

Many miles away, in a Navy transport plane, a cell phone chirped.

 

*****

 

Stephen was worried about Lee. His attitude had not improved over the last 3 days. Sure Lee was doing what was requested but only with the barest effort. Hed personally been very amused when Lee had shown up the second day wearing boxers over his briefs under his jeans.

 

Stephen had heard about what Jones had told Lee at their meeting. You couldnt expect to have many secrets in a building full of covert operatives, especially if you were going to conduct meetings at thundering sound levels. If Yvonne reported to Jones that Lee should be scrubbed from the mission then Stephen was certain that Jones would follow through on his threat to get Lee back on active status with the Navy. While Stephen would enjoy working more with Lee, he knew it would crush Lee to have to leave Seaview and Nelson.

 

Theyd finished for today and were getting ready to leave.

 

Lee have you thought about why you were picked for this mission?

 

Jones has his reasons, doesnt share them with me.

 

You know the Navy wants you back in the fleet; you know Jones wants you for ONI. So far neither one have been able to get you away from Admiral Nelson, but....

 

Are you saying Jones is trying to get me to give them a reason?

 

Cant say for sure, but I heard what he said would happen if you didnt take the mission. Im betting that goes double if you intentionally get scrubbed out.

 

Lee had to admit that his lacklustre performance so far was probably based on the hope that Yvonne would tell Jones he wasnt any good at it. He also realized Stephen was right; Jones would use it to try and get him reinstated. Lee knew Nelson had pulled quite a few strings and called in favours to get him permanently for Seaviews Captain. Was it fair to expect the Admiral to fight for him again? He could lose the battle this time. Was his pride that important? Its not really my pride thats the problem here, I just dont want to parade around practically naked in front of a bunch of women.

 

He began reasoning with himself.

 

Well why the hell not Crane? You worried that you wont compare well with the other men?

 

Hmmm maybe a bit.

 

No thats not it and you know it.

 

Theres going to be over 100 women looking at me gyrating around a stage in nothing more than a couple of pieces of string and a patch of cloth!

 

So what, no one is forcing them to be there, they want to be there. You dont have a problem doing it in front of one woman at a time, and thats without the bit of cloth.

 

OK, so I have an unreasonable hang-up about this. I have rules about the way men and women should act with each other.

 

So dont be you, be your cover. Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview, close friend of Admiral Harriman Nelson, NIMR, isnt doing this, Lee Glen, ONI agent is.

 

What would the Admiral think of me doing this?

 

What will he think of you being back in the active Navy?

 

Lee realized his argument was close to becoming circular, which would solve nothing. The question was, Can I do this and if I cant, can I take the consequences? Damn it Lee, make your decision, and get on with it!

 

Stephen had stood quietly watching the play of emotions across his friends face. He didnt really know what had Lee so bugged about this, it was sort of fun, once you got past the initial idea. He saw Lees face go calm, for better or worse hes made a decision.

 

You go on ahead Stephen, Ill catch up with you later. I need to talk to Yvonne.

 

Ok buddy, good luck, whichever way this goes.

 

Yvonne was in the little office off the dance floor. Lee knocked on the door and went in.

 

Lee, I thought you and Stephen would have left by now.

 

He noticed that she was working on the computer set up on the desk. He nodded towards it.

 

Progress report?

 

Yes, Admiral Jones wants one every couple of days.

 

Well before you tell him what a jerk Im being Id like to talk to you.

 

Didnt know you were a mind reader Commander.

 

Not hard in this instance. Could we talk out on the dance floor?

 

Yvonne thought it a strange request but didnt have any objections to it so she got up and walked out to the middle of the dance floor with Lee.

 

Like I said, Ive been a real jerk and I apologize about that. Im still not wildly thrilled with what I have to do but I will do it. As he was speaking to her hed taken off his shirt, unsnapped his jeans and pulled down the zipper. Yvonne found that she was having a little trouble breathing as he pulled down his pants, including his boxers. He kicked off his shoes and stepped out of his clothes. He removed his socks and stepping up to her, he locked his eyes on hers. He then took hold of her hands and wrapping her arms around him placed her hands firmly on his butt cheeks. He moved her hands up and down and around.

 

I want you to know that I plan on co-operating fully for the rest of the training. Keeping her hands on his rear Lee began to slowly sway his hips side to side in a very suggestive sway.

 

O lord, do we really want to put this up on a stage surrounded by uninhibited women! He positively radiates sexual intensity. Hell Im getting...no, I am aroused!

 

Yvonne didnt know what to say, and that was a first for her. Standing there, looking into those incredible sea green and kelp brown flecked eyes, his near naked body so close to her, the manly scent of him, her hands stroking and squeezing his beautifully rounded tushy...get a grip girl, and I dont mean there or the other anatomical feature your mind just jumped to!

 

Ah, um, yes, well. Oh very articulate Yvonne, take a freaking step back before you drool all over him.

 

Gathering what remaining self-control she had left she took that step back and regretfully let go of him.

 

This certainly does change the content of my report to Admiral Jones. Im glad youve decided to give this your best shot. Oh that could have been worded better. If the mission is to totally immobilize the entire female population of Vegas, weve got it covered, or would that be uncovered?

 

*****

 

Stephen didnt ask Lee what had gone on after he left, but Lee was certainly in a much better frame of mind when they had dinner that night.

 

*****

 

Day four of training was certainly a vast improvement over the other 3 days. Today they had trampoline work and Lee and Stephen took to it like two kids. The bounced and did flips passing each other in midair, challenging each other as to who could do the most somersaults in the air.

 

Well I dont need to worry about teaching them aerial techniques! Yvonne was really enjoying teaching them now that Lee wasnt sulky and moody. He had asked why the training had to be done with so few clothes. Shed explained that the movements could easily be taught with them wearing sweats but that they needed to get used to the feel of the movements without clothes.

 

Besides, its more fun for me this way, Yvonne had added with a wink. Lee had grinned back at her.

 

Lee agreed that dancing unclothed certainly felt different than in a suit or tux. Yvonne had wanted to see what he and Stephen knew as far as ballroom dancing went so she had partnered each of them in a Viennese Waltz and a Pasa Doble. Definite passing grades for both of them, but especially for a certain Commander.

 

When Stephen was watching Yvonne dance with Lee he couldnt help but observe that closed position was a whole lot more closed with Lee than with him. He couldnt help but grin as he remembered that not so long ago she was giving Lee plenty of space.

 

I wonder if Lee even realizes what happens when he turns on the charm, or if he even knows he does it.

 

*****

 

The two weeks were almost up and Yvonne was more than pleased with the progress the two men had made, still she couldnt help but wonder just what the reaction would be to the homework she was about to hand out.

 

Stephen, Lee, after you shower I need to see you in the office.

 

Yes Mam came back in stereo.

 

She could hear them razzing each other as they headed to the showers.

 

Told you your hip swivels werent swivily enough Lee.

 

Swivily? I dont think thats even a word, and mine are just fine. Now your pelvic thrusts on the other hand....

 

The door closed behind them.

 

Hard to believe these are the same two guys that first walked in here. Especially Lee, I was sure I was going to have to tell Admiral Jones that he wasnt going to cut it.

 

Twenty minutes later Lee and Stephen walked into Yvonnes office.

 

Yvonne picked up two envelopes and handed one to each of the men. Your assignment for tomorrow, before reporting here.

 

Lee and Stephen looked at each other, then at the envelope in their respective hands.

 

I dont think I want to know whats in here.

 

I hear ya Lee, I was kinda hoping that that part was a joke.

 

Yvonne wasnt surprised that they knew what was in the envelopes without opening them. She reached down into a bag that was on the floor by her desk and drew out two items, one blue, one red.

 

Take your pick gentlemen. Youll need to wear these at your appointment, and from now on when youre here.

 

Lee and Stephen looked at each other again and then at the two scraps of cloth Yvonne was holding up.

 

They are called Male Power Ring G-Stings. Lee and Stephen just looked at the items, ......oh come on, pick one. It could be worse; at least they arent cock-socks.

 

Yvonne was holding her breath, if Lee was going to go sulky again, this would be the time.

 

Lee was having a hard time imaging how something so small could cover anything, or how such a tiny string could keep it in place. He didnt want to know what a cock-sock was, although he could imagine it. He gingerly reached out and took the red one, which left Stephen no alternative but to take the blue one.

 

They both held them by their fingertips at arms length.

 

Oh for pitys sake you two, they dont bite.

 

Should hope the hell not, Lee muttered.

 

Stephen balled his up and stuck it in his pocket, Im guessing guys in male revues pack really light. Sort of makes our regular uniforms look pretty bulky.

 

Lee stood there looking at the patch of red in his hand.

 

Yvonne just knew she was going to regret what she was about to say. You need any instruction on how to put it on?

 

That seemed to break Lees inertia; he looked at her while stuffing the G-string in his pocket, You offering to put it on for me?

 

Stephen was having a hard time keeping a straight face and decided to stir things a bit. You know Lee, if you want to stay behind and get some help, Ill just meet you at the hotel, in a couple of hours. Or do you want more time to get the fit right? If the look Lee just sent him was any indication, he was going to pay for that remark. Better sleep with both eyes open tonight! Lees paybacks could be a real bitch. Trouble was you didnt know if he was going to get you, right away, or weeks down the road. Part of the payback was making the person suffer waiting for it. He could remember one time when Gerry didnt sleep for a week wondering when Lee was going to strike.

 

Yvonne could feel herself flushing, enough was enough. She picked up two folded pieces of paper and gave them one each. Specs on your uniform, just in case you run into difficulties. Now get out of here, Ill see you tomorrow after your appointments.

 

She wondered just exactly when shed lost control of those two. Girl you know when, the night he stayed behind and...

 

*****

 

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, a lovely Washington D.C. morning. The expression on the faces of the two men getting out of the cab in front of the Day Spa and Salon looked like Hell had frozen over with them in the middle.

 

The interior of the Spa was very pleasant. The open reception area was painted in shades of white with Wedgewood blue accents around doorways and windows. White cascading swag valances hung from the windows, the white ceiling fans causing them to gently billow giving the impression of fluffy clouds. There were pots of hanging ivies and other trailing plants in the corners and white marble statues of goddesses. In the centre was a large round water feature with side sprays, the reflection patterns dancing on the walls reminded Lee of the Seaviews observation nose. He could also detect the faint aroma of vanilla and melon in the air. Soft classical music with nature sounds was playing in the background, Lee thought he recognized it as being Greigs Morning Song from Peer Gynt.

 

Nice, he said to Stephen.

 

Just trying to lull us into a false sense of security. Rather be in a pub.

 

I dont think they do this sort of thing in pubs.

 

Exactly my point.

 

A very petit, attractive young lady came out of one of the side doors and approached them. She was wearing a pale sea green, long flowing gown, reminiscent of the sorts of gowns Lee had seen on Roman Goddesses in movies. It had a deep V neckline with sparkling gold piping criss-crossing her chest, accenting her breasts wonderfully. Her hair was done up somehow so that it fell down her back in waves and ringlets from what looked like a loose collection on top of her head. Lee could never figure out how women got their hair to do the things it did. All he knew was that it usually took hours judging from how long some of his dates took to get ready.

 

Gentlemen, how may I help you?

 

They handed over the vouchers that had been in the envelopes Yvonne had given them the night before.

 

Oh how wonderful, youve been given gift certificates for a full-body wax, manicure and pedicure. My, isnt someone taking good care of you.

 

Stephen felt Lee tense up beside him, Easy Lee he whispered as the woman worked on the computer to arrange their session.

 

Stephen why dont you have a look at the fountain for a minute. Id like to have a word with the, errr, hostess.

 

What kind of word?

 

Its ok, Im not going to give her a hard time or anything.

 

Stephen figured he was probably making a mistake but did as Lee requested.

 

As Stephen watched out of the corner of his eye Lee talked to the hostess for a minute then handed her his credit card.

 

Curiouser and curiouser, cried Alice actually the place does rather remind me of Alice in Wonderland. What on earth is Lee buying?

 

Lee had asked the pretty young lady just what was included in the wax job. Pretty much everything except for one thing, which he really felt Stephen should have.

 

It wasnt long before they were escorted into a long draped hallway, with doors evenly spaced along it. It actually reminded Lee a bit of the spider web tunnel he had chased a girl through once, in a land of dinosaurs and not so friendly natives.3

 

Lee was taken into a room on the right, and Stephen into one directly across from Lees.

 

Inside Lee noted a trolley that looked very similar to the type Jamie had in sickbay. On this one were bottles of amber coloured liquid sitting it what appeared to be heating racks judging from the blinking red lights on the panel. There were bottles and jars of creams and lotions and stacks of rectangular strips of some sort. Lots of vines and ivies in here too and a bed that again reminded Lee of Jamie and sickbay, but this one had more pillows, not to mention satin sheets. Playing in the background were ocean sounds, waves rolling up onto the shore, seagulls in the distance. This room smelled like coconut and mango to Lee. Everything designed to relax the guest.

 

Lee had been instructed to remove his clothing and lie down on the bed face up, his attendants would be with him in 5 minutes. There was a soft, silky loin cloth he could use to cover himself if he wanted to, or if hed brought something to wear that was fine, neither was required. Lee got into his scrap of cloth, and put the loin covering over top, then stretched out on the bed.

 

Across the hall, Stephen, being somewhat less modest than Lee opted to forgo either. A decision he was to later regret.

 

Two young women soon joined Lee. They introduced themselves as Lisa and Chloe. Chloe asked if he was happy with the background music or would he like something else. There was a wide choice, Reggae, Blues, Jazz, Rock n Roll, Classical with or without nature sounds, Contemporary etc. Lee assured her that he quite enjoyed the current selection. Lisa then explained how the waxing was done and asked if he had any questions. He didnt, he just wanted it over with but was trying to be co-operative and pleasant, it wasnt their fault that he was having this done.

 

Chloe and Lisa had him sit up as they looked his body over. Well Lee youre going to be quick and easy to do. Not much to do on your back at all, already nice and smooth. Legs light, chest, abs, belly, mmmm very nice. As Chloe was speaking she and Lisa were running their hands over his body, big smiles on their faces. Now just relax Lee and leave yourself totally in our capable hands. Well start with your legs, its going to smart a bit but youll love the results.

 

Lisa reached for one of the amber containers, it had a broad roll top, she ran it over a section of his leg leaving behind a warm, wet, sticky sensation. Chloe reached for one of the rectangles and placed it over the area pressing it firmly down. Then in one quick motion, she ripped it off.

 

Smart a bit my ass, it feels like she just ripped my skin off.

 

That wasnt so bad was it Lee.

 

Ive felt better things. In the time it took Lee to respond the two had waxed and ripped another section. Lee gritted his teeth. Lordy, women do this voluntarily? He wondered how Stephen was doing next door.

 

*****

 

Stephen grinned at the two young ladies that entered his room as he lay there in the buff. Of course they had seen it all before. Given that he was to have the works, body, crack and sack they knew hed be naked at some point anyway.

 

They made Stephen comfortable and started on his legs. Stephen sported more body hair than Lee so when the first strip was ripped off the reaction was a good deal more spirited.

 

My god what did you just do? Am I bleeding? Stephen looked at his leg fully expecting to be missing skin and a chunk of flesh. All he saw was a good sized patch of pink skin surrounded by a forest of hair.

 

Now now Stephen, its not so bad. Susan soothed him. Well have your legs done in no time.

 

Lee, buddy, I hope this mission is worth it.

 

*****

 

True to their word Lees ladies were making great progress.

 

OK Lee that takes care of most of your leg area in the front. Now we need you to spread your legs a little more for us so we can get the inner thighs done.

 

Lisa and Chloe each took gentle hold of a leg mid thigh and eased them further apart. Lee found it to be somewhat erotic and felt a stirring higher up.

 

Thank goodness for the loin cloth.

 

Oh I see you have a G-string on, that makes things easier, we can get rid of the cloth.

 

Before Lee could say anything Lisa had removed the cloth and revealed his swollen member, held down by the G-string but peaking out the top. Lee couldnt see her reaction as she was standing slightly behind him.

 

Lisa looked over at Chloe and gave her a big grin and thumbs up. Chloe tried very hard not to grin, but didnt quite succeed.

 

Dont be embarrassed Lee, its a reaction we see quite often, Chloe said, desperately hiding a smirk. He was a gorgeous man and she and Lisa were enjoying their job a great deal today. As they expected and to their disappointment, things settled down in a minute or two.

 

Lee didnt think he could get any more embarrassed than this. I wonder what the current penalty is for murdering an Admiral. Should be able to make it look like an accident. Lots of Admirals must fall out of their windows.

 

Lee kept his eyes focused on the ceiling while his inner thighs were waxed, right up to and including his leg creases. He was trying Spocks logic, which was also an ONI mantra, Pain is a thing of the mind. The mind can be controlled.

 

He did have a moment of concern, when they were waxing his belly and hips. They pulled down the strings and lowered the spare bit of cloth to get a low, clean neat line. The scissor trim was also unexpected but given what hed arranged for Stephen, he didnt feel he could object to it. Chloe had decided that they needed the G-string all the way off to do the trim, wouldnt want any accidents.

 

The anterior being finished, somewhat to the regret of Lisa and Chloe, they instructed Lee to rollover. Lee had breathed a sigh of relief when the last strip was done on the front; hed temporarily forgotten hed have to go through it all again posteriorily.

 

It was about that time that there was quite a commotion across the hall.

 

*****

 

Susan and Gina had almost finished with the waxing of Stephens anterior surfaces, only one area remained before having him roll over.

 

Stephen figured hed been very manly through it all so far. It hurt like blazes but he wasnt going to whimper in front of his two lovelies. The armpits had been his hardest test of control so far. OK so the worst should be over now, how bad can the back be.

 

Gina smoothed some more of the soothing lotion over the skin that had already been waxed.

 

Ok Stephen, just one more area to do and then well have you roll over. Well be real quick.

 

One more area? What area?

 

Susan and Gina knew that the best way to do a guys sack was real quick, so he didnt have a lot of time to focus on what was about to happen. They had everything ready and in just a few seconds had the first application of wax on.

 

Stephen caught on a second too late. Why are they handling my .....

 

They pulled off the strip.

 

Holy _(^$)#*$+)#$* What the hell?

 

Just a couple more and then its done Stephen. As Susan stretched and steadied the skin Gina ripped off the next strip.

