Author’s Note: This story is the sequel to Curiosity Killed The Cat and was originally written in the summer of 1997. It’s dedicated to my very good friends, Ada Richardson and Barbara Paul. Their imput and support is deeply appreciated.
Lee Crane walked toward Seaview's forward hatch carrying his duffel bag. The Admiral would be waiting for him at the topside ladder. He felt strange taking shore leave when the Seaview was getting ready to go out on another mission. In his mind he was the boat’s Captain and he felt his place was at the helm, whenever they left port. However, the sub's doctor had insisted he needed some down time after a diving accident nearly cost him his life. He had to admit that he was still a little shaky even thinking about it. His diving partner had been Chief Sharkey. The two of them were sent out to investigate a mineral deposit for the Admiral, who wanted to obtain a few samples for study. When Lee decided to examine a small cave, the two of them became separated for a short time. Following protocol, he notified the Chief over the radio of his plans. However, when he was only a short distance inside the cave opening, he began to have trouble seeing and started to feel slightly dizzy. Before he passed out, he attempted to radio the Chief for help but something inside the cave interfered with the transmission. By the time Sharkey found him, Lee was completely unconscious. The man quickly noticed the mixture valve on his air tank was set wrong and readjusted it. He concluded that the skipper must have unknowingly hit it against something in the cave. Once on board, the Seaview's doctor had him put into a decompression chamber to help purge the gases in his body and allow them to safely exit his system. All things considered, he was very lucky that Sharkey had found him so quickly. The Chief's prompt action of adjusting his air flow and getting him back aboard the Seaview prevented him from slipping into a coma, which could have been fatal.
When Lee reached his destination, he found Admiral Nelson deep in a conversation with the boat’s Executive Officer, Chip Morton. They were discussing last minute details about the upcoming mission. He stood a few steps away while Chip obtained his orders. Afterwards when he turned and saw Lee behind him, his face lit up with a smile. To him the Seaview’s skipper wasn’t only his senior officer but one of his closest friends.
Smiling broadly, he gave Lee a light pat on the shoulder and said, "Well, it looks like you're ready to paint the town red. Give Angie my best."
With a glance at the Admiral, Lee replied a little nervously, "Chip.…can’t trust you with anything, can I?"
Nelson’s eyebrow lifted slightly as he leaned casually against the periscope housing. With a gleam in his eyes, he remarked in a testing tone, "You and Angie, huh?"
"It was her idea, sir." He replied trying to come up with something fast.
"I’m sure it was, Captain...well.... we can’t keep her waiting now, can we?" He replied with a slight grin that told Lee his mentor was just pulling his chain.
Smiling, as he realized he’d been had, Lee replied, "No sir, we can’t. Chip, take good care of her for me while I’m gone."
"You can count on it. I'll turn her back over to you in better shape than she is now!" He replied with an equally large smile.
"Well, don't be too strict with the crew. They may mutiny and tar-and-feather you before the sub returns to home port!"
Chip laughed and shook his head as he bid Lee good-bye and went off in search of the Chief.
Nelson kept silent during the interchange between the two. It was good to see that Lee trusted Chip enough to let him take command of the boat in his absence. After the previous commander's death, Crane had accepted the Admiral’s offer to become Captain of the boat. In the years that followed, he had developed a good rapport with his fellow officers and crew. Nelson’s decision not only resulted in finding a good Captain for his submarine but also, a close friend for himself. He was going to miss him on this mission but agreed with the doctor that Crane needed time to come to grips with what he’d been through. He knew Lee would never admit to how much the accident had affected him but Nelson knew him well enough to notice the subtle changes in his friend.
When Lee finished his conversation with Chip, he continued to the topside ladder where Nelson was still standing. He couldn't help but notice that the Admiral had watched him very closely during his talk with Chip. Apparently, his boss had overheard their discussion because the concerned look on his face had been replaced with a large smile. The man actually started to laugh as Lee approached him.
"Well, Admiral," said Lee with a straight face. "Maybe I should go on shore leave more often if it's going to put you in such a good mood!"
"It's not that but the sight of the crew tar-and-feathering Chip Morton. I have to admit.....it would be quite entertaining."
"Just making sure that was all it was, sir." replied Lee with a smile of his own.
"Confound it, Lee. Do you realize how indispensable you’ve become around here? You’re too DAMN valuable to be risking on a routine diving operation. I don’t know where my head was allowing you to go on that dive. From now on we’re going to have to re-evaluate your level of participation. I can’t afford to lose you....the paperwork alone would kill me." He replied trying to put on a serious expression and failing miserably at it.
Lee could see the incident had affected Nelson as deeply as it had him. Trying to help ease his friend’s mind, he replied, "I knew the risks, sir. It wasn’t your fault." Finally, he looked at the Admiral and continued by saying, "Who knows, sir.......While I'm on leave, I may find that I'm destined to be a land lubber and all of your worries will end."
"That'll be the day!" Nelson answered with a laugh. "Just relax, my friend, and enjoy yourself. I'll see ya in two weeks."
"Aye, sir." He replied as he picked up his duffel bag and began to climb up the ladder. The last thing he saw before closing the hatch was Nelson's face looking up at him.
Once topside, he watched the sea detail take up the lines and then go below securing the sail hatch behind them. He stood on the dock and watched until the Seaview disappeared down the underground channel. When the boat had disappeared from sight, he turned and left for Nelson’s office to talk with his secretary. Lee kept recalling the Admiral’s reaction when he heard about their date. He’d have to warn her about it so she’d be ready to counter Nelson’s assault when he returned. Later that evening, the two of them headed for a quiet place up the coast where they ate and danced most of the night away.
Eight days after the Seaview left on its current mission, Rick Adams was awakened from a deep sleep when someone began to pound on his door. Yesterday was the last day of finals and he’d disconnected his phones in hopes of getting a few hours of much needed rest. He covered up his head with his pillow and hoped whoever was trying to knock down his door would give up and go away. However, the person was stubborn and the noise continued. Finally, he gave up, crawled out of bed and pulled on a robe. As he tied the belt and stumbled into the living room, he heard Judith Bates start to yell his name from the other side of the door. Finally, he opened it to find a very distraught girlfriend on the other side. She pushed passed him and entered the room.
"Well, it's about time you answered the door!" said Judith in anger. "I've been trying to get you on the phone for over two hours. Why didn't you answer?"
Sighing, he tried to wake up and replied, "Look, I finished my finals last night and turned the phones off so I could get some sleep. Why are you so upset? If I remember correctly, you did the same thing a few days ago!"
"Sorry," she answered, "but I've had trouble thinking coherently ever since I heard the news."
He stiffened in alarm and blurted out, "What news? Has something happened to one of the group?"
"No, well not exactly. At least not as far as I know…no, everyone is fine."
"Then, why are you here at this ungodly hour trying to knock down my door?" He growled with irritation in his voice. "CJ's due in tonight with a shipment of artifacts and I’d hoped to get a few hours of sleep before she arrived!"
"I know she's due in tonight. I'm the one who told you, remember?"
Rick threw up his hands in defeat and said, "So what’s your point? I'm very tired and not in the mood to play twenty questions. I've only had a few hours of sleep in the past twenty-four hours and my mind is still in a fog!"
Judith's answer was to hand Rick a newspaper with a front page headline that read: 'SUBMARINE SEAVIEW LOST AT SEA WITH ALL HANDS'.
He glanced at the paper and then down at Judith's pale face. "Is this article for real?" He asked trying to absorb the news.
"Yes, as far as I can determine, the Seaview's missing and Nelson’s on board her. However, the reason I'm here is that I think there's a slim chance that we may be able to find the sub."
Rick stared at his girlfriend with a puzzled expression and replied, "I may be still half asleep but if the Naval authorities can't find the Seaview what makes you think that we can?"
"Do you remember about four months ago when Admiral Nelson substituted a phony bag for CJ's original one?"
"Yes, I remember. CJ had you put a small transceiver in the bag so that she could listen to Nelson's reaction when it was returned to him. However, he found it soon after and the transmission ended abruptly."
"That's correct but I also attached a micro transceiver to one of the coins I put in the bag. Later, CJ told me that Nelson put the money from the phony bag into her original one. Then, he placed it into the wall safe in his quarters aboard the Seaview."
"Now, I'm beginning to see what you mean. If CJ’s bag is still in Nelson's safe, the micro transceiver may be our only way of finding the Seaview!" He remarked in growing excitement.
"That's correct, but remember it's only a slim chance since the micro transceiver might not be powerful enough to transmit from thousands of feet beneath the sea." She cautioned him.
"Slim chance or not." He answered. "We have to radio CJ and let her know!"
"I went to the Old Mansion and tried to reach her before I came here. Apparently, she's having trouble receiving transmissions aboard the Flying Dolphin. Her radio must be out. So, we'll just have to do all of the leg work ourselves and be ready to go when she comes in tonight."
"You're right as usual." He replied with a tired smile. "I'll take a quick shower and get dressed while you make some coffee. I'm going to need the caffeine!"
As Rick headed into the bedroom, Judith walked towards his small kitchen. When she finished with the coffee preparations, she picked up his wall phone, turned it back on, and dialed China and Jose's number. They would need their friends’ help building a portable receiver that would fit aboard the Flying Dolphin. She wondered how they were going to find out where the Seaview went down. The newspaper and TV coverage had been very vague about the sub's location. Maybe after Rick was fully awake, he'd be able to come up with an idea.
The phone rang several times before Jose Domas answered with a breathless, "Hello!"
"Hi, Jose. It's Judes. Hope I didn't wake you."
"No. China and I've been up for a few hours. She wanted to change the oil in the equipment van before we used it tonight to transport CJ's load of artifacts. We were just about to start unloading excess equipment when you called.
"In that case, I'm glad I reached you. Have you heard about the Seaview disaster?" She asked.
"Yes. We heard about it on the radio early this morning. Sounds like the Naval authorities aren't very hopeful of finding her."
"Well, Rick and I’ve got an idea of how the group may be able to assist in the search for the Seaview but, we can't reach CJ on the Flying Dolphin."
"That's strange." He replied in concern. "Hope she's all right!"
"I'm sure she is." Judith answered with conviction. "CJ can fly that sub in her sleep! She'll arrive tonight as planned. However, before she gets here, we have a lot of work to do."
"Do you remember about four months ago when Admiral Nelson tried to find Lou by taking CJ's bag and substituting a phony one in its place?"
"Sure. You put a bug in the phony bag and returned it to Nelson's men, who were following you. If I remember right, Lou and CJ shared a good laugh later when they heard Nelson's response. What does the bag substitution have to do with us being able to find the Seaview? I thought Nelson found the bug you put in the bag and that ended the whole scenario."
"His men found the micro transceiver I put in the bag seam but not the one I put on a coin inside the bag. CJ said they heard Nelson talking to himself after his men left to check the phony bag. He put the money back inside her bag before he put it in his wall safe."
"So, you think the micro transceiver on the coin may be our key to finding the sub."
"Yes, I do. It may be our guide to finding the Seaview but only if Nelson left CJ's bag in his safe."
"Well, I'm sure CJ and Lou will want to try even if the chances of finding the sub are meager. They will risk everything if lives are involved!"
"Rick and I agree. So, we thought that China and you could go to the Old Mansion and start working on a portable receiver that will fit into the Flying Dolphin. Meanwhile, the two of us will try to figure out a way to determine the last known location of the sub."
"Sounds like a good plan. China and I’ll start right away. Good luck in your part of the plan."
"Thanks, my friend." She said. "I've got a feeling we're all going to need help from lady luck before this is over. See you in a few hours."
Judith hung up the phone and was getting two coffee mugs out of a cabinet when Rick walked into the kitchen. He got some milk from the frig before he sat down at the table. She picked up the coffeepot and joined him. While they were drinking their coffee, she updated him about her conversation with Jose. After his third cup, Rick began to feel human once again. He knew his body would pay for it later but now he welcomed the caffeine rush. He looked across at Judith and smiled at the serious look she gave him.
"Don't worry. We'll come up with something." He replied with a smile.
She sighed and said, "I can't help but worry. CJ will be here in less than six hours and that doesn't give us much time! If you ask me, China and Jose have the easy job."
"Well, since I've met CJ, I've learned that every problem may have a solution. However, sometimes a person can be too close to the puzzle. When that happens to her, she makes a list of the obvious negative answers and tries them out to see if they will give her a clue."
"I know." Judith said with a frown. "She always says a negative answer in its own way is also a positive one. So, in this case, what would the least obvious answer be to our dilemma?"
"Well, we obviously just can't call and ask someone where the Seaview went down! They would never release that kind of classified info to a couple of graduate students like us."
Judith’s mouth fell open in surprise at Rick’s statement and she dropped her cup onto the table with a clang as the answer came to her. She quickly stood, reached for the wall phone, and began to dial information. When the operator came on the line, she asked for the number to Nelson's Institute for Marine Research in Santa Barbara.
While she was waiting, she leaned down, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and said, "Rick, my love, you're a genius in more ways than one! No wonder CJ’s always encouraging you to try out new ideas no matter how far fetched they may seem!"
He shook his head and knew Judith would explain in a few minutes. Apparently, she was going to call Nelson's Institute and try to find out about the Seaview. He just wondered how she was going to manage it.
He didn't have long to wait. Once Judith wrote down the number on the pad that he kept hanging by the phone, she tore the page off, came back to the table, and sat down. Then, she picked up the newspaper that he brought from the living room and began to skim through the article about the Seaview.
Halfway down the second column she stopped, circled some words with the pen, and said with a determined look on her face, "The sub didn't go down with all hands on board as the article headline indicates. The submarine's Captain wasn't on board during this mission. Apparently, Lee Crane was on shore leave when the tragedy happened. This article says he arrived this morning from Washington, DC with an Admiral Gene Benson, who's been put in charge of finding the Seaview."
"So this Crane fellow wasn't on board. How's that going to help us find out the Seaview's last known location?"
"Hurry up and drink your coffee. We need to call Captain Crane. I'm sure he knows about Admiral Nelson's attempt to find Lou Emery. All I have to do is let him know that I'm a friend of Lou's to get his attention. However, just to be safe, we should use a pay phone"
"Sounds like a good plan but what if Crane won't talk to you or isn't available to take your call?"
"Then, Rick, my love, you'll have to take a trip to Santa Barbara and try to see him in person while I meet CJ!"
He gasped, choked on his last swallow of coffee, and began to cough. Judith got up quickly and patted him on the back to help him regain his breath.
Finally, when he was able to breathe once again, he croaked out, "Judes, you are definitely full of surprises!"
"So true." She said with a laugh. "I do my best to keep our relationship from becoming boring!"
"Well, I have to admit my life's sure been interesting since I met you and CJ."
"Now, that we've settled that subject, let's go make that phone call to Captain Crane. Maybe we'll be lucky and you won't have to go meet with him, after all!"
"Amen to that." He replied as he got up and followed her out the door to his car.
Captain Lee Crane stood outside Admiral Nelson's office door and tried to gather his thoughts before having another meeting with Admiral Benson. For the last twenty-four hours, a major search had been underway for the Seaview without any positive results. Finally, this morning Admiral Benson released the news to the media about the disaster…His rationale was that the crew's families had a right to know their love ones might be dead. Crane didn't agree and told the Admiral his thoughts on the matter. It really rankled Lee how comfortable Benson now seemed to be in taking over Nelson's office. In his opinion, Benson had a long way to go before he would be able to fill Nelson's shoes. Also, the way he ordered Angie around was abominable. Crane mentioned to Benson that maybe she should have some time off because she was so upset, but he disagreed. When he pressed the matter by bringing up the subject that Admiral Nelson and Angie weren't only boss and secretary but also good friends, Admiral Benson ordered Lee out of Nelson's office. He told Crane not to come back until he was ready to treat a superior officer with respect.
Now, Lee was back and it was hard to hide his anger from Angie, who was currently on the intercom talking to Benson. When she finished her conversation, he went to sit on the corner of her desk to lend moral support.
As she looked up at him, Angie's eyes watered and she reached for a tissue to catch her tears. He handed her the box from the desktop and remained quiet until she regained control. Then, he said gently, "What does Benson want you to do now as if I have to ask?"
"Oh, Lee," sobbed Angie almost losing control again because of his kindness, "he's going on live TV to talk about the Seaview. Now, he plans to inform the press that he's ready to take over the Admiral's Institute temporally until all of the legal matters can be handled. He's acting like it's already official that the Admiral is dead. It seems as though he doesn't want the Seaview to be found."
"I know it does but we have to give Admiral Benson the benefit of a doubt. Admiral Nelson and he are good friends, after all. This may be Benson's way of handling his own emotional upset. Instead of letting his feelings overwhelm him, he wants to bury himself in work. By temporarily taking over the Institute, he's doing just that but at the same time helping out his old friend."
"Well," croaked out Angie trying to keep the tears under control, "why does he have to be so gruff with me? I'm not one of his underlings in the Navy. I'm Admiral Nelson's personal secretary. He's always treated me with respect and not just because I'm a woman!"
Lee smiled and replied with feeling, "Angie, Admiral Nelson is one of a kind. In all of my years in the Navy I've never met a man quite like him, who wears the four stars of a full Admiral on his collar. He's never let the power of command overtake his humanity. That's one of the many reasons why I accepted the position of Seaview's Captain when he offered it to me!"
"Do you think he's still alive?"
"Don't worry. I'm not ready, yet, to start writing his obituary notice for the papers. Nelson's a very resourceful man. If anyone could keep the Seaview's crew alive up to this point, it would be him. Now, I just have to convince Admiral Benson. Guess you should let him know I'm here and get it over with."
Angie started to follow Lee's request when the phone on her desk began to ring. The outside line light was flashing indicating the caller wasn't located on the Institute grounds. He decided to wait until she finished with the phone call. Hopefully, it would take some time and he wasn't that eager to see Admiral Benson anyway.
Angie picked up the receiver and said, "Hello. Admiral Nelson's office. May I help you?"
"Yes. Thank you." said a female voice on the other end of the line. "I'm trying to locate Captain Lee Crane and the receptionist said he might be there at this time. If so, could I speak to him, please? It's very important that I talk to him because it concerns the disappearance of the Seaview!"
"Just one moment, please, while I see if he's available." Angie said while covering the receiver with her hand and saying softly to Crane, "Lee, there's a woman on the phone and she said it's very important that she talks to you. She mentioned it has something to do with the Seaview's disappearance."
"It's probably a reporter and I don't want to talk to the press. Why don't you just mention that Admiral Benson's going to do an interview later to update the situation and take a number."
Following his advice, she removed her hand from the phone and replied, "I'm sorry, but Captain Crane's busy at the moment. However, if you want more information about the Seaview disaster, Admiral Benson's going to do a live interview later this afternoon. I suggest you wait until then to get an update."
Judith Bates sighed and said to the woman, who apparently was Admiral Nelson's secretary, "Listen, lady, I'm not a reporter and obviously Captain Crane's there with you, now. Before you hang up, please inform him that Lou Emery's a friend of mine and see if he still doesn't want to talk to me!"
Angie once more covered the phone with her hand and replied, "The woman wanted me to tell you that Lou Emery's a friend of hers."
Stunned, Lee stared at her for a few seconds before taking the phone from her hand and saying into it, "This is Captain Lee Crane. How may I help you?"
"Captain Crane, you don't know me. My name is Judith Bates. I met a crewman of yours named Stu Riley about four months ago. He gave me a phony bag that was suppose to belong to a friend of mine named CJ."
He gripped the phone with growing concern but replied calmly, "Yes, I remember the episode. You sent back the phony bag with a few surprises of your own included in it."
"Yes, we did, Captain, and CJ and Lou said that Admiral Nelson found two of them to be quite entertaining after he calmed down. It may sound strange, under the circumstances, but, I need to know if the Admiral ever found CJ's third gift?"
Puzzled, Lee gripped the phone harder until his knuckles turned white. "What was this woman talking about? Nelson found the money CJ included for transportation to the cliff and Chief Sharkey detected the bug sewn into the phony bag's seam without any problem. As far as he knew, the Admiral never mentioned anything else connected with the bag." He decided to play dumb and see if the woman would give him more information.
"Listen, lady, I don't have any idea what you mean. Admiral Nelson told me he found two surprises and never mentioned any more to me. He just put the money inside the original bag and put it in his wall safe aboard the Seaview."
"Captain Crane, my next question is very important. Did Admiral Nelson leave CJ's bag inside his safe?"
More puzzled than ever, he answered, "Yes, I know for a fact that Admiral Nelson left the money and the bag inside his safe. Why is that so important?"
"Captain, the answer you just gave me may be the key to finding the Seaview! CJ's third gift was a micro transceiver and I attached it to one of the coins I placed inside the phony bag. There’s a slim chance but we may be able to pick up the micro transceiver's signal if we knew the last known location of the Seaview. That's the main reason why I'm calling. I need you to tell me that information."
Lee stood and held the phone more gently as he said, "I'm willing to tell you but only face-to-face and not on the phone."
"OK, Captain, I'll agree but only if you come alone and to a public location. I'm not stupid and will know if you don't keep your part of the bargain. Also, remember the longer we wait the greater the possibility that the Seaview's crew won't survive."
"Give me the address of the place you want to meet." He replied curtly.
"Fine, Captain." Judith answered. Then, she gave him the address of a small University hangout, Polly’s Outdoor Cafe, located close to the Department of Antiquities where she worked. "Do you think you'll have any trouble finding the restaurant?"
"No. I'll see you there in one hour as we've agreed." He said ending the conversation and handing the phone back to Angie.
"Lee," said Angie as she took the phone. "Should I let Admiral Benson know that you're here, now?"
"I think not." He answered on his way out the door. "And if he asks for me, you have no idea where I am either. In fact, you haven't seen me at all today, right?"
"Right." She replied with a grin. "I'll make sure Admiral Benson gets the message if he asks!"
An hour later at Polly's Outdoor Cafe, Judith Bates sat across the table facing Captain Lee Crane. She was sipping a soft drink and looking as if she didn't have a care in the world. However, inside she was nervous and felt as if she was experiencing her first blind date all over again. The Captain hadn’t sounded too pleased when he ended their conversation earlier on the phone. Now, after she finished with her story, he looked as if he was about to explode.
"You're telling me that these two people have been listening in on all of Admiral Nelson's private conversations for the past four months?" He retorted in astonishment. "Lady, in my book, that amounts to out right treason!"
"Don't be silly, Captain." said Judith feeling nervous and trying not to show it. "CJ and Lou haven't even been living in the country for the past three months. And when they do return, they have more important things to do than listen to Nelson converse with his crew."
"If this CJ person is out of the country," Lee asked with bafflement showing on his face, "how is she going to aid me in finding the Seaview? Also, a small Mini Sub won't be able to go deep enough or be of any help if the Seaview is down at the bottom of a deep canyon. If only I had access to the Flying Sub, we might have had a chance; but, it was onboard the Seaview, when it left on that fatal mission!"
"Well, Captain, what if I told you that I have access to a flying submarine and it would be able to out fly yours if they were in a race?"
"I'd say, Ms. Bates, that either you're a good liar or that you've been in the sun too long and your drink contains some strong form of alcohol!" replied Crane with a look of outright disgust on his face. "And furthermore, I believe this whole meeting has been a waste of my time and yours. If you think of any more helpful ideas in the near future, please keep them to yourself. Good day!"
Judith stared up at Crane as he pushed back his chair and stood to leave. In anger, she reached out and grabbed his arm. She knew CJ wouldn't let emotions guide her reasoning in this type of situation but she didn't have her friend's temperament. So, she mentally counted to ten to regain control and then said in a terse tone, "Captain Crane, if you'll come with me, in about four hours I'll make you eat those words. Are you game?"
Lee looked at Judith Bates' serious facial expression and slowly sat back down in his chair. Even though it was highly unlikely, he was starting to believe the young woman was serious. She had contacted him after her friend, CJ, went to such extreme measures to make sure Nelson didn't find Lou Emery. So, he decided to see what Judith had up her sleeve.
"OK, I'll bite." He retorted with skepticism. "Where is the hat located that you plan to pull out this unbelievable flying sub?"
"Actually, Captain." She said with embarrassment. "I can't tell you the exact location. However, if you're willing to wear a blindfold, my friend, Rick, and I will take you there!"
Lee stared across at her in disbelief once more and said with a shake of his head, "I'm sure you must be enjoying all of this cloak-and-dagger stuff but don't you think it's about time you stopped these games and started acting like an adult? After all, lives are at stake."
"Yes, I agree with you." Judith answered in a dignified tone as she set her drink aside, put some money on the table, and pushed back her chair to get up. "It's time to end this whole conversation. Many people are involved here and not only your submarine crew. I have friends depending on me to make sure their lives continue on as normal and I intend to make sure that happens. When I read about the Seaview disaster in the paper, all I could think of at the time was how my friends and I could help. Now, I see how foolish and naive I've been. I'm sorry that I wasted your time, Captain. My friend, CJ, should be arriving stateside in about four hours. I'll tell her about this meeting and see what she wants to do!" Then she stood, reached out with a polite gesture to shake Lee's hand, and replied, "Good-bye, Captain. I hope you find your submarine and the crew's alive."
Lee stood also and grasped Judith's hand firmly with his own and said, "Where's that blindfold that you want me to wear?"
She blinked back tears and answered with tremulous smile, "I really don't have one but I guess your necktie would work."
He smiled and began to loosen his tie as he followed Judith out of the cafe.
CJ bent over the Flying Dolphin's open radio panel trying to find the shorted wire that was preventing her from transmitting signals back to Lou. An hour into her flight stateside, she ran into an electrical storm, which played havoc with a lot of her controls. She put the flying sub on autopilot and was able to repair everything but the radar blocking device and the radio. So, in order to avoid detection, she frequently traveled underwater.
For the last four hours, Lou had been sending regular messages every fifteen minutes hoping she would respond. CJ paused now in her search as his voice once more filled the submarine.
"Young’un, if you can hear me, I want you to make haste and get to California as soon as possible. Judith called me on the radio from the Old Mansion and told me that Captain Lee Crane of the Seaview is with her and part of our group. Apparently, the Seaview has been lost at sea with all hands for over twenty-four hours. Judith was able to convince Crane that we might be able to find the sub using the micro transceiver she put on a coin with the money included in the phony bag. Crane is sure Nelson kept your bag and the money in his safe aboard the Seaview. Since she’s committed us to this affair, I wanted you to be warned before arriving at the Old Mansion. I'll repeat this message every fifteen minutes in hope that you can hear me! Lou, over and out."
CJ closed her eyes for a few moments in shock and disbelief before she reached down, slammed the radio panel back in place, and headed forward to sit down in the control seat. She strapped herself in place and turned off the autopilot. As the power increased in the engines, the Flying Dolphin headed toward the surface. By the time her craft entered the air, it was a bright streak in the night sky. It took her thirty minutes to cover the remaining distance. The last ten minutes she traveled underwater once more and soon entered the natural canal leading to the underground cavern below the Old Mansion.
Meanwhile, in a Control Room next to the underground cavern, Judith Bates and Lee Crane bent over a table containing maps of the South Pacific Ocean. She had contacted Lou Emery by radio soon after they arrived at the Old Mansion. He was amazed she was able to do anything after seeing the mess awaiting them. Jose Domas and China Sunshine had brought all of the electronic hardware from their van and it was strewn all over the room. On one side of the table an apparatus was taking form, which looked very impressive. Apparently, the two young people seem to know what they were doing. Earlier when he entered the room with Rick and Judith, Jose looked up and nodded in greeting. However, the young Oriental woman didn't even acknowledge his presence. She was either too involved in what she was doing or very unsociable. He wasn't going to complain if she was able to build the portal receiver that Judith told him about. In fact, he was a little overwhelmed at first about seeing all of the sophisticated hardware. Yet, in a way, it reminded him of the Seaview's Control Room. Soon, he felt at ease and found Judith Bates to be quite an intelligent and helpful companion. Her friend, Rick Adams, had settled into a chair next to a control board and was presently asleep. She explained that he was recovering from finals. Lee nodded in understanding remembering his years at the Naval Academy.
Suddenly, lights on the control board in front of Rick began to flash and a siren blared. Shortly after, the door leading into the cavern slammed shut with a bang as the room started to fill with water. He jerked awake and stared at the board for a few seconds while obtaining his bearings. Then, he started to move knobs and Lee heard the sound of a hydraulic pump and the loud groan of moving rock, which obviously served as a natural canal lock. While Rick did his job, China and Jose stopped working and walked over to stand in front of the observation window next to the cavern door. Soon, lights came on in the outer room.
Judith glanced at Lee and a large grin appeared on her face as she said, "Well, Captain, I suggest you get ready to eat your words!"
