Authors Note: This is my first attempt at Fan-fiction and my admiration for regular contributors is boundless. Please accept my apologies for any mistakes in characterisation or procedure.
By Lillian H.
Chip Morton walked briskly through the corridors of the N.I.M.R building, nodding occasionally to familiar faces. He resisted attempts at conversation; his mood didn’t suit making small talk. When he reached his office he sighed with relief. It was still early and his secretary, Debbie was not here yet. Good, he thought, now if I can only concentrate on work and keep busy. However, he laid his briefcase on the desk and wandered over to the window. Gazing out, his mind wandered, Oh boy Morton, what possessed you! he said to himself yet again, turning away in irritation. He sat at his desk and opened the nearest file.
For the next two hours Chip worked steadily, interrupted only by the arrival of Debbie, who brought him in a fresh carafe of hot coffee, smiling as she went back to her office. Soon he heard voices in the outer office and Lee’s smiling face appeared around the door, “Are you sure you’re not a workaholic Mr. Morton?” he joked as he stepped into the XO’s office.
“Lee, great to see you back.” Chip rose, walked around his desk and greeted his friend warmly, “And you’re a fine one to talk. Who is it that walks the boat at all hours checking minor details, instead of sleeping?” Chip watched his Captain help himself to a cup of coffee and take a seat on the small sofa.
“You got me there. Seriously, why the early start, you trying to impress someone, or just couldn’t sleep?” Lee stretched his legs in front of him and sipped the brew with appreciation. “You know, Debbie makes the best coffee; trust her to be your secretary.”
“She also types brilliantly and is very efficient at her job!” Chip said as he smiled, and sat on the edge of his desk.
“You okay Chip? You look a little tired.” Lee asked, concerned.
“I’m fine, was a little restless last
night. Nothing serious. How was
“I hate those meetings. Admirals full of opinions and Congressmen full of themselves and hot air. When are they going to understand it takes a lot of money to operate something as unique as the Seaview? Oh! They’re ready enough to make use of her when it suits them but then they complain when they get the bill.”
When Chip raised his eyebrow and smirked, Lee gave a short laugh and continued, “Yeah, we got the funding. The Admiral can be formidable and he knows where all the skeletons are buried.” Both men laughed heartily.
“Did the Admiral come back with you?”
“He’ll be back later this afternoon. We’re both spending the night aboard. How about you?”
“Thought I might,” said Chip
They continued to discuss the meetings and Lee’s observations of the various Admirals and politicians he’d met. Chip listened and made appropriate comments even offering some stories of his own but Lee could sense Chip was somehow distracted.
“Now, what about things here, why the early start? Are there any problems I should know about?” Lee questioned.
“No, nothing wrong,” as Chip took his seat “just thought I’d get ahead for a change,” he said, a touch too casually, “ With the upcoming cruise tomorrow, there’re things to organise, the paperwork around here has a way of multiplying you know.”
Lee sat forward a little, listening to his Exec’s explanation. He was missing something.
“You’ve been working with Dr. Harkness. Are all the details worked out?”
At Lee’s mention of Harkness, Chip’s expression went carefully blank. Was it Lee’s imagination or did Chip’s suddenly downcast eyes appear fascinated by the papers in front of him?
“We’ve met up a few times. Everything’s arranged. We have managed to work out a schedule. Which will mean, after our supply mission to the sea lab, Dr. Harkness will be able to investigate the Sea Turtle breeding grounds and attach the homing units to her selected specimens. The satellite links will be computerised but she may need to adjust frequency modulations as required.”
Most people would not have noticed the
change of demeanour in Chip Morton, but Lee Crane had. A lot of people
considered Chip Morton a mystery. His
‘closed’ expression and calm soft-spoken manner hid a steel-trap mind and a
fierce loyalty to his country, friends and crew. Consequently those who
dismissed him were often the worst for it. Lee had met Chip their first day at
“What’s she like?” Lee asked casually turning to put his cup down but still managing to watch Chip’s reaction.
A flicker in Chip’s blue eyes was fleeting and he looked to his friend and answered, “She’s obviously very focused on her research, intelligent, reserved but approachable. She’s highly qualified and is continuing her husband’s initial work, since his death about two years ago. Heart attack. Younger than I expected, apparently Dr. Leo Harkness was much older than her. You know she’s English?”
“Yes,” Lee nodded. “Her family were old friends of the Admiral and he knew her husband a little, although I get the impression he wasn’t a fan of the good Dr. Harkness senior. I know he’s looking forward to seeing her again. He didn’t approve of her marriage. It separated them and now he has a chance to renew their friendship. When is she joining us?” Lee asked, noticing Chip tense a little… very interesting.
Chip stood and went to look out the window; he needed to gather his scattered emotions, before Lee could pick up on anything. Turning to face Lee, the famous Morton mask in place, hands behind his back and feet slightly apart, he answered firmly, “Actually she’s already sent her colleague, a guy called Dr. Neil Pendle and all her equipment. I’ve met Pendle once or twice. We didn’t hit it off. He’s a bit intense and pushy but he’s English and you know how uptight the Brits can be. Sharkey’s supervising the loading and installation, with Pendle’s help and we should be ready in time for departure. I understand Dr. Harkness will be here tomorrow.” This was not as easy as it should be, he mused, as he saw Lee watching him closely.
Lee noted Chip’s controlled response and saw all the defensive triggers fall into place. His calm Exec was anything but right now.
“Is this Dr. Pendle likely to be a problem?” Lee asked. Chip had good instincts for trouble. Was that what was bothering him?
Chip sat on the edge of the desk again “No, I don’t think so. He’s very efficient, just his personality that grates. Dr. Harkness relies on him a good deal.”
“Good. Well as usual you seem to have everything in hand, so I think I’ll just wander down to the boat and check on things, maybe meet up with Dr. Pendle. Make my own assessment. We could do without trouble this trip.” Lee stood up and Chip came to stand by his best friend.
“We could do without trouble on every trip Captain.” Chip said broadly. Lee had a tendency to attract trouble and Chip never let him forget it. “Now go see your ‘lady’ and let me finish these reports.” Both men smiled and laughed together.
“It’s good to be home Chip. Three weeks is long time to be away. I’m really looking forward to this cruise; getting a deck back under my feet and of course meeting Dr. Harkness.”
Chip glanced sharply at his Captain but Lee only looked back innocently. “See you later, maybe catch you at lunch,” said Lee
“Yeah, lunch at the cafeteria, say about ,” said Chip; Lee raised his hand and left.
As Lee said goodbye to Debbie he smiled to himself. Well, well, so Dr. Harkness held some interest for his Exec. Chip Morton had been careful in his attitude but Lee knew his friend well. Something had unsettled Mr. Morton and Lee was interested to find out what. He knew it was not connected with the mission aspects or Chip would have voiced his concerns, no this had to be more of a personal nature. It was obvious that her credentials impressed Chip but they had worked with many impressive scientists before. No, Lee just had a feeling that Dr. G. Harkness, Marine Biologist, must have something extra the others didn’t, to interest his Exec this much. He smiled, as he went down to see his ‘grey lady’. This could be very interesting.
Inside the office Lee had just vacated the Exec in question was going over the conversation he’d had with his friend. Had Lee noticed anything? Was there anything to notice? Not really. It was only a kiss for heaven’s sake. So why was he so distracted? Only a kiss, who was he trying to kid? He sat down at his desk and swung his chair gently towards the view from the office window and allowed the memories to invade his consciousness as they had been trying to do ever since he had woken that morning from another restless sleep.
Three weeks previously.
“We’ll see you in about two to three weeks, Chip. Sorry to leave you with all the details for the re-supply mission to sea-lab and the following Harkness Expedition but I suspect you would rather have that than meeting with Appropriation committees and listening to interminable reasons why the N.I.M.R. shouldn’t expect funding for what is basically, government interference in the running and use of MY boat.” Admiral Harriman Nelson said, busy collecting together papers across his desk and sorting them into a battered brief case.
“Yes sir. I’m glad you persuaded Lee to go with you this time, I’m sure the preparations for the missions will be uncomplicated,” Chip Morton replied calmly. Nelson looked at Morton and smiled, “I’m not sure persuaded is quite the right term. I all but ordered his attendance but he should become familiar with these bureaucrats. He needs to understand the financial constraints we work under, then the next time he puts in a requisition, he’ll understand why I say ‘NO’.”
“You think so, sir?”
Nelson chuckled. “Probably not. Anyway it was his turn. You’ve done more than your fair share of kowtowing to politicians, Chip.”
Chip Morton smiled and picked up his clipboard to make notes.
Nelson had never forgotten the day he had invited a very young Lieutenant Morton to leave the Navy and join him in his dream...
Morton had looked him straight in the eye and asked, “Are you sure you want ME Sir?”
“Very sure,” he had replied.
Morton appeared to hesitate for a moment then in that calm controlled way that he had, replied, ”When would you like me to report Sir”
From that moment to this Harry had never regretted his decision and never got the impression that Chip had either. He was a lucky man. He had the best submarine afloat, the best Captain in or out of any Navy and the best Exec to back to them all up.
Compared to Lee’s quicksilver, do or die trying, personality, Chip Morton appeared constrained. Harry had lost count the number of times he had justified his decision to those who found Morton difficult to read but when they got to know his tall blond Exec, many soon came to admire his undoubted ability. On board he commanded discipline and hard work but he was fair and respected by officers and crew alike. On land, his administrative skills kept problems to the minimum and left Harry free to pursue his first love, science. Yes, definitely one of his better decisions!