 

A string of cuss words in Spanish erupted from Stephen at significant volume.

 

I dont think Im familiar with those words. Susan looked at Gina. Nope, I dont think Ive ever heard them before either.

 

*****

 

Lee was thinking that he might owe Stephen an apology. At the time hed arranged his little surprise he didnt realize how painful body waxing was. He didnt want to imagine what getting a certain anatomical feature waxed would feel like. He thought it would just be embarrassing more than anything else. Yeah, steak and lobster on me for sure. Sorry Stephen.

 

The applying of the soothing body lotion was pleasant and relaxing, not much point in being shy now, the ladies had seen everything.

 

Chloe and Lisa took their time applying the lotion, enjoying running their hands over his smooth body. Applying more lotion than was really necessary.

 

He was shown a kit hed be given when he left, it contained creams and lotions to apply to his skin to sooth it, make it baby soft and impede hair re-growth. He was all for the last part, he never wanted to do this again. He did have to admit, if only to himself, that there was a new, heightened sensitivity to his body. The silk satin robe he was now wearing over his naked flesh felt incredible on his exquisitely sensitive skin. Every time he moved it felt like water flowing gently over his body, soft and sensual.

 

Lisa and Chloe were now finishing his manicure and pedicure, Lee was semi sitting, the bed being adjustable to whatever position was required. He was completely relaxed, eyes closed. Lisa and Chloe looked at each other, then at Lee. There was one more service theyd like to offer, not in the package, one of their own choice and on the house.

 

Lisa gently turned Lees manicured left hand over and brought it, palm up to her mouth. She softly kissed it then ran the tip of her tongue along it to his wrist. At the same time Chloe ran her tongue along the sole of Lees right foot.

 

For a second, in his light doze, Lee thought he was starting an erotic dream but as the sensations continued, one up along the inside of his arm and the other along his inner thigh he realized that it was really happening. He knew there was a fine line between pain and pleasure, right now the fire in his body that had flickered on and off throughout the waxing session caught and flamed higher.

 

Lisa and Chloe could tell that Lee wasnt dozing any more, they were encouraged by the fact that he hadnt opened his eyes but his breathing had quickened and his body had tensed slightly. If they needed any further evidence that he wasnt objecting, a quick look between his legs, where a silk tent had appeared, provided it.

 

Lisa released the waist tie and pushed aside the silk covering Lees chest, she ran her fingertips over every inch of his sensitive skin. She smiled when his abdomen quivered at her touch and then leaned down and licked him there and proceeded to gently kiss her way up to his nipples. She suckled each strongly while continuing to run her left hand teasingly over his abdomen.

 

Chloe had paused for a moment to watch Lisa and now, spreading Lees legs wider apart, began to stroke his inner thighs under the silk. She then glided the silk covering Lees erection back and forth over his engorged cock, knowing the intense pleasure the slithering silk would give him.

 

Lee moaned and shuddered with the intenseness of his bodys reactions. Oh god I shouldnt be letting this happen! Open your eyes and get the hell up Crane, no not that up, its already up! Oh ....that feels soooo good.....

 

Lee fought to open his eyes, he just wanted to lay there and let it happen but the rational part of him that was barely holding on said he shouldnt.

 

Lisa saw Lees eyes open, she smiled down at him and being sure he had a good view of her, released her gown from the shoulders, the silk fell away revealing her breasts to him.

 

Oh god, should have kept my eyes closed. Such beautiful titties.

 

Lee managed to wrench his eyes away from where he really wanted them to be, and looked up at Lisa. Her eyes where deep hot pools of passion and desire.

 

Hell this isnt part of the job, she wants this every bit as much as I do. I cant see Chloe but, given what shes doing down there...shit, rational is highly overrated...

 

Lisa saw a brief moment of doubt in Lees eyes and then consuming, burning desire. She brushed her lips to his and felt him slightly lift his head to accept and demand more. His left hand came up and curved behind her head, holding her in place while he deepened the kiss. His right hand moved to caress her breast and tease her nipple. When the kiss ended she moved so that he could reach both her breasts and after fondling them he started to suckle first one then the other. It was at the same time that Chloe, in one long lick traveled up Lees hot cock to do her own kissing, licking and suckling.

 

*****

 

Stephen was in the lounge area, he looked at his watch, wonder whats taking Lee so long? I thought hed be finished before me.

 

*****

 

The Admiral and Chip had returned to Santa Barbara the day after Nelsons meeting with Admiral Jones. Nelson had informed Chip that evening that there was no point in their staying on there. He had used the contact number Lees friend, and fellow ONI agent, Gerry had given him after an almost disastrous incident that Lee and several other ONI agents had been involved in. Unfortunately Gerry hadnt been able to tell Nelson much more than he already knew.

 

Hes on assignment Sir, I think its local, that is in the US of A somewhere, not overseas.... I dont know the particulars so cant gage the danger level.....I dont believe its the mission itself that has Lee upset, but the cover hes been assigned.....No Sir, I wont reveal what the cover is, if Lee wants anyone to know hell have to be the one to disclose it. If it helps ease your mind Admiral, Lee isnt alone. Another agent was assigned with him. Have to go now Sir.

 

Now it was a waiting game, one that Nelson and Chip were very familiar with.

 

Seaview was in port and most of the crew given shore leave. It would be awhile before they sailed again.

 

Nelson had mission proposals from the Washington meeting to analyse and decisions to make as to which ones NIMR would take on and according to the mission selected possible refits to Seaview. Normally Lee would be assisting the Admiral with the reviews and decisions, in his absence Chip was making a valiant effort to fill his shoes. It was painstaking work and oft times quite boring for Chip. Therefore, when a request came to NIMR from Mandalay Bay for a consult by the Admiral on troubles they were having with their Shark Reef Aquarium, the Admiral decided to take in on and have Chip accompany him. They could both use the break.

 

*****

 

Chip was fidgeting outside the Admirals office; he was hoping that he wasnt in for another all-nighter session reviewing proposals. True to form, the Admiral had buried himself in work, trying to forget about his worry over Lee.

 

Angie finally motioned Chip to go in.

 

He knocked on the door and entered.

 

Chip, good, glad youre here, Mandalay Bay is having difficulties with their Shark Reef Aquarium and has asked for a consult from NIMR. I thought this was a good time for a break from our mission reviews and Id like you to accompany me.

 

Aye aye Sir!

 

Nelson was amused and gratified at Chips enthusiastic response. He had no illusions that Chip was actually looking forward to examining filtration and pumping systems. Hed certainly be doing that, but Nelson would make sure that there was also lots of free time for Chip to enjoy the other aspects of the locale. Perhaps hed even join Chip for a night or two on the town. If only Lee could be there with them...

 

*****

 

When Lee finally came out to the lounge area Stephen noticed that he appeared very relaxed.

 

It took you long enough. Did you give them a hard time or something?

 

Lee turned bright red, Lets just leave shall we.

 

Ive got to find out the story behind that colourful response.

 

As they approached the door Lisa and Chloe appeared at the desk and called out to Lee, Please visit us again soon Lee, wed love for you to come again.

 

If Stephen thought Lee had burned red before it was nothing to the intensity of the blush Lee had now.

 

Thank you ladies; it was an experience far surpassing any expectations on my part.

 

Stephen could hear delighted laughter as the door closed behind them.

 

You going to leave this to my imagination or tell me what that was all about?

 

Stephen my friend, you wouldnt even come close.

 

Wanna bet, I only know one thing that would make you blush like that, you lucky SOB!

 

*****

 

They were late getting back to the studio, Yvonne didnt seem to mind, she was rooting through a couple of suitcases.

 

There you two are, about time.

 

Dont blame me, Stephen told her, Lee was late getting out.

 

Yvonne frowned, she had figured Lee might be a bit reticent over the whole procedure but thought that hed come to accept his cover and all that went with it.

 

Trouble Lee? she asked.

 

No, none at all. Everything came off just fine.

 

Stephen smirked, Ya, I just bet it did.

 

Looking at the two of them Yvonne wondered what subtext she was missing. Lee was somewhat flushed and Stephen looked like the cat that swallowed the canary.

 

Stephen frowned and looked at her. Yvonne, I really think that the sack wax was a little extreme, that cant really have been necessary.

 

What sack wax Stephen? That wasnt part of the package. Yvonne looked puzzled, she noticed that Lee had dropped his head as if examining the floor and had turned so that his back was to Stephen.

 

Lee, did they do you as well? Yvonne asked him.

 

Lee thought frantically for a moment. Actually, he could truthfully say yes to that question. Yvonne hadnt specifically asked if he got the same wax job that Stephen did.

 

Man up Crane.

 

He turned around to face in Stephens direction, Ah no, just a trim.

 

Then why the hell did they..... Stephen looked at Lee, who couldnt quite meet his eyes. He recalled Lee talking to the woman at the desk and giving her his credit card...

 

Lee you dirty....I will pay this back.

 

It didnt take Yvonne any time at all to figure out what had to have happened. She waited a couple of minutes but neither man said anything more. Lee did finally look Stephen in the eyes and she suspected that there had been a message for Lee in those eyes.

 

Ok Gents, lets put those new baby smooth bodies to work. Ive got some stripper wear here for you, easy to learn to use since its basic feature is that its easy to rip off.

 

Yvonne threw Lee and Stephen wife-beater shirts and denim break-away pants.

 

OK, I see how the pants work, Velcro tabs, but what about the shirts? Lee asked her.

 

Just rip em in two or tear them off any way you like. They are cheap and the ladies love catching them when you throw them to the audience. Those are the basics of a guys wardrobe, T-bar4, pants and wife-beaters. In addition to that stuff, for you Lee I have a made to measure tux, also fully breakaway, naturally.

 

Naturally, Lee responded with a grin.

 

Stephen Ive gone with a more earthy look for you. She tossed a set of breakaway camos to him.

 

Huh, just like old times, he joked.

 

The next couple of days well polish off your individual routines. The review will provide whatever outfits you need for the group numbers.

 

What are the revues routines? Lee asked.

 

Pretty much what youd expect. She was sure Lee was about to say something and second guessed him, Ya ya I know, you dont know what to expect.

 

Other than ripping the stuff off and giving things a good shake and shimmy, nope. Lee commented.

 

Yvonne had to smile, my but hes come a long way from that broody, pouty fellow of two weeks ago.

 

Ever see the movie 300? Think oiled Spartan warriors. Its not a long routine but youll need to get used to manipulating a shield, sword and spear.

 

Yvonne was again perplexed when Lee and Stephen grinned.

 

Ok, Im missing something again.

 

What she was missing was the fact that Lee and Stephen already knew quite well how to manipulate the items shed listed. It often surprised Lee just how handy his knight skills came in.

 

Theres also a quasi western routine, you guys know the song Save a horse, Ride a cowboy?

 

Sure, Big and Rich song. Stephen was a big fan. Lee liked them as well but right now was more into Josh Turner, Alan Jackson, Bon Jovi, and Lady Gaga. Hed been caught one time in his cabin by Chip singing One Woman Man to Seaview while putting on his tie. Unbeknownst, he hoped, to the Admiral and Chip, it wasnt unusual for him to take off to a secluded beach with his guitar and have a private jam session, frequently of Jimmy Buffet songs. Boats to Build started going through his mind, he hadnt realized hed started humming it until he heard Stephen say, Earth to Lee.

 

Ah sorry, mind wandered there for a bit.

 

Apparently you can hum in tune. Ive heard youre a decent singer Lee, we can use that if its true. Yvonne walked over to her office and soon came out with a Washburn D10S Dreadnought steel-string acoustic guitar.

 

Lee approved of her choice, he was still making payments on his Martin D-28 Dreadnaught, the top of the line model as far as he was concerned. He also had a Fender American Stratocaster but that was for when he was rockin out with the guys.

 

Yvonne handed him the guitar and a pitch pipe. Lee tested the tuning from the bottom on up. E, A, D, G, B and E. Lee adjusted the strings as necessary and then softly strummed a couple of cords.

 

Anything in particular you want to hear? he asked Yvonne.

 

Surprise me.

 

Stephen sat down on the floor, he played with Lee and the other guys all the time so knew what to expect. Although they mostly played rock, Lee talked them into country from time to time. He thought back to one of the rare assignments where he, Gerry, Mike, Daniel and Lee were working together. They had used their pickin and singin abilities for their cover as a country band. It had been a lot of fun and a bit on the crazy side when Lee had ended up bull-riding. But that was then, this was now, he shifted his focus back to Lee. He recognized the intro bars to Your Man and then Lee began to sing.

 

Baby lock the door and turn the lights down low
Put some music on that's soft and slow
Baby we ain't got no place to go
I hope you understand

Ive been thinking 'bout this all day long
Never felt a feeling quite this strong
I can't believe how much it turns me on
Just to be your man

 

This wasnt the type of song Yvonne had in mind but there was nothing on earth that would make her stop Lee right now. Lord who would have believed he had that singing voice! Drop dead gorgeous and he sings....heaven help us all!

 

Lee finished the song and Stephen chuckled as he watched Yvonne sitting in stunned silence.

 

Yvonne gathered her wits about her, That was lovely Lee, I never thought youd have such a deep voice. Beautiful song but not something for the Vegas revue.

 

Stephen piped up at this point, Yvonne dont let the baritone fool you, Lees vocal range is scary amazing, he can sing tenor as well.

 

A song occurred to Yvonne, with the right choreography it would be a show stopper.

 

Lee, I dont suppose you know Sway, the Michael Bubl version?

 

Lee just smiled at her. He walked over and handed Stephen the guitar, If youd do the honours Stephen. Stephen happily took the guitar and started to play the intro to Sway.

 

Lee pulled off his t-shirt, he had a pretty good idea of what Yvonne had in mind for the song. Didnt take you long to get corrupted did it Crane, he thought to himself with humour.

 

Lee began the song:

 

When marimba rhythms start to play
Dance with me, make me sway
Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore
Hold me close, sway me more

Like a flower bending in the breeze
Bend with me, sway with ease
When we dance you have a way with me
Stay with me, sway with me

 

While singing he serpentined over to where Yvonne was sitting and reached down to draw her up. He stayed well within her personal space and undulated his body to the words, Stay with me, sway with me. Lee had a natural grace and rhythm and once hed gotten over his reticence about the lack of clothing everything combined to make him a very deadly male. Yvonne watched mesmerized like a mouse facing a King Cobra as Lee moved his body around her. Mmmm some nice Cuban hip movement, beautiful flowing vertical ribcage circle with torso undulation allowing the motion to flow from his upper torso all the way to the ground and back again. Hip twists and thrusts, vertical and horizontal hip figure 8s, yep, Lees definitely mastered the basics, with considerable style.

 

As Lee started the next verse he drew Yvonne into closed dance position and he guided her body to move with his, swaying ......

 

Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak

 

Stephen was grinning as he played the guitar. Hmmm, now that is what I call closed position, you couldnt get a feather between them.

 

When Lee sang When we sway I go weak he quickly spun Yvonne down backwards and supported her as he straddled her in an extremely suggestive position while rocking his hips back and forth. The inference could not be mistaken.


I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now

Then he brought her up back up and into closed position drawing her left leg up to wrap around and rest on his right hip as he finished the song.


Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak

 

He didnt release her but held her in place, their lips almost touching, he had thrust his hips forward and Yvonne could feel the heat and pressure between her legs. Oh lord, if he wanted to do it right here and now, I wouldnt have the slightest objection! Yvonne swallowed spasmodically trying to gain some control over her racing heart.

 

Yo guys, Ive stopped playing, the song is over. Did you want me to leave now or something?

 

Thankfully Stephens comment brought Yvonne back to reality and she pushed away from Lee, not forcefully but enough that he let her go.

 

Yvonne turned and with her back to Lee took a couple of deep breaths and gave herself a little shake. Lee couldnt help but smirk a bit and be a bit disappointed. Pity we don`t have the place to ourselves.

 

Lee was attracted to another woman; one that he believed was beyond his reach and always would be. However, being a healthy male and given his present environment, it was inevitable that he would have normal, healthy reactions to the situation. Damn good thing neither Caitlin nor the Admiral are ever going to know about this. What would Caitlin think of me parading around essentially naked, or the Admiral of his Seaview Captain, supposed officer and a gentleman. Lee gave his head a shake.

 

*****

 

The last couple of days passed quickly, more trampoline and weight work for both he and Stephen. Lee also worked on his tux routine and Stephen his Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch Good Vibrations. Lee had to admit, Stephen certainly could vibrate.

 

Yvonne was very impressed with what had been accomplished in only a couple of weeks. She worried a bit about Lee, he had all the moves down and knew his routine, but there were still moments when she could tell he wasnt comfortable about what he was doing. He needed to look perfectly at ease with it. Performing in front of an audience, no matter why, could be extremely nerve wracking and more than one performer had found they werent able to do it. Well there was one way to get a pretty good idea if Lee was going to be able to handle it.

 

*****

 

On the last day before they were to fly out to Vegas, Lee and Stephen were told to report to ONI headquarters at 0700, this would be their final briefing. The fine details of a mission were always the last thing conveyed to an agent.

 

Admiral Jones assistant waved them in, the Admirals office door was already open.

 

Lee and Stephen entered and stood at attention in front of the Admirals desk.

 

Jones was looking over some paperwork and continued to do so for a couple of minutes. He felt it was good for junior officers to stand at attention for a while, it reminded them of just who was in charge, and Crane needed reminding, a lot, in Jones opinion. Granted the progress reports had been surprisingly good, he had thought that this might just be the assignment where Crane would finally step over the line and give him a reason to discipline him, right back into the Navy, preferably assigned to ONI! No such luck it seemed.

 

At ease gentlemen, have a seat. Jones nodded to the two chairs in front of his desk. He handed the two officers identical brown envelopes. Look the material over, its short.

 

Lee and Stephen each withdrew a single sheet of paper from their envelopes and read.

 

After a couple of minutes they each looked up.

 

Any questions? Jones asked. Id put money on Crane having a couple.

 

Yes Sir, it says that the agent asked for me specifically and also specified the manner of the drop. Why?

 

Jones had wondered the exact same things, and he had no clue.

 

Not for you to wonder why Crane. This is a joint effort and if the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) tells us that, an agent from the National Security Agency (NSA) wants to drop some intel to us, then we are going to make it happen, in whatever manner. Isnt that right Commander Crane!

 

Yes Sir, he doesnt know any more than I do about why.