Then, she grabbed his hand and pulled him over to stand by Jose. Lee looked through the glass as the light in the inner room glowed and revealed the top of a beautiful reincarnation of the FS-1. As the submarine reached the ceiling, hooks came down and clamped onto each side of the vessel while a portion of the rock floor below moved upward and offered additional support. Then, the water receded, giant fans began to turn, and heat lamps evaporated the remaining water on the rock floor. Following this, the unusual attachment craft on the bottom of the sub opened and the rock support came back down loaded with boxes of all sizes and shapes, which fit together very nicely. The rock floor moved forward out from under the sub as more moved in to take its place. The procedure was repeated once more before the underbelly of the flying sub’s attachment craft closed for the last time. When everything became stable, a hatch opened and a woman crawled out on top of the craft. After she closed the door, instead of using the hand rungs available, she slid down the submarine’s side and landed on her feet beside it as agile as a cat.
Lee stood with his mouth hanging open as Rick released the lock on the cavern door. The woman inside opened it and entered the Control Room. She was about five and one-half feet tall and quite attractive with blue-green eyes, which sparkled, in the fluorescent light. She was dressed in a blue, tight fitting, wetsuit that covered her entire body, except her hands and head. Her long, light brown hair was braided and hung down her back past her waist.
After quickly assessing the entire room with her eyes, the woman walked up to Lee Crane, held out her hand, and said, "Hello, Captain. My name is CJ. I understand that you have a problem with a missing submarine."
Dumbfounded, Lee took the offered hand in his and looked down into a pretty face containing eyes filled with calm. They were the wrong color. However, at that moment, hers reminded him very much of Admiral Nelson's eyes just before he solved an impossible problem. He had the uncanny feeling that he would see Nelson in the near future and this woman was going to make it possible.
While she shook the man’s hand, CJ eyes never left his face. Lou’s earlier message about Judith bringing this stranger to her company’s secret headquarters had filled her with alarm. Now, after meeting him in person, she felt a little better but still decided to be cautious. Judith was an intelligent person and good friend but sometimes she let her emotions take control of a situation. Until she had a chance to learn more about what was going on, she wasn’t about to reveal anything critical concerning her organization to this handsome man standing in front of her.
Once CJ had introduced herself to the Captain and he released her hand, she turned to Judith and smiled in greeting.
When her friend saw CJ’s face, a feeling of relief passed through her. She hadn’t expected any other reaction and was glad the older woman wasn’t upset with her.
CJ’s eyes actually seem to twinkle as she noted her friend’s reaction to her smile. Deciding to relieve her fears verbally, she said, "Well, Judes, it seems you have things well in hand. I suggest that you continue by helping Rick and the Captain move the artifacts out of the cavern. After that, the bottom of the Flying Dolphin needs to be rearranged."
Judith smiled and nodded in agreement, grabbed Lee's hand once more, and practically pulled him through the cavern door before he could object. When Rick heard CJ's suggestion, he got up to follow them. As he passed her, he stumbled slightly and she reached out and grabbed his arm to help him regain his balance.
Then, she noted the black circles under his eyes. She looked up at him with concern and replied, "Rick, what’s wrong? Are you ill?"
"No I'll be fine. Just lack of sleep due to finals and too much caffeine."
"Well, in that case, let Judes and Crane move the boxes and you work in the bottom of the sub. You know more about that since you designed the structures. And by the way, the unloading apparatus worked like a dream. You should be proud! I'm sure you'll be able to patent the design."
Rick looked down at her and grinned sheepishly in response to the praise. He was just glad that the device had worked. Anyway, obtaining her approval meant more to him than anything else. One always knew that any support she gave came straight from the heart. Also, she had a way of stimulating a person to believe that anything was possible, even the impossible.
In response to Rick's grin, CJ gave him a quick hug before he went into the cavern. Then, she turned her attention to the two remaining people in the room. The exotic pair still stood side-by-side near the observation window. China's beautifully sculptured, Oriental face remained unreadable as she waited to hear CJ's requests while Jose's darker, relaxed one made him look as he didn't have a care in the world. As she approached them, her eyes took in the chaos scattered around the room’s floor. A lazy grin appeared on the man's face when he saw the twinkle in CJ's eyes and grew bigger when he heard her response.
"By the look of things, the portable receiver must be near completion. That's the only way China would tolerate this mess!"
"You're right on both counts." drawled out Jose in his strongest Mexican accent. "However, it still needs a few more modifications before we install it in the FD-1."
"Well, why don't you finish whatever needs to be done while I have China repair the radar blocking device and the radio transmitter. Both were damaged in an electrical storm during my flight."
He nodded in agreement and headed back to the side table to continue the necessary fiddling on the portable receiver. China turned immediately and followed him to the table to obtain a tool kit. When she turned back in CJ's direction, she found her looking through the observation glass at Judith and Crane with a serious, thoughtful expression on her face.
When China reached her side, she turned and said softly, "When I heard Lou's message about the Seaview, I decided to use the extra power coils that you installed aboard our sub. The speed was phenomenal. The output increased by fifty percent."
China looked at her friend and replied, "I expected as much but you must be careful until I do further testing."
"Oh, don’t worry. I intend too. I only used the power coils after I heard Lou’s message about the Seaview and that Judes had brought Crane here. China I need to know what’s going on and what she’s gotten us into."
She nodded and proceeded to tell CJ all she knew and ended by handing her the newspaper file about the Seaview and a video tape of Admiral Benson’s TV interview earlier that afternoon.
After she glanced through the printouts, she looked up and replied "I wish Judes hadn’t brought Crane here but now we have to play the cards we’ve been dealt. I’ll see how things will go after I view this tape and contact Lou. I’ll get back with you once I’ve finished. Meanwhile, just make sure that our guest doesn't obtain any more critical information than necessary about our flying sub. I'm willing to help him look for the Seaview but that's no reason to put all of our cards on the table at one time."
Upon hearing CJ’s words, China smiled for the first time and bent her slightly in respect before replying, "You can count on me. In fact, I haven't said a word to the Captain, yet. So, he'll probably think I have a one tracked mind when I'm working."
"Good let him continue to think that for the time being. I guess you should get started since time is short. I'm going to go upstairs where I can have some privacy and contact Lou."
China nodded and headed out to the FD-1 while CJ went up the stairs to her private quarters on the first floor to call Lou on the special visual monitor. She didn't want Crane to walk in on her during the beginning of their conversation.
As she climbed the stairs, her mind drifted back to the time when she first met Admiral Nelson and his driver, the young sailor named Riley. The powerful man had been taken completely by surprise when she had entered his car and practically ordered Riley to take her to Barneswell Cliff. Nelson had been very rude and upset, afterwards, and she couldn’t blame him. However, he had been just the complete opposite when he found the money she had included in the phony bag sent back to him via his two men keeping tabs on Judith Bates. She smiled remembering his laughter at finding the cash and filling his men in on what he concluded what must be compensation for services rendered. Now, the thought that he and Riley might be dead or running out of air caused her steps to quicken as she climbed the stairs.
After she reached her quarters, CJ sat down and radioed Lou in the South Pacific aboard the Dreamcatcher. When they made contact and his scraggly face came on the screen and saw her, his eyes filled with tears. In a shaky voice he responded, "Thank the lord, Young’un that you're alright. The last five hours have been torture for us not knowing what went wrong. I knew you were still alive because of the dolphins. However, I couldn't help but worry! What happened, anyway?"
In response, CJ put her hand on the screen as if to caress Lou's face, closed her eyes for a second, then replied, "I ran into an electrical storm an hour into my flight which shorted out a lot of my controls. I was able to repair all but the radar blocking device and the radio transmitter. It was so frustrating not being able to respond every time your voice came on the air. When I got your message about the Seaview, I connected China's new power coils to the engine and traveled the last hour in about thirty minutes. I couldn't call you right away because I needed to assign duties to everyone and find out what Judes had gotten us into. Right now our guest is helping her move the boxed artifacts out of the cavern."
Lou Emery sighed and said, "Young’un, I know we need to move fast if there’s a chance of saving anyone aboard the missing Seaview but I’m worried about going public after we’ve worked so hard to keep a low profile. By the way, what's your impression of Captain Crane?"
CJ shook her head not sure what to say so she answered his question with one of her own, "What's your input on Judes' idea that we may be able to find the Seaview with the coin micro transceiver?"
"It's a long shot but one we can't ignore. The Seaview holds a crew of over one hundred men. If we find them in time to save just one, the risk is worth it in my opinion."
"Just wanted to make sure we're in agreement. How's your arm? Are you still in very much pain?"
"You know me, Young’un. A little thing like a sprained wrist won't keep me out of commission for long!"
"That's a bad sprain so please be careful. I'm going to put you on hold while I go back downstairs to see how things are going. It will be a few minutes because I'm going to stop in the kitchen and fix some sandwiches for our motley crew. Can you switch to the video phone closer to the dolphins? I'd like them to hear my voice when I reconnect."
"Sure. I know they're as anxious as you to make vocal contact."
CJ quickly pushed a button to put Lou on hold and hurried to the kitchen. She checked the frig to see what supplies were available and popped the video China had given her of Benson’s press conference into the portal video recorder, nearby. As she prepared the food and watched the video, her mind was busy forming plans for the rescue and questions to ask Captain Crane. She decided to include some hot chocolate and coffee along with water and soft drinks. When she finished, she put napkins and all of the food and drinks on a large tray and placed it on a dumb waiter in the wall. While the food traveled down, she retraced her steps back downstairs to the Control Room outside the cavern. When she entered, the room was empty. She went to the radio panel and reconnected on-line with Lou. Once his face appeared on the screen, she heard dolphin vocal sounds and splashing in the background.
CJ laughed and called out to her three water bound friends and they responded in kind. Then, she heard a sharp clanging sound and said to Lou, "Hold on a minute while I get the food out of the dumb waiter."
There were a lot of boxes stacked near the wall and CJ moved around them and opened the door to remove the food. She turned with the tray as Lee and Judith entered with a cart containing the last boxes of artifacts.
When Crane saw CJ with the food, he turned his head toward Judith and said, "You win once again, Ms. Bates. She was fixing food while we were lugging these heavy boxes."
CJ sat the tray on the table beside Lou's maps and looked at the man. She saw that beneath his attempt to appear nonchalant was a look of deep worry and concern. Any reservations she had about Judith getting them involved with the Seaview disaster dissipated when she saw this. She cocked her head slightly to one sided and replied, "Captain, I have found that people come up with the best plans in the face of death or over a plate of food. Would you join me in partaking of nourishment and tell me the last known location of your submarine?"
A feeling of relief passed through him at her words. He’d felt slightly giddy ever since seeing her flying submarine and for the first time felt hopeful that there might be a chance of finding the Seaview. "Now, he just had to convince this woman that her organization didn’t have anything to fear from him."
He let go of the cart handle and walked over to stand beside her and pointed to a circled area on the map of the South Pacific that Judith and he had looked at earlier. It was close to a small group of islands.
She stared at the map, then up at Crane, and said in total disbelief, "What in the world was Admiral Nelson thinking when he took the Seaview into the area known to all sailors as the 'Submarine Graveyard'?"
Lee sighed and replied, "As far as we know from their last transmission, a little over twenty four hours ago, they were answering a distress call from another disabled submarine, the Hornet. Ships have been combing the area but seaquakes from the erupting chain of volcanic islands have produced high seas and surface maneuvering is almost impossible. Admiral Benson has almost decided to give up the search for now until the seas calm down."
Lou Emery's shout could be heard from across the room as he retorted with scorn, "Captain, the person you're talking about wouldn't happen to be Admiral Gene Benson?"
"Yes, sir. It's him." replied Crane in confusion. "What difference does it make whose in charge? Once Admiral Benson knows about CJ's flying submarine, I'm sure he'll want to continue with the search!"
"Oh, I'm sure he will." growled Lou in anger. "Young’un, this puts a whole new stew in the pot. I can't ask you to get involved with that charlatan!"
CJ looked at Lou's face on the screen and then at Crane's desperate one. In her mind the decision had already been made and Lou knew this. He was just being protective, especially because Admiral Benson was in charge of the search. Apparently, this man was not one of his favorite people from his other life before they met. She looked down at the map for a few more seconds collecting her thoughts. During this time, both men stared at her bent head in anticipation. When she looked up, Crane was shocked to see her eyes filled with a hardness and determination that hadn't been there before. She grabbed the map containing the area where the Seaview was thought to be and rolled it up tightly as she walked to the monitor displaying Emery’s face.
As soon as she reached it, she said, "Lou, I want you to understand why I can't back out of this mission. I've met Admiral Nelson and one of his crew personally. I would be haunted to the end of my days if I didn't try to find them. However, I trust your judgment of this Benson's character. While I was fixing the food, I watched part of a recorded video of his press conference earlier this afternoon about the Seaview disaster. There was something about his body language during his talk that bothered me. Therefore, I'm going to pull in a few markers and get someone else put in charge. Will that pacify you for now?"
"Depends on what you have in mind." Lou responded with a serious look.
"Well, last year Judes' grandfather, Alexander, donated a large sum of money anonymously for me to help Senator Stuart Carrollton get re-elected. At the time he told Alexander that he would always be grateful and would do anything within reason to repay the favor as long as it was legal. I think now's a good time to see if the good Senator meant what he said, don't you? Judes could get in touch with her grandfather and start the ball rolling while you and Captain Crane come up with someone else to head the search. However, gentlemen, I suggest you come to a quick agreement because time is short."
During CJ's conversation with Lou, Lee had walked over to stand beside her. When she finished talking, he replied, "Sir, I'm willing to do anything to get you to agree to this mission even work with the devil himself, if necessary!"
Lou's face broke into a grin as he responded, "I don't think we'll have to go that far, Captain. Young’un, as usual, you've come with a solution to pacify everyone. If Senator Carrollton can help, I'm willing to reconsider my decision."
"Fine." said CJ as she turned to look in Judith’s direction. "The two of you can continue your discussion here while Judes uses the phone upstairs. I'm going to pass out the food and drinks and check on things here!"
Judith nodded and hurried upstairs to call her grandfather. On the way, she stopped and took a sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate from the tray. CJ walked back to the table with the map still under her arm and picked up the remaining food. As she passed Jose's table, she laid napkins out and placed a couple of sandwiches and soft drinks on it. Then, she came back to the monitor where Lee was standing and left food and coffee with him. Crane started to thank her but she had already turned and was heading in the direction of the cavern door. Once inside the cavern, she set the tray down on the rock floor near the bottom of the Flying Dolphin and called out to Rick and China to let them know about the food. After the two joined her outside the sub, the three of them sat on the rock floor in a semi-circle to eat and discuss the plans she had in mind. Ten minutes later, Judith came back down the stairs and breezed by Crane on her way out to join the others. As she passed Jose, he picked up the finished portable monitor and followed her.
Crane paused in the discussion that he and Lou were having, turned to look out through the glass to observe the group, and said to Emery, "Sir, how is all of this possible?"
"Depends on what you mean, Captain?" He replied.
"Well, for starters this technical setup, the flying sub, and those young geniuses!"
Lou chuckled and answered Lee's question by saying, "It's a long story and maybe later the Young’un will give me permission to tell you. Let's just say for now that my part in it all started with the typhoon and a pair of bottled-nosed dolphins and leave it at that. Now, you were telling me that Admiral Bruce Hawks was recently put in charge of an older aircraft carrier called the 'Blackbeard' and has been helping with the search for the Seaview. I think he would be a perfect replacement for Gene Benson. Hawks not only outranks him but is trustworthy, and opened minded like Nelson. Also, the Young’un would be able to land the Flying Dolphin with wounded on the Blackbeard."
Lee agreed and said with enthusiasm, "Sir, Admiral Nelson and other researchers at his Institute in Santa Barbara have recently developed a special underwater diving bell designed to haul wounded sailors from deep waters. We could have it flown out to the Blackbeard and use it in conjunction with CJ's flying sub. I was on my way to talk to Admiral Benson about it when Judith called. We'll need all available assistance, especially if we find both the Seaview and the Hornet crews alive."
"Guess it's all up to Alexander Bates and Senator Carrollton now, Captain. Just hope Bates can locate him in time. The Young’un's not one to sit on her laurels. As soon as China and Jose have finished with the Flying Dolphin repairs and installed the portable monitoring device, she'll want to head out."
"Lou's right, Captain," said CJ behind him. "I'm impatient at times but in this case I'll wait until all of our game pieces are in place. We'll need a drop-off point for the submarine crews once we find them."
"You mean if we find them." Lou replied with caution. "Remember, it's all a large gamble, after all."
"Gamble or not, sir," countered Lee with some desperation coming through in his voice. "We have to try!"
"Don't worry, Captain," said Judith as she walked into the room through the cavern door. "CJ's not a person who gambles but when she does she never looses."
"Is that true?" asked Lee looking over at her.
CJ started to answer but just at that moment a light began to flash next to Lou's monitor at the control panel. She walked past Lee, took a seat in front of the panel, picked up a headset and put it on, flipped a switch and then said softly, "Hello, may I help you?"
"CJ, this is Alexander. I have Senator Carrollton on hold on another line. I explained to him briefly what you want and he's agreed to hear your request. How do you want to proceed?"
"Just a moment, sir, while I talk to someone on this end." Then, she put Bates on hold and turned around to face Crane and replied, "Well, Captain, Mr. Bates was successful and has the Senator on another line. I think it would be best if you took over the conversation and explained what we need. I would prefer if Senator Carrollton didn't find out my identity."
He looked at her and then at Lou's image on the screen. When Emery nodded in agreement, Lee took a seat next to CJ while she resumed her conversation with Bates. "Sir, I have Captain Lee Crane with me. He's the skipper of the missing submarine, Seaview. He'll take over the conversation for now. Thanks so much for your help."
"Any time, my dear." replied Alexander. "Take care."
She handed the headset to Lee and got up to walk restlessly around the room while he talked to Senator Carrollton. In her opinion, this whole scenario was getting off to a very slow start but then, China and Jose exited the Flying Dolphin's top hatch and motioned for her to join them. Rick was still re-arranging the bottom part of the sub to hold three dolphins. He was having trouble with one of the water recyclers and started to bang on a pipe, which resonated loudly in the cavern. CJ closed the cavern door behind her before she went to talk to China and Jose.
"How are things going?" She asked when she reached them.
"Well," said China, "I've repaired the radio and radar detecting device like you wanted plus I re configured the new power coils so that they should be safer if you decide to use them again. I've left my special tool kit on board in case you need to make further adjustments. Just be careful adjusting the speed. Also, I set up a third seat behind the control area for Captain Crane after you pick up Lou."
"Thanks, China. You’re always one step ahead of me."
She smiled at CJ's response and Jose joined the conversation by saying, "I installed the portable monitoring device in front of the second control seat. That way, if necessary, a person can monitor and fly the sub at the same time."
"That's great." shouted CJ loudly as Rick started the banging noise once more. "Now, if Rick can just fix the water recycler, Crane and I should be able to leave soon. He's on the phone now with Senator Carrollton trying to make the necessary changes in command. I'm beginning to understand why years before we met that Lou decided to retire at such an early age from the Navy and devote his life to research."
Suddenly the noise stopped and was followed by Rick's answering, "Finally, now maybe I can fix this sick puppy!"
All three exchange grins before CJ walked up to the lower hatch and looked inside trying to see Rick. "Hey, Adams, maybe if you patted its head more softly, that canine friend of yours wouldn't make so much noise. The three of us are about to go deaf out here."
At that moment he shouted, "CJ, look out."
As she started to move back, a cascade of cold salt water fell from above soaking her from head to toe. She sputtered a few seconds trying to catch her breath. Then, she turned her face upward and stood enjoying the cold shower from the leaking water tap until Rick was able to tighten it again. Laughing with joy, her twinkling eyes met his concerned ones looking down from above. Before too long all of them were laughing about her unexpected shower.
Inside the room next to the cavern, Lee and Judith had observed the unexpected events outside and the resulting laughter. She turned to inform Lou about what was going on while Crane stood and watched CJ. She caught a towel Rick threw to her from above. Her wetsuit had shed most of the water and she was in the process of drying her face and squeezing the water from her braided hair. She turned and noticed him looking at her from inside. She winked at him before she put the towel around her shoulders, grabbed hold of the lower hatch, and with Rick's assistance pulled herself up inside the sub.
Once she disappeared from sight, Lee turned to a smiling Judith beside him. From across the room, he could hear Lou’s chuckling laughter. Suddenly, it hit him what she had done and he began to laugh himself as all of the built up tension from the last two days left him. Now, he was ready to go and hunt for the Seaview. Senator Carrollton was personally going to have the Secretary of Defense inform Admirals Benson and Hawks about the change in command. He also assured him that a special speed-jet plane would be used to fly the Institute's experimental diving bell to the Blackbeard. Lee was a little dazed after their conversation. He hadn’t known that the Senator knew Nelson personally. Also, he wondered why had CJ insisted on being left out of the picture?
While Lee Crane was pondering about CJ and Senator Carrollton, Admiral Harriman Nelson was facing one of the greatest challenges of his life. The latest seaquake had subsided but mud and debris continued to fall from the mountain above onto the disabled Seaview. This continued burying more of the sub and putting extra stress on the outer hull. A few hours ago, the Seaview had lost contact with the Hornet when the rocks broke their makeshift antenna. That sub was on the bottom too but not near a mountain. Nelson just hoped Captain Tompson had better luck sending out a distress call. He knew that the Seaview could withstand a lot but even his magnificent submarine was close to its limit. One more quake like the last one and it would be all over!
Five days before the Seaview entered the area known as the 'Submarine Graveyard'. Nelson wanted to observe the chain of volcanic islands, which had earned the area its name. The amount of lava pouring from the volcanoes had slowed down considerably in the last few months and the Admiral intended to fly close with the FS-1 taking photographs for study. He, along with Chief Sharkey, was ready to start the second mission to observe the volcanoes. Then, Chip Morton informed him that the Seaview's seismograph indicated the largest volcano was erupting and a seaquake was imminent. Nelson ordered Morton to head away from the area at flank speed. He hurried back up to the Control Room while Chief Sharkey headed to the Missile Room. Thanks to Chip's early warning they were far enough away to only sustain minimum damage to a small area of the outer hull when the tidal wave hit. The entire crew breathed a sigh of silent relief after the final damage report was obtained. Once again the Seaview had lived up to her reputation as the fastest sub afloat. The crew on duty in the Control Room was patting each other on the back in jubilation when Sparks received the distress call from Captain Tompson, the skipper of the Hornet.
"Admiral Nelson," He said. "Could you please come to the radio shack? I'm receiving a faint distress call from the Hornet."
Nelson turned quickly and walked to where Sparks sat in front of the radio. Then, the man handed him the headset so that he could hear the weak signal.
Convinced it was Tompson himself sending the message, he turned to Sparks and replied, "Do your best to get a message back to the Hornet and try to obtain their position. Then, inform Santa Barbara that we are on our way back into the 'Submarine Graveyard' in order to try and rescue the Hornet's crew. I'm going to check out the Flying Sub and make sure it's seaworthy in case I have to use it to home in on their signal."
"Aye, sir." He said as he took back his headset from the Admiral.
Twenty minutes later Nelson had almost completed his check of the FS-1 when Sparks' voice came over the intercom. "Admiral, I haven't been able to reach the Hornet. I think their receiver must be damaged. However, I've been able to narrow the search area involved by boosting our own radio receiver."
"Good work, Sparks," replied Nelson into the Flying Sub mike. "Please continue trying to reach the Hornet."
"Very well, sir."
"Mr. Morton." said Nelson into his mike.
"Yes, Admiral." answered Chip from above in the Control Room.
"Please have Chief Sharkey get two flight jackets and meet me in the Flying Sub. Tell him to stop by the Radio Shack and get the coordinates for the search area from Sparks. We'll divide the search between us. I'm going to try and find the Hornet with the FS-1 while you use the Seaview."
"Sir, I'm all for trying to find the Hornet." said Morton. "But our time to search may be short. The seismograph indicates the area is becoming more unstable every minute."
"I understand your concern, Chip," replied Nelson with slight exasperation. "So let's get started, shall we."
"Yes, sir." answered Morton more formally and clicked his mike to contact Chief Sharkey in the Missile Room. "Chief, this is Morton. Please acknowledge."
Seconds later Sharkey's voice came over the sub intercom saying "Yes, Mr. Morton. Sharkey reporting. What do you need?"
"Chief, the Admiral wants you to join him in the Flying Sub. Please obtain two flight jackets and stop by the Control Room to get a copy of the search coordinates."
"On my way, sir." He replied quickly and put his mike back in its holder before turning to head out of the Missile Room's watertight hatch.
He was almost to the Control Room when the Seaview was hit by a second weaker aftershock, which caused the sub to shake slightly from side-to-side. The Chief lost his balance and fell heavily, flat on his backside. He was still rubbing his rump when he entered the Control Room door.
"Are you all right, Chief?" asked seaman Kowalski when he saw the painful look on Sharkey's face.
"Don't ask, kid!" Sharkey retorted sharply, "Just keep your eyes on that seismograph monitor."
"Aye, sir." said Kowalski turning to grin knowingly at Patterson as they both watched Sharkey walk stiffly toward Mr. Morton .
"Mr. Morton, reporting as ordered, sir." said Sharkey.
"Here are the coordinates that the Admiral and you will be searching, Chief." replied Chip. "You'd better get below on the double. He's anxious to get started. Stay in close radio contact. We'll let you know if the seismograph indicates more seaquakes."
Sharkey nodded and hurried to enter the Flying Sub hatch. When he got to the bottom of the sub's ladder, the Chief handed the Admiral his flight jacket and put his own on as he went over to take the alternate control seat. After Nelson was seated and buckled in, he informed Morton to launch the Flying Sub. Sharkey fed the search pattern coordinates into the FS-1 computer and they were on their way.
A few minutes following the launch, the Admiral noticed Sharkey squirming in his seat. Finally, it became distracting and he asked, "Chief, is something wrong? You've been moving around ever since you strapped yourself in. To be honest, it's becoming very annoying!"
"Well, sir. When the Seaview was caught in that last aftershock and tipped side-to-side, I sort of er...had a slight accident."
"Go on, Chief. I'm listening." said Nelson with a slight nod. "Just need to make a small course change."
"I lost my balance, Admiral, and I er...well, I sort of..."
"Chief, stop procrastinating and get to the bottom of whatever you're trying to say. We have a large area to search and not much time to do it."
"That's part of the problem, sir. I fell flat on my backside!"
"Is it serious, Chief?" He asked trying hard not to smile.
"I'll be find, sir. It was more embarrassing than painful and would you believe Kowalski and Patterson noticed that something was wrong as soon as I entered the Control Room!"
"Well, Chief, you've got a very expressive face." replied Nelson with a grin. "Now, let's get serious and find the Hornet."
"I'm with you, sir. The sub's computer contains the data concerning the Hornet's weak radio transmission. I've got the nose camera and sonar on to observe the bottom. However, with all of the wreckage below it will be slow. Just hope Sparks hears something soon from the Hornet."
"So do I, Chief," said Nelson in agreement as he turned the Flying Sub to begin another sweep.
Meanwhile, aboard the Seaview, Chip Morton and the rest of the Seaview crew on duty were working just as hard to locate the Hornet.
"Kowalski," said Morton, "don't take your eyes off of that seismograph for a second. If you notice any change no matter how minute, notify me at once. The Admiral and Sharkey are like sitting ducks out there."
"You can count on me, sir." replied Kowalski with deep sincerity.
"Mr. Morton," shouted Sparks from the Radio Shack. "I've just received an answer from the Hornet. It's a very weak signal but now, I have their location."
Chip ran quickly and grabbed the paper containing the coordinates from Sparks' hand and replied, "Send the location to the Admiral immediately. Also, send a reply to Captain Tompson that we're on our way." Then, he grabbed the nearest mike and shouted into it, "Engineering come to heading 170 and all ahead flank!"
"Aye, aye, sir! Heading 170 and all ahead flank."
Chip felt the Seaview's powerful engines take hold as the submarine's speed increased. He didn't have time to enjoy the feeling because Sparks had the Admiral on the radio. Just as he started to answer, Kowalski shouted out with dread, "Mr. Morton, the seismograph indicates that there's been another eruption!"
"Admiral, Kowalski said there's been another eruption."
"I heard, Chip." replied Nelson with more calm than he was feeling. "We're pretty close. Head back as fast as possible and, hopefully, we'll be able to get aboard before the next seaquake hits!"
"Aye, sir. We're on our way." retorted Morton. Then, he clicked his mike hard and said, "Engineering reverse engines and head back at flank speed. We've got to pick up the Flying Sub before the next tidal wave."
"Engineering, aye. Full reverse and back at flank speed."
Chip and the rest of the crew braced themselves in case the aftershock hit them before they reached the Flying Sub. It seemed like hours instead of minutes before Sparks heard Nelson's voice coming on the emergency radio monitor to say, "Seaview we're right below you. Implement emergency boarding procedures!"
