Author's Note: This story takes place after the episode "Destroy Seaview"
That's What Friends are For
By J. Lynn
Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview, looked in disgust at the wiring panel in the Flying Sub. He could not believe that one inept electronics technician could cause so much damage. And not only to the Flying Sub, he also had wreaked havoc in Engineering. The Captain sighed deeply and started to work. He knew it could wait, the Admiral had said it could wait until they got into port three days from now, but somehow he couldn't let it rest. He didn't know why exactly, but he felt he was letting the Admiral down if he didn't make the repairs immediately. It just seemed important that he be able to tell the Admiral that the Seaview was in perfect condition when they docked. He soon realized the wiring repair was a two man job and reached for the mike.
"Mr. Morton, this is the Captain, report to me in the Flying Sub." The Captain's voice came through the intercom and Chip's mouth tightened when he heard it. Handing the wrench he was holding to Patterson, he quickly reached for the mike.
"Morton here. I need a few more minutes to finish the repairs in Engineering."
"Leave it, the engineering techs can finish up. I need your help with repairs to the Flying Sub."
"On my way." Chip replied and barely managed to keep the anger out of his voice. Once again Lee had brusquely overrode him in front of the crew and he had had more than enough. The Admiral had said the repairs to the Flying Sub could wait, in fact, the Admiral didn't seem concerned about any of the repairs since they were so near to port. It was Lee who was pushing him and the rest of the crew so hard. Over the last week, there'd been four surprise inspections, three weapons drills, and innumerable equipment checks. The men were tired and it was showing in their work. Couldn't Lee see that? Steiner, the new electronics technician, had become so rattled by the pressure, he'd made stupid mistakes which caused all the damage here in Engineering and on the Flying Sub. He'd go down to the Flying Sub allright, fumed Chip, and he'd tell Lee just what he thought of his high-handed tactics.
As soon as Chip had descended the ladder to FS1, he confronted Lee. "There was no reason to order me away from Engineering like that. I would have been finished in a few minutes. Besides, we're only three days away from port and we won't be needing the Flying Sub until then, so why the rush on the repairs?"
Lee stiffened at his tone, "Chip, the Admiral is having a hard time dealing with what happened to him and the things he did while he was brainwashed. Even though he doesn't say so, the damage to the Seaview is upsetting him and I'm sure he'll feel better when we get everything in working order. It's my responsibility to see that it's done."
"There are 125 other crew members on this boat, Lee, and maybe you should pay attention to them and their feelings, too."
"Are you accusing me of neglecting the crew? Look, I don't have time for this now." Lee was impatient with the argument since it was delaying the repairs. These repairs had to be done, and they had to be done now! His tone was imperious, "Just take a look at the wiring in that panel over there."
The abrupt dismissal of his concerns only served to fuel Chip's anger further, but he said nothing more and moved over to the panel and began to work on the wiring. It was hard to work in the cramped space, and he wedged his foot between two decking plates to brace himself. Then, when he went to reach for one of his tools, he realized his foot was stuck. Cursing, he tried to reach down and free his foot.
Lee looked up from the panel he was working on. "Chip, what IS it."
"I've got my damn foot caught."
Lee responded with an irritated sigh that seemed to imply that the Exec was an absolute incompetent, "Well, just hold on for a minute and I'll be over to help."
Chip reacted angrily, "I don't need your help!" He straightened up and turned sharply towards the Captain, anger blazing from his eyes. Unfortunately, with his foot caught, the violence of the move upset his balance and he crashed into the Captain, causing both of them to fall. Lee hit his head hard on the decking as he fell and then lay there without moving. The fall had pulled Chip's foot free, but had obviously done some damage as his foot was throbbing painfully. Chip struggled to sit up and when he succeeded, he saw Lee lying unconscious on the deck. He crawled over to the mike and called Sickbay. Then he crawled back over to Lee and tried calling his name to rouse him.
It was only a few minutes until Jamieson arrived with two corpsmen and a stretcher. The Admiral was right behind them.
Jamieson bent over the Captain as he spoke to Chip, "What happened?"
Chip replied, "We were working on the panels. I wedged my foot in between the decking to brace myself and got it caught. Lee came over to help me, but I didn't know how close he was. I turned and lost my balance and we both fell. He must have hit his head when we fell."
"Okay, there's no bleeding and his vital signs are good, so it's probably just a bump on the head. I'll feel better, though, if he regains consciousness soon. Frank, let's get him on the stretcher and take him up. Chip, what about you? Let's see your foot." The doctor quickly examined the foot and said, "It just looks badly twisted, but we need to get you to Sickbay as well. Here, lean on me and the Admiral and try to stand without putting any weight on it."
Leaning on Doc and the Admiral for support, Chip was able to get up the ladder from FS1 and they followed Lee's stretcher to Sickbay. Jamieson examined Lee more carefully and said, "There's no sign of a concussion so he should be regaining consciousness soon. Chip, let me take a closer look at that foot."
Jamieson manipulated the foot and decided that his initial diagnosis was correct. He wrapped the foot and then asked Frank to get an ice pack and a pillow to elevate it. After the corpsman brought them, Jamieson dismissed him.
Chip looked over at Lee and then said quietly, "Doc, Admiral, there's more to Lee's accident than I told you before." He couldn't raise his eyes to meet theirs as he continued, "We were arguing. I was angry at him. I thought he was treating me and the rest of the crew badly and I told him so. When my foot got caught and he offered to help, I yelled at him and said I didn't want his help. I was so angry, I turned too fast and lost my balance. Even though I was angry, I didn't mean to push him. I never would try to hurt him!"
The Admiral's voice was kind as he replied, "Of course you wouldn't, Chip. Lee will understand that. Just as he understood that if I hadn't been brainwashed, I would never have tried to bury him in the cave."
Jamieson joined in, "He's right, Chip. Lee may be angry at first, and the headache he's going to have when he wakes up won't help his disposition any, but I'm sure he'll get over it quickly."
Just then Lee moaned softly and Jamieson quickly moved to his side. "Easy, Lee, you've had a nasty spill. Just take it slow and easy."
Lee opened his eyes and slowly focused on Jamieson's face. Jamieson continued speaking in a low, soothing tone, "That's it. Just relax. Do you know where you are?"
