Note:  In my timeline, this story fits in afterIdentity Crisis and before No Easy Extraction.  It is just a fun piece that I hope amuses anyone who chooses to read it.  As usual, very many thanks to those who helped with the story for their thought provoking suggestions and encouragement.


Kind thanks once again to RL Keller for the loan of Lt. Chris James – I’m so taken with him, Rita, I may just have to adopt him! (GGGG)


The Selection Process


by Fidelma C.


“She’s qualified!”  Frustration was evident in the tone.


“She’s old,” came the flat response.


“Mature,” corrected the blond.


“She’s older than the admiral!”  He tossed the file folder onto the growing pile of rejects.


“You said you didn’t want some young thing who was going to drool all over you.” 


“I did not!  I said I wanted someone experienced and capable who wouldn’t get….”


“Sidetracked by your good looks and charming personality?”  Snickered his friend.


“That doesn’t mean I need a mother figure either,” countered the brunet irritably, running his hand through his short, slightly curling hair.


“Oh, I get it.  You’re afraid she’s going to take one look at you and plan to adopt you.”  Teasingly.


“I’ve already been adopted!  By your family.  I do not need any more parents in my life.  Especially mothers!  And especially not when it comes to my secretary!”  Lee Crane muttered with diminishing patience, followed by a heavy sigh.  “How can it be this difficult to pick someone?  You’ve already conducted the initial interviews, reviewed their clearances, etc.  How come it takes so long to pick a secretary from the shortlist?”


“Because you’re too fussy!”  Retorted Seaview’s XO, indicating the height of the reject pile and the small clutch of folders in the ‘to be considered further’ stack.  “Honest to God, Lee, you don’t have to live with her.  You don’t even have to see her that often.  She just has to be able to type, file, screen calls and made decent coffee!” (Apologies to all secretaries – WE know we do a lot more than that!)


At the lift of his friend’s dark head at the last remark, Chip backtracked.  “Scratch that!  Coffee is off limits!”  The Puppet Master affair was all too fresh in their minds.  “Angie is the only person on the floor whose coffee we’ll concede to drink.”


“Tell that to Debbie!” 


Morton was relieved to see the glint of humour in Lee’s hazel eyes.  It had been all too infrequent in the past six weeks. 


“OK, Debbie can make coffee.  I’ll even share her coffee making skills with you – IF you’ll make a decision on one of these today!  I am NOT giving up another Saturday morning – when I was due to play golf, just to get another little dig in – going through these.  And let me remind you, Debbie is threatening to quit if you don’t pick someone soon!  Then we’ll both be in the same boat – no pun intended – and your tennis game will be under threat while we try to find me a secretary!”  His attempt at a glare failed spectacularly at the under-the-lashes sheepish look Lee gave him and they both cracked up.  “OK, I admit it, Debbie loves you.  But she loves me more – and she’s got a husband and two kids to get home to!   She won’t put up with the extra workload forever.  So we need to find you someone – and soon!”


Lee knew his friend was only kidding – Chip would give up any number of golf games if he thought Lee needed him.  This one had, in any case, been just about an order from their concerned CMO.  Jamieson was almost as worried about Morton as he was about the patient he’d recently, and reluctantly, declared fit for ‘restricted’ duty – much to said patient’s intense disgust.  Crane couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.  He was perfectly capable of returning to his job – without any limitations.  He’d been out of Med Bay for over two weeks now and he’d finally – albeit only a couple of days before – convinced Chip to give up his babysitting role and go back to his own condo to sleep.  Not that Chip looked like he was getting a lot of sleep these days - or eating properly, if the thinner features and the shadows under his blue eyes were any indication.


Lee felt a pang of conscience.  He knew how much his shooting had affected his best friend and was really, honestly, grateful for Chip’s care and attention – if for no other reason than it had kept Jamie off his back.  He knew the medic was trying to give him some space and Chip’s presence allowed Jamieson to keep his distance, while still monitoring his captain’s progress.