“Would you like me to make the initial arrangements with Dr. Harkness?” Chip asked flipping through the relevant reports.
“Yes, you had better. I’m not sure if we’ll be back in time. It ‘s worked out well, combining both cruises, we’re going to be in the same area and the trip to sea-lab is only a little earlier than usual.” Nelson looked up at Morton, “There should be no problems that I can foresee. Dr. Harkness is very competent and organised. She’s bringing a colleague along, he can co-ordinate the equipment installation.”
Leaning back in his chair, Nelson looked off into the distance.” She’s a remarkable person you know. Her parents were killed in a car accident, when she was about five. Her arrival into the well-ordered lives of her globetrotting Grandparents, was something of a shock but she travelled with them. I’d known George and Constance Ransom through their excellent work in Marine Biology Exploration. They doted on her, in an abstract sort of way. I remember she was a quiet child, often lonely I thought, full of questions. She became an intelligent young woman. It was inevitable she would follow them into Marine Biology I suppose. Shame about her marriage though.” Harry gave himself a mental shake. “Yes Chip, you take care of all the details. Let me know if there are any problems.”
Just then Lee Crane came into the office. “Hi Chip” he nodded to his friend and looked to the Admiral. “If you’re ready Sir, Sharkey has filed our flight plan and we’re all set to go.”
“Be right with you Lee.” Nelson finished sorting his desk.
Chip Morton turned to Crane, “I’m sure you’ll enjoy Washington Lee, after all a change is as good as a rest.” His blank expression belying his obvious mirth.
“Don’t gloat Mr. Morton” his Captain replied with a grimace. The prospect of endless boring meetings did not thrill him.
“Settle down Lee, I’ll make sure you get some relaxation time as well,” commented the Admiral. At this Crane’s expression brightened. “Right I’m ready,” said Nelson “You know where we’re staying Chip if you need us.”
All three men made their way out of the door, “Make sure you get some time off too,” Lee said to his Exec. “After all, you’re the original workaholic.”
“Yes, Mother Hen,” said Chip with a laugh, to be swatted immediately by a laughing Lee Crane. “One day Mr. Morton, one day,” he threatened.
“Yeah I know. Now get out of here. See you in about three weeks.”
Organising the re-supply details for sea-lab was mostly routine and was arranged easily, the only irritation was trying to find Christmas ‘frills’ in August. This would be the last supply drop before Christmas so everything had to be organised well in advance. Chip turned his attention to Dr. Harkness and her mission agenda.
Picking up the ‘phone he asked Debbie to call Dr. Harkness at the University and make an appointment for him meet with them there to discuss details.
Later, as he walked through the lobby of
Dr. Grayling Harkness, Grayling,
interesting name, 28 years old, British by birth. Married for five years and
widowed two years ago. Highly qualified in spite of her relative youth. She was
continuing the research started by Dr. Leo Harkness. It was concerned with the life cycle of the
Sea Turtle and she was to join the Seaview’s next mission to the
Walking through the lobby, he was unaware of the female eyes that followed his progress. The tall, handsome, officer in kaki uniform, certainly made a few hearts beat faster.
“Excuse me.” He stopped in front of the information desk; “I have an appointment with Dr. Harkness, where would I be able to find her?”
The pretty receptionist checked the list in front of her, “Lieutenant Commander Morton?” she asked
She smiled at him broadly. ”Well sir, if you would just follow me.” As she rose, she called a colleague to take over for her. “This way.” They walked through some doors to her right; she looked at him and smiled, “It’s not far.”
“Do you always escort visitors?”
“Only the handsome ones,” she said, smiling again at him with undisguised interest.
Chip blushed a little and her subsequent laughter was disconcerting. Her interest was unashamed and he smiled at her with amusement.
They soon came to an office and she knocked and opened the door,” Dr. Harkness, Lieutenant Commander Morton to see you,” she then moved aside to allow him to enter, he thanked her.
“Oh, my pleasure,” she smiled broadly.
When she showed no sign of leaving a voice stated, “Thank you Kerry. I’ll see to the Commander now.” The door closed quietly.
Chip turned to the only other occupant of the room. Standing behind a small neat desk was a most striking woman. She stood about 5’5’, delicate build, her honey blond hair, streaked by the sun was secured neatly in a barrette, her face was small and beautiful and her eyes were a startling Jade green.
She held out her hand to him, “Welcome Commander Morton, I’m Grayling Harkness.” Her voice was soft and melodic with an unmistakable English lilt.
He took her hand and shook it. “Chip Morton,” he smiled.
“Please sit down Commander,” she offered. “Thank you for meeting with me here. I have so many last minute details to sort before our departure and it would be easier to show you all my research equipment on site so to speak, before it’s packed up.” Her smile was hesitant as she sat down.
“My pleasure, Dr. Harkness. Admiral
Nelson is anxious you are given every assistance. He’s away with Captain Crane
at the moment in
Gathering herself, she said, “Dear Uncle Harry, he was always so sweet and kind to me. I have missed him. It will be a pleasure to meet and talk with him again. He was always easy to talk to.” She said reflectively. She saw him watching her, “Now to business. Let me outline my plans and we can discuss how to proceed.”
As they compared details and made notes, Chip Morton was aware that she was apprehensive and reserved, she seemed hesitant with him but slowly she relaxed as they discussed her research and became warmer, more approachable.
He was impressed by her organisation. She was obviously looking forward to the trip and had arranged every last detail. He found himself listening to her talk and enjoying the sound of her soft voice as she spoke with obvious enthusiasm.
“Well Commander. I think we’ve covered just about everything. Perhaps you would like to see my lab now and assess the logistics of the equipment to be installed.” Dr. Harkness had risen and came to stand beside him.
He also stood, pleased to extend the company of this fascinating woman. “Certainly Dr. Please lead the way.” He held the door open and watched as she moved past him.
She walked with a gentle grace. Her movements fluid and economic.
They chatted as they walked together and were both smiling as they entered a small but well equipped lab.
“Neil, this is Commander Morton from the Nelson Institute, we’ve just concluded a meeting to arrange the details of our expedition to the breeding grounds and he has come to assess our equipment.”
A sturdily built man in his middle fifties, about 5’ 7” with thinning brown hair and a round face, crossed the floor space between them and looked straight at Dr. Harkness. “I thought we had agreed that I would deal with these people Grayling,” he said evidently irritated.
“Neil, please.” She looked to Chip and smiled somewhat embarrassed. “This is Dr. Neil Pendle, my research colleague. He will be joining us on board.”
Chip extended his hand and for a moment he thought that Pendle was going to ignore it, but his handshake was perfunctory at best.
“Have you been here long?” he demanded of Morton.
“About an hour or so,” replied Chip calmly. He wasn’t sure what this man’s problem was... but he was sure, he didn’t much care for his attitude. Chip noted the assessing glare Dr. Pendle gave him but let it go.
“If you want to leave him with me now, I can show him anything needs and then take him back to reception.” Pendle addressed Dr. Harkness directly and moved between them.
Pointing, he tried to engage Chip’s attention across the room ‘Over there is our satellite monitoring...’ but Chip Morton turned to Grayling Harkness and saw the return of her earlier nervousness.
“Thank you for your time already Dr. Harkness but if you could spare me just a few minutes more. We may need to make some revisions to our original plans.” He saw her glance to Pendle, in... uncertainty? “Please?” he asked quietly.
She looked into his eyes and nodded.
That Neil Pendle was livid was obvious. He was spluttering a protest when Grayling Harkness spoke softly but firmly, not taking her eyes off Chip’s.
“Thank you Neil but the Commander is correct, it would be easier for me to explain the equipment and make any further arrangements.”
“But Grayling” he started, then saw her look towards him “All right, if you want to waste your valuable time on minor details, far be it from me to presume to try to help or interfere.” He turned on his heel and marched out of the room.
Chip watched the little scene unfold with a vague feeling of wanting to reach out and enfold Grayling Harkness in a protective hug. She seemed to be overwhelmed by the last few minutes.
“I’m so sorry about that. Neil tends to be very protective; he doesn’t mean to be so … so…”
“Antagonistic?” supplied Chip.
“Oh no, he’s just…. a little single minded,” she finished lamely.
“Never mind, we just got off on the wrong foot. We can start again later.” Yeah, like that’s going to happen, thought Chip.
He looked across to Dr. Harkness. She looked tense and suddenly very tired. Glancing at his watch he realised how late it was getting.
“What say we leave the inspection for another day? It’s getting late and I’ve used up a fair amount of your afternoon.” Should he ask? …. Why not? “Perhaps I could offer you dinner as compensation.”
She looked grateful and then startled by his dinner invitation. “Really that’s not necessary. Thank you very much but I still have some... people to meet and…. lots of paperwork to complete” she had one arm wrapped around her waist and was nervously playing with her necklace.
“You still have to eat,” Chip persisted quietly.
“No. Thank you, but not tonight,” she went to open the door “I’ll show you back to reception.”
Chip decided to give in gracefully and followed her up the corridor.
Back in the foyer, he turned and shook her hand. “I’ll be in touch then.”
She looked confused for a moment, then smiled vaguely, “Yes of course, the inspection. Goodbye Commander.” She turned and left.
Chip turned and walked slowly towards the entrance. Outside he felt restless. What was it about Grayling Harkness, a woman he had only met a few hours ago that had affected him so? He knew many beautiful women. All successful and intelligent and fun to be with but Grayling Harkness had disturbed his emotions differently. As he analysed this puzzle he went in search of somewhere to eat.