Lee looked around and said slowly, "This is Sickbay, but I don't remember coming here. I was on the Flying Sub with Chip." His brow furrowed as he tried to remember.
" We were making repairs and he was yelling at me about....."
Chip began to apologize, "Lee, I'm so sorry...I never meant to hurt you."
As the Captain sat up, he remembered the argument with Chip and also remembered Chip turning toward him in uncontrolled anger. Lee turned very pale, and murmured softly, "Not you, too, Chip...just like all the others."
Jamieson, concerned about the Captain, took his arm "Easy, Captain, Chip didn't mean to hurt you. He didn't realize how close you were when he turned and then he lost his balance...Lee, you're very pale, I think you'd better lie down again."
"No, I'm fine." He swallowed hard, trying to collect his thoughts. "I know Chip didn't mean it."
He paused briefly and then continued, "We have to think about the log entries so Chip is protected...there can't be any mention of this on his record. Doc, if you have to mention this in your log, just say that I was injured while attempting to free Chip's foot, that I lost my balance and fell. I'll do the same in my log. Admiral, will you support this?"
Looking at Lee's desperately pale face and hands that were shaking despite his attempt to seem calm and collected, Nelson nodded his agreement and Doc did the same.
"Good, then there's no need for any further discussion of this incident. Doc, will Chip be allright? How bad is the injury to his foot?"
"He'll be fine, Captain. He'll need to stay off it for the next day or so until the swelling goes down. I'll keep him here to make sure he rests it. Now, I really would like you to lie down."
To Jamieson's utter surprise, Lee looked almost panicked at the suggestion, "No! I'm fine! I have to go to the Control Room and see to the log entries and the watch schedule. Chip, take care and get better soon." Lee quickly crossed the room and walked out before Jamieson could offer any protest.
Chip turned bewildered eyes on the Admiral and Jamieson. "I don't understand...he should have been angry. Instead he was just concerned about me...about my record...and he seemed....afraid."
Jamieson replied thoughtfully, "I don't know much about this, but his reaction...it's almost textbook..." He shook his head and pondered,almost to himself, "But that doesn't make sense, this was an accident, not abuse."
Nelson spoke softly, "I'm afraid it does make sense. Lee suffered terrible abuse..it was a long time ago." The other two men turned startled eyes on him. He continued, "Chip, did he ever talk about his family or his childhood when you were in the Academy?"
"No, Sir, all he ever said was that he wasn't close with his family and they never came to visit or even to graduation. Some holidays he came home with me and other times I had no idea where he went."
"That's all he ever said to me, too, but... when he was awarded the Navy medal, I thought it would be a good time to reconcile with his family. I suggested it to him several times and each time he quietly refused. Then I got the bright idea that I would contact his parents, make them realize how proud of him they should be, and have them surprise Lee at the ceremony. I requested his records... and learned about the absolute hell he lived through as a child."
Nelson took a deep breath before continuing, "He was abandoned as a baby and was shuffled around to various foster homes. He suffered terrible abuse in some of these homes and when he was five, he nearly died from a beating by his alcoholic foster father. He was sent to an orphanage, but he ran away to go back to that same home and was beaten again. The orphanage was no better than the foster homes and Lee ran away and lived on the streets for several years. Eventually the juvenile authorities became aware of him, and he was adopted by the Cranes, a couple who had lost a son his age. He finally had a family, people who loved him, but when he wanted to go to the Naval Academy instead of going into his adopted father's business, the man beat him and threw him out of the house... I never told Lee I know about this, but I think he suspects that I know. Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn't have told either of you about all this, but I think Doc was right about his reaction. Chip, your anger with him, and then your hurting him, even though it was accidental, probably felt the same to him as that childhood abuse. I think he just got hit with a lot of bad memories."
Chip looked stricken as he said, "I had no idea...hurting him just now was bad enough... but to think that I brought all that suffering back for him...What can we do to help him?"
Chip and Nelson both looked at Jamieson who spoke thoughtfully, "This is a bit outside my expertise so I need to learn more about it before we do anything. I don't want to risk doing him any more harm. We've only got three days until we're back home, right?"
Nelson nodded his head and Doc continued, "I'll do some reading and contact some specialists in Santa Barbara. Let's see how Lee is over the next three days. Maybe we're overly concerned and he'll be able to handle this by himself. Try to act normally around him and don't discuss what happened unless he brings it up. Now, Chip, let's get you settled with that foot up."
Chip complied and the Admiral looked down at him. "Don't worry, Chip. I'll look out for Lee while you're in here and when you're back on your feet, we'll both help him. It'll be allright." Nelson squeezed his arm and then turned and left the Sickbay heading for the Control Room.
When Nelson descended the steps in the Observation Nose, he saw Lee seated at the table working on the watch schedule. Approaching him, he asked, "Were you able to work out the watch schedule, Lee?"
Looking up, Lee said, "Yes, Sir, O'Brien will finish this watch and then I'll relieve him and we'll spell each other off until Chip is back on his feet or we reach port."
"Lee, if you need me, I could stand a watch or two."
"Thanks for the offer, Admiral, but I don't think that's necessary. Besides, you're still recovering, too." Lee's tone was controlled, but his eyes betrayed how upset he was. The Admiral realized with dismay that his actions toward Lee while he was brainwashed--trying to bury him in that cave, threatening him with a gun--must have been the start of Lee's current distress. A trusted friend trying to hurt him must have seemed all too familiar. It also explained why Lee had seemed so frantic about the repairs--he was trying desperately to please him just like many abuse victims try to appease their abusers.
"Okay, Lee, but the offer still stands. Now, if you're finished with the watch schedule, how about getting some rest. It's only a few hours until you have to relieve O'Brien and you must have some headache after that knock on the head."
Yes, Sir, I will. Good night, Admiral." With that, Lee got up and went up the stairs toward his cabin. Nelson looked after him sadly.
When the Captain returned to his cabin, the control he'd been working so hard to maintain broke, and he found himself shaking almost uncontrollably as he couldn't help but remember the beatings he had suffered as a child. He'd tried so hard to forget all that, to leave it in the past, but now he remembered it all. The physical pain had been bad, but even worse was the pain of knowing that someone he loved wanted to hurt him. It had happened over and over. He had tried so hard, but somehow he had always disappointed the people he loved and drove them to violence--even his adopted parents. He had thought it was different here on Seaview, that he had finally been able to be good enough to have friends like the Admiral and Chip. But now he had let them down, and things were happening just like they always did.
