This is a late Season Five story, occurring after the series time line and continues the adventures of Seaview and her crew.
Lee Crane stalked his target, walking silently up from behind. With a fast and sudden move he reached for the neck to render his adversary defenseless; but in one swift and seamless move she executed a perfect martial arts movement flipping him over her shoulder even though he outweighed her by over sixty pounds. Just as quickly she moved over him, straddling him and holding his hands above his head as he lay on the floor.
“And I'm supposed to fight this?” Lee asked Brianna with a playful smile as his self-defense instruction had produced satisfying results.
“It's my secret weapon,” she answered back, just as playful and lowered her mouth to hover over Lee's lips.
“Ummm... promise me you don't use it on anyone else,” he answered deviously.
“I promise,” she replied lowering herself to apply a deep kiss.
Lee responded with enthusiasm and rolled her deftly over on her back, hovering over her and brushing his lips across her cheek and neck.
“I surrender,” he whispered with a hot breath in her ear that sent exciting shivers down her spine as she reveled in the attention his hands were now giving her.
“To the victor goes the spoils,” she teased back and then lost herself in his skillful touch...
* * * * *
Lee made his way downstairs dressed in his dark service uniform and ready to hit the office. Their early morning run had been invigorating, but not nearly as invigorating as their self-defense lesson this morning. He was still smiling to himself at the thought when he entered the kitchen and moved behind Brianna as she prepared breakfast.
“It's just me. Don't flip me, Okay?” He said with a grin as he wrapped his arms around her waist. She was still wearing her warm-up suit from the run and would head up to the shower after Lee left for the office.
She turned to face him and wrapped her arms around his neck applying a sweet good morning kiss along with the smile she still bore from their morning workout.
“Yeah, I worked up an appetite,” he answered with a grin and then reached for the coffee pot to fill his mug as Brianna smiled knowingly and placed two plates loaded with the morning offerings on the table.
“Have a seat, Sailor. You've got a schedule to keep.”
Lee smiled and took a sip of coffee, it had taken a few months but he had finally succeeded in getting her to relent to the habit of brewing it nice and strong.
“What time is your appointment?” He asked as he ate.
“At eleven,” she answered casually brushing an errant strand of her dark black hair from her face.
“Are you nervous?”
“Oh, I guess I'm always a little nervous when giving presentations, but once I'm there I'll be fine,” she answered honestly.
“I know you'll do great. I'll be stepping out of the meeting when you do your presentation.”
She nodded, understanding that as Lee's wife he would need to remove any conflict of interest issues since her presentation was for the Nelson Institute. Brianna had been freelancing her skills in marketing and was enjoying the freedom of working for herself. She was able to choose only the projects she believed in, and had the added benefit of being able to fully enjoy Lee's times when he was home. The arrangement had worked out nicely and she enjoyed working at home, often on the deck with the sea breeze and sea gulls adding to the ambience.
“Well,” Lee said rising and taking one last gulp of his coffee. “I guess I better head out. I'll see you later,” he added leaning over, kissing her good-bye and reaching for the keys to his Cobra.
“Bye. Are we still on for lunch?”
“Absolutely,” he answered. “See you at the office.”
Brianna sat for just a moment, listening to the rise and fall of the automatic garage door opener and thinking about how wonderful life had become since meeting Lee Crane. Not that it was easy having to say goodbyes when he left port, and having him leave for an ONI mission was even worse; but he was everything she ever dreamed of in a man and she was willing to accept the entire package that made up Lee Crane. She was learning to deal with the dangers of both of his jobs with the help of her sister whose husband was a police officer. Though Brianna couldn't enlightened anyone as to Lee's second job with ONI, she had been able to glean wisdom from the quiet strength of her sister whose husband faced similar dangers every day in the streets of Los Angeles; and there was also Monica, Chip's wife. They had fast become good friends and she truly enjoyed Monica's company.
She blew a satisfied breath and then cleared the table, quickly rinsing the dishes and filling the dish washer. In just a few minutes the kitchen was clean as she moved to the stairs for her shower and to make the last minute preparations for her presentation.
* * * * *
Brianna Crane was cleared through the gate, she didn't need a visitor's pass as she had a permanent badge that allowed her on the premises at any time. She drove her black BMW sedan forward finding a parking spot and took a deep cleansing breath in.
“Okay, Brianna,” she said out loud, giving herself a 'pep talk' of sorts. “Time to impress them,” she finished with confidence.
Her tan business suit was professional with her skirt resting just at the knee and her matching jacket offering a pleasing but modest sculptured fit, accentuated by the matching wide belt at the waist. She reached for her presentation case and moved with confidence up the stairs to NIMR's lobby. She was immediately cleared for the elevators that led to the board room and was met with a smile from her husband. He looked around and then applied a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Knock 'em dead,” he whispered and then left swiftly to his office.
Brianna took a deep breath then opened the door and entered the board room with the confidence of a well prepared presentation in hand.
* * * * *
… “Thank you Gentlemen. I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.” With that Brianna collected her presentation case and exited the board room with a satisfied smile and then walked to Lee's office and knocked.
She grinned at the distracted answer to her knock and entered as Lee looked up casually, smiling once he recognized his “visitor”.
“Hi. How'd it go?” He said rising and offering a kiss on her forehead as he wrapped his arms around her.
“I think it went well. It's up to them now,” she replied easily.
“Let me clear my desk and I'll take you to lunch.”
Lee took the errant papers and stacked them neatly then placed them in the wall safe in a move that didn't surprise her. Brianna was well aware that Lee was involved in many top secret projects. He grabbed his jacket and cover and casually reached for her presentation case to carry downstairs.
“Your car or mine?” He asked easily.
“Yours,” she said with a grin. “I feel like having the wind in my face,” she finished, glad to have the presentation completed and ready to 'let her hair down'.
“I think we can arrange that,” he replied with a grin as they left the Institute.
* * * * *
A man in a dark sedan watched as Captain Crane and his wife exited the Institute grounds. He noted the time and pulled out, following the car as he continued his surveillance.