Just seconds after the Flying Sub was on board, the aftershock hit the Seaview. The tidal wave slammed into the submarine broadside and shoved it hard into the side of a small underground mountain. Then, the sub bounced off and began to sink to the bottom. When the boat hit the mountain, it dislodged rocks and mud that tumbled slowly downward to settle on top of the outer hull. By the time the cloudy waters became clearer, the Seaview's stern and half of the bow was completely covered under a deep layer of rocks and mud. Only the conning tower was visible. Amazingly, only a few sections of the submarine flooded and as a result just a small number of the crew were isolated. However, numerous small fires damaged many circuits and control panels and caused the air to fill with smoke which put quite a strain on the air filtration system. The Nuclear Reactor was damaged and because the Seaview was covered with a thermal blanket of mud and debris, it had to be turned down to prevent an overload. Therefore, the power Nelson needed to pull his submarine out wasn't available. Also, all of the escape hatches were covered and it was impossible to launch the Flying Sub or the Mini Sub since the Seaview was on the bottom. As time passed, more seaquakes occurred which caused more debris to fall onto the Seaview burying the submarine deeper inside its muddy coffin.
When Sparks salvaged enough undamaged wires to make contact with the Hornet, Nelson began to have hope that maybe rescue was possible. Tompson answered that his signal was still pretty weak but they would continue to work on boosting its output. He then informed Nelson that the Hornet had sustained a lot of damage and that many of his crew were injured. That's when the seaquakes began again in full force, burying the Seaview deeper and rocking the damaged Hornet. When they finally subsided, Nelson and Tompson limited their calls between the two subs to conserve power. As the hours passed, despair could have built up within the Seaview crew. However, Nelson had picked his men well. Also, the Admiral in the past had always gotten them out of tricky situations and they expected him to do it again. He just hoped he could live up to their expectations. His one secret weapon that kept him going when he felt like passing out from exhaustion was Lee Crane. If possible, that young man would move heaven and earth to rescue them. These thoughts were traveling through the Admiral's mind a few hours ago when the seaquake hit that caused Sparks' makeshift radio to short and burn out the remaining wires. Now, their only hope was the Hornet. He just prayed silently to himself that the volcanic eruptions would subside like they had a few months ago. He knew that the Seaview's outer hull would soon crush inward from the outside weight.
Finally, Chip persuaded Nelson to try to get some rest. So, now he was in his cabin lying on his bunk trying to sleep. For some reason, he suddenly found his mind drifting back to four months ago and the bag fiasco. He was trying to get back to the Institute after a grueling day of teaching when his driver, seaman Stu Riley, wanted to offer a ride to an attractive woman named CJ. He discovered later by accident that his old friend, Lucius Emery, was still alive and involved with her in some way. He tried unsuccessfully to find him by substituting a decoy bag for CJ's. She returned the substitute through a friend of hers named Judith Bates. It contained a few surprises for Nelson that infuriated him until he found the money that she included inside. The decoy bag was discarded but he still had CJ's bag and the money inside his safe. As he finally drifted to sleep, he dreamed of a smiling CJ and the wink and salute she gave him just before jumping off Barnswell cliff. When Chip entered his cabin later to check on him, he saw that Nelson was asleep and his face contained a big smile. Sighing with relief, Morton left and closed the door quietly after him.
When Chip was checking on Nelson thousands of miles away, CJ and Lee Crane were buckling themselves into the control seats aboard the Flying Dolphin. Rick had fixed the water recycler and now stood with Judith, China and Jose looking through the observation glass inside the Control Room next to the cavern. He'd already started the controls that filled the cavern with water and the room was half full. The Flying Dolphin was disconnected from the ceiling support hooks and the lower rock support was flush with the cavern floor. Soon, her four friends saw the sub disappear as she guided the FD-1 into the natural water canal under the Old Mansion
Ten minutes later, CJ's flying sub entered open water. She was building up speed to become airborne when Lee looked over at the console in front of him and asked, "How long do you think it will take us to reach your salvage vessel?"
"Well, it took me about five hours to reach the states with my heavy load of artifacts earlier. We should be able to make better time now that the sub is empty."
He turned his head sharply in her direction and retorted, "Five hours? Are you sure it will take that long with the distance we have to travel?"
"I’ve already said we would be able to make better time, Captain. However, I’m not a magician and able to pull a rabbit out a hat. The distance we have to travel isn’t going to vanish just because we are in a hurry!"
"According to your friend, Judith, that’s exactly what you are with this fantastic new flying sub of yours. She said you could win hands down if the two were in a race. That means only one thing to me...you must have developed a new power source."
Stunned, CJ continued to prepare her sub for flight while she thought hard of how to respond to the man’s questions..."Why hadn’t Judes told her she’d revealed some very critical information to this stranger?"
Lee sighed inwardly as he watched the woman not bat an eye at his news. "Either Ms. Bates had lied to get him about the flying sub’s power source to find out the location where the Seaview went down or the woman beside him was very good at hiding her emotions. No matter. He was determined to get her to use the new power source if it existed. Every minute counted if his crew was still alive!"
While Crane was trying to come up with a way to get her to reveal the new power source, CJ was wrestling with her own conscious. "If she used China’s power coils, it could save lives but her first loyalty was to her friend and that she remain safe. However, she kept remembering Riley’s bright smile and Nelson’s laugh when he found the money in the phony bag."
Finally, she said two words, "Brace yourself."
Then, she leaned sideways and turned some knobs located on the wall beside her to turn on the radar-blocking device and to heat China's power coils. When the cabin filled with a sound that reminded Crane of small buzzing insects, he was thrown back heavily against his seat as the Flying Dolphin broke through the sea surface and headed skyward. When he recovered his equilibrium, Lee looked over at CJ in disbelief to find her in complete control of the fast flying sub.
She said, "Sorry, Captain, but I did tell you to brace yourself!"
He leaned forward to check the sub's current speed and gasped. In a shaky voice, he asked, "Is it safe to be traveling this fast? We could hit a passenger airplane or jet fighter before we could stop!"
"Don't worry. We're too high to hit anything of that nature."
When Crane saw the altimeter, he leaned back, shook his head, and said, "Your friend, Judith, wasn't lying. In a race the Flying Dolphin could fly circles around the Admiral's FS-l!"
"Well, Judes does tend to exaggerate at times but she never lies. In this case, I suggest you keep this knowledge to yourself. I may be willing to help you find your submarine and rescue your crew but I’m not about to let my friend’s life be put in danger over it. I’m sure Admiral Nelson has many inventions that you have to keep under wraps. All I ask is that you give me the same courtesy. "
Lee nodded in agreement but his face lost some of its animation as he thought of Nelson. He turned to CJ and remarked, "You keep acting like it's a sure thing that we're going to find the Seaview. Even Emery thinks it's a big gamble."
"I agree with him and that's why I know we're going to find your submarine. I didn't have a chance to answer your question earlier because we were interrupted by Judes' grandfather's phone call."
"What question was that?" asked Lee settling back in his seat once more.
"The question concerning my luck at winning when I gamble. Judes told you that I always win and you asked me if it was true!"
"Yes. I don't like to gamble but when I do, for some reason, I always win!"
Lee shook his head in wonder at the woman beside him and found himself stifling a yawn as everything suddenly caught up with him. Soon after their brief conversation about gambling and CJ's unusual luck, Lee found himself dozing off due to the smooth rhythm of the Flying Dolphin. When he became quiet, CJ looked over and smiled. Crane's head was turned slightly to one side and his eyes were closed. For the next two hours while he dozed, she put the sub on autopilot only once to use the portable bathroom on board. The rest of the time she kept manual control in case Lou's data was wrong.
She had plenty of time to think while Crane slept. By agreeing to help this man try and rescue his crew, she was taking a step that she had been avoiding for years. Up until now, she had taken a backseat to being in public letting others take care of that role for her. She valued her privacy and it allowed her to travel without the problem of being recognized. However, the decision had been taken out of her hands when Judes committed them to this venture.
Soon, she was ready to descend to where her salvage boat, the Dreamcatcher, that was currently uncovering ancient artifacts from the ocean bottom. So Crane would be prepared for the descent, CJ leaned over and gently touched his shoulder.
He jerked awake immediately and said, "What's wrong? How long have I been asleep?"
"Nothing's wrong, Captain, and you've been asleep for about two hours. I just wanted you to be awake when we began our descent downward."
"We're there already?" He asked as he stretched and rubbed the crick out of his neck.
"Yes, I was about to call Lou and tell him we're coming down."
"Did you get any rest?" He asked as he looked at her face that seemed as animated as ever.
"I don't need much sleep and I've been sitting most of this day, anyway. Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to contact Lou."
As she bent and clicked the radio around her neck, Crane continued to watch her closely to see if she was telling the truth. If they found the Seaview, she would be under a lot of stress ferrying the crew topside.
"Lou, this is CJ. CJ to Dreamcatcher. Come in please."
"Young’un, this is Lou. You made fantastic time. We're ready on this end. Everyone is out of the water waiting for your descent."
"We'll be down in ten minutes. CJ out."
Then, she leaned sideways again and turned two knobs. Lee heard the buzzing insect sound once more as the power coils wound down to slow their speed. Soon the blue of a bright, late afternoon sky and white clouds replaced the bleakness of the upper atmosphere as the Flying Dolphin entered Earth's lower atmosphere and headed for a small ship below. It became larger as CJ skimmed just above the sea surface and came in for a close landing in the sea beside the ship. Then, before she cut the power to the Flying Dolphin, hooks came out of the side next to the Dreamcatcher and attached to the ship. Following this, she quickly unbuckled herself from the control seat, stood up and headed for the upper hatch ladder. Lee was only a few seconds behind her and was half way up the ladder when someone cracked the top hatch letting in bright sunlight that temporarily blinded him. When he could see once more, Crane saw Lou Emery's scraggly face staring down at him. His right arm was in a sling but that didn't stop him from practically pulling CJ physically out of the open hatch and enveloping her in a big bear hug, which she returned wholeheartedly.
Then, Emery released her and leaned down to say, "Come on out, Captain, and meet the rest of our friendly horde."
Lee smiled up at him, climbed the rest of the way up the ladder, and took Lou's offered hand of assistance. After Crane was out on top of the sub, he looked around in time to see a young girl come bounding out a doorway on the Dreamcatcher and jump into CJ's arms. She was small and had long light brown hair like CJ's. Two other girls approached her more slowly. One was a little older than the girl in her arms while the other was definitely in the early stages of womanhood. Lee judged her age to be close to seventeen or older. Her hair was blond while the other girl's was a darker brown. Both wore bright smiles of greeting for the woman currently twirling around with a squealing child in her arms.
Finally, CJ stopped and put her down beside the other two. About this time a young man closer to CJ's age came out of the doorway with a woman by his side. It was obvious that these two were the parents of the three girls because of the family resemblance. However, there was a family connection because the little girl looked an awful lot like CJ.
Part of Crane's question was answered when the dark haired young man shouted out, "Hey, Shorty, what took you so long?"
"I came as fast as I could, Stringbean, but I had to pick up a passenger on the way."
The man's retort was drowned out by the serenade of dolphin sounds as three water bound bottle-nosed beauties broke the sea surface and leaped into the air. One was much smaller but its leap was nearly as high. CJ turned to the sound and her face took on a beautiful glow. She leaned down and spoke something to the little girl, which caused her to run quickly inside. Seconds later she returned with two miniature breathing apparatuses, one small and one slightly larger. After CJ helped the little girl put hers on, she put one on herself, took the child in her arms once more, and leaped off the Dreamcatcher into the sea. Then, Lee watched in fascination as the dolphins surrounded the two humans. The little girl leaned out and put one arm half way around the smaller dolphin while CJ's free arm went around the other side. As they went below the surface, the two larger dolphins leaped once more into the air and disappeared as well.
Crane turned to ask Lou what was going on and saw his eyes contained tears of joy. Stunned, Lee didn't say a word but Emery answered him by saying, "Captain, CJ and Tiff will be gone for awhile. I might as well do the honors and introduce you to part of her family. Then, if you're in agreement, we should load the extra equipment aboard the Flying Dolphin."
Lee nodded mutely and followed Emery aboard to meet people who, hopefully, would give him more clues about this mysterious woman named CJ.
While Lee Crane was being introduced to CJ's nephew, Frank ‘J’, his wife Sarah, and their two daughters, Serena and Carly, CJ and little Tiffany were having the time of their lives swimming and mentally communing with the dolphins below the sea. For the last three years Lou Emery had devoted his life trying to understand the strange relationship between CJ and the two dolphins, Salt and Pepper. It was this unusual relationship that led to his rescue when his research vessel, the Baton Rouge, was overwhelmed by a typhoon near the Hawaiian Islands. CJ developed the same mental relationship with Cocoa the minute she was born. Lou was quite shocked when Tiffany, CJ's great-niece, also developed the same unusual bond with Cocoa. He thought it must be genetic. When he suggested the possibility to CJ, she just smiled but didn’t disagree. He hoped, if Lee Crane found out accidentally, he would agree to keep CJ's secret. It would be a small price to pay if they found the Seaview.
Less than an hour later, CJ with Lou Emery, Captain Lee Crane, and three bottle-nosed dolphins were aboard the Flying Dolphin heading south toward the area known as the 'Submarine Graveyard'. Lou sat beside CJ and Crane behind him. Since Emery's right arm was injured, they both agreed that once the Flying Dolphin boarded the aircraft carrier, the Blackbeard, Lou would stay on board while Lee went with CJ to run the portable monitor.
Before she left the Dreamcatcher, CJ and her nephew, Frank, had a private conversation. After the Flying Dolphin departed, he and his family pulled in all of the equipment being used for the current salvage. Then, he warmed up the Dreamcatcher's engines, turned on China's power coils, and moved out on the same heading as CJ and her crew. Once he was underway, he made two calls letting others connected with their salvage company know the latest news. After he finished, he said a silent prayer that circumstances wouldn’t arise that would require their assistance.
As the Flying Dolphin neared its destination, Admiral Harriman Nelson's prayers were answered because the volcanic eruption in the near island chain was slowing down. If the conditions continued, CJ and Crane would have calmer seas to search.
When the flying sub got close enough to the Blackbeard to establish radio contact, Admiral Bruce Hawks was wondering what had prompted Ames Howard, the Secretary of Defense, to place a call to him personally this late at night. He had his hands full trying to keep his planes from washing overboard in the rough waters as they landed but now here he stood waiting for seaman Gleason to transfer the radio transmission to his quarters.
Soon, the light began to flash on his intercom. He picked up his phone and said, "Mr. Gleason, I’m ready to take the Secretary’s call. Please put this on high priority scramble."
"Aye, aye, sir." I’ve already put it on scramble."
"Good. Thank you, Mr. Gleason."
"Secretary Howard, this is Admiral Hawks. What can I do for you, sir?"
"Admiral, I’m calling to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances Admiral Gene Benson is no longer in charge of the Seaview and Hornet search. Since you’re the highest-ranking officer in the region, you've been promoted to that position. Furthermore, a special diving bell from Nelson’s Institute of Marine Research is being flown to the Blackbeard by speed-jet and should arrive by morning. Also, Captain Lee Crane, skipper of the Seaview, will be coming sometime tonight. He has access to an updated flying sub called the Flying Dolphin. I’ve been told it’s a civilian vessel volunteering to help with the search. You’re to give Crane and his crew complete autonomy."
"Complete autonomy, sir?"
"Yes, those are your orders, Admiral Hawks. I think you will understand more when you meet his crew. Now, I must go, Admiral. Good luck and God's speed!"
"Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best to find the subs."
After Hawks hung up his phone, he stood for a few minutes absorbing the news. He wasn’t surprised that Benson had been replaced, but was stunned that he, Admiral Bruce Hawks, considered to be a maverick and dreamer, was his replacement. Many in Washington thought that Hawks was too lenient with his crew. When he came up with the new name, the Blackbeard, for his older aircraft carrier, the last of his remaining supporters shook their heads in disbelief.
The only person to personally congratulate him after the naming ceremony was Admiral Harriman Nelson. He admired Hawks’ courage and told him so by slapping him on the back and saying with a sly look in his eye, "Bruce, I always had my suspicions that you had the heart of a pirate. Now, there’s no doubt."
Bruce grinned at Nelson’s words and expressed his gratitude by replying, "Harry, thanks for your support. If there’s ever anything the crew of the Blackbeard can do for the Seaview, just let me know. However, first hide your women and lock up the treasure chests. You know how hard it is to keep control of a rebellious crew if you’re too hard on them!"
"Amen to that." Nelson said in agreement for he was considered by many to be as guilty as Hawks when it came to being lenient with his crew. However, it was easier for him because the Seaview was civilian but Hawks’ Blackbeard was Navy.
When Hawks heard about the Seaview’s dilemma, he volunteered the Blackbeard and its crew for the search. However, high seas from volcanic seaquakes prevented all vessels involved from doing much for the last two days. Yet, his crewman assigned to seismograph duty notified Hawks that the volcanic eruptions in the island chain were slowing down. If this news was true, Crane and his flying sub might actually have a chance of finding the Seaview and the Hornet. Benson had refused to commit more submarines to the area until the seas calmed down. He reasoned that if Nelson’s submarine couldn’t withstand the tidal waves other subs wouldn’t have any better chance of doing so. Hawks regretfully had agreed with him but now things were looking up.
Hawks reverie was interrupted when seaman Gleason notified him that Captain Lee Crane was on the radio asking for permission to land on the Blackbeard. He quickly told Gleason to give permission and headed to the outer deck to greet Crane personally. Hawks was eager to see this updated flying sub and meet its mysterious crew, especially that had the courage to name it the Flying Dolphin.
When Hawks reached his destination, he looked skyward to see a wonderful event in progress. The forward lights of the Blackbeard caught the Flying Dolphin in their sights. However, instead of making a landing approach, the sub bypassed the Blackbeard and slowed to a standstill hovering on the port side close to the pitching water’s surface. Then, the large, strange looking attachment hooked to the bottom of the flying sub opened wide and three dolphins jumped out and into the rough sea. A few minutes later after the bottom closed, the Flying Dolphin rose quickly into the air, turned sharply, and headed back toward the Blackbeard. As the sub landed smartly on the pitching aircraft carrier, Hawks and many of his surface duty crew looked on in admiration. The pilot of the Flying Dolphin had to be quite skilled to land on the flight deck in this weather.
When the flying sub was secure, the top hatch opened and Lee Crane looked out. After catching sight of Admiral Hawks, he waved and shouted out, "Permission to come aboard, sir."
Hawks grinned and replied, "Permission, granted Captain."
Lee nodded and crawled out onto the surface of the sub followed by another man. His arm was in a sling and therefore Crane assisted him a little in manipulating down the side of the submarine. He was a tall man with a bright red beard and long hair which was pulled back from his face in a severe ponytail. For some reason, he looked very familiar to Hawks. Suddenly, another person crawled out onto top of the sub and slammed down the hatch before standing on top of the sub. Hawks looked on in disbelief as it hit him that the third person to exit the sub was a young woman. Crane and the other man looked up and watched as she lowered her body to a sitting position and slid smoothly down the sub surface to land neatly on her feet beside them. Then, the three of them walked in Hawks’ direction. The deck lights caught them full in the face a couple of times before they reached him. Therefore, Hawks was able to get a better look at the man with the fiery red beard. Suddenly, Bruce recognized him. He was retired Admiral Lucius Emery who was supposed to have been lost at sea in a typhoon three years earlier.
Hawks was still reeling with his discovery when the three of them reached him. Emery looked at Hawks’ pale face and noted the recognition and disbelief registered in the man’s eyes. Therefore, he approached him slowly, held out his left hand, and said, "You’re right, Bruce. It’s really me, Lucius Emery, in the flesh. I’m alive and well!"
"But everybody thought you were dead. Nelson searched for weeks trying to find you. He really took your supposed death very hard, Emery. Why in the world didn’t you let him or anyone else know you were alive?"
"I had my reasons, Bruce, and I don’t intend going into them now. I’m here to try and see if the Young’un and I can find the Seaview. Maybe it will help make up for all of the pain I, apparently, caused him."
Lee saw the beginning of an argument in progress and decided to intercede before it got too heated by saying, "Admiral Hawks, I would like to introduce you to, CJ, the pilot and co-owner of the Flying Dolphin. She’s also in charge of the three water bound members of our crew."
Hawks turned to the woman named CJ and took a closer look. He was so shocked to see Emery that everything else on his mind took a back seat. What he saw was impressive. She was about five and one-half feet tall and quite pretty with gorgeous blue-green eyes that seemed to look right through him to his inner soul. Her long, light brown hair was braided and hung down her back past her waist. He was surprised to see she was dressed in a tight fitting, blue wetsuit that covered her entire body except for her hands and head. However, he silently reasoned this was practical dress for someone who worked with dolphins.
He wasn’t the only one being appraised. CJ looked at him with a thoughtful expression on her face. As she continued to gaze at him, she let out an inner sigh of relief. "Apparently, her two passengers had made a good choice for he seemed to have recovered pretty quickly after seeing a ghost from the past!"
Finally, she held out her hand and said with deep sincerity, "Admiral Hawks, it’s an honor to meet you, sir. Your reputation proceeds you. Captain Crane and Lou have told me a little about you and your aircraft carrier, the Blackbeard, and how you volunteered to help find the Seaview and the Hornet. I hope you won’t mind me saying, sir, but I think she’s a very impressive ship, very impressive indeed."
Hawks held out his hand in reflex to take CJ’s while he looked down into her face to see if she was buttering him up for some reason. However, the honest awe he saw in her eyes made him say with some of his own. "You’re really the pilot of that flying sub?"
"Yes, sir. I have to admit I’m the one who landed it so sloppily on your deck."
"Young lady, if you consider that a sloppy landing, I’d like to see one you regard as a perfect one!"
The smile that appeared on CJ’s face after Hawks’ response would have melted the polar icecap. She responded by saying, "Thank you, Admiral, for the compliment. I think everyone is always striving to reach perfection. It’s when they stop, that life gets boring." Suddenly, she turned her head to face the port side of the Blackbeard and looked out to sea. Her face tensed as she turned quickly to Emery and said, "I’m afraid Cocoa’s scared and in trouble, Lou. I'm going to have to go out into the sea and check on her. Captain, I'll need you to pilot the Flying Dolphin after you drop me off. Lou can assist if you have any problems controlling her."
After dropping her bombshell, CJ turned and ran back into the direction of her flying sub leaving two dumbfounded men standing with Emery.
Admiral Hawks turned to Lou in concern and said, "What did she mean by saying she knows the baby dolphin's in trouble? How on earth does she know that?"
He sighed and replied, "The Young’un has above average hearing that she inherited from her mother. I'll explain more later. Captain, we need to get back to the Flying Dolphin before she takes off without us." Then, he turned and headed at a fast pace back towards the sub.
Crane's puzzlement grew as he glanced at Admiral Hawks and muttered, "Sorry, sir." Then, he proceeded to follow Emery at a dead run. When he got to the sub, the deck crew had already taken away the moorings and the engines were turned on. Once inside, he found CJ suited up with air tanks, etc., ready for a dive into the sea.
He went up to her and retorted quickly, "CJ, this is insane. I've never flown a flying sub with this much power. I could crash it into the ocean."
She just glared at him, slipped off her air tanks and seated herself in the control chair. Then, before Crane had a chance to take his seat next to her, the Flying Dolphin was airborne. He was able to grab onto the chair and pull himself in as the sub shot out once more over the turbulent sea.
When they were at a safe distance from the Blackbeard, CJ locked the flying sub into the hovering position, set the brakes, and hit the knob to open the bottom hatch. Before she dove into the sea, the woman faced Crane. Her blue-green eyes sparkled in the fluorescent light. They contained a look filled with concern and excitement at the same time. For a few seconds before she jumped, their eyes met. He was amazed when she winked back at him. He was still absorbing what she had done as he took over the control of her powerful flying sub. "DAMNIT if she wasn’t looking forward to jumping into the pitching sea! Either she was the craziest person he’d ever met or the bravest. He wasn’t sure which but if they survived this mission, he was determined to find out more about her."
Back on the Blackbeard's deck, Admiral Hawks was witness once more to the Flying Dolphin expelling something from the bottom into the pitching waters. This time it was a human diver with long braided hair.
While Hawks watched CJ, back on the FD-1 Lou observed Crane as he slowly turned his seat back to face the bow and buckle himself securely. With a slight smile, he observed the young man as he turned the power controls to their lowest setting, detached the brakes and hovering knobs, and with jerky movements slowly take control of the flying sub.
After he was well away from where CJ jumped into the sea, Lee turned the sub and headed straight down. Once below the surface, he asked in a slightly shaky voice, "What now? Do we just sit here and wait for her or do we cruise around?"
"We'll wait, Captain. The Young’un will pound on the lower hatch when she's ready to come on board."
"I’m curious about something. Even with above average hearing, how's it possible for CJ to know the baby dolphin's in trouble?"
Before Lou could answer, sound entered the sub from the external hydrophone. In addition to the dolphin clicks, there was another unusual sound. Lee looked at the recorder in puzzlement. Mixed in with the lines indicating dolphin recordings was another almost identical one.
Alarm filled Emery when he saw Crane observing the recorder chart. However, he decided to ignore it, hoping Lee wouldn't be able to figure out what was occurring in the sea. He decided a distraction was necessary and replied, "How did it feel to be in control of such a powerful sub, Captain?"
Keeping his attention on the recorder chart, Lee said absently, "It was a heady experience but one I could've passed up if it meant putting the rescue mission in jeopardy." Then, he leaned forward closer to the hydrophone and continued with growing excitement in his voice, "What in the world's going on? This chart's recordings are wild. If I didn't know better, I'd say CJ's talking to the dolphins in their own language."
"Don't be ridiculous. It must be electronic interference from the Blackbeard or the volcanic eruptions causing the hydrophone to pick up those strange sounds."
"I doubt it with a sub as sophisticated as this with all of its modern equipment. Emery, I want to know what’s going on and I want to know now!"
"Captain, if you want this rescue mission to continue, I suggest that you forget what you've just seen."
"Are you threatening me?"
"Take it any way you want but I'll do whatever is necessary to protect the Young’un and her dolphins!"
Lee was about to say more when a pounding started on the lower hatch. With contained anger, he hit the knob to open it and released the straps holding him in the control chair. Then, he rose and walked to the hatch. He reached down and took CJ's hand and pulled upward so hard that she practically flew into the sub to stand beside him. While she removed her diving gear, he went to the starboard side of the sub and pulled a towel out of a small cabinet built in the wall. As she turned to face him, he threw it at her with some force. She caught it, wiped her face, and started drying her hair while she watched Crane with puzzlement.
While he stood silently fuming, CJ turned to Lou and asked, "Is something wrong?"
"Young’un, we have a problem. The hydrophone was on and our dear Captain is demanding to know what was occurring out there in the sea between you and the dolphins! He got quite upset when I told him to forget about it!"
She turned to look at Crane and stood thoughtfully watching him as she continued to dry her hair. "In her opinion, the stress was catching up with him and he was nearing the breaking point and in no condition to hear that she could communicate with dolphins! Maybe he might drop the matter if she just ignored him."
Deciding to see if it would work, she went to a side wall panel, opened it and stored her diving gear inside. Following this, she made her way back to the control seat and sat down intending to strap herself in.
When Lee saw that she was going to ignore him, he decided to confront her and went to where she was sitting. He jerked the seat around to face him and at that moment, her calm eyes so much like Nelson's looked up at him. Suddenly, uncontrollable rage filled him and he lost complete control. He griped CJ's arms, pulled her out of the chair, and began to shake her.
Lou growled out in anger while trying to unbuckle himself from the alternate control seat with his left hand, "Crane, you fool! "Let go of her."
Before Lou could get up to stop Lee, CJ took action of her own. She didn't want to hurt him so she bent her knees until her back calves were against the control seat. Then, she threw her weight forward against the man. As he lost his balance, her feet made contact with the chair. She pushed hard against it and they both fell back onto the sub's hard floor. When she landed on top of him, he gasped and he let go of her as the collision knocked the wind out of him. Once free, she rolled to one side and came up on her hands and knees breathing hard.
By this time, Emery was up and heading toward CJ. When he reached her side, he leaned down, touched her shoulder, and said with concern, "Young’un, are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Just a little out of breath. How's Lee?"
Lou looked over at the man, who was in the process of sitting up, and growled out, "If he's lucky, you knocked him unconscious. What possessed him anyway? He was acting like a wild man!"
