Written by Winnie [AKA firstname.lastname@example.org]
It was a dark and stormy night. Rain fell heavily as the wind gusted through the trees. Blinding streaks of lightening lit up the night sky, immediately followed by loud claps of thunder.
Lee Crane stood and gazed out through the iron bars on the window "It looks like the storm is directly overhead." He said, watching the show being put on by Mother Nature.
"Skipper, how are we going to get out of here?" Kowalski asked from behind him.
"Iím not sure Ski. I donít even remember how we got here, or where exactly here is. Do either of you remember anything?" He was disappointed when both men shook their heads.
"Why are we here?" Stu Riley asked nervously.
"I wish I knew." Crane said investigating the interior of their cell. "Iím pretty sure I can get us out of here." He told them as he began to play with the lock mechanism. "Once weíre out weíll have to find a place to hide till this storm ends and we can see where we are. There, got it. Ski, I want you to wait until I check the corridor before you two follow me."
"Let me go first, Sir." Ski and Riley said in unison.
"No, I want you two to stay here and wait for my signal before coming out, Understood?" Both men nodded as crane opened the door and stepped through. Both were surprised when the door closed behind him. Riley tried the door only to find the lock mechanism had reengaged itself automatically. He shook his head at Kowalskiís unanswered question.
It wasnít long before the door opened and Lee Crane backed into the cell with his hands above his head. A trail of blood flowed from a gash above his temple and he slumped to the floor as the door closed.
"Skipper, are you ok." Riley asked as he and Kowalski helped Crane to his feet. They walked him over to the bed and sat him down carefully.
"Yeah, just stupid," Crane said as he touched the gash on his head and groaned. "Should have known some one had to be guarding us. They were waiting for me to come through and one of them hit me with a something. Weíll try again when they relax a little."
"Captain Crane. By now you should know there is no escape. My men know all about your connections to ONI." A mans rough voice came through speakers set in the door. "How is your head, Captain?"
"Great." Crane said sarcastically. "Who the hell are you? Why have you brought us here?"
"Your friends are here to make sure you cooperate with me. It was their misfortune to have been chosen to accompany you on your little trip to Cairo. I will not hesitate to have them shot if you turn down my proposition. Is that clear Captain?"
"Totally, what do you want from me?" Crane asked, holding a torn piece of Kowalskiís shirt to his head.
"Thatís easy Captain. I want to hunt you!" The voice stated flatly.
Crane took his hand away from his head and saw the stunned look on Kowalski and Rileyís faces. "You want to what?"
"You heard me correctly Captain. I want to hunt you like I would any criminal. Iíve done some research and you seem to be one of the best agents in any organization. I consider myself to be the best Man hunter alive."
"Why?" Crane asked.
"Do you really have to ask? I want to see which one of us is the best man. Iíve hunted some of the best criminal minds in the world. Iíve captured every man or woman I was sent after. The challenge is gone. I spent the last year in seclusion to find the best man for the job. Itís yours if youíre up to it."
"If I refuse." Crane spoke the three words softly, already knowing the answer.
"Then I will hunt Riley and then Kowalski. Neither man has a chance of success. They havenít worked for any intelligence agencies and donít have the training. Iíll give you an hour to think it over. Think carefully Captain. Itís you or your men. One hour."
The speakers went silent and Crane looked at his men, "I donít seem to have much choice."
"There has to be a way Sir. Open the lock again and weíll rush them." Riley whispered in case some one was listening outside.
"Skipper we can make it." Kowalski said knowing his Captainís mind was already made up.
"No, Ski, we canít. There were four men on the other side of that door. Each one has a Beretta M Nine semiautomatic pistol. Thereís no choice here. I have to go along with him, but I am going to make some demands of my own." He told them confidently.
"Just what demands can you make Captain?" Came the voice through the speakers.
Crane smiled, "Figured youíd be listening. Why donít you come down here and weíll talk about my demands."
"I tell you what Iíll do Captain. Iíll send a man to bring you to me. Kowalski and Riley can stay where they are."
"Skipper, I donít trust him." Kowalski did nothing to hide the worry he felt for his captain.
"I donít either Ski, but we canít just sit here. Sooner or later I have to talk with whoever that is. Send your man. My first demand is that you send some food and water here. I donít know how long weíve been here but we are hungry."
"First weíll talk. Then Iíll send the food."
"NO, send the food or I swear Iíll kill the first man through the door."
"Just how do you propose to do that, my dear Captain," the voice laughed harshly.
"You said youíve done your homework. Figure it out." Craneís statement was greeted by silence for a few moments.
"Oh, Captain, Iíd love to test you by letting you kill one of my armed guards. But, Iím afraid you may be injured and I want you at full peak for the hunt. All right they get food. You however get nothing. No food, no water. Thatís my counter offer to your demands. Do you agree to my terms Captain?"
"By all means. Send your man." Crane stated.
"Sir, you canít do this." Kowalski protested loudly.
"I have no choice."
"He wants to hunt you down and probably kill you." Riley spoke up.
"He didnít exactly say heíd kill me." Crane said grinning to ease the tension in the room.
"Skipper, Iíve heard about these guys. They consider themselves bounty hunters but they really are murderers. A friend of mine is a bounty hunter and they hate these guys. They think all hunts should end in a kill." Kowalski pleaded with Crane.
The door to the cell opened and two men entered carrying trays of steaming food. A third man stood back holding a Beretta pointed at Crane, "Captain, if you would follow me please." He said. Crane stepped through the door and his arms were pulled roughly behind his back and handcuffed at the wrists. "Follow me." The man holding the Beretta said.
Crane followed the gunman up a narrow flight of stairs. At the top was a reinforced steel door. Craneís captor opened the door and ushered him through. "This way Captain." He said leading Crane down a long corridor with closed doors on both sides. At the end of the corridor an identical steel door opened into a compound.
The storm was still raging, even within the compound. Crane tucked his head into his chest as they ran across the yard and into a single floor concrete building. His uniform was soaked through when they entered a sparsely furnished room. Shivering he followed the gunman into another room. "Wait here Captain." He said.
Crane found himself alone in what appeared to be an office. He saw a phone on a large oak panelled desk and walked over to it. Twisting around he succeeded in getting the receiver in his hands. Laying it down flat on the table he got down on his knees and put his ear to the phone, hoping for a dial tone.
"Hello Captain." A mans voice spoke softly into his ear. "That was a bad idea. You will be punished for this."
"Canít blame me for trying." Crane said, getting up and sitting in the office chair. He knew it wouldnít be long before some one showed up and he smiled as a tall, broad shouldered, dark haired man came into the room.
"You will remove yourself from my chair immediately." He said angrily.
Crane smiled and stood up walking to the front of the desk. "Who are you?" he questioned.
"That Captain should be obvious. My name is Peter Germane and Iím a bounty hunter."
"Bounty hunters hunt criminals not innocent men." Crane stated.
"Thatís normally true Captain, but I need a change. Iíve hunted more criminals than youíll ever know and Iím tired of how easily they make mistakes. I want a challenge. Youíre an experienced ONI operative and Captain of Seaview. Iíve read all your escapades and I chose you because you seem to have a gift for getting out of impossible situations."
"What if I donít want to go along with your hunt?"
"Well, thatís why I wanted your friends brought here with you. Understand this, if you donít participate in my little hunt then Riley and Kowalski will. I can guarantee they wonít survive."
Crane glared angrily at Germane before speaking. "I will do it under one condition."
"Your in no position to demand anything!" Germane told him.
"Thatís where youíre wrong. You just told me you wanted to hunt me. Not Kowalski. Not Riley. Me! That gives me some leverage and I intend to use it." Crane stated malevolently.
Germane glared back at Crane knowing he was right, "What do you want?"
"I want your guarantee that win or lose Riley and Kowalski are returned home. They are not to be involved in any kind of hunt."
"If I refuse?"
"Then Iíll refuse."
"I thought as much Captain. I am a man of honour and I will let them go after the hunt has ended. There are a few conditions however." He said maliciously. "You have to make it worthwhile. The hunt has to last at least forty-eight hours, and it is now a hunt to the death."
"What happens if I donít make it the full forty- eight hours?"
"Then all conditions and guarantees are null and void." He said grinning evilly, "Kowalski and Riley become hunted men. So Captain, I need your answer."
Crane knew he had no choice but to agree, "To the death, and when I kill you, what will your men do?" he said flatly.
Germane tried to hide his anger at Craneís obvious confidence. "Captain, if you survive, and there is very little chance of that, my men will have orders to return you to Santa Barbara. They will obey my orders."
"When does this hunt take place?"
"I would have waited for tomorrow, but, your little stunt with the phone changed my mind. I will give you two hours before I come after you." He said, pushing a button on his desk. The door opened and Crane recognized one of the gunmen whoíd brought the food fro Riley and Kowalski. "Captain Crane has agreed to our little venture. Give him your knife and we shall begin."
"A knife, your so kind." Crane said, his words dripping with sarcasm.
"You should be happy Iím giving you that. I told you I know how resourceful you are. Now itís time for you to prove it. Jackson, get him out of here."
Crane looked at the small knife and grinned, "Iíll be watching for you." He said in a deadly quiet voice.
"Iím sure you will Captain. Goodbye." Germane said feeling just a little anxious at Craneís hidden threat.
Jackson and Crane ran through the courtyard and over to a locked gate. The storm was still raging as Jackson took off Craneís hand restraints and opened the gate for him to go through. "Good luck Captain. Remember Germane wonít be alone."
Crane looked at Jackson, astonishment written on his face. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked.
"Letís just say I donít agree with what heís doing. Hunting criminals is one thing. You and your men are not in that category. I will try to help when I can. Go Captain before someone sees us talking."
"If you feel that way, help us. Get Kowalski and Riley out of there while I keep your boss busy."
"Canít promise anything, but Iíll do whatever I can. Stay alive Captain, and I'm sorry."
Crane turned away from the gate and started off into the storm. ĎWe have an ally.í He thought hopefully.
"Mr. Jarha, what do you mean you have no idea what happened? Where is your security personal? Your cameras." Admiral Harriman Nelson could not remember ever being so angry. Three of his crew had not reported for duty when they were supposed to, one of them his best friend and Captain of his submarine. Something had happened between the time they had checked into Cairo airport and the time the plane boarded. The three men never made it to the plane. As far as Nelson was concerned the answer was here in Cairo.
"Admiral Nelson. We have been through this before. Security personal was involved in the hijack attempt of one of your American plains. Cameras were on and we are searching the day and time in question. We are doing everything we can. Captain Crane and his men were seen walking out unto the runway. As you well know we have cameras on the runways, but they were not working at the time."
Nelson shook his head and looked at Commander Chip Morton. "Itís been two days since their disappearance. Have you checked your log entries for take offs from this terminal?"
"Admiral we are not stupid," Jarha said angrily. "We have gone over the entries many, many times. Did you ever think that maybe they wanted to disappear?"
"Not Lee Crane. He is the most reliable man I ever met." Chip said quietly looking around the office. "Mr. Jarha, can we look at your tapes?"
"What good would that do? I told you weíve been over everything." He said exasperatedly.
"Well, maybe this wasnít a random thing and we may be able to recognize any enemies of Captain Crane and his men." Nelson told him.
Jarha knew what they said made sense, but, was still reluctant to let the Americans see their security tapes. "Admiral Nelson, I am willing to cooperate in any way I can. My government said to grant whatever you wish. I will arrange for you and Commander Morton to view the tapes. But, I must insist on being present when you do."
"When can we see them?" Nelson asked anxious to get started.
"Come with me. I will show you which tapes to look at."
"Riley, we have to get out of here. Captain Crane has been gone far to long. I think the hunt has already started." Kowalski said angry at the entire situation.
"Any idea how we do that Ski?" Riley asked staring out into the wind swept night.
"Maybe we can rush whoever comes through the door. Grab their guns and find a way to call for help. We canít let them use us to blackmail the Skipper into this lousy game of theirs."
"Letís give it a try." Riley said, happy they had some kind of plan.
"Agreed. Next person comes through the door, we nail them." Kowalski stated.
Lee Crane felt miserable. He was soaked to the skin and shivering from the cold. He wanted to lie down and rest but knew he couldnít. Kowalski and Rileyís lives depended on him lasting past the forty-eight hours.
He needed to find a way to protect himself from the elements as well as Germane and his men. ĎThis knife just isnít good enough against their guns. Iíll just have to improvise.í
He smiled knowing the different kinds of weapons he could fashion with the knife.
ĎBig mistake Germane, I hope youíre ready to pay for it.í Desperately he crashed through the harsh terrain. Stopping for nothing.
His mind raced with ideas as he continued his wild run through the night. Constantly searching the storm ravished land for a place to lay low and wait for the rain and wind to subside.
He had no idea how long he had been running but his lungs were ready to burst. He crashed through the trees and found himself falling head over heels down a steep embankment. Over and over he went, stopping only when his body slammed up against a tree. His ribs felt on fire as he took a shallow breath and tried to raise his aching body. He came slowly to his knees and managed to drag himself into a crevice formed by a few large, well-placed boulders. Between the pain and fatigue he soon lost consciousness.
In their tiny cold cell Kowalski and Riley waited impatiently for someone to come to the door. They had no idea how much time had passed since coming up with their plan of attack but it felt like hours.
"Do you think the Skipperís ok Ski?" Riley asked in a worried voice.
"I hope so Riley." Ski said quietly. "I just donít like the idea of him being out there in the storm. He can always handle the bad guys Riley, but even Captain Crane canít do anything about the elements."
"I know Ski. I think I hear someone coming." Riley whispered quietly. "Get ready."
Kowalski nodded as Riley took up his position on the opposite side of the door.
It wasnít long before they heard a key in the lock and the door was opened. Riley and Kowalski moved as one and pounced on the man dragging him to the floor. The man was surprised at the attack and was soon overpowered and his gun taken away.
Kowalski stood, picked up the gun, pointed it at the guardís head and signalled for him to get up. "Donít try anything stupid, stand up slowly and move to the side." The man did as he was told fear for his life evident in his eyes.