* * * * *
Lee and Brianna finished their warm up stretches on the deck and then moved to the beach to begin their workout. Lee was wearing his navy blue warm-up suit with a white stripe down the length of both legs as the fall weather left a slightly cool and breezy run ahead of them. Brianna was wearing her teal warm-up suit with a white tank top underneath. They would start the first mile together and then Lee would etch up the speed for his workout and meet back up with her on his way back. It worked well, allowing each runner to push their endurance providing a comfortable but challenging run for each.
They reached the mile mark as Lee turned on the speed and moved ahead, his long legs and male physique providing a speed at which Brianna could match, but not sustain. She etched her jog up a notch to make sure her workout was sufficient. After about thirty minutes, she saw Lee making his way back to her, each slowing the workout speed to decrease in stages. They would slow considerably about half-mile mile from the house and sometimes do their warm-down stretches right there on the beach. When they were through with the stretches Lee took her hand as they took a few minutes to stroll the pleasant sandy white beach before hitting the showers and officially starting the day. They were enjoying pleasant conversation as Brianna told Lee about another client she was considering taking on when he suddenly grunted and turned toward her. Immediately she knew something was terribly wrong as he took a step and fell to his knees, then fell forward to the wet sand.
“Lee!” she yelled, still unsure what happened until she spotted a strange dart, pulling it from his back with a firm tug. His breathing indicated he was struggling as she turned him over desperately calling for him to respond.
“Brianna....” he whispered. “I can't move... run.”
Her eyes surveyed the dart still in her hands and then the speed boat making its way to the shore even now.
“Lee, I can't leave you...”
“Run Brianna. Get help...”
She nodded and squeezed his hand hating to let go, but couldn't deny the frantic plea in his eyes to not just get help but to run for safety. She knew her husband well, his first concern was for her. Brianna turned on the speed and risked a look back as the speed boat hit the shore and two men deboarded running straight for Lee.
* * * * *
Lee could hear the speed boat approaching, but his attention was on Brianna running for safety. He breathed raggedly, his body unable to respond to his will but his paralysis was not without pain as a fire coursed through his veins. He saw Brianna round the dunes for their house about the time the boat hit the shore as he was picked up and loaded with expert ease by his abductors. He was placed on the deck as the boat sped away, still unable to move and dealing with the accompanying pain.
* * * * *
Brianna ran for the house and opened the sliding glass door, not bothering to slide it closed again. Without warning she was grabbed from behind with an arm about her neck.
“Don't struggle Mrs. Crane,” her assailant whispered in her ear.
Brianna didn't have time to think and acted on the training Lee had given her over the last few months as she applied a move to flip her unsuspecting assailant onto his back. He grunted as he landed but recovered quickly reaching for her foot as she turned to leave. She fell forward as he moved to cover her with his body, a move that she wouldn't be able to counter due to his dead weight so as he fell forward she brought her knee up delivering a blow to his groin that left him gasping for air. She pulled her legs out from under his falling grasp and took to the deck, side vaulting over the top of the deck rails and landing on the soft sand below. She took off running trying to put distance between herself and her attacker, not knowing what other “surprises” awaited.
She ran about five houses down and turned sharply ending up at her neighbor's home.
“Mrs. Cianchetti!” she yelled as she pounded on the sliding glass door.
A shaken older woman came to the door answering it once she recognized her neighbor.
“Brianna? Are you alright?”
“They've taken Lee. I need to get help!”
Mrs. Cianchetti brought her inside, locking the doors and shutting the windows as Brianna reached for the phone to call Admiral Nelson. As she waited for the phone call to connect she looked outside and spotted the speed boat moving at top speed away from the beach.
* * * * *
Lee lay on the deck unable to move listening to his kidnappers, trying to gather any information as to why he was abducted when he heard a radio beep indicating an incoming transmission.
“The woman got away.”
“Forget her, we got what we came for.”
Lee sighed considerably relieved as the bad guy signed off but then reached for his pocket and pulled out a hypo.
“Good night Crane,” he said as he injected Lee. The effects were immediate but Lee held onto the knowledge that Brianna had escaped as his eyelids fell decisively closed.
* * * * *
Brianna sat on the sofa in her house as Admiral Nelson, Chip and the Santa Barbara PD scoured the house and beach for clues.
“Do you remember anything else, Brianna? Anything at all?” Harry said sitting beside her as her worried expression gave away all the trepidation she held inside for her husband.
“No,” she said shaking her head. “It happened so fast. One minute we were walking and talking so normally and the next, Lee was sprawled on the ground in pain and unable to move,” she answered as a tear fell silently down her cheek.
“You did the right thing,” Harry assured her. “There was nothing you could have done for Lee on the beach. Frankly, I'm amazed at how you escaped,” Harry offered with a small smile.
“Lee's been teaching me,” she answered smiling slightly at their last lesson, then her smile faded and was replaced with sheer determination.
“I don't intend on sitting at home wondering what's going on Admiral. I want to be in the middle of your investigation.”
“You will. I'm sure Lee would appreciate you being with either myself or Chip until this is over,” Harry replied assuredly as he rose offering his hand to Brianna.
Brianna stood, taking in the strong resolve in Harry's eyes and nodded.
“I need to change.”
“I'll stay and drive her when she's ready,” Chip offered as Harry moved to the door and Brianna headed upstairs for a quick shower and a change of clothes.
Harry nodded his agreement, watching her ascend the stairs.
“Keep a good watch Chip.”
Chip's sincere “Aye Sir,” was rendered as Harry left for the Institute needing to place a very important call.
* * * * *
Admiral Gerald Johnson sat leaning over his desk with his hands folded and listening intently to Harry's report of Lee's abduction then sat back and sighed heavily.
“Lee has a lot of enemies,” Johnson stated flatly, “but frankly, an abduction in broad daylight on a public beach,” he nodded his head in the negative. “I can only think of a few who could pull it off.” Gerald broke his eye contact with Harry as if in deep thought as Harry recognized the body language.