No, that wasn’t strictly true.  He did enjoy Chip’s ministrations – to a point.  He could always count on Morton to be there when he needed him, even if it meant he had to endure a tongue lashing for coming back hurting from an ONI assignment gone wrong – as seemingly many of his had an unfortunate knack of having happen – and NOT because of his ineptitude as an agent.  It just seemed like they gave him the ones no one else could achieve a result in or, as Chip preferred to put it – usually blisteringly – when their Intel sucked and Lee ended up taking the flak. 


This time Lee’s injuries hadn’t come about from either a Seaview or ONI mission.  He’d intercepted a bullet meant for Chip (*) and therein lay the crux of the problem.  His overly conscientious friend – brother in all but blood – felt desperately responsible and had had to eventually be practically pried from Lee’s side in Med Bay, by order of the admiral, when the CMO had failed to reason with him.  Once Lee had been allowed to return home, earlier than a royally ticked off Jamieson would have liked – so what was new? – Chip had just moved in.  No announcement –no argument allowed.  He’d just parked himself in Lee’s spare room; his defiant glare almost begging Lee to challenge him. 


Crane knew when he was licked.  He’d done four years at the Academy with Chip for a roommate and had learned the hard way that, when Morton had that look in his eye, it was easier to give in than to fight a battle you were going to lose anyway.  So he’d surrendered gracefully, recognising that Chip needed the re-assurance of having a hands-on role in his recovery programme.  But it was becoming increasingly tiresome as Lee’s strength gradually returned. 


Crane was even more frustrated at the limitations put on him – much as he recognised and appreciated the sentiments behind it.  But he was totally unused to inactivity and that, in part, had almost hindered his recovery.  He’d eventually persuaded – OK, demanded at full volume – the CMO to allow him access to reports concerning Seaview’s latest re-fit.  He’d thought Jamie had given in a tad too easily on that one.  When he’d asked to meet again the Lieutenant in charge of the attempted murder case – one Patrick Connelly – to plead leniency for Cassie Sommers, he’d been stonewalled on all sides.  Even Nelson had waded in on this one and Lee knew, by dint of that alone, how much his impulsive action had impacted on his close friends.  Not that he would do anything different, if the circumstances were repeated.


Nor would Chip - much as he’d protest - expect him to.  And Lee knew Chip would have done exactly the same - had indeed done so in an incident shortly after their graduation from Annapolis – had their positions been reversed. 


Lee’s sigh brought the blond head swiftly up, appraising his CO and friend worriedly.  Crane shook his head, acknowledging that he was ‘fine’ – a standing joke between the pair and their favourite CMO.  He forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand – a sure fire indicator that he wasn’t back to full strength, this would have been a done deal had he been.


“What about this one?”  Lee pulled a file from the TBC stack and perused it once again.  “She looks – sensible.”


Chip, uncharacteristically, almost bobbled the 6”x 4” photo of the prospective candidate Lee passed to him when he realised which file Lee had chosen.  His fair complexion gave him away every time – the blush, starting at his neck, suffused his cheeks as he cleared his throat, knowing he wouldn’t be able to hide anything from his oldest friend.


“Ah, Lee, I don’t think so.   Take it from me, sensible she isn’t.”


“Uhh?”  Crane was still reading the resume and just then looked up, catching Chip’s obvious discomfort.


“She, ahh, she… Let’s put it this way….” Morton plucked the folder from Crane’s hands, shoved the photo back into it and plonked it decisively onto the ‘rejects’ pile.


Lee’s eyes sparkled with mischief – and Chip’s narrowed as he recognised the glint and the decided smirk that appeared.  “She propositioned you, didn’t she?” 


“Let’s just say, she’s not suitable – and leave it at that!”  The exec growled.


“Let’s not!”  The captain insisted, an unholy grin on his face.  “What did she do?  Try to seduce you?”


As Morton became increasingly uncomfortable, almost squirming in his chair, Lee gleefully, mercilessly, ploughed on.  He had a reputation for being old-fashioned, especially where women were concerned, but he reckoned he was only a novice compared to his too-correct brother.  Beginning to sympathise with the now cringing blond, he allowed him to wriggle – slightly – off the hook he’d baited.  “That bad, huh?”


“You have no idea!”  The barely breathed words were just about audible.  “Had to ask Debbie to step in – to dissuade her from just about taking her clothes off!”  Chip shuddered at the memory.


