They Don’t Pay Me Enough For This
The SSRN Seaview was steaming back to its homeport in Santa Barbara after completing a routine survey and equipment test for the US Navy. In the observation lounge, Admiral Harriman Nelson, the genius behind the creation of the Seaview, was busy reviewing his notes to prepare his report. He heaved a sigh, laid down the papers and turned to look out the large windows in the bow. The sub was traveling at periscope depth and the sunlight shinning through the waves played a kaleidoscopic dance of color on the bulkheads. He sipped his coffee and became entranced with the show that Mother Nature seemed to be putting on just for him.
Meanwhile, in the Control Room, Commander Lee Crane, Captain of the sub and his Executive Officer, Chip Morton, were standing at the periscope preparing to take a sun sighting to check their position.
"You know, Lee, sometimes I wonder why we still do this," Chip said offhandedly. "I mean this boat is equipped with one of the most advanced inertial navigation systems ever built. Between that and our GPS receivers, we constantly know our position within 5 feet. Yet, we’re taking a sun shot like John Paul Jones did two hundred years ago."
"You’re right, Chip," Crane answered adjusting the controls on the sextant. "It does seem archaic, but it’s good practice in case something happens and we lose all those high-tech gadgets. Besides the regs require us to take a daily fix--remember Captain Blighis along on this trip."
"How could I EVER forget," Chip answered a little mockingly.
The individual they referred to was Admiral Jiggs Starke, USN. He was a classmate of Nelson’s at the Naval Academy and later became Commander of Submarine Operations for the Pacific Fleet. He was a tough old salt who believed in firm discipline and seemed to enjoy making his subordinates miserable. He described himself as Old Navy- spit, polish and the brig. Starke had come on this trip as the Navy’s observer for the testing of a new type of Mapping Sonar developed by the NIMR that would allow submarines to navigate in underwater canyons with a precision and safety never known before. If it worked, it would allow attack subs to use the canyons to mask their presence from the enemy, giving them the tactical advantage in a combat situation.
Just as the two officers were finishing up, they heard a crash as Nelson’s coffee cup shattered on the deck. The entire bridge crew looked up and saw the Admiral standing pointing to the bow windows.
"There she is," He cried. "There she is. There’s no doubt and I’m the first to spot her." Then, he turned and started through the control room.
"Admiral, is everything all right?" asked Crane, stepping between Nelson and the hatchway.
"I’ve got to find the Captain and tell him at last we’ve found her. Big as a mountain and white as new snow, she is, and I’m the first to see her. The doubloon is mine," Nelson replied, a familiar, yet, far away look on his face.
Lee looked out the nose of the sub and saw nothing but empty sea.
"Sonar, any contacts?"he asked.
"Negative ... the board is clear," replied Kowalski.
Crane turned back to his boss and put his hand on his shoulder. "Uh...sir, maybe we should go below and see Doc..."
Nelson jerked away from his friend and pointed an accusing finger at him.
"No, you just want the doubloon for yourself," he said as he headed for the open hatch. "I’m going to tell the Captain we’ve found her … get the rest of the crew together and have QueQee meet me at the long boat."
As he disappeared down the gangway, Lee let out a long, slow breath. He turned to his Exec, shook his head, and said, "not again."
Chip picked up the microphone from the side of the chart table. "Chief Sharkey," his voice boomed over the PA system. "Chief Sharkey, report to the Control Room, on the double."
Chief Petty Officer, Francis Ethelbert Sharkey, hurried down the spiral staircase and into the room with the senior officers.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yeah, Chief," said Crane looking up from the chart. "It looks like the Admiral has flipped out again"
"That’s the third time this month," said the Chief, a little dejected. "Jeez, I wish he would start taking his medicine like the Doc said."
"I know. It’s starting to become a real pain in the butt," replied the Captain. "By the way, what was the movie last night?"
"I don’t know, sir. I was working on the firing relays and didn’t get to see it." Sharkey turned to another crewman and said, "Hey Riley, what was the flick last night?"
Seaman Stu Riley looked up from his console "It was a real, moldy oldie with some cat named Gregory Peck about whaling. Let’s see.... Yeah, I think it was called Moby Dick .... a real yawn feast."
"Damn," said Crane, slapping his hand on the table, "how many times have I told you not to show that film when Admiral Nelson is on board. You know how it affects him. There just seems to be something about that guy who plays Ishmael that sends him off the deep end. Anyway, we have to stop him and get him to Sick Bay before someone gets hurt. Who’s on the Duty Roster?"
"Just a second, I’ll check," said Sharkey, picking up a clipboard from a shelf under the table. "Let’s see...KP, scraping barnacles, cleaning rust, getting knocked out by foreign agents, sacrifice to monsters, vaporized by aliens, yeah...here it is ‘restraining the Admiral’..uh Kowalski and Patterson."