He got out of his uniform and lay down on the bed, but his sleep was interrupted by nightmares that wouldn't stop. Angry faces and pain filled his dreams. He saw his foster father advancing on him with a belt, then he saw the Admiral throwing the explosive device into the cave.
He tried to run away, to escape, but the face of his adopted father calling him an ungrateful bastard appeared before him and then changed into Chip's angry face on FS1. He curled up into a ball as the images continued to assault him.
The next morning the Admiral noticed that the Captain missed breakfast in the wardroom and went to the Control Room to see him. He didn't want to seem like he was hovering over the Captain, but he was concerned. He kept his voice casual as he greeted the Captain, "Lee, I missed you at breakfast."
Lee looked almost terrified by the comment and quickly replied, "Admiral, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were expecting me. I'm afraid I overslept and just had enough time to grab a shower before coming on watch."
"I wasn't expecting you, Lee. I was just concerned that you hadn't eaten."
"I'll be fine, Admiral. I'll just be extra hungry at lunch. Oh, I talked to Doc and he said that Chip is doing well and should be released to duty tomorrow morning."
"That's good news, Lee. Well, I'll be in my cabin. I've got to go over some proposals from the Institute."
"Very good, Admiral." Lee turned to the chart table and began reviewing reports from the night watch.
Numerous times during the day, the Admiral fought the urge to go and check on Lee, but he was afraid that if he did that, he'd just make the Captain feel pressured. He hoped he'd see Lee at dinner, but when he went to the wardroom, the steward informed him that the Captain had taken a tray to his cabin, saying he had paperwork to do and would eat while he worked. Once again, Nelson resisted the impulse to go check on him.
By morning, however, he gave in to his concern and went to the Captain's cabin. He hesitated outside the door. It was early and Lee could still be sleeping. Looking down, the Admiral saw light under the door and decided that the Captain probably was up. He knocked on the door and started in. Looking around the room, he saw the Captain sitting on the bed. He was leaning against the wall with his arms hugging his legs tight against his chest. His head was down on his knees and he was asleep. He looked like a frightened child, curled up in a ball to protect himself.
The Admiral crossed the room to the bed and, speaking softly, tried to ease the Captain down onto the bed into a more comfortable position. He thought it was working as Lee began to uncurl himself and stretch out. Suddenly, he woke with a start, causing the Admiral to jump back.
Lee's eyes were wide with fright as he looked at Nelson. "Admiral, what is it? Did I oversleep? I'm sorry." He began to scramble to his feet. Nelson reached out to put a soothing hand on his shoulder, but stopped when Lee cringed at the gesture.
"Lee, it's allright. It's early. I saw your light and thought I'd stop by and see if you were heading out for breakfast. When I saw you sitting there asleep, I thought I'd try to make you more comfortable without waking you. I'm sorry that I startled you. Did you get any proper sleep?"
"I'm fine, Admiral. I came in last night and sat down on the bed for a minute. I guess I fell asleep. I just need a shower to work out the kinks. Why don't you go ahead to breakfast and I'll meet you there."
"I've got a better idea. You lie down and get some real sleep. Chip will be back on duty this morning and can take the watch himself."
"Oh no, Admiral, that wouldn't be right. He might think I'm avoiding him. I'm fine, really, and Chip needs the support."
"All right, Lee, whatever you think best." and the Admiral left the Captain's cabin, his concern growing.
Later, in the wardroom, the Admiral and Chip both lingered over breakfast, hoping that the Captain would come in and join them. Lee did come in, finally, but it was so late that he only had time to greet them and grab a bagel and coffee before going to the Control Room and there was no time for the Admiral or Chip to talk to him.
Lee kept busy during the watch and frequently spoke to Chip about the business of the boat. His words were formal, but never critical. In fact, he was exceedingly polite and Chip felt he was being overly considerate of his feelings, almost out of fear. Chip felt even greater remorse for the pain his actions had caused his Captain and his friend.
As they left the Control Room at the end of the watch, Chip turned to the Captain and said, "How about getting something to eat and then playing a game of chess?"
Lee replied, "I'd like to, Chip, but I have paperwork I have to finish before we reach port tomorrow. I'm just going to eat at my desk."
Lee started to turn toward his cabin and Chip reached out to catch his arm. Lee stepped back in alarm and Chip instantly apologized. "Lee, I'm sorry. I was just going to say that I could help you with the paperwork."
Lee tried to cover his reaction, "No, Chip, I'm sorry. I thought I heard something and when you touched me, it startled me. Thanks for the offer of help, but you should get some rest. This is only your first day back on duty, you know. I'll see you in the morning."
Chip watched the Captain walk towards his cabin and, instead of heading to the wardroom for dinner, he went straight to Sickbay.
When he entered Sickbay, Chip found the Admiral and Doc in conversation in Doc's office. They looked up when they heard him come in and Doc asked, "Are you here about your foot, or about Lee?"
"Then pull up a chair, Chip. We're all concerned about him. I've been doing some reading like I said I would, and he's exhibiting all the classic signs of an abuse victim. He's not eating or sleeping properly. And, the most telling symptom, is his behavior towards people he's close to...he's being very careful because he's afraid he might provoke more violence.
"Yes, that's it exactly," Chip replied. "He was polite and friendly today, but he seemed tense, almost guarded, and just a few minutes ago when I reached out to touch his arm, he pulled away like I was going to hit him."
The Admiral spoke up, "I've noticed the same thing, Chip, and I want you to know that what happened in the Flying Sub between the two of you wasn't the only trigger for this. My actions while I was brainwashed, trying to bury Lee in that cave, probably started it. Think about how he acted about the repairs, how frantic he seemed...he was afraid of letting me down...afraid I might try to hurt him again." The Admiral looked almost sick as he turned toward the doctor.
Jamieson considered this and then replied, "I think you're right, Admiral. In his head, Lee knows that you were brainwashed and that Chip knocked him over by accident, but he's feeling too much pain to listen to his head right now. I've contacted a specialist in Santa Barbara and made an appointment to talk to him after we get in tomorrow. He can help us determine how best to help Lee. In the meantime, just continue to act normally around Lee. Try not to act overly concerned and don't push him to talk."
