Worth Dying For
This is sort of a follow up to ‘Mists Of Silence’, but takes place some months after.
Still dazed, Lee Crane sat on the cot in his cell. The room was small, with bare brick walls, and concrete floor. The metal framed cot was the only furniture, but at least the bedding, such as it was, seemed clean. He’d definitely been in worse prisons; although he was under no illusions that his stay would be an enjoyable one.
The two men that had bundled him into the back of a truck had said little during the journey, which seemed to last for hours. During which time he had been bound hand and foot with a sack over his head, making the journey even more uncomfortable. The interior of the truck had been oppressively warm and his sweat soaked shirt now clung to him. The collar was tight around his parched throat. He was supposed to rendezvous with members of the resistance, but something had gone wrong; they knew that he was coming and had been waiting for him. It was a possibility that he had been aware of when he requested to be allowed to undertake this rescue attempt.
The heat of the day had given way to the cooler air of evening by the time the truck stopped and he was dragged out. Stumbling, he’d fallen to his knees onto hard packed ground. When the sack was pulled off he’d found himself in a compound of what looked like a military prison. He was pulled roughly to his feet and taken inside.
He blinked against the light that dazzled his eyes after being in the dark for so long. He hobbled between the two men as they led him down a narrow corridor and down some steps to the cells. Once inside, his wrists and ankles were released and he was left to contemplate his surroundings.
Lee opened his eyes to find bright sunlight streaming in through the barred window of his cell. He was lying on the cot, sometime during the night he had fallen asleep.
At the sound of the cell door opening, he swung his legs off the cot and sat up. The sound of the approaching footsteps had been what had woken him he realised. The same two men that had captured him entered the room. One stood by the door, while the other approached the bed and placed a tray down beside Lee.
“Breakfast, I suggest that you make the most of it, it might be the last meal you get for a while.”
“Where am I” he demanded, already aware that his innocent act wasn’t fooling anyone. He only hoped that they did not know Seaview’s position.
“You’ll find out,” the man turned and walked out, locking the door behind him.
Lee looked at the tray. He hadn’t eaten since before his capture the previous day. He still did not know where he was, but he recognised the uniforms, they were military. However, this was not the presidential palace where they had been held last time. But wherever it was, he had an idea that they had something unpleasant in mind for him.
Stepping to the barred window, he looked out on a compound surrounded by high walls, topped with barb wire. There were guard towers at each corner with armed guards. Escape was not going to be easy.
Nelson entered the control room via the rear hatch. “Any news of Lee?” he asked as he approached Morton at the plot table. Lee had left the boat early the previous day and they were supposed to return to extract him before first light today.
Chip shook his head. “Nothing, Sir.”
“How long overdue?”
“From his scheduled report, three and a half hours.”
“Have you tried raising him?” Nelson asked impatiently as his temper flared, fueled by his concern for the young Captain.
Nelson sighed. “Very well, stay with it, Chip. Keep trying.” Nelson turned away and headed down the stairs to the nose. Lee was almost certainly in trouble. If he couldn’t make the pickup point, then they would have to send in a rescue party. But first they needed to know where he was. Lee was headstrong and stubborn, and when news of Captain Serra’s capture and pending execution was received, Lee had insisted in going in to rescue him. Unknown to them at the time, it had been Serra who had aided their escape from the presidential palace. Nelson hadn’t wanted Lee to go on this mission. He had feared that just such a thing would happen. Lee seemed to have a total disregard for his own safety, and took too many risks, often ending up injured as a consequence. Who knew what his captors had planned for him.
Lee got to his feet as his cell door opened and a man wearing a khaki uniform entered. “Who are you? Why am I being held here?” Lee demanded.
“I am General Galiegos, and you are under arrest for spying. We know who you are, and that you are here to rescue the traitor. But you were misinformed. He’s being held elsewhere. Who is going to rescue you, Captain?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Give us credit for some intelligence, Captain. If you make a public confession, you will die quickly. If not, then interrogation and a slow death await you.”
“I’m not confessing to anything,” Lee replied defiantly. He knew that Nelson would do all he could to find him, but it might not be in time.
“Now, now, Captain, do not be hasty. Perhaps you need some time to think about it.” Galiegos nodded to the two burly guards flanking him.