Kowalski turned from his sonar console. "Aw..come on Chief; we had to do it last time..can’t you find someone else..how about Fowler?"
"Cut the static Kowalski. You’re on the list and that’s all there is to it," snapped the Chief. "Besides, Fowlers’s locked up in Sick Bay. Seems some big mouth told him last week he was going to be the Admiral’s diving buddy. The poor kid was shook up so bad he had to be sedated. Now, he just lies there in the bunk repeating over and over, 'I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die'."
"Besides, Kowalski, a big strapping guy like you shouldn’t have any trouble handling a little sawed off runt like the Admiral," Crane added.
"Normally, I’d agree with you, but, sir, you know how mean the Admiral is when he gets in this condition." The Chief gave the reluctant crewman a stern look that melted his opposition. "OK, sir, I’ll go." Kowalski said, as he rose from of his seat. "Just that last time he thought he was a werewolf. I sure don’t want to have to clean up a mess like that again."
"Deal," replied Crane. "Stop and grab the straight jacket on your way back. It’s hanging in the usual place."
As the two crewmen left the Control Room, Patterson turned to his partner "Come on, Ski, I don’t see what you're griping about, anyway...at least you're not the one wearing blue coveralls."
The Captain and Exec went back to studying the navigation chart before them.
Suddenly, a movement in the back of the room caught Chip’s attention. He tapped Lee on the shoulder, motioned aft, and said, "Looks like we’ve got company."
Crane turned and saw Admiral Jiggs Stark enter the Control Room. This is all I need, he thought to himself. It was then he noticed Starke was wearing a 18th century fore and aft Naval officer’s hat, complete with plume.
"Mister Christian," he bellowed, as he approached the two officers, "I require a word with you."
"Uh..yes sir," Crane said slowly, not quite knowing what to make of this. "What can I do for you, Admiral?"
Starke stopped in front of him, reached into the pocket of his uniform jacket, and pulled out a silver snuffbox. He opened it, got a small pinch of the powered tobacco, and inhaled some up each nostril. Predictably, the snuff caused the Admiral to sneeze. To everyone’s amazement, Starke pulled a lace handkerchief from inside his sleeve to wipe his nose.
"As I was coming up the corridor, I was nearly run over by one of your crew. The man seemed quite mad."
"Yes, sir, that was Admiral Nelson. It seems that he’s not quite himself today, but I assure you, we have everything under control," Lee answered.
"Ah, yes, Nelson.. of course, fine officer, knew him from the Academy," Starke replied replacing the snuff box and handkerchief. "Poor fellow, he hasn’t been the same since Trafalgar, you know. However, that’s not what I want to talk to you about, Mister Christian, it’s your crew."
"Excuse me, sir, but that’s Crane not...." the Captain started to say.
"Of all the impudence," Starke exploded. "I bloody well know who you are and by God, sir, I will not be corrected by the likes of you."
Crane stood there for a moment not quite sure how to handle the situation. Then, he remembered something his grandfather once told him. "Remember two things in life, boy. Never argue with a crazy person and always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident." Ok, so maybe Gramps wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he figured it best to play along with Starke until he found out what was going on.
"My sincerest apologizes, Admiral," Crane replied. "No disrespect was intended."
"Very well, sir," replied Starke, his voice taking a calmer tone. "But it will do you well to watch your tongue from here on out. Now, where were we? Ah, yes, your crew."
"Yes, sir," the Captain answered carefully picking his words. "Is there a problem?"
"I dare say there is, Mr. Christian," Starke began. "You have a loose ship here, sir...the crew has no discipline, and a complete lack of respect for their superiors. Why not a one of them can stand a proper brace when I pass and some have the audacity to look me straight in the eye when I speak to them. It is just plain bad form all around."
"I completely agree, Admiral," Crane replied, trying his best to keep a straight face. "Their conduct is absolutely shocking. All I can say is that the caliber of men we are forced to recruit these days is far short of what it should be. Be assured that I will speak to the men about this."
"Talk ... talk ... Talk means nothing to the likes of scurvy dogs like these," the Senior man replied sweeping his arm in a wide arc to emphasize his point. "The only thing dregs like these understand is a firm hand, the only voice....that of the whip. Tell me...when was the last time you conducted a flogging on this ship?"
"A flogging?" Crane replied. "Begging the Admiral’s pardon, but didn’t the Navy outlaw flogging a few years back?"
"Aye, that they did," Stark replied. "Those weak liveried buggers at the Admiratly ordered it stopped, but we both know the Navy is built on tradition, and its up to officers like you and I to uphold those traditions for the good of the service. So, I want you to assemble the ship’s company on deck immediately and pick out the four worst offenders for ten lashes each."