 

Stephen kept quiet, he was not getting in between these two, but he had the same questions.

 

Jones gave the perfunctory Good luck agents. Dismissed.

 

They were due at the dance studio at 0900, the meeting with Jones had taken less than an hour so they had time to kill. They decided to grab a coffee at one of the bistros. Stephen was hungry so he ordered waffles and sausage.

 

I seem to recall you having eggs and bacon at the hotel, Lee commented.

 

Ya, but that was a couple of hours ago.

 

More like 1 , you remind me of Chip, youre both bottomless pits.

 

Some people need more than caffeine to get through the day. Were called normal.

 

Lee just snorted into his second cup of coffee. He did eat, at some point in the day, usually. On Seaview he didnt have much choice, either Chip or the Admiral would practically force feed him. When he was young it used to worry his mother that he didnt have much interest in food but the family physician had told her not to worry, her boy just had a very efficient metabolism that made the most of what he did eat. He wasnt a junk food eater then or now, when he did eat it was always highly nutritious. He didnt carry an ounce of fat, he was packed muscle, broad across the chest and shoulders, narrowing down to a trim waist and muscular legs.

 

Stephen finally finished his waffles and as he sipped his coffee asked Lee, so any thoughts on who the agent is that requested your participation in the drop, or why?

 

Nary a one, I only know what you know. The agent has vital intel to deliver to ONI, requested me as the pickup agent, cover to be male revue in Vegas. Im to choose the agent wholl be at table 5 seat 2 to be my partner in my solo, last show Thursday night. The agent will slip the intel to me on stage. Damn if I know how or where Im supposed to conceal it.

 

Youd better hope its before you rip off the tux, Stephen smirked.

 

Cant see how that would work since I have to throw the pieces offstage. No way Im doing that with the intel.

 

Well then buddy theres only one place left to put it....

 

Lee just scowled.

 

Stephen wasnt going to tell Lee but he couldnt recall when hed enjoyed an assignment more, well not counting the Spa experience, he still owed Lee for that.

 

They arrived at the dance studio and went in.

 

Seems kind of noisy in here, commented Lee. We are supposed to report here for one last session right?

 

Yep, thats my understanding. Stephen replied.

 

Just then Yvonne came through the dance room doors and in her wake the noise increased until the door shut.

 

Oh good there you are, hurry up and get changed into your solo outfits.

 

Lee and Stephen werent slow to figure things out. Weve got company, they said in stereo.

 

Yes. Some of my friends wanted to know what Ive been doing so I invited them to have a look. Dont worry, they all have the necessary security clearance.

 

Lee stood very still, Let me get this straight, you want us to go in there and dance naked in front of a bunch of female Seals.

 

Of course not Lee, some of them are from other forces, and they arent all female.

 

Yvonne held her breath and waited for the explosion that she could see in Lees eyes. Stephen appeared to be taking it just fine.

 

Lees mind was racing but not in the direction Yvonne thought. Damn this is my fault. She isnt sure I can do it so Im getting a trial by fire.

 

Yvonne watched Lees eyes cool down. He looked over and Stephen and shrugged his shoulders, you first buddy.

 

Stephen just shrugged back and grinned.

 

They went into the change room to get ready. Stephen high-fived Lee as he left for his performance.

 

Lee heard the room erupt with hoots and hollers as Stephens music started and he made his entrance. Things didnt get any quieter from there. Lee could tell every time Stephen vibrated, the place went nuts.

 

In all too short a time the music stopped, but the applause and whistles went on for awhile. Lee grinned, Stephen would be lapping that up like a cat does cream.

 

Yvonne stuck her head into the change room. You ready to go Lee?

 

As Ill ever be I guess. Lee gave a final tug here and there to his tux, not that it would be on him all that long.

 

Yvonne went in to set the mood.

 

Yvonne wondered where Stephen had skittered off to, shed thought hed stay to watch Lee but he was gone. As she started speaking she found out. Stephen came in holding a sheet up so no one could see Lee behind it.

 

Very inventive boys.

 

OK ladies and gentlemen, I want you to imagine that you are sitting in the club, the lights are all off, its pitch dark, then the spotlight hits centre stage.

 

As she said the last two words Stephen gathered the sheet up with a flourish, revealing Lee in his tux with his back to the audience. A number of OOOOOs could be heard, as Lee snapped his head sideways and then spun to face them.

 

Yvonne had recorded Stephens guitar accompaniment to Lees song Sway and she hit the switch.

 

Lee began to sing and utter silence fell. After the first verse Yvonne could hear, and she was sure Lee could too, a great many of the women proclaim, Oh god Im in love!

 

At the end of the second verse Lees jacket, which he had been sliding off as he swayed and moved back and forth, finished coming off and was flung behind him. Thats when the whistling and other encouragement began. Piece by piece and gyration by gyration he gave them what they wanted, and enjoyed doing it!

 

He selected one of them to come join him and as he began singing verse four, facing his partner he ripped his pants off and wrapped his left arm around her drawing her close. He swayed and moved seductively against her and she responded in kind. At one point he did have to capture her right hand as it was straying where he wasnt prepared to have it go. Instead he placed it firmly on his left cheek. She got the message and was content to give him a stroke and squeeze there.

 

From the audience reaction, Yvonne wasnt sure that Lee wouldnt end up being mobbed at the end of his routine.


As it turned out Stephen saved the day by coming in, fully clothed, with the sheet. In the routine, the lights would have been killed at the end, once again leaving the stage and audience in darkness. In simulation Stephen held the sheet up in front of Lee and his partner, and then turned his head towards the audience and waggled his eyebrows. When this routine was done for real the audience would be left for a minute in the dark to let their imaginations run wild as to what was happening up on the dark stage. When the lights came back on Lee would escort his partner back to her seat, while looking extremely pleased with himself.

 

Unexpectedly, from behind the sheet, everyone heard Lee give a sexy growl and his partner a nervous giggle.

 

Stephen cracked up and dropped the sheet. The place exploded in applause and whistles as Lee took his partner back to the bleachers.

 

As Lee headed back to the change room he turned his head back and gave a wink and one of his own vibrations as he went through the door.

 

Yvonne couldnt get everyone calmed down, they kept stomping and hollering for more.

 

To her astonishment Lee, still in his T-bar and Stephen, once again is his and nothing else, bounced back into the room.

 

Stephen went to the stereo and pushed a couple of buttons, Lady Gagas Bad Romance began to play.

 

Lee and Stephen pranced past each other and high fived. Then they gyrated up to the women and started picking partners. After a couple of bars theyd get another partner, the plan obviously to hip thrust, wiggle and swivel their way through everyone there. What ended up happening was that everyone bailed off the bleachers and started dancing, Lee and Stephen moved through the bodies and spent a couple of minutes dancing with each person. Lady Gaga songs continued to throb through the room.

 

Dont know what the Hell I was worried about. Yvonne smiled widely as she joined the dancers.

 

*****

 

Chip was rather disappointed that the plane trip to Vegas has just about over, they were on final approach. It wasnt often that he got to fly first-class, one of the perks of travelling with Admiral Nelson.

 

He had read over the report that had arrived from Mandalay Bay. They hadnt actually lost any of the exhibits yet but they couldnt seem to get the water quality stabilized.

 

The Shark Reef had opened June 2000 it was billed as a total sensory experience and featured dangerous and unusual aquatic species from tropical waters around the world. There were fourteen exhibits, including the recreation of an ancient temple being reclaimed by the sea. Sort of the opposite of what we are usually trying to do, Chip thought.

 

The largest exhibit was a 1.3 million gallon shipwreck with an acrylic tunnel so visitors had an almost 360 degree view. There were about 2,000 animals on exhibit, over 100 species and approximate 15 species of sharks. All this over 270 miles from the nearest ocean.

 

As amazing as it all was, it wasnt much good if the water was to murky for anyone to see anything. No amount of filter cleaning and changing had helped, finally in desperation they had contacted NIMR. The freshwater exhibits were doing fine, it was the saltwater ones that they were having the trouble with. Being so far from the ocean they couldnt pump sea water in so they treated city water. They remove the minerals and chlorine and added a salt product called Instant Ocean, just like home aquarists use, except Mandalay Bay bought it by one ton bags, and uses about 200 tons a year.

 

Chip had a vague understanding of the ongoing filtration network, it was done in three stages:

 

        mechanical filtration with sand filters

        biological filtration with Trickle Filters

        chemical filtration with Ozone

 

An automated computer system monitored all the pumps, filters, water and pH levels. That was where he came in. He would check out the computer system and see if there were any glitches happening there, while Nelson took care of the biological aspects.

 

The plane landing went smoothly and they managed to get their bags without too much difficulty.  They were expecting to hop on a shuttle to get to the hotel and were pleasantly surprised when they saw a driver holding up a sign with the Admiral's name.

Mandalay Bay had sent a limo for them.  Oh ya, the joys of traveling with the Admiral.

It was a quick drive from McCarran airport down the strip to the hotel.  The streets were full of people and Chip knew that when night fell it would be even busier. 

The limo pulled into the receiving area and there was a bellman waiting to take their bags to their rooms.  They were advised that all they needed to do was sign in.  Chip had been expecting to share a room with the Admiral, he knew that when Lee traveled with Nelson they usually stayed in a suite with two bedrooms.  He wasn't sure if he was pleased or a bit disappointed to find out he had his own room.  Guess he doesn't want to room with me.

He heard Nelson's signature 'hrrumph' as Nelson took the room cards.  "I thought we'd have a suite together," he told Chip, "guess the hotel decided we'd prefer separate rooms.  I see they are beside each other so probably doesn't make any difference which one you take."  He threw Chip one of the cards.  Chip was now happy to have his own room, since it was the hotel's doing and not the Admiral's.

They went up to the 33rd floor, Chip opened his door and froze, this had to be a mistake!  There were floor to ceiling windows, giving him a 180 degree view of the Strip and Mountains.  The room was huge, larger than some small houses, he figured at least 1700 sq feet.  He stepped inside and looked around, he had a 50 inch LCD HiDef TV with separate speakers in the main room and there were two more TVs, 42 inches LCD HiDef  strategically placed.  Fridge, minibar, dining area separate from the expansive living room.  He noted computer hookups and an I pod dock.  Wow, there's even a 15 inch mirror LCD TV in the bathroom!  A steam shower and a dual, oh WOW!  Lee's sure going to be sorry he missed this.

He heard a noise behind him, Nelson was leaning on the door frame grinning.  Think you can make do with the room?

It's got to be a mistake Sir.  You could fit the entire crew in here.

"No mistake Chip, all yours while we're here.  I've got one just like it next door.  Guess we'd better really deliver for the aquarium."

Yes Sir, seems the least we can do.

Speaking of which, there was a message for me in my room.  After we're had a bit of a rest and changed into casual wear, the Aquarium director would be pleased to meet us in my room and take us for dinner around 1900.

Ah... rest Sir, I don't really feel tired.

Nor I, let's change and have a stroll around, the valets will unpack for us.

Valets....I have a valet, sweet!

Chip took a quick shower, looking forward to later when he'd try the steam shower.  He changed into dark blue pants, pale blue chambray shirt, open at the neck and a navy blazer.  He was just about to leave his room when he heard a knock, he opened the door to find Nelson also ready to go, dressed in charcoal pants, a moss green shirt and charcoal blazer.

As they started down the hallway they were met by a server coming in the other direction with a tray loaded with two drinks. 

Admiral Nelson and Lt Commander Morton, I believe.  Frozen passion berry and Russian Vodka, compliments of the Hotel.  He handed each of them a drink.

They murmured their thanks and took the drinks.

Whoa, heavy on the Vodka and light on the berry!  Perfect.  Chip commented after taking a big sip.  Are you sure they are expecting us to work while we're here Admiral?

 

Its a different world here Chip, enjoy it while you can. Nelson smiled and took a big sip of his own drink. Normally a straight up scotch man he did find the drink refreshing.

 

They spent the next couple of hours wandering through Mandalay Bay getting their bearings. It was a big place with lots of action. It seemed that their drinks no sooner approached empty and another one would appear. Nelson wondered at first if they were receiving special attention but he noticed that other guests with drinks were never left empty. Their second one was also frozen and this time tasted of Mango and Rum. Nelson was curious about the drinks so asked the server the name of the newest one.

 

Its called Vegas Crush, sir. Its Coral Crush and Tropical Rum.

 

I see, and the name of the one with Passion Berry and Vodka?

 

That would be Call Girlz. The drinks are a specialty of our Evening Call bar sir.

 

Chip had been listening but didnt really care what they were called, as long as they kept coming. He wondered how many different frozen drinks the bar made and if there would be time to work through all of them before dinner.

 

They wandered through the Casino and Nelson noticed that Chips gaze lingered a bit on one of the poker tables. Chip and Lee played with some of the other officers on board from time to time. The Admiral had invited Lee to join him, Admiral Starke and another of his Admiral friends to play poker at his place upon occasion, but Lee was always extremely busy. Nelson gave a snort thinking about it. Chip looked over, Sir?

 

Oh nothing Chip, just thinking about poker and reluctant players.

 

Chip was on his third drink, Nelson had waved his off.

 

Why dont we sit down and play a couple of hands.

 

YES SIR! was Chips enthusiastic reply.

 

Theres a condition Chip.

 

Chip looked at the Admiral, a puzzled expression on his face.

 

While we are here and out of uniform, I want you to call me Harry. Not Sir or Admiral. We may be working on the Aquariums problem but I also want this to be a sort of vacation. I dont want to be Sir-ed and Admiral-ed while we are here.

 

Admiral I dont think I can do that. Chip sputtered. Hell Lee would skin me alive if I used the Admirals first name. Lee never uses it and hes a hell of a lot closer to Nelson than I am.

 

Harry watched the panic cross Chips face and he had a hard time not laughing. It was identical to the expression Lee had had when Harry had suggested that Lee call him by his first name in private. He could make it an order. He didnt want to, for the same reason he hadnt made it an order to Lee, he wanted it to be voluntary. So far Lee hadnt managed the transition, but he was pretty sure he could get Chip to, at least while in Vegas. He tried a little blackmail to encourage Chip along.

 

If it makes you that uncomfortable Mr. Morton, we can go back to our rooms, change into our uniforms and keep this strictly professional. Of course that means no gambling, no more drinking and as a junior officer to myself we should probably get your room downgraded.

 

Chip took a couple of long draws on his drink, finishing it off, before replying. He wasnt sure what would piss Lee off more, him calling Nelson by his first name, or messing up the Admirals plans for some relaxation time in Vegas. The Admiral seemed to sincerely want him to call him Harry. Oh bloody hell.

 

That wont be necessary S.., uh Harry. Boy that felt weird.

 

Fine, fine Chip. At least one of my boys can be reasonable.

 

One of my boys, when did that happen? Chip felt a warmth that had nothing to do with his three drinks.

 

While talking to Chip, Harry had waved off the server who had been approaching them with more frozen concoctions but now signalled one of them over. Wed like a couple of scotches.

 

Yes sir, be right back.

 

They sat down at one of the poker tables and enjoyed their scotch and cards until it was time to meet with the Aquarium Director.

 

*****

 

Lee and Stephens flight arrived on time in Vegas. Lee gratefully stretched while standing in the aisle waiting to get off. It was always a challenge to cram himself into coach class. These days when he flew it was usually piloting FS1 or going somewhere with the Admiral, which meant blessed 1st class leg room. Youve been spoiled Crane.

 

He and Stephen wended their way to the baggage pickup and grabbed their packs, then tried to figure out the bus system to get to the Excalibur.

 

I guess we could take a cab, I dont see a shuttle or a bus around. Stephen muttered.

 

Lee responded, We could walk, its not all that far, be good to loosen things up a bit. Wed need to walk around the perimeter of the airport to get up to E Tropicana Ave, then hang a left on S Las Vegas Blvd and right on E Reno Ave.

 

Youve been practising your map reading again huh. So how far is that?

 

3.4 miles or so. Shorter if we try cutting across the airstrip, but that would probably get us arrested or something.

 

How much shorter?

 

Knocks off about half the distance. Not a great start though if someone from Excalibur has to bail us out of jail.

 

True. Ok, 3.4 it is. My legs could use the exercise; I know you want to limber yours up after being scrunched up for 8 hours.

 

They each had a large cross-country backpack. It was truly amazing how much could be packed in one of those, if you knew how, and both Lee and Stephen were long time pros at it.

 

They had just starting their trek when they heard someone yell, Yo Glen, Barker!

 

They turned to see a well built man loping up to them. Thought it must be you, your bio pics dont do you justice guys. Im Rob from the troupe, got elected to pick you up, sorry I was a bit late. Jeeps over yonder, lets get your stuff in the back and get outta here.

 

Rob exchanged high fives with them, seemed to be the troupe greeting rather than a handshake.

 

Either of you been to Vegas before? Rob asked them as he drove along E Tropicana.

 

Lee answered first, Nope, been over in Europe mostly. Met Stephen over there and we more or less did the same circuit. Dont remember if you said youd ever been here before Steven.

 

Long long time ago, before heading overseas. Looks like its changed a lot.

 

I can guarantee you wont be bored, not a lot of spare time between one thing and another but there is some time to enjoy whats here. Either of you guys want a girl or two for tonight? Rob asked.

 

Lee was a little surprised at the question, then spotted a large truck rolling by on the other side of the road, emblazoned on it was HOT CHICKS INSIDE READY FOR YOU - CALL 123-4567. Ya, not in Kansas anymore5.

 

Lee and Stephen assured Rob they didnt require any company just yet.

 

OK, if you decide otherwise ask one of the guys for a number, dont trust whats on the cards youll get handed on the street. What you see is not what you get.

 

They pulled into the back of the Excalibur and piled out. Grabbing their bags they followed Rob inside and into an elevator. They arrived on the Castle Walk floor and Rob led them into the Showroom through the back.

 

As they walked in a cheer went up from the other troupe members. HUZZAH!

 

Lee and Stephen looked at each other a bit confused, huzzah!

 

Rob laughed and punched Stephen in the arm, youll have to sneak into the Tournament of Kings, then youll get it.

 

The other members of the toupe came up and high five welcomed Lee and Stephen while introducing themselves.

 

The Manager, George called everyone to order, more or less. OK gents, weve got three days to work Lee and Stephen into the numbers, being pros Im sure theyll catch on fast. Stephen I know your here as a backup but weve decided to include you in the shows anyway, we can always use another hot body out there. You wont need to do your solo number unless we have an injury but well have you practice it anyway.

