NUTS OVER YOU
"THE WHAT I SEE AT SEA AFFAIR"
Field Agent Gail Gardner
"Your number cannot be completed as dialled..."
"C'mon Ellen..." Lee begged the cell phone. He was driving his little red sports car with one hand and trying to get a hold of Ellen on the phone with the other. He had actually been trying to get hold of Ellen for the last 12 hours. In less than an hour, he would be shipping out on the Seaview and he still had Poopsie.
Ellen Redfern and he had been dating for about three months now. She was a wonderful woman; warm, loving, beautiful, clever, beautiful, ambitious, beautiful... They had met by chance on a flight from New York to LA and had hit it off right away. Ellen was an up and coming junior executive in a public relations company that was based in Santa Barbara. Her job occasionally called for her to travel, but she also had a roommate who usually took care of her pet when she was gone. Unfortunately, she had told Lee three days ago that Marion had to go away at the same time, and would Lee take care of Poopsie for two days? After all, Lee had given Poopsie to her just a little over a month ago, for her birthday and she knew he would take care of her precious pet.
Only Ellen didn't come back on time. He went to her apartment, but it was closed up tight. He called her on the phone and got the answering machine. The last three hours of frantic calling only got the recorded message of a cell phone off line. What was he going to do now? Chip was already covering for him by supervising the loading and departures procedures. It was too late to even dump Poopsie off at the Institute and hope that one of the secretaries would take the animal off his hands. As if to underline his problem, Poopsie began to dash in frantic circles around the small travelling cage. For such a small animal, it could sure raise a fuss and make a lot of noise. After the first night of having Poopsie at his home, he moved him to the basement. Otherwise, he wouldn't get any sleep from the animals scraping, rustling, squeaking, and constant eating.
Well, there was only one thing to do. Poopsie would have to join him on this cruise. He'd just put the animal's cage in the Admiral's lab with the rats and other live bait found there. He parked the car in his private slot and grabbed his seabag with one hand and Poopsie's cage with the other. The animal showed displeasure at being hauled so cavalierly by running from one side of the cage to the other causing the cage to bump painfully and annoyingly against Lee's leg every second step.
Chip was standing at the dockside looking at his watch when Lee came half-running up to the Seaview.
"Cutting it pretty close, Skipper." He said mildly. "The O.O.M. has been asking after you. He's waiting in his cabin with the observers that Washington sent."
"Here. Take my bag and uh this will you?" Lee pointed to his seabag and the cage with the creature running around in it like a berserk wind-up toy.
"Oh no Lee, not the rodent! I thought you were going to get rid of it." Morton extended his aversion to rats and mice to the gray animal in the cage. He took a step back. "I'm not touching that animal."
"For Pete's sake, Chip. It's in a cage..." He then took one look at his Exec's strained face and sighed. "All right I'll dump Poopsie off in my cabin myself."
Poopsie was dropped unceremoniously on Lee's desk. He straightened his tie quickly in the mirror and strode over to the Admiral cabin. He knocked on the door.
"Come in." Admiral Nelson's voice even through the door had a sharp bite to it. Lee took an extra deep breath. It was going to be one of those cruises...
"Admiral. We are ready to cast off in ten minutes." Thank God, Chip could be totally relied on to have everything so ready that all he had to do was give the order to leave.
"Well. Now that the Captain is aboard, maybe we can get this show on the road." The owner of the sour voice was the Right Honorable Congressperson Ms. Helen Braithwaite-Carson. The regal looking woman in her 50's was a rabid feminist, campaigner for women's rights and deputy head of the Congressional sub-committee for ecology grants. The head of the committee, an old time friend and drinking buddy of Admiral Nelson had unfortunately not been able to come on the cruise due to a hernia operation. So, they were stuck with Congresswoman Braithwaite-Carson and her fellow committee member Congressman James "Jimbo" Beauville. Beauville was a large likable man in his 60's who had been a Congressman since time forgot. He was known more for his ribald jokes and sense of humor rather than his political decisions.
"Yo, Crane!" Jimbo greeted the Captain with a hearty handshake and a vigorous thump on the back "Haven't seen you since my last clambake couple years ago? How's it hangin'?" He grinned wickedly.
"Mr. Beauville!" Braithwaite-Carson's voice dripped with disgust.
"Jimbo, babe. Just call me Jimbo .All my friends do, course my enemies call me a ring-tailed bas.."
"Congressman Beauville, Jimbo." Nelson interrupted the boisterous man before he could further insult his fellow committee member. The last half-hour of trying to entertain the two congress members had sorely taxed his already limited patience. He glared at Lee. The Captain should have been here to take care of this matter instead of running around doing..what? Chip Morton had merely said that the Captain was unavoidably detained.
"Perhaps the Captain would like to escort you to the observation nose. The view as we leave port is quite spectacular." Nelson stood up dismissing the guests and dumping them on his errant Captain's shoulders.
<28 hours 55 minutes 32 seconds>
It was a miserable four hours later that Lee Crane was allowed to escape back to his quarters. Between the biting criticisms offered by the woman congress member and the awful smutty jokes told in half-loud voice that left even Lee with red ears and trying to keep them from killing each other, he was exhausted. The congress woman had retired to her quarters to do some paper work and "Jimbo" had decided that the crew's mess afforded him a good place to air some of his off-color stories. Lee just hoped that some of the younger members of the crew weren't there to listen. Lee kicked off his shoes and with a sigh of relief pulled off his tie and unbuttoned his collar. He had time for a hot shower a light supper and then he would relieve Chip for the next watch. What a day! If it hadn't been for Poopsie...
Lee sat up straighter and looked at his desk. There was no cage on his desk! He then saw it sitting on the floor on it's side. It must have tipped over when the furious occupant was running around. It was awfully quiet...He carefully picking up the cage when he noticed that the door was sprung open. Poopsie was gone!
He immediately began searching on his hands and knees for the missing animal. "Here Poopsie. Come here Poopsie." He began calling frantically. He was looking under his desk when there was a rapid knocking at the door.