Lee could hardly contain his laughter, envisaging the scene and his honourable friend’s abject horror, nay - terror.


“You really, really have no idea, Lee!”  Morton groused at his friend’s obvious humour.  “Your fame precedes you.  Have you any inkling the number of applicants we’ve screened for the post of secretary here since the news broke of the attempt on the admiral coupled with Cassie Sommers’ shooting you?   And that’s without even actually indicating the post advertised.  Seems any position at NIMR is a gateway to meeting you.  And you need that like you need root canal!”


Lee sobered quickly.  Morton had been inordinately affected by the attack on his CO, and friend, and he knew that Chip was still coming to terms with it – to a ridiculous degree in Lee’s mind.  Chip was even now double screening candidates for the secretarial post, blaming himself - first off - for his failure to suspect Susie, the secretary who’d systematically poisoned Nelson until a particularly allergic reaction from Chip had sparked an investigation on the command floor of the Institute. 


Lee knew Chip was still hurting at his apparent malfunction in preventing harm to both his boss and his best friend - twice.  Daily, although Lee was cleared for light duty, he still saw the subtle ways Chip kept an eye on him, ensuring he didn’t overdo it, sidetracking any paperwork he could purloin so that Lee had more down time. 


It had become…restrictive and Lee was going to have to deal with it soon.  Gently and very, very carefully.  But before Seaview’s next mission.  Otherwise he knew he’d spend the entire cruise tripping over his ultra-solicitous XO.  That is, if he could persuade their even more conservative CMO that he was fit for full duty in the first place.  That argument, he conceded, would probably be conducted at length and considerable volume.


Teasing his oldest friend out of the sudden downslide in his mood should have been easy.  “Things have certainly changed, Morton.  There was a time you wouldn’t have objected to a lady taking her clothes off for you!”


“That was no lady, Lee.  THAT was a barracuda!”  Chip’s shudder wasn’t feigned. While not being a prude – and having had his share of girlfriends – Morton had an intense dislike of aggressive women.  Plus he had a burgeoning relationship, thus far not even having progressed to a proper first date, with the admiral’s P.A., one Angie Newman, and he didn’t want anything getting in the way of that.  Not that he was under any illusions that Debbie hadn’t filled Angie in on the smallest detail concerning the most recent little episode.  The sparkling look in Angie’s green eyes, when he’d dropped off some reports for Nelson the previous day, had been telling.  He’d known she’d known and he’d blushed fiercely and high-tailed it out of there before she could make a comment.  His only consolation was that, while Debbie might have told Angie, neither woman would spread the gossip any further.  They were both extremely good at their jobs and would instantly quash any conjecture that arose in the, mostly female, administrative centre concerning the Institute’s senior officers. 


He came back to the present to Lee’s quiet chuckles – a joy to behold after the events of the past six weeks and in the face of the weeks to come.  Cassie Sommers’ trial was due in several weeks and Nelson had scheduled the next cruise to ensure all the senior officers were back in port to support Lee during that ordeal. 


Leaning back in his chair and stretching his long legs, Chip closely observed his oldest, and best, friend.  Lee was clearly looking better by the day.  His usual olive complexion was glowing once again from the enforced rest and his lengthening beach walks, plus he’d regained the weight he’d lost so quickly in Med Bay – no surprise there; Lee’s appetite was finicky at the best of times.  Since he’d been allowed home Chip had ensured he’d eaten three squares.  He’d cooked breakfast before he’d left for the office and gently, or brutally if it became necessary, harassed Lee into eating.  When he couldn’t make it home for lunch, covering as much as he could for Lee, he ensured some member of the crew showed up to eat with the skipper, knowing that Lee would be unable to send them away, thirsting as he was for any news of his boat.  And Chip had handpicked the men for that duty.


Ski, the senior rating, could always be counted on to get the best from his captain and friend.  He was brought into play in times of sheer desperation.  Sharkey was employed when Chip knew that Lee would eat anything provided – quickly – to get the over-talkative chief out of there as soon as possible.  And Patterson – well, Pat was the quietest and most easy-going crewman aboard, but with a will of iron unmatched even by his best friend Kowalski. Pat could gently, with the wounded, disappointed look that appeared in his soft brown eyes, usually cajole the skipper into eating everything on his plate. 


