Authors note: This is for Liz…. I typed as quickly as I could! Thanks to Carol for her usual perceptiveness and help, Jane for the legal details and to my son for the technical babble…thanks Matt!
Sins of the Fathers
by Lillian H.
Three men waited impatiently in the large office in the N.I.M.R. building.
“Lee, will you stop pacing, you’re making me nervous,” Chip Morton declared.
Crane looked at his oldest friend and frowned. It was hard to determine any nervousness about the outwardly calm, motionless individual who watched him.
“If that’s your impression of nervous, Mr. Morton, what did you call the state you were in when Josh was born?”
“Panic…. blind panic!” Chip Morton shuddered remembering the birth of his son a year ago.
Lee smiled and then laughed softly. “ You got that right. If only the crew had seen you that day…. your reputation for calm in the face of a crisis would have been totally sunk.”
Admiral Harriman Nelson watched the friendly banter with a smile of indulgence. He was used to watching these two men strike sparks of each other. He knew that instinctively each one was helping to relieve the others tension.
There was loud knock on the office door. “Come.” Nelson called out. The door opened and admitted Chief Muller, head of security, two uniformed guards and a sulky looking youth.
“We picked him up outside the main gate sir. He’s refusing to talk. His I.D. says he’s called … Allen Crosby, fifteen years old and from Forrest Grove, Oregon.”
The youth struggled to be free. “Al, my name is Al and I’m sixteen…almost.” He glared at everyone present.
“Quit squirming kid,” Muller muttered.
Admiral Harriman Nelson looked intently at the gangly youth. He was on the slim side and stood at nearly six feet. Dark, slightly curly hair and with dark angry eyes, dressed in tee shirt and jeans, he certainly didn’t look like a threat to the Institute or National Security.
“Would you like to explain why you have been following my Captain around and making inquiries about him, with his neighbours, friends and local businesses?”
The youth glared first at Nelson then at Crane. His obvious animosity to the latter was almost tangible.
Lee stepped forward. “ Have we met, is that it? I’m sorry, I don’t recognise you. Maybe if you tell us why you’re here….”
The youth looked around the room angrily then back to Lee. “ Sure, why not? I guess it’s not every day I get to meet a big hero like Captain Lee Crane… my… Father. Hi there Dad!”
After the stunned silence that followed the blunt statement, there was a flurry of activity. Nelson dismissed his head of security and the guards, ordered fresh coffee, a jug of orange juice and cancelled all his calls.
Chip Morton sat watching the youth carefully; he had seen Lee Crane’s eyes register shock then recognition, he only just heard his friend’s whispered exclamation, “ It can’t be…”
Morton also saw what the Admiral could undoubtedly see, a young man who looked remarkably like a younger version of their friend.
“Do you want to explain that statement young man? Just who are you?” Nelson ordered.
The youth was now sitting slumped in a chair, disrespect oozing out of him. “And sit up! Behave with some dignity!” Nelson barked.
Immediately he sat upright and blushed a deep crimson. “ Who are you…his father?” Looking at Morton he said boldly, “ What are you, their minder?”
“ This… is Admiral Harriman Nelson, head of the Nelson Institute and I am Lt. Commander Morton, Executive Officer to Captain Crane and you…. are way out of line mister,” Chip Morton’s voice matched the icy calm of his piercing blue eyes.
“Thank you Mr. Morton,” Nelson said then returned his attention to the boy, “Now perhaps you would like to answer my original question, who are you precisely?”
The youth looked towards Lee Crane who stood looking out of the window. He appeared uninterested but the two men who knew him well saw the tense posture and clasped hands behind his back; he was paying careful attention to everything.
Some of his earlier bravado gone, the boy turned his attention back to the glaring officers in front of him. “My name is Al Crosby. My mother was Sarah Crosby…”
“Was?” Crane interrupted, turning from the window, his concern evident, “ You said was … what’s happened to her?”
“ She… she died, three weeks ago.” Al answered quietly. “That’s when I found out who you were…. Dad,” he said defiantly.
“Lee? Did you know Sarah Crosby?” Harry asked quietly.
Crane, pale and stunned, sat down in a chair, and turned to Nelson. “Yes sir, I did. She was on the campus staff at Annapolis. She worked in the admin block; it was her first real job.” Lee was remembering the beautiful, eager young woman who had left a small town in the mid-west to take up an exciting new job, full of possibilities, in a brand new state. She had been his first real experience of ... love.
“Did you…umm…. date her? I mean well… is it possible that this young man … could he be..?”
“ Am I his son? Is that what you’re trying to choke out, old man?” Al Crosby demanded belligerently.
“Enough! You will use respect when you address us,” Crane stated firmly. “I’m sure your mother would have taught you better manners.”
“How would you know what she taught me? You weren’t even around!”
The tension in the room was almost combustible.
“Lee, this is getting us nowhere. Let him tell us his story, and then we can judge its accuracy.”
Crane hesitated, nodded his assent and leant back in the chair.
“ Tell us how you came to be here and why you believe Captain Crane to be your father,” Nelson said.
It took a glare from Morton to get Al’s complete attention. Harry smiled wryly to himself few men went up against Chip Morton in his ‘Exec’ mode.
Sitting up straighter and clearing his throat, Allen Crosby started his story….
“My mother worked at Annapolis, like he said. She was only there a short time when… when she met someone and they fell in love; at least that’s what she thought. He was an officer and told her he loved her. Well, they dated and she… she got pregnant!” He turned to glare at Crane who was sitting tensely in the chair, “ Was it so bad? Why didn’t you want to marry her? She was carrying your child, for God’s sake!”
All eyes watched Lee Crane. He didn’t move, just sat staring straight-ahead, his face reddening slightly.
“Please continue… what happened?” Harry asked quietly.
Allen looked down to his hands. “He was angry; she was hurt when he asked if the baby was even his. She realised she had made a mistake about how he really felt about her. She broke off their relationship, left her job and decided to bring me up alone.” His voice got quieter. “ She went home to her family at first but they were ashamed of her, so after she had me, we went to live in Oregon. There she called herself a widow and took a job typing from home. She made a few friends and when I got old enough she went out to work. Later I helped out too.” He looked up. “We were doing fine ‘till she got sick. The doctor’s fees were expensive: she had to have a lot of tests and take time off from work. Then they told her …. told her she wasn’t going to get any better.” His voice trembled slightly with pent up emotion. “She had some disease with a long name and no cure… she died not long after.” Tears hung on his dark lashes and he dashed them away defiantly. Turning back to Lee he grated. “And it’s all your fault! You left her, you left me… you killed her!”
“You don’t understand,” Lee said sympathetically, “you don’t know all the facts….”
“I know more than you think,” Allen Crosby interrupted hotly, “ She kept your letter…!”
Lee was taken aback and just stood looking at the boy.
Nelson cleared his throat. “ Hmmph. Yes well. … but just what leads you to believe that Captain Crane is your father?”
Allen Crosby opened the duffle bag at his feet. He pulled out a crumpled envelope. Removing two smaller envelopes from it he handed one to Nelson, the other he kept.
Removing the contents, he held a Will, a folded letter and another form. Nelson read silently a moment. “This birth certificate says ‘ father unknown’.” He then unfolded the letter and read;
I know you prefer Al, but please allow your mother one last indulgence.
My darling son, please know that I have never been ashamed of giving you life, I am so very proud of you. I don’t know what wonderful thing I have done to deserve someone as special as you, I have been blessed beyond measure and thanked God everyday for your existence.
I know how deeply you have missed the presence of your Father and resented my silence about him but I had my reasons and I hope you will forgive me for the pain I have caused you. Please try not to be bitter, I was young and made mistakes but you must not allow them to influence your future or change the person you are. For now, I want you to send the enclosed letter as it is, to Captain Lee Crane at the address I have given.