“Go to hell!” Lee took a step back as the two men approached him, wondering if he could take them both. From the sadistic grin on Galiegos face, he got a great deal of pleasure from miss-treating his prisoners.
“You may change your mind.”
It hadn’t been much of a fight, and Lee gained a few more bruises. After one of the men hit him with a rifle butt he was stripped and marched out into the compound, where he was tied to a post. His hands secured tightly behind him.
“We’ll see if you feel more co-operative after you have spent a few hours out in the sun, and your tender parts start to burn.” Smiling, Galiegos turned and walked away.
Left alone, Lee felt incredibly vulnerable. Naked on public display with his hands tied behind him, there was nothing he could do to defend himself against assault.
It was still fairly early, and the sun was not at its highest. But he knew that later it would get a whole lot hotter. If he was left here all day, as Galiegos had threatened, his skin would burn. But that was a small price compared to the damage a confession would do, not only to the Institute and Seaview, but to his country.
“This message came in for you, Admiral,”
“Do we know where, Sir?”
“Not yet. Have
While Morton relayed the orders, Nelson turned his attention to the charts, his mind working quickly, weighing their options. There was a bay that they had used before. They could put a boat ashore there. It would have to be a quick in and out operation. If they had Lee, then they would know that Seaview was close by. The water of the bay was shallow, and Seaview would be a sitting target for anyone dropping depth charges. They wouldn’t have anyone on the inside to help them this time.
He was ignored for the most part by the guards and other prisoners. The sun was climbing higher in the sky and getting hotter. The walls of the compound reflected the heat adding several degrees to the temperature. By noon, the compound would be like a furnace.
At around mid-day, Galiegos appeared from the barracks. Approaching Lee, he unscrewed the top of a bottle of water he was carrying and raised it so that Lee could drink. The cool water was wonderful relief in the blazing sun.
“Still no confession, Captain Crane?”
Lee didn’t answer. There was nothing more to say. He could not confess, no matter what they did to him.
After a moment of silence, Galiegos emptied the remainder of the water onto the ground. “As you wish.” Turning, he walked away; leaving no doubt of his intention to leave Lee there until he agreed to make a public confession.
Lee closed his eyes against the glare of the sun and inclined his head. The blow from the rifle butt had made his head throb. Now his neck felt stiff, and while he did not think that he had a concussion, the blow had obviously done some damage.
In spite of his olive skin, he could feel the sun starting to burn into him. What little breeze penetrated the high walls of the compound, felt hot and dry, and gave no relief from the relentless rays of the sun. Galiegos had him positioned so that his most vulnerable spots would be facing the sun at its hottest. Surely they did not really believe that they could gain a confession this way. If they knew who he was, they must also know that Galiegos predecessor had failed to break him, even when he was forced to watch one of his men being executed. Thankfully Nelson had arrived in time to save Patterson from the firing squad. But even if they had killed all his men, he still would not have confessed. The guilt had stayed with him for a long time, and this had been his chance to make up for his failure to protect Farrell. At least this time he wasn’t putting anyone else’s life in danger.
Nelson stood beside Morton at the plot table. “We’ll wait until dark. We can put a boat ashore here.” He indicated on the charts.
“But won’t they be expecting us?”
Nelson nodded. “That’s why we wait until dark. It will be easier to get ashore unseen.”
“Do you think that Lee is all right, Sir?”
“I hope so, Chip.” At least Lee hadn’t been shot on sight. There was a good chance that they were keeping him alive to interrogate him. Nelson hoped that they could get to him before he was hurt too badly. Nelson took the mike from its clip. “Sparks, anything from the resistance?”
“Yes, Admiral. They’ll meet you at the cove at sundown.”
Disappointed, Nelson returned the mike to its clip. He hated waiting and not knowing. The new ruling junta was an unknown quantity and there was no predicting what they would do to Lee. He glanced at his watch; it had been nearly twenty four hours since they’d heard from Lee. Damn it! He knew that Farrell’s death had affected Lee deeply. He’d tried talking to him, but Lee had clamed up as usual. He’d hoped that, although against his better judgement, by letting Lee attempt this rescue, it would help Lee put the incident behind him. Crane had been Seaview’s Captain for less than a year, yet Nelson had found himself forming a close bond with the young man. They had become friends almost from the moment Lee had stepped aboard. As a consequence, he sometimes found it hard to stand back and let Lee put himself in danger. It was even harder to have to stay behind and worry.