Either Chip or the admiral would bring dinner; take out or steaks for the barbeque on the admiral’s part, or Chip would bitch about the state of Lee’s kitchen cupboards as he cooked, bemoaning the lack of staples and thanking the gods that he resided close enough by so he could pop back for any missing ingredients.  Lee was a faddy cook; when inspiration took him he could trawl through the markets for the freshest produce and construct a gourmet meal.  But to find anything like the basics in his cupboards?  Neh, heh.  Chip on the other hand, had a well-stocked parlour with canned goods and dried herbs plus a freezer full of easily reconstituted meals, for when he didn’t want to cook from scratch. 


He had made sure that Lee was adequately fed, knowing Jamie was watching carefully and would have had Lee’s six, and possibly his too given the chance, ensconced back in Med Bay like a light, if either of them appeared to drop another ounce.  Likewise sleep, although he hadn’t been as successful there.  Lee’d been pretty much under the influence of Jamie’s powerful meds and had succumbed to sleep fairly easily, at least in the early days.  That same commodity hadn’t come as readily for Chip.  While Lee had been in Med Bay, his friend – covering Lee’s day-to-day duties along with his own – had, after hours, scoured the bars in downtown Santa Barbara, with the full knowledge and reluctant assistance of the lieutenant in charge of the case, intent on finding the redhead who had shot Lee.  Lack of success being synonymous with lack of sleep, things hadn’t changed much for the better when Lee had been released back to his condo, even given Cassie Sommers’ confession and the end to at least some of Chip’s nocturnal activities.


Morton had taken over as much of Lee’s care as time and duty permitted, knowing Lee would accept his ministrations better than either Jamie’s or the corpsmens’.  If that meant less sleep for the blond, than so be it.  And when Lee’s nightmares – well, you couldn’t even call them that, just tossing and turning – started, then Chip was the one to sit with him during the hours of darkness and silently, grimly, reconstruct the events leading up to the shooting, to the bullet meant for him.  He was still finding it difficult to get past that – although he knew in his heart and soul that Lee didn’t hold any hint of animosity or blame towards him.  It just wasn’t part of Crane’s makeup.  But Chip knew he had to work through it in his own way. 


He suspected that Lee knew part of the reason for Chip’s lack of sleep was the battle he too faced with his own nightmares. When he’d finally managed to sleep, he’d woken several nights, drenched in sweat, reliving the scene in the car park; the numbing, mind-blowing disbelief, almost able to feel Lee’s weight as he’d staggered into Chip.  Funny, he couldn’t even see Cassie’s Sommers’ in his dreams – there was nothing but Lee and him and the dreadful, gut wrenching fear that this sudden, unprovoked attack was going to wrest his friend from his side forever.  What Chip recalled most from those night terrors was the feeling of being totally powerless – helpless to control the situation – and an abject terror of facing the future knowing he was responsible for Lee Crane’s death. 


During the remainder of the nights, when he’d sat in Lee’s darkened living room or when the demons had driven him from the confines of the house onto the back deck overlooking the moonlit ocean, he’d acknowledged to himself the pure selfishness of those thoughts.  Logically, analytically, Chip could rationalise that they were the product of the dreams and not the reality of how he’d felt at the time.  But it had brought home to him the stark horror he would feel should he have to live through Lee’s death.  He truly didn’t know if he could.  He knew he couldn’t have faced their friends, Nelson, Jamie, Angie, and many others, if an action of his were to cause any harm to come to Lee.  He still went cold just thinking about it.


Lee saw the shudder that Chip couldn’t quite conceal and his grin vanished.  They hadn’t spoken of it in the weeks since the “incident”, other than that one time in Med Bay when he’d known that Chip needed his reassurance that Lee didn’t blame him for the shooting.  Hell, sometimes he thought he’d actually had it easier than his friend.  He knew Chip needed to get it off his chest, but budging his stubborn friend when he didn’t want to talk about something could be like pulling teeth. 