Later, sitting at a table in the busy restaurant, he was still thinking about her when he glanced up and was surprised to see Dr. Harkness, standing just inside the door, looking for, he hoped, a free table.
She noticed him and for a moment he thought she was going to leave. Then Chip Morton stood and indicated his hand to the empty seat opposite him. She walked towards him.
“Commander Morton. What a co-incidence.”
Chip smiled. “Indeed Dr. It seems we are destined to dine together after all. Please join me.”
She looked around then sat. “Thank you, they do seem busy”
“You finished your meetings quickly.”
“What? Oh! Yes. Well no, not really,” she blushed, “The truth is I’m playing hooky.”
“We all do sometimes. Nothing wrong in it occasionally.”
A waitress stood at their table and she placed her order.
“Well, Dr....” Chip started.
She was glancing around the room nervously, one arm wrapped around her waist and she was again fiddling with her necklace. Her eyes anywhere but looking at him
“Dr. Harkness do I make you uncomfortable?” He asked softly.
Startled, she looked directly at him, “What?”
“Do I make you uncomfortable? If so, I can move somewhere else…” and he looked around for another table.
“No please, I’m sorry I give that impression.” She took a deep breath and looked at him. “Commander Morton, I’m not very adept in certain situations. I dine alone a lot and have never managed the art of small talk. My social skills never really existed and you may wish you were alone.”
He smiled broadly at her, “Oh, I don’t think so. There’s no need to talk if you don’t wish, or we can discuss your research further, it’s certainly interesting enough. What do you say, Dr.? Shall we have a try?”
“Grayling…Please call me Grayling. Dr. seems a little formal if we’re to share a dinner table.” She smiled uncertainly.
“Then you must call me Chip. Grayling. That’s an unusual name, do you mind if I ask the origin?”
“It’s Scottish. My mother loved poetry and it’s the name of a Scottish poet she liked particularly.”
“Do you enjoy his poetry?” Chip asked.
“I don’t know. Poetry is not one of my interests. Perhaps one day I’ll look him up. Just for fun. How about you, Chip, that’s kind of unusual too?” He could feel her relaxing.
“I’m Charles Phillip but my mother said it was quite a mouthful. She didn’t like Charlie or Chuck; my sister suggested combining the two. Hence Chip. I’m used to it now.”
Their drinks arrived followed by dinner. So they chatted lightly as they ate.
Chip found he enjoyed this woman’s gentle presence. She was relaxing as she spoke about her work, her enthusiasm was infectious and he found himself telling her about Seaview, Lee, the crew and his family.
They continued over coffee, he managed to make her laugh with some of his stories and he liked that sound even better.
Eventually they realised the time.
She looked surprised, “I didn’t notice it was quite so late. I must get home. Thank you so much for allowing me to join you. Now if I can just get the check,” she looked around for the waitress.
“Please allow me, after all I did ask you originally.” Chip signalled and the check was placed beside him. Taking out some notes, laid them down and gave it back.
“No, please that wasn’t my intention at all.”
“I know but it’s my pleasure. You saved me from a very lonely evening.” Chip was standing behind her, holding her chair. “Now do you need a cab, or can I drop you somewhere?”
“Please don’t bother I, can easily get home alone.” She moved to the door quickly.
“It’s no trouble. My car is just over here,” he said taking her gently by the elbow. “Where too?” he asked as he got in beside her.
She gave him her address and he proceeded to drive.
“Do you like shopping for Christmas decorations?” Chip asked.
She looked at him in confusion, “What? In August?” she asked, startled.
Chip then explained the up coming mission
to the sea-lab “I just thought you might help me out. There’s a place up the
She looked astounded at his invitation. For a few moments she hesitated and then said shyly, “Yes. I think I would like that.”
Chip, had been holding his breath, and then smiled broadly, “Great. I’ll pick you up about . We could have lunch on the way back.”
“Only if you allow me to pay this time,” she insisted.
He merely smiled and pulled into the parking lot of her apartment.
She smiled and thanked him, “See you tomorrow then,” she said softly and with a smile and a wave went inside.
Well done Morton, Chip thought, that was inspired. Now to ring Sharkey and tell him he was not going to see ‘Santa’ tomorrow after all.
That was the first of many meetings he had with Grayling. Business related at first then gradually more personal. Her earlier reserve was slowly disappearing. She was still unsure around him but seemed to enjoy his company and he knew enough not to rush her. When he met with her at work he got amused glances from Kerry and undisguised animosity from Neil Pendle. He enjoyed Kerry’s amusement and ignored Pendle.
Tonight they were going to go to a restaurant recommended to him by Lee. He wandered into reception and waved to Kerry as he went to Grayling’s office.
From some distance away he could hear
Pendle’s raised voice. “AGAIN. What is it this time? Does he need you to meet
with the Easter bunny? Seriously Grayling, I don’t know what’s come over you.
You were never this frivolous with Leo. Your work was important to you once.
Now…well I just don’t know, this sailor boy has turned your head.”
Chip hesitated, unsure whether to interrupt…. Sailor Boy! How Lee would wail at that one!
“Please Neil. I don’t know why you’re reacting like this. My work has not suffered in anyway; I merely enjoy his company is that so wrong… Leo is dead,” she said quietly.
“Now I know you’re not yourself. Leo worshipped you. To continue his work, is the finest tribute you can pay him. Grayling please think about what you’re doing. How can you betray his memory and yourself with Morton?”
Chip knocked and pushed open the slightly ajar door. “Am I interrupting anything?”
Neil Pendle looked at him with pure hatred. Chip merely adopted the Exec posture that had struck fear into the heart of more than one hapless crewman.
For a moment he thought Pendle would challenge him. He felt the chill in his stare. Pushing past Chip Pendle left the room.
Morton looked across to Grayling. She was pale and shaken.
“Are you all right?” Chip asked in concern. He so badly wanted to hold her.
Turning towards the window she said “Yes…I…I…”then started to cry softy.
Chip immediately went to her. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he gently turned her to him “Hey now. Don’t let him upset you. He’s not worth it.” He searched his pocket for a handkerchief. Giving it to her he gently put a finger under her chin and raised it. Her eyes were hurt and troubled, moist with tears. Her lips trembled and he didn’t want to resist. Lowering his head he hesitated a moment, when he felt her rest against him he bent down and put his lips on hers.
What started as re-assurance, quickly turned to fire and they were both being consumed. It seemed like forever but was in fact only moments. Suddenly Grayling pulled away, “No, no…we must stop. We ...I can’t do this. It’s all wrong. It’s not what I expected at all.” She quickly moved away from him.
Chip gathered himself. His heart was still racing! Slowly he realised what she was saying. “What do you mean? I’m not sure I understand.” He took a step towards her but stopped when she stepped back. “Grayling talk to me.”
She stood apart from him. He could feel her withdrawing.
“Commander Morton, I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I’m sure I am the one to blame. We can’t continue in this manner. We have to work together and while I have valued ….DO value our friendship….this further complication has to stop.” She spoke very precisely but twisted his handkerchief agitatedly.
“Would you mind telling me why? We’re both consenting adults, and free of involvements. Neither of us would allow a private relationship to interfere with our work. So what seems to be the problem here?” Chip stood with his arms by his sides, watching her through narrowed eyes.
“Please try to understand. It’s me, not you. I’m not ready to be involved again. My work is important to me. I don’t need distractions. If I had known things would become this difficult I would never have allowed myself to continue this ….this foolishness,” she stated softly.
As she watched him, she saw his posture stiffen. His expression became unreadable, he said, “So you are going to listen to Pendle. Why are you allowing him to interfere?”
When she turned away from his gaze, he said “Grayling?” but she lowered her head.
“My apologies Dr. Harkness” Chip said, his voice uncharacteristically cold, “I have obviously embarrassed you. I’m sorry to have distressed you in any way. I will never repeat tonight’s action. As all the arrangements are made, Chief Sharkey will co-ordinate with you and Dr. Pendle from now on. I will advise the Admiral and Captain on their return.” With that he turned and left, his emotions firmly under control…or so he told himself.
That was five days ago and he still felt the hollow emptiness.
Lee walked onto Seaview with a broad smile. She was his ‘grey lady’. From his first day on board he knew he had come home. He patted her tower gently; he knew she welcomed him back.
Below, he made his way through the various departments, exchanging welcomes and checking readiness. In the missile room there was a lot of activity. Sharkey was explaining to a civilian why pieces of equipment were still to be loaded, “Don’t worry Dr. Pendle, it’ll all get done in time. We know our job.”
“Do you? Do you really? Well I’m yet to be convinced. It seems to me there’s a fair bit of incompetence around here.” He was pacing around boxes, checking for damage.
“Problems Chief?” Both men spun around at the sound of his voice.
“Oh, hi, Skipper. Welcome back. No Sir. Nothing we can’t handle,” the Chief replied assuredly with a smile.
Crane moved towards the man standing beside his C.O.B. “Dr. Neil Pendle I presume. Lee Crane, I’m Seaview’s Captain.” He held out his hand, the Dr. shook it limply.
“If you’re the Captain, perhaps you can explain to this sailor, that his inability to load our equipment properly is causing me unnecessary delays.” Neil Pendle was glaring at the Chief.
“Sir, I already explained that the hoist is loading the supplies aft and as soon as that’s done, we’ll finish here,” said Sharkey, bristling at being called a sailor!
