Author’s note …. This story was prompted by a FB comment from Diane and is based upon the character of ‘Corpsman Mallory’ from the episode ‘The Death Clock’ season four.
“We will be rendezvousing with Seaview very shortly, Doctor.” Lee Crane half turned in his seat to address the pretty Asian lady seated next to him in the FS1.
“That was quick,” Dr. Su Lin, commented brightly, “this little craft is very impressive.”
In the seat behind them Will Jamieson laughed, “You don’t need to tell him that, it’s one of the Skipper’s favourite toys.”
Lee smiled, “You’ll have to ignore our Doctor, he’s just jealous.”
Lee saw the amusement on Doctor Su Lin’s face and grinned.
Seema Su Lin was the epitome of Asian loveliness. Her petite figure and jet black, waist length straight hair was the perfect setting for almond dark eyes and flawless beauty. She was relatively young for her esteemed qualifications in the field of Temporal Mechanics but she was generally acknowledged to be one of the foremost experts in her field.
Harriman Nelson had enlisted her services to investigate the mysterious events
taking place in the
Suddenly the little craft rocked in an unexpected swell, then as Lee tried to correct it, the swell increased and the turbulent sea buffeted them violently.
“Jamie, radio Seaview and alert them, I can’t seem to hold her!” Lee yelled above the roar of the engines as they were pushed to the limit of their power.
“Look!” Su Lin shouted. Ahead of them the water was swirling, the lights of the flying sub revealing a patch of blackness that swallowed up the illumination. The sea formed a gaping vortex that spun and twisted like an open mouthed snake.
Lee struggled with the controls, “We’re being dragged towards it … I can’t … stop her.”.
“Seaview, this is the Flying Sub, come in, please.” Will Jamieson’s deliberately calm voice echoed round the little craft as the internal lights went out and they hurtled full speed into the bubbling, whirling black hole. As Lee fought to control the craft, something came towards them from the mouth of the irregularity. As it came closer he was startled to see a small yellow mirror image of FS1 shoot past, missing them by no more than six feet and then it was gone and all became calm again.
Lee flicked switches and the lights came back on. “Is everyone okay?” he demanded and turned to look at them.
“Yes… a bit shaken but I’m alright,” Seema answered.
“I’m fine,” Jamieson confirmed, “but I can’t raise Seaview. I’ll try again.”
Lee sighed as his world came back to normal then glanced at Su Lin, “That, I suspect, is one of the anomalies that Admiral wants you to investigate.”
“Indeed, but next time, not from the inside I hope.” Her humorous reply reassured Lee that she had coped well with the unexpected danger.
“FS1, this is Seaview, we read you.”
Lee flicked on his neck microphone, “We’re coming in. We’ve just experienced some sort of disturbance, did you pick up anything on the sonar, is Seaview alright?”
“Morton here, Captain. We monitored it but it didn’t cause any damage here, Seaview’s intact.”
Morton watched as the wheel on the flying sub hatched spun and Lee emerged, followed by Dr. Su Lin and then Will Jamieson.
“Chip, this is Dr. Su Lin.” Lee turned and smiled at the visitor. “Dr. Su Lin, allow me to introduce my executive officer, Lt. Commander Chip Morton.”
Chip frowned slightly as he assessed the woman and then as he shook hands with attractive Doctor, he said ironically. “This is a pleasant surprise, we weren’t expecting visitors.”
“What?” Surprised, Lee stared at his friend. How could Chip have forgotten the details of yesterday’s briefing?
Chip Morton interrupted his thoughts as he turned to him and said, “Is the Flying Sub okay? Any repairs needed?”
Lee shook his head and replied distractedly as he tried to assess what it was that felt different to him. “No, we were lucky and came through that thing better than we could hope. It was a rough ride for a while though!”
Morton nodded. “So what do you want us to do now?” he demanded shortly, his gaze still lingering thoughtfully on their visitor.
Something in his XO’s tone alerted Lee’s instincts even more to the palpable unfriendliness he felt in the atmosphere.
Looking around slowly at the rest of the men in the control room, he saw they wore the traditional seaman’s attire of blue shirts and pants and not the red or blue jumpsuits that the Admiral had specifically introduced to define them from regular Navy personnel. More disturbing was the way crew were slouched in their seats, some were murmuring together as their attention was obviously concentrated on the female visitor. Chip was in his usual smart uniform but with no tie…he always wore a tie on duty and his attitude towards Lee was unsociable to say the least.
A softly spoken enquiry disturbed Lee’s inspection as Will Jamieson asked. “Shall I take Dr. Su Lin to her cabin, Captain?”
Lee met his eyes and saw concern. Obviously, Will was also aware of something and was making a silent appeal to him.
“Yes, that would be an excellent idea, Doctor.” Lee turned to the Exec and asked as casually as he could manage. “What accommodation is available, Chip?”
Morton raised one cynical eyebrow as he asked, “Shall I arrange separate accommodation for her?”
Lee looked at the exec with surprise as he noted the defiant tone and contemptuous gaze. “Of course and please arrange for Dr. Su Lin’s bags to be taken there for her. I’m sure she would like to freshen up, especially after what we just went through.”
“Oh, no Captain, I would rather….” Seema tried to argue.
Lee thought she appeared nervous and uneasy as he interrupted her. “Please Doctor, it would be good idea for you to rest while I apprise the Admiral of the latest developments.” Lee looked at Chip. “Mr. Morton, please arrange an escort for Dr. Su Lin.”
Morton looked cynically at his captain and turned to where Chief Sharkey was talking to one of the crewmen further along the Observation Nose. “Chief, take Dr. Su Lin and find her a cabin will you?”
Sharkey stubbed out his cigarette on the deck. “Sure. You want to follow me.” He turned to leave and Seema hesitated but after another reassuring glance from Lee, she hurried after him.
Will Jamieson, who had been glancing round the Control Room, commented quietly, “I think I’ll just go with them and see she’s delivered safely.”
Lee watched the departing figures for a moment. Sharkey had been slack in his response, almost rude in fact and although he was wearing his regular uniform, it was creased and dishevelled and he appeared unshaven, even more amazingly, what was he doing smoking on duty?
Lee motioned him to one side out of earshot of the bow lookouts. “What’s going on? What’s happened to you and
the crew while I was gone? Why didn’t
you warn us of that … that vortex or whatever it was? What’s the meaning of saying Dr. Su Lin
wasn’t expected? You were definitely informed of her arrival,
I was there when the Admiral told you about her joining us to investigate the
anomalies. That’s why I brought her back with me when I collected Dr. Jamieson
“What are you talking about? You and Jamieson went out specifically to take readings from the latest test. As for visitors, Nelson said nothing to me. Don’t try and pretend that the ‘old man’ knows you’ve brought your latest conquest aboard, however you want to label her. He’s not going to buy into another of your whims, not this time.”
Lee looked at Chip with concern then mentally pulled himself together, something was very wrong here and Lee was unable to discern what it was exactly. Everything looked the same but the feel of his boat was all wrong!
“I suggest you keep any further comments like that to yourself! Right now I recommend you smarten yourself up and get this crew sorted out, Mr. Morton. I expect to see them alert and ready for duty, is that clear? Meanwhile I’m going to see the Admiral. After that, you and I will discuss what went on in my absence.” Lee ordered forcefully.
He had to get to Nelson and find out what was off beam here.
“You think so, Crane. Why this sudden insistence for protocol? Trying to impress the lady? Why bother, she’s obviously infatuated already! Or maybe you’re just throwing your weight around because you’re frightened of losing your command; you know very well I can do the job better, the men have more respect for me, that why you feel the need to try and put down me whenever you can? You couldn’t be more patronizing sometimes if you tried.”
Lee felt his fists clenching in anger. His innate sense of self-control and intuition made him restrain from arguing with his exec, as he merely repeated grimly, “You’ve had your orders, Mr. Morton carry them out. I’m going to see the Admiral,
He started to walk towards the spiral staircase then paused as Chip said sarcastically, “Aye, aye, sir, but I don’t think you’ll find the Admiral’s much use right now, he’s resting, he had rather a heavy lunch.”
Lee glanced at Morton, and saw scorn reflected back at him. Not willing to hear further derision he ran up the stairs.
Admiral Harriman Nelson rushed down the spiral staircase as Seaview took another roll to starboard, only just managing to hold on to the handrail and stay upright as he reached the deck. He could hear orders being barked out by Chip Morton and made his way unsteadily towards him as the boat bucked like a bronco beneath his feet.
“What’s the situation Mr. Morton?”
Chip turned quickly and was almost thrown against the Admiral as the turmoil continued. He righted himself and grabbed hold of the rail surrounding the periscope platform. “Another anomaly just opened up, sir. We were too close and it’s shaking us up pretty bad.” As if to give credence to his statement Seaview went into another roll tossing them from one side of the deck to the other.
When they had all managed to steady themselves again, Harry demanded, “What about the Flying Sub? Did it manage to dock?”
“No sir. They’re still out there in this.” Morton answered grimly. Turning to the helmsman he ordered. “All back full. Get us away from that thing and come to a full stop!”
“Mr. Morton, sir?” Kowalski called from sonar. “I think we may have another problem.”
Nelson and Morton grappled their way to his position as slowly the giant submarine became calmer.
“What is it, Kowalski?” Morton demanded.
“I’m not sure, sir. But for a few minutes there I had two FS1 echoes.”
“Two? Are you certain?”
“Yes, sir, I’m positive. Two identical traces then one just seemed to fade into the anomaly.”
snatched up the nearest mic. “
The tense wait seemed endless but finally came the reply he wanted. “I have Captain Crane, sir.”
“Lee? Lee, are you alright?” Harry asked anxiously.
There was a moment of static and then a familiar voice sounded faintly from the speaker. “We’re okay, but what the devil was that we just came through?”
“Another of those anomalies we’re here to investigate….” there was a loud crackle from the speaker, “Lee? Lee, can you still hear me?”
“Find…Mallory …doing…after docking….”
“Lee, we can’t hear you properly there’s too much interference.” Nelson glanced at his Exec and saw
confusion. “Just get back aboard as quickly as you can.”
As Nelson hung up the mic, Chip frowned and came forward. “Did he say, Mallory?”
Harry nodded slowly and rubbed at his chin. “That’s what it sounded like.”
“Mallory? The corpsman, Mallory? What’s he got to do with all this? He disappeared months ago!”
Harry didn’t answer Chip right away; instead he glanced towards the large windows that made his creation so unique. His scientific genius was concentrated on a theory that had implications he didn’t care for at all.
“Sir? Did you hear me?”
Nelson turned quickly to the man at the sonar station. “Kowalski are you sure you saw two FS1 signatures?”
Ski looked up at the senior officer and nodded positively. “Absolutely, sir.”
“And now? Only one?”
Kowalski looked back to the board and after confirming his readings he answered firmly. “Yes sir, it all reads normal now. It must have been an echo caused by that thing out there. They should be docking in three minutes, Admiral.”
Nelson turned away and thought for a moment more then looked at a still very confused Exec. Placing a hand on Chip’s elbow, Harry led Morton forward. “Chip,” he said softly, “I want you to have an armed guard report here right away and then follow my lead.”
Chip Morton was totally baffled now and stared at his C.O. “Armed guard, sir? Why?”
Nelson waved an impatient hand at him and ordered, “Just do it! We haven’t much time, trust me on this one,
I’ll explain later. I just hope I’m wrong.”