This has gone far enough, thought Lee. "Excuse me, sir, but if I remember correctly, in the past floggings were held early in the day for the greatest impact on the crew. May I suggest we wait until after morning role call. It will also give me time to select the most deserving individuals"
Starke thought for a moment and then shook his head. "You bring up a very good point. Very well, we will wait until morning, but be warned, Mister Christian. If things do not improve aboard this vessel, I will jolly well see to it that YOU are the one who feels the bite of the lash."
Then, he turned three times with his finger in the air as though he was checking the wind, and left for his cabin.
Crane watched until Admiral Starke left the Control Room. Then, he turned to Sharkey and ordered, "Chief, I want you to put a guard outside Admiral Starke’s quarters and make sure he stays there until we get back to port."
The Chief put his hand in the air, turned three times, and left to carry out his orders. Lee looked at Chip and shook his head. "Admirals ..... no wonder they take ’em off sea duty and put ’em behind a desk."
"Well, do you want me to check stores and see if we have a cat-o’-nine tails aboard?" Morton asked jokingly.
"No....I don’t think we’ll need it." Crane answered with a half grin. "But what do you say, we put Captain Bligh off, set sail for Tahiti, burn the boat when we get there, and live happily ever after making love to half-naked native women?"
"Sounds like a plan," Chip replied. "Problem is, I have an appointment to get my teeth cleaned when we get back......maybe next time?"
Both men chuckled at the thought when the Chief came skipping back into the Control Room and interrupted the two. "Captain Crane..."
"Yes, Chief, what is it?" Crane asked.
"Sir, we’ve just got a report from Kowalski and Patterson on Admiral Nelson."
"Good ... have they caught him, yet?" the Captain asked.
"Well, no, sir, not yet. They have him cornered in the aft stairway. They say he keeps running up and down the steps blowing a bugle and yelling, CHARGE," the Chief answered.
Lee gave Chip a puzzled look. Morton just shook his head and scratched his nose before saying, "Beats me, this is a new one."
Lee turned back to Sharkey and said, "ask them if they can find out why he’s doing that."
The Chief picked up the microphone and relayed the question to the two crewmen. There was silence for a moment and then the answer. "The Admiral claims he’s Teddy Roosevelt and he’s taking San Juan Hill. Patterson says he’s just been sworn in as a Lieutenant in the Rough Riders and Ski’s the new Secretary of the Interior. They want to know what you want them to do, sir."
"See if they can herd him toward Sick Bay. I’ll alert the Doc and have him standing by. Tell the ‘Secretary’ to ask the ‘President’ if he would like to see Yellowstone Park. That may help," Crane suggested. "Mr. Morton, set course for Santa Barbara, best possible speed -- and then some."
"Aye, sir," Morton answered sharply. "Helm, come to course 127 degrees, all ahead full."
Lee stood back and watched with satisfaction as the crew carried out the orders with a precision that came through practice.
A couple of minutes later, the submarine completed the maneuver and the Exec reported, "On course for Santa Barbara. We should be there by morning."
"Very good, Crane answered. "Chip, would you mind watching the store for a few minutes while I go get some coffee?"
Chip nodded and scratched his nose with his pencil. Lee sighed and left.
When Crane stepped into the mess, he was taken aback. Mess was the right word for it. Trays and silverware were scattered across the tables and floor and food was splattered on the walls, looking like some sort of weird Jackson Pollard painting. Petty officer Simmons and a couple of crewmen were trying to clean it up.
"What in the devil?" Crane exclaimed.
Simmons looked up. "Oh..Captain, sorry about the mess, sir. We had a …little…accident."
Lee looked around. "A LITTLE accident? "he asked. Then, it hit him. "Which one was it?"
"Both," Simmons answered.
"BOTH?" Crane said startled. Then, he took a deep breath and slowly exhaled to settle down. "Let’s just have a seat and you tell me what happened."
"Aye, sir, would the Captain care for a cup of coffee?" Simmons asked, guessing why his boss was there in the first place.
The cook poured Crane a cup, set it on the table in front of him, and took a seat on the other side of the table. The Captain took a sip and it seemed to relax him a bit. From the bite it had he suspected it was some of Simmons ‘special blend’ and there was something just a little stronger than normal java in the cup. It was strictly against regulations, but at this point he wasn’t going to complain.
"All right, Simmons, what happened?"
"Well, Captain," the cook began, "it started when Admiral Starke came in. He just stood there rolling a couple of steel balls in his hand, just looking at us."
"Steel balls," Crane asked. "You mean like marbles?"