“Dr. Pendle, I think we need to get a few things understood before going any further. Firstly this is my Chief of the Boat. You may call him Chief or Chief Sharkey; you should not refer to him as a sailor. Secondly, he knows his job as do all hands aboard, and they’ll all do their assigned tasks efficiently. I assure you any delays will be kept to the minimum and rectified as soon as possible,” Crane finished firmly. Lee watched as Neil Pendle scowled at him. He was getting an idea why Chip did not like the man.
Sharkey turned to his Captain, “Thank you Sir. We’ll get right on it as soon as the hoist is available.” He turned and left.
“Dr. Pendle. Your equipment will be loaded and assembled safely.” Lee tried to pacify the scientist. “We are as anxious as you for everything to go well.”
“It doesn’t appear I have a choice Captain,” Pendle said and turned his back on him. Crane decided to let it go and turned to speak to the crewmembers doing security checks.
An hour later Lee Crane was sitting with Chip Morton over lunch in the NIMR cafeteria, “I told you. The guy’s a jerk,” Chip said.
“Yeah, but this ‘jerk’ is going to be with us for at least a month, at the bottom of the ocean, with no way to get off!” Lee grimaced.
“Oh joy! Maybe if he gets too bad, we can practice Emergency procedures and launch him out a torpedo tube.” Chip raised his eyebrows expectantly.
Lee laughed, “I think Sharkey may even help you. He called him a ‘sailor’. You should have seen his face.”
Chip blushed a little “He seems to have a thing against sailors.” When he saw Lee’s quizzical look he quickly said, “It’s nothing, just a chance remark I overheard.”
They continued to discuss tomorrow’s departure and the return of the Admiral.
As Chip left his office later and headed towards Seaview to spend the night onboard, Neil Pendle observed him. How he hated Morton. Everything had gone wrong since he’d shown up. Grayling had changed. He was no longer as close as he had been to her. She didn’t seem to trust his judgement now. Morton was influencing her against him.
Maybe he should have made his intentions clear sooner, but he had wanted to give her time. Time to grieve for her husband, for his friend and mentor. He had loved her forever, he had waited too long to allow someone as unsuitable as Morton to take her away. Morton was so damned superior, just because he wore a uniform. The way Morton challenged him in front of her, made him look foolish. The Captain was no better. Well they’d learn. He was smarter than they were. He would have his revenge. For now he’d be careful, he could play the game. With Morton gone, Grayling would come back to him, she just had to!
At Lee walked into the wardroom and spied Chip looking deeply into a cup of coffee. “Good morning”
Chip looked up “Morning Lee. Sleep well?”
“Better than you did apparently,” said Lee, noting his friend’s dark ringed eyes.
“Don’t know what you mean. I’m fine.” Chip sat straighter.
Lee merely raised his eyebrows in a ‘yeah sure you are’ look. “Aren’t you eating?”
“Maybe a little later, Cookie’s still setting up. I’m not particularly hungry right now.”
Just as Lee was about to comment another voice reached them “Chip Morton not hungry! Am I hearing correctly? Perhaps I should check you out in sick bay,” said an amused Dr. Jamison, Seaview’s Chief Medical Officer as he came in.
“Down, Jamie. There’s nothing wrong in not being hungry,” Chip said firmly.
“Not if you’re Lee Crane,” Jamie said. He was always nagging the Captain to eat more. “But if you’re Chip Morton, the human dustbin, then I have cause for concern. Have you been sleeping alright, you look tired?” Jamie peered at him closely.
Chip stood and looked at both men “What is this? Sheesh, a guy’s not hungry and all of a sudden it’s a big deal! I have work to do; I’ll see you both later.” With that, he picked up his coffee and left.
“Want to tell me what that was all about?” a bemused Jamie asked his smiling Captain.
“Not sure I can yet Jamie,” Lee continued to smile reflectively. Jamie narrowed his eyes and leant forward, “Okay, Captain, spill. What’s got our calm Exec so agitated that he’s not sleeping or eating properly?” Jamie waited.
Lee looked at him and raised his eyebrows, smiling broadly, “Think about it Jamie. What puts most men off their food?”
“A woman?! Chip Morton’s got woman
Lee laughed “Well thank you for the compliment Dr. I’m not sure yet but he has been working very closely with Dr. Harkness. His reactions to her name are…. Interesting.”
“How can you tell?” asked Jamie wryly “He’s not exactly an open book.”
“Trust me Jamie, I can tell.”
Chip had checked all departments, filled in all reports, crossed all the ‘t’s’ and dotted every ‘i. They were ready. The Admiral and Lee were in the observation nose talking to the Doc awaiting Grayling’s arrival. No! He corrected himself, Dr. Harkness’ arrival.
“Mr. Morton, this is the deck watch; Dr. Harkness and Dr. Pendle are here sir.”
Chip picked up the mike “Okay, Riley. Send them down.” He went to the nose “Admiral, Dr. Harkness and Dr. Pendle are on their way down sir.”
All four men moved into the control room near the ladder. How would she react to him? How would he react to her? He stood apart, near the plot table. From above they heard Kowalski say “Just hold tight Ma’am, it’s only a few steps.”
They all watched as a pair of trouser clad legs appeared. As she neared the bottom Lee stepped forward and held her elbow. “Dr. Harkness. Welcome aboard.” He guided her away as Neil Pendle descended. “Dr. Pendle, welcome again.”
Grayling Harkness turned towards the men assembled and smiled. Admiral Nelson stepped forward “Grayling?” He looked surprised. He reached out to hold her offered hands “You’ve grown into a beautiful young woman my dear. I’m so pleased to see you again.”
“Uncle Harry. You’re just the same. Sweet and very kind.” She said with soft laughter. “May I present my colleague Dr. Neil Pendle. Neil...Admiral Harriman Nelson.”
“Dr. Pendle, welcome aboard.” Nelson offered his hand and it was firmly taken by Neil Pendle. “Thank you Admiral, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Dr. Harkness, Dr. Pendle allow me to introduce my officers. Captain Lee Crane, Dr. Will Jamison, our CMO, and Mr. Morton you all ready know.” Both Captain and CMO shook hands with the guests; Mr. Morton merely nodded to both. “Let’s all go sit in the nose and get acquainted,” the Admiral said, and took Grayling by the arm and led the way.
As they sat down Grayling stared at the windows. “Harry. It’s beautiful. You made your dream come true.” The officers smiled; her reaction to the Herculite windows was not unusual.
Chip Morton stood a little away and said, “Admiral, Captain, if you will excuse me, I will see to the pre departure details and the stowing of the Dr.s’ luggage.” He turned back to the control room. Grayling Harkness surreptitiously watched him go, her blush unnoticed, she hoped. Both Captain and Surgeon noticed and smiled secretly.
The group chatted together amiably for a while then Harry said, “I will have you escorted to your cabins, to get settled in. Then this evening, it’s a tradition our first night aboard to eat dinner here in the nose.” Everyone stood.
“Harry it’s so good to see you again. Thank you for agreeing to this trip,” Grayling smiled warmly and impulsively gave him a hug. Nelson was pleased and slightly embarrassed at the same time.
“My pleasure my dear, my pleasure.”
Captain Crane turned and waved Kowalski forward “Ski, see Dr. Harkness and Dr. Pendle to their cabins and make sure they have everything they need.”
“Yes Sir. This way please sir, ma’am.”
After a short walk to Officer’s Country, and the guest accommodations, Ski nodded, “This is your cabin Ma’am. Have you everything you need?” he asked as she stepped inside. She smiled and nodded in the affirmative. “Please ask any crewman for any help,” Ski added. “This way Dr. Pendle sir.” Kowalski walked on.
“See you later Grayling,” said Pendle as he closed the door.
As she looked around the small cabin, she moved towards the bunk, sat down and tried to relax. Meeting Harry again had been easier than she had hoped. He seemed genuinely pleased to see her. That was something of a surprise; he had not spoken to her in nearly seven years. The last time he had been angry. Now she was here with him on his dream submarine and he was pleased. She smiled to herself. Everyone had been friendly, she thought for a moment…. well almost everyone.
She remembered her first meeting with Commander Morton. He had walked into her office with a grinning Kerry, amusement in his eyes. Those expressive blue eyes. She had been surprised by her own reaction to him. Her heart had beaten faster and she was blushing as he smiled at her. That smile was fatal.
He had listened to her detailed plans and encouraged her to talk about her research. She’d seen appreciation in his eyes. His calm and easy manner had relaxed her. She liked this man. He was intelligent and capable enough, not to have to prove it.
Then there was that embarrassing scene with Neil in the lab. She had almost left but he had given her the confidence to contradict Neil with the encouragement in his calm blue eyes. The offer of dinner had been so completely unexpected. She had been firm in her refusal she knew but it was for the best, this man was way outside her experience. When he had left she had felt agitated. She knew she did not want another confrontation with Neil, so she decided to leave also. She recalled her conversation with Kerry....
“Hi Doc, leaving early tonight? How did your meeting go? Wasn’t he a gorgeous hunk to look at?” Kerry sighed dramatically.
“Kerry really, you are so forward. Don’t you ever get embarrassed?” she said with a laugh.
“Gee Doc. Chill. You aren’t blind. He was real ‘cute.’ You’re not so old you know, you just got to get out more Doc…you aren’t dead like your….” Realising what she was about to say Kerry blushed furiously, “I’m so sorry Doctor Harkness, I didn’t mean anything….”
“That’s all right Kerry I understand. Please don’t fret about it. Now if Dr. Pendle looks for me, would you please tell him I have left for the evening? Thank you Kerry see you tomorrow.” Poor Kerry she had felt so sorry for her, but she had started Grayling thinking, she wasn’t old, though she felt old sometimes and maybe she did need to get out more.