Lee Crane was under no illusions when it came to Chip Morton, the closest thing to a brother he had or would ever have in this life.  Chip would beat himself up forever if Lee couldn’t get through to him that there was nothing that would have dissuaded Lee from stopping that bullet from hitting Chip, even at the cost of his own life.  Not that Lee didn’t value his life; he did.  He just put even more store in everyone else’s around him, his brother of the heart, his friends, the man he called employer/superior officer/mentor/father, and his crew.  And not that he didn’t recognise that that tendency of his regularly drove his friends up the wall.  Especially Chip.


“Hey, where’d you go off to?”


Lee started, realising belatedly that he’d missed some conversation point of Chip’s.  “Same place you did, I guess.”  He grinned softly at the scowl that crossed the blond’s face.  A scowl that was quickly replaced with an indefinable expression – an XO special – which made Lee sigh gently in not-unexpected exasperation at his friend’s obduracy.  


“Don’t go there, Lee.  Not now.”  Morton growled.


“If not now, then when, Chip?  When’s it going to be a good time to talk about this?”


Chip funnelled a hand distractedly through his short almost wheaten hair as he pushed his swivel chair around and practically bounded to his feet, crossing in silence the brief distance to the tall windows that overlooked the Sub Pen where Seaview resided.  Several minutes passed before, as if drawing comfort from sight of her, he drew in a ragged breath then exhaled slowly.


“Just… not now, Lee.  I’m coping – I promise.  I know what you’ve said, Jamie’s said, the admiral’s said, heck, the whole crew has found one excuse or another to attempt to convince me that I’m not responsible.”  His back still to Lee, his voice so low as to be almost inaudible, Chip leant forward until one hand rested on the glass as if trying to form a tangible connection to the grey lady below.  “I’ve been over-compensating – and I honestly expected you to blow me out way before now – but I’ll work through it before the next cruise.  It won’t be a problem.” 


Lee had thought many times over the years that Chip Morton could read his mind – never was he more certain than now.  Having the tables turned on him – however unwittingly – caused him to immediately backtrack. 


“Well, how about we concentrate on one issue at a time, buddy.  You still have a golf game to make!” 


A derisive snort assured him that Chip was more than willing to follow his lead and drop the subject – not that Lee was entirely finished with it, but he knew when to stage a tactical retreat. 


“Cancelled the tee time when you called.”  The exec admitted, somewhat sheepishly.


“Cancelled?  You said you’d just postponed it!”


“So I lied!”  Snapped the XO.  “Geez, Lee, I’ve known you long enough to expect something like this to last longer than you’d ever have planned.  Knew I’d be hard put to make it to the course in time for even nine holes, so easier to cancel.  Wasn’t in the mood to play anyway.”


Knowing how serious Chip was about his golf, Lee could fully understand that.  But Chip had been all but under orders - and Lee wasn’t about to draw the Wrath of Jamieson down upon HIS head.


“OK, I’ll buy that, but what about Jamie?”  Lee’s tone was positively plaintive.


“Yes, what about Jamie?”  Came an unwelcome voice, and both officers turned swiftly suppressing, with difficulty, identical groans of dismay as the open door revealed the figures of Admiral Harriman Nelson and Lt. Cmdr. Will Jamieson, both dressed in civvies but sporting similar grim expressions.


“Now, Jamie…” Chip instinctively moved into his ‘big brother’ mode, instantly protective of his captain and friend.  He didn’t get very far.


“Don’t you dare ‘Now, Jamie’ me!”  Seaview’s CMO retorted loudly, his usually warm brown eyes flashing with obvious displeasure. 


As both Crane and Nelson simultaneously opened their mouths to converse, a single speaking glance from the medic had the two men almost snapping their teeth together in immediate compliance with his unspoken word.  Knowing he should diffuse the barrage about to descend on Chip’s head – and unfair as he acknowledged it was – Lee was simultaneously relieved that the tirade was to be directed at anyone but him. 