“What aren't you telling me Gerald?”
Johnson sighed. “I was informed only this morning that Dr. Gamma has escaped.”
“Gamma?” Harry said in noticeable disbelief. “I thought he was tucked away in maximum security and in solitary confinement no less.”
“Apparently he bought some guards out. All we know is that this morning when he was checked the man in the cell wasn't Gamma.”
Harry blew a breath and ran a worried hand across his neck, well aware that it had been Lee's unexpected run in with Gamma that had finally snagged the mastermind criminal, resulting in his arrest and conviction.*
“So it's revenge then,” Harry surmised.
“Possibly, but in all probability Gamma needs something more.”
Harry leaned forward, “What do you mean Gerald?”
“A great deal of Gamma's money was frozen and turned over to the authorities upon his conviction. Now I have no doubt he has reserves somewhere, but he's going to need to refill his coffers if he's going to kick start his organization again.”
“You believe he's after information that Lee might possess?”
“I'm sure of it, of course he will be bent on taking retribution as well.”
Harry nodded, that was a given. “What's our next step, Gerald?”
“We're doing a lot of assuming here, Harriman. I'll see what the Intelligence Community is saying right now, in the mean time you may still be contacted for a ransom.”
“We've already arranged for Lee's house calls to be forwarded straight here,” Harry replied.
“Good. I'll snoop around and get back to you. Johnson out.”
Harry turned off the monitor and stood walking toward the window, looking out without really seeing anything as he contemplated the implications of Dr. Gamma loose again and remembering his loudly declared revenge he promised Lee Crane preying heavily on his mind.
* * * * *
The speed boat took a course out to sea and then veered south making its way into a cove. Lee was deeply unconscious and wasn't aware of the fact that he had been transferred to a helicopter. The helicopter took off and headed up the northern coast, with the intention of confusing the authorities should the speed boat be found and landed on an estate situated against the craggy rock face of a cliff-side compound in Northern California.
* * * * *
Lee woke silently as his eyes fluttered and his mind sharpened immediately. He scanned his surroundings finding himself in a windowless cell containing only a cot and bathroom facilities in the corner. He sat up finding the closed circuit cameras right away and waited for his captors to come and enlighten him as to why he had been kidnapped. His precarious situation was made easier knowing that Brianna had escaped, at least that was the last thing he remembered before being drugged. He stood cautiously, happy to have use of his muscles once again and finding his equilibrium sound he made his way to the small bathroom inside a room just large enough to house the stool and sink. Lee ran the water in the sink and rinsed his face, washing away the final effects of both drugs and returned to his cot to await his captors. He wasn't disappointed as about ten minutes later his cell door opened and he was motioned to his feet by a guard sporting an automatic machine pistol at his gut.
Lee complied and entered the hallway finding another guard as they escorted him to an interrogation room. He was forced into a straight backed chair and strapped in securely to the arms and legs of the chair. Next a monitor was wheeled in front of him and turned on.
“Greetings Captain Crane,” the clean shaven bald head of his captor could be seen, but his face was veiled in the shadows. Still, Lee would know that voice anywhere.
“It's not Commander anymore is it? My, my a lot of things have changed since my incarceration.” The man leaned forward as Lee's suspicions were confirmed and Dr. Gamma's face moved clearly into the light.
“Let's see,” he continued. “You were promoted from Commander to Captain... and you finally tied the knot, so to speak. Your wife is quite lovely and I hear packs quite a punch,” Gamma said, referring to her escape from his henchman's hands.
Lee's fists tightened as Gamma mentioned Brianna, but otherwise ignored his apparent attempts to bait him into a discussion about his wife.
“How did you 'earn' your release, Gamma?” Lee asked darkly.
“Good behavior and lots of money to bribe guards,” he quipped back.
“Now Captain, I'm sure you're interested in just why I brought you here.”
“And just where is here?”
Gamma smiled tightly ignoring Lee's question. “You cost me a good deal of money, Crane, but as you might have guess I have planned for many contingencies. I have other assets ready to be drawn on, but I need more. I have a buyer ready for some information you possess.”
“You won't get it,” Lee answered without even knowing what Gamma wanted.
“We shall see about that, Captain,” then turned his attention to his men. “I will leave the work up to you. You know what to do,” Gamma said as Lee's captors shifted into motion.
* * * * *
Chip escorted Brianna to Harry's office as promised. She had taken a quick submariner's shower, having previously been expertly instructed by Lee and changed into slacks with a blouse and matching cardigan sweater. When they arrived Harry was standing by the window looking out wistfully. He turned upon hearing their entrance and smiled weakly at Brianna.
“You have news don't you?” Brianna asked having already learned to read many of Harry's facial expressions.
“Yes, have a seat Brianna,” Harry said motioning her to the sofa and sitting down beside her.
“Have you been contacted for a ransom?” Chip asked taking the chair across the coffee table.
“No, nothing like that.” Harry sighed, “Brianna, has Lee ever mentioned a Dr. Gamma?”
“Yes, nothing in particular just that he is very dangerous and is now in prison,” she explained.
“Yes, well Lee left out a great deal of information, for your protection I'm sure,” Harry added. “Dr. Gamma is one of the most powerful and dangerous criminal minds on the planet. His goal is world-wide domination and has come close to achieving that goal on several occasions. Lee has foiled some of those plans and is directly responsible for Gamma's capture and conviction.”
Brianna nodded, getting a picture where this was headed but confused nonetheless as Harry continued.
“Gamma escaped from prison, and though it hasn't been confirmed yet, I have good reason to believe he is responsible for Lee's abduction.”
Chip cursed under his breath as Brianna took in the implications of a mastermind criminal with a vendetta against her husband.
“Then he's in great danger?” she stated, her hopes of a ransom being demanded now dwindling.
“Yes. But he's also valuable to Gamma. His security clearance has afforded him information that Gamma may want to cash in on.”
Brianna shook her head, her eyebrows pinching as she thought through Harry's statement.