 

Works for me George. Stephen responded.

 

Oh, one other thing, we also help out around the other venues as well. Turns out they need two guys for tomorrow to do the meet and grope at the entrance, Lee, you and Stephen are nominated. No dancing required, just make happy with the ladies as they arrive downstairs. Ken will fill you in later. OK, lets get to work.

 

With that clothes came off and Lee and Stephen began learning the groups routines.

 

*****

 

Harry and Chip did reasonably well at the poker table and before they knew it, it was time to leave to meet the Aquarium Director.

 

They had only been in Harrys room a few minutes before there was a knock on the door. Harry opened it and the distinguished looking gentlemen standing there introduced himself as

Brad Bailey, Director of Shark Reek Aquarium.

 

I hope you gentlemen have had time to look around a bit. I understand you did quite well at the poker table.

 

Harry grinned, he imagined there wasnt much that went on in any of the Hotels/Casinos that wasnt observed one way or another and reported to those who wanted to know.

 

Yes, thank you. Its a very expansive establishment, Harry responded. Im sure we havent even seen half of it yet Mr. Bailey.

 

Brad please, we try to keep things very informal here on the Strip.

 

Chip also shook hands with Brad, I didnt realize that we were being observed.

 

Oh not to worry, its very discreet. Im sure you must realize that with establishments our size and the 24/7 activities its necessary for safety and security to keep an eye on things.

 

Of course, Chip replied.

 

Brad continued, I thought that for tonight wed dine at The House of Blues, again very informal. The Aquarium will be closed by the time we finish dinner so well be able to take a stroll through on our own.

 

So you are still letting the public in even though there are visibility issues? Harry asked.

 

Yes, its only the salt water displays that are affected, we are offering entrance at a discount for now. I am really hoping you can find a quick solution to our problem, but enough shop talk, lets have dinner.

 

The House of Blues Restaurant, affectionately known as HOB served Southern specialties, including Full Rack BBQ Basted Baby Back Ribs, Creole Seafood Jambalaya and Pan-Seared Voodoo Shrimp. Other menu items included Cajun specialties, burgers, salads and more.

 

For starters Chip and Brad ordered the Pan Seared Voodoo Shrimp with Rosemary Cornbread and Dixie Beer Reduction, the Admiral had the Crispy Catfish Nuggets with Sweet Potato French Fries and World Famous Spicy Tartar Sauce.

 

Staying with the seafood starter theme, for his main course Chip choose the Creole Jamabalaya with Shrimp, Chicken, Tasso Ham, Andouille Sausage and Roasted Green Onions.

 

The Admiral and Brad went with Grilled Filet Mignon with Asparagus, Cheddar Baked Potato, Buttermilk Onion Rings and Red Wine Reduction.

 

To finish they all choose the Florida Key Lime Pie with Raspberry Sauce.

 

Through dinner they were entertained with live Southern blues music.

 

Chip couldnt remember when hed had a better dinner. Of course the bourbon flowed freely and for the life of him he didnt see how he was going to be able to concentrate on the aquarium issues later. Vegas was definitely an entirely different world than the one he was used to.

 

*****

 

Rehearsal over Lee and Stephen were exhausted. They had run through all the numbers and while not complicated they were indeed physically demanding. The troupe members were a lot of fun to work with and kept the energy levels pumped way up. By way of welcome Lee and Stephen were told that they were being taken to dinner, Dicks Last Resort down on the Casino level. It was apparently known as the Shame O The Strip. Famous for messy cuisine, zany decor, rowdy staff, live bands and an anything goes atmosphere.

 

The place was packed but the guys had reserved a table, which turned out to be a long picnic type arrangement. Soon what was called a Case O King Crabs turned up along with endless amounts of beer followed by Ridem Cowboy Rib Eye steaks, Macho Nachos, Pork Bonerz, Mumbo Jumbo Chicky Wings, Buckets OFrys and more beer. The last item was Not-Yo-Mamas Cheezkake, along with more beer. All served by very sassy staff with wise-cracks and friendly sarcasm. After the strenuous rehearsing all day Lee found he had quite an appetite and thirst. He noticed that Stephen was packing away the grub with great gusto and was currently in a beer chugging contest with Damien and Clint. I guess from Stephens point of view this assignment is pure heaven. Got to admit, compared to some of them this isnt so bad at all. The only torture involved is gonna be the headache in the morning.

 

The troupe was obviously well known in Dicks and everyone was interested in meeting the two newbies. There was live music and guests were invited to sing or dance. It wasnt long before Lee found himself volunteered to the stage as the only one of the group that sang. He suspected Stephen instigated it but everyone obviously felt it was a great idea. He had consumed quite a lot of beer, so to the shouting, by now of everyone, of Lee Glen, Lee Glen he mounted the stage.

 

Ummmm, any of you band guys trust me with your guitar?

 

Right here Lee, treat her gentle. The lead guitarist handed his baby over.

 

Lee did a short rift, which put the guitarist nerves at ease, obviously this Lee guy knew what he was doing.

 

Lee had noticed that Bon Jovi was in Vegas, he sidled over to the band, You guys know Blame It on the Love of Rock and Roll?

 

The drummer leaned over, In our sleep buddy.

 

Lee grinned at him, OK, then drummer leads off and lets rock this place!

 

The drummer spun his sticks and beat the intro, Lee swivelled his hips and hopped forward on one leg:

 

First time I heard the music

I thought it was my own

I could feel it in my heartbeat

I could feel it in my bones

My momma thinks I'm crazy

My dad says I'm insane

I got this boogie woogie fever

That's burning in my veins

 

By the time he hit the chorus everyone was up and dancing:

 

It feels so good that it ought to be illegal

I got my vaccination from a phonograph needle

I'll never grow up and I'll never grow old

Blame it on the love of rock & roll

 

Lee and Stephen were totally wasted by the time everyone called it a night. Fortunately they had managed to get a double bed regular room at Excalibur.

 

They collapsed onto their respective beds after finally getting out of Dicks.

 

Man Im going to have such a headache tomorrow, moaned Stephen.

 

It is tomorrow. I just finished promising myself no more drinking, groaned Lee.

 

How come?

 

Dont ask.

 

I already did.

 

Shut up and say goodnight Stephen.

 

How can I do that when you just told me to shut up?

 

Lees sweat soaked T-shirt landed square in Stephens face as Lee headed into the bathroom for a quick shower.

 

Stephen dropped Lees projectile to the floor and then he leaned down to remove his shoes and socks, holding his socks out he gave a short sniff in their direction. Ewwwww. He carefully placed one under each of the pillows on Lees bed. Sweet dreams.

 

*****

 

Dinner finished Harry, Chip and Brad strolled through the Aquariums exhibits. As Harry and Chip had been told, the fresh water exhibits were crystal clear, no problems there, the same couldnt be said for the saltwater ones. Shadows loomed past the windows travelling through the murky water

 

Nelson remarked, Very impressive place Brad, especially given the distance from any ocean. I see what you mean about the saltwater enclosures. It doesnt look like an algae problem, the water isnt green but cloudy yellow.

 

It looks like a DOC (Dissolved Organic Compounds) issue, Chip remarked.

 

Harry looked over at him, the surprise evident on his face.

 

Uh, been doing some reading....Harry.

 

Harry smiled, he knew Chip was never that interested in the biological aspects of Seaviews missions, but when it called for it, Chip was up to the challenge, even if it meant hitting the textbooks.

 

Yes, Chip I agree with you. Thats where well start looking.

 

Brad filled them in on what had been done so far, Of course weve done countless water samples and as youve already discerned the DOC readings are very high, but our computer monitor readouts show everything is within acceptable limits.

 

Nelson immediately began to form a theory but he wanted to run his own tests before making it known. He arranged with Brad to get started first thing in the morning in the Aquariums labs.

 

*****

 

Lee rolled over in his bed with a groan. Im getting way too old for this!

 

Stephen opened bleary eyes when he heard Lee get up. He looked over at the table clock, Good lord Lee, its only 0700, no one in Vegas gets up, or even wakes up, this early.

 

On Seaview this is sleeping in my friend, and were not guests here, were working stiffs. Ah, pardon the pun.

 

Oh lord, Im rooming with a comedian, a bad one.

 

Look whos talking! Pot, kettle and all that.

 

Stephen pulled open the top drawer of the dresser and found all his underwear tied together and his fragrant socks weaved throughout the snarl.

 

They managed to harass each other through the process of getting up and at em and arrived for morning rehearsal on time. The other guys were looking a little frayed around the edges too but rehearsal went well.

 

Ken filled them in on the meet and grope that had been mentioned the day before. Lee and Stephen would be working the first evening shift.

 

Its not complicated, Ken told them, a few feet beyond the main entrance there is a picture stand. Trellis with lovely fake climbing roses etc. You watch whos coming in and approach the women. Put a bead necklace around their neck and encourage them over to the trellis setup. If they are willing, and most of them are, you do three poses with them. First one, face them and take their hands and place them on your butts and tell them to squeeze, you wrap your arms around their waist. The photographer snaps the pick. Then turn around and kneel down in front of them and crossing their arms place their hands on your chests over your nipples. For the last pic, get behind them, have them bend over, put your hands on their hips and slap a silly grin on your face. Im sure you get the idea. Ken threw them some clothes. Didnt know what you had with you that would fit the Excalibur theme so picked these up for you.

 

Lee looked at the stuff, beige cargo pants and brown open cut leather vest, no shirt. Lee could see the logic behind cargo pants, allowed for easy bending at the knee and hip without uncomfortable stretching of the fabric. The open vest made sense too since hed be sliding womens hands over his bare chest all night.

 

Last couple of things you should know, Ken continued, light on the chest oil and if they say no thank you accept that, we dont get pushy about it. Theres lots of women who say yes, you wont be lonesome. Oh ya, dont forget to sign the pics. Make it suggestive, thanks for the great night, Ill never forget what you did to me, that sort of stuff. Any questions?

 

What time so we start? Stephen asked.

 

You start at 7 p.m. and get off at 11 p.m.

 

What do you do if they try to put their hands other places? Lee wanted to know.

 

Same as in here, polite but firm no. Even if youre OK with it the hotel isnt. Of course if you happen to run into the person again when youre off the clock....

 

Stephen gave Lee a dig in the ribs and an eyebrow wiggle.

 

George came over, You guys all set?

 

Yep got the time and the drill. Lee told him.

 

George dismissed the troupe, OK then, thats it for today gents, go have some fun, see everyone back here tomorrow for last rehearsal.

 

Lee and Stephen begged off a couple of invites to join one or another of the guys for some poker or other activity saying that they were still tired from the plane trip and last night. They dropped their evenings costumes off in their room and went to get some food.

 

They decided to stay in the Excalibur to eat, since for breakfast Stephen had talked Lee into the Roundtable Buffet. For $24.99 you could eat as much as you wanted, as often as you wanted and the wristband also gave you preferred access, so no waiting in line.

 

It wasnt a quiet place by any stretch of the imagination so neither man was concerned about their conversation being overheard.

 

Lee I know you arent exactly thrilled about our job here, but come on, this has got to be the sweetest deal ever. No skulking around sewers, no one shooting at us, we dont have to find anything. Just enjoy ourselves until Thursday when we get the intel, do a couple more shows and gone.

 

Lee forked some more of his shrimp salad into his mouth, it was very tasty. He had to admit that Stephen had a point about the assignment, it was not life threatening or horribly difficult, just embarrassing, to him anyway. Stephen didnt feel that way. Just another sign that Im getting old I guess. That wasnt really the case Lee wouldnt have been any happier about it back in his twenties. He was always a bit shy around women, which would have surprised his crew since among them he had quite a reputation as a lady killer. Hed never figured out where that came from. Sure there had been that one time at the beach when Sharkey had come looking for him and found him occupied with a lovely woman6, but he hadnt gotten anywhere with the women that came onboard Seaview, well maybe Tracy7, sort of. Oh, and dont forget Melina, how could I ever forget Melina8 .

 

They finished lunch and decided to take a look at some of the other hotels. Lee was especially interested in visiting the Shark Reef in Mandalay Bay. Stephen agreed to that as long as Lee agreed to go on the roller coaster with him at New York New York, 67 mph, 144 foot drop and it had a 540 degree spiral! Stephen was still negotiating for the Big Shot at the Stratosphere, strapped into a chair with your legs dangling, they shoot you straight up the tower's steeple, 160 feet in two seconds, at four G's. Then they freefall you so you get negative G's, then shoot you up again, etc. If this ride started at ground level it would be scary, but it starts at a fifth of a mile from the ground, downright terrifying, he enthused to Lee, who just groaned and rolled his eyes.

 

*****

 

At Mandalay Bay, the tests of the Aquarium water had produced the results that Harry had expected, high concentrations of DOC in the water and floor bed samples. Chip was still going over the computers readings.

 

Hmmmm, everything looks like its working properly Chip mused to himself. Flow rates, pump rates, circulation all green across the boards. He decided to walk over to the where Harry was taking more samples from the filters themselves. As he walked in that direction he passed one of the security stations and caught a quick glimpse of the camera feeds on the monitors. He stopped suddenly, naw couldnt be, but for a minute I could have sworn I saw Lee in the crowd. He waited and watched but the tall dark haired man seemed to have moved into the next section and he didnt spot him again. He thought about mentioning it to Harry but decided it was just his imagination or wishful thinking. He had been contemplating the fun he and Lee could have had here together, amongst other things, challenging Lee to go on the Big Shot with him.

 

*****

 

Lee had been disappointed with the Shark Reef display, while the freshwater exhibits were great the saltwater ones were murky and didnt afford a very good view. He wondered if the Admiral would have been able to tell what was wrong and advise the Aquarium on how to fix it. Hed try to find a way to mention it when he got back to Seaview.

 

Hed enjoyed the roller coaster and the Big Shot that he eventually agreed to go. Some day he and Chip would have to come to Vegas, hed love to see Chips expression when he got shot up the tower mast at 4 Gs. It had been Stephens idea but Lee got the distinct impression, judging by the white knuckles, that Stephan had had second thoughts once strapped in.

 

They hit a couple more casinos and then headed back to the Excalibur to have dinner, change and head for their first work experience here.

 

The photographer, a woman by the name of Jenny, was already there when they arrived and greeted them enthusiastically. Lee learned that the photographer was always female, it was a security measure so that no false charges could be made against the two men doing the posing. Lee suspected it was also to help the men keep their hands from wandering should they be tempted.

 

Jenny pulled a couple of bags of colourful bead necklaces out from the drawer of the photo desk and put them on the counter. Lee and Stephen each took a couple of the necklaces.

 

OK gents, camera is all ready so whenever you are its a go.

 

Lee and Stephen looked at each other then at the entrance where a steady stream of guests were flowing in. Lee spotted a group of young women about midway down the corridor, it would be a minute or so before they got to the entrance. He nudged Stephen, grab some more necklaces, lets try for that group coming down the corridor.

 

Gee buddy, you really want to take that on as our first attempt.

 

Group dynamics Stephen, if one does it they all will. Safety in numbers and all that.

 

Whose safety? Stephen wanted to know, but grabbed more necklaces and handed Lee some.

 

As the group of 4 young women entered Lee and Stephen approached them with big smiles and started to put necklaces over their heads, Welcome to the Excalibur. The women were taken a bit by surprise but quickly warmed to the idea, OOOOO youre gorgeous, said the second one. As Lee put a necklace on her she reached up to muss his hair. Lee could smell something fruity on her breath, likely one or more of the many drinks available everywhere, he had noted that one of the women still had a drink stick in her hand, not quite finished. Stephen had that one necklaced already.

 

If youd like to come with us, Stephen invited as he took one woman on each arm and started for the trellis, Lee following with his two.

 

Stephen went under the trellis with both his captures, Lee asked his to stay by the desk, telling them that he and Stephen would be right back for them. By now the women were getting the idea although when Lee took one from Stephen and placed her hands on his butt she seemed a bit startled, then giggled. They did the poses then collected Lees two and repeated the process. The blonde Lee was posing with decided she wanted a bit more than just resting her hands on Lees chest and started to move them up and down his torso, bending close to whisper in his ear, can we meet later? Ah crap, did this have to happen right away. Sorry, hotel rules, no fraternizing. Which wasnt strictly true but Lee wasnt going to tell her that. She pouted a bit and then joined her friends. They all bought the photos and moved on.

 

Stephen couldnt let it pass, So lover boy, got your first proposition did you?

 

Stuff it Stephen, Lee realized too late hed just handed Stephen one hell of an opportunity for a comeback. Unfortunately for Stephen he was laughing so hard he couldnt get it out. Seems Jenny caught it all as well as she had tears streaming down her face while trying to control her laughter.

 

The rest of their shift was basically more of the same, Lee figured that by the end of it Stephen had been propositioned just as many times as he had, and had just as many women unsuccessfully try to get their hands from butt to crotch. Lee and Stephen were both thankful for their lightening quick reflexes.

 

Jenny told them that it was the highest take shed ever heard of for one shift. Virtually no one Lee and Stephen approached had refused the offer and it seemed that some ladies came over looking for them, having heard from friends about two drop dead hunks at the entrance offering a little hands on opportunity. They even had repeat business, the women wanting to switch after the first poses to the other one of them so that they had pictures with each of them.

 

*****

 

Harry and Chip finished for the day around 2000. Harry still hadnt said anything but Chip could tell that he had a theory brewing. Well he could wait until Harry wanted to share it. Brad had come by and suggested that they all have dinner at the Excaliburs Steakhouse at Camelot. The Excalibur and Mandalay Bay were both owned by the MGM group.

 

Nothing against the fine dining here at Mandalay Bay but the wife and daughter want me to pick up tickets for Thursdays male revue show at Excalibur, apparently they have some new talent taking the stage this week, Brad informed them. Wed be pleased if youd join us.

 

Not sure its quite something wed normally attend, Harry sputtered. He wasnt sure just how to refuse the invitation without looking like a prude. Chip was wondering how old Brads daughter was and if she was attached. If she liked male revue shows, well it hinted at possibilities. He wasnt currently seeing anyone and while Harrys company was great and all that, a little female companionship would be nice.

 

Thats the whole point of Vegas Harry, doing things you dont normally do, you must have heard the saying, What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Youre coming with us, I wont take no for an answer.