I have asked Captain Crane to take guardianship of you until you are eighteen or are considered by him to be able to care for yourself. Don’t be angry with me, I know you are all grown up… well nearly …but I want you to know Lee and for him to know you. He has become a fine officer and developed a reputation for doing the right thing. The enclosed letter will explain everything to him; he will not turn you away I’m sure. I trust him to do what is best for you and I hope you will come to admire his fine qualities; he will be a good role model for you.
My son…. I wish we had more time together but I will always be with you… I am written on your memory, close your eyes and remember me sometimes… then open them again and live your life to the full.
Until we meet again, I wish you Love, Joy and Happiness.
Harriman Nelson read the letter in silence. Passing it to Chip Morton, he looked at the young man in front of him. There was an undeniable likeness between them but did that mean paternity? “Where is the letter for Captain Crane?”
Allen Crosby held up the envelope in his hand just out of reach when Crane reached for it, then relented and thrust it towards him.
Lee walked across the room. Standing apart and alone he studied the envelope and then prised it open.
Chip took Nelson’s letter and read it carefully. He remembered Sarah Crosby. She had arrived midway through their training. She was a pretty young woman, who while being excited to be working away from home and meeting new people, was very innocent. He remembered how she and Lee had struck up a friendship, even though she had been slightly older. He had been amused at Lee’s reaction to her; he knew his friend had fallen hard and that they were very close but he had not realised that their relationship was so…. personal.
He first knew something had happened between them, when Lee had become extremely upset at his gentle teasing and angrily told him to leave it alone…. Chip never dared mentioned it again.
She had left suddenly a few days later. Lee had been very worried and had tried persistently to contact her. Finally, after receiving a letter from her, he had seemed somewhat relieved and relaxed a little, with the final exams approaching he eventually moved on.
Chip Morton could not…did not want to believe that the Lee Crane he knew, had behaved in so heartless a manner. “Why didn’t you mail the letter, instead of coming here and spying on Captain Crane?”
The youth shifted uncomfortably. “ I wanted to check him out first. Mom may have known him years ago but I don’t know him at all…and I wanted some answers!”
“Oh Sarah, why didn’t you tell me the truth….” Lee whispered, then realized he’d spoken aloud; he re-folded the papers hastily and put them back in the envelope.
Lee knew they all wanted an explanation but he felt too guilty to discuss this with them yet. “Where have you been staying?” he addressed Allen Crosby.
“I … at a hostel in town. Anyway I’m not sure I am staying.” He stood and glared at Lee. “ Are you my father then?” he challenged Crane.
“You are staying,” Crane said, brooking no argument, “ just as your mother wanted. Get your belongings. Muller will take you back to the hostel, then you’ll come home with me, until we can decide your future.”
“Now wait a minute!” Allen shouted angrily, “You can’t boss me around. I’m not one of your crew…I want to know some things first…”
“I can and I will. This is official,” he held up the envelope. “I’m your legal guardian for the next two years. So, you either obey me, or I will have you made a ward of the state and you can live in an institution somewhere until you’re eighteen… your choice. I suggest you consider it while you’re on your way to town.” Lee marched to the door and after a brief conversation with the waiting Security Chief, Leo Muller led the extremely angry young man out.
Lee walked back slowly to the windows, taking the letter Morton held out as he passed. Without facing Chip, he scanned it and asked “Is there anything else I should know?”
“There is a copy of the will. Nothing much left. A small insurance policy, and a few shares. It seems the available cash went to paying medical fees and funeral costs,” Nelson said stiffly.
Crane nodded and turned. “Admiral, we sail in two weeks and as I’m sure you will appreciate, I have a lot of arrangements to make. If you and Chip could spare me for a few days…I’d like to get started.”
Nelson considered his Captain carefully. He didn’t want to ask but felt he must. “Lee… are you saying this boy is your son?” he asked softly.
Crane hesitated. “ I’m saying sir… that he is my responsibility.”
“You’re evading the question, Lee is he your son?”
“Sir, this is a private matter, concerning only the boy and myself and I’m not prepared to discuss it!” Lee Crane said angrily then turned on his heel and left.
Lee Crane rubbed his hand across tired eyes. It had been a tough ten days. Sitting in the comparative peace of his office he reflected on recent events.
When he had taken a sullen, rebellious Allen Crosby home, he knew immediately that the problems had only just begun!
After the initial introductions, his wife Darcy had merely looked confused but had welcomed Allen and set him up in the guest room.
When they had been able to speak privately, Lee had been less than forthcoming. He admitted he knew Sarah Crosby but would not discuss their relationship. He had noticed Darcy’s intense study of the boy on his arrival…he knew the resemblance was unmistakeable. He asked Darcy to trust him and to try and make a place for Allen in their home, while he sorted everything out. She had been obviously concerned but had done as he asked.
Lee realised the strain he had placed on her, Allen Crosby seemed determined to be as difficult as he could. Twice the police had brought him back after he had tried to hitch out of town. He did at least try to be civil to Darcy but his attitude towards Lee was stubborn and aggressive, purposely refusing to co-operate in any way causing Darcy to defend Lee when he did not appear willing to defend himself.
The only light in the gloom of the Crane household was Grace. She at least accepted Allen Crosby with equanimity. She treated him with quiet resolve and berated him softly when he behaved badly. He responded with blushing apology and towards her he made the effort to be pleasant.
Crane’s reveries were disturbed by a knock on the door. It opened and Admiral Nelson looked in. “ You wanted to see me Lee?”
“Well… yes sir I did but I would have come to you.”
Nelson came in and sat on the sofa. “No problem, we haven’t seen much of each other lately.” He noted his Captain’s obvious tension and the strain that showed on his gaunt features, no doubt Jamie would have something to say about it. Mr. Morton had already kept the Admiral apprised of his views.
“What is it you need, Captain?” Nelson asked cheerfully.
Crane stood and moved restlessly. “Sir…. I have a favour to ask….”
“Go on Lee. What is it?”
Sitting opposite Nelson, Lee Crane put his hands together and leaned towards the man he had grown to admire above all others. “ Admiral, we sail in three days. The new school semester doesn’t start for five weeks and he’s growing restless, it’s been a difficult adjustment for him. I’ve been in touch with his previous teachers and they tell me he’s academically bright, if only he would apply himself more. Chip has been letting him help him on the new computer updates for the admin. staff and says he’s really gifted with the technology. I was wondering if you would allow him to work here while we’re away. Darcy and Mike Staples, the computer consultant could supervise. It would give him some useful experience and occupy him in something that interests him.”
Nelson watched Lee carefully. They had not discussed the situation since the boy’s arrival but he knew some of the problems he had faced. Harry had seen the careful scrutiny from the staff and noticed the whispered conversations. He had also heard a number of rumours regarding the lad’s rude and disobedient behaviour towards Lee.
“Lee …are you sure this is your responsibility? I mean, do you have definite proof?”
“I’ve already assumed responsibility for him, Admiral,” Crane answered edgily.
“I see,” Nelson sighed, knowing he’d never get a real answer, “Okay Lee, if it will help and you think he would benefit from the opportunity…. I’ll authorise it.”
“Thank you sir…I’ll impress on him the trust he’s being given,” Crane replied, obviously relieved.
“Lee…I know the strain you’re under, if I can help at all? If you ever want to talk about the circumstances… I’m always available.”
Lee looked steadily at his friend and hesitated. “I know sir… but I can’t, not yet…. maybe when I have had time to sort a few things out. This whole thing is a bit of a minefield right now.”
Nelson stood and grasping his Captains forearms said. “I understand Lee, just remember what I said…. anytime.”
“I won’t have you deciding my life for me!” Allen Crosby’s angry voice reached the small party sitting out on the decking. “I’m not a child; I can make my own decisions!”
Harry and Katherine Nelson, along with the Mortons, Will Jamison, and Darcy Crane were enjoying the last warm rays of the sun as it started to set. Joshua Morton was asleep in his father’s arms and everyone was conscious of the loud argument-taking place inside the house. They had all enjoyed a pre-departure dinner at Darcy’s invitation and although moments in the meal had been strained, on the whole the evening had been successful.