CJ started to reply when she saw Crane reach out to grab Lou’s leg in an attempt to pull him down. She cursed under her breath as Emery kicked his arm away and nearly lost his balance. Lee retaliated by rolling hard against him and he went sailing against the topside ladder. Luckily, he hit it with his uninjured side and avoided hurting his sore arm. As Lou regained his balance for the second time, Crane stood ready to finish him off. That’s when a hand grabbed his arm in a grip of steel and jerked him around. The next thing he knew, he was sailing through the air and landed once more on his back on the hard sub floor.
When his ears stopped ringing and his eyes could focus, he looked up to find CJ looking down at him. Lou stood next to her. His facial expression was filled with anger while hers was filled with concern. Then, much to his surprise, she reached out a hand to help him to his feet. He was amazed at her strength as she pulled him up from the floor.
After she released him, Emery grabbed his arm with his good hand and growled out, "You try anything like that again, you bastard, and I’ll break your jaw.!"
In response, Lee jerked his arm free and looked like he was ready to start the fight all over again. Lou stepped back away from him and raised his good arm. His hand was clinched in a fist ready to throw a punch in defense.
Filled with disbelief, CJ stepped between them. After eyeing both of them, she said in a voice filled with determination, "This will stop NOW! Have you both forgotten why we are here in the first place?"
A sheepish look appeared on Lou’s face and he turned away in embarrassment while Crane’s face turned deathly pale and he shut his eyes as the room started to spin around him. Then, once more strong hands gripped his arms but this time instead of sailing through the air, he was lead to a chair and helped into it. He took in a deep breath as his head was pushed down toward his knees. Minutes passed before the feeling of nausea left him and he raised his head.
Then, CJ’s soft voice said with concern, "Lee, are you OK?"
Filled with shame, he looked away and muttered, "Yes, I’ll be fine......sorry.......no excuse....but when you just ignored me well.....guess things just caught up with me."
She sat down in the control seat beside him and said, "I’m the one who should be apologizing, Captain. I could tell you were really upset. Thought maybe you might let the matter drop about the dolphins if I just ignored you. However, I should have known that only a man as stubborn as Nelson could work for him."
He turned his head and stared at her in surprise. He was further stunned when she replied, "Lou, I think we should tell him the truth about my relationship with the dolphins and why I brought them along. That way I won’t have to pretend and waste precious energy when we start looking for the subs."
Lou stared at her in shock, and retorted, "Young’un, are you crazy? How do you know he won't take advantage of the knowledge sometime in the future? Think about little Tiff. Do you want to put her in danger?"
Crane looked at both of them and replied, "I'm sorry, Lou. CJ's right about why I lost control. However, it's no excuse for what I did! If it's safer to keep her secret, don't tell me. Now, I think we should head back to the Blackbeard."
In response to his apology, Lou nodded and sat down in the empty chair and strapped himself in. He did the same and expected CJ to turn off the autopilot and return to the Blackbeard. However, she turned her seat to face Emery and him seated opposite and said, "Lee, will you give me your word that you will never, intentionally, repeat what I'm about to say?"
"If you'll still help me find the Seaview, I'll agree to anything!" Crane replied with deep emotion.
"Giving me your word has nothing to do with helping find the Seaview. Lou and I are already committed to the search. However, if you know my secret, it could be beneficial to all of us."
Lou looked at CJ's determined face and knew she had made her decision. Yet, he couldn't help asking, "Young’un, you're sure about this? We've spent the last three years protecting that secret knowing what the consequences could be!"
CJ looked at Lou's concerned face, nodded silently, and smiled. Then, she turned to face Crane once more with the silent question still hanging between them.
He looked at her beautiful face and replied with conviction, "You have my word!"
"Very well, Captain, I suggest that you listen closely with an open mind while I tell you a modified version of what you were hearing on the hydrophone earlier. Later, when we have more time, I may tell you more."
He nodded and sat back as she began her story.
Fifteen minutes later with a very dazed submarine commander on board, the Flying Dolphin reappeared and headed back towards the Blackbeard. Soon, the sub was again settled on the aircraft carrier and secured by waiting crewmen. This time when the three of them departed the upper hatch, the two men climbed down and waited on the Blackbeard deck to catch CJ after she slid down the side of the Flying Dolphin. Then, they slowly walked towards Admiral Bruce Hawks hand-in-hand, Lou on CJ's right and Lee on her left.
As Hawks watched them, each time the lights captured Crane's face it showed a look of peace and conviction that was lacking before they left. Apparently, something happened between the takeoff and return of the Flying Dolphin that deeply affected him. Bruce also noticed how possessively the man held CJ's hand in his. Lou perceived this as well and sighed deep inside with relief. "The Young’un had spun her web once again. This time the capture was a good and trustful one. The way he reacted to the Young’un's news about her special relationship with Cocoa and her parents, Salt and Pepper, surprised him. Maybe it was because the young man spent so much time with Nelson on the Seaview that he was able to consider the impossible things he had been told about CJ and her dolphins. Now, Emery just hoped that Hawks wouldn’t question them about how the Young’un knew about the young dolphin’s distress."
However, the man was more interested in knowing the plan of attack in mind to find the Hornet and the Seaview. He said as much a few minutes later when they reached a room filled with tables, chairs, and wall maps. He pointed to one with a circled area and said, "To the best of our knowledge the Seaview was located at this position when the Institute at Santa Barbara received Nelson's message about the Hornet. At that time, the Hornet was able to transmit but not receive. Therefore, we presume Nelson was going to try and home in on their radio signal."
Lee sighed and replied, "It's logical, sir, to assume that the Admiral would speed up the search by using the Flying Sub along with the Seaview. So, we may be looking for three subs instead of two. If that's the case, the crew of the FS-l could be dead by now due to lack of oxygen."
"It makes more sense that Harry would've kept the Flying Sub on the Seaview," argued Lou, "because of the dangerous conditions!"
"What I want to know," Hawks interjected, "is how the three of you expect to find the Seaview in that large area of wrecks already lining the ocean bottom."
CJ had kept quiet studying the map thoughtfully while Lou and Lee argued about the possible number of subs. She was glad that Admiral Hawks came right to the point and let him know by saying, "Sir, about four months ago, I played a practical joke on Admiral Nelson by giving him money that contained a special powerful micro transmitter. He had no knowledge of this and put the money in his safe aboard the Seaview. Lee has assured me that the money is still there. Therefore, I had a portable receiver built and installed on the Flying Dolphin. Also, my dolphins have been conditioned to react to the micro transmitter's frequency. Between the two, our chances of finding the Seaview are increased. Furthermore, in my opinion animals are more sensitive to environmental changes than mechanical devices. Therefore, I will have a more accurate time point of how long we can search before another major volcanic eruption occurs in the island chain. I think the plan of attack is simple and straightforward. You said Nelson was going back into the 'Submarine Graveyard' to try and find the Hornet by homing in on their radio signal. If the Seaview was in the circled position and Nelson did use the FS-l and the Seaview as Lee suggested, they would each have covered 180 degrees by dividing up the area between the two subs. We could follow the same plan and use our flying sub and my dolphins."
Admiral Hawks looked at CJ's face for a few seconds after her explanation and cleared his throat at a lost for words. Finally, he said, "Young lady, just how well do you know Harriman Nelson?"
CJ smiled and replied, "I was in a car with the man and his driver for about forty minutes and we said a total of two sentences between us. I insulted him, unintentionally, by ordering instead of asking him to have his driver proceed to my destination. My dolphin was in labor and I was worried about the birth. Then, I complicated things further at our first meeting by jumping off Barnswell cliff. Guess you could say our brief meeting went down hill from there!"
Hawks shook his head and laughed out loud at CJ's subtle pun. He looked down into her twinkling eyes and responded, "Well, you have to admit that your exits are a little dramatic!"
"Sir, I apologize for my quick departure earlier and will extend the same to Nelson when I see him again. However, if a friend of mine's in trouble, I don't hesitate to go to their aid. Also, I guess I'm a bit crazy because I love the giddy feeling of free fall that makes most people nauseous."
"Those dolphins must be very dear to you!"
"Bruce, that's an understatement," retorted Lou with a lopsided grin.
The man had watched Hawks' face while the Young’un explained to him how they hoped to find Nelson and her plan of attack. At first he seemed skeptical, but as she continued on with her speech, his eyes became glued to the map as the plan took form before his eyes. When she finished, Hawks was flabbergasted because she resembled Harry so much during her explanation. Even her stance and mannerisms mimicked his as she expounded with reasons why Admiral Nelson would follow the plan. Lou could understand why Bruce was stunned and asked her how well she knew Nelson. Until now, he never really noticed how much she was like his old friend. He also noticed the surprise that appeared for a few minutes on Crane's face. The man probably assumed that he had told her a lot about Harry. Little did Lee know that this was not the case.
Hawks cleared his throat once more and stated, "Well, now that we seem to have a plan of attack when do you plan to start the search?"
CJ smiled and said, "I vote for as soon as possible after we've had something to eat, of course. Lee must be starved. I think the last food he had was one of my cold sandwiches and a cup of coffee."
"Sounds good to me too, Bruce," replied Lou. "Lead the way."
A short time later, Lee finished his last bit of food and washed it down with a cold drink of water that tasted like chlorine on the rocks and smiled across the table at CJ. She'd devoured a large vegetable salad and strawberry yogurt. Now, the apple she crunched finished off her meal. He was very surprised when Hawks was able to accommodate her requested food. Lou was already finished with his meal and presently conferring with the Blackbeard's radio technician. They were making last minute adjustments between the aircraft carrier and the Flying Dolphin.
So, for now the two of them were alone and Lee decided to raise a question that had been bothering him. "CJ, I'm curious. How are you going to convince Admiral Hawks about the dolphins part in this search?"
She turned her gorgeous eyes to his face and said between crunches, "I've already taken care of it. I told him about the small radio transmitters located under their skin and how it’s hooked up to a monitor on the Flying Dolphin. He already knew about them being trained to react to the micro transceiver's frequency so he accepted my explanation. I hate to lie out right. All I told him is true but Lou only uses it when I'm not around. During this search, I'm going to be very busy physically and mentally until we find the subs. So, you're going to have to keep in contact with Lou on the Blackbeard plus run the portable monitor."
Lee nodded in agreement and then brought up a subject that had been on his mind ever since the map room. "Lou and you must have had long conversations about many people from his past, especially Admiral Nelson. I've never met a person who could read him so well."
CJ looked across the table at Lee in genuine puzzlement as she responded. "Lou and I briefly discussed Nelson when it became obvious that he had recognized him after Barnswell cliff but that's all. What do you mean that I can read Nelson so well? I barely know the man."
"By the way you told Hawks earlier about how to go about the planning the search when we were in the map room."
"Oh that. I just listed all of the negative and positive aspects of the problem at hand in my mind and came up with what would be the most obvious to use with what's at our disposal. If Nelson didn't use the Flying Sub, the search would've been longer. It seemed logical that a man of his rank would follow the one I listed. I just hope that if he did use the FS-l, he was back on board when the Seaview went down. I really do want to offer him a ride in the Flying Dolphin with China's power coils at their highest setting so I can see the expression on his face!"
Lee couldn't help laughing out loud after CJ had finished her last sentence. He started to respond that she honestly did in many ways remind him of the Admiral but Lou and Hawks came back in the room at that moment and the chance was lost.
"Well, all is ready at this end, Young’un." said Lou. "Now, it's up to the two of you and the dolphins."
Hawks watched CJ nod silently in agreement as she rose from her chair and, with Lee Crane at her side, headed to the Flying Dolphin. A few minutes later, Emery and Hawks stood watching as the young spirited woman guided her flying sub in the air and dove toward the sea. As the sub hit the water, three bottle-nosed dolphins jumped high in the air and then dived after the flying sub. Hawks thought silently to himself at that moment that Ames Howard had been right about meeting the Flying Dolphin and its crew. If they pulled this off, stories about the infamous CJ and her flying dolphins would be told in Navy submarines for years.
Two hours later as CJ turned the Flying Dolphin for a sweep close to the top of an underground mountain, the portable monitor's screen in front of Lee went crazy as the thing started to ping loudly. According to it the Seaview was all around them.
He went numb for a moment thinking the Seaview had been destroyed until she said quickly, "You need to narrow the range and I'll come around for another run close to this mountain."
He quickly followed her suggestion while also monitoring the sonar and outside nose camera and lights. Meanwhile, she was in close mental contact with Pepper. The three dolphins were at that moment swimming back very fast toward the Flying Dolphin and would pass by the mountain's other side on their way. After he narrowed the portable monitor's range, she dove the sub lower toward the ocean bottom. Suddenly, the monitor went dead and the inside of the sub was deathly quiet. He turned the knobs frantically but got no response. Then, he was thrown back against his seat as the flying sub picked up speed and headed around the mountain to its other side. When he looked over at CJ, her face was tensed in deep concentration. Joy flooded through him as the monitor started to sing once more. Still, her face was serious and tense as the other side of the mountain came into view. At that moment, he found out why. What he saw filled him with shock and despair. Still slightly visible above the mud and rocks was the Seaview's conning tower. The rest of the sub was buried at the edge of a mountain ledge above the deep canyon.
While Lee sat beside her staring at the buried submarine, CJ continued to communicate with Pepper and told him and the others to use their superior hearing and find out if sound was occurring inside the Seaview. During the wait she prompted Crane by saying, "Lee, use the sonar to see how deep the Seaview's buried." When he didn't respond, she reached out, hit his arm, and said sternly, "Captain, snap out of it. Use the sonar in front of you and tell me how deep the Seaview's buried!"
He heard CJ's voice as if it came from a great distance but he couldn't get his body to respond until he felt her physical touch. Like a robot he checked the sonar and mumbled, "The bow and stern escape hatches are covered with too much debris and the conning tower hatch is down too low inside for the Flying Dolphin to attach. The sub seems to be hollow inside meaning the outer hull hasn't crushed inward as of yet. But I doubt if anyone inside is alive. How could they be with a mountain on top of them?"
"Lee, you're wrong. Pepper and the rest have detected sound inside the Seaview. That means someone's still alive!"
Crane turned his head around in disbelief, saw CJ's earnest face, and felt like a rescued drowning man. Then, practicality set in as he faced the impossible rescue ahead of them. His shoulders slumped in defeat as he tried to face the fact that he would have to be a helpless bystander and watch the living inside die a slow death.
CJ saw the dejection appear on Lee's handsome face as he looked out of the Flying Dolphin at the buried Seaview. Her eyes hardened with silent determination. The first thing she did was put the sub on autopilot in the hovering position so she could think without any distractions. She turned back to look at the Seaview weighing the solutions in her mind to an impossible problem and eliminating them one by one till the most obvious impossible one was left. She turned to look at the knob which activated China's power coils and another that controlled the built in brake which allowed the Flying Dolphin to takeoff straight up or hover when necessary. Then, she looked up to where the powerful laser control was stored and thought "Would it work? No matter she had to try!"
She turned to and put her hand on his arm while saying, "Lee, I've got a wild idea how we may rescue the Seaview crew. It's a long shot and the odds are stacked against us, but I'm willing to take the gamble if you are."
He turned toward her and said solemnly, "What's the plan?"
"We need to break down the large rocks into smaller particles before we can remove them. We can use the laser for that. It would be a more controllable, powerful narrow beam if we hooked it to China's power coils. Then, we can remove the mud and remaining debris off the bow hatch by using the Flying Dolphin's exhaust system. I'd brake and set the coils at high power and essentially blow the hatch clean. Hopefully, the sub’s brakes won’t burn out before the hatch is uncovered."
He stared at her for a few seconds as what she said sunk in. When it hit him that it might work, he slowly unbuckled himself from the alternate control seat and stood. Then, he leaned over CJ's chair and kissed her hard on the mouth before saying softly against her lips, "You're a genius like Admiral Nelson but a whole lot prettier."
CJ leaned back a bit into her seat and looked up into Lee's hazel eyes utterly shocked by what he had just done. Then, a sly smile slowly came to her lips that he had just finished kissing so soundly and her eyes began to dance as a thoughtful rejoinder came to her mind. Finally, she shook her head and replied, "I'm no genius, Captain, but just a stubborn woman who wants her property back. Why else do you think I volunteered for this rescue mission? Admiral Nelson has my bag in his wall safe aboard Seaview and I intend to get it back from him!"
Lee's face once more wore its smile as he pulled away to let her get up from the control seat. His answer to her little piece of news was to say, "Nelson is stubborn too. In fact, he's the most stubborn individual I've ever met. Even if you rescue him and somehow return the Seaview to him on a silver platter, he may not return your bag."
She unbuckled herself from the control seat and stood to stretch her legs. "We'll find out who's more stubborn after we get him out of that buried sub. I'll get started on attaching the laser controls to the power coils while you inform Lou of what we plan to do. Be sure you hold the radio mike at a distance from your ears after he finds out about this hair brained scheme of mine. He'll be sure to let you know his opinion and it may numb your hearing!"
Lee was glad he followed CJ's advice about the radio mike because Emery was not too pleased with her plan. However, after he heard the entire story of what they found, he calmed down enough to discuss with CJ his ideas on how the power coils should be hooked to the laser. As the two of them talked back and forth, Lee noticed how often one would begin a sentence and the other would finish it. Two people had to be very close to each other for something like that to happen.
Finally, she closed the panel, turned to Crane, and said, "The laser's ready. All that remains is to try it out on a safe target to see if it works properly. I'll take the sub to the ledge bottom a distance from the Seaview and set it there so that you'll have a steady base to work from."
When Lee shot the laser the first time he couldn't believe the accuracy and the narrow beam he had to work with. He tried it a few times more to get the feel of it before aiming it at the Seaview. Inside the submarine Nelson couldn't believe his ears after he heard the first laser explosion but when two more followed, he heard the cheers of joy among the crew sitting in the Control Room. As they cheered, Morton and he shared a tired smile. Chip mouthed the word "Lee" quietly to the Admiral and he nodded in silent agreement. "The Seaview's Captain may have found them but could he get the crew out alive before another seaquake?"
More explosions followed the first three right above the bow's forward escape hatch. This was followed by the sound of mud and rocks being blown off with a powerful force very close to the outside of the upper hull. Then, all was quiet for some time until the whole process started all over again. Two smaller explosions occurred right next to the hull, which jarred the whole submarine.
As the blowing sound started again, Nelson slammed his hand against the wall with some force as he turned to Morton and said with a shaky laugh, "Listen closely, Chip. Don't you recognize that sound? It's the exhaust system of a Flying Submarine!"
Chip listened more closely and replied with a look of disbelief, "You're right, sir.
But how can it be?"
Nelson didn't answer because at that moment something heavy clanged and settled down onto the upper hatch above his head. This was followed by a banging sound and a whoosh of fresh air as the upper hatch cracked opened and a bright light temporarily blinded him.
Then, the Admiral saw Crane's grinning, happy face looking down at him and heard him say cheerfully, "Permission to come aboard, sir."
"Permission granted, Lee." Nelson replied laughing with joy and then grabbed Crane's arms in greeting when he reached the bottom of the ladder.
This was followed by more shouts of joy from the crew as they greeted their skipper. Above in the Flying Dolphin, CJ sat in the control seat listening to Lee's reunion with his men.
She was about to get up and join him when Lou's voice came over the radio saying, "Young’un, how are things proceeding down there? Did you find many of the crew alive?"
"Well, by the sounds coming from below, I'd say we've found a large number of them alive including Admiral Nelson. I heard him greet Lee right after the hatch was cracked open. I was about to introduce myself when you called."
"I'm glad you're still aboard because Nelson's special diving bell just arrived from Santa Barbara and is being unloaded onto the Dreamcatcher, as we speak. Hawks is outside right now observing the exchange. Why didn't you tell me you were planning to use your salvage vessel to help with the rescue?"
"Well, when Lee mentioned Nelson's experimental diving bell, I knew an alternative would be needed since the Blackbeard isn't capable of hoisting the bell"
"OK, I just hope you know what you're doing. The consequences could be dangerous. There's no turning back now since we're committed."
"I know. I've taken that into account but lives are involved. So, we'll just have to take the gamble and hope I win like always."
"In that case, we need to know if Nelson was able to locate the Hornet before his sub went down. If not, we'll use the diving bell to help bring up the Seaview's crew."
"All right. I'll check with Lee and get back to you as soon as I can."
"I'll be sitting by the radio waiting for your call."
CJ released the seat belts holding her in the control chair, stood and walked to the cracked hatch, and looked down. When she saw Crane standing close to the bottom of the ladder she shouted out above the celebration and said "Lee, Lou just called and said that Admiral Nelson's special diving bell has arrived. I need to know if the Hornet was located before the Seaview went down."
When Nelson heard CJ's voice coming from above, he froze and felt as if a bolt of electricity had passed through his entire body. He was so glad to see Lee that he'd temporarily forgotten about the flying submarine exhaust sounds, which occurred right before the hatch was cracked. Now, he stared up to see her pretty face looking down at him. As their eyes met, she nodded in greeting, and then looked over at Lee, who had been watching the exchange with a slight grin on his face. Since the Admiral was too shocked at seeing CJ to answer her question, Chip Morton nodded yes to Lee and handed him a piece of paper from his pants pocket.
As Lee started to climb back up the ladder to hand CJ the paper with the Hornet's coordinates, Nelson finally was able to move. He grabbed Crane's arm and said with growing alarm, "Lee, didn't the Hornet get a radio message through. Isn't that how you found us?"
"No, Admiral, we haven't heard a thing from the Hornet. We found you by completely different means."
"Then, the Hornet's in grave trouble. The last contact we had with Captain Tompson before our radio went dead was that a lot of his crew were injured and a large part of his sub was flooded. I doubt if he had enough air left in his sub to last this long."
When CJ heard Nelson's news about the Hornet, she stiffened in alarm, and started to climb down the ladder herself to get the paper from Lee. The sound of her feet on the ladder caused both men to look up and Nelson released Crane's arm. He climbed quickly and met her half way.
She grabbed the paper and said as she started back up the ladder, "Lee, I'll radio Lou with the Hornet's position. See if the Seaview has enough air to last a few more hours. If so, I'll take what I have here over to the Hornet." Then she disappeared from sight.
As Crane started back down the ladder, Nelson said with conviction, "Our air filtration system is pretty strained, but we could probably last a while longer. We're running on the last of our generator power now."
"What about the Nuclear Reactor?" He asked.
"It was damaged in the crash. We had to turn it off before it went critical. I've been trying to repair it ever since but it's been slow going."
"I think I'll get two of the air cylinders just in case."
"Need some help?" Nelson asked in a tired voice.
"Sure, Admiral." He responded knowing his boss might be exhausted but still alert enough to want to see the new sub. "Those cylinders are a little heavy and I'm certain CJ wouldn't mind you getting a quick peek at the Flying Dolphin!"
Nelson flashed a weak smile in response and followed Lee up the ladder. When the two men entered through the flying sub's lower hatch, they found CJ seated in the control seat talking on the radio to Emery.
"That's right, Lou, Admiral Nelson said the Hornet was in deep trouble. As soon as Lee finds out the Seaview's condition, I'm heading over to the coordinates I just gave you. It's very close and I should be able to get there in about ten minutes. Then, I'll be able to let you know the Hornet's crash position angle for the diving bell."
"Sounds like a good plan, as usual. I'll let Bruce know. Just be careful, Young’un."
"I always am, but thanks for the concern. Will contact you again very soon. Flying Dolphin, out." Then, she clicked her mike, laid it back onto the control seat and stood. When she heard a noise behind her, she turned while saying, "Lee, I've notified Lou of our plans. How's the condition of the Seaview?"
When CJ looked in the direction of the Flying Dolphin's bottom hatch, she saw Admiral Nelson standing there instead of Lee, who was in the process of unchaining from the wall one of the tied down oxygen cylinders. Nelson was observing with an appreciative eye everything aboard CJ's sub including CJ herself. The tight fitting wetsuit she wore left little to the imagination and its blue color made her eyes appear more green than blue in her pretty face. Her long braided hair completed the ensemble. When she found Nelson observing her so closely, her eyes began to twinkle and she returned the favor. Nelson wasn't much taller than CJ so she didn't have to look up to see his rugged, handsome face, which was covered by a three-day beard. His red chestnut hair was mussed as though he'd been running his hands through it a lot recently and his clothes were wrinkled. However, at this moment, his sky blue eyes looked extra bright in the Flying Dolphin's fluorescent light as he noted CJ's critical observations.
She smiled and said, "Welcome aboard the Flying Dolphin, Admiral. Do you like what you see?"
Nelson stared at the woman, who had haunted his dreams the last time that he tried to sleep, and smiled slightly before replying, "Very much indeed!"
Lee had been following the silent exchange between Nelson and CJ with interest before she officially welcomed him aboard her sub. Now, he interrupted by saying, "CJ, the Admiral came aboard to help me take a couple of oxygen cylinders below to the Seaview. As soon as we finish, I'll be back to accompany you to the Hornet."
"Fine. I'll start up the engines. Good-bye for now, Admiral. Hopefully, I'll be back to the Seaview very soon."
Nelson nodded in response to CJ's farewell before he disappeared down the hatch followed by Lee and the oxygen cylinders.
When they had the oxygen cylinders down below, Nelson said, "There's a few of the crew isolated in the Missile Room but so far they are all right. Also, I'm glad you decided to accompany CJ to the Hornet since we're not sure what you'll find."
Lee turned to him and replied, "Admiral, if I needed to stay here, she would have been able to handle things on her own. I've found out in the last twenty-four hours that she's a very remarkable and resourceful woman."
"Thanks, Lee, I'm glad you think so," came CJ's voice from the top of the ladder. "Here, catch."
He reached out on reflex and caught the two portable radios, one by one, that she threw down the ladder to him before she disappeared once more out of sight. Then, he turned and handed them to Nelson while saying, "See what I mean, sir?"
"I'm starting to." Nelson answered with a thoughtful expression turning his head to look upward when he heard the sound of CJ's flying sub engines take hold.
Lee clasped Nelson's arm quickly in farewell and turned to the ladder.
Prior to starting up, he hesitated when the Admiral said quickly, "You never did say how the Seaview was located."
Lee smiled, looked upward, and said one word, "CJ."
Nelson stood quietly by the ladder until the Flying Dolphin departed. Then, he handed one of the portable radios to Chip before he left the Control Room to spend some time alone to digest what Lee had told him.
Chief Sharkey watched Nelson walk out of the Control Room as if he was in a daze. Afterwards, he turned to his Executive Officer and said with concern, "Mr. Morton, do you think the Admiral's all right? He sure had a strange look on his face when the skipper told him that CJ's responsible for locating the Seaview."
Chip replied, "He'll be fine, Chief. The Admiral's just exhausted. Now, I think Kowalski and you should dispense the oxygen the skipper left to the crew."
"Yes, sir." Sharkey said. "We'll get started right away."
As they left to carry out his orders, Chip wondered if he should go and check on the Admiral. Morton was one of the few people who knew just how shocked he had been to find out Lucius Emery was still alive four months ago. Nelson was adamant that he thought CJ was somehow responsible for him going
underground and had pursued his hunch until she sent him back the phony bag with money inside. After that, he just dropped the search and went back to life as usual. Lee and Chip discussed between themselves why the Admiral didn’t continue the search but weren't able to discover the reason why he stopped. Both knew Nelson always kept his very personal feelings to himself.
Chip was entirely wrong as to why Nelson needed some time to himself. First he'd been shocked to see CJ in the flesh after dreaming about her just a few hours ago. Then, to hear from Lee that she was responsible for discovering the Seaview was almost too much to absorb. Also, the rapport Crane developed with her in just one day amazed him. Thinking back to how the young woman returned his observations of her in the Flying Dolphin by eyeing him up and down before inviting him on board caused him to smile. Suddenly, he envied his old friend Emery and began to understand why he might give up everything for a woman like CJ. According to the conversation he had overheard between them, Lucius was now on board the Blackbeard. Hopefully, Nelson would be able to become reacquainted with him and get to know CJ better in the near future. Thankful now that he may actually have a future, Nelson headed once more to the Reactor Room. If the Seaview was ever going to move again, it had to have power.
Whilst the men on Seaview were getting fresh oxygen, Captain Roy Tompson and his crew aboard the Hornet were getting desperate for air. Now, everyone had orders not to move unnecessarily to conserve the supply they had left. The radio shorted out and seaman Franklin, their radioman, was severely injured during the crash of the Hornet. His backup, seaman Corklane, was lucky to make contact with the Seaview in the first place. However, they lost Nelson's radio signal during one of the last big quakes. Seaman Corklane continually tried to send out a message for help but apparently their signal was too weak. Tompson just hoped somehow that Nelson had better luck. The man for some reason always seem to have the luck of the Irish when it came to getting out of impossible situations.