 

So a happy Chip and a somewhat reticent Harry accompanied Brad over to the Excalibur for dinner and ticket pickup.

 

As they entered Excalibur Chip noticed quite a few women over to the right, judging by the flashing lights there seemed to be some sort of photo op going on. The bodies parted for a moment and for the second time that day he thought he saw Lee. It was to brief a glimpse to be sure and he only saw the mans back. Well they say everyone has a double. Anyway, Lee wouldnt be in Vegas and he sure wouldnt be having his picture taken with some strange woman squeezing his butt.

 

At dinner, Harry couldnt help but chuckle as Brad wondered if Chip could possible eat all the food hed ordered.

 

Oh believe me Brad, stuffed baked potato, 16 oz Rib Eye, lobster tail and jumbo asparagus will barely hold him until breakfast. Hes well known as a bottomless pit, and he never puts on an ounce.

 

The two older men grinned and settled down to their smaller sized but no less delicious dinners.

 

Afterwards as Brad picked up the tickets Chip asked the clerk what The Tournament of Kings was about. Hed seen the banners advertising it and was curious.

 

Its our very popular Las Vegas dinner show. Invading armies, dancing maidens, jousting, fireworks, and a three course meal to be eaten with your fingers! Basically a non-stop medieval melee...with brewskies and a banquet. You should be aware that it has horses, pyrotechnics, strobe lights, smoke and fog effects in an enclosed arena. Guests are seated in close; therefore, persons sensitive to horses, dust or with allergies, asthma or respiratory conditions should attend at their own risk.

Chip looked at Harry, Sounds like something Lee would be into.

 

The clerk perked up, Lee, do you mean Lee Glen?

 

Harry and Chip both started and looked at the clerk, Ummm, do you know a Lee Glen, Miss? Harry asked.

 

I havent met him but Ive heard someone by that name is performing here and very good looking. Are you here to see him?

 

No, no, just met a Lee Glen once, Im sure its not the same person.

 

Crap, Harry thought. If Lee is here on an assignment then Chip and I could be treading very close to blowing his cover. Thank God we arent in uniform and the clerk doesnt seem to know who we are. Jones had said that Lees assignment was in country, but Vegas! What were the odds! Astronomical Harry was sure.

 

Harry leapt to a conclusion, the wrong one. If Lees here undercover, then his cover would be the Tournament of Kings, it makes perfect sense9. Chip and I can go to the show, in the crowd Lee will never spot us and at least well be able to see that hes alright.

 

Chips line of thought mirrored Harrys and they both started to request two tickets. The clerk smiled and happily processed two tickets for them, they would have to wait though, the next available show wasnt until Friday.

 

When they got back to their room Chip confessed to Harry that twice that day hed thought hed seen Lee but had convinced himself that it couldnt have been him.

 

If you see him again Chip dont approach him and try not to let him see you. I dont know what his assignment is but Im sure he doesnt need the complication of having us around. Thank goodness you havent been calling me Admiral.

 

Chip nodded his understanding, he knew that their being there could pose a danger to Lee, but was happy that he was going to get a chance to see Lee, even if Lee never knew about it. He was puzzled as to how a hotel/casino could have a full jousting arena in it, complete with horses, but hed find out Friday.

 

Brad hadnt noticed anything unusual in their getting tickets for the show and had assured them that they would enjoy it.

 

*****

 

When Lee and Stephen showed up Wednesday for the last rehearsal, they received a standing ovation. Seems their record take for the entrance picture gig was well known.

 

George seemed very happy with the rehearsals and asked both Lee and Stephen how it was they were so comfortable in the Spartan warrior routine. Hed thought theyd have trouble handling the swords, spears and shields and had thought about leaving the two of them out of that particular segment. In order to protect their personal information Lee and Stephen couldnt tell him the real reason they could handle the gear just fine. Too much personal stuff gets out about an agent and sooner or later someone puts it all together. So they told George that while they were in Europe they met some guys that were into historical re-enactments and had spent some time recreating medieval battles, with all the paraphernalia. Their explanation satisfied George. He did get a rather contemplative look on his face that Lee wondered about at the time.

 

Thursday finally arrived, the day Lee and Stephen were going to perform for real. There would be two shows, 2100 and 2300. The atmosphere was charged backstage, the guys all pumping each other up for the show and especially encouraging Lee and Stephen.

 

Lee hoped he didnt look as panicked as he felt, Stephen smirking at him didnt help matters any.

 

Chill Lee, Stephen sotto voiced to him, Youll be fine.

 

Eric happened to overhear the comment. Lee are you one of those types that always gets stage fright every time?

 

Sure seems that way, Lee replied.

 

Hey, Id tell you to picture the audience naked, but, well doesnt really seem to fit. Eric and Stephen both laughed. Eric slapped Lee on the back, Like Stephen said, chill, youve done this a million times.

 

Ya, right. Lee gulped back his rising panic and took several deep breaths, using his ONI training to calm himself down. If he could get through torture and other unspeakable situations, then he could certainly handle this. Somehow, torture and impending death just seem easier to handle right now.

 

He heard the intro music start, ok Lee Glen, the ladies are here for a show, lets give it to them.

 

Lee gyrated, thrust, bounced, leapt, swivelled, strutted down tabletops and became the darling of the ladies. He had that certain something that is referred to as presence. He wasnt a man that would ever be overlooked, by either sex.

 

Stephen also proved very popular with the audience, whereas Lee had the tall, dark, sexy look Stephen was all mischievous, adorable blonde boytoy, winking, wiggling at and flirting with the ladies.

 

Lees solo blew the place apart and security had to make their presence known to discourage a stage rush.

 

Backstage, after the show, the praise of the fellow performers for Lee and Stephen was effusive. It was obvious that their addition was going to do good things for ticket sales and anything that brought the ladies in was all right with everyone else. George was already contemplating doing additional shows. Lee and Stephen were only supposed to be with them as fill-ins until the regular guys came back in a couple of days but given the response, George really wanted to keep them.

 

There wasnt much time before the next show, everyone kept moving so muscles wouldnt cool down too much.

 

Stephen winked at Lee, I take it your nerves have cleared up. You practically caused a riot out there. No wonder you got banned in some of the places in Europe.

 

Lee wondered what Stephen was playing at.

 

Hey, we never heard about that. Why did Lee get banned? George asked on behalf of everyone.

 

Oh nothing much, just tended to start orgies from to time. Never figured out how he could perform on stage and back and still have energy left. Of course after the last show of the night hed disappear with a few of them. Wouldnt see him again until the next day.

 

Im going to kill him for this.

 

Lee, care to fill us in? Eric asked with a wide grin.

 

No he wouldnt, George interjected. Ah Lee, dont know what went on in Europe but here its hands off out there or afterwards.

 

Dont worry, I have no plans to do otherwise. Nothing happened in Europe. Stephen just has a very active imagination. If looks could kill then the one he gave Stephen would have left him a smoking husk. Lee could tell from the amused looks he got from some of the guys that they were believing Stephen more that they were him.

 

Stephen smiled innocently at Lee. Just a little payback Lee, I still owe you for the wax job.

 

Lee figured he knew what was behind Stephens comment, apparently it was time to start watching his back.

 

*****

 

Harry and Chip spent Thursday pouring over test results and computer readouts. Harry thought they were close to solving the problem but couldnt quite put his finger on it.

 

Chip, what is the computer record for the water quality at 0900?

 

Chip punched some numbers into the computer and brought up the computer test results for 0900.

 

Here you go...Harry. Chip wondered if hed ever get used to using the Admirals first name, he still often hesitated, fighting back Admiral or Sir.

 

Harry looked at the screen then at the results of the test hed done manually at 0900. He passed his written results to Chip.

 

Notice anything?

 

Chip looked at both just as Harry had done.

 

Are you sure, S..Harry that this was done on the same water at the same time?

 

Positive.

 

The results are quite a bit different.

 

Yes they are. I noticed the same thing yesterday but didnt want to say anything until I had other samples that showed a similar disparity.

 

If the computer is adjusting the filtration requirements according to the automatic test results, then....

 

Then its not adjusting correctly, its allowing a larger DOP in the water and substrate.

 

So we need to locate the problem with the computer water tests. Chip mused aloud.

 

Once we fix that we should have things under control.

 

Once Chip knew what he was looking for it didnt take him long to find the computer glitch, although he suspected it was user error, not really a glitch. A higher allowable DOP had been programmed. The computer had simply allowed the parameters to exist that it had been given.

 

They explained the situation to Brad.

 

Either someone on your staff made an error or youve had a bit of sabotage. Harry told Brad.

 

Its not beyond possibility, things can get a bit competitive but I find it hard to believe that any of my staff would deliberately do this. Ill have security checks run on everyone just to be sure.

 

Always a good practice, Harry agreed. Chip and I will monitor the adjustment to be sure that weve found the only issue but the water should clear after about 48 hours of constant filtering. Id recommend that you change or clean the filter mediums before and after.

 

Yes of course. I really appreciate your coming to help us and how quickly youve found the problem. Admiral Jones was certainly right in his praise of you.

 

Harry and Chip were both stunned at this revelation. Every warning signal they knew went off. Harry smelled a setup.

 

Admiral Jones recommended you contact NIMR? he asked.

 

Yes it happened that he was here for a meeting of some sort when we started to have the problem with the displays. When he visited the Aquarium and saw our problem he contacted me to suggest that we ask for your help.

 

This smells to high heaven. So Jones was here when the trouble started, Id wager hes somehow behind it, but why? Blast Jones what is he playing at?

 

The object of Harrys thoughts was sitting at his desk back in D.C. wondering just how far along his machinations had gotten, and if hed be successful.

 

Harry looked at Chip who appeared confused and worried. Youre not the only one Chip.

 

Harry turned his attention back to Brad, Well Brad Ill certainly have to thank Admiral Jones for his confidence in me.

 

Well founded confidence Harry. Ill leave your instructions with my staff and we can go get ready for dinner and the show tonight. My wife and daughter are thrilled that youre coming.

 

Harry and Chip returned to their rooms to freshen up and change. It wasnt long before Chip heard a knock on his door. He opened it to let Harry in and then poured a couple of scotches from the complimentary bottle; they each had quite a choice of beverages in their suites.

 

Thoughts Sir, Chip didnt notice that he hadnt used Nelsons first name, Harry didnt appear to notice either.

 

None of them good Chip. Jones is playing us somehow and it worries me. You can bet that its something to do with Lee.

 

He wouldnt jeopardize a mission just to get back at you, would he? Not that I know of any reason he might have something against you, or Lee.

 

Dont be coy Chip, you can figure it out. He wants Lee full-time for ONI, I stand in the way of that. Always have, always will, if I had my way ONI would never be able to call Lee in for missions. Makes me wonder just whos mission this is.

 

Chip nodded, he wasnt a political animal but he knew that it could get dirty and underhanded. Were they caught in a power play of some sort? He had faith that the Admiral would figure it out and get them out of it intact.

 

*****

 

Stephen took a look at the crowd as he waited for the last show to start. Mostly women but there were a few tables that also had a man or two at them. He looked up in the VIP section and spotted a very interesting table. A huge grin spread across his face. There, front and centre in the upper section sat Admiral Nelson and Lees XO, Chip Morton. They were with two women, and another man.

 

Well well well, payback is a sweet sweet thing. Stephen was practically gibbering with anticipation. Wont that be something when Lee struts himself out on stage, rips it all off and then spots his Admiral and XO. Oh Powers that Be, thank you so very much!

 

He wasnt going to leave anything to chance on this. Sometimes you couldnt really get a good look at the crowd when on stage and the lights were on you. He went over and had a word with the guys on the spotlights, letting them know that sitting at table 15 were some very special friends of Lee Glens, and would they please spotlight the table towards the end of Lees solo. Lee wouldnt be able to miss seeing them. They sure as hell wouldnt miss seeing Lee, a whole lot of Lee.

 

When Stephen went backstage again he was laughing so hard tears were running down his face.

 

Whats so funny? Lee asked him.

 

Wouldnt you just love to know. Call it Karma.

 

Lee would have liked to pursue this further, he wasnt at all comfortable with that answer, but the intro music was playing.

 

Everything was going smoothly, as before Lee gave it his all to the joy of the audience. This was the show where the drop was to be made. He hadnt really gotten a good look at the agent at the table. He didnt want to draw any attention to the person, it had to appear to be a random pick when his solo came up. He did see enough to know that it was a woman with long titian hair. A small alarm went off in the back of his head; he dismissed it as absurd.

 

*****

 

Harry settled himself in a chair at their VIP table, Chip was seated to his right, Brads daughter beside Chip. Brad and his wife were to Harrys left.

 

They had enjoyed a nice dinner and Chip and Phoenix seemed to hit it off right away. Harry suspected he might not see a whole lot of Chip for their last two days in Vegas. It was a self-serve bar and Brad had gone to pick up drinks for all of them. He arrived back just as the intro was starting. Harry hadnt looked around much, just vaguely noticed that it was mostly women at the tables but there were a few men scattered about.

 

Harry had turned to say something to Brad as the entertainers exploded onto the stage and the women applauded and hooted. What first caught his attention was Chips drink falling from his hand with a bang onto the table.

 

Chip, something wrong?

 

Chips mouth was gaping and he seemed stunned as he looked at the stage.

 

Chip is having an interesting reaction to the show, Brads wife remarked.

 

Harry looked to the stage, his drink also hit the table as he choked on the sip hed just taken.

 

As he watched, the performers weaved around on the stage in a complicated dance pattern and started ripping their clothes off. First vests, then shirts were hurled into the audience. As a group they turned and vibrated their tushies to the appreciation of almost everyone there. They then jump turned to face out as they simultaneously ripped off their pants.

 

Chip recovered first and scrambled to get out his cell phone. Nelson reacted immediately, grabbing Chip and hauling him under the table.

 

Brad, his wife and his daughter looked at each other in total amazement and confusion. They had no idea what to make of this strange behaviour.

 

Under the table Nelson hissed at Chip, put that away, you will not be taking any pictures.

 

But Harry, hes up there practically naked, dancing in only a T-bar. Ive got to take pictures!

 

You will not take pictures Mr. Morton.

 

O, so now its Mr. Morton is it. Seems to me, Harry, that you said this was also a vacation, we solved the Aquarium issue, Im on my own time, and I want to take pictures of the show.

 

Harry wanted to strangle Chip.

 

Chip figured hed pushed things a bit to far as he watched the colour climb up Nelsons neck and face.

 

OK, fine. Chip stuck his cell back in his pocket, or appeared to.

 

Brads face appeared as he leaned down and lifted the table cloth, everything all right under there?

 

Ah, yes thanks, Chip dropped something, we found it.

 

Chip and Harry resumed their seats, thankfully the first number was done and the emcee was introducing the dance members. They came out one by one and did a little shimmy, shake, shake and went offstage again. When Lee Glen was announced and came out Harry did not notice that Chips right hand held his cell phone. Chip had his right arm around Phoenix and he was using her to shield his right hand from view. Punch, punch went his finger on the picture button.

 

Harry was thinking all sorts of thoughts about Jones. He understood Lees reaction to the assignment now. He was starting to guess at why hed been manoeuvred here by Jones. Jones would pay for this. If he could get himself and Chip out of here without Lee knowing then he could reduce the damage Jones obviously was trying to cause.

 

It looked like he was going to be able to accomplish that task. The performers obviously had areas they were assigned to; Lee was concentrating his attention to the tables to the left of theirs.

 

Harry had to admit that the physical demands of the routines were impressive and the human body was a beautiful thing, hed just never expected to see so much of Lees and certainly not in such a public way. He eventually recognized Stephen, having met him once before. Chip seemed to be behaving himself, which made Harry a wee bit nervous, hed expected Chip to make another try at getting pictures but Chips right arm hadnt left its position around his date. Odd that I cant see Chips hand...

 

The emcee announced that Lee would be performing a solo next and that the audience should be prepared for a real treat.

 

Harry took a deep breath.

 

The lights dimmed, then went out. A single spotlight snapped on to show Lee in a tux, his back turned to the audience. After a second his head snapped around, a very pouty, sexy expression on his face, numerous ohs and awes could be heard. The music started and Lee began his performance. For the second time that night Harry and Chips mouths dropped open. God can Lee ever sing! What a marvellous voice, a real gift! Harry thought.

 

Lee slinked down off the stage and made his way over to table 5. He got his first good look at the woman in seat 2. It was almost his undoing. Thankfully it happened at a riff section and he wasnt singing because he was sure he couldnt have gotten the words out.

 

NONONONONONONO it cant be.

 

There sat Caitlin10 Nelson, the Admirals sister.

 

This is table 5, seat 2. Did the agent not show up?

 

Caitlin smiled up at Lee, he noticed that she looked very pleased with herself. Well hed try the code phrase and see what happened.

 

Hello my lovely, can I convince you to join me onstage my darling?

 

Nothing in this universe or any other could stop me you beautiful, sexy man.

 

Damn, thats the correct response. Does the Admiral know shes an agent?

 

Caitlin slowly came up out of her seat and leaned in close to Lee, moulding her body against his and bringing her mouth close to his ear. Surprise.

 

No shit! Lee thought.

 

He lead her up onto the stage with him. It seemed like an eternity to Lee but everything had happened within the allotted time. He began to dance around her as only he could.

 

For the second time that night Harry choked on his drink and the glass banged to the table. Chip looked over at him wondering just what hed missed. Harrys gaze was fixed on the stage, he looked like hed seen a ghost.

 

Caitlin was thoroughly delighted that her plan had worked so well. When she picked up the intel from her contact the perfect way to get it to ONI had occurred to her. Well, perfect for her purposes. It had been a bit dicey convincing her handler of how she wanted to do it, but she was a good agent, able to get into places that would be far more difficult for others. She had connections in high society, among the old and new money. No one ever suspected a flighty rich girl as being anything other than brainless. There were foreign assignments where no one knew of Edith Nelson and for those she used cover names and stories, upon occasion when Edith Nelson was invited to some place of interest she went as herself. Like all good agents she kept out of the papers so her physical appearance wasnt that well known. This had proved quite handy a few years ago when a foreign power tried to blackmail Harry by kidnapping her.11 So it was that the NSA did indulge her from time to time, this was one of those times. She had no idea that it had also created a nasty plan against her brother and Lee.