“I thought I told you yesterday, Commander, to get your six off Institute property and not return until Monday morning.”  It wasn’t phrased as a question.  “I distinctly remember arranging a tee time for you, Lt. James and Lt. O’Brien – a little three-ball, that…” ostentatiously consulting his watch he pursed his lips in pseudo-deliberation,  “…by my timing, should put you just about on the 10th or thereabouts.  Unless of course, your concentration on the game is lacking for some obscure reason, Commander.”


“You’ve made your point, Jamie.”  Morton growled, shifting uncomfortably in his stance.


“Oh, I don’t think so.  I really, really don’t think so.”  Jamison uttered reprovingly, noting the slight cringes the two younger officers tried unsuccessfully to hide.  Moving confidently forward he deliberately edged the admiral aside, the flag officer allowing the small discourtesy as, his eyes beginning to sparkle, Nelson recognised one of the CO/CMO/XO legendary battles about to commence.  For once he had a ringside seat and he wasn’t about to allow the opportunity to slip by.




“So help me, Captain, if you even attempt to tell me you’re ‘fine’, I’m calling Med Bay right now and getting Staff Nurse Maguire over here to yank your tail straight back there.”   The mutinous glare that was directed back at him from furious amber eyes had absolutely no effect on the tall lean medic who simply crossed his arms over his chest and out-stared the younger man.  When he was sure his dark haired C.O. was sufficiently cowed that he wasn’t about to argue further, Will switched his attention back to the blond whose stony features would have had any number of ratings scuttling for cover at a run.  “Don’t tempt me, Commander, just don’t tempt me.”  Jamieson threatened, glowering right back at him.  “If you fancy being restrained in the bed right next to your buddy here, that can be very quickly arranged.  In fact there’s nothing I’d like better!  And to think I trusted you.  Not only are you in here working on a Saturday but you allowed this…this workaholic idiot, who hasn’t the sense he was born with, to come in with you!”


“Actually, Jamie it wasn’t quite like that….” Morton began in one of his best XO tones. 


“I so do not care!”  The ticked off doctor interrupted waspishly.  “You’re here, he’s here, and by the looks of it you’ve been at it for some time.  How the hell is he supposed to heal if he won’t get sufficient rest?  And as for you…  How many hours sleep did you get last night?”


“Maybe he couldn’t sleep for thinking about the golf game.”  Lee offered, the innocent gaze not faltering at the disgusted look he received in return.  “I mean, O’Brien’s golf has really improved this past few months. Probably gave Chip nightmares thinking about it!” 


“Keep it up, Captain.”  Jamieson’s eyes narrowed warningly.  He was just irate enough – and worried enough about his two young friends – to want to kick their tails right back into Med Bay.  To be fair, he also admitted to himself that it was doubtful Morton had been the instigator this time - it was more likely that Lee had wanted to hit the office and persuaded a reluctant Chip to accompany him – probably to ensure that Lee didn’t overdo it.  But the grousing between the command staff and the CMO was part of the game they played out whenever one of them was sick or injured.  It was expected and – truth to tell – worried Jamieson more when it didn’t happen than when it did.  But he still recalled how close they’d come to losing Lee this time and the battle Seaview’s young captain had had to regain his strength.   Not to mention how it had affected his friends. 


“Jeez, Jamie, take a chill pill!”  Crane muttered crossly, to an accompanying emphatic nod from his blond exec. 


Jamieson looked like he was about to explode, his lean facial features tightening as he straightened to stand almost toe to toe with the younger officers, Morton having come to position himself staunchly at his friend’s shoulder.   


Now seemed to Nelson like a good point in time to diffuse the storm that threatened to escalate into a full-blown hurricane.  “Just what brought you two into the office today, anyway?”  He asked peaceably, watching Will take a small step backwards and seeing some of the tautness drain from the younger men’s posture. 


Unwilling to back off entirely, Jamieson mumbled to no one in particular “Does it matter?”


Nelson merely raised one eyebrow, almost chuckling at the single glance that sliced between the younger pair.  No words were exchanged – none needed to be – but tacit permission was given for Lee to speak for them both.


“My fault, Admiral.”  He shot a glare towards the doctor at the barely audible “Surprise me!” that came from that direction.  “Chip has been interviewing this week for my new secretary and we were just reviewing some of the applicants for final interview.  We’ve narrowed it down considerably.  Nothing remotely strenuous!”  This last pointedly addressed towards the CMO whose “Tell me another!” came back as a muttered retort. 