“Brianna,” Chip said leaning over. “You have to know that Lee is very resourceful. You can't count him out on circumstances alone.”
Brianna recovered and looked up. “I know Chip, I just worry about what cost he'll pay before we get to him.”
Both Harry and Chip nodded in agreement as Brianna stood and walked to the window, looking out at the ocean and wondering what was happening to Lee at this moment.
* * * * *
Gamma signed off and the screen went black as Lee watched his captors move about him. They wheeled the monitor away and then returned with one captor pushing the sleeve of his warm-up jacket up his forearm. Lee tested the straps holding him down when he saw the hypo but was unable to move when the needle was inserted and felt the contents immediately begin to affect him.
He swallowed hard as an uncomfortable feeling was followed by a fuzziness and then felt the compliant tendency begin to kick in. Lee willed himself to resist and happily noted his success, realizing that the drug was most likely a derivative of MI Dioxide, a drug he had developed a resistance to. ONI confiscated the truth serum used on Betty Harmon and nearly used on Lee after Count Staglione and his men had been dealt with in Venice, Italy.** The drug, MI Dioxide, was analyzed and was discovered to lose its effectiveness over time the more it was used on an individual. So Lee was tagged for special training, a week of getting pumped full of the drug and interrogated by ONI playing bad guys until he built up the resistance. He had beaten the drug before, taking three injections and keeping his secrets when he found himself in 1943 in the hands of the gestapo.*** He knew he could beat it again and continued to drum up his resistance as the interrogation began.
“Your name?” his interrogator asked.
“Crane, Lee Benjamin. Captain. Serial number...”
“I don't care about your name, rank and serial number Crane, all I want is the location of the Navy's new deep sea communication's array.”
“Crane, Lee Benjamin. Captain...”
Lee's recitation was interrupted with a backhand as his head whipped to the right. Lee's small tight smile was hidden as his head hung downward knowing he was in full control.
“Gamma knows your submarine placed the deep sea array, Crane. I want the coordinates.”
Lee remained silent as he felt his sleeve pushed back again and another needle inserted. The drug added its potency to the last injection causing Lee to have to concentrate against the compliant elements of the drug; he was able to resist though the drug left him feeling somewhat weaker.
His interrogator asked once again as they engaged in a similar exchange with Lee's name, rank and serial number being followed by several blows.
“Give him a third dose,” the second thug in the room suggested as Lee felt the needle once again. The three doses left him concentrating hard but also struggling with the effects of the overdose of MI Dioxide coursing through his veins. He was physically sick and getting weaker.
On the fourth dose Lee was hanging so heavily forward that his captors couldn't see his face. He was struggling with the illness, cramps and flu like symptoms that left him in pain and fighting a tremendous headache. He was completely awake and aware but was operating in somewhat of a daze when he heard his interrogator make a radio transmission.
“We've given him four injections and he still resists,” the thug reported.
“There are other ways. I will contact you soon,” the disembodied voice of Dr. Gamma was heard as Lee was unstrapped and dragged back to his cell.
He was placed on his cot and heard the door slam shut as he curled into a ball and hoped he would be just as able to resist the “other ways” Gamma had planned. He breathed in short, shallow breaths as he dealt with the pain and allowed himself to fall asleep. He needed his strength if he was going to survive the next round of interrogations.
* * * * *
The police investigation found little evidence to work with and the Nelson Institute security team hadn't been able to do much better, so when Angie announced that Admiral Johnson was on the line everyone in the room sat forward in anticipation.
“I have some news, Harriman,” Johnson reported dispassionately.
“Alright Gerald. You should know that Mrs. Crane and Commander Morton are present in the room.”
Gerald nodded his understanding and approval. Morton had security clearance and had already proven his skills in the field several times over,**** and Mrs. Crane... well it was her husband they were discussing.
“Very well Harriman. The chatter is: someone is offering the position of the Navy's communication array. Now it's not just a matter of the position, but the technology of the deep sea device as well,” Johnson clarified.
Harry nodded his understanding, knowing full well that Seaview installed the equipment in question and that despite the vastness of the ocean, Lee's uncanny ability to recall details would put the actual coordinates at risk. The last thought left Harry sighing silently as he dreaded the cost Lee would have to pay to keep the secret secure.
Brianna sat forward listening intently. She had bore up well under the pressure of the unknown and was intimately aware of certain scars on Lee's body, a testament of the dangerous life he lived. She also knew he would do what it took to keep his secrets safe; that thought didn't give her much comfort as she wasn't ignorant of the depths evil men would sink to secure those secrets.
“And Lee wasn't the only one Gamma was gunning for. An attempt to abduct Dr. Suzanne Reese, the designer of the device was also made this morning. We believe that Gamma intends to not only black out the communications of our entire underwater defense system, but he very well could be trying to gain access to the verification codes of every submarine we have roaming the seas. You know what that means, Harriman?” Johnson asked rhetorically.
“Yes. He would be able to remotely access the command codes, possibly even bypass Fail Safe.”
“Exactly. This isn't about our ability to “hear” underwater, but about the safety of our entire fleet of subs and their payloads. Taking them out of the Nuclear Triad to reprogram every single verification code would place an unacceptable hole in our national security.”
“Mrs. Crane, I don't have to tell you that you have been made privy to Top Secret information, and I must admonish your complete silence. You are not authorized to divulge this information to anyone, except your husband,” Johnson stated rather flatly.
“I understand, Admiral,” Brianna replied just as evenly.
“Very well. I am certain that Captain Crane is currently engaged in interrogations for that information. How long would it take to deploy Seaview to those coordinates?” Gerald asked point blank.
“The array is a two day cruise at flank speed, Gerald,” Harry answered already knowing it wasn't good enough.
“That's what I thought,” Gerald said, not surprised at all with Harry's answer. “Gamma's resources are undoubtedly already in the general area. Once the coordinates are obtained, they'll have the equipment,” Johnson stated matter of factly.