 

Lee wondered at first why the other members of table 5 were yelling atta girl Caleigh but quickly decided that like all agents, Edith/Caitlin had a myriad of names. Seems she liked the Celtic variety.

 

Lee reached the point in his solo where he ripped his pants off and in his T-bar made very suggestive moves, slowly sliding his body up and down in a S motion, almost in contact with his audience picks body. In fact, there was so little space that from the audiences perspective he did appear to be caressing her body with his.

 

Hello, tall, dark, and scrumptiously naked stranger, Caitlin purred into his ear.

 

So far she had not produced a microchip or anything else. As Lee went to take her in his arms for the last move, she reached into her pocket, took something small out, and then, before he could do anything, slid her hand inside his T-bar and placed something sticky against his penis, giving it a totally unnecessary squeeze. Two things happened at once, the audience erupted in delighted approval and a spotlight flashed onto table 15 causing Lee to look in that direction...................

 

Please, someone, anyone, kill me, kill me now! At that moment Lee meant every word of it. There at the suddenly spot lit table sat Admiral Nelson and Chip, stunned expressions on their faces.

 

Caitlin felt Lees entire body go suddenly rigid, which had nothing to do with what she was doing. She followed his gaze and likewise froze.

 

Oh god Lee Im sorry, which one of us do you think hell kill first? She whispered.

 

The spotlight on Lee suddenly turned off even though Lee hadnt given the cue. He hadnt pulled Caitlins leg up around his waist which was the signal to kill the light. The other performers werent sure what had gone wrong but they knew something had. Stephen, who at first had been delighted at the reaction when Lee saw who was at table 15, was rapidly rethinking things. Lee being mortified, yes he had expected that, but the agent with Lee had looked equally pole-axed. Nelson had looked like he was prepared to slaughter both of them, or at the very least stroke out on the spot. Stephen realized he was definitely missing a piece of the picture here.

 

When the lights came back up Lee had recovered enough to escort Caitlin back to her table where she was greeted with great enthusiasm by the other women there. All of them wanting to know what she had got her hands on. Caitlin just wanted out, fast. She looked toward where her brothers table was, she had felt his laser eyes drilling into her. She wasnt wrong. Oh shit hes getting up and heading this way. I cant have him blow my cover and I sure as hell dont want to talk to him right now. There was only one thing to do. Telling her tablemates that nothing else could possibly top the evening and that she needed some air, she headed for the exit.

 

*****

 

Harry wanted a word with Edith, right now, several words in fact. He got up from the table and started towards her but saw her go out the exit. You can run for now Edith, but I will be speaking to you. He altered his direction and headed for the bar and a double scotch.

 

Chip knew something had happened but hadnt a clue what. Hed thought that the Admiral had been taking the evenings entertainment fairly well, all things considered, until Lee picked out that rather striking young woman hed taken up on stage with him. At that point, the Admiral had started a slow burn that reached magnesium white when the woman had slid her hand under Lees one bit of very spare covering. Chip was pretty sure hed gotten a couple of good pictures of Lee and whomever. He didnt think he recognized her but hed take a closer look when he got back home and he could download the pictures onto his computer. Actually I think Ill send them now while the Admiral is at the bar, just in case I get caught. Given his current mood hed probably shove my cell where the sun dont shine if he found out Ive been taking pictures.

 

Harry came back to the table having finished his drink at the bar. He then finished the one he still had at the table. When the show was over he quickly excused himself and tried to get backstage. Totally forgetting that he shouldnt approach Lee on an assignment. Security turned him firmly away, sorry no one goes backstage.

 

Harry didnt figure there would be any point in asking if theyd send a message back to Lee Glen that someone wanted to see him. Lee was probably long gone anyway.

 

Harry went back to join the others and they headed back to Mandalay Bay. It had been one hell of an evening.

 

Once Harry and Chip left for their rooms Brads wife gave him a quizzical look. Well dear, Im not sure which was more entertaining, the show or those two men. I cant think of what they could have been doing under the table.

 

Phoenix was a little puzzled as well, Chip is adorable but he seemed more interested in taking pictures of that gorgeous Lee Glen than anything else. Im pretty sure he was trying to keep Harry from knowing he was doing it. I didnt get the feeling that he was gay during dinner but he certainly was fixated on Glen.

 

Their reactions certainly seemed unusual, but not for us to judge. This is Vegas, it makes anyone act a little crazy.

 

*****

 

Once the show was over Lee just wanted to get out.

 

George was having a fit at the spotlight guys, who the hell told you to light up table 15, that wasnt in the show.

 

Ask Stephen what that was about, he told us the table had friends of Lees seated there and to light it up during his solo.

 

George and Lee both looked at Stephen, Stephen really wanted to be somewhere else.

 

George was the first to speak, Anything you want to tell us about that Stephen?

 

Not really. My mistake.

 

This time Lee spoke or rather growled, You have no idea how big a one.

 

Look, whatever issues you two have I want them sorted before the next show on Saturday, George told them. Just then his cell phone went off and he moved to a quieter corner to answer it.

 

Lee and Stephen were still glowering at each other when he came back.

 

OK you two, since youre both so good with swords and such, youre filling in tomorrow night at the Tournament of Kings, they had a couple of injuries tonight. You two can go and bash each other to a pulp, just dont get any bruises we cant cover up.

 

*****

 

Harry couldnt get to sleep. How had Jones gotten Edith involved? It made no sense, he couldnt fit it into the picture anywhere. What the hell had Edith been thinking to shove her hand where she had, up on a stage no less! She had not been raised that way. Why had Lee allowed her to? Maybe that wasnt fair, Lee had obviously not been expecting her to do that, probably didnt know shed be there, but then why had he taken her up on stage at all? Why, why, why, so many questions and no answers.

 

As he thought about it over and over again he remembered that Edith had put her hand in her pocket just before plunging it down onto Lees privates.

 

Had there been something in her pocket that she was giving to Lee? Something small, something important...............good god, was his sister an agent. Was that the assignment that hed just witnessed? Despite what movies showed, most agent meetings did not take place in dark alleys or abandoned buildings, but in as open and populated a place as possible. Lee would likely not have known who he was to meet, hed be given a place, time and code to use. The agent wanting the meeting would set the parameters. Which meant that Edith had requested this particular cover for Lee? IF, and it was a big IF, she was in fact an agent.

 

More tossing and turning, no sleep, just lots of whys and ifs. He needed to talk to Lee, but he wouldnt risk doing it here in Vegas. He realized he couldnt talk to Edith here either, just in case she was involved somehow. He wouldnt do anything that might put either one of them in danger.

 

Finally he fell into a fitful sleep.

 

*****

 

Once back in the hotel room Lee went into the bathroom and rather painfully removed the item Caitlin had so enthusiastically placed on his appendage.

 

What the hell kind of glue did she use? Stuff sticks like crazy. Sorry buddy, but this is going to hurt.

 

Lee looked at the red area that pulling off the small square package had left. Some of his hair was clinging to the package.

 

Guess thats a small taste of what happened to Stephen.

 

He looked at the bit of plastic. Hope youre worth all the shit thats hitting the fan over this. Not to mention that the Admiral is probably writing out my pink slip right now

 

He opened the door and stepped out; Stephen was sitting on the bed looking pretty uncomfortable.

 

Happy now? Lee asked him.

 

No, not especially. Look Lee I admit I set you up by not telling you your Admiral and XO were out there but I have no idea what went on with your contact. Nelson looked like he was going to run up onstage and disembowel both of you.

 

That would have been the best case scenario. I suspect it will be much worse.

 

Why, whats the issue? She something to him?

 

Just leave it Stephen, I cant tell you anything. Chalk it up to really bad timing.

 

With that Lee threw the bit of plastic to Stephen, here you take care of it, Im liable to do something stupid to it.

 

Instead Lee did something else even more stupid. As required he made contact with ONI to report the assignment a success, no complications , yeah right. Then he asked that the paperwork be started to reactivate him and place him with ONI fulltime.

 

When he flipped his secure cell phone closed, he heard Stephen clear his voice. He looked over at him.

 

Lee, you cant mean that.

 

Believe me Stephen, I dont have job with NIMR anymore.

 

When Stephen started to speak Lee held up his hand, leave it, whats done is done.

 

Lee stripped out of his clothes and crawled into his bed; he turned toward the wall.

 

*****

 

Friday saw the water start to clear in the saltwater displays of Shark Reef. The adjustments were working and the technicians were busy changing out the filters. While it was gratifying to have solved the problem, Harry didnt feel any joy. Hed be glad to get out of Vegas. He thought of suggesting to Chip that they skip the Kings Tournament show tonight and catch a flight back but he didnt want to ruin Chips fun just because he wasnt having any. Not to mention that he had told Brad they would be there for two more days to ensure everything was fine. He didnt know when Lee might be leaving Vegas, or for that matter if hed already left. If last night had been the drop then there would be no reason for Lee and his partner to stick around.

 

Chip was out with Phoenix seeing some of the sights of Vegas, he and Chip would meet up at the Excalibur for the dinner show. Harry decided to go over early, you never know he might spot Lee or Edith, and then at least hed know if they were still here.

 

He checked out the entrance area where Chip had thought hed see Lee before but Lee wasnt there. He gambled a bit but he wasnt really interested in it. Finally it was time to meet Chip so he headed for the ticket booth, as it happened it was next to the stairs down to the arena area. He didnt have long to wait before Chip arrived. They went down the stairs and followed the signs to the Tournament entrance. Their seats were in the Dragon section, which turned out to be the west middle section.

 

Chip told Harry that he and Phoenix had spent most of the afternoon down around Fremont Street exploring old Vegas.

 

Their server brought them cold flagons of beer and soon Merlin arrived in the arena amid flames and smoke. He instructed everyone in the proper way to cheer their favourites on, slapping the trestle tops and shouting Huzzah, not to mention raising the flagons and quaffing the beer. It was good fun and despite himself, Harry smiled a time or two. Merlin told a slightly altered story of Camelot, King Arthur, his son Christopher and the villain Mordred. Harry was pretty sure that King Arthur did not have a son called Christopher but the show wasnt going for authenticity anyway. As Merlin set the stage the food was delivered. Chip looked positively delighted that he got an entire chicken along with 2 roasted potatoes and shards of broccoli. The tomato basil soup, called Dragons Blood, was quite good. Harry figured Chip could probably take care of half of his chicken for him.

 

While they were eating the Kings were introduced, one from France, Russia, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Austria, Hungary and the Dragon King, who it turned out was the villain of the show. As each country was called the King rode in on his charger and did a loop of the arena. They were brightly dressed in vaguely period apparel.

 

No way, Chip exclaimed, Harry look!

 

They had just called Spains King in when Harry happened to be looking down at Merlin, he looked back up and saw what had excited Chip. Lee was coming in on a grey charger; he waved to the crowd, saluted his countrys section then galloped out of the arena.

 

Im pretty sure thats Stephen riding for Hungary, and Chip pointed to the next rider coming in.

 

Harry definitely got much more interested in the show. There was a dance sequence next but the Kings were soon back, setting up the round table and doing a drinking song and generally having little sword fights among themselves, just to get warmed up Merlin had informed the audience. Lee looked like he was putting a little more energy into his sword swings than the others did.

 

Harry didnt catch all the explanation but he thought the Dragon King was connected with Mordred somehow. Close to the beginning Mordred had turned up shooting fire at King Arthur and Merlin. Mordred appeared again during the round table segment to threaten everyone, shot some more flames but once again escaped before anyone could fight their way to him.

 

Then the joust was called and the table was cleared from the arena. Harry hadnt really expected a real joust but as he watched things being set up he began to wonder. Soon Merlin announced that the King of Russia and France would take the list first. The two galloped in and took their positions at opposite ends of the arena. Lances where given to them and as far as Harry could tell they charged, full out at each other. They each had a shield and the impact of the lances sounded real enough, the King of Russia went flying from his saddle, he tucked and rolled as he hit the ground.

 

Play acting or not that has to hurt, a lot, Chip got out between mouthfuls of food.

 

What Harry assumed were meant to be pages ran out and picked up the bits of shattered lance that littered the ground.

 

The next two Kings were called and this time the loser got caught up in his stirrup and dragged for a bit before the horse stopped. On it went, Stephen was the winner in his round, finally Lee and the Dragon King were to go.

 

Figures Lee would get the bad guy. Wonder who is supposed to win the round. Chip looked over at Harry and could see the same question mirrored in his face.

 

The two combatants charged, both lances hit and shattered but both riders stayed seated. Two more lances were brought out and the riders charged again. This time both riders came off and with bone jarring force hit the arenas dirt floor. They rose to their feet and swords were provided. Merlin announced that when both riders were unseated the contest continued on the ground. Swords swung and clashed, sparks flew, back and forth they pushed each other, the crowd cheering for their champion. This posed a bit of a problem for Harry and Chip as they were seated in the Dragon section, no way they were cheering for the guy pounding on Lee. Finally Lee spiralled his sword which ripped the Dragon Kings sword out of his hand. A cheer went up from Spain, their King had won. As Lee turned to acknowledge the cheer the Dragon King picked up his sword and struck it, flat side, hard across Lees back. Lee went down as Spain booed and the Dragon section cheered. Two other Kings rushed out and grabbed the Dragon King as he was about to skewer Lee. Merlin declared Spain the winner and the Dragon King a very poor sport indeed.

 

Harry presumed that it was all scripted but he did notice that Lee took a moment to get to his feet.

 

As they were walking out Lee appeared to say something to the Dragon King who lunged at him. Lee sidestepped and tripped him, landing him in the dirt. Spain roared its approval. Nelson and Chip just smiled. They didnt think that was in the script.

 

Lee and Stephen ended up being the two that had to compete for the win, they had defeated all their opponents. They were mounted at the entrance ready to do battle but paused to have a brief conversation between themselves.

 

OK Lee, you know Im supposed to win this.

 

In your dreams.

 

No, in the script.

 

Every man for himself.

 

So were doing this for real?

 

As real as it can be with these useless hollowed, balsa wood lances.

 

They parted and took their positions.

 

Stephen wondered what the chances were that Lee was just kidding him and would take the fall. Well Ill find out in about 60 seconds.

 

They charged, they struck, lances splintered and no one came off. They repeated the procedure with the same results.

 

Lee rode up to Stephen for another little chat.

 

You know we could do this all night with these toothpicks, what say we get off and let swords decide this, Lee said.

 

Up at the tables Chip noticed that down at the arena entrance there were conversations going on amongst the other people in the show, and a bit of arm waving.

 

Harry leaned over towards Chip, I suspect those two are rewriting tonights script, without warning anyone.

 

Chip nodded. Yep, Lee would do that if he felt like it.

 

Lee and Stephen dismounted and signalled for swords. Harry and Chip moved forward on the bench, neither one of them had ever seen Lee in his medieval role. They had rescued him from a horrific, blood soaked battleground once, but that was after the fact. Now they were getting to see him in action.

 

In the arena, the two men squared off. This sword fight was considerably different from the one Lee had with the Dragon King. The crowd could tell that this was a serious fight, between two men who knew what they were about and neither one was going to give quarter to the other.

 

First Lee then Stephen would seem to be getting the upper hand, mighty strokes landing on shields. Strokes that would have seriously injured either man if they didnt get their shield up in time. Sparks flew when sword met sword. The audience grew quiet and tense. The ragged breathing of the Kings could be heard throughout the arena.

 

Are they actually trying to kill each other, Harry heard one of the serving wenches ask another one as they paused beside him to watch.

 

Well, I heard that they got volunteered over here to work out some sort of issue they were having, guess this is them working it out, responded the other.

 

Lordy, hope the paramedics are close by.

 

There was a gasp from the crowd, Stephen had lost his sword to the same manoeuvre Lee had used on the Dragon King. Lee stepped back and Stephen signalled for a battle flail, Lee threw away his sword and did the same. The flails were a single spiked ball attached to a handle by a chain. It provided a more powerful hit than a mace but was harder to control.

 

Lee and Stephen each gave a couple of experimental swings to get the feel of their flails, then began to circle and feint. Lee launched the first attack and scored a solid, arm shattering hit on Stephens shield. Sparks flew from the metal banding on the wooden shield and Stephen shuddered under the blow and went down on one knee. He was dazed from the force of the strike and his arm was numb. Shit Lee I know youre not that mad at me, wonder who youre trying to pound into the dirt. Letting Lee work out his anger was one thing, getting this severely hammered on was another.

 

It was a dirty move but Stephen didnt figure he had much choice, he had to back Lee off. He swung his flail low trying to catch Lees legs, he didnt put a lot of power in it because he didnt want to break either one of his friends legs, just dump him on the ground so he could get up. It was a good plan but Lee saw it coming and easily jumped the flail. It did, however, give Stephen time enough to get up and he was able to get in another swing. This one overhanded and landing on Lees shield with a satisfying crash. Lee responded with another herculean blow and Stephens shield cracked under it, he wouldnt be able to take another hit on his shield. The next strike would come straight on through.

 

Harry didnt think either of the men were really trying to kill each other, or even hurt each other, but accidents happened. Especially if one of them was angry, and Harry could tell from Lees body language that he was very angry.

 

In the arena Stephen wasnt quite sure what to do. He was pretty certain that Lee would not attack again, his split shield wouldnt protect him if Lee did and Lee knew that. Lee had backed off, obviously planning something but what. Perhaps Lee was giving him the opportunity to plant a hit, at any rate they couldnt just dance around the arena, he had to take it on faith that Lee wouldnt do anything that would hurt him. He charged forward, swung his spiked ball onto Lees quickly raised shield and then found himself flat on his back with Lees spiked ball planted in the ground beside his head.

 

Lee had waited for Stephen to attack, intercepted it on his shield, moved quickly forward and pushed Stephen hard with his shield to get him off balance. He then did a leg sweep landing Stephen on his back and finished off by swinging his spiked ball into the dirt beside Stephens head. It happened so fast the crowd wasnt sure theyd even seen it happen.

 

Lee reached down to Stephen to help him up. The crowd roared its approval. Stephen looked into Lees eyes and saw that the black fury that had raged their earlier was gone. As Stephen regained his feet he kept his grip on Lees arm and asked, feeling a bit better now?

 

Some, thanks for the therapy session.

 

Merlin walked over to the two Kings. In a voice only they could hear said, if youre quite through wed like to get on with the scheduled show, hmmm.

 

Lee and Stephen grinned at him and did a fast jog out of the arena to loud clapping.