"Please donít shoot me," he whined.
"Donít give me a reason to." Kowalski stated. "Riley get the keys from him and letís get moving. The Skipper may need our help." Riley did as Kowalski asked him and moved to the door. "Turn around!" Kowalski told the man.
"Why? What are you going to do?" he asked fearfully as he turned away from the two Seaview men.
Kowalski never answered, instead he brought the butt of the gun down on the back of the guardís head and he slumped to the floor.
"Whyíd you do that Ski?" Riley asked.
"I didnít want him yelling for help." Ski answered as they quietly opened the door and stepped into the deserted outer room.
"Ahh, but wonít they miss him anyway?"
"Probably, but why take chances. Letís get out of here. Follow me." Kowalski led the way up the narrow staircase. They were surprised when they didnít encounter any more guards. Kowalski stood to the side of the door and spoke softly, forcing Riley to strain to hear what he was saying. "Iím going to open the door and check for guards. You be ready to move when I tell you. We head directly for the gate."
Riley gave the thumbs up sign, showing that he agreed and Kowalski opened the door. He was immediately blasted back by the force of the wind and rain. Closing the door he turned to Riley. "I donít think anyone is out in this. Letís move out quickly."
"Iím with you Ski, letís go." Riley told him, happy to be anywhere else but their tiny cell.
Kowalski opened the door only to come face to face with one of their captors. Shocked all three men froze. Riley was the first man to move but a gun pointed at his head quickly stopped him from doing anything.
"Put the gun down," the man told Kowalski.
Ski saw where the man had his gun pointed and did as he was told. He signalled with his gun for Kowalski to go back inside. Once the door was closed the man smiled, "Iím going to put my gun away." He said taking the gun from Rileyís head.
Riley felt his knees go weak with relief but stood his ground. "Why?"
"My name is Jackson. I donít like what Germane has turned into. Iím making arrangements for you two to get out of here and off the island as soon as this storm lets up." He said sharply.
"What about Captain Crane?" Kowalskiís asked.
"I can do nothing for your Captain, and neither can you. The hunt has already begun."
"Weíre not leaving without him!" Riley said angrily.
"Look, I promised Captain Crane I would try to help you." Jackson said impatiently.
"Then help us get the Skipper off the island too." Kowalski told him.
"I canít do that. I donít even know where he is. This island is big and in this storm it would be a useless waste of time. Now do you want my help or do I put you back in your cell." Jacksonís voice betrayed his impatience.
"Why not just let us go? Weíll find Captain Crane ourselves." Rileyís voice lacked confidence.
"Are you crazy? Have you seen the storm? No! I will not let you go traipsing around this island looking for a needle in a haystack. Thatís exactly what you would be doing you know." When Kowalski and Riley remained quiet Jackson continued, "I promise to do what I can for your Captain if Iím there when he is found. Thatís the best I can do."
"How do we leave this island?" Kowalski asked, trying to find out if there were boats or anything else they could use.
"Come with me. I will hide you until it is safe for you to leave." Jackson told them, beginning to get angry.
"What happens if we refuse?" Asked Kowalski, already knowing the answer.
"Then you go back to your cell and Germane continues to use you to blackmail Captain Crane." Jackson grinned mockingly. "Your choice. Either way Crane will probably die. At least if you get out of here youíll be able to bring the police to this godforsaken place and bring Germane to justice."
"What do we do Ski." Riley asked Kowalski, hoping he had an idea.
"We have no choice but to comply. How long before this storm ends?" Ski asked turning anger filled eyes back to Jackson.
"The latest reports say it will end by morning. Thatís when I get you two out of here. Once youíre clear of the island Iíll try to make contact Crane and let him know. At least heíll have a chance if he knows youíre safe. Come with me. There is a safe place I can hide you until morning." He opened the door without waiting for a reply. Knowing they had little choice but to do as Jackson ordered if they wanted to help their Captain. He led them through the dying rainstorm, out of the compound to a cave nearby. "Thereís a change of clothes for you both and some sandwiches and water as well. Just make damn sure youíre here when I come back."
"What if someone else shows up?" asked Kowalski.
Jackson pulled the gun he had picked up after Kowalski had dropped it and passed it back to him. "Use this. Iíll call you when I come back. If you hear someone sneaking around it wonít be me so shoot first ask questions later. I have to get back before Germane misses me." He left the two men alone in the cold, dark, dampness of the cave.
Kowalski could barely see Riley through the dull grey light seeping in through the cave entrance. Dawn was coming fast and the storm seemed to have finally run its course.
"Are we going to do as he said and stay put?" Riley asked already knowing Skiís answer.
"Weíll wait for the rain to end and then we find the Skipper." Kowalski stated emphatically. "Letís get out of these wet clothes and be ready to go when the rain stops."
"Letís show these people what Seaview men are made of." Riley grinned as he grabbed some clothes and started to change.
Nelson was frustrated. Four hours of looking at tapes had proved to be futile. The tapes showed Lee Crane followed by Kowalski and Riley walking through the gates to board their flight home. Somewhere between that point and the plane theyíd simply disappeared.
Chip Morton was just as frustrated as he stood and paced anxiously around Jarhaís office. "Where could they be?" he asked no one in particular.
"I wish I knew Chip. Are these the only tapes Mr. Jarha?" Nelson asked the uncooperative airport supervisor."
"That is all of them. I told you there was nothing helpful on them. I will show you out now."
"I have a few more questions before I leave. Mr. Jarha." Nelson said contemptuously. "Have you contacted the other passengers who were on the flight? Also I wish to see a list of flights that left around the same time as theirs. Destinations, passengers, things like that."
"I have done all I can. I sent telegrams to the other passengers on the flight. I asked that they contact our embassy in their homeland and let them know if they saw anything. It has been two days and we have heard from approximately half of them. No one remembers seeing anything. That is all I can do. You will leave my airport now. Goodbye." Jarha stated, nervously walking to the door.
"Mr. Jarha. I have your governments promise that I would receive full cooperation in this endeavour." Nelson stood and glared at the man. "If you are unwilling to help get someone in here who will or I will go back and tell them what you have said. Do I make myself clear?" Nelson watched the man cower before him and continued his tirade. "I want those lists I already mentioned as well as a list of people who were on duty that day."
Jarha knew Nelson was not bluffing and decided he had better cooperate. "I will get them right away. I am sorry for being abrupt with you but I have to protect my job. I cannot give this information out to just anyone. I will contact my government and return with an answer for you. While you wait I will order some lunch served. Does this meet with your approval?" Jarha asked hiding his anger.
"Thatís fine," Nelson said as Jarha opened the door to leave.
ĎYou and your friend will pay for this Nelson. Iíll see to that,í Jarha thought maliciously.
Lee Crane slowly returned to awareness. His whole body was wracked by spasms of pain. He tried a deep breath but caught himself as the pain almost made him black out again. ĎOk Lee, set your mind against the pain. Remember your training. Mind over matter. Have to move before someone finds you. Come on you can do it,í he told himself without any real confidence.
Slowly he used his hands to push himself to his feet. The world spun for a few minutes before he was able to bring everything back into focus. He saw his small knife sitting next to the spot he had been laying and bent to pick it up. Canít believe I didnít lose this. I still have a fighting chance, he thought, grimacing in pain. Iíll find a way to get to you Germane. He started moving away from his hiding place in search of other weapons and means to defeat his enemy.
Germane was angry. His insurance had somehow gotten away from him. He would have to make sure Crane didnít find out his men had escaped. He had planned everything perfectly and now someone in his own organization was working against him.
ĎIíll find out who you are and make you pay,í he thought angrily. The door opened and his second in command came in, "Jackson, did you find them?"
"No sir. Barney was in the cell for at least three hours before I came upon him. He still has a headache so I told him to get some rest." Jackson told his irate boss.
"Damn. Whoís behind this? Who could have betrayed me and helped those men escape?" Germane wondered aloud.
"Sir, these men could have escaped on their own."
"No! They must have had help. Well weíll just include them as prey and hunt them down as well. This could still work to my advantage," he grinned at Jackson. "Are the dogs ready if I need them?"
"Yes sir," Jackson said thinking how sadistic his boss was, "Just as you wanted they have not been fed in twenty four hours. They are hungry."
"Good." Germane stated as he walked to the window. "It looks like the storm is over. Get my equipment and letís get going."
"Yes sir." Jackson said leaving the office and closing the door behind him.
"Mr. Jarha, are these lists complete?" Nelson asked.
"Of course they are!" Jarha said abruptly.
"The list of flights out seems very small. How many do you average a day?"
"That is none of your business Admiral! But I will tell you we average sixty flights per day. That list is complete."
"Ok, Mr. Jarha. Mr. Morton and I will let you know when we are ready to start interviewing the staff. I want to check these first."
"I will wait here Admiral." Jarha spoke quietly.
Kowalski and Riley left the cave and headed towards a heavily wooded area, hoping Crane had decided to use the trees for cover. Kowalski had the gun tucked safely in his pocket and the two men started their search with confidence.
Lee Crane heard the snake before he saw it. The distinctive rattle told him he had better be careful. He spotted the snake just to his right, far enough away that it couldnít do any damage. He began walking in the opposite direction when an idea hit him. He looked around until he found a stick with a v shape on one end. Slowly he walked back to the area he had heard the snake. He found it in almost the same position it had been when he first saw it. ĎHave to do this right,í he thought. Holding the v shape in front of his body he slowly approached the hissing rattler. He saw the head and used the stick to entrap it just before the snake struck.
Using the stick to hold the snakeís head away from him he used his other hand to quickly remove the rattle from the snake. Carefully he pulled a vine from a nearby tree and used it to secure the snake to a bush. He then removed the stick from the head and jumped back quickly. ĎHopefully you wonít pull free and youíll be here as a little surprise when Germane and his gang get here. Take one of them out of commission!í Lee Crane smiled as he hurried away from the snake. ĎHave to come up with some more traps if I plan on being alive after forty-eight hours. Wonder how much time has gone by. Wish theyíd left me my watch.í
Looking around he wondered which direction he should take. He thought he heard running water coming from somewhere to his right through a thick glade of trees. ĎCold water sounds good right now,í he thought heading in that direction. He ignored the growing discomfort caused by his injured ribs.
"I want Mercer and Drake to join us." Germane told his second in command. "Tell them to be ready to leave in ten minutes."
"Are you sure you want those two? Last time we took them with us they nearly killed the prey before you."
"I think they learned their lesson. I didnít pay them that trip. They are the best at what they do. Next to you that is and I donít want Crane lasting forty-eight hours. There is also the problem of the traitor in our midst." He told Germane, a trace of anger still in his voice as he continued, "The storm ended an hour ago and I want to leave as soon as possible. Go make sure theyíre ready." Germane ordered Jackson.
"As you wish Peter. Weíll be waiting at the gate." Jackson told him as he walked out and closed the door behind him.
Jackson walked towards the barracks where Mercer and Drake stayed. These two are dangerous, he thought. Have to keep them under control somehow. I wish there was more I could do for Crane. At least his men are safe. He opened the door and walked into the barracks to find the men playing cards "Mercer, Drake get your gear.í He ordered.
"So, Germane has come to his senses. He knows we are the best men for the job." Drake said as he stood to his full six foot three height. He had blonde hair and cold grey eyes. A scar ran from his right eye down under his chin.
Mercer was the exact opposite of Drake, short for a male, only five foot two, black hair and brown eyes. His face gave the appearance of softness, but there was no trace of softness in his manor. "Itís about time he took us with him again." He said harshly.
"Stow it, both of you. Just grab your stuff and letís go." Jackson said not even attempting to hide the contempt he felt for these two. " Peter wants to hunt Crane without the dogs for now. He wants to see just how good Crane really is."
"Weíll find him and without the aid of dogs." Mercer stated, grinning at Drake who nodded in agreement.
"You got that right," Drake snickered. "Crane will never escape with us on the trail." Both men grabbed their rifles and belts of ammunition and followed Jackson out into the compound. They found Germane waiting impatiently at the gate.
"About time!" he stated as he opened the gate. Germane was holding his M16 assault rifle in his arms. He had plenty of extra ammo in utility belts crisscrossing his chest.
"Do you really think you need all that for just one man?" Drake asked sarcastically.
"This is not just any man." Germane stated. "Captain Lee Crane has survived more ONI missions than any other agent. He has brought the Seaview, the submarine he commands, and her crew through more dangerous missions then you can imagine. Heís been shot, tortured, stabbed, poisoned and beaten by the best and lived to tell about it. This will be a test to see if he is as good as they say. Do not and I repeat DO NOT underestimate this man or you might find you are the hunted instead of the hunter." He finished, admiration evident in his voice.
"You sound like you admire the guy." Mercer laughed.
"Actually, I do."
"Then why are you hunting him?" Jackson asked.
Germane didnít answer immediately. They walked away from the compound towards the forested area of the island.
Germane stopped and began looking around. "Thereís so much damage itís hard to say what was made by the storm and what was made by man. Oh well, just makes our job a little harder. Drake, Mercer, you two check south of here for approximately a mile or so. Let me know right away if you find anything."
"Will do Boss." Mercer answered as the two moved away.
"Well?" Jackson asked.
"Why do you want to hunt and kill Crane if you admire him?"
"Maybe I just want to prove Iím better than he is." Germane stated in a quiet, dangerous voice.
"No, I donít think thatís the reason. At least not the only reason." Jackson said knowing he was putting himself on shaky ground.
"What other reason could I have?" Germane asked, his voice almost a whisper.
Jackson studied Germane for a few minutes before he continued, "We have known each other for over twenty years. Right?"
"I think your admiration for Crane stems from the fact that you were once very much like him." Jackson saw the change come over his friends face and knew he had crossed the line. He continued anyway. "You have watched Craneís career from the very beginning and I think that was the beginning of your downfall. Crane never let himself be tempted by riches."
"Like me." Germane said in a voice that betrayed his growing anger.
"I didnít say that, you did."
"Thatís right, I did."