"I guess so. Any way, he’s just standing there clicking his balls. So I asked if I could get him anything. It was then he asked about the strawberries."
"Strawberries? What strawberries?" Crane asked.
"That’s what I said," Simmons continued, "but Admiral Starke kept insisting that someone had duplicated a key to the food locker and stole the strawberries. He even ordered me to take down the sugar canister and 6 bowls. He then began ladling the sugar out saying it proved not all of the strawberries had been eaten and, by God, he would find the culprit if he had to throw every man on this boat in the Brig."
Lee sat for a minute. "Are there any missing? No offense, but I can’t remember you cooking anything with strawberries in it."
"That’s the thing, sir. We never had any. Strawberries are out of season right now, and hard to get. I tried to explain that to Admiral Starke and even offered to show him the manifest, but he just blew his cork. He accused me of being in on the conspiracy and left saying he was going to see me rot in Leavenworth for my ‘mutinous behavior’. Can he do that, sir?" he asked, a little worried.
"Don’t worry about it, Simmons." Crane replied. "I’m pretty sure Admiral Starke’s just blowing off steam, but that doesn’t explain the mess."
"No, sir. A few minutes after Admiral Starke left, Admiral Nelson came in wearing a bedsheet over his uniform and asked for a cup of coffee and something to eat."
"A bedsheet?" Crane asked
"Honest, sir. And a wreath on his head, just like you see in those old movies about the Roman Empire." Simmons continued. "Well, I fixed him a tray and a couple more for the stewards. We all sat down to eat and the Admiral started to tell us about his adventures when he was the "chef de cuisine" on a freighter hauling cocoa from Brazil to the States.
"You don’t mean…" Crane started.
"Yes, sir. Admiral Nelson thinks he was a chocolate ship cookie. Then, Kowlaski and Patterson came in and the Admiral went bonkers. He stood up on the table and yelled ‘Food Fight!’ and started slinging trays and pots all over the room. We all dove for cover, and the Admiral bolted through the door and down the passageway. Uh.. are you feeling all right, Captain?"
Crane was sitting at the table with his head in his hands rubbing his forehead. "Yeah, I’m fine, just starting to get a bit of a headache."
"You might want to stop by Sick Bay and get some aspirin before it gets any worse," the Cook suggested.
"That’s not a bad idea," Crane replied. "I’ll have Chief Sharkey send a detail down and help you clean up."
"I appreciate the offer, but I already have a couple of guys coming. I think we have things pretty well in hand, but I’m afraid supper may be a little late tonight." Simmons said apologizing.
"No problem," Lee said as he got up. "Just do the best you can ....and thanks for the ‘coffee’,"he added with a slight wink.
A few minutes later, the Captain stepped into the Sick Bay and saw Patterson setting on the bed with Dr. Jamison bandaging his head.
"What happened to you?"he asked.
"Well sir, we weren’t having any luck chasing the Admiral all over the boat. So, Ski and I thought we’d try to outsmart him," the injured crewman began. "We went down to stores and got some paint. Then, we went to the dead end at corridor 8 and painted a hatch on the bulkhead. Actually, it was pretty convincing. Thought maybe in his condition Admiral Nelson wouldn’t realize it was a fake and we’d have him cornered. Ski and I backed into the Storeroom and waited. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later here comes the Admiral. He walks up to the ‘hatch’ opens it, and walks in!"
"He did what?" asked Crane in amazement.
"I swear to God, sir. He opened the hatch we painted on the wall, went through it, leaving it open."
"What did you do then?" Crane asked, wondering if he had another crewman going over the edge.
"Ski and I just looked at each other for a minute, figuring we both had lost our minds. Then, he yells ‘Just don’t stand there. Let’s go after him', and we go tearing down the hall. Unfortunately, I got there first and slammed right into the bulkhead. Knocked myself out cold. Guess Ski brought me here because the next thing I know, I’m lying on the bed with Doc looking over me."
Crane look at the doctor and asked, "Is he going to be all right?"
"He’ll be just fine," Jamison said putting the last piece of tape on the bandage. "The X-ray doesn’t show any fractures. Yep, Patterson, you’ve got a head hard enough to pass for a Marine."
"With all due respect, Doc, you need to work on your bedside manner...sir."
Patterson replied with mock indignation. "May I go now?"
"Go ahead," the Doc replied with a grin, "and get out of here before I report you for malingering."
After the two crewmen left the room, Lee turned to Jamison, "Are you sure he's going to be OK. I mean that story..."
"Yes, sir, he’s fine. Kowalski told me the same thing before Patterson came to. I guess it’s not any stranger than leprechauns or mermaids running through the ship," said the doctor, putting away the tape and bandages. "Now, Captain, what can I do for you?"