For a moment Chip’s eyes met Nelson’s across the plot table. He knew that behind that impassive mask, Chip was as worried about Lee as he was. Chip had never approved of Lee’s covert missions and Nelson hadn’t realised until now how difficult it must be for Chip to all ways be the one that had to stay behind and wait. The two were as close as brothers. This time it must have been even more difficult to stomach, knowing that Lee had asked to go on this rescue mission. He was beginning to regret letting Lee go, but he knew that Lee would probably have gone anyway. If something happened to Lee, would Chip blame him? He tried not to think about what might be happening to Lee; he didn’t know what he would do if he lost Crane, or whether he would be able to forgive himself. I’ll be in my cabin,” he told Chip as he turned towards the aft hatch.
The incessant heat beating down on his head was adding to Lee’s headache, and he was beginning to feel nauseated. His whole body was beaded in sweat that trickled down his face and soaked his hair. He wondered if Galiegos intended to leave him there all night as well. The nights could get pretty cold. Right now the cold would be a blessed relief from the heat. His skin was starting to sting with the first signs of burning.
Carefully, he slid down the post until he was sitting and drew up his knees, giving some shade to the lower part of his body. Again he closed his eyes, dropping his chin to his chest. The hot, drying wind added to the desiccation of his body.
“Well, Captain, your time is running out. Still no confession?”
Lee looked up to find Galiegos standing, looking down at him.
“You’re...wasting your time...I won’t confess,” Lee croaked, his throat as parched as the earth he was sitting on.
“How much longer do you think you can survive in the sun without fluids, Captain? Confess, and I will have you put out of your misery.”
“I’m in...no hurry...to die,” Lee turned away, slumping against the post, exhausted by the effort of talking.
“Your stubbornness will do you no good, Captain.”
“It won’t do you...any good either,” Lee managed, breathless. He could feel his pulse racing, next would come seizures before he finally lost consciousness. That would put an end to Galiegos’ fun.
“Stand up!” Galiegos ordered impatiently, grabbing Lee’s upper arm to haul him to his feet.
Lee stifled a cry of pain from the rough grip on his arm and the wooden post that tore at the skin on his back. The sudden movement caused his surroundings to spin and he stumbled drunkenly, only stopped from falling by the post and Gallegos’s hold on his arm.
“You see Captain, you are getting weaker. However, I have no intention of letting you die. That would be too easy. I promise you will live long enough to suffer considerable pain before I execute you.”
Chip Morton marked their position on the chart. “All stop.” Unshipping a mike from the side of the plot table, he called Nelson. “Admiral, we’re at the co-ordinates, Sir.”
“I’ll be right there, Chip.” Nelson’s reply came over the speaker.
A few steps took Chip from the chart table to the sonar station. “Anything, Kowalski?”
The crewman shook his head. “Nothing, Sir.”
“All right, make your way to the missile room to join the landing party.”
While Kowalski was handing his station over to another crewman, Nelson arrived in the control room.
“Take us to periscope depth, Chip,” he ordered.
“Ten degree up bubble, make depth ninety feet.”
A flurry of bubbles from the outlets signalled Seaview’s response and she started to rise, moving through the twilight zone into the epipelagic zone, although the water beyond the observation windows remained dark.
“Ninety feet, trim satisfactory,” Chip reported.
Nelson nodded. “Up scope.” Stepping up to the periscope, Nelson did a one eighty sweep of the surface. Seemingly satisfied that the area was clear, he lowered the scope and stepped down. “All right Chip, take us to one thousand yards and surface. No running lights and maintain radio silence.”
Kowalski wasn’t completely happy with the idea of returning to this place. The last time he and Patterson had accompanied the Captain as part of a Prize crew in these waters, they had been kidnapped by the ruling military junta and Patterson had nearly ended up in front of a firing squad. If it hadn’t been for the timely arrival of the Admiral, he didn’t want to think about what might have happened.