"Come in!" he yelled and began crawling out. He miscalculated and whacked his head on the desk.
"Beggin your pardon, Skipper. But...Skipper?" Chief Sharkey saw his Captain sitting under the desk and holding his head. "What are you doing down there? Uh Sir?"
"I am looking for Poo... a chinchilla." Lee Crane stood up.
"A furcoat sir?" Sharkey looked at Lee Crane questioningly.
"No Chief, a chinchilla. It's about this size," he held up his hands about a foot apart "and is gray with big eyes and ears. It also has a long tail like a bottlebrush" He moved his hands further apart to add the tail to the size."They make chinchilla furcoats out of them. This one is alive, and it's Ellen's pet."
"Geez, sir."Sharkey looked shocked. "Is it like a weasel or mink? You know long and slinky?"
"No, Chief. It's a rodent." Lee was looking around the room, trying to get a glimpse of Poopsie.
"We got a two foot rat on board!" Sharkey's eyebrows climbed up to his hairline, what was left of it.
"Relax, Sharkey. It has to be here in my cabin somewhere. As long as no one came in or out while I was with our guests then it couldn't have gotten out."
"Uh, that's what I came down to tell you sir. The Admiral sent me down to take last month's inventory report off your desk. I didn't want you to think it was missing. Ski brought down your seabag earlier too."
Lee groaned and ran his hand through his hair. "Look. Chief. Like you said, it's almost a foot long. We can't miss it."
<26 hours 12 minutes 34 seconds>
He was a terrorist. He was wanted in three continents for acts of espionage, destruction, mayhem, pandering, and smoking in airplane bathrooms. He was at this moment sitting in a holding cell in Arcata, California; under arrest for speeding and resisting arrest. He had the misfortune to fall into the over zealous arms of a ChiPs officer on his first week of duty. A routine check on his ID and prints had set off multiple alarms in many law enforcement organizations. The one that got to the little Northern Californian town first would get him.
<25 hours 15 minutes 18 seconds>
Napoleon Solo was ogling the babes on Malibu beach. His partner, Illya Kuryakin was sitting comfortably under a massive umbrella with a book in his hand. The fair Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent was sensibly covered up and slathered with sun screen. They were enjoying a rare day off after a gruelling assignment involving the attempt to pollute of one of the finest beaches in the world. (THE MAYBE IN MALIBU AFFAIR). Solo's towel began to ululate the familiar tones of his communicator. Kuryakin pushed his sunglasses up on his forehead when Solo answered the summons.
"Ah, Mr.Solo." The clipped British accent of Mr.Waverly, their boss, was clear and precise. "I have just received information that an old THRUSH friend of ours, Claude Collins, has been apprehended in ah California, Arcata, I believe. We would like to have him. You and Mr.Kuryakin will have to get there before the FBI, CIA, Sureté or even THRUSH go to get him back. Luckily you were already in California. I assume you will get there first."
"Right sir. We'll get on it right away."
"Claude Collins? Not, Claude "Wishbone" Collins?" Illya's blue eyes turned exceptionally cold. The terrorist was known for one weakness, he always added a wishbone to his bombs. The wiring on them was so fiendishly clever and twisted that you might as well just make a wish and cut. There weren't too many people who had defused "Wishbone's" bombs and survived to tell about it. Illya Kuryakin was one of them.
<24 hours 11 minutes 11 seconds>
"I'm sorry, sir." Chief Sharkey said wiping the sweat off his brow. "I haven't seen the rat, uh animal anywhere."
Lee Crane looked at his uniform. The knees were smudged, he had a rip in his sleeve from the sharp edge of cabinet he'd looked under and another bruise on his head from standing up too fast while under the stairs. He looked at his watch. He had to be on duty in ten minutes. Just enough time to change.
"Look Chief, take a couple of the men and keep looking. And whatever you do try to keep it quiet. Let's not let things get out of hand."
"Sir, you mean..."
"I mean don't tell the Admiral." Lee ran his fingers through his hair which was beginning to look well used.
"Right sir, what will I tell him if he asks..." Chief Sharkey was nervous about keeping things from the Admiral.
"Come up with something. Tell him you are doing extra cleaning. Anything. " He looked at his watch again. Muttered something about Ellen in a non-loving context and went to change.
Chip Morton didn't say anything when the Captain showed up for his watch a good five minutes late. Lee looked frazzled, not at all a good sign at the beginning of a cruise. He supposed the visitors had Lee jumping through loops up until now. He had seen enough of the pair to hope that Lee wasn't going to shove entertaining duties onto him.
"Everything is fine, Captain. Our heading is as ordered and we are running at flank speed. Meteorology reports are favorable for the next twelve hours."Chip thought of asking about the guests and then thought again closing his mouth.
"What?" Lee snapped at his Exec."Can't I be late, once in while without you getting all steamed up?"
"Uh, Lee. If you want me stay on watch..." Chip said confused. He wasn't angry, what was Lee talking about. He crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows.
"I'm just fine Mr.Morton. I will stand my watch. Dismissed." Lee waved a hand at his Executive Officer.
"Very well, Captain." Morton said stiffly and stalked out of the control room. It was going to be one those kind of cruises.
<23 hours 30 minutes 02 seconds>
A few hours later, Chip Morton was sleeping the sleep of the just. Despite the reaming by the Captain, he was tired enough to fall asleep almost immediately after being relieved from duty. It had been an extra busy day with a lot of details to handle. Of course, everything worked out all right. He wouldn't be worth his salt if it hadn't. Lee's absence just made things a little harder that's all.
Lee would probably apologize in the morning. He was just working out his frustration from being stuck with The Wicked Witch of Washington and her sidekick "Jimbo" the Jerk. Who the hell voted for people like that? Not him, that's for sure.
He felt a tickle on his leg and he scratched it and rolled over. The tickle repeated itself on the other foot and he twitched. The tickle began to move up his leg. He reached down to scratch and suddenly encountered something large and furry. He grabbed something that then sprayed something pungent on him. He gave a yell and groped for the light. He turned it on to be faced with the sight of a big eyed rodent scampering under the covers. In order to escape the animal which was seeking sanctuary in his bed he tried to leap out of the bed only to be tangled in the blankets and took a nose dive to the floor. He threw out his arm to protect his face and was rewarded by a popping sound. He lay half in the bed, half out when the animal fled down his body, across his face and disappeared into the shadows of his room. Then the pain hit him and he yelled.