“We have time. Lee won't give it up willingly.”
“I agree, but Gamma can be very creative,” Johnson sighed. “We have Dr. Reese in protective custody, but I'm afraid I know of only one way to get to Crane.”
“How?” Harry said leaning closer to the screen.
“We set up a decoy for Dr. Reese, implant a transponder and let them take her to Crane.”
“Except you have no guarantee they would put the two together?” Harry reasoned.
“True, but since Dr. Reese lives in San Diego, and Lee was abducted from Santa Barbara there's more than a good chance they will be incarcerated together.”
“Do you have an ONI agent ready to go?” Harry asked resolving himself to the messiness of the operation, necessary not just to rescue Lee Crane but to safeguard the entire underwater defense system, one that kept more than America safe but the entire Free World.
“None that are readily available. I'm working on recalling Felicia Davenport from overseas, but it will take twenty-four hours to bring her back to San Diego, once we contact her that is.”
“Blast it Gerald! There's got to be someone who can pose as Dr. Reese,” Harry said emphatically.
“There is,” Brianna said as all three men turned their attention to her soft contemplative voice.
“What does Dr. Reese look like?”
“Five foot seven, 120 pounds, blond hair always worn as a bun on top of her head, and wears black rimmed glasses,” Johnson fired off quickly.
“Okay, so a wig or a dye job, glasses and I'm in business,” she answered without emotion as the tenseness in the room etched up considerably.
“Gerald,” Harry said darkly leaning forward drilling daggers into the screen in front of him, “If you think that I'm going to place Mrs. Crane in the middle of this fiasco, you're crazy!” Harry finished with considerable volume on the last word.
Gerald continued, completely ignoring Harry's impassioned response. “You and I both know what Gamma is capable of and just what is at stake here. Now I'm no more happy about this than you are, but Mrs. Crane is offering us a real solution to a very real problem here.”
“What about Lee?” Chip chimed in, ignoring the decorum of interrupting two Admirals in conference. “Doesn't his opinion count? 'Cause I know without a doubt he wouldn't want Brianna involved.”
“I'm well aware of that, Commander,” Johnson replied in full Admiral mode. “But this is a matter of national security and as so transcends one man's desires!” Johnson's voice was beginning to ramp up, not appreciating having to explain himself to Commander Morton.
“Besides the fact that Lee would kill all of us,” Harry started. “Mrs. Crane is not an ONI operative and is not prepared for the dangers at hand,” Harry finished just as four-star.
Johnson's reply was cut-off by the contemplative but very much in control voice of Brianna Crane.
“How well would you be able to track me?”
Harry and Chip both looked up with considerable surprise as Brianna continued to explore the feasibility of the plan.
“Chip is right,” she continued. “If anything goes wrong Lee would have to deal with the added burden of saving 'Dr. Reese', even if it's not me playing the part; it has to be fool proof or we'll endanger both him and the country,” she finished rationally.
Johnson sat back allowing the emotions of the prior exchange to dissipate as he addressed Brianna's question respectfully.
“We believe that your husband is still on American soil. They would have wanted to begin interrogations right away,” he said explaining the reasoning behind the assumption. “We'll track you from the air, by helicopter at altitude. They won't know they're being tracked, I guarantee it. Once they move you to a location we'll go in, regardless of whether we know Crane is there or not. I owe that much to Lee. But it's worth a try to not only save your husband but the entire underwater defense system.”
“Give them enough time to bring me to Lee,” Brianna offered, “that way we can be rescued together.”
“Brianna...” Harry started taking her hands in his, “You don't understand the dangers involved.”
“I think I do Admiral. You think I can't guess how Lee has come by all those scars? I know all Lee wants is for me to be safe, but how safe will I be if the planet engages in another world war?” She asked as Johnson held back a tight smile, pleased that Brianna Crane recognized the implications of losing the array.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. He hated being pushed into a corner with no options but the one that was being forced down his throat.
Brianna held Harry's hand in understanding, “Admiral, please. I can do this.”
Harry took his other hand and placed it over Brianna's in a fatherly move and addressed Johnson, “I do this under protest, Gerald.”
“Very well. I'll have a courier there in two hours with the transponder, it's more sophisticated than anything you've got there.”
Harry nodded, understanding that two hours meant flying over the continental US at Mach 2; something not normally done as sonic booms were troublesome over land, and further indicating the seriousness of the threat to national security.
“And I'm coming as well,” Johnson added. “I'll face the music with Crane once he's safe,” he finished as Brianna cracked a weak smile at Johnson's confidence that Lee would be rescued.
“Bring your flak jacket, Gerald. You're going to need it,” Harry offered referring to the volcanic eruption that was sure to follow involving Brianna Crane in this dangerous rescue.
“Johnson out,” Gerald said, barely acknowledging Harry's words, but even as he signed off he realized that Harry was right. It wasn't fair to have to use an untrained decoy as an agent but this was the best way to end the danger and secure the safety of the array at the same time, not to mention a host of other secrets Crane was privy to. He'd face the music with Lee, but someone had to make the big decisions and that someone was him.
* * * * *
Lee was left to recover in his cell as he held his middle tightly riding out the cramps. The door opened and a guard appeared tossing a flask of water landing on the cot between his curled body and the wall.
“You should have talked, Crane. There are a whole lot worse ways to get information than truth serum you know? Frankly, I'm going to enjoy watching you writhe.”
Yadda, yadda, yadda, Lee thought silently to himself as he listened to the expected psychological torture his captor was trying to engage in. He kept silent even as his captor closed the cell door and his typical Igorian laughter could be heard walking down the corridor.
So they're through using MI Dioxide and ready to move on to more physical means, he reasoned. Right now they were content to let the illness “soften” him up, that at least would buy him a little time. He couldn't think anymore and closed his eyes to manage the pain, his only consolation in all of this was knowing that Brianna was safe.