Jackson knew he should leave it alone but couldnít stop his next words, "Youíre angry with yourself because you succumbed to temptation. You were tired of not knowing where your next meal was coming from. You were also angry at your country for not acknowledging you as a conquering hero."
"I think you better shut your mouth right now Jackson, before I shut it for you."
"Whatís wrong Peter, am I hitting to close to home?"
Germane raised his rifle, "Shut up or Iíll kill you where you stand," he screamed.
"You need me." Jackson said flatly.
"I donít think so. I believe youíre the one who released Cranes men. You betrayed my trust and for what? Crane, he doesnít deserve it. Give him the chance and he will turn you over to the authorities." Germane said shaking his head in anger.
"Hey we found the place where Cranes men were hiding." Germane heard the shouting and turned his head for an instant. Jackson took advantage and disappeared into the dense forest. "Go ahead and run Jackson. You have just joined the ranks of the hunted. I will kill you as well."
Jackson knew Germane was telling the truth. He wouldnít hesitate to kill anyone who betrayed him not even a friend of twenty years. He might feel regret but he would still kill him. Jackson would have to be willing to do the same, in order to survive.
Nelson glared at Jarha. He was seething inside but refused to show this man any kind of emotion. "Mr. Jarha, I would like to speak with everyone on this list, that includes your janitors and maintenance workers. I want them contacted and ordered to report in immediately."
"I will see what I can do Admiral." Jarha told him.
"Mr. Jarha. You will do exactly what I have asked. Do I have to remind you that your own government has ordered you to cooperate?" Nelson said in the quietly dangerous voice that Morton had heard only a few times before. It usually meant the end of Nelsonís patience and didnít bode well for the object of his ire.
ĎYouíll get yours!í Jarha thought and then pasted on a dazzling smile. "There is no need to get angry Admiral. I have been cooperating with you."
"Unwillingly. Look we need to get on with this. Go make the arrangements or get me someone who will." Nelson watched Jarha leave the office in a huff. Turning to Morton he said, "Chip, I donít trust Jarha."
"I donít either sir. He seems to be hiding something. I think itís possible he knows where Lee, Riley and Kowalski were taken."
"I get the same feeling. Any idea how we can prove it?" Nelson asked the Seaview exec.
"I donít think he wants his government involved again. Therefore Iíd keep bringing up their cooperation in this matter. Sooner or later he will break and maybe heíll let something slip."
"I was thinking the same thing Chip. He definitely knows something. He may even be involved in the disappearance." Nelson was about to say more but the door opened and Jarha stalked back in.
"I have done as you asked Admiral. Our workers will be coming in for questioning as soon as they are able. Unfortunately two people are unavailable at the moment."
"Unavailable? How so?" Morton asked, knowing how angry Nelson was becoming.
"They have left on vacation and will not return until next week. I am sorry." Jarha told them.
"Are you?" Nelson asked trying to control his outrage.
"I am getting very tired of your attitude Admiral. I have done everything I could to help you and this is how you treat me. Please leave my office at once." Jarha stated adamantly.
"Letís go Chip. I will speak with the minister and have someone else assigned to us. Maybe then weíll be able to get the answers we need!" Nelson stated, no longer hiding the contempt he felt for Jarha.
"No! Admiral, please donít do that. I would lose my job." Jarha cried.
"That doesnít concern me. I am tired of your attitude. Fighting with you for information is not helping us find our friends." An angry Nelson said.
"I beg of you. I have a family to support and I need this job."
"You should have thought of that before you helped whoever took Crane!" Morton said.
"I.....I didnít have a choice......." Jarhaís voice trailed off as he realized he had been trapped by the oldest trick in the book. He sat down at his desk, his face crestfallen.
"So you are involved!" Nelson stated angrily.
Jarha knew he was caught. There was no way to explain the guilt his statement revealed. "As I said I had no choice."
"We always have a choice. You just made the wrong one. Chip, contact airport security and have them get in touch with the police." Morton left the office in search of security.
"No, please, my family. They need me. All I did was change some records."
"That makes you an accessory to kidnapping. That is a very serious offence." Nelson told the nervous man.
"Kidnapping! No! I was not involved in any kidnapping." Jarha yelled.
"Why donít we wait for the police to get here and we can ask them what they think?"
"Admiral, be reasonable. I can help you find your friends." Jarha said, hoping Nelson would listen to him, before turning him over to the police.
"If you have any information pertaining to their whereabouts, youíd better tell me now."
"Before I tell you anything, I need you to help me."
"Iím in no position to make promises. Whether you are charged with accessory or not is up to your police." Nelson angrily told him. "The best I could do is put in a good word for you if you help us find Crane, Kowalski and Riley."
Jarha glared at Nelson, "Then your friends are as good as dead. I will tell you nothing!"
The office door opened and Chip Morton walked in with two police officers. "Admiral, Officers Kanakht and Memysabu were in the security office when I got there. They say they can take Mr. Jarha into custody."
Jarha reacted immediately. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a small pistol. "I will kill you for this Nelson!"
Officer Kanakht shoved Nelson aside as Jarha pulled the trigger. The bullet grazed Nelsonís shoulder and embedded itself in the door. Kanakht stood quickly, in time to see his partner and Chip Morton pull the gun from Jarhaís hand.
"No," Jarha cried as his hands were pulled behind his back and cuffs were placed on his wrists. "I am a failure." He whimpered.
"You are lucky you didnít kill Admiral Nelson. With three witnesses present you would have been convicted of murder easily." Memysabu told him. Concerned he turned to Nelson and asked, "Admiral, are you all right?"
Nelson was looking at his arm, "Itís just a graze. Iíll visit your first aid station when we are finished here."
"Iíll see to that." Morton said also checking the wound in Nelsonís arm.
Memysabu smiled and turned his attention back to Jarha. "Mr. Morton explained the situation to us. Are you willing to tell them who is involved in the kidnapping of their friends?"
Still sobbing Jarha turned to face Nelson. "What does it matter? The man who took your friends has probably killed them by now."
"If thatís the case then we will have him arrested for murder." Nelson told him. Upset at the possible death of his men he shook his head and spoke softly to one of the officers. "Officer Kanakht, can I speak with you for a minute?" Kanakht nodded and pointed to the outer office. "Iíll be right back Chip."
Kowalski signalled for Riley to stop and be quiet. They had been running and hiding for at least two hours, not sure if they were being followed or not. "What is it Ski?" Riley whispered softly.
"I thought I heard someone shouting. Letís just listen for a few moments."
"OK Ski. Gives us a chance to catch our breath as well." Riley sounded both tired and relieved.
The next ten minutes passed quickly and quietly for the two men. Ski signalled that he was ready to continue and Riley stood to go. Before either man moved from their hiding place in the trees they heard the sound of running. Both men stopped instantly. Riley peered through the trees and watched a man rush past him. He pulled back and spoke softly, "I think it was Jackson."
"Are you sure it wasnít the Skipper?"
"Yeah, Iím sure."
"Damn, didnít think we would be that lucky. But why would Jackson be running?" Ski thought aloud.
"Maybe Germane found out he was the one who helped us escape." Riley answered.
Kowalskiís face brightened, "I think you may be right. Letís keep on his trail and watch him for a while. If he is running from Germane heíll need us just as much as we need him. Agreed?"
"Agreed. Lets go." Riley said checking to be sure the path was empty before proceeding in the direction Jackson had taken.
Crane used his hands to cup some of the water and bring it to his parched lips. He swallowed a small amount and forced himself to wait. ĎHave to go slow Crane. Remember the rules. Drink slowly and in small amounts to prevent cramping. Canít afford to have your body refuse what little you can give it.í
He tore a small piece of cloth from his tattered shirt and washed some of the dirt and blood from his face. New scratches, caused by running through the heavy foliage stung when the cold water came in contact with them and he grimaced. ĎHow do I get myself in these situations? Oh god, I can just hear Chip Morton now.í
Ď You got yourself into another fine fix Lee. Now get up and get yourself out of it.í
Lee Crane laughed. He could almost hear Chip Morton saying those exact words. ĎOk Chip, thanks for the words of wisdom.í He pulled his bone weary body up off the still wet ground and began to check out his surroundings.
ĎNow whatí he asked himself.
ĎNow you find a way to free Kowalski and Riley and get out of here.í He heard Chipís voice in his head.
"Well Chip, seems like youíre gonna be with me after all, at least in my head. He laughed aloud at the picture his mind conjured of a miniature Chip Morton running around in his head yelling, Ďhelp me help me. Wasnít there a movie about that? Ok Crane, enough lollygagging. Get moving.
Once again he surveyed the river. He estimated it to be approximately fifty to sixty feet across, running heavily with the added rain from the storm. The opposite bank would not be easily accessible because of the slick rocks that lined the shore. The water slammed into rocks and other barriers causing heavy rapids at intervals up and down the river. As far as Crane could see there was no place to cross safely. ĎHopefully I wonít have to cross that.í He thought watching the swirling turbulent waters.
On this side of the river he could see some heavy foliage growing up out of the waters edge. ĎThose reeds could come in handy laterí he thought cutting a couple of the smaller ones and putting them in his pocket. ĎNow all I have to do is get back to the compound.í He began to make his way carefully in the direction he had come keeping the river on his right.
Germane walked towards the oncoming men and spoke angrily. " Drake, go get Burton and Weller. Bring them here as fast as you can." Drake was about to argue but one look from Germane told him it wouldnít be a wise decision. He turned and began making his way back to the compound.
"What wrong Boss? Whereís Jackson?" Mercer asked.
"We have a bigger hunt than I had originally planned. Iíll fill you in when Drake and the others get here." A malevolent look came over Germaneís face as he stared off into the trees.
It wasnít long before they heard Drake returning with the others. "Here they are boss. Now whatís the problem?"
"Jackson is a traitor. Heís the man who helped Kowalski and Riley escape. That makes him fair game. I want him dead or alive. A five thousand dollar bonus goes to the man who brings him to me. Iíll double that if you bring him in alive." Germane told them.
"What about Crane and his men?" Mercer asked.
"A thousand dollar bonus to whoever kills Craneís men. Crane however is off limits. Heís mine. If anyone shoots the good Captain they will just have to take his place as the object of the hunt. Do I make myself clear?"
"Sure boss, perfectly. Cranes all yours. Itís your money and your hunt." Weller said quickly.
"Then lets get this show on the road." Germane said looking at his group of hunters. He was saddened by the loss of his close friendship with Jackson and knew he would never be that close with any other man. "Follow me." he said and buried forever all thoughts of the friendship he had lost.
Jarha was sitting at his desk, his arms cuffed behind his back when Nelson and Kanakht came back into the room. Heíd stopped sobbing and looked resigned to his faith.
"Jarha," Nelson said the name with obvious contempt.
Jarha glanced at Nelsonís face, "What do you want Nelson?"
"Do not speak to Admiral Nelson in that manor again!" Memysabu told the prisoner, who seemed to be trying unsuccessfully to shrink away from him.
"Officer Kanakht and I have been conferring with Minister Neneferkaptah. I have convinced him to offer you a deal providing you tell us everything you know and we find my men alive."
"I have told you they are probably dead already." Jarha whined.
"You donít know that for sure. This is your only chance, take it or leave it."
"Whatís in it for me?" Jarha asked.
"If you cooperate with us I will not press attempted murder charges. Minister Neneferkaptah as also agreed that if we find Crane and the others alive they would be lenient with you. They will drop the kidnapping charges. The worst that would happen is you lose your job. At least you wonít go to jail." Nelson told him.
"To lose my job would mean disgrace for my family. We would have nothing. We would lose our home and standing in the community."
"You should have thought of that before you turned Captain Crane and his men over to whoever has them." Nelson replied.
"I know that. I will regret my decision for the rest of my life. I only wish my family would not be made to pay for my greed. I will tell you what I know but it isnít much." Jarha told them sadly.
"That is the only decision you could have made. Iíll have your secretary come in to take down your statement." Memysabu told Jarha as he opened the door and signalled for the woman in the outer office to come in.
"Mr Jarha, is everything ok?" she asked as she noticed the handcuffs on her boss.
"Mr. Jarha has been placed under arrest." Memysabu told her. "I want you to take down everything that is said in this room. Can you handle that?"
"I..I think I can Sir. Why is he under arrest?" she asked curiously.
"That is of no concern to you. Just write down what is said." Memysabu stated.
"Yes Sir." She said in a scared, shaky voice. She sat in a chair provided by Morton and opened her notepad and began to write quickly as Jarha began to speak.
"A man named Peter Germane approached me last week. He had a proposition for me. He told me that if I cooperated I would receive ten thousand American Dollars in payment. All I had to do was find a way to delete his flight plan from the monitors. That was easy since I have to check all incoming and outgoing flights. The second part was a little harder because I had to get control of the monitors outside the terminal. He wanted your Captain very badly, some kind of hunt." Jarha stopped talking and turned to Nelson. "He paid me an extra five thousand to page your friends and have them report to me at cargo handling. It was easy to close the door and release gas into the small room. I then called Germane and he must have arranged to pick up your men. I am truly sorry Admiral." Jarha said in a calm, controlled voice.
" Who is Peter Germane and what kind of hunt would he want Captain Crane for Jarha?" Nelson asked curiously.
"Peter Germane is a bounty hunter. He hunts criminals for money. He calls it a great sport." He turned and stared directly at Nelson, "I think Germane wanted to hunt your Captain the same way he would hunt an animal." Jarha answered.
Nelson couldnít believe what he had heard. A hunt with Lee Crane as the prey, angrily he pounced on Jarha, "How could you do this? Lee Crane is not a criminal nor an animal."
"I needed the money, Admiral. I am sorry. My family will suffer because of me. Donít you think I regret my deed?" Jarha asked them solemnly.
"Three good men could be dead because of your greed. I refuse to feel anything but contempt for you." Nelson stated coldly.
"Admiral," Nelson turned to face a very worried Chip Morton.
"What is it Chip?" he asked.
"You once told me that we couldnít change events that have already transpired." Morton watched as Nelsonís angry face relaxed a little, "Jarha, has to live with his guilt for the rest of his life. He also has to watch the ramifications of what it does to his family." He turned his gaze on a very frightened Jarha, "Do you have any idea where Germane was taking Captain Crane and the others?"