"Just wanted to get a couple of aspirin. Got a headache coming on," Crane answered.
Jamison went over to the medicine cabinet and took out a bottle. He handed Lee two tablets and a glass of water.
"Here you go. These should fix you right up."
"Thanks." Crane said as he swallowed them down. "Doc, what do you think is causing Admiral Nelson to act like this? I mean he’s always been a little high strung, but lately..."
"Its hard to say. I really haven’t been able to give him a complete physical. You know the way he feels about doctors and hospitals. But I suspect that the last time he was brainwashed by our friends in the People’s Republic they may have left him on spin cycle a little too long."
"Can you do anything about it?"
"If he would take his medication, he could keep it under control, but you know how stubborn he can be."
"Yeah, tell me about it," Crane answered. "Is there anything that might be a permanent cure?"
"Well, I have read reports that electroshock therapy has achieved results in cases like this."
"So, you think it might work?"
"Don’t know for sure," Jamison said with a little glint in his eye, "but it sure would be fun to watch. In fact, I know a few folks in Washington who would pay good money to see it. There could even be the possibility of a pay-per-view event."
Night was falling and things aboard the sub seemed to be setteling down a little. Admiral Nelson was still running through the Seaview’s corridors with Patterson and Kowalski in hot pursuit. Starke was in his cabin and had been strangely silent, well, except for an occasional gurgle or moan. No one knew ..or rather ... no one WANTED to know what was going on in there.
Captain Crane was briefing the evening watch when suddenly there was a bright flash behind him like a strobe going off.
"Lee … "Chip said motioning toward the glass nose.
Crane turned around and saw a figure standing in the Observation Room. He appeared to be human, tall and thin with black curly hair. He was dressed in what looked like some type of uniform made up of black trousers and a tight fitting red shirt with black shoulders. The only insignia was a pin on his chest consisting of a silver chevron on a gold oval.
Chief Sharkey picked up the microphone and said, "Master at Arms to the Control Room."
The visitor raised his arm and snapped his fingers. Suddenly, everyone in the room froze in place. As hard as he tried, Crane was unable to move.
The stranger spoke. "Now, is that any way to greet a guest?"
He began walking around the Control Room stepping between the immobile crewmen, "You’ve remodeled, haven’t you, Mon Capitain. Very nice ... a little primitive, but functional ... much, much better. Now then…." He said surveying his surroundings, apparently looking for someone. After a moment he stepped back in front of Crane. "You appear to be in charge my good man, will you be so kind as to inform the Captain that I am here."
Crane just stood there unable to move.
The stranger spoke again. "Come now, even someone of your moderate mental capacity should understand a simple request, I asked you to inform….oh, of course."
He snapped his fingers again and the paralysis that gripped Lee disappeared as suddenly as it occurred.
"That’s better," the figure said. "Now, if you will be so good as to run along and get the Captain."
"I am the Captain," Crane replied, still a little stunned.
"Now, now," the stranger replied somewhat condescending, "you are definitely not Jean-Luc. For one thing, you have way too much hair. Now, I will ask you one more time…wait a minute." He said looking around. "What vessel is this?"
"This is the research submarine, Seaview," Crane answered, his voice showing his growing annoyance, "and I am Commander Lee Crane, its Captain. Now, who or what are you?"
"Seaview? Submarine?" said the figure in a confused tone. Suddenly, he burst out, "Dear Captain, my sincerest apologies. It seems I’ve come aboard the wrong ship, and look at the way I’m attired."
He snapped his fingers again. There was another flash and the outfit he was wearing changed to the khaki duty uniform worn by the rest of Seaview’s officers. On his collar were the four stars of a full Admiral.
"I’m at least 300 years off target and for the life of me, I can't understand how that happened. With your primitive intellect, its no wonder your men acted the way they did."
"What have you done to my crew?" Crane demanded.
"Just a simple parlor trick, I assure you. No harm has been done."
Then, with another snap of his fingers, the crew came out of their stupor.
"Thank you," Crane said, relieved to see his crew back to normal. "Now, just who are you and where do you come from."
"I would love to stay and bandy about the mysteries of the universe with you even as limited as your understanding may be Captain. However, I really must be going. Sorry for the intrusion," he replied. He snapped his fingers once again and disappeared in a bright flash of light.
"Skipper, what ….?" Sharkey began to ask.
Before Crane could answer, there was another flash of light behind him. He quickly turned around and there was the entity standing before him again.
"You know, Captain Crane, as you sailors say, I like the cut of your jib. I‘ll be back when I can spend more time. Ta..ta." He said, and with another flash, was gone.
Crane looked around at the crew members in the room and asked, "Is everyone all right?"
Slowly each one shook their head in acknowledgment.