* * * * *
The man in the dark sedan watched as a naval officer escorted Dr. Suzanne Reese from the San Diego Naval Base. He smiled and instantly pulled it back as he expertly tailed his target. He knew Gamma was keen on getting the scientist as she would be able to unlock the electronics quickly with the help of MI Dioxide. The botched abduction was designed to look like an ordinary mugging, only some do-gooder had foiled the plot to kidnap the scientist. They apparently hadn't connected any dots, and Dr. Reese was moving about “business as usual” with only one officer to escort her. Perfect.
He watched as the Naval Officer drove off and fingered on the transmitter.
“They're heading your way now,” he reported quietly into the radio.
* * * * *
Chip and Brianna left Naval Base San Diego, CNIC with Brianna in full disguise. Her wig, dark rim glasses and familiar clothes worn by Dr. Reese would offer enough of an illusion to pull off the abduction. ONI had also engaged in some creative makeup to change her facial features enough to keep up the ruse. Chip had insisted on escorting her, even hoping to be taken as well as back up, it was wishful thinking but worth a try.
They slowed for an auto accident up ahead blocking the roadway as Chip stopped. A man was on the ground desperately trying to give CPR to a crash victim as Chip got out of the car.
“Do you need help?” Chip asked, ready to lend his field medical training to the emergency. Chip took off his cover and tossed it deftly into the front seat; he was wearing his dark service blues but left his jacket on as he took two steps toward the victim.
Suddenly a third man appeared out of nowhere aiming squarely at Chip's chest and firing three times as the Naval officer fell heavily to the ground.
“No!” Brianna screamed, but was dragged from the passenger side of the car as a helicopter descended and she was corralled inside the chopper. The chopper lifted off as Brianna's eyes were fixated on the still, curled body of Chip Morton lying lifelessly on the road.
* * * * *
“Chip? Chip can you hear me?”
Chip breathed heavily feeling every bit of his bruised and possibly cracked ribs as Harry unbuttoned his service jacket revealing three impact zones on the bullet proof vest he wore.
“Are you okay, lad?” Harry asked, ticked off that the assailants had been so brazen as to abduct “Dr. Reese” and just as ticked off to callously gun down her escort without one thought to their deed.
Chip blinked and groaned.
“Easy there, lad. We'll have the Naval doc check you out,” Harry said, now wearing civvies as he tailed their vehicle in this well executed sting. The auto accident hadn't been a complete surprise, and Chip hadn't fallen into the trap without knowing it was a set-up. Everyone had played their part well, including Brianna who resisted using Chip's name when she screamed.
“No, I'm fine Sir,” Chip said struggling to sit up. “I need to be in the middle of this,” he said pleading with Harry not to sideline him.
Harry nodded his understanding, “Alright, Chip you're in.”
With that Harry pulled out his transmitter and called for the helicopter to pick them up as they awaited the coordinates from Brianna's transponder.
* * * * *
Brianna was immediately blindfolded as she boarded the helicopter.
“What's this all about?” She asked, playing the confused scientist as if she hadn't been privy to any information beforehand.
“You'll find out soon enough Dr. Reese.”
She remained quiet, not wanting to overplay her hand and working up the courage to play her part to completion. All she needed to do was to sit tight; the helicopter would land, the coordinates would be sent to ONI and the Admiral would come blazing in with a detail of commandos to rescue them. That was the plan at least, and Brianna hoped with all she had that everything would go smoothly. She said a silent prayer and willed her heart to stop beating out of her chest as she tried to calm herself and her over-active endorphins. She had a role to play and she had to stay in character. She was Dr. Suzanne Reese and had been briefed that she and Lee had never met before. She could do this... she had to.
* * * * *
The overdose of Mi Dioxide produced extreme flu-like symptoms that were more than uncomfortable, they were incapacitating. The only good thing about the illness was it bought him a little reprieve from other uncomfortable interrogation techniques. Lee figured they would lay off him till at least tomorrow, even then he'd still be sick given his experience the last time the truth serum had been unsuccessfully used on him. So he was surprised to hear his cell door open and his guards drag him from his cot to the interrogation room.
He was placed in the straight backed chair but not restrained as the clicking heels of a woman's shoes caught his attention. He looked up to see the blond hair of a woman being held by captors on both elbows. His eyes narrowed as he studied her, not missing for a moment the fact that the woman standing before him was indeed his wife.
“This is Dr. Suzanne Reese, Crane. And when you're through spilling your guts about the whereabouts of the communication's array, she's going to tell us how to access every single US submarine's verification code.”
Lee breathed deeply, Dr. Reese, he reiterated to himself. It all smelled of ONI and Admiral Johnson as Lee's blood boiled. Brianna stared dispassionately at Lee, but even through her dark rimmed glasses he could see her eyes willing him to play along, which of course he would do. But once the expected commandos raided the place and did their part, someone was going to get a very loud earful of his displeasure.
Lee had barely finished that thought when commandos dressed in black stormed through the room as Lee lunged for one of the guards on Brianna's elbow. He flew out of his chair throwing all his body weight into the guard trying to eliminate the bad guy's ability to take her hostage. His sickness took a backseat to the need to act and was silently thrilled when Brianna applied a perfect elbow blow to the solar plexus of her other guard and then dove out of his reach as the commandos swept up the compound neatly.
Lee rolled off his guard having delivered several rapid punches as the commandos took charge of the downed guard. Brianna scurried quickly to his side and ran a comforting hand over his face.
“Lee? Are you alright?” She asked with concern for his obvious weakened condition.
“I'm fine,” he breathed out. “How about you?”
She sighed and smiled as Harry and Chip moved in alongside her. “I'm fine, Lee. Just fine,” she said as she lowered herself over him and let loose silent tears. She had held up throughout the ordeal, and with the danger passed she found she needed to release all the concern and intrigue.
Lee breathed in and wrapped his arm around her. “Shhh. It's okay. It's all over now,” he assured her as he withheld his questions for later. Right now, all that mattered was Brianna.
* * * * *
Harry perused the room and found the hypo and vial on a table as a corpsman moved to treat the obvious unwell officer. Brianna also recovered and moved off Lee's chest and comforting embrace.