Morton hesitated only briefly and gave the appropriate orders just as the hail came that the Flying Sub was docking and he moved forward with the admiral.
The wheel of the docking hatch spun and the dark head of Lee Crane appeared as he climbed up into the control room, swiftly followed by his passenger, Will Jamieson.
Immediately the captain rounded on his first officer as he demanded harshly.” WHAT was the meaning of leaving us high and dry out there, Morton?”
Chip Morton looked astounded by the anger and stood straighter as he hesitated. He glanced at the Admiral but Nelson was watching the two arrivals with calculating eyes and ignored Chip’s subconscious appeal.
“We were being endangered by the anomaly, sir, and I thought….”
“YOU thought!” Crane interrupted loudly. “YOU thought you could finally be rid of me and get my command at last! That’s what you thought, isn’t it, Morton?”
“Lee… I… what are you talking about?” Chip coloured slightly as he saw the intense anger and open hatred directed at him by his best friend.
“Don’t try to play the innocent with me. I know what you’re up to, what you’ve always been up to. Well, it won’t work, mister! I’ll have your rank for this!”
The shock in the control room was palpable and Chip Morton’s outranked everyone else’s.
The Admiral stepped forward and ignoring the confrontation, asked softly. “Lee, where is Dr. Su Lin?”
Lee Crane heard the enquiry and dragged his attention away from the object of his anger and directed stormy dark eyes to Nelson. “Who?” He demanded rudely.
“Dr. Seema Su Lin, the Temporal Analogist, that you were fetching from the mainland when you picked up Dr. Jamieson.”
Now Crane turned his whole body towards the admiral and frowned. “Picked up Jamieson? What are you talking about? WE went out to get the test results on Professor Mallory’s latest test… don’t you remember?”
“Professor Mallory?” Nelson questioned calmly.
“Of course….” Crane was suddenly uncomfortable. Why was the Admiral daring to question him? Why were he and Morton behaving so oddly? He looked about him more observantly. The crew were dressed in the blue and red jumpsuits that he had manifestly rejected as suitable uniforms for his boat’s crew. Chip Morton was shaved and dressed pristinely and with a tie, he never wore a tie! His first officer’s gaze concentrated on him strangely and Crane felt his unease grow. Something was wrong here…
He backed away slightly as he became aware of the crew’s stares and the armed MP’s. He stumbled into Jamieson.
“Watch what you’re doing man!” the Doctor complained impatiently as he pushed him away.
“We have to get out of here, something’s wrong.” Crane ordered as he grabbed the Doctor’s arm. “Get back to FS1, NOW!”
“What? Have you lost your mind?” Jamison demanded as he tried to free himself from the captain’s grasp.
“Stay right where you are gentlemen.” Harry’s clear command was accompanied by a nod to the Master-At-Arms and three armed men came forward and pointed their weapons menacingly at them.
“What the hell is going on?” Dr Will Jamieson grumbled. “What’s all this nonsense about? I want a large drink, a hot meal and my bunk, in that order. Now get out of my way!” He moved forward but was gently pushed back by one of the guards.
“Not so fast Doctor. I’m afraid we will have to detain you a little longer and probably in the brig.” Nelson announced unsympathetically.
“WHAT? Have you finally lost all sense of reason, Harry?” Jamieson spluttered.
Will Jamieson was feeling uncomfortable right now.
When they had climbed out of the Flying Sub, something about the atmosphere struck him immediately …cigarette smoke! He was used to Harry smoking too much but when he glanced to his left and saw Sharkey smoking on duty, he found it astonishing! He looked toward the main control room and saw the crew dressed differently, with several of the men slouching at their stations while others were openly paying brazen attention to Dr. Su Lin. The general atmosphere felt distorted and inhospitable.
Will’s unease increased as he watched the almost arctic way Chip Morton greeted them or more particularly, Lee. He didn’t miss the predatory way the Exec eyed the pretty scientist either. Indeed, several of the men on duty were grinning lewdly with each other as they surveyed the female in their midst. When Morton had ordered Sharkey to take her below, Will, had decided to personally see to her safety until he knew what was going on. Lee had enough to worry about right now.
“Chief, you want to tell me what’s changed around here?” Jamieson asked as he accompanied Dr. Su Lin and Sharkey along the corridor towards the officer quarters.
“Don’t know what you mean Doc, nothing’s changed.” Sharkey answered casually then glancing at Dr, Su Lin and asked clumsily, “You want to share the Skipper’s cabin or you want one of your own?”
Seema stopped walking and looked shocked. “I…I don’t understand what you mean….”
“CHIEF! That was extremely insulting. How dare you make such a remark?” The doctor sounded off angrily.
Sharkey held up both hands in supplication. “Hey, keep your shirt on Doc, I was just askin’. Who knows what arrangements they want…no one tells me anything. Ain’t like the Skipper brings his women aboard every trip, now is it?”
“Chief, have you been drinking?” Jamieson demanded as he heard the insulting tone of the C.O.B.
“Not touched a drop since breakfast, I swear.” Sharkey grinned impudently.
Will glanced at Dr. Su Lin and saw that he was not alone in his confusion. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said to her softly, “I have no idea what’s going on, I assure you this is quite out of character for the Chief.”
“It’s alright, Doctor….” Seema began but was interrupted by the arrival of another seaman.
Kowalski saw the beautiful woman from along the corridor and quickened his pace. Letting out a long wolf whistle he stopped beside the Asian visitor. “Well, hello beautiful. You’re just the answer to this Sailor’s dreams.” Ski smirked and leant one hand on the bulkhead behind her head as he studied Seema closely.
“KOWALSKI!” shouted Jamie again as he moved to Seema’s side and gently grasped her elbow drawing her away. “Stand back. What do you think you’re doing?”
Ski looked surprised and grinned impertinently. “Don’t tell me she’s yours, Doc. Well, you old dog….”
“Forget it Kowalski, she’s the Skipper’s.” Sharkey announced dryly.
Kowalski sighed regretfully, as he cynically looked Seema up and down. “That figures, he always manages to get the lookers. Does the old man know she’s here?” Ski asked as he turned to Sharkey.
“You kidding? The Admiral will have a fit when he gets wind of her. Crane certainly believes in pushing his luck.” Sharkey replied.
“Doesn’t he always? Bet Mr. Morton isn’t happy either. Not after what happened before.”
Will, had heard enough and launched into both men. “Enough! I don’t know what’s going on here but I suggest you can that sort of talk and get one thing straight! Dr. Su Lin is a guest aboard Seaview and will be treated with respect at all times, is that clear?”
Sharkey and Kowalski looked at each other in surprise. What had gotten into Doc? He sounded almost as if he was on Crane’s side. Maybe he was still sober… ‘Yeah’, Kowalski thought, ‘that could account for it.’
“Cool it, Doc. No need to get all Navy on us…we get the picture. She’s the Captain’s property and it’s ‘hands off’ for the rest of us, Joe’s. You better go get yourself a drink real soon. You’re way too tense, Doc, way too tense.” Kowalski grinned as he moved away down the corridor.
Will Jamieson watched him go in sheer disbelief. He didn’t know what was wrong but something was definitely amiss. He would see the scientist safely to her cabin, find Lee and hopefully get some answers.
“You’re dismissed Chief, I will see to Dr. Su Lin’s accommodation myself.”
Sharkey looked momentarily surprised but shrugged, “If you want, Doc. Guest Cabin 4’s empty and its in officer’s country, so give her that one.”
“Just see that the Doctor’s bag is brought to her cabin and left outside the door for her.” Will ordered sternly.
Sharkey shrugged and started muttering as he walked away.
Will, gently moved with Seema along the corridor until they came to the cabin suggested.
“Dr. Su Lin, I don’t understand why the men are acting this way, I assure you it’s way out of character for them. I think you would be safer out of sight for the moment.” Will, explained gently as he opened the door and waited for her to enter.
“But Dr. Jamieson….”
“Please, it’s for the best. I will go and find Captain Crane and see if he’s managed to find anything out. We will meet with you back here.”
Seema was unhappy with his suggestion but could well understand his concerns; she too had felt the charged atmosphere that had greeted them. Anyway, something was gnawing away at her scientific awareness and she needed time to think it through.
Pleased that she was going to comply, Will advised, “Keep the door locked until I return with the Captain, Doctor.”
She nodded and said softly. “I think you had better call me, Seema, to prevent confusion from all these titles, don’t you Doctor?”
“I guess that would help. Call me Will or as the Captain has it…Jamie” Will smiled reassuringly as he turned to go. “I won’t be long.” He pulled the door closed and waited until he heard the lock being set and moved away to find Lee.
Crane almost laughed out loud to himself as he crawled through the vents leading to the Officer’s Quarters. He was still unsure as to what was wrong with this crew but he had a vague idea and he didn’t like the implications! He couldn’t believe that Nelson had been so gullible as to only assign only two escorts for him and Jamieson. It had been easy enough to overpower his guard on the way to the brig from the Control Room and to crawl into the ventilation system. He didn’t have much time, he realised that, already a search party was probably being organised but he knew every inch of this boat, it would only take him moments to reach the top of the spiral staircase that would take him back into the Control Room. Crossing in the open from there to the FS1 hatch would be more difficult but that would be a chance he would have to take. He was glad he wasn’t encumbered with the fool Jamieson, the man was useless anyway, he hadn’t taken the opportunity to get away fast enough so let him escape by himself.
Cautiously he raised the grid on the vent and glanced both ways down the corridor. Everything was quiet; it was now or never. He dropped easily to the deck and replaced the grid before making his way forward to the stairs. Descending a couple of steps he looked down into the Observation Nose and then into the Control Room. O’Brien was standing duty officer and was busy at the chart table. Good, his young Lieutenant had always been an insecure little puppet, more than grateful for the chances Crane had given him; this should make things a little easier.
As quietly as possible he descended the steps and made his way towards the entrance hatch. He bent down and began turning the hatch wheel when a hand gripped his shoulder and O’Brien’s voice ordered,
“Captain Crane, stay where you are, sir. Kowalski, get the Master At Arms up here.”
Crane pulled away from his grasp and straightened, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, O’Brien?”
“The Admiral has put you under arrest, sir. I must ask you to remain where you are until the Master At Arms gets here. I don’t want to have to restrain you forcibly, Captain.” Calmly O’Brien put himself between Crane and the FS1 hatchway. He didn’t understand what was happening or why but Nelson for some reason wanted Captain Crane locked up and Mr. Morton had reinforced the order. Bobby would see to it that the orders were fulfilled.
“You’re not working for Nelson, you’re working for me, remember? He can give you nothing, play your cards right and I’ll give you the Exec’s post in time, I’ve said so haven’t I? Now get out of my way!”
Crane didn’t hesitate as he threw a punch at the Lieutenant, which took O’Brien unawares and felled him. Before Crane could move, Kowalski and two crewmembers seemed to come out of nowhere and he found himself pinned to the deck. His chance was lost!
As Lee walked determinedly along the corridor to officer’s country he met Kowalski walking towards him. He faltered a moment, wondering whether to speak or not as the usually friendly crewman gave no indicator of his attitude towards him.
Lee hesitated slightly but tried. “Good morning, Ski. What duty are you performing right now?”
Kowalski glanced impertinently at his superior. “I’m on my way forward, to a watch change. Mr. Morton wants me on sonar.”
Lee nodded but felt uncomfortable. Kowalski was obviously as antagonistic as the others. He had to get to Nelson and hope he could find out what was going on. “Very well, you can attend your post.” He ordered.