Tompson found himself drifting off and shook his head trying to stay awake. Suddenly, he heard a clanging sound on the hatch above the Control Room as if something had settled down upon it. He had little time to dwell on the fact that rescue was in progress because at that moment the hatch was cracked. Then, fresh air entered to replace the foul like a sweet spring breeze. He looked up to see a man's navy fatigues and shoes come into view down the ladder. The person stopped part way down as if he was carrying something and had to balance it better before continuing. Roy slowly stood and walked over to lend assistance but he felt as though he was moving in slow motion.
When he was almost at the ladder, he heard the voice of a woman say, "Do you have a better grip on the cylinder now, Lee?"
Suddenly, Tompson thought he must be hallucinating until the man came on down and entered the Control Room followed by the heavy clanging of an oxygen cylinder. When he turned around, Roy found himself staring into the face of an old acquaintance, Captain Lee Crane. Then, everything turned black and Tompson fell forward. However, Lee caught him in time to prevent injury and gently laid him onto the deck. He looked around the Control Room and saw unconscious men scattered all around him.
He turned and shouted back up the ladder to the young woman above, "CJ, forget the other cylinder for now and get a box of portable oxygen breathers and join me. Everyone I can see is out cold."
CJ quickly let go of the heavy cylinder she'd brought half way to the hatch and turned back to follow Lee's orders. When she reached the bottom of the ladder, she grabbed a handful of portable breathers from the box and handed it to Lee. Then, the two of them each covered their own face with a mask before going to help the unconscious men.
Tompson was one of the first to revive. He sat on the floor breathing the precious air and watched CJ and Lee helping his Control Room crew. "He didn't know that Nelson was now recruiting women for the Seaview. However, he knew the man was considered by many to be ahead of his time."
When CJ finished attaching the last breather she had to a man lying near Tompson, she turned to him and replied slowly, "Captain Tompson, my name is CJ. Admiral Nelson told us your submarine's experienced extensive damage and a lot of your crew's been injured. There's a special diving bell on the way down now. It should be here shortly. I need to radio to the men on board and let them know which hatch to set down on so that they will be close to the wounded."
"Lady, you're now on the only hatch available. The rest are over flooded sections of the sub. The wounded are scattered in the hallways just off of the Control Room. You've got to get air to them too or they're going to die!"
"Don't worry, Roy," Lee said as he bent down close and pushed Tompson back to the deck. "We'll take care of them. I'm going to flood the Control Room with oxygen from the cylinder I brought down while CJ goes back up to get some more portable breathers. As soon as the air is better here, we can transfer the breathers here to others in the hallways and bring down more cylinders to refresh the stale air. You just rest and let us do our job."
He then turned to CJ and replied, "Before you come back down with more breathers, radio the diving bell and get their ETA."
She nodded and made her way back up the ladder to comply. A few minutes later she came back down with another box and took off her own breather temporarily to test the air quality. It was still stale but slowly becoming breathable.
CJ made her way to Lee's side, pulled her mask away from her mouth so it would be easier to talk, and said, "The diving bell's ETA is about forty minutes. I suggest during that time we continue dispensing air to the Hornet crew and load the Flying Dolphin with injured who are able to walk. That way the hatch will be clear when the diving bell arrives."
He nodded in agreement and finished emptying the remaining oxygen from the cylinder into the Control Room. Soon, they were making their way into the first hallway, attaching breathers to as many wounded as they could. Presently, a few of Tompson's revived men were assisting them and Lee went back up to the Flying Dolphin to get another oxygen cylinder. As things turned out, the flying sub was ready with a load of ten slightly wounded men by the time the diving bell arrived. CJ left Lee below in the Hornet and slowly ferried her flying sub to the Blackbeard. When she landed, Hawks' crewmen placed a ladder next to the sub and cracked the top hatch. This had to be done because the Flying Dolphin's side door wasn't usable if the sub bottom was arranged to haul the dolphins.
CJ stayed in her control seat while the men were taken out. Then, she was on her way once more to the Hornet. When she arrived, the diving bell was just pulling away from the Hornet's hatch. She promptly landed and Lee and Tompson began to load the Flying Dolphin with more men. Over the next four hours the process of removal continued. In between ferrying men from the Hornet to the Blackbeard, CJ landed the Flying Dolphin next to the Dreamcatcher. This was done in order to remove the injured men to the aircraft carrier that were brought up with the diving bell to the salvage vessel.
Finally, the last load of men were inside CJ's sub, ready to travel to the surface. Captain Tompson was given the honor of sitting in the seat behind Crane who sat in the alternate control seat beside CJ. He watched as the woman started up the sub's engines and pulled gracefully away from the Hornet. The trip to the Blackbeard was slow so that the others sitting on the floor or standing would not be subjected to further stress.
Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, Tompson tapped Crane on the shoulder to get his attention and asked with a smile, "Lee, where in the world did Nelson find this woman, anyway?"
In response to Roy's question Lee glanced over at CJ and replied with a large grin, "If I remember right, about four months ago the Admiral found her in a parking lot standing next to a stalled car and offered her a ride to her destination."
Tompson shook his head in wonder and said, "It's true that people can meet under the most unusual circumstances. I bet Nelson was glad he stopped to help after finding out what a rare gem she turned out to be."
"Why, thank you, Captain," CJ responded while keeping her eyes on the controls. "What a nice thing to say. However, Admiral Nelson and I didn't exactly hit it off at first because I accidentally insulted him. Yet, quite recently events have occurred that may improve our working relationship." Then, she changed the subject by saying, "We're getting close to the surface. So, everyone, please hang on tight. I'll do this as slow as possible but I need a little speed to get airborne."
Instinctively, Tompson gripped the edge of his seat as the Flying Dolphin broke through the water’s surface into a bright sunny sky and headed toward the Blackbeard. His men cheered as CJ set down gently on the aircraft carrier.
After he got up to leave her sub, the Hornet's Captain turned to CJ, offered his hand in farewell and said, "Thank you from me and the crew of the Hornet. We'll never forget you or the Flying Dolphin!"
With wet eyes she took Tompson's hand and replied, "You're welcome, Captain. I'm only glad that Lee and I were able to find you in time and that's due to a lot of helpful people besides us."
Crane stood watching her while Tompson climbed up the ladder and crawled out of the top hatch. He saw her quickly regain emotional control before she turned to him and said, "I need a little time alone in the sea with the dolphins to regain my equilibrium before we head back down to the Seaview. If you're in agreement, I'll just take the sub back out over the water and dive in like last time. Then, you can go back to the Blackbeard and converse with Admiral Hawks and Lou. When you're ready to head back down, just come out and pick me up like you did the first time. Oh, could you get a me a couple of apples from the Galley before you come back?"
He nodded and said, "I'll also ask Admiral Hawks to throw in some fresh vegetables and some of that great chlorinated beverage he calls water."
She nodded in agreement and proceeded with their plan.
Five minutes later, Captain Tompson was conversing with Admiral Hawks when he saw the Flying Dolphin take off and hover over the water a short distance away. Then, much to his amazement, the bottom of the craft opened and a diver leaped out. This time, CJ used a miniature-breathing device instead of airtanks. It was obvious to anyone watching who she was.
Tompson let out a breath of wonderment and retorted, "I can't believe it! CJ just jumped put of her flying sub into the sea."
Hawks turned to look in the direction he indicated and replied, "She'll be fine, Captain. She's probably going to take a swim with her dolphins. At least it's daylight now and the sea is calmer than last time."
"Last time, sir?"
Hawks let out a hearty laugh and answered him by saying, "First thing that young woman did last night was to shake my hand in greeting, compliment me on my ship, and then go running back to her flying sub. Following this, she jumped out of the bottom of it into the pitching sea to help a baby dolphin in distress. She came back aboard a short time later, ate some food, and planned the strategy that led to the location of the Seaview and your submarine. Honestly, I can't wait to see what she's going to do next."
The two men stood watching in silence as the Flying Dolphin landed back onto the aircraft carrier and Lee Crane emerged and walked over to join them. He smiled in greeting and said, "Admiral, CJ's taking a short swim before we head back to the Seaview. She was wondering if it would be possible for me to bring her some food when I go and pick her up?"
Hawks laughed again and nodded his assent, "Captain Crane, I'll accompany you to the Galley and take care of it personally. On the way, you can tell me more about how CJ came up with the idea to uncover the Seaview's forward hatch by having you blow up the rocks with a modified laser and then use the Flying Dolphin's exhaust system to clear the debris."
"What was amazing, sir, was seeing her modify the laser with Emery's help by radio."
Tompson looked from Hawks to Crane and saw that they were both serious and asked, "Admiral, could I accompany the two of you to the Galley. I'm interested in hearing this story myself."
Hawks responded, "You're welcome to join us but are you sure you're up to walking all that way?"
"I'll make it, sir, even if I have to be taken to Sickbay from the Galley later on by stretcher. There's no way I'm missing any of this!"
While Captain Tompson was learning more about her, CJ was swimming in the sea. She slowly let herself relax as her breathing and heartbeat slowed down. The miniature breathing apparatus covering her face provided what air she needed as she slept in the sea surrounded protectively by her dolphin friends. Salt and Pepper took turns going to the surface to get air and the other kept close physical contact with the human member of their pod. Little Cocoa played with each of her parents as they swam to the surface and back or spent her time gently rubbing against CJ and wondered if Tiff would be joining them soon.
Later, when Pepper heard the noise of the Flying Dolphin enter the sea, he began to nudge CJ gently to awaken her. Slowly, she began to move on her own and reached out with a short mental thank you to him. Then, she caressed both Salt and Pepper in farewell and embraced Cocoa briefly before swimming to what the dolphins considered her home when she was not in the sea.
Lee put the sub on autopilot in the hovering position and waited. Soon, CJ pounded on the lower hatch and he leaned down to open it. This time he pulled her into the Flying Dolphin more gently and had a towel handy to give her when she stood beside him. She looked around briefly and smiled after she saw they were alone.
He saw her glancing about and said, "Yes, I came by myself this time. Now, that I know the controls are more sensitive to the touch, it was a little easier to control your sub. Anyway, Lou said his arm was bothering him but I think he used that as an excuse."
"Since you're feeling more confident, Captain, why don't you remain in control and take us back to the Seaview while I eat my food. I'll radio the Blackbeard and the Dreamcatcher and let Lou and Frank know what we're going to do before they send down the diving bell. I'd like to take a more thorough look at the location. I picked up something briefly from Salty's mind before we left to help the Hornet and I want to confirm it."
He turned in alarm to look at her and said, "What was it?"
"I'm not quite sure and that's why I need another look. We were in a hurry and I wasn't paying full attention to the dolphins. It may have been just a brief thought passing through Salty's mind that may have no relevance at all. Now, Captain, I look forward to being your first passenger while you are in charge of the Flying Dolphin. Please, don't make me regret it!"
Before he did anything, he looked over at her and asked, "Why didn't you tell me that you were going to have your nephew bring the Dreamcatcher here?"
She smiled and replied, "I figured another vessel might be needed and she was close by. If the subs were found and at the wrong angle for the diving bell to attach, a salvage vessel would be able to move them into an upright position."
He sighed and shook his head as he took manual control of the sub. With a grin, he retorted, "Sit back and grab hold, CJ. You may be facing one wild ride. Hope it doesn't upset your stomach."
She laughed and bit into one of the juicy apples that he had brought her. Between crunches she said, "Captain, you're in the presence of a person who use to eat while riding the 'Octopus' at the local county fair and enjoys the giddy feeling in her stomach during free fall. You don't have to worry. I won't throw up on you!"
He nodded and began the descent to the Seaview. Every time he started to worry or become weary CJ somehow always made him feel better. He had no way of knowing that the young woman beside him had a reason for being cheerful. She was beginning to develop a wild plan in her mind on how to hand Nelson the Seaview on a silver platter. It all depended on what the dolphins sensed about the eruptions in the nearby volcanic island chain and the damaged Nuclear Reactor aboard the Seaview. However, first the crew needed to be removed from the submarine before she wasted any of her energy on future events. So, she continued to eat and concentrated on the job at hand.
Seated in the alternate control chair, Lee did his best to control the Flying Dolphin. Soon, they were close to the mountain ledge where the Seaview was buried under a deep layer of rocks and mud.
When the mountain top came into view, CJ stopped eating and turned on the external cameras to film the location. She turned to Lee and said, "I'd like to start at the very top and film the entire area section by section until we get to the bottom."
He asked, "Isn't that going to take a long time? The Dreamcatcher is almost in position now to send down the diving bell."
She smiled, put down the sack of goodies he had brought her to munch on, and answered by putting her hands on the controls, "You're forgetting the extra power I can obtain by hooking up China's power coils to the engine. The film in the external cameras is a special type I use when scouting for artifacts on the ocean bottom. It shouldn't take longer than fifteen or twenty minutes to film the entire area around this small mountain."
"What has this to do with the passing thought you picked up from Salty's mind when we headed out to go to the Hornet?"
She sighed and saw that he wasn't going to let the matter drop until she came clean with what was going through her mind. "Lee, I'm doing this for a number of reasons. The main one is I overheard Admiral Nelson telling you that a few of your crew were stranded in the Missile Room. That means we'll have to repeat the procedure used to clear the bow hatch. The vibrations from the laser explosions could set off another underwater mudslide. Pictures will give us an idea of the mountain's stability, etc., so that we can decide to go ahead with their rescue or wait until the rest of the crew is removed. "
"All right I'm with you so far," he said, "but a dolphin wouldn't have that passing through his mind as an after thought."
"Salty would," she countered, "because Lou and I use both dolphins in our excavation of each underwater site we find."
"Makes more sense now," he nodded in agreement, "but why didn't you just come out and say that in the first place."
"Lee, it's still a little strange for me to talk to anyone else about my special relationship with the dolphins. You're just going to have to be patient with me."
"OK, go ahead and retake control of your sub. I'll hang on while you turn it into a speed demon!"
CJ leaned to her left and turned the knob to warm up China's power coils. Lee heard the buzzing insect sound, which accompanied the event. When the sound disappeared, he gripped the arms of his control seat as the Flying Dolphin's speed increased phenomenally. However, she had no problem controlling her sub and was finished with the mapping in record time. She was just glad he had dropped the subject and didn't make her continue with her list of reasons for wanting these pictures.
After she disengaged the power coils, he tried to reach someone on the Seaview. He used the frequency setting of the portable radios she had left on the submarine the first time they had boarded. "Seaview come in. This is Crane on the FD-1. Do you read me?"
"Lee, this is Chip. You're coming in loud and clear. You must be pretty close."
"We're right on top of you. CJ's ready to set her sub down on the bow hatch to start loading the crew. How are things on your end?"
"The Admiral's still working on the Nuclear Reactor and Chief Sharkey was able to fix one of our damage generators so we still have some power."
"How about the isolated crew in the Missile Room?"
"We're still in contact and so far they're OK but getting low on air."
"Chip, please inform the Admiral we're about ready to board. I'll need to talk to him about the crew in the Missile Room.
"Will do, Lee. Did you reach the Hornet in time to save the crew?"
"I'm happy to report, Chip, that Tompson and his crew are now aboard the Blackbeard!"
"That's great news. See you in a few minutes. Morton out."
CJ headed toward the bow hatch of the Seaview. It still looked clear enough for her to set down the Flying Dolphin. When she was in position, Lou's voice came over the radio, "Blackbeard to Flying Dolphin. Come in, Young’un. This is Lou. Over."
"Lou, this is Lee. CJ's busy sitting us down on the hatch of the Seaview."
"Lee, the Dreamcatcher is in position and we're ready to send down the diving bell."
"Fine, Lou. Start the bell's descent. Have the crew radio us when they get close to the Seaview."
"Check. Blackbeard out."
After CJ turned off the engines, Lee started to get up to crack the hatch but she stopped him by saying, "I'll stay here and remove the film from the external cameras. We need to get it developed as soon as possible. Maybe I should go ahead and take a load of crewmen up to the Blackbeard and drop off the film."
He got a thoughtful look on his face and replied, "CJ, we have a crewman named Patterson who's very talented in photography. His father was a very well known photographer and taught his son everything he knew before he died. Also, the Seaview has some of the most modern developing equipment. Why don't I send Patterson to you and the two of you can discuss it. I'd prefer this approach because I think you need to stay and make sure the diving bell has no problems settling down on the hatch before you leave for the surface."
She sighed and gave in gracefully, "You're determined to get me onto the Seaview one way or another aren't you, Captain."
He let a small grin appear on his face as he returned, "Yes, once you set foot onto my beautiful lady maybe you'll come up with a crazy plan to get her off of the bottom."
She didn't comment on his request but said, "OK, send seaman Patterson up and I'll discuss it with him. Also, I'll radio the bell and get an estimated ETA so we'll know how long I have to load and get off the hatch before it arrives."
"Good, I'll have Chip get a group of men ready to board whenever you say. How many do you want to haul on the first load?"
"Well, if Patterson is able to develop the film here, twelve or fifteen should make a good load. However, if I have to take the film topside, I need to make a fast trip so no more than eight or ten under those conditions."
He nodded and went to open the Flying Dolphin's lower hatch. After he released the levers holding the Seaview's bow hatch closed, he cracked it to find Chip standing at the ladder bottom looking up. His face broke into a weak smile of greeting when he saw Lee and actually laughed at the Seaview's skipper cheerful, "Permission to come aboard, Mr. Morton."
In response he replied heartily, "Permission granted, Lee."
When Lee got to the bottom of the ladder, he greeted Chip with enthusiasm and looked around the Control Room for Nelson but didn't see him. Before he could ask, Chip responded by saying, "The Admiral was listening to our conversation on his radio, Lee, and asked that you come to the Reactor Room instead."
"Fine. I'll go there right now. Also, CJ has some film she needs to develop ASAP. She's getting the film out of the Flying Dolphin's external cameras now and waiting to get an ETA on the diving bell. Would you have Patterson report to her on the double? Depending on what the two of them decide about the film development, we'll need to have a group of men ready to board her sub for a trip to the surface. Please have eight to twelve men standing by. If anything comes up, I'll be in the Reactor Room."
"Aye, aye, sir." He replied with an enthusiasm that he hadn't felt in nearly two weeks as he picked up the intercom mike to locate Patterson. It was very good to have the Seaview's Captain back on board.
Meanwhile, Patterson was working with Chief Sharkey on another generator trying to get some precious power out of it. Suddenly, he heard Mr. Morton's voice come weakly over the intercom, "Patterson, this is Morton. Please report to the Control Room as soon as possible."
Patterson picked up the nearest mike and responded, "Mr. Morton. This is Patterson. I'm on my way." As he hung up the mike, he looked over at Sharkey and said, "Chief, I wonder what that's all about. Ten minutes ago he gave me standing orders to work with you till we fixed this generator."
Sharkey gave a tired shake of his head and replied, "Go ahead, kid. It must be important and see if Mr. Morton can spare Kowalski or someone else to replace you."
"I sure will, Chief, and please be careful until they arrive. You're too tired to be working alone."
"We're all tired, kid, but I'll be careful just in case. Now get to the Control Room before Mr. Morton sends out a search detail!"
When Patterson reached the Control Room, he found the Executive Officer standing near the ladder to the bow hatch staring thoughtfully upward. He interrupted Chip's thinking by saying, "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, Patterson, Captain Crane is back on board and wants you to talk to that lady, CJ, about developing some film. It seemed to be quite urgent so just go right up."
"Aye, sir. Also, the Chief wanted to know if you could spare Kowalski or someone else to replace me and help him work on the generators."
"Very well. Kowalski, forget what you're doing at the moment and go assist Chief Sharkey with the generators."
"Aye, sir." Kowalski said as he walked toward them. As he passed by Patterson, he grinned and replied softly, "Pat, you get all of the cushy jobs. Let me know later if she's as pretty as Riley said."
Patterson just looked at Kowalski and shook his head as he turned to climb up the ladder. Even facing death, the man never gave up on girl watching. However, he decided that he wouldn’t want his friend to be any other way. It was good that some things never changed.
Upon reaching the top of the ladder, Patterson climbed in and looked around to find the lady named CJ. She was holding a film cartridge in her hand and closing the top to a very sophisticated looking camera. Not exactly sure how to proceed he waited until she turned in his direction.
When she did notice him, he stammered out, "Ma'am, I'm Patterson. Mr. Morton sent me."
CJ stared at the ill at ease young man before her and replied with a bright smile, "Patterson, I'm CJ and please feel free to call me by that name. Captain Crane told me you're very qualified in developing film and that the Seaview has very modern equipment. Do you have Model G-543 developer and a PL-VBM projector to look at stills and fast tape?"
His eyes lit up at her question as he started to discuss his favorite hobby. He said, "We have the G-543 developer and the Admiral has a prototype PL-VBM projector in his lab. However, I don't think we'll have enough power to run it. We're on emergency power now."
She walked toward him and replied, "That's no problem. I'll give you a power pack that you can wire in to run the projector. I have two film cartridges each containing rolls of Type SR7 film that was taken at a speed of 2000 in a total of fifteen minutes. They're of the mountain above the Seaview. We need to develop it ASAP to determine the mountain's stability to see if laser blasts will start another mudslide. Do you have someone on board qualified to examine this film after development?"
He took the rolls of film from her and said, "I know the Admiral is qualified but he's been spending all of his time trying to fix the Nuclear Reactor."
"Well, please relay the message to him that if he wants to get his crew out of the Missile Room before they run out of air, I need to know the mountain's stability. Now, I'll get you a power pack and you'll be all set. Oh, by the way, is seaman Riley on board? If so, would you tell him hello for me."
Patterson's face lost its enthusiasm as he muttered, "I'll have to relay your message by intercom. Stu's one of the guys stuck in the Missile Room."
Her body stiffened slightly for a second at his news. Then, she walked quickly to the starboard side of the sub and opened a cabinet to get a power pack and a couple of flashlights. She slammed it shut with a bang and joined him. With a determined look she replied, "I have at least thirty minutes before the diving bell's ETA. That should be plenty of time for me to wire this power pack to the projector while you start developing the film. Does this meet with your approval seaman Patterson?"
He stared down into her pretty face and replied with renewed hope, "Yes, Ma'am er... I mean CJ. It sounds good to me."
Well, let's get started, shall we? Your Captain is finally going to get his wish. I’m actually going to set foot onto his precious Seaview but he won't be around to see it."
Then, she followed him down the ladder into the Seaview's Control Room. When they reached the bottom, a tall fair man with light blond hair was waiting there. She concluded to herself that this man must be Chip Morton, the Executive Officer that Lee had left in charge of the Seaview. His eyes were as cold as a glacier when they met hers but his face wore a professional expression.
However, his facial cast soften considerably when Patterson explained her proposal and he replied, "Ma'am, Patterson can escort you to the Admiral's lab since he goes right by there on the way to develop your film. When you're finished, just call me on the intercom and I'll have someone escort you back here to the Control Room. However, it might be better to have someone go with you now since the intercom has been fading out because of a lack of power."
She looked up into Morton's tired face and said softly, "What ever you think is best, sir. However, if you don't have a man to spare, I can find my way back on my own if I was able to see a diagram of your sub."
Apparently, she said the wrong thing because his face became a professional glacier once more and he said in a clipped tone, "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but that information is classified. I'll have seaman Clark accompany you to the Admiral's lab and escort you back to the Control Room. Also, I'll have twelve men ready to board your sub when you return."
At his words, she visibly stiffened and her eyes hardened somewhat as she retorted, "Very well, sir."
Chip saw the shock on Patterson's face and didn't trust himself to respond for a few seconds. "How could he have been so pompous to say that the Seaview's specs were classified after Lee had spent so much time on her updated flying sub? He was so tired and just wanted this whole nightmare to be over." Finally, he motioned for Clark to come over and told him to escort CJ to the Admiral's lab.
Meanwhile, Lee had met Nelson in the Reactor Room and updated him on the Hornet's rescue and CJ's concern about laser blasts starting another mudslide from the mountain. Then, they had parted with him heading back to the Control Room and Nelson going to his lab to get some more tools. When he entered the Control Room, Chip informed him that CJ was on board the sub in the Admiral's lab working on a projector and Patterson was currently developing her film. When Crane heard the news, his face broke into a grin because Nelson was on his way to the lab at this very moment. He had quite a surprise waiting for him when he arrived.
When Nelson reached his lab, he was shocked to see the door open and a light flickering inside. He felt sure he'd shut the door after leaving earlier. He walked inside to see Clark holding a flashlight and CJ working next to his PL-VMB projector.
He stood quietly inside the doorway and watched as she bent down and said, "Clark, the flashlight is perfect where you have it now. Could you hold this power pack with your other hand while I twist these wires together and cover them with insulating tape? Mr. Morton was right to send someone to help me. It would've taken me twice as long if I was doing this by myself."
"Ma'am, how are you going to support this power pack once its attached to the projector?"
"Oh, it's very light in weight as you must have noticed. With the wires twisted together and taped it should hang along side quite nicely. However, I'm a little worried about heat exchange between the power pack and the projector light. Maybe I should tape it further up along the side of the stand away from the main projector altogether. Only problem is I'm about to run out of tape and won't have enough to make it as sturdy as I want. Do you happened to know if there's some more tape here in the lab somewhere?"
Before Clark could answer CJ's question, Nelson walked further inside and said, "There's another roll in the drawer on your right toward the back."
CJ turned to see Nelson standing just inside the doorway and starting to walk towards them. She turned and picked up the spare flashlight and checked the drawer for the tape.
When she found it and shut the drawer, Nelson reached out and took it from her hand and said, "Clark, keep that light in place while CJ holds the power pack against the projector stand and I’ll tape it in place."
"Yes, Admiral," Clark replied with respect.
CJ just smiled to herself and kept her face lowered out of his eyesight as she also followed his orders. As he bent close to her to tape around the power pack, their hands touched briefly during the exchange. She felt strange after the brief contact ended and was shocked to realize why. Little did she know that Nelson was experiencing the same emotion and doing his best to cover his reaction.
Oblivious to what was going on between the two people standing by him, Clark asked, "Now, that we're finished, Ma'am, should I escort you back to the Control Room?"
Recovering quickly, she stepped back away from Nelson and the projector while saying, "I'll need to test it before I leave to make sure the connections are sound and the power pack isn't faulty."
Acting as if nothing had happened, Nelson replied in a natural sounding voice, "Oh that shouldn't take long. I'll just turn on the projector while we all stand back and see if it catches on fire or explodes. If it doesn't, I'd say everything is fine!"
She turned her head sharply to look at Nelson. When her eyes met his, she saw the twinkle appearing in them even though he was exhausted. At first her lips started to twitch but when she thought more about his crazy suggestion, she couldn't help herself and she began to laugh. His own face broke into a large grin and he chuckled himself as he listened to her bubbly laughter. At first, poor Clark stood to one side wondering how the two of them could be so blase about explosions and fires until it hit him that the Admiral was joking. Then, he joined their laughter with his own.
Soberness returned when Lee's voice came over the intercom to say, "CJ, the diving bell's almost to the Seaview. Are you about finished with the projector?"
Nelson walked over to pick up the mike from the wall and replied, "Lee, she’s finished hooking it up and all that remains is testing the projector. Hang on a minute while she turns it on."
He nodded and she reached down and flipped the switch to power up the projector. It began to hum and in a few seconds the light came on.
"Everything looks fine, Lee. She will be with you shortly." Nelson said and he replaced the mike in its holder on the wall. When he turned back to face them, CJ's face still contained a bright smile and her blue-green eyes were wet with tears from the earlier laughter. He found himself feeling weak and attributed it to a lack of sleep.
However, he knew better when CJ and Clark walked by him on their way out and she said with mock disappointment, "Admiral, it's too bad about the fire and the explosion. I'll try to do better next time!"
He nodded and retorted, "Next time."
After she left, he found a chair and sat down heavily in it. He should be gathering the tools he needed and heading back to the Reactor Room but all he could think of was what had happened a few minutes ago. After, his fiancée Kathryn’s death so many years ago, he hadn’t allowed himself to get close to anyone else. Now, out of the blue came a woman who stirred him deeply and she was involved with someone else. When he was faced with a challenge, he met it head on. However, he wondered how he was going to face this one. Suddenly, feeling every one of his years on his shoulders, he got up, collected the tools he needed and started back to the Reactor Room.
As CJ followed Clark back to the Control Room, she felt renewed energy flow through her. Now more than ever she was determined to come up with a way to raise the Seaview off the bottom. Not only for Lee, but also for the man she just left a few minutes ago. "After experiencing his wit and sense of humor under these stressful conditions, she wondered what he'd be like rested and completely himself." However, that was in the future and this was the here and now. Over one hundred men were in danger of losing their lives on this submarine. For a few of them the danger was immediate due to the lack of air, one being a sailor named Stu Riley.
When CJ and Clark entered the Control Room, Lee and Morton were looking at a clipboard and discussing its contents.
She turned to Clark, held out her hand and said, "Thank you for your assistance with the projector, Mr. Clark, and being my escort aboard the Seaview. I look forward to giving you a ride topside in the Flying Dolphin."