“Do you know what they gave you, Lee?” Harry asked holding the syringe.
“MI Dioxide,” he answered breathy and with a groan passing for the cramps that still plagued him.
Harry's eyebrow rose knowing one dose shouldn't have the effects Lee was exhibiting just now.
“How many injections?”
“Four,” he answered holding another groan back as Brianna pushed the curls from his forehead, completely composed and now focused on Lee's care.
Harry nodded and turned toward the corpsman, “Pain medication won't interact with the drug.”
The corpsman nodded as another needle was prepared and administered, this one bringing sweet relief to Lee's weary body. He released pain-free breaths, taking deeper breaths than he could afford earlier as he was loaded onto a stretcher and strapped into place. Brianna stayed close; there wasn't a commando in the room who could have kept her from Lee's side as he was taken to the waiting chopper.
* * * * *
The pain medication soon took Lee to a blissful sleep as Brianna held his hand tightly. Though he was most certainly unconscious he managed to keep a light grip on her hand as the helicopter headed south, bypassing the Nelson Institute MedBay and heading for Balboa Hospital, the most technologically advanced treatment center in the navy located at the San Diego Naval Base.
Admiral Gerald Johnson was waiting when the chopper landed and escorted Brianna away as Lee was taken for treatment. She gave her version of an “After Action Report” reciting everything she could remember about the encounter. Johnson was relieved to hear that Lee hadn't divulged the coordinates yet, not that he didn't expect Lee to fight hard, but every man has a breaking point. The mop-up crew, including Harriman and Morton were still at the compound and he'd get the rest later. For now, Johnson was content to have both Lee and Brianna Crane back in one piece.
Lee was examined as blood tests confirmed the overdose of MI Dioxide and was placed in a private room with guards posted at the door. He remained unconscious, but Brianna was content to be by his side, having already dispensed of her blond wig and ONI's creative make-up treatment designed to present her as a suitable decoy for Dr. Reese.
Lee began to stir as a relieved smile graced Brianna's face. “Hi there,” she whispered.
He found her pretty face hovering over him and smiled back, “Hi Bri.”
“You look better,” she observed.
“You look wonderful,” he replied reaching for her face as she lowered herself to receive his kiss.
She was still hovering over him as he brushed some hair from her cheek. “You make a cute blond,” he quipped, “but I prefer your dark hair,” he finished as his smile faded.
“How are you Bri? Were you hurt at all?” He asked, his concern palpable.
“I'm fine, Lee. I don't even need a band aid,” she quipped.
“What about the rest of the rescue team?”
Her face reflected her concern as she answered, “Chip was hurt, bruised ribs from three direct impacts to his bullet proof vest.”
“Ouch,” Lee replied, knowing just how painful that particular feeling was.
Their conversation was interrupted as Harry and Chip entered the room happy to find Lee awake and relatively pain-free.
“Are you both okay?” he asked giving Chip a bit of a once over.
“It was a clean raid, Lee. They weren't expecting the surprise attack and there were only four unfriendlies at the compound.”
Lee nodded his acknowledgment and turned his eyes toward Chip. “What about you?”
“One cracked a couple of bruised ribs. Should be good for some serious comforting from Monica when I get home,” he quipped with a waggle of his eyebrows. He got the expected response as Lee smiled, though both wished they could spare their spouses the worry of their sometimes bruised bodies in the line of duty.
Lee's smile faded. “I need to know what happened,” he said pausing for a moment. “Everything,” he admonished as Harry nodded his understanding.
All the details were given, including Brianna's escape, the seriousness of the threat of losing the communication's array, Dr. Reese's failed kidnapping, and the fact that ONI had no female agents close enough to do the job. Lee nodded, fully understanding the ramifications and dangers to the country's defense.
“Thank you both for being there, as close as you could be for Brianna,” Lee offered sincerely.
“Lee, I know it's not what you would have wanted, but we had no choice.”
“I know, Bri,” he answered without much conviction.
“Admiral, Brianna looks tired. Would you take her to the hotel and make sure she rests?”
“Of course, Lee.”
“I'm not tired, and I can rest just as easily in this chair,” she rebuked.
Lee just smiled. “And make sure she eats something too,” he said ignoring her glare. Brianna couldn't stay mad for long and leaned over to kiss him.
“Okay. You win this time. I'll see you in a few hours,” she promised as Harry moved to escort her out.
“I'll catch you later, Lee.”
“Thanks Chip... for everything.”
They passed a knowing glance as Lee realized Chip's attempt to protect Brianna during the sting would have cost him his life had he not been wearing the vest.
As Chip turned to leave he was met by the door opening and Admiral Johnson entering the hospital room. Chip nodded his greeting and took one last look at Lee who had tensed up considerably upon the Admiral's entrance.
“Captain,” Johnson said in way of a dispassionate greeting. “They tell me you're up for a preliminary AAR.”
“Aye Sir,” Lee replied without emotion and barely within Naval Decorum when addressing an Admiral. He made it through the entire debriefing, answering Johnson's questions and offering every bit of information he could regarding Gamma and the abduction.
“Well, Gamma will always be a personal threat to you, but he is also very patient and will only attack when he perceives complete victory.”
“Pretty much 'business as usual',” Lee said agreeing with Johnson's assessment.
“Yes. It's not the first time you've been in his cross-hairs and this isn't new ground we're walking.”
Lee nodded his understanding.
“Very well, Captain. I'll look forward to your written report when you're able.”
“Aye Sir,” Lee answered without emotion and without the usual understanding he had for the hard decisions Johnson had to make on a daily basis.