"OK, back to your stations. Whatever it was it seems to be gone."
He turned back and looked at Chip Morton who asked, "Lee… what was that?"
"I don’t know, Chip, but I’m pretty sure he’s not from around here." He answered. "Have the tapes and recorders checked to see if they picked up…."
Before he could complete his order, Riley interrupted, "Captain ... picking up a large object, bearing 040, range 7,000 yards."
"Can you make out what it is?" Crane asked.
"Like no, sir. It’s like big and buggin’ and like grooving on into our pad and making boss time, daddy-o sir."
"All right, Riley. Feed the data to the computer and see if it can identify whatever is out there." Crane ordered. Then, he looked at his Exec and whispered, "Chip, get someone from linguistics up here so I’ll know what in the world he’s talking about."
Morton nodded and tapped out the request on the intercom in Morse Code using his faithful pencil.
In just a matter of seconds, the Seaview’s computer analyzed the sonar data and printed out the results. A red suited crewman tore the paper from the printer and handed to the Exec. Morton looked at the printout.
Then, he handed it to the Captain saying, "This doesn’t look good, sir."
Crane read the results. Printed on the message was: "Warning ..Warning Danger, Will Robinson..Danger!’ He laid the paper on the chart table and looked at Morton. His face turned pale and he whispered, "Oh shit......we’re toast."
Chip just nodded in silent agreement and rubbed his nose muttering to himself, "The pain ... oh dear ... the pain."
Lee tried to pull himself together by giving orders. "Mr. Morton, take evasive action. Hard right rudder, all ahead emergency," Crane ordered. "Let’s see if we can outrun it."
The deck plates began to vibrate at a higher pitch as the submarine accelerated.
"Target now at 4,000 yards and closing," Riley reported.
Crane picked up the microphone and said, "Captain to engineering."
"We need more speed. Push the reactor to 110%," he ordered.
"Hoot’ mon, I’m already got her pushed to th’ limit," came a voice with a slight Scottish brogue.
"But we must have more power," Crane insisted.
"I’m sorry, sir, but I canna change the laws of physics," was the reply. "Th’ inverters ‘r already overheatin’ and if they go, well the haggis’ll be in the fire fur sur."
"All right," Crane said. "Just give me everything you’ve got." Following this, he put down the mike and asked Morton, "Who in the HELL was that?"
"Naval exchange officer....supposed to be a top propulsion engineer," Chip replied.
"Whose Navy?" the Captain asked wondering which country had sent the exchange officer.
"Ours...he’s from the engineering staff on the Enterprise," Morton explained scratching his nose with his finger since the Chief had stolen his pencil. "I donno.... for some reason they all talk like that."
Lee sighed and muttered to himself, "Where’s that linguistics officer?"
"Bogie boggieing at 3,000 yards, like closing the tube fast," the Sonar operator reported.
"Sound General Quarters, the Captain barked. "Slow to two thirds. If they want a fight, we’ll give ’em one."
The klaxon echoed through the ship as blue and red suited crewmen ran to their battle stations. Within seconds, the mighty submarine was ready to do battle with whatever threat was approaching.
Riley kept calling the range of the pursuer. "1,000 yards...500....its slowing down, sir, passing on our right with no turn signal sir."
"All right...let’s get a look at this thing. Missile room...load tubes two and four....stand by to fire."
A long dark object came into view. In the murky depths, it was hard to make out, but it did resemble a submarine. It was unlike any design any of them had seen before. The sail was way too thin and there were protrusions around the bow, maybe some type of sensors. The most amazing thing was the propulsion system. Instead of propellers or jets the entire stern moved back and forth. From the way it moved, it couldn’t be ... it almost looked alive.
"My God..." Chip said in disbelief. "I knew we grew them big back on the farm, but nothing like this."
The creature had swum in front of the Seaview and turned to face the boat. It arched itself and then began vibrating its tail. Then, it turned around and repeated the action.
"Chip, do you know what that thing is?" Lee asked.
"I’m afraid so Lee, it’s a 400 foot long Auchenipterid Catfish and I think it wants to mate," the Exec answered.
"Mate..with a submarine?" was the stunned reply. "Well, we’ll just see about that...missile room fire two and four!"
"Captain...Don’t!" Morton cried, but it was too late. 'DAMN...' He thought to himself,where's my pencil? All this tension sure makes my nose itch!
There was a slight shudder as the torpedoes left the tubes and sped toward the target. Moments later, the Seaview was rocked as they detonated against the side of the leviathan. Bubbles and debris swirled outside obscuring the view.
"That takes care of that," Crane said half satisfied with himself. The other half wasn’t sure yet.
"I don’t think so, Tim," Morton answered, "Look!"