Seaman Clark replied as he shook her hand, "It's been a pleasure, Ma'am, and I look forward to the ride." Then, he turned and went back to his previous duty in the Control Room.
After shaking hands with Clark, CJ turned to find herself under observation by other crewmen in the Control Room including the Seaview's Captain and Executive Officer. Ignoring everyone but the two men waiting to see her, she walked up to Lee whose face wore a more serious expression, than, when the two of them were alone. The man facing her now was the Captain of this submarine.
Finally, no longer able to contain himself, Crane sighed and said, "Well, don't keep me is suspense, CJ. Does my lady, the Seaview, impress you?"
"Captain, I must admit that what I've seen of your submarine is quite incredible. However, every vessel in reality is just an empty shell. In my opinion, it's the crew that really makes or breaks a ship. The crew of the Seaview that I've met so far are quite outstanding, especially it's senior officers." When she finished speaking the last part of her conversation, she was looking directly at Chip Morton.
When he noticed her deep scrutiny of Chip and vice versa, he said, "I suppose the two of you have already met but let me introduce you anyway. CJ this is the Seaview's Executive Officer, Chip Morton, not only a good officer but also, a dear friend. And Chip this is CJ, a very remarkable and resourceful woman that I met about two days ago. During that time I've found out she never says anything that she doesn't mean."
After Crane finished his long introduction, Chip held out his hand and replied, "You're right, Lee, CJ and I've already met but I'm glad you've made it more formal. I just want to add that I was a bit short earlier and wish to apologize."
She looked up into Chip's eyes now and found them to be warm and filled with sincerity. She took his hand and shook it while saying, "Thank you, Chip, for the nice apology. It was partly my fault. I've been accused of having a one tracked mind when I have a problem to solve. I think Lee is lucky to have such a loyal and conscientious officer at his side." After Morton released her hand, she looked upward and said, "I guess we should start loading the Flying Dolphin because the diving bell must be very close."
Lee nodded and CJ started up the ladder. Then, she hesitated a moment and looked over at Clark on the other side of the Control Room.
Crane followed her eyes and smiled. "Don't worry. I'll make sure Clark leaves with you instead of going up on the diving bell."
She mouthed a silent "thank you" and climbed up the ladder. Ten minutes later, the sub's engines were engaged and she pulled away from the Seaview's bow hatch and hovered nearby, while the diving bell took her place. Then, she and twelve men from the Seaview headed towards the surface with seaman Clark seated next to her in the alternate control chair. When the Flying Dolphin broke through the water's surface and headed into the air, she heard Clark's deep gasp of delight and smiled. Soon her sub landed on the Blackbeard and the men started to disembark.
Before he left Clark turned to her and said, "Ma'am that was some ride. I'm just glad I lived to enjoy the experience."
She looked up at Clark and replied, "So am I, sailor. So am I!"
Before she left the Blackbeard, she called Lou from her radio instead of leaving the sub. When he answered there was concern in his voice, "Is something wrong, Young’un?"
"No, Lou, I'm fine so far. Just wanted to save time so I called instead of coming down. I want you to think about something and when you have an answer let me know on the QT."
"Sure, Young’un, what's the question?"
"Before I say anything, we need to be on a secure channel."
"I'll use the scrambler in the Radio Shack. Seaman Gleason's on a break and I'm covering for him anyway. Just a minute while I switch. OK, Young’un, fire away!"
"Do you think it's possible to hook China's power coils to the Seaview's damaged Nuclear Reactor and get the sub to the surface with that combined energy source?"
For a time it was quiet from Lou's end and CJ knew he was either stunned or deep in thought pondering her question. Finally, he responded by saying, "Young’un, I'll have to review the Seaview's specs and China's power coil blue prints to be completely sure but it may be possible. Also, it could depend a lot on the damage the Seaview's reactor has sustained. You said earlier that Nelson's been trying to repair it ever since the Seaview went down and hasn't been successful."
"He's been working under adverse conditions and I haven't really had a chance to find out the extent of the damage. Maybe I'm getting all enthusiastic for nothing at this point but I first wanted to know if it was possible to connect the two power sources before I get Lee's hopes up."
"You care quite a bit for that young lad don't you, Young’un."
"Yes, I do and he's already hinting that he's expecting me to pull another rabbit out of the hat like I did when we located the Seaview. I've already got the entire location on tape and seaman Patterson aboard the Seaview is developing it as we speak."
"How did you justify that?"
"There's a good reason to have done it because some of Nelson's crew is isolated in the Missile Room and the only way to them is through the escape hatch. That means we'll have to break up the large rocks again using the laser and clean it off using the Flying Dolphin's exhaust system. They're getting low on air so it's got to be done soon. I was worried that the blasts may cause another mudslide and cover up the bow hatch before all of the other crew from that area is removed. So, Patterson is developing the film and I've left Nelson a message to view the pictures while I'm topside."
"Well, Young’un, all I can promise is that I'll give it a lot of thought and let you know what I come up with. How am I going to justify getting access to the Seaview's reactor plans? That information is highly classified and could have changed a lot in three years. Nelson's always in on the ground floor when it comes to new ideas a lot like someone else I know."
She ignored his pun and responded, "Couldn't you mention to Admiral Hawks that you thought you might be able to help Nelson with his repairs and needed to review the plans first? He seems to have accepted the fact that you're alive with good grace, but you're more familiar with Navy types, so I'll leave it in your capable hands."
'Before you sign off how do you purpose uncovering the Seaview? Even if the power sources are compatible, it's buried pretty deep."
"I thought we could use the Phoenix to salvage the sub. It’s what it was designed for, anyway. Also, there’s a good chance that the Hornet could be brought up, as well. If the Navy’s interested, I’ll need to call in the Hortez to aid the Dreamcatcher in salvaging that submarine. Bringing up the Hornet would help cover the expense of pulling in another salvage vessel. If we’re able to pull this off, the Navy would be in J&A’s debt. Who knows? Maybe, as a result, they would be interested in letting the company acquire one of their decommissioned subs. At least, it’s worth pursuing."
Lou was silent for so long after she finished that CJ became concerned and started to call him to make sure they were still connected by radio. However, he finally spoke and it was with a tone of voice she rarely heard him use. "Young’un, have you thought this through? Helping with the rescue is one thing but a major salvage operation is different. You'll be risking everything if you decide to do this."
"I know and before I commit this time I intend to know all of the possible dangers involved. As soon as I get the pictures, Frank can look at them. I decided to have seaman Patterson develop them on the Seaview to protect us. If the salvage is possible, Frank will know. He's a genius when it comes to salvaging. Meanwhile, I was hoping you'd contact the rest of the group and put it to them as I laid it out to you. If I decide to go ahead with the salvage, I’ll need to know who would be willing to commit with me."
He laughed softly and said, "I'll do it, Young’un. I know the group members stateside and aboard the Phoenix won’t be a problem but what about the Hortez?"
She smiled and said with determination, "Don’t worry about the Hortez. If I decide to call her in to help with the salvage, her Captain will not be a problem."
"If you say so, then I won’t worry about it. Now, you'd better get back below before Hawks comes out personally to see if you've fallen asleep!"
"I'll do that and thanks from the bottom of my heart for your help. I wish I could do it myself but am currently occupied being a sub taxi driver."
He continued to laugh until she disconnected and guided the Flying Dolphin into the air and headed back to the Seaview. To make up for lost time, she increased her speed. Just as her craft disappeared below the surface, the diving bell was pulled aboard the Dreamcatcher.
After settling back down once more onto the submarine, she wondered whether Patterson was finished developing the film and if Nelson had looked at the pictures.
At that moment, Nelson was viewing the first roll of film. He wondered how in the world a photographer like Patterson could have been so wrong about the filming time. However, before he said anything to Patterson, he decided to discuss it with Lee. He should be able to shed some light on the problem.
"Lee, this is Nelson. I'm in the lab looking at the first roll of film that CJ and you took of the mountain. Do you have a few minutes to join me and discuss them?"
"Admiral, this is Morton. The Captain's up with CJ in the Flying Dolphin. She just returned for another load. Do you want me to delay her for any reason?"
Nelson continued to look at the pictures while Chip was talking and became more confused by the minute. However, he decided to wait for the other roll before delaying removal of the crew. Therefore, he replied, "No, Chip, there's no reason to delay her at this point but please send Lee to the lab as soon as possible."
"Aye, sir. I'll pass on the message. Morton out."
Just then Lee came back down the ladder and said, "Chip, things are all set above to load the men. CJ wants to try fifteen this time and will go more slowly. Even at that pace she can do two loads to the diving bell's one."
"Lee, the Admiral just called from the lab. He's looking at the first roll of pictures and wants to discuss them with you. He said not to delay CJ at this point."
While Chip was relaying Nelson's message to Lee, CJ had come to the hatch to see what was causing the delay. In order to get their attention she shouted down, "Is there a problem, Lee?"
He looked up and said, "No delay. Chip was telling me that the Admiral is looking at the first roll of pictures and wants my input."
"Remember our deal. If he asks questions, the information comes from me only and at the proper time and place. He'll just have to take our word that the film speed and distance covered is genuine."
CJ stared down at him for a second, shook her head, and disappeared back inside the sub.
When Lee passed Chip on the way to the lab, he said in puzzlement, "What was that all about? No, forget I asked. If I don't know what the two of you've been up to, it can't come back to haunt me. I'll get the loading started."
Lee nodded in agreement and exited the Control Room. Soon, CJ was on her way to the surface once more leaving Crane to face a puzzled friend and commanding officer.
When Lee entered the lab, Nelson was deeply engrossed with pictures from the second roll that Patterson had dropped by. Crane stood back waiting until the Admiral finished with one still and started the roll forward once more.
Then he said, "Chip told me, sir, that you've some questions about the pictures. How can I help?"
"Oh, sorry, Lee. Patterson just brought me the second roll of developed film and these pictures are outstanding. What I've seen so far has been quite impressive and very informative. I can't understand though how so much area was covered in fifteen minutes even with Type SR7 film and at a speed of 2000. The US Air Force's best planes aren't capable of accomplishing what Patterson wants me to believe. The only ship that could come close is the FS-l and it would take much longer to cover this much area."
Lee swallowed and wished CJ was here to face this with him. He decided to jump in headfirst and hope he didn't drown. Nelson was still facing away from him looking at the projector. So, he didn't see the look of shock, which appeared, on the Admiral's face when he dropped the bomb.
"Sir, what Patterson told you was entirely correct. CJ filmed the complete area in a total of fifteen minutes. I can bear witness to the fact. I brought the Flying Dolphin down while she ate some food. However, she was in control of the flying sub and external cameras during the mapping detail."
Nelson turned slowly to face Crane with a look on his face that Lee associated with past experiences he'd prefer to forget. Now in the bargain, the Admiral was running on empty near the breaking point. The calmness of his voice would've deceived many but not the Seaview's Captain.
"Lee, I know we're all under quite a strain but no way in hell am I going to believe that the Flying Dolphin can travel that fast. No such power source exists. I would've been informed by the government."
"Admiral," Lee grated out with a very dry mouth, "the Flying Dolphin is a privately owned vessel. If the government knew about it, they wouldn't have been at liberty to relinquish the information to anyone, even someone of your rank and security clearance."
"You're telling me that such a power source exists?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but I'm not at liberty to say."
Nelson began to lose his temper and his voice now relayed that fact, "What do you mean you're not at liberty to say. By whose authority?"
Now, Lee was actually beginning to enjoy himself because, when he dropped the next bomb, he wouldn't be the reason for Nelson's explosion. "Sir, to quote CJ word-for-word. Lee, remember our deal. If he asks questions, the information comes from me only and at the proper time and place. He'll just have to take our word that the film speed and distance covered is genuine."
He stared at Lee in astonishment and a strange feeling of joy passed through him. "The power source must exist and CJ wanted to tell him about it herself." He gave Crane a tired grin and said, "Well, if that's the case, Lee, I guess I’ll just have to be patient, won’t I. Sorry to have lost my temper. Now, I think we should finish observing these pictures. It’s important to determine if it's safe to rescue the men from the Missile Room before the rest of us are off the Seaview."
Lee looked at Nelson as though he were a stranger. The man he had left over a week ago on the Seaview would've exploded after receiving CJ's news. Instead, the one standing in front of him actually seemed happy after receiving the information. When Nelson seemed satisfied that Lee accepted his apology, he turned back to the projector and started once more to advance the film.
While Crane was trying to figure out Nelson's reaction, on the surface above Lou
was busy filling the airwaves with scrambled calls. He'd tried to reach someone at the Old Mansion and had left Judith Bates a message to call him on the Blackbeard. Next on his list was Frank on the Dreamcatcher.
He came on immediately when Lou made contact and blurted out, "Emery, I want to talk to CJ right now!"
"Frank, she's busy bringing the Seaview's crew to the Blackbeard but I'll give her a message ."
"Well, tell her I just heard from Howard in Washington."
"Frank, are you talking about Ames Howard?"
"The one and only who thinks he ranks right up there with God now that he's been appointed to the President's cabinet."
"Why in the world would Howard be contacting you?"
"That SOB called to order me to help salvage the Seaview. When I in no certain terms told him what he could do with his orders, the bastard retorted that he had the authority to commandeer the ship if I didn't comply. Then, I told him this vessel belonged to my Aunt CJ and no one was setting foot on it without her say so and hung up on him."
"Frank, what you've told me is uncanny because the Young’un wanted me to ask you to think about doing the very same thing."
"Yes, she's already got the entire area on film. It's being developed and observed at this very minute by Admiral Nelson of the Seaview. The Young’un intends to get it back and bring it topside for you to observe."
"She really wants to do this, Lou?"
"At this point, the Young’un is just in her considering and thinking mode. She wanted me to present it to every one for their opinion only. If anyone, even little Tiff, objected or had qualms, the she wasn't even going to bring up the idea to Captain Crane. Now, you're telling me that Howard's making waves in Washington."
"Is CJ falling for this Crane fellow?"
"No, it's not that, Frank. You know how the Young’un tends to develop friendships. Well, she's drawn Lee into her web a little early and I'll let her tell you how. What are we going to do about Ames Howard?"
"I know what I'd like to do but Sarah's afraid they'd throw me into a Federal prison afterwards. Why don't we let CJ handle him?"
"If things were normal, the Young’un could put a man like Howard in his place and make him think it was his idea. However, at this point you might hear the explosion all the way to the Dreamcatcher. The man's threatening her family and the she’s only had a few hours in the sea with the dolphins."
"Let's forget Howard for now. I'll discuss CJ's idea with Sarah and the girls."
"Very well, Frank. Take care. I'll send the pictures over as soon as the Young’un gets them. Lou out."
After turning off the scrambler, Lou returned the secure Radio Shack back to seaman Gleason once more and went back to the regular radio mike. Soon the Young’un's voice came on the air saying, "Flying Dolphin to the Blackbeard. Come in, please."
He smiled and replied, "Hi, Young’un. Can't believe you're back already."
"Yes, Lou, I'll be landing in a few minutes. Any luck with that errand?"
"I'll fill you in after the sub's empty. Call me back then."
"Very well. CJ out."
"Sir," said seaman Gleason coming out of his secure area. "When you talk to Ms. CJ, would you tell her she has a priority call on scrambler from Washington? It's the Secretary of Defense. I'll need to know where to transfer the call."
Emery stared at the young seaman and in his old command tone of voice answered, "Seaman Gleason, please tell the honorable Mr. Howard that Ms. CJ is busy at the moment saving lives and she'll call him back at her convenience. If he gives you any static, tell him your orders came from Admiral Emery."
Seaman Gleason stiffened and stood at attention while saying, "Aye, aye, sir!"
Then, Lou winked at the young sailor and said, "At ease, Gleason. I'm going to talk to the Young’un privately in the Flying Dolphin and I don't want to be disturbed. Please inform her I'm on my way and don't mention Mr. Howard's call. You're in charge here while I'm gone, understand."
Gleason relaxed visibly and replied, "I understand perfectly, sir!"
Lou's face broke into a conspiratory grin as he nodded to Gleason and left the Radio Room on his way to the Flying Dolphin.
After receiving seaman Gleason's radio message about Lou, CJ decided to get some fresh air while she waited. Once out onto the carrier's deck, she stood in the cool breeze and look longingly at the sea thinking of Nelson and the future. Suddenly, her daydream was marred by the thought of a young sailor named Stu Riley trapped in a submarine slowly running out air.
Lou found her standing there like a statue looking out to sea. When he relayed Frank's message about Ames Howard and the rest, she didn't react. However, after hearing him graphically described Frank's solution for the honorable Secretary of Defense, she hugged herself tightly and began to shake. In fear, he grabbed her shoulder with his left hand and turned her around to face him. Then, he started to shake himself as his laughter joined hers.
After using joy instead of rage to rid herself of the tension his information had caused, CJ hugged him gently before they headed back to the Flying Dolphin.
Prior to going inside, she said softly to him, "When Ames calls back, first ask him how Susie liked her birthday present. Then, say I've taken the problem he mentioned to Frank under consideration and to please keep it to himself. Now, I've got to go back to the Seaview, because I've got a date with a sailor named Stu Riley."
A few minutes later, he stood watching until the flying sub disappeared. He wondered if the young woman he cared so much for would be able to walk away and leave the Seaview on the ocean bottom. She had become too involved with Lee Crane and the rest of his crew. He knew, if events continued to intertwine the two, he'd have to stand in line to have time with her.
His thoughts were interrupted by a sailor motioning to him from an open doorway. Apparently, Judith was already returning his call from California. When he reached the Radio Room, seaman Gleason had already exited the secure area. Lou entered and closed the door. Then, he took a seat and got comfortable for this was going to be a long conversation.
When he made contact, he said, "Hi, Judith. I didn't expect to hear from you so soon."
"Are you kidding, Lou. We've all been on pins and needles ever since Captain Crane and CJ left and have been taking turns monitoring the radio. Did they find the Seaview?"
"Better than that. They've already rescued the Hornet crew and are now busy bringing the Seaview crew to the surface."
"You know the Young’un doesn't let grass grow under her feet when faced with a problem."
"That's for sure but, by the sound of your voice, I’m getting the hint that there's another problem in the wings."
"You know the Young’un pretty well, don't you Judith."
"As well as anyone can ever know her. She's a very private and complicated person, who never seems to react as a normal individual would to a situation. When she found out I'd gotten us involved with the Seaview disaster, she didn't bat an eye but jumped in and developed a plan of attack."
"Well, now she has an idea of her own that she wants everyone to consider. It's very important that each thinks long and hard about it."
"What does she want to do?"
"In a nut shell, the Young’un wants to salvage the Seaview. She's already mapped the entire area and Frank's going to view the film to see if salvage is possible. In addition, she has asked me to see if China's power coils are compatible with the Seaview's Nuclear Reactor so the two could be combined. Apparently, the submarine's reactor was damaged in the crash and Admiral Nelson has been trying to fix it ever since without success. Besides the Young’un's proposal, Judith, we have a problem. When I contacted Frank, I found out that Ames Howard had already called him with orders to do the very same thing. Howard's called here once already and I put him off while I informed her. Before leaving to bring up more of the Seaview crew, she left me a message to give him. Yet, I don't know how effective it will be."
Judith listened intently to Lou's entire conversation committing it to memory. When he got to the part about Ames Howard's involvement, her gray eyes hardened with anger. "Ever since that man had become involved with CJ's business, he'd been a pain. Yet, CJ’s idea to salvage the Seaview and to use China's power coils to help raise it to the surface was wild like her plan to rescue the submarine."
Finally, Judith responded to Lou's message and warning about Howard. "Lou, I'll notify everybody about CJ's proposal and call you back with the verdict. I think my grandfather may have a few ideas on how to handle the problem that Mr. Howard represents. Please tell CJ for me that my prayers are with her."
"I'll tell the Young’un what you said, Judith, and will be waiting for your call. Lou out."
During Lou's conversation with Judith, things weren't going too well on the Seaview. Nelson had reviewed the film Patterson developed and found the mountain still to be very unstable. In his opinion, it was too risky to set off more laser blasts needed to clear the Missile Room escape hatch before the rest of the crew was evacuated from the submarine. However, even at the rate of crew removal, the men stranded in the Missile Room may not survive.
After the Admiral told Lee his conclusions in the lab, Crane had become very quiet until Morton's voice came in crackles over the intercom saying, "Skipper, CJ's back for another load of men but she insists on talking to you before she leaves. She wants to know Riley's chances of survival and the Admiral's conclusions about the photographs. Oh, she also wants the two rolls of developed film to take topside."
Lee grabbed the mike from its holder on the wall and practically shouted, "Chip start loading the sub and tell her that the Admiral and I are on our way to the Control Room. Crane out." As he put the mike back into its holder, he looked at Nelson and replied as they started for the door, "CJ's not going to like the news, sir, but she has to be told. One of the main reasons she committed herself to the rescue was you and Riley."
Nelson nodded, grabbed the film, and rushed after Crane. He grimaced in pain on the way out as he hit his shin against the door edge. He was beginning to understand that Lee's relationship with CJ went much deeper than mere friendship and wondered how she felt about him. However, at the moment, all of his energy was needed to keep up with Lee, who was practically running down the hallway toward the Control Room.
When they reached their destination a few minutes later, Lee found CJ standing next to Chip..They were at the plot table with diagrams of the Seaview's stern area spread out in front of them. Neither one of them knew that the men had entered the Control Room.
CJ pointed and said, "Is this the area you were talking about, Chip? This hatch covers a section of flooded ducts, which leads to a storage compartment next to the Missile Room. Also, the sub still contains enough air pressure to keep the water out if it was opened. "
"Yes, and there's a ceiling hatch in the room that contains a duct filled with electrical wires. It's very small but someone about your size may be able to fit through without air tanks.
"That's no problem. If the air is foul, I could wear my miniature breathing device."
"The ceiling duct winds around in a small circle and comes out into the Missile Room wall about four foot from the floor. The covers on each side just pop off so you'll be able to enter and exit without any problem. Since the compartment next to the Missile Room contains storage, you should be able to find something to stand on to reach the ceiling duct. The down side about this plan is the electrical wires may be damaged. If t you touched them, they might spark and shock you or cause severe burns."
"My suit would protect me and I have special gloves and a head covering I could wear just in case that happened."
"Well, besides the electrical wires, the storage material may be blocking the hatch cover you'll have to open. If the pressure isn't strong enough in there, you won't be able to close the hatch once it's opened. Then, water will leak in from the flooded ducts and fill the room."
"So, if I went alone, I'd not have enough time to get through to the Missile Room to deliver air and return before the room flooded. Even if I did, the covering of the electrical duct in the Missile Room might not be strong enough to hold back the water from there. Is there anyone still on board the Seaview who's had experience of breathing special air mixtures for this depth? If so, they could accompany me and help with the hatch, etc. I have extra equipment on board the Flying Dolphin."
"Well, seaman Kowalski's brother, Stan, was stranded on the bottom at one time while trying to repair a sub. Events caused Lee to have to use his special suit and air tanks. Besides him, the most experienced diver on board the Seaview is Admiral Nelson. However, he's exhausted like the rest of us."
She pondered the problem for a few seconds before she responded. "Lee, would have to take my place on the Flying Dolphin. I could follow Admiral Nelson. If he ran into trouble, I'd notice right away and could assist him. It would slow me down but would be worth it. Yet, until we know the mountain's stability, this is all speculation. We may not even have to consider this option."
"I hope that's the case because if anything happened while you were in that electrical duct, the Admiral would have no way of reaching you."
"I've been in dangerous situations before this. I wonder what's keeping Lee and Admiral Nelson?"
Chip started to answer as he turned and saw Crane standing right behind her and Nelson close beside him. Both men wore expressions of incredible disbelief telling Morton that they must have overheard the entire conversation between CJ and himself. He hoped to warn her but at that moment she also turned to see the two men.
She started to smile but it disappeared when she saw Lee's face. Then, she said, "Looks like that plan may have to be used after all, Mr. Morton."
Lee reached out and grabbed her arms while gasping out, "No way in hell am I going to let you carry out such a hair brained scheme that would put both of your lives at risk."
She glanced up at him and saw the pain in his eyes. Suddenly, she leaned close and replied softly giving him time to regain control, "Remember what happened the last time you decided to try and order me around, Captain. It didn't end in your favor but so much was gained instead. As for the rest, the decision lies entirely with Admiral Nelson and myself if he decides to accompany me. I don't intend to let Riley die! It's not an option."
He looked down into her blue-green eyes and saw quiet determination there and knew it was pointless to argue further with her. Reluctantly, he let go of her arms and stepped back. Then, he looked across at Nelson and Chip and became the Seaview's Captain once more and said, "Mr. Morton, after I've helped CJ obtain her equipment, begin loading her sub with as many men as possible. Tell them I will be taking the sub to the surface, instead of her, so they'd better expect a rough ride. Also, I'm informing the Blackbeard to increase the speed of the diving bell's descent. Then, please give all necessary assistance to CJ and Admiral Nelson in their attempt to help the men in the Missile Room."
"Aye, aye, sir." Chip retorted.
After Crane heard Morton begin to carry out his orders, he looked briefly at Nelson in quiet farewell and climbed up the ladder to the flying sub.
CJ turned to Nelson and asked, "Sir, should I bring extra diving equipment?"
He nodded yes in response and watched her climb up the ladder. When she reached the top, Lee reached down and pulled her in. This time, he was more formal completely in Captain mode for self-preservation. After he helped her on board, he turned away and started collecting some portable breathers and a small tank of oxygen and put them by the hatch. CJ walked to a plain wall of the sub and ran her fingers along it making unseen connections that caused it to slide open. Inside was all kinds of equipment made of a special light plastic. In spite of their disagreement earlier about the plan, Lee couldn't help being intrigued by what he saw. He walked over and glanced inside while she picked up a bag and stuffed in some towels, another miniature breathing device, gloves, two different types of head coverings, special facemasks, flippers, and lights. Then, she pulled out an extra wetsuit for Nelson and two sets of air tanks shaped like no others he'd ever seen. She checked the gauges and seemed satisfied with the pressure and air mixture in the cylinders. Then, she reached in and picked up a belt and stuck it in the bag, as well.
After a few more seconds of glancing around and redoing the inventory of her equipment, she stood and ran her fingers along the wall once more. Suddenly, it slid down covering the secret compartment. When she picked up the bag and turned to face him, Lee realized he'd once more underestimated her. The woman standing before him acted as if she used this equipment every day and, as far as he knew, she probably did.
While Lee was wondering about her, CJ glanced up at him briefly and then started past him in the direction of the hatch. He reached out gently and put his hand on her arm holding the bag and said, "Doesn't anything ever phase you? Aren't you the least bit afraid of what you're about to do?"
She glanced at him and replied, "Of course I'm afraid. I wouldn't be human if I wasn't. However, just as you're qualified to command the Seaview, I'm trained to go into tight places underwater, which are filled with all kinds of unknown dangers. The ones I'm facing today are man-made and can be compensated for in many ways. I'm no fool and will turn back if I feel it's hopeless but I have to try. I owe Riley a debt that has to be repaid."
"Is repaying a debt worth risking your life?"
"In this instance, it is."
"Well, all I can say is that since this plan of yours is a big gamble, I hope your luck holds and you prevail."
"I have to succeed, Captain, because I recently discovered something I intend to explore further in the future. Also, I have another problem to solve and I hate to stop in the middle of an experiment."
"I can't tell you, at this time; but, while you're ferrying your crew topside, rethink our conversation of the last few hours. Maybe you can come up with the answer on your own. Now, I'd better get below so you can load the Flying Dolphin. When Lou finds out what I'm attempting to do, tell him to watch the dolphins. They'll let him know if I succeed or fail and he'll relay the information to you. That's the best I can do for now. Good luck!"
"The same to you, CJ." He replied releasing her arm. "Please be careful and don't take any unnecessary risks."
"I won't, Lee." She responded softly giving him a kiss on the cheek for luck. Then, she hoisted one set of air tanks onto her right shoulder, walked to the hatch and started down the ladder. A few moments later, he followed with the wetsuit and extra tanks.
When she was halfway down the ladder, Nelson reached up and took her bag and the air tanks and was amazed how light they were. Also, he found the shape less bulky than the regular ones they had aboard Seaview. He put them down beside the ladder and took the extra equipment that Lee passed to her. Following this, Crane went back into the Flying Dolphin to warm up the engines and she went to stand by the Admiral at the table containing the Seaview's blueprints.
"Admiral, before we head to the location, I'd like to see a more detailed diagram of that electrical duct connecting the storage compartment and the Missile Room."
"Of course." He said bending his head and pulling the blueprints toward them.