"I glanced at their flight plan before I removed the records. They were headed for a small island around Barbados. Thatís all I saw. I know itís a big area and I wish I could do more." Jarha said, anxious to pacify the angry Admiral.
"I have one more question to ask you. Do you have any idea how many men Germane has working for him?" Morton asked.
"When he came to me he had three others with him. I caught one other name. Jackson, thatís all I heard. Please can I go now?"
At a signal from Nelson, Officers Kanakht and Memysabu came forward and took possession of the prisoner. "Mr. Jarha, you are under arrest for illegally tampering with Airport security records, and accessory to kidnapping."
"But, Admiral you said they would drop the kidnapping charges!" Jarha whined.
"No, I told you if my men are found alive they would drop those charges. Until then the charges stand. I will let Minister Neneferkaptah know as soon as we find them. Letís get back to Seaview Chip. Thank you officers for your help." Nelson said as they quickly made their way out of the office. Once out of earshot he spoke quietly to Morton. "Letís get to the FS1 as quickly as possible. I want to get underway for Barbados immediately."
"What if Jarha lied." Morton questioned Nelsonís quick action.
"At least we have a place to start. We have to find them before Germane carries out his plan."
"First we stop by first aid and have your arm looked at. Then we leave."
"Chip, my arms fine. The bullet barely grazed it." Chip Morton shook his head and Nelson knew he would lose this argument. "All right. Iíll go to first aid. You make arrangements for transportation back to the Flying Sub. Thatís an order." Morton smiled as he watched the Admiral rush over to a door marked ĎFIRST AIDí.
Jackson knew he was being followed. Heíd caught glimpses of two men jumping behind trees and hiding whenever he looked back. He also realized that it must be Craneís men, because Germaneís men would have had orders to kill him on sight. He stood behind some dead, rotting trees and waited for the men to go past him. He didnít have long to wait as he heard, rather than saw Kowalski and Riley stop in front of his hiding place.
"I was sure he came this way," Jackson heard one of the men whisper.
"He did." The other answered just as quietly.
Jackson waited to make sure the men werenít being followed before he stepped out with his gun drawn. "I thought I told you two to stay in the cave!" he stated.
"We decided we werenít leaving without Captain Crane." Kowalski told him.
"You fool. You realize that if you are recaptured by Germane, your Captain would give his life for yours." Jackson said wearily shaking his head.
"It was a chance we had to take. Something we learned from the Skipper. Never leave a man if there is a chance to help him." Riley told Jackson.
"Some chance. You two donít know what your up against. Crane at least has his ONI training. He knows a lot of tricks to stay alive. Germane will eventually find you two and then use you to get to Crane. Heíll kill the three of you then."
"As Riley said itís a chance we have to take. Why are you on the run?" Kowalski asked his curiosity piqued.
"Germane found out I was the one who helped you escape. He doesnít like traitors, and he now considers me a traitor, so Iím now one of the hunted." Jackson said a grin plastered on his face. "Heíll find out Iím not so easy to kill. I know almost as many tricks as your Captain. You two can tag along with me if you like. I plan to find Crane and enlist his help in defeating Germane and his little army of hunters."
Kowalski turned to Riley. "What do you think?"
"Heís helped us so far, and he knows more about this area than we do." Riley answered.
Kowalski nodded and spoke to Jackson, "Ok, weíll go with you. Where do we go from here?"
"I want to find Crane. You know him better than I, what would he do?"
"The Skipper would do everything in his power to come back and get us." Riley said, pride for his captain evident in his voice and stance.
"Yes, Captain Crane would come after us. He would do something Germane wouldnít expect." Kowalski said with just as much pride.
"Does your Captain really deserve that kind of praise, or are you overestimating your value to him." Jackson asked both men.
"Captain Crane values life, any kind of life, whether itís animal or human. Heíll find his way back to the compound." Kowalski told Jackson confidently.
"How can you be sure he wonít just leave you on this island?"
"Captain Crane would come for us." Riley reiterated.
"If you say so. All right. I know many ways back to the compound. Weíll take one of the less traveled paths. Itís important we stay away from Germane and his followers." Jackson said, leading the way into a clump of brush and trees.
Crane had no idea how long heíd been moving but he knew his mind couldnít keep winning the battle with his body. He knew he couldnít keep up the torrid pace heíd set for himself and would soon have to rest. His chest was on fire from the injured ribs and he sat for a moment. He tried to breathe deeply but found it brought on a severe coughing spurt.
He closed his eyes and was unsure if he had fallen asleep. He opened his eyes to the sound of a voice coming from his right.
"Peter. It looks like someone came this way. Had to be just after the storm. Look at the footprints." Mercer told his boss.
"Youíre right. Take Drake and follow the tracks. Weíll take a break and wait here until you report back," Germane said holding up his canteen.
"You heard him Drake, letís go."
Germane signalled to the other two men to sit and rest while they waited. Theyíd been following what he hoped was Craneís trail for nearly two hours. He could hear the water rushing past on the other side of the trees.
Crane listened to the conversation and knew they were to close. Quickly and quietly he made his way back to the rivers edge and gently lowered himself into the turbulent water. There were more reeds along this riverbank and he used them for cover. He waited for any sign of Germane.
Germane was impatiently waiting for his men to return when he heard loud screaming from the direction they had gone in. Jumping to his feet he turned to Burton and Weller. "Go see what the hell happened!" he told them.
Burton and Weller headed towards the screaming, but stopped at the sound of gunfire. Germane rushed past them and soon caught site of Drake leaning over Mercerís leg.
"What happened?" Germane asked angrily.
"Someone set a trap." Drake stated.
"What kind of trap?" Germane asked kneeling beside Drake.
Drake wiped his knife in his pant leg. Slowly and carefully he made an incision in Mercerís leg. "Snake bite!" he said as he lowered his head and began to methodically suck the venom from the open wound. Mercer moaned and rested his head back on the ground.
"Stupidity. Thatís what this was. Mercer should have listened for snakes. Heís lived here long enough to know they are everywhere. He should have been more careful." Germane said ignoring Mercer's cries of pain.
Drake glared at Germane, "Youíre wrong Boss. This was a trap. Someone tied this snake to that bush and removed the rattle. There was no warning. The snake bit Mercer before we even knew it was here. Look for yourself. I shot and killed it."
Germane stood and walked over to the snake. Its head had been blown off cleanly and he could see the vine still securing the tail end to the bush. ĎCrane,í he thought, open admiration apparent on his face. ĎThis is going to be even better than I could have imagined.í He turned away from the snake and went back to Mercer and Drake.
"Iím taking Mercer back to the compound." Drake told him.
"Yes." Germane agreed, "You do that. When you give him the anti venom, I want you to grab the dogs and bring them back here."
"I have to stay with Mercer." Drakeís voice was laced with anger.
Germane looked down at Mercer, "Think about this. If you donít return with the dogs, you donít get paid. Mercer will be all right till we return. Right."
Mercer nodded his head painfully. "Peterís right, and I want revenge. Get the dogs." He said staring calmly at Drake.
"Whatever you say Mercer." Drake said, gently putting his arm around his friend and helping him to his feet. "Iíll be back as soon as I can." He told Germane as he turned and headed back the way they had come.
ĎGotcha,í Crane thought when he heard the scream followed seconds later by a gunshot. Smiling he waited to see what would happen next. Suddenly his body began to shiver uncontrollably in the cold water. ĎMust be colder than it looksí he thought.
"Weller, Burton, letís check down by the river. Remember Crane is mine." Germane said heading back towards the sound of rushing water.
Crane heard the men coming towards his hiding place and quickly put one of the reeds heíd cut off into his mouth. He sank below the surface until just the tip of the reed protruded from the water. Breathing slowly he settled himself to wait until the intruders left.
"Weller, check the opposite bank. If you find any evidence that Crane went in that direction fire one shot. Otherwise report back here in one hour. Understood!" Weller nodded and waded into the water. Carefully he made his way across the river.
"Ok Burton, you and I take this side." Germane was about to walk along the riverbank when he spotted some overturned rocks on the edge of the river, just south of the spot theyíd been standing in. He walked over and carefully examined the area. Thick Reeds stood to the left and right. Violent rapids controlled the centre of the river and he knew Crane could not have crossed in this section. ĎWhere are you Crane?í He thought Ď Come out, come out wherever you are,í a sly grin consumed his face. "Iíll find you Crane and when I do youíll regret that little trap of yours!" he shouted.
Crane knew Germane was shouting but it sounded muffled and unintelligible to his ears. He could see Germane through the clear water and knew if Germane studied this area of the reeds he would spot him easily. ĎCold, so coldí he thought. ĎLook somewhere else Germane. I need to get out of here.í He followed him with his eyes as Germane slowly walked away from the rivers edge.
Nelson relaxed as he felt the flying sub dock with Seaview. Releasing his safety belt he followed Morton up the ladder. Once onboard Seaview, Morton and Nelson checked the charts and plotted the best course for Barbados. Both men were exhausted, not having slept in the last twenty-four hours.
"Chip, leave OíBrien the con and get some rest. Weíll have a lot to do when we get to Barbados." Nelson ordered.
"Only if you follow your own advice and rest sir." Morton replied.
"Iím going to my cabin right now. See that you do the same. Mr. Morton." Nelson smiled as he left the control room. ĎWeíre coming Lee.í He thought.
"How much further?" Kowalski asked Jackson as they pushed their way through trees and heavy bush. Theyíd been travelling a steady upgrade for almost an hour and were beginning to feel the effects and it was beginning to get dark again.
"Just over that rise. We should be able to see the compound from the top. You can rest there while I check the grounds. If weíre lucky Iíll be able to call for help before anyone sees me."
"And if they spot you?" Riley asked.
"Iíll deal with that when the time comes. For now just do as I ask and stay where I tell you." Jackson told them.
"Look Jackson, weíre not stupid. We know how to defend ourselves. Weíll go with you." Kowalski stated.
Jackson stopped and peered back at Kowalski, "I know what youíre capable of
Kowalski. I also know that you and Riley are exhausted. You need to rest if you
want to help Crane when the time comes."
Kowalski knew Jackson was right. Neither he nor Riley had any ONI training. Under normal circumstances they could hold their own, but in the last few days they had been drugged, kidnapped and had eaten very little. Their bodies were starting to protest the treatment it was receiving. "All right Jackson. We do it your way for now."
Jackson smiled and turned his attention to the darkening trail ahead. "We should make it before dark. I hope." He said aloud.
Seething with rage, Germane paced back and forth on the riverbank. Drake had returned with the dogs but they had proved useless. Crane must have used the river as a way to hide his movements. The dogs had tracked him into the water but had been unable to find an exit point either to the north or south of their vantage point. "How could he have just disappeared?" he asked no one in particular.
Drake walked towards him holding the two dogs on a leash, "Maybe he got caught in the rapids and drowned." He stated.
Shaking his head Germane laughed, "NO! Not Captain Lee Crane. I have read everything I could find on him. He is a hero in everything he does. The man is unbelievable. I could have been like him," the last was said with a hint of remorse.
"That would have been boring Peter." Drake said. "Crane is nothing like you. He would never have the guts to kill a man or woman for money. You would have been bored in his life. Think about it. All the money you made. Do you think Crane has the money to buy his own private island retreat in the south?"
Germane smiled at Drake, "Thanks for the reminder of why I turned bounty hunter. Youíre right I would have been bored with Craneís lifestyle. Working for the government. What a waste of time and resources." He was quiet for a moment and Drake thought he was depressed again. "Just imagine if Crane worked for me. Weíd make an unbeatable team, donít you think?"
"I think youíre unbeatable alone Peter or I would have taken over this group long ago." Drake said and burst into laughter.
"I think you would have died trying!" Germane stated pulling his handgun and pointing it at Drakeís laughing face.
Drakeís laughter was cut off instantly. "Kidding, Peter. Just kidding. Honest, I was kidding. Canít you take a joke?" he asked, trying unsuccessfully to hide the fear he felt at the sight of the gun.
"Oh I can take a joke as well as anybody else. I just didnít find yours very funny." Germane said as he took the gun from the trembling mans head and placed it back in its specially made holster. "Make sure it never happens again." He said softly as he walked away.
Drake breathed a sigh of relief as he realized just how close Germane had come to pulling the trigger and killing him. He sat down and watched as darkness came quickly over the island. The dogs sat quietly beside him as he lit a fire.
ĎCold, so cold.í Crane shivered as he waited for full darkness to come. When he finally felt safe he began to move away from the reeds, keeping his body submerged until he was well clear of Germane and his dogs. It was rough going until he was away from the drag of the rapids. Once in a while Crane lifted his head above the water and glanced back the way heíd come. A fire had been lit and he waited until he couldnít see it anymore before pulling himself to the safety of the shore. The night was quickly erasing the days heat and dampness was beginning to be a factor. ĎHave to find a place to get warm and rest. Find Ski and Riley and get out of this hellhole. That should be a piece of cake.í He laughed quietly.
He made his way across the riverbank and into the undergrowth. ĎLook for a cave or anything else you can use Lee.í He thought, trying to keep his cold, wet body moving away from the river.
He had no idea how long heíd been trudging through the woods, but the moon was up and he could see things pretty well. He had been steadily climbing a small hill and when he reached the top he could see the moon shining on the ocean. Even though he was extremely weary he took the time to enjoy mother natures beautiful work. He began to make his way down to the beach to look for some kind of shelter. Spotting what seemed to be a cave hidden behind a rocky incline he made his way through the rocks. Careful to avoid the sand which would leave telltale footprints easily spotted from above. It was a natural cave, barely big enough for Crane to pull himself into. Once inside he curled into a ball and fell asleep. His body and mind were tuned for any movement or sound from outside. He dreamed of Seaview and the warmth of his own bed.
Nelson smiled as he and Chip left the library in Barbados. Theyíd been given anything they wanted including access to government sales and private sales of islands in and around Barbados. There were two possibilities. One was on the northern end of Barbados and Seaview was already underway to investigate it.