When she had decided to eat somewhere before going home, her choice had been pure luck. To see him sitting there was a shock. To join him had been the only polite thing to do. His obvious pleasure with her company was gratifying and through their dinner together, he had been charming and fun. Making her feel young and happy again.
When he had asked her to join him the next day, her first instinct was to refuse. Then she had remembered Kerry’s words “you need to get out more.” She had been so pleased by his reaction to her “Yes”. They had met up every day after that, always casual and fun.
She knew Neil disapproved. He had made her feel guilty. His worship of Leo had been so absolute. Was she betraying Leo’s memory? Yes, Leo had loved her in his own way but their marriage had not been what she hoped. Deep down she knew it was her fault. She had thought their work would be enough but she soon realised she had been naïve. Harry had been so sure she was making a mistake, just as Neil was this time; could she trust her own judgement on relationships? After their argument, Neil had stormed out. Chip had been so kind and gentle. She knew deep down she wanted him to kiss her and Oh! It was so... so thrilling to feel such passion, but how guilty she felt. Her withdrawal had been self-preservation. She had not wanted to hurt him but she knew that what she felt had overwhelmed her completely. She had never had such intense feelings before. She felt guiltier than ever. After his reaction she doubted she would ever experience them again and that left her feeling lonely.
After the scientists had gone to their cabins, the Captain approached Chip. “Are we ready Mr. Morton?”
“Yes Sir, all crew have reported, we’re secure and ready to answer bells.”
“Very well Mr. Morton, Let’s get under way. All ahead one third. Heading, one two zero. When we pass the breakwater go to all ahead standard and a depth of ninety feet.”
“Aye sir, all ahead one third, heading one two zero, depth ninety feet,” answered the Exec.
“Lee I’ll be in my cabin,” said Nelson as he ascended the stairs.
“And I’ll be in sick bay,” Jamie said. “By the way you’re right, you can tell, if you know what to look for” Lee looked at him and laughed. Jamie made his way aft.
“You can tell what?” asked a confused Chip.
“I’ll tell you later, much later,” said Lee still smiling.
Both men worked together in routine harmony as the cruise got under way.
In the early evening, Grayling Harkness and Neil Pendle were gazing out of the windows, both lost in their own thoughts. Pendle was congratulating his performance. He had been the epitome of politeness. Then when the opportunity arose no one would suspect him. Grayling was also hoping she appeared normal, if only her heart would stop racing when she looked at Chip.
“I see you‘re as captivated by the view as I always am,” Harry said as he joined them.
They turned to see him standing with his officers.” I could never get used to this Admiral, the effect is so inspiring,” said Grayling with a smile.
“Admiral? Are we to be formal with each other then?”
“Merely offering you the respect you deserve Harry,” she said laughing with him.
“Mmm. Well let’s be seated.”
Chip made sure he was seated by Jamie but was unfortunately opposite Grayson. He could do this, he told himself. He’d greeted her formally when they boarded with no effect, he could cope now, the infamous Morton mask slipped into place. Through dinner the talk was general and both Lee and Chip were surprised at Neil Pendle’s apparent ease and congeniality. Lee looked at Chip who shrugged; well this was a change of attitude! Grayling was careful to include everyone in her conversation and she had insisted they all called her Grayling. Neil Pendle had also insisted a first name basis. When Jamie had agreed, Grayling said “But I think the Captain and Commander should retain their rank, especially in front of the crew. We would not wish to show less respect than is due.”
“Well thank you D...Grayling. However I don’t think in private it will be a problem, do you Chip?” Lee said laughing.
“No sir, I don’t think so. Perhaps using Mr. Morton in front of the crew would be easier for you,” Chip said looking her straight in the eye. “Less formal and less remindful of our first encounter.” He finished quietly.
She blushed and said, “Yes, perhaps that would be better.”
The Captain and Dr. exchanged glances. They all had coffee.
As the party disbursed, Harry put a hand on Grayson’s arm “Stay,” he said. “Lee, would you close the doors?”
Grayson sat beside Nelson and smiled at him. “So is this time for our ‘heart to heart’?”
“I just want to catch up; seven years is long time,” said Harry quietly looking at her.
She stood restlessly and went to stand in front of the large windows, her arms wrapped around her “Yes, a lifetime in fact.” Turning to him she said, “Do you remember our last meeting?” He nodded, embarrassed, and would have said something but she held up her hand, “No Harry. Please let me say this before I lose my courage. You were right; marrying Leo was a mistake, a big mistake. All my life I have been surrounded by older people. First Gramps and Grandee and all their friends and colleagues. They never treated me as a child; I learnt very early to talk science and philosophy. As I grew up I was sometimes lonely for my own peers as company but when I did meet any, I realised we had nothing in common. You were the only one, Harry, who tried to bring any normality into my life.” She smiled, “I remember the outings you used to arrange, fun parks, fairs, even the cinema.” She came to sit by him “When Gramps died and then a few months later Grandee, I was totally lost. You were away on sea trials with Seaview and Leo was so kind. He just looked after me. You were right I didn’t love him really, I guess it was just gratitude.”
“You were barely twenty one years old,
the man was nearly sixty, he took advantage!” said Nelson agitatedly. “I knew
you were inexperienced with life. I tried to talk you out of it and when you
wouldn’t listen, I tried to talk to him. Vain, egotistical fool that he was. He
wanted a trophy wife, someone to host dinner parties, pander to his ego. He
told me to leave, and fool that I was, I did. When I calmed down, I
tried to get in touch again but you had already left with him back to
Grayson looked shocked, “Harry I didn’t know! Leo never told me, I never received your letters. I thought you had washed your hands of me.”
Nelson stood and jammed his hands in his pockets and started to pace, “Damn the man. He purposely isolated you.”
She stood and went to stand by him putting a hand on his arm “Harry it doesn’t matter now. Leo’s gone.”
Nelson turned to her “Were you very unhappy?” he asked quietly.
She led him back and they both sat down. Looking out of the window she said quietly, “No, not very. I threw myself into my studies, Leo had his work and when Neil joined him, he needed me less. We kept up pretence for others, mostly pride I suppose. Then when he died it was natural for me to carry on his work.” She looked back at him and smiled, “That’s what has brought us together again”
Harry smiled too, “So what happens after this trip? Are you going to bury yourself in some lab somewhere? You’re still young Grayling. You need to experience life, not run away again.”
She laughed loudly, “You know Harry, you’re the second person to say that to me in less than three weeks!”
“Really? Well we’re both talking sense. So listen this time,” he said grinning.
“Tell you what, I’ll think seriously about it, but right now I’m exhausted. Confessions may be good for the soul but I need some sleep.”
They both stood and Harry went to open the crash doors. They were met by the gentle activity of the control room. “Goodnight my dear. Sleep well.” He kissed her cheek and she smiled “Goodnight Uncle Harry” and kissed his cheek. As she passed the plot table she said “Goodnight Captain, Comm…Mr. Morton” They both wished her goodnight and Lee noticed she had not looked Chip in the eye and saw her blush when she had almost called him Commander. Chip for his part looked calm but had stiffened slightly at her mistake.
Nelson approached his command officers; “When you’re free, join me for coffee, gentlemen?
They looked at each other and nodded. “We’d be glad to, sir.” Both noticed his furrowed brows in deep thought as he returned to the Nose.
As soon as Lt. O’Brien had taken the conn, Morton and Crane joined the Admiral.
“Close the doors Chip. Help yourselves to coffee.” The Admiral continued to gaze out of the window. When both men were seated he turned to them. “Gentlemen, you are looking at old fool!”
Both officers were startled. Lee leant forward looking at him carefully, “Sir, what are you talking about?” Nelson then told them of his talk with Grayling. As he finished he said, “I should have persisted. Letting Leo Harkness fob me off like that was my fault. I let my pride cloud my judgement.”
Lee was watching him. “You did your best at the time. You couldn’t have known the true circumstances.”
“Lee’s right sir. You tried to reason with them. Leo Harkness is the one at fault. He prevented you both from making contact. His should be the guilt, not yours. At least now you can make amends, renew your friendship.” Chip looked to Lee who nodded.
“Yes you’re both right, I know. She was almost like a daughter you see,” he said thoughtfully. Rubbing his hand over his face he stood. “Thank you for listening but it’s getting late and time for us to get some sleep. Goodnight gentlemen.” Lee and Chip stood and watched as Nelson went up the spiral staircase.
“Do you think he’ll be alright?” asked Chip.
“I think so. Knowing the Admiral, he’ll cope. It’s a good thing for both of them, this trip. Gives them time to mend fences.”
“Yeah, guess your right. Well I’m going to my cabin. See you at breakfast, Lee. Try to get some sleep after your rounds,” said a grinning Chip, knowing the Captain wouldn’t be able to resist checking the boat before turning in.
“Goodnight Chip… sleep well,” Lee looked at him, smiling.
In his cabin Chip readied himself for bed but kept going over all the Admiral had told them. As he lay on his bunk, hands behind his head, he thought about Grayling Harkness.
He had known she was different from most women he met. Her shyness and reserve were explained now. She had told him she had few social skills. Her life had obviously been devoid of ‘normality.’ Along he’d sailed, into her life. Confusing and challenging her. No wonder she had withdrawn. Now, where did he go from here? Nowhere. Nothing had changed as far as he could see. She had been clear telling him she did not welcome ‘this further complication’, so he would carry on, as before, after all, it’s not like she was that important to him. Was she?