Kowalski looked at him and sneered as he turned away but not before he muttered, “Like I need your permission!”
Lee watched him hurry away and sighed as he continued to Nelson’s cabin, he had to find out what was going on around here!
He knocked on Nelson’s door and waited for the command to enter. Now maybe he’d get some answers! As he entered Nelson capped the hip flask he had been using to top-up his coffee.
“Ah, Captain Crane, so good of you to report at last. I’ve just been informed by Mr. Morton that not only have you failed to bring back the data you were sent out to get, you have brought an unauthorised visitor aboard.”
frowned, “Admiral, I have brought Dr. Su Lin from
“Did I invite you to sit?” Nelson demanded shortly as he ignored Lee’s question.
“No, sir,” Lee frowned and stood back up; obviously the Admiral wasn’t going to be much help either. He must be under the same influence as the others.
“Professor Mallory is waiting for the data we promised him and now thanks to you disobeying orders and making up your own rules again, I will have to explain to him the reason behind the delay.”
“Mallory? Not the corpsman Mallory that was here before?” Lee queried in horror. He had begun to feel he wasn’t on the same planet as everyone else, now it was distinctly possible they weren’t even in the same dimension! Suddenly pieces started to fit. Maybe if he started demanding answers instead of just asking for them he would get somewhere.
waved an impatient hand in Lee’s direction, “He’s not a corpsman and of course
you’ve met him before, you were at the briefings!! You might remember he’s the
one paying handsomely for this opportunity to do his research and that is all
that matters.” Nelson fixed Lee with an angry stare, “Your friends in
“Admiral, I demand you tell me what is going on here. What is Mallory doing here?”
Nelson stood up unsteadily and leaned against his desk as he shouted, “YOU demand! You have no right to demand anything of me, Crane! I may have been coerced into accepting your presence aboard! But that doesn’t give you any authority over me. I’m still the senior officer in charge and don’t you forget it!” Nelson sat down again rather heavily.
“Admiral, you don’t understand. There’s been a mistake. We are only here because….”
interrupt me, Commander. The only mistake here is you! I suggest you contact Professor Mallory at
the undersea lab and see if he wants those reading taken again and if he does
send Morton. He at least can follow orders. I won’t allow you to bankrupt me
Lee leant forward and said earnestly. “Admiral, you must listen to me. I can explain everything if you’d just let me.”
“I doubt you have anything I want to hear, Captain… just send her to me and I’ll decide her competence.”
“But, Admiral, sir … “ Lee tried again to get a word in.
“You are dismissed, Crane.” Nelson ordered harshly as he drank more of the coffee and began to study the papers on his desk. “Now get out!”
“Chip, hand the conn to Mr. O’Brien and hold our position right here for now. Then join me in my cabin as soon as you’re free,” Harry said firmly as he glanced around the confused faces of the watch as he headed for the spiral stairs, “we need to talk.”
Chip was just as confused as his men but adopted a formal attitude to offer some confidence to them. “Aye, sir.” Chip turned to his junior officer, “Mr. O’Brien, let’s do a station check.”
“Aye, sir.” The second officer replied evenly.
Just five minutes later Morton knocked on the Admiral’s door and entered.
“Come in, Chip, sit down. Let’s see if we can make some sense of all this.” Nelson was sitting at a desk that was strewn with computer print outs and assorted paperwork. He poured an extra cup of coffee and moved it across the desk to in front of the seated exec.
“I’d love to have any explanation you have right about now, Admiral. Like, why you just locked up Captain Crane and Doctor Jamieson.” Chip replied as he reached for the coffee.
Harry laughed. “Well, I can only give you what I have, which isn’t much.” He leant back in the chair and said. “You remember the Mallory incident?”
“Yes, sir. The corpsman that tried a few months ago to take Seaview into another dimension. I also remember what Lee told us he had him do there… namely, kill you.” Chip shuddered as he remembered his friend’s horror at what had been a nightmare for him. “How is Mallory involved again? Lee destroyed him and his machine.”
“We assumed he had but I think it’s possible he merely retreated into the 4th dimension and is working from there to achieve his aims.”
Chip sat forward. “You can’t be serious, Admiral. Are you sure?”
“As sure as I can be. I have been reviewing all the data we have and it does seem to clarify in part the unexplainable rifts in time are occurring in this region. It would also explain the strange behaviour of our returning Captain.” He hesitated momentarily. “Chip, I don’t think he is our Lee Crane!”
“What? Not our… My God!” Chip stared at him as understanding dawned on him. “You think that they are from the other dimension. How?”
Nelson went on to explain the meaning of Kowalski’s double sonar readings, the strange behaviour of the two men and the mystery behind the anomalies they had been sent here to investigate.
“If you’re right, sir, and those two are anything to judge by then Lee and Jamie are not in a good place. How do we get them back?” Chip asked roughly.
Nelson stood up and paced as he concentrated his thoughts. “I totally agree but until we know the circumstances over there, it will be difficult to mount any rescue attempt.”
“So how do we find out?”
“How?” Harry turned and looked at the concerned face of his first officer. “We ask the Captain of course.” Nelson smiled grimly.
Seema Su Lin had locked the door to her cabin at least thirty minutes ago and still the Captain or Doctor had not returned.
She paced impatiently as she waited. She had a theory on their predicament but without the necessary data from the computer, she was unable to prove her hypothesis. Not for the first time she considered calling the control room on the intercom and requesting the data she needed and not for the first time she rejected the idea. She doubted anyone would take her seriously…but if she were to go there personally and demand the printout, they could hardly refuse.
NO! Will Jamieson would be angry that she had not followed his instructions. She stopped pacing and considered. She was a grown woman, for heaven’s sake! She had been in situations much more dangerous than this, she could take care of herself.
Quickly she crossed to the door and unlocked it. She opened the door a little and glanced out side. Her bag was sitting on the deck. Why hadn’t someone told her it was there? She reached out and brought it inside. Taking a deep steadying breath she looked out and glanced both ways along the corridor, it was empty. Cautiously leaving her cabin, she closed the door and made her way back towards the control room.
Several crewmen that passed her on the way, made crude remarks and issued invitations, which she knew certain males seemed to think suitable banter that would foster an interest in them. She ignored them and kept walking briskly to her destination.
She stepped over the sill of the rear hatch and carefully made her way through the control room to approach the executive officer.
Morton turned around as he heard the rise in general conversation. He quickly spied the source of all the interest.
“Well, well, Doctor Su Lin, what can we do for you?” He mocked as he leant one hip against the plot table, crossed his arms negligently across his chest and raised one eyebrow to study her slim figure in the soft yellow blouse and dark, form fitting slacks, with undisguised interest. “Don’t tell me our Captain is neglecting you already. That’s not like him at all!” There was a general round of laughter at his remark but one swift look around the room from glacial blue eyes quickly silenced the amusement.
Seema swallowed dryly and answered. “I need some data from the computer, Mr. Morton.”
Chip narrowed his gaze. “Do you indeed? And just what data would that be?”
“I would like to see a computer printout of the details on the last anomaly, the one that Captain Crane and the flying sub flew through just over an hour ago.” Seema asked confidently.
Morton straightened himself and put his hands on his hips. “Would you indeed? And just what game are you playing now? Does Crane think this will convince the old man that you’re a genuine scientist?” He shook his head as he dismissed her. “Go back to your cabin, Seema…it won’t work on me anymore than it will on Nelson but don’t worry I expect you’ll be allowed to stay…what Crane wants, Crane usually gets!” Morton muttered as he turned back to the chart on the table.
“Commander Morton, that was not a request! I am here at Admiral Nelson’s behest and I expect you to cooperate with my work. I need those printouts to begin my analysis, so please assist me by making them available …now!” Seema spoke bravely with no trace of the trepidation that was shaking inside her.
Chip Morton threw down the pencil he was using and turned slowly to move in front of her. Seizing her arm he said menacingly. “Just who do you think you’re ordering around? You’re taking your part too seriously, lady! No one orders me around on my boat!”
“YOUR boat, Mr. Morton?”
Everyone’s eyes lifted to watch as Lee Crane descended the spiral stairs, followed by Jamieson.
“Did I hear you correctly… your boat? There was I thinking I’m the captain of Seaview.” Lee said coldly.
Chip stepped back slightly and released Seema’s arm as he glared at Crane. “You know what I mean. How long do we have to pretend that your….”
“Take care what you say, mister,” Lee advised angrily, “Doctor Su Lin is an eminent scientist in her field and will be accorded the respect due to her and all the help she needs to complete her work. Do you understand me, Mr. Morton?”
Morton ground his teeth together in an effort to control his own mounting anger. Blue eyes flashed fury at the man he hated with a passion but he knew the time was not right yet for outright mutiny, he would have to bide his time for a while longer yet. Professor Mallory had assured him he would help Morton attain his ambition if he made sure that Mallory’s work was uninterrupted but when that time did come… then he’d deal with Lee ‘bloody’ Crane!
Instead he grimaced at the thinly veiled rebuke and answered. “If you say so, sir.”
Lee saw the hatred and had to stop himself from trying to make an appeal to the man who so closely resembled his valued, trusted friend and executive officer.
Turning to Seema, who was now flanked by Will Jamieson, he asked firmly. “What records do you need, Doctor?”
Seema followed his lead and made her request and watched as Morton went to the computer consul and typed in a set of instructions. Within seconds print paper was issuing from the giant machine. When it stopped Morton tore off the small stack of sheets and handed them to her.
“That’s better, Commander.” Lee said as he moved his head to Jamie and indicated they should leave.
Jamie gathered Seema and led her up the staircase.
“I’d like you to make a comprehensive report of the readiness of all crew and equipment, Mr. Morton and be ready to deliver it to me when I ask for it. In the meantime, you have the conn. I will be in my cabin if you need me.” Lee glanced around severely at all the watch who glared back at him and then he made his own way up the spiral staircase. Away from the loathing glares of the crew he left behind.
When Lee reached the top of the stairs to find Jamie and Seema waiting for him. As Jamie made to speak, Lee said softly. “Not here, my cabin.”
When they had all entered and were seated, Jamie demanded. “Lee, what the hell is going on? Why are the crew behaving so differently?”
“I think I maybe able to answer that, Captain.” Seema Su Lin interrupted softly as she looked at Lee and he nodded slightly for her to continue. “I believe we have not returned to your Seaview.”
Jamie turned to her with obvious confusion. “Not…? What are you talking about? Of course we’re on Seaview….”
“I said we are not on your Seaview. We are on a Seaview but not the one you think.”
Jamie looked at Lee who was sitting on the edge of his desk, his concentration directed at Seema Su Lin. “Captain, have you any idea what she’s talking about?”
Lee nodded grimly. “I think I do, Jamie.” Crane turned back to the scientist. “Continue with your theory, Doctor.”
Seema took a deep breath, “I think we have somehow crossed over into another time continuum, or dimension to be exact. I think we are on the wrong boat in the wrong universe.”
Jamie was stunned. He hadn’t expected that as an explanation. He looked at Lee but did not see the same shock he was experiencing. “Lee…this has to be a mistake… it can’t be true.” But even as he said the words, the look on Crane’s face confirmed his worst fears.
Seema also saw the confirmation written in the Captain’s eyes. “Did the Admiral confirm this to you, Captain?” She asked quietly.
Lee sighed as he stood up and walked behind his desk and took his seat. “Not exactly. He referred to the experiments that Professor Mallory is conducting and I immediately guessed what had happened.” Lee saw the frown on Seema’s face and explained for her benefit.