Patterson had been looking for the Skipper's missing chinchilla when he heard a cry of pain coming from officer's quarters. He looked first in the Captain's cabin, but there was no one there. He then opened the Exec's door. The XO was lying half out of his bunk and was groaning.
Patterson went quickly to Morton's side and didn't notice the furry creature escape out through the open door.
"Sir? Are you hurt?"
"Rat. Huge rat." Morton moaned. "Big as a house."
"No, sir. It's the Skipper's chinchilla. It got loose." Patterson tried to help untangle the Exec from the blankets. He inadvertently touched the arm lying doubled under Morton. Chip hissed with pain and closed his eyes in pain. "I'll kill Lee for bringing that giant rat on board." He said between his teeth.
"Sir! You are hurt!" Despite the Exec's muttered protests Patterson went and picked up the mike. "Medic to the XO's quarters."
Lee lifted up his head when he heard the intercom message. What now?
Admiral Nelson frowned from the papers he was looking through. He swiftly went from his cabin to Mr. Morton's quarters. In his rush, he left his door open so that Poopsie could get in. The chinchilla immediately went for the bag of macadamia nuts that the Admiral had been saving for a special midnight snack.
Frank was already propping Mr.Morton up to a sitting position when the Admiral got there, followed by a worried Captain.
"Well, even without an X-ray I can tell you. You have a broken arm. Looks like a nice simple fracture. We'll just get you to sickbay and let Doc take over." As he was explaining he got the Exec into a sling to give it support.
"What happened Chip? You didn't fall out of bed did you?" Lee looked incredulously at his friend. There was like nil turbulence.
Morton struggled to his feet and shrugged off Frank's helping hand. "That...that...rat was in my bed. It attacked me! " He snarled into Lee's face. He then let Frank lead him to the sickbay.
"Rat? Lee? What the devil is he talking about. Did he hit his head too?"
Lee looked like a kid who had been caught with hand in the candy box. "Not a rat sir, a chinchilla. It's like this...."
<19 hours 12 minutes 45 seconds>
The slim little UNCLE jet borrowed from the LA branch of UNCLE swung over the Humboldt Bay on its approach to the Arcata Airport. Orange fog lights on the runway were trying to burn off the thick peasoup fog that was so common to the Northern Californian coast. The little plane touched down and they were pleased to notice that the local agent, although only a part time one, was waiting for them with a car.
He was a lanky dishwater blond man of indeterminate middle years, but the car was a magnificent Ford Charger with extra side vents and a ten layer deep paint job. "David Tonttu" he solemnly shook hands as he introduced himself. He slid into the car's driver's seat and even before Napoleon had a chance to reach for a seat belt or Illya to get the back door closed, he gunned the engine into a deep-throated roar and sped off towards Arcata which was actually about five miles from the airport.
"Are we in a rush?" Illya said plaintively from the back seat.
"The regular flight lands in five minutes. I was told that there was at least two FBI agents, a CIA spook and three other irregulars. We got about a ten or a fifteen minute head start, and I've nobbled most of the taxis. There were a lot of fares going out to Hendersonville today." Tonttu showed his teeth in his version of a grin. "The sooner we get there, the better."
The police station in Arcata was fairly modern and clean. The jail consisted of only a few cells, since more permanent residents were transferred to the larger jail in Eureka, just a few miles away. Claude "Wishbone" Collins was sitting quietly in one of the cells. The adjoining cell contained a couple of hippy types who were apparently a little bombed on some kind of weed. They were sitting in a corner and singing quietly "We shall overcome." Just loud enough to bug Claude, but not stir up the fuzz.
It was just a matter of time before someone more big time than the cops of Podunkville, California came to pick him up. Then it would be silent armed guards in black, the discrete safe houses, the bribes to tell all. He licked his lips. Then THRUSH would rescue him. After all he served them well, although not terribly loyally, but that was understood. His latest effort, now that was a work of art. The bomb itself, was diabolical, what else would it be? Getting it in place, that was the real art. No one but the great Claude Collins could blow up a target like him, and this one was going to be in little bitty pieces in less than twenty hours. He fished the crumpled bag of mixed nuts out of pockets and fished around until he found his favorite, Brazil nuts. It was the last one, the rest being mere peanuts and hazelnuts.
He lifted his head up as the cops came to his door trailed by three men. My they were quick, only about two hours after his arrest. Then his heart sank as he recognized one of them. It was that blankety blank Russian from UNCLE. The possibilities for a comfortable capture and a probable escape became very slim. He began to feel panicky.
"Well, well Claude. I hear you have been a bad boy. What was it officer? Fifteen miles an hour over the speed limit, and in a school zone too. Claude Collins caught on a traffic misdemeanor." Napoleon Solo smiled with very little humor at the terrorist. Kuryakin merely stared at the hapless Collins.
"Well you boys are sure fast. We just caught him a couple of hours ago. You sure you can handle him without cuffs?" The local police officer asked. The fellow they had arrested had seemed pretty inoffensive. Short and incredibly skinny with large protruding blue eyes, pointy nose and buck teeth. He looked more like a giant rat than a wanted criminal.
"Oh Claude, isn't dangerous. He just does dangerous things. Don't you Claude?" Illya Kuryakin said softly. Collins' bomb he had defused would have blown up half of the Kremlin not only costing many lives, but would have caused an international incident that would have affected the balance of power in the world (THE NEVER IN NOVGOROD AFFAIR).
Without seeming to be in a hurry or acting in haste. The two UNCLE agents and the part-time agent loaded the terrorist into the souped up car. They were turning the corner when an overcrowded taxi pulled up in front of the police station and disgorged six testy looking individuals who looked like they were willing to shoot one another to get into the door first.