The other was to the south. Chip Morton would accompany him in the Flying Sub and together they would check the other island. If Seaview didnít find anything she would meet them at their destination as soon as possible.
They were underway in FS1 within the hour and Nelson turned to Chip worriedly. "I keep thinking we better find them soon. According to Jarha, Germane was desperate to hunt Lee and that was almost four days ago."
"I agree Admiral. Hopefully the storm they had here delayed the start of the hunt and weíll get there in time."
"And that Seaview is at the right island or we are. To many things seem to be left to chance."
"Weíll just have to take it one step at a time Sir. Weíll probably find him, Ski and Riley lying on a beach getting a tan." Morton said with a laugh. Nelson glanced at his exec and laughed as well.
"You do have a way of releasing tension Chip. I needed that." Nelson said and turned his attention back to the flying sub controls.
Jackson slipped through the gate and made his way by cover of darkness to the main building of the compound. Heíd left Kowalski and Riley on the summit of the hill, telling them to stay there. He knew it wouldnít be long before the two men got tired of waiting and followed him into the compound.
The door to the main building was unlocked, as usual, and he quickly moved inside and closed the door. Heíd worked here for so long that he knew his way around in the dark and he used this to his advantage. He made his way to the office and tried the phone. There was no power and he knew Germane had removed the power pack. ĎSmart move Peter. Better get out of here before Iím discovered.í
Jackson moved quickly out the door and headed for the gate. Too late, he realized when he felt a gun pressed into his back. "The Boss said youíd come back here Jackson. Now drop your gun and turn around slowly."
Jackson recognized the voice as that of a new man, "What do you think youíre
doing Williams. Peter sent me back for more ammo."
"You think Iím stupid Jackson. Drake told me all about you betraying Germane when he brought Mercer in. Iíll just lock you up until the boss gets back." Jackson moved quickly but not quickly enough. Williams hit him on the side of the face with his gun and Jackson lost consciousness.
Williams picked the man up under the arms and slowly pulled him down into the cell previously occupied by Kowalski and Riley. He shoved Jackson inside and locked the door. "That should keep you till Peter gets back."
Slowly and painfully awareness returned to Craneís body and mind. He was stiff and he ached all over. ĎWhere are you when I need you Jamie?í he thought. Dawn was breaking on a new day as Crane staggered to his feet and made his way to the entrance of the cave and gazed out at the ocean.
The beach and surrounding area were deserted. The sand was flat with no trace of footprints. Moving carefully out of the cave he checked the hills and pathways for any sign of movement. The only sounds came from the birds circling overhead.
He moved quickly away from the cave and up the nearest path into the trees. Once in the safety of the trees he glanced around until he figured out the fastest way to get back to the compound. He moved in a northerly direction, relying on instinct alone. ĎWell itís gotten me through rough situations before. Hopefully itíll work for me again. He thought.
Morton banked the flying sub and made the decent smoothly into the ocean. After securing FS1 they dressed in scuba gear and made the short swim to the island. Ten minutes later Nelson and Morton were removing the gear and had hidden it in a cave. It was the same cave Lee Crane had spent the night in and had vacated only an hour before.
"It shouldnít take more than an hour to reach the compound you spotted." Morton told Nelson.
"I agree. Unless the terrain is even more difficult than it looked. The faster we get going the sooner we find Crane, Kowalski and Riley. I just hope theyíre okay." Nelson replied.
"Well Iím ready whenever you are Admiral."
"Then lets get moving." Nelson checked to make sure his gun was secure before beginning the long trek to the compound. "I hope we wonít need them but I feel safer having them."
"Aye Sir. I have a feeling weíll be needing them." Morton said as both men lapsed into silence and began to move north along the rough path.
Kowalski and Riley had taken turns sleeping and standing watch through the night. Both men had known it was useless to try and follow Jackson through the trees. Without a light and only one gun with a limited amount of ammo there was no choice but to wait for daylight. "Letís get down there. Something must have happened to Jackson." Kowalski said anxiously.
"I think he ran into more than he could handle. We should have insisted on going with him." Riley said. He stood and followed Kowalski down the little used trail that would eventually take them to the compound.
"Nothing! I canít believe the dogs are unable to find Crane." Germane ranted at no one in particular. His long strides had made a narrow path in the sand where he been pacing for nearly twenty minutes. "Stupid mutts need their noses fixed. Letís go back to the compound. I want to see if Jackson returned."
"Do you really think Jackson would go back there?" Drake asked trying to stifle a yawn.
"Think man think. Where else could Jackson get to a phone?" Germane asked condescendingly.
Drakeís face brightened as he realized Germane was right, "You think heíll be looking for a way out of here?"
"Wouldnít you be?" Germane asked. "Tell the others to get ready. I want to move out in fifteen minutes." Drake did as he was told.
ĎI canít believe how badly this hunt is turning out. Jackson, how could you betray me? Crane where are you? Youíll all pay. I will find you.í His thoughts were interrupted by Drakes return.
"All set Boss." Drake told him.
"Then letís get back home."
Crane slipped to the ground, his back leaning up against a tree. His injured ribs cried out with every movement. ĎIíll just rest for a few moments. Hang on guys. Iím coming for you. Tired oh so tired.í He closed his eyes and drifted into a fitful sleep.
Kowalski and Riley had been watching the compound from a hillock. They were surrounded by trees and heavy undergrowth, which helped hide them from view. There was no sign of Jackson, and Kowalski began to suspect heíd been caught.
"Ski, how long do we stay here?" Riley asked in a low voice.
"I think we should wait till dark and try to sneak in. Hopefully weíll be able to get to the phones and contact the mainland."
"Sounds good. Maybe weíll be lucky enough to contact Seaview."
"I think thatís stretching it a bit Riley." Ski laughed.
"Why? Donít you think Admiral Nelson and Mr. Morton are looking for us by now?" Riley asked soberly.
Kowalski knew Riley was right and that a search was underway but he also knew it was unlikely anyone would find them this quickly. "Look Riley. I agree the Admiral and Mr. Morton are looking for us but I donít think theyíll find us anytime soon. We donít even know where we are, except that itís an island. Probably somewhere in the south." The look of disappointment on Rileyís face made Kowalski regret his words. " Theyíll find us Riley but until they do we have to assume weíre on our own and find a way to escape Germane and his henchmen."
"I think youíre underestimating the Admiral and Mr. Morton." Riley stated, a smile on his face.
"I hope youíre right Riley. But for now we have to help ourselves and the Skipper."
"You think heís still alive?" Riley asked worriedly.
"Riley, do you even have to ask. The Skipper is out there somewhere. Heíll find his way back here and weíll all get off the island together."
Unknown to either man, Captain Lee Crane was resting only half a mile south of their location.
Chip Morton signalled for Nelson to stop. "Someoneís coming Sir," he whispered anxiously.
Nelson indicated that they should find a place to conceal themselves before they were discovered and both men rushed into the undergrowth. They barely made it before they heard angry voices coming up the path theyíd just deserted.
"I want Jackson found!" Germane said angrily.
"Donít worry Boss, weíll get him." Suddenly the dogs began barking and pulling Drake towards the spot where Nelson and Morton were hiding. "Someoneís in there." Drake yelled over the loudly barking dogs.
"Whoever you are come out or weíll turn the dogs loose. Be warned they havenít been fed and are very hungry attack dogs!" Germane said smiling, hoping heíd found the elusive Captain Crane. "You have one minute to make up your minds. 1,2,3." He began counting down the seconds on his watch.
Nelson and Morton could hear the angry dogs and knew they were to close for them to make an escape. Nelson looked at Morton and saw his thoughts mirrored there. He stood up and shouted over the dogs. "Ok, weíre coming out. Just keep the dogs leashed." He said and slowly made his way out to certain capture.
A tall angry looking man glared at Nelson and Morton. "Well, well. Admiral Harriman Nelson and Commander Chip Morton. How did you get here?" He snared.
"How do you know who we are?" Nelson asked astonished at being recognized.
"Thatís a long story and I donít have time to get into it right now. Just answer my question. How did you get here?"
"We swam," was Nelsonís quiet retort. He received a stinging backhand from Germane in retaliation.
"How did you get here?" he repeated.
Nelson and Morton remained silent and Germane realized he wouldnít get an answer from either of them. He turned to his men and began giving orders. "Burton, you and Weller take charge of the prisoners and make sure they donít try anything."
"Yes Sir." Weller said as he quickly bound Mortonís hands tightly behind his back. Burton did the same to Nelson and they began to push their captives forward.
"Whereís Lee Crane?" Nelson asked and received a blow to his kidneys for his words. He fell to the ground and found himself yanked roughly to his feet. Breathing was a little difficult but he tried to reassure Chip that he was all right.
"Drake, take the dogs down to the beach and see what you can find." Drake left to carry out his orders and Germane turned his attention back to the Seaview men. "Be warned Admiral. Iím in charge here. Therefore Iíll ask the questions and you supply the answers. How did you find this island?" Germane asked curiously.
"It wasnít so hard. We just had to know what to look for." Nelson answered.
"So, I take it Mr. Jarha couldnít keep his mouth shut."
"It was a simple matter of trapping him. Then we just asked the right questions." Nelson told him.
"Well. Iím glad you came along. Youíll help me with Crane."
"Whereís Lee?" Morton asked and Weller shoved him making him stumble. He barely kept his balance.
"The boss wasnít talking to you. So shut up!" Weller laughed.
"Thank You Weller. Now Admiral, as I was saying youíll help me find Crane wonít you?" Germane laughed.
"Find him yourself. I wonít help you Germane." was Nelsonís quiet retort.
"So you do know who I am Admiral. Oh well. I donít need youíre help anyway. As soon as Crane finds out youíre here heíll come rushing to the rescue. I was going to continue my hunt for him this morning but since youíve arrived," he cocked his head and grinned maliciously. "Iíll just use you as bait to convince him to come out of hiding. Oh yes Admiral, this is so perfect. I couldnít have planned it better myself." He laughed as he walked beside the silent man.
Riley was lying on the ground, eyes closed, waiting for his watch, when Kowalskiís sharp intake of breath brought him to his knees. "What is it Ski?" He asked anxiously.
Kowalski signalled for Riley to join him at his vantage point. "Am I seeing things?"
"What are you talking about Ski?" Riley asked turning his head in the direction Kowalski indicated. "Oh my God thatís.....Thatís Admiral Nelson and Mr. Morton. They got them Ski. What are we going to do?"
Kowalski watched as Nelson and Morton were marched into the compound and he lay back on the ground. The sun shone brightly overhead and he knew today would be a scorcher, making it impossible to rest comfortably. "I think the only thing we can do is stick to our original plan. If we charge in there weíll be captured ourselves and what good is that."
Riley knew Kowalski was right and they should wait but the inactivity made him anxious. "All right Ski, we do it your way."
Lee Crane opened his eyes in bewilderment. The sun was shining fiercely and his skin was beginning to tingle. Standing to quickly he felt an attack of vertigo coming on and leaned back against the tree. ĎWhat the devil am I doing here,í he asked his troubled mind. Slowly the fog around his brain began to lift and he remembered he had two friends to rescue. ĎOk, Lee, get moving.í
Lee Crane moved quietly through the trees in the same northerly direction heíd been going before exhaustion had made him rest. He had no idea why his mind insisted that this was the right way, but figured it was better than doing nothing.
He hadnít gone far when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and his body reacted instantly. He stood still and very slowly pulled apart some heavy branches to peer at a small hill. He saw two men; one was laying down in the shade of a huge tree, while the other seemed to be watching for something. There was something strangely familiar about them to Lee, and it wasnít long before he recognized his men.
Lee Crane smiled as he stood and pulled the branches even further apart and pushed his whole body through the opening. Quietly, so as not to alarm either man to his presence he moved as close to them as possible before calling their name. "Well Iím glad to see you two donít need my help," he said.
The two men jumped as one, ready to attack whoever had snuck upon them. Their faces lit with pride as they recognized the familiar form of Lee Crane. His clothes, face and hair were ragged and dirty.
"Skipper." Ski and Riley cried in unison.
"Looks like you two donít need any rescuing." Crane said with a grin.
"No Sir!" Riley said, his face beaming with pride at his captain comment.
"We had some help from one of Germaneís men," Kowalski said sheepishly.
"Awe. That would be Jackson. Where is he?" Crane asked. Stepping forward he grimaced at the pain the movement cost him. He wrapped his arms around his ribs and sat down.
"Sir, are you ok?" Kowalski asked worriedly.
"Think I may have cracked a couple of ribs." He told them. "Where is Jackson? I need to know if heíd like to leave here with us."
Kowalski and Riley glanced at each other as they remembered where Jackson was and who else was being held in the compound. Crane looked at the men and knew something was wrong. "Ok you two. Out with it! Whatís the problem with Jackson?"
"Well Sir, Jackson is a prisoner." Riley told him. "But they also have The Admiral and Commander Morton."
"What! How the hell did Germane get them here?" Crane stood, ignoring his protesting ribs and paced back and forth. "Are you sure it was them?"
"Positive Sir." Kowalski stated.
"How long ago did you see them?" Crane asked, worry and fear for his friends evident in his tone.
"Approximately an hour ago Sir." Riley answered.
Crane thought furiously, "Ok. Hereís what weíre going to do. You two are going to stay here till I get back." Crane watched as Riley and Kowalski started vigorously shaking their heads.
"But Sir. You need help." Kowalski asserted himself.
Crane knew he was probably right but was intent on keeping them out of danger. "All Iím going to do is have a look around the outside of the compound. Iíll come back here when I figure out a way to get the Admiral and Chip out of there." He shook his head at Kowalski. "Look I promise I wonít do anything until I come back for you two."
Kowalski knew his Skipper would do his best to keep his word but was still unsure he wanted him going alone. "Skipper, if itís only reconnaissance let Riley or me do it. Youíre injured."
"I wish I could Ski but neither of you knows what to look for."
"You said you just wanted to look around outside the compound. I can do that. Let me go Sir." Kowalski begged.