Johnson left, seemingly unaffected as Lee laid there staring aimlessly at the ceiling trying to will down his anger. He wasn't angry with Brianna, Harry or Chip, but he couldn't help but wonder if Johnson hadn't planned all along for Brianna to play the decoy. Would it have been any fairer to pull another female naval officer with no more training than Brianna to pull off the decoy? No, and he would have been concerned for any woman they had snagged to play the role of Dr. Reese, it was just something he didn't want to happen. He placed his life in danger to keep others safe and the idea that his wife was put in danger to rescue him was hard to swallow. He had worked with many female operatives over his career with ONI and respected their considerable skills and abilities without question, but he always held an unspoken responsibility for their safety in his mission parameters. Call it chivalry, but he felt responsible for the safety of the women on his missions. Still, before he could be labeled a chauvinist, his need to protect the female operatives wasn't unlike his willingness to protect any of the men under his command.
He took a deep breath in honing all the anger down to one person and one question: “Did Johnson intend to use Brianna as the decoy from the very get-go?”
* * * * *
Lee was released the next day, feeling weak but generally over the devastating side-effects of the truth serum overdose. He was still under the care of the naval base doctor and was required to report for a final examination before he was cleared for duty. Harry and Chip had checked on him then left for Santa Barbara last evening and Lee was content to have the evening alone with Brianna. They were in the hotel suite getting ready for a nice dinner out when a knock was heard on the door.
Brianna moved effortlessly to the door as Lee watched with appreciation the snug fitting blue dress she had chosen for the evening. Lee was wearing an opened collar white shirt worn under a dark suit jacket and no tie for the casual evening they had planned.
“Hello Admiral,” he heard Brianna say as she opened the door wider. “Please come in.” She motioned Admiral Gerald Johnson in and then made a very lame excuse that she needed to do something in the bedroom and left the sitting room with Lee glaring daggers at Johnson.
“Captain Crane,” Johnson said coolly.
“Admiral,” Lee replied just as coolly as he wondered about the civvies the Admiral was wearing. He had never once seen Johnson in civvies in all the years he worked for ONI.
Johnson blew a breath. “I came to explain... not something I'm inclined to do on a regular basis mind you.”
Lee nodded, still not letting up his glare.
“All our female operatives were engaged elsewhere. The best I could do was to try and recall Felicia Davenport, but she was at least twenty-four hours away from inserting into the sting. It's true that I could have pulled a female naval officer, a police officer, or even borrowed from another government agency but again... I was working against precious time. If Gamma had been successful in retrieving the coordinates from you then Dr. Suzanne Reese would never have been safe again, she would always be on Gamma's scope for a possible abduction and subsequently all the dangers of losing the entire fleet's verification codes rested on a suitable decoy. The dangers of Gamma bypassing Fail-Safe was too great, and standing down the entire sub fleet for new verification codes to be programmed placed an unacceptable risk to national security. Did I hope that Brianna Crane could play the part? Yes. Did I purposely bait her into becoming the decoy? No. I simply laid out the problem and she responded appropriately to the dangers at hand. Sounds like someone else I know,” Johnson finished, referring to Lee's own proven sense of duty.
Lee sighed but not ready to let go of his anger yet.
“So I've come here to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Johnson said, his statement an intriguing offer though Lee had no idea where it was heading.
“I'm here in civvies, not as your superior officer. No court martial, you get one punch, Captain. Take your best shot,” Johnson said dispassionately with his voice but oozing passionate sincerity through his deep steel blue eyes.
Lee sighed and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “You know I won't do that, Sir,” he replied turning away from Johnson.
Gerald nodded, he suspected as much but was ready to take a punch nonetheless. He didn't know why, maybe because he thought so much of Lee and because the woman who had finally snagged his heart had to be equally special. This was all so uncharacteristic of him he thought, as he sighed deeply.
“Maybe it's time to retire,” Johnson said turning toward the window. “I'm getting tired of making the big decisions, sending boys out to impossible missions and sending letters of regret back home to their families when things go wrong,” Johnson said in a rare moment of vulnerability. Something he never let anyone see before, and he wasn't even sure why it was coming out now except that the weight of command was sometimes more than he wanted to bear in the years that he should be spending on a lake with a lazy pole in his hand not caring if he actually got a bite or not. But he had children and grandchildren and every time he looked into their eyes he knew why he kept doing what he did. For them.
Lee listened to Johnson's words... retire? He'd never heard the Admiral speak so frankly before though Lee had always given him way more slack than most people thought he should.
“I wish you wouldn't Sir,” Lee said referring to Johnson's statement regarding retirement. “I'd hate to have to break in a new Admiral,” he finished with a small grin.
Johnson turned to the sound of his voice and studied Lee's eyes for the confidence and respect he had always seen there before. It was back. He didn't know why he needed to see it, but the truth was he did.
Gerald took a deep breath in and by the time he expelled it was back in full Four-Star-I'm-the-Admiral mode.
“Very well, Captain. Just so we understand one another.”
“We do Sir,” Lee said realizing that Johnson had to return to this demeanor, it was the one that allowed him to send operatives into dangerous situations to get a job done and ultimately to protect his country. Lee offered his hand for a solid handshake as Johnson returned it firmly.
Johnson started for the door his business now complete but stopped short of the door handle, turning to face Lee once again.
“You've got to admit, Crane. She did well out there, and you two make a good team,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Don't get any ideas, Admiral,” Lee said with a respectful smile of his own.
Gerald just nodded, raising an eyebrow that said, “No promises,” and left the hotel room as Lee blew a cleansing breath out glad to finally release his pent up anger.
He heard Brianna open the bedroom door and enter the sitting room as she snuggled up to her husband wrapping her arms around his neck.
“You know,” she said with a seductive grin on her face. “I think we should order up dinner and practice some self-defense moves.”
He smiled back deviously pulling her close, wrapping his arms around the small of her back to press her body against his.
“Let's bypass the back flips and go straight to your secret weapon,” he suggested as he leaned over for a passionate kiss.
“Aye, aye Skipper,” she whispered as they kissed passionately and she felt the zipper of her dress tugging downward...
* See my story, Duty's Reward
** See the second season episode, Escape from Venice
*** See my story, Eye of the Storm
**** See my stories, Plausible Deniability and No Man Left Behind
Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and her main characters belong to Irwin Allen