Over the next few days’ routine took over. Watches were stood, duties fulfilled, research prepared and through it all Chip Morton and Grayling Harkness thought no one noticed their careful casualness with each other.
The officers and guests took to eating meals together when duties permitted and Lee noticed how Chip managed to arrange his so that he only joined them once a day.
Jamison noticed that the Exec, famous for his appetite, managed to pick at his food, while giving the impression of eating heartily.
The crew also noticed that Mr. Morton was more ‘picky’ than usual. Not that he ever found fault without reason but he sure made the most of it when he did!
“Chief, I can’t get this floor any cleaner!” exclaimed Riley. “I’ve done what Mr. Morton wanted; next he’ll have me polishing the torpedos.”
“Yeah Chief, I’ve checked every valve, air tank, wetsuit and control panel in this place. Twice!” said a fed up Patterson.
“I know every box in that store room, intimately,” said Kowalski “I sure wish he and Dr. Harkness would get it together and give him something else to think about. He’s never been so particular!” Patterson and Riley looked at each other and chorused, “Amen to that.”
“Belay that kind of talk!” Sharkey said, “You guys really crease me up. An officer wants to see you bozo’s do some work for a change, instead of sitting around flapping your gums, and you got to think up reason’s why he’s doin’ it.”
All three men looked at Sharkey resignedly, “Okay, okay, so maybe you got a point. But they sure are shadow boxing with each other.”
“You think they each know how each other feels?” asked Riley with a broad smile.
“I doubt it. Mr. Morton ain’t exactly easy for most people to read,” said Kowalski.
“Maybe someone should give them a hint,” Patterson looked at his friends.
“How about it Chief. You could get out of that bilge inspection?” said Riley
Sharkey shook his head,”NO WAY, not me. Now you guy’s get back to work and stop all this chatter.”
Unknown to the men, Captain Crane and Dr. Neil Pendle overheard their conversation. Pendle was by the store cupboard behind the missile silos. So, he thought, Morton was still interested. He had hoped that they were finished. His anger rose, now he would have to act after all.
Crane had listened with concern. He’d been about to enter the Missile Room when he’d heard Riley. He knew Chip had been more thorough than usual this trip, but had not known to what extent. Something would have to be done.
“Mr. Morton, this is the Captain. Please come to my cabin after your watch.”
“Aye sir,” replied Chip neutrally.
Forty-five minutes later Chip knocked at Lee’s door.
Chip opened the door, “You wanted to see me Captain.”
“Yes Mr. Morton, have a seat.” Chip took the seat and sat with his legs crossed and hands linked together over one knee. He carefully observed his Captain, not sure what this was all about, and he waited for Lee to start.
Lee sat leaning back in his chair, as he waited, Chip sat opposite him, appearing calm but alert. Both men continued to look at each other. Damn, Lee had never been as good at this as Chip, “Okay. You win I’ll start.”
Chip merely raised his eyebrows.
“Mr. Morton, would you mind telling me why the crew are quaking more than usual when you pass?”
“Sir? I don’t think I know what you mean.” Chip sat up straighter, both feet on the floor, almost at attention in a sitting position!
“I hear you have been more ‘picky’ than usual.” When he saw Chip blank him, Lee relented. “Okay, Chip, relax. Talk to me here, what’s going on with you and Dr. Harkness?” He got up to pour two cups of coffee.
“Sir, I’m sorry if the crew are complaining. I just like things done properly. It’s never been a problem before.” Chip continued to sit at attention.
“Chip, I said relax, I meant it. No one has complained to me but you’ve got this place so policed it’s almost painful.” He handed his friend a cup of coffee, “You want to tell me what’s going on, or shall I make a guess?” Lee sat on the edge of his desk near to Chip. “Well?”
“I don’t know what you mean Lee,” Chip said looking into his coffee.
“Yes you do pal. It’s you and Dr. Harkness. What gives? You’ve been on edge ever since I got back with the Admiral.”
Chip looked at Lee. So, he had noticed and why wouldn’t he? Lee knew him better than anyone. “You never said anything.”
Lee just looked at him.
Chip sighed, “Okay, you’re right.” He got up and restlessly walked the floor. “Lee, I’ve been a damn fool”
“I doubt that. You’re not the type,” said Lee with a smile.
Chip looked at his friend and sat down. He then told Lee all about himself and Grayling Harkness. When he had finished, he waited for Lee’s reaction. Lee was grinning; he got up and went to sit behind his desk. He looked at Chip, “Well it took long enough.”
“What? What do you mean? It took long enough? Is that all you’ve got to say?” Chip looked confused.
“Chip, you have had more girlfriends than I can count. You always treated them well, you always remained friends afterwards but I don’t think you ever let your heart rule your head. You, my friend, are in love. It had to happen sometime, it just happened now and with Grayling Harkness.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Lee. I am not in love, and not with Grayling Harkness.”
“No?” said Lee quietly.
Chip stopped pacing and closed his eyes, “Hell, Lee, When did it happen?”
“I’d say, pretty much the moment you saw her, pal. So what are you going to do about it?” Lee helped himself to more coffee and watched Chip sit down dejectedly.
“What can I do? She made it pretty clear she doesn’t want to get involved. I thought at first it was out of love for her husband, now I don’t know. Maybe she’s just not interested in me. Lee I don’t want talk about this anymore. I’ve gone over it again and again.” Chip looked at his friend and Lee could see the anguish. “Let’s leave it alone huh?” he pleaded.
“Chip if you told her how you feel, maybe…”
“No Lee, and I want your word you won’t interfere. Your word Lee.... as my friend.”
Lee looked at Chip for a long moment, “Okay, my word, I won’t speak to her about this.”
“Thanks Lee. Tell you what; I’ll even let up on the crew. I was running out of work details anyway,” Chip said with a wry smile.
“I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Any time you need to talk, I’ll listen,” Lee said with a smile. “By the way, how many times did Riley mop the missile room floor?”
“Three, if he’d done it right the first two times,” Chip started
“Were you really going to have Sharkey inspect the bilges?” Lee asked incredulously.
Chip had the grace to blush “They need to be done. Okay. I’ll tell Sharkey to leave it to the shore inspection crew. Anything else?”
“No. Try to go get some sleep. You need it.” Lee smiled and Chip left his office.
Lee sat for a moment to reflect. What a mess. He knew Chip was not going to relent. He’d let her walk away rather than risk hurting her. Chip hadn’t recognised love when it hit him; maybe Grayling hadn’t either. She didn’t have the experience he had, so what if she was just as blind to the possibilities? Lee stood and went to the door; he thought better when he walked, so he’d take a walk around his ‘Lady’ and think.
Neil Pendle sat in his cabin. It shouldn’t belong now. It was lucky for him that Morton had spent so long with the Captain. He had known the Exec never locked his door, so it had been easy to sabotage the electrical wiring in the overhead lamp by his bunk. An electrical fire could start anywhere, lots of smoke, and Morton just wouldn’t wake up. He smiled; no one would have reason to suspect him.
As Lee returned to Officers Country, he was no nearer a solution. Smoke. He could smell smoke! Picking up his pace, he saw smoke coming out under Chip’s cabin door. Picking up the nearest mike he ordered, “Fire detail. Fire detail, Mr. Morton’s cabin on the double.” He then raced to the door and pushed it open. The smoke was thick and acrid “Chip, you in here, Chip?” he bent low and made his way to the bunk. He felt an arm, by now Lee was coughing badly, “Chip, wake up” he started to pull him off the bunk, Chip was obviously unconscious. As he started to pull him out, he felt strong arms help them both.
Outside in the corridor, the fire crew had arrived. Still coughing he looked up to see Kowalski and Patterson standing over him and Chip. “Its okay, Skipper, you’re out, so’s Mr. Morton.” Kowalski bent down and started to look at Chip. “Pat, help me get Mr. Morton to sickbay. He’s not so good. Riley, you help the Skipper.” All three men went into action.
In sickbay Jamie gave orders. “Put Mr. Morton on the table; John put the Captain on the other table and give him some oxygen. DON’T argue Lee, I don’t have the time if you want me to save Chip’s life.” Jamie and Frank went to work on Chip. Lee watched and breathed in oxygen steadily. The Admiral came in at a run and went towards Lee.
“What the hell happened, Lee?” Nelson asked, “Is Chip all right?”
“Dammit, he’s stopped breathing!” Doc said urgently, “Frank start cardiac resuscitation. Jamie and Frank worked frantically, attaching monitors, inserting a ventilator down Morton’s throat, and getting the electric shock paddles ready. “Come on Chip, breathe, BREATHE. Yes that’s it, yes. Okay... Frank I’ve got a pulse, getting stronger; he’s in normal rhythm again.” A little while later Jamie looked across at the Admiral and Lee, both were pale and shaken, “I think he’ll make it. It was touch and go there but he’ll soon be creating the usual havoc he does, when he’s here.” Jamie smiled. “You just stay right where you are Captain; I’ll get to you in a moment.
Sometime later Lee explained to the Admiral and Jamie what had happened.
“Well a few minutes more and it would have been too late,” said Jamie. All three men looked to Chip, still unconscious but out of danger.
Chief Sharkey knocked the door lightly and stepped in. “Ah...sirs? The fire’s all out and we’re scrubbing the smoke. Is Mr. Morton going to be all right?”
“Yes Chief you can pass the word, Mr. Morton is going to be Okay,” Jamie replied.
“Sirs”, said the Chief, “We inspected Mr. Morton’s cabin and well, sirs….”
“Yes, Chief?” said the Admiral “Go on.”