Katherine Nelson was a newcomer to their midst. She had been reunited with Harry after a long separation. Their wedding had been very low key but the Institute had thrown the most spectacular reception party that was still talked about, even now, five months later.
She had felt honoured by her inclusion to the extended family that was now surrounding her. They loved and respected Harry and by their union, had automatically accepted her. She carefully watched the strain showing on the faces of her friends. “Well, shall we pretend we can’t hear what’s going on? Or shall we sympathise with Darcy and take our leave?”
Everyone smiled. “Please don’t go. Lee will be finished soon and will want to join us,” Darcy Crane implored.
“I don’t care what a piece of paper says,” the boy’s voice continued, “ You were gone for too many years… you don’t have the right to tell me what to do! I don’t need a father like you. I’ll never accept you as any part of my life. As soon as I’m sixteen I’m leaving anyway…and you can’t stop me!”
“On the other hand, this is probably embarrassing everyone….” Darcy said tiredly,“More coffee for anyone…Jamie? Chip? Admiral, you’ll have some surely?”
“Well, if you put it like that, it seems I have no choice! It’s just lucky you can run away again. Don’t talk to me about duty; you’re just glad you don’t have to look at me. I’m just an embarrassment for you. The mistake that you can’t hide!”
A slamming door reverberated through the stillness and quietness descended. Lee Crane walked out onto the porch, looking tired and troubled. He saw concern reflected in the eyes of his friends, hell, when would this get better...
“Sorry about that,” he said embarrassed.
“Lee,” Chip asked quietly, “I know you want me to butt out… but why do you let him behave like that? I’ve seen you bring a awkward crewman back in line with just a dozen well chosen words.”
“Chip’s right Lee,” Darcy said, standing beside him, “You don’t even fight back. He says the most awful things to you and you don’t even defend yourself…why?”
“He’s grieving, angry and hurting. If hitting out at me helps him, I can take it. Basically he’s not a bad kid, his school reports are favourable… he’s popular, intelligent, generally a good student. He’s developed an attitude problem recently but that’s understandable in the circumstances; he’ll come around, he just needs time to adjust.”
“In the meantime you take all the hit’s and he gets worse,” Harry commented quietly.
“Maybe he just hurts Lee because he has no-one else,” Katherine said softly. Harry looked at his new wife and put a comforting arm around her.
“Maybe,” Nelson said, smiling gently at her.
“Ever thought he may need a little counselling?” Jamie asked, “Just to help him adjust? I know some very good men… if you decide it would help.”
“No, thanks Jamie,” Lee said, “I’d like to wait little bit longer. I’ll find a way to reach him, there’s a lot to explain. He can’t stay angry forever.”
“ Of course he can!” Grayling Morton said, “Lee, I maybe way off base here but I think he wants you to fight back. He’s goading you. He wants you to give him some indication of how you feel, what you think… that you even care. Your son or not he needs to know where he stands with you.Talk to him Lee,” she said compassionately. “Despite what he says…. he needs a father and he desperately wants to trust you!”
Crane was shaken by her conviction. Grayling Morton had developed into a sensitive, perceptive woman. Her opinions were valuable. If she only knew what she was asking of him.
Allen Crosby stood on the quayside with Darcy and Grace. He watched uninterestedly as they said their goodbyes.
Finally Crane turned to him. “Allen… Al” He quickly amended as the boy scowled. “I’ll be back in about three weeks; we’ll talk then. You have the right to some answers… In the meantime, work hard and please try to behave for Darcy.”
“Why can’t you tell me before you go?”
“There isn’t time now, but I promise when I get back…”
“I don’t want to wait…. I’ve waited too long already.”
“ Allen, It’s not as easy as that… I can’t talk properly now. …. when I get back… I’ll answer all you questions; there will be plenty of time then.”
“Time enough for you maybe…not for me!” he turned and stalked away.
“Don’t you worry about him, Lee,” Darcy said, “Grace and I will take care of him, won’t we darling?” Darcy smiled down at her daughter.
“ ‘course we will Daddy. Allen just needs to feel loved again.”
“Mr. Morton, are we ready?” the Captain’s voice called out.
“Yes sir. All secure and ready to answer bells.”
“Very well. All ahead standard, depth ninety feet, heading 020.”
“Aye, Aye sir.”
As the orders were repeated and the voyage got under way, Lee Crane felt some of the tension leave him. He loved his family deeply but if it could ever be said that he was unfaithful, it was with this sea witch, Seaview. The man and machine had an affinity, when they sailed together he felt invincible…. she always brought them home safely!
Four hours into the watch, Sparks handed his Captain a message. The tension was back. “Thank you Sparks, I’ll deal with it.”
“What’s up Lee?” Morton asked quietly.
Crane handed him the paper.
Allen has gone AWOL. Have searched the usual haunts, no luck.
He doesn’t appear to have passed through security, so he maybe hiding out on the grounds.
Will keep you informed… sorry darling.
“That crazy kid, what’s he playing at?” Morton muttered.
“Chip, you have the conn. I’ll be with the Admiral.”
“Aye sir,” Morton watched Crane walk away and felt sorry for his friend.
“What do you want to do Lee? ” Admiral Nelson offered “Would you like to abort? Or I can have someone go back with you on the Flying Sub.”
“No sir…I don’t think that will be necessary. I think he’s on board somewhere.”
Crane quickly told Nelson of his parting conversation with Allen.
“I think he snuck on board and is biding his time to confront me.”
“What should we do? Supposing you’re right… we certainly can’t let him have his own way? Hell, he’s a stowaway…. I can’t ignore the implications of that,” Nelson paced and ran a hand through his hair in irritation.
“I know sir. If I’m right and he is aboard, well, a stowaway should be treated as such, regardless of any legal relationship.”
“You’re not suggesting we clap him in irons and throw him in the brig?” Nelson half joked.
“Appealing as the idea is, no sir. I’m suggesting he earn his keep. We’re on a simple supply and mapping mission. If there’s an emergency we can off load him in the Flying Sub, otherwise, he can be a member of the crew,” he grinned. “He wants to be treated like an adult, now’s the chance.”
“Mr. Morton sir, we found him,” Kowalski’s voice sounded over the intercom.
“Bring him forward.”
He turned as the Admiral and Captain descended the spiral staircase.
“Mr. Morton, if you would join us?” Nelson said firmly.
“Mr. O’Brien you have the conn.”
Just then Chief Sharkey, Kowalski and Allen Crosby appeared.
“Bring him through,” Morton turned and headed towards the senior officers.
After dismissing Kowalski, the Chief closed the doors.
Captain Crane was sitting at the table looking stern and uncompromising. Admiral Nelson was seated on the windowsill watching and Mr. Morton stood at ease on his Captain’s right. “Explain yourself,” the Captain demanded harshly.
Allen Crosby swallowed his bravado quickly enough. Confronted by this intimidating trio and feeling the presence of the burly Chief behind him, he considered the rashness of his actions. “ I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I was just having a look around and I fell asleep. You don’t think I’d actually want to sail with you?”
“Where was he found Chief?” the Captain asked.
“Cold Food Storage Locker No.2, sir, and there ain’t no way anyone’d stay in there unless they didn’t want to be found.”
“So I was hungry.”
“You’d just had lunch…Mr. Crosby,” Lee said, “it is my contention that you deliberately stowed away on this vessel. That’s a serious offence. We are committed to this mission and can’t just load you off the boat. Therefore you can work your passage.”
“What kind of game is this? I’m not a prisoner or a stowaway… I just want you to tell me the truth now, if you’re my father or not! I figure down here, you have no place to run!” Allen shouted angrily at Crane.
“ Then you made a big mistake,” Nelson
said firmly, “Captain Crane is bound by the laws of the sea just like the rest of us. You are
a stowaway on my boat and as such you will be treated accordingly.”