"We'll need a quiet, out of the way place where we won't be disturbed." Solo told Mr.Tonttu. "Somewhere where we can interrogate Mr. Collins."
"Why? I haven't done anything. You can't prove anything." Collins protested from the back seat where Illya was keeping his eyes glued on him.
"Come now, ´Claude. In the last five minutes you've looked at your watch three times. You will tell us where the bomb is, eventually." Kuryakin cracked his knuckles evilly.
"Got a garage. My real job you know, mechanic. Used to be a race driver." Tonttu said modestly and pushed the car up to 90 miles an hour. I can outrun any cop car on the road. If you need me to." He continued discreetly. "People are used to me making a lot of noise in there." Tonttu was beginning to warm up to idea of doing real agent work. This was a lot more fun than filing monthly reports.(THE HARDLY WORTH MENTIONING AFFAIR)
<18 hours 05 minutes 48 seconds>
Congressperson Braithwaite-Carson was beginning to be impressed with the level of activity on the submarine Seaview. Everywhere she went sailors were diligently sweeping areas with brooms. Vents and closets were being inspected with close scrutiny. The already spic and span boat was apparently being cleaned thoroughly from stem to stern.
Jimbo Beauville on the other hand was sorely disappointed. The jolly group of guys he had entertained last night were all working like little fiends today. It gave him a headache just watching them. He slunk out of the tour to find a little action. He brightened up when he found the Executive Officer sitting by himself in the Officer's wardroom. He just barely stopped himself in time from slapping the man's shoulder in bonhomie when he noticed that his arm was in a sling and a cast from shoulder to finger tips.
"My God, man. What happened? Get your arm caught in a cement mixer?" He sat down and lowered his voice, "Or did the lady with the cast iron..." he motioned with both his hands suggestively "get ya?"
Chip shifted uncomfortably and muttered a vague reply to the Congressman. Doc Jamieson had set his arm with just a local anaesthetic, given him a sleeping pill and sent him to his own bed. But even the pill couldn't take away the nightmare of sharing his bed with a foot long furry rodent. The animal had also pissed on him and despite washing his one good arm constantly, he could still smell the pong. He couldn't sleep any more than a few hours. He gave it up about 06.00 and was in the wardroom drinking coffee and thinking of ways to avoid meeting with the rat again.
Jimbo wrinkled his nose up. What was that awful smell? He hoped it wasn't coming from the kitchen. Then he realized that it was coming from the officer sitting next to him. Whew a submariner with strong B.O., no wonder he was sitting in here by himself. Jimbo made a graceful exit and removed himself as far as he could from the Executive officer for the rest of his stay on the Seaview. Something for which Mr.Morton was extremely grateful.
<16 hours 21 minutes 59 seconds>
Seaman Riley was one of the smaller crew members on board and one of the youngest too, which meant he very often got the scut assignments. Just like this one. He was wedged into one of the small electrical wire ducts. He had a mirror mounted on a long stick so he could see down the T - shaped duct. Seaman Grady was in the corridor holding a hastily rigged up chinchilla catcher which consisted of a small purse string net with a trigger to pull it closed. The Skipper didn't want to kill the animal, anyway the thought of rotting dead chinchilla didn't appeal to anyone. Most of them had gotten a whiff of the Exec. Apparently chinchillas were like skunks, when they got agitated they sprayed, and the spray stunk.
He got a glimpse of something gray and fuzzy and moving in the mirror. "I think I found it." He whispered cautiously to Grady who was helping him. "Gimme the catcher." He carefully maneouvered the pole and net into the narrow conduit. And then with a twist of the wrist captured the moving ball of gray. When he pulled it and himself out of the narrow space, he grimaced. Darn, it was a real mess. The catcher wasn't that humane after all. He and Grady put the remains into a bag and went to show it to the Chief.
"Riley, that's disgusting." Chief Sharkey said looking into the bag. He closed it again hastily. "I don't know how I'm going to explain it to the Skipper...much less the Admiral."
"Aw Chief, do we have to?" Riley began to feel worried, surely they wouldn't hold him responsible.
"Take it like a man kid." Sharkey said sharply, then he softened up"Aw all right I'll show it to the Skipper. But he'll be mad as hops."
Lee Crane looked into the bag. He looked at the Chief.
"Dammit Chief. That's the biggest dust bunny I've ever seen. It's almost as big as that darn chinchilla. How did something like that get in the electrical conduits? It could have started a fire or something worse."
"I know sir, It must have been there since the Seaview was commissioned. I guess that T junction just seems to collect the dust naturally. I'll be adding that spot to the monthly cleaning list. You won't see anything like that ever again."
"There's no sign of Poopsie?" Lee sighed deeply. The Admiral was really mad at him for letting a chinchilla loose on his boat. He had saddled the Captain with showing the congresswoman and man around the Seaview. Jimbo had managed to slip away at one point leaving him with the congresswoman who had a lot of questions. Most of them very astute, but pointed. Questions that Chip could have answered easily and calmly. But Chip was on sick leave with a broken arm and he was mad at Lee too. Chip hated mice, he hated rats, he hated Poopsie, and he hated Lee as if he had sent the animal especially to the Exec's cabin to terrorise him.
<14 hours 09 minutes 01 seconds>
"....so the pig says, 'I don't mind. After all it's not coming out of my hide!" Jimbo laughed heartily at his own joke. He didn't notice that the rest of his table companions were less than willing to join in his hilarity. The two congress members were being entertained for dinner, joined by the senior officers in the officer's wardroom. Admiral Nelson, his cordiality already running thin, was just waiting for dessert to be served so he could escape to his lab. He was sure he could find an important experiment that needed his immediate attention.
"Tell me Admiral, why don't you have any women crew members?" Congressperson Braithwaite-Carson asked bluntly.
"Good God woman!" Jimbo blurted out around a mouthful of Cookie's best meatloaf. "The men would never get any work done..."
"On the contrary."Lee tried to sound patient. "While we don't have a permanent female crew member, we have had many professional Navy and research personnel who happened to be female on the Seaview. We have never had any problems in that respect."