The Admiral and Chip agreed to follow Jamieson's advice and got up and left Sickbay. It helped to have a plan, but they were still concerned.
Lee walked into his apartment and, after setting his bag down just inside the door, flopped down onto the couch and buried his head in his hands. It had been so hard to leave Seaview, especially because he didn't think he would be coming back. He didn't want to leave Seaview, but he didn't think that it was right to continue as her Captain. He knew it was only a matter of time before the Admiral admitted his disappointment in him and asked him to give up command of Seaview. And Chip, he knew that he had lost his trust when they argued on the Flying Sub and Chip had given in to his anger. Chip would never get angry and lose control like that without just cause. He had given Chip that cause and he couldn't forgive himself for driving his friend to such a violent action. Yes, he had to leave Seaview, but he had no idea where he could go. No other command could ever compare to Seaview and besides, all the same bad things would happen again. They always did.
Just then the phone rang and Lee leaned wearily over and picked up the receiver. "Crane here."
"Commander Crane, this is Admiral Jones from ONI. Commander, we have an urgent mission for you. A car will be coming to pick you up in fifteen minutes. The driver will take you to the airport where a plane is standing by. You'll be briefed on the mission on the plane."
"Understood, Admiral. I'll be ready."
Lee hung up the phone. An ONI mission---just what he needed right now. But then, he thought, maybe it was just what he needed. He could put off telling Chip and the Admiral about his decision to leave Seaview, at least for awhile and ONI missions were so intense that he wouldn't have time to think about the pain of leaving. Besides, ONI is where he could go when he left Seaview and he might as well get used to it again. He called the Admiral's office to tell him about the mission, but was told that the Admiral was out. He asked Angie to give him the message and then he picked up his bag and went outside to wait for the car.
After meeting with the psychiatrist that Jamieson had selected, the Admiral, Chip, and Jamieson returned to the Admiral's office to discuss his advice. He had recommended that they talk to Lee, tell him they knew about his past, express their concern, and try to get him to make an appointment to see the psychiatrist. It sounded like good advice, but they were all afraid to confront Lee, afraid that they would drive him away. Finally, they decided that they might as well get it over with and the Admiral buzzed Angie and asked her to get Lee on the phone.
Angie, puzzled at the request, said, "Admiral, didn't you see my note? Lee called while you were out and said to tell you he was called away on an ONI mission, Admiral Jones's orders."
"No, I didn't see the note, Angie. Wait, I've found it now. Thanks."
The Admiral broke the connection and quickly skimmed the note. As soon as he had finished, he slammed his hand down on the desk. "Damn, Lee shouldn't go on an ONI mission right now. Not in the shape he's in. I'm going to call Admiral Jones and get those orders changed."
It took a few minutes for the call to be placed and the Admiral's impatience grew with every minute. When he finally got Admiral Jones on the phone, he got right to the point, "Jones, what do you think you're doing, sending my Captain on a mission without even having the courtesy to notify me. Seaview just got into port and the entire crew is exhausted, including the Captain."
"Harry, I did try to reach you, but you were out of the office. This mission is urgent and simply couldn't wait for courtesy. We've learned that a terrorist group has a military installation on a small island in the Pacific. Within two weeks, they'll have missiles aimed and ready to launch at the United States."
"If you know where the installation is, why don't you just launch a military strike and destroy it?"
"I wish it were that simple. They've got some kind of new jamming device that confuses our missiles. We need someone to disable that device so we can launch our missiles. That's Crane's mission. He's to infiltrate the group, get exact coordinates for the installation, and disable that device. Once it's disabled, it will take six hours for them to install a new one. We'll have just six hours to launch our missiles and destroy the installation."
"That means Crane only has six hours to get off the island. I don't like it!"
"I know, Harry, I know, but there's no other way. We've got a rendezvous all set up so all he has to do is signal us when the jamming device is disabled and then get to the rendezvous point."
"I still think you could have found another agent, one who was more rested and ready for a mission."
"Harry, there was no one else that wasn't already known to the group. Crane was the only man available. Look, if it will make you feel better, I'll break the rules and keep you informed on the progress of the mission and let you know as soon as he's safely off the island."
"It doesn't make me feel better," Nelson growled, "but I'll expect those reports."
Nelson hung up the phone and looked at the two men. "All we can do is wait...and pray. I don't like it!"
Lee struggled to find his way through the heavy undergrowth in the dark. It had been two weeks since he'd arrived on the island, two very tense weeks, spent with vicious fanatics. He'd managed to gain the trust of the group and had finally been able to accompany them inside the installation. He'd successfully disabled the jamming device and had slipped out of the building in the general confusion. All he had to do now was get to the hidden radio, signal his contacts, and then get to the rendezvous point. The radio was hidden under the floor in a tumble-down hut about a mile from the installation. He should be getting close.
Finally, he saw the hut and he approached it warily. It was supposed to be deserted but he had to be careful. Entering the hut, he quickly searched for the radio. He located it easily and within a few minutes had transmitted the information to his contacts. Suddenly, he heard the sound of a gun being cocked behind him and realized he hadn't gotten away as easily as he thought. He waited for the shot, but it didn't come so he turned around slowly.
"That's it." said a voice, a voice he recognized as the group's second-in-command. "Face me! I knew you weren't to be trusted, but our great leader was fooled. And now he's lost everything for our cause. He was foolish, but you are evil, and you are going to pay for your betrayal."
"It doesn't matter if you kill me, the missiles are coming and your installation will be destroyed. It's all over."
"Yes, the missiles are coming, and they're going to come for you, too. I'm not going to kill you, I'm just going to make sure you can't get away. You'll be here waiting for those missiles, your country's missiles, to end your life. Killed by your own people...not how you thought you'd die is it?" Suddenly, he aimed the gun at the Captain's right knee and fired, then aimed at the left knee and fired again. Without another word, he turned and left the hut.
The Captain felt terrible pain, both the pain from the bullets and the pain of knowing that he was going to die. Here in this place he was going to die, and he was going to die alone. At first he was afraid, but then he decided that it was for the best. Now he didn't have to figure out how to live his life without his family and friends, without Seaview. Now he didn't have to worry about disappointing anyone, ever again. Dying wasn't so bad, but first he had one last thing to do. His contacts would be risking their lives to meet him at the rendezvous--he had to tell them not to come, that he wouldn't be there. He struggled to drag himself over to the radio. The pain made it hard to talk but he managed to gasp out the words, "injured, can't make rendezvous, abort pickup, abort pickup." Then he broke the contact and dragged himself over to the door. He wanted to watch the sky, to see the missiles coming in. At least he would know he died for something, that the terrorists could no longer threaten what he loved, his country, his family, his friends, his boat. He watched the sky and waited to die.