It was with more than a little apprehension that he joined the landing party as they gathered in the missile room. He could see that same apprehension mirrored on Patterson’s face. His friend hadn’t spoken about the incident after they had returned to Seaview. Ski knew that Patterson felt the same way he did about Crane, if the Skipper was in trouble, then he couldn’t remain behind aboard Seaview and leave the rescue to someone else. Crane had risked his life several times for his crew and Ski considered it his duty to help the Captain regardless. Seaview wouldn’t be the same without Crane in command. The whole crew had become accustomed to his relaxed command style and hands on approach. They had been lucky getting Crane after Phillips was killed, and Ski doubted that they would be that lucky a second time. He certainly wasn’t happy with the thought of some ‘by the book’ commander taking Crane’s place.
The rescue party launched the small inflatable and paddled to shore as quietly as possible. With no lights, the silhouette of Seaview soon disappeared, swallowed up by the darkness. Kowalski and Patterson jumped out and pulled the dinghy out of the water as soon as they reached the beach. While they stowed the dinghy out of sight, Nelson searched for any sign of their contact.
Nelson sighted a signal from a flashlight, followed by a rope snaking down the cliff. Catching it, he tugged to check that it was secure before starting to climb, closely followed by his men. He was anxious to find Crane before something happened to him.
Reaching the top, he found Deeta waiting for him. He had wondered what had become of her and if she had survived.
“Admiral, it is good to see you again.”
Nelson nodded. “Thank you Deeta. Is there any word of Captain Crane and Captain Serra?”
“The resistance has rescued Serra. But Captain Crane is being held at a compound outside the city. He has been tied up in the sun all day. I fear he will need medical help.”
“Why? What do you mean; he’s been out in the sun all day?”
“They stripped him and tied him to a post in the compound and he has had no food or water. I am sorry.”
Nelson grimaced and swore silently. But there was no use worrying about it now. The sooner they got started, the sooner they would have Lee and could get him back to Seaview and Jamieson.
The rescue party consisted of Kowalski, Patterson, Corpsman Baker and Nelson. Nelson was thankful that he had decided to bring Baker along. It sounded like he would be needed. They loaded their gear into the back of the waiting truck and climbed aboard.
“We will not be able to get close to the compound in the truck. We do not want to alert the guards.” Deeta advised.
Nelson nodded agreement. “Tell me more about this compound.”
“The walls are high and solid, with towers at each corner, and lights that scan the walls. One side is buildings containing the cells and accommodation for the guards.”
“If Lee is out in the open it should make things easier. Provided that he doesn’t get caught in the crossfire,” Nelson commented thoughtfully. Lee would know to keep his head down once the shooting started, but one of the guards might take it into their head to shoot him to stop him escaping. They would have to give them something else to think about.
Lee was untied and dragged back inside. The guards dumped him on the cot in his cell and he heard the door close. For a few minutes he lay where he was, trying to calm his rapid pulse. He had to hang on long enough for Nelson to find him. Slowly he turned his head to look around the cell. His torn clothes were still on the floor where the guards had thrown them, but he didn’t have the strength to move from the cot. His body felt like it was on fire and he was so tired he could hardly keep his eyes open. Darkness was infringing on the edge of his vision. Maybe if he closed his eyes for a few minutes to rest, he could summon the strength to stand.
It was not easy to get comfortable with several parts of his anatomy tender from sunburn and he was finally drifting off when the cell door opened. Evidently, they were not going to let him sleep. He was not surprised to see Galiegos enter with a guard. The guard remained by the door while Galiegos approached the cot.
“Captain Crane. I grow tired of your games. Is your silence really worth dying for?”
Lee remained where he was. His throat was too dry to speak, and he was not going to change his mind.
Galiegos folded his arms and stood looking down at him and then turned to the guard. “Bring some water.”
“Yes, Sir.” The guard hurried away and returned a few minutes later with a battered mug and a jug of water. Galiegos took them and poured some water into the mug before offering it to Lee.
Lee struggled to sit up and took the mug, his hands were shaking. The water soothed his dry throat and helped calm his empty stomach.
“You can have as much water as you want once you confess,” Galiegos smiled maliciously. “And maybe even a last meal. You must be hungry?”
Lee shook his head and sank back down onto the cot. Galiegos knew what he was doing. He would give him enough water to keep him conscious so that he could continue to torture him.