“Well sir, Kowalski checked out the overhead light. Seems that’s where it started, and well, he’s not sure it was an accident.”
“What?” asked Lee.
“He’s not sure sir. It just looks kinda'…odd he says.”
“Okay, Chief. Keep this to yourselves for now. We’ll look into it.” The Admiral looked towards Chip.
“Yes, sir.” Sharkey turned and left.
“Well Lee. What do you think? Who would want to hurt Chip?”
Before Lee could answer Grayling came rushing into the room, “I heard Chip had been hurt. Is it bad? Will he be all right? Where is he? Can I see him?” Lee and Jamie looked amused, but the Admiral was stunned.
“Yes he was hurt. A small fire in his cabin has caused him to inhale some smoke. He will be all right now. He’s over there asleep and you can sit by him if you like,” said Jamie in answer to all her questions.
“Oh thank God! I thought…I thought...it would be ...” then she swayed a little.
“I think you need to sit down and breathe slowly, that’s right slow deep breaths. Feeling better?” Doc asked.
She nodded ‘yes’.
“Good, now why don’t you sit by his bed. He’s going to be out of it for a while but it might make you feel better.” Jamie led her to a comfortable chair by Chip’s bunk. “I’ll get Frank to bring you some coffee.” Again she nodded not looking away from Chip’s pale sleeping face.
Jamie smiled as he walked back to Harry and Lee. “I think we can safely say, that was proof, if proof were needed.” Lee chuckled softly, “I’d say so.”
“Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” Nelson asked confused.
“You tell him, you know more about it than I do” said Jamie “but not here. I’m releasing you to your cabin Captain. ONLY your cabin, get some rest. When he wakes up I’ll need all the help I can get to keep him here.
After the senior officers had left, Frank approached the doctor with a report, “The result’s of Mr. Morton’s blood test sir.”
Jamie looked at the file and frowned, “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes sir, I double checked.”
“Okay, Frank, I’ll look into it”
Back in his cabin Lee told the Admiral everything he knew. “So you’re telling me Chip Morton fell in LOVE with Grayling at first sight.”
“Pretty much looks that way sir and judging by her reaction I‘d say it’s pretty much mutual.” Lee said laughing. He looked at the Admiral’s face and frowned, “Do you mind?” he asked concerned.
“What? Oh. No. I don’t think so? Hell, Lee. Why am I the last to know things? You knew, Jamie knew, it appears even the CREW knew! Why didn’t I know?” then he burst out laughing. “He was shocked, huh? Wish I’d seen that expression!” and he continued to laugh.
Neil Pendle wasn’t laughing. Morton had survived. Crane had rescued him in time! Now Grayling was down there with him! He’d lost her, he knew it. She would never look at him now. Well if he couldn’t have her, Morton wouldn’t either. He went to his case and picked out a small gun. He had nothing to loose anymore.
He listened outside sickbay and he could hear her soft voice, “I just thought you’d want to see a friendly face, when you woke.”
Chip had awoken twenty minutes earlier on the exam table in sick bay and the Doc had filled in the missing memories for him before helping him to a bunk. He had checked him over and suggested he rest further. It would take a while for him to recover fully. His throat would be especially sore for a while. “However you can have one visitor for a short while” turning he waved Grayling over.
“Mr. Morton how are you?”
Jamie sighed at her formality and shook his head and walked quietly away to go see the Captain and Admiral.
Chip looked at her “A friendly face,” he asked in a horse whisper.
“Yes I will always be your friend Chip,” She said softly “I’m sorry for all I said. I never meant to hurt you. I’m kind of confused right now. Maybe in time, I’ll sort myself out. But I do want us to be friends in the meantime.”
He looked at her and smiled “Of course. Friends.” He sat up, resting against the pillows she re-arranged. “You look tired; maybe you should go and rest too.”
“Do you want me to leave?” she asked worriedly.
“No, not really. I just thought …never mind. I suppose my cabin’s a mess. I will have to camp out in one of the guest cabins for a while. That’ll be a pain.”
“Well, at least you can make any improvements in the re-build.”
“Never thought of that. Perhaps the Admiral will spring for spa or whirlpool.” They both laughed. Chip coughed and Grayling offered him some water.
Neil Pendle came hesitantly into the room. He saw her helping him and he glared at them. Chip happened to look past Grayling and saw the man and the gun. Grayling saw his expression change and looked behind her. She stood slowly, as Chip struggled to get up,
“Neil, what are you doing? Why do you have a gun? ”she asked.
“You thought you could take her away from me, DIDN’T YOU, Morton? You just thought you could take what was mine! You should have died in the fire; you would have if Crane hadn’t pulled you out!”
Grayling paled “You set that fire? Why? For God’s sake. Why?”
“For you of COURSE, for you. Grayling I have loved you forever,” He stepped towards her, and just as quickly the still wobbly Chip managed to barely brace himself upright against the bunk and put himself in front of her protectively. “No! You’re mine! I have waited patiently for you. You needed time after Leo, I understood that. I waited but you turned to HIM !”
“Put the gun down, Pendle,” Chip said, “I’m sure we can discuss this reasonably,” he played for time.
Outside Frank was just about to come back in, Doc had said to give them ten minutes, and then give Mr. Morton his meds and settle him down. Frank was smiling; he sure hoped they got things sorted out between them. When he heard the angry voice he carefully peered around the doorway and saw Dr. Pendle was waving a gun at Mr. Morton. He drew back, he couldn’t risk the intercom, and so he backed away slowly and then ran to the Captain’s quarters. When he got there he quickly explained what he’d seen and heard. All three men left together, after Lee had taken his gun from the desk. “Just in case Doctor, just in case,” he said when he seen the CMO, look at him. Jamie nodded.
Pendle was getting more agitated; he was pacing but never taking his eyes off Chip. The gun he held was waving around, “Look Neil” said Chip carefully, “this is between you and me. Let Grayling go. You don’t want to her to get hurt accidentally”
“NO. I’m not leaving you,” Grayling looked at Chip desperately.
“No one’s leaving!” Pendle shouted, “I want to finish this here and now. I’ve nothing left to lose. I’ve already lost the one thing that meant everything to me.” He looked at Grayling. “Why couldn’t you have loved me instead?”
“Neil.” She said, slowly, and emerged from behind Chip’s protective arms, “I didn’t know how you felt, you should have said something. I have always appreciated your friendship.” She was slowly walking further away from Chip. “But a girl doesn’t always see what’s right under her nose.” She glanced past Neil and saw Jamie and Harry in the doorway. Pendle sensed her distraction and shouted “YOU’RE TRYING TO TRICK ME!” then bolted past her to Chip, easily pushing the weakened man onto his knees, putting the gun to his head and grabbing his hair.“ I know you’re out there, so come in with you’re hands up.”
Harry and Jamie came in the door, “Dr. Pendle….Neil this is all so unnecessary. Let’s talk this through before someone is hurt.”
“Where’s Crane? Tell him to come in too.”
“Captain Crane is in his quarters, sedated. He inhaled some smoke himself. He’s resting,” said Jamie.
“Oh…well that’s all right then.”
Grayling had come to stand by Harry. He put an arm around her, she was trembling.
“So what do you want to do now?” asked Harry. “It’s your move.”
Harry glanced at the wall clock; a minute to go. Pendle took hold of Chip’s shoulder.
“We’re going to leave and no ones to interfere.” He dragged the shaky Chip, and placed the gun between his shoulder blades.
Well if it goes off now, Chip thought, I’m in the right place.
Pendle was nervously watching the three people in front of him, Harry looked at the clock again….five, four, three, two…suddenly Seaview tilted violently to port.
Chip swayed, already unsteady, and fell hard against Pendle, pushing him to the deck. He felt him struggle, and then heard a loud noise; he felt a searing pain in his upper left arm. Suddenly he was lifted up and a scowling C.O.B. and Kowalski dragged Pendle to his feet.
“Here, sit down here, let me look at your arm.” said Doc, slipping off his pyjama jacket. “Looks like a flesh wound, lots of blood, but a few stitches and you’ll be fine.” Jamie was wiping down his arm.
Lee came running into the room, “Lock him in the brig.” he ordered Sharkey.
“Yes sir! C’mon Doctor Pendle.” And they led him out.
“Chip are you okay? You’re sure?” Lee asked as Chip nodded.
Doc cleaned and bandaged the arm of a very quiet and tired Exec, as Lee told him the sequence of events that led to his rescue. “Of course we didn’t realise that Pendle would be so close to you when we turned the boat.”
“No problem Lee. If I’d been a bit steadier, it would have been okay,” Chip felt tired.
“Right, no arguments Mr. Morton, bed, now, there,” said Jamie pointed to the bunk, “And you Captain, back to your cabin for that rest.”
“Why can’t I go to my cabin too?” Chip asked.
“I can’t believe it,” Jamie said, “you’re barely able to stand by yourself, you almost died a short while ago, twice, you had a bullet wound, and now you expect me to just let you sleep it all off in your cabin?”
“Well, yes...” Chip said.
“There’s something else you don’t know. You have the residual of a sleeping drug in your bloodstream. Dr. Pendle probably spiked a drink in your cabin to ensure you didn’t detect the fire before it was too late. You need to be under observation, just in case.”
“Looks like you’ve been outvoted bud,” Lee said. “Get some rest Chip, tomorrow we reach sea-lab, then I guess we’ll see what happens after that.” Lee turned and left.
Chip was settling in the bunk when he looked up, “Jamie, do me a favour?”
“What do you need Chip?”