"We had Gwen Chance sail with us just last month.."Chip Morton leaned forwards to put in his two cents worth, causing everyone else at the table to lean back. He positively reeked of 'Old Spice' with an underlying trace of 'Poopsie Pong' a devastating combination. "She..." he began to wax enthusiastic about one of his favorite subjects when a movement caught his eye. Running along the wall of the wardroom was the chinchilla.
"Uh Lee..." Chip tried to signal the Captain with his eyes. He jerked his head to the wall.
Congressperson Braithwaite-Carson looked at the young officer with some amazement. The man must be impaired or incompetent. Not only did he smell odd, but he was acting strangely. The broken arm was never explained, he seemed jumpy and twitchy. Well, these submariners were an peculiar lot. The sooner a woman was put in charge here the better. She began to think that the Executive Officer job on the Seaview would soon be vacant. Who could she recommend for the position?
Lee Crane followed Chip's nod and saw the chinchilla disappear around the corner and into the hall. He bounced to his feet and started out the hatch, then remembered who he was with. "Yes, well it is time to..." he looked to his friend and Exec for help, his brown eyes beseeching.
"Put the reactor to bed." Chip chimed in helpfully. "I'll give you a hand." The two officers made a hasty retreat leaving Admiral Nelson with the two Congress members from hell.
"Putting to bed. That reminds me of a joke I heard about three Eskimos, a Dane and a sled dog..." Jimbo then launched himself into a totally improbable story.
Lee and Chip skittered down the corridor looking for the elusive animal. "There it goes!" Chip yelled and pointed to the conveniently open door of the Admiral's lab. They ran in and Lee closed the door after them.
"Gotcha, you little beast." Lee grated out triumphantly. He began looking under cabinets and desks. "Aren't you going to help?" He asked Morton who was casually sitting on the edge of the Admiral's desk with his feet obviously hitched up off the floor.
"Nope. This is as close as I want to get to that animal. When you catch it, then I'll personally wring it's furry little neck." Morton apparently had a vicious streak in him that Lee didn't know about.
"You can't do that. It's Ellen's pet." Lee explained and began to look under the lab table.
"Who would have a giant rat for a pet...?" Chip complained.
"I happened to give it to her for her birthday. She asked for a chinchilla fur. I couldn't afford that sort of thing. So, I gave her a live one as a pet. She was thrilled, well not at first, but Poopsie is very important to her." Lee explained straightening up only to whack his head on the bottom of the table.
"A live chinchilla," Chip shook his head "Where did you get an idea like that? That's the worst suggestion in the world."
Lee began to become tired of Chip's sniping about the chinchilla. "Your 'honey' gave me the idea. I asked Gwen Chance what I should give Ellen for her birthday." He rubbed his head absently.
To his consternation his friend threw back his head and laughed, "Oh lord, Lee. You asked Gwen? You asked Miss Warped Humor? Especially the way Ellen treated her. Oh Lee you walked into this one."
"What do you mean treated her?" Lee glared at his friend.
"Remember the first and last double date we tried..." Chip reminded his friend. "You were too besotted with Ellen to notice, but she took every opportunity to point out how beautiful she was, how much more clever, more educated than Gwen." Morton said a little dryly, he had been more mad than Gwen at the time, but she had just shrugged it off. Only, it looked as if she got her revenge anyway. He chuckled again.
Poopsie was hungry. He had eaten all the nuts in the bag, had chewed his way through some other not as tasty bits and pieces and his little brain was intent only one thing - food. That was all a chinchilla's brain was capable of processing, food and food and food. Had there been a female chinchilla around sex would have come into it, but food always came first. He smelled something enticing with his sensitive nose and his radar like ears caught a faint rhythmic noise that accompanied the attractive smell of nuts. He scurried up onto the chair and sensed the human sitting on the table he would have to cross. Humans, he had learned, in his little peabrain, meant food. So, he scampered over to get some food.
Lee was glaring at a chuckling Chip Morton. He had wondered why Chip had been so reluctant to double date again, but had just thought that his best friend wanted to spend more time with Gwen alone. Ellen was a bit proud, that was true, but she had worked hard to get where she was, she had reminded him of it often. He then saw Poopsie on the desk.
"Don't move Chip. Poopsie is right behind you." He whispered and began to walk cautiously towards the desk. Poopsie brushed up against Mr.Morton's arm. One of the softest and most luxuriously thick furs in the world brushed sensuously against the blond officer's hand. To his credit, Morton merely swallowed visibly, sure that every hair on his head was standing straight up.
Lee Crane lunged for the chinchilla.
The chinchilla dashed for Chip Morton's lap.
Chip Morton dived for the door.
The door opened and a furious Admiral Nelson entered his supposed sanctum sanctorum, the lab. He had managed his escape from the wardroom only a minute or so behind his so-called officers and gentlemen.
Lee Crane got a handful of chinchilla and Poopsie lived up to his name by doing poopsie at him. The acrid spray got the unfortunate Captain in the face. He dropped the offensive article and staggered into his Executive Officer who, unbalanced from his quick exit and bound arm, went careening out the open door past the Admiral to hit with a sickening crunch on the wall of the corridor with his good arm. Lee missed the door and bounced with his head on the doorway. The chinchilla darted between Admiral Nelson's legs into the relative calm of the corridor. Nelson watched the animal disappear as he picked up the intercom. "Medical team to the lab, on the double."
<12 hours 00 minutes 02 seconds>
"How come you always get to be the good cop?" Illya bitched uncharacteristically. He hitched up the greasy overalls that David had given him. It was the nearest thing he had to a white lab coat so Kuryakin could play the evil UNCLE inquisitor. Napoleon preened himself in the more clean racing driver suit, so covered with advertisements it was impossible to see what was the base color.
"I don't always, remember that time in Poland...(THE PERHAPS IN PRAGUE AFFAIR)." Solo said magnamously. It had been an assignment most agents wouldn't have touched with a three meter stick or even a ten foot pole.
"That was because you couldn't speak Polish," the blond agent groused. "All you had to do was growl and drool."