Lee followed that with his best wide-eyed, sincere, innocent “Who me?” look.  Jamie’s growl was this time distinctly audible and even Nelson was forced to disguise a snort of laughter with a short cough. 


“And did you come to any decision?”  Nelson’s eyes twinkled as Jamieson groaned aloud.


“Admiral, don’t encourage them!  This can wait until Monday.  Back me up here.  Please!  Kick their sorry sixes out of the building.  NOW.”


“Shall we adjourn to Seaview, Skipper?”  Morton daringly threw his two cents worth into the fray.  The acidic glare he received from the doctor would have burned through tempered steel – and Chip was more used to delivering those forbidding stares than being on the receiving end.  He cleared his throat as Lee and Nelson studiously avoided looking at him – each silently applauding his bravery/foolhardiness in taking on a now supremely irritated Jamieson.


Defending his position didn’t seem like a good move just then and Chip stepped back obligingly as Jamieson moved purposefully towards the desk.  Jamie’s gaze skimmed across the neat piles on the XO’s desktop, coming to rest on the two stacks that were the obvious focus of the morning’s work.  One was significantly larger than the other.  Knowing the individuals involved, Will zeroed in on the shorter stack.  Three folders were all that comprised that pile.  Jamieson lifted them from the desktop and fanned them out between his hands.  “The ‘to be considered’, I presume?”


At the exec’s wary nod, Jamie held the three resumes out to Lee.  “Pick one.”  He offered challengingly.  Hesitantly, not quite sure where this was going and with a quick look from under his eyelashes at Chip and the admiral, Lee chose one of the folders.  Jamieson tossed the others back onto the reject pile and plucked the one Lee had picked from the captain’s hands.  Opening it, he scanned the typewritten material briefly and removed the photo, handing it back to Lee.


“There you go, Skipper, meet your new secretary.”  A startled glance was all he allowed from Crane before taking the photograph back and returning it to the folder. 


“Anything further can wait until Monday.  Get out of here NOW, both of you, so Admiral Nelson and I can finally get going on our fishing trip.  Oh, and in case you were anticipating a return once we’ve gone, I’ll be leaving word with Security to ban your sorry a… tails from the base until 0800 Monday.”


Nelson nearly lost it completely at the looks on both his junior officers’ faces – a mix of blatant irritation and exasperation with a touch of aggrieved pride at being out-manoeuvred by the wily CMO.  But with Nelson obviously tacitly agreeing with the medic, there was little more they could do.  Seeing Lee open his mouth to protest further, the admiral shook his head amusedly.  “I wouldn’t, if I were you, Captain.  Chip, I suggest you get your CO out of here before Dr. Jamieson changes his mind.”


Identical disgruntled expressions now marred the handsome features of both blond and brunet as Chip shoved Lee gently in the direction of the door, leaving Jamieson and Nelson behind them listening to the conversation both younger men knew they could easily hear.


“Pushy, Lee.  He’s getting downright pushy!”


“What do you expect me to do about it?” 


“Well, buddy, you’re the captain.”


“Huh, you’re the exec – discipline’s your province.”


“Yeah, right!  Like he’d listen to me!”


“Admitting defeat, Mr. Morton?”


“Me, sir?  No, sir!”  The blond’s tone became speculative, their voices fading as they neared the end of the corridor.  “Just got to get a whole lot….”


“What was that last bit, Harry?”  Jamieson, just ever so slightly worried, hoped the admiral had caught the exec’s final words.  You needed every advantage possible to outwit Morton’s renowned retaliation.


“Couldn’t quite catch it, Will.”  Returned the admiral with a studied innocence that didn’t fool the doctor for one moment.  “Should make for an interesting few weeks.  It doesn’t do to cross Chip just before a three week cruise.”  He moved to precede Jamieson out the door, stopping as a stray thought caused a wry chuckle.  “And I hope you chose well, Jamie.  You’ll have Lee on your back too if she turns out to be a lousy secretary.”


“She, Admiral?”





(*) See Identity Crisis on Seaview Stories

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