“No? Well then I bid you goodnight, Captain. You can look forward to another day in the sun tomorrow. Unless of course you change your mind.”
Galiegos and the guard left the cell and Lee heard the lock turn. He closed his eyes; maybe he could get some sleep after all.
The truck came to a halt. “This is as far as we can go, now we have to walk,” Deeta told them.
Nelson turned to his men. “All right, let’s go.” He quickly got to his feet and pulled his backpack on as he prepared to jump down from the back of the truck. It was totally dark now and he was grateful for the almost full moon. The temperature was dropping. He worried about what sort of condition Lee was in.
Landing with a grunt, he quickly turned to help Deeta out of the truck. “Which way?”
“This way,” Deeta pointed, quickly moving off the road.
Nelson followed, gesturing to the others to follow. Unfortunately, they did not have the sleeping gas to aid their rescue this time. They would have to do it the hard way, but at least they had surprise on their side.
They kept under cover as much as possible as they approached the compound. Stopping under a tree, Nelson turned to his men. “Kowalski, Patterson, place the explosives on the gate. I’ll do the same on the other wall. When the explosives blow, try and knock out those searchlights.”
“Yes, Sir,” Kowalski nodded.
“Baker, you’re with me. Deeta, wait here.”
“Admiral,” she protested.
“No, if something goes wrong I need you to contact Seaview.”
“All right, I will do it.” She nodded agreement.
“Good.” Nelson quickly shrugged off his back pack and began to unpack the explosives and detonators, while Kowalski and Patterson did the same. Nelson tried to ignore the anxiety that nagged at him while he worked on preparing the explosive charges. They were close now, god willing they would have Lee and be safely back aboard Seaview within the hour.
There was pandemonium inside the compound when the explosives went off, blowing the gates open and a large hole in the perimeter wall. The guards, unsure of where the attack was coming from, were running around shouting and firing randomly. Nelson scanned the compound; there was no sign of Lee. Keeping close to the wall, he circled around to the building and stopped to look for his men.
The door to the jailhouse was not even locked; the guards had been in such a hurry to investigate the disturbance. Nelson and Baker slipped inside while Kowalski and Patterson, aided by the resistance, kept the guards busy.
“Lee, where are you?” Nelson called as he searched for the keys to the cells. “Lee?” he called again after getting no reply.
Lee’s voice sounded weak and Nelson quickly headed for the cell where he caught sight of Lee on the cot. “Baker, here, quickly,” Nelson beckoned the Corpsman. After finding the right key to unlock the door, he flung it open and hurried to Lee’s side, knelt beside the cot. “Lee, its Nelson, can you hear me?”
Lee turned his head and his eyes focus on Nelson. “Admiral.”
Nelson gently touched Lee’s arm, mindful of the bruising and red, inflamed skin. “It’s okay Lee, we’ll get you out of here.”
“Need...water,” Lee gasped, struggling to sit up, but he was too weak and collapsed back onto the cot.
“In a minute, when we get you out,” Nelson turned to Baker. “Help me get him dressed.” They didn’t have time for niceties, he didn’t know how long Kowalski and the others could hold off the guards.
Chip looked up from the printout he’d been reading and glanced around the control room. The suspense was almost palatable as Seaview sat on the bottom waiting for the return of the rescue party. What the devil had possessed Lee to go in alone without backup? Chip thought irritably. It wasn’t even that he’d been asked, he volunteered, no, he’d insisted that Nelson allow him to attempt a rescue. Chip had been astonished that Nelson had agreed to Lee going. Of all the stupid... It was bad enough when Lee was on assignment, but this downright asking for trouble.
It had only been six months since Lee, Patterson and Kowalski had escaped from this country. Lee would be recognised the moment he set foot on shore. They may have a new military leader, but Lee wasn’t going to be any more welcome now than he was then. Heaven only knew what they would do to him.
Just you wait Lee Crane... If and when Lee returned he was going to face the lecture of a
lifetime, and hiding in
A heavy sigh from Curly brought his attention back to the control room and he smiled. The Chief hated waiting as much as he did, but at least there wasn’t anyone dropping depth charges on them this time.
The first thing Lee became aware of was that he was lying on something soft and covered by something that felt cool against his hot skin. He considered opening his eyes, but the effort was too much and he contented himself with lying there, listening to the sounds around him while he assessed his condition.