Then, he started thumbing through the Seaview's specs trying to find the one for the electrical duct. Like Crane, he continued to find out new things about this woman, who caused his blood pressure to go off the charts. At first, when he overheard the conversation between Chip and CJ, he started to react like Lee. However, something in her eyes stopped him. For a moment, it was like seeing his reflection in a mirror. The plan they were discussing was wild but had merit. It was something he would've considered had the technology she possessed been at his disposal.
Finally, he found the right page and said, "Here's the diagram you wanted."
She nodded and leaned forward to get a closer look.
Trying to be helpful, he used both hands to spread out the illustration. When she ran her fingers along the sheet following the electrical duct with her eyes, her hand came into contact with his for the second time that day. As before, she kept her eyes inverted but this time didn't pull away as quickly. With this discovery, he started to do something completely out of character and slowly moved his hand in order to envelop her smaller one. Stunned, she glanced up at his rugged face. In that instant, seaman Patterson hurried by heading for the ladder and tripped over her bag of equipment. In her rush to help him, she knocked over the film canisters Nelson had lain on the table and they went falling to the floor with a bang. Once Patterson was able to stand alone, she let go of his arm and reached down and picked up the film.
With a sheepish look, Patterson muttered out, "Sorry, CJ, I'm usually not so clumsy but Mr. Morton said to report here on the double."
"That's perfectly all right, Patterson. I'm glad we ran into each other again so-to-speak because you can do me a big favor. Would you make sure Lou Emery gets this film? It's very important!"
"Sure, CJ, I'd be glad too. Is it true that you're going to help my buddy, Riley, who's stranded in the Missile Room?"
"I'm going to try."
"Patterson," Chip shouted out, "you're holding up the line. Get a move on, now!"
"Aye, aye, sir." Patterson retorted as he grabbed the film from CJ's hands and ran to the ladder.
She turned back to see that Nelson's face contained a look of humor due to the exchange that had occurred between Patterson and herself.
When his eyes met hers, they were actually twinkling. He shook his head as he said, "You seem to be having quite an effect on all of the crew of the Seaview, CJ. Some are falling at your feet to get your attention. I feel sorry for poor Patterson. Chip can be pretty intimidating at times."
In response to his humor, CJ grinned and responded, "Yes, Admiral, I know what you mean but, when you get to know him, the ice melts very quickly."
Getting back to business, Nelson said, "Do we need to look at anything else before we head aft?"
"No, sir." She answered subtly while keeping her eyes glued to the Admiral's face.
Noticing her intense observation, Nelson turned and picked up one set of air tanks, the wetsuit, and the small oxygen cylinder before heading out of the Control Room. CJ picked up her equipment bag and air tanks and then followed him. Standing at the ladder, Chip watched them leave and said a silent prayer wishing CJ good luck in her dangerous endeavor.
As Nelson walked ahead of CJ, the events that just happened in the Control Room were running through his mind. "He couldn't figure out what had made him consider becoming so reckless to see what CJ's reaction would be. Her stunned expression really threw him for a second making him hesitate. Then, seaman Patterson had broken the tension. A smile touched his lips remembering the way she helped Patterson recover from his embarrassment at being so clumsy. However, what she was about to do for Riley and the other two men isolated in the Missile Room was absolutely profound. It wasn't every day that a person would face being barbecued to repay a debt. Yet, she'd definitely thought the whole scenario through very carefully before committing herself. He hoped he wouldn't be faced with the possibility of having to leave her stuck in the electrical duct. The thought of her facing a slow death made him determined that it wouldn't happen. Still, he could imagine what her reaction would be if he tried to order her to forget the whole thing. Nevertheless, for a few seconds, his devilish side was tempted just to see her eyes flash with fire".
Behind him, CJ was busy planning how to bring Nelson back from the flooded ducts if he reacted badly to the air mixture in the tanks. "She knew from experience how a diver could become manic with confidence and try to fight off any assistance. If he became unconscious, her job would be two-fold. When a person was out cold underwater, every minute counted. She was strong for her size but, dragging him through a tunnel filled with upright dividers would be a slow process. Sighing, she decided that she was going to have to be alert continuously for any sign that Nelson might be sensitive to the gas.".
After deciding how she would approach the problem, other thoughts invaded her mind. "Her physical reaction to Nelson continued to surprise her. It had been years since anyone had affected her in this way mainly because she wouldn't let it happen. After going through one very bad relationship, she was determined that no one would ever have that much control over her ever again. When Lou Emery entered her life three years ago, she had put up a wall until their deep friendship caused it to crumble. At times, he was still protective and she didn't mind because he always had a very good reason. She'd retaliate by making him come up with an alternate solution or accept her proposal. Usually, the results were positive like the substitution of Admiral Gene Benson with Admiral Bruce Hawks."
Suddenly, CJ's thoughts were interrupted when the corridor that she and Nelson were walking along turned pitch black. She reached out and made contact with the starboard wall to gain a reference point while saying, "Admiral, I brought some lights. It'll take me a few minutes to find them."
While CJ hunted in her bag for the lights, Nelson placed his air tanks and wetsuit on the floor, leaned against the starboard wall as well. Then, he shut his eyes so he wouldn't be blinded later. He was worried for time was running out. "Apparently, Chief Sharkey was losing the battle with the backup generators and the air filtration pumps might quit at any moment. Also, the intercoms were probably not working. That made CJ's plan more imperative. Besides being low on air, his three men in the Missile Room would now be completely isolated and in possible darkness".
CJ found the lights and put them both by her bag on the floor. Then, she said, "Admiral, I'm about to turn on one of the lights. I'll point it away from us until our eyes can adjust."
After turning on one of the lights, she picked up the other and handed it to Nelson. Then, she laid hers beside the equipment sack, picked up her air tanks, slipped them on, and buckled them loosely around her. Following this, she picked up her bag of supplies with her left hand and draped the extra wetsuit across her left arm before standing. When she looked in Nelson's direction, he smiled fleetingly at her efficiency and handed her back the light, while he strapped on his own air tanks and picked up the spare oxygen cylinder. Then, as he reached to take the light, his hand came into contact with hers once again. This time it took all of his will power to take the light and turn away to head down the dark corridor. CJ shined her light against Nelson's back and started to slowly follow him.
They progressed cautiously in the dim light but finally reached their destination. While CJ laid everything down close to the hatch cover, Nelson removed his tanks and walked to a mike hanging on a wall nearby. He tried to contact Chip in the Control Room without success. After replacing the mike in its holder, he looked over at the young woman silhouetted by the flashlight and watched her pull her braided hair tight against the back of her neck and roll it in a circle around the top of her head. To hold it in place, she used large plastic pins and combs. When she was satisfied that it wouldn't come down, she turned and removed a thin plastic head covering from the bag and slipped it on. It reminded the him of a shower cap but fit much tighter while still allowing movement.
As she started to turn in his direction, Nelson walked over and picked up his wetsuit. At the same time, he started to unbutton his shirt. When she saw that he was undressing, she turned discretely away to give him some privacy. He smiled to himself when he saw what she did. After stripping down to his skivvies, he leaned against the wall and pulled on the one-piece wetsuit that included feet coverings. Once he had it on, Nelson went over to get the rest of his paraphernalia from CJ. She handed him the head covering, face mask, gloves, and flippers. She already had put the extra equipment in a waterproof bag and tied it around her waist using the extra belt. Also, she was completely dressed except for her gloves and facemask.
When she saw that he was having trouble getting the head covering aligned, she reached over to assist him while saying, "Here, sir, let me do it. These things can be a little tricky if you're not use to them."
He stopped and let her take charge. As her hands straightened the part in front below his chin, her fingers brushed against his sharp beard.
"Ouch!" She replied pulling her hand back in mock pain. "Admiral, you're as prickly as a porcupine. I'm lucky we're not going to share a kiss for luck because I'd end up with a very bad case of whisker burn."
Stunned, he stared at her smiling face for a moment. Then, his own face broke into a faint smile and he said softly, "I'm surprised, CJ. Didn't you tell Chip you've been in dangerous situations before this?"
She looked down demurely and answered, "Yes, Admiral, that's true but if and when I face that danger, I want it to be the only thing on my mind."
The temporary fun they shared flooded out of Nelson when he was reminded of what she faced. He reached down to pick up his air tanks. After he put them on and tightened the straps, he looked at her concerned face.
"CJ, we should be on our way to the storage room. Do you have any advice before we enter the ducts?"
"Yes, sir. The complete wetsuit you're wearing will keep your body temperature normal whether you're in cold or hot water. Just breathe the special air as you would from regular tanks. I'll follow you, Admiral, and we'll be in contact by radio. If at any time you feel the slightest bit dizzy, please tell me. The lights we've been using can also be used underwater. I'll take the small oxygen tank so you'll be free to use all of you're energy for swimming. Take your time at first and become accustom to your equipment. The last thing I want to face is dragging you back to the hatch unconscious."
He nodded and bent to open the hatch before putting on his facemask and gloves. Then, he sat at the opening and put on his flippers. When he finished, he put the air breather in his mouth, grabbed the light, and slid down into the water. After CJ repeated what Nelson had done, she followed him. He was still below her and took the small oxygen cylinder and laid it in the duct by him before swimming out of her way. She entered the water and closed the hatch after her to prevent flooding of other parts of the submarine.
They had been swimming slowly for about ten minutes when Nelson's voice came over her radio, "CJ, I've become use to this equipment and feel we can pick up the pace, if you're willing."
"I'd prefer, Admiral, that we keep moving at this rate for awhile longer. You're body has been subjected to a lot of strain the last seventy-two hours and this air mixture can cause latent side effects. I don't want to take any chances with your health."
"What about you?"
"Admiral, I'm fine. At times, I practically live in this wetsuit and inhale this air mixture. I eat certain types of foods that help to counteract the possible dangers associated with long exposure. Now, I think it's best that you stop talking and conserve your energy."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Ordering me around!"
A tinge of worry passed through CJ before she answered, "Believe it or not, Admiral, I don't enjoy being put in this position. I've never enjoyed telling others what to do or being responsible for what happens to them. However, sometimes I have no choice, like now. Are you experiencing dizziness or other symptoms, sir?"
"I'm fine, CJ. Just tired. So, don't worry. I'm experienced enough to recognize the symptoms you mentioned earlier. I just couldn't resist teasing you."
Behind him she sighed in relief and found herself drawn into his attempt at wit. "In that case, Admiral, I'll enjoy being in charge for now. So get off this radio, pronto, and concentrate on swimming, sailor. Is that understood?"
He laughed heartily between intakes of air and said, "Yes, Ma'am!"
CJ found herself grinning silently in response to Nelson's laughter and filled with slight apprehension at the same time. She'd never met anyone quite like the man who swam in front of her. Lou Emery came very close but he was her friend. "Admiral Nelson had started to crumble her protective wall without even trying and she feared what would happen if he really set his mind to the attempt! Maybe she should just cut her losses once the crew was off the Seaview and forget about the salvage idea."
Nelson followed CJ's orders and concentrated on swimming. He might be very tired but he hadn't felt so alive in a long time. "Lee was right about CJ! She was a very remarkable woman."
Soon, her voice came over his radio. "Admiral, aren't we getting close to the Missile Room?"
"Yes. It should be about fifteen feet ahead of us."
"Then, you have my permission to increase your swimming speed but not too much. You still may have to help me close the storage room hatch if it starts to flood."
"Admiral, if you don't stop calling me Ma'am, I may be tempted to sock you in the jaw. Even, if it means, I may get a bad case of whisker burn. I've been accused of having a mean right hook."
He didn't respond but turned his head back to look at her for a moment and her light caught his face. She could have sworn she saw him wink at her before he turned away and increased his swimming speed as she suggested. After this, the rest of the distance was covered in silence.
Finally, he stopped and shined his light upward. She swam to his side and saw a hatch above his head.
"CJ, take my light while I try to open the hatch. I may need your help, so be ready to drop both of them and push upward."
"Yes, Admiral. I'll be ready."
He reached up with both hands and took hold of the handles to unlock the hatch. They worked with ease and the hatch cover opened wide when he pushed up against it. After his head was above water, Nelson spit out his mouthpiece and tested the air. It seemed a little stale but breathable. Soon, CJ was right beside him and handed him one light that he put inside the storage room. She shined the other upward so he could find the sides of the hatch and pull himself inside. After he looked around briefly and saw that the water was going to stay in the duct, he quickly reached down to take the oxygen cylinder she was clanging against the hatch. Once he took the cylinder, she followed his example and pulled herself upward with her free hand until she could lay down the light inside and grip both sides of the hatch. The Admiral helped her come to a sitting position by putting his hands under her arms and hoisting her inside. Even before she swung her legs up, she picked up her light and turned it on to look around. All she saw was a room filled with empty shelves.
When her light caught him in its glow, she replied, "Admiral, it looks like somebody forgot to tell Chip this room was recently put on the cleanup roster."
"You're right. We'll have to disconnect one of the shelves from the wall and move it to the middle of the room so you can climb up it to reach the ceiling. Just hope there's some tools in here. The screws used to hold these shelves secure are set pretty tight in the wall."
"Admiral, don't worry. I have some in my equipment bag tied around my waist."
He looked at her and smiled while saying, "You're quite an efficient woman, CJ. What else have you got in your bag of tricks?"
"Lots of goodies, sir. I just hope it contains all we'll need."
"If it doesn't, we'll conjure up the rest. Now, if I may, I'd like to see those tools."
A few minutes later, Nelson was starting to feel like Lee when it came to expecting the unexpected from CJ. The set of tools she carried in her equipment bag proved to be very versatile. He figured he could've even modified them to work on parts of a delicate laser While he put his energy into attacking the screws, she held the light. When he loosened the last screw enough to use his fingers to take it out, Nelson started to cough and everything turned black. CJ caught him as he started to fall and soon had a portable breather on his face.
Later, he regained consciousness to find himself seated on the floor with his back against a wall and the shelf halfway to the middle of the room. She'd placed a light close by on the deck and was methodically going from corner-to-corner gradually moving the shelf to its acquired destination. She paced herself slowly and soon had the platform under the electrical duct. Then, she tested the sturdiness by shaking it hard.
Satisfied, she placed her right foot on the lowest rung to start up and grasped the sides for balance but went no farther because at that moment Nelson croaked out, "Wait, CJ. Give me a light to shine up so that you can see."
She froze for a second before she complied. She had hoped to spare him the stress of waiting for her to transverse the electrical duct but that wasn't to be the case.
After laying the light beside him, she leaned close to pull the portable breather from his face and said, "How do you feel, sir? Did you have a nice nap while I did all of the heavy work?"
Gazing at her, he smiled weakly and responded, "I can't help it if I needed a break from taking orders. Apparently, my system shut down to allow my body to adjust."
Sighing with relief that he felt better, she replied, "Well, in that case, I'll forgive you, for now, but don't make a habit of it, sailor."
He smiled weakly once more and responded, "Yes, Ma'am. The last thing I want to do is sleep while I'm in your company. You might insist that Captain Crane put me on report for not following orders."
Shaken slightly by his comment and determined that he wouldn't delay her any further, she reached up with both hands to pull the breather back down. However, when she saw the expression of admiration on his face, wonder filled her and she hesitated. As her blue-green eyes stared with amazement into his blue ones, Nelson brought his hands up to grip her waist and pulled her closer. Then, he kissed her gently on the lips for luck.
When he released her, the spirited woman commented softly against his lips, "Guess that was worth a bad case of whisker burn after all, Admiral."
He didn’t comment to her response because he was a little shocked by what had occurred between the two of them. He attributed it to the fact that she had been in his thoughts ever since Riley and he had given her a ride to Barnswell Cliff. Now, here she was responsible for finding the Seaview and determined to save Riley’s life.
Thinking of the young sailor made him whisper softly, "God, I'm so glad that Riley stopped four months ago to help you with that stalled car!"
At his mention of Riley, she stiffened slightly and pulled away from him. "It’s time I was on my way to the Missile Room, sir."
"I know. You've got to go help him and the others. Just promise me that you'll come back. I don't think I can make it back to the other section of the sub on my own."
"Of course, Admiral." She mummered with her face still close enough so that her forehead came into contact with his for a moment before she pulled away. "Please, keep the breather on your face until I return."
Grinning weakly he asked, "Is that a request or an order, Ma'am?"
In answer, she made a fist with her right hand and gently touched his left jaw before reaching up and pulling the breather back down over his face. As she stood and headed back toward the shelf, he reached for the light and shined it up at the ceiling. Soon, she climbed to the top and removed the electrical duct cover. Following this, she came back down to position the small oxygen cylinder near the bottom of the shelf. She pulled a piece of sturdy thin plastic string out of her bag and tied it to the top of the tank and then covered the entire tank with a very thin sheet of plastic. After looking once more over at him, she put on a different headpiece that covered her entire skin. It contained a miniature breathing device and a small light in the front above her eyes, which she turned on. Her hands were already covered with a thin pair of plastic gloves. When he was unconscious, she'd dried off her wetsuit with the towels she brought with her. So, hopefully, she was dry enough to prevent any electrical shock plus being protected by the rest of her strange uniform. The only thing it lacked was a radio because the wiring in the duct would make communication difficult.
The Admiral would know she made it through was when she began to pull on the tank. They discussed earlier how to get every thing through the electrical duct with her. He suggested tying a string to the oxygen cylinder and pulling it through the passageway after she made it to the Missile Room. The rest of the portable breathers and other stuff CJ thought she needed could be put in her equipment bag and pushed ahead as she advanced along the duct. It was a good plan, if it worked. The only way to find out was to begin.
As Nelson watched CJ disappear from site into the ceiling electrical duct on his end, seaman Stu Riley was seated at the other end on the floor in the Missile Room holding a light in his hands. He shook himself awake, took a small breath of air from the diving tank, and tried to stay alert. Before the power went out, Mr. Morton had informed him, along with Johnson and Henderson, of what CJ planned to do. They decided among the three of them that Riley should be the one to help her if she made it through safely. Therefore, he was allotted more of their precious oxygen. Riley left the duct cover on so that CJ wouldn't fall headfirst into the Missile Room floor. He just hoped he could stay awake in case she needed help.
Meanwhile, CJ relaxed for the third time and began to breathe normally as she rested. She'd made it to the Missile Room wall and was ready to do the nose-dive downward. This was the most dangerous part of her journey. If she went too fast, her weight and gravity could lodge her in place. The only way to prevent this was to push against the duct sides with her hands and other parts of her body as she headed down the conduit. So far she'd inched along like a snail and had been lucky because most of the wires were above her. Now, her entire body would at many points come into direct contact with the wires. As she rested, she let herself relive the precious moments of Nelson kissing her and her response. "Her walls continued to crumble and she, along with the Admiral, was helping them fall."
Finally, psyched and ready to face the challenge, she pulled the plastic string tied to the bag past her until enough was available to allow it to reach the bottom of the duct. Then, she threw the equipment bag down the shaft and slowly followed it.
When the bag hit the bottom of the duct above Riley's head, he jerked awake and was disoriented for a few seconds trying to remember where he was. He felt the light in his hands and it all came back to him. Trying to figure out what had caused him to come too, he put his ear against the wall and heard a faint rubbing sound. He shut his eyes, placed the light upside down the floor, and turned it on. Then, after his eyes adjusted, he stood weakly and pulled the cover off the electrical duct. Inside he saw CJ's equipment bag illuminated by a light from above it. He squatted down and looked inside. What he saw made his blood run cold. He knew it had to be CJ above his head but, dressed as she was, she looked like something from a horror movie. He shook himself sternly for being so stupid and tried to pull the bag out but there wasn't enough string. So, the bag hung about two feet from the floor.
He looked inside once more and shouted upward, "CJ, it's Riley. Just let yourself slide to the bottom and I'll catch you."
She nodded, went limp, and followed his instructions. He pulled his head out of the duct and caught her as she shot out headfirst into his arms. Due to his weakened condition, he fell to his knees trying to break her fall and she fell on top of him causing them both to end up on the floor.
CJ pulled her headpiece up a little and said, "Riley, are you all right?"
"Yeah, just weak. Guess you should've come down at your own pace instead of taking my advice."
"Riley, how could any woman resist the temptation to fall into the arms of such a handsome man?"
He started to respond but ended up coughing and wheezing for air. CJ pulled her headpiece back down and crawled over to the dangling equipment bag, untied the top, and pulled out a portable breather. After he had a source of oxygen, she picked up his light and shined it around the Missile Room floor trying to find the other two crewmen. Both were lying close by but out cold.
While he took wonderful deep breaths, Stu watched CJ administer oxygen to his two buddies. Now, that he was able to view her entire dress more closely, he decided she looked like a blue angel instead of a monster from the deep.
Once she had administered oxygen to the three men, she went to the dangling bag and began to pull the cord to let the Admiral know that she was safe. When Nelson heard the oxygen cylinder clang and shined his light up in time to see it disappear inside the electrical duct, he smiled weakly in relief. Then, he closed his tearful eyes as the arm holding the light fell to his side. "Now, dear God, please let her luck hold and make it back safely!"
After helping Riley and the other two crewmen in the Missile Room, her trip back through the electrical duct was uneventful but slow. She was starting to tire. Two days without much sleep was starting to take its toll on her emotionally as well as physically. "She couldn’t come up with any other reason why she was drawn so much to Nelson. In addition, Lee Crane had learned things about her that only her family knew." She should be worried but decided to think about it later and continued snail along the conduit. She rested several times conserving her strength for the climb down out of the ceiling in the storage room. Unless, Nelson was feeling a lot better and could hold the shelf steady, she would have to climb out headfirst and flip around to bring her feet against it. Hopefully, it wouldn't fall over.
Finally, she reached the opening and poked her head out to look down into the darkness. Her headlight wasn't bright enough to see very far below. Before attempting her exit, she decided to see if Nelson would be able to help her. So, she pushed her headpiece up and shouted out, "Admiral, are you conscious?"
"Yes, CJ. Look away while I shine the light upward."
Soon, she was able to look back in the Admiral's direction. He was still sitting against the wall where she left him earlier. "Sir, are you feeling better? I was hoping you'd be able to hold the shelf steady while I come out of the duct."
"Yes, I'm feeling much better." He said as he stood and walked toward the ladder. "Just decided to conserve my energy. By the way, how's Riley and the others? Were you in time?"
"Yes, all three are fine, sir. I'll fill you in on the particulars when I get down."
"OK, I'm at the ladder. Is there anything else I can do besides hold the shelf steady?"
"Try to break my fall if I misjudge my exit." She replied.
Then, she leaned out and pitched her equipment toward the top rung of the platform before pulling her headpiece back down over her face. She continued to crawl forward until her head and arms were free. She gripped the duct with her hands, pulled her hips forward and out with her legs following. All that remained inside were her feet. Still gripping the duct with her hands, CJ pulled her feet out, flipped and made a jarring contact with the shelf. After she was able to swing one leg over the top rung into a straddling position, she let go and sat on top of the shelf breathing hard.
Nelson had been gripping the shelf with both hands and the light cradled in his arm shining upward so he could keep an eye on her. When she made it out safely and was sitting on top of the shelf, he expelled the breath he’d been holding and let himself relax. For the umpteenth time, he was glad he decided to accompany her to the storage room.
At last, her breathing became easier and she felt like she could climb down the
shelf without falling. She reached for the equipment bag and pulled it towards her before putting her left foot on the lower rung and swinging her right leg over to join it. Then, it was just a matter of climbing down to the floor.
When her feet made contact with the deck, Nelson laid the light on a shelve next to her equipment bag. Following this, he turned CJ around to face him and reached up to pull the headpiece off so he could see her face. Then, he smiled weakly and pulled her close in relief before releasing her.
Outside the buried Seaview, three bottle-nosed dolphins swam quickly toward the surface. Lou Emery stood waiting close to the edge on the starboard side of the Blackbeard. He'd been here ever since Lee Crane told him what the Young’un planned to do. Suddenly, the sea's calm surface was broken by three jubilant dolphins jumping high into the air and singing their song of joy. Relief flooded through the man as he headed back to the Radio Room to let a certain young Captain know that two people he cared for were OK.
Lee was about to settle the Flying Dolphin onto the carrier's deck with the second load of his crew when Emery's voice came over the radio. "Crane, this is Lou. Please come in."
"Lee here, Emery. Any news?"
"The best ever, Lee. According to the dolphins, Nelson and the Young’un are alright."
"I'll second that, Captain. Are you about to land?"
"Yes, I've got the Blackbeard in sight now and the diving bell has just been pulled onto the Dreamcatcher’s deck."
"How many more loads before the Seaview's empty?"
"At least two if I continue to overload the flying sub and the diving bell."
"Have you gotten any complaints from your crew?"
Lee looked over at Swanson sitting beside him and replied, "Not one!"
"Well, as soon as you see the Young’un, please tell her the answer she's been waiting for has come in."
"What 's the verdict, Lou?"
"Did the she discuss this with you?"
"She hinted but never put it into words. I guessed while ferrying the second load of crew up from the Seaview but couldn't become too enthusiastic at the time."
"Well, Captain, all have agreed to the project. Now, we just have to convince Nelson to let me have a look at the Seaview's Nuclear Reactor blueprints."
On hearing Lou's second bit of positive news so soon after the first caused Crane's face to break into a large grin and he started to laugh. Seaman Swanson looked over at him with a worried expression but Lee didn't notice as he landed the Flying Dolphin with a small bump onto the carrier deck. "He couldn't believe it. CJ had done it again. If all that was lacking was a copy of the Seaview's Nuclear Reactor, the problem was solved."
While his men started to exit the Flying Dolphin, Lee continued to communicate with Emery over the radio. "Lou, don't worry. If all that's needed is a copy of the Nuclear Reactor, I'll deliver them to you personally. It's the least I can do."
"Well, a complete copy of the entire updated plan of the sub would be better. The Young’un will be asking to see them next."
"Is that really necessary? The Admiral doesn't like to make such valuable classified information available to anyone outside the Institute."
"Well, Captain, let's cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, just bring me the Nuclear Reactor plans."
"If I knew more, maybe I could convince Nelson to let you have the entire plan of the Seaview."
"I would prefer to talk about that under more secure conditions. This channel is not scrambled. If you want me to, I can get seaman Gleason to loan me the secure Radio Shack. He's getting pretty used to it by now."
"Fine. We can communicate while I head back down to the Seaview."
"Very well. I'll be back on in a few minutes. Lou out."
A short time later, a very stunned Captain settled the Flying Dolphin onto the bow hatch of his submarine. What Lou told him about CJ's idea to use China's power coils in conjunction with the Seaview's Nuclear Reactor was mind boggling. Lee could usually say with certainty how the Admiral would react to situations. However, the man had been behaving strangely ever since he found out CJ was responsible for finding the Seaview. He decided to let her handle it after he delivered Lou's message. He didn't ponder about it any longer because Chip needed him to crack the hatch so they could load up CJ's sub once more.
When Chip heard the flying sub land above him, he climbed the ladder and was waiting for Lee when he opened the hatch. "Skipper, do you want me to start loading right way?"
"Yes, and please hurry them along. Any word, yet, of the Admiral or CJ?"
"No, but Sharkey and Kowalski are both waiting by the hatch to help them. The Chief has the other spare radio that CJ loaned us. He gave up on the back up generators. It's a good thing we've gotten most of the men off already."
"Chip, after the next load for me and the diving bell, the only ones left will be you, Sharkey, Kowalski, the Admiral, and CJ plus the three men in the Missile Room. I think we can all make it on CJ's sub."
"Won't it get pretty rough when you try to clear the Missile Room escape hatch? If some of us have to stand or sit without restraints, it might not be safe."
"Not with CJ at the controls. You haven't seen her fly this sub, Chip. It's like she's part of the machine. Now, let's get this sub loaded so I can get back down here ASAP."
"Aye, aye, skipper. Right away."
While the Seaview's Captain and Executive Officer loaded the Flying Dolphin, two people were swimming back slowly toward the hatch where Chief Sharkey and seaman Kowalski stood vigil. As before, Nelson was in front so CJ could keep an eye on him. On the first trip to the storeroom, the Admiral had shown no ill effects of the gas mixture until he stopped breathing it. She wasn't about to take any unnecessary chances with his life. Consequently, they were in constant communication.
Nelson suggested using simple math to make sure his mental faculties weren't impaired. Therefore, she would give him a problem and he'd solve it. "Admiral, ninety times two plus four."
"One hundred eight four, CJ."
"How about the square root of pi?"
"Has an indefinite answer."
"Total letters in your last name."
"Seven minus one."
"Aren't we getting close to the hatch, sir?"
"Likely probable, CJ."
"About twenty feet ahead."
"Are you experiencing any unusual symptoms, Admiral?"
They continued on for a few feet and then she began to ask him more questions.
"54,644 times 84 plus 65."
"Correct, sir. Now divide by the total letters in your first name."
"You know that's the correct answer, CJ?"