The Admiral was pacing in his office while Chip and Jamieson watched him from chairs near his desk. It had been two weeks and they had received no real news from ONI about Lee's mission. They'd been told he'd arrived on the island and made contact with the terrorist group, but, since he wasn't supposed to risk contact until he was ready to leave, there had been no further news. If ONI's intelligence was correct, then the missile installation should be just about finished. There wasn't much time left for Lee to complete the mission, assuming he was still alive to do it.
When the phone finally rang, they all jumped. Nelson grabbed it and punched the button to put the call on the speaker.
"Jones here. I'll tell it to you straight, Harry. We've heard from Captain Crane, and I'm afraid the news isn't good."
"He wasn't able to disable the jamming mechanism?"
"He disabled the mechanism, but apparently he got caught doing it. Right after he radioed that he'd accomplished his mission, he made contact again and called off the rendezvous. He said he was injured and couldn't make it. I'll let you hear the transmission."
The three men strained to hear the Captain's weak voice. No one said anything, hoping these weren't the last words they'd ever hear him speak.
Admiral Jones's voice came over the line. "I'm sorry, Harry. He was a good man."
"What do you mean, WAS, he IS a good man. Have you heard anything from the rescue party?"
"Harry, there is no rescue party. There's not enough time to search for him before those missiles land on the island. I can't risk any more lives."
"You can't leave him there! He did what you asked, now you've got to get him out of there. You can't leave him there to die."
"He may already be dead. You heard how bad he sounded. There will be no rescue party."
"Oh, yes, there will. I'll go in after him if you won't."
"You can't. You don't have authorization. You can't interfere with a military operation in progress. Even if I let you go, there isn't enough time. Those missiles will hit the island in just over five hours."
"The Flying Sub can get there in less than an hour. I want as much as information as you have about his probable location. I'm going in and I'm not going to wait for authorization. If you want to stop me, you'll have to shoot me out of the sky and I can guarantee you'll have a hard time explaining that!"
"All right, Harry. Contact me when you're enroute and I'll send you everything I have. But I won't delay the missile attack. If you take too long...."
"Understood. Now get me that information."
Nelson hung up the phone and turned to the other two men. Chip spoke up immediately. "The Flying Sub is ready to go, Admiral. I'll get some gear together and meet you onboard."
Jamieson spoke next, "And I'll get the emergency medical supplies."
Nelson looked at both of them and then nodded. "We leave in twenty minutes, gentlemen."
They left in fifteen minutes and Nelson got every last bit of speed out of FS1. Even so, when they landed on the island, they had less than four hours to find the Captain. They landed on the edge of the island, just beyond the dense undergrowth and as close as they could get to the hut where the radio had been hidden. The hut would be hard to find and they weren't even sure if Lee was there, but it was the best place to start.
Getting out of the pilot's chair, the Admiral began to issue orders. "Chip, you and I will split up so we can cover more ground. We'll use these communication devices since they'll be harder to trace. Press the button once if you find him and can get him back to FS1 without help. Press it twice if you need help. The location indicator will lead me to you. I'll do the same. Doc, I want you to stay here. We can't risk you getting hurt and being unable to care for Lee. Chip, we have to be back here with Lee by 0430 at the latest."
"We'll make it, Sir, we have to." Chip said grimly.
Chip was dismayed by the swift passage of time as he continued to struggle through the dense growth. If one of them didn't find Lee soon, it would be too late. Many times before Lee had been in danger or had been in critical condition in Sickbay and Chip had faced the fact that he could lose his friend. But this time was different because this time Lee might die alone thinking his best friend no longer cared about him. "That isn't going to happen, it can't happen," Chip thought as he grimly pushed branches out of his way. When he moved the branches out of his field of vision, he saw the hut about fifty feet ahead. He wanted to race toward it, but he moved cautiously because it was still possible that members of the terrorist group were around. When Admiral Jones radioed FS1 with the approximate location of the hut, he said they thought that all the members of the terrorist group were in the installation. If they couldn't succeed in their plan, he explained, then they would die as martyrs to their misguided cause. But Chip couldn't afford to take any chances. If he were caught, he couldn't help Lee, and Lee was all that mattered.
Chip finally came up on the side of the hut and looked in the small window. He could barely see in the darkness, but he thought he saw the shape of a man slumped against the wall just inside the opened door. He carefully went around the hut to the door and discovered the shape was Lee.
Quickly he dropped to his knees speaking Lee's name as he felt for a pulse in his neck. To his relief he found one, and he was even further relieved when Lee's eyes fluttered open and he began to speak, "It doesn't matter what you do to me. It's over...all over."
"Lee, it's Chip. Try and look at me. I've come to get you out of here."
Lee struggled to focus, "Chip? You shouldn't be here.....the missiles..."
"I know, they'll be here soon. We've got to hurry." Chip started to reach for Lee's arm to put it over his shoulder, but Lee stopped him.
"No, I can't....my legs. I can't walk."
Chip looked down and saw Lee's blood-soaked trousers. A quick examination revealed the bullet wounds in both knees. "It's allright, Lee. I'll carry you." Again he lifted the Captain's arm, and again the Captain protested. "No, I'll slow you down...go...don't risk your life for me." The Captain went limp as he lost consciousness.
"I don't know anyone better to risk my life for, Lee." Chip quickly pushed the button on the transmitter to let the Admiral know he had found the Captain and was on his way to the Flying Sub. Then he gathered Lee gently in his arms and lifted him. Carrying him wasn't as difficult Chip had expected and he figured that Lee must have lost a great deal of weight. "Well, Doc will take care of that," Chip thought as he hurried toward the Flying Sub.