The gently whirl of the air conditioning and the hum of the engines confirmed that he was aboard Seaview, and the antiseptic smell told him he was in Sickbay. Not surprising after being out in the sun for most of the day with no protection. At the very least he was dehydrated. Jamie probably had him on IV fluids, and burn relief, but he still had a headache. His mouth felt like a desert, and he longed for something cold to drink.
Reluctantly he opened his eyes and grabbed the rail, trying to sit up.
“Hey, take it easy,” Chip placed a restraining hand on his arm
“Drink...so thirsty,” he croaked, falling back into the soft support of the bunk with a groan. He was relieved that it was Chip and not Jamie or the Admiral. He wasn’t looking forward to facing the doctor, and the Admiral was not going to be happy. He hadn’t wanted Lee to go in the first place.
“Lie still and I’ll get you something.”
Lee did not remember much of his rescue. He’d been pretty much out of it by the time they got to him. He had vague recollections of being in a truck. It hadn’t been the most comfortable journey as the truck rolled heavily on the rough road. Then he’d felt the sting of a needle in the back of his hand and after that he didn’t remember any more.
Chip returned with a cup of water and sat down in the chair next to the bunk. He slipped an arm under Lee and helped him sit up enough to drink. “Here, take it slow.”
Lee drank eagerly; the cool water tasted good and helped to ease the burning hunger in his stomach. Chip let him drink half the water before he took it away.
“You can have some more in a minute. I don’t want you to make yourself sick. How do you feel?”
“Thanks,” Lee settled himself back into the support of the mattress. “Sore.”
“Doc says the sunburn is superficial, but you were badly dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion.”
“Figures.” Now that he was feeling a little more alert, Lee realised that he was hungry. He could not remember the last time he had eaten and although the water had helped, hunger was probably part of the reason why he was feeling so groggy. “What time is it? I’m hungry.”
Chip grinned. “05.30, I don’t know who’s on duty in the wardroom, but I can see what I can do.”
By the time Jamieson came on duty, Lee was sitting up tucking into a plate of scrambled egg.
“Well, you’re looking better,” he walked over to the bunk, observing that the IV had been removed from Lee’s arm by his corpsman.
Lee smiled and paused between forkfuls of egg. “I’m fine, Jamie.”
“Uhmm,” Jamieson picked up Lee’s chart and read the notes the Corpsman had made. “Blood pressure a little low, and your temperature is still erratic, but you’ll do for now,” he conceded.
“When can I get out of here, Jamie?”
“When your blood pressure and temperature have stabilized and I’m satisfied that there are no complications,” Jamieson told him resolutely. “I won’t waste my time asking you how you feel, since you never tell me the truth. Do you need anything for pain?”
Lee gave him a sheepish look, “I do have a bit of a headache.”
Jamieson wasn’t surprise, since he had found a lump on the back of Lee’s head. “Did you hit your head?”
Lee shook his head. “Rifle butt.”
Jamieson winced. Now he knew how they had managed to subdue him long enough to strip him, and judging by the bruise on his chin, he had not gone down without a fight. Suppressing his anger at the treatment of his Captain, he moved to the cabinet to get the analgesics, shook two out into a plastic cup and returned to hand them to Crane. “When you have finished your breakfast I need to check you over, and then I want you to go back to sleep.”
Lee accepted the pills. “Thanks, Jamie.”
Jamieson nodded before turning his attention to Morton. “Shouldn’t you be in your cabin sleeping? I believe that Mr. O’Brien has the watch.”
“You left O’Brien in charge?” Lee teased.
“Technically, yes, but the Admiral is keeping an eye on him,” Chip winked.
Jamieson glared at him. “Out, now,” he ordered. “Get some sleep or you will find yourself in the next bunk.”
Chip held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, Doc. I’m going. See you later, buddy.”
"Yeah. Thanks for getting me breakfast.”
Chip paused at the door. “Don’t think that you’ve gotten away with anything. We are going to talk when you’re out of here.” Then quickly ducked out, closing it behind him.
Jamieson looked around and nodded in satisfaction. Now perhaps I'll get some work done before Nelson gets here. He almost felt sorry for Crane. With the Admiral and Morton on his case, the Captain was in for a rough ride.