“Not me, Grayling. Will you go check on her? She left with the Admiral a while back, she may …you know, need something,” Chip finished quietly.
“It’s on my to do list. Now rest and maybe tomorrow I’ll let you out, for light duty only,” Jamie said with a smile.
“No maybe about it,” Chip said and closed his eyes.
Grayling Harkness and Nelson had left sickbay when she heard that Chip was going to be all right. Back in her cabin she sat on the bunk and looked at Harry, as he stood with hands in his pockets, watching her carefully. “What a mess Harry. I had no idea about Neil, no feeling at all that he was …unstable. All this, the fire, the shooting was because of me. How could I be so blind,” she finished agitated.
“How could you know?” Nelson sat beside her, “Pendle’s actions were his own. You can’t hold yourself responsible for them. Grayling look at me; Chip is going to be fine. You need to concentrate on the future not the past.”
“Oh Harry he could have been killed….all
She looked at her friend, “Thanks, I guess I needed that. I never cry, but just lately it’s becoming a habit. So is collecting gentlemen’s handkerchiefs.” She said with a small smile. She stood and walked to the desk. Turning she said, “Harry. I’m not going through with the rest of the trip.” When he made to protest, she held up her hand and said, “No Harry, I can’t face it. Would your flying sub be able to take me…somewhere.... anywhere? The nearest airport maybe. I just need to go…. It would be better all around.”
“What about Chip? Are you going to run away? Doesn’t he deserve better than that?”
“Don’t you see Harry? That’s why I’m going. I’m no good at relationships. I don’t know how to make them work. Leo, Neil, they prove that. Even with Chip I backed away from involvement. No. It’s better this way. He’ll be much better off without me, trust me, I know.”
Harry stood and looked at her, “Grayling think about what you’re throwing away. Chip is a good man, a fine officer and I’m happy to say, a good friend. He’s as much lost in this relationship as you are. He’s met true love for the first time and he’s not got any more answers than you have. Chip Morton’s a man who puts others first. He will let you walk away rather than hurt you, even if it rips him apart.” He watched her withdraw, “I will only say this… regrets are poor companions when you’re lonely, my dear. You will have to be the one to make the first move, or loose a chance at ever finding happiness.”
She sat down again, “Thanks Harry, but I can’t take the chance of hurting him further.” She lay down and he pulled a cover over her. “I know I’m right, Harry, he deserves better than me. Oh I’m so tired I could sleep forever.” With that she closed her eyes and fell asleep quickly. Harry watched her for a few moments, then sighing he switched off the light and left quietly.
In the corridor Jamieson was coming towards him, “Admiral, Chip asked me to check on Dr. Harkness.”
“She’s sleeping Will, she needs it. Come and have drink with me instead.”
The next morning they reached the co-ordinates for sea-lab and the re-supply details were started. Chip was allowed out of sickbay, providing he used a sling for a couple of days, and was on ‘light’ duty. Lee showed him his cabin.
“Oh boy what a mess!” Chip said examining the damage.
“And this is after the crew did some tidying, my friend. Your clothes are all smoke damaged, as is most of your stuff, I’m afraid.”
Chip opened his desk drawer and looked inside. Taking out a small parcel he turned it over in his hand. It seemed undamaged. He tucked inside his sling.
“What’s that?” asked a curious Lee.
“Nothing, just something I got for a friend.” Chip turned and walked towards the door, “Let’s go. This is depressing.”
They headed towards the control room. Crewmen they met on their way asked how they were.
“Hey Mr. Morton?” Riley asked, “We’ve been thinking. Your cabin, when you get it re-done, how about getting a little colour in there, or perhaps have some waves painted on the walls. You know brighten it up a little.”
Chip looked at Riley with increased disbelief.
“Riley, this is an operational sub, not an exhibit at
“Just thought it would be more cheerful sir,” Riley smiled.
Chip started to shake his head “Don’t think Riley, it’s not your strong point.”
As Riley walked away Chip looked at Lee “Colours, waves on the walls?” both men burst out laughing.
They were still smiling when they entered the control room. “Mr. Morton, sir. How are you?” said Bobby O’Brien.
“I’m fine thank you Mr. O’Brien. How is the re-supply detail going?” Lee and Chip listened to the report and congratulated the younger officer, “I think we may need to look to our jobs Captain.” Chip said smiling.
“You could be right there Mr. Morton,” noting Bob O’Brien’s obvious pride.
Just then the Admiral and Grayling Harkness descended the stairs. “Chip. How are you feeling? I hear Jamie let you escape.” Nelson chuckled.
“Yes sir. I’m fine. Just have to wear the sling for a while,” Chip said smiling. “Good morning Dr. Harkness, I trust you slept well.”
“Yes, thank you, it was quite a busy night, one way and another,” she looked away from him carefully. “Captain, I hope this won’t inconvenience you but I have decided to forgo the research expedition. The Admiral has kindly agreed to allow the flying sub to take me back early, my equipment can return with you to port,” she finished breathlessly as her heart was beating so fast. She had seen Chip flinch and now could not look at him.
Lee looked at the Admiral who shrugged and spread his hands. Aware that Chip was rigidly standing still next to him, Crane looked at Grayling and said, “If you’re sure Doctor. However it does seem a shame, when you’ve come so far to give up on something so important.”
Grayling Harkness blushed; she knew Lee was not talking about the mission but about his friend. “Yes, Captain I’m sure. It’s for the best.” She turned towards the stairs and left. There was an uncomfortable silence.
Chip turned to Lee and said, “Captain, if you will excuse me, I’ll get sorted in my temporary quarters.” And he left.
Harry looked at Lee “My office,” he said shortly.
“Mr. O’ Brien…..”
“I know sir, I have the conn.”
Lee looked at Bobby and smiled “Thanks. Bob.”
In his office Nelson told Lee of his conversation with Grayling. They decided there was nothing they could do without making matters worse. “Just get the flying sub ready Lee and maybe when we get back to port, I can see Grayling and talk sense to her. Maybe some time apart will help her.”
Two hours later Harry, Lee, Jamie and Chip were assembled in the nose. Kowalski was loading some small luggage into the flying sub. “All loaded sirs.”
“Ah.. Thank you Kowalski. That’s all for now,” said the Admiral.
Grayling Harkness came down the stairs and looked at the officers, “What’s this? An official farewell? Thank you gentlemen, it’s very kind of you” she was obviously nervous. She was playing with her necklace again.
“I wonder if she’s aware that’s dead giveaway,” thought Chip.
Jamie stepped forward, “Couldn’t let you go without saying Goodbye. I hope you recover from this and decide to sail with us again one day.” He took her hands and squeezed them. Moving aside to let Lee come forward.
“Dr….Grayling, I’ll echo Jamie, good luck and do sail with us again, your research is too important to the world.” Lee looked at Chip who was unreadable.
“Lee let’s check on the flight plan, excuse me Grayling, won’t be a moment,” the Admiral went to the plot desk followed by Lee and Jamie.
Grayling smiled “Dear Harry, I think that was their subtle way of giving us some privacy, Chip.”
“Why are you leaving?” said Chip tightly. “Why now? Pendle’s no longer a problem. Don’t you want to do your research?”
“Yes of course I do but. …this thing between us, it will just get in the way. Complicate both our lives.” She turned to the window and Chip stood behind her, “Please try to understand, I am no good at relationships. I can’t find the key to make them work. You’ll be better off with someone else. It’ll be safer for your heart.”
“It’s my heart, I don’t give it lightly. You think it won’t be hurt if you walk away? Together we could try at least.”
She turned and looked at him, and hesitated, “Chip… I can’t. I just don’t know how….I’m sorry,” her voice was full of emotion. She continued to look at him but called, “Whenever you’re ready, Harry.”
Chip turned and was about to leave when he remembered the package. Carefully taking it out he said, “Dr. Harkness, I came across this, I thought you might like it.”
She took it and looked confused, his expression told her nothing, so she opened it. In her hands was a slim book, looking at it she read,
“’Poetic…Injustice’, by Hamish Grayling McKenzie”
She looked at Chip in astonishment, “My mother’s favourite poet. Where did you find it?”
“It’s a collection of love poems. It seems he died old and alone, after a broken love affair.” He looked at her for a long moment. “Goodbye Grayling” Chip said quietly. Then went to stand by the large windows, lost in thought.
The others came to join them, “Yes well...if you’re ready.” Harry looked at her.
She stood gazing at the book.
“Grayling?” Nelson gently took her arm.
“What?” Oh. Yes, of course” She looked at Chip in confusion. Then turned back.
The Admiral indicated the hatch to the flying sub; Lee held her arm as she started down the steps. Then she stopped and looked at Nelson, “Regrets are poor companions, right, Harry?” he nodded. She climbed back up smiling, “The first move, huh?” This time he nodded with a broad smile. She handed him the book.
She went to stand by Chip and he turned to look at her, “I’m not sure this will work, Chip, but if you want to take the chance… we could give it a try.”
Chip looked at her with suspicion, then she reached up and held his face in her hands, bringing it down she kissed him tentatively. It took only a second for Chip to wrap his arm around her and deepen the kiss.
“Yes … Well, gentlemen, if you’ll follow me,” said Harry to a grinning Lee and Jamie, he pressed the button to close the crash doors “some privacy I think.”
“I hope he doesn’t pop those stitches,” Jamie laughed.
“It certainly took them long enough,” said a highly amused Lee.
A chorus from Riley, Kowalski and Patterson echoed around a happy control room
“Amen to that!”
Please tell me what you think. Good and (especially) bad.