“You see we’ve had dealings with Mallory before. Almost six months ago, a corpsman named Mallory had been allowed to work on board Seaview. It turned out his experimental medical equipment was not what he claimed but was in fact a power source he had adapted to open portals into the 4th dimension. He was conducting his own experiments into the viability of parallel universes. His aim was to provide a means by which he could travel between them and exert his control over these realms. We only just defeated him the last time but somehow he has managed to re-create himself in this dimension and is using Seaview’s reactors here to power even bigger portals.”
“With what purpose I wonder?” Seema puzzled
“I can only assume with the same goal, to have free access to other dimensions. I fear he’s found away of converging those dimensions. I have no doubt that he’s directly responsible for all these anomalies that we are experiencing.”
Seema nodded. “That would fit with the data I have managed to assess so far. It would explain the portal we encountered and why your crew are so different to you. We have crossed into a different dimension and I can only assume that the other craft we saw is from this vessel and has gone to your Seaview.”
Lee nodded his agreement, “That thought had occurred to me too.”
“What? You mean there’s two of us on another Seaview… but….” Jamie struggled with the concept of the duplication of himself.
“Not us, Jamie but alternative personalities we could have become… different personas if you like.” Lee explained patiently. “Outwardly our appearance is the same but our characters differ to each other in the way we behave.”
“I suppose that would explain a few things around here and what I found going on in sickbay earlier.” Jamie murmured softly.
Lee frowned, “Sickbay?”
Jamie shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he looked at them both. “I was looking for you and passed by sickbay. John and Frank were playing cards, nothing too unusual about that except…” he hesitated, unable to reconcile what he knew of his Corpsmen with what he had just seen “except that they had a patient with a broken arm waiting for attention and they ignored him! I ordered them to attend to him right away before I put them on report.” Jamie rubbed a hand over his face and neck as he hesitated. “They just glared at me and wanted to know why I was getting so ‘hot and bothered’…they set about their duties and at the same time questioned me about my trip out with you, they wanted to know ‘if Crane had managed to avoid killing anyone this time!”
Lee started to twist the class ring on a finger of his left hand, a sure sign of his agitation, as he thought about what Jamie had said. “Well, that’s about the same attitude I observed.”
“Judging by the contempt this crew seems to have for it’s captain, it’s obvious they don’t have much respect for his character. Which means the other Crane and Jamieson will not get along very well as soon as it becomes apparent that they are not who your crew thinks they are.” Seema murmured.
Lee laughed. “Probably not. By now I expect the Admiral has them locked up and is wondering the same things we are.”
“But where is Mallory? Can’t we just find him stop him like we did before?” Jamie questioned worriedly.
“I’m afraid not. From something the Admiral said I’m pretty sure he’s not aboard but in an undersea lab close by. He’s just using Seaview’s reactors as his power source.”
“Then if we just stop his power supply that will end this nightmare surely.”
Lee stood up and started to pace a little. “Maybe it will stop his ability to create more anomalies but it won’t change our position, Jamie. We will still be stuck here unable to get back to our own boat.”
“So how are we going to get out of this mess?” Jamie demanded.
Seema Su Lin had been content to sit quietly and listen as Lee and Jamie discussed their predicament with growing concern but now she spoke up confidently. “With the application of science and logic, gentlemen. Science and logic.” Seema told them softly as she spread the computer printouts over the desk and started to study them.
“Enter.” Admiral Nelson called out as he sat behind the desk in his cabin, flanked by his Executive officer, Chip Morton, standing just to his right.
The Master-at-Arms and a guard entered, ushering between them Captain Lee Crane.
“Come in, Captain, please sit down.” Harry watched as Crane glanced around the cabin and noted the angry expression worn by the other man.
The Captain hesitated but after checking that the only exit was blocked he slumped moodily in the chair.
Nelson looked at the guards and nodded, “You can wait outside.”
After they had shut the door, the Admiral studied his prisoner. He resembled the Lee Crane he knew, remarkably well. Same colouring, same features but this man wore an expression of insubordination and his eyes sparked hatred as he concentrated them on the two men in front of him. This made him easily distinguishable to Harry, from the Lee he knew of as his Captain and friend.
“So what is it you want?” Crane sneered, “I’ve obviously been brought here for a reason, what is it? What do you want from me?”
“A few answers, nothing too difficult.” Nelson answered. “Where is it you think you are?”
“Not aboard my own boat, I know that!”
Harry looked up at Morton who stood passively but alertly at his right shoulder. Returning his attention to Crane, Harry replied. “You seem very sure. I’m wondering how you know.”
Crane laughed scornfully. “The answer became obvious with your reception when we came aboard, the crew’s attitude, made it easy to work out! The Nelson, I know would never have the nerve to arrest me. I give the orders on my boat and everyone else follows them. Nelson’s a token figurehead, most of the time he’s just a simpering drunk.” He watched in amusement as the Admiral’s eyes flared in temper and he clenched his hands together on top of the desk.
Harriman Nelson narrowed his gaze as he listened to the other man’s announcement and asked gruffly. “Why is that?”
is what? Nelson a drunk?” Crane mocked. “Because he’s weak! Because he built the most powerful
submarine on the planet and no idea what it was he had! Did he really think
“Surely your Admiral objected and put up some sort of fight?” Harry demanded abruptly, unable to stop himself feeling in some way personally insulted.
Crane smiled slyly as he detected Nelson’s affront for his counterpart. “Much good it did him! He’s a only scientist with an obsession to save humanity.” Crane leant forward, “What he hasn’t figured out yet, is that most of humanity isn’t worth saving. We gave him his rank as a courtesy title, a concession for his co-operation, he’s just a lost voice that the world’s passed by!” The captain ridiculed.
Harry felt intense anger for the man in front of him and ceased to see any resemblance to the ‘son’ he had become so fond of but he fought that dislike to get the information he wanted. “And you and Morton?” Harry asked as he took a sideways glance at the tense man at his side.
ginned lazily as he turned his attention to the Exec. “As for Morton, he hates
my guts, he wouldn’t care if I had died out here, and in fact he’d even prefer
it! Chip Morton wants to be Captain in
my place but of course
Clenching his jaw Chip listened to the goading tone of the other man but kept his glacial blue eyes firmly fixed on him with the impassive expression he was infamous for. This wasn’t the Lee Crane he knew as a brother, he reminded himself.
Not receiving the reaction he had expected Crane tried again to incite the silent XO. “Not going to defend your ‘other self’, Morton?”
Harry watched as Crane deliberately tried to inflame Chip. He smiled grimly to himself, if he thought that was going to work, he didn’t know this Chip Morton.
“Maybe you don’t have a defence for a spoilt rich boy who expected his Daddy’s money to buy him everything he wanted,” Crane sniggered derisively, “but not even all that money could buy him a backbone.”
“Some of us,” Crane continued, “had less privileges in life but even then he could only manage second best to me every time.”
Chip flinched despite his legendary self-control as he heard the hate filled statement then quickly gathered his anger behind the mask of impassiveness he habitually wore.
Having heard enough of the insults this man used to wound others, Harry stepped in. “What has Mallory do to with all this?” he demanded.
Crane sat up fractionally straighter and frowned. “What do you know of Professor Mallory?”
Harry showed mild surprise, “Professor Mallory? You called him that before? Who is he and what’s he experimenting on?”
Crane looked suspiciously from one man to the other. “You don’t have a Professor Mallory here…do you?” He quickly assessed.
Nelson looked at Chip who raised one sceptical eyebrow but remained silent.
Crane laughed confidently. “Seems I have the upper hand now, gentlemen. You want information and I want my freedom. Let’s deal, Admiral.”
Harry drew a deep breath and pursed his lips thoughtfully. “What sort of deal can you possibly broker with us that we will be interested in?”
“You obviously want the return of your officers and I want to get back to my boat. Between us we should be able to work something out.” Crane smirked, “Unless of course my opposite number is already dead… in which case I’ll just stay here and assume his place….”
“That’s not an option.” Chip stated coldly.
Crane looked up and grinned at the stoic figure. So, a flash of genuine emotion at last. “Think you could stop me, Morton?”
“Without a single doubt.” Chip said uncompromisingly as he gazed calmly at the intruder.
Crane frowned and hesitated now. He considered the self-contained man carefully. Something intuitively told him that this XO was not the man he had come to despise. This Chip Morton was a more dangerous proposition all together.
Harry smiled to himself as he saw the realisation impose itself on Crane. “As you can see Captain, this universe has subtle differences to your own. Here, Captain Crane is a man held in high esteem and we want him and his passengers back. If you wish to return to your submarine, I strongly suggest you co-operate with us to achieve this, otherwise I will see to it that you and your existence is buried so deep that you will never see the light of day. Is that completely understood?”
After Lee had given Seema some of the few facts from his initial meeting with Nelson, Lee and Jamie left Seema to read through the data she had obtained from the computer and use that ‘logic’ she was so sure was going to get them out of here. They made their way to Nelson’s cabin. As they stopped outside, Lee hesitated before entering. Turning to Jamie he murmured, “Remember that this man isn’t the Harriman Nelson we know, don’t be shocked by what you see.”
Jamie frowned at Lee’s concern. Obviously he had shown less control of his emotions than he realised. “I know I haven’t adapted as quickly as you have, Captain but I’m learning fast.” He rested a hand on Lee’s shoulder. “I may not be ONI, Lee, but I won’t let you down.”
“Coarse you won’t, Jamie.” Lee assured him.
“In fact you’d better let me take the lead in there. I’ve had more experience of drunks than you have. They can take a bit of handling.” Jaime smiled wryly.
Lee nodded. He knew Jaime would cope better if he were doing something he was at least trained for. Turning back to the door, he opened it and entered without knocking.
Harriman Nelson was slumped over his desk, in what appeared to be an alcoholic stupor. Lee approached him and shook his head sadly. Even though this man was not his friend and mentor he still felt an affinity to him. He reached out a hand to Nelson’s shoulder and shook him.
“Admiral? Admiral Nelson, wake up.”
Nelson raised his head and with bleary eyes looked at the two men. “Crane? Jamieson?” He sat up slowly and shook his head to clear it. Gruffly he demanded, “What do you want? What’s the meaning of barging in here like this? Get out, do you hear me, get out I don’t want you here…I don’t want you anywhere near me….” Nelson looked around for his whiskey glass and after spying it reached out a shaky hand towards it.
“No, Admiral, you don’t need anymore of that.” Jaime said quietly but firmly as he removed the glass from Nelson’s reach. “How about some coffee?”
“Coffee?” Nelson looked at the Doctor and frowned, “Coffee? Will, what are you talking about? Don’t play games. Get yourself a glass and join me.” Again he reached for the glass but Jaime handed it to Lee who went to the small bathroom and emptied the half full glass down the sink.
“CRANE, how dare you! Get out of my office….”
“Admiral Nelson, listen to me. We are here to help you.” Jaime said firmly. He turned to Lee, “Can you order up a big pot of strong hot coffee, we’re going to need it.”
Lee picked up the phone on the desk and remembering who was supposed to be, demanded the coffee to be delivered immediately.
As they waited, Jaime and Lee dealt with Nelson. They manoeuvred the unsteady, angry man into his shower, fully dressed and doused him in cold water. He bellowed and swore at them but gradually simmered down as he began to shiver. There was a loud knock at the door and Lee went to answer it while Jaime helped Nelson out of his sopping uniform and into a thick warm bathrobe.