“You can’t do this… I’m only a kid. You can’t treat me this way…”
“You made an adult decision, you’ll be treated as one,” Crane said, “And as Captain of this vessel, that is final. Mr. Morton will assign you to crew’s quarters and see that you’re attached to the duty roster with duties suitable to your abilities.”
“Make no mistake,” Lee continued, “ this is not a pleasure boat. We all work hard. You will be treated fairly and in return we will expect your best efforts. Chief Sharkey will be your immediate supervisor; Mr. Morton is responsible for the smooth operation of the boat and the discipline of all crewmembers aboard. He will be the officer most directly involved with you. I will be kept informed of your progress and will make the ultimate decisions that affect you.”
“I won’t do this and you can’t make me. Just tell me the truth and I’ll go!” Allen Crosby said defiantly.
“You should have thought about that before you made your decision and stowed away. This is a submarine, not a subway,” Crane said tightly.
“I’m sure you’ll find a way to get rid of me again…. you managed it before!”
Any other member of the crew would have recognised the Captains sudden stillness and flashing eyes as a warning and immediately retreated. However Allen Crosby did not.
“Mr Morton?” Lee said, “Take any actions you think appropriate.”
“Aye sir,” Morton turned to face the youth as Crane and Nelson left via the spiral stairs.
“Chief Sharkey, you will assign Mr. Crosby to the aft crew’s quarters.
He will join Blue watch. I think seamen Kowalski, Patterson and Riley will be
best able to show him the ropes,” The Exec ordered.
Allen Crosby pulled out a chair and sat down.
“Stand up!” Morton barked.
Allen shifted slightly but remained sitting tensely.
“I said …’Stand Up’. You had better comply mister, before I take measures to make you,” Morton’s voice was low and menacing.
“I don’t care what games you play, I don’t have to co-operate. You don’t scare me.”
A deadly calm passed across Chip Morton’s features. Lifting one eyebrow he spoke with chilling precision. “Indeed? Chief Sharkey? Escort, Mr. Crosby to the brig and confine him there for six hours, on a restricted diet and no interaction with the crew.”
“Get lost…you can’t do that!”
“ Eight hours.”
As Allen made to protest again, Sharkey leant forward and hissed. “Shut up kid, you won’t win.”
“I suggest you listen to the Chief…right now he is your only ally.”
Lee Crane was in his cabin on a radio link with his wife.
“Are you sure Lee? It does seem a bit drastic.”
“I’m running out of options. He needs to accept me one way or another… maybe this will give us the time we need to understand each other. I have some uncomfortable truths to tell him…. I can’t do that before he’s willing to listen, I don’t want them to destroy him completely. I have to reach him first.”
“Okay love. You know best…. I trust you Lee. You will do the right thing by him …. good luck.”
Lee Crane frowned,“ I wish I was so sure…. Darcy, thanks… you know I love you….?”
“ Of course, show me how much, when you get home… see you soon, bye.”
He hung up the phone thoughtfully. He wasn’t prepared for this. His thoughts turned to Sarah…she had become very special to him but when she had told that she was going to have a baby, he had been angry and hurt her with his reaction. If only he had done things differently….
There was a loud knock on the door. “Come,” he replied.
Chip Morton stepped in. “Captain, I have the security report for you, sir. It seems young Allen got aboard by telling the watch crew he had a message for me, from you. Knowing who he was, they didn’t think to question it. The Chief is explaining the correct security procedures to them as we speak! Bye the way, the kid is demanding to see you…again.”
Lee passed a weary hand through his hair. “Sit down Chip. How long has he been in the brig?”
Chip sat down and grinned slightly. “ Three hours and he doesn’t like it.”
“What do you think Chip... am I doing the right thing? Forcing him to accept me?”
Morton considered his friend carefully. Lee was holding something back, that much was obvious, but Chip believed that he had only Allen’s welfare at heart. “It won’t do him any harm. He’s lost his focus right now. A little discipline and order could be just what he needs to ground him. I’ll let you know if you get too much like Captain Bligh.”
Both men laughed.
“Hell Chip, I didn’t expect this to happen…” Crane said softly, looking off into the distance.
“ Is it so bad?” Chip Morton asked gently.
Lee looked at his friend. He saw the questions in his eyes but was unwilling to answer them. Looking at the papers on his desk he asked. “ What is Allen demanding to see me about?”
Morton noted his friend’s response and decided not to force it. “He wants to be let out, to see you, and generally get his own way.”
“Tell him I’ll see him in five hours, at the end of his punishment tour. Let him know that I won’t countermand the orders.”
“Aye sir,” Morton stood and made to leave.
“Chip, thanks…. I hope I’m not letting you, the Admiral or the crew down over this,” he said anxiously.
“You have never let us down before Lee. I don’t think you’ll start now.”
“Mr. Crosby, sir,” Chief Sharkey escorted Allen into the Captain’s cabin.
“Thank you Chief, can you give us a few minutes?” Crane asked.
“I’ll be right outside sir.”
Allen Crosby looked around the cabin as he waited. He was angry!
“Take a seat Allen,” Crane sat stood by his desk.
“I prefer Al,” he ground out.
“I don’t. So I will call you Allen.” Lee said firmly. On receiving only a glare as protest he continued. “That settled, I’m sorry you started your time with us in the brig but it was your choice. You should not have disobeyed Mr. Morton.”
“I don’t know what you’re playing …but I don’t have to obey anyone! I’m not one of your crew, I’m …. well, I don’t know for sure who I am, until you tell me!” Allen said hotly.
Lee studied him for a moment and went to sit behind his desk. “Allen… I need to be sure that you will be able to understand and accept the circumstances surrounding your … childhood… before I tell you the whole story. I don’t want you behaving in a way you’ll regret…. ”
“You’re so full of yourself aren’t you? You’re just scared about your reputation. The great Captain Lee Crane made a mistake…. and sixteen years later it comes back to haunt him!” The youth interrupted angrily. “ I know what people say about you, ‘he cares about his family, he cares about his men, he always does the right thing!’ Ha! The only thing you care about is you! You left my mother when she needed you most, you didn’t want to do the right thing then, did you?” Allen demanded.
“I tried to help Sarah, the best way I could, but she wouldn’t let me. We were both young and made mistakes……” Lee said softly.
“I know how you tried to help her…. you wanted her not to have a baby, she told me how hurt she was, how she begged you not to reject your child but you didn’t want to be a father so soon, did you, your career was too important!”
“How did you know it was me? Did she tell you?”
Allen stopped a moment and then quietly he said. “No. She never said anything much about you but after she died I sorted her things and found your letter. It made me sick.”
“ My letter….”
“ Yes! The one you wrote to her after she left, ‘if you promise to keep my identity secret, I’ll try to help if you need me in the future. Only no-one can ever know…especially the child, it would cost me too much.’ Of course you didn’t sign it but you’re the one she sent me to, so I worked it out! When I get proof positive I’m going to make you admit it! I’ll make you pay for all those years my mother suffered, you won’t have any reputation left, you wait and see if I don’t!” he finished petulantly.
Lee sat silently. He cursed himself inwardly at the hasty decisions that had been made years ago. If only Sarah had agreed….
Seeing Allen watching him, he straightened up. “ I’m not prepared to discuss this with you at the moment. One day when I think you’re responsible enough to know the truth I will tell you. Not before. First you need to learn some-self discipline and to start with…” The Captain stood and walked to the door, he opened it and said. “ As a stowaway you will be expected to pull your weight. Chief….”
Chief Sharkey entered,“Yes sir?”
“ You know Mr. Morton’s instructions: take Allen along and get him settled in.”
“Common kid,” Sharkey nudged Allen’s shoulder.