As the water began to clear, the huge fish came out of the debris cloud and headed straight for the Seaview.
"I tried to warn you, Skipper," Chip said. "A catfish’s skin is so thick, it’s almost like an armor plate. When a female is willing to accept the male’s advances, she hits him in the side. Firing those torpedoes was just like saying ‘come on big boy, take me, I’m yours’."
Lee just stared as the huge form passed over the bow. "We’re screwed," was all he could think to say.
"I think that’s the general idea," was Chip’s reply as he began to scratch his nose viciously with his fingers while looking on the plot table for a spare pencil.
The Seaview shuttered as the giant catfish settled between the fins. Then the huge creature and the object of its affection began rocking back and fourth. Slowly...gently at first, the oscillations becoming more intense and violent. Crewmen were thrown from one side of the Control Room to the other. Sparks began flying from behind consoles, equipment warning lights flashed, and a strange alarm sounded.....to Lee, it sounded like someone hitting a bucket.
All of a sudden, the computer's audio circuit cut in and a familiar female voice could be herd over the din, "Ohhh....Ohhh....yes...yes....YES!!!"
Chief Sharkey pulled himself along the rail to the front and shouted out, "Skipper, we’ve got to do something before the crew is pounded into Jell-O!"
"No, not that!" Chip Morton yelled, steadying himself against the chart table. "Not Jell-O! I HATE Jell-O, even with strawberries." He turned and looked at Crane and shouted, "You can’t let that happen, Lee. You’ve got to do something...... ANYTHING! I DON’T WANT TO BECOME JELL-O!"
Crane garbed his friend by the shoulders and yelled out, "My God, Chip, get a hold of yourself." Then, he slapped Morton across the face . God I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time! Lee thought to himself. The Exec staggered back and tried to physically get a hold of his own body by wrapping his arms around himself. As bizarre as it looked the maneuver looked it seemed to work because after a monent Chip regained his composure.
"Are you all right?" Crane asked.
"Yeah, I’m fine. Just lost it there for a second," Chip answered knocking the papers lying on the plot table onto the floor while looking desperately for a pencil.
Lee grimaced and looked away wishing the Chief hadn’t taken Morton’s pencil.
"That’s OK, I feel the same way about Spam."
Then, he grabbed the microphone and shouted, "Reactor room...bring the reactor up to full power and shoot a charge through the hull."
Electricity danced across Seaview’s hull and enveloped the fish. It twitched and withered and bellowed, but stayed on the back of the sub and seemed to redouble its efforts.
"Damn, this thing’s not only nearsighted, he’s kinky. Divert power from all systems and fire again," ordered Crane.
The Control Room momentarily went dark as the red emergency light came on. Once again, the power enveloped the hull and its amorous partner and arced to the sea floor. The great fish bellowed even louder and with a final thrust broke its grip on the submarine and swam off. Almost immediately, the ship came back on an even keel and the crew began picking themselves up off the deck and returned to their stations.
"Chip," Crane ordered rising to his feet, "get two torpedoes ready with atomic warheads and load them as quick as you can. I want to be ready if that thing comes back."
"I don’t think he’ll be back," Morton answered.
"Why not?" asked Crane.
"I just checked the sail camera. He’s leaning against a rock outcropping smoking a cigarette. He’s finished," Morton replied. Then, he sighed and continued, "I’ll bet he won’t even send flowers."
"I guess you’re right…I feel so..so…used." Crane said with a shudder. "Back out, dead slow. When we clear the area, secure from General Quarters and set a course for home. I’m going to my cabin. If you call me, the boat better be sinking."
Lee was walking down the passageway when Admiral Nelson came around the corner, nearly running into him.
"Jack, good. I’ve been looking all over for you," he said in a whispery, breathless voice. "I’ve got a job for you."
"Yes, sir. What can I do for you?" Crane asked.
"I just got the word from our pal in the DA’s office that the cops are going to raid Axis Chemicals tonight. I want you to take a few of your boys and destroy the records so they can’t trace anything back to us. Make it look like midgets did it." Nelson said.
"Midgets?" Crane asked puzzled.
"That’s right, midgets.. Commissioner Gordon’s always willing to blame midgets."
"OK, Admiral, I’ll take care of it., Lee said playing along. "It might be best if you stayed home tonight so you don’t arouse any suspicion."
"Good idea," Nelson said as he and Crane began walking down the hall.
When they got to the Admiral’s cabin, Crane spoke, "It might be a good idea to have Doctor Jamison come by and stay with you for a while."
"Jamison," Nelson blurted out. "Why in the HELL would I want that twit here?"
"Well, I was just thinking," Crane said. "What better alibi than having one of the most respected men in town with you while the ‘boys’ and I are out taking care of things."