When they were all seated back in the main cabin again, Nelson glared at them as he sipped the warming brew. “I hope you both have a suitable explanation for all this.”
“We have, Admiral, I assure you but whether you believe it or not is quite another matter.” Lee said quietly.
Nelson looked at Jaime and demanded unkindly. “Have you gone over to his side now?”
Jaime coloured a little but half smiled as he replied pleasantly. “I’m on the same side I’ve always been on… the side of truth.”
Nelson’s eyes flared. “What sort of answer is that… who’s truth… his.” and jerked his head angrily to Lee. “You seem to forget, Doctor, if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t even have a job right now. After that seaman died due to your bungling, it would have meant a court martial if I hadn’t used my influence to prevent it. I saved you from ignominious disgrace! You owe me your loyalty!”
Lee leant forward in his chair and implored, “Admiral, we don’t have time for this. Please listen. We have a story to tell you and we need you to understand, because it’s the truth.”
shook sis head and waved a hand to ward off Lee’s words. “I don’t want to
listen to you, Crane. I doubt you know the truth of anything. I’ve seen the way
you manipulate situations to your own advantage I was a fool to believe I could
keep Seaview for myself, I can see that now…all I ever wanted was to explore
the oceans doing scientific research but you and those hawks in
“Admiral!” Jamie interrupted. “How many years have you and Jamieson been friends?”
“Jamieson? You mean, you and I, but you know the answer to that… more than twenty years….”
“Then for his sake, please listen….”
“I don’t get it, Chief,” Patterson commented as he surveyed the machine parts now standing in the Missile Room.
“Well, the thing is Patterson, these things don’t come with instructions, you know, place tab A into slot A, you have to work it out as you go along.”
“I didn’t mean that, I meant what does the Admiral want this thing put together for anyway? Mallory was enough trouble the first time, we don’t want him back.”
Equally puzzled and slightly worried about the whole issue, Sharkey tried to hide his anxiety by being brisk, “Look, Patterson, the Admiral wants it put together, so we put it together, right?”
“Right, Chief.” He paused then asked simply, “How?”
Nelson who had entered unseen and had listened in amusement said, “Problems, gentlemen?”
“We’ll sort it, Admiral, as soon as the electricians come up with the wiring diagram,” Sharkey answered. “Err, Admiral, could I have a word?”
“Surely, Chief,” Nelson drew him to one side. “What’s on your mind?”
“This, machine. You’re not going to use it, are you?”
“Yes, Chief, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. You understand this 4th dimension problem?”
“Yes, sir … err … that is, Mr. Morton explained it but what I don’t get is how this is going to help us contact the Skipper, when he’s lost somewhere out there.”
“I don’t blame you, Francis, it’s not that simple to understand. Simply put, we are going to use Mallory’s machine to open up a vortex similar to the one that I am convinced the FS1 disappeared into. Then Captain Crane and his party, who are trapped in another dimension, should be able to use it to return. Clear? “
“I guess, sir, kinda like opening the door but what if the Skipper can’t get back on his own, what if we have to go get him? ”
Nelson laughed, easily, “Nothing is ever easy is it Chief?” Then he took pity on the obviously concerned Sharkey and clapped him on the shoulder, “For now, let’s just see if the electricians have sorted it out yet and I’ll give you a hand putting it back together.
Nelson looked at both men with astonishment. Lee had finished telling him the most fantastic tale he had ever heard… it couldn’t be true… but somewhere in his heart he knew it was.
“I don’t believe you! It’s some sort of trick, it has to be.” He blustered defensively.
“It’s not and you know it! You must help us, Admiral.” Lee said anxiously.
“I must do nothing!” Nelson got up at paced. “I don’t to get involved in this lunacy.” He was shaking now. He badly needed a drink.
“Admiral, we’ve told you how this happened. Are you saying you won’t help us to put things right?” Lee was incredulous. How could he deny them?
Nelson turned to look at Lee then Will. These men were characteristically different to the officers he had lost. They obviously valued honour and duty. When he had listened to the way Crane had described his universe, his crew, his friends and especially Nelson, he had felt envious of the pride and respect he had for the other man. A thought suddenly occurred to him. What if…
He came back to them carefully and asked, “Captain. Why are you so intent on returning? You could have everything here that you had there.”
Lee frowned in confusion and exchanged worried glances with Jamie.
Nelson warmed to his argument. “I could make places for both of you here.” He turned to Lee. “You could have Seaview, I will give her to you. You’d have full command… I wouldn’t interfere. I’m sure we could work it out….”
Lee stood up suddenly and looked disbelievingly at Nelson. “Admiral, you can’t be serious. We can’t stay here; we have friends waiting for us. We have to go back, don’t you see that?”
“NO! I don’t see that!” Nelson came forward and grabbed Lee by the shoulders. “Don’t you understand, man… you could have it all, you could be the answer for me.”
Lee released himself and stepped back. He looked compassionately at the Admiral but remembered his true friends waiting for him on the other side. “Admiral, I’d like to help but you must see that we can’t possibly stay, this crew will never accept me as their captain. We don’t belong here. ” He smiled sympathetically. “If you will just tell us what Mallory is doing and how we can stop him, we can perhaps help you along the way.”
Nelson seemed to shrink before Lee’s eyes as he slumped down into a chair. “Why should I help you? Do you think this other Nelson will be helping Crane and Jamison to return?”
“Yes, sir, I do. Admiral Nelson will be doing all he can for them. He will be doing the right thing, he always does.” Lee answered softly.
“Maybe that’s the difference between us then!” Nelson scoffed moodily.
“It doesn’t have to be.” Jamie said quietly.
Nelson glanced at him sharply and studied the Doctor’s concern. He saw the man’s obvious compassion for him and felt demeaned by it.
He looked at Lee and scowled. “All right! I’ll tell you all you need to know but I won’t actively help you. If you insist on doing this, you’ll have to do it without me. I don’t see why I should take any risks for men I don’t know.”
Lee looked at Jaime with profound regret. How had this man become the antipathy of the man they knew and respected?
Nelson walked determinedly towards the brig as he contemplated his need to talk to Crane again. Harry found the contrast between the friend he knew and trusted and the man who masqueraded as him, strangely compelling. The scientist in him wondered about the differences. Were they inherent or did the dimension that was part of Mallory’s creative lunacy condition them?
He slowed as he approached the metal barred door and nodded to the solitary guard.
“Well, well, Nelson, couldn’t stay away, huh?” Crane sneered. “I thought you’d reconsider.”
“Oh, I haven’t reconsidered anything. I was hoping you had. If you help us I will do everything in my power to see you are returned or exchanged for our people.” Harry replied firmly. “I’ll even get some medical help for the Doctor.”
Crane looked to his fellow prisoner. Jamieson was sitting on the bunk with his head held in his hands. He was suffering quite badly from his addiction. He badly needed a drink; Crane could see the tremors were starting in his slender body. He laughed scornfully, “I don’t think its medical help the good Doctor needs, a bottle of scotch might make him feel better though.”
At the mention of scotch Jamieson looked up. His bloodshot eyes sought out Harry’s as he stood unsteadily. “One drink, please, just…just one drink….”
Crane stood up angrily, “Don’t beg, Doctor! There’s nothing quite so repulsive as a drunk begging for booze!”
Jamieson turned angrily to Crane and lunged at him. “What would you know about it? You never had a genuine need for anything in your life, nothing except glory!” Jamie tried futilely to punch the Captain but was easily deflected and pushed to the floor where he stayed, dejected and hurting.
Crane just mocked the fallen man with his smile and then turned to see Nelson’s concerned attention. “Don’t tell me you feel sorry for him, Admiral? Why? He’s nothing to you, just the enemy. Why have compassion for a weak man?”
Harry balled his fists in annoyance but forced himself to relax. “You obviously have no such compassion. Why is that? The Lee Crane I know would be caring for someone weaker than himself! Helping a friend!” Harry said dispassionately.
“Then he’s a fool. My crew will eat him alive!”
Harry came forward angrily, “Why? Why are you so different? Is it Mallory’s dimension or….” he calmed a little, “or is it that you truly are just the antipathy of a good man?”
Crane laughed as he mocked the other man. “Good man? The only good thing about your Captain Crane is he’s not here but I am! You will have to negotiate with me Admiral, to get him back!”
Nelson ground his teeth together and glared at the smirk on Crane’s face, he controlled an impulse to reach out and wring the neck of the over confident intruder.
“I will not negotiate with the devil! Lee wouldn’t expect me to….”
“Would he expect you to abandon him?” Crane demanded harshly.
Nelson paused and then turned on his heel and walked away.
“You need me, Admiral!” The taunting voice called after him, “You need me!”
Morton walked briskly through officer’s country and stopped outside his captain’s cabin door. He was about to knock when he spied the name plaque fixed to the shining metal… ‘Lee Crane, Captain’. Morton grimaced, ‘Captain’. Mentally he shook himself and knocking once, opened the door and entered.
“Captain, I have the report….” He stopped abruptly when he saw Dr. Su Lin seated behind Crane’s desk.
“Well, well… Doctor, what a surprise? Catching up some more paper work?” Morton asked contemptuously as he closed the door firmly and sauntered towards her.
Seema watched him carefully as he casually sat on the corner of the desk, within touching distance of her.
“Captain Crane is not here. He has gone with the Doctor Jamieson to see the Admiral.” She announced firmly, moving away from him slightly.
“Has he now? Well, it’s not a problem, he only wanted a report, I can give it to him later.” Morton smiled as he purposefully reached out towards her and captured a lock of her smooth hair. “Crane, has always had an eye for beautiful women. You want to tell me how you met our gallant captain?”
Seema stood up from the chair and moved away uneasily. She had not mistaken the sidelong glances of the executive officer and some of the other men aboard. She was not unused to male attention or to masculine orientated environments but the atmosphere here was definitely intimidating to a lone female. There was a certain amount of casual disrespect that seemed aimed at the captain of this Seaview and anyone associated with him. She felt vulnerable and was nervous around men for the first she could remember.
“I think it might be better, Commander, if you sought the captain elsewhere.” She circled the desk and edged towards the door.
The exec was too quick for her. He smoothly intercepted her flight and stood in front of her, arms folded formidably across his chest. “Don’t rush away Doctor. What are you scared of? If you’re going to be working as crew, don’t you think we ought to get better acquainted? You haven’t seen me at my best, I can be very friendly, when you really get to know me.”
“I’m not rushing away. I just think it’s time I found the captain and told him about my….” Seema faltered as she saw the gleam that entered the first officer’s eyes.
Chip smiled, as he raised one eyebrow and he demanded softly. “Told him about your what?”
"Told him that I may have some solutions for the anomaly problems that have been occurring.” Seema answered honestly.
“Is that right?” Morton seemed to assess her and then asked shrewdly “Are you really a Doctor of Temporal Mechanics and not just another one of Crane’s pickups?”
Seema drew herself up and said coldly. “I have a Doctorate from the
Chip laughed with genuine amusement. “I believe you Doctor. Forgive my scepticism but it’s unusual for our illustrious leader to be attracted to a woman with beauty and brains. He usually likes his women pretty, eager to please but not too academically inclined.”
Seema was unsure how to respond to this statement. She constantly kept reminding herself that Commander Morton was referring to another man entirely than the Lee Crane she knew.