Lee looked at the boy’s face and reeled slightly at the contempt there. Then Allen Crosby rose slowly and said. “Okay, Captain Crane, you win for now but if you think you can break me you’re wrong and I’ll prove it. You may have all the power at the moment but that won’t always be the case. One day, I’ll make you regret everything you’ve done to my mother and me!”
Allen lay on the bunk in the crew’s quarters, listening to the men talking. They had been a little wary of him at first but had slowly accepted him. Eight days, in lots of ways it seemed longer. He had found the artificial ‘days and nights’ difficult at first. With the different shift patterns his whole system had been out of sync, now he was slowly adjusting and to his surprise found he quite enjoyed it. Not that he would admit it to anyone.
He lay thinking about everything, his mother, Crane, the situation he was in. He closed his eyes and concentrated, yes… there she was…smiling at him, laughing with him. It was so wrong how she’d suffered. She had never complained but when he had been so angry for her, she had just smiled and said that ‘ life was what you made of it’ and she had everything she wanted, him.
When she had reluctantly started to answer some of his constant questions about his father, he could see that she was more hurt than angry. She had smiled and talked gently about him, telling him only little things like, how she had loved him, how charming he was and how much Allen looked like him. She refused to name him though, claiming that he didn’t need to know yet, maybe when he was older she would arrange a meeting between them.
He thought about Lee Crane. The image he had created of his father didn’t quite fit the man he’d found. He had expected him to be an older and less honourable man; from the way he had treated his mother. He had abandoned his pregnant lover and child after all and Allen wanted revenge for that, it was only right...wasn’t it?
When he had asked around about Captain Crane, he expected to have his own ideas of a selfish character confirmed but his inquiries about the Captain were puzzling; everyone he met praised him, geez, the crew worshipped him! He couldn’t understand it.
He had expected to be punished hard for stowing away. At the very least to be sent back or to be sent away somewhere and only have Lee Crane pay lip service to his welfare but he had done neither. No, he had kept him here and given him duties to perform. Allen was surprised at his course of action
He was aware that the men knew who he claimed to be; he had seen their sidelong glances and heard the whispers about his similarity to the Captain. However they didn’t hold it against him. They had worked with him, helped him to adjust and taught him a lot about comradeship and all the time he was conscious that the Captain kept a discreet eye on him as he did his tours of the boat.
He couldn’t understand why Lee Crane would not discuss the past. He seemed to purposely ignore Allen’s anger towards him and concentrate on helping him. He certainly hadn’t expected to be taken into the Crane’s home or to go to the Institute with him. Much less, for him to work with Mr. Morton on the computers after he had expressed an interest in them. And the Captain had even asked the Admiral to let him work at the Institute for the vacation.
Allen was confused by these conflicting images of the man who was his father. Who was Lee Crane and what was he hiding? He obviously had a guilty conscience… but why?
“Hey kid. You asleep?” Kowalski’s voice scattered his thoughts.
“No, just resting,” he got up slowly and looked at them.
“Yeah, well…we’re due on duty in ten minutes, you better shake a leg, it don’t pay to get on Mr. Morton’s bad side.”
“He knows all about that, don’t ya? Twelve hours in the brig for answering back the Exec… brave kid…and real stupid too,” Riley’s comment brought a round of general laughter.
Allen smiled ruefully, “Yeah, don’t think I’ll do it again.”
“You’re learning kid. Mr. Morton don’t take any prisoners, no sirree but the senior officers are okay, wouldn’t you say Pat?” Ski smiled.
“You bet. Best officers I ever served under. The Admiral can be kinda touchy but he’s okay to the men. Mr. Morton, he could freeze water with his glares sometimes but he always stands by the Skipper and us, takes it real personal if anyone gets hurt, especially when it’s the Skipper.”
“Yeah and the Skipper gets hurt a lot. He’s one of Doc’s best customers,” Riley joked.
When all the others laughed, Allen asked curiously. “Why does he get hurt a lot? Is he clumsy or something?”
This caused louder laughter. “The Skipper, clumsy… oh boy, you better not let him hear you say that. No kid, the Skipper gets hurt a lot ‘cos he’s the one who puts himself in danger every time. He won’t let any of the crew do anything he hasn’t tried first. He’d go to any lengths to save a crewman, just like we would for him,” Ski said proudly.
Allen pondered this as he entered the control room. Today he was on lookout duty. The softest duty on the boat Ski had said. It made a change for him from the laundry, cleaning floors or washing up for Cookie.
As he passed the plot table the Captain spoke to him. “ Allen, how are you settling in? Is everything okay?”
“Yes…. Sir,” he swallowed quickly.
“I’ve been getting good reports from Mr. Morton; he says you’ve taken your duties seriously. I’m glad, it does you credit.”
Blushing furiously he stammered, “Err...thank you… sir.”
“Well, keep it up. Get to your duty post now.”
“Has Kowalski explained it to you properly?” Morton asked.
“Yes… Mr. Morton, I think so.”
“Alright, off you go.”
Both men watched as Allen moved to his post alongside Patterson.
“He seems different, calmer…” Lee said with surprise.
“I told you, the Chief says he’s fitted in well. He works hard and is always willing to help out. Maybe you got it right after all, he just needed the time to think and work things through.”
“We’ll see. There are still another two weeks to go.”
“Mr. Morton, this is Mason in the Flying Sub sir, we have another computer glitch. The navigation computer is refusing to accept it’s programming again.”
“Okay, I’ll be right there,” Chip said with irritation.
“What’s the problem?” Lee asked.
“I’m not sure… the tech who up-dated the system in the last re-fit said he had solved the problem, however there still seems to be a conflict in the data which occasionally causes the system to crash. The only way is to keep the simulations running to find the data stream causing the problem and wipe it as it appears. Its time consuming and unreliable.”
“Well, not everything appears in simulations. The same programme is installed on Seaview but so far we’ve managed to catch any glitches before they become problems. That’s why I’m using the Flying Sub to work through the data. I think we’ve managed to track most of it but when we get back to port, I will have a few well chosen words to say with the man who did this It’s the last time we use outside programmers, we really need to train our own techs!”
The Captain smiled as he watched Chip stalk away…. he felt sorry for whoever it was already.
His shift over, Allen was sitting in the crew’s mess having a meal, listening to Mason and Reynolds talk.
“Yeah, well if the Exec is steamed now, wait ‘til he gets hold of the guy responsible, I wouldn’t want to be in the same state!” Mason smiled.
“I know what you mean. The Skipper’s going to take the Flying Sub out later. I just hope nothing happens, he can’t run the data checks and fly at the same time. Wish I had more idea of this programme, I’d volunteer to go with him,” Reynolds took a drink of coffee.
“Yeah, me too but this thing is way too advanced for me. He won’t take Mr. Morton, says he needs to be with the Seaview, just in case. I’d feel better if he had backup though.”
Allen Crosby walked through the control room towards the nose. He could see the three senior officers obviously discussing something important; he hesitated.
“Lee, you can’t fly and run system checks at the same time. You need me there to work the data through!” Morton said hotly.
“No Chip. If anything happens to Seaview’s computer, you will be needed here to help fix it, you can’t do that if you’re with me. You’ll just have to talk me through it.”
“What if I go along?” Nelson asked.
Both men looked at him. “Do you know the programme sir?” Morton asked carefully.
“ No… but I can learn.”
“Sir, it took me two days,” Chip said.
“I know computers have moved on from my original designs, Mr. Morton but I have still retained the ability to think!” Nelson said tetchily.
“I know sir, I wasn’t suggesting….”
“I could do it,” Allen’s hesitant voice interrupted.
All three men turned to him.
“Allen?” Lee asked. “What are you doing here? Your shift ended hours ago.”
Swallowing nervously, he repeated. “ I could go with you, I know the programme and I can run system checks. I know how to recognise and isolate rogue data and remove it safely.”
Lee came towards him. “What are you talking about? You can’t go with me, it’s far too dangerous.”
“Not as dangerous as going alone!”