Admiral Nelson looked at Crane for a moment and then smiled and replied, "You’re right, Jack, even a self-righteous bastard like Gordon wouldn’t dare to try and break it. Give the good doctor a call."
Nelson opened the cabin door and started to go in when he suddenly turned around and grabbed Crane by the shoulders. He stood on tip toes, leaned close and whispered, "You know, Jack-O, I can’t trust anyone else to get this job done. That’s why you’re my number one boy!" Then, he released him, went into the cabin, and closed the door.
Crane locked Nelson’s door and called Chief Sharkey on the intercom.
"Chief, Admiral Nelson’s back in his cabin ... I want you to put a couple of guards on the door and keep him there, understand?"
"Yes sir, they’re on their way."
"Oh, and Chief..." Crane said, almost as an afterthought, "Have someone weld his air vent shut too."
Lee then went into his cabin and closed the door behind him. "What a day." He said to himself as he removed his necktie and unbuttoned his collar. Sometimes I think I’m getting too old for this crap,he thought as he sat down behind his desk. Suddenly, his woolgathering was interrupted by the buzzing of the intercom.
"Communications to Captain."
Crane pressed the button. "Crane here. What is it, Sparks?"
"Message from Admiral Crawford at FBME Headquarters, sir," The Radio Operator answered.
"Very well. I’ll take it down here," Crane said.
He flipped a switch on the video phone on his desk and there was the image of Admiral BJ Crawford, Director of the Federal Bureau of Marine Exploration.
"Lee ... Good to see you. How’s the test going?"he asked.
"Fine, sir, just fine. The results are better than we expected. Admiral Nelson will send you a full report as soon as we get back to port," Crane answered hoping his fatigue wasn’t showing.
"Good…Good...by the way, where is Nelson?" Crawford asked.
"The Admiral is sort of indisposed at the moment, Lee said trying to cover for his superior.
"Wigged out again, has he?" Crawford replied seeing through Lee’s attempt. "Should have expected it with all the strain he’s been under lately. I’ll have him flown to Bethesda for some rest when you get back. How about we put him in the same ward with Congressman Parker… that should liven things up. That’s not why I called. Captain Crane, I need you to do a favor for me. How would you like a week’s all expense paid leave in Hawaii?"
"Who do I have to kill?" Crane asked jokingly.
Crawford chuckled "No one that I know of. You’re familiar with the FBME’s plans to build a research center in the Hawaiian Islands, aren’t you?"
"Yes, sir. I know it’s been in the works for a while, but Congress hasn’t been forthcoming with the funding," Lee answered
"That’s right, but we think we may have a way around it. There are some private investors interested," Crawford said.
"That’s great, Admiral," Lee said. "But, I still don’t see how I can help."
"Well. The backers want to see the site and since you’re familiar with the waters and you’re good with people, I’d like you to take them out. There will only be seven of them, the money folks, a scientist, and a couple of Hollywood types. It’ll only take a couple of hours…three at the most."
"Sounds like fun. When do I leave?" Crane asked.
"I’ll have the orders cut. Can you be ready in a couple of days?" asked Crawford.
"No problem," Crane replied, "it’ll give me just enough time to finish the reports for this trip."
"Thanks Lee, I really appreciate this. Call me when you get to port and we’ll get the ball rolling," Crawford said warmly.
"Sure thing Admiral Crawford, my pleasure," Crane answered as the connection broke.
Crane got up from the desk and got ready for bed. By morning they would be back at the Institute and he’d be rid of Admiral Starke and hopefully Admiral Nelson would be back to normal. As he lay down in his bunk he thought about the assignment. I guess things do work out for the best after all, he thought as he drifted off to sleep. A week in Hawaii and all I have to do is cruise around the islands baby-sitting some industrial fat cat and a couple of starlets for part of an afternoon…just two or three hours...yep…just a three hour tour.
Author's note: Thanks go to my wife Barbara, Carolyn Brown, and the rest ot the "Seagals" for their help in keeping me stright about the charcters and the basics of Voyage. Hopefuly, they kept me from getting too far in left field, even though I did make it to the warning track a few times. Now then, where did I put my medication?
Jell-O - Kraft Foods, Inc.
Spam - Armour Foods
Moby Dick - United Artists/MGM
Jack - Batman- 20th Century Fox
'Q' & 'chief engineer'- Star Trek The Next Generation & Star Trek- Paramount
"Danger…", "Oh the pain…": Lost in Space - 20th Cent. Fox
'Three Hour Cruise' - Gilligan's Island- CBS
Sexy computer female voice imitating Herbal Essence - Clariol & 'The Death Watch'-Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea- 20th Century Fox