The exec took a step forward and continued softly, “Which begs the question why someone as intelligent as you is wasting time with him. He has a short attention span you know. As soon as the next pretty smile comes along his interest strays, I believe last month’s model was a red-head.” Morton reached out and stroked his finger slowly along Seema’s chin. “Whereas I can be very attentive and considerate to the lady in my life.”
She tried to step away but he seized her arms and tightened his grip to pull her closer. He studied her intimately and grinned as she tried to pull back from him
the matter, Doctor? Don’t you feel inclined to be friendly? You might find it a
little wiser if you were nicer to me, you know? Admiral Nelson trusts me; we
understand each other. He built Seaview for his own personal use until
She couldn’t resist asking. “What about Captain Crane?”
Morton scowled. “He won’t be around forever and when he’s … gone… I’ll be next in line.” Chip pulled her into an embrace that had her arms trapped against his chest. “If it’s Captains you go for, you should really consider what I could do for you.”
“Please release me Commander Morton!” Seema said frostily as she pushed against him to free herself.
“Doctor… Seema, you’re not being very sociable. Afraid Crane might return before we’re finished? He doesn’t have to know, I could always lock the door….” Morton continued smoothly, his interest heightened by the slight woman’s close struggles.
“Captain Crane, means nothing to me!” Seema regretted the rash declaration when she saw his quick understanding.
“Is that true? Is it possible that Crane hasn’t put his brand on you yet?” Morton demanded crudely.
“Please, Commander Morton… let me go….” Seema strained her head back as Morton’s words frightened her even more.
“Well, well. Have I finally beaten him to something this time?” As she arched backwards away from him, he bent his head to her neck and kissed the soft skin.
“Stop… you’re hurting me…let me go immediately!”
“You don’t really mean that. I know when a woman is just playing hard to get,” Morton reached up and seized the back of her head and held her still as eagerness lit his excited blue eyes and alarmed her still further, “but let’s not waste anymore time with virginal modesty, you already have my full attention.”
“I assure you I do mean it! I find you extremely offensive. Now, let me go!”
Morton’s resentment suddenly took hold and he brutally twisted her hair as he glared into her eyes, “Offensive am I? I’ve never had any complaints before. I wonder if maybe you’re protests are just to stop yourself appearing too eager. I think you want this as much as I do. Why don’t I prove that to us both?”
Seema closed her mouth tightly and pushed with her hands at his chest as he crushed her to him and cruelly captured her mouth with his. Morton backed her up against the bunk and Seema toppled helplessly backwards but before she could fight back, the officer pinned her down with his body and bent his head to hers again and kissed her mercilessly.
Seema struggled but his weight thwarted her resistance and she felt his hand move insultingly over her body. She reached up a free hand and raked her nails across his exposed cheek.
Morton reared up, eyes glittered with intense fury as he put a hand over the wound and rubbed his fingers over the scratches before lowering them to glance at the blood streaks. “That wasn’t a nice thing to do, lady,” he growled, “but I always like a challenge. Crane isn’t the only one who knows how to tame a vixen!”
He bent forward again over her frightened figure and cruelly ground his mouth on hers… but suddenly she was free. She heard loud, angry voices and saw the XO dragged backwards and thrown across the desk as Lee placed himself in front of her.
“Get out, MORTON. Get out of my sight right now!”
Chip Morton scrambled up and glared hatefully at the man who had stopped him from claiming his prize. “You’ve done that once too often, Captain… taken something from me that I want.”
Lee ignored him and glanced back at Seema. “Are you alright? Did he hurt you very much?”
Seema shook her head and remained silent as she stood upright and shakily straightened her clothing.
“How’s it feel, Captain? Knowing that I was first this time? Call it payback for all those times at the Academy when you lied and cheated your way through everything… and for Angie Hamilton, if you like!”
Despite his aversion to this man, Lee, asked warily, “Angie?”
“Don’t play dumb, Crane, it doesn’t suit you. You know full well what I’m talking about… I had plans for Angie before you interfered and you knew it! But the great Captain Crane just had to be first at everything!”
Lee coloured slightly at the full implication of his doppelganger’s true personality.
“Just get out and don’t dare to bother Dr. Su Lin again… DO I make myself clear?” Lee ordered ruthlessly.
Morton hesitated only slightly and then straightened himself and jeered. “LOUD and clear!” he moved towards the slightly ajar door and stopped. “My apologies, Doctor. Maybe I shouldn’t have handled the merchandise. It seems I failed to appreciate the ‘Captain’s Property Only’ label…”
Just as Lee moved forward to throw him out bodily, Morton grinned derisively and left.
Lee led Seema into Nelson’s office and introduced her to the senior man as he gently sat her down.
Immediately Jaime noted her slightly shaking hands and the obvious bruising to her mouth. “What’s happened?”
“Please Doctor, it was nothing.” Seema assured him
Lee rested a hand gently on her shoulder and said angrily. “I just stopped Morton from attacking her.”
Seema hung her head as Jamie gasped and knelt beside her. “Are you alright… did he hurt you?”
She looked up and smiled decisively. “No. I am quite all right. The Captain’s arrival prevented anything serious from happening.”
“The…” Jamie muttered an epithet to himself as he turned to Lee. “We have to get off this boat!”
“We will Jamie, we will.” Lee assured him.
Nelson looked from one to the other of his visitors. He was shocked at the degrading behaviour of one of his officers. How had things ever reached this level?
He saw how Lee was carefully protective towards this woman and offered his support in the light touch of his hand and the warmth of his smile when he looked at her.
Nelson could see an honourable man that would never consider behaving so badly and again this Lee Crane impressed him to the point of envy for the other Nelson that was this man’s friend.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured as he watched Lee give her coffee. “I don’t know how this could have happened. I will of course take steps against….”
“No! Please Admiral; don’t do anything, at least not yet. I was not hurt and besides I was not the intended target.”
Jaime frowned at her, “Of course you were. If Lee hadn’t arrived to stop him, he would have….” he didn’t feel he could finish the sentence as his imagination all too vividly played the scene to him.
Lee heard the disgust in his friend’s concern towards her and recalled his own shock.
He had gone to fetch Seema from his cabin to bring her to meet the Admiral, after Nelson’s reluctant agreement to help them. He had been stunned at the sight that greeted him. After he had pulled Morton away and seen Seema’s distress, Lee had experienced extreme hatred for the other man. Only his strong self-control had prevented him from beating the Exec to a pulp. When Morton had tried to justify his actions as payback for some slight committed by his opposite, Lee had felt only revulsion for both men.
“I don’t understand, Doctor Su Lin. What other target could there be.” Nelson questioned.
“Me.” Lee answered quietly for her. “He intended to use Seema to hurt me!”
“Yes. His hatred for you or for the man he believes you to be, transcends everything else… I was a only tool to be used against you.” Seema said sadly.
There was silence for a few moments then Seema took a deep breath and looked at Lee.
“Before… well, earlier I was coming to look for you. I have made some startling discoveries in my research, Captain. If we are to leave this dimension we must do so in the next four hours or we may be trapped here forever.”
Her word’s startled all three men out of their individual thoughts.
“What do you mean?” Lee demanded.
“I have studied the readings that the computer provided and with previous data supplied to me by Admiral Nelson before my arrival, I have determined that the time vortices Professor Mallory has been using are not stable. This means that in the,” Seema looked at her watch, “five hours and twenty two minutes we have been here, approximately 12 hours 49 minutes have passed in their dimension, they are travelling away from us” She looked around the worried faces. “The time difference is growing exponentially I’m afraid. This means gentlemen that in two days here we could be as much as four months adrift. If we are here a month, they will be 7 years into their future ”
The shock hit Jamie and Nelson hard but Lee was already planning. “What do we need to do?”
Seema smiled, the Captain obviously had a cool head and quick comprehension, he would have made an excellent scientist!
“We need to open a vortex at precisely 23.27 hrs and travel back through it. We will meet them approximately 14 hours from their time now.”
“But how do we do that?” Jamie asked, “Mallory is in a lab somewhere and he has the controls.”
Lee and Seema talked rapidly about the different possibilities and Nelson listened to the exchanges. He was amazed at the quick intelligence of this Lee Crane. He knew his man would not have the ability to hold a conversation of this complexity with such an eminent scientist. A part of him was deeply jealous and mourned the lost opportunities to which he had not been privileged.
“But you can’t go down alone to a subterranean lab, with a mad scientist and expect to defeat him single handed!” Jamie reiterated again. “Lee, be sensible, there has to be another way.”
“None that I can think of. If I go down to Mallory’s lair and can distract him long enough to set the controls… you and Seema could get away.” Lee said to Jamieson.
“No, Captain. That would mean you would remain here, trapped, with no hope of return.” Seema answered.
Lee looked at her concern and smiled softly. “I know Doctor but someone has to stay. Don’t worry; I’ll be fine…this isn’t so different from … home. Perhaps I can win them onto my side in time.”
“Lee,” Jaime came to stand by his friend, “this is no joke! You have an executive officer that hates you, a crew that has no respect for you and no friends to help you.” Jamie looked to the bent head of the seated Admiral and saw nothing to encourage hope for them. “We all stay or we all go, there can be no other way.”
Lee stood up and adopted his Captain’s persona. “Doctor Jamieson, you will follow my orders. You and Dr. Su Lin will go to FS1 and wait there. I will go and find Mallory and get that vortex open. As soon as I do, you will take the flying sub out and return home. Is that clear?”
Jamie gritted his teeth against the commanding tone but knew better than to argue. Lee had made his decision and that was that. Turning away to slump in a chair, he answered morosely. “Aye, Sir.”
Lee softened his stance, “Jamie, just explain it to Chip and the Admiral, they’ll understand…”
“No they won’t,” Jamieson sighed softly, “but they’ll accept it.”
Nelson listened intently to the pain he could hear from both men and saw the shimmering tears that rested unshed on Seema’s lashes. Suddenly he stood up. “There’s another way.” He said gruffly.
Everyone turned to him. “Admiral?” Lee questioned.
“In the missile room, there’s a back up console that Mallory had installed in case of a power loss or fault in the lab. It’s not as powerful and may not be sufficient to activate a big enough vortex but if you divert the power couplings and set the controls… it may be just enough get you out of here.”
Lee leant forward on the desk and concentrated on the man in front of him. “Admiral, are you sure?”
Nelson shook his head reluctantly as he resumed his seat. “No, I’m not sure of anything. The standby control unit will open something but how big or what Mallory will do when he realises what’s happening I don’t know. He has some stored power in case of emergencies of course, whether it will be enough to stop you, I’m not sure.”
Lee smiled gratefully. “Thank you Admiral. Thank you for helping us. I know how hard this must be for you….”
Nelson looked up and just for a moment he felt the pride of the other Nelson, the one Lee Crane admired and derived enormous pleasure from it.
As Lee turned and issued orders to Jamie, Seema sat thoughtfully…
“Lee, it is possible your Admiral Nelson will have come to these conclusions also. If there were a way of sending him a signal… something he could understand, then maybe we could coordinate both power sources on the vortex and open it further, that could help us to get through.”
Lee concentrated and then murmured; “You say we are drifting apart from them,” Seema nodded, “If we did manage to send them a signal through a vortex in the next ten minutes say, when would they receive it?”
Seema was doing the mental calculations when Nelson interrupted. “One hours 18 minutes from now.”
Lee looked at him and smiled encouragingly. “Thank you, Sir.” Turning to Seema again he asked. “That would give the Admiral the time he needed to couple up a power supply to help us, wouldn’t it?”