The Admiral was already there looking anxiously out the hatch. As soon as Chip entered with Lee in his arms, he reassured the Admiral. "He's alive and he even spoke a few words before he passed out. He's terribly thin...it was nothing to carry him...and he's got bullet wounds in both knees." He carefully laid Lee down on the bunk as the Admiral started preparations for take-off. Lee moaned as Chip started to turn away and he turned back and gently laid a hand on Lee's forehead. "It's allright, Lee. You're safe now and Jaimie's here to take care of you. Just rest easy, Lee, while we take you home." Then he turned and got himself strapped in the co-pilot's seat. The Flying Sub quickly took off and headed toward Santa Barbara with its precious cargo.
The hospital had been alerted and a trauma team was waiting for them. Lee had been rushed into the ER and Chip and the Admiral sat and waited for news. Jamieson's initial assessment had been that Lee's injuries were serious, but not life-threatening with prompt treatment. That had helped, but they would wait until they had more definite word.
It was several hours before Jamieson came out to report on the Captain's condition. "Admiral, Chip, Lee's had surgery to remove the bullets from his knees and I'm pleased to report that, while the wounds were serious, he should make a full recovery. He'll need some pretty intensive therapy, but he should have full return of function. As Chip said, he's lost a lot of weight and he's badly dehydrated, but we're working on that, too. They're moving him to his room now, but it will be some time before he wakes up. Since I don't suppose I could persuade the two of you to get some rest, you can sit with him."
It was many hours before the Captain showed any signs of waking up. Chip and the Admiral both sat with him, spelling one another for quick meals in the hospital's cafeteria. As the hours dragged on, the Admiral seemed exhausted and Chip finally convinced him to stretch out on the couch in the room. He sat down again at Lee's side, trying to will his friend to open his eyes. Finally, he saw Lee stir slightly and struggle to wake up.
"Easy, Lee." he soothed, "Easy. You're allright now."
Lee's eyes focused on his friend's face. "Chip?" he said weakly.
"Yes, Lee, I'm here, and so is the Admiral. He's asleep over there on the couch." Chip leaned back slightly so Lee could see past him toward the couch. "And I can get Jaimie in a second if you need him."
"No, it's okay. The Admiral...is he allright? Are you allright?"
"We're both fine, Lee. You're the one we've been worried about."
"You risked your lives..." Lee's voice trailed away.
"We don't do that for just anyone, you know," Chip said lightly.
"You shouldn't have done it for me, I'm not worth it."
"Lee, listen to me. We have a lot to talk about and most of it can wait until you're stronger, but this can't. Risking our lives for you wasn't an unselfish act. We went after you because you're our friend and we need you. I know I can't even think about how my life would be if I didn't have you as my friend."
"But, I didn't treat you like a good friend. I made you angry, so angry you...."
"Lee, you did treat me like a good friend. You trusted me to understand you were troubled about something even if you couldn't talk about it, and I let you down. I should have known that something was wrong, but I only thought about my own hurt feelings, and I got angry. Lee, you have to know that even though I was angry, I never wanted to hurt you and I am so sorry I did. And I'm even more sorry that it brought back bad memories for you."
Lee looked at him strangely and Chip said gently, "The Admiral's known about your past for some time and he told Jaimie and me about everything you went through. He had to when you reacted so oddly in Sickbay. He's concerned about you, Lee, we all are and we want to help."
"Chip, I don't know...I just don't know...."
"It's okay, Lee. You don't have to think about any of it right now. Just rest. I promise we'll be here when you wake up again." He carefully laid his hand on Lee's arm and was relieved to see that the Captain didn't shrink away from his touch. He left his hand there for comfort and watched as the Captain's eyes closed and his breathing became deep and regular.
The next time Lee woke, it was like climbing up out of a deep, comfortable pile of pillows. As awareness returned, he remembered being on the island waiting for the missiles and death. He didn't seem to feel any pain in his legs and he wondered if maybe he did die, but then he remembered Chip's voice saying something about getting out of there and then later saying soothing words to him. He couldn't remember the exact words at first, but he remembered they made him feel better. He decided to try opening his eyes to see if Chip was still there. There was a face leaning over him and he blinked, trying to focus. "Chip?" he whispered.
"No, Lee, it's Nelson. Chip went home to shower and change, but he'll be back very soon."
"Then he was here? It was real?"
"It was real and he was here."
"I thought it might have been a dream." Lee said softly, then with more strength he continued, "Things are a bit muddled. The last thing I remember clearly is being on the island...waiting for the missiles."
"Waiting to die." Nelson said gently.
Lee looked up at him for a long moment, and then said, "Yes, Sir, I was waiting to die, but it didn't seem so bad..."
"Because it was easier than going on." Nelson said even more quietly than before.
Lee didn't know if he should tell the Admiral the truth, but the Admiral seemed to understand so he took a deep breath and admitted,. "Yes, Sir, because I knew if I died, I couldn't disappoint anyone again." He looked away. "I was going to leave Seaview. I was sure it was only a matter of time before you would ask me to give up my command. I didn't want to leave, but I felt I had to because I'd failed you and Chip just like I'd failed everyone else I ever cared about. Dying seemed like it would end all the pain, but now," he turned back to look at the Admiral, "if Chip meant what he said...."
"He meant what he said, Lee, and it goes for me, too. I couldn't have fought to break the brainwashing if it hadn't been for you. I needed you then and I need you now as my friend."
Before Lee could say anything more, Jaimie came into the room. "I thought I heard voices in here. It's good to see you awake and talking, Skipper. How do you feel?"
"Fine, when do I get out of here?"
"Well, I'm glad to see you haven't lost your sense of humor, but I'm disappointed that you haven't managed to find any common sense. Lee, you've got some serious injuries and you're going to be here a while. You've had surgery to remove the bullets from your knees and we've loaded you up with painkillers. There is damage, but it will heal, and after therapy you should be able to walk without any sign of a limp. You're also suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and severe weight loss. You need rest, lots of rest." Jamieson took out his stethoscope and listened to Lee's chest. "I want to listen to your lungs to make sure you didn't pick up any nasty bugs on that island. Do you think you can sit up?"
"Of course I can," Lee said and made the attempt but would have failed if Jamieson hadn't slipped an arm under his shoulders to help. Once he was sitting up, he was a bit unsteady.
"Feeling a little lightheaded, Skipper?"
"A little." Crane admitted.
Jamieson turned to Nelson, "Admiral, could you steady him for a moment. That's good, now just breathe normally, Skipper." He listened for several minutes and then looked at the Admiral, "There's no need to look so worried, Admiral. You'll have him back before you know it."