"You said to keep it simple, sir. Should I make the questions more complicated?"
"No." He replied with a chuckle. "The answer to your last question is 573,770 if you round the answer."
"Correct, sir, and I think we've reached our destination."
"Yes we have, CJ. I want you to know that you're a very stimulating diving partner."
"Thank you, sir. As soon as we get out of the water, I'd like you to start using the portable breather immediately so you won’t pass out like you did in the storage room."
"I agree. There's the hatch ahead of us. I'll open it while you shine the light up like we did in the storage room."
When Nelson reached up above the water and started to turn the bottom hatch lever, he felt assistance from the other side. He stopped and let whoever was above do the work. Soon, the hatch opened and a light from above temporarily blinded him.
He closed his eyes and spit out his mouth piece and thought he heard Chief Sharkey's voice saying, "Kowalski, move that light back. You're blinding the Admiral!"
He closed his eyes when he saw the light but all he could see were spots when he opened them once more. "It's alright, Chief, just help me out. It's going to be a few minutes before my eyes adjust."
"Yes, sir. Come on Kowalski. You heard the Admiral."
Relief flooded through CJ as Nelson's men pulled him up through the hatch and she came into position below it. Preoccupied with taking care of the Admiral, his two crewmen temporarily forgot about his diving partner. So, she laid her light on the deck above her head and pulled herself into sitting position inside the hatch. Then, after removing her mask, she turned to see a priceless picture. Chief Sharkey and seaman Kowalski were standing with their mouths hanging open in surprise and a grinning Nelson stood between them.
"Chief, I was going to suggest that the two of you give her a hand but it doesn't seem necessary. CJ, these two men are Chief Sharkey and seaman Kowalski, the ones to which your friend, Judith Bates, delivered lunch and my phony bag."
She grinned back at Nelson and his crewmen and said, "Nice to finally meet the two of you. Did you like the Italian food?"
The Admiral started to laugh at her question but ended up coughing violently instead. With one smooth motion, CJ loosened the belt around her waist holding the equipment bag, opened it, and pulled out Nelson's portable breather.
"Chief, catch this and put it over his face."
Sharkey turned quickly and caught the portable breather the woman threw at him. While he was putting it over the Admiral's face, she removed her flippers and air tanks before hurrying to Nelson's side.
"Chief, don't lay him flat. He needs to be seated against the wall so he won't choke and his breathing will be easier in that position."
"Lady, don't you think I know that. Stand back out of the way. Kowalski and I'll take care of him."
"I don't think so, sailor." She retorted as she turned with her arms locked together and knocked Sharkey back out of the way.
When seaman Kowalski started to move closer to stop her, she turned towards him with a smooth motion ready to give him some of the same. He quickly threw his hands in the air in defeat and backed away.
"That's better, gentlemen. Neither of you have any idea what type of gas he's been breathing or what symptoms to look for. Sorry I had to resort to physical means but I'm not about to allow him to choke to death swallowing his tongue. Now, I need some light, please, so I can check his mouth."
Rubbing his side, Sharkey reached down and picked up the light Kowalski had dropped when they pulled the Admiral through the hatch. Then, he shined it over her shoulder. She pulled the breather from Nelson's face, opened his mouth wide, and stuck her fingers inside. Suddenly, his body started to spasm. She quickly pushed him flat on the floor and straddled his chest. Then, she grabbed his hair with her free hand and jerked his head back so she could put her entire hand into his mouth.
She cried out, "One of you has to sit on his legs before he throws me off. I've got to get his windpipe clear before he suffocates!"
Kowalski didn't hesitate to follow CJ's suggestion. Chief Sharkey stood by helplessly watching the young woman working methodically to save Nelson's life. When she had his tongue pulled forward out of his throat, his spasms quieted but he was gasping for air.
Then, she reached forward and put her hands under the Admiral's arms trying to bring him into a sitting position. Sharkey reached out, grasped one of his arms and helped her. Once he was sitting up, CJ checked his mouth one more time before she covered it with the portable-breathing device. She remained straddled across his lower body when Kowalski released his legs but made sure none of her weight pressed against him. As she stared at the man, her eyes filled with tears, which she quickly wiped away.
Chief Sharkey wasn't a person for standing around and feeling helpless . After walking back-and-forth a few times up and down the hallway, he squatted down by Nelson and CJ and asked, "Is he going to be all right?" Should we move him down to the Control Room? I wish there was something we could do besides wait."
"Take it easy, Chief. I'm sure CJ would tell us if there was anything else we could do for now."
"Is that all you can think of to say, kid. Take it easy. How am I suppose to take it easy when I almost caused the Admiral to choke to death because I wouldn't listen."
Sighing inwardly, CJ turned to look at the man's tormented face next to hers wondering what to say to stop his bout of self-pity. They had more important things facing them.
Finally, it came to her. "Chief, please don't shoulder all of the blame onto yourself. Neither of you men know me at all. How can you blame yourself for trying to protect a friend and commanding officer from someone you don't know. I'm sure the Admiral will say the same when he comes too."
"Then, you're saying the he’s going to be OK?"
"I'm sure he will be, Chief. I just wish I'd brought some of my other gear from the Flying Dolphin in case I need it."
"I could call Mr. Morton on the radio he gave me and see if the skipper is still on the Seaview or on his way back down."
With relief, she smiled and said, "Chief that's a great idea. Why don't you do that right now?"
With Sharkey distracted, CJ turned her attention to the other man who was standing close by eyeing her up and down. "Kowalski, could you do me a big favor and bring me that bag I left by the hatch? I also need my gear collected together along with the Admiral's clothes."
"Sure thing." He replied.
Then, he walked over to get her satchel that he shortly placed in her hands. Following this, he watched in fascination as CJ removed her headpiece and the plastic hood covering her long hair. After removing the plastic pins and combs, she unwound her long braid to let it once more hang down the middle of her back. When she finished, Kowalski moved away to collect the other material she wanted.
Sharkey found the radio and quickly tried to reach the Control Room. "Mr. Morton, this is Chief Sharkey. Come in, sir. This is an emergency."
"This is Morton, Chief. What's wrong?"
"Sir, it's the Admiral. When he stopped breathing the special air mixture, he almost choked to death. He's better now but still unconscious. If it hadn't been for CJ, he may have died!"
"Chief, put CJ on the radio."
"Aye, sir." He replied and handed the radio over to the woman still straddling Nelson.
She pushed the button to communicate and said, "Chip, is Lee on board?"
"Yes, we're in the process of loading your sub for another run topside. What's this about the Admiral? Is he OK?"
"He's still out, Chip, but I think he'll be fine. Could I speak to Lee? There's some supplies I want him to give you from the Flying Dolphin."
"He's up in the sub. Hold on while I get him." Then, he pushed the hold button and shouted up to Crane, "Skipper, CJ's on Sharkey's portable radio and she needs to speak to you."
Lee came into view above Morton's head and started down the ladder nearly knocking down a crewman in his rush to reach Chip. "Sorry, didn't see you standing there in the dark, Jones."
"Don't worry about it, Skipper."
Crane nodded to the crewman as he took the radio Chip handed him and quickly pushed the communication button and said, "CJ, this is, Lee. Anything wrong?"
"It's Nelson, Lee. He's reacted badly to the air mixture twice. The first time, he just passed out for a few minutes. However, the second time he almost choked to death. I think it must be due to the low oxygen content in the sub plus toxins in his system. I need you to open the secret panel in the wall where the diving supplies are stored and take out two small orange cylinders that have masks attached. Also, you'll find some bottles of clear liquid inside. For safety, take out six and give them to Chip."
"CJ, I saw you open the panel but please refresh my memory."
"Of course. Run your fingers along the sides until you feel a rough patch. Then press your fingers against it until the door spring is released opening the panel."
"OK. I'm giving the radio back to Chip while I go and try to open the panel."
Then, he hurried back up the ladder weaving his away around crewmen already aboard CJ's sub and went to the sidewall containing the secret panel. In his rush to open it, Crane ran his fingers three times along the wall before the door slid open. Inside he saw several of the orange cylinders and a whole case of the clear liquid CJ had mentioned. Also, he saw another bag like the one she put her equipment in and used it for the supplies.
Soon, he was back inside the Seaview's Control Room taking the radio from Chip and talking to CJ. "I found the supplies you wanted. I'll have Chip bring them to you while I continue to load the Flying Dolphin. Are you sure the Admiral's going to be alright and how about the crewmen in the Missile Room?"
"Lee, Riley and the others are fine for now and the Admiral should be fine as soon as I get those supplies. The gas in the orange cylinders will revive him in a manner of minutes and the liquid will replenish the electrolytes in his systems."
Crane shook his head in wonder and replied, "Whatever you say, CJ. Chip will be on his way soon. Hopefully, you'll all be in the Control Room when I return. Oh, by the way, Lou wanted me to pass on a message to you."
"He said to tell you the answer to your first question is that all are in agreement to the project and all he needs is the blueprints to answer the second one. I plan on taking them with me when I go topside with the next load of men."
"Lee, do whatever you think is best. After we have everyone topside and I've had at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, we'll discuss it further. Right now I've got more important things on my mind. Don't mean to sound like a broken record but I need those supplies."
"I'm giving them to Chip as we speak and he'll be there ASAP. Lee out." Then, he handed Morton the supply bag while saying, "Chip, I wonder if I'll ever figure out just what CJ's specialties are. The list continues to grow by leaps and bounds every time a new crisis presents itself."
"Sounds like she's trained in many areas similar to any member of a submarine crew. Think she'd be interested in joining ours if the Seaview is salvaged?"
Lee looked at him in shock and said, "You're not serious?"
"I sure am and if you took a vote right now among the rest of the crew, I think it'd be unanimously in her favor."
"Well, if you don't get those supplies to her soon, she'll think we're too shoddy to even consider the idea."
Chip grinned in response to Crane's reaction and took the bag from his out stretched hand. Then, he grabbed a light and headed out to fill the woman's request. Ten minutes later, he reached his destination to see CJ and Chief Sharkey kneeling beside the Admiral while Kowalski stood near holding a light.
"Mr. Morton." Kowalski replied with relief in his voice when he spotted his Executive Officer. "I'm sure glad to see you, sir!"
"Likewise, sir." Sharkey said as he moved back to make room for Chip to kneel down beside him.
"CJ, here's the supplies you wanted. How's the Admiral?"
She turned to him and said, "Hopefully, we’ll know shortly."
He nodded and handed her the bag. She searched inside for a small orange cylinder. Once it was in her hands, she replaced Nelson's portable breather with the cylinder's attached mask. After this, she turned on the gas to full and leaned back to wait. Shortly, Nelson began to stir slightly as he moved his head. Then, his eyes flickered a few times before they opened wide to look around till they met CJ's.
When he put his hands up to try and remove the mask so he could speak, she gently took them in hers to stop him and said, "Admiral, you must keep this covering on your mouth and breathe deeply. You had another bad reaction when you stopped breathing the special air mixture. This time you nearly choked to death. Your throat muscles constricted and caused you to swallow your tongue. I had to use drastic measures. So, you'll probably have a splitting headache and your throat will be sore for awhile. Also, you may have trouble speaking. Later, I have some liquid for you to drink, which will soothe your throat and make you feel better. Please nod, sir, if you understand me?"
Nelson moved his head in a positive motion and CJ put his hands back in his lap. However, when she released them, he reached out and grasped one of hers with his own and held on tightly for a few seconds before he let it go.
Chip cleared his throat self consciously and replied, "CJ, if you don't need me here any longer, I'll head back to the Control Room. The diving bell will be back shortly and I'd like to be there when it arrives."
"It's fine with me. I think the three of us we'll be able to get the Admiral back to the Control Room."
The Chief nodded yes while Kowalski said, "Sure thing, Mr. Morton. I agree with CJ."
"Well, I'll head out then. Keep in radio contact and let me know how things are going."
As Chip headed back to the Control Room, he stopped several times to rest. The air was becoming very stagnant and he was glad the diving bell would soon be removing all but the remaining few from Seaview. "Also, he wondered what was going on between their rescuing angel and the Admiral. Maybe telling Lee that CJ would make a good addition to their crew wasn't so far fetched, after all."
When he reached his destination and glanced around the room with his light, something seemed amiss. Then, he noticed how bare the central table looked. Walking over to check, he couldn't find the updated Seaview plans that he'd shown CJ earlier. For a few seconds, alarm filled him until he remembered that Lee mentioned to CJ that he was taking some blueprints topside. Breathing a sigh of relief, he sat down to wait for the diving bell.
Back at the hatch, Nelson was feeling stronger with each passing minute. Sharkey and Kowalski had walked down the corridor a few feet and sat down, apparently, to give him and CJ some privacy. He sighed inwardly as he saw CJ glance in their direction and grit her teeth.
When she looked back at him and their eyes met, they sparkled in the dim light. "My God. She’s so beautiful and self sufficient." He thought to himself as she leaned down close to him and whispered, "Well, you've done it now, sailor. I can’t imagine what those two men must be thinking about your little act of possessiveness. Even Morton was acting strangely after he saw you holding my hand. Sorry, sailor, but guess I’ll have to report you actions to the Captain."
In response to her attempt to lighten the mood, he reached out to take her hand once more and squeezed it tighter before releasing it. Then, he tried to pick up a bottle of liquid lying on the deck beside them. After she helped remove his mask, CJ put her arm around his shoulders to brace his head and held the bottle while he drank. The cool liquid felt wonderful running down to his sore throat. It tasted like basic mineral water. After he finished drinking, she replaced the cap on the bottle and picked up another for herself and took a long drink.
Then, she asked, "Well, sailor, do you want to try out your sea legs or wait awhile?"
He croaked out, "Walk."
"Chief, the Admiral thinks he's up to starting back to the Control Room."
"Yes, Ma'am." Sharkey replied as he and Kowalski walked backed to join them. "How do you want to proceed?"
"Well, how about the two of you assisting the Admiral. I'll follow with the air tanks and other equipment behind you."
Kowalski looked at the load CJ would be carrying and replied, "Are you sure you'll be able to carry all of that stuff?"
"I'll do my best. We'll be traveling slowly so I can carry it in stages if I have too."
"Well, if you're sure, CJ, but just let me know if you need some help."
"Thanks, Kowalski, but I'll be fine. However, please let me know if the Admiral starts displaying any unusual symptoms at any time."
"I sure will!"
"OK, kid, if you're finished being Sir Gallahad," muttered Sharkey, "put the Admiral's left arm across your right shoulder, take the cylinder and let's get him to his feet."
"Aye, Chief, right away."
A few minutes later, they slowly progressed down the dark hallway to the Control Room. CJ followed quietly behind the three men carrying the equipment. They stopped several times before they reached their destination. Nelson continued to gain his sea legs and drank some water each time they stopped.
Suddenly, CJ bent double and nearly fell. "Something was terribly wrong. Oh, Great Spirit please let her be alive." She prayed as a feeling of helplessness threatened to overwhelm her. When Kowalski saw her leaning against the wall and asked if she was all right, she nodded her head yes. Then, she picked up the spare set of air tanks and forced herself to place one foot in front of the other. The darkness hid the tears beginning to run down her face.
Finally, they walked into the dark, empty Control Room and seated the Admiral close to the bow hatch ladder. Sharkey turned to find CJ stacking all of the equipment out of the way behind the it. During the entire trip from the hatch, she hadn't said much or asked for help. Her main concern was the Admiral instead of herself and Francis had to admit that he was impressed. He started to go and tell her so when Mr. Morton entered the Control Room from the other side. As the Exec hurried over to join them, CJ took her light and a water bottle and sat down in a seat some distance away.
Chip looked over in concern at the woman and said quietly to the Admiral, "Sir, I'm glad to see you're feeling so much better but has something happened? Why is CJ so quiet and withdrawn?"
Nelson glanced over in her direction in concern and started to speak when the radio in Chip’s pocket started to beep. He took it out and pushed the button and replied, "Lee, is that you?"
"Yes, it’s me. Has CJ and the others made it to the Control Room, yet?"
"They arrived just a few minutes ago."
"Tell CJ that there's an emergency scrambled radio call coming through for her on the Flying Dolphin. I'll be landing in a few minutes."
When she heard his words, she came running over and practically grabbed the radio from Chip's hand and blurted out in a tearful voice, "Lee, this is CJ. Please hurry."
Stunned, Chip took the radio from CJ's limp hand as she stood by him. Her eyes were closed and her cheeks were covered with tears. Suddenly, wobbly on her feet, she reached out to grab his arm to keep from falling. As he steadied her, they both heard the Flying Dolphin land on the bow hatch. Even before the engines quieted, Lee could be heard cracking the hatch above them. Chip escorted CJ over to the ladder, which she climbed in a run. When she reached the top, Lee opened the hatch cover and pulled her inside. Then, he climbed down and closed the hatch after him to give her some privacy.
Inside the flying sub, she picked up the radio mike with shaking hands and clicked it to receive officially the news she already knew deep inside. "This is CJ of J & Associates on high priority scramble aboard the Flying Dolphin currently in the South Pacific Ocean in the area known as 'The Submarine Graveyard'. I am alone. No one has access to this call but one currently born under the sign of the Lion. Come in please."
There was a popping and cracking of static on the line as if the message was breaking up and suddenly a weak voice spoke, "Hi, Sis. It's me, Younger Flower. I know you're sitting there in tears, but I'm fine. Just banged up a little. The doctors say I've got a slight concussion, a few broken ribs, and my left arm is broken in two places."
"Is your husband all right?" She asked in a tearful voice full of relief that her sister was alive.
"Yes, Sis, my better half is with me now holding the phone. I was alone when the accident happened. He's having the truck checked from top to bottom for tampering, now."
"Do you want me to come home to be with you?"
"No, Sis, I think it would only draw attention to you which we can't afford at this time. Silent One thinks it's enough that your clout will be behind the investigation."
"What about the rest of the family?"
"Sis, everyone is being notified as we speak. I'll let you tell Frank and his family. The doctors want me to rest now. My better half will be in touch with you frequently if I can't talk."
"I love you, Younger Flower."
"I know, Sis. The feeling is mutual. Now, this flower must close her petals and sleep. When the sun shines, she'll bloom once more."
"No matter what, I'll be there soon to check on the aroma of my favorite rose. Sleep well."
CJ clicked the radio mike to disconnect the link and wiped away her tears. She sat for a few minutes collecting her thoughts and saying a silent prayer of thanks to The Great Spirit for sparing her sister’s life. Earlier, when the four of them had started to the Seaview's Control Room, she felt something was wrong. Then, after she knew it must concern Younger Flower, she felt helpless until Lee’s voice came over the radio. Now, she must try to explain her previous actions to five men waiting below.
Sighing, CJ got up and walked to the lower hatch of her flying sub and pulled up the cover. As she started to climb down the ladder, she decided to be as truthful as possible without revealing too much information. Lee wasn't stupid and must already know the call had come in from the states via Washington, DC. Knowing Crane, he wouldn't reveal that information unless she said it was all right.
Reaching the bottom of the ladder, CJ turned to face five concerned men that reminded her of a firing squad. When this thought passed through her mind, it brought a quick smile to her lips. These guys gave her the impression at this moment they were all ready to fire but only in her defense.
When Lee saw the fleeting smile appear on CJ's face, he replied, "Was the message good news, after all?"
His smile helped her to find the words to say, "Yes. The news was positive but my younger sister was in an automobile accident. Her injuries aren't serious but I didn't know until I was able to speak to her in the hospital."
Chip stared at her in puzzlement, "How in the world did you know something had happened to your sister?"
CJ stared at the man wondering how to explain the special relationship she shared with her younger sister when Lee came to her rescue once more. "It’s none of our business, Mr. Morton."
Chip nodded and said, "Aye, sir. Sorry, CJ."
She looked at the men’s curious faces and sighed. Chip’s question still hung in the air even though Lee had told him it was none of their business. She was going to have to say something. Finally, she stared at floor and said, "There’s no need to apologize, Chip. It’s very simple really. My younger sister and I share an empathic bond like some twins do."
When no one else said anything, she looked up and found all of them looking at her with concern. Her eyes wandered among the group of men making eye contact with each briefly before they finally settled on Nelson. His eyes spoke volumes that helped her to say, "Well, now that I’ve answered Chip’s question, shouldn't we be on our way to rescue the three men in this sub's Missile Room?"
Nelson laughed softly at her bravo and said, "You heard the lady, gentlemen. Let's proceed."
Ten minutes later, everyone was settled into the Flying Dolphin waiting for CJ to start the engines. Lee sat opposite to handle the laser. Nelson was seated behind him in the spare chair. Chip stood behind CJ's control seat with his hands gripping the top while Chief Sharkey stood behind the Admiral's. Seaman Kowalski stood by the ladder leading to the upper hatch.
She looked over at Lee and grinned like a Cheshire Cat. He winked and said, "Admiral, remember when I said CJ would show you how she was able to film this entire location in fifteen minutes. Well, sir, you're about to experience a small taste of how that was done. I suggest you all hang on tight."
When he finished speaking, they both looked at Nelson for a moment to see his reaction. He looked like a young boy about to be given a jar full of cookies. CJ leaned to her left and engaged the engines of the Flying Dolphin and then turned the knob to heat China's power coils. A sound like buzzing insects filled the sub. After the sound stopped, she set the power coils to their lowest setting, disconnected her sub from the Seaview, and moved it smoothly away through the water at a phenomenal speed. Then, she hovered in place just off the Seaview's aft escape hatch and turned her flying sub 180 degrees like a slow spinning top.
She was busy controlling the Flying Dolphin and didn't get to see Nelson's face immediately but heard his sharp intake of breath. She put on the sub's autopilot and brakes and turned her chair to face him plus the other men, who were experiencing some of her sub's fantastic characteristics for the first time. The faces of Morton, Sharkey, and Kowalski wore looks of disbelief while Crane's wore a look of satisfaction at his boss' reaction.
Nelson's face was filled with unbelievable joy and wore the biggest smile Lee had ever seen him display. Inside he was experiencing something like shell shock because a lot of his current scientific beliefs had just been thrown to the wayside. However, so many others were on the verge of being born.
So, when CJ asked him quietly, "Are you impressed, Admiral?" He didn't answer at first because so many ideas were running through his mind.
"I don't believe it, CJ." Lee retorted with a laugh. "You've actually rendered him speechless!"
"Well." She said with a smile. "While the Admiral's collecting his thoughts, I want to demonstrate another way to use the modified laser to break up the rocks. I think it will help prevent further mud sliding down on the Seaview. Instead of holding your hand on the firing button until it ignites the narrow beam, release it and push back down in a rhythmic motion."
"Isn't that dangerous? Won't it begin to pulse too quickly and build up energy and explode here inside the sub?"
"Not the way I modified it. Here, let me illustrate."
Then, she proceeded to demonstrate by pulling down the laser eyepiece and putting her finger on the firing button and shooting out a multitude of controlled narrow short blasts.
"My God!" Nelson exclaimed in shock. "It works like a semiautomatic weapon!"
CJ turned off the laser and pushed it back up to its holding position before turning her face to look at Harriman Nelson. Her eyes were hard and glittered like topaz- emeralds. "Admiral, it may act like a weapon but will never be used as one. I've made sure of that as with all of my ideas and the inventions that I subsidize."
"Many people have said and hoped that, CJ." He replied with a shake of his head. "However, they’ve been proven wrong each time."
"I know, sir. So I made sure it was possible before I ever started. Even Lou Emery was skeptical at first until I proved my point. Admiral, we could sit here all day arguing the pros and cons of the subject so let's drop it for now. I'm willing to discuss it with you later privately to show you that I'm not insane or naive. Presently, we're faced with rescuing your men and preventing any more mud from sliding down on your submarine. It's going to be hard enough to salvage as it is."
Lee's face broke into a grin at her last sentence. Like Nelson, he was shocked when she demonstrated some aspects of her modified laser. However, because of her last slip, he knew she was committed to the salvage project.
Nelson's animated look crumbled when she mentioned the subject of salvaging his submarine. "Don't worry about the Seaview. Getting Riley and the others out is our top priority. I doubt if the Navy or the Defense Department could get a salvage team here before the volcanoes start erupting again, anyway."
"Admiral," CJ said as she moved the Flying Dolphin in position to fire the laser. "I have it on good authority that the Defense Department is definitely interested in salvaging the Seaview and has consulted J & Associates about the matter. Also, the volcanoes have entered a temporary stage of dormancy. Admiral Hawks has kept Lou informed with hourly seismograph reports plus my bottle-nosed dolphins are starting to catch fish once more in the surrounding waters."
Before he could absorb what CJ said, she pulled down the laser once more and fired five quick bursts in succession. Then, she moved the flying sub into position above the Missile Room escape hatch, set the brake, and applied a small amount of power. The Flying Dolphin protested but didn't let her down.
As she pulled away to fire the laser again, Lee replied, "Let me try this time. I'll do a few practice shots first to get the feel of it."
"Fine. Just pretend you're at the county fair trying to shoot down all of the ducks to win the stuffed toy for your date."
Crane grinned while he put his eye against the laser and pumped the firing button. "You must have spent a lot of time at the county fair. That's the second time you've mentioned it."
"Where I grew up, it was the main summer attraction."
"And which state was that?" He asked aiming the laser at the escape hatch and incinerated another pile of rocks.
"I didn't say, Captain." She answered as she moved in once more to blow away mud and debris.
When she positioned the sub again for Lee to fire the laser, he responded, "I think this should do it. Looks pretty clean now and you were right. This firing procedure hasn't produced any more mud slides that I've noticed." As he fired the last shot and put the laser up in its holding position he asked, "How am I going to find out where you're from, CJ, if you won't give me any hints?"
Guiding the Flying Dolphin into position once more to blow away the final debris produced from the last explosion, she grinned and retorted, "If you're willing to take orders, Captain, and help Frank and me to salvage your precious lady, I may tell you where I'm from. Now, back to the business at hand. There's a short rope ladder inside the secret wall panel that you can use to climb down to the Missile Room escape hatch. Since you've got plenty of help, I think I'll stay here and negotiate with the Admiral J & Associates' price for salvaging the Seaview."
During the clearing of the Missile Room escape hatch, Nelson and the others had watched and listened with awe and humor to their repertoire. Now, after CJ settled her sub onto the cleared opening, Chip went with Lee to obtain the rope ladder while Sharkey and Kowalski opened the Flying Dolphin's lower hatch. In a matter of minutes, CJ and the Admiral were the only two people left in the flying sub.
When she looked at Nelson trying to keep a business expression on her face, CJ failed miserably. With dancing eyes, she released the straps holding her in the control seat and went to stand in front of the man looking up at her with a hooded expression on his face.
Finally, he looked down at his hands and rubbed them together as if to warm them and said, "So you're a member of the renown company called J & Associates, which is considered by the world to have the most updated salvage boats afloat."
She just stood silently above him waiting for him to continue.
He was quiet for a few moments as if deep in thought before he proceeded by saying, "Now, that I think of it, in the last four months, J & Associates has backed some of my Institute's projects. Mainly, ones that I believed in but had trouble getting funding for from other sources. I'm beginning to understand why you said that your organization only subsidizes projects that benefit mankind. Under those circumstances, what's your price going to be for salvaging my submarine?"
"Well, Admiral, at first I thought all I wanted was my original bag that you have in your safe aboard the Seaview but now I've changed my mind. If you don't mind, I think I would like to accompany you on your magnificent submarine on her maiden voyage after she's been repaired."
"Is that all?"
"Well, if it's too much to ask, we'll just do it for the return of my bag and both go our separate ways after the salvage."
"No, the price is a fair one except for the part about the bag. I have no intention of giving it up because it’s what brought us together and resulted in the rescue of the Hornet’s and my crew."
"Then, we’re in agreement, sir, except for the part about my bag. J & Associates will salvage the Seaview and I’ll be able to accompany you on the Seaview’s maiden voyage after she’s been repaired."
Nelson looked up thoughtfully at the woman standing above him and replied, "Yes, CJ, we’re in agreement."
"In that case, sir, I suggest we shake hands to seal the deal between us. And who knows? I may even be able to persuade you to return my bag to me during the voyage we take together."
Instead of answering her question about that possibility, Harriman Nelson reached out to shake CJ’s hand that she held out to him. As their hands made contact, he was filled with determination to learn more about this mysterious woman, who had helped to save so many lives.
After they shook hands, CJ seated herself once more in the control chair and began to warm up the Flying Dolphin's engines. Fifteen minutes later, with seaman Riley sitting beside her in his seat of honor, the Flying Dolphin broke the sea surface and made its approach run to land on the Blackbeard. Before reaching the aircraft carrier, the sub flew over the Dreamcatcher, anchored nearby. On the horizon two other salvage boats appeared and began sailing in the direction of the surface vessels. Unknown to all, others were flying in from the North that would help in the salvage operation.
The End for now!
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