“Well… yes. Always supposing the Admiral….”
“He will be ready, I’m sure of it.” Lee said confidently. “Besides, we have very few choices here.” Lee got up and turned to the door, “Let’s move.”
“Wait, Captain. There is still something we have not addressed.”
Lee frowned as he turned back to Seema.
“We may get away but there is nothing to stop the anomalies continuing as soon as Professor Mallory acquires a new power source.” Seema explained.
They all remained silent as the full implications became clear to them.
“Is there a way to stop him permanently?” Lee asked.
Seema was thoughtful, “Maybe, but it’s by no means easy and will involve some risk.”
Lee nodded to encourage her to continue.
“We will have to set the console here to create a feedback loop and as soon as the professor opens his power controls, the power from here would overload his system and create an unstable field. He would not be able to stop it and within minutes it would reach a critical and explode… but….”
“But?” Lee asked suspiciously.
“Someone will have to ensure the power is increased steadily and not overridden or interrupted, otherwise the field will collapse and we could all die….”
Lee took this news soberly as he contemplated Seema’s solution. It would mean certain death to Mallory but what the man planned for the dimensional disharmony of human existence was worse. He was reluctantly willing to make a sacrifice to end another man’s insane ambitions if it meant the survival of innocent lives. “All right, Doctor, come with me now and we’ll set things in motion after we have sent the message.”
As the three turned to leave, Jamie looked at the haggard face left behind. “Wait! What will happen here? I mean to this Seaview and crew?”
Seema looked surprised. “They will remain of course.”
“Remain? You mean they are not just a creation of one of Mallory’s machines?” Lee demanded.
“No, of course not. I thought you all understood… each dimension functions independently of the others. All dimensions do. Infinite numbers of possibilities exist and they are all running parallel to each other but separately.” Seema could see confusion still lingering and tried again. “Think of it this way… train lines at a terminal, all running parallel but occasionally converging and crossing each other, the trains that ride on the tracks are bound on one line but may pass or cross the paths of others but never merge together. They all travel at different time ratios, hence the variations in the time continuum.”
“So this crew will go on as before.” Jamie confirmed uncertainly.
“But what about their missing officers? Will they return after we’re gone?”
Seema hesitated. “Possibly… but it is more likely that when the balance is upset by our arrival back, unless they also use the vortex to return at the same time they will simply cease to exist in either sphere.”
“You mean they will die?” Lee asked urgently.
“Yes, in a sense… their existence will just come to an end….” Seema finished quietly.
Nelson looked at Lee and saw the new worry that challenged his honour. To save himself and his friends would mean the expense of two other lives. Men who had no say in their own fate. “You must do what you have to, Captain. We all know, you cannot stay here and they will not be welcomed there… the alternatives are few and none of them palatable.” Nelson finished sombrely
Lee looked intensely at this man for a moment then turned and left with Seema and Jaime in tow.
”Admiral Sir, there’s a message coming through that small vortex thing out there.” called Chief Sharkey through the intercom system.
“Transfer it here.” Nelson ordered. Turning to Chip, he smiled contentedly. “Now at last we may get the answers we need.”
“Come.” Harriman Nelson called as he looked up from the papers he was studying.
Morton entered and crossed to the desk and stared down at the seated man as he declared moodily. “Did you ask Crane to test Professor Mallory’s secondary unit in the missile room? He’s being all ‘need to know’ about it. Won’t let anyone in there but Dr. Su Lin and Jamieson. If you ask me he’s been behaving oddly since he got back and now this…do you know what he’s up to?”
Nelson kept his gaze averted as he answered firmly. “I know what Le…Crane is doing. I gave him the orders.”
Morton waited for a clearer explanation but realised it wasn’t forthcoming so he tried again. “I have just had another call from Professor Mallory as well, Admiral, demanding to know what’s going on. He wants to speak to you or Captain Crane. Crane is avoiding him, understandably considering he messed up this morning’s trials, but I don’t understand why you won’t speak to him!”
Nelson leant back in his chair and scrutinised his XO, the man he had known since Morton’s first year at the Academy. He remembered the scrubbed face new recruit as the only son of a millionaire industrialist. He had been spoiled when he arrived but was intelligent and had worked hard at his training, looking for every opportunity to excel and impress his superiors. His background and influential father had helped but he had earned a certain amount of admiration for his work, in his own right, from his peers and senior officers. Maybe he had just been a little unlucky to have Lee Crane as his nemesis. Crane had challenged him at every turn, resenting Morton’s moneyed background, never ceasing to ridicule his wealth and managing to compete, fairly or unfairly, to disparage Morton whenever he could. Harry realised that Morton and Crane had instinctively sensed a rival in the other had set about demolishing each other’s reputations, each intending himself to be the only alpha male!
The scratches from Morton’s attack on Seema Su Lin were still livid on his cheek and Nelson speculated as to when he had finally stepped over the line and taken a less principled approach to his life?
“Admiral, did you hear me?” Morton demanded brusquely.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of things. Some not to my liking!” Nelson answered harshly.
Morton coloured slightly and stared back defiantly as he drew himself up to face Nelson silently.
“Are they true?”
“Depends who’s doing the telling.” Morton replied tersely.
Nelson slammed his hand down on the desk and shouted. “Dammit man, you attacked a woman….”
“Not true! She was willing… or would have been, if Crane hadn’t interfered!” Morton shouted back defensively.
“Is that why she scarred your face?” Nelson responded unsympathetically.
automatically rubbed the sore finger scratches on his cheek and turned crimson
with embarrassment. “She…I tried…” He turned away from the accusing stare of
the older man and took deep breaths. “Maybe I did misread some things,” he
admitted reluctantly as he turned back angrily, “but it was never about her. It
was about Crane… it’s always about Crane. He haunts my life with his
arrogance…” Morton gestured crossly at the seated Nelson. “You gave in! You
gave in to
Nelson was shaken by his vehemence but had to admit that the blame for a lot of things rested with him.
“Maybe you’re right. I made some serious mistakes and this is the result.” He rested his arms heavily on the table and continued absently, “Does one event, one wrong decision change the rest of our lives irrevocably? Is there no possibility of redeeming our honour and righting our mistakes?”
Morton looked at Nelson suspiciously. What was Nelson thinking about now? He didn’t appear drunk but that didn’t mean much, he’d known Harriman Nelson to function when most other drunks couldn’t.
“Admiral? What are you talking about?” Morton demanded irritably.
Nelson hung his head. “I made a decision once, the wrong decision and it altered everything. Took away what I believed in, took away my honour….”
Morton was concerned now that the admiral had finally lost his reason.
“Have you always made the right choices, Chip?”
The exec bristled slightly with offence. “I made the choices that were available to me!” Morton replied. “Sometimes they were wrong ones maybe but we can’t all be Lee Crane’s and have the luck of the devil to help us come first at everything!” He cursed his thoughts as they strayed again to the one man that he felt had blighted his life. “What has he demanded this time?”
Nelson sobered his thinking suddenly. Realising he had voiced his thoughts aloud he looked tiredly at the tall Exec.
“It’s nothing, nothing at all.” Shaking his head he concentrated again. “Now what was the problem with Professor Mallory?
Morton put his hands on his hips and narrowed his eyes momentarily, what had got into Nelson. Why all this introspection on his life? What had Crane been saying to him?
was about to explain when, from the desk intercom,
“Sir, Professor Mallory is calling again.”
Nelson looked at Morton who returned his gaze with resignation. “Put him through.” Nelson picked up the desk phone, “Professor, what can we do for you?” He listened patiently and nodded.
“The new vortex? Yes, I ordered it…no, nothing like that. I was merely testing the installation you have aboard as part of a routine maintenance programme….” Harry gripped the phone tightly as the searing anger of the scientist echoed in his ear. “Very well, Professor as you wish, I will see that it is made inoperative immediately.”
Still listening, Nelson caught the confused expression of Morton at the outright lie but continued to try and placate Professor Mallory.
“Yes, unfortunate indeed. If you would choose to repeat your test, I’m sure there would not be a problem this time….” He listened again then impatiently said,
“Yes, yes, we can get the readings, no one is trying to sabotage your work, Professor, I assure you but I have been looking over your research submissions and I have a few questions….” Nelson listened again as the other man obviously interrupted.
“I do have some knowledge of the temporal theory you expounded but it doesn’t make sense. Your need for such a tremendous power indicates a larger purpose than just opening a window of investigation, I don’t know why I didn’t see it before….”
Nelson lowered the phone slowly as the other man ended the call.
“What was that all about, Admiral? Why are you suddenly questioning the Professor’s work? And why lie about what Crane is up to?” Morton demanded.
“I think we have all been mislead to the true purpose of these anomalous events, Mr. Morton. Professor Mallory has been using us and I let him get away with it but I may still have the opportunity to redeem myself after all….
Lt. O’Brien was waiting for Lee as he approached the missile room again. Lee had gone to his cabin to collect Seema’s calculations after they had managed to send the short message through the small anomaly they had opened.
“Err…Captain, sir…can I speak to you?” He asked hesitantly and cast a nervous glance at Seema and Jamieson as they came to meet him. “Alone, sir?”
Lee paused then nodded to his friends, “You go back inside, and I’ll be along in a minute.” Seema and Jamie seemed uneasy but did as he asked. Turning to the second officer he said formally. “Well Lieutenant, what is it?”
O’Brien frowned slightly at Crane’s abrupt tone but continued softly. “I think there is something I should warn you about, sir.”
Lee was unsure how to respond. O’Brien seemed to expect something from him…no…not him! The other Lee Crane. “I’m sorry…Bobby… I have things on my mind. Was there something…?” Lee waited for an indication of how to proceed.
O’Brien seemed unsure for a moment then after another furtive glance around he came closer and lowered his voice even more. “I thought you’d want to know, sir, that Commander Morton is suspicious of your actions and has set one of his men, Kowalski, to watching you. He’s also informed Professor Mallory that he thinks you are setting out to sabotage his experiments.”
Lee managed to keep the look of shock from his face. This boat was worse than he had suspected. Men used to spy on each other, an Exec apparently with his own private crew to do his bidding and a second officer who seemed loyal to Crane.
“Thank you, Bobby, I’m grateful, I’ll look into it. That was very…loyal of you.”
“I’m your man, Captain, that’s why you brought me aboard after all, to watch your back. You must know I wouldn’t let you down, sir.” O’Brien reassured him.
Lee looked at the young man and for a brief moment was reminded of a faithful puppy. O’Brien was obviously fearful of the man he thought was his captain. Anxious to get away from this situation, he gave O’Brien a quick dismissal and turned to open the missile room hatch and step inside.
Immediately he heard raised voices.
“I was assigned here by Mr. Morton himself, Doc. I stay till he tells me I can go!” Kowalski was stating firmly.
“You follow the Captain’s orders, Sailor!” Lee called out as he crossed the deck.
Kowalski turned and mutinously glared at him. “Mr. Morton….”
“I know what Mr. Morton ordered, Kowalski, and I’m countermanding that order, you can leave.”
“Are you refusing a direct order from a superior, Kowalski? Are you sure you really want to do that, even for Mr. Morton?” Lee asked menacingly.
Kowalski hesitated. He hated this man. Crane had punched him the first time they’d met and all Crane did when reprimanded by the Admiral, was laugh! Laugh and tell him he needed to stay away from the ‘big boys’ if he couldn’t duck better than that! Kowalski was going to get even for that insult and all the other ways Crane had belittled or embarrassed him since he had arrived aboard. Kowalski was just counting the days!