Lee's reaction to his words was immediate and unexpected. His entire body became rigid and despite how weak he was, his grip on the Admiral's arms tightened painfully. "Lee, said Nelson in alarm, "What is it? Are you in pain?"
Jamieson reacted quickly. "Admiral, lay him back down, easy now. Lee, just try to relax and breathe deeply."
Lee relaxed as they eased him back down on the pillows and then he took a deep breath and tried to compose himself. He looked up at them apologetically, "I'm sorry. I'm not in pain. It's just I remembered hearing someone saying those same words...a long time ago...and, well, it's not a time I want to remember."
Jamieson was going to wait until Lee had regained more of his strength before broaching the subject of his childhood, but he decided that the time was right. "Lee," he began, "those bad memories aren't going to go away until you face them. If you're willing, there's a therapist here in the hospital who can help. It's not going to be easy, but since you're going to be here while your legs heal, you can use the time to come to terms with your past."
Lee looked frightened and Nelson ached for him. Then, with his eyes focused on the blanket over his legs, the Captain spoke, "I guess trying not to remember is just like running away. That's what I always did when....something bad happened....I ran away."
"Lee," Jaimie said, "You were a child. The only way you could save yourself was to run away. That was the right thing to do then. But it's different now. You're stronger and you have people who care about you to help you face this. No one's going to force you to do this, but we are all willing to help. What do you say?"
Crane took a deep breath and then looked up at Jaimie, "Allright, Jaimie, I'll give it a try."
"Good, Skipper. I'll set it up. Now, I'm going to see about getting you something to eat--that will help the lightheadedness--and then I want you to rest. Admiral, you can stay for a little while, but he does need to rest."
"Don't worry, Jaimie, I won't stay long, just a few more minutes."
As Jaimie left the room, Nelson looked down at his Captain and said, "Lee, I'm proud of you. I know this isn't going to be easy for you, but I also know how strong you are--you had to be strong to survive all that and become the man you are--and I know you can do this."
"Thanks, Admiral, that helps. I never had anyone who believed in me before. It really means a lot to me."
"Well, I'd better listen to Jaimie and let you rest. I'll be back later." The Admiral left the room feeling more hopeful than he had for some weeks.
A week later as Chip and the Admiral walked up the steps to the hospital, Chip asked, "Have you talked to Jaimie at all, Sir, to find out how Lee's doing?"
"No, it was too late to call last night when we got in and I thought it would be faster to come straight here this morning." The Admiral and Chip had just returned from a brief trip to Washington to secure an important contract for Seaview. They had gone reluctantly since the Captain was still in the hospital, but Jamieson had assured them he was doing fine and so they had gone. Now, however, they were anxious to see their friend and hurried up the steps to the hospital.
As they approached Lee's door, they met Jamieson coming out. "Admiral, Chip, I'm glad you're back. We need to talk."
The Admiral was instantly concerned at the doctor's serious tone, "Doc, what's wrong? You said Lee was doing fine, did something happen?"
"Admiral, let's sit down over here."
When they were seated, Jamieson explained, "Lee's having a rough time right now. The physical therapy for his knees is painful and he's hurting after the sessions. The sessions with the psychiatrist are just as difficult and between the physical pain and the emotional pain, he's having real trouble sleeping and it's affecting his recovery. He's losing weight again when he needs to gain and getting too weak to progress in the physical therapy. We've offered him pain medication, but I think he's afraid to sleep because he's been having nightmares and so he refuses it. Just now, I finally convinced him to accept a sedative and he's sleeping, but I don't think it will give him more than a couple of hours. I knew this was going to be rough, but I'd like to try to make it easier and having the two of you back should help."
Nelson thought for a moment and then said, "He's been stuck here in the hospital with nothing else to think about except all the pain. He needs some diversion between the therapy sessions. Jaimie, could he leave the hospital, just for a few hours?"
"It depends on what you had in mind. He can get around a little bit on crutches, but to be out and about for any length of time, he'd need to be in a wheelchair."
"I was thinking about taking him out in the Institute's yacht. The weather's warm today. We could take him out for a cruise along the coast this afternoon, even have dinner onboard and then bring him back in the evening. There'd be no problem with the wheelchair. What do you think?"
"It sounds good. I could get Frank to go along to help him get around when he needs to. He's comfortable with Frank so it shouldn't bother him to have a little help. The only thing is, Admiral, Lee has to agree to this. It's really important right now that he have control of his life. As a child, he had no control over what happened to him. Others decided where he would live and who would take care of him. He has to be in charge now. The sedative I just gave him--I wouldn't have administered it if he hadn't agreed."
"I understand, Jaimie. We'll ask him when he wakes up, but in the meantime, I'll make the arrangements. Chip, could you go to his apartment and get him some clothes?"
"Of course, Admiral, I'll meet you back here," With a quick nod to the doctor, Chip took his leave while the Admiral and Jamieson talked over a few final details.
The sailing trip was a great success. Lee eagerly seized the chance to leave the hospital, a reaction that pleased Jamieson, and as the afternoon wore on, the lines in his face eased and he looked more relaxed than his friends had seen him look in weeks. When they returned to the hospital that evening, Lee could barely keep his eyes open long enough to be helped into bed.
Jamieson congratulated the Admiral on the success of his idea. "He's much better, Admiral, and I expect he'll sleep through the night just fine tonight. We can't do this every day, however. He'll have to go back to therapy tomorrow and it's still going to be tough."
"Chip and I have a few other ideas, Jaimie, that we'd like to run by you. Are you willing to bend a few hospital rules?" The Admiral and Chip leaned close and like conspirators they explained their ideas to the doctor.
Lee looked over at the clock by his bedside and sighed. Eleven o'clock. It had been several hours since visiting hours were over for the night and the nurses had tried to make him comfortable, but he just couldn't seem to relax enough to sleep. His knees ached from the therapy and the memories he discussed with Dr. Bradley during their session still haunted him. He turned on the light on the night stand and reached for the paperback book one of the nurses had left for him. He wasn't sure he could concentrate enough to read, but he had to do something to try and take his mind off the pain.
He heard a faint knock on the door and then saw Chip come into the room. "Hi, Lee, I was in the neighborhood and saw your light so I thought I'd see if you could use some company."
"Chip, you shouldn't be here. Visiting hours were over hours ago."