Lee Crane shook his head at the two men and finally agreed to let Kowalski go in his place. "All right Ski. But I want you back here as soon as youíre done. All I want you to do is count how many men are present." Crane saw the look of disappointment on Rileyís face and laughed. "You two have no idea what youíre getting into. You could be killed you know?"
"Iíll be careful Skipper."
"You better Ski. I want you back here in an hour at the most. I know we donít have our watches but you can tell when an hour has gone by. Now get going before I change my mind."
"Aye Sir." Kowalski said as he made his way towards the compound.
Nelson had no idea how much time had passed since heíd been shoved roughly into this chair. Chip had been taken into a different building and Nelson could only hope he was ok. Burton, his own private jailor stood to his right. Although Nelson had asked questions the man had steadfastly remained silent.
Peter Germane came in and poured himself a glass of wine. "Well Admiral, how do you like my island?" Nelson refused to say anything and just glared at the man. "Whatís the matter Admiral, donít feel like talking. Well thatís ok. You can listen. Drake just returned from the beach. He found your gear and I remembered you have a flying sub. I believe thatís what you call it." He smiled at the look of disbelief that came over Nelsonís face. "Youíre wondering how I know so much about you. Iíve done my homework on the great Captain Lee Crane. I know his friends, his work, his precious submarine Seaview. I also know that he would give his life for you. Especially for you and thatís just what heís going to do."
"What have you got against Lee Crane?" Nelson asked shocked by what heíd just heard.
"A one time friend asked me that same question. Heís no longer a friend. He pointed out to me that Iím envious of Lee Crane for his strength in not giving into his anger. I gave up my country for money and I donít owe allegiance to anyone. This island is mine. Crane is ruled by his conscience and will never own what I have. I call it his weakness. He will never be half the man I am."
"Youíll never be half the man he is." Nelson said proudly.
Germaneís face contorted in anger as he threw himself across the desk and grabbed Nelson by the throat. Nelson tried to fight but with his hands bound behind his back there was nothing he could do. Germane squeezed his big hands tighter until Burtons voice cut through his anger and he sat back.
Nelson drew in a painful breath and slumped out of the chair to the floor. "Make sure heís ok and put him with the others!" Germane told Burton angrily.
Burton helped a choking Nelson to his feet and walked out of the office.
Kowalski watched the compound from a safe vantage point. It was almost time to return and make his report. He was disappointed that he hadnít seen any sign of the Admiral or Commander Morton. He began to slide his body back through the trees when he caught sight of a familiar figure being helped from one building to the other.
ĎAdmiral.í He was barely able to stop himself from shouting. He watched as Nelson was taken into the building that housed the prisoners. He waited a few more moments and realized heíd better get back before Crane came looking for him.
Crane anxiously glanced down the path looking for Kowalski. The crewman was overdue and he was getting worried.
Riley watched his captain closely. He was getting worried as well and was about to suggest he check on Kowalski when they heard some one coming.
"Skipper, itís me." Kowalski said quietly coming around the hill.
"What happened Ski?" Crane asked knowing something had delayed the seaman.
"I saw Admiral Nelson. Skipper, he didnít look good."
"What was wrong with him Ski?" Craneís face betrayed his worry.
"I couldnít see Sir. He was slumped over and being helped into the building where we were held." Kowalski told him.
Crane once again set himself to ignore the pain in his ribs and looked at his men. "Hereís what weíre going to do. Ski had the right idea. Iíll wait for the cover of darkness and then make my way down to the compound. Iím going in alone."
"No Sir." Kowalski stated, knowing he was disobeying a commanding officer. "I....I mean," he stammered. "You canít do that Sir. Youíll need help."
"I know Ski. But think about this. If Admiral Nelson and Commander Morton are here, whereís Seaview?" Crane said with a grin.
Riley smiled as he realized what Crane wanted them to do. "You want us to find out where Seaview is."
"Exactly. They had to get here by flying sub. I want you two to search the beach for their scuba gear and find the FS1. Then youíre to contact Seaview and tell them where we are."
"Finding the gear may be easy. FS1 will be impossible. Thatís a big area to search." Kowalski stated knowing his Captains mind was already made up.
"Ski, you know the Admiral wouldnít leave FS1 just anywhere. Once you have the gear search for an area the FS1 can be easily hidden. Thatís an order! Now get moving." Crane told them and watched as his men reluctantly left on their assigned mission.
Morton untied Nelsonís hands and gently laid him on one of the beds. "Ch...Chip." his voice was scratchy and he broke into a fit of coughing. Another man stood behind Chip but he didnít recognize him.
"Donít try to talk Sir. You have some major bruises on your neck. I just hope the swelling doesnít get any worse. Weíll use Jamieís simple codes for questions and answers. Nod your head for yes, shake for no. Understand?" Nelson nodded. "Ok. Are you having any problems breathing?" Nelson shook his head in frustration at his inability to speak. Using his hands he indicated the man behind Morton.
"Admiral, this man helped Ski and Riley escape. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do for Lee. The hunt had already begun. His names Jackson."
Nelson tried to convey his thanks to Jackson, but soon became frustrated and rasped out, "tha...thanks." and coughed again.
"Your welcome Admiral. Iím just sorry I couldnít do more. Lee Crane seems like a good man."
"He is." Chip said and put an extra pillow behind the Admirals neck and head. His breathing seemed to ease. Morton looked at Jackson and asked curiously, "How long have you known Germane?"
Jackson shook his head sadly, "Peter and I have been together for almost twenty years. He wasnít always like this."
"What made him change?" Morton asked.
"A lot of things. Peter actually admired Lee Crane for a number of years."
"He doesnít show it." Morton said coldly.
"Do you want to hear this or not?" Morton nodded and Jackson began again. "Peter saw himself in Crane. He did everything for his country. Including working for the ONI, just like your friend."
"He....s...... no....nothing.....li..... like my......my...... fri..end." Nelson rasped out.
"Not now but he was. He just couldnít handle any more assignments from ONI. No glory, little pay. Everything he wanted was denied until he quit and became a bounty hunter. He was very good at it too." Jackson said, sadly thinking of the days when he had worked alongside Peter Germane to bring in a wanted criminal. "He became more and more jealous of Crane because Crane didnít give into greed and this eventually made Peter envious. When Crane became Captain of Seaview, Peter started making plans to bring him here. That was a little over a year ago. I just wish Iíd been able to stop him before it got to this point. Thatís all I can tell you."
"Germane has no right to hunt Lee Crane. Bounty hunters are supposed to hunt criminals. Not descent honest men!" Morton yelled.
"I know that. Why do you think I helped Kowalski and Riley to escape? I canít condone what Peter is doing anymore and Iíll do all I can to help you."
"Letís just hope you get that chance!" An irate Chip Morton said.
Crane waited till Riley and Kowalski were out of sight before he began making his way towards the compound. ĎJust going to take a look,í he thought. He once again ignored the pain in his ribs as he hurried through the trees. ĎGermane Iím on my way.í He smiled as he continued his trek.
Germane paced impatiently in his office. He stopped as the door opened and Drake came in with Jackson. "Leave us Drake." He said and waited for the man to close the door behind him.
"Hello Peter." Jackson said.
"Are you comfortable in your new quarters Jackson?" Germane asked.
"Yeah. Very comfortable. Thanks for asking." Jackson answered sarcastically.
"How could you betray our friendship?"
"Youíre the one who betrayed our friendship when you insisted on pursuing this crazy hunt of yours."
"Itís not crazy. I have to prove that Iím better than he is. Canít you understand? I could have been Lee Crane." Germane cried. "I could have fought for my country but I chose not to. I chose not to. I canít change what Iíve done."
"No you canít. But you can call a halt to what youíre planning now. Come on Peter, give it up."
Germane smiled at his friend. "I canít do that." He hesitated slightly before continuing. "I know the hunt for Crane is over. It was a stupid idea in the first place."
"Then youíre giving up?" Jackson queried.
"The hunt. Yes. Iím giving that up." He grinned at Jackson and began telling him his plans. "Iím going to bring Crane to me."
"How do you plan on doing that?" Jackson asked his curiosity piqued.
"If I read Lee Crane correctly heís probably close by. Maybe even right outside the gate." Germane walked to the door and opened it. "Drake. Come in here."
Drake came into the office and glared at Jackson. "What can I do for you Boss?" He asked.
"Take Jackson and put him back in his cell." Germane said.
"Is that all?" Drake asked.
"Not quite. I want Chip Morton brought out and secured to the pole in the centre of the compound. Iíll be right out."
"Yes Boss," Drake said grinning evilly.
Lee Crane recognized the figure being escorted from the main building across the compound and into the building heíd been held. ĎWish I could help you Jackson.í He thought as Jackson and his guard disappeared into the second building.
It wasnít long before two men exited the same building heíd watched Jackson go into. The guard was the same but the other man was one of his closest friends. He watched as Chip was secured to a pole in the centre of a compound. "What are you up to now Germane?" he asked not realizing heíd spoken aloud.
Peter Germane laughed as he exited the building and walked to the struggling man. "Well now Chip. Letís see what your friend really thinks of you, shall we?"
Chip Morton could tell that Germane was holding something behind his back. He said nothing as his shirt was ripped from his body and he stood bare-chested against the hot afternoon sun.
Germane slowly pulled the cat-o-nine tails from behind his back and was pleased to see Chip Morton cringe instinctively. He walked away from his captive and began yelling. "Captain Crane. I donít know if you can hear me but I think Chip Morton is hoping you can."
Lee couldnít make out exactly what Germane was holding but knew it didnít bode well for Chip. He could hear Germane calling and listened carefully.
"Chip is about to feel the taste of my trusty Cat-o-nine tails. You can save him a lot of pain if you just turn yourself in right now. Be warned when Morton canít take any more Iíll start on Admiral Nelson. As one losses consciousness the other will take his place until theyíre both dead. Iíll give you five minutes to make up your mind." Germane finished and was quiet.
"Donít listen to him Lee!" Morton yelled and Germane backhanded him. A trickle of blood ran from Chipís split lip.
Crane jumped to his feet and hurried towards the gate. "Iím here Germane."
"Aha. There you are Captain. I have another proposition for you." Germane said confident he had Crane where he wanted him.
"I thought you might Germane. What do you propose now?" Crane asked.
"I propose a fight to the death. Hand to hand. You and me. No weapons. Itís the only way to find out which of us is the better man."
"Whatís in it for me?" Crane asked already knowing the answer.
"Iíll give you back your friends. If you win that is. If you lose each of them will take your place. If you refuse the same thing happens so you really donít have much choice. Do you Captain?" Germane laughed at his own good fortune. "As you can see I have all the bargaining chips. All you have to do is come through the gate. Iím waiting."
"Is Jackson included in the deal?"
"Well Captain, if I lose you own all this and can do as you wish. Iíll be a dead man. Right?"
"Thatís right you will." Crane said with a confidence he didnít really feel.
"Donít be so cocky Captain." Germane was angry and he couldnít hide his irritation at Craneís words. "Come through the gate now or all bets are off."
Lee Crane stretched his arm over the gate and pulled up on the latch. He knew he was walking into the lionís den but had no other choice. "All right Germane. Iím here. Release Morton now."
"In a minute Captain. I need youíre assurance that you wonít try anything once Iíve done as you ask. Drake." He called and Lee watched as a man came from the main building. "Tie the Captainís hands behind his back. Make sure theyíre good and tight." He said sadistically.
Drake moved quickly to do his bidding and Crane soon found himself uncomfortably bound. "All done Boss. Where do you want me to put him?"
"Put them back in the cell. I want time to set up for this fight. Iíll see you shortly Captain." He laughed as he walked into the main building.
Drake pulled Morton from the pole and pushed him along with Crane into the secondary building. They were put into the same cell as Nelson and Jackson. The door was locked securely behind them.
Nelson sat up at the sound of the door being slammed shut. He was at first relieved then angered at the sight of a bound Lee Crane standing beside Chip Morton.
Before Morton or Jackson could remove Cranes bounds he rushed to Nelsonís side. "Are you ok Sir?" He asked glancing at the angry red finger marks on Nelsonís neck. "What the hell did Germane do?"
"Iím ok Lee." Nelsonís voice still came out low and raspy but he smiled at his friend. "The swelling and bruising look worse than it actually is."
"Yeah right. Listen to yourself. Your voice sounds terrible."
"Turn around and Iíll untie you." Nelson ordered and Crane did as he was told.
Crane was relieved to fell the strength in Nelsonís hands as he pulled at the ropes. "Thanks Admiral." He said as the ropes fell from his wrists. He began rubbing them until they burned.
"Youíre welcome Lee. Now tell me how he caught you!" Nelson demanded.
"Germane used me as bait." Chip Morton said angry that heíd been used to bring Lee Crane into the spiderís lair.
Lee heard the anger in Mortonís voice and spoke softly. "Chip, weíve been used as bait for each other more times than I care to remember. Itís foolish of you to blame yourself." He carefully stood to offer his friend some comfort but the movement caused him to grimace in pain.
"Whatís wrong Lee?" Nelson asked concerned.
Crane sat on the side of the bed and held his injured ribs. Smiling he explained what happened. "I fell over a hill and I may have cracked some ribs."
"Lee!" Chip said startled at this pronouncement. "Germane is setting up for a hand to hand combat fight. If your ribs are cracked you donít stand a chance of beating him. You canít do it."
"I have no choice Chip."
"Your friend is right Morton. Germane is set on fighting him and only him. I would offer to fight in his place but it wouldnít do any good. A word of advice Captain, hide the injury as long as you can. If Germane realises youíre favouring your side heíll go for the kill." Jackson told Seaviewís captain.
"Iíve had plenty of practice hiding injuries." Crane laughed trying to lighten the tension in the cell.
"Lee. The man is crazy!" Nelson stated. "Youíre going to have to do anything to win and I mean anything. Jackson and I were talking before you two came in and we agree that Germane will never be happy till youíre dead. There is no sane reason for this. Heís just let his jealousy overpower his sense of whatís right or wrong. Lee, kill him if you have too."