 

Merlin turned his hidden mic back on, Well it seems that the King of Spain wins tonights tournament, HUZZAH! The crowd responded in kind and also banged the tables and quaffed more beer.

 

There were no more surprises for the cast for the rest of the show. Lee and Stephen stuck to the script. Harry and Chip did notice that during the melee segment that anyone Lee or Stephen ended up fighting tended to give up rather quickly.

 

Finally the last mouthful of beer was swigged and the final Huzzah given. The Kings all rode into the arena and went to greet their respective country for a few minutes. Chip and Harry watched Lee ride over to Spain at the end of the arena, Stephens Hungary was beside their Dragon King section. Quite a few people wanted to chat with the riders and pet the horses. The Dragon King was on a very nice Friesian, at least thats what Harry thought it was, Lee would know, he knew quite a bit about horses for some reason. Another of the mysteries about Lee that one day I want to learn about, there is so much about that young man I dont know. Chip broke into his thoughts, he wanted to go down to talk to the rider so Harry followed along.

 

Thats some show you guys put on. How long have you and the others been doing the show?

 

Ah ha, Chips on a fishing expedition, good man!

 

Harry patted the horse while the rider answered Chip.

 

Glad you liked the show. Ive been involved for about 2 years now, theres a fair turnover between injuries and guys just moving on. The newest members are the Kings of Spain and of Hungary. Tonight was their first show.

 

Harry spoke up, I never would have guessed, they seemed to be old pros at it. Amazing fight production between them.

 

Ummm, yes wasnt it. Not really in the script but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. I havent heard the background on them but they obviously know what they are doing.

 

A family with little children were waiting for their turn with the rider and his horse so Harry and Chip moved aside.

 

We didnt learn a whole lot Chip but it did confirm that Lee and Stephens fight was not scripted.

 

They werent playing at it either, a couple of times I was sure one of them was going to be seriously injured. Harry, I think the King of Hungary is trying to get your attention.

 

Stephen was kibitzing with his admirers when he happened to look over toward the Dragon section. To his surprise he saw Admiral Nelson and Chip talking to Hank, a.k.a. the Dragon King. He glanced over to see what Lee was doing, Lees back was to him, and he was hoisting a child up into the saddle with him so the parents could take pictures. Good, hell be busy for awhile. Stephen kept an eye on Nelson and Chip, when they moved away from Hank he rose in his stirrups, with a quick glance at Lee to be sure he was still occupied, he waved at them.

 

Harry and Chip made short work of getting over to the Hungary section and down to Stephen.

 

As they approached Stephen moved his horse so that it blocked Lees view of whoever might be standing to the right of him. Harry and Chip noted the movement and approached from that side.

 

Nice horse you have here, interesting show, rather intense at times. Nelson commented.

 

Thanks, and yes, it was very intense, almost shatteringly so. Stephen flexed his left hand as he made the comment, his arm still tingled. He leaned down in his saddle, fiddling with the stirrup, it also brought him close to Nelson, in a low voice he said, Sir I need to talk to you about Lee, its urgent. Meet me at the Venetians Gondola stand in two hours. If youre not there Ill assume Lee is correct.

 

Something urgent about Lee, if Im not there hell assume Lee is correct? Correct about what?

 

Harry couldnt ask any of the question racing through his mind, Stephen had straightened up and had a new set of admirers demanding his attention.

 

Lets go Chip, we have to be somewhere in two hours.

 

Chip hadnt heard what had been said to Harry, but he could guess that it was about Lee. When they got back to the hotel Harry filled him in.

 

Back in his own room Chip found that there was a message waiting for him, Phoenix would like him to call her.

 

Phoenix picked up on the second ring, Oh good Chip, Im glad you went back to your room after the Tournament. Did you and Harry enjoy it?

 

Yes we did, it had a few surprises in it we enjoyed seeing.

 

Wonderful, now how would you like me to show you a few more? I know youre leaving soon and theres still so much you havent seen. Id prefer it be just the two of us but if Harry wants to come as well Id understand.

 

Let me talk to him and Ill call you right back if thats ok.

 

Absolutely, Ill be waiting for your call, bye.

 

Harry was quickly changing clothes in his room, he wanted to get to the Venetian early, he wouldnt risk missing the meeting time, heaven only knew what conclusions Lee might be jumping too. Obviously serious enough ones to cause Stephen to risk talking to him at the Tournament and ask for a meeting.

 

He heard a knock on his door, hmmm Chip changes a lot faster than I do. He opened the door as he was pulling on a dark blue t-shirt.

 

Chip, you havent changed yet!

 

We have a bit of a complication. Phoenix wants to show me more of Vegas tonight, youre invited as well.

 

Blast and bother wouldnt you just know it! Obviously I cant go. Chip I know you really want to come to the meeting but I think youre going to have to go with Phoenix and also make my apologies.

 

Yes, thats pretty much what I figured. Chip had decided that he wasnt going to mention that Phoenix wasnt all that eager to have Harry along anyway.

 

Harry took a guess, I take it that I wont be missed all that much by the young lady concerned.

 

Chip blushed and tried to think of a tactful response.

 

Never mind Chip, I was young once. Ill fill you in on the meeting when you get back.

 

Thank you Harry, Ill try not to be too late.

 

Nonsense, we arent here for much longer, make the most of it Chip, try not to worry about Lee, whatever the problem is Ill take care of it. And when we get back home, Im going to take care of that other little problem once and for all as well.

 

Chip knew Harry was referring to Admiral Jones. He would still have liked to be at the meeting but it was with a lighter heart that he called Phoenix and agreed to a night out, sans Harry.

 

*****

 

Once the horses were taken care of Lee and Stephen headed back to their room. They could have left earlier, letting the stable hands bed the horses down, but Lee had a thing about horses, and if he rode one then he saw to its care afterwards. He expected Stephen to do the same.

 

Any plans for the rest of the night Lee?

 

Not really, we have the show to do tomorrow then were out of here. Thought Id hit the rack early. What about you? You havent said much since I sort of pummelled you into the ground, you ok?

 

Pummelled me into the ground! As if! I was just letting you burn off some of that anger inside you. Im sure Ill be able to use my arm again....some day.

 

You want me to get the in-house Doctor?

 

No I dont. The arm will be ok by tomorrow, you however have some issues that need sorting. No way youre leaving NIMR and going full-time with ONI...

 

Stephen would have continued but Lee stopped him.

 

Leave it alone. There is no way Nelson is going to want me around, he wont be able to stand the sight of me.

 

Youre way overreacting; he cant be that big a prude that a little male dancing is going to freak him out so much that he would fire you.

 

I said LEAVE IT ALONE. Im not discussing it. Either go out or go to bed. Lee stomped into the bathroom and slammed the door.

 

Stephen had hated baiting Lee, but he had to meet with Admiral Nelson and if hed just said he was going out Lee would want to know where and why and maybe tag along. This way Lee was happy just to be rid of him.

 

*****

 

Caitlin was feeling like a real heel. Damn, how was I suppose to know that brother dearest would be there. Damnation and hellfire, what is Harry doing in Vegas let alone at the show last night?

 

From pictures shed seen at Harrys place she was pretty sure the blond guy was Lees friend Chip, who also happened to be his XO on the Seaview. Double damn, as if Lee wouldnt be mad enough that I was the one who set the stage, so to speak, he gets caught by his boss and his best friend. To top it off I get caught in a very public place, by my brother, with my hand wrapped around Lees cock. She smirked a bit at the memory. Lee sure didnt see that coming. I have to talk to Lee, it wont be that big a risk if I do it right.

 

Lee was just exiting the bathroom when there was knock at the door. He could see that Stephen had left.

 

Whoever you are go away.

 

Ya, hes pissed.

 

Sorry sir, its room service I need to deliver your order.

 

Weird, I didn`t order anything. Maybe Stephen called for something for me. Like I`m in the mood to eat.

 

Take whatever it is back, if you cant do that then leave it by the door.

 

Great, this couldnt be easy could it! Im going to get caught out here in a minute if he doesnt open the door.

 

Im sorry sir but I have to bring it in, hotel policy, I cant leave anything in the hallway.

 

Lee was not in the mood for this. Then take it back.

 

OK, were doing this the hard way. Caitlin reached into her pocket and pulled out a slim black box, she placed it against the card reader in the door and hit a couple of buttons. It could sometimes take a minute or two for it to find the right frequency and she had a feeling that her time was running out. She could hear a door opening down the corridor and voices. Just when she thought she was going to have to come back later the light flashed green on the door. She turned the handle and went in.

 

What the hell, I told you to take it back! Get out! Lee barked at the dark haired woman in a hotel uniform that had just come into his room unbidden.

 

Caitlin had been closing the door and now turned to find Lee standing there with only a towel wrapped around his waist.

 

The woman ignored his demand for her to leave and put the tray she had carried in down on one of the tables.

 

Lee looked closer at her and swore, none to quietly, using one of the saltier words he knew but rarely used. He didnt say anything more, just glared at her.

 

Hell Nelson would wash my mouth out with soap for that one. Not that I have to worry about ever seeing him again. Lets see in the space of a month, Ive been drunk and disorderly and engaged in conduct that is unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, not just by myself but with his sister in a public venue. Ya, like he wants to ever set eyes on me again.

 

Caitlin watched the play of emotions across Lees face, saw the pain in his eyes.

 

Lee I didnt know Harry would be there. I wouldnt have done that to you, or me for that matter.

 

Lee really didnt want to hear anything she had to say but it was quite apparent that she wasnt going to leave until she said what she had come to say.

 

Mind if I change into some pants or should I just drop the towel so you can play some more? he snarled at her.

 

Shit Lee don`t tempt me.

 

Go ahead and pull on some pants, Ill try and control myself, she answered.

 

Lee grabbed underwear and his jeans and went back into the bathroom.

 

Caitlin pulled off the black wig and fluffed her hair out. That feels better, I hate wigs but they do have their uses.

 

When Lee came back out Caitlin thought he looked drop dead sexy with bare torso, black jeans and bare feet. His hair was damp from his shower and being longer than usual was a delightful snarl of long black curls. Get a grip girl, youre not here for sex...yet. She had noticed when he had headed to the bathroom to change that there appeared a long bruise developing on his back, she wondered what had happened but decided that now wasnt the time to ask.

 

Say what you came to say and get out. There were things Lee would have liked to ask her but he was to mad at himself right now to go there.

 

Like I said Lee, it wasnt in my plans to have Harry there, or Chip, that was Chip right? Ive never met him but Ive seen his picture.

 

Yes that was Chip, my former best friend. Lee could practically hear Chip yelling at him: Hell Lee is there nothing you wont do if ONI tells you to? The Admiral couldnt believe it and neither could I. That was without Chip even knowing that Caitlin was the Admirals sister.

 

Just tell me one thing Edith, Caitlin or Caleigh, or whatever. If you can be here now why the hell couldnt you just give me the chip now, why the whole setup? Do you have something against me?

 

No, but Id like to! Damn the man.

 

Lee I shouldnt be here now, its dangerous. You know I cant tell you everything but the mission brief would have told you that Im a NSA agent. Harry doesnt know, well at least he didnt until tonight, Im not sure what he may have figured out.

 

Lee would have interrupted her but she held up her hand.

 

Let me finish Lee. I will take full blame for the parameters of the drop; I requested you and the manner of passing the intel.

 

Lee tried to interrupt again.

 

No, let me get it all out, then you can tell me what you think of me. I dont go anywhere near ONI offices or anything military, my cover would be totally blown if there appeared to be any connection. Havent you ever wondered why no one other that you has ever met me? Sure the people at NIMR know my name, but only you and Harrys assistance have ever seen me. I always use Harrys private entrance. To the world Im just a flighty, spoiled rich girl who travels around the world. Yes I could have done our drop differently but I have what Harry sometimes calls a whimsical side when hes being kind. I thought it would be a lot of fun and....oh hell that isnt totally true. Truth be told I wanted to see you as naked as possible. Lee Ive been trying to get you to ask me out, since we first met. I sent every signal I knew that I was more than a little interested in you. You ignored me and I dont think its because you find me unattractive. I think you are interested too. That wasnt the speech she had planned on but there it was, out in the open.

 

Lee was stunned for the third time that night. Whoa, this isnt what I was expecting!

 

So you decided that having me join an all-male revue in Vegas was the best way to get me to stop ignoring you?

 

Well put like that it doesnt sound like so bright an idea, but look at it from my point of view. Im out of the country a lot, the little Im here I cant get anywhere with you. Most of the time youre off on Seaview anyway and when I do manage to get a dinner with you, its with Harry as well. Its extremely frustrating!

 

Geesh Caitlin, hes my boss, or he was and hes an Admiral. I have a great deal of respect for him, there`s no way I`m going to pursue his sister no matter how attracted to you I might be.

 

Well that was something, he didnt say he wasnt attracted to me, actually he implied he was. What concerned her now was the past tense Lee had used about Harry being his boss.

 

Lee what do you mean was your boss? Did Harry track you down and fire you?

 

No, I saved him the effort.

 

How?

 

Never mind.

 

Lee Crane you will not leave this room until you tell me what youve done!

 

Its my room, youre the one leaving. How on earth did this conversation get started!

 

Just try and make me leave and Ill dislocate every joint in your body.

 

She looks like she could too, look at those incredible green eyes spark.

 

True to her titian hair and like her brother, Caitlin had a very short fuse to her temper, it had just about run out. She marched up to Lee and poked him in the chest, Give, what have you done?

 

None of your business lady. Out Lee barked. The next thing he knew he was sailing through the air and had landed on his bed with Caitlin straddling him at the hips and her hands firmly planted on his shoulders.

 

What is it with women tossing me around!

 

He was noticing a whole lot of things he shouldnt, blazing green eyes, her deep breathing moving her breasts up and down, every spot where her body connected with his tingled.

 

OK, no more Mr Nice Guy. Lee moved like the well trained agent he was and before Caitlin knew what had happened he had flipped her over and now pinned her to the bed. He used all of his body to pin her, laying flat on top of her, his legs wrapped around hers holding them captive, his hands held her arms slightly above her head, his naked chest rested firmly on her.

 

This is sooo not a better position, Lee thought. His face was too close to hers, he should pull back, but her beautiful eyes held him, her soft lips were slightly parted, inviting him to come exploring. He felt heat building in his groin, saw in her eyes that she felt it to. Damn you Lee Crane, with everything youve done to the Admiral you are not going to top it off by having sex with his sister. Lee released Caitlins arms so he could to push himself up but she looped her arms behind his head and closed that small distance between their lips.

 

The kiss was deep, passionate everything he could have wished for and it was followed by another and another. His right hand now cupped the back of her head, feeling the silky softness of her hair, his left stroked down her body, over her hip and grasped the back of her thigh, urging her leg up and over his hip. His body started to rhythmically move against hers, she squirmed beneath him and he felt the hand that had been stroking his back move down to the front of his jeans, undoing the snap and pulling at the zipper. Oh he wanted her, wanted her bad, but not this way.

 

With all the willpower he possessed he stilled his body, moved his hand to capture hers and bring it back up and then he buried his head face down in the pillow with a groan.

 

Lee, Lee whats wrong?

 

I dont want it to be like this Caitlin. Please understand. I dont want you to be a one night romp in Vegas. I want more than that for us. I want to get to know you first, Im hoping you feel that way too. Either way I cant let this happen tonight.

 

Caitlin took a steadying breath. She hadnt really thought beyond her instant and strong attraction to Lee. Whatever time theyd had together shed spent it trying to seduce him, Harry be damned. Of course Lee had been all proper gentleman in and out of Harrys sight. Is it just the challenge Im interested in? No, its more than that, its always been more than that. No matter where I am I think of him, can see every curve of his face, the twinkle in his hazel eyes when he teases and the fire when hes mad, his beautiful hands, his gentle way. Is this love or infatuation? I feel so connected to him, Ive never felt this way about anyone else.

 

Lee had raised his head and was watching Caitlin, waiting for her response. Questions came and went in her eyes, finally they focused back on him and he held his breath.

 

I can wait Lee, I want to know you too, everything about you, every detail no matter how small. I want to learn all about Lee Crane the person, then we can continue with Lee Crane the sexy body. I want to learn every detail about that too.

 

Lee laughed, You have a one track mind lovely lady. He moved gracefully off her and the bed and then pulled her up beside him and gave her a not so chaste kiss.

 

Yum, do that again and Ill just move right along to learning the body first and the man second. We do get to neck while learning about each other, right?

 

Lee mock sighed, Like I said, one track mind. And yes, we do, most definitely.

 

Speaking of my one track mind. How about starting to get to know you by telling me why you think Harry isnt your boss anymore.

 

Lee told her what he had done.

 

Oh lordy, I feel like Titania.

 

That another of your cover names?

 

No my darling, think Shakespeare.

 

Lee thought for a moment, then the penny dropped, Ok, you may be as beautiful as a Fairy Queen but I do not have the head of an ass.

 

Wanna bet.

 

Lee sighed for real this time. Oh ya, were going to have fun learning about each other, if we survive the experience.

 

Caitlin continued, Why does it never occur to men to talk things over before doing something stupid.

 

Do you really want to talk to Harry right now?

 

Nope, he needs a little time to simmer down, must say that his reaction seems a little extreme to me. Of course of the two of us he is the one with the temper.

 

Lee snorted upon hearing that piece of intel. Hadnt noticed that to be the case.

 

Caitlin sent him a glare.

 

They talked for a while longer; it was going to be a sticky mess to sort out. If Harry hadnt figured out that Caitlin was an agent then she didnt want him knowing, which didnt really give them a way to explain to Harry why she was on stage with Lee. Lee thought his call to reactivate himself to regular duty was still the right thing to have done. The look on Harrys face had said it all; Lee was history. Thats where they left it when Caitlin finally departed, after a long goodnight kiss.

 

Lee had no idea how his relationship with Caitlin would work out, Nelson certainly wasnt going to approve of it, especially now. Rather than A Midsummer Nights Dream Lee felt more like they were in Romeo and Juliet:

 

"Romeo is banished,
There is no end, no limit, measure, bound,
In that word's death. No words can that woe sound."

 

"For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

 

 

To the north, another meeting was taking place.

 

*****

 

Stephen saw Harry standing at the booth watching the Gondolas pass by. He didnt know it but it brought back memories for Harry, of a time when hed thought Lee might be dead and the ache in his heart that thought had brought12.