"I know, actually Jaimie arranged it. He knows you haven't been sleeping and thought maybe a little company would help. I brought a video--Captain Horatio Hornblower with Gregory Peck--how do you feel about a late night movie?"
"It sounds great, you know that movie is one of my favorites, but you should be home getting your rest. You've got duty tomorrow."
"No, I've got shore leave for the next week so I don't have to be up early. Now, how about the movie?"
"I don't know. We might disturb someone."
"There's no one in the rooms on either side and we can pull the TV close enough to keep the sound low. Here, hold the popcorn, and don't eat it all before I get everything set up."
Chip quickly pulled the TV closer to the bed and then dragged the couch into viewing range. In just a few minutes they were both engrossed in the tale of the heroic Captain Hornblower.
Several hours later, one of the nurses came in to check on Crane as part of her rounds. She found the Captain and his Executive Officer both sound asleep with the TV still on. The movie had ended some time ago and the screen was blank. She smiled as she turned off the TV. She lowered the bed so the Captain could sleep more comfortably and she got a blanket out of the closet and covered the Exec. She knew that some of the other nurses were grumbling about "special treatment," but she had always put the patient before the rules. Working the night shift, she had seen the violence of the nightmares that had plagued the Captain and how he couldn't let go of them even after he was fully awake. She had sat with him to try to help, but a stranger couldn't begin to offer the comfort and support that good friends could. If after-hours visits would help her patient, she was all for it.
Chip woke up as the first rays of light came into the hospital room. He got up quietly and retrieved the tape. He wanted to leave without disturbing Lee, but Lee stirred and called out to him in a sleepy voice.
"It's early, Lee," Chip soothed, "Go back to sleep."
"Mutiny on the Bounty tonight?" he murmured.
"Mutiny on the Bounty it is. Now, sleep."
Lee smiled and then closed his eyes as Chip tiptoed out of the room.
The Admiral took a turn a few nights later but instead of old sea movies, he brought plans for modifications to Seaview's mini-sub. The contract he and Chip had gone to Washington to secure would require some modifications to the mini-sub and the Admiral thought that reviewing the plans would engage the Captain's mind. He was right, of course, and Lee pondered the plans, making numerous suggestions. He made a few sketches of his ideas and then leaned back against the pillows while the Admiral examined them. When Nelson looked up, he saw his Captain had fallen asleep. He made a few notes on the sketches and then tiptoed out, leaving the plans behind for another day. Mission accomplished!
Several days later, the Admiral and Chip were walking toward Lee's room when they heard Lee's voice behind them, calling out to them. They turned to see Lee walking toward them. He wasn't walking very fast and he was leaning on a cane, but he was walking, and the big smile on his face told them he was much better.
"Lee," the Admiral greeted him. "It's good to see you up and around. I didn't know how much progress you'd made."
"I'd like to get rid of the cane, but it's better than the crutches and a hell of a lot better than being in that wheelchair. Come on, let's go outside on the deck--it's got a great view."
Once they got outside, Lee indicated some chairs on the far end where the view of the ocean was best. Chip was concerned that it was too far for Lee to walk, but he insisted and seemed pleased to make it without any help. Once they were settled in the chairs, Lee turned to them with sparkling eyes, "I got good news today and I'm glad you two came by so I could tell you right away. Dr. Bradley, my therapist, released me as a patient today and Jaimie says I should be out of here by the end of the week and ready for duty by the time Seaview sails in two weeks. So, you two are officially relieved of your duties as nighttime baby-sitters and can concentrate on getting Seaview ready for her next mission."
'We weren't baby-sitters." Chip protested.
"No," Lee replied more seriously, "you were good friends, and I would never have made it without the two of you and Jaimie. If you hadn't come after me on that island and supported me through all this, well, I don't think I could have gotten through it."
"You would have made it, Lee." Nelson said, "You're strong and you're a survivor. But if we helped in any way, then I think I speak for both Chip and myself, when I say we were glad to do it."
Chip voiced his agreement and then the talk turned to the plans for Seaview's next assignment.
Two weeks later, in Seaview's missile room, the Captain was conducting an inspection of the boat before they sailed the next day. The Exec was at his side as he consulted one of the many papers on the clipboard he held in his hand. "Everything looks good, Chief, but I'd like another look at the mini-sub with the modifications. Mr. Morton, could you take this, please." The Captain held out the clipboard in the direction of the Exec who had been momentarily distracted by the sight of the hapless electronics technician who had caused all the damage during Seaview's last mission. Too late, he reached for the clipboard, but he didn't get a firm grip, and it went crashing to the deck causing the clip to open and papers to scatter over the deck.
"Mr. Morton," the Captain exclaimed as Chip bent down to gather up the papers, "How could you be so careless? It took me an hour to get those papers in order. Now we'll have to delay the inspection while you put them back in order."
"Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir." Chip looked up at the Captain but instead of looking chastened and contrite, his face was split by a wide grin.
"What is wrong with you?" the Captain said. "I'm yelling at you, not telling you a joke!"
"That's exactly it, Lee," the Admiral said as he came into the missile room, his face bearing a similar grin. "You're yelling at him."
Lee turned to him in exasperation, "What are you talking about? I think you've both gone crazy!" He looked from one to the other and then suddenly he, too, smiled broadly as he realized why they were grinning. He was yelling at them and he wasn't afraid.
"Cookie has lunch ready in the wardroom." the Admiral said. "Why don't we have lunch and then resume the inspection. Perhaps the Chief could re-order the papers, if that meets with your approval, Captain."
"Yes, Sir, it does. Carry on, please, Chief. Mr. Morton, you've been given a reprieve--this time." said the Captain in a formal tone, but the expression on his face belied its seriousness. As the three officers left the missile room, Steiner, the electronics technician came over to Sharkey, "Chief, did that make any sense to you--I mean the way they were acting? First the Skipper is angry and yelling, then they're all laughing?"
The Chief straightened up and glared at the young technician, "Look, Steiner, you've got a lot to learn about this boat and the first thing is, don't talk about the officers. Get back to work on the wiring in the mini-sub. If it's not right when the Skipper gets back here, you're the one he's going to be yelling at and you're not going to be able to smile your way out of it!"
"Yes, sir, Aye, sir," and Steiner hurried off as preparations continued for Seaview's next mission.