"Well, it's going to take more than a growl and excess saliva to get Collins to confess to his latest escapade..."Solo said worriedly. He watched David tie the terrorist to the car rack with enthusiasm. "He's been in the hands of professional interrogators before, he knows how to keep his trap shut.
Tonttu came over to the two agents, absent-mindedly wiping his hands on a greasy rag. "What are we going to do now? You got some kind of truth serum? I could requisition some from the Frisco office, but it will take a couple of days to get here." The part-time agent suggested helpfully. He looked hopefully at the two top agents.
"No, we'll just have to do with what we have." Napoleon Solo said not seeing much around the dingy dark garage.
"Well, now. A car battery packs a lot a juice..."Tonttu began helpfully, "not to speak of the acid. Nasty stuff" He held out one hand that had a bad scar on it. Encouraged by the agent's interest Tonttu showed him the burn on his leg from a hot exhaust pipe, the missing tip of his finger from an encounter with a slipped jack. The agents looked at each other and then very gently led the now enthusiastic mechanic closer to where Claude "Wishbone" Collins was tied up.
"You know David, I never knew that a mechanic's job was so dangerous." Solo said admiringly.
"And those injuries were surely very painful..." Illya chimed in watching Claude out of the corner of his eye. The skinny rodent of a man was sweating freely now and looked pale.
"You have been wasted here in this little town. You have talents that UNCLE could use. We are going to let you interrogate Claude."
"Really? Even though I've never done it before? Hey what if I make a mistake and really hurt him or kill him?" Tonttu looked more than interested at the little man.
"David, David." Napoleon said comfortingly and put his arm around the mechanic's shoulder. "We all have to start somewhere, and well mistakes will happen in the beginning, but by the time you have wrung a confession out of your tenth victim...ah subject, you'll get the hang of it."
"Yes, even Napoleon killed a few before he learned what to do and how hard to do it." Illya managed an apologetic grin at his partner.
"I'll talk." Claude whispered.
"Pay no attention to him." Napoleon Solo said and handed Tonttu a big wrench. "He's just trying to throw you off. He doesn't really want to talk."
"No! No! I'll talk!" Claude began to shriek shrilly.
"Now Claude, that's not nice. This is David's first torture session, you don't want to make him too nervous do you?" Illya smiled at the man writhing against his bonds.
"You are supposed to be a professional..."Collins begged. "Don't let that amateur near me..
"Oh darn. He insulted you David." Napoleon said sadly. "You know you let a guy insult your professional standing you will lose your advantage. A quick follow-up and you'll have him in your control again."
"Hot oil." David said solemnly. "Keeps burning for a long time."
"It's a bomb on the Seaview in the laboratory behind one of the cabinets wall cut out disguised to look like the real thing hired by THRUSH two congress members on board embarrassing incident big bang don't let him near me will blow up in about 10 hours will be nothing left but smithereens no not him save me save me...." The unnerved terrorist babbled on and on confessing to the UNCLE agents.
"Why thank you Claude."Solo smiled broadly. "So good of you to tell us everything. You have told us everything haven't you?"
"Yes yes yes I wouldn't lie no not me Claude tell the truth gollum gollum what has it gots in its pocketses Claude so bad bad Claude."
Kuryakin rolled his eyes, apparently the thought of being tortured by the mechanic was enough to not only make the international terrorist confess but also to loose his marbles.
"Good job David." Solo said appreciatively.
"Huh, I hardly touched him." Tonttu looked at the wrench in his hand.
"A real professional." Solo complimented him again and took out his communicator pen "Open Channel D, please."
<9 hours 17 minutes 13 seconds>
His first impression, even before he opened his eyes was that something smelled...bad. The next thing he realized was that he was lying flat on his back and someone was trying to talk to him.
"OK Captain, it's time to wake up."
"Wha..." His mouth was dry and tasted like newspapers from the bottom of a birdcage. His eyes opened to see Dr. Jamieson leaning over him. "How many fingers?" The doctor waved three fingers in front of his face.
"Too many." Crane growled ill-naturedly. His hand went automatically to his head only to find his hand restrained.
"No, no. Leave it alone. You got knocked out. No concussion that I can see, but I'll keep an eye on you for the next 24 hours." Jamieson waited, counting silently to himself three...two...one.
"I'm just fine Jamie. No need to worry." Lee tried to sit up. "I'm in my cabin..."he said half in surprise.
"Well if you haven't noticed by now, the chinchilla sprayed you with some of the same stuff it got Morton with earlier." The doctor helped Crane to sit up watching his reactions closely. "Mr. Morton was saying the smell was making him sick, so we moved you in here."
"Chip's in sickbay? What happened?" Lee was happy to notice that the room had stopped spinning long enough for him to focus on the Doctor's face.
"Sorry, Captain. But Mr. Morton has a broken arm."
"Yeah, He broke it yesterday..."
"He broke the other one."
"He's gonna kill me..." Lee tried to run his hand through his hair and was defeated by the bandage.
"That's the other reason you are in your own cabin, Skipper. Despite having two broken arms that's exactly what the Exec threatened to do. Of course he was in a lot of pain..."
"The chinchilla...?" Lee was almost afraid to ask.
"Sorry Captain, still at large." Doctor Jamieson managed to sound sympathetic.
"Add the Admiral to the Crane hit list..."Lee muttered. "Now, I have a headache."
"Sorry Lee, the headache is just beginning." Admiral Nelson spoke up from across the room where Crane hadn't noticed him. "I just got word from a reliable source that there is a bomb on the Seaview."
"What! Where?" He would have jumped to his feet, but the doctor leaned on his shoulder anticipating the movement.
"The where is no problem, the bomb is in the lab. We have been able to locate it, but unfortunately it can neither be moved or defused by us."
Lee shrugged off the Doctor's hold on him. He thought better on his feet.
"We'll have to call in a specialist." Captain Crane pressed his hand to his head, trying to think.