 

Stephen noted the look of sadness that briefly crossed the Admirals face. Oh boy, maybe Lee is right, the old man doesnt want him around anymore. Stephen approached and held out his hand, Sir, good to see you again. Thank you for coming.

 

Harry looked out at the Gondolas again. Nice place, what say we take a stroll while you tell me whats on your mind.

 

The two started off along the walkway, it was late but in Vegas there are always people out, nothing ever closes and night time was especially dramatic with all the lights and music.

 

Now that he was with Nelson, Stephen didnt know quite how to begin.

 

You dont seem to be saying anything Stephen.

 

Not sure where to start.

 

At the beginning always seems to work. Let me help you out, what I know is that Lee did not want this assignment. In fact he tried to refuse it but pressure was brought to bear, sufficient pressure that he felt he had no choice but to take it on.

 

Thats essentially correct. Although it wasnt the assignment that was the issue but the cover.

 

At that Harry gave a loud snort, Id say more the lack of cover.

 

Ah, yes Sir. Even though Lee took the assignment, and completed it successfully things seem to have worked out the way Jones wanted.

 

They came to a bridge and Harry stopped in the middle and leaned against the railing.

 

Could you be a bit more specific? It was my understanding that things remained status quo as long as Lee did as Jones ordered him.

 

Im afraid Im to blame for what Lees done. Stephen stopped not sure that the middle of a bridge was the safest place to be having this conversation.

 

Nelson looked down at his hands, waiting for Stephen to continue, he had a feeling he was very much not going to like what he was about to hear.

 

I was sort of ticked about something Lee had done back in D.C. Among the guys we often play pranks on each other, of course we know that there will be payback, thats half the fun.

 

Im familiar with the game. Lee and Chip have been known to indulge in it.

 

I saw you in the crowd at the show. Im the one who arranged to have your table lit up when Lee did his solo. He didnt know you were there. I sure as hell didnt expect you to be so mad at him and I didnt expect him to come unglued the way he did. Why that woman did what she did I cant go into but it wasnt any of Lees doing.

 

I see, so Lees upset about my possible reaction. Ill have a talk with him when he gets back to Seaview, about a couple of things. At first I was going to track him down here but I think its probably better handled after we get back.

 

Well thats the problem Sir, Lee isnt going back to Seaview.

 

With that Nelsons head snapped up and his eyes nailed Stephen to the spot.

 

Stephen took a breath and continued, When we got back to our room he contacted ONI about something and also asked that he be reinstated to active status in the Navy and assigned permanently to ONI. I asked him what on earth he was doing but he said that you wouldnt want him anymore, wouldnt be able to stand the sight of him and probably had his pink slip written out as soon as you got back to your room. I have to admit that the expression on your face at the time was pretty much giving that impression.

 

Looking at the storm clouds gathering across the Admirals face, Stephen was wondering how many more minutes before he found himself tossed off the bridge into the water.

 

Harry was furious all right, but not at Stephen or Lee or even Caitlin. There was one man at whose feet this mess lay, and Harry planned to have his head for it. This was an absolute abuse of his position at ONI and Harry would not tolerate it. He had fought off and on with Jones about Lee but until now Jones had played by the rules, sort of. As far as Harry was concerned the gloves were now off. How the hell Jones got Caitlin involved Harry had no idea, but hed find out and no way, as long as Harry drew breath, would Lee ever be forced or tricked into joining ONI. As for leaving NIMR, hed straighten the young man out about that in no uncertain terms.

 

Harry suddenly turned toward Stephen, and although he tried not to, Stephen couldnt help but jump back a bit.

 

Nelson raised his formidable eyebrows, a little nervous are you?

 

Reflexive response to sudden movement, Sir.

 

Uh huh. Nelson chuckled. Wouldnt Jiggs love this. He has to holler and bully them, all I have to do is look at them and they jump.

 

When do you and Lee leave Vegas?

 

Were supposed to do one more show tomorrow then fly out. George, the manager, has been trying to get us to sign on with the troupe. Of course we cant but it has been fun. Once Lee got over being so damn tight assed about things he really cut loose.... Stephen paused, realizing that this might not have been the best thing to say to the Admiral, he still wasnt sure what Nelson thought about it all.

 

I see, so he enjoyed himself some did he?

 

Stephen saw the smile that Nelson was trying to hold back.

 

Id say so Sir, up until last night anyway. You should get him to tell you some of the things that happened while we were being trained for this. Stephen couldnt hold back a laugh as he thought of Yvonne dumping Lee on his butt and stripping off his pants. That is Sir, assuming youre still talking to him and still want him at NIMR.

 

I still want him Stephen. As I told Chip recently, I may be old but I remember what it was like to be young. I imagine its a bit of an ego boost having all the ladies drooling over you.

 

It sure appealed to me Sir, but I think Lee tried to look at it as more of an, ah, artistic experience.

 

Hummrph. You both have excellent physiques and the human body is a beautiful thing. Granted I saw more of my Captains that I ever expected too. Did you know that the competitors in the ancient Olympics are thought to have competed naked and to have used olive oil to enhance their appearance?

 

Well Lees old man doesnt seem to be having much of an issue with this, so why was he so pissed at the show? Im not opening that sardine can, he seems in a good mood right now, I think Id like to keep it that way.

 

Thats very interesting. You might want to mention that to Lee, ah, sometime soon.

 

Nelson got Stephens hint, talk to Lee sooner rather than later. He wanted that as well, knowing Lee was probably beating himself up pretty good about something that he wasnt responsible for.

 

Would it be a problem for your cover if I came back with you and talked to Lee now?

 

Nah, this wasnt what youd call a really top secret mission. At this hour I dont think anyone would notice you, and no one is looking for us anyway. Sort of odd why the drop had to be this way, I dont really understand it but I dont have to. As Jones likes to tell us, shut up and do what I tell you.

 

Another storm cloud passed over Nelsons face. Stephen figured things might soon get interesting in Jones office.

 

He and the Admiral headed to the Excalibur, it was late, but Stephen didnt figure Lee would be getting any sleep, to busy brooding.

 

Hey Lee, I brought you some company, Stephen announced as he came through the door. There was no response, Lee where are you at?

 

There wasnt any place to be other than the bathroom and the door was open and the light off.

 

Huh, wonder where hes gotten too. Stephen spotted a sheet of paper on his bed. Ive got a bad feeling about this. He picked it up and began reading aloud.

 

 

Stephen, sorry buddy but I decided to head out tonight, give my regrets to the guys, I know you can make something up. Ive got the package, Ill drop it off then head to Santa Barbara to clear out my stuff. Figured it would be quicker and easier to do while the Admiral and Chip are in Vegas. I made a couple of calls and found out that they are going to be here for 2 more days. Catch ya later - Lee

 

 

Admiral have you ever noticed that Lee does the damnest things?

 

It has been remarked on upon occasion, Nelson replied with a sigh. Whatever you dont want him to do or wherever you dont want him to be...odds are...

 

Nelson pulled out his cell and punched a couple of buttons. Within a few minutes he had a private jet ready to fly him to Santa Barbara.

 

Chip wont like it much but hell need to stay here and monitor the Shark Reef for another 2 days at least. Nelsons brow furrowed, I wonder why Lee is heading to D.C. first and then to Santa Barbara, seems an odd choice given how close Vegas is to Santa Barbara.

 

No brainer there, after a pickup whichever agent leaves a completed assignment first is responsible for getting the package home asap. Jones would have Lees liver for breakfast if he headed to Santa Barbara first. Knowing Lee he wont waste time, hell arrange things so that hes in and out of D.C. and on his way again in the least possible amount of time.

 

Well no matter how fast he does it, Ill be there well before him. Nelson had thought about heading to D.C. himself and having it out with Jones but he didnt want to risk missing Lee. He figured his best plan would be to get back to NIMR and park himself on Seaview. Hed wait there for Lee to show up. Hed take care of Jones after that. He bid Stephen good luck with his last show and left for Mandalay Bay.

 

*****

 

Harry wasnt sure if Chip would already be back and perhaps in bed but this couldnt wait. He knocked on Chips door, no answer. He went to his own room and hastily scribbled a note on hotel stationary then went back and slipped it under Chips door:

 

 

Need to talk to you as soon as you get in, Harry.

 

 

Returning to his room he stretched out on his bed, just for a minute, and promptly fell into a fitful sleep. It was pushing 0400 when he was awakened by a knock on his door. He was thankful on two counts, one that Chip was finally back and two, that he had interrupted a most unpleasant dream.

 

Lee, Lee, son please dont leave me, Harry begged as he cradled Lees blood soaked body close to him. Overhead Jones leered down at him, Hes mine Nelson, mine and he reached down to roughly pull Lee out of Nelsons arms. No no leave him alone, Harry wailed, he needs a doctor, he needs Jamie. Dont you worry, Ill get him patched up and out on another mission in no time, Jones laughter sounded like a bad track from an old horror movie, muahahaha echoed all around Harry as Jones dragged Lee from him and across the floor, leaving a trail of blood. No No you cant, I wont let you, Harry cried out as he followed after Lees body, crawling on his hands and knees, slipping in the blood trail. He caught a glimpse of Lee as darkness started to swallow Lee and Jones. Lee raised his head and looked towards him, stretched out his arm to him and Harry was sure he heard Lee whisper Father before he disappeared into the roiling black clouds. How often Harry had wished that was the truth, only once before had Lee ever addressed him as Father. It had been out on a god-forsaken frozen tundra plain when they were huddled together for warmth. Harry wasnt sure Lee knew what he was saying or remembered having said it, Harry had never brought it up but he would never, ever, forget it and the way hed felt hearing that one word from Lees lips addressed to him.

 

Chip knocked again, louder this time.

 

Harry lurched out of the bed, stumbled to the door and pulled it open.

 

Chip was taken aback, Geesh he looks awful, whatever happened when he talked to Stephen it doesnt look good! Damn ONI, any time Lee gets involved with them its a royal mess.

 

Chip, come in, Harry mumbled, still trying to get control of his racing heart.

 

Chip entered the room, went straight to Harrys fridge and took out a cold bottle of water, he turned and handed it to Harry. No offence but you really look like you could use this.

 

What I could use is a good stiff drink, but Chips idea is probably better.

 

Harry took the bottle, twisted off the cap and downed half of it.

 

Chip wasnt sure if he should ask how the meeting with Stephen went or wait for Harry to say something. He didnt have long to ponder the question.

 

Chip I have to head back to Santa Barbara right away. Lees already left Las Vegas but hes headed to D.C. first then NIMR. He plans to pack his stuff and be gone before were back there.

 

I can be packed in 10 minutes Sir. Chip headed for the door.

 

Chip I need you to stay here, at least until tomorrow night to monitor the Aquarium.

 

Why? We found the problem, the water is already starting to clear. They dont need either one of us now.

 

There was no way Chip wanted to be left behind, what if the Admiral couldnt stop Lee from leaving. If I have to Ill hogtie Lee and lock him in his cabin until the Admiral and I can pound some sense into him. If it comes down to it I have pictures of Lee on stage, Ill threaten to release them to the press. NIMR Captain of Seaview in a T-bar, bet they would get a wide distribution and Lees undercover work with ONI would go up in smoke. Come to think of it I might just do it anyway. I might have to kiss my position with NIMR goodbye, and reservist or not, likely the Navy will give me the boot, but at least Lee wouldnt be sent on any more missions.

 

Harry wasnt sure what Chip was thinking, but he spotted a determination in his expression. I might know for sure what hes thinking but I can hear the gears turning.

 

Chip I know things are looking better at the Reef but one of us needs to be here to make sure no other problem turns up. Ill have a private jet on standby for you at the airport, it will be at least a day before Lee can get to NIMR, likely longer. Even leaving tomorrow night, you might still get to NIMR before Lee does.

 

Is that an order, Sir?

 

Does it have to be Chip?

 

Chip sighed, No, of course not.

 

Harry was pulling out his suitcase as he talked to Chip. You need to get a couple of hours sleep and I need to get going. Ive left a message with Brads phone service that I was called back for an emergency at the institute. You can make up anything you like if you need to.

 

Harry...

 

Nelson didnt need to hear the words, for once he did know what Chip was thinking. Chip you know Ill do everything within my power and then some to make sure that Lee stays right where he belongs. Then Im going to see to it that we dont ever have to deal with this type of thing again.

 

From Nelsons expression and the bite in his last words Chip was glad he wasnt going to be the one having a visit from Admiral Nelson after the he got Lee safely squared away at home!

 

*****

 

Lee squirmed in his seat, hed be landing in Memphis soon and hed be able to stretch his legs for an hour or so until his connecting flight left. Even with the stopover, hed considered himself lucky to get a seat on the Delta flight out of Vegas for D.C. at 0150. He felt even luckier that it had been late leaving or he would have missed it and then would have had to wait for a later flight.

 

He was drop dead tired, he felt like he hadnt slept in days. He had hoped to catch a few zs during the flight but his mind wouldnt shut down. He felt vaguely guilty for cutting out on Stephen, but the mission was done and he just couldnt see getting on the stage again. What if the Admiral and Chip came back again! Id be seeing them at every table even if they werent there. What a mess!

 

He ran his hand through his hair and heaved a sigh.

 

The flight attendant stopped beside him. Excuse me sir, well be landing shortly, would you like something to drink before we do? The poor man looks so tired and unhappy.

 

Lee asked for some water and the attendant brought him a complimentary bottle. He was pretty sure there was no such thing these days on the airlines and he appreciated her kindness. Guess I look a wreck. He quickly downed the entire contents, he hadnt realized how thirsty he was. He decided to use the facilities before landing. The tiny mirror confirmed his earlier suspicion about how he looked. He rubbed his hand over the stubble on his face and his bleary eyes observed the dark circles under them, his hair, which he usually kept well groomed even when longer was running wild, a tangled mess of curls. Guess Ill get a shave and haircut in Memphis. He had been through many airports in his life and Memphis was one of the few where hed noticed a barber shop. Called Americas Aerotropolis, there wasnt much you couldnt find there.

 

Lee had no sooner regained his seat than he heard the announcement that they were on final approach for Memphis International. Lee buckled up, first leg of his journey down, only three more to go and hed be in Santa Barbara, for perhaps the last time in his life.

 

*****

 

Admiral Nelson fidgeted in his seat onboard the private jet. It wasnt for lack of legroom, he had lots of that, what he didnt have yet was a plan on how to deal with Lee.

 

Blasted stubborn, pigheaded, overachiever. Why cant he be content with his command of Seaview and his role at the institute? Why does he have to personally save the world for ONI whenever they beckon? Why the hell do I let him?

 

Harry knew the answers to the questions. He knew that Lee loved Seaview, NIMR and he dared hope, one Admiral Harriman Nelson. He also knew that Lee would never turn away from a request to serve his country, regardless of the manner or the danger. Yes, Lee had come close to refusing a mission this time, but ultimately he had gone. Harry still couldnt quite fathom why Jones insisted that Lee take the mission. As far as Harry could tell any agent could have done it, it did not require any of the special skills that Lee possessed. Guess we can add one more to that list. Harry smiled to himself, after the initial surprise when hed recognized Lee he had quite enjoyed the show, up until his sisters little stunt. Hell if she wants in his pants that badly why doesnt she just tell him and get it over with. Harry thought he knew the answer to that one too, Lee would not touch Edith, she was the Admirals sister. Edith obviously did not consider the reverse to be true, hands off Lee hes Harrys Captain. Just as stubborn and pigheaded as Lee. She always has been a handful, drove Mom and Dad crazy. She was a surprise right from the start, conceived well past when they had thought I would be their only child. Flits all around the world doing lord only knows what. He was still puzzled as to how Edith ended up at the show, she hadnt called him to say she was back in the States, hed thought she was still in Morocco. Edith, my wayward sister, Ill be talking to you soon.

 

The co-pilot exited the cockpit and came to speak to the Admiral. Sir well be landing soon, please fasten your seatbelt, stow any gear you have out, well you know the drill Sir.

 

The Admiral nodded and fastened his belt.

 

*****

 

Chip arrived at the Aquarium earlier than expected. He hadnt been able to sleep so had spent the time packing and worrying. He realized that even if he had left with the Admiral that Harry would have wanted to see Lee alone first. Hmmm, guess its back to Sir or Admiral for me again. Just when I was starting to get used to calling him Harry, NOT!

 

He thought about his evening with Phoenix. He had had a good time, a very good time in fact, even with the Lee disaster in the back of his mind. Nothing like a little cuddling and smooching to take your mind off of other things, of course at that point he hadnt known that Lee had done a runner on them. Hed figured the Admiral would have things sorted out by the time he got back from his date and he could then razz Lee unmercifully. Now Im stuck here watching water, almost as much fun as counting seals.

 

Good morning Chip. A happy Brad greeted him. What have you done with Harry, his phone message didnt give much detail.

 

Im afraid he sends his regrets, he had an emergency back at NIMR and flew out early this morning.

 

Nothing to terrible I hope.

 

Me too. Ill finish monitoring things here, then Ill be flying out tomorrow night.

 

Phoenix will be disappointed to hear that, she quite enjoyed herself last night.

 

OK, so how much did she share with her father about what last night?

 

Chip flushed slightly, Uh, ya, I quite enjoyed myself as well. Better get to reviewing the stats on the water quality.

 

Excellent, really appreciate all the help from yourself and Harry. Things are looking much better.

 

He watched as Chip headed off. Phoenix hadnt shared any particulars of her date with Chip but given Chips blush and his daughters smug look this morning when she informed him that Chip was definitely interested in the opposite sex, he didnt have to apply much imagination to figure out how she came to her conclusion.

 

*****

 

Harrys flight from Vegas to Santa Barbara made good time. The Institute had a car waiting for him when he landed. In slightly less than 2 hours from the time hed left Vegas he was back at NIMR.

 

He knew there was no possible way for Lee to have arrived at NIMR yet, nonetheless he made his first stop Lees office, to assure himself that Lees personal items were still there. Then he went to his own office and quickly sorted through his IN box looking for any paperwork related to releasing Lee from NIMR, nothing. It was too early for his admin assistant to be in so he went through the items on her desk. Bingo, something from SECNAV, they want confirmation that Commander Lee Crane has been released from NIMR. Bloody paper pushers take months to respond to our requests for the simplest things but this they can push through in less than 24 hours! He noticed that while it was SECNAV who sent the request, the response was to be sent to an ONI number.