“ Captain, he does know the programme… he could do it,” Chip said thoughtfully.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Mr. Morton. He is only a child.”
“I wasn’t a child when you told me to work my passage aboard. You said if I made adult decisions, I should take adult responsibilities. Well…I’m making an adult decision.”
“This is somewhat different. You are in no danger aboard the Seaview. Aboard the Flying Sub it’s quite a different matter. No. It’s out of the question.”
Allen Crosby stared at the Captain then turning to the Exec he said. “Mr. Morton, did the Captain order you to assign me duties that fitted my abilities? Does this fit my abilities, sir?”
Morton studied the young man in front of him. What a difference eight days and a taste of discipline and order had made! He certainly reminded him of someone….
Realising he had to answer, he said carefully. “Yes it does but the Captain is quite correct, this could be dangerous. If you get a data failure, all systems will go down.”
“Does the Captain know to analyse that sir? And fix it?” Allen challenged boldly.
“Now wait a minute…” Lee interrupted.
“Does he, Mr. Morton?”
“No, he doesn’t.”
“Mr. Crosby, would you leave us to discuss this. We will let you know our decision.” Admiral Nelson said firmly.
“But…” Allen spluttered.
“I said, we would let you know,” the Admiral repeated.
“There, I think that’s the lot. The system is clear of all the rogue data. Mr Morton should have received all the updates through the link and cleared Seaview’s system as well,” Allen Crosby said as he concentrated on the screen in front of him.
Lee Crane watched the young man’s face. He was so different from the surly youth he had first met three weeks ago.
“Well done Allen. I’m impressed. You have a natural ability with computers; you ought to pursue it as a career.”
Allen received the praise with pleasure and turned to look at the man who he had hated with vengeance only days ago. When had that stopped? He realised that it had gone…. now he felt empty somehow.
“Thank you…. I … I’m glad you let me help.”
Lee had been adamantly against Allen’s accompanying him but the Admiral’s reasoned arguments and Chip’s assurance that they would never be more than five minutes away, along with the added insistence that the longer they delayed the more chance of Seaview’s own system failing, persuaded him of the necessity for it.
“Lee, the boy can do this. Unless you agree to take Chip or me and leave him here to manage Seaview’s system check.”
“Admiral, I can’t do that!”
“I know Lee. So what choices do we have?”
Crane had sworn in frustration. “In future sir, we are going to have comprehensive evaluations of all re-fits before we get into this situation again and I’m going to insist that at least two crew are kept accredited on all the new computer software updates, myself in addition!”
“I’m already working out the schedule, Captain,” The Admiral had replied bluntly.
“Well, let’s get back to Seaview,” Crane said from the Flying Sub, “I think you’ve earned some down time.... and maybe we could have that talk, start getting to know each other properly.”
Allen Crosby’s eyes registered surprise and eagerness. “Really? Do you mean it? Will you tell me what I want to know at last?”
“Yes, I think you’re ready … but it won’t be easy… there are others involved… innocent people… we will have to consider them in all this.”
Allen studied the Captain; he meant Darcy and Grace of course, probably his friends as well. “I will. I promise.”
Lee nodded and switched the radio on. “ Flying Sub to Seaview, come in Seaview, over.”
“Seaview here, well done to both of you, the systems working fine again,” Chip Morton’s voice sounded happily.
“Allen did the work.”
“I know, but you managed to stay out of trouble and that’s always a bonus!”
“Mr. Morton you and I …… what’s happening?” Lee Crane heard the alarm echo in the cabin and through the radio.
“Captain, our systems are failing, something is triggering a crash. I can’t isolate it.” Allen’s voice said over the raucous noise.
“ Captain…!” Morton shouted, “ Our systems are crashing, the computer’s shutting down. We’re losing all control and we’re going down. We’ll have to get back to you!”
As Lee struggled with the controls he assessed his options. They were flying over some small islands and he had only moments to decide.
“Allen, brace yourself, we’re going down and it won’t be easy.”
He glanced at the tense face of the frightened youth. This was not supposed to have happened. As they descended steeply with no control and very little manoeuvring capability, the land rushed up to meet them. The Flying Sub hit the water and bounced twice, slid across a beach and finally slammed into a rocky cliff face, triggering a small landfall. As silence fell all that could be seen was a half buried, battered, yellow machine.
“Turn that alarm off!” shouted the Admiral as he raced to helm control.
“Chief shut the ballast vents manually, we’ve got to stop the descent!” shouted Morton as he struggled to stay upright against the turbulent rocking of the Seaview.
“I can’t sir, they’re stuck open and still venting.”
“ Mr. Morton, there’s no helm, we can’t control our dive!” Nelson called.
Morton looked at the fathometer. They were dropping fast. He grabbed the mike and clicking twice announced. “Now hear this, now hear this; this the Exec. Prepare for an emergency crash. Close all watertight hatches and brace yourselves, it’s going to be hard!” He looked around the pitching control room. Men were holding on tightly and trying not to look alarmed, he saw the Chief still struggling to close the ballast vents. “Leave it, Chief and grab hold.” He had only just finished speaking when they hit bottom. Seaview shuddered and many men fell to the deck as she pitched to starboard with a 40-degree list. The lights went out then flickered back on, the silence was eerie as everyone slowly gathered himself and surveyed the damage.
Allen awoke slowly and felt disorientated. Where was he…. of course the Flying Sub… the crash. Captain Crane… where was he?
He struggled to release the restraining harness and glanced to the flight chair beside him, its harness was hanging loose and broken. Behind him, there on the floor was Crane… blood covered his face and his left leg lay at a funny angle. Allen got up slowly and walked towards him. He realised that his right arm was intensely painful and cradled it against him as he knelt down to look at Lee.
“Allen…are you okay?” Crane asked huskily as the boy touched his shoulder, bringing him around.
“I think my arm’s broken but apart from that I’m okay…you?”
Lee struggled to sit up. “My leg hurts a little… but I’ll be fine. You’re sure you’re alright?”
“Your head’s bleeding, does it hurt?” Allen ignored the question.
“Not much.” Lee wiped his face with his hand. He saw Allen’s worry. “Over there in the locker…the First Aid Kit. Let’s get your arm seen to.”
Allen glanced at the locker and opened it. “You first,” he used the contents of the box to clean and bandage the Captain’s head against his protests and then allowed Crane to help secure his broken arm in a sling.
Both men sat surveying the damaged vessel. “I’m sorry, Captain. I thought we had cleared the faults. I don’t know how this happened.”
Lee looked the crestfallen youth. “Allen, this wasn’t your fault. Don’t blame yourself. We’re alive that’s all that matters. Let’s contact Seaview and see how they’re doing,” Lee tried to stand but fell back again with a grimace.
“Let me sir. I can at least walk,” Allen said warily.
“Maybe you’re right,” Lee said, his head throbbing and vision blurring, “You try.”
Allen sat back in his seat and reached for the radio. “ This is the Flying Sub calling Seaview… come in please. Admiral? Mr. Morton are you there?”
He waited and tried again.
“Hello the Flying Sub, Allen is that you?” Admiral Nelson’s voice sounded out over the speaker.
“Yes sir. Are you okay?”
“We’re fine son. How are you and Captain Crane? Are you hurt?”
“Here give it to me,” Lee said softly as he pulled himself over to the chair,“Hello, Admiral, what happened?”
“Lee are you okay?” Nelson demanded a second time.
“Allen has a broken arm, I’m okay… a little headache and I hurt my leg a bit. Sir, what happened? Chip said you were going down. Is Seaview all right? Anyone hurt?”
“Lee, our computer failed and because of the link to the Flying Sub it crashed your systems as well. Chip’s working on it. We’re on the bottom; no one seriously hurt but we ruptured frames forty-two through forty-four. Sharkey’s got a repair crew on it and says that he can patch us together.”
“How long for repairs?” Lee asked, closing his eyes against the headache that drummed incessantly through his thoughts.