"Well fortunately for us Lee, the people who warned us about the bomb, have the bomb maker in custody. They are on their way here to defuse it. While you were..ah not with us...I sent Sharkey off in the flying sub to pick them up. Now, it will be pretty close, but they assure us that the bomb can be defused in time" Nelson's voice changed from worried to dripping sarcasm. "The only thing we have to worry about now is that animal running around and keeping our guests happy. Not to speak of your usual duties of Captaining the Seaview. Well Lee?"
The Admiral was not happy. "Yes sir. With an undefused bomb on board, I think it would be best if we find some reason to get the Congress members back to shore. I'll have some of the men set some traps for the animal. I take it Mr.O'Brien is on watch. I'll relieve him after I go see Chip." Captain Crane shifted into gear.
"I am capable of standing a watch."Nelson said gruffly, but with a twinkle in his eye. Lee always seemed to perform much better under a challenge. Despite being knocked out for over half an hour, the Captain was up and running. "And if I were you, I'd let Chip cool off for a little while."
"Yeah, like three weeks..." Dr. Jamieson muttered to himself "When the casts come off."
<6 hours 00 minutes 48 seconds>
The Seaview rendezvoused with the Navy frigate Baltimore where Congressperson Braithwaite-Carson had the opportunity to experience being hauled up the side of a ship in a bosun's chair, an experience she thoroughly enjoyed. Jimbo on the other hand showed a yellow streak and had to be sedated to make the transfer. A point in the Congresswoman's favor who used it to her political advantage in many years to come.
<5 hours 45 minutes 15 seconds>
Lee opened the lab door with his key and knelt down to look at the bomb. It had a dreadful fascination. Even though it looked like nothing more than a mass of spaghetti of different colored wires, with that wishbone, it was very intimidating. Luckily there were experts coming to defuse it. He didn't notice the chinchilla move into the room with alacrity and he locked the animal in the room with the bomb.
With the unerring instincts of a dumb animal getting into trouble, Poopsie went straight to the bomb.
<5 hours 05 minutes 55 seconds>
"Ok, See if she'll turn over now." Tonttu's voice came from under the instrument board of the FS-1. They had suddenly lost power and they had crashed into the ocean. Luckily no one was badly hurt, but the electronics on the craft had gone out.
Chief Sharkey hit the ignition switch again and was rewarded with a cough and a sputter.
"We are going to get out of here? Aren't we?" Claude had gradually got back his equilibrium during the wait for the flying sub from the Seaview to pick them up. He had even tried to be defiant about defusing the bomb, but now he was beginning to feel control slip away again. He pulled the almost empty bag of nuts out of his pocket and dug around absent-mindedly looking for his favorites, Brazil nuts. Unfortunately by now all those were long gone and the only ones left were peanuts.
Chief Sharkey and David Tonttu had been working feverishly on the instrument panel for the last hour. Without the electronics, the radio was also dead, so they couldn't alert the Seaview to their predicament. The cough and sputter was, however, the first noise they had got out of the system since they started.
Illya looked discretely at his watch. They had about five hours before the bomb was set to go off. Even with Claude giving instructions it was not a job that should be rushed. He caught Solo's eye. The dark haired agent shrugged imperceptibly. Sit and wait, sometimes that's all they could do. Agent work wasn't always just action. (THE KILLING TIME AFFAIR)
<4 hours 41 minutes 02 seconds>
Poopsie smelled nuts. Not only nuts, but a certain South American delicacy known to people as Brazil nuts. To chinchillas Brazil nuts were the goose liver pâté of nuts, the best made meal in the world, better than sex (well food was always better than sex with chinchillas). It was the be all and end all to a chinchilla. Poopsie didn't mind that it was only the aroma and oil that clung to some un-nut like material. Brazil nuts in any form or shape were to be eaten. He chewed through the first wire (green) where the attractive odor was the strongest. Little LED lights began flashing on the top of the box and the timer began move quicker.
<3 hours 21 minutes 19 seconds>
The engines caught and roared into life with the deep throated roar reminiscent of a race car revving up. Chief Sharkey was at the controls and lifted the flying sub off the bottom of the ocean with a start that a drag racer would have envied. Claude ate the last of his peanuts and was beginning to bite on his nails. Solo wondered where David Tonttu got the greasy rag to wipe his hands with.
<2 hours 49 minutes 00 seconds>
Poopsie had chewed his way through the red wire, another green wire, two blue wires in a row, and was contemplating the purple or orange. The led-displays were like Christmas trees now, flashing in beat to the ever rapidly advancing time.
<2 hours 12 minutes 59 seconds>
"Captain! I've got the flying sub on the radio." Sparks said excitedly.
The Seaview had been at the rendezvous site for a good hour already waiting for news.
"What's their ETA?" Crane asked worriedly and looked at his watch. According to his calculations they had only three and a half hours left to defuse the bomb. Expert or not, it made him nervous having the Seaview and her crew threatened.
"About 30 minutes, sir. They had some problem with the electrics, but are on their way."
<1 hours 52 minutes 52 seconds>
Poopsie had stopped chewing long enough to do some necessary grooming. He assiduously cleaned his whiskers, chewed at his claws and began working on his thick coat. His movements were quick and sure. The last to get cleaned was his long bottle-brush tail, which unlike the rest of his coat was wiry and stiff. He then contemplated the nut flavored wires. There weren't many left that smelled or tasted of Brazil nuts. Despite all the eating, he still felt unsatisfied. He sneezed, the chinchilla equivalent of a belch.
<1 hours 27 minutes 12 seconds>
Solo pushed Claude up the ladder into the observation nose of the submarine Seaview. Chief Sharkey and Illya Kuryakin had preceded him up the ladder. David was right behind him, impatient to see the insides of the big sub.
Captain Crane and Admiral Nelson were there to greet their guests.
<1 hours 10 minutes 54 seconds>
"We found the bomb, all right. As per your instructions, we have sealed off the lab. Other than opening up the wall panel, we haven't touched it." Nelson was explaining as the Captain and he escorted two of the UNCLE agents and the terrorist . Tonttu was exploring the engines with Sharkey.
<0 hours 25 minutes 19 seconds>
The chinchilla sneezed again, carefully preened his whiskers and contemplated the last two wires. If the animal had color vision he would have seen that one was blue, the other black.