Lee Crane knew Harriman Nelson valued life as much as he did. He knew what Nelson had said went against everything they stood for. He also knew this was one fight he had to win no matter what the cost. His friendís lives depended on him.
Germane smiled as he helped with the preparations for the upcoming battle to the death. Everything was perfect. He would have no difficulty defeating Crane and then he would dispose of the others, including Jackson. He sneered at the name, ĎOr maybe Iíll just have to put on another hunt.í
"All ready boss. When do you want to begin?" Drake asked.
"In one hour. I want everyone assembled here in forty-five minutes. Iím going to have a drink in our good Captains honour while I wait. A drink to his death shall we say. Would you care to join me?"
"Sure Boss Iíd consider it a privilege." Drake said following Germane into the main building.
The trip to the beach had taken almost two hours and both men were sweating profusely by the time they got there. Kowalski turned to his friend and said. "Riley Iíll check this area. You take the area closer to the path we used to get here. Signal if you find something. Ok."
"Thatís fine Ski. You think weíll find the gear?" Riley asked using his sleeve to wipe his dripping brow.
"We wonít if we donít get started." Kowalski said seriously.
Kowalski looked everywhere and turned to call Riley. A movement out past the breakers caught his attention and he realized he was looking at a small boat. "Riley." He shouted.
"What is it Ski?" Riley yelled from the cave.
"Come down here. I can see boats approaching." He kept staring as two more boats joined the one heíd first spotted. It wasnít long before Riley joined him and the two men watched the boats approach in silence.
Drake escorted Lee Crane into the courtyard where Germane waited. Lee could see that Admiral Nelson, Chip Morton and Jackson all had their hands tied behind them again and were sitting in the dirt. Burton and Weller stood behind them with guns drawn. Mercer, the victim of the snakebite rested in a chair, his leg elevated on a small bench. He held a canteen in one hand, a cane in the other and seemed eager for the festivities to begin. Two others Crane didnít know stood by the gate talking excitedly.
"Are you ready Captain?" Germane asked sharply.
Lee smiled, giving a false air of confidence. "Are you?" he asked just as sharply.
Germane felt anger boiling to the surface, "Captain, Iím looking forward to bringing you to your knees and hearing you beg for mercy!"
"That isnít going to happen Peter." he emphasized his enemies first name, knowing it would stoke the flames of anger already burning in Germane. He also knew from experience that anger caused unnecessary mistakes. "Have you explained to your men what the stakes are?"
"Not yet. I wanted everyone assembled so I wouldnít have to repeat them." He grinned as he turned his back on Seaviewís captain and began to speak confidently. "As you all know there is to be a fight between myself and the good Captain." Cheers and laughter erupted from his men and his confidence thrived on it.
"Ok, thatís enough. Calm down and listen." When order had returned he continued his well-rehearsed speech. "The rules of this fight are simple. Death to the loser, leaving the winner with everything."
"What?" Drake shouted angrily.
"You heard me Drake. If Crane does by some slim chance, and I specify slim, win this fight. He owns the island and everything on it. You are to let him and his friends go free."
"But. But Boss." Weller whined.
"No buts. Why are we even talking about this? Do you really think Iím going to lose?" He watched as a smile came over the faces of his men and knew he had them convinced.
"Youíll lose!" Crane whispered and saw a slight trace of fear come over his enemyís overconfident face. No one else had heard the words and he was pleased with the effects they had on Germane.
"Really Captain, Iíd say youíll live to regret those words but as we both know you wonít." Germane stated. Only Crane was close enough to see the slight tremor caused by his words. He grinned knowingly.
Kowalski and Riley watched as familiar forms began to take shape in the little boats. "Ski, thatís Chief Sharkey in the lead boat." The two excited men started screaming and hollering trying to get the Chief or anyone else to see them.
"Chief. Over here." They shouted in unison and smiled as Sharkey and other Seaview crewmembers waved back at them.
As the boats neared shore Kowalski and Riley plunged into the water to help pull them onto the sandy beach. Chief Francis Sharkey smiled at the two younger men. "What kind of trouble have you two knuckleheads gotten yourselves into now?" He asked, happy to see at least two of Seaviewís missing crew alive and well. He looked around for the others and frowned when he didnít see them. "Have you seen Admiral Nelson or Mr. Morton?" he asked.
Kowalski and Riley looked at each other. Kowalski answered. "Chief, Germane has them at his compound. Theyíre prisoners."
"And the Skipper?" Sharkey asked worriedly.
"The Skipper sent us here to find the Flying Sub. He wanted us to find the Admirals scuba gear and then look for FS1."
"The Skipperís a pretty smart man. If you found the FS1 you could contact Seaview." Sharkeyís smile was a warm one as he watched the last boat being secured. "Ok you knuckleheads we have a rescue to perform. How far away is this compound Ski?"
" Approximately two or three miles north over some very rough terrain. It took us close to two hours to make it to the beach." Kowalski answered, not looking forward to the trip back. "There is a path but as I said itís a hard trek."
"Is that the path?" Sharkey asked indicating a narrow trail leading away from the beach.
"Thatís it Chief." Riley stated.
"Does it go all the way to the compound?" Riley nodded affirmative. "So if we follow it weíll eventually find Admiral Nelson, Commander Morton and Captain Crane."
"Sure thing Chief." Kowalski told him.
"Since we can find the compound by following the path, why donít you two stay here and rest."
"Is that an order Chief?" Kowalski asked crestfallen.
"No Ski. It was just a suggestion." Sharkey told him and smiled at the look of relief on the two crewmenís faces.
"If itís not an order Chief, then weíd like to tag along." Kowalski said mirroring Rileyís grin.
"I thought so." Sharkey said. He pulled a two-way radio from his pocket and contacted Seaview. " Rescue One to Seaview. Come in Seaview. Over."
"Rescue One we read you loud and clear. Have you found anything? Over."
Sharkey heard the anxious voice and answered immediately, "Mr. OíBrien, we found Kowalski and Riley. We have a fix on the others and are going to attempt a rescue. Will contact you as soon as we reach our destination. Over."
"Roger that Rescue One. Over and out."
Sharkey put the radio away and smiled at his waiting team, "Letís move out." He beamed with pride as the eight men he had chosen for this mission moved before heíd even finished giving the order. Two armed Seaview security personal were left in charge of the boats.
"I could say the same thing Peter." Crane said sarcastically, again using the mans given name. He could see his words had the desired effect as Germaneís face reddened.
Peter Germane was unable to hold himself back and lunged at Seaviewís Captain. Crane sidestepped the attack easily and watched as Germane stumbled but managed to keep from falling. He swung around and came at Crane again. Lee stood his ground this time and brought his closed fist up into his enemyís midsection.
Germane, realizing the blow was coming, managed to turn his body slightly taking most of the blow on his right hip. As he finished the turn he kicked at Crane catching him on the right ankle.
Lee fell to the ground but quickly righted himself. His ribs were beginning to sing a painful tune but he was able to hide the fact from Germane.
Germane circled the Captain, a smile on his face.
Crane began circling as well and each man seemed to be sizing the other up. He also knew he just had to be patient and wait for his nemesis to make mistakes. He also knew the man would never give up and that this would be a long and painful fight for both of them.
Germane closed in and swung his right fist at Leeís face. Crane pulled back quickly but still felt the slight movement of air as the big manís fist barely missed connecting with his left cheek and nose. He retaliated and connected with a glancing blow to the side of Germaneís head. Even though it didnít connect fully it rocked him back on his heels.
Germane became angry and ran at Crane his fists upraised. Lee couldnít move out of the way fast enough and the two men fell heavily to the ground. Germane was the first to get to his feet and his men cheered him on. Seaviewís Captain moved a little slower, wincing and holding his injured ribs as he tried without much success to keep the pain at bay.
Germane saw the wince and stood erect, an evil grin coming over his face. "Whatís the matter Captain? Are you injured?" he asked pointing to the Captainís right side.
"Iím fine Peter. Thanks for your concern." Once again he used his ONI training and pushed the pain back to a tolerable level. He could see Nelson and Morton looking on with concern but couldnít take the time to reassure them that he was ok.
Germane went into attack mode again and he aimed a vicious kick to Craneís midsection. Lee moved quickly to avoid the blow and sideswiped Germaneís feet out from under him.
The big man fell heavily and came to his feet, an angry gleam in his eyes. "Oh youíll pay for that Captain." Before Crane realized what his intentions were, Germane came for him again and used his large arms to quickly encircle his waist. He squeezed Crane in a vice like grip until he was unable to draw a breath.
Lee fought with all his dwindling strength and managed to get his arms above his head. He brought them down as hard as he could on the other manís neck. Over and over he repeated the manoeuvre until his arms ached. He was nearing the breaking point when he changed tactics and brought his knee up into Germaneís groin. Crane was desperate and what strength he had left went into the blow. It connected fully and he was released by Germane and both men fell heavily to the ground.
Crane gulped in as much air as he could. He waited for the black spots in front of his eyes to begin to dissipate and slowly got to his knees.
Germane was still on the ground but the colour was returning to his cheeks and he came to his knees as well.
Both combatants ignored what was happening around them and only glared at each other. Cold eyes met cold eyes and they knew it was far from over.
Kowalski was lead man as they made their way back towards the compound. The heat from the sun was almost unbearable but no one complained. They knew they were on a rescue mission and each man carried a canteen of water so thirst was not a concern.
"Ski, where did you say the Skipper was?" Sharkey asked.
"Last time I saw him he was resting on a hill, a short distance from the compound. He said he was going to wait for dark before trying anything. Riley and I figured weíd be back long before he made his move."
"Letís hope youíre right and he hasnít done anything rash." Sharkey said.
"When have you ever known the Skipper to do anything rash?" Kowalski asked and the two men laughed softly. Each knew that Crane would put his life on the line at the flick of a switch for Seaview and her crew. Heíd proven that many times in the past.
Lee Crane stood and squared off against Peter Germane. Both men were breathing easier and they grinned at each other.
"Youíre pretty good Captain." Germane said unable to keep the admiration out of his voice. He turned away from the Seaviewís captain and walked over to Mercer. Picking up his canteen he drank deeply and greedily. He dropped the canteen and turned his attention back to his nemesis.
"Thatís unfair Peter. Doesnít Crane get some water?" Jackson called from the sidelines.
"Shut up and mind your own business Jackson." Drake said sharply.
Germane signalled for Crane to come over and threw the canteen at him. Lee drank a small amount of the contents but refused more. "Thanks." He said as he threw the canteen back and walked to the centre of the compound to wait. Heíd learned from experience that drinking too much, to fast could bring on severe stomach spasms.
ĎPatience, Lee, and donít try anything stupid,í he thought as he watched Germane guzzle more of the water before coming back onto the battleground.
Nelson smiled as his friend glanced in his direction. ĎDo what you must in order to win Lee,í he thought. The Admiral looked to the right and saw the worry and frustration on Chip Mortonís face. "Heíll beat him Chip. He has to."
"I hope so Sir. I just wish I could do something to help instead of just sitting here."
"I do too Chip but for now there doesnít seem to be anything we can do." Chip could see the Admiral trying to loosen his bounds. He hid a smile as he realized they both had the same idea.
"Time to get serious Captain."
"Iím always serious when lives are at stake Germane." Crane answered and they circled each other once again.
Lee saw an opening and went for it. He swung his closed fist and connected with Germaneís jaw.
Germane punched to the Captainís midsection and was rewarded with a grunt of pain as Lee felt his injured ribs give a little more. Ignoring the renewed agony in his ribs he used one arm for protection and the other as a weapon. Blow for blow the two men struck each other with a force that might have killed if theyíd connected fully. Glancing blows brought blood from minor cuts on the faces of both men and they were quickly becoming exhausted. They couldnít keep up this pace much longer and both men struggled to bring the other down.
"Are you sure this is where you left The Skipper?" Sharkey asked.
"I know it is." Kowalski told the worried CPO.
"Chief, listen." Riley said sharply.
"What is it Riley?" Sharkey asked impatiently.
"Just listen. Something strange is happening at the compound Sir."
Sharkey listened intently and realized Riley was right. "All right hereís what weíre going to do. We have to do a reconnaissance of the area and see if we can find the Skipper. If we donít find him weíll need to know how many men are in the compound. Do either of you have any idea?" he asked Kowalski and Riley.
"I know there are at least five including Germane. But I donít think we saw them all." Kowalski told him, looking at Riley for confirmation.
"Thatís how many I remember seeing as well Chief. But it was dark when we left and Kowalskiís right there could have been more. Thereís something else you should know. Most of them carry M16 semi automatic pistols."
"Germane doesnít fool around does he? Well, weíll just have to hope that your headcount is accurate or Iíll have to send for reinforcements. Letís move out." Sharkey ordered leading them towards the sounds of combat emanating from the compound.
Nelson looked on in fear and anger. Fear for Lee Crane and anger at himself for not being able to help his friend and Captain. The vicious fight seemed to be going on forever and neither man was willing to admit defeat.
Lee saw his opportunity and brought his fist up with all his strength. The full force of the blow connected with his opponentís chin and the man dropped to the ground. Seeing his advantage Crane grabbed Germane around the neck and began to Squeeze. Blood rage ran in his veins. He continued squeezing his hands tighter until his mind focused on the fact that Germane was no longer fighting him. He released his hands and sat back. Only the slight rise and fall of the unconscious manís chest betrayed the fact that he was still alive.
"All right Drake," he managed to grind out between painful breaths. "Release Admiral Nelson and the others."
"No way Crane. I wonít do it."
Burton and Weller looked at each other. Burton spoke first. "He won Drake. You know what the boss said. Theyíre free to go."
Drake watched Peter Germane and saw the signal heíd been waiting for. Quickly he threw a small knife towards the prone figure and grinned as he saw him grab the handle and come to his feet.
"Look out Lee!" Morton yelled as he saw Germane jump to his feet knife in hand.
ONI training and instinct had Seaviewís Captain moving before the words even cleared Mortonís lips and he turned to face Germane. "So much for giving your word." Crane told him raising an eyebrow.