“Not sure Lee, Chip has to find the problem, fix it and get us afloat again. Once that happens we could be with you in 30 minutes. Will you be okay for that long?”
“Yes sir, just look after the Seaview. Keep us informed, I’ll sign off now to reserve power.”
“Okay Captain, take care of yourself. Nelson out.”
Lee handed the mike back to Allen, feeling dizzy and sick and apart from his head and leg, his back was beginning to cause him some discomfort now as well. He let Allen help him to lean back against the hull.
“Why didn’t you tell him the truth? How badly hurt you really are.”
Lee looked at the boy’s quizzical face. “It wouldn’t have done any good. The Admiral would only have worried and Chip doesn’t need anything else to think about right now when he has his hands full, besides it’s only a headache…I’ll be fine as soon as Jamie gets here.”
Allen watched the way the man rubbed his eyes and leaned carefully back against the bulkhead. Crane certainly didn’t conform to what he thought he knew about him. He wasn’t selfish, self absorbed or conceited. He was obviously more concerned about his friends and crew than he was about himself…. this wasn’t the man Allen had expected at all.
Two hours later, Chip Morton approached the Admiral. “Sir, I think you should read this printout.”
Harry noted the man’s tension and took the sheet of paper from him. “My God Chip, it’s not possible! He’s in prison”
“I’m afraid it’s true sir….. We’ve been sabotaged.”
Harry read the statement again:
Well Harry, if you’re reading this, then my plan has succeeded. My virus worked and by now you are at the bottom of the sea and helpless.
I warned you I always win! I’m just sorry I’m not there to witness it.
I wanted you to know the designer of your fate…. remember me, as your systems fail and you all slowly die, Nelson.
Revenge can be so sweet, I’ll be certain to enjoy it!
Nelson screwed the paper in his hand. “Is he right, are we helpless Chip?”
Chip Morton took a steadying breath. “I’m not sure sir...I do have an idea but it’s risky, with no certainty of success.”
“As it stands, the malicious code that triggered the systems crash is blocking our commands. It was set to activate as soon as we tried to clean the programme. If we try to wipe it out, that could take hours and still may not work but if we bypass it and re-boot using the old code, we would revert back to our original settings and everything should come back on line.”
“Well, why don’t we do it?” Nelson asked quickly.
Morton looked directly at Nelson. “Sir. I’m can’t guarantee that the original code is intact or that it will initiate properly. If it doesn’t it will be too late to correct the corrupted coding. We could end up with nothing.”
Sparks voice interrupted their conversation. “Admiral, I have Allen Crosby calling from the Flying Sub sir, he wants to speak to the Doctor.”
Harry and Chip ran to the radio shack.
“Allen this is Nelson, what’s wrong?”
“Admiral… it’s the Captain. He can’t stay awake and he’s confused. He has a temperature and groans if he moves his head.”
“Hold on, Doctor Jamison’s here.”
Chip and Harry moved aside.
“I knew he was hiding something!” Chip said angrily.
“Mr. Morton if we re-boot how long before we can be up and running?” Nelson demanded.
Chip did a quick calculation, “An hour, maybe a little longer.”
“Captain... Captain Crane, wake up sir. Please you must wake up! The doctor says you must stay conscious.”
Allen tried to rouse the slumped man. He had become concerned when Lee had ceased talking to him and had struggled to stay upright. He knew he had to get help.
“Whaat, what’s wrong….” Lee’s speech was slow and slurred.
“The Doctor say’s you have to stay awake… you have a head injury. I have to keep talking to you.”
“No…not yet but they’re coming. We just have to hold on.”
“Hold …on, Seaview…coming… ”
“Yes.” Allen searched for something to say. “ I’m sorry…. really sorry for causing so much trouble. I was so angry at you for not being there when I needed you...when Mom needed you…are you listening?” Allen shook Lee gently.
Crane tried to concentrate. “Yes...yes go on…keep talking…”
“I wanted you to suffer like I had. I needed to hate you so that I didn’t hurt so much. When I found your letter I decided to find you. I needed to humiliate you. I thought I knew the type of person you would be… but you’re not like that, you really seem to care about me, you try to help and you never fight back… why…. why don’t you fight me?”
Lee struggled to look at Allen. “ I … understand...how you feel. I…grew up without …a family too. You need time…. and someone to care about you…. I was willing ….to try… the mistakes that I made were….” his voice faded and he fell back and groaned.
“Dad! Dad!” Allen called.
Lee caught hold of Allen’s hand and gasped weakly. “ No…” he then passed out.
“How much longer Admiral? Allen says Lee is still unconscious and he can’t rouse him anymore.” Jamie was pacing in front of the Herculite windows.
“ We’re just waiting for the computer to come back on line Jamie, we can’t speed it up any faster,” Nelson answered, more annoyed with the situation than with the Doctor’s persistence.
“ It worked!” Chip hurriedly approached both men, “ All systems are coming back online. We’ll be under way in minutes. Rendezvous in less than thirty minutes.”
“What are his chances really, Jamie?” Nelson asked, “… will we be there in time?”
“I hope so, Harry. I really hope so.”
Crane was feverish. He had not responded to the boy’s pleas to wake up and Allen prayed for help to come soon.
As he waited for rescue, he was reminded of the pain this man had caused him, and his mother. Of course he hadn’t expected Crane to greet him with any enthusiasm, but he still could have acknowledged his son as his son, while he was at death’s door…’
A great deal of noise alerted him to the rescue team. The upper hatch opened, and sunlight streamed in. Nelson was the first down the steps followed by Doc.
“Common kid,” Ski said, “let’s give Doc some room with the Skipper. I’ll help you topside, it’s a bit of a mess, the Flying Sub’s practically buried. The Chief and Riley are trying to dig out the aft hatch to make lifting the Skipper out easier.”
It had only been twenty minutes, but to Nelson it was a lifetime as he watched Doc treat the comatose Crane. Finally the aft hatch was cleared and soon Sharkey and Riley were pulling their captain out to one of the two Zodiac’s to return them all to Seaview.
“Well Jamie, what’s the verdict?” Nelson asked as he saw the Doctor stand back and look at his patient.
Chip came into the room at that same moment and said. “How is he?”
“You two are worse than expectant fathers!” Jamie chuckled, then noticed their scowls,“ In a nutshell, he has a very nasty concussion, along with a hairline skull fracture. He also has broken leg and extensive bruising to his back…. but he’ll live to fight another day.”
“Thank God,” Chip said as Nelson sighed in sheer relief.
“The concussion will keep him groggy for a few days;” Doc continued, “ the fracture will heal in a few weeks and the broken leg in about six weeks. He’ll be in my clutches long enough for me to wish I was a dentist and not his Doctor! And even then I’d probably regret it,” Jamie finished; already anticipating the battles he knew would arise as soon as the Captain was back on form.
“ Thank you for
helping the Captain,” Nelson said to Allen, “ I know
we’ve had your differences but… you helped to save his life and we’re
“But I didn’t do much…” the young man answered shyly.
“ How are you feeling Allen?” Chip Morton asked.
“I’m fine sir. In fact I could probably go back to the crew’s quarters,” Allen said quietly, almost a bit withdrawn.
“Ye Gods, who does that remind me of!” Jamie
said, “You will be
staying here. Pick
a bunk. Your arm may have been set but I
would like to keep an eye on you still.”
“I wouldn’t argue with him Allen… he usually has a discreet syringe about him that can be used to deadly effect,” Chip said with a grin.
“You better believe it,” Jamie muttered.
“Mmmm.. Allen… Allen?” Lee’s voice was weak.
“It’s alright Captain, he’s here,” Doc said gently.
“Jamie… Seaview, she’s alright… the crew…safe?”
“Yes Lee, everything is fine. Just rest,” Harry said at his side.
“Okay, if you’re sure…. maybe for now …” and then he slipped back to sleep.