Kowalski clenched his fists and set his face in an insolent sneer. “I’ll just go report back to Mr. Morton, Captain. Let him deal with you.”
As Lee watched the Sailor hurry to the hatch and wondered if perhaps he should have kept him here but it was too late now and he wasn’t keen on hurting this crew even if they hated his guts!
Jamie turned to Lee when they were alone and asked. “Should I ask what that was all about?”
Lee sighed, “I’ll tell you later, Jamie. Right now we have work to do.” He turned to join Seema at the secondary consul and concentrated on all the things that needed to be done.
Morton stalked his way down to the missile room after Kowalski had reported that Crane had dismissed him and pronounced the missile room off limits. Morton had been suspicious of Crane’s actions since he returned with the woman. What the hell was he playing at now? Morton had heard the Admiral when he had tried to explain away the appearance of the last vortex that’s why he had sent Kowalski down to the missile room to watch what Crane was up too as soon as he knew of Crane’s presence there. It had just been reported to him that Jamison and Dr. Su Lin were in the Flying Sub, supposedly to check something for the captain but Morton was sure he was up to something else. Since Crane’s return this morning even Nelson was behaving like a different man towards him. He was asking ridiculous questions about honour and duty…as if he ever worried about such things. Nelson had given up and unless he, Chip Morton, watched Crane closely, they could end up losing everything! Not that he was worried about Nelson, but he was damned if he would let Crane get the prize he wanted for himself! Not this time, no sir! He had been a plank owner from the beginning and sacrificed a promising career in the Navy for this. He wasn’t about to let Crane walk in and steal it away from him, the way he had with everything else… Seaview was going to be his. He’d even kill if he had to!
He approached the hatch and stopped a moment as he looked in. Crane was in front of Professor Mallory’s consul and was resetting the power levels.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Lee turned from his work; he hadn’t heard Chip Morton’s approach, or at least the person who looked like Chip. He had to remember that this wasn’t Chip and couldn’t be spoken to like Chip.
“Get out, I’m busy,” he told him shortly.
Morton crossed the room to look over Lee’s shoulder, “You’re increasing the power output, why? Professor Mallory ordered this unit deactivated. Why are you disobeying?” Chip was ignored as Crane continued to set the controls. “Stop, if you do that you’ll create an unstable vortex and the power feedback will destroy Professor Mallory’s lab.”
“I haven’t got time to explain right now, just trust me,” Lee answered.
“Trust you, that’s a joke. I’m not going to let you blow up the professor or this submarine,” Morton grabbed Lee’s shoulder and pushed him away from the control panel as the voltage started to increase.
Taken unawares, Lee stumbled backwards banging his head on the torpedo racks, the breath knocked out of him; he took a few seconds to revive. He only had minutes now to get the Flying Sub away and ensure that Mallory’s lab was destroyed for good, desperation lent him strength as he pulled himself upright. There was only one thing he could do, he would have to overpower Morton before he could call for help or switch the power back down.
“Alright, Morton, let’s have it out, right here and now,” he goaded the exec, “I was given this job because it was obvious to Washington that you would never make the sort Captain they needed. Let’s see if I can prove them right, or is attacking women all you have the stomach for?” It was a gamble but he seemed to have hit just the right note. Lee knew that an angry man was less coordinated and an easier adversary.
“Why you little … “ Morton turned towards him and Lee got his blow in first, punching Morton on the jaw, he fell backwards but he caught himself on the bulkhead and pushed himself forward to punch Lee hard in his ribs. Despite the sudden pain Lee retaliated with a punch to Morton’s solar plexus’ and then as the exec doubled up winded and in pain Lee hit him on the jaw. Morton went down but swung a foot behind Lee’s leg and toppled him to the deck. He jumped on the downed man and grabbed Lee’s shirt pulling him towards him. Punching wildly Morton managed to land a few telling punches then put his hands around Lee’s throat and squeezed. Lee felt the pressure and lifted a knee between them, using it as a lever. He pulled at Morton’s forearms and forced him away with his knee, finally breaking his hold. Morton fell backwards as Lee gasped for breath and turned to face his attacker. Morton lay on the deck and cast around for a weapon of any kind. He spied a crowbar and reached for it as he rose to his feet. Swinging it at Lee he managed to connect with the other man’s ribs again although Crane’s arm managed to deflect it from doing serious damage but he heard Lee groan with pain. “Did that hurt, Crane? I hope so because I’m going to take you apart!” Morton growled as he came forward again but Lee feinted to the left and managed to grasp the crowbar. Together they fought for it and finally Lee managed to pull it from the other man’s hold. Lee threw it aside as he punched out again and hit Morton hard in the stomach. Morton collapsed to the floor on one knee and before he could move again Lee grabbed his hair, lifted his head and punched him hard on the jaw. Lee released his hold, Morton fell to the deck and lay still. Breathing heavily and horrified by what he had done, Lee bent over him, “Chip, I’m sorry, I …” No, he had to pull himself together this was NOT Chip, just another figment of Mallory’s twisted universe.
Dizzily, Lee got to his feet, the pain in his ribs making it hard to breathe; Morton could certainly pack a punch. He checked the power output, which was rising steadily, he had only minutes left now to create the portal and contact the Flying Sub telling them to leave. He turned to the consul but as he picked up the mic everything spun round him. He had to stay conscious; he had to ensure that Jaime and Seema got to safety.
Suddenly, as he felt himself fading, a pair of hands held him upright. He looked at the man that was helping him. “Admiral? I don’t understand…why are you here?”
Nelson helped Lee to sit in a chair and smiled apprehensively. “I decided to do the right thing I suppose. You have to get to FS1 and return with your friends. I’ll stay here and make sure the power level rises sufficiently to cause the feedback.”
“But, Admiral …are you sure? Your government won’t thank you, neither will your first officer.” Lee and Nelson looked to the man on the deck who was just beginning to revive.
“I’ll deal with all that, you need to get away.” Nelson helped Lee to his feet. “Can you walk?”
Lee looked at his determination and smiled. “I’ll make it. Welcome back, Admiral. I knew you weren’t lost completely.”
Nelson was surprised at the warmth in his tone and smiled broadly. “I guess it took a friend to help me find my way.”
A groan from the XO drew both men’s attention. Morton was coming round fast.
Nelson pointed Lee towards the door, “Go! When I know you’re safely away, I’ll do what’s necessary.”
Lee stood to attention as best he could and saluted the other man, “Thank you, Sir and good luck.”
Nelson smiled proudly and casually returned the salute then impulsively shook his hand, “Good luck to you…Lee. Now go before it’s too late.”
Lee took one last look at Morton as he sat up and headed for the hatch. From behind him he heard the Admiral’s voice. “Stay right where you are Mr. Morton. I have a story so fantastic to tell you, you’ll probably think I’m mad but I have to convince you if we’re ever going to move on….”
Lee smiled as he left and made his way to FS1.
Lee stumbled along the corridor, making his way forward beneath the Control Room until he reached the rear cargo hatchway to the Flying Sub. He slumped against the hatch, as the pain and exhaustion from his damaged ribs as well as his other injuries, threatened to overwhelm him and his surroundings once more started to fade. Taking deep breaths he managed to steady himself and turned the hatch wheel, falling over the sill to land on his knees, almost doubled up in pain.
“Lee?” Will Jamieson’s voice roused his senses, “What happened?”
Lee let Jamieson help him to a seat, “No time for that now, we’ve got 4 minutes to get out of here. Get yourselves strapped in.”
Seema buckled herself into the back seat, “My calculations say we’ve got to hit that vortex with as much speed as you can muster.”
Lee touched Jamieson’s arm, as once more his surroundings began to fade, “Have you flown … flown this lately?”
“Once, with the Admiral.” Jamieson looked at the weakened man and took a deep breath, “Tell me what to do and remember if I take your orders now, you’ve got to obey mine when we get back.”
Lee managed a small smile, he’d see about that, “Start the engines, then we’ll …”
As Will started the engines, Seema unbuckled her seat belt and crouched down by Lee, “Lee, can you hear me?” She glanced at Will, “What’s the best thing to do?”
“You’re going to have the bring him round, press your thumbnails into his ear lobes,” Will half gave his attention to Lee and the other half to the engines as they roared into life, a small part of his mind reflecting on the ludicrous situation. He should be taking care of Lee, who should be flying this thing, and the scientist who should be guiding it was taking care of Lee!
Lee winced as the sharp pain brought him back to reality, “What … what was I saying?”
“I’ve got the engines started, now stay with us, Lee, what do I do next?”
Lee reached forward to work the automatic launch gear and as the giant doors opened beneath them the flying sub dropped thought the air lock.
“I’ll take her, I’m okay,” Lee stated. “There’s the vortex in front of us. Let’s hope the Admiral…Admirals…can supply us with enough power to get us though.”
Ahead of them the blackness intensified becoming a swirling, bubbling black hole. Lee revved the engines and the little craft speed towards it. “When we get through, radio Seaview and ask them to bring us in on a homing beam.”
They hit the vortex at high speed and were immediately flung into its chaos.
As Lee once again lost consciousness, Will shouted above the noise, “Seema, how do I get us out of here?”
“You don’t, we’ll be carried out on our own, just pray we get there before the vortex closes.”
“That I can do.”
They were flung from the mouth of the swirling chaos and saw the concentrated beam of power that emanated from Seaview to the disturbance. It seemed to glow brighter as they moved away and suddenly the vortex collapsed in on itself and darkness was all that was left. Within seconds they found themselves once more in calm water. Will flicked on the radio,
“FS1 to Seaview. This is Doctor Jamieson.”
“Morton here. Where are you, Doc?”
“We’re here…that is back here. Captain Crane is hurt and I have no idea how to fly this thing!”
Morton looked swiftly at the anxious face of his superior as Nelson looked out through the giant windows into the murky depths.
Morton looked down to the sonar scope and said confidently into the mic in his hand, “It’s okay, Jamie we have you. Just engage automatic pilot and we’ll do the rest.”
As Chip and the crew set about retrieving the Flying Sub, he watched as the Admiral paced the space in front of the giant windows, clenching and unclenching his fists with impatience.
Finally there was the satisfying clunk that signalled the safe return of the small yellow craft.
Both Nelson and Chip waited as Sharkey spun the locking wheel that opened the hatch cover. As the C.O.B. raised it a dark head was seen rising unsteadily up the steps.
Chip reached down to help Lee up the ladder, “Welcome back. What happened to you this time?”
Lee looked at him and said simply, “You did.”
Chip hesitated for only a second before he continued to help his friend up. Quickly Nelson moved to Lee’s side and held him upright. “It’s good to see you all home. Are you badly hurt, lad?”
Before Lee could answer, Jamie came to his other side and grumbled, “Bad enough but he’ll live. Remember Captain, we have an agreement…I followed your instructions and now you’ll follow mine, this is my area of expertise.”
Lee only smiled as he allowed himself to be supported by Jamie and Nelson. He looked back at the open hatchway and saw the apprehension Seema displayed as she climbed up. When Chip reached out a hand to help her up the ladder she drew back slightly and stopped, nervously she cast her gaze about and caught the Captain’s eye.
Lee smiled reassuringly and nodded. “He’s not the same man… none of them are.” Lee said softly as he turned to smile at the Admiral then looked back at her. “We’re safe and back where we belong. We’ve looked in the mirror for the last time.”