"You might say I was stacking the deck on my favour. Just in case you did get the upper hand." Germane laughed harshly.
"He won Peter." Jackson called. "Let him go."
"Oh, but he didnít complete the bargain. I knew he wouldnít be able to kill me in cold blood and I just had to wait for my chance." Turning his attention fully on Crane he spoke almost sadly. "Unlike you Captain, I can kill in cold blood." He stated and lashed out with the knife.
Chief Sharkey couldnít believe what his eyes and ears were telling him. Seaviewís Captain was involved in hand to hand combat with a man nearly twice his weight. He could see Admiral Nelson and Mr. Morton alongside another man. All three men seemed to be prisoners. He had to do something fast.
Lee Crane called on his last reserves of strength and managed to stay away from the viciously swinging knife.
Germane laughed as he swung the blade making his intended victim move backwards towards the main building.
Crane leaped from side to side as each swipe of the knife came closer to hitting him. He knew he must be getting close to the building and he swung his body around and away from Germane.
Germane was angry as he saw heíd been outmanoeuvred again. He stumbled tiredly towards Crane holding the knife in front of his body, realizing too late that the Captain had out thought him again
Crane stopped in mid stride, turned and grabbed Germaneís knife hand. With one quick, fluid motion he threw Germane to the ground. He never knew how the knife ended up in his hand but he reacted instinctively. He straddled Germane and held the knifepoint to his throat. "Tell Drake to free the prisoners!" He grated out between clenched teeth. He could see the fear in the manís eyes when he realized heíd been beaten at his own game.
Jackson had finally managed to free himself and grabbed Drakeís gun before he could get off a shot. He hit Drake with on the right cheek and the man slumped to the ground, unconscious. "Nobody move." He yelled while freeing Morton. "Morton, tell Crane we have control." He said moving quickly to help Nelson.
"Lee, itís ok. Weíre free." Morton said running to help his friend.
Chief Sharkey led the Seaview contingent through the gate just in time to see Commander Morton help Captain Crane to his feet. "Sir is everything ok?" He asked the exec.
"Chief what took you so long." He asked smiling at the hurt look that came over the Chiefs face. "Iím kidding Chief. Put two men on Germane and send the rest over to help Jackson with the others. Heís on our side. Who has the medical Kit?" He asked as Lee Crane began to slide slowly to the ground.
Nelson came up beside them and studied his friends still form. "Give me some water." He said sharply to no one in particular and a canteen found itís way into his hand. He lifted the canteen to Craneís lips and eased a few drops of the liquid into his mouth. Lee coughed and opened his eyes. "Welcome back Captain." He told him, fighting hard to keep his pent up emotions at bay. He held Crane down and tore off a piece of his shirt. Soaking it with water he used it to wipe the mixture of blood and dirt from his friends face. "Jamieís not going to like this Lee. He may never let you out of sickbay again." Nelson laughed as some of the tension left his body.
Morton watched the interchange between his two closest friends and smiled. He watched as Kowalski, whoíd been trained in some medical procedures, knelt beside his superior officer. "Skipper, thereís not much I can do till we get you back to Seaview. Will you be ok?" he asked.
"Iíll make it Ski. Anything to get out of here. Help me to my feet for a minute will you Admiral?"
"Now Lee, do you really think thatís wise?" Nelson asked.
"No wiser than you talking with your injured throat." Crane said smiling weakly. "I just want to get out of the sun. Feel like a baked potato right now."
Nelson, Morton and Kowalski laughed as they helped him to his feet. Crane leaned heavily on their arms.
Lee watched as Germane was pulled to his feet. He seemed to be unconscious but Crane knew his men were being too nonchalant in their work. "Watch him." he said a moment before Peter Germane reached out and tore one of their guns from itís holder.
Germane had timed it perfectly and was shocked when a bullet ripped into his upper body before he could even point the gun at his nemesis. The gun fell from his hand and he slowly fell to the ground. "You win Crane." They were the last words he ever uttered.
Jackson put his gun away and walked over to Germaneís prone body. "Iím sorry Peter. I wish things could have been different. Iíll try and remember you the way you were before hatred and jealousy took over your life." He shook his head and walked over to the small group around Crane.
Crane knew how much Jackson was hurting and he removed his arm from around Morton and held it out to the man who had just saved his life by taking his long time friends. "Iím sorry Jackson," he said honestly.
"He really was a good man at one time Captain. I think if you had known him then you two could have been friends. But weíll never know now." One tear fell slowly down his cheek.
"No we wonít Jackson. Do you remember his terms?" Crane asked.
"Yeah. Everything on this island is now yours."
"I have no use for these things Jackson. I love my life as a submariner and have no wish to give it up."
"What are you saying Captain?" Jackson asked.
"I donít want the island or anything else that belonged to Peter Germane. Itís yours as long as you use it for good." Crane said weakly.
Jackson smiled as he realized he was being given back his home. "Iíd like that Captain Crane. Thank you."
"You are not to blame for what Peter Germane did to me or my friends. I believe you can do something good with this place. Turn it into something we could both be proud of. I....I d...don..t." Crane suddenly felt many hands reach out for him and he smiled as he lost consciousness.
The first thing Crane felt was warmth. The second came as his senses returned completely. Pain. Throbbing almost unbearably intense pain over every inch of his body and he let out a low moan.
"Can you hear me Lee." The voice was low but Crane recognized it as Nelsonís
"Yes Sir." He mumbled between clenched teeth.
"Take it easy Lee, Jamieís on his way. He should be here any time now."
Crane opened swollen eyes and looked at his friend, "How long have I been out?" he asked.
"Youíve been out of it for nearly six hours. With the injuries you suffered I was sure youíd be out even longer. How do you feel?"
"Probably as bad as I look. Germane?"
"Germane is dead. Jacksonís shot killed him almost instantly." Nelson said quietly. He turned to see Chip Morton come through the door and signalled for him to come over.
Morton grinned happy to see his friend awake. "How are you feeling Lee?" he asked
"Lousy. But donít tell Jamie I said that."
"Too late Skipper. I heard every word you said." Crane groaned as Dr. Will Jamison, Jamie to Seaviewís command crew, walked to the bed. Seaviewís captain had the reputation of being one of Jamieís worst patients. He took one look at Lee Craneís battered face and began issuing orders immediately. "Admiral, Commander, I know youíre worried but I want you out of here. Looks like I have a lot of work to do." Nelson and Morton stood to give Jamie some room and headed for the door. "Send Kowalski in here." he told them.
"Now Skipper letís take a look at the damage." He said seriously. He pulled the blanket off Craneís body and swore sharply. "Damn fool. How do you get yourself into these situations."
Kowalski came hurrying through the door, "What do you want me to do Doc?" he asked.
"Bring me some clean water and the extra bag I packed." Jamie told him.
Kowalski proceeded to carry out his instructions, while Jamie continued his physical examination of Crane. "Skipper," he said when he was done. "Iím going to start an IV and arrange for transportation back to Seaview as soon as youíre stable enough for travel. From the looks of those cuts and bruises it probably wonít be for a few days. How bad is the pain Skipper, and remember I canít help you unless you tell the truth!" he stated flatly.
"Bad Jamie. Really bad." Crane said.
Will Jamison knew how much it took for Lee to admit he was hurting. His breathing was beginning to sound laboured and Jamie removed a mobile oxygen pack from his kit. He gently placed the mask over Craneís face and was relieved, as he seemed better able to breath. "Ski, prepare some kind of pole for me to hang the IV line from."
Kowalski hurried to do as he was told. He soon had an Iv pole fashioned from a broom handle and an old hanger. "Howís this Doc?" he asked as he placed it next to the bed.
"Perfect Ski. Just what the doctor ordered." He turned his attention back to Crane. "Now Skipper Iím going to give you a shot. Itíll help with the pain and probably make you sleep."
Lee felt the sharp prick of a needle and soon closed his eyes. Jamie thought he had drifted off to sleep but was surprised when he heard him mumble something about the Admiral. He finished hooking up the Iv line and sent Kowalski for Nelson and Morton.
"How is he?" Morton asked almost immediately. Nelson came in behind him.
"That was fast. Waiting outside the door as usual I take it." Morton and Nelson smiled. "The Skipperís injuries are extensive and weíll be staying here until his condition stabilizes."
"Will he be all right?" Morton asked impatiently.
"I think so. Look Chip as far as I can tell the Skipper is suffering from shock and accumulative minor injuries. Shock can be very dangerous and Iíll be monitoring him very closely. Thatís why I donít want him moved. He does have three broken ribs but as long as we keep him immobilized theyíll heal without any problem. Thatís another reason I want to remain where we are." Jamie looked closely at Nelson. "Is there a problem Admiral?" he asked.
Nelson shook his head and tried to move out of the room. "Stop right there!" Jamie ordered and Chip Morton was unable to suppress his laughter. A quick glaring look from Nelson made him try harder and he was able to get himself under control.
"Sit down Admiral." Jamie said in a tone that meant he didnít want to argue. "What and where?" he said simply.
"Here." Nelson managed to say in a low voice. He pulled the sweater Jackson had given him away from his neck and showed Jamie the angry finger shaped bruises there.
"Germane tried to strangle him Jamie." Morton explained.
Jamie shook his head and began to probe Nelsonís neck. A few minutes later he stood back and smiled. "Well Sir, I donít think thereíll be any permanent scars. There seems to be some minor swelling but that can be treated with ice packs. Are you in any pain?"
"Only when I speak Jamie." Nelson rasped out.
"Oh Admiral Iíve always wanted to say this to a patient. If talking hurts then shut up and be quiet."
Chip Morton couldnít suppress his laughter any longer. It was unstoppable and after all the tension theyíd gone through, well earned. Very soon Jamison and Nelson joined in the much-needed laughter.
Several days later Lee Crane was sitting up in bed arguing with his doctor. "Come on Jamie. Why canít I walk?"
"Because Iím in charge and youíre in no shape to make the trip. Besides Captain have you forgotten that youíre hooked up to an IV, not to mention an oxygen pack."
Crane looked at his arm sheepishly and smiled at Jamie. "You could always take it out." He said knowing he had no chance of winning this war.
"No Lee," Jamie said seriously. "This trip will be painful enough for you. Walking is out of the question. I wouldnít even be making the trip at all except Iím running out of supplies."
Lee Crane knew better than to argue his point any further. Jamie had Nelson and Morton on his side as well. "All right Jamie. You win this time. But wait till we get back to Seaview."
"Iím glad you see it my way." Jamie said. "Now letís see about getting you ready for the trip."
"Jamie, can you ask Jackson to come in here for a few minutes?"
"As soon as Iím done." Jamie said and began checking the IV sites and Craneís broken ribs. "Iím afraid Iíll have to tape the ribs again Lee. Iíll let you talk with Jackson first while I find Kowalski."
"Thanks Jamie." Crane said closing his eyes.
ĎHow does Lee Crane always manage to get himself into these situations?í Jamison wondered as he went in search of Jackson.
Lee opened his eyes and watched Jamie leave. As usual he hadnít told Jamie how much pain he was actually in and he groaned as he tried to get out of bed. Jackson chose that moment to come inside. "I donít think Dr. Jamison wants you getting out of bed right now Crane."
"I donít think I could do it if I wanted." Crane laughed weakly.
"Doc said you wanted to see me. Is there something I can do for you?"
"I wondered what you planned to do with this place." Lee stated.
"Well Crane, you told me it was mine. Have you changed your mind?" Jackson asked suspiciously.
"Not at all Jackson. I was just hoping it would be turned into something good." Crane said quietly.
Jackson admired the man lying in the bed and knew he would approve of his plans for the island. Somehow it also seemed fitting that he should be the first to learn what would be done to the place. "Iíd like to turn the island into a camp for needy kids. I donít mean needy as in canít afford to come here. I mean kids who are in need of friends and family. A place where they can be taught the rigors of life in the wilderness. A place where they can learn to take responsibility for what they do. Strictly under adult supervision of course."
"You know something Jackson. I think thatís a great idea." Lee Crane smiled at his new friend and they shook hands.
Jackson stopped at the door, "I have a favour to ask Crane."
"What is it Jackson?"
"When I have this place set up and ready to go." he paused for a moment, smiling at the man in the bed. "Will you and your friends come down here and help me with the first group of kids."
Crane smiled at the thought of a real camping trip with kids and the crew of Seaview. "Youíve got a deal Jackson as long as I can convince the Admiral," he said.
"Thanks Crane have a safe trip back." His hand froze on the door and Crane barely heard the words he said. "Iím glad you beat Peter. Youíre a better man than he ever was." Germane closed the door leaving Crane alone with his thoughts.
The crew of Seaview let out a whoop of joy as the missing crewmen were brought on board. Nelsonís voice was almost normal again and he walked beside a very shaky Captain Crane.
Lee had agreed to stay quietly in sickbay for two days if Jamie let him walk through the corridors of Seaview. He smiled at his men and thought he did a good job of hiding his pain. With Nelson standing at his side, Morton and Jamie at his back he made it to sickbay. Frank helped him into bed and Jamie reattached his IV.
Jamie looked at the crowd outside sickbay and shook his head. "The Captain will take complaints tomorrow. Until then sickbay is off limits except for medical emergencies. That includes you two," He said ushering Nelson and Morton out the door. He turned his attention back to his patient and wasnít surprised to find him sleeping. "Sleep is exactly what you need my friend," he said aloud.
Admiral Harriman Nelson watched as Lee Crane came carefully down the spiral stairs. "I see Jamie finally let you out." He said indicating a chair for the Captain to sit in. He poured a fresh cup of coffee and passed it to his friend. "Or did you escape while his back was turned?" Nelson asked, half serious.
"He told me he wanted to keep his sanity. Any idea what he meant by that?" Crane laughed and sipped his coffee.
Chip Morton came over and poured himself a coffee. He sat across from Crane and smiled warmly. "Welcome home Lee." he said.
"Thanks Chip. Itís good to be home," he said.
The three friends looked through the specially crafted windows of the mighty Sub as she glided through the water towards NIMR and her next mission.