“He’ll be in and out of it for a few hours yet. Go and get some rest, both of you. Come back for breakfast,” Jamison told the officers. “Go, I’ll call you, if needed.”
They took one last look at their friend and then smiled at Allen. “Get some rest Allen,” Nelson said, “We’ll see you in the morning. Don’t worry lad, he’ll probably be a lot better by then.”
“Yes Admiral… I hope so.”
Lee woke up and could hear low talking. “Chip?”
“Ah. So you decided to join us at last,” Morton leant into his eye line.
“How long have I been out?” he whispered.
“Oh, I’d say about ten hours, give or take a few,” Chip chuckled.
“Captain?” Doc quickly hovered, “how are you feeling…. and if you say… fine…. I’ll break your other leg!” Jamie warned.
“A bit of a headache, sore and stiff, bit uncomfortable,” Lee answered guardedly.
“Mmmm…. translated you have a raging headache and it hurts to move. I’ll give you a pain reliever and if you stay still it won’t hurt so much.”
Admiral Nelson came into view. “Lee, it’s good to see you back with us…. you gave us quite a scare again.”
“Sorry sir, how’s Allen?” Lee smiled faintly.
“I’m fine Captain,” the boy approached, “The Doctors fixed me up. I’m glad you’re going to recover.”
“Thanks to you Allen,” Lee smiled, “You helped to save my life.”
“Not really, Captain. I just happened to be there,” Allen Crosby blushed.
Nelson saw their identical smiles and again speculated on their relationship.
Two days later Lee Crane was sitting up and complaining loudly at his confinement.
“It’s no use Captain, you’d be a hazard to yourself if you try to navigate decks and hatches with a broken leg! We will be back in port in three days then you can go home and shout at Darcy… not that it will do you much good!” Jamie laughed.
“You’re enjoying this too much,” Lee Crane muttered.
“Stop fussing. I’m immune. Chip will be down soon, give him a hard time instead, if it makes you feel better.” Jamie put down the chart and came to sit on the chair by the rack. “Lee, can we talk?” he added seriously.
“What’s wrong? Is it one of the crew?”
“In a way,” Jamie looked at Lee. “ When are you going to tell Allen Crosby that you’re not his father?” He saw the surprise register in Lee’s eyes. “I had to do a complete blood workup on the both of you because of your injuries. He can’t possibly be your son…”
“Have you told anyone?”
“No. It’s not my place…. He deserves to know, Lee. ”
“I know but he’ll want to know who his real father is and that could be difficult for him….”
“You should have told me!” A voice stated from the doorway. “You let me believe… hope that you were my father… when all the time you knew… you knew you weren’t... how could you?” Allen approached the two men.
“Allen I’m sorry…. please, let me explain…”
“No! I don’t want to hear you anymore…. And I was beginning to trust you!” He turned to go but at a nod from Lee, Doctor Jamison caught him and led him back to the chair he had just vacated.
“Sit down,” Crane ordered, “Calm yourself and listen… if at the end you don’t want to stay, you can leave but remember, it was you who stowed away to get the truth… at least hear it.”
“Okay I’ll listen,” he slumped in the chair slightly, “… but I don’t have to like it.”
“I’ll be in my office if you need me,” Doc said, “…I’ll see you’re not disturbed.”
“Jamie, do me a favour… in my desk drawer there’s an envelope, would you get it for me?”
“I will if you two behave,” he smiled and left.
For a moment man and boy studied each other then Lee took a deep breath. “I met your mother when she first arrived at Annapolis. She was a little older than me but we became friends. She was enthusiastic and fun to be with, a hopeless romantic…and I loved her.
“We went out occasionally and enjoyed each other’s company but I quickly realised that she never felt the same way about me. When she started seeing someone else, I guess I was a little jealous.
“One day I found her crying and made her tell me the problem. She told me she was pregnant; I was shocked and angry with her. I felt betrayed and I retaliated by saying some things I didn’t really mean.
“Later when I calmed down, I tried to find a way to help her. She would only tell me that the father couldn’t marry her because he was already married, with children. She was deeply embarrassed and wouldn’t name him.
“Some of the facts you already know, what he wanted her to do. She quickly realised that she had been mistaken about him and his real intentions towards her. So when she decided to keep her child, her lover begged her to keep silent and she agreed so that she could to protect you.
“I offered to marry her… but she refused. She didn’t want to cheat me out of finding real love one day she said and suddenly quit her job. I tried phoning but she wouldn’t speak to me. When I wrote her and she finally replied. She said the father had contacted her and that everything was going to be all right… she thanked me for caring about her but I didn’t need to worry anymore and she wished me well for the future. I truly thought he was going to do the right thing by you both, if I’d only known the true facts …
“I knew I had hurt her by my reaction and felt so guilty because I had let her down when she needed a friend the most. I thought I had destroyed the trust between us, which was why she left so suddenly.
“Later I realised that it wasn’t love I had felt for her at all and she had probably always known that. I have often wondered about you both over the years.”
Jamie entered sickbay, handed Lee the envelope and went to his office.
“Your mother sent you to me because she hoped I would take care of you, as a favour to our friendship. In her letter she told me that she knew how you resented your absent father and she was worried that you might seek him out if she told you his name and take revenge on him, ruining your own life in the process. She asked me to help you and to keep his identity secret until I thought you were ready…. ‘ She trusted my judgement’ she said.” He smiled softly as he remembered the woman he had known, all those years ago.
“Do you know who my real father is?” Allen asked quietly.
Looking at the envelope in his hand, he recalled her written plea to help her son and keep him safe. Softly he said. “ Yes, I do, now…. turns out I knew him back then, as one of the senior officers, today he is a patron of the Institute and a friend of Admiral Nelson’s.” Intently he asked. “ What will you do with the information, if I tell you? He has a grown up family now and they are completely innocent in all of this.”
Lee watched as Allen struggled with his emotions.
“ I don’t know…. I guess I’d like to meet him… one day. If I have brothers or sisters I’d like to know. I’m just so confused right now.” Allen rubbed the cast on his arm in distraction. “She should have told me the truth…you both should have.” Allen Crosby frowned at Lee with tears filling his eyes. “ I didn’t want you to be my Dad at first. I wanted to hate you….but I kind of grew to admire you…. well, you’re just what a father should be… but you’re not my Dad and never will be…I’m all alone again…. it just isn’t fair!” Allen made to stand but Lee held his arm.
“Allen, if you’ll let me I will be your father. Just because we don’t share the same blood doesn’t mean I can’t be proud of you. I would be honoured if you would agree to let me try. I cared deeply for Sarah and now for you…. you have a home with us if you want one.”
Allen Crosby listened to the sincerity in Lee’s words and saw it in his eyes, in a moment he realised that he had discovered the father he had been looking for all his life, one he could respect, admire and trust. His mother had been right to send him to this man. He deserved his honourable reputation.
He reached forward and fell into Lee’s embrace. Allen wept for the mother he had lost and the father he had found. Finally, he felt loved again.
Sitting on the Admiral’s front porch, the senior staff looked out at the harbour activity. They had docked an hour ago and Lee was waiting to disembark for home.
“ You realise that this whole thing could have ended in disaster. Roberts should never have been able to get someone through our security,” Chip Morton warned.
“He won’t again… I intend to see to that,” Harry said firmly. “We are going to build our own Technical Dept. and train our own staff from now on.” Looking at his Captain and friend he said lightly. “So your family expands again Lee. At this rate you’ll have to buy a bigger house.”
Crane smiled. “You maybe right sir. I’m just glad it all worked out for us.” Lee had informed his friends of the true circumstances regarding Allen’s birth but at Allen’s own request, had not revealed the identity of the real father to anyone ... not even to him.
“I’ll ask you when I’m ready to know,” Allen had told him. And Lee had agreed.
“If you’re ready Da…umm…sir. We can go,” Allen said as he came forward to help Lee up.
Lee turned and put an arm around him, “ Dad will do just fine…. son!”