<0 hours 12 minutes 59 seconds>
Captain Crane opened the lab door. "I hope you can get the bomb defused in the time left."
"I built it, I can defuse it, besides which I don't intend to get blown up on this sardine can." Claude with derision.
Unfortunately, these people were no more easily impressed than the nasty UNCLE agents. Captain Lee Crane picked up the man by the front of his shirt and shoved him up against the wall. "You make one wrong move mister and you will be feeding the sardines. I will personally stuff you into a torpedo tube and blow you to kingdom come." Claude wasn't sure what was worse the threat or the overwhelming smell of Boss aftershave mixed with some undefinable yucky odor that clung to the Captain of the Seaview.
<0 hours 4 minutes 12 seconds>
Poopsie stopped millimeters from the blue wire when the people came into the room. He backed up out of the hole in the wall when he heard a strange loud noise and people noises. He hesitated, should he run and hide or wait and see if any food came from the people?
<0 hours 2 minutes 49 seconds>
"What's that!" Solo pointed at the chinchilla.
<0 hours 1 minutes 39 seconds>
"Poopsie!" Lee yelled.
"A chinchilla..."Kuryakin said at the same time as the Captain.
<0 hours 1 minute 03 seconds>
"It ate the wires..."Nelson said aghast. "It's going to blow."
<0 hours 0 minutes 49 seconds>
"Eeep!" said Claude "Wishbone" Collins and dived for the bomb.
<0 hours 0 minutes 12 seconds>
"Eeep! Eeep!" said Poopsie the chinchilla and dived behind a large cupboard and disappeared from view.
<0 hours 0 minutes 6 seconds>
Claude took in the state of the bomb with a quick look. Two wires were left. Without hesitation he pulled out the black wire.
<0 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds>
<0 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds>
<0 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds>
<0 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds>
Captain Lee Crane personally supervised the off loading of the bomb by the special bomb squad sent in by UNCLE. The Seaview was safely ensconced in a remote dock of the LA shipyards. The crew had been evacuated, despite the assurances of the bomb maker himself that the device wouldn't blow. Claude Collins had been taken by the three UNCLE agents to a waiting chopper for an undisclosed destination and future. Sharkey had been sorry to see the last of the man who had repaired the FS-1. Apparently he had managed to soup up the engine to a higher performance level than usual.
"Well, Lee. I must admit, I don't like close calls like that." Admiral Nelson said standing next to his Captain. He was, nevertheless careful to remain upwind of the still fragrant officer. "It is simply amazing that, that animal managed to defuse that bomb." He shook his head in amazement.
"Well actually sir, Mr. Kuryakin had a theory behind that. It seems that Mr.Collins likes to eat nuts when assembling his devices. The chinchilla just went for the wires with oil from the nuts on them."
"Now Lee, surely that's stretching things a little far..."
"Yeah. I know. Those UNCLE agents are really strange. Did you notice the unassuming one who said he was just a mechanic? Apparently he is their hottest interrogator. I'd hate to get on his wrong side."
"Yes. I know. It is the quiet ones that are the real devils." Nelson added remembering the man's avid look when he mentioned getting the information from the terrorist.
"We did get the chinchilla back into its cage." Lee sighed. It had taken patience, but leaving the cage filled with nuts on the floor of the lab had finally lured the animal out from hiding. Seaman Riley had sat beside the cage for an hour, not moving a muscle until Poopsie was safely in the cage and then he had shut the door on the bomb-defusing chinchilla.
"Hmmpphh." Admiral Nelson snorted.
Two weeks later:
Captain Lee Crane sat comfortably in Chip Morton's living room drinking beer. Since Chip had graduated out of the shoulder length casts to light fiberglass short casts he had been eminently more approachable. Chip was sprawled on the good recliner chair relying on his "invalid" condition so that the Captain wouldn't bag the best chair in the house.
"Ever try drinking beer through a straw?"Chip was grousing mildly about his trials and tribulations of the past couple of weeks. "It doesn't even taste like beer, eechh." He took a satisfied pull from the bottle.
"And was that the worst you had to go through with two broken arms? Drinking beer through a straw?" Lee chided his friend.
"Well, no, but tell me Lee," his friend changed the subject swiftly, "What happened with you and Ellen and the rat."
"The chinchilla is safely with Ellen and her roommate Marion." Lee took another long drink from the beer.
"And..." Chip prompted hearing something in Lee's voice that was - bitter.
"Marion turned out to be none other than Marion Slepcek." Lee looked at his friend.
"Not "Crosscheck" Slepcek who plays for the LA Kings!" Morton was an avid hockey fan.
"Yeah. It seems that my going out with Ellen had brought him finally to the altar. They were in Vegas getting married while Poopsie was running around the Seaview."
The two men were silent for a moment.
"I'm sorry Lee, I know you really liked Ellen. She was sure beautiful." Chip Morton said sympathetically.
"Yeah she was sure beautiful." Lee sighed, "And sure crazy to love having a chinchilla, an overgrown rat for a pet, much less marry a Neanderthal hockey player who only call to fame is the record for time in the penalty box for unnecessary roughness." He grinned at his friend. "Well I better get going. I suppose you are expecting Gwen?" He raised an eyebrow at Chip who tried to look innocent.
"Well she may come by. She's been helping me lately....with computer stuff." He shrugged.
"Oh well, I have a little something for you two then." Lee stood up and finished the beer.
"What's that?" Chip asked.
"Well, Ellen wanted to give me something as a remembrance of our, ah, time together."
"No Lee, You didn't get that chinchilla did you? Please tell me you didn't give it to Gwen." The look on Chip Morton's face was close to panic.
"Well she did offer. But I refused." Noticing the relieved look on Morton's face Lee Crane laughed. "I got two season tickets to the LA Kings hockey matches. I want you and Gwen to have them."
"Lee! Season tickets! My God that's fantastic. The LA Kings, my favorite team." Morton grinned like an idiot then his face suddenly dropped. "But Lee. Gwen hates hockey."